Archive of ‘LWOAM’ category

Getting Back to “Normal”

Well, it’s happening. We are slowly starting to enter into a whole new world. A world where we need to wear face masks in public. A world where we still need to maintain a social distance from each other. A world where we need to remember to bring your keys, phone, wallet, face mask, gloves and hand sanitizer before we leave the house. And when we leave the cocoon of our homes, we must learn to trust other people that they have socially distanced as well. Let’s face it – few of us have followed these things to the letter. Personally, I would have loved to secure a delivery slot on Peapod or Instacart instead of going to the grocery store every week.

As much as I want to support small businesses, I don’t think I’ll be running out to shop anytime soon. But I would like to get a mammogram which is way overdue. I’d like to go on vacation, but I have to think about what that looks like for our family. Regulations have been lifted in some places for the Memorial Day weekend. Experts say we won’t know the effects of this until Father’s Day. Will there be a spike in cases? Time will tell.

Looking into the not-so-distant future, will we be dropping Jenna off on campus in the fall? Will the high school reopen on a staggered schedule so some kids can attend? This is his junior year coming up. What will his college visits look like? Will those kids practice social distancing to the best of their ability? What will high holidays look like this year? All of it makes me incredibly nervous.

Meanwhile, I haven’t finished going through my pile of books I wanted to read. Truth be told – I’d need another six months in quarantine to get through them all. And there are still closets to clean and home improvement projects to work on. Not to mention that I’d like to lose a little more quarantine weight before I am seen in public again. To me, staying home still has its perks.

Everyone here is antsy to get back to normal life, but what is normal these days? We are about to find out.

A Sign of the Times

Welcome to Life Without A Manual. Aren’t we all living that way these days? This global pandemic has caused us to rearrange our lives and discover new and creative ways to work, parent, live and, most importantly, survive. It has affected everything from the most mundane of tasks to the milestones we want to celebrate–all at a safe social distance.

I have always felt that I’m living my life without a manual. The origin story of my blog name is the perfect example of this philosophy.

For instance, I have two teenagers and parenting them is a carefully woven combination of structure and chaos. While my kids are self-sufficient and can entertain themselves, we are working through a roller coaster of emotions for what I can only describe as a grieving process. They have to adjust to this new normal of online learning instead of enjoying the interaction of a classroom setting. They maintain friendships and relationships through the magic of texting, FaceTiming and social media instead of hanging out at the mall or in someone’s home. They are suffering a loss of certain freedoms they used to enjoy like driving and staying on campus. It would be nice to have a map to help guide them through these troubled times, but there is no map and no manual.

As for me, it’s been difficult to set boundaries between working from home and living here. I’ve had to set up shop at my kitchen island which is the highest traffic area in my home. There are constant distractions, and I find it difficult to ignore the dishes and the laundry. Doesn’t this give new meaning to the term work/life balance?

The only one who seems to be thrilled with this new arrangement is our dog, and she demands constant attention. But, so does my boss. It would help to have a company handbook to show us the rules of the road. But there is no handbook and no manual.

There are so many aspects of life that have changed and who knows how it will be when this is all over. While I don’t want every post this month to be about this pandemic, I also can’t ignore it. We are living a part of world history, and it should be documented – even in this small way. And if this isn’t living life without a manual, I don’t know what is.

So I’m here to support you, and let you know you aren’t alone. I’ll share my experiences with you – the good, the bad, and the anxiety. And so I know you are with me, I hope you will comment on these posts to let me know how you are and what you are doing to get by in these crazy times.

We are all in this together. This is the Ultimate Blog Challenge – 30 days, 30 posts.  Let’s do this!

Life Without A Manual – Work From Home Edition

For over 12 years, I worked as the Director of Programs and Communications for a large congregation.

What does a Director of Programs and Communications do? Well, in a nutshell, I used to call myself the synagogue’s “cruise director.”

I planned the programs and events. I made announcements. I wrote trip itineraries and nailed down all the details. I worked with the most amazing people — everyone from clergy, staff and board members to speakers, musicians and entertainers. I connected people with similar interests.

I also made sure the food was prepared properly; the temperature was on a comfortable setting; people were enjoying themselves; and everything ran on schedule. Kind of like a cruise director.

And here’s the funny thing…all this has left me pleasantly surprised at how prepared I am for other jobs and life experiences — including working from home during a pandemic.

These days, I’m asking my family the same questions I asked fellow congregants.

Is there enough food? Is it good?

Does everyone have what they need?

Do you know where you are going and what you are doing?

IS EVERYBODY HAPPY??!!

Seriously, it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work. We’ve had some laughs, nice family dinners, a few meltdowns (mostly by me) and multiple trips to Giant for brownie bites and alcohol.

It’s like working at the synagogue all over again – except these “members” have seen me in my pajamas. 🙂

 

We’re All In This Together

My dog, Chloe, is pretty happy these days. Normally, she spends a good part of her day at home alone while we are at school and work. Although I wouldn’t put it past her to invite her dog friends over for parties once in a while when the humans are away. But those days are over, for now. She has her humans back, and we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I live in Montgomery County, PA and thanks to this pandemic, we are on – I guess you would call it a lockdown – for the next two weeks. All schools are canceled including public, private, religious and others. I’m guessing home-schooling and online schools remain unaffected. In addition, gyms, theaters, malls and entertainment venues are closed. Small businesses are making their own decisions as to whether or not to stay open. Large gatherings are canceled. In my school district, school events are either canceled or postponed through Memorial Day weekend. Medical centers, urgent care, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and grocery stores remain open. I understand the local liquor stores are experiencing an influx of customers as if it were New Year’s Eve.

While this mandatory form of social distancing may seem extreme, there have been 13 people tested for coronavirus in our county which is more than half the number of the entire state. My thought is this is due to lots of people in my area who are able to or need to travel for work and may have contracted the virus along the way.

I, for one, am grateful that our governor has taken this pandemic seriously and taking action. Without getting too political, I can’t say the same for the federal government.

I am not panicking – although sometimes my hypochondria gets the best of me.

I am grateful.

I’m grateful to be able to work from home.

I’m grateful that both of my kids are here.

Chloe is grateful for the company and more frequent walks around the block.

I’m grateful to have jigsaw puzzles to do, books to read and blog posts to write. As a side note, I’m pretty sure my current situation will result in a lot of material for this blog. After all, we are literally living life without a manual.

We will get through this. We have no choice. We’re all in this together.

Stay healthy, everyone!

 

 

I Should Be Writing

I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I have started and stopped about 25 different posts since the end of January, but I didn’t think any were worth publishing.

You see, I have this problem. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called imposter syndrome. It’s a psychological condition in which one believes that despite all their accomplishments, people have an intense fear that others will find out they are a fraud.

Yes, I know. I’m being ridiculous. I know I’m not a fraud, but let’s face it I’m not an author either (yet). But, it’s a process. It’s a long process to go from writer to a blogger to an author. I’ve been doing the writer part since the fourth grade. I wrote for the school paper in high school and in college, I minored in journalism. I was the features editor of The Quad, had a popular weekly column, worked weekends as an obituary writer and then landed a reporter’s beat after graduation.

But then, I decided to put down my reporter’s notebook for a 9-5 job because I didn’t think I could make a living that way and have a family. I didn’t have a mentor or anyone back then to encourage me and tell me otherwise.

Since then, I’ve been dabbling in writing for the last 20 years. I’ve been a blogger, a storyteller, a scriptwriter, an editor, a presenter, a communications manager and, most recently, an email marketing expert.

But I no longer think this dabbling crap is enough for me, and here’s why.

If you came to my house and looked at my bookshelves, you would find writing magazines, books about writing and grammar, prompt decks and a poster on my corkboard with a list of quotes from famous writers about…can you guess…writing!

In the drawers of my desk are countless notebooks and yellow legal pads filled with things I’ve written for the writer’s workshop I’ve attended casually for years.

If you looked in my Yahoo inbox, you’d see emails from websites like Writers Write, Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writers, WOW – Women on Writing and so on.

If you read my mind, you would discover the plethora of personal stories still untold, the lists of people I want to interview, several book chapters and ideas, blog posts and more.

So, I’ll say it right now. I’m not an imposter.

I’m a writer.

And I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something.

Seriously, what the fuck am I waiting for?

 

Just Once…

This morning I had a dentist appointment. I hate going because even though the staff is incredibly friendly and professional, and my dentist and I exchange stories as if we were friends from the old neighborhood, they always find something that needs to be fixed.

My dental history is a sad litany of cavities, root canals and crowns. Just once, I’d like to go to the dentist and receive a clean bill of health. Just once, I’d love them to say, “see you in six months.”

But, before I even step foot into the dentist’s office, I get a text from Andrew.

If you are able to, can you bring me my warm-up jacket?”

Now, I know what you are thinking. Why did I say yes?  Why did I go out of my way to bring it to him, which is the complete opposite direction of the dentist’s office?

I know what you are thinking, and I hear you. I should say him no and just once not run over there to save the day.

But he had an important swim meet today. Literally called the “Last Chance” meet, it is his last chance to improve his breaststroke time so he can qualify for Districts. All season long, he goes to practice from 5:30 am (AM!) -7 am and then again after school from 3:30 pm-5:30 pm without complaint. Every day, he packs his snacks, his swim gear and his laptop and leaves the house and comes home in the dark. He’s allowed a free pass occasionally. And, if I didn’t bring it to him, he’d be standing around the pool wearing only his Speedo tech suit. I couldn’t do that to him.

Why am I telling you all of this? I’m not sure. Everyone has rough mornings. Everyone has that moment when they are ready to walk out the door only to be stopped by a text from their forgetful child. I don’t think I’m doing any significant damage by being kind and going out of my way to bring it to him.

And I had a fleeting thought that perhaps a good deed would equal good karma at the dentist.

Fast forward an hour later; I have an appointment to get a cavity filled on March 4th.

And how was your morning?

5 am wake up call

Tomorrow morning, swim season starts which means Andrew has to be in the pool at 5:30 am. Yes, you read that right…5:30 AM. Tonight he needs to have his swimsuit, goggles, cap and towel as well as a change of clothes and everything he needs for school by the front door.

And – we have to remember to set our alarm clock.

Thankfully, we have a neighborhood carpool. What are the odds that 3 other teens on the swim team live in our neighborhood? One of them lives 3 doors down. God bless all the swim moms and dads! No matter how much we love our kids, no one wants to get up at 5 am every day and drive to the high school. Thus…the carpool.

We take the morning run because both of us work full time, and it’s hard to leave on time for a 5:30 pm pick up. Oh! Did I forget to mention, there is after school practice too? Yep! 5:30-7 am Monday through Friday and then again from 3-5:30 pm. These kids are nothing if not dedicated to their sport.

And they are such nice kids. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people for Andrew to spend his time with. Swimming is such an individual sport, but they are all part of a team. They cheer each other on from the pool deck. They celebrate their victories and mourn their losses like the teenagers they are.

And a shout-out to us swim parents too who drive them to practice and meets Sit and cheer each other’s kids on in their heats. Volunteer to be a timer or a runner during the meets. Work the snack bar. Host team breakfasts and pasta dinners for 50 or so kids on occasion who come for the food and the friendships.

And we make sure they have their swimsuits, goggles, cap and towel by the front door every morning at 5:30.

Here’s to an awesome season!

Hard Habit to Break

I have a confession to make. Mindless eating at night is a habit I am desperately trying to break. I’ve tried to “close down the kitchen” at 8 pm but I have teenagers so it is never really closed.

Snacking seems like such an innocuous activity. Who is really going to care if I have an ice cream sandwich after 8 pm? I mean for god’s sake; it is just a small dessert. It’s not like I’m vaping or drinking hard liquor or fooling around. Seriously, will the Weight Watchers police pound on my door and burst in after one harmless bite? In my mind, I envision some skinny girl violently yanking it out of my hand, force me calculate the points on my calculator and then slap me silly until I promise never to do it again.

Hmm…Maybe that is what it would take???

Or maybe a better idea is to visualize myself 3 years from now to see what my life would look like if I don’t stop snacking at night. I suppose I’d be sitting at my Saturday morning WW meeting wishing for the days when I needed to lose 25 lbs (like now) instead of 50 (3 years from now). I won’t want to join the swim club that year because who wants to see me in a bathing suit. Not me! I’d only want to appear in public for work and special occasions. Speaking of special occasions, I have a hard enough time posing for family pictures, let alone 3 years from now. And of course my blood pressure would skyrocket and who knows what else would start to fall apart.

Okay, okay. I’m walking away from the freezer. Is that a knock at my front door? Who’s there? Don’t come in. I won’t snack after 8 pm ever again. I promise.

Coffee Walk

A few years ago, my goal was to have coffee with as many people as possible throughout the year. The idea was to catch up with friends and network with colleagues while drinking my favorite beverage. I’m happy to say that I’ve had a lot of talks and a lot of coffee. But now, I’m thinking about changing things up. Coffee talks are enjoyable and productive, but I’ve discovered a flaw in my plan. We are just sitting there.

Sure, the walk to the coffee accouterments table could make you break a sweat. Like everyone else grabbing their morning coffee, you want to make a beeline to the table to get your Splenda and half and half to achieve your perfect drink. Let’s face it – that’s a workout. And, I suppose the reach for the pitcher with the milk or flavored creamer you want could count as stretching. Right? 🙂

Anyway, I’ve changed my approach to these coffee talks and want to turn them into a “coffee walk.” Bring your iced coffee with you and let’s find a neighborhood to explore. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous walk during the week because we all have to get to work eventually. But, let’s get moving!

We sit all day long. We sit on our commute to work. We sit at desks all day. We sit down to eat. We sit all the time!  So, let’s have our coffee to go… who’s with me?

Milestones

Parenthood is a slow and steady process of learning to let go. Every year brings one (or often several) new milestones. As parents, we are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to the next one.

When she was little, there were so many milestones! I watched her walk, heard her first words and helped her explore the world around her. Once, she climbed the ladder to the top of the tallest slide on the playground. I stayed right behind her to make sure she didn’t fall. I held her little hand and saw her big smile when she realized how high up she had gone. Fearless, she released her grip and slid to the bottom, faster than I would have liked, laughing all the way down.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

When preschool began, I only signed her up for 2 days a week, thinking she couldn’t handle much more than that. In reality, it was me who couldn’t handle it. I busied myself with errands like grocery shopping and dropping off dry cleaning. At first, my tearful eyes watched the clock until it was time to pick her up. She often greeted me with the picture she drew and a new friend by her side.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

Birthday parties were part of our weekend routine. I read my book, ate some cake and exchanged funny toddler stories with the other moms and dads while she bounced, painted, or made a pizza. Then, the day came when I went to the party and someone handed me a waiver to sign. I was confused when the young man behind the counter told me, “you don’t have to stay.” I was confused. What did that mean exactly? I didn’t know what to do. Was it safe to leave her behind for a few hours? Would the other parents frown upon me for leaving her unattended?

But, she was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

In fourth grade, she rode her bike to school by herself–sort of. I followed her in my minivan making sure she looked both ways before she crossed the street and arrived safely. At one point, I waved at her from the driver’s seat and saw the first of many spectacular eye rolls. Of course, she made it to school and after that she rode to every day without me.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

Every year, I gave her a little more independence. I let her walk around the mall on her own with friends. She went to overnight camp for 4 weeks over the following three summers. I even let her fly by herself to attend a bat mitzvah in South Carolina. Then, there were dates with boys in cars and learning to drive and senior week at the Jersey shore.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let her go.

In three weeks, I’m about to hit a new milestone; one I’ve been in denial about all for quite some time. In the beginning of the school year, there seemed to be plenty of time and still so much to do. Back then, this day seemed far away and now it is so close. Our family dynamic is about to have a seismic shift that hasn’t happened since we brought her baby brother home from the hospital.

She is going to college.

We will pack up our car with all the “must-haves” from Bed Bath & Beyond. Her MacBook Air tucked away in her backpack. Her first semester tuition paid and class schedule in hand. Of course, I will lecture her on drinking and staying safe. I will tell her that college was the best four years of my life and I want her to have fun, but don’t do anything stupid.

The next part goes a little fuzzy in my mind. We will park near her dorm. I imagine it won’t take too long to unpack the car. We will wait endlessly for the elevator, but I won’t complain. Jenna will be giddy with excitement and I vow not to embarrass her in front of her roommate. After lunch, we will say our goodbyes. Family weekend is only a month away.

I’ll get in the car and likely cry. But I know this…

She is perfectly fine and I have to let go.

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