Archive of ‘Ultimate Blog Challenge’ category

The One with the Questions

Hello!

First of all, thanks for visiting my blog. If you have commented in the past–whether on Facebook or in the comments section–THANK YOU AGAIN! I love reading your comments. 

So now, I have a favor to ask of you! Now that you are here, what would you like to know? What question would you like me to answer? What is causing the most stress right now? Maybe I’ve been where you’ve been and can tell you what worked for me.

Go on! Ask me anything! Tomorrow, I will select one or two (or a few questions) and answer them for you! So, leave a comment below and ask me a question!

I can’t wait to see what you have for me! 

Comfort Zones Suck

I’ve never been one to stay in my comfort zone for too long. It’s a lovely place to be for a while, and enjoy the low stress, high-performance lifestyle–but eventually, I get antsy and realize it’s time for a change. And we all know where change lives, that’s right, at the end of our comfort zones.

Take something simple like my haircut. I always want to change it up. I get bored easily. I might want a new style. (Man, do I miss my short hair!) Or it could be less dramatic and more fun, like going from a blonde to a darker blonde to a brunette. Once, I went off the rails and asked my hairdresser to add a little red to the mix. I liked it for a few weeks, but in the end, it wasn’t for me.

But, generally, I’ve always enjoyed and embraced the idea of changing something about myself. Some see it is as a makeover; I see it as rebranding.

Here are a few challenges I’ve put in place to tackle over the next few months.

Because I work in the non-profit world, I tend not to volunteer as much as I should. Sure, I pack and deliver boxes at the food pantry a few times a year, and I’ve organized “dine and donate” events for the school, but I’d like to up my volunteer game. I know I’d enjoy an opportunity to serve on the board of a cause I’m passionate about, or mentor a young professional who could use a trusty compass. I need to replace my “sit on the couch and watch Netflix” comfort zone and do some good in the world.

Here’s another challenge. I’ve never considered myself to be much of an athlete, but I’ve become too comfortable in my own skin lately. So much so that I’ve put on more than a few pounds that need to come off. I’m building a new habit of spending 10-15 minutes a day doing something active. Eventually, that will build up to 30 minutes, but I’m taking it slow. And I’ll need some motivation so I’ll get back to those Weight Watchers meetings I’ve been ignoring on my calendar. Being a part of a community motivates me, whether it is one with writers or one filled with people looking for a healthier self. I need to find that community again.

Finally, I want to seek out more ways to show kindness. While someone may consider nice people to be pushovers, I see it as my superpower. If you are looking for some help with something, just ask. If you are looking for a job, I’ve been told I’m a good writer and editor of cover letters and resumes. If you are going through a tough time, I can be a good listener. If you are looking for a book recommendation for your next book club, I have a kick-ass list. Or maybe I’ll send you a card or a little gift to let you know I’m thinking of you. How can I be of help to you?

Comfort zones can be dangerous places to stay for too long. Time for me to move out of mine. If you’ve done this before, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share!

 

The One With The Book Review

The problem with being an avid reader and a writer is that you tend to find plot holes and issues with stories. I’ve spent enough time participating in writing workshops to recognize what works, what went wrong, and what I would have done if I wrote the book.  And, of course, I didn’t write it – so who am I to criticize?

For fun, I’m going to critique the book anyway. 🙂

The Mother-In-Law is a murder mystery in which the woman dies, and everyone in the family is considered a possible suspect. From the children to the in-laws, everyone had a reason to do her in.

The book started off with a look at the happy couple when they first met and in present day. The timeline changes between the past and present, and the story unfolds with both the victim and her daughter-in-law engaged in a conflict and sharing different sides of the story. At first, I thought this would be difficult to follow, but it turned out to be an entertaining way to keep the story moving along at a good clip. Whatever the confrontation, the reader sees it from both sides, understands the underlying miscommunication and subsequent fallout. And, in my case, sympathizes with both main characters. I think the author wanted me to sympathize with the daughter-in-law but I found her to be oversensitive and a tad whiny. While her mother in law did some questionable things — she had her reasons.

Here’s what I didn’t like about the book. I thought it was a shame that we didn’t hear more from the other family members – aka suspects. I think the author could have spent more time and pages on each of their lives to create some fun moments of confusion and wonder as to who did the deed. Also, as murder mysteries go, usually, there is a law enforcement component. I found myself intrigued by how the detectives handled the family members and proceded with their investigation. Unfortunately, they all but disappeared from the storyline a few chapters into the novel.

If you are thinking this book is the new “Gone Girl,” far from it. However, it is a fun read, and you will be left wondering who the murderer is until the bitter end.

Spoiler alert – if you what to know who did it without reading the entire book, the table of contents offers a dead giveaway.

 

The One about the Birthday Boy

Back when I was pregnant, people would ask me whether I hoped for another girl or a boy. I didn’t care either way as long as the baby was healthy. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had doubts about my own parenting skills when raising a son. It sounds ridiculous now, but I remember thinking to myself that I only know about girls, having a sister of my own. What did I know about boys?

All doubts were put aside when the doctor put Andrew in my arms at 12:13 am on October 17, 2003.
Ten fingers, ten toes. 7lbs. 1 oz. Lots of dark hair and the longest eyelashes that fashion models would kill for.
He was perfect.

And I found out quickly that there is no difference in raising boys vs. girls. (DUH!) To me, parenting is all about instilling your values in your children and share your passions with them. And then, give them the love and support they need to take these things and grow into the people they are destined to become. Sixteen years later, Andrew emulates everything we value as adults and more. Today on his birthday, we celebrate that with great pride.

A few things about Andrew:

He has a strong moral compass and an innate desire to give back to those in need.

In school, synagogue, sports, and scouts, he has a fierce drive to do his very best.

Since he was born, he has had a fantastic smile that, to this day, lights up a room. I think people are drawn to him by that smile.

His sense of humor is smart, deadpan, and hilarious.

He has the nicest group of friends. lt was no surprise to me that when we went on a cruise this past summer, he met a group of friends, and they bonded instantly. So much so, that on the last night, they gathered on the pool deck in a circle and shed some tears because they had to leave each other. Four months later, he stays in contact with them through a group chat.

Right now, the thing I love most about him is how he wears kindness on his sleeve. Honestly, in today’s crazy world, the smallest and heartfelt act of kindness goes a long way, and I know it will take him far in life.

As his mother, I could go on and on about how great he is, but I think you get it. In Judaism, we call him a mensch which is Yiddish for a good person. He is such a mensch.

Happy Birthday, Andrew. We love you.

The One With All The Writers

Yesterday, I attended a writer’s workshop alone. I walked into the room of maybe 60 people hoping to see a familiar face from other events I attended. I saw no one I knew, but I also knew I wasn’t alone.

All I needed to do was pick a side of the room to sit on, and I knew I’d find my people there. I am a part of this community of writers. We all have the same dreams of being heard, being remembered, and connecting with others through our love of words. I belonged there.

I sat down around a group of women, and sure enough, we hit it off.

Irene sat to my left. She is a magazine writer and has a home office, which makes it difficult for her to separate her work from her personal writing. While sometimes I wish I worked from home more regularly, I can see the struggle. I, too, needed a new place to write. For the past few years, I’ve written blog posts in the middle of all the action–my dining room table. There was a tv blaring in the background and kids asking me to sign permission slips. As a mom, I needed to be there. As a writer, it was hurting my creativity.

Recently, I turned my daughter’s bedroom into my writing haven. I asked her permission, of course. She is away at college now, and the room sits empty. Now, I have my favorite notebooks and pens on her desk. I moved my writing books and prompt decks onto her bookshelf. If I need a place to sit away from the blank screen, her comfy bean bag chair is in the corner–although lately, it is hard to stand up from that thing. There is no tv in the room to distract me, and most importantly, there is a door to close. It’s a perfect sanctuary for writing.

I talked to Carol during one of the breaks. She is currently writing a book about her bitter divorce that she is still picking up the pieces from. She had a lot of self-doubt that anyone would ever want to read it, and maybe the act of writing it down was just cathartic. She was searching for a writer’s group that would be open to her stories. We talked about a few groups she visited that didn’t work out for her. She said they weren’t supportive enough. So, I suggested the group I attend, which she said she would check it out. She was an intense writer with something to get off her chest. I hope she is heard. I assured her someone is out there who wants to connect with someone and hear a story like hers. They want to know they aren’t alone.

I shared with her my idea for a book, but I also wasn’t sure if it had an audience. When I described the book to her, a woman in front of us turned around and said she knew someone who would love to read my book. She commented on how she had seen nothing like it before—and she had looked. This gave me new encouragement to write the book I’ve been thinking about for so long.

Encouragement. Inspiration. Friendship. These were the three things I took away from the workshop yesterday. Yes, the speakers were terrific, but because writing is a solitary activity, I go to be with the community that continues to lift me up. We have the same dreams and the same fears. We want to be heard but are riddled with self-doubt. I left the workshop feeling inspired and determined to tackle the blank page with courage, confidence, and a new commitment to writing that shitty first draft knowing someday it will turn into something special.

 

A Girl Can Dream

I recently watched Sex and the City: The Movie a few weeks ago. (Such a good movie).

My favorite part is not when Big sends her the love letters via email or when Charlotte has her baby. Nope. My favorite scene is when Carrie decides to hire a personal assistant. Imagine being in a position to do that. How could she afford it? Vogue was paying decently by the word, but she still had to buy the shoes!

Nevertheless, I think I was close to tears of envy when I watched that scene for the first time. With a full-time job and two children and a crazy busy household, what I wouldn’t give to be able to hire someone to do the things that needed to get done.

But a girl can dream. So, if I was able to hire a personal assistant, here are some things I’d love to hand off to him or her:

  1. Meal planning because I suck at it.
  2. Redecorate certain rooms in my house because I don’t have the energy, and I missed out on that part of the gene pool.
  3. Driving so I can use my hour-long commute to read my book instead of sitting in traffic.
  4. Be my personal shopper. Someone who has an excellent eye for age-appropriate but trendy clothes and knows my taste as well as I do.
  5. Help me build my personal website, set up my Twitter feed, teach me Instagram and Snapchat and why it is essential in life, and always make sure there is ink and paper in the printer.
  6. Learn how to organize my house like Marie Kondo and get rid of the clutter –except for my books. Don’t ever touch the books.

So, what would you have your imaginary personal assistant do for you?

World Mental Health Day

For me, one of the best writing prompts around is the National Day Calendar. Whenever I feel like I have nothing left to write, this calendar gives me a whole new bucket to dive into and countless ideas for future posts. For instance, National Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Day was on Monday. I could go on and on about how chocolate-covered pretzels–specifically white chocolate-covered ones–are one of my favorite things. They made the perfect gift to bring to the hospital after I had my two children. While other friends and family brought cute stuffed animals and cheerful balloons, my sister delivered the goods.

Clearly, I still appreciate the gesture.

So, what does any of this have to do with the title of my post? It turns out that today is another important day to consider–World Mental Health Day. First celebrated in 1992, this day is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health issues. Millions of Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, and other conditions that can prevent them from living their best lives. In honor of this day, I want to do what I can to reduce that stigma by sharing my story.

Several years ago, I couldn’t get through the day without crying. I thought this was some sort of post-partum syndrome, but since the baby was over a year old, my doctor told me that wasn’t likely. She prescribed me an anti-depressant, and initially, I balked at the suggestion. No way could I be depressed. Sure, I was tired, and I felt I couldn’t handle much of anything at the time. And then, I was upset at how tired I was and how I avoided daily tasks because I wasn’t feeling up to it. And after being drained and upset for so long, people started to take notice.

It took me two weeks to fill the prescription. I stared at the life-changing piece of paper every day and wondered what it would mean to take it. Was it a sign of weakness or an easy way out? Did I really need it? Wouldn’t this all eventually work itself out?

Finally, I figured it could only help, and within three days, I was thinking much more clearly. I had more energy. My appetite returned. No more crying or lashing out. I realized my doctor was right. I was suffering from clinical depression.

Since that day, I’ve come to learn that depression isn’t something you can talk yourself out of feeling and “get over it.” Once I accepted that this was a situation beyond my control, I felt much better about getting help.

So, why can’t people get past depression? Because it’s a serotonin imbalance in the brain. It’s a physical condition that, in essence, causes sadness, anger, low energy, reduced appetite, etc. I’ve gone off and then back on medication. Recently, I decided staying on a low-dose is a wise move. I’m not embarrassed. There is no stigma, especially when my life is so much better than before. In the process, I’ve learned coping strategies with the help of an excellent therapist, and the medicine keeps everything else in balance. This is what is right for me, and I have no regrets.

On this important day, if you or someone you love is struggling with any of these issues and box of white chocolate-covered pretzels doesn’t do the trick, talk to your doctor, fill the prescription, and get your life back.

 

Word Nerd

How am I a word nerd? Let me count the ways:

First, I’m an avid reader, and when I stumble upon a word I don’t know; I’ll look it up. Thanks to the last few news cycles, I’ve recently learned the definition for quid pro quo.

Also, while some people listen to the Mega Hit Mix on Spotify, I listen to Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Have you heard of it? She is amazing. Each podcast is a fascinating lesson in word choice, punctuation, and grammar.

I’m telling you it totally rocks!

(See what I mean — word nerd).

When I’m at work, I’m a total geek, but I’m also the go-to person for how to phrase something the right way. People have a lot of trouble with it, and I’m happy to trade off my linguistic skills in exchange for their budgeting expertise.

I ran into an issue the other day when scheduling a meeting. We wanted to meet bi-weekly, and after all these years, I’m still not sure if that means twice a week or every two weeks. Luckily, word nerds love to buy books that help us through these webs of miscommunication. One of my favorites at the moment is “How to Tell Fate from Destiny and Other Skillful Word Distinctions” by Charles Harrington Elster. This book is right up my alley. Elster explained that using the term “bi-weekly” is so confusing; one should consider taking the time to say that the meeting will occur twice a week.

As a writer, I believe choosing the right words is essential. Words evoke emotion. They inspire people and motivate them to take action. Taking the time to find the right word means the difference between the mundane and the extraordinary.

To sum up, word nerds should unite in the search for the perfect word, the right punctuation, and the proper grammar. If it weren’t for us, typos would rule the world. I don’t think I could live with that. 🙂

The One With Chloe

This is Chloe. Chloe is our toy poodle. Chloe needs a lot of attention today.

As if cleaning the house for company later this week, finishing four loads of laundry and completing grocery shopping/cooking for the week, Chloe needed–actually demanded–some quality time. I swear I’m not ignoring her; I have a lot to do–including an extra blog post today.

Earlier, we went for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood where I let her sniff every blade of grass for as long as she wanted. I didn’t tug at her leash. I didn’t bribe her with treats. I allowed her to take us wherever she pleased.

We’ve played tug of war with her favorite toy (pictured here). And each time, I toss her toy across the room, she fetches it and brings it right back to where I’m sitting as if to say–“we aren’t finished yet.” She even sat with me and watched Meet the Press without complaint so that she could hang out with me longer. She prefers to watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

When I went finally upstairs to sit down and write a much more interesting post, she and her toy followed me. And now she is at my ankles barking up at me for even more attention. I’ve decided to let her up on my bed to make herself comfortable, so I can write–which she did.

This is Chloe…not letting me write much more tonight.

I surrender.

 

 

1 2 3 4