Archive of ‘Ultimate Blog Challenge’ category

Showing Up

For me, the hardest part about fulfilling a personal goal has always been starting. When I want to start an exercise routine, getting myself to the gym is the most challenging. Once I’m there, I hop on the treadmill or the elliptical and thirty minutes later, I feel amazing. I wonder why I don’t do this more often. I could be 25 pounds lighter right now if I just showed up.

The same goes for writing. For the last 31 days, I woke up, got dressed, poured myself a cup of ambition and sat down at my computer screen. Sometimes, I would type the words “I don’t know what to write” until something came to mind. Other times, I’d shut off the computer and pray an idea comes would magically appear on my way to work. And there were a few days when I had to give myself a much-needed break.

But guess what? I DID IT! I put myself first and showed up. And here I am 31 days later with a new writing routine. I carved out the time for it. I made it a priority. I succeeded.

Why don’t I do this more often? I feel amazing! I could have had my first book written if only I did this sooner. 😉

There is no stopping me now! I may not get to 29 posts for February, but I promise to show up when I have something to say.

Thank you for reading my posts and supporting me all month long. Stay tuned!

A Writer’s Fairy Tale

Do you remember this scene from Pretty Woman? Richard and Vivian are lying in bed together, having some serious pillow talk.

“When people put you down enough, you start to believe it,” Vivian whispers.

“I think you are a very bright, very special woman,” Edward assures her.

Vivian looks into his eyes and answers, “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?”

This is so true, and there is science to back this up. According to an article at livingincognito.com, we are all pre-programmed to think this way. The author writes, “We are predisposed to pay attention to the negative stuff because when we were cave-dwelling, our ancestors had to be on high alert for danger—a.k.a. the bad stuff.” And now, even though we don’t have those dangers to face, our brain never rewired itself. We pay attention to the negative because our brains are overprotective and want to protect us from harm. We form a permanent memory of this feeling and therefore find it difficult to move forward.

This Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC) has started to rewire my brain. I’ve already broken up with my 12th-grade journalism teacher, who told me I’d never be good enough. I’m putting out of my mind the rejections I’ve received from a few contests. When I asked one contest leader if I could get a critique of my piece, she had nothing but constructive feedback and words of encouragement. Even when I feel like I wrote a shitty first draft in the writer’s workshop I attend, people find something that resonates with them.

Hey guys – I just wrote a blog post a day for 30 straight days! For me, this is a big accomplishment. This experience has given me a much more positive attitude toward my writing career. Even on the days when I thought I had nothing more to write about, I realize my brain just needed to rest and recharge. I skipped two days but caught up and jumped right back on the horse.

Yes, the bad stuff is easier to believe, but I’m choosing to embrace the positive signs flashing brightly in front of me. And when someone has something negative and unhelpful to say, I’ll listen and then reply –

“BIG MISTAKE. HUGE! I HAVE TO GO AND WRITE NOW.”

 

 

 

 

 

A Moment to Vent

Yesterday, I went on ezinearticles.com and clicked on the category “Women’s Interests” to see if I could find a quality article to share with you. What I found was nothing worth sharing, but in fact, aggravating.

As a woman, I would imagine the topics under this category would be anything from careers to family, sports to fashion, and fitness to food. I thought I’d see a laundry list of fascinating and timely subject areas to explore.

Instead, I found this:

  • Menopause/HRT
  • Beauty Products
  • Plus Size
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Self Defense

That’s it?!  Except for the first topic—which I think is a valid one–what the fuck?!

Excuse my French, but seriously, this kind of thing drives me crazy. How about a section on health and wellness? Where are the articles about women entrepreneurs and athletes? I wouldn’t have even minded something more traditional, like parenting. But seriously, who came up with this list?

In the 21st century, the woefully outdated category of “women’s interests” should be put to rest. Who gets to say what my interests are on any given day? Certainly not this website.

If you think I’ve gone off the deep end, visit a magazine rack at Barnes & Noble. Notice the separate sections for men’s and women’s interests. I ask you to consider why they do this. Are women not interested in video games and DIY projects? Must we segregate the so-called interests of the different sexes?

There is a missed opportunity here to discuss and educate the next generation about women’s issues such as equal pay, the right to choose, and the lack of female representation in the corporate boardroom and in political leadership. This article in Politico addresses more women’s issues to conquer besides cosmetic surgery.

With 40 percent of U.S. businesses owned by women and presidential candidates talking about winning the “women’s vote,” let’s start treating women as human beings with their own experiences, interests and opinions.

Thank you. 🙂

End rant

Mamma Mia!

“So mom, was 18 hours of labor worth it?” my daughter asks me this morning – which happens to be her birthday.

“Nah!” I said with a smirk.

But of course, that’s not true.

After the initial shock of delivering her two weeks early wore off, I leaned back in my hospital bed, held Jenna in my arms, and fully embraced my role as a new mom. Nineteen years ago today was the start of my parenting career, so I guess you could say it’s my “BIRTH DAY” too.

On this day, I brought into this world a child and a whole new version of myself. And just two short years and ten months later (and three days past his due date!), we welcomed our son into the family. Being a parent is hard, but I know I’m my most authentic self when I’m with my kids.

So, what kind of mom am I?

I’ve always been more of a mama bear than a helicopter parent. I chose to be a breastfeeding, stay-at-home mom, but then I craved adult conversation and became a working mom. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance has always been a challenge, but one that I think I’ve managed well. They say women can do it all, but not all at once.

I’m definitely not the perfect mom, but Lord knows I do my best. Sometimes, I’ve been called a Type A mom because I like to rally the troops and organize our book club meetings. But most of the time, I’m more Type B — also known as the hot mess mom. On those days, as long as everyone is alive and safe, I’ve done my job.

I’m a swim mom and, until recently, a dance mom. I was briefly a stage mom when Andrew was cast as Mowgli in the fifth-grade production of The Jungle Book. He was a natural, and I sold tickets to everyone I knew for his acting debut. But being a stage mom was short-lived. In sixth grade, he was the two of hearts in Alice and Wonderland, and so the dream ended.

When they were little, I enjoyed my time as room mom but never a cookie mom. I see myself as more of a cookie mom supporter.

I’m not above ordering take out more than once a week, so I think you can safely cross out crunchy granola mom.

I don’t think I’ve been a strict mom. I’d say I’m more of a “don’t give me your shit” mom. And I’ve been told at times that I’m a cool mom.

Now, I’m the mom of a college student and a high school sophomore. I’m thankful they call me with their good news, crazy stories, and as the kids say, “the tea.” I’m glad they know they can also call me with their problems, worries, and dramas to help sort out. Sometimes they just want to hang out–which I love the most.

I’m the mom that will always be there for them. I’m the mom without a manual, but with a whole lot of love.

20 Questions

Well, we are on day 27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and I thought it would be a good time for you to get to know me better. It’s also an easy way to do a “catch-up post.

This month, O Magazine asks 20 questions in the O Quiz. I thought these questions were interesting and not your typical favorite things questions. So here goes nothing.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Hot fudge sundaes

If you could send yourself a note in 2030, what would it say? Congratulations on becoming an author. I’m so proud of you. You set out to do something you wanted to do your entire life, and you did it. I hope you take this moment to shine in the spotlight because you deserve it.

What’s one thing in your life you are so happy you did? I went to Israel while I was in college for five weeks. I spent that time pushing myself to do things I never did before – like kayaking and hiking, riding a camel and laying out on the beach in Eilat. Celebrating Shabbat in Jerusalem is something I will never forget. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to go back there, but I’m so glad I went at least once.

Who’s one person that changed your life? My career coach who taught me to discover and honor my values and never settle. I learned so much about myself. I gained confidence and learned how to present my best self on paper and in an interview. Best money I’ve ever spent in my life.

What makes you cry? When I put 100% into something that means everything me, and it goes unappreciated. I don’t ask for recognition, just respect.

What gives you hope? Watching my children and their friends do something to give back to others. Whether it is feeding the homeless in a soup kitchen or spending time with kids with special needs, they enjoy volunteering their time to make the world a better place.

What do you love unapologetically? I love getting sucked into an amazing book and nothing can make me put it down – even if I have to stay up all night to finish it.

What keeps you up at night? I wake up and wonder what Jenna is doing at college at that moment and hoping that whatever it is–she is being smart and safe.
I tend to look at the Find Your Friends app to see if she is back at her dorm.

What’s your secret talent?  I can touch my tongue to my nose.

What’s one thing you were wrong about? Just one thing? I used to think people would change their ways, but now I know everyone is wired differently and I can only change how I react to them. Learning this lesson has made my life a lot easier.

What movie could you watch on an endless loop? Right now, Jersey Boys. I just love that doo-wop music.

What’s your worst habit? Not drinking water. It is one of the easiest and healthiest things I can do, and I rarely drink it. Unless coffee counts. Does it count??

Cats or dogs? DOGS! I’m highly allergic to cats.

When is the last time you felt awe? A few years ago, we went to the Grand Canyon and I got to stand at the rim and appreciate its beauty. I felt the same way when we visited Niagra Falls. There is something about the natural wonders of the world that take my breath away. Next on my list – I’d love to see the Northern Lights.

If you could choose a magical power, what would it be? To be in two places at once.

What is your most prized possession? An autograph t-shirt from former Phillies pitcher, Jaime Moyer.

What places or adventures are still on your bucket list? Italy

What ignites your sense of injustice? Racism, antisemitism, sexism, and so many other things.

What’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves? Self-Confidence

What’s the greatest gift we can give one another? Kindness

BINGO!

I double booked myself last week. I hate when that happens.

I signed up for Ladies Bingo Night, which is a fundraiser for our high school seniors. I also agreed to attend a social justice meeting at the synagogue. Fortunately, both were happening in the same building. Unfortunately, the timing was so close together that I wasn’t able to stay for the majority of the agenda.

On my way upstairs to play bingo, I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. Why did I bother going to that meeting in the first place? What must they think of me? Should I quit the committee altogether since my first impression was not a stellar one?

And then, I took a deep breath and stopped my thoughts from snowballing further. I’m passionate about the issues of the day, and I want the social justice committee to be my outlet for getting involved. They address topics such as antisemitism, gun control, voting rights, climate change and so much more. These are my people, and I’ve been searching for an opportunity to stand up and do more for the greater good.

But, our group of my friends can rarely get together anymore. All of our lives are crazy busy. We work. We run our kids around. We prepare dinner, do the laundry and make sure everything at home is running like clockwork. We deserve a break, and I was looking forward to spending time with them. So, I chose to stop feeling guilty.

Confidence isn’t knowing other people like you. It’s knowing you’ll be fine if they don’t.

For most of my life, I worried endlessly about what people thought of me. This lack of confidence in my decisions carried over from work relationships to personal and familial ones. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been to therapy to address this, and now consider myself a “reformed people pleaser.” As I get older, I realize that being kind to others doesn’t mean that you need to bend over backward and contort yourself into what they want from you. I must stay true to myself.

When I saw the above quote today, it reminded me to be authentic every day. Not some of the time. ALL OF THE TIME.

And yes, I will go back for another social justice meeting. I’ve already put important dates on my calendar so I can support their ongoing programs. I have lots to contribute, and if I don’t show up, who would lose out? Not them, but me. BINGO!

In Memory of Kobe Bryant

I don’t know how I could write about anything else tonight besides the terrible loss today of Kobe Bryant. I admit I know very little about basketball. But I know his name. I know his smile. I know his presence, and I feel this loss along with everyone else.

As a wife and mother, I can’t imagine what his loved ones must be going through.

As someone who lives not far from where Kobe grew up, Philadelphia mourns with the rest of the world on the loss of a great son.

I want to turn the tv off, but I can’t. I need to hear the tributes and learn about his legendary life on and off the court as a player, a leader, a family man and an ambassador of goodwill.

In this time of chaos and corruption, the world could use more Kobe Bryants. Nothing less will do.

Drive Time

Every morning at 7:20 am, I start my commute to work. On paper, it should take no longer than 30 minutes door to door. In reality, the traffic, school and Septa buses and construction areas bump that time up to 45-50 minutes. I have a lot of time on my hands, so I try to make the best of it.

Thankfully, I have a lot of options for my listening pleasure, but local morning radio is truly my last resort. The local stations consist of either talk radio or the music my children enjoy. There is also a lot of gimmicks, contests, and my least favorite thing, prank phone calls on unsuspecting people. My kids have joked about doing this to me, but I’m hoping they know better. The only exception I make for local radio is the traffic report as I get closer to work. One accident on Lincoln Drive could easily add an extra 45 minutes to my ride.

With all of the options XM radio has to offer, there are some days where traffic is not a burden. The soundtrack of my childhood can be found on multiple stations. This month, the Billy Joel channel creates a concert-like atmosphere in my car. I am not above belting out the lyrics to My Life or performing a piano solo on my steering wheel to Angry Young Man. I’m sure the other commuters get a kick out of my highly choreographed, driver-side dance routines.

And thanks to my daughter setting up Apple CarPlay for me, I may never leave my car. My ears are wide open to the plethora of podcasts that are now available to me. I can only truly appreciate the wisdom of Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl and Jonathan Small’s Write About Now in the privacy of my SUV. I can’t exactly blast Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert from the Alexa in the house without someone raising an eyebrow.

When I pull into my parking space, I breathe a heavy sigh because the fun is now over. I must go and do all the responsible things. But then I smile, knowing I’ll be back for an encore on the drive home.

 

Blogging with Friends

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Writers thrive on the love and support they get from their readers. I know I do. The hardest part about writing a post for me is hitting the “publish” button. Each time I do it, I’m putting my voice and my life experiences out there for everyone to see. Sometimes it’s to make you think and other times to make you laugh, but mostly to let you know that you aren’t alone. So, it means the world to me when you comment or tell me that something I wrote was meaningful to you. I thank you for that on this 25th day of the blog challenge.

(What blog challenge, you say? Keep reading to learn more).

There is a particular group of readers who have inspired me this month. They are fellow bloggers taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC). For those of you that don’t know, UBC is a Facebook group of writers that are posting along with me for 31 days in January. The feedback they offer is priceless. It builds up my confidence as a writer to hear from them because I think they are all better writers than me. Not that it’s a competition. I’m just proud to be a member of this online community.

Picking a favorite blog in this group is like picking a favorite child. It’s impossible. But, if you’d like to give a little blog love to some UBC members, here are a few you can check out.

One thousand and two – This blog-written by Lily- is so much like me. I feel like if we ever met, we would have a lot to discuss. Her recent take on the topic of loneliness was so brave. It is an issue that I often think about in my own life but haven’t had the guts to share-yet. Thank you, Lily, for being so open and honest with your words.

Doggone Healthy Choices – We’ve had our dog, Chloe, for almost four years now, but I never had a dog growing up. Pamela’s blog is a fantastic resource for dog owners. I never feel like “I should have known that…” when reading her posts. She is all about helping us have healthy relationships with our dogs and taking good care of them.

Carrie Ann Trip – I learned quite a lot about the Christian faith from this blog. What strikes me is that even though I am a Jew, there are values that transcend all religions. Carrie Ann uses both scripture and real-life examples perfectly in order to illustrate her thoughts, and it has been a joy to read.

Cerebrations – Roy is a body of knowledge on a variety of topics. From tax advice to pop culture, you will surely find something here to your liking. His writing is a fantastic combination of sweet, salty and substantive. He also helps me be a better writer and find my way into the Twitter universe.

Lady In Read Writes – I love book blogs, and Vidya’s blog is always a wonderful place to find support for my book-buying habit. I never feel guilty about adding to my shelves because I know somewhere out there she is doing the same. I also had no idea what a review of a picture book would sound like. The thought process that goes into her reviews of these books are fascinating to me. Her non-book related posts also make me smile.

To the bloggers I didn’t list here, please know that I am cheering you on as well. From the business advice to the travel blogs, you have opened up new worlds to me. I am always looking forward to reading your next post.

In the words of Sylvia Path, “Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

 

Puzzled

Recently, a co-worker once asked me what I do to alleviate stress in my life. Some people go for a run to achieve a Zen-like state. Others will meditate or do yoga. I told him that for me, working on a good jigsaw puzzle has always brought me some peace in this crazy life.

I’ve written about jigsaw puzzles before, but I thought I’d give you a visual so you can see how much our family enjoys them. Everyone from my parents to my kids gets involved. Some of them think they are funny and try to sneak a piece in their pocket. This is so they can be sure to put the one to put the last piece in. Sometimes at the end of a puzzle, we wind up with several missing pieces.

Andrew got a little frustrated.Our most recent puzzle masterpiece is a general store. There was so much to look at, which made this puzzle a lot of fun to do. We could easily break it down into sections to tackle. There are several old-fashioned signs, flower beds and baskets of fruit to piece together.

First and foremost, we do the border first. I know others who like to do the middle and work their way out to the end. Our family doesn’t understand this logic but to each his own.

As you can see, we are missing a border piece at the top. This became a constant source of frustration. But after taking the time to go through the pile, piece by piece, we decided to proceed without it. We do have lives, you know!

This picture was taken after the first day. We get a lot done when we work together.

 

Over the next few days, we each find some time to put together a few pieces until it is complete. Jenna was particularly happy to find that missing border piece.

 

Jenna works on the green and white awnings in the puzzle.

 

Ta-Da!

We typically keep the finished puzzle on the dining room table for a week or so before taking it apart and starting a new one. One may wonder what’s the point of putting together a puzzle that you are just going to undo eventually. To this, I say it is the journey that makes it so enjoyable. You have to imagine the engaging conversations, the no-screen time rules, and the laughter that takes place around our dining room table. Jigsaw puzzles bring me joy, a sense of accomplishment, and, yes, those awesome moments of Zen.

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