Some people tell me I put my entire life on Facebook, but it isn’t really true. Yes, I do enjoy posting on a daily basis–sometimes even several times a day. I like to “check in” at different locations like a trendy restaurant with friends or while sitting at my son’s baseball game. On occasion, I’ve been known to kvetch about lengthy to-do lists, wishing for a clone to magically appear and save the day. Here is what I didn’t write about on Facebook this year:
- My mom’s back surgery and her not-so-smooth recovery;
- Another close relative’s unexpected open heart surgery that took place two weeks after my mom came home from the hospital. And the surgery took place on Jenna’s 14th birthday;
- A second surgery for him about a month later – both of which were life-saving procedures;
- My whirlwind initiation into the sandwich generation–taking care of aging parents and dependent children who understood everything that was going on and had lots of questions I didn’t know how to answer;
- Dealing with all of the above and working a full time job where I planned, implemented and attended 2 back-to-back holiday programs and 4 major events in the course of 3 months. This would be a challenge for even the most experienced program director under normal circumstances;
- Trying so hard to be “on” for everyone else in my personal and professional life even though on the inside my light was turned off;
- My futile attempts to attain perfection as I kept track of a jam-packed calendar of kids’ activities, meetings, and doctors’ appointments. I would spend many early mornings filling out forms, checking homework, cleaning the house and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Needless to say, the first half of 2015 was rough for me. Checking in on Facebook from the surgical waiting room at Jefferson Hospital or from the intensive cardiac care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was not possible. I was so overwhelmed by both experiences and I couldn’t bear to read the comments which would surely follow. Have you ever noticed how sometimes support is incredibly wonderful and other times it can be suffocating? I wasn’t prepared for either scenario. So I kept it all inside–which turned out not to be a good idea either. As a result of all of the above and some other underlying factors, I also kept the following aspect of my life off of Facebook – I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My symptoms included shaking and crying often for no particular reason, total exhaustion, out of the blue panic attacks, stomach issues, and an overall loss of appetite. I would literally stare at a small, plastic container of Greek yogurt willing myself to eat the whole thing—often leaving half of it untouched. And I LOVE Greek yogurt! What started this? I don’t know the exact cause because there isn’t one thing I can pin it on. However, my fears of not getting everything done and done well may have been what ultimately did me in. Ever since grade school, I’ve been known as the conscientious and dependable one. My teachers even wrote it on my report cards. People rely on those qualities in me every day and I thrive on that. I give 110% to everything I do with passion and determination, but I guess I just ran out of steam. My grandmother used to say do everything, wear everything, and enjoy everything in the best of health. Boy, she was so right! I am happy to report that everyone is healthy–including me–and we are all enjoying life again. I continue to bounce back thanks to the love and support from my amazing family and closest friends as well as some excellent doctors and a little medication. 🙂 So why am I sharing this with you now? This blog is called Life Without A Manual for a good reason. Sometimes life throws you curve balls that hit you square in the head. Very often you don’t see it coming. You become so dizzy, confused, and upset that you think you can’t find a way out–until eventually you do find a way out. THERE IS NO MANUAL. But there are people around you who love you who can pick you back up, be there in your time of need, get you through the hard days, and help you move forward. To those people who were there for me, I am sending you a heartfelt thank you. You all know who you are. There is always a way out and I hope that sharing some of my story will help others who may be suffering in silence.
Actually, I am ready. I’m ready for my house to be filled with piles of camp laundry to wash, dry and put away. (Did I really just say that?) I’m ready to wake up to the smiles of my children first thing in the morning. I’m ready for someone to call me Mom again. Camp Heisman has been swell. Scott and I have reconnected and spent lots of quality time together. Long summer walks and great conversations have been a key part of our staycation. Day trips, dinners out, working hard at our jobs, and hanging out with good friends was a big part of our “camp” activities. Meanwhile, our children enjoyed a wonderful 3 1/2 weeks at overnight camp connecting with old friends, making new ones, pushing themselves past their comfort zones, solving their own problems, and spreading their wings. On Sunday, they will come home and the rest of our summer will begin. Jenna will take her place as a CIT at day camp while Andrew joins another bunk of friends. We will put Tube Night back on the calendar on Wednesdays and head over to our local swim club on a regular basis. And an amazing family vacation is only weeks away. Some of our friends send their kids to overnight camp for both sessions and they encourage us to do the same. I applaud them for continuing to support their children as they spread their wings, but it is not my plan to follow suit. While I love to watch the kids grow as people, I also want them to keep planting some roots at home. Soon enough, college will take them away from us for much longer periods of time. Vacations with their friends will be the priority for them as they continue to fly away from our nest and start their own lives. So, we have decided to send them for one session of camp only (as long as we can afford it!). But then we want them home with us–while they are still legally required to be there. 🙂 Meanwhile, bring on the laundry, the camp stories, the sleepovers, the smiles, the constant shout outs demanding something from me. I’m ready for them to come home.
The other day, I was on my knees in the middle of DSW in a slightly panicked state of mind. I was searching for my Fitbit Flex which must have fallen off my wrist only 20 minutes ago. I didn’t realize it was missing until I came home from shoe shopping–proudly carrying 3 cute new pairs of sandals. I changed out of my work clothes, looked down and saw my bare wrist. The Fitbit was gone. I rummaged through my bags and checked the floor of my car thoroughly. It was definitely not there. I didn’t even say goodbye to my family as I grabbed my keys, backed out of the driveway and made my way back to DSW. I retraced my steps through the parking lot praying someone didn’t run it over. I was so mad at myself. I just spent $100 on that damn thing and I lost it. Besides, we were at the start of a beautiful friendship. I threw open the door to DSW and asked the first 3 people I saw if anyone turned in a Fitbit. The saleswoman didn’t think so and immediately put out an APB on my device to the other workers in the store. Soon, everyone was glancing down to help me look. I said another little prayer that no one already walked away with it. I held out hope as I walked through the aisles of sandals, shoes, and sneakers. Ten minutes later, I found it right near the black wedged sandals I decided against buying. It must have slipped off my wrist as I was contemplating which pair to buy. The search was called off, people went back to their lives and the salespeople congratulated me. Relieved, I attached it back to my wrist and went home. This is the life of a woman obsessed with her Fitbit. For some reason, this lightweight, plastic bracelet has really got a hold on me. It motivates me to park my car a little further from the front door of the office. It reminds me to take the stairs instead of the elevator. When I’m a good girl, the Fitbit rewards me with badges I can post on Facebook. It even encourages me to go to bed a little earlier so as to get the right amount of REM sleep. And since it is equipped with a built in alarm, its gentle vibrations against my skin wake me up every morning. Hmm…maybe I’m getting a little too close to my Fitbit. Is there a support group out there for me? I’ll even walk there if it helps me acquire more steps for the day. Anyway…. At the end of every day, we check in with each other to see how many steps I took, how many miles I traveled, how many calories I burned off, and how many minutes of exercise I can take credit for. Today, I proudly walked 10,653 steps which equals 4.3 miles, and 1,912 calories burned. I also spent 36 minutes exercising. It was a good day for us. Losing it forever would have been hard to get over, but I would have managed somehow without it. Right now, I just prefer not to.
Eight years ago, Scott & I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We left the kids with their grandparents for the week while we frolicked and played on the high seas. We laid out on the pool deck drinking cocktails, drove jet skis in Haiti, climbed Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, swam with the stingrays in Grand Cayman, and toured Cozumel on segways. Throughout the entire vacation away from the chaos at home, we were reminded how much we really enjoy each other’s company and why we got married in the first place. It was like falling in love all over again. This summer, we don’t need to go away to have a good time. We are experiencing a “staycation” while both kids attend overnight camp in the Poconos. We are taking nice walks at night, having great conversations during the day, and staying in bed a little longer in the mornings. Our relaxing agenda consists of to do items like hanging out with friends, going out to dinner, and discovering the wonders of Netflix. By the way, I don’t know why it took us so long to take advantage of this plethora of great TV at our fingertips! Anyway, we purposely made no big plans for these weeks so we could just “be.” The first six months of this year were rocky to say the least with several family illnesses–including my own battle with anxiety accompanied by some crippling panic attacks. (More on that later.) Thankfully everyone, including myself, is on the mend, but 2015 has been the year of the unexpected. To kickstart the 2nd half of the year, I am referring to our staycation affectionately as “Camp Heisman.” It is a new beginning. A fun little haven of adult conversation and activities in the comforts of our own home. Hot showers and good food are standard. Clothing is optional. (Sorry Mom & Dad). And while we miss our kids so much, we know they needed a break too. We all deserve this little hiatus which is probably why I do not feel at all guilty about our current situation. In a little more than two weeks, we will be one big happy family under one roof again. Things will pick up right where they left off. Jenna and I will watch and analyze episodes of The Bachelorette while Andrew catches up on American Ninja Warriors. Tube Night at the pool will go back on the calendar. Clothes and kid clutter will give the house that “lived in” look again. Conversations about camp, friends, school and life in general will come back to the minivan–where it is frankly a little too quiet for me these days. Soon enough, my life will be exactly like this again (click here). For now, my plan is to lay low and take it easy while it lasts. Maybe we will go to a movie during the week or out to dinner. Perhaps, we will jump in the car for a day trip or two. And I should probably finish my novel for book club–or actually start it. Most importantly, I am grateful to be able to give our kids some wings, take a break from it all and enjoy this time together as husband and wife.
My son’s mohawk has been a summer staple in our family for the last 5 years. He waits all school year long to make the journey to Great Clips. He knows we don’t allow the mohawk between the months of September and June because don’t want any major distractions to interfere with his studies. Not that I have any scientific evidence which correlates hairstyles to good grades, but I’m his mom and I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Summertime is different. We don’t mind him letting loose and expressing himself in this way. He loves the look and quite frankly, I think it is adorable. Not everyone in the family agrees with me. The grandparents don’t like it one bit which is why I waited until after the annual Father’s Day barbecue this year to get it cut. Mohawks are synonymous with rebels like Mr. T or some of the people who walk down South Street in Philly. Not a look for their grandson. Of course, they love him anyway and take comfort in the knowledge that his hair grows back quickly. Some supporters of the mohawk suggest I have him dye it red or blue. To them, I say no thank you. He is a boy, not a clown. I appreciate your support, but this is as far as I go. He started with the mohawk after he joined the swim team. All of the other boys were sporting them and he begged me for one too. I was hesitant at first, but he wanted it so badly and I relented. I reasoned it wasn’t like a piercing or anything permanent. When he came home for the first time with the shaved sides and landing strip down the middle, it was shocking to see. It was also the first time I saw my youngest look more like a little man. I admit I wasn’t crazy about it at first, but within a day I embraced his new look wholeheartedly. He made it so much easier because he loved it and–let’s face it–he rocked it. This summer, he is trading in swim meets for overnight camp in the Poconos. A few of his synagogue friends are going to camp with him but for the most part, he will be making a lot of new friends. I thought this might be the end of the Mohawk. But I was wrong. As June rolled around, he couldn’t stop talking about it and is even more excited to show his choice of summer hairstyles at camp. His sister tried to deter him. As a veteran of the same camp, she gave him the lay of the land and told him no one else had a mohawk. He was not at all phased by this information. In fact, it seemed to make him want it even more. I pulled him aside one day and quietly asked if he thought it was wise as he was going to a brand new camp with people he didn’t know. I didn’t tell him I feared he would be made fun of and not be accepted by his peers–although this has always been my worry. His answer shut me up once and for all. “Mom, I’m a leader. Not a follower.” SHIT! How can a parent argue with that?! And then I realized a few things. This is a kid with a boatload of confidence and I raised him to be that way. What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t respect his choices to be an individual? Within reason…of course. The mohawk may be a shocker at first, but if I know Andrew (and I think I do…) he will quickly win people over with his huge smile, great sense of humor, athletic skills, and wonderful personality. At 11 years old, he knows exactly who he is and he can’t wait to show it. They say you are only young once and we all know it to be true. He isn’t sporting a mohawk at school, in an office setting and he certainly will not have one at his bar mitzvah next year. I’ll admit, he did have it for a family funeral. We really had no choice there. It was purely bad timing. There is no better place than summer camp for him to have a little fun. Fun is what summer is all about! Seriously, there is no harm in it. And as his mom, I look past the mohawk and straight into his beautiful green eyes. He is still my son and he makes me incredibly proud.
There is a countdown going on right now at my house. 22 days until the kids leave for URJ Camp Harlam in the Poconos. I’m not sure who is more excited about it—the kids or me. Sure, I have 21 days of shopping, packing, and labeling clothes and various accoutrements for both kids ahead of me. But when all is said and done, I will have two happy kids at overnight camp and two happy adults at home. Of course, I will miss them—especially for the first few days. But I know I will get over it quickly. They will be back soon enough. After a year of illnesses in my extended family and hundreds of trips schlepping the kids to and from various school and extra-curricular activities as well as dealing with schoolwork and life in general, we could all use a little respite. Overnight camp provides the break we all need. This is Jenna’s 4th year at Camp Harlam and she is looking forward to going off the grid and hanging out with all of her friends. Andrew is starting overnight camp for the first time this year and, while I’m a little concerned about how he will adjust, I know he is going to have a wonderful experience. As for my husband and I, this is a staycation. People ask where we are going while the kids are away at camp. Um, nowhere – we still have to PAY for camp leaving little money for a second honeymoon. But I do have a list of things to do while the kids are away. • Enjoy 3 ½ weeks of not being a slave to the calendar. For 49 weeks out of the year, I struggle to carve out any quality time for myself or for my husband because we are hopelessly trapped in the web of our densely packed calendar. • Reconnect with my husband by having a lot of date nights, long walks & talks and simply reminding ourselves how much we enjoy each other’s company. • Go on day trips: A night out in the city; A hike and picnic in a pretty park; A day on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore • Invite some friends over for wine and adult conversations. • If I have the energy, I might partake in some household projects such as cleaning out closets and reorganizing some rooms in the house. No promises though. • READING – So many books…so little time. Three and a half weeks should be long enough to put a dent in my Goodreads list. • WRITING – Finding the time to write is such a sacred thing for me and having the quality and quantity of time to do it will be wonderful. I just hope I don’t have any writer’s block. • AND OF COURSE – Refreshing the camp website. If you don’t know what this means, click here.
In three days, the curtain will go up on the 5th grade play–The Jungle Book– with my son Andrew playing Mowgli. How could I not be proud on such a wonderful occasion?! His first audition ever and he gets the lead in the show! I’ve done my best to contain my excitement and not to go all Beverly Goldberg on him. It hasn’t been easy. I realize that I am a little bit like that dreaded stage mom. After we found out he had the lead, I worried over how he would learn 40 plus lines in a little over a month, plus the songs and the choreography. He never had to memorize much more than a list of spelling words before. How was he going to pull this off? “Do you know your lines?” I asked each night. “Yes, Mom,” he said with the occasional eye roll. “I’m here to go over them with you if you want, sweetie,” I said casually. Inside my mind was racing…dying to know how far he got in learning his lines. “Okay!” he replied, but he never asked me to read with him. Not once. I decided not to push it. During one parent meeting, I took the music teacher aside to ask him how Andrew was doing. Should I push harder to read with him? Does he need more practice? What can I do to help him? He assured me Andrew was doing fine and he wasn’t worried about him one bit. Easy for him to say. It’s not his kid going up there. About a week later, Andrew’s spring allergies kicked in big time. His watery eyes turned into a terrible runny nose and eventually a croop-like cough and then laryngitis. That’s right. LARYNGITIS! My kid can’t have laryngitis. I’m sure you know where this is going. I made a sick visit with his allergist the very next day. I have had a few other stage mom moments. I almost lost it on my husband when he innocently suggested taking Andrew for a haircut. Was he joking? Mowgli doesn’t have a crew cut! Andrew’s hair has to be long and messy as if he actually lived in the jungle. And then there was the time when Andrew told me play practice was fun, but he told me how he wasn’t sure if he could actually get up on stage and play his part in front of the entire school. I took a deep breath and told him it was a little too late to worry about that. But then, there was the final straw. One minute Andrew was standing at the kitchen counter looking at a Minecraft video on his phone. The next minute, he was on the floor in tears holding his leg after tripping over the dishwasher door which was open. I admit that my first thought was not the typical “Is he ok?” It was more like: “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?! ANDREW, GET UP! THE SCHOOL PLAY IS NEXT WEEK! YOU CAN’T BE MOWGLI WITH A BROKEN LEG. CAN YOU GET UP? CAN YOU WALK?!” And then after a brief moment of silence I added, “I mean…Are you okay?” Luckily, he is fine. I just need to keep him in a bubble for the next 72 hours. A bubble that will protect him from sickness and/or injury. Did I mention he has no understudy? I want him to do well. I want him to enjoy himself. And okay yes, I want to see his adorable face shine on the stage. This may be my only chance. Who knows if he will ever want to be in a play again and Broadway isn’t exactly knocking on our door-yet.
Every Sunday night, I look at the calendar to compare kids’ schedules and find that magical balance again between career and family. Currently, my life feels like one giant and sadistic word problem which I am required to solve on a daily basis. Here is today’s word problem: Child A and Child B had the 4 pm slot reserved at the dentist to get their teeth cleaned. Last week, Child B’s appointment had to be rescheduled until June due to an entire month’s worth of play rehearsals. Child A’s appointment was cancelled first thing this morning once I realized she had a track meet this afternoon. In the meantime, Child B is supposed to report to his baseball game exactly 15 minutes after play practice is over–leaving me less than 10 minutes to prepare dinner and commute to the game in rush hour traffic. Oh by the way, Child A & B have two parents who work outside of the home and have limited time to do the important things like making sure baseball uniforms and track suits are clean. Here are some questions to solve:
- How is Child A getting home from her track meet which ends at the precise time that Child B is being dismissed from play practice?
- What can Child B possibly eat that is healthy and nutritious on the car ride from school to the baseball field? Sub-question – What is Child A having for dinner while both parents are at the baseball game?
- What is the probability that I will be able to get simultaneous dentist appointments for Child A & B before the school year ends?
- How long before my head explodes?
I must “kvell” for a minute as I tell you I received high marks in creative problem solving today. If you haven’t figured out the answers yet, times up! Here is your answer key:
- A newly minted driver in our neighborhood was more than willing and extremely kind enough to pick up Child A from track practice and bring her home. I trust her completely and in my time of need she became my saving grace. I’ll be calling her again soon.
- Child B ate chicken nuggets from a Ziploc bag on the way to the baseball game. The orange peels on the floor of my car prove he polished off something nutritious as well. EXTRA CREDIT POINTS!: Child A found a Lean Cuisine in the freezer. Good enough!
- Child A & B are miraculously scheduled for dentist appointments in early June at the same time. I’ll have to pick them both up from school early, but they aren’t learning much at school in June anyway. (Just say a prayer there isn’t an 8th grade picnic that day…)
- I felt pretty good about the outcome of this crazy Monday. I kept my cool and felt I had everything under control….until I turned the page to Tuesday. Cue the head explosion!
Is it Friday yet?
I have a pretty good memory for where I put my keys and my shoes. I was born with a great sense of direction and I can typically remember where someone lives without using the GPS. But when it comes to remembering passwords, I am literally at a loss for words. Words, letters, numbers, symbols… I have no idea what order I put them in. Did I use I an ampersand or an asterisk for my Barnes & Noble account? Which of my three common password phrases did I decide on for my WordPress login? I’m pretty sure I used my house number or maybe it was my favorite number and then a left parenthesis. No wait, I think I used my nephew’s birthday. As you can imagine, I reset my passwords often which of course leaves me with no chance of ever remembering the current and correct password for any account I own. My personal pet peeve is when a website tells me my password isn’t strong enough. Oh come on! I used a capital letter and at least one number! I tend to settle for the garden variety medium strength password because anything stronger than that causes my amnesia to flare up drastically. I’m not a complete lost cause. I know the passwords to my laptop, my work computer and my Facebook page. Heaven forbid I get locked out of my Facebook page! I remember my copier code at work and the login to a database I use almost daily. I can type in my ATM pin number and my iPhone password without having to think twice. It’s only when I need to access websites I don’t use as often that I run into trouble. I check the “remember me” box all the time but that only works when I’m on my own computer. Can someone invent an algorithm for all computers and laptops to remember my password when I type in my username? How hard can it be? I have to give a lot of kudos to the “genius” at the Apple store who exhibited an enormous amount of patience and showed no eye-rolling as he tried to help me log in to the App Store on my iPhone. Of course, I had locked myself out of it a few months ago. Why? The password I kept using was incorrect and I had registered too many failed attempts. This prompted my phone to ask me security questions I used to know the answers to. At one point, the “genius” thought it would be a good idea to change my password and he asked me to log in to my Yahoo account to retrieve the Apple change password link. You know where this is going, right? As he pushed his fancy laptop toward me, I started to panic and had to declare password amnesia. I gave him permission to talk about me to his fellow geniuses after I left the premises. Thankfully, I was already logged into my Yahoo account on my iPhone. I changed my password and then was scared to death I’d forget it while sitting there. When I couldn’t find a pen or pencil, he directed me to the Notes section on my phone which I thought was a brilliant idea. I wonder if there is any way to put a password on my Notes section. A password I will surely forget almost instantly and the cycle of forgetfulness will begin again. How do you remember all of your passwords?
Yesterday, I asked a neighbor to take my son to school so I could sit on my couch and cry in peace. Fall and spring tend to bring me to tears at times due to the sheer amount of things I need to accomplish on a daily basis. I know what set me off this time. I was in a mad rush to fix up the house before the cleaning crew showed up. I had meetings every night this week and when I came home on Thursday night I was too tired to start cleaning. Plus, there was a new episode of Scandal on TV. On Friday morning, I focused more on the upstairs of the house than downstairs. By the time I went into my kitchen and saw all of the dishes in the sink, it was almost time to leave. I looked around and saw papers everywhere, dance shoes on the floor in the kitchen and a space heater that seemed to have taken permanent residence in the den. I saw clutter was everywhere and had exactly 10 minutes to put it all away. I decided to buy myself some extra time by sending Andrew to a friend’s house instead of driving him to school. As soon as he left, the tears started flowing. I left the dishes in the sink and fell onto the couch. Not only was I upset with the clutter on my floors, but there is plenty of clutter in my head too. Sometimes my mind clutter weighs so heavy and it can’t be moved easily. Then, there is the light and fluffy variety of clutter that floats around. I try to catch these random things so I can remember for later. To my frustration, I can never seem to collect it all. I almost posted my exhaustion and frustration on Facebook, but I decided against it. I had no business being on Facebook at that moment. I obviously opted for the next day blog post instead. 🙂 My crying session did not last long. I actually felt relief as I let it all out. When it was over, I took several deep breaths and picked myself up off the couch. I walked right past dishes and the miscellaneous items strewn about the house. I told myself the cleaning crew could work around it which they did. I fixed my makeup and made sure all evidence of despair was washed away and then went to work.