stories

Irma Gonna Need a Xanax

636405269471894315-AP-APTOPIX-Hurricane-IrmaAs I write this, I am sitting in an air conditioned home that was not damaged by Hurricane Irma. For that, I am extremely grateful.

When we saw the track on Labor Day weekend, I had a bad feeling. So did my husband. He went out and bought plywood and started making custom measured boards for the windows and sliders. I went online and booked hotel rooms in several locations to be on the safe side. Easier to cancel later than to try and find a room when there were none.

The storm was initially looking like it was going to hit the east coast. I put all of our photo albums in garbage bags and moved them to higher ground. My husband boarded the house. We had plenty of food and water, and filled our gas tanks. The generator was connected to our power grid. He was planning to stay while I took the kids. I was worried about him, but my kids come first and he was insisting on staying.

The morning I planned to leave, I checked the 5am advisory and the storm models had shifted west. It wasn’t going to make a direct hit to the east coast and would be a category 2 when it made its way to us. I decided to give up my hotel room to someone in greater need and be one less person on the roads. The constant stream of bumper to bumper cars seen from I-95 was enough to make anyone second-guess their travel plans. Not to mention the gas shortage, frenzied and frantic people, and the fact that our house is pretty sturdy and all of the trees we had were taken out by previous storms (thanks, Charlie and Matthew).

Work closed (and is still closed at this moment), so we were all left to prep and wait. And wait. And wait. And eat. And clean. And do laundry. And eat. And drink wine. And binge watch. And wait. And eat. And check social media and The Weather Channel every 2 minutes in between.

The storm’s path kept shifting further and further west. Every advisory had me worrying about a different group of friends and loved ones in some part of the state. We didn’t want it on the east coast, but then someone was going to get it. Surely nobody was praying it would hit Texas! There were no winners in this situation.

Once the storm started impacting Miami, reports from friends started coming in that power was out. Then it moved up to Palm Beach County. They were scared and said it was an awful experience. Our time was still coming.

It was projected to hit around Naples and then again in the Tampa Bay area as a Category 4. I held my breath. The destruction in the islands had been prolific. At the last minute (after tearing up the Keys and Marco Island), the path shifted east and was heading closer to Orlando. This was at around 10pm so I texted as many friends and family as I could to let them know. Many had no clue and weren’t ready for it.

At around that same time, a massive tree in my next-door neighbor’s yard came down. It was then that I started to panic. We created a safe space in the guest room and all of us moved in there. It was a long, long night. The wind was already roaring, especially when the big gusts came through. You could hear things hitting the house and noises happening all around. The worst of it hit at around 3:30am. Tornado warnings were everywhere, flood warnings, people told it would be catastrophic. All of my worst fears were felt in those hours.

And then it stopped. By then, there was no back eye wall, so once it was quiet it was almost over. We had tropical storm force winds for the next morning, but I was grateful to finally get some sleep and wake up the next morning, even though there was damage to assess.

We were so lucky. No damage to the house. Just a lot of debris and trees down in our neighborhood. But it was nothing like Matthew last year (I took the kids and evacuated for Matthew so I am only going by the damage and the fact that we still have power).

I cannot speak for the people who don’t have power or a good wi-fi signal. And I most definitely cannot speak for those who experienced Irma at her strongest. I can only speak from my perspective.

This hurricane was one that people will talk about for years. The constant changes to projected tracks, the boredom mixed with stress and anxiety, and the destruction. I pray for those who may not have a home to go back to. Luckily, the casualties appear to be few. Things can be replaced. People, on the other hand, cannot.

I am grateful to have power, yes, but I am also grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with my family. I am grateful that our house was spared. I am grateful to have received messages of care and concern from friends I haven’t spoken to in years. I am grateful that our area was spared. My heart is full of gratitude.

There were many, many moments that sucked, but we got through it. Do I want to go through another hurricane? No. With all of our technology, we still can’t predict a hurricane’s path any better than they could 20 years ago. We have access to more data, but too much information is sometimes a bad thing. I think I will just sit here and wait for December 1st to arrive. My new favorite day of the year.

 

 

 

 

work

5 ways that becoming a mom has made me better at my job

When you consider mommy-brain, all the sick days, and stresses that come with being a working mom, sometimes it is hard to see all of the positives that come with it too. Don’t get me wrong. There are days (many days) when I want to be that mom who gets to drop the kids off at school, work out for a few hours, have lunch with friends, get my nails done and then pick up the kids…but that isn’t my life.

There is a silver lining in every experience.

For me, I have been found many parallels between being a mother and running a department. No, I’m not saying I supervise a team of children, but we all know that sometimes adults can be just as challenging.

  1. I found my “I mean business” voice. Before having children, I was pretty docile. Maybe a little too diplomatic and sometimes let people walk all over me. Kids try to pull that all of the time. I admit that it I am still trying to find it in my one-on-one interactions with people (damn that empathetic personality of mine), but in meetings, I can voice my concerns and expectations when necessary.
  2. I have learned to say no. I am a people pleaser by nature. Not a good thing when you are the “boss.” I say no to my children all of the time and the practice has helped me to stop saying yes to everything. Do I want to be helpful? Yes! But when you say yes to something, you are saying no to other things. I’m learning to pick those things I verbally say no to so that the important things do not get neglected.
  3. I am no longer scared of negotiating. My oldest told me tonight that he wants to become a lawyer because he’s good at arguing. And that is NO JOKE. Not only that, but he is relentless, like a little piranha clad in Under Armour when he wants something. I’m getting better at asking for things because if you don’t ask, you won’t get. And if my son is fearless in the attempt to get what he wants, how can I be?
  4. I promote kindness. We all have our stuff. Someone’s boyfriend breaks up with them, their parents are aging, their kids are sick, their dog just died. Some people are better at putting on a work face and not letting their personal lives interfere than others. I stress to my children as well as to my colleagues that we need to consider others’ points of view and realize that we don’t know all of the facts before we impose judgments on people. Especially during high stress times, I promote kindness at home and in the office.
  5. I do not have favorites. It is natural for friendships to evolve in the office. It’s healthy and it makes coming to work a positive experience for people. We spend more of our waking lives at work than we do at home, so who wants to work with people they do not like? That said, I do not have favorite children and I do not have favorite team members. Are there some who are easier to work with than others? Yes. But each person on the team is there for a reason. They have something valuable to contribute to the team and to our students. When I wasn’t in a leadership role, I admit that I had my people. But when you are in charge, your people need to come from external sources (colleagues in other departments, in your field who work in other places, etc.). There are people I’ve known longer, or who don’t cause drama, or who make me happy to be around…but none of them get special treatment.

And just like with parenting, I am nowhere near perfect. I make mistakes, I worry a lot, and I don’t always say or do or decide the right thing. It’s a process and I don’t necessarily know that you ever master it because with each conquered challenge comes a few more waiting in the wings. Each day has its victories and upsets.

I’m just doing the best I can.

Aren’t we all?

health/fitness

Getting fit is work. And work is hard.

When I was in my 20s, if I felt like I was “letting myself go” I could get into a gym, work out for 30 minutes a day and in 1-2 weeks, everything would firm back up again. Then, I could eat whatever I wanted, drink whatever I wanted, and stay firm for months before hitting the gym again.

Those days are long behind me.

When you enter into your 40s, if you are not fit and you are like me, you will spend plenty of time telling yourself how you can’t believe you didn’t get fit in time for what can best be described as The Great Metabolism Crash of 39. For me, it’s been an uphill battle and I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost but mostly gained over the years (and I’ve tried lots of things: Weight Watchers, Atkins, Tone It Up, BBG, hCG, Beach Body, home meal delivery services, Isagenix, Herbalife, Body by Vi, starvation, etc. Alas, in the past 5 years, I have gained 30 pounds. 15 of them in this last year alone.

When your clothes stop fitting correctly, with shirts busting at the seams and a muffin top for days, you look less professional. Sure, I could go out and buy a size bigger, but then in my head, I’ve given up and let my metabolism win. So instead, I’ve been buying a lot of a-line dresses and wearing them with suit jackets. I have been doing interval runs consistently over the last few years so I have good calves. I’ll give myself that.

Just the same, I feel bad about my weight and how I look. I also feel unhealthy because most of the weight gain has been in my stomach and arms. And it’s not for lack of trying, though sometimes those Goldfish crackers – damn those salty, cheesy, crunchy snacks that smile back – get the best of me.

I talked to my doctor about it and he prescribed Qsymia – a combination of phentermine and topiramate. I was able to get the 7 additional pounds I’d gained during vacation off, but the positive effects weren’t as strong after a few weeks and it’s pretty expensive, so I took stopped taking it and decided to join a gym.

I have been a member for two weeks and am proud to say that I have been at least 4 days a week every week. Still, the scale is not budging. I met with a personal trainer and she taught me some great tips about how to really get in a good workout, confuse the muscles, and build lean muscle which will eventually burn the fat. She told me to stop watching the scale – a very, very hard habit to break.

Goals:

  1. To be comfortable enough with my physique that I won’t be self-conscious on Halloween (does not mean I will be a slutty anything, but I’d at least like to be able to show off some decent arms). Honestly, you could insert any holiday or special occasion in here.
  2. Sneak in gym time any chance I can, so every night I am packing a gym bag just in case I get the chance to exercise.
  3. Eat healthier. This week, I think I worked out to eat. I didn’t gain or lose any weight even though I had a Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwich (the good kind, not that grilled crap), pasta, ice cream, and other indulgences that aren’t necessarily the best choices.
  4. Look for non-scale victories. Clothes fitting better, being able to plank a little longer, passing up the ice cream.
  5. Have occasional cheat meals, but never a cheat day.
  6. Ditch my the all or nothing mentality. If I miss a few days in the gym, I am not going to beat myself up over it. Tomorrow is another day.
  7. Weigh myself less often. I’m not going to say I will give it up altogether. When I spoke with the trainer and shared my goals, I said I wanted to get back down to 125. She said, “You may find that the scale doesn’t move much. It’s not about weighing 125. It’s about looking like you weigh 125.” That stuck with me.
  8. Track what I eat. This goal is a little more ambitious, to be honest. I struggle to make the time to do this, though I probably could if I spent a few less minutes on Facebook every night.
  9. Drink more water. I don’t drink soda, which is a good thing, but I do love my double espresso in the mornings so water is especially important.
  10. Stay consistent and make fitness a priority so that Spanx are a nice-to-have but not a necessity.

I do believe that the mind, body, and spirit are all connected. I have a home gym but when I use it, the dog or the kids interrupt me. I need a place to NOT be a boss or a mom or a wife. I need a place where I can just be me. In return, it’s my hope that my time spent there will make me better at my other roles.

Does my weight change who I am on the inside? No. Is my self-worth completely rooted in how well my jeans fit? Probably not. But I want to be healthy and fit so that I can be the best version of myself. I want to know my children when they grow up and start their own families. I want to enjoy being a grandmother. I want my grandchildren to know me and remember me. I want to live and not just exist.

I want to read this blog post in a year and say, “I did it!” Because I’m no longer chasing the clock to beat The Great Metabolism Crash of 39. Now, I’m chasing the clock to beat something even more sinister…menopause!

 

Career · work

The moments that define a career

Last year, my boss gave a great talk at a leadership conference about the top moments that she feels defined her career and her leadership style. I implore anyone who works to start thinking about their defining moments as I have done below with a select few of mine.

1. Waitressing: all through college I was a server. I worked at a popular local restaurant and made so much money that I kept my job when I transferred schools and drove 2 hours one way every weekend. We shared tips and our job was to provide exceptional service while having fun. It taught me teamwork, customer service, taking responsibility when I made mistakes, mad how to enjoy work. It also taught me to work hard and I was introduced to my first incredible female boss. She was like a mom to me and took care of me when I faced financial struggles that my parents couldn’t help with. She taught me that the people you work with can be your extended family.

2. College Aspirations: When I was in college, my dream was to be a forensic psychologist. I read all of Patricia Cornwell’s novels and wanted to be like Benton. This was back in the late 90s and CSI was not yet a thing yet so there were very few programs in the country that offered MS degrees in the field and it was very competitive. Instead, I got married and became a military wife. I was one of those students who graduated before they event applied for their first job. Instead of using the career center, I read books and taught myself how to write a resume, what to wear, how to follow up and how to interview. I did my research on what I could do with my Psych degree that didn’t involve grad school and quickly determined that I wanted to be a career advisor at a university. I didn’t get it my first try, but when we moved and I applied for jobs a year later, I landed a job in a university career center. I learned that career paths are not linear and sometimes you have to start small before you achieve your goals.

3. Mentorship: Once I landed the job, I quickly became close with the assistant director. She later became my boss and has been my boss for most of my career. She became my first professional mentor and taught me everything I know about professionalism, how to be a kind and flexible boss, and how to get more flies with honey than with vinegar. She has been a constant in my life for nearly 20 years and I always question what she would do before I make a decision. Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like her in their corner. I never take it for granted.

4. Overcoming Fears: The reason I never take my boss for granted is because there was a brief time when I was pulled out of my department and away from my boss, I was given another boss who had fundamentally different leadership philosophies and did not understand our department. She moved me out for a year to work in another area and it was the hardest year to date in my professional life. When I did everything short of begging to stay in the career center, she said I should have gone for the leadership role that I’d been given on an interim basis. She called me out for my fear of failure and put a box of tissues in front of me in case I cried. For the record, I did not cry, but I did do some soul searching and realized she was right. I was terrified to put myself out there, lest I fail.

5. Second Chance: Said boss left a year later and I was given a second chance. I was moved back to the career center and appointed to the top spot. I came back with a deep appreciation for the people in that department and my love of the work we do. I had my beloved boss back and even through management is not something I enjoy, I knew I could do it with her support. I used that first year back as my year of yes (before Shonda wrote the book). I was featured in a segment for a syndicated television show (facing my fear of being videoed), I took on the role of Vice President and conference chair for our professional state association (hardest and best thing I’ve ever done professionally), and embraced the good, bad and ugly about learning to lead a team of individuals with many different personalities.

I have since started to develop my own leadership philosophies. There are so many books out there on leadership and what great leaders do, don’t do, read, eat for breakfast, etc. I’m still evolving and I know I have a ways to go. I am introvert and am admittedly not the best orator in large groups, so sometimes words escape me. I don’t like being on the stage and prefer to be a worker bee getting things done in the background that will make everyone else’s’ lives better. But I can get through the things I don’t like about my job because there are things I do like about it, like the people I work with and the sense of family among our team. We work hard and get things done. I’ve learned to breathe and embrace the flaws in others by putting myself in their shoes. That psychology degree comes in handy more often than my masters ever will!

Where I struggle the most is in balancing work and home. The struggle is real and constant. I’m just hoping that as I get more confident in my role, the hard work won’t be as hard and I can focus on the good stuff. There will always be petty dramas and challenges to face, but practice makes better.

Not perfect. Never perfect. But better.

marriage

Marriage is work

Work isn’t just about your career.

I was messaging with an old friend tonight who shared with me that she had gotten divorced and hasn’t been this happy in years. I told her I was happy that she was doing so well and proud of her for being brave enough to make the choice to leave when she still has children in school.

What prompted her admission was the fact that I told her that I have a lot going on in my personal and professional life. I think her mind went to what she recently went through, and that’s okay. But it got me thinking.

Marriage is hard. And you always hear stories of those couples that you were just certain were going to make it. Or who were married for 40 years and then suddenly, decided to end it. Of course, what happens in a marriage is very private (or at least, it should be), so while the general public might be shocked, marriages don’t just end overnight. They end for many reasons, but it is rarely a rash decision on one or both parties’ part.

I think about my own marriage and how perfect it seems from the outside. But no marriage is perfect. There are things that you love about your spouse but there are inevitably things that will drive you crazy. When you are a newlywed, it’s much easier to put rose colored glasses on. Or to truly think the sun and moon revolve around your spouse. But as the years pass, annoyances creep in. It’s easy to take one another for granted and feel unappreciated or invisible.

I’ve been married for nearly 20 years to a wonderful man. He has a great job, helps out around the house, carts the kids around when I can’t, coaches their teams, and treats me with kindness and respect. He is my best friend and a great father. Do we have the same spark that we had when we met 23 years ago? I’ll be honest and say no. Have we had our share of struggles over the years? Definitely. But when I try to picture my life without him, I can’t. He is my soul mate. We may not like the same TV shows anymore, or share the same political views, or make out in public like we did in our 20s, but we still talk about our dreams for the future and where we want to retire someday.

Here are some of the reasons I think we will make it:

  • I say thank you when he does something nice to help around the house or with the children
  • He knows I am an introvert and he respects my need for space. I don’t always need or want it, mind you.
  • We ask each other how our days went
  • We have candid conversations when an issue is brewing
  • I am not afraid to speak up if I’m feeling taken for granted
  • My mother in law loves me almost as much as she loves him
  • His mother in law loves him more than she loves me
  • I can count on one hand the number of times we have gone to bed without saying goodnight
  • We don’t keep track of kindnesses towards each other
  • We recognize when we are in a rut and take action to get out of it
  • We don’t smother each other and we trust one another to make good choices when the other is not around
  • We say “I love you” when we hang up the phone…or just because
  • We believe in our marriage and have fought hard at times to make it work

Anyone who says marriage is easy is either lying or is still on their honeymoon. Especially after children enter the picture. But as long as you can see yourself growing old with the person by your side and you are willing to fight for what you have if necessary, you have a decent chance of making things work.

work

Self-assessing my career goals

When I was appointed to my current position at work, I told myself I wanted to survive 5 years. I sometimes refer to it as my 5-year plan. That will put me at 20 years with my organization – enough time to know whether or not I want to live out the rest of my career there or move in another direction. I am almost at the 3-year mark and reality is settling in that I need to start thinking about my future.

I’m asking myself some questions right now.

Do I love my job? Yes and no. I love certain aspects of it. Like the people I work with and my boss. But I don’t love personnel issues and the stress that comes with the position. There are days when I fear the stress is going to kill me if I don’t get it under control. I don’t love missing out on time with my family. But I know there are things I can do to start changing that: delegate more and exercise, to start.

What would my life look like if I left my job? I guess it would depend on the circumstances. If I win the lottery, I might not even say goodbye, though I would make up for it by donating a large sum of money to the organization. If I were to change jobs, it would likely be another appointment. I applied for my first job at my organization almost 18 years ago and have not interviewed for another job since. I moved up the ranks and out of the department for awhile, and then back into the lead spot. The truth is, I was miserable when I was out of my department. It goes back to the people, whom I dearly love. The profession also has a lot to do with it. I love making a difference in the lives of young people. It is so rewarding when someone you helped 15 years ago comes in and tells you what an impact you had on his or her career. So honestly, I don’t have an answer here. I can’t visualize it yet.

Where do I see myself in 10 years? At that point, I will be in my 50s. College will be just around the corner for my oldest. Do I want my entire career to be at one company? My dad did it and he’s retired and loving life now. I don’t know if I would want to do the same job for the next 10 years. But then again, I might be more confident at that point and decide that I do.

What would I do if money wasn’t an issue? I would do gig work. The bulk of the work I enjoy most deals with communications, marketing, social media, branding, and web design. I’m fulfilling my passions in these areas now though my current job (not a role I should really have, but I’m taking it on because I love social media so much) and by serving on a professional association board managing communications and marketing. One of my closest friends recently quit her job after 20 years…she took her side hustle and put 100% of her effort into it and now she is making more in some days than she made in a whole week in her last job. It’s a huge leap of faith and perhaps seeing people like her and others do it will inspire me as well.

What do I want in my ideal career? Balance, plain and simple. I want to be able to spend time with my family on a Sunday and not feel guilty about it, like I should be working instead. I want to have flexible hours. I want to work from home more often than not (been there, done that, and it was heaven). I want to have time for me…to go to the gym or relax with my latte or read a good book. I want to control my day instead of the opposite. I want to make others happy. I want to see my children grow up.

Okay, now that I’ve put these things in writing for the whole world to see, I have some things to think about. Goals and strategy, to start. In the meantime, I am fully organized and prepared for whatever crazy comes this upcoming week at work. Since I still have at least a few years to go, bring it on!

Uncategorized

You survive every day (until you don’t)

I’ve been using a paper journal with writing prompts for the past few months and it’s been interesting to see what I stress about in the mornings. Usually it has to do with food choices, getting exercise, keeping the kids from fighting, or getting through a busy day, making a presentation, or performing in an important meeting. The tone in the morning is usually one of dread, anxiety or excitement.

I did not journal today, but I was feeling all of those things this morning. Dread that my week as a full-time (mostly) mom was coming to an end, excitement about a charity luncheon I was attending with a group of girlfriends, and anxiety to meet the president of my organization for the first time later in the day.

The luncheon was fantastic, as I knew it would be. And then I went to the meeting and talked face to face with the new president. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so anxious. He was warm, complimentary, and human.

When I look back at my past journal entries, a common theme emerges each evening when I write about what went right and what could have gone better: I make it through every day. Everything I am anxious about that morning, at the end of each day I realize that the reality isn’t nearly as bad as what I envisioned in my head.

Have I made mistakes? You bet I have. Are there days when I question decisions I made? Absolutely. Do I sometimes feel like an imposter? Probably more often than sometimes.

But every day, I get through it all and live to tell the tale.

All that energy wasted on stress that I could be using to exercise. 😉