Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Observations on a "Successful" 2013

Interestingly, this past year, I achieved everything I set out to do.  This year was the year I was going to focus on my business and become more involved in the community.  I did.  It worked out nicely. 

In fact, on paper, this was a fantastic year.

I had signed up for a consulting program to help with my business.  It wasn't quite what I was looking for, but it reinforced that I have some good systems.  I had a staff change mid year that has actually worked out to be a great thing.  I exceeded my goals, which were already a push, by 10%.  Not bad.

I head into 2014 with good work systems and a great staff.

I was extremely involved in a number of service and political organizations, another goal of mine.

Because I believe strongly in community service and having a voice.

Because I know I can get things done.

We managed to get a new principal.  We clothed and fed a few hundred people. I made some amazing connections and feel like I can have an impact on policy making directly.  I helped raise money for some organizations I believed in.  I supported women's rights.

I head into 2014 knowing that this year I made a positive impact in the world.

So why am I not completely and utterly thrilled?  Isn't that what resolutions and goals are about?

Because I'm exhausted.

Because the energy I spent this year didn't really align with my real values.

Not to say that I don't love what I do professionally and want to be the best at it-- I do.  It's just in my field "success" is measured by money.  This year reiterated that I don't actually care about that.  Well, I do, but it's not a huge motivator.  I believe in enough.  I believe in having enough money so I can live a comfortable lifestyle. My client satisfaction score was far more important to me than my year end numbers.  I don't need to achieve some random number set by some corporate employee that I see once a year.  It's why I am an independent franchise owner after all.

I am proud of the community service and the organizations I support, but honestly, even that didn't turn out to be quite the motivating factor I thought it would.  People always seemed to want more- the more I did, the more that was asked and expected. More money.  More time. 

It took away from time with my family-- missed dinners to attend meetings or fundraisers.  It was all for good reasons, but it felt wrong.  I always wanted to be helping my kids with their homework or reading with them at night-- not schmoozing or listening to speaker reiterate what I already knew and supported.

It also took time away from focusing on my health-- an area that I kinda threw the towel in on this year to focus on the other areas-plus weight loss had been this ridiculous goal that I wasn't achieving-- and I ended up sick.  A lot. The only time I can really work out is at 5 am.  Staying out late meant I couldn't wake up to get going early.  All the exercising and eating healthy I had been doing may not have made a dent in the scale, but it certainly had positively impacted my overall health. 

So in 2013 I made some money.  I made some positive change in the world.  It was a good year.

But the biggest thing I got out of 2013, was redefining my values.  My family, the quality of my work (not quantity) and my health- the things that truly matter to me.

My 2014 won't look like my 2013. My focus at my business will be to sustain what we put in place last year and maintain the momentum.  I will do some community service, but not much.  I've turned down 2 board appointments already.  Very politely and graciously.  Because I can't.  I know one pissed a few people off, but oh well.

I know everyone is busy, but it was nuts this past year.  It just felt wrong.  I was living a good life, but not mine. 

This next year will be more tuck ins.  More yoga.  More time cooking.  More time breathing.  More time reading for pleasure.   More family game nights.  More dates with my husband.  More walks at night.  More petting the dog.  More traveling.  More lunches with friends and clients.  More dinner parties.  More wine after dinner on the patio.  More writing.  Maybe even a PhD program...

It will be less Facebook as a stress reliever.  Less late nights at the office or bringing work home.  Less making exceptions for that day off I meant to take off but someone really needs something that day.  Less commitments of my time.  Less following up with people for the third or fourth time because I know I'm not the only one capable of keeping a calendar.  Less time calling friends that never call me and focusing on the ones that do. 

It really was a good year.  I am grateful.  Next year, however, is going to be even better.  I know it.  Because I'm going to be focusing on what's really important to me- better relationships with my family, friends and clients-- and better health, regardless of the scale.

As successful as 2013 looked on paper, the real change took place within.  Even more importantly, it set me up for an even better 2014- maybe not on a paper, but where it matters most.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shamed by my Son

I always say I learn a lot from my kids- more than I teach them.  Tonight was a great example.

My son is fairly reserved- not shy- reserved.  He's smart.  Not just "in my eyes" smart, but "test score" smart.  For what that's worth.

He's also pretty darn cute.

And the girls in his class think so, too.  I get the "You're Skip's mom.... hi...." winky looks at the school.  When I chaperoned a trip with another school, the girls immediately befriended me.  Because I was "that boy's" mom. 

Rough life, I know.

Tonight we had a holiday party that we attended as a family.

My friend was there with her daughter.  Her daughter goes to the magnet school we want our son to attend.  He has been hesitant about applying.  I don't know if he'll get in or not, but we really want him to apply.  Our zoned middle school is pretty good, so if he chooses not to, we're still good.  We want it to be his choice.  But we want his choice to be our choice.  You know what I mean.

My friend's daughter is also cute.  Which we thought might help our cause to encourage him to apply.

They seemed to hit it off.  They talked.  They were laughing. 

We left them alone.  We didn't want to be pushy.

Then, of course, after we left, we teased the snot out of him.

Because we are parents and that's what we do.

We were teasing him because she was cute. 

Have you ever been put in your place by an 11 year old?

He was almost offended by it-- not by the teasing-- but because the girl also happened to be really smart and very funny.  THAT was why he was talking to her.  And he wasn't kidding.  She was cute, but he talked to her because he could have a conversation with her.  He simply liked talking to her.

He didn't say he didn't think she wasn't cute.  He didn't say he didn't notice.

But he, in a few words, put me in my place.

Because apparently there is more to a girl than just her looks.

This young lady is pretty awesome, too. 

But we focused on the fact that she is cute.

We suck.

My 11 year old son focused on the fact that she was smart and easy to talk to.

Far more important characteristics.


My son has made comments about girls that like him-- cute ones, too-- that he doesn't have time for all their drama. 

Smart girls are worth talking to, in his eyes.

I'm impressed.  With him.  Not with me.  Because apparently, despite my ardent feminist opinion that women are more than a body and a baby machine, I really am stuck in 1954.

But I have to say, I have a strange feeling that I am going to have a pretty kick-butt, smart, funny daughter-in-law some day and not some cutesy bubble head.  Because he knows what's important.

Unlike his parents.  Ee gads.  So much to learn!!

Oh- and he is definitely applying to the school now.

Thanks for keeping it real, son!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everybody Gets a Trophy

I am not a fan of not keeping score. 

I am a HUGE proponent of letting kids lose.  As I like to say, it's much easier to learn to lose when you're 6 than when you're 26 or 46.

We are not all superstars at everything.

In life, there are winners and there are losers.

So when I went to my daughter's second grade awards ceremony today at her elementary school- a quick 20 minute presentation-- I almost left when they announced that EVERY KID WOULD BE GETTING AN AWARD.


It's supposed to be for the kids who make the honor roll, get perfect attendance, etc.  The one time they get to shine for showing up and doing the work.

My kids always make out like bandits.

Every kid?  An award?

What's the point of an award if everyone gets one?

Plus, the ceremony started at 2:45 pm  My office is 20 minutes away.  I had a client meeting at 3:30.

Every kid was going to take some time.

Fortunately, my daughter's teacher went second and our last name starts with B, so I knew my daughter would be one of the first ones.  If I couldn't stay for everyone, I would stay for my daughter who was getting a "real" award.

The teachers announced each kid.  The ones who got honor roll and/or perfect attendance got awards.  The other kids got "special" awards for things like being nice, working hard or always trying their best.  I'm sure some of the teachers had to dig pretty deep to come up with some of these unique categories.  There wasn't any "I Haven't Choked You Yet" award, but I think some of the kids would have qualifed.

So as I sat there thinking "this is total bullshit..." I noticed one of the girls in my daughter's class that I work with on Fridays.

She is not doing well at school.  She doesn't know her letters or sounds.  She shared with me that her mom called her stupid.  I thought she was exaggerating.  If you listened to my daughter, you would think I gave her wine every night (ONCE!) and shut her head in the car door (okay, that I actually DID do, but it was an accident and she's fine).  Kids exaggerate all the time.

Then I met this girl's mother.  She introduced me as "that nice lady I told you about" (ahhhh....sweet).  So I said "Wow, your daughter is really doing well.  She's working so hard." The mother replied with - I kid you not- "Really? She's not really smart... are you sure?"

I did not slap her.

I really, really wanted to.  I watched the little girl melt into nothing.

So this afternoon, there she stood with her award.  An academic award. 

Or as I would say a "bullshit" award because academics is not her forte at all.

And the little girl had this amazing smile on her face-- a quiet one.  She looked at her certificate and this smile grew on her face.

An award.

For her.

She more than likely couldn't read it-- no joke. 

But I could see her stand a little taller.

And that smile.... I'm tearing up thinking about it.

She's 7.  She will probably not win a lot of awards in her life. Or maybe she will and this was simply the first one. She's 7.  Who knows?

In about 3 seconds, that little girl completely changed my opinion.

That award was not bullshit at all.

To that little girl it was the world.

And it was proof that she really did matter.

She wasn't a loser.  Because sometimes when you pick a winner, you inadvertently make someone feel like a loser.

My kids are going to have a good life.  They have books to read.  A warm bed.  A healthy lunch.  A college fund.

This little girl now has an award that she can show her mom and sad "See- I'm not stupid.  I'm good at something."  They didn't change her grades or test scores-- they gave her a colored piece of paper with her name on it.

So today, everybody got a trophy.

And I'm fine with that.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cookbooks I Love & My Favorite Kitchen Stuff

This is not my normal blog--

As you are shopping this year for the holidays, here are a few items that I highly recommend for people that cook.

Small appliances that I use frequently

Breville Smart Oven
Seriously people, trust me.  Just get this.  You will love it.  It toasts.  It roasts.  It bakes.  It reheats.  It's fantastic.  Imagine garlic cheesy bread any time you want.  A cheese quesadilla.  A roasted chicken.  Perfect toast or bagels.

I love this thing.  So does my husband.  And my kids.  Fantastic appliance.

Panini Press
Any brand.  They aren't all expensive.  Because everything tastes better as a panini.  Period.  Personal favorite is peanut butter & nutella.

Oxo Mandoline Slicer
My husband may disagree on this, but this one rocks.  It replaced my love of my old Pampered Chef one (their new one has too many safety features).  With that said, use the finger guard.  My husband's knuckle will never be the same again.  This is smooth and easy to use.  I like all the options for cutting widths.  It has the blades you'll actually use.  It goes well with the salad book I recommend.

Pampered Chef Salad & Berry Spinner
Best salad spinner in the world.  Did I mention that I eat a LOT of salads??

Cookbooks on my shelf

Moosewood Cookbook
Vegetarian cooking never tasted so good.  Fantastic.  The lemon pound cake is phenomenal as is the hummus recipe.  And 1,000 other things.  Weird hippie food that isn't so weird or hippie any longer.

Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer
Amazingly delicious make ahead meals that you can make in bulk.  I've cooked with friends a few times and we've split the costs.  We once made 12 meals each for $50 a person ($4.16 a meal!).  The brownie recipe is to die for you.  The soups are the best.  Great stuff.  It's food your family will actually eat.

Williams-Sonoma Salad a Day
Who needs a salad cookbook, you ask?  You do.  I eat a LOT of salad.  This book took my salad making to a new level.  There are all kinds of salads, too, not just leaf salads.  Tuna salad that is actually good.  Imagine 365 different dressings.  My one word of caution- DON'T STRAY FROM THE RECIPES.  A lot of thought clearly went into this book- texture, taste combos, seasonal items... if it says use 1/4 tsp of cayenne put it in.  Even if you hate cayenne.  I usually make salads for my book club.  Half the club has now purchased this book.  It's THAT good.  It's also not for beginner's.  Fancy ingredients.  Fancy techniques.  But if you cook, it's well worth it.

The Everything Cookbook
If you can't cook, this book is for you.  It has all the basics you'll ever need- how to roast a turkey, make macaroni and cheese, easy cornbread-- and it's easy to understand.  I use this all the time for the simple stuff- meatloaf, for example.  I'm also using this with my kids this year to help them learn to cook.  I told my husband if he ever gets an idea to make something, check here first.  Kids going off to college or their first apartment NEED this book.

Merry Everything!

Mama Bean

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Everyone Has a Story

I love to hear people's stories. 

Everyone has one.

On "CBS Sunday Morning" (best show ever) they used to do a feature where a correspondent started the journey by throwing a dart at a map, going to the city and then picking a name randomly from the phonebook.  He would meet with the person and hear their story.  Everyone had a story.  The featured "guest" would then throw the dart at a map to pick the next location.

Sometimes the stories were inspiring.  A local hero unknown to the masses.  Sometimes they were sad.  A father who hadn't seen his children in years.

I always found it fascinating.

Because we all do have a story.  I share mine on my blog.  People seem to like to read them.  My dad's dad and my mom's mom were both great story tellers.  My husband's grandmother who passed last week was, too. 

Call it a narrative.  Call it a personal history.  I call it interesting.

One of my favorite questions is asking couples to tell me how they met.  They always smile.  They always go back to that exact moment.  They laugh.  It's as if I get to be there, witnessing that moment when their lives collided.  It takes them back to a happy moment.

I also ask people how they ended up in their careers.  Did they choose their profession or did their profession choose them?  Do they love it or is there something else they'd rather be doing?  If there is-- why don't they go for it?

Travel stories are great, too.  There's always an adventure.  I don't travel as much as I used to and I get to live vicariously through them.

It's also why I probably enjoy Facebook-- I get to see stories unfold.  I've watched friends fall in love.  And then out.  I also watched a divorce slowly unfold.  Friends who always wanted children go through pregnancy and then that first year.  Stories of parents and grandparents passing.  Children growing and graduating.  Grandchildren.  It's 1,000 narratives a day.

The stories connect us.  They make us human.

People complain about what a cold, unfeeling world we live in.  I disagree.  I find that most-- not all- want to share their story. 

This year, when you're at parties or family events, try asking some open ended questions.  Ask people how they know their host.  How did they meet?  What their favorite parts of the holidays are.  What their favorite Christmas gift was and why?  What was the best New Year's they've ever had? Their first kiss? Do they buy lottery tickets- and if yes, what would they do with the winnings?

You might be surprised at all the great experiences people have had.  Regular, ordinary people.  You don't need to be a Kardashian to have an interesting life. 

I think it's fun.  You might be surprised at how people open up.

It truly makes the world feel just a bit smaller and a bit warmer.