Nov 07I Want My Zucchini

As I placed Sara’s dinner plate in front of her the other day, I realized that earlier in the day I had told her dinner would be fish with tomato and zucchini. We’re lucky – that is one of Sara’s favorite meals. But in the midst of school pick up and ballet I had forgotten this promise and when it came time to cook, warmed up some spinach with garlic instead. It was easier, and she is a big fan. Usually.

But I had said zucchini and she was NOT happy with a substitute green veg, even one she normally loves.

“Where is my zucchini and tomato?” she looked at me with pleading eyes.

“Sorry sweet, I forgot. I’ll make it for you tomorrow.” I tried the casual, apologetic route.

“But you SAID zucchini” her voice more accusatory.

“ I WANT ZUCCHINI.”

“Honey, I’m really sorry, but we don’t have time to make zucchini now, you’ll have to have the spinach. Or just eat the fish”

By now, the tears are there full force, and my husband has come home in the middle of this zucchini-driven spectacle.

“I WANT ZUCCHINI.”

Things deteriorated from there, to a full-blown foot stomping, face turning red tantrum. She’s three and a half, it happens. And I know it wasn’t really about the zucchini, but about my saying one thing and doing another.  But I have to say, if she has to have a tantrum about something … the fact that it is over her desire for a green vegetable does make it a little easier to take.

And in case you are wondering, yes, I did make the zucchini the following night.

Sep 13My Summer as a Stay-At-Camp Mom

Suffice to say, the summer didn’t go as planned and I ended up spending 95% of it as Sara’s personal social director, instead of spending any time on my own career. Away with my husband at a sleep away camp in CT while he did a consulting project, we got to do some great things: swimming nearly every day, sailing, tennis, and Sara’s new fave, bungee trampolining.  But work on this blog? Solicit new marketing clients? Network? Forget about it.

At first, it was beyond challenging. With our babysitter back at home in Brooklyn I knew I’d be spending more hours as “mom,” but we had anticipated being able to leave Sara in a special camp program for kids of camp staff in the mornings while I powered through my to-do lists. But for various reasons, that didn’t work out, and I was left holding the proverbial childcare bag.

I cried at least once a day for the first two weeks. Nothing was going as expected, I was too tired at night to get much work done, there was no cell service and did I mention our rental house had mice?! It’s not that I didn’t like spending time with Sara, I love it, but I was meant to be working, like I did at home, and I spent those first stressful days trying to do everything.

A few weeks later Sara and I left camp for a few days for a prearranged visit to some friends at the beach. My friend, who is a great mom and great at her job was pulling her hair out. After being at the beach alone with her two young kids for several days she felt totally undone, and was commenting that there was no way she could be a stay at home mom. I told that of course she could, but that in order to do so, she needed to let go of her professional self in a way that vacations didn’t have enough time to allow.

That’s when the light bulb went on about my summer. I needed to embrace MOMhood in a different way.  I was being handed a gift of sorts, the chance to spend the summer hanging out with my daughter and husband in a way that doesn’t happen back in the “real world.” So I put my work down, knowing that it might suffer but that keeping myself sane was more important than attempting to work and provide full time care in the woods of CT.

And you know what? I had a great rest of the summer, and certainly so did Sara. We did tons of fun things at camp, visited some friends who had vacation homes near by, and just enjoyed spending time with each other. Gary was working, but since he was working at camp, we got to spend time with him during the days including eating lunch with him every day! Even though there were stresses (um, bats in our rooms necessitating rabies shots for all three of us! yes, if you are keeping score that’s mice and bats!) it was less stressful than being at home.

I’m not sure that I would want to be a stay at home mom, but I know I could, and as I sit here working, while Sara is off with the sitter and we get back to our routine I’m filled with mixed emotions. I’m thrilled to be engaged professionally again, but I have to admit, I miss her, and miss our days together.

Jun 30Into the Woods For Work and Play

One of the benefits of working for yourself, from home is that you can, in theory, do it anywhere. One of the curses of working for yourself, from home, is that you can, in theory do it anywhere. So as a work from homer, it was hard to use a work related argument when my husband presented me with an interesting proposition. He was offered a consulting gig at a sleep away summer camp in Connecticut. Either we could spend the summer apart, something neither of us wanted, or Sara and I could decamp with him for the country, and a little rental house in the woods about a mile from the camp.

So last week we packed up the car, and headed to the woods. I knew that my schedule for the summer would be completely different than at home. For one thing, no full time sitter. Sara is in the “peanut program” which is the camp/sort of seems more like day care for kids of camp staff who are too young to be in the actual camp program. It will be great for Sara, and she already is loving the wide open spaces where she can run and play. But she’s only three, so chances are she won’t be doing a full day at camp every day, which means more time with mom. I envision the days going something like this: Gary leaves early for his 7:30 meeting, then Sara and I head to camp, eat breakfast, and she goes off with the peanuts. I have a few hours to come home and do work, then back to meet her for lunch and pretty much entertain her the rest of the day.

This scenario raises several issues.

First – how to prioritize work when I have only between 2-3 hours a day to do it. Here is my portable “office” of files and supplies that I brought up:

portable office

Not exactly the same set up as home, but then again, this is my new view from my new workspace, aka the kitchen table:

view from my office

I’ve got my files, I’ve got my new view,  now I just need to find a way to be super focused and disciplined about work time in order to get things accomplished.

The second issue, is how to let go of work, and not feel stressed that work time is so limited, in order to enjoy my time at camp with Sara. I can’t spend each afternoon thinking “I should be doing x or calling y or doing z.” I have to recognize that this summer is a gift. A chance to spent a lot of great quality time with my daughter engaged in activities some of which we can do at home easily (go to a park) and some of which we can’t (running on a soccer field, playing tennis, swimming).

In both cases, I have to really learn to live in the moment, to the fullest. When I am working, I need to WORK, to get the most accomplished in the littlest amount of time. And when I need to put it down, I need to PUT IT DOWN. And not think about it (well, maybe just a little …. ) and just relax and have fun. After all, that is what camp is for, right?

 

May 03Ode to Tina Fey

Tina Fey rocks. I know, I know, I am probably the 10 millionth member of the Tina Fey fan club, but just because there are so many of us doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take a few minutes to pay homage. We all know the obvious; she’s smart, funny, and attractive all in a NORMAL way. Meaning no size zero with a 36DD chest and butt length blond hair Barbie doll looks. Meaning what many of us imagine/wish we’d be like if we’d be famous. Meaning a great example of someone who is crafting a life that includes a fulfilling career and home life, but who struggles like the rest of us to get it all done.

I just finished reading Bossypants, and not only is it inspiring in the “wow how she got to be where she is story” way, but she also manages to share quite a few gems of advice with us mere mortals. Three of these such pearls of wisdom I think are worthy of passing along:

Ms. Fey honed her craft in the world of improv, where she said she learned the value of “yes, and …” When presented with a situation, instead of saying no or shutting down, say YES, AND …. In improv this is how you build on a scene. In life, it’s the same. It’s about not being afraid to contribute, and it’s about being open.

She also talks about making statements vs asking questions. If you are always questioning, and never declaring, then you are just relying on others to fix problems and deal with situations. Make statements, be unapologetic, and don’t rely on others to sort out your own stuff.

And one that I need to really take to heart is “don’t over think.” She says about Saturday Night Live, “the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready, it goes on because it’s 11:30.” Do what you can to make things great, but when it’s time to let go, LET GO. And start fresh the next day. You can’t let fear of being perfect prevent you from ever closing the deal.

As a woman, and a parent, and someone who has their own business, I’m hoping I can keep all of these tidbits in mind as I go through my day. Hope you find them helpful as well.

 

Apr 27The Client Next Door

In this day and age, it’s not necessary to be “local” to a client.  Sure, it might be nice to have a couple of face-to-face meetings, but with technology being what it is today, same city relationships are not required. Most of my clients however, do tend to be from New York.  It’s mainly a factor of my business being small, and my getting clients through word of mouth referrals.  But is there such a thing as too local?

One of my clients is literally around the corner from my home. And it’s a grocery store, which means I am there frequently. When I walk in, I feel like Norm from Cheers, since everyone knows my name.  I love this in a grocery store. I love it in a client. I’m just not sure I always love the crossover.

When I run in for milk and bump in to the owner, am I required to get in to a lengthy business discussion? Do I need to know all the facts of our latest initiative if I am just going for grapes and garbage bags?

Everyone knows the saying, usually used when referring to workplace romance – don’t sh@*t where you eat. Should the same be true for clients? On the one hand, I think the fact that I am a customer helps my consulting since I am intimately familiar with what they do well, and what they do not so well. And I obviously have a vested interest in seeing them succeed. But sometimes, I just want to keep my head down and buy my milk.

Any one else have this issue?

Apr 12Memory is a Tricky Fellow

I have a good memory. I used to have a great memory – there was little that escaped the filing cabinet between my ears- and then I grew up and had a child and new mommy brain moved in and unpacked. At that point, if it wasn’t written down on my “list,” forgettaboutit! It was the little tasks that left me at a loss though, not actual memories of things, places, people (except for my completely blocking out memories of 90% of my childhood, but that’s another type of entry!!).

But I found myself in the early (and not so early) days of motherhood, wishing for an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” type of memory cleanse. Parenthood was (is!) amazing, but in my sleep deprived haze, where “sleeping in” meant 7:00 am and not 9:00 am, I truly wished that I could not remember life pre-Sara. To not think longingly of lazy weekend mornings, lounging in bed, dining in pjs, puttering around, ah, that seemed like such a gift. Spontaneous drinks or movies out, how I thought so lovingly of thee. Choosing my schedule because it fit my needs and wants, ah, those were good times. And I wanted no recollection of any of it.

As the days and weeks and months passed, I wondered how long it would be – if ever – that those memories would no longer be at the forefront. Well, I have an answer. Three years. Yes, Sara recently celebrated the completion of her third year on this planet, and I realized that while I still remember what life was life before she came on the scene, it definitely, finally falls in to the distant memory camp. Sure, some weekend mornings when we hear her stirring, I wish I could roll over and go back to sleep, but just as often I am up anyway and ready to start the day. On vacations, breakfasting in pj’s feels like a lovely indulgence, instead of something routine. Movies are for date night, and going for drinks too often just makes functioning the next day harder.

Our life, our schedule with her, it is the new normal. And I wouldn’t change a thing (well … except teaching her that the time to wake up is 8:00 and not 7:00 … maybe when she is four).

 

Mar 28Other People’s Politics

There are definitely some things I miss about working in an actual office, such as flesh and blood coworkers, free office supplies and a seemingly non-ending parade of cake for people’s birthdays. One thing I don’t miss, is office politics. They’re unavoidable and run the gamut from mild nuisance to total dysfunction affecting productivity. Seeing how dysfunction plays itself out at the office holiday party can be mildly amusing, but it’s almost worth being a solo entrepreneur and not having a party just to be able to forgo the politics the other 364 days of the year.

But having my own business and working from home certainly doesn’t mean I escape the politics. If anything, it’s a feat not to get drawn in more. Nearly all of my clients are companies. That means some type of office. And that means office politics. Alliances made behind coworkers backs? check. Right hand doesn’t know what left hand is doing because they don’t talk to one other? check. Raging office affairs? Well, haven’t seen that one yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.

As the outsider, typically only involved with a client for a temporary period of time, you would think people would not want to air their dirty laundry. You’d be wrong. Maybe it’s because I am a “stranger,” only around for a finite period, so it’s easy to talk, sort of like confessing things to your seat mate on a plane that you’d never share with your inner circle.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of times knowing the dirt and skeletons helps me maneuver and get my job done. I can feel like part Clinton (Hillary or Bill, take your pick) playing diplomat, part Dr Phil trying to solve the issues. It is an interesting reminder of how working from home means working differently. When I collaborate with people on a project, I’ve picked the people, and unless what they do is SO special and unique, if there is too much “noise”, I just don’t need to use them. There are plenty of other fish in the freelance/solo pool, fish with whom I’d be more simpatico. I get enough politics in the news, I’m happy I can usually do without them in my work.

 

 

 

Mar 07As A Parent, Doing Something Right

Yesterday we had some friends over for lunch. Well not so much as our friends, but friends of Sara’s – twins- and their parents. We’ve met the parents several times, but only in big group settings like birthday parties, and thought it would be nice to get to know them a little better, and for the kids to have a play date. All three take a gym class together on Sunday mornings, so the timing worked too.

While Gary took Sara to gym, I finished getting the lunch ready, and at the last minute decided to make some chips from a bunch of kale in the fridge. Not only did I want to use it before it went bad, but I figured it would take the edge off everyone’s hunger before we sat down to lunch. They came out of the oven just as the crew was coming in the door.

“Kale chips!” exclaimed Sara, running to grab some from the bowl. The twins did the same, and within seconds all three had kale crumbs strewn about their faces and shirts. You would have thought I had offered ice cream. When we sat, I deigned to put the bowl in the middle of the table. “No,” said Sara, “that is for the kids, put it down here.”

Now, they were just as excited by the cookies that were proffered as dessert, but I have to say, all of the adults definitely had a moment of sheer pride. We must be doing something right, if all of our kids not only ate kale chips, but were excited about it!

What’s next  -brussell sprouts? turnips? Oh wait, she loves those too.

Mar 01Dressing the Part or What to Wear/What not to Wear

Every woman I know (and most men) has experienced moments of looking in to her closet and declaring she has nothing to wear. It’s an exaggeration, of course, but sometimes there is a germ of truth lurking beneath the blanket statement; there is nothing to wear that is appropriate, or flattering, or wrinkle-free. When I open the closet doors every morning, I can see the quantity of clothes, but it is challenging to find ones that strike the right balance between I’m working from home and I’m working from home.

In theory, I love the luxury of being able to wear anything, from work out clothes (as if!) to a business suit, depending on what I’ve got planned. But I tend to take the easy way out most mornings, reach for the first thing in the closet, and end up feeling like a schlub. Today is a good example. Granted, Gary is away and Sara had school, so the morning was a bit chaotic, but I am wearing jeans and a black sweater. Not horrible, but nothing that wows me when I look in the mirror, or makes me feel great about myself as I sit here typing. Basically nothing that makes me feel professional.

For some reason, unless I have a meeting, I steer away from the black pants. Maybe because they were part of the “uniform” when I lived in the corporate world? And dresses or skirts with tights in the winter? Forgettaboutit, they tend to hang untouched. So out of habit, most mornings, I go for the jeans. Which in and of itself is not horrible – in this day and age jeans can be dressed up, down or sideways. But it is bad when I am just putting on clothes, any clothes, instead of finding something that – to paraphrase Tim Gunn – makes it work.

Some mornings, I put something on and think – yes! Good outfit! I feel put together, sort of stylish even, and that definitely affects my mind set going in to the day. And I am not the only one who notices; on those days, I frequently get asked by Gary, or the sitter, and increasingly even by Sara – where you going? do you have a meeting? So why aren’t I dressing like that every day? If something doesn’t meet that Yes! criteria, why is it even still part of my wardrobe?

They say “clothes make the man”, that you should “dress for success”, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Well I HAVE the job I want, but I DO need to work on the dressing part. A stylist would be great, to come and put together a “look book” of outfits that meet my feel good/work from home criteria. But short of that, not sure I have the stamina on my own to do a the type of radical closetectomy/outfit putting together that is required for consistent dressing wins each morning.

Any other work from home moms (or anyone really!) have this issue? Any great solutions?

Feb 18The Cooking Monster

I love to cook, have for years. I’d choose cooking over eating at a restaurant almost all of the time, and would cook (and shop, and grow vegetables) every day if there was nothing else getting in the way (i.e. work, laundry, the need to catch up on past episodes of Friday Night Lights!). But I live in the real world and that means there are nights I am too busy to cook. Gary gets it; sometimes we order in, sometimes we just scrounge among the leftovers. Sara on the other hand, is too young to grasp this concept. So she comes bounding in every afternoon telling me she wants to cook with me. Insisting on it, actually.

This is great if it is one of the nights I am indeed cooking for her. We’ve tried really hard to instill a love of cooking in her, and it is definitely working. She loves her play kitchen and enjoys cooking classes when we take her, but most of all, she likes to help us cook. Every Sunday we make eggs, and she is the designated whisker. She destems mushrooms, breaks asparagus, and tears lettuce and kale. She brushes olive oil or marinades on anything and loves to work the food processor (with adult supervision, of course). She even has her own mini, functional blender. When we used to ask who she was in the kitchen, her response was “sous chef,” but recently she promoted herself to chef. All in all we’ve created a monster – a cooking monster.

Whisking Eggs

I have no complaints at all about this …. except for those nights when all I am planning to do is reheat something from the night before, or throw some chicken fingers in the oven. Saying to a nearly three year old there is nothing to “cook” just doesn’t cut it. Not only do I worry (too much I’m sure) that this will squelch her budding interest in all things culinary, but I also feel doubly guilty that I am giving her nuggets or leftovers and not something fresh (I know, we all do it and there is NOTHING wrong with it, but I still feel guilty).

Sometimes, even though I won’t be cooking for her, I will be cooking for Gary and I so there will be some tasks she can help with for that meal, but sometimes there is just nothing child friendly for her to do. And her having a meltdown because THERE IS NOTHING TO COOK seems well, seems ridiculous.

Last night I brought her home a cooking with kids cookbook, and of course, she started flipping right through wanting to cook. This process is especially interesting when the chef can barely identify all the letters of the alphabet let alone read the names, descriptions  or instructions. It took her all of five minutes to point to the popsicle recipe. Luckily I had the ingredients on hand, and it was only a fifteen minute, no cooking involved endeavor. But what happens when she looks the next time and points to tortellini or chinese chicken salad?

So I am trying to come up with some evergreen recipes/projects/tasks. Things that I can whip out at the drop of a hat, knowing I have the proper ingredients AND the time to make them before her “real,” reheated/chicken nugget/frozen pizza dinner is ready to eat.

Please, anyone with suggestions, send them along. Now that we’ve created this cooking monster, we’ve got to continue to “feed the beast!”