Category Archives: family

Careful What You Wish For… (Working From Home)

I’m very thankful to work remotely for a great company, and there are definite advantages in working from home.  But, it’s just like any relationship.  The advantages can eventually become the disadvantages.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy… like the fact that you can’t control when people mow their lawn, or when a loud truck drives by your house.  It can be disastrous if someone knocks when you are on the phone, so my dogs go in a closed room faaaar from the desk and a sign goes on the door when I have important conference calls.

Working over telephones, it’s hard to tell when the speaker is finished or someone new is going to pipe up, so there is the frequent unintended interruption of your colleagues.  You also have to work a little harder at interpreting meaning since you can’t see facial expressions.

You learn to not have overnight guests during the week since most people don’t really get what it means to ‘work from home’.  They bang kitchen cabinets, get ice from the dispenser, and walk into the room talking all the while risking your professionalism.  They don’t mean to cause trouble; they just haven’t experienced working for a paycheck from home.

The obvious differences are not having to dress professionally and the lack of office socialization.  Working in an office brought some of the best relationships I’ll ever have.  My girlfriends from work have shared many tear-producing laughing spells and gotten me through many crises.  I miss them.  I have to try a little harder to get my regular dose of friends.

It is true that I don’t spend as much money on clothes, shoes, and jewelry as I did when I worked in an office.  The result is that now I never have the right clothes to wear, anywhere.  You see, I hate to shop.  Needing to shop for work clothes got me in the stores, and then I bought all kinds of clothes and shoes.  Now, I just keep putting it off and will eventually be that oddly-dressed lady who generates chuckles.

Wearing comfortable clothes while working brought its own harsh reality when I put on ‘real’ clothes a few weeks after starting the remote job.  It’s harder to notice that you are gaining weight.  I couldn’t believe it until I started realizing that I didn’t walk from the parking garage to the office anymore, from my desk to lunch, to meeting rooms, to the kitchen,…

It’ is great to avoid commuting in rush hour.  But that evening-hour commute gave me opportunities to stop by the grocery store or the drug store.  Now, it seems I’m perpetually out of the basics.  In the old days, I would not venture out of the house without makeup applied and hair done at least a little.  I no longer consider it worth the time to ‘get ready’ just to run to the store.  So, I tend to put off going altogether or pretend I’m invisible and run into the store looking like an embarrassment to my younger self.

In the end, the biggest difference is freedom in where you live.  I’m thankful to the now-friend who offered the original position to me.  It allowed me to move back to the southeast.  Now, I can have a casual weekend dinner with my Mother and Grandmother, and that’s the best advantage.  Now, if I can just figure out what to wear…….

~Lori

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What Doesn’t Kill You……….

Last week held a personal milestone…the 20th anniversary of my wedding, and I’m single now.  I don’t think I’m a bitter person, but the anniversary made me contemplative.

I was surprised how devastating a divorce is.  Before my own, it seemed a sad, but routine, part of life.  Ours was relatively simple and not unexpected.  And still, divorcing ripped out my core.  I lost a lot of weight, couldn’t think straight, cried until I looked like an alien.  There was such a sense of loss and rejection.  It was the death of a dream.

It is the only time in my life I truly SCREAMED at someone.  Not in anger; I never really got angry at him even though my friends did.  I was questioning the way it unfolded.  He had been emotionally checked out for two years.  I yelled because I wanted to know why he wasted my time when he knew he was over me.

In your forties, two years make a big difference.  I went through the painful, slow death of his Mother followed quickly by that of his Father.  My face and knees got wrinkled, my breasts sagged and other similarly wonderful things happened in those two years.

Most damaging was sharing a home and bed with the husband I knew was slipping away, begging a man to love me while he shunned me.  I prayed, read self-help books, went to counseling, and focused my life on him in a desperate attempt to save our marriage when I should have been moving on with my life, as he already had!

I couldn’t attend church for a while. Waiting for the service routinely left me in tears.  Seeing families made me feel broken, like a failure, and reminded me I was single and would never have a child.  In other public places, I wondered what was so wrong with me that I didn’t deserve someone… like she did… or he did.

My ex had taken my chance to have children, though he promised otherwise before we married.  There were other fundamental promises replaced with excuses.  He thought it was a temporary phase, thought he could change me…  Really?  The awful truth was that what I wanted, what he’d promised, just wasn’t that important to him…. and maybe our 15-year relationship had been based on misconceptions.

Sadly, divorce affects your social network.  My ex made it easier by leaving town; I could even afford to stay in my home.  But some married couples, some even close friends, weren’t so comfortable around me anymore.  I lost the work friends, but that was expected for multiple reasons.

The hardest part was losing family.  I have no full siblings and a small family, but he was close to his two siblings and had a large extended family.  They were my family; and then… nothing.  Most concerning was losing my stepparent relationships.  But, I’m blessed to know my stepson’s family.    For that, I am very thankful to him and his wonderful wife.

The divorce taught me not to be afraid to reach out and not to waste time, eventually made me a better friend and daughter.  I’m healthy and happy, but would like to be married again.  I’m trying to be smarter this time.  I realize it might not happen, and I’m taking steps to make sure I remain okay with that.

~Lori

Potentially Useful Links

After a While (Poem)

Spiritual Divorce (book)

Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay (book)

Say WHAT???

I am repeatedly struck by the impact tone of voice has on any one remark. Whether from a spouse, friend, family member or co-worker, the same sentence or phrase said with an ounce of care will carry your message much further and it really isn’t all that hard. Seems that all it takes is a little bit of awareness and keeping kindness and/or that person at the center of your mind, vs the specific desire to be right and/or make your point.


This seems to ring true especially with spouses or other close one who you spend a lot of time with, somehow concentrated in times of stress or over holidays! Take the common situation where you and said person are in a conversation either which each other or another third party and one of you says something incorrectly. Possible responses are (bold used for emphasis of tone):

No, that isn’t right, it was…
..that isn’t right, it was …
..that isn’t right, it was…
Actually, what I remember is

Amazing what a good choice of words and a kind tone will do for you.

My husband and I have agreed to call each other on these kinds of things when we see them and this is one area we are actively working on. The way I see it, I aspire for our dialog (and relationship) to be one couched in mutual respect and kindness that shines through… and therefore I am working on making that last option more of a default reaction.

I’ve also found this whole tone thing to be key when talking to our lil puppy Zuger (who is topping the scales at 100lbs now). It is too easy to be angry/impatient with a puppy when they have no idea what they are doing… for example, when you want them to come,  are you basically yelling their name or are you saying it in a very excited tone that indicates that if they do come, there will be so much fun in your current location that they shouldn’t miss it? I continue to work on that one.

So in a world where voice to voice conversations are diminishing in favor of the typed message… how do you work on this? Can you get do-overs? The best advice I’ve seen lately is as follows:

How can we guard against that tone?  If you feel it creeping into your voice, slow down or stop, take a deep breath, and start again.  Or, if you realize ,after the fact, that your tone may have garbled your message, make amends by apologizing for sending out a mixed message, clarify it, and then move forward.

… And I have to say, in a conversation with an employee recently, I stopped mid-sentence and apologized for the tone that was coming out of my mouth and said I wanted to start again. Repeating my words in a different tone changed the conversation.

I can’t say I’m advanced in this area.. But I am aware at least and isn’t that the first step to sustained change?

A very happy new year to you and your family!

~Michaela

Cutting the cord

I’m 30. I’m single. I live in the same general area that I grew up in, about 30 minutes from my parents. 

My family is very close. My brother and sister are two of my best friends.  I love my parents to death and I love spending time with them.

Here it comes…

BUT

During the holidays, my parents still expect me to stay at their house on “the eve” – Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve – especially Christmas Eve.  And here’s the BUT – I really, really, REALLY don’t want to.  I haven’t wanted to for the past few years, but I continue to just do it because, I don’t feel like I have a good excuse not to – aside from the fact that I am a college graduate with a mortgage.  Plus I know my parents would be sad/disappointed.

I don’t like sleeping on the couch (well, not when it’s on purpose), and that’s where I sleep when I stay at my parents.  I like my house and  my bed (both that I BOUGHT); I like waking up and having (a lot) of coffee before interacting with people, and I like my own shower and not having to pack a bag to go a half an hour away. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love spending the holidays with my family, and wouldn’t want it any other way. But I wonder, how much longer can this go on?  Will I have to sleep there on the eve for the rest of my life if I decide not to get married and/or have kids? Will I be leaving my dentures in a cup on the table next to the couch?  The majority of my friends are married, and most with kids at this point, so they aren’t expected to stay at home on “the eve.”  But I’m the same age as them.

So I think this might be the year.  I’m going to take a stand!!

Who am I kidding – I’m going to drink 12 gimlets on Christmas Eve and pass out on the couch and end up having to stay anyway.

But really – this doesn’t just apply to Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve – there are tons of examples of situations where, if I was married, would have totally different expectations.  When does that change?

– Erin

Capturing sweetness

Recently my father in law passed away. At too young an age… unexpected, sad.

Events like this somehow tweak your perspective and I’ve had flashes of great insight during these trying times. When I can get there, it is so sweet and savory that I’ve been trying to capture it.

The best I can explain is that the goodness is to remember that nothing lasts forever. For me, this small simple key seems to unlock my ability to enjoy true happiness and more importantly, contentment.

That is to say, life is sad, happy, angry, frustrating and joyful – all at once and all at different times, for different lengths of time. But right now, embody….down to your tippy toes… that this moment, this night, this job, this weather, this health, this relationship, this pet, this situation WILL CHANGE.

If you can truly feel it and appreciate the feelings that you are having, good or bad – the challenge of your colleagues, the stress of your job, the joy in your dog, the battle with fitness, the achievement of your day – you are truly living and that is all we have.  Because it will change, just as it has always changed….Then one day we are gone.

If you waste all your time being so stuck in the actual emotion at the second, really stuck, and not just watching it all flow by and experiencing it, you have truly missed out.

Life is unbearably sweet and precious! Step back, smile and marvel at the wonder of it all.

~ Michaela

Tropical paradise, togetherness, appreciation of the good ole USA? What makes your favorite vacation memorable?

A few years ago my parents proposed the whole family go on a cruise to Alaska.  On one hand I really wanted to go as Alaska was the last of the 50 I needed to cross off my list of states I had sat foot in.  But I was more than a bit concerned because that’s a lot of togetherness for a family that hadn’t spent much time together.   My brother and I hadn’t been very close in recent years.  Another challenge was my husband’s hatred of cold weather.  After checking weather averages he said the weather would be cold and rainy every day and he would be miserable.  Oh Joy!  It was going to be so great to hear this complaint every hour of every day….

In the end, we all committed to the trip, my parents, my sister and her husband, my brother, his wife and three girls, my hubby and I. 

My favorite thing about this trip was not where we were but spending time with my family.  I enjoyed getting to know my nieces who had somehow completely grown up and it was like meeting them all over again.  Even better, they were three fabulous young ladies who were smart, funny and up for any adventure.

Many times a day we laughed until we were sick over the silliest things.  Another plus – the weather was HOT.  We raided the Gap in Anchorage before we sat out on our cruise to buy shorts and t-shirts because it was so warm.  We rarely broke out our sweatshirts during the trip and it did not rain one day.  Icing on the perfect vacation cake!

Susan

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I think I just got back from the perfect vacation.  Well, not actually a vacation – let’s call it an escape. 

I live in Philadelphia, and have been going to “the shore” my whole life (please, please, PLEASE don’t confuse what I’m about to say with the ‘Jersey Shore’ people you see on TV).  When we were little, my family would go for a week each year.  After college, I rented with about 17-20 other people in a small house each summer for a few years.  And this summer, I rented for the month of September ALONE.

The house sat on the bay, and was much larger than 1 person needs but perfect to have guests down… which is exactly what I did.  Each weekend there were different people coming through town, and I had the weeks to myself.  I only ‘vacationed’ for about 10 days of the month and worked the rest, but there was something about waking up in such a relaxing setting that made working so much more enjoyable.  Not that my home isn’t a relaxing setting – it is.  But drinking my morning coffee overlooking the water brought a whole new energy to my day.

I decided after this trip that I need to do this every year.  As much as I want to travel all over the place, there is also something so peaceful about renting a house at the beach and not having much of an agenda at all. 

Erin

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I live in New York City – with a lot of other people. A lot. So when I go on vacation I like to go places that are not like New York City – places that are pretty and quiet and natural and remote and as far away from the masses of humanity. I used to go to Europe a lot, but in the past few years, as the exchange rate and flight taxes have made it more expensive, I have been traveling more in the USA. Who knew that our National Parks are some of the most beautiful places on earth? I now have a goal to go to at least one a year (this year was Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii). The National Park Service preserves our most precious resources. There are over 84 million acres out there for all of us to enjoy, they contain 17,000 miles of trails, habitat protection for 421 species of threatened or endangered plants and animals and 1.5 million archeological sites. So go out and visit one! Watch the movie at the visitor’s center. Talk to a ranger. Read the placards. But please, leave it as you found it. Thanks.

Jen

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Pete (husband) and I have worked to perfect the ultimately relaxing trip. There is some crazy continuum that connects Maui and the bay area and, as residents of the latter, we find Maui is one of the most amazing places to relax. We attempt to escape there yearly and our trip generally involves an ohana rental on a beach on the North Shore of Maui, close to Paia. Paia is a funky hippy town with great food, lots of tattoos, great yoga and unfortunately, horrible traffic as it is the one intersection with a stop light on the north shore… but not if you don’t go anywhere.

With a view of waves, kiteboarders and a wonderful beach right out the sliding door, we do a heck of a lot of nothing. The days involve me doing yoga, some sort of amazing breakfast together with local coffee and then maybe one activity. We have found that one activity is about all that we want to do because it is key for us to work some lunch and dinner around that… then lots of reading, beach time, some movie catch-up, yahtzee, and surfing (internet that is).

We have honed in on 10 days being perfect… just enough time to completely relax, enjoy each other, connect, and recharge. 12 days actually is a little too much, and less than 10 is just not enough. This highly complex formula has come from careful study over twelve years and while it will always need tweaking, it is our perfect relaxing vacation.

Michaela

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My favorite vacation was my first trip to Costa Rica.  I had been out of the country many times, but never for a trip focused on nature.  The diversity and beauty of Costa Rica is amazing.  The people are friendly and hospitable.  We flew into the capital city and drove to the towns where we would sleep.  The mountainous roads led to paradise in different forms.  The first was a small hotel in the middle of a former banana plantation.  It is where I first experienced white-water rafting.  We drove on roads where the car skidded on rocks when we stopped.  We crossed bridges that didn’t look like they were intended for cars. 

 The second was near the beach and a rain forest.  I saw scarlet macaws in flight and in nests, butterflies with lace wings, ants that carried leaves to their home and many other creatures.   I experienced the ocean among small islands formed by volcanoes.  The third location was in the mountains near the cloud forest.  I sat in a garden with literally hundreds of hummingbirds zipping by my head until my travel companions begged me to leave. I relaxed in spring pools heated by a volcano and climbed to see waterfalls where only chains separated us from the edge of the mountain. 

I saw more natural beauty than I thought possible.  We enjoyed every moment and every person we met.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we returned twice.  Each trip was wonderful and different in its own way, but none compared with that first experience.  And I got to experience it all while creating memories with, and enjoying the vacation planned by, my Mother. 

~Lori

 

The travel twitch

I’m a bit of a travel junky.  If I don’t have a (fun, non-work) trip in the works I tend to get a little skittish (I have a bit of a travel twitch and find myself consumed by planning trips that aren’t happening any time soon) .  Unfortunately, I’m a travel junky that needs to work and only have 20 vacation days per year (which according to salary.com makes me lucky) so I constantly feel like an inadequate travel junky.  My gut tells me I should be exploring somewhere new at least every other month (that’s when the travel-twitch starts) but instead it’s more like twice a year.

I’m not sure when it started exactly.  My first trip out of the country was just in 2004 (note: I had been to Cancun but I don’t count it if they pick you up from the airport and drop you at a resort that you never leave).  I went to Ireland.  It was awesome, but after just visiting again recently I realized that I didn’t have a clue where I had been and really had very few memories about the trip. I think it must have started to build slowly, and then started to get out of control about 5 years ago.  And now I’m obsessed.

I subscribe to 3 travel magazines.  I save said travel magazines and revisit them often, especially if I’m going to (or considering a trip to) one of the places they’ve highlighted.  I have a map in my living room of the places I’ve been and the places I want to see, and examine it every time I walk up my stairs.  I’m constantly buying books on travel and planning trips, and my latest obsession is doing the Trans Siberian railroad trip.    I could go on, but I won’t (you’re welcome).

My parents, on the other hand, have never left the country (other than to Cancun – see note above).  Until recently, my dad didn’t seem to have any interest in even going anywhere, which completely blew my mind.  I took a trip with my girlfriends in 2008 to England, went to Stonehedge, and when I came back with pictures my dad finally admitted he’d like to see that some day.   I immediately told him I would plan a trip for our family.  I figured Ireland would be a great starter-country for traveling – minimal language barrier (I say minimal because even though its English, some of those guys talk reeeally fast), gorgeous landscapes, and our roots are almost all Irish.

Fast forward 3 years, and we are finally off!  I started ‘officially’ planning this trip in April of this year (that’s when I booked our first B&B) and we just got back last week.  The result: SUCCESS!! (for the most part).

How I rate success:

  1. We all came home… alive.
  2. We are all still talking.
  3. We really did have a great time.
  4. My parents are talking about renting a house in Dingle for a month when they officially retire.  If you’re ever going to Ireland, I would suggest you do the same – it’s freaking gorgeous.

So at dinner one of our last nights’ there, I ask them whether they will now start exploring on their own… and where they’d like to go next.  The response: wherever I’ll plan for them to go (in a nutshell).

They loved the trip because they had to do NO planning – never had to worry about where we were going, how to get there, or what we were going to do once we arrived.  But if I’m not doing the planning, they likely aren’t doing the traveling.

And I have now added trip planner to the list of things I want to be when I grow up.  Already on the list: barista, florist, furniture refinisher, lottery winner (all have the same odds of happening.)

–          Erin