Category Archives: Life

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

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

Our “Dirty Little Secrets”…

I am sure I have a normal, healthy amount of dirty little secrets – no more than the average non-serial killer. When forced consider one to share, I decided to go with the first one to pop in my head. I, Jennifer Zarcone – no-reality-show-watching, master’s degree-holding, public radio-listening, New Yorker subscribing, grown-ass woman never miss an episode of Days of Our Lives.

It started innocently enough. Co-workers wanted to watch in a conference room during lunch. I refused for a while. Soap Operas?! Don’t we have more important things to discuss?! Deep down I knew why I didn’t want to watch. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to quit. You see, I come from a long line of addictive soap watchers. We are ABC watchers – the Quartermaines and the Webers – these were my people.  And I knew if I started watching, I wouldn’t be able to stop.  

Now, those co-workers are long gone and the Brady’s and the Horton’s – their lives and the absolutely ridiculous situations they get themselves in and out of are just the brain candy I need at the end of the day (in my defense – with DVR, you can watch a Soap in about 15 minutes). It is their ability to bounce back after any set-back – to be up and walking around and running for mayor weeks after being shot in the head at point black range; or having your heart taken out and put back in and then dating casually two weeks later. These lessons of resilience just can’t be found in the real world – or on PBS.

– Jen

____________________

I record more hours of television per week than most people work.

This is not an exaggeration. 

And yes, I have a full time job.

I knew before starting to write this post that I recorded a lot of TV.  The only thing I can stand to watch ‘live’ is sports, so anything else that I have an interest in seeing goes straight to the DVR.  I’m a chronic multi-tasker, and the thought of wasting my time on commercials just about sends me over the edge. 

Anyway, I made a list of the shows I’m recording right now.  Keep in mind, its fall and my “TV busy season,” but I’m averaging about 35 hours of recording per week.  I also realized through this little exercise that I watch a lot of TV on-demand because I literally can’t fit it into the schedule of my DVR.  It *might* be getting a little excessive.  Then again, maybe its not as abnormal as I think.

 The funny thing is, 5 years ago, I was watching almost zero TV.  I had a different job, was working crazy hours, and had more of a “live to work” than “work to live” lifestyle.  When I wasn’t working I was thinking about work, regardless of the time of day or day of the week. 

When I switched jobs and could relax enough to sit down at the end of the day to watch something mindless, I quickly got addicted.  I love it all – reality, drama, crime scene shows, cooking, travel… the list goes on. HGTV is a serious problem for me – I find myself watching re-runs of House Hunters International – already knowing the house they will pick but watching it anyway, dreaming that one day I will be buying a house in those exactly locations. 

Maybe I will try to watch a little less TV now that I see the magnitude of my “little secret” but really, I couldn’t be more content than when I’m sitting on my couch, watching these ridiculous shows with Ellie on my lap. 

– Erin

____________________

I’m in bed before your children

Yes that is right, i go to bed early. Very early. Wicked early. Unbelievably early…You get the idea.

I usually follow that up immediately with, “but i get up very early too,” hoping for a smidgen of understanding or forgiveness I guess.
I know it is lame. My husband knows it is lame. My sisters and brothers know it is lame… and yes I beat my parents to bed most nights (they are in their 70’s) and they know it is lame.

Urban Dictionary defines me as a closer. Good ole’ Ben Franklin has made it easier with his famous quote about how I’m going to be “healthy, wealthy and wise” all because I’m early to bed. Then of course the Canadians go and test the theory experimentally and disprove good Ben (seriously).

But here is the deal. I can’t help it…I love going to bed more than most things (except my husband and dog). My bed is my sanctuary and sometimes, when I wrap up the day, my biggest indulgence is to get in bed before 8pm. It is decadent, wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable!

Dirty little secret or not – I have been ridiculed and yelled at for being an early sleeper and through all of it, I just don’t care because ‘I yam what i yam.’

I enjoy morning, I enjoy going to bed early, and I love my life. Do with that what you will!

– Michaela

____________________

I love going to the movie theater to watch movies.  Not rock’m sock’m action movies or gory thrillers. Oh no, not for me.  I demand chick flicks that always end the way you’ll know they’ll end.  I want no surprises.  I want to know going in that the guy gets the girl or the girl gets the guy.  No worries, no stress, perfect ending every time. 

My little secret is I don’t want any company when I go to the theater.  I want to sit alone with no one around me.  I don’t want the chatter and I don’t want to share my large tub of popcorn.  I want a couple of hours where I can mindlessly shove popcorn in my mouth and drink my soda. 

I pick the first movie of the day on Saturday or Sunday and head off to oblivion.  This is me time and I love it – it’s not better than a massage but relaxing in a different kind of way.  When I’m sitting fat and happy in a theater with a huge grin on my face because of some mushy, romantic or funny scene on the big screen, well, I’m in heaven.  Mindless, chick flick enjoyment all by myself.   

– Susan

What’s your dirty little secret??

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

Was That My Turn?

I’m geographically challenged.  I don’t know how people are born with absolutely NO sense of direction, but I’m proof that you can survive this affliction.  Even if I do know where we’re going, you don’t want to rely on me for  directions if you’re driving, because I’ll forget to tell you.  It’s like the passenger seat automatically disengages the little part of my brain dedicated to navigation. But, sometimes good things come out of missing a turn.

Recently, my friend was driving us somewhere new in my town.  True to form, I forgot to say where to go and we wound up detouring through an area near my paternal grandparents’ house that triggered childhood memories.  Then, wait, did you see that sign that said ‘Bold City Brewery’?  And did that store next to it say ‘Just Brew It’?  My friend always wanted to try brewing and Saint Louis made me a fan of microbrews (Square One is a favorite!).

After keeping the store clerk open late answering our questions, we were trying to fit a brewing kit and a large glass carboy into a tiny trunk (the one disadvantage of detours is being ill-prepared).   The next day brought the aroma of hops to the kitchen and left us pondering names for breweries and beer labels.

A few evenings later I’m home alone and hear a bang!  Luckily, it wasn’t too late or too dark, so I didn’t panic when I couldn’t identify the sound.  Later I opened
the pantry door to put something away and saw tiny glass shards and brown liquid all over the floor.  A beer bottle had broken.  Just slight annoyance while I cleaned it up.  A couple of hours later, a BANG!  Really, another bottle broken?  A little more annoyance now as I clean up the second time.  When the third bottle exploded, I was officially perturbed and called my friend to let him know
about it.  I found a storage bin just the right size for 45 bottles of beer and counted each time another bottle lost its battle and marveled at how glass shards got out of the container.

The next day, he asked me to release some of the pressure from the remaining bottles.  But someone who happened to be with me suggested I could really be hurt.  So…  I found safety goggles, donned a heavy sweater and garden gloves and before opening bottles with the bin lid protecting my face.  The first bottle spewed beer into the air a foot or so.  The next, and last, bottle that I tried to
save spewed brown, sticky liquid nearly four feet into the air and onto three
different shelves of pantry contents.  Now, I’m worried AND aggravated.  I put the lid back on, gingerly carried the bin outside, and placed an old DVR and four bags of mulch on top of it so the sun’s affect wouldn’t force more shards out of the bin.

Turns out, there was some miscommunication about the bottling process.  Now, we are a few batches into the new hobby and the beer stays controlled.  It actually tastes good and we’re having fun trying different kits.

Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to new hobbies, some interesting moments, and a few laughs.  Next time I wind up on a detour, I’ll be certain to keep my eyes open for unexpected benefits!

~ Lori

Lonely or Annoyed?

I’ve been sick. A friend recommended I take a supplement, and that I should probably take it for the rest of my life. I stared at those words in the email and for a full minute. I could not feel my legs. FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE? I sat there (since I couldn’t move my legs) and tried to think of something – anything I wanted to do every day for the rest of my life. I barely want to do things I like every day for the rest of my life. Then it occurred to me, is this visceral reaction the reason I am single? 

I haven’t always been single.  I have been in very long relationships. And I have spent long periods of time alone. And when I look back, if I am being completely honest I tend to have been a happier person when I am alone. Maybe it’s a testament to my bad taste in men… But I don’t think so. When I was a little girl, my dream relationship was Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas because they were married and they lived in separate cities. It seemed ideal.

I have a theory. There are only two kinds of people in the world: lonely (and single) or annoyed (and in a relationship). I think we all have a higher tolerance for one – either you’re better at being lonely or you’re better at being annoyed. But they are really your only options.  Either you’re lonely or you’re annoyed.

Lonely

I mean sure – early love is great and you want to be with that person all the time. When you live with someone, you can get a hug at the end of a long day, or someone to make your coffee in the morning. I have been there. But sooner or later, the lust wears off and their annoying habits and idiosyncrasies start to surface – like I don’t know –  their breathing – in and out, in and out, in and out…

When you are alone, sometimes it is awesome – like when you are so comfy because you have the whole bed to yourself. Or no one is around to judge you when eat an entire can of frosting or don’t wash dishes for a week. But sometimes you want someone to talk to, or make you tea when you’re sick, or have sex with you.

 So when I get really lonely, it usually helps to call an attached friend – who without any encouragement begins complaining about their spouses while their children scream in the background (my hand to God one called expressly to complain AS I WAS WRITING THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE). And I thank them for once again for validating my life choices.

-Jen

*I must thank Chris Rock for his inspiration as I once heard him say “You’re either married and bored or single and lonely.”