Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Soul-searching for the transitioning SAHM

The world is cruel. Ok, it's not super cruel, but there are some prejudices I think I have silently encountered over the last few years while I have stayed-at-home that I would like to address.

Stopping your career mid-stream to raise your little ones is a:
  1. hurdle in your career
  2. obstacle to overcome
  3. dream come true
  4. necessary evil
  5. a chance to reset & redefine
It is NOT, as I thought, a chance to "redirect in a more lucrative direction" or "pick up where you left off", as I had previously thought! Employers did not see line items on my resume as an asset with a 5-year gap tacked on top of it; they saw my time out as a liability and my previous management experience as a burden if they were to hire me for a 'lesser' position.

I didn't want this to be true, and I didn't really believe it to be true at the outset, because I wasn't requesting an inappropriate salary level, and I wasn't trying to become management right away. But perhaps my experience was intimidating, or too specific. I did all the right things: social media, new skills, keeping up-to-date on current software and strategies, incorporating constructive criticism from headhunters...and at the end of the day I'm just wondering if I wore too much eau de mere. 

Let me sum up the last couple of years of my life so you can gain perspective:
  • worked in music & theater performance
  • then music administration - which led to college music admissions - at the Director level
  • left the job to raise twins in a new city 
  • realizing the niche quality of my previous positions, tried to transition to general college admissions
  • although I received much attention and many [first and second!] interviews, did not secure employment in that area, and frankly, was not really invested in it [at the end of the day, college admissions is TRAVEL. It could be two weeks a year, it could be ten weeks a year. Music and Theater, even at the administrative level, includes nights/weekends. I'm not interested in being away from my family. I needed that #5 RESET & REDEFINE option.]
So I did some soul-searching. I asked myself many questions. I came to many, many answers. 

And finally: ONE answer that did have what I was looking for: 
  1. meaning
  2. inspiration
  3. potential to be lucrative
  4. long term growth potential
  5. family-friendly options for this mom who loves being available for her kids
These, I discovered, were my priorities. Maybe these questions will help you find yours too. Try to answer them each separately, without a need for a running thread between them. There does not have to be a storyline attached to all of them. We are trying to move away from the storyline you have already written for yourself many times. We are changing the plot.

The idea is to wrap our brains around what you are good at, what you are qualified to do, what you want to do, and what you are able to be appropriately compensated for. [I know I'm not supposed to write sentences that end in a preposition, but we didn't ever say TwynMawrMom makes money for writing, now did we? Precisely my point. at which. I'm making... yeah.] And again, none of those things have to match each other (they certainly don't for me), and they also don't necessarily need to correspond to a job that is already in your vocabulary and/or listed on your resume. Don't feel the need to answer them all at once. Take one or two at a time. Take a week for each! Take your time.

Honestly, this is the rest of your life we are talking about. What do you want to do with it now that you've had your babies? 

1. If, God forbid, something happened to my partner, what would I do to support the family/pay the mortgage? What could I do immediately? And what would I want to do if given any time, education & credentials?

2. What am I qualified to do currently?

3. If I wanted to go back for more qualifications or a new certification/education in another area, what would I be interested in studying?

4.  What do I see myself doing when the kids leave the house (like, college-aged)?

5. What do I see myself doing at 60? [Again, does not need to match #4]

6. What is at the core of who I am? Not just what I am passionate about, or good at, but my CORE being. Who am I. What do I wake up in the morning thinking about. What am I motivated by. What gets me running (besides the kids.)?

7. If I had ten hours a week to volunteer at a place, what would it be? (This might be a good opportunity to try some different places in general...) Where would this ten hours of my life be best spent? If your first answer is "the kids' school", which is a totally normal first response for a SAHM, what would your SECOND answer be?

8. What did I like about my job before kids? What did I not like?

9. If I were to be paid half of what I used to make, what hours would I be willing to work and what would I be willing to do? If I were to be paid twice what I used to make, what hours would I be willing to work and what would I be willing to do?

10. What's that thought, in the back of your mind, that's been lying dormant since forever, that you haven't entertained before? That one, there? We've all read the adage, "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" Take it one step further: What would you do if no one else knew what you did, ever? If it was just for you and your paycheck to know?

Again, I hope these helped. I'm still figuring all this out for myself. I'll let you know how things progress...

Obviously, it is not full-time blogging, or I wouldn't keep you all waiting months between posts! After the toddler years, life just isn't as exciting, is it? ;) I'll leave you with a *5* year old photo! Egads!! 5 years went by RULL quick.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

40 things I know about myself as I approach my 40th birthday

1. I'm a doer.
2. I'm a visual learner.
3. I like swimming.
4. I'm glad I have/had big breasts.
5. I'm done with my breasts.
6. I was meant to be a mom.
7. I like accomplishing things fast.
8. I do not like running/racing fast.
9. The best decision I have made was to marry my best friend.
10. I don't honor myself.
11. I'm a nerd.
12. I really like learning new things.
13. I love scuba diving.
14. I honestly like helping people.
15. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my family.
16. I am not organized.
17. I like attention.
18. I have a love/hate relationship with music and my voice.
19. I do not spend time or energy on trying to understand what other people think of me.
20. Therefore, I have no idea what I look like to other people.
21. I do not know how to dress myself.
22. I value comfort over formality.
23. I never wanted to be a rock star.
24. I did want to be a Broadway star.
25. I always have many goals.
26. I am self-disciplined in most areas.
27. Friendship motivates me.
28. I could travel often and be happy. I am a gypsy at heart.
29. I was raised on science fiction.
30. Organized religion grounds me.
31. I think that water is a cure-all. Drinking it, hearing it, seeing it, living near it, feeling it.
32. I want my ashes spread on a certain rock in Kauai overlooking the ocean.
33. I want my children to live full lives.
34. I'm worth more than I ever got paid to do a job.
35. I change my job/career path with my location.
36. I have a pretty low blood pressure, which keeps me even.
37. I have a hot temper I am always working on controlling. I have done a better job of this since I had kids.
38. I don't really like reading. I like good stories, but I do not covet sitting down to read a book.
39. Put on good music and I can do anything.
40. I will always dance at the party.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quick tips on Hershey Park #familyfun

Our 11th anniversary pic. Happy twyns, happy lyfe?
Well as you know I do live in Pennsylvania. We are actually only about an hour and a half drive from Hershey so we have gone twice as a family, as a day trip. Here are my wins & losses, maybe it will guide you to a successful trip yourselves!

First of all, Hershey is lovely. There is no comparison with some other amusement parks: there are roses and trees and no trash on the ground as you wait in line for say, a roller coaster. It's a class act. It's worth the extra sticker price and travel.

Secondly, there is an app! These days, isn't there always an app? Well the Hershey app does provide you with approximate wait times (we found them to be overestimates of the actual time we waited, so we were pleasantly surprised, like, a lot.)

It will also let you search, and filter through that search, by food, rides by height, and rides by wait time! Once you choose an attraction, you can click "take me there", and the GPS will provide you with a path by which to walk there. It can be glitchy with cell service through the glorious trees, but overall: Pretty cool.

Thirdly: Great Family Rides by height! My twyns are firmly implanted in the "Reese's" height range and we have about four or five true roller coasters we enjoyed riding:

  • superdooperlooper (about 4 times that day)
  • The Comet (twice that day)
  • Trailblazer
  • Coal Cracker (log flume type)

Like, really really enjoyed:

Take a few minutes as you enter the park and get 'officially' measured at the height station near the Carousel. The kids will get a wristband for their appropriate height range and won't have to be measured again all day.

Fourthly: Water Park and Amusement Park in One! But do the water park first. We have no photos of our first three hours at the park, because we were enjoying the Wave Pool (four cycles of the 'wave-maker'), the slides (three times in the double tubes we share), the Lazy River (twice around), and the huge boat that splashes everybody called Tidal Force. We were specific with the kids about wearing our bathing suits there, enjoying the water park for the first few hours, then changing and doing 'dry stuff' for the rest of the day. It worked! As the twyns get older it is sooooo helpful that my husband has clear boundaries. 

So we arrived at the park at around 10 am, got to the lockers/changing areas/water park zone at around 10:20, started the water fun and finished around 1 pm. All of our phones and dry clothes (a large backpack full) fit easily into a locker which had unlimited in/out access for $15/day. We got some kettle corn to hold us over so we could get to some roller coasters before the crowds got bigger. For some reason, 3 pm had a bit of a rush. 

The water attractions close at 6 pm (beware of mass exodus), and the park itself closes at 10 pm or 11 pm, depending on the day. I would suggest getting a locker closer to the front of the park so that, at the end of the day, you are not schlepping back up to the water area ("The Boardwalk") to get your wet towels in the locker. There are rides up there, but no roller coasters in the Reese's range, so there was no reason for us to go back. So, because we had two parents and some kiddie rides to wait on, I was able to trek back up on my own while they did the swings in the main area of the park. 

Food & Drink: Stick to the center. Hershey is a nice big park, and there are a lot of hills, so be prepared and wear your walking shoes. On both visits we found we liked eating at Gourmet Grille, near the Zooamerica entrance (we skipped Zooamerica), because it has an enclosed seating area (a break from the heat if you need it) and there are some additional healthy options (paninis, salads, unsweet iced tea, and even quinoa salad.) If we had planned better, we would have purchased the "souvenir" cup at the beginning of the day for drinks, which costs $9, and refilled it throughout the day for $1 each time. As it was, we spent $3/piece for drinks at lunch (x 4 = $12), and we were hesitant to keep buying bottles of water or other drinks throughout the day, even though we didn't want to get dehydrated. There are water fountains in a few locations (next to Skyrush, for example), to refill your already-purchased water bottles if you like. They searched our bag in the beginning of the day so I do not believe they allow outside drinks. Overall, I'd say get the $9 refillable souvenir cup and stay refreshed.

Speaking of food, the Simply Chocolate ice cream shoppe was awesome. Like, real ice cream. And on our first visit, we actually ate at Red Robin for dinner after we left the park for the day. It is directly outside the park. It is run and managed very well to accommodate all the many tired families (we even paid the check on the iPad at the table so we could exit swiftly), and has all your favorite Red Robin foods. 

My daughter loves the Sea Lion show: "Our Friends from the Sea", but it was only 15 minutes this time. I swear it was 30 minutes last year. This is near the Flying Falcons ride, which my twyns also both enjoyed. You get a great view of the park from up top! Unfortunately we did not hit any of the other shows. I know there are some good Disney-style ones, but we are there for the rides. I would love to spend a few days in the Hershey area, enjoying the outlets, the hotel grounds, the gardens, and Chocolate World. My daughter really wants to make her own chocolate bar, but we never think far enough in advance to purchase/reserve that extra. We totally skipped the entire Chocolate World experience this time. It is right before the entrance of the park. Just get in there and get going! Pass the kiddie rides and get straight to the fun. 

Lastly, the games. You could tack on extra $40 before you even blink, trying to win another stuffed animal (because your children have so few, wink wink.) My husband, with his amazing boundary-ness, told the kids "no games" right off the bat, and that was that! I could have easily let the boy just spend like $2 trying to win that big stuffed bear, but Daddy made a good rule, and we stuck to it. So be aware, the games are everywhere. Make a limit before you get there! 

I think that's all the tips I have for now! If I think of more, you'll hear about it. Obvie

Have a Super Duper Looper Day! 

Coupon tip:
Always google search!  
We used this promo code for $12 off each adult ticket last week:  19138 

For more Family Travel posts, see the list under the Parenting tab here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Mommy Gap

Here's something else you don't think about before you have kids: The mommy gap. 

Yes, I'm re-entering the "workforce." Theoretically.

Two months and eleven interviews later, I'm still sitting here with you on a Tuesday morning.
At least the coffee is good here.

And as I write, I can't help but put everything in this post in "quotes." The whole notion that I have been sitting on my a$$ and not gaining additional "work" skills while I've been multi-tasking with the twyns is absurd. Let me show you my list of mommy references who can attest to my growth in team-building, event-planning, recruiting, networking, motivational speaking, training, and teaching abilities.

Oh also, stress and anger management.

That's: facilitating all members of the organization through stressful and anger-inducing situations, including exempt [the husband] and non-exempt [the twyns] employees. 

Not to mention that I have spent many long hours at paying positions that don't belong on my "work" resume, including my sewing/Etsy business, my musical theatre gigs, and composition/guest artist gig at Duke, which culminated in premiering a new musical in NYC. Non-paying positions that no employer wants to hear about include this blog, volunteer positions in my mommy groups [treasurer for two years], the twins preschool [assisting in fundraisers], and now their elementary school [homeroom parent, and now VP of clubs.]

Yeah, clearly there is a gap that needs addressing [insert eye roll the size of a fourteen-year-old's at parents on the first day of school.]

Let me tell you what I've learned these last two months.

You are still relevant.
Upon the eve of my first interview I really really didn't think I was relevant anymore. I may have given my husband an earful while he was prepping me the night before. Like, a whiny, six-year-old, earful. I didn't know the names of the new software all the kids are using, I didn't know if my music admissions experience would have altered my knowledge of general admissions and recruiting, and I didn't know if I could even remember what I used to do, much less relay that to someone I've never met. It was not a pretty interview, but it wasn't ugly either. I missed the real question behind some of the questions, and I misstepped a few times. For instance, I tried to name-drop a friend's husband who had taught a course at this institution.
"Frank..." [insert blank stare and awkward pause.]
"Well, you see, his wife is really my friend, and she has a different last name than he does...and her name is..." [insert even longer, more blanker stare and more awkward pause....]
[let's move on, twynmawrmom...]
 "So going back to what we were discussing earlier..." 
[grasping at straws for another subject matter for the next five minutes, during which I find myself without a filter and bursting out:]
"LEWINSKI! FRANK. LEWINSKI!" [not his real name, but you get the cringe.]
You are actually amazing.
By interview #4 I did not need to name drop. I did not need to make pleasantries. They were looking for a recruiter/admissions professional, I was the one who was able to accomplish their goals. We were here to discuss business. I have done that. And I have done this, too. And I have an answer for that question, and I know what you are going to ask next. Let me show you who I am.

I have to say, by the time I ironed out my best, most illustrative work stories, I sounded like a rock star, even to myself! Remember, mommies: you are amazing. And you breastfed twyns, too. [Actually had an interview start out with asking me the details of this fact and how it works. Let me send you the link lady.]

You no longer need to wear panty hose.
My first question to my "working" mom-friends was the panty hose question. I absolutely have always abhorred panty hose, and thankfully it was the consensus amongst my peers that no one really wore it anymore. In fact, the workplace has gotten even more casual in the last six years, and this includes conversation. Especially when you are discussing attracting millennials. We need to get down to brass tacks. There is no beating around the bush: millennials are hard to connect with, and you need to be able to draw them in. I'm a people-person. I can do this.

Buuuuuuuut, don't get toooo comfortable, twynmawrmom.

When interview #1 was ending, they let me know that round 2 was going to take place after one of the interviewers was back from his trip to Ireland.
"Oh! Have a drink for me!"
[twynmawrmom. WHAT. THE FUH. Did you mean 'have a pint'?!?! Something a little more witty? This is not a friendly conversation. This is a business transaction. Get your mind out of the liquor store, mommypants.]

You are worth being BOLD.
By interview #6, I was not pulling punches anymore. Yup, I'm amazing. Yup, I can do that. Yup, I'm kind of funny, too, and I bring a positive atmosphere to the workplace and I know that I will be a great asset to your team. For a job posting that asked for a 'brief cover letter', I even just included a list of personal stats (admissions rate impact, yield rate impact, employees supervised & trained) and two additional sentences. I do not have time to write you a book, and you don't want a book. We want to get to the heart of the matter, and that is, my employability and my 'fit' in your organization. I deserve to be bold with my statements, and I got even more attention after I started to do so. More attention from my cover letter, and more second interviews. There is no reason not to assert the fact that I am highly employable and capable. The question is, are you the place for me?!

I look back on my first cover letter from about six months ago, when I started to gear myself up, and I actually mentioned our move to Philly due to my husband's promotion and the birth of my twins, in the first sentence. No, no no. All wrong. AMATEUR! Now this is a fact I don't hide from the first interview, but it in NO WAY belongs on a cover letter.

You are planning for the next career move, not this one.
What I've also started to realize through this process is that my next employer better be a big one. I don't want to put too much pressure on it, but I know myself. And I know that I like to get into a place and assert my presence. There will also, however, be some transitional growing pains with being a "working mommy" and wanting to still be available for my kids. So I need to think about this next position as an understanding of what the one after that is. What I will want and need when the kids are in high school, as opposed to what I want and need now that they are in elementary school. So I'm trying to set myself up for that. I've also discussed the idea of a career placeholder rather than a career maker. It would be nice if Wharton called me for a second interview, but I'd also be happy with a part time position at a large university that would have room for me to move up. Next position, not this one.

So that's what I've learned, mommies.




We've done it before and we'll do it again. 

It will always be there for us, whether it's been 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years.

We can do this, too.

Now back to our regularly scheduled PTO meetings. 
And that musical I've been writing for a year.
And it's raft night at the pool. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Great Week, another ghost story

So the buzz of the little reminder on my computer's calendar just made me aware that I was supposed to be running the Long Island marathon tomorrow. [I started this blog post on Saturday morning and now here we are.]

Wah. I'm not doing that.

But I have had a really great week, y'all! A REALLY great week. Including physically - as I walked around NYC for two days and had three hard PT sessions and feel signs of my 'greater trochanter' injury getting better.

Which I was starting to think would never happen.

[you know how dramatic we actresses get.]

Speaking of actresses, I saw a few of them this week as well!
Let us now praise Susan Sontag image by Ilan Bachrach
The musical I've been working on for a year and a half finally premiered at Abrons Arts Center downtown NYC. Sibyl Kempson, the writer, has really put together quite a show.  It will be running for three weeks, GET TIX HERE. It leaves you wondering what art can do...how it can be a vehicle for something more/altruistic or selfish, in the bettering of many people or perhaps only one.

Well this week, I am definitely that one.

I'm trying to get through this story for you, but because it's been so long since I've blogged I feel like I have so much to tell you and don't want to make this entry too long! Let me start with the quick & dirty, that always helps:

Quick & Dirty: A Great Week
  • the musical premiered, had my hubby & parents with me
  • chatted at the after-party with many artists, feeling collaborative
  • walked two miles through the city with hubby afterwards, chatting about life
  • had a night off from the twyns thanks to another twyn mama [my bestie]
  • saw Chita Rivera in The Visit on Broadway the next day, one of my idols, with my mom [girl date]
  • sneaked in another lunch date with hubby before the weekend
  • had a universe-is-connected-via-yellow-shoes spiritual phenomenon
Ok so gush-gush I love my husband and since it is post-quarter-end we had a lot of time together this week and got to talk and mush mush. But let's elaborate on the yellow shoes.

A few weeks ago my mother had a dream about her parents (both now deceased), and that they were bringing her a box, and in that box was a pair of yellow shoes (which she remembers to be a pair of yellow shoes she bought in real life in 1968, and proceeded to love them so much that she built her wardrobe around them for a few years.) The only thing she remembers saying is, "these are my yellow shoes but the heel is wrong."

On that day, she texted me her dream. It was a Monday [April 6th I believe.] My mother didn't know that in the show I had been writing, there was a song and scene about "Yellow shoes." We actually wrote it in 2013, during our first workshop at Duke University, so it was nothing new. So I texted her that, and she freaked out a little.  I texted my friend Sibyl to see if they rehearsed the song that day and she said, no, but that they had changed the scene's location, and the character who is singing it, so that it is now assigned to the character of [spoiler alert] Susan Sontag. I actually really hated the song, the way it came out, and the delivery until this last change. It actually works now. Kudos to Sibyl for seeing it through. I really would not have the patience to keep tweaking and working the musical the way that she has. But it is her full-time job, so I guess it makes sense that she does!

My mother came to see the premiere of the musical with me last Tuesday night, and we laughed and marveled again at the yellow shoes reference.

The next day she surprised me with tickets to a Broadway musical, The Visit, with Chita Rivera. I had told her I wanted to see it, and she didn't know why, other than the fact that I loved Chita Rivera. I reminded her that one of the first Broadway shows I ever saw, in my teens, was another Kander & Ebb musical starring Chita Rivera: Kiss of the Spider Woman. It was probably amongst the moments in my life where I can identify wanting to be up on that stage as my profession. My mother remembered only that one of the last musicals she saw with her mother was with Chita Rivera, called The Rink, in 1984. So, clearly, Chita Rivera, in a musical written by Terrence McNally, with music & lyrics by Kander & Ebb, has been in our lives at many important moments.

You know, Chita Rivera has been in musicals written by other people!

We sat down at the show for our girl date, and walking onto the stage are two eunuchs [bizarre enough] in... yellow shoes [TOO bizarre.] We elbowed each other. We couldn't believe it. What is this about?! Weird.

We proceeded to watch the show and about thirty minutes in, the townspeople begin a group number called...wait for it... "YELLOW SHOES" because it has become a symbol of wealth in the story, and every one of the townspeople would like to claim their share of the wealth by choosing their own favorite pair of yellow shoes. They sing this group number, an ode to yellow shoes, whilst pulling out of a box their own pair [specific to each character] and performing a soft shoe dance in said yellow shoes.

My mother grabbed my hand and we started to cry.

This is no longer a coincidence.

What could this mean?

The characters kept chanting "Yellow Shoes" and every time it was like a pounding on my chest and a fist to the jaw.

Who is bringing this message to us, and what exactly is the message?

Is it about money? Broadway? Self-indulgence?

You know, Kander died September 11, 2004. So this is the last musical to be produced by this team.

I wrote this song in 2013, without any knowledge of their song. I got the idea because the image that Sibyl had written about in the script was very powerful to me. I thought, yellow shoes, that is such an interesting reference, I have to write a song about it.

Susan Sontag happens to be deceased as well. December 28, 2004.

I left NYC in 2003, got married there in 2004. It was around that time that I left Sibyl and our collaborations. I've blogged about that before.

To top it off, and I'm stretching here - a recruit of mine from my days as Director of Music Admissions at the University of Maryland - Chris Newcomer - is performing in The Visit as well [one of the eunuchs, the original yellow-shoes-wearers] and he is from Moorestown.  On the same day last week that his hometown paper published a piece on his Broadway appearance, my husband was touring Moorestown for his job, and came home to tell me about the town and what may be a big deal for him. A stretch, I know. But a lot of connections here.

I also got a promo email the next day from a business built by my high school friend Kelly Rae Roberts featuring an image of - you guessed it - yellow shoes.

I'm just feeling those connections - I have not been looking for anything new in my life but I am always open to possiblity [like that last ghost story, and that other one] - and when something like this happens - I try not to ignore the signs.

And I'm definitely, FOR SURE, going to buy a pair of ... yellow. shoes.

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