Saturday, May 7, 2016

Keep mom in the picture #mothersday

I know it is disingenuous to speak of my friend's battle with cancer and how it affected ME and MY LIFE, so I have avoided it up to this point. Here is a woman who wrote her own obituary, so she certainly does not need my take on her life. In her own words, she claimed victory over cancer, because, being an English professor, she used the true meaning of the word "victory" and claimed she was strong in the face of adversity, rather than focusing on whether or not she 'vanquished' her enemy, Mr. Cancer.

In fact, she did not.
My daughter asked for a photo so she could 'paint my friend.' Kylie would have loved it!
So I have not wanted to 'tell my tale', because it was not MY tale to tell, and I was mostly only an observer over the last eighteen months of her life/struggle with the c-word. In fact, since we had our babies, we had seen each other less and less than of course those awesome college days where I seem to recall us drinking together every night. Memories are fickle, however, and I'm not sure how objective I can be about our relationship. In death, everything is memorialized to the nth degree and I sure do think we were close. But as we drove to the funeral, my college friends and I reminisced, and, we weren't sure. We tried to gauge if we were the 'imposters' heading to the funeral where there would be 'real' friends of hers who had known her in recent years; or if we were really, truly, friends of hers who knew a certain side that, perhaps, no one else did.

It doesn't matter.

What matters now, and why I chose to blog about this, is because, on this Mother's Day, I am thinking especially of her and her children. As my mom tells me, a "motherless child" is a psychological profile. Losing your mother, the person who created your world, changes your world. And I'm thinking especially of those two she left behind.

Thanks to Kylie's blog and her online world, she will live on for many years. One of her legacies, especially for me, will be the fact that she insisted on "mom" getting in the picture. This is actually the reason she started a blog, because, having lost her mother at 24, she was saddened by the fact that she did not have many photos with her mother. So, fat jeans and bad hair days be damned, she got in the picture for many many months.

And, today, I want to encourage you all to do the same.

I know you didn't shower last night.

I know you need to get your hair done.

I know there are 10 - 20 - 30 pounds hanging around that you want to hide.

I know no one is asking you to get in the picture (my husband is historically terrible at this, but, after years of my insisting, is getting more proactive!)


You guys, let's just be us. Honor yourself today, on this, and every other day. 






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. 

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