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This post has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks. I’m hardly in the business of telling anyone how to behave, how to raise their children, or for that matter, how to raise themselves, but this one gets under my skin. I think about it all the time.
Why do we lift one-another up, only to put one-another down? Or worse, ourselves; our children, our friends’ children? I hear myself saying, “She’s a brilliant creative director, but I’m not big on her taste in men.” Or “I absolutely love Chris’ parties, but that guy can drink!” I do it to people I date, “Super smart guy, brainy as all get-out, but clearly has no fashion sense.” I even do it to my kids, “I love the way you cleaned your room; I wish you did that the other 364 days of the year.”
Every lift up seems to have a put-down. Why?
In thinking it through, I still can’t come up with a real answer. Social acceptance? Fear?
This week, I decided to try to give a lift-up without a put-down. I challenged my kids to do the same. It’s hard!. Want to join me? Follow my #liftupsnotputdowns on Twitter. Let me know how you do.
It broke my heart almost every morning that I didn’t run. I love to run, I love to not have a huge ass, too, so running and I have always gotten along. Until last May.
A year ago, my sweet ex and I reluctantly broke up for good, and although the change was good, it rocked every single part of my life. I found myself unable to go for an early morning run (who would watch the kids?), unable to get to the gym after work since I took a job an hour from home after our break-up. Every morning I woke up and instantly felt awful that I knew, before even getting out of bed, that I wouldn’t exercise that day. And hence, every day started with a failure.
Thank God for therapists.
One day this awesome therapist said to me, “You are not going to work out. This we know. What you haven’t done is give yourself the permission to take time off from exercise.”
Somehow that word, “permission” sucker-punched me. It was true: I needed to give myself permission to remove exercise from my life for awhile. I needed to take it off of my to-do list or the should list or whatever list. I needed to not worry about it. At all.
I was suddenly sure of myself in a way I hadn’t been in months. I went home, I collected all of my workout and running clothes and I put them up in the closet. And the most amazing thing happened: the next morning, and every morning since then, I have woken up without the dread of missing a workout. Friends would tell me about a race or a run or a hike or a bike and I was truly happy for their fitness; just as happy as I was about my mental fitness.
Today marks one year of giving myself permission to be exercise-free. I pulled down my running clothes and tried them on. They were tight, but they fit. A year without running and my clothes still fit! I didn’t turn into a massive hog or a slobby sloth. My 42-year-old ass looks like a 42-year-old jiggly ass that hasn’t worked out in a year, but I can live with that. Because my 42-year-old mind is fit as can be. I did it.
My kids are older now, and leaving for a bit in the morning is not scary anymore. My job in Pleasanton didn’t last past the winter and I get to work from my home office most days, so a workout is fully possible today in a way it couldn’t have been a year ago.
This morning I walked four miles with a friend, loving every minute of being back on the trail. Tomorrow I’ll go for a short run. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.
I didn’t think she’d really make the reservations. In fact, I was pretty certain that even if she did try to pull off a dinner at the famed two-Michelin Star rated Manresa, that they’d certainly be booked and, even more certainly, we’d all wimp out of doing something so outlandish.
But last night, I found myself in one of the finest restaurants in California, in the US.
I had no business dining at Manresa. I’m a single working mom with a mortgage and a house remodel and there is no line item for a big fat dinner that was certain to cost $300. Aftearll, it’s not like it was a special occasion. Except it was.
My buddy Rita had it in her mind to dine with reckless abandon, fill an evening of grown-up talk and beautiful people. She wanted to taste food that inspired her and be surrounded by luxury and opulence — all of this a very far cry from our daily lives feeding our families nightly meals or grabbing a bite at our favorite taqueria. She wanted to taste something more than food. And so we did.
Our five-hour, 15-course meal started and ended with laughter and chatter and thinking ourselves pretty darn smug for being daring enough to be out celebrating just being alive. No birthday or anniversary, no wedding or retirement. This was a special occasion alright: the occasion was nothing. Nothing but a full moon and a beautifully warm night, a dear friend and an extraordinary food journey.
Dinner at Manresa, April 26, 2013
Mini red pepper gelle with a black olive madeline
Strawberry gazpacho with Marcona almond
Micro herbs and chilled crab with peas and foam
Panacotta of yogurt, black olive, grapefruit, candied caper
Razor clams with the most amazing morel mushrooms I have ever eaten
Garden salad with flowers, herbs and spiced dirt
Warm grouper with fresh peas, beans
Black mole with calamari
Modesto olive oil and California butter with four breads
Sweet duck in something I can’t recall
Mandarin goat’s milk ice
River rock lemon sorbet
Coco nib truffle rum balls
Strawberry gelle and chocolate madeline
Chocolate brioche to-go for breakfast
I’ve worked from home for the past several years in one capacity or another. From consulting to remote work to a coveted weekly work-from-home day. I consider working from home a discipline, a privilege and responsibility.
I ran into a fellow marketing exec the other day who said she much preferred to work in the office than at home, because, “I always end up finding things to do at home that is not work.” I hear stories like this all the time, so I figured I’d share with you the five rules I have in my daily work routine to ensure that I am maximizing my work and minimizing interruption.
1. Get Dressed for Work
That’s right. Get up, get dressed, put on your work clothes. Daily, I put on high heels, jewelry and makeup. The heels are important because I learned during my prep school days that uncomfortable shoes keep us from getting too comfy — and stiff shoes keep us on our toes (literally).
2. Keep the Desk a Work Space
I have always had my desk as a command center for work. However, it’s not the family command center. Homework to be signed and kids projects don’t belong on my desk. They can leave that stuff on the kitchen counter. Every day I come to my desk, turn the light, sit down and work. My kids know that if I’m at that desk, I am not to be interrupted. My kids have even texted me from the backyard to ask me a question about this or that — mommy is working and I require that respect and space to work.
3. Schedule breaks
It’s impossible in my experience to work from home without wanting to water the plants or grab the mail when you hear it drop in the slot. I schedule three breaks in the day, just like I do at work. The first one is mid-morning. I do household work for a bit (water the plants, throw a marinade on the skirt steak for dinner). The second break is the good one: I go out for lunch. Yes, go out for lunch. I grab lunch where other working people are out, too. I sit down, enjoy my break, check my personal email, make a call or two. Later in the afternoon, I take a break when my kids get home. Most days, they’re running off with our beloved nanny to this-or-that sport or activity, but a quick cuddle is all any of us need.
4. Respect your work day
If you are as blessed as I am, you’ve got family and friends that would love to stop by, hang out, grab a late afternoon glass of wine. Communicating your work-day boundaries only take one brief sentence: “I’d love to but I don’t get out of work until 6.” Or, “I have about 45 minutes for lunch on Tuesday.” Respecting your work day enough to set boundaries for others has always helped me be most efficient in my work-from-home environment. They’ll get it. And, when you do meet, you’ll not have the guilt that you should be working.
5. Closed-Ended Days
If you’ve done it right, you’ve put in eight-to-10 efficient hours of work, and you’re exhausted. You should be. Leave your work day with the same amount of ceremony you began it. I shut off my computer completely. I don’t answer unscheduled work calls after my day is done. I turn off the lamp at my desk. I organize papers and to-do lists for the next day. I clear off coffee cups and scratch paper. I am done.
It doesn’t take a certain “type” of person to work from home — it just takes parameters to work within that drive the most efficiency, produce the best work possible, and reap the benefits from calling the homefront your work HQ.
My ex’s grandfather died today. And my Kitchen-Aid mixer is still packed from the kitchen remodel, so I couldn’t make chocolate chip cookies. If you know me, you know that I believe most things can be fixed by making chocolate chip cookies.
It’s not often that I cry, but this old man was a good soul — he’s worth a tear or two or ten. My son heard me and got out of bed. There’s a line where motherhood meets humanity and tonight, humanity won.
Tonight’s story isn’t really one for the public, except, I never want to forget it. And I’ve long since given up journals.
My boy came out to the livingroom in his green footy pajamas, and stated, “As your Right Hand Man, I want to know if there is anything I can do for you.”
I said, “Yeah, you can go to bed, it’s 10 p.m.”
And he said, “Blue puppy (his stuffed animal since birth) and my pillow and I have been camped out right here (pointing to the hallway) and we can hear you cry.”
I replied, “Crying isn’t always bad. I’m happy and safe and it’s time for you to go to bed.”
And my dear little man stood, hands animated like I couldn’t believe:
“There are three things you need to understand:
One: We men always play to our strengths. People who know how to play Bridge understand this, but you don’t know how to play Bridge.
Two: You have to put your hobbies first when you speak. What are your hobbies, Mom? Cooking? That’s not a hobby. Kids? I’m not a hobby, mom! You have to think of a good hobbies. You like football. And soccer. Those are good hobbies.
Three: You say things like ‘happiness’ and ‘health’ and ‘karma’ but those are all spiritual things. Don’t say spiritual things. You can say hobbies. Like if you say ‘technology’ I will say that’s a good one.”
I literally was struck silent. In fact, even as I type, I’m still shocked, just trying to type before I forget what he said.
I teased him, “Technology my bum, little one!”
He wouldn’t budge.
I asked him if he wanted to call my ex. He said, “Some things need time. I will call her another day.”
Again, he struck me silent.
“Everything is fine, son,” I told him.
He looked at me, standing in the hall in his green footy pajamas and Blue Puppy hanging from his fist, “I know. But I’m your right hand man.”
We arrived home last night, New Year’s Eve, to a basket of fresh fruit and a warm baguette on the doorstep. Next to the door, another baguette, some flowers and a notecard with s small photo of a hummingbird on it. My refrigerator was stocked with milk — three gallons from each of the people who had dropped off some milk as a welcome home gift. In all, I counted 12 apples — red and green our favorites — from three different friends. Before I could close the front door, my mom was walking to the door with warm chocolate chip cookies and a smile that lights my life every day.
2012 was a shitty year, but today, on its last day, I saw two sunsets crossing the Atlantic, and my house was filled with all the beauty you could imagine. On the last day of this horrible and rough year, came fresh food, and love and friends and family and hugs and not one, but two beautiful sunsets, and I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to think, What a bastard! That year I loathed, finished so beautifully, filled with fresh love all around us. Damn you, 2012, for being a beauty in the end, and reminding me what matters most.
In our family, Monday Night Football is sacred — always has been. For as long as I can remember, Monday nights meant eating dinner by the TV (a rarity!), and getting the chance to scream and yell and jump on the furniture. I have a memory of my mom jumping on the couch in her Oakland Raiders t-shirt that said “Property of Oakland Raiders” — it was grey and black and I thought she was so cool to have such a grown-up shirt. My grandmother, too, was a huge MNF fan, cozying-up to her little TV to watch MNF, but really only if Dallas was playing. Then it was Roger Staubach time — number 12, baby. GO DALLAS.
When Dallas plays Monday Night Football now, I bring out an old photo of my grandmother, place it in front of the TV, and put a beer and a handful of Lay’s potato chips beside her. Oh yeah, we’re a little nuts, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
During the NFL season each year, I have a Monday Night Football open house. I make a big, giant pot of somethingruther because I am not about to be sitting in the kitchen while everyone else watches the game. Chili, enchiladas, make-your-own tacos or a big, kitchen-sink salad are always waiting in the kitchen. You can find me and my kids plunked in front of the TV, just like my parents did when I was a kid. We cheer and scream and let out all the inappropriate loud noises we can’t burst out with at work and at school: “OFFSIDES, SUCKERS!,” howls my daughter, while my son, intense as ever, wearing his Brady or Crabtree jersey, fist pumps with a defiant “WHAT A HIT!” It’s our unspoken permission to let it all go.
Every Monday night during NFL season, I feel the sense of family all around — tradition runs deep with us, and football is no exception.
So if you’re in the neighborhood this season, stop on by for a Monday Night Football fete — the food the people and the TV are all warm, the beer is cold and we’ll be waiting for you.
URGENT REQUEST: Sacred Heart Community Services is in the midst of their annual Pack-a-Back, giving over 2,000 filled backpacks to children in need, so that they may attend school with their school essentials.
Immediately, they are in need of:
97 color backpacks (no red or blue due to gang issues in San Jose)
500 shoe gift cards
Please, share this and pass it on. And if you want to donate, I will come to wherever you are to pick up donation of:
97 color backpacks (no red or blue due to gang issues in San Jose)
234 broadtip markers
500 shoe gift cards
Learn more here about Sacred Heart