Out of the Office

This week marks a year since I left my full-time job — my career, really — to make a big change and stay at home with my kids.

Some days, it’s hard to believe it has been that long. Others, it feels like a decade since I’ve walked into the place that was my office, or since I’ve worn shoes with any real structure.  Leaving work was a leap I was scared to make — but I also knew the time was right to give it a try.  Nothing is forever, I told myself {unless you use our General Contractor for your home renovation — then, forget I said that}.

And life has totally changed since that day last year.  I’m in a different world.  One with yoga pants and playdates and navigating the mom social circles.  One without conference calls and stressful deadlines.  One where, as I type this, a crock pot is fired up and our fridge is stocked with groceries — neither of which ever happened when I was working full-time.  Not with 2.5 hours of daily commuting, semi-regular conference calls with Asia at 10pm and the ever-flashing red light on my Blackberry competing with my kids for my attention.

But one that comes with other stress — the stress that comes with full-time parenting sometimes. And one that comes without a paycheck.

There are indeed days — many days — when I want to pull my hair out.  Like today — also known as Day 10 of The Endless Spring Break (because it’s helpful when your kids’ schools close for break over two separate weeks).  Is it seriously only Tuesday?

Anyway.  It took me a while to get my footing in this new world — to find my friends, hit my stride and regain confidence in myself as a parent.

But I did the right thing, for me.  For this family.  For this time in our lives.  I’m not saying it’s right for everyone.

And recently, I started doing some freelance work, which is really the Holy Grail of Working in many respects.  It keeps that non-chicken-nugget part of my brain intact and allows me to string together complete sentences that don’t involve the Nick Jr. programming line-up.  But I can wear my pajamas.

To show you I haven’t completely lost my professional edge, I’ve assembled a brief presentation about this first year away from my working life.  I think this will give you a more in-depth view of how this transition has worked out for me.

Hey, Power Point has gone out and gotten itself some pretty new templates in the last year.

You probably don’t need an agenda slide.  You’re all smart people and, let’s face it, this isn’t rocket science I’m presenting here.  But old habits die way hard.

The first time I’ve ever used “duh” in a presentation.  I think I’ve been missing a real opportunity here. It has punch, no?

Oh, office politics — you are exhausting.  But luckily my experience here has served me well in navigating the playground social ladder.

I mean, we could go on and on with the Boardroom Bingo, right?  If you’ve ever sat in a meeting with maddening corporate speak, you know what I mean.

OK, so that’s six things.  Maybe my math skills haven’t survived the past year particularly well. Plus, I say them on a repeat loop all day, every day.

By “photos emailed by the nanny,” I mean feeble, out-of-focus and head-cut-off attempts my nanny made to take a photo with her flip phone.

Translation:  All the time.  I have one child in each ear as I type this.

I am very proud of the economic growth I’ve spurred in town since I am now home full-time.  It’s important to contribute.

Freelancing?  Yes.  Part-time?  Sure.  But full-time, commuting to the city work?  I mean, I can’t predict the future.  But my feelings are in the fairly strong to downright adamant camp towards “No, but thanks” on this one.

* * *

Oh crap — I have no concluding slide.  Sorry.  I’m clearly slipping.  But I assumed you were all so riveted by my pie chart wizardry that you wouldn’t notice.

This was fun — maybe I’ll do all of my blog posts in Power Point going forward.

Or Excel.

Or by conference call.

Wearing nice shoes with heels.

And a pretty suit.

Oh wait, does that mean I have to be showered?  Never mind — I like this gig better.




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Progress Report

{courtesy: coalesque.blogspot.com}

OK.  It has been a month of being a stay-at-home-mom.  And many of you have asked me how I’m doing with the transition (thanks for that).  So I feel I owe you a progress report.

To keep my workplace communication skills sharp, I thought I’d do this in summary form.

Bottom Line:  All is well.  I’m happy.  My kids seem happy, even though they may not grasp the change that has occurred.  {Exception:  Whenever my son, 4, gets in trouble, he asks me which train I’m getting on/when I’m going to work.  Sorry, pal, there’s a new sheriff in town.}

Things I Miss About Work:

  • Ongoing adult interaction with some fabulous people
  • The awesome cafeteria woman who made me a perfect grilled chicken wrap every day
  • That’s about it

Things I’m So Glad to Be Without:

  • Commuting
  • Evil blinking red light on Blackberry
  • The word “synergy”
  • Early warning signs of a stroke

Biggest Challenges:

  • Showering
  • Getting the kids out the door in a human amount of time
  • Finding 10 minutes to make a personal phone call/email
  • Parking at Starbucks
  • All the schlepping in and out of the car seats
  • Deciding which aisle I like best at Trader Joe’s

Top Phrases That Come Out of My Mouth:

  • “Who’s not eating?  There won’t be any [insert bribery dessert-like item here] if you don’t eat.”
  • “The seat belt/shoe/sock is not too tight.  It’s fine.”
  • “Share it or I’m taking it away.” {or: “How did I get to sound like my mother?”}
  • “Getinthecar, getinthecar, getinthecar.  I’m leaving — GETINTHECAR.”
  • “That birdie is called Twitter, sweetheart.”
  • “No, honey, I don’t know why Diego’s parents leave him alone in the jungle.”

Top Phrases That Come Out of My Husband’s Mouth:

  • “You used the oven again?”
  • “You folded all this laundry?”
  • “You vacuumed?”
  • “I think I see locusts approaching.”
  • “Prepare for The End of Days.”

My biggest win:  Mastery of Early Toddlerspeak

Our daughter is 22 months old, which means that she thinks she is speaking like the rest of us, when you actually need a doctoral degree in Mandarin or Sanskrit to decipher what she’s saying.  Since there’s a new word every day at this point, and I’m now home with her all the time, I speak her language.  This mystifies my husband.  For example:

She says: Shamon

Husband hears: Undecipherable filler word used in many earlier Michael Jackson songs

I know she means:  Lawnmower


She says:  Kreom

Husband hears:  A request to upgrade from milk to heavy cream

I know she means:  Climb


She says:  Sveeee

Husband hears:  Child has located the missing piece to IKEA storage bin assembly

I know she means:  Swing


So, you see, things are going well.  I have made some mistakes and have had some crappy days, but on the whole, it has been a great change.

And it’s a good thing I’m home.  Otherwise, my younger child would probably be listening to vintage MJ with a cup of cream in one hand and an IKEA instructions manual in the other. 

Then again, I might have time to shower in that scenario.


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Day One


So.  I did it.  Friday was the big day and I walked out of my job — my career — for the forseeable future. 

And it was hard.

For all of the excitement that I had leading up to this change, it hit me like a ton of bricks around 4:30 pm that day.

I had been running on adrenaline up until that point.  On Thursday, all of the celebrations took place.  First, I had the office hours party (very civilized and sweet, complete with cupcakes), then an after-work happy hour (slightly less civilized, with cocktails flowing), and, finally, a dinner with some of my best work pals (decidedly less civilized, filed under Epic Fun).  When I arrived to my office for the last time Friday morning, despite said celebratory libation intake, I was still feeling great because of the excitement around my feature on Theta Mom.  It was all so lovely.  And so many of you stopped by to offer your amazing words of support, congratulations and — importantly —  advice and caution about this transition.  Thank you for that.

Ever the procrastinator, I had not packed up one stitch of my office until this point.  The point at which I harbored a hangover.  The point at which I was happily responding to the lovely ladies of the Theta Mom community.  The point at which this transition all became very real.

As I packed, I was able to lighten things up by sharing some of the office artifacts I unearthed with my colleagues over the course of the day.  Photos.  Old files(because nothing says nostalgia more than “Hey, remember this shitshow of a project?”).  Business cards from people I could no longer place. 

And my shoes.  Eight pairs of shoes.  Because I could never do that glamorous Manhattan commute in heels.  I left my good work shoes in a file drawer to wear during business hours, and went to and fro in far more comfortable and less attractive footwear.  Function over fashion, people. 

I also found what I affectionately called the technology time capsule. 

Why did I feel compelled to save not one, but two flip phones?  I’ll never know.  And the vintage Blackberry.  You know, pre-track ball — the one with the wheel.  The one I couldn’t talk or text on.

I held it together pretty well until late in the afternoon, when my original boss — the woman who hired me — came by to bid me farewell.  With a card and a gift.  Then I sort of lost it.

I bounced back just in time for another long-time colleague and friend to come over and say her goodbye.  Then another.  And another.  This was starting to sting.  This place, as much as I was ready to leave it, was still dear to me.  And it hit me that the next time I would be there, in whatever capacity — social or work-related — it would never be as I left it.  I would not be in the inner circle, in the know.  It would no longer be mine, but just a piece of my history.

And when I had packed the last shoe and purged the last outdated file, I was left with this.

I was feeling it then. 

I walked out for the last time with two of my work friends, went home sort of numb and pretty much went to bed.  Call me dramatic, but the week had taken a lot out of me. 

But I’m A-OK, don’t you worry!  You know why?  Because you SAHMs have been keeping secrets from me that I uncovered today.  You sneaky gals didn’t tell me that, after everyone goes to work, it becomes 80 degrees outside on a Monday in April here in New Jersey (for those of you unfamiliar with our climate, see “Endless Winter of 2010-2011”). 

Wait, what?  Just today we get the 80 degrees?  Oh.  OK.  Still.  I’ll take it.  It was a nice way to kick off my new gig. 

Overall, I have no major developments to report in Weekday Household Management — but I did learn a few things.  For example, from the desk of Captain Obvious, the whole town screeches to a halt when the schools are dismissed.  My kids are too young for real school, so I hadn’t thought about this.  But damn.  Driving around at 2:45 for a few errands is a mistake you don’t make twice.

Also, the Easter decorators are out in full force.  I think I need a door wreath, at a minimum, before I’m kicked out of town.  The woman up the street pulled out the big guns and has multi-colored faux Easter eggs, the size of an eight year-old, strewn about.  Where do you even buy these?  You know, if I wanted to.  See, this is the stuff I never noticed before.

But most importantly, I uncovered the afternoon route of my new BFF, pictured here.

And yeah, I’ll admit that I reached for my now non-existent work Blackberry more than a dozen times.  What was I missing — a meeting, a call, an email?  Nope.  For once, I wasn’t missing a thing.  But what can I say?  Old habits die hard.

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A Day of Yay

{photo: www.surfersvillage.com}


Big days and great days don’t always go hand in hand.  But today, they do.

A lot is happening this week.  Yesterday, I wrote about this being my last week of work and making the decision, after many years and countless conference calls, to stay at home with my kids.  So, in order to avoid the awkward sentimentality of goodbye workplace tears, I am procrastinating and packing up my office into boxes as you read this.  Hopefully, my fabulous brown heels will appear somewhere in the mess and make it home with me.  Along with my favorite pen — which magically makes my handwriting not resemble that of a serial killer.  Oh, and I need to find the Post It notes that say “You’re not the boss of me…Oh wait, yes you are.”

They can keep the rest.

And, at the risk of sounding like a Ginsu Knives infomercial…Wait, there’s more!

Today, in addition to packing in corporate life, I’m the Featured Blogger over at Theta Mom, which is a huge honor.

When I first started blogging about seven months ago, Theta Mom was one of the first sites I came across to find a fabulous cross-section of women writing about their lives.  It’s an amazing resource and community, and one where I continue to learn new tricks of the trade on a regular basis.  If you’ve never checked it out, please do – stat!

Heather, the Head Theta Mom, really tapped into something tremendously valuable and continues to evolve and build it every day.  I’m so grateful to her for the tools she has provided, and for featuring my blog today.  So, if you’re new here via Theta Mom, welcome!  And thanks so much for stopping by. 

That’s a lot of excitement for one day.  You can see how it’s like my birthday and Christmas, all at once.  And maybe Arbor Day too, because that has always been underappreciated.

So grab a coffee, a cocktail, a fizzy water (maybe even with lemon) – pick your poison – and toast a Day of Yay over in Fordeville.

And if you have any extra packing tape, send it my way.

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The End & The Beginning

{photo: www.teachone2one.com}

In the category of Life-Changing News, I have this for you:  Tomorrow is my last day of work.  

What some of my friends and family already know is that I recently decided to leave my job.  And I didn’t take another one — at least not one that pays. 

However, my new full-time responsibilities are pretty big, complete with two new bosses.  Here is their most recent management headshot.  

And, just like that, I’m out of full time Corporate America. 

I lie.  It’s not “just like that.”  I’m not crazy enough to do this on a whim.  This took a lot of consideration, mental wrestling, soul searching and, at times, wine.  Because, for almost 20 years, I have gotten up and gone to work every single day.  I had great jobs.  Some may even say I was pretty good at what I did.  And I thrived on my work.

For a long while, anyway.

After my son was born in 2007, I knew I was going back to work.  It wasn’t even a question in my mind.  And I sorted it out pretty well, overall.  There were many moments of stress, but the pros outweighed the cons of the whole balancing act.  I felt accomplished, both at home and in the office.

My daughter came along in 2009.  Things got harder to balance.  I’m not sure if it was a sheer incremental equation (two kids > one kid) but certainly other factors were at play.  My husband took a new job at that time and could not be around as much to help out.  I had been promoted, which was great, but also meant more responsibility.  Then we moved out of the city for more space, and that meant a longer commute — which resulted in seeing our kids even less. 


Gradually, things started to feel less rewarding and more like a situation hanging on by a thread.  But I had always done this – I had always made this work — so why wouldn’t I continue?  This is what I do.  This is who I am.

Or maybe it’s not anymore.  The voice of doubt started to slowly creep in.

There were increasing moments of questioning how my life was playing out.  I felt like I wasn’t doing any one thing exceedingly well anymore.  I felt like I was missing out too much at home.  I felt like the sense of reward and accomplishment from my career was no longer nearly as self-defining.

I waffled about this for a long time.  Waffling is exhausting, let me tell you.  It’s also not my strong suit.  And then, one day, I just stopped waffling and took a leap of faith.

Am I scared?  Yes.  Scared of losing that piece of myself from the professional world (can you really “always go back?”).  Scared of scaling back our income. But, most of all – and I hate to write this because it sounds horrible —  I’m scared, after being out of the house for 50+ hours each week, that I won’t be a good full-time mother. 

But, despite these things, I know in my heart it was the right decision. 

I don’t want to miss everything.  I don’t want my son to accidentally call me by the nanny’s name a couple of times a week.  I don’t want to feel like I’m about to have a stroke whenever trying to balance both sides of this equation. And to the many women who juggle this balancing act, I wholeheartedly salute you.  Likewise, to the women who stay home with their children, I am so utterly impressed by what you do.  I hope I can do it just as well.  Oh, and please say hi to me in Starbucks or at pre-school, even though I have always been that mother who was never around much during the week.  I swear, I was doing my best.

Just because it’s the right thing for me to leave, it doesn’t make it easy.  I’ve been working for a long time, but my current job is one where I really feel like I grew up and got a real career.  Where I learned amazing things from super-talented people. 

When I started there in 2004, there was a gaping hole in the Earth across the street at Ground Zero.  Today, progress takes its place.

Then, I had a boyfriend.  Today, that man is my husband and the father of our children.

Then, I lived in Manhattan and went out to dinner at 10pm.  Today, I gladly call the suburbs home and pass out on my couch at 10pm.

Then, I knew I was joining a fabulous company with a great group of people.  Today, I am proud to call many of them my very good friends who I will miss seeing every day.  Some of them, I will always, always know.

A lot has changed in those seven years, but maybe what has changed the most is me.

So, goodbye suits.  Goodbye, office. Goodbye (and good riddance), NJ Transit and PATH Train. Goodbye, Blackberry. 

Most of all, goodbye to that part of my identity.   The part I always thought played a big role in defining me, but no longer will.  The part for which I’m so grateful but I just don’t need as much anymore.

Hello to new adventures and to making up for lost time.

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My Formerly Glamorous Life

Since we left the city for the suburbs last April, people seem to be shocked that I don’t miss it more.

It goes like this:

“You must miss the city so much!”  (head craned in sympathy)

“Nah.  I mean, there are days.  But, surprisingly, I’m really happy with the move.”

“Oh.  So, you like, uh, New Jersey?  How’s that…going?”

The truth is that I haven’t missed it as much as I thought I would.  But, now and then, I do get wistful about my old life in Manhattan. 

But not always.  And not today.  Not when it’s bone cold outside.  Because it reminds me of a very stressful period in my life last winter when the morning ritual of getting two small kids to daycare in this weather pushed me to the brink of insanity. 

At that time, my husband had a new job that required him to leave before the kids woke up and to come home too late to pick them up at daycare.  And I also have a full-time job — one that expects me to be generally on time and pretty much mentally together.  So these were character-building days, folks.  If you had flashed back a year ago, this would have been my morning in Manhattan.

  • 6:15 — Tiptoe out of bed into the shower so the kids don’t wake up.  Promise God a new soup kitchen for the needy if the  baby would just sleep through the night.  Check Blackberry for work-related fires/crises that transpired overnight.
  • 6:20 — Attempt to have five minutes of peace in shower before the chaos begins.
  • 6:22:30 — Have shower interrupted by 1) two year-old announcing his arrival in the bathroom and opening shower curtain for morning conversation about Elmo, 2) six month-old crying in crib and 3) ringing Blackberry.
  • 6:30 — Retrieve Blackberry voice mail.  Check email again.  Respond to three colleagues in Japan before they go to sleep for the night.
  • 6:35 — Feed kids.  Dress them, perhaps more than once if someone spills/vomits/spits up.
  • 6:55 — Dress self, forgetting belt, jewelry or other random accessory.  Attempt to dry hair and look presentable.  Conclude this look is overrated.  Fantasize about breakfast that will surely not materialize.
  • 7:15 — Ignore red flashing light on Blackberry out of corner of eye.
  • 7:17 — Assemble the following items to cart to day care:  Bottles, diapers, jars of baby food, extra clothes (baby); lunch (toddler); various permission slips, medical forms that are long overdue.
  • 7:30 — Pack breast pump and all related accessories for work.
  • 7:35 — Wrestle toothbrush into mouth of two year-old.  Oh and self also — must brush own teeth.
  • 7:40 — Begin excruciating process of convincing two year-old to put on jacket, hat and gloves.  Bargain.  Plead. 
  • 7:50 — Ignore Blackberry. 
  • 7:55 — Strap toddler into double stroller in front of TV while wrestling baby into full bunting.
  • 8:00 — Place writhing baby into double stroller, strap everyone in.  Ensure that all day care items are stowed in bottom of stroller, breast pump on one shoulder and briefcase on the other.  Put on coat, hat and gloves even though apartment is sweltering because 1) heat is not controlled by tenants and 2) body temperature is at 101 degrees from wrestling children into stroller.
  • 8:05 — Dog!  Feed dog!  Sorry!  Keep kids in stroller, wedged against open apartment door.
  • 8:07 — Pine for coffee.  Fear looking at clock.
  • 8:10Negotiate double wide stroller into packed apartment building elevator, eliciting eye rolling and audible sighs from fellow tenants.
  • 8:15 — Stop on every floor on the way down (13 in total).  Sweat through winter coat.  Beg two year-old to stop crying about being strapped in stroller.
  • 8:17 — Arrive in lobby to find it is sleeting outside.  Again.  Find rain/snow cover thingy for the stroller buried under daycare supplies and attach it around entire perimeter of stroller while both children cry.  Consider selling soul to Satan for coffee.
  • 8:25 — Navigate snow/ice piles pushing 40 lbs of child weight in stroller.  Resent feeling of numbing ice pellets hitting face.  Panic briefly over possibility of a 9:00 conference call that may or may not have been confirmed.  Will never make it.
  • 8:30 — Realize, when strong wind comes along, that stroller cover is not properly secured and is now flapping about in the wind like a tarp.  Stop on sidewalk.  Drop all bags from shoulder and resecure stroller cover.  Answer questions about trucks, buses and police cars from two year-old.
  • 8:35 — Begin to display signs of pathological need for coffee.  Food would be nice, too.
  • 8:35:30 — Realize [any item — insert here] was left at home and decide that there is no going back. 
  • 8:35:37 — Curse out husband’s new job.  Repeat.
  • 8:40 — Manipulate double stroller through day care entryway and begin the unloading process.  First, the baby and her supplies.  Then, the toddler and his stuff.  They are in separate rooms, of course.  Chat with caregivers about necessary instructions for the day and kiss kids goodbye. 
  • 8:52 — Catch glimpse of clock.  Feel early warning signs of stroke.

  • 8:53 — Trade cursory niceties with other parents, who don’t seem to be experiencing the same type of morning.  Ponder why this is the case.
  • 8:55 — Break into sprint, carefully (watch the ice!), for the subway station.  Check Blackberry with one hand while running.  Assess just how late work arrival will be.  Pray for expeditious subway experience.
  • 9:00 — Curse out the MTA for delayed and overcrowded subway.  Repeatedly.  Question if Mayor Bloomberg *really* rides the subway every day or if his PR people are, in fact, that good.
  • 9:35 — Arrive at desk in full sweat and without coffee. 
  • 9:37 — Begin the day.  Repeat at 5pm for day care pick up.

Isn’t city life glamorous?  My life in the burbs isn’t so bad on days like today.

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A Non-Hollywood Ending

Today’s topic:  How My Life is Like a Bad Liam Neeson Movie.

See, I was told this morning that I am ceasing to exist.  That my fingerprints are literally fading away.

Was I being booked at the local precinct for nearly stealing a car in the pre-school lot?  No.  Background checked to enter the space program?  Negative.

I was merely trying to get into my building at work.  You know, to do my job — which, incidentally, is not nearly as sexy as espionage or other fingerprinting-oriented careers.  Sorry to disappoint, but I’m just a PR girl at a desk in Post 9/11 Lower Manhattan, which means that building security is tighter here than at most major US airports.

We have ID cards to swipe in my office building and then we do, in fact, have to press down a fingerprint before the turnstiles will unlock and allow us to enter.  And I’ve had a history of mishaps — or, as the Security team calls them, “shallow prints” (there’s a joke in there somewhere, I know).  It’s a more of an issue when my fingers are cold.  But the last few days have been even more problematic than usual for my shallow prints, and I continue to get the red rejection light at the turnstiles.  So, off to Security I went.

It had already been a long morning of sleet and ice-related commuting slowdowns, so imagine my delight in being held up further to have my fingerprints assessed in the place where I’ve worked for almost seven years.

The woman in Security is very nice.  She has me press my finger for a fresh print to capture and compare to the electronic one on file.  She then raises an eyebrow with distinct concern.

“Hm.  It has changed, your print.  Can I see your ID again?”

She looks at my photo and then squarely at my face.  I’m not an imposter, she realizes.

See?  Sort of like a Liam Neeson movie — but decidedly without the Hollywood paycheck.  And I’m holding a Starbucks Grande Latte instead of a concealed weapon.

She tells me we’ll need to capture a new print.  Fine.  Where do I press?

I give her my best right-amount-of-pressure and centered-in-the-middle print (I know from shallow prints experience how to get an optimal result).  I look at the time.  I’m so late.  I feel my blood pressure rising.

She shakes her head.

“Do you know your prints are shallow?”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes and instead nod in polite acknowledgement that tells her I’ve been down this road before.

“Well, your print is just too light.  It won’t work.  It has faded over time.”

Maybe we have veered more into Matt Damon territory now.  Inception, or even The Bourne Identity?  I consider the possibility that I might need to get to my desk like this in the future:

My fingerprint — my unique identifier — has faded over time.  I feel like there is some deep life analysis that should happen at this point.  What does this mean?  It’s all so cosmic.

“You should moisturize more,” Security tells me.

Wow, OK.  Didn’t see that one coming.

This will fix my fading identity.  Moisturizing.  She’s dead serious, by the way.

Since I don’t have a pocket supply of lotion in my bag (clearly), we tested my other fingers until we found one that had not faded so profoundly — one that, I guess, has somehow been better moisturized than its peers.  It seems that my rarely used but now beloved left thumb still has my full history and genetic make up embedded.  It is the last proof point that I am me — and I must protect it at all costs (how was that for a Damon/Neeson line?).  I pledge to moisturize it well.

We capture its print.  One good print out of ten fingers.  I’m slowly fading away, and it’s all due to dry skin.

Not much of a Hollywood ending.  My identity remains intact, for now, and it’s off to my desk I go — after a stop to pick up some hand lotion.

{Photos from baywoodelementary.org and filmcritic.com}

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Outsourcing Life

{Photo courtesy: www.greenandcleanmom.org}

Imagine what you could get done with a personal assistant. 

Just indulge me for a minute.  It has been a long week.  (Wait, it’s Monday?)

It takes very little for the wheels to fall off the wagon around here.  I know it’s because I’m maxed out and trying to do two things equally well — working and parenting.  Ditto for my husband.  The good news is that we have not failed miserably at either of those tasks (yet), but who is doing all of the household stuff in between?  Who will make Operation Fordeville hum if we don’t have the time? 

{Surely you can make the time.  Many working moms do just that.}

OK, correction:  We technically have some time, somewhere.  I guess.  But, who would you rather hang out with in your time away from the office — your kids or your to-do list? 

So, here it is — my fantasy ad to make things run more smoothly.

* * *

WANTED:  Personal Assistant for a working mom on the edge of insanity.  Must be anal rententive, list-oriented and anticipatory.  Mind reading helpful. 

Daily responsibililties will include: 

  • Serve as point person for daily interaction with contractors, repairmen and prospective vendors on various improvement and renovation projects for 100 year-old house.  Conduct related due diligence and present findings/recommendations to employer.
  • Pay household bills in timely fashion and assemble report of spending trends as they relate to family budget.  Liaise with financial planner to ensure ongoing alignment on long-term retirement goals.
  • Handle all incoming mail management, including purging of family name from unwanted lists and physical removal of junk mail to avoid recycling pile the size of small tree.
  • Run various errands, including but not limited to: dry cleaning, grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, various returns of clothing items that don’t look as good in person as they did online, purchasing seasonal items that are consistently overlooked until it’s too late (shovels, sidewalk salt, sunscreen, rakes, family holiday cards, general Christmas preparation, etc.), and, importantly, the identification and purchase of all gifts for children’s friends’ birthday parties.
  • Retrieval and management of all pre-school documenation — permission slips, medical records, monthly tuition and endless RSVPs to birthday parties (see related item on gifts above).
  • Schedule, cancel and reschedule various family medical appointments as needed.
  • Undertake all outstanding home furnishing needs, including outdoor siding color options, replacing hideous ceiling fans and tacky gold entryway sconces that came with the house and finding the right end table for living room. Take initiative to find out what window treatments are all about and which ones employer requires to stop Family Fishbowl lifestyle in full view of neighborhood.
  • Serve as face of Fordeville to neighbors Monday through Friday, baking as necessary.  Participate, appropriately, in any neighborhood gossip sessions and report back full list of names with corresponding house numbers to employer, who still knows nobody on street eight months later.  
  • Present various family vacation options to employer after thorough research and site visits.
  • Ensure that the red and white wine household reserves are kept at an appropriately stocked level at all times.
  • Maintain employer’s real-life (non-Facebook, blog or Twitter) friendships by scheduling monthly girls’ night out or related activity to preserve employer’s sanity.  Also, coordination of babysitters now and then so employer and employer’s spouse may have a civilized meal out of the house and away from all sippy cups.
  • Conduct any and all household interaction with the New Jersey DMV.  No exceptions.

Necessary Qualifications:

Must have experience dealing with very well meaning Type A-yet-coming-undone employer who clocks little to no face time at home Monday through Friday; interaction with two children under age four, even when they wipe their noses on you; total respect for full time nanny; and utter love for a middle-aged snoring pug who begs for people food (please don’t give him any, unless he makes that really sad face when he twists his head to the side).  Ability to type 180 wpm on mobile devices a must.  Knowledge of crock pots and blog design a plus.

* * *

That should do it.  OK guys — now you’ve seen my Domestic Outsourcing Wish List.  What’s on yours?

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Morning Glory

One of the big trade-offs of moving to the suburbs was dealing with a daily commute into the city.  I knew I wasn’t going to love it but, in the grand scheme of the moving equation, it seemed tolerable.  What I didn’t know is that NJ Transit is one of the most poorly run operations in the history of modern (or even ancient) transportation.

Take this morning, for example.  I’m, as usual, running my ass off to make it to the train on time.  This entails missing a belt and shoving an oatmeal down my throat while kissing my kids goodbye and trying to find the car keys that I misplace every single day.  It’s kind of like a scene from Groundhog Day (which I hated as a movie but enjoy the everyday reference).

I speed through town with years of pent up road rage (remember, I hardly drove for the 16 years I lived in the city, so I have some vehicular aggression to catch up on).  This involves tailgating, honking, cursing and trying to fumble for the $5 that I’ll need to park (don’t get me started on this).  Wait, that’s not $5 in my bag, that’s the shopping list I couldn’t find last weekend at the store.

Are you feeling the early warning signs of a stroke with me yet?

Then.  I arrive at the station, somehow on time, basically in a full sweat (it’s 44 degrees out, FYI).  I run up to the train platform and take out my Blackberry to see what work I am inevitably behind on already.

And I see this email from NJ Transit.

Raritan Valley Line train #5714 up to 20 min. delay, due to disabled train ahead.  Sent: 7:27 AM

This isn’t good.  Not good at all. Thank God I don’t have a 9:00 meeting.

Then, several minutes later, this.

Raritan Valley Line trains are subject to 10-15 minute delays in both directions due to slippery rail conditions.  Sent: 7:35 AM

First, what happened to the disabled train as the cause of the delay?   Second, notice that the delay is now affecting all trains on the line.  And, most importantly, WTF are slippery rail conditions on this non-icy and quite sunny morning, you ask?  Excellent question.  If you’re new to NJ Transit lingo, let me enlighten you. I was told a few weeks ago (because they use this phrase chronically) that “slippery rail conditions” means we have a problem with wet leaves. 

?Wet leaves?

Yes, folks, the entire NJ Transit operation is easily thwarted by the presence of wet leaves on the tracks. 

?Look, I’m no engineer.  Maybe it is a legitimate issue.  I have slid in my car before on wet leaves, so it’s definitely feasible.  But doesn’t it seem ridiculous?  Shouldn’t we be able to solve for this after, say, hundreds of railway-operating autumns in the Mid-Atlantic where leaves have predictably fallen, right on schedule?  I don’t know the answer but I’m going to need something better than this.  I’m in PR, after all.  Let’s put some spin on this, I say.

?OK, Fordeville, you want better?  How’s this:?

Rail Update: Raritan Valley Line trains are subject to 20-30 minute delays in both directions due to disabled train.  Sent: 7:46 AM

Note that we’re back to the disabled train.  I guess the perilous wet leaves were properly disposed of in the last  11 minutes.  Meanwhile, we have various unhelpful PA announcements at the station regarding ongoing delays.  The train platform is really getting full but most folks don’t seem too bothered.  I guess they are used to it.  I was about to have an embolism. ?

Raritan Valley Line train #5422 is cancelled ; passengers may use train #5902.  Sent: 8:40 AM

?Oh, my God.  Did I mention I hadn’t had any coffee yet?  And that I pay $133/month for this bullshit?  (By the way, NJT, learn how to spell “canceled” correctly since you have to use it so frequently.)

I think someone at NJ Transit told the person hitting the email button to just stop talking because we had sheer radio silence for a while.  And then later, the train finally arrived.  I somehow even managed to get a seat.  I spent the ride thinking about selling our house and leaving the suburbs.  Surely the NYC subway system wasn’t so bad, right?

?Did I mention that NJ Transit is only half of my journey? Once I am free of their nonsense every morning, I have to deal with the PATH train, whose torture tactics make NJ Transit look like Amateur Night.  I’ll give full attention to that another day.

In the end, it took 1 hour and 45 minutes to travel the 35 miles from my home to my office.  You have to ask what’s in store for me once we hit the freezing mark.  How will NJ Transit manage this?  More to come.

Oh, and here is the email that can only be described as the pinnacle F-U of the morning.  Note that I received this after finally arriving at my desk.  Perfect.   

Final Rail Update: Raritan Valley Line trains are now operating on or close to schedule. 

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Missing Out

I won’t get into the whole working vs staying at home debate right now, but I’ll just say that there are obviously things I miss out on during my office tour of duty every week.  Milestones, school happenings and just the silly, fun, mundane stuff. 

Like this.

I don’t know who the strange bear/chef is and why he was roaming the grocery store — though, admittedly, he freaks me out a bit — but my nanny says that the baby was enthralled.   So enthralled, in fact, that said unnamed freaky bear/chef sent them home with a miniature stuffed version of himself, which the baby proceeded to hug all weekend.   The mini stuffed version is far less freaky.

Anyway, I missed it.  It wasn’t a huge, life-changing moment  — but it was awfully sweet.

(Does this bear roam your grocery store?  Just curious.)

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