Work Life Balance – Journey or Destination?

Work-Life-Balance-Sign-post-by-Stuart-MilesThat elusive lifestyle where we devote equal amounts of energy on career and all of the other important areas of our lives – health, family, faith – is the balance that we women continually strive to strike. Imagine what our lives would look like if we actually found that balance? What would your day look like? Here is how I envision my balanced day:

Sleep: 8 hours; Work: 8 hours; Family: 3 hours; Self: 2 hours; Spirituality: 1 hour; Key relationships: 2 hours

It’s fun to fantasize about having a day like this! The fact that I might only get 6 hours of sleep, 1 hour with my husband and the rest is swallowed up by work and my commute does not discourage me from trying to carve time to exercise, to spend time with family or to meditate some time during the week. I learned to adjust my expectations knowing that what I have to deal with every day does not stay in discreet buckets. Work seeps into home time and home issues seep into work time. Allowing that interplay has helped me feel more balanced.

One of my colleagues is a master time manager. Her schedule is quite intimidating. She will admit that her calendar makes her unavailable for the random conversation at work. But, it is her way of achieving work-life balance. I share that to say that there is no right formula for how we try to achieve balance. We try different tactics until we find the one that works for us.

To better navigate the journey towards work-life balance, I found it’s best to leave behind all of that baggage! You know, the guilt baggage about not meeting our own unrealistic expectations of being super-Woman to all. The destination of work-life balance is not the utopia we believe it to be. I think work-life balance is a moving target and the state we seek changes according to our goals and priorities, which change at different stages of our lives. So, work-life balance is not a destination but rather a never ending journey of awareness of how we spend our time. Over a lifetime, the search for work-life balance is our way of questioning, testing and discovering our life’s purpose.

If you’re frustrated because you are feeling your life is unbalanced, try different tactics until you are devoting time to priority areas in your life. But then, let go of the guilt and the belief in a final destination. Focus on the journey you are on to discover your life’s purpose.

If you’re life were more balanced, what would it look like? I look forward to your comments!

Much Love,

A Birthday Wish

Today my nephew turned six years old. He is growing up too fast and I feel the velocity of his maturing at much greater intensity because of the distance that separates us. I vaguely remember being his age but if he has inherited anything from me I hope it is my curiosity and desire to understand why things are the way they are. At his age, I wanted to understand the reasoning behind rules like having to eat everything on my plate when I was full, getting a boy’s hair cut so that my hair could grow long, or having to nap in the middle of the day when everyone else to be awake. My nephew is passionate about planes, cars, and anything on wheels, and he too is questioning why he has to go to bed when everyone else is up and about – so smart!

My beautiful nephew is growing up as an active, curious, inquisitive, courageous and confident little boy. His mom and dad get a lot of credit for creating an environment where their children feel safe, cared for and important. Today, my nephew and 17 of his closest friends enjoyed a fun celebration which I got to see in pictures. There were a lot of games, noise, toys and sugar, like any proper birthday celebration should be! I just wish I could have been there in person. In honor of his turning six, I think I will eat six chocolate kisses before the day is done.

For my nephew – I wish that the world will treat you kindly, that you will always have what you need, and more, and that you will forever be guided and protected by God’s love, peace and light.

Much Love

May We Never Lose Hope

cloudsHope. What a wonderful human emotion. When life is troubling, when we cannot figure out which end is up or in which direction to go, hope is a beacon that cuts through the fog and gives us a reason not to quit, a reason to not despair, a reason to get up, dust ourselves off and keep going.

Several years ago I met a young lady, Lizette, who asked for guidance to deal with her situation. She was a high school student who had graduated with 3.8 GPA and was seeing her dreams of a Bachelor’s degree disintegrate before her eyes. She was undocumented. She had excelled academically and had a strong record in athletics and dedicated several hours per semester volunteering in the community. Lizette was offered scholarships at a couple of private institutions but even with the scholarships, her family could not afford the remaining cost to attend. After exhausting every possibility to receive additional scholarships, she made the choice to work at a restaurant, save as much as she could, and hope that one day she would have enough to attend college. I worried that she wouldn’t make it.

But, that’s what’s great about hope. I don’t know how many jobs Lizette worked, how many times she got discouraged by the passage of time when she felt she was not any closer to her goal. However many setbacks she faced, however many times she felt like giving up, it was hope that kept her going and striving for her dream. I was thrilled when she wrote me a couple of years later to tell me that she was enrolling in college that fall. Lizette and I kept in touch and as a college student, she faced other challenges, including a serious illness and the death of a parent, that would have discouraged even the strongest among us. Hope kept her going through illness, loss, classes and work. I cannot begin to imagine the enormous feeling of accomplishment and reward she was feeling on the day she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in May 2013.

When hope pays off, like in the case of Lizette, it feels so good. But, not all of our hopes lead to the ending that we wish for. A year ago I came across a blog about hope. It was written by a woman, I’ll call her Elizabeth, who was battling cancer. Her writing combined humor and hard-core reality to depict her battle with cancer in a blow by blow account, akin to witnessing a boxing match. As Elizabeth’s postings became shorter and farther apart, I hoped that it was a temporary setback. The next and final post was written by her husband. Elizabeth had lost her battle to cancer. He wrote to thank all of her blog followers who had become another source of hope and encouragement for her. He said that she remained positive until the very end.

Some situations don’t end the way we wish. At some point we realize that our hope for a certain outcome needs to redirected. Certain outcomes are outside of our control and in those cases I still think it’s important to hope, to keep a positive outlook, and to be persistent. It’s just as important to know when to accept that some things are or happen for a reason and we must accept a different outcome. Accepting and letting go of the outcome frees us to redirect our hope and spend energy on other people or things in our lives that we may have overlooked.

I think of this beautiful soul who documented her fight with cancer. At some point she must have accepted that she would not live to celebrate her next birthday. As the treatments and disease weakened her body, it is likely that she redirected her hopes from beating cancer to hopes for her family and made the most of her time to tell them what she hoped for them.

May we never lose hope and know when we need to redirect it.

Much Love,

I just found a wrinkle – in my brain!

neurons

Is that age fairy dust on my neurons?

It’s time to admit it. The age fairy is visiting me much more often than she used to. The age fairy used to sprinkle her age dust over my body every two to three years. One year she gave me cute little stripes of grey about 2 inches above my ears. She spared me crow’s feet at 40 but she gave me sweet little parentheses on my face to remind me where my smile is supposed to be. To balance the smile lines she also gave me a 1/2-inch vertical line between my brows…I guess to remind me that I scrunch my brows when I am thinking, questioning or when I’m not happy. Then she waved her magic to soften my muscles and slacken my skin. I used to know when the age fairy had paid me a visit and thought it was sweet. But, now that she’s visiting me with more frequency, I am barely adjusting to the new changes when some new “sign of the time gone by” pops up.

Last week I made a startling discovery. I found a brain wrinkle! Here is how I discovered it. For the first time in my life, I don’t grasp technology! O – M – G! sadly, I have not grasped the time keeping/staffing systems at my job. I find the system confusing and it frustrates me. But, only when I could not modify one of the customized reports did I realize how much my brain had aged. I began my career embracing new technology and excelled at every job because I maximized the use of software and technology to streamline my work. I have created databases, dabbled in HTML to redesign websites, programmed macros, created functions in Excel, and whenever someone had an issue with their PC, or if the server went down, 9 out of 10 times I was able to fix the problem. Oh how I have fallen!

So, dear age fairy, and please don’t take this wrong way, stop using your aging dust on my brain cells! I still need those. There is much more that I want to learn and many more things I want to master so could you please slow it down? Plus, I have to work for another 20 years.  Is there any way you can give me back a few technology-grasping cells so that I can learn how to interpret the data in Clarizen? Oh, and if I can have a few extra memory cells that would be great. Thanks.

Much Love,

Survived My Own Pizza Challenge!

pizzaBaking was is one of my joys in life. In fact, I would buy a recipe book only if it had a good section on yummy baked goods. From apple pie to quiche, from scones to muffins, from flat breads to pizzas, I LOVED baking them all, and then eating them, of course.

 

So, you can imagine my sadness when my doctor said she wanted me to be 100 percent gluten-free.  My health has been a strong motivator to stick to my doctor’s orders. My husband, who does not have issues with gluten has been really supportive, learning to make my favorite dinners gluten free. But, he really misses eating my home baked cakes and cookies. Most of all, we both miss making pizza together.

 

This week must be ode to pizza week because every commercial was about pizza! So, on Saturday I decided to dust off my apron and challenge myself to revive my pizza making skills, but without the benefits of consuming it. The first challenge: my husband’s guilt. He did not want me to make something that we couldn’t both enjoy. I tricked him by saying that I was going to make a gluten-free pizza as well. I’ve made the gluten-free pizza before and the process is totally different and the results are mediocre. It was so wonderful to work with the dough, to chop up the toppings, to roll out the pie and place it on the baking stone. The smell while it cooked was amazing. The second challenge: not feeling denied. I really thought I was going to feel really badly about sitting down to eat something other than pizza. My husband cooked me a delicious dish of spinach and corn that was so delicious that I did not even think of the pizza. It was so good! The best part: my husband really enjoyed eating pizza again. This pizza challenge was an important test for me because it showed me that I can still enjoy baking. That my husband made a yummy dish for me, using ingredients that he knows I will love, was a wonderful gift that kept any bad feelings of denial at bay.

 

I do miss pizza, there I’ve said it. But, I am happy to have other options that are better for my body. If you know of good recipes for gluten-free pizza, please send them my way!

 

Much Love,

Holding on to Vacation

We can probably all agree that we look forward to vacation – all year long! How many days, Mondays especially, do we groan at the sound of the alarm clock and wish that it was vacation time so we could just roll over and go back to sleep?

 

Vacation is a time to replenish our reserves and also a time to have fun. We relish sleeping in and being completely free of routines and deadlines to enjoy new experiences or do things that we don’t get a chance to do when we are working. Vacation is when we “let our hair down” and we may drink and eat more than we should, or let our exercise or other routines go by the wayside. I know that when I return from vacation, I feel much more enthusiastic and charged to go back to work so it’s definitely in employers’ best interest to encourage employees to take extended vacations. Unfortunately, with Smart phones providing continual access to email, many people seem to be unable to completely “vacate.” This week for example, colleagues who were on vacation continued to reply to emails that were important, but that could have waited or picked up by someone else on the team.  How restorative could vacation be if we are continually monitoring emails? Some people might argue and feel that they are too important to the work and therefore they have to stay connected. But, is that best way? For the person? For the organization?  

 

Though rested and happy to be home from vacation, I am always a little bit sad that it is over because I know it will be at least another 12 months or more before I will have extended time to relax, rest and explore new things. But, there are ways to hold on to vacation just a little bit longer, even if we have to wake up to the alarm clock and respond to emails during the week. With planning, delegating and simply putting some chores off (yes it’s possible!), I can plan to have weekends that give us the benefits of vacation. Imagine clearing an entire weekend to sleep in and then explore a part of the city that we’ve not been to before, to try new dishes, go dancing, to visit a museum or antique shop, maybe even to book a night at a B&B or camp in the backyard. Changing the routine, slowing the pace and committing to be disconnected from work, even for only one weekend per month, can do wonders for your energy and spirit, not to mention for your family who will enjoy having the time together.

 

How do you plan to hold on to vacation once you’ve returned home?

 Much Love

The 2am Creative Writing Challenge

cantsleepHi Readers,

I thought I would try something different this week and write a creative piece.

This was the Daily Post Challenge:
It’s 2AM and your phone has just buzzed you awake, filling the room in white-blue LED light. You have a message. It’s a photo. No words, no explanation. Just a photo. Tell us all about it. And what happens next.

My boss is looking at me strangely, like if she suspects that I farted. I don’t know what to say and cannot figure out why the paper I am giving her has begun to buzz. The buzzing gets louder until my brain realizes that this is a dream and that the buzzing is occurring in my external world. I snap up from my pillow realizing that the buzzing is coming from my phone. Across the room, it looks like my cell phone has transformed into a UFO that  is filling the space with an eery white-blue LED light.

Now my heart is pumping so hard it feels  like it is coming out of my chest. Immediately I dread the news of one of my parents suffering from a sudden heart attack, a friend or relative being in a horrible accident, or that someone I know has gone missing. In the seconds it takes me to reach the insistent buzzer, a half-dozen visuals of tragedy have crossed my mind. The buzzing suddenly stops.

“Shit!” It’s from an area code I don’t recognize

“Great! Thanks, asshole.”

It’s 2:11 a.m. so I assume it’s some drunk jerk who after realizing that his buddies or would-be one-night-stands have left him behind, has misdialed my number. Closing my eyes so that my brain does not fully wake up, I feel my way back to bed. I find that spot  under the covers that still traps my body heat. My heart is still pumping vigorously, but I feel my muscles begin to melt into the comfort of my cocoon.

BZZZZZZZ

My eyes, pop open and now I’m really mad. “Really!?” It’s just one buzz, so the jerk must have left a message. But, I’m too warm and comfortable to get up. About two minutes pass and then comes another buzz.

“Craaap!”

I stomp over to the dresser, so furious that I want to throw the phone across the room. I have to get up early tomorrow and don’t need this right now. I see I have a text message and when I open it I am stunned. It’s a photo of a boy. He is looking up at the camera with big brown eyes. He is about 8 years old and he is squatting in the back of a dirty pick-up truck. He is barefoot and has his arms cross over his knees. The boy looks Latino, maybe Mexican or Central American. I don’t know this boy, but mentally I am trying to connect various dots to see if there is logic to the who, the how or the why this boy is looking back at me from my phone. Is this someone’s idea of a joke? I don’t know anyone like this? But, I can’t take my eyes from his face. Something about him looks familiar. The dirt on his face, the angles of his skinny elbows and knees strike a familiar chord. The boy’s haunting eyes are trying to tell me something – so many things that I can’t decipher.

“Who is this?” I reply. The immediate response I expect does not come.

“Who are you trying to reach?” I write minutes later.

Breaking my own rule, I take the phone to bed with me. I bring it into my sacred space of rest and allow it to disrupt my thoughts. I close it only to open it again to see if the boy’s picture is still there.

*****

Much Love