I am NOT Superwoman: Hear me Roar!

Written by: on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
woman at peace; woman taking time to relax; taking time to smell the roses

Imagine having the time to just lie in nature and deep breathe. Sound indulgent, a waste of time? Maybe it's time to re-assess your life...

We live in a society where doing more, being more, having more is lauded … I lived that life for a long time—and did it at such a frenzy and a pace that I never had time to take a step back and look at whether being Superwoman to everyone and everything did anything for ME? The answer it did not.

While I did everything everyone ever asked of me (I never said no. I put out a magazine every month, oversaw the web site, went to lunches, outside talks, did volunteer efforts…ran from morning to night)—with much ohs and ahs “you do so much!”—inside I was slowly dying. I never did anything for myself, had no hobbies, never had time to pursue things I was interested in learning about, and never had much time for my family.

In a nutshell, I was so caught up in the myth of being a Superwoman that I never stopped to think what living that myth—day in and day out—was for doing for my soul.

Sure, I loved the work I did…but the pace at which so many of us work today is unparalleled. Work defines our life, who we are, our value in life. It sucks up our identity during the week (and now, the way jobs are, on the weekends and during every vacation).

So in taking a step back, I’ve realized I can no longer be Superwoman. And I don’t want to be. I want to work, but I want to have time to do other things important to living a fulfilled and happy life. (As that old cliche goes: no one ever said on their deathbed that they wished they had worked more!) And I’m proud that I’ve finally made this life-changing discovery. It only took me 41 years…

If you are starting to feel the way I did, here are a few things you can do:

1) Re-assess your work life. Can you shut down your computer at the same time every night—no excuses—or are you the type of person (as I was) who would continue to do more and more, leaving after only you completed everyone’s requests? You may find that you can easily achieve more work-life balance by putting limits on your time. “I leave at 6 every night”. Sure some people may think that you’re not motivated, but in truth, it’s those people who are probably most miserable in life. And do you really care what they think?

2)  Cut off e-mail at a certain time every day. And do not check it beyond that point. We live in a 24/7 society where if a boss e-mails you at 10, you’re expected to respond. Sure, you might think: I have to, if I want to get ahead. But ask yourself: is getting ahead at the expense of you really worth it? There’s that old cliche: if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. And this is truth with setting (or not setting) hard-and-fast limits at work.

3) Do the things you want to do now. Do not put them off. If you want to train for a triathlon, start a plan today. If you want to take a photography course, sign up for a class. Doing more things in your life that you want to do will take the emphasis off work—so you’ll start to live a happier, more fulfilled life.

4) If you’re not happy in your job, look for another one. Finding a new one that offers you more work-life balance may not happen overnight, but moving toward that goal will give you more energy and make you feel more fulfilled.

And remember: you will ever never regret having more time for you…

Cold-hearted Women & The Man Cold (aka When Men Get Sick)

Written by: on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
When men get sick_men big babies when they get a cold_the man cold

Hmmmm....Do men revert back to being children when they're sick?

Get out the tissues and the empathy: my guy is sick. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love him, but I don’t love him when he’s under the weather. “Groan” I hear very loudly as my significant other moves any body part. “Sigh” “Oww” are the common sounds I hear over and over as he’s huddled under blankets on the couch. “I’m sick.”

Umm… “Yes, dear, I know you’re sick” I tell him often, as I’ve just spent a week caring for two sick, feverish kids 24/7 while he was out in California on a business trip for the entire week. The phone messages we’d get from the West Coast: “Hi, it’s me! Hope you are all doing well! Things are great here; I’m just getting ready to go for a run on the beach before I head to breakfast.” Click. Yes, thanks. We needed that. So yes, while I should have more empathy, I just don’t. Cold-hearted, cold-blooded woman? Maybe.

Now don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I ignore him while he’s sick. I just tell him to go to bed and I’ll handle everything else. “Did you take your medicine?” I ask him. “Ummm…no,” he says. “Well then take your medicine!$#@!” (not sure why I have to remind him as women are pretty capable of this on their own).

And when anyone asks “How are you doing?” (like friends did recently at a party—that he was well enough to attend and whoop it up with the guys, I might add) he’s quick to cough and respond with a long, drawn-out sigh “I’m on the mend.”

It got me thinking: why are women able to juggle sick kids, fever of their own, and everything else—sans a sigh or a loud groan…and without having to tell everyone and their friends? Genetics? Stronger disposition?

I asked some of my women friends: “Men are big babies,” said one. Another agreed. What are your thoughts? Take this poll…[polldaddy poll=4764357]

Why we should never stop going to “school”

Written by: on Friday, March 18th, 2011
school, adult learning, going back to school

Learning new stuff every day keeps us on our toes...and keeps us engaged in life.

I really, really thought that when I finished my Masters degree in journalism, that I was done with school: I was finished—for good! I had no desire to go back and wanted to be paid for my work from now on. (Many long hard years at school with no money can sometimes do that to you…)

And I pretty much followed that philosophy for 14 years until just recently when I left Shape as the editor in chief. I finally had time—and so I signed up for digital classes at NYU. And it’s now that I’m realizing why putting off the idea of “school” was a big mistake…

I’m in one class all about web design—and many times I’m completely lost and often can’t finish my homework because I can’t figure out what the heck I did wrong in the html coding to screw everything up! (For someone who has worked hard to master my knowledge and career, this is a bit of a humbling experience.) I’m in another class all about social media…and there’s so much information that my brain is on overload and I feel like I can’t absorb it all!

But I’m LOVING every minute of it. Why? Because I’m forcing my brain to look at things differently…outside my comfort zone. And it’s really invigorating. As I said to someone recently: we should never stop trying new things or taking classes— be it a community class about finances, an intro to wine class, an intro to yoga class or a class about web design. It keeps us fresh, keeps our mind engaged, and keeps us meeting new interesting people—outside our daily lives.

Many friends I’ve talked to recently have said: “Oh, I’d love to go back to school.” So my answer to anyone who says that is this: start small; sign up for one class (even if it’s a one-night class) and then go from there. You don’t need to be in a program at a university. Just doing something outside the daily grind will keep you continually excited about—and engaged—in life.  Now, back to my homework…

Why is it so darned hard to remember to take our vitamins?

Written by: on Friday, March 11th, 2011
Vitamins-vitamins for women-remembering to take vitamins

Put your vitamins in plain sight and take them at the same time every day to create a habit.

Just asking…Set your vitamins out on the counter in the kitchen in PLAIN SIGHT as I do and you’d think it’s not so hard to remember to take them. Not the case! It’s like remembering to drink your water when your bottle is sitting in front of you: you just don’t do it…at least I find it really difficult.

There are days when I pass by my vitamins and say to myself “You have to remember to take them” and then…nothing. I forget. (But really, I mean, pick them up and put them in your mouth, Valerie! It’s really not hard.)

Well, I guess you can say it’s a bit like exercising: we know it’s good for us (along with swapping out yummy crispy French Fries for a salad at lunch) but we don’t always do it. Is it the rebellious child in us? Maybe, and maybe it’s a bit of innate laziness. I’m not sure what it is, but instead of giving up something for lent, I’ve decided to “add to” for lent: vitamins (particularly calcium) to keep my body strong and healthy!


My kids give me indigestion…sometimes

Written by: on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

…there, it’s out. I feel as though I have a giant secret off my chest. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE my kids (as I tell my them before bed every night I love them more than all the stars in the universe), but sitting with them at a family meal gives me indigestion, literally. Let’s set the scene at breakfast: Dishes are laid out; food is at everyone’s places; cups filled with juice; forks, spoons, and napkins are all set out. In a nutshell: the kids have everything they need.

It's okay to admit your kids drive you crazy at mealtimes...just don't plan to eat with them so you can enjoy your food—earlier or later—indigestion free.

And I set down my bowl of oatmeal, cup of tea and the newspaper. I am on the verge of an almost audible contented sigh, when it starts:

“Mom” (on verge of crying) “I dropped my spoon on the floor and now I don’t have a spoon” (crying ensues). I get up to get another spoon.

I eat one-half of a biteful of oatmeal before the next one starts.

“Mom” (other child now) “I don’t have enough brown sugar in my oatmeal. I need more brown sugar” (I get up again to get a bit more brown sugar.)

I sit down, take a sip of tea, and open the paper. And then the 3-year-old has suddenly decided she doesn’t like her favorite cereal any more.

“Yucky. Yucky,” she says. “I not like that!”

And this goes on for at least 5 more minutes. My stomach is in knots.

Needless to say, my tea got lukewarm, my oatmeal was cold by the time I got back to it…and the paper didn’t get read until much later. And maybe that’s okay. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s not REALLY necessary to eat every possible meal with your kids (oft-quoted research—that makes any working parent feel horribly guilty—speaks to how more well balanced, smarter, successful, less angry, etc your kids will be if the parents eat meals with them). I don’t mind sitting with my kids, jut not sharing a meal with them. Sometimes a sane, well-fed mom is better for everyone  … than having to deal with this at mealtimes.

A must-read for busy parents!

And as a sidenote, if you’re a parent and you see yourself in this situation, you must read one of my favorite kids’ books: Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy. You’ll enjoy it and get a good laugh.

…and now Dior’s John Galliano is out (more proof stars are losing a grip)

Written by: on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Charlie Sheen is still losing it, despite his cozy, kinky threesomes that are splashed across the news every day; Lindsay Lohan is always on the brink of being put in the clink; Christina Aguilera got locked up because she was wasted along with her new beau, who was driving the car; and John Galliano—Dior’s designer whose creations I never really wore because I couldn’t afford them—is fired for making drunken anti-Semitic slurs. What the hell is going on with these people? Get a grip on reality! Get a grip on your lives people: life is not about air kissing, catwalks, and publicity stunts (at least, dear God, I hope it isn’t as I’ve really lost out then). Do these people have any depth? While I always try to assume the best in people, I think the answer is a resounding “no”.

Not all stars are crazy: one whom I loved meeting was Modern Family's Sophia Vergara (this shot at my last cover shoot for Shape). She's real, down to earth, and grounded. Let's focus on these saner celebs and leave the other ones to their ridiculous antics.

That’s part of the problem: so many of the stars in Hollywood (and not all of them are this way, see photo of Sophia Vergara, above…)—and the world of people who dress the stars—is not a reality. It’s either a huge publicity stunt or the result of them just not caring (I mean, really, Christina, you have a son for chrissakes. You could have been killed in a crash! Did you think about Max or did you not think…it’s probably the latter.) Charlie Sheen started a Twitter account and within hours he had more than 345,000 followers! (I was not one of them, nor will I be.) Next up a reality show about his kinky relationship and psychotic life (you know this will be next)…and the worst part, people will watch it! Lindsay Lohan struts into court as if she’s strutting down the red carpet. And John Galliano…well, that’s just a sad situation, but I’m sure he’ll come out of it—at the top. Maybe he’ll have his own reality show too—or at least his own clothing line.

And I actually feel bad for Billy Ray Cyrus: Hanna Montana probably really did ruin his family. But shame on him (sorry for the finger wagging) for pushing her into it in the first place. I’m one of those moms who will NEVER sign my kids up for an modeling audition or a movie spot or anything: let kids be kids. If they grow up too soon, they may be flashing their panties at an audience and dancing on bars like Miley Cyrus when they’re just 18 years old.

As happiness in our own lives drops (we’re working more, spending more and having less time to enjoy life), we’re more and more fascinated by the sad, pathetic lives of these stars on the brink—fueling them and their behavior. Ratings go up after Charlie Sheen trashes his hotel room. If we can watch the train wrecks on Jersey Shore or in Charlie Sheen’s lives…then don’t we feel so much better in our own lives? That theory doesn’t really work as any satisfaction gained is fleeting at best.

My best advice: focus on improving your own life—and really try to work toward fixing the problems in it, one step at a time—and ignore these publicity stunts: don’t sign up for Charlie Sheen’s tweets, don’t sit glued to the TV or the computer watching the rants of stars on the brink of losing it. And maybe they’ll learn to reign in their stupid stunts and make something of their lives. At least one can always hope.