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Food and Beauty Y’all

Donna and MelanieHello stranger. Well, you aren’t the stranger in this situation, but I totally am. That whole family/work/blogging balance thing? Yeah, well I’m doing ok in two of those areas and not so great in the other. Can you guess which one I’m failing at?

But here I am today, so let’s chat. Shall we?

This past weekend I escaped to Texas to visit my Dad and Donna. I haven’t seen them in over a year and it was high time that I got my tushie out there for a visit.

Conference season starts up in just a couple of weeks and it’s going to be a hectic few months coming up. So a trip to visit my family before the cyclone of conference season made good sense for my mental health.

It was an amazing weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with both of them, but you’ll only get to see Donna. Somehow my poor Father got left out of the photos. I’m not sure how that happened. I mean look at this…

BuddyI got a picture of their new puppy Buddy but didn’t get a picture of my own Dad. So ridiculous. But do you know what that means? I have to fly back out in a few months and get a picture with him. It’s the only right thing to do.

TacosBesides going to Texas to enjoy some family time, I also go there to basically inhale all food that I come across. Seriously, I throw calorie counting out the window when I go to Texas. What’s the point? Especially if you love Tex-Mex like I do. If I had to choose only one cuisine for the rest of my life, that would be it.

ChilaquilesYou can’t get food like this in Boston. Trust me, I’ve tried. Tex-Mex is best in Texas. So I ate my share plus yours in avocados, tortillas, pulled pork, shrimp tacos and just about anything else that had cilantro in it. I have no regrets.

chocolate signAnd if that wasn’t caloric enough, guess what else we did? We went on a chocolate tour of Dallas. You know that expression “everything is bigger in Texas”? Well, the same is true for chocolate tours…

Wine on TourWhen your chocolate tour starts with wine and champagne, you know you’ve chosen the right tour. A pretty perfect pairing if you ask me.

BakeryI thought the tour would be a bite here and a bite there, but that’s not how it turned out. Our first stop at a quaint little bakery had us chowing down on full sized chocolate croissants.

I was kind of worried that if our tour continued at that level of sampling that I wouldn’t be able to fit through the bus door by the end of the day.

Chocolate PurseThe rest of the stops were more reasonable in sample size, but still incredibly decadent. And some of the products were downright lovely. How sweet is this chocolate purse?

Chocolate HeelsAnd if that wasn’t cute enough, how about a pair of chocolate heels? The only heels guaranteed not to hurt your feet or give you blisters.

Chocolate CameraBut my favorite was this chocolate camera. So precious. I didn’t buy it because I knew there was no way I was going to be able to break that thing apart. It was too pretty.

Melanie Post Spa DayWhenever I visit Texas, I always get a facial with Donna. Here I am all cleansed and buffed, looking highly relaxed. It might have been the chocolate coma causing the relaxation part. But who cares? I felt like a million bucks.

That’s about all that’s new and exciting here. Other than my trip to Dallas, it’s been work, work, work. Which I still love, by the way. I guess that’s a good sign, right?

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She Cracks Me Up

Smart WaterThis sort of looks like a “Peek In My Cart” post, doesn’t it? But this post isn’t about some crazy great deal I found at the store.

Nope, this cart full of Smart Water is a purchase to make up for a really dumb decision.

Do you remember that treadmill desk I purchased a couple of months ago? The one I said I could walk on all day long and not feel like I really did a workout? Well, let me tell you, I worked myself out. All the way to the emergency room.

You see, once I started using my treadmill desk, I kind of didn’t stop. From morning until the kids came home from school, that’s where I was. On the treadmill. Walking and working the day away. And let me tell you, I felt great. I was walking at a really slow pace continuously for hours while pounding out a ton of work.

I felt like Wonder Woman.

Or at least I did until a month ago when I woke up and couldn’t walk. No exaggeration. I could not get out of bed and walk. Every muscle from my lower back to the bottom of my right foot felt like it was locked into place. Completely seized.

Every time I tried to take a step it felt like daggers were being dragged up and down my legs. So off to the emergency room I went. I had no idea what was wrong. Maybe something coming back to haunt me from the car accident? That was my only logical guess.

But as it turned out, the culprit was walking too many miles on the treadmill. I guess going from 25 miles one week to 50 miles the next really made my body angry. That and dehydration. Who knew that two cups of coffee, a glass of water and two glasses of wine a day didn’t count as enough fluid intake. Sure felt like enough to me.

It’s funny how your body can have a different opinion than your mind. Because my body said enough of that crap lady, I quit.

It took two weeks of some serious drugs to calm my body down. That and a ton of water. Did you know that drinking water helps keep your muscles from going into spasm? Apparently wine does not offer that same benefit. Hence, the cart full of Smart Water per the doctor’s orders.

Once we got the pain under control and the muscles somewhat cooperating again, the doctor suggested I see the hospital affiliated chiropractor.

And at that suggestion, I was indignant. A chiropractor? That’s not even a real doctor, is it? Isn’t that dangerous? All I knew about chiropractors was that they were questionable. So many of my friends had conflicting opinions on whether or not chiropractors were effective or not. Some said they were miracle workers while others said they were quacks. Who was I to believe?

Well, let me tell you, when you are in enough back pain and the pain meds aren’t entirely cutting it, you’ll try anything once. Off to the chiropractor I went with much trepidation.

I was so nervous over that first visit. Surely she was going to crack my spine in half. Isn’t that what chiropractors do? And wouldn’t that hurt like hell? And when my chiropractor walked into the room to greet me, I really had my doubts. Here she was, this tiny little thing and she was going to crack my back? Good luck with that, I thought.

But as it turned out, there was no cracking involved whatsoever that first visit. Matter of fact, there would be no cracking (really, “adjusting”) until my eighth visit. Instead she manipulated my joints and muscles using her fingers. Pressing on nerves I didn’t know existed until she found them.

And boy did I see stars when she found what she was looking for. It’s amazing how pressing on one nerve can make you feel that same nerve travel the entire length of your leg right down to your toes. It was quite the education in human anatomy. Not entirely a comfortable lesson, I might add.

Those first visits were spent trying to get my muscles to play nice with the nerves and joints again. It took several visits, but by God that woman had me walking again without me wanting to cry. Sure, I still had some muscle/nerve issues that needed to be worked out because apparently I screwed up every muscle from my bum down to my ankle, but after every visit with the chiropractor I got better and better.

And as I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t until the eighth visit that she “cracked” me. I’m not sure why I was so afraid of that whole idea. I mean, I crack my own back regularly without even trying. But when the chiropractor did it, she did it in such a gentle way that it felt natural.

She started with my neck and worked her way down my spine and by the time she was done I felt almost normal again. Sure, it didn’t sound awesome hearing my body snap, crackle and pop, but I definitely felt more aligned. Or at least in better working order.

I’ve been seeing the chiropractor three times a week for a month now and I have to tell you, I’m not sure I’d be walking as well as I am if it wasn’t for that woman.  We still have a ways to go because I really did a number on my body, but visit by visit and week by week she is making my muscles, nerves and joints work again. And for that I am entirely grateful.

I am obviously not a doctor. And I’m not here to give you medical advice. But I did want to share my experience with you because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has doubts about chiropractors. And for my situation, it’s really helping.

So, I’m curious to hear if you’ve had any experiences with chiropractors? Was it helpful for you like it has been for me? Do you go on a regular basis or just when you feel like your body isn’t cooperating? Does your chiropractor do adjustments or does he/she use joint/muscle manipulation? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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You’re So Vain, La La La La

Melanie Super Sized
Ok, so I’m about to announce something you already know. I’m a little vain. Ok, maybe a lot vain. Yes, I know I’m not a supermodel. Yes, I know that I’m not a young thing who will catch everyone’s eyes as they walk by me on the street. No, I don’t think that I’m all that and a bag of chips. BUT I do care about how I look and I do try hard to make good choices for my body and for my overall appearance.

So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, there’s an article that ran in today’s Boston Globe in all its color multi-page spread splendor that included pictures of myself and my girls. The article addressed the issues of working parents and the high cost of childcare.

AidanLeelaThe Globe asked if they could send a photographer to the house to shoot some pictures for the piece. Sure, I said. Why not? It was a lot of fun. I really hit it off with the photographer and we enjoyed working with her. She even commented on how loving our family was and that she was amazed at how the kids respected each other. Something that I really wanted her to capture with her camera.

Actually, one of the things the article didn’t speak to is the role my oldest son Aidan plays in helping me out with his siblings so that I can actually get to the office in a timely fashion.

I asked the photographer to take a picture of Aidan doing Leela’s hair because I wanted to make sure his face was included in the article. Michael is a huge help too, but you already know how camera shy that boy is.

Back to Aidan…

You see, Aidan goes to college locally and his schedule allows for him to help me with the before school care of the kids.  I actually employ him to do this which makes it win win for both of us.

Honestly, I could not do this job right now without the support of Aidan. Furthermore, I couldn’t do this job without the support of my entire family. They have been so incredibly supportive during this transition that it brings me to tears at times. Literally.

I’m sad that that wasn’t mentioned in the article. It’s an important part of the overall picture. Yes, I have to pay someone to do the full-time care come June 1st, but my oldest kids are a big part of the overall care picture right now.

But I cannot control what is published in the paper. Especially not the photos. Which brings me to my vanity point. They could not have put a more awful, not-me looking picture in the paper. Granted, at the time I was on super powerful meds including steroids and pain killers for an injury I haven’t shared with you yet.

And before you even worry about it, no it’s not exactly serious. I’ll tell you all about it in the next post. But it was serious enough at the time to land me on steroids, pain killers and muscle relaxants.

Not the best time to be photographed. And the shot was from the ground up. Never take a picture of a woman who is 44 from the ground up. It will create a double chin and a face the size of Texas even if you are a peanut in real life.

So, I know that there are a bunch of you here today for the first time due to the Globe linking to my site. It’s my great pleasure to meet you. But I’d love for you to see what I really look like. Here’s a selfie from that very same day taken right after the photographer left my home. No filters used. Just me and my cell phone with no apps used at all. I promise…

Yes, I know that this is a stupid post. But for those of you who are new readers due to the Globe piece, there’s something you should know about me…

One of the things I write about here on Melanie In The Middle is my self-esteem issue. I’ve written about my issues with distorted self image on this blog for years. I’ve written about my struggles of being horribly picked on as a child over my weight for most of my school-aged years (I was a chub). I’m hyper-sensitive about my appearance. I admit that I have issues with this. I admit that it’s not normal. It’s my Achilles heel.

And I just needed to share this post with you new folks because I’m sort of horrified with the way I look in the paper. So that’s that. Try to play nice in the comments. I’m already feeling crappy about the picture in the paper.

Also, I want to say that while the Globe chose to place pictures of other blogger peer’s kids in the online article, they were omitted from the physical newspaper which makes me sad. So if you get a chance, please check out Charlene, Nirasha and Gilda . Their kids are so cute and should’ve made the actual paper. They really really should’ve.

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Still Breathing

I miss you. Does that sound crazy? Is it sane to miss people that you haven’t met in real life? Whether or not that makes sense, it’s true. I miss you an awful lot.

Not blogging on a regular basis feels unnatural. I guess it took losing my free time to realize how much I love to share my life with you. All of it.

The good stuff. The sad days. The selfies when I capture myself in a good hair moment. Pictures of the girls when they are looking adorable. Pictures of the boys when they allow it. The times when my self-esteem is suffering. The days when I feel like a rockstar.

I don’t think I truly appreciated how much it meant to me that I could share that stuff with you until I lost the time to do so.

Now that I’ve been working for a couple of weeks, I realize that blogging won’t be as easy to do anymore. Or at least I won’t be able to do it as often. But that’s a temporary thing. I need to get a handle on it all. A rhythm. I haven’t found my rhythm yet.

Hell, I’m lucky to find my office on most days. I wish I was kidding. I drove into the office today, made one wrong turn and ended up in Chinatown. Not that that’s an entirely bad thing, but no one wants stir fry at 8am.

I guess what I’m trying to say is not to give up on me. I’m still here. I still want to talk to you. Share things with you. And even grow with you as this blog and its author also grows with each new experience that presents itself.

It’s just going to take some time.

Now onto the positive stuff. HOLY HECK do I love my job. The people are amazing. So smart and creative. I’m learning new things every day. And I’m not even talking about learning how to work the copy machine. (although that thing is a beast)

I’m learning about budgeting, proposals for clients, marketing, sales…. you name it, I’m learning it. And by now you know me well enough to understand how much I thrive under a challenge.

There are lots of challenges with this job and I’m all in on learning how to be effective in each area. Learning is good. I never want to stop learning new things. It’s what makes life interesting. Don’t you think?

This weekend coming up looks pretty calm. My hope is to share some cool images with you. I just need to sleep and regroup in order to write a somewhat coherent blog post. I’m pretty sure this one is a hot mess and all over the place.

It’s because I’m tired. But I didn’t want to go to bed until I told you how much I miss you. And even if I can’t respond to comments right now, I will when I get a handle on all of this. I don’t want you to think for a moment that you aren’t important to me. Because you are. All of you.

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My First Days At Work

FerryI am very sorry for falling off the net for so very long. Getting into the swing of things at work was a little more involved than I expected it to be. Between figuring out the commute, getting everything ready for the kids the night before school, packing my own bag with things I need for work and all of the other stuff it takes to run a household and then actually going to work…. it’s a lot to get used to and by the end of the day I just want to collapse into bed.

But don’t think for a moment that I’m complaining because I’m totally not. I love my job. Not only do I love my job, I adore the people I work with. It’s been a tremendously positive experience and I feel so lucky to work with such an amazing bunch of people.

But before I tell you about that, let me fill you in on my commute. That picture above is the ferry I take into work each morning. It’s pretty awesome. There are tables where you can work as you commute, a cafe where you can get some coffee and breakfast and some of the boats even have television sets so you can watch the news. It totally beats sitting in the car in gridlock traffic!

WorkAnd as I mentioned before, my office totally rocks. It’s like something you see in the movies. There’s a receptionist that greets you in the lobby and you need a key card to access the elevators. And when you enter my actual office, it looks like a set out of Sex In The City. Super trendy and very classy. I smile every time I enter our doors.

Work OutfitRemember how I labored over what to wear to work my first day? Yeah, well I changed my mind about five minutes before I left the house. I wasn’t in a pink mood. Out went the pink tweed skirt and on went the black tweed skirt with the colorful weave. Don’t ask me why I changed my mind. My mind is a complicated thing to understand. Especially at 5:30am.

KeurigThe first thing I learned during orientation was where the coffee pot was located. And that’s a good thing because getting my brain working early in the morning requires quite a bit of caffeine.

So how do I like the actual job? It’s perfect. It’s everything I know how to do and there’s been no sitting around trying to find things to do to keep myself busy.

Quite the contrary. I’m already involved in three different projects that makes me wish that there were more hours in the day to work with. Boredom will not be an issue with this job. It’s also challenging. I’m learning all kinds of things about the pr world that I wish I knew as a blogger.

There’s so much planning and strategy that goes on when campaigns are put together. And I have so much more respect now for the work that goes on behind the scenes for a successful campaign. It’s been quite an education.

I have a lot more that I want to share with you, but to be honest, I’m bone weary. I’ll take some time over the weekend and write a proper post to give you some juicier details and pictures. But for today I just wanted to check in to tell you that I’m doing fine. More than fine. Actually, I’m really happy.

I’ll catch up with you more over the weekend. I hope you are having a fabulous week.

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Preparation and Anticipation

Dooney Brief CaseI think we’ll all be happy when I get the first day of work out of the way. It seems like that’s all I’ve been writing about lately. And I know that can’t be very exciting to read about.

Matter of fact, I think my days of adventure might be a thing of the past now that I’m employed in the more traditional sense of the word. So I have no idea what’s to come as far as blogging goes. It could be boring for awhile. Or it could be super exciting.

Honestly, I have no idea what to expect.

All I know is that I have to get up at 5:30am tomorrow to get ready for my first day of work. I’m not much of a morning person, so that will be one of my biggest adjustments. This night owl is going to have to flip her schedule around and become the early bird that gets the worm. There will be much coffee in my future.

Oh, and you know what else is in my future? An Egg McMuffin. I never get to McDonald’s before they flip that breakfast sign to lunch. Who wants lunch at 10:30am? No one. And boy are they militant. When that sign flips, by God breakfast is over. Fini. Kaput. Goodbye. Au revoir hash browns. Hello French fries.

I wish McDonald’s would put the Egg McMuffin on the menu all day long or change lunch to a more civilized start time of 11:30am. Not that they care for my opinion on said matter. I guess if everyone got up at 5:30am a 10:30am lunch could make sense.

All that to say that I’m going to grab an Egg McMuffin for my ferry ride into Boston. Dear Lord I can be verbose.

It’s the little things about working in the city that I’m looking forward to.

Munching on an Egg McMuffin while reading the paper and catching up on current events during the ferry ride into the city. Sounds like an entirely civilized way to get to work, doesn’t it?

Walking the few short blocks to my new very smart looking workplace in the Financial District alongside other very smartly dressed people who work in equally impressive offices. (which will be much more pleasant when it’s not 10º out) I know people talk about how awful the rat race is, but I’m kind of excited to be a part of that.

Having a Dunkin Donuts right across the street from my office. Not exciting to most people but entirely thrilling to this coffee addict.

Going to lunch with coworkers. Now I’m just speculating on this one. I have no idea if people go to lunch or eat it at their desks, but the idea of having lunch with coworkers sounds altogether lovely. Did I mention that there’s a Wagamama super close to the office? For those of you who have no idea what the heck a Wagamama is, it’s a Japanese noodle bar and wildly yummy.

Spending my day with people who understand what the heck I’m saying when I use the words like hashtag, social share, stumble, tweeting (not in the bird sense), traffic (not the automotive type) and repins. Actually, spending my day with people at all now that I think about it. Most of my time is spent by myself.  And talking to myself is not as exciting as that might sound.

Having a reason to carry a briefcase. See that briefcase above? I bought that six years ago at a factory outlet in New York knowing that someday I wanted to carry that to work. Little did I know it would be that many years before an office job would materialize. I’m not sure what it is about carrying a briefcase, but it sure feels very grownup. I don’t even know if people carry briefcases anymore. But I didn’t spend $99 for it to go to waste. Even if it’s not fashionable, I’m taking it to work.

Franklin PlannerI also don’t know if anyone uses a real no kidding day planner anymore. In this day of digital it seems like pen and paper have gone the way of the dinosaur. But this girl needs to write things down in order for stuff to stick. So I will be lugging my ten pound Franklin planner wherever I go. I might be a dinosaur but at least I’ll be an organized dinosaur.

So I guess I’m ready for my first day of work. Tomorrow is my orientation day which is a good way to start. We aren’t expecting any crazy weather, so I think I get to have a good hair day.

My clothes are all laid out and my new boots are ready for the frozen Boston sidewalks. My favorite coffee mug is packed along with packets of Swiss Miss for my signature Melanie Mocha which is one Swiss Miss packet to one large mug of black coffee. Once again, it’s the little things that thrill me.

Charging cords are packed. The ferry schedule is printed out with alternate bus and train routes in case of rough seas. And my camera is ready so that I can capture my first day in proper blogger fashion.

I guess that’s about it. I’ve done everything I can on my end to prepare myself to be useful for my new employer. The next step is theirs and I cannot wait to see what they have in store.

It’s a new chapter in the book of Melanie. Unwritten and eagerly anticipated. To be continued…

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I’m just days away from starting my new job. When asked by a close friend if I’m excited or nervous about my first day, my response was excited with a side of petrified. Which I guess is normal. Starting a new job is a major stressor for anyone. And in my case after being a work at home mom for the past twenty years, I’m especially anxious.

What am I most anxious about? I’m not even sure.

I’ve combed through my closet about a zillion times trying to decide on the perfect first day of work outfit. In the end I settled on a pink tweed skirt, fitted black turtle neck with tights and riding boots. I’ll probably be over dressed, but I’d rather look a little too professional than not professional enough on that first day.

I’ve mapquested every possible commuter route just in case there’s some crazy traffic glitch that could trip me up on my first day of getting to work. And I kid you not, I have routes via train, bus and boat at the ready. My normal route will include a ferry ride which is pretty cool. Not so cool in March when the winds cut to the bone, but definitely lovely during summer when the weather is less angry. One of the benefits of commuting in a coastal area.

My calendar has everything neatly laid out with important dates highlighted. And after syncing my calendar with the school calendar my head is spinning with all of the inservice half days the kids have. Is it just me or did we not have those when we were kids? Good grief there are a lot of half days. That will certainly be one of my bigger challenges this year. I’m starting to have a profound respect for moms who work out of the home. It’s like playing calendar Tetris.

Even though I think I’ve figured mostly everything out, I’m still feeling anxious. I guess part of it is the fear of the unknown. What exactly am I going to do? Sure, I have a list of responsibilities, but what will my day look like? Will it take me days to settle in or will it feel comfortable from the start? Will I make friends quickly? Will someone join me for lunch? Silly things to worry about for sure, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about them.

But mostly I’m excited.

Excited and profoundly thankful to work at the agency I admire the most here in Boston. It feels like a dream come true. I know that sounds corny, but I can’t even express how thankful I am for this opportunity.

And now it just hit me. The thing that I’m most worried about. I’ve been staring at my laptop screen for the past half hour trying to figure out how to wrap up this post. And as I’ve stared at the screen, I’ve realized what my biggest issue is…

Because I’ve  walked into my dream job, I feel like I need to give this company 150% of me. That I need to give them some serious ROI for giving me this amazing opportunity. This job that I’ve been working towards for years now.

And I don’t want to let them down.

I’m probably worrying too much. Maybe I should go back to obsessing over my outfit. Or maybe I should check the weather for next week and see if my boat has the possibility of capsizing.

If my new job was Manager of Worrying, I’d be well on my way to a promotion.

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In The Changing Room

LoftThis past week has been a blur. The kids have been home on school break which couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve just about had my fill of school projects and homework. Neither of which can be done independently. Not for the girls at least.

And am I the only one who feels like projects are more stressful for the parents than they are for the kids? I swear I break out in hives when I get project notifications in their folders. Give me math story problems any day of the week over projects.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. I have much more interesting news to share. As many of you know, I’ve been working at home for quite some time as a consultant in social media.

My job is essentially finding online influencers to deliver brand messaging by the way of blog posts and shares on every social media platform out there. And for those of you who don’t know what that means, I’m talking about getting brand messaging out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

From day one I’ve loved my job. After working in the blogosphere for six years, I’ve cultivated many relationships with brands and bloggers. Playing matchmaker between the two is so much fun and it never gets boring.

That said, working from home is rather isolating. Sure, it’s comfortable to work in my jammies and I enjoy the flexibility of creating my own work schedule, but it’s also quite lonely. And as you very well know, I’m a very social creature.

Also, consulting is not a dependable source of income. Nor does it have any traditional workplace benefits such as insurance or a 401k. And the thought of working in an office with other people who love to do what I do is a very appealing thing. I crave being a member of a team.

All of that to say, I got a real, no kidding, in a high rise kind of job. And that explains why I’ve been so quiet lately. For the past two months I’ve been working on my resume and researching exactly what companies I’d like to work for. And in the end I received an offer letter from the company I admire the most.

I’ll write about that more extensively in a coming post, but for today I just want to talk about fashion in the workplace. I have a vast conference wardrobe, but my business casual wardrobe is lacking. If you follow what I’ve been pinning on Pinterest, you’ll notice a shift in my pins away from food and onto fashion.

So the other day when Loft invited me to check out their Prudential Center store with the help from a stylist, I happily agreed to visit.

Melanie at LoftWhen I went to Boston for my interview, I was amazed at how the women managed to look so polished while wearing jeans. And my first request for the stylist was to help me figure out how to achieve that look. From what I learned it’s all about the accessories such as scarves, statement necklaces and the right shoes to make jeans go from everyday to work chic.

The outfit you see above is simply a pair of skinny jeans I already own paired with a cardigan, cami and a bright scarf to jazz things up. Comfortable and with the times. But not with the times so much that I feel like I’m trying to dress younger than I actually am. Such a hard thing to balance sometimes.

Melanie LoftEven though my new workplace is very business casual, I do gravitate towards dresses. And a simple trick I learned from the stylist is to dress down a dress by wearing a cardigan with it. A cardigan and a pair of flats. Easy enough!

While at Loft I checked out the winter clearance because I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to wear winter clothing straight through May at the rate we’re going. And right now Loft has a killer clearance sale going on which allowed me to pick up a new blazer which was originally over $100 for only $24, a black cardigan that was originally $50 for $25 and the dress you see above that was also over $100 for only $30. Awesome deals!

I still have a few things to find to round out my work wardrobe which includes a new pair of boots that aren’t high heels. I seem to own a lot of high heels and very few flats. That will have to change.

For those of you who have office jobs, I’d love to hear what your style is? Is your workplace casual or more formal? What are your favorite stores to shop for work clothing?

This is not a sponsored post. I paid for everything you see above.

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Birthday Blizzard

snowThis weekend we celebrated one of my kid’s birthdays. A party for our child that has a hard time fitting in. Her birthday always plunges me into a state of anxiety because every party “no” rsvp breaks her heart.

And the truth of the matter is that it’s not always because the kids don’t want to come. Life is busy and the weekends are a time when parents cram everything they can into forty-eight hours including having parties and family get togethers of their own.

But then there are the kids who don’t want to come just because they don’t want to come. Those are the hardest to cope with. Every year we go through the rejection and I’d like to say it gets easier every year. It doesn’t.

This year I suggested she invite five friends to go see the Lego movie and then a visit to Build-A-Bear with a grand finale of pizza and cake at our favorite pizza joint.

A hard invitation to turn down, right? I freely admit that I make her parties as enticing as possible to encourage participation. I’m not beyond bribery when it comes to my daughter’s mental health. I know I’ll catch flack for that. So be it.

Two of the five girls invited said yes. And even though she was disappointed that three said no, I emphasized how awesome it was that two said yes. Sometimes I feel like I’m more of a cheerleader than a mother.

A cheerleader trying to stay cheery when our team is getting our butts kicked by the opposition. Big plastered on smile, pom poms frantically shaking and praying for that hail Mary pass that will save the game.

Sometimes parenting feels like a sporting event, doesn’t it?

The party day arrives. I anxiously check the weather and guess what? You’ll never believe it. We are expecting a blizzard. Another one. Will this winter ever end? The only thing that keeps me sane is that the brunt of the snow is not supposed to hit us until late that night.

The party is at 2:30pm, so we are safe. Or so we think even though the snow is falling at an alarming rate.

I pile the girls into the car, get to the theater and breathe a huge sigh of relief when both guests arrive safely. I want to hug their parents. We head into the movie theater and everyone eats an alarming amount of candy, popcorn and soda. And they love me for it.

As soon as the credits are rolling, I rush the kids out of the theater because we only have a half of an hour between the movie and dinner which means we need to stuff those bears in a jiffy.

We leave the theater only to find that the mall is closing due to a snow emergency. The movie ended at 4:55 and the mall was to close at 5:00. And with that realization I announced to the girls to RUN to Build A Bear. Which is exactly what we did. And by some miracle we made it just before they shut their doors, panting and probably looking a little crazed.

At this point I needed a vodka tonic, but sadly their is no bar at Build A Bear.

Once the bears were stuffed, we braved the elements to the pizza parlor. Thank God I drive a SUV and also that I grew up in Michigan where the snowstorms make New England storms look like flurries. I know how to drive in bad weather.

The weather guessers were way off this time and we were driving in the worst of it. Had I known it was going to be as bad as it was, I would’ve rescheduled the party. But there was no way of predicting how fast it would get ugly. And ugly it was.

The kids had great fun at dinner, but I was too busy worrying about the parents safely reclaiming their kids to enjoy it.

As I sat at that table watching my daughter laugh and chat with her friends, I thought about the risks we take as parents. And I’m not talking physical risks either.

Truth be told, I would’ve canceled the party had I known just how bad the weather would turn. No smile on my daughter’s face is worth risking her safety or her friend’s and their family’s safety.

I’m talking about mental risks. It would’ve been so much easier to hold a family party someplace super fun just to guarantee that she would have a good time. Maybe a stay at a hotel with an indoor water park. Or snow tubing at a local ski resort. You know, an activity that would guarantee no risk of rejection.

Inviting peers to a party is a dicey thing when you have a socially awkward child. There are no guarantees that anyone will come. It’s a huge risk that’s hard to take as a parent. Our instinct is to protect our kids at all costs.

But sometimes you just can’t protect them. And that’s where they learn life’s greatest lessons. Rejection isn’t an easy lesson to learn, but it is inevitable. Hell, I still deal with it myself and it doesn’t hurt any less than it did when I was a child.

But as a parent, that’s when you grab those pom poms and furiously shake them. Even if you’re faking it. Making your kids look at the positives when they can’t see them. Even if you can’t see them. Parents also need to be great actors too.

In the end it all worked out. It took an hour to drive the seven miles from the pizza parlor back to my house if that gives you any idea of how bad the roads were. I’m so thankful that the party guests got home safely too. God bless those parents for not being afraid of driving in snow.

I’m also thankful that my daughter had a good time.

She won’t remember me hitting refresh on the weather report on my laptop hourly the days before her party. She won’t remember me stressing over whether or not those two “yes” kids would get the flu or have a family emergency which would turn them into “no” rsvps. And she won’t remember my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel during that awful drive home that night, silently praying to God that he would protect us.

She will only remember the fun parts and for that I’m so very thankful.

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with #HealthyEssentials #Ad

#HealthyEssentialsAs I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking part in a program that promotes Johnson & Johnson consumer products called HEALTHY ESSENTIALS®. Odds are good that we all have Johnson & Johnson products in our bathroom cabinets. A cursory glance at mine reveals Listerine®, Neutrogena® and Band-Aid®, just to name a few.

But did you know that K-Y® is also a Johnson & Johnson product? Yup, it sure is. And K-Y® wants to help you celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special offer. Check this out from the makers of K-Y®…

“This year, you can reconnect with your partner and enhance intimacy courtesy of K-Y® BRAND YOURS+MINE® COUPLES LUBRICANTS®. The COUPLES LUBRICANTS® provide an invigorating warming sensation for him and a thrilling tingling sensation for her, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

To enhance your Valentine’s Day experience, you can get all of the ingredients for a romantic evening, courtesy of the K-Y® Brand Date Night™ promotion. Look for a special K-Y® Brand Date Night™ display in stores nationwide, featuring details on a gift card offer for a gourmet meal for two delivered to your home from Plated.com and a streaming movie from Vudu.com, valued at $40.

Visit https://www.k-ydatenight.com/ for more details on this special offer.”

You know, talking about personal lubricants is sort of a touchy thing, but I’m totally going to go there. I think they’re awesome. Any product that uses the words thrilling, warm, tingling and invigorating on the back of the packaging can only be a win-win proposition.

Oh, and I forgot the word ignite. Yup, that’s on the packaging too. You do want to be ignited on Valentine’s Day, don’t you?

Besides K-Y®, Johnson & Johnson has other products on their HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® website that you can use to prepare for the special day; Listerine® for kissable breath and Rembrandt® for bright white teeth. And if you visit the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® website, you can print out coupons for these products plus many others!

This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own, and I hope you enjoy them.

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