Saturday, December 15, 2012

From Mr. Rogers neighborhood...

There are no words to soothe what happened in Connecticut yesterday. All I can offer are prayers and a thousand thoughts of love and healing for everyone impacted.

I saw this a moment ago and appreciate the very simple wisdom and sentiment. Have a safe weekend.




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Give, give, give....

Last year, I took MiniMac to the toy store and let him pick out 20 gifts we would then take to my office for a toy collection my company sponsored. I had been talking to him for years about charity and giving but let me assure you, a 2 year old does not necessarily want to pick out toys and give them away, unopened and waiting for eager hands to fully explore. Last year, he did great. While taking the elevator up to my office, a woman asked if he was on his way to work. Mini explained he was too little to work. A man asked if the bags of toys belonged to him. Mini replied, "These toys are for other kids. If you have more than you need,  you should share." I almost cried on the spot.

This year, I wanted to expand our toy purchase into "Five Acts of Kindness." We discussed what we would do, and more importantly why.

In the simplest of terms, I told him kindness has a ripple effect. You impact one person, they in turn impact another, and so on. It works in both the positive and negative. He thought earnestly about the message and took it in. Some of our choices for how to complete this task on Saturday included delivering 4 dozen cookies to our local fire station, a charity Christmas tree farm, our bank, and a carwash service. At each location, MiniMac simply handed the cookies over and said, "Happy Holidays." He was able to witness first hand how the smallest gesture can be grandly received. (PS: I am confident a woman at the carwash that spilled out of a car, tripped over a twig on her way to approach us to tell us about the "Crunk Cinderella" show she was in had definitely ingested some magical chemicals. And I don't mean magic like the elves make. Apparently, everyone absorbs Holiday Cheer differently.) (PSS: I dont exactly know what CRUNK is but I am quite certain it is less like "broccoli" or "pure thoughts" and more like "Sizzzerp" or "Crack". In the car, MiniMac said, "She was funny."
RIGHT.  

We also went to the toy store and made enough purchases to fill the entire backseat of my car. We took them to a local shelter where MiniMac explained to the Director what we were doing. The Director clearly knew but had a sweet conversation about it anyway. And he did tell me he doesn't see kids quite this young involved.

I will add it was quite tricky to again have the conversation about how all children don't get toys when Mini asked, "But doesn't Santa bring toys to everyone who is not on the naughty list?"
But how that went down is a blog post for another day.

Finally, we went to Starbucks and purchased a gift card simply to give to the woman behind us. She responded with such delight, her and MiniMac stood there and laughed together for several minutes. (He was only laughing because she was laughing and smiling. She was laughing in that deep down,  shimmy and shake, full of soul kind of laugh that is simply awesome.)

When we drove home, I asked Mini how he felt. "My heart feels good, Mom." Amen.

Later that night, MiniMac hugged me and said, 'What an amazing day. I loved our day of sharing. "

Me too, little man, me too.

I hope you read 31 Days of Goodness below and pick ONE thing to do. Hope your holiday season has kicked off beautifully.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

31 Days of Goodness (Version 4.0)

For the past three years on December 1, I have crafted a post called 31 Days of Goodness. I am amazed at the outcome of love, heart, philanthropy and true goodness that results. Every year, the post gets some record number of views and shares.  I have you and your good hearts to thank. We should all be interested and willing to do great things for other people.

It was initially prompted by a service project I got involved with in my son's previous class. For the holidays, his class adopted a single parent family with five children. The list of needs from this family did not include Xbox, iPad or Cars 2 on BluRay. The list did include toothbrushes, toothpaste, coats, underwear and socks. Have you ever asked for a toothbrush for Christmas?  It is a reminder many of us are lucky to take many things for granted. And it is also a reminder we have the power to do so much for other people. 

Weeks ago, I spent the day with a group of coworkers at a Ronald McDonald house baking dozens and dozens of cookies for the families using it as temporary residence while their children undergo major medical treatment. Late in the afternoon, a young girl with leukemia came into the kitchen and shyly took one of my chocolate chip cookies from a plate. Moments later, she exclaimed, "This is the best cookie I have ever had!" It is a reminder of several key things: 1. We often are "too busy" to really appreciate the smallest things. 2. Regardless of circumstances, perspective is everything. 3. You can't underestimate the power of the smallest kind gesture.

So, this crisp December morning I want to share again. There are abundance of opportunities for every person to contribute from around the globe to your own community. Let's get motivated to turn skills, hearts and minds into our most powerful tools to help others. It is time for the 31 days of Goodness Version 4.0. 

Consider it a good karmic investment, a guarantee to put a little jingle in your bells, and your way to lean over that blade of grass and whisper: grow, grow.

FREE GOODNESS:

1. Give blood. It doesn't hurt. Or it you do think it hurts, it only hurts for 2 seconds. And then you get a cookie and some juice, you baby. To find a local blood bank: Visit Give Life 


2. Sign up at Volunteer Match to make an impact in your own zip code. This service provides a number of options to get involved. Its good for your heart, your soul, and one less reason to sit on the couch eating holiday snack mix. 


3. Use your brilliance to help at-risk students. Do you know over a million teens drop out of school annually? Sign up to tutors and assist at-risk classrooms for 10 months at City Year.   
4. You know those many frocks you have harbored in your closet? Some since that holiday party in 2005? Give your closet some breathing room while doing something wonderful for a high school student. You can donate any gowns/special occasion dress (and accessories) to Princess Project which will coordinate and prep your gear for a young lady to wear to her high school prom.

5. Manly friends and friends with access to a manly closet, you are not excluded. Any gently used office attire for men can be used by Career Gear which helps men down on their luck on job-hunting, interview skills and loans them clothes to do their best at the interview. 

6. Donate a day of your life to help a struggling family. Women Build, a part of Habitat for Humanity, has over 25 sites that assist low-income families to get into a house. Get your gloves, grab your hammer, and make a difference. It will be a day you never forget.   

7.  I shared this last year and it is still awesome. A charity I am very close to is Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Even if you live as far away from here as possible, you can agree no one would choose to see their child/grandchild/sibling or any child they loved hospitalized, ESPECIALLY at the holiday time. CHOA expects over a thousand kids to be hospitalized this holiday season. What can you do?  Send a short note to help them meet their goal of providing a note to every child in their care during this time. Visit Share With Children's to send your message. OR, find your local children's hospital on the web and do something similar.

8. Mentor/coach/tutor a future writing superstar at 826 National  which now has 8 nonprofit writing centers which helped over 29,000 students last year! Many of you are writers so let your talent shine as you encourage and help guide creative writing talents in students age 16-18.

9. Sign up to volunteer to play bingo with Seniors. You will be elderly one day too and if you don't have all the kick and vigor you once did, you might be in an assisted living venue. Regardless of age, people still want to engage, laugh and have fun. JMac and I did this one afternoon and it was hilarious. When one sweet, tiny elderly Southern Belle won Bingo, she yelled, "SWEEEEEET JESUS!" I still smile every time I think of it.

10.
Sign up to volunteer with Kids Enjoy Exercise Now  and become a one on one volunteer to teach kids or young adults with physical and developmental disabilities about noncompetitive sports. Their motto is "Accepting Every Child" which is outstanding.

11. 
Donate shoes (you know you have more than you can ever wear!) to Share Your SolesYou can also pony up a buck to provide laundry soap to wash 30 pairs of shoes.  

12. Donate your old cell phones to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Go to the site and click under Take Action and then Donate.

13.
For those with little time but big interest, visit this site I found last year Sparked. Its a microvolunteering network that matches you and your passions with different opportunities. Guess what? Some of these tasks take MINUTES like snapping a pic of a local park safe for kids to play.) 

14. Get involved. To start, visit Do Something which is a fantastic website. Their motto: Powering Offline Action.  Find service projects in your zip code. They also encourage you to engage your teenage family members to get involved in philanthropy. Their aim is to inspire the next generation of “doers”. You can also find local events/charities/nonprofits to support at Do Good ChannelYou can also visit All For Good which helps you find AND share opportunities to do good. I typed in our zip code and found almost 1000 opportunities. AMAZING.   
 
15. Play Free Rice and every correct vocab word you identify, 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program. This is an addictive game so put on your SmartyPants and get to it.  You can also play Free Kibble and for every correct answer, they add 10 pieces of dog food for an animal shelter in need. You need a break from playing Angry Birds, don't you?

16. 
For a minimum of one hour a week for one year, you could mentor an at-risk teen online at I Could Be. You can give guidance and help a teenager reformat their life, goals, and self-confidence.


SMALL DONATION RELATED GOODNESS


17. This could almost count as free goodness, but for $2 (yes, you read that correctly, TWO dollars) you can buy a set of drumsticks for a low-income public school student learning to play the drums at Little Kids Rock. If not because you have a little rock and roll in your own heart, do it because that is one awesome name for a charity. 


18. Did you know over 67 million children in the world are NOT attending elementary school. For $25, you can help Pencils of Promise sends a child to school for almost 3 months. Pony up $118 and they can attend for the year. Remember every time you griped about not wanting to go to school? You would NEVER feel that way if you didn't have the option.

19. Visit  Senhoa which hires survivors of Sex Trafficing and teaches them work skills (like making jewelry which is available on the site) to safely transition back into society.


20.  Almost 5o millions Americans are facing serious hunger problems. $21 to Feeding America will feed a family for TWO WEEKS. has been doing great service for seniors in the US since 1954. While you are at it, Meals on Wheels needs your help too. $14 will provide two nutritious meals delivered by volunteers to a housebound senior. You can also learn more about them if you want to volunteer. They have the largest volunteer base in the world and they still need help. 

21. For $25 to Why Hunger you can not only get a salad on the table of an at-risk teen, you can get that teen on a healthy path. Why Hunger focuses on helping needy kids not only grow produce for their own dinner table, but take that produce to farmer's market and help them foster independence, work acumen and a means of supporting their families. 

22. 
For $20, you can supply a blanket, book and stuffed animal or toy through Project Night Night to one of the over 300,000 kids living in homeless shelters right now. You can donate baby blankets, stuffed animals, and children’s books to this group as well.

23. With the alarming increase of bullying in schools, send $25 to Stand for the Silent  run by Laura and Kirk Smalley, who lost their son Tyler due to incessant bullying. Your donation will help support Kirk's many speaking engagements and seminars to end bulling and promote anti-bullying training for youth and schools. Bullying is not to be tolerated. It starts as early as kindergarten. 

24. One of my all-time FAVES: Give a loan that will change a life. For as little as $25 at Kiva.org you can help men and woman all over the world start businesses. You can choose your cause and donate through this peer-to-peer program. You can also watch the progress of your recipient. You will be paid back as well but that is the least important aspect.
25. You can't live a day without internet. Imagine it a luxury you could not enjoy. You can make it a reality for Afghan women. $25 to Young Women for Change donates a desk to the first ever female-only Web Cafe in Kabul. 

26. Always on the list are options to support soldiers. Just a tiny $4 contribution to Cell Phones for Soldiers will provide two hours of prepaid phone service for a soldier overseas to call home. You can also donate your old cell phones to them for recycling and they will use the proceeds to buy calling cards for troops. Awesome. This charity was actually started by teenage siblings. 
27. You are not a bit surprised 50% of this country's youth are obese. It is tragic. $50 to Action for Healthy Kids buys PE or Athletic equipment for struggling school districts.

28. Help the teachers who are educating our children and the future leaders of the world! At Donors Choose, you will be connected online to classrooms in need. You can search by projects and view long lists provided by teachers regarding classroom needs. Everything from writing utensils, science equipment and musical instruments. It doesn't even need to be said how sad it is that teachers are paying out of their own pockets in many school districts for necessary supplies. As the mother of a kindergartener, I can not believe the amount of supplies we are asked to give because the school district does not provide them. YIKES.

29. Donate a minimum of $10.00 to Pajama Program  which provides new jammies and books for kids in orphanages, group homes, and shelters who are waiting to be (or hoping to be) adopted. To date, they have given almost ONE MILLION books and pjs to kids who need them. 
 
30. Go to Best Friends and make a small donation to help this organization dealing with thousands of displaced pets. Your money can help set up shelters, prepare furry friends for adoption, or have microchips put into the animals. You know the unbelievable hurricans

31. Teen Mom shows? Vomit. The reality is, somewhere our young girls are seriously misguided in this country but there is help available to young moms. And sometimes, the right information can turn someone's life around. $50 to the Nurse-Family Partnership will provide coaching and smart information about pregnancy, healthy habits and smart parenting to FIVE first-time young moms. 

As I wrote for the past three years in closing, just think of the impact if everyone who read this simply picked one of these options? Talk about the love! Lets act. Let it be the minimum we do this year.  


Cheers to a gorgeous holiday season, JennyMac

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bye bye Turkey...

We went to Seattle for Thanksgiving. BRRRRRR. Thankfully I had giant coats. We spent the holiday with my siblings, a group that has not been in the same place at the same time in a VERY long time. MiniMac loved it. And he went on some seriously amazing adventures. The most awesome being this:


Indoor Skydiving? As a wee one? As my little brother so succinctly put it, "Yet ANOTHER thing I was not doing at age 5."

The only reason I am thankful Thanksgiving is over is I am simply not a fan of Thanksgiving food. The resulting good news is, this isn't a growth holiday for me. As in, my arse sees no growth. But we had a spread, let me tell you. And I am thankful to be back in Warmlanta where it is going to be 65 today.

There is so much to be thankful for. I know this everyday. I am happy, I am loved. I love others. Life is good. I hope you all had a great holiday as well. And while I was home, I was reminded of this story. Too good not to share again.

True Story:

During our sophomore year of college, a girlfriend of mine, KK, went home for a week over Thanksgiving break. Her boyfriend was invited home with her for the holiday. Her parents had agreed to this arrangement only if he stayed in the younger brother's room. Right.

Upon his arrival days before Thanksgiving, he placed his overnight bag and backpack in their entryway. Later, in effort to help him take his bags upstairs, KK picked up his backpack by the bottom. Unfortunately it was only partially zipped and overstuffed with books he would never take one look at during the break. Gravity and weight working against her, the zipper flew open and the contents emptied into the foyer. To which her younger brother, about 12 at the time, spied some contraband and shouted, "MOM, ROB HAS RUBBERS IN HIS BAG." KK was mortified as most 19 year-olds would be. Rob's mortification doubled hers. Her Mom, walking in from the kitchen, spied the bedlam as well and then decided Rob could sleep in the basement.

On Thanksgiving, with a slew of family over for dinner, the group has a great dinner as KK’s Mom and Dad are both fantastic cooks. For the dessert bonanza, her five year old little sister presented a pie she had made as a special surprise. Mom assisted in most of the utensil and ingredient assembly. The 5 y.o. called around the corner to ask the Mom where she could locate the main ingredient, pumpkin, which her Mom said “look for the orange can in the cupboard.” Surprise pie made, she was so proud of her creation. When it was cut open and plated, her Dad was the first to sample. After one bite, the Dad halted all other taste-testers. “Honey, what did you use to make the pie?”
“Whip cream!”
“What else?”
“Punkin!”
“Can you show me the Pumpkin can?”
All eyes at the table ever so curious….the little sister returns from the kitchen with an empty can. Canned pumpkin not the ONLY orange can in the cupboard. Was the surprise the pie itself? Or was the surprise that her sister had made a pie of wet cat food and covered it with Cool Whip?
Thankfully, after the laughter subsided, there were other pies to eat. At least the spilled rubbers in the foyer were forgotten about...

And finally, after dinner and ready to be strewn about the downstairs den watching football and family games, KK’s Mom opens the basement door to let the dog up who had been sequestered during Thanksgiving dinner revelry and Cat Pie a la mode. The dog races up ever so enthusiastically as the family files downstairs. KK’s Father, first in line, is quick to discover someone didn’t leave the guest bathroom door closed and the dog got into and traipsed the garbage can contents about like tinsel on a tree. He was also the first (of many) to discover that certain visiting holiday guests apparently didn’t learn in college that you flush used condoms down the toilet and DO NOT put them in the garbage can wrapped in tissue.

KK instantly wished they were back at the table eating cat food pie. Rob planned to pack his bags and immediately vacate the household. Nothing like observing evidence of someone's active sex life to combat the tryptophan.

What was KK most thankful for that year? When Thanksgiving ended. And of course, in later years, she could appreciate three very memorable stories all of which summarized by her family as the "Poor Rob" weekend. Even long after Rob was but a memory.

I hope your holiday was just as lively.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to vote on Election Day

I wish I was more excited about this election. I wish I had the feeling of hope, ambition and belief I held four years ago. The simple fact is, I don't. And won't. But I am still voting because it is a right I have labored from other people's hard work AND it gives me license to discuss politics for the next four years. (People who dont vote should zip it.)

Politics in general is an unsavory topic in my family. 'God Bless America' is perhaps the only mantra we agree on when it comes to country. Oh, and God Bless our Troops. I am a registered Republican but I believe in choices so perhaps I am a very liberal Republican. I also decline to write about politics in my blog because, well, political opinions are just like standard opinions, which are just like a-holes as in, everybody has one.

The only reason I am writing about politics today is because of a very interesting conversation I had last night with MiniMac.

We have been discussing elections, voting and the voting process in our house for a week or more. MiniMac knows Barack, Michelle and Joe Biden (who isnt particular interesting or "know-worthy." He has also learned about Mitt Romney. His class has also been discussing various components of the election. Last night, he let me know how it is.

MiniMac: Tomorrow is Election Day.
Me: Correct.
MiniMac: I am voting for Mitt Romney.
Me: Really? How did you decide?
MiniMac: I like his hair style.
Me: Really???
MiniMac: And he seems very put together.
Me: Do you know anything about him?
MiniMac: He likes granola. And riding horses.
Me: Do you know anything about Barack?
MiniMac: He likes to play basketball.
Me: You were a fan of Barack before, right?
MiniMac: He already has his turn.
Me: So most people vote based on the concept that a candidate supports and believes in the same thing they themselves support and believe.
MiniMac: For example?
Me: Voters consider their beliefs on education, welfare, government control, healthcare, guns.....
MiniMac: I am not allowed to play with guns!
Me: Right. I'm just letting you know typically you want to map your beliefs to a candidate's beliefs and that is how you choose.
MiniMac: I don't think I am ready to get into that right now.
Me: Perfect.
MiniMac: I am voting for Mitt. Can we make doughnuts now?

I wish the election was that simple. But sometimes the levity is all we need. Get out and vote. And yes, bring on the doughnuts.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

40 Things To Say Before You Die

I just flew back late last night from NYC. Oh, I love the Apple. Plane time can be a multitude of activities for me. Sometimes, its an interesting conversation with a stranger. Most of the time I focus on work. Yesterday, I opted for decompression and enjoyed two hours of perusing  Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Harper's Bazaar (I had to work some couture and gorgeous shoes in there.)
I read a particular article in Forbes which really resonated. Simple yet thoughtful, it was a good cause for genuflection. It is not a two minute read, but I think you will really enjoy it. By Jessica Hagy, I am sharing in its entirety here. Have a great weekend.


40 Things To Say Before You Die


Before you’re sprawled on your deathbed, there are some things you really have to say. They’re not complicated. They’re not poetry.
They’re just short sentences with big meaning.
I hope they get you talking.

40
“I wonder.”


Give yourself time to think so the time you spend doing things will be better spent.


39
“Today was good.”



If you can say it once, you can say it again. And again. And again.


38
“I believe in this.”


 
A god, a plan, a company, a person, an idea—you have to put your faith in something.


37
“I’m not finished.”

 

Only you get to decide when your life’s work is done.


36
“Thank you for making this possible.”

 

Because nobody does anything alone. We’re driven and supported and thwarted by others at every turn.

35
“That’s enough.”


 
Food. Drink. Episodes of Law & Order. Pairs of shoes. Overtime. Articulating your own limits is powerful.

34
“I can do better.”

 
As soon as you say it, you’re that much closer to making it true.

33
“I’m sorry.”

 

But you can’t just say it; you have to mean it. Really mean it.

32
“I survived.”




Moments of danger are the plot points of an exciting life.

31
“You’re amazing.”



Let yourself be in awe of another person, and you’ll feel strong and weak simultaneously.

30
“I am home.”




Home is every adventure’s final destination and starting point—and we all need one to call our own.

29
“I did my best.”



If this is true, you did something amazing.

28
“How can I help you?”



Because you want people to come to your funeral, and if they can’t make it, at least they’ll miss you.

27
“I’m lucky.”



You are lucky, in a way that no one else is. Now, what are you going to do with your good fortune?

26
“I want that.”

 
Ask for it: that’s you get what you covet—from others and for yourself.

25
“This is wrong.”



If you never say it, you embody the statement.

24
“I quit.”



Not everything is worthwhile, and sometimes we don’t find that out until we’re in the middle of a rotten situation.

23
“Isn’t this beautiful?”


 
The more often you notice the gorgeous world around you, the happier you’ll be.

22
“Congratulations.”
undefined

Say this without jealously. Practice if you have to.



21
“Damn, I look good.”


 
You come from a long line of people who convinced others to sleep with them. Remember that.


20
“I can master this.”

 
The ability to learn is the foundation of every other talent.

19
“Hold the mayo.”

 
Ask for the little things on a regular basis and you’ll find that it’s easier to make larger demands on occasion.

18
“This is who I am.”


 
The nervous energy spent pretending to be something you’re not is better spent on practically anything else.

17
“Get out.”



It’s always harder to take back an invitation than to give one, but protecting yourself from personified trouble is always worth the effort.

16
“That was my contribution.”




Own what you’ve worked to create—that’s how your presence will be felt long after you’re gone.

15
“I’ll try it.”

 

Consider the impotence of never saying you’ll try.

14
“Tell me more.”



Really getting to know someone (or some topic) will help you better triangulate your own place in the world.

13
“This is my favorite thing.”


Enjoy what you love and say this as often as you can.


12
“I earned this.”



There’s a layer of proud ownership over everything you possess that wasn’t merely given to you.

11
“I don’t care.”

Being able to discern between what’s important and what’s trivial is a skill that will save your sanity and your schedule.


10
“Your secret is safe with me.”



Because it feels deep-down good to be trustworthy.

9
“Eureka!”



Being the first to know something is a delicious sensation.

8
“Let’s go!”


 
Where you’re going often matters far less than the enthusiasm you have for the trip.

7
“I trust you.”



We all need allies, and admitting as much helps forge alliances.

6
“I don’t know how to do this.”



It’s better to admit it and learn than to fake it and embarrass yourself.

5
“I’m terrified.”



 
Fear is an asset. It can save you from danger and alert you to trouble. Don’t ignore the tingles that run up and down your spine.

4
“This is going to work.”


When this is said truthfully, it’s an assertion of power.

3
“I made a decision.”



Autonomy transforms any activity from a chore to an act of destiny.

2
“I love you.”
undefined

We all want to say this, and we all want it said to us.

1
“I understand.”




More important than being right, or being important, is being truly aware.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Take A Bite Of: Peach Gazpacho

Summer seems to last for 9 months in the South. It is going to be another glorious day here and I am still in summer mode. Summer to me is great fish dishes, great fruits and my one of my favorite soups of the year, gazpacho. With some excess peaches on hand a few weeks ago, I concocted a little recipe making a play on gazpacho. This soup was bursting with fresh flavors where every sip tasted like summer to me. And to give it a little kick at the end, I added one of my favorite kitchen items: sriracha. I can't wait to make this again.


From my kitchen to yours, enjoy every bite. Have a fantastic weekend.

 JennyMac's Peach Gazpacho:

In a food processor:

4 large peaches, sliced
1/2 large cucumber
1 small tomato
1/4 c. cilantro
2 T. olive oil
2 T. white wine or champagne vinegar
1 t sea salt
sprinkle of black pepper
1 T. sriracha 

Blend. Add more vinegar, olive oil and sriracha to taste. Chill for an hour. Serve with sprinkle of cilantro, tortilla crumbles or avocado.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Your least favorite co-workers... Part One

Last week in NYC, I attended the going away party of a great colleague. I am happy for his next adventure but people you like should not get to leave your organization. Off he goes and there were cocktails and stories as we celebrated his career here.

It made me realize I have been extrememly lucky to work with some amazing people since I graduated from law school. Some people shy away from office relationships. I get it. I once, and only once, befriended a girl at work who was mess. And I dont mean a mess like when you accidentally knocked some pencils off your desk. I mean mess like you threw a dozen eggs into an industrial size fan. And then dumped the bin of shredded super secret documents all over it. Outside of that, I have always felt it is important to have a friend in the building. One, this reduces how much work bullsh*t you are going to go home and download on your spouse. Two, it is great to have a someone to confer with who also resides in the deal, the same political climate and ever-changing topography of your corporation. Three, great work friends can give you great advice when you need it. 

On the subject of co-workers, there are some simple truths. Simple truths like some co-workers are awesome and some, well,  suck. Embrace the first group, dodge the second group. I have had very little interface with people in the 2nd group but when you do, its a little challenging on the patience. How to spot the bad ones? You don't need my help because the same 'type' of ill co-worker exists in every environment. Lets talk about them now. There are many so here is Part One:

1. The Party-Pants:  A decade ago, we worked with a girl who came to work hung-over. Everyday. I have come to work hung-over too my friends, but you have to mask that illness up. I walked into the building with her once and thought, what is that perfume you are wearing? 180 Proof? When in doubt, lady bug, brush your teeth and at least spray your hair with Febreze! She also had the next day smudgy black eyeliner going on. Smudgy black racoony eye is hot in the morning but morning as in 2 am not 9 am. You can't hang out with Party Pants long-term because you will either pass out from the fumes OR you will get sucked in and start day-drinking on company time. Not wise. Party pants is going to get hammered at the company holiday party. Party pants is going to do shots that night. Party pants is quite like going to sit on the SVPs lap and later slap her own ass on the dance floor.  People have cameras on their phones now friends, dont give photographic proof of your tomfoolery! (More on this to come.) You have to dodge Party Pants. Smile at party pants in the ladies room and politely let her know her shirt is inside out before you depart.

2. The One with Inappropriate Attire: Now I have been chastised by an uber conservative leader for wearing open-toed shoes to work. To this I nodded my head while thinking "Really?" I still did it because I found it a pesky rule and fellow female colleagues needed a pioneer to blaze that trail. Open toed shoes qualify as inappropriate attire only if you work on the surgical floor or in a coal mine. But there is inappropriate attire in the work place for certain. By inappropriate attire I mean clothing worn within a corporate environment meant to highlight:  torso, chest hair, cleavage, visibile thong, a Guinness logo under your button down, ripped jeans, converse sneakers, nipple of ANY kind. I have shared previously that while in a corporate environment a woman showed up to interview carrying a purse with the Playboy logo on it. Come on now. However, HR departments should allow open toed shoes, sleeveless, and bare legs. However, I have known people to be reprimanded for wearing highly fashionable patterned tights (too sassy?) yet one of the female VPs showed more boob than Mardi Gras.

3. The Enthusiast: I love a colleague with a festive attitude. I love vim and vigor. I love cameraderie. What gets a little challenging is The Enthusiast who wants all things from NCAA tournament brackets to the company bowling alley to be treated like Survival of the Fittest. I played on a company flag football team once with this person. I am quite competitive but The Enthusiast was the Bobby Knight to my 3rd string red-shirted freshman. The Enthusiast barked orders from the sidelines. The Enthusiast scolded people for failing to dive for flags. The Enthusiast wanted people to pay in pushups and laps for failing to make plays. The Enthusiast is always the one person going way over the top. If the Enthusiast wants you to buy wrapping paper from his kid, he really means 20 rolls. If The Enthusiast wants you to  run with him at the Corporate 5K, he really means you better win. The Enthusiast is competitive in every arena.

4. The Curmudgeon: Why are some people so grumpy? There is always one. I guess you don't really like your job. Or life. Try smiling. Just once. There is a super grumpy old man at my son's school who runs the car drop-off lane every morning. You know what I don't really enjoy in lieu of GOOD MORNING? His super grumpy demeanor. And it is not as if this is a one-off. He is this way on an ongoing and committed basis. Hey Frowny, others are worse off than you. Oh, you don't like kids? You are in the wrong job my friend. As for the other salty curmudgeons, I don't get your pent up anger and vinegar. Oh, its not pent up because you actually share it daily. I will steer well clear of you. And I certainly understand that some people are down in life because of unforeseen circumstances and plight. But I also met a 65 year old woman at a 5K once who upon completion cried jubilantly, "I have breast cancer and I just rocked that race!" Perspective is everything. 

5. The Constant Complainer: Oh boy, CC, you have a lot of things to say, don't you? I completely understand and empathize with complaints like "I cant believe we are losing 50% of our employees" or "It is unfair we are not appreciated" or "Working for a mean, crazy person is certainly challenging."  But I have heard some interesting complaints over the last 10 years. By interesting I mean 'weak' which include but are not limited to:

Why did they take our bottled water away and replace it with a water cooler? Really? You are complaining about the free water? AND you are complaining about your company making an effort to reduce waste and plastic consumption? You suck. 

Why did they take the TV out of the staff meeting room? Really? You need constant access to TV during the work day? Unless you work in television, you need to focus. OR, if you simply must watch television during the day so you can sneak a glimpse of what is happening on Days of our Lives, use your phone like everyone else.

I can't believe I had to move out of my office! I once changed offices three times in one year and then went from office to a cube because the rules of who 'gets' an office changed. I was on the phone with a friend during the middle of one particular move. My friend asked why I was moving. Umm, because they told me to...He said, "I wouldn't." Well, that was not an option. He went on to say that you cannot make people move offices. Yes, in fact, you can. Listen, it is not a fun task but it is also not the building you own. And it is not your living room. Move offices and don't bitch about it. I will say, I smartened up after multiple moves and every move I simply decreased what I was moving so by the end, I was moving a pencil and a phone charger. Easy peasy.

Where are the bagels and jelly doughnuts we used to get in the break room? You are right up there with water bottle guy. I love that free snacks are a big hit with virtually everyone. I think it is hilarious when there IS free food and people complain about it because they don't like it. Stop lazing round the break room and get back to work then!  Unless "free bagel' or 'free food must be approved by Jeff' is written in your contract, zip it. Hop on down to Einsteins and pick up some snacks so you can satisfy your need and be the snack-time hero. 

I can't believe they cut our bonuses!!!! This one might be dicey for some. I love the bonuses. I love surprise cash. I also love the definition of what the word bonus actually means: Something paid over and above what is due. Bonuses are always part of the talk track when you are talking terms in a job interview sequence but they are rarely actually a guaranteed part of your compensation. Believe me, my stance on this surprises even me. But I have heard people rail on their companies about reduction of bonuses. I don't love it but the bonus is like a promise ring, they are not a commitment for life.

Why isn't my work email private! That is a silly question. Your work is email is NEVER private. Ever. Don't write things you don't want printed and tagged with your photo. Don't talk about your boss, her boss, his boss or people in HR on email. A guy we worked with years ago emailed our new SVP to complain about his direct manager. It was not constructive criticism. It was harsh, unjustified and untrue. The SVPs admin did not like this person so she printed the email and gave it to the manager. Many other people saw it in the process. Have fun getting fired jack ass. 

 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Take A Bite Of: JennyMac's Pumpkin Rice Krispie Treats

Fall kicks off what is my favorite time of year in the kitchen. From October to January, my creativity and interest in cooking and baking is higher than normal so the production of treats (and some that turned out to be not quite my favorites) is historically appreciated by co-workers and teachers at MiniMac's school.

I was unaware until recently such a thing existed as pumpkin spiced marshmallows. As soon as I saw them, I thought it would be an easy twist on Rice Krispie Treats and perfect for the numerous Halloween parties coming forth. So, I tried them. They are awesome. I gave them to many people to taste test (JMac voted a strong no against a pumpkin flavored anything so he is no longer on the judging panel for this particular good.) Even weary people told me they were fabulous. I added a little pumpkin spice as well. Oh, my favorite part? They take about 15 minutes to make. From my kitchen to yours, enjoy every bite.

JennyMac's Pumpkin spiced Rice Krispie Treats

4 T butter
10 oz of pumpkin spiced marshmallows (bags are 8 oz each so buy 2.)
6 cups of Rice Krispies
2 t pumpkin spice

Follow traditional directions to melt butter and marshmallows. I spray my spatula with cooking spray to keep the marshmallow sauce in the pan and not on the implement. Add pumpkin spice and stir.
Mix in Rice Krispies. Add more if you need to balance out the ratio. You dont want them dry and you dont want them oversauced.

Pour into greased 9.5 x 13 pan. I then use a square of parchment paper to press them firmly and flatly in the pan. Let them cool. Share. Eat. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Next time, I think I will pass on the larvae shower...

Oh, the vacation was amazing.....we are sun-kissed, relaxed and had some of the best food and wine.

'I am so happy our fabulous vacation is over' is a statement made by not one person. Ever. We swam, snorkeled, played and had an amazing time with my brother. We did have one teeny tiny mishap though.

We chartered a boat and went off the coast on a perfect, gorgeous day. At one point, two sea lions swam by us and then literally, popped up out of the water and making expressive noises, they then appreared to kiss. It was so memorable that MiniMac wrote about it for one of his homework assignments (oh Kindergarten is tough, you go on vacation and take a stack of work with you.)

My favorite part of said homework assignment? The picture he drew of the sea lions kissing. And when I asked which one is the female, he said, "The one with eyelashes like you." Love!


But at our snorkel location, I assure you there were no sea lions kissing. About 1 minute in, MiniMac and I see several Angel Fish and Clown Fish. Through his snorkel, he attempts to exclaim, "NEMO!" which you know, comes out more like mmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMM. 5 minutes into the trip, MiniMac starts yelping. He wont remove his snorkel so we can't determine the issue. 2 seconds later I say in my inner monologue, what the H is that??? as I am stung multiple times on my arm. MiniMac is now crying full on with a face full of snorkel and mask. We are only about 50-75 feet from the boat, so I basically grab the back of his life jacket and began propelling him through the water in front of me. Have you pushed a crying 5 year old through the water before while wearing your own snorkel, mask and fins and basically swimming with one arm?  It doesn't look like Le Reve, let me promise you. His cries are not simmering to a whimper either, he is full throttle crying which we see about once per year.

The crew yanks him out of the water and he cant even tell me before I see that what ever has stung me on my arm, has also attacked the top of his leg and his foot. In the past he has had allergic reactions to bugs to my first reaction "Baby, I am right here to help you." My second thought was, "OH F_____." It looked like a hundred little jelly fish bites. The captain told us they were sea fleas. Really? What is THAT?" I googled it and learned one version is they are jelly fish larvae but since they are found no where near actual jelly fish, people don't expect them. That is the power of the ocean and how a tin can in the water off Seattle can end up in San Diego. The captain quickly says he has a remedy on board. Since I have been stung by a jelly fish before, I learned the 'remedy' is urine. Oh, I dont even want my own urine on my arm, so PLEASE do not come back with a sprayer full of someone else's urine to compensate for the welt and the pain. He returns with a can of Coke. I begin to douse MiniMac's leg. Finally, he calms down. We wait several minutes and then I decide, the best way to overcome the situation since we know how much he loves the water, is to get right back in.
He says, "No thank you." Daddy and Uncle Hi Pie stay on the boat so I get back in with one of the crew and we hope that MiniMac will see it is fine and decide to get back in momentarily. He opts out.

Now, believe me. I am not Chuck Norris so the creatures of the sea aren't going to run away in fright. And in fact, my arm hurts like a firecracker blew up my skin so I am wary of additional dancing with sea fleas, but I go. And thankfully I did. We end of swimming with a school of hundreds of Angel Fish. Deep breath. Get over your fears. And swim. It was beautiful.

I am going to contact a marine biologist I know and get to the bottom of the sea fleas. And next time I will pass on the larvae shower.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Johnte's Inferno (subtitle: How much does that burn?)

Buenos dias chicos y chicas!

I am on the beach in gorgeous Cabo San Lucas.  JMac squared + MiniMac rolled in Saturday am with my little brother, HP.  This grandiose trip has been planned for over a year and oh, my, I do love a sandy beach and a delicious cocktail.  By the way, I am not a day-drinker so I am fine with one single delicious cocktail during daylight hours.

In planning for the trip, JMac has secured a gorgeous multi-bedroom penthouse for our crowd. LOVE IT. We had the best time here last trip and of course, a few stories resurfaced.  Long ago I told a story of my fabulous husband and his cross-up with fire. Here to delight you is a recap:

Last trip to Cabo, our posse of five rolls into a truly authentic Tortilleria on old San Jose del Cabo. So authentic in fact, our college sophomore level of Spanish doesn't get us past pollo, bisteca, and camaron. The entire place is inhabited by only locals except for us. We love authentic cuisine and sought out a place recommended to us and when we came across this joint, oh, even better. Since we were going to end up with who knows what on plates, I did seek the help of two American ex-pats and we end up ordering some of the best food we ate in Mexico.

All great, right?

With the fifteen plates brought to our tables (those boys were hun-gry) came a bowl of peppers. You don't need to be fluent in la lingua to know peppers are peppers. That is what your vision is supposed to help you with. If those peppers have been soaking in some Mexican au jus, you better proceed with caution. We love the spicy, so no one is afraid to test the waters.

Now, JohnnyMac already had a bit of dispute with a pepper on a previous night, and sweat was almost coming out of his eyeballs. I have a fantastic threshold for the spicy so I dig in and am not affected a bit.  JMac prepares to play pepper roulette from the bowl of jalapenos, cayennes, serranos, and a few mystery peppers.

First pick, probably a serrano which you may know has significantly more capsaicin than your average jalapeno. So on the "Oooooo that's hot" scale (aka Scoville), Serrano will hurt your feelings if you try to be too sassy. And even if you are the world's best pepper eater, and you love spicy food, and you can eat anything, careful, these peppers are not comparable to what you might purchase at your local Publix grocery.

With a few burning, stinging tongues, we enjoy our meal and as JohnnyMac dips back in the bowl of fire, I remind him that no part of his fingers shall touch our precious child's face, arms, legs, or hands. I say this because our son wants nothing more than to sit on Daddy's lap. JMac mildly scoffs at me as if I need a reminder he didn't just become a Daddy on the way to the Tortilleria.

We are wrapping up, and JohnnyMac goes to take a restroom break but first hits the wash basin sitting on the side of the restaurant. Ahhh, in Mexico when devouring peppers, wash hands FIRST before going to the lav. So smart, Senor!

JohnnyMac returns and we are all midway through some funny story when he blushes ( I think...I wasn't entirely sure but his face got RED). He then excuses himself. When he returns, he painfully admits that he apparently transferred some of that capsaicin from his hand onto his organ. What? I am sorry, what did you do? You got hot pepper on your business?

Later when I told a friend this story (over guffaws after guffaw) she asked me if perchance JMac had been drinking all day? No. Confused? No.

Thorough with his hand-washing? Another NO.

So we watch as JMac turns multiple shades of I-yi-yi-yi-yi because he has peppered up his peeper. My oh MY, the jokes we launched at him couldn't come fast enough. His poor midsection was contorting like a Mexican version of Cirque du Ole' and once I knew it wouldn't fall off, I could do nothing more than laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh.

We got in the car and heading back, after laughing some more, basically in his face and at his expense, I asked if there was anything I could do to help.

He replied from a still contorted position, "I need to return to our place and place my _______ in a bucket of ice." 

Now that, is some holy pepper. Pay heed all who follow in these footsteps. Now, an hour later or so I knew he had fully, ahem, recovered when he turned to me and said, "You have my permission to blog about this."

Oh honey, I had half of it written in my head in the first 10 minutes. This gives "en fuego" a whole new meaning.

Watch yourselves and have a gorgeous week. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Failure to maintain lane

Recently I had the opportunity to interact with the City of Atlanta Police Department. I did not request this opportunity and I certainly did not enjoy the opportunity when it was pressed upon me. I received not one but two tickets. Ticket 1: Crossing the gore. Do you know the gore? Of course you don't. The only gore you know is Al because thanks to him, we have the internet. The gore is the triangle formation when one lane merges into another OR the triangle area when you move from one lane into a turning lane. Because I did put my wheels in the triangle, I crossed the gore. I also received a ticket for failure to maintain lane because I was in the triangle. So if you put your wheels into the triangle shape, you are out of your lane. This will cause you to pay an additional 350.00 and then question the officer silently are you &$%#((@^!!!! kidding me?

But failure to maintain lane might be an opportunity to make lemonade of lemons. Let me explain.
When I run with MiniMac, MiniMac likes to run in a straight line as quickly as his little body can move. Until he starts to run diagonally. My commentary to him during his cut and weave which usually puts him directly in my line, "maintain your lane, buddy." When MiniMac played football, he and his teammates would run drills. Sometimes those lines were straight and sometimes they would dive bomb in front of one another causing confusion and sometimes crashing bodies. My commentary during football drills turned toddler mosh pit, "maintain your lane!"

But 'maintain your lane' is applicable to a much wider audience than 5 year old kids at football or drivers. It actually applies to many other people. People you know who fall into a special category. Do you know what that category is? The category of Busy Bodies. I believe this expression was popular in the 70's but wow, it is still applicable today. The BB's are that officious intermeddler who isn't actually present to help. BBs get in the way because they come in your lane. We had a BB in our neighborhood years ago nicknamed "Mrs. Roper" because she was a yapper, a gossip and a busybody. I think we are all confident that you would prefer the nickname "Porkchop" over the nickname "Mrs. Roper." Our Mrs. Roper didn't like to maintain her lane. She liked everyone's lane but her own.

I think maintaining your lane is a wise idea. I did not want to maintain my lane yesterday when in the elevator at the hotel I stay at in NYC almost every week, a woman was irate at the front desk clerk because he "lied to her and told her she had to pay for wi-fi" even though TA DA she clearly had wi-fi on her phone. She was going off about this from Lobby level to floor 44 where I got out. I wanted to say, "He didn't lie ding-dong, your iPhone picks up the signal for wi-fi but you have to PAY to access it." Did I say this? NO. It might have helped but I doubt it. That's maintaining your lane.

Personal exposure to failure to maintain lane:

1. Woman in the bathroom at the airport in St. Maarten who told me I wasnt drying my hands properly under the hand dryer. Really? Are there 20 options and I have chosen the weakest, most inefficient method? NO. Unless you saw me vigorously rubbing my hands under that heat wave while simultaneously pouring water on them, I think I have it covered. Now, maintain your lane.

2. Lady in Starbucks who told me I 'should not make my son grow up an only child'.  WOW. Thanks for helping me make a decision about having another baby. JMac and I are not sure. Oh, what's your name again lady? I forgot we were close friends. Oh, and you know who doesn't agree with the "only child is lonely child" philosophy? All of your siblings who probably wanted to vote you off the island at one point. Please maintain your lane.

3. The woman in Macy's who told the customer service clerk her hair color was "too dark for her skin tone." The girl could not respond to the customer because she works there and sassing back is probably verbotten in the company handbook. Therefore, I will say it for her:  Thanks for the coiffure tips Frederic Fekkai, might a friendly helper let you know that you are outside your lane? Oh, and your rude. Oh, and your lipstick is BRIGHT tangerine and the only girls pulling that off are super gorgeous ones.  Back in your lane and zip it when you get there.

4. And the other Mom of an elementary school child, I appreciate your helpful insight. MiniMac has started kindergarten. After school, his former private school picks him up for after-care. We went to school to watch the transition from classroom to holding area to private school van pick up. We stepped into the hallway and of course, MiniMac was super excited to see us. The other Mom, standing on the sidewalk motions us to come back outside. Are we old friends? Is my tag out? Let me go see. She wanted to let me know that I didnt need to be inside. She too was "once where we are" and had a child start school. She "knows it is very hard" but you can not "smother your child" in the process. She wanted me to know that I am not to "interfere" with the "bell to bell instruction" and that we need to "let our son learn to take instruction from other people."

After all that, I smiled at her, patted her on the arm (hoping to transfer condescension in the process) and said, "We just went in to get out of the rain." I turned on my kitten heel, and went back inside. It turns out the teachers who monitor this process are the teachers who run the Accelerated Learning. My favorite part of this story is the ending, in two parts:
a. One of the teachers of the Accelerated Learning program said MiniMac would be a good candidate and asked me to attend a meeting.
b. I apologized to the teachers because clearly, I was infiltrating the sanctity of their domain and usurping their authority. I didnt add those bit but I did apologize. He said, "Don't be silly." So I let him know Helpful Henrietta outside let me in on the deal. He laughed, said, "Ignore her. She's a busybody."  LOVE IT.  The old school reference to people who fail to maintain their lane.








Friday, September 7, 2012

Going to the chapel

JMac and I celebrated our wedding anniversary over waverunners, great wine and outdoor concerts last weekend.  We opted to take MiniMac because he is one of the greatest gifts we have ever received. And well, now we know a five year old contributes in a very different way to a celebration weekend than say, oh, a fabulous bottle of red wine. We had a great, great time together as a family. But as soon as we got home my husband planned a trip to Vegas for us. Apparently, we will have an adult-only weekend-long no-pants party after all. 

For this weekend, JMac once again had some other surprises up his sleeve. His sleeve is notorious for holding great surprises. I love his sleeve. This time, a free pass to the jeweler who custom designed my wedding rings. WOW. I am going to need time to prepare for that...

I think back on our wedding day. It is absolutely amazing to have so many people we love in one place at one time. We were so lucky. 

When planning the wedding, I initially had a guest list over 300 people. JMac stated, "This isn't a tailgate party." Of course it isn't silly, I could not imagine a wedding with canned beer and buffalo chicken dip! But I got his point. So we worked that list down for nine months until it was 100 guests. And that group of people are some of the most amazing people we know.


It is moving to know that for most of us, at the core of who we are, we do believe in love. We want to be seized up, fluttery. We want to be involved and evolved. We want to be part of something larger than the space we alone consume. 

We wrote our own vows. I promised that when I look at him, I will look to see him clearly. And that I will never assume I know everything about him. I also promised to spend my life participating in this relationship. And to treat his love and presence in my life as a gift.
 
But let's be candid. Marriage is hard. There are days we are completely in sync. There have been days one or both of us have wondered 'who IS this person'.
To be patient when you want to be impatient. To be silent when you feel insistent you are right, or your point is more valid. It is hard, and it is easy. It is raw at certain crossroads. At times, it is holding a mirror to yourself. And at other times, it is shows you what you are missing, and makes you a better person. It is honest. And sometimes it is overwhelming. And surely, I have done all of these things well and I have done all of them poorly. But it is by far the most complicated and rewarding relationship you ever have because it is the one you picked. 

Love is a gift. And I hope I am fully living my promises. Sam Keen said Love isn't about finding the perfect person. Its about seeing the imperfect person perfectly. 

And so, in the minutes I may not be living my promises, when I feel that distractions, or other priorities are valid excuses for making my marriage second tier, I want to keep in mind: that both of us, with our imperfections, are better as a team than we could ever be as individual. 

And now, as we are raising a son, a little man who is proof that goodness that is pure and true exists, what we strive for as his parents is that everything good about him is not only a reflection on us, but a reflection of us. And this is another really great goal to have.

Sometimes love misses it mark, but not the day we got married. It is late on Friday afternoon. I know I should be working and planning for my crazy travel week next week. Apparently, I would rather write about love. 

Happy Anniversary JMac. I am celebrating all we have done and all still in store for us.