Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The SAHM Experiment: I really suck at being a mom



I don't have enough fingers to count the amount of times today that I yelled at my 3.5 year old to "just leave me alone, I'm trying to do something!"

This kid, who is so aggressively extroverted and who has the imagination of a science-fiction writer thrown in a blender with a fantasy writer, just wanted some attention. He always wants my attention. He never stops talking, even when I'm not in the room. I find him talking to himself frequently when I'm not around, especially if I'm in a bad mood. I am 99 percent positive he is talking to me, but he feels so bad when I growl, "What do you want?!" that he just says he's talking to himself.

During this whole SAHM Experiment so far (we're technically on week #4), I've had some amazing days and I've had some really lousy, "Why am I filled with so much rage toward such tiny people?" moments. It's been demoralizing, embarrassing, and it's given me a terrible bounty of guilt in which I continue to ask myself, "Seriously, you're a mother?"

The thing is, I can easily pinpoint why I suck at being a mom sometimes. It's easy for me to know when I'm going to lose my mind and be a total jerk to my kids. The one thing that causes me to go off the handle and treat my kids like they're employees in The Devil Wears Prada?

Work.

And it's not even like it's earth-shattering, deadline-driven work. It's not like I'm racing to cure cancer or something. It's "Oh did you post this to Facebook?" or "Hey can you let us know when you can finish that flyer?"

Yes, people have businesses to run and livelihoods to consider, but at the end of the day? None of this is an emergency. These adult people won't remember in a month whether a tweet went out at noon or if a Facebook event got posted two weeks prior to the even or three weeks prior to the event.

But my kids? My kids. Sigh.

I'll be honest in that I don't remember much about my childhood. The moments I start remembering are the ones that are painful, hurtful, the ones that make me angry. Why is this? I don't really know. Did I have a terrible childhood? I don't think so. My mom stayed home with us, my dad had a decent job, and we were comfortably middle class until I was in middle school. After that, I remember everything, but what brooding, angsty teenager doesn't?

I have so many regrets about the past two weeks. Not so many about the two weeks we were in England because I was completely and utterly shut off those weeks. I didn't dwell on Facebook (I just plastered photos of my awesome trip) or Twitter, and I didn't obsessively fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. I conversed, I schlepped, I read, I watched British quiz shows, I relaxed, I just was. I was with my family. And it was good. I had patience, I had kindness, I had understanding.

I didn't once tell my kids to shut up because I was working and just needed to finish this one ... last ... thing.

So why do I struggle to prioritize? Why did I sit on my computer this morning instead of sitting at the table while the kids chowed down? Why did I fidget with my phone nervously checking emails instead of ignoring my phone and engaging my kids in something they wanted to do? Why am I so anxious all the time about whether there's something I'm supposed to be doing but I'm not?

I never wanted kids. I always remind people of that. I was always career-minded, career-driven. In one timeline, I would have been on the copy desk at The New York Times by now. Maybe even running the show. Unmarried, living in midtown, my spare time spent in coffee shops and book stores.

When I met Mr. T that all changed. I wanted kids, I don't know why. I wanted kids and to be someone important and influential. I wanted to be a career woman with kids and a happy husband and a perpetually clean house and at some point I was convinced I could do and have all of those things.

What a crock.

The thing is, you can't have it all. Because when you try to have it all, something, someone, usually gets left behind. As I stay home with my kids, all day every day, and as I flee the moment my husband comes home when I can in order to regain some sense of who I am, and as I cry in the car listening to "Glycerine" by Bush and thinking of high school and how I wanted so desperately to be a writer someday ... I realize that I have to stop running at full speed.

I'm 33, almost 34. I've got time. I can't rush through it all and miss something, or someone. I don't want to scream at my kids because my attention is misplaced. I don't want them to see me that way. I want to be able to capture every ridiculous moment and second of who they are.

Yesterday, Little T was eating ants in the backyard. Today, she ate sand at the park and then came home to eat day-old macaroni off the floor. She loves having her neck tickled and kissed and she does laps in the house like it's going out of style. She's so smart. You can ask her to do anything, and she knows exactly how and what to do. "Go get your shoes," "Go find your doggy," "Take a drink of water, please." She's going to rule the world, she is.

Today, Asher told me a story about a "Very Tired Mommy" and her extravagant adventures kicking things, and it somehow ended up with a duck and a policeman. We played a game where he put a Target diaper box on his head and we pretended it was his house, so I'd knock on the door with a Duplo Joker figurine and the Joker would try to sneak his way in. He thought it was hilarious and we did the same thing, over and over, for a half-hour. He's brilliant, my son, creative and silly to excess.

I can't imagine missing out on who my kids are now. I can't wait to someday tell them about the way they were. I just hope they look back and, if they remember, they can say I was good to them. The best I could be.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Garden Lites Veggie Chili & Cornbread

Once upon a time (in 2008), I spent quite a bit of time on Weight Watchers while living in Chicago, and I managed to lose about 25 pounds in that effort. I did this through a pretty strict way of eating, not because I had to, but because it was easy and quick.

I ate a lot of Lean Cuisine, Subway, and some specific meal options from Trader Joe's (I miss their chicken fingers and potato wedges, I'll be honest). Those Lean Cuisines were a gift when I was hungry but couldn't muster the energy or brainpower to make something, but then?

Then I went kosher. Unfortunately, the kosher world has yet to properly hop on the "prepared frozen meal" bandwagon. This probably leaves hundreds of thousands of kosher-keeping Jews out in the dark when it comes to having a healthy, quick, and easy resource for lunch at work, while traveling, or when you're just too tired to come up with something to eat that isn't gross, disgusting kosher fast food (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with kosher fast food).

Then? Then Garden Lites came on the scene. Their products are both kosher and gluten free, which is amazing for someone like me, and they're delicious, which is a tough thing to find in a lot of prepackaged kosher products in the U.S. They had, for awhile, some little souffle-style options, but to be honest, they weren't filling; they weren't a meal.

So, to my amazingly happy and giddy utter surprise, while recently at my local King Soopers, I spotted them ... on sale ... through February 2018!? Holy Moses. Yes, I spotted this:


I bought two boxes of the Veggie Chili & Cornbread (because I love veggie chili) and a box of their Mac & Cheese, too. I was going to do a video review of this, but, well, I was hungry and I inhaled it in all of it's fresh, delicious, non-frozen-food-tasting glory.

I was most amazed by the cornbread, because gluten-free cornbread is often stiff, crumbly, and tasteless, but Garden Lites somehow managed to make the most fluffy, fresh-tasting cornbread I've ever had. This meal doesn't taste like it came out of the freezer, and that's what I love about it the most. The cheesy topping was oozy-gooey, and the chili had the perfect amount of kick, reminding me of a standout Chili Cook-Off-style recipe.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Garden Lites, and I'm really thankful, too. It's not easy being kosher and gluten free sometimes, because there are a lot of convenience foods that are just lacking. Yes, I love getting in the kitchen and whipping up Gnocchi with Eggplant and Mushrooms with a Radish Green and Purple Basil Pesto (no, really, I made this for dinner last night), but with both kids running around during the day, I need something quick, healthy, and filling.

Garden Lites, you've done it. You've finally done it. Please, whatever you do, don't ever lose your kosher certification. I couldn't get through this Stay-at-Home Mom Experiment without you!

(Thought: I might buy a bunch of these and serve them up for Shabbat and see what happens ... is that crazy? Maybe, but, come on, until Garden Lites makes a family-size version of this, what's a mom to do?!)

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Product Details:

Ingredients: veggie chili (diced tomatoes [tomatoes, salt, citric acid], black beans [black beans, water, salt], onion, crushed tomatoes [tomatoes, salt, citric acid], zucchini, broccoli, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, roasted corn, sugar, corn starch, canola oil, lemon juice, sea salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, ancho pepper, chipotle pepper), gluten free cornbread (corn, egg whites, brown rice flour, sugar, corn meal, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), soluble corn fiber, chili powder, salt, xanthan gum, cheddar cheese(pasteurized cultured milk, enzymes, salt). Contains: eggs, milk. Gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Nutrition: (10 points on Points Plus WW System)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Gary Vaynerchuk, Expectations, and the Year of Chavi

I have about a million topics I'd love to write about, and, at some point, I will. It probably won't be any time soon because I'm essentially taking the next month off for family, travel, and more family. But after that? I'm hoping to have a completely clear picture of what I want.

Basically, here's what's happening:

  • I'm pulling both kids out of daycare for the rest of the summer. They're home with me until August 21st full time. (I'm nuts!)
  • When the kids go back to school, they're only in Monday, Wednesday, Friday, so they'll be home with me on Tuesday/Thursday, and I'm officially going to be a SAHM.
  • I'm refocusing my professional world on writing, so I'll be submitting pitches, articles, and hoping to revitalize this blog to the glory it once was ... except it'll probably be a lot of "Holy Crap What Have I Done?" posts. 
  • I'm giving up 90 percent of my social media jobs in order to focus on all the above items. Also? I'm pretty much over social media for business. It's a moving target with zero satisfaction 99 percent of the time. 
  • I'm shutting my LuLaRoe business down in early August (unless some magical epiphany changes my mind). I've been doing it for a year now, and it hasn't made any money and I've fallen out of love with the business model and the hustle. I love a good hustle, but not this one, because it feels like I'm drowning most of the time. When I'm 100 percent in the thick of it, I am happy, but I can't be 100 percent in 100 percent of the time, and that's what the job requires.  So join the Facebook group and stay tuned for the GOOB sale. 
  • We're going to turn the LuLaShed into a She Shed/Guest House, so come visit!
Whew. 

The small jobs I'm holding onto on a consistent basis are going to be a test on my nerves, but I'm holding onto them for good reason. Financially, we still need me to have a consistent monthly income of some variety, because even PT daycare is crazy, unbelievably, unnecessarily expensive. And I'm trying to really focus on the following to get through it all (and yes, I made this graphic):

You see, my problem, even as a contractor, is that I'm constantly disappointed in everyone around me. I have major expectations for everyone, except probably my kids. Oddly enough, my children are the two people in my life who I sort of look at and say, "Nah, they're good." Mr. T was trying to teach Asher how to catch a ball and he wasn't grasping it and I was like, "Whatever. He wants to just play and be goofy, let him." I don't expect Asher to be anything. I know he'll be something, and whatever that is will be awesome because he's such a uniquely unique kid. 

But my husband? I have a million expectations of him. I expect him to clean the dishes in the sink when they pile up because, come on, common sense, right? I expect him to throw laundry in when it's overflowing. I expect him to not leave clothes laying around on the floor. I expect him to put down his phone when the kids are whining and need attention. I expect a lot from him, and I'm always disappointed. This means tension and a lot of unhappy grumpy moments. 

My clients, too. I'm always disappointed in my clients. I have crazy and often ridiculous expectations of everyone. It's not because I'm a snob or holier-than-thou, it's because I believe in a hardcore work ethic and quality. I believe so hard in the hustle and producing amazing, quality work that is practically perfect. That's just how I'm wired. But because of this, I'm disappointed by everyone all the time, and it's probably why some people think I'm a jerk or a snob. Honestly, it's me, not you. 

I usually don't verbalize my disappointment because I know that other human beings are not like Chaviva the human being, so I truck along and often do more work or faster work or internalize all the anger/frustration/disappointment until I melt from the inside out. I take on all the things in order to do them right and in the best way possible, because I get to a point where I think, "No one can do this the way I know it should be done so that the world can accept, love, internalize, and be changed by it." 

Over the past several years, I've gotten better, slowly, but surely, at letting things go. At holding the "Not my circus, not my monkeys" philosophy. I've gotten better about stepping back from things and letting other people man the ticket booth and clean up the messes. It's hard, but I do it. I swallow my thoughts and disappointment and frustration and let it happen. It's hard. It's really, really hard for me. It's why I often work for free or for less than I should, because I know I can do it right, and I can do it quickly. 

But it's also resulted in people undervaluing my work, or not wanting to work with me at all. 

So I read this article by Gary Vaynerchuk, who I consider G-d's gift to people like me. He's at a point in his career where he can say quite literally anything with as many expletives as humanly possible and it's a punch to the gut and people love it. They want more of it. I see a lot of myself in him, but I'm a million years away from Gary Vee is, so I just borrow and internalize his wisdom. Relevant now:
It’s not about being disappointed that people can’t deliver. It’s not a cynical and negative point of view. I actually think it’s a very optimistic point of view. It speaks to my internal confidence and internal gratitude and empathy. Having zero expectations is a cognitive trait that has lead me to become more independent. I don’t need anything from anyone else. I’m not expecting anything. It’s just the way it’s always been. As I get into my early forties I can clearly see it’s been one of the reasons that I’ve been successful in life, let alone business. When you have zero expectations, everything else is just a pleasant surprise.
This is beautiful, because it's better. It's the best. When you have expectations, people will always disappoint you. When you have no expectations, you'll always be surprised, and being surprised is a positive, fun thing. Who doesn't love coming home to a clean house or a giant cake with sprinkles and balloons and all the good and happy things? Nobody, that's who.



So life is changing for me right now. I'm going to write my heart out, I'm going to stop expecting things from people, and I'm going to love my life and stop drowning in stress, disappointment, and anxiety.

It's the year of Chaviva.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Life in Pieces: Am I a Mommy Blogger?

My greatest fear in life is becoming irrelevant. The answer from my Facebook friends, as suspected, was that I'll always be relevant ... to my kids.

When I tell people that I never wanted to be a parent, that's the absolute truth. I was terrified of the parenting mistakes I would make, a product of my environment and all. I was afraid that my anxiety and bouts with depression would be terrible for a child. I was worried that my professional pursuits would always make a child play second-fiddle, resulting in them growing up and hating me. I suppose they're all natural fears or anxieties about having kids, but after my first marriage ended rather depressingly, I realized I probably wasn't going to get married again, and I probably wasn't going to ever have kids, and I was truly okay with that.

But then, of course, the narrative knows that I met Mr. T, got pregnant right away, and now I have two kids (after swearing the moment Asher was born that I'd never have more because of how traumatic it was). And then, after Little T, and juggling two, I once again vowed to never, ever, ever, ever have kids ever again. And I'm okay with that.

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When I started this blog in April 2006, an amazing eleven years ago, I was almost at my Reform conversion, graduating college, and heading off for my prestigious Dow Jones News Fund internship at The Washington Post. I spent a year in Washington, D.C., alone, miserable, and depressed. I walked away from that internship-turned-full-time job without reservation. People told me I was crazy, that people would kill for that job. And now, looking back at that decision to leave, and seeing colleagues still there during all the Trump drama, I have to wonder if I missed out. I loved writing headlines, I loved finessing the copy of amazing reporters who were terrible writers. I was good at what I did.

I left DC for Chicago, for a boy, and ended up spending a little over a year working at the University of Chicago as the "everything girl" for Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman. That 24/7 job is what forced me into attempting Shabbat observance, to deciding to pursue an Orthodox conversion, and to applying and entering graduate school for a master's in Judaic studies from 2008-2010 in Storrs, Connecticut.

During my time there, I met my first husband, got to catalog and inventory hundreds of donated books, including an impressive collection of haggadot, and to fully immerse myself in Judaism and Judaic literature that I so miss. Those were years where the only work I did was schoolwork, because my hours spent cataloging weren't really work, there were a joy. I taught freshman, I graded papers. It was a dream. It gave me a glimpse of a future I thought I could have in academics, as an educator, a researcher, a dreamer.

Then I got married in May 2010, we moved to New Jersey, and I started up at NYU, pursuing my second and third master's degrees in Judaic studies and Jewish education. A year later, my marriage was over, and the academic program was a repeat of what I got in Storrs, so I quit and skipped town for Colorado.

After a year in Colorado working for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, paying off all my debt, and finding myself after going off the derech and back on, I made aliyah in October 2012. While in Israel, I found work as a content writer, social media manager, and wife. But the paid work was inconsistent and unpredictable, my father was sick, and we ended up back in the States in April 2014.

My work in the U.S. was inconsistent until April 2015 when I got a job at a Silicon Valley startup, and I worked there for two years, while taking side projects and freelance one-off gigs to supplement my income. I left that job in February and have been floating since then, dreaming.

Dreaming of being a full-time writer.

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The thing about Mommy Bloggers, is that they're usually Stay-at-Home Moms who have the fodder of finger painting and playdates to inform their posts. Many turn their blogs into money-making enterprises with product reviews and sponsorships. For some Mommy Bloggers, writing is a full-time job, and every moment of life is a potential post waiting to happen.

I took the plunge and the kids will be home with me for two full weeks in August when we return from the UK and, starting August 21st, they'll be home with me every Tuesday and Thursday. My calendar is already full of events through the end of the year: Free days at the museums, library reading time, etc.

The question, I guess, is whether I'll get lost in moments with my children or turn my pen toward being a Mommy Blogger. The angle?

Career-Focused anti-Mommy turned SAHM Mommy Blogger

Yes, the kids are still in daycare three days a week, but my professional pursuits are sort of in limbo right now. I'm over social media and digital marketing. I'm not interested in that grind anymore professionally. I'm still all over it for my personal "brand," but professionally, I don't find great joy in hustling for others.

So my days alone will be writing, writing, and more writing. Cooking. Reflecting. Hopefully just enjoying what I have, where I'm going, who I am.

Or, maybe, figuring out who I am at all and whether being relevant really matters.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The One-Third Life Crisis: Full-Time Hustle to SAHM?

I kind of feel like I've been in a one-third life crisis for awhile now.

Professionally, I've been working in social media since the dark ages. Since leaving The Washington Post 10 years ago, my professional self has existed in the realm of social media, digital marketing, and content, in that order. I spent years hitting lists of influential Twitterers and bloggers, and I turned my personal success in the social sphere into a career.

At first, it was Jewish nonprofits, and then it became for-profits, and then it was more Jewish nonprofits, and, eventually, I ended up working for a well-funded hardware startup in Silicon Valley. It was my dream turned reality, and I was happy. I had autonomy, I was bought into the brand 100 percent, I believed in the vision and the dream. I loved my job. I really, really loved my job.

That job ended in February for reasons that I cannot and will not get into here, and since then, I float through my days with giant question marks above my head. I know that I no longer love social media. It's a 24/7 slog of work that just goes and goes and you never really hit your target. There's always something else, something bigger, something new you have to do to stay relevant.

When my most recent full-time job of two years ended, I realized what I really wanted to do was write. Writing has always been my #1 passion. I've got journals going back to first grade. I used to do slam poetry. My blog used to be an every-day pursuit, sometimes with a multi-day posting schedule. I had so much to say, so much to share with the world.

Now I'm slogging at a few part-time social media gigs, and I'm basically working to pay for childcare. It feels like I've got the boulder on my shoulders and I take one step and fall down under the crushing weight of the rock.

I spent a full-time week doing part-time work, and I fill those hours with my clients because -- even though it's part-time work -- what else am I going to do? I apply for jobs, I pursue and bid on content gigs, and I'm not getting anywhere. My happiest, best day recently was when I wrote a blog post for MazelTogether, and it went up into the world.

The reason I love content is because you research it, you write it, you edit it, you post it, and it's out in the world. Your job is done. What happens after that is up to SEO and SEM masters. Your words fly, they ripple, they're out there. You don't have to constantly hit the copy over the head for months on end trying to make something happen.

So I'm at this weird juncture in my life crisis. We can't afford to continue with daycare at this rate, and I can't continue doing work that isn't satisfying and is only paying the daycare bill. Mr. T is working a more lucrative job now as an electrician (his life's work, it's what he loves B"H), which gives us a bit of leeway, but not much. But every penny I make goes back into daycare, which just doesn't make sense anymore. Especially if I'm not happy, right?

Thus, I'm toying with bringing the kids home part time. Or maybe even full time. I'm not sure yet. Maybe I'll get a nanny (they're cheaper than daycare), or maybe I'll keep them in daycare part time so they can continue being the amazing, social creatures that they are. I'm not cut from the FT SAHM cloth, I know this. But something's got to give.

And, as Mr. T keeps telling me ... I need to reset.

I've been going and going and going and going since, well, since I was 13 (nearly 14) years old and got my first job. Whether in school or working or both, I've been hustling for 20 years. And I'm not happy with it anymore.

I know having my kids home will allow me to focus 100% on them because job responsibilities won't bog me down. I'll be more active and hopefully lose some weight and get healthy. I'll be a present mom and get to enjoy all that my littles have to offer.

At the same time, I worry about losing relevance. I worry about falling even further out of touch with the digital world that nurtured me all these years, that gave me a platform and space to be Chaviva. I worry about not being in the hustle. I'm a working girl, I'm a Lady Boss. I work hard, even when I don't have to or shouldn't. It's just who I am.

Or, maybe, it'll just give me room to grow as a writer. Maybe all that time with my kids will make great fodder.

I need to reset. I need to stop planning everything out. Man plans, G-d laughs, right?