Thank You For Being a Friend

I’m steering away from my timeline goals and editorial calendar a bit these last couple of weeks. The last two weeks have been a bit challenging. I’m working on a freelancing project, my husband is very busy and working long hours, the kids are battling colds, I’m battling a cold, our car broke down, and the list continues.

Through the challenges, I try to remain positive and gain perspective. After a minute feeling sorry for myself, I attempt to quickly remember that it could be worse. These small “bumps in the road” for me are nothing compared with what some others are dealing. I’m also reminded of how blessed I am to have such an amazing support system.

A big part of that support system includes my girlfriends. The last couple of weeks have been a little dim, but my girlfriends reminded me of the bright spots in my life – them.

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

One friend offered great freelancing advice, as well as a much-needed, long conversation of catching up and encouragement.

When our car broke down, another friend – who was hosting an Easter Egg Decorating Party for our play-date group – offered to drive the kids and me to and from her house so that we could join in the fun.

At the Easter Egg Decorating Party, it was great sharing parenting struggles, gaining advice, solving the world’s problems, and laughing with other admirable women.

Even before I started writing Untidy Bliss, I consulted girlfriends for suggestions and thoughts and received great recommendations and amazing support from all of them.

I’ve heard women say, “I’m more of a guys gal because women are so catty, gossipy and cruel.” Maybe some women are, but so are some men. Right? The women I know well and call my friends support each other, encourage each other, are smart, witty, funny, loving, kind, and all-around good.

I’ve had my fair share of experiences with women who are jealous, catty, unkind, and maybe even a little crazy. From those experiences I became a little more guarded. That’s life. I’ve had a few similar experiences with men as well. I’ve learned lessons from these bad relationships that I carry with me. Good and bad. Maybe we need to be just as picky choosing our girlfriends as we are selecting our boyfriends/husbands/significant others.

In college, I joined a sorority and the rugby team. I know this seems like a strange mix, but the more you get to know me, the less surprising that combination will seem. I have three younger brothers. For me, both of these groups served as sisterhoods – amazing sisterhoods.

Rugby allows you to show your true colors. You spend so much time practicing, playing in games, traveling to and from games, and more, that there’s nowhere to hide. You see each other covered in mud, full of bruises, running, sweating, bleeding, angry, crying, vulnerable, aggressive, losing (though not often), and in pain. You also are together laughing, having fun, winning, talking, supporting each other’s accomplishments, and always lending a helping hand.

Your teammates see you at your best and worst and they still love you. When I look back at our college team, we accomplished a lot. Not only did we work hard to succeed on the field, we excelled in the classroom and even became the first women’s rugby team in the nation to be recognized by a university as a varsity sport.

A sorority provides an almost immediate bond and you see first-hand how much powerful women working together can achieve. Running a sorority is like running a small business. You have to raise money to donate to charities, you have to plan events, you have to market those events, you have to recruit new members, and you’re required to participate in intramurals and other activities.

Beyond that, you form life-long friendships, you laugh and have fun and you all pull together for charities and for each other.

Many of my friends from these groups remain my good friends to this day. I continue to see how amazing these women are in life, in relationships, as mothers, as coaches, as businesswomen, as friends, and as sisters supporting, caring for, loving, and being there for one another.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience the power, kindness, love, and support of other women through these mediums, as well as from friends I grew up with, friends from high school, college roommates, friends from different places I’ve lived, and now the mommy sisterhood. They not only are a source of strength, love and support for me, but for many others.

One of the most recent and powerful examples of this “girl power,” is that of a sorority sister who discovered that she has a rare, aggressive form of cancer. She’s a few years younger than me, so I don’t personally know her, but she’s a sister nonetheless, and a few of my friends know her well. One sister sent a plea to as many others as she could, sharing the news and asking everyone to come together to help. Within one week, she received nearly $3,000 to donate to the ailing sister for household needs or medical bills.

This story, as well as my own experiences, reminds me that those who say, “women are catty, gossipy and cruel,” are absolutely wrong. That may be how reality t.v. and other media portray us, but we are so much more.

We are strong, smart, resourceful, reliable, responsible, loving, kind, caring, supportive, beautiful, empathetic, sympathetic, patient, and determined. I’m blessed to have such an amazing group of women in my life. I’m equally grateful that this same group of women serves as a role model to my daughter.

Good girlfriends are important. They encourage you to grow, they provide emotional support, they are honest, they provide comfort, they are loyal, and they offer unconditional love. We all need women with those qualities in our lives to feel content, to feel confident, to feel positive. Likewise, we must always try to pay it forward and be a good friend as well.

If you haven’t found a good group of women who offer these traits and more, I highly recommend you start looking. Join a MOPS group, join a church, join a Meet Up group, or join a gym – wherever you think there are women with whom you can easily connect. It will change your perspective and your life.

Thanks to the beautiful, amazing, wonderful women in my life! I’m truly blessed and forever changed.

St. Patrick’s Day Fun!

I’m only a wee bit Irish, so I really only celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a wee bit. In my early twenties, this meant all-day beer fests, I mean, parades, on the south side of Chicago. Now, it means sharing the true meaning of the day with my kids, turning everything green and coloring rainbows with pots of gold at the end.

When I was working full time and commuting at least two hours every day, I let most holidays pass me by without trying to make many memories with my kids. Some working moms still find time and energy to accomplish fun holiday meals and crafts, which is just amazing to me. My sincerest props to you!

Now, as I’m staying at home with the kids for who knows how long, I want to seize the day! I used to dread the holidays – and all of the stress and guilt that came with it, but now I’m looking forward to all of them, and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception.

I’ve been searching my favorite blogs and Pinterest for enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day activities and treats. Below, I’m sharing some of the fun I’m planning. I wanted to share these with you now to give you a little time to prepare. 

 

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Green Milk and Lucky Charms For Breakfast!

Fill glass jars with green milk and cupcake liners with Lucky Charms cereal. You can even place a little love note to your children that reads, “I’m over the rainbow in love with you.”

Idea from:  http://www.thoughtfullysimple.com/a-lucky-breakfast/

 

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Pistachio Bundt Cake

Ingredients:

1 box of white cake mix

2 small boxes of instant pistachio pudding

1/2 cup of veggie oil

1 1/4 cups water

4 eggs

1 can vanilla frosting

Green sprinkles to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease (I use Pam) a 10-inch bundt pan

In mixing bowl, combine cake mix, puddings, oil, water, and eggs with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cake rest on counter in pan 10 minutes. Then, invert the cake onto a serving plate to finish cooling.  

Once the cake is cool, frost with your store bought vanilla frosting and add green sprinkles.

Recipe from:  http://mixandmatchmama.blogspot.com/2013/03/bundt-cake-80-pistachio.html

 

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Green Pudding

Ingredients:

2 boxes (4 serving size each) of JELLO vanilla flavor instant pudding (or use JELLO pistachio flavor instant pudding and eliminate the green food coloring)

3 ½ cups cold milk

1 teaspoon green food coloring

1 tub Cool Whip (8 oz)

1-18 oz pkg. Oreos, coarsely crushed

Shamrock candies, cookies, etc. for garnish

Directions:

Pour milk into large bowl. Stir in food coloring. Add pudding mixes and beat with a wire whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir in Cool Whip. In a trifle bowl, layer crushed cookies and pudding mixture. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate for at least an hour or until ready to serve.

Recipe from:  http://kromadesign.blogspot.com/2011/03/sweet-recipe-green-pudding-dessert.html

 

Enjoy making St. Patrick’s Day memories with your family!

Making Waves: Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo!

I thought journalists were supposed to be objective, but I feel like every day the media becomes more and more one sided. Maybe there’s a difference between media and journalists, but the line is pretty blurry. One news agency reports a story – however skewed the information – and all the other news outlets jump on the bandwagon.

This is something that already bothers me, but a couple of weeks ago when the reports came out that Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo!, Sunnyvale, CA, ended most telecommuting for employees, the media frenzy that ensued was ridiculous.

Surprisingly, much of the media’s view of Mayer’s decision was negative. Most every story I read and saw on t.v. focused on the studies suggesting that telecommuting increases productivity and boosts employee morale. Some reporters even suggested that Mayer is not supporting working parents.

Also, surprisingly, many of Mayer’s biggest critics have been other women.

I am not the CEO of a large corporation or an expert at managing large groups of people, and most journalists aren’t either. So why is the media jumping to conclusions here?

Let’s give Mayer a chance before we so profusely judge her and her plans for Yahoo!. Mayer said her decision to end most telecommuting was to bring more internal cohesiveness and collaboration. If you look back to when she was first hired as CEO of Yahoo!, this is in line with what she communicated to employees.

ImageAccording to a Business Insider article by Nicholas Carlson on September 25, 2012, Mayer outlined her strategy for the company’s success. Listed below are some of the objectives that she outlined.

* Yahoo! will become something users touch every day.

* Yahoo! will focus more. To paraphrase, “do more of what we’re good at and less of what we’re not.”

* Yahoo! will be partner friendly. 

* Yahoo! will be strong in mobile by 2015.

* Projects will only be green-lit if they can scale to 100 million users or $100 million in revenue.

* Yahoo! will move faster, giving employees more deadlines, ownership, resources, and tools.

Mayer also said that Yahoo! will support its staff through “the Four Cs,” Culture, Company Goals, Calibration, and Compensation.

(Read the full article here)

Honestly, I think eliminating telecommuting is in line with the goals Mayer communicated in September. I’ve been on the other side – the one in the office adjusting my schedule based on when a teleworker could make it into the office. It was frustrating and often felt unfair. I ended up resenting my coworker and manager.

Some people do well working from home, while others do not. Some telecommuters are flexible and make every effort to be available to their managers and coworkers, while others do not. Where some employees are more productive working from home, others are more distracted and accomplish less. CEOs and the companies that they lead have to make good business decisions based on their needs, goals and employees, which is exactly what Mayer did.

Let’s also take a look at other benefits Yahoo! offers its employees. According to its website, Yahoo! provides employees with the “basics,” such as medical, dental and vision insurance, a 401k where they match 25% of the employee’s contributions as well as long- and short-term disability. In addition, employees receive back-up dependent care, onsite fitness centers at many of its locations, access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), adoption assistance, tuition reimbursement, dependent day care Flexible Spending Account (FSA), community service day off, service awards, and savings on dining, shopping and even travel. Let’s be honest – in today’s economy some people would appreciate a job in general let alone a job that provides employees with these types of benefits.

Change is tough, so I understand why employees initially might be upset – especially those who the modification directly effects. It may be challenging for those who have been working from home to be in the office and accordingly adjust their schedules. It also will be an adjustment for office employees to have more coworkers. On both sides, they will need to learn new work styles and try getting along with everyone.

I’m not a Yahoo! employee, nor do I know Mayer and her management approach. I was simply listening and reading all of the backlash from this decision and was confused at the reaction and information provided by the media. From my perspective, based on my experience, I think reeling in the telecommuters at Yahoo! is a good idea. It’s an updated policy that Mayer felt was necessary at this point.

Policy’s are meant to be reviewed and revised. In time, she most certainly can add telecommuting back to the company’s long list of benefits when she feels that Yahoo! and its employees are ready. Maybe the telecommuting policies will be stricter, setting more stringent guidelines and requirements, but that’s not a bad thing. Companies should be making their work-from-home expectations clear to employees.

I also find it interesting that, as I was looking further into this, one week after Yahoo! announced that it was ending telecommuting, Best Buy, headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, announced the same. Where was the media frenzy then? Did it have anything to do with the fact that Best Buy’s CEO is a gentleman by the name of Hubert Joly?

I’m sure that this was a well-thought, hard decision by Mayer that was made after careful consideration and hours of discussion. Mayer proved her abilities at Google, which is why Yahoo! hired her. Let’s give her a chance and not be so quick to judge. It takes time to turn around big companies – and it takes big, tough decisions. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what Mayer, and Yahoo!, will be doing this time next year.

Working Relationships

Oh, Ben Affleck, I adore you! Thank you for keeping it real when thanking your wife, Jennifer Garner, as you accepted the Oscar for Best Picture a couple of weeks ago. For those who missed it, Affleck told his beautiful wife, much of Hollywood and millions of viewers, “I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.” (If you haven’t seen the video  yet, here’s a link to a YouTube clip:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUOM1GXY3vA)

My initial reaction was similar to Garner’s nod and smile. I was happy for Affleck, but couldn’t believe the words coming from his mouth. The comments came off so negative toward marriage that I actually thought, “oh boy, here comes another Hollywood divorce! Is he just a miserable married guy?”

Then, as I thought about it more, I wondered, “Ben, why are you sharing this secret? Don’t scare off all of those lovey-dovey engaged couples and honeymooners! But where were you when I was engaged? I wish I would’ve known this before I said, ‘I Do’.”

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on Affleck’s comments a bit more, I’m so happy that he shared this honest and real observation of marriage. And, though it’s less romantic of a view than we’d all love to believe, it’s one of the truest I’ve heard.

ImageMarriage is work. Sometimes you’re working really hard at it, sometimes your partner is working really hard at it and sometimes you’re both working really hard at it together. Obviously, Affleck’s word choice wasn’t the greatest. Being an artist and in a public forum, he probably could have been a little more eloquent.

So, let’s just say relationships – especially marriages – aren’t always easy, but they are always worth it. (Okay, I should probably clarify and say, “they’re worth it most of the time” because I realize there are situations where staying in a marriage or relationship is definitely not worth it).

Many of us romanticize marriage so much that when we actually tie the knot we’re shocked at how difficult it sometimes is. When we realize that Prince Charming leaves towels and dirty clothes on the floor (all over the floor), or that Princess snores – loud, we think, “I did not sign up for this!”

Marriage requires unconditional love. I understand that love is patient and kind, love is selfless and honest, you need communication, and more. However, I feel that when you really think about unconditional love, it encompasses all of those necessities and more.

When two people who are unconditionally in love join together as one in marriage, they understand that at the end of the day, no matter what the other does, or what annoying personality traits the other possesses, they have love.

This, of course, doesn’t always happen over night. I, for one, am still learning how to unconditionally love my husband. My husband is still learning how to unconditionally love me. Every day I have to think about this, and, frankly, it really can be exhausting.

When my husband blames me for his lost keys or leaves the bread open again, I have to consciously remember that he is just stressed or not thinking about tying up the bread bag. This is just him – this is just who I chose to marry. I love him because he’s the funniest person I’ve ever met and has a huge heart (among other things), and I know I’m not perfect either.

When I get frustrated and “sigh” at him and everything he does or doesn’t do, I know it annoys him to no end. I know he gets so frustrated that I can’t get into bed until the sheet and comforter lay perfectly on the bed. Still, he loves me.

Some days, I want to give up on marriage because it really is so much work that I’m tired. I’m sure my husband has those days too. It can be a struggle at times, especially when money is tight, a family member is sick or life has you so busy that you don’t see each other very often.

We try to look past all of the petty, everyday stuff and focus on all that we have. We are lucky enough to have someone who loves us, someone who accepts us, someone who cares about our wellbeing, and someone with whom to share a family. He is a blessing to me and I am a blessing to him.

I know, I know, easier said than done. Believe me, this doesn’t mean that we have a perfect relationship and that we never argue. We absolutely do. When we’re feeling afraid, alone or stressed, it’s easy for us both to lose sight of what’s important.

Affleck is right about marriage. “It is work, but it’s the best kind of work.” At the end of the day, you know someone has your back and loves and accepts you. You have someone to hold your hand and walk beside you even in the darkest moments. You have someone with whom to share memories, create a family and live life.

So, know this, engaged couples and honeymooners, Affleck’s words are true. Marriage is work, but it’s worth it.

Welcome

ImageWelcome to Untidy Bliss! Contrary to what my husband may think, I know that I’m not perfect. Though it’s a difficult concept for me to grasp, I’m coming to terms with it. I’m definitely my biggest critic and I’m always striving to do well and improve, but the fact remains that I never will be even close to perfect. I still make mistakes on a daily basis – some of them small, some of them big.

 

Does this mean I can’t be happy or find bliss among all of the untidiness? Absolutely not! Perfect does not equal happy. And as I meet new people, make new friends and grow closer to current friends, I’ve been realizing that this is something many people – especially women – struggle with. How can I be happy if I’m not perfect, if I don’t look perfect, if I don’t have the perfect husband, perfect kids, the biggest house on the block, the cleanest and least cluttered house, a Land Rover, the newest and prettiest Coach purse, or the best accessories?

 

In adjusting from working mom to Stay at Home Mom, I started feeling uninspired, kind of dumb and really fat. I started looking more at what I was lacking and not focusing on ALL that I have.

 

I’m learning that utter joy – bliss – really is a matter of perspective. It’s about being happy with what and who you have. In our cluttered homes, maybe our XXL shirts, in our sometimes-messy relationships, with children who might have learning disabilities, with our old Ford Broncos, in our small apartments – we can be HAPPY, supremely HAPPY!

 

I’m choosing now to focus on my Untidy Bliss! I still struggle with this decision at times, but I’m learning and trying. Let’s embrace it, though, and embrace each other. Instead of judging one another, let’s support and encourage each other in our quest to learn, grow and just be sincerely happy.

 

Thank you so much for reading! I’m looking forward to having you join me in this journey. My hope is that you find this blog encouraging, empowering, interesting, inspiring, well rounded, personal, and educational.

 

If ever you have a suggestion, please feel free to comment or e-mail untidybliss@gmail.com.

 

Thanks again!

 

 

Your friend,

 

Untidy Bliss

xo