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The thing about my daughter (or perhaps any typical three-year-old) is that she knows when she’s doing something she’s not supposed to. She’ll be alone playing in her bedroom or the play room for a bit, and naturally I’ll pop my head in or verbally check in with her at regular intervals.

“Charlie, are you okay?”

Now that I’ve finally gotten her to answer me when I call, she’ll usually respond with a simple, “Yes.”

“Charlie? What are you doing?”

“Just playing.”

But every so often when I call, I’ll hear, “Don’t come in here!” (followed quickly by a slamming door if she’s in her room or the bathroom).

Yeah, criminal mastermind she ain’t.

Today, she came up to me looking like this:

At first, I thought she was “hiding.” Yes, she still likes a good game of hide and seek and I have to pretend I don’t see her because she’s hiding her eyes or she’s under a blanket, so I started to play along.

“Oh, no! Where did Charlie go? I can’t find her.”

But she didn’t giggle like she usually does. After a few seconds when I could tell she was trying to keep the blanket positioned right where it was, I could tell something was up.


No answer.

“Charlie? Can I see?” She slowly lowered the blanket to reveal this:

“Ohhhhhh Charlie! What did you do?”

“Sorry, Mom.”

“You know you’re not supposed to be drawing on yourself. What did you draw with? Show me.”

She pointed to a marker on her table.

I picked it up. “This one?” I asked hopefully, as it was one of her washable markers I chose specifically because of her penchant for wall art and self tattooing.

She nodded.

Relieved, I started laughing. “Let’s go wash you up.”

(Well, of course I grabbed the camera first)

Good thing she’s cute.

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Here We Go Again?

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Wow. I did it. Made it another 30 days updating my blog each and every day.

It’s hard to do and it’s not hard to do. It’s stressful for me and it’s good for me.

Must get past this ‘every post needs to be a masterpiece’ mind-set.

Must get more disciplined about writing earlier in the day so I’m not staying up way past my bedtime to do it.

Maybe that means I need to keep going?

Yes. I think so.

I signed up once again for NaBloPoMo to commit to posting every day for the month of September.

For the second month in a row.

What the hell was I thinking?

Oh, right. I was thinking that I simply need to keep writing. And keep committing myself to writing. Even in the midst of starting new job, when it would be all too easy to let my writing go by the wayside.

I was also thinking that I liked September’s theme of “Return.”

Man, I’m tired.

But here I am.



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Bring On the Belt Tightening

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By the time folks are reading this post, it will be September (Crap! Already?), and I will be embarking on a new adventure– a first for me. I will be working toward making a budget and striving to be a fiscally responsible human being. How about that?

So I say “working toward” because I can’t actually make a budget until I figure out what kind of money we need to meet our expenses. I can’t cut back on unnecessary spending until I figure out where it’s really being spent. I have some idea, of course. I pay our bills. I pay attention. But expenses, lately, because of our new situation, have not been, let’s say, “normal.” We’ve just spent a whole bunch of money getting our new place together which meant paying for the move itself, buying some furniture and a new television and registering Charlie in a new pre-school, and  yada yada– or more accurately–cha-ching, cha-ching.

I’ve just come to a point where I’ve lost all perspective on our financial situation. And I want to get it back.

Oh, we’re not in dire straits thanks to what amounts to either dumb luck or divine intervention in buying and then eventually selling our Studio City townhouse when we did. But I’ve now been unemployed for two years (and there was a six month stretch when my  husband was unemployed right along with me), so obviously, we have been dipping into our savings regularly to pay our bills, especially now that we’ve moved out of my parents’ house. I’d really like to get a handle on things before the savings is all gone, especially since said savings is really our only hope of home ownership in the future.

I need to do this because I’ve been whining about having to go back to work full time and wishing I didn’t have to. And yet, ask me if I really have to work full time? Ask me how much money I need to bring in in order for us not to operate in the red? I don’t know. I operate under assumptions and guesstimates. It would make my decision making on the career front a whole lot easier if I actually knew dollars and cents. But I don’t. Not yet.

I need to do this because aside from our current situation, money has always kind of been an issue. Since I was old enough to work and make my own money, I’ve been a spender. I come by it honestly; I don’t come from a long line of savers. Luckily, I married a man who, while not penny pinching or frugal, at least keeps me in check. I still spend, and to be honest, more than I should. Not outrageously crazy, but more than I need to, and enough to keep us from actually saving anything.

I have a particular weakness for handbags. Even when I have no desire to shop or try on clothes, a new bag will always catch my eye. Yep. I love me my Isabella Fiore, my Francesco Biasia, my Ellington, and, more recently, my B. Makowsky. No, I do not change bags to match outfits or have a ridiculous amount of them (that’s how I justify the expense– I carry a bag every day for a season– and I’ve even sold some used ones on eBay when I was done with them!), but I will shell out what most would consider an absurd amount of money for a handbag. Weakness, I tell you.

Today, I bought myself a Coach bag. But when I couldn’t even admit to my best friend how much it cost, well, I knew it would be going back. *Sigh.

Okay, I’m getting a little off the track here, but not really. I bought that bag today because (aside from the weakness thing) I knew that starting tomorrow I would be tracking my spending. It was a last impulse splurge before the belt tightening,  Pretty typical for me whenever I get the urge to start “being better about spending.”

This is usually how I roll: I make a list of the things I deem “necessary” for the moment, and then I say, “Okay, I am going out to purchase these things and then I’ll have everything I “need” (and by “need” I mean want). Just these things on this list. THEN, no more spending!”

Naturally, it’s not too long before I come up with yet another list.

In truth, I have always been a little bit afraid to go on a budget. I’ve always feared it would turn me into of those people who watches every penny and obsesses over dime spent. The kind of person who can’t simply split a check at a restaurant, but brings that uncomfortableness with the “Well I had the chicken salad and a coke, so that makes $11. 62 for me.” The kind of person who can’t buy something she truly needs because it’s not on sale. The kind of person who can’t go to a nice restaurant because she doesn’t have a coupon.

I like being the kind of person who can say, “Let me get the check” once in a while. I like being the kind of person who indulges herself on occasion with a facial or a massage- or yes, even a nice new designer bag.

I’m afraid a budget will wreak havoc on my lifestyle.  I don’t want an Excel spreadsheet to tell me I can’t get my hair highlighted, or meet my friend for lunch, or get a manicure, or…or…or.

I’m quite aware that I sound like a brat, but I’m just trying to be honest.

I’m very afraid of those four little words: NOT IN THE BUDGET.

Budgets stink.

Or maybe not.

I don’t know.

I’ve never tried.

That’s kind of the point.

I want to smarter about addressing this issue. So instead of my usual route of trying to go cold turkey on the spending, I am going to start simply tracking it. Every dime.

First, I think by writing down every time I spend money and what I spend it on, it will make me think twice about spending it. Naturally, I will be trying to cut down on my spending in tandem with the tracking. There are just no hard and fast rules about what I can and can not spend– only that I have to write it down when I spend it.

Second, it will help me to get a clear picture of where our money goes. When I’ve got a clear picture in front of me, I will be able to see what kind of changes I can make in my spending habits that will help toward saving without making me feel like I’m being bullied by my checkbook.  And, more importantly, I will be able to make some important decisions about our financial future as well as my career path.

So I’m just starting there. Tracking. I will probably have to do it for at least a month or two before patterns can begin to emerge or necessary changes jump out at me. I think, anyway. Again, all new here.

Then, I’ll take it from there. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be ready for the next step. Hopefully.

As always, I will keep you posted.

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Found in one of my journals (written several years ago although I don’t know exactly when) :

My heart is full of scraps.

Like the scraps of paper that are stuffed in my writing drawer.

Bits of thoughts,

Pieces of dreams,

Snippets of secrets,

Glimpses of moments.

Someone help me sew them together and make them make sense.

Weave me a tale,

Tell me a story,

Show me an answer.

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It’s the calm after the storm. And before the next one.

We managed through Hurricane turned Tropical Storm Irene just fine. There’s actually been more problems after the storm with flooding and road closures. I think the winds were more gusty yesterday than they were doing the storm, and probably took down a few more branches. I haven’t ventured further than our local grocery store, and am going to try to stay away from major highways for one more day.

My mother lost power after the storm and has been told she won’t have it back until Saturday. (Glad I moved out of her house when i did!) But thankfully, we did not lose power at all.

My husband was hoping to get a day off from work today, but no such luck. Back to business as usual.

And this week we begin preparing for the new storm that’s headed our way– Storm Mommy-has-to-go-back-to-work.

Okay, maybe it’s not a real storm, but it’s still going to throw new things in our path, there’s still definitely potential for damage, and the preparations are no less necessary and tedious. Mostly, the sleep thing. I’ve mentioned before how my kid hates to go to sleep and gets to bed way too late. Well, yesterday we started trying to shift our schedules so that bed and wake time were about an hour and a half earlier, so that when I start my job next week, it won’t be such a shock.

I’ve got to get Charlie used to getting up earlier so we can all get out the door in a timely fashion. And if there’s one phrase my child does NOT respond well to, it is, “Hurry up!” (or “Let’s go, we’re late!” or Jesus Christ, Come on already!” or any of those variations) It matters not the time or place or situation, but when I need my child to move, she would rather play. And the very second she senses that I’m tense or yes, even pissed off about it, she responds by shutting down. Just shutting down.

If she’s at home, she’ll seriously crawl under the kitchen table or run to her princess tent in the play room and hide. If we’re out and about she’ll just plop herself down. And the only way I get her to move again without a serious scene and me totally losing it in an ugly ugly way is for me to take a breath and re-group and explain that Mommy isn’t mad and be all cool about it. And I can’t fake it either. She knows. Not so easy when you’ve been ready and just trying to get out the damn door for twenty minutes.

I’ve been lucky so far that drop off times at pre-school have been pretty flexible and I haven’t had a job to get to after I drop her off. Most mornings are fine because I can take my time about things and play and coax and cajole, and if I get here there twenty minutes later than I hoped, no big deal.  But there have been times I’ve had an appointment or something important, and it’s usually been a stressful mess.

Now, every day we’ll be on a more rigid schedule, and the only solution is to start early so that I don’t have to move her too fast. UGH.

It will probably be that my husband will be the one on drop-off duty, but it will still be interesting. We haven’t had experienced the morning bustle of everyone in the house getting up and ready and out the door together. At least not since Charlie was barely walking. She was still young enough then when she couldn’t really object too much (in words or actions).

Kids are pretty adaptable, and I hope this holds true for this situation. I’m hoping we’ll all find our rhythm and it may even turn out better for her that she’s going to school full time.

I’m still having a hard time with all of this myself and it’s not just Charlie who is going to have some adjusting to do. There’s just no way to know what this will hold and I’ll feel about it all until I’m in the thick of it. In the mean time, we’re just trying to prepare as best we can.

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The Name Game

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We call my daughter Charlie. Her full name is Charlotte Grace.

I’ve heard, “Hey, that’s the same name as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s daughter.” To which I responded with a half smile and half snarl, “Yes, I know.” (and showed some restraint in not following that with, “I named mine first!” so as not to seem like a Kindergartner who hasn’t learned to share.)

I’ve been on the playground with my daughter and called to her, “Charlie!” and heard the excited cry from another little girl nearby,“Hey just like Good Luck Charlie.” I smiled and nodded and muttered under my breath something like, “Damn Disney Channel.”

You know how it goes—you get pregnant and immediately start the name game. You want a name for your baby that’s fun and unique without being too weird or cause for future therapy. After months of tossing names around and in and out, you finally find THE ONE. You think you’re being all original, and when the joyous bundle arrives, you claim your name as if it were yours and yours alone.

And then BAM, as soon as you commit, popularity strikes.

So annoying.

Actually, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t start playing the name game right away. I had had fertility issues and miscarriages, and when that happens, with each subsequent pregnancy, you try not to get too attached to the idea right away. But after the 20 week ultrasound and amnio showed a healthy baby girl, I let myself relax and hope a little and start the game.

My husband always liked the name Emma. (Jane Austen’s novel is one of his favorites) and I grew to like it too. But then the “Friends” baby happened, and I noticed that Emma and Emily have shown up in the top 10 baby names lists for years, so that was quickly dismissed.

I also liked other old fashioned names like Abby and Olivia, but they were making a comeback, so we quickly crossed those off our lists too.

I like boys names for girls, so I thought and said to my husband, “What if we name her Charlie after your dad?” (the only grandparent she would never meet) He liked it, and so it was decided. To give our girl an option, in case she came to hate having a boy’s name, we decided we’d name her Charlotte and call her Charlie.

It wasn’t long after she arrived in our world that it seemed like there were Charlottes and Charlies springing up all over the place—boys and girls, the famous and the ordinary.

At my daughter’s first daycare, a younger Charlotte also called Charlie joined her class a few months after she started and they started calling my girl “Big Charlie.” UGH.

I won’t lie. Every time I heard of a new Charlotte or Charlie, it made heart sink a little. I’ve been a teacher in years where I’ve had three Ryans and four Madisons in the same class. I didn’t want my girl to be in that situation.

I don’t know why it was important to me for her name to be a little something different, it just was. I know it’s just a name, but we take our names with us wherever we go and in everything we do.

I guess we can’t be too selfish about names. There’s only so many to around. And in the end, we make our mark on the world regardless.

Me, I’ve got my Charlie. And yes, maybe I’ll snarl a little on the inside when I run into others. But at least I know I’ve got the best one.

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Waiting For Irene

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What a strange day.

It’s a little after 6:00 pm as I sit here in my living room and type this on my laptop. It’s been eerily quiet and it’s been raining a little off an on since the morning.

My good friend’s birthday is tomorrow, but we decided to meet for breakfast this morning figuring it best not to venture out after tonight.

After breakfast, at my husband’s request, I headed to the ShopRite for some last minute provisions, and got most of what we needed except for batteries which have been sold out since yesterday.

Now, the three of us are just home and hunkered down. Greg and Charlie just finished watching Brides of Dracula (oy). and I’ve been playing around on my laptop while I can still get some Internet access. Charlie has worn only pajamas and/or princess dress up clothes since yesterday (It was pajama day at school yesterday). It’s the fist time since we moved into our new place that we’ve had no real plans for the weekend and plan to stay put. It’s kind of nice to be here as a family with time to just hang and play.

But it’s strange.

I don’t remember ever “preparing” for a storm before. We’re not in an area that’s in real danger, but at the very least, we’ll probably face flooding of local roads, and have no idea how this new residence of ours will fare with the heavy rain. We took in some of the patio furniture and made sure important things were up off the floor in the basement.

At first, I like many people, were a bit skeptical. Things were quiet. Still are. So far. Is this just overreacting? Evacuations? Really? Is the local media hyping up what will be just a heavy rain storm?

Only time will tell. Better safe than sorry I guess.

Even if it doesn’t turn out to be altogether necessary, it’s nice to hunker down at home once in while and just be a family.

I just hope we can be a family in a home with power.

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Today was my last day of freedom, that is to say, my last day as a non-working mother with my child in pre-school for the day. Next week, Charlie’s school is closed, and the week after that, I will begin a new job.

You would think I would have been the poster child for productivity today. Or if not productivity, maybe decadent leisure. If I wasn’t going to work and accomplish anything important, I probably should have gotten a massage or a mani-pedi, but I didn’t.

After dropping off Charlie at school, which took twice as long as it usually did because of a road closure and detour, I made a quick trip to Home Goods. When I got home, I checked and wrote some email, and then I watched some television (which I rarely do during the day but I was looking for the scoop on Hurricane Irene), and worked a little bit on part of a gift for my friend’s birthday.

As usual, there were a ton of things I could have done to work toward some long-term goals, but instead, there was a lot of puttering about the house. Yep, puttering. Something I’ve done far too much of on the days Charlie was off at school. I don’t have a hell of a lot to show for my free time that was supposed to be spent working toward my dreams. I’ve done some work, yes. But not enough. Not nearly enough.

While I’ve gone through and processed a myriad of emotions over the prospect of this new job, today I started to feel thankful. As I have proven time and time again, I am sucky at the whole self-discipline thing. Oh so very sucky. I can’t put my finger on why I have such a problem with it, but I do. I work better with external structure and routine forced upon me.

So after Labor Day, I will have job I have to report to. And while it is most likely (though I’m not ruling it out) my dream job, it will at least give me that structure and routine that is sorely lacking in my life right now. For that, I am grateful.

I am also scared that the structure and routine will leave very little time for working toward other goals.

But still, I need it.

I am hoping God is just giving me a sign here that I need to stop puttering and focus.

You know, closing a door and opening a window and all that.

Let’s hope.

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Transition to a Morning Person

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Hey folks! This is what they call here in the blogging world a guest post. I’ve worked with my best pal Lisa (who is a best pal, in part, because she indulges me by faithfully reading what I write) on a few things, and I told her she’s welcome to guest post here if she ever wanted to. She’s not really a writer, but I think I’ve turned her onto the hobby a wee bit.  She IS a voracious reader, and, as it happens, a morning person. She read my last post and decided she’d take me up on the offer to guest post. So, for another point of view, here ya go:

By Lisa

I too was never a morning person. My mother who worked from the time my sister and I were 5 or 6 liked to sleep in on the weekends and we didn’t get up too early ourselves. We weren’t the type of family that hit the road at the crack of dawn for vacations. My husband’s family was that family. You know the kind– up at 3am in the station wagon with the pop-up camper in tow. We just sat in Jersey shore traffic on a Saturday like everyone else.

As a teen and in my early 20s I waitressed and bartended and kept pretty late hours so sleeping into the afternoon was never an issue. I once remember asking to work the breakfast shift at Friendly’s and was told no, they didn’t trust me to get there on time.  I can’t say they were wrong as many times in my Bennigan’s days I did oversleep and got to my lunch shifts late.

Then I got married. My husband Rob and I didn’t live together before we got married as a lot of people do now. We just lived at home with our parents – yes very provincial – until we got married. Guess what? I married a morning person, oh my!

Yes, most weekday mornings Rob left for work at the crack of dawn leaving me to my own devices and with the snooze alarm, and I’d get off to work on time every day. Having a 9 am morning staff meeting that you could not be late for was very motivating.

And on the weekends, Rob would get up around 5/5:30am and slip out to the living room to watch Sports Center and have his morning coffee. Crazy right?

I would hear him stirring and know he was waiting to start the day, and eventually I started getting up earlier and earlier. Soon it was…  yes, if we can leave at 7am to divide and conquer between the laundry and the supermarket we can have the rest of our day back so much sooner. And of course we should leave for vacation on the earliest crack of dawn flight to get the most time in.

A big part of embracing being a morning person is avoiding traffic and crowds. Why be at the bank on a Saturday at 11am? Who wants to be at the Shop Rite deli line, forty numbers back on a Sunday afternoon? Why spend two hours on the Parkway when it can be one hour and fifteen minutes if you just head out earlier?

Some would say we are rushing our lives. I like to think I have less stress and angst because I am never late and don’t mind down time. Like getting to the airport early so I don’t have to rush. Sitting with my book knowing I am safely in the gate area is just fine with me.

Honestly, being a morning person during the weekday has been in fits and starts. I’ve had time periods where I have gone to work at 7:30am because you can get so much more done in that hour and a half when there are no co-workers or phones to disrupt you than you can from 9am-5pm. I’ve had time periods where I go to 5:30am  or 6am workout classes (note: I do not get up at that hour for just an appointment between me and a treadmill.)

The weekends mornings for the last 13 years have been spent waking at 7am with Rob and our dog, Miller to get Miller to the park. Occasionally after hosting a party or having a lot of company, the three of us will sleep in until 8am or even 9am. (gasp!)

Currently I am truly living the life of a morning person. Five mornings a week I get up at 5am and head off to the gym. I love the gym, I love clearing my head in a morning spin class, I love checking “workout” off of my list before 7am.

And I admit I feel a little smug about it. At lot of that comes from just being proud of myself for sticking to it. I’ve been up and out early three days a week for going on two years with the last 8-10 months pushing to five days. And mostly because I really, deep down, believe that truly successful people are morning people. I am probably wrong and if there were polls and surveys done, there are probably equally as many night owls who are super successful too. I think the key though is that to have more time to do what you want to do, you have to strive for one or the other… morning person or night owl and make better use of your time than the ordinary Joe.

So I haven’t totally found my success but for now I’ll stick with my 10pm bedtime and be a morning person.

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Morning Person

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I long to be a morning person. Truly I do. The kind of person who wakes with sun and bounds out of bed and gets right to the day’s to-do list and feels like the day is half gone by 10:oo am.

But I love me my sleep. (I think I’ve mentioned this once or twice before)

It’s kind of an odd paradox that morning is actually one of my favorite times of the day. The bliss of half waking slumber. The streams of sunlight through the windows. The promise of a new day and all the possibility it holds. The worries of yesterday faded and at bay. The soft hugs of the rumpled slept-in sheets.  And my hubby or my little girl just a rollover away for morning snuggles.

The problem is I want to stay in those moments. I think I hit the snooze button just to have more of them.

It’s the getting out of bed and getting the day going that’s the problem. I love the morning, but man, do I hate waking up!

I whine about not being as productive as I’d like, and more than one self-help book have suggested that waking up earlier is key. And they say it with all the gusto and chipperness of true morning people– “Don’t hit that snooze button! C’mon, the day is waiting! Get up, get up, get up!”

I know it’s true. I know that if I just woke up an hour or two earlier than I do (which is not all that early as an unemployed person these days) that I could get more done. I’ve done it on occasion. It feels good when I’ve done it. But I can’t seem to make it a habit. I’m slow to wake. I ease into my day. Unless there’s something that thrusts me right into it. Because I can’t seem to thrust myself.

So here it is, late at night. It’s past my bedtime and I am writing. It’s easier to fight getting into bed than fight getting out of it (though both are battles I typically lose). I am writing now because I can’t get up early to do it. Or maybe more accurately because I choose to not to.

I long to be a morning person.

Perhaps I can train myself to be one. The greatest thing about mornings is that they’ll come around again.

The promise of a new day awaits.

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