Me (white dress and knee-high socks) and some of my cousin crew in 1985.
I come from a big family and have 23 first cousins.
My parents always made an effort to bring us around them. This wasn’t like my grandparents’ generation where family members stayed in the same town and often lived only streets away from each other. In our case, there had to be an effort.
Most of my childhood summers were spent with my cousins at our grandparents’ house in Eustis. We made roadside lemonade stands, went to the beach at the family timeshare, rode rides together at Disney (a perk of living in Central Florida), and put on plays during get-togethers my aunts and uncles humored us and watched.
I stalked her Instagram account for weeks in preparation for her deposition.
I was hired to represent a local company where the plaintiff, a former TV personality and “Instafamous” social media influencer, was seeking damages for injuries associated with a highly publicized car accident.
The woman seemed perfect. She was in her early 40s but looked ten years younger. She’d post photos of herself in swimsuits and her body was flawless. She had a handsome husband and three beautiful boys and their home looked like something out of MTV Cribs. They went on exotic vacations. This woman was highly educated with a Ph.D. in history. She’d written two books and one was on the New York Times best seller list. She seemed popular- her Instastories featured photos with herself and friends and she seemed to get tons of likes and comments on every post. This lady was also “supermom”- photographing herself sitting along the sidelines of her sons’ soccer games and knitting them scarves in the winter.
I was intimidated at the idea of meeting her in person and then interrogating her. (more…)
I recently went for a walk with a girlfriend who has a son in Kindergarten.
Despite the young age, there was already “drama” in the Kindergarten class among the boys.
This was typical six year-old drama: excluding someone on the playground, not sharing snacks at lunch, and threatening to disinvite a classmate to a birthday party.
My friend’s son is laid back and easily makes friends. However, because the ongoing drama involved his small circle of buddies in his class, it was hard for him to get away from it.
One of the little boys constantly stirred up drama. His name was Mark. Mark was moody and my friend’s son was always worried Mark would get mad at him about something dumb. The other boys walked on eggshells around Mark.
Also involved in this circle of friends was a kid named Owen. Owen was easygoing and fun. Owen and my friend’s son had a lot in common. Owen wasn’t dramatic.
One day, my friend asked her son what the deal was with Mark and why there was so much drama.
Each night before bed, my kids and I share with each other our best and worst parts of the day.
We call this tradition “best part, worst part.”
We never miss “best part, worst part,” not even when we’re away on vacation.
Usual worst parts: getting stuck in traffic, getting to the carpool line late, and having a meltdown (the kids, not me.)
Usual best parts: playing outside, eating pizza for dinner, and “camping out” in the living room.
Here’s the thing.
I love volunteering.
Love it, love it, love it.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes a poison that comes from the top that makes it less fun.
People who run volunteer organizations, PTA events, and other organizations where the members are donating their time and money take heed:
Volunteers are not slaves.
After college, I joined a bunch of local volunteer and professional organizations because
I was crazy I didn’t have kids or a family and, therefore, plenty of time on my hands.
I made rich friendships and wonderful memories. It felt good to give back to the community and learn from civic leaders.
While I certainly didn’t need a pat on the back, it would have been nice for some of the higher-ups at the organizations to once say “thank you” or acknowledge everyone else’s hard work instead of clogging my social media feed with self-indulgent posts about how awesome they are.
For them to remember the volunteers who were gratuitously donating their time and opening their wallets and essentially the backbones of the organization.
I was at a meeting for a volunteer organization last month when I met a woman we’ll call Kristen. She was assigned to my small group and she was new to the area. Kristen was outgoing but loud, and it was obvious she was trying to make friends, which nobody could blame her. We went around the circle and briefly introduced ourselves so Kristen could get acquainted.
I went last.
“I’m Jen. I’m married with two young daughters and I live in Tampa. I work part time as an attorney and part time as a blogger. I joined this organization to meet like-minded women and give back to the community.”
Kristen looked at me and scoffed. Then she snorted. (more…)
I took the kids to get ice cream after school last week and left my phone inside the car because it was dead.
We brought the ice cream to our tables. After about 10 minutes, an employee went out of her way to approach me and tell me how refreshing it was to see a parent in the store actually engaging with their kids instead of ignoring them and being glued to the phone while the kids either sat alone or entertained each other.
I felt guilty saying “thank you” to the employee because I knew the truth.
That if my phone hadn’t been dead, I likely would have been there with it in the store checking emails, responding to text messages, and scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds like what I was doing couldn’t wait until later.
I was annoyed when I received the text.
Hey Jen. I won’t be at the office this morning. Emma woke up with pink eye and I need to take her to the doctor. I’ll see if my babysitter can watch her this afternoon. I’ll be in as soon as I can.
I’ll admit I probably rolled my eyes.
My grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Cambria County, Pennsylvania (Read: poor!) for over 30 years before she retired. One of her more noteworthy memories happened at Christmastime nearly 40 years ago.
Her students participated in a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. While all of the other students were opening up neat presents like baseball cards, knock-off Barbie dolls, and Silly Putty in the middle of the class party (schools were allowed to have Christmas parties back then), one kid, John, gave his assigned pal, Donnie, a small bag of potato chips because that’s all his mother could afford.
I was sitting in the Courthouse cattle-call room waiting for a hearing to begin when my colleague’s casual statement left me hurting for days.
There’s a group of ten of us going to dinner over Labor Day weekend since Lauren Strickland and her husband will be in town. Any idea where I can rent a party bus to drive us around?
“Wait, what?” I thought.
As background, I went to law school with Lauren and we were close friends (in my mind) before she and her family relocated to Houston to accommodate her husband’s job in the oil industry.
Until she moved three years ago, Lauren and I spent a good amount of time together. I hosted her son’s first birthday party at my house when her own home was under construction and arranged a meal train when her mother was in a car accident.