Sometimes You Just Gotta Fake It

Let me be the first to say it: Hello, my name is Lisa and I hate baking! That's right - I hate baking. I love cooking - I can cook until the cows come home or veggies if you don't eat meat - but when it comes to baking, if it's too many ingredients or doesn't come from a box - I SUCK AT IT!

Remember how I said in a previous post it's DIY Season - well December is Baking Season and nothing screams failure like a batch of burnt sugar cookies that look like Santa - am I right? So in the holiday spirit, allow me to share my no shame cookie story.

Every year I attempt to make sugar cookies and every year they just don't come out right. I don't know what it is I'm doing wrong but I'm like the kiss of death to sugar cookies. A couple of weeks ago I received an invite to a cookie exchange party and I immediately died - COOKIE EXCHANGE! As in I bake cookies and bring them for other people (not my family) to eat? I'm not going to lie - I stressed - I fretted - I was pissed! One, what the hell was I going to bake and two, when the hell was I going to find the time? As excited as I was to be getting cookies I was not excited to make them.

That's when I decided - I decided I would buy my 60 cookies. That's right, I bought them. It was like divine intervention - there I was in Costco parousing the baked goods when my husband and I stumbled on the ONLY box of 60 count cookies in the section. We looked at each other and said "it's a sign"! The holiday spirit said "Lisa, you need a break!" And I took it! I felt not one shred of shame about it. I'm doing these ladies a favor really - sparing them the horror of my burnt cookies.

Now I was faced with a dilema - do I pass these cookies off as my own? A mom who has it altogether, working, taking care of two kids and a husband and managed to make a batch of the most beautiful delicious cookies ever? What if someone asked me for the recipe? I could make that up I mean whose really going to try and make it. Do I tell the truth?

I FESSED UP! One of the women at the party quietly asked me if I had baked my cookies and I whispered back "I did not" to her excitement she hadn't either. Sure enough when I had announced to the group that the cookies were in fact courtesy of the great bakers of Costco, they all laughed and told me I could have totally passed my cookies off as home made but to be honest I was more than happy to come clean because there's no shame in my game.

The moral of the story? DO NOT BE AFRAID to cheat a little during the holiday season. Between the elf on the shelf, ugly sweater parties, shopping and remembering to be holly AND jolly - purchasing a box of delicious cookies for others to enjoy is no sweat of your nose. And I fully endorse lieing about it - if you know there will be judgey people there then simply respond with " I spent all night cooking these, I hope they taste good" and just watch as those judgey people's face light up for the yummy goodness.

Making Yourself More Noticeable At Work

Not everyone cares to have attention drawn to themselves as work. More often than not, we come in, do our work and then head home. We wind up getting into a permanent auto pilot mode. The problem with this is we just become a person in a company; we become bored with our work, less fulfilled and less challenged. Managers need to start encouraging individuality and involvement from all levels of personnel but that doesn't mean you as an employee should be waiting for those words of encouragement or involvement - sometimes we need to make those opportunities for ourself.

In my experience - I started off as an admin in a small company but after a few years I found myself just naturally falling into a leadership role as we brought on more people. I was training new people, managing all aspects of the office but was still only considered an admin - so in my year end review I listed all the things I had been doing and the successes I had and requested to become an official Office Manager and it was granted to me with an increase in salary. Then I started taking on responsibility that wasn't asked of me - I took more of an interest in HR, I created more office procedures, worked a little more closely with clients and looked into things that could help the overall company improve. As I brought more ideas to my managers and executed those plans and procedures, I became more and more noticed and often expressed interest in having more responsibility and growth within the company.

Recently, I was reading articles on how I could foster encouragement as a manager or be a fair manager during review time and I came upon Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In site where it was talking about encouraging your staff, more so the women, to speak up during meetings, to propose more ideas and have a voice. As a manger I'm trying to encourage change and allow everyone to feel they have a voice in our company to express themselves and offer new ideas. But unfortunately this is not the working environment for most people. Even if you have no plans to move up in a company, don't allow yourself to be just a number. Just because you don't aspire to be CEO doesn't mean you still can't get paid like one. Your ideas may make differences in the workplace and you might inspire someone else to speak up and offer their opinions - it's a chain reaction.

Here are some tips to make yourself noticed:

- Educate yourself on the industry your company is in - read news articles and get google alerts; read up on your companies competitors and find out what they're doing different for you. By doing this, you are far more prepared to engage in conversation with your peers about what's going on in the industry during a meeting or interoffice conversation - you may have read something of value that no one has seen yet.

- If you have some ideas on how your department can be better managed or run - speak up during your meetings or write an email to your manager/supervisor showcasing where the inefficiencies are and what can be done to improve them. Keep in mind that you want to come off as wanting to help the team, not make it seem like they suck and you can fix everything.

- Learn a new program. Whether it's furthering your advances in Microsoft Office or learning new project databases - you're adding extreme value by learning more about something other people don't know; eventually you will become the one people will go to for answers. You also offer insight on how, as a team, a project can be most efficient. What's great is that YouTube offers so many tutorials for free vs. paying for classes.

- Don't let ideas fall on deaf ears. Not all managers are great at passing along those great ideas you are sharing with them. If you're sending email after email to your managers, following up with them, trying to setup a meeting to talk about your idea and you're getting no response, bring it up in a meeting setting so that other people can chime in along with you and don't be afraid to seek other supervisors to help. Send an email to the next person in charge, cc'ing your manager so they're not totally in the dark about what you're doing.

- Engage with your co-workers. If you're noticing that someone is having a hard time, falling behind on work or just needing a little extra help with programs - step up and offer your assistance. This will show your managers that you're willing to help the team succeeded by making sure no one is falling behind.

DIY Season

It's here - DIY season. We all know what it means, right around when fall hits - people from far and wide start hitting up craft stores, Pinteresting as if their lives depended on survival. Isn't that what it really is, how to survive amongst the parents who live and breath Pinterest life? And for what do we go through this torment for? For the mere satisfaction of the two minute dialog you're going to have with parents that brag about how amazing you're homemade unicorn costume turned out or those amazing pumpkin treats that you spent 24 hours making not mentioning the tears, the curse words, the alcohol you consumed to put this beast together but instead smile proudly and say "it's all for their happiness"......SCREW THAT!

Why do we do this to ourselves? Two weekends ago I threw a halloween party for my kids and spent WEEKS preparing all the little bits and pieces for the "make your own s'mores" bar or the popcorn bar and I stressed over the entire thing BUT I did not make one thing....not one, I bought all the decorations, all the elements to create this magic and I still got my Pinterest worthy comments that I tucked in the back of my head and gave myself a mental high five for crushing it, then when everyone left I laid on the floor from the mere exhaustion and thought to myself "it's all for their happiness" - LIES! It was for me to throw a kick ass party. When I asked my son what his favorite part was - he said the donuts.

I used to love doing DIYs, then I had kids - sorry folks but I just don't have the patience to make my kid's halloween customs from scratch nor do I have the perfect sugar cookie recipe for the Holiday Cookie Exchange - I suck at baking. So what do I do to keep up with the actual Pinterest moms - I cheat. I go on Pinterest and look for the easiest thing I can put together with the least effort I can muster. My three year old will not remember the time during Valentines when I spent two hours tying little tags to squeeze pouches that said "will you be my main squeeze?" - why did I do that? They can't even read! I did it for the parents - that's right folks we are a bunch of braggers who want the kudos and that's ok. But I will not feel bad about buying the pre-decorated cupcakes from Publix to bring to the class party - see ya later mom guilt. My kids will remember that I was there for their class party and if they don't I'll be sure to show them the thousand selfies I took as proof.

Ironically, my most popular post on this blog is the DIY Scooby Doo group costume we did when we had our first born - it was my last DIY costume. Who am I kidding - I'll be back on Pinterest shortly after this post goes up to find something to show off to the other parents with - it's an endless cycle!

One Month Work Challenge

Hello October! Anyone else feel like September went by way too fast? How are we getting ready for the holidays already? Well, here we are and aside from preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Holidays - you should be thinking about end of the year reviews at work. If you're like me, I cringe at the end of the year, not that I feel like I'm going to get a bad review, but that I have to remember all the good things I accomplished and what I still need improvement on.

After a few years of working in a  management position, I found that for most bosses, it's hard to keep track of all the things employees do over the year. I genuinely feel that sometimes reviews are based on your performance over the last few months of the year because we're reminded that those end of the years are coming up. So this past year, because I manage three other people, I started profiles and would make notes throughout the year of the good, the bad and the ugly of all my people so that I could give a fair review. But then I started thinking - even if your boss only really is looking at the last months to see how you're doing - you should not wait until December to find out what needs to be improved - find out now! Raises people! You want to maximize your raise and/or bonus the best you can.

So I came up with a one month work challenge broken out by week. It's in your best interest to find out from your boss or supervisor what you can improve on now so that when those reviews come up, you can say "here is what I've done to maximize my workflow and efficiency." This will give you the best advantage to receiving the raise and bonus you deserve. Once you get in the habit of making these improvements, this challenge can be done once every three months because we can always improve something. So here we go:

Week 1: Communication - where do you see you're falling short on getting the point across with your team and coworkers? Are you an introvert? Do you have a hard time asking for help? Do you feel that when someone is explaining something to you, you're losing focus? This is the week to find those answers. When you're not good at communicating, you're work suffers drastically. The most important tool you will have in any setting is being an effective communicator. Set your week up to include challenges for yourself. If you're an introvert - find a coworker you feel comfortable with to try and work on a project together - doesn't matter what it is, even if you have to make it up - this will force yourself to take lead and initiate conversation. Then you can ask them how you did.

If asking for help is a big problem - prioritize your day and your week. If you see you have projects piling up - make a list of smaller things you can hand off to someone else. Ask your coworker "hey, I'm a little swamped, would you mind giving me a hand on some stuff I have?" What's great about working as a team is that we are not a "one woman/man show" - you have resources to use. It only hurts you when you fall behind because you can't bring yourself to ask for help.

Week 2: Efficiency - how are you at completing projects? Do you find you're falling behind on deadlines? Identify why it is that you can't bring yourself to successfully meet timeframes. Are you bad at organizing? Do you have papers all over your desk? Organization is the key to efficiency, when you know where everything is and have a good understanding of what's required of you - you'll have no reason not to meet those deadlines. Give yourself a to-do list. It's your responsibility to prioritize your projects and if that is not something you are good at, rope in your supervisor. "Hey Sue - can you spare five minutes to go over my to-do list today? I want to be sure I'm prioritizing properly." The other reason for efficiency problems is that you're constantly trying to make everyone happy. Of course, everyone's things are important but telling them you're going to work on it right now means stopping what you're currently working on and eventually falling farther behind. If someone says they need something and there's no specific deadline - you can easily say "no problem, I'll have that for you by the end of the day" or "I"ll have that for you first thing in the morning, just need to wrap up some current projects." By deferring time but still showing the work is a priority to you, allows you time to re-prioritize your list or rope in a co-worker to help (improving communication!)

Week 3: Consistency/Accuracy - is your work constantly coming back because there's errors? Grammar, spelling, sloppy? When a boss doesn't feel like your work is reliable to send off to clients, then it reflects badly on you. It shows them you don't know what you're doing and your rushing to get it done. Mistakes happen when we feel rushed and sometimes we have to rush but if we have a good foundation we can minimize those errors. Double check your work before you hit send. Print out your report before you send it off. A lot of times when we're staring at something for a long time, we become "blind" to a glaring error. Walking away from your computer and coming back will help give you a second glance. Asking a coworker to review your work is great as well, four eyes are better than two! Bosses don't always have time to read through so it's up to you to make them feel good that the work is accurate.

Week 4: Organization - this goes hand in hand with being efficient. I like getting in early before everyone because it gives me an opportunity to go through my emails - get my list of what I need to do together and get settled. Having an inbox full of emails isn't helpful. Having a desk cluttered with papers, gives a sense of being overwhelmed. How do you improve on your organization? Start with your inbox - create folders. Some people like having a lot of folders, one for each person in the office or for each project they work on - some people like having a few (priority, later, completed). Find what works for you. Outlook offers flags - you can flag tasks you need to work on in priority whether it be for today, this week or later in the month. Setup your calendar to reflect due dates. Utilize your own to-do list; every Monday I send out to my office a weekly to-do list, it gives them a chance to look through it and make sure what they requested is on it and shows who it has been assigned to. For my support team, this becomes a running checklist - when they're completed with one project they can move on to the next that is assigned to them or help someone who is falling behind.

Then move on to your desk. I always like to tell people, make yourself at home at your desk. Set it up to your comfort level and that doesn't just mean being organize - put things up that make you happy. So many people hate doing this when they first start a job because they're not sure if it'll work out. I say make it yours for however long you have it! I hate papers on my desk...HATE IT! So I put wall files in my office for every person, when they need to give me something, it goes in their "cubby" this way when I'm ready to work on it it I know exactly where to find the paper. 

Phew! That was a lot of information. Give it a try and see how this goes for you. If you plan on taking this challenge - save the pic attached to this post and tag me. If you need some help, feel free to send me a message - we'll work it out together!

Making It Work - Two Working Parent Household

A lot of times families are split amongst varying types of groups: Working Moms/Dads, Stay at Home Moms/Dads, Working Moms/Stay at Home Dads, Working Dads/Stay at Home Moms, Single Working Moms/ get my point. In our house, it's always been two working adults and then when we had kids it was two working parents.

The stresses of figuring out what to do after the baby was born was very heavy on us. We were not and are still not in a position for one of us to stay home and raise our kids. We were a household that NEEDED to have two incomes. Could it have been done with one of us staying at home? I'm sure it could have - we'd cut back, live on ramen, have one car, cut out luxuries like cable - but it would have been even more of a struggle. We were face with choosing between having a nanny or putting our infant in daycare. Based on what we could afford - nanny was for sure OUT! We could not afford to employ a nanny which by the way is exactly that - you are an employer and you need to file paperwork and taxes and all that good stuff  - we just could not swing it. So daycare won out. I will do a more in depth post on the pros and cons to look for when you're deciding on childcare.

Fast forward to our second baby which means double the cost of everything! So we're still a two working parent household. There's a certain amount of stress when you have both parents working. You are at a job that demands your time 8-10 hours a day then you come home and dinner needs to be made, bathes need to be had, lunches need to be made, playtime needs to be had and finally BEDTIME! It's very easy to feel utter exhaustion and get agitated with the people around you especially your spouse or partner. You don't feel like the other is pulling their weight, you find yourself becoming resentful because you think to yourself "well I work too the least you could do is make the lunches". It happens!

One of the things couples need to remember is that you're both in this together. You're both parents, you both work and you both lean on each other. I know for us - it was easy to get snappy with each other when one was doing way more than the other - it wasn't until we had a serious conversation of "how can we help each other"? The last thing anyone wants is to have their kids see their parents barking at each other - it doesn't teach them good communication skills and it's a little scary for them. So we identified the areas that were giving us frustration - household chores was a big one for me. I feel like a messy house creates a large amount of anxiety in me so I'm constantly cleaning. So we divided household chores - I take care of laundry, bed making and bathrooms while he's responsible for kitchen, floors and dusting - together we tackle the toys. He handles bath times and I cook dinner - together we get both kids dressed for bed. Some days it goes smoothly and some days not so much but the point is we're communicating with each other and we're there for each other.

For us, it doesn't matter how much money the other one makes - my job is just as important to me as yours is to you and we both need to acknowledge that. There are times when the kids are sick I can stay home with them and others my husband can. If one kid is very sick and requires more than one day of home rest, one parent takes one day and the another takes the other day or if we both have to be at work - I'll work half day and he'll work the other half. Just as you have to work with a team at your job - your spouse/partner is your teammate at home and it's both of your jobs to make sure that at the end of the day - you both were there for each other. 

Staying Organized

There is no better feeling to have a spot for everything and everything in it's spot! I live, breathe and eat organization. I scroll pinterest and instagram looking at other people's organization skills - Simply Organized I'm looking at you...Call Me! But organized and kids don't go in the same sentence and as matter of fact those two concepts don't even live in the same neighborhood.

This post is not about keeping my home organized, no - I'll save that for a day when my house is clean. This post is about organizing my life! I have a lot of things I need to keep track of - I'm an Office Manager for a very busy company, I'm a wife to a busy husband who has a busy travel schedule and I'm a mommy to busy toddlers - did you spot the theme? I'm ALWAYS busy! I'm not a savant, I have a great memory but I swear I ask what day it is at least twice.

So how do I do it? Multiple Calendars. I have more calendars then a normal person should have. I have a planner that I keep track of work and family - My phone that I have work and appointments stored on - a wall calendar because when planner and phone are not in reach, I need something to look at - I mentioned how many times I ask what day it is right? And lastly Outlook - Outlook alone I have 5 shared calendars. It's a miracle I know where anything is. So here are my tips:

1. Planner: I'm old school, I like writing things down. I'm currently using an Eric Condren Life Planner which I can do a review on, I'm not the biggest fan but I spent dollars on it - I'm freaking using it! This planner sits on my desk - it has my daily to-dos, appointments, meetings and conference calls all listed out per week and month. When I find time to schedule or move things around, I love having this in my face to write and make notes. I carry this with me Monday - Friday.

2. Phone: I am an iPhone user, I tried going LG I couldn't do it! I'm sorry but iPhone for life! This syncs my work calendar so if I need to reference something after hours I can. I also schedule appointments directly into my phone - no more appointment cards, I lose those things faster than you can imagine. When I'm finished with a doctors appointment I immediately whip out my phone and look at my calendar to see if my upcoming appointment is going to conflict with anything I have prescheduled. I also sync our family calendar with my husband's phone so he can stop asking me what we're doing a week from today. Later on - I'll add that to my physical planner.

3. Wall Calendar: I feel like this is just a necessity in any home - like why should you not have a wall calendar? When neither phone or planner is near by this is just a great quick reference to look at - I sometimes don't always update this but for instance if I'm in the middle of planning meals for week, I'll glance at this calendar, conveniently placed in my kitchen, to see what days I've purchased school lunch. It also comes in handy when we're planning things together, we generally reference this.

4. Outlook: If you do not know how to use Outlook, you need to get on YouTube and start watching videos. I use this strictly for work. I manage a lot of people and between the 5 shared calendars, I know where everyone and everything is at all times. I have 1 calendar for myself which I only use for meetings and calls that are just mine & scheduling office meetings - 1 for my entire support staff, it shows their vacation or days off schedules and internal chores list (yes we have chores) - 1 for each of my bosses - 1 for marketing schedules.

5. Excel: This is a recent addition to our family. I created a huge worksheet that is solely dedicated to bills - in it is a calendar and breakdown of when pay days land and where the bills fall. I'm in love with this system. It has allowed us to be better organized with our bills and our money. We'll save the details of this for another post.

After all that you may be asking yourself, why do you bother having so many calendars - can't you use just one? I'm sure I could but the problem is - when you stack all that on top of each other - it gets hard to read and it can be easily overwhelming. By writing appointments down so many times and looking at calendars constantly, I'm less likely to forget something - I feel like I have a good handle of things and what comes after the other. I know it seems a lot but all these things make my world go round - give one a try - tell me how it goes!

It's Good To Be Back!

Hi Friends! It's so good to sit down and start writing again. I've really missed it! SO MUCH has happened to me over the time I've been gone and it made me do a lot of reflecting on what exactly I wanted to do with this blog. I felt like I was putting content out just to fill the blank space and it seemed just as empty if I didn't say anything at all.

First, I changed how I looked at My Mommy Place, I wanted a more simplistic look - I wanted chic and simple, nothing to take away from the points I want to make. Next, I wanted the meaning of My Mommy Place to change - yes it references "Mommy" because I am a mommy but this is a play on mixing work and parenthood. For me the two get blended so often - it's hard to see where the "mom" part of me stops and when "Lisa" jumps in. Somedays I have to be both at the same time. I want this to be a place for parents, not just mommies. There are so many different types of working families out there, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, single moms, single dads - they're all part of the tribe called parenthood.

Finally, I wanted to incorporate more tips on how to be a SUCCESSFUL working parent. Tips on being better organized, getting ahead at work, how to work toward and get raises you deserve and how to keep moving upward and forward. I want to help people breakdown the stigmas that parents are less focused, less dedicated, less motivated because they have children than someone that doesn't. In fact I want to make employers see that it's people who are parents that will work the hardest because they have a lot to lose. I didn't graduate from college, I learned everything as I went on and I feel like even though I'm not a CEO...yet, I'm definitely on my way and I want to take you with me. I want to share those experiences with you and give those confidence in themselves to be better providers for their families.

Even if you are not a parent, have no plans on becoming a parent - most of everything I'm going to walk through can work for you too! You are not excluded - I like non-parents too :)

I even have plans to incorporate videos into this blog - yes I want to talk to you! Let's get personal for a minute okay! I don't know how it's going to work out and I may be completely awkward at it but I think it's going to be great. And if I fail, well then I fail but at least I gave it a try! So keep a look out because the first video is coming soon....Oh My Lanta!

It's an all new My Mommy Place and we're going to talk about everything and we're going to succeed together!