Jenn Koren

Who Says I Can't?

Not Making Resolutions…Just Making More Time.. January 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 7:53 am

My 10 year old daughter and I have started this new thing of going for walks together whenever time allows.  The walks usually last about 30 minutes or so and it allows her to have alone time with me without me being ‘distracted’ by anything else.  ‘Anything else’ means my phone, computer, my son, husband..etc…  I’m completely hers for that walk and she takes full advantage of it.  You wouldn’t think 30 minutes is a long time for someone to put down their phone or computer but it really is!  I have to actually time our walk correctly to make sure that I’m not needed during those 30 minutes so a lot of prep goes into this.  You also wouldn’t imagine the things that would come out of a 10 year old’s mouth during a 30 minute casual conversation where you’re actually listening to the things she is saying…oy

Normally she just hits me hard with something like, ‘We were playing Truth or Dare at school and….’ or  ‘Last week I got 2 strikes in school…’  I literally have to clear my brain before these walks and prepare for the onslaught of 10 year old confessions that I know is coming and will continue to come until she beats me down.

This last walk we talked about New Years resolutions.  She asked me what my 2012 resolutions were, however before she could let me get out my first one she answered for me and said, “more time off your phone”. I stopped walking and looked at her for a second.  It was one of those moments as a parent when your kid was telling you something that you didn’t realize that they had been aware of or affected by.  Well maybe I was aware of it but just figured that she was on board with my crazy life and knew that this was how it was.  Put down my phone? Then she says, ‘Yeah, maybe for like 1 day a week you don’t have your phone or your computer and you just spend it with me like what we’re doing right now.’ Then she flashes a big smile at me like it’s the most brilliant idea.

Two things immediately flooded my brain

  1. After 10 years of working 24/7 my kid has finally called me out and had enough
  2. The thought of putting down my phone and computer for 1 day a week seemed like the most impossible thing to do and I was suddenly having a panic attack
  3. Okay I added a 3rd…my 10 year old actually does know more than I thought which is very very bad

Since she threw this on me early I had to think of how to handle it to make the most of the walk.  I frantically search my brain for how to make this work.  Can I do that?  One day a week without my phone or computer?  That’s what normal people do and I am definitely not normal and my job is definitely not normal.   I think she realizes that I’m about to have a heart attack and she starts to go into compromise mode.   Fifteen minutes later we agreed to Saturday & Sunday mornings without phone or computer and  30 minutes in the evenings after school where I was completely hers to discuss school & homework.  She seemed pleased with the outcome (and agreed to flexibility if needed).   She asked me about my other resolutions and what they were.  She suggested keeping a list somewhere in the house so that we could keep track of our goals and not forget them.  This conversation seemed very familiar all of a sudden but not one that I have had with my 10 year old….

I made a promise to her that we wouldn’t wait until next year to make the changes in our lives that we needed to make.   That we’ll use these talks and our time together to make sure we’re doing the things we want to do in life.  I also made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t forget this conversation with her or the look on her face or sound of her voice when she told me about the time she wanted to spend with me and just me.

Someone told me this year that no matter how busy you are, you can always make time for people in your life.  Whether that time is 15-30 minutes a day or a few hours a week, it doesn’t matter.  It’s actually making the time that matters and devoting yourself completely to that person.  I actually didn’t think that the little time that I had to give would make a difference but gave it a try by starting these little walks where I was giving her all of myself for the entire walk.   I was wrong.  Any time that you have does make a difference.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do continue to make promises that I intend to keep to myself and my family.  I’m excited for another year to make promises and keep them and continue to improve areas of my life that I haven’t been able to improve yet.

Thanks Emma for being you and for teaching me things that only a 10 year old daughter can teach a Mom.

 

Confessions of a 9 year old May 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 9:48 am

There really should be some type of warning when your daughter officially hits the ‘tween’ years.  Something that flashes, ‘Warning! Warning!’ and gives you adequate notice that something completely unexpected is about to come out of  your kids mouth and will continue to occur until the next stage begins.  There should be some type of forecasting system set up for this as well.  It would help immensely with my future planning.

My daughter is 9 1/2 years old and will officially be 10 in August which puts us in the ‘tween’ category.  This category is supposed to be the stage that  kids enter prior to becoming a teenager.  I don’t remember there being a ‘tween’ stage when I was a kid.   I only really remember one stage growing up which was called, Completely Crazy, Alien and Hormonal.

So with this ‘tween’ stage apparently comes the need to confess all your sins that occurred since you were born.  I wasn’t sure this was what she was doing until it started to become a regular occurrence and the confessions started to become a little more, shall we say, graphic?  My once quiet car rides with Emma were now filled with her confessing everything that she could remember doing wrong since she was 5.  You think I’m kidding?  Here are a few examples of what she’s felt the need to unload on me over the last month.

    1. Picking her nose and eating it when she was 6.  Right of passage..I get it
    2. Hiding a bad grade from me last year.  Expected…I’m pretty scary when it comes to bringing C’s home
    3. Going to her locker at school instead of going to the bathroom.  I didn’t quite get this one but apparently you aren’t supposed to go to your locker in the middle of class so she tells the teacher she’s going to the bathroom.  This is kind of resourceful right?  
    4. Drinking pee out of the toilet when she was 5.  Hmmmmm…not sure how that’s possible, but okay.
    5. Hitting a camp counselor when she was 8 in a place that she shouldn’t have hit him.  Great…maybe he deserved it?
    6. Finding poop behind the couch when she was 7 and touching it with her finger.  Oooookay..sure
    7. Saying bad words in  her head that she really wanted to say out loud.   I was tempted to just have her say them just to get them out of her system.  Apparently that would be bad parenting so I decided otherwise.  We did however do a Q&A session and outlined what all curse word means so she wouldn’t have to wonder about that anymore.  That was one for the books.
    8. Calling me an idiot in her head when she was mad at me.  What??????  She quickly followed this one up with the fact that she told herself that she knew I wasn’t an idiot and that she loved me.   What????? 

I started to feel like a priest in a Catholic church since she was always cornering me whenever she had the chance and spilling her guts of all the things that she did wrong over the years.  One day before we even started driving I told her to just get it all out so I didn’t have to hear about it for the rest of the day.  So we sat in the car for about 30 minutes until she got all the things off her mind that she was planning on confessing to me that day.  It was kind of like ‘Speed Confessing’.  She would say what she did and then I’d say, ‘Okay, next….’  For those of you that know me well, know that I’m not the most sensitive and patient person for this type of thing.  So you can imagine me sitting in my car with my head in my hands listening to all the confessions of my 9 year old and waiting for the end to come….oy.  I really should have had all boys.

The daily 30-60 minute confessionals were getting a little extreme and more regular.  They were getting to the point where any second she had me alone she’d start spilling her guts about something new that she had locked up in her brain that she never told me about.   I felt like I was in a war zone and constantly being hit with surprise attacks.  I was dodging in and out of safe zones in order to survive.  Seriously, it’s been the longest month of my entire life. In order to motivate myself to not completely freak out on her I kept telling myself, ‘talking is good, communication is good, we want our kids to tell us everything’.  I can hear my parents laughing at this whole situation as I type this.

So I do what I normally do when I am presented with a challenge.   I break it down, analyze it and come up with the best solution to fix it.   If you’re wondering if I handle all my problems with my kids as I do with my problems at work then you’re correct.  It works, so don’t knock it.  I soon realized that my daughter’s brain is a pretty logical one. She needs to have a logical answer for everything that’s going on in her head.  She needs to get things out and not have any ‘gray’ areas left behind.  If things aren’t completely black and white and if she isn’t completely satisfied with the outcome then she will keep pestering me about things until the answer is crystal clear and makes logical sense to her.  This means that we’re officially past the stage of me making up answers in attempt to buy time before I have to give her the REAL answer.  Great.

My first solution to the confessing was to get her more involved in church so that she understood that confessing everything she did wrong to me didn’t really do anything. I grew up in a very religious household and I never seemed to have these large ‘guilt’ feelings over my head so I felt the need to go back to my roots and introduce my daughter to church again where she could feel some peace about the things that she felt like she’s done wrong in the past.   I assured her that God would forgive her for touching poop.  Hopefully this would also lessen our daily confessional sessions and rescue me from wanting to throw myself out of my moving car on a daily basis.

The second solution that I had was to force her to start keeping a daily diary on her computer about all the things that were on her mind.  I know that I can be pretty talkative but this kid can REALLY talk.  She seems to have a ridiculous amount of information in her head that she just wants to get out and apparently no one really wants to listen.  Creating an online diary for her to to express all the thoughts that were swimming around in her head should help ease her mind and hopefully help her be more creative with expressing herself.    She asked me if she could write whatever she wanted and I said yes.  I told her to use this as her own personal space to write about anything that was on her mind.

This seemed like a fantastic idea until I read her first entry.   I guess I should have been more specific and let her know that typing out curse words is the same as saying them out loud.  I also told her that we probably didn’t want to have written documentation showing all the words that she’s hearing on a daily basis and wondering why she can’t say or use them like everyone else.  I also mentioned that writing out the hand gestures that she’s seeing her friends use each week is not entirely the best use of her daily diary.  I commended her for her openness and ability to express herself freely.  She was quite proud of herself.  I think it’s safer to go back to the daily confessions.  Oy…
 

Why I Freaked Out at My First Epilepsy Walk May 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 6:05 pm

When I saw the purple shirt that I was supposed to wear for my first epilepsy walk my first thought was, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me.” I looked at the other white shirts that my parents, kids and Vinny were supposed to wear and I suddenly felt like the ‘Big Grape Ape’ standing out amongst a sea regular people.  It was less then 24 hours before my first official Walk for Epilepsy and I started to seriously question whether my kids were going to experience their Mother having a complete crazy person melt down that they would pass on to their grandkids in the years to come.  Only one word came to my mind….’oy’.  Okay maybe that’s not an actual word but it’s definitely the nicer version of the words the were running through my head at the moment.

I’ve had epilepsy for over 15 years now and rarely talk about.  I simply don’t like talking about.  People don’t understand it and it annoys me when they try to understand it.  I’m incredibly uncomfortable when people learn that I have it and see that initial pity on their face.  I want to get all jacked up and be like ‘what?  what?’  Yeah, real mature I know.  The fact that I’m participating in this walk sporting a nice purple shirt that says, ‘Look at me, I have Epilepsy’ with thousands of people aware of it makes the saliva rise to the top of my throat and literally makes it impossible for me to swallow.  When my Mom first found out that I was going to do the walk she called me all ‘cheerleader like’ and was so proud of me saying she couldn’t wait to do the walk with us.  I think I had about five anxiety attacks during our 5 minute phone conversation.  I couldn’t wait to stop talking about it and get off the phone.

So here I was with my husband who has lived during the main seizure free period of my life, children who had no idea I had epilepsy until the current year and my parents who lived through the whole thing with me.  I seriously thought about switching the purple shirt with my husband so I could hide out during the walk and blend in with the others.  What?  Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have thought of that too!

The walk was in DC and we arrived the day before so we had plenty of time for the whole experience to soak in my already stressed out brain.  We took in some sites with my parents and had a great time with them.  The morning of the walk came pretty quick and my Mom was at my door bright and early sporting her proud white T-shirt.  You have to love her positive attitude about everything in life but this time she was completely freaking me out.  My husband knowing how to deal with my stress better kept his distance and glanced at me every so often to make sure I wasn’t in danger of completely making an ass out of myself in front of the kids.  I returned his glances with death stares as if to say, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t talk me out of this’.

The walk was a short subway ride away and we all boarded the MARC train approximately 30 minutes before the walk was supposed to start.  As soon as we got on the train we started to see the other shirts which my Mom greeted with ‘Hey, look at that!  They are walking too!’  Ugh…I was totally not going to make it out of this without my breakfast ending up all over one of these white shirts.

We had a few stops to go before getting to our destination and at each stop we saw more white and purple shirts get on board.  Purple shirts were worn by all types of people that if they were wearing normal clothes you would never know they had epilepsy.  I wondered if they felt as uncomfortable as I did?  I was waiting for someone to rip off their purple shirt and start chanting ‘Purple Shirts Suck! Purple Shirts Suck!’  But apparently no one shared the same boycotting attitude that I had at that moment.

My Mom sat all cheery with my daughter and my son sat with my Dad.  Vinny was avoiding me, which was good because the years of pent up tears were just dying to find an excuse to use that very moment to show the entire subway that I was not as badass as I made myself out to me.

As we got off the train and made our way up to the main level I glanced behind me to see all the purple and white tshirts following.  A group of about 10 white shirts all clustered together and still on the train caught my eye.  I wondered what they were all doing huddled together and why they were still on the train.  As the white huddle broke apart I saw them slowing making way for 2 other white shirts who were carrying a person wearing a purple shirt and that purple shirt was worn by a young girl.  And that was it.  The tears came and I quickly walked ahead of the rest of my family to hide the emotions that would no longer contain themselves.  My Mom saw, but she kept her distance which was good.  My Mother and I don’t handle emotions well together.  We’re like the domino effect.  When one of us goes down the rest of us follow.  Fortunately I pulled it together and started up the stairs to the Capitol where the walk would begin.  It was pretty cold and kind of muddy but fortunately we came weather prepared so I figured we had about 30 minutes before the first kid started to complain of not being able to feel a part of their body.

Before the walk began we listened to some music and visited some of the vendor tents.  My Mom and Emma emerged from one of the vendor tents with an armful of epilepsy gear and a very pleased look on her face as if to say she got a really great deal on all the free stuff.  When the walk began we did just that…walked.  Not much talking went on but it forced me to open my eyes and look around at all the purple shirts.  They didn’t seem to be hiding out like I wanted to and so far no emotional breakdowns from any other walkers.   There were toddlers, teens, infants, Moms, Dads, Grandparents and even dogs!  I looked at the teens and understood what they must have felt and admired them for doing something that I would have never done at their age.  I looked at the children and felt ashamed for wanting to hide out when they stood so proud in their purple shirts and had a team of family and friends sporting personalized supportive team shirts in honor of them.  I saw parents walking with  their children and realized that they too looked like proud cheerleaders just like my Mom.   I glanced at my Mom and saw her looking away.  I realized that this too was emotional for her and that I was not as alone as I thought I was.

Throughout the walk the feeling of wanting to vomit, breakdown and cry like a baby never went away.   There were several times I wanted to run over to my Mom, fall to the grown as we weeped together like we were characters in some Lifetime TV Movie.  Thankfully I controlled myself and I’m sure she and the rest of the participants were grateful for that….oy.

The walked seemed to last forever but we made our way back to the train soon enough.  We didn’t stay for after walk festivities as I felt like that would definitely tip me over the edge into insanity and result in my daughter to possibly be traumatized for the rest of her life.   Instead we left early and did what we do best.  We headed to Starbucks and I got a grande, nonfat, 2 splenda latte.

After looking back at the whole situation I’m glad I did it.  I am still trying to answer the question on why I was so freaked out about the whole situation.  One possible solution is that my inability to let go of being in control could be hindering my ability to get in touch with my more sensitive emotional side, but I don’t really like that answer.  Instead of dwelling on the reason, I choose to do what I do best and plan to organize and run one of the events in the future so I can help other kids that might have felt the same way I did.

It was a good first step for me and now my daughter sports the purple shirt at home every now and then.  I asked her if she realized that was the purple shirt that people with epilepsy wore at the walk and her answer was, “yeah, so?”  Nice Emma…Purple Power!

 

What we REALLY want for Mother’s Day May 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 8:29 am

It’s Mother’s Day once again and my husband has asked me a few times what I want to do on this day.  What do I want to do?  I want to sleep!  I want to sleep without dreaming and wake up 10 hours later completely rested.

For example, last night I had a dream about a close friend of mine that I haven’t seen forever and how she was starting to have an affair with an ex-boyfriend of mine.  They are both married with kids and the very last people you’d think to have an affair with anyone.  They don’t even know each other or live in the same parts of the country! So I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, is this real?  Do I need to call her at 3am to make sure she hasn’t lost her mind?  More importantly, why do these ridiculous dreams feel the need to come into my head at night when I just want to sleep?!  This is incredibly annoying because now I can’t relax and go back to sleep.  I consider taking a shot of vodka from the bottle that is in my freezer just to take the edge off.  Yes, I do consider it!  I’m not ashamed since quality sleep is pretty much priceless at this point in my life and all that is needed to make me happy.

Besides sleep (which will continue to be at the top of my wish list for the day), I thought about other things I’d like to do on this day and have come up with the following list

  1. Eat ‘munchie type’ food all day without ever getting full
  2. Watch a movie that doesn’t include a cartoon character or guys in sports uniforms or making drunk jokes about girls (my husband watches those..not my kids)
  3. Take a break from picking up dog poop
  4. Shower without a small person staring at me asking me when breakfast is going to be ready
  5. Stay in my pj’s all day and have my husband still think that I’m totally hot and say that he thinks I should wear them every day
  6. Quiet…that’s it…just quiet.  Doesn’t matter what I’m doing…just so it’s quiet
I think that’s about it.  That’s not a lot to ask for, right?  I firmly believe that most Mom’s want this for Mother’s Day.  I’m hoping that if I can get this message out to a mass husband list then I can contribute to a lot of my friends and family having a fabulous Mother’s Day as well.
In addition to this I need to give a big shout out to my Mom and all my fantabulous (yes it’s a word) friends that are Moms.  You rock Mom!  Thanks for dealing with a crazy daughter like me and making me feel like I’m not totally losing my mind all the time.   And to all my fellow girlfriends who have finally all had kids, it’s about time!  I’m wishing you all one night of good sleep and a day full of stuffing your face full of munchies in your pj’s while watching a great chick flick….in complete quiet.
God, that sounds great.
 

Yes, I’m thankful for Skype! November 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 8:02 am

Wow!  It’s been a really long time since I’ve sat down and had time to blog.  I actually don’t have the time right now but figured if I didn’t take 15 minutes out of my day to write something down it might be next year when I actually make the time to make this happen.

So I continue to stand by not blogging unless I have something to say.  It’s been over 3 months since my last blog and I’m sure I have had lots to say since then but have lost myself in work, kids, home, work, kids…did I say work?

It’s that time of the year when the holidays are coming around and life is passing too quickly.  It will soon be New Years and we’ll all look back and wonder how it all went by so fast once again.  So this is my 15 minutes at 7am in the morning on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to slow down for a moment and remember what is important in my life and what I’m most thankful for.

I’m thankful for Skype!  Yes, that’s right, aren’t you?  My parents live about 3 hours from me and I get to see them anytime I want!  I was able to talk my Mom out of cutting her hair and suggested different looks that I thought would look good on her.  We have morning coffee and she yells at me on a nightly basis to get off the computer when she see’s I’m on there late at night.     It’s like they are right here with me all the time.

I’m thankful for parent controlled cell phones for your kids.  My 9 year old can reach me when I’m traveling and let me know that Zoe (her American Girl doll) is dressed in her horsemanship outfit.  She can take pictures of Zoe and send it to me so I can share in her excitement during these crazy girl moments that she is constantly experiencing lately.  She can also use the phone to document evidence that her 4 year old brother has not been sharing or listening to her.  These texts remind me how I would love to live in the world that my children live in…..forever…

I’m thankful that my bank allows bill-pay on just about anything so I never have to actually write a check.  I actually have no idea how much money we spend on bills on a monthly basis but they always get paid on time and that’s one less thing I have to worry about!

I’m thankful for the crazy old Irish lady that we found to watch our dogs for $30 a day (for both dogs)…yes..I said both dogs.  This lady, who some might find harsh and a bit not normal, is the best thing that has happened to our dogs since the dog bone was created.   She also seems to REALLY like my husband which comes in handy when we need to make a last minute change to our dog schedule.

I’m thankful for Cami, our Au Pair from Columbia, who doesn’t judge me for living in my room (where my office is) and never changing out of my pajamas’s.  Anyone who has to deal with my kids all day, my A-type personality and shedding dogs that are too big for our home deserves a nice long vacation…without kids, myself and or our dogs…

And finally I am thankful for my incredibly patient husband who always supports my craziness and allows me to take any challenges head on…not matter how absurd they might be.   I used to think that he allowed me to do the things that I wanted because he knew it wasn’t worth arguing with me.  I’m Italian after all, arguing and getting our way pretty much runs through our blood lines.  After a few long talks about why I was feeling so passionate about this new stage in life, the only answer I could give him on why I wanted to make this change was because ‘it felt like the right thing to do in my life at that moment’.   And that was it.  He supported me and we took yet another step in our crazy lives together towards some unknown future..now that’s love…or my craziness is starting to rub off on him.

So this 15 minute post turned into an hour long post which also included checking my emails, getting breakfast ready, dressing Sean and making Emma’s bed.  I don’t have time to proof this so excuse all the grammatical errors that I’m sure everyone (mostly my Dad) will find.

I’m thankful I found the time to post this to remind myself of all the things that are good in life right now.

 

Still Figuring Out This Parent Thing July 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 7:24 am

So I have completely failed with my goal to blog at least once a week.  However, I wasn’t truly inspired to really write anything that I thought was worth reading…even for me. I promised myself that I wouldn’t blog about meaningless things just ‘because I had to blog’.  If something didn’t stick with me for more than a day then I figured it wasn’t really that interesting enough to waste my time on.  The other day I experienced something and it’s stuck with me for a while now so I figured it was time to revisit my blog and get it down so that I could be at peace with it.

I have no problem admitting that I am definitely a workaholic.  I love to work and keep busy.  Some people have hobbies and things on the side that they do for fun..well I work..that’s my hobby.  I love things that are challenging and put me in a social setting that I can really focus and make a difference in what I’m doing.  I love solving problems and providing positive leadership to my staff so that they can continue to push themselves and feel proud of what they do.   I always put everything I have into getting the job done.  That’s just me.  I’ve tried not working, but I think I got bored by the second day and immediately fled back to my job looking for anything that I could do to help.  I definitely don’t need to work right now in the capacity that I’m working and I could do the more domesticated stay at home route.  However, I already work from home and I already handle all the household duties….so what’s the point?

I am also the Mom to a soon to be 9 year old girl and a soon to be 4 year old son.  I’ve tried to be the best parent that I can be but I will honestly say that I’m a better worker than I am a parent.  The parent thing just hasn’t come as natural to me as it has with other people I know.   You would think that if I could be a great Manager then I would be a great Mom too, right?    I mean if I can motivate a group of people and maintain a positive environment and push everyone to hit their goals, then why wouldn’t I be able to do that with my kids?

The other night my daughter had her first campfire cookout for her Girl Scout troop.  Normally these things are such a bother to me because they are after work and I’m tired…and I know she’s going to be tired and it just throws my whole schedule off.  But, as a parent you HAVE to do these things even when you’re tired..even when you’ve had a long day and week and all you want to do is curl up in your pj’s and watch a movie.   However, some of the other  Moms that I knew from the troop were also going to be there so it would be a chance to socialize for me as well.

The house we went to had a pool so the girls were able to swim the majority of the time that we were there.  I sat myself down by the pool and started conversing with the other parents, while keeping an eye on my daughter who I honestly wasn’t sure how well she could swim (I even asked her as she got into the pool…’can you swim?’)…I know…you’re thinking ‘Mother of the Year’, right?

So as I’m talking with the other parents I notice my daughter following around her 2 girlfriends (who seem to be the only2 girls that she ever plays with at school or talks about at home).  I quickly realized that they were purposely trying to avoid her…as in ‘ON PURPOSE!’   She would swim over to them and they would see her coming and quickly laugh and talk secretly and swim away.  This carried on for pretty much the majority of the night.  You would think that my daughter would have gotten the point that these girls were playing  a mean game with her and that she should just move on to play with the other 10 girls that were there, but she didn’t.  She kept trying to play with these 2 girls and kept following them around like a lost puppy looking for some type of acceptance.  It was very obvious to the rest of the girls and also all the parents that this was going on.

Besides feeling complete rage over the situation, I was astonished at the fact that my daughter continued to try to pursue these girls, but probably more bothered that she didn’t show any sign of the situation bothering her. Every time they turned their back on her she would say something like ‘hey girls, why aren’t you talking to me?’ or just turn around and play by herself in the pool before trying to approach the girls again.  She wasn’t crying over it, getting mad or throwing any sort of temper tantrum to draw attention to herself.  She simply took the abuse…and then went back for more!

I honestly couldn’t understand her reaction to this.  As I child, I was never bullied.  I never was at a loss for friends and always seemed liked.  I never bullied anyone else (or at least not on purpose and if I did..I always felt bad and said sorry).  I was friends with everyone and never felt alone or socially unaccepted. I was athletic and popular and had a pretty good childhood.  If someone didn’t want to be my friend I didn’t care, because I had plenty others.

I wasn’t really sure how to handle the whole situation when it was occurring because part of me wanted to sit the girls down and give them all a lesson in teamwork and positive influence and how you should treat everyone as you would want to be treated because as my Mom always told me…’What goes around, comes around’.  But really I wanted to have a few ‘nice’ words with the parents.  I mean, who brings up their kids to act like this?  They don’t learn this on their own.  However, I thought this was probably inappropriate at the time….but oh so tempting…

As a Leader and Manager, I’ve always believed that my staff was a product of me.  If they weren’t successful its because I didn’t prepare them correctly and it was my job to steer them in the right direction.  I quickly realized that I wasn’t following the same guidelines as a parent that I was following in my career.  I was focusing more on being successful in my work then I was as a parent.

Seeing my daughter take this abuse made me feel like more of a failure then I have ever felt in anything in my entire life.  I saw ‘her’ for the first time in a long time.  I saw her as being on her own and trying to figure out this world with little guidance from me.  This broke me at that moment.  It broke me more than I care to admit or can put into words.

On the way home, I asked her if she had fun, knowing the whole time that she played by herself and was completely rejected by her two ‘supposedly best friends’ the entire time we were there.  Her response, ‘I had an AWESOME time Mom!’  I held in tears on the way home as my stomach twisted and turned from the whole experience.

We got home late and I walked her upstairs to her room and put her to bed.  Normally I would walk out of her bedroom door saying goodnight with my mind already on something else that I needed to be working on.  This night, I stayed in her room for a bit and got into bed with her.  She smiled as she snuggled into me and I made a silent promise to her on that night that I would be a better Mom going forward and that I would show her that she is the most important person in the world and she should never accept less then what she deserves.

We also enrolled her in Karate the next weekend so that she will learn self defense and give a serious butt whooping to anyone who tried to mess with her….okay..that might not be the best lesson ..but it made me feel better.

As a full time working parent who spends more time working than being a parent, I’ve realized that I haven’t focused on being the best parent I can be.  I’ve realized it’s much harder to be a good parent then it is to be successful at your career.  It requires me giving more of myself in ways that I never realized were necessary or possible.  I know that this will be my greatest challenge in life and all the jobs that come and go will just be something that I do on the side.

Love you Emma…with a bushel and peck..and a hug around the neck..

 

Is Good Communication Really The Answer? June 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 7:32 am

I was recently asked if I would give some pointers to someone who had taken a new management position.  He was looking to get feedback on how to increase his departments negative reputation amongst other departments as well as increasing their overall level of customer service.

I knew little about the department and am used to experiencing the environment in person before giving any feedback.  However, this time I was given a small description about the department and was asked to give some quick pointers on what I thought the first steps should be to fix their poor reputation of customer service and interacting with other departments.

Immediately this is what came to mind:

  1. Good Management:  I firmly believe that any staff (or person)  is a product of their manager.  If the staff is poor or performing poorly then it’s the fault of management and they aren’t doing their job to properly motivate, train or staff the department.  I would start with the lead person (or supervisor) and get an idea on how they have managed the staff.  Be prepared that the issue may lie with the person directly in charge of the staff.  If you are the person in charge then try to get feedback on how the old boss ran things.
  2. Setup for Success: Does the staff have documented policies and procedures on how to do their job?  Do they have easy access to help and support if they have a question or issue come up or are they expected to work on their own?  When a team has the right tools and support to do their job they will feel more secure about how to perform their job and produce better service.
  3. Leave the Drama at the Door:  I have 0% tolerance for any type of drama or negativity on my staff and department.  I have fired people on the spot if I sensed any type of attitude or disrespect.   You shouldn’t have to teach people how to communicate in a respectful manner..you should only employ the people who possess those skills.  I don’t deal with it and make it known that everyone treats each other with respect or you’re out.
  4. Team Work! Build a strong team and they will perform strongly.  I build my staff with unique people that can learn from each other and want to be part of a team rather than be isolated.  I address my staff as a team more than I address them individually.  My first focus is always building the team environment and weeding out the people who don’t believe in working together to succeed.  Once you have a strong team then they will thrive together and help each other to push the department to succeed, not only because it’s their job, but because they want to.
  5. Know Who You Are Working With :  Hear what they have to say and listen to their feedback.  I spent my first month or so  at one job meeting w/ all 20 of my staff members and listening to their experiences individually.  It helped me see where the problems really were.

I honestly feel like communication is the key to succeeding in anything that you do.   I find myself learning on a daily basis the best way to get my points across in my professional and personal life.  If I am having issues reaching my goals with my staff or even with my family, I take a step back and look at how I am communicating my points.  I ask myself if it’s the best way to accomplish what I need to get done.  In doing this, I am able to see how I am affecting my own ability to succeed as well as others.   I can then quickly adjust my communication style to be more effective to the people (or team) that surround me.

Do you feel like your communication skills have played a big role in what you have succeeded or failed at in your life?  Have you used positive communication skills to improve a negative experience that you had to overcome?  If so, what skills worked best for you and what was the outcome?

 

I’m not an Epileptic..I’m a Person with Epilepsy June 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 9:30 pm

The first time I heard someone call me an ‘Epileptic’..my initial reaction was..’I’m a what?’

For those of you who are wondering, I am not an Epileptic.  I am a person with Epilepsy along with other things such as flat feet, freckles, dry skin, naturally curly hair and a hidden love for romance novels.

However, society feels the need to pick the ‘label’ that it feels best suits me as a person and use that to describe me as a whole.  I’ve seen this happen with other people as well and every time I hear the label, I cringe like I’m hearing finger nails slowly scratching a chalk board.  Yeah, it’s that bad.

Let’s see…there’s labels such as Diabetic, Alcoholic, Bulimic, Anorexic, Narcoleptic, Workaholic, Agoraphobic…..do I need to go on?

Who came up with these labels and why were they so selective?
Why didn’t someone come up with a label like ‘multitaskingfulltimeworkingmom..ic’?  I know that’s a bit much, but that would be much more appropriate to sum up the type of person that I am at this point in my life.

I know that people will still call me an Epileptic, and I will still correct them by saying the same speech, ‘I’m not an Epileptic.  I am a person with Epilepsy.  Epilepsy does not define me as person but is a small fraction of what has made me who I am today’….I annoy myself as I say this speech over and over again to the countless people who continue to label me.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll always be labeled as this and that most people will never truly get it.  I’m okay with that…sort of.

However, I thought this would be a good opportunity to come up with my own label for myself on what I think truly captures who I am as a person. Why can’t I, right?

It didn’t take me long to think of one.  I smiled as soon as I thought about the new label that I had given to myself and that small smile made me realize that it was right….even if it was just for me.

Since I don’t think it’s possible to come up with just one word to define what someone is all about, I came up with a short phrase.

Hopeful Dreamer of Endless Possibilities…..yeah…I like that one much better.

Have you ever been labeled incorrectly?  Do you feel like you have labeled other people without realizing that was what you were doing?  If you could create your own label that would define you as a person, what would it be?

 

Tips from Grandma Lucy May 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 7:40 am

Grandma Lucy all dolled up

I am not sure how old my Grandma Lucy is, and neither does she.  We all think she’s in her mid 80’s but if you ask her, she’ll tell you one answer one day, and then another answer another day.  I also am not sure of her birthday.  My Mom calls me every year to remind me to wish my Grandma Happy Birthday on a certain day, but always adds that we’re really not sure if that’s her birthday so make sure I call her the next day also.

As a child, I remember my Grandma as a little Italian lady with a size 5 shoe, who had a fantastic laugh.  She hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. She’s still a tiny Italian lady with the smallest feet I’ve ever seen and a laugh that can still make you forget everything else going on in the world.

I saw her this past weekend at a wedding and spent my usual time catching up with her.  She’s always so excited to see me and is never short on things to tell me about and advice that she thinks I need to follow. For some reason I never seem to forget all the things that she has told me as a kid. It made me think about a few tips that I have carried with me since I was a kid.  I felt the need to share these with everyone so here they are.

Grandma Lucy’s Tips on Life

  1. Don’t wear your glasses all the time because it will make your vision worse. I got glasses when I was in 6th grade because I was nearsighted.  I couldn’t see far away so I had to start wearing them in school.  It was hard getting glasses at that age and most people were supportive and said, ‘you look great!..blah..blah’.  But Grandma Lucy would constantly tell me to take my glasses off.  She convinced me that if I wore them all the time it would make my vision worse and then I’d have to always wear my glasses.  I would tell her that I couldn’t see without them and she’d say, ‘sure you can, just use them when you need to see far away’.  I obviously didn’t listen to her and am now have to wear them every day.  She’s in her mid 80’s and doesn’t wear glasses to see.  So I either think that I was a fool not to listen to her or that she really can’t see but rather have blurry vision then be caught in glasses.
  2. Cod liver oil gel caps make a great face cream. When I was a kid my Mom used to make me take Cod Liver Oil vitamins that were in a form of gel caps.  I know she made me take these because Grandma Lucy made her take them when she was a kid.  I am still not sure what the point of these pills were but I know they smelled awful.  I remember one day when Grandma Lucy was in my kitchen she asked my Mom for some cod liver oil vitamins and she broke the gel cap open and applied the oil to her face.  I stared at her like, ‘EWWWWW?’.  She then proceeded to put some on my face and then my Mom joined in and we were having a cod liver oil skin party.  At the time, I wasn’t convinced that these vitamins were necessary to smear on my face, but if you look at Grandma Lucy’s skin now, you’d be clearing the shelves of cod liver oil at your local vitamin store.
  3. It’s okay to wear your shirt backwards. Grandma Lucy always wore very relaxed clothes and seemed very comfortable in her own skin.  You never commented on anything that she wore because even though it may have seemed odd, she was very confident about everything she did so there was never a need to question any of her decisions.  One time I saw that she was wearing her shirt backwards.  There was no mistake about it.  I saw the tag indentation in the back of her shirt and that it was on the wrong way.  I asked her, ‘Grandma, did you know your shirt was backwards?’ and she replies, ‘Yeah, I know’.   Enough said..never mentioned the backward shirt again.
  4. Eat fresh food, everything else is JUNK. Grandma Lucy is a great cook.  I remember going to her house as a kid and she would just whip something up for me.  Even now I see her over the stove at my parents house or cutting something on the cutting board.  She could throw together a full course meal with whatever she had in her fridge and pantry.  She would make sure that we always ate good and that we never ate ‘JUNK’.  ‘Everyone eats so much JUNK’, she’d say.  ‘Don’t feed your kids, JUNK’, she’d tell me and ‘You know what’s wrong with everyone today?  They all eat so much JUNK!’  I realized that to her, JUNK, was defined as anything with more than 2 ingredients in it.  If you had to buy food out of a can, it better just be in there for storing purposes and have no other JUNK in there.  If I had a snack on me, she’d snatch the package out of my hand and say, ‘What’s this JUNK?’ and she’d start reading the 500 ingredients off the package label…then she’d throw it out.  I make sure that every time she see’s my kids that she knows that I don’t feed them JUNK and I think she’s proud of me since she always says, ‘Jenny, you better not be feeding these kids JUNK!’
  5. Don’t wait to have kids until you’re financially stable…cause you’ll never be. As soon as I got married, she hounded me about having kids.  As soon as I had my first daughter she hounded me about when I was going to have a second kid.  I tried to explain to her that we were waiting until we were more financially stable to have more kids.  She looked at me like I was crazy and firmly instructed me that this was ridiculous because I would be waiting forever.  She said, ‘You’ll never be financially stable enough to have kids so just have them when you’re young.’  We waited 5 years in between our two kids…and she was right.  We were in no better place financially 5 years later.
  6. She has Crazy Person radar. You can always tell when Grandma Lucy thinks someone else is crazy because her eyes will get REAL big when you’re talking with these people.  She’ll do it when they aren’t looking, like you’re in some secret club and only you can see the reaction on her face.  We’ll all be standing in a group of people talking about something not so important and she’ll look at me and give me these BIG WIDE eyes like, ‘run away, this person is crazy’.  She’d then quickly compose herself when they would turn around and talk to her and she’d would continue on with the conversation…then would reach for my hand as if to guard me from the crazy person and make sure they don’t snatch me away.  It is hard to have conversations with her when people are around because she always seems to have the ‘crazy person radar’ on and it’s hard to keep a straight face when she gets a vibe and goes into alert mode.

I grew up with my Grandma in my every day life and now live about 3 hours away from her.  When I saw her this weekend it was at a wedding and she looked beautiful in skirt suit and dazzling jewelry.  You would never guess that behind that beautiful suit she had a life of struggle growing up as single Mom.  You’d never know that she was in an almost fatal car accident a few years back which resulted in a tracheostomy (she still has a small tube that helps her breathe).  I don’t think we’ll ever really know ALL of Grandma Lucy’s struggles since I have never heard her complain a day in her life.

Every time she see’s me her face lights up and she smiles at me like I am her favorite person in the world.  I don’t see anything past her smile and all her memories that she’s given me.  I’m glad that I have such a clear vision of all our time together and all the things that she has done and taught me.  I look forward to all the tips that she’ll give my children and all the laughs that we still have left together.

What are your most vivid memories of your grandparents?   What tips did they give you that may have seemed crazy as a kid but as an adult make perfect sense?

 

Communication 101 – Mom Style May 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 8:16 pm

We recently had a concrete patio installed in our back yard.  This was an exciting event for us since whatever backyard we did have in our end unit town home, had been destroyed by our 2 dogs.

There were so many patio options to choose from, none that I really cared out since my husband usually takes care of all the renovations around the house.  I’m glad to not have another thing to plan and organize.  I try to do this a few times a year convincing myself that it’s good for my health to learn how to not NEED to be involved in everything.

He decided on a stamped concrete patio that would cover the majority of the backyard along with some landscaping that outlined the yard and an electric dog fence that would keep the dogs out of the landscaping.  We won’t go into the reason on why we need an electric fence for a few feet of landscape….staying out of it..not getting involved…

Patio people come and start their work.  In the end we’re not happy with the work…or should I say, I AM NOT HAPPY and my husband is less than happy.  To me, the patio looked sloppy and the concrete wasn’t level throughout the whole backyard.  There were dips and small craters that I felt would be hazardous not only to my kids but to my husband and I during, tiki torch lit, margarita nights.

We went back and forth with the owner, (who I call Patio Guy), and his ‘assistant’ who I was tempted to ask for a copy of her job description since I’m convinced that she needs to review it to make sure she understands how to do her job.  In the end, Patio Guy’s response to our complaints, ‘It looks fine to me’.

Trying to stay out of the situation, I vent my frustration to my husband who assures me he will get it taken care of.  He comes home from work early on a Friday to meet with the owner and talk ‘business talk’ to him, making sure the issues were fixed before we gave them final payment.

I see them outside casually talking…..casually talking?  Why are they casually talking?  Why isn’t my husband putting his foot down and telling Patio Guy that they screwed up our patio and they are going to fix it now or not get a dime from us!!!!!  I sat down at my computer and tried to focus on my work when I saw my husband walk by the window on his cell phone.   His cell phone?  He’s now working when he should be laying down the law with Patio Guy??!!!!  He waves at me through the window with a happy, ‘Hi Honey’. I immediately go into meditation mode and start breathing…in..and out…in..and out…

Now I’m somewhat hyperventilating and approach my husband as he walks in the door.  He starts explaining to me how Patio Guy said that he was going to ‘try’ to fix this and come back later and ‘maybe’ fix that.  I immediately expressed my displeasure in Patio Guy and how I feel like he was making excuses and not doing what we asked and how I just wasn’t happy with his answers.  My husband then suggested that we go out together and talk to Patio Guy who had not yet left.  I was trying to stay out of it and let the men deal with this, however, my husband did ask for me to go out and talk with him, so since he asked, right?

I was working from home that day and was still in my sweats with my hair pulled back in a bun..definitely not a ‘shower day’.   But I didn’t care.  I was simply going out there to listen and make sure they had everything under control.

I stood silently as my husband talked to Patio Guy very calmly and reiterated how he felt confident that Patio Guy was going to fix the repairs and handle the situation appropriately.  He went over some details pertaining to what needed to be done and it all sounded grand and almost like they were buddies and ready to go grab a drink after work.

My husband then turned to me and said, ‘sound good?’.  I didn’t say anything.  I just stared at him and the owner in disbelief that they were both taking this so lightly.  They both looked at me in somewhat confusion waiting for me to answer.  I looked my husband, then Patio Guy, then my husband, then at Patio Guy again.  My mouth was open as if to say something but I couldn’t get anything out and only could stare at them with annoyance about how they were handling this with such ease.

‘Well, go ahead, get it out’, my husband told me, obviously realizing that I had something to say.  So then I said it, in my pj’s and all.

‘I don’t understand how you think this is okay?  As an owner of a business, you honestly can look at the work and feel proud of what you did? And your communication sucks!  You and your assistant who never returns phone calls or answers an email. I mean, it’s ridiculous!  I paid a lot of money for this and I’m not happy, but obviously you think it’s okay and I’m supposed to just leave it at that, right?  Aren’t you embarrassed by your work? Don’t you look at the patio and think you could have done a better job?’  I am not sure what else I said.  I went on and on about how disappointed I was and walked away…and then came back…walked away a few times more..and then came back.  All the while both men staring at me like a deer in headlights.

‘Just fix it!’, was the last thing I said as I walked inside shaking my head.   A few minutes later my husband came inside and we started to get dinner ready.  He looked at me a few times and smiled, but didn’t say anything.  A few more minutes went by without anyone saying anything. ‘So..was I a little crazy out there?’ I asked him.  He broke out in his little humorous laugh that he always gets when he knows I made an idiot out of myself.  These things seem to amuse him a little too much.  When he stopped laughing he explained how I scolded Patio Guy like I was his Mom and how they were both accusing the other of being in trouble with me after I left.  He told me, I went on all ‘Mom’ on him.

In the end, Patio Guy is coming back to fix the issues and I still don’t see how I went all, ‘Mom’ on him.  He didn’t put enough pride in his work and was giving me lame excuses for why things weren’t done the way I wanted them.  I needed to point out these failures and make him accountable for his actions…what else was I supposed to do?