10 Signs Your Vacation is NOT Normal

I recently wrote a blog post entitled “Rate Your European Vacation – A Short Quiz.” Unfortunately, I quickly noticed that publishing that post was premature, since we were still on vacation and overwhelmingly subjected to further torture by the Vacation Gods. In pursuit of my mission to provide cutting edge (albeit clearly uninspiring and unprofessional) journalism, I feel it is my duty to continue on with this topic. Thus I present to you, my loyal readers, 10 signs your vacation is not normal (and has probably landed you in the Twilight Zone.)

1. The side of the hotel room’s shower/tub combo is so high, you have to hoist yourself up on the edge and roll over the top. You wonder if pole vaulting in would be easier. Good thing the Olympics are on – you can watch the professionals to learn proper technique.

2. The bedsheets are starched like nothing you’ve experienced since the 1970’s. At least you wake up freshly exfoliated. Now you can cancel that expensive spa treatment you have planned when you get back.

3. The TV is set up so you can only see it by looking into the mirror above the bathroom sink.

4. After running around the ruins of the nearby ancient Roman amphitheater, your kids relax by watching YouTube on their iPads.

5. The hotel furniture your kids are relaxing on is so old you suspect it too may have belonged to the Romans. You entertain yourself by inspecting it for Latin inscriptions.

6. You find some.

7. The horse you take a selfie with while visiting your brother in-law’s farm keeps nudging you until you show it the picture. You wonder if it wants you to tag it on Facebook.

8. You watch in awe as a wasp lands on your dinner, bites off a piece of meat and flies away with it. You consider trying to sic that wasp and its relatives on the hotel’s manager, who turned off your Wifi without telling you and then went to bed.

9. After watching the Olympics every night from his bathroom sink mirror, your English-speaking dad has managed to pick up enough German to fill you in on all the highlights. By the end of the first week, he starts correcting your German grammatical errors. You fear what will happen now that he’s switched to the Italian channel.

10. You spend every morning at the hotel breakfast buffet trying to figure out how many packs of hot chocolate you have to steal to make up for the outrageous cost of the room. On second thought, you might recoup your losses more quickly by selling the Roman artifact furniture on eBay. Your plan is foiled when you realize the manager still hasn’t turned back on your Wifi.

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What Kind of Parent are You? Take This Quiz to Find Out.

I’m a bad parent. There, I said it. No matter how much I want to be a good parent, I usually end up either yelling at my kids, drinking alcohol or staring at my iPhone. Sometimes, I even manage to do all three at the same time. If you are not sure how you are doing as a parent and would like some honest feedback, then take this quiz. (Note that if you end up with the result of “douchebag parent”, I probably know you and will see you at next month’s PTA meeting. Don’t worry, the results of this quiz are anonymous.)

1. Your daughter makes the school honor roll, you

A) Are proud of her. Her hard work is paying off.

B) Run out and stick the “My child is an honor roll student” bumper sticker on your minivan. Now all the PTA moms at drop off and pick up will be secretly jealous.

C) Are irritated that she still got a few B’s. Your competitive streak might be getting a little out of hand. You wonder if there is medication to help wackos like you. In the meantime, you find those third graders that got straight A’s and challenge them to a duel.

2. It’s time for your child to choose an instrument for the school music class, and he chooses the trumpet, you

A) Tell him that’s a great idea. What a fun instrument!

B) Enroll him in private lessons 5 days a week, so you can brag to your friends and everyone in the supermarket about how well he plays.

C) Try to convince him to play the flute instead. Trumpets are too loud and you’ve got your nerves to worry about. When he complains, you offer to let him switch out the flute for the triangle. Hey, the triangle is a respectable instrument!

3. Both you and your kid take karate lessons. You:

A) Love that you have found an activity you can bond over.

B) Make her wear her karate gi and belt to school so everyone will be impressed by her clear martial arts superiority. You decide to wear your gi and belt to the next PTA meeting for the same reason.

C) Accidentally split her lip while teaching her some sparring moves. After the bleeding stops, you try to console her by showing her all the bruises you got from your lessons last week. Two years later she still hasn’t let you live that down.

4. Your 7 year old has started putting on makeup every day, you:

A) Let her wear it around the house but explain that she’s too young to wear it in public.

B) Take head shots and send them to the nearest modeling agency. You can’t wait until everyone sees her in the next Walmart ad.

C) Get her to teach you how she does that neat thing with the eye shadow.

5. Your kids’ rooms are a mess, you:

A) Patiently explain that this is unacceptable and supervise them as they clean up. You help put away those toys that go on the top shelves.

B) Put everything away yourself. The Mom’s Club is coming over, and you want them to think your kids are neater than their kids.

C) Yell and scream. When this doesn’t work, you yell and scream louder and threaten to throw everything out that is cluttering your house. When your kids finally start cleaning up, you find at least ten items that have been missing for months, including the remote control. At least you can finally watch tv again.

6. Your children take swimming lessons in the summer. You,

A) Watch their progress at every lesson and cheer them on.

B) Take a video of another kid doing the butterfly and pretend it’s yours. No one can tell who that is in the water anyway, so your deception will never be revealed.

C) Watch the first five minutes and then drift off for the rest of the hour. You gotta sleep where you can; yelling at your kids all morning was exhausting.

7. Your child is hungry for breakfast. She asks for pancakes, you:

A) Show her how to make them herself and watch patiently as she spills flour all over your freshly cleaned kitchen floor. No worries; that’s why they invented vacuum cleaners.

B) Ignore the request and instead spend 2 hours making a “European” gourmet breakfast that your kid and the rest of the family hate. You then post the pictures on social media. Damn, you’re good.

C) Throw some frozen pancakes in the microwave but forget to turn it on, because you got distracted by the text message you just received. You admit you’re not good at multitasking.

8. Every night you,

A) Read at least 20 minutes with your child. It’s been proven that reading with children leads to success.

B) Falsify his school reading log so it looks like he reads 4 hours a day. His teacher will be so impressed!

C) Drink wine while you and your kid watch Wheel of Fortune. C’mon, people, that show involves reading! Good thing you found the remote.

9. You find out someone is bullying your kid before school, you:

A) Talk to the school principal and the bully’s parents to try to resolve the issue.

B) Cry to anyone who will listen about how your baby is being treated unfairly.

C) Tell your kid to jump out of the bushes and ambush the bully. Those karate lessons are expensive, so you mind as well get your money’s worth.

10. Your 11 year old wants you to teach the class’s volunteer art lessons for the third year in a row. However, her class is full of psychos who have managed to traumatize all the teachers they’ve had since kindergarten. You,

A. Agree to do it. In a few years, she won’t want you anywhere near her friends.

B. Bribe the class with homemade cupcakes. Make sure the yearbook committee shows up for the photo op.

C. Do it, but jump out of the bushes the next day and scare the crap out of everyone who didn’t listen. The principal forbids you from ever teaching art lessons again.

Scoring:

Mostly A’s – You are a great parent and undoubtedly played classical music for your kids when they were babies. Why are you taking this stupid quiz? Go do something productive as usual.

Mostly B’s – Congratulations, you are a complete douchebag. Like you, your kid is a sniveling brat with no friends. Maybe if the school bully slaps you a few times, you’ll wake up to reality.

Mostly C’s – Like me, you stink as a parent. You love your kids, but you’re too exhausted to have much patience. On the bright side, at least you recognize your shortcomings. That should count for something, right? Consider checking yourself into therapy and, in the meantime, don’t teach art.

Rate Your European Vacation – A Short Quiz

As much as I look forward to our family vacations, an analysis of our trips has revealed that there is at least a 50% chance that events of an inexplicable and downright bizarre nature will take place. In fact, these odds shoot up to 90% for our European travels. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love Europe. Not only did I live in Switzerland and Italy for most of the 1990’s, but I married a European. That said, I have noticed over time that our vacations to that continent seem to be increasingly stranger, not to mention somewhat distressing.

If you’ve recently traveled to Europe and are wondering if your vacation was fun and normal or weird and depressing, then take this short quiz. Just place a check mark next to any of the below occurrences you experienced. Once completed, total the number of check marks and read the result that corresponds with your score.

1. The flight is so outrageously expensive you wonder if the kids really need that 529 college savings account. On the bright side, the plane ride includes a dinner that is surprisingly delicious. In fact, you are even tempted to post a picture of your meal on social media… that is, until you realize that no one will be impressed, since the tin meal tray makes your delectable polenta look like a Lean Cuisine.

2. Your kids forgo the tasty food and instead down an entire bag of Goldfish crackers while watching an endless loop of Peppa Pig on the inflight entertainment system. You definitely won’t post a picture of that dinner.

3. Despite the lack of turbulence and the Dramamine you shoved down their throats, your kids take turns throwing up for the duration of the 12 hour trip. You pat yourself on the back for having had the foresight to pack everyone a change of clothes in your carry-on. Your happiness is short lived, though, when you realize you forgot the mouthwash.

4. You are staying at a three-star hotel, but the usual amenities that you take for granted are missing. Instead of miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner, you inherit the half-empty bottle of body wash the last guest left in the shower.

5. You can’t use the body wash, because there aren’t any washcloths.

6. You realize after washing the remaining vomit out of your hair (with the shampoo you brought yourself) that you have to go to the hotel reception to ask for a hair dryer.

7. While handing you the hair dryer, the hotel’s manager proudly declares you can keep it in your room for the duration of your stay, since he “has enough of them.”

8. You’re grateful, since the last hotel you stayed in didn’t even have a hair dryer…you had to borrower one from your in-laws, whom you were visiting down the street.

9. The hotel maid nearly walks into your room twice while you are naked, since there aren’t any “Do Not Disturb” door hangers. You wonder if the door hangers are in the same dusty storage facility as the washcloths.

10. The shop across the street from your in-laws is literally called “ISIL”. Once you recover from the shock, you can’t help but wonder what they sell.

11. Your kid wakes you up at 3 a.m., because she fell asleep on top of the covers and is cold. You are not amused, since the combination of beer and sleeping pills you tried out to combat jet lag was finally starting to work.

Score

1-4 check marks: you had a little bad luck, but overall you really did have a great time. A little vomit and jet lag never hurt anyone, so stop complaining and go make a photo book of your adventure.

5-8 check marks: your vacation was a little rocky, but at least you got to visit family and friends. Don’t blame Europe; you had some weird experiences at that motel you stayed at in New Mexico. Next time bring your own washcloths and hair dryer and get your 7 year old to make you a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Also, stay in a more expensive hotel, you cheapskate.

9-11 check marks: to numb the pain, keep drinking beer with sleeping pills. The good news is, thanks to your kids, your memory is shot; give it a year or so and you’ll be ready to hit the Old World again.

 

 

 

 

Jump Into That New Job With Confidence

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Starting a new position can be somewhat nerve-racking. Not having changed jobs in over 7 years, I was somewhat anxious when I started with my new employer recently. Of course I was also really excited, having left my prior employer for an intriguing opportunity (translation: “more money”).

But, even with dreamy thoughts of the new gas-saving, carpool lane-eligible Chevy Volt I was hoping to purchase with my increased salary, as my first day approached, butterflies filled my stomach. Would I be able to win over my colleagues with my brilliance and wit? Would my office have a couch in it? Would I be able to map the new printers to my computer when the IT guy fails to show up after 3 days of nagging? Would the coffee machines be even less hygienic than the grimy coffee pots I was used to?

Well, rest assured, two months down this new road, I am here to tell you that if you too are contemplating making a leap to new employment, there truly is nothing to fear. In fact, you should be confident. You will soon find that, money aside, there really are some great upsides to the new gig and when it comes down to it, the usual stuff you’re used to at the workplace isn’t much different. Here are some concrete examples, to put you at ease:

New Upside: The travel expense and timekeeping systems are easier to use.

Usual Stuff: In theory this is true. In reality, you have no idea, since it takes weeks to actually get access. To avoid wanting to throttle someone in IT at your new company and winding up explaining your violent actions to Human Resources, don’t go on any business trips or get sick for at least a month.

New Upside: The Human Resources Department has a direct support line staffed with helpful, internal employees. 

Usual Stuff: When you finally get access to the timekeeping system, you realize after running a few calculations that your vacation isn’t accruing correctly. The external, non- Human Resources staff who are responsible for fixing the issue, argue with you that the “computer isn’t wrong.”

New Upside: You work with a really friendly group of people who take time out of their day to teach you the ropes.

Usual Stuff: You still have no idea what the statisticians are saying. (Tip: just complain loudly about “data quality” and shout “chi-square” (pronounced: kīskwer) every few minutes, and you’ll make it through the discussion.)

New Upside: You hear about an exciting new project at the company.

Usual Stuff: You find out the project is staffed with consultants who get paid obscene amounts of money to put together colorful presentations with “swim lanes” (complete with “swim sprints”) and made-up words like “ideation.” When you look more closely, you find they were too busy doing important consultant stuff to worry about spell check or slightly racist undertones in their “user profile” slides.

New Upside: You get a huge new office with a couch. Wow, you’re really moving up in the world.

Usual Stuff: Facilities can’t seem to fix the overhead light which makes a constant loud buzzing noise. It looks like there will be no napping on that couch after all. Besides, it’s easier to work from home than sit in traffic for an hour.

New Upside: Working from home means you get to see your kids more often.

Usual Stuff: Your kids find every opportunity to interrupt you. You consider padlocking your office door and investing in a noise cancellation headset.

New Upside: Once you have access to the travel expense system, you travel across the country on exciting business trips.

Usual Stuff: Your last flight home is delayed by two hours, because no one can figure out how to fix the plane’s coffee maker.

 

As you can see, there really is no reason not to take on that new opportunity that recently presented itself. In addition to the many favorable things that await you, you won’t be pushed too far outside your comfort zone, because you will still get to deal with the same crap you’re used to. And if you have an extra bit of luck like me, the germy coffee pots will have been replaced by a Keurig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suck It, Crafters

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Everyone knows that to be a good mother, you must spend hours crafting with your kids. Thanks to modern inventions like blogs and Pinterest, crafting has risen from hobby to absolute requirement. This proves problematic if you are afflicted with crappy small motor coordination (known in medical circles as “CSMC”) and are from Generation X, meaning you were unaware of the crafting movement when you were trying to get pregnant. 

Had I understood that crafting skills would one day be the barometer in measuring my competency as a mother, I certainly would have planned my future differently. Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that I would have chosen better birth control. I like my kids more than 50% of the time, which statistically-speaking, means they’re keepers. What I am suggesting is that I probably would have pursued a double major in college, supplementing my B.A. in Economics with a degree in Craft Shit.

On second thought, who am I kidding? Even Upper Division craft classes couldn’t help me conquer my CSMC. Because of my two left thumbs, I can’t cut a straight line with scissors or even fold a piece of paper in half neatly. I failed a summer school origami class when I was 7. In high school I never volunteered to make the bubble letters on spirit signs, because my bubble letters ended up squished on one side of the sign. I’ve never admitted this publicly until now, but my husband wraps Christmas presents better than I do.

Speaking of Christmas, my two daughters got a “style your own headband” kit last December (from one of my best friends no less…clearly she was pissed off at me about something). Using this kit, you were theoretically able to decorate plain headbands with lace, bows, ribbons and jewels. When I tried to help my 10-year old, I ended up with gobs of glue everywhere. As my daughter sulked in disappointment and I tried to peel glue off my body, my 6-year old took pity on us and neatly pasted a dainty piece of ribbon along the entire outside of my 10-year old’s headband. At least somebody in the family was qualified to be a mother.

As the reality of my incompetence sunk in, I knew it was time to take action. I needed a new approach if I was going to go head to head with the crafting mothers of the world.  I can’t tie bows, but I can create a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points, text boxes and process flows. So, suck it crafters. My kids and I aren’t going to build a birdhouse out of twigs and plant-matter we picked out together on our morning family nature hike and then decorate it with sequins. We’re going to sit in front of our computer with a cup of coffee and make slides in PowerPoint, and if I’m feeling really ambitious, we might even make ourselves a second cup of coffee and write some exciting formulas in Excel.

And when we’re through, we’ll pop a few Lean Cuisines in the microwave. Did I mention I can’t cook either?

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Quick Quiz – Which Corporate Employee Are You?

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Need an objective view as to how you’re holding up in the workplace? Take this quiz to find out if you’re on your way to the top or if it’s time to retire.

1. During a meeting where the logic of your idiotic process is being questioned, you:

a) tell the group that you agree the process stinks, but you are just doing what you were told. You then take this opportunity to hijack the meeting and spend 20 minutes complaining about how no one listens to you.

b) confuse everyone with a long-winded, somewhat incoherent explanation of how the process came about. You get so wrapped up in the history of the process that you forget what the group actually wants, which is that you agree to change the process.

c) pretend that the CEO is calling you on your cell phone and leave the room immediately.

 

2. Your boss needs you to work on an urgent assignment. You:

a) tell him that you’re too busy and will not be able to take on any new work until Q1 2017.

b) agree to do it but forget to ask him what he wants and when it’s due by.

c) zealously agree to help him out, because, after all, you’re always there for him when he’s in a jam. You then secretly pawn the work off on your lower-ranking colleagues who are too timid to say no. In the end, you make sure to take all of the credit.

 

3. When meeting with a manager at least 2 levels above you, you:

a) take the opportunity to loudly voice that you are overworked and stressed out. It’s hard working 40 hours a week.

b) fail to understand what exactly the manager is asking you. Rather than request clarification, you just ramble on about a topic of your choosing.  This makes sense, since relevancy really is subjective.

c) make witty jokes and compliment him/her every five minutes.

 

4. Your co-workers need your subject matter expertise. You:

a) tell them they’ll have to hire a consultant to answer their 3 questions, because you’re busy reviewing training materials.

b) happily agree to help. After an hour on the phone with them you’ve managed to take them down at least 3 rabbit holes without ever arriving at an answer to the first question. It was a “yes” or “no” question.

c) refer them to someone who works for you. Since you are a manager, you don’t really have to have any knowledge. That’s why you have a team.

 

5.  Your boss makes you in charge of a project already being worked on by 5 people, you:

a) put together a project plan but don’t have time to figure out if anyone’s actually adhering to it.

b) do the same work the others had already completed, since you forgot to ask them what pieces of the project had been checked off before you joined the team.

c) make one of the 5 people your “team lead”, have him/her put together a project plan and report back to you regularly. While you wait for status updates, you drink coffee and make vacation plans.

Scoring:

1. If the majority of your answers were a) then it’s time to throw in the towel. You’ve been working too hard for too long and need to be put out to pasture. Find a job at an ice cream shop during the winter months and at a ski resort in the summer.

2. If the majority of your answers were b) then you’re faking. Anyone who truly would answer b) is too confused to take this quiz. Find the b) people at your job and give them a hug. It’s hard to live in such a haze.

3. If the majority of your answers were c), then congratulations. You are a successful corporate douchebag who knows how to make yourself look good while forcing everyone around you to do your work. Watch your back, though, since all of the little people you stepped on will be looking for opportunities to run you over in the parking garage. Don’t be surprised if when you go to an ice cream shop in the winter, your scoop of chocolate chip tastes strangely like pee.

Corporate Mentoring Series: 6 Business Terms Every Elementary School Kid Should Learn

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As a parent, I am concerned that kids in America are graduating without sufficient skills to be successful in the business world. Actually, this concern is probably better described as downright fear, since I see the results of our country’s sub-par education system every day at my job on the corporate hamster wheel.

When my daughters embark on their careers, will they be capable of using first-grade addition and subtraction to calculate time zones when setting up meetings with employees in different parts of the country? As I have learned from the numerous invites I receive to conference calls before 8 am, this is not a skill that has been adequately taught.

If my children choose a career in marketing, will they know how to spell the name of the company they work for? This is also not something that can be taken for granted…at least not where I work.

Since according to the self-evaluation portion of my latest performance review, “I excel as a true driver of change,” I’ve decided to take action here too and have compiled a short list of key corporate words and phrases, which kids should study. While this won’t help with time zone calculations or spelling skills, proficiency with every term on this list will at least promote a child’s ability to successfully communicate with their corporate peers and managers when the day comes.

Add some color:  to provide additional details. This does NOT mean you should add more blue and red to your art project.

Example: John, can you add some color to why your team’s results are in the toilet?

Appetite: level of interest (as opposed to level of hunger).

Example: There was no appetite in management to get us the resources for good results.

Throw someone under the bus:  to blame someone else. Do not take this literally…no one is actually tossed under a moving vehicle.

Example:  John threw management under the bus. He is now looking for another job.

Stakeholders: other people affected by your brilliant ideas. This is not a reference to your history lesson about gold miners claiming their territories.

Example: Beware of Sales; they have been known to hide their plans from the Company’s stakeholders.

Harmonize:  to ensure your thoughts are accepted by stakeholders; the opposite of hiding your plans. This has nothing to do with forming a choir with the other students.

Example: Sales didn’t harmonize with the Legal Department before launching their product; the company is now being sued by the government.

Mission statement: your stated purpose. Do not confuse this term with the opening sentence in your fourth grade report on the California missions.

Example: The Sales Team’s mission statement is to make as much money as possible and leave for the Bahamas when the company gets sued by the government.