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Tag Archives: Growing up

Parenthood: Adjusting to the Ever-Changing “New Normal”

On August 4, 2012, my definition of family changed. Newly married, my family became me, my husband and one particularly ornery cat. We worked to re-establish our daily routines as we learned each other’s habits and quirks. Our staggered steps turned into a beautiful dance and eventually I couldn’t remember what life was like before it was “us.” This was a precious, but fleeting moment in our lives as my definition of family soon changed…again.

On May 11, 2013, I held my baby boy in my arms for the first time. For most of the world, nothing had really changed. But for me, nothing would ever be the same. I mean that truly in all aspects of life. I’m not too proud to admit that parenthood was (and is) like being stripped of everything normal and familiar and launched into a new world where all the skills I had relied upon to be successful up until this point became completely irrelevant. Those first few months, I felt just as lost and overwhelmed as a newborn – oh the irony in that!

This new, little family struggled to again establish our beautiful dance around one another. Just when we overcame one hurdle (yay, he’s sleeping through the night), another popped up in its place (what child cuts fourth teeth at once). With every milestone, we established a “new normal.” Date nights turned into Friday evenings spent at the park, romantic dinners were brought home in a takeout box and bedtime was rarely after 8:30pm – for anyone in the house.

As a creature of habit, I loved every routine we have had as a family – because it was familiar and it was ours. It was never too long until we again had to pivot into a new normal. Travel schedules, illnesses, moving into a new home and changing seasons all brought about necessary change to which we adjusted.

And another big adjustment is right around the corner…

In no more than a few weeks (I’d like to think a few days), we will welcome another bundle of joy into our home and our routine. Our new normal will shift again…substantially. I waver between moments of excitement for this change in our lives and moments where I question our sanity for opting into another momentous challenge. Our family’s current routine is nice. It’s safe and it’s predictable. We have established a pretty beautiful dance – yes, a dance that includes meltdowns, potty training and comprise, but a beautiful dance indeed.

Luckily life gives us a nine months heads up that such a change is about to happen. Not many other circumstances in life afford us such preparation, nor do they promise such joy. As I struggle to fit as much as I can into every day leading up to the birth of our second son, I have found that life has a wonderful, and at times, frustrating way of slowing us down to absorb what we might otherwise miss.

The past few weekends, our little family has enjoyed more undivided time together than I can recall in recent history. I captured a picture that will forever define our current normal – as it is right now, but will never be again. As much as I never want to leave this moment, life has taught me again and again that the new normal that lies ahead is the best one yet.

Whether you are a new or veteran parent, can you relate to the ongoing struggle of adjusting to the “new normal?” Share a personal story or piece of wisdom!

Our “normal”…for now.

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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Learning, Life

 

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Never Lose Sight of Your Childhood Dream

Child DreamEvery time a beautiful home catches my eye or I’m inspired by a furniture store’s interior design, I’m reminded that there was a time in my life when I was quite certain that I would grow up to become a creator similar works of art. Yes, my childhood dream was to become an architect and interior designer. The signs were quite obvious, really. The remnants of my mounding collection of doll houses can still be found packed away in my parent’s attic. Yet instead of playing house with the tiny people inside these homes, I would spend hours rearranging furniture and building additional walls to expand the modest structures into dream mansions.  I filled binders and binders with magazine pictures of bedrooms, kitchens and patios and would stare at blueprints long enough until I could visualize the house I would use them to someday create. And at the age when most children were still building with Legos and Lincoln Logs, I taught myself to use the same computer programs used by professional architects and designers.

Even as an adult, the memory of this childhood passion is still vivid.  It’s no longer as common that I allow myself to become so consumed in a hobby or so certain of a dream – and maybe that’s why I love to reminisce back to the time in my life when I did. Childhood should be a time for complete creative freedom and to allow natural talents to shine through. It is also a time that can tell us a lot of about ourselves and who we were destined to become long before we let responsibilities, worries and failures affect our dreams.

It should be obvious to you now that I never became that architect or interior designer of my dreams. The level of intensity I had for this hobby didn’t outlast high school. Instead, I slowly migrated into a completely different career path in communications and writing. Not many people know about my dreams to become an architect that I once constructed so carefully. For the longest time I thought it to be irrelevant and to some degree an admittance of failure. I walked away from something I was so passionate about and never felt the need to look back. Or did I?

To this day, I may not have a portfolio of beautifully furnished houses to showcase, but I do have quite a different portfolio of equally impressive work. I’ve never built a home, but I’ve built a brand and business. I don’t use my creative talent toward interior design, but I do use my creativity in so many broader ways every day. That passion for building something from the ground up and talent for thinking outside the box were never lost, only reassigned. I’m a Public Relations professional, not an architect, but I’m confident this is what all my childhood daydreaming has prepared me to do.

So many years ago I may have mastered some impressive feats for a 10-year-old architect, but I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue as to what Public Relations was and certainly wouldn’t have understood how to apply my talents toward this career path. Yet, with every choice I made to move away from architecture and design, I took one step in the right direction of finding the career I now have today. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the hours I spent playing with those doll houses. Almost 15 years later, I still have yet to build a single home, but I’ve built exactly what my childhood self would have wished for had she known everything that was possible.

As a child, did you ever have a passionate dream about becoming something far different than what you are today? Look closely at the career path you have chosen and you may see that these childhood talents were never lost, only reassigned.  Share your own story by commenting below!

 

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Making Time to Live

Before I officially took off the training wheels and launched Bennis Public Relations, Inc nearly two months ago, I found my mind often fantasizing about the free and flexible time I might have as my own boss. I could make weekly trips to the farmer’s market, eat lunch on a park bench by the river and become a regular at the city library. I could use the free WiFi from a trendy café and sip lattes while I clicked away on my laptop or take an afternoon cat nap after watching the Price is Right. While some of these visions were both dramatic and unnecessary, I’m disappointed to admit that two months later, my “new boss” hasn’t allowed me much more free time to pursue life’s little slices of happiness to exist all around me.

Harrisburg's McCormick River Front Library

I can’t blame this on my boss, or maybe I can since I am my boss, but in either case I’ve decided to take the opportunity to close my laptop more often and step out into the bustling and beautiful world that exists whether I make time for it or not.

The week before my North Carolina vacation I realized I needed some new beach reading materials and so I stepped inside the Dauphin County Library for the first time since I moved to Harrisburg in December of 2009. While I’m now a proud owner of a shiny red library card, I can’t help but feel a pang of regret for not having done this sooner. The library isn’t big, it’s just one of several branches that the county manages, but it still evoked the same rush of excitement that I felt as a child eying up the rows and rows of colorful treasurers—all for my taking. And so I limited myself to just 5 books which I never read or heard of before but will know intimately, page by page, in just a few weeks.

Now that I’ve experienced the joys (and sorrows) of being a functioning, taxpaying, member of society, I feel that it is my civil duty to make use of all of the free resources this affords me. The County Library is just one. I’ve started a list of all of the other things this area has to offer that I’ve never made time to take advantage of before. So here’s the bucket-list-in-progress that I hope to get through before 2012:

  • Buy my fresh produce from the Farm Show Complex’s Farmer’s Market
  • Complete the ropes course at Ski Roundtop
  • Visit a corn maze, pick pumpkins and drink apple cider
  • Kayak the Susquehanna
  • Visit the Renaissance Festival
  • Ice Skate
  • Go to a Haunted House Tour
  • Read a book by the river
  • And more to come…

If you have any suggestions for fun things to do in Central PA or even just in the autumn season—I’m interested!

 
15 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Life

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: Tardiness is Unacceptable

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson five: Tardiness is Unacceptable

I see this saying everywhere, but it has really stayed with me—

“Opportunity doesn’t go away, it goes to someone else.”

Partially due to this very saying I’ve become a huge stickler for timeliness and I first and foremost apply these standards to myself. Through experiences, both good and bad, I know that not responding to an e-mail, or message of any form, within a reasonable time frame could lose me a potential business opportunity. Applied to

another situation—showing up late to an event not only displays lack of interest, but could cost me key networking opportunities. These facts of life are ones I had to learn on my own, outside the walls of a classroom. While I was in college, it seemed as though time was irrelevant and I don’t just mean by pulling all nighters or staying out ‘til the sun came up.

Far too often I had professors who accepted late papers without even challenging the student to provide a reason. These were the same professors that would let students saunter into class fifteen, twenty, sometimes even forty minutes late carrying lattes in their hand looking anything but rushed, disheveled or apologetic.  They would walk right in front of the professor, mid-lecture, and disrupt the focus of the classroom and make us on-timers wonder why we even bothered setting our alarms if clearly there were no repercussions. So maybe this boils down to a matter of principle and respect—no matter what my underlying issue is with tardiness, I see it as worthy of deeper discussion.

I wish my college professors would have stressed the importance of timeliness, which of course goes hand-in-hand with time management. As students, we would have benefited from learning that boundaries exist and when someone who is in a position of power over us sets such a boundary, we are expected to comply. This would have taught us to be more respectful, responsible and better stewards of our time. Those college years are crucial ones. We are experimenting with both the freedoms and obligations that come with living on our own. While we may be seeking our independence, we still need reminders that we don’t make ALL of our own rules and opportunities are like college co-eds—if you don’t pay them quick enough attention, they’re on to the next person who will.

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Lesson Three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

Lesson Four: It’s almost never about WHAT you know.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: It’s almost never about WHAT you know

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson four: It’s almost never about WHAT you know

I wish my professors would have just been honest with us. How successful you are (basically) boils down to two things—who you know and how well you sell yourself. Especially for all the readers out there with a degree in Public Relations, Communications or the similar, you know what I’m talking about. Our communication skills, social competence and depth and breadth of our relationships are directly related to our success.

Throughout my years spent at Penn State, my classrooms were filled with hoards of Advertising and Public Relations students all training to be “master communicators.” Some students aced every test and could recite any answer a teacher asked of them, but they often blended into the background as soon as they put their hand down. The students who did make the biggest impression weren’t the ones breaking the curve, necessarily. They were the ones who could pull together an impromptu presentation with ease and confidence and could make a classroom of 500+ students laugh and feel as if they knew them personally.

This ties-in closely with Lesson three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer. I’m not talking about the students too lazy to open a book or the ones aiming for a career as a professional “bull shitter.” I’m talking about the students who did more than write the concept on a note card and memorize it; instead, they absorbed the concept and immediately applied it to their communications strategy of selling themselves. I’m sure everyone has a few of these friends in their lives. They catch on quick, have an impeccable ability to read a situation and make lasting impressions that build their networks almost effortlessly.

So maybe this isn’t something that can be entirely taught in a classroom, but these are skills we all possess to some degree. I wish my professors would have worked to help us refine these skills through “social challenges” such as walking into a business and asking for an impromptu meeting with the owner/marketing director to pitch an idea or even attend a party where you enter as a complete stranger and leave with at least 3 acquaintances—these type of challenges would have tested our core social abilities and helped to build skills we would have used immediately in any career.

I knew people who, even as 20-something year old college students, were too timid or insecure to call a restaurant for their business hours or walk into a party if they didn’t know at least 5 people. Anyone, no matter their field of study, could have benefited from at least one course emphasizing social intelligence to supplement the “what you know” with the “how well you can sell it.”

Even if you’re at the top of your class, you’ll be that much more valuable to a future employer if you have the social and communication skills to convey this knowledge.

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Lesson Three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

Pop quizzes and cumulative exams have taught us to panic at the thought of not knowing every answer. But this neither prepares us for reality nor sets realistic expectations. If you think you know everything, you’re going to learn nothing from life. Instead, I wish at least one of my professors would have tested us not on our ability to memorize answers but to handle questions we had no way of knowing the answer to in a professional and educated manner.

This would have been the ultimate test to our ability to survive the real world.

I have yet to make a pitch to a client where I haven’t been asked at least one question that I had to go home, gather more information and get back to them about. I feel like being able to openly admit when you don’t know the answer is both humanizing and demonstrating your thoroughness of getting an accurate answer rather than faking one just to look good. I’m not saying DON’T be knowledgeable in your field, but focus more of your efforts on being a genuine and approachable person who has a sincere desire to seek the answers they don’t know.  This will win you more business and more respect than by being a know-it-all or rather—a “fake-it-all.”

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Having provided the warning that this particular post is blunter than what I usually write, I’m just going to put it out there—Your job is to provide a product or a service, not to make friends.  I feel like my professors forgot to mention the fact that unlike turning in a college paper, you can try your hardest and think you’re putting your best foot forward and people will still choose to not like you. It sure would have prepared me for a few jobs where, without reason, a colleague would be unbearable to work with. I struggled with the “why don’t they like me” questions and it truly became a work-hindering distraction.

If friendship develops among colleagues, which many of mine have, that’s a fabulous bonus, but it’s key to remember it’s neither necessary nor helpful to force a friendship that just isn’t there. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot stand a co-worker it most certainly IS your job to be mature and respectful, but accept the fact that you won’t click with everyone and not everyone will or should like you. Sometimes the most efficient working relationships are the ones that stay at the office. You keep to the task at hand and have major incentive to complete it as quickly as possible.  If you’re going to choose to let your differences divide you, open communication is essential.  As soon as your differences hinder your ability or willingness to communicate, it becomes a roadblock to your work. Maturely confront the situation head on and refocus on your one, shared goal: getting the job done and getting it done well.

I suggest a required college class solely focused on office etiquette and how to handle those awkward and complicated work situations we will all inevitably encounter. Hey, I’d be more than happy to take my past experiences public and guest lecture if it means less grads will be blind-sided with this career road bump.

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Education

 

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