“Wait, wait,” he offered, “the other choice that you have is for me take a week’s vacation from work and handle all of the day-to-day kid activities, while you… just take a break”.
He had me at the word break. It had been a long stretch of diligence, and I was feeling bogged down by stints of taking care of the kids alone while he traveled for work and volunteer commitments at the kids’ school. Motherhood is my greatest privilege, yet it was starting to feel like something I was soldiering through.
For the first time in several years I was coming out of the cycle of being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, nursing and/or sleepless. My youngest child was now 2 and I felt like I was able to start standing up straight again, literally and figuratively. Soon, I would no longer be hunched over a stroller, a nursing baby or a wobbly child learning to walk. I could feel just a tad bit of freedom beckoning around the corner. Deep breaths and rolled back shoulders would follow soon.
I knew all of this space was coming, but was also acutely aware of savoring and clinging tightly to every precious moment with my young children. Nevertheless, I was beginning to feel a bit lost in it all. At times I couldn’t keep myself focused on a thought and seemed to forget things easily. Sleepless nights and a mind spinning with child-related activities were clashing against the persistent chatter of three young children and making me feel like my brain was processing everything just a beat slower than the rest of the world.
This gift and offer was perfectly timed. Without taking even a moment to ponder the decision, I handed back the homemade spa certificate and said I’d be happy to have him watch the kids for a week. My husband has earned more vacation time than we have funds, or babysitters, to use it. Finding sitters is always a stress without family in town and with a child with severe food allergies. Even with grandparents able to look after our kids, it’s bit of a risk and poses the logistical snags of traveling them to us or vice versa.
So I welcomed the idea of leaving the kids in the trustworthy hands of my co-parent, life partner and their father. But what was even more appealing about the idea was that my husband would get a small glimpse into our daily life. It’s a daily life that he knows, but doesn’t feel in all of its messiness and strain. He is a hands-on and involved dad, but he works long hours and travels often. While this is appreciated, it also shields him from the day-to-day grind of car pools and extra curricular activities. The sports gear, the snacks, the homework, the PTO dynamics, the backseat demands… its all par for a course which I’m grateful to be a player on. But it’s all stuff that I was happy to hand over for a few days while he experienced the joy and chaos of it all.
Where would I go? What would I do? It didn’t matter. I’d be on a break. As much as I cherish time with my long distance friends I knew that what I craved right now is the space to sharpen myself, clear my head and get to that place of being able to take deep breaths again.
Prior to having kids I enjoyed the times when I made work trips by myself. Being in the airport solo and exploring new places on my own was empowering and refreshing. It’s part of the same reason that I enjoy jogging because these times give me the chance to be alone with my thoughts. I am fueled in equal parts by friends, neighbors, loved ones… and myself. With the constant presence of young children always in my ear, what I needed was to be alone. What I needed was a sabbatical!
The word sabbatical takes root in Biblical times and the commandment to rest and keep holy the seventh day. More recently it is used to describe a break in regular responsibilities that many companies offer their employees after several years of committed service so the employee can rest, travel, do research, or whatever they choose.
That was it! I would take a Mommy Sabbatical. After nine years of dedicated service, I could use a break from my regular responsibilities and take some time away to recharge and refresh.
Immediately I knew how this would work. I’d take my sabbatical in late September. Summer was right around the corner and already choreographed with weddings, block parties, swim meets and everything else that makes summer so fun. Waiting until September would allow time for my husband to plan his work calendar accordingly. Additionally, most of the craziness of those initial back-to-school activities would be past and a month in, we’d have our fall schedule fine tuned and running relatively smoothly. Late September is a little window of calm after the hype of late August, but before the busy days leading into Halloween, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. I knew that I was leaving some volunteer commitments behind, but I also knew that I’ve given a lot of my time to others and not much to myself.
On the weekend prior to my departure, I asked many of you on my Facebook page if I should make it easier for my husband while I was away and lay out neat little piles with the swim/soccer/school gear or let him sweat it out and deal with trying to unearth it all in our piles of laundry. Some of you said I should make him figure it out so he’d have a true feel for how the week flows and appreciate what I do. Others of you said I should organize it all for him since he was giving me such a gift (and to minimize the phone calls when he can’t find something).
I took both responses and did something in between. I made piles and lists to help him know the rhythm of who goes where when and what to take, but I also left plenty of room for he and the kids to create their own pattern and memories together. I offered a few laughable but true tidbits like:
Depart at least 20 minutes before every activity, even if its only two minutes away… somehow you’ll need the extra 18 minutes.
Upon departure go through a check list of three key things: Epi-pens? Potty? Shoes on the right feet? (Please note I can never nail the last two.)
Five minutes is a really tight turnaround to get from one school to the other. Be strategic about which train track crossing you choose and bring your A-game!
You won’t have time to take a shower or properly use the restroom until Wednesday afternoon. Plan accordingly.
In the middle of Tuesday night activities you’ll shake your head and say to yourself, “This sucks!” And it will… but then it won’t.
So I took my Mommy Sabbatical and drove five hours away from home to a family cottage on Lake Erie. It wasn’t an extra financial expense to us and certainly not glamorous. But just the drive alone with my music and my decisions was lovely. I took the long way, and stopped at random spots that interested me without worry of whether the car’s pause would wake a sleeping toddler or elicit complaints from others. Upon my arrival, it was just me and my thoughts. I took bike rides and wrote, and wrote and took bike rides. And it was a glorious quiet, and a glorious wonderful.
Once in a while I ventured out to find inspiring places to write, and came up with these spots. A winery, a light house, and the beach all served as a backdrop for me to soul search and dig up old stories.
I binged on old episodes of HBO shows, read trash magazines and had late afternoon snacks consisting of chicken salad, green salad and frosted cookies that served as both lunch and dinner. I put myself on a Diet Coke detox and kept hydrated with water.
Occasionally I’d get a text or phone call from my husband asking where a certain item was or what time they needed to be someplace. A few mommy friends reached out to tell me that he was doing just fine, they’d seen him arrive on time at school with everyone dressed and their hair combed.
There was this text from him that clearly earned one of our daughters, Lucy, the best souvenir and first place standing in the Favorite Child Race, at least for today (just kidding, of course!… kinda).
The text made me feel good because it was acknowledgement that I’m doing a good job from one of the little people who I do it all for. And in the midst of my glorious time alone, my heart felt a little pang.
There was a phone call when our daughter was crying about going to school. I offered a few suggestions to my husband about how to work with her on breathing and bravery. I assured her that I’d see her the following day and hung up the phone. The call made me feel sad that my little girl was having a hard time and I wasn’t there to hug her. And my heart felt a little pang.
Finally, there was a text from my husband letting me know that our bathtub was out of commission due to a leak and he wasn’t sure how he was going to wash our youngest child. I suggested that he put her in the kitchen sink just like when she was a baby. I told him to bring down her rubber ducky and make a big game out of it. He was relieved with the suggestion and responded, “oh good idea! Vivian will love that!” The idea made me feel happy because I knew she would love it. And my heart felt another little pang.
So a bit later, there was this photo. Still lapping up my alone time, I found myself checking the iCloud camera roll on my phone and landed on this snapshot of her special kitchen sink bath time.
The snapshot made me laugh. She did love it. It was a good idea! And my heart felt yet another little pang.
All of those little pangs in my heart on my Mommy Sabbatical made me realize that the beauty of quiet and nature helps give me the clarity to breathe deeply and discover the old stories deep in my soul. But the beauty of chatter, chaos and children is creating new chapters. My family’s story is right here, unfolding in front of me everyday. It’s just a matter of being able to see it. So if getting away helped me sharpen my focus to a point that I am more mindful of these moments and stories as they are being presented, then a Mommy Sabbatical was just what I needed.
This post originally appeared on Carissa’s blog, www.carissak.com. You can see more from Carissa by following her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carissakwriter, Twitter @CarissaK or Instagram, www.instagram.com/carissakwriter. Thanks for reading.
The gifted creative crafts colorful and imaginative forms from fantastical portraits to exotic birds using tools like Inkscape and EZ-Keys, which allow Saulter to create without using his hands. Saulter’s computer connects to a head-switch on the back of his wheelchair, allowing him to use it with his head, instead of his hands.
Thanks to advanced technology and an unbreakable spirit, Saulter can now contribute to the broader art dialogue with his digitized aesthetic and boundless imagination. He has been an artist for the past 10 years.
“Without art, it would have been otherwise very difficult to know and to see what is going on in his mind,” said gallery owner Rozi Chung, who once exhibited Saulter’s work. “He has given hope to many like himself who live with this challenge and also offer inspiration to those who might not have seen art as a vehicle to express themselves when they feel powerless and without hope.”
“I take a lot of pride and enthusiasm in imagining and creating new art all the time,” Saulter says in the video above. “No matter who you are or where you come from even if you have a disability, if you have a dream or a vision of something that you really want to do in life you must face it and challenge that goal head on.”
A Friday dedication ceremony is scheduled at the 45,000 square-foot library. It will be home to visiting scholars who will live at Mount Vernon and research specific aspects of the Founding era. A rare-book vault houses dozens of books that Washington personally owned.
The library will function in some ways like a modern presidential library. But the Mount Vernon library receives no government funding and is intended primarily to foster formal scholarship; it is not designed to accommodate casual tourists. The estate in 2006 opened new education and orientation centers to serve the public.
The author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles explains what keeps us from doing what we most want to do—and shows us how to finally get started toward our long-deferred goals.
Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, to dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, to commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, to crusade for the planet, to campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night, have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
It is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. The more important a call to action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel about answering it. But to yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use simply because we don’t do that thing that our heart, our inner genius, is calling us to do? Resistance defeats us.
If you believe in God (and I do), you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.
But every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: We don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From ages 24 to 32, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again 13 times; and, I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face. I knew I wanted to write novels, but I could not finish what I started. The closer I got, the more ways I’d find to screw it up.
Look in your own heart. Right now, a still, small voice is piping up, telling you, as it has 10,000 times before, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow — because of Resistance.
As powerful as this dragon is, there is one thing we must remember: It comes from within us. Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from within us. We feed it with power by fearing it. Master that fear and conquer Resistance. There never was a moment — and never will be — when we were without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. How? This second, we can sit down and do our work.
This text was adapted from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, who is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life and 11 other books.
Liane Weintraub, 44, is the co-founder and CEO of Tasty Brand. Tasty, which saw more than $10 million in sales this year, sells its organic snack foods both domestically and internationally in stores as diverse as Whole Foods Markets, large supermarket chains, family-owned stores, and Costco. Weintraub’s interest in what we eat came from her days as a journalist who reported on the impurities and complexities of our food chain. She says she became committed to improving the food supply, and left broadcast journalism to do precisely that, teaming up with long-time friend Shannan Swanson, an heir to — of all things — the Swanson Frozen Food Co.
Weintraub lives in Malibu, Calif. with her husband Richard — a commercial real estate developer — and their two children.
Why do you do the work you do?
I am passionate about food — healthy, safe food. I was raised in a very food-conscious home. I’ve travelled a lot and have great respect for different cuisines and, especially, the way in which crops and other foods are cultivated. As a journalist I covered a lot of agricultural stories — that was my first in-person experience with the vast differences between how organic produce is grown versus conventional. I can think of little else that matters more than the quality of the food, air and water our children take in.
Business partners Shannan Swanson and Liane Weintraub share a commitment to food purity.
My co-founder, Shannan Swanson — yes, the granddaughter of the founder of TV dinners! — and I are good friends. We had our kids about the same time and were both committed to starting a food line geared toward babies (and now older kids) that would be healthful. Motherhood is what gave us the impetus to start the business.
What work would you do if not this?
I came from a journalism background, believing that by telling stories I could effect change. At one point, I was reporting extensively on our potentially tainted food supply and I knew I wanted to be part of the solution. Basically, I’m telling the same story now and engaging people in that story. Now the story is a product. Our complicated agricultural business and the food system in the U.S. and the public’s struggle to do right by themselves and their families — that’s the story. It’s hard and confusing for people to know what is safe for them to eat; how basic is that?
This is what I was meant to do. If I wasn’t providing healthful food choices, I would be delivering the same message in another form.
Who do you admire and consider a role model?
Barbara Walters. Her life and career really epitomize overcoming adversity by using intelligence, good instincts and incredible tenacity. Her success was never about “luck,” but rather about putting in the hours and persisting. We have so many consumers who look at Tasty Brand as an overnight sensation, but it’s been seven years of non-stop hard work, so I always question the notion of “good luck.”
Is there still a glass ceiling? Have you hit it?
The conventional grocery business is a largely male-dominated business. The natural food world is more inclusive. We work between the two channels, and there is a very different culture in each. It’s not a glass ceiling per se, but absolutely I see a different treatment of women. We’ve gone into meetings where they’ve called us “the tasty girls.” I don’t take it as an insult. We are aware of what needs to change and just don’t get distracted by comments like that.
Do women have a responsibility to help other women at work?
Yes. We are a small company with a staff of eight, which until recently was all women. Our last three hires have been men though. The infusion of a few men helps us get different perspectives. The office is where we strategize, and there is a lot of creative thinking that goes on there. When it was all women, I think the environment got a little too loose. But yes, absolutely, women have a responsibility to help one another.
What were you doing when you were 25? Where did you think you were headed?
When I was 25, I was in USC graduate school and married. I thought I was headed for a career in print journalism but got hired by a UPN affiliate and covered Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
What advice do you have for your 25-year-old self?
The same advice I’d give any 25 year old: Go ahead and make a plan for your life, but just don’t be so wed to it that you can’t see other opportunities. Most life paths aren’t proscribed at 25.
What advice would you give someone starting their own business?
Shannan and I really jumped in with two feet and let the passion be our guide. If I ever start another business (or if a would-be entrepreneur asked my advice), I would suggest that passion is only one ingredient — a necessary one, to be sure, but it’s equally important to pace oneself for the long haul. At the start of a venture, it’s hard to imagine what the sacrifices might look like years down the line, so it’s important to remember to restrain the passion a bit in order to protect the other aspects of life. And be patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight.
Speaking of success, how do you define it?
I reevaluate it almost daily. One day’s success is getting one of my kids out of a bind. Another day, supporting my husband is a triumph. Another day it’s a victory with the business. The ultimate definition of success is balancing all of those things.
According to that definition, are you successful?
Yes, so far. The balance isn’t about giving equal time to everything. The proportion scales are widely out of balance at all times. It’s about the ability to focus and give 100 percent to what’s in front of me at any given moment and knowing what that moment’s priority ought to be. It’s more a ratio than a balance.
Define the word happiness — and are you happy?
Happiness is linked to balance. When I feel like I’m doing right by all the people in my life and myself, I have it. And yes, I would say I am happy!
Are those the same definitions of success and happiness you had when you started your business?
Please! We were utterly and totally unprepared when we started. I had no idea how big a toll the company would take on my personal life and time. We were so passionate about the mission behind the products and were so dedicated to what we were trying to do –we still are, but we have figured things out a lot better now.
What parts of your business are the most stressful and interfere with your ability to keep your life in balance?
The travel is the most stressful. We attend endless trade shows to sell our products — at least two trade shows a month and during certain times of the year, the shows are clustered and more frequent. We sell our products better than anyone, so it’s important that we do this part of the business ourselves. We do all the manual labor of schlepping the displays, setting things up, breaking them down — ourselves. It’s exhausting — like when I spend a day traveling on three Southwest flights to get home, waiting around airports, rushing to meet planes.
But my partner, Shannan, has the same deal with kids at home. So we know what the other one is experiencing and can support one another. My husband Richard has also really stepped up. He is a full-time dad. We have help in the form of babysitters but Richard has definitely risen to the occasion and shoulders much of the load.
Has the “big meeting” ever collided with the school play, or some version thereof? What did you do?
If the meeting is THAT important, I go to it. The beauty of having a business partner in the same situation — another mom — is that we understand each other’s struggles. We are there are each other.
Liane Weintraub with her husband Richard and their two children.
Do you keep your phone next to your bed?
I do, but it’s off when I sleep. Yes, I check it in the morning before I get out of bed and yes, before I brush my teeth!
I think technology is a beautiful thing. It allows me a lot of personal freedom. I can work from anywhere, including my home. When I travel, I can stay on top of things in the office. It also allows me to have just a small number of people in my office but a large number of people who touch my brand. But we have to set limits on how technology oversteps into our personal lives and stops being good for us. The grocery business, by the way, is antiquated in a lot of ways. A lot of our orders still come in via fax.
Do you get enough sleep? Exercise?
No, I don’t. I get six hours of sleep a night but would love eight. And no, I don’t get enough exercise but I can’t blame the job for that!
Does your mother understand why you work the way you do?
My mother passed away when I was just 16. She had a career until she had children. She was an art dealer, although she would hate that description. She hated the idea of mixing art with commerce, but she ran an art gallery. The fact that she didn’t have a career after my brother and I were born is what propelled me to have one. I never knew what my Mom did all day. My kids know exactly what I’m doing and why it’s important to me.
Do you have a work persona and a non-work persona?
I’ve tried hard to cultivate one persona. It’s easy to have a split personality. I’ve tried to be the authentic me across all parts of my life. When I worked in TV news, I had to look presentable — you know, dress professionally for the camera. That felt unauthentic to me.
Liane Weintraub in her office.
What would you title your autobiography?
“My Unexpected Story.” I would never have planned for the life I lead. I lost both my parents when I was very young. I was 16 when my Mom died and 21 when my father died. Both had cancer. I have a brother who I’m very close to. But I think that losing my parents so young propelled me to start a grownup life early. I was 23 when I married Richard. We met on a blind date and fell in love.
Do you ever think of quitting?
I would never quit. At some point, maybe we will sell the business but I would want to stay involved. I feel like my brand is my third child.
So, we have to ask: Your partner in an organic foods business is a Swanson — isn’t that a little ironic?
Swanson Frozen Foods was started by Shannan’s grandfather and his brother. The company was sold when her father was 14; she wasn’t even alive when her family owned the company. Swanson’s TV dinners were made in a different era and based on convenience and speed. We are all about health and making the right choices. The message is totally different.
But yes, the Swanson connection is a good conversation starter. When we check in for a flight and she says her name, invariably the airline clerk says “as in the TV dinners?” We just smile.
Track one of “Mindy’s mix” was an old acoustic version of Sarah McLachlan’s “Do What You Have to Do.” I immediately got giddy and started belting along, totally in the moment. I’m sure I looked completely sane to the other drivers on the road.
Don’t you just love how a certain song or smell or moment triggers a floodgate of memories and takes you right back to that moment? That Sarah McLachlan song did it for me. All of the sudden, it’s 1998 and I’m 17. I’m in my car with my girlfriends and we’re soaking in the entire Surfacing album. It’s truly magical.
These moments are usually related to a sense, so I’m listing the top five memories that I have with each sense.
1) Sight: Driving down my childhood street.
The house where I made most of my childhood memories is about 20 minutes away from where I currently live. If I’m ever in the area, I always try and do a drive-by down my old street. Have you ever done this? Is it just me or does everything — the houses, the trees, the street — seem so much smaller?
2) Sound: The songs of my youth.
I hear anything that’s old-school Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Jewel, Lisa Loeb or Alanis Morissette and I become a teenager again. Emotional angst and all.
3) Touch: My mom’s soft hands.
My mom is one fierce Asian lady, so it’s hard to believe she’s got a soft side, but she does. It only comes out when I’m not feeling well. Her hands, usually so strong and blade-like, become soft and inviting as she takes me in and offers soft, soothing strokes. I can feel absolutely awful and disgusting, but one big nurturing mom hug from her and I start to instantly feel better.
4) Smell: Lemon-pear-basil.
I studied abroad in Paris the summer before my senior year of college. Being 20 and naive, I didn’t know what kind of body soap I’d find in France so I packed a huge bottle of this lemon-pear-basil bath gel from Bath and Body Works. I used it every day for the three months that I was there. I don’t know if Bath and Body Works still sells the scent, but it was on shelves a few years ago. Every time I’d pass by one of their stores, I’d walk in, find the scent and take a big whiff. I was immediately transported back to the cobblestone streets of Paris. Why am I suddenly craving a crepe and cigarette?
5) Taste: Soup, made with love.
This one is also a shout-out to my mom. As a child, when I would get sick she would make this creamy chicken-rice porridge that had big cloves of soft garlic mixed in. Her soup was amazing. This wasn’t your typical Campbell’s pop-open-the-can-pour-in-a-bowl-and-nuke-it-for-a-minute chicken noodle soup. No. My mom is better than that. She would make it from scratch, not even cooking the rice first, and stir for what seemed like hours, until it was the perfect texture. A few years ago, I asked her for the recipe. “Recipe?” she said. “What recipe? I just… make it.”
So, this brings me to you. What sight, sound, touch, smell or taste have you come across that takes you right back to a certain moment in your life?
For more by Mindy Haskins, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.
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