Tag Archive | off the merry-go-round

In search of the best job ever

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By Karen Hendricks

We are approaching a milestone here at Off the Merry-Go-Round. We are nearly two years old!

We founded this blog and community as a way to band together and offer support to parents everywhere who were scaling back their professional lives in favor of more quality family time and a healthier balance of work and family.

It’s amazing how many of you have shared your stories, followed our blog, and commented on our articles. It is extremely rewarding to see the community grow!

It’s also incredible to read about high-profile CEOs following suit and stepping off the merry-go-round of demanding careers. Earlier this month, I caught the story of Max Schireson on the Today show. As the CEO of a major software company, he announced he was stepping down and sliding into a lesser role with the company as vice chairman, in order to focus more on his family and home life.

In his blog, Schireson explains his decision:

I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood…. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job.

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.

He told the Today show that he’s simply looking forward to participating in his family’s everyday routine:

“I think what I look forward to most is just being more engaged in the day to day of it,” he said. “Having more time with the kids, whether making dinner or talking to them or helping with homework.”

Congrats to Max Schireson and parents everywhere who are joining us “off the merry-go-round!”

Click here to read or watch the Today show’s coverage.

Click here to read Schireson’s full blog post, “Why I am leaving the best job I ever had.”

 

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2013 in review

Happy New Year! We are so thankful to the entire “Off the Merry-Go-Round” community for finding and following us, adding your words of wisdom, and sharing your adventures in parenting, careers and life with us. We look forward to even more growth, lots of fun and surprises in 2014!

Click below to recap the success of 2013 with us… and check out some of our blog highlights you might have missed!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Cause for Celebration!

red cakeBy Karen Hendricks

“Off the Merry-Go-Round” is celebrating its first birthday! And we are so grateful to everyone who has joined us on this journey.

Whether you are a parent, mom or dad, or even a grandparent, working in an office or working at home, juggling your family with part-time or full-time employment, we are thankful that you are reading, laughing or stressing with us, commenting, offering advice and adding to this community.

When the six of us embarked on this venture a year ago, we sure hoped YOU would find us… and plenty of YOU did and are still finding and joining us. Thanks a bunch! We love hearing from you and reading your words of wisdom.

Check out this COOL word art, created when we plugged our website URL into Wordle.net. It’s generated from the most commonly-used words over the past year. Any surprise that “family” and “time” are the most prominent words? Pretty fascinating, eh?

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When we launched this website a year ago, all six of us had pretty much left full-time employment in the dust. We all worked (certainly inside the home—but outside the home as well!) and our careers were all taking a backseat. Our first stab at a mission and tagline went like this:

Mission: to provide a place of community & inspiration for moms who have left corporate or full-time careers in order to spend more time with their children & families. Re-prioritizing, they are seeking more meaningful, enriched family lives.  

Welcome and congrats for “jumping off the merry-go-round.” Enjoy this blog as a source of community and inspiration for all moms who have scaled back their professional careers in favor of more enriching family time.

A lot has changed in the past year! Several of us have taken on new jobs and larger career roles… and there are times when we wonder if we are truly “off the merry-go-round.”

Most of our subjects here are about balance… trying to maintain balance between work and family, sanity and insanity! But seriously, we don’t want to make anyone feel excluded. Just because a parent is a full-time working parent doesn’t mean he/she can’t still cherish family time. And we wanted to be honest about our situations… we aren’t 100% stay-at-home moms, yet we all strive to carve out family time, to make life as meaningful as possible for our families. We want this website to reflect how much we love and care about our families as our number one priority.

We wanted to reflect this slightly different outlook so we switched up our mission/tagline and are redefined as:

Off the Merry-Go-Round: A place of community and inspiration for parents who cherish time with their children and families.

* Let us know what you think about our change! And we sure hope you stick around for the next year… 🙂

 

“The Healing That Chronic Pain Brings Part 2 ~ Dealing and Healing: How to Cope”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

We don’t value our health until we lose it.” That quote appears on a banner at the medical center where I receive treatment for back pain. In Part 1 of my 2-part series on chronic pain, I shared the story of my life before and during chronic pain, and the unexpected blessings it can bring.

Slow life down and count your blessings!

Slow life down and count your blessings!

Here are some helpful tips I have learned along the way in dealing with chronic pain or supporting someone you know experiencing it.

Dealing and Healing: How to Cope

*Rally your support system. Dealing with insurance companies, navigating our health care system, and being proactive about your care is difficult and often confusing. Doctors are typically narrowly focused, and sometimes there is little to no coordination between practices or sensible dissemination of information. You must research, and push your doctors to give you the care you deserve.

Identify family members or friends who can accompany you to your doctor appointments. Make sure you are comfortable with that person knowing your medical history and keeping it confidential. Ask them to listen extra hard and take good notes. It is very easy to miss something important when you are in pain, or when you have multiple practitioners to visit.

Surround yourself with family members you know will “go the distance” with you, and friends who lift you up. Spend less time with those who don’t “get it” or don’t seem to understand what you are going through. Those who dole out platitudes, or give you the “at least you don’t have cancer” talk – perhaps even judging your medication and treatment plans, are not people you need to invest in emotionally.

My childhood friends are my family!

My childhood friends are my family!

*Advocate for yourself – and find an empathetic, well-versed pain management doctor. This can be your primary physician or a specialist.

If one doctor doesn’t take care of you and your pain needs to your satisfaction, find one who does. Be sure you are comfortable discussing how you feel, and working with them to find a management program that is tailored to you. This is different for every person. As a stay-at-home mom and writer, with a husband who works a job and a half, my pain management plan might look far different from that of an older retired person with fewer daily responsibilities. It is not often during the course of a 12 hour + day on the go that I can simply fall onto the couch and ice down!

*Seek evaluations and counsel from many professionals. I am big on second (and third and fourth) opinions, and recommend working with a variety of people who specialize in certain areas.

Having more than one eye on a problem generates more than one solution. I call my group of doctors and other specialists “Team Jennifer!”

*Do everything you can to make your life easier. You have enough to deal with – your focus should be on your healing, not whether your coffee table is dusted!

Chronic pain affects many facets of a person’s life, and can mean significant adjustments. Since some daily life changes involve spending money, you have to decide what you can afford or accommodate. We hired a housecleaner, ordered groceries through a delivery service, and found wonderful babysitters to wear our busy little 3 year old out a couple of days a week when he wasn’t in preschool.

In the past, I played “super mom.” Now I am often exhausted – from battling daily pain, caring for my little boy when my husband is not home to help, and coordinating my healthcare. Even daily life routines can become overwhelming. Over time, though, I have seen that I can be a super mom just by being present. My son has become accustomed to the modifications I need to give myself a break and physical relief. He enjoys getting my ice pack for me, and reminds me to do my back exercises and take walks with him outside. He even asks me how my back is feeling! You will not meet a more empathetic 3 year old, and frankly I think we could use more people like that in this world.

My son feels good about helping me out!

My son feels good about helping me out!

In the long run, I found that there was actually a huge blessing to be found in my condition – I gained time with my son. We bonded over snuggle time and story time. I have no regrets!

*Reduce your stress level as much as possible. Contrary to popular belief, usually stress does not cause pain. However, stress often aggravates an existing condition.

Difficult as it may be, force yourself to take a hard look at your life – professional and personal, and cut out those things (or people!) that cause physical discomfort or emotional turmoil. Leaving my part-time job and making a few other adjustments helped my healing. For example, travel (even a short car ride) became too painful for me. So, we invited our family and friends to visit us, yet asked if they would stay at an area hotel so I wouldn’t have added hosting responsibilities. Trust me, those who really care won’t mind! Additionally, with the help of a wonderful chronic pain therapist (if you don’t have one, get one!), I identified and embraced those among my family and friends who could be supportive, and let go of stressful, toxic relationships.

Let your good friends take you away from it all!

Let your good friends take you away from it all!

*Remain connected and allow others to be there for you. This can be hard when you don’t feel well. Sometimes, it may seem easier to withdraw. However, isolation is not good for your healing in the long run. When I embraced life again, my vitality began to return.

Dance On!

Dance On!

As bad as you may feel – physically and emotionally, reaching out and plugging back into life as much as possible given your condition will help! Allow those emotionally healthy people in your life to be there for you and to help you when you need it. When you get better you can return the favor. Here’s to your health!

Are you or someone you know dealing with chronic pain? Please share how you are coping or your advice for handling the complications it can bring to your life – your insight may help someone who is looking for answers!

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs

By Karen Hendricks

Just like your favorite t-shirts: tie-dye Easter eggs.

Just like your favorite t-shirts: tie-dye Easter eggs.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s still fun to decorate Easter eggs whether you’re 3 or 93. With two teenagers and one almost-teenager in my household, there’s a lot of growing up, going on. As much as I enjoy and celebrate my children growing up, notching accomplishments and developing character, there are aspects of childhood left behind that I dearly miss–such as making craft projects together, coloring, painting and drawing. So the wonderful, annual ritual of making Easter eggs brings us back together for a “craft project” of sorts once again.

We have had fun making a wide variety of Easter eggs through the years, but one of our favorite methods is tie-dyeing Easter eggs. The colors are brilliant, each egg’s pattern and coloring is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to tie-dye… So it’s a winning formula.

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs:

You will need: food coloring, vinegar, paper towels, foil and hard-boiled eggs

1. Protect your work surface with newspaper. Tear off a piece of foil that’s slightly larger than the size of a paper towel. Place a paper towel on top of the foil. Pour a few drops of vinegar (3-4) towards the middle of the paper towel. Put 8-10 drops of food coloring in the center area of the paper towel, allowing some of the colors to overlap slightly, spread and mix.

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2. Place a damp egg on the paper towel and very gently, press the foil around the egg until it is wrapped.

3. Carefully peel back the foil and towel and place the egg on a clean paper towel or a stand to dry completely. You can usually color 3-4 eggs with the same foil/paper towel before the colors muddy and/or the foil becomes worn. You can vary the effects, the color combinations and the folds in the foil.

The end results - eggstraordinary!

The end results – eggstraordinary!

Tip: Use rubber gloves so your fingers don't get stained.

Tip #1: Use rubber gloves so your fingers don’t get stained.

Tip #2: Use upside-down egg cartons as stands to let your eggs dry.

Tip #2: Use upside-down egg cartons as stands to let your eggs dry.

Show us your Easter eggs! Snap a photo (or two) and upload them to our Facebook page to share your family’s creativity.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful spring season and a Happy Easter! 

“The Healing That Chronic Pain Brings: Part 1 ~ Hidden Blessings”

Despite the smile on my face, being laid up is not fun.

Despite the smile on my face, being laid up is not fun.

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Do you know someone who is sick or battling an illness right now? Likely, you do. Everything from the common cold and broken bones to arthritis and cancer takes its toll on everyday lives. Each is difficult to deal with, and everyone reacts differently to pain and suffering. In the medical center where I receive treatment for back pain, a quote hanging on a banner reads, “We don’t value our health until we lose it.”

Once I was vivacious and active, and enjoyed running, hiking, kayaking and lifting weights. I worked with personal trainers and took fitness classes. My husband and I were on the go a lot – and working out was part of every day. We even made sure there was somewhere to run on vacation! I expected I would always be moving in one way or another, but 2 years ago my physical capacities and mental strength disappeared. Or so I thought …

One evening in December 2011, I said to my husband, “I don’t feel right. Something’s wrong.” That was the beginning of countless doctor and specialist visits. Diagnosis and choosing a treatment plan also involved multiple tests, x-rays, and scans. I battled endometriosis first. That disease, although not life-threatening, is extremely painful. Whereas each person’s pain level differs, it is not affected by how much endometriosis you have – rather by what it is doing inside your body.

Endometriosis spreads like wildfire and is very difficult to “stamp out.” Following a laparoscopic procedure to remove what could be seen, I endured a round of treatments to keep it “at bay.” Finally, a hysterectomy became necessary. Laparoscopic or not, that surgery can take up to a full year to recover completely.

Although endometriosis causes a good deal of abdominal pain, it can also have a “wrap around” effect and cause lower back pain. When my back pain did not subside several months following my second surgery, I had a new battle – to find out what was going on now.

Dealing with insurance companies, navigating our health care system, and being proactive about your care is difficult. Doctors are typically narrowly focused, and there can be little to no coordination between practices or sensible dissemination of information. You must research, and push your doctors to give you the care you deserve.

I learned I had a degenerative lower disc, an annular tear, and arthritis. So my battles began anew, and I started treatment programs and healing regiments to recover full use of my back and reduce my pain level. Only now am I beginning to feel a little better. I found out my disc tear will heal some (it can take up to 18 months), yet to what extent remains unknown. This means that my future holds hope for healing, but I don’t know what my lifestyle will be like.

Chronic pain affects many facets of a person’s life, and for us meant significant adjustments. I stopped working part-time and my husband works two jobs. We hired a housecleaner and ordered food through a grocery delivery service. Travel, even a short car ride, became too painful for me. Stress aggravated my condition. My husband rearranged his work schedule to drive me to outpatient procedures. We had no care for my son during these times, so he came too.

I was often exhausted – from battling daily pain, caring for my little boy when my husband was not home to help, and coordinating my healthcare. Even daily life became overwhelming to handle.

back painI felt very alone. It seemed others didn’t understand that my world had turned upside down. If I talked about it, I usually received platitudes or the “at least you don’t have cancer” talk – even judgment about my medication and treatment plans. I was ready to give up, and for a time went to a dark place within that I was not sure I would come back from.

Finally, one specialist convinced me to see a chronic pain therapist. This started my healing process. Over several months, and lots of pushing on her part, I finally emerged from my isolation and began reaching out into the world around me. She taught me how to reconnect with those who could be supportive; to let go of stressful, toxic relationships; and to make new friends and get involved in my community. She showed me how to embrace life again, and slowly my vitality began to return. That awakening also helped my physical healing which evolved to include massage, dance classes, and yoga sessions.

Reaching out and plugging back into life helped me. I am not completely healed, and still have bad days physically and emotionally, yet for the first time in over 2 years I have a glimpse of life on the other side of chronic pain. Hopefully, that will include more pain-free days and an active lifestyle. I am also able to look back at my physical pain and emotional despair, and see that although I experienced a trying time in my life, there were hidden blessings in the midst of my struggles. Ironically, dealing with chronic pain, and finding myself “off the merry-go-round,” has brought healing and clarity to my life:

*I know who my friends are. Unfortunately, there are few people who can handle supporting someone who is sick for a very long time. I am thankful for my best friends, Jen (our blog panel member) and Karen S., who have carried me through this ordeal.

*I can do more than I think I can. My husband says I get more accomplished in a day than women who don’t have chronic pain.

*I was forced to slow my life down and sit on the sidelines as an observer. One good thing this has affected is spending time with my son. Sometimes I worry about him dealing with the family dynamic of chronic pain, yet my husband is quick to point out how caring and empathetic he is at such a young age. I have been able to slow down time and watch him grow – inch by glorious inch!

*I discovered hidden talents. My doctors said no more running. This is hard for me to embrace (what, no more half marathons?!), yet I learned to dance which my doctors encourage to build core muscles and keep joints moving without impact!

*I have grit. It takes great mental fortitude to handle over 2 years of ongoing pain and still function with some normalcy!

Are you or someone you know dealing with chronic pain? Please share any hidden blessings you have found amidst the pain!

Guest Blog: Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round

By Guest Blogger, Marian Parsons, AKA “Miss Mustard Seed”

This post originally appeared on missmustardseed.com on December 30,2012, and caught our attention!  Marian is a youth pastor’s wife, mother of two little boys and a lover of all things home. In addition to running her own business, Mustard Seed Interiors LLC, and authoring her blog, she is a freelance writer for HGTV.com, CountryLiving.com and a contributor to Cottages and Bungalows magazine (DIY Essentials Column). Her DIY projects have appeared in numerous additional publications and her first book Inspired You is currently #2 on Amazon’s Best-Selling Decorating Books. We are honored to republish “Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round” with her permission:

Miss-Mustard-SeedIn my business I’ve had to make some tough decisions.  The hardest thing for me is to say no and to set limits.  I want to fly as high as my wings can carry me and I don’t want to be limited by things like sleep and time to crash on the sofa to watch a movie.  I love my work and I love being productive, so it’s hard for me to sit, be still and rest.  It’s hard for me to see the great potential in something and then say no to it and make a clear decision to not pursue it.

Well, after about a year of going back and forth about it in my mind, I have made the difficult decision to leave The Old Lucketts Store as a vendor.  I know, I know.  It’s Lucketts!  How could I leave Lucketts?!  I know I don’t need to justify myself to all of you, but I thought I would lay out how I came to that decision in the hopes that it might help others who are thinking through some tough business (or maybe even personal) decisions.

1.)  It’s a matter of money.  When I looked at my year end profit and loss statement, I was pretty amazed to see that 2/3 of my gross income came from my blog and freelance writing jobs, leaving only 1/3 from merchandise.  Of that 1/3, about 1/3 was made in just two events (the May fair and the Christmas open house.)  Then when I looked at my investments, I saw that I spent almost twice as much on pieces to resell than I did on supplies for photo shoots and materials for projects.  Now, I know there is a lot more earning potential at Lucketts and I simply haven’t had the time to put into it to get more out of it.  From a business perspective, I had to look at my income and make the decision to put more time and money into the area that’s getting the highest return – blogging and writing.

2.) It’s a matter of time.  I am regularly asked how I do all I do.  Well, the simple answer is that I’m often hanging-on-by-a-thread and flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and holding on-for-dear-life, which is fun, but it can be exhausting and overwhelming, too.  Over the past year, I have known that I needed to cut some things out.  I spend the majority of my time shopping for Lucketts, painting pieces for Lucketts, pricing for Lucketts, driving to Lucketts…you get the idea.  It’s a good 3-4 days of my week spent on Lucketts, which would be fine if that was my primary source of income, but since it’s not, it’s not a good return on my time.  What has kept me there for so long is all of the intangibles.  It’s great exposure.  I LOVE it.  I love working with the people there.  I love the interaction with my customer and readers.  All of those things made it tough to leave.

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3.) It’s a matter of goals.  There is a lot more that I want to do.  I have ideas for new colors and products to go along with the milk paint line.  There is so much more I want to do with my blog to make it informative, functional, inviting, etc.  I have a list of house projects a mile long that have been put on the back burner for a couple of years.  I’m really excited about having the time to pursue those ideas.

4.) It’s a matter of reality.  I’m often called a machine, but the truth is that I’m not.  I have periods of burnout and I just had a long stretch of it.  I just wanted to lay on the couch and watch old episodes of ER.  I love all that I’m doing, but I can’t continue at this pace.  As much as I like to think I can keep piling exciting projects on, I can’t and it’s time I recognize that and make changes accordingly.

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So, what does this mean for you, the reader?

Will I still write this blog?  YES!  That’s one reason I’m leaving Lucketts.  I want to be able to give more of my professional time to my blog.  I’m actually hoping to increase the number of posts I write each week and that slowing down in other areas will give me time to increase the content on my blog.  You see, I have had to work at such a rapid pace to keep my space filled at Lucketts that I can only show you a small percentage of what I do.  I rarely have time to film a video tutorial or take step-by-step pictures and I would love to do more of that.  I also want to give more attention to my house and blog all about that.  I have other ideas, too, about maybe expanding into sharing some foodie posts (Miss Mustard Seed’s Kitchen) and starting a companion blog with my husband (The Mustard Seed Workshop.)

Will I still refinish furniture to share on my blog and to sell?  Of course.  It’s what I do.  I don’t think I could handle NOT doing furniture!  I’m still going to be a vendor at the Lucketts Fair in May and I’ll probably do smaller pieces that I can make available for sale online.  I’m excited about setting my own pace and not having to worry about filling a physical space.  And would you believe I have furniture in my house that needs to be refinished and/or painted and I just haven’t had time to do it?  I’m also going to finally make some other things available for sale online like t-shirts, German Glass Glitter, some handmade items and vintage finds.  If my house starts to look like a storage unit, I’ll have a tag sale in my yard!

Like I said, it was a tough decision and I felt a little panicked after I gave my notice.  My business has been retail-driven for a long time, but now that I have a blog, product line and a book, it’s time to focus on those things and I think my business will be the better for it in the long run.  Thank you so much to Suzanne and all of the vendors at Lucketts for taking me under your wing, fluffing and filling my space when I was writing my book, and for being so encouraging and inspiring.  It’s an amazing store and I’m so honored I had a chance to be a part of it.

Enjoy a photo gallery of Miss Mustard Seed’s work, below, and be sure to check out her blog.  We wish her much continued success–congrats on having the faith to cut back and step off the merry-go-round!