Mind your Busyness

It seems everyone I speak to these days talks about how busy they are. The number of people multitasking is multiplying. The demands of keeping up, logging in, staying connected and attending to personal and professional details can be overwhelming.

Managing time and finding time for yourself is probably the number one concern brought up when I interview women about handling their stress and maintaining balance in their lives.

I don’t mind being busy. I mind when being busy becomes non productive or even wasted time. More important, keeping busy should not keep you from enjoying your life and taking care of yourself. A busy mind keeps you young; being too busy to take care of you could do the opposite.

Some people stay busy to distract them from things they don’t really want to address. How many times have you said, “I don’t have time to (fill-in-the-blank)”? is it that you did not have the time or that you just did not want to bother making the time? For example, “I am too busy to exercise.” “I am too busy to get together with friends.” “I am too busy to take a break.”

I tend to keep myself busy when I feel anxious. I start cleaning out drawers and closets, organize files and paperwork. I grew up in a house filled with clutter, so creating order calms me. But that may not work for everyone. Keeping busy can be productive, but staying perpetually busy can be counter productive.

I think it is important to learn to mind your busyness. It’s a matter of time management, setting priorities and accepting that you may not be able to have it all and do all. And that is perfectly fine.

Once you learn to mind your busyness, you will find you have more time to do other things, Here are my tips:

1. Think of managing time like managing your diet. It’s about balance, portion control and not overloading your plate. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and space out your tasks into different parts of the day to give yourself some breathing space.

2. Detach yourself from the computer and especially emails and social media. Life will go on if you miss a few hours of log in time. I set aside certain times of the day to answer emails and connect with social media. Unless your job is managing and monitoring social media full time, you have no need or business staring at a screen all day connecting with people virtually when you could be actively doing something else or and having some face time with people around you.

3. Always have a prepared agenda or list when you attend a meeting or go out to run errands. It is easier to check off a list than realize later you forgot to address or pick up something.

4. Plan dinners or cocktails to gather up all those friends and acquaintances who tell you, “Let’s meet for a drink.” Make it a small gathering and everyone can meet up at once.

5. Delegate or share tasks. Assign chores to specific days of the week. There’s no joy in taking on too much and feeling overloaded. Learn to ask for help.

6. Let voice mail take your messages so you can concentrate on what you are doing or focus on the people you are with. There is nothing better than a great conversation with a friend at the right time, but if the time is not right let them know. It’s more considerate to give someone your full attention than half an ear. There is also nothing ruder than someone who takes a call during a meeting or a meal.

When I was facing my cancer treatment, I told everyone that I would only take calls to talk about how I was doing on Fridays. I called it “Cancer Fridays.” By allocating my time to catch up with friends on Fridays, I could deal with the jumble of other issues without distraction the remainder of the week.

7. Respect the fact that everyone is busy and some may not be the super multitasking maven that you are. It is always polite to ask, “Is this a good time to talk ?” before launching into a conversation. Be patient with emails and texts. I think it is odd that people expect me to respond immediately to a text or email. as if I am permanently attached to my mobile phone,

8. Set priorities. Decide what needs to take precedent first and stick to it. Don’t allow petty distractions to get in the way.

9. Be flexible. If  a schedule changes or an emergency pops up, be ready to roll when everything starts to rock.

10. Keep your busyness to yourself, or at least curate what you share. Talking about how busy you are can make others feel uncomfortable. Some people may feel they are not busy enough. Others may think you are too busy for them.

Finally, never be too busy to enjoy your day, make time for yourself, be considerate of others and seize opportunities that come your way. The worse thing is to look back at a moment in life with regret and admit, “I was too busy.”

MINDING YOUR BUSYNESS2There’s no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you’ll make time for it – Nishan Panwar, poet  

The Naked Truth

Summer is when everyone likes to let their hair down and bare their bodies. Off come the business suits and on go the bathing suits, shorts and sandals.  Some people simply forgo bathing suits for birthday suits and drop their inhibitions along with their clothes.

Nudity is receiving plenty of exposure these days.

There are nudist-focused television reality shows, including TLC’s “Buying Naked,” VH1′s “Dating Naked,” and Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid.”  http://nypost.com/2014/06/26/welcome-to-the-brave-nude-world-of-reality-tv/

Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel, was relieved of his corporate duties for his corporeal naked dance video that went viral http://nypost.com/2014/06/20/american-apparel-ceo-stars-in-bizarre-naked-dancing-video/

Tennis stars Venus Williams and Tomas Berdych are photographed naked in ESPN’s July 11th Body Issue.

http://espn.go.com/tennis/story/_/id/11122532/venus-williams-tomas-berdych-bare-all-body-issue-shoot

Now I am no prude about being nude. I’ve gone topless in St. Tropez. I enjoy a private skinny dip in my swimming pool at home. And in a defining moment to accept my reconstructed body after breast cancer, I posed naked for The Grace Project, a sensitive series of photographic portraits of women who have undergone mastectomies. http://the-grace-project.org/

However, there is a Naked Truth. I call it the Undress Code. Not everyone may be as comfortable with your bare body or the concept of nudity as you may be. So unless you are planning a vacation to a nude beach, campsite or community where going au naturel is the norm, test the social waters before disrobing and jumping in if you are among non nudists. Just as it is a matter of courtesy to ask, “Do you mind if I smoke?” you should ask if anyone minds if you take off your shirt, shorts, shoes, etc. TMB “Too Much Body” is akin to TMI “Too Much Information.” Some people are just not comfortable when others bare and share too much with them.

It’s not just about the issue of total nudity, It’s about baring body parts that some people just may not care to see. I’ve never been a fan of  seeing men eating shirtless at a table or wearing only teeny tiny shorts in my hot yoga classes. I remind my husband to take his bare feet off the coffee table at home. I  think a woman in a well-fitted one piece bathing suit looks better than spilling out of a too small bikini. Sometimes it’s better to tuck in the wiggles and jiggles rather than letting them hang out.

I do believe accepting one’s body as beautiful at any size and age is important. No amount of nips, tucks, toning and other tuneups will amount to anything if you don’t have and project confidence in your body. I wish we could teach that message earlier in schools before some young girls develop negative body images and eating disorders. I wish we could teach people not to bully or discriminate  against anyone whose body looks different. I also wish more people understood the importance of caring for their bodies. A healthy attitude help builds a healthy body along with sound nutrition and exercise.

I also believe there is a time and place for everything, including where and when to bare your body in social situations. Do it because your are comfortable with your body. Don’t do it if makes those around you uncomfortable or someone is pressuring you.   Be comfortable in your skin and confident in your situation, but be sensitive to your surroundings and consider manners when it comes to matters of the flesh.

94881-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Stick-People-Adam-And-Eve-With-Blurred-Private-Parts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

Words from My Dad

CIMG3491My Dad left this world November 2, 2009. I saved a few emails that he always wrote in CAPS. I told him “Dad, when you send emails in CAPS it means you are SHOUTING.” He responded, “I am deaf in one ear. That’s why I shout, even in emails.”

But I wish I could still hear his voice. When people leave you sometimes it’s their voice you  find you miss deeply. I miss Dad’s soothing voice when I was having a panic attack, his encouraging voice when I was pitching new business, and his commanding voice when it was time to “march out the door.” When I was young I was scared when he raised his voice at me; when I was older I just shouted back. We discussed; we argued; we teased; we shared.

I wish I had written down what he had to say or recorded his voice. I do my best to remember his wry sense of humor and how he would heave with a hearty hee-haw laugh at his own pranks and jokes. On June 8th on his birthday and again on Father’s Day I try to conjure up his voice, now a distant echo in my mind.

So I do my best to write down what I remember and encourage anyone with one or both parents still alive to listen to them, record their voice and keep in somewhere safe. One day that voice may become a whisper or a rasp, and then it will disappear.

The world according to Mel:

“Melanie, I am giving you the ’5-P Award’ for “Pretty Piss Poor Prior Planning” – He’d say this when I royally screwed up.

“Melanie, you’ve got to ‘Play Hardball’ in business. He gave me a paperweight baseball with this slogan on it that I keep at my desk. My staff’s nickname for him was “HardBall Mel.”

“Melanie was ‘poorly engineered and badly accounted for.’”  This is what means to be the second baby born in the New Year, missing out on both prizes and a year-end tax deduction…not to mention causing my party-loving  parents to leave a New Year’s bash early.

“You’ve have it cattywampus” – Anything off kilter or askew – certainly not the engineering terms he learned at West Point!

“This weighs a shitload.”- A form of measurement.  Also, used as “You are going to be in a shitload of trouble if your Mother finds out.”

“It’s AligaTORpiss “- His description of a bad wine. For years my mother didn’t realize AligaTORpiss meant “Aligator Piss.”

“No chuppah; no shtuppah” – No sex before marriage.

“Why buy the cow when the milk is free?” (see above).

“There is always an angle”- The true C.P.A. in him.

“Let’s eat some Shooshi”- A plate of raw fish.

“I am deaf in my left ear. I call it my ‘Buy Me, Give Me, Get Me  Ear’. It’s the one that faces Sonia in bed.”

“We’ll split the cost. I want you to have this. Just don’t tell your Mother.”

“Daddy will fix it. Don’t worry. We will work it out.”

Until the end he tried to fix everything for me to make life run better and smoother. He was always a phone call away and made several calls to me during the day to ‘check in.” They say he died with his cell phone close by his bed to be able to reach me if I needed him. In the end he may have needed me more.

The only thing he could not fix was a cancer diagnosis, his or mine, or the reality that life is only ours for a brief time on Earth. Father Time took my Dad to another place. Now, when a cardinal flies by, I like to think it’s Dad checking in.9860764-male-northern-cardinal-cardinalis-cardinalis-on-a-branch-covered-with-snow

So for those of you with Fathers, listen to their goofy stories and bad jokes, let them reminisce, accept the baggy jeans or shorts and the plaid Dad shirt, the bad comb-over and the umpteen little things that make him uniquely your “Dad.” And don’t reserve just Father’s Day to let unsaid words be spoken.

 

 

Is it Time for a “Friendervention”?

Recently at a restaurant, the dinner conversation drifted to the topic of friendship. One of the women at the table said that she noticed a few of her friends had “unfriended” her on Facebook. These were not virtual friends; they were people she had known and socialized with over the years with real “face time” rather than just Facebook.

We discussed how some friends stay constant and others drift in and out of your life. Some are seasonal friends; you connect for ski trips or at the beach. Some are friends by location; you hang out with them at them at certain bars, clubs or playgrounds. Others are long-distance, and you stay in touch and make occasional visits. Still others maybe never were true friends after all, only acquaintances whose lives passed through yours for a brief time. Then there are fair-weather friends who blow soft and cold depending on their buddy barometers.

Friendship is much like a garden. Seeds of friendship are planted during a get-acquainted period that can be a very short or longer growing season depending on the people and the situation. Friendship, like seedlings, needs to be cultivated and nurtured. If you ignore it, the relationship may wither. Some friends are perennials; you know they will always be there for you even you don’t see them all the time. Others are annuals; they pass through your life once or twice and then move on, or you see them during the holidays or at a yearly gathering.

Some friendships flourish when there are more people engaged. Much like the berry bush that needs a sibling plant to bloom, some friendships survive better among a cluster of friends. On the other hand, you may need to weed out your friendship garden from time to time when friendships grow toxic.

Toxic friends are not friends, neither are friends who don’t have your back or talk behind it incessantly. A good friend will have your back and will tell what they feel about things to your face, whether you like it or not.

We’re all too polite when it comes to telling people how we feel, or sharing our opinions. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make them mad. But it’s far more maddening when someone won’t tell you to your face what people are saying behind your back.

I believe in the code of friendervention. This means:

1. If your friend is royally screwing up her life, you will gather the courage to get it off your chest and tell it to her straight that she needs to fess up, face up and fix up her mess or seek help to do it.

2. If a friend is dragging you down with negativity and bad karma, you will address it with her or make the decision to weed her out of you life, if not for the long term, then the immediate short term.

3. If you spend more time connecting online with people you barely know and less time with people living under your roof or in your local community, then you need a social media friendervention to re-balance.

4. If you or a friend spends more time complaining or criticizing rather than conversing about things that are genuinely interesting, someone needs afriendervention to reset the tone and topic.

5. A true friend will accept you at worst and cheer you on at your best. She will be with you during your feast and famine times. A true friend is nourishment for the spirit. But the relationship needs to be a balanced diet of give and take.

6. If you haven’t heard from a friend in a long time, don’t sit around and wait and wonder what happened. Pick up the phone or drop her an email or send a real old-fashioned letter and say, “Haven’t heard from you for awhile. I just wanted to say I’m thinking about you.” It’s amazing how many people drift apart simply because they don’t bother to connect. Communication is the glue that keeps friendships together.

friendervention is much like maintaining a garden. You have to clear out debris and weeds, mulch and water to encourage healthy growth; trim and replant to ensure long term and appreciate the blooms when they are around. You also have to accept that that nature — both mother and human — are not perfect.

WOMAN WATERING FLOWERS

 

There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.  -  Antisthenes (445BC – 365BC)- Quoted in The Book of Ancient Wisdom, ed. Bill Bradfield, 2005

Winning Isn’t Everything But It Sure Feels Good!

Getting Things Off My Chest wins 2014 International Award for Cancer-Health Books

Getting Things Off My Chest wins 2014 International Award for Cancer-Health Books

I am thrilled to report that  “Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer” is recipient of the 2014 International Book Award for Cancer-Health topics. The award was announced May 21 by American Book Fest.

My goal writing this book was to help women stay focused and confident at a time when it feels like cancer is taking over their lives. Winning this award is bittersweet: It took having breast cancer myself and losing a dear friend to the disease to give me the experience and inspiration to write Getting Things Off My Chest,” I am continually touched by the thank you letters from the women who have read my book. Knowing my book is helping women and boosting their self esteem is the ultimate reward.

I turned to writing during my treatment as therapy to stay focus and combat “chemo brain.” I have always been a bit of a “list diva” and I kept detailed checklists of insights and tips learned during treatment from my own experience and from fellow survivors. This became the basis for Getting Things Off My Chest.

There were people in publishing who told me “No one is interested in another breast cancer book or story.” But, I knew that something was missing: a solid, sensible “full circle” approach to  managing cancer treatment while maintaining quality of life and sense of self-worth. Life doesn’t stop for cancer and having cancer should not stop anyone from living life to the fullest possible.

The International Book Awards (IBA) are presented by the American Book Fest.  Over 300 winners and finalists were announced in over 80 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year’s contest yielded over 1200 entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.  Full results listing for all categories can be found at http://www.InternationalBookAwards.com.  AMERICAN BOOK FEST covers books from all sections of the publishing industry—mainstream, independent, & self-published. http://www.AmericanBookFest.com

To purchase Getting Things Off My Chest or to post a review on Amazon.com please visit:http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Things-Off-Chest-Survivors-ebook/dp/B00F5KPT42/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400875604&sr=1-1&keywords=getting+things+off+my+chest

Getting Things Off My Chest 2x3

 

Six Degrees of Education

This month around the nation, dignitaries and celebrities are sharing words of wisdom to eager graduates at high school, college, and university commencements. I am still waiting for my invitation to speak.

But, if I were asked, here is an abbreviated version of what I would say. I call it “Six Degrees of Education.”

1.  Your Education never ends. It evolves. What you have learned until today is just that and no more.  Realize you may need to go back to school, take more courses and be open to new ideas to remain relevant and on top of change.  Degrees are not necessarily the temperature for assessing future success. You may earn a degree or two in life, and the certificates will grace your wall. But how you apply and assert yourself, make connections, seize opportunities and are open to ideas, change and a little serendipity are what will impact your success barometer.

2. Experience is the best education you will receive. Books and classes will provide you knowledge and skills. Experience teaches you how to utilize them. However, I have learned that if you ever want to teach at a university, plan on earning a masters degree.  Certifications, higher degrees and letters still seem to matter over vast experience in the world of academia.

3. Knowledge is what you accumulate from education and experience. Using that knowledge effectively is your choice, but try not to waste either knowledge or time. There are many people who dream of being in your shoes to have both knowledge and time on their side.

4. Wisdom is the understanding you gain from knowledge and your ability to clarify and apply it to your life and to share it with others.  Wisdom is time honored and should be respected. I’d rather hear gifted words from a wise person than from someone lecturing me from a text book any day,

5. Intuition is learning to listen to your gut instinct and knowing how to respond. It is the inner voice giving you a lecture. You can learn a lot about yourself and how to handle situations better through intuition. I have made many smart decisions following my intuition rather than adhering to conventional wisdom.

6. Achievement is a measure of who we are and how we make an impact. Success is a measure of what we accomplish. Always aim to achieve and then be happy when what you do achieve becomes a success. And never let anyone define your success for you or force you to change to become their version of “success.”

To get by in life, you need knowledge from education and experience. But it’s your intuition and wisdom that will enable you to make the best decisions that will ultimately help you achieve all you dream of to become your definition of success.

What will matter is not your success, but your significance. - Michael Josephson, from the poem “What Will Matter”

Your attitude not your aptitude will determine your altitude. – Zig Ziglar

Not Being a Mother Does Not Make Me Any Less of a Woman

“Why didn’t you have children?”
I am always amazed when someone asks me this abrupt question. But people do ask.

“You wouldn’t understand. Your are not a mother.”
I take a deep breath and hold my thoughts when another woman says this to me.

My decision not to have children is personal. But, since you asked…

When I was younger it was a practical choice. I was single, running a business, traveling non-stop and in debt. I was not comfortable raising a child alone and unable to provide the time and resources I felt a child deserves. I married late, settled into life as a couple after years of being single and then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy placed me into menopause. There you have it.

I am no less of a woman because I did not have children. Yet, I have experienced a glass wall come up when other women who are mothers say to me,

“Motherhood made me a complete and better person.”
“My life is more fulfilling.”
“I am less selfish and more caring.”

Just because I am not a mother does not mean that I am selfish or my life is incomplete. I have a very happy, fulfilling life that I embrace with appreciation and enthusiasm. I am a proud daughter of a wonderful mother who is, thankfully, healthy and vibrant. I live with purpose and compassion and no regrets…and no excuses.

The Mommy Track was not the path my life took but it does not mean I took the wrong direction. There are no right or wrong directions if we all navigate them with grace, kindness and passion. I respect and appreciate all mothers- and dads- and only ask that those of us who remained childless receive equal respect.

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness.
Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they are lost. - Dalai Lama

dalai lama

 

Rejects, I’ve Had a Few

I recently applied for a grant from a prestigious professional women’s organization dedicated to empowering women. My mission is to empower women and I am studying to train as a certified coach. The grant would have provided beneficial support to help me in my goal to help make a difference for others.

REJECTEDI was rejected.  But not dejected. Annoyed, yes. Giving up, no.

Everyone experiences rejection. My first sort of rejection was the day I was born, the second baby of the new year. The first baby born received all the prizes. I received no prizes, and my parents lost out on a year end tax deduction.  My C.P.A. father liked to say, “She was poorly engineered and badly accounted for.”

I’ve dealt with plenty of rejection. But don’t start plucking the violin strings for me. I’ve had plenty of success as well. Here are my top three rejection stories, all with better endings (for me):

1. Dumped by a boyfriend after six months who said, “The excitement is gone.” Years later he was run over by a bus. And I married my prince.

2. Turned down by the New York parent company to the PR firm where I worked in Atlanta who said, “She’s too much of a flake to make it here in New York.” I moved anyway and ran my own successful PR agency in New York for over 20 years.

3. Kicked off the cheerleading squad for not being pretty enough despite being the best team member at splits and dance movements. Ugly ducklings blossom, and I still can dance those moves.

Many of us experience rejection at work: sales fall through; clients choose other companies; customers change loyalties; actors are turned down for roles, bad reviews happen.  And then there is personal rejection: the heartbreak of a breakup, not being selected for a team, turned down for a scholarship or a job.

If you experience rejection, don’t be bitter. Be better. Every time a door has slammed in my face I just go knocking on other doors. There are no dead ends, just dead ears. I consider many of my rejections misguided decisions by the other parties who failed to realize all the potential I have to offer.

It also means you may need to take time to refine your presentation or message to convey it better next time. The only failure is giving up,  Rejection should not lead to dejection; it’s just a bad bump in the road and bruise to the ego. Bruises heal over time. Thin skin can toughen up.

Fortunately, rejection is occasional. But maintaining confidence should be constant. The next time you experience rejection, don’t dwell on “would have, should have, could have.” Take your lumps and learn from them. Then smooth your ruffled feathers, polish your pluck and strut yourself all over again.

 

Rejects, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. 

I did what I had to do and saw it through without contention

…..I faced it all and I stood tall. And did it my way.

(“My Way” My version)

REJECTION

 

 

 

 

Gift idea for Mother’s Day

Getting Things Off My Chest 2x3

Mother’s Day Ebook sale! 

The “Getting Things Off My Chest” eBook is just $.99 on May 5th (list: $6.99). Price goes up $1 daily til May 10th. Amazon exclusive. Give, Share, Care. Link to purchase:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F5KPT42

What people are saying about Getting Things Off My Chest: Literary R&R: If you know anyone that is facing breast cancer, run, do not walk, and purchase this for them!  Written by a survivor, using other survivors’ experience, and a healthy dose of humor, Ms. Young has written THE go-to book for breast cancer awareness. Anything, and everything, a patient needs to know is inside, and written in a direct, informative text, without the medical journal feel.

Beginning with “It took losing my breasts to find my voice,” and with chapters covering everything from “Digesting your diagnosis,” “This is your brain on chemo,” to “Making cancer a positive life sentence,” it guides every step of the cancer process. There is not enough positive I can say, except I plan on purchasing these and handing them out to local hospitals so that they may have this resource on hand

Resetting the Table

For years I had a small green table with four chairs sitting out on my New York City second floor apartment patio overlooking lower Fifth Avenue. It weathered icy winters, gathered dust in the spring, collected soot from the traffic below in summer and stood neglected most of the time. It was a table for dumping boxes and supplies but never for sitting around to  enjoy a meal or conversation. It was always “too dirty!” and “why bother?” whenever anyone asked us if we enjoyed sitting outside. 

We moved the table to the country where it sits on our large deck overlooking an ample yard surrounded by tall trees instead of large buildings. It seems to look up at us with a sigh of relief, grateful to be rescued from its patio wasteland.  There is a thin layer of spring pollen, easy to dust off, where a thicker coating of city grime never seemed to  leave. For the first time in more than a decade, my husband. David, and I sat down at the table, drank coffee, read the newspaper and had a quiet chat this past weekend.

GREEN TABLEThat little table and the four chairs made me think about the importance of making changes in your life when the view becomes too distorted, confining or taken for granted. Sometimes your need to reset your own table to make it function better for you and appreciate what you have around you more.

Now, rather than another piece of neglected clutter on a small city patio, the table has become a place to gather and relax, read and write. We can sip mugs of coffee in the morning sun and glasses of wine at sunset. We can listen to the morning birds in the trees and gaze at the evening stars in the sky.  It’s a settling place where we can sit and clear our minds, breathe in the country air and enjoy the view from a new vantage point.

Everyone needs to reset their physical and mental vantage point every so often for a fresh outlook. It doesn’t have to be a full blown move or change; it can be a small adjustment.

If you don’t like the picture, reframe it.  If things become too burdensome, take time to stop, clear and reset.  It can the turn the table for the better.