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Tempering My Personal Energy

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 7, 2013 in Family Stuff

I was advised the other day that I should “temper my personal energy” when working with others.  It seems as though I am very energetic, motivated and outgoing, which may seem overwhelming (even annoying) to some.

It was also suggested to me that I should let others lead my Executive Leadership Program team (basically, back off – not in so many words, but it might as well have been).  It seems that in a team of 7, I am the only extrovert.  I tend to jump in and help a bit too quickly when I see others struggling.

I am working on this bit of self-improvement.  And for me, it’s a lot harder than it may sound.  It’s not that I want to take over every situation – I just become very frustrated (even anxious) when I feel as though time is being wasted, things are unorganized or we are not headed toward some sort of goal or accomplishment.  It honestly doesn’t bother me if that goal is not the same one that I would have chosen; however, indecisiveness is one of my pet peeves.  Let’s make a choice, then move forward – we can always adjust as needed.  But making no decision is a sort of paralysis – wasting time, money and effort.

I do actually appreciate this advice and am working on increasing my patience during difficult situations.  If you have any advice for me, feel free to share.

 

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I’m With the Band

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 6, 2013 in Family Stuff

Not only am I now a dance mom…I’m also a band mom (fortunately, there is no associated show on Lifetime to highlight the behavior of this organization).

My son Matt has incredible musical talent.  He started playing the clarinet in 4th grade, and continued on with the clarinet into middle school where he was able to join both the middle school band as well as the high school marching band.

I had no previous experience with marching band when Matt joined (other than a very brief stint twirling flags at football games in my own high school).  Like being a dance mom, being a band mom has taught me a few things:

  • Band competitions are a HUGE commitment for the kids – there is a competition every single Saturday – and sometimes on Sundays – as well as football games on Friday nights.  Not to mention band camp, hours and hours of practice…and overnight trips, too.  As a parent, you have to clear your entire weekend calendar from early September through Thanksgiving.
  • Band competitions are expensive for the family to attend – it costs about $10 per person to get into each competition (no watching for free).  For a family of 3 or 4, this can add up pretty quickly.  Not to mention the concession stand, program, candy-grams (candy sent to your band member), air-grams (an announcement made to your band member as they walk out onto the field), T-shirts, etc.
  • It gets really cold in those stadiums while waiting for your band to perform – cold metal bleachers necessitate cushions, blankets, sweatshirts, heavy gloves, hats and scarves (all in your school’s color, of course).  I should also add that sitting on backless bleachers for hours sometimes causes back pain.
  • Watching marching bands is so much fun!  We loved watching our band improve over the season – and other bands too.  Some of the costumes are really creative.  The music is moving. And while the competition has winners, everyone is supportive of other bands (mostly).
  • If it starts raining, they keep playing (until there is lightning – in which case everyone runs for the hills).
  • Cowbells are really loud – but they really let your band know you are cheering them on.
  • It is inappropriate to enter the stands while a band is performing (you have to wait until they are done their set).  It is also VERY inappropriate to talk (especially on your cell phone) when someone is performing.  I didn’t really learn this one – it’s just common sense (but doesn’t seem to be widely known).
  • I LOVE watching my son perform on the field!  He looks so grown up in his uniform and hat (called a “shako”).   I would drive anywhere to see him play.

Here is one of my favorite photos of Matt performing:

DSC_0746

After going through two band competition seasons, I was so looking forward to another next year.

However…that may not be the case.

My son now plays both the clarinet AND the bassoon.  Something else I’ve also learned – bassoons are huge.  And extremely hard to play.  And PRICEY.  But players are sought after in college (here’s where we are hoping to get a return on our investment).

Matt is doing extremely well with the bassoon and I’m very proud of him.  In fact, he was in the All South Jersey Junior High Honors band playing the bassoon on Sunday afternoon.  Here he is before the concert:

All South Jersey

And coming off stage afterward.  His is the very large, reddish instrument:

Bassoon

I actually heard other parents behind me asking, “What’s that big, red thing?”

I could go on and on about all of Matt’s performances, but let me get to my point.

He has applied for (and was accepted to) a different high school next year.  He will be attending a Fine Arts Academy program as well as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy program (did I mention he’s also writing computer programs at 13? Love this kid!) that offers college credits – the first time they’ve ever had a student in both programs.  I am so proud of him – this is a great opportunity.

But that means he’s leaving Pitman schools – and their marching band. :(

Looks like I may have some Saturdays free this fall.

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Thanks for Your Opinion (NOT!)

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 5, 2013 in My Adventures in Dieting

I was standing in line for the microwave at lunch today, and an (almost) complete stranger came up to me, took my Lean Cuisine box out of my hand and proceeded to tell me how bad is was for me.  He pointed out the ratio of carbs, sugar and protein and when I looked at him with a stunned look on my face, he said, “I assume you ARE concerned about your diet, no?”.  How crushing is that???

I should add here that he was eating a one-dollar Banquet brand frozen salisbury steak dinner.  Healthier than my butternut squash with green beans, carrots and walnuts?  I think not.

I supposed I should be more concerned about my diet.  I have put on about 40 pounds in the last year-and-a-half.   Ugh – yes, that’s right.  Hate to admit that.

Why has this happened?

There are several reasons…

I had established a great diet and exercise routine for a few years, but when my brother started going through chemotherapy and I had to drive him back and forth to his treatments, that routine fell by the wayside.  I just didn’t have time for my job, my kids, commuting to Fox Chase Cancer Center AND exercising.

Plus, the more I saw my brother suffer, the more I thought, “What’s the point?”.   He ate well, exercised regularly (he was at the gym every day and was in the best shape of his life) and STILL got stage 4 cancer.  So…even if you do everything right, you aren’t guaranteed to live a long, healthy life.

Life is so very, very short – why not eat potato chips or a piece of cake if I want to?

Of course, logically, I know that if Ken hadn’t been in such great physical shape, he might not have survived the extremely aggressive radiation and chemo.

I know, I know…now I need to apply those logical facts to a new diet and exercise plan.  Before I have groups of onlookers counting my calories for me in the break room.  Sheesh!

(By the way, I did respond to this man’s rude unsolicited dietary analysis today by saying, “My brother ate healthy all of his life and STILL got stage 4 lung cancer.”  I shouldn’t have said it – I know.  But it’s how I feel and I just couldn’t help myself.  Now THAT’S a conversation stopper.)

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I’m a (Mediocre) Dance Mom

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 4, 2013 in Family Stuff

By now, you’ve all seen (or heard of) the show on Lifetime called “Dance Moms”.  Like the girls on that show, my daughter Emily participates in the world of competitive dance.

Emily started dancing when she was just 2 1/2 years old and last year, she joined her dance studio’s competition dance team.

I have been a soccer mom, baseball mom, wrestling mom, band mom…but until last year, I had no experience as a dance mom.  I have never danced myself (other than those crazy nights at high school dances – and I don’t think you can really call jumping up and down to 80’s punk music “dancing”), so this is a whole new world for me.

Having successfully survived one competition dance season – and about to enter into another – let me share a few things I’ve learned.

  • Competition dance teams are EXPENSIVE.  And I don’t just mean a little bit.  I mean just-leave-your-checkbook-at-the-front-desk kind of expensive.  There are costumes and entry fees and warmups and shoes and makeup and jewelry and hairpieces and tuition and bags and…well, I know there are more, but I can’t even remember what they are!  While driving with my kids today, Matt asked why we don’t have a nicer car.  I said, “Because your sister takes dance and because you play the bassoon.” (that’s a discussion for a future post) But it’s true – for what we pay for dance every month, we could be driving a high-end, German-engineered car.
  • Putting makeup on another person is DIFFICULT.  Especially when that person is 10 years old and has eyes that move around in circles when you are trying to put on eyeliner.  And putting bright red lipstick on tiny, little lips?  Crazy hard.  I have, however, mastered the art of putting false eyelashes on teensy eyes – I think I can do it in 30 seconds, flat.  Before this, I had never, ever used false eyelashes.  Not on myself and certainly not on my daughter.  Why the eyelashes and why so much makeup?  I must say that it really does help the girls to look unified onstage.  Sometimes, I can’t even pick out my own child, they all look so similar.
  • Girls (and women) can be SO mean. Ours are not as nearly as bad as the moms on Lifetime, but it’s still a tough crowd. Why are we all so hard on each other?  I wish I could answer that.  I am very easy to get along with, but even I had words with another mom last year.  Some folks just have an entitlement issue and that doesn’t sit well with me.  And when it comes to our children, watch out – the mama bear in all of us comes out, when necessary!
  • Watching dance is fun!  And watching your own child dance is especially enjoyable (but nerve-wracking too).  There’s nothing like the feeling of watching your baby up there on stage having the time of her life.  At the same time, you just hope she’s not the one to make a mistake that could cost points for the whole team (see “women are mean” above).
  • My daughter is dedicated – and tough!  She had a bad kidney infection that put her in the ER, but still managed to dance at a competition the next day.  She danced through painful planters warts and even danced at a Nationals Competition with a painful ankle injury last summer.  She wore her boot right up until going on stage – then put it back on right over her fishnets for awards.
  • There is a LOT of stuff to keep track of and carry!  Costumes, tights, hair pieces, shoes – and there’s nothing like the panic you feel when a piece of a costume goes missing (like the habit to a nun’s costume – yes, you heard me correctly).
  • Dance competitions are LONG – sometimes we arrive at 6am and don’t leave until after dinner.   Fortunately, our director signs us up only for local competitions (no flying cross-country or traveling on a tour bus like Abby Lee), so our travel time is short.  However, they also do not sell food at competitions (not sure why) – there are no soft pretzels, sodas, hot dogs…nothing.  Packing lunches and snacks are a must.
  • Competitions do not provide private dressing rooms for teams – all teams tend to be in one, big room (usually a gym or cafeteria – once, we even were just in a school hallway).  And to be in an area with tons of girls in various, unrelated costumes (lion, space alien, nun, zombie, angel…) feels a bit like some sort of very, very weird freak show.
  • I can yell REALLY LOUDLY – and do so for all of the girls on our team.
  • I love my daughter and would do anything for her – even pay a fortune to sit for hours and hours in a freak-show full of mean girls!

Today, we practiced new hair styles and makeup for the season.  Happy dancing!

Makeup Day

 

 

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Church Politics and My Spiritual Search

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Before I suspended my blogging, I mentioned that I was on a spiritual retreat called the Walk to Emmaus.  I was so moved by that experience, that in the years since, I have served on a Walk and now serve on the Garden State Walk to Emmaus Board of Directors.

I have served as the Secretary for the Emmaus community for the last 2 1/2 years and have been trying to use my technological and organizational skills to improve communication in the community through Constant Contact, detailed meeting minutes and (gulp!) action items.

I also sponsored my brother to go on a Walk last year – I thought it was just the lift he might need during his cancer battle.  Instead of being moved by the experience, he ended up moving others with his story – God works in his own way (I’m just glad I was a part of it).

Prior to volunteering with Emmaus, I also did a TON of volunteering with my local church.  I was the leader of a women’s circle, started my own scrapbooking ministry, played in the bell choir and served as the chair of the Staff/Parish Relations Committee.  I went on to also serve on several other committees including Trustees (where they asked me to chair – TWICE – but I turned down the position).

But today…I feel disconnected from my local church.  I no longer serve on any committees and haven’t attended a worship service in months (although I continue to attend adult Sunday School every week).

How did this happen?

This time, I can’t blame my changes on going back to work.  I guess I really can’t blame anyone, really.

During my time as the chair of Staff/Parish, I was very stressed.  VERY STRESSED.  In fact, I actually had a panic attack that caused me to end up in the emergency room with chest pains.  Why?  I felt manipulated into doing things I didn’t agree with because of pressure from others.  I sat in meetings where other folks literally got out of their seats and screamed in my face.  I left several meetings in tears.  Not very “churchy”.

I also had to pull my son Matt out of the church youth group because he was being bullied there.  In several different incidents, the other children stole his iPod, played keep-away with it, held him down on the ground with his arm twisted behind his back and on one trip, pulled his seat belt from behind on the church van so that he couldn’t move.  The leaders did nothing to intervene and so since we didn’t feel he was safe, he stopped going.

In addition, we have a new pastor whose preaching style just doesn’t resonate with me.  He’s a super-nice guy, great with pastoral care and very educated – brilliant, even.  However, to me, his sermons seem a bit scattered, unclear and at times, are aimed very far below the congregation’s spiritual knowledge.  With our previous pastor, I learned new things all the time.  She was able to show us new perspectives on the same scriptures.  However, since he took over, I have not learned for years.  I find myself cringing during church services and constantly checking my watch, praying for time to go faster.

Now, I realize that worship is not meant to entertain.  My spiritual growth should not be dependent upon church leadership.  It is my responsibility, not his.  I get that.  But let’s face the truth – the most successful churches are those with good leaders.  Leaders that teach, inspire, pull the congregation together – leaders that others want to follow.

I’d like to say it’s just me that feels this way, but we have lost many members of our congregation in the last few years – some whose families have been in this church for generations.  I have shared my concerns in many different ways – I have not been silent about my concerns.

So why haven’t I left like so many others?  One day a few months ago, I walked up to the Sunday School wing to drop my kids off.  I saw my children’s handprints up on some artwork on the ceiling.  I thought about all of our memories at this church and the people that are our church family.  And I decided to give it a little more time.

But our church family is broken.  I feel like I hardly know anyone there anymore.  Going has become a chore.  I’m no longer reading my Bible like I used to.  I still pray everyday, but I know something is missing.

God intended us to worship together – to gather in his name.

For me, this is especially important because my husband is a staunch atheist.  I don’t have much freedom to worship or pray at home, so that time at church is even more important. But that’s a post for another time.

For now – I’ll stay in prayer and lean on my Emmaus family…

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Trying to Get Ahead

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 1, 2013 in Family Stuff

I think when I was last posting regularly, I had just gone back to work – and went back to work kicking and screaming, too.

Kicking and screaming because I work in a very technical field that changes very quickly.  I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years – making the jump back into the career pool a difficult one.  The fact that I have very little (to no) self-confidence didn’t help the matters any.

But I went back to work.  And I sort of…liked it.  Who’d have thought?

That was five years ago.  Since then, a lot has happened in my career (yes, I think I can even call it a “career” now).

I started out working part time.  After a year, I moved to full time.

After three years, I decided that I wanted to make the jump from a temporary government contractor position to an actual government employee.

There were many reasons for taking that step.

For one, working as a contractor is always unsettling.  When your contract is over, there is no guarantee that it will be extended.  Or that you will stay with the same company. Who wants that kind of stress?

Also, although I received a generous salary, I received very little paid time off.   When you have 3 children and you’d like to take a day off to go on a school trip or spend a few hours watching their school talent show or they have to go to the dentist or (God forbid) they get sick (as a mom, you never have enough time to stay home when you are sick)…before you know it, you are have negative time.

The third reason I made that change is that I decided that I want to advance in my career.  I wanted to be in charge of something.  Have some authority.  Receive some training.  Get a promotion.  Have an office with real walls and a door.

So…after about a year of trying, I finally became an official FAA employee almost 2 years ago.  The process was long – and there were several false hopes.  And…I even took a substantial pay cut.  But I made the jump from green to blue (if you work for the FAA, you’ll know what I mean).

I made the change a few weeks before the last furlough, actually.  A few weeks after I started, the FAA had to shut down for 2 weeks.  Figures, right?

I didn’t leave my group to take  the position – or even leave my cubicle – but I did take on new responsibilities…and got more vacation.   And the ability to telework (LOVE teleworking!!!!).

Fast forward one year, and I decided to apply to the Executive Leadership Program (ELP – because if you are in the government, you have to have an acronym).  The ELP is a 9-month program conducted by The Graduate School and is training intended for emerging government leaders.  Who was I kidding, right?

But…I got in!  The FAA is paying for my this fantastic training!!!

I started the program last September and will finish this June.  It has been a HUGE commitment, but has given me so many opportunities.  There are 4 week-long training sessions (I have been to two so far) and a long list of  deliverables including book reviews, executive interviews, shadowing, community service – plus a project and presentation with a team of other government employees.

I had the chance to go to Washington, DC for a week and shadow upper-level FAA managment.  As I sat in a conference room overlooking the Capitol building with important men and women (wearing expensive suits, I may add), I thought – I could DO this.  This feels good!

I also interviewed a Congressman, an astronaut and the president of my son’s college as well as other FAA leaders.  I loved doing the interviews – I actually did even more interviews than were required.

See – here I am with Congressman Frank LoBiondo:

Lobiondo

Somtimes I think I’m crazy to have taken on all of these new tasks, but when will I get these opportunities again?

One more update on my career – I also decided to apply for a new FAA job that would be a promotion – and to my surprise, I got an offer.  Not just one offer – but two offers.  So now I have made up for the pay cut that I took two years ago.  Still no office with walls and a door, but I’m getting there.

I started my new job three weeks ago.  Just in time for another furlough…

 

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