Finding Meaning and Gratitude in the Everyday

It’s easy to feel like your cup runneth over with gratitude when things are going smoothly. Relishing a magical moment while on vacation or getting a raise at work definitely feels wonderful in the moment. But what about regular life? It can be a challenge to stay calm – much less zen – during the more mundane or chaotic periods of our day-to-day. Especially when you have to take one last work call and everyone in your household suddenly needs you at that precise moment. If one of your goals is

Growing Volunteers: Raising Kids who Give Back

When we give back to our communities through our volunteer work, we’re offering so much more than our services to any particular organization. We are giving the precious commodity of time, and for those of us with children, we are setting a powerful leadership example. Like many busy parents who give back, I often find myself wondering if I am doing enough to encourage my own kids to become volunteers themselves. It’s easy to give in to the frenetic pace of our days and put it off or engage infr

Prioritizing the Chaos

I have been doing laundry for other people for over twenty-two years. It can wear on a woman. For the last ten or so, I have embraced the art of cutting corners where I can in an effort to preserve my sanity. Take my laundry room (please). I will gather the dirty clothes. I will sort them, wash them, dry them, fold them, and put them away or at the very least on the end of the owner’s bed. This task alone can be time consuming enough; I’m pretty sure I have given a solid decade of my life to th

Inshallah: A Teenager Comes of Age in Abu Dhabi

Notable Special Issue Award for Best American Essays (2015) Every day I am late picking up my daughters from their high school. By the time I wrestle my way to the front of the school and illegally park my car, the bell has already rung. This alone takes ten to thirty minutes, depending on the day. There are no rules in this pickup line, no parent volunteers with neon vests directing traffic or helping children cross the street safely. I am routinely cut off by angry drivers who swerve in front of me in enormous Hummers or ostentatious six-door Bentleys. By now I know enough to give them a wide berth; as soon as they are close enough to the entrance they will slam on their brakes without warning, and only long enough for a harried maid clutching her hijab to jump out and scurry into the school to fetch her charges. Through my untinted windows in my rented minivan, I hear the cacophony of horns. There is no politesse, no gestures of "after you...no after you, I insist." No one is worried about how rude they might appear. In fact, most of the people here are not the parents of the students behind these gated walls. They are the hired drivers, the bodyguards, the servants who are sent to collect the children from school. Because so many royal family members are educated here the security is tight and I worry constantly about my lack of wasta, or privilege, and never honk my own horn or do anything but meekly wait until I can find a spot. It's so hot that I leave the keys in the ignition and the air blasting on high while I wait in the queue to be let in by the guards. I lower my sandaled foot onto the pavement and nearly swoon; my body still hasn't adjusted to the heat, even in six months.

The Gap Craps Out

I realize many may not share my enthusiasm for The Gap, but I was tickled pink when Sarah Jessica Parker skipped onto the scene as the megachain's endlessly mugging spokesmodel. One look at those crow's feet and I was sure we were turning a corner: women over the age of 30, validated by ad pages and billboards as beautiful. Sadly, it's not to be. The week Parker turned 40, the chain declined to renew her three-season, $38 million contract - and, in a move that can't be mere coincidence, announced that their wares would now be shilled by 17-year-old British singer Joss Stone. The Gap was originally named for the generation gap between teenagers and adults; since them, it's become one of the few places where an 11-year-old and her 34-year-old math teacher can get the same flippy skirt. It's an age democracy that seems to be dwindling - first with Parker's firing, and soon with Gap's offshoot company, Forth & Towne, launching this fall as a series of concept stores targeting women over the age of 35. Whether their models are over 28, however, remains to be seen.

The Anxiety Express

I am an anxious mother. Whether it was born from choosing to have five children or brews organically in my slightly imbalanced brain, I am at times unable to turn off the switch that prevents rational concern from erupting into full-blown panic. I firmly hold truck with the theory that once parents are entrenched in the teen years, a prescription for Xanax should automatically be doled out at the next check-up, much like the AARP cards that arrive in the mail when you are still in your forties,

Our Tearless Graduation

For several weeks I have scrolled through a Facebook feed teeming with high school graduation announcements and party planning as all around me friends and acquaintances prepare for their teenagers to matriculate soon. Parents post sepia-toned pictures of pig-tailed toddlers, little faces painted in first birthday cakes and slightly blurred evidence of inaugural attempts without training wheels, all complete with nostalgic commentary and cries of My baby is leaving us and Where have the years go

Measuring Your Organization's Volunteer Satisfaction Quotient (VSQ)

At PlanHero™ we believe happy, productive volunteers are not only a necessity, they allow leadership the space to recruit more volunteers and volunteer leaders for their organizations. So what, exactly, is VSQ? How can you accurately assess, measure, and improve your organization’s VSQ? There are a lot of buzzwords in the business community surrounding employee engagement KPIs and metrics and their impact on customer satisfaction and ultimately, the company bottom line. Whether it’s NPS (Employ

Their Has to be a Better Way: Avoiding Common Grammatical Pitfalls

We’ve all been there. Maybe it was a friend’s social media post, an online article, or – gasp – something you wrote yourself and didn’t adequately proofread. Obviously, as an editor, my internal cringe factor kicks in when I come across some of the more common mistakes. If I had a nickel for every misuse of too/to and their/they’re/there, I could supply every person in my neighborhood with their very own copy of Merriam-Webster’s latest. The fancy kind, with leather bindings. Whether it’s an un

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Every single fall I make the same vow: I will have the holidays mapped out, planned for, and my shopping done by the time I am picking out a Thanksgiving turkey. Since I am usually running around town the day before Thanksgiving in search of the last organic, free-range, had-such-a-happy-life-they-gave-it-a-name turkey, you can guess what always happens. If you said wrapping a mountain of gifts on the floor of my closet while drinking a glass of wine on December 23 you are a winner! This of cou

The Things We Remember

“That's Mike,” my friend, Christie, tells me. She's holding a menu up to her face so no one can see her speak. “We dated, you know.” I watch this man, Mike, walk across the pool deck, his four children spilling into the club, carrying large foam noodles. I'm sure his wife isn't far behind, and I want Christie to stop. Instead, she leans in even closer, so the menu is now in front of both of our faces like that scene from Grease, and continues, “You wanna know what he sounds like when he comes?”

Why Every Writer Should Keep a Travel Journal

When I moved to India in 2010, I didn’t consider myself a travel writer. I was a freelance essayist who wrote about family and social issues. Travel was a way to escape the mundane and perhaps fill a memory card or two with pictures along the way. I had a vague yearning to someday pen a memoir or novel, but at the time my desire was only that; no book was burning its way from inside of me, and I assumed that’s how it would remain as long as my children were young. What I did know was this: This
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