Friday, February 24, 2012

17 odd jobs (and why we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously)

Every now and again, I'll have a "bad" moment at work and beat myself up over it. (Nope, not Mark Wahlberg FEAR style. I mean, mentally beat myself up.)

No matter how good the rest of the day may have panned out, my bedtime thoughts tend to rally around that one "bad" thing. And they might go a little something like this...
"Ugh, if only I had said this instead." "What was I thinking when I wrote that headline?" "I hope I didn't look nervous."

Of course these unproductive streams of negativity often manifest themselves into anxiety. That is until the next day, when I get to work and realize that nothing is as bad as it seems. No one cares about the stupid thing I said in the meeting, or noticed for that matter. And today I can start fresh...clean piece of paper, new ideas.

Although the competitive nature of my job can be stressful at times, I have to put things into perspective. I'm not saving lives or risking my own, and in all honesty I have it really good.

I'd also like to think I know a good job when I see one. After all, I have had about 17 of them... that is correct. 17 jobs, people! Casting director, Project manager, CBS "Early Show" intern, and Office bitch are just some of the titles I've carried over the years.

But please don't discount all of my summer and school year stints throughout high school and college...

While most kids were busy being star athletes, straight A students, or pot heads, I was busy being the following:

Waitress at "Franco's Cafe" in Saddle River - This restaurant no longer exists, which is for the best. I quit this job in a dramatic, life-changing performance. Tearing my apron off and telling Franco himself that he was "out of line" remains the biggest adrenaline rush I've had to date. I drove the whole 11 minutes back to Hillsdale, laughing, crying, and blasting Snoop Dog.

Golf Club worker -
You know the cute girl that drives around in a golf cart, serving old men beer and making mad tips? Try as I might, that job was already taken. I worked in the pro-shop making tee times and darting the sexual advances of a young man I will refer to as "Golf Club Roy."

Hollister sales associate -
You know the hot girl wearing a really short denim skirt who greets you at the door shyly, but also kind of condescendingly? Yeah that wasn't me either. I could be found somewhere in the middle of the store folding distressed boot-cut jeans and be-dazzled wife beaters.

Waitress at the Emerson Hotel -
It was actually here that I had my first brush with "sexual harassment." Just when I thought I was "in" with the kitchen staff, a man with a high pitched voice we fittingly called "F-cked nuts", molded pizza dough into a phallic object and chucked it at my head. It was also here that I witnessed a fellow waitress smoking crack in the bathroom during a slow lunch shift.

Lifeguard/Swim instructor at Stonybrook Swim Club -
Hands down, best job ever. Who wouldn't love getting paid to tan, flirt, and twirl a whistle? The only downside was the unflattering Speedo tan lines that 9 years later, I'm still not sure have fully faded.

Gate keeper at Stonybrook Swim Club - Also a sweet gig that involved checking badges and reading SLEEPERS. And yes, I'm not sure why, but it took me all of summer '99 to finish that book.

"Kool Kuts" receptionist in Park Ridge - I was fired from this one for being short $20 during close out. To this day, I have no idea where that $20 went and believe I was set up. As luck would have it, my parents were away and I had been planning a "small party" that same night. Things got out of control, and by 10pm it had turned into a full blown rager.
As soon as 20 seniors appeared in my kitchen, it would no longer be the day I got fired from "Kool Cuts." Instead, it would forever go down in history as the day a Bud Ice got lodged in the fridge ice-maker and someone stole our Nintendo Duck Hunt gun.

Hallmark cashier - It is with great hesitation that I include this one. The owner of the "Card Factory" in Westwood, was by the far the meanest man I've ever met. So mean, that I mentally shut down every time I hear David Gray's "This year's love" or Train's "Meet Virginia" (both were chart toppers that played incessantly at the time of my short lived employment)

Wrapsody Grill -
Short hand chef and cashier - No complaints really. I worked with my friends, it was spring, and those chicken wraps were delicious!!! However, I do remember it always being a race against the clock to close shop on Thursday nights. It was long before DVR and "Temptation Island" premiered that season.

Receptionist at Duquesne University Psych. Clinic - A "work-study" gig where I checked clients in and did homework in exchange for beer money.

St. John's Church rectory bulletin stuffer - Once a month on Saturdays, I'd stuff fliers into the weekly parish newsletter. The entire year I worked there, the priest mistook me for my older sister, but oddly enough called me Kathryn. (I do not have a sister named Kathryn.)

"News for the nosy" anchor
- A non-paid gig I co-hosted with my friend Lauren. Okay, clearly a pretend job, but someone could have thrown us a bone! At the ripe old age of 9, we were writing and broadcasting sensational news stories with headlines like "Woman dodges bullet with wooden spoon!" We also had stage names, (Mine was Marilyn King) and all the elements of a talk-show news know, kid-sized table and chairs, empty coffee mugs, fake flower centerpiece, and a Logo which was something along the lines of:

News 4 the [drawing of nose] -y

Too bad this was long before YouTube, or we would have given Sophia Grace and Rosie from the Ellen DeGeneres Show a run for their money.

So what's the life lesson in all of this? (Because you know I've got one!)

As I look back at all of these jobs, I'm sure that the douchey bosses and co-workers I often encountered, stressed me out or made me feel inadequate in some way. But years later, I recognize that these experiences have all helped shape the person I am today.

While my current career path as an advertising creative is very important to me, I have to remind myself that it's still just a job, and one that I'm grateful to have.

So...the point I'm trying to make here is that we can't take ourselves so seriously. All we can really ever do is work to the best of our ability, roll with the punches, and every now and again, try to find the humor in it all.

*Please note that my parents never pushed me to work during the school year. Summer jobs were a given, but I sought year round work on my own. I'm not really sure why exactly, but do know that they excused me from lame extracurricular activities like Spanish club, and afforded me my J.Crew, but mostly Loehmann's wardrobe.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is everyone hanging out without me? (and a few healthy comfort food recipes)

I love The office... And every character on it, with the exception of Dwight. (Although an integral character, he kinda creeps me out.)

That's why I was super psyched when my fiance surprised me with Mindy Kaling's book Is everyone hanging out without me? (Did you know that she and Rainn Wilson are real life "frenemies"??)

Although I'm only on page 24, I'm finding it hard to put down. So hard, that I opted to take the local train instead of the express to work this morning, just to get a few more pages in.

However, you should probably know that this isn't the first ridiculous thing I've done for the love of Chick-lit...

I once feigned an "upset stomach" at work to finish a chapter of Chasing Harry Winston. A dirty move, I know, but in my defense we were super slow. (It was during the recession and everyone was casting out in LA instead of New York, and bla bla bla.) Plus we had really nice private bathrooms that reeked of LA looks and Axe body spray. (This was zen.)

OK. Back to Mindy.

So far she's been talking a lot about her chubby childhood and love of food. And the weird thing is, I'm finding myself relating more to her than the "health enthusiast" I've become.

But then again, it was in fact, my processed carbs and ice-cream addiction that started me down this path...

After years of headaches, fatigue, and stomach problems, I finally discovered a holistic way of eating, and immediately noticed results. I felt better than ever, and simply put, my love of feeling good trumped my love of food. It just did.

But, let's be real. I'm human, and an American at that. And while I do find a nutritious way of eating very satisfying, there are still temptations to fall back to my old ways.

While the new Stephanie wants to be like "Mindy, I can TOTALLY help you overcome your margarine and diet-soda addiction!" The old Stephanie wants to be like "Hey Mindy, want to go back to my place and eat Pop-tarts and Phish food til we pass out?"

So how does one manage these conflicting impulses? For me, it always comes down to the following question:

"What will make me feel good and live a long, healthy life?"

And even though I've been known to derail from time to time, it's my desire to be the best I can be in both mind and body that keeps me on the health track. And so far, I think it's a pretty sweet track to be on.

What are some other ways I stay on the health track? That's simple! Finding healthy alternatives to the comfort foods I love! Here are a few of my faves!

Chocolate Banana Pudding (recipe adapted from Diary of a nutritionist)

1 medium-large ripe banana
1/2 large avocado
2-3 packets of powdered Stevia
2 drops organic vanilla extract
5-6 tbsp cool water
1 pinch of sea salt
1 squirt Agave Syrup (aprx 1-2 tsp) *Optional
2 tbsp raw cocoa

Blend all ingredients in your blender or Magic Bullet. It makes about 1 serving.

French Toast

(makes 2 slices)
1 organic egg
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 drops organic vanilla extract
2 slices 100% Whole Grain or gluten free bread
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

Beat egg, milk, cinnamon and vanilla together. Heat griddle or non-stick pan over medium heat. Add coconut oil and dip bread in egg mixture. Place on griddle and cook for 3 minutes on one slide. Flip and cook for one more minute until egg is cooked through. Drizzle with organic maple syrup and more cinnamon if you wish.

Mac & "Cheese" (compliments of The Kind Diet)

3 cups elbow pasta (I use gluten free quinoa elbow pasta).
1 cup organic soymilk (you can use coconut or almond milk here…or any plain non-dairy milk, really)
1/4 cup tamari
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic
1 tsp dijon mustard
2/3 cup canola oil (I use olive oil instead here)
salt & pepper

1) Cook the pasta al dente.

2) In a blender/food processor combine the garlic, nutritional yeast, mustard and paprika. Blend to chop garlic.

3) While the machine is running add the tamari, soymilk and canola oil and blend until creamy.

4) Heat sauce and mix with cooked noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste.

What are some of your fave comfort foods? Can you think of ways to health 'em up?