Blog Posts by Lylah M. Alphonse

  • Ditching the end-of-the-week baggage

    While I was driving home from work on a recent Friday, my husband called and suggested I meet him and the kids at a little local restaurant we used to love. Money is tight, so we rarely go out to eat now, but we've been in a bit of a rut lately and it seemed like just the kind of treat we all needed.

    The weariness of the long week seemed to fall away as I drove. Usually on Fridays, my husband picks up the kids from school and I try (and usually fail) to get out of work at a halfway decent hour and end up racing home to make bedtime instead of dinner. The kids are happy to see me and the welcome is always warm, but I hate ending the week that way.

    That week, though, my work was done early; a last-minute family date felt like icing on the cake.

    Unfortunately, the restaurant we used to love had changed in the years since we'd been there last; the menu was smaller, the prices higher, the waitstaff less professional, and that great old bartender who knew our names and poured our pints

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  • Take a chance. What have you got to lose?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI started working for my current company fresh out of college -- a rarity in my profession, so much so that the Dean of the school used to tell prospective parents about my new job, turning it into a selling point for students. At the time, I told people it was all luck and secretly chalked it up to equal parts hard work and good timing, but the truth is that I really owe my well-established career to my advisor.

    I wasn't going to apply for the job, you see. I was too young, too inexperienced, I thought. They'd never take a chance on me.

    But really, my advisor pointed out, I wasn't taking a chance on them.

    "You should apply anyway," he told me. "They might say yes. But if you don't apply, then the answer is definitely no."

    I started with the excuses. He cut me off.

    "What do you have to lose?" he asked out. "A stamp, an envelope, and the paper you print your resume on?"

    So I did it. And instead of saying no, they called and asked me to fly to Boston for a

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  • Instead of making time, I've been making excuses

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesMy youngest kids stared at the sword in awe. Finally, my 3-year-old piped up: "Mama? Did you used to be a pirate?"

    No, but way back when, I used to be a fencer, and I've always missed the sport. Every couple of years I'd look up the number for the local fencing club, but I never got around to calling. It seemed impossible to carve out that time for myself. It seemed irresponsible to spend money on the membership fee. How could I go off, at bedtime no less, and do something each week that didn't involve or benefit the rest of the family? It seemed so... selfish.

    My husband didn't see it that way, but I am a bit... how do you say... um... stubborn. Like a mule. While I clung to my excuses, he dug up my old foil, handed it to me, and told me that practice started up right after New Year's. And that he had signed me up already.

    So I'm fencing again, for the first time in 15 years. And -- in spite of the aching muscles and the fact that, ye Gods, I am definitely not in my flexible and

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  • Are we obligated to help Haiti? I think we are. All of us.

    I don't want to look at the pictures, but I can't stop looking at the pictures.

    When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Tuesday, I didn't really think too hard about it, even though Haiti is my father's homeland. But at that moment, it was just the news, and I'm surrounded by the news at the office, so it passed through my mental filter and I went about my day. My aunt was in Miami, I thought a few hours later. Everyone I love is safe.

    Except... not.

    My aunt -- my father's oldest sister -- lives in Haiti, outside of Port au Prince. When I logged into Facebook later that night, I took in the barrage of panicked and gut-wrenching status updates from my cousins and their friends realized that my aunt and uncle were not accounted for amid the rubble and chaos.

    All I can do is gather information, pass it along, and be supportive. Unlike me, my cousins have two Haitian parents, and some of them even grew up on the tiny island nation, coming to the US and Canada in their teens. The

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  • Easy acts of kindness: Give gifts that give back

    When your to-do list gets too long, planning for the holidays starts to feel a lot like work. How can we spread the holiday cheer without spreading ourselves too thin?

    One solution: Make the things you buy do double duty.

    Holiday cards can be purchased from local and national charities that are struggling to provide more services with less money. Buy presents from which the proceeds go to support a cause. Give gifts for free with the click of your mouse. Shop at stores that use part of their profits to help the needy.
    Need specifics? Here are a few places that can help you you help others, effortlessly.

    Holiday cards

    (Back Bay Skaters card, from an oil canvas by Sam Vokey; $15 for 10 at The Pine Street Inn)

    UNICEF and The Jimmy Fund are perennial favorites, but local non-profit organizations also offering some gorgous greeting cards this time of year, so be sure to check with those in your area. My go-to's for holiday greetings are The Pine Street Inn, Project Bread, and The Home

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  • Your marriage or your career?

    West Indian Girl singer Mariqueen Maandig is giving up her gig to marry Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, her bandmates declared in August. WWE announcer Lilian Garcia announced her retirement Monday after 10 years with the WWE Divas, trading the wrestling ring for a wedding ring. And over at the StarTribune.com, a reader tells columnist Carolyn Hax to put marriage before career because "it really wasn't worth all the sacrifices."

    Which made me wonder: If you couldn't have both -- and if finances weren't an issue -- which one would you choose?

    I'm always surprised by the way marriage is touted as the end-all-and-be-all for women, and by the way some people feel that the only proper path to personal fulfillment begins at the altar. "We agreed on one simple rule: For every time I said "no" to my husband because of work, I'd say "no" to my boss because of my husband," the StarTribute.com reader explains. "I credit my husband for his patience and the support I needed to recognize

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  • Sarah Palin's on LinkedIn. Are you?

    The Huffington Post reported recently that former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has posted her resume on LinkedIn.

    I have to admit, I don't really see the point in snarking about this. Sure, her LinkedIn profile is out of date, and of course she's highlighting the peaks of her career and not the valleys. But for all that I disagree with her politics, the former governor of Alaska is super savvy when it comes to social networking. And, in this day and age (and economy), social networking is a valuable tool.

    I've been trying to use Facebook solely for socializing, and LinkedIn solely for business, but I have to admit that it's become really difficult to keep things separate. For one thing, the line between work and the rest of your life gets blurry when you're friendly with your former colleagues. How can you refuse to ask your boss to be friends with you on Facebook when you're Facebook friends with your former supervisor -- who used to be his boss?

    (I don't use MySpace at

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  • Working Moms: Is spending time with your child more important than making time for yourself?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI went in to work crazy-early yesterday, so that I could leave crazy-early and meet up with an old friend whom I hadn't seen in far too long. A coworker stopped by my desk as I was packing up, and so I explained what was going on. She gasped. "You're... actually doing something FOR YOURSELF?"

    I immediately felt a little guilty. And sheepish. Until I looked her in the eye and saw that she was actually cheering me on.

    And then, a confession: She had hired a sitter to come over after she picked her baby up from daycare, so that she could go out and use the spa gift certificate her husband had given her for Mother's Day four months ago. It's been sitting there, unused, because she hadn't felt like she could carve out an hour or so to do something for herself after work if her child was awake.

    Working moms talk a lot about guilt: how they don't feel guilty about having their kids in care, or how they kind of do but know they're doing the right thing for their family. But this isn't a

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  • A real-life lesson in time management

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesThe other night, I was faced with a kitchen-full of dirty dishes. And pots. And pans. At midnight.

    I was already tired. I had been up late working, and I'd gotten up early, too, thanks to my 2 1/2-year-old alarm clock of a son who wakes at 5:30 a.m. (and who obviously didn't read my post about how I prefer to stay up late rather than get up early). But the kitchen was a wreck, it's hot and humid outside and, as such, bug season, and call me crazy, but I cannot stand having anything with more than two legs in the kitchen, and that includes the dog.

    Our big kids have very few chores when they're with us. Everyone has to keep their room relatively neat -- clothes off the floor, beds straightened if not made, books on the shelves instead of on random horizontal surfaces. They all help with the folding of the laundry, in theory at least. The oldest two -- both teenage girls -- are in charge of emptying and loading the dishwasher (which, with a seven-member household, is running once,

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  • Dear whoever makes those cleaning product commercials: You're doing it wrong

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI try to watch what my kids watch, which means that the commercials I sit through are geared mostly either to kids (Toys! Games! Candy!) or to moms (Body wash! Convenience foods! Cleaning products!). Or, I should say, "moms," because really, a commercial pitched to directly me, and most of the working moms I know, would involve wine and sleep.

    The commercials for cleaning products bug me the most, because they just seem completely unrealistic. I mean, really -- who takes time away from their work-life juggle to wipe down an already pristine living room? I'm looking at you, makers of a certain multi-surface cleaner, the commercial for which caught my eye the other morning. A woman, in a glass cage filled with already-clean kitchen appliances and cabinets, quips that she doesn't have time to clean because she has to go pick up her kids, but is able to wipe up a few smudges and smears without having to use several different cleaners. After she's done, the place looks exactly the same,

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