Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Spirit

I was at my desk deeply absorbed in a project, when a sulphur-like smell seeped through the cracks in the floor.  I sniffed the rest of the house and everything seemed fine.  Until two hours later, when I was sitting in the living room talking with my family and the smell interrupted our conversation.  My husband went down to check the basement and promptly let out a few expletives and screamed, "Turn off the heat!" Flames had overtaken the furnace. . ."Do not turn the heat back on until we have this fixed," warned the heating and plumbing guy.  "Your furnace is cracked and just missed exploding."

Yes, I know we are so reliant on our electronics and appliances.  We all complain how we go nuts when our cell phone or table dies, or when we have no way to get plugged in.  But we are thrown into a much more primal tizzy, awaking our deepest survival instincts, when our basic needs - dependent on modern mechanics - are not met.  While it wasn't icy out, it was cold.  We took our kids to a hotel that evening.  I spend the entire night tossing and turning, worrying about how I would fulfill my work deadline that coming Tuesday, the same day the new, very costly furnace would be installed.

There were about twelve hours of self absorbed stress and feelings of overwhelm, and then it happened.  The outpouring of help and concern from our friends, got through to me.   The frantic survival instinct melted into deep feelings of peace.  "Take our space heater," "Why don't you all spend the night," "Anything you need,"  "Dinner, a warm bed."  We stayed up in people's kitchens, sipping wine, eating left-overs, lighting Hanukkah lights with their extended families.  We were homeless, and yet more connected than I had felt in weeks.  The need for survival brought out people's deepest truth - their love and altruism.

We are a disconnected society, connected mostly through our devices, computers, tweets.  But when the real need for community surfaces, it's amazing to find it is still there.  So, let's make it a goal to find that humanity in ourselves even when there is no power outage or mechanical crisis.  Holiday time is as good as any to start looking for ways to help others, apart from just buying them gifts:

  •  Drop off home baked cookies to someone who doesn't even expect a gift from you
  •  Lend a space heater
  •  Help a friend clean their clutter
  •  Invite over a family going through a hard time
  •  Build a fire and have friends over for donuts
  •  Send a personal email or letter catching up with an old friend, rather than just a generic holiday card.

Linger just a little longer, sharing a friendly nod, or a smile over a glass of cider.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Note From Nadine: An Advice Column, Nov/18/2015

Dear Nadine,

I’ve been dating a guy for the last three months.  Things have been going pretty good and he’s a really nice person, but we’re taking it slowly because I had a bad break up six months ago with a guy I had been seeing for three years.  Anyway, I’m of Columbian descent and grew up in the NYC area.  This guy’s White and is from North Carolina and moved up here ten years ago for college.  Last week he wanted me to meet his friends, and we went out to dinner.  At first I thought they were nice, but then I couldn’t believe how insensitive they were.  They seemed shocked that I grew up in the neighborhood I grew up in, asking me what it was like growing up in the neighborhood I did,  and one girl said, “You’re Columbian.  Really?  I thought you looked White!”  I’m really hurt and upset and now I don’t know if things can work out between me and my new boyfriend.  Maybe we’re just too different.  I’ve never dated a white guy before and if this is how his friends are going to treat me, maybe it’s not worth it!


Dear Insulted,

I’m so sorry to hear about the ignorance of your boyfriend’s friends.  Their questions certainly sound insensitive.  They were not at all considerate of the fact that this is a new relationship – a first meeting with friends is a time to get to know you as an individual (not as a stereotype!) and put you at ease.

You may be surprised, but I’m going to give you some credit for this.  I’m getting the sense that you must have an engaging presence which put his friends at ease around you and so they started asking personal questions (albeit in an ignorant manner).  If you have such a positive effect on people, making them feel comfortable, think about how you could use this as a way to educate them and dispel some of their preconceived cultural biases and prejudices.

On another note, remember, the comments came from the friends, NOT your boyfriend!  Tell him how the comments made you feel and give him a chance to respond.  Your different backgrounds didn’t get in the way of your getting together.  So, hopefully, it doesn’t have to split you apart.  I know you are tentative after your recent break-up, but if this guy is sensitive to your feelings and supports you in letting his friends know that what they said wasn’t “cool,” you’ve got a good guy there and should give him a chance.


Dear Nadine,

I’m in the last year of graduate school, and I have to find a job soon.  All these job fairs are coming up and companies that are recruiting are coming to my school to meet the graduating students.  I am so worried about these upcoming interview it’s making me miserable!  I just feel like I’m a quieter person than my classmates.  It’s driving me crazy being around them because I keep thinking they are all so good at small talk and know about so many things –I can just talk about my coursework, my family, and shows I watch on TV.  One girl keeps saying how nervous she is but she’s so loud and perfect at everything, it makes me kind of mad and scared.  How am I going to make a good impression at an interview?  I keep feeling smaller and smaller.  What should I do?  Help me get out of my shell!

Feeling like a Turtle

Dear Feeling like a Turtle,

What’s inside your shell?  That’s what I want to know.  There must be lots of fascinating stuff in there.  You may have heard from well-meaning friends and family that only the peacocks make it.  So you’re wearing yourself out and beating yourself up because you’re not a peacock at this moment.  That’s certainly not going to help you with your interviews.

So check out your shell, YOUR interior.  What drove you to go into this field in the first place?  What do you love about it?  Why does it suit you, and what unique qualities do you bring to it?  You might very well be coming from a deeper place than many of your classmates.  If you can begin to articulate what motivates you, what special strengths you bring to what you do, and then connect with your interviewers on a quieter yet genuine level, you’ll far surpass some of your move ostentatious peers.  You may even find others wondering what’s so fascinating inside that shell of yours that it keeps you so absorbed.  And you may even begin inviting more people to join you in there.


Nadine Bernard is a Board Certified Life Coach and playwright who specializes in working with women who are grappling with issues regarding their careers, relationships, motherhood, self-expression and self-esteem.  She uses techniques based in coaching, psychology, and theater as she partners with women to find clarity, fulfillment and balance as they become the heroes of their own lives.  She works with clients locally in Montclair, NJ and across the country via Skype.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Note From Nadine: An Advice Column

A Note from Nadine:

Dear Nadine,

So I’ve been working at a health club for eight years now.  I’ve known the owner for a long time and although I consider her pretty good friends, I do feel like sometimes I’m asked to do things for too low pay.  Anyway, I like working there, and I was recently certified as a Zumba teacher and just started teaching a class.

 There’s this other instructor who’s a lot younger than I am, let’s call her Jane, who was also certified in Zumba when I was.  Now, I don’t know what her deal is, but she’s always seems to be in my business, telling me I’m doing something wrong.  Just recently, she did two things and I’m wondering if she’s trying to jeopardize my position there.  One time, I called the girl at the desk to say I would be there on time, but I wouldn’t be there in time to set up the studio.  So Jane goes outside, and immediately calls my boss to tell her I wasn’t on time, and I got a text from my boss asking me what was going on with me.  Another time, Jane asked for a sub for her Zumba class.  I emailed that I could do it.  Then never heard from Jane.  She goes and tells my boss that I took too long getting back to her. 

She’s driving me nuts and I don’t know what to do, or if I’m reading into the situation – should I confront her, talk to my boss, just avoid her?  What do you think?

Exasperated and a little concerned.

Dear Exasperated,

Remember, it’s your space, not hers! You need to cement the cracks, and don’t let her get in there.  It sounds like you avoid standing up for yourself and defending your boundaries, and now’s a good time to start!

I’d say, “YES,” -- avoid her when you can and confront her when she steps on your boundaries.  Don’t give her the opportunity to give you advice, or put you down.  Walk away, stay clear, and get it straight, in a polite yet firm manner, that you don’t need her stepping on your toes, and that you’re handling things fine YOUR way.  Jane seems threatened by you -- perhaps because you have more years of experience and know the boss for a longer time – and she doesn’t want you around.  You’re not reading into this!  If she tattles on you one more time, definitely talk to your boss about it.  Tell her that Miss Jane needs to mind her own business when she’s at work.   If she’s really a friend, she’ll understand. 


Dear Nadine,

So, I’ve been in a committed relationship with a man for ten years.  We’re not actually married because I thought things were fine the way they were.  He’s got a son in middle school and I’ve got two girls, one in kindergarten and one in third grade.  These kids have tons of activities, and he won’t help me out with stuff, like picking them up in the evening when I’m supposed to be three places at once!  He says he’s too tired after work.  But my days are crazy too and I work part time at a cafe.  Actually, he won’t do anything to help besides his job.  He can’t even screw in a light bulb!  Seriously, he’s terrible around the house and doesn’t even know how to work a grill.  He says he’d be lost without me – he just gives up on trying things way too fast.  I do everything!  But if I push back too hard, don’t I run into the danger that he’ll get mad and fight back financially?  Some stuff is good, like we do some family stuff on weekends.  But I plan it all.  Why can’t he help more?  I’m tired!

Tired and irritated

Dear Tired and Irritated,

Doing everything for the family is hard.  I get it!  But you’ve got to stop for a moment and ask yourself, “What do I get out of feeling superior to my partner around the house?”  Because you two have fallen into a pattern of him making more money and you being better at everything else.  You said that you're worried that if you push back and don’t do everything for him, he might get angry and walk.  But what about your other fears?  You’ve got to conquer the fear that, if he doesn’t need you and rely on you so much, he might not stay.  Especially since you’ve decided not to marry him.

You have to believe in your worth, that you’re worth being around, not just because you do things for him.  Then, you have to be ready to let him in on your tricks.  If he’s had women caring for him all his life, he needs help catching up.  Think kindergarten!  Take a few deep breaths and then teach him how to use that screwdriver.  Get a sitter one night and enjoy a barbeque together, patiently showing him how that thing operates till he feels comfortable.  Teach him to cook up some warm munchies and enjoy them together with a glass of wine.  As for taking care of him – teach him the skills he needs to know -- like making his own breakfast, putting the storm windows in his office -- and then he’s on his own, cause you’re too busy picking up his kid!


Nadine Bernard is a Board Certified Life Coach and playwright who specializes in working with women who are grappling with issues regarding their careers, relationships, motherhood, self-expression and self-esteem.  She uses techniques based in coaching, psychology, and theater as she partners with women to find clarity, fulfillment and balance as they become the heroes of their own lives.  She works with women locally in Montclair, NJ and across the country via phone or Skype.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Personal Plays Receives 2015 Best Business of Montclair Award -- Life Coach Category

Press Release
Personal Plays Receives 2015 Best Businesses of Montclair Award
Montclair Award Program Honors the Achievement
Montclair, October 06, 2015 — Personal Plays has been selected for the 2015 Best Businesses of Montclair Award in the Life Coach category by the Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program.
Each year, the Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Montclair area a great place to live, work and play.
Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2015 Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program and data provided by third parties.
About the Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program
The Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Montclair area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.
The Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.
SOURCE: Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program
Best Businesses of Montclair Award Program

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Receiving Feedback

Receiving Feedback

When feedback of your creative work feels like a sharp knife of criticism slicing your skin, it's time to get a band-aid.  Take a step back, breath deeply, and literally imagine you're wearing a protective bandage.  If anything gets through, it will feel muffled.  The feedback becomes a smaller ping, not scorching pain.  Remember, the person giving the feedback thought they were being helpful.  They took enough interest in you or your work to comment on it -- which is a compliment in itself.  Next, consider the source.  Is this feedback you want to incorporate into your work?  Is there a compromise you can make?  If it helps you make your vision clearer to others, then by all means use it in some way, shape or form.  But make sure you're not straying from your original reason for creating this work.  Come back to the feedback in a day or two before you make your final decision or attempt any changes or revisions.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Six Essential Strategies for Gaining Clarity in Your Career

How is your job satisfaction? Are you frustrated, down in the dumps, or feeling stuck? You’re not alone. As time goes by, sometimes roles morph into something we didn’t sign up for. For others, responsibilities don’t keep up with skill sets. When complacency, annoyance or anger sets in, not only does it make the days drag on, but sometimes we change into a person we never wanted to be.
Career or job confusion can be draining. It can distract you from other areas of your life. Women often talk to their friends about it and then find they stop for fear of sounding like a broken record and pushing away their social support. With the ever changing responsibilities and priorities in their lives, women are especially susceptible to becoming confused about their career.

Some common causes of career confusion are:

1.        You chose a career path based on what your parents or people in your life thought you “should” do or what gave you security, but you find that you aren’t really being true to the purpose or passion within you.

2.      .The career you have has been fulfilling, but you find yourself in your 30s and questioning whether your situation will be fulfilling for the years to come.  You may actually hear the “biological clock” ticking and wonder if your male colleagues are feeling the confusion and pressure you are experiencing.

3.     .  You like what you do, but you find the politics of your work environment draining, and you’re not sure it makes your job worthwhile. Also, you might not be compensated fairly or given the job title you deserve, and this is making you doubt your line of work.

4.     .  You are returning to work after time home with a baby or young children, and you don’t think your previous career will offer enough work life/balance for you to attend to your new priorities at home.

5.        You are reentering the workforce as your kids leave for college, and you worry that your job skills won’t measure up in the current job market. You’re considering classes but don’t know which direction to go.

When discussing these issues with clients,  here are some things I urge them to consider:

1.        Become very clear about what your mission is, what type of work gives you a sense of purpose.  Write about it, talk to friends, or work with a coach or counselor. Don’t jump to a new path without first making sure that it fits you well. Once you become clear, it will help you evaluate your current job so you can see if it actually does falls under these parameters, or it will help direct you in a new way.

2.        Look at your life holistically. It is okay to admit that what served you in the past no longer serves your needs. You may be called upon to take care of people in your life, so try to find work that energizes rather than exhausts you.

3.        Before deciding on a new career, do your research and test the waters! This will reduce some of the fear associated with new areas and possible dream jobs.

4.        Don’t let the need for training scare you away. There are often ways to get the skills or training you need without going back to school full time. 

5.     .  Assert yourself! If it turns out you are in the right setting, but your needs just aren’t being met by your boss or colleagues, make sure your voice is heard. You won’t know if this is the right job for you until your needs or demands are clearly articulated. 

6.        If your current job isn’t offering the flexibility you need for the best work/life balance, consider looking for a new company with more flexibility or opportunities to work from home. Or consider working for yourself. 

 The most important thing I can emphasize to clients is to value yourself and the gifts you have to offer. If you find yourself confused about your career and you feel stuck or discouraged, this is an ideal time to work with a coach who can support you in defining and addressing the underlying issues.

As a Board Certified Coach, I help my clients steer their ship toward fulfillment.  Together, we  can determine the most rewarding career choices for your unique situation and devise a plan to reach goals. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Protagonist of Your Life

The Protagonist of Your Life

Imagine standing on one side of a room.  On the other side is a table with a glass of water.  Inside that water is the answer to happiness.  All you have to do is walk across the room and drink the water.  It would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Now imagine that between you and the water is, say a fiery dragon guarding the water, enemies throwing torches at you.  This time, if you get to actually drink the water, you are not just happy, but a hero.

These obstacles are the elements of drama.  These are the elements of life.  We like to believe that we can just walk across the room and get the water.  That getting what we want should be pretty straightforward.  When it’s not, we often get overwhelmed, confused, stuck, paralyzed.  We blame ourselves, as we lose sight of the glass of water.   But if you get past the dragon, or slay the dragon, or tame the dragon, you have a deeper, more lasting sense of happiness and pride.  You are the hero.  It is amazing how many people don’t even know what their glass of water is anymore.  What will make them happy.  It’s amazing how many people know what their dragon is, harp on it, stare at it, tremble at it, but never find a way to get by it.

But, when we watch a play or a film or read a book, we, more often than not, know better than the main character.  We know what they want or need.  We see what’s standing in the way, and we even know, much of the time, what they need to do to overcome their obstacles, “Why doesn’t he just tell her?”  Why isn’t she honest with herself?” “Why doesn’t she just do what she really wants to do!”  We become experts at the dissection of the human psyche.   So why not strive for this clarity in our own lives?  We don’t need to go to a movie or read a novel to get it right.  This is our life, not a dress rehearsal.  We can use the same elements of enjoying a good story, to unravel our intentions and gain insight and perspective.  We can come to view our lives as stories that we can create.  We can become conscious, quite quickly, of our desires, what makes us happy, what is standing in our way, and how to address these obstacles.

There are elements of our lives, certain situations, our temperaments, people in our life,  that we can’t change.  Sometimes, it is the very glass of water that changes.  After going through a transition in our lives, we often cling to what we think will make us happy, what we were striving for when our lives were different.  With changing circumstances come changing intentions and goals.  But the story we choose to write, within these parameters, becomes our very own unique creation.  It can be tempered with beauty.  It can be full of heroism and pride.  Despite what comes our way, we can make peace with our obstacles, tame our dragons, and sip from our own personal glass of happiness.

Nadine Bernard is a Board Certified Life Coach and playwright who specializes in working with women who are grappling with issues regarding their careers, relationships, motherhood, self-expression and self-esteem.  She uses techniques based in coaching, acting, and psychology as she partners with women to find clarity, fulfillment and balance as they become the heroes of their own lives.