putting the jingle back in my balls

“Work hard, play hard,” I once said, “turns out to just be hard.”

Well, that was just plain wrong. Work hard, play hard—shouldn’t they be two in the same? We’ve all heard it. Hell, I’ve said it. Work, if you’re doing it right, should feel like play. It’s not play, but it should feel something like it. Some days that play will prove challenging, like trying to capture the flag from a pit-stained linebacker named Wubba. StephanieKlein.com used to feel like play, but lately, and I guess this is true in fits and starts throughout these past seven, nearly eight, years of blogging, it feels like work. “Yeah, and it shows.” Figured I’d beat you to those words.

I’ve been distancing myself lately, trying to maybe send my MacBook Pro, my Air, my iPod and iPad, and especially my iPhone a subtle hint. “I need space.” I get this way sometimes, needing to unplug, not just from technology, but from people, too. I ignore emails and let them stack up into the hundreds, unread. My voice mailbox becomes too full to accept more. I don’t even check it. I just need to check out and turn the world around me off for a while. It’s to avoid burnout.

Burnout?! Ever hear a kid at Disney say she’s ready to go home because she feels totally burned out? Exactly. But, we as parents know exactly when our children have hit their limits, when their bodies and brains need to rebuild and recharge. They stop listening and start acting silly, cracking up, doing baby talk, rolling on the floor, doing a shake your booty dance, then spreading their ass cheeks. Inappropriately tired, I like to think. Yet, we full on ignore these same—okay, similar—signs in ourselves. Powering through, using phrases like, “so busy,” “swamped,” and too often, “exhausted.”

Perhaps my Jewish New Year resolution is just that. To be less busy and exhausted. To prioritize play. And by play, I don’t mean drinks with girlfriends (though while not always play, it is restorative), restaurant reservations, or stealing away to a movie. I need more whimsical play in my life, purposeless, voluntary things that excite me, thrill me, make it hard to sleep with the anticipation. Love used to do that for me. Early love, and dating in general, because there was curiosity and a sense that anything could happen. It energized and agitated me. Depressed me a shitload, but mostly, “new” electrified me. Unlike commitment phobics, though, I’ve always loved discovering the new in people I already knew. And the new in me. Curiosity is the key to youth as much as it’s the cornerstone of play. With play, anything can happen.

Obviously play is different for all of us, and what’s titillating to me, might seem flaccid to you. Also, I think our inherent drive toward one activity over another changes over time. Playing Cats & Cradles and hand-slapping games doesn’t exactly light me up anymore. I also think we straight up forget what arouses us because we’ve ignored it or shoved it aside for so long. I’m going to create a “Play History” in my next post (and invite you to play along), to maybe get some insight into what might blow my hair back, now, as an adult who uses a hair diffuser.

Also, here’s my official apology for not having returned emails or phone calls, for not having initiated plans. I need to recharge and to play, to try horseback riding, take out my watercolors, and ride waves in the ocean. I wish I could find a class on food photography, specifically how to set up the lighting, a table and backdrop I can keep in place permanently. Because reading about it isn’t the same as having someone show you how to do it in person.

Along with belting out Christmas songs year-round, food, menus, anything themed, from birthday parties to dinner parties—that is my play. A handful of readers have commented on Greek Tragedy, asking why I’m “so into presentation,” “Just let it go.” “You don’t always have to try so hard.” While well-intentioned [read: judgmental] they don’t understand that planning and brainstorming is my play. I enjoy the planning and details and imagining, applying my creativity, sometimes far more than the actual event. I like planning a dinner more than I enjoy eating it, if that says anything about my priorities.

I’m starting to think that “People plan, God Laughs” could have an altogether different meaning—one that makes me smile.

More recent post on the same topic: Museum Moments



  1. Judgmental? Really? I don’t think people write comments suggesting you relax a bit with the details because they are judgmental. I think they write those things because you repeatedly post about issues in your life, and namely your marriage, that show stress resulting around this need for the perfect whatever.

    I think it’s judgmental of you to assume readers are being judgmental. From what I’ve read of the comments when people made those types of suggestions they seemed to be well meant and were based on the info you yourself provided to the readers about lack of time, stress in getting everything just right, and the tensions that came up between you and your husband around these issues. What a shame that you view as judgmental people who are trying to be helpful and make suggestions based on info you yourself put out there. Good luck with your unplugging. Maybe it will give you a new perspective on your readers, who I’ve always found to be very supportive of you.

  2. Blogging is hard. You feel the constant weight of expectation from people you don’t even know who are waiting for your next article.

    Take some much needed time off, and I bet you’ll come back full of new ideas, inspiration, and enthusiasm. I find as soon as I stop concentrating on something, new ideas come to me. Hopefully it will be the same for you.

    And, I’m with you on enjoying the planning most. I remember going back to school each Fall, with brand new pens, pencils and folders. I always thought that THIS year would be the year I would keep all my books neat, and underline every heading twice in red pen. Alas, within a week, I was back to my old ways. But the planning and anticipation were so fun! I do the same with Christmas now. This year will THE year that all my ribbons and wrapping co-ordinate, I just know it.

  3. Can I just say how much I love your writing Stephanie – I am quite new here, can’t even remember how I found you now, but I am so glad I did.

    It’s funny though being a ‘newbie’; it feels like I have moved into an area where everyone has lived there for years, they have their ‘in’ jokes, and remember how you messed up in the high school play.

    But I think I’ll just keep popping back, and after a while I will start to get more of the jokes.

    And I thought judgemental was funny!

  4. I feel like you are where I was in June around my birthday.I was so busy and bored. I promised something new to myself and that is when I took on the dress by candlelight event. Which has giving me the right amount of busy for a great cause. next I want to take a cooking class at central market.
    btw..painted my dining room wall(facing living room) with chalk board paint and write our weekly menu on the wall. it keeps my head on straight and looks adorable:)
    ps never offended that you dont return calls..i get it. I often decompress and feel like the friends that dont get offended are the ones meant for me.

  5. Oh this really hits home! I know just how you feel. I was there for most of this year, doing very similar things while unable to totally disconnect. Two weeks ago, I found my fun again and am feeling more recharged. But most of the year, I was feeling like you! Total overload and unable to do make myself do much about it.

    Great post.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.