Sunday, July 31, 2016

Time to live - Time to thrive!

I have noticed lately that it seems many people simply exist. We no longer thrive - we muddle through. We worry about bills. We worry about tomorrow's problems which may never come. We go to jobs we are not passionate about. We make meals to fill bellies but not to experience cuisine. We shuffle the kids to activities and parties. We clean the house and fold the laundry. We busy ourselves with chores and obligations.

Then, once in a great while, we live. We do something we truly enjoy. We take a vacation or finish a great book. We spend a carefree day with the family on the lake. We eat a meal that truly must be savored. We explore a cave or hike a peak. We thrive. We alert our senses to sounds and smells around us. We live.

Why do we do this? If we get one chance at this great gift called life...why do we waste it? 

Yes - we need to pay bills but why not find work that we enjoy? Work that empowers us and satisfies us. Work that is not dreaded on Monday mornings but looked forward to. 

Yes - we have to feed ourselves but why not make meals that nourish our bodies and tickle our taste buds? In the hours we twiddle away on nothingness why not make a casserole and freeze it for a meal later in the week? Why not experiment with bright colored vegetables and fun-shaped pasta? Why are meals just meals and not an event?

Yes - we have obligations but it is also okay to say "no." No, we can't make that birthday party. No, we cannot commit to another weekend event. No, no, no!

No - we can no longer live mundane lives. Why would we want to anyway? I want to live. I want to thrive. I want to re-work my existence. I want to re-plan my route. I want to take the road less traveled and see what it has to offer. I no longer what to waste the dash between the day I arrived and the day I depart. I don't want to exist but rather I want to live.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Plot Twist

So, God has a way of working things out in ways we can't possibly imagine or re-create ourselves.

Last time I posted about my awesome new job and I was so excited about the new opportunities and fresh perspective. Not long after that post things in Awesome-ville rapidly unraveled. My new job soured at a quick rate. The promises made to me when I was hired were shelved and new duties were assigned. I began doing a job I didn't apply for and wasn't being trained for. I had a manager than went on long-term sick leave days after she was hired, I had a company owner trying to but a positive spin on the mess she was creating, and I had an HR department that still wasn't providing me with concrete details of my new role and - it's sales - my new goals. 

I was getting anxious about how things were working out. Two months in and the job I was so excited about had shifted to a really bad deal. It was probably the most expensive job I ever had. We had to purchase a car for my travel. Granted ,the company did partially reimburse me for mileage. The health insurance was outrageously expensive and amazingly bad. A prescription that used to cost me $10 cost $45 under the new plan. Doctor visit co-pays jumped too. And, I thank all the is good no one was hospitalized during my stint there.

Every expense report I submitted was commented upon and returned by the company bean counter. 

"This hotel is $20 over the approved nightly cost." To which I replied, "The company owner stayed there and it was her I was meeting with."

"You are not allowed to expense a protective phone case." To which I replied, "It was $7. And, it is to protect the new iPhone you issued."

In the end, I would issue a payment to American Express for whatever charges the bean counter deemed inappropriate. We haggled once over 48 cents. 48 cents!

While my new world was crumbling I got word that a specialist at my old company had resigned after accepting a position with a competitor in her area of specialty. I told myself I would not call. I would not inquire. I had made my choice and I had to accept what I had chosen.That said, I welled up with tears of reliefs when I received a text message about 3 weeks later from my old boss.

"Would you be interested in a conversation about the specialist role just vacated?"

Through tears, I coolly replied, "I am always up for a conversation."

The following day the manager of the specialists called me. I know him well because he was in my rookie class back in 2001. We talked about the role and the territory it would cover. I was interested but remembered the last interview process I went through.

I said, "This all sounds great. And this is a position I would love to have. But, to be honest, I am really not interested in going through another interview process with the company."

He said, "You know, I think we have done enough to you already. I was thinking more along the lines of a conversation and an offer."

I was blown away! "That sounds easy enough! Lets do that! When should we have the conversation?"

"Jen, this IS the conversation!"

So, with a little bit of finagling and an outrageous twist on my career path I find myself back with the crazy I know verses that completely wacky crazy that I was struggling with. 

My new role fits me well. I get to work with other reps to help them achieve their goals. I travel a lot which isn't always easy, but I am making it work. I am learning a great deal every single day.

I hesitate to say that I am back in Awesome-ville because I was burned so badly before. But I am enjoying my new job for what it is. I can't predict how long it will last or what the future holds, but for the time being I am content. Finally. Well, mostly content. There is still a restless bit inside me that keeps me on my toes with one eye on the present and one eye on the horizon.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Quit My Job

Well, a lot has happened since my last post in April. I took that walk on the beach to heart! I got fed up with my own complaining and complacency. I realized that God wasn't going to hand me a new life on a platter - I needed to take steps to get out of my rut. So, I flipped open my calendar, picked a random day in November, and wrote "Quit My Job."

The beast in my life was my job. I got to the point where I dreaded mornings. I didn't want to face the same challenges I had been facing for the last 15 years. The company I worked for had no resemblance to the company I started with over a decade earlier. The mismanagement at the top was wrecking havoc on my ability to make a living. I was stressed to the point of being riddled with anxiety. My kids were getting my worst instead of my best. My husband got the worst of the worst of me. I was always crying about my job or angry about it. I was a mess.

So, three simple words - "Quit My Job" - began to make things unfold for me. I updated my resume and researched job sites and watched the days tick by. In August, I applied for a promotion with the company I was employed. Almost immediately after that, I was contacted my a recruiter about a position open in a different segment of the educational publishing industry.

I  blew off the recruiter. I had my plan. I was going to get promoted. I was going to make a change but stay with the security of the same company. A change - but not a scary leap of faith.

The recruiter was relentless though. After weeks of wearing me down I finally agreed to interview with the new company's Vice President of Sales. My thought was that I would get this shelved and done so I could pursue my own plan. My own plan had me interviewing with people I knew and feverishly working on an eight-page project that I would present to the hiring committee in the weeks to come.

The day came for me to meet with the VP. I was no slouch. Even though I expected to be unimpressed, I dressed nice and arrived early. As soon as I arrived at the hotel lobby the VP text messaged me that he could meet me as soon as I arrived. He had a no-show and was free. So, I walked up to the meeting room and meet the man that would unhinge my perfectly plotted plan.

My interview lasted over two hours. The Human Resource Director arrived late but by the time she arrived I was committed to getting this position. I was excited! I didn't realized there were jobs out there like this! I felt good as we shook hands good-bye. Before I left, I hesitated. I said, "Just to be completely square with you. I have applied for a promotion with the company I work for. I will be meeting with them in Cincinnati soon for the final interview." The Human Resource Director let me know they would not make a final decision on next steps for at least a week so we'd have to see how the timing worked out.

I continued to prep for my promotion interview while hoping for a call to come through from the new company. And then it happened. I had a WebEx interview with the company owner. It was dreadful. She was late, the connection was bad, it ended abruptly. Then the line went dead. I heard no more from the VP. I reached out to him, reminding him of my approaching meeting in Cincinnati, and received no response. I was sure that WebEx had sealed my fate.

I went forward with Cincinnati. I caught a 6am flight and arrived in the late afternoon. I was presenting at 9am the next day. I had my resume in hand. I had created a Padlet Board - which is a totally cool online posting tool. I posted all relevant documents and my sweet project for the committee to have before the interview.

At 8:45am the next morning, I walked into the hotel conference room, ready to seal the deal on my new position. We began at promptly 9am with my presentation. As I presented, something happened. I looked around the table and thought, "I don't want to work with you people." I honestly had a growing pit in my stomach like I was about to make a huge mistake. After my presentation, I pulled out my wonder project expecting to be asked questions about my reasoning, my ideas, my plans. They asked not one thing about the eight pages I had labored over. The eight pages reviewed by my manager, my previous manager, my colleague with a similar role as this promotion. They asked me flimsy, situational questions. Then, at 9:45am they shut it down. The next candidate was on her way in. I was deflated. I had flown across the country for a 45 minute conversation?

I slumped up to my room with a whole day ahead of me until my flight left. I called my husband and told him the story and then I sat, in a stupor, in a stodgy chair in my room. My phone rang and caller ID showed the name of the VP I had long since dismissed.

"Hello?"

"Hey Jen! Are you in Cincinnati?"

"Yes?"

"Did you present? Do you have a offer from them?"

"I did present. I don't have an offer. I feel confident I will get one though."

"Well, how do you feel about it? Do you think it's a position you want?"

I was confused by his questioning but answered, "Actually, I know it is a position I don't want. I honestly am not sure what I am going to do."

"Well, if you are open to it, I would like to extend an offer to you."

"What? Are you serious?"

"Yes. I am quite serious. I wanted you to go through the process with your company so you would never have regrets or questions if you decided to leave. I knew it was a risk - I could lose you, but I wanted you to be sure."

And, that is how I came to work for a stand-up guy at an awesome company. I resigned from my my old company before the could offer me the promotion or deny it to me. I left in October. Unfortunately, my stand-up boss left the new company in November. It is OK though. I am here and I am paving a new way. I may not stay here, but I am growing here. My life is better. My future is brighter. I am not afraid anymore.

I read that mother hawks make their nest so comfortable for their newly hatched babies. They find cotton and string and make a cozy little home. As the babies grow, the mother hawks starts to remove the comforts. She takes away the soft cotton and the soon the growing babies are on hard uncomfortable sticks. The nest becomes something they want to leave.

I feel that way about my old company. I wanted to leave but I was terrified. Yet, it became so uncomfortable it was unbearable. It got to the point where, even looking at a future there, made me uncomfortable. It took a lot to get me to move. Had I not gone to Cincinnati, I might have ultimately stayed even if I received an offer from the new company. It was safe. It was the known. I believe God orchestrated the events with the players he did to clearly show me what I needed to do..."Quit My Job."

It hasn't been easier starting a new career after 15 years in my comfort zone. But it is exciting. My mood is lighter. My kids get the best of me again. "Quit My Job" was my admission to the problem area in my life. Once I accepted that as true, everything started to evolve. I am exceedingly thankful! I did indeed "Quit My Job" and it was one of the best things to ever happen to me!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Can a Walk on the Beach Change Your Life? Perhaps.

After work today I took a long walk on the beach. As I walked, I unloaded my mind. I refused to allow myself to dwell on any topic or ponder any deep thought. I let my mind race and it seemed the more it raced the calmer I felt. It was as if I had allowed my mind to purge thoughts I had stored for years that I no longer needed.

In rapid fire succession I took in the sights and sounds around me as memories of the past crept to present mind. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What mistakes have I made? What are my good traits? What do I completely fail in? Who likes me? Who hates me? Who has misconceptions about me? What are those misconceptions? Why did that person do that to me? Why do I care? With every breath I exhaled I discarded a negative emotion or memory.

As my mind rolled, I watched a young boy with cowboy boots on the wrong feet attempt to make a sand castle where the water breaks. I watched as a German Shepherd ignored every other creature except for his human companion and seagulls. I watched runners trot by me wishing I had remembered my running tights or shorts or any sort of running bottoms. But then I found myself thankful for the walk that was clearing my mind. I watched couples walk hand-in-hand. I watched a young girl attempt to skim board AND catch a Frisbee at the same time...so as not to leave you hanging, I will tell you that she could not. I marveled at the thousands of Velella jelly fish that had washed ashore and littered the beach like beautiful little flowers.

For the first time in a long time I lived. I stood in the moment. I released the past and took in the present. I watched. I listened. I smelled the salt in the air. I felt. 

And I realized.

I realized that not all people like me and that is OK. I realized that I make mistakes and that is forgivable. I realized that I work too hard to be paid so little. I realized that the past is the past and it belongs there. I realized my husband and my children are the only people whose opinions truly matter. I realized how good it felt to feel. To not race through life to get to some destination that hasn't even been determined. I realized it is important to let go. It is critical to move forward. I realized my moment hasn't passed. I haven't missed some huge opportunity that I didn't see. I realized my life is still before me. I realized that when I dwell on things or worry too much about what others think that I rob myself of the precious moments at hand. The moment at hand is the moment that matters. The past is gone and the future has yet to be determined. 

As I inhaled the crisp air that whipped around me I felt hope. I felt recharged. I felt inspired to live life and not walk through it. 

Can a simple walk down the beach change your life? It just might!


Friday, January 30, 2015

Dust Bunnies and Dog Hair

Right after we moved into our rebuilt house here on Smokey Acres we had some friends over for dinner. After a wonderful meal my friend surveyed the house from where he sat and said, "You know, after you have kids your house will never be this clean again." 

My heart missed a beat.

"Whaaat?" I questioned.

"It will happen. One day you will be playing with your kid on the floor and you will see a dust ball the size of a cat hiding in a corner."

I shrugged off the comment confident that my compulsive cleanliness could overcome any myths of childhood and a dirty home. But, sleep still evaded me that night as I thought of this possible doom. Surely I could cover most surfaces with plastic shower curtain liners. And, really, Simple Green can clean any mess.

Thankfully, I wasn't so worried about the state of my home that I decided to forgo children altogether. In fact, I have been blessed twice. And, I have to say that my friend, was...positively correct.

I tried like a champ with my firstborn to keep the house in tip-top shape. When he napped, I cleaned. When he went to bed at night, I cleaned. I even tucked him in a Baby Bjorn and made vacuuming a crazy dance. But, ever so slowly the cleaning got away from me. I didn't have the few minutes extra to scrub the floor in the corners. I dusted just once a week, and then every other week, and then only on special occasions. I began to realize that folding the laundry could wait but my baby couldn't.

I still despair about the state of my house. I have a pile of laundry waiting for me to fold while the washing machine churns another load. But, for the dust you will find on my picture frames you will also find:

1. A clean toilet. Dirty toilets are beyond gross so should to come park your tookus on my potty it will be clean.

2. A clean dish. Maybe it will be paper but I will always have a clean plate for you to enjoy a meal.

3. Dog hair. This isn't really a plus, but it is a given. Our dogs live with us - or rather we live with them. My floors will always be clean but dog hair hides out in nooks and crannies. I guarantee my dogs' DNA will leave with you when you depart my front door.

4. Modern Art. Loads of it! Modern as the day is long. And modern as in new...freshly crafted. My office walls, my desk, our kitchen cabinets, and nearly every door in the house has art taped to it. It goes from toddler squiggles to quite impressive superheros, landscapes, and fanciful creatures. Some of it is colorful. Some of it is abstract. All of it is priceless.

5. A cold beverage. I will always off you something to drink. It may be a juice box, but I will offer it. If you stay longer than a few minutes I will bring out the "snack bowl." The snack bowl is what my kids and their friends and my friends wait eagerly for. On any given day the snack bowl will contain an assortment of child friendly snacks. And, some days, it will have mini packs of cookies in it! 

6. Organization. I may have faltered in my cleanliness but if you need something that I have I will know exactly where it is at. My kitchen cabinets, closets, and office are organized. The bin you need may be a little dusty but it is right where it should be. Organization is my last thread of sanity. I may have lost the battle with the dust bunny but organizing is my life blood. I get goosebumps when I visit The Container Store.

7. Chaos and joy. You will find dogs and kids running around. You will hear the dishwasher clunking along. You will blow on a picture to see the photo more clearly through the dust. You will see art supplies out and stuffed animals watching TV. You will see childhood in progress.

So, no, my house isn't clean. But life is good. We do messy and we do it well! I am sure when I am old and in my pristine home I be counting the days until the grandkids come over and sweep through it like tornadoes. And, like now, I might just leave the hand prints on the glass a little longer because I will know they to will be grown before I know it. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wagon Train

This past week we escaped to Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Forest. My entire tribe went to Wagon Train. My kids were campers and my husband and I served as counselors. The week was devoted to growing the kids in their faith through a number of extremely fun activities. 

The kids rappelled and focused on trusting the ropes - trusting in Jesus to get them through even the most daunting tasks. They shot arrows as they focused on the bulls-eye - learning to focus on God before aiming for anything.

It was an incredible week of growth for my kids and my husband and me. We slept in covered wagons that were not the most comfortable or the warmest of conditions but it was a fun experience nevertheless. Each wagon bunked nine children and one counselor. I was thankful mine only had seven girls. We had two extra beds for the volumes of luggage little girls bring. One of my campers had a complete set of gear from rolling suitcase to toiletry bag and everything in between!

All camp attendees had chapel twice a day and two hours of recreation with our trail guide. This is where the campers rappelled and shot BB guns and played an awesome game of David and Goliath...campers verses counselors. Recreation was followed by three hours of free time in which campers scoured the camp and did any number of fun activities. They canoed, swam, played Gau Gau ball, did crafts, zip-lined, conquered the big swing, explored the Hermit's Cave and reached the very tops of an amazing forest tree house...it was endless amounts of fun!

The coolest thing was that Wagon Train is a private camp. Kids can't get out and people can't get in. The kids have this amazing ability to run and have all this fun without being helicoptered by a parent. We counselors were always around and often took groups to different activities but it wasn't required. My kids enjoyed freedom like they have never experienced.

I learned so much too. I learned that my kids can do far more than I believed they could. When I saw my daughter pop on down the rock rappelling with no fear I realized she is SO capable of so much. I learned that fun can be a ball and an open space. Not all fun needs to be planned into a formal activity. Fun can be anything! I also learned to be present. A week without technology was blissful. I learned that technology can wait...my kids are what is important and I want to give them the best bits of me. They deserve more than the remnants of mom.
Each evening after dinner the counselors and campers would head to the field for a camp-wide game. This was a ridiculous amount of fun. I ran like a kid and cheered and whooped! The game was different every night but just as fun as the night before. The camp is divided into Wildcats and Blackbears and I am happy to say the Wildcats were recognized as camp champs by the end of the week. 

It wasn't an easy week and I desperately longed for my shower and bed by mid-week but it was fun. It was a gift to be treasured. My kids can't wait to go again next year...and maybe I will too. We'll see what the God Lord has planned. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer is here!

Summer is in full swing at Smokey Acres. The outside thermometer is pulsating in the heat and the air conditioner is whirling non-stop even though the house is closed and the shades are drawn. We tapped out at 109 degrees the very day we left the cool of the Pacific Ocean and return to our drought-stricken valley.

After the kids ended their school year we emptied out backpacks and lunch bags and then promptly retreated to Pismo Beach. The coolness of the air and the crash of the waves was enough to let our spirits recharge. Well, recharge until it was time to climb into a tent with two steamy kids and no ventilation. It smelled like feet laced with halitosis. But, smell, uneven landscape, and condensation aside...it was a great trip.

We were able to rent the kids some wetsuits from an interesting old codger who looked like a salty old pirate. With wetsuits keeping them warm, the kids were able to enjoy their boogie boards ALL day. And I mean, short break for lunch, then back to the waves...ALL day! They had sand in every nook, cranny, and crevice but that didn't stop the smiles. My kids are inexplicably drawn to water so to spend the day in the crashing waves was pure joy!

I am so glad we kicked off summer with a trip west. The beach is not far from us but it still takes planning to get the tribe gathered and gone. We joined friends at the campground whose kids are classmates with mine. They were ready to welcome summer with s'mores and hot dogs on a skewer like us. 

Now we are baking back home in the valley and preparing for Wagon Train! We will actually sleep in covered wagons at 5,200 feet elevation. I am excited but also nervous. I will have 10 giggly girls in my charge. I have not been to camp before and I have never be a counselor of any sort so this will definitely be an adventure. I am praying it will be a great experience! I am excited for my kids too. This is their first adventure at summer camp. My dear friend says she can't wait to hear the stories when we come back. She said were we go, the stories follow. I hope I don't disappoint and I hope the stories are all something to laugh about!