Friday, August 17, 2018

Complex Thoughts in Simple Words

Yesterday, Todd and I were talking with the kids about the sacrifice of Jesus. You know, a little light-hearted, after-dinner conversation.☺️ We strive to be good Christians but recognize we have a lot to learn. We try to keep ourselves right with the Lord which keeps our moral compasses focused but we still mess up. We still find ourselves cursing under our breath and, shamefully, I still listen to gossip when I hear it.

When this topic came up, we explained to Ellie that people used to offer their best livestock for sacrifices to atone for their sins. We told her that to cover the cost of all sin for all humanity it would, naturally, take a larger offering. God chose His son, Jesus, to be that perfect human sacrifice. 

We got deep into redemption and what that means. We talked about being a child of God and what we believe that is. We walked right off the path and deep into the woods with this conversation. We were thumping on trees to see if any random thoughts would scurry out. We turned over ideas like we were turning over soil. But, before we strayed too far off course Mitchell spoke.

He said, "We continue to sin even though Jesus died for us. Isn't that like wasting is his sacrifice? I mean, he died and we sin so it's like we don't value what he did for us. We should think of that when we are tempted. We need to make sure we don't waste his life."

And...I just looked at him in wonder. I had been trying to dissect my complicated thoughts into chunks that Ellie could grasp and Mitchell just plainly and simply stated what he thought. He didn't need fancy words or grand hand gestures, he just broke it down in simple terms.

And, Ellie got it. She quickly rattled off her thoughts and the conversation was on track again. I was quiet for a moment thinking. I thought isn't it so true that we learn from our children? Isn't it amazing how pure their souls are? Kids don't get caught up in trying to explain things properly...they speak from their hearts. And, "we need to make sure we don't waste the life of Jesus" is so huge. What a complex thought in such easy terms. 

I am striving hard not to waste the sacrifice of Jesus and I am thanking the Holy Spirit for burning like a fire in the soul of my kids. I sit here wondering what I will learn next from my children. I am sure it will be something profound - these kids continue to amaze me.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

And, They're Off!

We ushered the tribe off to school today. Long, lazy summer days are officially over in my neck of the woods. 

I normally do not get overly emotional on the first day of school. I find myself more excited for what the new school year holds for my kids. But, today! My goodness. When I saw my youngest skip down the road to middle school with her friends my eyes filled with tears. They eeked out of the corners of my eyes before I knew what was happening. My youngest is in 7th grade and my oldest is a freshman. Where did the years go?

What happened the littles we walked to class on the first day? What happened to the days when they not only had backpacks but lunchboxes in hand too? Gone are the 'messy hair, don't care" days. Now, when I look into my kids' faces I can see what they will look like as adults. I see their personalities and character taking form and solidifying. They are quickly becoming bigger birds that will eventually leave the nest. 

But I don't want them to leave.

I want them to stay at home where I can protect them. I want to make sure they eat balanced meals. I want to monitor their choices. I want to be one room over when their hearts are heavy and they need to talk. I want to be a part of their laughter and their joys and their sorrows. I want their lives to exceed my own in every accomplishment and victory. 

Today was the first day I felt time slipping away. It goes too fast. When my kids were in diapers wise parents would say, "They will be asking for the car keys before you know it." I looked at them with weary eyes thinking that day would never come. Now, we let Mitchell practice is driving skills on our street. 

As much as I want to hold them close forever, my job (and privilege) as their mom is to funnel as much love and wisdom into them as I can before they branch out on their own. I will always be here for them, even on days when they are off on their own. And, I will treasure their middle school and high school days. These years too shall pass...and far too quickly. 




Monday, July 9, 2018

The Bully with Short Hair

My daughter had a sleepover this past weekend with eight friends! It was a camp-out sleepover because our house is small. We had two tents in the backyard and a campfire. I slept - or rather attempted to sleep - in a hammock on our deck so I could guard against wayward raccoons and foxes. The girls watched a scary movie before bedtime so I was also the defender against any ghouls that wandered into Smokey Acres. 

I loved listening to them chat about hair and boys and music and boys and clothes and boys. As I listen to them giggling my daughter said, "Oh, my mom has the best bully story!" And, I thought, "Omigosh! Which one?" And then she said, "Remember the picture girl, Mom?" And, oh yes! I remembered that story!

When my son was not yet one, I went shopping at the local mall. I never go to the mall! The mall is my nightmare! But, I was at the mall and went into the Bath and Body Works shop to smell all the new lotions and bath gels. I was behind a display and I heard a voice at the counter. My head whipped up because I knew that raspy whine from years before. I peeked around the display and there stood my nemesis. The little pipsqueak that had tormented me in high school. She still had her snarl but she looked weak. She was far less intimidating off-campus with 14 years of life under my belt. 

The cashier was complimenting her on her hair. It was still big 80's hair but it was shorter. It was like cotton balls dipped in black and piled on her head. I heard her tell the cashier, "Oh, my hair was much longer in high school." And the cashier replied, "It must've been very pretty." And then it happened! My nemesis said, I kid you not, "Would you like to see a picture? I have my senior picture here in my wallet."

WHAT?

We graduated 14 years ago and your carry your senior picture around IN YOUR WALLET!?!? 

Well, I had seen all I needed to see. I whispered to my Mitchell, "We are all done here, buddy!" And off we went.

The girls laughed when I told them the story. I said, "There is a lesson here. Bullies are just cowards and when they get out in the real world they often don't fare well. Be good people so you can show people pictures of you and your friends...not you and your 80's hair-do."

I have thought of the moment a few times since it happened. Mostly I find it sad. I find it sad that this girl was so mean in high school and likely out of high school that she carried her own picture around in a little plastic photo case. Were her high school years her best? Did she peak in those four years? I may have suffered through those years but I am so thankful those years were not the years that defined me. I think my life began at high school graduation...it definitely was not the closing act.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Time to administer CPR!

It's a new year; a clean slate. It's definitely time to revive this lifeless blog! It's been a year and a half - gasp! - since I have written anything. It seems I have been so busy surviving that I wasn't writing. 2017 wasn't stellar. It wasn't a total loss but, admittedly, I was not sorry to see it go. I truly hope with my heart that 2018 will be a better year for my tribe. A year we can enjoy instead of endure. A year we turn the corner on financial pitfalls and see some windfalls. A year we will remember fondly and begin to miss at midnight on December 31st. 

2017 had it's moments. We spent a week in Kauai this summer. We chose birthday week when the kids and I all turn another year older in rapid fire succession. It was definitely the high point of the year. Both kids also took to stand-up jet-skiing which was a long awaited wish of my husband. We spent many weekends at the lake burning through tanks of fuel as the kids honed their skills. Todd would often just sit on the shore and watch his happy tribe with sheer joy inside. His kids enjoy something he loves and life doesn't get much better than that!

The flip-side was the typical lack of time and money. So much to do, so little time and so little cash to make it happen. The deck out front is still not built though that was the first thing on my summer to-do list. I skipped right past it and went to cleaning and purging closets and drawers. I think I dawdled a bit too much this year. Overwhelmed by the many things I needed to tackle that I ended up with my head in the sand wishing all responsibility away. This year I have a different plan. I actually have goals.

I don't make New Year's resolutions because I feel I am a continual work in progress. Instead, I make goals. This year I made SMART goals. The benefit of working in educational publishing is continual learning. Thanks to a book we publish I have learned that goals should be:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-limited

My first goal is to purposely walk, run, or hike 750 miles this year. There is a goal buzzing around Facebook to do 1,000 miles. My goal slides right into the Achievable requirement. I believe I can accomplish 14.5 miles a week. Maybe next year I can try for 1,000 but I don't want to set myself up for failure right out of the gate. I want to keep moving not disappoint myself with defeat the first week. 1,000 miles would require almost 20 miles a week. While I will probably log that with the additional walking I do on campus, my goal is for the 750 miles to be purposeful. I will purposely run miles each week to attain my goal - I will not gain miles while doing something else. 

My second goal it to spend time with God each day. I do so much better in life when I am square with God. Instead of throwing prayers up to the sky and treating God like a genie, I really want to delve into my beliefs and get rooted and solid in my faith. I have not given God any respectable amount of time this year and that I something I would like to change with daily devotionals. 

My third and final goal - so far - is to achieve my sales goal this year at work. This year will close as my second miss in as many years. The reps I work with are very focused on selling the portion of the list I don't cover so I need to work extra hard this year to make my list more relevant to them. I also need to take the initiative and work accounts where I see opportunities. Higher education is a changing industry but I do believe we are doing good work in educating the future. Students need to be challenged and not spoon-fed. I never want to have surgery performed by someone that learned medicine from accessible material. I want them to have been challenged and to have prevailed. 

So that's where I stand on this third day of 2018. I raise my coffee cup in cheers and hope that it is a good one!

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!