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Monday, December 28, 2009

13 Years and Counting

As of today, I have been married for 13 years.  I'm proud of that.  There have been more than a few times over that 13 years that neither of us remembered why the heck we got married! We knew what we didn't like about each other in that moment and the days of being ga ga over each other barely a distant memory.  But we didn't give up.  We've also had some pretty joyous times, like bringing two very cool kids into this world. I've said before that a marriage starts out as art and later requires more science and an appreciation and dedication to both. 

I heard on the radio the other day, a guy talking about relationships. He said that when you begin dating you give your total focus to the relationship.  You are completely dedicated to that person and they get most of your time and attention.  Of course that's art. That's love, sunshine, roses and everything in your life feels like it has a Grey's Anatomy soundtrack in the background.  No one can maintain that level of focus over time. 

This guy on the radio went on to say that after a few months that focus wanes and our subconscious starts to take over.  All of the old behaviors and scripting from our family and experiences start to slip out. The real us starts to emerge into the relationship.  That's when we start to look at each other like, "who the heck are you?"  Then we have to find things we like about each other, when the sound track starts to skip and sound more than a little out of tune, when the storm rolls in, when the roses wilt and we're left with the thorns. 

We must look in the mirror and ask what are we supposed to learn from these times.  Spending time trying to fix the other person is like spitting in the wind.  A really bad idea with absolutely no value whatsoever.

I've learned a ton about myself in the last 7 or 8 years of our 13 year marriage. I'm not qualified to teach a marriage seminar anytime soon but here are a few things that I remind myself a lot! 

  1. God made him too.  When I see him through God's eyes instead of my own, everything looks different.
  2. He's not mine to fix. 
  3. He's not wrong, just different. 
  4. Find good babysitters and hire them more often. 
 Got any advice for us for our next 13 years?  Leave your comments please!  We'll take all the help we can get.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fat, Broke and Exhausted.

I drove home tonight from the annual cookie baking day with my parents and my kids thinking that I feel fat, broke and exhausted.  Is this the way it's really supposed to be? I truly hope not.  I love cookie baking day.  I also love tree decorating day and I even kinda like Black Friday. It's the other 23 days that leave me feeling fat, broke and exhausted. 

I came home one night last week and stood in my kitchen and cried.  I told my husband that if I had to stand in one more check out lane I would officially go postal.  At that moment, I meant it. Like I was "buying a gun" serious.  Of course I poured a glass of wine, ate a chocolate chip cookie and got a hold of myself.  These moments are not memorable, they're self-made stupid.

Self-made because somewhere in time, someone decided to buy the perfect gift, then someone else decided to have the best tree, then some other someone decided to make a better cookie, then some mom in some elementary school threw a great party, then another and another and another until we have one upped and new and improved ourselves into a stupor.  Seriously, does my boy need 8 drawers of Legos?  Sure, he likes them, but are they memorable?  When he grows up and saves the world is he going to stand in front of God and everyone and say, "Because my parents bought me one more Lego set on my list, I was able to save the world. God bless my parents and Lego, for I am blessed beyond measure."

Does anyone else see how absolutely ridiculous this is?  My favorite is the gift card exchange.  This is when no one really needs anything, but you know you have to buy them something, so you go spend your money at one store for a gift card and they go to another store and buy you a gift card and you wrap it up in nice wrapping that likely costs another 5 bucks and then you exchange them. Seriously!  Let's all stand in a circle and pass 25 bucks around and save the 5 dollar gift card holder in the process.  Sound like a deal?  This may become my one woman movement to eradicate gift cards forever.

I went to visit my 80 something year old grandmother tonight.  I helped her finish baking her peanut butter cookies and we had a little chat.  She sat at the kitchen table in the farmhouse I grew up in, her smoking her cigarette and me spooning cookies so Pop could have them for breakfast with the dog.  Now that's memorable.

She told me about Christmas when she was growing up with her mom and 2 sisters.  She told me about her mom worrying that the social services people might not get to them for Christmas.  Without social services, there would be no Christmas.  Finally around 4 in the afternoon they came.  My Grandma got a doll and a head scarf.  She remembers what she got for Christmas nearly 80 years ago.  She also remembers them bringing a tree but there was nothing to put on it, so her aunt came and brought ornaments.  Her aunt had cut up slivers of the foil from cigarette packs and made icicles for the tree.  And she had found some red paper and cut little ornaments.  She remembers her tree from nearly 80 years ago. 

I started thinking about Christmas's that I remember.  I remember driving around with my uncle in the van from the family plumbing business and cutting a cedar tree along the side of the road and taking it home for our Christmas tree. I remember moments, not presents. 

Interesting isn't it?  I've spent so many hours this month thinking, planning, buying and wrapping presents.  Presents that most won't remember past Valentine's Day if we're lucky.

I've read so many comments on Twitter, Facebook and personal emails about other moms feeling fat, broke and exhausted yet we continue year after year like a hamster on a wheel.  We're busy being busy.  I want to get busy making memories.  Memories that will last past the last snowfall. 

I'm not going to sell my Christmas decorations and burn the stockings in protest, but I'm done on the hamster wheel of retail hell.  I'm going to work at being memorable.  I've got to find some memories, preferably that don't involve social services, to tell my granddaughter while she stirs my peanut butter cookies in another 40 years.  Hell, maybe I'll take up smoking again too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Have you seen my Christmas spirit?

I'm home sick today.  Physically sick yes. I think it may have started somewhere in the spiritual and emotional dimension and then finally shoved me down on the couch with my Hello Kitty blanket looking more like a sore throat and a raging head ache.

I might be exhausted from the search for my Christmas spirit.  I've looked at Target, Wal-Mart, Meijer, the Castleton Square Mall, I even looked online at  I found a glimpse of it on Saturday night with popcorn, Rudolph and the kids new Christmas jammies.

Every time I think I have found it, someone wants me to make a decision about who wants what, where we're going to be on which of the most important days. Of course, then I begin wondering how we're going to pay for this holiday spirit. 

The only thing that gives me some solace in the chaos is rememnbering how chaotic that first Christmas really was. At least I didn't have to tell my husband that I was pregnant with an immaculate conception, or that instead of bickering about who's house we'd sleep in on Christmas Eve, we'd be sleeping in the barn with the animals. 

Maybe Christmas is really about the chaos and finding the peace in it.  If that's the case, I'm having the best holiday ever.  

Friday, December 4, 2009

I am what I am and not what I ain't

I am.....

a writer, a mother, a wife, a bother, a friend, a daughter, a hero, a failure, a dreamer, a doer, a runner, a mover, a shaker, a great money maker, a child of God, an explorer, a homemaker, a milk drinker, a wine drinker, a great apple pie maker, lover of french fries and cheeseburgers, and blue cheese, and all things salty that crunch.

I am not....

a complainer, a whiner, a quitter, a slacker, a slob, a fashion statement, a political statement, a hero, a zero......

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Love is patient, love is.....

Love is patient, love is kind..... you're now picturing the last wedding you attended right?

Either the blimpy bridesmaid dresses, or the crazy best man speech. Some vision of a wedding likely just popped into your head. I think of the wedding of a good family friend where I read this passage over 10 years ago. I was wearing a suit that I loved, it was the color of butter. I wonder what happened to that suit?

My church is doing a series on love. This passage from ICorinthians, of course is the foundation....stay tuned it has a twist.  It's easy to say these words when you're all dressed up and on your best behavior. Of course love is patient, the bride and groom are goo goo eyes with visions of sugar plums and future babies that look like a Gerber ad.  They're so cute when they're new. Brides and babies.

It's the next 40 years that living this passage gets a little dicier. Who hasn't looked across the table at your handsome groom or blushing bride with kids screaming in the background thinking, "If they say one more word, I jump out that window."  Once the bridal gown is stored away and the bouquet has been tossed, then life happens. It comes at you hard some days.

Remember the twist I mentioned?  It's kinda like the fortune cookie twist. Read your fortune and then add, .... in bed.  I know it's a stretch, but I think it proves the point, hang with me.

Read I Corinthians and then add ..... even when they don't deserve your love and likely won't return it.

Now let's see how you're doing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
......... even when they don't deserve it, or won't return it.

There should be a requirement that each marriage that uses this passage comes in once per year to do a check on how it's going.

patient - check
kind - check
does not envy - needs improvement
does not boast - major fail

You get the picture.

It's all fun and games when you spend the morning getting your hair and nails done and you're in your Vera Wang knock off looking all fabulous.  How are you doing in the day to day at love when you realize that your soul mate has some pretty human sins and flaws. Yea, that's the real test. 

Let's make sure we look in the mirror and take the I Corinthians test on ourselves before we get out our red marker for the soul mate and start to be the judge and jury.  Chances are, you're not the valedictorian in this class. Some days I'm just trying not to flunk out.

I've written before about a really wise friend who said something profound when I was frustrated with my handsome groom.  He said, "Can you see him through God's eyes instead of your own?"  Yea, that was the knock between the eyes I needed. Not the one I necessarily wanted, but yes, needed.

I think that God meant I Corinthians for more than just the wedding day.  He gives it to us and we don't deserve it. Surely we can look across the breakfast table and try to see that same kind of love in our bride or groom, even when they don't deserve it and sometimes won't return it.

It's easy to point out the problems. It's a different story to love when it's tough to love. To love when we're exhausted and frustrated and there are socks all over the floor and kids screaming because they want their lunch. Try some love is patient, love is kind on that day and put your red marker away.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Good Gone Bad

You know what sucks, when something you're really good at, is actually a bad thing.  Ask my best friend Ann. We've been friends since I was 15.  I was good at drinking, even the warm beer, her warm beer. So she'd drink all but the last two drinks and I'd finish my beer and hers.  My first shot at recycling I guess.  Remember, I'm more than half redneck.  Don't judge me, we didn't even have a movie theater.

You know the other thing I'm really good at?

Sarcasm. I'm like blue ribbon at the County Fair good. I'm like Sammy Hagar fronting Van Halen good.

I'm not only good at it, it comes so naturally, I can hardly "not" do it.  Remember vintage Ally McBeal when she had the bubble thoughts above her head?  I have those.  I have to bat them away and clear my head before they leak out of my bubble back into my head and out my mouth......constantly.  Sometimes I even giggle to myself about an all-star sarcastic comment that I refrain from saying out loud. 

Why would I refrain when it's my "rock the house" skill?

 Because it can be really really bad.

Well the shit of it is, here's the definition of sarcasm and worse yet, the latin origin.

 sar⋅casm  /ˈsɑrkæzəm/ [sahr-kaz-uhm]

  –noun 1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.

2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms.

1570–80; < LL sarcasmus < Gk sarkasmós, deriv. of sarkázein to rend (flesh), sneer;
So, there it is.  The thing I'm really good at means to "rip at ones flesh".  Which totally sucks.  You don't get on Letterman for being good at ripping at flesh. In fact, shouldn't you probably be hauled into the slammer for that?
The first time I heard this from a colleague, I sunk in despair.  Just like when I realized that all that beer did not make my Guess jeans look so hot either. WTH.  These clearly weren't God given talents, they were the crap I picked up on my own along the way.  I'm pretty sure there's no special spot in heaven next to the good wine and the cheese plate for teenage warm beer drinkers and flesh rippers extraordinaire.
Guess I better spend some time honing some of the other talents I have.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cross legged on the floor

Finally, a real role model for my girl. I DVR'd the CMA awards from last night for the girl to watch.  There's hell to pay if she stays up too late so this seemed like the sane option. As soon as she saw what was on, she bellied up to the TV, cross legged on the floor, eyes as big as saucers, clapping her hands and singing along to her favorite songs.  Seeing your kids really enjoy something so simple. That's ridiculously cool.

And then Taylor Swift came on and sang her uber famous song, Fifteen.  I sat mesmorized.  I listened to the words of that song with my crossed legged girl and realized that she may be just 8 years old but in the blink of my eye, she will have her heart broken, she will fall madly and deeply in love and the whole world will turn upside down. 

In the same breath, I also realized that her life might just be filled with all of the magic, fairy dust and sparkly dresses that Taylor Swift has in her life right now.  The tears started to roll. As my wide eyed girl sang along and clapped her hands and screamed like young girls do. I was overcome.

Then I watched Taylor's parents embrace when she won the biggest award of country music at the age of 19. Then came the ugly cry.  You know they had a moment watching their crossed legged girl wondering, hoping and praying that life would turn out ok for their gift from God. 

I'm amazed by the grace, humor, maturity and sanity that Taylor possesses in this bright spotlight she lives in. I hope my girl shines in whatever spotlight God chooses for her.

Halloween 2009 - The Girl does Taylor Swift, complete with guitar slung on her back

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quality or Quickly

I read my last blog post from earlier this week.  It sucked.

After reading it, it's painfully obvious why I received no comments. I still like what I wrote about, but the writing sucked.

I wrote that post because the idea was spinning in my head and I wanted to get it down before my week of work and family chewed up the other 166 hours of my week. Quickly, not with quality.

I love to write. I love it like I love my kids and husband, love it. I also love my job. I also love food and sleep.  That's a lot of love to spread over 168 hours. 

It's a fine line between being blessed and being crazed. I fully understand that I'm one of the lucky ones to have so much love in my life. Too much of anything good can sometimes go bad.  Just last night I ate so much pizza I was up all night feeling like total crap.  I love pizza, too much.

Loving so much about my life leaves me feeling torn and crazed some weeks.

What are the things that it's ok to sacrifice and put out a crappy outcome to get it done quickly? Not everything can be done with excellence, all the time. And what are those things that we must narrow our focus and do it really really well?

No sense in me telling you my list.  It won't be the same for you. 

Better to have written something, rather than nothing ... I think. If I'm ever to be the published writer I want to be, I have to decide how many crappy posts are acceptable for you and for me, in the name of quickly over quality. Besides, can you ever have too much love?  You can if it comes in the form of a sausage and mushroom pizza.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Got Skills?

I had the shocking realization this week that my son will be driving in four years. I advised him to start saving now for his car.  Now I'm wondering what the heck I've done in the last 11 years to really prepare him for being an adult.  I'm sure we've got the basics covered, mediocre hygiene, (he is a boy after all), average table manners, takes out the trash every Thursday night.  Yea, yea, but what about the rest.  The rest of his life.

I spend about 50 hours a week working in a career I enjoy and I'm good at.  Have I figured out how to help him do that?  Not to pick my same career, but to pick something he likes, that he's good at, and can make a living at?  I got a little panicked thinking about his "career clock" ticking. I've been so busy making sure he's got lunch money and the right Lego set for Christmas, I forgot to shift gears into life preparation stage.

Like all of my freak out attacks, I think I can catch up in one evening of meaningful life changing conversation. Friday afternoon I pick him up early from school for an eye doctor appointment.  We have some one on one time.  (Note to self: schedule way more of this. Not the eye doctor, that's expensive, the one on one part. )

He tells me he's writing another book. This kid is 11. This is his second book. I'm 43 and have been dreaming about writing a book for years.  Maybe he should be doing the coaching. He reads me his first three chapters.  They are absoluting amazing.  Not just the, "my kid is the cutest, Mom crap". He is a fantastic writer.  He's also the kid in the back of the bus with a notebook and pencil writing frantically while everyone else is talking about girls and football practice.

Lesson 1: Run with your strengths.  Don't apologize that you don't have a sports trophy on your shelf like the other dudes. Don't spend one minute thinking about who you're not. Celebrate the gifts that God has given you and work them over like there's no tomorrow! Marcus Buckingham writes about this in Now Discover Your Strengths. I wish I would have thought about this or had someone talk to me about this when I was younger.  I might have spent less time running with the pack and been signing books at Barnes and Noble by now. The boy and I had a good conversation about the kinds of things he likes to write about and how they are so different from what I write about and how both are pretty cool.  I want him to tune in to what he likes and why he likes it and then stand loud and proud as the best writer in middle school and bus 59.

Lesson 2: Your strengths are not your actual job.  Huh?  I know, the title could use some tweaking.  Hang in there with me.  Let's stick with the boy and his example.  He wants to be a Lego architect.  Yep, people get paid to build those huge sculptures at Disney and in the mall at the LegoShop. It might as well be my kid if that's what he wants to do. 

I asked him to think about what it is about building Legos that he loves. I suggested that if he ever got tired of working for Lego (yes, he rolled his eyes at me) that he would want to take his skills and do something else. Something besides moving back into our basement.  I encouraged him to take art and design classes.  Someone once told him that if he liked to build Legos that he might be an architect someday.  If you talk to my son, he has no desire to build houses or skyscrapers.  He only uses those Lego instructions once and then he builds his own designs that are way better than what came in the box. He's a designer.

 I asked him to look around the room and tell me one thing that someone didn't design.  He was at least slightly amused. In my head I would have said he was amazed by my brilliance and perspective. I shared that even a company like Johnson and Johnson that makes soap might need a designer.  He thought that was crazy. I said, "why does soap have to be shaped in a boring block?" Why couldn't he design a soap that fit the inside of your hand so when you picked it up, it didn't slip out and land on your toe in the shower? We went on to think about how much more you could charge for cool soap that would really get someone's attention in the store. Now my boy is thinking about design skills, not just working for Lego. At least I like to think he is. (Note to self: that one conversation had more impact on me than him, remind him 423 more times.)

What skills do you use in your current job that are just a piece of your job title?  Hello SAHM's (Stay at Home Mom's) once junior is off to college, if you want to think about a career, what are the skills that you enjoyed most about being a SAHM? Organization, negotiation, relationship building, you've got more skills than most in corporate america.  Name them, claim them and you could get paid to use them, after you raise the next Nobel Peace Prize winner and have some time on your hands.

I have friends that are stuck in jobs they are not all that excited about or just plain can't stand.  It's always an interesting conversation when they realize they don't have to stay in the same industry or in the same occupation, take the skills that you are good at AND enjoy.  Market those, use those, that's when work gets interesting. I've also found, I make a ton more money doing the stuff I'm good at and I enjoy.

Those are the first two lessons I've shared with the boy in my Life Prep101 class.  I'm not sure he even knows he's signed up for this class.  I'll keep you posted if he shows up ready for the quiz next week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I don't do casseroles.

In honor of the movie Motherhood, Jill at Scary Mommy is having a contest to find real moms, like the one in the movie. Motherhood is not for wimps. I am the Mom in my little "hood". Some days, you should be scared to cross into my 'hood'. It's not always a safe place.

You know what scares me? Those moms that show up for the school meetings with their color coded folders and their kids dressed from a Gymboree ad looking over at me with 'that look'.  I've concluded that those are the scariest moms because they are living the lie.  No one has time for all that 'let's show up looking like the perfect family' crap.

A real scary mom forgets half the meetings and cusses about the ones she decides she has to go to and then hopes no one asks her to chair a meeting or bring snacks for God's sake.

I remember when one of my kids was in preschool and insisted on wearing shorts on one of the first days we had frost on the ground.  I was going to be late for work and decided not to take on that battle. So, off we went to school with shorts and a winter coat.  The daycare lady looked at me like she was going to speed dial family services as soon as I left.  I smiled and said, "Well, when she freezes her cute little buns off today on the playground, she won't ask to wear shorts tomorrow." Inside I wanted to finish that by sticking my tongue out and saying, "na, na, na, na, na" I did refrain from that part.  Scary Mom's keep it real. Life really is about making choices and trades. We might as well learn that early.

Scary Moms learn to balance their tyrades with real apologies and the real scoop on how hard it is to keep it all together.  A few of the mom's in my area made a pact. If one kid gets invited to a sleepover, we have permission to call and pawn the other off with anyone we can find, to create a date night, or a drink too much on the deck night.  We're not the kind of moms that promise to bring casseroles when you're sick. Hell, we can barely keep food on our own table that doesn't come from a greasy high school kid through our car window.  We're not making you a casserole because you've got the sniffles, suck it up and have a margarita. For that, I'll bring chips and salsa and gladly join you.

Scary Moms don't feel guilty about the time they take for themselves.  We spritz on some perfume and our cute boots and go out to meet our friends twice a year, without a glance over our shoulder, just a "Later Gators, I'm outta here, good luck finding some dinner!" Then we crank up the Pearl Jam all the way to the bar, some in mini vans, some with mom jeans. For a few minutes, we're still the cool chic and in our imagination our ass still looks great in those jeans.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Did you see that?

I'd say the chances of me receiving a Parent of the Year Award are about as likely as me getting the Heisman Trophy.  I'm not even in the running. I am a pretty good apologizer and a good back up planner. I mess things up, pretty regularly. We have a therapy fund instead of a college fund. 

I'm not all that consistent. Some days it's all, "NO EATING IN THE LIVING ROOM!" Then later that week, "Ok, kids, mommy brought home pizza, gather in the living room and let's eat and watch Survivor!"  Yea, no Mom of the Year award for me.

There are a couple of things I am proud of and I work at to be consistent.  I work really hard to help my kids, "see". Yes, my son has glasses, but that's not where I'm going with this.

A few places this 'see' thing plays out.

Try and "see" things from the others point of view. Everyone has a story. If my son would come home talking about how some kid had been a jerk on the bus, I'd remind him that maybe his parents are jerks and the kid is really just hurting and looking for attention.

What you go looking for, that's what you're likely to find.  Go looking for trouble, yep, there it is.  Go looking for the good stuff, yep, there it is.  Don't wallow in the crud, look for something that doesn't stink about the situation if you can. When the kids were home with the flu a few weeks ago, it was good to at least slow down and spend some time together, even if it was in a Motrin cloud.

Take the time to see the small stuff. The beautiful stuff. Notice. Sunday night, I made everyone stop their SpongeBob, their Matchbox infatuation and their football game to come to the front window.  There was the most beautiful sunset ever.  It had to be seen!

I'm proud that some of my "see coaching" is starting to stick.  Way better than, clean out your backpack or brush your teeth. Just the other day I was going off on some tirade and my son said, "Gee Mom, that's not a very positive way to look at that." Love it when it gets thrown back at you!

I want my kids to see, to notice, to be present.  I raced through several years of my life. I realize that getting there first isn't as cool as stopping at the rest stops and taking pictures along the way.  Taking the time to really See Rock City. Not just buzz by on the interstate.

And last week while walking through the woods, the girl who is 8, took this shot with her new pink camera.

Because often, the best view to really 'see' is the one looking up.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hitch a Ride Out of Sucksville

Ever been to Sucksville? Yea, me too.  Right now I have a wave of friends who are there now or have seen the signs, Sucksville next stop. Some of their situations are physical, some are financial, some are spiritual and they allI suck. I love and care about all of these people.  I started to craft an email to one of them after we talked today and I thought, Hey, I bet other people have situations that suck, maybe this should be a blog post.
This is sort of a summary of my experiences that I've written about in Lessons from the Recession. They're the things that have gotten me out of other sucky situations too. 

So here goes, the first 7 steps to Hitch a Ride Out of Sucksville.

1. No wallowing. Yes, the situation sucks. No need to wallow, whine, whimper. 

Ok, that's unrealistic, you get a day.  One day to wail like a baby and get it out of your system.  Do it now and get it over with because we've got work to do.

2. Put on your Man Pants. Or your Big Girl pants, whichever works for you.  It's likely going to take some strength to get you on the other side of the suckiness.  Find it. Don't ask someone else to give it to you. This isn't a time to look to your husband, your brother, your mother to give you the strength. Find it in yourself.  You've got it, God gave it to you.  I promise you it's in there.  It may be buried under some stuff but it's there. Time to declutter and find it.

Let me clarify, this doesn't mean to completely go it alone, we'll get to that in #  5 and # 7  .

3. Decide.  There's a ton of power in decision.  Be careful about what you decide.  There's two paths in decision. You can decide that this is going to continue to suck. Or you can decide to deal with it and get to a better spot. You can start by deciding not to whine.  You can decide to take on the cancer treatments, decide to find a financial planner and get debt free.  You know what sucks about your life, now decide what you want to focus on.  I can absolutely guarantee that if you decide to focus on the problem it will get bigger.  If you decide to focus on the solution, it will get better.  This isn't for wimps. Decision is a big deal.

4. Grab a pen, or a crayon, or that ugly eyeliner you bought on sale.  This section comes right out of Michael Losier's book, Law of Attraction.     I don't know Mike and I certainly didn't get paid to refer his book, not that I'd be opposed to that if he calls.  I have used this book and it's made a huge difference.  The Dummies version is this, quit focusing on what you don't want, with your mind, and your words. Start to obsess about what you do want. Write this stuff down! You can read the book to get the rest. It's a quick read with some "workbooky" kind of stuff.

5. Feed yourself well.  Got to feed yourself with the right nutrition, relation and information.

Nutrition:  I'm a huge fan of a great glass of wine or a mean margarita, just be careful.  You know where I'm going with this right? If you're already feeling sucky, the poor pitful me can be waiting at the bottom of that glass or bag of chips.

Relation:  They say you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  Take some inventory of what that math equation looks like for you.  You may need a tutor or two to step in right now.  Look around that small circle, if all you see is Whiney Wilma and Negative Nelly, time to move up the relational food chain a bit.  You don't need 'poor baby' friends right now.  You need a swat team to keep you focused on strength and solution.

Information:  Saddle up some good inspirational stuff beside your US Weekly on the nightstand. Feed your heart and your brain with stuff that helps.  The size of J Lo's butt is interesting but not helpful right now.

6. Lessons in the Suckage. You don't learn much when things are all sun shine and roses.  You learn when the thorn pricks you through your pink gardening gloves.  You learn when things suck.  The sooner you go looking for the lesson, the sooner you can move past it to the good stuff, then you're better equiped for what happens next. 

7. Guess who the Teacher is?  Yea, you knew we'd get here right?  The Big Man Upstairs has been watching you stumble around like a 3 legged blind dog and He's just waiting on you to acknowledge that He's really calling the shots. 

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute...(insert sound of brakes grinding to a halt and tires screeching) 

You might be thinking something like this.....

I thought I was putting on my Big Girl Pants and then Planning and Deciding, I thought this was about ME!

Now you're going all God on me. 

Yea.  I am.

Last time I checked, you weren't doing so hot on this little issue that sucks.  You need a Father, a Keeper, a Teacher.  Don't be too proud to pray.  He's got the road map to get you out of Sucksville, as long as you aren't too proud to ask for directions. 

Look, I'm no Prayer Popstar.  I don't have a degree from Prayer School International.  I'm sure there are some classes and books on how to do it "right".  I don't think that's the point.  Just do it. 

Maybe start with something like this...
Dear Lord, this sucks, please help me out of Sucksville.

Do that for a couple of days until you get more comfortable and then move to something like this...

Hey, I'm sorry it's been awhile since I gave you a jingle.  I know you've been outside my door the whole time like a stalker waiting for me to wake up.  Thanks for waiting. Wanna grab some coffee and chat?

And then maybe something like this....

Ok, ok, I get it, you're the driver, I'm the passenger. Now, can we please find a way out of Sucksville?
I promise not to reach over and grab the wheel while you drive anymore.  And, could you step on it, it's hot in here and I have to pee. 

These are just a few suggestions, you certainly have your own versions. 

As you can tell, I'm no expert at much, but I've been to Sucksville a couple of times and have found this is the smoothest way out.  You can take the windy, rocky, cliff route if you want, but I'm hitching a ride.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Revisiting 2007 - Reach for Me - for the girl's birthday

Tiny fingers around my giant one. The first time you reached for me. In that moment, I am sure. Sure of what I can provide. Sure you are safe, Sure you are loved.

Little fingers gripping mine. One step, two steps, get your balance. Almost there. Oh the freedom these steps will bring. Needing to reach for me. I am there. I am sure. You are safe. You are loved.

Always holding hands. Together we walk. You instantly reach for me. Uppie Mommy. Reaching for me. Always reaching, knowing, trusting. I am there. I am sure. You are safe, you are loved.

You run, you play, you spin, you laugh. Then you return and you reach for me.

We are walking, the street is near, we’re talking and walking, instinct, you reach….. put your still tiny hand in mine. For you it is a habit, for me it is electric. That feeling of you, trusting me, needing me, holding my hand.

My mind races. When will the moment come when you no longer reach for me at this street, any street? I swallow hard, you look up, you smile, I smile.

You bring me beautiful crayon masterpieces of hearts and flowers and love. These are pictures of you and me, holding hands. This is who we are, reaching.

Tonight you label the picture as you always do, then you stop, you mark it out, and make a monumental change. Mommy to Mom. I ask..... You say, because I’m a big girl now. I swallow hard. Yes you are.

We walk to the car, we get to the street, I hold my breath. Will she? She does. She reaches for me. Thank you Lord.

How do I keep you reaching…..reaching…..reaching?

Monday, September 28, 2009

My First Day as June Cleaver

If you read my post yesterday, the challenges of parenting kicked me in the 'behind'. Yesterday I would have said ass, but today I became June Cleaver.

Yes, today is the day I decided to try and do it all right, or at least a heckuvalot better than I have been.

The morning started out like most mornings. I didn't go all out with a full on hot breakfast or anything. Honestly, pancakes are basically cake smothered with corn syrup so I wasn't feeling bad about the cereal they usually have. It's not even sugar covered chocolate smacks. It has fiber and everything.

Around noon I decided we needed a hot meal to gather round on this blustery fall day. So ladies and gentlemen, I busted out the ....... wait for it......... crock pot. Yes, siree bob. I'm a crockpot cooker.

fter browning, chopping and hydrating the steak and potatoes, I went back to my office knowing that there would be a warm family moment waiting for us all tonight.

Then my Ward called and said he forgot to tell me he was helping his friend move tonight. Gee, Wally, that's a shame your father can't make it for dinner.

Yesterday I would have said, "Are you frickin' kidding me?!!!" Maybe frickin' maybe not.

So, I strolled on through my 1958 moment wishing I had a full skirt and a girdle.(NOT!)

Just before the boy was due home, I took my computer downstairs so I'd be his little greeting committee. We chatted about his day and then he retreated to his room, otherwise known as Legoland.

Here comes the girl. I turn the TV off the Oprah, Mackenzie Phillips, drugs and sex with her father episode that I had Tivo'd. I'd like to think I would have done that yesterday before my June transformation.

Normally, she would do her homework and then ask to watch TV. Instead, we went TV free.

See that? Check me out.

Old dog. New Tricks, yea baby.

At 5:15, I put dinner on the table. I'm not sure if that means I'm a good mom or a senior citizen. Kids were a little freaked out but it certainly kept them from consumming a pantry full of snacks before dinner. We ate dinner, sans Ward.

The boy said, "Why are we having a family dinner without dad?" I tried not to hear the disappointment in his voice. Dinner without dad typically means pizza rolls at the counter. Not tonight boys and girls, and if you're real good and eat all your vegetables maybe we'll have dessert. (Dear Lord, I'm not sure I can keep this up.)

After dinner, the girl wrote notes and pictures in her new journal which gave us some time to talk without those irritating Zach and Cody characters with their bad acting. We revisited some of the mom and daughter conversation from this weekend much to her dismay. See, I can reinforce the rules. I'm getting good at this parenting thing. Day one of transformation going well.

After dinner, (at 6:15!), we decide to watch some TV together while we finish off the chocolate cake from the girl's birthday. Do you know how hard it is to find a decent TV show with basic cable that doesn't have sex, drugs, rock n roll or teenagers with their bellies hanging out? She was a little freaked when we spun right by Hannah and Zoey in all of their teen angst and pregnancy and finally landed on........ wait for it ......... Family Fued.

Are you kidding me?????????????????/

Is that really the only show on basic cable that we could find? Yes, it was.

Finally, we found a cooking competition with sugar sculptures that was entertainment for all.

Now it's 8:00 and the little angels are heading up to bed to brush their teeth, get in their jammies, and read before 9:00 lights out. I'll head up shortly to snuggle them in and hear about the book they're reading and give them a little lovey dovey snuggly wuggly. (I'm not really capable of snuggly wuggly but it sounded like something June would do)

Confessions of the new June me, Day 1:

I did scream twice. Okay three times.

1. Chocolate on the couch incident
2. Slamming doors while giggling and brushing teeth.
You see, my friend Jen lost two fingers when a cousin was giggling and slammed a door on her hand so I have some fear and phobia that warranted it.
3. Still giggling - (obviously not totally transformed or giggling wouldn't be grounds for Mommy Dearest to come out. Work with me, it's day one.)

So, here's the summary of Day 1 transformation.
I have no desire to eat dinner in the middle of the afternoon or eat stewed meat all that often. I do think there's some improvement in how much we talk and what TV shows are acceptable. I guess I'm doing okay at this mom thing.

Maybe I'll find a hipper version of June Cleaver with cute boots and a killer haircut and still say crap once in awhile without anyone ending up in Juvie.

I'm not Prepared

The parenting punch hit me right in the gut this weekend. The true reality of how darned hard it is to raise good kids hit me in my heart, my head and my gut. While we're busy cooking, cleaning, working and folding socks, kids are growing and learning and making decisions. Some right, some not so right. If we're not paying attention, things are going to get interesting. I wish I could hit a pause button on my kids once in awhile and just breath.

I've never been one of those moms that pureed organic babyfood or only allowed them to watch the science channel. I've always believed in keeping things balanced and fairly normal. Of course my mom let me eat cake for breakfast so maybe my idea of normal is a little wacked.

We live in small town USA in the middle of the midwest and still things are hard.

Should they watch this TV show?

Should they ride the bus and listen to what the older kids are saying and teaching them?

I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.

I had a chat with my girl and her BFF this weekend about listening to your gut. They are both on the fringe of being 8 and they're already being exposed to some things that I'm not ready for.

I asked them if they ever have that funny feeling in their gut. The one that kinda feels like they are doing the wrong thing. I told them, that is God's way of taking care of them when their Mom and Dad isn't around. The funny feeling is God saying, "come on, you don't want to go there."

I also reminded them that if one of their friends says, "come on, we won't get caught." That's a sure sign that they are in some dangerous territory and the best bet is to get out of that situation. And finally, never to be the one saying, "Come on, we won't get caught, because they are taking their friends down with them."

I feel desperate to prepare them to make good decisions and understand about their choices and consequences, yet I'm not sure any of what I do or say is right.

I'm praying and listening to my gut.

I think.

Yet, when I think critically about it, I know there is a ton I could do better.

I put my parent radar on high alert this weekend and I don't think I'll come down until they're picking and paying for my nursing home.

Crap, this job scares me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Twitter - using Tweets - in my own little Twitterverse. Sure, go ahead, judge me, or applaud me, depending what side of the Twitterfence you sit on. (Some of you are wondering what Twitter even is, we'll talk later.)

I started following this young polish girl from Italy on Twitter. I accidentally stumbled on her profile. It was her picture that stopped me immediately. Why you ask?

Because she was simple. Beautiful in her simplicity. She was plain and she was sporting her plain beautifully. Maybe it was the plainness 'at her age' that was such a startling contrast. With the Hannahs, Taylors, and other teen queens trying to out sparkle and outshine each other, it was refreshing and rejuvenating to see this beautiful plain young girl.

Then I started reading her Tweets. She's a normal teenager, the music she likes and teen stars she follows. What I love most is her Tweets. "BBQ tonight with Mom and Dad." or " going for a walk with my sister and her boyfriend" or "we ate plums today - yum" "Playing cards." One of my favorites, "Dad coming home today. So happy."

Simple. Beautiful. Simple.

Why on this earth is a 43 year old wife, mother of 2, successful consultant, aspiring writer, following a young girl that "Tweets about plums"?

Simple. Beautiful. Simple.

These messages are such a stark contrast from all of the other messages trying to convince me, sell me, inspire me, entertain me, aggravate me. When I see her simple beauty and read about her simple life, I pause for a moment and remind myself of the absolute beauty in the simplicity.

So why don't we all pause for a moment, cut out half the crap we're doing, thinking, buying, wearing, and be.....

Simple. Beautiful. Simple.

If you decide to do this, send me a Tweet. @rebeccahession

I'll follow you too.

This isn't a polish girl living in Italy.
This is my girl that I'm working to keep Simple. Beautiful. Simple.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Just a little funk

Oh Yea, the blog, you still here?

Helloooo, you ever gonna write another post?

I know that's probably how you feel. So many great followers and me not responding to you. (By the way, my kids and husband likely feel this way sometimes too.)

Here's the scoop. I think about this blog every day. (Obsess much?) I'd like to blame my new Twitter addiction on the lack of post but that seems lame and completely contrary to my approach up to this point so I guess I'll tell the truth.

Life is still hard. But not the OMG tragedy hard, the daily stuff of life hard.

Will we have enough to pay the bills, I wish I could afford gymnastics for the girl, guitar lessons for the boy, why do we still bicker and fight after all of the blessings we've been given, no we can't join you for dinner because we can't afford a babysitter, dang I miss Lisa who always kept my house clean and I miss clean toilets and less dog hair, why did you order pizza when we still don't have any money? That kind of day in and day out hard.

Yes, all of the Lessons from the Recession still apply. Faith still rocks the house and my guy has a job. It's one of those "in the process of growing a paycheck" kind of jobs. Remember, the cool one he chose over the boring one with a paycheck? (Still 1000% sure he made the right decision, by the way) So, yes, he's been given a means, (Thanks again, Lord)now the hard work of building a business fills his days. So he's still searching, now he's searching for clients.

Which reminds me, you got any leads? Small to mid size companies please apply here:, he's standing by to take your call. If you want to just be nosy about this business without really talking to anyone go here:
(FYI, that guy is not "my guy" just "some guy" that has a job pretending like he has a job.)

That was the commercial break portion of this program. You know there's no free lunch.

OK, so I think this is part of the deal, and quite frankly why I've been in a little of a funk.

It's kinda like postpartum depression, or the day after Christmas. You pump up the jams to get you rallied around this great event and then when it's starting to fade or change or be over, you realize that there's still so much more mountain to climb. Or wrapping paper to clean up or diapers to change. The big 'ta da' of accepting the job is over, all that's left is work and life.

And, while most people love a big event, it's hard to keep folks engaged over the long term. Me, you, the tons of people I reach out to for prayers. After awhile I'm afraid they think, "Is that still you out there asking for my prayers? Can't we move on to another tragedy and another more exciting cause. Don't some African kids need water or shoes, enough about that job thing."

And who isn't tired of "recession" topics? Maybe the benefit of the MJ and Farrah Faucet deaths is the media can get on to something new and give this economy a chance to recover.

So... while I'm digging my circle of friends, my new obsession is authentic relationships.

Remember my last post (a bazillion weeks ago) about how cool it was that so many people rallied around to pray for us and support us? I still dig that. Please don't stop doing that.

Now I'm wondering, who would I "Stand in for God" for. Who would stand in for me? I'm thinking about this because yesterday's church was about authentic relationships. Who would hold you up or kick you in the pants when you need it, or as Pastor Dave Rod says, "stand in for God" in your life? Good question, huh? It's one thing to read the blog, make comments (which I live for by the way) and another to stop what you are doing and drive up to some one's house and stand ready to serve.

I was reading this blog about a girl that's been in a car accident and has a brain injury and how she's really found out who her friends are. I was so frustrated. I looked to see if I could find where she lived, it's DC unfortunately, because I wanted to get in my car and drive to her house and say, I'll help you. She has a ton of followers to her blog but couldn't get, what she thought were her friends, to come and walk her dogs while she was recovering. Authentic Relationships. If Ali Holden wants to hook up and be friends, from reading her blog, I think I'd do it. But what friends do I have here in hickville that need me now that I'm not responding to? I've already thought of one and I made some changes to my schedule to fix that.

So, dear friends, family, strangers, blogger enthusiasts, we are alive and well and still eating generic cheese and drinking Two Buck Chuck as we get on with the journey called, "our lives."

I'll leave you with this classic tune with a loose connection to my blog only because it's called "Faithfully" - mostly because I love cheesy rock ballads and because Tips4Blogging followed me on Twitter and was kind enough to read my blog and give me feedback that I need more pics and videos, so I'm responding.

Now, go and find an authentic relationship and put some comments on my blog. Peace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How cool is that?

It occurred to me today that it would be crazy to go another day without dedicating a post to all of those that have prayed for us, networked with us, cared about us, bought a meal for us, bought a few beers for us, and truly loved us through this difficult time. It's been interesting to see those that have risen from the crowd with heartfelt care and concern that before this, had only been casual acquaintances. And of course, for the die hard friends, they've seen us through all kinds of crazy but this one was a little more dicey for sure.

As people, we're meant to gather. In these busy times, sometimes we get distracted and isolated. Technology has made this gathering possible during our daily chaos. Without Facebook, Twitter, email and text, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to feel the love and prayers from so many. We would have remained home alone and more than a little afraid. With the ability to reach out, we created a circle. We watched so many step up and offer and ask to be a part of our circle. We saw them join hands with us and with each other. We heard and felt them pray for us and raise us up. When we gather around a cause it's electric.

We must always remember that nothing can be accomplished alone. If we continue to nurture and feed this wonderful circle it will serve us well and give us the chance to serve back to your needs.

We must fight our counter intuitive nature to retreat during times of challenge and change. Helping each other actually feeds us, changes us, helps us to grow, thrive and be the community God built us to be.

Thank you. Thanks to those that simply read this blog and pray for us, those that email to check on us, those that bring great food and wine over and dine with us, those that continue to help my guy build his business with referrals and networking. To all of you, we say thanks from our heart. We know God sent you to us. How cool is that?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Freaky Flashback

As I looked through some archived posts thinking about my next addition to Lessons from the Recession, I went all the way back to something I wrote in 2005 before I knew what a blog was and before I knew a recession was in our future. I gotta tell you, I was a little freaked out.

I went back and read it again. And then one more time, shocked and amazed at how much from this piece played out for our family over the last year, 4 years after I wrote it. Proving once again that He's in charge and He's preparing us and loving us for whatever is in our future. We must learn to pause, shhhh, listen.

I believe - Sept 2005
What do we believe?
What do I believe?
I believe that being honest with others is a lot easier than being honest with yourself.
I believe that out of tragedy, God will prevail.
I believe that it sometimes takes a tragedy to set things right again.
I believe that in times of tragedy we find our strength, we find our fear, and we find each other.
I believe that our emotions are our best friend and our worst enemy.
I believe that most people are inherently good and we often screw each other up unintentionally.
I believe that if you watch the things you don’t like in your children, you can trace it back to what you don’t like in yourself.
I believe that understanding change is a whole lot easier than changing.
I believe that if we looked in the mirror more and at each other less, things would get a lot easier.
I believe that the more you know and the more you have, the harder it is to find the things that matter most.
I believe that our deepest pain can teach us the most if we listen to it and try to understand.
I believe that being a parent is the hardest job I’ve ever had.
I believe that marriage starts out as an art and later requires more science and a respect for both.
I believe that in the absence of purpose, the soul begins to spoil.
I believe that there is a line we cross when we finally understand that our parents don’t know everything and crossing that line frees us, changes us, and scares us.
I believe the trees are more interesting and beautiful in the winter when we can see their architecture and their soul.
I believe people are more interesting and beautiful when we can see their architecture and their soul. Unfortunately, we don’t always show it until we are in pain and vulnerable with our leaves and covering stripped away.
What do you believe?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Faith rewarded

I've spent weeks thinking about how to write this post. Mostly I've spent weeks trying to figure out how to best describe the feelings associated with the final days of my guys decision on his job. If you remember, he had the polar opposites on the table, Big Fortune 500, big salary job or the tech start up.

There were deadlines and decisions that needed to be made. Pressure and fear about making the right decision. With the tight timelines came the fear of spending enough time praying for guidance in this huge decision and always being sure that He was leading. Fourteen months of searching for the job only to realize that deciding on the job was more agonizing than the search itself.

With another push from the big company to interview again, gave us time and space, and some clarity that actually looked like muddy water.

When he finally accepted the start up, our hearts were sure, but our brains were scared.

My guy said, "Do you mean I'm turning down a huge salary to take a risk on a start up?" Partly asking himself and partly seeking approval and reassurance. I replied, "Yea, I think you are."

We walked around in a bit of a daze. Afraid to celebrate that he had a job. What if it was the wrong decision?

It felt a bit like accepting that meeting request on Outlook as 'tentative'. Not really completely sure of anything. Mostly exhausted from the uncertainty.

Then came Sunday.

We rose for church like many Sunday's before.

I was anxious to be in the presence of my Lord and Savior. I longed to feel safe in His presence. I really wanted to escape the reality of uncertainty.

We sat in our usual section. I sat anticipating the music to swallow me up if only for a moment or two. Then there it was. The message. The message was on ........ FAITH.

My heart melted and I had a rush of emotions that had me wanting to laugh and cry all at the same time.

I had this vision and true feeling as if I was sitting beside my Father and he was putting his arm around me, around us, saying, "It's OK. You've done good and it's going to be OK."

For the first time in fourteen months really, I exhaled. I allowed myself to lay my head on His shoulder and I sobbed. I sobbed with love and faith and understanding. Understanding for the first time in my 43 years of what faith really means... is... stands for. The kind of faith that you truly don't know the answer and you get up and keep moving forward anyway.

Faith in what you can't see.

At the end of the service our pastor asked all of those that were faced with a challenge that required pure faith or those that had just made a decision on faith to stand and allow him to pray for them. (Is He good or what?) In that moment I had this picture of our Lord reaching out to my guy in a real man's hand shake. The kind that embraces with both hands firmly. A sign of love and mutual respect that says, "Good job, I'm proud of you, my Son. You've made a good decision and I will continue to love and care for you and your family. You're a good man."

He is a good man. He's my guy and he has a career to be proud of.

No paycheck yet.

For that we continue to have FAITH. And generic crackers, bluegill and Crazy 8.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And the answer is .....

As I wrote last, my guy has two opportunities on the table. Two opportunities that really couldn't be more different.
The start up tech company with a brilliant value proposition and trustworthy partners starting from scratch,

or the Fortune 500 base plus commission Corporate America route.

I voted tech start up. I believe this is suited to his entrepreneurial spirit. He has brilliant out-of-the-box ideas that he needs to use.

He agonizes over turning down a salary that will give us some immediate financial relief.

I say, hey, we're broke already, let's ride it out!

Really, here's the metaphor......

You know the young bride that is so caught up in planning her wedding and puts everything into the flowers, the dresses, oh no, what about the seating chart! That's really about accepting the offer.

What the bride should be thinking about is, "Do I want to wake up beside this guy for the rest of my life?" That's the work that needs to be done once the offer is accepted.

Take the offer itself off the table. Just concentrate on 'the work'. Which job do you want to get up to every single day? Which one would feed you most, spiritually, intellectually, and of course financially but not just financially. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to making big money. Safe and quick may be bigger today, but risk and reward could be more lucrative long term.

And, I'm a big fan of safety. My kids wear life jackets and they wear sunscreen. I'm a safety girl. But, I don't want my guy to be so concerned about our financial safety that he misses the opportunity to go running off the end of the dock arms flailing into a giant cannonball that feels so great you forget where you are and can't wait to get up the ladder to do it again and again every day.

As I've mentioned before, we're a prayful bunch. I gave my two cents now we're praying about it every day until the final answer needs to be given.

Either way, I'd much rather spend my days wondering WHICH job he'll take!

Stay tuned for more, Lessons from the Recession.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Off-Ramp Ahead

Last Friday was a really exciting and yet odd kind of day. As a result of this blog, I was a guest writer for the Wall Street Journal online edition blog titled, Laid Off and Looking. That was a huge honor to have my writing published. On that same day, my guy had conversations with not one but TWO opportunities. Even crazier, while he was on the phone with one of the opportunities, the other one was beeping in on the other line! How crazy is that!

Fourteen months of waiting, wondering, and more worrying more than we care to admit, and then two calls at the exact same time! Before someone wants to call the unemployment police, (since that seems to be the "MO" of the Wall Street Journal readers which clearly missed the point, I'll be clear that these calls were not actual job offers! ) Geez, can you not just get excited and talk about these things without people going to the dark side?

After this long nightmare, one would think that this would be cause for joy and celebration. Persistence was paying off. It didn't really happen that way. I would call us, "cautiously optimistic," in our style. I'm hoping one of the lessons that come from this journey is to remain well grounded and grateful and not always seeking more.

It was a Friday night like most have been lately, the girl had a friend over and they were running through the house, we were scrounging up food from the pantry which looked more like Old Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and settling in for the night. I looked at my guy and said, "so, you could have a job real soon huh?" We smiled and just looked at each other afraid to move and rattle this moment and find that we may have just dreamed it. Checking each other's expressions to make sure it was real.

Since then, conversations have progressed with both companies and he'll likely be starting a new role soon. He's leaning toward an opportunity that is contract sales with a wonderful start up which has huge opportunities but obviously doesn't start out with a base salary. More than arriving at a destination, we're on the off ramp of one really bumpy road slowly making our way to another. A road that we hope is way more smooth and scenic.

The reality is, we have a lot of making up to do and there's no room for Super Target just yet. The biggest mistake we could make is to slip back into spending money we don't need to spend and not truly recovering. Not to mention, the economy isn't any better than it was a few months ago. We can't lull ourselves into a false sense of security. That would be a bad idea. The truth is, we're both in sales and selling is way harder today. Often we work twice as hard to make half as much.

Knowing that intellectually, and practicing it, are so different. Just knowing that there is some relief on the way, I find myself stopping at Subway to grab dinner. I haven't been in a Subway for months. Stay strong darn it! It's like celebrating when we lose 5 pounds with a doughnut and french fries! (Not that I've ever done that.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yesterday was an Interview Day

Yesterday my guy had a phone interview. The sun shines brighter on interview day! (cue birds singing and sun beams)
Even MY days go better when my guy has an interview day. They bring hope.

Phone interviews don't require polishing your shoes, but they are still very cool days. They are cool because we are reminded that someone, besides those that live in our house, still believe we have skills, worth and promise.

We puff out our chests a bit on interview day and say, "Take that Mr. Recession, hundreds of people applied for this job and I got the phone interview!" We don't focus on the fact that the job wasn't exactly what we thought and it may not be a perfect fit. We focus on the feedback. Out of hundreds of resumes submitted to their website, only two people networked their way to the decision maker with persistance and focus. And who was one of those two?

Yes, fine people, that was my guy. (insert chest pounding sound)

We pray alot on interview day, of course. But I also dream of Target on interview day. On this particular interview day I was driving right past the SUPER Target. You know, Target with food and a Starbucks! Talk about the triple threat of cool in my book. Food, coffee and stuff I don't need that looks great and costs little - Oh how I love you SUPER Target. I'll be back some day.(snap out of your stuper, this isn't all about you)

Oh yea, back to the interview. So, It's not the perfect job but it's a connection. And there are some perfect jobs in that same company. We still need to impress, maybe he'll be referred, or start in the not so perfect job and wow em to the job he really wants. The company is still a good company. And most important the interviewer, "would be his boss guy", was a good guy. Big points for working for a good guy.

So, we go through the same routine, pour over the follow up letter, read it, edit it, read it, change it. Should he run to the post office (15 miles away) before the 4:30 deadline so he gets the hand written thank you out quickly or can it wait until tomorrow morning on the way to take the boy to band practice? Big decisions people, this is our mortgage we're talking about!

This time during the follow up letter we have a great conversation about the nature of sales today (remember I've got this consulting gig I do for a living so I'm rarely short on opinions or the latest article on trends) Anyway, it leads us to a great conversation and some new ideas for my guy. You see, interview day takes you to the next level. It has you thinking of things differently, adding new ideas to the mix. Interview day is a good day.

Interview day takes us to the next level. The next level of preparation and understanding of where we are meant to be and not to be.

Thank you interview day.

See you soon, SUPER Target.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

You gonna eat that?

I have a new obsession as a part of our lessons from the recession and I'm not sure it's a healthy one. It's just short of dumpster diving Thank God. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Had to put that disclaimer in just in case I build to that over time.

Obviously, with the savings account dwindling, eating out is not on our list of the savings plan. Now.....we're both pretty good cooks at our house and there's no shortage of decent meals. Especially since we've seen the light on the quality of most generic foods. We can whip up a mean chicken pesto or the best cheeseburgers and homemade fries you've had at the best burger joint. The point is, we're not starving or lacking really.


There is this craving for restaurant food or at least food someone else bought and fixed. Which brings me to my new, let's call it a "hobby." Obsession is a pretty strong word and I fear my friends will stage an intervention if I go that far.

Let me give you some context. My job involves many meetings and presentations where my company or my clients pay big money to restaurants and hotels to provide sprawling displays of food. Often times I'm the speaker at these gigs so I'm not exactly an 'under the radar' part of this event.

I've been doing this job for some time and would rarely eat at those badass buffets because I was busy prepping and speaking and smoozing. However, now they've got my attention!

It started about 6 months ago in a well known Italian restaurant chain that has meeting rooms that we use frequently for marketing events. As I was wrapping up the presentation, for some reason, I looked over at how much food was left, food that we had paid big money for and I knew was going to get thrown away. Out of the blue I said, OK everyone, before you leave, grab a to- go box and take some great food to your colleagues that have manned the fort while you were here! And they did! And SO DID I!

That was the beginning. Where it all started.

I waited until everyone else had gone and the waitress said to me, do you want to take the rest. My mind started racing looking at the spread of fruit and muffins and bagels. Sure, I said.

She brought me one of those big metal catering trays and I proceeded to fill it with strawberries as big as my head and clusters of grapes that surely were from the Garden of Eden.

Then I filled a bag with bagels, muffins, sweet rolls.

I left not thinking about the clients I had served and how much business I had driven. I left excited about my fruit bounty and ready to share it with my crew at home. Gather round little ones, mama's coming home with a 'score'!

Sadly, two of the sweet rolls didn't make it home. I ate those in the car.

I brought the food in and went back into my bedroom to change. I came back and they were all gathered around the fruit bounty eating strawberries and grapes. Happy Happy Happy.

Once again, let me clarify. I buy fruit for my family. Lots of fruit. Fresh fruit. There's something special about free fruit that came from a "restaurant" (sound effect of angels singing and visual of the bright light shining down)

So, my friends, that was the beginning.

Now, I find myself scoping the buffet table before I think about the speech I'm about to give or the clients I'm going to meet. I guess its the hierarchy of needs at play.

My weirdest example of my hobby was when I had dinner with a couple of colleagues, including a new employee. This was our first meeting. We had a normal dinner and, with my new practice, I asked for the rest of mine to-go. My colleague was staying in a hotel and I was going home and she said, "would you like to take the rest of mine home too." Which means, maybe everyone is on to me. I must have that "you gonna eat that?" look and I don't even realize it. I said, "sure I'll take it." Remember the Lesson from the Recession about pride and ego. Leave em at home.

I brought home the bounty. Went in to change and came out to find my guy happily chowing down on his restaurant food. I came out, he looked up and said, Thanks for the salad. I had the moment where I had to decide if I was going to tell him the truth. I smiled and said, Hope you don't mind that was from my new colleague. I also assured him she didn't look like she had cooties or any sign of the pig flu. He hesitated mid-bite and looked at me. Just for a second. Then he smiled and said, "oh well". He's diggin' the new hobby too!

There's been other 'instances' of my 'hobby' but I'll skip to the most recent.

Last week I hosted a colleague of mine in a large event. Not just any colleague, this is a well known speaker, author, New York times best selling author, thought leader, pretty famous kind of guy. After the big event (that just had snacks) we went into a smaller room for a meeting with a top client with a table of hors d'oeuvres. Cheese, lots of cheese, good cheese, including brie, my weakness and bread, lots of bread, and these little asparagus thingies. The motherload!

I made myself an acceptable little plate to eat during the meeting. Then I tried to focus. I quickly realized that I wasn't going to have time to scoop up these top notch buffet left overs because my famous guy had to get the airport immediately following this meeting! AND I WAS HIS RIDE! My heart sunk. Here was a room full of people waiting to get autographs from the guy I get to spend the day and my career with and all I could think of was my disappointment with not bringing home the motherload. This mother was not going to score today. Sorry little asparagus you'll end up in the dumpster today. You win some bus-tub buffets and you lose some.

Just checked the schedule. I've got an event coming up in 10 days. Whew, a chance for redemption.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Swing and a Miss

This lesson from the recession goes out to all of those recruiters and hiring managers out there. Listen up, this is important.

Never forget that the job you are hiring for may be a project on your list, a check mark on your task list, I get it, you are busy. But to us, it's the means to pay the mortgage, can we afford the 11 yr old to be in band, can we afford a date night in the midst of this storm. For you a task......for us .....our life.

After months of networking two great opportunities finally started to progress. Both of them THE job not just a job. One with a large speaker manufacturer and another with a reputable company starting a green certification. These were two of the industries on my guy's hit list. Score! Two leads working in the right direction.

Both opportunities came from networking. First phone interview scheduled, check. Resume reviewed again, check.

First phone interview - done - went well.

Wait for response, wait, wait, wait.

The phone rings. We look at each other before answering. Every.... time.

Second phone interview scheduled. Exhale. Progress. Thank you God.

The day of the interview, even a phone interview, the energy in the house is palatable. Up early, on the treadmill, shower, have a good breakfast, be upbeat, be pleasant, bring your best self. You've studied the company, we've drilled on the possible questions. Ready, bring it.

Hang up the phone from interview. Call me at work to report. It went well. Exhale.

They schedule a face to face interview. Two weeks later. Two weeks feels like forever. It's been 3 weeks since the opportunity came in already. Two more weeks. It's still progress. Thank you God.

Face to face interview. Polish shoes. Should we buy new shoes? Are you going to wear that tie? Go buy a new shirt. And get a new tie while you're there. Do you want me to come with you. Call and get in for a quick haircut.

Honestly, is this an interview or prom!

We go over crazy interview stories. Make sure your car is clean in case he wants you to drive to lunch. Some people do that to see if you are neat and orderly.

Don't walk on the grass on the way in the door, one of my clients doesn't hire people that walk on the grass. (True statement, frightening)

We go over directions, at least 15 times. He leaves ridiculously early.

I call 3 times in the 3 hour ride to the interview to tell him he's great and I love him and not to forget what a rockstar he is. Who's more nervous? That's debatable.

He calls before he leaves the parking lot. Thank God because I've looked at my watch 100 times in the last 90 minutes.

He sounds great. Conversation went well. Really well. The job is way bigger than he thought but he's excited about this new division and really wants to be a part of it.

Three hour drive home. We rest easy tonight. Progress feels good.

He comes home and writes quality thank you notes that we pour over line by line.

Then we wait.

Luckily interview number two comes along quickly and provides a welcome distraction from the waiting.

Here we go again. This time my guy has been recommended from a previous client to this company. Wow! That's way better then submitting a resume on a job board.

Phone interview. Goes really well. I've not seen him this excited in awhile. He's more of a practical realist so to see him excited is really cool.

Another interview with HR. Again, we prep, plan, prioritize, pour over data, practice the answers, pray like crazy. Eight hours of prep for a 20 minute interview from a sheet of questions from a worksheet I'm guessing. Regardless, he does well. Next step.

VP of the division. Phone interview. Again, we go through the pain staking planning and prep. He calls me 10 minutes after the scheduled time for interview. I panic when I see his name come up on my phone. Did he miss it! Did they stand him up!

No, it was a 10 minute interview. The guy asks 2 questions, hears what he wants to hear and asks him to come in for the final face to face interview. The fourth interview for this position.

We're elated and a little miffed. The emotions of this roller coaster ride are exhausting and this guy only has 10 minutes to spend with someone he's bringing for a final interview?

Meanwhile, opportunity #1 hasn't responded to any follow up messages. Now you sit and guess and wonder how often you should check in to balance the "I'm interested", with "I'm a stalker" continuim. We review the interview together looking for clues of what is or isn't. Exhausted.

Opportunity #2, still progressing. All the prep, all the practice, this time with new shoes and a new tie.

Another 3 hour drive. He interviews, he calls. It went great. Now let me clarify what it means when my guy says it went great. This is a guy that can be sitting down for a fine meal in a five star restaurant and you can say, "how's your meal, honey." and he'll say, "It's ok. The steak isn't quite rare enough, and the potato would be better with some bacon, but it's good." Meanwhile I'm salivating over every bite. So, when my guy says it went great. We're talking KISS in the 70's great. The real deal.

I start dreaming of walking through Target with a Venti latte and buying something just because it's on sale, not because I need it. The good ole days. Maybe I'll get a pedicure, or a massage! What will it be like on that great day when the call comes and the smile spreads across his face in that little smirk and I hear him say, "I got it." We were this sure.

All the thank you's written, the appropriate follow up.

Two days, Five days, One week. He wakes up, it's been a week! He's frustrated. I remind him of the whirlwind of work in the life of the employed. I tell him I've had two clients have to call me twice this week because I'm so behind. I remind him that hiring this position is one of a hundred things these people need to get done. I remind him that most people are doing two people's job. I say, maybe they went on vacation right after the interview. Maybe they got hit by a bus. He's down. I'm down. Roller coaster. Exhausted.

Two weeks, almost three. Time for an intervention. Tough times call for tough measures. Not one follow up call from either place!

He sends out a message to Opportunity #2 offering to work on contract to prove himself and begin to research the territory and prepare a sales strategy. I read the email, it's good, really good. With this email he gets a response. They've put a hiring freeze on until the start of their new fiscal year.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! Could someone have called and let this guy.... this family know! Do you know how many calls from family and friends this guy has taken, did you hear yet, did you hear yet, did you hear yet?

He sends a similar message to Opportunity #1 offering to do research for the new division on a project contract basis. This one gets a response too. THE SAME THING, hiring freeze!

Now, opportunity #1 has their fiscal year ending in less than a month. We hold out hope. And we wait another month and a half. No word.

He reaches out again. They've hired the other candidate who had a little bit of stereo experience.

(hear the sound effect of air being let out of a balloon and spinning around the room)

Now, here's the lesson for you recruiters and hiring managers. Please remember that we are waiting by the phone like a 16 year old with a crush. We know you are busy. Please call us and keep us updated. If the person you interview isn't the right fit. Tell them. Tell them quickly. Tell them honestly. If the position is on hold, send an email, a text, smoke signals, keep us in the loop.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

THE Job or 'a job'

During this time of reflection and "now what do you want to be when you grow up", we had many discussions about the exciting option of switching industries and finding a career that he could really sink his teeth into. While job loss is a pain in the tush no matter how you slice it, we tried to look at the bright side of the possibilities.

There were some interesting thoughts, like turning the passion of pond building and fishing into a career. There were prototypes of fishing lures, and consulting companies for pond building, each with their own set of highs and lows.

All the while, competitors from his OLD industry ( read this with ego and disdain) were knocking on the door. In the beginning, I was a little, ok alot, cocky about it. No way was I going to let this guy get sucked into that rat hole again. Those people had chewed him up and spit him out and I was determined that he finally get to experience what I'm lucky enough to have, which is a job I really like, not just one I tolerate.

He would get offers and he'd come to me and say, "so what do you think?" I always said and really meant it, the choice was his. At one point, as the dialogue began to continue with an old competitor, I simply asked this question, "Ok, it's the first day of this new job and your alarm goes off. How will you feel? Will you jump up ready to take on the challenge with vigor and excitement? Or, will you hit the snooze and feel like you've settled and ultimately lost?"

He didn't answer. I never heard about that offer again. I guess he did really answer without saying a word.

Now remember, this is summer and the living is easy and the savings account is still big. Forecast ... optimism. Looking for a job is hard, looking for a job in this economy is harder, changing industries in this economy is brutal. It's much easier to focus your job search to a specific role within a specific industry. It's much more difficult to network when you are equipped with the all the skills and ability, the skies the limit, and wonder where the heck do you start.

We worked together and channeled his focus to areas of interest, his tag line is ....... I'm a sales professional with an engineer's mind. Pretty good, huh!

He targeted some specific industries like sustainable energy and audio/visual equipment manufacturers and tried to stir up some targeted networking.

All looked well and good and then the summer sun began to set, fall had come upon and the darker nights, led to darker days. The economy had gone from challenging to total crap and things began to look downright grim.

He had no job, and mine was getting harder. He was slipping and I was exhausted. Exhausted from trying to keep my sales and his spirits up. I remember sitting in our closet one night and just sinking to the floor and letting it rip. Tears, frustration, doubt, anger, all of it, right in the middle of a pile of dirty laundry where it belonged. I had spent months always sure things were on the right track and determined not to let him see me sweat and that night I wasn't sure of much, other than, I was tired, dog tired.

I started to question my coaching and cockiness about finding THE right job. Maybe, as a man, it was more important for him just to work, rather than do the right work. I questioned my motive and I prayed and prayed and prayed. I didn't want to be the one that led him down the wrong path. My intentions and desires for my guy were pure and true. Please God, don't let me screw this up.

We talked about it, he was getting antsy and now the offers from the old industry had subsided and there really wasn't much to talk about. Looking back, I'm glad, because there were some cold November rains that he would have jumped at any job that came along.

I went into problem solving mode, for the problem I felt like I helped to create. TIME FOR A PROJECT! When I say this most creatures in my house, including the dogs and cats, get nervous. I love a good project.

Remember where this all started with us moving into our dream house just months before he lost his job? Well, as luck would have it, we didn't finish the basement before we moved in. Now there's a project! He could wire, frame and drywall the basement! It didn't much matter that my guy had never drywalled before, he was smart, he'd figure it out!

More good news, the price of building materials are dirt cheap in a bad economy. Bingo, that's what we call a win win situation - cheap materials and free labor!

The winter of 08-09 will be remembered not as the depressing winter with no job, no no no - that will be remembered as the winter we saved a boatload of money, thousands and thousands of dollars by my smart and talented guy finishing the basement! Remember perspective that we talked about earlier? We never talked in terms of salary in those months, only talked about dollars saved.

This project bought us some time and some focus. The savings account is starting to look a little bent and broken but still glad we've held out for THE job and he didn't settle "YET" for "a job."

My good, crazy, spiritual friend sent us this during this time - I still cling to it -

God's Three Answers to Your Prayers:
1. YES!!!!!
2. Not yet...
3. I have something better in mind

Next up on Lessons from the Recession, "swing and a miss"