Family

When you’re fed up

When you’re finally fed up , I asked my husband, what do you do?

He looked at me mutely, knowing I had reached my boiling point.  I didn’t have an answer as I fired the question to the hubs and left our business quiet and frustrated.  It wasn’t until I walked through the aisles of the large wholesale grocer; the $0.88 cake boxes in the main display, that my answer arrived.

You feed.

I made my way through the produce aisles, noting the garlic from Gilroy, California.  Other grocery chains only carry imported garlic from China and my angst returned; knowing that cost drives our current economy.

It would be nice for the consumer to have the choice to purchase the cheaper garlic bulbs from overseas next to the garlic grown in my home state.  But most times these choices are made by higher powers in large corporations or political chambers.   I mull this over as a long time customer finally chose the larger profit margin, acknowledging they will be purchasing fasteners from overseas.

I grabbed four Betty Crocker cake boxes and threw them into my cart in various flavors; chosen specifically for their colors.  Red (red velvet), yellow, white and brown (chocolate) and a white frosting tub for good measure.  This was an impulse buy.

I had remembered my youngest son’s request to bake a cake for his sixth grade plate tectonics project; something that required time.  When my two older sons had to do this same project in sixth grade, foam globes from the craft store littered our kitchen table as they painted, cut and mounted the various strata layers of the Earth.  The youngest’s globe currently sat upon our dinner table, primed and ready to be painted.  The layered strata cake was not required.  It was one or the other.

This son’s voice penetrated through my anger; the one that reminded me that sometimes I don’t hear him.   He is lost among the older brothers whose problems seem to take precedence.  Why reinvent the wheel if the globes worked with the older sibs?  But his words came back to haunt me and I needed the distraction.

You never hear me.  It was the icing on the cake and so IN the cart the cake boxes went.

This was fortuitous.   Immediately upon entering my garage door, with my grocery bags, this youngest son sheepishly stood nearby.

“Mom, my project isn’t due on Thursday.  It’s due TOMORROW.”  

The cake mixer came out as he continued to prep and paint his foam globe.  When called to choose his cake layers he quizzically asked,  Why are we doing both?  To which I replied.

I heard you.

Fed up with the world, the very least I could do was feed my kids.  Not with junk food and cake..but with my time, and my bottled up energy.  I sometimes wonder why this is all worth it and it was as I watched my son painting his Earth project that I realized what my subconscious wanted me to do.

It’s love that makes the world go round.  It makes it all worth it.

It may not be perfect, ever.  But it’s the reason I wake up each and every morning…even lately when it’s something I don’t want to do.  I worry about our financial future for my family.  I worry about the direction our country is taking.  We are a balanced household, the hubs and I moderately on either side of the political fence.  I am a proponent of global economy but want things to be fair.

Everyone looks out for their bottom line.

Small business and customer service are becoming a thing of the past…transitioning into large, subsidized corporate profits with technological interfaces.  Customer service comes in the form of chat rooms and emails; not voice or face-to-face interaction.

Our globalization is allowing us to reach wide, but leaving a deficit in how to converse locally.

My sons sit with phones across from their friends with no words audibly spoken.  We are losing our ability to communicate up close and personal.

When the weeds took over our garden after a record winter of rain, our family had mandatory weeding time for an hour this past weekend.   The hubs and I noted after this physical, outdoor activity among gripes from our boys, that they animatedly returned to their computer screens and interacted with one another.  It’s easy to get lost in cyberspace, independently saving the free world or trading stocks and bonds.

With the ground cleared, our yard looked empty.  But removing the weeds made room for new growth.  A level playing field to start over.

Thankfully, our customer of fifteen years was not a sizable portion of our business bottom line.  But relationships and loyalties no longer reign in the climate we live in and we are cultivating future generations to forego these relations; to rely purely on statistics and numbers.

In the grocery store I see the choice to pay more for organic and/or made in the USA versus overseas.  I want to stretch my dollar, to make the fiscally sound choice.  But I grab the yellow squash from the produce home grown in my home state.  I will pay extra for the choice.

Why purchase the cheaper import produce that is flown on an airplane; that creates a larger carbon footprint in our world with the fuel it uses to get to my location?  I want my produce fresh, not gassed.

I ponder what my bottom line is.  I’ve been silently shadowing and sulking, not standing my ground.  I am finally fed up and need to make a choice and have a stance.

In choosing to feed my kids and family, fresh and locally sourced produce, I make my choice.  With the help of my sixth grader I bake for several hours, cooking dinner with my garlic from Gilroy and spinach from Salinas.  I buy strawberries from Oxnard, cauliflower from Santa Maria and beverage from Paso Robles.  My grass roots campaign is seemingly small but our business will be following the same path.

I am sowing seeds in my own garden.  I want quality relationships with my family, my community, our customers.

I carried the cake box into the sixth grade classroom this morning and told the teacher to please share with her thirty-two students.   She was surprised to learn my son submitted two projects.

When fed up with the world, I choose to feed the world instead.  For my sons.  For myself.  For the future.

 

 

 

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Family, Marriage, Work

spring cleaning through the years

I want someone to tell me how to get through the bad days.

  • When the hubs arrived at work he found our motorized gate broken.  Again.  Hours are spent dismantling the motor and eventually removing it.
  • When I drive into our parking lot I watch a woman dump clothes on our public easement.  I yell to her to pick-up her used clothes and she walks away.  I am left to put them in our trash bin.
  • The J-bolts from the platers are mottled and rejected.  It is when we question the quality that we discover they’ve also increased their price with new ownership.

It’s days like this when we feel the burden of small business.

Hours in labor spent maintaining our building and equipment.  Picking up other people’s messes.  Whether it’s used clothes, low quality plating or just unprofessional practices we are left to our own devices.  Most times we eat the cost.

  • At home I stare at the washing machine wondering why it won’t spin.  Again, the hubs spends time dismantling.
  • I walk into bedrooms with overfilled hampers because sons don’t understand to lift the lid to place the dirty clothes, inside the receptacle.  I yell to my sons to pick-up their clothes and they walk away.  “Okay, Mom,” is all I get and so I leave the mess.
  • I look at progress reports with grades that I cannot accept.  I question the quality of time my boys put into their studies since their primary responsibility is to do well in school.

I feel the burden of parenting tweens and teens.

After work I spend time maintaining our house and appliances.  I am cleaning up my family’s messes in the place that is supposed to be my sanctuary.  Whether it’s dirty laundry, dishes or irresponsible sons who make poor choices and don’t have their priorities straight, I feel the mental and emotional cost.

I am spent.  Financially.  Physically.  Mentally.  I tell my husband, I am done as we dejectedly sit across the desk at work.  He is too.

 

This past weekend, my father in-law (FIL)  requested the help of our eldest son with the upkeep of a car.  Eight hours were spent doing various things as the grandfather passed his car knowledge to his grandson. First he was under the hood learning about the parts of the motor.   Later I found myself stepping over my husband and son, under the car, as they discussed what to do with the oil pan while my FIL stood nearby supervising and instructing.  Finally, bemused, I pulled up a chair as I listened to the grandfather explaining to the grandson how to detail a car interior.

I found myself detailing my own car’s interior.  It had been untouched for years and as I scrubbed and emptied the Simple Green spray bottle, my seemingly random, disorganized thoughts formed together.

When you don’t do what you love or love what you do, it makes getting up in the morning that much harder.   It’s not realistic, sometimes, to love life.

There are days when I don’t even like the ones I’m supposed to love.

I wake up each morning wondering, What am I supposed to do?

I want someone to tell me the answers but really, I need to figure this one out for myself.   If someone else tells me what to do, it’s easy to not accept ownership; to blame others.

I scrubbed years of grease from my car’s upholstery and carpets.  I saw the cracks and tears, the mottled colors.  But my vehicle feels new.

I accept the scars and abuse my interior has endured; remembering how they got there.

…the time my youngest son thought my light gray leather interior was a drawing board and chose to write on our dashboard with Sharpie pen.

…the double phone charger at the bottom of the seat pocket, bought in Arizona outside the Grand Canyon, as the older boys constantly fought for the lone rear battery outlet.

…the indentations from the carseats all of my sons formerly sat in.

…the sticky markings on the car ceiling from the soda that exploded as we rose in altitude during a snowy Memorial day camping trip.

It took several hours to detail the inside of my car.   Normally I take care of the exterior, the big things that people see, and sweep things under the rug to deal with another day.   I have spent the least amount of time maintaining the interior.  Thankfully, my hubs handles most things under the hood which allows my car to run.

When I drive my SUV, on a daily basis, I don’t see the outside.  I live and breathe on the inside.  A lot of my time is spent behind the wheel commuting to work, shuttling kids to/from school.   My most meaningful conversations with my family occur within this car’s interior whether it be on short trips or long ones.

I was mistaken in thinking my house was my sanctuary.  The reality is, my happy place is in my car…windows down, music blaring as yellow lines blur in open spaces.  I love my solo commute to work but I also love people driving in my car with me to infinity, and beyond.

While reading the novel, The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney for our monthly book club, the line resonates.

You can make your surroundings as polished and empty as you like.  But it doesn’t really matter if you’re still messed up inside.  And that’s all anyone’s looking for really, isn’t it?  Someone to take care of the mess inside our heads?

I finally took ownership of it.  All of it.  It is time to repair, clean and maintain my mental interior.

In dealing with a sticky situation, in one of the organizations which I serve, I found myself seeking answers once again.  My goal is always transparency but the time has come for me to stand my ground, to stop having others tell me what to do based on past history.  To filter and sort my words.

I know what I need to do.  I trust my gut.  And so my boundaries are becoming defined as I mentally prepare for uncomfortable and awkward moments to do the right thing.  To handle the messy details.  To not sweep things under the rug to help someone save face for appearances’ sake.

I must deal with my mental interior and sift through the clutter and detritus.  To make things simple and wipe away at the years of neglect, accumulated gripes and pent-up frustrations.

I will let go of the idea that I must love what I do and shoulder the things life brings my way; to carry my own weight.

The reality of life is that there are many things we do not like to do, that must be done.  To consistently wake up each and every day with the goal of trying to be the best person that I can be.  And not just for me.

I strive to stop worrying about appearances and embrace the people whose relationships keep my cup full.  The ones who make me get out of bed every morning who need me; and I, them.  There will soon be a day where there will be no mess to pick up after (okay, maybe the hubs but someday, not even him).  There are days when nothing needs to be repaired and all things are pristine.

I gaze over to my grease covered hubs as he labors beneath the machine with our employee.  I don’t have to love what I’m doing every single minute of the day.  I can do without the tenant drama behind our building, the broken gates, the shoddy workmanship from vendors, the not-so-reliable appliances at home and my broken kitchen tile.

The accumulated daily grime, through the years, builds and it’s time to spring clean and make it like new.  Scars, flaws, head clutter and all.

Most days I don’t love what I do.  But I work alongside the hubs, the one I love.

It’s never really been about the money, the candy and roses.  It’s about going through the monotonous daily grind, through the years, with someone who loves me unconditionally and helps me take care of the mess inside my head.

I trust my heart.  I own this.

 

 

Family, joys of jazz, Marriage, Work

the big and little things

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This holiday season took me by surprise.  For some reason I was stuck in the month of October and ignored the Christmas displays in supermarkets.  In fact, I did not frequent brick and mortar establishments unless I absolutely had to.   It was only when I received notice that property taxes were due on December 10th, for both our home and business, that reality set in.

I wept when the checks came in the mail; grateful that one of our biggest business customers actually paid on time.  I don’t need an economics degree to see that we are not out-of-the-woods from a recession in a pre-election year; our vendors taking longer than the thirty days to pay.  Manufacturing is at the bottom of the totem pole to receive payment.   The months of  November and December are always our slowest and the mass marketing frenzy that marks the season was a reminder of how little our bank accounts had.

I lived day-by-day.  When people asked if I was ready for (any date in the future) my answer remained the same.  I was trying to get through today.  There were due dates, scheduled events and the ever present Christmas looming.  I had no gifts for my family and it is our turn to host Christmas eve.  The tree was not up.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday came and went and I crossed off one day of the calendar at a time.   Begrudgingly I asked the hubs to get down our Christmas decor after our kids continued to ask where they were.

Where is our tree? What about the gingerbread house?  Why aren’t you playing ‘White Christmas’ on the piano?  And when are you going to bake, Mom?  

Today I, unexpectedly, found myself in front of thirty plus teenage girls.  I am the person that handles student finances in the large booster organization I serve.  Inspired by one of the songs that define me, Sing Your Life by Morrissey, I had been dressed in jeggings and my Doc Marten boots thinking I would not cross paths with many people as I ran last minute errands.  I had only come to receive checks from a fellow parent and found myself standing before these teens listening to an instructor sharing his story.  He had lived in a garage and poverty and shared how he couldn’t afford to participate in a high school trip to Hawaii.  And so he got smart and saved for twelve months to make things different the following year; to follow his passion to perform.  The girls only saw his high-end import car parked at the curb, not the kid who struggled.   He and I stood before these girls to ask for funds to allow them to travel to an out-of-state national competition.

I remembered being on the other side.   My mother was prideful and would remind me to not mention that my father’s medical bills usurped all of our funds; that we relied on Medicaid.  I was eligible for free school lunches but she pinched pennies to hand me a weekly allowance of twenty dollars for gas and lunch.  I was sixteen, having obtained my license on my actual birthday, since my father, diagnosed with colon cancer, no longer could drive.    My high school was fifteen miles away; the closest “city” nine.  I drove my parents for doctors’ appointments and myself to school and extra-curriculars.   My parents never were in the stands during games or performances.  My father was dying and my mother remained in our home to care for him.  Music had been my salve.  In high school I had always longed for the Dr. Martens boots I currently wore.  The irony of my situation struck me; empathizing with these girls.

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As small business owners we realize the foundation can be pulled out from under us at any moment.  Many of our former customers have chosen to go overseas, to buy bulk for cheap.  Small businesses lose to cheap, subsidized imported goods.   But our selling point is always in our relationships with our customers.  We follow-through and deliver.  We provide quality and if there is a problem, we readily fix it.  We are custom all the way and the feedback we receive is that our vendors trust that we will do things right.  I will never have large bank accounts.   Every dime we earn is solely based on what we put out and it has to be quality every time.

In the past week I realized trust, transparency, follow-through and hospitality are the big things that count.  I don’t care if someone can offer me gifts or favors.  Money and material things mean little.  I want the friends who surround me to be the ones whom I can trust not to break confidences, who will tell me what is on their minds without worrying about offending and who will open their homes and hearts to my quirks and imperfections.  I have to trust that they will follow through and reciprocate.  This is HUGE for me.  People can appear to have it together, to have nice things, titles or look like a million bucks.  But it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters.    I am affirmed by those who are true to who they are.

My sons have surprised me this year.  Most Christmases I am the driving force of all merriment as I command my elves to happily comply with my decorating whims.  This year they were the ones urging me.

If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff. ~ Catherine M. Wallace

Eventually the hubs put up the tree.  Normally he is the bah humbug one in our household; the grinch who steals our Christmas joy.  This year he placed the boxes inside and over the course of the week, strung up garlands and lights with the help of our ever growing sons.  I found myself unwrapping a few ornaments and rearranging them on the tree.  The Advent wreath finally was placed on the coffee table and the poinsettias from the fundraiser arrived and were placed on the piano.  Slowly, but surely, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Tree.  Check.

Three years ago I had decided to never do gingerbread houses again.  Because I had been an only child in a quiet household I wanted to create my own traditions with my three sons for the holidays.  When they were toddlers I began purchasing gingerbread house kits imagining hours of Christmas creativity and cheer.  But I had been too worried about the mess, the arguments over the candies and frosting.  In 2012 the boys fought so ferociously that I put the camera down; feeling like a fraud.  I was attempting to capture a picture moment that was forced.  They didn’t want to build gingerbread houses and I didn’t want a mess.  I vowed I would never do this activity again.

So I was shocked at the boys’ insistence, this year, that I purchase a gingerbread kit.  After a week of constant reminders from my sons, the quote above came to mind.  I found myself purchasing a gingerbread village so each one could build their own house without argument.   Three years ago it had been the eldest who ruined our experience.  This year he was the one who kept championing it.  Gingerbread house.  Check.

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I had no words to type, no images to share.  I observed people saying one thing and doing the other.  Longtime friends parting with irreconcilable differences.  People who lacked transparency, broke confidences and lacked hospitality.  The thoughts were stuck circling in my mind and I struggled to find peace with all of it.  I heard my middle son struggle with a jazz riff of ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ and it was only when he placed the saxophone in my hand, with my mouthpiece, that I realized the unifying theme of 2015.

Music breaks through all economic, social and cultural barriers.

He asked me to help him, to play alongside.  We sat together at the piano bench with our saxes; my chops sore.  Soon my fingers were running over the ivories and the bars of ‘White Christmas’ echoed in fits and starts within the walls of our home.  It took a few more practice runs for my hands to remember the keys from memory.  I am always amazed that I don’t need the sheet music, even after all of these years.  Eventually the songs of the season reached me; bringing me out of my reverie.  White Christmas.  Check.

The hubs and sons grabbed the baking items needed for their favorite cookies: snickerdoodles, peanut butter blossoms and chocolate chip.  Time was starting to get away from me with all of the preparations needed to be done before the 24th.  I laced up my sneakers and forced myself outdoors in the drizzly morning; knowing that my intake of calories would exceed what I would expend.  There was nothing on my schedule and I had everything I needed.  No more procrastination, baking day had arrived.  As the whir of the mixer and smells from the oven filled our home, the younger sons emerged from the den to assist with  unwrapping Hersheys’ kisses.  Some were for cookies, others for their own consumption.

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It was then that I remembered my song and I quickly found it on YouTube as I waited for the timer to chime for my next batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Others sang your life
but now is your chance to shine
and have the pleasure of
saying what you mean
have the pleasure of
meaning what you sing
oh, make no mistake, my friend
all of this will end
so sing it now
all the things you love
all the things you loathe
oh sing your life ~ Morrissey.

I cranked up the volume on my eldest son’s laptop.   He emerged from the den with his portable speaker for better sound quality.  The middle son listened as I sang the words loud and clear.  I began to type furiously on the laptop, the thoughts from the last few weeks finally being able to be put into words.  The youngest grabbed milk from the fridge to happily eat the cookies straight from the oven as I tapped my booted foot to the beat.  Cookie baking.  Check.

Don’t leave it all unsaid
somewhere in the wasteland of your head
and make no mistake, my friend
your pointless life will end
but before you go
can you look at the truth?
You have a lovely singing voice
a lovely singing voice
and all of those
who sing on key
they stole the notion
from you and me so sing your life ~ Morrissey
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The hubs had been frantically cleaning our pool after we received the text from my side of the family that they were joining us for Christmas eve.  Traditionally my hubs’ family celebrates on the 24th; the location alternating between his sister and our home.  Then the phone call came from the estranged niece and after communicating our desire to have her join us; the guest count increased by ten.   The hubs worried we wouldn’t have enough food until he looked at our very full refrigerator.
My home is currently in a state of disaster after two days of consecutive gingerbread making and cookie baking. I don’t require gifts, the picture perfect house and the fancy Food Network worthy recipes to ooh and awe.  All that I long for, this Christmas, is for all of my family to unite under the roof of my loud and messy home.  This may be the last Christmas with a grandfather diagnosed with terminal cancer.  There are other days to carry on family feuds.  I tell the niece that Christmas is about the kids, the babies; and this year three will be in our home under 18 months old.
It’s because of a baby that we celebrate this season in the first place.
Like the stable that birthed the newborn that is the reason for this season, my light will be on and my doors always open.  I merrily sing the words to my song, loud and clear, about all the things I loathe and love.   I needed the push from my sons and hubs, their words heard.  I had to follow-through with these little requests and things that add up to something bigger.  I want them to share the big stuff when they are big.  To remember what’s important.
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Have a musically merry Christmas and a rockin’ New Year.  Sing the big and little things of your life.
Work

customer service

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Recently we surveyed our customers and asked why they chose to purchase from us.  Some of them have stayed with our family business for its span of twenty-six years while others have only been with us for over a decade.  Was it cost?  Location?  Product quality?  Customer service?  As a small business our niche is in custom manufacturing; yet we compete with an international economy where cheap mass production prices us out.

The Made in the USA didn’t matter so much.  A few of our customers had left us to overseas competitors but they have since returned.  Our product is able to ship faster, orders can be smaller quantities but most importantly; our fasteners always make the grade.  Our customers get more bang for their buck overseas but receive an inferior product. But the answer that mattered the most, that was worth paying the higher price for, was our customer service.  It is the relationship our customers have with our company that keep them loyal.

We shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were.

It is a familial joke when we consider my mother-in-law’s customer service voice.  We always know when a telemarketer is on her phone or at her door; the flinty hard edge in her tone giving it away.   But these usually are with personal matters and this side is rarely seen at the business she has ran for the past two-and-a-half decades.  Now that she is retired she can use her customer service voice whenever it is warranted.  My father-in-law is known for his no nonsense manner and, at times, the work relationship with his son is reminiscent of an episode of Discovery Channel’s American Chopper.  Sometimes this rubbed customers the wrong way but my father-in-law was good at what he did; his reputation in the business stellar.  He was always true to who he was and never sugarcoated or pulled the wool over any customer’s eyes.

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I listened as my girlfriend recounted the aggressive stance a mutual friend took with a school administrator.  There is a time and a place for belligerent, demanding behavior and the end result would have been the same whether someone was respectful versus rude.  Intimidation makes no friends; only fear and resentment.  As parents we should be partnering with our schools and staff; not pointing fingers or creating division.  Our purpose is one and the same: creating safe environments for our children to grow and learn with respect.  We must model the behavior we expect in return; the lesson I hope my sons will eventually learn.  We, as parents, are their first teachers.  We must embody customer service.

During my years in college I worked in a hospital staffing office to provide nursing for each department’s needs.  I admired the woman who still holds this job, a well-liked Italian who could persuade even the grumpiest of nurses to come in and work on their days off.  She begged and pleaded, shared stories of her three children and listened intently to all the little details others would share. She would take the angry words from disgruntled staff and, though she would bristle at times, never allowed it to show in her voice.  When people were lost she would walk them to their destination; taking time away from her break or work to provide customer service.  When angry families came through it would be she, who would calm them, hugging them as they grieved or vented.  This was not in her job description and I could not perform any of these duties.  It was her years of experience of being around people; that made her who she was.

As I looked over the survey results I began to sharpen my pencil; realizing that all my conversations, emails and communications contribute to our bottom line.  The daily chit-chat can actually sway a sale and, though, I am no saleswoman, I can use my extroverted personality to build relations.  When people call looking for something we cannot produce, I now make it a point to give them alternative solutions and phone numbers to call.  I easily could hang up the phone and say We don’t do that here.  But I then think of my former co-worker as she walked families to ICU or ER.  A little can go a long way.

I am developing this skill of customer service in all areas of my life.  We don’t really think the little things that we do and say in our lives matter.  But in reality, it is these little details that embody who we really are.

I am learning to, once again, trust my intuition and observation skills as I sit amongst a large group of people.  I had lost the ability to “read the room” in my busyness and self-centered life; choosing isolation and the safety of my four walls.  I’ve quickly realized that my growth is dependent on inserting myself with others outside of my comfort zone.  It is easy to isolate and remain safe; harder to stay true and put yourself out there.  I can only be authentic when I stop and consider what I stand for; things like respect, truth, faith, health, family.  Sometimes in life we get busy and forget who we are: mother, daughter, sister, co-worker, friend, wife; that our customer service skills of basic communication are lost. There are a few bridges in my life that I would much rather burn; but I know that I must mend the planks and leave the options open.  You never know where life’s path will take you.

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I, too, remain loyal to those companies and individuals who are transparent in their actions, works and words.  Who stand by what they believe in, produce quality work and are interested in building relations versus tearing them down.  I fasten my attention on this skill of customer service to build quality relationships.   To grow.

Work

springing forward, strategizing and Newton

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Instead of sitting at my work desk I decide to roll my chair outdoors for a change of scenery.  I am looking forward to spring and continue with my mental decluttering.  The guys, in the shop, are moving major pieces of equipment on the tow motor and are doing some spring cleaning of their own.

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I spring forward to embrace change.

It has been comfortable to say I am in transition but it is quite another to actually do something about it. I am strategizing for the future.  Goal #1.  Being consistent.

“Consistent.  adj. : always acting or behaving in the same way  : of the same quality  : continuing to happen or develop in the same way.” Main Def. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Nothing galls me more than people with inconsistent behavior.  One minute they hug you like long lost friends, the next they pass you, unseeing, in the hallway.  Whenever I encountered these people I assessed their body language or made sure to avert my eyes or my path; to avoid the awkward moment of guessing how to deal with them.  They acknowledged you when it was convenient, for them.  The relationship was one-sided where actions were calculated and must be equally returned.  Sometimes, in the giving, the reciprocity was insincere and the joy of giving; just because; was lost.

These thoughts re-surface while reading my business marketing plan.

wpid-img_20150304_135510.jpgAfter several years of “talk” 2015 is finally the year we choose to “walk-the-walk.”  The family business, established with my in-laws’ blood, sweat and tears for twenty-seven years; has officially become ours.  Two years ago they happily handed the keys and we begrudgingly accepted them; inheriting the good and the bad.  It is our goal to streamline the inconsistent things and to not reinvent the wheel.  To formulate a market plan.

And so we assessed our environment.  A recessed economy.  Our personal lives paralleled our business and we had to determine what was important.

We learned the fundamentals of marketing.  The hubs and I, both with majors from the sciences, were good at maintaining status quo but ill-equipped to grow a business.

The loyal customers who have remained with us, the “low hanging fruit” taught us what we were good at and where we were not.  The friends who accepted me for who I am, could answer these same questions; when prompted or asked.

In growth I utilized the market research and conversations; obtaining the quick sale and the affirmation of the ties that bind.    Currently I formulate my plan of action in all things I’m involved in.  To be consistent.

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The aroma of coffee fills the office and I sniff appreciatively.  I am a morning person and the time change to spring forward one hour, this weekend, will be welcome.

I shared my views of strategizing with the group of ten as we considered options for webpages and organizational growth.  It hadn’t occurred to me that I was doing the same thing, simultaneously, with the other aspects of my life.  I do not know any of these people and was caught “off guard” by my spoken words.  I had to acknowledge the white elephant in the room.  Who is going to be accountable for all of these things?   This organization is also transitioning; hoping to progress forward.

Because that’s really the answer I seek for all my musings and questions.  Ultimately, I am accountable for my life and I must accept culpability and responsibility;  the good and the unsavory.  I cannot control other people’s reactions to my own and have learned to let reciprocity go.   I consider Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion; particularly the third law.

1. An object remains at rest or moves at a constant velocity; unless acted upon by an external force.

2. Force = mass X acceleration:  F=ma

3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

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I am moving in forward motion with external forces accelerating me in the same direction.  I am seeing the master plan, at long last, and strategize towards the actions I will take.  And I am now grateful for the negative actions and forces that brought me to this place of assessment; to push me in the opposite direction.  I purposely stride forward; no longer averting my path, my words, my eyes; to what lies before me.  I strive to be consistent.

Uncategorized

own it

Dance & Sing ’89!

songleading

When my girlfriend asked me to join her for a hike, I envisioned a hot, dusty trail; the sun beating on my back.  I placed the cap upon my head, wrapped my hoodie around my waist and packed the ice water in my Jansport backpack.  I had slept lightly the night before but I knew a hike early in the morning would refresh my senses and clear my mind of the worries lurking beneath the surface.

I promptly walked through her front door and my girlfriend asked if I had brought a heavier jacket.  She was afraid I would be cold.  It was then that I took note of our fellow hiker; dressed in Patagonia cold gear pants, the heavy duty jacket and backpack and hiking poles.  It was determined that I would return home to quickly change into more weather appropriate clothes.  During the short five minute drive to my home I contemplated bailing from this excursion.   It was not what I had had in mind on this leisurely morning.

just. like. life.

I fought the train of thought of canceling on this hike.  I reminded myself that I wanted to step outside of my four walls to the world beyond.  To open my eyes to new adventures and opportunities.  To fight the inner dialogue of excuses and I can’ts and nos.  I am fortunate to have choices to make.

I can.  I will.  I do.

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Two hours later, as I hiked a series of steep switchbacks, I began to still my thoughts.  Initially I took the hills quickly; wanting to get them over with.  But the hill continued to climb with no plateau or respite in sight.  I shared with the girls how my heart raced and they admonished me to keep it slow and steady.  There was no rush.  I had nothing to prove.  I had to remember the altitude.  Rushing to the destination isn’t the point of hiking.  It is enjoying the scenery, breathing the cold, dry air and tuning the senses to the sights and sounds of the mountain.

I began to internally hum Ravel’s Bolero; walking steadily to the tempo of this classical piece.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  I blocked out all else. 

There is no greater joy than conquering your own internal fears and negative inner monologue.  I found my second wind; toasty and warm as we came upon the designated clearing.  It was liberating to finally push myself out of my comfort zone.  It took perseverance and mental work.  But knowing I can is the take away from my hike.  I  hugged the feeling of accomplishment to myself.  I own it.

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I have come to a place where I must own my place in this space.  To carefully step past the boulders placed on my path and step out of the rat race.  I can walk anywhere if taken at a slow and steady pace.

A year-and-a- half later we have finally taken the steps to formally take ownership of the family business that has survived almost twenty-seven years.   After transitioning from the world of active duty  military service and a steady paycheck, we had ventured into the great unknown.  A recessed economy.  Our niche as a small business custom manufacturer was hit hard as large corporations and LLCs began to close their doors; losing business overseas.

Thankfully, we are not one of them.

But the thought is never far from the hubs and I’s mind; the worst case scenario.  We weighed the balance between four more years of hardship deployments and how it would affect our three sons.  The hubs felt his time was running out with his boys; the ones who barely saw him.  He made the conscious choice to choose family and take the financial hit.  His father was ready for retirement and his rheumatoid arthritis (RA) wasn’t improving.  Manual and physical labor is not kind to those with RA.  He looked to his son to continue what he started.

Neither of us wanted to own it.

The transition almost, literally, killed the hubs.  It is easy to drown your sorrow and stress holding your breath behind closed walls.  To numb the anger, stress and worry with substances or addictive behaviors.  To close doors and build walls and let the darkness swallow you whole.  I lost my ability to find things good.  We all did.

But these days I have found my internal music…the steady beats and rhythms that remind me why I am here.  The above video is on repeat in my car stereo.  My sons know that, within the confines of my car or home, if there is a song that I like; I crank up the volume and shake it!  LOUD!  In their younger years they would dance with me; holding my hands and twirling about and laughing.  It was recently at my cousin’s wedding that they danced with me, once again.  It had been years.

My boys caught me trying to learn Eden xo’s dance moves in her tutorial video.  O.M.G. Mom!  Seriously?  I come from an extended family that LOVES to dance.  And I am married to a man who would rather be a wallflower than be on a loud, pulsing dance floor.

The slogan, “Dance & Sing ’89” was on my car’s license frame during my junior and senior years of high school; acknowledgment of my participation in songleading and band.  It reminded me of a place outside my home where, within its four walls, my father was slowly dying of colon cancer.  I consciously looked at the license frame each day to remember to move forward; to push towards the future.  It was the wish my father had wanted; in stark contrast to the dark and lonely places at home.   Recently, while digging through old albums I found the yearbook photo (above) that my girlfriend had taken during a varsity football game.  In yearbooks I signed and penned my license frame slogan; belying the dark sadness that always resided in my heart and mind.

Life moves in forward motion.  Papers are filed, accounts close and open.  The hubs has finally completed his remaining military years in the reserves for retirement.  Twenty.  The  business is ours.  New opportunities and failures lurk around the next corner; unseen.  But I need to continue to step out; to be able to discover these things for myself.  I need to dance to my own music and fully reside in the present life that I live.

I have only one life.  This is it.

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I crank the bass and feel it thump.  I am the lone person upstairs and the floor is vibrating with energy.  I fasten my attention to the music in my soul.  Some days the notes clash and are disharmonious but my composition is already written.  Now I just need to push forward to the next bar.  I still can create a masterpiece.  I move forward to my slow and steady beat and own it.

 

 

 

 

Family, Work

special every day

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Katy Perry’s “Birthday” song played over my work speakers as the text came through from two-thousand miles away; inquiring about my impending day of birth.   As we go deeper into our fourth decade I ask the bff what this year means?   She is almost six months older than I  (LOL) and I seek her infinite wisdom.

Her answer.  Our age means still trying to figure it out.  Figure what out?!   She replies back that maybe when we enter our fifth decade that we’ll know a little more.

Is there more?    It’s that word, again…more.

more.  adj. 1: greater in amount, number, or size.  : extra or additional.”  Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2014.

We both ponder our life balance.  She and I have both buried parents and are only children.  The expectations from the older generation, the in-laws,  are vastly different from ours and most times we walk the fine line.  We are sandwiched between the older generation and our children’s; buffering differing values.  Our in-laws are the baby boomers; products of the turbulent 60s, the Beatles, Vietnam and and free love 70s.  They still uphold Reaganomics, are Footloose and have no idea what all that noise (that’s what you kids call music?)  in the 90s was about.  Our Instagram, Facebook and social media tendencies are off-putting and we perpetuate these traits in our offspring.  The instantaneous bonds between grandparents and kids, these days, are harder to traverse with an iPod or smartphone in hand.

The in-laws envision late night fishing expeditions on the pier.  Attentive grandchildren who want to spend time pouring over family photo albums of their ancestors of the past.  Camping trips panning for gold in frigid northern California waters.  They happily share stories of their weekly lottery winnings and casino trips and various encounters with doctors.  They long for willing garden helpers to pick fruit and vegetables.  Amongst sci-fi or war movies they seek more time.

The text reply says it all.  The street goes both ways.  Ditto that.

grandparents

Grandparents must also understand the hobbies and schedules of their grandchildren.   They look to the stands for their grandparents during recitals, sporting events and graduations.  They excitedly share their advancement in gaming levels and the antics of their friends.  The urban dictionary slang and tech words fly from their lips; the dub step music shared on the headphones.  They, too, seek affirmation and acceptance and are bewildered when they just don’t get it.

It is hard to balance the divide.  The bff and I decide to make a pact.  We must always make the effort to be available to our children when they grow to be adults; to ask for their help not expect it Guilt, hints and innuendos are not clear communicating techniques.  It is only when you set expectations high, with no clear communication, that people are misunderstood.  They are hurt.

Recently a local Starbucks was in the news as a generous motorist in the drive thru line offered to pay for the drink of the car behind him.  This set the pattern in motion and for over the course of several hours; cars in the drive thru were astounded to discover that the car before them had paid for their drink.  It went viral.

Each motorist chose to pay it forward; to reciprocate the good deed until motorist #106 (?).  When the Starbucks barista shared, over the loudspeaker, if he would like to make a donation; he politely declined.  When he reached the order window, instead, he placed a hundred dollar bill in the tip jar; stating that when the suggestion to pay it forward became more like a demand; that the gesture of giving was lost.  His point.  People should willingly WANT to give; not be asked to do something because everyone else is doing it.   I feel similarly about the ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) ice bucket challenge.  It is a great cause and it needs the awareness.  But when you are guilted into giving; can you really call it giving? 

Grandparents day is today.  Is it the “special day” that we truly make the effort to cherish and honor them?  Or is this another instance of doing something because we’re supposed to?  Grandparents and grandchildren, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and co-workers should ALL be cherished; as often as possible.  It is unrealistic to say that every day will be a great day because, as in life, this is not the case.  We need to soldier on, to work through guilt, hurt and misunderstanding; to bridge generational gaps.  To teach all parties the art of speaking from their hearts.

It is not in the amount of time that we spend with others, the more, that counts.  It is always in the quality.

Not all moments can be Hallmark ones.

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On Friday I sat at my work desk; a day when our business is usually closed.  My mind had conjured a lazy day to spend in couple time, with the hubs, while our children were all at school.  This would entail a leisurely breakfast, and lunch in a nearby college enclave with ecclectic restaurants.  Instead we toiled, pushing through an already taxing week to get a large order out.  I had little time to be disappointed.    He knew it would not be my ideal way to spend our special day; our anniversary.  That very morning at 6:45 AM, our eldest handed over the note from the high school; noting a rally at 10:54 AM this same day.  At 6:57 AM I found myself RSVP’ing to an email in hopes to reserve a seat.

Today I sat in the crowded church; mind wandering.  I am reading in The Organized Mind about the ability for the brain to switch between attentive modes and mind wandering ones.   With sudden clarity I was hearing the words, the sermon the deacon was sharing coming into focus, as he went over the Gospel readings of today.  Sometimes we are called to something and we do not act.  Instead of using our abilities to communicate, we repress or complain.  One-on-one communication is always the clearest and he asked us all to pray that he could conquer this in his life.  That when things did not go his way; he would have the courage to speak from his heart.  To do away with misunderstanding; instead of silently swallowing the hurt or angrily criticizing to others.   When the silence fell, signalling the end of his sermon; I heard a person clap.  Soon the entire congregation applauded.  We are human.  Flawed.

We all need to be given grace.

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The email response came at 7:07 AM; a seat reserved.  And though our anniversary day did not go as planned; little things brought simple joys.  The raucous roar in the gym as classes battled for most spirited, the Indian food for lunch unexpected.  Neither of us require flowers, cards and trinkets; we have spent many years apart exchanging those things during long deployments.  We have our health.  We have work.  In a hot, dark conference room eating lunch; we exchanged anniversary wishes.  We have what matters most.  Each other.  Time together.

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This afternoon I found myself on the phone (gasp! I’m rarely talking on a phone) relaying thoughts to my mother-in-law.  To make things clear.  To bridge the gap of misunderstanding as I wish them a happy grandparents day.  I cannot make people understand my point of view; nor accept it.  But I have the ability to grant grace.  To forgive.  To empathize.

This is what my cumulative years of birth have brought me.  The wisdom to know the difference.  As another special day approaches I am reminded what really matters.  I must live my life each day as if it could be my last.  To not let things in the past cloud my present and future.  To clearly communicate to those in my life, who affirm and accept me, that I value them; before it is too late.  I want more quality time with my friends and family; not distracted busyness that takes away.   Please don’t guilt me or attach strings with high expectations.  I want to give freely without demands or the promise of something in return.  The only thing I have to offer you is my time.

I continue on my walk to be fully present.  To focus my attention on what matters.  I live to make each day special; every day.

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Uncategorized

#1677 fastening my attention

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I stare at the bookshelf across from my desk.  It remains empty; the color swatches taped to the wall.  I have not returned the books and folders to its shelves until the wall behind it is painted a new hue.  Two months have passed.

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The color was undecided.  Until now.

It has been over a year since the hubs and I have fully taken over the family business.  Over the summer, the files of folders accumulated in  twenty five years have finally seen daylight; scanned with my own two eyes.  I sneezed dust as things were categorized, shredded and thrown away.  The task was overwhelming.  Eighteen banker boxes now sit in the shop’s top shelves; waiting to again be forgotten.

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The work computer is not much better; a project in progress.  My digital “junk drawer” consisted of files unknown.  My computer desktop is cluttered with icons and downloads fighting for memory space. They slow down my hard drive; the disk dangerously full.  When the computer scientist, hubs, implements new technological programs and tips, I resist.  I am not ready.  I do not want change.  My brain is on overload.

My current read, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin, could not have arrived at a better time.  I am only in chapter two and my whirling thoughts are crystallizing on my Kindle Paperwhite’s pages.  I have found my muse.  I am being affirmed.

With affirmation comes inspiration (again I am looking at results with the -tion).  And with inspiration comes motivation.

Neuroscientists have discovered that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload.

Levitin, Daniel J.  The Organized Mind: Thinking Strraight in the Age of Information Overload. New York:  Dutton/Penguin Group.   2014. Kindle file.

And with motivation comes the action.  The doing.  I have returned, finally to the present tense (the -ing) as the light bulb glows brightly in my mind.  I have procrastinated for far too long.  It is in watching my sons struggle with back-to-school busyness that I must also confront my own issues.  With so many transitions and decisions I have been paralyzed with fear; unwilling to make decisions in order to progress.  And so, the hubs and I focused our eyes on the Benjamin Moore wall swatches to choose our top two choices.   Independently, we both got resolution.

#1677  colonial blue.

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I have decluttered our office and paperwork; trying to make sense of it all.  I have been satisficing. 

Satisificing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately, when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.

The example Levitin uses to illustrate satisficing is in our house cleaning.  We clean just enough to be satisfied.  If we did a thorough spring cleaning each and every time; we’d have little time for much else.  I sacrifice absolute cleanliness for time spent on other things.  There is much more to life than an  OCD obsession with clean, perfect homes, thank you very much.

A painted wall does not a successful business make.  Is a visually appealing improvement going to make a significant difference in my happiness or satisfaction at work?

Trivial as this color choice appears; it is symbolic.  This one change will propagate much more.  One colonial blue wall in a dull office can inspire creativity, productivity and progress.  Choosing a paint color marks the beginning of a new season in our life journey.  Just as homeowners paint their walls to define their space, to take ownership of their place, we too must prime and fix holes with joint compound and putty knives.

We must own the business within these four walls. 100% Quality.

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I’ve discovered that the things, the people, that aggravate me most are deep seeded issues buried in my subconscious; waiting to be dealt with.  The stronger the reaction; the deeper the issue.   Years can be spent in denial, in waiting, hoping time will heal the wounds within.  But when confronted, in a swift lightning strike, it is always surprising how quickly the problem is resolved; if I only fasten my full attention to it.  Out of sight; out of mind does not ever bring resolution.  It is only when my eyes see; that thoughts form in my conscious, that I can sort and catalog.  I can sift through  the detritus.  I can finally make a choice.

Sometimes evaluating the trash can be valuable.

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Acknowledging my internal mental garbage means I must accept the things I cannot change (as in the Serenity Prayer); and have the wisdom to know the difference.   It is always hardest in taking that first step; to bring about change.  My multiple intelligences mode of bodily-kinesthetic must be activated.  I must physically work towards a goal to make it happen.  I must paint a wall to affect change.

It is time, I tell myself, to fasten my attention and focus 100%.   The decision is made.

Family, Work

resilience & authenticity

Grease and grime cover most things found in our shop tooling area.  It appears that most of the items brought into the office, by my teen, have accumulated grime for years.  The task is daunting.

Mom, wash these things off and I’ll put them back where they belong.

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The pail of dishes, plastic and various tools overflows.  I stand at the sink scrubbing with hot water and detergent to no avail.  Yesterday I tackled the things I wanted to do the least.  My one hour turned into seven.  Today seems like it will go the same.

Most people take comfort in things familiar and routine.  But the mess continues to pile up, screaming neglect.  The feeling of being overwhelmed can paralyze a person to do nothing.   To stay within the safety of their four walls, locking the doors and hiding the key.

The family business was established twenty six years ago, on April 1st.  The blood, sweat and tears of my in-laws permeate this place, starting from a small rectangular tool shop to the much larger building in which we now reside.  They utilized their entire life savings after their youngest son, my hubs, chose to enter the armed forces to fund his higher education.  With less than $1,000 in the bank, the two set-out on their own; creating their niche.

And so I scrub, putting some elbow grease into the grime that has accumulated on dishes and safety goggles.

In their twenty fifth year of business, the in-laws sought retirement; grooming their son in the arts of metallurgy.  At one time their daughter, also, attempted to learn this trade .  Her social nature allows her to excel at her current job; having no interest in manufacturing.  It is my job to keep the well-oiled machine running smoothly; keeping the hubs on task and providing administrative support.  But oil gets gunky and can stick; making things difficult.

It would help if I had some idea of what he was doing.  When TurboCad drawings and measurements are created and discussed, there is no understanding on my end.  It’s not that I’m not capable.  I just don’t want to know.

As I continue to scrub, after soaking the pail of items for some time, it is still difficult to clean.  It takes effort to work off the grime to see some of the, still brand new, items beneath.  With a little washing, scrubbing and polishing these things are good as new.  My first tempting thought was to dump them and start all over.

Because that’s my m.o. (modus operandi).  Why put in work when I can buy new and start over?  A fresh new slate.

Therein lies the crux of my deep seeded issues.  It takes work to keep things maintained and running smoothly.  In marriage, in parenting, in friendships and communication.  This, I know.  The trick is in taking the first step to do what you least want to do.  To put yourself out there and not become paralyzed or overwhelmed.  As I scrub there are some things I must throw out, after cutting through grease and clumps of oil.  But there are others that are gems.  Beneath the surface they have worth.

I see the beige walls in a new light, possibilities.  I have come to the place where I now want to understand what is being made in the shop.  To know what the drawings and measurements really mean.  I have taken ownership of my space.  You don’t always have to love your work.  What matters is that you give your best.

If you give your best, that’s what matters.  In work and in life.

I will never have the things that most people define as success.  I will never look like the supermodel on the magazines.  I won’t have the fancy vacays on the French Riviera; own the newest and coolest gadgets or the house on the glossy covers.  But I will know that I give things my all; for better or for worse; in sickness and in health; til death do us part.  Living is about being the best person that you can be; even in situations that aren’t ideal.   In being authentic and true to yourself.   I want to cut through the grease and grime and find the value.  What I am discovering is that, when you do the hard work, invest the time, or push through bad experiences; you find the resilient person beneath.

Resiliencenoun. the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”  Def. 2. Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 15 July. 2014.

Authentic: adjective.  real or genuine : not copied or false.”  Def. 1. Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 15 July. 2014.

Prior to this discovery, these thoughts pervaded my mind…

When I stare into the mirror and really look, I find fault.  And so I’ve stopped looking.

When I disagree with something I quickly criticize.  And so I’ve stopped judging.

When I am disappointed with others I shout.  And so I’ve stopped communicating.

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I found solace in the white spaces.  In the outdoors on morning walks, or in depths of clear pools; breath held.  I sat in the dark gazing at the sky, the clouds.  I reminded myself that the world was vast and that my issues with life were small.  Humbled.  I made my pact with God; to be better.  To be grateful.  To forgive.  To be me.  I beseeched him wondering what my purpose is in this life and where I was to go next.  I stood at a crossroads and I wanted the skies to part, a fire to burn in a nearby bush with a loud, bellowing voice to guide me on my way.

But life doesn’t work that way.  Wouldn’t it be nice?

The words would not come, thoughts angrily swirling in my mind.  Music, usually the balm, became a distraction.  It was in the silence that I could find peace; to reconcile my past to my present.   Without the distractions of hectic schedules, homework and projects and works I consciously cleared my calendar to have no plans at all.  To not do things out of obligation but because I wanted to do them.  I still allocated my hour a day to do what I did not want; but it did not take over my time.   I designated a family do nothing day.

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I discovered the hidden treasures in my own backyard.   I pretended I was at a resort underneath a striped umbrella, reading by cascading pools.  And promptly came to the realization that I was in my own backyard with access to my own bathrooms and kitchen.  I grabbed a bottle of red wine already opened.  I didn’t have to care if anyone saw me in my seven-year-old comfortable bathing suit; sucking in my girth.  I could do whatever I wanted.  I generously poured the red cab and for over eight hours, read the book chosen for book club this month.   When I got warm, I swam, when I got cold, I laid out.  My kids happily gamed in the den, the hubs read alongside in the shade.

Simple pleasures.  Reading gave me the intellectual stimulation I needed to self improve; to be better.  Appreciating my four walls allowed me to overlook and forgive the flaws in my home and life.  Claiming the space as my own allowed me to enjoy it; to be me in my frumpy bathing suit; comfortably.

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It was this that I needed; to finally find the beauty; the gems beneath the grime.  My true and authentic self.  Our neglected backyard was now maintained; allowing me to remember its inherent value.  The backyard didn’t need flourishing flowers and vegetables to make it beautiful; only some loving tender care and maintenance to reveal the joys of use.

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My moment of clarity arrived on Thursday night as I stood alone amongst a throng of parents in a quad.   Tears silently coursed down my face.   In parenting these moments are few and far between, and my mind flashed to the years of driving to and fro; the countless hours and schedules making me wonder if it was even worth the effort.

I became overwhelmed, caught up in the tide of wanting the best for my children.  More activities, more exposure, more everything.  I became lost in masses defining what a successful child was.  The smartest with the GATE status and straight A’s, the fastest swimmer with the j.o. times and the elite coach.  The schlepping and doing hoping your child would get noticed for the works done.  Parent conferences, IEPs, and  counseling hoping my boys would adjust to yet, another move.  Facebook, Instagram pages full of likes and friends to define my child as social and popular.  The constant posts and tweets to show the world the fulfilling life lived.  Who would know it was one second, amongst the berating and complaining people, smiling grand to pretend they lived the best life?  Fake.

My children are NONE of the above;  nor am I.  It was in our painful personal experience in all of these things that has helped me realize our resilience.  The music washed over me, the relief made me lightheaded.  It freed me to finally close shut the doors and step out  of the shadows at the crossroads.

My path became clear.  I only needed to create the space to allow my thoughts to run their course; to taste them, burn with them and finally douse them.  I finally could put my hand on the door, to close it shut behind me as a new door opened.   I now know what needs to be done; to walk through the doorjamb and journey on my way.  I am resilient.  I parent as I want to be, authentically.  I stand as the people pass me; bucking the tide.  If you are comfortable in your own space, in your own skin; you really don’t need to try so hard.  My girlfriend’s email with this YouTube clip came timely.

The dishes and tools are cleaned for the teen after working through the grime.  They are ready to be placed where they will be best utilized.  I am too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family, Work

lunar craziness

131016 moon

The full moon rises…

And I rage.  I yelled at our employee across the shop’s expanse as he stared at me.  One of my glaring faults is in watching my tongue.  I do not tolerate people who disrespect my kin; including my f@#%ing dog.  The employee made the above statement to the hubs; his employer.  Our canine has come to work with the hubs for as long as we’ve had him; approximately four years.   My succinct words that we, “left our dog home so his bark wouldn’t annoy you”  angrily percolated out; continuing to stir the pot.  Our furry canine will now spend work hours patrolling our backyard.   I was proud of the hubs when he calmly stated, “Please do not kick the dog; it’s like you are kicking me.  The day you choose to do it will be your last day here.”  This employee has been with us for ten years.

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It is only mid-week and I rubbed my temples together amidst the mess.  We have conferred with the almanac and the full snow moon arrives with cupid’s arrow; February 14th at 6:54 PM.  My sons have been forewarned.  They know what that means.

Our conference room was also full, mid-afternoon, with various family, vendors and old friends passing through.  Amidst the craziness I tried to remain hospitable and, eventually, did make peace with the above employee; with hugs at the end.  But I explained that I needed to vent my anger, to be transparent, to be able to forgive his outburst.   If I did not my resentment would continue to build and boil over.   He apologized profusely for his rude behavior towards the hubs.     He still dislikes our dog.   Though my outburst wasn’t ideal we all finally are communicating.  It is never pretty; nor easy.  But it clears the path for change and reconciliation.   Or termination.

Sing it loud & clear.  Transparency.

I take deep breaths.  I think of the phone call with a dear friend as she struggles with physical issues; my heart wrenching in two.  Life is not fair!  After the call I headed, early, to the church to pick up children from catechism (Catholic religious education) in hopes to sit in the silence of the pews to catch my breath and mouth a prayer.  Instead I arrived to a traffic jam, at the sole entrance, into the parking lot.  The church was full of high schoolers and the quiet moment of solitude was not to be.  Instead  I stood in line with parents.

Drama unfolds within family as a niece struggles with her pregnancy.  I find myself in the role of counselor as I listen to her hopes and fears.   I think of the tough road that lies ahead and hope that she can find it in her heart to forgive those who have hurt her.  I thought of my own pregnancies; the joys, the fears.  Again my heart saddens.  Life is not fair!

I stared at the dishes on the table; crumbs and remnants of our dinner. I was too tired to pick it all up.  The butternut squash soup was not a hit.  After a long day at work, the hubs and I cooked.  But there is no satisfaction in cooking when it is left, uneaten.  Not one son liked the soup.  At.  All.

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Life.  It is messy.

The gravitational pull of the lunar cycle is taking its toll.  Craziness is everywhere.  And it all leads up to Valentine’s Day.

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For years I’d sweep up the crumbs; cleaning up.  I get agitated when I see a mess and clutter; my mind not able to focus until everything is put in place.  But with kids and schedules I have had to learn to let things go.  Sometimes seeing the crumbs reminds me of what I have.  My girlfriend’s quote comes to mind…

Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

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The crumbs of my life have been swept up in a tidy bin; stored and forgotten.  I wanted to forget the tragedies, the inequities and messy things in my life that have happened to me.  But these broken, jagged and messy remnants have made me the person I am.  They define me.   And so I recall them, piece by broken piece.  And I am empowered.  I have survived.  I know how this life ends.  It is between these two points that I have to make my choices and pathways; amongst the lunar craziness.  I need to let things go.  To go with life’s messy flow.

Like water off a duck’s back.

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I cannot control the craziness that happens around me; the things that make life unfair.  I always want to; my willful personality overriding my rational mind.  I need to master mental discipline and  cope with the mess that is always present.  Each weekend when I clean my home I think of how happy it makes me to see clean, simple lines without clutter.  But it is how we cope with the messy that makes us better and stronger.  If I can do this with grace and panache; it would make my life Simple.  Enjoyable.  Grateful.

But for now I stare at my colorful and full calendar; crossing out dates and adding new ones.  My heart palpitates as I think of the end-of-the-school year and the craziness that marks my life as a working mother of three.  Within a two week period I have: concerts, spring programs, First Holy Communion celebrations, a 3-day camping weekend, theme parks, picnics, promotions and graduations.  Deadlines now change as I think of the piles of paperwork upon my desk at home.  And so I organize and plan.  Maybe if I am mentally ready the stressful little details will not derail me when this time comes.  Mental discipline.  Go with the flow.

Then I look at my schedule for today.  Yee gads!  I have empty Valentines day cards, kids’ golf and running schedules and a booster club meeting; all within a five hour period.   When the 13 y/o stated he needed 9 X 12″ poster board, yesterday afternoon during our crazy work day, I told him to walk to the grocery store and purchase one.  He had only known about this assignment for two weeks and, of course, it’s due today!  I came home to a mess as this son scoured all of our closets and organized craft areas to search for paper.  Popcorn kernels lie beneath my kitchen table and I had attempted to pick them up last eve.  This same cycle will most likely be repeated this evening.  And the next day…and the next.

And then one day my house will be sterile and quiet.  My sons will have grown and the hubs and I will stare across at each other and wonder how time flew by so fast.  I share this thought with him across the office as he quotes customers on his computer.  It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow I say.  The bff’s text reminded me; her husband wishing her this sentiment today.  We both text “LOL” simultaneously.    We have no plans.  Normally we make a fancy dinner with our family of five.  The boys like the fanfare with our fine china.  Currently we have no food in our fridge. (sigh)

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Yep.  Going with the flow in my crazy life.  And the moon continues to grow full. Happy Valentine’s Day (tomorrow).  LOL.