Clarity

It’s so funny how life goes round…and things we couldn’t understand before make their way back around and suddenly we see clearly what we couldn’t see before. Usually because the light is shining just a little bit differently.

All of the events of the past few months have entwined themselves into something that I couldn’t see before. Changes are just that – changes. If we could see them coming, they’d be just…events. Things. Stuff. Changes are hard. But if we don’t roll with the punches, we could end up limiting our own growth.

I’m not sure if things will be better or worse, but I can tell you I’m going to learn. And I’m going to grow. Because the other other option is to remain stagnant and I’m just not interested in that. Life is meant to be experienced – and if what we’re going to experience is going to be through a different lens than we had planned, the only option we have is to refocus.

We’re not always going to know what is ahead and we’re not always going to see what’s coming. But if you are confident and secure in your abilities, you’re going to adapt. And you’re gonna be just fine.

Sometimes I’m glad I don’t see what’s up ahead – the less time I have to think about something, the less I’m going to overthink it. And with everything that’s changed in the past eight weeks, I was able to take yet another change in stride. It’s going to be different and it’s going to be challenging, but I’m not afraid.

So at this point, if you have something new coming at you, roll with it. Just see what happens. Prepared or unprepared, you’re going to learn something about life and more importantly, yourself, through it. And you might just be surprised with how well you handle it.

Say Something

What’s going on in America right now hurts my heart. Hurts my mind. And makes me hurt for people. All people. Because this kind of unrest will inevitably touch you, one way or another. I’m not one to speak out publicly on issues of social injustice, but I feel compelled to say something on this one. Because it is real. More real than I ever believed. And it is here. All around us.

Even if we try to ignore it.

Denver is in the midst of the fifth day of protests. I about jumped out of my skin last night when one of those Amber Alert notices went off on my cell phone. Notifying myself and the other fine citizens of Denver that we had 15 minutes until our 8pm curfew. Curfew. And not because of the ‘Rona, but because of the protests. Today, a coworker told me he was going to try and find more ammo because he heard the looters are now targeting predominantly white neighborhoods. And we were told to take precautions today to make sure our buildings and properties were secure. What kind of messed up world do we live in that we need to be concerned about these things? Wake up, people! This is not some story or issue coming out of another country. This is now. This is America.

We need to say something. That is literally what I am doing here. But there is a way to protest, a way to get your voice heard. We have more platforms than ever before. But the “poisoned well that is social media” (credit Dan Le Batard) is one of the main problems. More than enough has been said about the people taking advantage and rioting and breaking the law in the name of protest because it is wrong. Just that. Wrong. I drove through a town yesterday and I noticed a young lady on the sidewalk holding a sign. She was calmly standing there by herself, wearing her mask and holding a sign saying, “Black Lives Matter”. She was brave enough to stand there and make her voice heard. Oh, and another thing. She wasn’t black. She was white.

I grew up in Philadelphia, in a racially diverse school, but in a predominantly white neighborhood and family. Many of our friends were black and we never really saw any difference. We were just all kids. Until other voices made themselves heard and we heard things that were not so pleasant. It changed some people, but not everyone. I learned that racism was real, but it didn’t really affect me. Because I was white. But I liked my black friends and thought they were cool, so I thought that made up for the opinions of others around me. Wrong.

Fast forward years later and I started experiencing prejudice of another kind. And, *gasp*, this was towards me. I was good at my job, and I was going to get promoted. But guess what? I wasn’t going to get the same salary or the same benefits that my peers were getting. Why? Because I was female. Call it entitlement, call it the Boy’s Club, call it whatever. It took years for it to be made right and to become almost equal to those of my male counterparts. And how did it happen? You guessed it. Because I spoke up and said something. No one was going to do it for me, I had to stand up and ask for what I was entitled to, because the people who should have done something, didn’t. They just let it happen. Then it finally started to sink in. This only scratches the surface of what people of color deal with, but it became even more real because it actually happened to me. Conversely, some of the people who made a huge impact on me in my college years were black – they didn’t see me as a white girl, I was a sister. I was a friend. And I was all the better for it.

Some time after that I realized something else that some people have other prejudices – towards those with a different life status than their own. Some because of rich people, some towards those less fortunate than themselves, and some because of relationship status. Even towards single people. And guess what? I had to be all those things before I experienced those types of prejudices that people have. Again, this is totally low-grade, but it made me think deeper of how people treat people and how messed up it could be.

Then, two years ago I moved to Denver and experienced something even more disturbing. There is a lot more racism in this part of the country than I even knew or imagined. Remember I said I’m from Philly, right? There, the white population is 34.9% and the black population is 41.3%. Not Denver. The white population is a whopping 53.6% here and the black population is only 9.2%. I had no idea what I was going to run into. Here, a lot more things were said directly to me about black people in a less than friendly manner. At one point, my team was made up of 16 people and four of them were black. My Philly mind didn’t think anything of it. Then, someone made this comment to me, “You hire a lot of black people, don’t you”? I can’t make this up. I just looked at them and said, “Yes. Why, is that weird?” They kind of sputtered. Others made comments like, “Tell him to pull his pants up” or “tell him not to wear his hoodie up” and various other comments I don’t even want to write. Then there is the Hispanic population prejudice here – black or brown – people see what they want to see.

Obviously, not all white people in Denver are prejudiced. I know plenty of people who are just as upset and saddened by all of this hatred as I am. But the very real fact is that this is not a popular place for black people. I’m not sure why, but I am trying to do my part here and show people that it is not the color of skin, that makes all of us different, it’s the heart. We all bleed the same. The same blood was shed for all of us. It’s our hearts that need to be changed.

So, why did I decide to speak up now? Mainly because I was motivated by people who I listen to often and who I’ve known to make a difference. Most of you know I am a huge sports fan. So I listen to ESPN Radio a lot. This morning driving to work, I heard Stephen A. Smith talking about George Floyd’s death On Get Up and he said this was actually an American issue, not just a George Floyd issue. He also said that part of the issue is the imagery of how black men are depicted and portrayed. He said it was so important that white people speak up. That white silence was compliance. and that is what this is what everything has come down to and why we need to say something. It made such an impact on me and I was thinking about it when I went into work. Where one of my best employees was talking about the riots. He’s black and is one of the ones who taught me what it was like here. Again, being from Philly, I had no idea.

Then, my favorite radio show came on. I faithfully listen to the Dan Le Batard show on ESPN Radio almost every day. Mainly because I am intensely attracted to passionate people and Dan is one of the most passionate sports people I know. He is an award-winning journalist and I have heard him break down on radio more than once. He came on this morning and the passion and the feeling in his voice was palpable. You could feel it through the speakers. Because I cannot even begin to paraphrase his monolog, here is what he said.

“You can’t believe anything you see and read because you see bricks in the street and you don’t know who put them there,” said Le Batard, speaking from his knowledge of life under a communist regime in Cuba to the unrest manifesting itself around America over the previous five days. “You don’t know whether the people protesting really are protesting, or if they just want to start more violence. That’s propaganda. That’s Cuba. You can’t believe the things that you’re watching. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not real. It just… It’s heartbreaking. We’ll play all sorts of sounds for you today from people who are more eloquent than I am, and more qualified to speak on this than I am. Because I’m just an observer. Latin or not, minority or not, I come from privilege… I hope we can just laugh today, that there can be some medicine somewhere in this, because I’m telling you, Stugotz, I have been alive for 51 years and I have not had as heart-breaking a weekend for something that didn’t really directly impact me as I did this weekend. Where my fear kept me in a place, I gotta think it’s happening to a lot of people. I gotta think this bone weariness, this heavy feeling you have in your heart, in your stomach, it feels like a disease.

“America and its vibrant economy had to close down because of a disease that attacked the lungs for a few months. Now that disease has been engulfed and swallowed by a disease that has ravaged the heart for centuries.

See what I mean? The man has passion. Normally, ESPN tries to keep political talk at bay, but this is too big and no one was holding Dan back this time.

Jalen Rose made a comment the other day on ESPN that slapped me in the face, “I wish America loved black people as much as they love black culture”. I have been guilty of this in the past and please God, let me never be guilty of that again.

Think about a mere four months ago – when the whole world, and ALL of America, was mourning the death of Kobe Bryant. Oh, and he was black man. Who played college ball in Philly. And we all loved him. It doesn’t make sense.

So, after hearing and reading things over the weekend, then listening to these two very respected, passionate people talking about what is real, I felt I needed to say something. Even if it is very simply to say that I see black people as real people who think and eat and bleed the same as I do. The same thing with the Mexican people I have come to know and respect. I have never experienced a more loving, sharing culture. These people are people who live and breathe and love just the same as anyone else. And we need to recognize and acknowledge that .

So, don’t think you need to go to a protest, or get a spot on TV or radio, all you need to do is speak up if you see something. Or hear something. What that officer did to George Floyd was inexcusable. But what the other ones standing by did was almost worse. They stood by and did nothing. They didn’t have to do everything, but they had the power to do something.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

So, go do something. Something good. Something that matters. It can make a difference in the life of another human. Even if it is yourself.

Original Painting by Alexa Johnson (my cousin!)

https://instagram.com/alexa.marie.art?igshid=b8zfc6mbwt07

Tonight I Want To Cry

This is a post I wrote several weeks ago and wasn’t going to publish, but it has come up in conversation several times since I originally wrote it.  A coworker came up to me this morning and told me a few things that were going on and how he wished he could just cry and get over being so stressed.  How bad things were and how he just wanted to let the emotion out. So, I ended up reading him this post and when I told him I had held off in publishing this, he said maybe I should share it because  a lot of us feel like this sometimes. So here she is….

Remember that Keith Urban song?  I’m wishing it would help right now.  I’ve been on the verge of tears for about a week (maybe a little more if I’m really honest) and I just. Can’t. Cry.

It’s a weird situation to be in.  I am woman.  Hear me roar.  And all of that.  All of my life I have been learning how to be strong, how to keep up a brave face, how to keep it all together so I can lead those around me.  Oh, I’ve failed.  Plenty of times.  I can remember at least four times in my twenty-year career that I cried at work.  I’m not particularly proud of any of them, but hey, life happens.

There is an image to keep up here as well.  Strong female leader.  Boss Lady. “Successful Single Person”.  Oldest sibling.  First born.  Former self-image sufferer.  Whatever.  You name it and there’s a reason to not be a crier.  And honestly, I really don’t cry all that much.  I get misty-eyed over videos of soldiers coming home and surprising their loved ones or of someone making a huge accomplishment in their life or something.  Oh, and the night Eric Lindros’ jersey was retired.  (Not like I’m surprising anyone there). But for the most part, I don’t often get broken up about stuff and have epic cry fests.

Which brings us to this current situation.  People. I. Need. To. Cry.  Like the worst ugly cry you’ve ever seen.  I have been holding emotion back for days upon days – trying to keep up appearances and show everyone that it is ok.  That we will get through this.  That I will get through this.  Then something happened that will bring about a major change in my professional life.  Something I knew was coming but that was always wayyyyy in the future.  And I honestly thought I could redirect that situation and it wouldn’t happen.  It would happen the way I wanted it to go.  Nope.  It’s happening.  Even in the midst of the plague. Then, to heap flaming piles of poo onto all of this crap, I find out that a major piece of the puzzle isn’t going to be available. Again – in the midst of all this crap.

How does this happen?  How is it okay?  Why is it okay? Yep, I sure don’t have the answers to all of this.  You know what I want to do, though?  Cry.  Ugly epic cry.  And I can’t do it.  Not to save my life.  You girls know what I mean – the kind of healing cry that goes on for awhile and hurts so bad but is also so needed.  Yep.  Not happening.

My friends suggested watching Beaches, or dog movies and my sister told to watch the video for “What Hurts The Most”.  I just may do them all at once.  Maybe that will work.

I may put on my favorite black hoodie, hide in a dark room and listen to Linkin Park’s “My December” on repeat and see if that works.

UPDATE: Thanks to some awesome people in my life, I finally did cry that night.  It was short-lived and oh so ugly, but it happened.  And yep, I felt better for it.

When Life Changes…and you’re not ready

How often is that the case? Life changes and we’re all good – just completely and utterly ready for it? That’s only if we’re even lucky enough to know that it is changing. Most of the time life just smacks us on the face, whether it’s a love tap or a straight up clothesline.

The challenge is how we react to it. How we present ourselves and what experiences we take from it. Will we end up being bitter or will we learn something? Will it move us upward or put us back a few steps? How will we even know if the taking a step back won’t ultimately propel us forward? Here’s a hint: you probably won’t even have a clue. At least not in the beginning.

I recently went through something just like this. Over the past few weeks, events were put in motion at work that I knew would eventually happen. I just thought I’d be so better prepared for when it did. I was even crazy enough to think that I could control it. Or at least change the narrative. It’s a step in the right direction, but it felt horrible. It’s a huge chance for growth, but it felt like a step back. I felt like a failure, but it is really a testament to my success. And the success of others around me. (Notice how many feels were in there? Just needed to get through them.  It wasn’t easy, but so worth it in the end.)

If I’m being honest? My pride was hurt. But how better to learn to be humble? Humbleness is never an easy lesson. Mostly because it’s in our nature to be prideful. We take pride in our success. In our moving onward and upward. But what if that means taking a different set along the way? A breaking apart to build up? What then? Breaking apart anything is just painful. There’s no other way around it. It hurts your heart. It stings your pride.

This isn’t the first time it ever happened to anyone, and it won’t be the last. I know there is a path here – and it is one I’m actually excited to go down.  I had get out of my own damn way and out of my head. Especially during this time when there was way more time to think to myself than normal. You get lost in your own mind and go down rabbit holes you never even imagined. And to be real – that part just sucks. There’s not really any way around that.

This change is a process and will continue to be one for some time. And it’s one of those big ones that makes your brain hurt once you spend enough time on it because you’re trying to process it all. Part of me was mad this happened now – when there is more than enough time on my hands. But part of me recognized the wisdom in doing it now – we have more time to make sure it is done right.

Just in the day since I started this post, things have improved for the better.  I’m actually relieved there is less for me to worry about and ridiculously excited to plan new things and put things in motion I’ve been trying for months to get done. Realizing that it isn’t a step back, it’s just one on a more clearly defined path. Which, duh, makes all of this easier.  (See what I meant about getting out of my own way?)

There were so many people who helped me work through all of this – you guys know who you are and I’m so thankful you’re in my life.  It reminded me of when I was moving and how much people helped.  Pretty sure I wrote about it.  Shameless plug here – It Takes A Village. 

There are a lot of people going through all kinds of change in this world right now. And no one person’s situation is the same and it affects us all in different ways. What I will say is that I know this situation of mine will work out for the better –  as it already has.  There is such an opportunity to learn from it and grow in it.

Our challenge right now is to take a step back from our circumstances, look at them from a different perspective and see what we are supposed to learn from them. My friends and I have been going through Habakkuk and the biggest lesson I’m learning there is that his circumstances didn’t change, he was changed. He complained, then listened and thought, and then ended up praising God for what He was doing. Here, God worked in ways Habakkuk never even imagined.

In essence, change is going to come even when the world is shut down. Change is the only constant – and it will always be there to challenge us in one way or another. My last two weeks have been horrendous, but I’ve grown more than I have in months. My dad told me it was building character – and he is so right.  That’s why it was difficult, but worth it. Sometimes we really do need to backup to move forward. We just need to have the courage to do it.

Photo credit – Bob Rumer Photography

 

Single and Quarantined

This new normal of ours has changed all of our lives – some more drastically than others. Some of us are at home with our spouses and kids, some of us are banned from our offices and then others have minimal change. I was talking to a coworker today who told me – other than not going to the movies – his life really hasn’t changed that much. He’s a homebody and things are weird, but kinda normal. (He’s one of the ones still in the office with us everyday).

But for the rest of us, everything is totally not normal. Kids are home. Supplies are limited. People are working from home. (I’ve heard stories of what UPS drivers had to go through that first week. Apparently thousands of people ordered desks and had them delivered to their homes.) People are doing all they can. To keep themselves and their families safe. And sane.

Then there’s another subset – those of us who live alone. Single or not, living alone in the midst of a pandemic isn’t the most fun thing to do. Even if you’re lucky enough to go to work everyday as part of an essential business, you still go straight home to your empty living quarters where nothing has changed since you left that morning. No one has rearranged the books. Or toys. Or living room. (I’m thinking of rearranging my bedroom, so it’s be nice if someone did that. Lol) No one is cooking dinner or there to listen about your day. No one to do….well, just about anything.

Now – you’ve heard enough from me before to know that there are weeks where it is just rough to be single. But it’s usually easy enough to get out of that funk. Go away for a long weekend. Go hang out in the mountains. Go out for a night on the town with the girls – there are a ton of possible ways to reengage and love life again. Until all those options are replaced by only video chats, phone calls and text messages. And that’s it. A coworker told me to not work too late today – and I said “Why? So I can go home and stare at the walls?”

A single friend said it really well last night – “I know a lot of people are struggling with what to do with their kids, but it would be nice to just have someone to look at.” And isn’t that the truth? Those of us who live alone can do puzzles, listen to audio books, exercise, read real books and cook with the best of them. But – we can’t do any of those things with another human being. We can’t play games or hash out our days with someone. We just – are.

Life is hard for everyone right now. Not one person is not struggling with something through this. But imagine carrying the constant burden of it all…the unknown, the anxiety, the “how do I care for my employees and keep them safe”, the “do I have enough of what I need” to the one we’re all avoiding – “what is going to happen if I get sick”?…by yourself? Not cool.

Every day is a battle mentally. Not to get up and get going, but to deal with issues throughout the day. Policies and protective measures at work are always changing. Coworkers and employees have concerns about health and safety. Customers need everything now and then no one needs a thing for days. Highs and lows – and then what is high and what is low changes every day. Sometimes it even changes throughout the day. All while remembering to spray or wipe down all the surfaces people touch around you. Or that you’ve touched. It’s mentally exhausting.

So be nice to your single friends. Check in on them with a text or a call or a letter. Something to remind them that they are loved and thought of. No matter how strong they make you think they are (or you know they are), I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. I know I do. It’s lonely being alone sometimes. But it’s even lonelier when you are alone all the time with no end in sight. And those people you’re quarantined with? Relish the hugs, the feel of their hand in yours, the pure joy of human contact. I haven’t hugged or been hugged, shaken or held a hand or even touched an arm in weeks. Be thankful for what you do have. Even if you just want to smack it. Ha!

P.S. We’re still okay through this. We are. We’re finding ways just like everyone else to get by. And we will. There will be dinner dates and movies and trips to the mountains and Avs games and life to live again. We just need to get through this part of the show first. Then the band can finally show up and we can get back to living life well.

Reflection

I’m not one for resolutions so I didn’t write a New Year’s post. My experience with resolutions is common – they’re dead within a matter of weeks. What I try to do is make some goals and create a realistic plan to get them accomplished. I don’t always complete them, but I usually get a lot further than not starting at all.

January 26th has become somewhat of a special day to me. Not only is it Dana’s birthday, but it became one of the most pivotal days of my life. In 2018, it was the day I sold my house, worked the final day of my 17+ year job at Arbor, bought out my car, said some tearful goodbyes and set out in my trek to the West. I ended up in Columbus for the night, so just add “leaving my home state” to that list as well.

This picture was after all of those events that day, plus an eight hour car ride. I had grabbed some food, cranked the AC, and laid down for one of the best sleeps of my life. I was exhausted but happy to be on the journey. Friends – I’m not gonna lie. A week later I was in Colorado Springs at April’s house having a meltdown/bawl fest cause “what the hell did I just do?” Bawled. Like a thirteen year old with her first breakup. But with grown up reasons. Just ask April. I was a hot mess. I’d like to say that was the only time, but I’d be lying. It wasn’t.

But here we are, two years later. And, as most of you know, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Moving out here and learning a new job and finding new friends was scary as shit. And it didn’t always work. I’m still learning. But I have way more self-confidence, I freaking love my job and this is just a most beautiful place to live in. It’s the weirdest thing – sometimes I still feel like I’m on an extended trip and there’s an end in sight, but I’m very comfortable here and still exploring what it has to offer. There is so much to see and experience. Like the rodeo I just went to. Where’s that been all my life???

I know this isn’t the first time I said it, but I’ve been thinking about it again so here it is. Be brave. Take those opportunities. Create some if they’re not there. Live. Be scared. Breathe. Pray. And then get out there and figure it all out. Then breathe again and take a moment to enjoy where you are. It may not be where you want to go, but every step of the journey is important. We need them to get to the next steps. Then get moving again. Change is good. It can hurt, but it’s growth. If you have a chance, take it. I did and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Don’t worry what others tell you, go with God and your gut. You’re the one living your life – not other people. Now – go rock it.

Jingle Mingles

Holidays can be strange. The way you feel about them can be strange. And sometimes the feelings you have about them hit you in different ways at different times. The loneliness of being single on a holiday isn’t a big issue, but sometimes it hits you in ways you didn’t see coming. And when it does – it’s can be heart wrenching. When you attend parties and you have all sorts of fun and then you realize you’re the only one going home alone. When they’re so excited to get back to their families and you go home to an empty apartment. I love leaving my Christmas tree on so I have some kind of Christmas cheer to come home to.

And then – you go out on the town with your friends who are in the same spot you are and you realize how lucky you really are. That you are in the world enjoying life and are more than okay. Drinking holiday beverages at a pop up bar in a cheerily decorated (and most definitely, cheesy) back room with other people feeling festive. Eating oysters. Taking an Uber Black downtown. Going home and hanging out with family, friends and old coworkers and realizing that they’re still around for you. Celebrating New Year’s Eve at a club downtown and having a blast with your friends – old and new.

Being single during the holidays has its ups and downs, but it sure can be fun!

Where Gratitude Outshines Vulnerability

I’m pretty sure I never put gratitude and vulnerability in the same sentence before, but it’s been popping up over the last few weeks so I’m thinking they just may be related. Or I need to learn something about it. Maybe. Probably.

A month or so ago, I had a blog draft I was working on called Vulnerability. I didn’t get very far on it because I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. It was also coming across…..well, vulnerable. And as expressive as I am at times, putting full blown vulnerability out there was not something I was willing to do. So, I scrapped that idea and threw it in the trash. There. No more vulnerability.

Except….yep. It came up again. A few times. So I guessed there was something going on. And then on Sunday, it all kinda clicked. In church, the pastor gave the obligatory message about gratitude right before Thanksgiving. But he promised it was going to be a bit different. And it was. At least for me.

He spoke a lot about gratitude and how it changes our lives when we express it. And how our relationships with others change based on the amount of gratitude we give. Or receive. And honestly, I didn’t really think about that part before because I usually try and make a point to thank people for what they do. Especially at work. But here’s the thing I didn’t realize before – I do get irritated at people when they don’t say thank you to me. Really. I often say “you’re welcome” just to make a point. I think it’s the Philly in me, so I guess I’m making the hometown proud. But while I’m trying to “raise awareness”, I’m essentially being just as rude as they are.

So while I’m working on how I really feel about that smack in the face, let me tell you about the other thing I learned over the weekend. The pastor was talking about how we sometimes have obstacles in the way of expressing gratitude. Especially in relation to God. But think about it – sometimes we do this to people around us as well. It can be pride, or a guilt complex or a comparison situation where we don’t want to look like we’re putting ourselves out there in order to admit that someone did something nice for us. This usually happens when we’re mad at that person, not very close to them or maybe, we just simply don’t like them. (Gasp! Yeah right. Like that’s never happened to you! Haha) I’ve begrudgingly expressed thanks to people I didn’t particularly care for, even worse – people who repaid my bad attitude with kindness. Nothing like self-reflection and embarrassment all rolled into one to make you learn a lesson real quick!

The one other obstacle that got me was vulnerability. It actually stemmed from the fear of joy. How does that work? Well, think about it. If we express gratitude for something that happened and we feel joy, we ultimately have this idea in the back of our minds that it’s not going to last. Joy can be fleeting. It can come out of that one thing we’ve been waiting for or working towards, only to have something ruin it at the end. At least that’s what we think. We’re afraid to feel that joy and express that gratitude because we’re so scared it’s going to be taken away from us or that it won’t last long. What we end up doing is building defenses and not letting ourselves feel that joy. Because what’s the point of feeling it only to have it go away?

That’s the point of living people! We live for the moments of joy and gratitude in our lives. (Honestly, sometimes it makes you feel more alive). I hate feeling vulnerable because it makes me feel unprotected. Unsafe. I never thought about being afraid of joy, but there was something that resonated with me on that one. Maybe I am and I’ll have to figure that one out. Not that I’m looking forward to that. Those types of lessons should really come with a warning label.

So how does this factor into gratitude and Thanksgiving? My main point to this one is that I thought I had this gratitude thing down and I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Whether it’s with family, friends or God, practicing gratitude is something I need to do even when it makes me feel vulnerable. Or uncomfortable. Even when I would just rather not.

Our challenge is to take a look and see how much we give thanks or express gratitude to those around us. Even when it hurts. Even when we’re fighting battles. Even when it’s the first – or yet another – holiday without a beloved one. It’s not always easy and it may make you feel guilt or vulnerability or even pride, but I’m willing to bet you won’t be sorry that you did. Not only will you feel better, but your family member, friend or coworker will be glad that you did as well. I’m not pretending that your life is rosy and you’re not the best of friends with your significant other or kids or friends or your Great Aunt Sally. Not everyone’s life is easy or plainly defined. Or even happy. I get that. It can get dark sometimes. And the last thing we think of when we’re in that dark place is to be thankful.

Call me optimistic, but I believe every little thanks brings another ray of light into that place. We just have to lift our heads up and open ourselves up to the vulnerability of thanking others for something they took the time out to do for us. If theory proves correctly, it will further connect us with those we’re thanking. Especially if they’re the ones who remind us to bring stretchy pants to Thanksgiving dinner.

Enjoy everyone – Happy Thanksgiving!

When It Just Doesn’t Work…And Then It Does

This one could also be called “Perspective Brings Contentment” but that just sounds boring, right?

If you read my last post, you know that last week was a “fun” week for me.  Looking back, I could have handled so many things differently.  (Self-reflection has been a thing for some of us at work this past year and man – is it ever a joy.  Sike.)  It wasn’t the worst, but I let so many things affect me in a negative way that, if viewed in a different light, really weren’t the end of the world.  They were hard and there was no getting out of them, but totally deal-able.  (For those of you who have been trying to tell me this for weeks/months/years, you can say it now.  You told me so. And I’ll say this – you were right.) Some things I handled well and there were lots I didn’t.

It started with someone calling out for two days whom we were almost sure was going to end up quitting.  This person was just plain miserable in what they were doing.  While they were out, yours truly was covering for them and found a lot of incomplete items and some items simply not even started.  Then, there was an incident that was not our fault, but some of our fault, that I ended up taking the fallout for.  Talking to a friend that night, I asked for some advice as it seemed I needed to do something differently.  “Be simple and to the point” he said.  “Don’t be wordy, just state the issue, tell them to do their job and move on.”  Guess what?  I was given an opportunity to use that advice the next morning and it was pretty dang effective.  See?  I listen.  Sometimes.

So by Wednesday morning my blood pressure was up to 137/107 and I was completely done in.  We have a team meeting on Wednesday mornings and, since one of my guys took ownership of that meeting, I get to take a step back.  (Yay for delegation!) During the meeting, he eluded to some of the issues and asked me to elaborate.  I laid out some of the issues and basically said that everyone needed to be there everyday and get their own work done and stop worrying about everyone else.  (I swear I can almost relate to parents some days! lol) A few of the guys took up the mantle and started to motivate the rest of them.  It was pretty entertaining actually.

Afterwards, one of my employees caught me in the shop and asked me to walk with her.  She wanted to offer to take over the job of the first guy in this story as she has done the job before.  Her current job was pretty streamlined and would be a better fit for the first person that was struggling.  We talked about it, worked out some kinks and guys, I practically cried.  For those of you who know me, I cry about four to maybe six times a year so that’s something.  This was a HUGE weight off of my shoulder as she was previously going to transfer to another department but decided she couldn’t leave me. (Right??? How cool is that?)

We offered the job transfer, everyone was happy and they started cross-training.  All by lunchtime. Yep.  We didn’t mess around on this one.  When she did go to lunch, she brought me back a little present.  (I may or may not have almost cried again.) It’s little and simple, and men’s (LOL) but they brought me back socks that said “World’s Best Boss”.  People apparently go to lunch at Target and it’s a beautiful thing.

Another cool part of this story is a verse my friend sent me that Monday morning.  Neither she nor I had any idea of how it was going to be a part of all of this, but that is one of my favorite parts.  Check out Ephesians 3:20.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 

When she gave me this verse, it was about another work/life issue entirely, but do you see how well it worked in this situation?  I didn’t come up with that idea, wasn’t even in part of my strategy – at all.  Something was going on behind the scenes that I had no idea about and guess what?  It was more than I even asked or thought.

If that wasn’t good enough, I drug my fine self to church on Sunday (it was one of those days I wanted a date with my bed but my friends convinced me to go) and got totally God-slapped.  This is where the perception leads to contentment thing comes in.  The lesson was this – our perspective has a direct link to our contentment.  Who we go through things with, how we react to them, what we learn from them and how we benefit from them is all related.  Rewind the past week or two and, if viewed with a different perspective, my experiences would be a great deal different.  More than likely in the positive light.

Here’s one of the things we say at work a lot though – “Mistakes are proof you are trying”.  If I wasn’t going through some of the things I did/am still going through, there would be no lesson to learn.  Nothing to fall back on to do differently or try another way.  The reward, once it comes, will be that much sweeter because I had to work harder for it.  And the lessons learned on the way – priceless.

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My present 🙂

A Single Holiday Season

It started with Halloween.  I didn’t actually realize it at the time, but that is totally where it began. It’s probably my least favorite holiday to start with – mostly because I pretty much hate horror. And being scared (and for some reason, people just LOVE scaring me). Anyway, Halloween brings massive amounts of candy, decorations, costumes and the inevitable slew of fall family photo session posts. Whether just cute kids in costumes or happy family shots of smiling parents and darling children surrounded by falling autumn leaves, they’re there.  Everywhere.  All over social media.  Showcasing how happy and together everyone’s life is.

Stick with me here.  This is not a plea for attention nor a blast on those who post these photos.  I personally know of a lot of people who have prayed for years for a spouse and/or children, and these pictures are a testament to their faith and joy.  No issues here, people.

What I would like to bring awareness to are the ones who are hanging in there on their own, whether firmly intact or hanging by a thread.  Holidays suck for single people sometimes.  They just do.  And you don’t even have to be one of those singles who is hardcore looking for a significant other, seriously.  I personally go back and forth.  Last weekend?  I was totally annoyed at life, my single status and the fact that every third post on Facebook showed a happy, smiling family unit.  It seemed like they were mocking me.  Every single one. And the way it made me feel? And my reaction to it? Let’s just say it’s wasn’t pretty.

What manifested from that is something I am not particularly proud of.  Issues in my work life crept into my personal life and I felt like a complete failure who was going to be alone for the rest of her life. (Crazy, right? But we’ve all been there a time or two.) Then I had to attend a bridal shower, where at one point, one of the ladies made all of us “single ladies in the back” stand up so everyone could see us and have our picture taken. The words in my head at that moment people! (Although let me point out here that I love this particular bride and, through the haze of my blah, I was completely happy for her) In light of all this, last Sunday ended up being a pretty rough day for me and I was pretty bitchy.  A funny, snarky bitch, but one nonetheless. Thankfully, my friends put up with me and laughed me through it. Later that night, I had a long talk with one of my best friends and realized my fear and discontent was at the heart of it. We worked through some of those issues and I felt a lot better.

I knew I was gonna regret it, but I told her I was thinking of taking a break from Facebook. I’d realized I was on it more often than usual and that it wasn’t good for my mental health at the moment. Being the great friend that she is, she offered to do the same. So, for the past week I stayed off of Facebook.

I’d like to tell you I didn’t miss it at all, but you know the truth. I was seriously addicted. Had no idea how many times a day I stopped to see what the world was doing. By Wednesday I was pretty disgusted with myself and found that life indeed went on without Facebook. It was oddly freeing.

But back to the main point – holidays get interesting for single people. Here’s the thing, Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two favorite holidays and I will celebrate them in whatever way possible. I love going to parties and even hosting them. But what sucks for single people is celebrating them in a way where you end up making concessions for everyone else.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s put it this way – think about the last few years and maybe even the upcoming holidays – who have you have invited to your events? Where do you put them? Some of my single friends are still stuck at the kids table – while younger people sit at the main table simply because they’re a couple. Some are invited as afterthoughts because the family members they normally celebrate with were invited elsewhere. Some have to change their plans last minute to accommodate siblings or other family members simply because “well, you’re only one person”. All while expected to bring food contributions, gifts and to show up looking classy and put together because “there’s no one else to take care of” and you can look good cause “you have all the time in the world” and “you need to attract men!”. Yet they’re the ones paying for all of that stuff by themselves. Because they are one person.

See what I mean? Most people don’t even notice. Hell, half the time us single people don’t even care. Because we’re with the people we love and we get to celebrate the holidays. (And honestly, we can go home by ourselves and go right to sleep if we want. Pros/cons) But then there’s the inevitable years where it feels off. Where you wish you had someone to attend all the events and parties with. Where you get tired of answering the same three or four questions that apparently are the go-to “ask the single person” ones.

So, in order to escape the weird questions or feelings or even loneliness, we end up on Facebook checking to see what’s new only to be bombarded again with the happy families, new engagements and overall good stuff that people post. All to have the stark reality thrown right back in your face. It’s real out in the field, people.

We are not alone in this either – any single parent, couple longing for children or people simply unhappy in their marriage more than likely go through the same thing.

My plea in this post is to think about these people during this holiday season. Don’t stuff the singles wherever you may have room cause you had to invite them. Remember for all intents and purposes they are a “family unit” as well. I’ve personally experienced the things I’ve pointed out and most times you just roll with it. Because that’s life and where I am in it for the time being. But it’s when people tell you that you should be more flexible (in whatever situation) because “it’s just you”, is when I usually lose it. You’re already trying to manage all this stuff on your own and then someone says something like that and it just make you feel like a friggin winner.

So here are some pointers. Instead of the obligatory questions about work, “where are you traveling to next” and, my personal favorite, “have you thought about online dating”, ask us what our favorite thing was this year. What was the best thing we learned? How are we making out with life? Do we need any help, advice or someone to talk to? (In my case it will probably be “do you need therapy? Lol)

This rant is how I feel now and it doesn’t usually last long. I’ll probably be just fine and dandy in a few weeks and be out celebrating somewhere. I’ll be fine – but please just think about those celebrating alone this season and make them feel just as special and loved as the others. Because they usually are.

The ones who put up with me 😉