Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Grey's Journey?

When did everything a person does in life suddenly become a "journey".

Let me clarify, there are many things in life that can be considered a journey. People who successfully handle trials and tribulations can rightfully talk about their journey. People who have accomplished something that took a lot of time and effort, had ups and downs, was difficult ... I think they can all that a journey.

But "journey" has become so overused, I'm tired of it.

Recently I was trying out a new podcast to see if I will listen to it. It happened to be about the TV show Grey's Anatomy.

One of the hosts said to the other: Discuss your Grey's journey.


Watching a TV show is not a life journey. It is not any other kind of journey. Watching a TV show is watching a TV show!

Needless to say, I stopped listening to the podcast and will not go back.

Don't even get me started on the use of "toppings"!

(For the record, toppings go on pizza and ice cream sundaes ... not coffee drinks!)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Big Picture

We all have things we need to do in the short term that we do not want to do. It is often very hard to get past the minutia of the minute, the irritation of the day, the pain of what happens in any one particular week.

But sometimes, you have to step back and take a look at the big picture. Why am I here? What is my goal? What am I trying to accomplish by doing this? Where do I want to be in an hour, week, month, year?

Today was one of those days when i had to be reminded about the big picture.

Today is Mother's Day. And my kids who all work in food service had the day off to spend with me! Unfortunately, the part-time job I recently picked up scheduled me to work from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Earlier this month my manager indicated that staff could not request off for holidays. I've worked in restaurants and in retail before -- I assumed that, like all of those jobs, Mother's Day was a holiday I could not ask off. I didn't find out until Thursday that I was scheduled to work today.

I was OK with it until I realized that I could have asked for it off! Seriously? The only woman in this department with children, and you scheduled ME to work Mother's Day?

Then I was pissed -- ROYALLY pissed! I am too old to be treated this way for a crappy part-time job!

After I calmed down, I took a step back and had a look at the big picture. I am at the part-time job for a reason. I have a plan that will take about a year to fulfill. 99% of the people I work with are very nice. Even the customers are mostly very nice. So, this one time, I have to work Mother's Day. I can live with it. I can get past this. And I can guarantee it will never happen again.

No, I don't "need" this particular job. But if I look at the big picture -- I WANT this job and it will get me where I need to be next year.

One thing I did learn is, it is not good to assume anything. Immediately after discovering that I was scheduled today, I asked off for every single day I wanted off through the month of July.


We all have those happy anniversary dates we cannot forget: first dates, first day at a new job, weddings, birthdays...

But we also have the sad dates we cannot forget, like the day a divorce is final, 9/11, or the day your parents died.

I bring this up because my in-laws died tragically in May more than 20 years ago. (If you have read this blog before, you know how they died, and I don't really want to get into that right now.)

For a very long time, the entire month of May would be difficult for my husband. Then for years, the week of the anniversary would be hard for him. Finally, just the day of their deaths was the hard day.

Most of the time he does a great job of not dwelling! People who do not know us would never guess that that day can be difficult.

But then some years we have the double whammy -- the anniversary of their deaths falls on Mother's Day.  This year -- today -- is the 25th anniversary.

A couple of days ago, I asked my husband if it would be hard for him, and he said no. We have great kids -- we count four now, even though only two are "officially" ours. And the kids do a great job of spoiling us both, so there really is no time to think about anything sad.

Still 25 years ago today, our lives changed in such a dramatic way! Sometimes I cannot believe that it has been 25 years already! And on other days, it feels as if it was an eternity ago -- it feels as if it happened to different people.

So, on this day when I am going to be spoiled rotten, I want to take a moment to remember the two best in-laws that ever were. If I could have planned a mother-in-law and father-in-law, it would have been you.

Mom and Grumpy -- we still miss you and think about you! Thank you for having been such a positive influence on me, even if it was for only four years!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Natural Consequences

Sometimes dumb decisions have consequences. I made a rather foolish decision Saturday night and I'm still paying for it this morning.

Because of this silly decision, I missed 6 hours at my new part-time job yesterday and a full day at my day job today. Ugh!

Here's what I did.

Saturday evening my husband and I were meeting a couple of friends out. Though hungry, I didn't want to take the time to cook anything -- I ate half of a big, blue cheese hamburger I saved from my lunch Friday. It tasted great!

What I had forgotten was, after Friday's lunch the burger sat on my desk unrefrigerated all afternoon. When I got home that evening, the burger sat on the counter for another couple of hours. Eventually, I put it in the refrigerator. Then I ate it Saturday night.

I woke up early Sunday morning -- not feeling right, but not feeling sick. I took a couple of Advil and went back to bed. An hour later I was so uncomfortable in the bed, I went downstairs to lay on the couch. I still did not feel right, and a screaming headache was building. A shower, more napping, laying around, more Advil. I felt worse and worse as the day went on and I finally started to throw up around noon.

At that point I finally called the part-time job and said I was too sick to come in. Unfortunately, I needed to call in earlier than 2 hours before my start time -- I called only 1 hr and 45 min before. I can't believe how bad I feel about that.

I expected to feel better today, and I did -- a little. But the screaming headache would not let up. I could not imagine driving with my head hurting like this! There is no way I would be able to concentrate on anything at the office.

So, one stupid decision has caused me two days of feeling crappy and about 13 of work I should be doing. I hope I've learned my lesson.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Living What They Preach

So, I have spent about 10 hours in training for my new part-time retail job. Some of it was in person, some via video and yesterday quite a bit online. Throughout the training, everyone has emphasized customer service, helpfulness and basically being kind.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard it all before. The cynical me was thinking, what company does NOT say it emphasizes customer service? And in reality, how many stores have I been in where I felt customer service was important?

While setting up a computer for my training, the manager on duty had to take a call from a customer. His tone was friendly, professional and more than that, it was kind. I could tell the customer was happy at the end of the call.

Later, I left the computer looking for a staffer to ask a question. The first person I encountered did not know me from Adam (Eve?). I asked my question expecting him to think I am an idiot. He listened to everything I said, then spent a good 3 minutes giving me a very thorough answer.

While sitting at the computer, several other staff members stopped by to say Hi and ask how my training was going.

As the store closed and I was leaving, the employees on the floor took the time to say goodbye and asked when I would be back.

Needless to say, I was stunned. Every single person I encountered who works for this company was friendly! They all seemed to care how I was doing!

I know there are a lot of people who would read this and say, "What's the big deal?" Let's just say that since graduating from college in the early 1980s, I have never had a job in my professional career where employees treated each other so well. Don't get me wrong -- I have had the group of friendly co-workers and that one amazing boss. But I have never experienced a company culture like this -- a company culture that says "let's all be nice", and the employees actually are nice!

Though training is rarely fun, I went home last night feeling pretty good. If I have to work a second job for a little while, I am so lucky to be working at a company like this! Though I had expected to have to learn to do this job, I didn't expect I would be learning something so basic that I should have been doing for years.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Not One of the Cool Kids

I'll just come out and say it. I am not where I want to be professionally and I am not as successful as I thought I would be at my age.

A few years back I took a business risk. My plan was that I would quit my day job and run this business until I sold it years from now, making millions. It didn't happen that way.

In the meantime, the economy has been getting progressively worse, I'm getting older, and finding the type of job I want is pretty tough right now.

This is all to explain why earlier this week I was sitting in a small conference room with seven other people (who were all under the age of 24) watching a two-hour employment orientation video for a retail outlet. Yes, I took a part-time job at a retail chain.

The initial interview process was great! The managers are wonderful! Many of the part-time staff are my age and pretty much in the same boat -- I feel very comfortable with my decision to work there. But in this small conference room, I was more than twice the age of everyone else. To say I stuck out like a sore thumb is an understatement.

The orientation process was fine until the manager started the training DVD and left the room. Though pretty well done as far as training videos go (I know it isn't a video, but what do I call it?), but it was horribly long and parts were a little cheesy. It was grueling to sit there for so long.

The "children" were restless and started talking about all kinds of stuff that had nothing to do with the video. They got pretty loud and silly. I felt old. I didn't want to participate in the inane conversation, but I didn't like being the geek among the cool kids. I just wanted to watch the video and move on.

At one point the youngest woman suggested we fast forward through parts. Someone handed her the remote and she tried the buttons. "Don't do that," I said. "If they want us to watch this, we should watch it." Just put the goody two shoes label on me now!

She kept playing with the buttons and I had to say something again. Finally, the guy who handed her the remote admitted that there were no batteries in it and he knew it wouldn't work. OK, so I wasn't the only one who knew we had to do it even if it was unpleasant -- but I was still the only one geeky enough to tell her to stop.

In the majority of situations, I am comfortable with my age. I'm OK around my teenaged son's friends and I'm comfortable around people much older than I am. In most social situations, I am not alone with large groups of twenty-somethings. And if I am in a group too young for me, usually I can leave.

It's totally different being with this group -- who will be my co-workers, my peers.

The good news is orientation is over. The better news is that I will not be working in the same department with any of these people.

After a year of freelancing and extreme budgeting that just has not worked, I am ready for this move. I have a plan to take care of a few things and this is the first step. It is not where I want to be, but I think it is where I am supposed to be -- at least for now.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Be the One

About two weeks ago, I got my hair cut. It wasn't anything complicated or unusual, it was just my usual hair guy and pretty much the same haircut and color I get every time I see him. Most women know that even if you tell your hair person to give you the same cut and color every month, you always end up with something just a little bit different.

I have no idea what he did different this time, but people have noticed. I have had more compliments on my hair in the last two weeks than I have all year! People who don't know me, but have to look at my driver's license, comment on my hair. The receptionist at my dentist's office said I look younger. People who have known me for years have said the color is great.

I'm not a froo-froo person and know nearly nothing about hair and makeup. If I am getting compliments, it is not because of anything I am doing. I was thrilled at the reaction!

Friday morning I decided to leave a message for him. "Hey, just want to let you know, I'm getting a lot of compliments on my hair. People love the cut and the color and they say I look younger. Whatever you did, remember it because you need to do it again."

A couple of hours later I got a call from him. He sounded a little bit down. "I just want you to know you made my day," he said in a low-key voice. "I've been having a rough week, and I really needed to hear some good news. Thank you."

Though I knew he would appreciate hearing I like my hair, the main reason for my phone call was somewhat selfish -- I wanted him to remember what he did so he could do it again. I never anticipated it would make that big of an impact on him.

In my PR classes in college we learned that for every compliment received on an event or project, there are 10 other people who are just as happy, but have chosen to say nothing. At the same time, most unhappy people will tell you exactly how unhappy they are. I hate to admit I am just like everyone else -- I complain immediately, but rarely give compliments.

After Friday, I will try harder to be that one happy person.

NOTE: I am not including a photo of my hair. I'm not wearing make up, I didn't put in my contacts, and it never looks as good in a photo as it does in person. Use your imagination -- it looks great!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lessons from Diana Nyad

Last year I was obsessed with Diana Nyad's attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. At over 60 years old, she had not swum in more than 30 years after setting several long-distance swimming records! (If you are unaware of her swimming accomplishments, you need to look her up!)

About this time, I read an interview with Diana. I can't remember where the article came from, but it was very unflattering. It portrayed Diana as a mentally weak, incompetent person who could not do the simplest things to take care of herself.

I was so disappointed! I remembered when she accomplished some of her swimming feats in the 1970s and when I heard about her planned swim from Cuba to Florida I was excited! Here was an athlete in her 60s trying a swim that had never been completed without a shark cage. How was it possible that she could be such a weak person in real life?

This week I discovered that Diana Nyad was a featured speaker on the TED Talks podcast and wondered if she would end up being kooky or seem incompetent.

Her speech focused on her unsuccessful swim attempt from Cuba to Florida last year. She said that the reason for the swim was so she could say she lived her life without regrets. She talked about the preparation and dedication needed and how she handled her 24-hour training swims. I was especially impressed with the many things she had planned to think about when she reached specific milestones. 

Take a minute to understand this. She planned out the specific things she would "think" about during her entire swim, and knew that she would think about Stephen Hawking during the 60th hour. (When I'm training for long-distance walking events, I don't plan to think about anything, and my longest walks were only 5 hours.)

Then came the details about the actual swim attempt. After several hours in the water she was stung by box jelly fish. The pain was excruciating and her medical team did their best to help her recover enough to continue swimming. During this treatment, she stayed in the water. Then, while still in pain, she continued swimming for several more hours even though it was difficult. The next day she was stung again. At that point, she had to be pulled from the water for more intensive medical treatment. Though she went back in the water and was able to continue to swim over night, the stings took their toll and eventually she had to stop. 

She says that she is glad she lived those two years of her life preparing for that swim. When you live each day with that much passion, there is no time to have regrets. And now she wants to live every day for the rest of her life that way. She points out that sometimes you have to accept defeat and you can accept it with grace. But, the ocean is still there and her hope to successfully complete the swim is still alive in her. "I can swim from Cuba to Florida, and I WILL swim from Cuba to Florida," she said.

That is the only swim she is interested in and she is ready.

So, what did I learn from Diana?

It is OK to fail.

Just because your last success was more than 30 years ago does not mean you should not try.

Live every day with passion.

Shoot for what may seem to be impossible.

And, don't believe everything you read.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weird Coincidence

About a week ago I found a photograph of a beautiful woman running on a beach. She is wearing a bikini and looks strong and healthy, with lots of muscle. She also has prosthetic legs.

It's a great photo! It inspires me in so many different ways. If this woman without legs can be that healthy and strong, what excuse do I have? I also thought my problems seem insignificant compared to not having legs.

Today I was listening to a podcast called The Moth. This podcast features people telling true stories from their own lives in front of live audiences. Many of them are funny, but most of them are intended to make the audience think. Many of the stories that air on this podcast are winners in storytelling competitions.

The story I heard today was told by a woman named Aimee Mullins -- who happened to be a double amputee with no legs. She told stories about growing up with artificial legs, trying to swim, trying to run, wearing dresses... She eventually ended up helping design prosthetic legs, setting running records at the paralympics and became a model.

The story was amazing and she was an amazing storyteller. She was so interesting, I did a Google search on her. And there I found a photograph of a beautiful woman running on a beach with prosthetic legs.

What are the chances?