Wednesday, March 8, 2017

what I learned in February ...

... is that snow eventually melts.
 It might come back ... but it will melt.

 February was a busy month. I was working nearly full-time hours at my part-time job. I was also trying to check off items on my do-do-to-do list at home. Projects that I had been overwhelmed by when we moved last October that became more overwhelming in December and January.



I realized that I have really become a "foodie," creating recipes for my husband, and trying new combinations.

One of the other things I learned was just how much I struggle with being A.D.D.  I always just thought it was multi-tasking, or getting distracted easily ~ for example when trying to clear clutter, one thing taken to another room will find me doing things in that room until something brings me back out with something else in hand. So I have been trying to focus more on just.one.thing. I still have my do-do-to-do lists, but they are not dated and act more as just reminders. When I come home I choose one item on my list, or one item that needs to be done, and take as much time as I need to just do that one thing.

It has been working, I'm getting more done, with less stress. Sleeping better. Feeling better.
And that's a good thing.

I've also learned that I don't have to explain my choices, justify my decisions, or share who I have become over the past seven years with those whom I no longer have anything in common with. These winter months of isolation and depression have opened my eyes to what is important ... my faith, my marriage, my husband and myself.

Most importantly, I came to the realization that this year will be one of my best ever!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What I did on the last day of my old job ...

Today was my last day, and I could have come down with a case of short-timer. But one thing I've learned in my work career is that sometimes how you leave a job says more about who you are as an employee than your resume or references can.

She'd had the "Help Wanted" sign in the window for months, but hadn't gotten any applicants serious about working. Some people came in and expressed an interest in learning how to prepare tax returns, but when they saw the three-inch thick tax law book to read and learn from they didn't come back. They wanted a paycheck but weren't willing to put in the effort to earn it. So it was just her, answering the phones, greeting walk-ins, scheduling appointments, and preparing tax returns.

Until I stopped in one afternoon in mid-January and asked what kind of help they were looking for. I knew, and she knew, that it wasn't going to be permanent or full-time. She said that she couldn't offer me what my resume and experience said I was worth, and I told her it didn't matter. "Worth" is a relative term. When you have zero income it doesn't matter whether or not the pay is what you made in the past or what those letters behind your name cost you. A little money pays bills just as easy as a lotta money.

She was hoping I would be able to stick it out for the long run when she planned to purchase the franchise and offer me the Office Manager position that was one of the hats she currently wore. It would never be a full-time 40-hour a week job, and the money wouldn't be what I made before the economy and jobs flipped in 2008. But it would be a job and an income.

I started work armed with initiative and too many months of looking for a job to just sit idly by and watch the clock tick off the hours until I could go home.  I emptied the clutter in the storage closet, organized it, throwing out what was trash, sorting what were keepers, and moving the excess IT supplies to another shelf unit so they could be tested and resourced.

My days were spent shredding old documents, emptying trash, cleaning floors and windows. I took apart the vacuum, washed the filters and dust container, and cleared the clogged hose. The two lonely magazines from 2012 in the lobby met with the recycler and I went online to order several free subscriptions for the office. The bathroom was scrubbed down, and a filing cabinet full of disorganized desk supplies became organized.

I had learned about work ethics from watching my Dad when he retired from the military and became a carpenter. If you had a job to do, he told me, do it right the first time so that you aren't wasting your time, materials, and energy later having to re-do what laziness did the first time around. He told me to treat every job like I owned the company, and everyone I met from the top to the bottom with respect. Especially the customers. They might not literally sign my paychecks, but without them, I wouldn't get a paycheck.

Those were the lessons I tried to pass on to my students when I was teaching university level management courses. As a manager, if you want employees to respect you and love their job, they need to be respected and know that they can take ownership of what they do. If they see a more efficient way of doing something, a good manager will be open to new ideas and two-way communication.

Unfortunately, I've had more than one manager who could have taken lessons in communication and Continuous Process Improvement. I'm not proud of the fact that some of those managers highly influenced my decisions to leave rather than continue to try to find ways to communicate. There is only so much you can say to someone who is unwilling to listen.

When you don't have a job, it is hard to find one. In less than a year I filled out more than 278 applications. When you have a job, however, sometimes new opportunities fall into your lap.

She knew what was coming when I told her I needed to talk to her about something. She wasn't surprised. The money and hours were better than what she could offer me, now or when she owns it. As tempting as the increase in pay was to start immediately, I gave her a two-week notice because I knew tax season was her busiest time. She had finally been able to train and hire another person for tax prep and I felt less guilty about leaving.

Today, my last day, I shoveled snow and iced the walk (because of a momentary lapse of sanity that made me leave Florida in 2014 and take a job in the north). I made coffee using some of the filters I brought from home because she only had one left and I knew wouldn't have time to shop for more until the weekend. I printed client forms and got packages ready so she wouldn't have to worry about getting them done for a few weeks.

I cleaned off the loose hair that had found its way from my head to my desk chair (and wondered why I wasn't bald or if I had a bald spot I hadn't seen yet) because, eww! No one likes to sit on a chair with a bunch of someone else's hair on it

I patched and painted over the scuff mark on the wall where the back of my desk chair had rubbed a black mark and bubbled the paint.  I vacuumed the office, and then vacuumed again after lunch when my boots tracked in ice salt. I emptied the vacuum dust container, bagged all the trash and took it to the dumpster. I ran a damp mop over the entry tiles to clean up the melted snow and salt residue, and also in the bathroom where dirty, slushy snow had melted off boots during the week.

From my first day at work to my last day, I took responsibility for my job and what I did. Unfortunately, that isn't a course offered in a school or university. It is a life lesson. It is an example that you have to see ... and want to be.

What examples are you setting in your life? What lessons are you teaching others?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

5 slow minutes on Friday

I'm joining again with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday [here]...

There is probably a government study somewhere that cost millions just to prove that the best way to get your life to slow down is to be in a hurry to get somewhere or something.

A watched pot of water boils at the same temperature an unwatched pot does, but it feels like it takes longer when you are watching it.

Traffic lights are all synchronized to change at specific intervals, but the one time you are running late for work, they all immediately turn yellow as you approach and the red seems to take twice as long to turn green.

When you are out of work and looking for a job (rather desperately), it can be months to hear back on an application. But when you get a job ... it seems like the offers appear out of nowhere.

I was out of work for most of 2016, and recently counted the number of applications I submitted (278).  In that time we moved to another state for more job opportunities, and have been renting a basement apartment. Winter in Wisconsin (or the Michigan Upper Peninsula where we were) can be seasonally depressing just by itself. Winter in a basement apartment without any natural light? Time slows to an immeasurable crawl.  Seasonal depression, however, accelerates.  This winter has been like nothing I've ever experienced before, and I'm taking into consideration puberty, divorces (parents and my own), and the death of loved ones.

Slow is too short of a word to really encompass all that it can affect.

I was reading the March issue of Horse & Rider the other day (because it was a slow afternoon at work) and read a fascinating article about slow medicine.  It referenced a book "God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine."  While the article was about veterinary medicine and horses, it got my attention for its Lean Six Sigma/Continuous Process Improvement applications. Slow medicine is about learning about the patient, and instead of prescribing drugs or modalities that often mask the true problem, it is finding the root cause and making changes that will allow the patient to self-heal and prevent the illness or injury from happening again. Healing can be slow, but that is a good thing.

God works slow.

His timing may feel almost slower than winter in a basement, but He works in ways we don't often see until we begin to slowly wake up from the things that can keep us in the darkness.

This past week I've felt like my eyes have been opened to a new brightness. Not in a literal sense, but in seeing how His light has been filling me, slowly healing me. Flooding the dark corners of my mind and heart, His light has been showing me the lies of the enemy and how the hurt that I've been holding onto was hurting me even more.

Slowly healed with His love and grace ...

I have a new outlook on boiling water and traffic lights.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

what I've learned about love and forgiveness...

If I wrote a post for Valentine's Day about what I've learned about love, it would be short and boring to most because the most important thing I've learned about love is that it is all about forgiveness.

If I wrote a post for Valentine's Day about what I've learned about marriage, you'd roll your eyes and smirk, thinking to yourself "what does she know about marriage? she's been divorced three times!"

So this is a post about love and forgiveness and marriage because without the first two you probably won't have a marriage that lasts or one that is happy. Everything I know about love came when I was able to forgive. Everything I know about being able to forgive came when I realized I was loved ... and forgiven.

Love is much different as you get older than what you might think it is when you are in your teens and twenties (or thirties, and maybe even in your forties). Love when you are young is easily confused with that tingly sensation you get when your crush is around.

Here is a secret about love ... it won't start physically. Oh, you might get those butterflies in your stomach, and feel your face flush, maybe even get a faster pitter-patter in your heart.

But love, real love, grows over time.

It is a conscious decision to fall in love all over again day-after-day. It is a conscious decision to forgive ... and to be forgiven.

Love means making choices like forgiving someone you love even when you still feel hurt or angry. It can also mean making hard choices sometimes like walking away and not looking back, even if just for a little while. They don't call it tough love because it is easy.

It means standing by those decisions in the face of everything that others might say. It means sometimes getting out of God's way to let Him make the changes that you can't because the only person you will ever be able to change is yourself, and the sooner you realize that, the happier you and your marriage will be.

Here is a truth about marriage ... it isn't between you and "everyone else." It is between you, the one you love, and God. There may be someone else who has been through what you are going through, but there isn't anyone who has been through what you are feeling.

What I have learned about love and forgiveness and marriage, is that there will be mistakes made. Things said that weren't meant the way they were heard. Things that were done that shouldn't have been.

There will be times when you wonder what you are doing here ... or there ... now ... or then. And the truth is that there are no easy answers, no easy love, no easy forgiveness, and no easy marriages.

Marriages take work, commitment, communication, honesty, forgiveness, hugs, tears, dancing in the kitchen, late night hugs, reaching out in the dark and holding a hand.

They take faith, hope, desire, dreams, pain, sacrifice, compromise, road trips, laughter, messy hair, and smelly socks.

Marriages take patience, learning, growing, giving, taking, adventures, flowers, burnt cookies, and cleaning up after sick pets, children, or each other.

They aren't always pretty, they aren't always fun. They aren't the glamor of Hollywood or the ugliness of reality TV.

But when you find love and forgiveness, you figure out how to make it work. Because a marriage built with love and forgiveness ... is a marriage worth fighting for, working for, risking for, and giving it all for.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January creative ...

January was a busy month. Going back to work tried to cramp my creative, but didn't. These are a few of the projects I worked on, and some of my creative cooking (no one died!). Learned some things from my projects, some were wins and others not so much.

Charlie wasn't really impressed with a collar I cut off an old shirt, but I loved how cute he looked.

My upcycled jeans memo board turned out fun. I may look for an old leather belt to add or may make a macrame one. The snowflake on the right is one that diffuses oils, and I love being able to write while feeling lifted by the scent of citrus.

I've been on a caramelized onion kick and have been adding them to almost everything (when I wasn't eating them just as they are!).  I made cabbage and sausage for the first time and it turned out delish! Next time I will cook the cabbage with a ham bone I saved from a spiral baked ham we bought.

Speaking of which ... my husband doesn't like the honey glaze that comes with some hams, so I didn't use it on the ham. However, I did save it, put it in an empty spice jar, added more white sugar and mixed it up. I use it in place of sugar and cinnamon on buttered toast and added it in place of just plain white sugar for a bread recipe I threw into the $6 breadmaker we found at the thrift store. Just enough spice to make it smell yummy, but not overwhelming in taste.


I finally got my crocheted coaster finished and loved how it came out. It is an easy enough project that I can do when watching a movie or just relaxing (as long as I hide the yarn and sequin thread from a tiny rotten kitten!).

I've also been adding soups to a lot of meals.
  • Shepherd's Pie: added a can of condensed Golden Mushroom soup, but think next time I will use Cream of Celery soup and add mushrooms.
  • Stuffing: added Golden Mushroom soup and reduced some of the water needed for the stuffing.
  • Chicken & Rice: (hubby's favorite!) added Cream of Celery soup and mushrooms to the rice while it was cooking.
And I made Scotch Eggs for the first time (yum!)!

Mom mentioned that she liked a brooch I sent her her at Christmas, so I made her one to send for next Christmas. I'm going to make earrings to match, but need to find an old pair of clip-on ones that I can cannibalize for the clip. The gold berries are balls of glow-in-the-dark glitter glue on gold sequins.

I found also in my cooking creativity, that sometimes throwing an unexpected spice into a recipe can be all that it needs to take it over the top.  I added cinnamon to my chili this month, and it gave it a smokey edge that made it taste amazing!


I've been keeping little slivers of soap stashed in a scrubby mitt and finally decided to melt them all down into new bars of soap.  Threw in a little bit of olive and coconut oils to help with my winter skin.  I'll let them sit for a few days and then put them in muffin papers and a zip-lock bag.

As much as I hate living in this dungeon ... it seems to have given me a creative thought process that is running 1000mph 24/7/365.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Stress Free with Plan Be

It may be a Danish way of life in the winter, but it is becoming my new way of living day-to-day.

I've always tried to have a Plan B for most things, but I've realized that sometimes it is better to have a Plan Be. To let some things just "be."

That may mean to let go of things that take too much energy, especially those that are negative energy or to just be content with the way other things are. Unchanged. Unstressed. Uncomplicated.

It may mean being creative, especially in the kitchen when I've realized that I don't have all the ingredients for something I wanted to make for dinner, or creating something new with what is on hand.

It means choosing to be happy, as much as we possibly can, without letting the negative words, actions, and emotions of those who are outside of our lives here have an impact on that decision.

I'm choosing to not let things stress me out this year by having a plan "be." 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

creating love in a new year

I've given up on writing out a list of resolutions that will make me feel guilty before the end of February. Instead, I've been working on setting goals. Short. Achievable. Things to check off in my new bullet journal ~ another new habit & goal that I'm setting for myself this year ~ and I've chosen my word for 2017.
I think for most people, 2016 was a year that everyone was glad to see over and gone. So much anger and hatred over the elections. So many deaths by terrorist activities, whether they were claimed by ISIS or not, I view any action done to cause terror, injury, and death as being done by terrorists. So many senseless abuses to children or animals that I've stopped even looking at the news.

I started the year with a lot of hope that was quickly smashed and by the end of September was just a lot of discouragement and disappointment. Gratefully, the last three months of the year gave me hope again and we were blessed tremendously.

Create can mean so many things, and this year I want it to mean all of them. 
I want to be able to create (with love) a home for us here in Wisconsin or wherever God plants us next.
I want to work with a new craft medium each month (learning new things) to create (with love) gifts and cards for next Christmas or other special occasions.
I want to create in the kitchen, baking (with love) for the holidays again like I did many years ago, and using German Christmas cookie recipes my Grandmother passed down to me from her own mother.
I want to let my words create another book (Winter Bear), and also update my first book (My Best Friends Have Hairy Legs) for a look at the last ten years of lessons that life and marriage have thrown at me.
I want to create cards again with some of my photos from the past three+ years, and maybe even enlarge some of my photos and mount them on canvas or wood.

This month, I am absolutely in love with [felted brooches and earrings]. (thank you, Pinterest!). I had ideas for my Mom(s), sisters, friends, and was just scribbling all kinds of ideas on a list.  I was super excited to find a website for the Ashland Art Center that offered classes in felting, as well as ceramics, painting, and other fun artsy fartsy projects. I signed up for their email newsletters and class schedules ...

... and then I realized it was in Ashland, OREGON.

Fortunately, between Pinterest, YouTube, and other websites, I think I will be able to learn how to felt without having to fly across the country four times a month. 
In February, I want to use [polymer clay] and not something to be fired a kiln. My goal is to upcycle as much as possible with [old sweaters, jeans, fabrics, empty glass jars, etc.]. When I do need to buy, I want to shop at $ stores or Goodwill. 

In addition to choosing a word for the year, my motto is going to be "making more with less."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

overlooking the cracks

Dysfunctional family movies were always my favorites during the holidays once I became an adult. They were the ones I could relate the most, especially after my parents divorced. 

Every family has faults. It's part of what makes us all human. You might joke that they are the black sheep of the family. Loose nut. Bad apple. Rotten egg. Eccentric. 

Unique.  
Unfortunately, some of the faults become fault lines. Lines in the sand. Fences. Walls. Estranged. Call them what you will, they all mean the same thing.

Distance.

Holidays are harder when you know something is broken in a relationship with someone. Right or wrong, it will either make us long for the relationship that was, or the relationship that it could have been.
Sometimes those relationships have become so fractured that there isn't any going back, there won't be any clean slates or do-overs. For whatever reason the relationship broke in the first place, that isn't always a bad thing.
But one of the reasons that we, as Christians, celebrate the birth of Jesus is because we did get a do-over. We did get a clean slate. We were forgiven, and that is a powerful thing to realize. Especially on our darkest days.

The forgiveness that we were given was for us. The forgiveness that we can give others is because we were forgiven. It may not make a difference in your relationship with them. But it will make a difference in your relationship with Him.

it's the little things...

The holidays can sometimes implode on us as we rush to make them perfect memories for everyone at the dinner table or around the tree. Because we are so focused on the big things, it is so easy to overlook all the little things that can make them the memories we hold closest to our heart.
The reverse is also true. When we let one little mistake like a burnt pie, forgotten gift, or lost directions become blown out of proportion, it is the larger meltdown that remains in memories the longest.
The memories that continue to make us smile years after the holiday has passed won't be the perfect ham or pie. They won't be the perfect gift wrap or the ornaments and lights that matched your decor. They won't remember the cost, or name brand, or upscale store you shopped at.
The memories will be of the love that was felt, the laughter shared, and often the simplest, handmade, or thought out gifts that show how well you know them. It will be the second-hand book that you remembered they loved reading when they were younger but hadn't read in ages. The candy their great-grandmother made with a recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations.
Make these holidays worth remembering.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

things i learned in ...

i have been slacking on my posts, and have not shared my lessons learned since August. that isn't to say that i haven't learned anything. quite the contrary.
September ... mostly sucked
yeah. that was harsh. but so was September. my husband was in Florida most of the month spending time with family and seeing his father whose health is not good. the other part of the month i came face-to-face with some of the devil's minions. it was a month of the self-inflicted reopening of old wounds.
there were some uncomfortable lessons in all that. i thought i had a grip on trust and faith. i learned that i didn't. i thought i had forgiven some things and let them go. i learned that i hadn't. i thought that i had control over my emotions, especially my anger and resentment. i learned that i had no control over anything and that the only way i would ever be happy would be to let go and let God be in control. i had to go back to square one for some of the things that i thought i had dealt with and hold myself to some humble accountability.
~ * ~
October ... a month of miracles
the miracle of life. simply amazing. unbelievable. and beautiful. the lesson? gently rubbing mama cat's belly while she is having contractions can be very relaxing and stress-relieving for her. but you better get your hands, arms, and face away from her when she actually starts to pop one of those babies out. i helped my pug have puppies back in the early 90's and it was at the opposite end of the danger scale from a mama cat having kittens. i was misled into believing that all animal pregnancies would be so laid back and chill. if ever a next time? renting a hockey goalie's uniform!
it was also a month of some really big, God-sized miracles. from the moment we set foot in Ashland, God was opening doors, making way, and moving some of what felt like mountains in our path. this is without a doubt where we are meant to be. i was talking yesterday about the journey we've been on to get here, and how sometimes we have to wonder why things are so hard.
this is what i have learned: most of the time things are hard because we are reluctant to really let go and trust that God knows best. we want to run from where He leads us because we think we know ourselves better. to that, i can only say, really? do you know the number of hairs on your head? He does. we sometimes try to take the easy way, and all it ever does is just take us longer to get where we were meant to be. part of the journey, especially when we are trusting the path that He has chosen for us, is to make us ready for what we will need to do when we get there.
consider this... (and forgive me if it seriously dates me) if you were down one run in the first game of the World Series, bottom of the ninth inning, two outs, and the tying run on 1st base, who are you gonna send up to bat? me? or Kirk Gibson? (and just to be totally transparent in your decision making, i flunked p.e. in jr. high. more than once.)
God already knows the outcome of the game. He already knows who wins. but he is still going to want to put the player with the most experience and with a better chance of hitting a home run. even if that player already has two injured legs. Kirk didn't become the better player because he took the easy way. he became the better player because he had faith when times were hard.
~ * ~
November ... had some prickly times
November started with lots of exciting news, including a job offer for a bright, shiny, dream job. that i turned down later in the month. sometimes bright and shiny is just a distraction from what you are really supposed to be doing.
it was our six year anniversary. and it was a month where i stepped away from a job ghostwriting for someone else because i wanted to write under my own name. it was also a month of spiritual attacks and amazing blessings.
what did i learn? i learned that integrity is more important than money. i learned that dreams can come true any time and anywhere. and i learned that sometimes what may feel like a sacrifice for what someone else wants, can be a blessing in disguise.