Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nancy Drew

Image Source: A Random Google Search
I have a day job now that mentally exhausts me. Don't get that wrong. I love my job with a Nancy Drew-ish fascination. I even like my bosses - both the two and four-legged ones. The hours are great, and the flexibility is rare. I can even walk to work now if I want to when the weather stops being cold, snowy, wet, or muddy (which may be only for a few weeks in late summer, but hey, I can dream).

I spend my day doing quality assurance on background checks. Which in plain English means that I spend my day looking at the worst of the worst to make sure they aren't our client's hope for the best of the best.

I review criminal records trying to verify names, birthdays and addresses to match or exclude a subject. Sometimes I have 601 records to scroll through trying NOT to find a link to a subject. I see traffic offenses, like speeding, running red lights or parking (don't ever have a parking meter violation in Minnesota! Bam! Misdemeanor!).

But I also see charges like animal abuse, child abuse, rape, and murder. I see repeat offenders who spend years in prison, get out, do it again, and again, and again. Like a twisted version of Groundhog Day.

I also search the National Sexual Offender Registry, hoping to NOT find a match with the subject's name, but having to scroll through all those with the same or similar names, or AKAs.

Just when I think I've seen the worst, up pops the face of a 15 year old boy or a 40-something woman, grinning at the camera as if they think being labeled a sex offender for the rest of their life is funny. Or as if whatever it was they did to get on the list was something to laugh about, and wouldn't leave their victim with hidden scars that might never heal or nightmares that would never go away.

I've known for a long time that I'm especially sensitive to the emotions of others, and just looking at some of these crimes and profiles can suck the joy right out of me. I get home at the end of the day emotionally exhausted, mentally tired, and overwhelmed with sadness for humanity. I think of broken lives, broken families, and broken hearts.

I wish we could buy a home in the middle of a thousand acres and build a barbed wire topped brick wall around it all. To be able to live totally off the grid, growing or raising our own food and away from society, yet at the same time, I'm longing for friendship. I miss having a close girl friend to laugh with ~ the Sara or Maureen kind of friend that I used to work with.  I want to write another book, but don't want it to be as dark as the world makes me feel at times. I know that some of the things I have seen in the past four years here will make their way into the pages.

Most days I can reset my emotions with mindless games on Facebook, scrolling through travel pictures of Germany on Instagram day-dreaming about going again, crafts, journal prayers, reading about angels that change lives, and playing tug-of-war with Charlie or cat & mouse with Lucy. I nap more than I used to, call my mom, and hug my husband.

I'm grateful for the big things in my life, the little things, and everything in-between. I'm also grateful for the things no longer in my life, the losses, the changes, and the lessons.

Life is short and precious. Cherish it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Words for Wednesday

Participating this week with The Elephant's Child and Words for Wednesday.
Image Source: The Elephant's Child/Words for Wednesday
She watched his reflection in the window of the boat as it glided across the water with an agile grace that was surprisingly smooth against the consistent blast of winds from the north. It was the first day of summer, and the two of them had been eager to go fishing and leave the stress of the last few months behind them on the shore.

He turned to look at her and she saw his lips moving, but could not hear what he was saying over the cacophony of waves slamming against the sides of the boat. He pointed behind her, and she turned to watch as eagles dipped in and out between the waves, coming up with salmon heavy in their talons. As she watched, an eagle that had missed its mark dove talons first at another carrying a large salmon, desire apparent in its flirt with danger to steal away the catch.

She held her breath as they fought in the air, both tumbling towards the water before they parted and flew in different directions. Empty talons, the only winner in this battle was the salmon.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

April's lessons

 Baby chicks and ducklings are the best mood lifter.

 Watching the sun set is the best way to relax after a frustrating day.
 Spring does come.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

what I learned in March? enough!

Lady, the boss's dog.
I'm linking with Five Minute Friday and catching up with my monthly lessons learned.

March was a hard month for me.

On the one hand, it was great - a new job I love, great bosses, interesting work. Adonai, (my Lord) really blessed me by opening that door.  I find myself going in early, staying late and liking it! It is challenging, and for the analytical side of my brain, it's like steroids!

And then ... there was the rest of the month.

Our landlord - the owner of the house whose dungeon we rented - decided to give the house back to the bank, and was going to give us just two weeks to get out. However, his email informing us of the sudden change said 30 days and I held him to it.

But that didn't stop me from being angry about it, and angry I was. It was as if all the demons that I had fought so hard to get out of my life over the last several years suddenly came back, bigger and worse than before. It was overwhelming, and to be honest, sometimes still is.

Rentals in this area are difficult to find, especially one that would allow pets, and wouldn't cost more than we were prepared to pay to move in. My stress level topped the charts and then some. I couldn't sleep, and when I did ... nightmares.

My husband began having chest pains - anxiety - and about the same time we found out he would need surgery to repair two hernia tears.

I knew the anger I was feeling was eating me alive, and I kept praying that Adonai would once again help me to let it go. It wasn't who I was anymore. It wasn't who I wanted to be again. I'd had "enough."

The lessons we learn during difficult times often push us to our knees in humble repentance. My "aha" moment about it all came while I was driving and "discussing" my feelings with Adonai. I got a spiritual smack in the back of the head!

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

Wow. Talk about a humbling moment. I realized that by holding onto my anger at our former landlord, I was actually being angry with God. Who was I to question His plans for me? Or that perhaps all of this, the move from the dungeon (which to be honest was an answer to prayers, just not how I expected them to be answered), wasn't something that was in His plans all along?

God was telling me "enough" of the anger already. Enough.

Finding joy in life sometimes means recognizing when enough is enough. When holding onto negative feelings isn't in His plan for us, and that letting go of anger, hate, and hurt is how we can have more than enough joy, happiness, and love in our lives. More than enough of the good things. Isn't that what we really want? Isn't that what He really wants for us?


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 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.  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.