The Simple Joy’s of a Little Boy

My baby Dashel, who’s not really a baby anymore; well, really, he is eight. I know. It’s one of those things you can never understand until your youngest is born. Well, he’s unique. He has a gift.

Dash is one of those unique kiddo’s who inevitably believes his cup is always half full … enter Dashel’s comment Sunday night.

“Mom, tomorrow I’m going to challenge myself to be the happiest I’ve ever been!” Me, as I’m smiling to myself, “Why are you going to do that?” Dash, “Because being happy is the best!”

So simple. So so simple. I didn’t say anything to him yesterday about it … I wasn’t sure he’d remembered to do it. As we were sitting there doing his homework that evening he said out of the blue, “Mom, I won my challenge!” I said, “You did?” In my mind wondering how he’d respond. “Yep, today I was the happiest I’ve ever been!”

Although, I’d probably put other days ahead of this day as “his happiest day ever;” I marvel at his ability to see even the most average of days, as the best days ever.

His genuine love for people, his kind kind heart, and his smile–are contagious. He is an example to me of what it means to be happy no matter what life throws at you.

Dash, you’re an angel in a little boys body. I’m so blessed to be your momma!

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Failures, All To Real

It’s often hard to admit to ourselves what our own failures and insecurities are. Perhaps even more accurate would be to admit that most of us prefer to pretend them away, or bury them – way deep down, beyond our feelings, emotions, or vision. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind, isn’t that how the old saying goes? It is then that we can live in another dimension, beyond reality, where these ‘issues’ don’t exist. Here we go on living day-to-day in mediocrity. Safe from fear, insecurities, failures, possible failure, or worse, our own self-doubt.

This is where I’ve been living. Oh, there are moments—perhaps even long lengths of time where I find myself cheating this so-called system—but, it doesn’t take long before I realize that I’m right back where I started …

Tonight my weaknesses hit me hard – smack dab in the middle of my forehead. Like someone whacked me in the head with a two-by-four like they were swinging for a grand slam and then sat back to watch as my head continued to vibrate from the impact. The bat was snickering at the thought that it had won. My head on the other hand was reeling from the impact as memory after memory came rushing in, failure after failure, weakness after weakness, fear upon fear; like a storm rolling upon the beach crushing the levees that were so safely keeping them at bay.

Before I realized it, my stomach was answering my head with a very angry and nauseous response, testing me, warning me that if it these thoughts weren’t somehow contained, the remnants that were in it might soon make an appearance on the dash of my car.

Unfortunately, once the levees have broken, there is no telling what faded memories will show themselves; usually polluted with the grandiosity of each elaborated upon thought, these memories have now become legend.

The failed attempt to take my finished real estate exam to get the license because I was in defiance of witnessing two marriages almost fall apart – they never did mind you – but my self-righteous attitude was enough to taint the waters, making them undesirable anymore.

My inability to follow through on my desire to become a licensed exercise/yoga/spin instructor.

And now, as a recent graduate—the one thing I finally did right, and well—the brutal truth is catching up to me. Are all of my weak attempts to find a job a telling fortune of all these insecurities finally catching up to me? Each application I procrastinate on by telling myself “it’s not the right job for me” is really myself saying, “you’re under-qualified, why would you ever get the job!” Or, “you don’t have an in, so why bother!”

Tonight, while sitting with my son at a school support night at a local Chic-Fil-A, I happened to come across what might seem rather insignificant. An Alderman meeting was taking place, ironically enough, it was not just any board meeting, it was one that would decide who the newest school board member would be. As silly as it seems, I had been contemplating this idea for almost a month since it was brought to my attention from a friend who held it and had moved … he’d encouraged me to apply and like usual, I put it on the back burner.

As I read and then later drove by the city hall, I realized, in an instant, that my insecurities and my weaknesses were my biggest failures. Once again, I had allowed fear and doubt to wager against my future success—or failures—because even a failed attempt would have been better than just a failure to try.

I always hear that our weaknesses can become our strengths. It makes me wonder, how many times do we have to fail; or in my case, fail to attempt before we actually put our thoughts and desires into action. Because, I’m getting really tired of failing. It comes in so many forms and it somehow always manages to overshadow any successes we may have had, making them seem insignificant and meager.

The once strategic and all-encompassing high of graduating with honors and oodles and oodles of kudos over the past few years that came from a very successful bachelors degree are now being smothered by the smoldering, burning, and slow moving lava of self-doubt.

I’ve heard often over the years that faith or hope cannot exist where doubt persists, or something to that effect. But is it possible to maintain faith and hope when it appears to be just out of reach, as if it’s just beyond the horizon, like the mirage that never exists?

The brunt of this reality is truly sickening. The raw pain—both mentally and physically—is overwhelming. If I could punch something I would, but the fear is that once I started, I wouldn’t stop. And then all of the sudden I would have one more regret to tack onto my already-long-list of things I abhor about myself! Let’s not add to that list, it’s disgustingly long and all-too-real.

What I can’t figure out is, what drives this desire to live a mediocre life? Why do I run from potential opportunities like a refugee fleeing his country? Like, if I fail, the torture of it would be so unbearable as to hinder my ability to ever walk again. After all, would it be so bad to fail, again? I’ve done it so many times before, can it really get any worse? I mean, I guess it could, but how much? A little? A lot? What does that even mean?

What is even worse is the fear of the unknown. What if I got the job that I don’t feel qualified for but keep telling myself I deserve? What then? Would they see right through me? Would they see what I’ve been burying for what seems like decades, that I’m really just an ordinary person who tries to be a little bit more than just—ordinary?

And what is ordinary? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist. Even those who think they are ordinary are probably far from it, in fact most are probably even crazier than I. They just fake it like the rest of us. Maybe that is the key, just fake it, over and over and over again until you actually start to believe it.

I’m so tired of running, of fearing, of doubting. I’m so tired of carrying around the what-if’s and the could-have-been’s. I’d rather be stacking up the tried and failed attempts than never did’s. Or, maybe, just maybe, I could end up with a look-what-I-accomplished, and I made-a-difference in the world points-of-view.

Mom Issues, Tuesday’s Edition: 

Well, school is back in session. Why does this remind me of the song, “The Boys are back in town?” Hmm?

You’d think I’d be elated, but it seems to be just one more thing for my teenage daughter to complain about.
It was Sunday night, school hadn’t even started yet and she somehow managed to—not study for a test that was supposed to occur the first day of school. Damn AP Human Geography teacher, who does he think he is, doesn’t he know this becomes the duty of the parent to ensure the kid actually studies. So if we don’t follow through, they don’t follow through. This is one of those ridiculous “fine print” things you sign on to when you choose to become a parent. Don’t they know we should have buyer beware notices all over the parental contract. So, I got to bed late that night because somehow this became my problem.
No, I am not a helicopter parent. I like to let my kids bask in the glories of the failures. I feel like they learn a much more valuable lesson that way. Albeit, brutal on them and me, it has its benefits.
So that was Sunday night. Tuesday night, she again, procrastinated the “test” which didn’t really happen the first day of school – which leads me to wonder how she would have actually done had it really been that day? It fills me with wonder. How do teenagers survive in this thing we call life.
Still befuddles me.
Tuesday, she is printing out the definitions to study at 9 o’clock at night. She proudly states, “Well, I’m an eighth of the way through memorizing them.” Like she should have a medal or something. Bravo, I say, BRAVO! It’s only ten o’clock. Keep this up and you’ll be well on your way to becoming whatever it is you want to become. Disclaimer, you do know you have to actually plan and prepare and study, right?
Did I mention I have a thirteen year old son too? Another story for another day. He’s full of all sorts of goodies too!!
Enter Wednesday morning: Kenzie didn’t wake up to her alarm. For heaven sake, it’s only the third day of school, and the first day of early morning seminary; we were not off to a good start.
As my alarm went off, I sat there pondering my next move. The lazy – scratch that – the beyond exhausted because I can’t sleep, normally wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get my exercise in, run the kids all over kingdom come because they’re dad has been in Utah all summer, cleaning house, folding laundry, dinner, taxi driver (that’s more like it) mom in me decided to lay there in bed, straining to hear any semblance of life down the stairs. Negative.
“Damn,” I thought. Well, I guess she’s getting a wake-up call. Perhaps the only benefit to a home phone these days—it does come in handy in situations like this. A minute later I heard the pounding of foot steps. what used to sound like cute little pitter-patter, now sounds something akin to Bigfoot. I miss the pitter-patter.
“Are you awake?” Of course I knew she wasn’t. But, I still like to make her admit the truth. It’s part of a parents duty to ensure her children confess to as much as possible, whenever possible. “No,” she groggily replied, feigning innocence. “Well, you’d better hurry, we have to leave in 20 minutes.” Irritated, she responded, “I know.” She knows everything. It’s amazing she even needs to go to school. She could be president with all her vast amounts of knowledge.
I woke her up at 6:20, we needed to leave by 6:45 a.m. The stars were not aligning. After getting the boys up and everyone’s breakfast made, including hers, she got all up in arms because she wanted me to make her a lunch. I kindly explained to her, “If you want me to make you lunch, then you put in the order the night before! Now it’s time to go, and you’re not going to be late for your first day of seminary!”
Poor Sharon (a.k.a. seminary teacher), that woman lives on the tightest ship I’ve ever seen. I’m more like the sloppy sailor who shows up 5 minutes after the whistle was blown, “I’m here!” Followed by grunts and rolled eyes and punishments to all for my own inability to quite trying to get the blasted last five minutes of sleep—don’t even mention the obvious links associated between mother and daughter—this story is not about my issues, its about her.
How Sharon and I are such good friends is beyond me, you’d think we were completely incompatible. I’m more of the spur-of-the-moment kind of gal; she’s more of the, all my sh*t is done before 10 a.m. kind of gal. The two of us should repel like magnets, but for some reason, we have a certain level of respect for each others quirks, it works. Now, if you asked her, I’m not sure she’d completely agree with that theory, but I digress.
I can’t quite figure out how a teenagers mind works. Somewhere between me – and – me – I guess. Their tunnel vision surpasses none. There is a reason these creatures live in dark holes they call bedrooms, and find it appealing to ruminate in their own filth. At least this one has started showering on her own, turn 15 has one perk – the need to impress the opposite sex will do that to you.
Needless to say, she managed to turn the whole ordeal into my problem, er, my fault; “Kenzie, I thought you told me you were going to stay on top of everything this year? You know it’s only the first week of school?” “Don’t you think I know that! I don’t need you to remind me,” as she sat there with daggers shooting out of her eyes, aimed for the only other human being in the room, me. I still haven’t figured that one out—why is everything someone else’s fault? I mean, after all, the dang girl got a bagel and cream cheese without asking. I’d say, job well done.
Well, if any of you are missing the teenage days, you can borrow either of mine. They’re full of joys and wonderful words of encouragement, sure to fill your day with warm fuzzy’s all over! That was a lie.

Organic vs. paid and why?

 

Organic vs. paid and why?

It wasn’t that long ago when everyone believed the best practices on Facebook revolved around “organic reach!” Unfortunately, as with most things times change, and so do the established rules-of-thumb. Leaving those in the thick of it to hack it out – trying to stay on top of the ever-changing world of social media.

Organic reach on Facebook is now at an all time low averaging around 3%; and it doesn’t appear to be looking like it’s going up anytime soon. In fact, it’s safe to say it may not ever. The reality of the situation is, only a small percentage of Facebook’s users are actually tapping into the paid advertising side of its business platform, in business terms, it wants to capitalize on this gap in numbers and in order to help persuade the rest of those some 56 million non-paid advertisers, it’s now forcing its hand somewhat in order to “strongly encourage” them to give paid ads a try.

So what does this mean? It means if you are still hanging on to the idea that organic is the “green” bee of content … you’re sorely mistaken; it’s time to wake up and join the rest of the paid ad world.

So how does one go about generating valuable content that is sure to get noticed, shared, and liked?

Image result for Social Media Outlets

It’s no secret that in order to do well on any social channel, you must be creating and social-media-outletsposting highly optimized content that resonates with your fans. With so much being put out every second of every day, it stands to reason that you can’t just “put” out content. Rather, you have to make your audience STOP as they are scrolling through their feed – this is called thumb-stopping.

The need to inspire is greater than ever. I mean, think about it … what makes you stop? What makes you share? Well, the same is true for your target audiences as well. Facebook’s current news feed algorithms strongly encourage advertisers by rewarding them as their engagement goes up. No matter the organic or paid reach, the more likes, comments, and shares, the greater the reward.

A great example of this is Chatbooks. A new, up-and-coming company that focuses on photo books. It marketing tactic capitalizes on the life of a busy soccer mom who doesn’t have all day to scrapbook, but wants to catch that perfect moment in a new and improved “I don’t have time to scrapbook” sort of way.

It’s take on capturing the crazy life of a funny satirical mom is spot on and has resonated highly with its audiences. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Even those without kids will get a good laugh out of the witty but accurate take on a busy mom’s life.

With nearly a half million shares on Facebook, you could say they hit the nail on the head.

Once you begin identifying the kind of content that works, remember not to over ask – meaning – it would be prudent to minimize your ask, keep your call-to-action (CTA) posts at a minimum. When putting out content keep it diverse with an array of posts that incorporate entertainment, promotions, live posts, and of course, posts that are educating.

…………………………..

To boost or not to boost?

Once you’ve acquired a good feel for your company’s brand identity, and you’ve gotten some decent organic reach out of your posts – it’s time to start boosting.

55215-c2a9iqoncept-fotolia-com2This is where I would stress, don’t get overzealous and press the boost button Image result for to boost or not to boost immediately after posting. Give it some time to resonate with your audience. Whether you give it an hour or a full 24 hours is beside the point. The key is to let your post gain some organic traction and then use that traction to capitalize by boosting your post. Organic reach is a guessing game. In business, guessing is never a good thing. This is where paid advertising plays a key role, in fact it allows for complete targeting down to the geographic location, job title, industry, income level, even gender.

Remember when I suggested keeping your content fresh and versatile? The more creative your posts, the greater the reach, typically. Two ways of going about that include live video and native posts.

Continue reading “Organic vs. paid and why?”

Building Your Dream Team: Ensuring a Successful Building Process

How to maximize your efforts throughout the building process

Building your dream home is an exciting process, one that should be steady, thought-out, and contemplated. Questions like, “Should I hirearchitect-and-client an architect or a drafter?” or, “What contractor should I use?” are valuable and should be considered only after you’ve done all your homework. After all, you’re going to be with them a long time, so you don’t want to make any spur-of-the-moment decisions. Image by: www.swisshaus.ch

Perhaps the biggest issue future home builders come across is the mere extensiveness of start-to-finish. Where do you start? What colors do you want? What style of architecture are you going for? What’s my budget? Do you want something that is trendy or timeless? Often a question – and perhaps the most important – gets overlooked: Do you want to hire an architect that will be with you from start to finish and has your back? Or do you prefer working mainly with the contractor and a set of plans?

Seeing value in all parties

Many times, builders want the biggest bang for their buck. This is understandable, after all, making sure a project gets done efficiently and under budget are valuable assets and important when considering the building process. However, more important is making sure that you—the one paying for the project—has someone looking out for your best interests—an advocate for you.

It’s common practice to eliminate the architect once construction is underway. However, after years of being married to an architect, and seeing all the issues that can arise, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of retaining your architect throughout the entire process versus cutting them loose once construction has gotten under way.

Some things to consider

First, contractors are about time and money. Who’s not? Many time contractors don’t do the work themselves. In fact, a common practice is for contractors to hire sub-contractors. This allows them to cut their costs and capitalize on the lowest bidder. This can be good for them and good for you. But, be careful when choosing a contractor. If you are looking for the most cost-effective contractor, make sure their quality of work doesn’t sacrifice just because of cost—leaving you with potential problems down the road.

So, before you go choosing the first contractor you come across, do your research. Look online, check out reviews from past clients, ask your friends and family for referrals, and even better—ask your architect who they would recommend. Chances are, they have already shopped around and can refer you to contractors who provide good, thorough work, and who don’t perform unethically.

Second, once the architect completes the drawings for the house, the buyer or the contractor may decide to eliminate them from the process. However, this opens the door to malpractice. Often, contractors will encourage the buyer to simplify or change the design to cut costs. While this may sound like it’s not a big deal, you may end up sacrificing quality in lieu of cost. Vision is important here. If this is a house you are going to be in for a while, then quality might trump cost? If it’s a short-term home, cost may trump quality.

If the client, contractor, or both choose to release the architect, be aware—the client no longer has someone to advocate on their behalf. This is a prime opportunity for unethical contractors to cut corners, go for the cheaper material, or even leave you with unfinished work. Of course, a good contractor—even with sub-contractors—will ensure the process is complete without losing quality.

If you choose to retain the architect, they will be an advocate for you throughout the entire process. Not only can they deal with the contractor, but they will ensure that quality, budget, and design don’t take a back seat while ensuring the project stays under budget. So, whatever route you choose to take, understand the risks associated, and always—do your homework.

Checklist:

  • Do your research, ask for referrals, and look online for reviews.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Have a design concept in mind prior to meeting with the architect.
  • Don’t be afraid to address issues as they come up—after all, it is your house.
  • Be considerate of your budget; chances are, things will always take longer and cost more than you expect—be prepared for that.
  • Consider trends, but understand that timeless concepts may be more efficient in the long run.
  • Finally, make lists, write thoughts down, and communicate your ideas and thoughts with the architect and the contractor. After all, they should all have your best interest at heart.

 

 

Post-Election Hysteria

It is kind of annoying how many people said they are leaving this country if the outcome is less than satisfactory “in their opinion” – in regards to this election.

Why is it that so many threaten to run and hide when things get tough? What does that say about their work ethic? Or their desire to fight for a better America? I wish it was always that easy to “run and hide” when life gets tough.

How about everyone puts their big boy pants on: sit up tall, pay attention, do you’re homework, and if you don’t like the outcome, figure out a way to make it better – and do it in a positive way rather than a ridiculing and pointing fingers kind of way.

The whole country is shocked right now, no one thought this would be the outcome. No matter who’s side you were on. So what are we to do? If you were pro Trump, lucky you. If you were pro Clinton – sucks for you. Both sides have had to deal with heart ache in the last eight years.

So what kind of person are you? Someone who b—- and complains, or someone who pulls up their boot straps and heads straight into the fire?

I hope I can always find the good in the bad and use it to make a better world. No more “I’m so disappointed in my country,” or “We are doomed.” Says who? Is your opinion more worthy or valuable than the other half who voted opposite of you? No. everyone’s opinions are valid. Time to get on with it!

If you are out roaming the streets protesting the other half of America’s choice for president, stop. You look like my teenager throwing a temper tantrum. We all have to deal with things that we don’t like.

As Ellen said, “We can all come together … cause if take away the labels, you realize we are far more alike than we are different. For instance, no matter what youjpg-ellen-degeneres-be-kind-to-one-another-quoter politics are, we all have that feeling of stepping out of the shower and realizing you left the towel completely across the bathroom and you have to do that shimmy on the bathmat, … we all do that thing when you’re pulling in a parking garage and you duck your head just to make sure you make it – insert laugh – doesn’t matter if you’re liberal or conservative … we have so much in common, our differences actually make us stronger. We need to have the kindness and respect for one another, except for the people that leave the shopping carts in the middle of your parking spot – out of the country, kick them out of the country – bring the shopping cart back …
!”

Thanks Ellen.

The Other-Daughter

I think one of the hardest things to do in life is, get out of our own head. It’s seemingly difficult to do. As a non-morning person, I always go to bed with lofty visions of what my day will look like the following morning. I have endless visions of perfection, energy, stick-to-it-tiveness; and a can-do attitude. I tell myself, “This is going to be amazing! You are going to start new things, or get things done!” Much of my mind is filled with grand ideas of possibilities, business ventures, and new adventures. The only problem is, the morning brain tends to manipulate the evening brains grandest desires. Basically, he’s a bully (yes, he). In fact, it’s likely they are actually polar opposites, the night-time brain and the morning brain bounce off each other so forcefully, that it appears impossible for them to ever come together and connect. Much nicer would be if they acted like a proton and a neutron, and successfully and coherently attracted to perform miraculous conception. Not happening. Or rather, it’s a constant battle.

My life seems to revolve in a cyclical fashion, and much of it has to do with my frame of thinking. The ironic thing is that I often find myself telling my daughter or one of my son’s valuable life lessons, which are perhaps the exact things someone should be telling me. Unfortunately, my wise-all-knowing mom brain and my skittish self-talking brain never quite complement each other down in the deep recesses of my brain. Somehow, these lessons are only applicable to my child. I on the other hand, think about these wonderful lessons, and superficially or incredulously believe I’m doing them, on some level … but the reality is, I never quite follow through on my own advice.

Take for instance: This morning, my daughter, 14, the oldest – which by right means that everything I say, can-and-will be used against me in her court of law – a most mature human being, who knows all, was – unbeknownst to me – preparing herself for the “decade day” at school.

Apparently, the previous two nights, I was to read her mind when she told me just before she was to turn in for bed that I was to pay her a visit to her lofty estate, er, her bedroom. Which of course, the awesome mom that I am, admittedly agreed to, without thought, and upon her turning and walking away, laughed it off – insert eye roll – and continued watching the MLB playoff game with my husband.

Well, little did I know, or better yet, had I known the feverish environment that would ensue this morning due to MY lack of following through on my so-called previous engagement, I had now ruined her day.

Let me back up, I’m getting ahead of myself.

A normal morning routine consists of me, or my husband, waking up our youngest son –who must get to school about 45 minutes before the other two hellions wake up – of course, today was my turn. So, I, like the good mom that I am, threw on my workout clothes (because that is my only saving grace right now, and the one thing I actually am doing right  at 110%, because yes, I am that awesome – self motivating talk ensues) and went in to give him his five minutes of snuggle time that he, being the third child and still my baby, only he has received – something that will no doubt come up later when my two oldest children end up on some psychologists couch divulging the horror and absurdity that was their mother and her disturbing life-lessons (which my husband and I like to call, reality). Anyway, back to me being a stand-up-mom. So, here I am being a good mom, snuggling him. I gently awaken him, AND help him get dressed! Yes, that deserves its own exclamation mark because at seven, that is like being a star bellied Sneetch.

Obviously, I know that today’s dress-up day is some theme, because in a small town, homecoming week is like the crème-de-la-crème, and everyone takes it seriously and everyone (and their dog) dresses up. The only problem, I didn’t know what the actual dress-up day was. So, I nudge my older sleeping son and ask, “hey baby, did you sleep good?” To which he answers, “yah.” I’m thinking, “perfect, maybe he’ll actually respond.” So I whisper, “do you know what today is for dress-up day?” He sleepily responds, “decaaaaa day.” Me, “what?” Holden, now mad, “decade day.”

Ahhh, crap. What the heck am I supposed to do for decade day? Ugh, awesome mom award right here as I look around their room that is filled with piles of laundry. Perhaps some are clean, but probably most are not; they probably were a day or two ago, but after being brought up stairs and being put in the obvious place – not their dresser, it’s impossible to say. So, I think, “what is the easiest thing to do, what decade? Think, think, think!” And like the brilliant and non-dilatory woman that I am, feasted my eyes on Dashel’s Sunday shirt. “Ah ha!” I truly am a genius. Better off Dead immediately comes to mind, and for some reason I start thinking—button up shirt, collar up, sunglasses, Nike high tops, this might just work. BAM! And just like that, Dash was dressed and ready to go!

Nice … pat-on-the-back.

Nevertheless, he looked awesome and is scooted off to school successfully. One down, two-to-go. Well, actually just one, because the other is a too cool for dress up now and refuses to dress up like anything unless it’s a supposed athlete which really just means he doesn’t have to dress up, he just gets to wear his favorite basketball shorts and shirt rather than his lame uniform. So now we’re down to one.

Enter, “the other daughter.”

………………

Upon returning from drop off of child number one, I sit in my car a few moments; which may have actually been minutes, okay 10 minutes. Don’t judge. As I’m basking in the quite refuge of my driver’s seat, the front door is flung open and I look up to see the lasers darting out of a girl’s eyes, a girl who somewhat resembles my daughter, except that she has now been taken over by the evil step-daughter, or what I like to call, the other daughter (The other mother … get it?)

Her razor-sharp gaze pierces my soul, or what used to be a soul, and the hair which now appears to look like snakes coming out of the top of her head instill in me that this moment is critical. Critical for whom? Well, obviously not me. But critical nonetheless.

By now, hand waving and disgusted grunts had no-doubt escaped the generous opening that humans call a mouth; and with a fling of her hair, her back was to me and the door was slammed.

If this had been at night, it would have made for a very dramatic Halloween-like scene given that I had just finished my evil porch decor in a timely matter—did I mention it’s the 20th of October? Meh. Anyway. Mom guilt rushes in and I begrudgingly get out of my safe-haven and slowly make my way to the torture chamber.

Upon entering the dark pit of despair, I timidly walk to the back where the queen a.k.a. other-daughter awaits. And this is where I realize that somehow between the last 14 years I have failed as a mother. Somewhere in her once sweet little brain I’m sure there are rational kind remains, but they’ve now been buried deep in the hallows of a teenager’s irrational and emotionally volatile filled bowl of soup that appears somewhat brain-like.

At this point I am forced to realize how awful I am for not coming into my child’s room the night-or-two prior. That somehow, this new series of unfortunate events is all my fault. And somewhere between the time her dad woke her up at 6:45 a.m. and now 8:00 a.m. she has not had the adequate time to do her hair. Or her makeup. Or her outfit. ALL MY FAULT.

This is where parenting class 1020 would come in handy. How to deal with irrational thoughts of a teenager, part B (if this teenager is a girl, see index for further details, and good luck.)

I lovingly ask, k babe, what are you wanting to do? As I secretly and joyfully smirk at what I can see is a situation already gone awry; no matter what I do or say at this point, I’m evil and dumb. I don’t and could not ever possibly understand. So I try to remain calm. This is a feat in-and-of-itself, something mothers never quite get adequate credit for. So award number two and pat-on-the-back, again, at least for now.

She quickly and frustratingly points to a distorted and grainy series of pictures on her dads iPad to which she says, “this!!!” And then looks at me like, “well, FIX IT already!” To which I am thinking, “do I really have to help this child of mine? Ah, did I really sign up for this … that tiny little newborn was a hell-of-a-lot cuter even when she screamed. How did IT – turn into this?”

Finally, I somehow form a rational sentence that sounds very mature and I say, “okay, I can try, but this 50’s look is not easy, so I can’t promise anything.” Once again the other daughter muffles a distorted and angry retort, to which my awesome mothering skills have taught me to ignore. I lovingly go about my business using my mad skills to do as best I can whilst thinking about how amazing her hair looked after I did it for her role as Amber Vontossle in the Hairspray play the following year.

This time, not so awesome.

Let’s just say, her horsehair mane is not thin enough, nor short enough to easily maneuver it into the twists and pins that is necessary to pull off the 50’s magazine cover hair style. Epic fail. Okay, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but definitely a fail.

She angrily pulls it apart to which I frustratingly remind her that this is something that takes weeks of practice and preparation. I can sense my emotions being pulled ever-so-tightly, like a wire between two telephone poles. Unfortunately, a tornado is fast approaching and one end is being ripped into the sucking vortex. The wire doesn’t stand a chance. In just a matter of seconds it will be stretched to the point of wildly snapping, whipping, and – like a water hose at full force – flailing around uncontrollably and haphazardly, snapping anything in its path at a dangerous and forceful velocity without fear or repercussion of what’s in its way.

I begin looking at other images to see if there is something that I can do to remedy this already exhausting moment. And it’s only 8:10 a.m. awesome!

Upon looking at more Pinteresty things, I come across a simple up-do with a pony-tail and a wave of hair a-top, and one curly-cue pinned in front. Wallah! Done. All-the-while I’m lecturing the other daughter on how one could be so careless, and how her lack of preparation and foresight could have saved her (and I) from all of this headache; and “why in the world did you wash your hair last night! Don’t you remember that clean hair is the worst thing when it comes to up-do’s?! When hair is clean, it doesn’t matter how high you tell it to go, it spits its ugly toungue back and you and laughs cleanly and joyfully. Hairspray at this point doesn’t cut it, but will have to do just to get it to do anything, and why didn’t you pick out your outfit last night when you were watching television and …”

At this point I look down at my watch that now reads 8:25 a.m. ahh! Son of a! “Holden, let’s go, you’re going to be late! Damnit!” To which my daughter yells at me for swearing. I forcefully lock eyes with her and strongly encourage her to get her things because we are late. She looks at me like, “are you kidding, I can’t go looking like this, no makeup, no outfit! Ludicrous.” – duh.

Without her saying a word, as tears and acne dot her face, I realize there is no way in hell that she is going to be able to get ready in less than five minutes. So, I do what every mom does at this point. I grab my purse, ignore the ranting and raving coming from the dungeon, and tell my middle child (poor thing) to get in the car.

Enter fail number 2.

For some reason I can’t just rant and rave at one child. This, I incoherently believe, must be a lesson-in-learning for all my children. Lecture ensues. Poor Holden. He had done nothing wrong this morning, except perhaps for his failure to inform me of the tardiness that he was about to experience.  Awesome-sauce.

The car door shuts and I go on to say how he should have informed me of the time and all that other important stuff. seriously, it’s okay to feel bad, the poor child.) He really is a good kid for the most part. He’s just the middle child. Being the middle child sucks. I should know, I was number five of eight (gasp, it’s okay, I survived.)

After turning the corner and revving the engine to ensure a prompt delivery of goods; I apologize, recant half of what I said, and persuade him that I didn’t mean to be mean or angry, that I just need my kids to help me tell time, because gosh-dang-it, moms can’t do it for everyone every second of the day.

He sadly nods his head, mom guilt sets in, and I try to make up for it the rest of the way to school. As he exits the door I poor on my loving mother routine and wish him well, “I love you! Have a great day sweetie!” To which her replies with slumped shoulders and a sure fire way of guilting any mom, “okay.”

Heart aches.

As I head home to face the wrath, yet once again, I replay in my mind what has happened and what will happen–over and over and over. At this point, all my efforts and thoughts at awesomeness the night before about how I was going to accomplish so much had basically been stomped on, like a tired, hungry, and exhausted three year old who was told she can’t have any ice-cream, I half-way give up on my endeavors for sanity. My tight workout pants and the stupid waist band were now cutting in my ribs and causing me to cramp, and thoughts of my bed were sounding better and better. Upon pulling in the driveway, I honk.

Disappointment, a necessary evil, sets in.

Not only does my husband come out, but my daughter comes out still looking like a hot-mess. Nothing had changed from her previous attempts, and I knew the ogre was not happy.

Enter character number 5, the ogre.

The other-daughter escapes the ogre, trots down the stairs with every excuse as to why she no longer wants to go to school anymore and that she has nothing to wear, and … I forget— my brain is already brimming with teenager response non-sense and it is sending an over limit signal to the frontal cortex of my brain, “limited storage, memory space as exceeded maximum capacity, must delete or save to external hard drive.” I file that thought away for another time. Meanwhile, note-to-self, environment feels thick with haze – gear up.

For some wild reason, the other-daughter’s behavior just riles the ogre, I can’t imagine why. Needless to say, this just ticks off the ogre only more. He has somewhere to be. Some of his other little millennial ogres whom he teaches how to be big architecture ogres, are supposed to meet with him promptly at 9 a.m.

Hahahahahhaha.

Sorry. That is just funny, being that it’s now 8:45 a.m. I’ve already thrown any possibility of hitting my 9 o’clock gym class out the window. But this, this was rich. As reality set in, I tried to calm the ogre and urged him to stay where he was so I could go persuade the other daughter to get her butt in the car.

It’s amazing how one (let me be more precise, moms) can discern an entire situation in a matter of seconds… like your psychic and can predict the future – it’s a gift.

As I enter the dungeon, again, the atmosphere is causing the hair on my arms to crawl. Clothes are strewn chaotically, the other-daughter is still in her over-sized, faded, neon green t-shirt, the style in the South these days – sigh; flushed red blotchy face, frantic movements, incoherent speaking of tongues; yep, this time-thing was going to be a problem.

After two minutes of trying to assuage the situation I came to the decision that if I didn’t leave now, I might have to tie my daughter to the top of the car, unfortunately I don’t think that would go over so well—so I did what any other mother in her right mind would do. I took the ogre to work.

I wish I could say that this drive was filled with self-help motives, and positive, uplifting talk about how we handled the situation so wonderfully, and that McKenzie would no-doubt learn her lesson and never repeat this behavior again. But, I can’t. Rather, it was filled with the venting that only a parent of a willful teenage daughter (or son, I won’t be bias) can appreciate.

Well, at least it gets out in a productive manner. Safe and sound in a sound proof barrier where no psychological damage can occur. The ogre kisses me goodbye and wishes me well. I call bull–it! What he’s really saying is he’s damn glad it’s me and not him who gets to go back and handle this situation. Ya, karma has a way of coming back – just you wait.

Once again, I find myself off kilter. Nothing about this day is going according to my ground hog day—per normal everyday plan. As I drive back home I try to rationally think through everything. And the only thing that I can decide on is that, I will ask my other daughter what she, not I, not the ogre; what she could have done differently to ensure that this day doesn’t repeat itself.

……………………..

It’s at moments like this that parents receive that brief moment of appreciation for all the crap they have to put up with over the course of a child’s life. As I walked into my house, my daughter – because apparently the other-daughter is gone – sweetly apologizes.

“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get mad at you, I know all you were trying to do is help me, and I don’t mean to get mad at you, I’m really just getting mad at myself because of my actions. I don’t know why I freak out like that?”

Oh, that was a good one, dishing out her own little slice of reverse psychology, brilliantly played. Not bought, but well played.

I consent. “Do you realize that this all could have been prevented? Sweetie, you can’t act like that. Not only did your actions affect my day, but also your brothers and your dads. What do you have to say? Do you understand that your actions have caused everyone’s life to be in somewhat of a chaotic state this morning?”

Nice hair eh? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge 😉

I’m sure in her mind she is reciting the ever-famous teenage response in her head, “blah blah, blah,” but she responds to my comment about “are you sorry?” with, “I guess so.”

“You guess so? “You guess so?” I yell, as I’m running up the stairs to rip off these stupid pants that are cutting my stomach in half and making me feel like my guts are going to explode. A quick change of pants, a quick saunter down the stairs, and my daughter and I are off.

…………………

It must be in these moments when we as parents are able to get a glimpse—no matter how brief, that we must be doing something right. That is the only reason parents are able to survive the previous hellish moments or the hellish moments to come. It also must be in these moments that we – ourselves – also learn a little something.

So much of my daughter’s behavior, I irritatingly admit, I see in myself. She likes to sleep in because I taught her to sleep in. Damnit. And as much as I wish I could go back in time to enjoy those 5 a.m. feedings, I can’t. In fact, I still struggle with it. I hate crawling out of bed in the morning, it stinks. But, it’s something I want to overcome, it’s on my bucket list: Climb Mount Fuji, participate in a half ironman, skydive, go to Rome, run a Ragnar Relay race in Florida and California, see the Great Wall of China, wake up early—everyday. Unfortunately for her and me, it’s probably going to be an ongoing battle.

She procrastinates, I procrastinate. Although maybe not to the extent she does, but I do nonetheless. The difference is, when crap has to get done, the mom e.g. student, wife, volunteer, employee, friend, party thrower, well, she gets it done.

She likes to prove her point; I like to prove my point. Do you see a pattern? Ugh.

As I came home from dropping her off I allowed myself some time to decompress. All joking aside, so much of my own issues have become her issues. That is depressing. That saying, you’re your mother’s daughter, it’s more true than I’d like to admit.

So today, I’m admitting. I’d like to think this is a step in right direction, but I’m not sure. So much of my own issues and insecurities are caused from my own self. My self-doubt, my fear of failure which sometimes keeps me from actually trying. I sometimes have so many thoughts and ideas running around in my head, I don’t dare grab one for fear they will all drop.

Over the last few weeks and months I’ve been hyper focused on all my failures. And one thing continues to seep through, the reality that I’ve failed a lot! However, another concept continues to reoccur, the idea of ENDURING.

As a child, I had such sweet ideas or dreams of what life would look like. Naïve, no doubt, but something I am sure we all do. But to be honest, most of them were not even close to who I am today, or what my dreams and aspirations look like now. But I struggle with separating the two. How can one find the pure joy that we envisioned for ourselves in our innocence when we are surrounded by difficult moments that demand endurance?

Endure. This word is filled with meaning, deeper perhaps than most. To endure one must not just simply participate, but you must exist, live, be. To endure one must be required to bare all, to suffer, to strive. It is an action word, one that demands we don’t give up but instead press on—no matter how difficult the road ahead may be. A foreboding notion.

I know that this life is not always meant to be easy. But I struggle with why it has to be so damn hard sometimes. Why is it so important for us to experience our weaknesses and trials?

What I’ve come to realize is that for whatever reason, it is in these moments – those moments where we get down to the bare bones, the rawness of it all – that we somehow find a way to crawl out of it and learn what we are truly capable of.

Alongside endure is the idea of hope and faith. Faith is a hope for things not seen. Such a simple concept and yet one of the hardest things required of us. I often feel that I have an undying hope for good things to come. But these hopes or dreams are dashed by the stormy waves of life that crash down upon us with never-ending furor. Even more exhausting is the reality that when the waves crash down, the under-tide begins to pull at everything you once believed or held true to your heart, until all your left with is the bare and vulnerable, yet – hopefully – sturdy foundation.

I think this is where our Creator, our loving and all-knowing Heavenly Father wants us.

Not necessarily to experience the heartache, but because that is the only way he can get rid of the weather worn siding, where the frayed shingles, where the flaws and the rickety floor boards that once appeared sturdy enough were now beginning to be weakened by infestations of the world: self-doubt, constantly comparing ourselves to others, self-inflicted pains of losing a job, going back to school, or death of a loved one; it’s the photoshopped images of perfection, the friend who appears to have it all—yet has nothing; it’s the neighbors with the big house as you sit in your rental; it’s everything in the world that brings us down—and its pervasive.

A master builder understands that in order to build the perfect house, he must strip away all of the minute flaws.

Only then, can the rebuilding begin.

……………………

This is where all that was, all the beaten and broken parts are shed and the fresh, clean, smooth materials are expertly crafted piece-by-piece until all the sudden, what as a once simple and beautiful two-bedroom home, now exists a mansion filled with textures and vibrant colors. The intricate work is skillfully crafted with love and understanding. The home you once thought was everything you could imagine, now looks like a shanty in comparison to what is now in front of you.

Without these enduring struggles—the crashing turbulent waves of life. Without the sleepless nights of babies needing feeding and diapers changed; without the struggles of hormones and emotions of testy teenagers; without the stresses of work and school; without the refining of lessons learned through service, church, and family; without the personal trials of depression, job loss, inability to have babies, or struggles to find that perfect job; without all those things, we would never be able to be rebuilt into the mansion only He can see. It’s is with patience and understanding, it is by enduring and clinging to hope that He allows us to become more than we ever imagined.

This is where I’m supposed to learn a valuable lesson, and I think I have. And that is, sometimes we are allowed and capable of soaring beyond the clouds. We are strong, we are able, and we amaze ourselves by what we are able to accomplish. Those moments are no doubt to be reveled in. However, there are also those moments, those days, when all we can do is survive. Endure. So today, I say endure. Put one foot in front of the other, and pray for the strength you lack to be better tomorrow than you were the day before. And through it all, believe.

So endure, believe, and live on.

 

 

 

“Life is Brutiful”

When I was little I had lofty dreams of what my grown-up life would look like. Somewhere between American Ninja Warrior – because I’m awesome like that – and The Brady Bunch. Why? Because it’s the epitome of the all American family where parents never yell at their children, where siblings don’t fight, instead they just say, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” And the nanny is awesome at throwing a wicked curve ball. I guess somehow my dreams never entered into the twilight zone. Which is more realistic to what real life is like.

According to my tween brain and even my teenage brain, I had somehow come to the conclusion that I would be perfect at whatever it was I chose to do. And really, school was over-rated, so what that really meant was, being a mom sounded awesome, right? Stay at home, wake up when you want to, watch movies, go to lunch with friends, feel a great sense of self-worth and accomplishment, because we all know raising children brings all sorts of superhuman value ridden experiences, not to mention bonuses and pats-on-the-back … maybe do some laundry here and there, dishes, meh. I mean, houses stay clean, right? How hard could it be?

Somehow, realities are always more brutal than what even our worst thoughts could predict. Three kids later, almost 16 years of marriage, multiple jobs, putting a husband through school, going back to school, a move across country into the deep south, lost jobs; I mean, the list can go on.

And now, I find myself constantly asking myself the same question. Why?  One might attribute this to a lack of God in my life, or that I somehow need to find God and all will be right in the world. But, no. That’s not it. I have God in my life, or at least I try to have God in my life. Obviously I am a mere human and start to think I can do things all alone, but then, as Alfalfa once put it, “The clouds opened up and God said, I hate you ‘Alfalfa'” or in my case, “I hate you Audra.” (Just doesn’t have the same ring to it ;-/ And once again, I’m brought to the depths of humility.

As I sit pondering these questions, you know, the senseless thoughts that none of us are supposed to give any weight to, the ones that run through our head at record breaking pace – like Usain Bolt, each time improving upon its past record, neck-breaking-speed. So they all go through at crazy fast making it barely perceptible to what is being said or what the images or thoughts even look like for that matter.

Really, it’s just your brains way of saving face, because if it really had to focus on each one if these awesome little tid-bits, it would blow up. POOF! Just like that commercial; you know the one, where the purple cloud comes out atop the person’s head (mind blown), and the skull splinters go flying. Yes, that’s the one. It’s basically part of the fight-or-flight instinct. Your brain is protecting itself from imploding upon too much information that makes no sense.

Well, this has been my story for the past month-and-a-half (who am I kidding, most of my adult life, it’s just that sometimes it gets side-railed by vacations, school, or holidays). Usually I feel like I’m wondering aimlessly through this life… like I’m playing a part someone else wrote for me. Except that I don’t like all of it. Some of it I do. But, mostly it’s just there. And the motions, they are just there. There seems to be no real purpose or vision. The more it goes on, the more it becomes mind-numbing. Eating away at me because somewhere deep down inside me, I know this isn’t really what God intended for my life. Or is it? Another awesome question. Yes, I’m being facetious. It’s the question most of us don’t really want to know the answer to. Is this what God intended for us? Or is it just the reality of a slew of bad decisions and BAM!, this is the life you’ve got.

Somehow, I know that probably most of it is what God intended. I mean, I doubt He wanted this life to be SUPER easy. However, why the heck does it have to be so damn complicated. Why does it have to be like a mysterious cross word puzzle, except that the clues don’t really make sense, and unless you are good at remember everything you’ve experienced and learned in this life, the chances of you getting the right answers that fit in the right boxes are slim-to-none.

While on this journey, remember I told you I’ve been dealing with this for the last month-and-a-half, and then I clarified that really, that was a complete lie. Because its been an ongoing saga. Enter in Carry-On Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton. An awesome, beautiful and brutal – or as she puts in brutiful – book that hit so very close to home. It was perfect. Such a simple concept, and yet, everything word she wrote screamed at me. Screamed that whether or not life is meant to be beautiful is irrelevant because the fact is, it isn’t. Most of the time, it’s brutal. Most of the time it is ugly. Most of the time we are just trying to crawl through the mess in hopes of seeing a ray of light on the other side. Most of the time, we just have to show up. Resonates doesn’t it.

For whatever reason, this book spoke to me. Apparently it has spoken to thousands, I mean… her newest book was chosen by Oprah – pause – hallelujahs are being sung as we speak. I digress. So, yes, I came across G’s (because we are besties now, or at least in my mind, and that is what her besties call her, so for short and for typing sake, and times sake, we will go with it) website called Momastery.

Brilliant really, because it can be interpreted one of two ways: mom-mastery, or mom-astary – all hail the monastery, or mom-a-stary. Ingenious. Anyway, the first time I came across her blog I felt connected. I was drawn in by some unseen magnetic force that I assume all us crazy moms out there are connected by. I read and read and read some more. And then, that same day on Facebook, a local group announced that she was coming to speak. I’m pretty sure the stars aligned. And because I’m a completely rational person I went out and bought the book that day. I read it almost overnight, and then I showed up to her gig, hoping to get a seat. People, I live in Starkville. I got a seat. One good thing about living in a small college town. Praises be sung.

carry-on-warrior-image

I laughed, I almost cried. I related. I connected. I’m telling you, I had a new bestie. She just didn’t know it yet, still doesn’t. But, let’s pretend.

Back to the book thing. It was a fabulous book. One of those books that you scribble crazy agreeing thoughts in, in hopes that someday someone you love will read it too and understand where your crazy comes from. Because if you’re not alone in your crazy, then you can’t be THAT crazy. That is my hope.

So, I scribbled. I read. And, I scribbled some more.

For whatever reason, what she said, what she wrote, what she went through, it resonated with me.

Fast forward. I went to her thing. It was weirdly perfect. I vowed to do those hard things. That is one of her motto’s, “I can do hard things!” Well, apparently I can’t. Because here I am six months later and my life is continuing on in eternal marital mind-numbing bliss.

Enter last night – I was once again flipping through Facebook – because mindless thumbing through of FB images is now the drug-of-choice for many parents prior to going to bed – and I saw a story that stated Oprah had chosen G’s new book Love Warrior. So, once again being the rational person that I am, I clicked on the link… and wouldn’t you know, bought the book. It’s en-route, yes, as we speak. I’m not going to lie; I am very excited to get it. Because there is something about connecting to someone, and there is something about reading other people’s dirty laundry that makes us all feel better about our own stinky laundry. And this one, it sounds like it’s going to be good. Full of all life’s bitter moments: heartbreak, love, hate, break-ups, sex, drugs, divorce. All the things that this brutal life includes. All joking aside. There is something incredible about a person when they can be so open – even to the point where it could come back to hurt them – that they are willing to show the raw parts of their lives, just for the mere chance that it might help someone.

For that I am grateful. Because she is brave, I can be brave too. So today, I started. I’m being brave and I’m saying to you and to myself, “I can do hard things.”

– Hugs

 

In a World of Minions

Excitement of impending doom

As a recent graduate, the excitement of my pending graduation was well-deserved. After five long years of juggling motherhood, classes, internships, a cross-country move, and a husband who is constantly throwing curve balls into my so-called plan; the impending graduation appeared to me as the precipice of my very existence, the climax to K12, the tip of the ice cream cone – sorry, my husband would call that one of my “Audraisms.” Clearly I had done everything I should have, or could have, er; well, everything I thought was necessary to ensure absolute success post-graduation.

To my dismay, I am now four months into my career as a non-student, and still no full-time job. I’m beginning to wonder if my pre-empt leak of excitement was, well, just that, pre-emptive. Perhaps I should have assumed more realistically what the ensuing situation would be. But, who wants to do that after five long years of juggling school, kids, family, and life. Psht! I didn’t, until now.

A look into my world of academia

With a pretty stellar 4.0 GPA for almost all of my courses as a non-traditional student, and as a Gen-X’er – I say that merely to exhort the reader to an understanding that I bring some age and wisdom to my all-too-recent predicament. I feel it is important to confess that I was and am—a fairly confident and competent individual now. Most often I brought (or bring) a fresh perspective to that of the other millennial’s that I call minions. Young, eager college students who were often unassuming victims of what I call “the electronica generation.” A world where living without some kind of electronic device blatantly attached to some main body part, such as fingers, ears, or eyeballs, brings certain doom upon whomever it strikes. Be it iPhone, android, iPad, laptop, or well, the list goes on; the concept of free-thinking and face-to-face contact appears “out-dated” or “over-rated.”

As such, I found it quite easy to stand-out above the rest. Whether it was eye-to-eye contact, sitting near the front of the room; or offering questions, challenges or suggestions to the professor; my strategies, which perhaps would seem caveman-esque back in the day, allowed me to travel light-years ahead of the minions surrounding me as far as kudos go.minion

With this magical ability I had I was able to obtain some incredible opportunities. called internships that – at the time – appeared to be golden bricks to which I skillfully applied to my already small but growing—yellow brick road, leading me straight to the emerald city.

Surely these experiences would allow me the opportunity to speak with the wizard and to gain the “perfect job!”

Reality

In reality, I’m still working part-time for my boss who I’ve been working for since 2013. In reality, I live in a small college town that is driven my students and academic professionals who – like many other work atmospheres – is run by a sort of political ladder to which you must climb, or subscribe to. In reality, my years of experience and ability to juggle family, work, church, and extra-curricular activities holds no weight when it comes to landing the perfect job. In reality, it still comes down to who-you-know, not, what-you-know. In reality, I’m as close to getting my dream job as the next applicant who has never seen the face of the person who will inevitably be interviewing us. In reality, if I don’t figure out the so-called end-game, or improve my networking capabilities, my chances will continue to appear bleak at best.

What does this mean?

As graduates browse the job field, the concept and term “networking” must take on greater meaning. Let’s put that in layman’s terms … it means I must work harder, longer, and smarter then my so-called counterparts. It also means that while we may believe we are as magnificent as we could have imagined our graduated selves to be and as qualified as the next minion—in the real world, it really just means you are only as good as the next yellowish, small, and unremarkable being next to you, or across town from you. And, unless you are the girl (or guy) who already somehow managed to break down this magical world of “winners,” who are already in line for that position, you’re pretty much up a creek without a paddle.

Make a plan

If you’re like me, you probably have a few solid ideas of what it is you want to do. Those ideas may include your dream job or your end-goal. It may also include jobs you refuse to take. Good. I am pretty sure this is a start. Just like you would have in school, I imagine the best thing to do is get your ideas down on paper. Get everything out. Once you have it all down on paper start going through them. Which ideas are absolute NO’s? Which ideas are amazing? Are some of your ideas long term? If so, circle them – you’ll come back to these, but don’t get stuck, keep moving—seems logical right?

I also suggest getting involved. If you are interested in speaking, find your local toastmaster group. If you are interested in public relations, attend your local PRSA monthly meeting—and begin networking. If you are want to fund-raise, seek out critical non-profit groups in your town that are in need of assistance.

Pretty soon you will start to eliminate the options you know won’t work for you, and slowly you will whittle your list of ideas down to those things that are most critical to you and where you want to go in your career. You will also begin to build your small network and, your area of expertise will grow.

Finally, go back to those items you circled. If these things will get you to your dream job, start breaking them down even further. What do you have to do in order to get there? Make a list of all the jobs that might feed into your dream job. Once you’ve done that, stop, look it over, and re-evaluate your list again and again. And don’t be afraid to try something new – it may be just what you need to get you the right connection.

Take the next step

Although this can appear overwhelming at first, the reality is, your life will continue to feel suffocating unless you start to break your goals down until they become do-able. Once you’ve nailed down what it is you want, then take a breath, perhaps a leap, and close your eyes. Your future is in front of you, take it and run with it.

What it might feel like

In reality, I feel like I’m starting all over with the mind games that begin playing in my mind anytime my routine gets hijacked by reality, you know those thoughts that say: maybe you’re not good enough, maybe all those A’s really didn’t mean anything, maybe they mean—you just figured out that world, but this new world, the world in front of you looks scary, this not-so-brave new world appears daunting and large, seemingly out-of-reach. Maybe—all those things you thought you had mastered or overcome—are still there, hiding, waiting, waiting for you to fail. Ready or not?

Reality

In a world where success is measured – not by the content of the character – but by how fast you can move up the latter, how nice your car is, and how big your home is; it’s hard to not feel anxious about the prospect of finding the right job. As a recent graduate, entering the pool of hopefuls looking to land the perfect job, it appears bleak.

As a wife and mom of three kids with over 15 years experience in the field of “family and human development” literally, running a home, juggling school, balancing church, kids, extra-curricular activities with my own schedule, and oodles and oodles of life experience, I often feel well-qualified for many of the jobs that are open or available.

Unfortunately, politics and playing-the-game of who-you-know appears to hold more weight than I could have ever imagined. As a resident in a small college town, the opportunities are somewhat limited as compared to other larger urban cities, couple that with traditions and … well, traditions, (that’s a whole other post) I’m finding the world of the outsider is more dreary than originally anticipated. It appears that if you are not in-the-know, than your ___ out of luck.

So, the game begins.

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On this road with me is my amazing husband and partner – the architect! A sexy architect/professor, most recently named Vice President of Method Studio, Architecture firm in SLC; the architect has proven to be a valuable asset – no pun intended. Simply, that he is undoubtedly one of the hardest working and most driven men I’ve ever known and consistently displays an uncanny sense of design and fortuitousness in the world of architecture which has proved a successful path for him – a pathway marked by uncharted territory. He’s also my champion and biggest supporter, constantly encouraging me to pursue my own career paths and dreams.

As a result, I kind of feel like I can and should be picky. After all, a survivor of five years of undergraduate work all while balancing my three crazies and a pluthera of other consequential life responsibilities and moments, deems that I don’t just take the first job to come my way; after all, if I had, I’d now be earning the same wage as the non-college graduate working the nightshift at Micky D’s – something I’m willing to deprive myself of, at least currently. The other reason, I’m not some naive 20 something graduate, enough said.

Albeit, my mind is a roller coaster of ideas and anxiety. One moment I’m feeling excited, driven, and ready to forge the road ahead. The next, I’m questioning everything: where is the right place to work, should I take the agency job over the university job, should I work from home, how will that be affected by my lack of agency experience, should I be a freelance writer, should I write for newspapers, should I focus on public affairs, what about benefits and insurance, and, and, and? The list goes on.

So, let it begin, bring it on; let the contacting and networking begin, let the game-playing and mind-games come – I’m ready!

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