My last day of work

Friday was my last day of work. I thought that I would be feeling down like I did most days leading up to the last day. Instead I felt relief, and a lightness of spirit. I did end up inviting some close friends over that evening. Two out of three couples came out for my pity party. Two out of three ain’t bad for short notice over the holidays.

I invited out the brewer and his wife, the psychologist, whom I will call Rhett and Sue. Sue told me that she gave my name to her boss as someone who was interested in talking to the parents and siblings of autistic children. I still feel interested in helping people through similar experiences that I’ve had. I want to write a book. But first I want to go through all of my journals. It is going to be a slow and tedious process.

We also invited over Tim and Cara. Cara just wrote a book and now that I have more time, I offered to read it critically. She encouraged me to write my own book. Right now Cara’s job is also on the line. She would love to be a full time author. Paul and I thought of starting a sailing business with Tim and Cara. Paul is working on his captain’s license as we speak. It’s crazy, but we are thinking of starting another business together.

I’m not sure where the future leads right now, but I know that these other couples are involved in it in some way. We had a lot of fun Friday night and did a lot of laughing. I felt like whatever happens everything would be alright.

And so the journey starts…

New beginnings

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

With each and every day, it has become easier to adjust to losing my job. There are some positive things about it. I will have less stress from work. Plus I am planning on taking some time off to do all of the things I have been putting off since I didn’t have time because I was working over the past decade.

Just think of all the things I could do with an extra 130 hours a month!

I am planning on spending time with my parents putting together a genealogy record for my family. It seems like yesterday that I was walking around cemeteries and talking to family, since deceased, with my grandma. Next year grandma will be gone 10 years and now is the time to start the process with my parents. I also want to take all of the old family photos and put them into digital format which is a huge undertaking.

I want to write two books, one about growing up with a violent autistic sibling and the other about Paul’s journey from rags to riches. I don’t care if they are bestsellers, I just want the family history documented if only for future generations. Maybe I’ll take some writing classes. At the very least, I will have time to read a few books.

I want to double my time at the gym. I want to be ready to run a 50k.

I want to take a photography class and at the minimum take more photos.

I want to learn how to cook different ethnic dishes. I want to eat healthier. Maybe I will brew my own beer.

I want to spend more time with my children. Alex is doing so much better, but there still have been a few bumps in the road. Arabella wants me to audition for the next community theater show with her. I want to be a better singer and dancer.

I am starting to let things go. My staff and I had a combined 20 years of experience that we used as a team to handle operations. It is hard to hand over operations to a staff I deem as inexperienced. Although it is terribly frustrating, it is nice to hand over all of the resulting customer service issues to them. It’s not my problem anymore.

Today my daughter Angel’s beta fish that she got when she was in high school died. Now she is a junior in college. I flushed the last remaining shred of her childhood good-bye. But I will be able to spend more time with her when she is home and take more trips out to see her when she is gone.

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

 

 

Hell week

Last week I lost my job.

Last week Sunday hell week started with a nine hour practice at the theater.

We sold our business earlier this year and up to this point everything has stayed relatively the same. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I didn’t have time to prepare for this in any way. I didn’t have plans to quit working anytime soon.

Then last week happened. Paul and I found out a couple of days before corporate flew in. We met them out for coffee on a brisk chilly sunny morning. I didn’t want to meet them. I didn’t want the small talk about the weather. I wanted the day to never happen or be over before it began. I faced the day with dread. I had nightmares about it when I could actually sleep.

It was the hardest day I ever faced at work. I had to go to the office that morning and watch my staff get fired right before Christmas. They didn’t do anything wrong which made it harder. I felt like I betrayed them. They had to immediately pack up their belongings and leave. I didn’t have time to prepare for the pain of firing long time employees, people that I saw day in and day out for years. Employees that I talked to more than some of my family.

I understand why it happened logically. Corporate wanted to consolidate all of operations into one centralized office. It makes a lot of business sense, but it did not stop my tears from falling.

I have been doing this for over ten years now. I feel really lost like I am losing a part of who I am. Who am I? My job will be gone and my kids will be out of the house soon too.

I thought about my time here, building a business alongside my husband. I thought about the friends I’ve made throughout the years. I thought about the clients that I will miss. I thought of the conferences I attended, the files I stockpiled, the work relationships I built during the 15,000 hours I dedicated my life to this. I feel a great sense of grief, of loss. Maybe if I saw it coming months before it would’ve been easier to adjust?

I feel unsettled, anxious, and depressed. Paul and our sales staff will stay on. My department is closing. I am the only employee staying on to make the transition of our operations to the central office. By the end of the month, our office here will close and I will be out of a job.

I wish I could say that the transition has been seamless, but it hasn’t. The central office has a different way of running things than we do. It is neither right nor wrong, just different. This has upset some of our clients which has been upsetting to me. I don’t have any control over this. I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t ready. I am trying to let it go and not let it bother me, but it is easier said than done.

I feel like I am getting a divorce. Paul and I spent half of our married life working together. But it isn’t over, Paul and I have plans in the future to start another business together. This all had to come to an end sometime, I just wasn’t ready for it to end now.

That night Paul and I went to hell week rehearsal like nothing happened. Paul has the lead part in the show. Could he do it? Could I go on stage and smile when I spent half of the day crying? Acting like everything was okay was one of the toughest performances we had to give. We couldn’t tell the cast before we were able to tell close friends and family.

Somehow we were able to pull it off, but last week certainly gave a new meaning for hell week.

When the music is over..

My son dropped out of band the week after we toured a college for music.

It reminded me of the time my son dropped out of wrestling. It wasn’t just because he was being bullied. The year before he quit, he got third place at regionals in a large bracket. There was an opening to go to state and they called my son to fill that position. All the way up to state, Alex practiced as hard as he could. He practiced so hard that after falling asleep on the long car ride to state, he woke up with a pinched nerve. He couldn’t hold his head upright. He was in a lot of pain and couldn’t wrestle.

Some people gave him crap saying that he was too afraid and that he was faking an injury so he wouldn’t have to wrestle the best in the state. He forfeited his matches while we sat there watching everyone else wrestle. That night at the hotel, his team and their coaches and parents celebrated while we sat in the hotel room devastated. He worked so hard. It wasn’t fair.

We talked with Alex and we decided that we would do everything to help him get to state the next year if he wanted to. We took him to summer camps and intensive preseason wrestling twice a week an hour away. He got to be really good. Who would’ve thought that this could shake up the middle school pecking order and snowball into bullying? But he pushed on. Then at the end of the season, he got the flu. He got weak. But he kept trying. Then right before regionals, he got hurt again. He decided he had enough. It was hard to let go of the 8 years we put into this sport. I felt sorrow. My husband asked if I was expecting him to make a career of it. What if he got hurt again, but worse??

But this is different. This is more personal. I thought that maybe he would pursue a career in music. I thought he would pursue his passion. He got awards at state. He has the talent. He said he wanted that.

Even if he didn’t succeed, I think he would regret not going for it.

We had a long talk with the music professor at the college. He spoke of auditions for scholarships. My son even talked to us about the song he might want to audition with. We decided to contact his piano teacher to continue lessons and contacted the local university for private lessons on his instrument. We have given him all of the tools for success, but he just doesn’t seem to want to pick them up.

This year a majority of the upperclassmen and all of Alex’s friends quit band before the school year started. Alex said he wanted to quit band too. He told me this as he was making beats on his computer and strumming a guitar. Hate music now, huh? I didn’t take it seriously.

He just quit band, a month into the school year. He said he is never playing his instrument again. He was also going to be a part of the pit band for the high school musical, but dropped everything. No music lessons. He said he doesn’t even want to go to college. He burned all of his bridges with a blaze so intense it makes my eyes water.

I felt so angry at first. Now I feel an unrelenting sorrow. My hopes and dreams for him have been totally crushed. He is so smart and talented. To see him have the ability and throw it all away is killing me. Maybe there is still tech school. Who knows? Maybe he won’t even graduate from high school. I could see him getting his PhD in music, but I can also see him living on the streets. The windows of opportunity are closing and it is very painful.

What if he takes the wrong fork in the road?

I think the hardest thing about having adult children is the utter lack of control. I fear that someone will hurt my children. But even more terrifying is watching your child destroy himself and not being able to do anything about it.

ACT 1

Last week my son got his ACT score in the mail. He got an average score. Although my husband and son were satisfied, I was disappointed. I know he has the capability to do so much better.

I worry about him being able to get into a good college. He got 3 F’s on his report card this quarter, one of them being in band. He wants to go to school for music, that should be an easy A. But he skipped out of some pep band performances which brought down his grade.

In his defense, it seems like band and choir require so much more after school participation than I ever remember. The students are required to be at school in the evenings several nights a week for several months. I think it is a big commitment for a 1 credit class. I probably could’ve sent him with a note excusing his absence, but if he could be there…why would I do that?

Anyway, my son thinks that he can get into college once they hear him play. Maybe, maybe not. He is a very talented musician, I’ll give him that. We have been preaching at him about his grades for years. I’m getting sick of nagging him.

What I really have been concerned about lately is not just being able to get into college, but staying in college. He needs to get through the awful prerequisite classes that have nothing to do with what he wants to do. Without college (and even with), it is going to be hard to get anywhere with a career in music.

My son reminds me of my brother Mark.

Mark is a mechanical/building genius. In middle school, he designed blueprints for a water bed. He built the bed out of wood with his design. He created many things, but that was the most impressive for his age.

Mark struggled with school. Every night my mother would sit down with him and try to help him with his assignments. It often ended with a fight. Mark is very smart, but wasn’t good at school. He had problems reading. Later we found out that he struggled with dyslexia.

As expected of him, Mark went off to college for mechanical engineering and failed miserably. He dropped out by the end of his first semester.

Mark is now employed as a machinist. He is a hard worker and loves his work. Right after high school, he bought a lathe machine so he could work after work out of his garage. He learned everything about machines. Not only does he know how to operate them, he knows how to program, troubleshoot, and fix machines.

Mark has an eye for detail. He painstakingly makes sure things are done right. He was the main visionary for a big remodeling project up north on the cabin that has been in the family since the 1950’s. He created a blueprint to build his own house. He is a mechanical genius, but just wasn’t cut out for college. That’s okay, it wasn’t for him.

Sometimes I wonder if we are taking a square peg and trying to make it fit into a round hole.

But how can someone be marketable as a musician without an education??

Maybe he could work in a music store selling instruments. Or he could learn how to fix instruments. Would he be happy doing that and being a small town musician in the evening?

It is really up to him now. We have given him all the tools for success. We’ll see what kind of life he can build out of it.

What lies behind closed doors

What lies behind the door for us? Do we ever truly know? I thought about these things while going with my son today on his first college tour.

I think that as we near the completion of high school, we are faced with a lot of choices…paths…doors perhaps..Some of the doors seem obvious to open..They might have our name written all over it. Other doors are there, but we think some of those doors are locked because we have been told that they are so we never try to open them.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to listen to some of the best college level vocalists in our state. A few were so talented they almost brought ME to tears. As I was watching my daughter and other singers perform, I could no longer tell what the judges of the competition were looking for. I couldn’t find any fault with the performers…maybe a few little mistakes were made that I noticed from some of the freshman.

At college level, they are so far beyond the middle school and high school solo and ensemble level. In high school, and middle school especially, I could hear every missed beat and note that was slightly off. Back in those days, my daughter asked me for singing advice. I have had no professional singing training, just raw talent. Now I ask my daughter for singing advice. I can no longer tell when she makes a mistake. It was like listening to a language that I no longer recognize as my own.

Then I realized with regret that the singing path door was always there for me to choose. I was just told that the door was locked, so I never tried opening it.

When I was a child, I always loved water. I begged to take swimming lessons beyond the few months of basic lessons. But I got piano lessons instead and hated it because I didn’t have a passion for it. This year I competed in my first Half Ironman. I really struggled with the swimming because of my basic skill level. It was frustrating for me to try hard but not be able to compete against someone who has been swimming 30 years longer than I have at a proficient or experienced level.

Maybe if I was allowed to take lessons when I was young…I have this strong desire to be the first person to cross the finish line. I wanted to be the person that qualified for the Boston marathon on my first marathon. I long for it, but it will never be. I wish I was satisfied being the small percentage of the population that completed a marathon. I have to fight against the urge to berate myself for not being that great. Perhaps I opened the door too late.

Some doors are there all along, but we never open them. Some doors remain hidden in plain sight. Some doors we open and squeeze into before they are locked. Some doors simply no matter how hard we try to open them will remain locked.

Then there was a beautiful ornate door that once was hidden behind the roses and thorns. It was the writing door. I should have seen it all along…there were many years of scribbles in journals. There was a book written in grade school about a house full of troubled girls that were saved, torn up and thrown away.. There was this girl that wanted to share the story of her life..

That door has been opened and can no longer be kept shut.

 

Funereal unreal

When I was in my last month of college before graduation, I took a career and aptitude test. The test results said that I should be a funeral director. Seriously?? I didn’t go to school for that. Was it the school’s plan to have me stay for a few more years?? Why didn’t they do the test before I picked a major??

I could see myself being a good funeral director. I am very serious, calm, and have a deadpan demeanor about me.

But sometimes I have a strong urge to laugh when least appropriate. Maybe that is a common fear of extremely self-disciplined stoic people. Let loose…quit being so serious…but do it to the extreme…laugh at a funeral…swear in church…dance and sing down the aisles of a grocery store…scream in the library..

It probably wouldn’t have worked well for me.

A few months ago, right when my MIL was in the last few weeks of her battle with cancer, her husband Darryl’s job of several decades was on the line. The company that he was working for got bought out. He lost his job as a forklift driver and his hours got cut in half. Just what he needed with the mounting medical bills coming in.

Over the years, he had other second jobs to make ends meet. He cleaned a clinic, plowed snow, and was a chimney sweep just to name a few. He worked as much as possible before work and after work. Plus he maintained a large garden, fished and hunted for food, fixed his own vehicles, and chopped his own wood to heat his house. One time he even cut his leg with a chain saw. He was even good at sewing and stitched up his own leg to save a doctor’s visit. Not at all squeamish…

Maybe you know where I am going with this..

Right now Darryl is working part-time cleaning the meat room. Not a fun job. The last time I saw him, he showed me where he got electrocuted on his finger. Eccentric man, that Darryl. So I didn’t think it was all that strange when he told me he asked the funeral director if he had any work..

Now Darryl has a new second job. He will be picking up bodies. Fifty bucks a stiff. I can picture Darryl now with a couple of bodies in the back of his pick up truck…

We briefly talked dead seriously about starting a new family business…

 

The interview

I was nervous.

I didn’t know what questions would be asked.

I looked at 100’s of interview questions trying to be prepared.

I looked in my closet wondering what I could possibly wear.

The schools were closed and the roads were slick.

I didn’t know if I would be able to get there.

Who cancels first? I really didn’t know.

My child was sick.

I called the doctor.

Was her mouth swollen from the strep or an allergic reaction to the Amoxicillan?

I was put on hold.

The minutes tick away…

Would I make it there on time?

Could I even go??

Just strep.

Eight inches of snow fell overnight. It was starting to rain.

Would I go in the ditch on the way?

Would the sidewalks be shoveled or could someone in dress shoes (who was training for a half iron) possibly twist an ankle and fall down?

Break a leg!

I was frantic, but made it to the interview with a few minutes to spare.

This was my first time as an interviewer..

I think I found the candidate I like.

It is hard to turn the other applicants down.

Owning a business is so much more than just doing what you are good at.

Left without pants…

This morning I had a new bedroom set delivered to our house. Previous to the new set, I have been using the same bedroom set that my grandparents bought me in 3rd grade. Let’s just say that it has been a long time since I have been in 3rd grade. It has been a while since my kids were that young. More drawers were broken than not.

After the delivery men left, I noticed I made a gross error. I forgot to remove my pants from one dresser drawer. It was the drawer that contained my dress pants and nice jeans.

Tomorrow morning we are leaving to spend the weekend in Chicago to see the sold out Hamilton. And wasn’t I just the one complaining about people wearing pajama bottoms to concerts??

To make things a bit more interesting, I have two interviews with potential employees lined up very early next week. Can I hope that we have similar hobbies and they show up in running pants too? Yeah, probably not..

When I called the company earlier, it sounded promising that they would be able to find my pants. I felt like a complete idiot until the customer service rep said that one time the delivery drivers left with someone’s pet..

Why do these things always happen to me?? Why??!?

A game of chess?

A few months back I mentioned that Paul and I were being courted by a multi-million dollar company that was thinking about buying us out.

It was at that time that I approached a fork in the road. Do I stay or do I go?

I dreamed of going back to school to get my Master’s degree in writing.

I got my hopes up and was disappointed when the deal fell through.

But is it wise to turn a hobby into a career?

Maybe it wouldn’t be good for me to spend so much time alone stirring up my demons. I like to write about a variety of things, so I would hate to be trapped within the walls of a book. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be..

So, I guess you are stuck with me for awhile!

Paul sometimes dreams of turning his hobby into a business as well. He has tossed around the idea of getting his Captain’s license and starting another business on the side. The business would entail chartering sailing trips. Kind of like a bed and breakfast on water. He would cook. I would clean. On rainy days, we could entertain with story and song. I would photograph and write about their adventures. Paul could handle the finances and I would handle the schedule.

After starting a business from the ground up, starting a new business is not that intimidating.

But would the hobby be as much fun if it was work?

I enjoy what I am doing now. I have been working with my husband for almost 10 years now. Working with my spouse has been a wonderful experience 99.9% of the time. It allows us to connect with each other on a much deeper level. I don’t understand why I get so many comments from wives that they could never work with their husbands. It seems so natural to me now. The thought of going off and doing my own thing was actually more frightening.

After the whole deal fell through, this company put out an ad for someone to start a new division of their company. The ad was almost Paul’s resume word for word. The company said that they weren’t going to compete with us. With Paul’s business sense and my distrust in their word, we decided to build a fortress around ourselves.

We are working on achieving the highest level of certification that we can. We are also in the beginning process of buying out and employing someone that has a small business in our field.

Business is booming! We are looking to hire another person to lessen my work load.

Let the chess game begin!