Goal 9: Work hard, but take time to rest.

One of the hardest parts of losing my job is telling people what I do.

When meeting someone new, the first question that they ALWAYS ask is what you do for a living. The second question people ask is how many kids I have. Never fails.

Yesterday I went to the gym later than usual. Someone asked me why I wasn’t at work. I think people are just too nosy.

Two days after I lost my job some friends had a party at their house. Right off the bat, someone asked me what I do for a living. The question hit me hard and knocked the wind out of me. What? I didn’t have an answer prepared. I stumbled awkwardly through the whole story of how my husband and I sold our business last year and that the new owners recently eliminated my position unexpectedly.

My answer seemed to confuse people more. Is it a good thing that you lost your job or a bad thing? Yes, the answer is yes to both. Losing my job after working with my husband for 11 years was very hard. Not to mention that as a workaholic I wrapped a lot of my identity in my work. Yet it was a good thing because now I decided to write a book.

Now do I tell people that I am an author when they ask me what I do?? Then I have to explain what my book is about which is very personal and painful experience of growing up with a disabled sibling in an abusive home environment.

If I am a writer, I should be able to come up with a creative way to tell people what I do for a living in one word. If I tell people I am retired, that brings up even more questions since I look a lot younger than I am.

Then I decided to tell the next person who asks that I am independently wealthy just to get a good laugh. Would that shut them up?

The strange thing about not working is that I really don’t have any extra time. I am still running around like I am in a hurry. I keep a strict schedule. I drop my daughter off at school, go to the gym for an hour or two, write my book, then work on this blog. Plus I do other things like clean the house, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and run errands. Now I wonder how I was able to do all of this while working 30+ hours a week.

You know how the saying goes, ask the busiest person that you know if you want to get something done.

I’ve always been a workaholic. I feel very stressed out if I don’t accomplish enough in a day. Resting is a form of torture and usually only happens when I am sick. One day I had doubt about writing the book and said that heck with it, I am going to watch a show on Netflix. My daughter came home from school, saw me watching TV, and was concerned I was sick. She felt my forehead for signs of a fever and was worried about my health.

Relaxing is something I rarely do. But it is something that I want to learn how to do. I’ve always had the harsh workaholic task master of perfectionism pounding constantly in my head. If I learned anything from losing my job, it’s that I can’t let how much I am able to work control my life and dictate how much I am worth as a person. It is a wonderful way to avoid relationships and look like a martyr.

Working hard was something I was good at and I ran with it. There are few that top my work ethic and determination. But it controls me. I’ve learned anything that controls me isn’t good for me. I am no better than an alcoholic looking for the next drink. I am always searching for the next project, the next goal, and I am viewed as an inspiration and a hero for doing it.

I am afraid of success. What will I do next? Running marathons is not enough. How about a 50k? I drive myself to the ground. Are you proud of me now? What more can I do to prove my worth?

It is a great way to avoid intimacy. I am in the middle of something and am too busy to talk with you right now. What a safe place to hide.

If you give me a hard time, I will condemn you of your laziness with great pride.

Then I wonder why I can’t relax. I am worried and stressed when my mind is free.

Here I am, a workaholic without a job. I never ask for help. I do everything myself. I think I am beyond reproach, but I can’t run from myself.

I am starting to see a wonderful coping mechanism being torn apart. Maybe it is a good thing I lost my job because I am now faced with myself.

You can only outrun your demons for so long.

 

Paul’s journey, part 9

The earliest years of building the business were rough.

Whatever little money he made, he invested back into the business.

He felt like he couldn’t get away. But the business was new and exciting in those days. It was later that we started to feel burnt out. There is so much stress and pressure from the responsibility of owning a business. I don’t even know where to begin. But all of the hard work paid off over the long haul.

Paul went into work on the day our last baby was born. He dragged himself into work with strep. He drove in during major snowstorms. He even went to work after major surgery.

He had a cancer scare. He was having a lot of back pain. He went to the doctor for an x-ray. We didn’t have great insurance, so he didn’t want to spend the extra money on expensive tests. The x-ray showed a mass. They were simply going to drain and remove the mass, but the ultrasound was showing something scary. They thought it could be cancerous. They didn’t want to puncture this mass and have it spread to all of the nearby organs.

Instead they scheduled a major surgery that included the removal of several ribs. Paul spent a week in the hospital. I remember the evening of the surgery well. I sat alone in the waiting area watching the snow fall. I felt empty. This is going to sound funny, but I didn’t feel worried. You all know I am a big time worrier. Maybe I was in denial, I don’t know. He was so young then, too young to have cancer I told myself.

To tell you the truth, I am terrified that he is going to get cancer now. Last year his mother passed away from cancer. She had 3 different types of cancer and battled it twice. The year before last, his uncle died from cancer. His grandma had cancer. Currently, he has an uncle in the last stages of cancer. If I wasn’t worried before, I certainly am now.

They removed a benign cyst that was the size of a football from Paul’s adrenal gland. After surgery, he lost a lot of weight. He was pale and gaunt. I’ve never seen him so thin before or since. He was supposed to take a couple of weeks off of work. This was before the time that working out of the house was remotely possible. He was also taking a 4 credit accounting class for his MBA.

I drove Paul into the office after surgery. I helped him walk down the steps to his office wincing in pain. I left him there and picked him up at the end of the day.

Things got easier as the business grew and with technology. I joined him after a couple years. We have been able to get away. We have staff that can help keep an eye on things now. But there is always a strong sense of responsibility that comes with having your name on the door. There are times that we have to drop everything to respond to work issues. Going on vacation always meant checking emails and working.

I am excited that for the first time now, we will be able to take a vacation without working. I wonder how we will respond without the constant pressure.

 

Paul’s journey, part 8

When you decide to take the first step, you never know where it will lead you.

Paul had a dream. He was at a dead end job. He used up his vacation time to cut back his hours at his job so he could start a business on the side. He worked after work. He rented a small office nearby so he could work over his lunch hour.

Eventually Paul ran out of vacation days. They gave him an ultimatum. Either you come back full time or you leave. Sink or swim Paul.

For awhile, he stood at the edge of the precipice. What am I going to do? Should I start climbing even though I can’t see anything at the top? What if I fall? What if I fall further than I am right now? What if I fail? How will I provide for my family?

“Should I climb?”, he asked. Climb, I said.

Taking that first step on his own was the scariest. It was risky. There was a mortgage to pay and little mouths to feed. We were already living on one income.

Paul immersed himself into building a start up business. He was working towards a Master’s degree in his field of study. He took a couple of sales training classes. He knocked on many doors.

Over the years, he attained every accreditation, certification, license, and joined every industry association that he could. He started working on his MBA one class at a time while running his business. He oftentimes would start his day at 5AM doing homework before work. Then he worked until the work was done. He earned his MBA. He still grabbed at every opportunity to learn more. He worked hard and became an expert in our state.

It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took decades and years of climbing not knowing what was at the top. When the recession hit, he thought he was going to lose his footing. He managed to hang on.

Over time, Paul got used to and became very good at climbing. He is always looking ahead, always striving for that next goal. Sometimes I wish he would take a glimpse back to see how far he climbed.

All it took was being brave enough to take that first step.

14. Five strengths

Day 14: Describe 5 strengths you have.

1. I am extremely self-disciplined.

I used to get frustrated when others around me would exhibit a total lack of self-control by eating or drinking too much, spending money that they don’t have, or by saying things that they shouldn’t have said. I have little compassion for messes people get themselves into. I used to be judgmental, but found that these people are only hurting themselves.

Through this, I found that I have a rare gift. I have the ability to control myself and have strong self -discipline. That topped with an innate inability to relax, I have been able to push myself to do things I never could’ve imagined were possible. I’ve learned that I have inspired more people through my example instead of through my judgment of them. In essence, I think I have managed to turn a weakness into a strength.

2. I have a strong work ethic.

I will work hard until the job is done, without break if necessary. I am efficient with excellent time management skills. I can’t sit still and have learned to use this energy to be very industrious.  I will focus on the details of the task and break it down to manageable parts. I will give it everything and be very thorough. I won’t stop until the job is done up to my standards. I love the challenge.

3. I am very organized.

I live my life by rules, structure, and organization. I have the ability to analyze details, mull over things, and come up with some pretty good plans. I am great at problem solving scheduling conflicts. I have no time for spontaneity. My schedule is very routine and I like it that way. If something works, I stick with it. I am also very good at planning non-routine events, such as vacations. I am a walking calendar. If I plan something, I will take every detail into consideration and cater it specifically towards what others would enjoy. That makes me happy.

4. I am loyal.

If you are able to earn my trust, I will be your most loyal companion. If I tell you that I am going to do something, nothing will stop me from doing it. I would be willing to move mountains for you. I may not be your shoulder to cry on, but I will listen to you and keep your secrets. I will nudge you to get back on your feet again. I will protect you. I will fight for you. Even though you may not want this, I will try to fix your problems. I stay calm and collected in stressful situations. I am able to put my feelings on the shelf and make good decisions. I will tell you the blatant truth if you ask. Forget the small talk, let’s get into a deep conversation. I am eccentric. I love adventures. If you come up with an idea, I will be up for anything if my schedule allows. I have a great sense of humor and love to make people laugh.

5. I am independent.

I am not afraid to do things by myself. I would be willing to run a marathon with no one that I know beside me and no one to cheer me on. I don’t care what others think of me. I have no desire to be popular. I wear the kind of clothes that I like. I am not susceptible to peer pressure. I have no desire to be like everyone else. I refuse to be bossed around or controlled. Don’t tell me what to do. I will stand up for myself, those I love, and the principles that I think are right if I am forced to. I am not afraid to say ‘no’. I am not afraid of facing my fears. There is a lot of freedom in living this way.

Amish windows

8-2-16 001This week we got our new windows. You probably are wondering why I would even talk about something so boring as home improvements. The exciting story here is not in the what, it is in the who. We had the Amish come out to work on the project.

Let’s just clear up the boring part first. My husband and I bought a house built in the 1990’s when everyone was on the air tight energy saving kick. Having an air tight house has been great when it comes to heating bills. We barely pay anything to heat our house during the cold Wisconsin winters. However, we have had moisture issues since the day we bought it.

The moisture can’t escape. Anytime we had temps below freezing, condensation would form on our windows. Sometimes it rained inside our house with water dripping down our windows pooling into the wooden sills. Our house is like a rain forest. We  bought an air exchanger to draw the humidity out of our air tight house. But by then the damage was done to our windows. They needed replacing but we couldn’t afford to do it in our earlier years.

The picture above is the window from our bedroom. We have been breathing in black mold for years now. We tried bleach, we tried everything, but we couldn’t fix the damage done without replacing them.

We were referred to an Amish man to do the work of replacing our windows. The first step was to have him come out here to look at our windows and take measurements. He needed someone to drive him. The first obstacle was giving him directions to our house. Get out your iPhone and type in our address. That obviously wasn’t going to work. He did get lost coming out once because he had difficulty explaining the directions to different drivers. It is probably like trying to read a map in a different language.

After he took the measurements, he made the windows himself. I thought that was pretty impressive. Most people around here know that anything Amish made is high quality.

Then he came over this week with three other men. They arrived in a large diesel truck driven by a heavy set man in overalls. He looked like a rancher from Texas, not that I have ever seen one anywhere besides TV. Then he drove off.

It took the men a day and a half to complete the job.  At first the men seemed pretty ackward around me. In their culture I don’t believe that they are comfortable talking to a married woman without her husband around. I felt naked around them in shorts and a t-shirt. No matter what I wore, I don’t think that I could ever be as modest as an Amish woman. I didn’t want to offend them.

I heard the men talk a lot in German. I didn’t understand a word even though they were speaking the language of my ancestors. When they were working outside, one of the men asked another what the buzzing sound was coming from a machine. The other man replied, “I think that is what you call an air conditioner.” They were very respectful and friendly, yet we all eyed each other in puzzlement by the differences in culture.

The second day, the four men came back to finish the job. This time they brought along two little boys around the ages of 7 and 10. The boys didn’t seem to do any of the work besides carry a few light things. Instead they followed their dad around intensely watching him and learning the family trade. I wish that our culture had the same attitude regarding our youth instead of throwing them out into the world after high school with no job skills.

The Amish workers seemed interested by my children watching TV. They seemed fascinated to see us drive off in cars, especially the teenagers. I’m sure that they had just as many stories to tell about us as we told about them. There was nothing bad to say.

I am very happy with our new windows and the work the Amish men did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabin chaos, part 3


After 50 years, the cabin became run down, bat ridden, and somewhat dilapidated. The roof leaked. The floor sagged under cracked worn flooring. Using the outhouse became outmoded as a commode. I really didn’t want to go up there anymore.

It was at this point that Aunt Grace decided to finance a major remodeling project. My brother Mark was the perfect guy for the job. He was good with his hands and was a very hard worker. When Mark was in middle school, he drew up a design for a water bed. He constructed the bed out of wood and spent the next 25 years sleeping in it.

Being the middle brother of my younger 3 brothers, Mark was almost invisible. Matt and Luke demanded almost all of the attention. Mark received attention and approval by working hard. He is the hardest worker that I have ever known. By the end of his teen years, he had already wrecked his knees and back from hard physical labor. Last summer I think he felt threatened when I told everyone that I was running a marathon. He told me that he bet he could run faster than me. He holds the title of family brawn.

Mark started to remodel the cabin in a process that took about 6 years. He managed the project and did a majority of the work despite living several hours away. He gutted out the cabin then put on new siding, new windows, redid the fireplace, and added an indoor bathroom. Once the old flooring was removed, we discovered hardwood floors underneath. Mark restored the hardwood flooring, put on a new roof, and put up dry wall. He also worked on the trim with precision and accuracy.

The most difficult thing he had to do was face his fears to get the job done. He braved claustrophobia, spiders, and rodents to squeeze in through a small opening to a crawl space. He needed to go underneath the cabin in a dark, musty, moldy dirt hole to reinforce the foundation. Plus, it was dangerous. If something went wrong, it could have collapsed and crushed him.

Everyone worked together as a team to complete the project, but almost all of the credit goes to Mark.

When Mark finished the remodeling project the cabin was magnificent.