About Me

I have something to say... But a blog let's me spew until I figure out what it is.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Place to Call Home

I have been extremely fortunate in my life in a many areas - no matter how down in the dumps that I may get about some things, I am able to keep things in perspective and realize that I have some great fortune in other areas.

One such area for me is employment.

My professional background is storied, eclectic and unusual.  I have accumulated 2 years experience in Salon Management (I landed a job at 23 years old), 2.5 years experience in Program Development for a Labor Management Cooperative, 3 years experience in Policy and Procedure Development for a non-profit guide dog school, and a collective 6 years experience in Executive Support (Administrative Assistant/EA) at the Director and C-Level in a variety of industries.

I am 31 years old. I never completed college (though it's back on my radar).  I was an english major.

More than the ego hit I took when I lost my job last month, the biggest insight gained from the event of my job loss was that I was lacking something: A Career.  Many many friends of mine from High School and College were wise enough to identify and pursue an industry and build their resume based on the knowledge that comes attached to specific industry experience.

My professional growth has been the result of luck, really.  I have always been the type of person who offered help where help was needed.  I have a talent for identifying inefficiency, easily articulating the processes shortfall causing the inefficiency, and conceptualizing and implementing adjustments which will improve business process.  Overall, most positions I have held began as an Executive Assistant position and then morphed into a position which leveraged this bazaar talent of mine.  And so, over my 12-year working life, I have amassed about 6 years experience in Project Management and Process Improvement.

I told you it was a eclectic.

More than eclectic, however, it's a hard sell when you are trying to market yourself.  YES, things are great when you are working for one company - you are well-utilized and usually happy for the most part.  BUT, when you are in year three of working for a mid-sized guide dog non-profit developing policies and procedures or managing cross-departmental projects, no matter how much you love it, you one day realize that you are collecting experience that is so niche it will likely be difficult to make yourself attractive to other, larger, for-profit organizations if/when you decide that's what you want to do so.

So, here I was.  Living in a state I still can't find much love for, having taken a beating over the last two years in every aspect of my life, trying to figure out what my next move was.

While living up north, I often utilized staffing and temporary agencies to secure employment.  If you have never done or considered working with a staffing agency before - I highly recommend them.  For those of you whose price-point is a little higher than average, it may be difficult to use a staffing agency as the majority (though certainly not all) of the positions may be on the lower-paying side.

But the little-utlized secret of a staffing agency are the following:

  1. You are performing a working interview.  If they like you, they WILL keep you.  If you are doing a temporary fill-in for a position while someone is on maternity leave or out sick, you may think that if/when that person comes back you are most definitely out of work - not true.  You have no idea as to what other positions a company may be working on at the exact moment you walk in the door.  By exposing yourself to the players within the organization, making a good impression and networking your tail off in a way that is respectful and motivated by hard, clean work, you may secure a perm opportunity for yourself you didn't even know about.
  2. You have the chance to interview the company and, in some cases, your boss to be sure that you WANT to work there.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been the victim of "bad fit" since I moved to Florida.  By working a temp or temp-to-hire position, you have the chance to work, full-time in a position that may be a good fit for you - but if you ultimately decide it's not the right place for you, you simply wait for the position to term and move on.  No harm. No foul.
  3. You never know who other people know.  There are plenty of articles that support the theory and argument that networking is a super-vital element to the current job market.  The people at your new place of temporary employment may have associates and be so impressed with you work that they are willing to recommend you to other people. 

Any which-way you slice it - the whole premise lies in: Take the job.  Dress to impress.  Work your tail off.

One of my local staffing agencies approached me with an opportunity to temp as an administrative assistant assigned to a Senior Vice President at a nationally-recognized company local to my market.  The temp pay was stronger than most, but substantially below my previous salary.  Eager to keep income flowing into my household (because something, even $5.00 a hour, is better than unemployed), I took the position with the three bullet-points I listed above etched into my mind.  The company had hired someone in the role I was filling, but the person backed-out of the opportunity at the very last minute.  So, I received the call on Wednesday, was phone screened by the company on Thursday and offered the temp assignment on Friday morning for a Monday-Morning start.

I went, I sunk my teeth in to the position immediately, and I impressed as much as I could.

By the beginning of the second week, I was hearing murmuring that people were liking what I was bringing to the party.  By the end of the second week, I was offered the job - evidently "the fastest conversion" the staffing agency had ever experienced with the company to which I had been assigned.

So now - the moment of truth - do I take the position?

Suddenly I felt confused, scared, and unsure of myself.  As I reflected back on my roles, I realized I had never worked for a corporation; that the support roles I had been hired for were for the heads of rather small companies; the positions I had generated for myself as an extension of my admin support roles were developed because of the "all hands on deck" feel of working for a smaller organization.  In reality, I have never worked for a company with more than 70 people.

Yet here I stood - offered a position with an organization with more than 30,000 employees with global recognition supporting a Senior Vice President.

The bad fit I experienced for a year with my most recent employer (and did nothing to change) had so impacted my confidence, that I actually hesitated at the opportunity.  But, at the end of it all, it has been this type of opportunity I have not been given and it is this type of opportunity that could define, at last, the career I never managed to define.

And so, I accepted the position.  I took a huge pay cut, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the adjustment will pay-off in spades for me long-term.

I mentioned that I have been extremely fortunate when it comes to work - well, in the 13 years I have been working, I have never gone more than 3 weeks unemployed.  The most unemployment I have EVER collected has been 4 weeks (back in 2003).  This year's unemployment length? 2 weeks.

I am SO lucky.

So now, it's time to get my sea-legs back, get my forward momentum going again, and evaluate my next steps.  More to come, friends.  With a little luck and careful planning, I may just salvage my 31st year after all...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"How many? Yes, of course. Booth or floor?"

Well, for those of you who are fans of my parental ramblings, here is my latest tirade... and be prepared for my judgemental-ness.  It's happening, people.

This past weekend, I attended a kid's birthday party.  To be perfectly upfront, I have a tendency not to overload my daughter with stimulation.  She is just barely three years old, somewhat reserved, and generally doesn't do well in large groups but thrives very well in situations where there are 2 or 3 other kids.

This was a zoo.

I don't know if the parents thought that three years old was an appropriate time to start playing the "Joneses" card, or what, but they literally invited every kid in this little girl's class.  Fine. Terrific. I'll let that go.

I will even find a way NOT to get aggrivated that these extremely rude, ill-behaved children were hitting my daughter or pushing her over or taking toys right out of her hands.  It took every ounce of control I had not to flick a kid square in the nose.  Yes, I am the kind of parent that believes that Olivia needs to learn a lot of lessons the hard way - that I am there to guide her, but not do it for her.  I think that it's important that she learn that not everyone will act like she does - and that it's not healthy to expect that everyone will behave in the same way... but rather that she will learn to accept sometimes poor behavior as a fact of life and learn not to let it bother her - so far, we are doing very well.  So far... she is three. We will see.

It's harder on ME right now than on her - watching kids do what kids do and Olivia's little brow furrow as she tries to process why kids are taking things without asking nicely without going momma cub.

So Olivia and I played together, and when she asked me quietly why people were taking things, I quietly explained that some kids do that - other kids don't.  When she started to cry because some kid intentionally knocked over her tower of blocks because they didn't want her playing with blocks, I calmly explained that blocks fall over... but really was at loss when she asked me "Why did she hit my blocks?" I don't KNOW, little girl - I simply don't UNDERSTAND.  What am I supposed to SAY!??

It was shortly after this that I had my "oh yes" moment.  An "oh yes" moment is the moment when you see something and everything clicks - this is DIFFERENT than the "aha" moment Oprah speaks so highly of.  No - this "oh yes" moment is the moment you put pieces of a puzzle together and realize "OHHHH ... Yessssss..." and you say "of course.  If A and B are true, then C is likely true".  "Oh yes" is often followed by "Riiiiiiiiiight" - and if you know me personally at all, I know you can probably hear me in your head right now saying this.

The cake was cut and kids clamored for their slice of gluten-free sugar-free cake.  (and btw, this is not a slant against my gluten-free sugar-free parents out there.  I have decided that rather than silently judge you on bandwagoning the most recent "thing" that I would actually read and understand what some of the food options y'all have chosen to explore - and I can completely see what you are doing in making these choices - honestly).  I got Olivia and I a small piece for her and I to share.  Why: 1) She doesn't really like large amounts of anything 2) She thinks something is extra special when she gets to share it with mommy 3) I like the bond/closeness when we are sharing something.  It brings me closer to her both physically and psychologically - in a little while she will be SO independent that she won't want to share anything with me so I will take it while its there for the taking.

Olivia and I went off to find a chair to sit in while we shared our cake.  She sat on my lap and anticipated the rare opportunity for sugary goodness.

I was so enveloped in my special bonding moment with my daughter that I hadn't realized that we were the only ones in the room.  So... I stopped.  What was going on? Was I missing something?

Oh yes.

I was.

15 children and their 30 adult companions (aka parents) were sitting in another room.
Not just sitting in another room, they were sitting on the laminate/tile floor in another room.

Full grown adults, children on their laps, sitting on the floor to feed their kids cake.


So as not to worry about the cake.  The kids were eating it, dropping it, covered in it - no matter which way you slice it, it wasn't staying on the plate and was rarely making it to their mouth.  It was as though a bunch of three year olds took up Smurf MMA fighting because blue and white were EV-ER-Y-WHERE. 

SO - rather than teach our children to properly use a fork to eat cake; rather than take the time to carefully feed our children if they have not yet developed the fine motor skills required to eat cake safely; to eat over a plate rather than away from it; rather than directing our children to sit at a table; rather than preparing ourselves for accidents that happen with children and teaching our kids that  accidents are a part of life - as are the humble apologies and the grace to clean up any mess you may have made... we, the parents, will sit on the floor and let our kids eat cake where we don't have to worry if they drop it.

Get off the floor.  Have some self-respect.  Yes, its a birthday party - but birthday parties are educational opportunities just as much as everything else is.  YES, our kids are meant to have fun - but does sitting on the floor teach our kids to be respectful of other people's houses?   Or does it teach them to mitigate risk by avoiding it as best they can?  Or does it teach them that they can't be trusted with potentially staining food?  Or does it teach them that they don't have to practice the harder skills because, frankly, they don't have to? (i.e. "don't worry about learning to eat that cake carefully - there is always a tile floor you can eat over")

If we don't parent our children, encourage their independence and draw them close to us through love, respect, patience and one-on-one attention, we are breeding bullies - kids who do not regard the thoughts and feelings of others but rather expect us (their parents) to think of things for them, clean up behind them, rationalize and defend their bad behavior.

At Thanksgiving, a good friend of mine accidentally knocked over a glass votive I had lit to make the house smell nice for our guests.  Hot wax spilled all over my brand new carpet and stained it pretty badly.  Was I mad? Yes. Was I more glad that I had friends in my house to enjoy Thanksgiving with? Absolutely.  We open our houses to each other and take with it the destruction that may come as part of the territory.

So if I host a birthday party for Olivia, you are all invited.  You can even eat cake over my carpet with your kids - and if you drop blue dye #12 on my carpet, I will do my best to get the stain out, but if I can't - your kid will forever be with me and serve to remind me of Olivia's birthday and the fortune we experienced to have you and your clumsy kid join us.


Saturday, August 4, 2012


The original intent of this blog was to give me an opportunity to speak my mind - a place where I could come to get some things out there in the open for others to read, enjoy and even laugh at. It was a catharsis for me. In the wake of George's death, I was seeking something that helped me to make sense of my life and, in its small part, the Blog gave me the place that I needed to get things off my chest and feel like I was contributing something - to offset the sense of loss that I was feeling.

For those few of you who were "avid" readers of my blog, I am sure you stayed awake countless hours wondering where I went and why I stopped posting my weekly anecdotes of the chaos around me. Well, I was hiding the truth of my life - completely counter to the intent of the Blog in the first place, interestingly. The events in my personal life were well-timed to the blog fizzling as the personal hurricane ripping through my family lined up with the one year anniversary of George's death and the entries specific to his passing. I thought I was safe hiding behind the veil of "this topic is uncomfortable for me and so the postings are less frequent".

The truth of the matter is, the empire I had built for myself was collapsing. I had made the difficult decision to move to Florida with my husband to buy a house and start a family of my own in a state where we could afford to make such dreams a reality.

I quit a good job where I made decent money (particularly for my age). I moved to a state I knew nothing about to be closer to my brother who I was missing as I got older and was looking forward to our adult relationship. I was heading my own advice and was trying to live boldly and without fear. 

Two weeks before I was going to move to Florida, my brother told me that he was moving to North Carolina to follow his heart - I should have called the whole thing off right then but I ignored my gut.

My experience since moving to Florida has been one folly after another. George moved away 4 weeks after I arrived. We bought a house as prices in Florida started to fall. We got pregnant in July of 2008, my husband lost his job in March of 2009 but started new work the week of my daughter's birth in April. I endured 9 solid months of postpartum depression before finally coming out of the haze in February of 2010.

And for 7 months, I enjoyed my marriage, my daughter, my home and the family I had created. Then, in September of 2010, George died. In October, I flew to New Jersey for the memorial. I entered Therapy and felt wholly disconnected from everything in my universe. In March, I flew to Pennsylvania for another memorial for my brother - this one hosted by my dad.

In May, the creep of "I'm turning 30" hit me - the reality that my 20's are officially over; a chapter that included Rutgers University, amazing friendships, concerts, participating in community theatre, late nights in Jersey Diners, random road trips to New York City, singing with Sarah and Dave on the rare occasions where we could come together... those ten amazing years were over. I sat on my back porch in my under-developed neighborhood (the same back porch where I spoke with the investigator in charge of my brother's death) and did the cliche thing of asking myself: "Is this as good as its going to get for me? An only child with a confusing parental relationship, a husband who I can't relate to and who can't relate to me, in a house I don't love that has come to represent many terrible things for me - placed in the middle of a development wasteland from which we will likely never recoup our investment?"

Then, things really started happening. In late August, my marriage started taking weird turns. In September he wanted out. By our 5-year wedding anniversary (September 23), he had moved out. In January, my divorce was finalized - and the newly-ex-husband lost his job. In February, the newly-ex-husband moved back to New Jersey. In May he became employed and in June I started collecting child support.

And so finally, after 8 months of emotional drama, financial stress, turbulence, moving in with my mom and trying to figure out what life as a single mother meant - I was approaching that time when I could ENJOY the money I was earning, start figuring out how to be independent and live my 30th year... except by now, I was 31.

July 23rd, I lost my job.

And so the whirlwind bullshit of my life continues - a 31 year old unemployed single mother (now THERE is a headline for my Plenty Of Fish profile).

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am no stranger to adversity. Overall, we are a surviving crew and have endured many things. I do NOT count myself among the types of people who LIKE to wallow in self-pity and whine about the things that happen to them. I am a do-er. I am a go-getter. I believe our lives are what we make of them.

But I have to be honest here, I am feeling like I have had my teeth kicked in, wind knocked out of me, money stolen from my wallet and identity stolen to boot.

YES, universe, I get it - I have been living an inauthentic life. You have made your point clear.

YES, universe, I get it - the phoenix can only rise from the ashes.

YES, universe, I get it - you have to knock everything down in order to build back up from the ground level.

But the interim is complete HORSESHIT - I'M JUST SAYIN'.

In the end, I have decided that the blog shall be resurrected - and expanded. My straight-forward parenting observations will still be here - but the timbre of my life is far too global at the moment for me to focus exclusively on one thing.

So, from this point forward, the Blog is about the process of building this shit back up one brick at a time. Where do I go from here? Who do I want to be? What do I REALLY want to do with my LIFE? The way I see it, the co-dependent atrocity that usurped the last 10 years of my life can only be redeemed by my ability to value this opportunity to build a new life for myself with the wisdom I have at 30 rather than the misguided dreams of my 20s - and with an appreciation that I am not yet in my 40s or 50s when the whole house of cards imploded.

So what do you say "devout readers" (delusions of grandeur abound) - are you with me?