Seasons of Change

So often, seasons of change seem to come in my life faster than I can perceive their arrival or process what the change means for me.  My marriage is the best example of this.  Even though we dated for a year and were engaged for another year, I still can’t figure out how I went from being the single girl who, though extremely extroverted, loved living alone in her new Raleigh apartment… to this married woman who spends day after day with this man who has become an inseparable part of me.  We’ve now bought and broken-in two different homes together, moved cross country together, adopted and loved two dogs and shared thousands of little experiences from meals to walks to trips to middle-of-the-night chats.  I know him better than anyone else in his life, and he — me.

I was not expecting at all to get married at age 26.  My mother who was born in 1948 didn’t get married until 1979 (age 30) and my grandmother who was born in 1913 didn’t get married until 1943 (age 30).  So by my mom’s gauge, I was really rushing into this marriage thing!  lol (I think my Dad’s mom got married a bit younger but need to check.)  Besides being ahead of the traditional marriage age in my family, I know I am by no means the prettiest, the thinnest or the “est” of anything among single girls, so I’m as shocked as anyone that I found love at a relatively young age.  But I did find love, or it found me, or Tom found me, or we found each other… however fate works its magic… and my life has changed dramatically.

I now find myself at an almost equally dramatic time of life change.  As nearly everyone knows by now, on June 4, I lost my job.  It’s a tricky thing to explain because I wasn’t actually laid off by my boss or the company I was working 40-50 hours a week for.  Without getting into too many details, we were already in the process of separating from the parent company.  Though my job was going away, I had interviewed for a new job and was told that I got it.  I was only waiting for a formal offer letter the day that two managers told me that I was terminated “effective today.”  I thought they were kidding.  I could have sworn that I saw a hint of a smile in their eyes and they were going to say that it was a joke and in reality, I was finally moving into my new role.  But it wasn’t a joke.  I left the office immediately and cleaned out my space over the weekend.  Never before has a chapter ended so abruptly.

The chapter with this job goes back before our move to Kansas City last June 2009 (one year ago).  It goes back further than our anticipated merge with the parent company and me coming on as an employee (October 2008).  It goes back all the way to October 2003.

In October 2003, I was a 21 year old college graduate just looking for a job.  I didn’t really want to stay in the Chicago area where I went to college for some reason, and I assumed there may not be a lot of job opportunities where my parents lived in Fargo-Moorhead (ND/MN).  With my degree in political science and the experience of living in Washington, DC for a semester study program during college, I felt DC was the place for me.  Thankfully my Aunt Pat (mom’s sister) and her family lived in the DC area so I had an immediate place to crash once I got there.

So in that summer after college graduation, I loaded up my little green car (which Tom still kids me about because I cannot remember the make or model or how I got it, exactly) and headed east.  I drove 10 hours the first day, and then another 10 or so hours the second day.  I had never driven so far alone in my life.  I played loud music to keep my energy level high and my eyes wide open.  I remember how beautiful and quaint the roads got to be as I got to Maryland and then Virginia, approaching their house in Great Falls.  I still remember my Uncle Jim greeting me at the door — I arrived just in time for dinner that night.  My new life, my working life, was about to begin.

The first thing I did in DC was leave DC.  My cousin Julia was going to some Spanish summer camps in Spain and my aunt had decided to go along and get certified in teaching English in Madrid.  I liked the idea of teaching and traveling, and obviously had nothing better to do, so I went along with them.  Summer 2003 went on record as one of the hottest summers in European history.  With the lack of air conditioning in most flats across Europe, 30,000 people (many elderly) died in the heat that summer.  While I am glad I went and had so many good experiences, studying how to teach English in a scorching hot Madrid in August, of all times, the month when literally almost every shopkeeper closes for the entire month and heads to the beach… yeah, well, it wasn’t exactly a vacation.  (Note to self: next trip to Spain must involve much more beach and much more sangria.)

I’ll cut to the chase and let you know that, so far in 7 years, I have not used that teaching certification at all.  But I did go on to work for a temp agency and I also worked at Bed, Bath & Beyond in Reston, a store that is now gone for some reason.  I did whatever I could do until I found a professional job.  And finally, I did.

That October, through an online ad, I got a job as an administrative assistant at a nonprofit organization.  The organization was WorldServe International.  My first two weeks on the job, everyone was in Africa on a trip and I had to hold down the fort on my own.  Within six months, my boss who was the director of communications left the organization and I was immediately promoted.  So you’ll believe me when I say it was trial by fire, but there is no better way to learn than to have to learn.  “Fake it till you make it” became my motto, and I quickly figured out how to do dozens of things.

I did good work and was a very reliable person, which is why when I decided to move to North Carolina in 2005 because of a new, organic church I wanted (maybe even felt called) to be a part of, my boss didn’t want to lose me.  I was no longer an employee, but he kept me on as a consultant with the organization.

Upon arriving in Raleigh, I dove in to my new consulting practice head on.  I joined the area Chamber of Commerce and numerous other networking groups.  I learned that dressing well, speaking confidently and giving a firm handshake could take you pretty far in life.  I ended up recruiting about 25 clients on my own and serving an additional 15 clients through a contract with an advertising agency — all within 2 years of moving to a new state.  I offered communications and public relations consulting, as well as writing services and much more.  I developed PR plans and business plans, re-wrote website content, created brochures, pitched and wrote stories for magazines and gave people ideas for growing their businesses.  I found the Research Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) to be a lively environment for business as well as a lively, fun area to explore and live.  The universe seemed to open up its riches of life, joy and possibility and pour them upon me.

Throughout it all, WorldServe remained one of my biggest and best clients.  I kept the title Director of Communications during all those years.  Communications was only the tip of the iceberg of what I handled for the organization… I learned to “do it all” not arrogantly, but just because of our small staff, I had to.  It was invaluable experience.

About the time we got married (2008), the organization said they wanted to stay with me even into a third state — this time, a state of their choosing.  We were anticipating a merger with a global television network and they pleaded with me to move to Kansas City.  In their Kansas City office, they said, I would work closely with the entire TV network staff and develop all kinds of promos and programs that would bring the parent company and the international relief and development organization together in partnership.  Frankly, for the already-identified extrovert in the room, returning to an office and a team environment sounded very appealing to me.  Additionally, they wanted to make me an employee again, which meant we’d have major medical coverage and other benefits.  Goodbye, self-employment tax, too!   The ability to focus on one organizational mission rather than constantly sell and juggle projects was yet another benefit — peace of mind, in short.  I could go to work and then come home.  I could have more of a life.

While Tom was willing to go, I was excited to go.  I was born and (partially) raised in Topeka, just an hour west of Kansas City.  I know this part of the country.  I love this part of the country.  It just feels like home in so many ways — the flat land, the big sky, the friendly people, the way you can count on all four seasons to be quintessentially the season it’s supposed to be… winter is snowy and cold, summer is blazing hot and perfect swimming pool weather.  I felt God had once again aligned the stars just perfectly for me and for us.  It was not a difficult decision to make, except for saying goodbye to some friends.  We drove out of Raleigh in a two-car procession, our dog Pastor in my car.  I cried such tears of mixed emotion leaving those friends behind — they had showed extraordinary kindness and generosity the final week before we left.  Why did they save the nice things till the end?  Just kidding.  🙂  But I knew God was calling us to Kansas City and had opened the perfect opportunity.

Well, fast forward to today.  This Friday, June 25, is our one year anniversary of that teary but hopeful drive out of Raleigh.  We know because it’s also the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, and we got several texts from friends as we traveled through Appalachia telling us the news.  That was kind of funny that everyone told us, but at the time we had tickets to MJ’s “final” This Is It show in London so we were and are definitely fans.

But anyway, it’s only been one year and the job that brought us here is now gone.  But I hope this story explains why this is the ending of more than a year or a cross-country journey — this is in many ways an end to a 7-year journey that began when I was 21 years old and newly thrust into the real world.  It’s a significant crossroads for me and because I am married, for us.

There are now no guarantees of what will happen next.  I had one interview last week, and I have another one tomorrow.  My only hope and prayer is that, if possible, I find something within a month or two rather than this becoming a prolonged period of unemployment.  Though Tom is working, we really need both of our incomes to make ends meet.  Besides that, I’m a working girl, and don’t enjoy sitting at home all day without purpose.  Even one day without leaving the house can drive me nutty (God bless Starbucks, Borders and all their big box and indie counterparts.)

As of today, I am in a positive frame of mind and extremely hopeful about our future.  As my Mom said about me losing my job, “You will be one of those people who looks back and says that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to you.”  God does seem to work that way — I’ve seen it many times in my life — and I’m counting on a good story to come out of this one.

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Cathartic Thanksgiving rant

Ah, a new post.  And I love the big blue “Publish” button on the right hand side of my screen.  To think!  All the real paper, and ink, and candlelight, and blood, sweat and tears it used to require to publish something.  Thanks to the internet, we can all be published, and published immediately, for better or for worse.

Though I usually love writing, I often struggle with writing at work.  Partly that’s because copywriting is a totally different kind of animal.  There’s no room for stream-of-consciousness, diary-style, emotional downpour in the world of words for money.  You have to sell benefits (NOT features!), be succinct, grab attention, connect with YOU the reader, be witty.  There are rules.  So when I’m not feeling in the zone, copywriting is not all that fun (forget that I had a copywriting business for a few years… lol  but writer’s block falls on the just and unjust alike.)

The other difficult thing about writing at work is just the committee factor.  Granted, I hate having to write something that will go out to the masses without anyone offering me any feedback or even a simple proofread.  But on the other hand, there’s nothing more maddening than 3, 4, 5, 6 or more people continually sending you their edits on a piece.  This happens often at my job.  One is tempted to slap oneself silly when such a process not only happens, but sprawls out across email after email (and they use 4 colors!  Red for deletions, blue for additions, orange… see?  Can’t remember.  I am pretty sure this is why change tracking was developed by the fine folks at Microsoft.)

I also find it funny when people argue with you over something subjective.  Do I just nod my head and agree, or do I fight for my word choice?  I try to go the “I disagree, but no matter…” route as much as possible.  These type of things just aren’t worth fighting over.  I just find it amazing that people feel something subjective can be treated as objective.

Anyway, I’m just a person who loves her job but today is a little frustrated by some of the minutiae that make up a day of work… and I’m not even getting into the REAL details! : )

It is probably because it’s day one of a two-day work week… day two being Tuesday.  And days three through seven being Thanksgiving week vacation time!  My brother and sister-in-law are driving down from Minnesota (they literally live on the river in Fargo, ND, but they live in Minnesota).  (Ooh, I think you need a picture for that.  There you go.  Although I don’t know why the two cities look so far away in the map — they are just one city really.)

Anyway, so all I can think of doing right now is cooking, baking, watching our two dogs play together (cousin dogs!), seeing family, going for walks, sitting near the fireplace, watching the Macy’s parade, watching movies, drinking Miller Lite (heh), playing pool, watching Tom and Michael work on some household projects, uhh… that about sums it up.  Oh, and maybe going down to the Plaza for the big Christmas lighting!  Hopefully no shopping though.  I don’t want to be in a store on Black Friday.

Well this has been cathartic… I’ve realized that my writing/work frustrations, at least on this day, are nothing more than a girl who is longing for a family holiday. lol  See, stream-of-conscious writing is useful after all (but not for selling products!).

May you, whoever and wherever you are, having a happy Thanksgiving.  I am coming to think of Thanksgiving as a holiday that is just as spiritual as Christmas and Hanukkah (if not more… since the retail establishment has yet to totally ransack the fourth Thursday in November.  They can have the fourth Friday — bah humbug).  The starting point for all spirituality, from my humble point of view, is realizing that everything we have is a gift… and basking in that gratitude.  If we can celebrate rather than expect things in life, well then even the most simple thing is a cause for real joy.

(Also, who doesn’t like a holiday that has to do with pilgrims, Indians and the early colonial era? : )