Finding Center

People are often looking for balance in their lives. Right now I need to find my center. You can’t balance anything if you don’t know where the center is.

For this I’m extremely fortunate that my unemployment claim was granted. I have 26 weeks (19 remaining) to really make a difference and to set mfr in the direction of a life that is happy and fulfilling.

Yes, money is tight for now; and worth every cut back we’ve had to make. I still have no internet or cable, I quit the bowling league, I do laundry at my friend’s house to save money, and rarely go out.

On the plus side, I have enough to pay the rent, utilities, vehicle expenses, and the boys operating budget. We get SNAP benefits to cover food.

I have been asked to join a “Next Gen Think Tank” for our church. It is a committee focused on the youth, children, and families of our congregation. This is going to be a ton of work to get things going in the right direction.

As of February I am back on the teaching schedule for Creation Station and looking forward to being involved in the direction our children’s ministry moves forward.

I am exiting about getting these children involved in their faith. I’d like to add a children’s choir for special occasions to involve the kids a little more.

So as I find center, I need to decide on a few goals. Career, financial, spiritual, family…

I need to make them as specific as possible with a goal date. Where do I want to be in six months, one year, five years, ten years. I know the five and ten year goals are extremely fluid, but if I  at least have a vision I can begin to take steps in that direction.

Enjoy the next steps of my journey. I’m excited to share it with you.

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Finally, Merry Chrsitmas

So many people have made this Christmas exactly what it is supposed to be about…loving one another. We have gone from nothing to everything I could ever dream of.

I am not one of those parents who has to buy a million things for my kids at Christmas. I am fine with them opening up a few meaningful gifts as opposed to the endless gifts that some families do. B1 will get a long awaited for scooter and B2 a guitar that he has had his eye on for more than a year…you know it’s important when a child wants it that long. They will also both get 2 Hot Wheels in their stockings from Santa (a gift he brings every year) and a fleece blanket for Mom’s house. B1 will also get some underwear as we noticed the other day he seems to have too few pair.

The blanket is because that is the only thing that they have to haul back and forth from Dad’s house every week. This way, they only need to throw the Kinnect for the X-box into one of the backpacks and then I won’t even have to stop and see their father every week! so things are definitely looking up.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. We don’t have anything planned so it will just be more of the same…UNO (the current favorite household hit) and maybe some ice fishing if the weather cooperates. I am taking the boys shopping tomorrow to buy something for each other. My sister had sent them each $10 USD and then she suggested to use it to buy them something small. It was then that I came up with the idea of them buying something for each other. I am taking one boy and a friend has agreed to take the other…I’m sure they will each know what they got each other before we even get home…but it’s the thought that counts! LOL

Depending how tomorrow goes, Santa might be bringing me a year of Xbox Live and Netflix, but we’ll see…he might have to leave me an IOU for now. The ex is picking the boys up at 9am Christmas morning to begin his week. He was to pick them up yesterday morning to start his week but ‘offered’ to let me keep them (so he wouldn’t have to pay for two full days of childcare). Another day with my boys is NEVER a bad thing.

B1 did ask if they were staying extra at dad’s to make up for the missed days and I told him that no, when dad chooses to not take days, they are simply missed, there is no making up when it is a choice to give up the day. I explained that if it were something like he was sick and didn’t have a choice I would let him make it up but not when he just wants to leave them with me. It was extremely difficult to find the right words to use as I didn’t want to use trigger words such as “doesn’t want you” or things of that nature. B1 has enough issues, he doesn’t need me feeding his inadequacy fears.

Tomorrow will be about making new memories, maybe some cookies (but don’t hold your breath, I am NOT Betty Crocker). Brownie in a mug, we can do…cookies from scratch…that’s pushing it.

Thank you all for your prayers, love, support, and most of all for keeping me on the right track. I couldn’t do this alone!!

Battle Buddy

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have a new battle buddy. Fortunately because we each have many similarities in our situations, unfortunately though because there are four more children who are now faced with an unbelievable situation. I met him about a year ago while he was doing some renovation work at the hotel where I worked. Just casual acquaintances at best. Friends enough to greet each other in public and remember each others names and talk about our kids, but not hang-out type friends.

There was always a friendly amount of flirting with him when he was at the job (which wasn’t often). He was safe to flirt with…he was married, had been with his wife for 20 years, had four children with her, I didn’t mind stroking his ego, he is one of those soft spoken guys who obviously had no clue just how much people liked him. He is a rare breed for sure; a man immersed in the lives of his children, always working to making his marriage as good as it could be, even in difficult times, and always professional.

While at church last weekend I saw him and greeted him. One of the women from the bible study group I attended came up behind me and asked, “And how do you know him?” I jokingly told her I had tried picking him up at a hotel one time until I found out he was married. “For another eight days” he mumbled. I apologized for putting my foot in my mouth and said I had no idea he was getting a divorce. Well, apparently he didn’t either until about six weeks ago. Turns out the bible study friend is his mother! lol Small world ain’t it??

At one point during the bible study discussion a few weeks ago as we talked of forgiveness and letting go and learning to be positive the mom had looked at me and said, “Hmmm, you should talk to my son.”

So then I said, “Is THIS the son I am supposed to talk with?” Sure enough…what are the odds? So he and I updated each other on our respective situations and it was easy to see the hurt and shock still in his eyes. At the end of the conversation we parted ways and I didn’t give it a second thought when his mother asked for my phone number (we are in bible study together, remember).

Later than day I told the Lunch Lady about the conversation (he and her also have two children the same age so they are in the same circles at school). His situation is heartbreaking. He realized the marriage had changed in late summer and took the initiative to get he and his wife in to counseling. On the third visit she announced to him that she wanted a divorce and that she was two months pregnant by another man with whom she’d been seeing for over a year. She then moved out of the family home, has rarely seen her children since moving out and the divorce will be final next week. Three months ago things were fine…now he is a single father with four children. Quite the blow. She gave him custody of the kids, the house, and just walked out on their life, their family.

Later on Sunday I received a text message, “Are you sleeping?” from a strange number. I asked who it was and it was him, he needed to talk and his mom had given my number…I am so naive! We talked for a while about his situation and dealing with feelings and children, and the roller coaster his brain and heart are riding. Being a few steps ahead of him as far as the emotional processing of every thing it was easy to give him honest feedback and a few insider things to be aware of with the kids and each of their developmental stages. He was receptive of the information and sounded grateful to have a battle buddy. I told him that I don’t know his wife, have never met her, and will never judge her (or him) for the choices they make. I would be a neutral party to bounce ideas off and if he needed to vent he now knew how to get a hold of me. I told him to also run it through his brain the ‘what if’ scenarios if she decides to try to reconcile. I don’t think anybody had approached that possibility with him, but I could tell he was thinking it. I said there is always hope for reconciliation until one of them is six feet under. Almost funny coming from me.

The next day his mom and I had a lunch date and we talked about my situation and how she hopes he will return to church on a more regular basis as he works through this situation. I said I can be his friend, and a sounding board and hopefully a support as far as church goes.

I have to admit, the similarities of our situations makes our conversations easy. Today after I took the boys to school we talked about when I found out I had to move out of the house and the blow that was to my heart and ego. I rarely hurt when I talk of it, but talking to him about it, it was no longer as matter of fact as I make it sound. For him to openly acknowledge the hurt and agony I felt without attempting to sugar coat, side step, or justify the situation was agonizing and comforting at the same time. We are Battle Buddies, fighting the same war in our hearts and brains. With time I am hoping that sharing our individual grief journeys will strengthen us for ourselves, our children, and our partners.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to hope that even one person would find out they are not alone in their journey. I never expected somebody to return the favor. Always the helper, never the helpee…it’s how I try to portray myself. Never allowing my weakness to be revealed anywhere other than maybe here where I can pretend nobody reads it and confident that even if they do they will be much too uncomfortable to bring it up in person…people tend to not enjoy tough talks.

Welcome to my Battle Buddy…and thank you for the gift you have given me, the gift of friendship.

The Last Monday

Today is my last Monday at my current job and the busiest day of the week for this place. There are 52 check-ins to process today. Of those 52, many of them will check in on my shift just because I have ‘trained them’ to check in when they get to town as opposed to after work to save the second shift person a huge rush when everybody gets finished with work. It will be my last time checking in ‘my people.’

Most of them already know I am leaving but there was a guest who returned over the weekend (his company had been working here all summer but they having been working another project away from here for the last couple of weeks) and when I told him this morning that Thursday was my last day all he had to say was, “Oh, Sh!t, I don’t like that idea at all.”

I feel bad for the guests who have come to rely on me to get things done for them. They know their rooms will be ready when they get here, that they will have the rooms they prefer, that I will go in and turn on the AC for them while they are at work if it is a hot day.

I have a painting company right now that loves to give me crap about the little things I take care of for them; one of the rooms needs a rollaway and housekeeping doesn’t seem to understand that this also means an extra person in the room so I always go in to make sure that they are left extra towels, soaps, shampoo, etc. I mean REALLY?? How hard is that to figure out. Well, every now and then I get busy and forget to make sure it is put in the room and these boys have NO PROBLEM trying to make me feel like crap. I tell them that if I HAD a heart it would hurt when they give me a hard time, but we all know I don’t! lol This group sent one of their new hires to the front desk one morning because he locked all the keys in their room. He came to me and I looked at him with a straight face and said, “Awwww and you think I care, that’s cute.” I thought the poor kid was gonna cry.

Last night The Boyfriend called me on his lunch break, it was good to see him after the pity party I held for myself yesterday. I told him that taking the boys home early (even if it was only 4.5 hours early) is so very hard on me. There was a festival in their town and the parade and everything that had been scheduled for Saturday was postponed to Sunday. They wanted to spend the day enjoying the festivities and I agreed to take them home early so they could do that with their dad. We watched the parade together and then I took them home.

I do this for them. Although I know divorce means that they will sometimes miss out on a few things, I do what I can to make sure they can still take part in most of it. This is a sacrifice I make, and the price my heart pays is a very high one…that’s my job, to pay the price so they don’t have to. They are paying a high enough price for everything else in their life that they have no control over, why make them pay unnecessarily?

The Boyfriend tells me all the time how proud he is of me for doing all I do. He encourages me that the boys will see things for what they are in their own time. I know this is true, and that’s why I try to not sway them in any particular direction, I follow their leads, their moods, their needs.

Yesterday morning Bubba was having a tough time…the schedule was changed, he was going home early. He wanted to go home early, he knew how fun it was going to be, but even a small, positive change is still a change and he doesn’t do well with change. I tried to tell his dad to be mindful that day as I related our morning and he just blew it off, “He seems fine to me.” He will never understand.

I’ll put money on that little man calling me tonight crying for something…

My last of three job interviews today. I am excited and a little nervous. Everything will be exactly as it is supposed to be and will work out perfectly. I am confident of that.

Motivated

I am counting down the days to my last shift next week. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit nervous. I’ve done what needs to be done to make sure my needs are met financially, now it comes down to making sure I have things in place to take care of myself emotionally.

There are still so many changes happening all at once for me and it’s time to step back and reevaluate my priorities and goals.

One of the questions I was asked yesterday in my interview really has me thinking. He asked, “What motivates you?” Seems like a simple enough question, but at that exact moment I had to really think about it.

I took my time and really thought about it. I knew what I am not motivated by, but what is it that drives me, that keeps me going, that continues to challenge me and what do I use to measure my success?

I am not motivated by a paycheck or any amount of money. If I was, I would simply ask for a raise at my current job and go about my life. I would have made sure that I had another job lined up instead of taking this leap of faith by quitting my job. Money doesn’t buy happiness and I will argue that point with anybody. Can it buy you nice things? Sure it can. Nice things don’t fill your heart, they only fill your home.

I am motivated by growth and change. I am not the same person I was two years ago. I am much more laid back, relaxed, and have an ability to see things from many perspectives. I would be a great in debating as I can understand either side of almost any situation.  I understand that people do not view things in the same ways and that just as my perception of a situation is my reality, it is the same for others. Although we may be on complete opposite sides of the fence, I think I have the leg up because not only can I see your side of the fence, I am more than comfortable standing on that side if I need to. In this way I have changed significantly.

To be able to look back on the changes I’ve made (some by choice, others by order of the court) I have been able to see the good that has come from them. They have not all been easy, especially living away from my boys, but they have all been wonderful tools for teaching me about myself and my own needs.

The thing about change is that there are positive and negative changes. Many people are afraid of change, and they should be. Change is not easy. Even when the projected outcome is rainbows and Skittles, change isn’t easy. Instead of seeing the change as a challenge, I confront the uneasy feeling.

Am I scared right now about things working out like I hope? Sure am…but I’m not going to let that stop me. I see the end zone, I see the touchdown, I see the light flashing above the net after the goal. I have the ability to look beyond, “Ya, but The Boyfriend and I want to go to Mexico when he gets home and this will delay that significantly.”

What I do see is the opportunities in front of me, standing up like a tackling dummy just waiting to be knocked to the ground and run over. I see the challenges of finding productive things to stay busy. One of them is definitely going to be teaching Creation Station (Sunday school at our church). I can throw my heart and soul into that class. I can dig deeper into the curriculum we have and make it fit our kids. Another goal is to increase my physical fitness. I’m in decent shape for a mom…but I’ll never get a red-card if I can’t walk a 15 minute mile carrying a forty-five pound weight for three miles. I have the endurance, it’s the strength that will kick my butt.

This would be a perfect time to start my book. For years I’ve wanted to write a book and several people have encouraged me, maybe now is the time. I could also focus a little on my speaking and maybe sharing more of my stories with those who need to hear them. They cover a wide array of subjects and I love to do public speaking. Maybe it’s time to join a service organization or two. The women at our church are trying to set up a women’s ministry team/group. That will be a great opportunity for me as well.

All of these opportunities will make small changes in my life, my goals are fluid and will continue to grow, and change. Mexico can wait, the important thing is being happy.

Although the following Bible passage is often read at funerals, it is also fitting for this new life I am leading:

Psalm 23:1-6 ESV The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

When the passage is read intentionally as opposed to recited, it is easy to be at peace. I shall not want, He restores me, I am lead down righteous paths for Him, I fear no evil, my cup overflows…

How could I ever be afraid when I have that kind of back up? I felt like I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death when the ex was granted temporary custody; God brought me to a new church where I was given new life, comfort, new friends, strengthened faith. I was shown just how amazing my boys really are, they are strengthened by this experience, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If I can walk through that dark valley and fear no evil, I’m pretty sure this whole job change, priority shift thing is gonna be ok. 😉

Irons

Right now I seem to have a million irons in the fire. I did my Wildland Fire fighter class, I handed in my resignation at work, I applied for three jobs and just got the call today to set up the third interview. I am impressed (but not really surprised) that all three applications have made it to the interview stage. I just had to put myself out there. Not to mention the ongoing divorce process as well as being a mom.

My first interview this morning was for a brand new hotel that is under construction. The interviewer was a little bit concerned that I had already put in my two weeks notice at work and they wouldn’t be looking at actually putting somebody on the floor until the first week of December. I told him that I was aware of that and that it was not an issue. I told him I plan to take some time volunteering at the boys’ school and possibly working part time along with already volunteering at the church.

My second interview will be tomorrow at 3:15pm and the only reason I applied at that one was to have a fall back if things got hairy here or if I really needed to be working.

The third interview of the week will be for the part time position at the church as an administrative assistant. I am excited for this interview and hope I have a good shot at being offered that position.

Of the three positions, the hotel and the church are the ones I am mostly interested in. While they are two very different positions they both have the potential for growth and change and reaching people.

The hotel job would be extremely driven (especially if I go management as opposed to staff). Although it would bring me many of the same challenges I had at my current position I believe I would have the tools and opportunities to meet those challenges effectively. I would make that a condition of my employment. A defined chain of command and a comprehensive policy and procedures manual. Another challenge with the new property would be the effort and hours that go into getting a new place up and running as far as operations and sales. Hiring an effective staff and getting the training in can be very time consuming. Once the staff is trained and operational, there comes a time when it can almost run itself. This was great when I was manager here as it allowed me to have a staff that I could count on so I could be home more in the summer with the kids.

I explained to the interviewer today that when I did my hiring, I always let them know that I was essentially searching for my replacement as I knew I wouldn’t be here forever.

The church position would allow flexibility right from day one as it is only 20 hours per week. I believe though that with the current rate of growth that will increase at least a little bit fairly quickly.

I am going to finish my fire certification as well just because I started it. That may lead to work later on as far as logistics with a fire crew or even dispatching. That I can do well into retirement and the ongoing training will keep me engaged.

So, many irons in the fire, and these are only the ones that are employment focused. There is also the divorce, parenting, dating, social life, and volunteering…it keeps me busy and fulfilled.

Moving on…

Today I did something I have been praying about and struggling over for months (since January really). I put in my two weeks notice at work. I began working here November 21, 2011 and immediately fell in love with my job. I worked my butt off to learn everything I could about the industry and specifically the brand I was employed by. I took online classes on my own time, studied every bit of information I could get my hands on, made sure my guests needs were met and that they knew I valued their business.

Within three months I was made Front Desk Manager. I got my own office, and a ton of responsibilities…but no raise. I was told the raise would come when the numbers came. As I was already doing most of the managerial duties at that time, the money wasn’t an issue. Money was never the issue. The issue was being able to make decisions for the hotel and the staff to ensure a positive experience for the guests.

The numbers not only came, they flooded in. Sales doubled over the previous year and continued to skyrocket. At the end of October 2012 there were some major wildland fires in the area. We now had state and federal teams in the local area. At first the teams were dispersed amongst all the local hotels and motels, spreading the wealth, if you will.

Within 10 days of the start of the fire I had everybody they could fit in our hotel staying here. They completely moved out of three of the four other hotels and had as many as they could based out of here. I ended up with 94 firefighters, FEMA employees, state employees, etc. staying here. I worked my ass off for this group. I knew who was in what rooms at all times, who was working on which fire (up to five separate fire incidents), the status of each fire, and several other above and beyond tidbits. It was an ongoing joke that they got their REAL briefing from me before heading to the Incident Command Center where they were often quizzed on what I had already told them. lol

The over head team LOVED me. I developed a spreadsheet of the personnel staying here and kept it up-to-date. The Logistics Section Chief called me from his next assignment and asked if I could email him the spreadsheet template to use…he was now working Hurricane Sandy.

I still talk to several of them on a regular basis. They made it known to my boss that I was the ONLY reason they were at this property and that the above and beyond service I provided them was second to none. My boss hated the fact that the front lobby looked like a funeral home due to the number of flower arrangements that showed up several times a week.

I often would do laundry for several of the firefighters in the evenings. They spent 12 hours each day on the fire line…throwing a few loads of laundry into the hotel washer/drier a couple times a week while I was working was no skin off my back. They LOVED it and because I wouldn’t take their money they would buy me flowers and chocolate. I never asked for or expected payment, I saw it as a gift I gave to them. These men and women put their lives on the line, spent weeks at a time away from their families and friends…all I did was wash clothes and fold socks. Our property had an increase of more than $70,000 in room revenue for the month of October alone.

Not long after the fires were out, the pipeline crews moved in. Many of them spend the summers living in campgrounds and move in to the hotels when the weather gets cold. They had heard from others about the personal service provided and the great management (me).

In January we had an issue with a guest not wanting to pay his bill (over $1500) and he decided to use me as a pawn to get out of paying his bill. He used information from another source as well as completely lied about issues he ‘had’ while at the hotel and sent them to my boss in an email. Well, in arguing his case with his credit card company our boss had to provide proof of his stay, etc. On the registration card, whomever had checked this particular guest in did not have him sign the payment agreement, nor was his credit card preauthorized.

When this come to light I was taken in to the office and told that if he got out of paying his bill due to these oversights I was out of a job completely. Well…this princess don’t take shit laying down. I said that while I understood the implications of this man getting a free room for the length of his stay, it was not me who checked him in therefor it should not be me that was punished.

Well, let me tell you…this did not make the boss happy one bit. We looked up the records and there was the proof that I had not officially dealt with this man on ANY level except to take his initial reservation over the phone. The only other time I had any contact with him was off the clock (a few times a week I would sit in the bar and visit with various guests).

Within a week I was again taken into the office and told that ‘the owners’ (there are four owners, one of whom is the General Manager here) had decided that I wouldn’t be the Front Desk Manager anymore. While it upset me initially, I quickly realized that I was the one who came out ahead in this deal.

I did not loose any pay, I only lost the weight of the hotel resting on my shoulders. I no longer spent my days agonizing over ways to improve our steadily increasing customer service scores, responding to requests from guests past and future about concerns or questions, developing and implementing staff training, hiring and firing, scheduling, and the millions of other little things I did. I now clocked in at 7:00am and clocked out at 3:00pm and refused to take after hours calls.

The issues began nearly immediately when my boss realized that he had no idea how I spent my days. He had no idea the time, effort, and dedication I put in to my job which was now for him to worry about it. Several of my ‘regulars this summer were beyond shocked that I was no longer management but they made it clear that several things now made sense (lack of staff training, why I wasn’t available when they had an issue, and things of that nature).

As the complaints rolled in my boss knew he had bit the hand that fed him. He also knew that there was no way he could apologize and make things right with me. My heart was no longer here. I stayed much longer than I should have. I should have left immediately. Instead, I stayed because I love the flexibility, I love the interaction with my guests, and for the amount of ‘actual’ work I now did, the pay wasn’t bad.

The lack of appreciation has gotten to me. I have begun my job search but have found myself not very enthusiastically looking; probably because I have this one already and there is no panic. So today I put in my two week notice.

With tomorrow’s paycheck I will have all of my bills paid through October. I will also have one full paycheck and one paycheck for one week still coming. My next full paycheck will pay my November rent (my largest expense) and I am confident that I will find employment long before December. The recession missed this area of the country completely and right now it is an employees market up here. The cost of living is low and the wages are good.

I can get a job working at McDonald’s and start at the same wage I make right now. I’m not worried, nor am I above a fast food job. I will do what it takes to pay my bills (anybody looking to book a public speaker in the near future) and I will do so with a smile on my face.

I will blog more on the leap of faith this is for me on another post as well as a few more details of my current game plan.

Stay tuned boys and girls…we’re going on a ride, I just hope it doesn’t get too bumpy.