Friday, September 30, 2011

Never Going Back to OK

I’ve been running this week.  Not literally, except for on the circuit at Curves, which sort of counts I suppose.  It’s month-end in my business, which means running, running, running to meet goals.  And mastering the art of keeping my team and myself motivated. 

I really do love being out of Corporate America.  Have I mentioned that before?  Bottom line, it was exhausting and hazardous to my health.  If I’m tired this week, I really haven’t noticed it.

We’re going to return to discussing songs this week.  “Never Going Back to OK” is my all-time favorite song by The Afters.  Again, if you have not heard of The Afters, go remedy that situation now.  They will be in Columbus in November (with Sanctus Real!) and I will be there with bells on.

My favorite Afters song came up lately when I was putting together some pre- and post-event playlists.  Mood music to get people pumped up and happy.  My niece and I had a discussion of where the song fit.  Final verdict … dance mix version for pre, regular version for post.  It’s good enough we have to play it twice!

I’m thinking back to last summer, July 2010.  I travelled with a group of friends, grown-up girls and teenage girls, to King’s Island for my niece’s fourteenth birthday.  It was Spirit Song time – a multi-day Christian music festival – and guess who was playing on Emily’s actual birthday!
Background for this Saturday in July … everyone was exhausted.  Some from a week of church camp.  Some from work.  I had been working on what became known in my world as The Evil Project.  I had my share of no-win projects in my years as a project engineer, but this one was special.  And not in a good way. 

The project team – engineers, construction workers, and operators alike – were required  to meet deadlines that couldn’t be met with the people and money we had.  So a lot of extra hours were worked.  Engineers went on shift.  Many of us were on call pretty much 24/7.  I would get phone calls during church.  The ladies at Curves would see me in there at odd hours and learned to ask which shift I was working that day.  Sometimes I didn’t know yet.  I often swapped shifts at least once in the course of a week. 

I had a conversation with a coworker one time about the weekend phenomenon.  It was difficult to plan activities with the family because you were never quite sure if you were going to have to work the weekend.  Frequently you wouldn’t know until Friday night or Saturday morning whether you would have your weekend free.  Or maybe even Sunday night.

I lay out the boring work stuff to explain how special it was that I had a Saturday off to go to King’s Island.

Early in the day a couple of the girls went on some crazy twisting roller coaster like ride while a couple of us waited on them.  I like keeping my faculties about me and my breakfast in my stomach, I’m just sayin’.  Not a roller coaster person.  I was rewarded during my wait.  Sometimes in the amusement park you hear music coming out of random speakers in random places.  Amusement park Muzak.  So I hear this song, and it takes me a couple bars to figure out what’s going on.  Never Going Back to OK!!!  And that’s no Muzak, those are my boys doing sound check!  Smile.  And all is right with the world.

I didn’t go on any rides that day.  I really was happy just to be still.  I don’t think anyone in our group did a huge number of rides.  Ultimately we spent most of the day at the water park, in the shade, not really moving much.  It was kind of completely awesome and just what we needed. 

Late in the afternoon we packed up and headed to the amphitheater for concert time.  We split into two or three groups … dropping stuff off at different cars … grabbing food at different places.  My sister and I ended up being the first ones there.  The Afters had just started and there weren’t too many people in the audience yet.  We found our assigned seats.  Good seats, but not super-close to the stage or anything.  Like the smart girls that we are, we observed the lay of the land, the flow of the people, the location of the ushers / security.  And we snuck to the front section, fourth row center, by attaching ourselves to some random family we didn’t know.  We texted the rest of our crowd, but alas, they were denied by the usher.

During I-can’t-remember-which-band’s-set, The Afters were signing autographs near the merch table.  A couple of our girls had worn their Afters shirts that day, which did not go unnoticed by the band while we were over buying new shirts.  We ended up being last in the autograph line, which was kind of cool.  We got a little extra time with the guys, some cool pictures, and a plan to book a concert in Jamaica for Em’s next birthday.  Which didn’t end up happening, but her sweet sixteen is coming up next year.

So “Never Going Back to OK”.  Sometimes you can never go back to ok in a good way.  There are significant events in our lives that can transform us for the better.  Em’s birthday adventure last summer didn’t really look like a significant event at the time, but I think of it this way.  You know how people will bang their head against the wall, and you ask why, and the answer is because it feels so good when they stop?  Yeah, that was one day in the midst of many when I stopped banging my head against the wall.  For just one day.  It felt really good.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Pursuit of Busyness

There’s been angst in the air this week.  Did you notice it? 

It’s nothing particularly major or specific.  There has been this undercurrent of uncertainty for a while now.  The nation’s economy.  The world’s economy.  Everyone’s personal economies.  What will the stock market do? What will I do? 

I don’t know if I just noticed it more this week or if the evil Forces of Angst are really picking up.  Maybe it was Ohio State losing.  Maybe it was the latest Facebook changes.  Who knows.  I have my own stuff going on, worthy of a major freak-out if I were the kind of person to allow drama in my life.  But since I’m not, I vented / commiserated ever so briefly and moved on.  Thank you to my support system, you rock.

Which brings me to what I really wanted to talk about … busyness.  Not business, busyness. 

Do you wear your busyness as a badge of honor?  I know I used to.  There are so many good, worthy things we can do with our time.  Certainly we need to provide financially for ourselves and our families, so work needs to be done.  We should provide enriching experiences for our children beyond just school – music, sports, social activities, etc.  Church!  Serving God is pretty high up there.  Various charitable causes, whether they be church-related or not. 

We serve God by serving others, right?  And sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.  So we’re supposed to work hard and do as much good stuff as possible in the time we’re given on this earth, right?  Right???

Well sort of.  My question is this … is your busyness serving you?  And by “serving you” I mean is it really what God wants for you?  For some of you that answer will be “yes”, and my message to you is great, y’all are awesome.  For others, God is testing / teaching you, and that’s cool too.  For many, I suspect, you’re too tired and cranky to really be at your best and to fulfill your purpose.  Ask me about the narcoleptic couches sometime.

Here’s a thought.  A question to ponder.  Are you so busy that you’re neglecting your own spiritual development?  I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou, ‘cause I have been there and often I continue to be there.  Too groggy in the morning, too tired before bedtime, and too on-the-run in between. 

So here it is.  If you’re not taking the time to try to tune in to what God wants … are you doing his will?  

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Will Carry You

It’s that time of year when what semblance of a tan I had over the summer starts to fade, and I start longing for the beach again. 

I am pale.  Really pale.  I mean that some brands of makeup don’t make a color pale enough for me.  So it doesn’t take much for me to feel tan.  I can feel all wonderful and sun-kissed and people will still say, “Really?  You call that tan?”  Ha.  Be jealous of my china doll skin.

July.  I hit three beaches in one week.  How blessed is my life?  Cocoa, Rehoboth, Cape Henlopen.   Cocoa Beach was just about the best day of my entire summer.  My friend Kim and I had traveled to Orlando together for a weekend-long sales conference.  And to call it just a sales conference is really selling (ha!) it short.  We stayed at a fabulous resort.  We made new friends.  We networked in the pool.  Really, we networked IN the pool.  We got dressed up for a fancy party.  We rubbed elbows with celebrities.  We sat in a room of six thousand people in tears by the end of the day Sunday.  Happy tears over what the future holds.  We got inspired.

Monday morning we were two girls on a mission.  Goal for the day – toes in the sand.  We rented a car and headed for the ocean.  Cocoa Beach.  How can you not love a place called Cocoa Beach?  It’s cocoa AND it’s a beach!  We parked at Ron Jon’s, Kim bought a beach towel, and then we were there.  Sand, surf, sun, wind. 

Now the primary goal was enjoying some beach time, but we did have some work to do.  Planning, list-making, phone calls, texting some updates to our team back in Ohio.  For those of you who saw the Facebook pics, yes, we did in fact do work on the beach.  Of course when you’ve finally found something you love to do, it doesn’t seem so much like work.

My live list.  One of my mentors says you should have a live list, not a bucket list.  I sat on my beach towel and wrote out my live list on a scrap piece of paper.  Places I will travel, things and experiences I will have, people I will help.  I read my list out loud to Kim, and we had trouble getting through it without tears.  I have big goals.  It’s why I do what I do.

With some work out of the way, I walked down to the waves and waded in a couple feet to cool off.  I love the sound, the smell, the whole feel of the beach and the ocean.  It helps put everything in perspective.  I just stood there, watching the waves roll in.  Enjoying the peace and serenity.  Marveling at the power of the ocean.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you don’t actually hear the voice of God speaking, but there’s a phrase or word so clear in your mind that you absolutely know where it came from?  I would have worded it differently, so maybe I need to write something on the topic of surrender-and-who-really-knows-best in the future, but I offer it up here verbatim. 

I have the power, and I will carry you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Trust In Jesus

After the big Day of the Layoff, I had been hoping to sleep for a few days.  To weigh my options.  To recover. To figure out how soon I could get to the beach.  But alas, people are helpful and nice and want your resume right now!  And smart girls don’t let opportunities pass them by.  That’s ok, I’ve been known to say I’ll stop moving when I’m dead.

So I polished the resume.  I worked with the outplacement firm provided to us.  They were uber helpful.  I finished an online PMP class they made available for free.  (Insert joke here about the PMP acronymn.)  They shared with me the latest thinking on how a resume should read … it seems to change all the time.

Another thing they were helpful with was referrals.  I received a call one day from a recruiter with a job opportunity (there’s that word again).  The outplacement firm had given him my contact info.  The position was fairly high level, based in Denver, and required some serious road time for new construction the first couple of years.  Now I kind of geek out over new construction and having a big team to manage.  I understand the pitfalls of hard hat hair.  I own steel toe boots.  I like being the glue holding the team together and nudging / pushing / driving them in the right direction.  Often it’s more like herding cats, but as long as I have enough cats on the team it can be fun.  What I don’t like is having to handle all the technical details myself.  Boooring.

So I’m thinking, “Denver?  Really, God? OK, I’m keeping an open mind.  A road warrior life again?  Really???  OK …”  Nothing is permanent anymore, so I could always keep the house in Ohio, get an apartment in Denver, and people could visit me there.

After making it through some phone screens, a videoconference interview, and an online personality / psych / Mensa evaluation I was invited to come out to Denver.  Great, I thought, at the very least I’ll have a lovely trip to Denver.  Maybe I’ll even like it.  Maybe I’ll meet my rich future husband at the local Starbucks and this job search will be irrelevant. 

One night I was driving through New Albany on my way home from dance class.  There’s a church in Westerville that offers free social dance classes on a fairly regular basis.  So I was learning to rhumba.  Working on both my physical and spiritual grace.  I do have rhythm; physical coordination not so much.  Anyway … I have Third Day cranked in the car and my phone goes off.  It’s my new friend the recruiter.  The company is concerned about my non-compete agreement with my previous employer – they’re actually looking at other people coming from the same place – and what exactly are the terms.

I spent the next, I don’t know, two or three-ish weeks going back and forth.  The trip was on again, it was off again.  At one point they told me it was on again and they wanted me on a plane within a few hours.  And then it was off again.  They had me going back to my previous employer for more clarification.  My previous employer said go forth, this one’s of no concern, and we don’t want to keep you from being employed.  And ultimately it was all off for good.  Denver said they weren’t going to touch anyone from my previous employer unless they were past their non-compete period. 

Um, yeah.  A couple weeks of craziness all for naught.  Well except for the learning experience, which was actually pretty valuable.  And the best part?  That night the recruiter called me on my drive back from dance class?  My car has the awesome-cool Sync lady who listens to me tell her what to play on my iPod.  And she displays on the dashboard what song and artist are currently playing.  I had turned down the volume while I was on the phone, and the next song had come on.  I hung up the phone, turned up the volume, and glanced over at the words staring me in the face … Trust In Jesus.  OK …

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How Much More Important in the Father’s Eyes Are We

Ugh.  Dealing with a situation today that reminds me I've been called to do something different.  To whom much is given, much is required.  Theme song of the day … “Things Like You” by Sanctus Real.  I listened to it repeatedly during my workout.  I’m listening to it repeatedly right now.

Spoiler alert:  It’s gonna be a Sanctus Real fest today.  If you are not aware of this band, you need to go correct that right now.  I have tickets to see them in November, and you should join me. 

So yeah, the song “Forgiven”.  It was in heavy rotation on the radio for a while, before the CD was released.  Could I have downloaded the single on iTunes?  Sure, but I normally rely on the teenagers in my house for such things.  Anyway, once I had the whole CD on my iPod, I was able to listen to the song forty-two times in a row while driving down I-70, which finally allowed me to get through the bridge without crying.  The musical bridge, that is.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.  When we last talked, my glamorous (?) position in Corporate America had just been eliminated.  A few days or a couple weeks – I don’t remember exactly – into The Severance Period I had this very vivid dream.  In real life it was early Sunday morning, and I had to drag myself out of bed for an 8am sound check.  My bandmates can attest to the fact that 8am Sunday and I don’t get along very well.  So I was already in a bit of a fog. 

The dream was pretty simple.  I had gone to Columbus to have lunch with a friend.  I don’t know who it was, I don’t know what I ate, I don’t know what restaurant it was.  What I do remember is walking into a parking garage to return to my car.  I was parked on a level that was about halfway below ground – you could see to street level, and there was a meter maid standing there on the ledge.  Why a meter maid in a parking garage?  I don’t know.  I approached the car and it was – as is typical in dreams – my car but not my car.  I looked inside and the back seat was folded down, like in my SUV.  I panicked because I didn’t see my purse in the car.  Apparently I hadn’t taken the purse with me into the restaurant.  The meter maid came up to me and said, “Oh, it’s down here, I hid it for you,” and proceeded to show me my purse tucked under the back seat.  I was relieved.  I hugged her and said, “Thank you for taking care of me.” 

OK, kids, I’m going to channel Joseph here, no Technicolor dreamcoat required.  The interpretation:  God is going to take care of my finances.  Period.  End of story. 

Back to real life on that same Sunday morning.  I’m driving … perhaps at high speed on the back roads ‘cause I’m late … to church for that early sound check.  I’m listening to the radio because I didn’t have time to waste on fishing the iPod out of my purse.  Sometimes the local radio station doesn’t rock it out enough for my personal taste, but it’s still good music.  And on this particular day, the perfect song comes on.  “Whatever You’re Doing (Something Heavenly)” by, yes, Sanctus Real.  I’ve included all the lyrics below.  No comment about having to try to preserve my eye makeup.

It's time for healing time to move on 
It's time to fix what's been broken too long
Time to make right what has been wrong 
It's time to find my way to where I belong
There's a wave that's crashing over me 
All I can do is surrender

Whatever you're doing inside of me 
It feels like chaos somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
but I'm giving in to something heavenly

Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Revaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow your will
or just climbing aimlessly over these hills
So show me what it is you want from me
I give everything I surrender...


Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I've wanted to say for so many years
Time to release all my held back tears

Whatever you're doing inside of me 
It feels like chaos but I believe
You're up to something bigger than me 
Larger than life something heavenly

Whatever you're doing inside of me 
It feels like chaos but now I can see 
This is something bigger than me 
Larger than life something heavenly
Something heavenly

It's time to face up
Clean this old house 
Time to breathe in and let everything out