Jobs And Cancer Monday, Oct 17 2011 


It’s been two and a half weeks since my last post. I have been BUSY! For the first time in more than ten years, I found myself wading through the job pool and actually interviewing for full-time positions. I am a single mom now with the added responsibility of paying my own bills and covering my own health insurance. The last couple of weeks have brought to mind scenes from Working Girl and 9-5. I’ve referred to myself more than a few times here as the real-life Snow White with my bunnies and birds and little animal friends, so how could I NOT be reminded of that scene where Violet, dressed as Snow White, poisons the boss’s coffee and catapults him out the window while she and her co-workers giggle at theoretical ways to get rid of the “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

http://youtu.be/L19GOqAeT6Q

I interviewed for two very different positions. The first was the MONEY job which would have come complete with a shiny new laptop, cell phone and expense account. It was in outside sales in the hospitality industry and while I’m sure this would have afforded me the opportunity to get a sharp new wardrobe, the stress levels probably balanced out the pay scale. This was one of those positions that in order to even score an interview, I had to complete a 30-minute online “personality survey” that asked my opinion about various workplace issues:

  • Drugs in the workplace –  “I think people who use drugs should all be locked away in jail.” True or False
  • Sexual harrassment – “It’s OK to tell someone they’re hot and give back rubs at work.” True or False
  • Anger management – “I find it hard while at work to keep from punching someone’s lights out.” True or False
  • Company theft – “It’s OK to take things from the office because it makes up for my teeny tiny paycheck” True or False

The day of the second phone interview with the VP of Sales/Marketing, my children were home from school due to a teacher in-service, and I prepared them with strict instructions to stay in a bedroom with the door closed and not bother me unless there was a bloody emergency. I’m not British either so the emergency would require ACTUAL blood for me to be interrupted. The call came an hour ahead of schedule since the interviewer and I were in different time zones, so I quickly ushered the kids into a bedroom and LOCKED myself into my own room with my laptop and cell phone. I did my very best to sound professional while still wearing my pajamas, and when the first knock at my door came, I shut myself into my closet and sat atop a pile of dirty clothes while describing how I often work best under pressure. The conversation flowed well and while opportunity was knocking professionally speaking, the literal knocking at my bedroom grew exceedingly louder… and then stopped. Ms. VP was busy explaining to me a typical day and the ins and outs of the industry in which she felt I could be very successful when she finally stopped and addressed the commotion that had resumed outside of BOTH closed doors. I finally came clean about sitting atop the dirty garments in my not-so-sound-proof closet and emerged to find THIS!

The ever-so-clever kindergartener had shown his resourcefulness by retrieving a screw driver (the mechanical kind – not a drink for me which I undoubtedly needed at this point) and simply removed my doorknob – the first obstacle between him and a solution to his pressing problem. The emergency at hand? He needed to get to the store and buy a birthday present for his friend. At that moment, while I processed the facts that I had mixed up days thereby missing the party AND was living through what I thought must be the interview from HELL, Ms. VP busted out laughing and confirmed that I INDEED worked well under pressure. She admitted that she had been home-based for years and that while her kids were now grown, she had NEVER had an experience where a child had removed a doorknob to break into a room. I guess it endeared me to her, and she then explained the process of hiring and that she was lining up the third, fourth and fifth interviews in rapid succession for the next week.

While the morning’s events re-played through my mind, I re-grouped, re-focused and changed gears for my second interview of the day. The second position couldn’t have been more different from the first. While it involved a lot of responsibility with what was expected to be very little pay, the advantages were abundant. As this was my second interview for the position, I was hoping for an offer. I dropped the kids off at my grandmother’s house just blocks from the job location and set off with the self-talk that if this didn’t work out, then surely something else would come along that would be just as perfect of a match. A minute into the interview, “Mr. Heart” (as opposed to the evil Mr. Hart played by Dabney Coleman in 9-5) was offering me the position and explaining why he thought I was right for the job. He couldn’t offer the kind of money that most other companies could so he had been hoping for someone with the right qualifications that could see also the intrinsic benefits available to anyone with a personal interest in the position. As it turns out, I had both the qualifications and a personal interest in the position. Allow me to back-track for a  minute and explain…

Five months ago, my life changed. While driving down the road and listening to an Adele CD (yeah, I know, I’m THAT person that still buys ACTUAL CD’s!) a song hit me. Maybe the music and the lyrics that accompanied it actually exploded over me. There hasn’t been a way that I can accurately describe what happened to me that day other than to say I woke up. Instantaneously something hit me and I knew, FELT and could actually SEE that my marriage was over. I couldn’t see through the tears enough to drive though so I pulled into the first parking lot available. That parking lot “happened” somehow to be the parking lot of the church where I grew up attending mass every Sunday, where I went to school for eight years, where I still attend fairly regularly and now send my kids to school. The image that popped into my head was one of a picture a friend had given me several years ago.

This picture was taken the day after Hurricane Rita passed through the area and left destruction and devastation in her wake. It is a statue that stands on the church grounds and has symbolized for me such a feeling a peace and calm when chaos is present. Years later, as my world seemed to be in such total chaos and the remnants of my marriage lay around me like the broken limbs of the beautiful trees that had once stood and seemed so strong, I had found myself sitting in my car all alone at the scene of my favorite photograph. It meant something to me that I know another person will never fully be able to comprehend. That’s OK though. What hit me in the parking lot was that while I have been about to embark on a new solo journey, I was not entirely alone. There’s just no way that I ended up in THAT parking lot at THAT time on THAT day by coincidence. It was the middle of the day on a Thursday afternoon and the parking lot was packed while I sat along the perimeter with my engine running (both literally and figuratively) and crying. I saw people I knew that day walking out to their cars and hid under the dash-board so I wouldn’t look like a crazy cuckoo bird should someone spy me crying and feel the need to check on me. All I could think – though I never actually checked it out – was that someone must have died. Perhaps there was a funeral going on inside while someone else had just come to life in the parking lot. I thought about the picture and what had become of my marriage but KNEW that peace would come eventually and somehow I would be able to take care of myself and kids.

Flash forward five months to present day. That second job that offered little money yet countless intangible benefits opened HERE on THIS campus. I’ve only worked part-time for the last ten years and only while the kids are in school. They’ve never had to go to after-school care because I’ve always been the one to drop them off, pick them up, offer the snacks and complete the homework yet there just wasn’t an option for me to receive the healthcare benefits I was going to need without going full-time. I was offered the position and allowed time to consider the offer and respond within a few days. I didn’t need a few days. I accepted the offer and kinda shook my head at how surprising life can be. In just five months, my life both fell apart and came together in that parking lot. In just one week I’ll be earning what I need to pay my bills and have the necessary health insurance while my children learn and grow on these same grounds where my sisters and I attended both church and school. Life is cyclical and can be awe-inspiring when you look across at how far you’ve come. My days will get busier in the weeks to come but also more rewarding. I may not be the most pious of all the congregation and haven’t spent every morning or even every Sunday kneeling in the pews like perhaps others think I should. My church is all around me though and once again God has provided me with what I need. It’ll be even funnier now though to leave my office at the church and relax with a nice hot bubble bath and wear my red shower cap with the devil horns while locked in a bathroom with the tool-box to keep the kids from removing the door knob. I know better now, and when you know better you DO better.

My job search over the past couple of weeks happened to coincide with the death of Steve Jobs and the dying struggle an old friend of mine is having from cancer as well. It’s heart wrenching to hear updates from the family of a 39-year-old man and his last days as he struggles with fear and pain but mostly the unknown. He will leave behind a daughter nearly the same age as mine, so I am especially grateful that this new chapter for me keeps her close. I’m appreciative of all the time I have with my children and sometimes when you have less time, you make that time more valuable. Acceptance and peace eventually comes for most but as humans, I think the unknown future may be often the toughest thing to accept. I know this though: my last few weeks have focused on jobs and cancer. It’s only fitting to close with the words of a man named Steve Jobs who left this world after having fought cancer himself.

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me. – Wikiquote, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Summer 1993).

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. – Fortune

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

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Oh, The Places I’ll Go! Friday, Sep 30 2011 


This week has been one for change. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for someone like me, it can be a little anxiety ridden. One of my favorite books of all time is, Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess. It’s one of his books that wasn’t published until after his death and that I didn’t read until I was an adult, but perhaps I wouldn’t have related to the text anyway had I read it along with Hop On Pop and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I love the video with John Lithgow reading the story, and I have it saved on my phone in the Youtube favorites so that whenever I’m feeling like I’m at some sort of crossroads in my life, the guy from 3rd Rock From The Sun can counsel me.

http://youtu.be/IQRWeZy-S8Q

While sitting on the balcony Monday night reviewing the day and thinking about what was to come the following day, I thought about Dr. Suess’s advice and reminded myself that we all go through phases in our lives and that some of those phases are unpleasant. After 12 years of marriage, I would finally be going to court the next morning to stipulate for the record that my marriage had dissolved and that we would be doing our best to divide “things” appropriately and amicably without having to request the court do that for us.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

For the first time in a long time, I am as independent as I can be. I realize that none of us exist in a vacuum, so everything I do affects others including all of my decisions, actions, and inactions. I’ve always known that being independent can be fun and exhilarating but also anxiety inducing when you actually HAVE to be independent. I can make ANYTHING anxiety ridden and I don’t even have to try. I’m getting much better, but I can What-If things to death if I allow myself the time to do so. The biggest curse to anyone with anxiety issues is creativity and I have an overabundance of both. I can imagine a thousand possible scenarios while waiting for a train to go or a bus to come or a plane to go or the mail to come. I could tell you what’ll happen if the rain doesn’t go or the phone doesn’t ring or the snow doesn’t snow, or even how my life could be ruined if my hair doesn’t grow. And THEN I remember,

If things start to happen,
don’t worry, don’t stew
Just go right along
Y
ou’ll start happening too.

And so I do. And you can too. And it’s all a matter of taking your cue. When I start to hit the point of no return, I simply turn down the meter lest suffer a burn. (OK, sorry! I got carried away.) I’m getting SO much better at recognizing when I’m starting to be irrational and it helps to remove myself from situations where people around me feed the fire and throw out their own whatifs. I think, “Take look at THOSE silly loons! I’ll just throw on my headphones and listen to tunes!” And so Monday night while listening to tunes and pondering Suess, I saw a shooting star and was instantly reminded of that song Airplanes by B.O.B featuring Eminem and Hayley Williams.

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

MAN, could I use a wish right now! How easy would things be if we were all simply granted our wishes and had things handed to us on a silver platter? I’m a grown adult and STILL have friends that don’t work for much and are handed whatever they want. I hate to say it, but while they are given material things, they are sometimes seriously lacking in character which is NOT to say that all of us aren’t at some time or another. I just think we appreciate things more when then aren’t always handed to us and that’s what I’ve tried to teach my kids. I live near an airport so planes are constantly landing and taking off near me, and I’d be living the dream if I could wish upon every one like a shooting star. I don’t know though… Don’t we as a culture find ANY excuse to make a wish?? I do it all the time; when an eyelash falls, when the clock hits 1:11 or 5:55 or 3:33…, when I blow the fluffy dandelions or birthday candles. It seems like the specific occasions to make wishes are supposed to be few and far between, but aren’t there so many TYPES of wish granting occasions now that we may possibly be taking them for granted? I haven’t really made a true wish in a long time and certainly wouldn’t just sit around WAITING for it to come true like in the pointless waiting room that Suess describes. I do look for signs though and perhaps that shooting star was a sign.

Guess what I caught myself doing… GOOGLING! Yep! I saw the star, caught my breath and then googled the meaning and symbolism of shooting stars. It only dawned on me a few minutes later that what I was doing was looking for someone else to tell me what the significance of THAT star (meteoroid, whatever) at THAT time in THAT place meant for ME. Forget it! I’m in a new place where I decide what has meaning to me and the significance (if any) to my current path in life. I know that I’ve seen them in the past after someone I know has died so maybe I’ll look at that as some sort of honor or recognition for the marriage that has passed on. I know for sure though, that just as shooting stars last but just a fleeting second, so too will this transitional phase of my life. Maybe the sign in the sky was just God’s way of saying, “Hey! I’m here!” Wishes are great, but hard work pays off in the end and noticing my blessings along the way can only make the road more interesting. When I headed off to bed at EXACTLY midnight and began to curse myself for staying up so late AGAIN when I had such an important day ahead, Bob Marley chimed in with HIS heavenly voice through my Pandora station and said,

Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all
right.
Singin’: Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, This is my message to you-ou-ou

How about that? There you go! Both God AND Bob spoke to me in one night while pondering the rhymes of Dr. Suess and Eminem. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better panel of experts if I’d tried so I headed off to bed with a smile on my face and a comfortable feeling that every little thing was gonna be alright. I know it will.