2 Moms · 2020 Adventures

It’s Been A While…A Small 2020 Update From My Little Bubble

I know it’s been far too long since I’ve written a blog. My new job has been all too consuming and I am long overdue to give a full and complete update here and I promise I will do that.

I made a Facebook post today because my heart told me to and it seemed to resonate with so many people. My mom asked me to post it here so here goes. I promise to write more soon and fill you in on all the details soon but this should give you a good indicator of where I’m at.

I miss the blogging community so much and for now, I am writing every day but I am doing NaNowriMo – the National Novel Writing challenge that happens every November. Write 50,000 words in 30 days. Hopefully, when that’s over I’ll sit down and fill everyone in on what’s been happening in my world.

Here is my Facebook post from today:

2020. Enough said, right? This year really did a number on me — on most people, I’m sure. Recently, I had a change of perspective that came from talking to one of my employees. She sat in my office and just unloaded on me about all she had been through in 2020 and..like my story and so many others…it was filled with devastation, upheaval, revelations of truth and character, change, depression, anxiety, and uncertainty.

When she was done unloading, she finished with “Melissa, this year has just been awful.” I looked at her and said, “Has it, though?”

She looked at me like I was crazy.

And I meant it. Has it? I walked her through all the things that she learned about herself and the people in her life. I recapped all the things that had been revealed to her through all the trials she had gone through – things she needed to know but wouldn’t have known if it had gone a different way. We talked about all the ways she had learned from her mistakes and all the positive changes that emerged from all of it that (in the end) set her headed in the right direction both in her life and at work. 2021 looks bright for her.

And that conversation made me realize that it does for me, too.

This is the first selfie I’ve taken in almost a year:

2020 has put a few extra lines on my face. I can see that I am tired and emotionally drained (add a three-year-old who has, up until recently, slept in our bed with us for 8 solid months and a new job that has kept me running hard since the day I started)….but I have landed on my feet after battling all 2020 has thrown at me.

I have landed a job that can only be described as a dream come true or an answer to a five-month prayer (maybe even a lifelong one). My family has remained healthy through a global pandemic, and the result of the presidential election has given me, and so many others, a renewed sense of hope for the future. Even if we don’t agree politically, I hope your future is bright, too.

So now I say with great gratitude…thank you, 2020. Was this a hard year? Yes. One of the hardest of my life. Was it awful? Outside of not being able to hug my parents and my brother and my other extended family members, I can sit here now and say with absolute conviction “no”. A new perspective has shown me that 2020 turned out to be the great teacher I didn’t know I needed to propel me forward into greater things.

Also, please don’t get me wrong, I plan to celebrate the hell out of New Year’s Eve and bid 2020 the BIGGEST farewell possible. I’m sure there’s not enough champagne and noisemakers in the world to do the job right.

I truly hope all of you are rising victorious and discovering everything that makes you special and sets you apart from everyone else. I hope you have been able to redefine and reinvent yourself and leave this year better than you entered it….and as 2020 rounds its final corner, I send you all my love and respect for the courage you’ve displayed this year in just getting through it. Maybe 2020 truly is the year of perfect vision after all.

2 Moms · 2020 Adventures

Embracing The Unexpected:  How My Dream Job Found ME.

Image courtesy of USA Today

It has been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and piece a blog together.  I know I promised myself I would blog once a week when I picked it back up, but you know…life happens.  And it has been happening to me.

I’m so pleased to finally be able to share some good news in my life.  As of July 10th, I completed my Advance Professional Diploma in Project Management and Leadership through Shaw Academy.  This was something I started in April and I’m so proud of myself for finishing strong.  I passed all four modules with a 95% or higher.

On top of this accomplishment, I found a JOB (insert happy dance here) — A good one, too! So today, I want to share the details of that experience because it totally took me be surprise in all the best ways possible.  I never would have seen this coming.

If you’ve been following my blogs during this pandemic, many of you know I have been unemployed since late March.  I have had my fair share of interviews, close calls, hiring freezes, being ignored, and full on rejection these last few months.  Job hunting during a pandemic is not for the weak of heart.  My email is constantly flooded with different job boards telling me what positions are available. I probably have applied to 10 or more a day since becoming unemployed.

Many of the available jobs require doing way more work for way less money than I was making before.  Some of them are requiring a college degree to do basic administrative work.  I never completed my college degree and I consider myself an excellent and talented administrator.  What shocks me is that after they require a college degree as a condition of hire, they only want to pay  $14-$18 an hour.  4 years of college for a $36,000 a year job seems SO out of alignment to me.  And to top it all off, of those jobs that you ARE qualified for, you are either deemed OVER qualified by the prospective employer or passed over entirely due to a variety of factors — someone is more qualified than you; an over saturated market FULL of competent job seekers; or someone else is willing to accept a lower rate of pay than you are. 

So, it’s been challenging to the say the least.

One day I was checking my emails and noticed I had received an invitation to apply for a Director of Human Resources position in an industry that I would have never given a second glace to – a dental lab.  At first I thought “Why on earth would a dental lab be interested in me?” and then I thought “What the hell?  What do I have to lose?”.  So, I applied.

The next day I received a call asking to come in for an interview the following day (a Thursday).  I accepted the interview and then took some time to review the company website.  Wow. I was seriously blown away.  In my leadership course, I really learned the importance of having established company values, purpose, mission, and culture — and this place had it all.  On their home page, you could clearly see their organizational values scrolling across the screen. You couldn’t miss them, and I mean they were AWESOME. They were clear and well thought out.  Their “About Us” story was also incredible – A real Jerry Maguire story with a timeline that clearly showed their business growth since their inception.  It was impressive. Needless to say,  I started to get excited about this company and couldn’t wait to learn more.

Two days later, I found myself showing up to in an in-person interview.   Now, please keep in mind that my family has been social distancing and basically continuing to quarantine since this all started so having an in-person interview spiked my anxiety a bit.  However, after reading up on the company, I was more excited than anxious at this point. 

I headed to the interview and was pleased to discover they were located only 15 minutes from my house and that I did not have to travel on toll roads to get there.  This alone was going to save me a ton of money on gas, tolls, and wear and tear on my vehicle. My previous position was an hour drive for me each way on toll roads.  I pulled into the parking lot of a 14,000 square foot building and this dental lab occupied it ALL.

As the COVID-19 cases continue to linger in astronomical numbers here in Florida, a million questions ran through my mind.  Was it smart to get a job where I’d need to be in an office with other people?  Would they be taking proper safety precautions? There was/is a mask mandate in our county. Would they be adhering to that?  Would they judge me for wearing a mask?  With such a political divide in our country over wearing a stupid piece of cloth to help protect each other from getting sick, I had no idea what to expect.

Let me say that I was beyond impressed with how they handled themselves regarding this pandemic and these crazy times.  I was told to arrive ten minutes early and call them from my car to let them know I had arrived. I would then wait for a return call which would happen after they sanitized the meeting area.  When I came up (in my mask) there would be a hand sanitizing station at the door AND masks provided if I did not have one. When I walked into the building, I was seated more than 6 ft away from one of the owners and the acting HR Director.  I noticed every employee I saw walking through the building was also wearing a mask.  I exhaled.  I felt safe as I waited for the interview to start. 

When the owner of the company began to talk to me and tell his story, I was stunned.  EVERYTHING I had just learned in my Project Management and Leadership course seemed to be personified right in front of me.  He was a storyteller who was BIG on hard work, trust, integrity, adhering to the established company values, and rewarding his employees when their hard work had a positive impact on the business.  And when I say reward, I mean in big ways — the kind of rewards that employees dream about.  He was clearly passionate and he shared my passion about leadership and employee development, growth strategies, and company culture.  I swear, it felt like I spent the last three and a half months manifesting this guy.

I finally asked him what it was about my resume that caught his attention in this over saturated market, and he was able to clearly point out all the things that drew him to me. Then, he reciprocated by asking me why I agreed to come into a dental lab for an interview. My answer was simple. “The values I saw clearly displayed on your website. THIS is a company I can get behind.”

Image courtesy of https://medium.com/@agileexpat/designing-company-values-workshop-8b470949c4e3

When the interview was over, I was invited to come back the following Tuesday to sit in on and audit their new hire orientation. They wanted my input and to have further conversations about this opportunity once I learned more about the company. An interesting second interview, right? They told me I should expect to spend about three hours there on Tuesday and I was honestly excited to return.

When Tuesday rolled around, I showed up early and eager to absorb all the new information and offer my constructive feedback along the way. The three hours I was scheduled to visit with them turned into six hours. At the end of my time there, I sat with the owner in his office (six feet away) and we had a personal chat — a heart to heart — a discussion about leadership and growing people. We talked about integrity and trust as well as honesty and expectations. We discussed how important it was to be authentic and what that looks like. We talked about our flaws and what gets in our way.

After a small pause, he asked me how long I thought I would need to get things up and running and start bringing HR to the next level. I thought for a moment and said, “I think without really diving in yet — about six months.” He then asked me what I thought a fair salary would be for the role. I told him. At the end of the conversation, he offered me the job…at the salary I requested with the promise to make a great deal more once I reach that six month mark and hit my departmental goals — and make no mistake… I WILL do it. Challenge accepted. He offered me a role with plenty of challenges and opportunities to grow and develop employees as well as the leadership team — and equally as important — to grow and develop myself as well.

I would start the following Tuesday.

When I left there, I felt like I was walking on a cloud. I made my way back to my car and called my wife. She had been waiting to hear from me all day — both of us expecting me to only be three hours but feeling like the six-hour day was a good sign.

I just finished my first week on the job and I have learned everything from how dentures, crowns, and bridges are made (from start to finish) — to the digital designs of those items — to 3D printing (which is INSANELY cool). I sat through a basic orientation, learned a new language in two days, and took a quiz. I spent time with each department and each workstation in the lab getting to know the employees and the work itself. And of course, I spent time with the current HR Director learning what she does from day to day.

One of my first projects was to create a career development library – a check in and check out system where we can track who has read what books as we try and grow our people. My new boss has been busy buying up a physical library of leadership and professional growth books written by a variety of fantastic authors — people like John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, and John Kotter (all people I studied in my leadership course) to name a few. I am excited to say that I have already completed this project and look forward to sharing the library system with my leadership team.

So, what’s the lesson learned here? Sometimes you seek out your dream job…and sometimes your dream job seeks YOU out. I never would have thought to see myself working in a dental lab but here I am — excited every day about the information I’m learning, the culture in which I work, the projects I’m going to get to do, and the people I’m going to do them with. The fringe benefits and the payoff for hard workers who produce are something out of a dream. I am anxious to share what I know I bring to an already well decorated table.

2020 Adventures

Hey, Business Leaders: Forget Your IQ For A Minute. How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

We’ve all heard of the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test and IQ score. It’s usually determined by a series of assessments and standardized tests that measure human intelligence. Discovered in 1904 by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, it was originally designed to determine which children suffered from some sort of cognitive disability and what children were simply lazy. The test measured logical reasoning among other brain functions like identifying shapes and words that rhymed.

But, now there’s something more to consider in the workforce. Beyond IQ, we need to also consider EQ (Emotional Quotient) and how the two together can help to create success in the business. When our leadership teams utilizes both quotients together, they are able to take their teams to the next level. Today, I’m going to discuss the characteristics that distinguish a high EQ from a low EQ and what that looks like in the workplace.

Image courtesy of safety4sea.com

Let’s talk about Emotional Intelligence.

What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

EQ (Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence) refers to the ability to validate reason with emotion and to use emotion to enhance thought. Emotional intelligence reflects not only your ability to manage your own emotions but the emotions of others as well. You may be thinking “Emotion and business? That goes against everything I’ve ever known about or experienced in business”. I know. I get it. But studies show that emotional intelligence is linked to higher performance and increased employee satisfaction. In fact, 90% of top producers have above average emotional intelligence. Here are a few more statistics for you. Emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of job performance. It has become such a key measure of success that 75% of fortune 500 companies incorporate some kind of emotional intelligence training within their organization.

How To Measure Emotional Intelligence?

Just like the IQ test, there are a variety of assessment tools that can help you to assess your own EQ score and if you are a manager, coach, or in some other leadership capacity, I highly recommend that you take advantage of it. It’s not until we know where we stand that we can create goals and a strategic plan to evolve ourselves as leaders for the betterment and benefit of the team we are leading. Check out this assessment tool on Mindtools to measure where you currently stand. It’s quick one.

I took the test myself and was happy to see that I scored a 66.

What Does Emotional Intelligence Look Like In Leadership?

Sometimes the best way to show what something looks like is to show what it doesn’t look like. Think back on your personal career journey. Like most people, you’ve probably have had that “nightmare job” and more specifically that “nightmare boss” somewhere behind you. Maybe you’re in that situation now and feel stuck. Covid-19 has changed so much for so many and with all the job loss happening out there, you might be staying stuck in a job that makes you miserable because it’s pretty bleak out there right now.

Have you ever had a manager, supervisor, boss, or some other person in a leadership role who had a tendency to overreact to things? Maybe he/she blew up at someone whenever they were questioned…about anything. Maybe you could hear them yelling and swearing at someone behind closed doors? Or worse, maybe they exhibited this behavior during a staff meeting in front of your colleagues? Maybe they threw something across the room when they’d been pushed to their limit or scattered papers to the floor in an attempt to intimidate someone?

Have you ever had a manager, supervisor, boss, or some other person in a leadership role who reduced themselves to engaging in personal attacks against other people? Or were considered a bully in the workplace? Maybe they participated in petty and destructive behaviors like seeking revenge on someone when a business matter didn’t go their way? Maybe they worked incessantly to try and catch an employee in a mistake because he/she had to point out a mistake that their supervisor made on a report? Or maybe this leader is just making someone’s life a living hell in the office because they had the nerve to report their behavior to an executive above them? Or somehow unknowingly threw them under the bus? These people are relentless in their attempt to make you uncomfortable and they never let you forget that you have offended them.

Image courtesy of https://bestlifeonline.com/

These “leaders” (and I use that term loosely) are out there. And these leaders are NOT emotionally intelligent leaders.

So let’s get down to it. What are the red flags? What are some signs of low emotional intelligence you should look for in your leadership team?

  • They are argumentative: You know the type. No matter what you say or what you bring to the table, this person always has an argument waiting for you. Being right is far more important than being successful. What’s good for their ego takes precedent over what’s good for the team and the company goals.
  • They call others “overly-sensitive”: If anyone else in their vicinity shows any sign of emotion (typically in response to something the leader said or did) they will be labeled as over-sensitive and disregarded entirely. Perhaps this leader told an offensive “joke” and someone made it known that it was offensive. Perhaps after this leader lost their temper, they made an employee cry. Rather than the leader taking responsibility for their actions, they will label the person they offended as overly sensitive.
  • They avoid listening to other points of view: The leader who lacks emotional intelligence believes in the “My Way Or The Highway” attitude. Other points of view are not only not welcome but are not even entertained.
  • They avoid responsibility: When something goes wrong or off track, it is always someone else’s doing, fault, or responsibility. Likewise, if it all goes right, they have no issue taking all the credit.
  • They struggle to maintain friendships: It is difficult for a person with a low EQ to manage relationships because of the other qualities they possess. Being argumentative, calling people overly sensitive, ignoring other points of view, and avoiding responsibility are all qualities of a poorly chosen friend.

5 Signs of A High EQ In Leadership

As strong leaders, we are constantly undergoing self-evaluation. We are consistently taking pause to figure out “Where am I”, “Where do I want to be?”, “What’s my plan to get there?” and “How will I know when I’ve arrived?” So what’s the benefit of increasing our own emotional intelligence within our leadership abilities and what does that look like?

Image Courtesy Of https://www.neurosurgicalatlas.com/volumes/non-technical-skills-in-neurosurgery/emotional-intelligence

The top characteristics of a leader with a high EQ are as follows.

1. Self-Awareness

A self-aware leader understands how their own actions impact the people around them. These people allow their emotions to guide — not rule — them. Self-awareness often leads to self-evaluation and as I mentioned earlier, strong leaders are always looking for ways to evolve and grow in their leadership roles.

2. Ability To Self Regulate

A leader who has a high EQ has learned how to regulate their own impulses. These individuals operate with a great deal of discipline and exhibit consistency to the team who are relying on their leadership to help them achieve their goals.

3. Continued Motivation In Trying Times

A leader with a high EQ is able to maintain longevity in motivating their team members. These individuals are also able to brush their shoulders off when things don’t go well. They are able to find that motivation to keep going, create a new strategy, or completely start over if necessary — all while keeping their heads about them. Emotions around setbacks are able to be dealt with effectively allowing their bounce-back game to be stronger.

4. Empathy For Others

Leaders who show empathy are able to connect and relate better to their team. These leaders can see the issues from other perspectives and respect and grow from those perspectives. They get that when you can understand people better, you are able to extend empathy and make stronger and more informed decisions with and for the team.

5. Highly Developed Social Skills

Social skills become sharpened with a higher EQ. Social skills allow you to work better with others in a team environment. A socially skilled leader can pick up on social cues, identify issues or conflicts before they arise, utilize intervention methods to avoid escalating those issues, and it allows them to connect with their team on a more meaningful level.

Image courtesy istock.com

So, while the IQ test is still a very valid way to measure intellect and logic, it’s time we all take a look at the EQ levels of our management and leadership teams. And if you ARE the management and leadership team, I encourage you to self evaluate, run a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis on your findings, and create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals for improvement in this area. Let’s continue to find ways to develop and increase our EQ at the top so that we can then coach and model what emotional intelligence looks like to our employees and our eventual and hopeful future leaders.

When have you experienced low emotional intelligence in the workplace? How did it make you feel and how did you manage it?


REFERENCES:

Shaw Academy: Project Management & Leadership Management

VantageCircle.com

123test.com

2020 Adventures

Lifting The Veil: 5 Questions To Ask During An Interview That Reveal Organizational Values and Leadership Styles

As a job seeker during a global pandemic, I felt compelled to share these thoughts today in the hopes that it might help others out there give some thought as to 1). What type of organization they want to work for but more importantly, 2). What kind of leadership what they want to work WITH.

COVID-19 has given us all the ability to re-examine what we are looking for in prospective employers as well as a chance to reinvent how we go about finding them during the interview process.

One of the common mistakes I believe job seekers make when they go to an interview is to assume that they’re the only ones in the room being interviewed. I’ve learned over the years that this can be one of the greatest causes of anxiety and stress going into that initial meeting. An interview should be a dialogue between a potential hire and a potential employer. Just as the potential employer will come to the interview equipped to measure whether or not you are a good fit for their team, you should also arrive armed with your own questions that will measure whether or not this company is a good fit for YOU.

Knowing what questions to ask can help boost your confidence and take the pressure off of the idea that you are the only one under fire in this meeting. You will be able to show your potential employer what you bring to the table and what your expectations are of them.

57% of employees leave their jobs because of poor management. So, why be blindsided with it when you can get a snapshot of what the management style may look like during the interview process?

Here are five questions that I believe can help you determine what’s beneath that veil during that initial meeting:

1. What are the core values of your organization?

Why ask this?

The core values of an organization depict the heart of their belief system. They should already be established and therefore, an easy question to answer from any leader in the organization (whether that be a supervisor, an HR representative, or recruiter.)

What to look for in an answer:

You will want to look for values that align with your personal values and belief system. Words such as integrity, honesty, diversity, leadership, accountability, humility, and trust are all examples of strong core values that will give you a good indication if this organization is one you can get on board with.

2. What is the vision of the company and/or department and what is the strategic plan to get there?

Why ask this?

You know that game that asks the question “where do you see yourself in five years”? We’ve all played it. Not only is that a good question to ask of ourselves, it’s also an important question for businesses to ask themselves. We all want to work for a company that has a strong sense of purpose and vision to take them to the next level. When we get excited about the vision, we get excited about how our skill set can help the company get there. During an interview, you can then piggyback on this answer by showcasing what you can do to help them reach that vision effectively.

What to look for in an answer:

The first thing I’d be curious about is whether or not the organization has an established vision statement that has been communicated throughout the entire organization and easily relayed to you from anyone in a leadership role during an interview. Here are some examples of strong and inspiring vision statements:

  • Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
  • Southwest Airlines: To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • Shopify: Make commerce better for everyone, so businesses can focus on what they do best: building and selling their products.

3. How would your current employees describe your leadership style?

What does this mean and why should you ask it?

There are two fundamental styles of leadership and both have their rightful place in the workforce. They can be defined as transactional leadership and transformational leadership. Most companies today fall into the transactional style. The problem with this is that many job seekers are looking for leaders with a transformational style (even if they don’t recognize that’s the name for it).

I’ll summarize the two styles next so that you can evaluate the response to your question and gain an understanding of what leadership style they may fall under.

Transactional leadership focuses on basic management processes with short term goals in mind. The follower is given a set of standard operating procedures and their primary role is to follow those and obey the instructions of their leader. It motivates through a system of reward and punishment and satisfies only the basic level needs of its employees. These leaders tend to watch for deviations against the status quo and interfere only when the standards and expectations are not being met. This style does not deviate from the plan and does not encourage creativity and thinking outside the box. Organizations such as the military, law enforcement, coaches of sports teams, large national or international companies, and first responders are examples of organizations that require a transactional form of leadership in order to run efficiently and effectively.

Transformational leadership, however, engages its followers. These leaders act as role models who not only model charisma but are willing to take risks so long as the company’s values aren’t compromised. This form of leadership inspires creativity among the team offering a full range of support while involving them in the decision making process. Transformational leaders believe in developing their existing talent and have a passion for purpose that they willingly share with their team. They are hands on and involved without stifling the overall creativity of their followers.

Which of these two forms of leadership do you think you have had the most experience with throughout your career? For me, personally, I have had a good blend of both before I knew what they were. I have also learned that I thrive in a more transformational environment where I’m allowed to be creative and where my personal contributions matter and are valued by the leadership team.

4. If you had to pick two words to describe the moral and ethical character of your leadership team, what two words would you choose?

Why ask this?

This answer should be in close alignment with the company values they answered above and give you more insight into their personal opinion of the qualities that make up the existing management team that will be employing you.

What to look for in the answer:

You will want to listen for keywords like fair, honest, humble, integrity, respectful, and trustworthy. If you follow a particular religion like Christianity, it might be important to you that the company you’re interviewing with follows the same set of morals, values, and ethics that align with your belief system. Likewise, if you don’t follow a particular religion, it might be a deterrent if your interviewer expresses a religiously based moral affiliation during the interview. But in the end, if they have to think too long and hard on this question, that’s a red flag and one to pay close attention to.

5. Can you give me an example of how you have inspired or empowered your team while working towards a specific company goal?

Why ask this?

You truly want to hear this answer from the horse’s mouth (aka your potential supervisor/leader). Strong leaders know how to inspire a team of followers and empower them to engage in their work on a deeper level. Empowerment and encouraging active engagement can help build the motivation needed to take on any task. When employees feel empowered and inspired, they are more likely to stay with an organization due to increased job satisfaction. Their decision to stay increases the company’s retention rate. The cost of losing good employees is steep (somewhere around 140%) so it is in every organization’s interest to employee leaders who will develop, engage, and inspire their existing talent.

What to look for in an answer:

You want to watch for the least amount of resistance to this question. The only real pause should be the one your interviewer takes to decide which of their many scenarios they want to share with you in that moment. You should listen for their strategies, how it benefited the employees, and how it positively impacted the end goal of the project. It should bring a sense of pride to the storyteller while they are sharing and give you a strong understanding of what you might expect should you be invited to join the team.

Photo courtesy of http://worldminded.com/

Now, you may be asking yourself “Yeah but…..What if asking these questions offends them and costs me the job?” Then, my friend..I leave you with this humble opinion: If any of these straightforward leadership questions offend your potential future leaders, then I can promise you…. you don’t want to join those ranks. If there is a lack of leadership within the organization, they will either be all over the board in their answers, deflect, or pass on your application because they will know (and possibly be intimidated by the fact) that you have an expectation of strong effective leadership. They will undoubtedly move on to hire someone who doesn’t seem to care about such things at first glance. But, remember that 57% who leave their jobs because of poor management? Those hires will likely fall victim to that statistic down the road.

On the flip side (and I can promise you this): Organizations that believe in and value leadership development (and they ARE out there) will love that you ask these questions. They will respect the fact that you had the courage to ask them and will jump at the chance to answer. These are your winners. These are the companies that have a clear purpose, vision, and strategy to get to the next level. Your next move will be to show them all the ways you can help them get there.

You may ask all five. You may only ask three. You’ll just need to play that by ear and see what feels right in the moment. In the end, though, never let that last “What questions do you have for me?” or “Do you have any questions for me?” go unanswered. That’s your moment. Take it. Make the most of it. And hopefully, it will lead you to a long-lasting career with an amazing organization that you can call home.

2 Moms · 2020 Adventures

Awakening The Butterfly: Personal Transformation During A Global Pandemic

“The Caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity”

~ George Carlin

Photo Courtesty of Gadventures.com

It was Valentines’ Day in 1989. I was walking to the bus stop to catch my ride to school. We had just moved to Yarmouth, Maine from Anchorage, Alaska a few months prior and I was not adjusting well to the change. It was snowing that day and I remember someone telling me as I neared the bus stop that school was canceled. A snow day! I remember scoffing at the idea of it. In Alaska, a “snow” day rarely happened. You slapped chains on the wheels of the bus and off you’d go. I remember looking at it as a sign of weakness for some reason which gave me even greater cause to hate the recent move and resist settling in.

Being a latch-key kid in the ’80s, I turned around and started to head home. On my way back, I noticed something wiggling on a snowbank. When I looked closer, I saw that it was a caterpillar and, being the rescuer that I tend to be, I scooped it up and carried it home in my hands. Once I got him home, he lived in a small white department store jewelry box with a lid on it. On the top of the box, I poked holes and drew an awkward picture of a caterpillar and wrote his name on top: “CRITTER”. I took him to school with me every day and let him crawl around in the desk in the groove for loose pencils. I fed him frozen carrots and peas taken from my dinner plate. Finally, he turned into a cocoon or chrysalis (I can’t remember which) and the whole process was fascinating to me. I did not get to see Critter emerge as a moth or butterfly but that’s a story for another day.

Fast forward to today. This pandemic. This unprecedented time we all find ourselves in. The other day, I was thinking out loud and I compared this point in time to being a caterpillar in a chrysalis. For those of you who don’t know (because I didn’t), here is the difference between a cocoon and chrysalis. A cocoon is spun in silk by a caterpillar that will turn into a moth. Caterpillars that will become butterflies, on the other hand, molt into what’s called a chrysalis. See the image below.

Being the curious person that I am, I began to research what exactly happens to the caterpillar inside its chrysalis before it emerges that beautiful butterfly we all admire. And I have to tell you. I can freaking relate.

The caterpillar spends its days from birth to chrysalis basically just eating to its heart’s content. Constantly chewing on leaves — just getting fat and happy without judgment– for this is what the caterpillar is supposed to do. During its life-cycle, the caterpillar will molt (sheds its skin) several times. A monarch caterpillar will molt 5 times before it does its final molt into its chrysalis.

Guys, this was me at the beginning of quarantine. I was just enjoying being home, eating sleeves of Oreos, pizza, chips – whatever I wanted – without judgment because I didn’t see anyone but my family. I was happy to be home and on lockdown with them and I have no idea how much weight I actually gained because I was always in elastic-waist pants or yoga pants…. but I’m confident it got pretty out of hand.

One day, the caterpillar just stops eating and finds a twig or leaf to hang upside down from. Here is when it will go through its final molt into a chrysalis where a major transformation is about to take place. Watch it happen below. I think it’s fascinating.

Like the caterpillar, there came a day when I stopped eating — pretty much altogether. I talk about it in one of my recent blogs here. And while I didn’t hang upside down on a twig, I sure felt like my entire world was turned upside down. Little did I know that this feeling of discomfort — this anxiety — this depression — would be where I would begin an awesome personal transformation.

When a caterpillar is born, it is born with a group of cells known as imaginal discs — a pretty name for all the components of the adult butterfly body parts needed to transform later. This is a reminder to me that we are all born fully equipped with all the things we’ll ever need to transform and emerge from these difficult times changed and more beautiful than ever.

Once in the chrysalis, the caterpillar literally begins to digest itself and break itself down into what many sources refer to as caterpillar soup. In fact, if you were to cut open the chrysalis at the right time, this caterpillar soup would ooze out. The imaginal discs that the caterpillar was born with pull from this protein-rich soup to create all the parts and pieces that make up the butterfly. This process can take between 5 and 21 days.

Sounds a bit like quarantine, doesn’t it? Let me tell you. During that period when my depression and anxiety were at its peak, I felt like my entire body digested itself and broke me down to the bare nuts and bolts of who I am. The process of making this “Melissa soup” was painful. There were lots of tears and feelings of hopelessness and it forced me to take a long, hard look at myself. Who was I? How did I get here? Where do I want to go from here? And how will I know when I get there? And when there was literally nothing left of the old me, I began to transform — on purpose and with purpose.

I started working out every day. This alone helped to reduce my anxiety. I’m not one that likes to spend an hour or more working out so my wife and I really love the Beachbody/21 Day Fix Videos. They are high-intensity cardio workouts – but only 30 minutes long. We do this Monday through Friday first thing after we drop our daughter off at daycare. We recently got the Country Heat Line Dancing video series and are having a blast with them. I don’t know what brings me more joy — the workout? Or listening to my wife (who is not a country music fan) sing at the top of her lungs about turning cornfields into a party and catching a cat fish dinner.

Country Heat by Beach Body. You can review and purchase here.

We also decided to eat healthier to try and clear whatever brain fog had crept in and taken up shop in our heads. We began following our workout with plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and fresh blueberries for breakfast. We added a gorgeous leafy green and protein-rich salad for lunch and a sensible dinner.

Next, we decided to establish SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) and get organized. We got a tabletop chalkboard to plan out the morning and afternoons each day with what we wanted to accomplish that day. Our list of tasks are for professional growth so that we step out of this pandemic more professionally valuable than we were when we stepped in. We keep it at the dining room table where we can see it while we work all day. It has become our accountability factor to make sure we stay focused and on track.

My wife and I have our own individual goals but we are both treating every day as though we’re back in school. We are learning new skills and honing old ones and I have to tell you, it’s changed everything. There is no depression or anxiety living here — only excitement.

When the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, he takes a pause and waits for his wings to drop and dry – careful not to rush out into the world just yet. And though he is a different animal now — once a leaf-eating crawling critter on the ground and now a delicate nectar sipper who floats through the air with a new world view –it is believed that he remembers all that he learned during his last days as a caterpillar. That gives me a sense of comfort — that we hang on to the last thoughts that spurred our transformation.

I am currently under construction. I can feel my wings beginning to grow and I am excited to take off when the timing is right. I, too, will never forget the last thoughts I carried with me before I transformed.

So, the question remains: How will you emerge from this pandemic? How will you choose to spend your days in chrysalis as you undergo your own transformation? I hope to see you gracefully spread those new wings on the other side. I also hope that the world looks at the new you in awe and admiration as you take to new heights and fly.

Resources:

https://www.scientificamerican.com

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/

2 Moms · 2020 Adventures

Flipping The Script On My Pandemic-Induced Anxiety

In my last blog, I outlined all the ways I have been battling with anxiety and anxiety-fueled depression during this pandemic. I’d like to flip the script now and talk about the ways I’ve been working towards relieving that anxiety and depression and turning this ship around.

First, I know that one of the largest hurdles I’m facing will be conquered once we drop our daughter off at school on Monday and see that she’s fine, happy, and having the time of her life. Once that is done, I feel like a lot of the uncertainty I’m carrying will finally be over.

That being said, here are some of the things I’ve been doing to try and help myself. These may or may not work for you but my hope is you might grab an idea or two if you find yourself suffering during this Pandemic.

Music: The Great Healer

I am a chronic music lover. I have been my entire life. I love everything from classical to rock to worship to pop to R&B, to the 1930’s and every decade thereafter as well as everything in between. But, I’ll admit, there’s probably a ton of music I haven’t heard or been introduced to or just completely forgot about. I believe in cosmic playlists that transcend you above what you’re currently feeling or doing at the moment. Like a “Workout Playlist”. Or a “Cleaning House Playlist”. Maybe you have a “Relaxing In The Bath Playlist” or a Playlist you listen to while you work. Right now, as I write this, I’m listening to This Girl Is On Fire by Alicia Keys from my playlist titled Tuned In, Turned On, Checked Into The Present Moment.

I decided to reach out to my tribe on Facebook and make a post asking people what they listened to when they needed to be lifted up and out of their own heads. The response was amazing. Some songs I knew and many I did not know! It was refreshing to be introduced to so many new artists and songs. Next week, I’ll be adding their suggestions to the playlist I’m currently listening to.

Alcohol, You’re On The Bench! Herbal Tea, Suit Up!

Anyone who knows me knows that this girl loves her red wine. Recently, I began to notice something new (or maybe just new for me). On those evenings when I was enjoying wine with my wife…talking…relaxing…and taking the edge off, I would feel amazing. The anxiety would be gone and replaced by smiles and relaxation. Unfortunately, the next morning sang a different song. My anxiety would be at unbelievable levels. I couldn’t breath. Those adrenaline rushes I spoke of in my last blog would be relentless. Tears would come out of nowhere. I’d be short-tempered and disconnected from my family. I would get lost in thoughts that I couldn’t possibly know or control the outcome of and just sit and worry over it.

After doing a little research on this, I read an article on www.healthline.com that said this: Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off.

This described what I was experiencing to the letter.

So, I mentioned to my wife that I had noticed this pattern and the two of us decided to be proactive in eliminating the stuff that tricks us into thinking we feel better but only making us feel worse in the long run. We decided to trade in our wine for herbal teas and the result has been amazing. Not only are these warm and soothing teas calming for the soul, but they taste delicious, too.

The other thing that I found was important about switching to caffeine-free herbal teas at night is that they help to prepare us for a good night’s sleep with ingredients such as lavender and chamomile. In an article on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website, they mention that anxiety disorders can cause a lack of sleep. Likewise, a lack of sleep can cause anxiety disorders. The two go hand in hand. Sleeping and sleeping well is critical.

As I write this blog, I am enjoying a warm cup of Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy Tea by Yogi Teas. I love that each tea bag comes with an uplifting message on it. Today, mine says “Be giving, forgiving, compassionate, and loving”. Say no more, magical tea. You can count me in on THAT message.

Do you have an herbal tea that you love? Shoot it to me in the comments below. I’d love to try it.

Energy Healing and Relaxation

In 2018, I became a Certified Shinpiden Usui Ryoho Reiki Master & Teacher. Following this, I became a certified Crystal Reiki Master and I use crystals in all of my sessions to determine which of the 7 chakras are flowing well and which are blocked. ‘

My personal crystal collection

Why did I decide to become a Reiki Master? It’s truly a blog for another time, but the short story is that I had an amazing experience during a Reiki session when my wife and I were trying to get pregnant. Reiki is a wonderful and holistic option for those seeking reprieve from their stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, these ailments are some of the most common reasons people seek out energy healers in the first place.

I’m writing about this because I also have the ability to perform Reiki on myself. As you can imagine, this can be difficult to do with a toddler running around the house wanting to play with my crystals. So I have decided to start my own healing work through self Reiki sessions on Monday when our daughter goes back to school.

What’s That Smell? Using Aromatherapy

I also use aromatherapy in my sessions because I believe they can help to relax and de-stress you. I don’t sell them. But, I use them….And I love them. I particularly love reading scientific studies on the effects of aromatherapy such as this one from the US National Library of Medicine which “aimed to investigate the effect of inhaling rose water aromatherapy on anxiety in hemodialysis (kidney dialysis) patients.” At the conclusion of the study, they reported the following: “According to the results of the present study, rose water has a significant effect on the anxiety of hemodialysis patients (P < 0.001). Consequently, inhalation of rose water can be used to improve the patients’ psychological condition during hemodialysis.

Or this one from Cleveland Clinic site which states the following on how aromatherapy can help lessen anxiety:

Research has demonstrated that aromatherapy, specifically lavender, can improve mood and lessen anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed that aromatherapy helped intensive care patients to feel less anxious and more positive immediately.

So, I decided to take out my old essential oil diffuser and my essential oils and begin filling the air with smells that would help alleviate my stress and help me to relax.

Essential Oils From Lagunamoon can be purchased here
SpaRoom Diffuser can be purchased here.

I also use a product from Bath & Body Works called Stress Relief which is a body lotion that has eucalyptus and spearmint in it. After a warm shower, I put this on my body and it becomes and instant de-stressor for me. Personally, I’m not a huge advocate of store-made body products on my skin. When you read the number of chemicals they put into these things, it can be scary. I actually prefer to make my own body butters, lip balms, deodorants, and face cream but I do make an exception for this product — especially now when a global pandemic stops me from visiting my favorite ingredient shop for making my own products.

STOP The Mindless Scrolling On Social Media

One of the other things I noticed that would trigger my anxiety would be when I’d fall into that old trap of opening my eyes in the morning, rolling over, grabbing my phone, and immediately start scrolling through social media. You want to be bombarded with a ton of shit that is outside of your control in the span of 2 minutes? Scroll through social media.

There is conflicting information out there about whether or not scrolling through social media is good or bad but most everyone says that it depends on the person and the level of engagement they are participating in. Are you truly engaging with people and having true social interaction via a social media platform? Or, are you just flipping that thumb up and up and up and just consuming information? All signs point to the fact that the latter is more detrimental to your mental health than the first one where you are engaging with others in a meaningful way. But how many of us truly engage? And how many of us just scroll through screen after screen – horror story after horror story — politics, news, oh..there’s someone’s dinner they made yesterday — and then back into the black hole of misery? Not to mention the personal engagement we are missing right in front of us with the people we love when we are involved in mindless scrolling through an electronic device.

Image Courtesy of https://vocal.media/humans/how-cell-phones-have-destroyed-relationships-and-how-to-fix-them

I am actually considering removing the Facebook app off of my phone to help me reduce this but right now, I’m trying will power and mind over matter. The problem is that it’s not just Facebook. It’s Instagram — both my personal one and the one I created to support this blog. There’s also LinkedIn because I’m job hunting. Social Media is everywhere and it’s the world we live in so I’m trying to just be stronger about staying off of it. And while I’m not at all perfect, I am doing better. And it DOES help. When I make a post and engage the people in my life in light banter or conversation, I don’t feel half as bad as when I sit and scroll while emotionally and mentally consuming information that only feeds my anxiety.

Watch Things That Lift Your Spirits

My wife and I have made it a point to curl up in our bed with our tablet and headphones at night after our daughter goes to sleep. This is the time we drink our herbal tea and snuggle up. During this time, we have committed to watching only things that make us laugh, feel good, and that lift our spirits. So far we have watched some amazing and uplifting movies from great character films to classic “Rom Coms”. We have been alternating between Netflix and Hulu and there has been no shortage of awesome stuff to watch at the end of the day that doesn’t make us feel worse about our current situation. Being a huge Mr. Rogers fan, I was delighted to finally get to sit down and watch Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in It’s A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood. I felt like a whole new person after we watched it. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. You can check out the preview below:

Meditate. Pray.

This has really helped me so much. And while I’m terrible at just sitting in silence and meditating, I have found a lot of guided meditations on youtube that have helped me quiet my mind and center myself. There are meditations that help you move through anxiety into a sound sleep. These are great for listening to in bed at night. They range from 10 minutes to 3 hours…whatever floats your boat. There are affirmation meditations that can get your brain moving in a positive direction first thing in the morning. It’s a great time to remove the chatter in your head that would prefer you to stay living in your fears and worries. It helps you focus on connecting you with your higher power (as you know it) and reminds you of who you truly are when the waters aren’t muddied with negative and nagging thoughts that breed depression, anxiety, worry, and projection. It can help you quiet all that noise and just “be”. Personally, for me, it’s helpful to do both – meditate and pray — but no matter your personal belief system, I encourage you to find some method or technique that can help to connect you with something greater than yourself. I find that’s the quickest way to get myself out of my own way.

Talk.

And finally. Don’t keep it inside. If you are struggling, talk about it. I have made my personal struggle during this time public through this blog, talking to my closest friends and family, and other avenues. Through some personal work I’ve been doing on myself, it’s becoming easier and easier for me to be publically vulnerable and put myself out there but I understand that this is not always the easiest choice for many people. I will tell you that the outreach of support from friends and strangers alike has been nothing short of amazing. Talking about the darkness and how powerless we feel in it transfers the power back to you. And while it may not take away what you’re experiencing fully, it does somehow lessen the blow – at least for me.

In general, I’m learning that people care and want to connect with you when you talk about this sort of thing. I can’t even begin to list the number of people who have reached out to me and my wife and offered their help, support, and encouragement. There is truly no way I can repay their kindnesses.

On the flip side, though, I’ve also found that some people don’t want to connect with you on this issue — even people you thought you were incredibly close with. If that’s happening to you, let me offer you this. During this global pandemic, I would urge you not to read too deeply into that. I truly believe that everyone is suffering in one way or another and no one will emerge from this crisis unchanged.

The isolation/quarantine and social distancing might be doing an emotional number on someone who is an extrovert and needs to be with people. One family may have lost one source of income. One may have lost two sources of income (like mine) with children to support. One family may have kept both their jobs but are being worked and micromanaged into the ground while simultaneously having their young children home and are drowning in the overwhelm of it all. They may also be consciously aware that there’s always the possibility something could change at any time in all this. They may not feel secure in what you might call their “blessing” at all. Some people might be watching their marriages fall apart while quarantining together and facing being alone during this crisis. Some may be worried about or trying to protect vulnerable people they love from contracting this virus. Those same people might be feeling the sting of those who would chastise them for wearing a mask in public because they look at it as some sort of political statement. Some people may not be able to visit the people they love most when just getting a hug from them might make everything okay again. And some people may have a loved one who is trying to recover or, worse, has been lost to this terrible virus.

Some may just see you and your suffering as a reflection of some part of themselves they are trying to hide from the world. To engage with you and address the issue means they must engage and address it within themselves and that might just be too big a monster to wrestle right now….and that’s okay, too.

In short, there is a huge array of possibilities in the suffering that we are all destined to endure on some level. Don’t assume that someone’s silence means they don’t care about you. We are all tending to our own wounds right now. Yes, we are in this together. But we are also in this alone.

But know this. You may also find that being open about what you’re feeling and experiencing may give someone else permission to do the same and that permission may invite healing where it is desperately needed.

Whatever you decide to do to alleviate your own anxieties, I pray that they work for you. I know that when you feel paralyzed in the uneasiness, anxiety, or even depression, forward constructive movement can feel impossible — like getting dressed..or taking a shower…or writing a blog..or picking up the phone and reaching out to a friend..or updating your resume….. or taking that class you signed up for….or applying for jobs. I get it. I’m with you. But please….keep going. Remember that this is temporary….and you’ve got this.

2020 Adventures

Taming The Beast: Battling My Covid-19 Depression

Picture Courtesy of https://sjhexpress.com/news/2020/04/01/covid-19s-negative-effect-on-mental-health/#

Let me start by saying that I do not suffer from ongoing clinical depression. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am a truly happy, positive, and upbeat person. However, I think it’s fair to say that this Pandemic has affected and changed so much for so many. Unfortunately, I have been no exception to this rule.

Down In The Dumps…..

I’ve been down in the dumps…the kind of “dumps” that seems to be getting progressively worse as the days have gone on over this past week. One thing I’ve learned about myself is this: If my anxiety is not tended to, it will begin to tap dance with depression. That is what seems to be happening now. I didn’t manage my anxiety well. I stuffed it down or tried to ignore it and now I find myself trying to identify the best way to express what’s been happening to me this past week in this blog. On the one hand, this week has been pretty emotionally brutal. On the other hand, I feel blessed that I recognize the signs in myself. So when I started to feel those impending “doom-ish” feelings, I decided to take a number of self-tests online to determine if I might have depression and if I should be concerned.

Each test I took dropped me in the “Moderately Depressed” category.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately. One, in particular, disturbed me because it talked about how California doctors have seen an increase in suicide attempts . To be exact — a year’s worth of attempts in the past four weeks! I found that number to be shocking. Read about that here. I also read an article in Forbes that addressed the latest statistics that 20% of college students are more depressed, 10% are more anxious and 16% are more lonely.

An article in The Atlantic poses the question “Is Everyone Depressed” sharing that many people are now meeting the criteria for clinical depression. They mention four different groups of people. I saw myself in one of the four and I am one among millions of people who are falling into this category. The depressive symptoms are real but these people will return to their baseline eventually as long as they address their symptoms. For these people, they recommend a structured day with solid sleep and healthy eating. They recommend minimizing alcohol, avoiding obsessive news, social media scrolling, and adding exercise to their daily return.

Oops. I must have misunderstood the assignment because I’ve not really been doing any of those things very well.

The CDC also recommends the following for coping during a global pandemic:

  • Take a break from the news
  • Take care of your body by eating healthy, meditating, exercise, avoiding alcohol, and getting plenty of sleep
  • Take time to unwind
  • Connect with others via technology

My Symptoms…..

So what have I been feeling over this past week that I’m identifying as depression? I’m only sharing these symptoms in the hopes that others will find peace in knowing they aren’t the only ones who are feeling this way. Please feel free to share your story with me in the comments below. It’s important to know we are not alone in this struggle and if we can lean on each other than maybe we can get through this together.

I have been feeling hopeless in the uncertainty my family and I are facing. I have also experienced intense rushes of adrenaline from anxiety all day long that results in the bottoms of my feet sweating (this a new thing for me). This rush of adrenaline will also wake me from a dead sleep. I have had an extreme loss of appetite which has become a point of contention between my wife and I. She sees me not eating and is naturally growing increasingly worried about me. Let me clarify that, actually. I eat. But it’s not much and I am forcing myself to eat what I AM eating. When I feel this way, food repulses me. I literally gag at the thought of eating. I’ve dropped about 8 pounds in the past week or week and a half as a result. I have experienced spontaneous sobbing that lasts about 2 minutes whenever I’m alone. I have had a looming feeling of dread whenever I think about the future and the uncertainty of everything.

In normal circumstances, I am a huge believer in visualizing what you want so that you attract more of that to your life. I believe the universe pays attention to where you put your energy and focus. Unfortunately, I have been visualizing worst-case scenarios in almost every aspect of my life. I have been so lost in my own grief that I have not been practicing my gratitude work, either. I have not been writing or reading or doing any forward motion activities that I KNOW will help me get out of this funk. I can’t focus on anything so I am just trapped in restlessness and anxiousness. So basically, I am feeling more destructive than constructive because I KNOW what I SHOULD be doing, and yet I’m resisting and/or rejecting it.

The isolation is really starting to get to me as well. I am a people person. I love to be near and around other people’s energies. I’m a homebody, too, but I am not doing well with not having the option to see and hug the people I love and care about. There’s nothing I want to do more right now than to throw my family in the car and take the drive to North Carolina and spend a week with my Mama. But…there are now things to consider…like unnecessary exposure to the virus through travel. There are gas stations and restaurants and possible hotel rooms if we didn’t want to drive all the way through. I now need to stop and acknowledge that my parents are in the age group that is considered vulnerable to this virus. They have both been so careful during this quarantine that I would never forgive myself if they got exposed through the three of us. So, I feel robbed of the opportunity to go get that hug I feel like I so desperately need right now — especially when under normal circumstances it would be an ideal time to take a road trip and visit with family for a while. No jobs. Our daughter isn’t in school — A PERFECT time for a road trip. But nope. Not this time. It sucks and it’s honestly heartbreaking.

Flipping The Script Strategy Revealed…

The other thing I’ve been encountering is playing out other people’s perceived stories in my own head. My family and I take a daily walk at least once a day. This past week, I’ve seen more U-Hauls than ever. Of course, in my head, I’ve got their stories all mapped out. They lost their jobs. They can’t pay their rent and the “can’t evict” order is getting lifted first of June and they’ll all be out on the streets. It has brought me to tears on numerous occasions. I was expressing this to my mom on the phone today and it brought me to tears again. Then she said something that hit me. She encouraged me to flip the script.

For example: Maybe, they’ve always wanted to move home and this gave them the perfect opportunity to finally be near their family? Maybe they found a better job out of state and are getting ready to start the next exciting chapter of their lives? As my wife said…Maybe they’re college students who were renting and now that school is out for good, they’re just going to head home earlier than planned. Maybe it’s not all devastation.

I appreciated this perspective so much because: A). Why on EARTH am I taking this on right now? I have enough of my own reality to swallow that I don’t need to be making up the stories of people I don’t know to enhance my own depressive feelings and B). Maybe…just maybe… it isn’t all bad or sad endings.

Sending Our Daughter Back To Daycare…

Top all this off with being faced with our state opening up and our daughter scheduled to return to daycare on the 1st of June, it’s just too much for any person to have to worry about. We have been with our little love since our vacation in March (before the Pandemic was really a thing) and sending her back to school feels like losing an appendage to us. But, we also know we need the time to look for jobs and figure things out for the sake of our family (especially our daughter) and that’s difficult to do when she’s home with us all day. She’s not quite three yet and she demands all of our attention. Besides, we know that even though she loves being with us…she misses her friends and teachers as well as the structure.

Job Hunting and Job Interviews…

Oh! and let’s not forget the challenge of job hunting DURING a global pandemic. I shared one of my stories in a past blog that you can read here. Since then I have had two phone interviews that resulted in nothing and an in-person interview I’m still waiting to hear back on. The in-person interview I had four days ago was the first time I’ve left my home in months and I felt agoraphobic which is NOTHING like Pre-Pandemic Melissa.

Courtesy of https://www.rearfront.com/comics-hit-close-to-home-depression-anxiety/2/

I had my mask, my gloves, and my hand sanitizer with me but it felt like something out of a movie. I had never seen zero traffic in the theme park/attraction area of Orlando on a non-holiday Wednesday like that before. It was just….well….strange — and definitely NOT normal. I was also paralyzed with anxiety prior to leaving for the interview and NOT because of the interview itself. That went very well (as far as I could tell). I felt anxiety about leaving the house and I have to say that I NEVER thought I would ever feel that way in my lifetime. After my interview, I recorded a video about how I was feeling as part of my extended 100 Day Video Series that I talk about in an earlier blog.

I will say this, my friends. You never know what small things can help to turn your ship around. We might feel like we’re on the Titanic heading straight for the iceberg with no recourse other than to let it crash and drag us to the bottom with it. But over the past couple of days, some pretty magical things started to happen.

An Unlikely Visitor…

Yesterday, my family decided to spend the day outside. We blew up our daughter’s bouncy house/water slide and we splashed around in the pool and soaked up the sun. Despite my melancholy disposition, I found great comfort in the sunshine and the opportunity to just float in the water. Floating in the pool felt like surrender. I suddenly felt weightless after being weighed down by own my thoughts and worries for days. At one point in the afternoon, my wife and I were sitting in our folding chairs outside and my daughter was standing in front of us as we were all chatting. Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw something black fall out of the podocarpus bushes and land on the concrete with a thud about five feet from us. I stood up and all I could say through my disbelief was “Snake…snake….SNAKE!”. It was a black racer snake who had thrown itself out of our bushes and into our personal space to capture and eat a lizard right in front of us. I waited until it finished its meal and chased it off with my pool net.

Southern Black Racer Snake
Photo Courtesy of https://www.marshall.edu/herp/Snakes/Black_Racer.htm

A little while later my wife and daughter were playing on the other side of the back yard and another black racer snake appeared from under the bushes. It was startled by them and slithered off. Now…I am not opposed to snakes..but two in one day seemed a bit ridiculous and kind of creepy.

Maybe you’re into this, and maybe you’re not…but bare with me. I love the Native American concept of Animal Totems (spirit animals). According to http://www.legendsofamerica.com, different animal guides, also called spirit guides and/or power animals, come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey. Because this has shown to be true in my lifetime with other spirit animals (such as an otter — a blog for another time), I didn’t think it was any type of coincidence that two snakes appeared in front of us during this dark time. We’ve lived in this house for 6 years and I can tell you that’s never happened before. So I looked it up. Here’s what I found: Impulsive, primal energy, shrewdness, rebirth, transformation, initiation, and wisdom.

Courtesty of https://www.spiritanimal.info/snake-spirit-animal/

Courtesy of https://www.spiritanimal.info/snake-spirit-animal/

Maybe I sound crazy to you, but that gave me some serious comfort. And comfort is always better than thinking we have some random snake infestation, right?

Everything Is Always Working Out For Me….

Another miracle happened tonight after I reached out to a friend and shared that I have been on a darker spiral than I’d like to admit. After asking a few pressing questions, she sent me a meditation by Abraham Hicks called “Everything Is Always Working Out For Me”. I immediately played it in my headphones while making hot dogs for my family and it brought me to tears — like the big kind…with sobbing. But then something else happened. Those adrenaline rushes fueled by anxiety that I spoke of earlier? They stopped…. and so did the weird subsequent feet sweating. My appetite returned and I ate my entire dinner for the first time in a week. And, I have been able to sit without restlessness for a while — something I have not been able to do in almost two weeks. If you’re interested, I’d like to share the meditation with anyone who might need or want to hear it here. It truly helped me and if I can help anyone else, I’d like to share it now.

The other thing I listened to tonight that really helped me was a podcast from Brene Brown posted by motivational speaker and writer, Kim Halsey on her Leading With Heart Facebook Page. Being a huge Brene Brown fan, I was immediately drawn to it but after listening to it, the content was simply amazing and everything I needed to hear right now. In her podcast, she discusses three main topics: The myth that relationships are 50/50 all the time and how to overcome the gap when you are both tapping in at 20%; Settling the ball and strategizing where we go next; and the dangers of comparative suffering during this pandemic.

Guys, we are NOT alone in this. Experiencing these emotions while isolated from the people we love and forced to go without our basic need for human connection can trick us into thinking that we ARE alone in this. It’s a lie. If you’re interested, I invite you to enjoy Brene Brown’s podcast here.

When I started brainstorming this blog this morning, I was in a completely different head space than I am tonight. I did not expect to sit here in the light as I write this because this morning, I was sitting in the darkness. It’s amazing how one small contribution offered by a friend or two can really make a difference in turning it all around.

My point here is to encourage you all to share your good vibes, tips, and techniques with the people you care about because you never know what that share might do for them. Look in and check in on the people in your lives. We are all in this crisis together. The isolation and the stressors of this Pandemic makes it so much easier to forget to peek in on others we care for because we’re busy fighting our own battles. But, it also makes it so much harder to bear the suffering alone.

Two small shares helped to turn my ship away from the iceberg tonight and gave me the push I needed to start moving in the right direction. And while I know it’s highly possible that I’m having an up-swing right now on this crazy ride, I am SO very grateful for it. After the constant down-swing for days, it’s truly a breath of fresh air.

2020 Adventures · Mom Life

Riding The Corona-Coaster

I wasn’t really even sure what this evening’s blog was going to be about. One of the downfalls of having a designated “blogging night” in a very busy weekly schedule is there can be some undue pressure when inspiration isn’t striking. Even worse, when inspiration AND motivation aren’t striking at the same time.

Can I be honest? Because that’s my plan here. I’m in a serious funk. Over the past week, I have been on a slow and steady spiral downward into the vast black hole that is known as living completely inside my head. I know I’m due for a good cry. I just haven’t let it happen yet. But it’s there…bubbling to the surface – threatening to rear it’s ugly head during the worst possible time – like maybe a job interview? Wouldn’t that just be perfect?

After chatting with my mom this morning, she reminded me that these intense feelings are probably bottling up because I have lost an outlet that was doing my soul SO much good. As I mentioned one of my recent blogs, I participated in a 100 day video series where I openly and authentically evolved out loud in the public eye. You can read about it here. I completed my 100th day on May 9th with the full intention to continue making the videos but haven’t made one since. This could be an honest and actual reason I am struggling. I had grown to rely on those videos as an outlet for me to work through my emotions and feelings about…well….everything.

As I had mentioned in earlier blogs, I have been out of work since mid March. Well, on May 8th, my wife lost her job as well. This was completely unexpected. We truly thought she was going to be okay through this pandemic. The details surrounding this event are a blog for another time but for now, I’ll just note that this has left our household with two moms who are currently unemployed, a two year old, bills, and a mortgage. Couple this news with no longer making my videos, it’s no wonder I’ve turned back into the clam I used to be — bottling everything up and not sharing my emotions. I am stoic to a fault when it comes to this. I am fully aware that this is not a show of bravery but a show of one of my greatest weaknesses that I am working on. After evaluating my feelings prior to writing this blog, I have come to the conclusion that riding the corona-coaster can be broken down into three segments for me:

1). Living in Anxiety

2). Drowning In Parenthood

3). Fearing the Unknown

LIVING IN ANXIETY

First, let me start by saying I don’t define myself as a person with anxiety. I am a person who suffers from situational anxiety. About twenty years ago, I visited a psychiatrist who told me I had “general anxiety” and prescribed a gentle tranquilizer for me. You read that right. First visit. Tranquilizer. And there was nothing gentle about it. Needless to say, I stopped taking that quickly after I started. Over time and after years of experience, I really learned how to navigate myself. And this is what I’ve learned: Under normal circumstances, I am calm, cool, collected, positive, and looking to uplift others. Under intense and far between situations, the anxiety eats at me from the inside out SO viciously that it makes me physically ill. It takes away my appetite. It keeps me from sleeping. It forces me to disengage with the people and the beauty that truly make up my life. It pushes me inward and paralyzes my vocal cords so that I cannot speak about what I’m feeling to anyone — even those that I trust.

Since my wife lost her job, I have been living here — in this world of pure anxiety. Every Sunday night, a friend of mine who is a musician does a Facebook Live session of worship music. I tuned in for a little while tonight and, for the first time since I’ve been feeling this funk, I felt the tears start to want to rise and release. I, of course, stopped it from happening because that’s what I do but it’s also what inspired me to write this tonight.

For the record, this is not where I like to be. Anxiety and I are not friends. I tend to run the other direction when I see it in other people and I especially want to run when I see it in myself because it makes me so uncomfortable and it feels unbearable when it strikes.

DROWNING IN PARENTHOOD

My daughter is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. Isn’t it funny that parents feel the need to preface everything we’re about to say with a statement like that? Like so many others, I am drowning in parenthood right now. There is a brutal double-edged sword happening here. On the one side, I’m so eternally grateful to be able to spend this time with her…to love on her…to play with her…to watch her grow and experience life and to be with her every waking moment.

On the other side, I always knew I wanted to be a working mom. I wanted to know that I didn’t identify myself as “mom” alone. I actually love to work. I love having a career. I also love that my daughter goes to an amazing daycare. I love how much they have helped her grow and how much she loves her teachers and her friends. She has become who she is largely in part to their contribution to her life. One of the hardest days of my life since becoming a mother was dropping my girl off at daycare. But we found the perfect school and love how much she loves it. It was also a treat to miss her — to have full, exhausting, and rewarding days that always ended with her sweet face telling us about her day in school. We had to take her out of school because of this pandemic in mid March and that was a very tough decision to make. We are at the two month mark now and she has a number of different feelings about the matter that range from:

“I never want to leave my mommies again” to

“I guess I’m never going back to school?” (cue sad face) to

“I’m just going to stay with my mommies now” to

“I miss my friends and my teachers”

Talk about a freaking roller coaster ride!

Once I was laid off from my job, I decided that I was going to basically be the best damn teacher the world had ever seen. There were projects galore. Arts and crafts, recess, scheduled play-time, schedules, cooking together…you name it, I did it. There were lots of Facebook posts about how full and wonderful our days together were…. And now? Now, it basically feels like we’re all just trying to get through the day together. The Facebook posts are dwindling because it’s pretty much more of the same and I’m just freaking tired. And I think my daughter is, too.

Two things here before I continue: 1). Thank goodness for Disney Plus and 2). if I have to see one more episode of Llama Llama Red Pajama, I might cry…

And before we talk about screen time and who’s for and who’s against it…let’s just be reminded that I have an only child who is two. If I want a single solitary moment to have even the smallest conversation with my wife that consists of “Hey..do you want me to take the trash out?” – let alone anything of substance – our child needs to be watching something. If she’s not, she will surely be injecting herself into the conversation with thoughtful phrases like “Mommy and Mama!! Stop TALKING to each other!” (and no….that is not a joke).

Fearing The Unknown

I know this is where anxiety comes from. Projecting into the future or the unknown is a breeding ground for anxiety. It also means you are not living in the moment. I have felt my head go to scary places this past week due to fear of the unknown and have had to stop myself and say “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel right NOW?” to force me back into the moment before I actually throw up. It works..but right now, it’s a lot of work to snap back to the now.

Feeding this fear of the unknown is the dreaded job hunt. Job searching has changed drastically since March when I was first laid off. As you may remember from my earlier blog about fighting for my dream job and the subsequent pause on that position, I’ve noticed the job market has gone through a subtle but significant change. Almost every interview that I felt positive about delivers no response to a follow up email. I’ve also noticed a steady decrease in the compensation offers since March for jobs that would normally pay more.

For example, I cannot begin to tell you how many positions I’ve seen for an office administrator offering between $13.00 and $16.00/hr but requiring a four-year degree. What exactly is going on here? Having been an office administrator for many years and never completing my degree program, I can tell you that experience and on the job training can get the job done and get it done well. Requiring a four-year degree and then only offering the bare-bones minimum compensation makes absolutely no sense to me!

But, I fear this is what we’re going to be looking at between now and through the end of this nightmare of a pandemic. There will be so many people out of work that the upper hand will belong to the hiring companies. Highly qualified individuals will likely find themselves settling for less than their credentials call for because they need to work. Once the financial assistance from the government ends (and it will), it will likely be similar to the scene in Titanic where everyone is clawing themselves to the end of the boat to be the last to sink — no matter the pay.

Imagine taken from Youtube.com

The problem with this is that those highly qualified people who took a job for less than what they should based on their experience and credentials will continue to look for better opportunities along the way. These people will eventually find better opportunities as things calm down and as a result, it’s almost like we’re looking at a double crash of the economy and job market.

So NOW What?

So what to do now? Personally, I am dedicated to getting myself out of this funk and continuing my plan to better myself during this pandemic. I have worked as the head of HR for the past 6 years. Before that, I recruited, hired, and trained employees for almost ten years. I have decided to take the leap and go for my SPHR-CP certification (Certified Professional in Senior Professional in Human Resources). I am so proud of my decision to do this. It was a pretty big investment for someone who is currently unemployed and it is literally like being back in college. But, I am loving diving back into the field of learning again.

Aside from that, I am currently enrolled in a four -month Project Management course that will yield a certification/diploma for me as a PMP (Project Management Professional).

This course has been incredibly exciting to me and also sad. Exciting because it puts a name and method to a lot of the things I’ve done throughout my career. Sad, because I’m being shown all the ways I could have been better for my previous employer(s). This program has helped me to see that I could have brought more to the table — maybe even saved some heartaches along the way–had I only had this information to begin with. But, I keep reminding myself to remember that we must not focus on the thoughts that pose the thought: “If I could turn back time….” , “What if?”, or “If only I had known..”

We must focus on the now and what we can bring to the future.

Outside of this I have purchased the training and certification for Excel and all of Microsoft Office. Even though I’ve been using this software for most of my career, I’ve never actually studied it and become an expert.

I am proud of the fact that everything I’ve learned has been hands-on. However, there is a confidence that comes with knowing it inside and out and saying “Hey..I’m expert here…Hire me.” There is also a confidence that comes with showing potential job opportunities that you aren’t wasting this time JUST binge-watching Netflix. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to show that you are not getting knocked down by a global pandemic…and that you are using this time to better yourself professionally. It’s a true caterpillar-to -butterfly story if you want it to be. I went into the Pandemic as an Executive Assistant with HR Management experience; But I came out a certified HR professional, a Project Management Professional, and an expert and certified in all things Microsoft Office. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

I am so excited that so many companies are offering these types of certifications at reduced rates to help people better themselves in a challenging economy with an over-saturated job market filled with highly qualified and talented people.

I have also started an Instagram connected to this blog to attract more readers and followers. Ultimately, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to be a writer. That is the dream. In the meantime, I also need to pay for my mortgage and support my family so I’d also like to be the best that I can be in my professional life as well.

My problem has been that this week of being engrossed in my own anxiety and worries have also inhibited me from that forward motion I am so excited about that will take me to the next level. As I sit here now, typing all of this out, I feel so much better and far less paralyzed just by speaking my truth. Perhaps blogging can also be an outlet for me outside of the videos I was doing daily for 100 days?

I know I’m not the only person feeling this way now. There’s a fine line between keeping your sanity in check and pushing yourself to go that extra mile in bettering yourself. Being a mom with a toddler out of school and also having dreams and goals you want to accomplish outside of motherhood is a challenge…especially during the two-year sleep regression. We officially sleep less now than we did when our daughter was an infant. I honestly feel that if I can just get and keep my “stuff “centered and stay focused, there’s a brighter light at the end of this tunnel that I’m just struggling to see right now.

Speaking frankly, this has been the darkest week of quarantine for me so far. I didn’t see it coming, but here we sit.

Our state is about to open up to a full Phase 1 tomorrow and I still don’t feel fully safe to engage with any of that. Since I can’t control any part of that plan, it’s becoming clear to me that I need to focus on what I CAN control. I thank you for reading this because it wasn’t at all planned out. This has literally been a stream of consciousness to get my thoughts out there in some format so that I can start dealing with them. Maybe that good cry will come soon and then I can get over myself and move on to the next steps in becoming who the universe is telling me I’m meant to be.

Any advice for me? I’m open and listening. How are you dealing with the unusual and unprecedented stressors that come with a global pandemic right now? Not only am I listening; But I thank you for reading!

Mom Life

Instinctive Parenting: My Two Year Old’s Journey To A Full-Sized Bed.

Six beds in 33 months. You read that right. Six.

From infancy to toddlerhood (is that even a word?), there are a variety of opinions out there as to how the life cycle of the bed your child sleeps in should go.

Like anything else in parenthood, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do something. You can read a plethora of books on child-rearing and gather plenty of advice from friends and family but at the end of the day, it will be your battle. How one child responds to a particular method may not be how another one responds.

When my wife and I first found out we were pregnant, we were SO excited to finally have the good news to share. We had tried for two years and exhausted finances beyond belief to finally achieve our dream of becoming mommies. The day we were able to make our announcement (on Valentine’s Day) was one of the most exciting days of our lives. We were going to by mommies to a beautiful baby girl.

Our pregnancy announcement. Notice how well rested we looked and this was likely the last time we ever wore lipstick.

We were so excited to start our new adventure, that we honestly didn’t stop to think about how we would handle a host of sleeping issues we would eventually encounter. We just knew that we loved her so much and that should be enough to face all challenges that lay before us…right guys? Right?

When our daughter was born, she slept in between us in this tiny “Moses-like” basket. There was mesh all around to avoid suffocating our child…which is important to note because they DO make similar products that may suffocate your child. Reading tags on these suckers can be scary. We actually bought one of the suffocat-ish ones before we knew better. We read the tag quickly and it’s now a cat bed. Here’s the one we fell in love with.

Once she graduated from that, she went into a couple of bassinets at the side of our bed. The first was the Delta Children Disney Princess Gliding Bassinet. It was a gift from a friend of ours and we loved it. The problem was that our child was very long and it didn’t take her long to outgrow it.

Photo courtesty of Buy Buy Baby. Link here.

We soon discovered we had to move on to something that could hold her height and weight and also travel with us as we were going to see my parents in the mountains of North Carolina. We decided on the Mini Ezee 3-In-1 Co-Sleeper. Now, when I say Co-sleeper, please know that we never engaged in co-sleeping with our daughter. We also don’t stand in judgment of parents who DO. It’s a personal choice. We were just terrified we’d roll over on her or she’d suffocate while we were sleeping. These early months in our room were to keep her near for nursing, diaper changes, and fast comfort. She would move to her crib in her room at 6 months. We had worked hard on putting that nursery together and we wanted her to enjoy that space.

My Mama and I painting my daughter’s room before she was born. It was a fun and exhausting day.

In fact, we wouldn’t engage in Co-Sleeping until our daughter took us hostage three months ago at the age of two years and six months. But I digress….This Co-Sleeper was, perhaps, one of our greatest finds for infant sleeping. She slept safely next to our bed with easy access for nursing and it folded like a pack n play for travel. We LOVED it.

Mini Ezee 3-in-1 Co-Sleeper. Link to info here.

At around six months, we moved our daughter to her own room in her crib. The transition was nerve-wracking as we were used to having her right beside us. What if she got lonely? What if she was scared? What if she needed us and we couldn’t hear her? What if, what if, what if? The transition went smoothly. My wife would nurse her in her rocking chair in the corner of the room until she fell asleep (fully swaddled) and then place her in the crib for a peaceful night’s sleep.

For many of those early months, our daughter slept peacefully through the night waking only to be fed or changed if she woke at all. This, of course would change if she was sick or teething but for the most part, we were pretty excited that we had a sleeping baby. We should have knocked on wood.

Our baby girl’s crib. Blanket was for decoration only. She didn’t sleep with a blanket until it was no longer deemed a suffocation hazard.

I feel the need to mention that there are many different parenting styles. Everyone can typically relate to one or more in their own parenting. In an article written on http://www.stayathomemum.com, they review the five main parenting styles and ask which you connect with. Those styles are:

  • Instinctive Parenting
  • Attachment Parenting
  • Helicopter Parenting
  • Authoritative Parenting
  • Permissive Parenting

After reading over these, I have come to the conclusion that my wife and I both follow Instinctive Parenting. No. We never talked about parenting styles before my wife got pregnant. No. We never read any parenting books. Did we buy them? Yes. Did we read them? Nah. We were more focused on buying things for the baby, planning our shower, and getting the nursery and house ready. There was no time for “reading”. It just so happened that my wife and I both seemed to collectively land here:

For details on the other styles of parenting, follow the link here.

So…our “instincts” told us to never use the “cry-it-out” method or do any type of sleep training that we believed caused unnecessary stress on our child. Looking back, I think there was probably a happy medium somewhere that we should have taken a look at because to this day, our daughter is not “sleep trained”- meaning she doesn’t just lay down as I kiss her on the head, say goodnight, close the door, and leave her to her own devices as she drifts off to sleep. If I did that today, she would cry her eyes out and get so upset that she might throw up. I actually admire parents who have or had the strength to push through those hard nights in the early stages to get their child comfortable self-soothing themselves to sleep. I’ll admit we were not strong enough to take that on and while we love her dearly and will always show up for her, we’re paying the price for it now.

On to the next battle. Up to this past December, our daughter still insisted on being rocked to sleep. She was coming on 2 and a half years old. She had outgrown her rocking chair, was heavier, and it was becoming IMPOSSIBLE for mommy (my wife) to rock her to sleep and place her gently in her crib without waking her. Everyone in the house was frustrated and we knew it was time for a change. Up until this point, my wife had always been the one to put my daughter to sleep but as our daughter grew older, she began to hold my wife hostage in her room for upwards of 2 hours or more and JUST when my wife tried to lay her in the crib sound asleep, she’d wake up and the cycle would start again. At one point, I was afraid I would have to admit my wife to an asylum of some sort — if for no other reason than to give her a freaking break.

That is when we decided to convert her crib to the toddler version and I would step in and be the one to do bedtime. The toddler bed was beautiful and gave her access to her room if she wanted to get up. We put a child protective piece over her bedroom doorknob and lock. This way she couldn’t wander the house and she couldn’t lock herself in her room.

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

A lot of my friends who are parents of children around the same age gasped when they heard we were converting our daughter’s crib to a toddler bed at only 2 years old. I would hear things like “I’m not ready for he/she to just show up in my room.” or “What if they just wander around the house?” or “No way am I losing sleep because they can get out of their rooms!” But these people were also still not rocking their child to sleep every night and trying to transition their sleeping two-year old from a chair, over a crib rail, and down to the lowest level of the crib without waking them. It was like a live game of Operation. BUZZ!!! BUZZ!!! BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! Your child is awake. You lose. Start again. It was enough to drive you mad.

Sometimes we regretted not sleep training. Our sanity was slowly slipping away (especially my wife’s). We had to make the change. That change included giving my wife a MUCH needed break from the bedtime routine and I took over.

At first, my daughter wanted NOTHING to do her “big girl bed”. She cried. She hated it. She did not want it. As with most things that involve change, she eventually got used to it and she never got up and wandered around like everyone in my life seemed to be worried about. She would simply sit up and call for us or wait patiently for us…..until one day when she didn’t (more on that in a minute). Because she was not sleep trained, bedtime issues were still there. Only this time, they were transferred from my wife to me. After a small period of time when we converted her bed, we moved the rocking chair out of our daughter’s room which meant no more rocking to sleep. This meant I would sit on the hard floor, hanging over the toddler rail of her new toddler bed, and hold her hand until she fell asleep, and then sneak out of her room as quietly as I could. That also sucked.

On those nights where she wasn’t tired and just wanted to chat or hear “just ONE more story”, I found myself losing my patience with her…sometimes getting flat out angry. Go. To. SLEEP.

In March (before COVID -19) my wife, daughter, and I took a family vacation to the Blue Ridge Mountains with our moms. It was an amazing trip with three generations of women spending the week together in the fresh mountain air. That trip is a blog in and of itself but here’s a quick peak at our experience.

During that vacation, our daughter slept in a bed with us. We brought her an inflatable toddler air mattress but when she woke in a dark strange room, she got scared and jumped in our king bed with us for comfort. We were okay with it because we were on vacation and had a king-sized bed rather than the queen-size bed we had a home. But, when we returned home, things had changed.

One night, my wife and I were sitting at the dining room table after my daughter had gone to sleep. We were working as we did most evenings…. and then ~ we heard it. A terrifying and loud BANG! BANG! BANG!!! I thought someone was breaking into the house. We looked at our daughter’s baby monitor. She was not in her bed. Oh. No. Mayday! Mayday!!

She had gotten out of bed and had decided to bang on the door so loudly, it jumped us out of our skin. And she did this for around 1-2 weeks. We finally started leaving her door open a crack so she’d stop scaring the shit out of us every night and just walk to us quietly. We tried to avoid leaving her door open because we didn’t want her to wander AND we didn’t want the cats busting in her room, having a howl fest, and waking her. After that, she continued to leave her bed, open her door, and come in bed with us.

So check THIS out. There has only been ONE night between our return from vacation (March 14, 2020) to last night (May 10, 2020) that she hasn’t ended up in the bed with us and that was just a few nights ago. We have been lenient with this, though, because A). We love her and have agreed to ALWAYS show up for her when she needs us; B). She’s been out of school, can’t go anywhere, and can’t see her friends, and her entire world has been turned upside down because of Covid-19; and C). After doing some research, we understand that she may also be going through a sleep regression right now.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I discussed and decided to transition from her toddler bed (which honestly still looked too much like a crib to me) to its final conversion — a full-sized bed. I am happy to report that she is ECSTATIC with this change. She constantly wants to be in her new bed. Granted, this is only night two, but she does appear to be sleeping better and much less restless than she was before (knock on wood).

We also invested in a sleep training clock. The digital face on the clock smiles and has open eyes with a sun icon on it when it’s time to be up and about it. When it’s time to be asleep and stay in bed, the digital eyes close and a moon appears. When it’s thirty minutes before wake up time, the circle around the face of the clock lights up in yellow. This means it’s ALMOST time to get up but stay the hell in bed. When that ring turns green, it’s time to get out of bed.

Last night and tonight I set it for 3:00 AM so that we can ease her back into her room for the night without traumatizing her. She came into our room right around 3 AM last night. I’m not sure if it was the clock or just habits, but I’m hopeful. Tomorrow, I will set it for 4:00 AM and so on and so forth until she spends the entire night in her room.

The good news is she loves her bed. I can lay down comfortably in it with her and hold her hand until she drifts off to sleep and sneak out quickly and quietly. There are no more uncomfortable hard floors to sit on or toddler rails to dig into my armpits while I try to hold her hand. This is the greatest win-win for our instinctive parenting methodology. I’m hoping this one does the trick. It’s been a long journey in the life cycle of toddler sleep cycles and beds since that day our daughter was born on August 1, 2017.

Our philosophy has always been and will continue to be “whatever we need to do to show up for our daughter so she feels safe and also not make us crazy in the process, is what we’re going to do”. And I believe we will always live by that mantra.

Please know that this blog represents OUR story and is not (in any way) an attempt to downplay or dismiss other methods or experiences out there. If you’re a parent, I love you. I admire you. You’re doing awesome and you have my undying support — even if we don’t agree on how to do things.

Every family is different and uses different techniques and theories but I think we can all agree that a sleeping baby or toddler is a happy baby or toddler…..and sleeping babies or toddlers mean happy parents, too….am I right?

2020 Adventures

The Road To My Dream Job: My Unemployment Experience In A Global Pandemic

I think we can all agree that job hunting is a challenging task as it is. But job hunting during a global pandemic has to be the challenge of a lifetime. I can say this with absolute conviction because I’m doing it. I am currently unemployed and seeking employment. And to make matters worse? I’m a speck in a sea of hopefuls doing the same.

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc in all corners of the globe, we have reached an unprecedented unemployment rate in our country. According to Market Watch, Coronavirus could push the American unemployment rate to 15% or higher stating that it’s inching dangerously close to the numbers during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The good news is that we are literally all in this together. The bad news is that we are literally all in this together ~ which makes the job seeker market over-saturated with highly qualified competition.

A small back story in a nutshell: My previous job was facing capital and cash flow problems long before Coronavirus hit. Because of this, the revenue just wasn’t there to consistently support our salaries and we were already falling on difficult times as a company and dancing with closing our doors. Enter COVID-19 and cue being laid off.

I am 44 years old and have been working for as long as I can remember. I have never filed for unemployment before now. As I type that last statement, I find myself feeling incredibly proud of that fact. I have been blessed in my life to have either known someone who knew of my work ethic and hired me on the spot, recommended me to someone who hired me on the spot, or I’ve been recruited for a specific position. This is brand new territory for me.

I have distinct and vivid memories as a child of standing in the unemployment line with my father for incredibly long periods of time. It was like every government office and the visits took forever. I hated it and I’m pretty sure I subconsciously told myself in those moments that THAT would never be ME. And while things are done online today, let’s make no mistake that that IS me right now. Never say never, I suppose.

My first job (outside of babysitting when I was between 10 and 16 years old) was a server position at a small diner and ice cream joint called Deering Family Restaurant in Yarmouth, Maine. I was 18 years old and it was the summer before I left for college. And I’ve been working every day of my life since then.

Deering Family Restaurant was one of the hot spots for ice cream if you lived in Maine until they reached financial hardship and sold to investors in 1992. If I had to describe them, I’d say they were more like a Friendly’s than anything else. If you do a Google search on them now (like I just spent 20 minutes doing), you won’t find much. Just some scattered mentions and photos like the ones below.

This is the actual building where I worked. It became a McDonald’s shortly after Deering closed.
Photo courtesy of https://www.dunham-group.com/


But to me, it was the start of my working life and one I’ll be forever grateful for. I still make hot dogs on the grill the way they taught me there and I still remember how to make a child’s ice cream “clown” sundae. It’s where I first heard the terms “86’d”, “order up”, “in the weeds” and “on the fly”. It’s where I got introduced to concepts like “iced milk” and working on tips.

But enough of my memory lane. Let’s get back to the present. Where was I? Oh yes. Unemployment. I feel it’s important to mention that I’m not one to sit around and collect assistance without actively searching for something new.

One day a friend of mine sent me a job opening with his company. At first, I thought “that’s sweet of him to think of me but I’m sure I’m not qualified or not interested.” Wrong. I read the job description and I was MORE than qualified. Not only was I qualified, but I was interested and excited! It was like the job description was written for me.

I immediately submitted my resume and a cover letter. When I submitted my resume, I let go of the outcome. The job market being what it was and in the midst of a global pandemic, I didn’t want to set my expectations too terribly high. Even still, something inside me told me to go for it and so I did.

24 hours after submitting my resume, I received an email from the company recruiter inviting me to have a thirty-minute phone conversation with her the very next day. I couldn’t believe it.

Our meeting was scheduled for 5:30 PM so I retired to my guest room for some privacy. My wife took my daughter outside to splash in the pool to give me some quiet time for the conversation. We were only supposed to talk for thirty minutes. We spoke for an hour and immediately hit it off. She was so down to earth and I felt like we had known each other forever. When we got off the phone, I felt my excitement for the possibility growing. I was interested before but after learning more about the company and the role I would be in, I knew this was something I wanted to go for.

The following day (Friday), I heard back from the recruiter who wanted to schedule a Skype interview with two people from the company on the next Monday. The words I can best use to describe how I felt when I received this invitation was grateful and honored.

So, when Monday rolled around, I dyed my gray roots, got dressed, and put makeup on. Now let me stop right there. Remember, I’ve been home-bound now for I don’t even KNOW how long. Pants? Hair? Makeup? Bra? Yeah. What used to be common practice for me had become unfamiliar territory but I knew not wearing pants to a job interview (virtual or otherwise) would likely be frowned upon and I was out to make an impression.

I spent time making sure my Skype was up and running. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had used Skype. I created a make-shift area to attend the virtual interview in my bedroom and dialed in. The interviewers were incredibly professional and asked thoughtful questions. I, in turn, asked thoughtful questions of them. They answered them beautifully. When the interview was over, I was all in. I knew this was an organization I wanted to be a part of.

A few days later, I heard from the recruiter that I would be moving on to the next steps.

Next steps? Oh yes. You heard that right. Another double interview! Wow. They were certainly being thorough. This time, I would be interviewing with two more people from the organization later that same day! I had very little notice or time to mentally prepare but boy, was I glad that I was all set up on Skype and ready to rock from my earlier interview? HA! Slow down. Change of plans. THIS meeting/interview would be a Zoom meeting. I KNEW it. I just knew I would NOT be getting out of this pandemic without participating in a Zoom meeting. And I had never used Zoom before.

Oh yeah. And one more thing. I would need to create a one-page PowerPoint deck outlining what would make me awesome in this role. Could I have this done in a few hours AND familiarize myself with Zoom and its features including screen share all by my interview at 6:30 that evening? Or would I need to reschedule? The recruiter wanted to know. Are you kidding me? PowerPoint is my JAM and I love learning knew things. Challenge accepted.

Again, I put on pants, did my makeup and hair, and logged in. The interview could not have gone better (in my humble opinion). They asked engaging questions and seemed very interested in learning about me and my background. I screen shared my one-page PowerPoint presentation with them on all the ways I believed I was awesome and answered their questions thoughtfully (as they did mine). The interview went well and gradually came to an end. I felt good about it.

Three days later, I found out that I had made it to the final steps. I was scheduled to meet with the decision-maker and the person I would be directly reporting to. I was also told that it was down to me and one other person. Gulp. I was in the final two!!

After our meeting, I felt we hit it off and had a great conversation. I was able to show my creativity, resourcefulness, and dedication during this interview and I was proud of myself. He was able to share his background with me and get a sense of my personality. We shared a laugh or two and I didn’t feel terribly nervous. I took all of this as a very good sign.

In this entire process and experience, I couldn’t believe how quickly everything was moving. It was almost as if the universe was just opening doors and getting the hell out of my way while I worked my magic and opening myself to receive what sounded like my dream job.

And then…A stall.

No more forward movement and many follow up emails asking my recruiter friend if she’d heard anything. I started to get that feeling in my gut. You know – the one that tells you something might be wrong?

Finally (and almost a week later), I got the message from the recruiter.

The position I was going for was temporarily on hold.

I was alone when I got the news. I cried…and by cried I mean I sobbed — like “head-in-the-hands-ugly-crying” sobbed — for about 3 minutes. I mean….didn’t they realize that I had put on pants for them and everything? And then I calmed down and pulled myself together. I reminded myself that this was not a “no”. This was a “not right now” and while I was disappointed, I respected their decision.

I was asked to stay in touch with the recruiter over the coming weeks. I have done that and my connection with her continues to be strong, friendly, and comfortable.

So. What do I take from this? I do believe this job was made for me. It just won’t be right now and I’m okay with spending this time with my daughter while she’s out of daycare. I’m totally cool to spend my days swimming and having fun in the Florida sun and I am making the most of this time with my family.

However, I’m not a “stand-still-er” either. I am still actively looking for employment at a vigorous pace. I am also working on and investing in some certifications that will beef up my resume. I’ve had another job interview and while I’m still out there looking, my eye remains on the prize. I now have a better understanding of the type of company I want to work for and the type of people I want to work with. I know what I bring to the table, and I know my own worth and value. I can tell you that I won’t be settling for anything less than I deserve ~ and that excites me. When all this is over and I have to wear makeup and pants again on a regular basis, I promise you…I will be ready to take on the world and hopefully in my dream job.

I’ll see you on the other side.