Life Shifts Continue…🎃

I vividly remember driving to work a year and a half ago, starting my first day back into what I term the “business-work-force”. After 20 years as an adjunct professor, raising three children and getting them into college, I was looking forward to taking a much-needed long, deep breath, expecting to slowly consider how this mid-lifer would resurrect one of my hobbies, or read a few books or start really writing again…you know, the kind of things that running a household and raising a family often prevent for a couple of decades.

These plans were quickly squashed when my teaching salary could not compensate for the unexpected termination of my husband’s position, due to a corporate restructuring at his ‘big pharma’ company.

He ultimately secured another job that was to be “temporary” and suffered a hefty pay cut. Yep, this mid-lifer was forced to reinvent herself in a world where youth rules.  

More than the tasks of the job or meeting the staff on that very first day, it was the traffic that caused me the greatest stress :). My teaching schedule required a 6am departure for morning classes or 3pm for evening courses. I was not a part of the “rat race” which I wrote a post about last year HERE. Teaching college has its own challenges but I wouldn’t call it a grind. The “grind” in my opinion begins when rubber hits the road.

Thruway drivers weaved in and out, cut me off, and acted as if traveling at 60mph was a granny-pace. On the side roads, cars ran red lights and rolled through stop signs while their drivers sipped coffee and scrolled Instagram. My personal favorite was sitting at lights that changed four times before I could get through with 20 vehicles ahead of me.

At the beginning of my new career, I moved within the company cautiously, careful about who I befriended while examining the proverbial “lay of the land”. I was also managing silent insecurities having to navigate a corporate environment that I hadn’t been a part of since I was 26 years young. People much younger had more experience. This truth and my own desire to succeed forced me to work harder – for myself. An unexpected outcome was a promotion within three months along with a raise. Four months later, I was offered another generous raise. This too was unexpected since by that time I had become respectfully vocal regarding how the company had to make improvements in staff benefits, create an employee engagement plan, and execute a few other items if they hoped to retain good people.  

They were receptive to a few changes, so I moved forward with implementation knowing full-well that a few free lunches, celebrating birthdays and adding a newsletter would not make up for the level of unethical behaviors, potentially illegal actions and bizarre management practices.

Really bright and well-paid engineers were leaving the organization for less money. Horrible employees were inexplicably retained. Micro-management of high-level staff was suffocating. Several months ago, I determined to leave. The problem was finding time to send out resumes when the president continuously called me on my days off and the amount of work had risen to 11-hour days.

During August alone, I had moved my youngest back to her university, moved my oldest daughter back home, helped my son through a wonderful job change and my semester of teaching started back up (I still teach part time online). The nest was full at the end of summer and now the twins are both home working remotely for great companies. September’s non-work-non-teaching time was spent planning a baby shower for a friend’s daughter. We are the sorts who can’t seem to do the minimum. We are of the life motto: more is more and life events should be celebrated in BIG ways. The shower was last Sunday and the effort was worth it.

Throughout these home-life changes and additional responsibilities, the stress at work escalated to an unhealthy level and the owners were immovable when encouraged to rationally consider why ¾ of the employees had exited. When you can’t get through a brick wall, nor find a path around it and are prevented from climbing higher, you find something new.

As I drove to work on my final day, I weaved through traffic like a champion NASCAR driver. However, I’m a safe-never-run-stop-signs-or-red-lights kind of gal who always lets people merge. But I’m tougher in spirit now than I was a couple short years ago. There are pros and cons to being in difficult situations and living out unexpected turns in the road of life. One positive is that I collected some good people along the way. These same sweet souls gave me three weeks of farewell cards, gifts, food, etc., and have reached out multiple times with expressions of missing me deeply since my departure only a couple of weeks ago. For those that exited the company long before me, they still keep in touch.

God gave me peace that it was time to leave but I wasn’t clear about what was next other than continuing to teach. One thing was for sure: the highly professional, always-dressed-up corporation I worked for displayed unethical behaviors that really disgusted me. Little did I know, being disgusted was about to take on a vastly more elevated meaning.

Two days after my final day at work – just when I was praying about my “next assignment” – I was stunningly placed on a grand jury that would require my faithful attendance for two months. Before any of the 25 of us could say “what-the-what?”, we were immediately sworn in for duty. As the lot of us walked to our cars, stunned as to why we weren’t questioned as we had been in previous years when called for jury duty, we realized that fear of COVID was preventing swarms of potential jurors from even showing up. For those gainfully employed, they were beside themselves about the amount of time required with less than $5/hour in payment.

Many people LOVE jury duty. They sincerely LOVE it and wish they could go back more frequently. I’ll agree that it’s interesting to learn the inner workings of our judicial system up close and personal. However, the lawyers warned us that the material our particular group would see was especially “difficult”. To my knowledge, there is only one person out of my large group that believes this to be a fun experience.

I love my country. It’s important to serve, but day after day, hour after hour, we review case after case of the worst atrocities. You already know this from staring at your social media and your preferred news channel, but humanity is depraved. Each day we sit in our chairs, reviewing endless, sickening behavior. I’m viewing in real-life what I wouldn’t ever watch on television.

Two random, (non-grisly) things you are already aware of but I’ll share to confirm from my brief legal experience: 1) There is a camera recording you in places you really don’t think about. Did you get that? Not just at stop signs, street lights and outside of buildings. We are being recorded e v e r y w h e r e.  2) I have learned that Google can virtually pinpoint how long I was in the produce aisle at my local grocery store two years ago on a specific date merely because I have a gmail account. Did you get that? Via the email accounts they can track a person’s whereabouts.

If I wasn’t already repelled with tech companies as described HERE and in other posts, these proceedings are merely additional confirmation. No one to blame but ourselves for downloading our apps and opening up our personal data to the global cyber-thieves. They remain lightyears ahead and it’s too late to attempt controlling them. While it’s great if they supply pertinent information to catch the bad guys, it’s astounding to be educated on the depth of their knowledge regarding our daily lives. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest of the mind-blowing information we have been learning alongside observations of the most gruesome evil.

On that happy note (insert laughter), it’s been one month since I’ve posted but I hope to rekindle my online communications with the special people who write on WordPress. It’s been a community I’ve missed in the last several weeks. Most of you have also had lulls in your writings for various reasons, so I know you get it. Likely, I still won’t be able to write as frequently as I hope to during this current season, but I’m going to try…

Happy Halloween to all!

Apology Doesn’t Always Equal Changed Behavior

“I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made….”

This lyric of the worship song, So Will I (100 Billion X) by Hillsong United, rang in my mind as I looked at a disgruntled employee in my office.

The manager stood over the young man’s chair, describing a serious event that had transpired a few minutes earlier. I was surprised by the situation but remained focused on the employee, searching him for explanation…as if his body language, his dark eyes and clearly agitated presence would reveal to me why he would have committed such an act at a professional office.

The young man expressed sincere remorse and I truly believed him. He was indeed sorry. I’m certain of it.

With certainty, I also knew that if I retained his employ, another instance of something bad would definitely ensue. Perhaps even more serious.

I thought of David and King Saul. After the second time David could have ended Saul’s life but didn’t, David confronted Saul… why did he continue to hunt David to destroy him? What had he done wrong? Saul expressed disgust in his own behavior, apologizing to David, “I’ve sinned! Oh, come back, my dear son, David! I won’t hurt you anymore.” (1 Sam 26:21 MSG)

King Saul had sincerely asked David to come back with him, but notice David “went on his way” (verse 25). Even palace living couldn’t entice David after all he experienced with Saul.

David likely believed Saul was sincere in the moment. He also knew Saul well enough to know, it was just a matter of time before another spear flew at his head.

In the world of work, it is easier to receive a sincere apology and yet, still follow established rules. Making hard decisions knowing there will be limited, if any, contact with the person adds a sprinkle of ease. Still hard, but not like seeing the initially remorseful person regularly, observing again and again the repentant heart offend, hurt and leave new scars in the wake of their path.

God is merciful. To have us consistently sinful humans come to Him with remorse, knowing we’ll fall again, He still accepts and loves us. From a human perspective, it’s much easier to cut the person out of your life. Thankfully, He’s not us.

Let’s be clear that I do not see His heart in “everything” such as disgusting spiders, truly evil humans, etc., but I could see good in the young man across from me. I had observed him for a couple of months and surmised there was something in his life causing confusion in his mind and cluttered thinking that led to irrational comments and eventually, the concerning event which transpired. But, he was also energetic, engaging and had mentioned on more than one occasion that he liked his job.

I pray the young man grows wiser. We all fall short. It’s how we move forward that continues to develop our character.

“And as You speak, a hundred billion failures disappear…”

(Hillsong United, So Will I)

The Unusual December

See the source imageFor the last several years, my post-Thanksgiving activities centered around two things: finishing up the semester of final exams and grading papers, followed by the always-fun list-making for Christmas gifts and planning gatherings. In 2019, my twins moved home after graduating college in May and the Christmas nest would be full with the baby duck arriving home for her university break on December 11th. Dear blogging friends, I had December plans.

Those Christmas plans were exchanged the first few weeks of the holiday season with work. Then, more work. Speeches, a major corporate dinner and a bad run-in between a poor deer and poor me replaced my annual yuletide joys. The blank paper ready for my Christmas lists would have to wait.See the source image

As we always do, we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner and my husband did it all except the baking. For those who have been reading this blog awhile, you’ll recall that I took on another job last Spring. It was to be three days with a maximum of 24 hours/week. I also continued my teaching schedule and accepted another position at the college to run a writing lab.

God had me in a season of corporate “work” in 2019 that I hadn’t experienced in decades. I briefly explained why I took on this new life-change HERE (Joining the Rat-Race Mid-Life). What I didn’t expect was that I was thrown into running an entire department at my company within days of hire and in recent months, have needed to escalate my hours, requiring far too much time and mental energy for a position that was supposed to be a side hustle.

The week before Thanksgiving – three days before an ad agency was to arrive to interview executives, I was surprisingly requested to be a key speaker in their corporate video. A series of questions would be asked, lights would be on me in a dark room…ugh…just when I started dreaming of Christmas menus and my Thanksgiving table only days away…

I worked all weekend without pay to prepare for this unexpected and nerve-wracking event ahead on Monday.

A slew of gentlemen hovered around in the dimly lit room while I was recorded and even though I’ve been teaching college for years, that was crazy stress on the inside while I was as poised and professional as possible on the outside. When the photographer and video crew completed my segment, I tore off my suitcoat and took a deep breath, thanking God it was over.

Eagerly walking toward the door, the executives halted my departure, telling the ad crew to follow me through the orientation I was about to deliver in the conference room for live footage of company activity.

My jaw clenched and back on went my suitcoat.

Hours later, I plopped into my office chair, hoping my deodorant had done its job as I once again swapped a cardigan for the stiff suitcoat.

Before the end of that very same day, the President strolled into my office and announced that it would be appreciated if I would emcee the upcoming investors dinner. Prior to that moment, I was planning to excuse myself altogether from the event…after all, I’m only part-time and really had more important things to do on a Saturday night in December. It was further explained that they still desired for me to go full-time, etc. etc.

My nerves amped up again as the two weeks slugged by until the corporate event. I thought about how a 20-something would really love these opportunities. At 50-something, a mom first, a college professor second, it’s all been really curious to me what God is up to.

Decked out in my best conservative dress, in full-makeup, coiffed hair, with well-rehearsed script in hand, I climbed into my Chevy Traverse on a snowy December evening, so happy the night finally arrived and within hours I could get back to my “real life”. I had prayed over the evening, as the highest executives would be seated directly in front of my podium. Yep, no pressure there.

En route to the swanky venue, I safely swerved to avoid deer #1, but his buddy behind him ran directly in my car’s path… the sound horrific, steel crunching, the poor animal (I was distraught over that thing), my fear and emotional upset setting my heart racing and my hands shaking uncontrollably.

Within minutes, I had pulled over into a gas station and my shaking fingers located the President’s cell number in my phone. I planned to notify her that someone else would have to emcee the event. Something prevented me from making the call. After 30-minutes in that gas station lot, although I was still shaking, the car could drive and off I went. Sitting in the parking lot of the venue, I took some deep breaths, trying to settle my spirit. I decided the first order of business when I walked in was to tell a few organizers that I’d rather not speak due to the accident and would be leaving early.

To this day, no one at my office knows that I hit that deer. The second I walked into the dinner party, demands were immediately made of me. The President was furious with the administrative staff and had to tell me all about it, and I needed to be at the podium within minutes of her concluding statements. See the source image

The following week, even the most busy-body ladies who peer out the windows trying to catch employees leaving early, didn’t notice I was without a vehicle. Without me listing the bizarre upper-management conduct at this organization, it would be difficult to understand the corporate culture. There are many questionable activities and early on, I drew boundaries which others have not. While I’ve gained respect because of those boundaries (and have encouraged others to do the same), compliments from those impressed with my December activities are meaningless to me. I serve an audience of One.

That brief description of only two -of several- chaotic work events in the last few weeks leads into my desire to be a light in an otherwise difficult place for my co-workers. If God placed me there, He has a job for me to do. While the December days passed and I didn’t host friends this season, I reminded myself that service comes in all forms-even those I don’t like :).

I apologize for the rambling nature of the post today…I miss my blogging community and wanted to share here even though as I’ve said before, “if I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter” (attributed to Mark Twain).

God bless your week ahead…See the source image

If Sitting is the New Smoking…

Then I must be up to three packs a day.

Since beginning my new job this past Spring, I have felt terribly restricted.

The amount of time I spend sitting is outrageous.

Driving to work.

Sitting in my office.

Meetings.

Driving home from work…in traffic – delaying me in my seat even longer.

I’m still an online professor, even though I left on-campus teaching to take this new job. The new semester just started. More sitting in front of a computer at home.

I’m tutoring on Saturdays.

More sitting.

When I’m not engaged in any of my formal “work”, I’ve been trying really hard to be moving, doing yoga, walking at the park, running the stairs 5x when it’s raining…you get the idea.

I love to read, blog and write. Lately, those have been set aside in an effort to stay healthy :/.

Despite my best efforts to be active in the off-hours, I’m finding my pants are a bit more snug. I got on the scale.

That will be my next post…

 

 

 

Joining the Rat-Race Mid-Life

 

Over 20 years ago, I sat on the tarmac in Iowa waiting to take off and return home from a business trip. I was in my first big-girl job post-college, and after receiving a promotion, was promptly sent to various cities to work with administrators in the Midwest and Northeast.

Looking out the window at the night-time sky, a red jelly-like substance began dripping over the windows. I asked the flight attendant what it was, as this girl had only been on one plane ride at 18 years old and knew little about air travel.

She explained that the weather was frigid and the plane was being de-iced. I wondered if I should be worried. I was too young to be as fearful as I would certainly be today. The delay was more annoying than anything and I decided then and there to return to graduate school and become a teacher.I’ve spent 20 years in higher education and there were two main advantages for me: 1) It was truly a meaningful career when I began and, 2) It was the best Mom-gig a girl could hope for while raising children.Fast forward a couple of decades and two giant truths now dominate my professional existence: 1) While the cost of tuition has skyrocketed exponentially, our pay has not. 2) The majority of collegiate institutions are about anything and everything except teaching and learning. Of course there are exceptions. However, if you read the data, and have current affiliation with several universities as I do, you will observe a shift in the actual “education” portion that is alarming. I have also held administrative positions along with teaching, so my insight goes beyond the classroom.

With twins just graduating from college and my youngest with two years left to go at her university, well…this mid-life Mama had to get another job. In addition to kids in college…

-We are a part of a destination wedding this August where my girls are standing up and I’m part of the ceremony (more on that in August).

-My husband went through a job change a year ago and his salary dropped considerably at the new company…blah blah blah…there are too many stories like ours to count lately. You can imagine the strain.

-Then, he landed himself in the hospital for a couple of days-nothing serious but the medical co-pays for three days in the hospital blew through his very handsome severance package.

The timing of these several things at once was comical and costly.

So, I cut the on-campus teaching, kept the online professorship, and added a three-days a week position in HR with a small company at their corporate office. Promptly after I started, the HR Director resigned. I’m essentially the entire HR department on a three-day schedule doing five days plus worth of work. I’ve already been working on my days “off”.

To say the adjustment from both a professional standpoint and a personal one has been challenging would be an understatement.Two kids (here) graduated and moved home from college. My youngest is serving in ministry in Texas for three more weeks. The change in the household has been tremendous. God bless the kids, they are doing the dishes, and occasionally vacuum…After 10 minutes of searching, I find the pasta strainer with the syrup (?), but who am I to complain?! 🙂

I’m working more than I have in a decade while still doing most everything I did prior to the new job.

I’m trying to adjust. I didn’t really think it would be that big of a deal. After all, before kids (and life in higher ed) I had a career in business. I traveled for heaven’s sake. I was a working professional!

I’ve changed and I’m waaaaay older.

Driving home in wicked traffic the other day, I was reminded of how this is just normal life for most. Sit and wait while four lights change and we creep up to finally get through an intersection. Wild morning traffic is something most people have been navigating for decades while I purposely set up early morning office hours to avoid. I taught late classes so my husband was home with the kids when I left. I graded papers and lesson-planned from my home office.

Lunch was when I wanted it and it certainly didn’t have a time limit.Oh, the schedule of “regular hours”. It’s laughable to those of you reading who’ve been in the rat race for decades. Up at 6am, on the road by 7am, work work work, eat lunch fast, back to your desk, back in the car at 5pm….

The conventional work schedule alone makes this deep thinker ponder who came up with the 8-5 workday. Why are we all bumper to bumper at 7:30am just to reach the destination by 8am? Why are we again bumper to bumper at 5:15pm? Even though more employees than ever are working from home, or have flex hours, my small company runs a tight, traditional culture with zero flexibility.

Definition of rat race according to dictionary.com: any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a….life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.The part of the rat race definition that makes me laugh out loud includes leisure and contemplation. Professors contemplate! We lead our students to think, not just answer questions. We have more opportunity for leisure due to flexibility.

In those years when I had the luxury of being “contemplative”, and particularly when I was in the evening classes with working adults completing their Bachelors and Masters degrees, I spent considerable time discussing the importance of locating the job that would be satisfying after they finally graduated. We wrote out the number of waking hours on paper, subtracting not only 40-hours in a building, but planning for work, choosing clothes for work, drive time, required social and corporate events, buying Christmas gifts for workmates, etc., etc.The ultimate point of the exercise was revealing the truth that full-time working adults work more than they literally do anything else. More time at work than with family. More time working than cooking or playing or creating. I made them take a hot second “contemplating” that stark reality. Really thinking about life in the present – but also what they wanted it to look like in a few years.

Most people work for money and few work because they love what they do.

Most are hustling in the rat-race “routine”, “competitively” working to get ahead, hoping to reach those goals of “leisure” and the luxury of living more “contemplatively”.

My Bible app devotion recently stated: “You have been entrusted with talents… It really matters how you use these.” If only we could all earn a living utilizing our true, greatest talents. I have observed most people at best use their gifts in hobbies or volunteering in ministries. Excruciatingly few can pay medical and dental benefits without a company-job having nothing to do with their greatest gifts. We use our gifts to serve as best we can-where we are.

We are old enough to know that life requires attention. If we’re going to enjoy any of it, we must leave the housework, skip the obligatory visit to the distant-relative’s house and read the book that is collecting dust because too many other things trump sitting down in “leisure”.

I miss my extended quiet time with God in the mornings. I’m way behind in my Bible reading. I catch up on my days off. Things like crafts and baking are time-intensive joys that I cannot afford. My leisure time is spent with my kids doing things together. They will only live home for a limited amount of time and I’m not going to miss these remaining moments living together.

Throughout the years, I could see how my full-time career friends had time for nothing but work. I observed at a distance their counting days off…worried about arriving 10 minutes late or leaving a half hour early to catch their kids’ game after school. Mentally tortured about missing family events and simultaneously feeling obligated to their employer.While I previously watched at a distance, I now live it and while the work is interesting, the schedule is a bummer. I’m thankful that this existence now was not the reality while raising kids. As always, a big hug and sincere admiration to those working parents who legit do it all – and well.

On that note, it’s time to enjoy the weekend and family…

I wish each of you a Happy Weekend! 🙂

Photos: 99designs.com-woman; aviation.stackexchange.com-plane; nyfa.edu/Harvard/-Harvard; robbreport.com/lifestyle/news/would-you-pay-6-5-million-to-get-your-kid-into-yale-2843748/-Yale; ft.com/content/804b928e-6cde-11df-91c8-00144feab49a-RatRace; Cnn.com-man on desk; Colossians: Pinterest