The Value in After Hours

As I was driving home from Jersey Grille in Davenport Tuesday night, I thought about how I almost turned down an invitation to go out for drinks after the Scott County Republican Central Committee meeting.  (Yes, Republicans have fun too!)

I had laundry to fold, a checkbook to balance, and various other things waiting for me to do at my apartment.  I had to get up early the next day and drive to Durant for my church lady job.  But I’d just been elected as a precinct chair and secretary, and it had been way too long since some quality Grey Goose had touched my lips.

So, I went.  It was supposed to be for only one drink.  Ha ha.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone out for one drink.  I don’t make a habit of getting sloshed.  I just get caught up in great conversation, so one drink turns in to two, and then I have a final drink to keep even with someone across the table.

I’m glad I took the time to socialize a bit more, and I used to do this more often.  I enjoy the after hours socializing, because walls come down and you uncover the off the record things that paint the whole picture of who someone is.

Going back to my New Year’s Resolutions (which seem to have been created forever ago), #6 and #7 illustrate the need to socialize more.  And now that I live in downtown Davenport, it requires much less effort.  Win-Win!

An Ode to Year 32

On Sunday I will flip from year 31 to 32.  How did I get to be this old?!  Yeah, yeah.  I know age is relative.  Anyone older than 32 reading this is thinking, “Ah, to be 32 again!”

But, really, where did the time go?  Some days I feel like I should be 22 again, just graduating from college and beginning to explore.  That’s probably because I’m still finding my calling in life and am continuing to learn more than I thought I would need to learn at this age.

Jane Fonda was on Oprah recently and described her 30s as the time when she was just starting to figure things out.  And in Sex and the City, the girls learned a lot in their 30s.

Maybe that’s why I don’t freak out about being 32 and single and not absolutely sure about where my life is headed.  I love being in my 30s.  I enjoy my independence.  I am thrilled to uncover new adventures.

Age is just a number.  Everything else is up to us.  I’m completely comfortable with not wanting to party until 3:00 a.m. every weekend.  I like having a few good life experiences under my belt, while looking forward to many more.  It’s nice to know what I do and do not want from a relationship.  The only thing I’d like to get back from my younger years is the ability to eat anything and not gain a pound.

This past year led me through a couple of career changes, a couple of dating adventures, and learning who’s truly in my wolf pack.  (Sorry, had to insert a little bit of Hangover humor.)

I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.  I’m sure I will continue to have my moments when I make bad judgment calls and feel like I should have more money in the bank or more to show for myself in general.  But when that happens, I will look at all of the things I have that you can’t put a price tag on – things like fabulous friends, an open mind, and the conviction to stand up for what I think is right.

And happy birthday to Elizabeth Taylor and Chelsea Clinton, who share my February 27 birthday!

When Enough is Enough

New Year’s Resolution #6:

Continue to seek out positive people while eliminating unnecessary contact with those who are negative and drag me down.

When do I make the determination that enough is enough with someone?  Other than a base gut feeling, it is tough to place in quantitative form.

Family

Blood relatives are perhaps the trickiest.  At the end of the day, they are family, and we have all heard the preachings on tolerating family.  But what if the family member is literally dragging you down?

Physical abuse requires drastic action and is black and white once help is sought.  Outright verbal abuse should never be tolerated either.

But what about the random snide comments, the tone of voice, the favoritism or hostility?  Definitely say something and make it clear what is and is not acceptable for you.  Choose a one-on-one setting and stick to the point.  Don’t let anyone get you sidetracked with a random side issue.

In an ideal world, it would stop there.  That’s not my world though.  In my world, the behavior has changed for a few weeks and then reverts back.  Or the conversation becomes pointless because the other person doesn’t get my point.

Depending upon the type of family member and your history, you have two options:

1.  Limit interaction to a minimum.

2.  End regular contact.

I have opted for #1, and it’s a tough balancing act.  I constantly do a self check to ensure I am not letting the person in too much.  I worry that I will unintentionally vent to another family member who will then feel caught in the middle.  But it’s a small price to pay for my sanity by not having the bad family member meddling in my life and making me feel less than adequate.

The Guy

Whether it’s been a full-blown relationship or a fling that keeps re-surfacing, one or two guys have made me doubt myself.

If you think something is wrong, it probably is.  And then when you break up and he hops into bed with that girl you suspected he had a thing for, you know you were right.  But he made you think you were crazy.  The nerve.

That one was easy to cut off – until after I moved away when he would call me with his problems and send me a birthday gift.  Yes, I kept the plant alive.  It’s a money tree and good luck, after all.

Time cures all things, and this was no exception.  Eventually it reverted back to making me feel bad about being me.  So I cut off the contact completely.  He is now married, and all is well in the world.

And there’s always a guy who doesn’t give up, even if he’s clearly not mature or available.  Rather than tell them off, which only makes them more persistent, I ignored them.  And ignored, and ignored.  And, a few months later, they got the hint.  Yes, I had two issues at the same time – from different points of time in my past.  We have occasional relapses when they text me, but I refuse to acknowledge these lapses.

That Friend

The saying goes, “You can choose your friends, but you are stuck with your family.”  Then why do so many of us tolerate negative, life-sucking friends at one point or another during our lives?

It’s simple.  He or she was likely fun at one point, whether it lasted for that few hours you were drinking, or a few months, or during the first year or two you knew each other.

Before you do anything else, seek to understand where the friend is coming from and have a heart to heart.  After all, you chose this person in the beginning and you need to determine if those good traits are just dormant or buried by the bad stuff.

As with everyone else, if the behavior doesn’t change, you must end the relationship.  Do it with as little drama as possible.  Tailor the response to the person.  Determine if it’s better to be unavailable, have a final conversation to end it all, or something else.

If the friend is part of a group of friends you hang out with often, find a solution you can accept without placing others in the group in the middle.  Chances are, if you take a step back, you will see that either others likely feel the same way as you, or you will discover that you are the odd man out.  In that case, you are dealing with a swarm of negativity.  Regardless, step away from it all, and those who really want to spend time with you will find a way to do it removed from the group.  Do not issue ultimatums with the group.  Do what you need to do for yourself and move along.

Cut Your Losses!

Giving up on negative people is tough because we feel like we are failing.  If we could only make them understand…..  But that’s the point.  If we could make them understand, we wouldn’t have an issue.

We have the opportunity to meet so many people every day.  I’m not going to waste another minute on the negative people, because they keep me from getting to know those who will enrich my life.

The (R)Evolution of Mel

My mind has been racing since I last posted on my New Year’s resolutions, and it has been frustrating about 90% of the time.  I surrender to my crazy thoughts during the other 10%, and that’s when I really reach conclusions.  I have been in the midst of an evolution, a reinvention of sorts.

The word reinvention makes me think of Madonna over the years – from her “Like a Virgin” album cover, to the short haircut in the “Papa Don’t Preach” video (back in the glory days of MTV), the interesting wardrobe choice and long ponytail during the Blonde Ambition tour, and finally the amazing-looking middle-aged woman.  Is she really the same age as my mom?!

I am in the midst of transition, reinvention, evolution, and every other synonym you can imagine with it.  My new year began on January14 this year.  I thought I had turned a corner on January 1, but alas, the true realizations became apparent a few days later than I thought.  That’s the fun thing with evolving and moving through life: just when you think you are there, you have just a bit further to go.

My journey is nowhere near complete, but I do think I have reached the peak for at least a few months.  A lot has happened to build up to this point.  I wonder if Madonna had these moments as she was approaching a new album, look, or tour.  Hopefully I am cool and famous enough to get to ask her that in person one day.  Say what you want about her, but she is a force of nature.  And I love fascinating people.  I seek to be fascinating by simply being true to myself and doing good in the world – or maybe just my little corner of the world.

My new career path that started on October 1 was just a starting point, as was this blog.  I began to prioritize differently, only to find myself slipping back into old habits of saying yes too often and feeling stretched too thin.  When first coming to this realization, I thought my additional ventures, added on since November, were to blame.  Not so.  It was my initial plan that needed some tweaking.

I took a part-time church lady job to supplement my SendOutCards business.  A few red flags presented themselves early on, and while I did not ignore them, they have built up to a present discontent with the situation.  What began as a 20-hour-a-week-stress-free-part-time job has turned into playing a management and human resources role in which I have no authority……and has limits on pay rate and hours.  It’s quite an interesting situation, really.  And I will definitely work it into one of my future novels.

Side note: I have no regrets with the decision to take this job, as it has guided me to where I am today.  And I have made a couple of great friends, on which I can place no price tag.

By the end of November, I was back at Target, working part-time at Target Optical.  When presented with the opportunity I nearly dismissed it without a thought.  Luckily I did not and had a good heart-to-heart chat with the team leader.  And I love working at Optical!  It’s that “happy medium” job I was looking for.  I can say that today with total confidence, but if you would have asked me a month ago, I would have struggled with how I felt.  I briefly wondered if this job was going one step too far in stretching myself too thin.  Actually though, it’s the church stuff that is truly wearing on me.

So, what does a girl do?  No drastic action is underway, but a daily methodical  and persistent approach to the church job is a key to survival.  This comes during a time when our church is approaching its annual meeting, along with its standard one or two controversial decisions to be made.  And like most things in life, it all tends to work itself out in the end.

And then all of the other extras made me think more.  My political involvement is now mostly limited to Republican women meetings, events, and duties.  Here again, I have two parts: the state and the county.  One is functioning beautifully and the other is not.  Since I have responsibilities in the good and the bad, I can’t simply walk away from the one I don’t like.  But here again, I can identify the issues, persevere, and then make a note to make some changes down the road when appropriate.

I also took on a committee assignment with the Red Cross, but that is very limited in scope and beneficial.  So no agonizing over how that plays into my reinvention.

My entrepreneurial endeavors need some tweaking.  I am doing the right things with SendOutCards but have more services I can provide in conjunction with the theme of adding value to others’ lives by making things easier.  I love to organize, write, and plan.  So I need to integrate these into a business and work toward filling my time with fun things that also make me money.

I preach prioritization left and right, but it turns out I have a tough time practicing what I preach.  I have become better at prioritizing people.  It’s the things/jobs/organizations/situations that have been more of a struggle.  I get so wrapped up in the day-to-day task list that I forget to look at the big picture.

And, speaking of people…..  Those have played an integral part of reaching my peak during these past weeks.  I had a rather nasty revelation with a couple of members in my immediate family on Christmas Day, of all days.  The occasion caused me to do something very out of character – swallow my words, bite my lip, drink some wine, and bury it inside.  (OK, so drinking wine is actually very much in my normal character.)  But you can bet I made up for that bottling up of emotion during the weeks ahead.  As with the other yucky stuff in this post, I’m refraining from airing the dirty laundry with specifics and names – more material for the novel or a separate post.  The main point is sometimes it takes a while, but people can hit you with a blow to the gut.  What I thought was a paranoia on my part was an undercurrent of lack of support and respect from family.  So now that it’s out in the open, I can decide how much time and energy to give to those people.  And I can stop worrying about it and move along.

And then my Grandma Gesing went into the hospital on December 27 – two years to the day of my Grandpa Fosaaen’s funeral.  And during my mom and dad’s divorce many years ago, those two parents were on opposing sides of a big battle.  I was always close to Grandpa Fosaaen as a child, but was only close to Grandma Gesing for a short while.  And while everyone in the Fosaaen family rushed to the hospital, the Gesing family is fractured and chaos has ensued.

I finally went to see my grandma on Tuesday.  I had not seen her in at least 20 years.  It’s terrible that it took her being in the hospital for me to go see her, but I did it and I’m glad.  Few people understand, but that is OK.  My stepmom, who went with me, understands.  And my dad, who can’t bring himself to go see her, also gets it.

I had a breakthrough with one part of my nuclear family on Christmas Day, and then, out of the blue, I had a breakthrough with the second part last week.  They cannot be more different, and my feelings toward the two halves have always been a yin and yang, a balancing of the scales of justice.  Sometimes one is way up while the other is down.

Yes, it’s been quite a couple of weeks.  My writing notebook is full of great thoughts and ideas.  I have managed to work through my daily tasks, pay bills, and stay social in the midst of all of this.  I guess that proves I am still sane.

These may be pretty trivial realizations in the grand scheme of everything going on in this world: political strife, poverty, disease, shootings, etc.  In my world though, I have entered a new phase in my life.  The name of it is yet to be determined, but I am certain of one thing.  I do not anticipate needing a cone brassiere for this one.

Connect

Since starting my own business about a month ago, I have found myself connecting and reconnecting with so many people.  I love it!  I am unaccustomed to work that brings me closer to people.  In previous jobs, I was in a constant struggle between work and social gatherings.  I always had people surrounding me, but I interacted with all of these people mostly on a surface, get-the-job-done level.

Truly Connecting vs. Surface Pleasantries

When was the last time you took time out to have a nice, long dinner with your parents?  Do you know what their joys and concerns were during the past week?  What about your closest friends?

It’s tough to make time for those we care about, let alone quality time for them.  Now that I have experienced that quality time for a few weeks, I would feel lost without it.  I realize many people do not have parents to talk with, nor any of their closest friends within driving distance.  Time is such a precious thing, and we never know how many more opportunities we will have to truly connect with those we care about.

If it’s so important, then just do it!  Carve out the time, turn off the phone, and engage in real conversation.  And, while we all like to be heard, we must listen more than talk.  True, it is easy to make this demand now that I have a career that supports, and even thrives on, building relationships.  However, I have been on the other side too and know that connecting with those we care about has to happen, even if it’s just once every couple of months.

Random is Not So Random

In addition to connecting with those already close to me, I enjoy networking and meeting new people.  Throw me in a room full of strangers, and I am in my element.  You just never know who you will have the opportunity to meet.

Do you ever stop to appreciate all of the seemingly random people you meet who turn out to be phenomenal forces in your life?  That person you just met or reconnected with might have a new opportunity for you, whether it’s in business, for fun, or as a link to others who may have a huge impact on your life.

If you doubt the impact that seemingly meaningless encounters with random people have on your life, then read The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.  It’s a powerful account of how we underestimate our impact on others, and their impact on us.

Leverage Your Time

Where can we find the time to do all of this reconnecting?  Yes, it is about setting priorities, and all of that stuff I talked about in a previous post.  It is also about leveraging your time.  If you travel for work and know people in the cities you are visiting, then call them up and get together.  It is easier than you think.  A full-blown event is not necessary – just meet at a coffee shop or for a late drink.  The person you contacted will be happy you made the time for him or her, and you will receive a much needed break from work.  It’s a win-win!

If you aren’t traveling regularly and have friends/family far away, then send a card or make a phone call.  Reaching out does not have to be painful.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

No one is mutually exclusive, unless you know two people who absolutely do not get along.  So, mix your groups of friends and family!  Why have four gatherings when they can all come to one?  I had one large baby shower for my sister – immediate family, extended family, in-laws, her friends, my friends, you name it.  It was a hit.  My friend Jen has perfected this art and is the one who showed me how to make it work.  Whenever she has a busy day and I am visiting, I tag along and meet new people.  Thanks to Jen, I have truly connected with her family and a few of her friends in Kansas City, and my life is better having known these people.

You Never Know…..

Our relationships with others help to define who we are.  We cannot do everything alone, nor should we do everything alone.  Even if you don’t consider yourself a social butterfly, stay connected with those few people who mean the most to you.  I guarantee you will never regret taking the time to connect with positive people in your life.  If I had not made the time to meet with an old high school classmate two years ago, during the height of the 2008 campaign season, I probably would not have started my own business this year (and I might still have foot issues – thanks Dr. Wakeman!).

“There are no random acts…We are all connected…You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind…”
– Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Serial Dater

“So, are you a serial dater?”  – Guy whom I dated on and off for a couple of months

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, a little on the hot side and I was definitely sweating, but great.  The sun was shining, I was at one with nature in a kayak on the Mississippi River, and I had a nice boy in the kayak with me.

I knew we’d probably talk about lots of random stuff during the two hour trip downstream, but nonetheless, this caught me off guard.  And that is rare.  You see, I have dated quite a few guys, and thus had been asked just about every question in the book.  Except for the serial dater question.

It felt more like an accusation than a question.  Immediately I related it to serial killer.  And that has a bad connotation.  Even if you separate it from the serial killer thing, it’s still a bit negative.  Serial to me means repeating over and over out of habit, with no real purpose.

While I have dated quite a few guys, it’s not out of habit.  I have gone a considerable amount of time in between dating guys because I found no one worth dating.  And there are times when one door opens just as another is closing.  I don’t have a huge purpose for dating, other than to have fun with someone who hopefully adds something positive to each day.

At the ripe age of 31, having been on the dating scene for roughly 13 years (I did not date in high school, which could be a topic on its own!), the odds are a single gal like me has probably dated a few guys.  And I am fine with that.  I would not change my life for anything.  Everything happens for a reason.

Sure, I’d like to meet the man of my dreams tomorrow.  Who wouldn’t?  But I’m not going to avoid dating completely for fear of getting my heart broken.  And I am not going to continue to date someone past the point when I realize we do not click.  If that makes me a serial dater, then so be it.  🙂