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Friday, September 15, 2017

What Hurricane Irma dredged up



Note: I wrote this the afternoon of Tuesday, September 12, and while my situation has changed since then, I wanted to post this now that I have the internet to do so.  I've been writing about myself a lot this summer, and adding this to the series keeps me honest.

After hitching a ride from a mini cooper to the local coffee shop (the driver agreed, “You don’t find many criminals in minis) and after making a call to my husband on a stranger’s phone (twice, two different strangers), I sit here with a delicious caramelatto and with hipster music washing over me along with all the emotions I hadn’t yet uncovered about the last 24 hours.

I figured there would be strong winds and heavy rain, but I didn’t expect the power to be out for over 24 hours.  That’s the marker we’re at right now, at least.  Who knows how long we’ll be without electricity.  About two hours in, I realized we had made absolutely no preparations for such a situation.  Thankfully we are at the very end of our two weeks’ worth of food from our last grocery trip, but we still have many meals’ worth of leftovers, frozen chicken bones I’d been saving for homemade broth, and creamer and milk in the freezer and fridge.  I absolutely hate wasting food, and the reality of everything spoiling in my kitchen is hitting me hard.  This is the greatest surprise of the storm’s effects.  I can handle the discomfort that comes with being without internet, and I can handle the gloomy light that comes through the windows all day, but losing the food and the money we spent on it nearly brings me to tears.

I’ve always been conscious about how I spend money.  My dad told me after I graduated college that while his work buddies’ college kids often had to ask for more cash, he was glad I never needed more than my monthly allowance of $75.  Living on my own, I always recorded my purchases in my check book ledger, and I felt guilty and embarrassed the one or two times I over-drafted on my account.  Once Caleb and I got engaged and my finances got more complicated, budgets became all important to me.  Somehow Caleb ended up as the overseer of our incomes and purchases, and he would occasionally tell me we needed to stop extra spending for the rest of the month, but typically our money discussions centered around him emphatically trying to convince me that we were okay, that we were financially stable, and that I didn’t have to worry.  Being distanced from the actual numbers myself, it’s been very hard to take his assurance to heart.  In fact, ever since we paid off the last of our debt last November, I’ve only just started to believe him when he's told me that we really can live off of just his income if we need to.  Turns out, as of August, we have needed to.

Let me back up a bit.  The last day of May, our first day back from a long vacation, Caleb was fired from his job.  Then, in July, I found out that I’d be out of a job starting August 2.  This new development of me not being able to bring any money to the equation brought me paralyzing fear.  I knew that Caleb would be fine.  He’s a software developer, the market for his kind of work is still booming, and surely he’d be getting a new job soon.  Even when he got turned down at the end of interview processes twice in a row, I knew he’d be fine, but when my own job security suddenly evaporated, the panic started to creep in.

That first weekend after being told I’d be laid off, we were in Minneapolis for a family wedding.  I spent that Saturday with the bride and bridesmaids building bouquets.  Some of the girls were ordering food for lunch, and someone asked if I needed anything.  I told them no, I would be fine.  On the car ride back to the hotel (which thankfully had complimentary breakfast), I was lost in my worry and barely spoke.  When I got back to our room where Caleb sat reading on the bed, I burst into tears and told him how I skipped lunch because I was so afraid to spend money.

Now it’s taken me nearly 4 years of marriage to learn that it’s not Caleb’s job to “fix me” or make me feel better.  I am 100% responsible for my own emotions and reactions, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that Caleb stepped in to fight my fears for me that day.

“Lindsay, we’re okay.  We’re okay.  With the money we have left and your income and the severance package, we’ll be just fine until September without even having to dip into our savings.  And not only am I going to have a job by then, but we also have my parents willing to help us if we need them.  And our church if we need them.  And our landlord has already told me she’s willing to work on the rent with us if we need it.  And I’ve already been thinking of picking up a second job in the meantime while I wait for that offer letter that’s coming.  Tomorrow, I want you to get lunch.  Buy yourself a real lunch.  And don’t worry.  You don’t have to worry.  Please don’t worry.”

I know I’m in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest, but this is where I’m at.  This is what gets to me.  This is what breaks me down and what builds me up.

My last day at work was about two weeks later.  That evening, Caleb got the most welcome call.  He’d been offered a job with a great company, and the salary would be just what we needed.  His smile was so big and pure when he looked at me after hanging up.  We hugged, we kissed, and I probably cried a little.  With all these doubts about God I've been dealing with, and therefore also doubts about God’s provision, it seemed providential that a job for Caleb would come just an hour or two after my own job ended.  I told my close friends afterward that, if this God is real, and if He was listening to my cries and prayers, this was the kindest, most generous thing He could have done for me in that moment.  If He were trying to get my attention and remind me that He loves me, this would be the perfect way to do it.

I think it’s a testament to how stable we really are that Caleb didn’t end up accepting that job, even after they raised the original offer.  He waited to hear back from a second company to see if they would offer him a different job he’d been interviewing for that he would enjoy more.  Almost a week later, the second company told Caleb that, yes, they’d love to have him work for them.  Again, we celebrated, this time with dinner out and Spider-Man in theaters, which we’d been waiting to see until we had a bit more expendable income.  

Today, a month later, we have the security we need, but we also have a new budget that’s been constructed around our new income level.  Even with safeguards in place and our savings still intact, I still have misgivings about money.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a relaxed perspective.  A big part of me says that’s a good thing.  My father taught me responsibility, discipline, and hard work, and I’m a very risk-averse person in general.  Surely playing it safe and staying within boundaries is a good thing?

I’m far from the worst areas hit by Hurricane Irma, but today has been one of those depend-on-the-kindness-of-strangers days.  I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by people who can help me when the unplanned comes and throws my sense of control out the window, but gosh it would be better to be able to breathe even without everything going my way.  Becuase as with most normal people, I have my share of things not going my way.

Monday, August 28, 2017

When the big picture shifts, part 3

Monastery of the Holy Spirit
2017 has been one hell of a ride for me.  The scariest personal struggles came this spring, the summer saw both my husband and I become unemployed, and I'm currently in the midst of my second big "is God even real?" dilemma (and this go round is lasting much longer than the first one in 2010).  With the first hard situation, relationship problems if I'm honest, it was a very few close friends and my faith that pulled me out of the darkness.  I couldn't have made it toward the light without either of those two strongholds.  Here in August, I have this new, hard, jobless situation on my hands and my faith is weaker and not as steady, and it absolutely sucks not having that assurance in my heart in the midst of the turmoil.

What makes the job problem easier to bear are the skills, experience, and professional network I have on my side.  Sure, God may be there, too, but the tangible safety net feels much more real these days.  For those of you who don't walk in faith or religion, please understand me when I say that having the physical safety net without the spiritual is very, very uncomfortable for me.  For as long as I can remember living, I've had a near constant belief that there is a God, that this God loves me, and that this God provides for me in everything.  This concept is such a comfort and encouragement, and I have my own experiences where that reality, the reality of God's existence, was made glaringly true to me.  I even have collected stories of the miraculous and supernatural in the lives of my friends and my immediate family.  (My immediate family.  As in, I can call up my sister right now and have her tell you about her back being healed through prayer and the laying on of hands.  Strange happenings, my friends.)

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This spring, a friend of mine introduced me to The Liturgists podcast, and while it has been a breeding ground for my doubt, I think that's only because it's a safe place for doubt.  One of the first episodes I listened to wrapped the warmest blanket around me when the speaker said doubt only has the power we give it.  It doesn't have to be dangerous, and you don't have to be afraid of it.  Our perspective of God changes as we change, just like all our relationships change.  And as we grow and learn more about ourselves, our history, the Bible, and whatever else it is you're delving deeper in, our beliefs and ideas will naturally shift.  This is what life looks like, everyone goes through this, and where you are right now with your faith or lack thereof is okay.  You don't have to pretend everything's fine if it's not.

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I can't tell you how thankful I am to not be in the environment where I grew up anymore.  I went to a Southern Baptist church and went to a private Christian school ran by an Independent Baptist church.  Philosophical curiosity wasn't encouraged much in either of those arenas, nor in my home, for that matter.  (I remember taking a break from my encyclopedia computer game, pausing on a snake I clicked that brought up information about the snake's significance in Hinduism.  My mom saw the screen and forbade me from playing the game any longer.)  Perhaps it's a good thing my mind was so young and eager to please at that time.  I never had theistic doubts or concerns.  Instead, I got straight A's in my Bible classes.  I do know, though, that wrestling with these things in school or maybe even at home wouldn't have been met with much understanding or kindness.  And that's why I'm glad my mind waited until adulthood to start looking sideways at what I've been brought up to believe for 29 years.

Now I have a live-in best friend who tells me it's okay, that he loves me, and that if I have any questions or if I'd like to talk about it, he's there to listen and chat.  My BFF in Oregon is a rock of faith herself but doesn't force anything in our conversations and gives such beautiful rest from worry.  Other friends around me are going through similar doubts and also have no judgment for me whatsoever, which is an amazing and unexpected breath of fresh air.  The lack of condemnation makes this struggle easier, safer, and much less scary.

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As bizarre as it may sound, at this moment I am content as I wait for answers and confirmation, and I think I'd be content if I never have the certainty I used to.  I'm starting to accept that God, whatever or whomever God is, is mystery.  One of our pastors shared last year that, if there is a God, we're not going to understand Him/Her/It completely.  It doesn't make sense to try to put God in a box to we've made to better understand the divine, either.  Furthermore, if God were someone or something we could explain absolutely and comprehend absolutely, it wouldn't be much of a God.

So this is where I'm at.  Generally comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing.  Open to the possibilities of having my mind changed.  Hopeful that I will find the truth and that the truth will be a benevolent God who's on our side, working everything for our good.  The moments when my mind goes deeper and starts to consider the possibility of that not being the truth are terrifying, especially when considering the afterlife, but I've started to move forward and to search for answers.  I hope what I find is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recommended with August

white and purple orchids


Since August is my birthday month, the links I'll be sharing this go round are all about some of my favorite things.

Plants

Edible terrarium desserts!  How cute!

Also, however many plants I may have in my home, I'm pretty sure I'll never be at this level.

I love kokedama hanging string gardens, but they always look so precarious.  Turns out they're pretty easy to make, though.  Check out this kokedama tutorial with care tips.

Puppies

I will have this ridiculously happy shiba vine bookmarked forever and for always.  (sound on)

Made me laugh.  A lot.

Tea

15 different cultural tea traditions from Mental Floss - I really like learning about things like this!

Zen Tea is based in Atlanta, and I've discovered my all time favorite loose leaf in their store.  Chocolate mint rooibos has cozy, bright, and comfort all wrapped up into one delicious blend.  Right now they have it on their online store as part of their rooibos sampler pack, but if you're in Atlanta, stop by their Chamblee brick and mortar and get yourself a bag!

Other awesome things

When the font you use gets you convicted of a crime

I just learned about Museum Hack, a company that makes trips to the museum even cooler than they already are!

Really feeling this silver hairstyle these days.  My own silver strands have started cropping at both my temples, now, so it's only a matter of time!

Happy August!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When the big picture shifts, part 2

Blog post: when your career demands a shift

What they don't tell you about getting a B.A. in Communication Studies is how vague and nondescript it is.  In one of my first interviews after college, the guy across the desk from me asked "So what does Communications mean?" and I honestly didn't know what to tell him, though it may be a testament to what I did learn at college that I was able to pull something out of thin air to satisfy his question in the moment.

Right after college, I had my old summer job at Office Depot that kept me busy for about another year.  Then, after having little luck in landing a "real" job, I left the country for the promise of a salary and benefits in exchange for teaching ESL in Korea.  Turns out having "Korea" on my resume was what got me the interview for my first "real American" job, 7 months after I returned to the States.  I worked as an administrative assistant/receptionist/office manager in a small office for a year and a half or so, and I really enjoyed it.  I loved supporting a tiny team and building those internal relationships.  The job also confirmed that I am a killer organizer, a fast learner, and great at getting stuff done.  I had outgrown the job, though, and needed something new to keep me interested and fulfilled, so into the fast-paced startup world I went as a Campus Operations Manager for The Iron Yard, then a glorified global customer service coordinator, financial services rep, curriculum editor, new hire trainer, and all around Swiss army knife.  (I have a thing for small companies and many hats.)

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Maybe you already knew some of this, but long story short, today is my last day.  When I first heard the news that The Iron Yard was closing and I had two weeks before being unemployed, one of my biggest anxieties was figuring out what in the world to do next.  Having a degree in communications supposedly sets you up for almost anything (that's what the career counselor said), but it's seemed to me to be more of a jack-of-all-trades degree, the kind that doesn't give you any real direction or real skill.  This led me to look beyond my college experience to my professional experience and even my hobbies, and I've decided to try and pursue a career in editing and/or writing.

Remember, I've never had a career path.  I've been a vagabond in my professional trajectory, and stepping out on something that started as a side hustle and a hobby is frightening.  I'm afraid to fail.  I'm afraid to get the job but find that I hate it.  I'm afraid that the main reason why I want this is because I'm a pretentious and prideful person and saying "I'm an editor" sounds like I am somebody.  But, I do want to give this a shot.  I want to leave it all out on the court and see what happens.  That was my perspective when Caleb and I started dating (and got engaged... and actually that perspective stayed with me until my wedding day), and it turned out pretty great.  Editing and I have so much going for us, it would be a cop out to not try it.  So here I am, going forward into the unknown!

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On the practical side of things, I am craving advice, encouragement, and job leads, and if you can help with either of those, I'd be grateful.  Even if the job hunt takes longer because of it, Caleb and I are staying in Atlanta for the time being.  We've also taken up a side hustle as dog boarders through Rover, which has been fun so far.  (Sign up here to get $20 off your first booking (shameless plug).  Gotta get that cash so I can have all those coffee dates with professional mentors.)  Feel free to pass along my LinkedIn profile to anyone who may be interested, and comment below or email me through the button on the right of the page with anything that could be helpful!

Caleb and I have both dealt with unemployment before, but not since 2012 and not since coming into our own, professionally.  It's a blow to be back on the beat again, but I am confident that this season won't last long.  We're both smart, capable, and at least somewhat charming people, and we have a lot of people who love us.  I'll be sure to update y'all when I have good news to share, and I hope that happens soon!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When the big pictures shifts, part 1


Last Wednesday, I got a call from the CMO of my company to let me know that The Iron Yard, by rule of the board, will be shutting its doors permanently.  Our current classes will be taught till graduation, an extra month of career support offered to alumni, and then it's all going to be finished.  And my last day will be August 2.

Even though a co-worker friend of mine had sent me a hurried Slack message with the bad news a split second before I picked up the phone call, I was shocked and taken by complete surprise.  I always thought I'd be with this company until, or unless, I made the decision to move on to something different.  I have been cultivating dreams and goals for myself within this company, and just this year I'd seen a lot of encouraging forward motion in my personal career here.  Suddenly, it's gone, and the big picture shifts.

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It's one thing to lose your job.  It's another thing to have to begin the grueling job hunt.  It's a completely other thing to love your beloved company, to see your friends go through the same pain, to feel deep sympathy for everyone around you, and to know that there won't be any campus, headquarters, or mother ship to return to for reunions.  Our network will move to social media and occasional coffee dates.  Our mark will be seen in the waves of new web developers breaking into the tech industry.  Our legacy will live on exclusively in the lives we changed.

When you tilt your head to see the situation in that light, when you realize how the greatness and beauty and ingenuity that was crafted within these walls will live on even when the walls fall down, it's very, very easy to breathe again.  To open your hands and connect with the reason why we were all doing this in the first place.  Our mission was to make lasting change in the lives of those around us, and we did a heck of a job of that.  Thankfully the mission will be carried further by different coding bootcamps, online tutorial sites, and other avenues, and while I may not be in the center of the magic much longer, there will still be magic happening.

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I can't express my wholehearted appreciation and love for The Iron Yard well enough.  I'd come to the Atlanta campus from a very traditional work environment looking for a challenge.  Somehow I interviewed 3 days after submitting my resume, and I was hired two days later after I met the team in person.  With conservative operations experience but an eagerness to succeed, I entered the startup world, the tech world, The Iron Yard world, and one of the best teaching experiences of my life.

The struggles came quickly, but so did the support and encouragement from the people around me at work.  My role was a very new one, and two other Campus Operations Managers came on board at other campuses soon after I was hired.  Our weekly collaboration talks and our company-wide required journaling sessions were my safety net.  I struggled, but I never struggled alone.  When my personal life brought shadows with me into work, my teams told me they'd love to help however they could.  My Atlanta teammates have been anchors during some of the most turbulent storms of my adult life.  When work situations and relationships got tricky or sticky or straight up unhealthy, even more of my work friends spoke up, reached out to me, shared advice, and gave me hugs (many of them virtual hugs).

The Iron Yard has a great track record of hiring excellent human beings.  One of the greatest pains in my heart is the pain of losing these friends.  Yes, there's always Twitter, and maybe I'll make it down to Tampa or Orlando one day so I can grab a drink with folks in person, but not being able to work with these people every day is going to a hard adjustment.  From the executives to the new trainees, there are so many people I deeply care about and deeply appreciate at this company.  I know it hurts us all to see us all in this situation, but I'm thankful that even in this, we aren't alone.  We have each other.  We have our inside jokes.  And we have one more week all together to raise standards, change lives, and do the incredible.

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Every time I think through this situation, I always end up with the most beautiful silver linings.  I'm tempted to write more here about my own personal situation, but I'd rather keep that separate, because what I already have here stands on its own so well.  The Iron Yard grew organically as a new solution to a real problem, and I'm so honored to have been a part of it.  Our team estimates that 3,000+ careers were changed for the better thanks to The Iron Yard, and I know our reach goes even further through the free kids classes, coding crash courses, event sponsorships, and field trips we've hosted, etc.  Every campus has had an impact on their city, and I can't wait to be stopped on the street by people touched by our work when I wear my Iron shirt in public.  Yes, even though I've almost completely moved away from screen printed tees, The Iron Yard shield is a badge of honor, and I'm proud to wear it.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Recommended with July

Appalachia country | America the beautiful

Happy birthday, America!  You're a beautiful country with innovative people who are the most generous in the world.  There will always be plenty of work to be done in better caring for the tired, poor, and huddled masses, and I am still proud of the good you do do.  Keep moving forward, Americans.  Love trumps hate.
Here's a favorite video of a slice of American culture: the cast of STOMP + The Harlem Globe Trotters

And a different side of America: Superman vs the Ku Klux Klan actually happened

Encouragement for today: "If we celebrated growing and getting healthy as much as we did perfection, it would be a lot easier to get help." 

How to moonwalk, in gifs

For at least a year now, I've been having trouble sleeping through the night.  Stress and blue light from my phone are big factors for me, and I've used a little calming yoga and a magnesium supplement to help me sleep better.  Here are some other great tips for getting your mind and body to rest at night.

Sara Tasker from Me & Orla wrote a very poignant post about Living with Less + Trust. "For a lot of us, it’s the fear of not having enough that makes us hold onto things."

Also from Sara: "What this has made me realise is, people’s emotions are not really an indicator of their strength.  It is a fallacy and a joke to believe that suppressing our true feelings is in some way admirable; that faking the same state of consciousness at all times is the best representation of a  healthy mind."

Your daily dose of cuteness: Puppy training and 3D printed cat armor

Friday, June 23, 2017

Water the flowers, not the weeds

A small clover bouquet | water the flowers, not the weeds
Much of this year has been a time of unrest for me, of distress, panic, fear, and vulnerability without comfort.  In the midst of this, a massage therapist shared with me that meditation could be helpful, and that led me to browsing the website of Ziva Mind, which she had recommended.  While I never did sign up for their subscription, I did find this one phrase that stuck out for me and brought fresh breath to my spirit.

Water the flowers, not the weeds.

When your days seem effortless and you're filled to the brim with thankfulness,
treasure these seasons of happiness.

When your control of situations slips with your grip,
dwell on where you are steady and secure.

When everything is something to complain about,
hunt for the blessings you haven't noticed yet.

Now this phrase just assumes that there are flowers with the weeds, which I wanted to point out.  There is something beautiful and worthy of gratefulness, no matter where you are.  I have yet to come across a story where that isn't true.  If you're where I was a few months ago, take heart.  When we dwell on the negative, it grows larger and stronger, even if it's just in our perspectives.  The same happens for the good when we dwell on it.

This is something I haven't taken to heart and action completely yet, but I know it will only benefit myself and others to focus on the positive and to allow that mindset to bring buoyancy to every area of my life.  To help with this, I have picked up meditation.  I'm nowhere close to being good at it, but just like yoga, it's something that you get better at with time, and even when you suck at it, it already has benefits to offer.  I plan on writing a post soon with some first impressions and ideas for getting started with meditation.

My question for you

How do you stay buoyant in your life?  In your crappy and straight up awful situations?  What keeps you strong or calm or persistent?  If you could start getting things right much earlier, what advice would you share with yourself?

You can see the page where I found this maxim here along with some great advice on managing holiday and travel stress.