Saturday, August 30, 2014

Interview Q: Describe Yourself in Five Words

I recently had a job interview. It was a nice position, fun, good people, challenging - but I quickly found I didn’t want to spend an hour and a half in the car, head to an office again everyday, and work a full-time salaried job. I want to be passionate about what comes next, and to have a greater degree of flexibility to help me create a positive work-life balance.

One of the interview questions was to state five words that describe me. I pulled out the ones I believed in at that moment, and that an employer would be looking for and ended with some mix of these: diligent, dedicated, level-headed, flexible, and trustworthy. After last week, it became apparent those five words are not accurate and then I wrote these: harsh, kind, unsure, private, and trustworthy. Ugh, when did I get to be harsh? But more importantly, how do I change into what I want to be and just might already be: loving, appreciative, flexible, fun, and driven.

I believe we feel what we feel and should listen to that, but I also believe we can easily fall into a pattern where we allow circumstances to control us. We can train ourselves unknowingly to react in certain ways and in my case, harsh reactions started to be “natural.” I felt myself thinking inward and feeling sorry for myself; I didn’t believe in others and how they could help and give. 

I fell into a pattern of acting and “feeling” with my head, but I know now that I can build and focus on listening more to the heart. I can be loving and appreciative, driven, flexible and fun. Some of these are coming out more and more... loving when I embrace my children; appreciative when Cal takes family and friends on fishing and boating excursions. Driven when I identify new goals and volunteer, flexible when I work through the feeling of frustration brought on by expectations, and fun when I meet two of my favorite friends for coffee and we laugh genuinely about ourselves and each other.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Cautiously Reckless Sense of Abandon

Motherhood has brought about in me an almost incessant sense of worry. I worry ten years from now about my 16-year olds driving. I worry now about bike rides and running into trees. I worry about hurt feelings, kindness, meanness and shyness, healthy foods, chemicals, school and reading "later". Recently, however, I sat back a bit and watched my children with a little less worry. There were older cousins along, we were in a relatively contained environment, and I kept the occasional eye on them and the other on my book. 
It was an indoor water park, ideal for five to nine year olds. During one stint, I sat at the edge of a wave pool, lazy river, and swimming pool and observed Greta in her six-year old greatness, writing down a handful of notes as I watched her:  
Greta the Great at the water park, loving and living life!
First as she jumped in time and again amongst a pool of middle-school boys 
She quickly had her system down: “climb out, walk a few steps, pick a new random spot, plug nose with one hand and put the other up in the air, jump semi-canon ball style, land and swim around for a few seconds underwater. Repeat.” All the while with ten boys swimming around her and playing basketball, and I swear she didn’t even notice them.
Second as she experienced a wave pool 
Many enjoyed it the same way time and again, from a tube and letting the waves pulse you up and down. Relaxing but with a touch of adventure. Then I watched Greta and wrote: “She looks and works with different environments to get the most joy. Wave jumping, laying down face first and up, diving underwater into the waves, laying on her back. I am in awe of her.” And I am, the many ways she chooses to maximize life are an inspiration to me. She has a sense of cautious/reckless abandon, but pushes often to try anew and test herself.
Cooper and Callie fearlessly board The Viper.
I saw it too on roller coasters at Six Flags that next day. Little kids no more than four feet tall, 50 pounds, and five years old, jumping aboard the American Eagle, Viper, and even Goliath - a wooden roller coaster with the longest, steepest drop in the world! Surely those kids felt some anxiety, but they moved past it and enjoyed the moments immensely. I heard screams and saw fear on faces during the rides, but as soon as the slow tracks hit, smiles and laughter arose and excitable chatter followed. 
I’m taking a lesson from those kids, hundreds of them and from Greta today in particular. To live, create and initiate greater joy in my life. Joy is there but it takes work to grasp it, and to grasp it more fully. Since that trip, I’ve tried to do a flip (unsuccessfully) on the trampoline, I’ve made the effort to stop by and socialize with a few friends at Music in the Park (chatter and dialogue don't come easy to me), and I’m hosting a jewelry party for a group of women (my first since a book club date some six years ago). I am thankful to the signs in my life that are allowing me to recognize that I need to practice living with less worry and with more abandonment and happiness. As author Corrie ten Boom beautifully stated, “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength - carrying two days at once. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” 
Less worry and more strength to nurture myself and others. Yes please!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Proud to be a Presque-Islian

Yesterday was the Fireman's Picnic in Presque Isle - my home for the last ten years. Presque Isle is a village of 400 year-rounders that bumps up to a couple thousand in summer with second home owners and vacationers. Our official slogan is "Wisconsin's Last Wilderness" and many refer to it as "God's Country" or simply "Up North." Presque Isle means "almost an island" - and we're thankfully surrounded by water and trees albeit missing the coffee shops, theaters, and gathering spaces many of us have grown accustomed to. Our gathering spots are on the water, in the sand, at the bars, the fire pits and saunas at our homes.

When we vacationed in the area years ago, it was always "up north" to me but little did I know what that meant… thankfully this weekend I got a fresh reminder of what my new home has come to mean.

On Friday evening, hundreds gathered at the Retreat Bar in honor of Gary Wallace, aka Uncle Gary. Tears, laughs, and stories were told until sun up as Gary would have wanted. I'm certain Gary was one of the gentlest, most true "up north" persons out there. He's been sick for a while and was in the hospital a couple months ago. I heard the news while out with the kids and Cal, and I just started to cry. How could it be his time? The person who means so much to our little community and for me, is representative of why I love where I live. Gary was nonjudgmental, kind, a crazy-awesome sports fan, a dad, a friend, a hockey and baseball coach, a giver, a lover, a bar owner with a penchant for drinking and more, a fireman, a grandpa, an Uncle to many by blood and by nature, and more, always more. To Cooper, he was a remote-control phenom, and to my daughter Greta he was the best quarter-doler out there and like many of us, was someone she wasn't ready to see go. To me, he was huge-hearted Gary and I'll miss him so. On Saturday night, his wife flipped on the first set of outdoor lights at our soon to be named "Wallace Park" baseball field in town. And, they worked.

On Sunday, the Fireman's Picnic was back with everything pretty much the same as years prior, and that's a good thing.
Cooper and Greta tossing candy with EMT/Fireman Uncle Adam.
The greatest parade marshall I've seen in my lifetime!
Not much of an agenda really… lots of raffle tickets, cans of beer, sweet corn and brats, softball games, music by a local duo, and a goldfish game that annually leaves us with a new set of pets that last either two days or two years. Last year, the mold broke and our fish lived with Mr. Poppinkins (our turtle) for two months until he couldn't handle it anymore and ate them all on one crazy fall day with Greta screaming and the rest of the family cracking up. They are currently into the name game with our new batch: "Goldilocks" "Little Silver" "Billy Bob Jo" "Stephanie" "Tiki Zeke" and "George".

The day ends with a beautiful acapella by Bret, singing and inviting the audience to join in with a patriotic conglomerate of songs: Proud to Be An American, God Bless the USA, America the Beautiful. Within a minute all are standing and singing and by the time it ends, the women are wiping away our tears. We look at each other and laugh, remembering that for those that stick around to the end, this happens every year. I'm proud to be an American and am ever grateful to the civil servants and military. I'm also thankful and proud to be a Preque-Islian, where Gary (and the parade marshall) remind us we are free to be who we are and to love and give often. Gary's legacy leaves us with these thoughts and much more, and I know many of us will work hard to carry forward those pieces of him that should, and will never, go away.