Job hunting IS a job.

My current role is a full-time position that requires attention to detail, multitasking, exceptional communication, and interpersonal skills. I must possess proficiency in PC skills and multiple software systems, integral problem-solving skills, and the ability to adjust in a rapidly changing environment. I am required to work beyond normal business hours, over-time, holidays, and am required to respond to correspondence at all times, even during off time.

The best part? I do not get paid.

My average production is up to ten applications per day. I submit approximately 50 applications and/or resumes per week, depending on the market. That equals about 20 to 25 rejections per week. After all, not every company tells you that you are no longer in the running.

This week I submitted 15 applications and resumes to just one company. That included every position that they had posted in which I met or exceeded the minimum qualifications. I have no doubt that their HR department either loves or loathes me, but nothing in between.

Truth is, when I started working many years ago, we did this thing that is no longer done anymore: We got dressed in our most professional attire, drove around with 10 copies of our resume, walked into companies, and asked for the hiring manager. It worked well as managers got a good impression from the candidate, up front, if they would be a good fit. Now, we express ourselves on paper and cross fingers that our resumes and applications make it past the screening software that flags for keywords.

Years ago, you made changes to a resume when your employment changed, which was not often. Now I change my resume ten times per day, in my pajamas, and hoping one of these hiring managers can notice my work ethic and awesomeness just from how I have formatted my resume and because my cover letter says I rock.

Because I have been unsuccessful for so long, I doubt my advice is sound. However, these are the things I have found in my search engine history of, “what am I doing wrong in my job search?” These are pointers I have found to be incredibly helpful during this process.

1. Network until your fingers are numb and blue.

We have access to so many social media platforms. Seek out others like you. I started with Facebook and LinkedIn.

I was not a big fan of LinkedIn, but now I have about ten people a week looking at my profile and information. I have also used it connect with recruiters, managers, and be contacted by recruiters. I get it now. It works.

Facebook has so many groups. Seek out ones that are in your industry and line of work. I am a Medical Coder, so I typed in Medical Coders in the Facebook group search and asked to be added into the ones with the most people.

Where technology stops, pick up and do it the old-fashioned way. Talk to people in person. Mention what you do. Reach out to people you seem to clique with, even in those social media sites and spark up conversations. If you can, call around to volunteer. For my industry, the hospital is awesome. Not too mention, hospitals deal in many different areas including management and financing. Not everyone who works in a hospital has to know medical terminology and anatomy. Call around to public and private schools, large law firms, and hospitals to find out about volunteer opportunities.

I was recently given a very temporary contract assignment with a company. During that time, I reached out to some of the women in my group through emails, then Facebook and added them on LinkedIn. Come to find out, we have a lot in common and I made some new friends. When you start networking, you start discovering new friends in the industry. It cannot hurt. One, you have found new leads to jobs, and have new friends in the same boat. There are jobs I have come across that I am not qualified for, but I send them the recruiters’ names. Additionally, you have new friends who feel your pain and go through the same crap. As a woman, I need to vent at times. That is the nature of the best.

2. Not getting interviews?

Two questions:

What is wrong with your resume?

Yesterday I sent out 20 resumes. On 21, I realized my daughter had decided to type when I wasn’t looking. Ironically, it was the line that mentioned my high quality of work. It went something like this:

“Time on project extended due to high qu al ofokjnae ty of work.”

Grammatical errors. Spelling errors. Poor formatting. Maintain the same verb tense. Are you really detail-oriented?

If you are not applying for a position that is 100% labor, a lot of employers require attention to detail. What does it say when your resume shows, “Time on project extended due to high qu al ofokjnae ty of work.”

What are you applying for?

People get rejected for being overqualified as much as they are turned down because they are underqualified. Double check that you are what these companies and positions are looking for and make sure you fit in that box.

3. Getting the interview, but not the job?

Practice makes perfect. So what, you messed up in answering a question. So, you try again and practice, practice, practice. Search commonly asked questions during an interview. Practice answering them.

Ask for feedback. Have friends review your resume or pay a company to help you with it. A few recruiters have contacted me back and said my resume looks good. But you have to ask!

If you get turned down for a job after an interview, it is okay to ask why. Most managers may tell you that they had a more qualified candidate or give some generic reason, if they even respond, but maybe one will tell you something that really leads to developing your interviewing skills even more.

4. Ctrl Alt Del 

Take a break!!! Do not let this consume your life. Only spend certain time frames and a specific amount of time applying and hunting for jobs. I created a separate email for job searching and only check the emails after I have had a cup of coffee and before Rays baseball evening games.

After about five rejections I get frustrated and down. I stop for a few days to regroup.

Eventually an interview occurs and the motivation returns, full tidal wave force. But, then as the rejections flood in, I have to stop and regroup after a couple weeks.

5. Keep applying to a company, even after hearing “We are moving forward…without you” 100 times.

After all, what is the worst thing that will happen? Will HR get frustrated with you? Will they call and tell you and tell you that they will never hire you? Well, at least you will know.

One company, I have applied to 31 times. As of now, I still have four open applications with them, and the rest were denied. I bombed one interview with them and have changed my resume five times in my profile.

But it is the type of company I want to work for, because they have great reviews, promote within, possess a solid business model, and believe in their employees. So, I will keep applying until the file a restraining order or I ace an interview. Which may take 100 interviews, but practice makes perfect!

6. Don’t.Give.Up.Ever.

It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. It’s upsetting. It’s worse than dating in your 20s. But you can do it.

Above all else, BE YOURSELF! Well, be your professional self.

Karma gets the last laugh.

We were kid-less for the weekend. It called for a night at the casino.

The following are the things you need to know:

  1. I only smoked when I drank.
  2. I rarely drank, but when I did, I thought I was a 20-something year old rock star.
  3. I thought I was hot shit when I started drinking.
  4. I was neither a 20-something or hot shit.
  5. I soon realized my arrogance.

The chain of events, that I recall, started with a few Captain and Cokes, the flashing lights of slot machines, some money lost, odd looks from security, and me running out of my “drunk time” cigarettes.

On my thirtieth pee break of the night, I popped a squat. Even drunk, I do not sit on the seat for fear of God knows what. I reached over to grab some toilet paper. Low and behold, on top of the toilet paper dispenser, was a pack of cigarettes! I closed an eye to confirm my double vision was not deceiving me.

The next thought that went through my drunk mind is quite possibly what landed me where I am today.

“Ha. Ha. Some dumb bitch left her cigarettes in the bathroom. Too fucking bad for her ass.”

I snatched those cigarettes up. I smoked them all, laughing to myself as I thought about how she probably went back to the bathroom. She probably had to spend $10 on new cigarettes as the casino machine. I laughed and laughed at how drunk she must have been.

A little while later, I sat down, smoking a cigarette and drinking my drink. I was playing slots and running out of money. A man sat down next to me. A few more spins later, I cashed out. Reaching for my drink, I saw two cups that looked like the same drink. I was too drunk to remember which drink was mine. The guy next to me had sat down after me, put his drink down, and I did not know which was mine. Without asking him, I just grabbed the one with more and walked off. I laughed and laughed.

The next morning, I woke with a headache. I stumbled from the bed and into the bathroom. My bottom lip felt funny. Glancing in the mirror, I saw a red spot on the bottom of my lip. I didn’t know what it was. I had never had that before. I thought maybe I burned myself with a cigarette.

By the time we got home, I had small blisters on my bottom lip and skin. I knew what it was then. Knowing where cold sores come from, I tried to remember my actions for the night. The cigarettes crossed my mind. Then, I remembered the drink that more than likely was not mine.

I wasn’t laughing anymore.

Every few years, something causes it to surface again. Every few years, I am reminded of what a total dick I am when I party like a rock star. Karma got me. She got me good. She also made sure everyone could see it.

Sometimes it’s best to shut it

Standing in lawn and garden of well-known super store, I was seeking a fast and easy way to improve the overall appearance of our rock garden. It is speckled with invading greenery that is not welcome. I am looking at different brands of weed and grass killer, considering prices and effectiveness.

An older woman walking by speaks up to me in a familiar matter-of-fact tone. “You know, those chemicals cause cancer. You’d be better off just pulling them up yourself.”

I acknowledge her statement with a nod and smile, then turn back to these cancer causing chemicals. I, kindly, reply “I’m allergic to fire ant stings. So either I die in ten years from cancer or I die in 15 minutes from anaphylactic shock.”

Silence.

Eventually she huffed and stomped off. I felt a little guilty, like perhaps I was at fault that she did not gather my sarcasm in life’s humor and irony.

Lately, I’ve been provided a lot of unsolicited advice and I’m not sure if there is a sign on my forehead suggesting I am in need of it. But when I reply, people either laugh WITH me or get angry.

Don’t give advice if you aren’t prepared to be informed you are ignorant to all the facts.

Uprising of the Anxiety

“The anxiety is strong with this one.”

I swore I was going to focus more on inspiring others and motivating people to find happiness in the stresses of life. But today was just not a good day. I shouldn’t say that. It was a good day. It was more of a rough day that requires a hot bath in lavender oil and Candy Crush until my mind shuts off.

                Rough days come and go like waves, and sometimes there is a hurricane. Today was when the news weatherman is hyping it up- we think it is going to be a category 5! EVACUATE NOW!

                What caused today’s anxiety overload?

1. Twenty silent arguments

                A silent argument is one that you have over and over in your head with the other person, but you never say aloud because sometimes the battle just is not worth it. Sometimes you just don’t have it in you to fight. Truth is, sometimes it is just better to have the argument in your mind because some people will never truly listen, even after ten years of the same issues.

2. She called it a bureau.

                I decided to give away the furniture we need to get rid of. Two of my three children suffer from ADHD and I am trying to help decrease their symptoms and manage coping through less stuff. We are downsizing so that they are less overwhelmed when it comes to organization.

                So, I post on a sale group to give away a dresser. I posted it as a dresser. The first reply I get is “is the bureau still available?” I am a smart ass, and, naturally wanted to reply “yunz mean da dresser? Ain’t got no bureau here.” But I went with it. I knew it was going to be a headache at “bureau.”

                I am intolerant of folks treating someone else like they are above them. But I need the dresser gone and wanted it to go to someone who needed it. Based on this person’s Facebook profile, employment background, age, and pictures, I bet they could use and would appreciate a free dresser.

                I moved it to the front alone, as my husband had already left for work.

                The foot and side splintered. I sent a picture and the response was “We won’t take it. We have toddlers and I don’t want them getting hurt.” It could have literally been fixed with Gorilla glue. But o’well, poop happens.

                There I stood. Halfway in my yard, sweating, dirty, tired, and with a bureau I had to drag back into the house. No gratitude had been given to me. I was trying to do something nice and received nothing from Bureau except “we have toddlers.” I have three kids, and this was not dangerous at all. But, to keep with the theme, I kept the argument in my head and yanked the dresser back into the house.

3. The Spider

                That is all I need to say. It was some Arachnophobia type shit that hung from the garage door. It was so big that, when my son pointed it out, I screamed “Holy Fuck Shit!” I will leave it at that.

The day has ended with an elevated heart rate, my child learning a new combination of adult words, many silent arguments, and a whole lot of work for nothing.

I keep hearing R.E.M. singing “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

This is the weatherman warning me the storm is coming. The silent arguments will explode into a whole new war. The dresser will drive me insane because all my projects are back on hold for another week. The spider will crawl through the vents and end up on my face in the middle of the night.

“And I feel fffiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeee…”

For your listening pleasure…

https://binged.it/2JJeC69

Dear Universe, Make me a writer

I was in fifth grade the first time I won a contest. None of my classmates knew about it. I did not even tell my parents. After an essay on the Civil War, my teacher, Mrs. Jones, quietly approached me and asked me to stay behind before lunch. She said she needed to speak with me about something. I was terrified, until she handed me my graded essay. I had passed with 110%. She then explained that there was a writing contest she wanted me the enter, as she felt I had the potential to do well. I entered and I won third place. She had been my editor. Until now, no one beyond that empty classroom, and the judges, knew about it.

I spent many teenage summers reading book after book. It helped me escape from a hormonal/ post mononucleosis depression I had encountered. I withdrew and found myself reading and writing for hours each day. Perhaps, for a hormonal and depressed teenager, Stephen King and Dean Koontz were not the best books to read, but they lined my bookshelves.

Short stories we wrote for school always landed me in the position of being forced to read them aloud to the class in a “final contest” of whose story was better. I usually came in second, but I spent more time writing about sadness then joy. I have since realized people enjoy happiness over a tear-jerker.

In college, I excelled at essays and research papers. In sociology, my professor asked me if I had ever considered creative writing courses. Assuming she meant I lacked critical skills necessary for college level writing, sociology papers specifically, I felt embarrassed. But she replied that she was highly impressed with an essay I wrote regarding society’s debilitating views on women and how it caused low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. She told me I would make an excellent magazine writer. Honestly, the idea of a magazine writer made me feel slighted. However, I was humbled that, once again, I was considered to be a good writer, at least in that context.

Two semester ago, I worked on a project with two other classmates. One of them contacted me to discuss our approach. She had mentioned that our professor had grouped us together, as we were “the two best writers in the class.” That had been a quote from our professor. A woman with a PhD had stated she felt I was one of the best writers in a class of about 30 people. Again, I felt that familiar blushing and humble satisfaction. Although, the part of me influenced by society’s rash views on women has left me wondering if my group member was merely fibbing to pump me up so we came out with a good grade. After all, people do perform better with positive reinforcement.

Within the last month, I wrote something, sent it to two dear friends, and they both told me it brought tears to their eyes. I cried myself, thinking maybe, just maybe, with a lot of editing, I could write the books I have randomly dart through my mind.

But I am afraid. I am afraid that there is no gift in me. I fear I will try and fail miserably. I fear that I am delusional and would have better chance at success in finding a cure to ADHD. Fear has held me back, as it holds far too many people back.

Dear Universe and God,

Please make me a writer. If I am a writer in hiding, help extinguish my deep fear of failure.

Many thanks,

Marsh

Fear of change is unescapable during sleep

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

It is early morning, probably four a.m. I am driving. I get the sense that I am headed north. I see nothing but freeway lanes in front of me. Bright city lights line the distance of my rearview, but I do not know which city I am driving away from. I keep thinking Atlanta, but there is nothing definitive to suggest that. I am alone on the road, in the car, and I feel alone. But I do not feel that loneliness at heart. My family is still in my heart and somewhere. Suddenly, I take an exit, the wrong exit. I start to feel a panic arise as I know I am headed in the wrong direction. I try to remember the way I am supposed to go, but I cannot remember where I am headed. The exit twists and turns around many other exits and freeways. I am left driving back and forth, almost in circles, lost and fearful. Then, as I feel the anxiety rise, I remember I really do not have anywhere to be or any definitive direction. Immediately, the road splits and I feel the urge to get in the other lane. The morning sun has emerged, and it is mid-morning. There are cars driving around me, passing me, swerving in and out of the lanes. I cannot merge into the other lane and I miss my exit. I panic again, as I know that once I miss that exit, I can never turn back. I will forever be lost. I want to slow down but fear getting into an accident. I keep trying to stay with the flow of traffic but try so hard to get into the other lane. I must get in that lane, or else I will never get where I am going, although I still do not know where that is.

Then I awake, feeling as if the breath had been yanked from my lungs. I jump up from the bed and have the urge to check on my children. More and more these dreams come. The finale is always unresolved, and I am left with an uneasy awakening and lack of air. I imagine that a bedside spirit has reached into my chest and stolen the air from my lungs.  Although these dreams have significant relevancy of current life decisions, I cannot shake the aching suspicion that I may be developing sleep apnea.

Now that I have cracked my daily joke, analyzation of the above dream is necessary. My family is undergoing some major changes, none of which are negative. I often find, right before major changes occur in my life, whether planned or not, I have lucid and predictive dreams. Many times, I have not understood them, as the change was unplanned.

In my twenties, I dreamt I was in a public restroom. Every stall was disgusting, all the toilets had backed up onto the seats and the floor. Toilet paper was covered in urine and stool. I could not walk or sit or use the toilets, as they were completely unsanitary.

At another time during my twenties, I dreamt that all of my teeth suddenly cracked and crumbled. Every single tooth slowly cracked and fell from my gums in pieces. There was no pain. There were no obvious medical reasons. I had simply opened my mouth to respond to a friend and my teeth crumbled away.

From reading, mostly personal blogs by so-called experts on dream interpretation, these dreams are very common. The Dirty Toilet and the Crumbling Teeth dreams both represent a strong dissatisfaction with one’s current life and/or situation. They represent a strong desire, sometimes subconscious, for change. Looking back, they represented my intuition telling me to sprint away from the possessive and abusive relationships I was in during that time.

The current dream is a representation of the changes my family is currently undergoing. We are considering a bigger house, my husband has been given new opportunities at his work which will alter our lives, and there are many other changes occurring.

Recently, I told a friend, I felt as if my family was on a speeding train that was headed straight for a cliff. I felt as if we would jump from the train right before it caught fire in an explosion, but we were still on that train and going to go over the cliff with it. But it was the train we were meant to be on as it still was where we were meant to go.

Anxiety and fear is not always a bad thing. Getting lost, lacking direction, dirty toilets, crumbling teeth, and exploding trains may not always be a bad omen. Change is scary. But more times than not, it is more than just fear. Fear pushes us beyond our comfort zone. It can cause us to shed our security blanket and move into a life, a better life, we were meant to live. Embrace fear and anxiety. Without, we would not seek change.

“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Stop defining yourself by your career

Most of my adult life, I have spent seeking definition through a career. My parents pushed for an outstanding work ethic. My interpretation of that lesson was believing a job was the basis of our existence. Careers provide financial stability, security, and take up a vast amount of our time. In my mind, it was so important that I always made it a conversation topic. I introduced friends as “this is Lisa. She is a nurse” or “that is my friend, Kristie. She is a teacher.” My husband is Shaun, a police officer. My mother works at a college. My father fixes lab equipment at major hospitals like NIH and Johns Hopkins. That is how I defined them.

I was once “Lauren. I screen deceased donors for tissue donation.” Then, I became “Lauren, a Medical Biller and Coder.” Now, I am Lauren, “just a stay-at-home mom, taking more classes in computer programming and stressed the fuck out.” Before my third child,  I was working towards my sought-after success in medical coding. Then, daycare costs equaled my income and my children needed me home more. I have been a stay-at-home mom for over two years. What I believed defined and increased my worth has been on hold. Six months into leaving my job, I realized I would have to completely start over from the bottom when I returned. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. For over a year, I have felt as if my identity had diminished. I have racked my brain on a different career that would provide immediate value.

Last week, during my daily inventory all my failures, I felt a familiar anxious chest pain. My worth was depleted. I was nothing. I would have to start back at the bottom and, at almost 37, I felt like a joke. But then, a little voice in my head screamed above all the noise: “Stop defining yourself by your career. Your definition reaches far beyond a job.“

Well, shit. There was a time in my life that I frequently told this voice to shut up. But this voice did always know her shit. I decided to throw this idea around for a few minutes.

What else could possibly define me?

After years of focusing on my faults, I still felt a little lost. Instead of looking at my strengths, I thought about how I had always defined other people.

1. Lisa, the nurse, was a hard-working, kick ass, compassionate person who sacrificed her time to save and help others. She was not just a nurse. She was an amazing person with a huge heart who worked long, hard hours, and knew her stuff. This is every nurse I have ever met and talked to.

2. Kristie, the teacher, was an amazingly patient and caring woman who spent many, many hours being a role model for her students. She puts in well over 40 hours and is tested daily by kids that aren’t hers. She influences the lives of so many. She believes in what she does. Almost every teacher I have met possesses extreme compassion and love for what they do.

3. My mother is a huge influence on college students and helps shape them into young adults before they enter the working world. She is a guide and there to offer insight into life that they have yet to experience. My mother works so hard and was recently awarded Employee of the Year at the university she works at.

4. My father works so many hours and has spent most of his life building relationships and knowledge on equipment that helps develop cures for major diseases. He is there when those lab techs need him, because they may just be on the verge of a cure for Ebola or cancer.

5. My husband is so much more than a police officer. The lives he tries to change and the security he provides is more than I can comprehend. He sees and hears things that change people. Every shift he risks his life for strangers in his community. He does not have hatred or disgust for the people he has to take to jail. Rather he still sees them as people who are going through a rough time. He sacrifices his physical and mental health because he believes in what he started doing over 13 years ago.

                It became easier to see that the worth of these people are not based on the careers or job titles. It takes an amazing person to go into certain fields, even a receptionist or cashier. Their worth is in who they are and their jobs benefit from that. Their work ethic and character has defined their success in their jobs. They are hard-working, compassionate, caring people that made a difference in the lives of so many, regardless of what their title is. They have my respect because they rock at being people and how they treat other people, even those they are less than fond of.

                So, what defines us?

1. How we treat other people.

                It is simple, really. Either you are a dick, or you are not. If you are dick, then you are defined as a dick. If you treat others with compassion and empathy, then you are a good person.

                An example is taking our heads out of our asses long enough to see other people, be there for someone else, and really give a crap about someone besides ourselves when it is needed. Hold the door for someone. Look someone in the eye when you say “thank you” and “have a good day.” Really give a shit when you ask someone “how are you?” Shut up and listen instead of only thinking about what you can reply with. Really give a shit.

2. How we treat ourselves.

                If you spend most of your time beating yourself up, like I do, then you suck at being good to yourself. You can be caring to others, but if you are nasty to yourself, then you are still a dick. Start focusing on your strengths and build yourself up on those. Make a strong foundation with inventorying your amazing talents and characteristics. Everything else is built up around that.

3. Do we take time to really live.

                Work takes up so much of our lives. Don’t live to work. I know, I know. There is that whole “save for retirement” thing that is embedded at an early age. But truth be told, I have met some amazing folks who worked their whole lives, only to be physically miserable when retirement came knocking. Retirement becomes doctor appointments and hospital stays. Then there are the late 30 something folks who dropped dead during a jog and never made it to retirement. There are people who die from cancer or in car accidents. Work what you need to and spend the rest of your time really living.

                We get one shot at this. We get one life. We are defined by so much more than our careers.

I am Lauren, a super kick-ass stay-at-home mom who loves making a positive difference in the lives of others. I will one day go back to work and be successful, no matter what my job title is. I know this because I fucking rock.

Be amazing at being you. After all, there is only one of you… in this galaxy anyway.

I Am Depression

I have a family.

I have friends.

I have a home.

I have love.

I have support.

I have an education.

I have goals.

I have success.

I have opportunity.

I have good health.

I have life.

I do not want for anything.

I do not suffer from a traumatic past.

I do not have any additional severe mental disorders.

I do not come from a severely broken home and childhood.

My life is amazing. I have everything and then some. I know this. I tell myself this daily. I am smart, strong, capable, and loving.

But some days, in my head, I am so much less than deserving of any of it.  

I am weak.

I am worthless.

I am broken.

I am a failure.

I am a burden.

I am irritating.

I am weird.

I am not enough.

I am alone.

I have spent hours crying, then spent days crying because I cannot stop crying. I have questioned how anyone could love me. I will fall into a deep, dark pit and struggle to pull myself out. I have come to recognize when it is time to call for help. I fear the day I cannot pull myself out or find the strength to ask for help. My medical records document “severe depression with generalized anxiety disorder.”

I am embarrassed.

I am angry at myself.

I am scared.

I am confused.

I am exhausted.

But, today I will not give up.

I will not stop fighting.

I will win.

I will help others who fall into a pit.

I will never give up.


The Carb Hangover

We cheated. Yes, that is right. We cheated. It was not supposed to happen and wasn’t even on a regularly scheduled day. Well, it kind of was. We cheated last Friday, too. I mean that we had not planned last night. It had not been a conversation topic this week. One minute we were talking about the kids and the cancelled Boston and Rays game (so disappointing!). The next minute he is laying there, confessing he needed to cheat. He said it was a mental thing and he felt an overload of mental fog. Cheating does not help that, just so you know. But he insisted. He told me he couldn’t cheat unless I did too. He needed a partner in crime. I gave in to support my husband.

 Spontaneous cheating is the worst. I feel like my cheat was wasted on tacos, ice cream, and peanut butter M&Ms. Not that those aren’t awesome when you have been eating Caesar salads all week with salmon and bacon. No croutons. It is just nice to plan for what you will stuff your face with on the planned cheat day.

I have a cheesy gordita crunch headache, a milk and sugar stomach ache, and my joints all are suffering from candy inflammation. My gums are inflamed. I just want to go back to bed even through I slept seven hours. I feel completely hungover. My lower back aches again, my hips are sore, my neck is stiff, and my head is pounding.

The scale had hit a 10 year low for me. I was wearing a pair of pants that I bought eight years ago with the intention of wearing them one day. They are a size 6, but American Eagle brand, so really like a 4 or 5 with no backside allowed. Considering I have a back side, I was feeling pretty good about it all. There may or may not have been a wear in one small area of the backside seams from stretching, but I still got them on and could move in them. SCORE!

It has not just been about the number on the scale. I have always had a small frame. This lifestyle change was about feeling better. It is about not taking a pill everyday for aches, pains, cholesterol, and depression. I do not want to be a diabetic. I am 36 years old and started realizing what my diet was doing to me.

So, today I will suffer through my carb hangover. I will take the next two to three days to start to feel better, just in time for next Friday’s “mental health cheat day.”

Alright, Pot.

borrowed from https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=I4iLbjsI&id=56F6F3F516B7621D957B3BBC0E36FA0C8CAF40EC&thid=OIP.I4iLbjsIYzv2sHB7xveI9gHaGV&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2fimg0102o.psstatic.com%2f156927410_vintage-cast-iron-tea-kettle-with-lid-mark-number-7.jpg&exph=1026&expw=1200&q=picture+of+antique++black+kettle&simid=607989912732959093&selectedIndex=23

Today, a man at the local gas station informed me that a chemical in the diet Dr. Pepper in my hand was proven to be harmful. He sternly added that studies show it causes cancer. He also advised that I should stick to “real sugar” because it is better for us.

I do not argue against his statements. Yes, sugar substitutes are not healthy. But when I mentioned that my doctor may argue with his logic, he cast me a sideways glance, and I laughed.  He asked, “why do you need diet anyway?” There I stood, a measly 127 lbs, 5’1” to his 6 feet, approaching 300 lbs. Again, I mentioned the sugar. After another sideways glance he reiterated that the chemicals are bad in diet sodas. He told me I would be better off sticking to the regular soda with real sugar.

He turned back to the cashier, collected his two packs of Winston-Salem cigarettes, and left me standing there with a smirk.

Shift Lanes

One of the greatest quotes I have ever heard came from a 90-something year old woman. I was working in a doctor’s office and she was at the check-out window talking with my co-worker about her age and life experience. My co-worker loved chatting with patients, especially the older ones. Older folks have so much more life experience and knowledge that we tend to take for granted. Next time you have a chance, spend time talking with someone over the age of 60. The life advice they have is remarkable and usually comical the older they get.

My co-worker asked the woman “do you have any regrets in life?” With a quick response, and little hesitation, she replied “I wish I would have had more sex.” My jaw dropped. My co-worker let out the loudest laugh. A nurse behind the woman stopped prepping IV bags and smirked. The doctor, had he overheard, would have turned ten shades of red.

Out of everything this woman could possibly wish to do differently in her life, she looked back and wished she would have had more sex. A 90-something year old woman, moving around with her walker, and knowing the Death was merely a block away, shocked everyone in ear shot that day. She left us that day with the advice of more sex. I never saw her again after that. She passed away before her next appointment. But I will never forget her and the importance of that one 2-minute moment.

When we are simply going from one doctor’s appointment to another, just waiting for the end, life appears very different. It will not be about money or career successes. It may not even be about making amends with people we lost touch with, family members included. It will not be about our boat, huge home, fancy car in the driveway, or how big our TV is. There is so much more to life than working towards something else.

I have talked to folks who were raising their grandchildren because their children had become drug addicts and unsuitable parents. They had worked their entire lives to retire, and then ended up being parents all over again. I have asked a very sick man how he was always in such a great mood every single time I saw him. With failing lungs and a dying liver, his winded reply was “why not?” as he gave me a smile.  I was told that we spend half of our lives working towards money and credit and success to obtain things we think we need in life. Then we reach a point that we can purchase all the things we thought we needed. But by then, these things are not so important. Sure, a Cadillac is nice to ride around in, but a little Honda will work just as well. A big and fancy home is nice to look at, but then you find you must fill it up with stuff and maintain all of that stuff.

At a young age, we are expected to seriously consider careers. We attend college, spend money and years on an education, that eventually we could end up despising or not finding success in. We may spend many years working at a job we may not feel was our calling, but the pay is good to support our family with the things we need. Some of us spend so much time and effort going above and beyond to get raises and climb ladders, which makes us feel important. But when we fail, we feel like a failure. After all, we must be successful.

Ask a 90-year old man or woman what their regrets in life may be. They won’t tell you it was getting an education as a doctor because of the money. They will not say that they wished they had bought a Lamborghini or lived in a huge house. Next time you feel lost and confused about the path you are taking in life, ask yourself if it will matter at 90 years old, if you make it that long. If you do not feel like the lane you are traveling in is right for you, get out of it. Too hard? Start making decisions and moves so that it is possible to switch lanes. What if you do not find something more in a different lane? O’well. Trying and not succeeding is better than never trying at all. Have dreams. Have hopes. Have faith that there is more to you and your life. If you are not enjoying the moments in your life, the people around you, and you are simply going through the motions to get to the next motions, shift lanes. We have one shot at this.

Life is about so much more than moving through it from one goal to the next. It is about savoring the moments we have been given and making the most of those moments.

And more sex. Life is about having more sex.    

Enjoy the Breeze

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It is Sunday. That means a 52 minute drive up, followed by a 52 minute drive back down. Approximately 10 hours will pass before the actions are repeated. It feels a lot like a “rinse and repeat.” Variations occur. Usually a child has to suddenly pee, usually when a minimum of ten miles exists between exits. Other times, someone talks me into donuts. This morning, I heard “Dunkin will make me feel better.” She was right. After all, what else makes us feel better when we have a runny nose, cough, and low grade fever?

Rinse.

On our way up, everyone was quiet. By quiet I mean one was in the back seat singing, one in the front seat was putting a car together because his medication kicked in, and the sick one was in the back seat stoned off Tylenol and natural honey cough syrup. The drive up was rather uneventful.

On the way back, it was just the stoned one and I. She was quiet. I had a chance to get lost in my many thoughts. Usually I get lost and interrupted, then feel out of sorts because I could not sort them all out.

In the middle of analyzing 100 things, I noticed an adult and overweight arm out the window of an old, faded, green minivan in front of us. It struck me as odd. Not that an arm was out the window, wind surfing, but rather it was strange as that it was clearly an adult male. My kids do it all the time, because they love fighting against the rushing wind. They love feeling the pressure against their hand and arm movements. I must admit, it is a cool feeling.

I started wondering if this grown man was high or had already been drinking. I mean, what causes an adult male to act like a kid with his hand flying and fighting through 70 plus mph winds? Not too mention, it was hot out and they were letting out the air conditioning. I did not find this to be an adult action.

But it was a cool feeling. It was nice to feel that freedom and force against your hand and arm. It was even cooler to feel like that part of you is flying through the air, away from the world, while the other parts are safe and secure in the car.

Seeing this man hang his arm out the window and soar his hand through the rough cuts and bursts of highway driving force winds made me crave the same feeling. I reached up to lower my window, then I remembered I did not have a hair tie. Once again, childlike behaviors killed by my low desire to have my face whipped by my thin, stringy hair.

Therefore, on the next part of this journey, I will remember a hair tie and set an example for some other adult, in their thoughts, and allow my hand to wind surf during our 52 minute drive up, then back.

Repeat.

Retirement Day #I Lost Count

Wiley’s Log:

Another AWESOME DAY!!! This ROCKS!

Mom’s Log:

Day seven through whatever today is has been great. The things I notice most is that he loves being out of his kennel and lives for it now. He enjoys walks, and is most happy when the kids are home.

Yesterday I was gone all day, but when I came home, he was in the window, ears perked up and standing as tall as he could, staring at me. He was excited.

I think he has found his new purpose and enjoys it. His new purpose is retirement and being a house dog.


Retirement Day #6

Dad came home today. He was really tired. He fed me, then went to bed. I ran around with Mom the whole day. She pet me a lot today, kept telling me I was a good boy, and I got to play with the kids a lot.

Dad left for work again tonight and I was a little sad. But I got to keep following the kids and mom around, so that was pretty cool.

We also went for a walk again, and I made sure all the other dogs know I am coming through.

Mom’s Log:

Much better day. He moped about an hour, then just went right back to his 200,000 steps a day. He has been more gentle in playing with the kids, and much more loving towards me. He curls up on the bed after the kids go to bed and falls asleep.

This change is exhausting for him, but I really believe he is going to love his new life.

He still will not eat for me, but Shaun says it is possible he just is not hungry. He is not burning through the food he once needed when he was working.

Crazy thing is how quickly he just took on a whole new role and purpose, with only one day of depression.

This dog is amazing.

Retirement Day # 5

It looks like this thing with me roaming around the house is here to stay. My jaw is sore. I am not sure why. I did not feel like chewing on my toys too much today. We went on another walk and I met one of the two dogs down the road. She was young and playful. The human that was with her would not come close to me. Mom asked him if she was “dog aggressive.” He did not seem to know how to answer. Mom had a tight hold on my leash, but I had to pull to smell the other dog. Both Mom and the dog’s person smelled of fear. Mom’s fear smell went higher than the day one of the kids walked out the front door and she couldn’t find them. I just wanted to sniff the other dog. Mom told the other person that I was a good dog and not aggressive. But I could tell Mom was still scared.

Something else happened today, aside from me being tired. Dad got dressed in work clothes, but they smelled different. He left, without me.

He still isn’t home. He has been gone for a while and Mom is getting ready for bed. I am not sure if he will be home or why he left without me. I was laying in my kennel trying to figure out if I did something wrong, when Mom came over. She sat down in front of the kennel, called me out, and we sat there while she rubbed my head and back. She kept saying I was a good boy and it was okay. She said Dad would be home later and she was sorry. She smelled sad too. I think she misses Dad too. She tried to feed me, but I wasn’t hungry. She kept trying to get me to eat, and finally put some of a treat in it. I did eat some after that.

She put me in the kennel and shut the door. I am still waiting on Dad. I hope I didn’t do something wrong.

Mom’s Log

Shit. I thought for sure he would be distracted enough with everything else that it would not matter as much. But he has literally spent the last several hours curled up in the back of his kennel, depressed. I have never seen this sad of a look in his eyes. He literally has had the life knocked out of him and it is breaking my heart. I won’t tell my husband just how bad it is. I am sure he is adjusting to and it’s his first night back doing something different. He at least ate a little bit for me. God, I hope we can keep him busy enough to get through this. We need to find him a new purpose.

Retirement Day # 4

Dad was in and out of the house today. He also smelled like he was stressed out. Not like when we work, it was different. He was outside messing with his car a lot, then later he was changing things with his clothes.

I did get yelled at for kissing the kids today. They said I kissed to hard and nipped. I also think I started to figure out the barking out the window thing, Well I did until Mom really yelled at me. I heard Jasmine start barking. I ran over to see what was going on, and there was a stranger. He was through a window and doing something in the grass. I am not sure what it was, but I am certain it was wrong as Jasmine kept barking. I started to run around, trying to find a way outside to see what this man was doing. Mom told me to lay down, then sit, then heal. It really bothered me I could not get outside, but Mom got my attention and I laid down. Mom said the stranger was a “neighbor.” Great. Another new word to learn.

I wonder if the stranger will come back. If he does, at least I know what I am supposed to do now.

Mom’s Log

Dammit Jasmine! First, she barks at nothing. Then she REALLY barks at the neighbor and gets Wiley all worked up. He can, and has, went through windows. It is only a matter of time until he becomes protective of all of us.

Retirement Day # 2

You are not going to believe it. Today I was let out of my kennel again and allowed to roam the house all day long! I was even more excited,  I spent a lot of the day running around trying to find something to chew on. Oddly enough, there were a lot less things on the floor. I wonder where all the stuff went. Sometimes one of the kids would leave out something and as soon as I got my mouth on it, someone yelled “No.” So I dropped it. Later, I figured out if I kept my toy in my mouth, I got yelled at less. I also discovered if I lay my toy next to something I want to chew, like Mom’s clothes, I can pretend I am chewing my toy, but really be chewing Mom’s clothes. It worked for a little while, but Mom caught on. I did find a toy under one of the chairs. Dad was in the other room and no one was around. I was in the middle of ripping the insides out of the toy, like I am supposed to, when Dad walked back in and yelled at me. I don’t understand. I thought I was supposed to chew on things. It makes me feel better.

I spent the rest of the day chewing on my toy.

Mom brushed me today. She told me Swiffer needed to invent a sweeper that was enough for a two-dog household. I am not sure who Swiffer is, but I am considering . She also said she was going to need to sweep and vacuum every day. She mentioned a bath, but I am pretty sure she was talking to the other dog, Jasmine.

Side note: I need to figure out how to open doors. The kids go in other rooms and I cannot get in.

Mom’s Log: Better day. He is going to wear himself out soon enough. But that is good. We must keep him busy, so he finds a new purpose. Must remind kids hourly to keep their stuff picked up or else it’s trash.  

Retirement Day # 3

ANOTHER AWESOME DAY! Got brushed again! Whoop Whoop!

Dad got me two new toys!!! They are great. One is shaped like a bone and it makes it easier to hold onto with my paws. It has not broken yet, but I am working on it. My goal is next week.

Also, a weird thing happened today, and I am not sure what to think about it. Jasmine was barking at the window. I went to check out what was going on, but I was not sure what the barking was for. I thought we only barked when a stranger walked up to the car when I am at work. I will have to figure this out. Mom said something about her losing her mind, barking at nothing, and laughed when I tried to figure out what she was doing. There are many different rules and procedures when roaming around the house. I have got to figure all this out so I can participate.

Still haven’t figured out how to open the doors with handles, but I did figure out how to open the slider door to the back rooms.

Mom’s log:

Have to start making sure every single room is picked up. I guess this is one way to eliminate stuff.

Retirement Day #1- Wiley’s Log

This morning, Mom and Dad got up and let me out of my kennel. I went for a walk with Mom and the kids. It was a different route than we normally take and there are two other dogs on that route. I made sure to pee everywhere, so they knew I had been there. Later on our walk, we stopped. This big, loud, bright vehicle came and the kids got on. I wanted to get on, too. There was a lot of noise and smells coming from inside of it. I did not have a chance to figure it out before it left with the kids. Mom said it was okay, so I let them leave.

When we got home, she did not put me back in my kennel! I was so excited I had to chew something. I found some waxy tasting, colorful, paper wrapped tube shaped things on the floor. Mom called them “crayons” and said my poop would end up rainbow colored if I wasn’t careful. That sounds fun! Later on, I found this thing they called “Panda.” Panda had so many smells and was perfect to shake. But I got told “No” again and Panda disappeared.

I ran around for most of the day. It was so awesome! There are so many smells in the house and things going on. Mom spends a lot of the day in the kitchen. In the mornings she makes something that makes my mouth water. They called it “bacon.” She let me have a tiny piece. I plan on staring at her every time she is in the kitchen. I think that means she will give me more.

The other dog in the house, Jasmine, does not seem too interested in anything other than barking at things outside of the house. I don’t understand why. There is always something to smell or watch. I can trot from one room, to another room, to another room, and back into the first room all day long! I can lay down in the bed if I want to. The kids are always moving, Mom is always in the kitchen cooking stuff that smells great, and Dad keeps rubbing my back telling me I am a good boy. The kids ran through the house, and I tried to chase them. But Mom or Dad always caught us and yelled “No.” We had to stop. Sometimes Mom yelled at the kids, usually telling them I was not like the other dog. I heard her tell them that we all still need to be careful. I am not sure what we need to be careful of, but I will keep my eyes and ears open.

I spent a lot of the day walking through the house, following my family around, and staring at Mom in the kitchen. It was a GREAT day! I hope I get to do this again. Mom was talking to Dad about Monday. Something is happening Monday. Maybe on Monday I get to run around again. I CANNOT WAIT!!!

Mom’s Log

Today went well. Wiley did great, although I wish we had a step tracker for him. I think he trotted through the house for eight hours straight. He is such a joy to have around. The kids love that he is out. We are still cautious. He likes to chase the kids when the run through the house. It is hard to explain to them without worrying them or making them think he is a mean dog. He is such a sweet dog, but he has been trained to do certain things and we must be mindful of that. Even when he was chasing people, biting people, or tracking people, it was always a game and fun to him. He has spent his entire life in a kennel, going outside for walks, and in the back of patrol car. It will take some time for us all to adjust to him as a house dog. Regardless, I am so proud of him and how well he is doing. I am still heartbroken knowing that on Monday, he will watch his best friend leave for w-o-r-k without him.

Welcome to K-9

I was born with a dog in the house. I will more than likely die with a dog in the house. Over the years, I have found that dogs have been a mental and emotional necessity for my family. They are the constant in our chaotic lives. If you are a dog person, you understand exactly what I mean. After many different breeds, I have seen that some dogs possess more intelligence, while others thrive on loyalty. Some live to hunt, while others live to protect their family, or as they see it, their pack. The one similarity is they all have a purpose. They are most fulfilled and happy serving their purpose.

Thirty-six years of dogs, and I have loved every one of them. They have all amazed me with their individual traits during their time with my family. But this dog that has slept next to my bed for six years and eight months is different. This dog has a piece of my heart that no other dog has ever possessed. I find myself heartbroken for him now.

For me, there was a lot of uncertainty when he came into our lives. He came to us at about one and a half years old, barking a lot, trying to escape his kennel to only break his teeth. He has had little regard when throwing himself into bites and chasing people he was asked to chase. He has jumped over 6-feet fences and off 10-feet berms. He has barreled through double pane glass windows, tail wagging, and still getting the bite, even as his paw gushed blood. But that is the breed. That is the drive. He was only serving his purpose.

I have painted the bedroom walls grey to cover the dander and dirt smears he leaves when he rubs against the wall. I have bleached our white bath rugs weekly, and steam cleaned our carpets more than I ever thought possible. My friends have received pictures of the dirty water tank of my carpet cleaner, and we all laughed at the black water. I would always head the image off with “Welcome to K-9.”

It is true when a LEO wife claims that their spouse and k-9 partner spend more time together than with his family. There was a time that I felt some jealousy. This dog occupied so much of my husband’s time, our plans always revolve around his needs, and he comes everywhere with us. It has been seven years since we did anything spontaneous and did not have to plan based on the needs of this dog. There was a time that I wished my husband had never went into K-9. Working never stops when you have a police dog at home.

Unless he is going to work their long, overnight shift, he lives in a kennel by our bed, going outside from a walk and to stretch every three to four hours. Years went by that I did not interact with him. It took just as long for him to get used to me. It took years to not feel a sense of fear that this dog would bite me, after all that is what he was trained to do, although I never saw an aggressive side to him. He had been anxious and unsure of us just as we were of him.

He has spent six years and eight months of his life protecting my husband and serving the community, even though he just thought he was having fun. He has been my husband’s partner and protector. I trust this dog to protect my husband more than I would trust any other equipment a police officer can carry. That is what police k-9 dogs are. They are equipment. He is Sheriff’s office property. He is a living form of non-lethal tools meant to protect and serve the needs of the community and fellow officers. That has been his purpose.

I have witnessed the extreme joy and excitement he has in going to work. The dedication to my husband and work has been an incredible thing to experience. It is hard not to laugh when he yelps in excitement and spins in his kennel 20 times when he sees my husband get dressed in his uniform. That joy and work ethic is not possessed by most people. I have listened to years of stories of their accomplishments as a team, and his abilities. I have heard “he is not a family pet. He has to stay focused on work.” Over the past several years I have heard the pride in my husband’s voice as he tells me that they caught someone or took drugs off the street. Inside I have beamed along with them on each of their accomplishments, and their success in their mutual purpose.

This strange dog, which the kids and I were so long unsure of, has become an amazing family member that everyone is still fascinated by. His personality is so big, it is impossible to not love him, even after limiting the time he spent socializing with us all. He has kept his ambition at work, even when his joints keep him from his once youthful capabilities. He knows he has aged and there is an air of frustration. He can no longer leap a 6-foot-tall fence without limping for a week and being put on pain medication. His back has suffered from his desire to work, despite how high a fence is, or how far someone has run, or what stood in his way, glass windows included.

There is no doubt, this dog will be lost for a little while. His purpose has been to protect my husband, listen to my husband, find “bad guys”, and ride around in the car for 10 to 12-hour shifts. That is what he loves to do. But his time has come. His current purpose will end. He will be forced to see my husband put on that uniform, then leave without him.

He will be depressed, anxious, and perhaps him and I will bump heads more often. There is no doubt he will win most of our future battles.  I have been tasked with helping him find a new purpose. It will by my goal to help him socialize and become a family dog when my husband is working. The goal will be to keep him active enough to hopefully counteract his injuries. Those injuries will most likely cause increasing pain the more he ages and one day he just will no longer be able to get up on his own. But he had his purpose, his drive, and his happiness.

In two shifts, this dog will discover heart ache and disappointment as he watches my husband leave for work without him. Maybe it is the woman and mother in me, but my heart breaks knowing that this purpose he loves and lives for will disappear very soon. Another side knows that he will completely jump into protecting the entire family, keeping me active on daily walks, and make the kids laugh hysterically at his excitability and cold, wet nose jabs to their face. He will find his purpose as a family pet in our five-person, two dog pack.  His current life is coming to an end in just two shifts. Starting Friday, we set out on a new journey with a new purpose.