Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Push to Finish Strong - One Year Later

A year ago today, I posted this blog on our kids push towards the end of their sophomore years.  Here we are, a year later, and they are back at it.  Here we are, ending their junior years.  Time seems to fly by faster and faster as our boys get older.

Shawn has just eleven classroom sessions left this second semester of his junior year.  A drawing final (which is very cool, and very him), a painting final (also cool, and an image of something he truly loves), a fifteen page art history final and subsequent exam, and a biology final, plus Springfest and multiple fraternity meetings, stand in his way of fourteen weeks of summer freedom.  He'll start work a few days after he gets home, and spend his free time weightlifting, hanging out, and hopefully sketching on a new art tablet he wants to buy.  

Ryan has a little more time to deal with his end of year prep.  An AP Calc exam, an ACT exam that he's retaking right after the end of the school year to push his score a little higher, a football combine, a college visit, several track meets and various assignments and exams stand between him and his summer....one of which where he will work a few hours a week, lift a couple of hours a day, and get ready for his senior year of school and what will be his last year of high school football.

Over the summer as a family, we'll try to spend some downtime away from the city.  As parents, the college discussions will take the forefront and college visits will be planned.  We'll spend many, many hours trying to come up with a game plan and give our youngest the same opportunities our oldest received. 

The last year has had ups and downs, but I couldn't be more proud of who our boys have become.  Knowing that we have one son that is leading in towards his final push to finish his college degree, and one that is starting to plan his college experience, is all the reason to spend downtime with our kids.  As they get older, I know they will want to spend less and less time with us, so I will try to soak up as much time now as they will allow.

There is no manual when it comes to raising kids.  We struggled just like other families, but we thrived as well.  We have healthy, well adjusted, strong willed children.  They are smart, and talented and know what needs to be done to succeed.  Both Doug and I smash heads with our kids when it comes to what we believe is right and what they think they know.   Some day they'll realize that they should have listened to the two people in their lives that know them best.  The two people that want them to succeed in everything they do.

The Push to Finish Strong - Originally posted 4/28/2014
It's the push.  The push for my kids to finish out their respective sophomore years strong.  With a sophomore in college and a sophomore in high school, their lives couldn't be more different or more similar.  One is focusing on trying to pick out the right classes in the right order so he can move on with his life, while balancing a full class schedule, clinical education sessions, art projects, football practice, weightlifting practice and his fraternity.  The other is focusing on his current classes, which are just a small stepping stone to the next level, while balancing track season, weightlifting, deciding whether or not to try out for baseball, anticipation of a job, football camps, a drivers license and next football season. Add to that encouragement from mom and dad to start thinking about that next level and the possibility of playing college football and picking that right college.

When I think back to my sophomore years in high school and college, they were definitely laid back.  At least in my eyes. I knew that I wanted to go into accounting (which never happened) and was anticipating getting my drivers license while balancing classes and track schedule.  My sophomore year of college was much different.  I came home after a year at UWW.  It just wasn't for me.  I went to MATC for a year, lived at home and worked a 30 hour a week job...in accounting no less.  My parents didn't push me.  I was the fifth of five kids and by the time I graduated high school I knew I wanted to go to school, but I wasn't quite sure why.  When I think back, I should have finished what I started when it was right in front of me.  It took me 17 years to finish college.

The amount of stress that children, both young and adult, is overwhelming.  Sure, they have downtime.  The play video games, they hang out with friends, but the pressure to succeed is always there.  At least in my kids minds.  My husband and I pressure, I mean encourage, our kids to succeed.  There is no reason why they shouldn't succeed with the tools they have been given.   I saw Pinterest post on Facebook tonight that said "In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college."  Where have we gone wrong?  Have our standards of education been simplified over time?  Are we now ok with barely passing to get through life?

I hope that the lessons I've taught, and my husband supported and taught on his own, are taken to heart by our kids.  Like most parents, there are days that my kids think we are the enemy.  We push them to succeed... but we encourage their failures.  Not on purpose, but we know that they only way they will learn is by trial and error.  I truly believe that they know that we do this out of love.  When they have children of their own, I hope the lessons we've taught are morphed into lessons of their own.

We've built a solid foundation for our kids to grow and thrive.  It hasn't been all lollipops and butterflies.  There have been trials and sacrifices. But I know for certain, they know we love them, unconditionally.  And we can't wait to see them finish out their respective educations and go on to great things.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Raising Boys

I think my new favorite website is www.scarymommy.com.  A friend posted an article this morning from the site and I found myself going back several times today.

This particular article hit home:  http://www.scarymommy.com/category/raising-boys/

When my husband and I started planning our family, I always envisioned two kids - a boy and a girl.  I thought it would be perfect.  We didn't want more than two - we needed to be able to tag team them (I grew up in a five-kid family; my parents didn't know what hit them).  Fast forward to going through my first pregnancy, we had no idea what the sex of our first child was.  At 18 weeks during my first ultrasound, we asked if we could find out.  We lived in a small apartment and we wanted to know how we could start planning.  Needless to say, there would be no finding out the sex.  Our future child's ass was promptly facing out.  That's all we saw.  Kind of a "kiss my ass mom and dad" view.   At 40 weeks, there was no hope in sight.  I thought I was going to be pregnant forever.  At 41 weeks and one day, we did another ultrasound.  This time, the doctor offered up the option to find out.  Ummmm, no.  We waited this long, we can wait a few more days...unless of course I was never going to give birth, then I wanted it out at that very minute.  Five days later, a bouncing baby boy was born.

Fast forward four years and we decided to try for another baby.  Thankfully, I was able to get pregnant relatively fast.   At 19 weeks, and my first ultrasound...we were eager to find out.  My husband and his friends from work had a bet going.  They all believed he was having a girl, since the wives of four guys he worked with were having five (one set of twins) girls.  They were convinced it was in the water.  This time we were able to find out.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that whatever we had would be healthy...and convinced myself that that is all that mattered.   We found out we were having a second boy.  In all honesty, we were happy with that. We live in a small(ish) house, and if we were pregnant with a girl, there would be a move in our near future.   After we left the doctors appointment, my husband promptly called the guys at work and beamed (gushed, laughed, screamed) that we were having a boy and that they owed him a soda, or ribs; I can't remember exactly what the bet was.  For a split second, there was some disappointment, because I always thought I wanted a girl.  Then I realized that I wouldn't make a good mom for a girl.

I grew up as a tomboy.  The neighborhood boys can attest to that.  My three brothers can attest to that.  And my sister, who was a tomboy, could attest to that.  There would be playing with dolls; or painting toenails or doing hair.  There would be no screeching girls at sleepovers, or broken hearts (who was I kidding) when the boy they wanted to date was going out with someone else and didn't know she was alive.   There would be no dance lessons, or trying out for cheerleading.

As our boys grew up, we have experienced everything you would think that would come with having boys.  I'm privvy to farts and burps at the dinner table (yes, I laugh...I try not to, but I do).  I have to put up with smelly football and baseball cleats and uniforms that have to be stripped off in the driveway.  I also get to use my boys for their strength, and can get their help when we move furniture, or bring in groceries (testing the theory that you only need to take one trip from the truck) or cut grass or need to wrangle a dog into the yard.

I've been blessed with boys that have gigantic hearts and love with everything they have.  There is nothing better than getting a hug and kiss before bed, or an "I love you momma" text from college.  The relationship a mom has with her son(s) is like no other...no different than a dad and his daughter.  

Our youngest son opted not to go to his junior prom.  I'll admit it; I'm kind of heart broken.  I didn't go to my prom...I hung out with friends, then went to coronation and finished out the night drinking (I don't recommend this).  I wanted to have him have some that I didn't have.  I think it's easier for boys to get away with not going, as opposed to a girl not going.  Had we had girls, there would have been tears.  I don't think I could have handled that.  Instead, he spent the night like any other night.  I anticipate he'll go to one or more dance next year, but if he doesn't that's ok too.  

Our boys have been raised to show their emotions.  There has never been a time where we've told them to hold it in and be a man.  I think by allowing them to express their feelings, they will be better men.  It will take a very special girl to capture each of their hearts.

Getting validation for how we raised our children is always in the back of my mind.  It is definitely nice when you hear from a teacher when they say "what a pleasure it is to have your son in class", or "your son helped so-and-so with her homework", or from a coach or teacher that "your son is very talented in art/chemistry/football/baseball...you should be proud of them".  

I would never trade having boys.  I will take everything gross and scary they do/bring home/try to scare me with, in stride.  They have made me a better mom, because I am able to decipher what they are thinking (yes, sometimes I get in their heads and realize that I don't want to know what they are thinking).  I hope that I have taught them how to love unconditionally and I hope that they will each meet the girl of their dreams, that will learn what makes them tick, and that will love them unconditionally.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Switching Gears

I often wonder how many of my family, friends and colleagues have the same problem I do with switching gears.  No, I don't mean that I'm driving a stick shift car.  I'm referring to the fact that on any given day, I switch gears from wife, to mom, to marketer, to researcher, to social media specialist, to recruiter, to photographer, to writer, to volunteer.  

I'm thankful in that my husband and I split duties at home.  He cleans, I cook.  He handles the cars, I do the laundry.  It's definitely a partnership.  We tag team what needs to get done, and by the time we actually sit down for the night, the dishes are dried and put away and the load of laundry that I started in the morning is fluffed and folded.

Lately it feels like my personal life is crossing over into my work life and vice versa.  There are times when I'm sitting in a staff meeting thinking about how I should update my photography website.   Or while working on my book, I'm thinking about what I need to get shipped out to a trade show.

There have to be ways to stay more focused.  I have a dozen books about it on my Kindle, but when I get ready to read them, I end up scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, or through my to-be-read list for the next novel on my list.  Even while I'm writing this, I'm multi-tasking by watching "The Following", jotting down notes in one of the chapters in my book, and followed up with two work emails of things I need to do tomorrow.

I would never say that I'm busier than any of my friends.  We seem to all be in the same boat - work full time jobs away from the house, and work full time jobs at home. Even the ones that are stay at home parents are just as busy.  The most refreshing (and scary) day was the days my boys got their drivers licenses.   A little bit of freedom goes a long way...not only for them, but for us.  We were able to cross off chauffeur on our list of to-do's.

My desk at work is covered in post-it-notes.  I use multiple calendars including on in Outlook, on my phone, a desk calendar and a wall calendar.  I keep everything I have to get done on each and every calendar.  Is it overkill?  Perhaps.  But when you juggle life and a full time job, along with volunteer duties, a photography site, multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts, and a website, you have to write things down. It's the only way I know to to keep these gears moving and not have them gunked up with day-to-day minutia.

It's getting to a point where our youngest child will graduate from high school in just over 400 days.  Quite a few of the things that keep me busy will be history.  Only one more year of taking pictures on any given Friday night during football season.  No more staying up until 1:00 am filtering through the best pictures and getting them posted and tagged so players and parents can share them.   One final football fundraiser is coming up.  This will be the eighth one I've been part of.  One last game day program and a senior memory book will be done and over in six short months. Volunteering at school functions will be a thing of the past.   Doing things for our kids schools has been such a huge part of our lives, it will be weird not having that as one of the many to-do's.

I'm going to miss so much of always being on the go, but it's refreshing to think that I'll be able to focus on my writing, and photography, and sit down outside on a sunny summer day and dig into a new book (either reading, or writing!) without interruption.   And maybe then when I'm sitting in a sales meeting, I'll be thinking about generating leads and not about generating donations. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Is it a Job, or is it a Career?

I'll be honest, I love my current job, though it isn't just a job, it is a career.  My boss is incredible, our CEO and Exec Team want to grow the company exponentially.  I started my current position after losing my old job nearly a year to the day I started.  

I had been employed with a company that believed in nepotism and while the President didn't outright support it, his family made good use of it.  By that I mean they made it a point of actually saying "don't you know who I am" during several conversations over the year.  Frankly, I didn't care.

It was a blessing in disguise when I lost that job.  I had been working for an individual that had a sales background, but was hired to oversee both sales and marketing.  It's true.  Sales and marketing go hand in hand.  But he was a firm believer in avoiding all things social, unless it filtered through LinkedIn.    He relied on discussing things with his brother who worked for another company, as opposed to discussing them with me, the person that was hired to run marketing.  I should have known something was wrong that a day after I began working there, the President told me this individual was coming on board as my boss.  Red flags if I ever saw them.

The job prior, I worked for an experiential marketing company that would have been great, had I been 25.  The client I worked for was difficult at best, and I was never really taken into the fold of the account team.  Additionally, they thought it was ok to come into the office at 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning, as long as your ass was in the chair at 5:00 pm.  I am an early riser, and I loved getting in the office as early as 7:00.  I'm happier when I can leave at 3:30 or 4:00...I enjoy my life outside the office (though sometimes work late at night).  Needless to say, regardless of arriving that early, I had to be there until 5:00, and it was ok to be surfing the internet, as long as it was until 5:00.  I learned a lot and made some great friends, and will be grateful for that.  I'm also thankful that a high school friend took a chance and hired me.

Before that, I was unemployed for a few months, working just a temp job, after leaving a company that was even more dysfunctional than the company last year.  And before that, I was at a job I loved, working for a person that I hated, who decided to sever my employment after I organized our largest tradeshow of the year.  Shortly after I left, a significant number of people I worked closest with left as well.

Needless to say, there has been a lot of jumping around.  Being in marketing, I'm at the mercy of the budget.  No sales, no spend.  Plain and simple.

Fast forward to today and it was honestly one of the worst weeks there.  I'm stressed, and finding that my only outlets is writing...thus, this blog.  Sometimes I just need to get things out.  Someday, I'll freelance and make my own hours; and do what I really want to do, from exactly where I want to do it.    There is no try...there is only do.  End of story.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What to do before you are 30 - or 40 something

I read this article today and it really hit home.


My take:

1) You can do whatever you want in life.  Whatever you do, have a game plan.
2) Continue learning.  Please, take advice and use it.  Don't make the mistake to assume that you know everything.  You don't.
3) Clean house.  Don't hang out with people that hold you back.  Period.
4) Where is the magic?   There is no such thing as luck.  If you see something you want, go after it.
5) Don't sell yourself short.  If you have a service to offer, don't do it for free.  That doesn't mean stop volunteering, but know your worth and make sure others do too.
6) Sacrifices should be few and far between.  Don't allow anyone to step on you or to assume that you are going to pick up the slack, especially if you've done it in the past.
7) Your responsibility.  Step up to the plate and deal with it.
8) More than school.  An education is important, but you will learn from experience as well.
9) Ditto. If you've struggled in the past with school, and know you can't do it, take a break.  You may go back to it later in life.  But know that it will be much harder the second time around.  I know from experience.
10) Trust your gut.  Just because someone of power gave you data, if you feel like its wrong, question it.
11) Don't Use Drugs. Period.
12) Life moves pretty fast.  Ferris Bueller said it best.  Learn how to change on the fly.
13) Your opinion matters.   Even if everyone else disagrees, stick your ground.  
14) Be honest.  Strength and integrity are your biggest assets.
15) Lift others up.  Your actions, while your own, could affect others.  Be conscious of what you are doing.
16) Discomfort in life.  You will never be comfortable in every situation.  Don't shy away from it, own it and adjust it to your benefit.
17) Take control of your life.   Be in charge of your own destiny.
18) Rely on yourself. Don't look to others for validation.  You know what's right for you.
19) Revenge is ugly. Revenge is contagious.  Let things go.
20) Avoid toxic people.  Not everyone has your best interest at heart.  There are backstabbers and gold diggers and genuinely nasty individuals out there.
21) Trust your friends and family.  They''ll be there when you need them most.  If not, walk away.
22) Count your blessings.  Stop focusing on the negative and instead focus on what's good and how you can replicate it.
23) Be there for your kids.  They will never have other parents.
24) Kill them with kindness.  If someone attacks you verbally, thank them, and walk away.  They won't know what hit them.
25) Be You.  Be a good person, try your best and learn from your mistakes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I saw this picture today on Facebook and thought I would share it.  

While sitting at my desk at work in the midst of writing copy for a press release, I thought about it and realized that I don't often think about my dreams.   I'm not specifically talking about the dreams that occur between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am (those are more often nightmares), but my actual dreams and what I want out of life.

Turn back the clock and one of my dreams growing up was to be married and have a family.  That I succeeded in.  We celebrate our 23rd anniversary this year, and our kids 21st and 17th birthday's.

Another dream was to be an accountant.  I get it....how boring.  It was a great direction because I am really gifted in math.   Needless to say, I went to college, and tried it, and hated studying accounting.

The next dream was finishing college.  This came much later in life.  Yes, at 18 I went away to school, like a good portion of college-aged students do.  Instead of finishing in four years, I met my future husband and plans changed.  I graduated from college 17 years after I started with a marketing degree.  I don't recommend this direction...but I can honestly say I was a much better student the second time around.

I went back to school and took 57 credits in a single year, all while working full time and serving on the board of Little League.  I often studied late in to the early morning hours and a successfully obtained GPA of 4.0.  How on earth did that happen?  I made the Deans list multiple times, and met someone who is affectionately referred to as my sister from another mister.  Our birthdays are two days a part in actual day and year, and no matter what one of us is going through, we always are there to lend an ear.

Lately, my dreams are taking the path of writing (many) books (and the hopes that people with buy them), building a successful freelance photography business and moving to our home away from home.  I dream about my husband finding a position where people actually value him. I also dream about our oldest son finishing college and securing his perfect job and our youngest son finishing high school and moving on to college.

I am most happy when I am with my family at our second home.   I love the solitude and the time we have together and the chance to stop thinking about everything that goes wrong on what seams like a daily basis.

I might sound self absorbed and ungrateful for what we have: a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and relatively good health.  This all came at a cost after panicking when I lost my job and then when my husband was out of work; and having the four members of our family have a total of nine hospital stays in five years.

Dreams give people something to strive for.  I'll be selfish in saying I want my dreams to come true.  I want them to come true because they will help benefit our entire family.  The image says "go confidently in the direction of your dreams."  That's exactly what I am going to do.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Days Gone By

Have you noticed as you age that dates, months and years seem to pass you by at an alarming rate?

Think back to when you were growing up.  I'll age myself and refer to the 70's and 80's.  I looked forward to every school year.  We spent summers with friends that lived in our neighborhood and  every August we couldn't wait to show up with a new backpack filled to the brim with our supplies.  You had a new teacher every year, and as you aged you had a new teacher every hour.  You interacted with about 30 people in each and every class and every day was an adventure.  

As we grow up, finish college and join the workforce, our collective interaction base gets smaller and smaller.  I've seen the number of friends the younger generation  (aging myself again) has on social media. My friendship base fluctuates around 300:  a handful of close friends, family, parents of my kids friends and those in friendly with through the kids sports, kids still in school, and quite a few high school friends and those I hadn't been friends with them, but am proud to say I am now.   Before they took it upon themselves and did a mass deletion, my kids friendship base was well over 500 for one and nearing 1,000 for the other.  They've since deleted those but who they feel are good friends.   My mother in law is on Facebook and she has just 19 friends.  My husband is down to 14, and that's because he only uses Facebook to check out a few pages.

Every week I head to work bright and early Monday morning and have a pretty good idea of what is waiting for me when I get there.  By Wednesday I'm dragging and by Friday I might as well just not work.  I'm mentally exhausted by then.  Friday nights lead into Satuday mornings and before you know it, you are starting over on Monday again.

I've noticed recently that my standard response to switching over a month on a calendar is saying 'I can't believe it's April' or 'July' or that 'Christmas is next week'.

I often measure time by activities coming up.  Just 112 days until football season starts, 253 days until snowmobiling, 424 days until my youngest son's high school graduation.  

I don't remember just going with the flow and not thinking about what's coming up next.

I miss lazy summer days, sledding until you felt Iike your legs would fall off and laughing until your parents yelled for you to come home.

We are a society of instant gratification and the need to know what's next.  We are tied to our phones and have the need to answer it every time it dings.  It's like we are all stuck in an experiment ala Pavlov's dogs.  Ding.  Answer a text.  Ring.  Answer the phone.  Whoop. Oooh a Facebook notification.

Maybe if we'd stop jumping when our phones make noise or our kids ask for that next best thing, or we commit to yet another activity, the days, months and years would slow down.