Get a Job

working man

As my seventeen year old begins his search for a summer job I got thinking about all the jobs that I have had over the years and what they have taught me. Jobs, I think, are not always about learning how to build things, or add up numbers or serve people. They can be full of life lessons without you even realizing it. Simply having a job teaches you responsibility, time management and economics. It can also teach you how to deal with disappointment if you were to, perhaps, lose said job.

My first job was at the Fish and Chip Shop in the shopping area close to my home. I was probably thirteen years old. The owners were a lovely British couple named Rina and Paul. (I think…c’mon it was 36 years ago). Arriving for my first day of work I imagined that I would be taking orders and serving the much loved fish and chips. Nope. The first task I was given was pulling the bones out of the fish in the back of the kitchen. After a few weeks I was elevated to washing dishes in addition to pulling fish bones. Eventually I got to take orders, but it did take a while. I learnt that you need to start at the bottom.

When I graduated from high school I was pretty sure that I wanted to work in the hotel business and I think I know why. A close family friend was a VP with C.P. Hotels. He and his wife lived in a suite at the Hotel Vancouver and had wicked parties catered by hotel. I assumed that this was were I would end up. With his connections, I got a job as a bus girl at the Banff Springs Hotel. The dining room was huge; like football field huge. Breakfast shift started at 6:00am. Huge tour groups would flood in, eat and then leave to catch their buses. Dirty dishes, heavy bus pans and sore feet became a regular part of my life. I learnt that a lot of hard work is required before those great parties can happen. If they ever do.

Over time I realized that hotel/restaurant work was not my destiny. I took a two year Business Administration program at the local technical school with the hopes of getting into the business world. I was fortunate to get a job with an actuarial consulting firm as their office manager. For those of you who don’t know, actuaries calculate the future incomes of pension plans. There is a lot of money in actuarial consulting and the firm did really well. It was all very L.A.Law. Partners meetings, extravagant Christmas parties and lots of office politics. I learnt that some people really do use the math they learnt in grade 12 to make a living.

In 1995 Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment was where I met my husband. It’s a bit of a funny story. When I started working there I was married. When I left, three and a half years later, I was divorced and the mother of a three year old who was dating a co-worker. Talk about office gossip. I worked in the finance department helping with payroll. My future husband, worked in arena operations. It was a very dynamic place to work. Lots of young, energetic employees, exciting basketball games, concerts and the occasional Russian hockey player sighting. What did I learn from this job? I learnt that if you can open yourself up to new opportunities that great things can happen. Also, that NBA players are very highly paid.

When I went for my next interview I didn’t know that the company I was interviewing with was Starbucks. What a crazy experience. The job was Administrative Supervisor for Western Canada. It was pretty intense. To start, I was trained to work in a Starbucks store and had to complete a certain number of hours as a Barista. Regular trips to Seattle included a tour of the bean roasting plant, meeting Howard Schultz and numerous coffee tastings. I spent the first few months learning the Starbucks language. At Starbucks it was never half way. You were either all in or you weren’t. I learnt that some companies want your heart and sole and if you can’t give it to them, it’s not the right job for you.

My most recent position was with a small business software re-seller. It started out as an admin position but eventually I ended up in the sales department. I loved the company and the people were great, but sales was not my thing. If they didn’t want to buy it, they didn’t want to buy it. Who was I to change their mind? The hours were flexible though and the owners were understanding of the fact that my husband traveled and sometime I just wasn’t available. From this job I learnt that sometimes you can’t have everything all in one package. You have to take the good with the bad.

So what advice would I give my son as he goes out into the world looking for a job. I know that my advice should be “Do what you love” or “Follow your passion”. But the truth is that he just needs to get a job. A job that will teach him that he needs to be on time. Every day. That he needs to be able to follow procedures and rules. Even the ones he disagrees with. That he may not like his co-worker, but he still needs to get along with them so that he can do his job. That the government will take a potion of what you earn whether you like it or not. Really, he just needs to get a job and know what it feels like to work for a living. Or in his case. Gas money.

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Piss and Vinegar

tri finish

The little strawberry blonde adjusts her swim goggles and looks around. “Mom, I’m a little nervous” she whispers. It’s 7:25am and she’s anxious to get in the pool. Finally the whistles blows and she off. Down and back. 50 meters. She quickly climbs out of the pool and races (walks quickly down the pool deck) to the outdoor transition area. Smiling. Dry off, t-shirt, shorts, shoes, bike helmet and she’s off again. Up the hill out of the parking lot, turn left, then right up another hill. Remember to change gears at the top of the hill. It’s a quick 1.5 km and she’s back at the transition zone. Helmet off and back up the hill on foot. She’s slowed down a little but still has a smile on her face. Half a kilometer later and she’s coming around the building. She surges up the slope and crosses the finish line with a huge grin. My six year old daughter has just finished her first triathalon.

From the day she was born…no actually the minute she was born….I just knew that this little ball of piss and vinegar would be a handful. She came into the world early and quickly and never looked back. Maybe it’s the red in her hair. Maybe it’s that she is just a teeny bit like her grandfather (okay, a lot like him). Whatever it is, I’ve known all along that life would never be boring with this one. She goes at everything with all the gusto that she can handle, talks a mile a minute (all the time) and lives to learn new things. If there were more hours in a day, she would want to fill them up with another activity. Constant, constant movement and did I mention she talks a lot?

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With this level of spirit, however, comes a certain degree of attitude. Shoulders set, hands on hips, eyes on fire kind of attitude. It can be a challenge, but I know that it goes hand in hand with having a strong personality. The question is, how do I deal with the attitude without squashing the fire? What does it take to raise a confident, well mannered, ambitious girl? With six nephews and not one niece, nobody in my family has really been prepared to answer that question for me. I’ve got lots of friends with teenage girls, so I’ve been picking peoples brains for tips and ideas on the subtleties of bringing up a girl. There are lots of things to consider in these days of social media and body image. I’m learning, slowly, that it’s all about building confidence.

She’s not alone though. And neither am I. Since she was about two, she’s been friends with a couple of other like minded little girls. Imagine three of them at the park all wanting things done THEIR way. As moms we weren’t so much watching out for them as we were refereeing. Girls, I’ve discovered, are not always the nicest of friends. Let’s face it, girls can be bitchy from an early age. And yes, even my little darling has had her share of moments. “You not invited to my birthday party.” Is a popular threat in the five to six set. We’ve been fortunate, that so far these comments have seemed to roll off her back. That may not always be the case. I like to think that I’m prepared for that day, but again, I’m not really. The truth is, I’m totally winging it.

So building confidence is the key. I get that. I want her to be strong and stand on her own, but I also want her to know that she can ask for help to. Something I’m not very good at. In a Forbes Magazine article by Samantha Ettus, she says that we should minimize the Princess for our girls, to avoid the belief that girls should just keep house and wait for their prince to come. I kind of agree but I don’t completely agree. Every girl (or woman) should have a little princess in them somewhere that enjoys being taken care of. Of course she also needs to be able to kick the Prince to the curb if he doesn’t behave properly.

So as I tread lightly through the early days of raising a girl, I often look back at my younger days. Was I this difficult? Yup, I’m pretty sure I was. Every time my daughter is stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door in defiance, I remember what my mom said when I would argue with her. “One day you will have your own daughter and I hope she’s just like you”. Well, my mom got her wish but  The Best Thing in Life is having a daughter who is just like me….only better.

red team

Marathon Decisions

running man

I’m thinking about running a marathon next Fall. Actually I’ve been “thinking” about running a marathon for a long time now. My go to excuse has always been that I wouldn’t have the time to train between work and kids activities and hubby’s travel schedule. So having recently quit my job, I seem to be all out of excuses. I’m a bit preoccupied right now with deciding if I will in fact do this or not. I’m turning fifty this year and it seems like a good milestone to work towards and check off my list. Right?  So why is so hard for me to commit?

The marathon I wanted to run was in San Francisco in October. It was the Nike women’s marathon that had an amazing (albeit hilly) course with spectacular views winding through the city and past the Golden Gate Bridge. I envisioned myself running; no bounding, through the streets of San Francisco as the fog parted and the sun shone down on me leaping across the finish line with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. How’s that for incentive. Not to mention the hunky firemen handing out Tiffany necklaces at the finish line. I am writing this in the past tense because Nike, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen not to offer the full marathon in October of 2014. I have to say I was a bit deflated when I heard this. “Now what?” I thought.

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in my late twenties. I’m not a great runner. I think if I had to sum up my running style it would be consistent. I’ve never run any faster than a 10 minute mile, even after weeks of training. But on any given day I can go out and run a solid 4-6 miles (with hills) and feel pretty good. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had any major injuries. Stiff sore muscles and a couple of bulging discs (not caused by running) have occasionally sidelined me for short periods, but for the most part, I have been lucky. There’s this guy who runs quite regularly in my area. I would love to run like him. He makes it look so effortless and natural. Like a gazelle. I’m more like a small pony.

What does it take to run a marathon ? What is the motivation ? What is holding me back from committing? Could it be the monumental effort it would take to push my body to run 26.2 miles? I have run a half marathon before and have been told that the rule of thumb is, if you can do that, then you can do a full marathon. Who makes these rules anyway?  I’ve read all the training advice. Printed out the training program. They totally make it seem doable. Actually, the reality is that it is doable. It won’t be fast or pretty but it is doable. On my run this morning I thought “I feel really good. If I just follow the program I will be fine.” The voice inside my head when I am running is very different from the voice inside my head during the rest of the day and way different from the voice in my head at 7:00 in the morning.

I guess what it comes down to is deciding if I want to push my body to do it at this point in my life? It’s only 18 weeks of training and then if I never want to run again I would be okay. I think. Why is this so hard? Why do I do this when I have to make a decision? I did it when I was deciding whether or not to quit my job. Back and forth, back and forth. I nearly drove my husband crazy one weekend changing my mind every half an hour. I know that when I finally do make a decision it will be the right one and that I will see it through.

I thought that writing about this dilemma might aid in my decision making process. Not so much. It’s interesting to me that I started this post thinking about running a marathon but in actual fact what is bothering me is the fact that I find it so hard to make a decision and commit.  The Best Thing in Life would be for somebody to just register me and tell me that I’m doing it.  But what would I learn from that?

Divorce – Good, Bad or Ugly?

I’ve been through a divorce. Many of my friends have been through divorces. In fact, when I thought about it, I realized that quite a lot of my friends are divorced. Thirty five in fact. Some recently, some many years ago. “It’s an epidemic” one friend said. As all relationships are different, so are all divorces. So what makes one divorce good and easy and the other stressful and horrific? Or are they all just bad? Are divorces good, bad or ugly?

I left my ex-husband 17 years ago when our son was 3 months old. Mine fell into the “stressful and horrific” category. I was hurt after discovering that a past friend and co-worker was involved with my husband. When I think back, what I most remember was the overwhelming desire to broadcast to the world (preferably by a large, well lit billboard) that it was not my fault. For some reason it seemed really important to me. Was that normal? What is normal in a divorce? With so many questions running around in my head I felt the need to write.

I started by asking my thirty five friends to tell me what were the worst and the best things that happened during or as a result of divorce? The feedback was so interesting and passionate. Obviously this is something that gives rise to a fair amount of emotion. It’s not a simple question. There is so much more to it and clearly the women I know aren’t shy about giving me their opinions on how things went down.

For one friend the worst part was that her kids have been so affected by what had happened and they really had nothing to do with it. “They didn’t ask for this to happen”. They weren’t responsible yet they have to deal with the fall out. They are collateral damage so to speak. I think that is something that we would all agree on. Missing the kids was a big downside for a lot of people. Those long lonely weekends spent counting the hours until they came home from their dad’s. In hind site, it was a blessing that my son was so young when my divorce happened. By the time he was old enough to sort of understand what was going on, most of the bad behavior (not on my part of course) was over. Don’t get me wrong, we still don’t see eye to eye, but at least there are less issues to deal with than there were when he was little.

For those of us who have older kids graduating from high school or in university, I got the feeling that there was a huge sense of accomplishment. I think maybe divorced parents need to work a little harder in that department. Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m not saying that we are better parents than people who are still married. I’m just saying that we have more hoops to jump through in the parenting department. It can be hard enough to parent a teen within a solid marriage but having to do it with somebody you may not trust, respect or even like, can be a major challenge. To come through it with well adjusted kids is a major coup.

Some found that a year or two down the road they are better friends and closer to their exes than they ever were. This is not the norm I discovered. It is quite rare and, in of some circles, even frowned upon. Particularly if there was some sort of infidelity involved. That’s a whole different animal from just growing apart. Yet for some that’s really how things have worked out. “We’ve made mistakes, we’ve survived, we’ve moved on and we’ve discovered happiness.” Are they the lucky ones? One friend is even in the process of getting back together with her ex. Can you go back? I guess she’ll find out.

More often than not there is animosity, distrust and well, dislike. What’s odd, to me, is that even with these feeling raging inside us, our exes are still able to incite very strong reactions. Some might even say passionate. After a disagreement with her ex, one friend had a particularly strong reaction. “I got home and I stormed around the house and cried and yelled and when it was all over I was okay.” (Come on, we all did it at some point). We’ve yelled, sworn, cursed the day we ever walked down the aisle (in my defense I was foggy from cold medicine and Tylenol). You would think that we would know that it shouldn’t get to us. At some point you loved that person and perhaps it takes a while for the strength of those feeling to go away even if those feelings are anger.

I find it really funny that by far the best thing for most divorced women was that they now get to cook whatever they want. Or better yet, not cook at all. They felt free and independent. Able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. (Midnight McDonalds run anyone). Don’t get me wrong, these women were not in relationships that were oppressive. These are strong, capable women. “Neither of us knew how stressed we both were until he left. It was a huge relief.” Perhaps we were working so hard on trying to make the marriage right, that when we finally gave in, the freedom was a sweet release.

As an old friend and I were catching up over a couple of large glasses of wine in a noisy restaurant, I realized how deeply she felt her divorce. “I felt a huge sense of failure”. And she wasn’t alone. Why is it that even though our actions had not directly caused the split (and by this I mean that we weren’t the ones that slept with our secretaries) we still felt immense failure. Even marriages that ended simply because they grew apart, incited feelings of failure. Of course it doesn’t help when people’s first reaction is “I’m sorry”. We are so programmed to believe that when we marry, we have to do everything in our powers to make it work. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t really worthless and a bad wife, my ex-husband was just an asshole. Go figure.

Without question every friend I spoke to said that the best thing to come out of the divorce was the huge personal growth they experienced at the end of the day. Would they have felt this way if they hadn’t gone through a divorce? Hard to say. I know lots of emotionally evolved women who are happily married. I know this; the end of a marriage forces you to look not only at your relationship, but at yourself. You are on your own in the big wide world. Therapy, friends, family and wine were all cited as coping mechanisms in the first year. And while you may feel lonely at times, as one friend pointed out, you make it through. Sometimes it happens quickly and other times it takes years, but we’ve all made it and are, dare I say, better off?

As all people are different, so are all divorces. I’ve learnt that there are some common threads but, for the most part, we have all dealt with the end of a marriage in our own unique way. I for one, have learnt that nobody can make you happy but yourself. Others have discovered that they can love again. All have found a strength within them that they maybe didn’t know was there. Today I find happiness in the fact that I have been happily married to an amazing man for 13 years. They’re good, they’re bad and yes, they are ugly, but divorces happen. It’s what you do with them that can be The Best Thing in Your Life.

Michele

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A few years back I was part of a group of women who would head out onto the cross county biking trails of the North Shore mountains as often as we could. We were all moms of varying cycling and fitness abilities but we enjoyed each other’s company, the exercise and the time away from our angelic children. Typically Sunday morning we would meet at about 8:00am and ride for a couple of hours or until the need for coffee kicked in. It was on one of these Sunday morning rides that I met Michele. Michele is a police officer.

Recently Michele and I got together for a drink with the purpose of talking about divorce for a piece I’m writing. We did talk about divorce, but we also talked a lot about her career, relationships and parenting teenage boys. What I took away from our conversation are some great additions to my piece on divorce, some excellent parenting tips, but more importantly, I learnt about the life of a female police officer and how her career has been instrumental in her personal growth.

When Michele and I first met, she had just recently moved to the Vancouver area and was looking to get hired by a local police force . She was going through a separation (potential divorce) but totally seemed to have it together. Having been through a divorce, I admired how rational she seemed to be when it came to talking about her soon to be ex and their relationship. Was I assuming that as a police officer she was probably pretty tough and could handle herself in any situation? I guess I was, because I know now that in her own words she was a mess. Living in a new city, no job and a failing marriage. Yipee!

Things did turn around pretty quickly for her career though. She was hired by the Vancouver Police Department and started to settle in. When I asked her about harassment on the job she said that it has never been an issue, mostly because of the way she has handled it. She told me a story about how, as a new member of the VPD, a fellow officer had made a sexual comment to her after a drunken Christmas party. The next day when she figured out who had said what, she didn’t get mad, she got even. She walked into the morning briefing with a sealed envelope in her hand. Looked the guilty culprit in the eye and told him that she didn’t take these things lightly. She put the envelope down in front of him and said. “You’ve been served” implying that she would sue him. Inside the envelope was a picture of a huge set of hooters with the caption “Next time you want to look at a set of boobs, look at these.” Classic.

Dealing with the end of her marriage proved to be more difficult. She was seeing a therapist but still struggled with feelings of failure and self-doubt. At this time Michele was working with the domestic abuse unit of the VPD. While on a follow up call to a battered woman’s home she suddenly realized that she was saying all the same things to this woman, that her therapist was saying to her. It’s not your fault, you are a strong person who can do anything and do it on your own. The lightbulb not only went on for her, but it made her realize what these women were dealing with and how best she could help them. I’m pretty sure that this is what Oprah refers to as an “ah ha” moment. As she continued her work, not only did she get stronger herself but her ability to empathize and help the women she worked with grew immensely.

After a few years Michele moved out of the domestic abuse unit and into homicide. How cool is that? She is confident and knows that whatever life has to throw at her she can deal with it. Her sons are in university now and she is venturing into a new relationship. She is grateful for the time she spent with the domestic abuse team and knows how much it taught her about life and handling adversity.

I truly have a new respect for police officers and how they approach their work. Michele became a police officer to help people and ended up helping herself. How is that not one of The Best Things in Life?

Options to Explore

It’s been two months since I left my job. Sixty days. Not very long really. I am almost at the point where my mind has shifted to a new way of thinking. I wonder how I did everything before and stayed sane. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe I was going a little wacky. I read a quote a few weeks ago. “The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a rat.

I do find myself falling back into old patterns though. Feeling like I need to fill every moment with activity and busy-ness. I’ve found that every once in a while I need to look back at my original blog post. Finding My Thing. Why am I doing this again? I’m fifty years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up? How can that be? I have a son who is almost a grown up himself. That’s when I take a step back and say ” Okay, what are my priorities in life?”

Surprisingly, writing this blog has been a huge source of focus for me. Even it, however, is still a work in progress. Why am I writing a blog of all things? Am I writing for myself or the people who are reading it? Do I really care what people think? Of course! Why do you think they have a stats button on WordPress? It is a bit scary. You’re putting yourself out into the world that everyone can see and if they can see it, they can judge it. While I have been fortunate so far to have only received positive feedback, I know that the day will come that somebody will not like what I have to say. Do they have an Ignore button on WordPress?

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I read a lot of other blogs too. Some are really journals of peoples lives, some are serious, some are hysterically funny, some are written by truly gifted writers, some are not. Where do I fit into all of it? Do I fit in? Do I want to fit in? I’ve made a conscious choice not to make my blog a place of controversy and as a result probably don’t have as many readers, but that’s okay. Now, I don’t even pretend to call myself a writer but I have realizes that I enjoy the process of writing a post. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I HAD to do it. If I had a deadline and was forced to write about something or someone that I wasn’t interested in I’m not sure it would be as fun. Then again, I could be wrong.

Yoga? Yes, I’m still going to yoga. Once or twice a week I try to make myself into a pretzel. I still fall over and I still hate the pigeon pose. What does it give me? (Because for me it’s all about getting something out of what I do) My brain tends to get stuck into a fairly high gear sometimes. I find it difficult to stop and just….be. Yoga has helped with that, but so has writing. I can be doing about five things at once but when a thought hits me and I sit down to write, everything stops but that thought. Yoga still doesn’t do that for me. Randi says I need to find a mantra to repeat during shavasana. Namaste.

One of the huge benefits of having a little more time is that I’ve reconnected with people that I haven’t spoken to in years. I’ve made deeper connections with people who I thought I knew. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone by sitting down and having conversations with new people and people I was interested in but didn’t really know very well. I have learnt so much already about new things yet I’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to determining what my “thing” is. Some say we write what we need to learn. For me, right now, the The Best Thing in Life is having options to explore.