Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Beginnings!

Just when I was having the hardest time keeping my motivation up, things suddenly started to fall into place. I GOT A JOB AT MICROSOFT AND I LOVE IT!!! I was starting to lose hope and feel like the last few years of my life had been in vain (as far as my career was concerned). Turns out, I just needed to be a little more patient.

I am now a "Sr. Customer Advocacy Specialist". This seems like a perfect match for me, because it requires people skills, writing skills, project management, problem management, and a touch of technical skill. The team is awesome, my manager seems competent and transparent. There are tons of opportunities for advancement. I got an almost 50% salary increase! I love the culture, the building, the commute (8 minutes), the people, the challenge, the company, everything!

Oh, and there's a social hour every Friday, including beer. Can you say heaven?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bucket List

This is definitely a work in progress. I was just viewing another blog I enjoy, "Better Living Through Uncertainty". The writer, Tyler Tervooren, has a similar list. His is much more ambitious than I think mine will be. But it did get me to thinking. What are some of the things that I really want to do before I die? I always have something brewing for myself, usually involving self-improvement and learning. Lately I have been kind of depressed because the things that have worked for me in the past seem suddenly pretty elusive. Maybe changing my focus a little will help me get out of my funk. I will begin a draft list of things I would like to see/do/accomplish before I die. I reserve the right to change it as needed.

1. Get married (Complete!)
2. Have kids (In progress! 75% complete)
3. Earn an advanced degree (Complete x2)
4. Travel to every continent except Antarctica (In progress! 29% complete)
5. Get a job at Microsoft (In progress)
6. Read 10 Pulitzer Prize winning books (In progress! 20% complete)
7. See a Broadway show (on Broadway)
8. Skydive (Complete!)
9. Learn how to play Liszt Consolation #3 in D-flat minor
10. See the Egyptian pyramids in person
11. Learn to swim competently
12. See a U2 concert (Complete!)
13. Coach a dog through UDX title
14. Beat 3+ Xbox Games (yeah, really)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January Blues

Lots going on lately. When I get home from work, even if I don't feel completely exhausted, I am lacking the motivation to do the things I usually do. The strange thing is that things are going really well. I am enjoying my job, I am learning new things, I have been spending more time with the family, which is fun. I have been paying off bills and refinancing the house with a great rate (3.75% for 20 vs. 30 years). I have been helping the girls with homework and helping them learn how to cook some new recipes. I'm healthy. I'm happy. So why am I having such a hard time doing things like laundry, cleaning, and deciding on a course of action for my career?

I have had a couple of interviews in the past couple weeks, BTW. They went well. One of the jobs is a permanent one that I think I would be a good fit for! I am waiting for the recruiter to call me back for a second, on-site interview. She said she'd let me know one way or the other. I HATE WAITING! It has been exactly a week since my phone interview. In addition, I had a phone interview for a contract position today and I have another one on Monday. I'm not as pumped about those, but definitely would take one if offered because I am SO ready for a change!

You know that interview question, "What is your greatest weakness?" Most people say "I work too hard" or "I'm a perfectionist". Those responses have become cliche. So I was trying to come up with something that would work better and be honest without having to shoot myself in the foot. I think I figured it out. I can't make up my mind about which "passion" to choose!

The reality is that I would be happy with most any job that allowed me to challenge myself, learn new things and where I was treated with respect. I have applied for a wide variety of jobs over the past month: some technical, some management, some that involve specific customer service roles, some that focus on education or training. I am sure that, assuming I have the skill set the employer is looking for, I would thrive in any of these areas. Yet, which one do I choose? It would help me to focus on one area because then I could really study up for the interview and not be scattered all over the map. One could argue that if I really have the skill set that the job calls for, I don't need to do much "studying up", just be ready to answer general interview questions and provide specific examples of my experience and how I have helped my current employer be successful. Well, yes and no...

The technical interview, in particular, is hard for me to prepare for because there are such a wide variety of questions they could ask. Today, for example, I was asked some basic questions about troubleshooting client issues, and I thought of about a million different things I could have said better after the interview was over. No two technical interviews will ask the same questions, so how do I prepare without freaking myself out? Talking about myself is not my strong suit. Interviews make me nervous and then I tend to ramble.

The way I plan to approach it is this: I am going to study the most for the one I want the most (which is not technical). In the meantime, I will continue to do technical interviews (mostly for contract positions) to get a feel for where my skill set really is, and where the holes in my knowledge are. That way, I will have the best chance of performing well for the job I really want, yet still have an idea of what I need to do to score a technical job. Oh, and I will use visualization, as I think that really helps.

Maybe it's the stress of interviewing that is making me so tired. Tomorrow is my 21st anniversary (YEA!) and Steve is taking me and the girls to a house on the beach. His parents and their friends will be there. It should be nice, but I have been kind of reluctant to go because I am tired, I want to study for my interviews, and I am not sure that's the best place to spend an anniversary. (Everyone who knows me knows I hate cold weather, and the beach is not warm even in August). However, I feel a little guilty about the whole thing because it is a nice thought, and I will likely have a good time.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Unexpected

You know how people say sometimes things just don't work out the way you expect them to? Well, that's a bit of an understatement. It sure seems like the last couple of years have had more than their share of the unexpected. Hannah was diagnosed with diabetes. I had a miscarriage. I broke my leg. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. I had another miscarriage. My niece was diagnosed with leukemia. My mom died.

I know that people face very difficult challenges in life all the time and for the most part, they are able to deal with it and move on. I guess I have done a reasonably good job of "dealing with it and moving on" because what else can I do? I cannot turn back the hands of time. I cannot change anything in the past. I can only hope to learn from all my experiences (both good and bad) and try to be the best person I can as a result of those experiences. Sometimes that works out ok. Sometimes it's really difficult. And, either way, I know that everything is relative: for every heartache I have endured, there are people who are suffering much more than I.

My mom died on November 8th. Although she had some major health issues, she had "beaten" the cancer. No one (or, at least, I) never expected her to just die so suddenly. My brother went to her house to pick her up for a medical appointment and she was gone...apparently she died in her sleep. I would like to think that she did not suffer. I would like to feel good that at least she didn't have a long, drawn out stay in the hospital. And, although that may be true, it really doesn't make it easier to accept. I still want her here! I still want to call her on the phone and tell her the latest things her grand daughters are up to. I still want to hear her laugh. I still want to hear her get all riled up when she played cards.

But the reality is that it had been a long time since the days when she could play cards, or laugh out loud, or get riled up. Most of the time when I talked to her on the phone, she said she was tired and didn't feel good. It got to the point where she really didn't have the energy to carry on a conversation for too long. That was sad. It made me avoid calling her, I am ashamed to say. I guess I was in denial of how bad her health had gotten (and I lived a long way away, so it's not like I could go over and check things out for myself). The last time I saw her was in June when Heather was playing softball in Colorado. Mom was too weak to make it to the games. That spoke volumes of how badly she was hurting.

So now I know she is not hurting or tired. She is watching over us all from heaven and I imagine she can dance and run and play cards and do all those things that she enjoyed but wasn't able to do for a long time. Now she will have a front row seat at all the girls' softball games. She will also be able to see what a lovely young adult Hannah is. I know that is all fine a good and well.

But I still miss her and (I know it's selfish) I still wish she was here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Love That Smile!

Softball Preview

March is a boring month. Nothing really happens in March and I am usually just waiting for the weather to warm up and softball to begin again. This past few days I did get out a little, which was nice (but exhausting)!

On Thursday, Athena's team got to go to the UW Softball game, the season home opener. Danielle Lawry pitched a perfect game. Athena and Heather got to tour the clubhouse and afterwards got Danielle's autograph. It was lots of fun. Athena loves her new teammates.

On Saturday, Heather's high school team played two scrimmage games at Kent Service Fields. They won both games. One was close; the other was not. I was impressed with the amount of respect the coaches showed for Heather! For one thing, she is the starting catcher (as a freshman). But, even more amazing, they put her in the #4 spot in the batting order and they haven't even seen her hit! She had the misfortune of getting bursitis right before tryouts and was told to rest her shoulder for 1-2 weeks. So by Saturday, she was ready to play, but the coaches had never really seen what she could do in practice. They just put her in based on her reputation. She did a terrific job, too!

I know that, as her mom, I am not an objective viewer. But I have to say that watching her play is really a thing of beauty. She has such a graceful swing. Her throw downs to second are amazingly quick and accurate. She just makes it all look so easy! The only thing I think that prevents her from being the perfect catcher is her shy personality. She cannot be loud, even when she tries, and she has to work at being more of a leader. But she did call one of the games on Saturday, which was a first. And she has more confidence this year than I have ever seen. This is going to be a breakout year for her...I can feel it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Things First

If there has been one consistent thing in my life over the past 10 years or so, it's been my desire to have a baby. I know...that's crazy, right? I am 42 years old and I already have three beautiful daughters. No one could say that my life is not busy enough as it is. It's not like I feel like I am missing out on anything. It's not even about having a boy. On the contrary, I feel like my daughters are such blessings that I would love to have one more.

When I turned 40, I kept thinking that the desire would "go away". I thought that I would wake up one day and suddenly feel like I was too old and that I was satisfied with the size of my family. Steve had always maintained that he only wanted two children, so I knew that I was damn lucky that he agreed to three. Yet, the feeling didn't go away. In fact, if anything, it has only intensified over the past two years.

Last July I went in for my annual exam and casually mentioned to my doctor that I was thinking about having another baby, but wanted to wait another two or three years because, by then, I'd be done with my MBA and would likely be established in a new job. I was surprised when she said that, if I was serious about having a baby, I needed to start immediately! She said that, at age 42, I was already seven years past the time that doctors consider safe. Seven years!

I guess I always thought that people started worrying about birth defects and such after a mother turned 40. I figured I was only a couple of years off. I didn't know that the cut off date for "advanced maternal age" was actually 35.

That summer I was taking a negotiations class. I had written in one of my papers that I thought that one of the reasons I was not a strong negotiator is because I write myself off or underestimate what I am capable of. I challenged myself to take more chances and shoot higher when it comes to the things that are important to me. And nothing was more important to me than my family (and adding to it). So I decided to use the negotiation techniques I learned in class to have a serious conversation with Steve about having another baby.

To my complete surprise, Steve did eventually come around to my way of thinking! I never dreamed he would agree to a fourth child. In fact, I felt guilty even asking him, because I knew that he had given me Athena as a bonus. I think what did it for him is that I said that all the funnest and most rewarding (and challenging) things that we have ever done in our married life have involved the children. I love spending time with them, and (although I am a good parent), Steve is an excellent parent. I love watching him interact with his girls. We make a good team.

What's more, the girls were excited about the idea too. That kind of surprised me too, especially from Hannah and Heather. I thought they would consider it "gross" and think their parents were too old to be considering another baby. (They probably do still consider it "gross" but are willing to overlook that in exchange for a baby brother or sister). The girls were immediately on board and were arguing about names, where the baby would sleep, etc.

A few short months later, I was pregnant! Yea! My "advanced maternal age" was apparently not so advanced that I couldn't conceive. I was due July 27th. I was still in school at the time, and extremely busy with my last three graduate classes, my job, the holidays, and taking care of my family. Sadly, on December 6th, I suffered a miscarriage.

It wasn't entirely unexpected. Dr. Kolwitz performed an early ultrasound the week prior and couldn't find a heart beat. I was hoping that maybe the dates were off and the baby was just not as far along as we had calculated. But, unfortunately, that was not the case. My "old" egg wasn't viable and I lost the baby.

Of course, I had never had a miscarriage before. I got pregnant so easily that I figured it would all be a piece of cake, in spite of my age. My other three pregnancies were text book perfect. I had high hopes that this one would be no different. However, that was not to be. I cried for days and also thanked God for the miracle of my healthy babies. Someone like me, for whom pregnancy and birth had always been so easy, takes such things for granted. I thought often about Gwen's fertility struggles and felt guilty that I was mourning over a miscarriage when Gwen couldn't even have a baby of her own. I felt selfish. Still, I wanted that baby. We all did. It was a great disappointment.

I told Steve (and I still believe this) that God has a plan for us. I think it will work out. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but in my mind, I still see a healthy baby for us. In my heart, I still feel like God is going to take care of it for us...on His timetable, not ours. It's a matter of having faith and being patient.

So Dr. Kolwitz gave us the green light to try again in February. I think I did ovulate that month, but apparently our timing was off, because I started my cycle on February 23rd. Yep. That's the day I broke my leg! When I found out I wasn't pregnant, I texted Steve from work and told him that we should go to Mug Club that night. That was code for "I started my period, so let's go have a beer". That night we fed the kids, I brushed my teeth and got ready to go. I was rushing down the stairs when I fell. So much for Mug Club! And now that I am on pain killers, I am not allowed to have any alcohol. It might be a long time before I can make it to Mug Club again.

I have to say that I did have my doubts as I was sitting in the hospital in extreme pain. On one hand, I was relieved that if I was going to break my leg, I was at least glad that I wasn't pregnant at the time! That would have been devastating! On the other hand, I was thinking that maybe this was a signal that I shouldn't be getting pregnant at my age. The recovery time for this will definitely push my baby schedule back by several months.

First things first: I need to focus on recovering from this. I would love to use this as an opportunity to get into better shape and take better care of my physical self. This has been five months of some of the most challenging health issues I have ever faced. My emotional self needs to be ready to cope with pregnancy as well. I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that my baby gets a healthy start in life. I still think God has a plan. This is just a detour, not a dead end.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Just So You Know

There's nothing like an injury, illness or major life set back to get you reflecting on how your life is going up to that point. Since I had my first-ever surgery lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about that.

If I died tonight, I just want everyone to know that I am really happy and grateful for the life I have been given. Sure, the first 20 years or so were really rough. I used to think about how much "better" things would be if only I didn't have to go through some of those tragic childhood experiences. I also had another life-altering setback in 1995 when Steve had an affair. But I'll tell you this (and I mean it with every fiber in my body): I don't regret any of it and I wouldn't change anything if I was given the chance.

Why? It's simple. Those experiences, both the good ones and the bad ones, made me the person I am. The things I struggled with helped me to appreciate just how good I have it now. I recognize how blessed I am and how far I have come, especially in the past 22 years.

Just so you know: if I died tonight, I would die a happy and fulfilled woman. Everything I have ever wanted has come to me (even though, God knows, I don't particularly deserve it). Specifically, my husband, children, family and friends are blessings that I never would have believed would come my way. I have a nice home, my kids are happy and healthy, I love Steve more today than I did on the day we were married. Although it would be great to have an Audi A5, or a job that paid $150,000 a year, or a fancy house in San Diego, the truth of the matter is that those things are just icing on the cake.

I love that my daughters enjoy spending time with me. I love that they sing songs in the car that range from the latest hip-hop to Disney tunes to Aretha Franklin's greatest hits. I love that I have a little dog that loves everyone who comes to the door (provided she gets to bark at them first), a cat that purrs louder than a Harley Davidson, parents and in-laws who belive in me, and friends whom I can always count on to help me out when I need it. I love it that I have had the opportunity to go to college and challenge myself not once but four times. I love it that our family has created traditions (like picking raspberries and making homemade jam, cutting down our own Christmas tree, tromping through the tulip farms, watching family movies and playing cards) that the girls may some day pass on to their own families. I love to be able to pay our bills. I love to spend time watching the girls play softball.

Really, it just doesn't get any better than this. Just so you know: I love this life.
Thank you, Lord, for these and the countless other blessings you have given me.