How to be unemployed

resumeFirst, a couple of points on what this isn’t… This is not a piece on how to become unemployed. Generally speaking, I find most folks are able to figure that one out on their own. This also is not about how to get a job. There are loads of great articles on job hunting and the main suggestion I’ll make on that point is LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. (Oh, that, and I am finding the book Purple Squirrel by Michael Junge to be a great resource.)

This is more about how to spend the time you aren’t scouring the inter-webs and networking a go-go (LinkedIn – seriously, people). I was going to call this “rules for unemployment,” but they are more like pirate-style guidelines and don’t require 100% strict adherence.

  • Make the bed – this requires that you actually get out of bed, which is good for you and prevents bed sores. I put away the alarm clock and don’t worry too much about when I get up, but I don’t lay around wallowing under the covers. (No one likes a wallower.)
  • Put on clothes – they don’t have to be fancy, but they can’t be the same thing you woke up in. Repeats are okay, but clean underwear is a must.
  • Go out into the world – hey, you’ve got clothes on, might as well take advantage. These don’t have to be big adventures and some days it’s just down to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee, but I try to make sure I leave the house at least once a day. Think of it as Vitamin D therapy.
  • Do nothing – every day, I sit out on my deck and try to be still for at least 10 minutes. You could call this meditating or praying, but as long as there are no electronic devices present, I just call it being calm.
  • Do something (for yourself) – lately for me this has been catching up on my Rom-Com DVDs (50 First Dates, anyone?), but it can be anything that is not job-hunt related that you enjoy. You will never be any good to anyone else, like a future employer, if you aren’t good to yourself first.
  • Do something (for someone else) – I believe we’re on this earth to help each other. I try to find a way to do something, no matter how small, for someone else every single day. Maybe it’s volunteering, or maybe it’s helping a friend with their job search. And some days it’s just bringing home a Reece’s Big Cup for my husband when I make my 7-Eleven run.
  • Be active – I find physical activity keeps both the cobwebs and the blues away. Some days, the hubby and I go for a long bike ride, and my running buddy, Duana, and I meet for runs once a week. Today, I took my pregnant friend for a walk (double bonus for helping someone else at the same time!)
  • See people – setting the networking aspect of this aside for a moment, take advantage of the fact that your schedule is flexible and start catching up with all those folks you always promised you would meet for coffee when you had time. You now have that time. Sitting at home alone seeing no one makes your brain grow mold and who wants a moldy brain?
  • Be grateful – I try my best to think of one thing I’m grateful for every day and when I’m having a hard day, I make a list. Again, this can be big stuff or little stuff. It all counts. Sometimes the little stuff is the big stuff.

Maybe your list is different, or maybe you don’t have a list and throwing the list away is part of your strategy. Whatever it is that you do while you are laying fallow, spend the time on your own terms. It may or may not take a long time to find that next job. You can choose to see that time as tortuous and long, or as a gift to be appreciated, but it is a choice – and the choice is yours. When I think about my next employer, whoever they may be, I imagine they would rather have someone positive, calm, and happy as a candidate and not someone bitter and frustrated. Or forget the job search for a minute, why would you want to be bitter and frustrated in any case? Life is precious and short and there’s no use wasting that precious time, regardless of your employment status.

Positive anything is better than negative nothing. ~Elbert Hubbard

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To LexBlog, with Gratitude

Thank_you_pinned_note Yesterday was my last day working at LexBlog. Although of my own choosing, the parting was nonetheless bittersweet (fortunately more sweet than bitter). But, I left because of, you know, reasons, and I certainly take full accountability for my own shortcomings in that equation as well. I requested a graceful exit and I am very appreciative that LexBlog, specifically CEO Kevin O’Keefe and President Kevin McKeown (aka “The Kevins”), honored and supported that request. So, I don’t want to spend my time and blog-space focusing on what did or didn’t happen and why it didn’t work out.

It can be challenging to leave a company, with no other job in hand, and keep relations friendly. It’s a little like breaking up and promising to still be friends. It’s theoretically possible and it does happen, but more often than not, it’s a bit more of a unicorn hunt in the making. But, hey, who doesn’t love a good unicorn hunt, and sometimes it is the trying that is as important as anything.

I have been reading a lot lately on the correlation between gratitude and happiness and have therefore been trying to spend a little more of my energy on being thankful versus being negative.

So, with all that in mind, I offer here a few of the things for which I’m grateful to LexBlog…

  • This blog: Although the blog existed before I came to LexBlog, I had written exactly 0 posts prior to starting here. It was through the encouragement of Kevin O’Keefe that I was inspired to try my hand at blogging. To my surprise and delight, I found it was an outlet for expressing myself in writing that I didn’t realize just how much I would enjoy.
  • Walking Meetings: Kevin McKeown and I had many a 1×1 walking from LexBlog’s office to downtown Seattle. Sometimes we talked business, more often we just chatted and occasionally we stopped to window gaze at shop displays.
  • Pranks: As Kevin McKeown and I were walking down the street in one of the aforementioned meetings, my bus pulled up as we arrived at the stop and I decided to hop on. After I got on the bus, Kevin jumped on and told everyone on the bus that it was my first time ever riding a bus and then promptly jumped off as the bus pulled away. And, I’ll mention just one other instance where the Kevins got into a Twitter debate over whether martians would think dogs ruled over humans…
  • Our Clients: I have formed some very close and hopefully long-lasting relationships with many of our clients. I have been touched beyond words at the support and encouragement I have received when I  shared news of my departure. I hesitate to name names here for fear, like the Oscars, I would forget someone who deserved to be acknowledged, but for those of you who I’ve spoken with lately, I think you know who you are.cat
  • Cat Videos: For whatever reason, sharing funny cat videos seems to be a “thing” here at LexBlog and I can’t count how many times a well-timed cat video seemed to be exactly what I needed at that moment. (Cat in shark costume is a current favorite…)
  • My Colleagues: LexBlog knows how to pick ’em. Seriously. I’m not sure I have worked in another company where there is zero in-fighting behind the scenes and such a general sense of comradery. (Maybe it’s all the cat videos??) Y’all are great and it wasn’t easy to go because of that.

In fact, given all the good there has been, it hasn’t been easy to go, period. But just like that really great, really nice guy who you know in your heart isn’t the one, sometimes you still have to break up. Regardless, I’ll be rooting for LexBlog from the sidelines and will only be happy to see the company’s future success. As I walked out the door, I proudly put on my rose colored glasses, erased the bad memories, clung tight to the good ones and was grateful for the time I spent there.


I Fail, Therefore I Am

I screw up. A lot. If I had a dollar for every missed opportunity, misstep, or flat out failure in my life, I would have a lot of dollars and I would be writing this post from my beach house in the tropics… I have weight issues, I had a failed marriage, and I’ve had plenty of professional failures too. I even failed my driver’s license test as a teenager. Three times. And for me, one mistake often leads to ten others. Which is a sign that I don’t even make mistakes the right way; because the best mistake-makers learn from their mistakes, right?

There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All mistakes are blessings given to us to learn from. ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

It would be really easy to pack up my bags and go home (writing this post is making the dark space under my covers particularly appealing right now). But one of the things I seem to actually have going for me is a deep reservoir of resilience.

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill

Yes, I failed my driver’s license test three times, but I took the test four times and did ultimately pass. I had a marriage that ended in divorce, but I had the courage to marry again and I have now been happily married for over 13 years. I completed a boot camp that I had no business being in because I simply just kept showing up. Sometimes I think it’s not that I am so resilient, but rather that I am too stubborn and determined to know when to quit.

Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~Japanese Proverb

Many years ago, earlier in my career, I was in line for a big promotion at work. It was practically a done deal. So much so that my boss asked me not talk about it. So what did I do?  I went to lunch the next day with a colleague and confessed it all in deepest confidence. What did she do?  She went right to my bosses office after lunch to tell her about our discussion. Needless to say, I did not get that promotion. It was so tempting to quit. I dreamed about quitting. In fact, I polished up my resume and started looking. However, for some reason, I didn’t leave. I didn’t want to leave. I would love to say I learned some huge life lesson from it all, but mostly I learned to live with my disappointment.

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m going to be honest here. Failure sucks. As great as it is for developing your character (I have enough character already, thanks), it is no fun. I have no regrets about my life and you couldn’t pay me any amount of dollars to go backwards in time. However, if it were possible to go through life and become self-actualized, non-egotistical, and fully functional-in-society without having to go through the school of hard knocks, I would be the first to sign up. Of course, it’s not possible. I am who I am today because of my failures. It’s what keeps us all from being complete asshats. No one is perfect, no one escapes making mistakes. That’s the deal.

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. ~Walt Disney

So, how do I cope with the inevitable failures in my life? Sometimes I write blog posts about them. This would hardly be the first post that is as much for me as it is about me. I have a great support system. One time, after coming home from a particularly tough day at work, my husband cheered me up by calculating how much money we could get if we cashed in both our 401k’s to move to Hawaii, complete with internet search results on affordable condos in Waikiki. I laugh with friends, or cry by myself – or vice versa. In a pinch, a minute or two on the site Cats In Sinks generally cheers me up. I plan trips. (When going through a box in the back of my closet the other day, I found a large stack of state visitor bureau catalogs that I used to order when I was feeling blue before the days of the internet.) I keep on keeping on, just like everyone else.


The sound of silence

When I shared that I was giving up TV, Movies, Books, and Radio for Lent in Into the Lenten Wilderness, my friend Barb had this to say on Facebook:

I read the sentence twice thinking, surely she cannot mean books. The other things are evil, but not books! You go too far here.

At the time, I was far too distracted by how much withdrawal I was going through from my TV addiction to think about what giving up the other stuff was going to mean to me. But her comment stuck with me. Sacrifice is not about giving up stuff that’s bad for you (“evil things”), but rather things that are meaningful to you. I am a voracious reader and I love nothing more than losing myself in a book. The reason I decided to sacrifice books for Lent this year was because I spend all my time on the bus each day buried in the Kindle reader on my smart phone. So much so that I barely pay attention to anything else that is going on around me. On my morning commute this morning I noticed that the bus was stone cold silent. I looked around and everyone within eye shot was on some sort of digital device – phone, table, mp3 player. A couple of weeks ago I would have been one of them. And not only reading on my phone but listening to music on my mp3 player, which is why I decided to give up music too. For a short time I want to be more present to my surroundings.

As usual, I underestimated the impact of my choices. I thought giving up music was kind of a throw in and not that big of a deal. It wasn’t until I was sitting in church on Sunday and the music began to play that I felt the weight of that particular sacrifice. As we began to sing the hymn I could barely get through the words and was on the verge of tears. And what song brought me so emotionally to the edge?  Ode to Joy.  (Oh the irony…) I forgot that the songs I have selected on my mp3 player are not mere background noise. I picked music that either inspires me, touches me, or just plain makes me happy. They are my modern day odes to joy.

On the front end of this journey I wondered if I had made too strict a list, but now that I have adjusted to life without TV and to quiet bus rides, I began to question if I made it too easy on myself. Hearing a taste of music and feeling in my heart the pang of what I was missing let me know that I had indeed selected sacrifices that are full of meaning and it’s these little discoveries along the way that draw me back to the Lenten discipline year after year. Sometimes you have to turn off the volume to truly hear.


Runner’s Rage

Every Saturday we start our practices with a “mission moment” in which we hear stories about how blood cancer has touched the lives of those we are raising funds for and their families. Each season I go into the practices thinking that I will not be as impacted as I was the first year, and somehow I end up being more affected than the year before.  There are the stories of survivors, memories of those who fought valiantly but ultimately succumbed, and hope for those still in the midst of their personal battle. Blood cancer doesn’t seem to discriminate based on age or gender and strikes children and grandmothers alike. For some reason, the stories that are the hardest for me to hear are those about the very little boys who are afflicted. This Saturday we heard the story of Joseph Boyle who was diagnosed when we was 2 and left this world for a better place when he was just 5 years old. Yesterday would have been his 21st birthday.We were all given laminated pictures attached to safety pins to wear on our run.

Standing in the cold and rain at 8am on a Saturday morning, it was honestly a little tough for me to totally absorb this little boy’s story. I was moved and saddened, but also distracted by the thought of running in the rain. And it was a rough start. My feet were like lead blocks that I struggled to lift with each step. Everything was stiff and I felt like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz in desperate need of an oil can. It was only a 40 minute run and I slogged and dragged my sorry self every step of the 20 minutes out.

But then I turned around and something happened. My legs warmed up, my joints loosened up, and I began to relax into the second half of the run. It was at this point that I started think of Joseph Boyle. What kind of fucked up cancer takes 5 year old little boys from this world??  What must his parents have gone through – so excited to have him join their family, only to have him taken away so soon. And it was not an easy life, considering his final years were spent with doctors and in hospitals. I started to get mad and the madder I got the faster I ran. Every footstep became my personal rage against this injustice.

Blood cancer – you are a ruthless, evil disease, and you don’t play fair. You are a thief and a cheat. I may not be fast but I’m determined as hell. I’m coming for you and the running trail is my warpath. Every dollar I raise is a nail in your coffin and I run for the day I can dance on your grave.


Into the Lenten Wilderness

The season of Lent is once again upon us. As I shared last year at this time, I’m a fan of the discipline of sacrifice. This year’s distraction, and therefore the ‘sacrifice of choice,’ is the noise in my life from TV, radio, movies, and books. I have given up TV before, but that year I allowed movies. I have also given up Facebook/Social Media before, but seeing as I now work in that field, it seemed a bit ridiculous to try and find a way to give it up that wasn’t complicated and filled with loop-holes. Besides the spirit of this sacrifice is not about shutting out the outside world completely, but rather about turning down the volume low enough that I am not drowning myself out.

I go into each season with grand illusions of all the amazing things I will do in lieu of what I gave up. When it’s food-related, I imagine the amazing weight I’ll lose and the healthy glow that will come from my disciplined ways. This year I thought I would spend all this new-found free time getting my house clean and organized, and writing prolifically. So far in the writing category we’ve got this post and, well, that’s it so far. It also turns out the reason I don’t spend all my ‘free’ time cleaning the bathroom is not because my brains have been sucked out by the TV, but because cleaning the toilet is not that fun or spiritually fulfilling.  (It has occurred to me that perhaps some year I need to give up grand illusions, but clearly that is not this year.)

Mostly what I’m noticing just 3 days in is that I’m incredibly restless. I have restless brain syndrome. I have a hard time settling down to sleep at night and I wake up in the early hours of the morning. Even maintaining my focus to write this post was a challenge. I had no idea just how much of a sedative effect the TV (et al) has on me. I imagine this must be some flavor of what it’s like to have ADHD. Fortunately, my running brings relief as the physical exertion seems to counter the mental agitation, and the pleasure I get from socializing with my fellow teammates helps as well. I also trust I’ll settle into the new, less distracted brain in the coming days.

Because I think it helps to have a little help on any journey, I have also committed to going to church every Sunday through Easter. Brian and I were part of a very close church community before we moved to Seattle proper and we have not found a new church home in the four years that we’ve lived here. Truthfully, we haven’t exactly looked either. We’ve gone a couple of times to a nearby church that is progressive enough to meet our needs, but not often enough to know any names. For the next 7 Sundays, this same church will be our spiritual guide on the Lenten journey.

So, into the wilderness I go. What will I find there? Only God knows and only time will reveal.


Soul of a Runner

If you were to encounter me on the street, I hardly look like an endurance athlete. I’m on the brink of my 43rd birthday, short, and about 75 pounds overweight. Running is not generally the first thing one associates with middle aged women of my size. In fact, if you were to encounter me out on the trail, running looks pretty much like the last thing I should be doing. I am painfully slow (it’s not too hard to walk faster than I slog/jog), my face gets bright red, and I am generally huffing and puffing like a pack-a-day smoker. If I was being sensible I should be out walking, not pathetically attempting to do something that only barely resembles running. I have walked a half-marathon and I can extoll the many virtues of walking. The training is easier, you see more along the way, and if you have a good walking partner you save boatloads in therapy sessions. But regardless of all I have going against me and all evidence to the contrary, I can’t stop running.

There is something inside of me that simply yearns to be out running. I see other runners and it pulls strings deep within. The other day, I hopped on the bus and saw a couple out for their morning run. When I got off downtown and crossed the street, I saw them again. They had managed to run downtown in the same time it took me to ride the bus and I could see from their back-packs that they were running to work. As soon as I saw them, I didn’t think they were crazy or wonder how they did it, I just wanted to be them. I wanted to be the kind of person who runs to work.

I think the other thing skinny folks forget when they see us larger-proportioned athletes out there chugging away is that we can’t see what we look like. I don’t see the red-faced little plump girl. I only know how I feel from the inside. I hear my breathing and it reminds me I am alive. I feel the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, and the cadence is comforting, if not mesmerizing. I feel the strength of my legs and am in awe of the distances they carry me. I feel strong, powerful, enduring. Or sometimes its more the way I feel after a particularly tough run. The running itself can be filled with aches, pains, and frustration, but when I have reached deep down into the reservoir I didn’t know existed and found a way to propel myself to the top of the hill, gone faster than before, or when my foot crosses the finish line, I feel like I am on top of the world. It’s not that elusive runner’s high, but the even more addictive drug of accomplishing your goals.

Why running?  I have no idea. Does anyone really know why we have the passions we do, and does it really matter? I have friends who find themselves through art, music, cooking, or raising their families. It is just this thing I do. I have gone years without running for one reason or another and yet I always come back to it. People ask me if I am going to do triathlons. Maybe some day I’ll take on that challenge, but I mostly think why would I want to do those other two things when I could be running. One of my favorite race shirts had this on the back – “Run.” I guess I love it so much because it was such a great reminder not to over-think; just run, period. Why do I run? Because I have the soul of a runner. Period.