Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oldie but a Goodie

Over the weekend my mom and dad came to town. Since my dad hadn't seen this, we pulled out an oldie but a goodie for movie night.

Secondhand Lions.

There's just something about this movie that is beautiful in all its silliness. Walter is a boy who wants to become a man, but he's stuck with a no-good, deadbeat mother who pawns him off with two great uncles while she goes off searching once again for "Mr. Right".

But the mom also sets him on a mission to discover where the uncles have hidden a rumored stash of cash.

Yes, I meant to do that.

At first Walter is afraid of his uncles, fearful that they're going to roll over and croak anyday in their ramshackle old country farmhouse. Then the way they use those guns give him a bit of a scare too. The uncles aren't too keen on having relatives bother their peaceful "retirement". However, over the summer months the three grow on each other and bond with incredible stories of overseas adventures, mysterious sheiks, the threat of death, and promise of love.

But are the stories true or just vivid imaginings conjured up by two crotchety old men to hide where they really got all that money accumulated during their forty years away from home?

You'll never find out until the very, absolute, sure-enough ending of the movie.

Oh, and where the movie gets its name is pretty funny too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Career Assessment

Do you ever get the feeling that you are frightened into immobility?

I'm not quite there yet, but in relation to the job nothing - absolutely nothing - is happening. So this time is supposed to be a great opportunity to consider other options.

My only problem is paralysis of analysis.

There are all sorts of things I'm good at or would be good at given the opportunity. My problem is trying to figure out which way to go, how to reach my destination in a timely manner, and how to translate my various talents and gifts into a way to earn a living around here.

In talking to my pastor last week about the other matter, he asked me about how we were doing in relation to my being laid off. Told him that I was really trying to look at this whole thing as an opportunity to consider other paths. Then he asked me that fateful question - if I could do anything at all, what would I do?

Of course I know the answer to it - theatre and music. But finding a way to make a living in that industry around here is nigh impossible.

Originally when I was laid off, I figured I'd try my hand in some local theatre productions if I was still without employment by this time. Now that I find myself still without employment, I find my courage has waned.

I'm so far removed from the industry after twenty years in finance and my focus leaning toward my son for nearly seventeen years, that my connections to the majority of the industry have been lost. For years I haven't had the time to give consideration to it and now that I do have the time, I don't have the industry "in" anymore.

So now I need to figure out how to worm my way back in. I need a big confidence booster in that regard so that I can move into a new future, if indeed this is the direction in which I should move.

It all appears quite convoluted at times. So a good friend sent me a link to career assessment tools, which I muddled around in today.

No surprise there. Now the key is just finding a way to make it happen and earn a living at it.

Oh boy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Writers Be Warned

Another roaring night at critique group.

With the end of the school year, a lot of us have missed here and there. I don't think we've had one time since the beginning of 2009 when all of us made it. But summer's coming.

It's always nice having a variety of viewpoints when critiquing a story. Guys might view an interaction in a story completely different than a girl. Girl's might enjoy the dialogue between characters while the guys might want to skip it and get back to the action sequence. Where one might think something is completely out of character for the protagonist, others might find that it fits just perfectly.

But you know there's a problem when the vast majority of critiquors bring up the same problem in the same places. Yes, it's still the author's story and they can go any direction their characters take them, but this is what critiquing is for - to help point out the holes and mischaracterizations in a story.

Since our group's been together since 2002 we've garnered a real trust in each other. Therefore, it is easier to accept critiques because you know they are offering in the spirit in which it is intended.

To make it a better story and you a better author.

With the small numbers tonight, however, Gary will be asking for additional input from our fellow members.

Ye've been warned - argh!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Phase of Life

Throughout this new phase of my life called unemployment, I've been trying to stay focused on the positives.

One of the ways in which I'm doing that is by working out like a crazy woman. Usually in the past I've hopped on the treadmill after work for about twenty or thirty minutes, three or four times a week. That kept the blood flowing and me feeling good.

But that was when I was working.

Now that I have the time for a more intensive workout, I'm really hitting the treadmill and weights alot harder every single day. The main reason I'm doing this is to keep my endorphins up so that I don't get down in the dumps about not having a job right now. Plus it gives me something to fill part of my schedule when I'm not sitting at the computer typing cover letters and printing envelopes to mail my resume.

When we found out we were getting laid off earlier this year, some of the information I read talked about the pounds that alot of people put on. Of course, I knew I wouldn't be able to afford to replace my wardrobe without a salary, so I decided then that I was not going to be one of those individuals.

So I've been working the treadmill on higher speeds, inclined, for longer and longer periods of time. Pulled out my pilates DVD and refamiliarized myself with some of the moves so that I could do them without the DVD and instead watch a little TV while working out.

After nearly three months, I'm starting to notice some real changes.

Gosh, has it been three months already? Gee!

My stamina has increased substantially. It's even affected my singing. Initially my thighs started to bust out of my jeans from building up muscle so quickly, but now it seems they're starting to slim back down and really tone up.

The place I've really noticed it is in my waist. The thighs of my jeans may be getting tighter but the waist of my jeans is getting pretty loose. Hey, this is kinda fun!

So instead of gaining weight it appears I may be losing it.

Now if I can just gain me some employment - here's hoping!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Saga Continues

The saga of a friendship gone bad continues.

Last night I decided to get some input from friends and family who know most of the story of how my former friend betrayed me. Their insight into how I might handle this new contact after ten years is very valuable to me.

Most of them were about as shocked as I when I told them she'd contacted me through Facebook. All of them were angry with the audacity that she showed. Some thought I should plow into her after all this time, while others thought it best that I just ignore the note and let sleeping dogs lie.


For myself, I was surprised at how little I felt. Maybe I'm still in a slight bit of shock, but my initial reaction still remains. I have no interest in any attempt to dredge up an unsalvageable wreck from the depths.

However, I believe wholeheartedly that it is no coincidence that she contacted me at this exact time and moment after ten years. I believe it goes part and parcel with where God has me at the moment and the underworkings behind the scenes to redirect the path I'm walking in regard to so many things in my life - my job only one small piece of the puzzle.

Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to schedule a time this week to speak to my senior pastor at church. His insight has served me well in the past and my hope is that he can provide me with some options that perhaps I'm unable to see at this point in time - all from a Biblical perspective.

I know my own perspective may be clouded with emotion and judgment toward what she's done in the past and lack of what she's done since then. I want to be totally open and aware of where God may be leading so that I can clearly see the fork in the road, if one truly does exist.

I have no idea or expectation of where this may lead.

Stay tuned. Who knows what might happen next!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stunning Shock

There's been a stunning development in my personal life just a few moments ago, yet I'm not so sure how to feel about it.

Literally - I'm just stunned right now.

My son has been with his dad this weekend and I've spent some time with friends and having friends over (thus the reason for no posts). Church service this morning was fantastic in our new split format. Great weekend overall.

Returned home from church just a few minutes ago and opened my computer to check my messages before I have to go pick up my son this afternoon. Low and behold there was an unexpected shocker sitting in my inbox.

My old friend, with whom I haven't spoken in nearly ten years, found me through Facebook and left me a message.

This was the dear friend who was like a sister to me - more than a sister because we were dear to each other by choice not blood. We stuck with each other through high school, college, marriage then divorce, children and her remarriage. We saw the highest of highs and lowest of lows that life could bring and knew we'd make it through anything because we had each other. We knew the best and worst of each other and still remained fast friends.

I like to call it "bosom friends" from Anne of Green Gables.

But she's the one who betrayed me ten years ago. This is the friend that I thought would always be there. Then one fateful day it fell away and I felt as though my flesh had been stripped away with it. The pain was raw and with me through torturous years.

Since then, God has blessed me with wonderful new friends and a new view of life and of Him.

But I never forgot about my friend. I always wondered what had happened to her and if her husband stuck with her through her worst. Her children were nearly like my own, and I've wondered often what has happened to them and how they've done without their "Aunt Niecie". I know my son had a hole in his heart too without them around.

It's good to know she's still alive and kicking, but I don't know how to feel about this contact after so long. It brings before me old wounds - healed wounds, but the scars remain. I'm not sure I'd even open this door again. She's never apologized and I'd like to receive that, but attempt a friendship with her again?

I don't think so.

How do you learn to trust again when someone has hurt you so deeply? Forgiveness is freely given, but trust has to be earned back. Do I even allow her an opportunity to try?

I don't think I'm strong enough for that.

Then again - God has shown me a strength in myself I NEVER thought I had (my own family will attest to this).

For now I need time - plenty and lots of time - to sort through the shock and think about this before doing anything.

I at least owe it to my son - he lived through hell and came back right along with me. Whatever choice I make affects him and will establish a huge pattern for how to live life.

The ramifications here are enormous in so many respects.

I think I need to quit rambling now. Must be the shock wearing off.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hurdling Hurdles

Not quite sure what to make of things today yet.

This afternoon I visited a cosmetology school. I was very impressed as it is a brand new school location with all new equipment in a bright and cheery setting. For the last several days I've completed some research online and via phone with the area cosmetology schools and selected one that I thought would fit my schedule for nights. When I get a daytime job it will be a rough schedule and will be rough for eighteen months.

The length of time it would take only attending part-time is not a pleasant prospect. Plus I would have to drop choir for a whole year and ahalf. I wouldn't be finished with my schooling until my son is halfway through his senior year. Ouch!

HOWEVER - I discovered today that I could potentially still continue my unemployment while attending vocational training schools or certain types of classes. Of course it doesn't specify exactly what type of classes and vocational training, and after holding on the phone line for ages I decided to wait until tomorrow morning to clarify.

But if I can still collect unemployment while attending school in the daytime instead of evenings, classes would only run for ten months instead of the aforementioned eighteen. Now there's only one more hurdle to jump if this one truly pans out.

Financial aid to cover my classes.

I'll worry about that hurdle when I come to it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Tonight is going to be an awesome night.

Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch series is back!

Okay, okay - I know I'm a bit of an oddball, but that's beside the point. This series is men at their best and nature at her worst. Every year they go out to conquer the elements and bring in the crab.

Plus it's in Alaska - I love it.

Have to admit, my biggest concern this season is whether or not Captain Phil of the Cornelia Marie is going to make it back onto the boat. After last season's bout with the enormous blood clot that dislodged when a massive wave struck the boat, coursed through his heart and landed in his lung, Captain Phil's continued status has been a mystery. Will he or will he not return to the Cornelia Marie?

Then there's the ever interesting Hillstrand brothers on the Time Bandit - Johnathan, Andy, and Neal with the there one moment, gone the next son of Johnathan, Scotty. Will Scotty decide to rejoin his dad and uncles again this year or stay home with his wife and infant son? Will the Hillstrand family fishing make it for another generation to take over?

Last year we had some competition heat up on the Northwestern. Greenhorn Jake and deckhand Matt got into fisticuffs. Jake is young and gung-ho on learning everything he can aboard the Northwestern, but he has a big mouth to go with his excitable ego. Matt is old reliable and feeling the squeeze from the new boy onboard, afraid he's going to be shown up and washed out.

Then there's always the guessing game of which boats and skippers will be back besides the old faithful. Will the Wizard make a reappearance? What about the Maverick? Early Dawn? Alaska Lady anyone?

Tonight we'll finally find out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Fork in the Career Path

If you had a chance to choose a different career path, would you do it?

As a matter of fact, I'm in that position right now. Only thing is if I hadn't gotten laid off I'd have never had the courage to consider any sort of career change.

Been in the finance industry for twenty-plus years. It's something I rather fell into, and like pretty much anything I've tried, I ended up being good at it. There's been some absolutely wonderful moments.

Without my job I'd have never had the opportunity to visit Alaska - twice! I've had the chance to go all across this country because of my job. I've also seen the best and the worst of the industry. But the thing I still love is working with people and seeing those individuals realize the great American dream.

Working in the industry has kept me close to the entrepreneurial spirit that keeps this country humming. Have to admit, however, that being so close to the entrepreneurial bug caused me to get bit a long time ago.

Close to ten years now I've wanted to open and operate my own business. The benefit is that I've had the experience to know and understand the pitfalls that lurk in the realm of small business ownership. God also bestowed upon me a very creative soul that isn't satisfied unless I'm stretching, reaching, and learning new things everyday.

So crazy as it may sound, I'm thinking about taking some night classes, getting my cosmetology certification, get some experience under me and then opening my own upscale salon and spa.

The little town we live in is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. There's also alot of money out here and virtually no salon like I envision, just little stop and chop shops (as I like to call them) and a small family-owned stylist salon that caters to a different crowd. This place is ripe for a real salon and spa to service the area.

I've already even thought of a name and have a general floorplan set-up. Of course it would be best for me to have certification and experience in the industry first, but this was one of my dreams when I was younger.

It's something I'd completely forgotten about until last week when my son and I drove by a cosmetology school. Told him about that dream too and he commented that I'd had alot of dreams when I was younger. I told him that I'd never fulfilled any of them. Had the chance once, but was too afraid to take the plunge.

That's water under the bridge, as they say.

But this is something that I could do. This is something that I know I'd be really good at, if given the opportunity. May sound crazy, but I just have to check into this a little deeper. If I take night classes then I can still take employment in finance when it's offered to me.

Once I have my certification, however, I'll have an opportunity to take a different fork in the road.

If I have the courage to pursue the career change.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Eve

On this Good Friday, just a short note to wish all my dear readers a blessed and happy Easter. We're going to be heading out soon to go and spend the weekend with the family, so I will once again be out of commission for the next few days.

Upon my return I hope to have some good news to share. In the meantime, may you enjoy your time with family and friends as we remember and celebrate our risen Christ.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Brainstorming Bonanza

Today there's been alot of back and forth emails flying among choir parents about fundraising ideas for the big New York trip next year. Figure since I'm available at the moment that I can at least assist with the brainstorming.

If there's a noticeable benefit to being unemployed right now it's that I actually have time to participate in my son's school activities. Now he may not see it as so much of a benefit, but while I'm able I'll do everything I can.

That's one thing I'm really good at - brainstorming that is. When the synapses are all firing I can come up with idea after idea. Someone else may have to execute it, but that's what delegating is all about. I know my limits.

But it made me feel good to get a ton of pats on the back from parents at the good and numerous ideas I threw out for fundraising. Feels so good to be a part even if it is only briefly.

Our little town has an annual event each September centered on our history. Usually falls around my son's birthday. We could do a booth and see if Ottaway Amusements would allow us a percentage of proceeds on all-you-can-ride night if we promote it as a fundraiser for the choir.

We also sit just on the other side of a county line - the side that allows for the good fireworks on Independence Day.

I always knew there had to be more perks to living out here than just the schools when we moved all those years ago. But I digress.

So the highway is usually lined with these enormous tents filled with legal explosives of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Figured we could check into the possibility of setting up a fireworks tent for the choir this summer.

When I was a little girl, our school always had a huge carnival in the fall. It was so much fun and garnered the entire town's attention for a night of fun. Perhaps we could do a carnival themed around Halloween.

Then in December our town puts on Christmas in the Park with a chili cook-off, sleigh rides, and the firemen even sponsor the bonfire where you can roast smores. Maybe they'd let the choir do a caroling concert in the park for donations or maybe sponsor the chili cook-off. There's time to think of something, but that would be a great way to support the choir and the community at the same time.

Then there's a golf, baseball, or basketball tournament perhaps. The possibilities are virtually endless. One can only hope participation will be too.

My ideas may be too involved or cumbersome. They may not even be utilized. But I'm just thrilled to take part in the discussion.

At least while it lasts.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Next Year - New York

Normally I take Wednesday evening off from writing in my blog. However, we received some incredible news today - well incredible news for my son.

Mr. Engels, their high school choir director that led them to a sweep at competition, emailed parents today to let them know that the choir had been invited to a special invitation only competition next year in New York City. Of course, the cost of the trip is three times the norm so he sent the email to gauge parental response.

I say GO FOR IT!

What an incredible honor to be chosen for such a premier event. What an awesome city to experience the greatest that music and the arts have to offer. The trip will be five total days with an opportunity to visit Juilliard, the Metropolitan Opera House, rehearse at the historic Riverside Church and perform at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. What's not to like???

By that time I'll hopefully have a job. Somehow we'll make it happen. Hey, he's going to Europe this summer so New York should be a whole heck of alot easier.

Regardless, I'm thrilled that they were recognized so highly to be given this honor. That alone should make them proud.

Next year - NEW YORK.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

Over the last several weeks I've been asked by a few people how I'm holding up with the job situation, considering the finance industry has been pretty hard hit. To my close friends, I have my moments. But to the rest of the world it is important to me to not just put on a brave face but to really exude my usual upbeat demeanor.

After all, it isn't the end of the world...YET.

Barring my almost month-long bout with an ear infection, I've really tried to keep up on the exercise. After getting my son off to school, I sit down at the computer and work on a few job-related items. By 9:30 or 10:00 I'm on the treadmill and watching a rerun of TLC's "What Not To Wear". Then I'll pop in for a refreshing shower or swim in my big tub and try to pamper myself a tad. A quick sandwich and then it is off to run an errand.

I usually try to space my errands out so that I have a purpose for getting out of the house most every day. Run into town to the bank one day - get catfood the next. On a nice day I'll go for a quick walk in the sunshine to liven things up and energize the body. Sunshine is good for the soul.

Occasionally I'll meet a couple of friends for a bite out. Oh how I have appreciated their hospitality these last few months! There's been times it was the only thing keeping me sane.

So I also realized it was important to keep up with my friends. I try to talk to friends and family on the phone a few times a week (rotating, of course, not the same ones every time). This, I have found, has been very helpful to my sanity and in keeping the walls from closing in.

For the most part I've been able to keep a positive outlook without allowing my occasional fears to overwhelm. Yes, I'll have my moments with a close friend but that's what friends are for. We're there for each other.

And that's probably the most important thing that keeps me going.

Eventually the job that fits well for both sides will pan out and I'll look back on this time as a wonderful learning experience and a great time to have had opportunity to slow down and reconnect with those things that are most important.

Yes, this too shall pass.

Monday, April 6, 2009

DVD Disappointment

Last month I finished reading "Band of Brothers" by Stephen E. Ambrose. Fascinating look at World War II from the direct recollection of the men of Easy Company.

I said at that time that I probably wouldn't watch the HBO series created from the book because Hollywood usually screws up history. However, my dear friend that loaned me the book also recommended the DVD series, so we watched the first disk tonight.

Already I'm quite disappointed. The book spent a great deal of time reviewing their training and the development of their incredible bond, their absolute disgust and downright hatred of Captain Sobel's ways (but that they still credited him with their being the most fit and prepared unit in the entire military). The DVD barely touched on their years of training in the first disk. It was such a hodge-podge that someone who hadn't read the book would have a hard time seeing any cohesiveness to the story, the commeraderie already present within months of beginning their training.

They dismissed so much good material that I'm not so sure I want to go on any further with the DVD's. I mean it would be understandable if it were a two hour movie, but we're talking a mini-series here.

About the only thing I really appreciate at this point is the fact that they started off with quick comments from several of the still living members of Easy Company. They also did a great job with casting the man who plays Dick Winters. (To be) Captain Winters was the heart and soul that held fast the men of Easy and he still garners enormous respect and gratitude from the men today.

In the meantime, I'll have to chew on this a bit to see if I have the stomach to continue on watching - in more ways than one.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blue Collar Boys

For Christmas this last year, my son got a three-pack DVD set of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

I just love those guys!

Yes, they're irreverent. Yes, they're crude. Yet at the same time, they are so much fun and your abs get a great workout for almost two hours.

Suzanne Summers can't do that for you, that's for certain.

So since we've had such a busy week and find ourselves in need of some good belly laughs, we decided to watch the second one from the set.

The story about Bill's wife taking him whale watching is a complete laugh fest. In return, Bill takes his wife deer hunting. It's so much fun hearing about the innate differences between the male and female species. Guys are simple and the ladies like the details. Ladies like sweet smelling fragrances while guys like disgusting scents.

I know this for a fact from raising a guy. Learned alot these last sixteen years. Gross smells and vulgar noises are part and parcel, deeply ingrained in the male psyche. For years I thought there was something wrong until my son started bringing friends home.

Nope - completely normal.

That's just one of the many reasons I laugh my head off at these types of segments. Jeff does a shtick about he and his wife as well and what it's like living in a household dominated by estrogen. See he's got a wife and several daughters. He's the only source of testosterone in the entire house.

Makes me feel sorry for my poor dad when we were living at home. One man in a household of four women. The estrogen to testoterone ratio was always completely out of whack. To top it all off we had only one bathroom.

You do the math.

Then, of course, my son loves Larry the Cable Guy. "Git-R-Done!" Sounds like something made by Toys-R-Us.

Ron, aka "Tater Salad", is the most crude of the bunch, but I still love it when he talks about getting together for Thanksgiving with his mother and father, including his over-achieving doctor brother and lawyer sister trying to one-up each other. Ron beats them both - I love it.

Perhaps we'll find some time tomorrow afternoon or evening to catch another one in the set. After all, it is a three-parter.

The week's just getting started.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Our busy week is nearly coming to a close.

Sunday night/Monday morning my son returned from his Memphis choir trip. Monday evening was prep for their forensics tournament. Tuesday was the forensics tournament.

Since the church installed a new digital soundboard system on Monday and Tuesday, the choir needed to be out in full-force on Wednesday evening so the engineer could assist in setting the sound cues and balance. Otherwise I'd have given us an evening home to relax, but we went to church Wednesday night. The new system sounded awesome!

Thursday we finally got to take advantage of an evening to relax, but my son had to work on his solo numbers for regionals. Tonight was movie and pizza and his buddy came over. They wanted to have a sleepover but I said absolutely not.

Because Saturday morning is regionals and he has to be up early for his solos.

Then Sunday afternoon he's trying out for the youth worship band as a vocalist. The contemporary music director told him she'd like to see him get some stage experience on a smaller scale first before the worship team in the big service. However, she did go on and on about his mature vocals. Very impressed.

So after Sunday we'll have another busy week and then hopefully find some time to get some rest and relaxation come the following weekend.

Wait - it's Easter next weekend. Scratch the relaxation time.

Maybe next month.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Musical Musings

Recently I was introduced to a fabulous singing group - Il Divo.

Three of the guys are classically trained opera singers while the third is a self-taught pop singer and songwriter. These four guys were brought together about five or six years ago to create a new group of REAL singers.

How is it that I'm just now hearing about them?

At the end of church service last Sunday (the sermon was on grace), the pastor had the tech crew close with a video of Il Divo singing Amazing Grace. Wish our new digital soundboard had already been installed.

Needless to say, it was amazing!

The beautiful emotion transformed into a powerful performance. And this was all only on video! Found myself with tears running down my cheeks when it was all said and done.

Since my son was away in Memphis that day, I pulled the video up on You Tube and showed it to him upon his return from the choir trip. He was completely blown away.

If I may be so bold, I told him that I could see him doing something like that someday. Since he was little he has loved music and has had a good ear to go with the good voice. When he went through the "change" in his vocal chords, he was so distraught and refused to be in choir after sixth grade, until he started high school and realized that his voice had stabilized.

His music teacher has him singing two solos for regionals. Many of his fellow choir members commented to me Tuesday night at the forensics tournament that my son is the best tenor in the entire choir.

That said alot to me.

So I'm going to watch carefully these next few years and see what he decides to do with the gift God has given him. There's several well-connected people in my church that could recommend good music programs for college if that's the direction he chooses.

In the meantime, we're just dying to get "The Promise", the most recent CD offering of Il Divo. Their tour schedule shows they'll be coming within a few hours of our city, but that will probably have to wait until finances/employment will allow. That's okay.

There's always the opportunity to watch and listen to Il Divo on You Tube.