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How You Can Help Your Friend and their OCD Kid

People don’t understand.  They really don’t get it when it comes to how bad obsessions can be for kids.  I don’t expect them to know, they don’t live in my house and see what I see.  But I do.  My son has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and is being tested for Autism.  When he gets fixated on something, he is constantly thinking about it.

Even a specialists at his school.  “Well, just tell him this.”  Telling him does absolutely nothing.  I once was reading a book about the solar system to him, and read that the sun will die out in 5 billion years.  That  was about 2-3 months ago.  He still talks about it.  No, I don’t understand his fixation on germs in the cafeteria.  I don’t get why he will COMPLETELY refuse to eat foods there that he eats at home all the time.  Or that when his eyes pop open in the morning, the first thing he says is that he wants to go to uncle’s house and that he has been talking about it several times a day for weeks.

I always have to be alert for what people are telling or saying to my son.  To make both of our lives easier.  I have to yell “No” or “stop” to people all the time because they just don’t get how bad it is.  As soon as you share even the smallest fact about something you feel is minuscule, he is obsessing about it.  Things most kids would find gross or funny, but never really giving it another passing thought.

Be weary of what you tell kids.  You telling a kid that you want them to stay close to you so someone doesn’t take them, might be something a lot of people say.  But you don’t see the after affect of that on certain kids.  That child screaming at anyone that comes close to them in a grocery store.  Saying constantly, “I was worried they were going to take me.” You don’t see that they can’t get through normal daily tasks without a fight or break down.  You don’t have to live with that.  You don’t have to see them struggling.  You don’t have to know nothing you can say can make it better because that bomb of information has exploded in their brain and there will forever be shrapnel found in places  you would never even expect to find it.  You don’t have to, we do.

So, please, from one friend to another, stop telling my kid  stuff that is meant to gross him out or purposely scare him into following directions.  It is greatly appreciated.

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Getting through my Quarter Life Crisis

time

You are not on a clock.  You do not have to achieve things by a certain time date or age.

Listening to a talk show on the radio, people were laughing at the idea of a quarter life crisis.  How silly it is.  How funny that at 25 years old you have things to worry about when you should be out enjoying life and partying.

But let’s be real.  Maybe not for these radio talk show hosts that are in their 40s, but for some, a quarter life crisis is a real thing.  There is so much pressure to do well and succeed.  I remember sitting around with my friends in high school, mapping out our futures.  Married by 24.  Kids by 26.  Full salary career by 30.  And you better be running that shit.  Whatever company you work for,  you better be the top of the crew, promoted like nobody’s business.  You will have a white house with blue shutters and a white picket fence.  You are gonna have your BFFs and you will constantly hang out and have kids around the same time so they can grow up together.

And then 25 hits and you’re like…shit.  I am still a part time manager or whatever.  Low guy on the totem pole in my career.  I have 5 years to get my shit together.  And I was supposed to be married a year ago.  I can’t even hold a relationship, let alone kids.  When was the last time I heard from my BFFs from high school other than social media?  Couldn’t tell ya.  But I do know that two of the three are married.  One has kids.  And one has their own business.  Why am I failing at liffffeeee?!

I’m here to tell you, where ever you are, what ever you are doing, you are fine.  I’ve lived through that.  I completely panicked for two years.  As my 27th birthday is approaching, I realized how much calmer I am that it is here.

I realized that I show up on my own time.  Every person is different.  Every person has their own timeline.  And I know you hate hearing that when you have a literal timeline on social media showing when everyone else had achieved these things.  You are an individual.  Maybe you haven’t met your lifelong partner yet.  So what?  Maybe you are still serving fries at McDonalds.  Who cares?  You need to make a list of what you are doing right now.  It may not seem like much but as long as you aren’t stagnant, it is.  Maybe you work at McDonald’s because it is the only place that works around your school schedule and you are rocking a 3.5 GPA.  Maybe you changed your mind and are going back to school.  Maybe you have your own photography or coding business but it hasn’t quite taken off yet.  Maybe you feel like you are lacking because analytics seem to send people skyrocketing into salary jobs, but you are creative.  That’s all great.

I used to cringe or laugh at myself when I was asked what I did for a living.  Giggling I would tell them I was a part time retail manager.  It was always a joke and really quite embarrassing for me, and I wasn’t sure why.  I figured because my “title” wasn’t big enough or good enough to be proud of.  But I should have been!  I did a hell of a lot of work.  Be proud of what you do.  Don’t laugh it off.  If you aren’t proud, move on!

When you compare yourself to others, you feel less.  At 25, my son and I, were still living with my mom.  I was still paying on my car.  I worked 2 jobs and a third I did on the side.  I was an alterations manager part time, and a part time assistant manager.  I was dating someone but it only last three months.  I, like many, was screaming “WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY CAN’T I GET MY LIFE TOGETHER?” And then I realized, in this economy, as a single mom, my life is together.

Here’s what I did to feel better about my life.  I took a serious look at my life.  I realized I was so stressed an anxious over jobs that didn’t pay me enough to even rent an apartment.  I was stressed with the crazy scheduling that retail gave me.  I stayed because I knew I was liked and good at my job.  So I knew when a full time position became open, it would be offered to me.  And it was.  But soon after I found out I was having brain surgery and would be off for three months, meaning someone else would get it.  I was so mad about how unfair my life was at the time.  It took me those three months being off to realize, wait a minute, I am so happy right now.  Why am I so happy?  Because I’m not working.  And that’s all it took.  In the last 6 months I have changed my life around drastically.

Because I mapped out what would work well for me now, I was able to go after it.  I knew I wanted a fixed schedule.  I wanted to be able to creatively express myself without “rules” about my appearance (I mean really, clothing, nail polish, and hair color restrictions?  So over it.)  I hoped my job would be closer so I didn’t spend so much time driving.

I also figured out that right now, I don’t want a relationship.  I really want to spend more time with friends.   And I have.  I have put myself in situations that I normally would not.  Like going to a friend’s party where I wouldn’t know anyone.  Or driving to meet up with a friend from college.  Getting coffee with a couple friend’s from high school.  The idea of those would send my anxiety skyrocketing.  Now it’s becoming normal for me.

Another reason I decided I did not want to date is because I do want to take myself more seriously.  Because if I’m not who will, right?  Taking blogging seriously.  Looking into starting my own business.  Both of these take a lot of time.  Once you get in the habit of doing them, it’s easy, but forcing yourself to do it, that is a different story.  And I’ve been doing a pretty decent job.

I knew that I wanted to spend more time with my son, giving my mom more time to herself because she is my babysitter.  Knowing that is what I was looking for, I got the job that gave me these freedoms.  I spend much more time with my son and I’m not tired from working 12 hour days running from one job to another.

It is because of these changes I don’t dread turning 27.  Even though it’s only three years from 30!  Yikes!  It’s okay.  I feel good about where I am.  I still have some things I am working on, like getting my own place.  But I am getting there.  I am proud of myself going into year 27.  I just had to make the moves to get me where I wanted to be.  Now it’s your turn.  Make necessary, scary changes to get to where you want to be.

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Missing the Point of “13 Reasons Why”

So I’ve been reading everyone’s comments and posts on Facebook.  And people are completely ignoring a big point in the series 13 Reasons Why.  This is your fair warning: spoiler alert!

I understand that Hannah killing herself can be triggering.  I get that, I really do.  If suicide is triggering to you, please do not watch this.  But if not, you need to watch.  And get the point.

But people keep talking about the “bullying” and how the show sends such a good message about it.   And how eye opening it is.  And I’m just like, was….was that all you got from it?  I’m not sure if people are too polite to talk about it or what.  But a big huge freaking deal that the whole damn movie centers around is not being talked about.  So I will.

Hannah Baker was raped.  After being raped she wanted to end her life.  Sure, there are some other things that contributed to this, but this is what put her over the edge.  She was still dealing with all the other factors and obstacles that came up.  She was fighting through them.  But the rape is a different story.

I see a lot of people hinting at it but no one is directly talking about it.  Women have raved about the show.  And I think that is because even if they aren’t a victim of sexual abuse, they have had derogatory remarks made to them that just make them feel gross and want to crawl out of their skin.  Every single one of them has a friend or family member that has gone through it whether they know so or not.  So they can appreciate what the show is about.

You see the life go out of her.  A part of her died and you can see it happen.  And that’s what I think is the most important part of this story.  The part that I haven’t seen anyone really talk talk about up front.

You so often hear about fraternities and likewise being charged for rape.  The fact that people can even commit an act like this, laughing it off with friends is truly disgusting.  Just this week I have heard about football players being suspended for it.  It is an epidemic.  Yes, I am going to call it that.  An epidemic.  One which people are rarely given a sentence they deserve.

Look at Brock Turner.  That slime ball was caught by two other males and held down until cops came.  And he got off.  They always get off.  And then his sweet old dad pens a letter saying that prison would be “a steep price to pay for his 20 minutes of action.” No regard whatsoever for the woman involved.  None at all.  There was outcry, outrage.  What changed?  Nothing.  We just continue down the rabbit hole, getting a president that “grabs ’em by their pussy.”

This is the sad reality.  This is the state of America.  Powerful people in powerful places consider women their toys, their objects to use at will.  This isn’t a Sims game.  We have free will.  We can tell you no and you will need to deal with it.

I think that if more boys saw this show, if you catch them at a younger age and show them what a truly despicable act this is, they may think twice as they grow older.  I have many male friends that are as disgusted by cases like Brock Turner as I am.  But there are far more in higher places that honestly don’t give a shit.  Those people hold offices, are judges, the president.  Maybe if we caught them young, the excuses would stop.  Maybe the questioning of clothing, morals, or alcohol of the survivor would fucking stop.  Look at Jessica in 13 Reasons Why.  She had no idea what happened to her.  Look how it still destroyed her when she found out.  You can see the downhill spiral of them both.

Hannah reaches out to her counselor Mr. Porter and tries to talk to him about it.  Knowing he did something wrong he hid talking to her at all the entire time.   He questioned her the way many women are in regards to drugs and alcohol telling her to “let it go.” If you watch the tidbit after the show where the actors and directors talk about making the movie, one of them says “it’s okay to admit that Hannah kind of set up Mr. Porter.”  Apparently in regards to his comments.  I was appalled at that comment.  She didn’t set him up.  He didn’t listen, he didn’t want to hear, period.  This guy missed some of the point of this and he took part in creating the damn show.  Listening without blaming is so incredibly important.  Especially as a counselor.  This was his job.  You have be trained to be a counselor at the school.  He knew how he should have reacted to the news.  He knew what he should have done and that he should have reported it.  He did nothing.  But he was not set up.

Things snowballed from there.  Other things contributed to Hannah’s suicide but it was the rape that set it in motion.  Rape affects your life forever.  FOREVER.  You can work on things and have times where you don’t think about it at all.  But it subconsciously affects you as well.  If Hannah were to live, she may have problems with intimate relationships, sex, being alone, checking behind her shoulder, and in constant fight or flight mode.  She might cry out of no where.  Certain items, smells, colors, time of day, places may take her back to that horrible day.  She may have problems trusting people.  Should she have children or a siblings, she may be extremely over protective.  But she didn’t.  Hannah killed herself.

She did not kill herself because of bullying.  Though bullying is a big message in this show as well, it is not THE message.  She killed herself because she was raped.  Because someone had sex with her, without her permission, while she was crying.  She killed herself because people didn’t listen.  Because she just wanted that awful feeling in her stomach to end.  Because she wanted the pain to stop.  Because she was told to let it go.  So she did, in the only way she knew how.

I am not by any means promoting suicide.  But that is the decision that many people, men, women, and everyone in between, land on after a rape.  It is horrible and not the answer.  But this is why it is so important for people to respond correctly if someone admits a rape to you.  To stand by them, love them, uplift them.  They are going to feel terrible.  Be there for them.

And men take note.  This epidemic can stop with you.  Educate each other about it.  There are constant reminders of the torment women are put through all throughout this series. Stop it if you witness it.  Your pride and popularity is not worth more than someone’s dignity.

Did you see it?  The part where she dies inside?  Where the life goes out of her and her eyes go dull.  That’s the most important part of this show.  That is exactly what it feels like.  Remember that.

Signed,

A Survivor

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My Mom is Super Mom

With Mother’s Day on the horizon I was thinking a lot about what I have been through personally when it comes to my son.  We have definitely had our battles.   But he is a little fighter and I have no qualms about admitting that we have it good.  There could be so many worse things to have to deal with.  And this lead me to thinking about my mom.  And all she has been through as a mother.

My mom, became a mom young.  When you are pregnant, you have all these ideas about how your child will be raised and what they will achieve.  I cannot imagine being that young and being told that your child will need to have open heart surgery.  I have seen my son through tonsils and adenoids being taken out, and a few other small surgeries and that was bad enough.  Can you imagine having to take your young child to a hospital and watch nurses take them away knowing they will be operating on your child’s heart?  This was before they made a small insertion, this was when they cut you open down your chest.  Can you imagine the dread you would feel?

The relief she must have felt when I started doing better.  I started growing.  I thought about all the stuff I did even knowing I had a heart murmur.  I played sports all the way through high school.  Ballet, bowling, baseball, soccer.  I went on roller coasters and ran the stupid mile in gym.  If there’s anything that could have come out of it is they should have said I couldn’t run the mile, but I’m just now thinking of this–stupid me.  Back to my mom.  She never stopped me.  She never told me I couldn’t.  But I’m sure she worried about it.  I would have.

Getting the usual tonsils and adenoids out.  Then tubes in the ears too many times to count.  Having the skin under my tongue clipped because I was tongue tied.  Being so active I was constantly breaking, spraining, or hurting something.  Just constant issues.

What about as that child gets older and you know something is wrong health wise but you can’t put your finger on it?  You run them from doctor to doctor trying to figure it out.  All while working and driving them to all those sports and outings with friends, while still working.  And you never get the answer you are looking for.

Until one day you do.  And it’s a rare disease that can cause blindness.  What would you do if your child had to take strong medicine every day for the rest of their lives?  What if the only way to stop the medicine was to have brain surgery?  We went on living our lives and just taking medicine.  At the same time my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Then one day getting more bad news. Listening to your daughter bawl into the phone as she says that her nuero surgeon told her she had to have surgery.  After ten years of having the disease and taking medicine.  Having the nurses roll your child away for another major surgery.  That must have been so hard.  Can you imagine what that must have felt like as a parent?

What about the aftermath of that surgery?  Taking care of your grandson and daughter as you have your own medical issues going on.  Driving her everywhere until she is allowed to drive again.  Taking her to appointments because something else may have gone wrong at the surgery and waiting it out to find out what was happening.

It’s hard sometimes to put yourself in another person’s shoes.  It’s easy to think about how something affects you.  But when I think about all my mom has been through as a mother, to me, alone, it is crazy.  This doesn’t include her own issues, my brother, or my son.  My mom has had a hard life and she just keeps pushing through with the hand she is dealt.  My mom is Super Mom ❤

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Growing Country

I have grown to love the country.  There are certainly things I miss about the suburbs and the city.  But there is something to country lifestyle.

I remember moving in and driving past all the produce stands and being appalled that they would leave money jars, or even their produce for that matter, without worrying about it being stolen.  I love those little produce stands.  Or buying peaches in a brown lunch bag, picked from the tree that morning, from the family down the street.  I love that you can go berry picking and bring home some fresh fruit.  And I love that the farmer’s markets are always full of all kinds of things from produce, to honey they have collected themselves.

That often many people can leave their cars, houses and businesses unlocked without a problem.  That the biggest thing that has happened here in a while was they changed the “welcome” sign with the stats for sports.  The biggest things you have to worry about is the speeding traffic in your neighborhood.  That our neighbor gladly takes the battery out of his lawn mower and puts it in ours when it died, going out and buying a new one for himself.  That every Halloween all the businesses make a scarecrow for the annual contest.

I love the stillness.  The quiet.  Watching the water bugs dance across the surface on the creek in our back yard.  Swinging in a hammock and reading in the calmness that just is.  That I can, without fail, every morning see the bunny that has made our backyard it’s home.  Watching the sky change colors mornings and nights.  Seeing it clearly without much interruption of buildings breaking up the beauty of it.  The stars at night gleaming in a way many haven’t seen because the lights of the city dim their shine.  That nature just exists.  Not needing anyone to plant or have areas sectioned off for a little bit of it to grow.  Hearing the birds call first thing in the morning, welcoming you to a new day.

My Sensational Son SPD stories

Your Text Can Wait

April 19, 2010 was one of the worst days of my life.  It opened my eyes to a lot.  I laid in the hospital bed without a scratch on me.  Sure my back and neck hurt, but other than that, I felt fine.  But it didn’t matter.

I can still picture you.  Crying over your precious car.  Not bothering to come over and check on me, or the woman you sent me hurdling into.  Only the other woman and the officer asked how I was.  “I’m pregnant” I said quietly to the officer.  He asked if I wanted an ambulance.  Did I?  No, I can’t even afford it.  I’m just gonna go.  I look back and you are still upset as your car is being towed.  And all I can think is, you selfish bitch.

I remember being stopped in traffic on Southfield.  That the light was green but because of the construction we were at a stand still.  I remember reaching down for my Tim Horton’s Ice Cap, the only thing I was able hold down at the time.  I remember looking in the rear-view mirror as I did and braced for what was clearly about to happen.  With your phone in your hand eyes clearly on it as the light from your screen left a blue haze on your face.  I’m trapped, I can’t move.  I’m honking to try and get your attention, making people angry thinking that I’m honking at the traffic.  Watching you try to brake, but it was too late.

Then the impact, and the second impact.  You hit me and I was sent flying into the woman in front of me.  I remember thinking that I was kind of far away from the car in front of me considering it was bumper to bumper traffic.  That maybe I won’t hit it.  But no such luck.  I slammed into her just as you slammed into me.  You never came to talk to us.  The woman in front of me informed me that I hit her so hard her wig flew off.  That’s always the part that I talk about, making light of it.  But it wasn’t light.  It wasn’t funny.  It was terrifying.

“I’m pregnant,” I quietly said to the officer.  It was the first time I really felt it.  The first time I had really connected with it.   I was just about 9 weeks pregnant.  I had just found 2 weeks before.  And I was scared.  Just a couple people knew.  I was embarrassed and ashamed at 19 years old.  My mom said she would support me in whatever decision I would make, but I had to make it for myself.  Tears in my eyes, heart in my chest.  “I’m pregnant,” I quietly said to the officer, admitting it out loud, being the only time it felt real.

He made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal but asked if I wanted an ambulance.  I didn’t.  I was fine.  Right?  And I drove to campus.  I went to a few classes.  I went and spent time with my usual crew in the cafeteria, still in shock.  I called my mom again.  Should I go to the hospital?  “I would” she says.  So I leave school and drive myself to the hospital.  She meets me there.

I laid in the hospital bed, without a scratch on me.  Sure my back and neck hurt, but other than that, I felt fine.  But it didn’t matter.  Tears in my eyes as they do the ultra sound.  As I watch my baby dance across the screen for the first time.  “It’s okay” I’m thinking.  But no, not so fast.  I’m crushed as they tell me that it doesn’t mean anything.  That it can still die.  That injuries can still happen.  That I can still have a miscarriage.  And I think about you crying over your car as they tell me, the same way you would tell someone what you want from a restaurant, that if my baby dies they would do a procedure and take it out in chunks.  “Chunks” was what I was told.  I spend 7 hours in the hospital and sent home with several weeks, at least, of bed rest.

I decided in the hospital, when there was a possibility of my choice being taken away, that I had to get real.  There was no way I could give up my baby.  I don’t know why I even pretended like I could.  Adoption or abortion, it didn’t matter.  I decided then and there that baby was mine regardless of how anyone else felt about it.  Don’t pat yourself on the back for that.  I would have eventually come to the same decision.  It just came much faster.

That baby, is a boy named Keegan.  He brings such light to my life.  The sun rises on his face.  He is so smart, handsome, and sweet.  But sometimes I wonder, if your selfish act is the reason his brain is different.  His sensory issues and possible autism, could that be because of the trauma to his early developing brain? Were you the reason that he was a two vessel cord baby? Did the other vessel tear during that accident?  We weren’t even aware until quite a ways on.  Were you the reason he was small?  Or the reason that his legs were short?  Or the reason the amniotic fluid wasn’t fantastic.  Was that you?  I guess we will never know.

What would I say to you if I got the chance?  What would I ask you?  What was on your phone that was worth risking lives over?  Some Facebook post?  A text?  Were you talking and holding your phone down looking at it instead of holding it up to your cheek?  What was the deal?  What was so exciting?  That’s all I want to know.

What did your text say?

 

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What I have learned from the business owner that loves his job

Seeing someone have such passion for their job in today’s world is truly amazing.  People seem numb to the world, just going through the motions.  So when you come across someone that is truly passionate about what they do for a living, it is inspiring.

It is even more eye opening when that passionate person owns their own store.  Of course I am proud of those that have their own businesses and are online.  But it is common these days and so it is a little bit different when you see someone with a physical space for their passion.  Office, store, or whatever that space may be.  I think kids need to have more access to people like this.  To see what it looks like to work for yourself.  To know it isn’t uncommon.  That corporate jobs aren’t the natural road to success.  That you don’t have to follow the step by step plan pre-laid out by society.  You can deviate from that path.  And if you have a passion, you should forge your own way.

I have many friends, family, and acquaintances that have started their own companies.  I am fortunate enough to be around people of this mindset.  But recently, I have started a new job at a flower shop and it has touched me in a different way.  It is a mom and pop type shop.  I can’t get over the quaint cuteness of this rustic place.  With fairy garden items dressing the shelves, and bonsai trees growing in the covered, heated greenhouse.  The Koi in the pond that like to be petted.  The fairy gardens dazzling little spaces for inspiration.  The planters and the flower arrangements just add to the charm.

I love that the owner just gets to do things how he wants.  It isn’t just a buttoned up business in there.  There isn’t a dress code.  Our time cards are index cards.  The schedule is amazing closing 5 p.m. or earlier.  And though I feel completely at peace in this little home away from home, it is the owner that really sharpened my sense of what I want to do.

This man loves his job.  I mean, he LOVES his job.  Not because he makes a bunch of money, or that he was told he should do this, or for any other reason except his passion for it.  He did it for himself.  He tailored the job he wanted, to suit him.  He wakes up at 6 a.m. and comes into work long before anyone else gets there at 9 a.m.  He will tell you goodbye a few minutes before closing but tell you he’s going to change so he can dig up one of the trees in the garden to put in a pot.  He really does without a doubt love his job.  And that has made me realize what I want.

I want to be able to tell the corporate world to kiss my ass.  That if I ever have a lucrative enough business that I would need to expand, I would still want it to be run less like a corporation.  Less of the rules, memos and planograms all the time.  More freedom.  I want my employees to be able to come to work and not have to stand in front of their closet trying to find something that fits the dress code while being reminded how their job stamps out their individuality.  I’m not sure when I became this small town girl.  I always wanted a prestigious New York job working for some fancy company.  But for a while, that’s all I knew.  Because everyone constantly warns of the dangers of opening your own business, beating the excitement out of you.  Here’s a secret: we know the dangers, we just decided to try anyway.

I plan on starting my own company.  I have for a while.  Seeing my new boss just completely immersing himself in the love for his job, has ignited that in me.  Many friends are starting to do their own thing.  I think people are realizing that it sucks to do a job you are just content with that has a ceiling on how much you are going to be able to earn in that position.  And I think people know that starting your own company is how you can do something you love and make and unlimited amount of money if done right.  I needed to see more than anything, that people can start their own company and completely care less about the money, because they just love it so much.  That is the level of happiness and comfort I am trying to achieve.  That is the level of happiness I am going for.  And I have seen it at this store, with this man and his love for his bonsai trees and all things gardening.

Poems about Life

Smoke and Mirrors

It’s quite amazing

How people go on believing the facade.

The mask put on.

You just accept it

Hoping they will accept yours too.

Masks painted and intricate

With lines that curl and intertwine into each other.

Telling a story, but not the real one,

Not the full one.

Not the one that is you.

A story more acceptable to the world,

Easier to swallow.

Less humiliating, more intriguing.

Less struggle, more fun.

Taking in the beauty of the masks

Not ready for the truth.

Not realizing that if you only turned your face toward the eyes

Instead of focusing on the paint

You would know what real beauty is.

You would know the truth.

You would know the pain.

The sadness

The happiness

The content

The emptiness.

If you really wanted to see

You would know the story living on their lips

Waiting to be told

Without ever having to speak.

I see, you.

 

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First World Problems

I randomly get weirded out by the small first world problems I realize I’m having.  Most often, it happens while shopping for a card.  I start thinking of this standing in the card aisle and my mind just travels further and further down the rabbit hole.  #firstworldproblems

I am spending between $3-$5 usually.  Did you hear that?!  I am spending on average $4 for pre-printed paper with a pre-printed message that people are going to throw away.  Why?!  Why I am I doing this?! Four dollars adds up!  I’ve got some numbers for you.  Yes, I did go through an entire calendar year and figure out about how many cards I send out.  This includes my family members’ birthdays, Christmas Cards, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and the one wedding I’m usually invited to yearly. It also includes of the end year thank you cards for teachers and two random events because I’m always invited to something I’m not expecting that requires a card.  This is not including the pack of Christmas cards I normally get for work, my son’s pack of Valentines day cards, or the cards for my son’s pen pal.  I got about 27 cards per year but I promise you that it is way higher than that.  This is just the bare minimum.  I know that there are 99 cent cards, but I normally take a lot of time picking out the perfect card for that person, and they are usually $3-$5 for me.  So I spend about $108 bare minimum on cards a year.  I spend money on cards, majority of those people are going to toss right after I leave.

Because this hit me one day standing in Target, I started making a hand written cards made out of wrapping paper on the things that I could.  Then I was like…I spend a bunch on wrapping paper! And bows! And tape.  Don’t get me wrong I love the surprise element of gifts, but as I said, rabbit hole.  I’m totally that person that has a board on Pinterest for “gift wrapping ideas.”  But then I started thinking, hmmm, maybe I could wrap them in newspaper, except I rarely buy newspapers, so I would have to go out and get one and that defeats the purpose.  Then I thought, I could wrap it in a shirt or something they are also getting and use the crafting ribbon we already have to make it pretty.  But I’ve noticed that many times I don’t even have something else to wrap it in.  And then I’m like, why am I giving them this plastic cartoon animal that is cheaply made and costs me $20 for something that should be $10 max anyway?  And why do we even need packaging? Because it gets scratched up? Oh boo hoo.  Just put it in bins like an outdoor food market.

And I have determined that being first world has made us greedy.  These things we don’t even think about that would be outlandish in second or third world countries.  Sure we have to get up and go to work.  And I get that you have a hard time getting up, but a clock on wheels that makes you chase it?  Really?  Okay, that one is pretty cool lol.  But it’s the concept of it all, I think you get my drift.  Why do we buy four chairs at our dining room tables when we only have two people in the house?  You have to buy the chairs separately.  For company.  Everything is for company.  Company we never have anymore except a couple times a year because we are too busy being segregated in our homes binging on Netflix.  We keep extra furniture “in case company comes over.”  Why do we have 1,000 dishes, silverware, and Tupperware bowls?  “In case I can’t wash it before we need it.” …Wouldn’t you then wash it, when you need it?

Why are we buying bumper pads and putting them in our child’s crib?  Sure they match, sure they are pretty.  But it’s even been said that bumper pads can be the cause of SIDS sometimes.  Yet there they are in the crib, with the baby.  Why are we buying baby monitors?  People lived without them for a long time.  I hear the “well when I’m elsewhere” reasoning.  Sure, but I’m positive that if your child is awake, they can lay there for a bit.  Unless they are at the climbing out of their crib age.  I can understand that.  And for God’s sake why are they video monitored too?  Walk in there and peak in on them.  Wipe warmers? Warm them up with your hands.  You really don’t need much anything you have for your baby besides bottles (questionable because of breastfeeding), some clothes, a car seat.  They are even sending home boxes for kids to sleep in at the hospital now.  Everything other than that is just to look pretty or for convenience.  It’s weird.

And stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond is a haven for first world problems.  Would you like a stainless steel cake cutter?  No prob, we have you covered.  A personal holder for your avocado? We’ve got you!  Mirrors that make pores look like craters and your skin look like you need Botox?  Matching toothbrush and soap containers? Doormats? Decorative pillows?  Lounge chairs for you to sit next to your pool that are different than the lawn chairs on your patio?  Perfect we have everything you need.  Guess what? We can personalize it.

I could go on all day.  But I won’t, I think you get the point.  I absolutely have and do all of these things.  Except the bumper pads, for real, cut that out.  I just get kind of randomly freaked out about first world problems.  And cards.  If you get a card from me, know I truly care about you.  Also know that I questioned giving you anything at all and almost bought you food.  I guess that’s just the lavish life we live (hair flip).  It’s just the norm for us.  What’s the biggest “first world problem” you have?

Now excuse me, I have to go pick out my outfit for tomorrow and tweeze my eyebrows.

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9 Sure Fire Ways to be “That” Manager

 

I will never forget when my son was getting tubes put in his ears.  I can’t even remember why, but I hated his ENT.  I just remember telling his resident that the ENT’s bed side manner was terrible.  I will never forget what he said, because I have come to realize it was completely true.  “Sometimes, learning what you shouldn’t do is more important than learning what you should.”  Boy was he ever right.

I have worked under a slew of managers, as we all have.  I have worked under two in particular that were really terrible.  I’ve broken down why the employees had such issues with them.

 

1. Talking down to employees

Your employees are an asset to your company.  They are the cogs and gears keeping the machine running.  If one isn’t quite working well, the entire machine starts to break down.  The biggest and fastest way to have technical difficulties with your machine is treating it badly.

“I don’t understand what is so hard about…”

“We just went over this…”

“Why isn’t this done…”

Words are so important.  How you say things can make or break you.  Because the more you talk down to your employees, the more they group together and talk about it.  I was once told “we are done gossiping.”  It wasn’t about gossiping.  It was about feeling unappreciated and everyone else in the store feeling the same way.  Trying to figure out what to do about it isn’t gossiping when you are trying to decide how to handle it.  Think about how hard it is to say something that may be negative, to anyone.  May cause conflict.  Many people just avoid the conflict completely and keep it inside.  If it has gotten to the point that multiple people are coming to you talking about an issue centered around you, you are the problem.  Most of the time people suffer in silence.  If it has gotten to the point where people are finally saying something about it, everyone is thinking it.  There is a problem.

Change your statements.  Ask what and how questions.  Not “what are you doing?” questions.  Not “how do you not understand?” questions.  The best way is to ask “how can I help?”  “What can I do to help you?”  “What will help get this finished on time?”  Asking to them explain further. “I’m sorry.  I’m not understanding what you are getting stuck on.  Can you explain?”

Probably the biggest thing is not what you say, but how you say it.  Inflection is the biggest issue in any conversation.  Inflection in the tone of voice.  Negative connotations.  Record your voice as you say things and listen back if you have to.  You don’t like when anyone makes you feel small.  The big boss comes in and makes light of your hard work.  You wouldn’t like it.  Don’t do it to someone else.

 

2. Assuming

Assuming is always an issue.  Assuming that you know what took place when you were’t there.  A big project isn’t done? “All you had to do was move everything to the other side.”  “That doesn’t take three hours.”  Now he/she is offended.  What you didn’t know was that the hardware all had to be changed out or that there was an incident with a customer/client that had to be handled in between working on everything.

Assuming puts people on the defensive.  You are being offensive when you assume and they immediately feel like they have to defend themselves.  That already is getting things off on the wrong foot.  When people feel they have to defend themselves they get angry.  Instead ask.  Asking is pivotal in business.  You always want to ask when you don’t understand something.  You don’t understand why that project isn’t done?  “This is taking a bit more time than I thought it would.  Did something go wrong?  How can I help?”  Every time you ask how you can help, you are saying you are on the same side and shows them they have nothing to be defensive about.  You are saying you are on the same team and that you are willing to help to meet a mutual goal.

 

3. Not Understanding Life Outside of Work

This is a big one.  Things happen.  I have train tracks right near my house.  I was driving over an hour to one of my jobs.  In order to get on the freeway, I had to take the road that the train tracks go through, or take another route that would put me off about 20-25 minutes.  There are no reports on the news for traffic due to trains.  There is no way to know until you are sitting there.  I got written up for being late.  I called 45 minutes ahead of time to let my manager know I was going to be late due to the train.  “You should have left earlier.”  Really?!  I should leave an extra half hour early when I already leave 15 minutes early and normally sit in the parking lot waiting on you because you are running a few minutes late.

I was told “this is getting ridiculous” when I called to say I was taking my son to the hospital for an asthma attack a week later.  Sure it may seem like excuses, but if you don’t give your employees the benefit of the doubt, then you again, are putting them on the defensive.  If it becomes excessive, then that is talk that needs to happen.  But not unless it has happened.  Otherwise, you should be understanding.

Train causing them to run late?  “Okay, see you when you get here.  Thanks for calling to let us know.”  Someone in the hospital? “I’m so sorry I hope they feel better.  Let us know if you need more time off.”  A surprise dinner? “That’s awesome!  See if you can find someone to cover your shift.  If not let me know and I can see what I can do.”

Scheduling/time off is the biggest issue when it comes to not understanding others’ lives outside of work.  It is normally not that difficult to figure out how to make everyone happy.  Deadline?  If they can find someone else to do it, it’s fine.  Maybe they can work at home. Don’t tell them “you have a whole store to run and their problems aren’t yours.”  Because they are.  Each employee is a part of your machine.  They need to be taken care of and feel they are cared about.  Otherwise, your turn-over rate is going to be sky high and you will be costing the company thousands because you have to train someone new every month or so.

4. Not Understanding employees are individuals not a group

Don’t see your employees as a group.  Don’t see them as this is my group that helps me do A, B, C, and D.  Understand they are individuals.  Doing so will help your business.  If you don’t you will just have anyone do a job.  Instead of learning Alex and Carrie’s strengths and weaknesses, you have Alex working the budget and Carrie tasking.  If you knew your team as individuals, you would know that Carrie is good at numbers, and Alex likes being busy.  Putting them in the opposite positions means it gets done slower, or not as well as it could have been done.

If an associate comes to you about personal issues that mean that scheduling may be difficult, don’t blow them off.  Take care of them.  Work around it.  They will appreciate it that much more.

The one time I would say it is okay to think of the group as a whole is when hiring.  When I was hired to work in a bridal store, one of the managers, Kaila, said she thinks about how people will work within the group she already has.  This is unbelievably smart.  So often people are hiring ONLY for their qualifications or because they are down on staffing and just need to get a body in the store.  Thinking about how the new individual’s personality will work within the existing group will make your group better and stronger. Personalities will gel.

 

5. Favoritism

Ah.  Favoritism.  America’s favorite pastime.  You are going to have your favorites.  There’s no doubt about it.  It WILL happen.  The issue comes when you act on that favoritism.  You go out to eat with an associate that is under you.  You go out to the bar with them.  You give them all the best jobs.  You give them extra hours.

Some will say this makes the others work harder.  Most of the time people give up.  Because why would they try harder when everything is going to be given to your favorite anyway.  Using favorites is never a good idea to motivate people.  It creates a negative work environment.  For everyone.  Once the negativity starts it is hard to stop.  You give people a reason to come together collectively on something negative and they will.  They will feed off each other’s stories about that favoritism and just making people more angry.

Human kind are generally want to feel included.  They like to feel involved.  When they feel left out of anything in any way, it starts the negative work environment.  People thrive in a place that’s positive.  Where they feel cared about equally with the person next to them.  Where they love coming.  Favoritism gets in the way of that.  In order to keep favoritism at a minimum, I implement my own conduct code.  I do not add any employees on social media unless they are in a leadership position.  I also will not text any employees casually.  I try to keep texting to a minimum period.  I was told that “though it’s frustrating sometimes that I won’t text employees, it’s also really refreshing.”  I think that says a lot.

 

6. Not Being Accountable

In retail, all I heard about was “accountability.”  There are so many pages written about it.  In just about every work place that I’ve been in there was something talking about accountability.  I heard it leave the mouths of so many of my managers.  It’s clearly something that is important in the business world.  And I completely agree.  But my issue is the word is constantly thrown around without understanding the full meaning of it.

Accountability doesn’t mean that your employees take responsibility for their actions, it means you do as well.  Owning up to what someone doesn’t like. Be it your boss not liking something you implemented, or an employee that has sit down to talk to you about something that they don’t like.

If your higher up doesn’t like the visuals of the store.  Don’t blame it on your visual merchandiser when they are following your direction.  Apologize, ask/figure out how you can fix it, and ask what they are expecting.  This works for an employee too.  Your employee wants to know how come they are “employee of the month” but have the least amount of hours.  “I’m sorry, I overlooked it.  I have enough in payroll to give you 8 extra hours next week.  Will that work?”

You seem more like you know what you are doing when you don’t pass the buck and take…that’s right ACCOUNTABILITY.  I owned up to making a mistake to a manager, and that manager told me “don’t throw yourself under the bus, just say you will fix it.”  I don’t agree with this in the least.  I don’t believe that taking accountability for what I did is throwing myself under the bus.  I would rather step up and admit that I made a mistake, which happens, than someone else be called out for my actions.

Not only is taking accountability with your words important, but taking accountability with your actions.  What does that mean?

Once in a meeting with my general store manager, she was talking about taking accountability for how my actions are perceived, while rolling her eyes every time I spoke.  Which leads to my next thing.

 

7. Not Leading by Example

There are rules at every work place.  Don’t expect your employees to follow them if you don’t.  Make yourself aware of the dress code.  Follow the dress code.  Follow the code of conduct.  Because you are always being watched.  When they see you are wearing gray pants when an all black is the dress code, they are going to assume that it is okay to wear gray.  One person decides to follow your lead and then it snowballs into everyone wearing gray.

If you cut corners, they will cut corners.  Lead by example.  You should not be doing anything your boss wouldn’t want to see.  Imagine they surprise you and pop up without notice and they walk into a sea full of employees in gray.

This also means making sure that everyone not following the rules is talked to.  Every time you see it.  Because if people feel like someone is constantly getting away with something they can’t do, it starts that negative workplace I keep talking about.  That’s what starts the questions of favoritism.

Again your actions are important with this as well.  No, rolling your eyes isn’t against any rules.  But you know and understand that is something that is considered rude.  If you don’t want your employees rolling their eyes at you or customers/clients, then lead by example.  This way when you speak to them about it, they can’t say “well you do it.”

 

8.  Not Showing Appreciation

In order to help maintain your machine, keep it oiled.  Make sure it knows it is important.  In the real world it is as simple as “please, and thank yous.”  Staying late?  Buy some $5 pizzas.  It is the simplest thing that doesn’t take place in that many companies.

“I think it’s stupid to thank people for doing their job” one of my mangers said.  I thank people if I could have done it myself and asked them to do it for me.  “Will you run this to the back so I can finish typing up this email please?  Thank you.”  If it isn’t something that they necessarily had to do, if it is not their job, I thank them.
To be so against something that makes someone feel less like they are being told to do something and more like they are a part of the decision, is silly.  It is the smallest thing.  But it is so important.

Hold in store/office contest.  Ask how they are feeling about the new rule implemented.  Make sure there is an employee of the month.  These things don’t take much time at all, but can make your team know that you care about them other than just being an employee.  Speaking of that..

 

9. Not caring about your employees as people

What do you mean?  I remember the complete difference in joining a store that cared about their employees as people and the one that didn’t.  No one is talking to each other, other than work stuff at one.  The other, felt like family.  You knew which employees were trying to get pregnant, who was having trouble with relationships, who spent time at the park earlier that day.

When you don’t do this, work lags.  It really does.  I have had this happen at a couple work places.  You are so business focused that’s all you talk about.  You clearly don’t care about me.  I’m just someone filling a spot.  I am just a body in a store/building.  And though some people would say that doesn’t matter, you are more likely to stay in job where you feel connected to the people.

One of my favorite things to do on a slow day is to play “fun fact” over the headset.  Each person working states fun facts about themselves.  You learn so much about that person and sometimes really interesting stories.  I genuinely love and care about the people at my job.  I want to know what is going on in your life.  I want to know how many kids you have and which one is driving you up the wall.  I often know my employees best friends’ names, even though I have never met them.  There is a way to do this without it getting in the way of work.  Just short little conversations.  As long as you know when, and how to break away from that conversation, your team will still be productive.  And more upbeat as a result

 

Some of these things cause the others.  Often, when one of these is an issue, there’s another that is too.  If your employees are in a negative work environment, they aren’t going to enjoy coming to work.  If your employees are looking to see which manager they are working with, they are dreading one of you.  A team that works well together keeps the machine running fluidly.  This will make the company more money.  Think about it.  If there is someone you don’t like then you try to avoid them.  Avoiding means you aren’t going near a certain area.  If you aren’t working together how are you going to make a profit?  Strive for a team that only checks to see when they are working, not who they are working with.  That team is the best.  Just ask mine.  We have our days but we are a work family, not a job that pays the bills.