2017-11-30 The Last Day Of November

When I decided I was going to quit my job I had a very general idea about the timeline I would adhere to for the remainder of the year. In review..

July – Adjust to not working, reconnect with important people in my life, meet new people, and travel the Pacific North West. Check ✅

August – Focus on myself and health. I set goals, worked on gardening and exercising and started cooking more. I

Dipped my toe in the dating scene and that left me somewhat sour, but I tried it. ✅

September – Originally this month was supposed to be dedicated to figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I did do a little of this but almost none of it was related to how to obtain income like I intended. Instead it turned into a second August where I was very self-centered in just doing whatever I wanted. In the end my grand life epiphany led me to submit an application for the MFA program. So I’m a way, I sort of accomplished what I set out to do. ✅

October – Presumably I would have my life figured out by this point so this month was earmarked for actually looking for a job. Instead what I did was have my third August. Ummm.. ok. I don’t think I can even pretend I was on track by this point. However, I still felt great about EVERYTHING.

November – Doing analysis for my financials led me to really determine what my needs are. By this point I should have been deep in job search land but was not. I procrastinated that daily as I looked forward to my escape to Hawaii. Oh yeah, Maui! My savings were dwindling daily and for the rest of my life I will never regret going. Add that Mantra to my list “No Regrets”.

Today is the last day of November and In my grand master plan I would be zeroing in on a new job. A source of income to sustain my family is a top priority at this point. It’s time to get serious. I think I’ve successfully separated what I want for my life from what I need. I can now look at jobs more objectively.

I don’t need to find something that will repel me up a ladder and also check boxes for life fulfillment. I’m getting that from the other aspects of my life. Im getting it from my children and relationships and writing and experiences. I’m checking the box for continued personal growth with the MFA and the Master Gardner program.

The job I’m looking for needs to satisfy a slim but probably still tough to find set of requirements.

1. A minimum income to sustain my lifestyle. Thank goodness I’ve always lived well inside my means.

2. Flexibility to allow me to spend a necessary amount of time on those items listed in the previous paragraph.

3. A good company with a good mission, vision, and culture.

The end result might be contract work utilizing my current skills and expertise or it could be a full time gig helping me cross over into different industries. I’m open to either. What I can’t have is something that is a copy of what I’ve done in the past.. stress, poor work life balance, and a lack of growth.

Today I’ve set a goal for myself to update my resume for a few very specific job descriptions and also my LI profile. I’m also intending to reach out to three contacts to start spreading the word that I’m available. I’m going to do three a day until I’ve exhausted my list. Yes, December is going to be the month I get everything rolling. I expect that will take me straight into the holidays when the whole world pauses and nothing gets done.

My residency for the MFA is scheduled for Dec. 28 through Jan. 6 so I won’t want to actually start a new gig until then. It’s going to work out perfectly… I’m confident!!

It’s Go Time!

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-11-11 The Phone Call that Changed Everything

Sometimes we look back at moments in our lives and realize there was a particular occurance or decision or person that had a huge impact. Something so significant, it altered the course of our path and perhaps put us going in a new direction. Many times we don’t even realize those moments until weeks, months, or even years pass. For me there have been several and when I think about those times, it somehow seems that fate had a heavy hand in my life.

If I were writing a blog that was about my history, now would be the perfect time to tell the story of that one raccoon that dramatically altered the course of my life… in a BIG way. However, since this is mostly about what is happening in the here and now and not about what happened to me when I was 18, I’ll skip that one and go right into the phone call I had at 1:55PM today, November 11, 2017.

The call was from Jenna, at UNO. She let me know that I’ve been accepted into the MFA program. If I want a spot in the spring term, it’s mine. Wow.
The conversation lasted less than five minutes and she’s going to send me a detailed packet of information via email early next week, then “Thanks, I’ll talk to you soon” and “click”. Again.. Wow.

At the time of the call I was at Simon’s house planting spring bulbs. He wasn’t home. I paced up and down his small living and dining area and cried. Then I jumped up and down like a 8 year old and then i walked over to look out the front window and cried some more. Yup.. I guess you can add that to the list of things that will bring me to tears. A wave of emotion filled with happiness and pride and satisfaction. I did it!

Like I stated, most of those life changing events in my past seemed to be up to fate, or someone else, or just me rolling with the path of least resistance. I never had dreams and aspirations. I never had big life goals. By the time I was 33 I was 10 years deep in my career and positive that was it. I was a software analyst with a computer science degree and I was positive I’d never go back to school, because my path was set and I didn’t need it.

If there’s anything I’ve learned these past two really tough years, it’s that I deserve more and I deserve better. I deserve to dream and I have every right to pursue whatever that is, despite fate or what anyone else might think about it. It’s my life and I’m calling the shots.

I’ve been writing my entire life. My poetry is a huge part of who I am.  It’s a part of my soul and my process. This choice, this path is what is the right thing for me. It’s what I want and what I need and starting something new might be scary and there are still obstacles in my path, but I have confidence in myself and my abilities and I’ll be able to make it work.

People are going to ask me why.

My only response right now “why not?!!”

Last December I had a casual conversation with the spouse of a colleague at the company Christmas party. That interaction planted a tiny seed which sprouted when I was working out on an elliptical machine in a shitty airport hotel in Portland Oregon. I had an epiphany about my life.

That idea grew over the next few months while I was living a work-free life of leisure. On 9/26 I had a moment of complete clarity and that is when I made the decision to apply for the MFA program. There’s no way I could deny the power of the force inside me pointing the way.

Ok.. so maybe today’s phone call wasn’t the thing that changed everything, but the fact that it happened and the way I felt about it is pure validation. I’m really doing this. Wow wow!!

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. This is the poem I included with the two page “Statement of Purpose” that was required by the application…

Why I Write

I write because the very essence of my soul demands it.
Hearts are weak, soft, and are hurt easy.
They bleed, and then cease to exist.
The soul is liquid forever
Moving at its own pace through existence.
Mingling with others, and then splitting apart
Tirelessly spilling into new territory.
Fearlessly cutting the terrain beneath it into cracks,
And yes, even canyons.
The fluidity of it is perfection.
And there’s no need to lead the way, it knows.
So denying it what it demands is folly.
My heart feels and seeks after inspiration.
But words are the implements of my souls grand design.

2017-10-27 On History Repeating

The last few days have been strange in the way it feels I’m living certain days and events of my life over again. Today it continues and I’ve been “hit” with one more. This one on a much more personal level.

I was just doing random chores around the house and finishing dishes in the kitchen when I received an unexpected phone call from Simon. He often calls me after Work meet ups to talk through thoughts about them. Not too unusual then.. until he starts talking about the possibility of not staying in Omaha.

This is the first time this has come up and my immediate reaction felt like a punch. I should not be surprised given his history of moving around and the fact that his daughter lives in another state but I always got the impression he was happy here. I also have tried to shield myself from thinking too far in the future for the fear of exactly how this makes me feel.

I feel unimportant. I feel limited in what I can offer as a partner because my kids come first. And given the history of my failed relationships, I lack confidence in the possibility that things really can work out. Somehow I feel destined to always be faced with heartbreak.

This is so very close to the scenario with Matt. He’s not happy with his life. He’s not sure about staying in Omaha. He wants me to consider uprooting the kids to live somewhere else. Our relationship was not good enough for a real long term commitment. It’s impossible for me not to equate all that with what I heard this morning.

I’ve been seeing Simon about 3 and a half months. The last month and a half, more seriously. I’m emotionally attached and have allowed myself to be completely open for getting closer and seeing where it goes. It’s probably time for a conversation about “us”, but that’s scary because it might force the tough questions and even tougher answers. In a way I’ve been avoiding that. Fear is a bitch.

I know what I want from life and my partner and I know what my expectations are. I have to be honest about that. I have to be straight with him and straight with myself. Yes, I have to.

Matt and I failed to talk about these things for 5 years. I know history is repeating itself, but that can NEVER happen again. I need to get over my fear and have that conversation. Today!

Not ALL history has to repeat.
Cheers to Tomorrow!
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-10-26 History Repeats – Part 2

My job interview today went well. I’m pretty sure my reputation precedes me on this one and that probably cuts the conversation in half.

The people I spoke with were the president of the company and the current product developer/owner/leader. Really cool people who seem to have great vision about the company and where things are headed. Their expectations are high. Of course they want someone to come in and hit the ground running and just be able to do every aspect of the position. I’ve no doubts that I could do close to that.

Some things are completely in my wheelhouse and I’d knock those out of the park. Others are very new to me and there would be a learning curve. I tried to present myself in such a way so as to recognize those things but leave the impression that it would not be a problem.

In some ways I consider myself a master of “fake it till you make it”. But I often sell my abilities short. The part I’m faking is not my intelligence or knowledge or experience. It’s the People skills. However I think I’m better at that than I give myself credit for.
If I’m the SME in the room, I don’t have a problem running off at the mouth about things. This would be very different. I’m not the SME. I’m green. I’d have a lot to learn quickly to be comfortable enough in my knowledge to offer direction and push for changes. That is part of what they are going to expect from me.

Despite my lack of comfort with my people skills, I seem to do OK. I somehow leave People with a great impression. I attribute this to my ability to listen, analyze, and repeat back. I remember my first real assignment at my last gig. I was meeting the customer face to face and I was on a fact finding mission.

I swear all I did was listen, take good notes, repeat back my understanding, and then document what I learned. They thought I was a damn genius. I know this because the people I was working with had long time ties back to the CTO of my new company and they told him as much. That was a good day.

That process comes naturally to me. It’s the impromptu/unknown I struggle with but, again, I’m my own worst critic. I guess we will see if they liked what they heard and saw from me. I was told they want to make a decision soon.. as early as next week (of course!). They know I’ll be leaving for vacation Sunday which leaves very little time for second interviews or meetings with the team (which I specifically requested). There needs to be a two way street about expectations.

The other side of that employee/employer fit equation is if their company is right for me. Is the position right for me? Can I get behind the vision and get excited about the project and product. Is their culture nourishing and will they have opportunity for growth? So far what I’ve seen and heard is very positive but my exposure has been limited.
The other elephant in the room is my MFA.

This job sounds like a complete full time + position. Would I be able to do both? I previously thought no. I also wanted to take my career in a direction to use my writing skills more, and this would be slightly more, but probably not as much as I would like. Am I willing to abandon the writing front for this opportunity which comes with a pay check? I don’t know.

Also.. am I ready to go back to work? Hell No.. Haha.. I’d still rather never work again. 10 or 15 or 20 more years to retirement seems so far away. /deep sigh
My life feels like the weekly cliffhanger of a half hour dramedy. When, oh when, and how will this season end?

Stay Tuned,

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-10-20 Inspiration On the Path

I’m walking on this path of life and declared my purpose to be the search for inspiration. Sometimes the road is long and boring and sometimes there are waves of wonderful things to see and touch and hear and taste. So much that I can’t possibly consume it all and not miss something. Yesterday was one of those glorious days full of experience, thought, and emotion. 

Too much from the day to recount all of it so I will just focus on the highlight which was the feedback reading I attended. They changed the format from previous readings and the interaction/feedback was greatly reduced. It felt more like a standard poetry reading by two great authors whose work has been published and the pieces they read were polished and perfected. No feedback needed. Wait? Isn’t that the point of a feedback reading? To get feedback from the audience on some work in progress? If they want to change the format then they should change the name too, in my opinion. But I digress. 

The two poets they had were just phenomenal and clearly seasoned veterans at presenting their own work. One was a poetry slam champion so it’s no wonder she brought me to tears and the other was a woman who decided when she was 39 to quit her professional job and pursue her passion in writing. Hey, that sounds familiar! 

I’ve had no update on my MFA application and I’ve been strangely at ease with that. I think I’m scared about it. If I get a negative response I’m going to have even bigger issues with my insecurities about my abilities than I already do. If I get a positive response, then I’m faced with the decision to keep going, invest in myself, and actively take on more risk than I already have quitting my job. Like a giant fork in the road which lay before me and this decision will put me on a path where the road sign at that juncture will all at once show up in my rear view. 

If I take the road less traveled, I’m all-in. I cannot happily skip along both paths. There is only one of me and I have limited time and resources. 
Meeting Airea D. Matthews, author of the Yale Younger Poets Prize-winning for her collection, Simulacra, was validation that following ones instincts is the right thing to do and that the results can be amazing. She was the one who had a “normal” life with a husband and four children and a career and one day decided to change her life.

I spoke briefly with her and at the end of that conversation she said she was looking forward to reading my work. Uhhhh, what?!
I did not speak directly with Rachel McKibbens, who has a book, Blud, which is fresh out from Copper Canyon Press. She was the one who is a Slam success and her path was very different but still validating with the notion that you can do what you want despite many tough obstacles. Her obsticles are far and away more difficult than anything I’ve ever imagined. If money is my only hurdle, then I should just shut my mouth right now and “go for it”. 

However, hearing their work left a very polar opposite thought in my brain. My life and experiences may not be enough. My passion for the craft may not be enough and my talent is questionable. My poetry is very one dimensional compared to these women. 

Is the difference years of focus on their work or is it raw talent and life experience? I can’t know the answer to this which puts the scale of my decision back in balance. Most of the time I’m preaching all about balance but in this case, I really would like something to tip this scale in one direction or another. In the end, it’s my life and my decision. I’m afraid of screwing it up. 

I think when I do get some feedback on my MFA application, that will help. Until then, I’ll just keep walking this path soaking it all in.
Whistling While I Walk,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-10-05 Why Not Both?

This morning I met with one of my former managers and we had a good conversation about career, things I should look to be doing, and just generally catching up with our respective lives. There was a lot packed into that hour and while I didn’t necessarily come away with a concrete yes on potentially doing contract work for her, i did get lots of good advice.

She agreed I should be going forward and not looking back and that a job in the healthcare IT space would not be the best option. It remains a safety net if I need it, but to better myself and achieve more, I should be looking for something different.
My woes yesterday were fueled by fear and anxiety about money. I shared my thoughts with Simon and his words of wisdom were insightful and comforting. 
Comforting because they validated that I’m not wrong to pursue my passion and insightful in reminding me that I don’t have to completely do one thing or the other.. that I can choose to do a balance of both. It remains true I will not likely find the perfect gig to pay what I was making before with enough flexibility and free time for the MFA. However, I could choose to do something else rewarding and flexible for less pay. 
Instead of being at one end of a pendulum swing or the other, meet in the middle with compassion, dedication, and satisfaction. I need only look as far as the statement of purpose I wrote for the MFA application to remind myself what it is and what it means to me. 
My coffee date this AM was more focused on the career path but actually took my intent one step further to shine a light on the fact that I could be looking for something which actually combines the writing with my 20+ years of Tecnical and analysis experience. There is a great wild world of opportunities and I just need to start exploring. 
At this point I’m totally down with what I need to do next and it’s just a matter of execution. I’m needing a little nudge to do that. I’ve been enjoying my time off quite a bit lately and have established a very relaxed and happy routine. Part of me is not looking forward to giving that up. I keep writing things on my to-do list and managing to only get to the “fun” things and put off the research and resume work for another day. 
I should take a day and do nothing but that. If I make progress it might be just the motivator I need to keep the train rolling forward. 
As of right now.. I’m 48 minutes into writing from my beloved elliptical machine (again combing what I love with what I love). All this other stuff should have been obvious right?! 
I need to finish up at the gym and get home before the kids get home from school. Another round of parent-teacher conference tonight. 
Until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, 
~Miss Sugarcookie 

2017-09-12 The “Big” Question

The crossroads. The decision. The thing that will change all other things to come.

That’s putting a lot of pressure on one question. That’s putting a lot of pressure on one’s self. That is what thinking about what my next “career” move feels like. I’ve adequately filled up this months to-do list with things that are mostly related to personal goals. A small part of me wonders if I didn’t do that somewhat deliberately so that I could push off the one big question, the one big goal, which is to figure out what I’m going to do next with my life.

So my focus has been on my yard, and my exercise, and just enjoying every day. I’ve gotten kind of used to enjoying every day. I’ve gotten used to having extra time to myself and to have more freedom to choose what gets done when. I’m still not ready to give that up and thinking about what I am going to do to earn a paycheck has become a thing I’m not looking forward to deciding. I don’t know if it is fear of commitment to the wrong thing or just simply that I don’t want to have to go back to that lifestyle. Not yet anyway.

Yesterday I met with Paul, a mentor of mine at my last company. I respect Paul very much and therefore value his insight, wisdom, conversation, and advice. That’s the thing about listening to other people.. If you have a high opinion of the person you are talking to, then their words cary more weight. If you don’t think much of them, then you are more likely to dismiss any advice or opinions.

It was a good conversation. It was a well balanced conversation and I believe I achieved all that I intended.

The first objective was to re-enforce a connection with a person I think would be straight with me and is open to helping me out if I need it. I wanted to catch up with him and see how things were with him and his family and the company. I was not necessarily looking for specific help, only conversation and advice.

As far as help, I know if it really came down to it, he would at least know the right people to connect me to as it relates to professional endeavors. Indeed he did end up assisting with two separate connections. One was with a person who is a “headhunter” and could help me out finding the right job if a full time gig is what I end up going for. The second was a new group that is being established in my area of town, a new chapter of “Toastmasters”. Something I have long thought would be good for me both personally and professionally.

My other want from this meet-up was to get his thoughts on how I should approach that “big” question. He described a fairly well thought out approach which made such great sense as I listened intently.

In my own words, it’s a matter of priority. The top tier question one must ask themselves is what is most important. Is it money? Is it flexibility of schedule? Is it advancement opportunity? Is it job fulfillment? I need to start by defining this top tier and then move on to the secondary question which is “what”.

I’ve got the entire world of things that I could choose to do in front of me. Some things are well past my reach at my age and ability at this point, but there are a lot that are left. Too many, I think. This second tier is where that VENN diagram for career choice comes into play. If I have not written about that before, it’s basically taking three main categories and listing out what is in each for you. The categories are:

– What are you good at?
– What do you like to do?
– What will the market pay for?

I started brainstorming on this a few weeks back but did not get very far. In the crossover of these three things are sub-categories. For instance, you might like something, but not have what you need to do that for a job. I would consider my liking writing in that category. I might like to do that, but have no credentials and not sure what I could do without more training or knowledge.

I think I got some things under each category, but not a lot and then had to move onto something else and ran out of time to list any more. I have not revisited that yet this week. But at least I’ve started trying to solve this piece of the puzzle. I believe Paul is right though, once you narrow this down, then you really have to decide what things fit your priorities in the first tier and then throw out those that don’t (or re-evaluate your priorities).

He and I also touch a little on life in general. We talked about how time goes by fast and the fact that sometimes we measure time by time gone by since event “X” has happened in history. It was 9.11 after all, so there was a few very solemn moments around that topic, but that’s the stuff that matters. It forges deeper connections. I’m not afraid of getting there with people and I appreciate it when they are willing to go there too.

I think after our conversation he recognizes that I am at a similar crossroads that he went through when he was my age. The deciding between continuing doing what you are doing and having that be what you focus on or going a different path and starting over. In my mind, one of these things is easy and one of them seems like it would be difficult. So my “big” decision evolves into a test of my character and what I really want from life. I can have “easy” and still lead a really fulfilling existence but then I will never know what else I am capable of. I can choose to go the other route and risk failure, but at least I know I tried.

I’m wondering how much of my “safety net” I will have to sacrifice to go down the difficult path? Is there a way I can wander down either road just a little bit and see what it is like? And how long can I put off deciding before it really becomes a worry?

No answers yet, only questions.
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-06-23 Now What?

Four weeks ago when I quit my job it felt scary, but wonderful. I felt as if a huge weight was lifted off me. All the technical debt of the past and all the piles of work in the future were suddenly not going to be my problem anymore. I had resolved to take some time for myself and just live, without the burden of work. That was four weeks ago.

Today I am waking up on the very first day I don’t have to go to work. It’s a Friday and would not have had to go into the office anyway, but it still feels strange that I’m not grabbing my phone to check for email (it was turned off already). It feels strange that I don’t need to call in to our morning meeting at 8:45am and let people know what I’m doing today. It feels strange that I can just continue to lie here in my bed and nobody will care.

My kids are not here today so it’s reeeaaally quiet. It’s almost 9 now and I’ve been awake and thinking about “stuff” for a while now. Mostly I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do today but also about what I am going to do next week and the week after that. I have not really put a lot of thought into it, other than planning a vacation for the kids and I, but now I definitely have the time to think about it.

My friend Rebecca said to not “over plan” my time, which I completely agree with. I do, however, intend to accomplish a lot of things in the next few months and want to be smart about my time and not waste it. I don’t want to fall into a pattern of sleeping until 10AM and binge watching shows and then wake up three months from now with an empty bank account and nothing to show for it. That’s an extreme and not really me anyway, but I want to avoid anything resembling that. Which leads me to making lists.

I may or may not have mentioned lists before but I’m a consummate list maker. It’s how I get shit done. I decide early on what I want to accomplish and then I make a list. Whether it be a “weekend to-do” list or a “garden planning” list or just a simple grocery list, that is where I like to start, and after that, it’s just a matter of execution and crossing things off. So perhaps that is exactly where I should start with this new adventure.

Before that, however, it is 9AM and I need to get out of bed. Maybe a little caffeine and a little time on the elliptical will spark my inspiration for what should be on my list.

Later Gaters,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-06-01 Waking up Wonderful

Have you ever woke up feeling refreshed and happy? This morning I did, and it feels amazing. Yesterday was a rough one for sure, but I made it home and the kids tucked me in about 9:30 PM. (When I go to sleep before them, that’s what we do.)

I woke up around 5:30 AM and according to my trusty FitBit I had 7.5 hours of sleep. It was much needed. When I woke up I stretched and took a second to gauge how I was feeling. Much better than yesterday. My brain immediately kicked into gear, as it always does, thinking about all the things to do today. It was work first of course, but then Jazzercise, making sure Z get’s to her first day of summer PE ok, and watering flowers I bought but have not planted yet.

I went through my morning phone ritual as usual. I checked the times on Jazzercise classes. I checked the weather to help determine what I am going to wear to work today and I checked my meeting schedule.

I have a full day of meetings, but for the first time in a long time I am not bothered by that. I can truly start to let go of all the things that I will not be getting to and put the proper focus on what I am actually doing. A webex training session with a customer and a meeting with my boss plus more lab work for a new customer. Anything above and beyond that is icing on the cake.

The amazing part comes in when I roll over and lay on my stomach for a few minutes and think about what is to come. It’s freedom to be able to think about whatever you want to think about and not have the mind tied down by all the weight that has been a burden for so long.

I got up briefly to open the curtains and the window so I could see the sky get light as the sun comes up and hear the birds going through their own morning rituals. Then I nestled back into my bed to enjoy it for just a little longer. I’m so positive today is going to be a good day. I’m so happy to be feeling positive. THIS, my friends, is how you know you have made the right decisions.

Second Stretch, then Shower,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-05-31 Decisions, Decisions

Good Decision – Going to Denver for the holiday weekend.
Bad Decision – Not checking the weather and packing the wrong clothes.
Good Decision – Walking everywhere downtown.
Bad Decision – Buying at $10 salad and a fancy salad place.
Good Decision – Bringing the bike with me.
Bad Decision – Not riding it. 😔
Good Decision – Going to Red Rocks for a concert, meeting some new people, and tailgating for the first time. (Tom Petty was awesome by the way.)
Bad Decision – Drinking way too much AND doing so the night before driving home across Colorado and Nebraska for 8 hours. I’ve never had to drive with a hangover before, and hopefully I never will again.

It was a quick trip, but a good one. I am glad to be back home and getting to sleep in my own bed tonight. I’ve got laundry to do and the kids are being dropped off in a little bit. I have to go into the office tomorrow morning and have a full day of meetings and work. I would say it is back to business as usual, but it probably will be nothing like that for the next four weeks.

This trip has been a good preamble for all the awesomeness to come. I’m sure I will have many more good and bad decisions in my near future.

Jury is Always Out,
~Miss SugarCookie