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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It's Hot

How hot is it?

It's so hot, we have no cold water. Really. I even have to add ice to the kitty water bowl.

And my outdoor plants? Forget it. I water them (evidently with warm water) and they rebound for a bit, but then by the next day they've given up. By August, the yard will be brown.

Can we move to Maine, or even upstate New York? If it gets hot there, it only lasts a short spell.

I find myself in situations like this where I just want to escape. My hub is on a job search, and I've put no limits on the geography. I wonder if a new place is on the horizon.

If you've ever watched House Hunters, you've seen these families that just pick up -little kids and all-  and run off to a different country or to an island, for a job or just a slower pace of life. How glorious. But, how do you do it? How do you leave mothers, children, and in my case, a grandchild?

If you had asked me years ago where I would be when my daughter finally had a baby, I would have told you at least within an hour's drive. And I would keep the baby during the day and work when I could. Those were MY plans. But that hasn't turned out to be the case. I actually only see that precious face in person on average about once a month, and I experience milestones through Instagram and email.

There have been questions over and over, "Why am I here?" If I acted on my impulses, I wouldn't be.

So, why not go? Why not do what I want to do. Life is short, right?

This is where trusting God with my future comes in. Hub and I trusted Him with our move here four years ago and, despite being away from family, it's been the best thing that could have ever happened to us. We know where He leads is for our GOOD.

But still lately, every day when I wake up I don't know exactly where I belong or what I should be doing. I find myself struggling to trust Him with every moment in order for those impulses to not take over, and to not allow the circumstances of whatever He brings to control how I will react. Because if I run off willy-nilly (as I've done before), it only leads to heartache. I'm old enough to know.

And even with trusting Him, I make mistakes. I'm not perfect and never will be. I sometimes say and do things that don't come out right, but my heart is in the right place. I hope the people closest to me know this.

So for today, the focus is just staying on path. Looking forward and not behind. Maintaining joy in the midst of confusion and pain.

And it's still hot. It's early, but the humidity is already 85%. Have mercy. But, I have to remind myself that just like my plants turning brown, it's just a circumstance. It won't be like this forever.

And I won't run. My heart and feet are grounded as I await direction.

“His perspective on what troubles me overshadows my anxiety. Time alone with God prepares me for what I will need throughout the day. He’s equipping me to handle what is ahead with His gentle boldness, quiet strength and loving grace”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A New Season

"God is the one who supplies our needs. Our jobs are not our source, God is. So when jobs and investments disappear, we don't have to feel hopeless, because God is not limited. He can provide for us through other means, in ways we may not have imagined or are able to figure out ahead of time"  - Joyce Meyer

My job as a transcriptionist has been over since May, but I'm not sad. I know it was a season of life that served me well, but now it's time for something new. I haven't posted because it's been difficult to put into words what has happened over the past couple of months, but I will try now.

I always knew I was capable of more, and I think that's why I was frustrated a lot of the time. I just felt like I wasn't doing enough. I happily gave up a corporate job 13 years ago for a more flexible career that would allow me to travel with my husband, but this turned out to not be the case and it was just a job at home. I wanted more, but when it came to finding what I should do next, I was lost.

In the past year or so my mind has really shifted from what I want, to what God wants for me. I know His way is the best way, so I'm gradually learning to trust Him with every step, no matter how big or small. Why struggle so hard to make something work on my own when just following His wisdom and guidance will save time and heartache? So I tried not to worry about finances and just put my job future in His hands.

My husband works in sales and marketing for an architecture firm. He works with a lot of different people and always has ideas to share. My hub and I are the same in that we are both proactive-type people. When we see something that needs to be done, we do our very best to get it done even if we have to learn HOW to do it in the process.

So when a need was expressed by an architect my hub works with, he thought part of what was needed would be a good fit for me, and the other part would be something he could do after hours. After putting a proposal together, we pitched it and got the job. Hub would take care of the website analytics, and I would be doing the social media and blogging.

Blogging. Really? Lord, you MUST be behind all of this because surely Miss Inconsistent here isn't. And social media? I'm anti-Facebook (but very pro-Pinterest, by the way). Though, I have always been told I have a way with words, and now I had the opportunity to put this to the test in a way I've never done before.

Honestly, it was a bit uncomfortable from the start. I was stepping into a family situation and felt like an intruder. Was I taking away a job someone else enjoyed? I was told no, but even so it was like pulling teeth to get information from them. I pushed through and did my very best with what I could glean, as well as following the guidance of my husband and the successful social media path his company was on. It definitely strengthened me in areas in which I was lacking. I was also able to put my own ideas to the test with the blog. It was a lot of fun and personally, I thought the blogs were creative and provided excellent info. But I got very little direct feedback and I just felt such resistance, like I was constantly swimming against the current. I'm very intuitive, and It just didn't feel right.

In the meantime, little did I know that God was still at work when it came to my career. Hub was working with a local web developer to build a new website for his company. One day at lunch, one of the partners of this company (whom we had become friends with) asked about me and what I was doing. The next thing I knew, I was getting a phone call asking if I'd like to freelance for him, writing a blog for an upscale furniture consignment store.

What? Write another blog? And for a furniture consignment store nonetheless? (I've always loved interior design, staging and decorating).

People, let me tell you...don't doubt the power of trusting God with your career!

I was invited to a meeting with the owners of the furniture consignment store, and something just 'clicked'. And as it turns out, after this meeting the web partner asked if I'd be interested in being a project manager for the new upstart company that would be building the website for the consignment store. (The new company takes the smaller business his principal firm is too busy to accept.)

SO, it's now been about six weeks. We have several new clients we are working with, and it has challenged my mind and the creative juices are flowing again. I can't say that the process has been easy, and things have not gone as smoothly as I'd like at times, but it's been a great learning experience and truly the most job-related fun I've ever had. I make my own schedule and sometimes the hours have been crazy, but it's been at my choosing.

I'm not sure if I'm being led down this path for short term experience or if this job will turn out to be a long term success. I'm still an independent contractor, but for now have chosen to focus only on this. My tenure with the architecture firm provided a great deal of experience in a short amount of time, and maybe that is why it was brought to my life. For much of my life I've been too impulsive and quick to give up when things got hard, but now I know to stay the path and listen and watch for direction.

One of our recent sermon series at church was "I Doubt I Can Trust God with Everything". It was said one of the five toughest areas to trust God is with our careers. And my pastor, seemingly speaking directly to me, said "He has enabled you to be in this position. Look at it as an opportunity to pause". And so I'm pausing, and reflecting, and trusting Him to light the way for my future.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slaying the Dragon (aka Facebook)

Many years ago, before it was at its peak in popularity, I created a Facebook page. This was mostly so that I could keep up with what my daughter and sister were doing, share pictures, etc. Like I said, this was before it turned into the monster that overtakes and complicates lives, which (in my opinion) it is now.

Before I moved to Greenville, SC in 2011, I deactivated my account. By then, I was growing weary of it anyway and just didn't want to be distracted by it anymore. But once we were settled in our new place and there were pictures to share, I reluctantly created a new page. This was my first mistake.

At the time I deactivated the old account, I didn't know there was the choice to either deactivate or delete a Facebook profile. I just assumed that it would disappear after deactivating. WRONG. It stays out there forever, giving you the chance to reactivate it years later if you so choose, and also giving hackers the modus operandi they need to steal your info. I now know I should have just reactivated this account rather than creating a new one after we moved.

So last fall, in an attempt to simplify my life, I deleted my Facebook account. It was an unnecessary distraction in my life and I was and am glad that it's gone.

But then, a few months ago my sister texted me, asking if I had reactivated my account. When I said no, she said someone must have "hacked" an old account, because ads for products such as electronics and sunglasses were being sent with my name and an old picture. What? How?

That's when I knew the original account had never just disappeared and it was back to haunt me.

So the first thing I needed to do was get the old account deleted. I didn't have the password, and the email attached to the account was closed so I couldn't receive the email from Facebook in order to change the password. I even went as far as contacting the company that provided the old email account, requesting the account be reopened temporarily so that I could get access, but they said it was gone and there was nothing to access.

Wouldn't you think that with all the technology that Facebook must possess, that their system could figure out when an email is being sent to a closed email account?

After many tries to guess the password (the hacker must have changed it), many attempts to contact Facebook online (they make it very difficult if not impossible to do so), and messages on Twitter, I resorted to sending a certified letter "snail mail" and requested a signature upon delivery. Yes folks, I was willing to take this to the nth degree, if necessary.

But lo and behold, about a week after the letter was received by them, I received an email from Facebook Community Operations. They wanted me to reiterate the problem (assuming because they wanted to ensure it was me who sent the letter) and then in a second message asked for a picture of a government issued document, such as my driver's license. Once this was done and verified, they said they would delete the account.

What they did was change my email address on the account and the password, which allowed me to go in and deactivate, then delete the account. Strangely enough, Facebook makes it very difficult for you to delete your profile. I had to Google it to find out how to do it.

And it worked. I'm so relieved.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me. The thought of someone using my name, and all the info and pictures associated with the page, just really bothered me. There were tons of people I didn't know on my friends' list, and all kinds of junk had been sent out in my name. I did get a lot of pleasure thinking about the hacker trying to log in to the account and finding out that it was gone!

Maybe it just comes with getting older, but I'm going to be so much more careful going forward where and with whom I share my personal info.

So, let this be a lesson. In this day and time, there are so many smart people out there using their time to do bad instead of good and it's too easy to have your identity stolen. Close and delete any unused open accounts be it credit or otherwise, and don't use your debit card online (another lesson learned previously). And if you have a Facebook page, add a second source of access to retrieve your password, such as by text on your cell phone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Smart Moves

When I was 14, I got braces on my teeth for the first time. And they weren't the tiny ones that glue onto the front of your teeth; they were the big ugly ones that wrapped all the way around each tooth and literally had to be hammered on. And I had to wear those things for over three years. (They are even in my senior picture!) My teeth were in pretty bad shape, but by the time the braces came off I had a great smile I was proud of.

So now, some 35 40 years later, I've noticed how much my teeth have moved, especially in the front. One of my two front teeth has moved forward, and through the years has continued to protrude farther out. My bottom teeth have also crowded up and protrude out, which is pushing the top front tooth out. My husband is not much into details, but even he has even noticed how much my smile has changed.

I usually don't think twice about doing things for myself such as hair appointments, massages, and pedicures, but having my teeth done again was not something I'd thought seriously about until a couple of months ago. Since we don't have orthodontic insurance, it would be an out-of-pocket expense. So I started adding up the cost of those pedicures and massages (!) and thought, since it's an issue that's only going to get worse, that money would be better spent investing in my teeth.

Since I've already had the metal kind, I thought Invisalign would be the way to go. (I was willing to go for the tiny metal ones if the cost was unreasonable.) After doing some research online, I called my dentist's office before moving forward. I trust them, and wanted their opinion on how I should proceed, and to also get a referral for an orthodontist they recommend.

As it turns out, their office offers a new procedure called Smart Moves. It's like Invisalign, but not as intensive or costly. It's mainly for straightening anterior (front) teeth, and like Invisalign, not appropriate for everyone. Since my issues are mostly in the front, I was hoping I'd be a good candidate. After a consultation and finding out this procedure would work for me, and then finding out that the cost is at least half of what Invisalign would have been, I felt like this was the way to go.

After impressions of my teeth and then a couple of weeks for the lab to make my aligners, I returned to my dentist to be fitted. He had to file some space in between a few teeth to give them room to move, which was mostly pressure and not too bad. After that, they popped right in and here's what they look like:

 
They do take some getting used to. The first set is called a "hard-soft" material. I slur a little when I talk, and my tongue and sides of mouth are a bit raw in places from some sharp edges. I've been more self conscious about them than I thought I would be. I feel the need to explain, especially when I'm talking directly to someone.

After the first day, I felt my teeth moving. I'll get my next set of aligners in 2 1/2 weeks, which will be made of a harder material. I'll get a new set every two to three weeks after that for six months, and my dentist guarantees my satisfaction, which is reassuring.

An added benefit will hopefully be some weight loss. With these in my mouth I'm less likely to mindlessly snack, and I'm mostly drinking water because I have to take them out to drink anything else or to eat.

I've been getting up in the morning and taking them out and leaving them out until after my coffee, giving my mouth a bit of a break, and then brushing and putting them back in. Overall, I'm wearing them at least 22 hours per day. They are not hard to keep clean. Toothpaste is abrasive, so I'm just using warm water and a toothbrush in the morning and at night, and I take them out several times a day to refresh with cold water and pop back in.

Wish me luck! Stay tuned for updates and more progress photos...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Feast and Famine

As a transcriptionist, I've always been blessed with an abundance of work. I've seen comments on the internet about other transcriptionists who were not as fortunate, so I knew I was lucky. Over the past few months it was to the point to where the hospital system couldn't accommodate the number of transcriptionists needed to finish the work, and, along with the doctors who were constantly dictating, the TAT (turn around time) was suffering. I knew changes were ahead.

A couple of weeks ago we were notified that hospital was changing to voice recognition. This means the doctors are dictating into the new system and, instead of a human (me!) transcribing the reports, a computer is transcribing them. This type of change usually leads to layoffs as transcriptionists are no longer needed, but the hospital instead chose to transition us into voice recognition editors. Editors take the computer reports and proofread and edit them as needed, and then return them to the doctors. It is a different procedure on a newer system and it doesn't require as much typing, so this was good news. After some anxiety about all the changes, I was looking forward jumping in with both feet.

Well...as it turns out, I haven't had much of a chance, as most of the doctors are now editing their own reports. I know this has come as a huge surprise to the company I contract with, and to the hospital. I'm sure they are currently at a loss as to how to proceed since they don't know if the doctors' enthusiasm for the new system will last.

So, where does this leave me? Right now, I am still working my part-time shift. Most of the time there are "no more files available". A few jobs will trickle in here and there - on the new system and the old. Right now I am still paid an hourly "downtime" when there is no work, so it's just basically staying close by and monitoring the system every 10 minutes. I know this will not last much longer. The hospital will not want to continue to pay us to sit and wait.

But right now, the silence from the powers that be is palpable.

Even before this happened, my husband and I had been praying for direction with both of our careers, and for help in seeing open windows of opportunity. I am starting to think about what I'd like to do going forward if it's not transcription or editing work. At one time I thought about going back into an office setting, and at another I considered a position at our church. But having worked independently at home for almost 13 years has left me lacking in confidence to do anything other than what I'm used to. Starting over at 53 would be daunting, but not impossible with God's help. All the more reason to stay aware of His direction for me.

Just maybe it's the start of something new and better than I could ever imagine...





Thursday, March 26, 2015

Honestly...

It's been a rough week.

I seem to always fall into a slump whenever I visit family, but am usually able to shake it off. This time I'm in a "pit", and its been difficult to crawl out.

I think some of it has to do with my work. I was notified last week that the entire dictation system I work with is changing. This was expected to some degree, but I wasn't prepared for it to completely change my job. I've been a medical transcriptionist for 12 years, but now am being trained as a voice recognition editor. There is a part of me that is very happy about this as it adds a new skill set to my resume. It will bring my job into the current century rather than working on an outdated, overrun system. But there is also the part of me that is older and set in my ways and resistant to change. The fact that the company I contract with is also unsure of all of the ramifications of this change has left me feeling somewhat insecure.

All of this, together with the emotional upheaval of being with family but not having enough time to really enjoy being with everyone and do everything I want to do, has pushed me into despair. I start asking the questions I thought I already knew the answer to, like "Why are we here (in Greenville) and what is my purpose (when I am needed more there)?"

I know what to do to help me with this situation, so why don't I do it? Wallowing in self pity is not something I allow myself to do very often, but for whatever reason it gives me a sense of control over my life when all I feel is out of control. My husband gets confused, but as long as he knows it's not about him, he can deal - and wait it out. I'm better today than I was on Monday, so he can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Deep down, I am angry. I lived close to my family for so long, but it was when they didn't need me as much. Now that they need me, I am too far away to just drop everything and run to them. I used to reason in my mind and trust that it was for the best, but when you're being irrational, all reason goes out the window.

So, where to go from here? I am praying for understanding. I think I've matured enough spiritually to know that God expects us to have human flaws, and it's ok to get angry and frustrated, but it's not ok to stay that way. All He wants at times like this is for us to realize our need for Him. I need to get back to what I know to be true, and trust that HE knows much better than I about where I belong.

So I smile and keep moving forward, and just keep thinking about this beautiful, precious boy who calls me Mimi, and is a blonde version of my little girl all those years ago...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rocky Mountain High

We just returned from a glorious week in Colorado!

We stayed in a small town about 10 miles outside of Vail called Avon, the home of Beaver Creek Resort where the World Alpine Ski Championships were held just the week before we arrived. Good timing, because it was a relatively quiet week with small crowds.

I think I was familiar with the name Beaver Creek, since I grew up in the heyday of Wide World of Sports. They were always broadcasting ski competitions from there.

 
The drive in from Denver was a bit precarious. We kept saying we were up for an adventure, and we were about to get one. There had just been a huge storm and the roads were a mess, and it was still snowing a little. We had what should have been a two hour drive, though it was slippery at times and dark by then since it took a while to get our rental. Why didn't we take a shuttle and let someone else do the driving? We like being able to do what we want when we want, and because my hub is an online shopping genius, our rental cost less than the shuttle. Luckily we had an SUV, but without 4WD. The biggest fear was not knowing where we were and what was ahead (kind of like life in general, right?) So we just kept it slow and steady and prayed a lot! Once we made it to Avon, the wind was blowing so hard we almost couldn't get the car doors open. It ended up taking just over three hours. We had frazzled nerves, but we were SO happy to be there.

Waiting for our luggage at DIA - we didn't have a clue!



The roads looked like this up and down the mountain passes
 
We are Starwood timeshare owners, so we stayed at the Sheraton Mountain Vista. The location was so great - everything we needed was within a short drive or walk. Our one bedroom condo on the 6th floor was very nice and had everything we needed to live comfortably for the week. The condo was very warm from the heat rising in the building, so most of the time we had a window or the sliding door cracked open. Surprisingly, we never turned on the heat and never used the TWO fireplaces. It was just too warm inside! We ran a humidifier constantly because of the dry air and also the ceiling fans to keep the air moving.

View after a heavier snowfall

On our first day, after stocking up on essentials at their lovely Walmart that is nestled in the mountain (everyone was so friendly), we took off to sightsee and get the lay of the land.

Why yes, I did take a picture of Walmart!

I'd spent weeks acquiring warm clothing for what we might encounter. We had lows in the 0s and one day it got up to 45, but for the most part it stayed in the 20-30s, but it just didn't feel the same as it does at home. It's a dry cold, and it just doesn't smack you in the face when you walk out the door like it does here (unless the wind was blowing). We were able to bundle up in our ski jackets and hats and walk comfortably for miles in the low temps when the wind was quiet. My $29 Totes boots and $59 Jessica Simpson parka from 6pm.com were the smartest purchases I've ever made. My feet were never cold, and the fur collar and zip off hood on my coat were perfect for all conditions.

Our first look at the slopes at Beaver Creek

Yours truly, contemplating my fate
 
We skied twice, one day with official lessons and one day without. The first day both of us were fitted incorrectly for our ski boots, and we limped around with too small and too narrow boots thinking this was how it was supposed to feel since we weren't used to them. This is what we looked like after that first ski day:
 
Our legs were like noodles

Chuck did better than I did, but I was still proud of myself for lasting as long as I did with sore feet and legs, in the high altitude thin air, and using muscles I hadn't used ever in years.

After a day of rest, we were fitted correctly in our boots and took off for the slopes on our own. What a blast! We put our lessons to the test and, thankfully, stayed upright for the most part. I was even able to figure out the chair lift and actually enjoyed it (after thinking I'd somehow miss the chair or somehow fall getting off, but they really make it easy!)

There were times that we actually got too warm and had to shed our ski jackets. We noticed a lot of the more experienced skiers were wearing shorter, less bulky ski jackets and layers underneath. I did feel like a stuffed sausage at times with all my gear. Live and learn!

Thumbs up!
 
My hub, the phantom skier
 
A view from the lift on a clear day

We didn't stay still much during the day, and one day was spent in Vail. There are a couple of villages surrounding the ski slopes, and the day we went to Vail Village it was snowing and so beautiful! We felt like we were in a winter wonderland. They still had evergreen wreaths and bows up in places so it felt very holiday-like.

A view of Vail Village

My handsome hub


Feeling a bit stuffed, but warm

Willow Bridge in Vail Village
 
Lionshead Village

We thought about skiing there but then changed our minds. Since it was our first time, we stuck with what we knew. We know we'll be back and can try the slopes there next time. We shopped, walked for miles, and just enjoyed the beauty of where we were. With every step we just thanked God for the opportunity to be where we were together. It was a special day.

Our resort had two hot tubs, one indoor and one out. We enjoyed the one outdoors, especially when it snowed. We'd put our bathing suits and sock caps on, take a glass of wine, and sit and chat with other guests while we soaked. Then we'd RUN from the tub in the freezing air into the building and go straight for the eucalyptus steam room, which was hot but so relaxing. I miss that part of the day the most!
 
Our happy spot

We enjoyed so much good food, a lot of rest and a lot of exercise, and just the joy of doing what we wanted every day. Starbucks greatly benefitted from our visit! (Be sure to take a registered gift card and rack up the points!) Most of the time on vacation we are ready to go home by the end of the week. I can't say that we weren't this time because we love our home, but we both felt much more sad leaving. It was that good!

At Beaver Creek after a heavy snow
 
Pristine beauty
 

Happy us

On a side note, we had all kinds of preconceived notions about CO and the legalization of marijuana there. Are there really that many people who take advantage of the new law? Would we smell it? Would we see it sold in stores? What we found were a few stores off the highway that sold it only for medical purposes, one car driving around advertising it for sale elsewhere, and we didn't smell it or see anyone smoking anywhere. I think the media makes a bigger deal of it than it really is.

After seven nights, we left for a full day of traveling. We finally flew in to Greenville at midnight, and were home by 1:15. After indulging in freshly made donuts (heavenly) and milk from our 24-hour QT, we were finally in bed by 2 a.m. Oh, and I lost 4 pounds on the trip. Yay me!

This little girl was so happy to see mommy and daddy.


Thank you, Colorado for the best vacation and for the happiest memories made. We will be back!