Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paycheck????? what is your worth??

For the first time in my life I am faced with this question......
I remember the very first job that I ever had.  I was fourteen.  I delivered papers in our neighborhood for over a year in my hometown.  This entry into the working world was the start of many, many different types of jobs.  I was a teenager, thats what we did......find a job, decide that we needed to try something different, find another job.  Despite the job change, it did not matter. There was always somewhere local hiring - and always a new job available to try.  Finding a new place to work with lots of hours available was never ever an issue.   I grew up in a Oil town.  Despite the ups and downs in the economy over the years, our hometown remained pretty stable.  "Big Oil" meant lots of money to throw around......It was lovingly coined "Fort McMoney" from many outsiders.  I always had a job in my hometown no matter what  I wanted to do.

Years ago I walked away from the Oil money, and made the choice of family first.  I was fortunate to be able to have this option.  I have never regretted my choice to leave the shiftwork and be more available to be a full time Mom for my kids.  I had a trade, I could make as much money as I wanted.  I could choose the job, and have everything.  In the Oil community, the employees ran the show.  But, over time, I came to realize that for me, there was not enough value in this type of paycheck, at the price of missing my children.  With each passing paycheck, the Oil money was losing its shine for me.  With the emotional support of my husband, I decided to choose my family first and be a full time homemaker while my children were still little.  This time in their lives was precious and I did not want to miss it.  This was my own personal choice.  I will never judge what any other Mom decides to do when it comes to her family.  I have met many, many, Moms that have made different choices and I support them all.  Only you  know what will works for you, and your choice is your own.   I had  a neighbor who used to always say to me..." I will be the first to admit that I am a better Mom, working"... and she was right.  She worked full time out of the house and she knew without a doubt, that this is what worked for her, and her family.  She raised fabulous, polite, amazing kids, and they were wonderful neighbors. Her kids have all grown into perfectly well adjusted members of society. 

Recently, I left the big money community for a different kind of life.  Not the same, or better, just different.   I decided that I wanted the old small town feel that my hometown used to have before the "Big Oil" changed everything.  Deep down inside, maybe I missed the memories of my youth and the "way things used to be".   I was sad to see what my little town was turning into because of the oil influence.  In my opinion, the negatives were out weighing the positives.   Looking back now, I knew I would never ever see that life of my youth ever again.  The wheels of change were turning, and there was definitely no reverse gear on this ride.  Oil was good to us, but I still felt I was missing something. After a visit with a friend that had recently moved to a quiet little town, I knew thats where I needed to be.  I wanted my own children to experience what kind of life I had as a youth and so we made the big move to a quieter community.

Fast forward to today.  After spending a few years in a town that is not owned by Oil, and re-entering the workforce, I see some very distinct differences.  There is no wool pulled over your eyes, and no safety of  Oil money to cushion the "ups and downs" of the economy.  Outside of the protective dome of the Oil, you feel the bumps in the economy, and it has been a bumpy ride.  Jobs are not constant and here, they are valued as if it is your last. There is competition for that one job, and that one job is not just considered a step to something else, better, that will come along.  Money is earned, and then saved because it seems as though here they have felt the reality and know with each "up", a new "down" is not too far behind.  There is a different kind of talk in a town that is not owned by Oil....

I too have felt that bump.  For the first time ever, since re-entering workforce again, the tables have been turned.   Along with many others in our department, my hours have been cut at my job.  We are suffering the state of the local economy, or perhaps our employers inability to manage, and no one really knows what the future will hold for any of us.  I have never ever experienced a moment in my own life where for once there were more people than hours available to give.  This is a new kind of ride for me.  There is nothing like a good wake up call to help you examine where you are in life.  A call to realize that you are expendable in the workforce.  Just a number on your employers bottom line.   I am employee #84509.  That's it, nothing more.  Gone are the days where you could shrug your shoulders and move on to the next waiting employer, just because you felt like it. 

Now that my children are older, and I am back to work and facing this new situation,  its time to take a moment to re-evaluate.  The cut back in hours is perhaps a great kick in the butt to maybe move on to something new.  A wake-up call.  Maybe its a call to focus on myself.  Move on towards the next phase in my life.   Start something new, so I am never again in a situation where I question my value in the workforce outside of  my own four walls.   Today, with the change in the economy in my new community I have a new appreciation of my value.  To to my employer, I am just a number on the bottom line.  I am expendible like a commodity to be bought and sold.  To my children though, I am priceless. Despite this bump, I know my worth in my childs life, and I know that the time I spent with them was worth every penny that did not get deposited into my bank account.  Over the years I earned a different kind of paycheck.  One that I am very still very proud of, and the only one worth anything to me..

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Friend or Foe???

Had something interesting happen to me today......... really made me think.......

Just an ordinary day of wandering around the local mall with my daughter, enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon. A bit of window shopping, lunch at the food court, with a final stop at the very large Chapters book store on our way out. As my daughter headed towards the novel section, I made a bee line to the massive magazine display. I love to read magazines, and often spend way too much time in that area of the bookstore.  I had grabbed a few of my favorites off the shelf and proceeded to try to find the elusive "chair" that Chapters has strategically placed around the store for customers to use while reading a magazine or two.  A quick glance around, and I realized that they were all occupied by someone with the same idea as myself.  Hmmmm, a bit irritated, I decided anyway to try to find a table with books stacked flat on them that was a perfect height for me to lay my magazine on, and then I could just stand there for a few minutes and flick through the articles that I just had to read. 
I had stood there for maybe five or ten minutes reading, and subconciously zoned out whoever was around me as the article I was reading was pretty interesting.  Every so often, peripherally, out of the corner of my eye, I would notice someone milling around  as they re-viewed  a book or two at the table where I was standing.  Someone would appear, then move off to another section as they made their selection of book.   People would appear, then leave, another would appear, so on, and so on.
I honestly don't know how long it was before I noticed a man was standing directly in front of me on the other side of the table I was at.  I kept reading my magazine and a couple of minutes more went by before I heard him speak.
In somewhat broken English - he asked me "If I spoke Russian, or do you know any one who speaks Russian?" as he lifted the cover slightly of the book that he was looking at.
"Pardon?" I replied.
"I'm new here, and I am not looking for girlfriend or anything, just looking to make friends, meet people" 
My mind raced for a split second as I glanced up and tried to do the "womans-spidey-sense-once-over" of this complete stranger that suddenly decided to strike up some small talk. There were no "danger! run-like -hell-bells-and-whistles" going off, but that was probably because I was in a very busy public place, not alone.
"No, I do not speak Russian" I replied.
"It's very hard to make friend, find people, to talk"  is what I thought he said, but I really was not completely sure as his English was quite broken.
"Yes, especially Russian........I don't know.......of anyone" was my final reply as my daughter, who was in another area of the store walked up to us in mid-conversation.  I felt somewhat akward, and I was slightly relieved at her strangely perfect timing.
"Your ready to leave hon?" I mentioned to my daughter as I we proceeded to leave.
"Good luck" I said to him as I casually walked away towards the exit and did not look back.  The interesting part was the look in his eyes that I noticed, and the way that I felt as I walked away.  There was a strange slight lonliness to his eyes, and a strange slight guiltiness in me for not striking up more small talk.  I have no idea why this particular person and moment made me feel that way.  Really.....why should I feel guilty??  I did not know the man from Adam and would likely never ever see him again. 
Perhaps it was the compassion that we are born with as humans.  The desire to need or be needed.  We are hard-wired to feel emotion, to know when we are loved, or hated, even before birth. How you are treated, even in Utero, can alter your emotional path in life.  This response has been scientifically proven.  As humans we also have an instinct to survive, to protect our own selves as well.  The "fight or flight" response.  I have used both of these responses in different situations in my own life.  Often, in retrospect I knew I  made the right choice without a doubt, yet in others I still wonder if I did the right thing.I wonder in the past, if I had made the opposite choice, how would that have changed my own path in life? or even the life of a complete stranger.
Perhaps at that very moment I was walking away from someone who could have been the most interesting person I would ever meet in my lifetime.  Someone with an amazing life.  A new found best friend. Someone who genuinely just needed someone to be a friend to them.  Someone born with emotions and feelings the same as myself.  Just human. We are not born knowing immediately who is to be our friend in life. As life plays out, we choose them. We decide. We make the connection.

On the other hand, perhaps today, I was walking away from a Psychopath.  Someone who chose me as his target. He may have followed me around that bookstore and decided at that exact table to strike up a conversation and make his move. Walking away may have altered not only his life, but my own as well.  Choosing the flight option may have been the best decision I have ever made.  I wonder how this situation may have played out yet, I will never, ever, really know.  Its unfortunate that a human could make another human wonder this to even begin with.  I shudder to think of the atrocities that we as species inflict on another and what we are capable of.  Unspeakable acts.

Who knows what cards you will be dealt with.  It's like the well known "Fork in the road" story.  Do you go left, or do you go right? or the common "do you choose door number one? or door number two?"
What is the connection  makes a human decide who is going to be the friend, or foe?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Four wheels to freedom.......

............."I've been drivin' all night my hands wet on the wheel,
There's a voice in my head that drives my heel".....................
I can't even begin to count how many times I have heard these lyrics to Radar Love, by Golden Earring while driving down the highway.  Yet the moment the lyrics begin the volume in my car automatically gets turned up waaaaaay too loud.  Its a perfect song for driving down the highway and singing at the top of your voice while tapping your fingers to the beat of the drums.    I know you have all done that a time or two, and I am sure most of us cannot seriously carry a tune, but who really cares?. When you are behind that steering wheel, unless your not alone in it, a vehicle is YOUR own personal bubble.  Its your way to connect with the outside world, get you where you want to go, yet it always provides you with your own distinct space.  You are the boss behind these four walls.  
This topic came to mind as my daughter has just started to drive recently.  Although she got her learners right away, it took quite a bit of coaxing to actually get her behind the wheel, and start to put her new found learners permit to the test.  She wanted to drive, but was a bit apprehensive of the next step.
 Slowly, as her own friends also began driving to school, each others homes, to the mall, or the coffee shop, the realization of what she was missing became apparent, and finally one day she asked me to let her drive.
 I cannot stress to you what is more nerve wracking???  letting your child get BEHIND that wheel for the first time OR you being the passenger in your own vehicle with YOUR child driving.  I do not know who was more nervous at that point, me or her?......Deep inside I knew she was capable yet, I was afraid for her.
It's like approaching a young deer on the side of the highway from a distance and observing what appears to be its own first encounter with the strange blacktop surface.  You see it on the side of the road as it tests out the pavement with a few reluctant steps.  The road is strange and unfamiliar, yet it somehow knows that it must cross in order to move on and flourish.   Step by step, it gains confidence, then bounds very quickly into the safety of the dense brush on the other side of the highway. You feel relief that it has made it, but sad to see it go.  I think letting your child grow up and move on is similar in many ways.  You are afraid for them, but you know it is something that they must do.  Its an important part of their independence and of your own.
I remember the day I took my own road test. I was nervous as the instructor quietly instructed me to turn left, turn right, stop, go, and parallel park.  I remember watching her from the corner of my eye she held her clipboard and made a few short notes.  My palms were sweating as she reminded me to keep my hands at "10 and 2"....."not too fast"......."don't forget to shoulder check".......As more time went by, it seemed as though she would record even more and more notes.  That test that seemed hours long really only took less than one.  As I drove along the boulevard back towards the registry, I saw the trees flash by in a blurr beside me yet it was like time stood still.  I wanted to hurry back, but I was afraid of the test results.  I could see the registry building at the end of the road and I slowly turned in.   "Congratulations, you have passed.  You may go in and fill out the paperwork"  It was a simple statement, but this statement would change everything.  Looking at my drivers license was like holding an official document allowing me to embrace my new found freedom.
Much has happened since that drivers test. I got my first car.  My freedom allowed me to pick up my friends and spend countless hours cruising the boulevard while dreaming about what our life would hold for us.  I have been a designated driver, but not enough for some. I have enjoyed the drive in theater and A&W drive in that no longer exist.   I have made life long friends and lost friends in a parking lot, and even met my future husband there.  I have discovered that I am hopeless at reading maps, but have somehow made it on my own to nearly every spot on that same map. I have driven myself to a doctors appointment that told me I was going to be a mother for the first time, and have driven carefully home with that same precious cargo. I have spent countless hours driving to work, the grocery store, and home. I have laughed, cried, and spent many hours thinking while driving my car. I have driven my children to daycare, preschool, kindergarten and now high school. Some things have changed since I first started driving, some things have stayed the same.
Not tomorrow though because it will not be me behind the wheel.  It will be my daughter.  Soon she will have her own four wheels to freedom and I will just be along for the ride.
........"No more speed, I'm almost there. Gotta keep cool now, gotta take care.  Last car to pass,
now here I go"............Radar love.............

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sweet sawdust and Concrete memories......

We are renovating to serve you better".  This is the sign that I pass as I enter the store and begin my shift each day.  Superstore is getting a major overhaul and every morning as I walk through the sliding doors I discover the new changes completed during the night.  We have a crew of contractors that begin at 10pm after the store closes for the day. They are like Santa's Elves working "under cover" during the night to get the job done. They were hired to paint, drywall, plaster and renovate. Pallets of supplies, twisted metal, copper piping, ladders and tools can be found neatly stacked in various places through out the store. Its like walking through an industrial maze as I navigate around the piles towards my own workstation. Each day the store is filled with sights and scents of  a busy construction site.  The air is permeated with the smell of newly painted walls, freshly poured concrete, and drying plaster. There are also a few workers that continue the tasks during the day.   
As I walk through the store towards the back, I hear a grinder whirr as the contractors use it to smooth out the edge on a piece of freshly cut metal.  In the distant is the sound of a drill boring a new hole in the wall, and a hammer that has found its target nail head.  Behind a tarp I can hear the crackle of a welding machine as the metal arcs and makes contact with the welding rod. It is acrid and sooty smelling.  Most people would find these sights, smells and sounds irritating yet, I do not.  To me these are gentle reminders of my father whom I love deeply.   
When I was a younger I remember countless days where Dad could be found working in the garage at home.  There was always something under construction, something to fix, change, repair or build.  Dad loved finding, and often "creating" another project to keep himself  busy with work.  I grew up to the sound and scents of the garage.  To me it was a completely normal part of my childhood. It was constant and comforting. My father also held a full time job outside of the home but when I heard these sounds I knew my dad was home.     
Born in Moncton, New Brunswick, much of my dads early life was spent working on the family dairy farm.  According to my dad, life on the farm was filled with labour intensive work, many late nights and often, very early mornings.  There was constantly something that needed to be done, and little time to be idle.  Fences needed repairing, the cows had to be milked once in the morning and again at night, and as one chore was completed, another was added to the list.  Not only did my Dad work on the farm, but the family also added a weekly garbage collection for the community.  My grandfather seemed to find just one more project to add to keep the family working together. They were always busy, yet my grandparents always observed Sundays to attend church and rest.  The stories my father shared through the years lead me to believe although life was difficult on the farm, it was a life that he cherished. In only nineteen short years, this life on the farm helped to shape him into the man he is today.  
Over the years his hands have cracked and dried rough like sandpaper. They are scratchy when I hold them, yet always comforting.  His face and neck are weathered like etched plaster baked by the unrelenting sun but he still looks gentle and kind. His shoulders remind me of strong beams and his back like a sturdy oak column. His legs are like great footings standing tall and supportive.  He has values that have remained strong over time. Unbending, unwavering, unchanged, like the highest quality Rebar placed perfectly, tied and secured before the final layer of cement is poured.  Strong, permanent, stable, enduring...........He is like a great foundation built to stand the test of time..........Concrete.

Monday, September 13, 2010

1,092,595 Fans can't be wrong........

Beep, beep, beep........It happens every weekday morning, the same way........I mutter under my breath thinking "what! I am sure I just fell asleep - It can't be time to get up yet?" I Roll over, and shut the alarm off and sit up in bed.  The blackberry phone doesn't lie.  Its signal, a friendly reminder to get me to hurry up and get on to the next step - Brewing Coffee! 
I never feel completely awake until I smell the freshly brewing "elixir of life".    I love coffee.  I love the smell of the grounds like when you first lift the lid of  a fresh can of Nabob.  The "pop, and whoosh" when the outside air rushes in when the can opener first pierces the metal of the vacuum packed coffee container.  Slowly, I turn the knob on the opener and the Arabica perfume is released for my enjoyment. With every crank, there's the smell of the fresh ground beans....Mmmmmm....stronger and stronger as I  continue to circle the top of the can with my opener friend. Its like peering into a candy Jar.... Standing there...... you lift the jar top...... and look in to your favorite sugary sweet.   
My love of coffee never really started till a few years after I was married.  We actually got this cute little brew maker as a wedding gift, but at first it only came out when a visitor would call and politely ask "Hey, got the coffee on??"   As a newlywed I would always worry when my guest took their first sip.  In my mind I would think, did I make it right?  too strong? too weak?  bitter?  I  usually figured it all out depending on the reaction of the first sip to their mouths.  It did not take me very long to perfect my own brew. Later, as I became a mother, coffee would be what kept me going during the day.  Late nights, early mornings, rushing to a soccer game, getting groceries, or heading off to work.  Car keys in one hand, travel mug in the other.  It is a perfect balancing act.   
Over the years I have experimented with all kinds of coffee beans and mixes.  Lattes, Mocha's, Flavored coffee beans, instant (blech!), grind your own beans, pre-ground beans, even order on- line beans from around the world from an Internet site.  I've had Cafe con leche (coffee with warmed whole milk) at a sea-side resort in Mexico, a micro cup of  six dollar Cappuccino at a roadside stop in Italy, a blueberry coffee in Germany, and good ol' black coffee while standing under the arch of the Eiffel Tower. I've ordered giant mugs of truck stop coffee to get me to the next destination, while sometimes just an extra small will do the trick.  I've had coffee with Baileys, coffee laced Italian dessert, coffee cheesecake, and even coffee mousse. 
I'm not alone in my love of this little bean first discovered in Eastern Africa in an area we know today as Ethiopia. A popular legend refers to a goat herder by the name of Kaldi, who observed his goats acting unusually frisky after eating berries from a bush. Curious about this, Kaldi tried eating the berries himself. He found that these berries gave him a renewed energy. The news of this energy fruit quickly spread throughout the region  Monks dried the berries so that they could be transported to distant monasteries. They reconstituted these berries in water, ate the fruit, and drank the liquid to provide stimulation for a more awakened time for prayer.   Bet you will never look at a goat the same again. I think the little farm critter has just moved up a notch in the human world.  Look what that hungry little goat did to mankind today. 
Because of that goat we are united around the coffee shop table while we chat and sip our cups of love. We use the heat of that brew to warm our hands at a Saturday morning Christmas parade, or drink it over ice on a hot summer day.  Some of us do not think twice spending our hard earned cash daily for a morning brew from Starbucks, or actually thinking the drive-through line-up at Timmies, despite being eighteen cars long, is  really not that bad as we pull behind and wait to place our order. 
Just about every Canadian knows who Mr. Tim Horton is.  It would be funny to say his plan was to secretly take over the world "cup by cup".  He is to Canada, what Sam Walton is to the United States.  Bit by bit, town by town, City by City, he is creating a legion of fans, of followers, or as I like to junkies.  According to the latest press release, Tim Hortons just posted last quarter earnings of 639.9 million dollars to a tune of 94.1 million dollars in profit.  This no chump change.  Numbers do not lie and neither do die-hard coffee fans.  Last time I checked on Facebook, that little cup of java, that so famously holds the title to the Canadian Oxford addition of the term "double-double" had 1,092,595 fans and counting.   Check the fan list, and don't be surprised when you see someone there you know.  I know I am there. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cat and Mouse

Saw something today kind of sad, but understandable and necessary.    Something that most people would not care to watch or maybe would turn away in disgust.  I have to admit it was definitely not a pleasant sight, but for some reason, I could not stop watching. 
It was curiously compelling battle between a tiny barn mouse and local barn cat.  A battle of one creatures desire to live, and one creatures desire to hunt.  Any other day - I probably wouldn't have looked twice but this little mouse was something else.   This mouse was up for the fight, and was not going to give up. 
The cat had must have bitten it on the spine as it looked like the mouse could only get around by dragging itself with its front legs. Despite repeated swipes from the cats claws, the mouse made every effort to drag its half paralyzed body away from its attacker. Of course the damage was irreversible, and the cat was just "playing" with its prey.  To the cat, the job was done.  Despite the paralyzing bite, the mouse still had fight in it.  With every swipe, the mouse would still use its front legs to turn itself towards the cat and attempt to fight back with its sharp little teeth.  Again, and again, the cat would reach towards the mouse, and again, and again, the mouse would try to bite back.  This went on for a very long time.  I felt sorry for the little bugger.
Don't get me wrong.....I have no intentions of setting up a neighborhood shelter for mice. I would rather NOT have any furry little rodent crawling around my house thinking my home is a welcome refuge from the winter winds or a safe haven from the neighborhood cat.  There will be no TLC channel broadcasting the Thursday night special on me the "mouse hoarder" any time soon.  Hmmmm......I shudder to think, that there really may be someone like that out there somewhere........
Anyway....... It just got me thinking about the cycle of life. Got me thinking for a moment of how many times this battle is played out in the run of a day.  Are we the "cat" or are we the "mouse"???   Do we let things play out the way we think it should  in life? or do we fight to the very last breath?  Is there anything that we could have changed that would have prevented that "paralyzing" last bite in our own personal "battles"?  Or do we just give up and let the cat win?
The cycle of life is not always pretty.  But it is necessary.  Despite this, with every death, it is replaced with a new birth somewhere.  Some where again, there will always be that renewal, that cycle.   And of course, another new cat and mouse........

Sunday is not just Sunday

I went to church today.........first time in a long time.   I guess there is not really a right or wrong decision when you decide what church you are going to go to, you just need to find one that feels good.  A place where you feel like when you leave, you look forward to the next time you will go again.  A place that welcomes you with open arms and does not judge you.  Comfortable, forgiving, peaceful......
I can't say that I was not a bit apprehensive going at first.  Kinda felt like I was in "trouble" because God knew that I hadn't made that visit in a very long time.  When I walked through the doors I noticed a few different things immediately.  I noticed that there were many different people, from many walks of life, all joining together for the same purpose.  There were some dressed up to the nines, some in jeans, young teens, old couples, business people, and even some biker looking dude.  Although we live in a large community, I was quite surprised to recognize people there that did not strike me as "church-goers" if you can use the term.  People I see occasionally - at the corner store, or passing by in the mall.  In the end, as I stood there peering around (secretly, of course) I noticed the common look on their faces. As they sang hymns, prayed, talked, had a laugh or two, there was a gentle silence radiating from the inside, out.  There was a moment during that hour of service that they forgot about the pain they had yesterday, the struggle, the worries of that bill looming over their head, or what was going to happen at work tomorrow.  They forgot and just enjoyed the moment where they believed, and they "let go - and let God". 
Some use Drugs or Alcohol, vices, to have that moment where they can forget their worries and enjoy that freedom but of course it is short lived.  It is like a roller coaster ride of ups and downs - never consistent.    I think that the Power of Faith, although the believer may ask God "why" a time or two in their lives - remains constant.  Deep down we know it is there - we just have to open our hearts, and let ourselves believe. 
I am not new to God and his message - I know it is there, and it has always been.  My journey to Church today began with my daughter who is sixteen.  She is wise beyond her years, and mature so many ways.   Two years ago she accepted the Lord in her heart and began her own journey. She asked me if I would go to church somewhere with her. Maybe try to find someplace to go on a regular basis, a new start. Inside I felt happy that she wanted me to share in her own journey of faith, discovery, and life. I was proud to know that she wanted to include me.  I realized right then that SHE was created to help ME rediscover myself.  I truly believe she was Gods gift to me.  Born sixteen years ago to renew that faith and wake me up to what I knew was there, but just had to rediscover.  A messenger. A miracle of life.  An angel. 
I feel a renewal inside, like a spring bloom hidden under the covers of the bitter snow.  A quiet strength and a hunger that just seems to gnaw my inner spirit.  It won't go away, and it is renewed in me. 
I am looking forward to my journey once again, and of course............ next Sunday.