The Unexpected Gift

I was given the most unexpected gift on Friday. I was fired. Yes, the proverbial, out-of-the-blue, pack up your box, kind of “let go.” Now, don’t get me wrong…I know it sounds crazy to call that a gift. At first, it was shocking and disappointing and strange. After all, I’ve never been fired before! (The reason cited, by the way, was “poor culture fit.”)

Sad businesswoman carrying belongings in box after loosing job

But I’ve had the weekend to process it and have come to the conclusion that this really is a gift. For years now I’ve wanted to move from a corporate office-bound 8-5 (or 7) kind of role to one that gives me full control over my destiny and life – one in which I choose my schedule – I choose my priorities – I choose who I want to work with – and I get to balance my work and my family on my own terms.

Yes, my friends…I am moving toward becoming an Independent Consultant!

It’s a liberating feeling to know your own worth – it’s taken me a long time (46 years) but I believe I am there! Am I anxious? Yes! Do I have questions? Yes! Is the prospect a bit scary? Yes!

But what I know is that I have 20 years of progressive HR leadership experience and a TON of contacts, colleagues and acquaintances that know me and have valued my contributions! And what I has even bolstered my resolve over the past two days are the wonderful friends and colleagues (and even new acquaintances) that have reached out to offer their help and support.

I firmly believe that God is in control and puts circumstances and people in your life in His timing and in His own plan. And God is good! I’m sure I’ll have some moments in which I wonder if this is the right path for me, but for now, I am accepting this gift of time to reinvent my professional life and enjoy some quality time with my precious Littles and incredibly supportive husband.

This profession has been good to me – and I’m looking forward to being able to share my experiences with companies that will value my advice. And that, my friends, is a gift. An unexpected one, but aren’t those the best kind?

**And…shameful plug…if you know of anyone who could use some help, please share! I’ll take great care of them – I promise! 

My Dad

My Dad…

The head of the household (although my mom might debate that). A military man, he believed and exemplified discipline and respect. As a child, I remembered the AWE of him…an officer…in charge…dressed to the nines. The blues, the buttons, the pins…the prestige!

My memories as a child whose love language is physical touch, focused mainly on his “plump” belly – a great snuggling attribute! It was like this little pillow that you could sink your head into and feel “at home” and “comfortable” and “loved.” At one time, he got into playing racquetball and got very fit, and lost that belly. We all knew it was in the best interests of his health, but I still couldn’t help but miss that snuggle factor!

Dad was always an adventurer…let’s go camping! And we did! Some of my greatest memories involved driving in the station wagon to destinations most people only dream of visiting! The Lego Land in Denmark, the Keukenhof in Holland, Berlin (when the Wall was still menacing), Munich and the German Concentration Camp at Dachau…

We (mostly Dad) would pack the back of the station wagon with our camping gear – the sleeping tents (built like a little hotel), the dining tent, and all the cooking gear – and we would head off…

We lived in Germany – so central to the majority of Europe, so we would just pack up and drive to anywhere we wanted to go! For the most part, the borders were open, but every now and then we would run into the American equivalent of border patrol, and they would want to conduct a full search of the very well-packed Chevy station wagon.

Dad would calmly say, “no problem! Go ahead and search everything! BUT – if you unpack everything to search it, you will HAVE to re-pack it as it was when you have finished!”

That was usually enough to get them to let us pass without incident.

Every year, and I’m not sure where this came from, Dad would joke about getting a Mercedes for Christmas…and it just recently dawned on me that my love for Mercedes must be a product of his love for the car maker….amazing how these things pass along generationally.

Dad…with 3 girls and 1 boy…

Served his country….travelled the world….supported his lovely wife (my mom) and 4 children along the way…

Retired…worked in the private sector…struggled with the transition but has remained the Dad I know and love…

Daddy has taught me so much – I can only hope that he is proud of who I have become. He is my Dad…my Dad…my only Dad. And I love him. And I am so proud he is my Dad. He is a great man.

I love you, Daddy! You mean more to me than you can possibly know!

Those moments that hurt…

We all have them. Those Mommy moments that hurt. Today, it was Lauren climbing into the car in the pickup line, sobbing because she misses Daddy, who is traveling to Chicago. That is a routine occurrence any time he travels. They are so close, so I get it, but I also can’t help but feel inside that feeling of “so what am I? Lunch meat?” Funny, I know. But unfunny too. Even though I have three, and two of them are so very attached to me, I still can’t help but wonder why the third one (or second if you consider birth order), just doesn’t seem to feel the same way about me as the other two?

I, of course, know the answer. When the girls were born, Steve and I did the best we could, each of us taking one of the twins through the night, trying to “switch it up” over concern about bonding. But their schedules and demands got the best of us, and Lauren, being the most predictable and therefore “easier,” ended up being with Daddy through the night since he had limited time off and had to return to work sooner than I.images-2

Well, for anyone who has questioned it, the bonding thing is REAL! To this day, Taylor (my nighttime infant snuggler) is glued to me like Gorilla Glue, and Lauren is a Daddy’s girl all…the…way!

And honestly, I’m happy for Steve and his relationship with Lauren – she loves him so very much and he is so wrapped around her little finger. It’s so precious, and I know that since Mommy gets most of the Littles’ lovin’, he treasures having his very own little sweetheart devoted all to him!

Then…after a long day of work and Steve traveling, I had the dinnertime blow. Meatballs and broccoli for dinner – not their favorite (the broccoli part of course). Add to that the girls’ tormenting of Colton during dinner – something the poor kid will probably have to live with his entire life – and the meltdown began. Sadly, it came out in the form of “I just want to move away and leave you all!”

Gaaaaaah!tumblr_m6afxp2Rxk1r3docro1_500 Whaaaat? You want to leave MOMMY too? When asked about where he would go, he said, “China.” So then, playing along, I asked if he knew anything about China – to which he of course said, “no.” So next, he decided he was going to Germany. Then seemed perplexed when asked how he was to pay for the airfare and his housing once he arrived.

I know…childish, right? Still hurt my feelings. Wants to leave Mommy???

And to boot, made me wonder what the drama is going to be like when they reach the hormonal teenage years! Oh, boy! I can’t imagine any of them leaving here, even when all grown up and ready to go…can’t I just keep them little?

As much as the rational part of me understands this is normal, it still somehow makes me sad to think they have these little thoughts of their own that tell me someday they will be their own person and learn to live without me in every detail of their lives. But that’s being a mommy, right? I just wish the time between infancy and the kickoff of independence was longer…much longer!

Can anyone else relate? Please share!

Oh…and BTW…all is well in the Grant House…a temporary teary meltdown – now they are jump-roping together and snacking on Easter candy – loving Little buddies once again. Sweet dreams, everyone!

 

Let it be “enough”

Wow – almost can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted, and for our followers, I’m sorry! Life is, unbelievably, even busier than ever, and sometimes I’m busier living it than documenting it! 🙂

So this week though, has been interesting to say the least, and I was reminded of something once again that I felt compelled to share. And that is “let it be ‘enough’!”

There is no question we are all surrounded by a society that tells you every minute of every day that we are not good enough, smart enough, fit enough, wealthy enough…the list goes on and on. Advertising has it’s purpose – to make companies money. But that purpose only serves to make us all unhappy with what we “don’t” have and convince us that we all need “more.”

We have all fallen victim to some degree…I remember wondering why I didn’t have a house full of furniture when we purchased our first home – why we didn’t have what everyone else had. And I literally cried! Luckily, my sweet husband pointed out that we had spent our money on vacations and experiences rather than furniture, and that over time, we would build that home the way we wanted it to be. Ironically, we had no kids at the time, so it really didn’t matter how much furniture we had – other than to feel “equal” or “adequate” to other acquaintances when they visited our home. Silly, right?

This week I was reminded again, through someone else, that it’s not the material things, income, car you drive, size of your house, clothes you wear, etc. that make the difference in your life. It’s the ability to value the good things that do not have a material value – the special people in your life, your family, your dear friends, new acquaintances, those you work with and like, the innocence of children – that really makes life worth living. My Littles remind me of this indirectly every…single…day.

All the rest is gravy.

From a grateful heart, thank you to all of you who make my life so special!

xoxo

Stephanie

Grateful

One of those places…

Did you ever have a place that just happened, over time, to become a big part of your life experiences and memories? You know, you go there once and it’s great, so you return, and it’s great again, and then somehow, it becomes this common thread associated with happy times? Yeah, I know…it’s awesome, right?

It’s so funny – today it just dawned on me while Steve, the Littles and I were enjoying a late lunch at Pappasito’s Cantina – our favorite Tex Mex place – that this restaurant has become such a part of our married life – actually even before – that I have to capture some of its history for posterity!

I honestly don’t remember the first time I ate at Pappasito’s. I moved to Houston, Texas shortly after college, on my own, without a pot to piss in, so to speak. But after a cold, icy winter in Ohio, I knew I had to get back South. Houston is a behemoth of a city, and honestly I felt lost, but managed to keep so busy with work I didn’t have much time to think about it. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a chain lock on the bedroom door (still wonder about that to this day), and the agents in the leasing office kept trying to set me up with this guy named Steve – but I traveled for work a lot and really was never around so we didn’t have the opportunity to meet.

Fast forward…and I finally met Steve. I was working 2 jobs at the time, and my 2nd job was in a Bath and Body Works in a fru-fru part of Houston. Steve and his friend, John, came in, shopped around, I ended up giving him my award-winning customer service and smile, and he ended up buying a candle. He handed me his credit card, thinking that I would recognize his name (since our leasing agent had been trying to set us up), but in true blonde fashion, it didn’t even register.

According to Steve, he left the store and told his friend John, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

A return visit to BBW later, and he introduced himself and asked me to lunch. Of course, I said yes, and we ended up out to dinner. Our 2nd date was dinner at Pappasito’s – and that was the night we realized we were both from Maine – born 55 miles apart from one another – and meeting in Houston. Amazing. And the rest is history.

Since then, we have enjoyed many, many celebratory occasions at Pappasito’s Cantina! It’s a must-visit place for anyone visiting us from out-of-town, and a favorite of both our families! We have celebrated birthdays, visits from friends and families, and the small stuff, like our recent relocation back to our beloved Texas!

We have laughed there, cried there, overeaten there, been anxious there – you name it, it’s like the restaurant is part of the family – the fabric of our life! You probably saw my recent post about our house-hunting trip – we were seated at Sito’s while waiting to hear if we had gotten the house we wanted, sitting on pins and needles – then ended up celebrating with our realtor and our server, Blake, when we found out we won the bid! It was an epic night!

Today, we shopped a bit, leisurely, with the Littles, discovering our new neighborhood, then decided on a late lunch at – you guessed it – Pappasito’s! As I sat there with my handsome hubby and my precious Littles, my cup runneth over! And serendipitously, we were seated once again in Blake’s section! He remembered us, commented how “stoked” he was that we got the house and were settling in, and that he had no idea we had a little “tribe” we were bringing with us, and the Littles just showered him in hugs!

Here are some photos from our lunch out today. It was much more than a lunch. It was a continuation of a tradition of celebration in this most special place. And we’re looking forward to sharing Pappasito’s with so many others who visit us from afar. Your guest room is ready! Come see us, have some of the best Tex-Mex of your life, and share in our tradition! It’s our happy place! God Bless!

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Intentional. Purposeful. Disciplined. Now…

I have just had the most amazing few days. Austin, Texas, for my business’s annual convention. Let me start by saying this post is NOT an advertisement for my business – really. So please don’t stop reading. But I will say that if you like anything you hear, we should have a conversation. My business is something I somewhat accidentally fell into, but that has enhanced my life in so many ways over the past 2 1/2 years.

What I want to talk about today is being intentional and purposeful and disciplined about personal development.

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No matter WHO you are or WHAT you do, or WHERE you live or HOW you get through each day, you should make time to intentionally and purposefully allow yourself to grow, learn, develop, stretch, lean in, reach out. Because if you do, it WILL make you a better person and has the potential to dramatically change…your…life.

Believe me – I know it’s not always easy to do. We all get busy, and some of this stuff costs money. So in many cases, that “stuff” gets put on the back burner, and we hope that maybe our current employer, if we have one, will invest in some developmental opportunities for us! If they do, that’s great, but often those programs focus more on how you can work to help the organization than on how you can develop and learn about yourself, your dreams, your strengths – just YOU!

So – a sidebar – as I drove from Fort Worth to Austin, I couldn’t help but notice the vast Texas sky – bluer than blue, with white fluffy clouds coasting lazily by. As I looked up, all I saw was vast opportunity – the world is SO big – the sky is the limit! And the Texas sky illustrates the limitless potential of every little person living under its canopy!

big texas sky (chris crawford)

I carefully selected my breakout sessions at Convention – ones I knew could help me in ALL areas of my life – not just with my business. One was called “Live a Life You Love: Be a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You,” and was presented by a medical Doctor that realized her dream was NOT being a Doctor, but actually a writer and dancer. She literally changed her life following her “compass” of dreams – and now practices as a Physician part time but also writes AND teaches Flamenco dancing! What I took away from this session was that in all areas of life, you must be authentic, and you must find your passion, then incorporate that passion in some way, even if in a small way, into your life. Authenticity. “Real.”   ME.    Just me – who I truly am.

One of the presenter’s recommendations was to reach back into your memory and childhood, and try to remember what you wanted to “be” when you were about 8 years old. Why? Because by then, you do have a good sense for who you “are,” even if you are not mature enough to turn that into something at that time. In Christian terms, I think that would be called your “bent.” How are you wired? What do you love? What is your passion? And if you can remember that, you should incorporate that in some way into your life.

Some other advice she gave (medically and psychologically)?

  1. Get enough sleep – medically and physiologically, it’s imperative! Your entire personality can change if you are sleep deprived!
  2. Surround yourself with positivity – positive people, authentic people, people wPositiveho lift you up rather than tear you down. Does that mean a “yes” person? No! It means someone close enough to you that can tell you the truth you need to hear while also building you up. It’s a gift to have those people in your life.
  3. Eat breakfast! A big breakfast! For real! It makes your brain and body work for the day!
  4. Eat protein and green vegetables later in the day – a salad with just greens does not contain enough energy to sustain what your body needs.
  5. ….there is more….but I know you will only read so much at one time.

So many of us are pointed in a direction – well meaning, of course – and end up doing things in life we aren’t necessarily passionate about. For the record, that is not me, but I know many people who took that path. And there comes a time they wonder how they got where they are and resent the fact that their “real” self got lost along the way. Her advice? Find yourself again – then start living the life you want and that you will love, instead of tolerating a life you just want to escape.

Easy? No. Simplistic? Yes. Would love to talk with you more if you are in that place. And I can share more of what I learned. One thing I did learn is that my company is much more than the product it provides. It’s a movement…a groundswell…an amazing group of people connected by common passion for family, time and financial freedom, independent spirit, camaraderie, charity, and entrepreneurialism – and one willing to develop ME into my real self – simply and truly inspiring. If you don’t have that in your life, then we should talk.

There’s more to come, because I had more than one breakout session – and I am SO excited to share it with all of you! In the meantime, if you’re missing some of your inspiration or passion for life, look back into YOUR childhood and try to remember what YOU loved! I’d love to hear all about it!

Want to get energized? Change something…or EVERYTHING!

Started my new position Monday of this week, after a solid week of unpacking boxes filled with everything we own. My body was sore, sleep was elusive, and of course I was a hot mess (literally! It is Texas, after all!) the morning of my first day.

But I managed to pull everything together with the help of my Super Hubby of course, and got out the door on time! Littles off to school and me on my way to a different kind of school! My new company is home grown and has a lot of loyal, long-term employees – and very little organization. But you know what? That’s exactly what I know, and it’s exactly what I love! I liken it to shopping in a “mess” – a lot of work, but when you come up with that amazing deal – the ‘diamond in the ruff’ – it makes it all worthwhile and the sense of accomplishment is incredible!

My “boss,” the CEO, is a bundle of energy and goes a mile a minute – tells me that he is like a fox chasing rabbits into the rabbit holes – hard to keep him focused on one thing at a time. But he is curious, humble, eager for help and improvement, and really wants to know what a solid HR function can do for his business. I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing that is! Combine that with the confidence that comes with having done this before, and I know we’re going to make a great team!

So the company is a Toyota Material Handling distributor – industrial equipment and such. Guy stuff, but still pretty cool! But on day 2, Steve slide-img-01called me to say he was perusing our website, and noticed that one of our branches sells golf carts – and he wants one! Like a little kid in a candy store! So I managed to visit that branch just yesterday and enjoyed seeing all the fun options should he really decide he wants one to cruise around our new neighborhood!

I had a wonderful 12 1/2 years at my previous employer, and really learned so much building that department from nothing, so it prepared me well for what I am walking into today. But I was ready for a change. You know that feeling you get when1428526178176 you feel either bored or complacent going to work (or anywhere)? In many cases that means you’ve done a great job and everything’s just running smoothly – but for someone who likes to innovate, it begins to feel stagnant.

My point in all this? If you’re feeling stagnant, make a change!
Change can be amazingly energizing! I think I am more energized about my career than I have been in 3-4 years! Change a little, change a lot! Just do SOMETHING! Your mind, body and psyche (and maybe even your pocketbook) will thank you for it!

Taylor’s move…

Little Taylor…my baby…my biggest baby but my youngest…my loudest baby, my cuddliest baby…this is her move experience.

So when we first announced we were moving to Texas, and Colton and Lauren immediately cried, Taylor was the one literally fist-pumping while shouting, “YES!” I’m not sure what she thought was so cool about it all since she really didn’t know much, but this is my fearless girl – the one who laughs in the face of danger and challenge, and is a little reckless when it comes to attempting new physical feats – YIKES for mommy and daddy!

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So she’s been going along, great with everything, her normal silly self…right up until the movers came on that first day to pack our things. Then, I think it got “real” for her. Keep her busy on things during the day, and she’s great – but when nighttime came, the hidden uncertainty and fears presented themselves in the form of dreams, I think. Taylor has always been a great sleeper, snuggled up next to mommy, but suddenly there was this streak of kicking, fussing, crying and waking that seemed to plague our last few nights in our home.

Sometimes there would be middle-of-the-night conversations about her missing her house or her friends, but by morning she’d be her normal silly fun self! As a mommy I was glad for that, but it sure did add to the exhaustion factor! I sort of felt like I had an infant again, waking every 2-3 hours for a feeding!

As the final move drew near, she seemed to worry about her friends, Miss Brooke (our nanny) and Miss Rapsis (her most recent teacher) – bothered that she might never see them again! But we talked through it, and I promised they would all visit someday, and that, plus the distraction of being awake and active seemed to relieve most of that stress.

IMG_0120Once we got on the road, Taylor was an angel…patient and kind…but she did ask, practical as she is, why we weren’t just taking an airplane to Texas! After all, it’s faster! LOL

She is such a smart, beautiful, spunky little DIVA, and I look forward to watching her grow into her new life as a Southern girl!

A little nostalgia along the way…

One of the highlights of our trip from NH to TX was a stop in Monroe, LouisianIMG_0098a – my old college town! The home of what used to be Northeast Louisiana University but is now University of Louisiana at Monroe (formerly the Indians, now the Warhawks thanks to the political correctness of our day)!

We realized somewhere along the way that I hadn’t been through Monroe in 19 years, so as you can imagine, a LOT has changed! All of the old dorms that I had lived in have since been demolished, replaced by what appear to be luxury apartments on campus! Jealous! There are also some incredible new buildings, including a beautiful library, and renovations to just about everything – and a Starbucks right on campus!

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There are so many memories, I couldn’t begin to share (what happens at college stays at college), but one thing I will share is that when I was accepted to NLU, I was awarded a “work” scholarship, meaning that I would be assigned to someone – a professor, one of the admin offices, somewhere, to work 10 hours per week. And ironic, considering my current career, I was assigned to Mr. Duff, HR Director, in the campus HR office, who admittedly actually had no use for a student for 10 hours.

I spent those 10 hours per week mostly filing and stuffing paychecks (while desperately trying to keep my eyes open) – it was so incredibly boring, except for the payroll lady that was a bit of a nut, so from time to time, her shenanigans would liven things up a bit. But while there, Mr. Duff became a 2nd Dad for me away from home, and he looked out for me, gave me advice, and told me to watch out for all the boys because “they were only after one thing!” He and I have kept in touch over the years, and we IMG_0089were fortunate enough to meet up with him for dinner the night we stayed in Monroe on our trip.

Nineteen years later, we reminisced, laughing about the time I was there, and the HR experiences we’ve both had over the years. I am so lucky to have been assigned to his office and made a lifelong friend and mentor. And I was so proud to introduce him to the Littles, who didn’t hesitate to shower him with their sweet hugs, somehow knowing he is special to me.

The next day, we visited the bookstore and picked up some ULM gear, IMG_0097then trekked across campus so I could show the Littles the natatorium where I spent so many hours swimming with the team as a walk-on. Good times – ones I’ll always cherish. Unfortunately, the “Nat” as we called it was closed – no team anymore. Sad, but maybe someday they’ll get another one going.IMG_0100

We also went by the waterski ramp on the Bayou Desiard, where we used to swim out and sunbathe during off-times – tons of fun! And imagine – this school has a National Championship Waterski Team that actually practices on the bayou!

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And another couple of fun memories – Peking Restaurant – which always had the most amazing Chinese food buffet – we would load up after swimming (and when we had money)! Can’t believe it’s still there!

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And for those of you who have heard me speak of this and didn’t believe me – yes, it’s true – and here is a real photo – of the drive-thru daquiri place! When I was there, it was called Daquiri’s Unlimited, and now is called The Oasis Daquiris – complete with drive thru window! One of my favorite places when I was a student there! Only in Louisiana!  😉

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It was certainly a nice walk down memory lane, even having changed so much! The best part? Taylor exclaimed as we drove away, “Mommy, I’m going to go to college here too!” Who knows? Maybe! Go Indians! Oops…I mean Go Warhawks!

 

 

Lauren…our little fearless leader!

This girl…our Little Lauren…our fearless leader. This girl has got11811489_10204990723427674_630832289937915816_n to be one of the sweetest little people in the world — and one of the smartest! She really “gets” things, and she rolls with things better than most adults would! And she absolutely LOVES everyone – truly cares and wants everyone to feel it! And she is such a little hugger! If she feels comfortable (and that is a loose qualifier), she will hug! And it always makes anyone we interact with feel so good! There truly needs to be more hugging in the world! People need it!

As far as our move goes, she has probably been the least affected! She has been super helpful, patient, and kind, and is an example for us all. She very much likes to be in charge, and to be helpful, and if I had to identify her love language, it would be “words of affirmation.” She loves to be helpful and be praised for it – that really makes her feel special!

The very last day in our NH home, we all gathered in the kitchen area and said a prayer of gratitude, hope, and safety for our drive, and she just had to run up to her room to look one last time – even though she rarely slept in there – and then literally hugged the cabinets in the kitchen to say goodbye…

She and her Daddy are so close – it’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen….and she talks to him about all the details of what’s happening. This morning, she woke up telling him all about our having to sign 50 papers to buy our new house, and promised to be good because of our “deal.” Our deal was that if they were good, we would go to the mall and visit the Lego Store – and boy, does she get excited about “deals!”

She is simply a delight – and a negotiator, a caregiver, and absolutely a leader. I cannot wait to see her grow into our new life in Texas. I am not worried at all that she will rise to the top! And seriously – just look at that face – love this girl!