Termination for Convenience (Part 2)

Cookies.jpgCelebrating my 30th birthday with my family last Sunday night – and also celebrating my soon-to-be-announced resignation from my current employer – my dad told a story of one of his old colleagues who, twenty years ago when this colleague was laid off, brought in cookies that his wife had baked and shared them with the office as a token of goodwill. His graciousness was so striking that my dad still remembers his actions two decades later. And Dad suggested that I do the same. “It makes quite a statement.”

For my family birthday celebration, my mom had made sugar cookies with my face and “Nerdy Thirty” screen printed on them in edible icing. There were a couple dozen cookies left over at the end of the party, so she suggested I take them into work. So that very next day – the day I resigned – I took in cookies of my face for everyone to eat.

On the elevator ride up to the 21st floor of the skyscraper where I work, six other people crowded in and kept eyeing the container of cookies in my arms. Finally, one older man broke the silence, leaning in to peer at the cookies. “Where’s the photo of my face?” He grinned at me.

He was trying to be funny, but it came off as more awkward than anything else, so I just fake laughed and tried not to look too uncomfortable. Someone else jumped in and asked, “Is that a photo of the girl who turned 30?”

It was a good likeness of me, so I was surprised at the question, but I nodded in confirmation. “Yep. It’s me. Yesterday was my 30th birthday.”

Instead of a chorus of “Happy Birthday!” from all the strangers in the elevator (emphasis on “strange”), I was surrounded by shifting eyes and uncomfortable silence. Confused at the response, I realized they must have thought I made cookies for myself and brought them into the office in order to celebrate myself. It was a Monday morning, so someone more perceptive would probably have realized they were left over from a weekend party, and I didn’t feel like making the effort to correct their thinking, so we all finished the elevator ride up in awkward silence before – ding! – the elevator stopped on 21, and I gratefully got out.

Hours later, I stopped by the kitchen area and found one of my colleagues picking up one of my “Nerdy Thirty” cookies. Striking up conversation, I asked, “So what do you think? Is it a good likeness?” I smiled at him, tilting my head for effect.

Instead of thanking me for the cookie, or wishing me a happy birthday, or even commenting on how great the cookies looked, he glanced at the now half-eaten photo of my face and mumbled, “Is it supposed to be you?” He bit again into the cookie, shrugging and turning away to refill his water bottle. “I guess kinda,” he shrugged again. There was no excitement, no congratulations – either on my birthday or my resignation – no comment of “what cool personalized cookies!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was astonished at how thoughtless, awkward and utterly self-focused everyone around me seems to be. When my boss was only focused about how my resignation inconvenienced her; when both strangers and colleagues were just interested in eating a cookie and not thanking or congratulating me; when I saw the types of responses I received from my farewell note – all of these stand as reminders of how completely selfish people are, unconcerned with the affairs of others except as it impacts them.

I sent out a heartfelt note to all of my friends, colleagues and stakeholders, recalling fond memories, focusing only on the positives of the past eight years and thanking them for their support, encouragement and collaboration. This is one of the actual responses I got back:

Backfill

Total lack of social skills and a punctuation error? You’d think I work with a bunch of engineers or something.

Authentically Aurora

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The Dietitian

Dietitian.png

Every year, my company pays for me to have a full physical done. It’s a nice perk, actually, except that every year they tell me in some way or form that I am morbidly obese.

Some years, it’s my BMI. Other years, it’s my Body Fat %. One year, my LDL cholesterol was just 1 point too high. I’m young and healthy, right in the center of where I’m supposed to be on the Height/Weight chart, so I tend to mostly ignore the comments about my supposed obesity.

This year, my Body Fat % was measured at 26.0% by the pinch test, so they brought in an on-site dietitian to talk with me. Insert April Ludgate saying, “I hate talking. To people. About things.” 

April Ludgate.gif

The dietitian and I went over my typical meals and snacks throughout the week. I think I eat pretty healthy, especially considering how I ate my first year out of college.

Cookie SliceBack when I started at this company (and all the bitterness began), I used to comfort myself with an entire Slice from Great American Cookie Company. Every day.

Once I realized that was a terrible life choice, I transitioned to a season where only after a particularly hard day at work would I come home and bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies to eat in its entirety. By myself.

From there, I moved to just eating a dark chocolate bar (the whole bar). Now – eight years later – I allow myself a handful of almonds and blueberries while I watch an episode of Parks & Rec to help me unwind.

I made all of these decisions over the past few years without a dietitian, and I feel pretty good about my food choices. But last week when I told the dietitian that I eat almonds for a snack, she said, “You need to stop eating so many nuts. They are high in fat.”

Almonds.png“Yeah, but I’m eating almonds, not peanuts. And it’s good fat.”

“How do you feel about celery?”

“I feel like I don’t hate myself.”

We moved on from snacks to my lunch choices, and when she found out that I eat salads for lunch – which I think should have constituted at least a tiny smile and “good job” – her first question was, “How much dressing do you put on?” I go to Salata and ask them to half the dressing, I told her, proud of myself.

But there was no praise to be had. Did this woman know my boss? Were they related? “You should really ask for the dressing on the side,” she chided me.

Internally rolling my eyes, we moved on to protein shakes. “How much fruit do you put in?” I was cautioned to only use vegetables, not fruit, because fruit is “high in sugar.” I also use almond milk, and she shook her head. Another error on my part evidently. “Almond milk doesn’t have the same protein count as regular milk. You need to be drinking soy instead.” But aren’t there hormone concerns with drinking soy?

For breakfast, I eat one hardboiled egg. Surely she can’t say anything negative about that. Oh, but she could. “You should add some fruit to your breakfast.”

“But I thought fruit was high in sugar.” Hadn’t she just told me that?

“But you need to add carbohydrates to your breakfast. Try eating an apple or banana.”

It was a miserable experience. I feel like I’m doing a lot of things right. I don’t eat a Starbucks pastry for breakfast in the mornings like I want to. I eat an egg. I don’t eat pizza for lunch to comfort my miserable self from my life of sitting in a cubicle all day. I eat a salad. I only eat out about twice per week, but I was strongly advised, “You need to be splitting your entrees. Your waist can’t afford to eat an entire entree.”

At the same height and age range, I weigh less than this girl:

Body Modeling.png

My waist is 28″, and my hips are 37″. I am healthy. Could I afford to work out more? Yes. But I’m already pretty restrictive on my diet, and a little bit of positive encouragement would have gone much further than all of the chastising.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the treatment, though. This woman is affiliated with my company. I can’t wait to leave.

Authentically Aurora

Our First Date

On our first date, Seth took me to a hole-in-the-wall cafe featuring southern comfort food, and I internally raised my eyebrows at his choice. During the drive from my apartment he’d been talking out loud, trying to decide between the southern cafe and a steak restaurant down the street. I definitely would have gone with the steak restaurant for a first date, but ultimately I decided I liked that he chose a restaurant that suited him.

CrackerBarrelInteriorAlways a gentleman, Seth opened the restaurant door for me, and as I took in the decor, I realized this diner was Seth through and through. Following the hostess, I slid into the booth she indicated, taking in the antlers and farming antiques lining the walls. It reminded me of dinners at Cracker Barrel during family road trips when I was a young girl.

The small town country decor inspired me to order a chicken fried steak, and it was the best steak I’ve ever had. Granted, I’d only ever had chicken fried steak once before, but it absolutely melted in my mouth. Seth tried a bite (and then another) and teased me that I was going to be spoiled from ever appreciating chicken fried steak again.

Cookie_Ice_Cream_SandwichAfter dinner, Seth took me across town to try his favorite dessert – cookie ice cream sandwiches. We ended up splitting one because they were huge. Seth smiled at me across the table, and I giggled as melting vanilla ice cream dripped down my fingers.

When he finished his half of the ice cream sandwich, Seth went to wash up. Upon his return, he announced, “The men’s restroom door has a sign on it that says, ‘Use women’. But I’m not going to do that.” I rolled my eyes at his joke, and he gave me a rakish grin in response.

We walked around outside for a while, enjoying the night air, and on the drive home, Seth reached over to take my hand. My stomach flip-flopped, and I marveled at the fact that such a simple gesture could mean so much to me. My hands had been in my lap and not on the arm rest, so he’d really had to go for it. And he did.

His thumb stroked mine, and he glanced over at me as he drove, seeming to take me in. He tucked my hair behind my ear, sending shivers down my spine. But at the end of the evening, he didn’t kiss me goodnight. And I was immensely glad. 

I was surprised at myself for being pleased by the lack of goodnight kiss, so I mentally explored my reaction. I decided that I wanted him to kiss me, but I also had come to hope that Seth really was every bit the kind, honorable gentleman he seemed to be. So I was glad he continued to show himself to be a slow, steady, respectful man of character.

Seth hugged me goodnight, asking if I had anyone to take me to the airport for my business trip in the morning. Ashley had offered – wonderful friend that she is – but I told Seth what I’d told her. “I was planning on parking at the airport and expensing it. The company is willing to pay for parking.”

“What if I wanted to take you to the airport? Would that be okay?” He wanted to be the last to see me and the first to welcome me home. My heart melted.

“Yes,” I said with a smile, “That would be okay.”

“Great!” He smiled back. “Why don’t we go to church together in the morning; then we can stop by your apartment to get your luggage, and I can take you straight to the airport from there?”

I don’t usually look forward to business travel, but a morning of fellowship followed by a drive to the airport with Seth? This man had definitely given me something to look forward to!

Authentically Aurora

I’m a Fixer Upper

Chip and Jojo

Have y’all seen that show Fixer Upper? It’s about this adorable couple Chip and Joanna Gaines who buy questionable houses in great neighborhoods and flip them, transforming them into dream homes within the budgets of their clientele.

Fixer Upper has been on HDTV for three years, but as a solely Netflix girl myself, I’m a little late to the house flipping party. But now that it’s on Netflix, I’m watching and loving it. Who doesn’t love a good before & after story?

While watching an episode last night, it occurred to me that this week (fraught with the stress of almost-swimsuit-season) I have been brainstorming how to do a fixer upper on myself. Oh, this body has so much potential. If only we could fix this here and update that there… Yes, gentlemen, that’s generally how the female mind works. Our bodies are perpetually a canvas; a project; a fixer upper just begging for updating.

I made the mistake of trying on swimsuits yesterday. That was really the impetus for this whole concept of transforming myself through my very own personal fixer upper. I have estimated my costs as follows:

MANICURE

PEDICURE

HAIRCUT

WAXING

STITCH FIX

In these house flipping shows, there’s always a budget crunch, so when I was considering the slush portion of this month’s budget ($300), I decided to pluck my own eyebrows instead of having them threaded. I’ll also shave my own legs instead of having them waxed. Together, that should save me about $60 and keep me within budget.

Then there’s always some disaster – some unexpected expense, like foundation or electrical issues. In my case, it was realizing that even the cutest clothes Stitch Fix has to offer can’t fix up this body until I shed some tonnage. I’d like to lose about six pounds in the next three weeks, but there is a cost associated with losing two pounds per week. The weekly cost?

DIET AND EXERCISE

Spending $300 on a spa day and new clothes? Sign me up. But depriving my body of delicious cookies AND sweating it out at the gym?! That may be more than my personal budget can handle. I was okay with all of the other expenses, but this last one – the unexpected disaster that is those six extra pounds on my hips – may do us in. Looks like this Flip may turn out to be a Flop! 

Authentically Aurora

P.S. Handy as he is, Seth almost took a job as a general contractor for a custom homes business earlier this year. I’ve decided that we need to get married STAT and start flipping houses. We’d be even more adorable than Chip and Jojo.

(P.P.S. Seth, if you’ve found my blog by now, I’m just kidding about getting married stat. I’m not envisioning myself in a white dress by Christmas. Please don’t freak out and break up with me on Monday. xoxo)

Free Gift

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A couple of weeks ago, I baked a batch of sugar cookies from scratch, lovingly decorating them for my bible study group.

I should have known to cut the recipe in half, what with the warm front we’re having and everyone trying to get ready for swimsuit season, because at the end of the evening, I still had about two dozen cookies left. These folks could learn a thing or two from me about how to put away some cookies!

Knowing that I would eat ALL of them if I took the sugar cookies home with me, I decided to text Hovik, the attractive Armenian car mechanic who lives in my apartment complex. As expected, he was all too happy to take the cookies off my hands, so I stopped by his unit on my way back to my own apartment.

He welcomed me inside – I’d never been inside his apartment before – and gave me the grand tour, starting with his self-built LED lit bar bottle display and ending with the rows and rows of hundreds of model cars lining his closet shelves. The man knows a thing or two about interior decorating. His place was beautiful, right down to the wall-to-wall backlit painting hanging over his king-sized bed.

Having dropped off the cookies and received the grand tour, I started to excuse myself. It was late and, although I trusted Hovik, I didn’t know him very well. It was time to leave. But he wasn’t ready for me to go yet. “What did you do tonight?” he asked me. “What did you bake these cookies for?”

“I was at bible study,” I said simply.

“Bible study?” he asked incredulously. “You study the bible?”

“Yeah, I do,” I told him with a shrug. “What about you? I don’t know much about Armenian religion. What is your spiritual background?”

“I’m a Christian, too,” he told me. “I’m Orthodox.”

“Okay,” I replied, nodding my head. “So, what does that mean – Orthodox? Where do you go to church in the area?”

Hovik laughed. “It means that I go to an Armenian church on Christmas and on Easter.”

“Ah, so you’re a CEO.”

Hovik looked confused, so I explained. “Christmas and Easter Only.”

He smiled slightly. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“So, Hovik… what do you believe happens when you die? Do you believe in an afterlife?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I’ll go to heaven.”

“Why?”

Hovik looked uncomfortable. “I mean, it’s what I was raised to believe, you know. My mom always taught me to be a good person. I’m a good guy, so I’ll go to heaven.”

He had a works-based view of salvation. My heart sank. I knew he wouldn’t like it, but we were already mid-conversation, and Hovik’s salvation was more important to me than his comfort level, so I plunged ahead.

“Hovik,” I started gently, “You know that’s not a biblical view of salvation, right?” I quoted Ephesians 2, “We are saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, not by good works so that no one can boast. Being brought into a right relationship with God is purely a gift from God when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf as payment for our sinfulness. There’s nothing you or I could do to be ‘good enough’ to earn God’s favor.”

Now Hovik looked really uncomfortable. “Well that’s not what I was raised to believe.”

“I understand that.” I paused. “Hovik, do you live up to your own standards for yourself? Do you always live according to the standards you have set for yourself?”

He squirmed. “Well, not always. But most of the time. I’m a good guy.”

“If you don’t live up to your own standards 100% of the time, what makes you think you live up to God’s standards? All of us fall short of God’s standard for holiness, and because God is perfectly just, there has to be a punishment for sin.”

Hovik looked angry now. He raised his voice a bit as he bit back, “That’s not the God I grew up learning about. God is loving. God loves everyone. He wouldn’t be vengeful just because I can’t be perfect!”

I nodded, smiling. He had led me right into my next point. “God is perfectly just, but scripture tells us that He is also perfectly loving, so He didn’t want to leave that rift between Himself and His children that was caused by sin. That’s why Jesus came to earth and died – willingly, lovingly – then rose from the dead, taking upon himself the punishment that we all deserve for our sin. So yes, there is punishment for sin because of God’s justice, but because of His love, He created a way for us to be brought back into a right relationship with Him when we believe and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.”

Hovik’s posture was no longer warm and welcoming, so I excused myself, telling him to enjoy the cookies. When I got back to my apartment, I had a text from him:

“Soooooo. Was that a little awkward for you?”

“Nope. But I could tell it was for you. ;)”

“Well a little. I was more interested in hearing how you are instead of what pleases Jesus. But I do love the fact that you’re very passionate about it.”

In instances like this, I have to remind myself that I am only responsible for the input, not the outcome. Hovik and I are still friends – we’ve spoken since – but I feel like I have said all that I can about faith with him. I did my part. Now it’s up to the Holy Spirit… and Hovik. Like all of us, he has a decision to make – the most important decision of his life.

Authentically Aurora

MamaMorphosis

Yesterday on the drive home from work, I was thinking about all the things I’d have to change if I were a mommy.

traffic-glee

While driving in rush hour traffic, I could not scream at the top of my lungs things like, “PEOPLE ARE SO DUMB! I HATE EVERYONE!!!” I would have to learn to use my inside voice. And by that, I mean my inside-the-head voice.

 

Cookie Binge

After a long day of work, I wouldn’t be able to wallow by baking cookies and eating them fresh from the oven while binge watching Netflix. I’d have to cook real food like green beans and chicken. And then serve said real food to children and help with homework and things.

 

Unikitty transformation

I wouldn’t be able to wear my Grumpy Cat shirts around the house – shirts that say things like, “NO” and “I didn’t choose the grumpy life; the grumpy life chose me.” I know this because my niece Lily saw my Grumpy Cat shirt once, looked very upset, and asked me in a trembly voice, “Auntie Aurora, why is your kitty so angry?” At that time, I realized I would have to start buying Unikitty shirts instead. At least then my inner rage could be masked by a sparkly pink and fictitiously cheerful exterior.

 

Eating Cookies

And then, as I was parking in my garage, I realized that even if I never find a man who is willing to commit to marry me and subsequently impregnate me, I probably should still change these behaviors. Even if I never morph into momminess. Which sounds like nom-iness. Like nom, nom, nom… cookies…  mmm, forget that whole #adulting thing. After all, there are freshly baked cookies at stake!

Authentically Aurora

If You Give a Mentor a Cookie…

If_you_give_a_mouse_a_cookieToday in the hallways of the office, I ran into my awesome friend Jason, who reminds me of a younger version of Bitter Ben – introverted, quick-witted, adorably awkward and absolutely hilarious (seriously, Ben, do you have a nephew named Jason? Because I swear you two are related…).

Anyway, Jason asked me how my day was going, and I showed him the stack of papers in my hand – my freshly scanned application to get certified for babysitting foster kids.

“Oh wow. You’re such a rock star,” Jason told me, clapping me on the arm. “Although you know you could come watch my kids anytime – no certification required!”

I laughed. Jason has two little boys – ages 6 and 3 – and from what I hear, they are a handful. “Ha. About six months ago, I tried to volunteer to be a Girl Scout Troop Leader, but nobody ever got back to me. So now the foster kids get me instead.” I winked at him with a grin.

“Oh, come on. You know the only reason you were doing Girl Scouts was for the free cookies.”

“Actually, it was specifically for the Thin Mints,” I joked back. “Although we probably need to get them to change the name. False advertising,” I went on as a bubbly blonde walked past us in the hallway, pausing to say hello.

“Hey,” I greeted her in return. “Jason and I were just talking about how the Girl Scouts need to change the name of their Thin Mint cookies to ‘Fat Mints’. One time I tried going on a diet of nothing but Thin Mints, but somehow, I didn’t get any thinner.”

While Jason chuckled, the blonde looked at me with a mixture of disdain and confusion. “Yeah, I don’t think that’s a thing…” she said as she walked away, size 2 hips swaying down the hallway.

This is why socially awkward people like Jason and I have to stick together. Socially adept, celery-stick-eating people don’t get our cool puns or weighty jokes.

Thin Mints Fat Mints

Authentically Aurora