Back to School – Part 2

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Thanks to my perseverance, I finally got issued my district email address a few weeks early. I’ve hungrily dug into all of the shared files, desperately trying to find out if there are already lesson plans in place or if I need to be spending my last weeks of summer developing a syllabus, worksheets, homework, quizzes and tests for the year. I don’t want my first six weeks to be a mess of chaotic franticness.

All summer long, I’ve been checking the district website hoping they’d update the calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. They finally did a couple weeks ago, so I found out my first day of teacher inservice would be Thursday, August 10th. I’ve had it in my calendar ever since.

To make the most of my last week of summer, Seth and I planned a romantic day trip for Monday, August 7th, and I have a specialist doctor’s appointment scheduled for Tuesday the 8th. I had to schedule the appointment two months in advance, so I was relieved they were able to get me in before school started.

Then yesterday, I checked my district email account.

The email account I only have because I’ve been bothering IT all summer long.

The email account I’m not supposed to have yet and that no one has advised me to be checking yet this summer.

I had an email “reminding” me of MANDATORY TRAINING for new teachers on August 7-8.

Note that this email was not sent to my personal email from my resume. I did not receive a call from my principal or administration. I never heard anything about this mandatory training from the HR department. The only reason I found out about it was because I had a district email address that I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE YET AND ONLY HAVE BECAUSE OF MY PROACTIVITY!!!

Seth and I cancelled our romantic day trip. He’s out $50 for tickets we already bought.

I postponed my specialist doctor’s appointment for another two months. Now I’ll have to use a precious vacation day to go to my appointment.

And I will responsibly show up for this mandatory training I only know about because I am proactive, responsible and on top of things when the rest of the school system is not.

I’m so glad I left Corporate America to escape bureaucracy.

Authentically Aurora

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Caught in the Undertow (Part 2)

Undertow

“Trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.” – Bethel Music

Living Situation

On Monday morning last week, after being displaced from my apartment while management aired out the infiltrating marijuana smell, I got a frantic call from the leasing office asking if I was moved out of the model unit where they’d temporarily put me up for the night. I explained calmly that, no, I was at work but could move out that evening, provided that management had completed the air filtration of my unit.

The anxious leasing agent explained that they need the model unit immediately for another tenant, so he asked if he could move my personal items out of the model and back into my apartment for me. I was not comfortable with someone touching my personal items, as I had not yet packed up my private toiletries, and I also had some expensive electronics that I would rather handle myself. Additionally, I continued, I would have not needed the model unit at all had my apartment maintenance been carried out on time. But the leasing office employee pressed me to provide my approval of being moved out, so I reluctantly granted permission over the phone to have a female leasing agent move my personal items from the model unit and put into my apartment.

However, when I returned home at 5pm on Monday evening, I found that the air filtration system was still running in my apartment and – still further – none of my personal items had been returned to my unit. I walked over to the model to retrieve my personal effects and found it dead-bolted. The alternate tenant had moved in but allowed me to search the apartment. As it turned out, my belongings were in the leasing office. I gathered them from the office staff, walked back to my apartment, turned off the air filtration system myself and left my apartment for the evening to allow the air to clear from the residual effects of the air filtration system.

On Tuesday morning, the air filtration system that I had to disable myself was still sitting immobile in my apartment unit. I contacted the leasing office, and someone finally came to get it Tuesday evening. But between the poor service I received and the fact that I need to start saving money considering that I may be without income in the near future, I started building a case to be released from my apartment lease a few months early.

I scheduled an appointment with my allergist and had her write a note that my living situation is detrimental to my health and is exacerbating my allergies.

I searched the legal terms of my lease and found that I could be released from my contract if I provided written notice about unsatisfactory living conditions. If no improvements were made to the root issue after two written notices, I could submit a final notice without financial or credit ramifications.

And so I drafted a second email explaining that not only had the filtration of my apartment been handled poorly, but I was concerned that management had still not addressed the root issue of smoke coming into my apartment from nearby units.

And I scheduled tours of other apartments nearby, looking forward to not only getting out of my drug-filled apartment complex but also to saving about $400/month in rent.

Work

Last week as I stared blankly at my office computer screen, willing myself to get motivated, a bright orange square started blinking at the bottom of my screen. I had a new IM from Stephanie, one of my technical stakeholders for the contracts I manage.

When I read the IM, I was surprised to find that she wasn’t contacting me about some new IT service line that she needed supported commercially. She was asking me if I knew any open roles in Procurement, my department and area of specialty. Apparently she was looking at moving away from the technical IT space and into the more commercial realm of Contracting.

After answering her questions about different line managers and Procurement in general, I shared confidentially that my role may be open soon. HR had shared with me that they were trying to do a “talent placement” – essentially moving me into another team to try to get me out of my current situation.

Stephanie was really excited about the role and thought it would be a great fit, combining her technical IT background with the commercials of Procurement, which was the direction she hoped to move her career. Her only concern, she voiced at the end, was timing. “Do you know how soon HR is going to do your talent placement?”

“No, I don’t. Why do you ask?”

Apparently through our latest organizational restructuring, Stephanie’s role is being made redundant, and she’s on track to receive a severance package if she doesn’t get a job by March 31st. She really wants to stay at the company, not only for career purposes but also because she just adopted two kids and cannot afford to be laid off.

At the same time, I am already pursuing a career in teaching and am hoping to land a job starting in August for the fall semester. I don’t have a job lined up yet, but a severance package would go a long way in helping to bridge the financial gap between now and August. As if she was reading my mind, Stephanie asked, “We’re the same Job Grade, so our salaries are comparable. Would you be interested in a 1:1 switch? Or are you holding out for the talent placement?”

Talent placements tend to be a joke. The only roles that are open are ones that no one else wants. And I’d still have a black mark on my record from the poor performance scores. I’m mentally and emotionally checked out at work, and taking Stephanie’s severance package – while allowing this new mom to keep her job – sounded like the perfect plan to me.

Hope for the Future

Everything seemed like it was finally coming together. I planned to get severance from work (about 6 months’ pay), get released from my apartment lease, move into a new (and cheaper) apartment, use the summer to explore fun, odd jobs (like maybe helping to flip a house!), and land a teaching job for August.

I’ve learned over the years to hold my plans loosely in my  hand, so as I started to get more and more excited about the possibilities of what could be, I also reminded myself that even if things didn’t work out as planned, I wanted to remember that God is faithful. And He is working. I wanted to believe that even if this plan didn’t work out, it was a reminder to me that God can move and orchestrate events we never could have dreamed.

I didn’t know Stephanie was getting a severance package. And she didn’t know I wanted to leave the company. God dropped the perfect scenario right into our laps, and this was an encouragement to me; a reminder that He can do infinitely beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Sometimes we just have to wait and trust His timing.

Authentically Aurora

Loving Humbling

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I’ve been working at the same company for the past 7.5625 years. To a Baby Boomer, that may only seem like a fleeting moment, but to most Millennials, that seems like a lifetime to spend at one company. I always thought I’d be like a Baby Boomer in that I planned to stay at the same company for 50 years and make my job a true career; to invest in one company and show fidelity and faithfulness and I worked my way up and invested my blood, sweat and tears to make my company a better employer and more profitable company.

But the company where I work has never wanted my blood, sweat and tears in the traditional sense. Only two of the eleven bosses I’ve had over 7.5625 years has wanted to truly see me invest in the company for both my betterment and the betterment of the company as a whole. For the most part, the people I work with – management in particular – want to see us bleed, but only because they draw blood. They want to see us sweat, but only out of fear and intimidation. And they want to see tears because that means their carefully crafted demotivational comments have hit their mark.

Because I work for one of the most widely recognized major oil companies in the world, they are able to hire the best and the brightest. This corporation hires class presidents, valedictorians, visionary students who have founded their own organizations, and PhD students making breakthroughs in the future of biofuels. But rather than channeling that raw intellect and stunning creativity, all of these initially highly motivated self-starters are shoved into The Machine where they are expected to be simply one cog in one wheel, with no insight into or influence over even the most minuscule of process improvements. Don’t think independently. Don’t disrupt The System.

Any genius is called ignorance if it doesn’t fit the mold of the Kool-aid pushing management. Any creativity is stifled when the innovative try to use the very skills for which they were hired. The majority of the most fun, hard-working, creative and brilliant of my colleagues have long since left the company, opting instead to tap into their entrepreneurial spirits or become consultants to companies who will pay them triple to actually listen to the input that was so scorned at my current place of employment.

I have been trying to leave this company for nearly 7 of the past 7.5625 years. I’ve applied to smaller OG companies. I’ve interviewed with Apple in Cupertino. I’ve gone to seminary to become a biblical counselor and taken graphic design courses with plans to start my own design studio. I’ve written music and even released an album on iTunes. I’ve interviewed with consulting firms and, most recently, earned my teaching certification. I am a self-starter who wants to passionately pour myself into my work if only I can find a career and employer who will respect me enough to give me room to deliver.

I’ve been close to leaving this corporation countless times, but nothing has ever panned out. I’ve had offers on the table that were unexpectedly revoked as the market tanked. I’ve had companies that wanted to hire me but were on a hiring freeze. I’ve been faced with hardened hearts, lack of favor and lots and lots of closed doors over the past 7 years. I’ve fought bitterness, anger, hopelessness, despair and doubt about whether God is really good and loving. And what I have come to conclude is that there is a way that seems right to a person, but it is the Lord’s good, gracious, loving will that prevails.

When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I was going to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point and become an engineer. Ten years later, I was accepted to USMA but fell into deep depression when my high school sweetheart broke off our relationship just months before high school graduation. Physically weak and emotionally despondent, I gave up my offer of admission to someone on the wait list who would actually be able to make it through boot camp. I ended up at a state school and spent most of my freshman year bitter about how I’d let my wayward emotions rob me of a golden opportunity and lifelong dream. But God had a plan.

Three years ago (almost to the day), I said yes to marrying the man I loved. Mere months later, he had an emotional breakdown and called off the already-planned wedding. I faced not only his rejection but also the public humiliation of informing friends, family and coworkers that I was an undesirable woman no longer loved by the man who’d promised to love and protect me. But God had a plan.

Nearly eight years ago when I graduated from college and started work at my current employer, I was on a fast track for senior management. All of my performance reviews and feedback sessions – for a season – said that I had the makings of a Senior Executive at one of the largest corporations in the world. But a VP who’d championed me retired, and the capricious whimsy of our talent forum found another shining star to adore. I was turned over to a manager who despises and disrespects me constantly. But God has a plan.

If I’d gone to West Point, I would surely be a harder, more cynical woman than I am today. Simply to get through that military academy as a woman would have robbed me of much of my God-given softness and femininity. Going to a state school not only humbled me but also gave me experiences that taught me about how women are gifted to show the world about God’s kindness, gentleness and unconditional love in a way that is uniquely feminine.

If I’d married my ex-fiance, I would have been joined to a man who could not and would not lead me spiritually. I would have been lonely in my marriage, yoked to a man whose affection was flighty and temperamental. Instead, I have been given the blessing of knowing what it is to love a man like Seth, whose pure heart and consistent, dependable servant leadership inspire me to become more the woman I’ve been created to be.

And if I’d stayed on the executive fast-track at this company, it would have been harder to leave. I don’t see myself as the kind of woman who would have become a workaholic, sacrificing friendships and family time for career; choosing advancement over integrity. But all of the women I know in leadership at our company behave like men. They have lost their softness; their gentleness; their kindness. They are tough and gritty and entirely masculine in their communications and interactions. That is not the kind of woman I want to be, nor is it who I’ve been created to be.

Each circumstance has been brought with it a painful sense of rejection. Each circumstance has taught humility through humiliation. But each circumstance has been a profound blessing orchestrated by the loving hand of God, who is more concerned with my eternal holiness than my temporal happiness. God is a loving father who wants to give good gifts to his children. Sometimes those gifts look like punishment in the moment, but in time, we are able to look back and realize that our omniscient, omnipotent, unconditionally loving Father knew what he was doing all along.

Authentically Aurora

Sweet Seth

autumn-walkSeth has been so wonderful lately. After a kind of rough patch in October where we talked through a few points of conflict (an important aspect of any healthy relationship), the past few weeks have been some of the sweetest we’ve had.

The weather finally turned cooler a few weeks ago down in the South where we live, so Seth and I took the opportunity to bundle up and go for a nice walk outside in a cozy, historic part of town. I had a warm latte in one hand and Seth’s calloused palm in the other. The leaves started changing, and we talked about everything and nothing.

At the end of our walk when Seth escorted me to my car, he gave me a kiss goodbye and then asked me to wait a second. “I’ll be right back.” He jogged to his truck, grabbed something out of the back seat and then jogged back to me. He wrapped his left arm around my waist and, with his right hand, threw a paper airplane through my open driver door onto my passenger seat.

I laughed, genuinely happy. “What was that?” I hugged his waist. He gave me a quick kiss on my forehead and said with a grin, “See you later.”

He jogged back to his car and got in while I, still smiling and curious, reached for the paper airplane. I unfolded it delicately and read one of the sweetest notes Seth’s ever written me. He acknowledged that he’s not always the most verbally affectionate boyfriend, but he wanted to make sure I knew how much he cares about me. I think I actually teared up a little bit. He’d written me a love note. And folded it into a paper airplane. It was the perfect combination of thoughtful and playful; quirky and sweet.

cinderella-stairsA few days later, after dinner with a group of friends, my high heels – glittery, silvery three-inch heels – were killing me. So Seth carried me up the stairs to my apartment. On the way, one of my heels fell off, so Seth set me down at the top of the stairs, ran down the stairs, picked up the silvery shoe, and ran back to the top of the stairs where he knelt down and gently slipped the glass slipper back onto my foot. I felt like a princess, especially when he scooped me back up again and carried me across the threshold of my apartment.

festival-of-lightsThe next week, Seth surprised me with a road trip, ensuring that he catered to my planning nature by telling me how to pack. “Dress for cool weather, and plan to be outside.” He wanted to keep the destination a surprise, but he is also learning how I operate and is lovingly choosing to adjust his style. He threw in a couple of red herrings (“Pack a hammer and a baseball cap”) just to keep me off track, but he ultimately took me to a lights festival modeled after my favorite Disney movie. I felt so loved, not only that he thought to surprise me with something he knew I’d enjoy, but that he also presented the surprise in a way that catered to me.

Last Sunday, he called me before church just to say “hello beautiful” and to let me know he was looking forward to worshiping with me. We watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and he told me I remind him of Mary because I’m a beautiful brunette who is lovingly supportive, resilient and a Proverbs 31 woman. And the next morning, he sent me off to work with an unexpected text: “Good morning, sweetheart. I hope you have a wonderful Monday!”

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the wedding of some dear friends who attend church with us. It was a beautiful ceremony, and at the reception, Seth leaned over to kiss my cheek and whisper quietly, “You were worth waiting for.”

My eyes widened in surprise, and he laughed, “It was a long wait!” He smiled. “But you were worth waiting for.”

Authentically Aurora

Cali – Part I

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Seth and I have very different travel styles. Granted, I’ve traveled the world, and he still doesn’t see any reason to ever leave our state, so differences in travel styles were inevitable. But I am of the opinion one should, you know, pre-book hotel rooms and rental cars. And maybe think about transport to the airport sooner than the night before departure. And possibly pack one’s bags sooner than six hours before a 7AM flight.

Nevertheless, we survived the 4:30AM drive to the airport and landed safely in LA. When we hit the runway, Seth advised me that he takes a while to deplane, so he encouraged me to grab my bag and go on ahead. Confused but opting not to ask any questions, I got off the plane and waited in the terminal near our gate. One minute went by… then two… then five… just when I started to get concerned, Seth appeared in the gate door and made his way to me, duffel bag in tow.

“What happened…?” I started to ask, but Seth put his hand on my back and ushered me forward. Only after we were a safe distance away did he explain.

“I knew I should never come to California. California is already letting me know I don’t belong here.” My conservative, old-fashioned cowboy sighed, half-laughing, and went on, “I don’t like to push ahead of people – older ladies or moms with kids – so I tend to wait a while in my aisle on the plane while I let other people get off. When there was finally a gap, and I felt like I had time to get my bag and deplane, I stuck my hand in the overhead bin without looking and grabbed what I thought was the handle of my bag.”

I nodded, wondering where this was going, and he continued, “It turned out it wasn’t my bag. It must have been some woman’s bag that she hadn’t zipped all the way shut, because when I pulled on the handle, a laptop fell out of the bag and landed on the head of the person in front of me -”

I gasped, and he nodded, adding, “It gets worse. Then – then! – tampons started raining down on everyone. This woman’s bag was full of tampons!”

I was laughing now as Seth continued the story. “I started shoveling tampons back into this bag as fast as I could, not looking up to make sure I didn’t make eye contact with whoever’s bag it was. It was so bad. California is rejecting me already, and we just landed.”

Still smiling, Seth and I made our way outside to where the rental car shuttles would pick us up and take us to our choice of offsite rental car company location. Seth was confused as to why all of the rental car options did not have kiosks right next to each other in the airport itself. He’d wanted to book in person so he could walk up and down the aisle and price check each one. That’s what online booking is for, honey.

I had in fact looked online and found that either Fox Rent-a-Car or E-Z Advantage were the cheapest options, and I made the mistake of mentioning that to Seth. I say it was a mistake because, once Seth knew those were the cheapest options, he was determined to stay and wait for one of their shuttles. Unfortunately, since they are cheap options, their shuttles only came once per hour instead of every five minutes.

After waiting for about half an hour, Seth and I finally agreed to get on a shuttle headed for one of the more mainstream rental car companies. The total bill came to a little over $300 instead of the $200 it would have been had we booked in advance online. Lesson learned. 

The whole trip was a lesson in compromise for both of us. As our first major trip together, I had to die to my natural tendency to plan and be in control, opting instead to take on the mindset of spontaneity and flexibility for Seth. Meanwhile, Seth was slowly realizing that life is a lot easier when you tap into the planning strengths of your more organized partner. We both actively tried to be considerate of the other, and the result was the best weekend we’ve had as it relates to dominance and control.

Seth had specifically told me ahead of time that he wanted to spend time in the mountains, not the beach, but that first day we landed, he suddenly wanted to check out the LA beaches. Thankful I’d thrown a swimsuit into my suitcase last-minute, I sighed and chunked my nature hiking itinerary, and we went to the beach instead of the forested walk to a waterfall I’d planned. We drove up Highway 1, found ourselves in Malibu and actually ended up having a great time walking the shoreline and looking for shells before Seth bravely dove into the frigid water in search of some time in the surf.

As that first day wore on, Seth continued to jokingly find examples of why he didn’t belong in California. When he fought his way out from the shoreline to a sandbar, one of the surfers out there asked if he was drunk. Apparently no one without a wet suit and surfboard attempts to wade out so deep. Later when we got smoothies, Seth made a face at his first sip. “This is the worst smoothie I’ve ever had!” I tried it and laughed. “That’s because it’s an all-fruit smoothie with no added sugar.” He shook his head in distaste and ranted in a teasing voice, “Why would anyone ever make such a disgusting smoothie? And sell it to unsuspecting customers?! California is the worst.”

That night, we stopped at the exact La Quinta I’d looked up online weeks before, but they only had one room left at the $99 rate. Granted, the room had two queen-sized beds, but – determined to sleep in separate bedrooms and maintain our commitment to physical purity – Seth declined the room, and we drove on to a sketchy Knight’s Inn that hadn’t been updated (or cleaned) since about 1969.

The large man in line ahead of us at the registration desk (if it could be called that) was trying to book a room by paying in cash only, but when the clerk refused, the man took his wad of cash and left. Between the rapist vans in the parking lot and the tattered, moth-eaten draperies behind the counter, I was ready to bolt, but the Knight’s Inn had two separate rooms for $75 each, so there we stayed.

Seth later acknowledged that we should have booked the La Quinta in advance. And booked the rental car in advance. And thought through more of the trip logistics. I appreciated his admission, and I acknowledged that we did make some great memories and have some fun adventures when I let go of my plans and just lived in the moment. Overall, this trip was a good lesson in compromise, valuing one another’s strengths and actively seeking the good of the other person in the relationship.

Authentically Aurora