Overwhelmed and Underpaid

I am not one to complain … not much anyway.  I only have myself to blame for the pressure I find myself under. Some days I wonder why I do this to myself, and then it hits me–I asked for it. There was a time when I wished for the things I have now. But sometimes I forget to enjoy it.

I can’t remember the last time I felt bored. There is always something to do. But that’s a good thing. When I’m not working, I am creating new recipes for my new-found lifestyle (vegan-ish) and spending time with the grandkids, who seem to jump from being 7 – full of fun and wanting to spend time with Grandma – to 13, when all of a sudden it’s like,  “Grandma who?”

Needless to say, I fill my time wisely, which makes for priceless memories, or a way to satisfy my obsessive nature.

I have been away from my blog for quite a while, but it’s not because I was bored with it. All of my spare time has been spent on building my freelance media business and online newspaper, hiawatha-news.com.  I am also helping the Hiawatha History Commission publish a book for the city’s 70th anniversary next year.

On the side, I do marketing work for Tommy’s Restaurant, and help the City of Hiawatha put together its monthly newsletter. Periodically, I hold self-publishing workshops at the library, lead a monthly writing group, and volunteer with the Friends of the Hiawatha Library, as well as the Hiawatha History Commission. I recently started a new business, Turn the Page Publishing, which specializes in helping people write and publish their life story. And I still work full-time at a local car dealership, because, you know, bills.

I have also been writing my own books. My latest, Mind Games, is in the final stages of editing.

See what I mean?

One thing I lack is a knack for time management. I am constantly working on several projects at once, and if I get distracted, it’s hard to come back to it right away. What happens then is that too much time goes by and I forget where I left off. I like projects with deadlines. Those are the ones that get my undivided attention.

It’s good to have goals. I suppose mine is managing my time a little better. And maybe enjoying life a little more. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Actually, I would say the older I get, the more I realize what I don’t know. But he’s the genius.

There are those who will tell you it’s not good to be a workaholic, but there are worse things. I feel most alive when I am busy, and I feel like I am contributing something to the world. But as good as it is, it can also be overwhelming, and there are times when I need to rest.

I need to remember to slow down and enjoy the ride. The thing about life, “It goes on.”

“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”

~ Robert Frost



Change Isn’t Always Easy

McDonald’s Restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa

My favorite cartoons growing up were the Looney Tunes; Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all the rest.

The older ones were great; I learned about life from the 3 minute shorts, but what really intrigued me were the cartoons about the future, particularly the one about the House of Tomorrow. It was supposed to be funny but it sent my imagination into overtime, and made me wonder if that’s really what the future held.

Looking back at it, I think the writers from the 1950’s had some insight into what to expect from the 21st Century, though most people just saw it as goofy entertainment.

Though I have been keeping up with the latest technology, I am sometimes take back by how much technology is changing all of our lives. We have an Echo Dot that plays our music whenever we want and of course, my computers, and cell phones, and tablets.

I see people walking down the street or sitting in coffee shops and restaurants, their eyes glued to their devices instead of talking to the person in front of them.  My own adult children have their phones out as I am trying to have a conversation with them. I don’t feel like it’s my lace to say, “Hey, put your phone away.” They aren’t 10 anymore and should know better, right?

But the changes aren’t just socially; they are starting to hurt our livelihood, as well.

I took my grandson, Thomas, home last weekend. He lives in the Des Moines suburb of Johnston. He was hungry, so we stopped at a McDonald’s close to his home. We walked in and I was expecting to see a long line of customers. It was just past 1 on a Sunday afternoon, after all. Instead, just a few people milled around the lobby, looking a little confused, including us. I started toward the counter to order.

“No, Grandma. We order over here,” he told me nonchalantly.  He pointed to a kiosk off to the side with a large sign hung above it that said, “Order Here.” I looked back at the counter (which had shrunk significantly in size from our last visit) and saw a sign above it that said “Pick Up Order Here.”

Wow, I thought. McDonald’s is losing it. Sure, it’s more convenient for the customer, but it’s missing the personal touch. It’s one of our basic needs as human beings. Why even bother going out to eat if you order your food from a kiosk?

It’s happening all over; the lines to the self check-outs at the big discount stores are starting to be longer than the regular check-outs. Jobs are being eliminated, one by one. Who will be next?

Those who are graduating high school may want to think about where the job market is heading and pick a career more suitable to the changes.

Sure we have the technology, but when are we going to realize that maybe crossing that line between convenience, and changing the way we live, is not always a good thing?




Book No. 5

I put the finishing touches on my dad’s book last week and was finally able to submit it to Amazon’s CreateSpace.

CreateSpace is a handy publishing tool for those of us who want their books published, but don’t want to waste our time with rejections by popular publishers.

Maybe someday I will see my dream of being a best-selling author realized, but for now, I am content with marketing my book myself.

CreateSpace is very helpful with online marketing, but it’s up to the author to get out and sell it. Published books are available in digital and paperback forms, though paperbacks are a lot more costly.

For those of you who may not know, I posted stories my dad wrote about his life on a separate blog, “Leaving a Legacy.” I started the blog, so my family would have access to it. One of my uncles asked if I was going to publish it, and though I had thought about it, I wasn’t sure how I should frame it. Should I write it “as is,” or do a little editing so it made sense? Or maybe I should tell the story about how I found it in a box after he died and became closer to my family after reading about his life? Or maybe I should break the stories up and put them in chronological order, adding a forward and introduction to explain the misses pieces in his story.

I chose the latter, and got to work editing. It took a few months to complete putting it in order and making it make sense, and another month to edit, but I finally submitted it to CreateSpace last week.

I have used CreateSpace before, publishing a series of three teen sci-fi books and a recipe book, but it has been a while since I used it.

I had to create a cover of my own in the right size in PDF form, and then using a template, had to save my interior content in PDF form, as well. Once I walked through the process a few times, it became a no-brainer.

Here is the link to my dad’s book, which is for sale on Amazon: Legacy: An Autobiography.

I have decided that all the proceeds with go to one of my dad’s favorite charities, but because he had so many, I’ll have to give it more thought. My father was a generous man, and I think he would not appreciate the gesture, but he’d be a little proud, too.

Which is Stronger?

My writing prompt for today is, “Which is stronger, love or hate?”

My answer is Love, of course.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I believe love really does conquer all.

The Beatles sang, “All You Need is Love.” And while the concept makes for a catchy tune, it’s also a truth that some people still have a difficult time believing.

We get so caught up in our every day struggles that we forget that other people are going through the same struggles, or worse!

Misunderstandings, different mindsets and worldviews, and lack of communication, along with a variety of personalities and points of view, can fuel the fires for arguments and negativity, which can turn into hate.

And all we really needed to do was to talk to the person we were upset with in the first place.

We are all different. We are all human. We all started at the very same place. And I believe that if we took some time to get to know a person, a culture, a religion, or a nationality, and try to understand why they think what they think, and believe what they believe, there would be a lot less hate in the world.

But what it really comes down to is, who do you want to be? Do you want to look at the world as mostly loving and kind, or do you want to close yourself off and live in your own paranoia? After all, hate is just another word for fear; we fear what we don’t know and disguise it with contempt.

Ask yourself this question; do you want to live a life of love, or hate?

It’s really your choice. But when you choose, choose carefully. It’s difficult to change your course when you’ve been on it too long.

As for me, I want to do my best to live a life of love. I’m a work in progress, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.


Weirdest Job I’ve Ever Had

Write about the weirdest job you’ve ever had:

Like other pre-teens, I started working as a babysitter when I was 13 or 14, making 50 cents an hour. It sucked, but I got a few dollars for spending money.

Then there was that summer when i was 14, when I babysat three kids, while their mother went on a business trip. The kids’ sages ranged from 8 to 11, but I was just a kid myself. What the hell was she thinking?

She promised me $250 and only paid me $150 because she said I did a crappy job of keeping the house up, and the kids told her I was smoking pot in the basement. (I was, but that’s another story).

What could I do? I took the money.

My first real job was at McDonald’s on First Avenue NE (Cedar Rapids). It closed years ago, when they opened a McDonald’s down on 15th Street, and is now a gay club.

I lied about my age so I could start working when I was 15. It never occurred to me to get a working permit. I’m just a rebel, I guess.

It wasn’t a bad first job. I was a cashier, and although I came home smelling like old grease and French fries, I made fairly decent money. I used the money to buy a stereo and my first car, a ’72 Mercury Marquis.

After I turned 16, they came up with a law that stated you had to prove your age. So, instead of having my lie uncovered, I got another job.

It would take too long to go through my entire work history, and who really wants to read that, anyway …

I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs, but none I would really consider weird. My first husband and I moved to Colorado briefly, a year after we were married. I thought I would get a job right away, but that didn’t happen. Maybe they saw I was from another state and didn’t want to take a chance on me. But after a few weeks of filling out applications, I finally landed a job selling dishes.

I hated it.

It took me two days to realize I was not cut out for sales. My pitch was my inevitable downfall:

“I know they are a little expensive, but they are durable, and we replace them if they break…”

And then I would demonstrate how strong the cup was by pounding it on the case. The first couple times were fine, but when I put a little strength behind it, (no doubt thinking of how much I hated the job), the cup fell apart.

That wasn’t so bad; they forgave me, and they didn’t make me pay for the cup.

One night, my boss’ girlfriend too me to “Grand Central Station,” a huge bar in Colorado Springs, to hand out cards to try to get leads for demonstrations.

Great idea! Drunk people wouldn’t remember some lame chick signing them up for free demonstrations. “This is what I need to kick-start my career in sales…” I thought.

But I was wrong.

I could deal with the polite ‘no thank-yous;’ I couldn’t deal with people’s haughty rejections. They made me feel like I was a beggar.

It probably doesn’t sound so weird to someone who sells things for a living, but I should have known I wasn’t a natural fit. I can’t sell anything to anyone unless I truly believe in the product. And i can’t make people buy things they can’t afford. No matter how good it is.


Learning to Say ‘No’ is Lesson in Itself

I opened my Writing Prompts book and read this:

“Write about a time you said ‘No.'”

I almost looked for another prompt, probably because the subject sounded boring, but the real reason is, I am afraid of it. I’m not good at saying no, but I can honestly say I am aware of my problem. As the saying goes, you have to pick your battles.

I, like everyone else, am a work in progress. No one is perfect, but we learn from our mistakes to become better versions of ourselves.

With that being said, I can tell you, I don’t say no very often. It’s not that I can’t, I just really want to help people when I can. And when I can’t, I find a way to gently tell them no.

There was a time when I couldn’t say no because I felt powerless; I was afraid of making people mad, afraid they wouldn’t accept me as I was, afraid they would reject me. I wanted to be liked so much, I became a doormat, and did things I didn’t want to do just to please that person.

I became a people-pleaser. Like the term co-dependent, I hate the term people-pleaser, because it’s a label, and doesn’t do much to help the person in these situations. All it does is undermine your self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence. I should know. People have been labeling me my whole life.

“You’re a pest, you’re accident prone, you break everything you touch…”

I am a nice person. I am generous. I love to help people. This is the way God made me.

I have a hard time saying no because I want to change the world, but it doesn’t mean I don’t say no. Which bring us to my prompt for today:

As a parent, we tell our kids ‘no’ all the time. As an employee, we try not to say no too much or the boss will think we’re a slacker. So when was a time I said no, because I didn’t want to do something I didn’t want to do?

My daughter recently asked me to drive my grandson back to Des Moines and I didn’t want to.

I know I shouldn’t need an excuse, but I really didn’t have the time.

Does that count?

She might have been disappointed, but she didn’t say or show it. However, I told her I could help out when I had more time, a promise she took me up on.

Maybe the reason I don’t like to say no is because I hate to disappoint people I care about. I know how it feels. And disappointment sucks.

I know I’m not responsible for people’s feelings; it’s another mindset I am in the process of changing. But if I have the chance to bring a little sunshine to someone’s gloomy day, I’m going to try hard as hell to make it happen.

It’s a fine-line: I want to help people, but I don’t want to feel like a doormat ever again. Some people take advantage of kindness, and others see it as a weakness.

I’m not going to stop being kind. But I am learning to say no those who don’t appreciate it.


Passion Outweighs Moderation

Today’s writing prompt:

What area of your life do you tend to enjoy in excess instead of moderation?

Obsession and passion are the same thing, just different perspectives. So I suppose I could say the things I enjoy in excess are simply passions in disguise.

I write. A lot.

I get up in the morning and work on my website, tributecr.com, and create the day’s inspiring message and update the upcoming events and news. Then, it’s off to my day job as a Benefits Specialist for a local car dealership.

I might work out at the gym during my lunch hour, where I take notes about the things I want to write about when I get home, or I might interview someone for a news story. Sometimes I even take my laptop to work and use my hour to write.

Finally, it’s 5 o’clock, and I hurry home to get back on my computer, and either blog, work on my stories, or write news articles.

In a few short hours, its time for bed, and I set the clock for 5:30 am, so I can do it all again.

At first glance, one might think my excess lies in writing, but who can put a limit on creativity? Besides, who would want to?

However, I think we are being asked to focus more on the things we enjoy in excess that aren’t particularly good for us, like sweets or potato chips. I also drink too much coffee and pop. And though I love to bake, it means I have to eat it too, so I suppose the answer to the above question is: I enjoy eating, though excessively is a bit strong.

But who am I  kidding … I’ve never been able to do anything in moderation.