Back in the Saddle

Today I thought to myself, “Self, you should start a blog about being a stepmom,” and then I remembered I have a blog. So, I log into dear ol’ WordPress, and there’s a nice little note for me, right in the middle of my stats page: “It has been almost 2 years since your last blog post.” Hmm. Thanks for reminding me about what a slacker I am, WP. So here I am to give the catch-up version of my life in one blog. Then, if I don’t become #1 Slacker again, I will go into more detail on the things that are actually interesting.

Also – for anyone who read the December Turning 30 edition, no, I am not engaged, yes, I survived turning 30 (Señor surprised me with a night downtown), and now I am enjoying thirtyonederful. 😉

I vaguely remember December 2014. Señor graduated police academy and immediately afterwards, the holidays were upon us. We were also house hunting amidst all of this, getting more time with the kiddos, and BAM. Life came to a halt as Señor and his family had to travel to Mexico for the death of his grandfather. A few short months later, I was let go from my job. About a month after that, we found out we couldn’t buy the house we had seen and fallen in love with. It was SO FRUSTRATING. I have no better words than that: FRUSTRATING. However, instead of letting it get us down, Señor and I pulled ourselves together and brainstormed. We took immediate action to fix what was hindering us from buying a house, and my wonderful in-laws offered for us to move into the house they had bought as a gut-rehab project and had planned on renting out.

The month of May 2015 was a busy one. In the midst of interviewing for jobs, I was spending all available time at the new house, helping get it move-in ready. It was nothing but sub-floors and drywall when I started. At the end of the month, however, we had a shiny new home that we had gotten to put our distinctive personal touches on.

I also started a new job at the end of May 2015, putting me at 3 jobs within 1 year. I wasn’t feeling to great about that. Fortunately, my new job is great, and I have been there for over a year now.

We now have the boys 50% of the time, which means I have a lot more responsibility as woman of the house, especially with the schedule of a police officer. Thankfully, I work from home and have a lot of flexibility to help take care of things in a pinch. The boys are all turning older this Summer/early Fall – they will be 12, 10, and 7 – and I have the mushy-mom-feelings about all of it, especially the 12 year old’s new voice & entering junior high & girls texting him (what?! I swear he was just learning how to read) and the 7 year old going into First grade. Be still my heart.

Our home was broken into Summer 2015, and since then I have been more accepting of owning a handgun (I know, I know. I date a cop). I never saw a need for one, as that is how I was raised, but considering the circumstances that surrounded that experience, I will be prepared to protect my family if there is ever a next time. This is a big change for me, as my entire life I have a been an on-the-fence-leaning-left liberal.

While 2015 saw a lot of changes, 2016 has just been a year from Hell. My grandmother (maternal) fought valiantly but lost her battle to cancer in February. A couple weeks later my father was admitted to the ICU, and was in the hospital until May 11, when he passed away. Currently, my grandfather (maternal) is fighting Stage III lung cancer. He has radiation M-F and the treatment seems to be working, Praise God. I don’t know if our family, especially my mother, can handle a third death, especially of someone so near, dear, and important to so many people.

Currently, I am trying to get my life back in order. It has been weird not spending all of my free time at the hospital or being a road warrior (my family is all 1.5 hours north of me). Can I please tell you how much money I have spent on gas & tolls since October when my grandmother was diagnosed? Oy vey.

We just finished up a full week with the boys – in even years we get to have them for their first week of summer vacation, and then they will spend the next week with their mom. While this “childless” stepmomma needed some peace and quiet restored to her house, it’s a little too quiet right now with Señor being on night shift currently. Aw, shoot, I’ll admit it: I miss those darn kids already.

Well, that is it for now, but I wanted to give this blog a refresh. As the title suggests, I have been bucked off my horse a few times in the past 1.5 years, but I’m back in the saddle and grabbing the reigns once more. I know I’ll end up on the ground again at some point, but for now, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

All the Dreams I Only Dared to Dream AKA: How John Grisham Crushed My Dream of Becoming a Lawyer

As a child, you dream about growing up and becoming something that sounds heroic (cop, firefighter, superhero) or beautiful (princess, actress, model). Rarely does a child dream of growing into someone who will change the world like Ghandi or Mother Teresa.
Don’t worry – I’m not here to tell you how I was a child prodigy who dreamed of following in Mother Teresa’s footsteps (although, I did want to become a nun at one point after watching Sister Act).

My earliest “I want to be _____ when I grow up” memories are of being a celebrity (I was convinced I would be discovered in a mall food court or someplace similar) or – my parents will back me up on this – a crossing guard. Yes. I wanted to be someone who volunteers for a living. Clearly I thought I was independently wealthy or I had no qualms with living on welfare all of my adult life.

While growing up, my dreams changed. Next, I remember wanting to be a lawyer. This came about some time during grade school and lasted through most of high school. My parents wholeheartedly supported this dream despite the hefty price tag that was going to come with it. I eventually settled on being a corporate lawyer simply because I would make a lot of money. A girl’s gotta pay off her law school debt!

The Pelican Brief

My dad supported this because I had logic and book smarts – and I was winning arguments against him using said logic by the time I was 12. Around that age, he also gave me my first John Grisham novel because he was tired of taking me to the library every other day – I would go through my young adult novels in a day or less. “Here. Get through this one in a day,” he claimed triumphantly as he handed me The Pelican Brief.

A few years later when I finally finished The Pelican Brief (I kept setting it down because I didn’t understand what the hell I was reading) I found myself wanting more John Grisham. I found myself sucked into the small town of Clayton, Mississippi and rooting for the jilted, loveless lawyers who found themselves in this small town. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and felt guilty when I was reading Mr. Grisham instead of the assigned reading like The Grapes of Wrath (Never finished it) or Les Misérables (I wanted to finish this one. But I didn’t.)

After turning over a thousand well-written pages, I found myself losing the dream to be lawyer. They go to school FOR-EV-ER, have tons of debt, don’t make a lot of money at first, have to start with terrible grunt work, and aren’t doing a ton of courtroom arguing all the time. Being a lawyer was not at all what I thought it was! John Grisham crushed my dream.

What was I going to go to college for now?! I felt so lost! And then – we took a test to see what we should become when we grew up. Now, I can’t tell you any of the questions or what my actual result was, all I remember is that one of the suggested professions for me was a CIA Agent.

That sounds SO COOL!

I was set! I was going to become a CIA Agent and travel the world and tell everyone how cool I am!

Enter AP Spanish.
2002 – Senior year of high school. I went from joining the CIA (I realized I was terrible at languages) to being a child psychologist (AP Psychology was awful, learning about all those stupid theorists) to being a teacher. My mom freaked out because she was convinced I was going to be poor being a teacher (she probably feared I would end up living in her basement) but my dad and I finally got her on board with the idea and she finally realized I would be okay and not end up living in her basement.

I finally graduated college in 2011 with my B.A. in English.

I’m now in HR, and part of my job is visiting top schools in the nation, where I allow myself to picture attending there for one my lost dreams. For the past few years it has been going back to school for child psychology. While I sometimes regret changing my major and pursuing a degree in education, I’m glad I did. I wasn’t serious enough as a student and could have possibly failed out of the program. The same goes for being a lawyer – not only do I think I wouldn’t have done as well as needed, but I would’ve hated my job.

So thank you, Mr. Grisham, for crushing my dreams. You led me to greener pastures.

Landing on Two Feet When the World is Upside Down.

Isn’t it funny how life ebbs and flows, typically ebbing when you really need it to flow, but flowing when you think you would be able to gracefully handle the ebbing? Which, if we want to be honest with ourselves, do we ever really gracefully handle the ebbing? I’m sure we can all think of that one person (most likely female) who seems to handle every.damn.thing with the most astounding amount of grace (and perfectly manicured nails)?

Brace Yourselves: I, my treasured readers, am not that woman.

I stress out, which means my eating habits turn to crap (Hi. I’m Nicole and I’m an emotional eater) and I cry (alone). Oh, and I don’t exercise, despite the elliptical in our bedroom which I had grand plans of using to cut the slob from my physical appearance. I’ll start next Monday.

The ebbing started on April Fool’s Day of all days. I received a 30 day notice of termination of employment. While not the perfect job, I had been there for 2.5 years so I felt like I had a grasp on the systems and processes and had a good level of seniority which allowed me many perks I still miss. I was also paid well enough to support our house of sometimes 5 (the kids are only with us 40% of the time) and that was being taken away from me. I may have cried a few times, and I definitely lived up to my emotional eater status. (Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, anyone? Where are the sprinkles?!)

I can’t tell you how many phone screens and interviews I sat through during those 30 days. At the end of my time with my beloved company and work friends, I had 2 jobs I was waiting to hear back from concerning a full time offer. I was going to be fiiiiiiine. I had farewell lunches and walked away with a smile, ready to tackle a new challenge with a positive outlook.
I heard back a week later, on the same day, literally 2 hours apart, that I was rejected from both jobs. I completely broke down. My sweet boyfriend (bf) hugged me and told me there would be other jobs out there and I was bound to get one. Unfortunately, my concerns were financial and I was having day-mares of living under a bridge (or moving in with my in-laws. Whatever. I’m not dramatic.)

About a week later I had 2 more onsite interviews lined up on the same day downtown. I had a laissez-faire attitude going into the first interview at 7:30am. I just didn’t care. I felt hopeless. I then met up with my little brother for a late breakfast on the North Side before meeting up with a former co-worker before heading to my second interview. I went home feeling neutral about both options. However, 3 days later, I received a verbal offer from the 7:30am interview! It was a temporary position, but whatever. It gave me time to find another job if needed, and if anything, was an amazing resume booster. I also got 3 more weeks off before I started. All I did was stay home, but let me tell you – it was the best break I could have asked for. My world was finally flowing again.

I went to work the day after Memorial Day (in which bf broke his foot but that’s a whole other blog entry…) bright-eyed and bushy tailed and excited to join such a world renowned company and best in class campus recruiting program. This excitement was short lived as I quickly realized this was not a fun-loving company like I was used to – this was a heads down, nose to the grindstone, get your work done and then go home and work some more kind of place. I came from the tech world – lots of cutting edge ways to stay in touch with your co-workers while also having fun (we had a game room complete with PS3, foosball, and board games) so this new world where people looked visibly uncomfortable making idle chit chat was slightly stunning, but I could adapt. And adapt I did. The only time I worked less than 50 hours was when I dared take time off of work. I was getting in early, leaving late, and continuing to work at home. And the travel schedule was exhausting. I was used to travel – this was not anything new to me – but this was rough. As I only had 3 months left on my contract, I started looking for new opportunities. I didn’t realize until I started job hunting how seriously my life was not flowing. Work wasn’t staying at work, where I liked to keep it as much as possible. When I received an offer with a start date 1 month prior to what was supposed to be my end date, I jumped on it. I gave my employer 3 weeks notice and made sure I fully transitioned everything.

I have never hated a job as much I hated that one. And I used to work at Toys R Us. During the holidays. Yeah – let that one sink in – I would rather work Toys R Us during the holidays than a well-paying prestigious career.

I left that job 2 weeks ago. The whole week leading up to my last day, I was filled with dread. Dread that I wouldn’t finish everything by the end of Friday, dread that it wouldn’t be a smooth transition, dread that I was going to deal with animosity from my boss (who had told me ever-so-delicately that I was leaving her “up shit creek.” Sorry hunny, this is business). I didn’t leave the office until 5pm that Friday, but at 4:45pm when I was turning in my computer, I noticed a couple other people also turning in their things, signifying their last day as well. I also noticed we all had the same slight grin on our faces, the same load lifted from our shoulders.

Commence the flow.