Posted in Post A Day Challenge

Mean Girls

Poor Natalie. Today she got schooled in the way of the bitches. It’s such a hard lesson for a middle schooler, but a lesson we all learned. You know it’s true. We are bitches. We are catty and mean to each other for no apparent reason. And this seems to happen around the time we enter middle school. It’s like a switch flips inside our little female brains that tells us to do evil to each other. I talked to a couple of friends today and they confirmed that middle school was that difficult time for them as well. When I was younger we were known as pre-teens but I really like today’s terminology of Tween to describe this age group. It really is a developmental stage caught in between childhood and early adulthood and for me, these years were the most difficult I can ever remember experiencing.

I remember the first time I realized my friends were lying to me. One girlfriend was going out of town for the weekend and had invited me to join her and a third friend. Woohoo, we’re going to the beach! Lucky me! The night before we were to leave I received a call from friend #1 to say that her parents told her she could not bring any friends along. I was disappointed but ok with that. I called friend #2 to wallow in our sorrows together. The problem was that friend #2 wasn’t wallowing at all. She was packing. That was an ouchie that hurt for a long time.

I had a chance to talk to Natalie about what happened today. She was mad. Really mad. I asked if she was going to talk to her friends about what happened and she said no. Apparently this isn’t the first time these two so called friends have been mean to her so she knows from experience that talking to them won’t help the situation. At 11 years old, she’s already realized some very harsh truths about how her friends behave. She said she’s been with one when that one was saying bad things about the other so she knows they talk about her when she’s not with them. This is so sad. I wanted to hug her but she had her game face on and I could tell she was happy just venting so I let her do that. She even said to me that she didn’t think she wanted to be friends with them anymore. The sad thing is these are her two best friends and have been for years.

I shared my little story with her and she laughed at me and said my story was way worse than hers. I’m really happy to see that she’s not letting it get her down. She said she was going to be silently angry and just not hang around them, which made me a little happy on the inside. Now that I know what these girls have been doing to her this year, I’m fairly relieved. But, I also know that the female of our species is fickle. We change our minds like we change our underwear. And, we easily forgive. I expect to hear stories soon about the things these three girls have been up to. However, I think that Natalie is going to be a bit more cautious going forward. Unfortunately, for each of these two girls, there are dozens more just like them. My hope for Natalie is that she finds that one real girl who will be her true friend.

I hope that his little talk tonight helps Natalie realize that, in addition to her mom and dad, I’m here to listen and help when she needs it. I wanted to tell her about all the beautiful friendships she will form throughout the coming years but I think tonight, she just wanted to be mad. I completely get that and saw more than a few similarities in our personalities tonight. I hope that my understanding of her feelings and my experiences will help me be the friend and adviser she will need as she continues through life. I hope that tonight was the first of many heart to hearts shared between friends.

Ok, now it’s time to share. Tell me your worst middle school story. I know you have some and I want to hear them. Mostly, I want to know that I wasn’t alone and I want to be able to tell Natalie that she’s not alone in this either.

(36/365)

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Posted in Post A Day Challenge

Lee “Rocks”

(Prompt: What is your proudest professional moment?)

I have to start this blog by saying that I’ve been fortunate enough during the past 4 ½ years with L-3 Communications to have experienced several proud professional moments. I’m going to pick two to write about tonight. When I get to the end, you’ll understand why I picked two.

When I look back at that day in May, 2006, when I received an email from Christi Gilbert with L-3 Communications, requesting an interview, I can’t help but smile. I sometimes wonder if Christi saw something special in me or if she was just desperate for help. Whatever the reason, she made me an offer. I quickly accepted and my life has not been the same since.

It is such a blessing to have a job that challenges me every day. It was because of those challenges that I was given an opportunity to excel and after only a year on the job, was nominated and selected as L-3 Communications Employee of the Month for October, 2007. My true reward for this accolade was not the plaque or the company mug or the small bonus check. My true reward was being recognized for the hard work and dedication I had put into my job. I had assumed a lot of duties that were not originally part of my normal job requirements, but I wanted to be a team player and put everything I had into being the best that I could be for my company. I’m a firm believer that, if in the public eye, my company shines, I shine and if I shine, my company shines.

When I found out that Christi had submitted the nomination for me, and that she had received endorsements from my peers, customers and vendors, I was so flattered. What more could an employee want from their boss? I gave everything I had to my job and I was honored for that. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I was finally able to read the nomination and endorsements. Some of the people I respected the most had used words such as exemplary, professional, responsive and supportive to describe me. I was blown away. There were phrases like “her hard work makes my job as a subcontractor a lot easier,” “with all that she has to do, she will always do everything in her power to resolve my issues,“ and my personal favorite, “Lee rocks”. In her nomination statement, Christi said “She cheerfully and without complaint took on that responsibility and has successfully resolved many tough issues.” Who doesn’t want to hear her boss say things like that?

I will never be able to express the level of gratitude I have for Christi. She was my boss, my mentor, my biggest cheerleader, my confidant and my friend for 3 years. About a year and a half ago I had an opportunity to move into a different position, so even though Christi has not been my boss since mid-2009, she does continue to be all of those other things to me. She gave me a chance to take on a job that I had very little experience doing and helped guide me to be successful in a very short amount of time. I’ve often joked that I didn’t win Employee of the Month so much as Christi’s nomination and description of me won. Christi has been supportive and encouraging to me since the day I walked in the door at L-3 and I will never forget that.

A few months after being recognized as EOM, I had the amazing honor of being named the L-3 Employee of the Year. The announcement was made in a room full of people in Reston, Virginia, but the only person I remember seeing in that moment was Christi. She flew up there with me and stood beside me as the announcement was made and I’m honestly not sure which of us was more proud. I remember seeing the tears in her eyes through the tears in my eyes and thinking how blessed I was to have someone like her in my corner.

(35/365)

Posted in Post A Day Challenge

It’s A Small World

Tonight was a great night. It was one of those nights that make you realize just how blessed you really are. Gil and I were invited to attend a private meeting hosted by the once and (hopefully) future mayor of Tampa, Mr. Dick Greco. I’ll hopefully have more to write about later on this meeting but let me just say that whatever that man is selling, I’ll take ten.

It was a great meeting and I’m super excited tonight that I live in Tampa and the Tampa Bay area. This is such a wonderful place to be and I honestly can’t imagine ever living anyplace else again. One of the things I love about Tampa is how it’s this big, huge sprawling city but it has such a small town atmosphere about it. We had a couple of those small town moments tonight that just helped me to solidify my opinion.

It was so great to arrive at the meeting and immediately see a handful of people that we know and call friends. Some of the faces were expected because of the subject of the meeting but then there were other faces that were nice surprises. I just love our diverse circle of friends and acquaintances in this town.

As soon as this meeting was over Gil and I scooted out the door for part two of our evening. We had been invited to a small gathering of friends at Eats Deli in South Tampa. Our new friend Tracy was hosting a small party to thank some of her blog supporters and we had been lucky enough to get on that invitation list.

It’s a very cool story of how we met Tracy. I somehow stumbled onto her blog one day after seeing the title and I was completely intrigued. Her blog is called My Other City by the Bay and I immediately fell in love with it. Tracy is a northern California transplant to Tampa and she’s on a mission to fall in love with Florida and the Tampa Bay area. She blogs about all the wonderful things in our lovely city, although she confesses that she still loves and misses California.  I just don’t get it but then again, as Gil pointed out, I came from Alabama and her perspective is quite different from mine. Fair enough.

On the day that I first discovered Tracy’s blog, there were three entries on the home page. The first story is what instantly caught my attention because there was a picture of our friends’ Julia and Kirsten’s book, Our Stimulus Package. I started reading the blog entry and kind of laughed about how Tracy (who I did not know yet) was talking about how she wanted to meet these ladies. I thought to myself that maybe I should send Facebook intros to the three of them. But then I read the next blog entry and laughed a little more. This one was about a local sauce company, Intensity Academy. Last year, Gil and I met Michelle, who owns Intensity Academy. Of course, after seeing this I had to send the blog to Gil to check out, which he promptly did. He also found the humor in the small worldliness and we both agreed we HAD to meet this Tracy chick.

We did just that this past Saturday at a book signing at Barnes and Noble. We were introduced to her by none other than our friends Julia and Kirsten, who had since met Tracy and became friends. It was after this introduction and some chatting that Tracy invited us to attend her party tonight. We were flattered and knew we had to go.

When we arrived at Eats, Tracy immediately said we had to meet her friend Leslie. Leslie is the ‘Chief of Everything’ of an online magazine about the Tampa Bay area. The magazine is called Vertical and you MUST check it out. It’s so beautiful and some of the pictures took my breath away. I’m telling you, even if you don’t live in Tampa, this magazine is so stunning that you will not be able to tear yourself away from it.

While I was being introduced to Leslie, Gil was distracted by a girl at the bar. Turns out, this girl, Kristi, was a neighbor of his some 11 or 12 years ago. What makes this part of the story really odd is that we are now planning a mini-reunion between Gil, Kristi and our current neighbor from across the street because they all three used to live in the same neighborhood about 3 miles from where we are now. Oh, and while Gil was talking to Kristi, Leslie and I were exchanging contact cards. She looked at my card and noticed the website I have listed is danaCreative.com. She pointed at Gil and said, “Is that danaCreative? I follow him on Twitter and have read some of his blogs?” I cracked up at this point. It was simply too much for me to handle. It was almost like I was in an episode of Punked or something. It was just too much coincidence to be for real. Right?!?

I guess that just because a city has three million people in it, it doesn’t mean that you can just get lost in the shuffle. Well, I suppose you could but I’ve never been one to simply blend into the background and just disappear. I wrote last week about my first real understanding of community and what it means to be a part of one. I wonder if that idea is what drives me to be social?

Just yesterday in church, our pastor talked about how God designed us to do life in community and how we desire to build these communities of relationships so we can do life together with people who are just like us or even completely different from us. I think about my various circles of friends and acquaintances and it’s pretty wide-ranging. There are the heart friends, the techie friends, the concert friends, the back home friends, the neighborhood friends, the work friends, the philanthropist friends, the church friends, and geez, this list could go on and on. Maybe my desire to build so many different communities is simply part of God’s master plan for us and for me. Maybe I just can’t help it because it’s what I was born to do.

(34/365)

Posted in Uncategorized

Birthday Surprises

Last week Natalie told me that for her dad’s birthday, she wanted to make chocolate covered strawberries that look like footballs. She knew we would be attending a Super Bowl party with friends and she was really excited about taking the strawberries to share with everyone. Inside, I panicked just a little bit because handy in the kitchen, I am not. But, I didn’t let that stop us. Besides, Natalie is pretty good and has done some pretty cool stuff with her mom so I said, “Let’s do it”. Here is our picture diary of what happened. As you can see, she didn’t need my help at all. Well, except to take the pictures.


33/365

Posted in Post A Day Challenge

Jealousy and the Dildo Incident

You know how they say that some people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime? This is the story of one season of my life.

I’m not sure what it was today that sparked this memory but I suddenly felt an urge to write about my old friend The Princess (not her real name, obviously). She was such an important part of my life but we weren’t able to sustain that friendship for some reason, not the least of which was my jealousy and the dildo incident.

For the first time in my 33 years, I had moved away from my small town home. I had recently gotten divorced and desperately needed a change in scenery. I chose Jacksonville because it was the first place I got a decent job offer.  I formed a friendship with one of my coworkers right away and we started hanging out a lot during the evenings and most every weekend. Pretty much everything thing I did for a year revolved around The Princess’ custody schedule with her son. So basically, if her son wasn’t with her, we were out and about and we were always up to no good. We were living life on the edge, totally reckless and completely carefree.  Remember the part where I said I had just gotten divorced? Yeah, it was that “I’m free as a bird for the first time in my life” kind of no good.

On one of our crazy excursions, I think to an adult themed store for Fantasy Fest costumes, we had a conversation about vibrators. She seemed intrigued by one of the devices and talked about how she would never buy one of them for herself, but wouldn’t be opposed to having one. Ok, as wrong as I might have been, I took that as a hint so that when Christmas rolled around, guess what I bought my friend? And I’m not talking some cheap little AA battery required model. I dropped a big bill and she was going to need a few D batteries to get that baby cranked up.

Christmas came and went and we exchanged our gifts to each other without much discussion. She seemed appreciative and shared a few jokes but we never really talked about it again for a few months.

Sometime after the holiday season, The Princess met a guy, and she started spending a lot of time with this guy. I think she even went on to make him her Mr. Princess, but I’m not sure. Anyway, guess what happened to me when her relationship with Mr. Princess turned serious? I was kicked to the curb. I was alone. This was my fault. I’ll take the bulk of the blame, but I have to put some blame on the situation. For the previous year I had spent so much time with The Princess that I had not developed any other female friendships. None. Not a one. For this reason, when she started leaving me out, the green eyed monster began to occupy my every thought.

This time in Jacksonville was not a good time for me, mentally speaking. I had some issues that I should have been dealing with but decided to party and forget about them instead. I did a lot of “forgetting”, so what may have started as a mild form of depression and self-loathing just festered into something really dark and unreasonably foolish. My thoughts betrayed me and I began to distance myself from The Princess, both socially and at work. Fortunately, I did remain sane enough to maintain every level of professionalism that one might need to get through the work day.

I don’t remember when it happened but I think it must have been early spring. I was at home, alone, playing some silly computer game when my caller ID indicated The Princess was calling.

“Hello”

“Hey, it’s Mr. Princess and The Princess” (male and female laughter)

“Hey, what’s up and what’s so funny?”

More laughter.

“We called to tell you that The Princess will no longer need the gift you gave her,” (uncontrollable laughter by both of them) “And we’ve thrown it out for the garbage men to pick up tomorrow.”

“OK, why are you telling me this?”

More silly, giggly laughter.

“We just thought you should know.”

“Ok, bye?”

HUH?  What just happened? I was in shock. I could not speak, I could not think. I was seething with anger and crushed from the hurt all at the same time. How could she have done that? Why would she have done that? Why was it so funny to them? Had they been sitting around laughing at me and felt the need to call and ridicule me? I was so confused. That was the moment that our friendship died.

The Princess had been such an important part of my life for over a year. She became my mentor by day and my partner in crime by night. She was my confidant and my soul sister. We laughed and we partied and we sometimes even cried together. I don’t know what my life would have been like had she not been there with me during this transformation I was going through. I was like a snow covered mountain just before the first spring thaw. My time with The Princess represents the melting snow and ice as winter turned to spring. It was quick and severe and sometimes devastating but it had to happen for the seeds to grow and the flowers to bloom. I don’t have any regrets about the way that my jealousy and her dismissal of my gift ended our friendship. It was our time and it passed. We had our season and I’m okay with that.

(32/365)

Posted in Childhood Memories, Post A Day Challenge

Community

It started out like any other Fall Friday night that October in 1984. My sister and I were in our rooms getting dressed to go with my dad to a football game and my dad was taking a shower. My mom was sick with a headache so she was resting on the couch. She wasn’t feeling well enough to go to the game with us so she had planned to just sleep off the headache while we were at the game.

I had put my shirt in the dryer earlier so, in my jeans and bra, I went outside to our utility room to grab my shirt. I went out the back door and took the 3 steps through our carport to the door of the attached laundry room and pulled open the door. As I entered the small room and I saw the flames shooting up the wall beside the dryer. It took what felt like minutes, but I’m sure it was only seconds, before it registered exactly what I was seeing. In that instant, I knew my 16 year old world would never be the same.

I turned and headed back in the house screaming, “The house is on fire! Daaaaddddyyyyyy…..the house is on fire!” He was in the shower and could not hear my screams. My mom was startled awake as I ran by her in complete panic. I threw open the bathroom door and told my father that the utility room was on fire. He jumped out of the shower, without even turning off the water, threw on a pair of jeans and ran outside. My dad grabbed a water hose, turned on the water and started trying to extinguish the fire. However, no water came. He had left the shower running and we had a very weak well system which just couldn’t handle a running shower and an exterior water source. He knew it was out of control and that we needed to react quickly.

I grabbed a sleeveless jacket and ran to my car. Our nearest neighbor was my grandmother and she lived a quarter mile away. That quarter mile seemed like the longest drive of my life. I ran into my grandmother’s house and screamed that our house was on fire and that we needed to call the fire department. She panicked. I panicked. This was in the days before 911 and to complicate things, we lived 10 miles from the nearest volunteer fire department. Those phone numbers were not memorized and it took us what seemed like forever to look them up in the phonebook. While I looked up the number, she stood at her door and could see the flames shooting out of our roof. She knew this was bad. We found the number and she began to dial the phone. I ran out to get more help. My aunt and uncle lived another quarter mile so I raced down the road to get their help.

My family had played out this scenario many times. We had a plan. Everyone gets out and we meet by the mailbox some 150 feet from the house. Thank goodness, this is exactly what my 10 year old sister did and she stayed there watching all of this play out. However, there were some factors that came into play that we never really considered when we were making those emergency preparations. What about the cars? What about our photos? What about our beloved pets? What about our wallets? What about our clothes? We always said that if our home was on fire, none of those things would matter. But they did. They mattered a lot in those panic stricken moments.

My dad worked for GTE by day and farmed by night. If you are familiar with farming then you know farmers get paid once at the end of the harvest season. That very day had been my father’s payday and he had a very fat wallet of cash on his dresser at the opposite end of the house. This would be all he would get that season so he knew how detrimental a loss this would be if he didn’t save that wallet. He  ran back in to retrieve the cash. I think he knew we were going to need that and he risked his life to get it. On his way back, the fire had spread and was about to block the door nearest to him. He made it out safely but did sustain some minor burns on his still bare back.

While I was getting help and dad was fighting the fire, my mom had grabbed my 12 year old Chihuahua and tossed her out the front door. Then my mom ran back just inside the front door. This is where our gun cabinet was stored. She started grabbing these family heirlooms and running them to safety. As my dad was running out, he managed to grab the last of them. This was all we got. Nothing else was within reach. The fire was spreading too quickly to get to the photo albums and other precious memorabilia.

As our family stood at a safe distance and watched our home go up in flames, the neighbors started coming. And they came with their water trucks and they came with their hugs and prayers and soon enough they came with food and clothing and money. They came and they came. Some saw the bright flames in the night sky and came to see if they could help. Where I lived, one only had to see the glow in the sky and they knew exactly whose home and whose family was in trouble. Members of the local volunteer fire departments heard the call on their radios and they came, most of them beating the fire truck from town. These volunteers used a water tank truck a fellow farmer and neighbor brought over, which ran out just as the fire truck arrived. They fought and fought that fire but it raged on, until there was mostly rubble left standing where our home had once been.

It was on this dark country road that I realized two of our pets were missing and there was no way to get to them. The fire had spread too far too fast. Even if they were hiding in the farthest corners from the blaze, I realized the amount of smoke bellowing out of the windows and doors would be too much for them. Hours later, the firemen confirmed they had found both our sweet puppy, Buddy, and our loving cat, Socks, hiding under beds far from the flames. My fears had been confirmed, the smoke was just too much for their little lungs to take.  I stood there that night and I cried for my pets and I cried for all the things I would never get back. It was really hard to not feel a deep sense of loss, even when I had my unharmed family standing next to me. It was hard for this 16-year old child to see the blessings in the disaster.

Before this night, I had seen my parents’ and grandparents’ network of friends help out in times of sickness or death. However, it was following this particular event that I came to understand what people mean when they talk about community. I had grown up in this tiny town, attending a small church and shopping at the same stores with the same people all of my life. I had a sense that everyone knew each other but until that night, I had no idea how much these people loved each other. I’m talking about a kind of love and loyalty that transcends wealth, race, religion and gender. Over the next few days and weeks, I watched as this community came to our aid and we found ourselves not wanting for any basic need. We had clothing, food, and thanks to my grandmother, shelter. We had each other and that was what was most important. But we realized that we had so much more. We realized that no matter what happened, our community of friends and neighbors would be there to help us pick up the pieces in the worst of times.  This community became family and we were so blessed because of them.

(30/365)