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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

For those of you who are not Mad Men fanatics, this will take a bit of ‘splainin’.  Pete Campbell is an Account Executive/Partner at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price – a fictional 1960’s ad agency.  If you’ve watched all of the seasons of Mad Men, Pete’s slimy ways have probably made you feel uncomfortable or dirty at least once – possibly twice – an episode for the past four seasons.

Here’s the thing about Pete: Pete knows what he wants and he goes after it.  He doesn’t always take a path that you or I would prefer – he sometimes turns to manipulation or blackmail – but everything he does is because he wants to be The Ad Man.  The other thing to know about Pete is that he is an account executive (basically a client schmoozer) who fancies himself as a creative.  He is NOT a creative.

That all being said, here are my thoughts on Pete:

On Trying Too Hard: Pete wants to be an Ad Man. Desperately.  He “acquires” all of the things that he thinks he needs to portray the image (wife, apartment downtown, etc), he reads all of the “right” books, he does all of the networking.  But at the end of the day, he often just comes across as trying too hard.  It’s awkward to watch and difficult to like.  It conjures up at least a half dozen memories of stupid things I’ve done or witnessed other people doing.  I think about my first presentations when I worked in advertising or remember terrible sales pitches someone delivered to me.  I shudder at the memories. And I watch Pete and think, “Am I trying too hard? Am I making myself into a person I wish I could be or am I becoming a person that I am meant to be?”

On Taking Shortcuts: Pete regularly tries to find shortcuts, but his shortcuts always come at a much-too-high cost.  Sometimes it’s his own integrity that takes a hit, and sometimes he even jeopardizes family relationships for the sake of authenticating his place in the ad world.  I’m all for taking risks, but the things he’s willing to risk sometimes seem too great considering what he is hoping to accomplish.  How often do I sacrifice a long-term item for a short-term goal?  What are my trade-offs?

On Being Authentic: Pete says a lot of crap to get what he wants and hides a lot of things he does.  There are a lot of things Pete sweeps under the rug, including affairs and a baby with another woman.  Watching his character operate, the amount of baggage he’s carrying around is almost palpable.  It’s like he’s teetering, on the verge of falling over under the baggage’s oppressive weight.  And yet, if you asked him, he’d probably ask, “Baggage?  What baggage?”

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Last night I watched Enchanted, one of my favorite movies to watch.  It’s one of those movies that when it’s on, I can’t help myself.  The movie reminds me a lot of Frank.  No, it’s not because Frank channels Patrick Dempsy with his dashing good looks and pragmatic approach to life.  Nor is it because Frank often introduces me the way Prince Edward introduces Giselle – “Giselle is my love, my heart’s one true desire!”

Enchanted reminds me of a truly K-Fam Thanksgiving experience.  Back in November 2007 Frank was a jet Captain on the Dornier at the now defunct Skyway Airlines.  As per usual, Frank was at the bottom of the seniority list, meaning that he was working holidays.  I decided that I would accompany him over Thanksgiving on his trips so that we could spend Thanksgiving together.  On Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, we went to Cleveland. Skyway actually put the pilots up in a somewhat decent hotel which was close to a very nice mall.

One of Frank’s favorite things to do is walk around a mall. This is surprising because he does NOT like to shop.  He enjoys stopping at stores that have nice smells or kitschy items with limited uses (ie. Brookstone, Spencers).  We walked around the mall for a while and then decided to go see the movie Enchanted. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  I remember walking out of the theater holding Frank’s hand, feeling light and free.  We had dinner at the Macaroni Grill and drew fun pictures on the paper table cloth and enjoyed being together.

The next day, Thanksgiving, we flew back to Milwaukee and then up to Appleton.  We stayed at the Raddison Paper Valley in downtown Appleton.  We arrived at the hotel at 2:30 in the afternoon and saw, to our amazement, a huge Thanksgiving buffet set out!  Victory!  We approached the hostess stand, all of our bags in tow, and asked the hostess for details on the buffet.  She told us they were taking it down.  Oh, the looks on our faces!  We pleaded with her – can we just go through once and get some Thanksgiving food – we are far from home and won’t get a real Thanksgiving!  Nope.  She wouldn’t budge.  As we walked by the buffet on the way to our room, we watched them throwing out entire cakes and pies.  Oh, how we wanted to weep right there!

Slightly disheartened, but determined to have a lovely Thanksgiving anyway, we went to the hotel bar, hoping that they may have some Thanksgiving fare.  No such luck.  I think Frank had a hamburger and I had a chicken sandwich.  Regardless of the lack of Thanksgiving themed food, we had a wonderful time watching football in the bar and talking with his First Officer.

Later that night, we decided that we wanted dessert, but room service didn’t have anything good, so we found a vending machine and shared a Three Muskateers bar and a Rice Krispy Treat.  Oh, it was bliss!  Almost like having French Silk Pie… but not quite…

It is one of my happiest memories of us.  We had such a nice time celebrating Thanksgiving together and I am so glad we did it!  Considering that Frank is back at the bottom of the seniority list again, perhaps we will try the adventure again this year, but maybe in a more exotic location, like LA or Puerto Rico!

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summer lovin’

Those of you who know me in real life (IRL), know that the K fam has recently been soooo excited to announce that Frank is now flying out of a Milwaukee base instead of an Atlanta base.  Milwaukee (MKE) is roughly 1 1/2 to 2 hours away from our home, whereas Atlanta requires a 45 minute drive plus a 2 1/2 hour flight.  And, if that isn’t fun enough, Frank had to allow three or four flight options, just in case he got bumped or a flight was canceled.  On his way home, he would often be running from concourse to concourse trying to find an open flight – and that was often after an 8-10+ hour day of flying.  Sometimes he wouldn’t roll into our driveway until after 1 a.m. after starting his day at 6 a.m.  With travel to and from Atlanta factored in, Frank was averaging 6-7 full days home per month.  Needless to say, it was rough, but we made it work.

Actually, I look at it as a little feather in our cap that we made it work so well.  For all that we’ve been going through while he’s been commuting to Atlanta for the last year or so, including fertility treatments and a miscarriage, the fact that we are still so in love is a blessing from God.

TOOT TOOT. (that’s me, tooting our collective horn)

While I was prepared to continue having a long-distance marriage for a while longer, we were soooo blessed when Frank won the bid for the Milwaukee base earlier this summer.  Thanks to this new base, Frank was in training to fly a new aircraft which resulted in him being home on WEEKENDS!!  This is a rare occurrence, indeed.  As a result, we hosted a dessert and cocktail party this summer, we had a holiday together (4th of July!-note – because of his seniority, we do not usually expect to have any holidays together), we went to Summerfest AND the Wisconsin State Fair (two of our favorite things) and generally did weekend-type couple-y things.  I LOVED every minute of it.  Frank is almost done with training – he is finishing up initial operating experience, which basically means he is flying with a very experienced captain who will later sign off that he is a capable pilot and set him free for regular flying.

So it has been a good summer in the K house this year.  We have felt abundantly blessed with this new base and look forward to more time together this fall!

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So… Frank is a Pilot.  This means he is gone for days and days.  It also means that we experience much of our relationship over the phone.

Example conversation:

Emily (E): Sooo, what else is new?

Frank (F): HMmmmmm.

Long pause.  You have to be ok with long pauses when carrying on a marriage via phone.  You have to give the other person a chance to “buffer”.  Buffering is when their brain catches up with their mouth.  The reason that their brain and mouth get out of sync is because they are playing Bejeweled Blitz online.  (Darn you, Mother, for showing us that game!)

E: Yeah?

F: So, yeah, well, I’m still listening to that zombie book on CD.

Background info: Frank has a love/hate relationship with zombies movies/stories.  While he hates, hates, HATES being scared, he can’t help himself when it comes to Zombies.  He’s like Bubba from Forest Gump, “There are zombies that run fast, zombies that run slow, zombies that swim, zombies that dance and zombies that can be frozen and thawed…” and an hour later, I’m drooling on myself, stabbing myself in the face with a pencil and wondering if I, myself, am a zombie…

E: aaaaaaahhhhhrrrrrggghhhh.

F: Whatever. So anyway, zombies –

E: No, that was me gagging at you.

F: Oh, so you weren’t making a zombie noise to scare me?

E: No!  I was groaning that we are STILL talking about zombies.

F: Well, cuz zombies make that moaning noise, so I thought you were trying to scare me.  Well anyway –

And he’s off and running on to his next part of the zombie adventure.  Something about under water zombies that getcha when you’re swimming.  Which, unbeknown to Frank, gives me a whole new arsenal of things I can terrify him with…

Not only is this a zombie, but it's also what I look like when I'm listening to Frank talk about zombies...

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Ok, in no particular order:

1.  I am running again.  Well, jogging.  Very, very, very slowly.  At this point, it’s as much for my physical health as it is for my emotional health.  I find that when I run, I am able to process things better and have more energy.  So I am committed to running/jogging/moving my booty every other day.

2.  For anyone wondering about my sugarless lifestyle, yes, we are still sugarless in the K House.  I have to say, there have been quite a few moments of weakness, but we are proud that we haven’t caved.  The only sweets we had were for FK’s 30th birthday.  Hey, that’s a pretty special occasion, right?  So we busted out some cinnamon bread pudding and homemade whipped cream.  Soooo good.  I was worried that it would become some kind of gateway drug – you know, leading to other sugary delights – but we stayed the course and did not venture any further into Candyland.

3. There have been lots of different themes floating around in my life.  I want to write extensively on every single theme, but right now is not the time.  Here are some highlights:

a. Definitions.  I’ve been wondering a lot about how to take control about how I’m defined, both by others and more importantly by myself.  This concern is on a personal and professional level.  Personally, I’m not afraid of being defined as someone who has had a very difficult time having children, but I AM afraid of being defined as ONLY that.  And maybe “afraid” is the wrong word.  I think if people only saw me for this trial, that would be a very limited way of looking at me and that I, and others, would miss out on the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life.  I also think about this a lot professionally, too – the woman who did my job previously really only focused on one particular area, whereas I’ve branched out and brought an entirely different skill set to the game.  I’m concerned that my success is being defined only based on area, without taking into consideration all of the other things I’m bringing to the table.  I have ideas on how to resolve my professional dilemma, but it’s a little bit more difficult to resolve the personal side of things.

b. Attitude. I’ve been battling attitude a lot lately.  For a great many reasons, it’s been particularly difficult for me to keep my attitude in check.  The running is helping with cleaning out any emotional overload, allowing me to refocus my energies when I feel myself slipping into a swirling vortex of sadness.  I think it’s a difficult one to balance, though, because I do believe that I need to be where I am, and not rush through it.  Said another way, I’ve spent a lot of my life checking things off of lists.  I like to do that.  But living a life of checking things off of lists sometimes means that I rush through things to just to get through the list.  A conversation I had tonight reminded me that life is really a series of processes and experiences, not a neat and tidy notebook of lists with check marks next to each item. Discontentment is being in one place, but believing that I should be somewhere else.  I kind of wonder if I would be more content if I just said, “Ok, this is where I am today, and that is ok” – with an understanding that I would not be in this same emotional place forever.  What does it look like to live a more contented life?  Hm.

c. Fluidity. In 2004/2005, I was working a lot of hours.  A lot of hours.  Even when I was not at work, I was mentally at work.  My brain was constantly thinking about things going on at the office; looking for solutions to problems I was having.  It doesn’t help that I worked in advertising and our world is inundated with ad messages.  Even if I didn’t want to take work home with me, it was everywhere.  But when I look back at that time and remember trips we took or things we did, I don’t remember the pervasiveness of work.  I just remember the fun things.  It’s amazing how my brain can edit out work and make my memories into a nice, clean 30 minute montage.  So why do I bring that up and what does it have to do with being more fluid?  Well, I realize that I have a selective way of remembering things.  I remember the joys of the simplicity of life being young when I feel overwhelmed.  But when I really remember what it was like to be me in second grade, I also have to remember that I was totally overwhelmed by simple things then (which were not so simple to me at the time).  I remember lying in bed one night, tossing and turning because I forgot to bring a worksheet home from school.  I knew I would get a “zero” for the assignment.  I finally went into my parents room really late at night (probably 10 p.m.) and told my mom what I was thinking about.  She laughed and told me about times when she felt the same way. The adrenaline from worrying about that worksheet left a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  The same taste I get even now when I realize I forgot something or am on a tight deadline.  We edit our memories.  Things do seem better in the past and more hopeful in the future.  Life is constant change.  People are born, people die, people move away, people move in… The sooner that I am comfortable with the idea that nothing is permanent in this life, the easier it is to roll with the punches.  I was not born as a person who is comfortable with being fluid, but over time I’ve come to be better with it.  I think being married to a pilot has expedited my personal growth in this area.  Let’s not go crazy though – I have hardly mastered being fluid and I still love a good check list, but in the realm of things I cannot control, learning to be fluid has been an excessively helpful trait.

So yeah.  Just a few thoughts.  No particular order.  More on some of them later.  Or maybe not.  Well, you can be 100% assured that I will likely talk about running and sugar again.  I’m predictable like that.

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I’m not a very disciplined person in a lot of respects.  I try very hard, but because it is not ingrained in my character, I often FORGET to be disciplined.

And last week was a week of discipline.

Something I’ve had drilled into me in my professional life is to nip things in the bud.  The minute something goes down a wrong path, and before it becomes a habit, you have to nip it in the bud.  Because I don’t like conflict, this was a hard one for me to learn both as a manager and as coworker.  But I have found that people respect you more for speaking up early rather than letting something carry on.  Not saying anything is often viewed as permission-granting.

I’m not perfect at this skill, but I work on it.  And because it runs counter to how I would prefer to live, it takes a certain amount of emotional energy.

The other thing I’ve had to get better at is disciplining my thoughts.  This has been on-going since I was little.  When I first started working on this, I was struggling with anxiety in school.  I would get the syllabus on the first day of school, and see that on the last day of the class there would be a… gasp… FINAL EXAM and I would start wondering how I was going to pass that test.  Seriously?  I hadn’t even been through the course yet.

As I’ve gotten older, and hormones have gotten crazier, I’ve had to work on disciplining where I let my thoughts go.  For example, my dear husband has a horrid schedule for the next 3 weeks.  I’m not going to get into the details for safety issues, but it is TERRIBLE.  Plus, he is supposed to get awarded a base closer to home, but the guy who posts the final awards WENT HOME EARLY on Friday, even though the company stated that it would post the results on Friday at 4 p.m. CST.

My natural bent is to go down the, “We will never have another holiday together.  We will never have another lazy Saturday together.  We will never …” And I definitely start down that road, but then I make myself remember that in a few years I will have mostly forgotten this time that we are going through and that it WILL get better.  Sometimes it takes a huge amount of emotional effort to turn this attitude around.

But it is always worth the effort.

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weather

It’s raining and overcast and cool here in Chicagoland today.  It’s about 50 degrees, which is below average for this time of year, although, that is to be expected since we hit 80 last week, well above the average.

Isn’t that what an average is?  Some days are higher, some days are lower… but it all averages out.

Brilliant.

So what does the Chicagoland weather have to do with anything?

“The Weather as a Terrorist”

If you listen to any meteorologist or Chicago native discuss the weather, you’d think that the weather was a terrorist organization.  In the winter we have vicious cold snaps and brutal winter storms.  Truth be told, the winter of 2010 was pretty mild, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the news promos and conversation around the water cooler.  I’ve totally fallen prey to the “Weather as a Terrorist” mentality, often heaving reluctant sighs as I bundled up to go out into the cold.  And in the summer, we have blistering heat and suffocating humidity.  In the spring and fall, we have floods of epic proportions and hail the size of off-road dump trucks.  But an even worse offense than “violent” weather patterns is when the weather is just about 5-10 degrees too cool or too warm.  Oh, the hand wringing and sobbing that happens on the radio and in offices around the city – how could the weather be so cruel as to be BELOW average!

I actually had a conversation with an older woman that helped put me in a more accurate perspective.  I was lamenting about how rainy it has been and she said, “Well, we need it!” And then I remembered that the weather was not just about me and my immediate comfort, but about a whole world that needs seasons, rain, snow storms, and heat.  There are sweet little daisies that are ecstatic to get watered and happy little ducks paddling in the full ponds.

I look at God like the weather sometimes.  In the winter, I forget about the lovely warm sunny summer days and I wonder, angrily gripping my steering wheel, if it will EVER get warm again.  I think that’s how I sometimes go through the trials of this life: wondering if things will EVER get better.

And I can’t help but wonder at myself. Life is full of seasons and cycles and weather.  Sometimes I get into a particularly bad pattern of weather (like now), but unless I lived in Antarctica (and I clearly do not), it’s bound to hit 70 again in the next 365 days.  It is this attitude that I have (and many others have) that explains why God gave us the desire to write down stories.  And not just Pollyanna/sunshine stories, but the stories about times where life SUCKED.  Nearly every single life situation, featuring both suffering and joy, is documented in the Bible.  And guess what?  Sometimes the forecast calls for more “suckage” before it gets better.

The Small Rudder on the Big Ship

So even if you probably wouldn’t have thought much about the weather (unless it was particularly good or particularly bad), we TALK about the weather so much, it’s unavoidable.  “Crappy day outside, hey?” “Yah, bummer, hey?” “Yah.” (I miss Wisconsin!)

What I say about the weather impacts how I feel about the weather, in the same way that what I say about my situation often impacts how I feel about it.  I know, for those of you who THINK before you SPEAK, this probably doesn’t apply to you.  Since I often think out loud, this is totally appropriate.   Just a simple change of my attitude, changes my perspective.

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