Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The glamorous world of Advertising take two...

I had coffee this morning with the L in L/N the Livengood in Livengood and Company so I figured this was a good omen for restarting (and finishing) the work series.

When we left off we were leaving Colorado Springs and heading back to Portland. Brent was transferred before the school year was over so C and I had stayed behind to sell the house and finish the school year while Brent found a new place to settle in that would be ready to go when we got here. Once he found the house we had a small hiccup with the VA Loan. They did not want to do trailing spouse income and to afford the loan we needed my income. Hmmm...what to do? So I sent an email to Jack and Scott asking if they would do me a huge favor and say they would hire me back. They didn't have to, they could "fire" me as soon as I set foot in Oregon, but I just needed something that said I would have income.

Jack sent me a return email saying..."Well actually..." as fate would have it the day that my email hit Portland Jack and Scott had been discussing some staff changes they needed to make. Seems that the person handling the Account Management for KFC was just not working out. Since I had been handling all of the financial tracking and sales information for KFC before I left for Colorado how hard would it be to have me step in to a new role and actually come back to the agency? After some negotiations about what exactly my new role would entail I agreed to come back and they agreed to send a letter to the bank.

So I came back to what was now L/N (formerly Livengood and Company) and started round two. The original idea was that I would start with handling KFC and once I had that under my belt I could possibly take back over the bookkeeping duties, all while working in the office only the hours that C was in school. Jack is a master at figuring out how to get the most bang for his hiring buck. Scott wasn't really keen on the idea of me taking over the bookkeeping again if I was going to be an account manager as well. I decided it didn't really matter to me and I would work where they put me. Turns out that handling the account management for KFC wasn't quite enough, but adding in Perfect Look and some random projects was plenty and taking back the bookkeeping would be just too much.

So what did I learn? What didn't I learn is more like it! I stepped into a completely new field for me. One that I had watched from the outside, but not from the client management side. And it was a challenge. Jack was in the process of leaving the agency and handing the reigns over to Scott and as soon as I was settled he found the door. Brent kept telling me to take it as a vote of confidence but I was in a dead panic my first 6 months on the job and for as many years as I did it, I never really got over that feeling of uncertainty. And I honestly believe that that feeling is probably what made me do a better job. You wonder why? Well I will tell you...

When you feel like you know everything and are the expert you don't ask many questions. When you are sure that you know it all, you don't ask any questions. When you are pretty sure you are the slowest one in the room, you ask a lot of questions. And you listen intently to the answers. Account management in the advertising world is people management. KFC worked on a co-op system so I was managing the advertising co-op of all of the owners in our area as well as Bend/Redmond and Eugene. Now each one of these owners is the head of their company and has worked very hard to get where they are, and each one is an expert in their own field. And not a single one of them was okay with being told what to do ever. So here I came the person who was now going to help them with the advertising needs and the first thing I did was ask a lot of questions. What do you want? What can we do for you? What piece do you think is missing? And I listened. From Jack I learned that the last thing you ever said to a client on a phone call was "Is there anything I can do for you?" You would be surprised how far this went.

Not only did the group feel like I really did want to help them and their business but they felt like I was really listening, and that I really needed their help as well. They took me on tours of their restaurants, introduced me to their crews, let me sit in on new product training, invited me to conferences and did everything they could to make me the best ad person I could possibly be. And I am forever grateful for their patience and their friendships.

When I started Gevan Reid was the president of the co-op and that man could talk. It was amazing. He would tell these long long stories that went in a million directions but they always came full circle and ended up where he started. I was amazed. But by listening to him talk (on plane trips, in meetings, on the phone) I learned about the history of his company and of KFC in the region and I also learned how hard it was being a single store operator in the middle of a group of multi-store owners. So I learned his concerns. Next up was Sam Sibert (and later his son Brett took over) he was the big player in the group and I learned from him what the responsibilities of a national player in the KFCC organization were along with the unique responsibilities of someone who owned the lion's share of the stores in our market.

The Stewarts taught me what it was like to own pockets of stores all across the country and what it meant doing business with family when you didn't always agree with each other. I also knew that if I had a number off in a presentation Todd would find it so I better be dialed in, and I knew that if things were just too stressful in a meeting all I had to do was look for Justin and he would smile and tell a joke and the whole room would lighten up. Jeff Gray taught me about golf (very important in the business world, actually!) and that a simple phone call just to see how someone is doing goes a long way. Don Herber was the operator that everyone turned to to see how he was doing it. So he was my operations guy. If I had a question on how a campaign would affect the stores he could tell me. He also was my coupon king. He knew his numbers, what worked, what didn't and why. Scott Dickinson was my go to guy. He was the operator that was closest to the agency so he ended up being the eyes and ears for the co-op most often. And his help was invaluable through the years. He let me sit in on (and run a few) employee meetings. He let me train in his restaurant how to make products when they first came out. When he was president of the co-op he would preview the presentations and let me know what was wrong with them.

Scott was also a big national player with KFCC, second generation owner and very well known in that arena so he opened a lot of doors for me nationally that the agency didn't have access to before. I got to meet with people on the corporate side, owners from other parts of the country and their agencies. This was incredible information for me. I got a chance to see what was coming from corporate and hear not only what my operators thought about it but what other parts of the country thought, and what their agencies thought. And that was a lot of help as well. I will circle back to this in another job blog.

My co-op members were incredible to work with and as I talked about in the leaving advertising blog series they really were the reason I stayed so long. One of the things I learned from them as a group was not to take it personally. After a long day of meetings starting with operations then a KFCC presentation then an advertising presentation you would think the last thing they would want to do is spend time together. Especially because meetings could get heated. They had stores in different areas with different needs and they were all trying to come to a consensus as a group. But when the meeting was done 90% of the time they would all head out to a nearby bar for a drink. And I always got to go as well. This time together was not about sales (though they did talk about business) it was about friendships. How are the kids? How was that vacation? When are you breaking ground for the new store? I learned as much if not more from the after meetings than I did in the actual meetings. No matter how angry they got with each other they set it aside for the good of the business and they set it aside to remain friendly. Not always an easy thing to do. And as I got a chance to visit with other co-ops and agencies I discovered that this was the exception not the rule.

I also had the lesson of who do you trust? This was for my first co-op meeting. I had been back at the agency for one week when the first co-op meeting came. I was going in with information that the person I replaced put together and my head was spinning with trying to absorb it all. The day before in the office when Jack picked up his meeting book and went over his presentation with me he said, "Just be yourself. You just have to listen in this meeting, ask questions if you aren't following something and just be you. You will be fine." and then he left for the day. Then as I was getting ready to leave, packing up my books and the presentation materials for the next day Scott came to my desk and said, "So tomorrow, maybe don't talk at all. Be a little less...well...you. You know I like you, and I am used to your sense of humor and how brazen you are and I think you're very funny, but these guys are different. So maybe just be less." And I had to laugh. I had Jack saying, "Just be you" and Scott saying, "Just don't be you" so what do you do? Well...during a break in the meeting the guys were talking about a trip to Vegas they had just gone on and Sam was talking about the Shadow Bar in Caesars. Now I had just been there on a boxing trip and knew the place very well and had a theory about it. So my first dilemma was do I listen to Jack and tell my theory or do I listen to Scott and sit quietly? Well those of you that know me know it wasn't much of a choice at all. So I told Sam, "I have a theory about that place. I think it's for the dancers who have the great bodies but have a...well... a face that is better seen in the dark." Don spit his drink out laughing, Sam about fell over in his chair and I knew I was in. From that point on they knew that they could be themselves around me without worry and that I would be myself around them as well. Trust the person that tells you to be yourself, because you are going to be that eventually anyway.

So really to break it down I learned to be myself and that if you don't know something ask. You will find that people generally want to help you. They want you to succeed and if they can help you succeed then they get to feel pretty good about it as well. Eventually I did become the expert in my area. I found that I knew more than I didn't know, but I never lost the art of the well placed question. Even if I knew the answer. Or at least thought I did. Because sometimes when you think you know...you find out you don't know at all.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm wired in....

We went and saw The Social Network this week. I highly recommend the movie. It's funny, it's quick, it's very Aaron Sorkin. But this isn't a movie review. There was a line in the movie to describe coders when they are deep in work: wired in. You would see the guy sitting at the computer, headphones on, screen filled with lines of code, giant caffeinated beverage next to him and people would be told, "Don't bother so and so he's wired in" This line has really stuck with me as I have been spending some time evaluating how wired in I am.

Most of you that read this blog know me and know me well enough not to be shocked by what I am about to say. I am online almost constantly. If I don't have my laptop on I am checking the internet via my phone. And if for some reason (flying, movie, sleep, trivia contest in a bar) I have to have my phone off the first thing I do when I am free again is check in. It's almost a nervous tick now. And as most of you who know me also know, once I feel like I am doing things automatically and not really thinking about them, then I feel like I need to change.

For the past few weeks I have been turning over in my head ideas for how I am going to spend my time now that Brent is off of sabbatical and I am on my own. So I started down the list of things I want/need/like to do.

Writing. One of my goals for this year is to get something I've written published, so obviously writing takes a high place on the list.

Work outs. I need to drop a couple pounds that found their way back to me and I need to get back to the level of fitness I was at before August so extra time at the gym is back on the list.

Work. There are clients to be taken care of so of course anytime I have a client that becomes the priority.

Household. The housework and errands in maintaining the house need to be done so that's on the list as well.

Reading. I have stopped reading at the volume that I used to. Darned internet and it's quick short articles have sapped my staying power with a book, so I want to put some real unplugged reading time back on the list.

Photography. My 365 challenge from last year sparked something in me that I didn't think was still there, so I want to make sure I take some time to take more pictures, maybe even a class.

Visiting with friends. Now that my schedule is a little more free during the day I want to make sure I take advantage of the time and have lunch with friends a few times a month. Or even maybe once a week, depending on when I can corral everyone else's schedules.

And I would like to get back into hiking. So just a few things on that list!

As I am looking at all of those things that I want to do I see that the internet really isn't there. Now I know me and I know that's not really true. I will want to to check in on Facebook and see what is happening with my friends from other parts of the state, country and world and since those updates are happening all day every day how do I handle that part? How do I get on, check in and get out? Because what I end up doing is chatting here and there, reading this and that, playing a few (dozen) rounds of Bejeweled and before I know it the day is gone. Hmm....so what is my balance here?

I thought about limiting the time I am online. Maybe an hour in the morning, an hour at night sort of thing. To that end I moved my laptop to the office and plugged it in to a keyboard and mouse and am treating it sort of like a desktop unit. But then the challenge is what happens in the evening when I want to do something online that my phone can't handle. Upload my pictures, watch a video, read a news story that somehow has flash in it so my phone won't open the page. What do I do then? Do I go into the study and do my thing then go back out to the living room? Do I just wait until the next day? And have I forgotten how to just do one thing at a time? Just watch TV without watching TV, reading a magazine and surfing the web at the same time?

Then there is this other piece. Christopher is on Facebook and I can "see" when he is online. Now most of the time I don't do anything about it, every once in awhile I will open chat and ask him a question if I need to know something, but for the most part I just notice that he is there. If he needs to ask me something he is much more likely to text me than chat so having my computer off or in the other room doesn't prevent him from reaching me if he needs to, but it does prevent me from having that one piece of connectedness. And honestly I am not sure I am ready to give that up. I know he is thousands of miles away, but just knowing that at the moment he is online and I am online makes me somehow feel like he is still close. Do I want to give that up as well?

I don't have answers yet. I don't know what all I will do about this. But I have plans and ideas. I will be trying them out over the next few weeks to see what works best for me. I want to add back in things that I am missing in my life and staying "wired in" doesn't work for that. But I need to figure out just how much I can unplug without feeling like I am missing something there as well. For now I am leaning toward a schedule. Drop Brent off at work, go to the gym, come home and get cleaned up, write, handle household chores, read, random things, go pick up Brent sort of thing.

What do you think? Are you too wired in as well or have you successfully unplugged? Or do you even think you would ever want to unplug? I will keep you all posted, I need to write after all...

And hey! Guess what? Work series is back next week! Count on it!

Monday, October 4, 2010

And part two of the really long titled blog I just started...

Susan and I had spent the day in Julian at the Apple Festival. I know, it's dorky but that's the joy of having a friend who lets you be a dork, you get to go to things like the Apple Festival. Anyway, we had had a goofy dorky day looking at apple crafts, shopping in apple themed stores and eating everything apple based you could imagine. We got back to their place around 9 or so and I was just going to crash there for the evening. When we got there I knew I was in for a rough ride. Chad and a couple of his buddies were in the living room and had been drinking, for awhile. One of the guys was a friend of his that I could not stand. I don't remember exactly why, I think it was because he was an uneducated jerk who treated his wife like a second class citizen. He couldn't stand me either, I have no idea why but if I had to guess I would say it was because I was a bitch who thought I was better than he was. Just a guess. And one of the guys was someone I had never met. This became really important to me later.

I said I knew I was in for a rough ride, but really I had no idea. What I knew is that I would probably be arguing with Chad's friend, as usual. What I didn't know is that I had walked into the middle of a conversation I had apparently been having with Chad in his head for awhile. You know what I am talking about, we all do it. You are mad at someone, or need to talk to someone about something important and you start the conversation in your head. You practice what you are going to say, what they will say, what you will respond, on and on. We all do it to a certain extent, some of us more than others. So what I realized later is that Chad had already started this conversation with me, I just wasn't there when he did. So now he was a little drunk and way ahead of me on the fight that was about to happen...

So the five of us are sitting around the living room, I have no idea where Erika was, maybe out of town maybe in bed early, I have wondered for years if the night would have turned out differently had she been there. So anyway it was Chad, his two friends, Susan and I talking about what Susan and I did that day, what they had done, the usual stuff. And then Chad starts in on me about how little I think of him. What? I was totally in shock. He didn't let up at all, kept at me telling me things I had said. Now, I was completely confused, I was thinking he meant earlier in the evening, in the conversation we were having right then. And I kept denying saying anything of the sort. He said I thought he was a failure and would never amount to anything. Now this really threw me. I had never said or thought that. Chad is one of those people that has a ton of talent and a ton of ideas. I had no idea what he was going to end up doing but I knew it would be something big. So I told him I had never said such a thing and he told me I was lying. Then his friend started in, about me being a bitch and stuck up and having way too high an opinion of myself. I was livid. Not only was I being attacked by Chad but by his friend and he was letting it happen! And it was happening in front of a stranger!

This was a big deal to me. Chad was my brother. We were family. Arguing in front of Susan and his buddy was bad enough, but to air dirty laundry in front of a stranger? I couldn't believe it. And the more he kept telling me what I had said while at the same time telling me I KNEW what and when I had said it the madder I got. Finally I was in tears. I was angrier than I could remember being in a long long time and I told him that was it. I was done talking to him. If he wasn't going to fill me in on the rest of the details then I was over it. And I left. I can remember standing out on the street getting ready to go home for the evening, no way was I spending the night there, and apologizing to his new friend. I can remember telling him that he seemed like a decent guy and I was really sorry he had to witness all of that. Isn't it funny the things that stick with you?

So that was that. I stopped talking to him. I decided that it was more pain to be friends with him than it was worth. I was done. Sort of. Susan still lived with Chad and Erika and so I still heard all about what was going on in their lives. I stayed friends with Erika so I would see her here and there and talk to her on the phone as she tried to convince me to come "home". About a month after the big fight Chad told Susan why he was so mad at me. Apparently I had told Erika that she needed to figure out what she wanted to do and do it because he would never amount to anything and she couldn't rely on him. And I supposedly said it in front of Susan. Remember the unforgivable offense from the fight? Family doesn't air dirty laundry in front of strangers. Just saying what I did to Erika would be bad enough, saying it in front of Susan was unforgivable. The thing is, I never said that. I asked Susan if she remembered me saying it, since I sure as hell didn't. And she said no, and that she had told Chad that. But who was he going to believe, his wife or his roommate?

It took me about a week of puzzling to figure out what had happened. A few weeks before our big blow up Erika, Susan and I had been making dinner and talking. By us making dinner I mean Erika was making dinner and Susan and I were setting the table or possibly making a salad. Anyway, Erika was telling me that she was thinking about going back to school (can't remember what for anymore) but that Chad had been talking about (a new career that I don't remember any more) when he got out of the Navy and she wasn't sure what to do. My advice to her was this, "Go to school, do what you want. In the time I have known Chad he has had no less that 4 billion ideas for careers. He will figure out what he wants to do eventually, but you go ahead and follow your dream as well." I called Susan and said, "Hey! Do you remember me telling Erika this?" And she said, sure she had and that we all talked about it. And we figured out that either through Erika's translation in telling Chad about the conversation or Chad's interpretation of it it switched from, He has a lot of ideas to He is a fuck up. Our friendship had been derailed by a grown up version of Telephone.

Now at this point I could have called Chad and told him I had figured it out. But pride is a silly emotion and my pride would not let me make the call. He needed to call me and apologize first. And on his side he was not going to make a move until I apologized and neither of us were going to budge. The last time I saw Chad was when I went by the apartment to say goodbye to Erika and Susan before leaving for Idaho. Erika and I were both pregnant. This was a really exciting time for them, she had not carried a pregnancy this far before and it really looked promising. She told me how sad she was I was going and that she had hoped that we could have our babies in the same town and raise them together. Chad stood next to her not saying a word and I hugged her and said it would have been nice. Chad and I looked at each other without talking and walked away from each other. And that was that.

Erika and I stayed friends, though not as close, Susan and I stayed very close. So I heard about what was going on in their lives and I wish now that I had been able to get both sides of the story. Let's just say Big changes happened and it was ugly for awhile. Chad remarried. Erika remarried. Life marched on. Then Chad ended up friends with my nephew. Odd right? Musical theater in Albuquerque, it's a small world. When Christopher and I went back home for my niece's high school graduation my nephew let me know that Chad wanted to see me. Now, being home brings out my absolute worst behaviors. That's a blog or series for another day, but suffice it to say people who know me at my current home wouldn't recognize me at my birthplace home. The open forgiving me I have been working towards in my life disappears after about 3 hours in Albuquerque. I think the thin air just can't support it...yet...I'm working on it!

Anyway...I said no. Really mature right? I mean at that point it had been 15 years or so since we had seen each other. But I wasn't ready yet. I was still angry and hurt even that many years later, and I was more than a little judgmental about things that I didn't (and don't) really know the full story on. I did see Erika though. And we talked and her forgiveness and it made me rethink my stubbornness. Don't you hate it when someone else is a bigger person than you are? Now it didn't change me enough to say I would see him, but it was a crack in the stone I had walled myself off with. Then that crack started to widen through years of listening to my nephew talk about his life. Chad and his wife are friends with my nephew. And I love my nephew so anyone who is nice to him I am more inclined to think nice thoughts about.

Anyway the last part of the really long title from the first blog...Facebook. Yep, good old Facebook then came in to play. Chad took the step and sent me a friend request. I would like to say I accepted it and sent him an email and called and we worked it all out...but that's not what happened. That request sat on my page for weeks before I decided what to do. I talked to Brent, I thought about it, I stressed over it more than any sane or normal person should. And then I accepted. And gradually we have "talked" a comment here and there, looking at the photos, slowly catching up on the lost years. All of those Facebookie things.

Then today I sent him an apology. It's a few years late, but finally delivered. And he accepted it graciously and apologized for his part as well. And we are in total agreement that the biggest loss over all this is the time we can't get back. His oldest daughter and Christopher are 23 days apart. It would have been nice to see if they would have had a friendship like ours had been.

So here is the moral to this tale (you knew there would be one) if there is someone in your life you need to apologize to, if there is a misunderstanding that is threatening to spiral out of control. Take care of it now. Don't let a couple of decades pass before you do something about it. Because time marches on. And it will pass sooner than you realize. And you will regret it. And life is too short for regrets. You can't change the you you used to be...but you can listen to the you you are now. And if you are lucky, there will be a friendship worth recovering.

On past you, present you, Facebook and the nature of friendship...

Okay, so I know that's a really long title, but it sort of sums things up. This blog is all about what do you do when the you you are today doesn’t approve of the way the you you were before handled something? Is it too late to try and change things?

Painting is good meditation work for blogging in my head. If I could have somehow figured out how to directly hook up my keyboard to my brain this morning there would be 5 new blogs up today. As it is, you got one quick one and this one...which will not be quick...but the bones for quite a few more are banging around in head so expect them soon. Even the thrilling conclusion to the work series! I promise! No, seriously, I mean it this time!

Before I wrote this blog I had to send an email and apologize to someone for something I did almost two decades ago. Okay, I’m exaggerating, it was about 19 years ago, but I needed to apologize in person before writing so I did. Now you know it's going to be a good blog right? ;-)

So this is a way back story. As those of you who have read my other blogs could guess, most of my close friends through life have been guys. One or two women make the cut here and there but for the most part I trust men more than I trust women. Seeds of trust are planted early in life. Men are usually lower drama, though I have had a few male friends that would test that equation...anyway...this is the story of me and one of my best friends from high school.

Chad was a groomsman in my wedding. He stood on Brent’s side and he and Brent were friends as well, but honestly he could have just as easily been on my side. The problem would have been who stood closer to me, Cinnamon or Chad? Could I have had a maid and a mister of honor? Anyway… Chad and I became friends my senior year, his junior year. I met him for what I thought was the first time at the beginning of that year. I found out pretty quickly that I actually sat in front of him in Geometry the year before. Yep, right in front of him. And I had no idea who he was. But as you all know making it to class was not something I was really good at...so I didn't recognize him at all. He knew who I was since the days that I did make it to class there was a big production where I was sent to the office to get a pass to come back to class. He also was not amused to find out I made a higher grade in that class than he did. It should have been a rocky start but for whatever reason it ended up making us both laugh and started us down the path of a unique friendship.

Friendships that start when you are a teenager and on in to your early 20s are different than friendships you start later. These are the friendships where you talk late into the night about such deep subjects (that we all think we are the first to talk about) like do we all see the same blue when we see blue? Are we all part of an atom in another universe and are all of the atoms in our body just universes unto themselves? Chad and I both were exploring new ideas at the time as well. He was convinced that he was going to die before he turned 30. Convinced of it. Knew it in his bones. Now we know he was wrong, but at the time it was interesting to think about. What would you do if you knew when you were going to die? I was also in the process of leaving the church and Chad was who I ended up talking to about that most of the time. Neither one of us did drugs so these were conversations held stone cold sober that most people have while stoned out of their minds.

We were both very much alike. Two sides to one coin. I called him my brother and loved him dearly. Chad understood that my outward confidence hid my inward insecurity. He got that I sometimes opened my mouth and talked before thinking things through. He knew that my temper got the best of me at times. He knew that I would hide behind a joke rather than talk about what I really felt because I was protecting myself. He knew all of these things because he was very much the same way. So when I was upset often it was Chad that could talk me down from the anger. When Brent and I were dating I broke up with him, lasted almost a whole day. Chad was the one that brought us back together. Made me talk to Brent about what was bothering me instead of just shutting down and shutting him out. Which was my way. (and that boys and girls is foreshadowing)

In the days before internet when you moved away from home most likely your friendships from high school faded away a little bit more than they do now. But ours didn’t. We wrote to each other, called each other when we could afford it and saw each other on visits home. Chad went in to the Navy after graduation just like Brent had, so we had another thing to talk about and share. Then the call came. He was getting married. To someone he had just met. Or so he thought…he had actually met her at my wedding in the receiving line. They just didn’t remember. Now I really liked the girl he was telling me he was marrying so you would think this would be the part where I was excited for him and happy for his happiness right? Well, no, not really. I didn’t approve, vehemently disagreed on their reasons for getting married in fact. They weren’t treating marriage the way I thought it should be treated and I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I took it as a personal affront to me, instead of just a difference in belief. So when he called to let me know he had gone through with it, I stopped talking to him. Stopped. Done. I was NEVER going to speak to him again. And that lasted for about a year. Maybe…it could have only been about six months, hard to remember exactly. Anyway, I had an epiphany one day that though his view on marriage and mine were not the same that didn’t matter. We weren’t married, we were friends, and our views on that were the same. I wrote him a long tear stained letter explaining why I got so mad, apologizing for not understanding that he could view things differently and we could still be friends and asking for forgiveness. He gave it and we moved on.

We ended up stationed in San Diego at the same time. Brent spent most of the three years we were there out to sea. So I spent most of the time I was there with Chad, his wife Erika and later a mutual friend of ours that lived with Chad and Erika, Susan. I spent most weekends at their apartment. We would spend the day on the beach then I would just stay with them at their place. When Chad was out to sea Erika and I spent our time together. I was with her in the hospital when she suffered her first miscarriage (a story for another day). We were all very close. For a long time. Then things started to unravel.

Looking back now at 42 with a lot more life experience I can see what was going on, but in the middle of it at 23 I had no idea. After Susan moved in with Chad and Erika she and I started doing more together. She needed time away from Chad and Erika and they needed time away from her. It's hard for a young married couple to always have company. And it's hard for a young single woman to always have a married couple around. There were some strains and stresses. Susan and I had been friends in high school as well and still got along well so it was easy for us to fall back into doing things together. Chad was really on edge during this stretch and it was hard to be around him. I wish now that I had spent more time trying to get him to open up as to what was going on, but he wasn't interested and I wasn't patient enough to keep trying. All I knew is that he was cranky and tough to be around and not interested in talking to me. So our friendship was a little strained when the final blow came.

Okay, you all know I hate a too long blog so that seems a good place to cut this one off.

It's not you...it's the wall.

So Brent and I have been painting. And painting. And painting. I love to paint. I need to get that out right away so you don't think I am complaining. It's one of those things you can do in your house that completely changes the look and feel of a room for not a ton of money and really not a ton of time. So on to the story...

We painted the living room a dark gray and the bedroom a dark brown. As we put the first coat on there were some uneven patches, as there always are. We told each other, oh no worries, that's what the second coat is for. So the second coat went on and in the bedroom things looked pretty good. But in the living room it was patchy looking still. So we thought...hmmm...what's up with that?

We let the paint dry for a few extra days thinking that maybe it was the humidity in the air keeping parts wet-ish and uneven. Nope, even dry there were still parts of the wall that were shiny and parts that were flat. We decided that probably what happened is that I put the second coat on in the bedroom solo and we worked together in the living room so it was probably either that we missed some spots in our over lap or because we have different techniques and use different amounts of arm strength it led to an uneven application of the paint. Yes, we really did think about it that much, does this surprise you?

I decided before we put a third coat on the walls I would try to spot correct a few places with a brush. It just made it stand out more. So a third coat was the answer. And a third coat put on by just one of us. As I mentioned before, I love to paint, so I did it. And as I painted this morning, being super careful to make sure I applied paint evenly with the roller, then brushed it out to make sure it wasn't too thick any where and that everything was covered I realized, it's not us. It's the wall. The house has settled and the walls aren't perfectly straight. So the semigloss paint is picking up the light differently in spots. Some places it's very shiny, some it's very flat. And it doesn't matter how many times I paint over it, it's going to look like that.

So of course that got me thinking about life...isn't that the way we always act? We do something and it doesn't work out and we think...hmmm...what did I do wrong? How can I change what I am doing to fix this? But you know what? Sometimes it isn't you...it's the wall. There are times in life that no matter how much you want something to work out it isn't going to. No matter what you shift and change and try again it's just not going to go your way. And that's okay. It's just the wall. It's not straight. It's going it's own way and you can't change that. So before you beat yourself up when something just isn't going the way you think it should...before you keep changing what you are doing to try and make it work...before you drive yourself crazy...ask yourself...Is it me or is it the wall? The answer might surprise you.