#MusicMonday – This is one of my favorite songs on my playlist – I put it on “Repeat” every time it comes up. I picture this as the goal of every romance hero and heroine – they want to be the one to wreck the other for anyone else. 😍 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQAdI2nqgMA
So here I am. Unemployed. Getting ready to start my own business. New home. New state. New lifestyle (I’m learning how to say “y’all”!). New friends. New church. A whole new life. At 54.
Beginnings are exciting. And stressful. And fun. Beginnings are full of potential – the sky’s the limit when you’re beginning something new.
But before you reach that point where the yellow brick road stretches out before you and your ruby slippers, you first have to say “good-bye” to something. Even Dorothy had to say good-bye to Kansas in order to find Oz. And then she had to say good-bye to her friends in Oz to return home again. Something has to end before something new begins. And many of those good-byes are hard.
Sometimes that ending comes without notice. Like Dorothy in her flying house. Or people facing disasters like storms, earthquakes, fire, and floods.
When that happens, it’s just “BAM!!” Welcome to your new beginning, ready or not. What you had is gone, and you have no choice but to pick up and move forward, my friend.
But many new beginnings are our choice. We realize we’re in the wrong place, and we make the conscious decision to start fresh. Maybe a new job – good-bye to the old one and our co-workers. Maybe a new home – good-bye to the neighborhood and memories. Maybe we start exercising for a new body – good-bye to those bad, yet comfortable, old habits. Maybe we decide to eat differently for better health – good-bye Twinkies. Maybe a new spouse – sorry, I got nothin’ for that one, since I have no intention of doing it, ever. But I suppose it means saying good-bye to a home and memories and dreams.
My new beginning has been a l-o-n-g time coming. The joke is that I’ve had the longest good-bye ever. You know that’s true when people start looking at you and saying “I thought you were gone!”
Our move started almost four years ago, when Hubby and I decided that we wanted to be living full-time in eastern North Carolina. I won’t bore you with all the sordid details, but we put our custom-built “we’ll stay here forever” New York home on the market just as the real estate market collapsed. After dropping the price and switching realtors multiple times, the house finally sold for far less than what we paid for it. During this process, I got a promotion at work, and ended up in the midst of an insanely stressful computer system conversion. I wanted to see the project through to fruition, and frankly, I wanted to collect those paychecks while we renovated our North Carolina house.
So the furniture moved to North Carolina without us last year. We stayed in New York in a small semi-furnished apartment generously rented to us by a good friend. As the weather turned colder, my retired husband took one look at the pending snowflakes, and moved his butt to the fully-furnished and newly-remodeled North Carolina house without me.
My employer eventually agreed to let me try working remotely from North Carolina last spring, with lots of traveling back and forth. It didn’t hurt that they were about to flip the switch on this new computer system and they kinda needed me (timing is everything).
That arrangement was exactly what I’d asked for, and I loved working from home, but it only resulted in stretching out the inevitable. I couldn’t move into my new life because I was firmly anchored in the old one. The first thing my NC neighbors said to me whenever they saw me was “so, are you here for good yet?” And every time, I had to answer “no, I have to go back to NY in a few weeks.”
Finally, my employer mercifully brought my half-here, half-there existence to an end by announcing that they were replacing me, and asking me to train my replacement. Awkward. And painful. Partly because my replacement is going to be good. And that hurts just a little.
New beginnings require good-byes, and those good-byes finally came last week. The warm-hearted good-bye parties, gifts, notes, speeches and astounding expressions of appreciation for what I had accomplished truly humbled me. They also made leaving feel very real. I suddenly wanted to cling desperately to this comforting “old” life where I was paid so well and people liked me and damn, I was good at it!
It was painful and yes, I cried like a baby on the last day. It was messy. I’m a very sloppy crier anyway. Plus I’m smack dab in the middle of menopause, so once the tears started, they just didn’t stop. But you know what? I was leaving a nice life and good people and a great career. It was a good-bye that deserved a few tears.
I’m past that now, and I’m ready to BEGIN. I literally hugged my house when we got home Friday, and did a crazy happy dance in the driveway. My neighbors greeted me warmly. I emptied my suitcases and put them away for hopefully a very long time. I had a great phone conversation with the fabulous friend who’s hopefully about to become a fabulous business partner, and we started making plans for the future.
So farewell, my dear New York friends and family – we’ll stay in touch via this blog, Facebook, Skype, email, and even the old-fashioned way – by phone. And I’ll visit once in a while (after winter passes). But my new life has begun now, and I’m ready to step forward.
It’s a new beginning. Reinventing myself as I approach my 55th birthday. Figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Starting a new career in a new home in a new state. Risk…and hopefully reward.
The good-byes have been tough, but they’re part of moving forward. And that’s what life is all about. Change is always part of the deal.
Last Monday was just like a typical Monday in my office at company headquarters. Two computers up and running on my desk. I’d just completed research on a 200+ line spreadsheet, finished one conference call, and was preparing for another in a few hours. Busy sending emails to sales reps, employees, and the company CFO. Just another work day.
But in the background, instead of the click-click-click of other people’s keyboards and the hum of office conversation, I was listening to my husband power wash the front of our house. Before that, he was mowing the lawn. Bless his heart, he also watered my flowers. When he stopped for a break, the sounds were replaced by the pounding rhythm of what was apparently a very loud school-year-ending concert at the elementary school right behind our home. I was in the same shorts and t-shirt I’d worn to the gym earlier, with a baseball cap over my unwashed hair. I’d worn the same earrings for three days in a row. Ah – the joys and challenges of working at home.
I’m now heading into the third week of my grand experiment of trying to do my corporate job from home, 700+ miles from the office. As far as actually performing the job, I’m having no problem. If anything, I’m pretty sure I’m working more than I did in the office, because now I never “leave” the office. I’m checking and responding to emails at 7AM and 10PM.
At one seriously over-connected moment during the first week, I was working on both computers, talking to one supervisor on the landline while emailing my other supervisor, and my iPhone buzzed with a text from a neighbor asking me if I wanted to have lunch together the next day. I’ve fielded calls while contractors pounded away on construction of our patio, while UPS made deliveries, while the dog threw up, during thunder storms, while playing tug of war with said dog (who can be relentless), and while I was grocery shopping (of all people, the company owner caught me there late one afternoon – but I confessed my location and completed the call productively while leaning on the cart in a quiet pet food aisle).
So, just in case you’re considering (or already are) working from home, let me give you a few tips I’ve learned fairly quickly:
- Have an office: I can’t imagine doing what I’m doing while sitting at the kitchen table, or sharing the family room with Hubby and the dog and my clients and boss. I go to my office (a converted spare bedroom) every morning, and I sit at a desk. It sends a clear message to me (and to Hubby and my friends) that I am WORKING. This isn’t a hobby. It’s how I make my living.
- Take a shower (act like a grown-up): There were several days when I ran home from the gym and ended up working all day in my sweaty gym clothes. Or jumped on the computer in my PJs. Then I came to my senses. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. What’s the point? I didn’t feel professional, and it only takes 10 minutes to grab a shower down the hall, as long as you can keep your spouse from announcing to calling co-workers “she’s in the shower, let me get her for you!” (FYI – I did NOT take that call!)
- Get dressed – you’ll feel better: It was a novelty for the first week to start working in whatever I felt like wearing, but it never lasted more than half an hour or so – it just didn’t feel right. I’m a professional doing a professional job and managing others, and I need to at least be clean and clothed. I’m not wearing dressy office attire, but now I at least wear clean, comfortable clothing. And jewelry. Again, not the fancy stuff, but something that makes me feel like…well, like me. I’ve always taken some pride in my work wardrobe, and it’s part of what defined me in the “real” office. I want to feel mature and competent when I sit at my home desk, and clothing selection can help.
- Set a different ringtone for business calls: It was a little time-consuming, but it was well worth it for me to set one ringtone for business contacts and another for personal contacts. It helps me get “into character” for the call, and I know which calls should be answered or ignored when I’m working, getting dressed, walking the dog, eating dinner, buying groceries, etc.
- Have a phone with a reliable mute button: No one on the conference call wants to hear the 80 lb dog woofing in the background, or the neighbor’s lawn mower. The idea is for callers to either not know or to forget that you’re working in your house.
- Get out of the house: This one didn’t hit me until late last week. Late Thursday afternoon, I realized that I hadn’t left my house or yard since mid-day Monday. I had worked until 7 or 8 each evening. I instantly felt frantically claustrophobic. I told Hubby I had to get out, and I made a quick run to the store, just for the change of scenery and the social interaction. So get some face-to-face social time during the week. Grab a quick lunch with a friend. Go out at night, even if it’s just the grocery store. Play with the dog at lunch time. Don’t become a recluse just because you work at home.
- Along with getting out of the house, get some exercise: Sitting at a desk all day will cause a big butt just as fast at home as it will in the office. But at home, you have the luxury of being able to do something about it more easily. Lift some hand weights, go for a jog (which you’ll never see me doing, by the way), or make yourself go to the gym in the morning. It’s been a few years since I’ve been a gym-rat, but it’s worth setting the alarm three days a week, and it’s helping me lose a few pounds even though I’m down almost all day long.
- Walk away: There’s something to be said for that transitional commute home every night, where you get to physically leave the office behind you. When you work in a traditional office, you “go home”. When the office is just down the hall 24/7, you are home, and it’s way too easy to find yourself working lots of extra hours. Every day. Just last night, I took a work call at 7:30PM. On a Sunday. It was a productive catch-up call with a fellow manager, but I doubt Hubby appreciated it. Last week, I sent a business email blast out to the sales staff on a Sunday morning, and received several responses saying “why aren’t you in church?” I replied that church didn’t start for another hour, but it made me realize what I was doing. Force yourself to walk away and disconnect. It’s fine to occasionally work after dinner (I’ll be doing that tonight), but make it a conscious decision, not an accident. Don’t burn yourself out.
I feel a little bit more in control of my time and energy heading into this third week of working at home, and that’s a good thing. Because I really like it. And I’m good at it. And I want to be able to continue doing it.
I should have known I was in trouble last Thursday when that pop-up zit appeared on the edge of my lip out of nowhere. Up at 5AM to catch a flight north for work, I stared in disbelief at the mirror. Just when I thought the menopausal acne was behind me… But the road to menopause is full of surprises.
Acne. Mood swings. Bloating. Hot flashes. Mood swings. Exhaustion. Hot flashes.
Yes, hot flashes can be surprising, as they come and go and change and morph throughout the years leading up to “official” menopause, defined as twelve consecutive months with no “monthly friend” (I’m on a six month roll right now – woo-hoo!!). Not only do hot flashes arrive unexpectedly, but they vary widely in intensity. I’ve had some big ones – rolling heat waves that start in my chest and roll upwards until my scalp was tingling. I’m talking about strip-off-your-clothes-in-mid-winter major hot flashes (indoors and at home, of course). We’ll be watching television quietly at home, and suddenly I’m flinging off my sweater or sweatshirt in a panic. Poor Hubby barely raises an eyebrow anymore when I start peeling off my clothes. Then the hot flashes will subside for a while, with just the occasional night sweat. Mild night sweats have become fairly routine, but they’ve never been debilitating for me.
I know I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve heard stories of horrendous night sweats, where women wake up so drenched they have to change the sheets. Women who had to keep spare outfits in their offices to change into because a hot flash would ruin their clothes. But not me. My hot flashes are just the nuisance type. Annoying, but manageable. Kinda like me. And it was all under control.
After Thursday, I’m not so sure anymore…
It happened at the Charlotte, NC airport Thursday morning. I caught the 6AM puddle-jumper from home to Charlotte (a 50-minute flight) to connect with another flight north to my office, where I was due to attend an important meeting shortly after landing. I was wearing comfortable dress pants and a colorfully patterned, lightweight polyester knit top. I had a 3-hour layover, so there was no hurry as I strolled from one end of the airport to the other. I felt the hot flash begin, and I knew it was a strong one. I was not only hot, I was also very light-headed, felt faint, and my hands were shaking. I stopped, and I started to feel better. Wow. That was a good one. I figured I’d get something cold to drink and I’d be fine, as usual. I stopped by a little tourist shop along the way, mainly because it was extra cool in there. I strolled around a bit, not to buy anything, but just to enjoy the coolness for a minute.
An employee in the shop looked at me rather oddly, and instead of saying “good morning!” or “Can I help you?” he said “Is everything okay this morning, ma’am?” That struck me as an odd thing to say, and then I thought my mega hot flash must have made my face red. I told him I was fine, and decided I’d better go get that cold drink and sit down somewhere.
As I walked out of the shop, I felt something on the side of my face. I put my fingers up to my left temple, and discovered water was running down my face near my scalp. I was covered in sweat. I’m not talking about a soft dewy glow here. I am talking about big drops of water. Dripping down the side of my face. Good lord, the guy must have thought I was crying, or just…well…a crazy lady drenched in sweat at 8:00 AM. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my face. My scalp was sweating. My hair felt damp and limp. Whoa. This was no normal hot flash.
I grabbed a yogurt parfait and a cold drink, and got settled into a seat at a quiet gate. As I sat back against the chair, my back felt cold and clammy. I sat forward and my shirt was clinging to my back. Good grief – I was soaked! I put my hand back there, and sure enough, my shirt was not just damp – it was wet with sweat. The chair was wet. From me. Gross.
I analyzed my options, and wearing this shirt for the rest of the day was not one of them. I had to buy something. I was heading into a meeting less than an hour after landing, and I couldn’t go in wearing a bright t-shirt that said “North Carolina Rocks!” A golf shirt was not dress code compliant. Maybe I could get away with that some other time, but not now – not when I’m trying to convince my employer that I can be away from the home office and still maintain a high level of professionalism.
That left me with two stores: Lacoste (expensive) and Brooks Brothers (more expensive). Lacoste had a sale rack, but nothing on it would work – too clingy, too sheer, too heavy (being warm triggers hot flashes). Why spend $50 on a sale shirt that I know I’ll never wear?
So I went back to Brooks Brothers and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a very nice cotton pinstripe shirt with ¾ sleeves. Beautiful fabric. Lovely tailoring. Very professional. Looks great. It is easily the most expensive shirt I’ve ever purchased. The sales tax brought the total over 3 figures. For a shirt.
All because of a monster hot flash at a really bad time and place.
And that’s the story of my first sweat-through-my-clothes hot flash. I don’t need to have another one. Truly, I don’t. Once is enough.
But just in case, I’ll start keeping an extra dress shirt in my office (and in my carry-on when I’m traveling).
Because I simply can’t afford any more hot flashes like that one.
Let’s face it – we Baby Boomers have learned a thing or two in our 50 – 60 years on this planet. Some of us have learned them through experience (both pleasant and bitter) and some of us have learned them by observing others, or being taught by our parents or others.
And Boomers growing up in the Northeast have learned how to cope with cold weather. We remember the happy winters of our youth, when snow was nothing but fun. When metal “saucers” were the high-tech alternative to the sharp bladed wooden Flexible Flyer snow sleds. When we thought nothing of bundling up and heading outside to play for hours in the snow. After all – we didn’t have the myriad indoor options of today’s youth, with 500 television channels and computer games and such. The modern marvel of my youth was the snowmobile, which roared into popularity in the late sixties. I grew up racing my snowmobile (a Rupp…) around the frozen lake with my friends. Instead of using a game controller to pretend to drive a vehicle, I actually drove one, and learned early how to change a spark plug and fill a tank with gas.
Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’m increasingly less inclined to play outside in the snow. My primary goal in the winter these days is just surviving it warmly and safely. Some new and dear friends (love it when that happens!) recently moved to the frigid north from a much warmer clime, and I’ve been advising them on how to adapt to our winter weather. Here are some both old-fashioned and modern marvels I’ve recommended to them (and now to you) to make winters easier to bear:
1. Thinsulate™. This wondrous lightweight material from the geniuses at 3M™ is used in everything from boots to coats to gloves and hats, and it is wonderful. Outer clothing no longer has to weigh 25 lbs to keep you warm – Thinsulate™ can do it while weighing only ounces. My personal favorite – Isotoner gloves lined with the stuff. Warm, yet stylish and practical – you really can pick up a penny (and handle a credit card and juggle your car keys) with your gloves on. Yes, they’re pricey, but they last for multiple winters of daily use.
2. Anything made in Canada. What can I say? Our neighbors to the north know how to make warm clothing and good boots. If you’re looking for warm outerwear, you can’t go wrong with product made in Canada. I have a pair of Canadian winter hiking boots that have lasted nearly 20 years and several trips to Ireland, and my tall Canadian leather winter dress boots are heading into their eleventh cold season.
3. Anything from L. L. Bean. When they tell you a coat will keep you warm to 10 below, they mean it. Their clothing wears like iron, and is usually machine washable. Their Polartec® fleece vests are the warmest things I’ve ever seen. Super thin, they layer perfectly (and invisibly) under a winter coat, and they really hold in your body heat. And L. L. Bean is one of the few companies to offer good down coats in full lengths. I never understood the logic of a warm down jacket that left your tender butt cheeks and thighs exposed to below zero wind chills with nothing but a thin layer of cotton or wool dress pants for protection. Down coats aren’t pretty, but they’re effective.
4. Heated mattress pads. Okay, I was very late discovering this one, and I have to say that I was an absolute fool for not knowing about them sooner. A heated mattress pad is nirvana. Our current rental home is not well insulated, and the master bedroom is the coldest room in the house. When hubby was traveling in November, I was going to bed wearing warm socks, a flannel nightgown, my chenille robe, and layering three blankets over myself in bed. I was beginning to picture Hubby finding me smothered under 50 lbs of layers in my attempts to stay warm. Then someone mentioned using a heated mattress pad. Who knew? I turn it on an hour or so before bed, and the sheets are nice and toasty by the time I crawl in. Then I turn it down, and set it to turn off a few hours after I go to bed. So I fall asleep nice and warm, but stay asleep in a healthy cool bed (researchers say sleeping in a cool room is better for you). This is true bliss. If you live anywhere cold, you need to buy one of these. Right now. And it has dual controls, so I can make my side of the bed snuggly warm, and Hubby, who generates his own heat naturally, doesn’t have to deal with it. A warm bed and marital peace. Sweet.
5. Hot toddies. Medical research claims that cold weather doesn’t cause colds in humans. That’s hard for us Boomers to accept, since our moms constantly told us to bundle up so we didn’t “catch cold”. But perhaps it’s not the frigid temperatures that make us sick, but our lifestyles during this season. We lock ourselves up in hermetically-sealed buildings all winter long – at home, at work, at the mall – creating virtual Petri dishes where viruses can hop from one person to another. I’ve known I’d catch this cold I’m currently suffering from since mid-December, when it first began its progression around my office, my church, and through the family members we visited at Christmastime. I threw vitamin C at it, and zinc, and now “real” cold medicine. But the best thing for a cold (or at least the most enjoyable), and a true sign of winter’s arrival, is a good old-fashioned hot toddy. More specifically, my hubby’s hot toddy. Boiling water, a shot of Irish whiskey (Michael Collins is my choice), a dollop of honey, and a splash of lemon juice, all combined in a large mug. Drink it as fast as you can (at home, just before bed). You’ll soon be sweating, and then you’ll be sleeping. And when you wake up, you’ll feel better. Or at least well rested. And if you don’t drink alcohol, well then, I’ve known people who’ve made toddies without the whiskey, and they claim it worked. I’ll just take their word for it.
With the proper tools, winters can be bearable. And at the proper age, we become wise enough to avoid winters. This will be my last winter in the northeast. It’s been fun, but I’m outta here. I’ve enjoyed the survival skills I’ve shared. But I’m headed south after this one, thank you very much. My old bones can’t take it. And I’m eager to learn new skills at staying cool rather than staying warm. Someday maybe I’ll share those here…