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Take a Load Off!

Take a Load Off!

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital, waiting for my dad to come out of a 6 hour open heart surgery. As nervous as my mom and my siblings and I are, we are all so relieved that Dad is getting some help for the intense health issues he has been dealing with for the last few years. But…now we wait. None of us slept much last night (except for Dad, who is the least nervous of all of us!), but despite our exhaustion, none of us can fall into a restful sleep while we wait. Given my propensity for screaming nightmares, the ICU waiting area might not be a good venue for deep sleep anyway.

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. I drove to my parents’ house and then to the hospital with them for Dad’s heart cath, which identified the issues that this open heart surgery will correct. Almost before Dad was out of recovery, I had to jump on a plane to fly to Vancouver for a work event. On my way home, I stopped back in to visit Dad in the hospital and then went home to my kiddos and husband. That weekend, my husband and I headed to my parents’ house again with my siblings to help get some things done outside that Dad is unable to do. If you’ve never used a wood chipper for 5 hours, jamming the last branch into the feeder LONG after the sun has gone down, well—you just haven’t lived, my friend.

Immediately after our lumberjacking weekend, we went home and I had to start prepping for my own lesser medical evil—my bi-annual “Hey, let’s look at your screwed up insides!” colonoscopy. Colonoscopies take a lot out of me. Wait. Colonoscopies are extremely draining. Argh! Okay—colonoscopies are just downright unpleasant and inconvenient. My insides are such fastidious little jerks these days. I am still being punished for the injustice they have perceived this week. The day after my probing, it was back in the car for four hours to come up to the hospital again—but not before we squeezed in a work day, one gymnastics class, a vet trip, and two Halloween parties. Today is October 31st, and I’ve promised the kiddos that I will do my very best to make it home in time to take them trick-or-treating, assuming that Dad is okay. We aren’t allowed to see him for longer than 2 minutes, and I don’t function very well in “hurry up and wait” conditions. Plus, in times of emotional distress, I crave the sweet hugs and comfort of being with my kids and husband. That makes the thought of another four hours in the car bearable for sure.

I am driving my husband’s car so that he can shuttle the five kids around in my mom-mobile while I’m gone, poor guy. On the drive up here last week, his car politely flashed a sweet little alarm that said “rest reminder” on the dashboard display, along with the image of a tree. I suppose the idea is that I would pull over, find an inviting little tree, kick my legs out and take a nap? Clearly this car was not built for busy mothers. I steadfastly hit the “ignore” button and forged ahead, wryly smiling at the naiveté of the car thinking that there are still women in the world who rest.

The physical strain of the last couple of weeks has hit all of us pretty hard in our immediate and extended families. While rest for our bodies isn’t an option, rest for our spirits is within reach no matter what is happening at the time. The solitude of many hours of business travel and the hours of driving alone, while worrying about my dad and the harried schedule we’re surviving, has given me the chance to seek reassurance from my Heavenly Father. When my fearful, weary brain just wouldn’t shut up, one verse popped into my head over and over again: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11: 28-29) Oh, man. Rest for our souls. That is exactly what we need, isn’t it? Can’t you just picture your spirit, stretched out under a shady tree, and at perfect rest? That’s what God wants for us and what He gives us. We just forget to ask sometimes. Or I do, anyway.

Dad should be coming out of surgery any minute, and while he won’t know we’re there in the 2 minutes that we get to see him, we’ll sure be thrilled to see him! I know our hectic pace isn’t unique to our family, and you are likely experiencing your own version of it right now–or worse. I pray that you find your own “happy little tree” of rest in the midst of your chaos. Feel free to reach out if I can pray for a specific need, and I would appreciate your prayers for my sweet dad.

Consider this your “rest reminder.” : )

**UPDATE: Dad is out of surgery and we got to see him for our allotted 2 minutes.  He had a pretty serious close call during the surgery, but his medical staff is simply amazing, and the prayers of all who love him so much were definitely heard.  Our family has so much to be thankful for!

Was It Really Worth It?

Was It Really Worth It?

If you are a working mom (or dad…or human…), you’ve likely suffered at some point from PVD—Post Vacation Dread. It starts out like any other virus–a little twinge here and there on your departing flight. A nagging little reminder on your return flight of the aches and pains to come. At my previous place of employment, PVD was a pandemic. During vacation season, it was nothing but bleary-eyed colleagues, staggering around the halls in a caffeinated haze, clutching their smoking laptops and pathetically asking “what happened while I was out of the office?” So many things, friend. So. Many. Things.

If you would have asked one of them (or me, for that matter) if it was “worth it” to take a vacation, knowing what awaited upon the return to the office, the answer would have been, at best, “I don’t know.” We were given a generous allotment of vacation time each year, and in the 7 years I was with the company, I used all of my vacation time only once. Once. I didn’t even come close the other 6 years. Why? It just wasn’t worth it. Instead of enjoying a stress-free, blissful vacation with my family, more often than not I found myself skeptically enjoying the first three days, and then spending the last four days nervously checking my inbox, panicking about the requests that steadily streamed in. You can’t recharge your batteries that way, and you can’t be an effective employee when you get back to the office. It just isn’t worth it.

In my current role, the PVD is less like the bubonic plague and more like that “food baby” feeling you get from eating too much pie. It’s a little unpleasant for a while, but totally worth it! We receive the same generous allotment of vacation time here, and I just realized today that I am going to use every last hour of it this year. Even more mind-blowing than that—I don’t take my work laptop on vacation with me anymore. It’s amazing how something that weighs about 10 pounds can feel like 100 pounds when you have to lug it around on your time off. I am so grateful for the opportunity to unchain myself from that weight.

One of the things I love about this company is that we use what we sell. For example, at any time of the day, any one of my co-workers can see my “status” and know if I am working, at lunch, on vacation, or if I don’t want to be disturbed. (It’s not creepy–I promise!)  It’s very useful, but unless your company embraces a culture where that status is respected, it doesn’t do any good. The work/life balance is revered here, thankfully, and it shows in the loyalty and commitment the employees have for this company and its leadership.

I took several days off last week to go to the Grand Canyon with my husband and the two kiddos who were on Fall Break. I checked my work email three or four times while I was out, and while emails were coming in, the demands were not. The tone was that of respect for my family time and understanding that I would get to it all when I got back and had time to do it. Most email subject lines were “please don’t read this on vacation.” I am still working to catch up, but the level of understanding from my colleagues that I can’t do that in a day–or even a week–is so sweetly refreshing. Instead of spending this week in fetal position under my desk, I have spent it diligently plowing through my inbox and project list, my precious vacation memories intact, and with no regrets for daring to have a personal life. It was totally worth it.

I spent far too many years caught in the death spiral of a culture that treated me like property instead of a partner. The guilt of making your career a priority over your family when you feel like you don’t have a choice, is suffocating. Of course we love our families more than our employers. But if you love your family, you feel an obligation to support them and provide stability for them, yes?   How can you do that if you refuse to give in to the soul-sucking demands of corporate America in an effort to keep your job? Believe me—I’ve been the mom on a conference call during a field trip. I’ve created Excel spreadsheets at soccer games. I’ve stepped out of school programs to email files that “just can’t wait.” I’ve even violated the sacred ritual of date night with my feverish email-stalking, waiting for data that I “desperately needed.”

No more. My life is going to be worth it. Every minute of it. Please don’t misunderstand me—I work hard and I bring the most value that I can to my employer, with the intent to constantly increase that value. As a Christian (and frankly, as a responsible member of the human race), it’s my obligation to do that. I just want to encourage you, if you feel like you are shackled to a job where anything outside of it “just isn’t worth it”, to take that terrifying first step to make a change. It might sound silly, but when I realized that I couldn’t take any more, I forced myself to apply to three jobs a week. They weren’t even things I was necessarily interested in or qualified for, but exposure to the application and interview process really helped me get my confidence back. I didn’t think I wanted the position I ultimately took here, but after my second interview, I knew that this was exactly what God had in store for me, and I haven’t stopped thanking Him since. I checked Glass Door for EVERY company with which I interviewed, to ensure that I didn’t jump out of the frying pan of misery and into the fire of a new hell. There is a lot of truth in that website. Check it out.

This random topic was on my heart today, so thanks for sticking it out with me if it doesn’t really apply to you. If it does, and you are mired in a career that is beating you down, let me know (privately, if you wish). I would love to pray for you and keep my ear to the ground for opportunities that can help you feel like your life is worth it again—because it totally is. Go get ’em!