The business of doing business

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I have a very large, very dead pine tree looming over my driveway and threatening the safety of my home and my new car.   It has been dead for several years but each day when I drive in my driveway, I convince myself that it is leaning closer to my house than it was the previous day.  It was time to call in the professionals.

I found four local companies that offer tree removal services as well as free estimates.  All four came to my house and gave me a wide range of quotes for different ways that the tree could be felled and cleared.  The company I chose to do the job was the best fit in terms of safely felling the tree with the right equipment and not charging me a fortune to move the pieces off to the side of my driveway.  I thanked the other companies for their quotes and let them know I went with a different service.

Two of the other three were understanding.  One was not.  After I told him I would be happy to pass on his information to others looking for his services, I received a text message from Brian and this is what it said, “Well thank you Susan.  No need to pass my name around since you have not experienced the level of service we provide.  In future, I would respectfully suggest you exhaust your cheaper options before calling someone that spends their time and fuel to look at your work.  Good luck with your tree and hopefully the damage will be minimal.”

WTF???

To say that I was angered would be a gross understatement.   I had to hold myself back from responding with the words that were churning in my head.   Instead, I politely explained that I had chosen a company with a similar rate but a better option for me and the safety of my oak tree since Brian was going to strap the dead tree and pull it down so it would come into direct contact with my 100-year-old oak tree.  (But he assured me the oak tree would be fine!)

What I should have texted was this, “Well, thank YOU Brian.  I will certainly be passing your name around now, just not in the way I had expected since I now understand the level of service you provide.  I respectfully suggest that you not offer free estimates if you are going to whine about the time and fuel you spent doing something you advertise as free and act like an asshole when you don’t get the job.”

Oh, the places I’ll go

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I am in the middle of a steep learning curve.  I have never written anything longer than a 3,500 word short story so I should have expected a few pitfalls when I decided to pursue my dream of writing a book, or two or three.   But I was committed to give it one hundred percent and see where the journey led me.  I am well on my way to achieving 82,000 (ish) words for a novel-length book and only have 17,000 more to go!

I have been amazed by the process.  I have a journal I keep at my side to remind me of what has happened in each paragraph so the story will not seem disjointed or confusing.  I have done my best, pre-editing, to make sure the plot line flows well and ties in all the loose ends.  I’m sure I have missed a few small details throughout the process but I’m new at this so I’m giving myself ample opportunities to go back and alter the things that don’t work.  I have noticed that my characters have taken on a life of their own, causing me to go back and change a few details of their past but so far I feel blessed to have made it this far.

My writing has mainly been directed by the characters.  I had a simple outline of where I wanted the book to go but their personalities have taken control of the wheel and taken me in a few directions I hadn’t thought of.  On Friday, I wrote a paragraph and then I couldn’t write any more.  Something was off.  I didn’t know it was wrong when I wrote it, but that one paragraph derailed my train of thought.  I stared at that page as the characters sat idly by waiting for me to send them in a direction, any direction, but I was stuck.

I read that last paragraph many times and it eventually dawned on me to remove the last sentence.  As soon as that freeway in my brain cleared of the congestion, the traffic of words started to flow and sped off down the road.  I now understand how writer’s can figuratively paint themselves into a corner.  That one line was the difference between writing and staring at my walls.

Persistence is the key.  I have many lines and paragraphs that I have omitted from the book.  They are not gone but merely stored on a different page until I know those ideas are not meant for this book.  I have no idea where I will end up, but, oh, the places I’ll go on my journey to get there.

 

Adults say the darndest things

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I had it made as a kid.  My parents were co-owners of a coin laundry, a bakery and then a Sub shop that also served ice cream.  There were a few arcade games in the sub shop and Defender and Asteroids ate many of the quarters that were once my allowance.  I was the living version of a kid in a candy store.

My dad also sold real estate during the same time period, so to say he had many irons in the fire is a gross understatement.  His office was located conveniently up the street from the sub shop so I would bounce back and forth from each business and soon became a runner for the agent’s ice cream requests.  I will never forget Ken Robinson.  He was in his seventies, had white hair like Santa Claus and a severe penchant for mint chocolate chip ice cream.  He and I became quick friends once I learned that he shared the same love for that minty, chocolate deliciousness as I did.

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Every day, Ken would hand me his money and I would gladly run down the street to retrieve his afternoon treat.  I ran in to the office one hot summer day to find Ken’s desk unattended.  I asked the secretary where he was and she could not look me in the eye.  Instead, I was told to talk to my father.  Ken had died of a heart attack the night before.  I was devastated.  Ken had been the first person I had known who had died.  After many days of tears and avoiding the office, I finally gathered the courage to go back.  Carl was there with his ill-fitting sport coat and bad seventies mustache.  I will never forget how nonchalant he was when he spoke to the 11-year old me and said, “You musta killed him with all that mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

I carried that burden with me to Ken’s funeral and for many years after.   We went to the service as a family and I can still remember the dress I wore.  We paid our respects to his family and approached his open casket.  I was terrified that Ken’s wax-like body was going to sit upright, point at me at scream, “you did this to me”.   I could barely breathe.

Now, as an adult, I still have difficulties at open-casket funerals.  The logical side of my brain assures me that a deceased body cannot move, but the young girl and the writer in me still have that nagging doubt.

I can only hope that Carl eventually outgrew his horrendous mustache (and Herb Tarlek wardrobe) and learned to think before he spewed any further erroneous judgement on young, impressionable minds.  Either that or he has had ten children and countless grandchildren of his own and Karma has finally paid him a visit!

Finding your strength

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“It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on, it takes a lot of strength to let go.” ~ J.C. Watts

~~

I was born a “fixer” and, until a few years ago, I had spent a great deal of my time taking on other people’s burdens as my own.  But something shifted in the paradigm of my reality when I got divorced in 2012.  I realized I was spending too much of my time trying to change a life that was not mine to change.  I was hanging on to problems that irrevocably had impact on my life but I had no power to solve.  I needed to let go.  But I was so stuck in the pattern of my life that I didn’t know how to let go.  I wanted so desperately for things to work out in my life that I honestly thought that this was the syllabus of my future.

It takes a monumental amount of courage to walk away from a relationship that you have put your heart and soul into but a relationship has to give you what you need for it to be successful.  By its very definition, a relationship is a form of communication.  Wants and needs are expressed and, in a healthy relationship, are reciprocated without condition.  Such was not the case for me and I knew it.  I felt it deep within myself but it took me a long time to admit it because to do that would have made me feel like I had failed.  But I had only failed myself by not seeing the signs sooner and listening to that nagging inner voice.

I finally found the nerve to put my needs first and, in finally letting go, I gave myself permission to define myself according to my needs and not the needs of anyone else.  The strength to hang on was easy, it was my comfort zone, but finding the strength to let go made me feel eviscerated, vulnerable and it was not something I was accustomed to.

I wanted to write this post because I have friends now in the situation in which I found myself years ago.  I want them to know that letting go is not always the easy choice, but it may be the right choice, for them.   It may be hard to listen to that petulant voice in your head, but that voice is the most sincerely honest advice you will ever get.

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Don’t give up easily.  If it is worth the fight, than fight, fight like your life depends on it.  But if you know in your heart that nothing will ever change, let go, let go like your life depends on it.

Finding light in the darkness

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“What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today.” ~ William Glasser

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Looking back at my past, I can almost see the lines in the distance of the paths that I have chosen.  They are faint in the waning light but the traces are still visible.  Those lines, those roads I chose to follow, helped to carve the figure of the person I am now.

Along that road not everything was painful but I can say that those arduous moments gave me more definition as a person than the happier, less stressful times.  Those darker moments made me a stronger version of myself.  Those difficult stages during my life gave me the tenacity and the persistence to overcome obstacles that I may not have been able to cope with had my life been easier.

It is how we carry ourselves through the difficult moments that gives us our strength.  It is how we persevere through misfortune that builds our character.  I am who I am because of what I have experienced.  I am a better version of the me I could have been because I endured pain and suffering.  I made a point to learn from it and now my inner light far outweighs any of the darkness from my past.

It`s one day after the 12th

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Friday-the-13th

I have never been a superstitious person.  I’m not afraid to have a black cat cross paths with me.  I do use caution around ladders but that is more of a safety issue rather than a superstition.  And I certainly don’t believe that I will have 7 years of bad luck if I have the misfortune of breaking a mirror into tiny shards of reflective glass.  I will, however, have 7+ horrible minutes of clean up!!

Bad luck seems to be brought on by bad attitudes.  If I had woken up this morning in a state of panic because of the calendar date, I’m sure some incident would have befallen me and I would undoubtedly have had people tell me it is a result of the dreaded Friday the 13th.  I arose this morning as I always do.  I put on my jeans the same one leg at a time.  There were no black crows eyeballing me from the top branch of their perch, screeching raptor-like obscenities and warning me to stay indoors.

Did you know that historically there have been fewer car accidents on this day because people exercise so much more caution or don’t drive at all?  The irrational fear that this day imposes is an interesting phenomenon.  People have such an overwhelming fear of the 13th day of the month falling on a Friday but never really take the time to ask themselves why they have this fear.   If you reflect on your childhood, somewhere along your journey, the superstition was unwittingly passed on to you.  The moment that seed was planted, it matured into an irrational fear and has embedded its roots into your psyche.  I’m a firm believer that we make our own luck.  If you think bad things will happen on Friday the 13th then they probably will.

Friday the 13th has never imposed any ugliness on me but I also impress nothing put positive thoughts on it.  It is just another day.   If Friday the 13th is your ‘monster in the closet’ – lock that closet door and throw away the key.  It holds no more power than what you allow it to have.

Are you superstitious or was today just another day…

When did I become THIS person?

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I would never have described myself as being overly adventurous in my youth.  I wasn’t afraid to try new things in my teens and early twenties but my limits for risky undertakings were much higher then and now my willingness to live on the edge (or a reasonable facsimile of the edge) has completely diminished.

I have not felt the desire for wanderlust that seems to be an affliction for so many of my friends.  I am content to live vicariously through the tales of their adventures and to witness their triumphs through the photographic journey that they provide as a backdrop for the narrative of their experience.

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I have always been a homebody.  I prefer a “staycation” to a long line in an airport terminal with the risk of acquiring some form of contagious bacteria to bring home as a souvenir.  I would not go so far as to say that I have become a recluse but the evidence is mounting and the verdict could completely contradict my argument for my defense.

Where once I would brave the terrain and the elements, I now shy away from driving in bad weather.  I don’t like driving at night anymore because my eyesight feels somewhat compromised in the dark and I make the excuse that it is for the safety of the other drivers on the road.  And I shrink into my couch every time gale force winds undulate through the bare branches and howl outside of my window.

But I have come to realize that my plight is not one of fear.  It is one of freedom.  I have allowed myself to be just that, myself.  I am not going to jump behind the wheel of my car because someone thinks I am paranoid and I want to prove them wrong.  I make no excuses.  I ask for no sympathy.  I simply live the way I want to live.  I am quite content to sit in my living room with my computer in my lap and blog about the fact that I am comfortable becoming THIS person.