Monday, June 29, 2015

To Gram, With Love

On May 21, 2015, after 99 years of life, my maternal grandmother, Rose Van Dussen passed away. About a week and ahalf ago, my sister and I traveled home to Portage for a family memorial lunch, and for a trip to Rosedale Memorial Park Cemetery, where my grandmother was laid to rest alongside my grandfather, Russell, who died 20 years ago.

Langeland Family Funeral Home provided my grandmother's final arrangements, and as a part of their service, they put together a very sweet memorial video using photographs that my mother shared, and they also created physical memory books with the photos for my mom and aunt. I'm not sure if the video will be permanently available online, so I wanted to create a little digital memorial on my blog to honor my grandmother. Here are some of the photos (not in chronological order), along with some accompanying tidbits about her life.

Here is a photo of my grandmother when she was a little girl in Manistee, MI. Rose was the oldest daughter to Walter and Cassie Jarka, and she had 3 younger siblings, Kathryn, Robert and Bernice. I don't have a great side-by-side comparison photo, but I can tell you that the family resemblance is strong -- I looked just like my grandmother did at that age!

In 1940, Rose married my grandfather, Russell, a self-made business man, who put himself through college in part by playing piano at bars and jazz clubs. I still remember going to my grandparents as a little kid, and my grandpa would play Tiny Bubbles on the piano, among other musical stylings. My grandfather especially loved a good celebration, and I think he helped to bring my grandmother out of her shell. This photo was likely from a New year's eve celebration, or some other holiday party, maybe even a celebration related to  the family business, American Cordage Co. (formerly on Wealthy St. in Grand Rapids, MI), which my grandfather co-founded. My grandmother was a partner in the family business, and kept the books for the business for many years. How glamorous they both look in this photo!

My grandma enjoyed traveling, and as a family, we took several memorable trips over the years. I earned my International flyer status at the ripe old age of 3, when my grandparents took my parents, sister and me to Spain to visit my aunt (their youngest daughter), uncle and cousins. It would become part of the family lore that, following that trip, I would refuse to swim in lake water, announcing that 'I only swim in the Mediterranean.' We also took trips as a family to Disney World (with my cousins), as well as trips to Vegas (my grandpa loved Black Jack), So Cal, and Hawaii.

My grandma also enjoyed fine dining, cooking, Michigan Football (her brother, Bob, was a wolverine and so am I, of course!), and watching golf. She LOVED Tiger Woods in his heyday! In fact, in the early 2Ks, my grandmother went out and bought a Buick Rendezvous, giddy with the knowledge that Tiger was the Buick spokesperson. My grandmother's guilty little indulgences included ice cream (she could always count on me as her dessert partner!), and a glass of wine or a cold domestic beer.

I was the youngest of the 4 grandchildren, and I loved going up to East Grand Rapids to visit my grandparents. Look at how cute my grandmother and me are in this photo! It's one of my favorites. My grandmother was so proud of all of us grand kids.

Speaking of the grand kids, this photo is of all four of us with my grandmother, my mom and aunt in front of my grandparents' house.They had a charming little house in a beautiful neighborhood, just across the street from Fisk Lake. My grandmother stayed in that house, with the help of her housekeeper, Goldie, the neighbors who looked in on her, and my mother's weekly visits, until well into her 90s. She would eventually move to Portage, where she could be around more people in a retirement assisted living home (and be safer with the medical and care staff close at hand) and where my mom could more easily tend to her and visit with her on most days.

This photo is from my sister's wedding shower in '08, and includes my sister, mom, aunt, and grandmother. While my grandmother was unable to attend my wedding years later, I'm so happy she could be at E's wedding.

Although my grandmother could not attend my and Brian's wedding this past October, we stopped by to visit her on our way back to Minnesota. I feel lucky that Brian got to meet her several times over the years. She loved hearing about our adventures in Chicago, in Austin and eventually in Minneapolis, and I enjoyed telling her about the happenings in our lives.

Gram, I will miss your smile and your spark. You had an undeniable presence, and a certain sass and spirit that can never be matched. Your legacy lives on in your two strong and independent daughters, your four grandchildren and your three (so far) great grandchildren, and I know you loved us all very much. I love you!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fortune cookie wisdom

"Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are going."


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Living La Vida Low Key

I forgot what it was like to wake up each day feeling energized instead of exhausted, and full of hope and possibilities instead of dread and anxiety. It's amazing that after just 2 weeks, my outlook on life is so completely different and so much more positive. I actually had no idea it was possible to feel! So liberated! I know that my "funemployment" is finite (my pockets aren't that deep), and I fully intend to enjoy it to the fullest extent that my circumstances allow.

Even though I'm no longer working, the weekend is still my favorite time of the week, given Brian and all of our friends are busy doing the M-F hustle. And this particular weekend, with its balmy pre-summer breezes and abundance of sunshine, was "on fleek", as the kids say (are the kids still saying that? Or is it onto the next?) Anyway, B and I started off with pool time with a good friend at her condo. A quick mo-so check informed us that Vics, a nearby wine bar/restaurant with a fab outdoor patio  was giving away FREE bottles of rose to those who could supply the magic words - and we knew the magic words! And just like that, our evening was planned. After a lazy afternoon of lounging poolside, we took it to the outdoor patio, where our one free bottle of pink quickly turned into 3 subsequent bottles of "interesting whites" and plenty of appetizers. It's been a while since I've had such a fun, spontaneous and tipsy night! And rather miraculously, nary a hangover the next morning.

On Sat, we took advantage of free movie passes that B scored through work to check out the dinos with some friends of ours. My quick and largely uninformative review of Jurassic World - horribly hokey, yet highly entertaining, though not as good as the original Jurassic Park. I was tickled with nostalgia that JW resurrected many elements of the original JP score, because I love me a well-scored movie. So few movies seem to have great scores, opting instead for a soundtrack of trite, syrupy #yuccie tunage. So. All in all, I'd say JW was worth the cost of entry (free, heh). Following the flick, we hit up Tinto Cocina+Cantina, a new taco and tequila bar that popped up recently in Uptownfor margs, guac, dinner and good conversation.

Today, B and I slept in, and then brunched at a neighborhood staple, The Lowbrow, before hitting up the driving range where I rocked my 7 iron (I did not so much rock any other club, ahem). Is it possible to play an entire round of golf with one club? Well, if I were forced to pick once club, it would be seven all the way. We are now enjoying a peaceful evening around the homestead, and may fire up the latest season of Orange is the New Black a little bit later.

All in all, nothing too wild, nothing too extravagant on deck this weekend, but I don't need wild and extravagant. It's these simple, casual and breezy summery weekends, with a blend of downtime and fun with friends, and always with a bottle (or 4) of wine, and a touch of serendipity, that bring me the most satisfaction. Oh, yes.Yes, I could get used to this!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Embracing a Little "Hocus Pocus"

Why is it that I never tire of taking personality assessments? To me, reading the results of a personality test is kind of like reading a horoscope, or getting a "reading" from an a psychic or other intuitive. For the record, I've participated in "intuitive readings" twice, for fun. One reading I had was with a pet psychic several years ago - yes you read that right - and the other was just a few weeks ago with an "energy" reader in Chicago, which was fascinating (and worth a separate entry).

I get it, maybe it's not altogether a fair comparison, what with the principles of the science of psychology backing the whole personality test gig, compared to, say, tea leaves, crystal balls, decks of cards, celestial bodies and other such imaginative rigmarole that accompanies horoscopes and psychics and whatnot. But regardless of the source, those kernels of wisdom can feel so uniquely suited to me, all the while still feeling like hocus pocus - even the personality assessments (sorry, Carl Jung).

I've taken the Myers Briggs in various capacities probably a dozen times, almost always resulting in the somewhat rare "INFJ" (supposedly, less than 2% of the population shares this personality type). On those other occasions, it's only a slight variation of "INTJ."

This afternoon, I took a yet another (free) Myers Briggs based assessment online called 16 Personalities. Once again, my result came back as "INFJ-T" (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging, Turbulent). This assessment also gave me some new labels to explore, including "Advocate", and "Diplomat" with a strategy of "Constant Improvement." You can learn more about the different personality type indicators here.

This particular version also shares your personality profile outcomes according to several different topics, including personality type strengths and weaknesses, impact on romantic relationships, friendships, career and workplace, and a "premium" teaser to entice the test taker to level up and pay for more content. I was particularly stricken by my INFJ assessment outlined the career section, and here's a direct excerpt of my career results from the 16 Personalities website previously cited:

INFJs are likely to find that most corporate career paths are not designed for them, but for those focused on status and material gain....Many INFJs struggle to begin a career early on because they see ten wildly different paths forward, each with its own intrinsic rewards, alluring but also heartbreaking, because each means abandoning so much else. People with the INFJ personality type are more likely to, despite their aversion to controlling others, establish their independence by either finding a leadership position, or simply starting their own practice. As independents, sole proprietors in the parlance of business, INFJs are free to follow their hearts, applying their personal touch, creativity and altruism to everything they do. INFJs often pursue expressive careers such as writing, elegant communicators that they are, and author many popular blogs, stories and screenplays.

Well! OK then! That all sounds pretty spot on to me.  And then I got to the "premium" portion of the profile -- another excerpt here:

An Advocate is a rare bird, indeed – making up only 1 to 2 percent of the population, it is no wonder that many Advocates, surrounded by so many people who are so unlike them, begin to feel lost. Some struggle for much of their lives, trying to be something they’re not...strong-willed, passionate, creative, giving individuals who nevertheless felt like something was missing.

Yep yep yep! On the money! Maybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, and maybe I'm just looking for more affirmation that my recent decision to vacate my career is the right one...but still, they sold me...hook line and sinker.

There goes $32.99....and now, please excuse me, my 100 page "premium" download is ready, and I have some more reading to do! Off to explore those deep chasms within (that sounds dirty! heee!)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Throwing Away the Scorecard

More often than not, in pretty much every area of my life, I have chosen to play by the rules.

As a kid, I bought into the mentality that if I achieved good grades, listened to adults, and more or less stayed out of trouble, then "the good life" could be mine. I based my self-worth in achieving the "A." I rarely rocked the boat, and I felt anxious when others around me would test the boundaries.

I was (am) a perfectionist. I was (am) a control freak. I was suffocating myself trying to keep my shit together at all times, even when I had every justifiable reason to just go ahead and lose my shit. And, oh man, the guilt and the shame that would soon follow my inevitable shit-losing sessions...

As an adult, this mindset has manifested itself in a similar way. While my perfectionism has receded somewhat, and I am more willing to rock the boat when I think the situation necessitates, I am still very much wrapped up in state of mind that suggests my self-worth is defined by a certain level of productivity, the degree of accomplishments I can rack up, and keeping face. 

Case in point, this week B observed an emerging pattern of behavior I've exhibited each day. Almost as soon as he walks in the door from work, I start by rattling off my minor "successes" for the day. "B, guess what. I did the dishes and ran the laundry. I have spicy chicken in the crock pot for tacos tonight."  I then follow it up with a sheepish confession. "But...I read a book in bed until almost noon, and then I watched 4 consecutive episodes of the Real Housewives....and I ate ice cream for lunch."

His response, paraphrased, but more or less, "That's great, Molly, and dinner sounds good to me. Thanks for taking care of the laundry. But you know you don't have to keep a scorecard. It's ok right now to just relax. Wasn't that supposed to be a part of your time out? I think it's good that you're watching TV and reading and decompressing. Don't feel like you need to hit some quota of accomplishments each day, for my benefit."

Wise words those are, from my dear husband, who knows me so darn well. Because he's right. It's ok for me to stop looking for that gold star of approval, and I don't need to be caught up in proving my worthiness to others at all times. 

Yes, defining and achieving goals is a good thing. Doing things for others is a good thing. And, keeping our shit together is often a necessary thing. 

But, sometimes it’s ok to go ahead and lose that shit. It’s ok to adopt a temporary vegetative state now and again to watch frivolous TV and eat a fucking Hostess cupcake without feeling like the worst person in the world for doing so. It’s ok to turn inward to listen to your own voice instead of always looking outward for some kind of validation. It's ok to do the opposite of what is expected of us, sometimes anyway.

And, that's a big part of why I'm taking this time out. I need to care enough about myself to figure I really want and need out of life, fearlessly and selfishly, listening to my own voice. And right now the first step toward doing that means a legit, hedonistic chillax session, without trying to justify it or worrying about it seeming irresponsible or “wrong” in some way.

So, for now, I’m not going to pay much attention to the rule book. I'm not concentrating on figuring out the “right” next steps or solving the puzzle. I’m finished keeping a scorecard. I’m going to take some days on my own terms, which today means heading to yoga, maybe making some cookies and eating a bunch of them myself, and taking an afternoon nap with my cats. No guilt. No shame. Just me. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Stopping the Clock

This past Friday was my last day at work. I decided to leave my job without another one lined up, and with a tentative plan to remain out of the earning sphere for the rest of 2015.

I have spent the past 13 years building a career as a strategy consultant and consumer researcher, and a successful one at that, when success is defined by promotions, salary milestones, the "bigness" and "high-powered-ness" of the employers on my resume and the clients I have served (and the "perks" that can accompany those types of businesses), and my degree of impact on several well-known consumer brands in the form of marketplace communication and product innovation. But my career success has come with a certain (high) degree of stress and sacrifice in other areas of my life that I'm not sure I see myself maintaining for the rest of my working days.  And, there are other definitions of success that I'd like to explore with more depth than I have so far.

Therefore, I'm hitting the pause button to reassess my career path, personal values, motivators and interests and to determine types of contributions I am best equipped to make to the world. 

I am a plodder and a thinker (an over-thinker extraordinaire, if I'm honest), and frankly, a late bloomer in every sense of the word. I need this halt. I need this drastic measure. I have worked extremely hard, I have saved like crazy, and I have the incredible support of my husband (and yes, also an unearned degree of privilege) to be able to take this professional time out with limited concern for any personal financial repercussions.

I appreciate all of the encouragement and positive reactions that have come my way since sharing my decision with friends, family, mentors and colleagues. I expected to be on the receiving end of some negative judgment for my decision, which probably says something more about my insecurities than anything, and I am thankful that has not been the case.

My intention is to document my experience as it unfolds, and if it feels right, I'll share updates here on my little blog. I don't know how this experiment in focused self-discovery is going to shake out, but I'm certain it will come with a mix of highs and lows, adventure and monotony, and a bunch of other dichotomies and duality that may or may not be interesting to anyone else but me. Please check in with me (directly or through the blog) if you're so inclined, and I promise to do the same.

Here we go!