Monday, September 27, 2010

Forgive Me Father... It's Been a Few Blog Posts Since I've Been Vulnerable...

Welcome to Tina's freak-out blog. 

What it is about an ex-boyfriend getting married that sends a girl into an emotional spiral? I suppose it's the feeling that I wasn't good enough to fulfill his needs. Or perhaps it's that he was never crazy enough about me to take that kind of plunge. What was I doing spending my time with someone that wasn't crazy about me? Trying to convince him? Is that what I've been doing my entire life? I'm 30 years old… are you trying to tell me that the last 20 or 30 relationships I've had were a representation of me TRYING to convince someone that I was good enough. 

Ugh. Someone get me one of those little bags they have on the airlines, please. 

Additionally, I have two days left of work And then I'm suppose to be a freelance writer? What the hell do I know about writing? I think I'm pretty good at it but I'm also pretty good at making pasta. That doesn't make me the next Food Network Star, does it? 

No, this is not PMS. I promise… it could have something to do with the Broncos losing or the fact that Jeremy has been out of town for almost a week and a half. It could also be that I've had a couple of Stellas and am feeling exceptionally vulnerable. But when I received that text earlier today from my ex-boyfriend that he and his fairly new girlfriend were going downtown after the Chargers game to tie the knot, my mind went into thinking overload and, admittedly, I feel like I've kind of lost it. 

My mother gave my father a book to give to me the other night. It is called "How Can I Forgive You." On the cover of the book, she attached a post-it note that asked me if I would read it, paying special attention to pages 42 and 43. When I opened the book to the requested pages, I found she had highlighted a section on narcissism. My mother thinks that I am narcissistic. In fact, it appears she would like me to admit to my own narcissism so that I can find a way to… forgive her? Forgive myself? I'm still unsure as to what, exactly, her intentions were. I would ask her flat out if I wasn't convinced that the response from her would simply be.. "whatever". 

And why is it that only when I am in a committed relationship does a super hot guy on a motorcycle stop me in the parking lot and show interest in me. Really, Universe? Are you having fun fucking with me? 

I also gambled this weekend. Last weekend as well. Not a lot, but more than I should have given my concerns about money. The problem is not the amount that I gambled, the problem is that I still feel like a piece of poo every time I put any money in a machine. I think I've used Jeremy's profession as an excuse to put cash in a machine every now and then. However, given how it makes me feel about myself, I think it's time for me to recommit to my rule of no gambling for the remainder of my 30th year. Ew… is this what confession feels like? Not fun… 

Everything I read, feel or dream about seems to be telling me that I am moving in the right direction. And it seems like I do so good for so long and all of a sudden, something happens that makes me question and doubt everything that I am up to. I have a friend who I adore and love and take a great interest in. However, my other friends tell me that she is trying to manipulate me and turn me into something that I'm not. Have I become so naive that I can't see this happening? How can someone tell me how intelligent and aware they find me in one breath and imply how blind I am in the next? 

At least it was only a matter of hours between receiving the text that he was getting married and then the two of them actually having the ceremony. I'm not sure I could've handled a year long planning process with locations searches, bridesmaid evaluations and color schemes. And I wasn't even in love with this guy. Why is this affecting me to this kind of extent? 

Maybe it's the money involved. I loaned him $500 a while back to help him with rent. I knew there was a chance I wouldn't see it for a very long time… if ever. Not that he would ever try to screw me or anything. But I know he's having some difficult financial conversations and I don't loan anyone anything unless I'm willing to lose it. However, even with my newly acquired $20,000, I am still very freaked out, if not more so than usual, about being able to keep the lifestyle that I've grown accustomed to. Every day, all day, I try to ignore the fact that all I am doing is thinking about the money that I have… and don't have. I have spent the last two weeks trying to adjust my behavior and my thinking… I moved all the furniture around in my room in order to create a specific area for meditation. I am doing my daily affirmations. I am confident that my new practices will help me in reaching my goals on an emotional and physical level. Eventually. 

Right now, though? Right now, I'm having a bit of a breakdown. 

As more and more people at work find out I'm leaving, they start asking me questions like "Where are you going to work?" or "What are you going to write?" Besides my blog, I really don't have an answer. I have some ideas and a basic plan on different publications that I want to send my blog out to… but other than that, this whole thing is purely faith-based. Anyone find one of those little bags, yet? 

Before he left on his most recent trip, Jeremy said that if I don't have faith that I can make this happen or if I doubt in any way that I am capable or worthy of becoming a writer, I might as well retract my resignation and stay at Chili's. He said that he wouldn't love me any less, but how he is supposed to believe I'm the one for him if I don't see myself as big enough to make something like this happen? And what about the money? I've known Jeremy for all of one month… what if the money has altered the direction of our relationship? What if I'm so tired of being broke and alone that I've let the last 30 days of this rollercoaster ride affect my decision-making ability? 

What if he reads this blog and changes his mind about me? 

Of course, as the law of attraction would have it, Jeremy just called. I'm amazed at how he can always think positively. He has such a "winner" mentality. I asked him how he can possibly think this way and he simply replied that when he assures himself that things are going to work out for the best, they usually do. I know that this is a frame of mind I must adopt if I'm to see success in my new venture. 

Jeremy said something else tonight that really landed with me… he said that once you have the first taste of success, all you want to do is work harder to get more of it. I suppose this is why my friend got married tonight. He got a taste of what it was like to be truly happy with someone… and wanted more of it. 

This is the part of my personality that I dislike. And after writing all of this, I look back and dislike what I've written. However, I've decided to post it anyway because it is a true reflection of the things that go on inside my head and make me who I am. And since this blog is supposed to be a true representation of me and my beliefs, it doesn't seem right that I should censor the things that I don't like. My self image conversation has held me back long enough. Besides, I think most of us have seen enough cartoons to know that there is both a devil and an angel on our shoulders and sometimes, the devil speaks louder. 

I bought a little dry erase board at Wal-Mart the other day and hung it on the back of the door in my bedroom. It has little notes on it like my daily affirmation statement and blogs that I would like to write. It also has some places I'd like to travel to and certain publications I intend to send my blog to. It's light blue and matches everything in my room. It makes me smile whenever I look at it. 

Last night, I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamt that aliens were coming to invade the earth and wrote their intentions for their invasion in the sky, sort of like that scene from The Wizard of Oz where the Wicked Witch is hunting for Dorothy. In my dream, I tried to capture the image on my phone but every time I went to look at it, a random face would appear and I couldn't decipher the message. The only word written in the sky that I could make out each time was "blood." 

I woke up with my entire comforter wrapped tightly around my body and was dripping with sweat. It was 2:30 in the morning. I was breathing heavily and desperately wishing my roommate was home - not so I could wake him and tell him about my dream, but just so I didn't feel alone. I tried to calm my breath and unravel the blankets around me when, suddenly, my dry erase board fell from the door and crashed onto my floor. As someone who is always seeking an explanation for things, this did not make me happy. 

I remained frozen in my bed for another ten minutes or so. I continued to let the sweat drip from my forehead and my breath to be shallow. Eventually, I convinced myself that it was okay to fall asleep again and when I awoke this morning, everything was as it should be. I rehung my little board on a small section of wall in my bedroom and looked up my nightmare's meaning in my faithful dream book. 

Be prepared for a season of change. And beware of the fact that it may seem frightening and new, but that everything is as it should be in the Universe. Trust what you are feeling and creating, and a new event will bring about a change in your life that will be bigger and more exciting than anything you have ever imagined. 

Really? Well, shit. Bring on the nightmares more often, I suppose. 

It's so easy to doubt the things that are happening in our lives. It's also easy to assume things aren't going to work out as well as we want them to. What seems to be the most challenging for me is making the decision to be confident in my choices. Everyone else knows that I can do it and even my subconscious is telling me that the changes I make are positive. My biggest fan knows my potential and just like I did the night I met Jeremy, it is time for me to move the cynic to a different room… if not out altogether. 

All I can do is wake up every morning and commit to a new way of thinking. The most amazing thing about being human is that I get to make a choice in every moment how I want to live my life. Eventually, I may even get it right. 

And seriously… congratulations, Justin. I love that you have found your lobster and you have my support 100%. 

Everything I'm up to at the moment requires dedication, commitment and a serious level of worthiness. If I continue to let my friends alter the way I think or my family to make me doubt what I love about myself, I will never get a taste of that success that I want so badly. Perhaps having spent so much time alone in my life will pay off now. It's time to listen to me and only me. 

I feel better. Much better… sometimes, I suppose we just need to talk things out. Or, in my case, share my feelings publicly with anyone who's willing to listen. No, that's not narcissistic at all. 

It's simply the other shoulder talking. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Had To Vote For Obama... John Elway Wasn't a Candidate

I was born in Aurora, Colorado which is a city not too far away from Denver. I lived there until I was eight years old and then my dad moved the family to Washington state for a better job opportunity and I imagine a little bit of it was to get away from his family. I can't imagine what it would be like to be the oldest of eleven children. Yikes… either way, the majority of my clear memories come from growing up in the Pacific Northwest. However, there are still some very significant things that happened in Denver that have shaped who I am today. 

One of the most influential things: John Elway and The Denver Broncos. 

I have a memory of my brother and my dad sitting together for days and days putting together a small model and replica of Mile High Stadium. I remember watching as they cut little circles out of construction paper to act as faces in the crowd. I remember every little white stripe of paper that was carefully laid down on the field, establishing the correct yardage from one end zone to the other. I can recall the uprights and sidelines clear as day. My brother and dad worked so hard on this field. And I don't believe it was for any kind of school project either. I think it was simply out of love for the game. I wish there were pictures of this - I know it didn't survive the move to Washington for sure. However, like so many things, it's the memory of the stadium being built that I will always keep with me, even if the actual model is long gone. 

My brother dressed as John Elway almost every Halloween that I can remember - at least when we were small. He actually sort of resembled John Elway with his tall stance and prominent front teeth. My brother had so much Denver Bronco paraphernalia, one could almost believe there was a relation to the great #7 somewhere down the line. There wasn't… just a huge love for the man, the team, and the game.  

I had a pretty typical football family growing up as well. Sundays and Monday nights were reserved for the television. My dad was smart enough to marry a woman who appreciated the sport and did not complain or insist that the Sunday night game was turned off so that we could catch up with the latest pop culture garbage that was on. She was right there next to us, in her Denver Broncos sweatshirt, cheering just as loudly as my dad. 

In the 80's, football was really all we had in Denver. There was no professional baseball team at that time and the Nuggets hadn't come around either. And if you weren't a Bronco fan, you might as well just live somewhere else. It was also during the 80's that the Broncos went to the Superbowl and lost. Three times. In 1986, they played in Super Bowl XXI against the New York Giants and lost by a score of 39-20. In 1987, they returned to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the Washington Redskins by a horrifying score of 42-10. In 1989, the year after we moved to Washington, they played in Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers and had an even worse loss of 55-10. However, no matter how many times my beloved team lost, they were still my team. 

I never was a Seahawk fan. In fact, a few years ago, one of my ex-boyfriends bought me a Hasselback jersey one year and I was actually offended. However, being so far away from Denver, I lost touch with the Broncos, and therefore with the sport. My dad continued his Sunday and Monday night rituals and my brother never stopped his die hard love for the team either. I started to grow up, got into horseback riding, 4-H, eventually boys and became disconnected from the game. Always being a sports lover, I found myself following the Seattle Mariners quite seriously and was happy to be an avid fan during the only year I can remember them doing well - 1995 when they won the American League West Division Championship. Baseball games were fun and I enjoyed having a crush on Alex Rodriguez when he was a nobody… but nothing could really replace the excitement of watching the Broncos run onto the field. 

I think what I like most about sports is how each member of the team feels personally responsible for the club's success. Every once in a while, you will get a hotshot that claims that the other team was just too big or that his teammates weren't giving him the ball enough… but for the most part, in those post-game press conferences, the Coach, the Quarterback, the Pitcher, etc. all get up and basically deliver the same message in a loss situation; we weren't playing to our full potential, we made too many mistakes, we weren't playing to win and in order to get the victory we want, we need to reevaluate the way we performed, make the necessary corrections and get back on the field and do it right. 

As someone who believes in existentialism and responsibility, this is easily one of the main reasons I am the gigantic sports fan that I am. 

I have never been much of a political person. My family has never been into politics and it wasn't until I was an adult that I even understood the difference between a Democrat and Republican. These days, I'm still not sure I am always clear what those differences are… in 2007 and 2008, however, I became very interested in the world of politics. I, like many Americans, was very nervous about the condition of our country. I was watching businesses shutting down left and right and getting more and more updates from my friends that were losing jobs and filing for unemployment. I was making less money at work and fearing for my own job as the restaurant industry had also been hit and Chili's was shutting down stores all across the country. I was frustrated with the war and upset that I had close friends that were being shipped off to fight in it. I was mad that George W. Bush always looked like an idiot on television and more upset that Dick Cheney looked like such an evil cowboy. I was outraged with Wall Street and all of the money that was going into the hands of the greedy and selfish and saddened to see so many of the hard working people of America who watched their so-called "American Dream" slip right out of their hands. I really couldn't believe that we had let things get this bad. As I started paying attention to the news more, I became further agitated by the finger pointing and the accusations and how it was always someone else's fault. If only the Democrats were in charge… or if only we had no terrorism… if only we could stop illegals from coming into the country. Suddenly, it was like every time I turned on the television, it was like I was watching the latest football showboater talk about how wonderful he could be if only "The Man" wasn't holding him down. 

So, when Barack Obama came along and started speaking of personal responsibility and what we need to change internally in order to improve the state of our nation, I started to listen. I watched political television every morning at the gym and read about it throughout the day on the computer. I constantly checked out where Obama stood in the polls and made sure I caught every major speech he made. Once again I, like many Americans, became excited about the new ideas that were coming out of his mouth. Yes, I wanted change. Yes, I wanted to see something different come out of Washington. Yes, I wanted someone to stand up and say we were wrong for some of the choices we made and correct them. I was on board. I registered to vote, talked a big game whenever the subject of politics came up and on election night, when the official announcement was made that we had a new President, I actually burst into tears of relief. Finally, there was something new to hope for. 

Originally, when I sat down to write this blog, I was going to point out the significant differences between sports and politics. However, as I write this, I see that there are actually more similarities than I thought. We have such high expectations as a country - we think that by electing a new President, even one with completely different ideas than the previous one, that we will see instant changes and everything will be fixed overnight. This is not too far off from drafting a new Quarterback, for example. Which, if anyone is following football as much as me, this does seem to be the new trend for the 2010 season. Many teams think that with a brand new Quarterback, the team will instantly go to the Super Bowl. However, it doesn't work that way. The Quarterback needs time to establish himself, learn the new teams' offense and defense, get familiar with the playbook and understand how to cope with the new coaching style he inevitably has to cope with. He has a whole new set of bosses, rules and expectations. Sometimes, a new Quarterback can come out of the gate and lead a team to victory, but this is not how it normally goes. Because no matter how good the Quarterback is, it is still the team that has to win. The same applies for any other position in the roster - a new Wide Receiver doesn't mean much if your Left Tackle sucks and an amazing Kicker is worthless if you are relying on him to score all your points. Until the team can find out how to work together cohesively, you can go to the Super Bowl three times (four if you count 1977) and lose every single one of them. Badly. 

Politically, things are still a mess. Maybe even a little more now that you have someone in office with a completely different throwing style than the previous leader. And it makes it more difficult that the team is not using the same rulebook when they go out on the field. However, sometimes I think it is our impatience as a country that makes things even more difficult for the players involved. As if they didn't have enough pressure already, we want a Super Bowl win right now. I believe that with time, patience and a little more support than most are willing to give, we'd see that we are actually on the right track for something bigger. We are starting to see responsibility take form and understand that we could be fighting for the wrong reasons. We still have a loooooong way to go… and I don't know if it's something that we will see in the four years that Obama has been given to make a significant change. All I know is that after years of losing, reevaluating, and getting back on the field, the Denver Broncos went back to the Super Bowl both in 1998 in a 31-42 win against the Green Bay Packers and in 1999 in a 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Afterwards, John Elway retired and we are back to creating our team again. Excellence in both sports and politics can be achieved… but we must remember that it can also be short-lived as the team must always reestablish itself as exactly that: a team. 

A lot of people say that it's no good being a sports fan in Las Vegas because we have no major team to cheer for. I am constantly baffled with this way of thinking. We are one of the very few places where, no matter where you are from or what sport you like, you are probably only a twenty minute drive from seeing your game live somewhere. Moving back here was the second best thing I could do (next to moving back to Denver) to reconnect with my Denver Broncos and fall in love with them all over again. I would much rather spend my Sunday mornings watching the pre-game show on ESPN than I would any political show, however I will remember that the two are really not that far off from one another. 

I hope that the country will give our new President a chance as he continues to speak from responsibility and accountability, like all good coaches and athletes do. And I hope we as a nation realize that our REAL team is NOT the Dallas Cowboys, but it's the team that we have elected to run the country. So give them a little support, a little credit, and quit wishing that it was the next draft already. It may take more than four years… it may take more than eight years… but there will be change. I guess the real question as an American is - do you want to watch it happen from the bleachers, the sideline or the field. Either way, you should probably still be part of the game. 

Even with all the hype, I don't own a Tim Tebow jersey. Kyle Orton is our starter and he is who I am supporting. Although, it would be nice to see Brady Quinn come in every once in a while. Give a girl some eye candy, will ya? 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Why Don't You Just Make 10 Louder?" "....But This One Goes To 11"

Dan, I must say - you have a real gift for making hard working employees feel unappreciated. Why even bother faking the apologetic behavior about my schedule last week if you were going to duplicate it this week?

Luckily, this is it for me - and while I know that I am working in an industry where I am considered an "expendable" employee, it still sucks to have your manager actually make you feel that way.


So yeah, I wrote this to one of my managers after receiving my final schedule at Chili’s. I copied my General Manager as well (Randy, as you know him from my previous blog). After I gave my notice earlier this month, my schedule got increasingly worse and after getting what I considered to be an apology from the server manager at my job for my botched schedule, I opened my email yesterday to find that my final four days were just as poorly assigned as the week prior. Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated.

A few people have questioned me as to why I care so much. After all, I’m leaving so what does it matter. Some of my frustration comes from the fact that I’ve been with the company for about four and a half years, opened the store I’m currently in, became a Manager for a while and have previously been active as a Trainer. Additionally, I have always worked hard for the company, donated my time to help them with special art projects and overall, upheld the service standards that they claim to be so concerned about. So yes, it makes me a little angry to realize that I’m just another employee when it all comes down to it.

However, this is not why I sent the email. I sent the email for the same reason I have this blog and for the same reason why I chose to do so many things in my life.

In my previously mentioned leadership program that I was a part of, one of the things that we were supposed to come up with was our stand for the world. It wasn’t until I was coaching and responsible for other people’s breakthroughs that I realized what my stand for the world was and always has been. I take a strong stand that everyone in the world gets to have a voice and that their voice matters. I think a lot of this comes from being part of a family that doesn’t like to talk about things. For many, many people, being silent is perfectly acceptable. For me, it absolutely isn’t.

Nothing makes me happier than when I see people share something authentically that I know they’ve been keeping inside for a long time. There is something that is absolutely magical to me about releasing this kind of energy. I’m not sure why so many people are unwilling to talk about the things that bother them, or that they love, or that they wish they had or didn’t have. Sharing on this kind of intimate level is what gives me faith in the human race. However, what I have found more often than not is that people pick and choose who they wish to share with and what information they feel like divulging.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an open book around my friends. I tell them exactly what’s on my mind and give my opinion about things exactly as I feel it in my heart. I’ve caught a little bit of grief from this, but for the most part, I’ve been able to establish meaningful – even if only brief – connections by behaving this way. And I have found that when I am sharing simply for the sake of sharing and not because I am trying to impress my opinions onto someone else or speak from a place of righteousness, I get a beautiful reciprocation.

It’s pretty rad.

Unfortunately, I have not felt as comfortable being this open around my family. As a result, I have spent most of my adult life withholding information from my parents and brother or flat out lying about things because I don’t feel like they would approve of my opinions or behavior. I found that I was doing this so often that I was actually splitting my personality up into two Tinas – the one that my friends knew and the one that my family knew. This was okay for a little while… until I realized how passionately I felt about my stand about having a voice.

I am at a point in my life where it’s not only important for me to share how I feel about things, about my experiences, fears and successes, but I have actually found it to be unbelievably compelling to watch the results of my vulnerability take the shape of new relationships, stronger bonds and an enormous respect overall for those around me.

This way of thinking does not bring me an endless supply of rainbows and puppy dogs. In fact, I feel like a complete stranger around my family these days. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and I am finding it a lot easier right now to avoid any kind of contact with them. As I mentioned before, I am the most open and comfortable with my dad, but find that even he doesn’t really want to talk much these days.

Ani Difranco is a musician my friend turned me on to. In one of her songs, she writes “I like you so much, I talk to everyone but you…” I wonder often if this is the challenge I have with my family…

But this is truly who I am. And I believe so strongly in having a voice and using it that I’m willing to be uncomfortable and face the repercussions of a society that likes to “look good” a lot more than it likes to be authentic.

Ani Difranco also wrote… “If you don’t ask the right questions, every answer feels wrong… I was a terrible waitress, so I started writing songs.”

Well, I’m not a terrible waitress. I’m a good waitress and an even better employee. I’m trustworthy, honest and genuinely care about the results of my restaurant. I deserve to be treated with the same respect that I’ve given the company since opening day. And when this doesn’t happen for me or others like me, you better believe I’m going to say something.

And I don’t care if my last day is a week from tomorrow (not that I’m counting down or anything), my voice gets to be heard because it matters. All of our voices matter. This is my stand and my song.

That’s why I wrote the email. That’s why I write these blogs. That’s why I upset my family and that’s why my friends love me. And at the end of the day, when my contact lenses are out, my makeup is washed off and I’ve loofahed the hell out of my skin, I crawl into bed and know that at least for today, I’ve honored my stand and used my voice.

A lot of people talk a big game about always telling the truth and being honest. I find that many of these people have no idea what it’s like to share authentically until they are face to face with someone like me. Because it’s not about telling things like you think they are, it’s about telling things like you experience them. This is where the power of the human connection lies. It’s not about being right. It’s simply about being heard.

Universe, please give me the strength to increase the decibels of my own voice. It’s loud but not yet loud enough. I still get hung up on looking good and not wanting to upset my listener. In my tenacity to turn the volume up, may it also increase the volume of all those voices around me who are fighting to be heard.

Give me this strength, please... because even if they make 10 the loudest, I still want to go to 11.

Friday, September 17, 2010

“Today, When a Girl Goes Out, She Better Have Two Hands, a Sweatshirt and a $50 Bill”

I wish I could take credit for the name of this blog. I subscribe to a fun and satirical online publication that sent out a recent editorial about the loss of certain things in life that used to be of utmost importance and this was a direct quote from the article. Cursive writing was mentioned, for example, as it is now barely taught in school since children are learning to type as young as kindergarten these days. Another was sewing – thank God, by the way as the only sewing I could ever do resulted in the form of a crooked scrunchie for my hair. What kind of girl has two thumbs and gets a C- in Home Economics class? This one.

The one lost behavior, and the reason for the aforementioned quote was that of chivalry.

I have had this conversation many times in my life. As a 30 year old woman living in 2010, the art of chivalry has been completely lost on me. Yes, there are many factors that go into this and it is quite likely that I simply haven’t attracted the right type of men. However, looking at our culture as it is and where it’s been in the last 20 years or so, it’s not surprising that the idea of having a door opened for me or a jacket handed over on a breezy night is not only rare, but almost completely extinct.

I find myself and many women of my generation to be a product of the Women’s Liberation Movement which, by the way, I am not a fan of. I think this would surprise most people. Many people who know me or have even just met me can tell that I am a strong minded, very opinionated, hard working woman. However, this is only based on the fact that I grew up thinking that this was the way I was supposed to be. My mother always worked and it seemed very commonplace growing up that women and men were to be seen as equals. So while this was the belief that I was used to, as soon as I was old enough to realize that it hadn’t always been this way, I felt a little robbed to be honest.

I think many people would look at me at first glance and consider me to be a feminist, once again, given my overall personality, my independent nature and the fact that I wear Vans out in public. The truth is, I’m all about the idea of being barefoot in the kitchen cooking a meal and keeping the house clean. Not all that crazy about the pregnancy part, but you get the point. I like the idea of taking care of my man and our habitat. More than that, I like the idea of my man taking care of me. I think that if we look back on the evolution of human beings, it is most definitely the circumstances of the world that have made us who we are today. For example, when all the men went off to fight in World War II, the women had to step in and take on masculine roles as there really wasn’t anybody else to do these tasks. Once these women realized that they didn’t have to stay at home and be secondary to everything, they got very excited and wanted to take on a bigger role in society. Thus, the revolution begins.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I think that there are a lot of very powerful women who have made remarkable changes in the world today and there are many more out there who are quite capable of continuing this trend. Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton come to mind… Sarah Palin, not so much… however, the problem with all of these women stepping up requesting equality is that the old fashioned idea of what it looks like for a man and a woman to take care of each other has been completely changed.

Think of it in caveman terms. The man’s job was to go out, work, hunt and provide for the family while the woman stayed back, raised the children, kept the home comfortable, clean and warm and gave the man a reason to get back up the next day to go out, work, hunt, provide and… well, you get the idea, yes? I know we aren’t cavemen and cavewomen anymore, but I find myself many times over wishing the same principles applied today.

I have been on countless dates in my life. There are many, many reasons why I am grateful that I met Jeremy and why I hope every day that he truly is the one I’ve been waiting for. Not far down on the list is so I never have to date again. Dating is a constant reminder of the fact that chivalry simply doesn’t exist as it used to. Yes, I have met men in my life that wouldn’t think about letting a woman pay for her food on a date or have to open the car door herself. But let’s be honest, how often do you really experience this kind of behavior?

I went out on a date with a Marine once. I am a big fan of military men not only because of their dedication to our country (even if I don’t believe in the reasons we choose to fight, I always believe in the hearts of those who wish to stand up for our freedom), and also because of the discipline that is either already a staple because of their upbringing or something they picked up from being in the service. I have many friends who are serving our country and love them with such a huge part of my heart that it actually hurts sometimes. However, this one doesn’t get to share in that special love… it was many, many years ago. In fact, it was 1998. I remember because we went and saw Saving Private Ryan in the theatre. As many of you know, the opening scene is a horrific depiction of the soldiers storming the beach at Normandie and getting slaughtered in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. It was shocking, brutal, violent and graphic. My date spent the entire opening scene trying to put his hand down my shirt and his tongue down my throat. Afterwards, we went for frozen yogurt and halfway through my delicious cookies and cream flavored delight, he removed it from my hand, declaring that I’d “had enough” and threw it away.

When I first moved to California, I met this guy at a house party. He asked me if I would be interested in going on a date the next week. I thought it was very sweet of him to officially ask me out so I said yes. He picked me up at my apartment, drove me to an In-N-Out on Sunset Boulevard (I was a vegetarian at the time), forked out the $3.50 for my grilled cheese sandwich that he watched me eat and then got back in the car and asked me to provide him with oral sex to complete the date.


One of my more recent boyfriends actually ran ahead of me to catch a door that was swinging shut, squeezed in quickly and proceeded to let it slam in my face. He also allowed me to go dutch on every meal that we shared in the year and a half we dated. Actually, that’s not true - he did pay for a few meals, following up his signature on his tab with the statement of “you can get the next one” to me and, believe me, he meant it.

I guess I can’t really blame a lot of these guys. As I am a product of the Women’s Lib Movement, so are they. The last one for example; his mom has been and remains to be the primary breadwinner in the family while his retired dad stays at home on the computer all day. My boyfriend of five years in California was the youngest of three boys who was raised by a single mom who worked 60 hours a week to keep the family fed, clothed and sheltered. I have a close friend who struggles with receiving a regular paycheck and lets his girlfriend of two months pay for everything. As in… everything... and she seems to be quite happy with the arrangement while she works full time and overtime in her demanding career.  

I know there are men out there who not only understand the idea of chivalry but can’t comprehend treating a woman the same as they would their regular drinking buddy. I’ve met men who were raised with the same idea that I have grown to be fond of… the idea that to take care of a woman who is willing to take care of you is the greatest gift of all. For both parties involved. And while I realize that this idea and way of thinking is not for everyone, it is something that deep down, I really hope I can be a part of one day.

In the meantime, knowing that we are all, to some extent, a product of our environment, I take what I can get. While I find it completely unnecessary to be notified whenever my guy needs to have a bowel movement, at least he has the decency to pay for breakfast on his way to the bathroom.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ring, Ring... "Hello?" "Hi, it's Tina - Have You Been Saved Today?" PART TWO

Cult [kult] n < L cultus, care cultivation 1 a system of religious worship or ritual 2 devoted attachment to a person, principle, etc. 3 a sect – cult’ism n. –cult’ist n.

The next week, I brought my brother to a guest event. He was high. I didn’t know he was high, but it wouldn’t have mattered. I was sending him to the training kicking and screaming. I’ve done very few things for my brother in his life but at a time when everyone else was ready to give up on him, I found a way that he could actually save himself. A lot of drama happened between the time he attended the guest event and the time he actually went to the training, however that’s either another blog or might just stay in the vault. Regardless, I got him there.

He had no place to live at the time so he was staying with me during his training. I was driving him back and forth every day and in the car rides as well as when we got home, we spoke about what he was experiencing and the different things that were opening up for him. I had never had conversations like this before with my brother. Once again, we were sharing on a level that was so deep and connected. It made me truly understand and appreciate the importance of the human bond. I realized that up until this point, our relationship had not only been strained, but even at its best, it had been superficial. I think I was starting to coming to terms with the fact that all of my relationships were only surface deep. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was have this kind of connection with everyone.

After his training, my brother was a transformed man. He had made a huge impact in his class and had received the support from all of his new friends to go out and change the world. One of the volunteer coaches in his class was able to help him find a job in his field and he had also met a girl there that he fell in love with, eventually married and just had his first child with. He never touched meth again.

While I know that it was ultimately my brother who stepped in and did the work, I am thankful every day that I was shown this path and had the opportunity to bring him with me. For this, I will forever remain in solemn gratitude for my experience with this training.
It was everything else that happened afterward that still tastes sour.

My first weekend of my leadership course was underway at the time my brother finished his two weeks of training. He had decided to take the leadership course as well but did not finish it. There are many times in my life I wish I would’ve made the same decision however as I know, each of us has a path to walk and even though I’m sure I would’ve had a lot less strain and stress had I ended my experience after the first nine days, attending the leadership portion definitely gave me knowledge I don’t know if I could’ve found anywhere else.

I spent a few days preparing my personal strategic plan, putting together very specific goals and how I intended on achieving them. I actually struggled very much with this as I was at a point in my life where I had no idea what I wanted. I knew I wanted to lose weight and save money, but the idea was to dream big and come up with goals that seemed completely unrealistic. Being a diehard realist, this was a challenge.
However, I was able to come up with some exciting goals and put them in my plan along with the required list of twenty-five people that we knew in our lives that could benefit from the training. Even at the time, I started feeling uncomfortable as I made that list. I knew I was going to be asked to go out and become a recruiter. I didn’t like the idea, however I was constantly reminded of the benefits of bringing others to the training every time I looked at my brother. Besides, I was a complete skeptic at the time when my friend brought me to the training and it had definitely changed me in a way that I never knew possible. So, I did the best I could to stay positive about what the “enrolling” process would look like.
Talk about a blur. In a nutshell, this is what the leadership portion looked like on paper: three full weekends, a meeting once a week, coaching calls that started out on a 2-3 times a week basis and eventually increased to daily calls, volunteer service at least one hour each week and the remaining hours were spent living our regular lives, working on our personal strategic plan goals and talking to people about the training. The idea was that after living one hundred days of life like this, anything was possible.

This is what leadership actually became: The first full weekend was spent talking about why we chose the program and what it meant to us. We were sent out on that first weekend to talk to our closest friends and family and enroll them into the training. We spent approximately two hours on the last day reviewing our personal goals and our plans for achieving them. Any time that was not packed with enrolling or our personal goals was filled up with activities that were similar to what we went through in the first two weeks of training, however even at the time, the intentions seemed different. I felt like we were being built up to amazing heights, being told we could do anything, change the world even, and then immediately sent out to make phone calls and visit our friends and family.

A few people I talked to that weekend that I considered to be some of my closest friends have, to this day, never spoken to me again.

Our weekly meeting was a mini-version of the weekend I just explained. We would walk in, dance around a bit to feel a bit silly and vulnerable and then sit down and take a poll around the room on whom we had enrolled that week. If someone had been enrolled, we would celebrate. If someone hadn’t, we would ask why and find out what kind of support would be necessary in order to turn this around. There would be more activities that were designed to show us what was blocking us from achieving our goals, however as the weeks went on, the reference was more to why we weren’t connecting with the people in our lives in a way that they would sign up for the training. At the end of each meeting, we would make a declaration on who we would be talking to that week and who, by the next week, would get to be saved.

In the first month, all of my friends from California were no longer speaking to me. In fact, I had received some of the most awful and horrifying phone calls and emails that I had ever taken in my whole life. The only person that I still kept in contact with was Nancy as she was the only person I wouldn’t talk to about the training.

The second weekend was what I remember as “enrollment weekend.” It’s basically all we did. I know that there were other things going on, like activities and what we called “stretches” which were sort of like dares that we put each other on in order to expand our belief system and what we thought we were capable of. Some of these were really exciting – like watching someone who was scared to be in front of people get up and do karaoke for the first time and rock the house – and some were ridiculous, like dressing up like bums and begging for money to ride the Big Shot at the Stratosphere. Some of them made sense and some of them still baffle me to this day. I suppose the ideas behind them were good and I find myself even today setting up stretches for myself every now and then, as a reminder that I can do things I didn’t think were possible.

Other than those activities, however, all I really remember about second weekend was being on the phone and driving to people’s houses. My mom and dad were having nothing to do with the training (my mom basically had a panic attack in the middle of a guest event) and my “closest” friends wanted nothing to do with me. Anyone who did seem interested told me it was too expensive or that they didn’t have time. So, I started teaming up with some of my other classmates and helping them with their enrollment conversations.

One of my worst memories of my leadership was during second weekend when we were being heavily pressured to come up with more enrollments and one of the men in my class said he wanted to go to his hairdresser’s house to enroll him and his boyfriend. All nine of us (the final number of “truly committed” people from the original 30) piled into two vehicles and drove to this man’s house. The rest of it plays out in my head like a bad television show that I was forced to watch. There we were, nine people – eight that this guy didn’t even know – sitting in his beautiful, multi-million dollar house in Anthem Country Club at 10:00pm on a Saturday night, trying to sell him on the idea that his life was not complete and that even though he had everything he wanted, that this training could somehow make him feel even more complete. And we wouldn’t take no for an answer.

After almost two hours, he finally filled out paperwork for himself and his boyfriend, wrote us a check and sent us on our way. He promptly cancelled the check the next morning and never spoke to his client again.

These are the things I remember most about my leadership training.

Our third weekend finally came and it started out as a scavenger hunt that, much to my delight, did NOT end with us having to enroll more people, but brought us up to a beautiful cabin outside of town where we basically spent some time going through a sort of catharsis over what we had experienced and then celebrated ourselves for deciding to take on our lives and live big.

Our goals? Very few of us actually achieved any of the personal goals we set out to accomplish. However, the person that enrolled the most people into the training received a very special title and was also given the “gift” of becoming a captain of an upcoming volunteer training team for another class.

I did not weigh any less, I had little to no money at all and my other goals… I can barely even remember what they were, let alone had I made any headway on achieving them.

After my leadership course, I became very disconnected from the program for a few months. However, the challenge was that I didn’t have any friends left from my past life. My new job and new surroundings were all people who had participated in the training. As a matter of fact, the person I was just speaking about who had enrolled the most people during our leadership had also enrolled me in becoming a marketing manager for his mortgage company.

He and I went to lunch one day and he told me about the team of coaches he was putting together for the next training course. He wanted me on it. I told him no. He told me he wanted to do something different. I told him no. He told me that he wanted to make it about achieving personal goals, like we thought our leadership was going to be about. I told him no. He told me that he wanted to take on the people who had coached and trained us and do things differently than they did. He wanted to make it about each individual person that took the class and help them actually achieve their goals and desires. He wanted to hold people accountable for their personal strategic plans and spend just as much time, if not more, on those goals than on the enrollment numbers. He wanted the people he coached to have a different experience than we did in our leadership. He wanted to see just how far he could put his toe over the line to change the way things were happening in the organization. He reminded me of how we felt after our first nine days and how we thought leadership was going to be an extension of that and how it should’ve been. “People should be seeing their friends and family with big results in their lives through their personal strategic plan and ask how they can get some. That should be how enrollments occur, not by going door to door and pressuring people the way we’ve seen it done and done it ourselves. Do we disagree that this experience changed our lives? Look at your brother. Look at my brother. We shouldn’t walk away from that completely, should we? Let’s take a stand… let’s piss some people off and do things our way.”

I told him I’d think about it.

The next week, there I was, sitting in the back of the room, a volunteer coach. What was I doing? The really cool thing was that I got to experience the first nine days of training again, with two new trainers and from a completely different perspective. Once again, watching the transformations of those in the class through the power of trust and sharing blew my mind. I was immediately brought back to how I felt and thought that perhaps my friend was on to something. Perhaps we could make a difference and do things our way. I started to fall in love with all of these people as they threw their preexisting belief systems to the side and started to see what was possible in their lives through the power of love and connection. By the time we were helping to celebrate the graduation from the first two weeks and gearing up for our one hundred day leadership training as coaches, I was convinced, once again, that I could change the world.

I could probably write an entire part three on how the following leadership went, but it would read very similarly to this one. Yes, there were definitely times when I felt like we were making a significant difference in these people’s lives and two of the people I coached will forever be in my soul as I felt I had an actual part in taking their hearts and opening them up. We did take a stand and there were some ugly moments with the trainers and the woman responsible for the whole organization. In fact, I recall being the only training team she actually threw her hands up in the air and walked out on because of our resistance to her message. That was pretty cool.

However, in the end, no matter what we did, it was all about enrollments. In fact, the person who received the highest honors during third weekend this time was, of course, the one with the most enrollments for the one hundred days but also the one that had connected the least with the class, had accomplished very few items on her personal strategic plan and was the coldest person I had worked with in the organization up to that point. She was also, conveniently, one of the wealthiest and most powerful people that had enrolled in the training. In that moment, it was finally crystal clear, as I had suspected from the very beginning that money and power were the primary reasons for what we were doing. Leave the “saving people” portion up to the churches.

Although, I think many of us can say that money and power sort of sums up many religions as well.

After I finished coaching, I faded into the background. Conveniently, the mortgage company I was working for closed and I found myself back at the restaurant I was working at when I first started the training. And, life resumes. I still keep in contact with a few people from the organization, but I definitely feel as if I took exactly what I needed from my experience, both the good and the bad, and bolted. Admittedly, there are moments where I wish I would never have done the trainings at all, however every time my sister-in-law posts a new picture of my nephew, I am quickly reminded about how lucky I was to be at that guest event so long ago. We don’t always know how far the ripples will go when we throw that first rock.

A few times, never by her directly, but by others, I’ve been asked why I never felt the need to enroll my friend Nancy into the training. It’s actually a couple of reasons – first, I was afraid she would stop talking to me as well… however, more importantly; I never felt she needed it. She was always my inspiration with the way she led her life without anyone’s permission and according to her own beliefs and desires. She has never gotten righteous on me, even at my most ignorant, and whenever I needed her, she was there. We speak about things of substance and laugh all the time. The kind of relationship I have with her is the kind I think is capable with every person in my life. And we didn’t need any kind of training to interfere.

I’ve never been much of a small talker. In fact, my least favorite subject is the weather (which, by the way, the universe has a pretty funny sense of humor in bringing me Jeremy who went to school to study meteorology). If there is anything I learned from my time in the training, it is that life is made up of a billion different experiences, all waiting to be shared in due time so that we can all connect on deeper levels. This is the purpose of my blog. For way too long, I was perfectly happy simply being right about everything and sitting back with my arms crossed. Now, I love the fact that I don’t know anything, but that through my own open, honest and uninhibited sharing, I am attracting new and powerful things into my space.

I have a long way to go. My mom and I still can’t find a way to communicate, my brother and I are back to our old ways and my dad simply runs interference all the time. I do my best to take it one day at a time and am constantly trying to “stretch” so that eventually, I can have the kind of relationships that I’ve always wanted.

Jeremy, I love you for living your life on purpose and always willing to get uncomfortable in our conversations, especially this early on in our relationship.

 Maryann, I love you for standing by your beliefs and asking for respect.
Nancy, I love you for your acceptance of people as they are and for allowing them the space to be themselves without needing an excuse.

 Travis, I love you for wanting a healthy world and not being attached to what it looks like.
Nick, I love you for taking a stand against everyone who says you should be different. Different is exactly what you are, and that’s where the beauty is.

Mom, I love you without having to understand you.

Dad, I love you for your ambition and fearlessness and for always trying something new.

Erin, I love you and your big heart.

J.J. I love you for choosing to save yourself.

And Tina, I love you for taking risks, for believing in yourself and for taking the road less traveled every time the fork comes. It’s scary, difficult and lonely many times over… but I love you for knowing in your heart that the other way is simply not for you. Stay strong through the tears and you will be rewarded beyond your imagination.  
Out of all the people I was asked to save, the only one I actually did… was me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ring, Ring... "Hello?" "Hi, it's Tina - Have You Been Saved Today?" PART ONE

Cult [kult] n < L cultus, care, cultivation 1 a system of religious worship or ritual 2 devoted attachment to a person, principle, etc. 3 a sect – cult’ism n. –cult’ist n.

It all started when a six foot four, 250 pound black man named Earl looked me in the eyes as if he had known me my entire life and asked me, in the most sincere way I had ever heard “What do you want?”

I remember feeling something shift inside of me. I felt as if I was the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz movie and Dorothy had just found out that I wasn’t the all powerful being I claimed to be. Suddenly, I was this little girl, sobbing in the arms of a man I had met seven minutes prior to this. Everything I had ever wanted started flashing in my mind as if I were watching a movie and observing the main character’s near-death experience. All of these images became a frenzy in my head as I realized in that moment that all I ever wanted was nothing that I had. In that same moment, I would have done anything to have them. Anything.

No, this was not a religious experience. I was not at church. No one was trying to convince me to give myself to God and let Him take over.

I was at a guest event for a highly intense Personal Effectiveness and Leadership course. For many reasons, I am going to leave the company nameless.

For a considerable fee, I could take a nine-day course that would not only help me identify the things in my life that I wanted, but I would also figure out what was blocking me from having said “things” come into my life. I would have a team of people working with me as well as a personal coach that would be there to guide me through the process and answer any questions I might have along the way. At the end of nine-days, I would have a different outlook on my life and its accomplishments and have the necessary tools I would need to transform everything I was into everything I could be.

Sounded good to me. After all, I’d been trying to achieve this through church for years but the problem with that is that I had to continue going and listening to the constant ramblings of a belief system that was put into place long before any of us even existed and had played the game of “telephone” time and time again, only to leave me with seven hundred different dissections of one scripture. The fast-track seemed like a much better option to me. Besides, leaving my fate up to God, whom I’ve had a very rocky relationship with my entire life, seemed ridiculous now that I understood I could simply take the wheel and steer it in whatever direction I wanted to.

Before the woman who was hosting the guest event could even finish her pitch, I was already at the back table with Earl, filling out all of my personal information as well as clearly writing down each and every number of my credit card so that I would be guaranteed a seat in the next class that would be starting in a week. I was excited about this opportunity. It had been a long time since I felt excited about something. I had only been in Las Vegas for six months, but it was the loneliest and most depressing six months I could remember having. I had no direction and no desire to do anything of substance. The only reason I was at the guest event to begin with was because the guy I was sleeping with had just finished with the course and asked me to attend. I felt like Ally Sheedy’s character in the Breakfast Club; taking time out of my day to learn about how to change my life exponentially and live without limits - all because I really didn’t have anything better to do that particular evening.

I went home that night and knew that I was on to something big. I couldn’t believe I had just put that amount of money on my credit card, but then again, it was only money, right? How much is happiness worth, after all? Earl had me convinced that I was making the decision of my lifetime. The last thing most people would ever call me is dumb or na├»ve. Therefore, I was very confident that I was making the smartest decision I had made in years.

The first five days of the training were unbelievable. The trainer was dynamic and powerful, the lessons intriguing. There were no notebooks, no videos; all of the learning was experiential. There was a lot of music involved and countless activities took place. Some of these were done solo, some with a partner, some with a small group of people and still others with the entire class. Each night we had homework to do and the homework was always of a remarkably profound nature – consistently exercising my brain in ways that I had never used it before. Each day, hours before the next class, I had a call with one of the volunteer coaches to discuss how I was feeling and what emotions were coming up for me. Each call was to get me ready for what was going to take place in the next class. In the first five days, I learned all about personal responsibility, the power of intention and universal law, specifically the law of attraction. I learned that there was no such thing as victimization and that everything we have is exactly what we think we deserve. All of these ideas were so new and refreshing yet, at the same time, they made so much sense. I finally found something that was consistent with what I felt I had always known but that was the complete opposite of everything I had been told in church and in youth groups. By the end of the fifth day, I watched even the most skeptical of classmates change their energy and opinion on subjects they had been stubborn on their whole life. I felt like I was part of something special.

There was a week off in between the first five day class and the second class, which was four days long. Throughout this week, I had two calls with my personal coach and a little bit more homework to do. I was anxious and excited about what else was left to learn. I was already doing things I wouldn’t normally do, like calling my mom out of the blue to tell her I loved her and making amends with people in my past that I had wronged. It seemed like I was in my own 12-step program only the addiction I was getting rid of was the addiction to my own self-image and insecurities. I was uncomfortable yet persevered through all of the difficult tasks assigned to me that were designed to get me prepared for the second half the course.

I walked into class the following week, hugged my new friends, talked about the things that had opened up for me and how the sun seemed to be shining a little brighter than I remember, the sky a little more blue. Everyone agreed. The time ticked down to the start of the class and we all got to our seats, ready to tackle the next task at hand.

This class had a new trainer. I was so in love with the trainer from the last class and knew that this one had to be even better. My stomach flipped around as she walked into the room and I put myself in open-body position, ready to receive the lessons that were bound to flow my way.

Blindsided doesn’t quite cover it.

For the next eight hours, we were insulted, screamed at, humiliated and made to feel like the most unworthy specs of dust that every dared to settle on the ground. Knowing that it was all part of the territory, the majority of us held our heads up, took the flying curse words in stride and did our best to play the part that we knew we needed to in order to get the message that was, hopefully, coming our way. Not everyone shared our “enthusiasm”. A few people got up and left the class, disgusted. A few others tried to argue back, only to be shot down again and again with the expert lashing of the well seasoned trainer. Some stayed until the end of that first day, but did not return to complete the class.

And me? Well I was absolutely fucking fascinated!!

Once again, this was not church! They don’t use the f-word in church! They don’t call you a piece of shit in church! Well, they sort of do, but only in that tragically passive aggressive way that we all know as Catholicism. This was the most in-your-face-take-it-or-get-the-hell-out kind of learning I had ever experienced. And I was eating it up left and right. Yes, it was horrible and yes, I spent a lot of time in tears. However, the people who stayed in the class and put forth the effort that was being requested of them started opening up and sharing. Sharing. In the most authentic and beautiful way that I have ever encountered. Sharing about their fears and their past experiences. Sharing about being molested, gang-raped, killing another human being, incest, adultery, abortion, sibling rivalry of the worst kind, addictions and the desires to DO some of these things. And the people in this class were normal, well-functioning members of society! This was our naked world. Confession had nothing on the kind of catharsis we were going through.

This continued for four days. Four very long and exhausting days (although in retrospect, everything is kind of a blur). I watched some of the most amazing transformations happen right before my eyes. I realized what my own personal vision for the world was and how I could play my part in making it a reality. I saw opportunities for myself, my friends and my family that I had never thought was possible. I remember very clearly after class one night, driving home in a state of deep thought and calling my mom to tell her that I found the way to get my brother off of meth once and for all. Knowing how intelligent my brother was underneath his addiction, I knew that if he could see and experience the things that I just did, there would be no way he would choose to go back to the lifestyle he was leading.

On the fourth day, I looked around at the faces of the people I just spent this time with and knowing that, realistically, I wouldn’t see many of them every again, I took some time to really love each and every one of them for who they were. Before and after this course. I loved them for deciding to take on their life and for opening themselves up to a roomful of strangers, only to be rewarded with acceptance and love. I looked at my trainer and loved her for her commitment to the work she was doing and thought of how satisfying it must be for her to play such a huge role in changing people’s lives. I was proud of myself for my decision and excited about taking my new tools out into the world and making changes that would bring me the gifts in life that I had always wanted.

As the class started to wrap up and we began to prepare for our graduation ceremony, a bunch of extra volunteers came into the room with clipboards and paperwork. We all got into small groups and a volunteer came to speak to us. As it turned out, there was an extension of the training that we could sign up for.

For another considerable fee, we could sign up for the one hundred day Leadership course where we would work with our small group, a “buddy” and a personal coach on a daily basis to ensure that we were taking the tools that we had just received and using them in a way that fulfilled our lives. We would be putting together a personal strategic plan with very specific goals that someone would support us in being accountable for, thereby increasing our chances of success by tenfold. Always wanted to buy a home? Want to finally lose that 50 pounds you keep saying you are going to lose? Ready to finally find the relationship of your dreams? Once again, it all sounded pretty good to me! Besides, I had already established such strong connections with so many people in my class these past nine days that the thought of having their support for the next one hundred days seemed like a wonderful way to ensure accountability.

I admit, I struggled with the time commitment and the fact I would need to put this additional fee on my credit card as well. However, in the end, the trainer, my classmates and the volunteer coaches enrolled me in the idea that I could change the world. So, there went my name on the dotted line.

I was going to do big things, I could feel it…

Monday, September 6, 2010

“You’ll Never Work In This Town Again!”

This is a direct quote from my General Manager, Randy Froschheuser at the restaurant I just resigned from. He wanted to make sure I quoted him in my next blog.

This was a quote made in jest, of course. As always, Randy was extremely supportive in my decision to follow a new path and see where it takes me. He calls me his surfer chick… just waiting for the next wave to catch and see where the tide goes. I like to think that this IS exactly how I am, although I know more than anyone else that I have been sitting comfortably on the beach for just a little too long. His support simply confirmed that I am ready for a new challenge.

As an hourly employee with a strong work ethic, I couldn’t ask for a better boss than Randy. His quote made me release a pure, genuine laugh and instantly gave me inspiration for this blog as I felt compelled to tell a story about this man whom I’ll always remember and never work for again.

About two years ago (give or take), Randy fired me. He never actually had a chance to use those exact words, but when I walked into the office late that Saturday night, I knew he had made the difficult decision to let me go. Not difficult because of what I had done, but difficult because of who I was.

I’m what I like to call a “late in life” server. My high school years were spent as a Sandwich Artist and then in college, I took the retail route (seems the majority of us are given the two roads to follow; the other being food and beverage) before getting into the sales side of the hotel industry after graduation. However, when nothing else in my life both fulfilled me and gave me a steady paycheck, I decided to apply for a job at a casual dining restaurant to help make ends meet.

I can truly say that serving is a job that I actually enjoy. It’s fairly stress free, doesn’t require a huge amount of thinking and comes with little to no responsibility. Plus, if done well and with the right establishment, it can produce a much higher income than even the average “good job” that one can get right out of college. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the restaurant I work for is this particular establishment, but it has certainly been sufficient while I scrambled around aimlessly on my most recent trail.

The movie “Waiting” is a fairly good depiction of life as a server in a casual dining restaurant, although, honestly – if I worked with Ryan Reynolds and got to see that six-pack on a somewhat regular basis, not even $20,000 could get me to leave. However, I digress… I have made some great friends, some pretty decent money and even learned a lot about the basics of preparing food. Unfortunately, the absolute worst part about the job is the people that I wait on.

Don’t get me wrong, I would say that it’s about 70/30 as far as perfectly normal people vs. the ones I would be willing to serve a hate crime sentence for. However, that 30% can really get under my skin and if I’ve already had a bad day, my frustration is amplified to the point of boiling over. I will admit, after my brief six-month stint as a manager, my tolerance as a server has improved dramatically and I don’t get quite as angry as I used to. Now, the only people that really tempt me to engage my weapons are the regular drunks that come in two to three times a day and ask me ridiculous questions just to hear themselves talk, or the rude, demanding and offensive ones that forget they are paying just $10 for a pretty decent burger and get unlimited refills on their strawberry lemonade.

Again, I digress…

The irony about that whole night two years ago is that it was probably one of my top ten biggest nights financially, certainly one of the highest ever at that time. Unlike other nights, though, where the money flows easily and everyone is happy and friendly, this night mirrored the home of Hades. I got my ass handed to me. I remember I was a closing server and it was one of those evenings where I clocked in only to find out I had already been double-sat and it never stopped from that point on. I ran and ran, was bossed around all night long, had terrible support from the servers around me and while I mentioned how much I love Randy, since he is the General Manager, the stress level in the kitchen is always noticeably higher when he is there as opposed to one of the other managers who is most likely just trying to get through the night so they can collect another paycheck.

Needless to say, when asked to pick up a table out of my section at five minutes to closing time, the words “Happy Camper” did not compute.

I did it anyway, of course and, of course, the party of two were not exactly dressed to impress as they grumpily sat down at a table and barked out a drink order without looking at me. They proceeded to order two steaks and eat with their heads down, shoveling the food into their mouths and grunting almost inaudibly their satisfaction when asked how everything was.

At the end of the meal, I dropped their check, cleared their plates and waited for payment. I ran their credit card, thanked them for their business and went to the back to finish up my sidework before having to clean my fifteen tables that I had picked up throughout the evening. When I went back out front, the credit card slip was sitting on the table waiting for me. The bill was in the neighborhood of $30. Sloppily written on the tip line was my “thanks” for the service. One dollar.

One dollar?

One. Dollar.

So, even though I knew it was the stupidest move I could possibly make and even though I had well over a hundred and forty of those dollars in my pocket already, I walked to the front where the couple was raiding our mint basket and handed them back their copy of the receipt where I told them I adjusted their tip and I would be happy taking nothing for my services that night. Then, to prevent the follow up statement of “Don’t let the door hit you in the…” well, you get it… I turned on a heel and stomped back to the kitchen.

The couple asked for the manager.

After speaking with them up front for a few minutes, Randy came back and asked me if what they told him was true. Still defiant, I said yes. He simply said “you shouldn’t have done that”, walked away, and that was the last I saw of him for about an hour. I knew I was in for it. I knew for certain I was getting written up. However, it wasn’t until I walked into the office and looked at Randy that I knew it was much more serious than that.

By this time, I had already cooled off and was now just feeling humiliated for my behavior. I immediately told Randy that what I did was wrong and that I simply lost my head for a minute. I said that it was something he could count on me to never do again as it was not worth losing my job over.

“What makes you think you haven’t already lost your job?” he replied.

That’s when I started to cry. Not because of my stupid move (well, yes, that was part of it), but I cried the way one cries when they find out that a parent is no longer angry with them for something they did, but are now disappointed. Randy was disappointed in me. I knew he had to fire me. His values and morals as a General Manager never wavered and this kind of behavior was absolutely unacceptable. I wept because I knew that I was better than what I had done and now Randy was going to have to make the decision to let one of his best employees go because of a momentary lapse in judgment that was made out of anger and stupidity.

I took responsibility for what I did, told him I understood what he needed to do, but asked him to reconsider anyway. I assured him that this was not something I was going to take lightly and that I wanted a second chance to prove to him that he didn’t need to be disappointed in me. Truly, I think I wanted that second chance to prove to myself that I was a better human than that. I don’t need to make people feel stupid and cheap in order to confirm my frustrations with society. Anyone who has ever been in a tipped position knows that poor compensation for services provided is just part of the territory. I had someone hand me a $50 bill for no reason whatsoever and I didn’t have to work for it at all. In the service industry, the pendulum swings both ways but in the end, it always seems to work out just fine. I knew that being a good and productive server meant looking at the money made each night as a whole, not to dissect individual tips on tables and let it ruin my evening. I knew all this and wanted Randy to give me another chance so that I could prove my worth.

We spoke in length for about 45 minutes. Even though it was already coming up on 1:00am and I knew he had a lot of work left to do in order to shut down the restaurant, he took all the time necessary with me and, in the end, he told me that he was going to take the night to think about everything. Knowing Randy, I knew this meant that he had changed his mind. I also knew that it was the first time he had ever changed his mind about firing someone after such an offense. He was taking a chance by keeping me employed and I made an honest vow right there to never make him regret his decision.

I told him that I was concerned about one thing and that was that no matter what happened this would always be something that would be held over my head, like the lingering dark clouds after a fierce storm. In that moment, Randy looked at me straight in the eye and with absolute conviction, he told me that he would never mention the incident ever again.

And he never did.

Within a year after all this, I received the honor of becoming Employee of the Month twice and then was entered into management with Randy’s blessing. When I was getting ready to go into the training portion of my management program, which would be taking place in another store, I took some time in the office to thank Randy for all his support and also to let him know how much I respected him as a person for never mentioning that incident. Without missing a beat, he said “I told you I wouldn’t and I keep my promises”.

On a side note, like so many other dumb things I do, I don’t regret returning that tip. Yes, I feel bad, however, I’ve thought a lot about that couple since that night. I’ve made up a few stories in my head but the one that keeps me humble is the one where the couple is down and out, having led a life of difficulties and struggles and one night a year, they decide to treat themselves to a “date night” where they eat a decent steak and share some time together without the daily grind of life weighing them down. And maybe they couldn’t even afford to give me that dollar, but they did anyway because they wanted to show their appreciation. I’m reminded of this story every time another server complains about a tip or if I receive a less than favorable one myself. I remember that not everyone has it easy and that tips are absolutely voluntary. Again… that’s the nature of the business.

I’ll miss working for Randy. Like I said before, he is easy to work for because of his consistency and strong work ethic. I sort of feel bad about writing this blog as he had asked me that night not to mention this to anyone as I know he didn’t want people to think it was acceptable to do what I did. However, I hope he will forgive me as my ultimate intention is to praise him for the tremendous boss he has been.

I am very confident that I will be successful as a writer. I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but it is my passion and I have the love and support to make it happen. Most importantly, I want it badly. With that said, should things go a bit pear shaped or if it turns out the time is not right for me as a writer, I may find myself back in the service industry. However, I know it will be for a different restaurant as I have spent all the time allotted for me by the universe in that particular job.

I will think of Randy and remember him fondly many, many times for the rest of my life. And when I hear him say “You will never work in this town again!” like he did the other day in his humorous way, I can only hope that, once again, he is right.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"You Don't Call It Champagne... You Call It F***ing Cristal!"

Well here I am, month two since I started my project of placing rules and restrictions on myself in order to better my life and attract new and amazing things into my space. Obviously, based on my last few posts, things have gotten... a little blurry to say the least.

I have a fan. A huge fan. Not necessarily the break into your home and scream wildly holding an autographed picture covered with hearts written in blood kind of fan... but a pretty large support system wrapped up in a 5'11" tall package with spiky hair and a Hurley t-shirt. I'm not sure I've ever had someone believe in me quite the way he does - to the point where he's willing to put his money (literally) where his mouth is. I am curious as to where all of his faith in me comes from but he simply looks at me with his intensely serious eyes and asks me why he shouldn't have such faith. After all, I'm amazing, he says.

Sigh. Why is it so hard to feel good about myself?

We went to dinner last night at a lovely steakhouse here at the Harrah's Rincon property in North San Diego County. As I always do when going to a fine dining establishment, I wore a dress; just to make sure I felt as uncomfortable as possible. As if sitting down and being served a meal that costs more than I make in a weekend isn't unnerving enough. As we settled into our booth and the fourth or fifth person came by to make sure we were okay (being a high limit gambler definitely has its perks - nose deep ass kissing turns out to be one of them), Jeremy handed me the wine list and told me to pick out a bottle. As I did any other time, I scanned the list to find the reds and then immediately looked to the furthest right column to compare prices. From there, I worked my way to the left and picked out a wine according to price first, than the year, then the location of the vineyard and finally, the actual name of the wine as I don't order anything I can't pronounce (flashback to that scene in Showgirls where Elizabeth Berkley proudly announces she is wearing a dress by "ver-sayce"). I settled on a nice Australian Pinot Noir that wasn't the most expensive wine in that category but not the cheapest either. I figured it would be a nice middle ground and would complement my 8 ounce Filet quite nicely. I handed the list back to Jeremy and happily announced my choice. He looked at the menu.

"Really? That's cheap!! Let's go with the $650 bordeaux."

My first emotion was embarrassment. Then frustration - I mean, he asked me to pick out the wine based on what I wanted and what I wanted was a Pinot Noir. Then it was overall humiliation and in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to put my jeans and t-shirt back on and go back to the Outback where a medium rare steak never comes out cooked right and a Newcastle is always the right choice.

I like to think of myself as adventuresome and somewhat fearless. I am not afraid of change and I think that is probably the reason why I am as successful as a human being as I am. However, I am also very, very fond of my comfort zone. Being outside of it makes me weary and stressed. I am fully aware of my need to expand this safety container which is why I am always setting new goals and challenges for myself. I just wish I could share the same emotions about my own personal worthiness and the issues that arise with money because of this belief.

Look, I know I'm the shit. I'm confident in my abilities as a communicator, I have an unbelievable work ethic, people can count on me in times of need and I speak my mind with only hints of righteousness but more so with good and purposeful intentions. And I'm not bad looking either. I have a lot to be thankful for and happy about. However, somewhere along the line, my ideas of what I deserve got a little screwed up. It is this particular insecurity that has me so concerned about taking on this venture of not being gainfully employed as a worker bee and branching out on my own in an attempt to make my own rules and write my own paycheck. I believe without a doubt that money is simply a form of energy and that we attract exactly what we think we deserve. And I feel like I deserve a $38 bottle of wine. Jeremy, on the other hand, believes he deserves a $650 bottle of bordeaux. It is this very specific difference in our way of thinking that is reflected in the fact that I spent weeks stressing out over booking a room in San Diego for my birthday and ended up with a very conservative overpriced small room without a view and a bathroom that I only fit in because I am a size 2 compared to the three bedroom, two bathroom suite with a balcony overlooking Valley Center we are staying in that Jeremy didn't have to pay a dime for. He knows without a doubt in HIS mind that he deserves every bit of what is given to him. And he is given quite a bit.

Spiritual masters often speak of individuals' energy fields. For example, when I first walked into the bar where I met Jeremy, I felt his energy from across the room. Truthfully, I felt it through his emails. Jeremy's energetic field is so large and attractive that energy in all sorts of different forms flows to him almost effortlessly. I know that it hasn't always been this way and that he has had his share of trials and tribulations throughout the years. But like so many other things in his life, he has learned how to master the artful skill of attraction and knows that the secret to getting what we want out of life is to be grateful for what we already have and know that we deserve only the best in addition to this belief.

I feel as if my energetic field has dimmed a bit over the years. Not unlike the pendulum that Travis describes, it has swung in extremes in both directions and now, I feel it sort of slowly rocking back and forth, waiting for it's opportunity to finally settle in a place of contentment and peace. However, in order to have this, I know that I must find a way to feel worthy of everything I want out of life. This was one of my main focuses when putting The Rules in place.

So, what's the update with the rules? Yes, I suppose I shouldn't avoid this one any longer.

No, I decided not to ask Jeremy to wait a year to have sex with me. And yes, I took some of my own money and played some keno as well as some poker over the last week. No, I have not even considered smoking a cigarette (just heard that Racheal Ray is a chain-smoker?? And I thought she was born with that sexy raspy voice) and the thought of getting high seems to be very juvenile and pointless, if not counterproductive given the mountain I am climbing. And while I really don't have too many hangups about having a cocktail while sitting in the lounge in the hotel waiting for my turn to go up and butcher a Shania Twain song, I still very happily and contently hold on to my beer. I don't really miss hangovers enough to start back on the hard liquor anyway.

I am learning a lot in this whole process but admittedly, the lessons that are coming up for me are not necessarily the ones that I expected. I thought it would take me the entire year, or at least a good portion of it, to start seeing some significant results from my new way of thinking. However, it's been two months and already, my entire life is different with a brand new AMAZING opportunity sitting right in front of me (okay, technically he's lying next to me). As Jeremy stated, my life began it's shift that day two months ago in Mimi's Cafe when, in so many words, I told myself I had had it with the way I was living my life and wanted a change of mammoth proportions. Making that declaration alone created the shift and The Rules simply became something to do while I was getting used to my new energy field.

I still take them seriously, don't get me wrong. I don't feel bad about choosing to sleep with the man that I'm pretty confident I'll be sleeping with for the rest of my life... and I don't feel that bad about the gambling either, considering that it is a useful way to help me get over my fear of having money. Plus, being around a professional gambler, I worry a lot less about the implications of putting $20 into a keno machine every now and then. I have given myself the biggest gift of all in no longer smoking and my belly (and wallet) is very happy with my choice to stay of the liquor.

And now, for my next trick, I shall cut in half this former version of myself that doesn't believe I am worth a $650 bottle of bordeaux and put it back together to see it rise from the wooden box a prosperous and powerful woman, with clear intentions of bringing my talent into a space where the whole world can see it. And when I do get that first advance on a book, I'll know with absolute certainty that I am worthy of every penny I receive and more.

I might still order the $38 Pinot Noir, though. Because damn, that was a tasty wine.