Tuesday, December 24, 2013

think kit day twenty-four: grateful

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Today's Think Kit blogging prompt: What are you grateful for this year?
I'm a walking ball of gratitude, so I challenged myself to narrow it down to one thing. Otherwise this would be a list of rainbows and ponies and kittens and figgy pudding.

I'm am grateful for my job with Second Helpings
My job combines my education (Purdue - restaurant management), experience (25+ years in the food service industry), and passion (who doesn't want to feed and educate people?).

I get to be creative and active and think outside box and make decisions on the fly. 
I have amazing coworkers and get to work with fabulous volunteers. 

And my job allows me to support myself and be active in the community. 

Yep. I'm grateful for my job.

Monday, December 23, 2013

think kit day twenty-three - switch it up


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Today's Think Kit blogging prompt: Look at your surroundings as if you're seeing them for the first time – take a walk in your 'hood, explore your basement, or visit a favorite spot. What do you notice?
I've been thinking about my work desk a lot. My job features frequent interruptions. Sometimes for actual fires and people bleeding on my carpeting. Other times it is for a question or to tell me a story or ask me to taste something. If I had to stop and file something every single time I got interrupted I'd spend all of my time filing.

I seem to work well amid the piles and chaos. I know where everything is. Really.

I've been know to spout off this Einstein quote at anyone looking askew at my desk, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

And who decided what constitutes an efficient workplace? Why can't I give a superior look to clean desks?

I can question the norm of clean desks forever, but the reality is that people get judgy about office cleanliness. Today has been relatively quiet so I'm spent the day cleaning the desk - or at least putting things in to neat piles.

It won't last. Trust me.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

think kit day four - wisest decision

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Today's Think Kit blogging prompt: What was the wisest decision you made this year? Did it change your "everyday", move something from Point A to Point B, or involve others?

My wisest decision this year was to go for it!

I come from a long line of ruminators. You’ve met the likes of us before. We’re the if only people. If only I had said that /not said that/ turned left/turned right/stayed home/gone out/broken up with him/not broken up with him/had the perfect haircut/let my hair grow/worn that/not worn that/blah blah blah. 

I’m one of those woulda shoulda coulda kind of people.

I avoided one of those times this summer. I'd learned just a few days before that Helen was putting her house (home of the Flower Man Jam) up for auction. I’d always pictured that someday I would live there.   

 Once the shock wore off I dismissed the idea thinking that there is no way that I could pull it all together to place a bid and I accepted it as fate, while mentally beating myself up for not having buckets of money in the bank.

Then I spent a few hours with Helen in her backyard that Sunday. I woke up Monday morning determined that I should figure out what my options were. I ran around my house like a nut and gathered up and scanned last year’s W2s and tax return, and my current pay stub.  I e-mailed them with a link to the auction and details to the mortgage officer at my bank.  I was in an off-site board retreat/planning session most of the day and didn’t realize that the e-mail to the loan officer had flipped back to me. I stopped at the bank on the way from the meeting to work and learned that the contact I had was long gone, someone had replaced him, that guy quit, and the “new” loan officer hadn’t started yet. I stopped at another branch of my bank and learned that the loan officer for that branch was on vacation. Again I decided that it must be fate and I mentally gave up on the idea - while wondering why the heck they don't forward bank e-mails to the current people. 

Then I remembered that I had a mortgage broker from when I purchased my house. I shot her a quick e-mail and she responded immediately. In 36 hours she had me pre-approved for a mortgage. A heroic feat, really.

It forced me to examine my current living situation and whether I wanted to let the double go to make the move to house Helen's. After crunching numbers I decided that untimely I wanted to keep the rental property. After almost six years I’ve gotten things manageable enough that renting out both sides would cover the cost of my mortgage loan, property taxes, and insurance – but not much cushion for emergency repairs or vacancies. Armed with the numbers, I decided that if push came to shove I wouldn’t sell the double in order to buy Helen’s house.

I was a Nervous Nelly, arriving two hours before the auction and was the first to register and get my bidding number. I let Helen know that I would be bidding and she gave me free rein to poke in the attic and cellar. The house is quirky and old – the ‘new’ part was added 123 years ago to an existing log cabin. It was really interesting to see the different foundations in the basement. A friend was with me and he used his plumbing and electrical expertise to look at the mechanics of the place. The plumbing is new, but the electrical system harked back to the 1930s. 

The roof and decking looked great. As I was immediately smitten with the attic – as wide as the house with a tall roofline and several windows. It almost doubled the size of the living space and I could picture myself with a chair tucked in the corner and the computer on my lap. I mentally upped my maximum bidding amount.

There had been lots of ‘tire-kicking’ on the house and the auction company thought there would be some heavy bidding and I was hoping so for Helen’s sake. I was going in to the auction wanting the house, but hoping that Helen would get tons more money than I could afford.

As it turned out there were only two bidders, me and another guy. As I farm kid I am pretty comfortable with the auction process, but I’ve never been a participant in anything bigger than bidding on a potato fork or box of wrapping paper. 

I took my seat on the lawn chair with the dozen or so folks gathered in Helen’s back yard.
The auctioneer started out high and I was afraid to breathe. After no one bid, the auctioneer asked for an opening bid. A bidder opened at $100,000, a mere $10,000 more than the in-my-head maximum.  Yikkes. I was pre-approved for more, so I bid $105,000. Gulp. He countered at $110,000. I bid $115,000. He bid $120,000. My dad was looking green in the lawn chair next to me. I went to $125,000. Dad was shaking his head vigorously back and forth and looking a little green. The other bidder offered $130,000. I started shaking my head no.

The auctioneer took Helen into the house for a conference and they came out and re-opened the bidding. I bid $1,000 more, he bid another $1,000, I upped it by $1,000, and he upped it one thousand dollars to $134,000. I was out. After another in-the-house conference between Helen and the auctioneer they came out and announced the house was sold to the other bidder.

I could have gone higher, but I would have had to sell the double and I wasn’t ready to do that yet. It was emotional and heart-breaking, but I gave it my best shot.

Even though I didn't get the house, I feel wiser for trying. 

And if the house ever goes back up for sale, I'll be the first in line.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

think kit day three - share something strange

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Today's Think Kit blogging prompt: Share the strangest experience of your year. Did you do something new or unexpected, see something out of the ordinary, or have a unique experience? What was so strange about it?

In some ways my life is one big ball of strange.

I work for an amazing nonprofit agency, have two great part-time jobs, am a columnist for a terrific neighborhood paper, and a few occasional freelance writing gigs. I love each and everything thing I do, even though I'm occasionally overwhelmed.

Second Helpings is unique - there is nothing exactly like it in the country. My work day is always different and typically at least a little strange. We rescue two million pounds of food a year and within hours turn it into thousands of nutrient dense meals. Did I mention the volunteer force of 600? Or the culinary job training program for unemployed adults who are struggling with barriers including incarceration, homelessness, and addiction?

Applying pressure to a bleeding wound, giving a tour to a donor, figuring out what to do with pallets of cabbage (that's a lot of cabbage), interviewing potential students, mopping the floor, answering mail, and meeting with co-workers is all in a day's work. Today, as a matter of fact.

Both the Red Key and Marigold are one-of-a-kind jobs with their own brand of fun strangeness.

Since strange seems to be my normal, I went for "out of the ordinary" for this prompt.

How many of you had a wedding in your backyard this year? 

Robin and I worked years worth of Saturday nights at the Red Key together - in lots of ways she knew me better than anyone. We would catch up in the news of week in 90 second bites. It usually centered around not-so-great relationships and such. I was so happy for when she met Tony - I could tell she was smitten and soon they were planning their wedding.

Finding a wedding spot that had enough room and would allow them to bring their own amazing home-made food, family made wine, and craft beer was proving to be a challenge.

I was thrilled when they took me up on the offer of my backyard for their special day. I am lucky enough to have a yard that is large, full of mature trees, and opens to the Monon Trail. Robin and Tony did most of the work of whipping the yard into shape - I'd let nature take over the lawn the last few years.

It was a beautiful day of sunshine, love, and community. Not the least bit strange, really.

Who wants to get married in my backyard this year?

Monday, December 02, 2013

think kit: day two - take a poll

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Today's Think Kit blogging prompt: Take a poll and share the results. Is there something you've been curious about? A decision you're struggling with? Ask the crowd, and report back on what the results might mean.

I went off topic today - my Aunt Lucille's funeral was this morning. She was a terrific big sister to my Dad, raised eight of my favorite people, took me to my first college basketball game, and was a heck of a Euchre player. And she was a fun and willing road trip companion for Dad and I got to be part of that. 

I'd spend the last few days feeling sad. I was sad for my cousins who had lost their mother. I was sad for Dad who lost the last of his eight siblings. I was just plain old sad.

I'd read the prompt before I left for the funeral, but taking a poll under the circumstances seemed a little weird. All I could think of was deathy stuff....cremated or buried? Open casket or closed? Flowers or donations to a charity? You can see where my mind was.

After the funeral home and Mass and cemetery and delicious chicken dinner prepared by the "church ladies," a group of us cousins gathered at their childhood home. I realized that we were taking our own polls amongst ourselves.  What was your favorite Aunt Lu memory? What crazy thing did you remember from family gatherings? Who was the best Euchre player? 

After laughter and tears and beers and cards I had the answer to the unasked poll: Family. Family is the most important thing.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

think kit day one - your year in photos

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Today's Think Kit blogging prompt: Document your year in photos. Did one photo encapsulate your year? Maybe it takes a gallery. And don't forget to caption, describe, or or document what made an image so important. Let's see those photos!

Uh oh. I panicked when I saw the prompt - how in the world could I whittle it down to just a few photos? Hell, I have seventeen days worth photos of me and the giant popcorn ball at the Indiana State Fair this summer.

I'm a seriously crazy picture taker. I take a ton of photos. I'm never far from either my Canon SLR or my iPhone - I think of the phone as a camera first and telephone second. Confession: I sleep next to both of them. Not in the bed of course, that would just be obsessively crazy. They have a nice little spot within reach on the nightstand. 

As I was flipping through the thousands of photos that I've taken in 2013 something quickly became apparent.  I was in them. And not just my feet.

Not only have I lost 20 pounds since Saint Patrick's Day, I've grown more comfortable with my looks. I have the Spitznogle nose and the Gremelspacher chin and I'm finally okay with that.

And losing weight has been the biggest news of 2013 for me.  Apparently if  you eat less and exercise the pounds melt off! Who knew? Being accountable to Weight Watchers and an activity monitor have helped. The biggest motivation has come from being involved in a message board on the Weight Watchers site. There is a group of us all born in the same year that chat daily. I hate to miss checking in each day and I was thrilled to meet some of them in person in October.

The photo I choose for this prompt was taken in Boulder this summer. I was with part of my family and visiting with college friends. I like how healthy and relaxed I look - it made me smile when I saw it.

I can't resist leaving you with a giant popcorn ball picture from the State Fair this year....