Scary dreams aren’t always nightmares

I have been very blessed over the last few months to be part of group that has changed me in ways I never expected. They have caused me to take an honest look at myself, and I have discovered strength I never knew I had. They have lit a fire in me that had yet to be ignited. Most importantly, they have helped me clear a path that’s allowing me to dream bigger than I ever thought possible. The truth is, my dreams are terrifying me, but just because a dream is scary doesn’t make it a nightmare.

I keep hearing the quote repeated, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” Many times we limit ourselves because we think that there is no way we could take it to the next level. That would require too much change or too much work. This limited thinking is what keeps us in a rut. It prevents us from achieving our true potential. It tells us that the status quo is all we can hope for and switches off the light shining on what we truly want in life. This fire I mentioned has been like a torch that is illuminating a new path…a different path than I’ve been on for most of my adult life.

For a while, I’ve felt the need to shake things up. I’ve gotten too comfortable with where I am and what I’m doing. I needed that nudge and the permission to dream big. Is there a risk of failing or losing something in the process? Sure! That’s a risk I’m willing to take. The difference is, I refuse to “what if” my life anymore. I would rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t.

I’ve had moments of second guessing myself. I bounce between being extremely excited and fighting back tears. Honestly, it’s a bit exhausting! I guess you could say I’m on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but I keep reminding myself that I’m the one laying down the track. I’m pushing myself way outside my comfort zone. As I make it back to the station after a few loops and drops, I’m able to refocus and trust that things will work out the way they are supposed to.

I know I’m not the first person to do this, and I definitely won’t be the last, but I’m not going to let fear hold me back this time. The unknown can be scary, but imagine what you could accomplish if you removed the fear factor. Imagine what dreams you could chase if you simply removed the tether holding you in place. Don’t let your mind convince you a scary dream is a nightmare in disguise. Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!

 

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Flights of Fancy

Today, while I was walking down the 13 flights of stairs to check the mail in my office building, my mind started wandering. About a flight down, I saw the same empty paper cup sitting on the railing. The two previous days I made the same trek, I walked by it figuring that someone from the maintenance crew would make a sweep of the staircase in order to remove any trash. I was wrong. Instead of walking by again, I stopped and picked it up to dispose of it once I reached the first floor. This got me thinking about sayings I’ve heard over the years that I do my best to try to live by. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Always leave a place in better shape than you found it.
(This applies to staircases, jobs, and even Girl Scout campsites.)

You give what you get.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them!

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Do or do not. There is no try.
(Yoda was one smart Jedi!)

Criticize in private. Compliment in public.

A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

I’m always on the lookout for my next mantra. I would love to hear your favorites as well.

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So, I did a thing…

This has been a long time coming, but I’m excited to announce that on July 31st, I finally published my book, “We’re All Rubber Bands: Finding happiness with who you are.” This is a collection of some of my favorite blogs that I’ve posted over the years along with some additional comments following each chapter. As you will see on the back cover of the book,

Life can test you to your limits. Sometimes, it may even break you. We’re All Rubber Bands is about bouncing back to who you are at your core, learning to laugh at yourself, and finding strength with the beautiful, imperfect person that you have always been.

This has been a labor of love that has taken me many years to finally finish, and I’m happy to say that I was even able to self-publish it. I am excited to have created something truly mine, including the cover artwork. I have to say that it has been absolutely bizarre to see something I’ve done show up on websites like Lulu.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

As my earlier blog post mentions, it really does take a village. I wouldn’t have gotten here without the love and support of so many, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. It’s pretty amazing to be able to say you can mark something off of your bucket list.

The response so far has been pretty humbling in a fantastic way, so it makes all the work I put into it all the more worth it. I’m looking forward to a multitude of reviews and even have an idea for another book, which will probably take another few years to write. I’ve got a lot of exciting things in the works, and I am definitely looking forward to my next chapter. Here’s to turning the page.

 

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The Safety of the Street Light

Whenever I misplaced something growing up, my dad would always tell me that, “it will always be in the last place you look.” Gee…thanks, dad! After all, who would keep looking after they found what they were seeking? What about the person who is searching for something nowhere near where they lost it just because it’s easier? It doesn’t make much sense, does it? This is what is known as the Streetlight Effect.

This can best be described by a short story about a drunk man who has lost his keys. He is standing under a street light trying to find them when a police officer walks up and asks him what he is looking for. Upon telling the officer what he lost, they both begin searching together for the keys. After several minutes of looking, the officer asks the drunk man if he’s sure he lost them there. The drunk man points across the street into the darkness and tells the officer that he lost his keys over there in the park. The police officer asks him why he’s searching here, to which the drunk man replies, “This is where the light is.”

I pondered this for a while and wondered why is it in life we try to find the easy way out? Why do we search for answers in the wrong places? Why do we want the “get rich quick” scheme to work instead of focusing our efforts towards the target we’re trying to reach? It feels lately as if someone has discovered me crouched under a street light searching for what I seek most – happiness.

Sure, trying to be happy with what you have and what you’re already doing is a good thing, but trying and being are two completely different things. After all, wouldn’t you rather spend time doing some real soul searching if it meant you would find what you seek? Wouldn’t it be worth it to step away from the view and safety beneath your street light in order to find your keys to happiness? Remember what my dad said – you’ll always find what you seek in the last place you look. It’s a good thing I’m smart enough to grab my flashlight.

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My Spiralized Life

Not long after I started my current job, I was introduced to a nifty kitchen gadget called a spiralizer. In case you’re not familiar, this tool takes a vegetable, such as a zucchini, and turns it into long, thin noodles. It does so by turning it while it’s being cut. When you’re finally done, the resulting pile looks nothing like what you started with, but it sure can make for some good meals. This got me thinking tonight. My life is a lot like a spiralized vegetable.

I can go along for months or years feeling like my life is solid and stable. For whatever unforeseen reasons, every so often, my life can put me in a spin causing things to get all out of whack. It feels like I’m not sure which end is up and I’m just holding on for dear life. What I usually find is that after all is said and done, I come out happier and healthier on the other side. It’s a kind of personal metamorphosis. The trouble is, when the spiralizing is taking place, I’m never sure how long it will last.

I guess I feel like I’m in one of these topsy-turvy times right now. I know I will feel an awakening after it’s ended, but until then, I’m hoping that the view isn’t too dizzying.

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Gandalf Lives!

It’s been said that all women need two people in their lives they can trust: a hair stylist and a mechanic. I’m happy to say my hair has been taken well care of by the same person for the last 17+ years. The mechanic part…well…let’s just say I haven’t been as lucky. I thought I had that one taken care of years ago but instead got ROYALLY screwed as the result of his dishonesty. I’ve now had Gandalf with me the last 5+ years. He’s a gray Kia Rondo, and I plan to drive him until he falls apart. I thought the end was in sight this weekend, but instead, my eyes were opened to yet another dishonest mechanic.

It’s been on my bucket list to take an automotive class so I’m better equipped to handle things myself, or at least discuss them with some knowledge. Hell, I’ve changed the oil in my car before and even, under the guidance of a good friend, changed out Gandalf’s brakes and rotors. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but there are some things that are too involved for me to do. That’s when I leave things up to the experts.

A few months ago, I was having some issues with Gandalf, so I took him in to have him looked at in hopes the issue could be corrected. I wasn’t able to go to my usual mechanic, as they are no longer open on the weekends. Instead, I went to a place, a chain, that my parents have used for as long as I can remember. I felt I was in good hands since it was like keeping it in the family, so to speak. It was discovered that the catalytic converter was shot and it needed to be replaced. (I am now questioning if that was even the case.)

The part was ordered, and when it finally came in, I waited at the store for several hours while the job was completed. Upon being checked out, and after all the work was done, I was told then that they didn’t realize that the part that was ordered was going to cause some noise that sounded much like I was driving a hot rod. I was told by the manager that if it bothered me to let him know and they’d order the other part and replace it for me.

After two days of driving my 17-mile-one-way commute, I called and told them that it had to go. How people drive a car with that racket is totally beyond me! They ordered the part and said they’d call me when it came in. I waited almost two weeks. Finally, after having to call multiple times, they confirmed the part was in and my appointment was scheduled. I waited, again, for several hours while they removed and replaced the catalytic converter, and all seemed fine.

This brings me to last Saturday.

It has only been a few months since the replacement of the catalytic converter when I began hearing some noise when accelerating that sounded much like a knocking or rattling, It was almost like someone was spinning a lottery wheel hoping to land on a good prize. It was extremely annoying, however Gandalf seemed to drive fine despite that. There was no oil light on. There was no check engine light on. Regardless, I called and made an appointment with the same place and was sure to describe the issue. They agreed that it was probably the heat shield and they could look at it on Saturday morning.

I got there right on time for my appointment. Once Gandalf was examined, this is what I was told by the manager. He said that the problem is that there was no oil in the car. Apparently there was an oil leak and no oil was showing on the dipstick. He then said that whoever did my last oil change “owes me a new engine.” (His exact words.) The knocking sound was one of the rods in the engine that was broken and that the only recourse was to buy a new car or completely replace the engine on a model they don’t make anymore. He and the other manager both felt like Gandalf wouldn’t last very long, and I shouldn’t wait to start looking. Nothing was repaired, but they did put in about 2 quarts of oil at no charge to bring me up to 4 ½ quarts. It turns out that just because there is no oil on the dipstick doesn’t mean there’s no oil in the engine. I was due for an oil change, but after being told Gandalf was done, I didn’t figure I should bother with that added expense.

The manager also mentioned that the reason that their oil changes take an hour is because they take the time to look at the car in case anything else is wrong. He said that had they done the oil change, they would have found the leak and fixed it then. He said that the lack of oil in the engine ruined it. It was broken…and so was my heart.

I spoke to the manager and district manager for the prior service center, both at the suggestion of this shop’s manager. I got nowhere. They said they noted it on the ticket. I then told the district manager that it’s ridiculous that they’ll verbally upsell you on every service under the sun, but when there’s a physical problem with your car, they simply “make note” for you. Poor Gandalf.

After leaving the mechanic, I sat, dumbfounded for a while trying to figure out where to start. Thanks to suggestions from several friends, I spent the rest of the day, until 9:00 pm, looking at cars. At a minimum, it was going to cost me around $16,000 for a pre-owned vehicle. I had not planned to spend my entire day doing this, but after the grim news from both the managers, I felt I didn’t have a choice.

Yesterday, a good friend took a look at Gandalf, and then we took him for a short drive. He seemed to think that the sound wasn’t coming from the engine, but he did notice that there was oil sprayed on the underside of the hood, so that could have been part of the issue. After his examination, I felt the need to get a second opinion, as I was not happy about having to shell out $16,000 for a car.

Today, I took Gandalf into an auto repair place I have used in the past. They have been very honest about their work and I trust them completely. Again, the only reason I wasn’t going to them was that they weren’t open on the weekends. Fortunately, I was off work today, so I was able to schedule an appointment. Pretty quickly, they noticed the oil leak, but realized that it can be fixed by getting a new front crank shaft seal kit. This runs about $15 for the part and $585 for the labor, as it’s a very involved process…which they fully explained.

Regarding the knocking, it was discovered very quickly that it was NOT coming from the engine. In fact, it was nowhere near the engine. I stood with them under the car and saw for myself the source of the sound. It was coming from the REAR catalytic converter. It was BEYOND obvious that was what was making the noise…even to me! They confirmed that the issue is either with the heat shield or with something that was knocked loose when the front catalytic converter was replaced and is now rattling around inside. The cost to fix this would be no more than $562 for the part. Given the location, it was much easier to replace if need be, so the labor would be much less. Because they may not even need the part, it could be an easier, and less expensive fix.

My gratefulness to these guys was diminished in part by the pure FURY I had for the prior shop. HOW ON EARTH can someone who works on cars day in and day out not be able to locate the source of a noise that is not only BEHIND the front wheels but is located in the middle of the car with nothing around it?!?! The other shop almost cost me $16,000 (at a minimum) when the cost to repair these FIXABLE issues won’t cost more than $1500 for both the catalytic converter and the oil leak. The technicians who looked at Gandalf today were dumbfounded as to how this was missed. They simply couldn’t explain it given how obvious it was. All I can say is that this place now has a loyal customer for life!

I have already reported this to the Better Business Bureau and will be posting a negative review on Yelp and any other place I can find. I have emailed their area manager with all the details as well. I will never step foot back inside that place again, which is sad given that my parents have always been loyal customers for as long as I can remember. How this was missed is totally beyond me. I put my trust in that company and in people who clearly do not know anything about cars or how they work.

I couldn’t be happier that it now appears that Gandalf and I will still have many happy years together. He has been a great car, and knowing he’ll be well taken care of makes me beyond happy. In addition, I am currently completely out of debt and plan to stay that way for as long as I can. I now know that I need to start planning for the day when this weekend’s events become a reality. Until then, I will be forever grateful for great family & friends with not only amazing advice and support, but incredible senses of humor!

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In My Dreams

He came to me last night in a dream. I awoke in tears. It has been so long since I’ve seen him, so this vision of him caught me completely off guard, even in an unconscious state. Our last visit together was nothing but loving and a bit bittersweet, but it’s a memory I will always cherish.

I’ll never understand why certain things or loved ones show up in my dreams, but this vision was so vivid. Even now, I get choked up thinking how unfair it is that I won’t ever see his face again and how real everything felt. Loss is very different for many people. We all react to it in different ways. My friends and family mean everything to me, so to lose someone I love is absolutely heartbreaking.

In my dream I was at a friend’s house talking when I looked outside across the yard. There, coming out from behind the fence, I saw him. He looked just like I remembered. I turned to my friend and shockingly exclaimed, “Is that Max?!”

Without a hesitation, I knew it was my sweet boy, and ran for him calling his name. He saw me and ran to me. I was happy beyond words to get to see his beautiful face in front of me. Upon connecting, I walked with him towards a bench, my hand never breaking our touch, so I could pet his head and love on him once more. When we got to the bench, he had changed into a human form and I was able to hold him in an embrace that I never wanted to end. It was then that I woke up.

 

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