Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Deep Thoughts By MidLife Crisis Kristen

Mama always said, "You never know what's going to happen when you wake up in the morning." And, boy, was she right. I have had several "Mamas mornings" over the past year.

I would've never predicted I would be job-less the majority of 2017. I would've never predicted I would start my own business. And I would've most definitely never predicted an opportunity would come out of no where to sweep me off my feet after 10 months of stress, depression and frustration. And when I say it came out of no where, it did.

I have lots of emotions, mostly elation with relief as a close second. Third, is disappointment in myself. I really wanted my small business to take off, but the timing was off, coupled with the fact that I needed to be able to financially invest more in order to escalate the visibility. It just wasn't working. I believe in Social Media APPtitude and will continue to help parents who need the guidance and support, but for now, I need stability - financial, emotional and mental!

I look back at the past year and the events in which life happened. Several job opportunities presented themselves, but none of which were a fit for me. There were so many ups and downs. And, boy, do I wish I had found solace in exercise instead of junk food. I'd be one skinny beeotch. But I digress.

I did learn a lot about myself while I was having my mini-midlife crisis at home.

  • I like projects. And Amazon Prime was my assistant superintendent on each of them. I do believe my husband almost had a coronary after one delivery came in a UPS 18 wheeler. (true story - about the truck, not the coronary). Close call, that one.
  • I like to annoy my kids. I am certain each of them prayed for the day I would go back to an office far, far away.
  • I like food. Pretty sure I covered that already.
  • I like my husband. He isn't a patient man (shocker to those of you who know him. LOL), but he has been super patient with me during this entire ordeal. I believe he sensed an exorcism would be in order if he dared to say the wrong thing to me during my fragile state. 
  • I like my friends. Dear lord, you guys have put up with a lot! Will you still be my friend once I'm not so pathetic?
  • I like me. I mean, what's not to like with the messy gray hair, sweats, wrinkles, and a few extra LBs. In all seriousness, I am my own worst critic, for sure. But it's amazing what a little gift of time will do when you are left alone with just your thoughts. I'm not so bad afterall!
  • I liked the time at home, but now I'm ready. I used this time to really dig deep within myself to understand what path I wanted to take moving forward. I never would've thought I'd say this out loud, but I actually missed the fast paced corporate world. I missed the daily challenges and my brain actually getting stimulated by something other than "what show should I watch next on Netflix?" 
  • Don't ever cruise in January. Why is this relevant? It really isn't, but it's good advice. TRUST ME.
I know you're probably thinking, "well, if I had 10 months off, I would've done this and I would've done that." You think that, but when you're in it, truly in it emotionally, your body and mind go into another mode. I could ponder "I wish I had done..." all day long, but what's the point? The most important thing is it's the timeframe in my life that lead me to the next chapter. And I have an awesome renovated deck now too! 

March 5th begins this new chapter in my life, just under a year of being unemployed. I cannot wait. I have lots to do. I am mostly excited to see that gal in the mirror with a glimmer of excitement in her eyes instead of the one who resembles a homeless lady on crack. I've missed that gal!

Say goodbye to this one!
No filter = No Bueno

Now please excuse me while I go lose 30lbs in 3 weeks.

- Kristen

****Shout out to my friends and family for your support the past year. I have THE best village. <3

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Parents: What is YOUR Social Media APPtitude?

I started Social Media APPtitude in the Fall of 2017 to educate parents on all things social media. It's an ever evolving subject as new apps are released daily and new apps suddenly become cool with our kids and teens. Who can keep up? I made it my job to do so and it is sometimes difficult. However, I've dedicated my life to do this for my fellow Moms, Dads, Stepparents, Grandparents, Godparents, etc. so I am all in.

Social Media APPtitude's material and message is part research, part lessons learned (what to do and what NOT to do after raising 4 boys). I would never tell a parent not to allow their kid to have social media, because it is not going away. What I do advise is to get educated first before doing so. Know what will be acceptable in your household, not just app-wise, but daily screen time, permissible followers and, even more importantly, permissible people for them to follow. Just because she's a Kardashian and on TV doesn't make her automatically acceptable for your 13 year old daughter to follow. (Simply search "Kim Kardashian West" on Instagram and see for yourself). I use her as an example because she was #5 on Top 10 Most Followed Instagram Accounts in 2017. If 106 million people follow her, it should be OK for my kid, right?

Make that judgment for yourself. You know your moral compass. Help collaborate your kid's on social media.
  • Set your own standards and rules for your household. 
  • Make them clear.
  • Have consequences when rules are broken.
  • Follow through.
  • Have conversations with your kids about the avenue in which people use social media. 
    • For every one "pretty selfie", it took a dozen "ugly tries".
    • Most people only want you to see the good/the pretty/the popular/the socially acceptable. We are all human beings with imperfections and fears. Be true to who you are online by embracing who you are in real life.
    • Never EVER let social media likes, retweets, shares, comments, Snapchat views, heart emojis, etc. define your self worth. (and if it starts to, it may be time to take a break)
    • Do not post/Tweet/Snap hurtful content about another person or on another person's page. Seems like a no brainer, but you have to cover all bases, even ones you think go without saying. 
    • Treat all words/photos/videos as if they are never truly deleted. There are always ways to recover content. 
    • If you question sending a text or photo, ask yourself "would I be embarrassed if their mom/dad saw this". If the answer is Yes, don't click send.

And a little advice from one parent to another:
  • Choose how interactive you want/need to be. If you feel you need to monitor their every move, then your child might not be ready. Find your balance.
  • Consider steering clear of the parental spy apps that record every text exchange. (Unless you feel like your child is in danger or putting someone else in danger) You will find yourself nit-picking the fact they wrote a curse word in a text to their friend instead of looking at the bigger picture of why you're trying to protect them to begin with. Give them some privacy, but with the previous mentioned guidance, rules and follow up. 
  • Treat social media access privileges similarly to your child getting their drivers license. Just because they passed Drivers Ed with flying colors doesn't mean you won't correct them as often as necessary when you're in the passenger seat. It's OK to tell them to slow down even after they have been driving for some time. Calibrate as long as you deem necessary. You're a parent and every important decision you make for them is with their best interest at heart. Don't treat social media any less. It is for their safety and emotional wellbeing.
  • Explain the importance of setting a positive digital footprint.
  • Make the decision to allow them to have a smart phone and social media access based on their maturity not their age. 
  • Make the decision to allow them to have a smart phone and social media access based on your emotional fortitude to set the boundaries, monitor as often and long as needed and continued education on what new apps kids are using.

There is a lot to take into consideration when making the decision to let your child have access to such an enormous digital world. As parents, we are all so busy, it is sometimes too easy to fall in the trap of "well, everyone else's kid has a smartphone and Snapchat. I suppose it's time." The good news is, YOU get to determine when it's time. And it doesn't have to be so overwhelming with resources at your fingertips such as Social Media APPtitude.
For more information on specific apps, guidance on how to do a quick phone sweep, set parental controls for apps including YouTube (an unsuspecting culprit), a list of apps to beware of including anonymous & vault apps, and hands on tutorials of apps such as Snapchat, contact Social Media APPtitude.

One of the greatest investments you can make as a parent today is investing your time in preparing and guiding them through this social media age. 

Follow Social Media APPtitude:
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @smapptitude
Email: smapptitude@gmail.com

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Letting Your Inner Voice Lead You to Your "Supposed To's".

2017 has been a very interesting year. As mentioned in a prior blog, I lost my job in April. It was quite a blow, but hindsight 20/20, I brought it on myself when I started to pay attention to my inner voice that had been telling me for some time I needed to make some adjustments in my life.  So I did what I thought I was supposed to do and go to my boss about transferring into another role within the company. I had been burned out for some time and needed a change. That inner voice would NOT shut up about this darn change.

Battle amongst my brain and inner voice: OK, OK, inner voice, I mentioned it!! You happy?
Inner voice: Nope, not yet.

I had been with the company for nearly 15 years. I loved the people and the culture, so I wanted to stay. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for me to stay and 3 months after I let my inner voice open her big mouth, I walked out the door of a great company which had given me stability and allowed me to grow professionally. I was devastated to say the least. For months, I got up every single morning, logged on to my computer and filled out application after application. I was never called, called occasionally, turned down and even offered a handful of positions, but for one reason or another nothing seemed to be working out. My inner voice sat back with her hands crossed with a look of frustration nodding her head in disappointment. I would squash her down when I’d start to hear her voice. After all, I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do! One day I looked at the calendar and I had been without a job for 3 months. How could that be? Why aren’t any of these jobs panning out?
Inner voice: I know why…..

Me: Shut up, already. You GOT me in this mess.
Inner voice: (Sitting back, crossing her arms.....waiting patiently) 

After the 3 month mark, that damn inner voice started to speak up a bit louder each day. I tried to ignore her, because she wasn’t making any sense. My brain was in job mode: gotta pay bills, get insurance, have stability, etc. That’s what I was supposed to do. Yet she continued to silently argue to the point I couldn’t ignore her, as much as I tried. One day I was meeting a friend for lunch and on the drive there, my inner voice broke through with a roar.
Inner voice: LISTEN UP!! IF YOU DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO ME, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A MAJOR PROBLEM. I can’t tell you the hows, whens or whats, but I can tell you WHY you need to pay attention.

In the silent moments within her rant, my brain stopped what it was doing to listen. “There is more for you than this. The time has come for you to make a change and follow me. Trust me.” 
I cried like I hadn’t cried for quite some time releasing frustration, disappointment, anger, guilt and sadness from where they had slept quietly in their imaginary vault so I could be doing what I was supposed to do.  
I knew that day that the reason I hadn’t gotten another job wasn’t because of all the reasons my brain was telling me, but because I wasn’t being my authentic self. When I truly began to listen, I realized she had been speaking to me for several years, planting a seed here and there, waiting patiently for it to grow in the hopes I would see it. And there were days I noticed and nurtured it, but more days than not, I ignored it so I could do what I was supposed to do. So I made the decision that day to try and pay more attention to that inner voice. I must be missing something. Meanwhile, the bills weren’t paying themselves.

Four months home, still no leads, my inner voice screaming a bunch of nonsense and I was nearing the end of my wits, a friend asked to meet for lunch. That particular day, she brought a former coworker who I hadn’t seen in months. The three of us sat outside enjoying the breeze and catching up on life. My story had pretty much been a 4 month broken record but I repeated it nonetheless.
And then it happened.

The former coworker who is a successful business woman and a mom of two small children said: “Do you know what keeps me up at night? Worrying about my kids and social media.” She remembered the blog I wrote a few years back about parenting and social media. “I need someone like you around to teach me when they get old enough to have that technology.”

Out of nowhere, bells and whistles started to sound, and I am fairly certain my inner voice did a cartwheel and a split. A door that had been hidden suddenly appeared, opened and opportunity presented itself in the most amazing fashion while my inner voice arrogantly exclaimed, “Ta Da!!!”
September 7th was the fateful date. I texted my husband before I even left the restaurant and said “I know what I’m supposed to do!” After months of questioning my every turn and every decision, I did not question this. Not once. Once that door opened, thoughts and ideas began to flow. I couldn’t keep up with the speed at which they were coming to me. I would sit straight up in bed at night and make notes as to not forget the next day. That inner voice, which I thought had been so annoying, was now fueling me with determination and idea after idea. She knew all along what I was supposed to be doing. I just needed to listen.

Within 2 weeks, I had done tons of research, built a website, held a focus group meeting, created social media pages for marketing, and even found an inexpensive office space that practically fell into my lap from an angel. Less than 3 weeks in, I had my first booking.
Today marks 3 weeks to the day that the seed of Social Media APPtitude was planted. As I sit in my office, I am ever so grateful for small blessings that happened along the way without me even realizing. I'm mostly thankful for the blessing of wisdom and finally knowing when to listen. Sometimes what society and your brain says you are supposed to be doing is nothing at all what your inner voice is telling you. Is it going to be an easy road? No. Will it take patience? Yes. Am I scared? Absolutely. But **something** tells me, I’m going to be just fine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, I am swipe right worthy!

Dear diary,

Since we last spoke, I have gained 20 lbs and lost my job. Aside from that, things have been going amazingly well.

Yours truly,

Well, here I am......at the pinnacle of what should be my career. Instead, on this glorious Thursday July morning, sitting at my kitchen counter, frantically searching for a job....and my life's meaning.

I have ridden the roller coaster of emotions since late April, yet somehow I find myself back to feeling at peace with it. And then I snap out of that and realize these bills ain't payin' themselves.

CareerTinder (see below)
I've painstakingly filled out close to 100 applications for jobs of all types and had the pleasure of being interviewed, raked over the coals, and stared at blankly multiple times. I realize, unless it's a role in the construction or engineering industry, no one else really knows what to do with me. I kind of think I'm a catch. I'd date me. I'd date the hell out of me. But CareerTinder* sees my profile and that I am loyal, hard working, advanced my career through the years and......over 40 and, suddenly....

They swipe left*. Bastards.

Many people say job hunting is a lot like dating with feeling each other up (out), rejections, butterflies, and wishing for that second or third date (interview). It's sometimes even getting way too far in the date (interview process) to realize this person (job) is NOT for you but not knowing how to back out of it. Or the opposite; trying hard to not show them how much you like them, maintaining a poker face while internally screaming "Love me! Love me! ("Hire me! Hire me, please for the love of god!")

No one wants to appear desperate even when they are. But, hey, sometimes desperate gets the "right swipe" on CareerTinder. However, I am not ready to change my profile to job-floozy just yet.

Meanwhile, as I flail around in this unemployment vortex, my yard and deck have never looked better. This time home has channeled some type of superhero power that drives me to do projects around my house. I expect at any moment my husband will admit me to a psych ward somewhere but he just so happens to enjoy the benefits of my small home improvement projects. I believe he's holding off until I make my way to his office and start organizing his sh*t. (which is very soon by the way)

All joking aside, the job hunting process as a 40 something female is brutal. On the plus side, it has forced me to do a lot of soul searching on what makes the most sense for my family and, more importantly, ME. This is the time where I need to ask myself: Is it time for me to do what I need to do or want to do? (barring that what I want can still cover the bills)

What is it I want, you ask? Honestly, I am still on the path to figuring that out completely. I love to write and dabbling in social media, but have no work experience or degree in English or Journalism. I want to help people, but have no work experience or degree in Philanthropy, Social Services, Psychology or any medical related field. I want to make people laugh, feel normal, and love and appreciate who they are and what they mean to the people around them. (I have no damn clue what degree THAT would entail, but I am fairly certain my 2 year Associates Degree in Mechanical Drafting doesn't cover it). In short, I want to make a difference. It's kinda vague and doesn't really sound sexy enough to put on CareerTinder, now does it? At some point, a decision needs to be made. Do I continue to market the career driven gal in the AEC industry? Or do I take a chance on change? Honestly, I am not ready to pull the trigger on choosing one over the other. Rather, I plan to keep my options open and see what happens. I shall be patient for what molds perfectly into my 20+ career background. Or take a chance on the most unlikely opportunity to swipe right.

Soooo.... if it just so happens you're reading this and know someone who'd consider me CareerTinder swipe-right worthy, have 'em hit me up on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, PowerSchool, WeatherBug, FindFriends, Timehop, ESPN, PicStitch or the Chick-Fil-A app. Or send me an email if they are old-school like that. If you need me, I'll be working on my next home improvement project: How to Get Rid of the Kids for the Remainder of the Summer.


* Career-Tinder: my made up job hunting version of the dating (hooking up) app, Tinder. Swipes right: shows interest. Swipes left: moves on to the next candidate.

**I tried merging the two names, but Careerinder and Tinderreer sounded really negative. Not to mention the icon looks a bit like a career is up in flames, but it's all I could muster up in such a short amount of creative time in my kitchen... and it's ironic.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pitching Fits & Pointing Fingers - Parenting's Biggest Hurdle.

Anyone that knows me, knows I love my kids. But here's the truth..... I don't always like them (and I'm certain that those feelings can be mutual at times). I've worked really, really hard not to let them turn out to be a$$holes, but it's hard. It's a constant battle. The entitlement thing is the real deal and I struggle with it on a regular basis. And I know I'm not alone in the WOE (War On Entitlement). 

Entitled generation POV:
  • Don’t feel like verbally communicating? 
    • I’m too tired, too busy and would rather text.
  • Frustrated because you’ve been asked two times in a row to take out the garbage and your sibling hasn’t? 
    • Mom is a b*tch.
  • Feel as though your clothes and sneakers are outdated? 
    • Mom/Dad never make time to go shopping.
  • Don’t want to eat spaghetti AGAIN? 
    • Bojangles is so much better.
  • Xbox keeps disconnecting because wifi is on the blink AGAIN? 
    • My parents are so frustrating by not getting this fixed by now.
  • Made a bad grade on your test in school? 
    • The teacher is terrible. Ask anyone.
  • Can’t find your earbuds? 
    • The dryer ruined them AGAIN.


Real life:
  • Don’t feel like verbally communicating? 
    • Hey, YOU! Step away from the smartphone screen.
  • Frustrated because you’ve been asked two times in a row to take out the garbage and your sibling hasn’t?
    • If I say it’s YOUR turn, it’s your turn.
  • Feel as though your clothes and sneakers are outdated? 
    • Have you seen my closet? I have clothes from before YOU were born. (and I still wear them) Get a job. 
  • Don’t want to eat spaghetti AGAIN? 
    • Refer to “Get a job”. Too young for a job? Here’s extra marinara sauce, just like YOU like it.
  • Xbox keeps disconnecting because wifi is on the blink AGAIN? 
    • Let me get YOU Time Warner’s customer service number 1-800-TWCsux. Be thankful you're b*tching about lack of wifi vs. lack of food and shelter.
  • Made a bad grade on your test in school? 
    • Step away from the smartphone (again) and study.  YOU have to pay attention in class, read the material, and repeat.
  • Can’t find your earbuds? 
    • Stop leaving them in YOUR damn pockets!!
At some point I hope my words resonate with them, but realistically, it probably won't happen until my kids are older, independent and have someone complaining to them about wifi, and regular-ole spaghetti. 

Until then, I'm happy to be the Naggy-McNaggerston. They can hate me now and love me later. Sure beats the hell out of the alternative.

Loving me now (for giving in to their demands) and hating me later (for setting them up for failure).

Friday, September 9, 2016

Do You Believe in Reincarnation?

When my second son, Jacob, was born in 1997, he had a striking resemblance to my father who had passed away 3 1/2 years prior. It was quite comforting, yet a little on the eerie side. How could a tiny baby look so much like a grown man? We chalked it up to strong genetics. (But he happened to be the only one of my four boys with such strong Thompson physical traits.) 

As he got older and his personality was surfacing, it was evident that yet again, he was very much like the grandfather he never met. Jacob was quiet, analytical in his thought process, a savant with all things sports knowledge-related and very competitive. The love of sports and competitiveness ran strong through all four of my boys, but he was by far the most competitive. Unlike his older brother and 2 younger brothers, he was a bit of a loner at times who needed moments of seclusion to recharge. He was also the only early riser of our crew. Very much like his grandfather, he was a morning person, which was very much unlike everyone else in our entire family. 

Daddy - young adult
Jacob - age 15
Teen years approached, growth spurts hit, and I found myself straining my neck to have a conversation with him. At 6'-3", he reached the height of his grandfather. I walked in the living room one day after Jacob had decided to go with a cool new hairstyle and nearly fell over at the young man standing before me. This new "do" was identical to his grandfather's some 65 years ago. The person before me was the mirror image of many photos I had of my father growing up. Day after day, I watched Jacob morph into what I strongly suspect was much like his grandfather at that age. 
Creepy? Kind of. 
Cool? Absolutely.

Last year my mom passed away. I spent hours sorting through things of my father's, a lot that I never knew existed. I came across the photo on the right . This was my dad around the age of 20. To the left is Jacob at the age of 17. It stopped me in my tracks.

While the looks and personality freakishly parallel, I am taken aback even more so by the simplest and craziest of things between these two men.

Jacob is a freshman at Hampden-Sydney, an all male college in Virginia. My father graduated from VMI, an all male college (at the time) in Virginia. Both Hampden-Sydney and VMI abide by a very strict Honor Code. Both men were/are multisport college student athletes. Both men had/have an immense love of chocolate. And I don't mean the normal love of chocolate. I mean the - love of chocolate ice cream doused with chocolate syrup with a side of chocolate milk - kind of love of chocolate. And those similarities are just to name a few.

My mom used to say that she saw "Norris" (my daddy) every time she looked at Jacob. Do I believe in reincarnation? The beliefs instilled in me since childhood say profoundly, "No". The, hopeful 20-year-old girl who lost her daddy suddenly, part of me says "Yes, please!". The 43 year old me says "Maybe." Maybe, just maybe, there is a possibility that the spirit of my father lives again. It doesn't mean Jacob is "Norris". It means Jacob is Jacob who carried a gift with him when he came into this world. It isn't as if he knows he has it. It isn't tangible or obvious to him or to us. Maybe it surfaces in the subtleties of a hand gesture.....in the decision to put chocolate ice cream atop his piece of chocolate cake. And, quite possibly, it can be a little more apparent by similar decisions in life such as what college to attend and why.

Or maybe it's all just one big coincidence?

Either way, I feel lucky. When you lose someone, you want so much to see them one more time. I feel blessed to have moments of seeing a semblance of my father. 

I would like to believe our loved ones who have passed find an avenue to nudge us on occasion through others. It just so happens, due to "strong genetics", Jacob has the occasional ability to punch me right in the gut. 

In the nicest way possible, that is.

What do you believe?

(other than I've lost my mind)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Slammin' the Cam

Today my Facebook feed is flooded with lots of chatter about Cam Newton and his postgame interview. I was cheering for the Panthers because they are a Carolina team and have had an awesome season. Yes, I was rooting for my home-state team, but I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard fan. I don’t love Cam (sorry, Carolina fans!), nor do I own a Panthers sweatshirt or a koozie or a flaggy thing for my car. But since my team wasn’t in the Super Bowl ::cough-sputter-SKINS-cough::: then I was hoping the Panthers would win their first Super Bowl.

The game left a lot to be desired. It didn’t really matter which team you were cheering for, it was a snooze-fest. I kept thinking one negative turn of events for the Broncos would lead to the Panthers going on a run, but no such luck. As Cam said in his postgame interview, they got outplayed. The end. Which brings me to the point of my blog today… Cam and his postgame interview:

I have to say, ENOUGH ALREADY!! Listen, I’m not a professional athlete. (although I have mad skills on the hoop hanging on the back of my 12 year old’s bedroom door), but let’s put it in perspective. He just played the pinnacle of all games, the Super Bowl. And he lost. That sucks. As part of his job, he has to sit there and answer the media’s questions with grace and a smile. After all, he makes MILLIONS, this is part of being in the spotlight and the least he can do is fake it. There’s a minor detail we forget; he’s human. Think about having to deal with the biggest disappointment in your career or life for that matter. Then imagine cameras and microphones in your face and some dimwit asking for you to put into words your disappointment. Those who already have a bad taste in their mouth about you are going to find something, ANYTHING to continue to hate you. Had he broken down and cried, he would’ve been a wuss. Had he said he was disappointed and listed all the reasons why, he would’ve been a whiney baby. Had he put a pretty bow on losing, he would’ve been fake. Despite his answer, he couldn’t win…. after not winning.

America loves to hate someone. Today it’s Cam. Tomorrow it’ll be someone else. Could he have handled himself differently? Sure. Would it have made a difference for those who already hate him? Probably not. At the end of the day, he’s a millionaire, a professional athlete who is in his prime and just played in the Super Bowl in front of millions, and will return with a vengeance next season. We shouldn’t feel sorry for him. And I don’t. He’ll fly home in a jet to his mansion and his fancy car worth more than my house. But remember, last night and probably nights if not weeks to follow he will lie in bed wide awake, going through play by plays of the “big game”, internalizing and processing his own disappointment and frustration, warding off the “what ifs” and “woulda-coulda-shouldas”. You know……human-stuff. 

The world, as a whole, has a lot more to be irritated with than an NFL player walking out on an interview. Seems kind of silly in the big scheme of things. Then again, what do I know? I’m just a human too.