My Book Launch

The publication of my second book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, occurred this past March.  Many of you have been so kind in your remarks about the book, and I sincerely thank you for your support.  This has been a busy couple of months, with my Book Launch held on June 1 especially exciting.  I want to personally acknowledge those who made this event so successful.

First, I want to thank the Book Launch host, Leah Friedman, who planned and executed the entire event.  Leah is owner of Raleigh Green Gables, a professional organizing company in Raleigh, NC.  She is also a friend, Solo Sister, and fellow book club member.  When she first heard of my book’s upcoming release, Leah said she wanted to host a Book Launch Party for me.  And what a stellar job she did!  I think many people came for Leah as much as for me!  During selling her home and buying a new one, Leah made time for this event.  She would have had a good reason to change her decision about hosting this event, but she followed through with the Book Launch and hosted a wonderful party.  We all know some people who seem to do more than one would ever expect, and Leah is in that category.  I am honored to call her friend, fellow Book Club member, and Solo Sister.

And speaking of Solo Sisters, (women without siblings), many Solo Sisters were present at the Book launch.  I was so humbled by their showing of support, both at the event, and afterwards. This was a busy time of the year for many people, yet they came.

I am a member of two book clubs, one that has been together for twelve plus years and has twelve members, and the other that has been together for two years, and has seven members.  Friends from both book clubs honored me with their presence at the Book Launch.  Additionally, one of the Book Clubs selected Spendaholic for our June book reading.

Another group that was well represented at the Book Launch was my Writer’s Group.  This group meets monthly to discuss all aspects of writing, publishing, and marketing books.  It is in large part due to the encouragement of the facilitator of this writer’s group, and the support of the group, that I finally finished and published this book.  The company I chose to publish my book is co-owned by the Writer’s Group facilitator, who was not able to be at the Book Launch, yet her business partner was.

Another group that needs to be acknowledged is family and friends.  These are the ones who lived through the year of no spending, and who could write a book themselves about the journey!  Those who were there represented many more who could not be there.  I am so grateful for those who were there and those who would have been if they could.

I learned several important lessons from this event.  One, the importance of connections, and not for business purposes, but for support.  The people who celebrate with us, who come when we have an event, give us more than their time and attention. They give us the value of their belief in us.  And in so doing, we know that we matter to them.  And they to us.  We will, of course, return the favor, and not in a quid pro quo fashion, but because we care.

I truly thought that it was fine to just come and to not purchase a book.  Some who came had already purchased the book, and even if they had not and did not, I was grateful for their presence.  Most did purchase a book, and some more than one!  This experience reminded me of other functions I have been invited to, including Pampered Chef parties, clothes parties, and jewelry parties.  It is usually assumed that the guests will purchase something, assuming they can afford to.  Not that it should be “expected,” but in doing so, we are helping our friends who are hosting the events.  I want to be sure to “give back” as others gave to me; again, not as quid pro quo, but as caring people who can all help each other, and should, when we can.

I also saw first-hand that there are some people, like Leah Friedman, who are more than able to reach out and do for others, and who follow through.  I want to always be like them. I don’t want to take the easy way out and fail to do the work that is required to host an event, entertain, and give of my time, money, and energy.  We are all busy, but despite that, some do, and others don’t.  I want to be a doer.

I want to be like Leah Friedman, and like the others who cared enough to honor me with their support at my Book Launch.

Thank you all, sincerely.

 

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Father’s Day Without a Father

No, this isn’t what you think.  When you read the title, you probably thought this was about my father having passed away.  Well, he may have, I don’t know; at least I don’t know definitively.  I do not know who my biological father is.  And I believe I have a right to that information.  I am 65 years old, and my health history is becoming more important to me.  At this age, and this has been true for many years, I am not looking for a family in wanting that information.  I have a wonderful family, and I do not want to be a part of a family that does not want me.  I am confident enough to not need that.  I just want to know my lineage, and my health history. 

Since I bared my soul in my recently published book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, I am ready to be vulnerable enough to post this in the hopes that it will help someone.  I am not expecting that it will help me.  If there is even one person who is helped by this, it will be worth me going through the emotions I can keep at bay most of the time, except at Father’s Day, to write it.  My passion is inspiring positive change in work, life, and family, and this covers all of those. 

Now, the story.  My mother was pregnant with me when she married my legal father.  They divorced a few years later. (I am not even sure how old I was when they divorced, and there are few people left in my family who can fill in those time gaps for me.) I did not see my legal father very often, although I was close to his family, especially his parents.  He remarried a few years later, and his wife would not “let” him see me.  I wasn’t very old when I realized that a father, legal or biological, who allows anyone to separate him from his child, isn’t much of a father, or even much of a man.

My mother passed away in 1998 at the age of 64, and she carried the secret of my biological father with her to her grave.  Through the years I had bits and pieces of information that my legal father was not my biological father, and even asked my mother for that truth, and she denied it.  I can only surmise that she wanted to maintain the illusion for me of the family I had been legally a part of.  Given the circumstances I have encountered since being told who is (supposedly) my biological father, I also think she did not want me to be rejected by the man who is my father if/when I approached him and asked him to verify his paternity.  Just an assumption on my part. 

My legal father told me the story after my mother died.  He verified that he was not my biological father, and that he had promised my mother he would not tell me that.  Once she was gone, he said he thought I had a right to the information, and I agreed.  I think his motives in giving me this information were mainly selfless. The “mainly” part refers to the possibility that he might think this information excused him from not being a present or good father.  It didn’t, but I could understand that he might think so.  He told me the story he said my mother told him, and that he had no reason to disbelieve it.  He also said that there were situations that occurred that reinforced that the man my mother said was my biological father likely was.

Not long after hearing the information, I called and spoke with my (supposed) biological father.  He turned me over to one of his daughters for her to deal with me, and I spoke with her and later met with her and her sister.  I made it clear in all conversations that I was not looking for a relationship, nor money; all I wanted was my lineage and my health history.  At that point, the two daughters were cooperating with me, and agreed that I had a right to know if he was my biological father.  But their mother had an entirely different opinion, and (per one of them) threatened to disown them if they had any further contact with me.  So, they didn’t.  Emotional bondage was strong enough to separate them and me from the truth.  One of the daughters did contact me a few years ago, and in that conversation, I learned her father passed away a few years previously.

The irony of two women “refusing” to allow a man to have a relationship with his child is not lost on me, or the similarity between these two weak men and their mean wives. 

The similarities between how my mother dealt with my paternity and how the woman married to my (supposed) biological father dealt with it are striking.  I believe my mother wanted me to be able to maintain the illusion of family that I had had with my legal father, so she refused to tell me the truth.  Hers was an act of omission.  The wife of my (supposed) biological father likely wanted to maintain the illusion of her nuclear family, and admitting my existence would shatter that.  Hers is an act of commission. 

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Transitions and Relationships

Another traditional school year has ended.  Your family may have experienced the end of pre-school, grade school, middle school, high school, and college for your children or grandchildren.  The end of the school year also includes the end of some activities, such as dance, piano, and sports.  Each year this time many families have major transitions.  Some of what you and your family have experienced will now only be a memory.  You and they will move on to other things, leaving behind people and experiences that have been a major part of your lives, some for many years. It is time to let go to move on. But we should be careful about who, what, and how we let go.

Our family had a high school graduation recently.  My cousin, Paula (who is more like a daughter than a cousin) and her husband Bryan’s son Patrick is soon off to college, leaving behind many of his high school friends and life as he has known it.  It seems like only yesterday that three-year-old Patrick was walking down the aisle as ring bearer in our daughter Tara’s wedding.  Now Patrick will soon go to college, and Tara’s oldest daughter, Mary Grace, will be in the seventh grade.  Our other two granddaughters, Elsie, who is 10 and Virginia only a couple of weeks shy of five years old, are also growing and changing.  And while I am grateful that these children are growing and changing in normal ways, I am feeling the reality of the saying, “The Days Pass Slowly, But the Years Fly By.”   

In the past week, Patrick has said, “I only have a little more time with my friends before we go in different directions.”  This comment was made as an explanation for why he was choosing to spend so much time with his friends instead of doing other things. This is normal behavior at his age, wanting to be with your friends.  He is right, he will soon lose connection with many of his friends.  And that too is normal.  It is impossible to keep up with everyone we have been connected to as our lives and theirs changes.

While transitions are normal and it is to be expected that we will not maintain connections with all who have been a part of our lives, it is important to choose carefully which relationships to maintain.  It is easy to lose touch with people who have been an important part of our lives in different stages.  Relationships require time and commitment, and it is easy to lose touch with people just because of time and distance.  There is a difference in friends and social relationships.  At times in our lives we have many social relationships and fewer friends.  As we age, we often have less social relationships and more true friends, “more” not in absolute number, but in depth.

I am reminded of another saying, “Make New Friends but Keep the Old, One is Silver and the Other Gold.”

I hope that Patrick, Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia have lives filled with good times and good relationships.  And I wish for them, and all of us, more gold than silver.

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Do Overs and Do Nothings!

If one is emotionally fragile (and we can all be at some point,) the overall lack of service experienced today can send us over the edge.  I wrote about this last week, and ended that article being grateful for my blessings.  I still am.  What I am writing about today is a similar subject, and I remain grateful that I have very few serious problems to complain about, and this is not one of them.  But my intent is not to complain, but to help us change things that need to be changed, including changing ourselves and some of our expectations.

We are experiencing an overall lack of service, and our time is dramatically compromised.  A few examples.  There are too many do overs and do nothings.

I am writing this while waiting for a FedEx delivery that requires a signature.  I have spent most of the day at home when I need to be out taking care of other and more important business.  Oh, I have been productive while waiting, but as the day comes to an end, my patience is wearing thin.  And since I have committed most of my day to this, I do not want to cave now and have to go through the process all over again.  Thinking that I should be able to find a reasonable time window in which the delivery will be made, I went on line and called FedEx, both to no avail. The only information available is that the package will be delivered between 8:30am and the end of the day, whatever time the end of the day is!  Unacceptable.  With today’s technology, that is amazing.  The reason I was given for no more information than this by the live voice when I was finally able to get to one (a feat in and of itself) was that the package was shipped by FedEx Ground.  So what?  Why does a major company like FedEx want to upset its customers like this?  We know they have the technology, why are they not using it?

Another example.  I called the property management association that represents our beach condo on May 19th and put in an order request to get what was obviously a live bird at that point out of our dryer vent.  I even personally told the maintenance person who would likely handle the problem about it, that I had called the association office and reported it, and filled out the required service order request.  Nothing was done by them to either fix the problem, which I found out a week later when I was back at the condo, nor did anyone communicate anything about this to me.  (The condo is in a location three hours from our residence.)  I called back on May 26th when it was obvious nothing had been done, and there was a terrible odor in the dryer.  There was no more bird chirping however, so I assumed the bird had died in the vent.  Again, I was assured someone would call me back and tell me what would be done about the problem.  Today is May 31st, twelve days later, and not only has no one from the association called me back, but nothing was done to fix the problem, other than what I did.  I reported the problem to our rental agency, and they removed the dead bird from the dryer vent.  The lack of service and information from our property management association is unacceptable.  I am upset, and sad about the bird.

One more example.  Once I can leave the house (after the FedEx delivery) later today or tomorrow, one of my errands is to take back a pair of pants that I picked up from the tailor yesterday, which still have the two tears in them that they were taken to her to repair. Too much of my time is spent dealing with do overs, and I imagine you have similar stories.  This is the last time I will use this tailor.  It is not the first time for a problem of this nature with her.  I will no longer give my money and my time to this tailor who has failed to finish garments when promised, and too often her work has not been done correctly.  She even requires payment up front, which would be fine, if the work was done on time and right.  Enough do overs with this person.  I have another tailor whose work is always right and on time, and although she is a greater driving distance away, she is more than worth the distance. I only regret that some of the money she should have made from me went to the other tailor. 

What should we do about the overall lack of service?  First, we should refuse to give our hard-earned money to companies who make it difficult for us to enjoy doing business with them. Enough of the aggravations; we should be enjoying our relationship with those we support with our business.

We should expect an occasional problem.  We are not error free ourselves, so we should expect and accept graciously an occasional service problem. 

If/when appropriate, we should communicate our concern through the right channels, which is often to management, even though doing so takes time.  The problem is often a systems problem, not a people problem, which is reinforced by a quote I have used many times: “People don’t fail, systems do.”  And if the problem is a people problem, that is often also a systems problem, such as lack of training, management, and/or accountability.  If management is not made aware of our problems doing business with them, they may not have enough information to even know there is a problem.  Yes, they should know, but shouda woulda coulda gets us nowhere.  Let’s care enough to give them the information they need.

We may also need to change some of our expectations.  Things often take longer today than they should.  What we might think should only take a day, may take two or more days, whether it should, or not.  We can choose the time frame which is reasonable to us, but let’s be realistic, otherwise we will be dealing with more negativity than is good for us.  We should monitor progress, although we shouldn’t have to.  I am reminded of a client of mine who taught me this years ago. (Thank you, Render, you were so right about the need to monitor and follow up.) Yes, things should be done as expected, but they will not always be.

Finally, we should be nice.  Even when we are not getting the service we are paying for and deserve.  Which reminds me of a saying attributed to Maya Angelou. 

“I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how we made them feel.”

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Inconveniences and Tragedies

Sometimes things just do not go as they should, and certainly not as some of us expect.  I have had some of that these past few days. And I have expressed my frustration with several people about those things, and quite assertively.  No, not assertively, but aggressively.  And while the content of what I expressed was technically correct, I was wrong in how I said what I said.  No, I did not scream, call names, or use profanity.  But I was wrong nonetheless, although I did not think so at the time.  My awareness of the error of my ways came when I compared my inconveniences to the life changing events others are experiencing.    

In the past two days, I have waited on the phone a total of more than three hours listening to “how great we are” messages and incorrect information, never having my calls answered by a live voice and a caring person who could help me. I had the time to wait since I was a passenger in the car for most of that time, so I waited.  I was curious about how long it would be before someone answered the phone, and no one ever did.  The phones were obviously jammed with callers who were unable to get the information they needed due to problems with the company’s new “enhanced” website.  I also went on the new website, and spent at least two hours trying to log on, establish a new user name and password and answering security questions, only to be bumped off each time.  Being a customer advocate, I was diligent about escalating my concern to other departments than the one which should have been able to help me, but couldn’t.  In essence, I wasted five hours of my time.  I still do not have the information I need, and do not know when I will.  The last person I spoke with about the problems in their system told me to wait forty-eight hours and call back.  Imagine!  I cannot describe how upset all this lack of service made me.  Even worse was the waste of my time.  As my friend, Judy, has always said, “Waste my food and even waste my money, but do not waste my time.”  Time lost can never be recovered.

I don’t know why I thought I should call another service company and try to solve another problem when I was so upset by the lack of service of the first company, but I did, and also, to no avail. I called the cable company to ask why my bill is increasing for a change in service I did not request and do not need.  That call resulted in me being even more frustrated. The answer I was given was that the (new) company owner was streamlining the offerings to customers, and the bandwidth I had was no longer available.  After hearing how the increase in my monthly payment was only $20, (remember, for a service I did not need and did not request!) I finally told the service rep that I was being forced to consider another vendor, although I did not want to.  I heard no empathy in the service rep’s responses, so I decide to not waste any more of my time or his, and ended the call.  But I was not happy.

While I was still fuming about these two very frustrating events, the evening news came on.  The lead story on the local news was about a tornado destroying the homes of some people in Sampson county, NC, a county close to my area in North Carolina.  The news of the devastation the people of the area suffered immediately took my mind off my inconveniences, and put my blessings into clear focus.  The people of Sampson County are dealing with much more than inconveniences.  I felt immediately not just grateful, but guilty.      

The national news further compounded the difference in inconveniences and tragedy. The news of the bombing and killing of innocent people, children and young adults out for a concert in Manchester, England, made what I had been dealing with so trivial.  While I had been fussing and fuming about lack of phone response, website glitches, and increase in payment for services I do not need, people were dealing with the senseless loss of their children and their homes.  I had only lost time and money, while people in Sampson County, NC and Manchester, England lost so much more.  How quickly our problems can pale when compared to the problems of others.  Shame on me for not being able to deal with life’s inconveniences in an adult manner, without letting them ruin my day and the day of those whom I vented my frustration upon.  The difference in these experiences reminded me of what another friend, MoMo, has said more than once about me; I am usually calm with major challenges, yet can be thrown into a tailspin by minor things.  I need to change how I deal with the latter. 

Systems are not error free, and people will not always meet our expectations, nor will we meet theirs.  Such is life.  But these should be seen for what they are, only minor disruptions, not major problems.  My behavior needs to reflect that I truly understand the difference.

I usually write what I need to learn.  This one is for me. 

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Looking for Love in all the Right Places

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and Father’s Day is soon to be upon us.  While we have many holidays throughout the year, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have a special connotation. There are probably no other holidays that have the emotional issues attached to them as these two.  Of all the relationships we have in life, our relationship with our mothers and fathers are among the most important. 

Now, we are not naïve enough to think that all mothers and fathers are good and nurturing, and that our relationships with them sets us up for success in our future endeavors.  There are mothers and fathers who are ill equipped for parenting, and while many of them do their best to be for us what we need, some of them fail in that endeavor.  When we have lived enough years  to understand these things, we can put them into the proper perspective.  While as children we may look to our parents for love, as adults we sometimes need to move past these childhood desires and look for love in different places. 

Some reading this have accepted their parenting situations and no longer expect their parents to be what they incapable of being.  In some of these situations the children have become the parents of their parents. 

Others reading this have chosen their friends as their family, finding in them the nurturing and love that escaped them in their nuclear families.  Many find in their friends the families they never had. 

Then there are those who have created the families they wished they themselves had experienced.  These individuals are blessed to have been able to rise above their circumstances, to not expect anything more than they receive from their families, and yet who have created the families they wished they had been given.

Where are you looking for love?  Is it in the wrong places?  Are you expecting something from others that they are not able to give?  As adults, we should be mature enough to look for love in all the right places.  But, what are those places? 

Look first within.  Look within yourself to find the love that you are missing from others.  Not in an arrogant way, but in a self-confident way.  If you love yourself, you will likely be more loving to others.  It just does not usually happen the other way around.   

Then look to those who show you love in the ways that matter.  Those who cherish you, who use loving words when they speak with you.  Those who do not put you down.  Those who are not competitive with you.  Those who show you in a myriad of ways that you are important to them.  These are the people whom you can count upon. 

If you are blessed enough to have grandchildren, grandchildren who know how to show love, you are blessed indeed.  Children are not usually good at hiding their feelings; if they like you, you know it; and if they don’t, you know that as well!  And when your grandchildren love you, that is love beyond measure!

Looking for love in all the right paces.  That can be from within.  It can also be with others, others who you know from experience love you.   

And those grandchildren; WOW; love beyond measure!

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Call Your Mother!


Mother’s Day is here again, the one day in the year that we are encouraged to honor our mothers.  And mothers should be honored.  There is no one else who has given more for her children than a mother.  Now, I need to qualify this some.  All mothers do not meet this standard.  There are some mothers who for different reasons are not nurturing, who do not give their children what they need.  Some of you reading this had a mother like that.  Some of you have nurtured your mothers, have been to your mothers what they could not be for you.  God bless you.  You have been able to rise above your circumstances and be for others what they should have been for you.  You are given permission to skip most of the rest of this, for it does not apply to you.

A few other qualifiers, or disqualifiers, are in order.  I feel somewhat of a hypocrite writing this.  My mother passed away in 1998.  You can read my love story to her in my May 4, 2016 Blog Post, which you can access at www.fralixgroup.com.

My mother and I had a troubled relationship for many years, and I did not do what I am recommending that you do to honor your mother. Oh, how I wish I had more time to do so.  But when time is over, it is over.  That is one of my main messages.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

I want to make it clear that I am not referring to my children in these words.  If they find themselves here, so be it.  But I am not using this platform to send them a message I do not have the courage to deliver to them in person.    

I have had several conversations with mothers lately, and the themes in those conversations are similar.  When talking about her daughter, one woman said, “How do I say this kindly?  Well, I will just say it.  My daughter is indifferent to me.”  This mother moved to the town she lives in to be close to her daughter.  And her daughter is indifferent to her?!  Go figure.  This daughter is a high-powered executive who makes a lot of money. I hope her money keeps her company in her later years, for I don’t know if she will have relationships that will.  Her mother seems to be resigned to the reality of their relationship, and has an otherwise full life, but how sad that she and her daughter do not have the relationship they could. 

I spoke with an older couple whose son and family live near them. There have been some health issues with their son recently, and we were talking about how he is.  They looked so sad when they said, “You know, we don’t really know what is going on. They do not call, and don’t seem to want us to.”  This couple moved to the area where their son and family live to be closer to them since they, the parents, were getting older; but for what reason?  To be faced with the reality that the relationship is not what they would want it to be?  It would be easier to be states away and be able to excuse the lack of attention being due to the physical distance.

We are encouraged to buy presents for and/or send flowers to our mothers in honor of them on Mother’s Day.  I love flowers and gifts, and many other mothers do as well.  But that is one day, and that is easy.   What are you doing the other 364 days of the year?

Do you call your mother just to see how she is doing?   And I do mean call, not text or email.  Your mother loves to hear your voice, wants to talk to you, to have conversation with you, to catch up on what is going on in your life and in the lives of your family.  If you only call to give information, and fail to ask how your mother is doing, you are missing an important  connection.  And you can call at least once a week; that doesn’t take much time, does it?  What are you doing that is more important than checking in on and talking to your mother?  Believe me about this; you will long for time to talk to your mother when she is gone. 

There is more that I could say, but nothing more important. 

Just call your mother.

       

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