Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Aggie T-Shirt Quilt

We have this old quilt that we use almost daily while we are watching tv. It is probably Lance's favorite blanket, and it shows. It is slowly ripping and getting filled with holes. Before his last birthday, Lance made it pretty clear that a new blanket was something that he would really like, either for his birthday or for Christmas.

During our years at Utah State, we accumulated quite a few t-shirts, and I knew that one day I wanted to make a t-shirt quilt out of them. I decided that this was the year and that it would be a nice gift for me to give to Lance.

I spent a lot of time scouring Pinterest and the internet, looking at different ideas. Every t-shirt quilt is slightly different, and I wanted something that looked clean, had crisp lines, and was not supper cluttered and disorganized. I wasn't a huge fan of the super colorful, highly random and chaotic ones.

So one weekend while Lance had to go to Boise for a work trip, I headed up to Logan to spend some time with Scott and Sharon and to get started on this quilt. I needed a few more shirts to get the right sizing and colors that I was going for. Then we hit almost every fabric shop in town trying to find the perfect accents to go with it.

Back at the house, I attempted to design and layout the quilt. This was BY FAR the hardest part. It was tough not only deciding where each shirt should go in relation to each other, but it was difficult to know exactly what size to do each shirt (as I wasn't doing uniform squares). I had to measure everything about 200 times, trying to get everything to line up perfectly.
Then the sewing began.

One by one each piece started to come together. I made a ton of progress and got a great start that weekend while Lance was gone. I never could have done with without Sharon and Scott helping with the kids while I basically tuned everything out except working on this. I'm afraid I was a terrible guest.
 One I had all the individual pieces finished, I started sewing the rows together, and adding a border in between them. *I had more pictures of the process, but they were deleted as I was afraid that Lance would look at my phone and see them.*

A miracle happened, and the pieces all lined up beautifully. I got a bit tired of measuring over and over again, so I ended up just guessing on some of the pieces. So it truly was a miracle that they lined up so perfectly. I had finished this part of the quilt faster than I had anticipated, so I decided to add a fun border along the edge, incorporating some of the trim used to outline the squares.

Then I decided to be insane and I hand quilted the entire thing. I did every border, all of the letters, the bull, etc.

Then I added some batting and a piece of material to go on the back. It took me anywhere from 2-4 hours per square to hand quilt, so it was quite the project. But when I get started on something, I get a bit consumed with it. I would spent about 6 hours a day working on this, and I managed to finish it before his birthday. I turned some music on, and the kids played around me while I worked. It was actually a lot of fun and make the days go by super fast. I really wanted to give it to him then, but I decided to hold off until Christmas.
This is one of those few things that I truly feel proud of. I actually took the time to make it look nice and I am super pleased with how it turned out.
 Go Aggies!

Enterprise - My Current Thoughts

When Lance accepted the job at Enterprise, I had very little idea what the actual job was. A few weeks into the job, an area manager took Lance and I out to dinner. There, I was able to grill him all about the company, what Lance could expect, different pathways he could take, different opportunities. It really opened my eyes to the company, and I left that dinner very excited for what the future might hold for us.

So Lance is currently in the "Management-Trainee Program" at Enterprise. He helps customers when they come to rent cars and tries to sell them insurance, upgrades, etc. He helps maintain the cars, drives them to different locations, and keeps them in top condition. He also communicates with insurance companies and keeps things straight on that front. Basically, he is learning how to run the business. After the training program, which can take between 6-9 months, he will take a test and hopefully be promoted to assistant-manager at one of the branches. 

From there he can keep working his way up the ladder to manager, area manager, and up even further if he wanted. Or he could choose to go other routes such as car sales, or truck rentals, etc. Enterprise only hires within the company, so if you are working hard and doing reasonably well, there is a decent shot of being promoted when the timing is right.

The potential is so high and things I had given up dreaming about now seem like they could be reality again one day. I know that potential is not a guarantee. And it will not be an easy pathway, but there is hope. And it makes it easier to get through hard times when you know you are actually working for something and have a goal in mind.

Even though we know this course we have chosen will be a long one, we are hopeful.

Click here to read the post from Lance on why he wanted to switch jobs.
Click here to read my perspective on why Lance wanted to switch jobs.

Change is Good

Some people hate change. They like consistency. Routine. Knowing exactly what to expect. Not always having to make huge decisions. Then there are those who thrive on change and gladly welcome it. They love trying new things. Living new places. Making new friends. Starting over.

I have yet to decide which of these I am.

When Lance started work at Deseret Industries over a year and a half ago, he really enjoyed his job. He was excited about it. He was proud of what he was doing. Then slowly, things started to change. Lance would come home upset, spend the whole evening reflecting on everything that had gone wrong at work, then go to bed hating the fact that he had to get up and do it all again. He voiced his concerns and frustrations with his management team time and time again, but to no avail. They seemed to shrug off his problems as little concern or simply didn't care enough to even make an attempt to make some changes.

But there were many benefits to working at the DI. They offered great insurance, and at little expense. Lance was home between 4-4:30pm every day. He never had to worry about working Sunday's. So I encouraged Lance to push through. Find a way to make it work. We have a mortgage to pay after all.

Things went from bad to worse. Quickly Lance was falling dangerously deep into depression and lacking any satisfaction from his job. And it had a significant impact on our family as well. I couldn't understand what was so terrible and why he couldn't just accept that working wasn't fun and that he may never truly enjoy his job. Lance was upset that I wasn't on his side and hated how unsupportive I was.

It took about hitting rock bottom for me to change my way of thinking. Suddenly out of the blue one day Lance came home and announced that he was looking for a new job and his goal would be to be done with the DI within a few weeks. I made a decision then and there that I would try my very best to put aside all my doubts and fears and just try to be supportive. And I was scared out of my mind. The DI was safe. Comfortable. I knew exactly what to expect, and I hated the thought of a job that didn't offer that type of security.

So while Lance was at work, I was scouring the internet for job openings. And let me tell you, that did nothing but heighten my fears. It seemed every job that Lance might be interested in were just out of reach. He was barely under qualified....for everything. Well, everything except sales.


The thought of a quitting a consistent salary job for a commission job sent me into panic mode. I understand that there can be high potential for sales positions, but it's just that...potential. I wasn't quite sold on the idea of...if you are amazing you might make enough money to pay your bills. Oh.....and by the way...if you stink, you'll probably be swimming in debt shortly and possibly even forced to sell your house. Sounds awesome, right?

Sales jobs had me pulling out my hair, but if I eliminated them, there really wasn't other options that paid well enough to support where we currently were. And we assumed that neither of our parents would be thrilled with the idea of us moving in with them.

While biting my nails and pulling out my hair, Lance applied for several sales-type jobs. He had heard some decent things about RC Willey so he walked in one day inquiring about a job. They interviewed him on the spot and soon after called him for a second interview. Shortly after that, he was offered a position. Lance thought about it long and hard, and I thought he was going to take it. Though I questioned whether he was taking it because he really wanted the job, or if he was just so desperate to get away from his current job.

During this whole process, Lance had also applied with Enterprise Car Rentals and had an interview with them. He made it to the third and final interview and was waiting to find out whether he would be offered a job or not. So he asked RC Willey if he could have a week to think about it. Then he got the call from Enterprise, asking if he wanted the job. He told them yes and called RC Willey to decline their offer.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I tried to turn this decision fully over to Lance. I am a very opinionated, stubborn person and it's difficult for me to give him full control over such an important decision. But I tried my best to keep things to myself and give Lance my full support. I was not super thrilled with his decision to switch careers to Enterprise. We have a friend who works there and it seemed like all I heard from the wife was how he worked so much and how she was basically a single-mom. And she seemed hesitant about whether it was worth it or not.

I sat back, held on to my seat til my knuckles were white, and told Lance to do what he felt like he needed. Two weeks later, he was working at Enterprise.

Change is scary. Even if it's an exciting change, there is usually at least some fear of the unknown of what would come. And this job has definitely brought some changes at our house. Now, instead of being home at 4:30pm every day and having a few hours to spend with the kids and I, he shows up sometime between 6:30-7:00pm. When your kids start getting ready for bed at 7:30pm, that doesn't leave a lot of time to do anything. He now has most Saturdays off, but they quickly fill up with those errands and things we weren't able to do throughout the week. And even though he is working much longer hours, it was a couple steps back financially. 

It has been a really hard transition for me. I already struggled staying sane and keeping control of myself and the kids until 4 o'clock; those extra few hours can be brutal sometimes. But do you know what happens at the end of those long (and sometimes miserable) days...??? I get a husband that walks in the door with a smile on his face. I have a husband who comes home excited to get down on the floor and play with the kids. I have a husband who is happy. Exhausted, but happy. And that makes all the difference.

*If you missed the post from Lance's perspective, click here. I asked Lance to write that post before reading my post. And it was really interesting to sit down together afterwards and read each of our opinions on the subject side-by-side.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Job Change - Written By Lance

When I was in college, I worked at Wal-Mart and hated it. The only thing that got me through it was a small handful of coworkers who were remarkable people. Beyond that, I hated everything about that job. That experience made me realize just how valuable an education is, because it would be the means of my escaping Wal-Mart and moving onto something better. That opportunity came in the form of DI.

When I started working at the DI, I thought it was great. While there were rules and policies, there was also the flexibility to do what I wanted to do. My co-workers seemed to get along, and everything seemed to go pretty well. I felt respected by my managers and valued as a contributing member. I really enjoyed helping people move on to bettering their lives.

After I had been there about three months, I got a new store manager. He seemed to care and want to help. He helped me get a better handle on the area that I was in. After a little over a month of being there, he shuffled everyone around to different areas, which is good (being stuck in the same area for too long can be a very bad thing, as we'll see later.) I was transferred from inside to the dock area. And the dock wasn't bad. I had a decent crew, and we got done everything that we needed to.

Over time, I started to notice a little trend. My area would be understaffed, and despite my numerous pleas to get more associates, I was told that we just didn't have anyone that could physically do it. I believed it only until I saw that other areas were getting all the people that could easily physically handle it. When I would ask why that was, I would be told that the other areas just needed it more. I would also see that other job coaches were given more and more opportunities to show their versatility and skill, and I was being told over and over to not worry about anything outside of my area (no matter how much it effected my area.) Job coaches would be rotated again and again, and I would be told that I was going to stay outside in the elements and not be given the opportunity to do something new and different ("You're just too valuable to us where you're at" is the biggest piece of BS out there.) Three times, I was passed up in the rotations, without a good reason.

I know that there are lots of people out there that think that working for the Church is a dream come true, and that all that happens all day is scripture reading and singing hymns while you work and meeting general authorities, and that if people complain about things then they themselves are the problems, but I have this sad bit of truth to share: the church is not immune to stupid people in positions of power. I was the victim of one of those situations, and I know that there are other situations out there that are similar. This doesn't effect truthfulness at all, just career happiness.

I started to really despise my job, almost as much as I despised Wal-Mart. Where I had once had the ability to pull associates aside to talk with them, I was now told to stay in my area and not leave it. When I would try to talk with my associates, I would be interrupted with various tasks that were nonessential. When I would need a break, I was told to get back to work. It got to the point that I would go to sleep every night praying that I would be too sick to go to work, and wake up cursing my luck that I was too healthy to justify staying home. I started seeing that the team that I once admired was falling apart while the upper management sat in their office calling friends, or shopped on their iPhones and had Amazon deliver their personal purchases to their workplace, or found various impractical projects to take up their time when they were really needed more elsewhere. I started seeing the rampant abuse of power all around me, and felt guilty for being a part of an organization that seemed to have neither the means nor the desire to hold people accountable for their lack of leadership or results. It started effecting my home life, in bringing about depression and negativity. I started resenting Bobbi for doing the right thing and encouraging me to go and not claim to be sick for a day. I started dreading the weekends because that only meant that the whole cycle was about to start again and find a new way to get worse.

When the depression got to uncomfortably familiar depths, I knew that it was time to act, and get out of the toxic environment that I was in.

I started checking the online classifieds with Bobbi every day, looking for anything that might be a good fit. I refused to quit the DI until I found something else. I wasn't sold on the idea that I had to stay in the field that I studied in college, because I only had my bachelor's degree in it and I knew that I wasn't going to find anything that payed better. I looked into sales jobs, because lots of psychology graduates find their way into sales. Every day we would find a handful that sounded interesting, and would apply. 

One night, I remembered that my best friend from college was at one point trying to get me to work at Enterprise, that company that rents cars. I refused when he first started recruiting me to it, as I thought that it wouldn't be good for me. I remember him telling me about the hours that he worked, and thought that it was too much. But I reached out to him, and found out that they in fact were hiring, and that he had been very successful in it with the same degree that I had. I applied, thinking that I'll still keep my ears open.

The next day I got a call to schedule an interview.

I researched the company, and found that it was actually a really good fit for me. The Enterprise Management Trainee program (which I had applied for) was designed to teach people how to run a business. It is renowned in the business world for producing great management candidates. It is nicknamed "The MBA without the IOU." I found out that lots of employers will seek out people who have completed the Management Trainee program and hire them out of Enterprise and into their own business. I figured that worst case scenario, if I hate it, I can allow myself to be found by another employer after I finish the program. Best case scenario, I can stay in and climb as high as possible.

So far, I have learned that while the hours are long (50+ per week) and the pay starts out lower than I was at at the DI, the long-term future looks much brighter. After I finish the program, I get a significant raise. Within two years, I can reach a higher annual earning than I would have been capped at with DI. Within five years, I can have (almost) normal hours. Already I have noticed that my depression has become significantly better, I don't feel guilty for being employed there, the company takes great efforts to avoid corruption, and I am seeing my own efforts praised and my potential growing. I don't despise getting up early every morning for work any more than I would normally despise getting up early without work, which is a big improvement. I'm also seeing that even though I don't quite spend as much time home as I would like to, I am enjoying the time home even more.

To read about Bobbi's point of view, click here and here.

A Groundhog Birthday

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I've never been a huge fan of my birthday and don't care to make a big deal of it. Besides a couple of phone calls and my Facebook exploding with messages, it is usually not unlike most other days. And that is about how I like it. 

I started the day with laundry and some house cleaning. Will wanted to make waffles for breakfast so we did that. One of his favorite things is to help me cook.
Then Lance showed up for lunch with roses and a gift card. And after he got off work, we took the kids out to dinner at Village Inn. Though it was a fairly normal day, I appreciated the effort people made to wish me a Happy Birthday and make me feel extra loved. And I felt it.

I tried something a little different than I normally wear.
The weather was beautiful and the kids and I enjoyed an afternoon in the backyard. We jumped on the trampoline, played in the playhouse, and I got to bask in the sun, reading a good book while the kids played in the dirt. It was awesome.
 The kids love to play what we call "The Rescue" game. Basically they start to go down the slide, then I grab them and try to save them from falling. Most of the time, I am "unable" to pull them back up and they fall down the slide.
 Will especially loves this game and gets a real kick out of it. Occasionally, he is even so big that he ends up pulling mommy down with him. That might be his favorite part.

 "Help me, Mommy!"
Blake also gets in on the action and tries to help me pull Will to safety.

Then of course they wanted to be pushed on the swings.

I had a great day. Thank you everyone who made it special.