Christmas Wrap Up and Looking Forward

So, this Christmas trip home was a solid one. Probably the best I’ve had in years for so many reasons, baring I didn’t get to travel with my girlfriend who visited her family in a different part of the country (the challenges of moving away from home and dating a Midwesterner ;-p). But I’ll get to spend New Years with her back in Boulder and in Breckenridge, so it’s all good really.

My sister got engaged.

I found out I’m going to be an uncle.

My grandmother has made a HUGE bounce back from all of her health problems and orchestrated an amazing meal and Christmas Eve experience for my entire family.

My mother continued amaze me with her kindness and generosity towards others. I’ve really learned how to care about others through her and can continue to learn. The night before Christmas Eve my mom went to the hospital where she works to spend a few hours with a young, single mother who my mom trained on a computer system and subsequently befriended. After spending an entire day at my family’s house cooking and preparing Christmas Eve dinner, then cleaning up until 1AM, my mom ventured the cold to head to work on her night off to spend time with her young friend, give her some gifts for her baby as well as some re-assurance that hard-times pass and life is always getting better. I wonder if someone did the same thing for my mom when she was young and in that position. After all that, she came home, slept a few hours and then gathered me, my sister, her fiance and a friend up to go volunteer at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Worcester to serve Christmas Dinner to the homeless in the city. My mom rocks.

While there were some sad aspects to this Christmas including a death and sickness, we still managed to come together and show gratitude and happiness for the simple sake of being a family.

In 2010 I felt a strong shift. An upward one. I hit bumps, but I felt more re-enforced and solid in my convictions and confidence than ever before. I believe this will continue. I hope I can help others as much as I’ve been helped this past year too. That’s very important to me.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year to you all!

A Choice To Fill My Cart and Fill My Heart

Tonight I spent a little time going to my old hangouts in Worcester. I grabbed a cup of coffee at a couple coffee shops where I began my freelance career back in 2008. I grabbed a glass of wine at a bar that I spent many hours with old friends in talking about the past, the future, our dreams and fears. Then I went to a branch of a local grocery store where I worked my first real job as a grocery bagger and shopping carriage pusher.

I was going in to get some basic staples for the next week and a half that I know my mom doesn’t keep in the house – fresh eggs, bread, almond butter, spinach and mustard… don’t ask, it’s a weird open faced sandwich I like to make…

I pushed my noisy, broken carriage through the isles which looked exactly the same way they did as I walked through them 16 years ago. Same lighting, same noises and probably the same 80’s music. I actually saw someone stocking shelves who I was convinced I had worked with many years ago. I don’t recall us being acquainted, so I kept walking.

I grabbed my supplies, along with two cases of my favorite Worcester original, Polar Seltzer (cranberry lime and pomegranate) and made my way to the cash register.

Before I got to the cash register, I noticed a table of marked down goods. The typical fold-out table of discounted Barbie dolls, coloring books, Crayola markers and toy-cars. Nothing on the table particularly caught my eye, but what caught my eye was a middle-aged hispanic woman, who looked very familiar, who had picked up one of the Barbie doll boxes and held it in her hands as she looked contemplatively at it. She stared at it and looked at it with the look of a woman who wanted very badly to buy a toy for a child she loved. Instead of taking the Barbie, she placed it down, glanced over the rest of the goods on the table and walked on down the isle.

This saddened me. All I could picture was someone like my own mother having to make a choice between buying food or essentials and getting a gift for a child who would love it unconditionally, regardless if it was on the discounted rack or not. The choice between food or gifts – sometimes we make so many choices we forget about the basic ones. I know I do. I wanted so badly to run down the isle with the Barbie in my hand and tell the woman I would buy it for whomever she was looking to get a gift for. That I’d purchase whatever she wanted from the table for her kids, if she had any, or maybe someone else’s children she knew who were in need and just wanted a special Christmas.

Instead, I continued my walk to the checkout line. I didn’t make the heroic, presumptive gesture. I just pushed my achingly noisy, broken cart down to the only late-night cash register that was open and began to place my goods on the conveyor belt.

As I was emptying my cart, I looked over to another fold out table, but instead of marked-down goods on it, it had about 9 brown paper bags stapled shut, with lists of about 5 things that were in them. Peanut butter, tuna fish, canned corn, pickled beats, etc. Basic, non-perishable food stuffs. I saw a small, printed sign that said “buy one of these bags for 5 dollars to help stock the shelves of the local food bank.” Suddenly memories of the Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings when my mother, sister and I would go downtown to Saint Paul’s Cathedral and help prepare and serve meals to the homeless when volunteers were needed most. It reminded me of when I was young and my mother was teaching me how to be grateful for everything I had, no matter what it was and how giving was so much more important than receiving in life.

So I decided that I’d buy one of those brown paper bags and contribute a little bit to Worcester’s local food bank. In tandem, I also decided that I’d be spending Christmas morning (again) at Saint Paul’s Cathedral helping prepare and serve meals to those in need. As I waited for my cashier to finish checking me out and placing the bag of food in a pile with other donations (the same cashier who had worked nights since I was 15) I took a minute to feel grateful. I’m grateful for so much that I have, but I’m also grateful for what I’m able to give of myself and that I have the moral compass and point of reference (familiarity) to when I felt most alive in life to remind me of what it is to feel good about Christmas and every other day of your life.

I hope all of you have an amazing Holiday with family and friends.

Home For The Holidays – How Good Have I Been?

I head home for the holidays this coming Saturday. I am super excited. This year has flown by and I’ve only been back in MA a few times. I guess I’m lucky to have been back at all, as some people I know never go home!

I wonder how good I’ve been at keeping in touch this year? I’ve fallen out of touch with some people and made many (MANY) new friends and have an amazing new relationship in my life. But, how good was I at keeping in touch?

This is something I’m going to ponder while I’m at home smothering my family and friends with the love and attention they’ve missed out on this past year. I can’t wait!

Chicken (or Carrot Ginger) Soup For My Soul

As I sit and write this, I know my girlfriend is going to be scolding me for staying up past 9PM… and that makes me happy.

A couple days ago I started to feel like I was coming down with something. A cold of some sort. However, I kept pushing myself, went to the gym, went out w/ friends, hosted a potluck, enjoyed a few (or many) drinks and woke up feeling like absolute hell today. I started losing my voice at the end of last night and knew I’d be in trouble today.

So today I spent most of the day inside, besides running out to bring my girlfriend lunch at her work. I felt like hell, all achey, dizzy, tired, stuffed up. Curling up and doing nothing would have been great, but I also happen to have a rather important event at work tomorrow night that I’m organizing… so I don’t have time to be sick.

So, after work, my girlfriend stopped by my apartment with some goodies. No, not cookies or ice cream. She made sure to remind me via GChat all day that I was to eat no dairy, meat or heavy stuff. Just soup and lite things and to get rest. She showed up with tea that helps fight whatever’s ailing you, some soup, vitamins, cough syrup and a loving touch and soothing voice that made me feel better than any amount of Tylenol or NyQuil could. Not to mention a device called a Netty Pot that looks like a tea kettle that pour warm, salty water up my nose to clear my nostrils. She was amused as I tried my best to operate and not spill on myself.

It reminded me what an absolute baby I am when I get sick. I’m a whimpering mess. Sniffles, snotty and lazy. Yet I felt more at home and comforted by the simple and loving things my girlfriend did for me tonight than I could have ever done for myself. Getting sick out in the middle of Wisconsin where I had no-one was not very nice. I wanted mom’s soup or my grandmother to bring me tea. I couldn’t have any of that then, but as I listened to my front door shut tonight after my girlfriend headed home (to avoid catching what I have), I took a big breath and felt deep deep gratitude for having her in my life and feeling truly home somewhere that isn’t originally home.

I need to be at least a little better for tomorrow night’s event, but I wanted to stay up an extra ten minutes and post this love and undying gratitude to the woman who brought me a Netty Pot and a bag of herbal remedies to make me feel better. Thank you.

Get Referrals by Being Needy – With Style

I have about 10 people I know, at any given moment, I can gladly sent business referrals to. They’ve helped me with my projects, they’ve taken over work I couldn’t manage anymore. They’re responsible, they’re reliable and they’re needy, with style.

I spent 8 months trying to stay busy as a freelance consultant, doing marketing, community management and branding projects that lasted a short while. I took absolutely any work, no matter the scope, if it was within my wheelhouse to crush. I was always asking for more work, telling people in the business that they could give their over-flow to me any time. I was reliable and I was vocal about how hungry I was to get new projects and rock them.

When I came on board with this new company I work for, my ability to do extra freelance work decreased to almost nothing. I’m in an early stage startup, there’s just not a lot of free time associated with that lifestyle to handle side projects. However, the mentions of “hey, I have this project, do you think you could…” kept coming in.

Something I learned from a freelance mentor years ago was this: you want the quality of your referrals work to be as high, if not higher than your own. That way, you’ll always have someone who you helped out to get them work and someone you helped out to get their work done grateful to you. That kind of gratitude and reputation is always important to have, no matter how “secure” you feel in any given job that you have.

My main point in this blog post is: always let people who can help you know exactly how they can help you. It goes without saying, if you get a project, you need to crush it. But it’s hard to get referrals when nobody knows you’re hungry and ready to do work right away. I love the feeling of knowing that when I hear “do you know anybody who can do….” and being able to respond right away with, “Yup. I’ve got people.”

Guest Post: Smiling and Suffering

This post is brought to you by my good friend Prince from back home in Worcester.

“Keep your chin up”, “count your blessings”, “there is always someone worst than you”, “At least you’re not…(fill in the blank). These are things I hear constantly, especial when they learn that i am dealing with a tough time. But the fact of the matter is, when something SUCKS then it SUCKS. We’re all human beings with emotion and can’t help how we feel about certain things.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the things I have and I think of myself as someone who doesn’t take things for granted. However when someone oh I dunno…SPITS on my CAR, INSULTS my character, CUTS ME OFF, gets in my FACE, take what is MINE, use their authority to make my like hell, acts IGNORANT and in some cases NIGnorant, I can’t HELP but envision a scenario in which I slit the person’s throat. (C’mon….don’t act like YOU have never secretly killed someone in your head.) And the LAST thing I want to hear is someone devoid of any sensitivity or perspective you YOUR own situation spouting off some happy horse-bullshit about attitude.

YES I get it, attitude effects how we go about life. YES I get it, gratitude helps. YES I get it, things will pass. But the bottom line is that if we this thinking helped us ALL of the time (which is unrealistic), then we would ALWAYS be happy despite things like losing a family member, for example. Sometimes things suck and you need to feel them and “let them suck” in order to be over.

Although some people have good intentions when they tell you these positive things, they need to remember that we as humans we run through a whole spectrum of emotions, because life runs through a whole spectrum of situations. Think the “comedy/tragedy” drama symbol.

But let’s look at one particular statement that is commonly used. the one that begins with “At least you’re not…”. People can say things such as “well at least you’re not some poor, sweatshop-working kid in Pakistan. Now the problem with these statements at least to me is that it is presumptuous. The person makes the underlying assumption (either intentionally or inadvertently) that people in countries other than the one you/I live in (America, ’cause were the best, right?) suffer. Not only is that demeaning and ethnocentric, it’s downright INSULTING. Why should I assume that just because someone is in another country that they are suffering? Why should I have to look at a person in a deplorable condition just to feel good about MYSELF? So the next time my car breaks down and a cop harasses me along with the passing motorists, or a relative, or my best friend gets kidnapped and, or I lose my job, all I have to do is go to Africa or a PAKISTANI SWEAT SHOP and see all the poor saps that are suffering there.

Thank God (sarcasm) I’m not them. That makes me feel really good about myself. After all, I’m not them. God Bless America.

Yes I do have things to be grateful for, but the bottom line is if I’m upset sometimes the best thing to do is let me be upset. Don’t worry, I’ll get over it. Remember, even JESUS got angry…he wasn’t happy when people set up gambling shops in Churches. He wasn’t happy that people “turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves”. I’m sure he knocked over tables and chairs, and I’m sure he yelled and threw things. After all, he WAS HUMAN. So before you dismiss me as an ungrateful person just remember the time you were cut off, or insulted, or physically attacked, or lost a loved one, or been assaulted, told you were ugly or fat, harassed by the police, (fill in the blank) remember….at least you’re not some poor, poor, desolate Pakistani kid…lol. If things SUCK, then they SUCK. You’ll be fine.