Sunday, February 25, 2018

Life As I Now Know It™: A Year (or two) In the Life of a Single Working Mom

One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2018 was to write at least 36 blog posts over the course of the year. (The number 36 is not as random as it appears; I'll be 36 this year, and approximately 3 posts a month just seemed like a reasonable number.) It's now late February and I'm off to a roaring start. I've posted a GRAND TOTAL of....


I've been giving myself quite a hard time about this. Writing is my passion, second only to reading, and neither of these loves have gotten very much attention from me in the past year or two. I've recently become a fan of Audible, which is allowing me to get a lot more "reading" in, and while part of me hates spending $15 a month on something entirely digital, I have used the subscription more than I ever expected. I spend a lot of time on the road between work travel and long-distance-boyfriend travel, so thanks to audiobooks, I've been able to keep up with my book club and have enjoyed a number of books on my list that I'd otherwise have never found time to read.

Disclaimer: Though it may sound like it, this post has not been sponsored by Audible. Though I'd absolutely take their money if they offered so...

But writing still remains something I cannot do while in the car on long trips. I often think of things I'd like to write about, but between work, kids and aforementioned long-distance boyfriend, I have a very hard time carving out the time I need to put thoughts into words.

I was lamenting about this yesterday to The Boyfriend who is also a writer and somehow finds the time in his busy schedule to crank out intelligent blog posts on a pretty regular basis. He reminded me that as chaotic as his life is, mine is outrageous. We began tracing backwards what my life has been like for the last year and a half or so, and he's right. My ability to find time or even headspace to write might be affected by the following series of events. I'm going to take you back to the last point in time where I actually managed to squeeze in some writing: the month and year I published my book. (It's on Amazon. Go buy it and read it. It is an amazing source of income for me, y'all. It brought in a whopping $45.76 last year! I AM LITERALLY PAID TO WRITE, GUYS. *Insert laughing-so-hard-you're-crying emoji*.)

July 2015
I published my book that I'd been working on for a year and a half. Amidst trying to finalize the publishing process, I was applying for jobs. That same month, I began working at AFMC after having been out of the traditional work force for 7+ years.

July 2015 - Oct 2016
I'll just throw the entire year in together as one lump sum time period, since it was a major year of transition from stay-at-home-mom to working mom. I had to relearn everything, from how to work in a professional setting again to how to feed my kids when I don't get home until after 6 every day. It was quite the year. And around July 2016 I applied for another job and went through a series of 4 intense interviews before taking my new job and setting into motion the gyroscope that would become Life As I Now Know It.

Oct 2016
I began working for the American Red Cross as the regional communications director for all of Oklahoma and Arkansas on October 10th. Immediately I went from a (albeit very busy) 9-5 job to a round-the-clock on-call constantly-traveling one. I began traveling approximately 40% of the time, and this caused an excruciating strain on my marriage and brought on a number of things, which eventually brought everything to a head, leading to...

Nov 2016
Scott and I started talking about divorce.

Jan 2017
Scott moved out.

(Meanwhile, back in December, my one communications staff member, who found himself in the awkward position of having to train his boss, quit for an amazing opportunity elsewhere, leaving me with two months experience and no team.)

I was also still traveling a significant amount of time for my job, when...

Feb 2017
The executive director in my home Red Cross chapter very suddenly retired due to illness. The chapter was two months away from its annual fundraiser, and as communications director it fell on me to help pull the event together in her absence. I decided to apply for the executive director position (it would certainly require less travel), so I didn't mind the extra work, but it meant that I was still doing my full time two-state communications job as well as a chapter executive job.

April 2017
I was selected as the executive director. Then just about two weeks before the fundraiser, the previous executive director passed away suddenly. With this new development, we had to redesign a significant part of the fundraiser to address this sad, sudden change. Now, I was not only taking over from a woman who had retired after having been a pillar in this community, leading this chapter for over 22 years, I was now taking over after this woman's death. With the help of the Board of Directors and several volunteers and staff, we pulled off the fundraiser, and I officially started my new job.

But there was still no new communications director, so I had to continue dual roles for a short while. At the end of April, I went to Jonesboro to help the Northeast Arkansas chapter with their annual fundraiser. While in Jonesboro, the tornadoes, storms and floods that later became known as the 2017 Spring Storms, began sweeping across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, and I found myself in my first ever Level 4 Disaster Relief Operation (DRO). I'd only been with the Red Cross for six months.

May 2017
I was deployed to Pocahontas, AR as the Public Affairs (PA) Lead where I spent a week covering media surrounding the massive flooding. Actually, I started out in Tulsa, OK, where we though the majority of the damage would be. After a day in Tulsa, I was sent to Pocahontas instead, where the actual major damage had occurred all the way up to St. Louis, MO.  After that week, I came back to Little Rock to work in the headquarters. I was now trying to learn my new job as ED, cover my old job as communications director, train the new communications staff member I'd just hired, and help run the PA, as well as assist as Government Liaison, for a DRO. Oh, and I was still doing the almost full-time parenting thing, minus Thursdays and every other weekend.

Oh, and I was informed at this time that I was also supposed to be well into planning for the Annual Board Meeting for June, an event I had no experience in and had just over a month to plan and execute.

June 2017
I somehow pulled off the Annual Board Meeting. I began taking over board meetings too and working with my new officers and board members.

July 2017
Scott officially got his own place, and the kids started going back and forth between houses every other week. It was quite an adjustment. (But it's been going well.) I began having more free time to myself, but also began absorbing more of the reality of my new situation.

At work, I began vigorous planning for our next big event, Sound the Alarm, where nationally the Red Cross aimed to install over 100,000 smoke alarms in homes over a four week period. In my chapter, our goal was to install 1,000 alarms.

Aug 2017
At the start of August (though technically it was the very tail end of July) I began dating the lovely, gorgeous, intelligent man who would eventually become The Boyfriend. Who, of all places, just happens to live in Mississippi. Thus I became entangled in a long-distance relationship.

I also bought a car. (This becomes relevant in just a moment.)

On August 17, Hurricane Harvey made landfall. I was still reeling from the Spring Storms and the Annual Meeting and trying to get a grasp on what all my new job entailed, and now, as an ED, I was responsible for deploying my part of what we call a DFRAP ("dif-rap"), a Disaster Fundraising Action Plan. I had three TV stations request our help in running a telethon to help raise money for hurricane victims. After a 14 hour day of non-stop televised telethoning, a truck slammed into me on the Arkansas River bridge on my way home (a hit and run, no less), nearly totaling my brand new car, on the night I was supposed to go see Ben Folds perform in Little Rock. For the next 6 weeks I drove around in a rental while my new car was in full-body surgery.

Then on August 30, Hurricane Irma made landfall.

Sept 2017
I was deployed again, this time to Fort Meyers, FL, where I spent almost two weeks. While I was in Florida, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

Sound the Alarm was mercifully postponed until the spring.

Meanwhile, of course, I was still dating said Mississippi boy, who at this point had started undergoing a major crisis of his own. We joked (wryly) that I was providing disaster relief everywhere I turned.

Meanwhile, of course, I still had three children back home who are terrified that I was going to get killed in a hurricane, even though the hurricane had already come through. (Of course, Maria was heading my way while in Florida ...)

Oct 2017
The Las Vegas shooting occurred. The California wildfires raged. The trifecta of hurricanes continued to require an enormous amount of manpower. My chapter was practically empty with the number of staff and volunteers deployed all over the country providing disaster relief.

But I returned from my Florida deployment and was ready to finally get back to learning my new job as ED. At this point, we had hired a new communications director, and I was officially done helping with that role.

Then, on October 2, an announcement was made to my chapter - the Red Cross in my chapter jurisdiction would cease collecting blood as of December 31st.

The Red Cross had been collecting blood in central Arkansas for over 60 years. This was a massive change that affected everyone greatly, and as the "fearless leader" (please note the self-deprecating quotation marks) I got to be the ringleader for managing the media, the Board, and the employees concerns surrounding this astronomical change.

Nov - Dec 2017
Things quieted down, to a degree. I began intense planning for the annual fundraiser that was already looming around the corner again. Sound the Alarm was rescheduled for April. And in December, blood collection operations began coming to a close, and it was a very emotional experience. But for the most part, I got to breathe a little and enjoy a really lovely Christmas with my family.

Jan 2018
It was a good thing I got a two month breather, because with the start of the new year came a new announcement. We received the news that within the next several months Arkansas and Oklahoma would split apart as a region, and Arkansas would be joining up with Missouri. This was yet another astronomical change. Meanwhile, fundraiser planning was still in full swing and Sound the Alarm planning was supposed to be in full swing.

Oh, and things with Mississippi Boy got real over Christmas, and I introduced him to Scott and the kids in January. Major transitions at work. Major transitions at home. Transitions, transitions everywhere.

Feb 2018 - Present
With blood collections handed over to Arkansas Blood Institute (where I highly encourage central Arkansas folks to go to give blood now, though if you are in the northern part of the state or in most other parts of the country, you can still donate through Red Cross), the question of what would happen to our building loomed over us. It was decided earlier this month, that we will remain in our building but everyone's offices will be relocated to a central area of the building instead of spread out as we had been. We are in the process of packing up our offices right now and moving them to new offices before the end of the month.

That sounds like small potatoes in light of everything else, but it has been another stressful transition.

Meanwhile, the Celebration of Heroes Luncheon fundraiser is in two weeks. (Tickets still available! Email us if you want to attend and support the work and mission of the Red Cross!)

Meanwhile, I am still working with our local team to organize the newly scheduled Sound the Alarm for April 28th. (We still need volunteers, so go sign up!)

Meanwhile, we are in the thick of working out the imminent transition from the Oklahoma-Arkansas region to the Missouri-Arkansas region.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting calls constantly about what happened to blood collections.

Meanwhile, it is now the start of tornado season.

Meanwhile, I'm still dating this lovely man long-distance and parenting my three wild cherubs every other week, trying to find the perfect work-life balance that supposedly exists somewhere in the universe where full-time working single moms are still able to find time for romance and spending quality time with their children.

Meanwhile, the official divorce date for me and Scott is coming up in the very near future. (Scott, by the way, is the best ex a girl could ask for. He is a really great man, folks. But even in a divorce as amicable and agreeable as ours, divorce takes a lot of planning and it's stressful AF.)

Meanwhile, amid planning the Heroes Lunch and Sound the Alarm, I also have my Annual Board Meeting looming in the not too distant future, and several week-long training sessions out of state, and then hurricane season is looming after that, and then next year's fundraiser is after that and then tornado season again after that and then ...


I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I don't get 36 posts cranked out this year, I should probably give myself a break about it.