Today I am wearing a tie

Today I am wearing a tie. Yep, a snappy purple tie, with a sport coat and dress pants, and real live dress shoes.Though I usually avoid these types of outfits if I can, I must admit I feel like a million bucks today.

Ordinarily, I’m wearing jeans and t-shirts and sweatshirts to work. Sometimes I might wear a golf shirt. When you might have to crawl around and fix hardware or microfilm machines it’s kind of a necessity not to get so dressed up.

So, why is today different?

Any guesses?

Well, like most men who don’t work in the corporate world, I wear ties for 3 distinct purposes, 3 types of events - and here’s the list...

Survey says? (I miss Richard Dawson)

1. Sadly, someone has passed. Funerals, wakes, memorial services and the like as a matter of decorum, require a tie. Although - I do have this request: Don’t wear a tie to my memorial service. I’ll save the hows and  whys for another day, but mostly I just want folks to dress in something that makes them feel comforted - like a hoodie, or a big honkin' sweater.

More on that another day, let’s get back to ties...

2. Someone is getting married. Who doesn’t love to whoop it up in a tie at a wedding. Throw that jacket over a chair, loosen that tie and dance the night away. It’s just a cool look. You have to love it. Weddings are always fun, well mostly fun, and the tie lets you be respectful at the church and cool at the reception. How can you beat that?

3. Finally, you wear that tie to job interviews, at least for the first round. Time to let folks know you are serious, you are respectful and you are professional.

So (inject Jeopardy music), Jimmer wore a tie today because... do do do do -- dododo...

Bingo, if you answered #3 - I had a job interview.

What’s that?

How did I do?

Well, I’ll start off by telling you that I am really bad at judging this type of thing. I’ve had interviews I thought I rocked that went nowhere, and interviews I thought were utter chaos that landed me a job, the job I have now in fact.


Because I learned this morning that the owner of the company where I interviewed has read my blog I’m only going to say this...

I felt welcome, and everyone I met was incredibly nice.

It really doesn’t matter how I did. Oh, I want the job. I absolutely want the job. I think I would love working there, but the thing is this...

This was probably the first job interview I’ve ever been to where I knew going in EXACTLY what I want to do with my life, exactly what profession I am meant to be a part of, and it felt good.

I’m sure I fumbled an answer or two this morning. I’m sure I didn’t hit everything spot on, but for me, for my self worth - I at least was able to talk about what I know I’m good at, what I know I’m meant to do...

If I screwed it up, if they choose another candidate... ah, it happens. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ll be disappointed, but I will continue to learn. I will continue to grow and I will continue to know I am on the path I am supposed to be on, the one where I belong.

I didn’t have to bend my skillset today. I didn’t have to change one thing about me. I just had to be me.

And folks...

It feels damn good!

Value Your Friendships

Wow! I’ll tell you what... when you pour your heart and soul out for all the world to see it’s sometimes a shaky feeling. I mean, you never know what you’re going to get back you know?

Will people think you’re crazy? Will they think you’re full of self pity or guilty of blowing your own horn albeit in a more than subtle manner? Or... what?

What I’m finding out is that people just think I’m me. I’ve done some work on personal branding and the answers I always get from folks end up being something along the lines of:

“Jim, Jimbro, Jimbo, Jimmer, (but never James) you’re just a good guy. Go with that.”
I have to admit that sort of frustrated me, until my friend Nate Riggs said: “Why not go with that?”

See your friends will tell you how it is. They will tell you when you have gone too far. They will call b.s. on you when necessary.


They will ask questions and try to help when they don’t understand.

In my last post I said “... I just took the easy road out and figured “Eh, I have a job. That’s good enough,” and a friend who I haven’t even known very long called b.s. on me almost immediately.

She said: “Why did you really stay at the library so long?”

I replied that of course I cared more than that might have conveyed, but in reality the job allowed me to focus on being Dad, i.e. very little if anything to take home with me after work so that was mostly it.

She said: “No. Your job allowed you to do that, but you kept that job because you like helping people...” and she’s right.

I do like helping people. I just never thought of it in those terms.

My job isn’t so much a job then, it’s really about who I am as a person.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my job defines me, but I do think the core of that job is how I’m defined. Does that make sense?

I feel like I am learning so much right now that my brain is literally like that sponge my high school biology teacher said it was - just soaking it all up.

Almost like starting over at 42, but not really. Because at 42 I bring a lifetime of experience I just didn't see in that kind of light before.

What was it Homer Simpson used to say? “Doh!”

So today, I am grateful for my friends. Grateful for those who will question my thinking and also seek my opinion about things they have going on in their lives.

I am grateful for those friends I can let my hair down with, the ones who laugh at my jokes, even on the umpteenth telling, and tell me how silly and sappy I can be, and that I worry too much about the small stuff sometimes.

I am grateful for those friends who come to me for help and trust that I will hold their confidence, that I will be there just because, well because I know they would be there for me.

I am grateful for those friends who show me patience as I wade through my many projects, and tasks and understand that while my list is long I miss very little, and I especially will not miss them.

I am grateful for those friends who include me in what they’re doing even if it only means a text message that says: “Hey, I’m playing movie trivia with my family. What are your Top 5 movies?”

Finally, I am grateful to all of my friends who come here and read my stuff, wade through my diatribes, and rants, and help me figure it out. Help us all figure things out sometimes.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for helping me down the path.

Brimming with...

You may have noticed that lately I’ve been trying to confront some things in my life and make some changes.

One of the things I don’t talk about much is my lack of... well, let’s call it bravado. That’s a nice enough word I suppose.

Pretty simply I don’t talk trash. I’m the guy that firmly believes that if you score a touchdown you hand the ball to the official, act like you’ve been there before and you plan on coming back again soon.

But what I’m learning as I begin to really break down some of my lack of professional success is that this can be a problem.

People ask me, “what do you do?”

“Oh, I work at the library.”

A long time ago, I got invited to an impromptu lunch with the then library director.

“What do you do Jim?”

“Oh, I work in Order Division.” (for all of 4 months)

“Yes, I know. But, what do you do?”

I don’t remember what I stammered out after that. I do, you know - stuff, I do my job. I earn my keep, but here’s the thing...

Even today, I just don’t think there’s anything all that remarkable about what I do.

“But Jim, think of the lives you’ve touched. Think of the impact you’ve had. 25 years is a long time. You don’t JUST work at the library.”

Or, I just took the easy road out and figured “Eh, I have a job. That’s good enough.”

“Jim you take difficult situations and turn them into learning opportunities.”

Really? Because I’m just trying to be helpful and keep things simple.

“Jim, you explain computers in a way that anyone could use one, and learn more about them.”

Really? Because I’m just teaching you the way I would want to be taught.

“Jim, think about the work you do with The MJB Foundation, the children and families you help.”

Okay, that’s something, but I also feel very selfish sometimes because in reality that’s just me keeping my daughter’s memory and spirit alive.

“Jim, you are a wonderful father, a terrific husband.”

Um, thanks I guess but as a father I’m just trying to keep things simple for my kids so they don’t hate their childhood, their teen years, so they’re prepared to go out into the world with values I think are important.

As a husband, I just try to remember that I married my best friend. Life happens and friends work through things to be better friends.

Last Sunday I went to an interview seminar / workshop and I learned unequivocally that the majority of my answers suck.

I had 2 watershed moments.

I talked about having once run my own kitchen table company doing end-user computer support for individuals.

Someone in the workshop said - “Don’t belittle that, (although Kitchen Table Company is kind of a buzzword right now more than anything) you’re an entrepreneur. Highlight that.”

Um, okay - But I feel like I kind of gave up on that, defeated by one customer who just wanted me to do it for her (sometimes the money is not worth it), plus the extra time away from home and Windows ME. (Not a pretty story, trust me.)

Okay, so those are some examples and I realize that my critics are spot on.

I do indeed suck at selling myself, at being confident. Some might say that while I’m confident in my work I still lack some level of self esteem.

So I posted something about that on my Facebook and Twitter status.
“Learning that while I know what I do, I don't sell it very well at all. This may not surprise everyone...”There were several responses, but these two particularly struck me: 
You didn't used to sell it very well. Start today doing something different...

Now that u know what u weren't doing well- DO IT! Don't dwell on it just change it.

I’m trying. I promise I’m trying. I’m not dwelling. I am learning. I’m being proactive, i.e. attending workshops, hiring job coaches, things like that. I’ve put in 12 hour days every day this week and included some (building) confidence work if you will.

It’s not as easy as it sounds in those replies, but I know it’s not impossible.

Here’s hoping anyway...

Step 1: Finance

This is a cautionary tale.

When I was young, all of 19 or 20 I think, I entered credit counseling. This was due to the fact that in about 2 years I had managed to run up almost $7,000 in debt working only a part-time job and thinking: “Somebody has given me access to all this money, I need to find a way to spend it.”

Nope, not very smart.

Still, by 1991 I was 22-23, I had recovered, paid off my debts, learned my lesson, and become one of the most careful money managers I know. Netter and I were married by then. (Yes, she was a great factor in my growth as well.) We paid off bills as they came in. We had very little debt. We were living by the book. Saving. Planning. Doing things the right way as they say.

Then in 1994 we lost Meghan Joy and our entire world changed. We decided that we weren’t going to wait for anything ever again. Life was too short we reasoned. We were going to seize the day and make things happen, no matter the cost.

For 11 years or so that worked. If we wanted to do something, buy something, live something, go somewhere, go to college (me), stay home and do day care to be with our girls (Netter), whatever - I found a way to make it happen. Cash, credit cards, savings, loans, mortgages, 2nd mortgages - you name it, I used it. There had been some bumps along the way, even some roadblocks, but I always found a way... We lived the life we wanted to, without apology.

Looking back, it was a lot of what might be termed “grief spending,” or maybe even “grief living.” Of course, we didn’t identify it that way then. We had no idea. A friend tried to talk to me once about the house of cards I was building. I didn’t hear him. In my mind I was doing what had to be done, and quite honestly I thought I was brilliant. We were spending, but we never missed a payment, we had never been late, and we always had what we needed, (or what we thought we needed anyway). It would be years before I realized my friend was right, and honestly I only just admitted that to him a couple months ago.

In 2004, as Netter was beginning her second year back in the real work world, I realized that our spending was going to be a problem going forward. From 2000 - 2003 while she was doing daycare we were operating at a significant loss. I just didn’t do the math until it was too late. So, by the time the summer of 2005 hit, I knew something had to be done. We had to make some changes, and they needed to be significant.

In the fall of 2005 we undertook a major financial overhaul. We refinanced. We paid off debt. We formulated a plan to pay everything off - and it was working - until the economy began to crash in late 2008.

Of course there was no immediate answer to dealing with the economy, and so we’ve ridden a roller coaster of uncertainty for the last 3 years.

As you might guess I feel very responsible for that uncertainty and I'm kinda tired of riding that rail. I'm also a lot more comfortable these days admitting when I need help and when I can't, and I'm remarkably unemotional about the whole thing believe it or not. For a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, that’s sort of saying something.

Netter, that wise woman who I don’t listen to enough, has been saying to me for years: "you can't kick yourself for what happened in the past."

Yes, I should listen to her more often.

… and so we are looking for a solution.

I did some math and discovered that if I quit my job and cashed in my retirement I could take the 30% penalty and still pay off the majority of my student loan, our credit cards, and our second mortgage, which would make for a savings of a little over $1,500 a month in payments and more importantly mean not having all that stress, not riding that roller coaster.

I have to admit I’m more than a little tempted.

I’ve mentioned this to a few folks and the opinions are kind of split. Some worry about giving up all my time at the library, some worry about giving up all that money. But it’s not really all that much money, and the time at the library is really more an emotional attachment than anything else. There’s something to be said for peace of mind; comes the reasoning from the other side of the fence.

I also have one child heading into college, and another not far behind. I’d really like to have some financial freedom to be able to help them with their education.

I don’t know. What would you do?

*Note: This is not a poll where the reader will make the decision for me or anything like that. We do plan to seek the advice of a real expert, but I’m also interested to hear what other folks think. Would you be tempted? Or am I off my rocker? Let me have it...

“He’s gonna be late for his life.”

 “He’s gonna be late for his life.”

That’s what the announcer said. He wasn’t talking about me of course, only making a general statement about some  less than successful folks, but this has been resonating in my head for the better part of the last week.

We live in an a.m. world, and I am a p.m. person. I didn’t choose to be this way, it’s just how I’m wired. Always have been. I come by it honestly. My Mom is a p.m. person. My Grandfather was a p.m. person. Just never big fans of morning...

This can be, well no it is a problem in an a.m. world, which let’s face it is the world we live in.

Very often, I am late in the morning. Usually I can make an early tee time or hockey tournament game. Beyond that, don’t hold your breath. I’m never “really” late of course. Just enough to rub the morning people the wrong way. They look down their nose, unapprovingly, shake their head, make me feel about “this” big and I vow that I’m going to... I’m gonna change.

“I’m gonna.” There’s that phrase again. That nickname my parents tagged me with when I was a kid. I don’t like that phrase, that name at all.

Still, I have a lifetime of I’m gonna, and last week I couldn’t help but wonder:

“Am I late for my life?”

As fate would have it Netter and I ended up spending last weekend away. Well, technically we were still in town, but her company’s annual meeting was being held at the Easton Hilton. We decided to take advantage of the room supplied by her employer and take a mini-weekend. As it turns out we both spent more time working than playing, but it was the time away, out of the ordinary routine that made the trip important.

Fancy digs like this can make one’s mind wander, and wonder what could be different...

I spent a lot, a WHOLE LOT of time thinking about things I have and haven’t done. Accomplishments and failures, dreams realized and unfulfilled, projects, stressors, “what ifs,” could haves, would haves, and should have beens... Some things I hadn’t thought about in years, others are on my mind every single second, of every single minute, of every single hour, of every single day. The fog can get pretty thick sometimes. 

I needed this time to find a way to see through.

One thing screamed at me.

Every failure, every shortcoming, every “not yet accomplished” came back to one set of factors.

I didn’t know how. I didn’t know who to ask for help. I was afraid of what might happen if I even tried.

Kinda sad really eh?

To add to my melancholy, while I was going through all of this “self-examination” my wife was enjoying one of the high points of her  career, at least from my point of view. Her skills were in demand, she was needed everywhere she went, folks could not have spoken more highly of her when she introduced me to them throughout the weekend.

As I schlepped off to work myself yesterday, dressed in my sweatshirt and jeans I said goodbye to Netter and her co-workers, in all their professional attire, I was very happy for and proud of my wife and all that she’s accomplished in her career. At the same time, I was never more sad for myself.

Pretty selfish I know.

Fortunately, the fat lady has not yet begun to sing.

Keeping in mind my 3 words for 2011, I’ve decided to take some decisive action. Today, I made an appointment to talk with a job coach, someone who can help me identify what it is that I do, what it is that I’m good at, what I bring to the table and help me find a career where I can feel as valued as my wife is in her job, where I can feel the same success, the same sense of fulfillment.

I love my library, but the truth is I haven’t had that there in quite some time.

I’m also publicly appealing for someone to help me with our finances, to give me an honest objective viewpoint of the mess we are dealing with, listen to my ideas for straightening things out and tell me whether I’m crazy or if I might be onto something. I have another post I’ve been working on about the budget. It’s probably the next post in fact, but for now - this is my public appeal for help.

Of course, health is also one of my 3 words, and I am hopeful that working on the 2 things above will also help me to begin to improve on that as well. I can't help but think that losing the stress from words 1 and 2 will help an awful lot with the 3rd.

Yes, I said "HELP."

I hope I’m not too late.