Memories of AP6

Until two days ago, I didn’t realize a person could mourn the death of a building. Yet as I sat at my computer watching the live feed from the scene of a six-alarm fire, I felt the sting of tears.

On the screen, I watched plumes of black smoke and raging orange flames dance on the roof of the building I walked through almost every day for nine years. The news reporter told me that 200 firefighters were called to the scene of the massive blaze that started sometime before dawn broke over Louisville, KY, home to GE Appliances and the industrial compound known as Appliance Park. I knew without the reporter’s back story that each building was assigned a number with the main manufacturing buildings being numbered one through six.

Number six, aka AP6, was the one engulfed in flames, and the one in which I spent the majority of my career with General Electric. I remember my first day on the job, and how I told myself I could overlook the run-down building with its peeling wallpaper and dusty corners because I had an office with both a window and a door! The desk was a relic from the 60’s and the orange upholstery on the chair was stained with something I didn’t care to think about, but it was mine. I was working for a Fortune 100 company, and I was happy.

As shabby as my new home away from home was, everything was right in my world that day as I settled into the first of my three offices in AP6. Now, I watched a wall directly behind that office collapse.

An aerial view showing an all-encompassing look at the six acre-building blazing throughout the day flashed on the screen, and I thought about cats.  Not just any cats…THE cats…the fabled pack of feral cats that roamed the far reaches of AP6. They were rumored to hunt rodents as well as interns unfortunate enough to take a wrong turn into the bowels of the legendary building.

I hope the cats got out. I’m sure the other buildings have plenty of mice to keep them well-fed. Finding signs of mice throughout AP6 was a common occurrence. My colleagues and I once gifted my boss a Nerf dart gun, so he could take target practice on the mouse we were sure had taken up residence in the walls of his office.

Oh, the good old says in Building 6.  I once practiced my Photoshop skills on an “OPEN” sign for our suite door.  We were forced to keep it closed during business hours for an entire week while work crews demolished the bathroom across the hall.  They had found asbestos in the walls, and since the workers were required to wear hazmat suits, common sense told me I should keep the door directly opposite the lethal stuff closed as much as possible.

A few hours after the blaze that finally brought down AP6 started, residents were ordered to stay indoors. The smoke from the fire was heavy with potentially toxic fumes from the components stored in the building.  I had to smile. AP6 was certainly going out in style.

Even with its less than desirable accommodations, I created a wealth of fond memories inside the walls of AP6.

The Hubs and I spent 13 years as a dual GE couple. AP6 was the only building in which we both had offices at the same time.

Bldg6-3My children roamed the halls of Building 6. The Young One filled my white boards with scribbles I regretfully wiped away the next day when I needed the space for brainstorming.

One Halloween, the staff and I spent an entire morning creating a haunted house in our office space in preparation for an afternoon of family trick or treat. The Older One, decked out as a young Harry Potter, bravely led me from room to room, warding off my sinister co-workers with his magic wand.

Bldg6-4The general manager of the division that worked inside Building 6 once declared AP6 to be an island in the tumultuous sea that was Appliance Park.  We worked hard. We hit our goals, and within the confines of our island, we were blissfully unaffected by the politics running rampant in other parts of the business. In celebration, we wore sarongs and ate pot luck lunches.

Bldg6-1Now, three days later,  small fires are still burning in AP6–the building unwilling the die completely. I know a part of it still lives in me. I have had offices in four other buildings since I resigned from GE five years ago, but none have left such an impression as AP6.

Some of the longest friendships of my adult life started in that building, and the most influential relationships in my professional network were forged in its offices. I gave my first business presentation in a room known as “The War Room”. I handed out awards for a division-wide fitness challenge from behind a podium in the auditorium, and I reported sales results in the Executive Conference Room.  I achieved the biggest successes of my career in AP6.

Watching it burn was heartbreaking, but while digging through a box of artifacts taken from my final office in AP6, I realized I took the best pieces of that building with me.  I have a wealth of business knowledge gained during those years that I use every day. I have friendships I cherish and a professional network I was able to call on during tough times.

Its walls are ash now, but I will always remember the years spent inside AP6 with fondness.

Bldg6-2Goodbye, AP6. We’ll miss you.

 

 

 

Super Hero Warrior Brain

Things are about to get worrisome around here, especially for those in the family who are 7 (and 2/3) years old.

tree

Unfortunately, this fanciful tree that grows in the corner of the Young One’s room won’t be moving with us.

In reality, the butterflies in my tummy started twitching their little wings a few months ago when the Hubs and I decided the time was right to break the news to the Young One. Daddy got a new job, I explained, and at the end of the school year, we’ll be moving to a new house in a new neighborhood in a new city in a new state called Ohio. What an adventure we’ll have!

Maybe I was a little too enthusiastic because she followed my announcement with her own bright declaration. “Yay! Then we can get a house with a basketball hoop!”

Apparently, the only way you get a basketball hoop (her current obsession) is to relocate to a house that has one already secured to its driveway.

After a particularly intense battle with math homework a few days later, she once again saw the advantages to moving. “I want to move to Ohio now!” She crossed her arms over her chest, puffed out her lower lip and informed me, “They don’t have math in Ohio!”

Interstate moves are magical like that.

When the “For Sale” sign was pushed into the front lawn, however, I saw the first seed of worry get planted. “Momma?” She asked after we had closed the cover on the night’s bedtime story and snuggled under her warm pink comforter. “How will we get my room to our new house?”

In her almost-eight-year-old mind, she saw a huge helicopter with strong ropes whisking her creamscicle-orange room through the sky and setting it gently into the shell of a home a hundred miles away.

That is one of the easier questions to answer though. I’m preparing myself for the tougher ones like not only leaving the pretty orange room here, but leaving the school and the friends and the basketball team here too. Sure, I can reinforce with her that we can paint her new room orange if she wants, and she’ll find plenty of new friends waiting for her at her new school. She might even luck out and get a new basketball team that can find its way to more than four wins a season.

The fear and anxiety that go hand in hand with the excitement and adventure of a move like this is the part I need a little help with. So this morning, I went  to the greatest resource I know. The blogosphere with all its truth and wisdom will surely help a momma with her own fears and anxieties, and that is where I found this very basic approach to addressing Anxiety in Kids.

It talks about how the amygdala, that little corner of our brains that stores the fight or flight response, is the warrior of the brain. It protects us from evil forces like the unknown kids and grownups we’ll have to talk to on the first day in a new school.

We should give our warrior a name, this blogger, tells me.  (I’m thinking Zelda will be good or maybe Diana–after our favorite Amazon warrior princess). Then we should tell our warrior who is in charge with deep breathing and positive self-talk.

This is good advice, and something my super-hero-worshipping little girl can understand. This just might be the concept that will guide the Young One through some of the rough patches ahead.

Now, I’m just worried about how I’m going to handle this move and the ensuing anxiety….If they don’t have math in Ohio, what will happen if they don’t have shoe stores either?

New Year! New Shoes!

I finally have one room back to its pre-holiday condition. The twinkling lights are dark once more, and the faux-fir has been smashed into its canvas carrier where it will rest peacefully for the next 10 months. I’ll eventually get around to unwinding the garland strung so elegantly on my banister and mantel, but for now I feel extremely productive having finally found a home for the presents Santa left under the tree.

In this post-holiday let-down period, I admit to getting a little distracted as I admired all the newness I rediscovered while putting away Christmas. I sorted out stacks of sweaters, games and toys and wondered which of these gifts from friends and family will still make me smile come December 31, 2015.

Maybe it will be the fancy Fitbit bracelet from the Hubs. Its golden finish complements my workday attire quite a bit more than the silicone band that came with my wearable fitness device. I’m sure it will be in heavy rotation in my jewelry wardrobe, but with fitness device accessories still in their infancy, I expect a new generation of workout bling to eventually attract my attention.

The Starbuck’s gift card from the Older One has some potential. It will definitely see some heavy use over the next few days as I return to the office and remember how easy it is to walk across the street for an afternoon java jolt. So easy, that I anticipate exceeding the balance on that card well before the end of the month.

The Young One and I have definitely enjoyed discovering the joys of Easy Bake Oven desserts, but I’m not sure how much enjoyment savoring a chocolate chip cookie the size of a quarter can bring in the dead of winter.

No sooner did I dismiss these gifts of providing total-year pleasure than my hand reached for a shoe–gold, shiny and pointed in all the right places. It was perfect–in a two-dimensional kind of way.

Shoes

This gift, a calendar full of shoes, came from my parents, and offers unending joy every time I turn the page–365 new shoes! What more could a woman who calls herself Stiletto Momma possibly want.

The introduction to the calendar alone makes my pulse race:

More than any other retail pleasure, shoe shopping leaves us breathless. It is akin to bringing new toys home from the store when you were a child: You play with them endlessly, trying them on with every outfit you have, then wearing them perhaps too much at the start. Few purchases induce such euphoria.

A little daily dose of euphoria might just be the treatment for surviving the ups and downs in store for me and my family in 2015. We have plenty of those in the works already, and we’re only on day four. This will definitely be an eventful year, and with any lucky, I’ll get through it with a smile on my face and, quite possibly, a new pair of shoes on my feet!

**Today’s post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge to celebrate what is new.

2014…The Year Everything Happened for a Reason

Last year at this time, I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the old, tarnished 2013 and hello to the shiny new year that was to be 2014. Its predecessor was unlucky from day one and just kept battering me as if it was fighting to live up to its name.

2014 dawned bright and clear, though, and helped reinforce my belief that everything happens for a reason. In the final months of 2013, I underwent not one, but two surgeries with a job layoff sandwiched in between. In hindsight, that pseudo-job relocation that forced me into unemployment actually helped me rehab and take back my power.

Everything happens for a reason.

IBDMy former boss didn’t understand my IBD and the conflicting nature of the invisible illness that is Crohn’s Disease. Every request for a day off was met with skepticism and silent accusations of “liar”.

I know I would have put off that second surgery if I had still been working in that environment. As it turns out, Employer X did me a favor and paid me to take four months off. I was able to focus on my physical and emotional health and find the place I am meant to be.  In mid-March 2014, I received my final severance check from Employer X on the same day I pocketed my first pay check from my new employer–a top-rated healthcare company that puts value on its employees’ physical and mental health.

Everything happens for a reason.

Bsnowmanefore going back to work, however, I had to endure 2014’s winter weather complete with record low temperatures, repeated ice storms and enough snow to build not just a snowman, but an entire Frosty family and village complete with snow fort and bobsled trail.

Had I been working during those bleak months, I would have had to ask for yet more time away from the office to accommodate the record number of school closings. The MIL would have also had to risk her health and well-being to collect the mail or the newspaper and to let the dogs out to do necessary doggie things. Instead, I had the privilege of walking the dogs in single digit temperatures and sporting fur-lined snow boots to chip ice from our sidewalks.

Everything happens for a reason.

KeyboardIn between sub-zero walks around the block with my favorite four-footers, I discovered the enjoyment of sitting by the fire and keeping my fingers warm with furious typing. Stiletto Momma (the blog, that is) grew by over 70 posts in 2014.  Most of those posts were penned between the months of January and March and my longest blogging streak in November as I completed my first NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month).

Everything happens for a reason.

2013 might have been one of the worst years I’ve experienced, but I truly think it needed to be so trying, so I could see the value of the lessons learned in 2014. This year was not without challenges, but with a little perspective and understanding even the tarnished spots can be rubbed to look shiny and new.

Here’s hoping 2015 brings more of the same!

For a closer look at all the great things that happened on Stiletto Momma this year, check out this awesome infographic my friends at WordPress put together just for me!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Elf2

Our elf once slipped off the shelf and was miraculously saved by a stocking!

I’m sorry I forgot to move Elf three nights ago and sent my youngest child into a Christmas spirit panic. I really did feel awful when she came to me all teary-eyed and confessed that even though she didn’t remember doing it, she must have touched the scout elf you sent us and plunged her into some kind of child-germ induced coma.

I’m sorry I then quickly lied to her as I bent over the seemingly lifeless sprite. “No, Sweetie,” I called after stealthily poking the elf into a slightly shifted position. “She did move! She’s just a tricky elf. She came right back to the same spot to see if we noticed the difference.”

That was a good save on my part, so I’m hoping my quick thinking counteracts the effect of my previous blunder. Am I still on the Nice List, or has my forgetfulness (which, by the way, is a symptom of CSSS – Christmas Spirit Stress Syndrome) landed me on the Naughty List?

I have now set three nightly alarms on all of my devices, and frantically searched Pinterest for the most creative elf antics. I promise I’ll make up for this.

Elf

Last year, Elf TP’d the Christmas tree and fashioned one two-plied end into a zipline.

I’ll let Elf zipline through my living room and slurp syrup in my pantry. I’ll even let her make a “snow” angel on my kitchen counter, knowing that the following evening I will have to spend an extra hour cleaning the sticky powdered sugar snow residue from Elf’s red leggings. And if Elf wants to make out with Ken in Barbie’s dream house, I suppose I can look the other way.

If that’s what it takes to get me back on the Nice List, I’ll do it. Just please, please, please bring me those red suede stiletto booties.

Yours in Stressed Out Christmas Spirit,

Stiletto Momma

NaBloPoMo Fun Facts

Once I click the Publish button, I will be a happy blogger. With today’s post, I will successfully complete my first NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month)! When I wrote the first post a few weeks ago, I didn’t think I would actually be able to say that.

In fact, the reason I wrote that first post in a string of 30 (3-0!!!) was so I wouldn’t be able to turn my back to the computer when life started to get in the way. If I told the blogosphere about it, the blogosphere would know when I gave up, and I would never be able to return. I think that’s written somewhere in the terms and conditions I accepted when I set up my blogging account.

So here I am on Day 30 at the end of my longest blogging streak, and as I look through my writings of the past month, I have learned some fun facts about what happens during NaBloPoMo:

  1. With quite a bit of planning, I am actually able to write 30 back-to-back posts. Not long after I published that first post, I drew a grid on a piece of paper and called it an editorial calendar. It wasn’t high-tech by any stretch, but it worked for me. Apparently, I think better when I scribble.calendar
  2. With this post, I will have written 11,524 words in 30 days. That’s an average of 384 words per day–pretty impressive when you consider they were all crammed in among a full-time job, gym workouts, girl scout meetings, homework supervision, meal prep and pre-holiday stress.
  3. November is the worst month for NaBloPoMo. I should have had my Christmas shopping finished by now, but I chose to plan my blogging list instead of my holiday shopping list. Now, I’m in a panic because I haven’t wrapped a single present, the house isn’t decorated, and tomorrow is December 1st! Let’s move NaBloPoMo to March.
  4. November is the best month for NaBloPoMo. After I looked at the dates on my hand-drawn calendar I realized, I have a lot to share in November. First came Election Day, which is near to my heart. Then came Veteran’s Day, which is even nearer. The entire month is National Adoption Month which works out great because I’m an adoptive momma. I celebrated the 25th anniversary of meeting my hubby this month, and I celebrated USMA Branch Night with my son. After adding in Thanksgiving and my birthday, I realized I had quite a bit of material to work with. Let’s keep NaBloPoMo in November!
  5. I started a new feature, “Say It Like You Mean It”, which showcases words that inspire me as well as words I wish I’d written first!
  6. I published a new number one post. On the Eve of Branch Night easily broke my previous most-read post’s view count and became my most shared post. Not bad for a post I dug out of the draft files. I started writing that post way back in March when a completely different topic was on my mind. I didn’t post it at the time because it just didn’t feel right. I had thought about pulling it out several times since then, but again, it just didn’t feel right. This time though, when I framed it around my son’s invitation to the Army branch of his choice, it felt like it had been waiting for just that moment to shine, and it certainly did.
  7. I got retweeted! Aside from publicizing my posts to Twitter and the rare occasion when the only way to enter a contest is to tweet about it, I don’t really get into sharing my thoughts in 140 characters or less. During the last two weeks, however, I have been retweeted not once but twice! Don’t look for me to switch formats to micro-blogging, but I admit, I thought about it…for about 140 micro-seconds.
  8. I have a lot to be thankful for. I was actually able to make a list of 100 thankfuls, and still found more to add after I clicked Publish.
  9. The Hubs is my biggest fan. He was the first to like every post. Way to be a social networking cheerleader, Hubby!
  10. Daily blogging is hard work. There is a reason I have never done this before. It’s called life. Most of my posts were penned in pieces…a little bit before work, a few more sentences at lunch, editing and photography in the evening between homework and lunchbox packing. I gave myself a break on Saturdays with someone else’s words in my “Say It Like You Mean It” posts, and on Sundays I tried to write and schedule at least two workday blogs in addition to my Sunday post. It was worth it though because now I can say I did it, and next year, I’ll know it can be done. The precedent has been set, and I won’t be so fearful next time.

NaBloPoMo has come to an end. My fingers hurt from all the typing and my brain feels a little fuzzy from all the thinking, but I’ll be back for my second round next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll even buy myself a real calendar!

The Feast

This quite possibly is my favorite part about seeing Big Hero 6 with the Young One this afternoon.

Disney’s 3D short film Feast, the opening act before the main feature, tells the story of little Winston, a homeless pup who is rescued while dumpster diving. He and his new human bond over junk food, and in true puppy love fashion Winston eventually rescues his human right back.

I won’t give away to perfect ending to this little flick, but I I highly recommend splurging on the 3D version of Big Hero 6…even if you only hang around to enjoy the Feast.

 

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

Every Thanksgiving as we sit around the table enjoying the turkey and all the trimmings, the Hubs and I reflect on the day. One of us will inevitably say, “Well, at least it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Then we’ll chuckle and smile and share the story all over again.

Thanksgiving

This is NOT the perfect turkey I expected to find on my first Thanksgiving without family. (Photo source: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus, cc-by-2.0)

The Hubs was stationed with the Second Armor Division at Fort Hood, TX, that year. We had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in September, and the Older One was just three months old. This was our first Thanksgiving without family…at least without immediate blood relations.  The Army was our family now, so when the Hubs’ captain extended the invitation to join his wife and their two small children for a Thanksgiving lunch, we accepted.

We were just getting ready to leave our little apartment for the meal, when the phone rang.  I listened as the Hubs said a few “Yes, Sirs” into the phone. After hanging up, he told me our plans had changed. We would not be having a Thanksgiving lunch after all.

The captain’s wife had taken the turkey out of the freezer the night before, he said, and was baffled that the bird was still frozen when she got up that morning to start preparing it for our feast. The new plan called for football at the captain’s house while the turkey roasted, and instead of an early lunch, we’d eat mid-afternoon.

Mid-afternoon came and went. By 2:00, the bird was still frosty and hadn’t yet seen the inside of the oven.

The captain and the Hubs’ made a quick trip into post to visit with the enlisted soldiers during their holiday meal while the wife and I made small talk and snacked on half a box of stall crackers and overly sweet wine coolers. My baby napped, and I mentally calculated if I’d brought enough formula and diapers to get us through dinner…that is if we ever had dinner.

Around 4:00, the turkey finally made it into the oven. The Hubs and the captain returned, and we all waited.

Finally, at 7:00, the captain made the first slice into our Thanksgiving turkey only to find that the meat inside was raw. By then, the side dishes were growing cold, and we were all too frustrated to wait on the bird. The captain carved up a few of the cooked pieces and served the cranky kids while his wife finished off the raw pieces in the microwave.

The Hubs and I juggled our sleepy baby between us while we gnawed the rubbery poultry, and as soon as was socially acceptable, we made our escape.

We had survived the worst Thanksgiving ever and lived to tell the tale…over and over and over again for more than 20 years.  And over and over again we laugh at the mistake that set off that worst of the worst—a frozen turkey that someone didn’t know enough to take out of the freezer well in advance of the big day.

That someone was a young wife and mother, not much older than I was at the time. I imagine she was excited about the prospect of hosting her first Thanksgiving and about offering her hospitality to a young couple alone for the holiday.

She probably went to the commissary the day before full of anticipation about the recipes she would share with me. She probably spent more time than necessary selecting the perfect produce and agonized over how big that infamous bird should be. I imagine she was horrified the next morning to find it still as solid as it was the night before.

I’m pretty sure the reason we were not notified of the schedule change until it was too late for us to change our plans is because our hostess was busy praying to the culinary gods for some kind of Thanksgiving miracle to save the perfect day she had planned.

In her shoes, I would have been mortified to confess my cooking inadequacies to my guests. I would have repeatedly excused myself from the tense conversation with the lieutenant’s wife to check on the turkey, knowing I really just wanted to hide in the kitchen and cry.

I sincerely hope that captain’s wife looks back on that Thanksgiving and laughs like the Hubs and I do.  We may call it “Our Worst Thanksgiving Ever”, but if the worst thing that happens on Thanksgiving is a frozen turkey, I’d say we had it pretty good.

We had nowhere else to go, and no one to spend the holiday with until virtual strangers opened their home to us. That may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to us on Thanksgiving. We may not have had a perfectly prepared meal all those years ago, but we had a place to go for the holiday, and for that I am thankful.

Hopefully, that Thanksgiving didn’t prevent the captain’s wife from trying again the next year. I hope right now, she is preparing for this year’s feast with her grown children and maybe even some colleagues her husband met at the office.

I also hope she has remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer!