Home Archive for 2013
Last night while moving horses to another pasture I tripped over this monster. It's been dubbed the Hulk coconut. Can't wait to open this beauty. Pictured next to a regular sized coconut. Haha
P.S. I know I'm neglecting blogger and moved to the Facebook page and Instagram for all my updates but I'm going to start sharing it all on my blog, too. Enjoy!
Eye Of Newt Dip
2 cans of sweet corn (drained and rinsed)
2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 orange bell peppers
1 medium onion of your choice
1 big bushel of fresh cilantro
1 packet of zesty Italian dressing (made up as instructed on packet)
For the dressing you'll need oil, vinegar, and water.
I use this specific dressing packet below.
I chop up my pepper, onion, and cilantro to about the size of the individual pieces of corn and beans. I mix up my veggies and dressing in separate bowls first. After I add the dressing to the mix I give it a good toss so that everything is covered and flavored. I often leave a big spoon in my dip bowl to continue to toss the dip occasionally because the dressing does settle at the bottom of the dip bowl after a while. Once it's tossed back up it's as good as new.
When I make this fun dip for Halloween I buy black corn chips to add to the fun of using the Halloween theme colors. Or are they dried bat wings??? ;)
What? You don't think the grub sounds appetizing? What if I told you the recipe?
Pillsburry Dough Croissants dipped in a green butter wash (melted butter w/green food coloring) wrapped around big chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese. Baked as instructed on the croissant package.
They did not last long! They were so buttery, and the cheese was perfectly stretchably melted!
It turns out that my kids, husband, and myself all really love stuffed caterpillars!!
Google+ made a gif for me without even asking! So here you get to drool over the yummy looking cheesy goodness.
Try these this Halloween season! You will not be disappointed. :)
Try these this Halloween season! You will not be disappointed. :)
Since I write under the name “Jubilant Jessi,” you can guess I’m usually a pretty happy-go-lucky person. It’s my mission in life to find the good, no, the GREAT in everything around me. I’m that girl who smiles at strangers. I am easily amused and easily charmed at life. Existence shouldn’t be a war you’re locked in. Living should be a joyful romp through the flowers, even if you trip on a rock from time to time.
It’s taken me a lot of years to develop this attitude. I’m not a perfect example of humanity. No one is and they shouldn’t be. It’s taken me a lot of time, effort and stern talks with myself to get to the point where I can be proud of who I am and my philosophy on life. I’ve always been an oddball and it’s often been hard to reconcile who I want to be with how I want to be. There’s a bit of background that you need to understand about me if you want to understand why I feel life should be jubilant.
I was an absolutely content child growing up in a small Idaho town where the population didn’t exceed four digits. I ran through the grass barefoot. I played in apple trees and went to dance camps. I loved to attend school, did well, played tea party and mud pies with my friends, went to church, and felt absolutely that I was loved and cherished. I didn’t have any hardships to deal with like so many other children. I was naïve in the best possible way.
That changed the year I turned 11. No one likes divorce. As my parents broke the news, my idyllic life shattered. I’ve never been the same. It’s taken decades of self-torment and anger to realize that divorce was the best option my parents had. I could have handled it better. I could have looked outside my anger that my friends no longer called or played. I could have used school as a solace instead of a weapon where I was receiving the first D’s and F’s of my life. I could have accepted help and attended counseling instead of locking myself in the car screaming. I could have done a lot of things. My only excuse is that I was young and suddenly the world didn’t seem to be easy anymore. I was pissed that my life was forever changed. I fought it. I hurt myself. I hurt my parents. I didn’t care.
Fast forward a few years to an angry, depressed teenager. One who had started getting good grades again, was involved in several school activities, but fought with her mother over every single thing. I still felt no control and would use every means necessary to find it. I thought I was so jaded. So old. Looking back, I realize I was driving a wedge between the world and me. It is cliché, really, how I blamed everything that was black inside me on the rest of the world. I’m not going to detail every fight and stupid decision, but needless to say, I didn’t graduate on time, though I did graduate with my class. I didn’t have the friends you brought home to meet Mom and Dad. Though there were a few jewels here and there, I often found myself outside looking in or getting taken advantage of because hey, weren’t people ultimately good?
College was more of the same. I was accepted to a private school with a high price tag, the kind that gets you places. I never went to class. The only papers I wrote were for money. I went to concerts and parties, had a boyfriend who was older than me, and hung out with frat guys. I could never sleep at night and was so anxious all the time that I physically shook. Depressed was too clinical a word for what I felt. I went one semester and by the end of it I knew with a cold, terrifying realization that another semester meant I was not going to make it. I still carry scars on my body from that time because I was so desolate and confused that I tried to cut the pain out of my body.
I left school, couldn’t move in at home because I’d pissed off everyone there, so I moved in with the guy who would become my first husband and my own divorce. I’m not going to trash talk the guy. That’s not fair when he can’t give his own version, but I can tell you that I felt like I had no support and no understanding and no hope when I found myself pregnant and later raising a baby who would turn out to be the saving grace of my life.
It took a few more years. It took that baby who grew into a little girl who is now about to start third grade and is the smartest, prettiest girl I know. Parents are allowed to believe that about their children. I found my next and last husband who never fails to amaze me with the faith and pride he has in me. It took a miscarriage and a new baby girl, who is currently attempting to draw on the T.V. screen as I type this. It took mending of relationships, especially with my mother. It took returning to college and the raw courage to believe I could get through it without paralyzing anxiety. It took believing in my brain and my heart. It took proving that I could set a goal and achieve it over and over. I wasn’t and am not a failure. I am, as Barney Stinson would say, legend-wait-for-it…dary.
In about a year, I’ll have graduated with honors and have not one, but two, degrees. I’ll be a teacher and a historian and on all accounts, I’m excellent at what I do. Besides two B’s and one C received while I was either pregnant or attending school during the time I had my baby, I’ll have had straight A’s. I have hobbies (if you follow my blog, you’ll know I’m a yarn addict) and valuable, cherished friends. I have a husband who has been through his own hell and lived to tell the tale. He understands me and believes in me. He yells at me to believe in myself when I start to think things aren’t so grand. I have two beautiful children who keep me balanced when I start to feel sad every once in a while. I have goals and a bucket list. I am going to do great things with life. Sure, I still consider myself to have depression and no small amount of anxiety, but I’ve learned that living life with a happy attitude can often overcome that particular blackness. I’m not afraid to ask for help if it gets out of control. Sure, I’m tattooed with dreadlocks, still a little awkward and stand out in a group of regular people. I’m still weird, and my mother would be the first to tell you so, but I’m content in my skin and in my eccentric nature. I’m different, and that makes me awesome.
I don’t know that any of this motivates you. I hope if you’re troubled that perhaps my own story of woe gives you a measure of hope. My best advice is that you have to realize that you’re never going to be perfect. Celebrate your flaws. They are what make you separate and special. Use them and go beyond special into amazing. Realize that you’re often your own worst enemy or your best advocate. I’ve been both, and I can tell you the second is better. Impress yourself because you are your own worst audience. When you can do that, you’ll realize that life should be celebrated in a serious way because we can all overcome darkness if we find the key in ourselves. I’m still working on it, but I’ve learned enough to be thankful I have this beautiful life. That’s why I’m Jubilant Jessi. I’m going to dance through life with party cannons, even if I’m on the sad side some days, because I know that it can be so much worse. I can only hope that you have or will find your own version of beautiful, whatever it may be.
Motivational Week Guest Post
Laura is a loving wife and mother of four. She has an amazing story to share about living through the horrors of domestic abuse and finding the courage and strength to save herself and her children. Please read her story and share in support of helping to end domestic abuse. Support links and contact info for Laura are provided below.
Life! It’s just that; life. It’s fulfilling, extreme, full of love and surprises, it takes a turn of the worst when you least expect it; it’s hard. It’s hard to juggle the ups and downs of life and remain the least bit sane.
My life is great! I have two jobs, I run my own business, I have 4 wonderful kids, and an amazing husband that loves me for me and all my emotional baggage. I also have the people that matter closest to me. I don’t give myself too much credit for “who” I am, but to be honest… life hasn’t always been easy.
I met my first husband when I was 16-years-old. We fought everyday from the beginning of our relationship... But I loved him. He moved in at the age of 17. For 10 years I heard: You will always be alone, you’ll end up just like you mother, you will be miserable for your whole life, your degree was a waste of time and money, you’re a bad mom… etc… etc. He would lock me in rooms when we fought to continue screaming and yelling at me. There was one instance in locked me in a room and stood in front of the door so I couldn’t get out. I didn’t have a phone on me and I was really scared. I made him mad because I would ignore him as he yelled at me and kept telling him to let me out. He slammed his fist into the door and punched three holes through it. He would follow me around and push everything on; he couldn’t ever let one thing go. He picked me up in the car once when I walked away and stopped at a park to talk. He was so angry with me he slammed his fist into the windshield and shattered it from side to side. Another time we were out drinking with some friends (I never drank to get drunk because I had to care for him) and the girls gave me a few shots of tequila and it was the first time I ever blacked out. It was the first time I had ever been that way and I swore it would be the last time. I hung out the window on the way home. We had a friend with us and I’m not quite sure what happened with the friend, but we were home and I was lying on the bed with one foot on the floor. I blacked out at some point and woke up to him trying to undress me to have sex with me (He was drunk too), I told him no. I blacked out again. When I came to, my lower half was undressed and again I told him “I said no”. The next time I woke up I was sitting at the toilet, naked from the waist down with him naked from the waist down sitting behind me. I told him that I felt like he was going to rape me. He got really pissed off and got up, stomped out and called the cops on me telling them that I was calling him a rapist. Of course he was the perfect little angel when they were around. I looked like the slob, head lying on the toilet, blacking out from time to time, and undressed from the waist down. It was the most humiliating time in my life, why would he do that to me?! I’ve been locked out of the house at 2 am in the middle of winter with no shoes, a tank top, and shorts. No one ever believed he was this way, because in front of everyone he was a fun, outgoing, perfect guy. When my daughter was just a baby back in 2006, he walked in from a night of drinking and started in on me. I locked myself in the bathroom. He slammed on the door and wouldn’t leave the door until I came out. When I finally came out he grabbed and dragged me to the ground. My daughter woke up and started crying and he wouldn’t let me get to her. He finally let go when I told him that I was going to call the cops on him, but immediately went and picked up our baby. It took me calling the cops for him to hand her back over. When my daughter was 2 ½, she stood on the bed next to him and shook her finger at me yelling “baby babble” while my ex husband yelled at me. It broke my heart. My ex would want me home with the kids but when he fought with me I was a bad person because I didn’t work. I didn’t help support the family. I would be excited for him to get off work... Why? I ask myself the same thing. It might have been from being lonely all day. As soon as he walked through the door I was walking on egg shells. Just don’t say anything to upset him or set him off.
In my honest opinion emotional abuse is far worse than physical abuse. Neither is okay, and anyone suffering should seek help immediately. Physical abuse leaves marks that heal while emotional abuse you can’t see and it doesn’t ever go away. I don’t know how many times I told my ex that I wished he would just hit me because then the pain would subside. Every time I brought up a concern with how he treated me, it was turned around on me and I then didn’t care about him, his feelings didn’t matter, and he became the victim in all of this. Every time I cried I was stupid for crying. I eventually quit showing emotion and acted as if I didn’t care that he was so cruel to me, I stopped crying even though I was torn up and dying on the inside. I was immature with everything else that I said. I was constantly told that I needed to grow up. I would ask him to quit drinking because he drank every weekend and that’s when the abuse was the worse. If we were with people he was the sweetest guy while he drank but as soon as we got home, the yelling and abuse would kick in.
Everyone thought we were the perfect couple when we went out with our friends or when we were around anyone. Some even envied and were jealous of our relationship. I started to talk about what was really going on and no one believed me, so again I faked a smile and our life was perfect. The thing I feared most was going home. I would beg and beg people to let him spend the night so that I didn’t have to take him home. There was one time when our friend (We will call him CJ) was supposed to come stay the night with us because of the way my ex was acting. My ex was in the backseat of the car, I was driving and *CJ was in the front seat. I was taking *CJ back to the house to talk to his wife (They were both my best friends). My ex yelled and called me nasty names and degraded me in front of *CJ while my friend tried to tell him to stop. It was the first time my ex had ever let it show in front of anyone. *CJ went into the house and I ignored my ex the best I could while he continued on. When *CJ came out he said that he wasn’t able to come because his wife (my best friend) wasn’t able to because the kids were not feeling well. *CJ looked at me and I could tell he saw all the pain in my eyes while I cried. I felt like everything was falling apart and I wasn’t going to be safe from his abuse any longer. I smiled and told s that it was okay to go, that I would be okay; while having all the hope in the world that *CJ would just come with us so he could keep my ex away from me. Behind closed doors things were so much different and worse than anyone believed. The yelling, degrading, and screaming were worse. I was no longer attracted to my ex. We didn’t touch, we didn’t hold hands, we didn’t talk, we didn’t kiss, and we didn’t make love. I was disgusted by him. If we got in a fight everything became his, I couldn’t even have a cigarette because he would take them from me. I would try to take the car so my kids and I could leave, but that was his because he bought it. With the car I bought with my school money, it was his because his name was on the title with mine. Money was never in my hands, he made it or even when I brought it home, I was to give it to him for bills. I never got more than 10 dollars at a time to put into the gas tank. Any car we bought ended up his even if we were supposed to be shopping for me. It was a never ending cycle. An emotional abuser knows what buttons to push. My ex always threatened me that he was going to take away the kids if I left him. He told me on numerous occasions that our friends didn’t like me and only put up with me because of him. He would also resort to telling me my family talked bad about me behind my back. Who do you run to when you’re being told nobody likes you and that your family obviously isn’t on your side either? You don’t go anywhere; instead you sit in hatred for yourself and your marriage and you’re so called life, hoping and wishing to one day get away. You are stuck.
It seems as if the abuser has many insecurities of their own that they have to make you feel like a lesser person, make you feel weak and self conscious about yourself. This makes you feel like you can’t ever leave. You can be cheated on or bullied and never leave because they have done their damage on you. You feel worthless; you feel unhappy, alone, fat, ugly, hated... etc. You make excuses for them because you love them.
…because you think they will change.
…..because you believe that maybe... Just maybe, they will be the person you first fell in love with, the person you were supposed to spend your life with. But the truth of the matter is; the longer you wait the harder it is going to be to walk away. The worse you feel about yourself, the more hatred and resentment you will hold in your heart for this person. Abusers usually cover up their actions with an apology and regret.
• “I love you so much” • “I’m so sorry” • “I’ll never do it again” • “I didn’t mean the things I said” • “I can’t live without you” • “I was just mad”
Then you feel bad because they’ve broken you down so far that you don’t want to hurt them, because their feelings are all that matters and you truly believe this. So you stay only to endure the same abuse over and over. Things may go good for a week or maybe a couple months; making you think that it will all be okay or maybe they see the damage and hurt that they are causing. Maybe they are changing. But they don’t ever change. As much as you want to believe they will, an abuser won’t change. You get to the point they have instilled all these negative thoughts in your head, that when they aren’t attacking you; you are attacking yourself.
• “I’m worthless” • “I’m fat” • “I’ll never go anywhere with my life” • “Everyone hates me” • “No one will ever want me” • “My body is disgusting” • “I have no one” • “I’m a bad mom” • Ect…Ect…
I’ve thought these things more than you can imagine. These thoughts ran through my head at every waking moment. You believe these things because you hear them so many times from your abuser and from yourself. It’s embedded into your brain.
Things weren’t always bad. He was there for all the baby appointments. He bought me flowers often. He was there when I almost died in 2011. He was there when I broke down from the problems with family or others. It just got to the point that the bad outweighed the good and I finally saw him for who he really was. It took many years for me to finally realize that I didn’t deserve it. At that point I was so broken down I stayed for many more years. I told him I didn’t love him anymore. I told him that we seemed like we were just roommates. I woke up one morning from a dream and that was it for me. In this dream he was destroying everything important to me right in front of my face and fighting with me like he normally did but I continued to yell at him that I was done and that I didn’t love him anymore. I was tired of playing his game. I told him it was over. He stayed at the house and wanted to try marriage counseling. I told him I didn’t think it would work but agreed. Three days later we went out for my birthday and he went home with another girl, the same girl I watched him smack on the butt the night before. He came home the next morning; I lifted my head and told him that he was no longer allowed in my house. He tried his abuse on me, but I just laid my head back down and felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders.
It took everything I had to walk away. Here was a man I spent 10 years with, a man I believed to be my best friend. It took everything I had to take care of myself first and him last! The first thing I did was stepped away from him; it’s hard when you have a house, a car, and kids together. I let the car go back to him and got one in my own name, which was really my only tie to him because it was in his name. That gave me the biggest security and highest high I have ever felt in my life. When he called I didn’t answer or I passed the phone to the kids. I did not speak to him! He threatened one more time to take the kids away from me. He did not get two words in after that threat because I lost it. I took back all my control.
This image was one that really stuck with me after I left my ex. All I had to do was say stop! I was the one in control of stopping the abuse. I was the one that had to make him stop treating me that way. I wish I would have realized it sooner. Just say stop! Say STOP to the disrespect! Say STOP to the abuse. Say STOP to hating yourself. Say STOP to all the negative.
My advice to others:
You will be okay! It will take time, but you will make it through. Be independent and make your life what it is worth. You only have one life to live and you shouldn’t live it in depression or fear. Don’t think that you can’t walk away. Change your attitude; instead of thinking I will never go anywhere or I can’t do it, say “I will find a way through this”. “Let go; let go of the hold they have on you, let go of the guilt you feel when you’re thinking about leaving (I’m sure they don’t feel guilty treating you so badly), let go of it all and just start over. I promise things will be hard at first but they will most definitely get better. Last; but not least, NEVER GIVE UP!!! Your life is so precious and worth all the happiness in the world. If I could do it after 10 years… you can do it too! • You are beautiful • You are amazing • You are intriguing • You are worth so much • Any man/woman would be happy to be by your side, respect you, and shower you in unconditional love • Your life matters
I still suffer from the anxiety and depression. I also suffer from the lack of self confidence. In my current marriage, I need reassurance on a normal basis and if one thing goes wrong I feel stupid and like a complete failure and I want to run away because that’s all I know to do. In any “fight” we have, we don’t yell at each other; thank goodness because I’ve had enough of that and I’m able to cry and talk about anything that I’m feeling. I feel bad for my husband to have to deal with my insecurities but he is the most amazing and gentle man I know. I’m not sure these negative feelings will ever go away but they are getting better.
The best thing to come from this is the fact that I believe in myself now, I push myself and know what I’m capable of. Most importantly, I know my worth and what I deserve. Nobody will ever take that away from me. I am in control of my life.
A trusted non-profit resource. Covers mental and emotional health, healthy lifestyles, children and family. http://www.helpguide.org/topics/abuse.htm
National Domestic hotline. www.thehotline.org 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. This website allows for a quick escape just in case anyone comes up behind you. You can keep it a secret that you are looking for help.
Do you see it with a loved one?! It can be hard to tell a loved one that you suspect abuse. http://abuseintervention.org/help/friend-family/
Your always welcome to contact me also. I’m not expert but I can listen and I more than likely understand. It’s always nice to have someone to talk to about it, I never had that so if I can be that for you… Please let me! :0)
**Dreams DO come True**
Our Journey together!!!
From the beginning of my pregnancy things weren't going as planned. Due to my blood pressure, I was put on bed rest at 7.5 mo. My blood pressure would get so high that I would have to go to the hospital about once a week.
It was March 14, 2008, and I was just about to spend some much needed family time, I had a horrible migraine so we checked my BP and sure enough it was very high 183/108, so back to the hospital we went Thinking this was just gonna be a normal visit for me to get my blood pressure down enough so I could return home and continue my pregnancy, BOY I was completely wrong?
I started to get real dizzy and my migraine was getting worse. The doctor soon walked in and checked me to see if I was dilated (remember I was only 7.5 months) and of course I wasn't dilated :( so the Dr. Checked my BP and as he was looking at the BP he turned to my mom and said "Your daughters blood pressure is 218/198, we need to get this baby out or we could possibly loose them both" I saw tears running down my moms face trying to put a brave face on, she then came to the side of the bed and said " Sis they are gonna do a c-section tonight due to your blood pressure, but everything is going to be fine you are a "Ralph", I am gonna run call daddy and get him up here, We love you so much, I will be in there with you k". I knew everything would be alright if my mom said so, she always knew what to say to make me feel better.
At 12:47 am on March 15, 2008 a beautiful amazing baby boy **Kyler JayRalph** was born weighing in at 5 Ibs 6 oz. As soon as I heard this sweet boy cry I knew everything would be alright. He was put in an incubator and had to have oxygen for about two days. After two weeks of being in the NICU, we were finally able to bring him home. That was one of the most amazing moments In my life.
But as months and year passed Kyler was not hitting any milestones so we sought medical advice/treatment.
On July 7, 2009 we toke Kyler to Primary Children's hospital in Utah to get checked out by the best doctors around. They then did an MRI, Blood Test and Cat scan. Said that they would get back to us ASAP.
So on July 9, 2009 we received that call that would changed our lives forever. The Dr. Said "Kyler has a
1. Cyst on his pituitary gland
2. VERY VERY mild case of Cerebral Palsy (CP)
4. And his installation around his brain was not fully developed
I burst into tears, thinking what are we to do :(
From that time on we as a family pulled together to get Ky in Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy etc.
At 18 months baby Kyler walked his first steps!! I was so proud. He worked so hard. CP effected his left side, so his left side is slower than his right, also due to his CP he was a tip toe walker, so at 19 mo. We then went and got his AFO (leg braces) to help him from Walking on his tip toes.
As months went he was not speaking yet, we decided to (He would mumble/hum his words) enrolled him in Speech therapy for a total of 2 times a week instead of once a week
At about 3.5 years of age Kyler started to say his first words (not understandable) but he wasn't humming them anymore. They then diagnosed him with Verbal Apraxia
It has been a year and a half since he started to talk, AMAZING FEELING EVER to hear him say "mama"
He has progressed tremendously is doing amazing, you can't understand everything he says but progresses day after day, but he sure does know how to get his point across :)
The doctors have said he is about 3 toddlers into one. But that doesn't stop me nor him to strive to do better and grow out of it.
He is the most smartest kid I have ever met :)
He is starting STEPPING STONES (High functioning Autistic Kindergarden) on Tues. He is so EXCITED. everyday he comes to me and says "School now mum?" :)
He brightens my life more and more everyday. I couldn't be more proud. He has overcame so much and has never once wanted to give up. He inspires me DAILY, and he is VERY persistent in all he does.
I look up to him so much, he teaches me something new each day. He has taught me how to be strong
and courageous. I was blessed with a wonderful son of god whom I wouldn't change for anything in this world.
He goes through many strengths and weakness's daily but doesn't let the downs stop him, if anything they make him stronger. As time goes on all his weaknesses turn into STRENGTHS.
I couldn't be more proud of him. He is my prince and my whole life. The best thing is He looks and acts like a normal 5 year boy (sometimes a little to normal, I could learn from that LOL)
I want to thank my family/friends for all they have done for us, and a Special Thanks for supporting us in the amazing journey and more to come :). Having the gospel in our lives as well is the icing on top of the cake. I don't think i would've been able to do this if it weren't for my amazing parents Graig and Tami Ralph and of course my sons grandmother Ronna Anthony. Thanks so very much!! (And of course all my amazing support from my friends and my family :)
Jared is a proud husband and father. He makes his home in Pocatello, Idaho and is a true outdoorsman. Go check out his blog here http://www.thepursuitoutdoors.com/
Ob·sta·cle: something that impedes progress or achievement. The verb in that sentence is impedes. Not prohibits, not halts - it impedes. Implicitly, obstacles are by definition meant to be overcome. Were this not the case, an argument could be made for the wisdom of not acting when faced with obstacles. Fortunately, the term impedes isn't an absolute term. There is a way around it. Over it. Under it. And often - right through it.
It has been my experience that success and failure in life - or in business - is cyclical in nature. The only constant is change - for better or for worse. The heart wrenching down turns and the thrilling bursts of success are connected by periods of time when life is relatively simple. Not necessarily easy, but purposeful and straightforward. Our path is decided, the goals clear. It is, in my opinion, the down turns that both create and expose the fabric of our character.
As an entrepreneur, I've never desired to live a life of comfortable predictability beneath the safe wing of commonplace employment. The accountability of this lifestyle can be brutally inescapable on one hand, and yet immensely liberating on the other. It is a life of polarity, and it's rarely boring. I have felt the validation success can bring when I tripled my income in a few short months, and felt the bitter sting of failure when I was laid off while expecting our first child during the economic crash of 2008 and unable to find employment. I have lost everything many times over, and have managed to claw and scramble my way back up just as many times.
For me, my trip on the roller coaster began the same year I married the girl of dreams. She was (and still is!) beautiful, caring, and funny - and for the first time in my life, at 20 years old I was financially responsible for someone other than myself. I was making a comfortable income for my needs as a department manager in a retail store and anxious to continue my college education when mere months after our marriage I was presented with an opportunity for a pure commission sales position in a distant state. I caught the vision of it, and where others saw risk - I saw opportunity. Against the pleadings of both our parents, I submitted my two weeks notice and walked away from a steady paycheck and into a whole different realm of thinking. I loved the idea of making exactly what I earned, and not a penny less.
My first year in direct sales I found myself 1,200 miles from a home that I loved and missed dearly. I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a 5 month sales program with a group of people I had only recently met. Early on, I struggled immensely with sales. My income plummeted. I began to rethink the wisdom in staying there. To complicate things further, I received the news that my wife and I were expecting our first child. I knew that I could sell, and I knew I worked hard - harder than almost anyone, but the results just weren't coming in. I woke up early before the work day and studied sales books, I wrote down my sales approach over and over and over. Constantly reworking it, improving it. I was determined to make this work, not only because I knew it could pay off financially, but because I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I simply had to make this work, and not just for myself, but for my future family. There were many days I would come home choking back a lump in my throat - overwhelmed by the long hours full of disappointment and rejection, unsure how I could tell my lovely wife during our late night dinner of Ramen noodles and sandwiches that in spite of my efforts, I had failed again that day.
By our 3rd month into the program, it began to click. It seemed to happen all at once, as if the scales had finally tipped in my favor. I remember vividly coming into work on amorning of my best sales week to date, my spirits high. I was greeted by the office assistant informing me that our company had received some bad press reports that aired the evening before due to a pushy salesperson in our office - and that over 75% of my sales had cancelled that week, and that several from the previous week had cancelled as well. I wouldn't be receiving a paycheck that week; in fact, due to several sales I had already been paid on that cancelled - I actually owed the company money. I was devastated. It seemed as if all my work had been for nothing. I had been living on prayer for months, and now that it had looked like it was getting better - it turned upside down.
For a good hour I sat, contemplating my next move. Did I really want to continue down this road? Was I just imagining my own success? Could I even sell? Could I even provide a living for my family? After much deliberation, I resolved to give it another week - to stay the course. Just as I was going to my first sales call of the day, I received a terrifying call from my wife. Something was wrong. I rushed home to her side to find her laying on the couch, grimacing in pain. We rushed to the ER, where our worst nightmare was confirmed - Jen had miscarried. I will remember that date the rest of my life, it was July 3rd, 2007. As a 21 year old kid, I had never been around around pregnancy and had no concept of miscarriage. The thought of it happening had never even entered my mind. From the moment that I first saw that tiny heartbeat on a Ultrasound Monitor, I loved that child - and now that was gone. It was as if a miracle had been snuffed out of existence, leaving us with what might have been. We sat holding each other sobbing in a cold and strange hospital room, far away from any friends and family. We were completely alone.
We resolved to take it one day at a time, together. When I think of this trying time, I have one image burned into my mind forever. I remember sitting on the patio of our apartment on the evening of Independence Day, wrapped up in a blanket together watching fireworks in the distance. While the world celebrated around us, we were on our knees - praying for strength to continue forward. In my heart I knew that to give up then and go home would mean that I was unable to conquer my circumstances - and that would have somehow made the pain worse. For several days I felt like I was at rock bottom, and I spent many hours in quiet introspection - trying to determine exactly what I could and could not do.
In the lowest points in life, when the deck is stacked against you and there seems to be no respite from the storm, no safe place to find solace - there can still be hope. We found that hope together when we had nothing but each other, and what a blessing that was. Through love, prayer, and hard work anything can be overcome. When these times come, you have a choice. You can let your circumstances define you, and no one will blame you. After all, it's easy to do nothing and be the victim. Life will continue one way or another - and just by existing, you will get through it. But you have another choice - you can be the survivor. You can be the one that finds humility in the ashes of tribulation or failure, and take the higher road. You can work your way out of it. I am convinced of one thing, the answer to any problem is simple: it takes hard work. Whether that is hard work to keep your marriage together, hard work to rebuild your self image, hard work to rebuild your financial foundation, or hard work to just make it through the day with a positive attitude - do it. Work hard at it. When you shoulder the burden squarely on your shoulders and dig in, determined to climb out of the pit you find yourself in - you are making a choice that will effect the rest of your life. You'll become stronger, smarter, and kinder. The day will come when you reach a height that had appeared unattainable, and you will revel in the view of your accomplishments.
I stayed in Minnesota when it would have been so much easier to come home. I worked my way through it. The lessons that I learned from that decision are so much more valuable than comfort I could have had back home. The challenges I faced were not road blocks - they were obstacles, and therefore by definition - were meant to be overcome. Often times the best way around an obstacle is to simply lower your shoulder and hit it straight on.
Years later, while working for a large nationwide telecommunications organization, I was offered a remarkable opportunity and promotion. The company had a failing location in Fresno, California that hadn't turned a profit in 2 years. The previous general manager had grossly mismanaged resources and left the office in disarray. I was given the opportunity to take his place. It would require me to move to a place that I had never been and knew no one, replace the entire staff, learn an entirely new industry and product that I had never dealt with before, and make it profitable quickly. Had my resolve not been tested several years before, I would have never accepted. With a grin, I packed up my bags and moved to California. This time, the cycle turned in my favor. We turned our first profit the second month, quadrupled production in month 3, and went on to become one of the most profitable branches in the company. Sure there were obstacles, almost too many to number - but where everyone saw risk, I saw opportunity and I had the experience to know it was possible. Obstacles are not road blocks - they are opportunities. Opportunities to learn, grow, adapt, and test your resolve. They are meant to be overcome. And in my opinion, if you haven't lost it all a time or two - you're probably not trying hard enough.