Sometimes You Cry At The Dinner Table

Sometimes you've heard your name 30,000 times this week. 
And sometimes one of your sweet, wonderful children is going through terrible twos and the other is crying and having an attitude problem like a teenager. 
And you've cleaned and tidied till you want to use disposable dishes from now on--environment be darned--but every time you turn around there's another 50 puzzle pieces on the floor and there are still fruit flies buzzing around the sink. 
And your job that has always offered so much security suddenly doesn't feel quite so secure. 

And your heart just feels tired. And your soul is full of fatigue. 

And you cry at the dinner table. 

Sitting there smiling and enjoying the little people who are your special blessings and thankful for the husband who made dinner, the soul-fatigue leaks from your eyes. 

And you go sit and read 7 books while terrible two sits on the potty. And you say prayers and are thankful for tiny hands folded, eager to talk to Jesus. And you whisper to God asking that those little hands will always be so eager to seek Him. And you go to the other bedroom for cuddles and silliness. 

Then make a cup of tea. And assure that wonderful, dinner-making husband that those dinner table tears weren't sadness or anxiety. 

And God whispers as you cry a few more tears that He is your security. Your strength. 

And you remember and you read:

"There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God." (1 Samuel 2:2)

"As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord's word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure...The Lord lives! Praise be to my rock. Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!...Therfore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name." (2 Samuel 22:31-33, 47, 50)

And you breathe easier. And you feel peace in that heart and in that soul. 

Thank you, Lord, for being that Rock, security, refuge, strength, that your Word is flawless. And thank you for holding up the worn out. You are Good. Amen. 


Chicago Triathlon Supersprint 2015

On August 29, 2015, I kicked 30's butt by participating in the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon Supersprint!  I wanted to write about it so friends and family can hear the story and so hopefully someone like me who is obsessing about figuring out what it's like can find this post and get a little peace of mind for next year's race!

On Friday, Zach and I went up to the race expo.  The expo was neat.  They were selling huge stuff like bikes and wetsuits and $200 shoes and also little things like car stickers (which I forgot to buy-ugh!), shoe laces, and body glide.  We picked up a pair of elastic shoe laces to help make my transitions quicker and a race belt so I wouldn't have to pin my race bib to my tri suit.  We also got an official race tshirt.

Then, we attended my "course talk" which explained details of the course and transitions, the rules for the race, safety considerations, where to park, etc.  Even though I had heard most of the information, attending the meeting really helped put my mind at ease.

After attending the meeting, I was allowed to pick up my race packet.  We followed signs through the labyrinth of the basement of the Hilton and found pick up.  I had received an email early in the week with my bib number and all I had to tell them was my number and show an ID to get my packet.  Inside was my bib, tri-tats (temporary tattoos) of my race numbers for each arm, the numbers to put on my bike and helmet, and my timing chip.  Then we moved to another kiosk where I got my participant tshirt and a "goodie bag".  The bag is a nice cinch sack and had samples of vitamins, beet juice, Gatorade and all kinds of weird stuff.

After leaving the expo it was almost dark, but we drove to Foster Beach to check out the race site anyway.  We parked on what would become the bike course, walked part of the run course, and walked almost the whole path between the swim and transition.  We went down the beach and put our toes into cold, cold, cold Lake Michigan.  I wanted to get an idea of just how cold 60 degree water was.

Then we drove to our hotel from the beach, which was nice so we could see how long it took.  There were no hotels in the City under $100, so we stayed in Skokie.  It was about a 30 minute drive.

The next morning, our alarms went off at 5am and we got everything for the race together and headed down to the car, where we discovered it was raining.  I checked the weather and it was forecast to rain all morning.  We found a 24-hour Walgreens on the way and picked up an umbrella and poncho and a box of garbage bags.

When we reached the parking area, we had a not-so-short walk in the rain to the check in area.  Zach stayed back and waited in line to pay for parking and I went ahead to the site, which was good because the line to get into transition was huge.  They advised us at the course talk to arrive by 6am to transition so we'd have time to get everything settled before transition closed at 6:45.  We arrived in the parking lot around 6am, so by the time I walked down to transition, waited in line, and checked in, it was 6:40.  Thankfully, they recognized this was mostly due to organizational flaws, so transition remained open longer.  It was pouring.

I got my Divvy bike and found a spot right next to the beginning of the run course to set up my stuff.  I put a garbage bag on the ground and then put my transition bag on the back edge of it and my towel (ha!) on the rest of it, so neither would be laying on the wet ground.  I put my helmet on the bike handlebars with my sunglasses ready inside them (double ha!)  I also set my shoes (which were already soaked) out on my towel with socks rolled down so I could just roll them onto my feet and then slide them into my shoes.  I also laid out my race belt with my bib already attached on the towel.  Then I took two more garbage bags and covered my transition bag, towel, and gear and laid the box of garbage bags on top so they wouldn't blow away.  Finally, I put my wetsuit on up to my waist and headed out of transition down toward the beach with my swim cap, goggles, and earplugs in hand.


THE SWIM (375m/not quite 1/4 mi)
We lined up at the starting line on the beach (my wave had 37 people in it) and an air horn sounded to set us off.  We ran down into the water, which was 62 degrees the morning of the race.  We swam out to a buoy, rounded it, swam parallel to the beach, rounded a 2nd buoy and swam/ran back into the beach.  The short description of this is that it was the worst thing I have ever done.   I had trained swimming 400+m, but I was not ready for swimming in Lake Michigan.  The wind, waves, and cold were just brutal.  Every time I got a stroke rhythm going I would choke on the water and have to stop and sputter or turn onto my back.  I backstroked a LOT of the swim.  Also, we were hitting and kicking each other, which I expected but was still annoying.  On top of it, I was wearing ear plugs because I've had trouble with water in my left ear all summer and my goggles were tinted, which was great in nice weather, but on this gray, yucky day, I just felt isolated and sensory deprived.  My goggles also fogged and I could barely see. The girl behind me as we started cried and hyperventilated.  I don't know if she continued or quit.  A woman in my wave had to be helped out of the water near the finish.  It was the real deal. We were never more than about 20 feet from a lifeguard, which was good. The water was only about 5.5ft deep--just deep enough that I couldn't touch. Next year I will train swimming a much longer distance--maybe a half mile or so--and will try to get some training sessions in Lake Michigan so I feel more comfortable with the open water.

THE BIKE (10K/6.2mi)
I expected the bike to be my best event.  I was signed up for the Divvy wave, which means everyone in my wave was riding the rent-from-the-city bikes.  They are 3-speed cruisers.  Great for cruising around Chicago, site-seeing, riding along the lakefront path.  Not race bikes.  They were very heavy.  At home I ride a Trek mountain bike and it is much lighter than these bikes.  The ride would have been easier on my mountain bike and it would have been fine for the race.  Many other people were on mountain bikes.  The Divvy wave was a good choice for this first time, though, because I was unsure when I registered if my mountain bike would be OK and knew buying a road bike this year was out of the question, and I wasn't too keen on transporting my bike up to the city. Mercifully, aside from two overpasses the course was flat and guarded from the wind, mostly.  Again, I would train for a longer distance than required by the race, maybe around 10 miles.

THE RUN (2.5K/1.5mi)
I expected the run to be horrible, but it wasn't.  I choked on my Gatorade on my way out of transition, but after that I did fine.  I did stop to walk for a few steps at a time a couple times during the run, but everyone was very encouraging.  They had people cheering along the way and even some of the athletes running back toward the finish were cheering on the wave that was headed out on the run.  The group at the turnaround was so sweet and encouraging! The run was partially on a gravel path and there were some seriously huge puddles, but my shoes were already drenched so I just ran through. I was tired, but felt OK through the run.  Again, next year I'll train for a 5K to be more prepared. The rain and cool day were a big help on this leg.  On the way back I reached a point where I wanted to stop and walk, but then I could hear the crowd at the finish line and I had this renewed energy and was able to finish strong.  It was awesome.

At the finish everyone was cheering and they announced my name as I crossed the finish line.  Zach and Lynn had been somewhere along each course cheering for me and Lynn had made encouraging posters to hold up and cheer me along the way. They were rock stars standing out in the rain for me! I finished in 1 hr 6 min, which is not very good, in the grand scheme of things (the fastest women did it in about 38 minutes, I think).  But I had estimated based on my training that I would finish in about 1 hr 20 min, so my actual time was quite a bit better than I expected. As soon as you crossed, they showered me with things.  A small towel, chips, pretzels, bottles of Gatorade and water, and, of course, a finisher medal.  I've been on the "get rid of participation trophies" bandwagon before, but man, I feel like I earned that finisher medal!

We weren't allowed headphones or music on the course, so I took a page from my friend Rachel's book and prayed along the way.  I prayed for the sweet babies born recently in my life and for their Mamas.  I prayed for a friend's Mom who was in ICU.  I prayed for baby Luke and his family--who I've never met, but have been following their story on Facebook.  I prayed for the family of the child that will eventually pass and give baby Luke the heart he desperately needs.  I prayed for students in our ministry.  I prayed for my dear friend who recently experienced a miscarriage.  I prayed and praised God that He gave me a healthy body and that He is my strength and provider.  I thanked Him for Zach and Lynn cheering me on and Andee at home watching our kids so they weren't standing in the rain. It helped a lot.

After the race we went back to our hotel (since it was only just after 9am) and sat in the hot tub--glorious!!!!  We splashed around in the pool and did a few laps, which helped relax and stretch out my tight, cold muscles.  Then we packed up and headed home.  I took a 3 hour nap.  Sunday, I was very cranky and tired.  By Monday, I had pretty much recovered.

Bottom line: I will do it again next year.  Registration for 2016 opens October 2015 and I won't hesitate to sign up again.  If you are thinking about trying it, DO IT (I'm looking at you, Jodi).  It was awesome.  It was hard the whole time and scary at moments, but overall it was just an awesome experience.  Worth every difficult moment.  I will also start training earlier, train most intentionally, and train for more distance in each event next year, and then go have a blast as a Supersprint veteran!


Customer Service: The Power of A Name

Image result for customer service icon
I've worked in customer service my entire adult life.  Offering great customer service is something I care about.  I want my customers happy and I want them to think highly of the company I work for.  I could go on and on and on about it.

But I won't.  Today, I just have a few thoughts on the impact of using your name.

Many companies require their Customer Service Reps (CSRs) to use their name in their greeting when they answer a call.  But I think reminding a customer of your name at the end of a call is far more important.

1. It gives them confidence.  When you close a call and remind them of your name, that customer knows you stand by the service you've given them.  They feel confident that they'll receive what you've arranged and will follow through on your end of the responsibilities.  And if something goes awry, they know who to call or who to say they talked with.  You taking ownership of the service you offer makes your customer feel confident.

2. It comforts them.  I work in a service industry, so I frequently talk to people who are distraught.  Offering my name at the end of the call helps them know that I care about their situation.  They know that Joy is working on their behalf.  Tell a customer your name and that they can ask for you if they need anything else.  Often, they don't need to call back again, but they feel more calm and like their situation is under control just knowing you're there for them.

3. It creates personal service.  When you use your name at the end of the call and invite them to call again, they no longer feel they're a customer of whatever-company-big-or-small-am-I-talking-to-someone-in-India.  They're now your customer.  That sense of personal service makes a customer much more likely to "buy in" to your company and stick with you for the long haul.

These are obvious tips for someone in phone-based customer service, but they can go equally as far for someone in retail, out in the service field, executives, home-based businesses, networking, interacting with your children's school teachers/administrators, and beyond!

I know this isn't something I have ever really talked about on the blog here, but it was just on my mind today, so I thought I'd share.  Happy Monday, all!


New Year 2015

What would a New Year be without resolutions?  Actually, resolutions don't need to happen right at the New Year, but I think we are remiss to allow a year to go by without giving some thought to where we've been and where we're going.  I have some friends that do it around their birthdays or other prominent dates in their lives.

I did not do so well with my resolutions last year.  I made too many to keep up with AND I let even the manageable ones fall to the wayside because I didn't keep those goals in front of me.  The ones I met, I met by accident.

But now it's 2015.  New Year, New Leaf is what I'm saying.  My New Year Resolution list could alternately be titled "Kick 30's Butt".  :)

Here are some of my goals for 2015.

Say "How about you?":  Last year I added more "pleases" and "thank yous" into my vocabulary.  This year I'd like to add more "how about yous" and things like that.  I always want to be a good friend and a good listener and to care for others more.  So my goal is to never let a conversation completely center on me.  When someone asks me about my day, my weekend, my plans, etc, I plan to give them an appropriate-for-the-conversation answer (I tend to be long-winded and an over-sharer) and finish with a question back to them.  I feel there's no better way to get to know someone better than to ask them about the things that matter to them.  It's about courtesy, but it's even more about connection and letting people know they matter to me.

Say "Yes?": If I have one struggle in my life, it's having patience and giving grace to my family.  So this year (and I've already started) when someone is calling my name, I don't want to respond with "What?" or, even worse (but all too common), "WHAT?!".  I am going to respond with, "Yes?".  I think it is a simple way to give affirmation to my family, to set the tone that what they're about to say will be received and not rejected before they can speak, that their talking to me is not an inconvenience.  I can see that this is truth in the look on my 3.5 year old daughter's face when I answer her.

Do Something Healthy: I know that health goals are hackneyed for New Year's Resolutions, but I have one anyway.  I would like to lose some weight (20 pounds if I can), but more than that I'd like to get stronger and feel better.  I frequently find myself worn out and feeling blah and I'm over that.  We got a Nutribullet for Christmas and have started drinking smoothies for breakfast.  My Mom and Aunt swear by them (they've been doing it for several months and have both lost weight and report feeling more energetic and physically better).  I think Nora would have a smoothie for every meal if we'd let her!  I just started today drinking Matcha.  It's powdered green tea leaves.  One 2-ounce swig each morning gives all the good stuff of about 10 cups of steeped green tea.  It tastes kind of gross (call it an "acquired taste"...that sounds nicer), very Japanese/Sushi/Seaweed-like.  I also like that because of...something...in it the caffeine is delivered evenly over several hours which prevents the jitters/crash that I get from coffee.  It's science.  I also plan to do the Chicago Triathlon Super-Sprint later this year.  Don't think I'm crazy or all hard-core...it's something like 1/4 mile swim, 8 mile bike and 1.5 mile run.  I will have to do a little training for it (I couldn't run 1.5 miles without stopping even if zombies were chasing me), but I think it will be fun and very rewarding!  My sister is planning to do it also, and I'm hoping Zach will, too.

Practice God's Presence: I have been in on the "Not A Fan" movement since the very beginning, and I've been learning and growing over 2014, but I still feel like something is missing.  As I look at my life, I think that missing piece is communion with God.  I want to carve out some quiet time to connect with God.  Right now I'm going to try several things and see what works well and then make a commitment to it.

Experiences Over Things: It is SO hard for me not to pick up that little toy, book, item, whatever for my kids every time I see it.  But while giving a gift is rewarding in the moment (for both parties), experiences and time spent are so much more valuable.  This comes in the form of playing a game one-on-one with Nora, or taking Judah outside even when I don't feel like it.  It also looks like letting my kids take their time putting on clothes or packing a bag or doing a task even though I could help them or do it myself and get it done much faster.  It looks like redirecting my money away from buying "stuff" and toward doing things--bowling, ice skating, camping.  It looks like re-allotting my time to make space for all these things.

Be A Champion For My Husband: This looks like speaking to and about him with respect.  It's relating with him using his love language.  It's praying for him.  It's encouraging him and being a help mate.  It includes the above-mentioned goals of answering with "Yes?" and asking "How about you?".  It's putting him before the kids (which benefits the kids, too, in the long run).  It's also keeping him in the loop on what's going on in my life schedule-wise, emotionally and spiritually.

So those are my goals.  It looks like a lot written down, but I think it can be done.  How am I doing kicking 30's butt? I think it'll result in a better me all around and having some great experiences under my belt.  In October I'll be able to ring in 31 with no regrets.

So, how about you?  When do you set goals? Do you have plans for 2015?