Thursday, January 1, 2015

Theory 54: Good-byes are simply bittersweet beginnings.

Boyz to Men sang it so well. “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday….”
Before that, Orphan Annie sang, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow….”
And, our girl Scarlett (whom Delicious quotes at a minimum weekly), professed, “…after all, tomorrow, is another day!”

If you’ve read Theories 52 and 53, you know that I was considering a huge job change —from teaching freshmen in the world’s best junior high to managing a retail branch for one of the nation’s largest banks.

Well, as of December 1, I am a branch manager and assistant vice president for “the bank.”

Let me explain. Let’s re/visit each point of consideration ending with the questions I asked myself as I labored over this decision for the entire month of October.

  • PEACE OF MIND: Health insurance is my unintended “boo.” It’s a necessary evil, a must-have in a family of four. Unless you are cool with bankruptcy. One bad pap smear and you’re broke as a haint. By the time your credit recovers from that episode, it’s time for a colonoscopy or mammogram you can’t afford. Rinse and repeat.

Question: Is there a difference in benefits?

Answer: While the school district takes great care of its employees, the bank’s benefits package wins. I can finally promote Tall Child from Dollar Tree reading glasses to, IF he’ll go, a real prescription. Then again, Bop had cataract surgery and said, “Why didn’t you all tell me how many wrinkles I had?” Maybe I should look for a Botox clause in the bank’s enrollment package and THEN send Tall Child to the eye doctor.

  • TIME: Time off is every teacher’s favorite work benefit and I assure you that teachers NEED breaks.

Question: Will Sharky and Gnome forgive me? Will they understand? Will they even notice that much? It’s funny that, as I debated my decision aloud to friends and family, the women always challenged me, asking “How will this change impact Sharky and Gnome? How can you work that schedule AND take care of them?” Ironically, the men said, “This is a no-brainer. You have to take care of your family. Take the bank job.”

Answer: I used my gift with gab (sales and negotiating skills) to persuade the bank to grant me an extra week off, so each quarter of the year I can enjoy a week with my boys. Luckily, I have help. As I type this, Sharky and Gnome are chillin’ on The Crippled Beagle Farm with Delicious since they are out of school. She said that Gnome spent yesterday afternoon taking his clothes off and shaking his behiney in front of the television. See? Everybody wins.

  • FRIENDSHIP: Friends are the best part of my teacher workday. Gallup Instititute claims that “having a best friend at work” is an indicator of job satisfaction and performance.
Question: How could I ever say goodbye to my work wife Red Hot Backspace? Must I also divorce my work husband Sugar Bear? At least the separation will be easy for him since he doesn’t know he’s my work husband.

Answer: Some friendships just “stick” and my friendship with Red Hot will. I know it. I’ll make sure. She’s seen and heard too much, so I have to keep her close to the denim teacher vest. Plus, I love her. Sugar Bear, parting is such sweet sorrow. Plus, I heard you only missed me a “9” on a scale from 1 to 10. Whatev. Truth be told: I taught with some incredibly gifted folks (at the worst middle school AND the best junior high). Teachers are strong, resourceful, entertaining, down-to-earth, dynamic characters. I’m thankful to have had such SMART co-workers and such wonderful administrators. I look forward to making new friends at the bank. Fortunately, I worked there ten years ago, and many of my old buddies are still around. A commercial banker asked me last week, “Jody, has much changed since you left in 2004?”

I answered, “YES! Your font has gotten tiny.”

  • HUMOR: How do I abandon my work children? Those 215 souls mean a great deal to me, and, dang it, I was just about to learn most of their names! They were my focus group, my research lab, my fodder for entertainment and fulfillment. I am convinced that, other than a sitcom writers’ room, no other professional environment offers as much humor on a daily basis as a school classroom does. Well, except for a restaurant kitchen.
Question: How will I find humor in every work day?

Answer: As the Croc would say, "No worries, mate." My first day, a companion dog did #2 in my office. Well, if the pigeon maxim is true, and I use proportional reasoning (a math formula that I swear by, taught to me by my bud, Certified Genius), 2015 will be a record year for my bank branch! Attitude is everything, right? Oh, also, the dog's owner, a German Jehovah’s Witness, told me I’m sexy.

  • FINANCE: It’s no surprise that the teaching profession pays substantially less than other professional posts.
Question: Is extra money worth sacrificing the time off and taking on a boat load of stress?

Answer: We’ll see. Money does bring peace of mind. And, since Big Red burst a tire (her fault, not mine), and she's rolling on a hubcapless spare, extra dollars mean safety. For all you readers in Farragut, if you see a hubcab gleaming from a grassy curbside, email me. You know, now that I think about it, this has been a very spiritual few weeks, too. I, a Presbyterian, was headed to St. John Neuman School (Catholic) to watch Sharky play ball. Big Red lost her wheel, I prayed (and said a few other not-so-spiritual phrases), and some nice Mormons helped me find the spare and put it on. Is that what that bumper sticker COEXIST is all about? NOW I get it!
~ ~ ~

October 31, Delicious and I snuck off to a lawyer’s office to sign mortgage papers. We closed. We bought a tiny house, which cost about what a nice new car costs (not that I’ve ever bought a new car), near the Little River in Townsend, TN. The timing was nerve-wracking for two reasons. 1. I was still a teacher, not sure what the bank would offer me or if I would switch careers. (In other words, I wasn’t sure I could actually afford the house I’d just purchased). 2. Tall Child didn’t know about it. At all. I bought a postcard with a Smoky Mountain black bear and stapled it to a bag full of Halloween candy, and gave both to Tall Child when I got home. First, I told him how much I loved him. Then, I instructed him to read the back of the postcard, where I’d written:

“Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of an old house near the Little River. I can’t wait to have all kinds of adventures with you, Sharky, and Gnome. I love you.”

He took it well. Whew. Halloween is his favorite holiday, so that helped. Actually, I think he had a sneaking suspicion. Surely he caught on a month before when he held the door for me as I carried Gnome's changing table to the backyard to paint it? (I took the side rails off and now the changing table is a cute little shelf).

Riverdance—banking—Mama in the mountains: meant to be?

Delicious, Gnome, and I spent the weekend at our river house. We happily cleaned (and froze in 29 degree mountain air) and laughed in shock at our risky behavior. Good times. More good times to come. I was still so preoccupied with the big job change debate that I couldn't really "let loose"…until the following Monday. Sunday night, I called in sick to the school substitute hotline, so I had Monday off to work on Riverdance with Delicious. We were about to go home Monday afternoon, and decided to take a walk along the river to the historic swinging bridge on Walnut Loop in Sunshine Unincorporated (Speed Limit 10). Neat, huh? Gnome threw rocks in the river and Delicious prattled on as we walked onto the bridge.

My cell phone rang. On the line was the human resources recruiter for the bank. He asked, “Are you somewhere you can talk?”

I laughed, “Yes, I am. Actually, I am standing in the center of the swinging bridge over the Little River in Townsend.”

He cast his line. I happily swallowed the hook. You see, I’m a Christian. Christians see things. Wasn’t it obvious, from all the surroundings and timing, that I should say "yes" to the bank's offer?

Don’t you think it’s meant to be, since the branch I manage is called the Walland Branch and that it is only 14 minutes from Riverdance? Oh, and the address for Riverdance is Old Walland Highway? As Downton Gams might say, “How about THAT? That is that. Done!”

~ ~ ~

More bittersweet news in a bittersweet chocolate time of year:

I don’t feel like I should give the bank’s name. I’m nervous. The employee conduct policy was 80 pages long and pretty stern. Thus, not only am I saying goodbye to the world’s greatest (no, not oldest) profession—teaching—I am also saying goodbye to Theories: Size 12, Go on and get mad, but you know you agree. Well, at least the tongue-in-cheek blog posts, a.k.a. Theories, you all enjoy week to week.

You see, I have a big mouth. Remember? Tall Child calls me large mouth bass. You have all delighted in my anecdotes from Lab 211, faculty meetings, in-service, etc. My writing style, or “voice,” if you will, is so wide open, that I fear I would damage the bank in some way by telling too much. Listen folks, some crazy stuff goes down in a retail bank branch. I am basically a bar tender, except I serve up financial cocktails to cure problems and make dreams come true. You wouldn’t believe the customer stories I have already heard after only two weeks. Plus, remember, I was a bank branch manager for several years before Tall Child promised the moon, I quit, Sharky and I enjoyed a few years of blissful housewifery, the recession landed on my front porch, I went back to school to be a teacher, and I taught for five years. What a journey. Anyway, back in the late nineties and early 2000’s, I managed three branches in downtown Knoxville. In those years, I made a good bit of money. I also narrowly escaped getting the helk beat out of me by a redneck woman in the drive-through. She didn’t have a car, but she had a mission: to cash a forged check or kill me trying! It was so rough in a couple of the branches that we had security guards. Unfortunately, I had to fire one of the guards because he banked with us and bounced checks constantly. He asked me, “What’s the big deal?”

I explained, “You have severe financial problems. And a gun. In a bank All day long. With me.”

I “managed” a 98-year-old employee who thought she managed the “CD Department.” There was no such department after 1978, but she managed it just the same from the corner of my downtown branch. If I saw one of her “CD customers” come in the door, I had to quickly call her extension. To wake her up.

As Tall Child might say, the bottom line is this: I write from my core, and I write from my every day experiences. There is simply too much good material in a bank branch to ignore. Basically, as a writer and storyteller, it would be personally impossible for me to NOT write about customers and employees. Look at all I’ve told you about life in a junior high? And, those are some of my most popular posts. I have to stop the humorous descriptions of everyday life because my wild typing could get me unemployed. I don’t trust myself. It is for the same reason that I don’t buy Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. If someone gave me a case of those bad boys, I’d  swallow them like a coon dog chokes down a hot dog until I emptied the box. Well, that dog won't hunt. I need a paycheck.


I will (already do) miss teaching.
I am excited to start a new career, practicing what I’ve been preaching/teaching.
I am terribly sad to quell my Theory writing.
I am excited to prepare the Theories BOOK for publishing.
I am thrilled to take on a new challenge: a fiction series (I'll have a bit of time on weekends for that without the weekly commitment to Theories).

I want my readers to know that I appreciate you and enjoy our back-and-forth more than you can imagine. I don’t want to miss you, so please “like” my Theories Facebook page. Also, don’t unsubscribe here (if that button ever did work). I will post publishing news and may write articles from time to time. I just can’t afford (figuratively and literally) to pen sarcastic diatribes about daily encounters on a weekly basis. Dang it to helk.

All the Theories will stay "active" on the internet, so ya'll can keep reading and sharing. Plus, like I said, I'll post from time to time, so stick with me here and/or on Facebook.

I literally JUST teared up thinking about this because I did, indeed, say “Goodbye” to the teaching profession and will miss unloading my thoughts every Friday. For now. But the memories…ahhh, the memories will last a lifetime. Some posts, some moments (tragic, emotional, hilarious, frightening, frustrating) with my students and readers will stick with me forever. So will the unique folks who gave me those special moments.

But, I must be careful in my new/old career. I told Delicious, “I’m going to ease into banking. I don’t want other bankers to think I’m wild or crazy, so I’m going to watch everything I say.” She said, “Bug, you can forget that. Impossible. Just be yourself.”

True to form, I’ve already messed up. My second week, I attended a consumer banking summit with 119 of my new colleagues. As I mingled my way to the parking lot, a co-worker asked, “How do I know you?”

I gave my usual response: “Were you in the UT marching band?”

“No,” he said.

I said, “Well, Playboy then.”

A circle of bystanders and laughter surrounded me. Then I saw my boss in the circle. Ooops!
When I made panicked eye contact with him, I begged, “Sorry?”

To my great delight and human resources relief, he responded, “That’s why I hired you, Jody!”

~ ~ ~

So folks, do you see how little restraint I have, and how I could get myself in a large uninsured, unemployed pickle by writing about my job? Yes, teenagers and teachers are entertaining, but so are bank customers, particularly the ones who come inside. (Unwritten Theory 55: Normal people use the drive-through). 

~ ~ ~

On a sentimental note, students, quite sincerely counted down my last days at the junior high. Every day, throughout the day, students would say, “Mrs. Dyer, you’ll only be with us [so many] more days.” On my last day, a sweet freshmen boy reminded me, “Well, Mrs. Dyer, this is the day.”

I replied to him, “Yes. This is the day that our Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” My school is rich in southern Christian culture, yet it is a public school, so references to Jesus Christ are carefully guarded or avoided. But, as the student noted, that was my last day, so I figured I’d take a chance. He smiled.

Recently, at the end of a day-long meeting with all the branch managers, financial consultants, marketing team, and others, the bank’s area president stood up to make final remarks. He congratulated and thanked and encouraged. Then he said this:

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I think I’ll be alright.

I will miss you readers! Thousands of you are my friends now. I've met people from all over the globe, and am humbled and thankful to know you. Theories: Size 12 has given me a wonderful platform to enlighten others and build kinship within and around the adoption community. But, I recently heard a motivational speaker say, “Be where your feet are.” I recognize that it’s time, mentally and creatively, for me to be where my feet are. I must put my size 9's in high heels and head to corporate America—well, corporate America as represented in a sweet little building on the road to my mountains. I received my master’s degree diploma in the mail just yesterday, and cried. Tall Child gave me Bota Box wine and ordered some good spaghetti from a neighborhood restaurant. I reflected on the bittersweet month. Diplomas, dogs, plans put to rest, dreams come true, family, friends, and the future. Bittersweet.

As I anticipated day 1 of my new job, I wondered if I'd made the right call. I'd seen signs of promise and peace, but the final solace, the final internal "yes" I needed came.

That shining moment of sureness followed tumultuous weeks. At 9 a.m., December 1st, I checked in at the human resources desk, and my new boss took me on a tour of the building (the main office where all line of business partners work). We took the elevator to the serious third floor executive offices. We politely greeted and visited our way down the corridor and then walked into the office of my dear old buddy, “RokNVol.” Okay, I can’t take credit for her nickname. It’s on her license plate, actually. I can't top that nickname either. She is a true Tennessean, a die-hard Vol fan, and actually got married at a rock concert in Big Orange Country. She won the wedding package on the radio.

She’s REAL.
She gets it.
She just “gets it.”
Readers, if you don’t know what that means, then I hate to tell you, you don’t “get it.”

Anyhoo, we stepped into her office and she SCREAMED! She JUMPED! She YELLED, “YAAAAAAAAAAY! JODY’S HEEEEEERE!!!!!!!!!!”

She was a one-woman, All-Vol spirit tunnel.

I was sick to my stomach on the way to work that morning (sad, nervous, tired), but RokNVol cured me with a perfect dose of friendship. RokNVol, thanks for opening the T for me. I love you for it!

I believe I’ll have many great days as a banker. I really do. I will put all my vocational course skills to work for a personal and corporate profit! I also look forward to coaching my staff to be successful and happy in their work. But, all days won’t be good. Luckily, I can focus on people and moments and “think outside the barn.” So, when I’m having a rough day at the bank…when a pervy old man stands too close, a customer wants to fist fight, I endure yet another conference call, I don’t meet my sales goals…or I simply, sadly, miss teaching, I’ll reflect on RokNVol’s greeting and know that I made the best decision.

All is well on Rocky Top!

Happy New Year friends!

Yes, that is a Bloody Mary over my shoulder. 

See you next post or next published work. Until then, think outside the barn! Keep in touch!

Your friend, 

Friday, December 5, 2014

10 reasons why I couldn't write a Theory today. And a link to a popular Christmas post that working mothers loved last year!

December is just as tough as it is delightful. Take my word for it in Theory 26: In the Christmas season, men just need to do what they are told.

I could re-tell all my woes from 2013, but I'd rather you read Theory 26. Why? Because my computer is old and broken and it has taken me five minutes to type what you see up to this point! Argh.

Add to that the following:

1.  I started a new job four days ago and report to another county in two hours and both Sharky and Gnome are sawing logs in sweet childhood no-real-responsibility-it's-almost-Christmas slumber.

2. I have my LAST all day Saturday class for graduate school tomorrow and have to read an entire textbook, write a parody that includes at least ten classroom innovations, work out the parody skit with my group members, and organize a portfolio notebook for semester-end grading by my professor. Geez.

3. I have to wake up my dear mother-in-law Bop who spent the night last night so she can get back to Nashville for a luncheon on time.

4. Buzz just made a poopy mess right in front of Bop's bedroom door.

5. I took a melatonin at 3 a.m. so all this is extra difficult right now.

6. I gained three pounds YESTERDAY. Will someone please explain that to me? What was in that popcorn at Sharky's basketball game?

7. I have bought 3 Christmas gifts. That is it.

8. I have to figure out what "business casual" means in the next 45 minutes.

9. I have to find suitable "business casual" attire from my teacher fashion wardrobe in 45 minutes.

10. I am sad, excited, and completely preoccupied with my huge shift in careers. More on that when I get my computer fixed!

Okay, enjoy that list of excuses and have a GREAT Friday! I miss you, readers.


Share your holiday stress with humor on the Theories: Size 12 Facebook page!

Links are to the right of this post. I think. Out of time. Sorry. Must apply under-eye concealer asap.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I am thankful for the beautiful, burdensome, blessing of adoption. Read and share?

Today, I share

"10 Frequently Asked Questions About Our Open Adoption"

In 2002, when our son Houston was nine months old, my husband Jeff and I began trying to conceive a second child. After an arduous journey through failed infertility treatments and the domestic adoption process, we welcomed our son Scotty in May 2010. Jeff and I spent a total of eight years thinking, journaling, daydreaming, and asking questions. Now that our mystery is solved, we find ourselves answering questions. We’re in a unique position; we can compare Jeff’s 1963 closed adoption to Scotty’s 2010 “wide” open adoption. Many of today’s birthparents seek some form of open adoption. Many adoptive parents do too. So you may have questions.  These are the most frequently asked questions we hear regarding our relationship with our younger son’s birth parents, Kerri and Bryant. I hope they comfort and help you.

1.  What exactly is an “open” adoption? Open adoption means that there is some level of direct communication between the birth family and the child and his/her adoptive family. In other words, instead of sending communication through a third party (attorney, social worker, agency), you text, call, email, correspond, etc. directly with one another. The frequency and type of contact is determined by your and the birth parents’ comfort level. Jeff and I like to text pictures and funny things that Scotty does to Kerri and Bryant. We’ve met Bryant only once because he lives five hundred miles away. But Kerri lives only ten minutes away. So we see her four or five times a year. We usually go to her grandparents’ house so her extended family can enjoy Scotty, too.

2.  Can Kerri or Bryant ever come back and get him? No. Never. More importantly, they wouldn’t try. They love Scotty and respect Jeff and me as his parents and Houston as his brother. They chose us to be his family. Also, once the adoption was finalized in court, Scotty got a new birth certificate listing Jeff and me as his legal parents. The judge said, “He is as legally yours as he would be if you had given birth to him.”

3.  Does Scotty know who they are? What does he call them?Scotty is three-and-a-half years old as I write this. A few days ago, I asked him “Where were you born?” He said, “At the doctor’s.” I asked, “Where did you grow before you were born?” He said, “In Kerri’s tummy.” I asked, “Where did Houston grow?” He answered, “In your tummy.” Then, unprompted, he said, “Mama loves me and Kerri loves me.”

4.  Is it hard for Kerri to see him? I asked her this same question. She said that it is emotional but actually makes her feel really good about the decision she made to place him with us. She said she loves seeing him happy, growing, and learning. Instead of regret, she finds validation.

5.  Is it tough on you to visit with them? Yes, mostly because I dreamed eight years for a baby and cannot comprehend the sacrifices they’ve all made to make my dream come true. Plus, I always want my sweet toddler and my pre-teen son to behave and engage Scotty’s birth family with kindness and affection. My anxiety is based on my own emotional stress. Scotty’s birth family has always been very sweet to us. The experience, for me, is tiring but rewarding. And I’m always in awe of how much love they show toward both my children.

6.  When do you think Kerri will move on with her life?  Our open adoption relationship actually helps Kerri “move on” with her life. When I share Scotty news and pictures with her, she laughs and compliments him and me and brags about his genetics. She is an extremely well-adjusted birth mother (much thanks to counseling from our agency pre- and post-placement). Kerri is 25 and doing well.

7.  How long will you keep talking to them?  Kerri made me a mother again and made my son a brother. I will talk to her for the rest of our lives. She is my friend and she is Scotty’s birthmother.

8.  Won’t the relationship be confusing for Scotty?  Open adoption helps alleviate mystery and confusion for birth parents and adoptees. Scotty will know his birth family, genetic roots, the circumstances of his conception and birth, and, most importantly, that he is loved by those who created him and those who parent him. The truth is not confusing. The truth is liberating.

9.  What about when he’s a teenager? Do you think he’ll ever want to go live with Kerri or Bryant? No. In every essence of our beings, Jeff and I are his parents. In every essence of Scotty’s being and life experience, he will know he’s our son. Nature and nurture do not compete. They complement. Kerri, Bryan, Jeff, and I have the same goal: for Scotty to be mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually sound and happy.

10.  Do you wish you had a closed adoption? Honestly, sometimes I do envy my friends who simply “got their babies” and have no entanglements with the birth families of their children. Perhaps a closed adoption would be easier for me. But adoption isn’t just about me. It’s about everyone involved. Every time I speak to Scotty’s birth family, I am in awe of their strength, compassion, sacrifice, and love. I sincerely love Kerri and Bryant. Open adoption has taught me more about faith and love than any experience in my life. Plus, in my heart, I think open adoption suits our families’ personalities (adoptive and birth) and that, in the end, Scotty will benefit most of all. He will never question, never doubt that he was and is loved by his birth family. And, if he ever does, all he has to do is ask them.

Do you see the baby in the clouds? An ethereal ultrasound?

Several authors and I reduced our books' prices to $0.99 on Kindle for the entire month of November. As a sign of support and understanding, share this list with (or buy these books for) relatives and friends touched in some way by infertility, crisis pregnancy, or adoption. Readers who don't have Kindle devices can download the free Kindle app from the books' pages. 
The books' topics range from infertility to domestic to international to foster adoption. 

CLICK the covers to learn more.



Happy Friday!