Obligatory apology and excuses blog post

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again, where I fish for flimsy excuses about why my (now paid) blog site has lain dormant as Moria for the past…can we say weeks? I’ll feel better if I say weeks.

Right, so let’s get it over with.

I’ve been working. Really, truly, I have. Statistically speaking, it takes about 12 months for someone to become (or at least feel) proficient in a new job. I’m about halfway there! In the meantime, I still forget details, sometimes – little things like checking a box or something. And then bigger things like balancing time or wrapping my head around how long it takes me to do Things. I still don’t always know if something is going to take me an hour or six days…

I’ve been meaning to write. As I was explaining to my Professional Writer father the other day, at any given time I have at least 3 draft posts, and then there are times that I have 7 or 8, all sitting there, wondering if I’ll ever get back to them. At least one of those drafts has been around longer than my new job…so….I’m sure I’ll finish it one of these days.

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on. After Zoe left us so suddenly, I can safely say that the very last thing I wanted to do was…anything.

The first time you skip or forget something, it’s minor, right? It’s just a hiccup. The problem is that if you then skip a second time, or a third, it starts to snowball. And it snowballs fast. I guess that’s kind of the point of that metaphor, though, right?

Eventually going back seems that much more daunting. What do you mean I have to roll this 2 ton snowball back up the hill? It was so much smaller when it started falling! I’ll just wait for it to thaw a bit.

It doesn’t thaw. Winter has officially arrived.

My point is just that after a while writing a post seemed like an insurmountable challenge. It had been too long. I put in work to provide regular content, and then I let it fall to the side, in order to take on some more pressing things, and coming back to it means facing that gaping chasm in between last post and this post.

I don’t even want to THINK about how many of these posts I’ve made. But whatever. I’m only human. I disappear sometimes. The weight of things gets just a little too heavy, and my response is to tuck myself away.

So maybe this can be my blanket post moving forward? For the next time I need to limp away to lick my wounds and can’t work up the energy to put this kind of stuff into words.

I have some ideas in the works, though…all of the “well at least I’ll think it’s hilarious” variety. But it’s something, at least.

Sweet Baby, Mama Loves You

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

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You came to me, unexpectedly, when I was a junior in college. Working at the pizza place, living with a fellow student who had a kitten, and you were mentioned offhandedly. Someone was moving and couldn’t bring their cat, and did I know anyone interested in a black cat?

Me. I was interested.

“She’s not a lap cat,” they said, handing you over in a metal crate that looked more like a bird or rodent cage than a cat carrier. I put you in the back of my Camry – the same one still in the garage, and I took you home.

You slept on my pillow that night.

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You were not fond of the kitten, but that was ok.

One time you got out of the house, and I ran down the street in a panic, trying to find you. You were hiding on the covered porch, watching my antics, no doubt with amusement.

You moved into that windowless basement apartment with me, despite the dog, and then you moved into my parents’ house with me when I left that place behind.

You flew 3,000 miles to be with me in Seattle, where you met Eric, who I still maintain you love more than me. He denies it. But we both know.

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You drove almost that same distance to Arkansas, when we moved again. Eric tells the story better than me – you meowed the whole way, non-stop, until the final day. When you arrived, I had a sign on the door “Welcome Home Zoe! (And Eric).”

That was a good apartment for you, with all of the light in the living room and big windows. And the ample room for your favorite pastime: hunting hair ties.

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Then you and I drove to Michigan; it was my turn with you in the car, but you didn’t cry nearly as much. So maybe I am your favorite. We drove all the way in one day, and you spent the night learning your way around that old house in Zeeland.

When we bought our house, we had you in mind. I was disappointed that the only windows for you to sit in were in the basement, but we figured we could make it work.

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My right shoulder is sore most of the time because you insisted on perching there like a parrot. Your head – so soft and warm – pressing against my neck. I can’t really be upset about it. What’s a little soreness compared to cute, fluffy black cat on my shoulder? And there was the pawing at my side until I picked you up and put you there.

You were always so small; people thought you were a kitten, even though you had the disposition of an old woman, set in her ways and kind of demanding, but no one says anything.

You were also exceptionally sweet. Most of the time. And only to us. With others, you were standoffish. And there were the times you mangled me. But never Eric. So I guess point for him again.

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This morning you were even smaller, impossibly so. And I don’t know if it was worse seeing you like that or putting away your scratch post this afternoon, so I won’t see it tomorrow and be somewhere between confused and devastated.

It’s unfair, really.

I told you and the universe and anyone who would listen that you were, in fact, immortal. But then, you always got your way.

You are, though. Because here you are – small and sweet and precious and all of those things I would say or sing or whisper to you (and at you, and at Eric about you, until he would make that annoyed face, even as he agreed). The concept of immortality has changed in the digital era because pieces of us, of you, can live on forever. A series of 0’s and 1’s, words translated to digital memory.

It’s all I can give you now.

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

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Why I read Hawthorne

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, putting it off because I couldn’t remember my professor’s name, and it made me sad. The things that are so important to us at certain times in our lives can be difficult to hold onto. It’s like another world, another Sam that existed, and I don’t always share her memories.

Which is, ironically, a fantastic segue into what I’ve been thinking about – American Romanticism. Or, more specifically, American Dark Romanticism (or American Gothic) of the early to late 1800s. Mmmmhmm. I can feel your excitement right now.

I fell in love with this particular literary movement in high school, when I first read The Scarlet Letter. And don’t come to me with “ugh, that book is so boring,” because then I’m convinced you didn’t read it.

My adoration grew in college, when I was pleased to take two classes with a professor (the aforementioned one whose name has escaped me, and I feel like I’ve betrayed my degree) who shared my excitement over this time period. He taught a class in Crime, Morality, and Punishment in 19th and 20th Century Literature, and if that doesn’t sound like a whirlwind of a time, then I don’t really know what is. And he taught early American Lit. AKA all of the quietly, sneakily depraved writing of the 1800s.

When most people think of gothic literature, they think of Poe and his Raven. I love Poe, too. One of my favorite assignments in college was my feminist critique of The Fall of the House of Usher. I had a grand time with that. Not to mention “A Descent Into the Maelstrom,” a view into that human nature to hang a foot off the edge of a cliff, to see what might happen.

But the dark romanticism of the age, for me, is settled snugly in the hands of Hawthorne. I find myself thinking about his writing a lot lately. As the world has shifted underneath me, and I feel unsteady, I think about the Minister’s Black Veil or Ethan Brand. I imagine him sitting and writing the words, his cautionary tales about the world, about Us vs. Them, about false piety.

He wrote extensively about Puritans. His grandfather had been a judge during the Salem witch trials, after all. He did not cast them in a favorable light. They are instead depicted harshly, like deep, rough lines against an otherwise normal backdrop. They are hypocritical, placing their chosen heroes on pedestals and denouncing their preferred outcasts. And inevitably the heroes are flawed, and the outcasts are noble (though also flawed because they are human).

It strikes a little close to home these days.

Think about what you may (or may not) remember about The Scarlet Letter. Spoilers, I guess? But then again, this story is over a hundred years old. You’ve had ample time.

Hester Prynne has been put in jail, unwed (or, more specifically, widowed) and now with child. They cannot put her to death, so they instead require her to wear a scarlet letter A upon her clothes, forever marking her sin and displaying it for the world to see. They demand to know the identity of the father, but she refused. She lives outside of the village, raising her daughter.

Hester otherwise lives by all of the puritanical rules of society. She wears somber colors, is gentile and respectful. She also sews the most elaborate and beautiful dresses. Her daughter wears fanciful and colorful outfits, and the wealthier matrons in the village hire her for all manner of seamstress work. She tends to the sick, staying by their beds to comfort them. But still she is treated as an outsider, an untouchable.

The local minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, is meanwhile looked on as a paragon of society. His increasingly poor health is attributed to his piety, with many members of his church believing that he is fasting, or that he is simply so overwhelmed with goodness that he is being called to Heaven.

It is, instead, his own guilt eating away at him.

At the end of the novel, before a crowd of people, Dimmesdale rips away his shirt, confessing that he is Pearl’s father and that his sin is all the greater for having allowed Hester to bear the burden for those 7 years. The crowd is stunned to see a bright scarlet A branded on his chest.

(Yeah, see, boring my ass.)

The village immediately turns on him, some shouting that he should be hanged for his sin.

Until Pearl, the child of Hester and Arthur’s union, speaks out, reminding all in the crowd that they, too, have sinned. That in the wake of seven years of her mother’s continued service to the town, she has heard some say kind words. That her father has been seen as holy and admirable. She reminds them that forgiveness is more important than judgment.

I could talk about (or write about) this story for hours, for days. Hawthorne so brilliantly captures the hypocrisy of those shouting about propriety. And in this modern era of loud voices and pulpit-pounding, I find peace in these tales.

Dimmesdale dies after his confession. He and Hester do not run off the Europe to start a fresh life together and they had hoped a mere chapter earlier. But Chillingworth (just read the story, seriously) finds forgiveness, and he leaves his fortune to Pearl a few years later. When Hester dies, she is buried by Arthur. Though he feared they would be damned together, Hester believed they would be forgiven and spend an eternity by each other’s sides.

And I guess that’s why I love Hawthorne. Though dark and at times depressing, the background characters of his tales often learned a lesson via the suffering of his protagonists. He did not sugar coat his stories; he shed light on the harsh truths of society but still maintained hope that people could learn and grow and change.

I need that reminder.

Of course, there’s always Poe, too. When it’s time to simply scream into the void. That might work just as well.

Disappointment

In the immortal words of The Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want.”

There are some days I feel the statement should be amended to “you seldom get what you want” (and apparently, so did they. Looking at you, “Satisfaction”…), but then that’s not really the point of the song.

In every day use, we just stop there.

“I had hoped to do X, but it didn’t work out.”

“Well, you can’t always get what you want.”

“Gee, thanks for that insight.”

We forget about the second part of it. “If you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” And frankly what we need isn’t always what we want. I want to smother my face in melted chocolate and eat pizza all day, every day. But my body needs “vitamins” and “nutrients,” so I eat sensibly. Most of the time.

Of course the reason we don’t complete the sentiment is because disappointment sucks. It’s a shallow victory to hear “well, this didn’t go the way you wanted, but it’ll work out in the end.”

Yeah, the end was supposed to be successfully obtaining X. Now it’s…what? Unknown. Unknowable. Until you’re some days, weeks, or months beyond, and you look back to see the worn path behind you, and that light clicks on. Ohhhhh.

Sure that part is satisfying. I like to retrace my steps, counting them and watching the twisting way that they got me to where I am standing now.

But right now now it sucks. It just does. There is no sugar coating it. There is no “well, everything happens for a reason.” No. It just sucks.

Still, you know, in the scheme of things. I get it. My disappointment, on the world’s scale of sheer craptastic things, this is like….in the thousands. High thousands. I know that. I really get it. There are people out there who can’t even rely on the second part of that lyric because they’re not very likely to get what they need either.

I keep telling myself that, when I take a breath, and for whatever reason, the air I’ve breathed in seems to just carry all of the things that I’m even slightly bitter about. I keep telling myself that, when the little, nagging things that don’t usually bother me suddenly snowball, and I’m just running frantically from the avalanche. That’s right, running. I’m not about to face a giant snowball of little nagging things. Frankly, if I wasn’t dealing with them when they were tiny, why would I deal with them when they’ve become so big? No, thank you.

And I guess by now, you’re wondering where I’m going with this.

I’m not really sure. Haven’t gotten there, yet.

Sorry to disappoint.

 

Georgia on my mind

I grew up in the peach state, various towns and cities at different times, only vaguely aware that people lived in other states. It’s weird how that happens. When you define a place as Home, it feels strange sometimes to think that there are billions of people out there who not only don’t live near you, but have most likely never even heard of your town.

When I was very little, I affected a thick Southern drawl, drew out my syllables as folk do in Georgia. But over time that dwindled, even living in the state. People who meet me now will not often guess that I spent the better part of my pre-adult years (and even early adult) in the foothills of Appalachia.

Fun fact: Georgia is the largest state East of the Mississippi. Yes, it’s true. Yes, even when you take the Upper Peninsula into consideration for Michigan.

I mention that because when I tell people I grew up in Georgia, they almost always know someone in Augusta or Savannah. I lived about 6 hours from them, in that case. I most likely don’t know them.

I’m headed that way on Saturday, the hubby and I hopping in a rental car to make the drive down. We’ll spend some time with my family at the homestead in the hills, and then I’m dragging him along with me to Southeast Dreamin’.

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In addition to being excited about being in the place I learned how to walk and speak and be an adult*, I’m really excited about this stuff:

  1. Charlie Isaacs‘s keynote. He’s one of my favorite people in the community, so I’m very happy to see him speak.
  2. Rebe de la Paz is going to talk about educating end users – a topic near and dear to my heart.
  3. For my NPO friends, you can check out Adam Kramer‘s session on Optimizing NPSP as an Admin.
  4. My friend and fellow #GifSquad member, Amy Oplinger, is reprising her fantastic session on Imposter Syndrome.
  5. Phillip Southern is going to share how they created the open-source Trailhead leaderboard.
  6. Doug Ayers is sharing his presentation on using Process Builder to create a Chatter Bot.
  7. THE Jen Lee of Automation Hour fame is sharing a session on Flow.
  8. Chris Duarte‘s closing keynote! It’s like a delicious Salesforce sandwich, people.

Did I mention the Hackathon on Thursday (this will be my first!)?

Did I mention the SaaSie Tech Social?

Did I mention time with the community, seeing the #Ohana?

To be honest, Georgia hasn’t been home in almost 10 years, but having so many great things to look forward to, I know it’ll feel a lot more like it next week.

See you there?

*I am legally an adult. Whether or not I’m an “Adult” is up for debate.

 

Hear me []

A friend of mine, the amazing @SalesforceAmy, gathered a group of us women in the Salesforce #Ohana with a great idea that she and another amazing woman, Rachel Rogers, had for celebrating International Women’s Day (which is today, by the way). I’ve been thinking about how I could contribute – video? Picture? Retweet machine? And then I remembered that I have this thing called a blog and generally speaking, I write about things…

I’m not the most vocal person, unless I really know someone. So the hashtag #hearmeroar seemed disingenuous to me. You won’t hear me roar because that’s not really my style. But you might read my words.

I carry a small notebook with me wherever I go. I have 4 small black notebooks all filled, cover to cover, and dated. Their pages contain my triumphs and, more often than not, my defeats. They are my roar.

My roar is the long line of strong women in my life. My maternal grandmother who moved herself and her two children from the tiny island nation of Malta to New York City. My paternal grandmother, who has lived up to every challenge that the world has thrown at her and continues to learn and do amazing things. My mom – holy shit, my mother…smart, funny, driven, thoughtful, kind, brave…the list goes on. I am in awe of her every single day.

My roar is the list of things I have done that surprised even myself. Finished 3rd in my class at the fire academy. Moved across the country and somehow turned my life around. Taught myself math, so I could teach math in a struggling school district. Became a Salesforce consultant. (What is my life?)

Sometimes my roar is just getting through the tough times.

Sometimes it’s leaving a company because they show a pattern of disrespect to the women who work there.

Other times it’s supporting another woman who is going through something I’ve experienced.

For all of us, though, our roar is the collective will to continue pushing forward, the defiance in the face of systems that tell us that we are at fault for being born as women, our ability to keep standing when we’ve been pushed down. Our roar is in our strength – a strength that does not need to boast or strut, a strength that persists, that permeates everything that we do. Our roar is collective, and it shakes foundations, and if that scares some people, then it’s only because they thought that we were kittens, when in fact we are titans.

So you will not hear me roar today. You may never hear me roar.

But you will hear me.

You will hear all of us. Because we will not be silent, and we will not be silenced.

Today is International Women’s Day. Here’s to our voices.

 

The niche struggle is real

There are so many smart people in the Salesforce Ohana. Seriously. So many. They are in the community, on Twitter, writing blogs, hosting podcasts, just generally being awesome. Need to know how to write a formula? There’s a blog for that. Process Builder trouble? There’s a weekly webcast for that. Prepping for an exam? So many sites to help.

As someone who has always been the person on the edge of social circles, one foot in and just hesitant enough to not insert myself, I can tell you that it can be hard to find your place in any situation. As someone who likes to write, who feels safest being herself behind a keyboard, I can also tell you that it’s not any easier finding your place via the blogosphere.

When I first started with Salesforce, blogs helped me become a better admin. I used Salesforce’s documentation to learn the functionality, but project and product management, understanding users’ needs, best practices…that all came from the community. Once I started feeling more confident, I wanted to share what I had learned with others. I’ve tried a few avenues – speaking at events, starting the local Women in Tech chapter, evangelizing on the streets, you name it. Oh yeah. And this thing you’re reading.

I have a backlog of drafts about a mile long. Posts I’ve started, trying to fit into my own little corner of the Salesforce blog world. Am I a place for new admins to learn basic functionality? Am I a marketing automation guru? Maybe I should talk about consulting? Women in Tech. Community. Automation. Communication. Learning to code. Etc. Etc.

Guess what? It exists already.

There are days I find it disheartening. I don’t have the experience or knowledge that many of the existing bloggers have. It’s easy to be down on myself, to feel inadequate, to think that this whole thing is a waste of time.

Not what it’s about, though.

If you want to share something or do something or create something in this community, I’m giving you the permission and the advice to do it. Even if it’s already been done. Even if you think no one will care. All of those blogs and MVPs and community heroes didn’t become experts overnight. They all started somewhere, and they are all here to support you.

Oh, and if you’re looking for your niche, your expertise? It’s you. It’s your unique perspective, your own experiences. That’s all you need. So you’re basically half way there.