New Beginnings: Kristen is Up for Grabs

Back in June, I took on a new challenge: Account coordinator with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online (WDPRO). 

Here’s the rub: It’s a contract position that lives or dies by the funding available to our department. And unfortunately, the funding has dried up in this last stretch of the fiscal year, which ends Sept.30. 

My last day with WDPRO is August 22, and I’m looking for the next challenge. 

I don’t regret coming to Disney on contract for a second. After all, what’s the quote — “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I’ve ushered through complex digital projects involving copywriters, producers and developers. I’ve met some amazing, smart, and friendly people. And I’ve received all positive feedback from my leader and partners I work with.

So, now it’s time for the next move. 

I’m really digging deep this time, and trying to ignore my anxious thoughts about finances and possible unemployment. I really, truly want to find the best fit for me — a place where I can manage digital projects, act as account or product manager/owner, or work with internal or external stakeholders to come up with the best digital/social strategies and products.

As to where that will be, I don’t know. I’m looking here in Orlando, of course, mostly concentrating on digital agencies and the tourism industry. I’m also considering remote work, with a couple promising options. And I’m considering cobbling together a couple great gigs into a consulting business for myself.

On top of those types of opportunities, I’m exploring other cities. It’s no secret that my husband and I miss Alabama, and we’d actually like to be able to go to a Tide game every fall. We would love to find an opportunity in Birmingham or Huntsville that would be a fit for me, but in all actuality, there is more up my alley in Nashville or my hometown of Atlanta. 

Wish me luck, and feel free to send any leads my way.

Enjoying the Journey

 “The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.” -Marjorie Pay Hinckley

It’s hard to put into words what a journey these past few months have been.

I continue to see little things that remind me of Dad everywhere I go. I feel him when I eat his favorite foods, experience a weather event, hear his favorite songs, or pass along a joke or piece of advice he imparted to me. I like to talk about him, because I want to remember and pass along everything that was so inherently good about my Dad.

My dad was not only an excellent dad, but a wonderful husband, grandad, friend and just a great person. He was our rock, and I believe strongly that he is watching over our family and conspiring with God to make life as great as it can be for us without him here.

Case in point #1: My weight loss journey with Weight Watchers. I don’t believe I would have had the courage to begin and the faith to continue on in my goal of reaching a healthy weight. I’m down 26 pounds in 5 months, with 30 pounds more to go to reach my healthy weight range. 

Case in point #2: My recent career wins. A couple months ago, weary of my 48-mile commute to my former job, I reignited my career search. A few interviews later, I was offered a contract position with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online. It’s no secret to those who know me that working for Disney has been on my bucket list for years. I feel infinitely blessed, and can’t wait to see where this takes me.

Despite all these positive moves in my life, I am hurting. I am grieving. There are times when it hits me like a truck how much I miss my dad and just wish I could speak to him one last time. He was taken from us too soon, and all I can think of is that God needed Dad. God needed him for a higher purpose that I just can’t understand. But I am going to do my best at working through the grieving process in a positive way, so that I can learn and grow from it while staying connected to Dad.

Going forward, I am going to do my best to see my progress as Glass Half Full. If I had known a year ago that today I would be 26 pounds lighter with a position at Disney, I would have been over the moon excited. So I’m just going to let myself be over the moon excited… while keeping my eyes on the ball. 

The Weight of Knowing

Dad in November 2003

I’m on a journey. It’s a journey of Life After Dad.

I’m also on a weight-loss journey. I joined Weight Watchers in late January, around the time of Dad’s passing, and went to my first meeting in mid-February. I’ve lost a total of 13.2 lbs. since joining, and have recorded 6.2 lbs. of weight loss since my first meeting.

Along with my job and my volunteer work, the Weight Watchers gives me something to focus on, something to accomplish in the wake of losing my dad.

But sometimes the weight of knowing that Dad is gone literally takes my breath away. I’ll just be going about my day, trying to accomplish whatever … and it hits me. And I crumple. The other day, it happened as I was riding in the car. My husband was driving, and while I didn’t explain what happened *out loud* to him, he knew, and he comforted me.

Grief is a journey. I wish it was something I could just get through, but it’s not. My life is indelibly changed. And I’m simply having to learn to live with the weight of knowing.

The Happy Stretch: Christmas and My Birthday

Holidays_Birthday_Birthday_cake_with_candles_032043_Growing up, I always enjoyed the time between Christmas and my birthday in early February. During that five-and-a-half week stretch, I would enjoy the Christmas holidays while out of school, followed by New Year’s. Then, I would start planning my birthday party and birthday wish list based on what I didn’t get on my Christmas list.

It was always a time of hope and new beginnings: A new year — and then a month later, a new year for me.

This year — well, it was different. Time froze during this former happy stretch of time as we prayed for my dad’s recovery from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

This year, my dad was placed into the hospital two days after Christmas. And this year, we held his memorial two days before my birthday.

The day my dad died, knowing when memorial plans would take place, I sobbed and screamed on the phone to my husband that, “Christmas is RUINED. My birthday is RUINED.”

It sounds childish, but what I was feeling was the shattering of the innocence of my former happy stretch. I thought that from now on, it would be a sad and grief-ridden stretch; all happy memories gone forever.

The day of my dad’s memorial, as it turns out, was my husband’s birthday. Mine was two days later. My chef husband catered lunch after my dad’s viewing, and dinner after his memorial service. As he was serving dessert, my brother-in-law brought out a surprise birthday cake for the two of us. And as we simultaneously blew out the candles, I realized that I can choose to still make it a happy stretch.

Every Christmas, I can remember my last Christmas with my dad, and all the ones before.

And every birthday, I can remember every year I shared with my dad, and know that I am one year closer to seeing him again.

I love you, Dad.

Eulogizing My Father, David E. Record Jr.

David E. Record Jr.

My amazing dad, David E. Record Jr.

On January 24, 2014, just 10 days before my 31st birthday, I lost my amazing dad. After 42 years of marriage to my mom and a career that took him from hospital accountant to COO, my dad’s life ended at age 62.

In the span of a month, Dad went from healthy to gone, after a domino-effect fight with several bugs, including a MRSA-derived cellulitis bacterial skin infection, followed by what we believe was H1N1 influenza, then pneumonia, then a serious and not so well-known complication: ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome, which put him in a medically-induced coma for four weeks before his body succumbed.

Some of what happened is still a mystery, but we do believe he was immunosuppressed by the cellulitis, and possibly something else that remained undiagnosed.

My eulogy, shared with attendees at my dad’s memorial at Sea Island Presbyterian Church in Beaufort, SC, on February 1, is below.

I love you, Dad.

————————–

Travel

 I’ve spent a lot of time in Beaufort, South Carolina over the last month, visiting my dad in the ICU at Beaufort Memorial. But last week, I was on a business trip. I had been upgraded to a Ford Mustang at the airport car rental, and as I roared around town to my appointments, I thought about my dad in ICU and how his very first car was a 1965 Ford Mustang.

Then, last Friday, my mom and sister called to share the terrible news.

As I flew home that evening, I watched the sun set, and spoke to Dad and told him how beautiful the first sunset without him on this Earth was, and thanked him for making it for me. I thought about how I was flying Delta Airlines home to say goodbye to my dad, and how he had made so many trips out of Atlanta on Delta over the years.

As we landed in Atlanta to make my connection, the flight attendant came on the intercom to let us know that we were landing at “Terminal D – as in David.” My dad:  David. Then, I gasped as I remembered that it had all come full circle, because back in 1983, my dad had been on a business trip, received a call sharing the happy news, and flew home to Atlanta to see me be born.

And this week I connected another full circle moment: the last time I saw my dad awake was on Christmas Day, in my driveway. The last time my sister saw my dad was a few days before, in her driveway. And back in 1971, my dad proposed to my mother where? On her driveway.

Words 

The hardest part about grieving my dad is that he always had the right thing to say.  He would know what to say to me, to my mom and to my sister in a situation like this.

My dad’s words were sometimes a piece of career or financial advice, like when he told me to go with a balanced 401K plan earlier this year. A couple years back, he advised me to “build my personal franchise” at work. And of course, he went over my health insurance benefits options with me at several jobs over the past nine years.

Dad’s words could be a funny joke or video. One of our favorites was the 5-second-long “Dramatic Chipmunk” video on YouTube. Last year, thinking of my Labrador retriever, Mango, he sent me a hilarious photo of a large dog stuck in a hammock, with the caption of simply, “Uh Oh.” A while back, I happened upon a Record Motel owned by a Record family close to where I live near Walt Disney World. He jokingly told me that the motel was a family secret.

My dad’s words were often a story about his childhood, like one he told me very recently about his family’s terrier Brownie. Brownie used to chase cars, but one day, the pup chased a car down the street, and as the car turned right, poor Brownie ran smack into the side of the car. Brownie never chased cars again, he said. There must be a lesson in that.

But mostly, my dad’s words held profound weight, stayed with me, and will continue to do so going forward.

In April of last year, I was laid off from my last job. I somehow managed to start a new job about two weeks later. He sent me a text message congratulating me that consisted of just three words: “You are amazing.” And when my husband got a promotion at work just a couple months ago, he told us that he was proud of both of us.

Back over Thanksgiving, my dad observed me playing with my nephews. He noticed that I had formed a special bond with them, and made sure to tell me that he thought I would be a great mother one day.

Even now, after his death, I have found his words. Just yesterday, I was looking at Dad’s Bible. In the book of Psalms, I found his favorite verse highlighted, with a personal note included on why he liked Psalms 91 the most. What a gift.

And just this past fall, my dad shared an article with my mom, my sister and me called, “What the Dying Want Us to Know About Living.” I came upon this email the other night, remembering when he first sent it with an audible gasp.

 The main point of the article was this: “What the dying want us to do — and wish for us to know — is to regard our lives as precious moments making up our days. They want us to focus less on the big picture of building a large body of evidence that proves our accomplishments, and more on the true wonders in our life — the kind where we find unexpected beauty that will be remembered with a wistful smile.”

So Dad, this is what I aim to do. As I go through life now, with you by my side, I will cherish the small moments with my family, and focus on the true wonders of life. Because none of us can predict –- certainly we did not predict — when life might end for us or our cherished loved ones.

I love you Dad, forever and ever.

My 2013 in Review: Connecting the Dots of my Future

2013 year in review

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

-Steve Jobs

It’s true, they say: the older you get, the faster the years fly by. And 2013 — it zoomed. And while it wasn’t my most favorite of years, it wasn’t entirely bad, either!

Some highlights:

In January, I celebrated as the Alabama Crimson Tide football team won its third National Championship in four years.

In February, I turned 30. I celebrated with my husband with a dinner at the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

In March, my parents visited and we went to a Braves spring training game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Also in March, I took on an awesome volunteer position with my sorority. I oversee 35 alumnae chapters in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

In April, I was laid off from my digital content director position at Bonnier Corp. as some magazines were folded or sold, and personnel consolidated. (Luckily, my titles were left in the hands of a swell guy I trust!) Within the month, I started a new job as digital marketing and public relations manager at Mario Camacho Foods the same week that my husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. (Find Mario on Facebook!) Between jobs, I wrote a blog post about how my husband’s career at Walt Disney World all started with a tweet, and it got a lot of response.

In May, I went to the movies. This is notable because I went to see only to three movies in 2013: Lincoln, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Saving Mr. Banks. Most of my movie-watching these days is done through HBO and Redbox.

In June, I traveled for my “sorority job” to a training conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In July, I traveled to Seville, Spain for a once-in-a-lifetime work trip, and returned to attend a food blogger conference as a brand sponsor.

In August, I was interviewed for a podcast on Alabama sorority recruitment.

In September, I spent Labor Day with family in South Carolina. I attended another blogger conference as a brand sponsor, and traveled to Richmond for my sorority regional meeting.

In October, we bought a new sectional sofa. It is glorious.

In November, I spearheaded the search for an agency partner at work, and spent Thanksgiving with family in South Carolina. And, my husband received a promotion and transferred to a new location at Walt Disney World.

In December, I went to my first therapy session since high school — through a benefit provided to me through work. I look forward to my next session to discuss my next steps in my career and in life. Also in December, my parents came to visit, and their visit cut short by my dad’s bout with pneumonia. He remains hospitalized and prayers and thoughts are highly appreciated.

In 2013, I spent too much time worrying about finances and my career, and too much time on social media — even though I love it and have made a career out of it, hashtag ironic. I didn’t spend enough time taking care of myself — I did not eat healthily enough, exercise enough, or take enough time for friends and family — and I willingly spent a lot of time on my own when my husband was working. I fear failure in getting healthy, I fear rejection from friends and family, and I aim to conquer those fears.

I have some things to look forward to in 2014. In January, I’ll travel to my old stomping grounds in Birmingham to attend FoodBlogSouth as a sponsor brand, and meet with our PR agency that is headquartered there. I hope to squeeze in as much time as possible for dinner and coffee with friends and former coworkers! In April, my husband and I are renting a dog-friendly beach house a few miles down the beach from where we were married to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. And in July, I’ll travel to Seattle for my sorority’s international convention!

In 2014, I aim to put the health of myself and my family first. I am to make plans with friends new and old. I aim to truly be present for the celebration of our wedding anniversary, put my toes in the sand — and let go of worry.

My 2014 goals:

-Cook nourishing meals for me and my husband on nights when he is working.
-Through running and yoga, restore confidence in my body.
-Reach out to a friend or work contact each week through a phone call or in-person activity.
-Write about people I admire here on this blog.
-Continue dealing with my worry in a healthy way.

If Money Were No Object

ImageIf money were no object, I would:

-First and foremost, pay off all debts and student loans for myself and my husband. 

-Buy a house here in Florida, and get a new living room and bedroom set from Ethan Allen.

-Buy a Gameday condo in Tuscaloosa and get on the list to upgrade our season tickets.

-Trade my Nissan Versa in for a BMW 3 Series, and let my husband trade in his Jeep or just keep adding to it as Jeep enthusiasts do.

-Get a second Labrador Retriever as a companion for Mango and start trying for a child.

-Get my teeth whitnened and get Invisalign braces at the dentist.

-Get a manicure and pedicure every two weeks, and a massage, facial and eyebrow wax every month.

-Hire a personal trainer for 3 or 4 days per week.

-Set up a donation fund to my college, my sorority, and other worthy causes.

It’s fun to think about, isn’t it?