Sunday, March 30, 2008

I hate building thick skin

So, the conference was this weekend. Met a lot of fun people. Collected a lot of business cards and gave out 0 (I don't have any!). Venue could've been better with sound, but I think all in all it went great. Really, it was an amazing time and the feedback we got was pretty positive.

So what's this about thick skin? I let my feelings get hurt bad over something small. A question that was asked. However, it was who the question was from and what it was about that hurt.

I'm realizing that I'm responsible for my actions and reactions. Thus the statement of "I LET my feelings get hurt..." So what could I have done? Given my answer to the question asked and not thought anything about, which would mean disregarding my feelings that were trampled on. In order to do that, the skin has to thicken.

I don't like that feeling...thick skin. I wear my heart on my sleeve and let people in who I trust, which isn't many. And when it's someone I trust who hurts me, I want to bail. It's the easiest thing to face...think of me and me only.

I actually told this person to stop thinking about just himself, yet isn't that what I'm doing? Or is it? At what point do you balance thinking about yourself and others? How do you make that happen?

I think I think of others first. I want to do things for others. Because of that, I'm starting to think I was out of line in my feelings; that I'm overreacting and that it shouldn't be about me. But then I wonder when do I get the chance to justify my hurt, disappointment, anger, jealousy, etc. Should those feelings ever be justified?

I don't want to lose a friend over this but have really thought about reevaluating the friendship. I wonder if I've built it up to something more than what it could/should be. Then I wonder if it's ok to do challenge someone in their 'friendship' go deeper.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What day is it?

Seriously...Monday, for a solid hour, I thought it was Tuesday. My roommate broke the news to me. Today feels like Wednesday. I've lost a day somewhere, but really, when you think about it, I've gained a day.

*sidenote...I make no promises about this post as I'm a bit delirious from well, i don't know what from...being so tired I can't see straight? Probably.*

Tomorrow's the last day at the job. Moving on to new things. My boss/mentor/friend hugged me before he left. This is very abnormal. He teared up even and told me I could call if I needed anything. That means a lot. He's taught me a lot and allowed me to reach new levels personally and professionally. He was always there to listen and advise, if I wanted it. I needed it more than I took him up on it. I'll probably post more about him another day. There's hurt deep down under the sadness about the way things have been the past few months. Issues...I always have issues. ICK!

Super pumped about the conference I've been planning this weekend. It's going to be great. A bit of anxiety over all the things still needing to be done, but it'll all happen. A lot less stressed now than the last conference I helped out on. Let's just hope I make it through the weekend.

So tired...going to bed. need sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Had to use a shovel, those issues are so deep...

Some things were stirred up yesterday that I need to deal with and I know that I've needed to face the issues for years. But I keep avoiding them. I really think I may need to see a therapist to work through because this is a whole issue bigger than I can tackle. But I don't have a need to do it right now as it pertains to something that's irrelevant in my life, sex.

As I sat in church, of all places, I began drafting the post about this in my head, which meant I was digging into the issues. And I had to stop. It was way too emotional for me. I could feel the tears coming.

To add to the emotional pain, I was sitting near the 'families with children' section at the back. That way they can sneak out if kids are crying, etc. I looked over and realized how long it's been since I've held a baby, how much I love it and then BAM--that I may never have kids of my own. Even now, that's a thought that's a little too hard to process. OK...changing subjects.

Let's see...we got more snow yesterday. But it was beautiful! Big, fluffy snow. Seriously, the flakes were almost quarter-inch. It was a whiteout at one point, which just made it more beautiful. I wanted to be covered in the snow and if I had had someone to play with, would've been outside in it...catching snowflakes on my tongue and letting them fall on my face. Amazing way to enjoy life. =)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Not Taking Advantage

Week 9: I forgo taking advantage of anyone because of his ignorance, status, or financial straits. I forgo the change to use any charms of word, body, or mind to seduce or trick others.

Here we go with week 9 of Everyday Commitments (though it's the 13th week of the year. Ouch!) As I read the Commitment, I didn't think that it would apply much. Then I read the chapter. I don't think I take advantage of people. Quite the opposite, actually. I usually see the good in someone and want to bring that out more. I can often be blinded by the potential I see in someone, or a situation.

So what's this chapter say? Let's take a look:

  • We may notice that someone is vulnerable because she is at a low ebb, depressed, or facing a crisis, including that of financial embarrassment. This is me. My finances are an embarrassment, but I'm working on getting them in order. Going on 9 months now and I have a ways to go...

  • The practice is to come from a place of caring about others' plight, wanting to help them get back on their feet before we enter into transactions with them. We commit ourselves to look for an equal playing field. Equal playing field is always good. A double-beneficial transaction is always best!

  • Most of us have skills we use to trick or cheat others. Most of us can somehow convince others , perhaps against their will. I honestly believe this is true of everyone. I've often wondered throughout negotiations for the new job if I'm being taken advantage of or tricked. I don't believe my business partner would do that, but the question is still there and surfaces every now and then. He has a huge risk as my salary comes out of his pocket if money doesn't come there are hesitations on each of our parts.

The chapter goes with talking about being honest in our dealings, showing that we care more about being authentic than what we can gain. This is something that my friends just don't understand about my working relationship with my partner. We are very open and honest with each other and it works for us. This is why, even though the salary talk has been brutal, offensive, lower than what I wanted, and taken all the way until the 11th hour (we still haven't 100% agreed to something. We have until Wednesday), our openness and honesty has overshadowed that. My friends think I'm being taken advantage of, that I could be making more, which I could, but I wouldn't be doing this amazing opportunity that I'm so excited about. The honesty we share is priceless.

The last sentence for this chapter says it best, "Our goal is truth, not profitable consequences."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You're so transparent

have you ever met one of those people who asks how you're doing and you say 'fine!' and then they give you the look. You know, they twist their head a little, squint their eyes and look right at you and say, "Really?" And then you bust into tears? No? Maybe that's just me.

No tears today, but ran into one of 'those' people today. He's a vice-president in our office and I used to work for him. We never really were that close, but he has this amazing power to tell when people aren't telling the whole truth. Along with that is the power he has to get people to tell the truth. If he were to pull me into his office and shut the door, I think it would all come out. He's very much the father figure and deeply cares for everyone. He wants what's best for them and will be as truthful and encouraging as it gets at the same time. He's amazing and I admire him greatly.

There's another one of 'those' in my life who I haven't seen in a while. I think I've been avoiding him, and many others all together. He's one of my pastors, but is more like a big brother to me. He can take one look at me and call me on my B.S. that the rest of the world can't see through. It drives me nuts. Honestly, I haven't seen him since...before Christmas, maybe? I actually have only been to church twice since the new year. That's a whole other topic and post for another day. Not ready to tackle that one yet.

I haven't been very happy at work over the past 6 months, for many reasons, and I'm sure it shows as I've quit trying to cover it up. It takes too much energy. I can't do it anymore. I found out today that my boss is coming to town on Monday and Tuesday next week, to meet with me and so I can train him before I leave my job. Wednesday's my last day and a party is being planned (though I don't know that I want one). Anyways, I asked my friend coordinating to ask my boss about moving it to Tuesday so he can be there. He said there's more value in it being on my last day and that he wouldn't be able to stick around for it. That sums up most of my frustrations with him and my job over the past few months.

I'm debating sending him an email about how hurt I am (n-there I go being 'hurt' again! =P ) before he comes to town. Otherwise, it's all going to come out when we meet in person and I'd rather that not happen. I really feel underappreciated in my work, mostly by him, and really don't want to leave with a bad taste in my mouth. At the same time, I figure I'm leaving, so what's the big deal. I'm through with it, right?

I hate being so emotional about things like this. Wow--it just hit me! I really look up to him as my mentor ( come the tears!) and it hurts to think that I'm not important enough for him to be involved in my party. He knows he's bad with recognition of things, but that doesn't mean it's OK. He should know better, right? I mean...I've worked for him for 4 years...longer than any other National Office staff has.

What do you think? Do I have a right to be upset or am I just being emotional? =(

Respectful Assertiveness

Week 8: I can become stronger in asking for what I want without demand, manipulation, or expectation. As I remain respectful of the timing, wishes and limits of others, I can take no for an answer.

Here again, I'm a few weeks behind in posting from "Everyday Commitments" by David Richo. I decided to check out what was next in the book and the timing is great for this as I'm in negotiations again for the new job. I will know in just over a week if I have a job in CA and if I'm moving there.

When discussions came about a few months ago, I got very emotional about it. It was hard as I was making my own offer on salary and was getting an unofficial OK on it and then it was coming back lower. I took things very personally and ultimately ended up having to stop discussions about it as I was ready to give up on the idea all together.

This is a risk on both my partner's part and my part. Until we have money in the bank, it comes from his pocket, so he's not as willing to pay me a good salary. I don't think we're on the same page about vision for the organization and what's to come, which makes it difficult to agree to a good salary. Part of my salary involves commission, so to speak. I'm fine with that and like it, actually, but prefer to think of that as a bonus on top of what I need to live instead of a supplement for what I need to live.

I've compared what I'm making here (in WI) with what I should be making in CA and it's almost double what my partner is offering. Ouch! Even with the anticipated commission, it's still 6-10K+ lower than the comparable salary. See why it's risky for me?

So how does this all play into this week's commitment? I can be assertive without being aggressive in this discussion. I'm not making threats, but stating facts. The book says, "Aggression is the brand of control that makes our will more important than others' choices." My will is not more important than my partners' choice. We want to agree on this...we both want this to happen...but we both have to give a lot to meet on common ground.

Suggestions, dear readers, on how to stand firm and be assertive in negotiating. The comment box is open...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm Yours

Love this song and it was finally released on ITunes a few weeks ago. Now, the video is out:

It's my God-forsaken right to be loved...

Moving on up

Most people dread packing and moving, but not me. I love it! I love going through my stuff and thinking about about who I was and who I've become. I love merging and purging, which doesn't happen as often as it should when I'm not preparing for a move. I love getting rid of clothes that don't fit me anymore (which I'm doing today--3 bags worth!)

There's also the excitement that comes along with this task. Moving to something new...whether it's a new place in the same city you're currently in or maybe to an entirely new place altogether. I love getting settled into a new place, decorating and making it home.

This move isn't going to be the easiest. I'm taking a 2-week cross country drive before I end up in the final destination, which makes figuring out how to get my stuff out West a bit difficult. HIre movers? They'll probably get there before I do. Rent a U-haul-type truck? Then I have it for 2 whole weeks, which will be pricy. Ship what I can and sell everything else? This may actually be the right answer. Debating whether or not to bring my big furniture (couch, loveseat, bed, dresser) or what. Have already been thinking about getting a new bed, so not sure I want to move the one I have all the way across the U.S. Will probably end up moving in with other people for a few months, so won't need much more than what could fit into a bedroom.

So many variables right now, including the potential roommate moving out West with me a few months after I get there. This isn't 100% sure, but looking very likely. However, I'm trying to figure out the best option just in case she doesn't come out. I'd hate to bank on that if it's not going to happen in the end.

Well, back to packing for me. I need to take some trash out, tape up some more boxes and then get some work done. Thankfully, I've been able to open the windows, breathe in some fresh air and have the sun shine to encourage me in my work. Spring-type feel. Love it!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Have you ever had one of those times when you wanted to say something to someone, but you didn't? I'm not talking about saying something meaningful, like how much you like someone, or encouraging, like you should chase your dreams. No...I'm talking about something hurtful. Something inappropriate. Something that probably shouldn't be said, but is truthful.

Thankfully, I didn't say it. There are times when things just shouldn't be said. Why didn't I? Because I knew that it would be so truthful it would hurt someone I care about. I just can't do it...which means I get to live with it rolling around in my head and haunting me. I'm not proud of thinking up this ZINGER, but I'll carry the hurt until I can't take it anymore.

A little anxious

I can feel it in my chest. Sitting there. A feeling of excitement, anxiety, sadness and just a drop of fear all mixed together. And it's great!

I told my boss yesterday that my official last day is two weeks away. I won't be moving for a few weeks after that, but it will give me time to jump into the new job, get packed, tie things up here and move on. Confession...the past two days at work, I've done very little 'full-time' work and have been doing things for the new job. It's OK as I have very little to do at the full-time job anyways.

I can't believe that this is really happening. Well, at least getting closer to happening. I went out with a friend last night and we talked about things. She's not sure about quitting her job and I asked her if she was a pessimist. She said she was. I asked her to think about the absolute worst thing that could happen if she quit and moved and what the options were from there. Her options are actually better than mine, so I challenged her to think more about taking the risk and checking out something new.

It's interesting for me to talk with people who think differently than I do. To me, it's a no brainer. Not completely happy with the job, find something new. Try something different...maybe even a new career. You won't know until you try is my philosophy (unless we're talking about eating liver-YUK!!!)

I'm actually a little sad to be leaving the city I've been in for 4.5 years. Now that the snow is melting and there are signs of spring, I remember what I'll be missing out on like the cool hangouts that are packed when the weather's warm and the fun things like farmer's markets and outdoor concerts.

I'm embracing this feeling in my chest and want to experience it. So often during my time in Orlando with my staff, I brushed my feelings aside, especially the ones of hurt. A close friend who was with me told me it's OK to have those feelings and to be upset. That's not usually the way I work. When I'm hurt, I brush it aside which in turn develops a tougher skin towards all feelings, including good ones.

So bring on the excitement, anxiety, sadness and drop of fear. It only means I'm allowing that tough skin to soften and am moving on to something new.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fear...part 2

After yesterday's post, something hit me. I can't let fear have power over me. Do I want this? Hell yes, I do. If I feel that strongly about it, I can't let anything stop me. I'm fighting for what I want, because if I don't...who will?

I remembered this quote from the Everyday Commitments book I've been posting about:
Fear thrives on powerlessness, the belief that we have no options. I definitely have options. I have the main/unconfirmed option, which is the one I want most. I now have a proposition option based on how that turns out, which has a plan B attached to it. I also have a back-up option, which would be OK, but not ideal and I even have the safety net option, which I really don't want to have to do, but know it's there if I need to.

Therefore, I shouldn't have fear, should I? I have PLENTY of options. What I'm most fearful about is not knowing which option I'll have to chase at this moment. But that shouldn't keep me from moving forward with the one I want most.

I feel powerful. I feel confident. I feel like fighting for the option I want most and I'm not going to stop until I get it!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Today's been weird. Within the last few hours, I've been overwhelmed by fear about the future...both immediate and long-term...both personally and professionally. I can't do this. I can't let the fear of the unknown overwhelm me to the point of turning away from things. I don't want to turn away, but the unknown aspect makes me wonder what's going to happen, if anything at all.

I hate not having a plan and knowing what's in store. Why haven't I pushed more on getting an answer or a plan? Because I'm afraid it's going to be something I can't agree to which in turn would mean walking away, which is not what I want to do. I'm also afraid that I won't be able to separate the friendship aspect from the business relationship during these talks as my co-worker/business partner/boss/teammate or whatever you want to call him is also a good friend. Makes things very difficult sometimes.

I'm not 100% happy with the way things have gone with the conference I'll finish later this month, which is the new job once the old job is done. It's been difficult to balance both jobs for over 6 months now, especially as my busiest season for the first/full-time job has just come to a close. I haven't been able to give my all to the new job, which disappoints me. Ticket sales are low, which disappoints me. I'm sure it's going to be a great event but think I could've done a much better job if I hadn't had 3 other conferences to plan at the same time. I'm disappointed in myself, but feel like I've done what I could, for the most part. I know that once it's my main focus and I don't have another job taking 50+ hours a week of my time, it will be much better. I just hope I have the opportunity to prove that.

It's like ripping off a band-aid, right...just get it over with. It'll hurt less that way. At least I hope so.

Back to normal...whatever that means

I arrived home yesterday after my third trip in 4 weeks. I don't know if this last week wore me out or if it's been all 3 trips, but I slept most of the afternoon/evening yesterday after I got home. I'm still feeling a bit tired today, but there's lots to do.

I'm starting to get a little nervous and excited about the move. I'm ready for a change, to meet new people, to face the challenges and to get to a warmer climate. I walked into my apartment last night and as I saw my roommates stuff boxed up (she's getting married in a few weeks), it hit me that I'll be doing the same soon.

I can't get too caught up in the move aspect as there's still a lot to do for the conference in 3 weeks. LOTS to do. It's crunch time, which is when I kick into gear. Thankfully...the full-time job is now slowing down and I'll have less to do there. I'm getting closer to deciding on a final date and my boss is in town for 2 days this week, so I'm guessing he may want to chat about what needs to be done before I leave. I really want to see this conference succeed.

So...back to normal, whatever that means. I don't know that I've seen 'normal' in a long time.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rough night ahead

Wow! As my staff conference is coming to a close, it just hit me that this is my last night with all of my staff. I'm sitting in the meeting room right now as they are all group together in discussion over the major conferences that for 4 years, I've played a major part in pulling off. I'd say 60% of my job revolved around these conferences and now, it's 0%.

I've been asked by the guy taking over my position if he can contract me out to come back and help for the future conferences. I've said no. I've had multiple staff asking if I really want to leave. My answer's been yes. It's been a great 4 years, but it's time to move on.

I'll admit it, I've been a brat at times this week. That's my defense mechanism for the sadness stirring around inside. It's not a great one, but it's the way I work. I haven't participated in many discussions, not because I don't think my opinion is valued, because I know it is, but more so because this is hard.

I've come to love these people. I've loved serving them, answering questions, getting to know them, helping to make their jobs easier and growing with them. As I look around the room, I'm tearing up as it hits me...this is the beginning of the end.

I'm scared of what's in store for tonight. I've already got the waterproof mascara ready as I know there will be many tears shed.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The perfect night

Tonight's been a good night. After the rough week I've had, I needed a good night. Hung out with some of my staff (the 'pledges' as we call them since they're first year staff), had a great meal and a few drinks, played catchphrase and laughed....a lot!

Add to that the weather for the evening. Heavy rain, lightning and even some thunder in there. I love the rain...the smell, the feel of the drops on my skin, the lightning in the sky and even the thunder. I was seeing a guy many years ago and I remember one time when it rained and we drove out to watch the lightning show. It was amazing. Once the lightning stopped, we got out and played in the rain...chased some frogs, played tag, danced and had a great time. It's one of the times I remember best as it was spontaneous and amazing.

I can hear the rain drops outside my window as it continues to rain. The sound is soothing and comforting. I love it. Off to sleep for me, to have the sounds of the rain lull me to sleep. A great way to end the night. ;)

Rollercoaster of Life

**So much for trying to post each day this week. It's been a little rough and I haven't had much time or wanted to post about stuff, so I'll throw it all together in one long post, which I'm sure no one will read all the way through!**

This week has definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions. This is the beginning of the end of my time with my current job as I’ll be finishing up in about a month. My final date hasn’t been decided yet, which is making it a bit difficult to really grasp that it’s ending.

I’ve been in tears three this week and anticipate at least a few more times to happen. Wednesday night, my feelings were very hurt as I felt like my boss took credit for my work and recognized many others and left me out. This is not normal, for him or for me to get upset about it. I’m not one who needs recognition, but I felt very underappreciated. Our working relationship has been strained since he moved away in August, which left me as the only person for our department in the National office. Communication has greatly diminished. I’ve been out of the loop on many things and he’s been taking responsibility from me little by little, which is fine as I'm transitioning out, but has made it hard to stay fully present in the job that I’m trying to finish out.

I know that my boss thinks very highly of me. Last year, at our staff meetings, as I was being presented with an award, he couldn’t even speak and teared up. It was very touching and appreciated as he doesn’t express himself very often. These past few months has been very hard as I’ve felt alone in my work. I’m very independent and am self-sufficient, but there’s something to be said for having a team environment. For having someone check in on you (which my current boss doesn’t do), as well as having someone there to offer help with the work that needs to be done. There’s also something to be said about having someone to share in your frustrations and your celebrations, who knows what you’re going through.

I’ve been asked many times about the new job that I’m taking on. It’s been great telling people about it, but at the same time, it’s been very difficult too. I’ve been told that I light up when I talk about the new job, and I’m sure I do as I’m very excited about the opportunity. It’s something that is going to be fun, challenging and rewarding on many levels. It’s something that I might possibly dream up as ‘the perfect job’ for me, my passions and my gifts. I’m going to meet great people and build amazing relationships. I know it’s going to be more than I imagined.

At the same time, it’s not 100% for sure at this point. (n—bear with me) Until I have a salary offer and something a bit more confirmed, I feel like I’m fooling myself and maybe even lying to myself and others about it. Do I want to do it? 100% yes…absolutely. However, I need to remind myself that I can’t let that passion to do this override the fact that I need a certain amount of pay to move to an area that is at least twice, sometimes triple the cost of living of the city I’m in now (which isn’t cheap to begin with). I'm not in this for the money. I get happiness through the job I do, but there is a standard of living that I need/want to maintain. Growing up, in a single parent house, my mom and I made it on little. There were times in college when I went without eating because I didn't have money and didn't want to ask my parents for help. My step-dad got really mad at me when he found out. When I got laid off, money got REALLY tight as I was making good money and then went to work for a non-profit, which was my lowest paying job since graduating a few years earlier. I don't want to go back to that and need to stand firm in what I need.

Am I making the right decision?'s time for me to move on to something new. My time with the current job has been great and I've learned so much, but I'm not passionate or excited about it anymore. When it gets to that point, I need to find something else. The new job opportunity is something that I've pursued as it sounded exciting and fun, and I know it will be. It's not going to be a piece of cake, and I know it'll stretch me and there will be hard times, but that's what makes it exciting. I like being challenged as it makes me grow as a person and professionally. There's a lot going on that needs to happen in the next few weeks, including getting things worked out on the new job, completing one more conference, finishing my time with the current job and packing and moving. Time is going to fly and before I know it, I hope to be taking up residence in CA. Who would've thought?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Back in the saddle?

I always enjoy meeting new people. I'm a WOOer, (one of my results from 'Now, Discover Your Strengths": People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.) I often win others over. It's very easy for me and I like doing it, not that I try.

Yesterday, I had a 3 hour layover at the airport and decided to grab some food. Instead of sitting alone at a table (which isn't uncommon in an airport), I sat at the bar so I could watch ESPN to keep me entertained. *I was the only female there. Sometimes it pays to like sports! ;)* Not long after I sat down, a group of 3 guys grabbed the chairs next to me and ordered drinks. The one next to me made a comment about him drinking alone (his friends got Cokes) and I said, I'll get a beer when my food gets here. We chatted for a bit, they asked me where I was going (Orlando...for work/play), asked what I do (plan conferences for fraternity/sorority students) which really caught their interest. **Sometimes it helps being a sorority girl too!** Food came, I asked for a beer (Bud light, which is hard to find in Wisconsin) and the guy next to me, Dan, said to add it to his tab. Nice!

Come to find out they were police officers and highway patrol officers heading back to Rhode Island after completing a training week, over WMD. Yes, weapons of mass destruction. What?!? These guys were SWAT team (which explained their size. They were ripped!) and had just been exposed to stuff that even the smallest amount, we're talking drops of liquid, could kill 1000+ easy. Crazy! I asked if they had washed their hands. ;)

Beer number 1 is finished and I'm asked by the bartender if I want another. I hesitate to think and Dan says I do and orders me another. I figure I'm not driving the plane, so why not?!

This is becoming a play by play, so I'll stop with that. The whole point of this is that is was great to flirt again, and there was definite flirting going on. Dan touched me a few times (arm, back) which is not normal for a stranger, but I was ok with it, though I'm not always OK with it. I know why and have valid reasons when I don't like being touched, especially by strangers, but this didn't bother me.

Dan was cute, built and funny, but not my type. But having someone like that flirt with me built my confidence. It makes me feel sexy, desirable, interesting. I'm not the girl guys approach at the bar. I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, but for a guy, and a cute guy, to approach me, never happens. It's probably better as I would never go home with someone I just met at a bar anyways and I'm pretty sure that when someone approaches someone else in a bar, their not looking for a lifelong friend or partner.

So, yes, it's been a long time since I've flirted with someone (wow--back to August if I'm remembering correctly), and I'm the master at flirting. I like it. It's a definite confidence boost, which we all need at times. With the new things coming up (move, new job) maybe this is the kick I need to start flirting and maybe even date (I'm not a good dater. It's awkward for me, especially if I don't know the person well.)

To Dan, wherever he is, thanks for giving me the confidence boost that I've lacked for so long. I owe you a beer, or two!