Raindrops on Roses and Music from Elders

Is it possible to discuss “favorite things” without having visions of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

It’s a challenge but I’m going to try to branch out from those whiskers on kittens, thanks to a Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: list your five most recent favorite things.

Favorite Things

Here are mine:

Music Therapy

Specifically, the music therapist from Big Bend Hospice who has visited my father-in-law twice. Although I am grateful for the many services provided by Big Bend Hospice, I have jokingly referred to this process as “the revolving door of people who are ‘here to help you,'” inferring that it is an additional chore for me to coordinate them all.

I had put the music therapist pretty far down the “necessary” list, under the nurse (definitely, for health reasons), shower aide (definitely, because Wayne and I can’t do it at this point), social worker ( sanity, please), and incredible volunteer Jim who told him, “yeah, I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) form too,” a perfect response to divert my FIL’s attention from the always-present reminder that this is a very final process.

I had definitely put our music therapist, Marisa (sp?) into the “nice but not necessary” bucket …….. until I heard my FIL, always a man of few words and subdued emotions, SINGING ALONG WITH HER. It really is true about music … it can unlock a person’s heart in a way nothing else can. (Music therapy is especially effective because it doesn’t demand cognitive functioning to succeed. More here via the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.)

Side note: the music therapist uses a little tripod stool like hunters use in the woods (sample here) … and says she can only find ones with camo designs. Anyone know someone who makes little stool covers with music notes (or other non-camo designs)? There has to be a way.

My New Part-Time Job

When I wrote about trying to sharpen my memory recently by using Lumosity, I didn’t know that something else was going to come along that would challenge my brain and shape up my life in other ways.

While I love my contractor work for Weaving Influence, I am also happy to have taken on additional work that adds to our family bottom line, provides needed structure to my days, and challenges me every single time (even though I have had to part ways with my beloved Oxford comma in the process).

In my independent contractor work for a digital B2B company, my duties so far include searching for news items related to certain terms, summarizing news stories into concise (yet informative!) two-sentence summaries, and contributing to the curation of industry-specific newsletters.

Observations along the way:

  • It’s humbling for an editor to be edited
  • Having to be “on duty” at a specific time (7 am) is the best thing in the world to keep me from a slow, easily-distracted slide into the work of the day. Having to report in to someone, and knowing others down the line are waiting on me, is BIG
  • I should have gone to AP Style boot camp at some point in the past; I definitely feel l like I’m doing catch-up on that front
  • It’s humbling to be at square one with a job again. ALL THE QUESTIONS
  • This arrangement was the kick in the butt I needed to file for my LLC
  • It’s so funny to me to be full-circle back at supporting myself by summarizing the news (one of the ways I supported myself during my New York years was by working at a place where we typed summaries of the news FROM VHS TAPES (yes, I’m that old))
  • I’ve been sufficiently a part of the gig economy long enough now that this doesn’t surprise me anymore, but it’s still so interesting to be working for and with people who you aren’t going to run into at the water cooler or trade funny quips with (yet)

All that said, I’m so fortunate to have the challenge of being an independent contractor for Smartbrief. Check out their website and choose a newsletter that fits for you — here has to be something among all the options, ranging from leadership (my fave!) to supply chain. For career opportunities, click here (but leave your oxford comma at the door.)

Writing

Maybe writing isn’t a “thing” like a smartphone, key chain, or cronut, but it’s a perennial favorite with me. Since I’m not running (for now), it has taken on even more of a role as my outlet.

When I write for myself, I process my thoughts. When I write to try to convey a message to others, I am forced to see multiple sides of the issue, and that is not a bad thing.

People Who Give Me Tools to Advocate Effectively

When I wrote my #One20Today-inspired post in advance of Inauguration Day, I committed to various acts of advocacy in the face of an administration headed by someone who did not receive my vote, and whose administration’s choices threaten the rights and peace of mind of many of my fellow Americans (and me).

The challenge is: the craziness, threats, and insults to the integrity of our democracy are coming so fast and furious, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and get paralyzed by indecision (and, frankly, fear of speaking out).

One incredibly bright and insightful friend I met via Shot at Life has created a periodic (at least weekly, sometimes more) list of 4 action items (something to read, a concept to understand, an action to do, a donation to consider) that can help us break out of the paralysis and do something.

As she said, “We don’t get to reimagine history to make ourselves better. We get to be loud right now or we’re not better.”

Here are four of my favorite examples, taken from the action emails:

Read every executive order President Trump has signed so far

Understand why the United States’ signature on the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol impacted (prior to the stay of the Executive Order) choices by government entities to try to revoke peoples’ ability to board planes and to keep them from setting foot in the US

Do pick something you care deeply about and write a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper. Here’s a guide and here’s an example. Side note: it’s always a good idea to be aware of your newspaper’s guidelines for an LTE. Increase your chances of getting published by adhering to those rules to the extent possible (i.e., if the limit is 200 words, don’t send 325 and make it harder for them to use your piece). Also, it is a good idea to have civil and friendly relationships with your local journalists. No one likes always being asked for something — it’s totally acceptable to chat with them about the weather or praise their cute puppy pictures if you happen to be involved in their social media streams. AND — not everything you submit will get accepted. Don’t take it personally. (Sometimes if I don’t get something accepted, I run it on my blog. Medium is another choice. Your thoughts/opinions still matter.)

Donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project

If you would like to be on the list, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with my friend!

Naps

When our incredible hospice volunteer, Jim, arrived recently,  I said, “I’ll be working on something in the bedroom.” Do you think every hospice volunteer knows “working on something in the bedroom” means “napping”?

One of the huge benefits of working from home is that it is so much easier to customize my life around my energy needs and fit in a 15-minute power nap around 3 pm. As this article states, power naps are beneficial for alertness and motor learning skills. I am not sure if “and making Paula a lot less irritable” is documented anywhere but I tell you, it’s a thing.

If/when I ever return to the traditional office-based workforce, I can only hope I find someplace with nap pods.Google says “no workplace is complete without a nap pod.” That’s what I’m talking about! Maybe Google will open a Tallahassee branch in the future!

FOR FUN

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I would say. Although they didn’t hit on the five things I listed above, they were all spot-on (good job, friends!). Here are their answers:

  • Green pens (yes!)
  • Audiobooks (oh yes yes yes)
  • Hidden Figures (yes!)
  • Global vaccinations (for sure)
  • Exchanging pleasant conversation over a good meal (the best thing ever)
  • Disney
  • Wine (for sure)

Good job, friends — you get me, you really get me.

Several people also shared THEIR favorite things, which was fun to see! Also a great segue to the end of this post.

What are your current faves?

Favorite Things

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

I have always been word-crazy, and I have never hesitated to try my hand at a word game.

In Ruzzle, I found myself up against a formidable wall and HEY! I’ve found a blog post topic too.

My Ruzzle career started with this blog post about strategy games. When I commented that I would never start Words With Friends because I would never get anything done, I was invited to play Ruzzle and told, “It only takes two minutes a turn.”

While it is true that a Ruzzle game only takes two minutes, this has turned out to be the Lay’s Potato Chip “you can’t eat just one” equivalent of my online life. Also, I hate losing!

By way of introduction, Ruzzle calls itself “the world’s fastest word game.” The premise is simple: players swipe through the 16 letters on the board, trying to accumulate as many words as possible. Each match is a series of three two-minute games.

That said, here are my takeaways from Ruzzle:

I Am Incapable Of Doing the Minimum Once I Like Something

Two minutes? I really have to regulate myself. I only allow myself to play one game a day per person (I usually have two or three opponents going simultaneously). And because I like it, I want to get better, so I dig around to learn more. Via the digging, I found the Ruzzle community …

There Are Communities and Tutorials Out there for EVERYTHING

Want tips on how to improve? There’s a strategy guide for that. Desire to “get good at Ruzzle”? Visit this blog. Need tips and tricks? Visit this site. And, apparently avoid the “dreaded rainbow circle clan” of Ruzzle pirates (?).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Armed with tips and community, I kept on practicing…

Practice Pays Off

My Ruzzle life will never get to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours bar, but I have gotten better since I started playing in December 2014. Sometimes when I find something by thinking backwards, laterally, or diagonally, I feel like Michael Pollan when he “saw” the truffles he had been overlooking despite them being right under his nose in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Speaking of thinking backwards, laterally, and diagonally …

Thinking Backwards, Laterally, and Diagonally Pays Off

This is where the parallel to real life and much of the feedback I have always been given really hits home. When I look at the “possible words” vs the “found words” after a game, I see so many missed opportunities, mostly the ones that involved following a line of letters through a relatively byzantine path.

It reminds me of professional situations where I literally was going down a string of 200 emails, one by one, and not categorizing or prioritizing. It happened recently when a coworker had moved something I needed to do under my page on Basecamp, and I asked about it publicly in our staff FB page, before realizing it was there, if I had searched differently.

Strategy: it pays off. Eventually. Let’s hope.

In the meantime, I have also learned …

Accuracy is Overrated

When I first started playing Ruzzle, I would be mortified at a low accuracy percentage. I have learned that in Ruzzle (but not life in general!), there are more important qualities than accuracy, such as furiously (and intelligently) swiping at combinations you *think* may be words, and latching on to a multi-purpose endings such as “ing” and trying every combo out there, even the ones that aren’t really words. As someone who proofreads on the side, this de-emphasis on accuracy is a lesson wrapped within a challenge.

Paying Extra for Premium Can Be Worth It

There are many apps for which I don’t find it worth paying the buck or two extra for the premium version. I’ll look at the five-second ads, deal with a few limitations. But the perks for Premium Ruzzle are pretty cool, especially if you are obsessed with improving. With Ruzzle, paying the $2.99 for premium gets you unlimited ongoing games, statistics, and the possibility to see all words on the board after a finished round (that’s my favorite part!).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Statistics

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Yes, I am embarrassed that I am a North Florida born and bred woman and missed “cooter” (the turtle …everyone else needs to think clean).

Determination Alone Does Not Help You Achieve Some of Your Goals

Ruzzle has “achievements” you can unlock. Well, being the goal-driven person I am (see topic #1 about the two-minute issue), I want to Achieve ALL the Achievements!!!!!!!!

The thing is, you can say to yourself “I am going to achieve the ‘Speedster’ badge this game” but you can’t make yourself find 30 words in 30 seconds or (the one I really want) “find a word of at least 10 letters” (the Bookworm badge). At least I am 100% on “Challenge your Twitter followers”!

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

The elusive bookworm badge. Sigh.

Sounds

One of the tutorials recommended “always keep the sound on” because it helps you know when you’re close to the end of the game (among other reasons). I found I play better with the sound off. (It’s also easier to furtively play Ruzzle, for example, next to a sleeping spouse or in an airport.)

Languages

I have played Ruzzle in Spanish a few times. I can see why this might be helpful to my Spanish learning efforts. Unfortunately, I left the setting on “Spanish” when I started to play a tournament once and that resulted, understandingly, in a major Ruzzle fail!

Tap Dance

Every time I sit there staring at the Ruzzle screen, realizing it expects me to “tap” for the next step (even though it does not TELL me to “tap” for the next step), I am reminded that the app / digital world expects me to know what to do. Maybe my children have some intuitive “tap to make the next thing on the screen happen” reflex, but I still expect directions. That’s probably not going to happen, is it?

Tick Tock My Two Minutes Are Almost Up

Why am I attached to Ruzzle? I would say 1) words! 2) connecting with people, especially the first friend who asked, and 3) the thrill of competition.

And seeing as how despite the thrill of competition, I am have lost 62% more games than I have won, I will be playing …

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

This post about “riveting Ruzzle realities” was a response to the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: “Write a blog post that ends with the word: again.”

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

“Pronouns Matter” and Other Favorite Quotes

Mama’s Losin’ It
Since I was undecided regarding what to blog about today, I checked my “drafts” folder and decided to tackle one of the 23 “posts-to-be” that had never seen the light of day. The oldest one is the list of Mama Kat prompts for the week of April 11, 2013. One of the prompts is “list 6 of your favorite quotes.” Seems like a timeless one to me, so here goes.

 Six Favorite Quotes

Pronouns Matter. ~ Me

I have been a user of the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, signifying my strong belief that the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls should be returned immediately to their families. What I am having trouble reconciling, though, is the thought in my head that if the reaction (of some) to the current influx of Central American children across our borders were to have its own hashtag, it would be #sendbacktheirgirls. I know these are two very different situations. Each one is complex and presents components that are extremely difficult for outside governments to intervene in. As I said in Cindy Levin’s post:

“Although I like the hashtag #bringbackourgirls (and use it daily), I have to honestly ask if we would consider these girls “our” girls when it was the basic matter of helping them get access to education (and health care, and parity, among other things) were it not for this crisis? We can all do better, not just when there is an immediate crisis but when there is a long term smoldering one as well. And for every girl, everywhere.” 

It seems that with these Central American children we have found ourselves dealing with the effects of a long term smoldering crisis. I suspect part of the difference is that the Nigerian girls are an ocean away and the Central American girls (and boys…) are on our territory. I just don’t understand how the Nigerian girls can be “ours” while the Central American girls are “theirs.”

2014-07-02 09.44.19

A day I ran for “Saraya,” one of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” ~ Epictetus

So many inspiring quotes flow through my social media stream every day. Many of them give me a momentary spark of “yeah!” “so true!” “you only get one shot!” I have struggled, however, with the truth of those sentiments in the face of the reality of my obligations and choices I made decades ago which made it harder to truly “follow my bliss.” I guess the part of this that sticks the most is “say to yourself what you would be.” Without clarity about the eventual goal (what you would be), it’s possible you’ll waste a lot of time along the way expending your energies for things that don’t matter.

Only 3% of people have written goals; the other 97% work for them (paraphrase) ~ Brian Tracy

Hmm…. the value of including this favorite quote was being honest with myself about the fact that I have not listed my goals for this year. Problem solved. The “sub 30 5K” goal is a perennial. I am not giving up.

2014 goals

2014 Goals

The map is not the territory. ~ Alfred Korzybski

I love this one, and it is in the same family of concepts (to me) as the Epictetus quote. This quote seemed relevant to my work as an administrator at a program subject to many different agency rule sets, some state, some federal. You may have a single-spaced 40-page technical guidance document holding you to what font size to use, what match rate to apply, what literacy level to write your materials to, but are you doing the task you set out to do? (which in our case was insuring uninsured children). It also applies in a more broad context to life; are we so busy ticking off mile markers that we don’t realize that the town we originally set out to visit is now deserted?

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. ~ Rumi

A wise therapist gave me an assignment once to “check out whatever instantly appeals to you at the library and go away for a weekend and immerse yourself.” The only books I remember checking out were a childbirth book and a family relationships book. I wonder what I would check out on a similar assignment now, decades later. I know I love social media, and I know people I trust in the industry have advised me not to do it for a living. The appeal of social media (and the beauty of it) is the ability to write and communicate visually, along with “connecting the dots” of people who would not otherwise come into each others’ lives.

“Every problem has a solution.”

This quote is from the movie Philadelphia. Besides the obvious truth of the quote (even though solutions often seem elusive), the movie holds special meaning for me. Wayne and I saw it shortly after his sister Ann died, and it seemed to tap into some deep emotional crevasse that had already been pried open.

Ultimately, “every problem has a solution” ties into my #1 (“pronouns matter”). Some problems in our world seem to only have solutions riddle with imperfections that take those solutions out of contention. I think, however, we must not give up trying, for “our” girls, “their” girls …. for all girls.

What is one of your favorite quotes?

 

I Enlisted in #ConnorsCrew (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

CONNOR MARCH 7 Heart

 March 7, 2014, is going to be many things:

National Cereal Day

National Doodle Day

National Salesperson Day

National Crown Roast of Pork Day

For Connor’s family, though, March 7, 2014 will be the day they celebrate his first birthday. Connor was stillborn on March 7, 2013. On March 7, 2014, his parents want to “celebrate that he existed, not focus on him being gone.” The way they have chosen to do that is to “spread goodness, in his honor” in the days leading up to his first birthday.

Mama Kat, through her weekly writing prompts, has encouraged participating bloggers to “complete a random act of kindness for Connor.” Connor’s mom, who blogs at Live, Love, Read, really hopes that those of us who do RAOKs in Connor’s memory will share what we did so that she can compile them. She describes the options, including use of the hashtag #connorscrew, here. (But if you don’t feel comfortable sharing, that’s okay too!).

I had to take my father-in-law to the hospital today for an appointment. Since I was already there, I left the parking staff with $3 (the fee to valet park at the hospital parking garage) and a letter describing Connor, so that someone who is harried, preoccupied with a loved one’s illness, or just short $3, will have one less thing to worry about. (I have to compliment the attendant who I talked to; I encouraged him to read the letter and he “got it” immediately … he said “oh it’s like a pay it forward thing, huh?” He said he may hang onto the $3 and the letter until tomorrow. I am pretty sure the $3 will end up in exactly the right hands. Thank you, attendant guy, for being part of #ConnorsCrew!).

connor raok

It is simple to do a Random Act of Kindness, and it doesn’t have to cost a cent. (For ideas, visit this site.) I’d love for #ConnorsCrew to be bursting at the seams with the kindness of loving hands and hearts. How about you enlist alongside me, Connor, and his parents?

connor moore 5x7

Mama’s Losin’ It

Full Support (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, one of the Mama Kat prompts is “a lesson you learned.” It appears in my case, I’m still learning.

It seems that in situations where my son has gotten in trouble of some kind, my response to the adult in authority is always “You have our full support.” The frustration is: how do we translate our full support of the adult into behavioral change in our kid?

Wayne (now 14) has been skating with the speed team (practicing with the beginners) for at least a year now. We haven’t pushed him to participate in the speed skating competitions, partially because (rightly or wrongly), it was hard for me to see spending money on the expenses that are involved in an out of town competition at a time when my husband wasn’t working.roller blade

There was a local meet today, however — more of a “practice meet.” Apparently he signed up on Thursday (glad to see him take initiative). We maneuvered the family schedule around to get him to Skate World by 8 a.m. (yawn) despite what was rapidly turning into a raging case of swimmer’s ear. I left him at Skate World, thinking that his “symptoms” would inevitably be “worse” when I was there. It was a tough call to make because I love being at my kids’ everything. I have missed very few meets/races/games in my life.

When I texted him to tell him that I “couldn’t” make it to Skate World before taking my in laws to church, the text I got back was “Well I got sent to the lobby (read: thrown out) but it wasn’t all my fault.”

Trust me, this is NOT the kind of text you want to get walking into church!

The version from my son went something like this: “So and so took my money and bought a cupcake with it then when I took the cupcake, it ‘ended’ up on the floor. Oh and he somehow hit his head when he tried to jump over me.”

The consequences of his choices (besides getting kicked out of the meet) may mean (another) one month suspension from recreational skating (although he can still go to speed team practice) and possibly the loss of the privilege of the all important “all night skate” occurring this Friday night.

As he was describing the incident, and the fact that he is supposed to call the coach on Thursday to ask about all night skate, I was already envisioning my “you have our full support” email. I secretly hope they’ll take away the all night skate privilege, if for no other reason than it gets me out of a 7:00 a.m. pickup and saves me $25. I not so secretly hope hubs and I will just be the parents and tell him no.

I am still struggling with how to turn our “full support” into him taking responsibility for his choices. I am getting worried, y’all, that the things that are irritating at 14 will be worse at 18, 23, 28 …… the consequences of the adult world can be pretty damning, whether or not you have your parents’ full support.

To conclude, I think the “lesson I’ve learned” is that I’m still learning. And that sometimes “full support” is not enough; it has to be paired with tough consequences.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Summer Moments 2013 (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, Mama Kat asked us to list our top 6 summer moments so far. I have eight. Good rule follower, aren’t I?!

First, I have to thank Gini Dietrich and Spin Sucks for featuring me as a Follow Friday selection. The Spin Sucks community has made this non-industry person feel very welcome; they have taught me a lot about communications and public relations, and they have made me laugh! I am grateful. That was May 31; a happy omen for the summer that lay ahead.

Second, there was “the bridge.” When I visited Savannah for my niece’s graduation in June, I ran the Talmadge Bridge. I really hope I can go back to run it officially in December for the Savannah River Bridge Run (double pump of course!). It would be fun to do it with permission and a little traffic control.

talmadge bridge

Third, there was “family picture time at the beach.” Props to my sister in law Brenda for putting this all together. I know over the years to come, we will look back at these photos of our extended family and be glad we dealt with getting everyone to coordinate, hauling everyone over the sand dunes, and the “hunt for the Heineken shirt” in order to capture this moment in time.

beer shirts

Fourth, my conversation with my brother in law Jamie. I’ll bet that even after all these years (26 to be exact) of us knowing one another, there isn’t a single picture of us together. At most family gatherings, he is busy boiling peanuts or convincing the grill to do what he needs it to do. But we had a great conversation by the pool. It wasn’t profound; it won’t change the world, but it was a rare opportunity to share a little bit about each other’s views of the world and the fact that some of the things that people perceive as “a waste of time” are in reality the complete opposite.

Fifth, I am so excited to have gotten involved with “I Run for Michael,” which pairs runners with kids with special needs. I run for “G,” who has a mitochondrial disorder. If I could bottle the compassion, enthusiasm, and candor that are exchanged hourly on the Facebook page, I would! I am happy to run for you, “G,” and to be a part of your family’s journey.

IR 4 Gareth Cropped

Sixth, there was a moment (a fleeting one) when I first met up with Tenley after her three-week absence at dance intensive (at the University of Alabama) when the hug had that intensity that we have with our kids when they are little and really, really need us. In a weekend where she said one sentence that will go down in my parenting annals as pretty much the most painful thing I’ve heard to date, I have to remind myself of those “I need you” moments. (And, as an aside, we both fell a little bit in love with that campus — one that has never been on my radar screen.)

Seventh, to close things out – I woke up on a routine Saturday morning to learn that someone had written a song about me (well, about me and three other incredible people). Oh, Chuck Kent, you made my summer.

Eighth. I have been fortunate to be able to go to Yoga & Meditation at Journeys in Yoga twice this summer. Not only has the yoga been great, but the meditations, centered around the July theme of “identity,” have been good for my spirit. Who knew writing could help you figure out who you really are?

What have been the highlights of your summer?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Could a Mentor Have Changed Things?

One of the Mama Kat prompts this week is: Tell us about a job you quit…why did you do it?

I drive past the office that housed the position I “quit” several times a week. It is right across from my daughter’s high school; it’s on one of Tallahassee’s main thoroughfares, and it is less than a mile from my office. It houses something else now, but in 1988, the building housed the “Family Life Center,” where I had my internship for my Master’s degree in Counseling and Human Systems.

I suppose taking an “incomplete” in an internship is not exactly the same as “quitting.” I intended to go back. From the vantage point of all the intervening years, I can’t remember what was so horrible about it that I felt led to take the incomplete. I did feel utterly lost partially because there was very little supervision. Counseling these families in crisis was a lot different than role playing with a classmate or handling a short-term crisis over the telephone at the local suicide hotline.  My fellow interns and I unanimously decided the experience was going poorly; one of them even drew a satirical cartoon with the building name modified to say, “Family Death Center.” The cartoon featured adult women (us) running away as rapidly as we could.

I wonder if a mentor could have made a difference. I wonder if, with the application by our manager of some principles of effective mentoring, the situation could have involved more learning and less griping. (And of course the clients we were supposed to be serving probably weren’t getting our best either; we were busy being dissatisfied.)

Mgrs Mentors

Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith have just released a Third Edition of “Managers as Mentors – Building Partnerships for Learning.” In this dramatically revised edition, Bell and Goldsmith introduce 12 new chapters, new tools, and case studies. They focus on a hands on approach that takes the mystery out of effective mentoring and teaches leaders to be confident coaches.

One illustration the authors included is the comparison of mentoring to panning for gold. Bell and Goldsmith talk about how successfully panning for gold involves gently moving the sand-filled pan “back and forth as you let small amounts of yellow sand wash over the side of the pan.” If you rush or show impatience, the tiny gold flecks escape over the side along with the common yellow sand. At the Family Life Center, my heaps of yellow sand overshadowed any gold flecks of skill that were there to be discovered. I recognize that in a non-profit mental health setting, the supervisor is pulled in more directions than he or she can possibly go. To look back on the situation with bitterness because that particular supervisor did not have or take the time to be a part of my development beyond making sure patients got seen would be futile. But twenty-five years later I still wonder how it could have been different (and better). (When I took the incomplete, I was told I could return at a later date to finish the internship. When I tried to do that, an administrator said, “I don’t have time for that.” I completed my internship in a totally different venue (career counseling)).

Another favorite passage of “Managers as Mentors” occurred in a case study that involved an interview with Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. Tercek described his most important mentor as someone who “never offered me the easy way out.” In advising Tercek how to deal with tough interpersonal issues, the mentor told him, “Don’t make it complicated; just get in front of it.”

Would my career (and life) have been different if I had stayed at the Family Life Center? Although I really do believe “things happen for a reason,” I can see when I play those months back in my mind that it could have been so much more. By applying some of the principles Bell and Goldsmith discuss in their book, by my leader at the time being able or willing to invest at all in my growth, I may have found a way to say, “never mind on that incomplete. Let’s keep going.” I complicated things (as Tercek was in danger of doing) in a situation where conceivably, I could have gotten “in front of it.”

Have you had a mentor make a difference in your career? Tell me about it in the comments!

You can read a sample chapter of Managers as Mentors by clicking here.

Chip is the author of nineteen books, including Wired and Dangerous (co-authored with John Patterson). He is a senior partner with the Chip Bell Group and serves as a consultant, trainer, or speaker to major organizations. Chip’s new book, Managers as Mentors, co-authored by best-selling author, Marshall Goldsmith, is available on Amazon and at select bookstores nationwide.

Mama’s Losin’ ItNote: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

The Brick (Flash Fiction)

I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Tallahassee Writers Association annual conference Saturday.  One of the workshops was about Flash Fiction (The Wink of Immediacy), and it was led by Mark Ari. Mark led us through an activity, the centerpiece of which was “The Brick”:

BRICK

Our first instruction was to pass the brick from participant to participant, with each of us verbalizing something tangible about the brick. The list of contributions (some of which are more concrete than others) follows: intimidating, cool, rough, porous, pocked, solid, heavy, inconsistent, dark, rectangular, used, dense, enduring, pumice, dangerous, brown, dappled, aggregate, earthy, speckled, bloody, brick, sharp, punctured, angular, chipped, dirty, stolen, borrowed, 3-D, textured, 3 x 6 x 2, insolvent, colored, massive, dry, concrete, heavy, hard, coated, mortared, plain, ugly, and modular.

Following that piece of the exercise, we were told to: Write a story to the brick, excluding all of the words you just shared about its characteristics.

Okee dokee then. So I wrote. And I wrote this:

BRICK

You are not accustomed to being alone like this. Handled, passed around like a newborn at its first extended family outing.

You are passed from person to person, each individual trying to figure out what makes you … you.

You will be examined, analyzed — the very center of attention — for fifteen minutes of notoriety.

But you will grow up, you will become more like us and our common polymers will bind us together. You will nestle into the family line and together we will build something strong and impenetrable.

**

I really love these writing exercises at conferences — I get so sleepy when the activity is more passive, and (of course) I had gotten up super early to get my run in before the conference. I will think of “Mr. Brick” for a long time into the future!

**

On another note, I am not sure why I feel compelled to explain this but …. I have taken on an editing project. This is not new (to be doing an editing project on the side) but I have set a goal to complete it before our family vacation which begins June 22. I am running out of things to eliminate. I have to do my day job (obviously); I have a commitment to my fitness goals which means I can’t slack off on those; I have two children to parent and a spouse who needs my engagement. The only thing I can think to eliminate is my “Wordless Wednesdays” and my “Mama Kat” prompt responses every Thursday. I have kept my “Sunday blog” streak alive for three years so I will maintain it, and I’ll fit the others in if I can, but as we climb out of two years of job loss for hubs, and as I endeavor to keep my relationships with my editing clients healthy, as they said in the Diane Keaton/Jack Nicholson movie, Something’s Gotta Give. Thank you for understanding.

 

Leaders Open Doors (A Book Review)

Visit most elementary school classrooms, and you will see a division of duties that includes job tasks critical to the smooth functioning of the classroom: line leader, snack helper, paper passer, calendar captain, and door holder. Although Mama Kat’s prompt tonight asked us to “share something your child said or did that surprised you,” I am borrowing something Bill Treasurer’s child, Ian, said. Watch this brief video to hear what Ian said:

Ian’s statement, “I got to open doors for people,” and Bill Treasurer’s elaboration on the six types of “Doors of Opportunity” in his book, Leaders Open Doors, reminded me of how easily we can “complexify” the challenges we face at work.

Thinking about Ian’s pride in opening doors for his classmates echoed back to how fulfilled I have felt when leaders throughout my career have made me feel like an important part of the team. They did this in different ways: making sure I had information about the project so that I understood where my task fit in the “big picture,” making me feel like my contribution was something that I was uniquely positioned and qualified to do, and (even though I didn’t always get warm fuzzies about this) giving me specific directions when I needed to make corrections.

One of Bill Treasurer’s recommended “Open-Door Actions and Reflections” is: Identify at least one leader who helped bring about a personal shift for you. What was the shift? Why did you need it? What did the leader do to help bring it about?

I have had many leaders over the years, effective ones, abrupt ones, milquetoast ones. To provide an example that might make sense to Ian and his teacher (if they happened to be a 48 year old in the workplace), I’ll share this: we had a team of consultants at Healthy Kids once who were working with us on process improvement projects. There was a difficult technology transition under way, and as the Director of Customer Service, I had gotten in the habit of writing lengthy, detailed, ill-tempered emails about problems I was experiencing with our new system and the effects of the problems on our enrollees. The consultant said to me, very matter of factly, “you know, you write long emails about these issues and you are blasting waves of ‘this is a problem,’ ‘this is also a problem,’ and ‘there is a third issue too….’ to multiple recipients, without identifying who you hope is going to rectify the situation or suggesting solutions. This is taking up your time without yielding any solutions.”

That conversation was held several years ago. I can’t think of a single email since then where I have not identified who I was directing the email to (even if I cc’d others for the sake of sharing important information) or what outcome I hoped for. It has helped me use my time more effectively and the likelihood of eliciting solutions to the problems I am presenting is higher.

Bill Treasurer reminds us, “It’s hard to be an open-door leader if your mental door is closed.” I thank Lori, the consultant mentioned above, for helping me push through a behavioral door that was hurting me. I encourage you to pick up Bill’s book to refresh your approach to leadership in a radically simple way.

opendoors

Bill Treasurer, Chief Encouragement Officer at Giant Leap Consulting and former U.S. High Diver, wants leaders to be a part of opening doors of opportunities for others to thrive, achieve, and lead. The proceeds of his new book, Leaders Open Doors, are being donated to charities that serve children with special needs. Available on Amazon.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

My Longest Drives (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

For my Mama Kat prompt this week, I chose “A long drive,” a prompt which sent me down some primarily sad roads of memory….

1) The drive as part of the funeral procession for my sister-in-law, Ann, after she had died utterly unexpectedly at the age of 30.

2) The drive with my spouse from Tallahassee Memorial to our house after I had been released from the hospital, knowing I was going home to bed rest to let my son “incubate” more after a bout of premature labor, wondering if I should say out loud my fears that I had somehow caused this to happen, but not having the courage, words, or trust to do so.

Source: morgueFile

Source: morgueFile

3) The drive from our house to my inlaws the morning we had to tell them that my brother in law Chuck had committed suicide. We had known since the prior evening. It was about 9 miles to the gas station where we were meeting Wayne’s sister, Mary, and another mile to their house. Every single mile felt like twenty.

4) The drive from my hometown to Tallahassee and back (about 2.5 hours each way) when I was home from New York City and had requested (demanded?) that my parents visit a therapist with me. One car, three people, miles and miles of silent tense questions.

5) Any drive when I am tired, need to use the bathroom, and the coffee/caffeine just doesn’t seem to be helping (maybe the coffee/caffeine item needs to precede the bathroom item!).

Have there been happy long drives? Maybe, but none come to mind. I get drowsy (as the driver or the passenger). I get restless. I get anxious about the potential for accidents. I need to pee.

Anyone want to join me on a road trip and help create some fun long-drive memories?

Mama’s Losin’ It