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A girl who rose from the ashes...and now is trying to make sense of this complicated world through her writing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

33 Words of Wisdom

Rain pelting against the glass. Leaves stuck to the pavement.  Melancholy feelings would be effortless to arouse.  Yet, there is a warmth in my heart that supercedes circumstances.  Hello, gratitude, my old friend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Searching for My Inner Kenny Rogers

I've been told - quite a few times in my life, mind you - that I don't have a poker face.  Truthfully, if someone is annoying me, everyone in the general vicinity will probably know it.  This does not fare well with my position of great responsibility.  It would be best if I could always be the consummate diplomat. It would be ideal if no one ever suspected my feelings of wanting to put hot pennies in my eyes because I am so blasted bothered.  It would be wonderful if I could always be perfectly wonderful. But....I can't.

So I am working hard to dig deep.  I need to work on this, and today I just pointed out to someone else who I love and respect very much that they could stand to work on their poker face, too.  I'm thinking that maybe we could work on it together.  We could hold up pictures of people, places and things that send us reeling and practice not having a reaction.  ("Look - it's a picture of someone eating baby carrots in a meeting - go!")  We could grade one another on our poker face performances and give honest, unrelenting feedback. We could keep working at it until we get it right.

Because right now, truth be told, I feel like my inner Kenny Rogers is buried deep.  I know he's in there, I just have to find him and nurture him and get him to the surface where he can see the light of day. Because Kenny?  Kenny knew what was up for real.

He knew when to hold 'em.

He knew when to fold 'em.

He knew when to walk away.

He knew when to run.

Word on the street is he also didn't count his money when he was sittin' at the table.

So you see, Kenny was one cool cat.  Kenny had it all figure out.  I could stand to be a lot more like him.  I'm going to keep searching for my inner Kenny Rogers until I find him.  I'll let you know when that happens.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Transitions: A New Business Model

Working as a leader in a public sector system - a system that is highly scrutinized, no less - has had its benefits.  One of those benefits is fine tuning some skills that can only come from opportunities made of sweating brows, churned stomachs, wringing hands.  Maintaining good ego strength on days where there is no love to be found?  I've got that covered.  Entering a room filled with an angry mob and turning the energy around?  No problem.  Solving two, three, even four problems with one solution? I'm a master at it.  Smiling on the outside when I feel murderous rage on the inside?  Believe it or not, most days I've got that one tucked away somewhere, too.

The one skill I may have fine tuned the most, however, is that of delivering bad news.  I've thought about this skill quite a lot in the last few days because it's everyone least favorite time of year - contract time. That's right, it's the time of year when agencies in our system learn their fate.  Will their business thrive or die?  Is it their time to shine, or is their day in the sun drawing to a close?  As a department, we have to deliver news to eager executives, and some of it is just no fun to deliver.  But that's business, and if we are making and executing hard decisions, it also means we are being good stewards of the tax payers.  It truly is all in a day's work.

So when you've built a career on the sad misfortune of expressing bad news, it would make sense to build further upon that skill.  Right?  So I present to you, the new business I am developing.  Please know, I invite your feedback for its worthiness and its possible applications.  It is my proud honor to share with you:  Transitions.

Welcome to Transitions.  Transitions is a business model built on doing your dirty work.  No, we aren't a maid service.  We don't come with Haz-Mat suits and we don't do biohazard clean-ups.  Rather, we do your dirty work...of delivering bad news.

Have an under-performing employee who is sadly pathetic but needs to go?  Afraid to fire them because you know they have a slew of hungry children at home?  No problem.  Transitions will compassionately but decisively let them know they need to pack up their desk and move around.  We will stay on-site until they've assuredly left the building.

Need to back out of business with your partner who was also the best man in your first wedding? We've got it covered.  Your professional Transitions Team will pull the sad sack aside and let him know what's what - and we'll even deliver the papers your lawyer drew up for him, too.

Is it time to end that relationship that is literally on its last leg?  With just a quick phone call from you, you can arrange to have the Transitions van pull up to the house, ring the door bell, and let your future ex-girlfriend know "it's not you, it's me (which, in fact, is really you)."  For a small up-charge, we will even stick around to gather up your favorite hoodie, your Fleetwood Mac album, and your iPhone charger.

So there you have it:  Transitions.  "Let somebody else do the talking, while you do the walking."

I think I could really be onto something here.




Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rocking Chairs and Gold

When my sister was five years old, she used to sit at the old upright piano in our formal living room and belt out made-up songs for hours on end. The fact that she was not able to read a note of music or carry a tune did not dissuade her in the least.  The songs ranged from the pragmatic "School Bus" (lyrics:  "School bus, school bus, here comes the school bus!") to the soulful "Rocking Chairs and Gold" (lyrics:  "Rocking chairs and gold, rocking chairs and gold, rocking chairs and gold").  Her songs would reverberate throughout the whole house, and even though they barely made any sense, we all knew one thing:  they came straight from her heart.  Since the songs didn't really make sense, we could assign our own meaning to them.  I believe that the classic "Rocking Chairs and Gold" was about holding close to you the things you love the most.

I must say, that's what I love about my sister: she does everything with heart.  Not one to mislead you in any way, Jess calls it like she sees it.  She gets away with it, because she does so with love. But one thing is certain, you can always count on her to be honest. She'll tell you if you have something stuck in your teeth, if those pants do in fact make your butt look bigger, if you are being an unreasonable diva or if that man is all wrong for you (all things she has probably told me at one time or another in the 35 years she's been part of my life).  I find great comfort in being surrounded by such plain truth.

I find great comfort in it, because if I know one thing for sure it is this:  I don't know it all.  Nope, that's right - you heard it here first.  I don't have all the answers.  And so, knowing that, I find it rather important to surround myself with people who will put me in check.  Now I've worked with leaders - plenty of them, in fact - who really dig being surrounded by a chorus of "yes men."  They dig it so much that they seem to insist on it.  I guess it somehow strokes their ego to have everyone one around them telling them how brilliant they are.  But here's my take on it:  If you are agreeing with me all of the time, then you must be lying at least 50% of the time.  And the problem with that is - I don't know which 50% of the time you are lying.  So then I don't know what's real and what's not, and everything has very quickly become a jumbled up mess.  Who needs it?

So I say, save it for someone else.  You want to give me a compliment? OK, but please make sure it's sincere. But in the next beat, don't be afraid to tell me like it really is.  It might hurt my feelings (I am a sensitive soul, don't you know) but I promise you I'll get over it.  And right after I get over it, I'll be grateful you had my back.  Anybody can blow smoke up a skirt, but it takes real fortitude and character to dish out some tactful truth. But that, my friends, is what you do when you really care about somebody.

And to that, I say:  Rocking chairs and gold, baby.  Rocking chairs and gold.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ordinary Days

Sometimes a memorable night is followed by an ordinary day.  I find that most often when this happens, it is precisely what I need.  A little extra sleep, a few odd chores, lunch with my family and a day of shopping together.  Shopping that includes $563 worth of savings at Kohl's on behalf of my sister - talk about expecting great things!  And while there was nothing particularly remarkable about this day (aside from my sister's Kohl's associate stacked up savings), it was perfectly lovely.  In fact, I wouldn't have had it any other way.  Ever have that happen - a day where you revel in the very ordinary? Ordinary is a beautiful thing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Memorable Nights

I love hanging out with my peeps.  It grounds me, it makes me laugh, it melts the stress away.  I think a conservative estimate for my adult life is right around 1,950 nights out on the town of eating, drinking and being extraordinarily merry.  I've spent time in five star restaurants all the way down to the skankiest of dive bars (my personal favorite).  It's all the same to me, for I can have fun just about anywhere.  (I mean really, my sister and I once proclaimed that we could put the "fun" in funeral.)  Out of those 1,950 or so nights out on the town, only a few have been real clunkers.  The rest?  I love them.  But even so, there aren't so many that stand out in my mind.  They are fun, they are in the moment, and then they are gone.

But then one night you go out with your two best ride or die work friends, and an 80 year old lady who is missing many of her teeth and perhaps all of her faculties sets down a partially thawed turkey on the bar, dripping turkey juice all over the place and generally confusing (and disgusting) everyone.  And as the night wears on, the tale gets taller and by the end of the night the recollection is that there was a puddle of turkey guts on the bar.  Five days from now or a year from now I won't remember a single thing that happened on this night, but I will remember that damn turkey on the bar.

Some nights are more memorable than others.  Tonight was one of those nights.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

You're Not the Boss of Me

I had to get a flu shot today, because my employer has made it mandatory.  Had to.  I hate doing pretty much anything that is preceded by the words "have to."  It evokes a response in me, an immediate "you're not the boss of me" mentality.  I hate being told what to do, even if it is in my own best interest.  Even if thousands of well-educated others are doing it.  Even if...anything, really.

And why is this?  I think it's fairly normal.  No one likes to be told what to do.  As adults, we like to think for ourselves.  We like to think that we have free will and that no one is in charge of us but us. But the truth is, we all have to answer to someone.  In fact, most of us have to answer to a whole lot of someones.  There is no life that I know of without fences or boundaries or rules.  The idea of only answering to oneself is a fantasy, or maybe even a delusion.

I do my best to keep my oppositional defiant tendencies in check. I try to only exercise them when there are no real consequences.  I am deferential to my boss, I don't get mouthy with cops (anymore), and I follow the bulk of the societal rules.  It's boring, but it's also survival.

To not be a rule follower is honestly more trouble than it is worth most of the time.  I'm not suggesting I won't pick my battles - trust me, I do.  But I learned a nugget of wisdom from someone once:  "You have to live another day to continue the good fight."  So with that in mind, I assess carefully before I drawn my lines in the sand.  And if need be, I don't just eat a slice of humble pie...I bake the dang pie myself and keep eating it until the temptation to let my ego rule passes.  Is humble pie tasty? Not particularly.  Does it contain what I need?  Most of the time, yes.

All of that being said, you're still not the boss of me.