Friday, May 25, 2007

Sometimes an Apology Isn't Enough....

Yesterday I blundered. While that in itself isn't unusual for me, it made a powerful impact on a coworker - and for that, it will take awhile for the apology to take root and grow.

Several weeks ago, our team (a mighty group of four individuals) became adrift in a sea of bureaucracy. Our supervisor was promoted out of our lives. The five of us were quite a team - each with his/her own competencies that enabled us to do quite well - and we produced some spectacular programs and policies. Then the five became four. Management decided the four of us would rotate in leading the small team - if the plan suited. It did. My rotation was to be last; I'm much more comfortable in a support role - not in a leading role (although my dear husband would argue quite convincingly I am wrong).

And here the blunder slowly took root. First the dynamics of the team of four need to be described. I'm completely and utterly retirement eligible - and have been since the 26th of February when I turned 55 years young. In June of 2006, I have been working for 30 years. Hence - age + years of service equals completely and utterly retirement eligible. Team member two, the sole male in the group, can retire in four years. Team member three, a recent transfer to the group and a lovely lady, is eligible also to retire in four years. And then team member four - a bubbly younger lady who can retire in fourteen years.

Names were drawn out of a hat, and team member four undertook the role of leading the team. Bubbly young lady with lots of energy with fourteen years to go before she can retire. After two weeks on the job, the blunder was planted.

She's a very detail orientated individual - doesn't like to leave anything to chance - and after hearing her express more than once the degree of stress she was experiencing, I shared the concern. Unfortunately, not to her - but to another team member. Subsequently, part of the conversation was overheard. Interpretation - criticism of leadership role.



Bad mistake.

I now know that stress can be expressed in many different manners. Some may threaten their computer screens; some may find satisfaction is tossing a stapler or two against a wall; others may bang their head a couple times against their keyboards - all of which are highly suitable for those of us in office settings. Team member number four expresses her stress in such a manner that it allowed her to simply let out steam.

Who knew.

Today, the apology. And tomorrow and the next day and forever more - more than one lesson was learned.

One - unless the stress expressed by another individual involves bodily injury to me, ignore it.

Two - unless the stress expressed by another individual involves same individual's head to explode suddenly, ignore it.

Three - always try to imagine what your comments, however well intended, might mean to someone else. Interpretation is everything.

And finally...

Four - apologies mean nothing if the act is repeated.

All I can say at this point is - I'll never stop learning.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Friend

Today I participated in a 5K walk/run - and I found that striving to come in first, second or third isn't necessary anymore.

Today I walked with a friend - and we talked. She cautioned me twice to slow down - and after the 2nd mile, I really appreciated the caution. While it was hot & humid and others passed us by, I realized that a slower pace was a pleasure. I saw several geese flying overhead. I heard birds scolding one another - and prayed that they would be not plotting to cover either one of our heads with little white presents. When the wind blew gently by (at least once, I'm sure of it), it felt wonderful. And we talked and talked - and every so often, we just quietly enjoyed the walk.

My friend became a grandmother about 5 months ago...and so now we have grandchildren in common. I learned more about her in that 50 minutes than all of the past six or more years we have spent together in the office. She's one of the most positive people I have ever encountered - always seeing that half full glass. I have never heard her speak badly of anyone nor have I ever heard anyone speak badly of her. She is the one who encouraged me to walk with her last year - with the enticement of a Tshirt if I walked 3 of the 5 events. She found my weak spot - a prize waiting for me at the end of the journey! So again, the reminder came from this lovely lady to walk again. One 5K down, 4 more to go.

One of life's greatest pleasures while working is to find a few people you can connect with. It's a joy to live with someone whom you can connect with on a regular basis. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a husband whom I feel a deep connection with. He makes me smile, he has moved me to tears with his kindness (he spent all of Mother's Day researching a MP3 player that could record books on CD - just because I said I would like one some day - and bought me one on line), makes me feel like a new bride so many times, and still holds my hand in the car or while walking. Now I discovered I'm blessed because I slowed down on a 5K walk so that I could spend time talking to a coworker who along has been a friend - I just didn't know it. A new connection has been formed.

A friend. Two simple words yet those two words go down deep inside and make you feel warm and comfortable. God has a way of blessing us so many times ... and sometimes it just takes slowing down a bit to discover those blessings.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day and Other Things...

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I phoned my mom, wishing her a Happy Mother's Day. I listened to her accounting of her day so far - and that my brother was taking her & dad out to an early dinner and also my brother's wife and mother-in-law would be joining them. It was good to listen to Mom. She was clearly pleased over her day. My sister called her later and wished her the same. My husband made a call to his mom - and I could tell from his end of the conversation, she was having a very good Sunday.

This morning I came to the realization that I missed hearing from our two kids yesterday. They're married now & have their own family - and I hope daughter was honored on Mother's Day and that daughter-in-law was honored as well.

Early this morning, I realized I must have erased messages on my cell phone as I noticed a missed call from our son. An email inquiry to my son let me know that the erased message was a Mother's Day call & I didn't get to hear it. Saturday, dear husband & I spent a good part of the day with our daughter, son #2 and granddaughter. All in all - a good weekend. However, this is the first year that I didn't hear a Happy Mother's Day from either one on Sunday - and I had no idea it would give me pause. Years ago, I missed calling Mom on Mother's Day ... and dad surely let me know about it a few days later via his weekly letter. I had sent a present, as always, and a card...but it was the call that mom really was looking forward to. I had no idea that it meant that much - until now.

After much self-inspection, I realized that God has a way of using disappointments to point out failings of my own. It is the small things that do count more than the big things. How many times have I failed to make a call, send an email, write a thank you note - not an obligatory one but just to write a "'re great" note, and failing to put aside something I'm working on so I could listen to someone who needs to talk. More times than I care to admit have I not taken the time to do the small things.

So while I had a very quiet Mother's Day, I realized I'm a still a work in progress, thanks to God's great love. All in all, a better weekend than I realized.


Monday, May 07, 2007

A Touch of Suspicion...

Suspicious but not very suspicious cyst or lesion. Followup mammogram and ultrasound results from last Thursday reached our family doctor's desk. A followup ultrasound is to be done three to six months. After explaining to the doctor that six months wasn't going to be an option, an appointment was made for early August for the ultrasound.

I'm not sure how to take this. Foreboding? Confident that all is well? Suspicious - but not very? This is just so very strange. I don't know if researching cysts and lesions is going to make me feel better or worse. The mind is going into overdrive ... of course it would. Dealing with hangnails sends me in a tizzy.

Okay, God - this is in your hands. I sure would appreciate time going forward a little bit faster than normal, if that's okay, so we can just find out what's next.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Rich Life

On Friday evening my husband & I attended a viewing in Elyria, Ohio. The funeral was to be held on Saturday - and it was for my husband's cousin, Lane Tollett. We watched many people file in, pay respects to the young man whom I believe is in heaven, hug his parents and move on.

This young man was to be 31 years old today - and died in Iraq, fighting for his country. There are those who believe the war is wrong - and those who believe without our men fighting, we stand to lose the most precious commodity - freedom. I believe in the latter. This man whom I have never met believed in what he did ... and despite personal feelings about the war, was held in the highest regard by all. Flags flew at half mast in the entire small town of Elyria.

The funeral was held in the high school Lane attended. Hundreds came - and hundreds wept. It was a moving ceremony with military honors and blessings from the Catholic priests.

During the ceremony, I thought of what a rich life this young man must have led. He was doing what he wanted to do - what he felt he was called to do. He did it with honor - and he did it by choice.

For Lane, for all the soliders who are fighting this war, my prayers are with you each and every day. I thank God for you all - and for the gift of freedom you are fighting so selflessly for.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


During a phone conversation this afternoon, I used a very interesting word to describe one's lifestyle: "complicated". That description was not met with enthusiasm. Actually, it was met with resentment. It wasn't a word I searched for nor rehearsed nor do I know where it came from. It simply came out.

After I hung up, I thought for a long time as to why I used this word. Webster describes complicated as:

to combine especially in an involved or inextricable manner.

Further described as:

to make complex or difficult

Still no help. Complicated. Then it came to me - of course! That's exactly how I've heard coworkers describe our lives - mine and my husband's.

Our lives have been described as complicated. Complicated because we both work 40 hours a week - and then we operate a chess club in a building we bought years ago. Complicated because we will spend, on the average, a weekend a month hosting a weekend long chess tournament. Complicated because we are at the club on Friday evenings. Complicated because we're doing something other than eating at a different restaurant every Friday evening. Complicated because we lead a very different life.

I see couples sitting outside a coffee shop, idly sipping coffee and reading - or talking. And I think - oh yes, that could be me & my husband. But every evening? Every Friday? Every Saturday? No. But when it does happen, it's savored, treasured and it makes me smile.

So yes - perhaps you do lead a complicated life... but it's not to be viewed with resentment if I use that descriptive word. Yes, you lead a richly complicated and full life - a life that isn't boring nor staid.

So apologies if the word was met with unfavor. It was never meant to be used as an unfavorable word but as a compliment. Wish I knew that earlier!