The Blog

A woman I used to work with didn’t like me. She wanted something I had, though I’ve forgotten what that was. My job? My boyfriend? I wish I could remember.

Being around her made me uneasy.

One night I attended an office party at our boss’s house. When I got there I didn’t want to butt in on the few small groups of people already engrossed in conversation. So I planted myself next to the fireplace and played with the dog. This was before my adult-onset allergy to the animal kingdom, and it was a fine way to pass the time until the others arrived.

My nemesis walked in soon after that. She had a way of entering a room that demanded people pay attention, and pay attention they did. The gathering got very quiet as she looked at me, sighed, and announced: “Oh, look. Maureen found a friend.”

I wilted. I was too stunned to say a word. It’s been thirty years, and I’m still speechless.

Thankfully.

Nothing good would’ve happened had I been able to summon a comeback. I’m sure of it.

Sometimes the best response is nothing, served with a dollop of wide-eyed wonder.

Once upon a time my new husband got laid off from the same radio station I worked at.

Now what?

Quit, right? I mean, how could I keep working for those people?

Here’s how. I treated my job as a job. It wasn’t family. Well except for Darrell. But he worked in the front office while I covered the news -- and we treated each other so professionally new employees were often surprised to learn we were married.

That came in handy in the weeks after someone else moved into Darrell’s office. Oh sure, it hurt to walk by and see those tchotchkes where his had been. And then I got back to work.

I never seriously considered leaving when Darrell’s run ended. I still loved my job, and I had more to learn. Eventually, after the initial awkwardness faded, a few people asked how I stayed so upbeat.

I told them what I just told you.

Colleagues who once gave me the impression I was more businesslike than I needed to be, especially in such a small office, now told me that was one smart move.

You’ll probably always have to work with people you’d rather work around. If you love what you do it’ll be worth it.

If not?

Start plotting your escape.

I dreaded a recent trip to the dentist the way I always do because the gal who cleans my teeth cannot be pleased.

That’s how it seemed, anyway. She’d tell me to use a different kind of toothbrush, to brush longer, to floss less often but more carefully, on and on. I’d return for my next cleaning eager to get a better report card -- only to be told I was doing other things wrong. I spent more time taking care of my teeth than anyone I knew. When would it end?

I began to think she was an unhappy person who’d never approve. Going to the dentist, I decided before this last visit, is unpleasant enough. What if someone else could do my cleanings?

When I pulled into the parking lot I was still scheming about how to ask about that, tactfully. Meanwhile I vowed to keep an open mind as this appointment unfolded.

The first thing she noticed was a stain on the inside of one of my back teeth. She was about to fetch a more powerful tool when I asked why the inside of one of my back teeth mattered. She looked at me on her way out of the exam room and said, “That would be leaving the job unfinished. I couldn’t do it.” Her shrug told me this was about her, not me. “How interesting,” I told her. And then, “Thanks…”

The rest of the visit went just as smoothly. She kept telling me how good this or that looked and why anything that needed attention wasn’t my fault. “You’re doing everything right,” she said.

You’re kidding.

She reminded me of Katie’s piano teacher, suddenly. Not for the cuddly demeanor -- but for holding me to a high standard and not letting up until I met it. Her job was to inspire me to take better care of myself, and she had.

“The Universe,” it’s been said, “is a mirror. It only reflects.”

The minute -- and I mean the minute -- I looked at her as a person as opposed to a problem, everything changed.

Coincidence?

Doubt it!

131222 We’ve started a little experiment over on Twitter, #TheKaOfKatie. I think of ka -- a term that originated in ancient Egypt -- as the essence of someone’s spirit. Darrell thinks the hashtag is one hell of a good idea. We’ll see. He’s been after me for years to do something with the mountain of notes I took as Katie grew up.

But what? This? Maybe…

After less than a week, patterns started to emerge. How smart and spunky Katie’s always been. How funny. But mostly, how sweet. There’s a gentleness mixed in with her determination that’ll break your heart, I think.

Going back through Katie’s childhood in bursts of 140 characters will be fun -- and I hope it’ll be fun for you, too.

What will come out the other side? That’s anyone’s guess.

If you have one, don’t tell me.

I hate it when someone spoils the surprise.

“We need recreation from work the same way we need to breathe out after we breathe in,” a career consultant once told me. “Not as a reward. It’s just part of the deal.”

Darrell and I celebrated a big anniversary recently by taking four hours off work to celebrate. On a weekday!

It felt like we’d been to a spa.

People who work for themselves have demanding bosses, except in one respect. Even demanding bosses will sometimes encourage their employees to take a few hours off. We don’t have that in ourselves. Saturdays and especially Sundays are our two busiest days of the week, for one thing. Sundays are killers. I always feel like I’m out of breath from trying to get it all in before bedtime.

But the fun we had taking that somewhat modest break made me think we should work more of it into our schedule.

Where the time will come from, I don’t know yet.

But I’m determined to find out!

131213Of anything I thought I knew how to do, peeling a banana is right up there.

The other day I stumbled on something that made me think I was doing it wrong. It’s probably good I can’t point you to the link. I don’t remember it and I didn’t save it. Maybe it would’ve screamed, “Untrustworthy! Untrustworthy!” For whatever reason it had screamed nothing of the sort to me, and I decided to test it. If it didn’t work, I’d just go back to the old way. No big.

I fetched a banana for Darrell. I turned it upside down, pinched the end that wasn’t the stem, and broke that end apart.

I presented Darrell my handiwork as I told him what I’d learned: “From the Internet!” It was a little bit of a sell, though, because the end of the banana I’d pinched was mush. Not only that, but the peel wasn’t coming off in two neat, clean strips the way it looked like it would in the photo. There were three, maybe four strips -- and given we aren't sure, you probably have a better idea of how not neat, not clean those strips were.

Darrell was laughing by now but when I told him this was supposedly how monkeys do it he started laughing so hard I thought he was going to hurt himself. He couldn’t speak. It looked like he was having trouble breathing.

After a while he calmed down enough to say, “Monkeys also…” Which was quickly followed by quite the list of things monkeys do that humans don’t -- nor would humans want to.
 
My little experiment was worth it -- if only from the standpoint of what remains besides the peel. Laughter's the currency by which we measure our days around here, and in that respect -- the most important, I think -- we are wealthy beyond measure.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Katie’s in college, and I got an early report card.

The only one that really matters, I think.

Do you love your work?
December 15, 2013

If you’d rather eat sushi than steak and if you’d rather watch a documentary than anything else, I think you’ll be enchanted by Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro reminded me how many jobs look easy from the outside -- but aren't -- and how many people take great pride in their work.

Most importantly? If you’re lucky enough to find work you love, do it.