The Blog

Can you bow out?
July 4, 2016

100704Have you ever promised a client something you shouldn’t have?

We did. Well, not really. Well, maybe. There are so many cooks in this kitchen it’s difficult to pin what’s happening on Darrell and me.

The client wanted something unusual. The people in charge weren’t eager to deliver, but they were willing. Had they considered the possibility of something changing on their end -- which would’ve made keeping the promise impossible -- they would’ve covered that contingency with the client and built the “making it up” into the contract. But they didn’t consider it, something changed on their end, and it’s a mess.

It’s a mess.

If I was a consultant asked to unravel this, I’d spend less time talking about how the promise shouldn’t have been made -- and more time figuring out how to keep it. I’m not charged with doing the impossible, though -- and I can understand the temptation to rail against that.

Darrell’s amused by how often I’ll share an observation about what “should” happen, only to learn he not only agrees but has passed that on. And? “It’s not happening,” he’ll report.

Now what?

Well, what’s left for me to do is obvious. Nothing. I’m so far removed from the action my job is to watch the show.

No, wait. I take that back. I can become a better person while I’m at it, minding more of my own business!


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

“I love her hair!”

You don’t want to know how many times I’ve had that reaction -- or something similar -- to a television news anchor delivering a sobering report on the economy, a mom behaving badly in the grocery store toward a child who’s supposedly doing the same, or an actress in a movie so pointless we kick ourselves for squandering the time it took to pop it into the DVD tray.

Economic forecasts bore me. How people treat their children is rarely any of my business. And sometimes you stick with a movie that sucks in hopes it’ll get better, the same way you power through a chapter of your life that sucks.

It’s what you do while you’re doing it that matters. You can always find something to appreciate, to learn.

I’m not above taking stock of my current circumstances and thinking, “I’m bored.” I’m always wrong, though.

I just wasn’t paying attention!

“She drives me crazy.”

The lament of many a man, I suspect. But also the refrain from what Darrell and I knew early on would be our song.

Isn’t that funny?

“Crazy!” I’d tease him. “In a good way. Right?”

The soundtrack from Rocky is in my headphones as I type. I’ve been playing it in the mornings when I write, and I’ve noticed something. It keeps playing in my head the rest of the day. That’s great!

It’s my go-to soundtrack.

There’s still a mountain range to scale -- on foot! -- before I’m not, as Rocky would say, just another bum from the neighborhood. But that’s okay. It’s almost impossible not to feel up to it, not with this music in the background.

What keeps you going?

If you’re serious about something, you have to commit to not only the “what” but the “when.” What are you going to do? And at least as importantly, when are you going to do it?

Think of it. “Are you free for coffee next week?” commands an answer. “Let’s have coffee sometime” elicits a wink and a nod. Right.

If something is important -- like exercise -- it’s on the schedule and you treat it with the same respect you treat your other commitments. Otherwise? Exercise is not important to you. Which doesn’t mean you have horns growing out of your head, as a friend once said. It just means you don’t value exercise.

Here’s something I value more every day. Being the person who does what she said she’d do when she said she was going to do it. Not just for others -- I’ve always been a good kid that way -- but for myself.

It’s a lovely feeling to know you can count on someone, isn’t it? Especially when that person is you!

dishesHave you ever been shamed for the way you work? For needing to do the dishes, for example, before you attend to your so-called real work?

The dishes won’t do themselves. Even dishwashers have to be loaded. If you’re distracted by the sight it isn’t a personality flaw. It’s how you work.

You can fight that if you want. But the victory will go to the person who shamed you!


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

How do you learn?
June 29, 2016

Once upon a time I spent two weeks in the mountains near Bend, Oregon, attending a workshop given by What Color Is Your Parachute? author Dick Bolles.

Nothing’s been the same since.

Dick’s still hearing from people who tell him reading that book -- and doing the exercises -- changed everything for them, too.

But it wasn’t reading the book that changed things for me. I’d “read” it in high school and decided to become a civil engineer. Which just goes to show how far off-track you can go when you buy into the notion that some careers, like engineering, are legitimate -- and others, like the one I have now, are not.

I went to Bend because my favorite way to learn is in person. Or at least, in conversation.

Darrell loses me the minute he reaches for a pen to make a sketch. I’m verbal, not visual. I do not like maps. Architectural drawings? Please. Get me out of here! Which reminds me what a favorite engineering professor finally asked me: “Why are you here?”

Why, indeed. I took his question seriously. A few years later I admitted just how lost I was. I didn’t want a map. I wanted to take a class on how to make a life transition. I actually said it out loud: “I wish there was a class on that.”

I’d never heard of anything like it, but I needed it desperately. I wished for it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, as our toddler once reported -- quoting some cartoon.

And, by golly, I found it at Dick’s workshop.

Funny thing about your wildest dreams. Sometimes they come true!

“I love the sound of your whisper when you think I’m not listening.”


From Katie, duh.

You want to get someone’s attention? Lower your voice. Pause more often. Keep the distractions at bay. That’s why you check for spinach in your teeth before you go to a meeting after lunch, right? You could be announcing a cure for cancer and the people around the conference table would be thinking, “She has spinach in her teeth!”

That’s the biggest reason you might not want to cry at work. It isn’t wrong. But it is distracting.

As the aforementioned poet is fond of saying: “There’s a time and a place.”

How do you want to be remembered?

When Katie was little I decided I had an unfair advantage. Height. I didn’t want to tower over her when we talked. So I’d bend down and try to talk with her on her level.

It backfired, of course. She imitated me. If conversation is a dance -- and I think it is -- this one was the limbo! Oh, well.

My heart was in the right place.

That’s one reason I engage babies when we’re shopping. It gives them something to look at besides the back of a parent’s phone!