Monthly Archives: December 2013

Short Term Planning

public domain image

public domain image

I know this is the time of year to hatch grand ideas, named Resolutions, not a time to be thinking small.  Well, the fellow who normally cuts my hair was stricken with pneumonia right before Christmas and my haircut appointment and while I do hope that he is ok, this leaves me with a shaggy dilemma.

 

I can’t remember the last time that I felt truly pleased about my hair – the style, the color – and I am the kind of person who only pays marginal attention to any sort of style.  I do understand that appearance it important because it is part of people’s perception of a person.  And I can appreciate when someone else looks well put together, I just have a hard time figuring out how they managed the effect.

 

Anyway, my need to resolve my overgrown locks has me thinking about short term planning at this almost New Year stage.  It often seems as if we just do whatever is in front of us.  Get it done, move to the next thing, get it done, move to the next thing.  Periodically check the list, if you keep one, to make sure things aren’t missed.

 

My sister, brother, sister-in-law and I went to the grocery store the weekend before Christmas.  Life has been a bit hectic so while we had made plans to be together for the holiday, those plans hadn’t gotten specific enough to cover little things like food.  We put together a menu plan before we got in the car and only my sister thought to write it all down.  She had a handful of lists, actually, including general things that she needed for her household since she was hosting.

 

It was fun to go to the store together, despite the number of other shoppers.  It was out of the norm, and I couldn’t help but remember back on our childhood shopping trips plus other shared shopping experiences over the years that occurred during other family gathering times.  But it was haphazard with different members of our team wandering off in search of this or that and only my sister keeping track of the items that had made it onto our list.

 

We had quite tasty meals, with shared cooking responsibilities and shared clean up, too.  Perhaps it would have benefitted from more rigorous pre-planning – it certainly helped that we have had enough previous family gatherings that parts could be done without much discussion.  It would probably have been rather a disaster for a group of unfamiliar people.

 

I’m going to keep thinking about short term planning while I find someplace to get a haircut.  I’d love to know your thoughts on planning – short, long, or resolution type.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Identifying Connections

When I am fully alert, aware and focused in my current moment (instead of running through the constant lists in my head of what should be done, and where else I must go, etc.) I remind myself to look for connections and not distinctions between myself and the people around me.  There are plenty of things that separate us from all the people around us, even those who should be closest.  We often tend to focus on these differences.

We have more similarities with all of other people on this Earth than we recognize, sometimes we have to look deeper and sometimes just think more simply.  We could be worlds apart ideologically, but both appreciate a hug or a kind word when we are hurting, say.  And back before we were quite so global, sociologists did studies that nearly all people named facial expressions of basic emotions the same – sadness, anger, happiness and such.

Closer to home, and having just celebrated Christmas, the connection between my almost 24 year old son and his 6 year old cousin makes me smile.  Other than being part of the same family and both male, they have very little context that aligns on the surface.  But they have a mutual interest in Legos.  And since my son was willing to pull out a few boxes containing a portion of the million Legos that he owns to sit with his cousin for a couple of hours they have found other things that they can talk about together and enjoy.

High Five - Copy

I don’t know you and all the joys and challenges that you encounter, but I imagine that we could quickly find some means to bond if we started to talk.  We don’t have to be friends forever, or even ever see each other again to have a moment of connection.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Moment before the Moment

Christmas is hours away, ready or not.  This is the moment for the deep breath, the step back, the last survey of status.  Time for a last minute tweak here, an addition there, perhaps small changes in one or two things.  And then enjoy what rolls out.  Whatever it might be.

 

I used to be one of those people who melted into tears when the slightest thing started to go awry from how I had pictured.  (Now granted perfection is something that you reform from endlessly – there is no such thing as a reformed perfectionist.)  Oddly, it was my wedding that taught me the alternate beauty in planning and then letting the event unfold as it would.  The stories are in the unplanned moments.  Even the mishaps.

 

Right now I am working my way through my least favorite part of the holiday – wrapping gifts.  You’re with me on this, yes?  Even with favorite Christmas carols as back drop, exasperation is ready to pounce.  Once I struggle through to the end, I also know that I will have that feeling of dismay at the small array of gifts after weeks and hours of careful effort.  Every year it seems as if the resulting pile doesn’t quite match the time and thought I put in.

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This moment before the big moment happens all the time – before an interview, a big dinner, a presentation, a date, a party…  We shouldn’t miss this chance to review, but neither should we use it for recriminations, or to build fear.  We have done what we could – this time – and can make note of improvements for next time.  Then breathe.  And enjoy.

 

I hope that you have many moments to enjoy over this holiday season.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Snap into Place Feeling

Legos go together with a satisfying snap.  Lids on containers of all shapes and sizes are snuggly in place when they snap.  Locks are set when we here that snick, and doors shut tight with a click.  Now we know that at least that particular item is secure.  There is plenty of unknown only feet away, so giving ourselves any kind of assurance of safety is paramount.

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If only the right decision would offer the same satisfying snap when we land upon it.  Particularly with the big scary decisions that we sometimes have to make with little information or time to contemplate.  Have that surgery, go for the short sale or ride the foreclosure, change careers or stay the course, time to put dad in the nursing home?  All of the options have down sides and leave us feeling slightly ill – no snap involved.

Every once in a great while a decision will come with an immediate snap, reinforcement that it was just the right decision for us for that moment, for that situation.  Because if we take the same option the next time, it doesn’t always turn out so well.  What the???  Crap, I thought that was The right decision – as in my go-to from here on out.  The moment was no longer right, some alignment was different and no snap resulted.

The initial evaluations, weighing of options are tough enough.  Did we apply the right parameters, ask the right questions to get a clear understanding?  But then the re-evaluation starts with the smallest opening of doubt.  ‘I didn’t think about this, consider that point, take into account for this other…’  If only I’d gotten that snap, or known it was coming, then I would have kept looking for a better option.

I always thought that part of being an adult would be a strong ability to make solid decisions.  Ha.  The adults around me seemed to know what they were doing, to be making decisions with snap in them because they didn’t let me see the machinations and ruminations that went into the decisions not because they had a perfect sense on how to make good decisions.

I’m going to keep searching for a snappy decision making method, in the meantime I’m going to snap together some Legos.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Twas the Week Before Christmas (Redux)

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the work-place,

Creatures were hurrying, scurrying and running the rat race.

“I have to get done, have vacation to take –

Off to Grandma’s, the in-laws or maybe the lake!”

Now I was just watching quietly from my cube

Hoping to get out at lunch at take my car for a lube

Christmas carol melodies floating through my head

While on my computer, emails I read, read, read

When out on the floor there arose such a clatter,

I looked over the wall to see what was the matter –

A vision of senior management all dressed like St Nick

Ho Ho’ing and marching down the aisle right quick!

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A parade of employees trailing in their wake,

Everyone heading to the boardroom, a feast to partake

Deciding my car would have to take care of itself,

I jumped up and followed the nearest old elf!

(With thanks and apologies to Clement Moore)

 (First posted 12/19/12 on my original blog, Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations – does it make it a ritual with one repeat?)

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Quality of Sound

It looks as though we may be in for a cold and snowy winter season.  I’m sure that some of you are smiling and cheering but I am equally sure that there are plenty in my camp of winter endurers.  I believe that I have mentioned before some of the litany of why I am not a fan of winter – there is the cold, the snow, the slush, the cold, salt everywhere, exponentially bad driving and the cold.  Did I mention the cold?  I am also worn down by the monochromatic vistas – wonderfully dotted with Christmas decorations for the next couple of weeks.

But I digress.  There is one thing about winter that pleases me, which I rediscover every year.  This thing that quietly delights me is the quality of the sound when there is a blanket of snow on the ground.  The snow brings a silence that is very welcome in this time of electronic beeps, dings, trills, buzzes, and tweets.  Nature has many methods of redirecting our attention to joys it has to offer.

Looking for a means to soothe your hectic pre-Christmas day, go out into your backyard for a few minutes to commune with the quality of sound.  Softer sounds are muffled as the snow acts as natural baffles and round out many noises.  Sharp sounds crack, shattering the brittle cold air but are quickly replaced with that enveloping silence.

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To get the full effect it is best to get to a park or nature preserve or any tract which is populated more by trees than the constructs of humans, but it isn’t entirely necessary.  Especially after dark.  Your backyard will do nicely.  If you haven’t taken the time to experience the way that snow changes sounds since childhood, I suggest that it is high time that you do so.

The crunch as you break through the crust of the snow, the sound of your own breath, the rustle of small animals, and the creaks and cracks of trees shifting under the weight of the snow.  These are the little gifts of winter.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Boosting that Mood

(I admit to updating this post from last year, see my recent post on the busy season as my excuse.)

 

Memories of Christmases past

Memories of Christmases past

This is the happiest, most joyful time of the year.  Or it is supposed to be, so I thought it appropriate to remember that regardless of evidence to the contrary, there is always joy to be found.  I learned this from my mom who was the most perennially positive person I have ever known.  Personally, I tend to melancholy, but having been raised within the realm of her spirit of joy, I am now the most upbeat melancholic you will ever meet.

 

Mom sang – whether to express actual joy or to bring it when it was flagging.  She would just burst into a specific song, ring out a few notes, or hum.  She would also ‘throng’ (her word) upon the piano.  I find myself doing the same, usually making up nonsense verses based on known songs.  This is because I discovered as I moved farther into adulthood that the singing was like a talisman against negativity.

 

Singing is my ritual.  Not, that I am any good – but that isn’t the point.

 

There is a power to ritual that we modern people seem to have forgotten.  We leave rituals inside the place of worship for the most part and we shouldn’t.  Rituals are soothing and can focus or refocus the mind to a more positive bent in the midst of a hectic day.  The one ritual I can think of outside of religion is the making and drinking of tea.  What rituals do you follow?

 

“Happiness is the whole aim and end of human existence.”

~Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

 

Rut is the ugly side of rituals; these are bad habits that we get into that encourage negative feelings for the most part.  We should all take care to root ruts out of our days by replacing them with simple rituals that will refocus our minds to the potential good things going on.

 

6 Happiness Tools from What Happy People Know:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Choice
  3. Personal Power
  4. Leading with your Strengths
  5. The Power of Language & Stories
  6. Multidimensional Living

Dan Baker, PhD. & Cameron Stauth

 

I hope you discover some joyful rituals in the coming days.  And if you hear someone humming down the aisle from you in the store, it might be me so give that person a smile as you pass.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Busy Season, Busy Reasons

Being busy seems to be a badge of honor on a regular day, but these last weeks of the year ratchet up the busy with all the holiday expectations.  Chasing some ideal of getting it all done and making it perfect seems to make many people hate this season.  I do get that crazy hope of achieving a blank to-do list.  But there is a heavy Sisyphean aspect to this hope, and I really don’t want to hate this season.

 

I want to enjoy the glitter of the lights as I drive down a cold, dark street and feel pleased that so many people want to decorate their homes for me and the other passersby.  The days may be shorter but festive lights offer a smile inducing alternative.

 

I want to take pleasure in the selection of gifts for the people on my list.  (Luckily I have a fairly short list.)  If I start early enough, then I can take the time to think about the person that I am shopping for, remember good moments, and hopefully pick out a gift that will be meaningful to them.

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I want to savor the aromas when I bake breads or cookies to share.  Many of the recipes that I use have been passed down and have become tradition.  The recipe cards are written in handwriting of family members no longer with us, reminding me of past kitchen moments.

 

Yes, all of our regular tasks and obligations press in, and holiday expectations pile on top not temporarily take the place of the everyday.  But it is only here briefly this time and we shouldn’t be so intent on making the season perfect for someone else that we miss out on the wonder for ourselves.

 

Hear the words of those carols playing in the stores, let them transport you to childhood wonder and delight.  Just for a minute.  Joy to the world and God bless us, everyone.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Front and Center, Through it All

I love parades and try to devote at least a part of my Thanksgiving morning to watching the parades even as I have become an adult responsible for getting the big feast cooking.  Parade watching on TV is a cherished part of my Thanksgiving rituals.  But I have noticed a change, rather at some point the way that parades are broadcast was changed and I am now aware of this result.

Parade_float_in_Gatton,_possibly_to_celebrate_peace_after_World_War_I

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In my childhood, the cameras focused on the floats and parade participants, the announcers providing their chatter as backdrop and occasionally coming in to view to announce a commercial break.  These days, a person is lucky to catch a glimpse of parade participants over the shoulder of the announcers as the camera focuses incessantly upon them as they bring in a continuous parade of minor celebrities and periodically mention the bothersome parade that is happening behind them.

 

This got me thinking about the spotlight.  Some people like to be right in the center of the glow, some can come and go, some enjoy the periphery and others want to be far off in the other direction.  Life is best when there is a variety of types, all sorting to their preferred spot.

 

The thing is, though, that sometimes that spotlight should swing off the person who wants to be front and center and sometimes it should illuminate that person who prefers to exist in obscurity.  Sometimes a team, an ensemble, a band, a cast should be in that light together.  Hundreds of people must come together to pull off a successful parade.  It is a display, an event that deserves attention.  Even the people who take a support role want the result of their effort to be experienced by as many viewers as possible.

 

I find myself moving around in my chair as if I were actual standing on the side of the street and if I adjust I might be able to see the actual main event, the parade, around the obstruction of the announcers.  Yes, I understand that these announcers are pleased with the spotlight, but this isn’t their turn.  It is the turn of the hundreds of people who started planning this parade the moment last year’s parade ended.  Possibly before.

 

I am frustrated that I hardly saw a moment of the parade that I turned on the TV to see, but this has really opened my eyes to all the small moments that happen every day – the things that don’t get noticed.  I want to keep this revelation front and center, to acknowledge efforts large and small.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Revisiting a Question

We back away, brush our hands off and think, ‘whew, that’s done now on to the next thing’ – problem solved, to-do checked off the list.  File it away.  Next.  But what if it isn’t?  What if in a few weeks, or months, or even years something happens to make us have to go through it all again; possibly even come to a different conclusion?

 

The medical community has revamped the protocols for cholesterol and statin use and that seems to have knocked people for a loop.  That question was resolved, we all thought anyway.  But life is cyclical, we learn new things on some other topic and the ripple effect can alter the decisions that seemed set in stone just a short while before.

 

“That is the one thing that I’ve learned, that it is possible to really understand things at certain points, and not be able to retain them, to be in utter confusion just a short while later.  I used to think that once you really knew a thing, its truth would shine forever.”

~ Lucy Grealy

Capture

It seems a bit like Lucy and I aren’t coming at this issue in quite the same way, but I think that we really are.  Where she mentions retain, it might be about keeping the knowledge fresh in our own memory, but it could also mean keeping it solid in light of new information or experiences.  Almost anything that we think we know is based almost entirely upon the context in which we know it.  If the context changes, our understanding of the thing can be thrown into confusion.

 

It might seem as though we are moving backward in revisiting a question, but if we are looking at it with fresh eyes and understanding then it is actually a good thing.  When the elements that went into the original answer have changed, then the nature of the question and the basis of the solution might be wholly different.

 

It isn’t a retread at all then, but a deepening and broadening of understanding.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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