Monthly Archives: March 2014

Oh, If Only

There is one good thing about winter and that is that it provides a ready reason why much of the to-do list lies dormant for the season.  Now I must dust of the list and sit down with it and a calendar to figure out what should be done, where it will fit in my days, and whether the budget will allow.  But just next to the to-do list is my list of books that I’d like to read.


If only there were enough time in the day to be able to read more of the interesting books that come out so much faster than I can digest them.  (And then there are all of the older books, too.)  In addition to the books that I hear about and put on the list are all the books that I could stumble upon in the library or a book store if I go and browse.


It would be simply lovely if I could take a chunk of time off from all my other obligations and I could devote my time and energy to devouring these worthy books.  I do read all day – emails, procedures, articles, and at the very end of the day a few pages from my current fiction selection.  Just a handful of pages for me, so that it takes ages to get through a single book.  So that sometimes I forget some of the subplots in a book.


Reading is right there with all of the other necessities – food, water and shelter – it provides comfort and education, understanding and enjoyment, inspiration.  I sometimes long for my younger years when a whole Saturday could be absorbed by a book.  I dream of reading sabbaticals when my days get too stressful.  Would I love reading as much if I could be paid to do it?  I would love to find out, I think.


If you dream of taking a sabbatical to do one beloved activity, what would it be?


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved


I Hear Birds

Meteorological spring and the Vernal Equinox (astronomical spring) have both passed – not that you can tell based on how often my furnace still cycles on a day.  Or by the layers that we are still wearing.  Or by the dusting of snow that greeted the folks in my region earlier this week.  These dates are just markers on a calendar.


I smile every morning for the last several because I can hear the birds chittering, twittering, and singing to each other just outside my window each morning.  They must be quite chilled, but they believe that spring weather is close so I will too.


Eastern Yellow Robin (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eastern Yellow Robin (photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t actually seen the little feathered fellows, but my ears believe.  I have seen the geese – particularly as they stake out their nesting area around the building where I work.  A few people – 2 co-workers and later a customer – were chased by the hissing goose parents to be.  Winter might still be loath to give up it’s hold but all of these birds are determined that spring weather is near.


One good thing about the continued chill is that I have finally managed to cut back an out of control clematis.  On the one warm day that we’ve experienced recently.  And after 3 years of good intentions.  Now that I’ve had a chance to weave the branches through the trellis better, I have my fingers crossed that it will continue to grow as heartily as it has these past years.  And once again be a refuge for the birds that have sung good morning to me.


I hope that the birds are singing about spring wherever you are as well.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Singular Purpose

It seems to be the thing to do these days when your life is altered by some sort of speed bump, start up a foundation.  If you have the means, or access to the means that is.  People at the lower end of the economic ladder might have fund raisers to help cover the unexpected bills that go along with these speed bumps.  If enough money is raised to cover their own bills, the remainder might go to help others with the affliction.


I’ve been thinking about causes and diseases that attract multiple foundations, which then often compete for the same donation dollars.  It’s that competition that got me thinking.  I understand that people want to honor their lost loved one (the most frequent reason to start a foundation in my unofficial research) but perhaps there are other ways.  A foundation has costs that take money off the top, whereas a donation to an existing organization in the person’s name could go directly to something useful for others still struggling through similar experiences.


Perhaps a singular purpose should be combined with a shared purpose to better serve the cause?  The question is what is most important – a cure, a solution or establishing a permanence for the lost person?  The best thing would be to find a method to do both.


When my dad died, we asked for donations in lieu of flowers to established causes that were meaningful to him.  He had a nearly lifelong association with Boy Scouting and so we also created a camp scholarship in his name at our local council.  I’m sure that money is long gone, mom was the point person with the council.  We wanted his name to live on with an organization that he loved and supported in many ways.  Hopefully there is a handful of young men out there somewhere who can say that they got to go to camp thanks to my dad.


Keeping the fund alive and continuous probably could have been accomplished, but it didn’t happen.  And this was a relatively small effort in comparison to a foundation.


When mom died, we again asked for donations in her name in lieu of flowers, this time for ovarian cancer research through an established organization.  I continue to give as part of the greater shared purpose to give families affected by this disease more solutions.  And more time than we had with mom once she was diagnosed.  Even if we had the means, I don’t think that we would have considered a foundation in her name.  Associating with an effective and established organization allows our assistance to be multiplied.


I wonder at this moment what mom would have to say to my idea, she worked as a fund raiser for a large hospital in Chicago for years.  She had some interesting stories about the large donors that they courted.  Ego was often involved.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What Has Your Comfort Zone Done for You Lately?

It’s comfortable, I know.  But there needs to be more, yes really.  Now, I’m not suggesting something outlandish like going camping with nothing more than a tarp and a book of matches.  (In fact, I’m not suggesting camping at all, there are limits to going outside of your comfort zone.)  We don’t have to endanger our lives to shake up the limits of our comfort zones.

c1907 camping, photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

c1907 camping, photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


How many people do you know just keep doing something that doesn’t particularly fill them with joy just because it is familiar?  The evil that we know, as the saying goes…  If that something is a job, or a relationship maybe it will just take a bit of thought about how to freshen it up a bit.


Or maybe it would be to take a step or two in a forgotten or new direction.  When was the last time that you drew, or danced, or sang, or grew something, or biked, or, or, or?  Things drop out of our lives, or interests get forgotten as we settle into our adult pattern.  My dad kept his hunting gear in the bottom of his closet through move after move even though he didn’t hunt throughout my childhood.  He returned to it in retirement and his eyes would light up as he told us about it.  I have a picture of two camouflaged hulks standing in my kitchen from his turkey hunting adventure with my then-husband.


This picture both makes me smile and sad.  Why did he feel that he had to turn aside from this activity for so many years?  Finances certainly played a role, but perhaps didn’t need to be the absolute hindrance that they appeared.


I remind myself of this when I miss out on yet another Broadway in Chicago event because I couldn’t justify the cost of the experience.  There is huge benefit in trying new things and revisiting old interests.  I say this as much to myself as to any reader.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What is it This Time?

The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland scurries into the story early on, frantic and muttering to himself that he’s ‘late for an important date’.  If there is a human anywhere who cannot relate, I would love to find out the secret for not ever being late.  (Perhaps it is to never have appointments or dates?)


public domain image of The White Rabbit

public domain image of The White Rabbit

Well, he scurries about in my thoughts sometimes as I juggle the various parts of my life.  It often seems to be the transitions from one aspect to another that are most difficult to time just right – leaving home for work, leaving work for an afternoon appointment of one kind or another.  Getting to work on time seems to be quite difficult for everyone at one time or another (the disruptive weather this winter over much of the US as case in point), but for some it seems to be darn near impossible every day.


There was a teaser announcement on the news the other day that they would be doing a story on employee excuses for being late to work on a later broadcast (must have been a slow news day) and that got me thinking.  As a boss I have had employees who have struggled with timeliness and as a person I have had moments of untimeliness.


I don’t think that I’ve been given any really interesting stories for tardiness from employees, nothing is coming to mind since I heard about this on the news.  Perhaps it is because I’ve never demanded explanation.  ‘Sorry that I’m late’ mostly suffices for me.  If it becomes a pattern, we’ll talk – but it will be focused on solutions like changing your routine, possibly changing your start time, not on why.  Reasoning is important, excuses are a waste.


As an employee I have had two instances that were a bit out of the ordinary and they occurred about a year apart.


The first was after my mom had died and since I wasn’t sleeping very well at that time, I wasn’t actually late just nearly so.  I woke up that morning thinking of a particular photo of my mom from the previous Christmas so strongly that I had to find the picture.  I could not start my day until I had that one and only that one photo with me.  My responsible side argued that I didn’t need the photo to go about my work day and I could find the picture after work.  But the pull was too powerful, grief demanded that I get my hands on that picture.  I did find it, I put it in an envelope in my purse (I carry it still) and got on with my day.


On the morning of the second example, I was mentally ready for work – I was currently without a direct boss and reporting to the senior manager and I wanted to be sharp.  I pushed the button for my garage door, it went up an inch or two and stopped.  I pushed again and it went down.  I pushed again and it whirred, but did nothing.  Uh oh.  I pulled the door up manually and it slammed back down (I found out later that the springs were shot.)  Hmm.  My boys were already at school.  How could I get the car out of the garage?  I called friends, family to find someone to hold the door open while I drove the car out.  Time became short and I had to call the senior manager to explain that I couldn’t get my car out of the garage.  I even thought about flagging down a stranger and asking them to hold the door open – I was getting desperate – when a friend called back and was able to come over to help.


What is your weirdest or best excuse for being late?


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Plaintive Pull

The nature of blogging lends itself to posting in early morning.  Morning is a time for building energy, gathering thoughts to plan a successful day and not necessarily a time to bring up a plaintive, lamenting note.  But seasonal transitions seem to lend themselves to a plaintive and wistful mindset, at least to me.


I had a cat once who would stride through the house, usually in the evening and let out a sorrowful loud plaintive cry from a room or two away.  Perhaps he wanted me to do what I often did, which was to come and find him and ask him to tell me about whatever seemed to be on his mind.  And give him a nice scratch behind his ears.  Maybe he just liked the way that his meow would bounce off the walls and ceilings when he got a good lungful of air behind it.  (He did occasionally seem to have a theatrical bent.)


Evening seems to be the right time for plaintive reflection – not as heavy as a lugubrious or dolorous ponder but a few moments to think.  The right sort of evening reflection can lead to a better day in the morning.


Plaintive thought isn’t meant to be about all of the things that I meant to do in that day and didn’t get around to completing – too many people spend too much energy at the end of the day in this mode.  How about what I learned, what I can build on in coming days, what needs to be reworked…


As thoughts for this post started to form in my head, I realized that plaintiveness is often best expressed in music.  And songs by The Fixx and Counting Crows among others went through my head.  But I really sat down to write when the evening light brought Taps to mind.

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia


The mournful sound of a single bugle in the soft summer evening air brings me back to my childhood when my dad was Camp Director.  This day is over, time to rest.  Nature and humans have done what could be done in this day.


All is well.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

I Can’t Make Me

That moment when you realize that you are really an adult might just have something to do with motivating yourself to do an unpleasant task.  We think of being an adult as finally getting to do all of the things that we were prevented from doing as kids.  If I thought at all about all of the things that require prompting to do, I assumed that adults didn’t need that external push.  I found out soon enough that I was wrong.


This topic is coming to mind because I’m trying to get up the energy to do my taxes.  Bleh.  There are some chores that I don’t like I have come to a neutral place on – I just do them and as long as things go smoothly, I don’t think too much about it.  But taxes never seem to go smoothly.  Just the act of gathering all the right paperwork is so tedious that it brings out the obstinate little pouty kid who shouts ‘you can’t make me’ over and over.


My sister used to have a friend who went to the trouble to run the vacuum throughout the house without turning it on in an act of defiant compliance.  Even as a kid I thought that defied logic – if you are going to go to the trouble to run it over the carpet, how hard is it to turn it on?  But I also get the defiance, the dig your heels in contrariness of the act.


Sometimes even as adults we need to have someone else make us do something – hence the need for many laws – things that will give us great benefit like eating healthy, saving for retirement, getting our teeth cleaned.


There must be a solid evolutionary reason why we are so obstreperous at times.  I have found myself splitting into two minds – one is being terribly unruly and the other is consternated not only by the childish stand but also by the choice of the fit.  Why-ever have I chosen to cling to this particular cliff?


How about you, what was the oddest situation where you dug your heels in?


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Loose Ends & Cross Purposes

Perhaps it is because the world is in transition from one season to another.  At least, oh please, I hope that it is finally starting into the transition from winter to spring.  The birds seem to think that it is because more and more of them are returning each day.  I feel like the dot, dot, dot that trails along the end of a sentence when the speaker isn’t sure where the ending happens to be.


I feel at loose ends.


According to  we humans have been at loose ends since the mid-1500s or so.  Oh dear.  At least we are in good company when we don’t quite know what to do with ourselves next.  If we are tying up our loose ends, it appears to have something to do with getting our ropes in order on a sailing ship.  This makes plenty of sense, one doesn’t want ropes just lying about on a ship. One trip and you could go overboard.


photo is from

photo is from

I am also at cross purposes.


We humans haven’t been at cross purposes nearly as long as at loose ends according to – since 1668 to put a fairly fine point on it.  (Looking up cross purposes is also in the bottom 30% on this site so maybe we can stir up some interest?)  It seems to me that we have probably been at cross purposes as long as people have interacted.  We just didn’t use this particular term for it.


But I am not at cross purposes with another person.  I am, as the seasons are, in a bit of a brain muddling transition.  Dangling this loosely and crossing that.  Maybe I should start, but first I should finish…  I want to do this, but it isn’t ready yet.  I can’t do winter anymore, and yet I must.


Transitions are confusing.  This seasonal transition from winter to spring makes me cross.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Patterns, Collections & Repetition

What is it about a certain thing that makes us want more?  It makes sense that we want to categorize things, like solving a puzzle by snapping the pieces into place, we know what we need to go and find based on the items that surround the missing piece.  But most of us want to create combinations of things that are pleasing.  Either by shape, size, color, texture, sound, usefulness – what have you.


Patterns can also tell us when something goes wrong and help us to figure out how to set it right again.  When one customer tells a company that they are having a problem with a product, it might be assumed that it was an anomaly but when the same complaint comes up again and again then the company better get busy on that pattern.


I used to watch my mom sew clothes when I was little.  There was a pattern to her whole effort; deciding what was going to be made, going to the fabric store to pick out all the needed items – which included the pattern to make the piece of clothing – preparing and cutting and then finally sewing.  Some of the pattern pieces made sense right away – you could see it was going to be a sleeve or other recognizable part.  But some of the pattern pieces looked quite random, they only made sense when combined with other pieces.


Collections can be useful or informative, say tools, or aesthetically pleasing.  My dad had quite a few tools, some had been his father’s before him.  The hand tools were made to last, worn smooth by years of use.  My grandfather’s power tools were a bit scary since they were produced long before safety features had come into being.  Belts and other moving parts were all open and ready to snag a finger or worse, not hidden behind plates and covers as they are now.


I think that I am in the majority in finding comfort in my collections and something soothing in repetition.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Chasing a Thought

drivingI was driving a distance recently, which gives me plenty of thinking time.  I brought my little recorder with me to capture any ideas for blog posts.  And then, in the moment, I told myself that this one is so good I am bound to remember it.  Ha.


I knew better.  I really, really did.  I would be well off if I had a dollar for every time in the past I wound up wanting to kick myself for not making some note about an idea worth pursuing later.  Now I’m just sitting here trying to draw the right memory back out and not get tangled in the regret of what I should have done.


There is no excuse, the recorder was inches from me, easily accessible.


Sometimes I wonder if we do this to ourselves on purpose, set ourselves up in small ways to get tangled in foolish regrets?  To prove the old saying that ‘to err is human’, to keep ourselves vigilant when the bigger opportunities come along – what do you think, I’m just spinning here?


Now I am left chasing the idea of a thought.  Trying to play word association – sounded like, what CD was I playing…  Not even a hint at the moment.  Maybe I can get it back by pushing the quest to the back of my mind.  I often get solutions that way, if I can distract myself with something else.  I know that pushing too hard to remember something just pushes that something farther out of reach.


It feels like this happens to me all too often.  I can be in one room and think of a couple of things that we need at the store and by the time I get to the kitchen where I keep the list, the things that came to mind have kept on going.  So I find myself chanting them with every step.


How about you, what thought did you recently misplace?


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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