Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hardy

Now this is a word that we don’t use nearly often enough these days.

 

“I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others. You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

~Robert Redford

 

Life has taught me that hardy is something that I want to be, a trait that I want to cultivate.  There are all sorts of breaking points, and I have a few memories of quitting this or that, like playing the flute, early on that didn’t sit well with my competitive nature.

 

Hardiness consists of these characteristics – resilience, optimism, flexibility and creativity.  I read this in periodic research that I have done and I believe it because it has been true for me.  The beautiful thing about hardiness, is that while some people are inherently hardier to begin with, it is something that can be learned and strengthened over time.

 

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

I do not lean toward optimism, but I can turn my thoughts in that direction.  My mom was quite the optimist and I could regularly compare my Eeyore mindset to hers, and sometimes be amazed that her belief that things would be ok seemed to actually make them ok.

 

I’ve learned resilience can be born from stubbornness combined with a willingness to learn.   Realization that resilience is something that I am mastering came slowly.

 

Flexibility and creativity also make sense as parts of the hardy equation.  Creativity provides strengths and helps recharge batteries.  And flexibility releases some of the pressure from stress.

 

I am mere days away from the beginning of a new decade, so while I hope that you get something out of reading this post it is admittedly more of an exhortation to myself that I know how to be hardy.  I hope that you do too.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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What Do You Recommend?

A thoughtful recommendation is a fine thing to give or receive.  LinkedIn has made this process a whole lot easier.  My first attempt to get a recommendation from the Head Librarian where I worked during college didn’t go as well as I planned.  While she appreciated the work that I had done, she never did get around to writing that recommendation and sending it to me.  I think that she might have been more likely to follow through with her intention if she’d been able to post it to my profile.

 

Back in the day, a professional kept a portfolio that would include originals of recommendation letters on company letterhead, carefully saved in clear plastic sleeves.  I still have my dad’s judiciously built portfolio, in a nice leather binding, glowing letters spanning his career.

profile-plea

I have actually enjoyed writing the recommendations that I have given.  (I also see benefit in thoughtfully writing employee reviews.)  I spend time thinking about the characteristics and skills of that person that make them effective at their job.  I tie these to specific projects and tasks that the person has completed.  Sometimes if time has elapsed since we worked together, I might ask to meet and talk to refresh my memory.  Vague platitudes from me aren’t going to do anybody any good.

 

I learned about having that conversation beforehand from one of my HR friends.  I asked her for a recommendation and she asked me about my goals and expectations from the recommendation.  A nice addition to the question – would you give me a recommendation – and the usual casual answer – sure.

 

But I don’t want to be told exactly what to say either.  Any more than I am going to answer a survey on a company when they tell me that they want to hear that I was highly satisfied.  (If you already know the answer, why bother to pretend to ask the question…)  The reader will be able to tell when I have taken the time to craft my impression of that person from my own experience and interactions.

 

I’ve come to see recommendations as another facet of writing as communication.  It might be simpler to ask and to post now, but that just means the effort can all go to being thoughtful in your expression.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Pursuing Ideas

I have trouble getting my mind to quiet down.  Tick, tick, tick it goes – all the time.  Sometimes it is a gibberish jumble and other times laser focused on a single topic.  I think that is part and parcel of writing since writing begins with the formulation of an idea.

 

What makes a person a writer is the compulsion to write, to put that idea on paper (virtual or real) and pursue it, build it, launch it, nurture its growth.  Sometimes that idea that started out as a tangle of gibberish becomes a viable, wonderful thing.  And sometimes that laser clear idea collapses into useless mush.  For now.  (I don’t fully discard any post that I’ve started, it might have a seed for a future idea.)

 

Walking and driving distances are great for mulling ideas but lousy for capturing them.  I now try to remember to keep a recording device in the car on long trips, and can find myself chanting a couple of sentences when hurrying home from an amble.

more Jisco West

Waking up slowly is also fertile idea time.  My mind likes to tell me the things it has been pondering while asleep if I let it.

 

Sometimes repetitive tasks can bring forth a good thought or two that have been wandering in the back of my mind while my hands are busy.  It can be annoying when the thought gels in the morning when I’m getting ready for work so all I can do is jot it down on my way out the door.  And hope that I can pick it back up at the end of the day.

 

I like the discipline of posting regularly as a bit of pressure to complete an idea.  Although there are periods when too many ideas don’t pan out.  And nothing that I have previously completed appeals to me at the moment when I should post to meet my self-imposed deadline.  Sometimes my post meets the writer’s version of software developer’s minimum viable product.  And sometimes a post that I felt came together quite well is received with a thud or echoing silence.

 

What the writer writes isn’t always what the reader perceives.

 

Or maybe I am overthinking.  What is the right amount of thinking on any one topic, idea or issue?  My hat is off to the person who gets the answer to that one right more often than not.

 

Now that I am rounding up in a couple of months to completion of my second year blogging, I have been thinking about objectives.  (Different pursuit of ideas.)  My first objective was to set up a blog and see if I could sustain it past the average of 4 months.  Counting my first blog, I have certainly met that objective.  Then I thought a year was a fine goal.  Met, check.

 

As I became more familiar with the blogosphere, I realized that I wanted to find a community of bloggers, and I have managed to find or be found by others with similar interests.  Not quite a community since there is little cohesion beyond the fact that we are all blogging on WordPress.

 

Not being content with blogging for the sake of blogging, I have been wrestling with the open question of ‘now what?’.  I don’t have an answer for myself.  I will keep pursuing ideas to blog about while I pursue this larger idea.

 

Any suggestions?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Just a Little Reward

I was puttering in the kitchen and thinking about what I should write.  I have bits of ideas tucked here and jotted down there, but it was too much to go and find them to see if any appealed right now.  I happen to be working my way through left overs, which often seems to fall to me because my son prefers to make new creations.  (I kind of remember enjoying creating new flavors in the kitchen myself once upon a time.)

 

Mostly I don’t mind left overs and I really hate waste.  My reusable sandwich bag was a topic at lunch today among my coworkers.  (How easily it can be washed and how I wash it.)  But it can quickly become something I have to do if my son doesn’t join in and eat some too, particularly if he has made a batch of something way too large for us to eat in a couple of sittings.

 

One of my son's most recent creations.

One of my son’s most recent creations.

These led to thoughts of how we reward ourselves, if we reward ourselves and whether or not we should reward ourselves.  I happen to be reading a book that is set in the Middle Ages and this is making me think about how we are rewarded just by living in this century and not back then.  But I should just use modern context.

 

It is in my nature to use some sort of carrot to get myself to do something I don’t want to do.  For instance I can watch an episode of a show that I like after I make a call that I don’t want to make.  I don’t think of that as a reward, per se, but more of a prompt.  Delayed gratification.

 

My favorite reward for getting through a work week is the moment that I can turn off the alarm on Friday night, followed by extra time reading, a fine night’s sleep and then the luxury of waking up slowly and having a leisurely mug of tea Saturday morning.  Heaven.

 

My rewards might seem small to some, or decadent to others.  But the beauty of rewards are that they should be personal.  How do you reward yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Time Well Spent

Reading.  Time reading is never ill spent, even if I’m not too fond of whatever I happen to be reading.  Reading is a wonderful way to pass the time, to feed your mind, to learn, to escape…  Even if I manage to forget much what I read, it was still time spent well.

 

My former mother-in-law thought time reading in the middle of the day was just about the most decadent thing ever.  A person who was doing – cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. – was spending time wisely.  Reading wasn’t doing in her book.  (And don’t even mention napping.)  I do agree with her that doing is productive.  But reading is productive as well.

DSC03769

Productive.  To produce, create, generate.  Time well spent should produce something.

 

I’ve mentioned here before that I am terrible when it comes to planning for myself.  Many weekends I wind up irritated with myself because I didn’t plan for this time away from work.  Plan to get things done, or plan for a little bit of fun.  I ask myself if those weekend hours are then time well spent?  At the end of each day I can point to ways that I was productive, though some of it repetitively so.  Such as errands and laundry, cleaning.

 

Work hours can be just as confusing when asking whether we are productive – if I got things done, but not necessarily the things that I expected to do, was it time well spent?  Was I productive?  What if you did exactly what you expected to do but didn’t get the result that you expected?  Was that time well spent, was it productive?

 

So much to do, so little time.  The time that we get here is finite, spend it wisely.  But was is time spent well when there is so much to do?

 

Reading.  I’ll spend more time reading and think about this more later.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Passage of Time, Accumulation of Dates

Weeks ago I called my eye doctor’s office for an appointment.  I wanted the first morning appointment, which was more important than the day.  I was given Thursday the 11th and I accepted.  The date gave me pause as I wrote it in my calendar.  I participate in a group that meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month so we met last night and as I prepared the agenda prior to last night’s meeting, and wrote the date, I paused again.

 

We accumulate dates that have personal meaning and broader social meaning.  Some are good – births and weddings – some less so – deaths and other endings.  It is hard to live a life and not accumulate dates, whether you acknowledge them or not.  A few can make a generation shudder, close their eyes and review the sights of the original moment when the date became etched.  Dates rarely carry meaning past a generation or two except as something obscure to memorize for a history test.

 

I’ve been to Gettysburg twice in my life so far.  The first time as a child whose father studied the Civil War era and passed on his interest in history.  The second I was there alone, as a stop on a trip to see family in Philadelphia.  I happened to come in to town on the same route that the Confederate soldiers had taken on a hot July day in 1863.  I was there on a hot August day almost 150 years later but the area retained an aura of the momentous occurrences of those 3 days in July that shaped our country.

 

I felt the need to try to express to those who never moved on from those quiet fields that we had learned something from their sacrifice.

 

Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

Gettysburg Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

This past summer we have been reminded that the hundredth anniversary of several significant moments of WWI have occurred.  This series of events that gave shape to a fair portion of our modern world, but is fusty and musty to most.  My thoughts turn to what we have learned from those events.

 

And the date that resonates for this generation, 9/11.  Although I overheard a father saying yesterday, with dismay, that his child was born in 2005 and had such different points of reference.   I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day.  If I know anyone who was somehow directly affected by those events on that blue sky, no cloud Tuesday, they haven’t mentioned it.  But it is a date that gives us all pause.

 

I ask my usual question, what have I learned?  How do you pause?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Now Resume Our Regular Life, Already in Progress

Do broadcast networks still say that?  It used to be when they had breaking news that they would cut into regular broadcasting to inform their viewership of that news and then tell us that they ‘now resume our regular programming, already in progress’.  I heard it often enough that the phrase echoes for me sometimes.

 

Last week I apparently tempted Fate when I wrote this piece.  (Although Fate may want to take a refresher course in reading comprehension – I was empathizing with people dealing with anything outside the norm of their regular lives.)  Fate is nothing if not capricious and possessing a strong sense of the absurd.  Not that anything truly awful happened to me, not last week anyway, but plenty of little and middle sized things were piling up to keep me just off balance from routine.  Mostly things at work.

 

Friday afternoon we looked out the windows of the office and noticed it was ominous, like deep twilight, and then the rain came along.  This has been such a regular occurrence in recent time that we got back to work.  This time my son called to ask me if it had rained heavily and I said it had.  He hadn’t experienced heavy rain where he had been, but was surprised to find trees and branches down all around our neighborhood and our power out.

 

I could see that the storm had been more intense as I drove north toward home after work.  More leaf and branch litter in the roads, and then I started to come across traffic lights without power.  (FYI treat them like a 4-way stop, please.)  And roads blocked by police cars.  Oh, my.  Now I could see big branches down and large wounds on trees.

 

I have 2 large cottonwoods in the front yard and 3 large maples in the back along with some smaller trees (plus 2 done-for ash trees).  I love my trees, but at moments like this, I cringe a bit.  But my son hadn’t mentioned any significant damage to our house and yard.

 

these will become firewood (taken through the screen because the mosquitoes are viscous)

these will become firewood (taken through the screen because the mosquitoes are viscous)

Our power was still out when I arrived, which is somewhat unusual.  We have been pretty lucky that it is rarely out more than an hour or two.  Thankfully I have a gas water heater and a gas stove… That has electronic ignition.  We can light the burners for the stove top, but no oven.  Don’t open the refrigerator too often and wait it out.  We did go out to eat, partly out of curiosity to see the damage.  And felt pangs of jealousy for all those who had power.

 

We played some Yahtzee by the light of lanterns and talked, then went to bed early as earlier generations often did before electricity.  Hoping that the power would be back over night.

 

The power wasn’t restored until around 5 am on Sunday.  Saturday became a struggle to maintain modern life.  My son’s phone had died, he needed to print something before work that evening, we could no longer access our internet because the back-up battery had died, the computer’s battery was running low and most ominous of all the fridge was warming up.

 

Have I mentioned before that my father was a professional Boy Scout for 33 years?  We figured out short term solutions to each problem, and it started to look like we were camping out in our own home.  My sister, bless her, has a generator that we got set up by Saturday evening and started the process to cool the fridge back down.  My son’s various finds like work lights and extension cords came in handy.

 

When the power came back on I had been in a deep sleep in a pitch black room.  Suddenly the small red glow from my bedside clock seemed like klieg lights and I had to chuckle at myself a bit how quickly I went from grateful to grumbly.

 

Electricity flows into our houses and we pay the monthly bills without thinking about how much more comfortable our lives are because of it.  My son kept trying to turn on light switches.  I kept forgetting to grab the lantern when I moved from room to room.  Thankfully it was a beautiful day in the high 70s, but when we got warm we wanted a fan…

 

I really needed a restful weekend so I could hit the reset button for this week at work.  At least I got a fairly normal Sunday.  I’ve had plenty of personal lessons in resilience, this was just the latest.  ‘Normal’ life resumed, for now.

 

(Disclaimer to Fate: I’m just telling a story here, I read an article on electricity in India, where it is not yet widespread or terribly reliable.  I get it, there is always someone doing better and always someone doing worse.)

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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