Sunday, February 24, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "W"

For the letter W I want to write a few words about WORK.

I've changed jobs recently at the college where I work. I've moved from a position of supportive coordination and data analysis for program evaluation to being the director of a different department - sitting in the hotseat as the Grand Poobah with supervisory authority over 65 people. YIKES.

However, rather than let it go to my head, I am reminded of some of the best bosses I have known over the years, those who have set fine examples of servant leadership. I've had a few arrogant idiots show me what NOT to do. But I've also had a few fine men and women as bosses in the past who taught me well. Hopefully I can model my own style of leadership in the fashion I've been shown by some of them as I approach this new responsibility.

I've had A LOT of different kinds of work over the years.

My very first job as an adult was as sign carrier outside a health spa in Phoenix. From there I moved on to phone solicitor. Later I worked in a factory making CB antennas. I was an office assistant. I was a dishwasher. I worked as a nanny. And then I began climbing the education mountain which led me to a whole different scope of jobs - juvenile probation officer, mental health worker, HIV/AIDS prevention educator, adjunct instructor of sociology, executive director of a non-profit, marketing director of a retirement community, and at least half a dozen other jobs with varying degrees of authority/responsibility.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what work means to what extent it defines me and to what extent it is merely the necessary activity I do to pay for the rest of my life.

I've learned so much about myself in the pursuing of work.

Every job I've every had has had elements that I disliked. All but one of my jobs have had things about them that I deeply appreciated (the cb factory was horrid with no redeeming value other than the paycheck, and that was scarecely worth the mind numbing drudgery. I THANKED the president of the company when he fired me for spending too much time reading the want ads looking for a new job when I was supposed to be at my post - it was a deplorable job that I truly despised.)

I've also thought a lot about how we pick what it is we do. I've thought about the role models I've had that have shown me the range of what is possible. I've thought about the mentors who have helped teach me key life lessons to help me along the way.

Work gives meaning and diection to my life in so many significant ways.

So many people spend their lives dreading Monday morning returns to the workplace. They live for vacation and count the days till retirment. But I choose to take a different view. I spend most my waking hours working. It just makes sense to me to embrace it rather than curse it. I love my vacations, but I also feel deeply grateful for the work I have had come my way. Work is not a necessary evil to me. It has been my joy, my opportunity, my gift, my blessing in so many ways.

I hope I can honorably meet the challenge of this new job I've taken on. I'm certain I'll make my share of mistakes. But when it is all said and done I hope I can bring vision and direction to the department in a way that will guide the team I will be working with so we can all bring our best gifts and abilities forward. I hope to set a tone where we can trust each other and have fun in doing what we do.

I know there will be days when I will hate my job. I will get exasperated by the endless meetings, all the required paperwork, the politics, and the inevitable dysfunctions of the bureaucracy. But through it all, I want to remember that I have a chance with this job to make a difference in some ways that I truly believe in, despite the chaos I will have to sometimes wrestle with. I don't know how long I'll do this job. I suspect it will be no more than a couple years at most. But whether I'm in in 30 days or ten long years...I aim to give it my best shot. And I really am gratefuly for the blessing of work.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "V"


There are so many things the word Valentine means to me.

The most obvious is the holiday of Valentine's Day celebrated each February 14. From Pagan rites to American greeting card associations, this day has created no small stir among mortals.

Here are a view links about all that..

History of Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day Crafts
Valentine's Day Recipies

St. Valentine
Cross Cultural notions of love & gifts

So there's plenty there to ponder about.

For me, Valentine's has some other signficance as well. It is the day on which I made two key crossing over decisions that have had and will continue to have considerable impact on my life. The first was when I was fifteen and chose to let some absolutely forgetable boy "go all the way" with me, (after a church dance, no less) more out of curiosity than affection or passion. I remember thinking at the time, "That's IT? THAT is what all the movies and songs and poetry are about?? You have GOT to be kidding me! THAT is what reputations are won and lost over? THAT is what people wait for years saving themselves for? THAT is what this whole big deal is? You must be mistaken, world, because that was really not all that impressive." Thus began a rather dark and jaded season of my life when I stumbled through my world believing life was not special and there wasn't much to look forward to. It wasn't until several years later in the arms of man I truly cared about that the earth moved and I finally discovered HOLY TOMATOES ....THIS is what they were talking about, THIS is what the songs and the books and the poems are about. THIS is absolutely, mindblowing INCREDIBLE." Yeah, love really did make all the difference. Go figure.

So for me, Valentine's day is very much a symbol of the importance of Love.

Then there was this Valentine's day. A day when I made a choice to commit to a job that will be a complete change in direction for me that could well shape the next several years of of my life. (more to come on that soon.) I'm still astonished that I did it. What was I thinking? I guess I was thinking I was ready for a big challenge. So now ready or not, here I come.

Then, last but not least, is my dear pal Patty Valentine who is currently serving as a Peace Corp Volunteer in Ghana. My friendship with her loops around the past 3 moves I've made and several for her as well. We've laughed together, cried together, and built a bond of trust that is one of my dearest treasures. I've trusted her with things I tell no one. I know to my bones that she totallly accepts me just the way I am.

I miss her terribly having her half way across the world. But I remain confident our friendship will remain strong through occassional letters and care packages. She'll be back in the states in another year so we can pick up where we left off on sharing one another's lives.

So Valentine's Day means plenty to me. What's it to you?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "U"

U is for UNITY; I write this from the heart. UNITY is a choice I make in my marriage.

Unity does not mean I agree with everything my husband may say or think or believe. It means I openly acknowledge my bond with him and am committed to keeping that alliance strong in spite of our differences.

UNITY was put to the test in my household recently.

I have been on pins and needles waiting to hear if I might get a job that I had applied for. I live in Oregon and the job is in Michigan. I am ready to make that move. However, over the course of the last several days it has become ever more clear that my beloved husband is not. Up until now he was hedging on expressing his reservations about it. I guess he was hoping I simply would not get the job, thus avoiding him being in the hotseat of putting the kabosh on my dream. But as the preliminary interview went very well and I was ready to start showing our house to potential buyers, the jig was up and the cat out of the bag.

While he too appreciates the positives a move back to the Midwest could bring us, and would welcome the chance to be closer to family there, he is not ready to give up his job here to make that happen.

So we have very DIFFERENT ideas of what is important at this season of our lives. We have very DIFFERENT priorities of what matters most. There is no way to compromise on this. Either we live here and I am disappionted or we live there and he is disappointed or we live apart and we are both unhappy. Someone has to give. In this case, that will be me.

I have cried more tears than I can count about this. I really thought our agreement was that once he hit 62 and could take social security I would have the freedom to take any job I wanted - where ever that might lead. I knew it would mean some sacrifices. But I thought he would support the chance for me to find a career move that was right for me since I'll be working another 15 years. I've done cross country moves multiple times for him and made sacrifices every time. I thought this time it was my turn to lead us, and that I could lead us back to where our sons and grandchildren are. I really believed we were on the same page with this choice.

Apparently once we got away from the talking stage to the putting things in boxes and calling movers for estimates stage he had second thoughts (and third and fouth and fifth.) Bottom line - he would go if I was insistent, if I demanded, if I said I would be miserable if we stayed here. But he would not be happy about it. Sure, I could get my way. But that would simply open up a wound of another sort, one I am not willing to breach. So, although I've done my best to convince him why I believe it really would be best for ALL of our family - including him - to take this leap of faith and trust that we would land on our feet once we got back there, I will not throw a fit or issue ultimatums. Sadly, right now it seems he just can't get past his fears and reservations about the unknown factors. That frustrates me beyond words. Still, even if I'm convinced we are missing out on something we both would really value, I cannot, will not ask him to do it if he does not believe it is the right thing.

I feel so much sorrow and anguish over this. But what I do NOT feel is a wedge between me and him. I choose not to.

I adore this man I am married to. I honor him for his integrity, his work ethic, his righteousness. I love his quirky sense of humor and so appreciate the way he makes me groan & laugh with his kooky ways. I am inspired by his sense of adventure and ability to play...something I can definitely learn from when I am taking life oh-so-seriously. I am humbled by his commitment to service and kindness to others. I am grateful for how handy he is around the house and truly appreciate his willingness to take part in projects big and small to make our home better. Besides that, just in the day-to-day maintenance stuff he's more than willing to do his share of the cooking and cleaning and all that domestic stuff that otherwise could be overwhelming if I felt it was all mine to do. I love his passion for his music, his reliability and strength. He is one of the most decent human beings I know. He gives me room to be who I am in so many ways. Granted, in this one specific instance it does feel like he is holding me back and limiting my opportunity for growth. But in countless dozens of other ways that only the two of us know, he has given me the nurturing to flourish into the woman I am today. He truly has been my dearest friend for the past 26 years. I choose him, where ever that may leave me.

Do I wish he was supportive of this move? You betcha! Am I sad as sad can be that it will not work out as I had planned? Absolutely. But I refuse to allow this difference to become a seed of bitterness to tarnish the bond we have for each other.

Unity does not mean we have to be a reflection of each other. Unity means that we make the deliberate choice to honor and support and uphold each other in love.

I choose unity. Even when it is really, really hard. Even when my heart is breaking into a dozen splintered pieces, I choose love.

So often I hear people say things like "I can't help the way I feel."

I don't buy it. I say we CAN choose to overcome our passions. We can choose honor and love in circumstances when the world says we are justified to be angry, indignant, outraged. I feel pain. I feel sorrow. But I choose not to turn it to anger. I choose love.

When I need to be reminded of this, I can turn to the words of Gordon B. Hinkley whose recent talk "Slow to Anger" can be read here. Such powerful words! Tomorrow is Gordon Hinkley's funeral. He will be deeply missed. May his memory be eternal. And may I continually strive to remember his words.