Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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A Letter to Mother Nature’s Administrative Assistant

To Whom it May Concern;

This letter is written to address a scheduling oversight on your part.

I understand that you are responsible for Mother Nature’s scheduling calendar and I can only imagine how hectic a job that is. She is one seriously busy lady. Your job must be difficult enough when things go smoothly, but as we all know, things in nature rarely go smoothly so on top of your regular duties, you must have a lot of rescheduling to do.

With all of those things going on, it is easy to understand how some things slip through the cracks. One of the things that appears to have slipped through those cracks is the arrival of spring in eastern Canada. I hope it’s not being presumptuous, but I have attached a couple of photos to show you what I mean.

Because I know how busy you and Mother Nature must be, I have tried to be patient. While others around me have grumbled and complained these last few weeks, I put on a cheery smile and tried to reassure them all that things would soon change, that pleasant weather was surely just around the corner.

But I can’t do that any more. When I tried it a yesterday at work, several of them banned together and locked me in the cleaning supply closet. I was there for a few hours until the cleaning lady came to put her supplies away. Even though she was quite surprised to see someone in among the brooms and mops, she was obviously also quite frustrated with my Pollyanna attitude because as soon as she saw that it was me in there, she hurried to close the door and lock me in again. Thankfully I shot my foot out in time before the door latched and I was free. (Don’t worry: It will only be in a cast for four weeks.)

Anyway, as you can see, things have gotten rather…uncomfortable…here. While at the hospital, I tried to figure out what could have happened. After all, spring was due to be here on March 20th. That’s four whole weeks ago. Considering that a season is only three months long, that means it’s already one-third over and it’s not even here yet.

They had the weather channel on the TV in the hospital emergency room and you would not believe how many different weather stories they covered in the eight hours I was there! How silly of me! You of all people would know how many stories there are! Please, pardon me…

At any rate, as I watched the stories, I couldn’t help but think again how busy you must be, which made me think about how busy I was at my job. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to do something before I got thrown into the cleaning closet. At that moment, I thought, “Why, I do believe I’ve figured out what has happened to the weather! It fell through the cracks!”

And that’s when I thought I should write you this letter. From one office worker to another – to give you a little reminder before anybody comes and throws you into a cleaning closet.

On that note, if you wouldn’t mind popping into Mother Nature’s calendar and scheduling “Arrival of Spring in Eastern Canada” for as soon as possible, I would very much appreciate it. It would sure be lovely to have some pretty flowers to look out at while I’m laid up at home the next few weeks.

Yours with appreciation,

She who wishes to avoid being locked in cleaning supply closets

PS: If you can’t manage to schedule the whole of eastern Canada right away, could you at least try to squeeze in the Ottawa valley? Thanks much!


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Commitment issues, anyone?

Today’s blog assignment is about being inspired by social media. I was skeptical cuz that seemed like a bit of an oxymoron. But that might just be because my breakup with Facebook is still raw. 😉 Either way, I wasn’t going to let that get the best of me!

In the email, they gave a few tweets to pick from. The first one…the verrrrrry first one made me laugh. Out loud. To myself.

 

Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  We have a winner!

I just read a few of the comments and for a lot of people it seems this tweet is mostly about the tattoo part. And, you know, maybe it is. After all, I don’t know this Abby Heugel gal. But to me it’s about making a decision and sticking with it – reallllllllllllllllllllllly committing. And, boy, does that resonate with me!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total commitment-phobe. I’ve committed to lots of things – like potty training, personal hygiene and chocolate. Just to name a few. But man oh man…there are times when I cannot make a decision to save myself.

Come to dinner with me sometime! I’ll change my mind about what I’m going to order about five times before I actually commit to it. And even then, there’s no guarantee that I won’t ask the server if I can change my mind before she heads back to place the orders. True story. And if you’ve ever eaten out with me, you likely know that. (Feel free to comment to that effect.) If it hasn’t happened yet, don’t feel slighted – it will come.

I remember one time, in fact, when I was a kid and I was in Aylward’s Mini Mart to get a chocolate bar. I must have been maybe in my early teens, or maybe a tween (even though we weren’t called tweens back then…). I had already been thinking about what kind of bar I wanted before it was my turn. As I got closer and closer to the counter, the panic started to mount. “Which one do I want?!?!?!?! Which one???!!! Oh my….WHICH ONE!!!!!”

Then it was my turn. I still didn’t know. I picked something. I’m sure I ate it. But I don’t know what it was. And I don’t know if it was what I really wanted. But it was my turn and I had to choose. Sadly, that’s not the only time I’ve had the “Which chocolate bar do I want” conundrum. I’ve often wondered, “Why can’t there just be two options? Like plain chocolate or chocolate with nuts.” It would be easy then. The question would just be, “Am I in the mood for nuts or not?” Voilà!

Yeah…not so fast, Lucy. I know it wouldn’t be as easy as all that. What if I picked plain, but I really did want nuts? Nuts and chocolate are soooo good! But what if I picked nuts, and it turned out I only wanted the silky smoothness of melting chocolate on my tongue? WILL IT EVER END?!?!?!?!?

No…it will not. So, I feel kinda kindred to Abby. Not only do I not want a tattoo, I absolutely, unequivocally should not get one.


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So, what do you think?

As you know I’m doing one of the online blog courses WordPress has. My assignment for today is two-fold: first, I’m to write about where I write and then to ask you for suggestions of things to write about. I know…that’s not exactly a great hook, is it? And I get it… that wouldn’t likely make me want to read this post! So I’m intentionally keeping it short. At the very least, please skip to the last paragraph and leave some of your ideas in the comments. 🙂

I suppose the purpose of the first part is to get me thinking about the physical aspects of writing. Maybe so that I am more intentional about where and when I write, which likely then impacts what and how I write. Interestingly, I read the assignment itself yesterday and have been thinking about it since then. It motivated me to clean off the pile of papers and crafting stuff on the desk in my den so that, going forward, I can do my writing in there, depending on the weather. Laptops are handy that way!

Normally, I write where I’m currently writing: on my couch, in front of the TV, with a cozy blanket, and the soft light of a lamp. Sometimes it’s music instead of TV, but usually it’s TV. (I’m a creature of habit.) Nothing that I need to pay particular attention to…it’s just kind of there. Right now I’m watching (mostly listening to) an episode of Deep Space 9.

I thought of going to my newly tidied desk in the den, but took a pass. It looks out to the parking lot in front of my building. That sounds worse than it is. On a sunny day it’s still quite nice. The afternoon sun comes in that way and it can be quite cheery. Today, though, we’re having freezing rain. And, I gotta be honest, watching the ice build up on my car was not fun earlier when I was tidying up and it will be less fun now. Hmmm…that reminds me. I may need to go out and clean some of it off so that it doesn’t take me an hour tomorrow morning because it’s going to continue all night. And into tomorrow morning. Good times!

But I digress!

That covers the where I write bit. Next up is…what ideas for topics do you guys have? This whole course is about inspiration so now’s the chance for you guys to inspire me!


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Fake it till you make it!

Sometime in about my early 20s this became my go-to phrase, my mantra even. I don’t remember when I first used it, but I used it a lot. And I still use it to this day.

In fact, I lived it even before I knew it as a phrase.

I was a super shy teenager. Up to about grade 6, I think I was pretty comfortable socially, but when I went into grade 7, I was painfully shy. In the town I grew up in, we had a primary school (grades K-2), elementary school (grades 3-6), and then high school (grade 7-12). So grade 7 meant a new school – the big school, with the big kids.

I felt completely lost and out of place. In fact, I don’t recall having any friends in grade 7. My previous best friend had gotten cool over the summer and she was with a different group. I was completely out of my element. I’m sure I must have had at least a couple of casual friends, but I didn’t have a social group and didn’t have a bestie. I was extremely self-conscious, too. Ahhhhh…adolescence!!!!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Somewhere late in grade 9 or early grade 10, a couple of girls befriended me and started asking me to do things with them. When it was just hanging out at their houses, I was OK. But there were other social things (like going to dances or the local arcade/hangouts) that were completely out of my comfort zone – especially if I was meeting them there, as opposed to meeting at their house and going there together.

One night, my dad dropped me off at one of the hangouts where I would be meeting Stephanie and Shirley. I stood outside a while, walking back and forth along the street, trying to get up the nerve to go in – by myself! – before finally giving up and walking the 45 minutes home. I just could not make myself open that door. I don’t remember the excuse I made up when Shirley and Stephanie asked what happened, but I definitely did not admit that I had chickened out.

Anyway, at some point, I decided something had to change, and I was going to have to do some serious pretending in order to get me there. Without realizing it, I was faking it, hoping that eventually I’d be more comfortable in those large-group social situations. And I did. It worked.

Well, over 30 years later, I will admit that I haven’t fully gotten there. I still prefer more intimate social events. But when I have to go to larger events, I can handle it better than my 15-year-old self initially could. Plus, I now know that at least part of my social reticence is because I’m an introvert and that’s OK. I’m comfortable doing stuff on my own and when it comes to social situations, I know that I don’t always have to say yes. Oh, the perks of getting older!

Gradually, I applied the mantra to many more things, personally and professionally. It has truly become something I live by. Sometimes I use it in situations where there are things I don’t particularly want to do, but are important to someone I care about. Sometimes it’s a professional situation where I need to portray a level of confidence that I don’t necessarily feel.

I also struggle with depression and anxiety and sometimes making it through the day involves a lot of faking it. In that regard, it can actually be a life-saver to keep from spiralling.

And frequently, I use it as part of advice I give to others who’ve come to me for input on something. And I am only able to offer it as advice because it has helped me so much over the years.

Now…as much as I have found these words helpful, that doesn’t mean I think should be applied in every situation. You don’t want to have your entire life be “faked”.

I only apply it when it’s something really important to me (or to someone I care about) and something I really do want or need to do. I also only suggest it to someone else in similar situations.

For example, going back to when I was a teenager, I really, really wanted to get out of my shell. I knew that sitting at home, waiting to all of a sudden get over my shyness and self-consciousness was not going to happen. I was going to have to just do it – act as thought I was already confident and comfortable with the social situation – if I was ever going to get any sort of genuine level of comfort with it. And I was right.

For me, because all the times I fake it are important, in some way or another, the desire is genuine, so I don’t feel like I’m being fake, even if the emotion at the time isn’t really genuine.

Essentially, it’s a matter of finding the balance of faking it…without being fake.


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Choices

“Are you freaking kidding me?!” Cynthia grumbled loudly as her coffee cup slipped out of her hand and its contents spilled down the front of her left leg. It couldn’t have happened on the way to the car as she left the house. No, no. It had to happen on the steps up to the main entrance of the stately corporate building. The very busy main steps.

She knew when she had gotten out of the car in the parking lot that she shouldn’t have chanced it. Hauling her weekender-sized purse, laptop case and shoe bag were more than enough. Fumbling to take out her building pass had been the straw that tipped the carefully balanced bundles and she lost her grip on the cup. Which had no lid. Because she had been running late as she left the house and ignored the little voice that said, “Cynthia…you need the lid. It will spill.” Even as she had worked to silence it, it eked out an ominous, “OK…don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”

She was quite familiar with that little voice and its warnings. She knew all too well from experience that when she didn’t listen to it, she always wished she had. But she had told herself, as she threw her bags in the passenger side and sank into the driver’s seat, that her bodiless friend was over-reacting today. It would be fine. She’d finish the coffee in the car and all would be well. Besides, she had a huge meeting first thing this morning and if she lost any more time, she’d be late. And this was one meeting for which she could not be late.

However, she hadn’t been able to finish the coffee on the drive in to work and there was no way she could get through the meeting without her complete first dose of caffeine. She’d just need to be careful as she balanced her bags and the cup, that’s all. So, once she had locked the car and put her keys in her purse, she slipped her right forearm through the shoe bag handle and slung the long straps of her purse up over her left shoulder. She took her coffee cup in her left hand and carried the laptop case in her right. Everything was going really well until…well, until it wasn’t.

As she began to ascend the steps, she let her purse slide gently down her left arm, being careful not to tip the cup over, so she could get her pass out for building security. She unfurled the fingers of her right hand from around the laptop case handle and tried to wiggle them into the pouch on the outside of her purse where she kept her pass. She almost had it, too. But she was paying so much attention to not spilling the coffee that she missed a step and stumbled. Only a little. But enough.

The shoe bag slipped. The laptop case slipped. Then it all seemed to slip. In fact, as she watched the ebony liquid trace its way down her beautiful, ecru silk pencil skirt, she thought she could see her future – her division’s future – slip away with it. She looked down at her watch. It confirmed what she already knew: There was no time to go home and change.

For a moment she thought of just dropping everything, literally and metaphorically, and skipping out on the meeting. How on earth could they take her seriously looking like this? But too many people were counting on her.

Two months ago, John Hollingsworth, the vice-president of human resources, called to meet with her. He had been her first manager when she started with the company 15 years ago and they had stayed in touch. They met a few times a year, for coffees or quick lunches, and he had become a sort of unofficial mentor to her. She wasn’t surprised, then, when he called to say he wanted to see her. But the tone of his voice said there was something afoot besides coffee or lunch. She didn’t even need that little voice to help her figure that one out.

Sure enough, when she got to his office, it was the same spiel other managers had told her they had gotten: unstable economy, need to find efficiencies, and the dreaded “We’ll need to let some people go.” In fact, Cynthia’s whole division was going to be downsized. When she quizzed John further, he clarified that the vast majority of her 114 employees would be let go and the remainder would be absorbed into other areas. Her job would be safe, though; she would take over as director of Andrea Kelly’s division as Andrea would be retiring soon.

Cynthia had been floored. Names and faces floated before her eyes. Stories of kindergarten graduations and weddings and vacations streamed through her memory. She couldn’t just let them go.

She spent some more time with John to find out exactly what the concerns were and begged him to give her two months to come up with another solution, to find her own efficiencies, and try to save at least some of the people she would otherwise have to let go.

She and her management team had spent a lot of late nights working on this and today was the day – win, lose or draw, it would all come down to this meeting.

Sighing, she readjusted her bags and slowly continued the rest of the way up the steps and through security.

She thought of which executives were most likely to be in the meeting this morning. She knew John would be there. He was skeptical, but also seemed like he hoped she’d be able to do it. There were a couple of others who might also quickly see the benefits of what she was going to propose – benefits to the employees, but also for the company. But as the other faces floated through her mind, she started to feel that temptation to flee again.

There were a couple in particular who always managed somehow to make her feel like she was off her game. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but somehow whenever they came around and asked questions she felt like she was a novice and completely incompetent, rather than the strong, professional, qualified woman she otherwise knew herself to be.

She had worked years of long, hard hours to get where she was and still maintain her integrity. She had been hired through a program within the company to hire recent university graduates. There were several other graduates hired with Cynthia that year. Some had burned out within the first five years and some had zoomed past her on the corporate ladder. But most of those, she knew, had sold either themselves or those around them out in order to obtain their prestigious positions. To be honest, there was a time when she had felt herself heading that way, too, but she had caught herself in time.

It was during her first opportunity to work on a major project. There were, of course, tight deadlines with some critical deliverables. In her inexperience, she had missed one of them. She was terrified she would lose her job. Her parents constantly told their friends and family how proud they were of her and she had no idea how she’d ever be able to tell them she had gotten fired.

The night before she was to provide an explanation for what had happened, Cynthia had dinner with Brian, one of the graduates she had been hired with. He suggested that she should throw the blame onto one of the two student interns who were also working on the project with her. He made it sound very appealing: They were interns and students. They had plenty of time to get experience before they graduated. Plus they weren’t even getting paid, so they wouldn’t really lose anything. On top of that, Cynthia had learned her lesson and it wouldn’t happen again, so there’d be nothing really bad that would happen to anyone.

Cynthia didn’t sleep much that night. No matter how much she tried to bring herself around to Brian’s way of thinking, she couldn’t do it. Though she was terrified of what would happen, she was completely on the same side as her little voice the next morning when she accepted full responsibility for having missed the milestone and presented a plan to make up for it so that the entire project could stay on track.

She knew then that her integrity could not be bought or sold. She saw Brian less and less and even when she saw him and others like him promoted over her time and time again, she consoled herself with the fact that she could sleep at night and never had to worry about answering for her actions. She knew she wouldn’t make the right decisions all the time, but she also knew that whatever decisions she did make were for the right reasons and she could defend them.

While the climb up the ladder had been slower for Cynthia, it had also been (unbeknownst to her) a sturdier climb. She had annoyed a lot of people with her continued commitment to integrity, but she had also gained a lot of allies. And everybody, including those who didn’t particularly like her, knew she was committed to the company and they respected her for it.

That respect, built over the years, was the reason that John had given Cynthia those two extra months and that the other senior executives had agreed to meet with her. They were certain that whatever she would say would be well-researched and that she’d be able to substantiate anything she would propose. They knew that while she was very committed to and respected by her management team and employees, she was also very committed to the company. She was able to see and understand the complete picture.

Of course, Cynthia didn’t know any of that when the elevator bell rang and the door opened. She stepped off and looked towards the executive boardroom. She could see them all in there through the wall of glass. Impeccable Gucci, Armani and Prada suits sat around the highly polished conference table…everybody in there looked executive – from well-coiffed top to luxe leather bottoms. And not a coffee stain to be seen.

She  looked down again at her skirt and sighed.

Then she quickly glanced back toward the mirrored reflection of the closed elevator doors. She didn’t see her face or even her stained skirt. She saw the faces of the people who depended on her, the people who had encouraged her and toiled endlessly beside her the past two months. She saw the many employees who had told her that regardless of what happened, they would know she had done her best for them and would appreciate the effort that she had made to save their jobs.

Turning away from the elevator, she shook off the doubt. By the time she got to the conference room, she had forgotten about the coffee stain. With a bright and confident “Good morning, everybody!” she opened the door and entered the room.


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I left Facebook…and I survived!

I just wrote a big, long post about why I left Facebook and I don’t think I’m going to publish it. In a sentence, I left it because of all the negative, hatey stuff on there. And about 1500 words into the post, I realized that if I left one site because of all the heavy, negative stuff, why would I want to bring it to another site? Not to say that heavy topics aren’t sometimes necessary, but let’s not start out with my first post on here in about 2 years being that way!

Anyway, here I am, one week after having submitted my delete request and I’ve survived!

Note that I said delete rather than deactivate because the latter leaves your account there, dormant, but waiting for you to come back, almost taunting you: “You can’t really break up with me…c’mon. Be serious… you want me. You know you do. Why fight it? We’re good together…most of the time. Just enter your email address and password. Yes, that’s it. Perfect… ” And, well, I’m weak so if I only opted to deactivate my account, chances are I’d go back. Somehow I’d convince myself that the racists/bigots would have had an epiphany or reached enlightenment or some such and so my reason for leaving would no longer exist. (Hey…don’t judge! I’m sure you’ve convinced yourself of some pretty crazy stuff before, too. Well, maybe not THAT crazy, but still… a little empathy here, OK? 🙂 ) So… I brought out the big guns and went for el deleto.

Even now, having selected to delete my account, I technically could go back. Because they DO. NOT. WANT. YOU. TO. LEAVE. It’s set up so that if you log in within two weeks after having sent the request to delete your account, they, instead, delete the delete request and everything’s up and running like normal. So, technically, my account is still sitting there right now, waiting for me to come back. But the break up is still fresh enough that I remember the dirty socks on the floor and the towels that can never seem to make it to the hamper, so no thanks, FB dude…I ain’t comin’ back.

It’s been a nice week without it, actually. Well, to be honest, I was only on there during the weekends for the most part, and even then I was just popping off and on – never for hours at a time. (I don’t even know what you could do on there for that long.) A year or so ago, I had started intentionally reducing the amount of times I’d log in, so that helped pave the way for the final step, too. Yippeeee!

And, happily, one of my friends (before I left FB) asked if I’d be doing anything more with my blog. The light went on and I thought, “Of course!” That was a great inspiration to get back on here. Thanks, Stephanie!

So, nothing heavy today! Just a celebration – welcoming myself back to WordPress! Imaginary confetti is floating all over the place! (There’s probably a way to put some sort of confetti background in here, but I’m clueless as to how to do it, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Sorry!) This is a much more digestible length than that original 1500-word behemoth, too, don’tcha think? (You’re welcome!)

PS: Welcome back, or simply Welcome, to you, too!!!


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Does character matter any more?

Somewhere in the last week or so I was half-listening to or watching a show – either on TV or on the radio. (That will tell you how much attention I was paying to it – not only do I not remember the show, I don’t even remember the medium.) Anyway, somewhere in there I heard someone refer to character as being old-fashioned.

That really struck me. My first reaction was, “What? What’s he talking about???” And then I thought, “Huh…he might have a point.” And I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since.

A person’s character used to be really important, both to himself and to those around him. It was almost a currency of its own. Business deals didn’t always require reams of legal paper – a handshake or spoken commitment between two people of “strong character” was as binding or more than signatures on said legal papers. Even if those legal papers were still involved, they were more of a technicality; the handshake or verbal agreement was the “true” contract.

But does having a strong character matter any more? Is it something that really has become old-fashioned, and not in that trendy “retro” way? I know it matters for some people. I’ve met them. But it seems to be the exception more than the rule these days. I mean, when’s the last time you thought about your own character? Or when’s the last time you thought about or talked about someone else’s character? (Just to be clear, we’re not talking about LARP here… 😉 )

For that matter…do we even know what character is?

Google says it is “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Educationplanner.org says: “Your character is the sum of all the qualities that make you who you are: your values, your thoughts, your words, your actions.”

There are a plethora of other definitions you could find, too. We could spend days going into it indepth – even to further define things like “mental and moral qualities”. But this is enough to at least get us on the same page, or close to the same page. Certainly enough for the purposes of this post, which is to just get us thinking about it.

Essentially, I think, our character is the guts of who we really are. It’s an internal thing that drives a lot of how we interact with the world and people around us. It has nothing to do with the things we have, our income bracket, or our physical attributes. It’s not what spurs the decision to swipe left or right on Tinder. It might take a while to truly understand someone’s character. Hmmm… it might take a while to even understand our own character – what it currently is as well as what we want it to be.

So again, does it matter any more? There are all kinds of plans out there to help us:

  • get more money
  • get in shape
  • lose weight
  • find the person of our dreams.

But there aren’t very many dedicated to helping us develop our character. I even found one that is dedicated to helping you develop your “character habits” – what habits to get into that will bring you success, not for the sake of having a good character, but to help you get more stuff. Kind of like faking a good character. Seems to miss the point. But, to each their own.

Our character is the foundation of who we are as individuals, and individuals are the foundation of families, communities, societies, countries, etc. If that’s the case, then for families, communities, et al to have strong foundations, they need strong individuals. For individuals to be strong, they need strong characters. For us to have strong characters, we should at least know what that is and what kind of character we want to have. Then we need to know what to do in order to develop that type of character.

I’m not saying that trying to have more financial and professional success is a bad thing. Nor is striving for physical goals. I’m just wondering if maybe we shouldn’t also start thinking at least a little bit more about our character than we currently do.

What do you think?