What Goes Around, Comes Around

We attended a softball parent meeting/pot luck dinner last night at the high school. Every year before the season starts, they hold these mandatory meetings so that the coaches can touch base with the parents about what to expect during the softball season. This year was the first time a pot luck dinner has been incorporated into the meeting.

As much as I sometimes dread going to such things, this was actually pretty enjoyable. Through all the years that Kacey has played softball within the community and on her high school team, we’ve developed quite a few friendships and acquaintances. The pot luck dinner provided a chance to reconnect with people we haven’t seen much of over the long winter.

When we arrived, we immediately found a group of parents with whom we’ve formed real and close friendships. These are the parents of the girls who have played on teams with Kacey since their earliest years in the sport. We all have girls who have played on the same summer team for the past several years. We’ll be enjoying one last summer with these folks before Kacey goes off to college and I’m looking forward to warm summer weekends, enjoying their company on the sidelines of a ball field.

As  we talked, and then moved to find tables at which to sit and eat, I looked around the school cafeteria and saw other clusters of parents who were  talking, laughing and catching up with one another as we were doing.

And then I noticed the lone woman. She sat all by herself at a table farthest from the main group of parents and softball players. Her back was set straight and her mouth formed a tight line. Her eyes stared ahead defiantly. She looked like an outcast, maybe because she actually was.

This woman was not a stranger to me, as she likely wasn’t to many others in the room. She is the wife of a man who coached Kacey’s team several years ago. I won’t bore you with the details, but this woman and her husband were not very nice people. They were selfish and their actions were only in the interest of promoting their own daughter, whether her athletic abilities warranted it or not. They had no idea of the meaning of sportsmanship. This couple was actively involved in our community athletic association for several years, and they used their positions to their own advantage instead of in the best interests of the program or the participants.

This woman and her husband were not nice people and they were not fair. And unfortunately for their daughter, children learn what they live. The daughter is one of those girls who none of the other girls really trusts. She became a mean girl, a very mean girl. This family burned many bridges over the years, but it took some time. For a few years after we cut our ties with them, I would still see this woman in the softball circles. She hadn’t changed, and yet there always seemed to be someone who had as yet failed to see her selfishness and arrogance. I guess people are, for the most part, forgiving. But people can only take so much before they cut their losses and walk away from a toxic relationship. In a room of about 200 people, this woman was left completely and utterly alone.

My family has been on the receiving end of this woman’s mean-spirited behavior. My daughter has been subjected to her daughter’s mean-spirited behavior. When Kacey was elected one of the captains of the softball team, this girl went out of her way to tell her and the other captains that they had not earned those honors, that no one actually liked them. (Funny, because the captains were elected by their peers.)

As we sat through the dinner and listened to the head coach’s spiel, I couldn’t keep my eyes from wandering over to this woman sitting all alone throughout the entire dinner and meeting. I have no reason to feel sorry for her, but so help me, I did. After all the mean-spirited and selfish behavior she has displayed towards us and towards many others whom we care about, I still felt sorry for her. She has never grown up.

I thought about seeking her out after the coach was done speaking, but I was stopped by an old school friend and by the time we finished talking, the woman was gone. I might have reached out to her had I had the chance, but I didn’t. And I doubt it would have made any difference in her mind whatsoever. The whole thing really shouldn’t bother me so much, but obviously it does. I am still thinking about her tonight.

How sad it must be to be her.

Lightening the Mood

I’m working on another Power Point presentation at work – another baby step toward something that could turn the business back in the right direction. It’s really a big maybe, but I’ll do whatever they ask me at this point.

I haven’t been asked to present this one to the client – yet. But I’m telling myself to plan on it, just in case. Funny how much less anxiety I feel about it now. Being able to prepare more than an hour ahead of time makes a big difference. I’m actually hoping I get the chance.  Strange. All it took was a few people telling me that I sound confident and professional when I speak and suddenly I believe I am capable. I’m such a big baby sometimes.

I had a chiropractor appointment after work today. Mark came along, since he had some errands to run. And since our chiropractor visits tend to be not only therapeutic, but a bit social as well, he came into the room with me when I was called back. While we waited for Dave, (Dr. Dave to those who aren’t on such a friendly basis) I noticed a poster hanging on the wall that looked similar to this one.

Now, you may or may not have noticed this, but there is an element of goofball in my personality. Mark, on the other hand, tends to be a little bit more sober… somber, if you will… rather stick-in-the-muddish. So I thought I’d try to make him laugh. He watched me walk over to the poster and pretend to study it for a moment. Then I looked over at him. looked him in the eye very seriously, and proceeded to poke my finger at the model’s butt.

Mark couldn’t help himself. He broke out in a fit of laughter, trying desperately to keep it quiet. Then I proceeded to model the poses displayed on the poster, complete with my hands splayed out to the side. This time, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself too. We were laughing so much that Caroline, the receptionist came in to see what all the fun was about.

I think I surprised even Mark. I think he thought I’d become permanently crabby. Things have been too serious at work. I needed to lighten up.

Mission accomplished.

Oh and you’ve probably seen this already, but it makes me smile. I could watch this over and over:

Attack of the Boxelder Bugs

I’ll bet my cubicle neighbors, if they ever happen to overhear my phone conversations with my husband, really wonder about me. Today, they’d have heard from my side of the wall:

Hello?

Okay…

Why do I need to take pictures of the kitchen sink?*

Okay. Whatever.

Well, I need you to do something about the Boxelder bugs.

Whadda ya mean “Do what?” I mean figure out how to kill them!

I don’t know. Look it up on the internet!

Okay, bye.

Yes, I needed my husband to commit a major act of insecticide for me. In a cruel twist of fate, while there is still snow on the ground… while it is still too cold for grass to turn green or tulips to sprout… while I am still leaving for work in the morning wearing a winter jacket and gloves… somehow, it is not too cold for Boxelder bugs. They are apparently making themselves quite comfortable in the landscaping rock in front of the house. And they have figured out how to come in the house through my family room windows when the sun goes down.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I do not do bugs. Especially not in my house. And I have seen more Boxelder bugs inside my house lately than you can shake a stick at. Gross! They are not welcome here. At all.

Eeew! Go AWAY!

I knew Mark would rise to the challenge. He’s handy like that. Yes, he used chemicals. This was not a “green” endeavor.

Lookit' him go!

Stopping to observe the effects of his Boxelder death ray

"Die, you little suckers! Die!

"Anyone who tries to escape shall meet their death by broom!"

Crazy Bug Man saves the day!

When the carnage was complete, he came inside to report back to me. With his chest all puffed out, he announced proudly, “There’s been lots o’ killin’ today, girl.  I think I got ‘em all.”

Then he went to look out the window to inspect his handiwork. “Look at all those little corpses,” he stated, clearly in awe of himself.

There’s been no sign of the disgusting little creatures inside the house ever since.

My hero!

*And yes, I did take pictures of the kitchen sink or more accurately, the scratches in the kitchen sink. The manufacturer says this shouldn’t happen. They’ll send us a new one because it’s still under warranty. But they want photographic evidence of the scratches first.

Come on! You're cast iron. You're supposed to be tougher than that!

**Many insects were harmed during the making of this post. And I for one, am celebrating!

Flood Watch

This time of year, after a winter that brought such heavy and frequent snows, the news turns to flooding.  My home is nowhere near the floodplain, but it’s not a long drive to see places along the Mississippi River that could soon be under water.

Mark and I took a ride into St. Paul on Sunday afternoon to see the river from various places, first looking down from Indian Mounds Park, then taking a ride into downtown where we studied the river from the Wabasha Street bridge. It was a beautiful, sunny day and there were many others who had come to see the rising river just as we did. As the temperatures continue to rise this week, it is likely the river will do the same.

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I just need to get this off my chest and then we can move on…

I hate to write “whiney” but it seems like I can’t write anything until I get this off my chest. I’ve been in such a funk I can hardly stand myself. When I wake up in the morning and realize I’m still in it, all I want to do is shut everything off and go back to sleep.

I’m letting things weigh me down. Work is the biggest culprit. The weather probably comes in a close second.

Funny thing is, while I’m at work, I’m able to put myself in a positive and productive frame of mind. Our business has been on a roller coaster for the past few years. People in the office fall into two camps. They believe either that it’s just a matter of time before their job is on the chopping block or that we have the ability to pull together and turn things around. I’ve always taken the more positive outlook. I just can’t sit at my desk every day, thinking I’m working for nothing. The only way I can keep doing it every day is to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. So while I’m at work, I stay productive. I stay creative. And it is fulfilling.

I’ve been asked a million times why I sit around and wait to see what’s going to happen with my company. Why don’t I just go out and find something else? Well, first of all, this job fits me like a glove. I have never in my life felt so comfortable and competent in a job. I have never felt so valued. I have never before enjoyed my coworkers so much that I even wanted to spend time with them outside the office. That’s the first thing. It’s hard to think about walking away from that when there’s a chance that I might not have to. The second thing is, I don’t have the credentials to back up what I do. I can list my position and experience on a resume, and it might look pretty good. But without the degree to back it up, I’m always going to fall short next to the person who has the credentials for the job.

So, while the act of going to work and working fuels me, when I get home, I can’t seem to shut off all the worry and speculation that circles around me while I’m trying to maintain that positive state of mind. Mark and I barely talk when I come home sometimes, because my mind is filled with nothing but work. He tries to talk to me about it and while it momentarily helps to get some of it off my chest, in the end it only seems to emphasize the worry.

All I’ve wanted to do lately is sleep. Aside from bowling, I’ve focused on nothing outside of work. After work, in the evenings, I fall asleep in front of the television, or I fall asleep with a book, or I simply go to bed by 8:00 and fall asleep. In the past week, I haven’t cooked a real meal, or gone shopping. I haven’t gone outside for a walk or made a phone call to a friend, to my mom, or to my sister just to talk. I’ve had a hard time wanting to write because I’m always reluctant to write about feeling down, and that is all I’ve felt lately, save for a few occasions. This pattern is not good for me and as much as I’ve pretended it’s no big deal, it is a big deal.

It’s funny the little things that make me realize what a bad pattern I’ve been in. Yesterday morning, I had to grocery shop. The cupboards were bare. (My poor kids!) I knew it would be a big shopping day and I made Mark go with me. Before we left, I actually looked up some new recipes online and made somewhat of a menu plan, which I rarely do. I chose a couple of Asian recipes and in the grocery store, we actually enjoyed searching for the unique ingredients that aren’t normally found in our kitchen. Just the act of grocery shopping and thinking about cooking something good for the family lifted my spirits some. I began to realize how pushing aside all of those everyday routines was actually contributing to my funk.

Bowling wasn’t even all that fun last night. I was letting my dark mood get in the way of something I normally enjoy immensely. I didn’t do well and all I wanted to do was get done so we could go home.

This stops today.

Today, I’m going to clean up the house and then get out of the house to do something… do anything. I have a bowling banquet to organize for my women’s league, and I have a fun night to plan for my couple’s league. Both of these events are happening in the next month and I need to get on top of them. The weather sucks right now. It still looks and feels very much like winter outside, but it sounds like there will be a significant warm-up later this week and spring might finally arrive.

Obviously I need to make a conscious effort to keep my work life inside of its own box instead of letting it spill over and negatively affect the other parts of my life. I need to remember that as much as I enjoy my work, I work to live, not the other way around.

I don’t need help getting embarrassed. I can do it all by myself.

Anyone who has worked in an office environment knows that information, whether it be gossip or legitimate news, can travel fast. Such is the case with the story of how I quite suddenly and unexpectedly came to be the one to present a sales pitch to a potential client the other day. Apparently my story has traveled the various circles of the company.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, the nutshell version is that I was involved in compiling information and creating a PowerPoint presentation for a sales pitch that was to be delivered to a potential client by the CEO of my company. I was not planning to be present at the meeting where the sales pitch was to happen. I wasn’t invited to the meeting. I knew my role was a behind-the-scenes role all along. Except… it wasn’t. One hour before the meeting, I was informed that I was, in fact, now expected to make the sales pitch. I was very nervous because I don’t do speaking in front of people. My boss and close coworkers know my insecurities in this regard. They were all very reassuring and I did survive. (You can read the whole sordid story here if you really want.)

Fast-forward to today. I had a meeting to attend that was related to the sales pitch, but with different people than those involved in the sales meeting. As the meeting participants began to arrive today, I was already seated. Jeff walked in, and as he made his way to his seat, he looked at me and asked, “You presenting today, Terri?”

I saw a gleam in his eye and realized I was being teased.

“Oh, is this the big joke now,” I asked? “Everyone knows now that I have this big fear of presenting?”

Jeff just smiled, but Rick was the one to answer. “No. But we do now!”

I looked at Jeff. He was trying not to laugh as he explained, “I was just referring to the fact that you got that whole one hour’s notice the other day.”

Oh. Well then. Great. I’ll be working closely with this group for the next three weeks. Let’s just hope I can manage to keep my mouth shut and not reveal every embarrassing insecurity I possess.

Snow Again

Two days ago, there was a steady, all-day rain. The snow in the front yard had begun to melt away and I could even see hints of green in the matted-down grass. Overnight Tuesday and most of the day yesterday, it snowed. Heavily. The predicted one to three inches turned out to be more like seven.

Rush hour traffic was a nightmare yesterday morning. My normal twenty-minute commute took an hour and fifteen minutes. This was thanks to a jack-knifed semi trailer right in the heart of Spaghetti Junction on I-94. The highway patrol closed down the right lane and traffic was backed up for miles. The jack-knifed semi was reported to be carrying a trailer full of fresh eggs. (Good thing it was so cold out! Can you imagine the smell if that wreck had happened on a hot day?) So as bad as I thought my day was starting, it was nothing compared to the one the driver of that truck was having. Besides, I left the house a good hour before I normally would have, so I just relaxed and listened to music knowing I would get to work on time.

The truck was in such a bad spot that it was decided there would be no attempt to haul it away before the morning rush had ended. Removing it must have been a bigger problem than anticipated. It was still there when I left work at 5:00.

Later next week it is supposed to warm up again, so hopefully that means that spring will be coming to stay this time. I’m so done with winter. I need to get back outside again, feel the sun, and see color.

I just finished reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, about a girl who watches her family from Heaven after she is murdered. (I know this book was all the rage a year ago. I’m always behind the times on these things.)

I loved the perspective of this book – the concept that Heaven looks different for each person, depending on who they are and where they were at in life when they left it. This book also led to the possibility that people still learn and grow even after they’ve left this world. The main character, Susie, spends years in “her Heaven” watching her family members. She watches them grieve and she observes the way each one copes with their loss. She spends time with them and lives vicariously through her younger sister, doing and feeling all the things she was robbed of when her life was taken. She spends time as well, learning more about her murderer and following his twisted life over the years, even finding a way to protect another girl from the same fate she suffered.

I enjoyed this book and am ready to download a new one to my Nook. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my Nook? I go nowhere without it!) I’ve been making note of books that others have mentioned on their blogs and am ready for a good can’t-put-it-down kind of book. So tell me. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Oh, if only I weren’t so smart looking!

So, over the past week, I worked really hard on a PowerPoint presentation for a conference call that the big wigs were to have with a prospective client today. (And when I say “I worked hard”, I mean that I had plenty of help from the resident PowerPoint-web-designer-geeky expert type person whom I admire tremendously for her PowerPoint skills.) The conference call was scheduled for this afternoon, and while I was not involved as an active participant, I was looking forward to hearing afterwards how things went.

Just before 2:00, my boss came by to talk to me and said, “Hey, why don’t you come join us during the call. You worked hard on this. You should come listen in.”

I was happy to have been invited and readily agreed to be a fly on the wall at 3:00.

About fifteen minutes after that conversation with my boss, she stopped by again, saying, “I just talked with Big Wig #2 and he shared some interesting information with me. I thought it was important to share it with you.”

“What is it?” I asked with curiosity, expecting maybe some good gossip.

“Well, I just thought I would confirm with Big Wig #2 that he was leading the conference call, since Big Wig #1 will be calling in from out-of-town and not in the best position to run things. So I asked him if that was the plan.”

“Yes?” I said, encouraging her to continue.

“Well,” she said. “Big Wig #2 said he would be introducing the call, but that you would be doing the presentation.”

I believe my reaction was something like this.

I believe my response was also something like this: “Ha ha! Ha ha! You’re kidding me, right? Wait. You are kidding me, right? No? Oh crap.”

Quick recap: I wasn’t even invited to the meeting until one hour and fifteen minutes before it was to happen. I had been operating on the assumption that I was preparing materials for people who were skilled in presenting materials. Now, one hour before the meeting, I was informed that I would not just be listening in. I would be presenting.

Yes, I’d say it was pretty important to share that information with me, thankyouverymuch.

See what happens when they let men be in charge? Of course, no, I don’t mean you men who might be reading here. YOU would never forget to invite to your meeting the person who is supposed to speak at your meeting. Not you guys. Just some men.

Have I mentioned before that I don’t speak in front of people? Well. I mean, it’s not that I don’t speak in front of people. It’s just that it’s not one of my favorite things. If it’s a casual setting and I can joke around, I’m quite comfortable with speaking in front of people. I’ve even been known to make people laugh here and there. It’s only when I’m expected to speak intelligently, while being observed by others, that I have a problem. I’m really just not good at putting myself on display in front of others. (Well… except for some odd reason, on this blog.)

I really need to work on my self-confidence, don’t I? After all, Big Wig #2 never would have expected me to do this if he didn’t think I was capable, right? I’m just afraid … that my six years of experience in this industry isn’t enough to allow me to compete with those that have a lifetime of experience… that I’ll say something completely idiotic in situations like this and then all the important people will realize I’m really not as smart as they think I am.

People do tend to think I possess a degree of intelligence. I guess I pull off the intelligent look fairly well. If they only knew.

I’m kidding! Sort of.

I know I have the ability to do this stuff. Why can’t I just believe in myself a little bit?

Well, anyway, I quickly drew up an outline for myself so that I wouldn’t sound either like I was fumbling for words, or like I was reading straight from the presentation. I finished my notes just in time for the meeting.

I ran through the presentation. I didn’t say anything incredibly hideous and I believe I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. In fact, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know I would have to do this before today. I would have lost sleep. Seriously. I would have. As it stands, I survived and the prospective client expressed interest in learning more and soon. So I guess I didn’t blow up the company or anything.

I’m tempted to say that I don’t want to have to do that again anytime soon, but if I don’t want to, then I’ll have to stop looking so damn intelligent all the time. And let’s face it. That’s just not going to happen. Guess I have a new skill to work on!

Raining

When I started to awaken this morning, laying in bed and not yet ready to join the world again, I slowly became aware of a sound that I just couldn’t place. I laid there for a few moments before it finally dawned on me. Rain.

A couple of hours later, it is still falling steadily. This should wash away most of that crusty, packed snow and the salt and sand that get left behind after such a forceful winter. Of course, this is Minnesota and it is only March, so the rains are predicted to turn to snow sometime between today and tomorrow. That’s okay. There’s no way it can last long now.

So yes, I fell off the post-a-day bandwagon. And once I let one day go by, it was too easy to let a few more go. I didn’t consciously take a break. I just got into a dark mood – a combination of things like work, and the death of my friend’s dad. I learned some of the details surrounding his death, like the fact that the drunk driver hit him from behind, at 70 miles an hour. How he didn’t have any ID on him, and how his cell phone kept ringing and the police couldn’t figure out where the call was originating from. It was his wife, worried about him, trying to reach him from the hotel phone. I found out how she began to realize that something was wrong and when the police were called, because if was that bad, they said, “Don’t come to the scene. We’ll come to you.”

We went to the funeral on Saturday and it was a beautiful service. I’ve never been to a funeral where so many people have attended. The church was packed to overflowing, with people sitting and standing in the gathering space outside of the church. This man was clearly loved by many. I feel so sad for his wife, his children and their families. They are now left to figure out how to move on without him. This world is just so unfair sometimes.

But, life does go on. I can only hope the dark days and months ahead pass quickly for my friend and her family and they are soon able to find a new sort of normal where it doesn’t hurt so intensely and so often.

Really makes my problems seem quite inconsequential.

Life is Good – March 18, 2011

Short and sweet because I’m very tired and it’s been a long week…

Even though there is a strong possibility of unemployment in my near future, it is clear to me that I am being taken care of. I have been given an opportunity to prove myself at work and I’ve been busting my butt all week to do so. (And have been rewarded with very positive feedback.) I love the challenge and am keeping my fingers crossed that this opens up some doors so that I might continue to have the chance to be challenged by this company.

And can I just say that I love my boss? No matter what happens, I will go forward with many valuable lessons and experiences under my belt. I can go forward with confidence because of people like her.

Life is good!