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!

Cake

I had a meeting at work this afternoon. I was sitting in front of the keyboard and mouse so that I could run the presentation. Bob came and sat on my left. Brian sat on Bob’s left.

As we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, Brian leaned forward, looking past Bob to me. “It’s Bob’s anniversary today,” he informed me.

“Happy Anniversary, Bob,” I said.

Brian continued to speak over Bob to me, asking “What was the first thing you thought of when I said the word ‘anniversary’?”

“Marriage,” I said, wondering if this was a game.

“I was thinking ‘presents’,” Bob said.

“Okay,” I said. “So what would be a good anniversary present?”

“Cake,” Bob stated. He actually looked rather forlorn as he said this as if no one had bothered to recognize his anniversary with the cake he so desired.

Have you ever been party to a conversation and you have no idea why or what the real point is?

Brian continued to talk to me. “I want some cake,” Bob said.

“I brought some cookies in today,” I offered to Bob. “We’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with goodies down on fifth floor. You’re welcome to have some cookies.”

“Thanks,” Bob said. “But I really want some cake.”

I was going to tell Bob that he should talk to our coworker, Denise because whenever we want cake, we tell Denise to tell her husband, and he then makes us a delicious cake and sends it to work with Denise the next day. (It’s true. I requested a carrot cake once and the next day, there it was.)

Anyway, I didn’t get to tell Bob about our own personal cake maker because the last of the meeting participants joined us and that was the end of the conversation because we had to get down to business.

Only after the meeting, did it occur to me to wonder what the heck that was all about. I really have no idea.

Do you think I should bring Bob a cake?

 

Not Giving Up Just Yet

It was a long day at work today, but it was a really productive day.

I’ve been working on something for a while with a small team of people. This project has the potential to help turn things around in the company. Maybe. Until now it has felt like we’ve been imagining and planning and drawing up plans with no real push from above to make it actually happen. We all wondered if it would ever become reality. That all changed over the past few days. The big guys are ready to make it real.

Suddenly, there’s a huge push to bring this project to the forefront. Between yesterday and today, I found myself knee-deep in research and graphs, facts and figures and Power Point presentations. I was so busy that I lost track of time. I love that kind of busyness. It makes me realize that I like to work. I do. If I had to sit at home for any length of time without a job, I’d go a little stir crazy.

Today brought with it a sense of urgency. There was a meeting and a major decision. I spent the rest of the day working with one of our experts to make the Power Point presentation all shiny and pretty and professional. It had to be finished and forwarded to the group by the end of the day, which meant we stayed late, this expert and I. We got it done. It looks great. I got it out to the group and asked for feedback. We’ll update any changes by tomorrow and by Friday, it will be ready to hand off to the Big Kahuna.

Expert and I celebrated with a beer after we left the office. Well deserved, I think.

By early next week, the wheels will be in motion. If we get a customer to buy in, things may not be as dire as they’ve seemed for the last week or so. If not… well, then I just have to decide whether or not I want to stay in the same line of business or make a big change.

The bowling industry could be fun…

Not So Bad

I’m fighting for my job again. It’s a job worth fighting for. But it just might not be possible for me to stay. The reality is that I could be laid off in a month’s time or so. Maybe sooner. No one really knows for sure. Then again, it’s possible I’ll be able to stay, but even if I do get to stay, things probably won’t be the same. I’m slow to accept change, but I would, if I could stay.

I’ve been doing a lot of worrying … about the future, the job market, my own limitations. I have another kid starting college in the fall.

Then something happens. My friend’s dad, goes for a morning walk while on vacation. A drunk driver drives off the road and onto the sidewalk, hitting and killing him. My friend’s dad was a good man. He worked hard all his life. His family was everything to him. I just saw him a few weeks ago. We both watched his grandson play basketball. He smiled at me and made jokes while we sat in the bleachers watching the game. I worry about my friend. She is understandably devastated. I worry about her mom and whether she can manage on her own. I think about the entire family and the enormous pain they are in.

Life is not fair. But mine is not so bad.

Where I Live

Friend James of England (and formerly of the blog Them’s Me Private Thoughts) emailed recently to suggest I take some photos of where I live. Being from England, he was curious as to what my piece of the world looks like. He mentioned wanting to see “downtown” and I did take and post some pictures, but it spurred further conversation which got me to thinking. I do have a few blog friends that live in other countries. When we read each other’s words, we often leave the details of our surroundings to the imagination. I’m sure there are many, many things that are similar in our different corners of the world and I’m just as sure there is much that is different. Even those of us who share the same citizenship, depending on which part of the country we live, are likely to see very different things when we look around us. James’ curiosity spurred an idea. Why don’t we help each other see what it’s like where we live?

This is the house in which I live. It’s not a great picture, but you get the idea.

The houses on either side of us are very similar, as are many others in the neighborhood. There are a variety of other styles of homes as well, but overall, these are considered to be modest homes.

When Mark and I first moved into our house, it seemed enormous. We had both grown up in small homes where the children shared bedrooms and we had to fight for time in the bathroom. When we were first married, we lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in a duplex. His parents owned the house and we rented from them. The bathroom was probably the biggest room in the apartment and there was no shower, only an old-fashioned claw-foot bath tub.

So our new house felt roomy to a couple of young newlyweds. But as our family grew, the house began to feel smaller. We dealt with it, just as our parents did, by arranging things and making what improvements we could to accommodate us.

When we first bought the house, it was very basic, with three rather small bedrooms upstairs and an unfinished basement. Over the years, as time and money allowed, we painted and improved the various rooms and turned the basement into a livable space.

If you look at the picture of our house, you can imagine what it’s like inside. The front door leads into a foyer, and as you walk in, you’ll be met by two half-flights of steps, one going up and one going down. When you go upstairs, you’ll see the kitchen straight ahead, which just last year, Mark completely remodeled and I love it! Our family spends a lot of time together there, sometimes tripping over one another as we clean up together after a meal and sometimes making great memories while we cook or bake something together.

The kids in the living room. The Christmas tree is where the television usually sits.

While you look into the kitchen from the top of the stairs, you can find the living room to your left. The living room has a couple of cozy chairs and a love seat, as well as a small television in the outside corner of the room. The kids tend to spend a lot of time here watching t.v., playing video games or hanging out with friends. We always make space for our Christmas tree in there, and there have been many holiday and birthday celebrations there.

My brothers and niece in the dining room during a family celebration

Behind the living room and next to the kitchen is the dining area. It’s not a large area by any means, and we’ve pretty much filled the space with the pub-height table that comfortably seats six. These days, it’s less likely that you’ll find us all seated there together for a meal, but there are still times when we make it happen. It’s also a great place to play cards and board games together or with friends. There’s a patio door in the dining area that leads out to the deck and the back yard.

To the right of the upper stairway is the hallway. Down the hall you’ll find the small main bathroom on the right, and just beyond it, Jake’s bedroom, which is the former master bedroom where Mark and I slept before he finished the basement. Although it’s the biggest of the upstairs bedrooms, it’s not big by any means. Across the hall is Brad’s bedroom at the end of the house, and Kacey’s bedroom between Brad’s room and the kitchen. The boys used to share a bedroom and there were several instances of room-juggling as our family grew and then again once the lower level was finished.

Mark and my brother-in-law sitting at the computer desk in the family room.

Now if you come back to the foyer and go down the stairs this time instead, you’ll find the family room to your left. It spans the depth of the house and Mark made it very cozy and rustic by installing a gas fireplace with a stone face and by covering the walls with knotty pine. This room is filled with comfy furniture and a big television, and the large computer desk that Brad built in his wood shop class in high school. This is where I spend a lot of my down time and where I write on my laptop while sitting in my favorite recliner.

Kacey and friends getting ready for a dance in "my" bathroom

The knotty pine was carried all the way down the hallway and if you head that direction, you’ll find the large lower-level bathroom, also covered in knotty pine. There’s a nice long vanity in there, a linen closet and a whirlpool tub that (sadly) rarely gets used. Across from the bathroom is the laundry/furnace/storage room. That is where most of the holiday decorations are stored and the place where the cat’s food and water dishes are kept. And at the end of the hallway is the “new” larger master bedroom, which Mark designed with a nice big walk-in closet. That room also spans the depth of the house. Its lower level location makes it easier for Mark to sleep when he’s working nights and sleeping days. Since ours is a half-basement, there’s a ground level window there that offers a nice view of the back yard. Drives Mark nuts when he’s working the night shift and I go to sleep with the window open. I love to do that on warm summer nights. He’s sure that I’m putting my safety in danger, but the window is actually somewhat secluded by a huge dogwood bush, so I continue to do it. :D

I guess you would consider our neighborhood to be a middle-class neighborhood, though because we live in a suburb, the immediately surrounding neighborhoods range from low-income to the more prestigious. Just a couple of miles away you could buy a home for anywhere from five hundred thousand on up to a million dollars. I always wonder about the people who live in those expensive homes. Do they really get to enjoy them? Or are they so busy making money to pay for them that they rarely get to spend any actual time there?

I guess that’s what I love about our home. It’s on the small side, but over the years, we’ve made it our own and figured out how to be happy here. It’s affordable enough that we don’t work simply to pay for our house and our neighborhood is filled with hardworking people who we’ve come to know not just as neighbors, but as friends.

So now you’ve “seen” the inside of our house. Maybe another time, I’ll show you around the neighborhood!