Crazy Days and Lipiness

I’m particularly happy to see the weekend! Crazy week, it was!

Most of the craziness was work-related. Over the past year, our small department of three employees has become increasingly busy, sometimes to the point of  being overwhelmed. We were thrilled when it was announced a couple of months ago that we were finally given the budget to hire additional staff – two new Account Analysts, like us, and an Support Specialist. We were getting help!

The newbies started on Monday and there was a plan for getting them acclimated, which was swept aside when one of our automated processes decided to act up at the same time. We didn’t realize it at first. I was looking for reports that should have generated for some of my clients but they were nowhere to be found. This odd little quirk soon revealed that something bigger was amiss. We spent all of Monday researching what had gone wrong and how to fix it. Thankfully, the newbies could keep pretty busy completing their Human Resources requirements.

By Tuesday, we had a better idea of how to get our process back under control and the newbies could start getting their feet wet. As might be expected, with the doubling of our department staff, we had to change a few things. The seating arrangement was one of those things. We three seasoned veterans used to sit in close proximity to one another. It was an easy way to maintain communication and teamwork, but it also occasionally contributed to a lot of unnecessary conversation. I’m all for friendly chatter, but with as big as my to-do list often was, this became a dilemma for me. I mean, there’s really no nice way to say, “Please go away. I don’t have time to hear about your son’s new tattoo right now.” I developed many coping mechanisms to discourage casual visits to my desk when I really couldn’t afford the time for them. But there are some who just can’t seem to take a hint.

Before the new staff joined us, we were informed that there would be some rearranging of our cubicle assignments. There was some dismay about this, because two of us would have to relocate to an aisle that’s somewhat of a main thoroughfare. I wasn’t concerned. I can tune out general noise. It’s those direct interruptions I have trouble combatting. I was happy to move, or stay put. I was only hoping that the changes would give me a small bit of distance from a frequent distraction. I sent an email to my boss saying that if it made the decision easier, I would happily relocate to one of the new locations if it allowed one of my less willing associates to stay put. In the end, I was the only one to remain in my existing “home” while the others were moved over to the busier aisle. All of the new people would be located in my aisle. I’m not sure if any of the assignments was intentional or entirely random, and not everyone was happy about it. But I got my wish, so all was good with me.

Of course, new staff means lots of questions. And since I’m the closest of the three “experts,” many of those questions were addressed to me. It was a challenge to maintain focus on my projects while trying to accommodate the new staff’s needs, for all of us. But it was a good problem to have. The new people are already proving to us that we made the right choice in hiring them. The week was intense, but I’m sure next week will settle down some, and soon we’ll all be in a new groove.

2014-10-09In non-work news, I had a spot on my lip taken care of on Tuesday this week. I noticed the spot about a year or so ago and first thought it was a blood blister or something. When it didn’t go away, I ignored it. Because that’s a good plan of action with weird facial stuff, right? Few others could see it, but a couple of times recently, someone noticed and asked about it. Suddenly, it seemed bigger, darker, and I was now certain it was a cancerous mole in my lip. I couldn’t stop looking at it and worrying. Finally, I had my doctor check it out and I was relieved when he assured me that it basically was a sort of blood blister. He said I probably bit my lip somewhere along the way. I’ll bet my hyper dog was responsible, considering the number of times she’s chucked me under the chin in her excitement to welcome me home after work. He told me I could have it lasered off by a dermatologist. And since I have some old HSA money in a use it or lose it account, I decided to do it.

At the dermatology clinic, I was treated by the youngest looking doctor I’ve ever met. Couldn’t help thinking, “Doogie Howser.” Though he was definitely more of an adult than Doogie was. And if he’s not already married, I’m sure he experiences no shortage of attention from the opposite sex, if you know what I’m saying. After he presented all of my options, we agreed to the laser treatment and I got three relatively painless zaps to the lip. Dr. Doogie told me to expect a bit of bruising and slight swelling, but that the spot would likely fade within a week to ten days. And if not, I could come back for more zapping.

For the first few days, I felt like I had an elephant sitting on my lip, which is funny, because I took this that selfie at the height of the elephantness, and clearly, I might have been overreacting just slightly. And I’m happy to say that the spot is definitely fading. But if it doesn’t completely disappear, I’ll be happy to go pay Doctor Hottie Doogie another visit.

 

One Good Thing

I’ve noticed I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to lately.  I think maybe subconsciously, I feel as if I’m going to write, it has to be some well thought-out narrative about something not too run-of-the-mill. I hesitate to say about something exciting because, let’s face it. My life’s not all that exciting. Not that I’m complaining.

Life gets busy and I don’t stop to write. Too many days go by and I end up not knowing where to begin. Or I end up trying to document every notable happening since my last post and then I ramble on and on and on…

But certainly there should be at least one good thing in any given day. That shouldn’t be so hard to do, right? Here’s one good thing from today.

I woke up this morning to fog and gray skies, which eventually turned into rain for the whole rest of the day. I went to the office feeling like I’d just left, hadn’t made a dent in yesterday’s to-do list, and had another list awaiting me. It was one of those days in which every time I settled into a good focus, someone or something would come along and interrupt my train of thought.

So there I was, trying to get my head above water when I got an email from my boss, (whom I adore, by the way.) She’s a tough chick with a great ability to lead, and she’s inspiring in many ways. I’d do anything for her. So when she asked if I would write something for her, I didn’t mind rearranging my work load to accommodate her request. She asked for a paragraph about a particular product, its current level of success, and such. The information was needed for the monthly corporate report. My boss had been asked by the V.P. to write it but she was too busy. So she passed the request on to me.

I read through some previous reports to refresh myself on the usual tone and gathered a few statistics. I began to write in a way I thought would suit the report. It wasn’t much. Just a short paragraph detailing recent growth of the product, noting evidence of client satisfaction and insinuating a few departmental pats-on-the-back. I read through it a few times, adjusted some of the information and decided it was finished. Then I second guessed myself, wondering if I was expected only to provide the necessary details so that someone else could mold it into their own words. And finally decided I’d spent too much time already playing around with the thing. I emailed it to my boss with a note saying to let me know if it was not what she’d had in mind. I knew if it wasn’t, she’d send it back and ask me to try again.

I went to a meeting and when I returned to my desk, the voicemail light was lit on my desk phone. I dialed in and heard my boss’s voice telling me that what I had written was perfect. She said, “You have such a talent for writing” and mentioned how very appreciative she was. She instantly put the biggest smile on my face. I hadn’t created a work of art or anything. I’d gathered some numbers and mimicked the style of another’s writing. But it made my day that she took the time to stop and let me know that my help was genuinely appreciated. And when she emailed it to the big guy to add to his report, she copied me, making sure to give me credit for putting the information together. From that moment on, everything else felt just a little bit easier and I was reminded how incredibly good it feels to be genuinely thanked! I’m going to try to remember to always pay that forward.

Have you hugged your chiropractor lately?

I did. I saw my chiropractor this afternoon and instead of the usual handshake, we hugged. I have to admit, it felt a little awkward. Usually he just shakes my hand. But I have been seeing him now for over eleven years, (we figured out this afternoon.) And we have socialized outside of our doctor-patient relationship, so we do tend to be a bit comfortable and casual around each other.

Thing is, the hugging took place at a wake I attended for my coworker’s father-in-law, who also happens to be the father-in-law of my chiropractor. So I guess the hugging was appropriate, considering there were sympathies involved and such.

Strange, small little world I live in at times, isn’t it?

So things have been busy, as you might guess from the lack of any posting around here. Kacey came home from school for the weekend, mainly to see the dentist on Friday. (And as far as I know, there was no hugging involved there.) Lucy was thrilled to have her “sister” home. Got herself a little spoiled-rotten pampering, she did.

Can you see how big Lucy's smiling?

Can you see how big Lucy’s smiling?

I was pretty happy too. I sure miss that kid when she’s away. We had a big weekend breakfast together and I let her spend some of my money on a new dress for a wedding she’s attending with Connor this coming weekend. Course, I found a little something(s) for myself too. Retail therapy is much more fun with Kacey!

Since Kacey had plans with friends on Saturday night, I accepted an invitation from my sister to go to karaoke. You remember my sister? The one with the musician husband who is in several bands? Yes, that one. So my brother-in-law hauled along a couple of his band buddies and they awed everyone in the bar with their vocal talents. There may be photographic evidence of my sister and I belting out something by Captain and Tennille, but any and all photographs were declared banned from Faceb00k and the internet in general. Amazing what a few beers can do for your confidence, even while you remain fully aware that your singing abilities are just not that great. Good thing people in karaoke bars tend to be a little drunk. Also, they love when someone sings poorly. Makes it easier to follow and fail just as miserably! I did everyone a service!

OH! And I got to meet Jake’s new girlfriend on Saturday. It’s too early to say much about that but initial impressions are really, really good. She made him buy new jeans. I like her already!

Work is … uh … busy. Over the last couple of weeks, there’ve been a few instances of skipping lunch, arriving early and staying late. I haven’t made my lunchtime trek around the pond in at least a week! I’m not complaining. I love my job as much as always.  At the moment, I’m just juggling multiple big happenings and deadlines demanding attention all at the same time.

I’m sure glad to be surrounded by such great people in the office, though. One of my responsibilities is to monitor several of our websites to ensure the content stays current. Part of that job is to make sure that expiring forms are updated when new versions are issued. But for reasons beyond my control, I’m not always on the receiving end of announcements of new forms. So then I have to remember to go out and look for updates. It’s not the greatest system. I have a techy teammate who’s created a few processes in the past to automate certain aspects of my job and make my work life so much easier. So I had this idea about the forms and thought I’d just give it a shot. I asked him if, in his bag of magic tricks, he had a way to create an alert system to read the expiration dates on the forms and send me a heads-up. It only took him a day or so. He stopped by my desk yesterday, walked me through a few things on my computer and there it was. My own personal alert system. I told him he’s a rock star. Hopefully that makes up for all the times I tell him to speak to me in English (not database, code or some other technology language,) and to stop getting frustrated with me already because I don’t speak geek! Really, though, we make a good team. I tell him he doesn’t communicate well with me. He told me I’m demanding. I said that makes me his work wife, to which he said, “I could do worse.” I’m grateful for him.

Just another couple of days and another weekend rolls around again. I’ll be ready for it!

Choosing the Good Thoughts

I’m so glad it’s Saturday. I’m sitting here enjoying the quiet start of a day. The windows are wide open and I hear the hum of crickets and tweeting of the morning birds outside. The sun has risen in a hazy sky, so the air is still cool and comfortable. Lucy and I went for our run a little while ago and saw places where the ground was blanketed in fog. So peaceful and pretty. It did me good to get out and run on a morning like this.

The past week was one of those where there never seemed to be enough hours in a day. The pace at work seems to grow more hectic every week as our current business grows and new possibilities abound. I have my hands in a little bit of everything, from account management to technology to the creative to exploring our ability to dive into new avenues.  And I like it that way. And just when I was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed and slightly frustrated, there was this response to a project I’m involved in.

20140730 Brilliant b

The project lead’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect with this comment. I was feeling a little put upon because I’d been asked to draft some content for a web page. Writing isn’t one of the things I get paid to do, although I did plenty of it before we recently hired an official writer. I was just to the point this week of wondering why I’m still writing when they’re paying someone else to do it full-time. I have plenty enough other things to do that constitute my “real” job, I’m struggling to get it all done as it is, and nowhere in my job description does it say “writing.” This particular bit of feedback came after the project lead had a look at my words along with our graphic designer’s artistic talents.

Her comment was like a knock on the head. HELLO! I love to write! Why am I complaining about being asked to do it? Shouldn’t I instead be grateful to be given the opportunity now and then? And when I stopped to think about it, I was asked to draft the initial version, because I have knowledge. I know what information needs to be conveyed on this page, thanks to my years of experience with the company. The fact that I was asked to contribute speaks volumes about others’ faith in my abilities. The “official” writer will take my stuff and polish it up with his easy and fun tone, but it’s my ideas that will sit behind his work. Why was I griping about having to be involved? Oh yeah. Because I was letting myself get overwhelmed.

I’m really working to learn not to do that so much – being overwhelmed and anxious. I know it’s not a new concept – that having a peaceful mind is within my own control. I’ve always just assumed that it took a certain personality to put it into action and live that way. And I didn’t think I had that personality. I was hard-wired to be high-strung. But all of a sudden – whether it’s age or life experience – I suddenly get it. I’m slowly learning to reign in my focus. Instead of worrying what tomorrow will be like, or next week, next month, next year… I’m trying to just keep my sights on what I’m in control of right now.

I’m learning that not worrying, stressing and being full of anxiety doesn’t have to mean that I don’t care what happens in the future. It just means that I accept the fact that I ‘m not in control of it. Because of this new mindset, in the past few weeks, I feel lighter, not just emotionally calmer, but physically better as well. It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me. Instead of waking up every day feeling like “same old, same old,” I feel more like, “Bring it on!”

Of course it’s all new to me and I’m reminded that making a habit of staying centered is going to take time. I realized this after falling back into my old ways for a couple of days. I woke up yesterday morning with my stomach in knots and an ache in my head behind my eye. Could have been what I had for dinner the night before, but I like to think it could have had something to do with where my thoughts had been living, and that I’d forgotten for a while that I have the ability to change how I feel, for the better.

I signed up a while ago to receive these daily email messages, recommended by several friends at work. They’re a source of daily encouragement and inspiration. You can think of them as messages from God or the universe or just the guy behind a keyboard who comes up with awesome words to propel readers into their day with a can-do attitude. But I love them and they do my heart and mind good. I know each morning that my daily message is sitting in my inbox waiting for me and I look forward to that point in the morning when I let myself go see what waits for me that day. And no matter what the daily message is, it always ends with these same words:

Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!

It’s so true! I’m learning to choose the good ones, and it’s amazing how different, how much more inviting the world looks when I do.

My Grandma’s Lasting Gift

My Grandma T made memories for her family. She made real, tangible memories with her own hands, loads of colorful yarn, her crochet hooks and a lot of love.

Birthdays and wedding showers brought stripe-patterned afghans meant to keep Grandma T’s loved ones warm on cold nights. Christmases were sure to bring new pairs of mittens, playful winter hats or long, bright scarves. My grandma was a product of the Great Depression and she found ways to use up or reuse everything in her house. Some of her creations were a crazy mix of colors because she wanted to use up all the remnants of her yarn supplies. Her gifts often came wrapped up inside empty cereal boxes or round oatmeal cartons.

When my siblings and I were growing up, there wasn’t a lot of money to go around in our family. New things came to us only on special occasions. We nearly crawled out of our skin with anticipation of birthday and Christmas gifts. And like all kids, our wish lists included many of the latest and greatest toys, games, music or clothing. If we were lucky, we might get one or two of those wishes. But Grandma T didn’t give the latest and greatest kinds of things when she gave her gifts. And that was just fine with us. We adored Grandma T’s  homemade creations because we adored her. Many cold winter days, we could be found fighting over which colorful hats and mittens belonged to whom.

Lately, it’s been hard to sit at a desk all day at work. The cold outside air seems to seep inside the office, under doors and through the windows. Sometimes I get distracted from my work by the chill I can’t seem to fend off. A few of my coworkers keep a sort of cape at work for this very reason. I’ve seen this kind of cape in stores. It’s a sort of designer blanket, made so that one can get away with wrapping up in a blanket in the office, without looking like one is wrapped up in a blanket. I’ve considered buying one. I’m just really reluctant to spend twenty-five, thirty dollars or more on something I’ll only use in the office. So I simply hope I’ll be absorbed enough in my projects that I don’t notice the cold. Or I try to remember to put on extra layers of clothing. Or I forget and suffer.

A few weeks ago, I was staring at all of the clothes in my closet, trying to decide what to wear. At the far side of the closet are things that are worn infrequently, or things that aren’t mine but couldn’t be parted with for one reason or another. Brad’s high school graduation gown is there. We had to buy it before the years when the school decided to just rent them. Kacey’s prom dresses are there too.

There was something else at that far end of the closet. It has been there for years. I’ve looked at it a million times and can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before now. It was one of the many memories that Grandma T made for me while she was still here with us – a cream-colored, lovingly crafted cape. My memory might be fuzzy on exactly when she gave this to me, but I know I was young, in my grade school years, I’m sure. And I know I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I didn’t wear it often, either because I was pretty much a tomboy who would rather wear her Smokey the Bear sweatshirt, or because my mom was afraid I’d ruin the cape while in the midst of my tomboy pursuits.  Years ago, after I was married and living in a house of my own, Mom gave the cape to me to keep. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, but Grandma T had made it for me. She was long gone by that time and I couldn’t stand the idea of giving it up. So it has hung in the closet, unused all of these years, until that day a few weeks ago.

I pulled it out and wrapped it around my shoulders. The cape had been made for a child, but it was still plenty big enough to wrap around my adult shoulders and cover my adult arms. I knew how I would keep warm at work whenever the chills set in from then on.

Just the perfect size for keeping warm while working at the computer

Just the perfect size for keeping warm while working at the computer

And it has "arm" holes to free up my hands while staying wrapped up

And it has “arm” holes to free up my hands while staying wrapped up

There are so many times I’ve been reminded of and missed my Grandma T. She loved her family so dearly. She was so quick to dole out praise and so generous with her heart. She was “home” to all of her daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. Even as kids, the world could be such a difficult place, but when we were in the company of our grandparents, everything seemed simple and easy. How could we not miss Grandma T every single day? There are times I still hear her calling me Honey Girl and I still miss how she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me so tightly. Now I have a daily reminder of Grandma T to put a smile on my face. And I’ll bet she’d love the fact that her tomboy granddaughter is finally so happy to wear the beautiful cape she made.

A few of Grandma T’s mittens, hats and scarves still occupy space in the winter-wear bins in our front closet. They rarely if ever get worn. Some of her afghans are still folded up neatly in a cabinet in the family room. They are too short to cover our long bodies, so we opt for the newer, heavier fleece blankets instead. But all these years later, the cape is finally, happily worn!

And the sun came out

The weatherman was saying last night that a big snowstorm was on its way. Yesterday, we enjoyed the one “warm-up” we were going to see in January and already, he was telling us that the weather was going back in the wrong direction. He pointed at a map of the state that was dotted with colors. The big, blue blob moving over our area signified snow; lots of it. He said this morning’s commute was going to be a mess. I only half believed him. The weather has been a presence lately, but you just never know when it will decide not to live up to the hype. Figured I’d get up at the usual time and if a snowstorm was in progress, I’d skip doing yoga and just go straight to the shower. If there was no snow, I’d exercise and go about my normal routine.

When the alarm went off, I shuffled to the family room to look out the big front window and see whether the weather guy had been right. I couldn’t quite decide. Under the glow of the street light, I could see it was definitely snowing. The flakes were tiny but the snowfall was dense and it was coming down fast. Looking across the front yard to the street though, there didn’t appear to be much accumulation. But I knew it wouldn’t take much to mess up the morning drive. So straight to the shower I went.

Within the hour, I had showered, fed the dog, prodded Jake to get up and  get a head start on his own commute. I unloaded the dishwasher, drank a cup of coffee, blow-dried my hair and applied some make up. The last thing I needed to do was make a lunch and while I was doing it, I kept an eye on the falling snow. It was obvious. The weatherman had been dead-on.

I was in my car and on my way a good forty minutes earlier than usual. The roads were covered with snow, the division of lanes indecipherable. Traffic on the freeway crawled. It took me over an hour to get to work and the sky remained dusky; no hint of the sun. My windshield wipers struggled to keep the window clear of melting snow and ice. The defroster blasted on high but couldn’t keep up with the crusts of slush and ice forming on the other side. Several times, I rolled down the side window and reached out to wipe off the snow that kept building upward where the lower portion of the driver’s side wiper was failing. (I have got to get some new wipers!) Clumps of snow flung backwards beneath the tires of the cars that surrounded me.

Driving in these conditions stresses me out. This winter, I’ve seen more stalled vehicles, spin-outs, crashes and rollovers than I can ever remember. Earlier this week, there was a car in the ditch, upside down. The scene moved along outside the passenger window in slow motion while a state trooper pulled over to help. That kind of thing freaks me out. And there are always a handful of drivers that think they’re invincible, driving faster than the flow of traffic, cutting off others, zipping from one lane to another with little regard for anyone else. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m putting my life on the line every day just to get to work.

I couldn’t breathe easy until I was safely parked in my company lot. I felt worn out before I’d even begun my work day. So when I walked in, before I took off my jacket, I decided I was not going to carry that weight around with me for the rest of my day. I poked my head into my coworker, Lori’s cube and with more enthusiasm than I really felt, I smiled big and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful day? Don’t you just love these Minnesota winters?”

Playing right along, Lori exclaimed, “Oh, yes! The snow is so pretty! What a lovely day this is!”

And then we laughed and rolled our eyes and went off to work. But honestly, I felt lighter and brighter than I had just a few moments earlier. The snow continued to fall outside while I immersed myself in my job. And when it was time to go home, the sun was shining fiercely, casting dramatic tree shadows over a new, crusty layer of snow. And it was cold again. Really cold. But the sun was shining. Not for much longer. But it was shining. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask.

Sun 2

Confidence fueled by confidence

Twice in recent weeks, I had an opportunity to observe the way one of our kids handled and reacted to a particular challenge in life. Two different problems. Two different kids. In one case, Mark and I found ourselves later remarking on how well one kid handled a particular issue. We were impressed with the fact that we were welcomed to a discussion about it and how maturely the problem was handled. We offered up some opinions, but no advice was really needed. The problem was handled in a way that met with this kid’s comfort level. As I thought about that child’s ability to deal – with so many things – the words poise and grace came to mind. I said as much to Mark, proud that our kids have grown up so well in so many ways. He said he wondered how long it would be before this particular kid lost that positive approach and became jaded like the rest of us. I was a bit astonished at his cynicism and said I thought it might be easier to maintain such a healthy attitude without someone insisting that it was pointless.

Second scenario. Another of our young-adult children encountered a minor failure, which was clearly perceived as anything but minor. In spite of assurances that we were not disappointed, in spite of offers for a discussion in the hopes of helping to figure out how to solve this problem, this time, we were met with a person who was clearly embarrassed and wanted to shut us out. This kid wanted anything but to discuss the problem with us and hastily assured us that things could be handled without our input. They can be. But I wish my child didn’t feel the need to go it alone.

In my job, I’m offered constant opportunities to be challenged, to learn and to grow my skills. I truly enjoy the work that I do and am almost always willing to try pushing the boundaries of my knowledge and experience. It’s what makes my job so fulfilling. Today as I was wrapping up an afternoon meeting, the conference room door slowly opened and our CEO poked his head inside.

“I don’t mean to interrupt.” Pointing at me, he continued, “But when you’re done, I need your help.”

“Okay,” I said. There must have been a big question mark on my face. I don’t usually work directly with the CEO, although I have had several random chances over the years and I always know that when he comes looking for help, there’s something interesting ahead.

“I just finished writing my quarterly President’s report,” he explained. “I need someone to proofread and clean it up. You’re good with this stuff. It’ll just take you five minutes. Five minutes is all.”

“Alright. I’ll be done here soon.” I said. “Did you email it to me already?”

“Nah, I thought you could just come sit at my desk and go over it. Really. Five minutes is all you’ll need.”

Proofreading. It’s not the most fun work I can think to do. But I like our CEO. He has the ability to inspire enthusiasm and he seems to have a knack for figuring out the “thing” about his employees. One person might be his go-to design person. Another might be the one he seeks out for sports or movie or political conversation. There’s sure to be a numbers guy and a technology expert. Someone else (like me,) might be the word person, even when (like me,) that person doesn’t have a formal education focused on words, grammar, and punctuation. But it’s amazing how willing and able a person might be at a particular skill when someone else expresses utter confidence in their abilities.

I know I can hold my own in the words, grammar and punctuation department. But the funny thing is, we just hired someone whose job it is to be the communications expert. In the shadow of a word expert, I might doubt my abilities to some extent. Yet the CEO came to me. And the guy who gets paid to deal with the company’s words was busy anyway. And so I was in good humor about the whole thing.

After my meeting, I walked over to the big guy’s office and he invited me to have a seat in his chair. Four pages were waiting for my clean-up, which really might not have taken much more than five minutes, but for the fact that the CEO was feeling a bit chatty. It was hard to absorb the words and characters on the screen in front of me while still trying to pay attention to the friendly conversation directed my way.

“Do you speak Spanish?”

“Nope. Not me,” I said. “My daughter  speaks it pretty well. When she was in high school, she would randomly tell me certain things in Spanish and I found I could understand a lot of it. But I can’t speak it.”

“Darn. My daughter’s in Spain for a semester and my wife and I are going to visit. I bought one of those programs that teaches you a foreign language, but I’d like to try speaking with someone else in Spanish and see if I’m getting the hang of it.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I took German in high school.”

“Ah! Sprechen sie Deutch?” he asked. (Do you speak German?)

“Nur ein bisschen,” I admitted. (Only a little.)

I found it impossible to admit that he was distracting me from the work he wanted me to do. He’s the head honcho, after all, and I didn’t want to rub him the wrong way. But I found that if I responded to his commentary a bit distractedly, he’d give me a break long enough for me to make progress on my proofreading duties. While I worked my way through his report, rectifying a complete overuse of dashes and misuse of capitalization, the CEO cleaned up piles of papers on his desk, chatting amiably as he organized. He remarked it was a nice break for him to be forced away from his computer and to have to get things under control around his office.

I asked for clarification on a couple of items. I didn’t want to “correct” something I might be misunderstanding. He assured me that he had faith that I knew what I was doing and could really just go with my instincts on everything. With the CEO having such confidence in my abilities, I really wasn’t worried that I’d drop the ball, even though this report would be making its way to a bunch of big-wigs not long after I was through with it.

self-confidenceIn my job, I often find that a project or challenge doesn’t seem so daunting when someone else clearly has no doubt that I can manage it. When this is the case, I believe in myself so much more than I otherwise might have. It’s amazing what you can achieve when all doubt and insecurity is removed. In fact, I’m pretty certain this is why I could “fight” for weeks trying to find a few promising numbers and rarely worrying that I wouldn’t eventually find the answers I was looking for.

As I think about my kids’ ups and downs, I wonder what we sometimes did right and sometimes did wrong in teaching them to overcome challenges. When faced with a struggle, why was one of them able to manage so effortlessly and without feeling weighed down, while the other wanted only to brush the problem under the rug? Of course, at any time, the tables could turn. And another time, faced with another problem, the kid who seemed so strong this time might end up feeling at a loss. Depending on the challenge, the kid who wanted to run away from this recent problem might impress everyone with an ability to conquer. It makes me wonder if at the first sign of struggle in one of our kids, did we worry so much about that particular weakness that we failed to instill in them an ability to overcome it? Of course as a parent, you constantly try to encourage and lift up your children. But are the words sometimes not enough? Does the doubt sometimes show through, even when you’re trying to keep it at bay? When one displayed any kind of strength, were we so confident in a child that he or she could easily continue to grow and develop that strength without ever looking back?

I wish I’d known it all along, but some things only come with age and experiences. I wish I had been confident enough to believe and pass on to my kids when they were very young, that so much more is possible than you can ever imagine. Every strength and every weakness is not necessarily permanent. Sometimes all you have to do is imagine it to get off on the right foot. It helps to have someone else believe in you. It’s so much easier to believe in your own abilities when someone else sees them inside of you. But ultimately, you really just need to believe in yourself.

When I think of all the people I’ve known and encountered in my years, all of the personality types and different ways I’ve seen people deal with the world, I wonder if when things are so bad, it’s because people just lose hope and any sense of optimism. How much better things might be if everyone had someone to have faith in them.

That feels like something for me to work on. Believing in my own family, the people I love and want to succeed, is pretty easy most of the time. Not always, but more often than not. Others? It’s sometimes easier to just write ‘em off. I’ve been known to tell my sometimes cynical husband that what you expect of someone is often what they’ll give you. Might be good to keep that in mind myself.