Gratefulness

This week…

An actual phone call from Brad. Hi Mama. Just calling to talk. Mom is for getting my attention. Mama is his term of endearment and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. He renewed his lease on the apartment in Fargo for another year. Maybe this time next year he’ll look at moving closer to home again, he says. As much as I want him closer to home now, he wants to give his job at least another year and establish a good work history before moving on. Smart boy! He’ll be home for Thanksgiving. The old Brad is resurfacing after the heartache of the past months. I’m happy. And relieved.

2014-10-17Another phone call from a kid, this one from Kacey. She was pretty sick last week, with a fever, chills, spots in her throat and a rash on her body. And as someone who has rarely ever been seriously ill, she had to make her first all-by-herself decision to see a doctor. Her symptoms mirrored those of strep throat. It wasn’t strep throat. She was tested for mono and it wasn’t that either, thankfully. But she was treated with antibiotics and feels much better now. It was good to hear the energy back in her voice and know that she was able to get back to her old self, focus on studying again, and have a little fun with friends again.

Jake and his new girlfriend, Alysha. Introvert and private person that he is, it took him awhile to bring her around and make introductions. She’s sweet and he’s clearly enamored with her. She’s bringing out good things in him and I love the results of the ego boost he’s feeling. He hangs out at home a little more often, and talks to me more, giving a long-missing bit of insight into his world.  He’s maturing, realizing how good it feels to think of someone besides himself for a change. And he’s visibly happy. I love it!

Fall. The color of the sky. The smell of dried leaves. The red, orange and gold hues in the tree-tops. Geese in a V-formation flying over the house, honking, making Lucy stop sniffing one of the many invisible-to-me trails in the backyard to gaze up in curiosity. Temperatures just cool enough that Lucy is willing to snuggle again. Doggie snuggles are the best!

New guy at work – blowing me away with his skills and adaptability. New girl at work – provides frequent opportunities to remember my patience and shows me where my training skills need more work. And gratefulness that all three of our new teammates are so personable and willing to learn.

The weekend. So glad it’s here. While Mark is off on a hunting jaunt, I’m going with my sister to do some hunting of my own – for bargains at the new outlet mall.

Hope your weekend is happy!

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.

 

Day-tuh!

I had one of these days at work today… the kind of day when… well…

A big part of my job involves working with data, the details of which would be monotonous and boring to most. If you’d tried to sell me on it a few years ago, my response would have been along the lines of “What? NO!” But I enjoy it. I really do.

My company uses data for different purposes, depending on what our clients need. And we’re still sort of new to it all. Sort of. Big picture-wise. But we’re improving and growing every day.

Several weeks ago, one of my clients contacted me and asked if I could prove some specific results of the services we provide. We have all kinds of reports, but this particular result? Well, there’s not an automated way to produce it. But I had a strong feeling that if I could produce it, I could prove something valuable. If I could prove it, this client would be steering several other potential clients in our direction.

I set out to do some research. For the past few weeks, I’ve been filtering data extracts and comparing extracts from one date to the next. I’ve been trying to document the data changes in such a way to show a specific result, in an easy-to-understand manner.

Our staff is stretched a little thin and there are a lot of irons in the fire. My boss mentioned that while my goal was admirable, she didn’t think it was my job to prove what I was trying to prove. She felt bad that there wasn’t a report I could just call up to provide my client, and said she didn’t feel I should have to spend my time trying to find the proof I needed. She insinuated that if I was going to continue working on this, it should be filler work.

data-analysisThis project has been filling every spare moment I’ve had for weeks. And I have put so much effort into things that turned out to be dead-ends. Two days ago, I thought I’d finally hit my mark, only to find another inconsistency that shed doubt on my results. I was ready to throw it all in the trash and pull my hair out.

Thankfully, I have a coworker who is a big picture person. While I know what I can and cannot do with the data, and at times was ready to throw in the towel, she’s an idea person who keeps asking questions until she gets where she wants to be. She kept asking me questions. Some wrong questions. Some right. “Can you do this? Can you do that? If you could find X… would it prove Y?”

All of that trial and error, all of those questions… Today it finally added up to the answer I was looking for! I know… I know there is a way to automate a process to achieve that kind of result, but as of now, it doesn’t exist. And as of today, I found it anyway! I was hoping and praying that this result was the one that I needed and it was.

I feel like I’ve been fighting these past few weeks and I was really beginning to feel like it was all for nothing. And just when I was ready to walk away from the whole thing, I got excited about the project all over again and found exactly what I’ve been looking for. This is exactly the kind of thing that reminds me what it is I love so much about what I do. Kind of geeky, I know. Never would have guessed I had it in me. Feels GREAT!

I still have to polish things up a bit before I send anything to my client. But now I feel confident in the information I’ll be providing and I know my client will be more than pleased to see these results.

So yep! It was that kind of day; the kind that makes me excited to go back to work tomorrow. I am so grateful that I get to do what I do.

The Difficult One

It’s summer. And it’s been beautiful lately. Not too hot, no humidity, upper seventies or low eighties… I should be happy. Summer is my happy time. But I haven’t been.

It’s not that I’m bottom-of-the-barrel miserable. I’ve just been so unmotivated about everything. I can’t seem to get excited about much. By the time I get out of bed, I’m already looking ahead to the end of the day. Nothing in the waking hours seems to hold much appeal lately.

I guess it’s a series of events that just seem to be weighing on me. I have no control over any of it.  And I think it’s all compounded by an ongoing situation which I really can’t change. There’s a person in my work life who doesn’t treat others very well. She’s phony and seriously lacking in integrity. This seems to be common knowledge. People talk and I’ve heard the stories for years. When she behaves politely, you’re always left to wonder what her angle is. If she’s unhappy with you, look out. She’ll spit words at you like fire. I’ve been on the receiving end of such behavior on several occasions, and like most others, I’m always so stunned that it leaves me speechless and at a loss as to how to defend myself. Afterwards, I’m never sure if I’m more upset with her for having the gall to be so arrogant, or with myself for failing to speak up once again.

It happened again on Friday. Here’s the thing. I think I have a reputation for being nice. And it’s not that I’m really all that nice, all the time. I have mean thoughts just like anyone else, but I keep them to myself. I don’t think I’d have the ability to voice hurtful opinions on others if I tried because deep down, I know those really mean thoughts are just that. Mean. Insecurity. Jealousy, maybe. But believe me, I’d love to let loose on this person if I could. I just don’t want to stoop to her level. I honestly think that when the company was reorganized, someone must have asked the question, “Who do we think will put up with her?” I think I was the answer. What happened on Friday? I did nothing wrong. I was asked to provide input for an important project and I simply agreed to do so. I was asked in front of her. And I’m pretty sure she just felt threatened that I was asked and she wasn’t. Her reaction was instant and her words boiled down to, “What makes you so important?”

I know I was asked because I’d done all the work leading up to the request. We were to work on it as a team, but everyone else was busy. I happened to have the time and what needed to be done was something that played to my strengths. I did the work at the request of the team, shared it with them and asked for feedback. She provided no feedback other than to say she was fine with what I’d put together and agreed I should move it forward, which I did. I took care to say it was our unified response, but I think my other teammate made it clear to others that the work had come from me because my boss acknowledged that she knew so. All the effort leading up to the request was mine. Why shouldn’t I be asked when it was time for follow-up? Why should she? But she didn’t see it that way.

Like always, in the face of her ire, I fumbled with a response that was merely an attempt to cool her down. She was completely unjustified, yet I was frantically trying to soothe her anger. Why? Why do I feel it’s my duty to make sure she doesn’t feel insecure when I have nothing to be ashamed of? Why do I feel that I need to muffle my strengths and talents just to protect her feelings? She’s an outwardly confident person with a reputation for arrogance. But she’s more than confident and arrogant. She’s bold and blatant. She thinks nothing of spewing condescension and spite when she feels threatened. She can be completely and utterly unprofessional. And each time she does it without being called out, it just seems to fuel her fire. I’ve seen her unleash on others and I’m always floored by the fact that there isn’t some corporate policy that requires she behave respectfully. She just continues to get away with it. Maybe it’s because she does do good work (when she actually does some work. She usually squirrels away the day and then kicks in to gear just when everyone else is wrapping up for the day. Then she makes sure everyone is aware of all of the “extra” hours she is putting in.) But she seems to feel that she always has to have a leg up on the rest of us. We’re supposed to be a team, but she wants to be the alpha.

It’s not as if I’m witnessing the worst of her behavior on a daily basis. She’s smart and knows to rein it in most of the time. But it’s happened enough, both the big displays and the little digs, that I now go to work, constantly on edge, always wondering if something will set her off. She talks incessantly from her cubicle whether or not anyone appears to be listening. And I always hear the “dig” in her words, whether it’s actually there or not. I’m so uptight that I’ve stopped looking forward to going to a job that I actually do enjoy. I work in an office full of people I truly like, except for one. And when I come home in the evenings, she and her words keep resurfacing in my mind. She’s making me nuts. And I know I’m making those around me nuts because I can’t seem either rise above it or face the problem head on.

I started tweaking my LinkedIn profile and this weekend, began to tell myself to start picturing myself doing something different, doing it somewhere else. I’ve mentioned at home and to a good friend that I might start opening myself up to the possibility of new work opportunities. My friend and my own daughter had the same reaction. “You can’t leave because of her!

I didn’t immediately realize that my friend and my daughter were right. Ironically, it was while working on my LinkedIn profile this weekend that I stumbled across a notification in my email that I’d missed a couple of weeks ago. I subscribe to blog posts on Steve Harper’s Ripple Central and I just so happened to have missed an article titled How Did You Start Your Day? This article reminded me that If I’m waking up every day feeling less than enthusiastic about what’s ahead, there’s only one person who can do something about it. Me. Then today, I saw something in my LinkedIn news feed. I must have previously subscribed to this feed at some point, and today, it lead me to The Happiness ProjectI found myself clicking through the site, reading various postings, soaking up one piece of positivity after another and again, being reminded that if I want to get back on track and be happy, I need to work at it. It’s on me. I can’t control the behavior of anyone else. But I can control the way I react and I need to figure out how to do this better.

I needed this. It suddenly dawned on me that the world is full of difficult people. The person who is my problem is clearly insecure and very likely, a really unhappy person. (Is it bad if I take consolation in that fact?) I can look for another job, but if I find one, that’s no guarantee that I’ll be free of the kind of person I’m trying to escape. need to be more confident. I need to learn to filter her out when I’m able and I need to learn to speak up for myself when the situation calls for it. I need to learn to respond immediately, with respect and without guilt or regret. I’m sick of carrying it all home with me day after day and constantly mulling it over in my mind without any kind of resolution. I’m done. And I’m already feeling so much better.

Out of Office

I took some time off from work this week. I’m going to spend a couple of days at home catching up and taking care of some things for my parents, then spend some time at the lake with my family. I know I need the break because even a few days of chores before going off to play sounds appealing to me. Today was my last day in the office until next Monday. Woot! Woot!

The company I work for was recently purchased by another company and we are now a subsidiary. My coworkers and I have all had to learn to adapt to change, which has come in waves over the last few months. Last week, our computers were moved from our old network to the new company’s network. There are many positive changes, but everything looks, feels and behaves differently than I’m used to. It seems to take me three times as long to do the same work. I know I’ll find my groove soon enough, but sometimes it’s hard to be patient. Thankfully, we are all given as much leeway as we need to figure out the new stuff.

This afternoon, as I was winding down for the day and getting ready to head home, I remembered that I wanted to turn on my out-of-office message so that any clients trying to contact me over the next few days would know that I was unavailable for the remainder of the week. But when I clicked the option to compose a message, I received an error stating that the action couldn’t be completed because the server was down. Of course, I didn’t believe the error message, so I checked with a coworker to see if she would have the same problem. She didn’t. Her out-of-office message assistant worked just fine.

Out of Office

google images

One of the really nice perks of working for this new company is that they have a phenomenal help desk. All I have to do is dial a four-digit extension and someone is there to help me with whatever problem I might have. I don’t even have to identify myself. The help desk knows who is calling! So I called to ask for help with my out-of-office problem and I was assisted by a very nice guy named Tom.

Tom asked permission to remote into my computer and I handed over control. He looked around at my settings, tried various things, shut down Outlook and opened it up again, all to no avail. He created a new email profile to see if the out-of-office assistant would function, but that didn’t work either. He explained what he was doing and proposed various theories as he searched for an answer. He really seemed to know what he was doing, even though he couldn’t find an immediate answer to my problem. He then asked what time I was done for the day. “About ten minutes ago,” I said.

“Oh, well then,” he replied. “I’m here late tonight, so I can probably get it figured out before I go home. Once I know what the problem is, I’ll get in touch with you so you can test it to make sure it’s fixed. What time will you be in tomorrow?”

“I won’t be. Actually,” I said, “I’ll be … out of the office … tomorrow…?”

I swear I heard him slap himself on the forehead. Of course,” he said! “Hence the reason for your call!”

“Uh-huh,” I laughed. I assured Tom that I could probably survive without the out-of-office auto reply this time and that I would connect with him again on Monday, when I’m back in the office.

At least all this change and frustration comes with some laughs.

Goofing Off at the Office

This is what I love about the company I work for. They recognize the importance of employee morale.

In October, my company became a subsidiary of another company with whom there has been a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship. Our parent company’s offices were in the same building as ours at the time of the buyout. My company’s lease was expiring at the end of 2012. Our parent company’s lease will expire in 2013. Not long after the buyout, it was announced that both companies would move to a new location.

Since the new office space is brand new, the move is happening in phases. The subsidiary employees and a handful of parent company employees moved to the new offices at the end of December. Over the next few months, the unfinished portion of the new space will be prepared for the remainder of the parent company employees. In the meantime, there are a lot of open areas.

One of the members of senior management decided to make good use of the open space. He decided he would bring in his “Bags” game. (You may know this game as Bean Bag Toss, Cornhole, Corn Toss, or Baggo.)

Belindas bean bag shotEmployees interested in playing in a management-sanctioned tournament were invited to submit their names. Names were drawn to form teams. I got Greg as my partner. Greg is an employee of the parent company and I’ve only begun to get to know him over the last couple of months. He and a few coworkers eat lunch in the break room each day at the same time I eat lunch with some of my coworkers. The two groups of employees tend to share good-natured jokes and jabs. I have an appreciation for Greg’s sarcastic sense of humor.

Early today, before the “Bags” matches began, I thought I’d test my ability. In short? I sucked.

I went by Greg’s desk and said, “I’m just going to apologize right now.”

“What for,” he asked?

“Because you got me for a partner in the tournament. I just practiced. It wasn’t pretty.”

“I suck too,” Greg admitted. “Let’s just lay it on thick with the trash talk.”

“Works for me,” I said and headed back to my desk to get some work done before game time.

Before I could sit down, I came across my coworker Joe who would be one of  my opponents. Joe cocked one eyebrow at me and put on a scowl. Raising his elbow high in the air, he jabbed his index finger toward the floor several times while threatening, “You’re going down!

“I don’t doubt it,” I assured him and we both broke out in laughter.

12:25 rolled around and it was game time. Joe and his partner, Ron, Greg and I strolled over to the open space and took our places on either side of each game board. Ron started off the game, landing a bean bag on the board with one of his very first throws. Joe proved to be eerily accurate in his throws as well.

Greg and I? We sucked. Royally.

Midway through the game, I thought to take my boots off. I thought maybe the heels were messing with my balance. My throws began to improve but it was too late. We got thoroughly spanked.

But…we had fun! We had loads of fun. We joked and laughed and forgot about work for a little while. In the end, Greg and I shook hands with our opponents and we all strolled back to work with not a bit of animosity between us. Greg apologized to me for sucking so badly.

“No need to apologize to me,” I assured him. “We lost that game together!” I told Ron and Joe that we would be their cheerleaders now that they were moving up in the brackets.

As we headed back to our desks, I stopped by the break room to partake in the pot luck buffet of treats and the chocolate fountain that was provided in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Like any job, mine has its share of ups and downs. But it’s things like bean bag tournaments and chocolate fountains that help ease the stress and frustrations and make me appreciate how well we, as employees are taken care of. That’s what I love about the company I work for.

 

Back to Work

Well, I felt decidedly more human this morning so I showered, got dressed and went back to work.

And my coworker who became ill half a day ahead of me called in sick again. So I win!

Not really. It’s not a contest. Recovering from illness is not a competition.

But really, I kind of felt like I won a contest.

I was welcomed back and it was nice to know people were concerned about my well-being. One person expressed surprise that I had returned so quickly. I know I could have easily claimed illness one more day, but honestly, I was sick of lying around. I had many conversations with coworkers about how “everyone” is getting sick right now. And as if to prove us correct, a chorus of coughs and sneezes periodically rang out around the office. I was grateful I’d just had a quick stomach virus and not that nasty cold and flu stuff that’s making the news.

While I was home sick I missed a lot and also did things I don’t normally do. Kacey went to a reunion with the softball girls and I was completely unaware. When I wasn’t completely unaware of things, I watched a lot of television. I could easily become a regular viewer of Ellen.

This looks like good daily fun, right?

This looks like good daily fun, right?

When you’re sick and if you have cable, you discover all the television shows you used to enjoy and realize they’re still on during the day, usually marathon style. I watched a whole bunch of episodes of Judging Amy. I’d forgotten about that one. I used to really like it and thoroughly enjoyed it again yesterday. Until I fell asleep again.

And I saw a lot of news reports about the flu and how it’s become almost an epidemic in some places. I would like to avoid the flu if I can, so I paid attention. It was said that to prevent the spread of germs, you should try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. I made a conscious effort not to touch my face at all today, which made me more aware of how often I touch my face as I work.  Which is approximately a hundred times an hour! I used my hand sanitizer each time I caught myself touching my face.

sneezeMy boss is kind of a germ-o-phobe. He approached me and said, “Hey, welcome back! How you feeling?”

As I was saying, “Much better, thanks,” he took a precautionary step away from me. I wasn’t offended, but I decided not to tell him about my sanitizing efforts.

And later, when he was in a meeting, I sneezed on his keyboard.

(Not really. You know me better than that!)

(But it’s fun to think about.)