Never a Dull Moment

As crazy weeks go, this one ranks right up there. Going into the work week, I knew most of my department would be either out on PTO or leaving late Monday morning for business travel.

That basically left two of us to hold down the fort. I knew that could present some challenges but we were actually excited to rise to the challenge.

What I wasn’t counting on was my boss calling me into her office first thing Monday morning before she left for the week – and offering me a promotion I had no idea was coming!

More on this soon! :-)

Parking Lot Rescue

If he hadn’t been with someone else, I totally would have taken him home.

Today was one of those spring days on the verge of summer. I’d squeezed in a quick walk around the pond at lunch time, but wanted to soak up a few more of the sun’s rays before getting inside my car and making the drive home. So when my work day was finished, I packed up my stuff and left through back entrance. I walked the long way around the building to the far side of the lot where I always park. It was five o’clock and a typically busy time in the company parking lot. A steady stream of employees cruised by me in their cars as I walked.

I was coming up on the far corner of the building when I saw a black tow truck blocking one of the two areas that lead to the east exit from the company lot. The truck’s engine was idling. The cab was empty and the driver’s side door hung wide open. Behind the tow truck was an Isuzu Trooper I’d noticed in the lot over the past few days.

That’s when I saw him. He was sitting on a curb behind a parked white car. He seemed so out-of-place there and I wondered if he was okay. I slowed my pace and hesitantly moved toward him. His face was really handsome and I felt an urge to run my fingers through the tousle of black on top of his head.

He looked cautiously at me as I took another step toward him and softly said, “Hey.”

I was a bit startled when he leapt to his feet and lunged toward me.

“YIP YIP!” Four furry little legs followed behind his cute, fuzzy face.

“Snoopy!” A burly, buzzed-haired tow truck driver yelled as he turned in my direction, rising from his crouched position next to the front tire of the Isuzu. “Get back in the truck!”

Not the real Snoopy

Not the real Snoopy

Snoopy made no move to obey his owner and looked curiously back at me. He was an adorable, little black fur-ball of a dog and I was worried he’d run into the open area of the parking lot, or worse, into the busy street. I certainly didn’t want him getting hit by a car, so I reached my hand down so he could sniff me. I moved slowly toward the tow truck, all the while holding my hand out to Snoopy, hoping he’d follow me back toward the truck. He wasn’t all that interested.

“He’s friendly,” offered the tow truck guy. “He just warns me when someone comes up behind me while I’m doing a repo.” I suppressed a giggle at the fact that this beefy guy’s guard dog was an ankle biter.

I looked down at Snoopy and decided I was tired of hoping he’d cooperate with me in ensuring his safety. I dropped my work bag and purse on the ground and scooped him up with one hand. He nestled right into me and I scratched him under his chin as I walked him back to his owner. Tow Truck Guy gratefully took Snoopy from me and said thanks.

“No problem,” I smiled. “It’s busy around here. Don’t want him getting run over!”

I headed back toward my car and as I unlocked it and slid into the driver’s seat, I turned to see Tow Truck Guy gently closing the truck door behind Snoopy. Snoopy quickly jumped up, resting his front paws on the window ledge where he watched his owner finish his job from the safety of the cab. My heart melted and I was happy Snoopy was safe.

Reasons to Smile

I stumbled across a bargain last Sunday while out shopping – a winter jacket, marked half off the original price, and another fifty dollars off if I text-messaged the word coats to a designated number. I’ve been keeping my eye open for a new jacket since last year and couldn’t pass this up. It was a really warm one, and simple in style and color. Perfect for me. When I brought it to the register along with a couple of other items, the cashier who rung up my purchases offered some of the worst customer service I’ve ever received. She didn’t greet me or respond when I attempted to be friendly. She scowled as she worked, and when finished, silently handed over my receipt without even looking at me. Clearly, this was a woman unhappy in her work. If I hadn’t been so eager to purchase my things at such bargain prices, I might have just walked out without buying any of it.

On Tuesday, I stopped by my parents’ place to drop off a meal to put in their fridge for another day, and to get a shopping list from my mom so I could pick up a few of their necessities. Mom complimented my new jacket and mentioned she really could use a new one. I told her what a bargain it had been and offered to take her to the store where I’d bought it so she could pick out one for herself. She said she really wasn’t feeling up to leaving the house, much less walking around a department store, but asked if I would just go pick one out for her.

Knowing that winter clothing starts disappearing quickly from the store racks this time of year, I decided to go straight there in the hopes of still finding something for Mom. I was lucky to find one jacket still available in her size, but I didn’t see the sign that was there on Sunday for the text-message discount. When I went to pay, I thought I’d just ask if the offer was still available. The cashier very kindly apologized and said it was not, but let me see what other offers might be available.

I was pleasantly surprised at her attempt to go the extra mile, especially after my experience on Sunday. This very friendly woman asked if I wanted to open up a store credit card that would earn me something like forty-five percent off my purchase. I politely declined, not wanting to take a hit on my credit score for a one-time discount.  That’s okay, I said. I’m still going to buy this. The price was still a good deal and within the amount Mom was willing to spend.

Well, let me just check something else, the cashier offered. Here, she exclaimed, pulling a clipped coupon from her register. Here’s a coupon for twenty-five percent off. She was holding it up to show me. Do you want to use this? We both knew darn well that hadn’t come in with that coupon, but she was offering it to me, simply because I had asked about another discount.

Um, sure! I said. I was a bit astounded at how hard she was working for me, especially knowing I was willing to pay the higher price. I thanked her, explaining that I was purchasing the jacket as a favor to my mom and that Mom would be thrilled and grateful for the lower price.

She smiled and proceeded to ring up the jacket. Thank you so much for doing this! I said to her.

You’re so very welcome, she offered back with a huge smile. Have a good night!

I like that store, and my experience with the crabby cashier on Sunday wasn’t typical, nor likely to keep me from shopping there again. But my experience with the much friendlier employee that Tuesday evening sure made me feel great, and I found myself letting go of any frustration I still felt when I thought back to my prior visit. I regretted not taking note of her name so I could let the company know how well she represented them.

I left with a big smile on my face and then headed off to go buy the things on my parents’ necessities list. As I wandered through another store’s aisles, finding each item, I looked down at the cart I was pushing and had to roll my eyes slightly at the things my seventy-four year-old parents consider necessities.


Between what shopping my parents manage on their own, and the errands my sister and I do for them, I know they don’t stand a chance of the candy dish running dry before one of us ends up at the store again. They absolutely didn’t need this much at one time. But they love to keep a variety of treats on hand so that every one of their kids and grandkids can find something they enjoy when visiting. Besides, I know they buy the kind in the yellow bag especially because it’s my favorite.

The rest of the week had its ups and downs. I had both work-related challenges and successes. While immersed in a project one early afternoon, I heard my phone vibrate with a new text message. I picked it up to take a look and following is what ensued.

Mark Text

I was totally surprised and wondering what he really wanted, but it seems he just wanted to connect with me. That is absolutely not typical of Mark and me. I know he loves me. He knows I love him. But we never just randomly stop to send messages like this one. This past week, he had been working second shift, so he was sleeping when I’d leave for work in the mornings and gone when I’d come home. By the time he’d get back home, I’d be sleeping. Guess he just decided to let me know he missed spending time together.

The weather early this week was warm, but gloomy. We had fog one day and gray skies several days in a row. Late in the week, the temperatures dropped and I was able to put my new jacket to good use. The cold weather brought a slight break in the clouds, just enough to  provide some relief from that dreary feeling. It’s funny how different the same sky can look depending on where you see it. Here was the view just a few blocks from home while I waited at a red light.


And only a half hour later, as seen from the office parking lot.



As easy as it is to be connected with so many people these days, through text messaging and social media, I’m hyper-aware that many others are struggling daily with real difficulties in their lives. Some just seem to face one tragedy after the next. By the day, I see messages asking us to pray for successful job interviews, for healing of physical ailments, or to keep loved ones from the grip of death. We may sometimes be guilty of being too connected, but this same connectedness often gives me the opportunity to be grateful for all that I have and each new day I’m graced with. It reminds me to smile whenever the chance comes along, no matter how brilliant or trivial the opportunity seems.


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.



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.