Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moby Dick

So my technical expertise is my Moby Dick - and today that whale is gone.

I stood in front of about 40 IT professionals in my university community at a brown bag lunch today and uncovered something I was hoping no one had noticed:  this IT Manager really only knows a handful of things about IT.

I can blame it on a number of factors:

1) The pace at which the change is moving, driven by the consumerization and mobilization of IT, makes it a full-time endeavor to stay current on engadget, cnet, gizmodo, etc. - and sometimes, shucks, I would just rather surf on Zappos. 

2) I'm too busy with other tasks to swap out a motherboard or review the benefits of solid state drives, along with lots of other distractions that are fun but not fruitful for me. 

3)  That's not what I'm paid to do anymore.  And that's the key.  In most cases, we have the jobs we have because of our strengths.  Harry Kraemer, in the book From Values To Action, discusses the notion that, instead of berating ourselves for our weaknesses, we should focus on improving our strengths and also surround ourselves with people who excel in areas we are weak.  In my case, I no longer rely on screwdrivers and external drives as my tools.  My tools are self-reflection, seeking out differing viewpoints, knowing what I know and what I don't know, and keeping things in perspective.  The tools of leadership.  I'm more likely to be listening to someone who knows that IT is somehow involved in their problem or solution and my role is to connect them with the resources, the experts, the funding, the answers.

If you want to hear Harry talk about his book, sit back for three minutes, click on the following (if you can't see the video or are having any problems, close your browser and try again, or try another browser, or give me a call...I do know a THING or two about IT problems):

Harry made me realize that value-based leadership expects you to kill the whale in your life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bleeding Lip

So you might think my lip is bleeding because we just endured the holiday weekend with family and friends.  No!  That's not so!  I had the best Thanksgiving ever.

I've been biting my lip at work lately.  I'm all for being sensitive and politically correct, but really?  Do we always have to kiss up and ignore down?  I'm just not into that...

One of my heroes said this:
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

If only I worked with Thomas Jefferson... 

So why does the person with the inflated, impressive title always get the attention, the resources, the funding?  What if they are wrong and the minion is doing the right thing?  Shouldn't we notice THAT?  Shouldn't we HONOR that?  I mean, GEEZ!  I like to eat, too, but my integrity is more important than my next meal.  Until I'm hungry.

Readers...please help me.

Bridesmaid Kate and Other Blessings

Doesn't he have the best smile ever?

We had the fun of Black Wednesday (another fast night at the Rank's bar, thanks to Steve and Joni and very good champagne for engagement toasts to Matt and Kelly) and all the blessings that Thanksgiving brought...especially having an honored guest,  Grant Stephen, celebrating his first Thanksgiving at my home.  Everything went so well...including a short visit from our new favorite first year analyst, Joe.   But anyway...

One of my favorite moments of my Thanksgiving vacation was Thursday night when my DIL2B, Kelly, stopped by to share her really cool engagement photos.  Along with the fun of seeing their favorite pics (and the honor of receiving copies of all 600 of them), there was a lot of joy and excitement in the air when she asked her new "sister" (her words) to be a bridesmaid.  I was immensely touched, especially because the bond between Kate and Kelly is a bond that seems way less about Matt lately and way more about them.  While their loyalty and mutual admiration is noticeable, the positive effects of these two young, strong women enjoying each other goes beyond what they can offer each other -- their friendship is a gift for Matt, for me, and for the entire family.  Cheers to the Bridesmaid...and Here's to the Bride!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Black Sunday

I might have made this up, but this is my Black Sunday night.  I'm ready!  Let's go.  I have enjoyed five days away now and I might just be convinced that it's time to go back.  Strap the pedometer back on, throw out the leftover pies and cakes, pack my lunch and set the alarm again.  Day camp, er work, is calling.

While I certainly would resign immediately if I won that lottery game I never play, there is something healthy about our regimens, our routines, and it only takes five days away from it all to recharge my batteries and honor the structure that I have actually, somewhere along the line, chosen for myself.

I know it's a new week, I know it's Sunday night...because I just made plans for next weekend!  Let's go!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving thanks

The smell of the giblets, simmering on the stove, kicked off my nostalgia today. I've been overwhelmed with gratefulness. This is the eve of my favorite holiday and Ive been honored to host it for almost thirty years.

I'm alone in this house right now, with vegetables to clean and lots of other little chores as yet undone. I've sent Shawn on another errand. The table is set and now I'm just praying the traffic gods are kind, so the most important people in my world make it home. We will catch our breath tomorrow as we share a moment giving thanks and wonder at the blessings all around us. Cheers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Friendly Holiday Reminders

I never really understood why holidays brought along uninvited guests - lots of emotions, confusion and chaos, travel worries, and so many expectations.

I'm chasing this down, this year, and trying to enjoy the journey, trying to enjoy the countdown until everyone is finally home.  I'm getting their rooms ready, and remembering their favorite foods, and I'm almost at the window pane, I'm so eager with excitement for their arrival.  Soon this quiet place will be filled with reminders of who we once were and who we have become.

I'm reminding myself of something else, too.  Surefire tips for a successful holiday season:

1.   Seek to understand before you are understood.
2.   Figure out what really matters.
3.   Focus on your priorities first.
4.   Chill the vodka.

Jump start conversations with these open-ended phrases:

1.  Tell me why that's important to you.
2.  How can I support you?
3.  What do you need?
4.  How did that feel?

Keep in mind that these questions are no longer yours to ask:

1.  How much did that cost?
2.  Do you know what's in that?
3.  How often do you do that?
4.  Why don't you do that this way?

There's nothing I enjoy more than hangin' with my family, all my twentysomethings that offer me so much.  I'm looking forward to our conversations:  around the fireplace, in the hot tub, snackin' at the island.  No doubt, at some point, someone will quietly question my place in their world.  Hopefully I will still have the conviction I once had:  to remind them that my role isn't to make them happy, it's to challenge their thinking.  And then, I'll add:  When are you coming home for

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Happy birthday to my beautiful, capable mom! I've always admired my mom and never could compete with her (not in an I-need-therapy way but in a she's-so-proficient way).  I favor my dad - in looks, in disposition, in skills...and I love and honor that. But to be more like mom - that would be a delight! I know I've picked up a few lessons from mom over the years, and I like to think I run my castle like she runs hers, but she is the queen.  This pretty woman bore seven children...she has more projects and energy than anyone I kmow.  My little mum - so very big to me! Happy birthday, mom! Love you!

Birthday lunch, 11.18.2012
Mom and Dad

 My brothers and me - not looking a bit like our pretty mom.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Not About the Food

Timing is everything, right?  Seeing my longtime sisterfriend Lisa as she traveled thru Iowa on I-80, was a highlight of my week month; talking with her this weekend, a few days before my favorite holiday, was perfect timing and a good reminder.  I had been thinking about how my attempts to enhance my mash potatoes - by throwing in a block of cream cheese - really under-delivered last year, and she was reminding me that we get together on Thanksgiving for bigger reasons.  She was telling me about her Thanksgiving plans.  She explained that after years of shopping and cleaning and cooking and baking - she's just not feeling it this year.  Her family has plans to relax and chill and really ENJOY each other.  Then she said they may wander out to a nice Greek restaurant.  It's just what I needed to hear:  It's not about the food.

It's not about the food:  hanging with Lisa and her family at McDonald's.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Gift angst is starting to creep in.  I'm on the lookout for TV deals...and gadget gifts...maybe a cashmere sweater or scarf.  Kate and I usually creep out early on Black Friday, in the dark, for coffee and shopping madness.  In the meantime...I'm going to think about how I can bring a little of the following into my life this holiday season. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comforting Words

I'm not sure who said this or where it floated from, but I saw it recently in one of my inboxes and it's like it was written just for me (and for a particular person who I had coffee with recently - you know who you are):

"Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Three Little Girls

I had a chance to see two of my three Minneapolis sisters this weekend (sure did miss you, Laurie!).   So I started calling it the "Three Little Girls Reunion Party" and boy...did we! 

There's something really cool about being in this particular club.  While my parents always speak affectionately when referring to the three little girls, the four older sibs haven't always had warmth rolling off their tongues with this label (more like rolling of the eyes).  I know we injected new energy and enthusiasm into the special bond we have when we met on Saturday night, as we discussed religion, children, food, family, politics, clothing, coupons...and other life choices.

We might be sisters, but it's really the sisterhood.  Those of you who don't have blood sisters, or have lost them, often find this in other women.  The bond:  a mirror, a window, a witness, the truth.  There's just no getting away from yourself when you have allies in your life.  Cheers to Liz and Marie!

Lake Calhoun - a 3.4 mile walk on a 65 degree day in November.
It doesn't get much better than this!

And of course, wine!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Door Casings, Newels and Balusters...Oh My!

"Getting my steps in" around the neighborhood on Halloween night, I peaked, from the street, inside other homes as people opened their doors to answer the call. I noticed the entryways of several homes (some much better than others) and came back and immediately proclaimed, "We gotta do something about this!"

The next night, schlepping home with the bacon, I was surprised - not with simmering soup on the stove, but with the absence of a stairway railing, as well as the passé balusters attached therein!

Once we decided to update the stairway, well you know what happens! We decided to paint our outdated oak doors, Shawn supersized the door casing and added an inch or two to the baseboards - these inexpensive and fun tricks are giving our humble abode a little lift.

This is what I've been doing helping with lately instead of blogging...
Adding a little height to the baseboard was a genius idea, Shawn!

Vocab word of the day - this is a newel, sans cap.
I got this photo before the last baluster was removed!
I never knew I liked spindles so much!
My contribution - it's really hard to mess up painting doors!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Where Did I Put that Extra Hour?

The affects of moving from Daylight Savings Time have long worn off, and only some cruel reminders remain - night recedes slowly, still, in the morning.  At workday's end, I'm rushing to beat the deer on the highway.

Tonight, in front of me downtown, I saw a young, handsome family, very caught up in the traffic and their schedule, or so it seemed.  They were seemingly unaware, in their haste, of the blessing I so appreciated.  The dad was holding the hand of the oldest, a young and loyal daughter.  The mom had her baby's hand, a son, and clearly full of energy, even with the day fading.  I was sure they didn't notice their blessings like I did.  Yes, I was judging them.  I wanted to tell them to forget about their domestic concerns, their bills, their jobs, the car, and anything else that was challenging them.  Soak in the blessing of those beautiful children who drop by, quite possibly uninvited, and find a place at the table and in your heart, for such a short visit. 

I'm thinking of my baby, who caught a flight this afternoon to Atlanta, just for dinner.  I'm thinking of another one of my babies who had the new experience of buying a studfinder this week after buying a new home.  And I'm thinking of my oldest baby, who is thinking about babies herself.

It's official.  I'm old.  I've uttered those words - in the quiet of the night, in the privacy of the shower, in the commotion of the car:  Where did the time go?  I'd love to have my 3 blessings at our table, under our roof, for just one more quick dinner before we head off to soccer or to scouts.  I like to think I savored every moment, and I did and do feel God's touch when I think about the gift of motherhood that graced my life - but the truth is that many moments I was just trying to hold it all together and be that household appliance they needed me to be.

Weekend Treat and definitely in the cassette deck twenty years ago:  Sinead O'Connor - Three Babies:

Lyrics:  each of these my three babies I will carry with me for myself I ask no one else will be mother to these three and of course I'm like a wild horse but there's no other way I could be water + feed are not tools that I need for the thing that I've chosen to be
in my soul my blood + my bones I have wrapped your cold bodies around me the face on you the smell of you will always be with me
each of these my three babies I was not willing to leave though I tried I blasphemed + denied I know they will be returned to me each of these my babies have brought you closer to me no longer mad like a horse I'm still wild but not lost from the thing that I've chosen to be
and it's 'cos you've thrilled me silenced me stilled me proved things I the face on you the smell of you will always be with me.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Gratitude Plan

It's November, people!  Let's get going on gratefulness.

I'm going to recognize and celebrate my unfinished complete life - even if I don't have enough time, money, energy, and creativity - I can close my eyes to the sound of ohmmm and think about everything that is going right in my world.  The list is long! 

Keep a journal, reflect when rising or ending the day, tell a loved one, and remind yourself:  good things are happening all around you.  The mere expression of gratitude can have a profound impact in your life...and those around you!

If you've forgotten the language of gratitude, as the saying goes, you'll never be on speaking terms with happiness.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

I'll admit it - I wasn't really looking forward to today's sermon because of what's happening in two days.  I was braced for Father Vu to share guidance on how we should vote, based on the Church's doctrines.

His message was a pleasant surprise.  He talked about his admiration for the volunteers who are enthusiastically knocking on doors, putting aside their wants and wishes while pushing forward the agenda of their candidate.  He didn't share his political leanings but instead talked about the selfless spirit of those campaigning for their guy. He wondered aloud why we do not rally and promote our God with that same zeal and energy. 

There has been a lot of talk about values and priorities recently, but this simple message is the best soundbite I've heard lately.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Let's start the weekend with a sweet indulgence.  She is an artist, people.  Grammatically it doesn't always fit. amd literally I'm not exactly sure of all the players in this story song, but I assume that somewhere in here she is referring to the foreverness and loveliness (do I sound like her?) of being a mother.  Sit back, enjoy, and your welcome!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

havoc and bright lights

I finally got around to downloading Alanis Morissette's new album, havoc and bright lights.

I've been waiting four years for AM to release something and now she has - and I've been rockin' to it ever since.  I am so glad she's back!

She has always been a profound lyricist, and so I was very excited to see if she would go autobiographical as she can now add marriage, motherhood, and attachment parenting to her list of topics...and I was glad she did.  It's all still there:  self-care, prayer, solitude, oversights, imperatives.  But guess what?   havoc and bright lights  has been received with mixed reviews, some saying this is too meditational...really?  She rocks just as much as ever...I find that, isn't it, well, it's a little bit ironic?