Tulips

Ugh…totally failing on the post-a-week goal. But on the bright side, Spring has arrived and my SIL’s tulips have bloomed. So have my pear trees, creating a lovely fragrance in my front yard, along with a huge ‘snow’ of blossom petals. Here’s a collage from Easter, when they were at their peak. 

I hope you’re having a lovely Spring!

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Just Under the Wire

Whew…just made it. My goal was to post something at least once a week for the rest of the year. This third post since setting that goal just barely makes it. 

I’ve nothing profound to say. It’s Saturday, but feels like Sunday. Got that little edge of tension that comes with thinking tomorrow is Monday and all the stress that will bring. Trying to ignore it and relax. 

Here are a few good things to help me with that and hopefully inspire you to find the little bright spots in your corner of the world:

  1. Yesterday was the first day of sunshine we’ve had in more than two weeks. I enjoyed it by sitting under one of the pear trees in my front yard before sunset. Birdsong, sunshine, warm and breezy…a few perfect minutes at the end of the day. 
  2. Speaking of…my pear trees are about to bloom. That is one of my most favorite events of the year. Nothing smells nicer than pear blossoms in cool, Spring morning air. 
  3. I went to a movie at a new theater a couple weeks ago. They have a Star Wars theme in their lobby. I sat in the Emporer’s chair! Silly little things make me happy. Check out the pics below. 

Slingin’

Ok, so I missed my “optimal” posting time for this week (Monday at noon, according to WordPress).  But I’m keeping up with the at-least-once-a-week goal I set for myself with this sub-optimal 😜 post about a new hobby I want to share with you. 

I’m a fidgety person. Always have to have something to busy my hands so that my brain stays focused. Flipping and clicking pens, drumming my fingers, bouncing my knees, spinning a top (or my ring) on my desk, rubbing a worry stone, mashing a stress ball, stringing paperclips…you name an annoying fidget and I’m sure I’ve done it. 

Recently, I’ve discovered fidget spinners and fidget cubes. These stress relievers are designed specifically for us twitchy ones. I have a brass spinner made from plumbing parts and a 3D printed plastic one. Both were cheap and quick to obtain. But they don’t really keep my hands busy enough to eliminate the buzz of distraction from my head. 

So when I stumbled on a new skill toy, I jumped in with enthusiasm. I’m still not good at it, but I’m fast becoming obsessed. 

What is it? Begleri. Weird word, I know. It’s a skill toy form of an ancient Greek worry bead set called a komboli. Those are multi-bead strands, typically of wood or polished stones, that are held and counted (like prayer beads) and sometimes flipped. Still used widely in Greece today. The modern begleri, however, is usually just ‘two beads and a string’, to quote one of my favorite begleri artists. (Some sets have multiple beads, though.)

The toy part is in the slinging – flipping the begleri around your hand and through your fingers. The skill part comes in when you learn to control the thing so you’re not slinging it into your head, your neighbor’s head, your windows, or your expensive HD tv. Tricks and techniques are what it’s all about. The result is a mostly useless set of dexterity skills that nevertheless rewards you with tons of fun, some mental focus, and (when you’re good) some street cred. 

I’m not yet brave enough to post video of my own slinging. But I have included a pic of my favorite set. Since I’ve only picked it up in the last couple of months, I’m still a beginner and only doing basic, small combos. But I’m watching video tutorials and reading about it and slowly getting better. It’s a fun hobby that I hope to perpetuate. 

Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing some seriously skilled slingers. Honestly, this video and an article I read online (can’t find the article now) are the reason I started this. 

I’m baaaaaack!

So…hi. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Life has a way of running inexorably on and suddenly it’s been 3 months and only feels like a couple weeks. Sheesh. 

Anyway, I’ve been trying to write and failing epically. I’m my own worst critic, true, but I think the issue is more basic:  I feel that I have to have something deep and meaningful, or worldly wise, or Earth-shakingly original to post in order to be worthy of publishing here. I’m completely baffled how that idea got into my head, but it’s been a barrier for a while. 

Yet, this is my blog and I started it for me. I made this a place for my own thoughts and expressing them in my own voice. I’m honored that my writing has attracted readers. But that was never the primary purpose. I need to get back to that original goal. 

So I’m giving myself permission to just post anything I feel like sharing. It may be a rant on something irritating, a list of positive things, something that makes me think, or smile, or just some random oddity that I find interesting. I’ve seen a few of my favorite bloggers do this periodically and it seems to work for them. So I’m giving it a go. 

I hope you enjoy the nearly uncensored view into my brain that this is likely to turn into. I also hope that I can keep up a somewhat regular posting pace. Because I like this blogging thing and the feeling of connecting that I get from sharing something from my brain to the internets. 😜
So, for today, three good things:

  1. I’m posting to my blog, which WordPress tells me just turned 4 years old. My ambition is to post at least one thing a week for the rest of the year. 
  2. Spring is here in the Midwest US. Green things are starting to grow. My SIL’s tulips have already pushed 3 inches of leaves out of the soil. So happy to see life return. I’m including a picture of the sunrise from the first day of Spring that I took on my drive to work. It was a good way to start the day. 
  3. I went to see Beauty and the Beast with a friend last Friday night and absolutely LOVED it! Say what you will, but a good ol’ Disney story always leaves me smiling. I still find myself singing “Be Our Guest” in my head. That was pure escapist fun and I’m glad I went. 

I hope you all find more than a few good things to smile about today. 

Pathway of Light

Just snapped this pic of the sunset from the window out the back of my office building. I love sunsets and love getting to see them, even when stuck in the office. This one, with that long ray of light shooting straight at you, is especially cool. That ray looks like a pathway straight into the clouds, a roadway to heaven. 

I hope you’re finding something uplifting in your day, even if it’s as fleeting as the sunset. 

I didn’t sign up to be a traffic cop

Well, with this post, I fulfill my #NaNoWriMo slash #NaBloPoMo goal of posting once a week in November. I even squeezed in a couple of bonus posts. So I’m happy with my achievement, even if it wasn’t 30 straight days of posts. 

Recently I talked about having had a really good day after doing some deeply hard-core executive lawyering. That’s happened quite a few times and I’ve tried to celebrate those wins so as not to lose sight of the good, substantive work I do. That’s important, because it seems far too many of my work days lately consist of frustratingly wasteful, non-substantive busy work. And way too much gate-guarding/re-directing of tasks and obligations away from my team. I feel like I’m mostly a traffic cop, hence the title of this post. 

That’s not what I want to be and not how I want to spend my time. But it’s a necessary evil, if I’m to protect my scarce resources from inefficient and productivity-eroding time-sinks. That is part of my job as the boss. But it seems such a low-value activity and a very expensive waste of time and talent. 

So, instead of whining about it, I’m trying to think of strategies to resolve the symptoms and, hopefully, the root cause. It’s challenging, because no problem is one-sided and lots of people and variables come into play. The priorities I have for my team, which make these inefficiencies so problematic, aren’t the same priorities that other teams have. Indeed, these inefficiencies are tools or methods that other teams are using to pursue their competing priorities. 

A good example is when the sales teams try to end-run the approval process and ask my legal team to draft contracts in absence of approvals “to save time”. My team is put into the position of having to create complex, nuanced contracts on the basis of little or no specific information about the deal, while also having to play approval-police to be sure the contract doesn’t get signed before all the business approvals are given. That parallel processing always includes more calls/emails/special handling, with the associated increased time to get work product out, than we ever need when we get a fully approved contract request before drafting. So I spend time talking to sales reps and sales managers to identify needs and clarify requests and push back against the stupid and unreasonable, while my team struggles to provide top quality service amidst the chaos. 

That’s what I mean by inefficiencies making me a traffic cop. 

I haven’t answered all (any) of the questions about how to remedy this condition. But I have been working on it. With the help of cross-functional leaders I’ve raised awareness and received some short-term relief for my team on parts of the issue. And just yesterday I proposed a refinement to the contracting process to the sales leadership team that could resolve the lion’s share of the frustration for both sales and legal. It will require commitment on both sides and a significant behavior modification for the sales teams. But it also could mean removing more than 80% of the procedural friction from the process and increase sales (and the pace of sales) into the bargain. 

It’s a project for next year and I have high hopes. It’s not the substantive legal and executive work I enjoy most, but it’s good work and could bring a lot of tangible and intangible benefits to my team and my company. If the price is my being a traffic cop…where’s my whistle?

Finding the positive in the unpleasant is a win and one very good thing. I hope you’re finding something positive to celebrate today. 

The Case for Self Care

Self care is a concept that makes sense intellectually. If you take care of yourself, you’re in a better position to care for others. But for me, emotionally, I struggle with the sense of selfishness that always comes with putting myself first. It feels exactly opposite to my entire upbringing. 

But I can appreciate that everyone needs a rest, a break now and then. So here are three ways I’m indulging in some self care:

  1. I’m taking the week off. I’ve been working a lot. I always have worked long hours, but in the last few weeks I’ve been under a lot of stress with a lot of executive-level decisions. So I have told myself that I’ll be sharper, better equipped to keep up that level of work if I take a break. Plus, I promised myself last year that I’d use my PTO this year. I lost two weeks last year, and I don’t want to do that this year. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m down to one week and still hopeful to use most of it. 
  2. Also, I have given up on social media. With the exception of a few #lookingup Tweets to post a few cool sunrise/sunset pics, I haven’t opened Facebook or looked at my Twitter timeline in a week. The relief from the constant barrage of anger, unkindness, and hate that saturates media feeds, I have been calmer and less anxious. The trade-off is a deeper sense of isolation. I’m still trying to find an IRL community, friends with shared experiences and interests. That’s harder to do than you’d expect. But even so, the lessening of the angst is worth the isolation. Sorry if you’ve posted in my timeline- try PM via Messenger or text me directly. For now, I’m giving FB and Twitter a miss. 
  3. Finally, I’m finding time for quiet time alone. Minutes to hours where the screens are off and there’s no one talking to me are precious. It isn’t that I don’t want people near me or to talk to me. But I have to be “on” all the time, both at work and home, when people are there. I’m expected to make decisions and give direction and contribute to the conversation. That’s part of the job and part of being a family. But it’s part of what makes me stressed out, too. For whatever reason, noise, especially voices, build up a pressure inside my nerves, make me want to run and hide. So I’m trying to find time, at least a few minutes every day, to sit quietly alone and let my jangling nerves rest. 

I hope you’re finding ways to treat yourself well. Peace and light to you all. 

Glimmer of Positivity 

Because my last few posts, like my life and general reality, have been decidedly on the grim side, I have determined that I will be positive and hopeful in this post. And, harking back to the method I used earlier this year, I’m going to allow myself to define positivity expansively. (For example, I think it’s entirely positive that I have successfully avoided strangling a most annoying salesperson for over a month!) Even the small victories over gloom and defeat are to be celebrated, because any victory fuels the fire that will consume this era of hate. 

And so…a list of some good, positive things:

  1. I have done, and done well, some seriously deep and meaningful executive lawyering over the last few weeks. From dealing with emergent conflicts, to guiding senior executives in strategic decisions, to managing multiple outside law firms on concurrent litigation matters, my skill as a legal professional and a business leader has been tested and met every challenge. I’m proud of my contribution to my company’s success and proud of my team’s achievements. 
  2. I got an early start on holiday gifts for my team this year. I try to give hand-made gifts that are fun, or useful, or meaningful. I’m happy with my choice this year and glad I started early. 
  3. My skill at diplomatically delegating, whether to members of my own team or to other departments, is increasing. I have struggled with the feeling of failure at having to say no to some things. But I’ve learned that exhausting myself not only compromises me as a resource and leader, but it withholds growth opportunities from others. It’s still a challenge, but I’m doing better and my team and my company are benefitting. 
  4. The weather has been beautiful and I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The sky is always a source of joy and energy for me. I like its infinite variety and find peace in the loveliness and simplicity of a sunrise. A collage of a sunrise from earlier this week (with the super moon!) is attached below for your enjoyment. 
  5. It may get cold enough to freeze here in the next few days and my eyes and nose are rejoicing the possibility. Can’t wait. Not only will it finally feel like it should for the holidays, but my allergies will abate until Spring and that’s a very good thing. 

Mangled Lyrics 

I have always had a challenge with “ear worms”, songs that get stuck in your head and repeat incessantly. As a kid, I shared the joy of them with everyone by singing them loudly until I exhausted whatever malicious energy feeds them. But as an adult I have to be conscious of the fact that that extremely annoying habit might induce aggression or get me committed as insane. 

So I learned a long time ago that I can usually kill an ear worm by replacing it with a go-to song that my brain finds comforting and non-invasive. I let that song play in my head, a little louder than the other, and let its rhythm overtake the other. Something about that process flips the off switch and I can generally get on with my day or relax enough to sleep. 

I say this usually works, because sometimes it doesn’t. When I’m particularly stressed, for example, and the insidious song is somehow connected by my brain to the stressor, even that trick is unreliable. 

And now, to accompany the extreme stress and anxiety I’m experiencing from the elections, comes the fresh hell of ear worms of mangled lyrics that tie the songs and stress even closer together. 

No peace within, no peace without. Joy. 

For a week now (at least since the election), I’ve had a soundtrack of alternating song snippets punctuating my every waking moment. First up is my brain’s twisted version of the refrain from “Everything is Awesome” by Tegan & Sara from the LEGO Movie, only its “Everything is Awful” over and over again. Followed closely by a version of Fun’s “All Alright”, in which my brain supplies slightly modified and completely accurate lyrics of “It’s not alright, no it’s not alright, it’s such a mess inside of my head and I’m not alright. No it’s not alright, no it’s not alright, I’ve got nothing left inside of my chest and I’m not alright.”

So that’s fun. 

I can’t decide if my brain is trying to help me or kill me. Maybe it’s an affirmation of my feelings, a biochemical validation that’s supposed to help me through until I am alright? Or maybe it’s just one more layer of stress and awfulness designed to make my head explode. I don’t know. 

But my go-to, ear worm-killing, comfort song* isn’t helping. And the peaceful moments alone that I desperately need to still the screeching static in my head are infiltrated with these ceaseless songs.   

I need a new trick to turn off the unwanted music.   

*I can’t say what it is or its power will fade, like Samson and his locks of hair…or something. 

The Tally

Sometimes I can’t talk about what’s hurting me, but I can write. 

—–

For two days I’ve been battling to control my emotions. Tears come without warning at the slightest provocation. And a heavy, burning, acrid lump of shame and fear is stuck in my throat preventing me from gaining any calm or comfort by talking through the awfulness. 

Ambush emotions suck. Hard. And the shame and stress of having them come while I’m at work is doubly awful. Being busy will stem the flow for a time. But focusing on work or on anything outside of my head is a daunting task. I’ve been trying, but I’m failing more than succeeding. 

One of the emotionally fraught conversations I had with coworkers today (in which I was mostly silent and tearful) centered on the breathtaking variety of people who will be negatively affected by this new regime. We decided that really only one demographic isn’t immediately and directly harmed by it: straight, white, male, Christians. All others are less than, second-class, and targets for every kind of discrimination and hate. People of color, people of size, people who are LGBTQI, people with physical or mental or emotional challenges, people of any faith other than Christian and people of no faith, and all women are less safe today than we were on Tuesday (to the extent some of these groups were safe at all).

That led to us discussing in how many dimensions each of us is viewed as less than, as undesirable, as unworthy and unwanted. It was a grim discussion and it was repeated with a different set of people later, spontaneously. Because everyone is conscious of the danger that this ungoverned hate represents. And because talking seems to be the only way some have to cope…or not cope but try to commiserate. 

I know its not healthy or helpful to pursue these dark thoughts. But it’s difficult to avoid them when it’s still so raw. It’s akin to the obsessive prodding of a sore tooth, or the scratching of a scab: it hurts and is not productive, but it keeps you conscious of the injury and is, in a way, comforting to feel something even if it’s pain. 

So here’s my tally of factors of un-safety: 8.  I’m a fat, Hispanic, gay, gender non-conforming, woman with mobility issues and unpopular opinions, who holds a position of corporate power over men. 

These are among the most prominent defining characteristics of who I am. They are important to me. And, under this administration of horrors, they number the ways in which I am wrong, misfit, rejected, and reviled. 

I’m sure that tally will increase over the course of the next four years. Because there’s no chance that any of these factors will diminish, but every chance that these hate mongers will find new reasons to hate the hated even more. 

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