Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Am I Going To Learn By Listening To You Talk ?

In the middle of routine conversations, I have often brought the talking to a halt by pointing out what someone just said.  This used to be childish in nature, such as when someone would say do do and I would make excrement jokes.  Okay, to be honest I still do do that (ha!  funny every time!) but that is not what I'm referring to in this post.

People often do not realize (while in the middle of a conversation) that some of their statements, if taken out of context, are hilarious or perhaps very inappropriate.

A recent example is the question title of this blog post.  My boss said that to her boss in a casual conversation outside my cubicle at work.  In the context of the conversation it made legitimate sense and was relevant.  But as a stand alone question ... it made me just start laughing out loud!

I wonder if anyone else out there does this on a regular basis.  Am I the only one who spends at least part of every conversation attuned to these odd phrases?  Is this a phase I should have grown out of ... or is it a superpower that I can use to provide levity to others?

Song Of The Day:
Today's song is "Hide And Seek" by Imogen Heap.  It has been covered by what has to be thousands of individuals and groups.  Some of the lyrics go like this ... Mmmm whatcha say, that you only meant well?  Well of course you did.  I think we generally only mean well in conversations but sometimes what we say is worth laughing about.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Do I Torture Myself ?

Yes, this IS another post about Fantasy Football.

Yes, I am destroying the other teams in ONE of my two leagues.

Yes, I told myself that "it's just for fun" and "I won't take it too seriously."

BUT ...
Every.  Single.  Week.
Every.  Single.  Game.
Every.  Single.  Player.

I get sucked in and experience these huge emotion swings as it looks like I will lose badly, then it looks like I might eke out a win, then it looks like I might get a dominant win, then it looks like I will just barely lose, then it looks like ... no wait ... yeah, I lost.

I'm currently in 10th place in my 12-team league.  Those other two teams doing worse than me have basically NEVER updated their teams!  So I am only better than people who aren't playing at all!

And yet ... I cannot wait for next week and the week after that and the playoffs and then perhaps next year when everything will be better because everything will work out the way I expect it to and I'll have a new chance to win again!  Hope springs eternal!

Song Of The Day:
I've wanted to use the song "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls for a while now but didn't have the write blog post idea for it.  I can think of none better than this one, because I'm always seeking the better days ahead related to fantasy football.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

How Have You Been ?

Today at work I received a phone call from a former employee.  For almost two years we worked together (she reported to me up until the day she resigned to pursue other opportunities) and over that time we had many very good conversations on a variety of subjects.  When she left, I was excited and happy for her but also sad about her departure, because the team and I would both be missing her presence and positive influence.

What a pleasure it was to talk to her again today!

During our conversation it became apparent that she had been going through some rough work experiences.  She stated that she had called me to just check in, but I could sense that she was feeling very deflated about some recent poor interactions she had experienced with various people in authority over her.  After getting her to talk about her concerns she conveyed that she just missed the kind of coaching I used to provide her about her performance.  She didn't realize how much she craved that kind of reinforcement (whether positive or constructive - either is better than not knowing how you're doing).

Our conversation evolved into a discussion around goals and priorities.  That gave me an opportunity to provide her with some coaching.  I emailed her a recent article I had read about setting goals and establishing priorities (she had lamented her tendency to jump quickly from one thing to the next without a more planful approach).  She thanked me for my time and I asked her to follow up with me after she reviews the article and outlines her priorities and goals.  I then thanked her for allowing me the opportunity to still provide some coaching to her.  She again thanked me for my help and told me she was greatful for our friendship.

You never know whose life you can touch (or who might touch your life) with just a simple conversation.  To everyone out there who feels inadequate or unappreciated I suggest the following: call an old friend or strike up a conversation with someone you haven't spoken to in a while.  There is true strength in camaraderie.

Song Of The Day:
Even though the song was overplayed (at my high school anyway) when it first came out, Michael W. Smith's song "Friends" is a great tune with inspiring words.  I sometimes think about the concept of spending eternity catching up with souls I haven't chatted with for a long time.  That sure sounds like a nice heaven to me.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Did I Bring The Snow ?

Yesterday afternevening I completed two tasks that each only happen once per year:
 - mow the grass for the final time before winter
 - hang up the golf clubs for the season

The time had come for both things to be done.  I cannot see any situation until next Spring when I will be able to play a round of golf.  I also knew that the temperature was likely not going to be much warmer again for some time.

My question is ... which of these actions brought about the 1-2 inches of snow and frost that blanketed my plot of land here in beautiful Colorado Springs this morning?  Or was it a combination of both things?

Song Of The Day:
Too early for Christmas music?  I think not!  Besides, "Let It Snow"  is more of a winter song than just Christmas themed.  Enjoy this original version by the great Frank Sinatra.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Are YOU Using The Tall One ?

Ladies, this is not a situation you've ever had to deal with so you are excused from having to read on if you would like to spend your time somewhere else.

Gentlemen, if this is YOU, please correct your behavior.  It's just the right thing to do.  For you.  For me.  For society.  For the janitorial staff.

In many restrooms that cater to "Men" there are two different heights of urinals available for use.  One might think this is to support more boys and men but it really has nothing to do with our age.  It has to do with your height.  If you're of average or shorter than average height, then you should generally choose to use the shorter urinals, and the taller ones should be used by the taller males.

Without being too crude about it, no matter how good your "aim" is, it is always easier to hit your target when it is at the right height to begin with.  A taller man begins his aiming in the middle of the taller urinal.  But if he uses a shorter urinal, his aim begins slightly above the top of the urinal.  This means he has to be very aware to adjust the natural flow of events to avoid unwanted liquids to end up on the flushing mechanism.  In similar but reverse fashion, a shorter individual using a taller urinal has to direct the flow onward and upward to avoid missing the drain entirely, thus rendering the floor and the shoes of anyone in the vicinity as the final resting place for bodily fluid waste.

To my brethren out there ... can I get an AMEN?!  Can we not band together and begin to expect everyone to use an appropriate height urinal?!  Tall or short, it is equally frustrating to have to use a urinal that is not at our height!

Song Of The Day:
Before he became a regularly Oscar-nominated Disney song writer, Randy Newman put together several albums with quite a variety of messages.  One of my personal favorites is "Short People" and when some short jerk takes the tall stall instead of the appropriately sized one, I secretly sing this song in my mind while finishing my business.  Short people got no reason to live ...


Monday, October 7, 2013

Who Says Kids Are Hard To Feed ?

Not much I can or should say about this picture post.

It's like feeding the birds at the park ... :)

Song Of The Day:
Let's be honest: true parenting is very challenging and time consuming.  But sometimes it can feel very "Easy" which is a classicly great tune by Lionel Ritchie.  I'm grateful for the simple times.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Super Pancakes ?

How do you improve on a Sunday morning with pancakes?  With SUPER-sized pancakes that include chocolate chips or a crispy cinnamon-sugar creme-brulee style crust ... and homemade buttermilk syrup of course!  :)

With a great recipe (which was a 4X the normal batch size) and the best pancake pourer (I mean look at the picture!  That guy's a super-pancake pourer!) it was an amazing meal with some amazing friends and family (and amazing General Conference talks in the background to boot!) ... and we almost ran out of pancakes!

The right food can make for a great experience, but coupled with great company it is just a little slice of what I hope heaven will be like.

Song Of The Day:
An oldie and a goodie, the song "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan came to my mind today as I wore my Superman t-shirt and made some massive pancakes in the sunshine of New Mexico.  What great fun we had this weekend ... sad to be heading home.  :(


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is This It ?

Yeah, it's bright and early on a Saturday morning.
Here we are in Albuquerque, NM with our friends the Amsdens awaiting the Dawn Patrol balloons to kick off their annual Balloon Fiesta.

And after a very early (and ultimately unsuccessful) test drive to the balloon fields, Kevin and I mobilized some of the troops to the open field a short ways from their home to watch for some balloons.

This was mostly what we saw ...

In fairness, this was THE first morning of the entire 8-day Fiesta, so it is not too surprising that it is not an overwhelming amount of aerial spectacularness.  But it certainly led to quite a few conversations about whether or not we want to do anything more related to the Fiesta on our weekend of New Mexico fun.

Song Of The Day:
The song "This Is It" by Kenny Loggins came to mind this morning.  Not just because it is a nice rearrangement of the blog post title question, but also because one of the lines in the song repeats Make no mistake where you are.  We are here.  It is a grandiose balloon fiesta.  It's just the first day.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Who's Sleeping Where ?

Often overlooked by guests when planning a vacation sleepover at a friend's house is today's title post question.  I think on some level the guests just make an assumption that the hosts will consider their bed situation and designate specific areas, locations, beds, cots, couches, etc. for their guests to sleep on.

How fortunate we Traveling Case Circus members are that our good friends the Amsdens are excellent sleepover hosts!  They rearranged almost everything to make us almost more comfortable than we are in our own home.  Shout out to Breanna for giving up her supposedly super comfy bed and her room for Karen and I (and Spencer since he's still so little).

That said, it sometimes takes convincing to help some visitors that the sleeping arrangements are going to be just fine.
To the right is a picture of the eventual sleeping set-up for our three younger girls (this was the original planned set-up but it took quite a bit of discussion to finalize with these three girls).  Catalina didn't think she could fall asleep with us playing games in the next room.  Myra wasn't tired and wouldn't lay down.  And Savannah didn't want to be all alone in the bed.

Long story short, everyone (and there are 9 of us) has a great spot to sleep for the night (and tomorrow night too) and we're looking forward to some great fun together over General Conference and Balloon Fiesta weekend!

Song Of The Day:
One of the girls (I forget who exactly) was also concerned that they might wander away in the middle of the night.  That phrase reminded me of the song "River Of Dreams" by Billy Joel, which has lyrics referencing going walking in the middle of the night.  I promised the girls we would find them if they did wander off ... not sure if that helped them much.  :)


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who's The New Guy ?

Today's Song Of The Day is "The Sound Of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel.  And I am starting today's blog post with that song because the sound of silence was all I heard after I spoke up on a conference call at work today.  And I am convinced that, at least for some, my blog post title question is what was going through the minds of my peers on the call.

There is not much more I can explain about it, but for truly inquiring minds, here is as best of a synopsis as I can provide.

In my new role at work, I am now involved in a company-wide bi-weekly conference call, which includes about 35-40 leaders from our Training, Academy (New Hire), and Coaching leadership team from across the country.  Unlike many groups of this size, the TAC group actually gets things done.  This, of course, has all happened before I joined the group.

After a hearty discussion around several topics on the agenda, we were nearing the end of the meeting and did a "round table" (this is when anyone from the general group can bring up any questions, ideas, concerns, etc.)  I had previously spoken with my Manager about bringing up a general question about a recent change in our call flow.  She agreed it was a good idea so I brought it up when the round table got to our Colorado participants.

And there was dead silence after I spoke.

Like seriously dead silence.

Like the kind of silence they portray in the movies when someone says something or does something that is so offensive or unacceptable that everyone ... just ... stops.

After the call was over, my Manager came to my desk and reassured me by expressing how confused she was at the silence that occurred.  No matter.  It will still forever haunt me whenever I am on this conference call going forward.  I'll always picture the other participants hearing my voice and preparing to be as quiet as humanly possible.

Sigh ... oh well.  :)


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Is Thinking Considered Working ?

Are you honest in your business dealings?

That is one of the questions a person is asked in order to receive a recommend for entering any LDS Temple.  I believe it is aimed at encouraging the answerer to consider their interactions with others as related to anything of a financial nature.

When I think about the work I do day in and day out, I often reflect on this question.  I feel it is a responsibility of an employee to give a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.  In fairness it is sometimes more appropriate to consider a fair week's pay or fair month's pay when you are in an exempt role, because the day-to-day may show too much variance.

It is in this spirit that I pose today's title question.

Much of what I invariably do day in and day out at work could be categorized as thinking.  It wears other names like planning, reviewing reports, listening to and analyzing calls, etc. but they almost all roll up into the thinking category.  As I think about that, I find myself wondering whether or not my time spent thinking is actually work.  Most people who work end up completing some task or accomplishing some measurable progress on something.  But with thinking, there is often not a measurable progression until much later.  And if thinking isn't working, then am I truly bringing the value to the role for which my employer is paying me?

Hmmmmm ...

Song Of The Day:
I am thinking a throwback to C and C Music Factory is in order.
The song "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm" was once quite popular and ties in nicely with this topic.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

But Do I Really Care ?

The thing about mid-life crises is that the experience is transitional.  It is not that you are in an ambiguous state, but rather you recognize the beginning of a transformation from what life has been thus far for yourself and what it will be going forward.  This often brings about very mixed and confusing emotions and thoughts.  You find yourself asking yourself questions you never considered before.  And sometimes your answers are frighteningly candid.  This can lead to feelings of depression, not necessarily because you are sad, but often because you are unsure how to feel about this revelation or new perspective.

I am unashamed to admit that I am in full fledged mid-life crisis mode right now.

In fact, being honest with myself and anyone who cares to read these posts, I have been in this transitional phase for roughly 2 years now.  What scares me the most is that I do not have any idea when the "end" will be.  I would have guessed that the crisis would only last a few months or years, but I am beginning to feel and think that it all has to do with how you transition to the future YOU.

Let me share an example for anyone who is not understanding what I am trying to convey here about the transitional nature of a mid-life crisis.
Recently at work I was impacted by a large change.  Two-thirds of my team (14 of 22 direct reports) were reassigned to my Manager so that I could begin taking on the responsibility of our new hires in the Sales group.  This was a major change to be sure, but I have cycled through dozens of direct reports in my 7 years as a Supervisor, including some that involved nearly as many people.
So why does this change feel so different?
The best answer I have come up with is that my perspective is very different.  I have long considered myself to be a genuinely caring individual.  When I express compassion or empathy or ask questions to get to know someone better, it is not just because I am supposed to ... it is because I truly am interested and do care about them.
But as this change happened, I began reflecting on many of my peers (I consider direct reports to be my peers even if I am technically "the boss") at work who have come and gone over the years.  There are maybe only a handful that I chat with on even an acquaintance basis.  Despite my perceived genuine concern for them, when the reporting relationship ended, so did almost all of my initiated interest in them.  Almost never do I reach out to any of them just to see how things are going for them.  So doesn't that very strongly support the argument that I don't actually care about them?

The worst part, for me, is that I began thinking through this as related to my friendships.  I have always considered myself to be a true friend.  Someone you can count on to be there for you whenever you might need me.  Someone who wants to hear about your struggles or concerns or answer your questions or just hang out and do nothing (if that's what you need).  But ... as I think about my friendships over the years, there are almost none where I really make an effort to be a friend unless it happens to be convenient (they work near me, live near me, or I happen to see them at church or basketball or scouts, etc.)

This, and this alone, is the kind of self-awareness which has the capacity to excite my mind with new possibilities (how much easier would life be if I didn't actually have to care?) while also filling my mind with great depression and disappointment about the person I might actually be (what if I've never really cared and my ability to "let things go" is actually a detriment rather than a strength?)

I don't have the answers.  I have some of the questions but I don't necessarily want to ask them.  I am NOT on the verge of a breakdown, but I am on the verge of likely making major changes in the person I am.  I want to keep the genuine good parts of myself and discard the baggage or pretentious parts of my personality.  But sifting through 35+ years of experiences takes time.  And being honest with myself about who I am willing to commit to being is exhausting.

To be continued ... :)

Song Of The Day:
One thing (among many) that does remain constant is my absolute love of music.  The joy I feel when listening to creative expression through sound is one of many experiences I will never regret and will always continue to seek out.  Today's song is an anthem of sorts related to that.  I know some people have strong opinions about John Mayer, but one of his songs from his first CD is titled "Not Myself" and it often comes to mind when I am feeling a little out of sorts.  Some of the lyrics ask the question "would you want me when I'm not myself?  wait it out while I am someone else?"  I am hopeful that the people I love in my life will stick with me as I continue my mid-life crisis transition.