Friday, September 28, 2007

Coffee personality

I'm a bit of a coffee nut. I make my own half-caff, flavored, creamer-enhanced blend every morning, unless it's Saturday, when my sister and I make a pilgrimage to Starbucks. My standard drink is a grande nonfat latte; I add the flavor powders (instead of shots) and Splenda to customize it. This analyis of my "latte personality" comes via MaryP:

What Your Latte Says About You

You don't treat yourself very often. You find that indulging doesn't jibe with your very disciplined life.

You can be quite silly at times, but you know when to buckle down and be serious.

You have a good deal of energy, but you pace yourself. You never burn out too fast.

You're addicted to caffeine. There's no denying it.

You are responsible, mature, and truly an adult. You're occasionally playful, but you find it hard to be carefree.

You are complex and philosophical, but you are never arrogant.

I assume the first attribute is based on skim milk and no flavor shots - and it is wrong. I'm not a hedonist, but no one who knows me would agree that I rarely indulge myself. I think I do pace myself reasonably well; I'm an Aries, and one of our distinguishing traits is supposed to be high energy, but I don't tend to think I have that one. Otherwise, I think they may have me figured out.

Sometimes I'll stop in for an after-dinner coffee instead of dessert - and I'll usually order that decaf (it's evening!), flavored, and with whole milk (when you're used to skim, anything else tastes like heavy cream).
Let's see what kind of personality that one has:

What Your Latte Says About You

You are very decadent in all aspects of your life. You never scale back, and you always live large.

You can be quite silly at times, but you know when to buckle down and be serious.

You have a good deal of energy, but you pace yourself. You never burn out too fast.

You have a healthy relationship with caffeine. You're definitely not dependent on it.

You are responsible, mature, and truly an adult. You're occasionally playful, but you find it hard to be carefree.

You are sophisticated and daring, but you are never snobby.

Apparently the milk makes a huge difference on the "indulgence" scale. Other than that, half the items are the same, and of course going from regular to decaf would seem to indicate a lack of caffeine dependency. In my case, I just shouldn't drink it at night.

iPod Random Ten 9-28-07

Music for an overcast Friday morning:

"Long Time Gone," Dixie Chicks
"Rain on the Scarecrow," John Cougar Mellencamp (remember when he was in that name transition back in the '80's?)
"A Little Bit Lonesome," Kasey Chambers
"A Good Year for the Roses," Elvis Costello & The Attractions
"Here Comes My Girl," Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
"Message of Love," The Pretenders
"Ever Present Past," Paul McCartney
"Walking in Memphis," Lonestar (for the record, Marc Cohn's version is better)
"Somewhere Only We Know," Keane
"The Heart of Life," John Mayer

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - "Friendship"

btt button

Suggested by Marsha:

Buy a Friend a Book Week is October 1-7 (as well as the first weeks of January, April, and July). During this week, you’re encouraged to buy a friend a book for no good reason. Not for their birthday, not because it’s a holiday, not to cheer them up–just because it’s a book.

What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?

(And, if you’re feeling generous enough–head on over to Amazon and actually send one on its way!)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

As it happens, I think books are terrific gifts, and give them often. They can be tricky, though, if you don't know someone's taste well - or you can't be sure what they might already have read or have purchased for themselves, which is why people usually give me bookstore gift cards instead of actual books!

But when it comes down to it, I'm having a really hard time with this question. How can I pick just one, and doesn't it depend on the intended recipient? Should I pick one based on word of mouth, or one I've read and liked? So I think I'll take the indecisive way out.

For my mom friends, so we could discuss it in our book club: I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood, by Tricia Ashworth and Amy Nobile. I was intrigued by this in a bookstore recently, but decided not to pick it up. I've learned more about it since then, and think I'm going to go back for it.

For friends who like reality TV as much as they like reading: Lost and Found, by Carolyn Parkhurst. This novel revolves around the teams in the final legs of an Amazing Race-type reality show, and is full of interesting characters and production background, plus the suspense of the competition itself.

For friends who are open-minded thinkers with a great sense of humor: Lamb, by Christopher Moore. While the premise of the "missing years" of Jesus Christ, as related by his best friend Levi (who is called Biff), could be dangerously irreverent, I've found this book to be smart, respectful, and frequently hilarious.

I'm just happy to help promote Buy A Friend A Book Week - any excuse to go to the bookstore is fine by me!

Going on thirteen

While my experience as a parent is limited to a teenage boy, I actually was a teenage girl, once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away. (That's not a complete digression; one of the highlights of the year I turned 13 was the release of the original Star Wars, now referred to as "Episode IV.") Thirty years ago, I officially entered my teen years. Ten years ago, I returned to the world of the adolescent, this time completely on the other side, as the mother of a boy. This week, I will enter those storm-tossed waters one more time, as my stepdaughter Tall Girl turns 13. (And with five years between her and her younger brother, we'll barely see her to her 18th birthday before his turn comes.)

Your child's adolescence is a time when you may develop a lot of empathy for your parents, now that you're in their shoes. I reflected on numerous occasions during my son's teen years that no matter how challenging things got, I was glad he was a boy, since I was pretty sure teenage girls were even more difficult - not that I knew this from a parent's perspective, but just based on having been one. And my son was a "good kid" (as I was back in the day) but that doesn't necessarily mean it's all smooth sailing. Friends who had both sons and daughters assured me that I was right. A coworker whose daughter is a couple of years older than Tall Girl has been endlessly amused at the prospect of my getting to learn this for myself, and now my time has come.

I met Tall Girl when she was ten, and it's amazing to think about how much she's changed in just the two and a half years since then. (For one thing, she's grown nearly a foot, and that's not an exaggeration. And speaking of feet...well, they've grown too.) Middle school has had its social challenges for her, but academically she's still on track, and she's begun to find and explore new interests and activities. She's funny and smart and very drama-prone. She has strong values that we hope won't be shaken during the turbulence of the next few years. She's a "good kid."She still enjoys family time, but her parents do sometimes lose her to sleepovers at a friend's for parts of their alternating weekends. She's less interested in boys than I recall being at her age, but I don't think either of her parents is all that unhappy about that. She's not very into appearance and fashion yet either - although she does like shoes for her size-10 feet - but she has great raw materials to work with. I'll never forget the look on her dad's face when we went shopping for a dress for her to wear for our wedding, and she came out from the fitting room to show us the dress we ended up buying. ("She's going to be gorgeous," I whispered to Tall Paul when she went back into the fitting room. "And your face said 'My little girl has grown up!.'" "I don't want to talk about it," he replied. He was in shock for a little while.)

But in a couple of years, she could be someone else entirely, or she could be an enhanced and improved version of who she is know. I'm curious to see where it goes. I'm also curious to see how my relationship with her evolves. We've always gotten along very well, we like doing things together, and I rarely treat her like a kid unless it's warranted. But adolescence is a time for parent/child tension - my theory is that this is nature's way of making them want to leave home, and making us want them to want to - and since I'm not actually her parent, I may be able to buffer some of that. However, as a quasi-parent, I may not. Time will tell.

One way in which the teenage years are particularly rough for girls is the social pressure to look and act inappropriately "womanly" for their ages - it's been there a long time, but it only seems to get worse. (I understand that two hundred years ago, thirteen-year-olds were considered women, and could marry and have children of their own. And I know that even now, thirteen-year-olds have children, although they're unlikely to be married at that age. I don't really think many parents want that for their thirteen-year-old daughters today, however.) There was a great post by Rita Arens on BlogHer recently reflecting on this:

(L)et’s talk about 13. Thirteen is the beginning of high school or the end of junior high (if they even still call it “junior high” these days). Thirteen is braces, study hall, wishing you could drive, navigating catty girls and still-too-short boys, slumber parties and lip gloss. Thirteen is the tip of the adult iceberg, when your body starts to go there but your brain and emotions have not caught up yet.

...Thirteen is when you need your parents the most, when you’re not sure if you have to leave childhood behind just yet, when you want to be older, but it’s kind of scary. Thirteen is when many girls start to look like women, when their bodies blossom without the cellulite and stretch marks of an adult woman...Thirteen is when you start thinking you have to do things you’re not sure if you want to do in order to move up in the world. I know – I was in dangerous waters at 13. Thirteen reeks of cheap cologne and sweaty boys, varsity football games and chewing gum...Thirteen thinks adults know what's best. Thirteen needs adults to be the adults in the room.

One thing about already having gone through the teen years with one kid is that it gives you some solid skills, including confidence that you can do it again. And by the time we get through this round, we get to face it one more time - with a boy again, which will test whether they really are easier. With teenagers, you truly have to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst - and you have to do your best to prepare them for what's to come.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The nerdiest and proudest of all

Don't be afraid to take the Nerd Test! It will even tell you if you really aren't a nerd.

When I found someone with a higher "nerd ranking" on another blog (see the comments for this post), I shared the information with Tall Paul, and it got his competitive juices flowing. (If you haven't taken the test yet, one of the questions asks you why you're taking it - one of the answer choices is "to beat someone else's score.") His new result:

He manipulated his answers to get these scores. Should I be scared that he knew exactly how to game the test in order to be anointed a "Nerd God?"

And for the record, I prefer the title "Lord High Uber-Nerd." In fact, he's thinking of UBERNRD for his next car's vanity plate.

Wiki Wednesday 9-26-07

Time to learn something!

1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!

And after a week off, it's back to the military again:

Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Badge of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps

Badge of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps

The Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC) is a Corps of the Australian Army. It was formed in February 1951 from the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service. A Corps Badge was introduced in 1951 with the motto Pro Humanitate (for Humanity). It embraces the values of compassion and service to others, reflecting the care and dedication provided to the wounded and sick. Approval for the Corps flag was granted on 7 February 1958.


The history of RAANC can be traced back to the formation of the Army Nursing Service on August 13, 1898. At the time it was made up of one Lady Superintendent and 24 nurses. The service saw its first action in the Boer war, when the New South Wales and Victorian governments arranged for a detachment of nurses to deploy with their troops to Africa. Groups and individual nurses from West Australia, South Australia and Queensland also served in the Anglo-Boer War. Due to the performance of the nurses in that conflict, an order was given in 1902 for the formation of the Army Nursing Service Reserve under the control of the Federal Government. It is this order's promulgation, 1 July 1903, which is celebrated as RAANC Corps day.[1]

Order of precedence

Preceded by:
Australian Army Psychology Corps
Australian Army Order of Precedence Succeeded by:
Royal Australian Army Dental Corps
Nursing, like teaching, was one of the "typical girl" careers I never seriously considered.

It's really not up to you...

...at least, it doesn't have to be. For some of us, it's a struggle between all the things that need to get done, asking for help to get them done, and then doing them ourselves anyway because we're not happy with how they get done. But just because it's not done our way doesn't necessarily mean it's done the wrong way, and if we really want to get out from under all of that stuff we're juggling, that's one of the first things we need to accept.

This is the topic of my most recent article for Work It, Mom! Most of us do have resources under our own roofs, but we don't use them enough, or we're not happy with the results when we do. If we're willing to cede a little control. though, we can potentially gain a lot.Here's an excerpt:

It's a familiar feeling for working moms to feel like we're carrying everything on our shoulders - because we frequently are. Some of that is just an occupational hazard, but some of it could be avoidable if we're just willing to ask for some help, and maybe give up a little control in return. That may mean things won't exactly get done the way we'd do them ourselves, but they'd at least get done and we wouldn't actually have to do them ourselves. It involves adopting a manager's viewpoint and skills, including delegation and empowerment. And some of those potential sources of help are under our own roof. We may just have to change perspective a little to see them that way - as a help with the work, and less as a source of it. It's redefining the "home team."

By the time our kids get to be school-aged, they are probably ready to start doing things to help out with the daily household routines. In my opinion, younger kids are the most helpful when they are doing things for themselves - dressing themselves (if you're afraid of what that might look like, give them a restricted set of options to work with), making their beds, picking up their own toys (not just in their rooms, but anywhere in the house), even fixing their own breakfasts and lunches. They'll probably still need you to supervise and direct for awhile, but that's something you can handle while doing something else simultaneously - aren't we supposed to be master multitaskers, after all? Ideally, as time goes by, they'll be capable of taking on more, and branching out into things that benefit other members of the household in addition to themselves. This is actually a great opportunity for them; the more skills they have the chance to learn at home, the better prepared they will be for that eventual day when they're out on their own, and have to feed themselves and do their own laundry. (Yes, it will actually happen someday...)

Click the link above this quote to read more, if you like!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What choice do they have?

When my first husband was in graduate school and I had my first post-college job, we didn't have much money. For my annual checkups and affordable, reliable birth control, I relied on the local Planned Parenthood for several years. It's been a long time since I was a patient of theirs, but I continue to respect their work, which is why I really hate to see the flare-up over their new clinic in Aurora, Illinois. (Technically, this is last week's news, but I'm just getting around to blogging about it.)

Our Bodies Our Blog comments:

Let's look at who's really being left without a choice. The application for a medical facility was filed under Gemini Office Development LLC so Planned Parenthood -- and contractors hired to build the facility -- could avoid daily protests by anti-abortion activists.

Today in court, Planned Parenthood attorney Christopher Wilson said the clinic just wanted equal treatment: "We ask that we be treated like any other medical facility, an eye-care clinic, a foot-care clinic, a dermatology clinic, and be allowed to open for business."

The clinic will provide a full array of medical services, including breast exams and pap tests, to women in a rapidly growing part of the state that is currently underserved.

"Unfortunately today’s ruling means that, yet again, we will have to reschedule appointments for our patients," said Planned Parenthood president and CEO, Steve Trombley, in a statement. "Our main concern is that every day our health center is not open, more women go without pap tests, birth control supplies and breast exams. These are critical services that this community has been lacking and that we will provide."

Exactly. Protesters fixate on Planned Parenthood as an "abortion clinic." Yes, that is one of their services. It is (still) legal for them to provide this medical procedure, but my take on that is that abortion is one possible response to unplanned parenthood. Granted, I was never pregnant during my years as a patient there, but I don't have any reason to think that they would advocate that particular option over others - I don't think that's what being "pro-choice" is about.

Broadsheet's report on the story includes this:

The still-shuttered clinic has been the target of large-scale protests and intense attacks, legal and otherwise, since earlier this summer when its presence came to light. The organization had submitted permit applications as Gemini Development LLC, a Planned Parenthood subsidiary. This is a standard (though not universal) practice as a means of, ahem, preventing protest -- just as other less controversial businesses do (perfectly legally) when, say, a new Burger King doesn't want to tip off the McDonald's on the same block. But now, long after everything was out in the open and approved, the city is trying to determine whether Planned Parenthood came in under "false pretenses."

"Did we hope to avoid disruptive and potentially violent protests that might delay the opening of a facility greatly needed in DuPage and Kane counties? You bet we did," CEO Trombley wrote in a letter to Aurora's mayor and aldermen earlier this month. "It should be obvious by now why we chose that course."

According to CEO Trombley, by the way, abortions will make up about 10 percent of the services provided at the Aurora clinic. (Most of the others will help! Prevent! Abortion! Sheesh.) (My emphasis, their words, including the "sheesh!")

BlogHer's round-up of news and blog posts on the Aurora clinic controversy includes a link to an intriguing commentary on "Average Jane's" blog called titled "God Is Pro-Choice." It makes me really uncomfortable when anyone claims to know what God thinks about anything. (I know, if you're a Bible literalist, it's supposed to be all there in God's own words. I don't happen to be a Bible literalist.) But having said that, in the broad sense in which she presents this argument, I find it hard to disagree:

That's right - I'll say it again - GOD IS PRO CHOICE. And how can I believe this? Get two post its - label one YES and the other NO. Then think about a decision you have to make. If God didn't want us to have a choice - the only post-it that would be out - when you're looking at any decision would be just the YES or just the NO. No choice. You are only given the option God wants you to have.We have free-will We are GRANTED free-will.. And you, Mr./Mrs. Protester, can't have it both ways. You can't believe and profess that God has granted man free-will and be anything other than pro-choice.Either God granted man free-will or not. You can't have it both ways. Either God grants free-will and allows there to be a choice, or not.
And her characterization of some abortion protesters is along the lines of my reasons for not being a churchgoer these days:
These people really do practice what is a huge turnoff to me: ala carte Christianity. They pick and choose which portions of The Bible they use to condemn and judge others. In one breath, they chose to become Christians - to follow God, to surrender their lives. But the very next breath condemns choices that others make - using that same free will.

Why not set aside your signs and your t-shirts and stop your chanting and get involved with the women who have one of the 1.2 million abortions each year? Why? Because you won't get news coverage for that. You don't get cool matching t-shirts that say "Choose relationships." You don't get to make signs, carry them around and be seen. You don't get to end your day getting high fives from 20 other people who stood next to you.

No, instead you'd have to make a difference in someone's life, one on one. You'd have to set aside your warped and tunneled view of what and who belongs next to you on Sunday morning - or who you choose to spend time with instead of your ladies circle or church softball team. You'd actually have to do something measurable for a real-life-person.
Amen, sister. But thanks to free will and choice, they have as much right to stage their protests at Planned Parenthood as the women who turn to these clinics for health care do to defy them.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Things You've Been Putting Off

Some of these things matter more than others.
  1. Updating the beneficiaries on my insurance policies and retirement accounts since I got married - nearly a year ago!
  2. Sorting out my closet and packing up some - OK, probably quite a lot of - clothes to give to charity
  3. Finding a place to release/BookCross those books that are wandering around in the trunk of my car - or at least donating them to the Friends of the Library
  4. Making a new will
  5. Taking my car in for 100K (and then some)-mile maintenance (but at least I'll take it for an oil change this weekend)
  6. Starting on my Christmas lists
  7. Updating my rėsumė
  8. Cleaning up my office, which isn't quite a Federal disaster area, but isn't far off
  9. Making some changes to my blog template
  10. Cleaning up old e-mails and Excel files at work
Since I had TWO people quit my department on Monday - one effective immediately - I think some of these things will be getting put off for awhile longer.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Every other day is a kick in the shin...

...every other day it's like the day just wins"

Thanks to the Old 97's for putting that so well. Today was most assuredly that day. Any day when two members of your staff resign is that day.

The first employee had been with us for about six weeks, and some personal issues - which were actually in the works before she took the job, although we didn't know that - required her to take a few days off last week. When she returned today, it was for about 15 minutes to say she was resigning effective immediately, and turn in her keys and ID. My boss wasn't all that surprised by the outcome given the sudden (to us) need to be out of the office, but she had shown a lot of promise and was off to a good start, so it's a definite disappointment.

And I'm not sure if the first resignation influenced the second one, but that one did come as a surprise - at least in the timing. The fact of its happening is honestly not all that big a shock. The employee in question would have been asked to take back a few tasks she'd recently been able to transfer to the other departing employee, at least in the short term, and she clearly didn't want that. Despite the abruptness of her giving notice, though, I have to think there are other reasons - I know she's been unhappy about some aspects of her job - but she's been vague about them. And since she's been with the agency for six years and has a pretty vital function in the organization - paying the bills - we'll have to get a temp in soon, at the very least, while looking to hire quickly.

We were short-staffed for most of this summer, and I've been running behind due to our system conversion and other projects, and things were just starting to fall back into place. This will definitely not be my favorite year in work history. And one of the most irksome things about the latest developments is that they'll probably take time away from my blogging activity. I've been doing a bit of writing this evening in order to get some posts stockpiled, but if I'm not around here - or visiting your blog as often - it's because of the job I actually get paid to do.

Say it loud - nerdy and proud!

We really didn't have a "theme" for our wedding, but if we had, Tall Paul says it would have been "When Nerds Unite." (In honor of our upcoming first anniversary, I'm working on some wedding-related posts, so you'll be able to judge that for yourself.)

Thanks to Library Girl, we've literally been able to put this to the test. This is my result:

I'm a little disappointed with my tech score, frankly, and the science/math percentile is a bit embarrassing for an accountant. I was quite favorably surprised by my relatively low showing on the "awkward dork" scale, though, I must admit.

And I married this guy:

I do think his "awkward dork" score is a bit inflated - and that's my honest reaction, not wishful thinking. Even so - that 93%? I did marry Comic Book Guy after all. He can't deny it any more.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The invisble woman - the mom behind the throne

This came via e-mail from my sister, and is excerpted from the book The Invisible Woman: A Special Story for Mothers by Nicole Johnson. It has some things to say that I'm pretty sure many moms will relate to, and they're said well. However, I felt that it had a "mom as martyr" theme to it; considering that the book can be found in Christian bookstores, I guess that makes sense in the "God first, family second, self last" scheme of things.

At the same time, I say let's make sure we're NOT invisible to each other, and it's not all about "legacy." The here-and-now is important too. Our accomplishments - which are by no means limited to our children! - truly do deserve to be seen, appreciated, and celebrated, as do the women who are accomplishing them.

UPDATED 9/23 to add: If you have issues with the apparent acceptance of the "invisibility"of motherhood conveyed by the following piece - and comments to this post indicate that some folks do, and I happen to agree - MotherTalk is blog-touring a new book that looks like it will take am opposite tack. Click here to link to this week's reviews of What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen. I'm interested in hearing more about this one.

Perspective: The Invisible Woman
It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to
school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street
when the crossing guard said to him, "Who is that with you, young

”Nobody," he shrugged.

"Nobody?" The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but
as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh my goodness, nobody?"

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say
something to my family - like "Turn the TV down, please" - and
nothing would happen.

Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would
stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little
louder, "Would someone turn the TV down?" Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We'd been
there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he
was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there
was a break in the conversation, I whispered, "I'm ready to go when
you are."

He just kept right on talking.

That's when I started to put all the pieces together. I don't think
he can see me. I don't think anyone can see me. I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response,
the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the
phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't
you see I'm on the phone?"

Obviously not! No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or
sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner,
because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this?
Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of
hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is
it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney
Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the
eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude
–but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be
seen again.

She's going she's going she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return
of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous
trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I
was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so
well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I
looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could
find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip
and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was
feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully
wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly
sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To
Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building
when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after
which I could pattern my work:

* No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no
record of their names.

* These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would
never see finished.

* They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

* The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the
eyes of God saw everything.

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a
disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my
own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As
one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see
finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The
writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could
ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing
to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend
he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at
4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a
turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table."
That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just
want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to
say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if
we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world
will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that
has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

MotherTalk Blog Tour Book Review: "Interred With Their Bones"

Interred With Their Bones
Jennifer Lee Carrell

The question of "Who wrote all those Shakespeare plays?" has circulated for at least a couple of centuries. I vaguely recall doing a research paper on the topic back in college, well over 20 years ago. It arises because of a belief that what's known about the person of William Shakespeare - which isn't very much, other than a fairly humble background and a career as an actor - doesn't seem to jibe with the wide breadth of knowledge about subjects such as history and court life that whoever wrote the plays attributed to him would seem to require. It's a question that probably can't truly be answered, nearly four centuries later, but it's a fascinating riddle. For Shakespearean scholar and theater director Kate Stanley, principal character of Jennifer Lee Carrell's debut novel, Interred With Their Bones, it comes close to being a deadly one.

The novel shares certain elements with a very popular thriller of the last few years - a search for a lost object, an attempt to unravel a conspiracy, and dodging adversaries who want the main character stopped by any means necessary - but I don't think that comparisons would be fair to Interred With Their Bones. The controversial mystery at its heart is less wide-ranging and shocking, for one thing; but more importantly, it's just a much better book. The necessary expository scenes don't bring the narrative to a screeching halt, for one thing. It's well-written as well as well-plotted, and Carrell, a Shakespearean scholar herself, knows her subject as she blends fact and speculation. The story is suspenseful from the very start - in the way that makes you force yourself to take reading breaks and catch your breath sometimes - with twists and turns that will keep you guessing about characters' motives as well as what will befall them next, anxious about who will be next to meet a grisly Shakespearean end (it's not just a lost-item mystery and a conspiracy mystery, it's also a murder mystery), and will sometimes send you back to re-read sections. And it's smart, but not intimidating. Some familiarity with Shakespeare, and Elizabethan history, isn't necessary to enjoy it, but might help a reader apprec
iate it more.

I enjoy a good plot-driven novel, but it takes characters to really draw me in, and Carrell's choice to make Kate a first-person narrator is a good one, in my opinion. It increases the sense of urgency and mystery as we're right there with her the whole time. There are still things I'd like to know about her, and I hope Carrell will re-visit her in a future novel, since I'm quite sure I'll be up for reading it.

In addition to that very popular thriller, I've read some comparisons of Interred With Their Bones to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. I can see where those comparisons might be made, since both are intelligent mysteries with similar basic plot points, but since I've been stalled on The Historian for several months now, I'd have to give the edge to Carrell over Kostova. (I am feeling a little more of a pull to go give The Historian another chance and go back and finish it soon, though.)

Visit MotherTalk for more reviews of this book.

Rating: 4.25/5

And for some more background and plot summary, check out this post from September 14 on the Amazon.com Bookstore Blog:
That abrupt sound you heard this past Monday was the heads of all the publicists at Dutton/Penguin exploding as they browsed the Internet and learned, as reported here, that a "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt" renouncing Shakespeare as the author of his own plays had been filed by the former artistic director of the Globe Theater, Mark Rylance, and British actor Derek Jacobi.

Why did all of their heads explode en masse? Because in a colossal coincidence of, yes, mind-blowing proportions, Dutton has launched a harrowing, pulse-pounding who-dun-them-Shakespeare-plays thriller this month: Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred with Their Bones (rights sold at the Frankfurt Book Fair to over 20 countries). In the novel, the Globe Theater is burned down and director Katharine Stanley must go on the run, her life in possible danger. In a cat-and-mouse double-hunt--unknown assassins for Stanley, Stanley for the truth about Shakespeare--author Carrell offers up a lost manuscript, a series of theories about Shakespeare's true identity, and enough plot reversals to make a pro tennis umpire go cross-eyed.

How's this for a bends-inducing novel itinerary: London, Boston, Utah, Arizona, Washington D.C., and back to England. In Interred With Their Bones, a Shakespeare conference where scholars argue about the Bard's identity can be as exciting and deadly as an encounter in an old mine in Arizona. (Sure, some of it is manipulative, but it's all so interesting you're happy to just go along for the ride.)

Who was Shakespeare, really? Was there really a lost manuscript that could prove his identity beyond a reasonable doubt? If you want one set of answers, you'll have to read the novel. Carrell, who has directed the Bard at Harvard, knows her plays and her Shakespeare, so you'll have fun learning about the controversy even as you wonder how her heroine's possibly going to get out of her current jam.

Somehow, I think it's possible the guys who filed their "Reasonable Doubt" are reading the book right now.

Friday, September 21, 2007


It's Friday! And I have lots to do, so this is a fairly lazy post - another one that arrived via e-mail, but it made me laugh. Thanks to my aunt C., who is still one of the people I want to be when I grow up.

I want to live my next life backwards:
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in a nursing home feeling better every day.
Then you get kicked out for being too healthy. Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.
Then when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day.
You work 40 years until you're too young to work.
You get ready for College: drink alcohol, party, and you're generally promiscuous.
Then you go to school, you become a kid, you play, and you have no responsibilities.
Then you become a baby, and then..........
You spend your last 9 months floating peacefully in luxury, in spa-like conditions - central heating, room service on tap, and then.............
You finish off as an orgasm.

I rest my case.

iPod Random Ten 9-21-07

Coming up next on The World's Weirdest Radio Station:

"You Were Right," Badly Drawn Boy
"Been There," Clint Black
"Dance The Night Away," Van Halen
"Shameless," Garth Brooks
"Listen to Her Heart," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Welcome to the '60's," Nikki Blonsky and John Travolta (from the Hairspray soundtrack)
"Moonshadow," Cat Stevens
"Suspicious Minds," Elvis Presley
"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" R.E.M.
"Handle With Care," The Traveling Wilburys

And...no traffic reports!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another postcard - (not) with chimpanzees...

(...but with apologies to the band Barenaked Ladies. No apologies for liking the band Barenaked Ladies, however. And just in case you didn't know, Barenaked Ladies are men (and a band). But I digress...)

Back to my topic of the week:

Chimpanzees. Maybe they're the ones behind the wheel, causing all this trouble on the road. I just like knowing I'm not the only one with traffic issues - sharing the suffering with Madame Meow and Kate at Daily Tragedies today.

The Salary Reporter has a nice roundup on that transportation study. I've already mentioned that L.A. drivers were the "winners" of the "most time spent stuck in traffic" prize, but Washington DC (one more good reason for my DC-dwelling son not to have a car - he goes Metro), San Francisco, and Atlanta weren't far behind, and New York and Chicago are way up there in the traffic-congestion rankings too. (Seattle, on the other hand, has improved dramatically since 1999, dropping from 2nd to 19th in the rankings. Since this game works like golf and low scores are better, go Seattle!)

To add insult to injury, unlike several of these other cities, Los Angeles-area drivers don't even have bad weather as an excuse most of the time. You don't want to think about what it's like around here when it rains. One good thing about having so many residents who have moved here from somewhere else is that at least some of the people on the road have experience driving in poor conditions. Of course, at the same time, we're (I am part of this problem) adding to the sheer numbers of cars on the road, and we don't know our way around like the natives do, so maybe it's a tradeoff.

The report, appropriately, recognizes that this problem needs to be attacked from various directions:

The problem has grown too rapidly and is too complex for only one technology or service to be “the solution” in most regions. The increasing trends also indicate the urgency of the improvement need. Major improvements can take 10 to 15 years and smaller efforts may not satisfy all the needs... The solutions will be different depending on the state or city where they are implemented. There will also be a different mix of solutions in various parts of town depending on the type of development, the level of activity and policy or geographic constraints in particular sub-regions, neighborhoods and activity centers.

There are solutions that involve employers and travelers changing the time they travel. Flexible work hours allow employees to choose work schedules that meet family needs and the needs of their jobs. Using the phone, computer and internet to work from home for a few hours, or a few days each month also moves trips to off-peak hours while providing productivity benefits and lower turnover to employers and travel time benefits, stress reduction and job satisfaction improvements to employees.

But, as we started the discussion of problems with “you” as the problem, so there are roles for “you” in the solution. Trying a carpool, vanpool or public transportation, flexible work hours, telecommuting and the simple act of checking the travel information websites before starting a trip are immediate actions that may improve your travel.
Emphasis mine on that last item. If you live in an area of any size at all, you've got local radio stations delivering traffic reports during the morning and evening commute hours - and after years of not acknowledging that AM radio even exists, I have to admit that the news/talk stations tend to give more thorough and reliable traffic reports. Learn their schedules and just click on over at intervals to hear what's happening; you can switch back to your regularly scheduled programming right afterward. Those same radio stations often offer online traffic updates too, as do newspaper and TV websites. (Sorry for the LA-centric links, but they're just examples.) I'm also a regular user of Traffic.com, which - at no charge - allows you to set up and save your regular travel routes, and will e-mail and/or call your cell phone with alerts at times you specify. Also, learn your alternate-route options, including surface streets - they may not actually take all that much longer when the freeway is at a standstill, but be aware of the safety of the neighborhoods. It's taken me a while, but I now know how to between work and home without getting on any of the four freeways that make up my normal route, should it be necessary. Information can at least lessen the frustration, I find, although it won't take it away.

The flexible-hours option is actually one of my favorite ways to address this, and not just from a traffic standpoint - it's got other benefits too, from a "juggler's" perspective, but there's always the unpredictable (which is why they're called "accidents.") I haven't met anyone who telecommutes on a regular basis, but I'd be very open to it if my job made it feasible, and right now it doesn't. And carpools sound good in theory, but for most people I know, they're just not very functional for the work/home commute - coworkers may not live near each other, or schedules don't dovetail - although they can be a good choice for a group traveling to a meeting or special event together, or for shuttling the kids. Public transportation is great if your city is set up for it, but mine's not.

Under the current conditions, unlike Gary Numan, here in my car I do not feel safest of all. Especially if the chimpanzees are driving.

Booking Through Thursday 9-20: "Sunshine and Roses"

The reverse of last week’s question: Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . .

What is it?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!)
Oddly enough, one of my options would probably be to go for one of the same "comfort food" choices in this situation - good old light, fluffy "chick lit." It wouldn't require a lot of my attention, so I could focus more on all the other great things going on.

However, having all my ducks in a row would also provide a good opportunity to dig into something a little meatier, like a well-reviewed, "serious" novel or even nonfiction - most likely a memoir or history. It would probably depend on how much time I expected to have to devote to it in between playing with the kids and the dog, and doing some recreational shopping.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Postcard from the road - drive time

72 hours a year. Three entire days, or almost a full two-week vacation (based on 8-hour workdays). But this is nothing close to a vacation - according to a new study, this is the approximate amount of time that Los Angeles-area drivers spend stuck in rush-hour traffic. But according to the L.A. Times, a regional-planning group disputes this finding, based on the study's methodology; they say it's even worse (closer to 100 hours a year)

"Rush hour" - what's that? I'd say no one's "rushing" anywhere, but considering how many drivers I see every day speeding up in a disappearing merge lane, or even on the shoulder - plus the lane-splitting motorcyclists riding between cars (yes, it's legal in California. Tall Paul doesn't currently own a motorcycle, but he is licensed for one, and he'll tell you it's "legal, but stupid") - there do seem to be plenty of folks in a hurry. Hurrying to wait, from the looks of things.

We've got some big six-lane freeways out here, but sections of some of them are still no wider than three or four lanes. Public transportation isn't extensive enough to be a realistic daily option for many people. This is the place that invented urban sprawl, and it's seemingly sprawling more every year. Especially for families, it's hard to find decent jobs, affordable housing, and good public schools all within a small geographical radius. Related to that topic, On Balance posts today about how the daily commute factors into work/family balance. It's definitely one more challenge, I have to say, especially in these parts.

I hate when I complain about things I can't do anything about, and that includes traffic conditions - and as long as I'd rather keep my current job than find one closer to home (and "home" remains somewhat confined due to custody arrangements and the kids' schools), I'm choosing not to do anything about my part in it, so I really should shut up. But I probably won't.* This afternoon I attended a meeting outside my office, and when I printed out my directions from Google Maps, they included estimated travel times - "about 34 minutes, up to 1 hour 30 minutes in traffic." (It took about 45 minutes, which is definitely not bad.)

I've said it before - welcome to paradise. It has its price, and that includes the traffic. *Getting to whine about the traffic is a "gift with purchase."

Now, back in MY day...

There have been many times in my life that I've felt out of step with my peers. I was already married and a mother when I finished college, and since I did that on the conventional post-high-school timetable, I was still in my early 20's. When many of the people I knew were still unmarried in their mid-30's, I had a son in high school and a marriage that was on its last legs. At 42, when most of my friends had kids in preschool or elementary school, I was the mother of a college senior - and a new bride. Both my new husband and I brought kids to the wedding.

But I was glad that the his-and-hers kids were going to be it for us, and very glad not to be pregnant at my wedding - since I did that the first time. Even in the mid-'80's, that was still a source of embarrassment at the very least, and sometimes far greater shame and scandal. Apparently, times have changed, and I'm out of step again.

According to Broadsheet,
Apparently, "Saying 'I do' while eating for two" has become a "trend," made ever more popular by the plethora of celebrities tying the knot while expecting. Or, at least that's what A Pea in the Pod and Mimi Maternity would like you to think, because they just announced the most recent additions to their maternity-wear bridal gown line...While picking through scientific and cultural studies, journals and trend data didn't turn up any statistical information to confirm or deny the claim that getting married while expecting has in fact become more common, an informal survey by Maternity Bride, an online business that designs wedding gowns for pregnant brides, suggests that nearly one in six American brides is expecting.
Personal experience tells me - and probably many other people - that there is nothing new about pregnant brides - they've been around as long as marriage has, I daresay. What is different is that they feel more comfortable - perhaps even entitled to - having the same sort of big, splashy wedding celebrations as brides who won't be giving birth before their first anniversaries (although I hope they stay away from the champagne - sparkling cider works just fine for toasts). Recently, we've seen more brides who want the wedding enough to wait until after they deliver the baby to walk down the aisle - doing a complete 180 on the traditional order - and maybe maternity bridal gowns would move those dates up a bit.

At Girl With Pen, Deborah Siegel wonders whether "...this is another way to glamorize the baby bump in our newly MILF-focused culture, or a long overdue acknowledgment of the fact that weddings and babies don't always happen in that order." There's probably some truth to that second part, and if there is, that's probably a healthy thing for society and families. (Truth to the first part might not be such a positive statement about our culture.) I suspect many of these weddings aren't in the old "shotgun" mode - they're often couples with a long-term relationship who were already considering marriage. (For the record, that was my Wedding #1.) In some cases, especially for brides past their mid-'30's, it's a deliberate choice to "get started" on the baby before the wedding takes place - in others, there may have been less planning.

In a society that still supports two married parents as the best environment for raising children, it's a positive step - and one consistent with that belief - to see pregnant brides become more accepted socially. But my more cynical streak suspects this is just another marketing opportunity for the wedding industry, aided and abetted by all of those "celebrities tying the knot while expecting."

Wiki Wednesday 9-19-07

Time to learn something!

1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!

Well, at least it's not about battleships this week. In fact. this is actually somewhat germane to the first of The 3 R's, even though Indian genre fiction isn't really my thing reading-wise:

Kinjal Kishor is a novelist in India currently working on the novel series Aatmayan. This is a major work of the author combining Indian mythology with western fantasy elements. Though this is the first trilogy novel of author, already fourteen novels have been written by him available with Monogram publishers (India).

He has also declared that works are in proceedings for a major science fiction novel, Reflexar, dealing with post apocalyptic effects of third world war, modern warfare, robots, nuclear radiation and time freeze.

He has also written some Mystery and Thriller novels. But Fantasy and Science-Fiction genre's are his favourite. He may write a humorous novel in future as declared by him at various times but no such work in progress is confirmed by him. In his own words - " I like romantic novels and have read some horror novels. Though I like to try various genre's and like romantic novels, I possibly cannot write a good novel in these genre. But I may try a humorous novel. Though majority of my novels will always be in Fantasy genre followed by Science-Fiction".

Good luck with your writing career, but I don't think I'll be among your readers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Welcome to the working week..."

"...I know it don't thrill ya, I hope it won't kill ya"
- Elvis Costello
(This is the theme song for the 6-8 AM Monday show on the ultimate volunteer radio station in the Volunteer State, WEVL 89.9 FM, Memphis)

I didn't have time to get this together on Monday, but for some of us it seems like the workweek is a much more fluid concept nowadays, so a roundup of work-themed posts is appropriate any time.

Back this summer, I wrote about my son's entry into the post-college work world. But since most parents have learned that their kids will listen to advice from anyone else before they hear it from us, I've found "An X-er's Career Advice for Generation Y." Here are a few of the things she has to say:
Try to understand the perspective of older workers
Believe, me, what I’m saying here is NOT to just blindly accept views that limit change and improvement. But to move your employers beyond “but this is how we do it” kinds of thinking, you have to understand where those limits may be coming from...

Be patient, learn to read others and speak their language
...By observing and understanding human nature as much as you do today’s technologies, you’ll learn to help those who are fearful make subtle changes little by little. You’ll learn to help renew those with burnout, inspire those who dream like you, and support those who struggle with new things. These soft skills will get you farther than anything else you’ll learn on the job.

Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
More than any other generation of workers that came before your time, you know how important it is to have a fulfilling, rewarding career that also lets you live the rest of your life...That doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your dues. We all do. Each and every job will have its boring tasks and rough times. Every company has the rungs on the ladder you may need to climb to get where you need to be. But over time, you’ll learn to distinguish between what is acceptable and what just doesn’t work for you...Go as far as you can in terms of getting the rewards you want out of work – whatever they are for you – while you still have range of motion. We can make career changes at any point in our lives, but they are much easier when you’re not yet saddled with a mortgage or other hefty bills and a family to support. Stretch your wings while you still have room.

Develop work habits that support having a life now.
...Technology has given us the flexibility to work from anywhere. That means we CAN have the freedom to work from home, a coffee shop, even the beach. With the right employer, it gives us the freedom to schedule work around life, instead of vice versa. But it can also create an expectation that we WILL be accessible anytime and anywhere. If you want technology to improve your quality of life instead of hampering it, you need to get into the practice of managing this expectation early - and that includes not becoming a slave to your cell phone.
Ask A Manager presents "7 Ways Interviewing is Like Dating." I've used that analogy myself, and I think these items are particularly important:
2. Give the impression that you're choosy. Whether or not you're targeting multiple companies (or dates), it's important to give the impression that you're at least somewhat deliberative or choosy and not just taking the first thing that comes along.
3. Make your interest personal, not generic. Ask questions and express a genuine interest. Your interviewer wants to feel you want this job, not a job.
5. Remember to ask if you like them, not just if they like you. In both dating and job-hunting, sometimes people get so hung up on getting the job offer (or the next date) that they forget to assess whether it's even compatible with what they want.
(This is one I've noticed that people don't seem to stress nearly enough, and when they don't, they give up some of their control in the process.)
And from the "management" track again, KathyHowe (of the awesome Work It, Mom blogger team, who merit a love letter and thank-you all their own) found this list of "101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders." As is often the case with lists of this type, there aren't really 101 different rules. Some are restated a few times in different words and contexts, some are redundant, and some are seemingly contradictory, but there's some good stuff here that's applicable to much more than management at work. Here's a sampling, with commentary:

11. Only promise what you can realistically deliver. Don't create deadlines that you know you can't meet. By only promising what you know you can do, you'll be able to finish on time. You're also less likely to disappoint others - and yourself.
14. Delegate tasks. Spread work among your employees in a way that doesn't leave anyone overburdened while also allowing the project work smoothly.
19. Make sure expectations are clear. Be sure that each member of your team knows what their specific responsibilities are. This will save time and prevent tasks from being overlooked.
20. Create a plan. Compile your goals and milestones into a comprehensive plan for attacking any project you are given. This way, you can make sure you're staying on schedule and that all of your employees will be clear about how and when things should be done. Substitute "family" or "team" for employees, and this is relevant for all sorts of projects.

*21. Don't make your employees come in on days they're normally not scheduled to work or call them while they're on vacation. A surefire way to make employees resent you is to invade their personal time for non pressing work. Unless you have something that absolutely has to be done, let time away from work stay that way.* This correlates with #97 - and again, avoid cell-phone abuse.
24. Don't micromanage. While it's fine to keep up with what your employees are working on, don't constantly look over their shoulders. *This goes with #41.
26. Don't interfere with employees' work. If your employees are getting work done, don't stress about how it gets done. Even if it's not being done they way you'd do it, it's best to let employees use their best judgment. Again, switch "family" for "employees" in these two items, and many couples could handle their stress over domestic tasks much more effectively. Unless someone really doesn't know how to do what you want done, just let them get it done - and while they're at it, you can do something else.

34. Accept responsibility. Part of being the boss is accepting responsibility for the mistakes of all that you manage, not just your own. That's the not-fun part.
38. Instruct rather than order. You may be the boss, but you don't have to be bossy. You'll have more success if your requests are more tactfully delivered. This goes with #96.
39. Include your staff in your plans. Don't make your work top secret; let your employees know what's going on and how they are expected to contribute. (I had a boss like that - so glad I don't anymore, which is why I like this "rule.")
40. Know your subordinates' jobs. You don't want to be caught with inferior job knowledge. *This correlates with #94. The tricky part is not falling into doing their jobs, but they do respect and cooperate much more when they know you know what they do and how they do it.
41. Be flexible. It's fine to be firm in what you expect, but allow for flexibility in how it gets done. *See #24.

43. Know your limitations. You can't be everywhere doing everything all at once. Know the limits of your time and abilities and say no to things you know you can't do. This one's for all the "guilty" working moms...
49. Do only what is necessary. There are times when going above and beyond works, but doing so on a daily basis can derail your progress on more important issues. Get the key things done first, then see if you have time for additional things. And so is this one!

75. Don't be afraid to say you don't know. It's OK not to know the answer to every question. It's better to say you don't know and get back to (someone) than to try to bluff your way through a conversation and have to backtrack later. I used to be afraid of this one, but I have finally learned that "knowledge" is one thing, and "intelligence" is another. If you have the intelligence, you can acquire the knowledge.

79. Identify the positives. Even the most negative changes can have positive aspects to them. Being able to identify and maximize them can help make adapting less painful.
80. Be quick to adapt. Learn to adapt to changing situations quickly and be able to change plans on the spur of the moment if the situation requires it.

85. Fix what's broken. Don't waste time placing blame. Take care of fixing the problem before dealing with any possible repercussions. Too many fingers pointing means too few hands are doing anything about the situation.
91. Don't ignore problems.
A small problem can easily snowball and become something much more difficult to fix.

93. Lead by example. You can talk until you're blue in the face, but the best way to get a point across is to be the model to emulate. Let employees follow your lead. This goes with #94, and #40.
94. Get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to show your employees that no one's above doing unattractive tasks. See #40.
96. Gain your employees' trust and respect. You'll have a much easier time managing employees when they respect your rules and boundaries and trust your leadership. This goes with #38.
97. Be empathetic to personal problems. Whether it should or not, what happens outside of work can have a big affect on the quality of work produced. Be sensitive if employees have personal issues that keep them from concentrating on work. It's not like there's anyone alive who hasn't been there...

When I was working at the zoo, I participated in a training class called "MORE - Managing Our Relationships Effectively." That's what it comes down to, I think - at work, at home, and in our communities - and that's where the "common sense" in this list comes into play. "Managing relationships" shouldn't imply "manipulating other people;" it's learning and using "people skills," and treating others decently - as we'd want to be treated - to get things done effectively and pleasantly, which sounds like a very common-sense outcome to me.

And returning to Generation Y for a minute, this post talks about the desire to do something "risky" on the career front:
Safe for me is a cushy, decent job that pays well. Safe is making a steady paycheck that will cover my student loans, rent and living expenses with a small amount left over to put in the bank. Safe is having the spending money to eat out on Tuesday, go to happy hour on Thursday and buy a couple of rounds at the bar on Saturday.

Safe sounds really fun. So why do I find it so boring?

I have an intense desire to know what it's like to scrounge for a month’s rent. I want to know what it’s like to say I can’t afford to eat out tonight, and really mean it. I truly do believe that living like this builds character, and everyone should probably experience it at some point.

But more importantly, I want to know that every action I take can result in my success or my failure.

Well, sir, maybe if you hadn't moved back in with your parents after college, you might be able to have that character-building experience right now.

Ten on Tuesday - 10 Things You Do when You Have Nothing Else to Do

Not to get all "busier-than-thou" about it, but I rarely have "nothing else to do," so I guess I'd approach this topic as more as "10 Things I Do When I Have Nothing Else I WANT to (or HAVE to) Do." Some are definitely procrastination practices, some are things I save for when the work gets done, and some I would actually consider to be things on the "to-do" list, just not high-priority ones.
  1. Read (part of) a book - always my #1 leisure activity, but enough time to go start-to-finish in one seating almost never happens
  2. Catch up on my blog feed-reading
  3. Join my husband on the couch to see what's been recorded on the DVR, and watch some TV
  4. Play with the dog
  5. If it's a weekend when the kids are at their mom's, go for an old-fashioned "Sunday drive" with my husband
  6. Re-organize my closet, my dresser drawers, or the pantry
  7. This is more like 6a, really - GET RID OF STUFF that I don't use/wear/need so I have less to organize
  8. Bake a batch of brownies, cookies, or some other treat
  9. Computer cleanup - delete old files, run scans, defragment the hard drive
  10. Visit a bookstore (see #1)
If this isn't the most boring list posted for this topic, I will be surprised - and a bit sad for whoever has an even less exciting one. This may be why I rarely have "nothing else to do" - I don't have much interesting to do when it happens!

(And for a totally different Tuesday game, check out this one. I don't always play, but I did this week.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Love letters and thank-you notes

I've learned that several of my favorite bloggers share my blogging identity. I guess that shouldn't be surprising, since I recognize that they've influenced what I do here, and how I do it.

Of course, I wouldn't add a blog feed to my reader if I didn't like the content, but they're not all there for the same reason. Some are just generally useful, providing information and tools for living. Some cover issues I want to know and think about. Some are just for fun, and some are about more important matters. I don't read any blogs specifically in my own work field, but I learn a lot from the management and HR-related ones I subscribe to.

But right now, I'm thinking about a few bloggers whose posts I especially appreciate reading, and exactly why I appreciate them. It comes down to a combination of content and style that resonates with me somehow, so I'd just like to thank a few people for what they do, and let them know that they're setting an example:

(found via Mir's "Woulda Coulda Shoulda" blogroll, which I found via Work It, Mom) - Karen's blog is like a variety store. She has family anecdotes, book/movie/music reviews, recipes, and links to interesting online flotsam-and-jetsam, and she almost always responds to comments. She's also my source for the "Wiki Wednesday" and "iPod Random Ten" weekly memes (those posts are under the "memes and blogger games" label).
Bub and Pie (found via PunditMom - see next item) - This Canadian mom and literature professor's posts are sometimes lengthy, and always thoughtful, thought-provoking reads.
PunditMom (whom I may have found via Work It, Mom, but can't recall for sure; I actually may have found Work It, Mom through her) and Mojo Mom (not sure how I found her either, at his point, but it may have also been through PM) - Joanne and Amy consider the places where the personal and the political overlap, and they make me consider them too.
It's Not All Mary Poppins (found via Work It, Mom) - I couldn't do what MaryP does all day, as a child-care provider, but I really enjoy her stories about it and her thoughts on other topics, and life-wise we're in a similar place.
A Daily Dose of Zen Sarcasm (found via MotherTalk, which, again, I think I found via PunditMom) - Madame Meow is my new blog crush, and now she's thinking about taking a blogging break, so I hope this doesn't turn out to be more of a fling.