Looking Photogenic Redux

Earlier this week Sparky and I had to sit for the church directory photo. We’ve done several of these over the years. I have most of the “free” 8″ x 10″ photos. Granted they are not displayed but I have them. Looking back there is the first – I was single and wearing a rust colored polyester dress with a (once again popular) cowl-neck. It was just me. I was wearing earrings. The second one was with the boys aged 1 and 2. Sparky had a mustache. We look so young! The following photos were varying degrees of awful. There was the one that was taken at the end of July. We were all dressed up and had to wait for our turn in a sweltering room (no AC). By the time we sat down in front of the camera we looked wilted. Our hair was plastered to our foreheads, sweat beaded on our upper lips, our faces were all red (my make-up had melted off completely) and our clothes were damp and wrinkled. Needless to say there wasn’t any “re-touching” that could save that photo. The last one with the boys was amusing. The photographer had a set formula for arranging family groups. Sadly it did not take into account that I am short and the rest of the family is tall. If only he had had the guys sit and let me stand behind them…

So this time I wore my blue and white block print wrap. It is like an over-sized shawl with little pom-poms along the edge. Sparky does not like it. Everyone else adores it and I get lots of compliments. We posed. Sparky smiled. I smiled. Sparky closed his eyes. And repeat. Repeat again and again. Finally we got a couple good photos. Which in the digital age allows for instant repeats. Before we went Sparky cautioned me, “Don’t cave to the sales pitch. We are just getting the free 8×10 and that’s it!” The photos were really good. When he asked me if I wanted the 5×7, 8×10, wallets, and the 3 photo montage I responded “Its up to you.” So it was all him. Sparky is having Christmas cards made. If you are on my Christmas card list then you now know that we’ve already completed that task – and before Halloween too!

So as an explanation for the abbreviated post: I thought I had saved it and then fell asleep at the computer. I went to bed and it posted at the autosave point which was before I had finished… Lucky for us all I had saved it into a word document and am able to cut and paste it so you all can enjoy the full post.


Looking at 7000 Steps

I may have mentioned that I’m now the reluctant wearer of a Fitbit™. I am getting used to it. It will record and track my steps, my heart rate, the number of flights of stairs I’ve walked, how much exercise and my sleep patterns too! I had to set step goals. I started with 6000 steps a day. I killed it. During geocaching I logged 13,310 steps and the next day I managed 9,244 steps. So I increased my goal to 7000 steps. The first day of my new goal I forgot to put the Fitbit™ on after my shower. I’m pretty sure that with my cross campus hike I put at least 6000 steps in. Adding the 1,719 steps I’d accrued since coming home I marked it a win. Still I feel like I self-sabotaged. My “wellness coach” addressed my concern about my stress level. She suggested doing a meditation. I will need to work up from 5 minutes to 30 minutes a day. It is really hard to empty my mind. I have so many plates to spin that checking out for 5 minutes scares me. However I have managed to meditate for 5 minutes clearing my mind and becoming an empty vessel. I think it might be a little dangerous for me. My heart rate drops to 54 – 56 bpm. I suppose since my normal resting heart rate is only 65 bpm that might not be a serious decrease. At least I’m hoping. I had another goal of walking for 30 minutes twice a week. So far I haven’t managed to achieve that goal. I’m blaming the rain and my high heels.

Weight loss bugaboo
Step up step out walk

Looking Tipsy

Some people have assumed when I say I don’t drink that I’m a recovering alcoholic. At least that was when I was younger. Now that I’m a “woman of a certain age” the assumption is that I’m on all sorts of medication that precludes consuming alcoholic beverages. The truth is I am a teetotaler. I always have been. I suppose I can trace my abhorrence of alcohol to several instances as a child. The first was probably the time my great uncle thought it would be amusing to give a 5 year old a glass of gin and tonic when she asked for some water. The second was when I was home sick and the neighbor was watching me. Her husband came home drunk and began attacking her. He was verbally and physically abusive. I was terrified. I never told my parents. The last straw was being at college and seeing the consequences of the girls in my dorm getting drunk – everything from barfing in the hallway to date rape. No thanks. I like to be in control of my actions. I never want to feel helpless. I like being able to make clear headed decisions.

I was talking with a friend who was telling me about her weekend. She attended a Gala for her husband’s job. He had earned an invite to a Chicago boat cruise. There was an open bar, a live band, fancy food, and lots of people who were determined to party hard. Now that she is a mother of two, drinking to oblivion really isn’t something she wants to do. So after having half a beer with dinner she was done. Instead she danced like a mad woman, cheered for each and every song, and generally had a ball. When the band took a break, she went to the bar to get some water. The bartender acted as if water was a foreign substance too exotic to be served. My friend persisted and eventually was given a bottle of room temperature water. She asked for a glass of ice which was reluctantly provided. When she got to her table she poured some of the water in the glass and tossed it back (the glass was small and full of ice). Several people at the table wanted to know what she was drinking. As a joke she said, “Vodka.” And slammed back 2 more glasses of water. The people at the table were very impressed and complimented her on being so “bad-ass”. She heard later that they had been wondering why she was dancing all night and were able to attribute it to her being drunk. Seems you can’t dance because you like to dance or enjoy a live band unless you are tipsy.

It worries me to think that many people still persist in thinking that unless alcohol is involved you can’t have a good time. I call it the “Tailgate Syndrome”. What happened to mirth and whimsy and witty conversation?

Looking Bad Luck in the Eye

Today is Friday. Friday the Thirteenth to be exact. I work with scientists, educated people, and people getting an education. You would think that superstition doesn’t have a real foothold but you would be wrong. I understand that superstition is not a rational or logical thought process. I believe that when we make choices we influence the outcome of our actions or inactions. But there has to come a day when we look Bad Luck in the eye and stare it down. Today I’m taking a stand. I’m striding into work and I’m calling Bad Luck out. I’m drawing a line in the proverbial sand and telling Bad Luck that we are having a Bad Luck free day. That my office, my team and my life are in a zero-tolerance zone for superstitions and specifically Bad Luck. I’ve got my Irish up and Bad Luck had better turn tail and run. I’m not standing for any shenanigans, not today and not ever.

On another topic only related sideways, I have a list of “to do” items that I absolutely have to complete today. My hope is that I will be able to get it all done by 5:00 PM. Only time will tell.

Looking for a Costume

Saturday is trivia night at church. Sparky and I were asked to be on a team. Because it will benefit the choir we felt compelled to say yes. Since it is scheduled just before Halloween the topic of costumes was raised. Do we need a theme? Should we go all out or just do hats or wigs? Trying to coordinate the activity via FB messenger is nearly impossible. In fact, nothing has been decided. I have to ask if we even have time to put something together?!

Another component of the evening is the snack table. Each team is given half of a long table to stage their eats. The first time we did trivia we were amazed at the variety and extravagance of some of the teams. They had pulled pork sandwiches, grilled chicken fajitas, spaghetti and meatballs, and desserts that would make your pancreas go into shock. We brought M&Ms. I learned quickly. I’m going to make a pumpkin bread pudding (not too sweet) and finger sandwiches. Sparky had suggested soup but that is just too messy for our group.

As for winning, our team is looking pretty strong. We have several people who are tuned into the current music scene and some familiar with Broadway tunes from the 1960 – 1990’s. We have math whizzes and science geeks and a historian. I’m hoping there aren’t too many questions on current TV shows or popular literature since we aren’t too strong in those categories. If we manage to win first place, we will each get $50 in gift cards. Second place winners get $25 each and the third place team will get $10 each. It should be a very fun night even if we don’t win.

Looking for Utopia

There is a tension in the air that I can’t describe. I’m not sure of the origin and I can’t find the epicenter. At first I thought that it was just me. I’m trying to be encouraging and upbeat and have a calming influence on those around me. My assumption was that I was somehow failing. Then things happened. It isn’t me. Perhaps it is just the normal consequence of the days getting shorter and the temperatures dropping. Winter in Northern Indiana tends to grey skies and very little sunshine which does affect moods and activity levels. So the question becomes, “How do you bring some positivity (and sunshine) into the work place?” Sure everyone likes a doughnut now and then but that isn’t the answer. I want harmony and collegiality – a true teamwork environment. Gah! I want that but that is probably not what I’m going to get…

Perfection selection
Workplace master race
Employee deportee
Production destruction
Teamwork berserk
Mishaps relapse
Hoodwink rethink
Forego status quo
Utopia myopia

Watching the Gauge

There is no visible gauge that tells when people are happy or sad or feeling rushed. There isn’t some external digital readout that you can check. They say that animals are very good at hiding pain and illness out of a survival instinct. You see in nature, the weak are often the first to fall to predators. You would think that as a more evolved species, humans would have moved past that paradigm. You would think. But the truth is closer to animals than we’d like to admit.

When asked, people will respond “I’m fine.” when in fact they are bleeding out emotionally. We tend to hide the hurt out of fear that we will be more vulnerable to attack. I am emotionally exhausted from dealing with the fall-out of resignations, reorganizations, and reassignments. Everything seems to be humming along and suddenly someone’s stress gauge goes into the red. Or worse they blow a gasket – it relieves the pressure temporarily but results in more problems personally and among the people standing too closely!

According to some experts on communication, only 7% is through the words that we speak. We communicate using intonation 38% of the time and body language makes up 55% of the message. I’m learning to listen more carefully to intonation. I’m attempting to be more attuned to body language. I want to increase my emotional intelligence. That is the ability to recognize, understand and manage my own emotions as well as recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. They have classes on this. They attempt to teach “active listening” and use tests to make you more aware of different personality types, and even train you to remain calm under pressure and in conflict situations. I haven’t had time to take the classes. Instead I’m reading and watching webinars.

What would be easier would be to install little gauges on everyone’s head. I’d like the digital type where I could change the readout to indicate stress levels or switch to read their emotional stability, and even have an indicator of morale. In lieu of that I’ve begun using a modified “5 why” technique. I ask how are you feeling, and I keep repeating it using slightly different phrasing until I get the truth. It takes longer but I think some people feel valued. Then again there are those people who resist every effort to talk about themselves and their emotional state of being. I rather think they feel the line of inquiry is a probing into their personal life and they resent it. I know who they are and I avoid asking them more than once.

Looking at the Struggle to Perservere

There is an itch I cannot scratch
There is a plan I dare not hatch
There are things I refuse to think
There is a cup I just won’t drink
When life is tough
When the going’s rough
When love’s gone wrong
When there is no song
If all we see is all there is
If all we have is what he gives
If all the time is time that’s gone
If all we do is just hang on
Face brick walls
Darkness calls
Heart beat stalls
The curtain falls
I rise to fight again
I am stronger than
I was before I began
I roar I am woman

The struggle is real. We all face the challenges – some small and some gargantuan. What for one person is a minor annoyance, another person could see as an insurmountable problem. The struggle is so individual that it is hard to gauge another person’s level of suffering. And we all suffer to some degree. I think it must be like eating hot sauce. Some folks can’t take even one drop of Frank’s Red Hot in their chili while another dumps half a bottle of Devil’s Spit in theirs and thinks that it tastes perfectly fine. So whether you can take the heat or not there is no shame in acknowledging that your tongue is on fire. Hopefully there is someone standing close offering that glass of cooling beverage. Go ahead and drink. Drink it all, I’ve got a whole pitcher.

Looking for Closure

I really like to put that period at the end of a sentence. I want to have the last word, shut the cabinet doors and drawers and make my bed. Some would say I’m OCD and others peg me as a rigid rule follower. The truth is closer to a need to see things to their conclusion. When I start a book I have a compulsion to read it to the end even when it isn’t a gripping story. In short, I like and need closure in my life.

I watched a movie that Sparky had rented from the library, “Logan” a more recent Marvel movie installment. I like the X-men. But even as I was pulled deeper into the movie I saw that this was a movie about closure. Two of the main characters die. This in effect removes them from the movie franchise. I’m sure it was a relief for the actors to have the characters meet their end thus absolving them from the next movie…

I’m looking for closure at work, at home, with my health. Sometimes it comes easy. Other times it is elusive. I am chasing after closure at work and it is like chasing a greased pig. Grabbing hold does not mean you’ve caught it. I’ve had to learn and relearn procedures and processes. Some of them are clearly delineated and have specific instructions. I can work with that. Another issue has amorphous guidelines and does not come with a an instruction manual.

Watching My Phone

With the reorganization came a new title and additional responsibilities. One of those responsibilities was being on-call for problems with the environmental monitoring system. That is, alarms that the temperature or humidity are too high or too low, alarms for pressure differentials in rooms (we have positive and negative pressure rooms), and the one that causes me the most angst – water flow. If the water flow is too high for too long it indicates a leak or pipe rupture. When we get a low water alarm it means that a tank has drained out which in turn means we have a leak or pipe rupture or a pump failure! I can handle most things with ease. However the water system gives me heart palpitations.

All the anxiety is centered on my phone. You see I’m not entirely sure the alarms will come to my phone properly. There was quite the drama getting the computerized system to recognize all the new phone numbers and make calls. Then there was the upgrade to the system that goofed up the ability to even get on the computer to see what the phone call was about. Supposedly it was fixed. Except we generally get about 5 alarms during the day for various reasons and lots during the night for the same various reasons but my phone is silent. Are there alarms? Is my phone not being called? Am I sleeping through the alarms?

To ensure that I get the alarms, I set my phone to the most obnoxious ringtone for the numbers from the system. I turned the volume all the way up. And I’ve strategically positioned it next to my head. I’m a deep sleeper for the most part although I can hear and wake to the sound of a restless infant or a coughing child. So being very keyed into the phone I awake when it pings. Which it does when any of my FaceBook friends comments on anything anywhere in the FB universe. I wake when it knocks indicating a text message. Who could possible be texting me at 1:00 AM? But there are a couple of people who are night owls. I get a beep to alert me of a system upgrade or an app update (which they like to do at 3:00 AM). The dang thing also flashes a blue light for some unknown reason at random intervals. This is worse than being a new parent.

I used to hold that there was no good reason to be glued to a phone. I’ve had to readjust my opinion on that point. When I had to make the trip to the wilderness of Wisconsin one of the nice perks was that there wasn’t any internet or cell reception. That effectively gave me a reprieve from my phone! I am really anxious to ditch my ball and chain when it is no longer my turn on-call… One more week!