Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Takes a Village to Live My Life

Over the past few years, I've become a fan of outsourcing. Growing up, we never hired anyone. My father was the general fix it guy and helped to build our house and then keep it up over the years. His electrical work often left a variety of switches that turned on and off with a puzzling lack of activity in the lights, but all in all he got it done.

My mother was the talented gardner and cook and had the house running like a swiss watch, while still keeping a teaching career going. While I never really took to the cooking thing, and barely absorbed the rules of cleaning, I was a pretty good laborer, and did things like helping my father build a deck, mowing the lawn, vacuuming and skimming the pool, and weekly chores of cleaning.

Cooking was never my talent (or interest) however, despite my mom's best efforts to teach me. I famously screwed up (and still do) the simplest of recipes. I could not understand why the dough for my chocolate chip bars came out so soupy...until my mom reviewed the recipe with me and discovered where it said 2-1/2 cups of flour I had read that as two half cups of flour. Ok. I'm an idiot. I never even considered that if they meant two half cups, they would have said 1 cup. Duh. And the idea of timing several dishes at once for a meal...terrifying.

I always told my mother, when she despaired of my lack of culinary and domestic interest, that I would marry a wealthy man who could provide me with a cook, a housekeeper, and all of the services I would require to live a life of leisure.


Well, I married the next best thing. A man with talent, who can cook, and who does handy jobs around the house, and eventually, we began to earn enough TOGETHER to pay for some of those little luxuries.

Cleaning. A lovely lady, aptly named Joy, comes to our house every other week and cleans. She sweeps and mops, dusts and deordorizes, scrubs and squeegies, and does all of the things I used to do "when I got around to it" - loosely translated this means "when company is coming." When I come home on her cleaning days, I truly feel JOY. I recommended her to a friend whose husband was so overJOYed at her work that he exclaimed, "My God, Mary Poppins has come into our lives."

Lawn Service. Ever since we moved from a townhouse - where all the grounds and snow removal, etc. were handled by a maintenance crew, we have contracted with a lawn service to do fall cleanup, spring cleanup, and weekly mowing. In the winter they also plow our drive. This year we are adding lawn treatments since the crab grass and dandelions are taking over completely. We don't even own a lawn mower. I used to find this embarrassing until I started to look up and down my street and realized all of my neighbors use services too.

Pool Service. The first few years we owned the house we used a private service to open and close our pool for the season. Mostly because we were afraid that if we did it wrong it would mean expensive fixes. Last year, after he flooded our basement by leaving filter hoses unhooked by the basement window and leaving the property for 5 hours, we decided we couldn't do much worse. (Of course that was before my weak grip lost hold of the cover and dumped pounds and pounds of wet rotting leaves into the pool...yeah...) Many times I think it would be best if we got this service going again, but Hubby seems to have it under control.

Car Service. I use car services to get to the airports. Living outside of the metropolitan NY area means JFK or LaGuardia. Travel is stressful enough to me without worrying about battling the highways and byways of NYC when under a time pressure. Let someone else worry about that.

Electricians, Plumbers, Contractors. Now this is suitable. You can't expect the average homeowner to get into these areas of special skills. And Hubby does an admirable job of the little stuff - from leaks to re-wiring, to dryer repair and crown moulding...he does pretty damn good for an IT guy with an artistic bent.

Today, I looked up peapod...the on-line grocery order service that allows you to place an order and they deliver it to your house.

I was equally relieved and dismayed that it does not yet serve my zip code area. I guess this is one service I cannot yet outsource. In the process of Googling this service however, I did find a way to hopefully improve my grocery capabilities...the ULTIMATE GROCERY LIST.

See, there's always someone out there willing to try and make my life a little easier.

It does seem take a village to live my life. Either that or I'm a spoiled brat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sliding Doors...What IF....

One of my favorite films is Sliding Doors. Granted, it's a bit of a chick flick, but it poses so many interesting questions. The "What If's" of life. You know, like:

What IF, I didn't make that light before it changed?

What IF, my life was forced to make a radical change?

What IF, two paths diverged into a wood, and I...(oops sorry, I digress).

So the writers of this flick take this concept (which I loved) and make it happen. They show the main character - Helen - and two divergent life paths. One triggered by making the last train home, and the other where she misses it. Following two Helen's for most of the film you see how single moments can change a life forever. One leads her home to find her boyfriend Gerry in bed with another woman, the other delays her return until the coast is clear and he gets away with his tryst without a hitch.

The supporting characters made it truly Gerry's friend Russell whose sole job is to sit in the pub, listening the Gerry's tales of trying to balance a girlfriend and a mistress, and laughing at Gerry's self-imposed misery.

Example #1:

Russell: "Sorry, let me just... Lydia's becoming more and more demanding and you feel bad because Helen's working night and day to keep the money coming in. But you've asked Helen to come on a research trip to Dorset with you - knowing that she wouldn't be able to - to cover up the fact that you're really taking Lydia. And despite the fact that Lydia gave you an out on the phone - which you didn't take - you're having a moral dilemma. [pause] Gerry, you are a morality-free zone. "

[later, laughing hysterically] Russell: "I must say, being friends with you certainly makes the wait for the next episode of "Seinfeld" much easier to bear."


And Gerry's mistress Lydia? She is a true nutcase - played to perfection by Jeanne Triplehorn. She could have easily been cut and paste into Glenn Close's part in that slightly more famous psycho mistress part in Fatal Attraction.

Example #2:

Lydia: "Gerry, I'm a woman! We don't say what we WANT! But we reserve the right to get pissed off if we don't get it.

That's what makes us so fascinating!

And not a little bit scary."

(I had to pack that one in my brain for future use!)


Example #3:

The adorable James (played by John Hannah) and Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) and their quick witted lines, done in charming scottish and british accents, respectively.

James: What are you doing two weeks on Saturday?
Helen: Probably killing myself.
James: Excellent. What time does that finish? Do you like boats?


I will warn you that when the stories re-converge you may be in for a nasty shock. You see, the inevitability of the story is that the two parallels cannot continue and must at some time re-align to a single life's journey. The first time I saw this movie, I actually yelled at the television. Really. And I threw popcorn too. I was that put out. But have faith.

Remember what the Monty Python Boys always say?
(inside joke, if you don't get it...see the movie!)

P.S. Hey Mom - if you're reading this...I have the movie on the DVR...we'll be watching it when you visit!

Monday, April 21, 2008

History Class Was Never Like This...

When I was in high school, social studies was my worst class. It was mostly taught by overweight boring white males who didn't want to be in that classroom any more than I did. So it surprised me when I started liking history...or at least dramatized (or fictionalized?) history as an adult. But I have to say, history class was never like this...
I've been watching The Tudors.

(Is this a historical show promotion? or the cover of the next big Harlequin Romance?)

TV-MA is the right rating for this royal orgy of a show. Where else do you get to see Ann Boleyn invite a hot young studly king (wasn't he supposed to be portly and have gout?) to "come soon to my hot bed." I've been slightly confused by the story line, probably because I was also reading The Other Boleyn Girl at the same time...

(Look at this book cover! Do you think Philippa Gregory is a new pen name for Danielle Steele?)

...and since both took artistic license with timelines, characters, and...well...facts...I keep getting my historical figures confused.

My confusion is compounded by the fact that I read The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George (and yes, while the title is "The Autobiography", it was not in fact penned by Hank himself, but is a fictionalized diary accounting of his life and times) about 20 years ago, and little bits of the story are still stuck in the nooks and crannies of my brain.

(Now, while I expect this is closer to what the man looked like, you can't trust a novelist who also writes "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" and "Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles"...but all kidding aside these 1000+ page books were pretty absorbing to read.)

Another of my favorites was Rome - the HBO mini-series.

Again, filled with fine looking men and women - all with beautiful white straight teeth - and many unique sexual adventures (I guess this is what they did before tv?). The political and social intricacies of this historical lesson could put any day-time (or prime-time) soap to shame.

(They were a cute couple until he threw her over the railing to her death....sigh...true love)

With names like Titus Pullo, can you blame the writers of Rome for going for the cheap thrills and jokes?

Much tamer, and yet similarly treated, has been another HBO mini-series, John Adams that just completed its 7 episode run.

(Not quite the hollywood look the others went for eh?)

No royal orgies here...just an ugly whiney patriot, his brilliant if hairstyle-challenged wife, and several bizarre children and their progeny. Since I am a huge fan of all things Tom Hanks, and this was his project, I tend to believe he didn't take too much license here and built as much from historical records, correspondence, and reliable documentation as possible. In fact the website for the show has an interactive timeline, history lessons, and lots of social studies-esque content. Yet they couldn't resist a few scandals, intrigue, and the intimate one-on-one conversations that could not possibly have been recorded.

It was particularly amusing, and not a little bit ironic, in one of the last scenes where Adams is called to Philadelphia to view the famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and he scoffs at the fiction depicted...none of the signers were ever in the same room together at the same time, none of them ever looked peacable while signing, and their "shins" were never so well shown. Adams despairs at the fact that the true story of their independence is now lost in myth and fiction.

I guess we can all say the same about our own history. Whether recent or distant, all of our memories and recollections are colored by point of view, prejudices, human tendency to fill in the blanks, or just simply time. And as a woman of particularly poor powers of recollection, I'm more susceptible than most to not only forget, but to fill in all the blanks with fictions.

Following in the models set by the above examples, it could make for a pretty spicey memoir though, don't you think?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Guiding the Way for Others"....

I received my plaque this week for my Avid Advocate award. Engraved on it is the phrase "Guiding the Way for Others"...


I'm a trailblazer.

For a bunch of high maintenance crazy people.

Honestly, do all managers feel like this?

When I had my previous group (all of two people) I never felt this way...I never complained about them...I never worried about their reviews was a joy!

This week is self-evaluation week for the majority of my team. This past month has probably been the most active with complaints about their work, well, ever. I have a notebook full of my documentation of calls, emails, conversations about problems. Then, today? four of them called me to a meeting to discuss a fifth. They were united in their frustration. Some of the things they said about this person? were crazy scary.

1. We feel uncomfortable approaching her...she is always negative and harsh.

2. She makes childlike complaints and her craftiness puts us on the defense.

3. She puts us in a non-trusting position.

4. We don't agree with how she represents us as a group.

5. She always uses defensive tones, attacking questions, and harsh statements that make us feel we need to defend our positions and roles.

6. She actively eavesdrops but does not join discussions.

And the topper?

7. We feel she WANTS the group and the individuals in it to fail.


All I want to do is hide under the covers and not come out. But next week I have to work them through their self evaluation process, then provide my ratings and salary reviews. THEN, I need to tackle the totally separate question of what to do with the "fifth wheel" before an out and out revolt occurs.

Can I give the plaque back and stop guiding the way?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just F-ing Do It

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel you may be the only one with a brain? Conversely, do you ever have one of those days where you feel pretty brainless?

Today was of the former. It seemed everything I needed from everyone else resulted in a blank stare and total lack of ownership.

Normally I would type in the examples of it here and make some funny blog material out of my pain, but you know what? I'm just too frustrated to do that. I just want to call up these people and say, "Just F-ing Do It!!!!!" Come on people. You are driving me crazy!

My boss (who as I continually tell people - is the bomb) gave me excellent advice about how this was not my responsibility, and how I should have pushed most of this stuff back out to the truly responsible people. While I appreciate it and know she is right, do you know that feeling you get, like that would be swell if I just had another week to get this done, but since I don't, I have to solve it first, dissect it second, and get people to get it right the next time? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who has those feelings!).

On the flip side, I've scheduled Friday off. Because you know what...I wasn't kidding about that note about getting perspective from last Friday, and it is supposed to be a beautiful Spring day. There is nothing going on this Friday that cannot go on without me.

I'll be in my yard, on my hammock (rescued from winter storage), or perhaps getting busy with some garden cleanup should I be so inspired.

I anticipate my Friday Feelings this week will be relaxation, relief, and restoration.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Feelings

Mixed Feelings Today -


I just completed one of the most grueling first quarter periods of my life. My company holds an annual shareholders' meeting and this year a great deal of the prep and execution fell to our marketing team. I was tapped to Project Manage the President's presentation, the Chairman's presentation, the Year in Review video (a first), an Annual Report (another first), and the officer's workshop on Going Global. When these assignments first began pouring in I was NOT feeling Triumphant...I was feeling OVERWHELMED!

But after taking a deep breath, talking to my fabulous boss, tapping in to the many talented people in our team, I was feeling better. Still, it was a lot to deliver on top of my usual workload, AND culminating all on the same deadline.

The end result - huge and (almost) universal positive feedback.

The tinges of sadness come from finally getting a chance to speak with a friend and colleague over drinks last night and learning of his ongoing battle with cancer. The cancer is incurable, but "controllable" with careful monitoring. I didn't press a great deal for details, since this was the first time he had shared this with me, so I can only imagine what is in his future...and how long a future that may be.

While I continue to feel triumphant about the success of these meetings, I could not have asked for a more vivid reminder of how short life is and not to waste time on unimportant matters. My friend has a wife and two daughters, he has a beautiful and wicked sense of humor, he has a brilliant mind, he has a kind and giving heart, and he is simply a good man to know. I hope I learn from him to find joy and to get rid of some of the bullshit in life.

I'm grateful to know this man and to have the opportunity to prioritize time with him. I'm grateful that he came through the original crisis after diagnosis and has a fighting chance to enjoy some more great moments in life. I'm grateful for so many things in my own life, not the least of which is the good health of my immediate family.

So triumph at work is pretty cool. But it is good to remember it's just a job.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

There Should Be A Rule

There should be a rule that tear-jerker movies cannot be shown on flights. I mean really, don't we end up looking haggard enough when we arrive after a 5 hour flight without having mascara stains and puffy red eyes?

Tear-jerker movies are meant for girls' nights, pajamas, full Kleenex box at the elbow, a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a large spoon. Oh and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I do love a good tear-jerker though.

Today's tear-jerker was "P.S. I Love You." I had no idea what this film was about. I thought it was a romantic comedy. But no. They fool you into that with the first scene, and then they knock you down good.

If you haven’t seen this movie, you may want to stop here.
Cuz I'm gonna need a few moments to digest and share this.

The movie is about a young married couple and you think you're gonna watch them going through some hard times, and be a boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back kind of flick. But after the first scene, and then the opening credits, you are suddenly at an Irish wake.


I know I'm in for it now.

And just when you think that watching this poor 29-year old widow disintegrate into an agoraphobic basket case who sings along with Judy Garland movies is too much, suddenly it's her 30th birthday. And a cake is specially delivered. With a cassette tape. From her dead husband.


I'm really in for it now.

The tape announces that she will receive a series of letters that will be arriving in various surprising ways and times and each will have instructions for her to follow. These letters take her from a birthday party night out, to shopping for the perfect outfit, to singing a love song in a karaoke bar, to a travel agency, to Ireland, and back again. Every letter ends with P.S. I Love You. Every letter MAKES ME CRY. Not discrete little corner of the eye tears, mind you, but streaming, eye squinting, mascara running tears.


I'm so in it now.
Which is obvious to the guy sitting to my left.
And the 15 people standing in the aisle waiting for the bathroom.

The final letter comes when she has accomplished all of her tasks, and you think she is finding her way. And she is. But suddenly, she realizes she is all alone. For the first time, she 's alone. She has a meltdown and goes to her mom for comfort. Then... her mother gives her the last letter.

Since I've spoiled most of the plot, I won't spoil the surprise ending (and no, of course he doesn't come back from the dead).

Suffice it to say, as always, life goes on.


I have to go recover my dignity now.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Criticism, Compliments, and Credit

Recently, I had dinner with my very good friend Spence and as usual we talked about many many things. The one that has stuck in my mind most, is talking about sitting in judgment of others, or criticizing others, causes us both to self-criticize even more. She was speaking of her relationship with her daughter, I was speaking of my relationship with my staff. Obviously a mother-daughter relationship is very different...charged with much greater emotion and pure genetic complications. But if you go to the simplest analogy...they aren't so very different.

I find myself drawn into frustration and judgment and perhaps because I don't trust myself to be appropriately critical and actually fear I am being overly harsh, I then take the criticism upon myself.

Staffer 1 has trouble getting in on time. I'm pissed and calling her on it constantly.

Then turning it on myself - I arrive an hour later than her, I'm 5 minutes late for a meeting with her, I have a hard time getting up in the morning too. It doesn't matter that I stay at the office until 8PM everynight and she leaves at 4:30. Bad, Bad Wenderina. Staffer 1 is really not so bad, is she?

Staffer 2 charged 15 hours for something that should have only taken her about 4. I criticize her time management skills and push her to be more efficient.

Then turning it on myself - I have a laundry list of things to do and I've only crossed off 1 in the past 4 weeks. I'm not completing critical tasks on time, I'm having to work 50-60 hours a week just to keep my head above water. I'm wasting time all the time. Bad, Bad Wenderina. Staffer 2 is really not so bad either.

Staffer 3 is harsh and uncommunicative. She is overly critical of co-workers. She avoids working in teams.

Then turning it on myself - I'm too harsh on her. I do too much on my own without delegating and creating teams. I'm building up my own library of criticism of others. Bad, Bad Wenderina. Staffer 3 is really not so bad either.

This is a vicious cycle that Spence shares - when she plays hardball with her daughter, she ends up beating herself up even more.

Then there is the issues we both have with compliments. Neither of us are very good at accepting compliments and do that typical female thing. You know the one.

Compliment: Nice job on that Wenderina!
Response: Thanks, it was really a team effort, Staffer 1 (when she came in on time), Staffer 2 (although she spent too much time on it) and Staffer 3 (who didn't keep any of us in the loop on what she was doing) all contributed! They really deserve all the credit.

Compliment: You only rated yourself a 3 out of 5 on Group Management! I gave you a 4.5 - you had a tough year, with lots of tough staff issues. You excelled.
Response: Thanks, BUT I still feel x, y, z are unresolved and should be done by now. I suck at this and should be beaten and strung up by my toenails. (ok that 2nd sentence was only an echo in my head, but it was there).

And yet, Spence and I both agreed, we are absolutely craving this attention. She has history with a father who withheld affection and approvals so she strives for that in everything she does. My father and mother were quite good with their praise, and yet, I have my own baggage from somewhere that gives me that desire to people-please over everything else. My successes at work and in life make me high...and in equal measure, make me squirm uncomfortably.

So, where is the lesson in all of this?

There probably is none.

Except that therapy seems to be about awareness and using that awareness to change behavior, or at least understand it and compensate or mitigate the results.

So, for the next few days, while I'm in meetings that include many of the top execs of our company, I'm going to try and be aware. I'm going to try not to people-please so much. I'm going to try and take compliments with a simple Thank You. I'm going to try to curb my desire to criticize - others and myself.

Tall order.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Gourmet Palette...Not

I have the palette of a 12 year old. I prefer a cold pop-tart in the car, to eggs florentine served to me in bed. I prefer a PB&J sandwich to a focaccia turkey club. I prefer campbell's chicken soup and grilled cheese (with yellow american singles) sandwich to any homemde soup on the planet.

Face it. I'll never appreciate gourmet anything.


This is rather sad considering that hubby has the aptitude and potential to become a gourmet, if only someone would show an interest.

Don't get me wrong, when he is inspired and comes up with a multi-course meal for us or for company, I always enjoy it. But I'm not driven by it and am just fine grabbing something fast and ready to serve (frozen french bread pizza anyone?).

Because of this, when hubby asks me plaintively, "What do you want for dinner, babe?" I know he hopes for an answer of roast chicken and fresh veggies, served on a bed of wild rice, with a spinach salad and warm ginger dressing, a nice crisp chardonnay, and a poached pear for dessert. Now that does sound yummy. But so does a subway roast beef hero. And much faster to attain and can be eaten on the couch, or on the go.

I wonder if we had children ourselves if I would have been forced to develop a grownup palette just to be able to say, "I can't believe what you kids will eat!".

I have improved a little, I guess. I no longer eat McDonalds. It still smells yummy to me, but my stomach just can't handle it anymore. And I no longer eat spaghettios - a staple of my youth and young adult years - with meatballs OR franks. At some point I just learned to make pasta and sauce (from a jar) and went with that.

One small step for wenderina, one large step for 12 year olds everywhere.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I've Missed My Mom...

My Mom has been doing the "snow bird" thing in Florida for the past 3 months. And even though we normally live 6 hours apart, having her several states away feels different. Plus, when she's home, we email a couple times a day, and when she's in FL - we talk about once a week.

So, I've been looking at my blog, and my sister's blog, and my niece's blog and thinking how much my Mom would really enjoy reading them. Up until now we've had a secrecy pact amongst us three. I don't know why, maybe we thought we'd complain about something or someone and it would have to be kept secret. But it turns out we don't really bitch and complain that much - and we're ending up excluding Mom from something we want her to experience.

So, I'm hereby opening up the door to my blog to Mom. So readers get ready. Mama Lou is coming to a theatre near you. And she doesn't abide any nonsense from me, or from any of you!

Apparently, I'm Asymmetrical

...but it's all good.

After my very first mammogram - I got the dreaded letter in the mail, "We've detected an irregularity and recommend that you make an appointment for futher imaging."

Followed by a call from my Dr. (who has NEVER called me) to tell me that I have an asymmetrical breast.


Aren't they supposed to be asymmetrical?

Apparently, this is actually a medical term. I immediately jumped on Google and found this, and this, and this. And ok, the words "Breast Cancer" came up an awful lot and I started to get a little freaked out. However, my doctor and the technician assured me that 90% of the time, these tests find that there is nothing of concern. So I, in turn, reassured hubby.

And truly, after about 24 hours, I just decided to deal with it. I was even able to schedule it on the same day as a dentist appointment and then justify taking an entire day off work so I could visit all my medical/dental people and still get in some shopping and a haircut.

This is how I operate - I have HUGE anxieties over MINOR things (like poster frames for my office) and I totally go with the flow on the big things. Like when hubby quit his job and was out of work for six months. I would NEVER have thought I would be so cool for six months waiting for a paycheck to come in. But I was. Really. Just ask him. I WAS! Almost immediately after he got his new better paying job? I started to stress about bills.

What can I tell you. I need help.

So anyway, after a 2nd (more stringent...and by this I mean SQUUUEEEZZZEEEE) mammogram (which still didn't really cause that much pain, let me say) and then a focal ultrasound, I've learned I'm one of the 90%. What they were seeing was a lymph node. A perfectly healthy and normal lymph node.

The latest letter to come in the mail had a boring little message, "We are pleased to inform you that all results are normal."

Please pause to thank whatever God you believe in on my behalf.

And let me just say again, if you are 40+ and are not getting a regular mammogram, please go. How much would I have been kicking myself if it turned out to be something after I postponed my first mammogram for a year?