Thursday, July 30, 2009

You're Right, You're Right, I Know You're Right

Despite nearly 20 years of working with the same VP with whom I admittedly share a love-hate relationship, I am constantly learning the same lesson over and over again. That is, not to put the effort in (or worse request OTHERS to put the effort in) until I know exactly what VP wants or needs.

Yet again, it came down to about 36 hours before our deadline before VP's thoughts gelled on what he needed. This was after I vehemently defended his request when I recruited Amybow for help in herding the cats in our organization around VP's needs. I was confident I was on the same page with him. I was sure that even if we ended up in a slightly different end point, the essence of the research we were doing would be of value - for this assignment as well as others. I was adamant that Amybow stop questioning my direction and just get people moving.

I was wrong. Wrong. WRONG.

This morning VP arrived at 7:45AM bearing pastries for the start of our ALL DAY MEETING and walked into my cubicle and said, "This is what I want my presentation to be....X, Y, Z. "

"VP" I said, "Let me show you what we've done and what we've asked others to provide by tomorrow AM. Here it is as we discussed - A, B, C."

"That's all fine," insisted VP "but I want X, Y, Z."

At this point I began to get irritated (especially given the fact we would be in a meeting all day which is not conducive to producing deadline work)...but we moved into our meeting and I tried to ignore the feeling that Amybow had been right all along. At 2PM, after 6 hours of non-stop discussions in our meeting (unrelated to VP's pending assignment), VP shot me a panicked look and said, "We really need to work on my presentation". We ditched the meeting early with apologies and as we reviewed the presentation it was clear A, B, C was NOT acceptable to VP. As we progressed to outline X, Y, Z, I'm sure I became shrill, short, and not a little pissy. At one point VP put his head in his hands (and I believe he was counting to 10) when I said, "Would have been much better for everyone if we had this discussion last week when we started this."

Finally, as I cooled and he calmed, we started to laugh. More because of how irritated we had become at one another than at the task at hand - which is now annoyingly difficult for an imminent deadline. Snarky but humorous barbs were tossed back and forth to vent our frustration to one another in a healthier way. Sometimes the guy is like a really annoying older brother and I've already got my share of that.

As things settled out, I sought Amybow and proceeded to eat my words of yesterday. Today's mantra is: "You're right Amybow. You're right. I know you're right."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mastering the Graceful Exit

I've discovered that I have a brief window in my day where I might make for the door and get the hell out. Unfortunately, it is never the right time to leave the office, but rather mid-afternoon, 3:30ish. This brief window usually does NOT occur when my work is done, but rather when my patience is short and I find I'm more likely to be seeking a vending machine break, a blogging distraction, or some other nonsense.

When my mind re-engages, usually after a very short time, I find the next time I look up is about 7PM. Hubby usually calls around 6-ish and we talk about dinner menu and timing, evening errands, tasks, and plans. But then that inability to master the graceful exit rears it's head again. No matter what time I say I'm leaving, I'm nearly always off by 30-60 minutes...or more! Just one more task, just one more email, just one more list update...and on and on.

After several of these occasions, Hubby gave up taking me at my word (and I gave up giving it) and requested I call at the point where I am shutting off my computer and packing up. Then, after a few occasions where I ended up chatting with another late working colleague on my way out (usually Boss Lady), we now have a standing agreement that I call as I'm getting into my car.

I've tried the Franklin Covey approach. Have you ever taken one of their time management classes? They start with the whole jar with rocks story - you know the one.

"A teacher has a jar and he fills it with large rocks. He asks his students, can I get anything more in this jar? The answer from his students - No! He then takes out a bag of pebbles and adds them to the jar, proving them wrong. He asks his students again, can I get anything more into this jar? The answer from his students - Definitely not! He then takes out a bag of sand and pours it into the jar. Again, he asks, can I get anything else in this jar? The answer from his students - Not possible for sure! He then takes out a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar. What is the lesson here?"

My answer to that little parable was - "You can always fit more in the jar!"

Obvious right? I'm so brilliant, right?


No, the real answer is, the big rocks represent the important things. And if you don't put them in FIRST you'll never get the important things done"

I missed that.

So anyway, sometimes after my 3:30 break, there's still those big rocks (and some pebbles, sand and water) to deal with....but somehow, someday, some way I'll figure out how to master the graceful exit.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hazy Days

Looking up the Bartles & Jaymes ad for my last post sure took me back. All the way back to my college years and the many hazy memories I have from overindulging in those two gentleman's brew (and anything else I could get my hands on).

I was a good girl 'til I got to college. Never drank, never smoked, never broke curfew, never had sex... in fact, playing "I never" (the old drinking game) with me in college was pretty boring because I couldn't say "I never did [fill in anything interesting]"!

Imagine my surprise when my first night of college I began my drinking career. My roommate, who was stunned I had not ever consumed an alcoholic beverage, offered to mix me something easy and light. Her version of easy and light? Two-thirds vodka, one-third Sprite. One glass of that firewater concoction and I was on my ass.

After that, she suggested Bartles and Jaymes - soda pop "with a kick" and those wine coolers became my drink of choice. We spent more time that first year trying to get drunk than we did any other endeavor, including classes. My first semester I made it work. My second? My grades dropped to such a level that I found myself on academic probation and changing my major. I've never regreted leaving Accounting behind for a Liberal Arts degree in English/Psychology, but I do regret the damage that semester did to my overal GPA.

Friends who have met me in the last 15 years don't believe I ever was a drinker. Nowadays, the once a month single cocktail is about all I consume. And if I'm driving - I rarely even have that. They don't believe that without vodka and cherry kool-aid I never would have had the gumption to hook up with my someday husband. They don't believe I ever made out with a guy on a dance floor and had no idea what his name was, all I knew was the nickname on the back of his football jersey (Thumper). They don't believe I regularly slept through my morning classes. They don't believe I have a letter in my "permanent record" that came from a druken water fight that started with water pistols and ended with garbage cans of water that created cascading waterfalls 3 floors down in the dorm.

They don't believe that one night, a couple of years out of college, that I drove home from a party severely impaired, realized I shouldn't be behind the wheel at all and started crying halfway home, and got out of the car and kissed the ground when I somehow arrived home safely. They don't believe that I would ever have been so out of it that I couldn't have figured out pulling over and sleeping it off was a possible solution. They just don't believe that I ever lost my footing, my judgment, my senses, and could have lost my life or someone else's in a drunken haze.

But I did. Yessir, Mr. Bartles & Mr. Jaymes, I surely did.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thank You Again, For Your Support

I have to say, if you want to have a pity party, start with the blogging community. They are such a supportive, caring bunch...they are almost enablers. I have a small readership (or at least a small "commentership" so I'm appreciative of the comments I do get supporting me in my stressful, sick, or downtrodden moments, but if you review some of the other blogs it can get really overwhelming!

Over the past two years that I have been blogging and reading other blogs, I've noticed a trend of writing I can only call NEEDY. And I've begun to wonder if blogging is so popular because people who normally don't feel heard, appreciated, cared for, commiserated with, etc. have finally found a place where they can complain and wallow and get all the support they desire from an anonymous gang of like-thinkers.

Don't get me wrong! In this cold world, it sure is nice to know there are absolute strangers out there caring about my vertigo, my late work hours, my stress, my angst, my cats, and my hubby. It's hard to feel alone when kind people take the time to read your random thoughts and add an "atta girl" to your life.

But for those of you who may worry about me (MOM this means you!)...don't. Despite my battles with anxious moments, which have at times driven me to a sleepless night or two, or to seek some heartburn medication, I'm in pretty good shape. I'm coming to terms with actually being content with my life. And I continue to find a little wry humor in my mental and physical reactions to anxiety....I mean it is really ridiculous sometimes you know?

Why am I writing about this today? I had some lovely comments in my last post about my Dizzy Dame situation. What I thought was kind of funny and kooky and all, generated some sweet - "feel betters" and some concern from my Mom.

All I can say is, you all are the best. Really. And when I REALLY need you, I expect you all to be there. But for assured I'm doing just fine. I'll try to keep the whining to a minimum...and if I do whine, try and find the humor in it. I'd rather you laugh AT me, than cry WITH me.

And in the immortal words of those wise sages, Bartles & Jaymes, "Thank you again, for your support."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dizzy Dame

So for the past week I've been experiencing some light twinges of vertigo. Not like Hubby's bout a while ago where he was nauseated and unable to stand upright without help, but just that kind of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" - "Whoa Dude..." kind of feeling. Drunk without the drink. A natural high. Dizzy dame syndrome.

Dr. thinks I have a sinus infection that has congested my ear. I'm on meds and trying to clear it up....but knowing it isn't likely anything serious just makes it something I have to sort out each day.

I wake up and sit up...carefully.

Then I move my head in a number of different directions, turning, tilting, nodding, shaking until I figure out my new trigger positions for the day. Usually it is a position that I can easily avoid to make walking, driving, working, all very safe. Today's position was a straight tip forward of the chin...low enough that it is only if I am looking upward at the computer screen with chin tilted down toward chest that it generates a reaction.

It's actually been kind of a trip. To be able to know the right position that triggers it and check it out every so often and feel the world tilt, just a little. Kind of cool. I guess it's the coolest because I can set it right again with a smooth position change.

I feel it will be coming to an end sometime soon. Every time I yawn my ears crack, so things are breaking up in there. Just a few more days to be a Dizzy Dame....legitimately at least.

Hey - no comments from the peanut gallery.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's a Movie, not a Book

On Sunday we got out to see the latest Harry Potter movie. We do love the series (book and movies) but we were concerned about this movie because of all the negative fan comments

I'm happy to say, probably in no small part due to the low expectations we had going in, we were pleasantly surprised to enjoy it thoroughly! As for all of the complaining fans, of course it isn't like the book people! It's a movie! The book is 700 pages long! Take it for what it is and enjoy it and stop going on and on about missing characters and the fact that page 542, Paragraph 3, is not in the movie.

The film was beautiful - a great marriage of computer graphics and cinematography - it made the film. The quidditch match, the Weasley joke shop, the Hogwarts grounds and castle - fantastic. And while, as usual, it felt a little choppy hopping from scene to scene because there is little time for segues, the scenes themselves were mostly little jewels. Jim Broadbent was very good, particularly in the one scene at Hagrid's house.

I'll be going back to the book now that I've digested the movie - just to remind myself of what was missed, but not to complain about it. Looking forward to the last movie (I hear there will be two to try and capture more of the 800 pages...and no doubt double the money too).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

When a Friend is Sad

I have a friend that came to me through Hubby. In many ways she is like a twin to me. Our likes and dislikes, the very near overlapping of our birthdays, our careers, our love of theatre and old things, our love for quiet artistic men (like my Hubby and hers), and our enjoyment of an occasional fruit juice and vodka concoction. Because of schedules and well, just life, we see each other rarely - a few times a year, maybe a little more. When we are together we laugh a lot. Because she is funny and quirky and sweet and smart and all those things that make a great friend. But my friend often suffers. My friend is often sad.

She has burdens that are both physical and emotional. She has scars. She has pain. She has troubles. She never lets it overcome her - at least not in my presence - but she suffers and we see it. And I struggle, because I like to solve problems and she has problems I cannot solve.

Last night we talked. We talked medicine and theory. We talked stress and economy. We talked of work and life. We talked of weather and food. We talked of houses and gardens and chores. We talked of travel and music. We talked about baby showers and bridal showers and family.

Her voice spoke lightly, but I heard the strain.

Tonight we are going, with our sweet artistic hubbies, to see a local photographer's slide show under the stars. We'll talk and laugh and enjoy the art together. We'll grab a bite and a drink at a nearby tavern afterwards. We'll part at the end and see each other again in a few weeks, or more likely months. And I won't really have been able to help her. And she won't really burden me with her troubles. But I'll feel her pain.

We'll part as always with a long, lingering embrace. And all I can hope is she'll feel my support.

Friday, July 17, 2009


So, our new merger partner is big on PROCESS. I recognize that a larger company (they have more than 14,000 worldwide, compared to our measly 1,800) needs to have standards of practice. In fact, given the fact that my job over the years has been more about constant reinventing of the wheel and starting from scratch than efficient decision-making, I've been a proponent of process. HOWEVER, there's process and there's PROCESS.

I spent more than 4 hours in the last two days with 6 people on conference calls to figure out our message to the marketplace. Correction, to figure out our recommendation to our Board of our message to the marketplace. By the end, we had created a weaker, undesigned version of a sample advertorial I did ALL BY MYSELF 5 weeks ago. This is not the efficiency I hoped to get from process.

Prudence stops me from saying much more. I mean even though my real name still doesn't link with this site or find me in a direct Google Search, there are enough pointers that I could be found by an internet savvy person.

This is all about growing pains, learning curves, and integration. This is all about understanding one another's businesses, methodologies, practicies. This is all about creating elbow room and new boundaries. This is all about PROCESS.

And did I mention my new mantra? Oh yeah, I HATE PROCESS.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Backseat Driving

Aha! So PROACTIVE is returning to favor in our little merger story. Yesterday, feeling admittedly a little forlorn and relegated to the back seat, I called my VP and said, "You know, we're missing the 'bounce' opportunity here." He asked me to explain, whereby I spent a good 20 minutes (keeping him from going to happy hour by the way) talking about how the attention span of the marketplace was short and that all our clients are hearing right now is the whisperings of our competitors. "We need to grab the spotlight and use this brief window to get our value message out there!" He agreed and took it to our CEO (who luckily retains some significant power in our merged organization).

Today, we were able to turn the tides. We shouted "We are being PROACTIVE!!" proudly and we're getting positive results. We have a meeting set with our new merger partner's head of marketing where we plan to slap him around a little. AND we were asked by the new Board of Directors to prepare a branding/advertising/communications plan for their meeting next week to make the most of the 'bounce'.

Just goes to show you (and Hubby will agree) I drive from the backseat too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When Proactive is a Bad Word...

As we progress into our merger we are facing a 24 month integration period. I can't decide if that is a nice gradual pace for change....or just pure torture. It could be like ripping a band-aid off hair by the pubic area...

Let me preface the next bit (for those of you who are my colleagues...) by saying I still believe this is going to be a pretty cool end result and that 99.99% of the people I've met on the other side of the fence are pretty great.

Last week we met with the Integration leadership team. Where they used words like curious and proactive as if they were actually words like annoying or insane.

"We appreciate that your team has been so....PROACTIVE [read annoying] your activities so far. Now is the time for us to slow down as we make plans for our future."

"You certainly are a CURIOUS [read insane] bunch - the most CURIOUS [read really insane] group we've worked with so far."

When you are used to charting your own course, it's tough to give up the navigation...or to start having to call in to port every 5 minutes to get an ok. Things that used to be autonomous may likely require committee approvals now. While I freely admit, our company has needed some structure and discipline, bureacracy it already spades.

So...the integration begins. And the first hairs are being yanked out today. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Say It Ain't So...

At the end of the work day today, my VP came to Boss Lady's desk (where I had parked for an end of day recap) and said, "Well, it's done." He was speaking of course of THE MERGER. (Did you really think I would link you to the actual press release and tell you where I work?)


After saying this jubilantly, he high fived both BL and me and headed upstairs to pick up some paperwork he needed to sign.

BL and I sat quietly, still talking of some of the details of our events and communications that will finish out the week, while jointly absorbing the good, the bad, and the ugly from the first meeting we had held with the new integration team from the 'other' company.

After a few minutes, VP returned but with a little less bounce in his step. He came back to our huddle, grasping his papers, and said with a puzzled look, "I don't know...I almost feel like crying...or should I be celebrating?" BL quickly replied, "Celebrate! You worked hard for this."

Not long afterward, VP called me from his car. He was still in disbelief. Despite the fact that he and I have been working on this for more than a year, that we both believe it is the right choice for our firm, the reality feels...well...suddenly real.

Within moments of that call, BL stopped at my desk on her way out and told me that while writing an email to our integration manager, she had begun to cry. Suddenly she was feeling the evidence of the change in our fates. We are much smaller fish in a much larger pond now. We are no longer masters of our own domain - trusted to decide without questioning. We must report and wait for approvals that were never needed before. It is truly the end of an era.

Between us we have 65 years at this company. VP has 30, I have nearly 20 and BL has 15. We've grown up and grown old(er) in this place with these people. I believe a good percentage of these people will still be here at the end of the 2 year integration period...but undoubtedly some will not. And for those that remain, we may find ourselves working in different departments, different buildings, different states, different countries...

When I coached our CEO for his presentation to all staff tomorrow, I stressed, "At the end, please be sure to pause for BOTH REFLECTION AND CELEBRATION....we need to recognize our history before we jump into our future." I hope he heard me. Because watching those of us tonight who had known what was coming take what felt like a body blow from the actual final mind shift of the deal closing gives me just a small glimpse of where 1783 people will be tomorrow.

And, despite our best intentions, I don't think the barbecued ribs and lemonade in the parking lot or the day-glo orange beanie baby lizards (the new company logo), are really going to help. In fact, I predict some nasty things in the future for those lizards. They just scream voodoo doll.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Living Up to My Reputation

Remember that great ad campaign?

This is your brain.

Frying Pan.
This is drugs.

Cracked Egg in Frying Pan sizzling away.
This is your brain on drugs.

Substitute "Job" for drugs and you've got my brain of late. It's a damn good think my parents filled up my being with lots of common sense, intuition, and guts because that's what I'm operating on right now. The synapse firing part of my brain?


So what might drive fear into my soul the most right now? A request by Mrs. G. to write for her world renowned website - the Women's Colony.

Her actual request to me:
"mrs. g. here. would you consider writing about your experiences in the working world..being a strong woman who makes her own way. Think about it. Many readers have expressed an interest in this kind of story, advice. Thank you, W"

A strong woman who makes her own way!

I think Mrs. G. just wrote my epitaph. Or perhaps she wrote the title of a highly fictionalized autobiography. Depends on the day I guess.

Wenderina is putting on her thinking cap. Twisting her mind to speak in the third person as Mrs. G does and seeking inspiration in her addled brain.

But for tonight?

Frying Pan.


Friday, July 3, 2009

The News Is Out....Finally

So...for the past year, I've been anxious over ONE DOMINANT THING. But I couldn't share here as I was sworn to secrecy. Literally. I signed a document and everything. Are you ready? Are you set? Go!

(hushed reverent tone)..The secret is M E R G E R !!!!

Yup. My 100+ year independent privately held company (not really "My company" but you know, I've been here for 19 years) is merging with a publicly traded foreign owned company almost 10 times our size.

Things they are a'changing.

It was almost unbearable keeping this secret from my friends and colleagues at work for the past year (+). It totally dominated my time at work, but I still had a day job to do and people counting on me that wouldn't know why I couldn't get their work done. Is it any wonder blogging fell to the bottom of the pile? Hell sleep fell to the bottom of the pile.

So now the secret is out. As of June 25th I was freed. Why, then you may ask, has it taken more than a week for me to shout it from the blog rooftops? Well, I thought life would slow down after the announcement, but I forgot - I'm in communications and marketing - so who gets to work on all of the announcements, events, FAQs, intranet content, client outreach, print materials, conference calls, etc? That's right - ME! The only difference is now I have my whole team in it with me...thank god...

Yesterday my team and I got to call 60 offices to arrange an event on Friday of next week for "Day One" of the new merged company. The logistics of arranging all offices for a single call /presentation by our President and the new parent company's CEO, as well as helping with the whole food/tent/budget/detail stuff is mind boggling.

But that's life.

So...what's next? Well, keeping our jobs is tops on the list. Figuring out where all the bodies are buried in the new place is going to be an effort. Understanding the new political underbelly should be interesting. Truth be told, it is as exciting as it is scary - making for a wonderful cocktail of anxiety for Wenderina. Luckily, on most days, I'm too tired and busy to ponder it for very long...but on those occasions when the mind starts out.