Monday, July 26, 2010

A REAL Love Story

When I was a young woman, I loved a good romance...or actually I loved bad romances.  Specifically, I loved Barbara Cartland, Harlequin Romances, and the queen of romance - Danielle Steele.  I would sigh and cry and wail and gush all through those pages.  Today, I still love a good romance, but I prefer the more non-traditional stories.  Something that talks of what real life does to love, how love survives or dies, or is revived during the course of the normal human life.  It is not really the initial falling in love story that those romance novels focused on that captures me now, it is the story of enduring love...friendship...deep and abiding commitment that struggles to sustain a relationship while the most horrifying events, or perhaps even the most mundane events, tear away at it.

I think that's why I'm so fascinated by Laura and John. 

[side note: Laura reads this blog, and is an intensely private person, so I'm going to start by asking her forgiveness of the use of their story here.  And I ask that she trust that I'm relaying it because it is a story that speaks to so many and must be told!]

Laura and John met as teenagers and were destined to love one another.  Like a sappy romance story, their pictures tell of youth, vitality, a love over distance, a love that survived military duty and hardship, a love that survived losses and changes and strife.   And then, after 20+ years, the contract of marriage was just no longer strong enough to hold these two together.  Unlike the soap operas of today, there was no murder, no mayhem, no betrayal of vows, there was just the wearing down of a marriage between two individuals whose paths diverged. 

As friends to them both, we tried so hard to help, but the truth is, there is not much you can do.  You can offer support, solace, a shoulder, an ear, but you can't fix things for people and often when you try, you make them worse.  For 2-3 years we watched from the sidelines as lawyers and courts and officials became the only bridge between these two.  In the middle of all of this time, John proclaimed to Hubby that he just wanted to get through this period and get beyond it to when he and Laura could be friends again.  Hubby and I thought John needed to get a clue.  We really did not believe it would ever happen.  

John proved us wrong.

After months of wrangling through lawyers, Laura and John finally met directly to sort out the divorce terms.  And there, sitting across the table from one another, they saw their partner rather than their adversary.  Ironically, it was the signing of the final decree that brought them back into one another's lives.  Suddenly they were working together again toward a common goal.  They understood one another's logic, one another's limits, and one another's point of view.  Slowly, they began to re-build their bond - first with a little bit of trust, then rediscovered friendship, and eventually and happily - their love.

Today, they are happily unmarried and together.  Most importantly, they have learned to talk to one another and to say they are be careful and appreciative of one another in a whole new way.   And today, they look forward to another 20+ years together in their newly defined relationship.

To me, that is a REAL love story.  A story of young love surviving the first 20 years, and a story of mature love enriched with a deeper appreciation and understanding that has come to them as a hard won reward. 

Laura and John, we are so happy to see you in this new place, and wish you all the best in your new and improved love.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Can you say..Mid Life Crisis?

I can....

Meet mid-life me...and my new car.  A gorgeous white Nissan Altima 2.5S Coupe.

After months of research, a firm and final budget, and a shortlist of about 6 vehicles to check out, I drove this one and in 20 minutes I just knew.  The dealer asked how it felt to drive.  My answer?  "It feels like.....YOUTH!" 

My texts to friends and family were going fast and furious on Saturday as I spent 4 hours at the dealer making the deal, doing the paperwork, and finally driving away with hardly a backward glance to my steady, dependable, 2002 Ford Escape.  On Sunday I left hubby at home and said I was running to drug store (at end of block) and maybe for a short ride to get the feel of the new car.  

I came home two hours later after just wandering the Hudson Valley and relying on my GPS to get me home again.  I have NO buyer's remorse, but I do feel myself blush a little each time someone asks me what I bought and I think of the little white sportscar in my parking spot.   

But what the hell, right?  You only life mid-life once.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Four Letter Word - JUST

Several years ago, I called a meeting with a VP in the company.  My purpose, to eliminate the word "Just" from his vocabulary.  I had reached my limit of his last minute requests that were phrased as follows, "I just need a quick qualifications package." or "It shouldn't take long, it's just a little marketing material." or my favorite, "I've got the tough stuff, you just need to put together the quickie marketing sections."

Is there anything more denegrating than the word just in those sentences?  If it is so easy, why do you need me?

I work at a consulting firm.  That means the sun rises and sets on the billable hour.  So I am in no doubt that those people with engineering or science degrees are crucial to what we do.  However, I'm also convinced the firm needs people with my skills too.  Organizational, communications, marketing, business terms, strategic thinking, etc.  Since the economy has tightened however, it's become obvious that the just word spans beyond tasks into things like compensation and reward. 

At the onset of the real economic crunch the firm made the first step toward defining the classes within the company.  They sent a memo with guidelines on maximum raises.  Technical staff were allowed up to 6%, overhead staff up to 3%.  See the implied "just" there?

Since that time, it's gotten tougher all around and we were told raises are more selective for all staff, regardless of billable or non-billable roles.  But I keep hearing about technical staff getting 5-6% raises when overhead teams are getting nothing or maybe 2% max for high performers. 

In a company of 1,500, the overhead staff totals only about 100, supporting everything from legal, to HR, to marketing and communications, to finance, reproduction, office services, etc.  We are told our overhead costs are high, but if a real analysis is done, we know the overhead overruns are from staff who are supposed to be billable charging overhead, not from fully budgeted overhead positions.

I think I feel the most sympathy for our HR staff. Can you imagine having to justify these practices while being caught in the trap of it yourself? They are overhead positions, they process the raises, they see the difference of value every day. And then they have to go out and sell it to the rest of us managers in the overhead groups as being the right thing to do. 

Why do I write this dangerous little posting?  I don't know.  I think because I'm feeling a little down about giving my hard working staff the news of no/few raises this year.  I think because I'm feeling that as the economy continues to churn and the MERGER continues to merge onward, the just thing is picking up speed.

And when it comes down to it, my team works too hard to feel like it's just the way it is.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Me and Pain, Not So Much

So a few months ago I felt pain in my shoulder.  Not a big deal, I thought, just a strain from Spring gardening activities.  But it didn't really go away.  And it was that kind of surprise know the're feeling fine then you go to, I don't know, take off a jacket, or put on your car safety belt, or tread water in the pool and WHAM - sudden sharp pain.  And then at some point, you can't lay on your left side when you sleep and you finally say, hmmm, think I should go get this checked out.

So the Doctor said Tendonitis, but the Physical Therapist today said probably a strained rotator cuff.  Either way, the treatment is the same - working on it through PT.  But I guess, me and pain? Yeah, we don't get on very well, because not once, not twice, but three times, I had to take a seat or faint.  The therapist finally made it clear to me, it shouldn't hurt that much to do the exercises, so I need to ease up. 

Hey, I was just trying to follow instructions.

You say, put the arm at 90 degree angle, press on wall, don't lower the elbow, count to 20, do it 3 times in succession....I follow directions.  But turns out, if you would rate the pain at a 9 or 10 on a 10 point shouldn't follow instructions.  You should take the new instruction of STOP, BREATHE, RELEASE, and then try again, but push much less, worry less about arm position, and pay more attention to pain.

So now here I am at 9:00AM having experienced three near fainting spells, pain galore, had three Advil, an ice pack, and a little nausea that I'm countering with a cheese danish (oh, yes I am) and a whole long work day stretched out before me.  I'm hoping my typing can hold up as my arm continues to get heavier and heavier. 

I never understood why people groaned about PT.  Now, I know.  I also know, me and pain?  Not so much.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Love Story

On Saturday I was introduced to Theresa and her husband Michael.  What an incredibly lovely couple. 

Introduced by Theresa's sister Marie, I spent the entire day getting to know them.  First I heard about their wedding. Everything about it was fairy tale....

But what I loved about it more than its elegance and style was the obvious fun-loving couple whose personality could not be contained by the couture of their dress or the formality of the occasion.

It was hard to put these two in the category of the high-powered couple I knew them to be.  A big-time wall street banker and an up and coming  fashion designer.  But they were also avid outdoors people - with a cabin in the woods to balance the Manhattan duplex, and a love of every sport imaginable to counter long days and nights at an office or business travel.  

Theresa, I learned, inherited her beauty and dancing grace from her mother. Michael, in turn, came from a rough and tumble family of siblings, all ready to tackle any physical, or mental, challenge.

Together, they were the perfect couple.  Obviously passionately in love, they were very vocal in their devotion.  Cards, letters, even post-it notes, left in little cupboards and hiding spaces for one another to find, kept the romance alive.  If ever there was a match made in heaven this one is it.

Rarely have I met a couple so full of love and life.  Which is what makes it so much harder to say good-bye.  Because you see, I met this couple on Saturday July 10th, five days after their death in a small plane crash.  During the course of one day, as I helped my friend Marie sort through so many memories, I felt that I was actually getting to know this incredible pair.  And it is with profound regret, that I met, loved, and lost these two all in 24 hours.

On Monday we will attend the funeral mass in the same church they were married in only 6 years ago.  And at the reception that follows, we will view the more than 180 slides of photos that we put together this weekend.  What an incredible honor it was to me to be a part of this memorial.  Theresa and Michael were two people who lived and loved fully...and while we have been cheated of years of their presence, they were not cheated of a moment of joy while on this earth. 

A match made in heaven, that continues in heaven.  A true love story.  May their families find some peace and comfort believing in the power and grace of that love.

pictures courtesy of the family

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I'm Being Stalked

Today at work, I've had three missed calls, but the party who is calling is not leaving a message.  Due to our fancy new phone system, I can actually see all of the calls that have come in and gone out.  All of the calls I've missed have been from one number.


Anyone know whose number that is?

Go ahead and dial it...go on, I'll wait.

Yup, can you believe it?  It's the WHITE HOUSE!  THE White House!  As in the home of the Obamas. 

I called the number back and got a voice mail recording that said, "Hello, this is the White House.  To leave a message for the President, please press 1....."  I mean you all know I'm a supporter of his right?  And yes, I know life in the U.S. ain't perfect, but seriously, what man or woman in that role could actually make it perfect?

But it is kind of freakin' me out that they keep calling and not leaving a message.  With this whole Russian spy ring thing right in my neighborhood and all.  But more than likely, they're calling to see if I got my T-shirt and if I'm still supporting Healthcare and Finance Reform, and all those other socialist Democratic agenda items.

And actually, all I can think of is that scene from American President when "Sydney" thinks the President calling is a crank call and hangs up and then is told "Sydney, do me a favor, hang up the phone and dial...."  and that's the number on my call log.

I'm important like that and all.  You know it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A 3 (or 4) day Weekend

I've been working with the Europeans and the South American's a lot lately and they all tell us, as Americans, that we work too many hours and too hard.  I notice they don't change their demands, and I also notice, they work pretty damn hard too.  But the biggest thing I've noticed that is uniquely American is the incremental creep of holiday expansion. 

I love the American method of holiday observance. Give us a day and we take a week. Mass exodus from NYC summer weekend traffic? It starts on Wednesday night. Granted, like most Americans I've more than worked my 40 hours by 10 AM Friday morning, but it's interesting to me to see the significant drop off of activity that begins the Thursday afternoon before a Monday holiday.  Somehow getting Monday off means Friday is fair game.  The Tuesday deadlines are still in place, and many of us will check email or even have a teleconference (10PM Sunday night is already scheduled for me), but as of 10AM Friday morning - we're long gone from official office/desk time.

Unlike our increments, the Europeans and South Americans are all about the CHUNK time.  In America we think a 2 week vacation is excessive.  He's taking TWO WEEKS???? In a ROW??? Jeez.  But in Europe and's all about "Going on Holiday" for a month.  A MONTH!  I can't even imagine.  That would feel like a total sabbatical to me. 

For now...I'll stick to my incremental signing off from work and blog now, 10:18 AM, see you Tuesday.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An argument with myself

As I continued to consider the question in previous post about the gene-indicated lifespan issue, I found myself seeking a well known quote by a favorite character:

If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.

Mickey Mantle
And there you have the argument for knowing.

Seriously, Who Wants to Know?

I just received this

News Alert from The Wall Street Journal
By analyzing the heredity of the world's oldest people, Boston University scientists said Thursday they have discovered a genetic signature of longevity. And they expect soon to offer a free test that could let people learn whether they have it in themselves to live to a very old age.  The new finding demonstrates that subtle variations in many genes may be responsible for some differences in life spans, offering complex patterns of protection against the ravages of normal aging.

Seriously, who wants to know this?  Will knowing the potential limit of your lifespan increase your likelihood to live any better...will you put things off because you believe you have more time?  Will you burn through your money because you don't?  Will you make decisions based upon this little genetic test that will dramatically change the course of your life? 

Isn't it better to live in the now? rather than in the know?