20140324 – A Busy Month, a Brief Sabbatical

You know that feeling when sometimes life and work just get away from you? I think it’s been that kind of a month for me. Redecorating a bathroom, publishing a white paper, plotting marketing strategy, shuffling blogs between web hosts…it seems like all have conspired to keep me from my commitment to writing at least one post each week on Tuesdays. And I miss it, the regular writing that is. I’ll see if I can get that straightened out in the not-too-distant future. Continue reading

20140225 – Organizing the Important Stuff!

One thing about life in the sandwich and multigenerational living that always challenges me – keeping the important stuff organized. Intuitively I am an organizer, a strategic planner. Practically, I’m a semi organized slob. It doesn’t work for me, but it’s what I am. I need to fix it. I’m working on it. I think I’m getting better at it. But this is another case of please do as I say, not as I do! Continue reading

20140218-2 – Snow Plows, Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em

After 59 Michigan Winters (I lived five years out of state) I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the county snow plow. Dog lovers (me included) know what it’s like; you love them as companions and friends and hate them when you’re cleaning up the yard after they do their duty.

I love it when the plow comes by and keeps my road clean, especially when I enjoy another one of those 100 inch winters (yes, yesterday’s blizzard put us Grand Rapidians into triple digits for this season). Continue reading

20140128 – Snow Days – Yes, Plural, And Good Memories

Apparently the term global warming just doesn’t apply right now, in the upper Midwest where some of us hearty souls choose to live. The price we pay for glorious summers, ocean-sized lakes, miles of sandy beaches and dunes, forests and rivers is the occasional never-ending winter that starts around Thanksgiving, deposits 75 inches of snow in sixty days, and gives us the pleasure of less than a week worth of above freezing temperatures during that same sixty days. Yes single digit above and below zero air temps, and wind chills of -5 to -40 degrees appear to be the order of the day lately. Later this week it’s supposed to hit a relatively balmy 23 degrees (break out those t-shirts and baggy shorts kids!), but we’re also due for three back to back snow storms over the next eight days.

Somehow the endless string of snow days, single digit temperatures, and sub-zero wind chills in our little corner of the world give one license to leave the doors closed and the car in the garage, slip into fleece-lined sweats, light a fire in the fireplace, and cocoon under a warm blanket with a good book and a steaming mug of hot dark chocolate. A DVD movie marathon is another fun way to withdraw from the world; after all, how often is there enough time in a day to watch the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, extended edition/director’s cuts?

Make it a nice little mini-vacation, the snow is just a good excuse to play hooky like we used to do as kids. Board games or cards with your family or significant other, or experiment with some new recipes and get the oven going for extra warmth; there are a few other ideas for you. Or you could just burrow into the mountain of indoor white stuff (yes, unfiled and extraneous paper) that’s been collecting on your office floor and desk for the last six months. After all, it’s tax time and you may just need a few of those receipts and other documents some time before April 15th.

Needless to say that last option is the one I took last week, considering that I hadn’t seen either the floor or my desktop since sometime last summer when we expeditiously stacked boxes upon boxes worth of papers and photographs from Mom’s condo to get them “out of the way”; yeah, right. Feeling like my office had become a lost cause I let my own stuff accumulate on the floor and my desk, and gradually succumbed to the sludge of slob-dom. Finally last week I was beginning to feel like a hoarder rather than just a packrat, and I was feeling desperate about finding some missing business documents I needed to complete year-end accounting work.

The result of my efforts is a clear path to the closet and the front window, enough space to open a file drawer, and sufficient clear space on my desk to hold two phones, a mug of cold water, and two stacks of current work files. A secondary benefit is a sense of relief, peace, and reduced stress. I guess what they say is true, reducing clutter reduces stress.

Feeling good about shoveling away a blizzard of paper, I set out to do the same thing to the files on my computer. The challenge with computer files is: out of sight, out of mind; and I’m not very quick with the delete key. I’m always worried about needing something later. Well it’s pretty amazing how badly a digital blizzard can fill up a little SD card or flash drive; much less your personal documents file on the hard drive. Just in case you’re curious my personal documents file is seventy gigabytes (70G) of data and comprises 54,640 files in 8,302 folders; frightening, I know. Just my little 2G SD card contained over 1300 files I needed to go through and organize or delete as appropriate. But once again, mission accomplished.

The neat thing about an exercise like this is you get to reflect and recollect. While going through the digital detritus of my life and work I came across this letter to my son. Kind of reminds me of a few things maybe I haven’t been doing so well lately.

Father to Son: A Few of Life’s Lessons
Offered to my son on the occasion of his upcoming wedding
Written in March 2008
On Activities and Relationships:
  • Have fun, be spontaneous, look for reasons to say yes every time you can, whether you want to or not.  Be open to letting things happen and enjoying them.  A chance to visit relatives – do it; a dinner out – do it; a game of cards – do it!
  • Fully engage!  Do not let yourself get distracted. The times that I remember most happily, clearly and completely are those times that I was living in the moment; I was in the zone (your birth, your sister’s birth, my wedding day, our extended vacation). Too often, I have not given my full attention to the conversation with you, your sister, or your mother. When you don’t look at me, you’re not fully engaged. I still make that mistake to this day, and your mother does too.
  • Never, ever violate her trust or even appear to; it can lead to emotional insecurity extremely harmful to your marriage. Do what you promise, and don’t give wrong impressions.

On Communication:

  • Make it extensive, don’t hold back, no silent treatment, no sarcasm, no personally hurtful comments, do not assume anything – say it, discuss how you communicate, understand that sometimes when she wants your opinion she may be more interested in validating hers, learn to recognize those situations and give her what she needs
  • Look at her, don’t look away, respect her enough to respond, even when you don’t want to engage; ignorance may be bliss but ignoring is disrespectful and hurtful
  • Always tell the truth, even little white lies lead to webs of deceit
  • Tell her about your needs and wants, your joys and fears, don’t make her guess
  • Arguments, have them but fight fair and don’t go to bed angry – agree to disagree if you have to but validate that your relationship is solid, it’s the issue that you’re focused on

On Finance:

  • Women usually need more financial security than men, it’s the mothering instinct
  • Don’t let her feel insecure
  • Do what you must that’s legal and moral and honest to financially support your family
  • Do not assume she will want to be the breadwinner just because she has the better job, talk about it and set clear expectations of each other

On Personal Performance:

  • Procrastination aggravates problems, it doesn’t solve them
  • Do not assume; seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • People are people, and not necessarily stupid (at least not all of the time)
  • Nothing is as scary as you make it out to be
  • The world will not end if you fail
  • The world will not end if what you do isn’t perfect
  • Glorious mistakes are often more satisfying than perfection

This snowy winter day it was nice to be reminded that I occasionally write things that make sense. Not bad advice in this little epistle; perhaps I should heed it a little more often…Pops