Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Having Character

"Success is in the way you walk the paths
of life each and every day,
It’s in the little things you do
and in the things you say,

It’s not in reaching heights or fame,
It’s not in reaching goals that all men
seek to claim.

Success is being big of heart,
clean, and broad of mind.
Success is being faithful
to your friends, and the stranger, kind.

Success is in your teammates, your family,
and what they learn from you,
Success is having character in everything you do."
-Grant Teaff, Coaching in the Classroom

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Standing in the Long Line

When I was growing up my mom always said, “Someday when we’re rich…” As a child I believed that someday we would be rich, or we would “get ahead.” I believed it like a child believes in the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. But, it took me a bit longer to let go of this fantasy.
One day when I was still a teenager, maybe seventeen, my mom and I were standing in a long line at the airport waiting to check in to our flight. It was one of those pull your hair out, drive you mad, long lines. We began to get a little impatient and kept watching First Class passengers check in at the short line, which was not even a line, because they did not have to wait. My mother unhappily started in, “Won’t it be nice when we’re rich someday and we fly first class.” I turned to her and said,

“No, Mom, I have accepted the fact that I will always be standing in the long line. And I am okay with that.” It was at that moment, at seventeen years old, standing in a painfully long line, that I realized, since most of us will always be standing in the long line, I had to accept this fact, not let it frustrate me, get me down, and have patience with life; or I could let it swallow my good nature; or I could deceive myself by saying, “Someday…”

Being self-deceived is never okay. Acceptance and patience with your “lot in life” is key. I know why people do bad things. They are not at peace with the woes and struggles of life—they cannot accept that struggle is a part of life. The old adage, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” is foolish. That assumes that life also handed you sugar and the other tools to make the best of the situation. Sometimes you just get lemons. So, perhaps it is best to learn to eat the lemons just as they are, bitter and all. Let that experience make you stronger and more patient with life. Perhaps one can even learn to admire the taste. You will not be eating lemons every moment of life. It will help you to appreciate the “sweetness” of life and so much more. And if life never hands you sweetness, at least you have become accustomed the taste of lemons.

This may seem like an awful way to look at life—to never hope for more; to not hope for the very best out of life; the pick yourself up by your own bootstraps American attitude. But, I have learned that very few people stand in the short line. That's why it is so short. If my parents, after fifty years, are not standing in the short line, I too will probably not be standing in the short line at that age. It makes life all the more intolerable to long for something that will never be—It is tragic to fail to appreciate what you have been given—always waiting and hoping for more.

The point I am trying to make with long lines and lemons metaphor is this: There is humility and character building in these experiences. I have learned that I do not need to stand in the short line to be happy. When enduring tragedy, hardship, strife, I know that the pain will not last. The taste of it is not so bitter to me. When I say my prayers at night, I do not hope to someday be rich, but count the tiniest blessings in my gratitude and praise. I am thankful I had food today and that I could pay my bills. I am grateful I have a safe, comfortable place to live. My joy overflows to kiss my husband each day and watch our infant son grow into a beautiful person.

And should I find myself in a situation like Job, in which this life of exile has left me with little more than a scrap of cloth to hide my shame, I shall bow even lower to the Lord God. I shall cling greater to every prayer and join every liturgy. Because, when this life cannot even offer me lemons, I still have my place in the universe granted to me by the Creator. That place is my own personal “short line.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flesh of My Flesh

Andrew never did write the companion blog to mine entitled, Seedlings of Hope. I just wanted to include what he told me that I found so profound and wanted to have recorded forever.

He explained to me that having child was quite a revelation, because he realized that when God created us in his own image, procreating offspring is part of God’s image. God gave us the ability to also procreate in our own image—a child of our own--a person in our own image. In having a child of our own we are fulfilling the potential God instilled in us. We become closer to God in this act. It helps us to understand better about God’s love for us, because we can relate it to our own love for our procreation.

This revelation is a rich one. I could probably go on and on about this. But, all that is important is that the ability to procreate is a great gift. It is a gift highly revered throughout the ages and we should remember that it is something to revere and not take for granted.

Confessions of Tedium and Strife

I guess I have been busy lately, but I would not say with anything particularly important. I have had a little bit of frustration recently with our family finances and with my work. I feel so ADD. I cannot keep focused and I think it has a lot to do with work right now.

The story about work – About eight weeks ago our receptionist got a divorce and decided to move back to Indiana where her family lives. Ever since then another secretary and I have been covering receptionist duties along with our regular work. That means answering phones, making coffee, taking care of faxes among other things. It is very hard to get work done when answering the phone every few minutes, which is why it is the receptionist’s job and not mine.

Then there are the things that regularly distract me from getting stuff done. Like transcription, every time the big boss, the executive, has to write a letter he dictates it onto a recorder. Then I have to transcribe it. He does this almost everyday he is in the office (three or four days a week). I have to drop everything right then and transcribe, because he usually needs it right then. And it’s not always mere transcribing. He’s an old Texan so he has all these old sayings like, “Too much sugar for a nickel.” That does not sound professional and sometimes he does not make any sense to me and I have to divine what he means and then change it. And then he comes back and tells me what I have written is, “Too much sugar for a nickel.”

Other things that distract me: Three times a day I stop and for 15-20 mins. I make a little “mommy made snack” for Alexander. I try to do work during that time as well, but I would say about half the time I cannot. Every morning I check my work email and my personal email. The personal email always gets me distracted. Or I will just go to check out the headlines on the internet, just to make sure nothing big has happened that I should know about. For example, in my profession, it is important to know that Coach Bo Schembechler passed away. Although, it is not my job to know that information. But, sometimes when I go to check the headlines I find myself reading the entertainment gossip, or surfing the internet. Sometimes, I am tired and zoned out from working fulltime, being a wife and mother and breastfeeding.

So here are some tips that will hopefully get me back on track.

Tip # 1 – If your work requires a lot of interruptions you are probably not going to get much done, i.e. being someone else’s secretary you are probably going to be interrupted a lot.

Tip # 2 – Write stuff down and finish what you are doing before you move onto the next thing. And if you cannot finish it, write it down to finish it later.

Tip # 3 – If you need to get stuff done, do not open the internet.

Tip # 4 – Try to take minimal breaks including bathroom breaks. I say this as I have just downed an 8 oz. cup of tea, a 16.9 oz. bottle of flavored water and a 6 oz cup of coffee, all before 10:00 a.m., which has led to four trips to the restroom within the hour. Why I thought that was a good idea, I cannot tell you.

Tip #5 – Don’t sweat the small stuff. If it’s been done wrong and you have to do it again, just do it and do it right. It’s more professional. Being professional, though stuffy, boring, and stressful, is the right thing to do. You have to have a little pride in the work that you do, whether you like doing it or not.

The story about the finances – Well, it’s a pretty simple story. Andrew gets paid a stipend during the school year, but he does not receive anything in the summer. We have taken on quite a few extra expenses since Alexander’s birth: Alexander’s health insurance, a second car payment and insurance for that car, daycare, and diapers. Andrew has not had much luck with getting a job and it’s been a bit frustrating. Now the money is running out and it’s time to figure out how to pay for things. We are taking Alexander out of the daycare. This should mostly cure our problem until the fall. Andrew’s job is 4 a.m. – 8 a.m., so it does not overlap with my job and he can watch Alexander. I think Alexander likes the routine he has at daycare and the opportunity to play with other kids. So, it will be a little bit of an adjustment for both Alexander and Andrew. Then we will need daycare again in the fall. That’s the stressful part. His place probably will not be open at the daycare in the fall and we have to find another place for him. It keeps me up at night, but I am sure things will work out for the best. I am just going to have faith.