Tag: management

Most Influential Blogger Award

Copyright: Don Charisma

I’m so grateful to CaveGirl MBA, one of my favorite bloggers, for naming me as a recipient of the Most Influential Bloggers award, especially since my blog is celebrating a birthday this week.

It’s turning three, so still in the Unruly Toddler stage, but it’s been viewed by over 8,000 people in 80+ countries. Not much by some standards, but definitely more than I anticipated when I began this endeavor.

As one of the conditions of the award, I’ve been asked to nominate the 10 most influential bloggers that I follow. Here are the bloggers who inspire me every day:

  1. Julie at Julie Unplugged for her whimsy, humor, and unfailing support for other writers.
  2. Christina at Filling My Prayer Closet who shares her incredible knowledge and her faith in a generous and humorous way.
  3. Mary at Homeschool Antics who is giving her girls an unbelievable educational experience at home, something I could never do.
  4. Charity at The Wounded Dove whose beautiful prose chronicles a marriage at work.
  5. Jen at JVKom Chronicles who uses her blog to give to others, including an incredible effort on behalf of her friend and fellow blogger, Carolina Country Girl.
  6. Sharon at MommyVerbs for making me think.
  7. Heather at Life’s a Disco Ball who writes about mental health in an unbelievably powerful and personal way.
  8. Jhanis at The Vanilla Housewife who, like another of CaveGirl MBA’s recipients, Journeys of the Fabulist, keeps me up-to-date on life abroad.
  9. Jenn at I Make Myself the Queen for making me laugh out loud with her singular style.
  10. And last, but certainly not least, Susan at Pecked To Death by Chickens, because my blog wants to be hers when it grows up.

If you accept the challenge, the guidelines are below. If you’d rather not participate, then please just accept my compliments and my thanks for a consistently good read.

Conditions For Accepting The Award

To accept this award, the awardee must do the following:

  1. Display the Award on your Blog.
  2. Announce your win with a blog post and thank the Blogger who awarded you. Please do not lump this award with any other award in a “basket”, “bouquet” or “collection”.
  3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).
  5. Include an embedded video of your current favorite song (YouTube has virtually everything, just copy and paste the link into your WordPress editor). If a video is not possible you can embed a SoundCloud track.

The most difficult part of this whole thing for me was selecting a favorite song – much harder than choosing the 10 fabulous bloggers I want to honor.

So I chose one from my youth – a great, live performance by The English Beat about two things I try to avoid: Sugar and Stress. Namaste!

Management by Walking Away

IMG_0528Those of us of a certain age remember the concept called Management by Walking Around discussed in Peters and Waterman’s classic, In Search of Excellence. Well, I coined a new phrase today – I’ve decided to practice Management by Walking Away.

You see, I’ve realized that the teenaged members of my household do not take responsibility for their “stuff”. And furthermore, my badgering and constant reminders enable their incompetence.

Working at home means I’m available to deliver the forgotten gym shoes or musical instrument to school. To provide a ride when they miss the activity bus. To keep their schedules, and make sure they have a snack before the game. Problem is, they do not, cannot, seem to manage these things on their own.

I have a plaque in my home that reads, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” I’m not the mom who orchestrates the path, for sure, but I’m definitely questioning how prepared my children need to be if they know mom is always there to keep them on the path in the first place.

Maybe it’s Mother’s Day blowback, or my having just passed on an opportunity I wasn’t entirely sure I didn’t want. Or perhaps just general fatigue. Whatever the catalyst, I’m completely, decidedly fed up. So I’m walking away.

This strategy is not without some risk. I expect a few failing grades, a few forgotten items, a few missed appointments. But I can no longer care more than my subordinates do about their own responsibilities.

Failure hurts. But it also teaches. Prepare, children, for the lesson.

More resolutions for the irresolute

I’m not really a resolutions type of gal. Resolutions require you to draw a line in the sand, and presumably, at some point, cross that line, an action I’m generally adverse to. I got around this in my resolutions last year by setting guidelines for myself that I largely already meet. Pretty weak. So this year, I plan to:

  1. photoPay attention to what I am doing. If I succeed, I’ll probably notice some of the things I’m doing are dumb and then I can stop doing them. (My version of being present.)
  2. Do more things just because they’re fun. What’s wrong with having a little fun? I could make an argument that in the last couple of years, I have not had enough fun.
  3. Stop feeling guilty about #2. Guilt has a way of taking the fun out of having fun.
  4. Write something every day, even if it’s just a haiku in my Twitter feed.
  5. Occasionally, write something more than a haiku in my Twitter feed. To keep me motivated, I’ve joined Jeff Goins’ 500-words-a-day challenge.
  6. Enjoy things. I want more moments in my life to feel like the bliss of a hot shower on a cold day (or a cold shower on a hot day. Can’t decide which feels more blissful).
  7. I’d say appreciate the time I have with my kids, but honestly, some of the time I spend with my kids is a grind, for them and me. Instead, I’ll focus on trying not to get ticked off about stuff I probably won’t remember the next day.

These resolutions don’t sound very challenging, but I think, perhaps, life shouldn’t be a constant challenge. You can’t win a race – or lose it – if you’re the only one running.

Happy New Year!

Thanks to Tela, Inc. for the bee-yoo-tee-ful visual.

12 days of Christmas – a redux

I confess – to me, the run-up to the holidays feels like one long to-do list. With my apologies to the original, I’ve adapted a favorite carol that you can sing, too. If you want to prolong the agony, repeat the refrain until you are so desperate to finish you’ve quadrupled the tempo.

(Not based on actual events. Ahem.)

On the first day of Christmas, I desperately backordered one hot holiday toy.

On the second day of Christmas I guiltily regifted two cute but useless knick-knacks.

(2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the third day of Christmas I  waited in the post office behind three really slow people.

(3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the fourth day of Christmas I went to a party, and consumed four unusually strong eggnogs.

(4 strong eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the fifth day of Christmas I absently bought FIVE TEACHER GIFTS!

(4 strong eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the sixth day of Christmas as time was running out, I bought six last-minute Kringles.

(6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the seventh day of Christmas I cleaned up my house and stuffed things in seven different closets.

(7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the eighth day of Christmas I made myself some tea, and wrapped eight oddly-shaped  packages.

(8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the ninth day of Christmas I wrote a Christmas letter, and rejected nine unflattering family photos.

(9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the tenth day of Christmas I did my Christmas baking, and ate ten slightly singed cookies. 

(10 singed cookies, 9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the eleventh day of Christmas I spent on groceries what felt like eleven hundred dollars.

(11 hundred dollars, 10 singed cookies, 9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the twelfth day of Christmas I awkwardly arranged twelve ugly, scraggly spruce tops.

(12 scraggly spruce tops, 11 hundred dollars, 10 singed cookies, 9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

Oooh…my apologies to the original. Probably sounds better after a few eggnogs.

In order to brighten my holiday, I’ve elected to participate in the Blogfestivus challenge sponsored by the blogging goddess at Blogdramedy. Watch for my uninspiring entries starting next week.

Of course I can write a book – I blog. Right?

Oh, how wrong I was. Surely, I’m not the only one? I’ve been laboring (pardon the pun) over a Parent Your Business book for over a year. If this was a gestation period I would have given birth to two baby elephants by now. OK, that’s a huge exaggeration, but that’s how it feels.

What I didn’t realize when I set out was:

  1. Writing a book requires some discipline. Blogging, at least in my case, requires a complete lack of discipline since I typically find myself blogging when I should be doing something else (like now).
  2. Blog posts can be irrelevant, irreverent, and wacky and people will still read them – and even like them! A book has to have structure and purpose. Plus, the reader should ideally get some value out of it. Hmmm.
  3. Blog posts are short. You can write them in a few minutes if you’re on a roll. Writing a book takes a long time. (Duh, I should have seen this one coming.)
  4. Blogging is instant gratification. You write a post, publish it and right away someone will read it. Writing a book feels more like casting out a fishing line and then waiting for all of eternity for a bite.

I think I need a writing buddy to keep me on track. Any takers? Understandably, this will not be fun. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just take some solace in the fact that I’m not a pregnant elephant.

How do you stay motivated to write? How do you keep a project on track? Share, please!

Feng shui for the amateur

As with most things, I know enough about feng shui to be almost completely ineffective. But I love the idea – in fact, am completely romanced by the idea – that I can change my life just by moving some stuff around.

My first exposure to feng shui was in a book I bought for a friend. She was only vaguely interested, but I fell for it – hard. Completely infatuated, I recruited my husband and we spent the better part of a day trying to figure it all out before he died of boredom. (RIP, dear.) Particularly mystifying was the concept of the four celestial animals. After poring over it, we determined we had too much tortoise. I can’t remember why it was a problem to have too much tortoise, but it seemed alarming at the time.

Too much tortoise?
Too much tortoise?

I eventually enlisted the help of my friend, Susan Nelson, feng shui consultant and trainer extraordinaire, to give me the run-down on my chi. Here is what I learned. Am I too caught up in the metaphor? You tell me:

  1. There’s too much kids’ stuff in our playroom, also known as our partnership and romance area. No kidding. Would that be the amorphous blob of toys that encroaches on the rest of the house like a lava flow? Or the fact that we can’t have so much as a 5-minute conversation without being interrupted by one of our children?
  2. The extension to our partnership area (usually a good thing) is vast, empty, and underutilized. It’s called our deck. Without much thought, we built this huge, once-lovely structure under a 300-year-old oak tree that drops about 5 million acorns a year, as well as branches, leaves and other crud. Not only is it dangerous to stand out there, but as I mentioned in a previous post, it looks like a shipwreck that’s been raised from submersion and plopped in our backyard, barnacles and all.
  3. Our career area is in the toilet. Literally. Which explains a lot. Not much I can do besides relocate the bathroom to another part of the house at great expense, or perhaps paint it red, ugh. There is something just fundamentally wrong about a red bathroom.
  4. The prosperity area of the yard is overrun with weeds. At the height of summer you can hardly get to it. Oh, and it has a compost heap in it. We all know compost is only one organic step up from garbage.
  5.  The power corner of the house is the place the cat sleeps. Enough said.

I’ve tried to correct some of these deficiencies. Heaven knows I’ve weeded my prosperity corner, but who would have guessed it? Weeds grow back. I’ve followed some of Susan’s easier suggestions – hanging bells, moving furniture. I’ve decluttered, washed windows, and changed lightbulbs. But I don’t think I’ve made any great strides. While I’d like to tell myself things are changing for the better, I’m not sure I don’t just have bad energy flowing through a much cleaner house.

I guess I should ask Susan to come back and take another look. Maybe she’d be proud of the progress I’ve made. Maybe she’d have more suggestions to keep me on track. Or maybe she’d just tell me I’m still a little heavy on the tortoise.

Are you a believer? What miracles has feng shui wrought for you?

The ghosts of turkeys past

The holiday has me reminiscing about Thanksgivings past. For the last few years, we’ve celebrated quietly at home. I find it a relaxing alternative to some of the holidays we’ve celebrated.

The first Thanksgiving I hosted, with my two roommates, was an unqualified disaster. After suffering through the anxiety of preparing a turkey for the first time (and neglecting, out of ignorance, to remove the plastic bags full of innards from the interior before we cooked it), we discovered that the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom of our townhouse was leaking. The result? A huge, water-filled plaster bubble forming right over – you guessed it – the dining room table.

imageA few years later, my then-new husband and I hosted Thanksgiving for a few transplants who, like us, could not make it “home” for the holidays. My much-beloved but chronically late sister was in charge of appetizers. I had stocked up on wine and beer but had no back-up snacks. By the time she arrived, my guests were, shall we say, slightly more basted than the bird. Attempts to carve said bird resulted in a scene so brutal we probably could have been picketed by animal activists.

Fast forward a few years. Because Christmas was on a Wednesday my family was unable to gather for that holiday. In my infinite wisdom, I invited them all to our home for the earlier holiday, suggesting we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and “Christmas” together on Saturday. Thus began perhaps the wildest holiday weekend of all time – a huge feast followed by tree trimming, gift shopping, wrapping and celebrating again in the space of a couple of days. If you find it hard to prepare for Christmas in the four weeks that follow Thanksgiving try doing it in 48 hours.

When our first two kids were young and I was still working full-time out of the home, I found it hard to prepare for Thanksgiving at all. This included actually purchasing a turkey. One year, by the time I got to the store late on Wednesday there was nothing but tiny birds left. I actually considered cooking two until I snapped out of it. The next year, determined to get to the store earlier, I did the exact same thing, only this time the smallest bird I could buy was 18 pounds. All this for a house that contained two adults and two toddlers who hadn’t eaten more than a teaspoon full of food at one meal ever. I’ve never been able to decide which was worse (read Help me solve my turkey dilemma).

The best I can say about these Thanksgivings is at least I put food on the table (as supported by my post about the Christmas that almost wasn’t). But this year I’m going to do it right. Now if I could just find that shopping list…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy (and pay homage to) your bird.

If your co-workers sounded like kids

Listening to the bicker-fest at my house this morning made me think of what the day would be like if adults interacted with each other the way kids do. Can you imagine your workplace sounding something like this?

The excuse: It’s not my fault I yelled at that customer. He yelled at me first!

The gentle hint, part I: Not to be rude or anything, but that sweater you’re wearing? Uh, yeah.

The gentle hint, part II: Hello! Could you not talk to your proctologist on your cell phone while I’m in the next cubicle?

IMG_0351The suggestion: You took the last of the coffee and didn’t make another pot? What’s wrong with you?

The denial: I did not take the last of the coffee! I haven’t had any coffee in at least two weeks!

The refusal: I’m not updating the forecast – I did it last time.

The gracious response to feedback: You’ve been keeping track of my workplace performance? Isn’t that sort of stalker-ish?

The gracious response to lunch brought in: Are we having pizza again? Can’t we ever have something I like?

The rationalization: Seriously, what’s your problem? So there was a mistake in the budget – it was just a few thousand dollars.

The compliment: That report you wrote actually wasn’t too boring.

The objection: I don’t want to go to another staff meeting! I hate it here!

For your sake, I’m hoping this doesn’t sound too familiar. Wouldn’t want you crying into your cold, weak office coffee. Oh, and not to be rude or anything? But shouldn’t you be working instead of sitting on the internet?

What’s your least-favorite kid-speak (or work-speak?)

Life is not a competition. Or is it?

About once a day I find myself telling my boys, “Life is not a competition.” This is usually in response to a) a fight; b) someone bragging; or c) the constant one-upmanship that occurs in our household – my day was worse, my math score better, my defensive play more aggressive. I find the constant, competitive banter exhausting.

My spouse disagrees. To him, getting up in the morning is a competition that I either lose by getting up first, or lose by getting up last. (Yeah, I see the problem in that statement.) And while he doesn’t openly encourage the competition, he makes no move to squelch it either.

If I’m honest with myself, I can’t put the responsibility for the competitive nature of my kids solely on him. I’m also competitive. I think of the early years of our marriage as a battle for supremacy. (Who won? Depends on who you ask.) It’s not realistic to assume our kids will be that different from us. And my husband’s competitive nature works to his advantage in his sales career and that, in turn, makes my self-employment possible.

I’m conflicted about the whole thing. In some respects, I think it’s stressful to grow up feeling like you have to be faster, smarter, better…but on the other hand, if you don’t have a competitive sense, how do you achieve excellence? The very root of excellence is that you must excel – that is, be better than everyone else – to succeed. And I also think because of the self-esteem movement, we’ve raised a whole generation of individuals for whom excellence is highly subjective – and man, are they ever hard to manage.

So what do you think? What role does competition play in our lives and workplaces?  How have you or your kids benefitted or suffered from competition? There has to be a line somewhere. I just don’t know where it is.

If you don’t like this post feel free to yell

So apparently, there is a study out that says yelling at teens is not an effective form of discipline. Not only doesn’t it work, the study purports, but yelling at them may be as harmful as hitting them. If you are a parent who regularly yells at your teen, like I do, and you have not already heard this, you are probably moving rapidly through the five stages of grief right now:

  • Denial: What? You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t believe this hogwash. My parents yelled at me all the time and I turned out fine.
  • Anger: I’m only human! Sometimes this kid drives me absolutely crazy!
  • Bargaining: If I can just yell for the next year or two maybe my kid will get the message and then I can stop.
  • Depression: It’s official. I am clearly not cut out for this parenting thing.

If you’re lucky, you’ll reach Acceptance and find a new way to communicate. If not, you’ll probably bounce between frustration and guilt – in other words, fall back into the state of mind common to the average parent.

If I can’t yell, my parenting style will experience a serious void. I have this mental picture of me standing in front of my kids, mouth agape, completely paralyzed. Man, will they ever take advantage of that.

Thing is, I agree with this on principle. I don’t think losing your temper gets you anywhere. When I was managing employees I wasn’t a yeller. I worked hard to maintain my composure even in the most uncomfortable circumstances and at my angriest, was likely to dish out no more than a withering glance.

But at home, I find myself yelling more than I want to. In a house with three kids, it too often feels like the only way to be heard. Literally.

I typically apologize after I lose my temper. Later. When there is no longer steam emitting from my ears. But according to this study, by then the damage is done. So once again, I face my imperfection and go off to wallow in guilt and frustration. And wait for the study that documents the damage done by the withering glance.

How do you keep your temper when your kids – or coworkers – drive you nuts? Inviting all those better than I to weigh in…