Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lesson of the week: "It is impossible to please everyone"

I’ve been a member of a professional organization for the past 12 years and a board member for 10 of those 12 years. During my tenure, I have held many positions including President. Last year, I took a much needed break after running a major event and was surprised to discover after a couple months how much I missed my board involvement. This year I volunteered to be co-program chair, one of my favorite positions. Our annual planning meeting was this week. It appeared to be a successful meeting; my co-program chair and I presented what we thought was an interesting line-up of CPE topics for the year that were well received.

The morning after the planning meeting, I received the following email from a fellow board member:

Another thought (please take it as constructive), some of the topics, Linked In, Word, other computer related topics are great for those of us GenX and older, but the students/recent grads can probably give some of this training. It probably wouldn't be attractive to them, so if we could do those early on and have more career related topics after student night, that might attract a newer audience?

My first thought was, it is too early in the year for me to get upset about the “never satisfied.” My second thought was, if members have a genuine gripe with the CPE line-up it is still early enough to tweak the schedule, so I emailed my co-program chair asking her opinion. She responded with:

Finding speakers is hard enough, I’m certainly not going to say oh we’re sorry, we want you for a different month now because your topic isn’t quite ‘rock’n’ enough.

And to her point about computer-related and the college kids could teach us something….well if it were about face-book, twitter or blogging probably, but any real-world applications, definitely not. I’ve been in the business world longer than I care to admit and I’m learning things through my ‘new job’ about Excel that I didn’t know were possible. You don’t learn how to spin/pivot/manipulate data in a classroom like you do behind a desk.

(Sorry I’m cranky this morning, I think I need another cup of coffee)

My take on this is, you and I will take guidance on what people want and ‘try’ to accommodate, but in the end you and I find the speakers.

Whether it is planning the menu for a dinner party, preparing the exercise class schedule at the gym, or even deciding what topic to blog about I have come to the conclusion it is impossible to please everyone, all you can do is try to accommodate the majority or in the case of blogging please yourself (why blog about something you are not passionate about). Also, after ten years of active board involvement I am surprised that I am still continuously learning decision making, leadership and management skills. I firmly believe I would not learn nearly as much if I were not an active member.

"If you're trying to please everyone, then you're not going to make anything that is honestly yours, I don't think, in the long run.” Viggo Mortensen

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Monday, July 20, 2009

"Girl on her way." Relevant lyrics for a mid-life birthday.

I couldn't help but be moved by the following lyrics on Maia Sharp's new song, "Girl on Her Way:"
“How long can she be the girl on her way before she’s just the woman who never got there? How far can she ride the dream of some day?"
I discovered Maia Sharp last week when I heard this interview on NPR. Maia, the daughter of country songwriter Randy Sharp, has been in the music business most of her life. Her songs have been covered by the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, Cher, Trisha Yearwood, and Mindy Smith. She just released her fourth album, "Echo."

Sharp says, “Since her first album in 1997, she has seen a lot of close calls.” After many brushes with success, she feels Echo is more of an "arrival than an on-the-way. This album, of all my albums, I feel like it has the most truth in it," Sharp says. "I feel like there's some truth in every song. The last song is the truest of all, but I feel great having written it and gotten it out of my brain and my stomach and onto the album. It's really the most cathartic song that I think I've ever written."

"Girl on Her Way," features just Sharp and a piano. It's a poignant, crushing song about expectation and people who are expected to do great things, but fall short. This song will strike a cord with anyone who thought they’d have made it by now or expected more out of their life. It is especially relevant today, as I am yet another year closer to 50 than I am to 40; a fact that my friend’s daughter is all too willing to point out ever since she learned rounding in school.

Then again, Gretchen Rubin did have a valid point when she made “The days are long, but the years are short” one of her “Splendid Truths.” Perhaps instead of concentrating on the “what ifs,” I should focus on what I have achieved and appreciate where I am today; which really isn't that far off from my original dreams.

Also, happy birthday wishes to Sarah Statz Cords of Citizen Reader.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is it me or is it the Crate & Barrel Table Runner?

I will be the first to admit my interior decorating/housekeeping skills are not exactly on par with Martha Stewarts, but I can’t help wondering if this latest episode is entirely the result of my inadequacy. Last year, I received a gift of hand painted candle holders and have been searching for a table decoration to display them with ever since. A few weeks ago, I found this table runner at Crate & Barrel. The flowered pattern is a perfect match.

After removing the runner from its tightly wrapped plastic packaging, I noticed it was deeply creased. The label indicated the runner was made of cotton; its embroidery made of rayon, so I set my iron on low and began ironing. It wasn’t long before little iron marks started appearing in addition to the creases. Thinking I was ruining my new table runner, I searched the internet for: “How to iron rayon"

On the purse blog I found:

Never iron rayon right side out without a pressing cloth to protect it. Rayon will gain a shine to it if you iron it directly. Either iron the inside of the garment or use a pressing cloth on the outside.

I then ironed the runner from its back side and placed a cloth on its right side while ironing the top. After about twenty minutes the creases remained as well as the little iron marks, only now the runner also refused to lay flat. I quit. Even my husband thought it looked worse than before I had started.

I complained to my more domestic friends, asking if I should take the runner to the dry cleaners. They recommended I steam it or better yet take it back to Crate and Barrel and have them steam it.

Since I don’t own a steamer, I called the store where I had purchased the runner explaining the crease problem. The sales associate’s first comment was all of our table runners are packaged like that (I hadn’t asked; apparently she has had this complaint before). She suggested I wash it then iron it. When I politely asked if by chance the store could steam it for me she responded with:

"Well, you can’t come in today we are too busy (I hadn't intended on going in today). We need to focus on our in-store customers."


“If you give us your phone number we'll call you when it is a good time."

Hello. Aren’t I a customer? Although, I am seriously considering never being one again. Also, I work full time and can’t exactly run to the mall when it is convenient for them. And finally, was it really necessary to package the table runner tightly in fancy plastic packaging (which I’m sure cost me at least an extra five bucks). I can't imagine too many customers appreciating the extra work.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story

As part of my 2009 goal “Getting my Ducks in a Row,” I’ve been reading quite a few memoirs in search of inspiration to continue moving forward with those baby steps. In doing so, I’ve come to the conclusion Sarah Statz Cords had a valid point when she wrote on her blog Citizen Reader:

For a long time, I wasn't up to reading memoirs. They're almost like fiction for me in that there's so many of them available; I'm bound not to like the majority of them.

I was looking forward to Isabel Gillies book Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story; not all change or reinvention is the result of our own choice i.e. divorce, job loss, or loss of a loved one. In Gillies case, her life is turned upside down after her husband develops a crush on a fellow teacher and announces he is done with their marriage.

I first heard of this book on Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project when she interviewed the author, Isabel Gillies. Isabel has done some soul searching on happiness and gave an inspiring somewhat introspective interview. I love this line:

"I think what one may want to achieve is not so much happiness but peace?"

The problem with the book is what the title states, "Happens Every Day" there just isn’t anything new here; Isabel meets boy, gets married, has two kids, relocates for his career, he has an affair, they break up. The story would make a great "Lifetime" movie complete with the requisite box of Kleenex.

I was hoping for more introspection from Gillies including what inspired her to move on after her marriage ended and the steps she took to rebuild her life. Unfortunately, she had given the major points of her introspection in the interview she gave Gretchen which I had previously read.

She did, however, offer two good pieces of advice for couples splitting up:

1. The first step for moving on is to get a really good lawyer.

2. My lawyer from Cleveland gave me a good piece of advice. He said we should come up with a separation agreement fast. If you are close to the marriage you remember what the good parts felt like. In the beginning you both will want to treat each other well, or at least fairly. The farther you get from the marriage, the more lawyers involved, the more he turns into an asshole he never really was before and she turns into an incredible bitch she wasn’t before. Don’t let lawyers talk for you because everyone will lose. Everyone losses anyway in a divorce. Both sides always have to give a little bit more than they want and lose a little bit more than they want. There are no winners.

Enough Said.