My rare talent

postaday2011

A rare talent that I have that most people don’t know about it is the ability to serve as a bridge person.  I didn’t become aware that I had this ability until my early twenties but once it was pointed out to me, I knew instantly that it was one of the things I was put on this earth to do. The easiest way to explain this is to first tell you what high school was like for me.  Everyone can remember that high school has different groups of kids, the nicknames for each group change with each generation but basically the groups are the same. There are the “jocks” of course, the athletic types that include football players and cheerleaders.  The jocks are tight with the “Preppy” crowd who are usually huge fans and in my day wore polo shirts with those tiny little alligators on the collar and were able to realistically expect a new car for their sixteenth birthday. Most schools also have their version of the “Burnouts” which are the kids that are perceived as spending their time smoking cigarettes and other things in the bathrooms or behind the bleachers.  In reality the Burnouts don’t really rebel or party much more than the other groups, they just don’t go to such extremes to hide it from the world. Every high school has another group, in my day they were the “Nerds”.  This was the group that everyone knew were ultra smart.  Members of this group in my day could be identified by plaid shirts, pocket protectors, and in a lot of cases the glasses with heavy black or brown frames.  Many of them learned how to program computers before other people even knew how to turn one on. Okay so now you’re remembering the different groups of kids in your school and you can probably remember pretty clearly which group you identified with in school.  Maybe you were a jock, a nerd or a burnout.  In most cases your friends would have all been part of the same group. So now on to what a bridge person is so you can figure out if maybe you have this ability too.  A bridge person can float, not literally as in up in the sky, but metaphorically they can float from one group to another.  For example in high school, I could name friends from each of the groups I listed above.  Not only did I have friends in each of these groups, I made it known that I expected everyone to get along and that I wasn’t going to choose between friends.  I’d like to think that my stubborn refusal to be pigeonholed way back then actually contributed to opening some eyes about stereotypes but who knows. My eighteenth birthday party is a good example.  I grew up in one town and went to the same school district until I was a Freshman in high school. Because my parents had divorced, I ended up graduating from a nearby rival school.  So now not only was I bridging cliques within the same school, I had friends in each of the two rival schools.  I sent out my party invitations to kids from both rival schools.  Friends in both schools told me I was nuts.  They warned me that there would be fighting and drama because the kids from these two rival schools would clash.  I just kept repeating that I wouldn’t tolerate any fighting.  Guess what?  Not only were there no fights but several friendships and couples relationships began that day.  If you’re one of my high school friends, I’d love to hear whether you felt I was truly a part of one group or the other because I never really felt that I was at the time. It’s not as prominent, but the workplace is often very similar to high school only in the case of workplaces, the groups are often dictated by job titles. Executives stick with executives, laborers stick with laborers, secretaries with secretaries, etc.  I found that I was able to serve as a bridge person in this arena too.  Maybe it was my ego, I’m not sure, but in my mind everyone was valued and everyone’s opinion was useful and it just didn’t matter to me what someone’s title was.  What mattered most to me was solving whatever problem we had at the time or meeting our goals, etc. and I would talk to whoever I felt could help and enlist them on the project. So a bridge person is someone who not only declines to be labeled themselves but is comfortable and accepted as they move in and out of different groups. More importantly, because they truly know the ins and outs of more than one group, they can help to bridge the gap between different groups for other people as well.  So much more can get accomplished when you take into consideration all the opinions of those who are involved.  So the next time you think “I can’t talk to that person”, take a deep breath and remember that old saying “he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like I do” and forge ahead for the good of the project. And for the parents out there, let’s do what we can to create a generation of bridge people to carry us through the future.

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Say What You Mean and Do What You Say

parenting, postaday2011, Relationships

Trust is one of those things that takes a very long time to build and yet can be wiped out in an instant.   In some relationships, trust is eroded gradually but other times, a major act of betrayal or dishonesty can virtually destroy trust overnight causing sometimes irreparable damage.

Trust is important in every relationship we are involved in including personal relationships with family, friends, children or spouses as well as professional relationships with clients, professors, colleagues, partners and employers.

One way to strengthen and rebuild trust in any relationship is to practice being consistent and honest.  Think carefully before you promise something so that you can say what you mean and then do what you say.  This practice is a good one to implement for both personal and business relationships.  Little things can often build trust, for instance if you say you’ll take the garbage out in the morning, make sure you do it.  If you tell your child you will be there for their birthday, make sure you’re there.  This is especially important for parents because a child’s ability to trust is being developed by how trustworthy they view the adults in their life.

Trust plays an important role in work teams also because if you say you’ll be at a meeting, your employer counts on you to be there.  When you tell co-workers or group members you’ll finish a portion of a project, make sure it gets done or at least you give them a heads up if it won’t be ready on time.  Your reputation is on the line every time you swear by a product because a client or customer trusts you to help them make an informed decision.

Big things like infidelity, lying, dishonesty or theft can destroy trust virtually overnight but often it’s the little things we do everyday that can quietly eat away at the trust in a relationship unnoticed until there is nothing left.

Be mindful of how trustful you are to the people who are important in your life.  Are you giving them reasons to trust you more?  Or less?  Make sure your daily behaviors are in line with your promises and you’ll reap the rewards of developing trusting relationships.

How Do I Find My Muse?

postaday2011, writing process

How do I find my muse?  I know that for some writers finding their muse is a wonderful and creative process that involves listening to their favorite music, whether it’s Nirvana, Garth Brooks or even something by Bach or Beethoven.

Some of my friends who are writers, have described their writing process to me and talk about their muse as if she’s a close friend and confidant, that dances into their head when exactly the right conditions exist, to help them pour forth creativity and wisdom onto the written page.

To be honest, it’s just not like that for me and I can’t recall it ever being exactly like that although I have a sense that it may have been similar to that when I was younger and used to write for hours and hours about characters that to me were very real.

But how I find my muse, at least for much of my adult life, is a much more elusive and unpredictable process.  Now you all know that I have extended family in the house full-time, including one of my grandsons who is three and my mother, who is in her mid-sixties.  Top that off with my two youngest daughters who are 2 and 6 and my oldest daughter, who is about to turn 22 this year and you have a recipe for almost constant noise and disruption.

So it’s within the middle of this chaotic environment that I’m usually trying to write.  For me this means that finding my muse is more about whether or not I have the strength to not only drag her kicking and screaming into my head but the added energy to hang on to her tightly while I try to get any ideas out onto the paper.  Or in my case into the computer, which is probably a good thing, because when I can hold onto her, at least I can type really fast before the crying and bickering starts and she runs screaming back into her peaceful world.

So for those of you who have a muse that is your close friend and confidant I envy you.  And for those of you who, like me barely have time to use the bathroom without company, let alone write uninterrupted for hours while your muse dances around you, I sympathize.  Know that you are not alone and that someday when the house is quiet again, you may actually come to know your muse in a way that doesn’t involve choke holds.

If I Had A Magic Tree…

Just for Fun, postaday2011, Relationships, Uncategorized

Tonight’s post of the day 2011 will be short and sweet.  If I had a magic tree, it would grow “time”.  The reason I decided that this is what I would want my magic tree to grow is that I have discovered that there are so many amazing things that can be done in this world, there just seems not enough time to do them all.

I also would love to have an ample supply of time that I could pick as I need it so that I could spend more time with my children and my grandchildren who even though they occasionally bring some headaches, truly bring me so much joy every day.

So there you have it, get in line for the magic tree in my backyard will soon be sprouting leaves of time.

The Town I Grew Up In

parenting, postaday2011, Relationships

As I think back on the town I grew up in, I realize that it was, at least to my childhood memory, just about perfect.

We lived in a three bedroom mobile home trailer which inside was a rather tight space for our family however the trailer was on its own piece of property in a neighborhood.  This meant we actually had a front yard, back yard and a huge side yard.  My paternal grandparents lived behind us so of course we had access to all of that space as well.

Our town was small back then, though I couldn’t tell you the exact population.  I just know that to me it felt like I knew almost everyone and if I didn’t my parents or grandparents certainly did.  I knew every family on my street to be sure, all the way to the lake which was at the far end, probably sixteen blocks or so at least.

If I was hurt or in trouble anywhere on the street, I could safely go knock on the nearest door and ask for help, even if it was something as simple as using the restroom.

I could probably still give you the names of those families and some of them I’ve been in touch with in recent years.  Several of those families were present at my grandparents’ funerals.

Most kids in the neighborhood were on a first name basis with the family who owned the corner store and the gas station at the end of the street as well.  If it was your birthday you could be sure that whatever you bought in the store that day would be “on the house” because the owner somehow just knew it was your special day.

When it rained really hard and fast, the big treat of the day was to put on a bathing suit and tramp and swim in the ditches on the side of the road.  Now wait parents cause I can hear you screaming at this.  As a parent today I would freak out if I saw children swimming in a ditch because of dangers from traffic, glass, trash, bacteria, etc. but we did it repeatedly every summer until I was about twelve and here I am.  It wasn’t just a different time back then, it truly was a completely different world.

We headed outside right after school during the week, would race home for dinner and then go back outside.  The primary rule in good weather was “be home before it gets dark.”  Weekend mornings there was an unwritten rule which kept us inside until after morning cartoons (about 11am usually) but then we’d be off to meet up with friends.  This gave us plenty of time to ride bikes, climb trees and whatever else our young minds could devise.  Many times on weekends, our house was the place everyone headed for just before dark, with permission first from parents of course to stay out later, and there were games of flashlight tag, ghost in the graveyard and hide and seek.

To say I was in a gang probably would be overdoing it, but our street had a core group of kids that were just about inseparable with a few others thrown in here and there.  Sometimes we’d be joined by an occasional younger sibling at the “request” of our parents.  We setup a kool-aid stand in our big side yard and cars would stop and no one thought anything of it then.  Course we drank up a lot of the inventory too on hot days.  Several of us had pairs of tall stilts made from 2×2’s and we’d hold a circus event or stilt races in the side yard.

But what I remember most about the town where I grew up is that everyone knew everyone else.  We had to behave most of the time because the whole neighborhood was full of eyes.  If a neighbor saw us doing something we shouldn’t be doing, they’d quickly come out, give us a lecture and send us home.  By the time we got home, at least one parent would be waiting on the doorstep because “Mrs. Smith” called each house to let them know what had gone on.

Maybe that’s why kids are in so much trouble today.  Neighbors not only don’t know one another but they are actually afraid to get involved in any way even verbally.  So the next time another parent or a neighbor approaches you about something your child did wrong, think about the intent behind their actions.  Even if they didn’t handle the situation in the same way you might have, be appreciative that they cared enough about your child to step in and to notify you so you could be more aware of your child’s world.

When the community stands together in raising children, it can create a much more effective and nurturing environment for everyone.  Let’s get back to that world again.  I know it can be done if enough people care.

What Can’t I Say “No” To?

Finding Self, postaday2011

This will come as no big surprise to most people who know me but the one thing I can’t say “no” to is helping someone who needs help.  It really doesn’t matter what kind of help is needed.  If it’s something that I feel I can do or at least help with, it takes all my effort to say “no” to someone.

This has gotten me into many a predicament over the years and has resulted in my being overbooked in multiple areas.  Early in my career it meant that I was often helping other people or coming up with ideas to better help other people after work hours had ended.

When I first became a mom this tendency got me involved in various activities involving other single moms.  Not because I thought I was doing such a great job myself, but just because it seemed that someone needed to bring single moms together so they could help one another to cope.

Later in my career it meant I worked long hours often without being paid just to make sure that everyone had what they needed when they needed it.  And in that phase of my career it resulted in burn out and a need to change industries for a job that was strictly 9-5 pm for a while.

Now later in life, I still have that tendency to say yes when someone asks for my help but I try to restrict it to family and close friends.  I have found that recently I’ve been saying yes to too many clients in the same week and it results in my schedule being overloaded so I’m working on being able to say “I can schedule that for next week” instead of “sure I can do it by tomorrow”.

Now if I can just figure out how to say “no” more often to my 2 1/2-year-old when she gives me her little sad face, I’ll be good to go.

Last Random Act of Kindness

Finding Self, postaday2011

Not sure if this is the last random act of kindness I did but it’s the most memorable one.

I had gone into one of the discount grocery stores to do some shopping for the household.  And as I came up the first aisle there were two kids, teenagers, standing by the dairy section.  One of them held a jar of peanut butter and the other one had a package of american cheese.  There were at least two other kids with them, both younger.  The two appeared to be brother and sister and the kids with them younger siblings.

The older two were arguing and  I heard the older girl say “but it’s on the list” to which the boy responded “but we don’t have enough money for both.”

My first assessment was that these kids had been sent to the store with limited money and obviously didn’t have enough for everything on the list.  Since I myself have been in that situation so many times in my life, I had to help.  I reached into my wallet and pulled out a ten-dollar bill.  As I went past them, I pressed the money into the older girl’s hand.

“Now you can buy both.” I said to her and I kept on walking.  After a few whispers about whether or not they should keep the money, the oldest boy came running after me.

“thank you so much.” he said and smiled.

“I’ve been there.” I said and smiled back.  He smiled at me again and turned and headed back to the older girl and the two younger kids who were all beaming smiles in my direction.

All those smiles were more than a fair trade for that ten dollars in my opinion.

 

A Million Dollars to Spend

Just for Fun, postaday2011

Today’s post a day 2011 topic asks what I would do if I won a million dollars tax-free.  I had to sit and think about that a little bit.  Then I said out loud “what would I do with a million dollars?” and my 21-year-old daughter who was sitting not far away piped up and said,

“that’s easy, I’d move out.”

“if I win a million dollars you would move out?” I asked trying to clarify.

“no If I won a million dollars I’d move out.”  she replied as if that was obvious.

“well what would you do if I won a million dollars?” I asked

“I’d stay here.” she responded with a half laugh as if again I was questioning the obvious.

So glad we got that settled right off the bat.  Now when the money rolls in at least I know where she stands.

So I guess my list of what I’d do with a million dollars probably is very similar to the list of others.  I’d buy a new house for my daughters and I, something with some land.  In fact if I won a million dollars tax-free, I probably would buy enough land for a community of houses to be built on the same property.  My oldest daughter and her son in one.  My son and his family in another.  If we didn’t go extravagant there would enough left to build a couple more.  A house for my best friend and her husband.  And at least two more houses for any of their children who might want to join our little community.  Or anyone else in my family circle who might need a place to live.  Like any one or more of my son’s friends or my daughter’s best friend and her two girls.  Each family would have to handle their own utilities, furniture and such but I’d buy the property and the houses.  I guess that would take about half a million right there.

Next on my list would have to be to pay off some debts so that the kids and I could have a clean slate for the future.  I could pay everything off for less than $10,000 at this point.

And of course I would start college funds for the kids and grandkids, something that would grow as they do.

I’ve never had an absolutely brand new, never driven by anyone else car, so I’d have to get one of those.  At this point it would probably be a Buick Rendezvous.  I love my used one that I bought last year, so why not go with what I know, only newer.

Okay so half a million or so to build my little dream community. Another say another $100,000 by the time I start college funds, pay off debt and buy a new car.

I would definitely have to invest in my own business.  There are just so many directions that I would like to go with it and several of them require money, for equipment, for computers and software, for utilities and a building.  So maybe another hundred thousand there.  A little less if I put the building on that same piece of property with the houses.

So at this point, I still have three hundred thousand left, give or take a couple thousand.  I’d love to build a foster home in our little community.  There are just so many children, of all ages, who need a stable home with family to love, support and encourage them to develop to their full potential.

That would probably just about take care of that one million dollars I would think.

What Keeps Me Up At Night?

Just for Fun, postaday2011

When I read the post a day challenge topic, my first thought was “I don’t have anything that keeps me up at night”.  But as I thought more about it, what came to mind is what used to keep me up at night when I was a child so I thought I’d share that with you instead.

For me as a child, books were everything.  I collected all kinds of books including the entire Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  I had all the encyclopedia sets including a Britannica and even a Charlie Brown set.   I had a set of double books.  I was always reading wherever I was.  My mom used to say that when I was reading it was like I went deaf.  I couldn’t hear anything or anyone, because I was caught up in the world of my book.  I was transported.

We lived in a mobile home trailer on its own lot so we did have quite a bit of space outside.  We were on the corner of two street so we had a backyard, front yard and a huge side yard.  But inside things were a little tight.  My younger sister and I shared a room at one end of the trailer.  Our bedroom was off the living room and the front door was right outside our bedroom door.  So I knew that in case of fire in the middle of the night, my sister and I were going out that front door.

But what kept me up at night was how I would get my books out if there was a fire.  And I can remember it keeping me up often at night for a period of several weeks.  I knew that I wouldn’t have time to get all my books out if there were a fire.  So at first I would lay in bed trying to prioritize which books I would grab first in a fire. But any plan I came up with initially meant I would lose some of my books that were so precious to me.

I can’t remember what triggered my fear of a fire.  But in the end, the final plan, the one let me sleep at night was this.  Take one end of each bookshelf and stick it out the nearest window.  This would let all the books slide down and out onto the ground.  To my young mind it seemed the fastest way to get my books out in the event of a fire.  Thank goodness I never had to put that plan in motion.

But today, other than interruptions from my two youngest daughter who move like helicopters in the night, I sleep pretty well.

Life is good today.  So what keeps you up at  night?  Either now or when you were a child. Post a comment below.  I’d love to hear about it.

Seafood and Cherry Cheesecake

Just for Fun, postaday2011

If I could have anything to eat right now, it would definitely involve some kind of shrimp or other seafood and finish up with a big old slice of cherry cheesecake.  I’ve always loved seafood though I can’t really remember the first time I was exposed to it.

In my experience, seafood is either an all or nothing type food.  You either absolutely love any kind of seafood or you hate it all.  For me personally, it’s a love thing with seafood.  The more the better actually.

It’s probably a good thing that I can’t afford to eat as much as I want because I probably would end up in a seafood coma.

I remember one year during the time I was working for a local homeless veteran organization.  It was income tax refund time and mine that year was substantial, which just meant that I was poor enough not to owe any taxes, so I got most of my withheld money back.  Now there are many things that people choose to do when their income tax refund arrives.

For me that year, I chose to take a group of about ten people, colleagues mostly, to Red Lobster.

It’s my favorite place to eat and I don’t get to go very often.  But that year I went with a whole group of people who I both respected and admired as colleagues and as friends.

It was great food, great conversation and a whole heck of a lot of fun, all centered around seafood.

And yes, I topped that lunch off with a big old slice of cherry cheesecake!

One Thing I’ve Learned

Finding Self, postaday2011

First let me start by saying that I’ve not done very well with my quest for a post a day in 2011.  The good news is that my reason for not posting has been that my freelance work has been overflowing my editorial calendar lately.  Good news for me since I’ve only been at this full tilt since November 2010.  So let’s transition into the one thing I’ve learned recently.

Fear.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s that feeling that your heart is in your throat or worse in your stomach.  It’s those niggling questions in the back of your mind or that plague your sleep.  What if I fail?  What if I screw up something for a client?  What if they think I don’t know enough?  And sometimes the fear is centered around “what if I succeed?”  Fear can definitely stand in the way of success.

I think that everyone must learn to overcome this obstacle to be successful not just as a freelancer but in life.  I’ve known that I wanted to have my own business for about ten years now.  I even named the business and launched a website over eight years ago.  As a technology coach, I had a couple of  individual clients who needed my help once or twice a year.  I also had one client who kept me on a monthly retainer so I would be available for any spontaneous questions or troubleshooting.  I was asked to teach a workshop and created the curriculum around that topic.

Every client I had raved about how much I was able to help them.  But I realize now that I never really fully believed that I could have my own business.  I never committed to buckling down and doing everything that comes with having your own business.  Especially the marketing.  I was afraid of not doing it right.  Afraid of looking amateur.  Afraid of failing.

What I’ve learned just in the last month or so is that the only thing that has been stopping me is my own fear of what might happen or what the results might be.  And sometimes those fears were so totally unfounded!  So I’ve a new commitment now.

Banish the fear.  And just do it!

What is fear stopping you from accomplishing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave me a comment below.

Charge Ahead in 2011!  –Megan

I’ve Joined the Post A Day 2011 Challenge!

Just for Fun, postaday2011

I’ve had this blog titled “Sounding Off” setup for over a year now without making any posts until today.  The 2011 Post A Day Challenge is the perfect opportunity for me to launch this blog.  Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a day for all of 2011.

Some posts may be short and some will be long depending on the time I have available for the day but I will do my best to get something up here each day.  Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

I hope you’ll check in with me daily to see how my progress is going.  And feel free to comment or even hold me accountable if I miss a day.  And if you don’t already have a blog, why not start one and join in the challenge!

Megan