Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I seem to have gotten caught in an email sparring match against my will, and am trying to step back to determine how to proceed. If at all. I share this because I would appreciate your wisdom, insight and input.

You all know (I think) that I'm working as an interim in a position that is responsible for some highly visible events on a state university campus. One of those events, the keynote address for National Women's History Month, occurs in a few weeks. For the last six months I have busted my you-know-what to pull this thing together, and am very pleased that Marlee Matlin will be coming to campus to deliver that address. There is a committee responsible for the event, but in reality they exist in name only. When I first came on board I was told by the head of a co-sponsoring department that it's too hard to have committee meetings because everyone is too busy to meet, so we conduct all our business via email. 

Yes, I know, this is not a good thing, and it is this very deficit that set the stage for the current unpleasantness. As the new girl in town--and an interim, at that--I opted not to take on that "tradition." With hindsight I could have pressed the matter, citing my lack of institutional memory and knowledge of how things have been done. There is no documentation of process related to how this event comes together. There are copies of occasional emails, and signposts of certain traditions: a calendar that is published, a button that is produced, and standard timelines related to contracts, etc. Nothing else is in place to serve as guide and land mine detector. Had I done things differently I don't think it would have helped.

I have been in contact with the committee throughout the planning of Marlee's visit, soliciting input, seeking counsel on occasion, and keeping the group informed. Sometimes they respond. Mostly I soldier on and get the job done. It has been a mountain of work, and no one from the committee has helped. No one. The expectation is that this is "my" job.

Two days ago I met with some of the key players in planning. People like event coordination (procurer of tables, chairs, and plants, etc. for a reception and to dress the stage), catering, the facility manager, parking services, student ambassadors who will serve as ushers, and so on. After that meeting I sent an email to update the committee, and WHAM! Someone was unhappy because I had broken form with what has always been done. "I wish the committee had had at least one meeting to assist you in making these kinds of decisions." Oh, that carefully crafted sentence just reeks of practice skewering the unsuspecting colleague.

I did a slow burn for a couple of hours. Talked out my anger with Marlee's agent since the issue at hand has an impact on Marlee (nothing phases her agent--she's one of my heroes), and after I had settled down sufficiently I spent considerable time crafting my own carefully worded email response. I was so good. I didn't make it personal, get defensive, or suggest that perhaps my critic might want to walk a mile in my shoes before dumping on me. I took responsibility for my ignorance, addressed the concerns and proposed a solution to allay those concerns. I opened the possibility of reviewing how decisions get made. All without rolling over or yielding my firm belief that this will be a great event for our community. I hit "send" feeling confident that my reply was professional and would be received graciously.

Ha! This morning I got treated to another masterfully written blurb that wants to lay at my feet the failure of the committee to be more closely involved. It is at this point that I can't decide what step to take next. It is clear to me through the pattern of what has been written by my sparring partner that I am up against someone highly skilled in manipulating language and circumstances to keep herself above the fray (a fray of her own making, in my view). I don't operate this way. I make every effort to be honest without causing offense or injury, take responsibility for my actions, apologize when necessary, and eat crow if it comes to that. I am not mean. I don't play power games. I don't jockey for position. I play fair, and if anything, I am too accommodating. 

If there is a further response from me, it will be directed solely to the individual in question. To this point all emails have been "reply all" to include committee members. I feel, however, that another reply takes this down a road where things can only degenerate. So I ponder, reflect, take time to let it sink in and get flushed out. It eats at me a bit, though, which is no doubt obvious by the fact that I've written about it!

But enough for now. If you'd like to share your thoughts I'd be interested in how this appears to others. Have your say. And have a great day. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Long time no blog. I don't like that. 

The last few weeks have been a bit slammed: trip home to see Dad, back to the grind at work, Dad's death, full tilt at work heading into and then hosting a conference for statewide educators working with adult learners. The conference went great with only minor hitches that were related to the facilities. We had 115 registered, most of whom actually showed up. That was an increase of 46% over last year! This was one of two high-visibility events related to my job, so it matters a great deal that it went well. 

Ken picked me up at school at the conclusion of the conference and we headed to Melrose. Luke was playing in his first soccer game last Saturday, and the whole family was invited to come cheer him on. And did we! This was the first event since Ashley and Travis were married that all parents, sibs, and spouses were together.

We all concluded that although Luke did his part to play (he kept up with everybody else as they ran around the field), Cross is going to be the athlete of the family. He enjoyed kicking a ball around off the field with his other grandparents.

Kenneth and Trisha stayed with us at Melrose, and we enjoyed some time with them Saturday evening before a busy  Sunday with all kids and grandchildren out the next day for fun and food. As is apparent, I'm including a few pictures. Thank you for indulging me.

The weather Sunday was less than ideal and not conducive to young'uns running around outdoors. Fortunately Melrose is equipped for rain, and even kids when it rains, so we managed just fine. Luke enjoys puzzles. Takes after his Nana!
And of course here is the classic picture from the weekend. It's always a good thing to have the camera handy and ready.
And let's not forget Jude, our chunky monkey, as Trisha calls him.
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, whenever that might be!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


As facebook friends know, my father died early this morning. It was expected, and he was ready to go. As Linda, his long-time companion remarked, he's been wanting to be in a different place for a couple of years. As his health declined and his mobility diminished, his world became, in his word, desultory. He died at home, comfortable and at peace, and without pain. His last view of this world was of the one he loved. We all should be so lucky when that day comes.

I was fortunate to get a heads up when there was a shift in his well-being just over a week ago. I flew home for several days to see Dad, and found him alert and present, if not able to communicate much. I didn't say much to him, but in silence we shared a space and the warm of our hands in each others. I don't think there really was much need for words. I believe he was grateful for my presence and the knowledge that he was loved.

There was a sameness to the hours spent there at the house, since dad was confined to bed and slept a great deal. One memory, however, will stand out. The night before I returned to TN my older brother came by the house and brought his cello. We cranked the bed up so that dad could see, and Jamie sat at the foot of the bed with the cello and improvised some music. When he was finished, he recalled that there was a song that dad always sang when we were little. It is probably a folk song from somewhere in Eastern Europe, and the only words we knew were in the native tongue. Jamie began to sing it, and dad quickly chimed in with a robustness that defied the weak state of his body. It probably exhausted him, but the three of us sang until the end, all of us punctuating the finale: "Hey!" A broad smile extended across dad's face, reflecting his pleasure in that moment. I will cherish it always.

Rest in peace, Dad. You lived a life full of color and grace, and the world was a better place with you in it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

mid-week miscellaney

I’ve been absent for a while—the casualty of no time when I have energy, and no energy when I have time (which is the rarer commodity). Then, on those latter occasions, I wonder what to write here. My days are fairly consumed with work, and on the weekends? Somehow I don’t expect you want to spend your own precious time reading about our monthly trip to unload recyclables or our visit to Harbor Freight to look for hard hats.

As I drive to work I am inspired to offer my own commentary in response to the goings-on in the world, then by the time I arrive at my desk (with some time to spare, thank you) my mind has already moved on to other, more mundane, things.  Sigh. Nevertheless, I will muster up a bit of this and that to bring you up to date and attempt to amuse you.
Here goes…

·         On the political front: much has been written about Newt’s philandering, though adultery has commanded the most attention. Did you know that when he was 16 he “had a go” with one of his high school teachers? That’s the first documented dalliance, and the record follows from there. The guy’s a serial, sex-crazed narcissist, and he has made it abundantly clear that it’s all about him.  My comment today, however, is about Callista. You can call me out on this if you want to, but I really despise the idea of a First Lady who carried on an adulterous affair for eight years.  I despise his role, too, of course, but this is the first time that a sizeable chunk of our electorate thinks it’s okay for a woman with such a history to hold the most respected position a woman holds in this country. It does not work for me, does it work for you?

·         I made my first Etsy purchase last week, a gift for a friend. It felt like a landmark event and was a totally fun experience.

·         I am really sick of the coverage of the republican primaries. I think it’s a good thing that Tennessee votes on Super Tuesday, which means that the money spent between now and then will be divided among ten states. Hopefully that will result in fewer hateful ads and obnoxious robocalls.

·         Ken and I have both been accepted as postulants for membership as a knight and dame (respectively) in the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. Our investiture is in April at an event in western North Carolina.

·         Happy Groundhog Day Eve!

·         The work day has now commenced and my brain is shifting that direction. I hope your day is blessed and productive (if that is what you want from it).


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