Wednesday, July 25, 2012

seeking strength

As the clock ticks on and my work fate continues to be unknown, it is getting to be time to hitch up my skirt (using that term metaphorically) and think about job hunting. No doubt I should have begun this process a good while ago, but I was feeling optimistic about my chances of staying in my present job. There is every reason to continue to feel optimistic, but I need to be smart and shift to Plan B mode.

Yesterday I was alerted by email of an article to which the AAUW (American Association of University Women) Linked-In group had linked. It had to do with the idea of leading with our strengths, as opposed to focusing too much on developing weaknesses. It also talks about the positive impact a group can experience when its leader(s) are willing to acknowledge his or her weaknesses. "Not only does this build trust in and of itself, it gives other members of the team permission to be similarly vulnerable. Great leaders understand that they don’t need to be well-rounded but that their teams do."

Included in the article was a link to a site where one could take a survey to determine character strengths. The survey is extensive, with over 200 questions, and it ranks one's strengths from first to last, focusing on the benefit of the character trait. Always grateful to be armed with knowledge that can help me understand myself better--not to mention give me language to use when job-hunting--I decided to take the survey and see what I might learn.

Although the questions on the survey weren't unlike questions on other surveys I've taken, I didn't appreciate the spectrum of values it was seeking to identify. Of the 21 characteristics, here, in order, are my top five strengths: forgiveness, fairness, honesty, judgment (as in prudent use of), and perspective. Interestingly (to me, anyway), the sixth trait was appreciation for beauty and excellence.

I have to say that I was startled to see forgiveness at the top. Not that I don't consider myself to be a forgiving person, I do. I suspect that the rankings are achieved as a result of consistency in how I responded to the questions, and my responses to questions related to forgiveness must have been more consistent than questions related to the other traits. I was also surprised to see that creativity ranked fourteenth. Creativity is such an integral part of who I am and how I thrive.  I suspect that this result is skewed because of how I deal with questions that use language like "I always..."  I also have something of a split personality when it comes to creativity--I am far more adept at being creative with ideas and solving problems than I am with the artistic side of life. I'm also better at creating an experience than I am being particularly original producing something tangible like a scrapbook layout, or quilt, or whatever.

Lastly (for the purposes of this post), I couldn't help but notice that I had difficulty with questions that wanted to get at how I was perceived by my friends. Maybe it's because my life these days is bereft of much in-person contact with friends, so the sharing of spontaneous observation or conversation around such things is limited. My inability to identify such perceptions, however, is giving me pause, not to mention cause for reflection.

If you want to take the time to take the survey, you can do so for free. A detailed interpretation of the results costs $20, but to receive the rankings costs nothing but time. I'd be interested, should any of you decide to do this, to hear about your results. 

In the meantime, I've got some work to do!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

rising and shining

I'm not talking about a perky attitude when we first get up in the morning.

Let me explain. 

You may recall that I have more than a passing interest in genealogy. I come by this naturally as both of my grandmothers shared this interest and collected a fair amount of information about our respective forebears. Nice as it is to have been handed that wealth of data, it doesn't provide many opportunities for sleuthing on my part to unearth new branches of the tree or solve any pending mysteries. Lucky for me I have Ken's family to search, as well as the families of both my son- and daughter-in-law. Yes-siree, I just love filling in those blanks, and I've been having a good time!

One thing about genealogists, we are pretty good about scratching each others backs and sharing data. We also take pictures of tombstones of people to whom we're not related and don't hold any interest for us personally. There's a web site called "Find a Grave" that is the meeting place for searchers and finders, and I'm identified with that site as a volunteer who will go in search of a local grave for someone who isn't able to make the hunt themselves. It's amazing the number of requests that have come in for people who are buried in my county.

One such request came yesterday, for a gentleman not so terribly long deceased and buried in a cemetery barely off the path of my route to and from work. Ken and I have an engagement on the heels of my arrival home tonight, so I decided this morning that I would leave a few minutes early and stop by the cemetery with my camera. The big question: would the inscription be in sunlight or shadow?

While I was driving to the cemetery I began thinking about the practice of orienting graves. This is something about which I feel I should know, given that a part of my priestly job description includes burying people, and one of my avocations is photographing headstones. Alas, this knowledge eludes me. As I was mulling all this over while I negotiated the tight curves of the road leading to the cemetery, I was reminded of a notation among the records of one of my ancestors. As I recall the family lived in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is written that the ancestor remarked that he would be glad to be buried in this part of God's creation because he couldn't imagine a finer sight than to rise on a particular spot when it came time for his resurrection. I call that planning for the future!

The question that lurks is this: is there a preferred direction in which to be buried? Do we want to face east to the rising sun? There are distinct theological opinions about the significance of north, east, south and west, although I don't think many people are aware of such things any more. Does anyone even care? Does your place of final repose matter to you, and if so, why?

When I reached the cemetery I was disappointed to discover that all inscriptions faced west and were in shadow. Sure, they could still be photographed, but the photographer and artist within me wouldn't settle for that. I will have to go back on another day and take my time documenting the place where a number of lives were laid to rest. I pray they anticipate with gladness the day that they, like my ancestor, will rise and shine.

Monday, July 23, 2012

random. really.

During an idle moment this morning while cruising Pinterest, I saw a photo with a link to a blog that offered 30 ideas for conversation while on a date, a road trip, during a "getting to know you" exercise, and so on. Since we have a road trip in our future, I thought it would be fun to check it out, so check it out I did. For the record, I'm planning to bring most of this list along on the aforementioned trip (for better or worse, we are already quite familiar with the subject matter of some of these ideas). In the meantime, it offers some fodder for blogging. Since I am a sporadic blogger these days I'll take any help I can get to prompt an entry here on reverent irreverence.

The first one on the list is to generate another list. Twenty random things about myself.

Oddly (I suppose), my first reaction to doing that here was, "but that makes it all about me." And then I had a V-8 moment and considered that this is my blog, after all, so this is a natural place to write about me. Truth be told, though, as much as I have concerns about my own life, and although I certainly share what goes on in my life, I prefer that my reflections here be about the broader world. It is in that broader world where we find points of intersection and commonality with others, and it is interaction with those others that give texture and richness to our lives.

Today, however, I'm going to yield to some randomness. Here goes.

1) I have an extra vertebrae in my spine. How 'bout that! If you're interested, the interloper is in the cervical portion of my spine.
2) My favorite flavor of ice cream is mocha chip (or any variation on what that might be called).
3) I have a crescent-shaped scar on my right cheek where a dog bit me when I was 11.
4) As of today I have 219 pins on my Sheep board on Pinterest. That happens to be the greatest number of pins of any of my 57 boards. (The runner-up is stuff related to the home, with 210).
5) I don't have a favorite color.
6) When I was 14 I spent six weeks living with cousins in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was there that I fell in love with French.
7) I have been on a hot air balloon ride.
8) My first job was working in a bakery. Believe it or not, I lost weight working there.
9) I was the costume designer for a production of "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off" while in college.
10) It always amuses me when I look at a digital clock and the time is my birthday (5:13). It happens more often than you would think!
11) I completed or had waived all my high school graduation requirements by the end of the fall semester, senior year. It amazes me still that my parents didn't object to me finishing early.
12) I have a title picked out for the Great American Novel I will probably never write. I've written the first line, know the name of the main character, and have a clear sense of what I want this book to be about. All I lack is a real plot.
13) I play the recorder.
14) During what would have been the spring semester of my senior year in high school I took a calligraphy course at a local community college.
15) When I was in fifth grade I set a school record for girls in the long jump. I think it was 19 feet and change. No doubt that record has long since been broken (given what a superior athlete I am not!).
By the way, that's not me. Bet you couldn't tell.

16) In spite of the fact that I am a lousy housekeeper I actually like to clean the house. It's just that there are a hundred other things I would rather do.
17) I make great corn chowder.
18) Christmas is my favorite holiday
19) Once upon a time I sang in the chorus of a production of "Applause!"
20) When Geraldine Ferraro was candidate for VP I scored the job of driver in her motorcade when she visited Connecticut.

So, what's random about you today?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

week 28 in review

We were away last weekend, celebrating Jude's first birthday in Augusta so I was unable to post my regular week in review. Not that any of us missed much. Except for the birthday weekend festivities--loaded with photo ops--only one accomplishment during the past couple of weeks save the time-frame from being utterly unremarkable. But here goes!

On the home front the remarkable achievement is the installation of a doggie door! This means that we can now be completely sedentary in our lifestyle at home since we no longer have to get up out of our chairs to open the door for the dogs. This also means I can finally get a full night's sleep on a regular basis since McKinlee can let herself out at 1:30 in the morning when she needs some relief. I am happy to report that except for one minor infraction of indoor pooping we have been accidentless indoors now for two weeks! Actually it's been longer than that--since the fence was finished the house has been much "fresher."

Family. As noted earlier, it was all about Jude last weekend. Ashley outdid herself with a Dr. Seuss theme, and the kids reveled in nonstop play on an inflatable in the back yard. The birthday boy was suitably cute and irresistible for the occasion, especially when he did several face-plants into the cake to save himself the tediousness of using his hands to consume portions of the chocolate goodness. Alas, this meant that none of the rest of us got to enjoy any cake. Such is life in the world of a one-year old!

At work it's been slow. We're still packing for the move, there is still no word about my fate, and most of my time is directed toward fall programming. Blah, blah, blah!

On a personal note I've been doing a lot of genealogy research. There are grandchildren now, after all! I've been working on Ken's branch for a little while but have now added Travis' into the mix. There are lots of limbs that need to be pursued and mysteries to be solved!  I am finding it particularly annoying when others who post their research don't use a bit of discernment when recording information. The number of children born to a couple who aren't yet married (and I'm talking by several years), or to a mother who is deceased or eight-years old is astounding. Ach! The availability of census data is an amazing boon to researchers, but far too many assumptions are made about how people are related to one another. Caution is increasingly the word of the day as I plod along. I will also confess that I am guilty at times of including data that appears suspect. I have adopted the practice of adding comments as I go to disclaim any suggestion of certainty and point to how I have arrived at a conclusion. All in all it's still fun, in spite of the potential for error and disappointment. 

Bonus round! We went to see "Brave" yesterday. Set in Scotland I was, of course, in full tilt glory. Some parts of the story dragged, but it was otherwise amusing and wise.  The music was wonderful, but I have to say that the accents  were all over the place, especially for the leads! The pronunciation of the word "you" was most authentic, but the inflections were an inconsistent blend of Irish, Scottish and American. It was distracting at first, but I got over it in time to enjoy the story and be teary at the end. This was also a notable event in that Ken does not go to see animated films! He is convinced that animation deprives actors of employment (true story!) and refuses to go on those principled grounds. If he paid attention to the credits he would learn quickly that animation provides lots of employment to a whole lot of people, including actors, but such is his perspective. Still, I count it as a small victory that he 1) was willing to go and 2) enjoyed it!

See ya next week, if not before!

Friday, July 13, 2012

friday five: randomness!

At RevGals there appears to be a new tradition popping up: second Friday's are random! So without further ado I'm getting my random on!

1.  If a spaceship landed in your back yard, and three very cute little aliens knocked on your door and asked you to show them around Earth,where would you take them? 
This is really hard. I'd love to show them the beauty of this world and all its variety. Like the Grand Canyon, Iguazu Falls in South America, Glen Lake in Michigan, the Smokey Mountains at any time of year (above), the view from our cottage in South Carolina... I'd want them to see an adorable litter of puppies, a baby giraffe, and some over-the-moon new parents with their wee bundle of joy. I'd want them to join giggling children and fawn over couples in love. I'd want them to taste exquisite food and enjoy the breeze and blooms of a spring day.  I'd love to show them the marvels of architecture in Paris, the magnificence of the Alps and the beaches of the Mediterranean.  We would go dancing with tribes in Africa and boogie to the jibs of a fiddle.  My question is, do they need to see a balanced view of what the world is like? Poverty, ruins, illness, neglect...?

2.  What is making you grumpy these days?
It's been four weeks since the search committee for my job made their recommendation to my boss, and we have still heard nothing about the outcome. This is ridiculous! If I don't keep my job then I need to find a new one, and it would be nice to know if that were to be the case. Argh!

3.  O.K., so now that you got the grumps out, what is one thing today that will be sheerly joyful for you?
Getting home from work and beginning the weekend!

4.  Do you have a garden?  What are you growing?   If you don't, what is your favorite fresh summertime vegetable/fruit/flower?
Our garden has suffered the slings and arrows of dreadful heat and drought this summer. Not to mention that birds have single-beakedly destroyed most of our tomato crop. BUT! Our herbs have endured, and it looks like our peppers may be salvageable. Here's some pesto in progress using our basil.

5.  If the aforementioned aliens suddenly demanded all the contents of your closet, OR ELSE (as in clothing, shoes,  etc.) but kindly said you could keep three items, what would they be? 
A pair of sweats, a comfy sweater and a t-shirt. 


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