Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventeen

Day 17 - “Mystical” support
I’m not sure what else to call it.  
Dictionary.com defines “mysticism” thus:
1.  the beliefs, ideas, or mode of thought of mystics.
2.  a doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding, or of a direct, intimate union of the soul with god through contemplation or ecstasy.
3.  obscure thought or speculation.
Everyone who really knows me understands that I am not a religious person.  I have done my time in various religions in positions ranging from novice to clergy, and do not align or associate with any of them.  I resist even the label of “spiritual” since that has numerous connotations and stereotypes of its own.  No, I eschew labels altogether of any effort that, in fact, involves mysticism as a way to explain anything.
I don’t discount it, though.
Today, I am grateful to a number people for “being there” for me.  Christina and Amber - for your nearly-instantaneous responses to a text message as I was about to enter the testing center, offering support and prayer on my behalf; to Stephanie - for listening to my emotional rants leading up to today and offering unconditional validation (you have no idea how much you help me); to all of my friends on Facebook who spoke up with encouraging words and more confidence in me than I have in myself; and, of course, to my mother who has been immensely generous and gracious in her patience, effort, and understanding while I’ve been a holy terror to deal with during the five months of preparation for this day.
As I said on Facebook, I can only imagine what my brother Keith is going through as he prepares to take the Nevada bar exam next month.  The SPHR exam is a drivers test by comparison, but it has exhausted me.  I’m thrilled - giddy - that it’s done.
And the best part?  I now can actually give myself credit for being an HR professional.
I’m going to read a novel, next.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixteen

Day 16 - Electricity
Lame, I know.  

I didn’t have time last night to post something for which I was grateful - I was too focused on studying for my SPHR certification.  [SPRH = Senior Professional in Human Resources - a professional certification offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and administered by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI).]  I began my final Post Test at sometime around 8:00 PM not knowing that it entails 200 questions, similar to the real exam, and I was up until almost midnight, because the participant is required to do it in one sitting as in the real exam.
I’m really glad I took the practice test - not because it was indicative of what I would experience today, but because, in fact, because it wasn’t.  It was harder.  The questions on the “practice” test seemed confusing and tricky (compared to today’s questions which were clearly written by people who do actual HR work, not academics, and in a language that was totally understandable even if I didn’t know all the answers).  It was disheartening to receive a 67% score last night (or thereabout - it didn’t actually give the numerical figure, just a graphic representation) and not know what a passing score is on the real exam.  (The passing rate is 50% - only half of test takers actually pass the SPHR exam!)  
I eventually went to bed realizing if it weren’t for electricity, and our easy access to it in our country, I wouldn’t have been able to prepare as well for this exam.  Remember, too, that I took an online course to study for it (something I doubt I'll do again).  Candles and lanterns don’t power computers, so I’m grateful for electricity and all the technology it powers to help me in my certification efforts.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifteen

Day 15 - A Willing Heart
Today was OK.  I visited with friends, found Tuesday’s testing center easily, drove with the top down, and otherwise spent most of the day studying for Tuesday’s exam.  It was an OK day.
What am I grateful for?  Well... I have already mentioned my friends, and eventually will have to start naming them individually.  I don’t want to repeat anything on this Year of Gratitude list, but it may come to a point where I have to.  Until then, I can’t think of anything that really stands out for today.  (That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything; I’m just not able to bring it up to the conscious mind.)  
So today I am grateful for my heart: it keeps beating willingly, even though my thoughts aren’t in step with it.  There are so many times I’d rather give up, but my heart keeps going.  My breathing continues.  I keep waking up each morning.  And so I keep going, too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fourteen

Day 14 - Musicals
Thanks to my dear friend Chip, keyboardist and musician extraordinaire, Mom and I went to see “Mary Poppins - the Musical” today, and it was thoroughly delightful.  It made me want to get back up on stage... until the first production number with all the energetic dancing.  With only a few exceptions, the cast photos all look like children.  I’d swear these are high school yearbook photos, except all done by real photographers.  No, this would be far too young a show for me to audition for, but I digress....

I really enjoyed this production.  Then Chip invited us backstage after the show, giving us a brief tour with explanations of some of the equipment, props, procedures, and the like.  We got to meet one of the dressers (those who help the cast members during numerous costume changes) and then, as he was looking for some props that “appear” out of Mary’s carpet bag, we noticed a whole group of people also being shown around by none other than the young woman playing Mary.  She’s as pretty out of costume as in, and we were pleased to have the chance to compliment her directly.
While I do think my opportunity to be a musical theater performer has passed, I am grateful to have had the experiences I have, and to be able to appreciate musicals now.  True, I didn’t have the theatrical career I wanted, but I can still feel the energy that comes from these wonderful creative people that share this medium with us, escaping for the moment the vagaries of the day, and reminding me of the joy I felt on the stage once upon a time.
And, of course, I’m grateful to Chip for providing us the incredible seats for today’s performance.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirteen

Day 13 - Surprises
I am grateful for bad weather forecasters.  ...I guess it’s not really fair to call them “bad” when those in the Pacific Northwest are consistently wrong.  The fact is the weather here is fairly unpredictable.  It’s not like Southern California when most of what they have to forecast is just the temperatures; even June Gloom is fairly predictable most years, as are the rains of El NiƱo.
In the Portland area, however, they seem to miss as often as they get it right; maybe more.  And I have been grateful when they forecast clouds and possible showers, and it turns out to be a beautiful day.  It’s like a surprise gift in the mail, or the complimentary shot from the bartender - unexpected and delightful.
Little surprises that brighten my day and make me smile can come via an email or text message.  It might be a phone call or an invitation to an impromptu lunch.  The unexpected good weather, added to the positive activities and conversations of the day made me glad I made the effort.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twelve

Day 12 - Work
I’ve been bad.  I haven’t kept up with this the way I should.  So I’m making the effort to catch up, and that means I won’t have put the effort into the next couple entries.  But there are a few things I can mention.
One is gratitude for the work I have.  I was hired for one session to consult with a business owner about how to set up the basics of organizational culture, and it was a very good meeting.  He seems well aligned with the principles of service leadership anyway, but when I ran into him later in the day at a networking mixer, he told others present that I had been very helpful.  That made me feel good.
So while I don’t have enough work to make a living, I do enjoy - and am grateful for - the work that I have.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Eleven

Day 11 - Health
It was hard to think of anything specific for which I could say I was grateful, but then I realized I’m lucky to be healthy.  I have no major illnesses, take no medications, and apart from an occasional cold, stay pretty healthy.  I am reminded that I can lose my home, my money, my possessions, and still have my health, enabling me to regain all the others.  If I were to lose my health, it’s very possible I would lose everything, especially since I don't have health insurance.
So tonight I’m grateful for my health.  I hope I can keep it for awhile.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Ten

Day 10 - Summer
Today wasn’t a bad day, but I didn’t have anything that stood out other than a couple of dear friends.  Chip in particular - a college buddy who is one of very few who has kept in touch over the years, ever since we left the university.  He’s in town with the tour of “Mary Poppins,” and we got together for dinner and drinks.  We had a wonderful evening, and he really brightened my day.
Others have had similar effects on me, and then I realized just how nice it was to have the sun shining today - the first day of summer.  I wasn’t out in it nearly as much as I had planned or hoped, but I was able to drive with the top down.
So today I am grateful for summer - my favorite season - and the warm, renewing sunshine it brings.  May we have a warm, dry summer this year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Nine

Day 9 - Tough
Today was a challenging day.  It didn’t start well, but at least I got a good workout in this morning, and the day was OK in the end.  Networking isn’t always fruitful, but it is something positive to do.
I was struck at one point by receiving several text messages from good friends during a small window of time, asking how I was doing.  Ken, Eric, Stephanie, Craig, Randy... just checking in.  
Tonight I’m grateful for caring friends who are there when you need them.  I am very fortunate indeed to have friends such as these.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Eight

Day 8 - Pride
Today was Portland Pride.  
I just didn’t feel motivated today.  Maybe it was because I got in late again last night - two nights in a row - and I’m starting to feel it.  (I think my Inner Tigger is bouncing less for the moment.)  That’s OK.  It was a nice day, and I got to see some friends along the way.  I also got my laundry done.
But with Pride comes the feeling that I am lucky to live in a day and age when being gay isn’t something I need to hide.  There are a number of things that I would change about myself if I had the power to do it.  Being gay isn’t one of them.
So today, I’m grateful for Portland Pride, and Pride celebrations everywhere.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seven

Day 7 - the end of the first week of Gratitude.
I went out to dinner with some dear friends.  They make me feel included, and I appreciate that.  Portland is a small town, and everybody seems to know everybody else.  I have been away for long enough that, as I get to know people now, I forget how interconnected everyone seems to be here, and I often find out someone I’ve met already knows someone else I know.  And without taking anything away from the friendships I still value and try to maintain in Southern California, it’s different here.
“The Boys” (as I like to call them) will occasionally invite me to join them for dinner or parties, or whatever, and they treat me as if I have been in their circle for years.  Blaine, in particular, is careful to make me feel special.  Ken is among the most caring individuals I’ve ever met.  Scott (“Bobo”) and Harold, Dan, Randy... I could name them all, and talk about their individual traits... but together, they are greater than the sum of their parts, and I am so very lucky to have been brought into their fold.
So for Day 7, I am grateful to “The Boys” for making me feel like I’m part of something really special.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Six

Today I am grateful for my Mazda Miata.
Believe it or not, we actually had a nice day here in Portland.  The weather was sunny and warm, and I put the top down and took my shirt off, and drove around enjoying this glorious weather.  
I am reminded of the BMW ad years ago that said, “The Ultimate Tanning Machine” for one of their convertible models, but I always questioned how that could be since your legs would be under the dash....
I have been told by a few people that a Miata isn’t a practical car.  Well, it is for me.  I love it, and I hope it lasts another 10 years.  Or more.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Five

Today I’m grateful for the Jake Plantons of the world.

Jake Planton of Rose City Mortgage and his colleagues organize a regular networking mixer called “Next Level” here in Portland.  It’s definitely a business mixer - not a bar scene that calls itself a business event while bearing a greater resemblance to a Saturday night at the Rainbow Room.  No, Next Level is fun, relaxed, lively and still professional, and I give Jake a lot of the credit.
Every time I go, I meet someone new that makes me glad I went.  It doesn’t always result in a paying client, but it does seem to make a positive difference in my networking.  Few mixers are that good.
Tonight’s event was at Pearl Woodworks, a fabulous high-end design studio (cabinetry, countertops, etc.) in the Pearl District, which is a unique environment for this group.  It worked so well!  Lots of people, fun atmosphere, simple-yet-good-quality finger food and delicious wine (and other beverages, though I just had wine)... it was a fun event.
I’m delighted that these sorts of gatherings happen so regularly here.  I feel better for having gone, which makes me grateful to Jake and his group.  I look forward to the next one!

A Year of Gratitude: Day Four

I got home late last night and didn’t have a chance to write, much less gather my thoughts around something for which I am grateful.
I am assuming this will get easier with practice.
I am grateful for my clients - paid and pro bono - for reminding me why I love what I do.  I can forget for the moment about the challenges of the world, and while my clients may feel I am helping them, they are helping me so much more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Year of Gratitude: Day Three

Today I am grateful for my daughter, Elizabeth.
At first, I thought it was going to be difficult to come up with something to be grateful for.  The melancholy that came over me last weekend has been strong today, and I haven’t had a lot of "good" to think about.  Then I thought of what Lizzie did for me this morning.  
At around 9:30 AM, she sent me a simple text message: “I love you.”
When I asked her what prompted the message, she said I “sounded sad” on Sunday and wanted to help me feel better.
It worked.
I am so lucky to have such a thoughtful, loving daughter.  It has been a less-than-stellar day for me, but when I think of the love she gives me so freely, I really do feel better.  She’s a big reason why I keep trying.
Thank you, Lizzie.  I love you, too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Year of Gratitude: Day Two

Today, I am grateful for my networking partners.  
In most cases, these are other unemployed, or underemployed, professionals caught in the same situation I am in.  In my case, my consulting isn’t bringing in enough to allow me to live the way I need to live.  I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who want to do what I do, too.  I recognize it takes time to build an independent business, and I’m willing to invest the time and effort required.  In the meantime, I am continuing my job search for full-time work that will support me.
And I have recently become involved in a couple of networking groups that have helped me in different ways.  One is a general job seekers group, the other is for executive level professionals.  
The first has provided me the opportunity to offer my services pro bono to those in my situation - a way to pay it forward, since so many have been willing to help me without charge.  This has led to a great deal of praise, which in turn has provided leads for individual coaching clients.  My work with them has had some positive outcomes (so far, 80% of them have said working with me has had a measurable impact on their interviews), and it tells me I’m in the right place at the right time, setting aside the income factor.
The second group - the executives - have helped me feel better about my employment situation, albeit indirectly.  I often hear people say, “You’re not alone!  You must feel better to know you’re among millions who are looking for work.”  In fact, it’s a discouraging thought when you realize those millions are going for the same few open positions you’re pursuing, and many of them have the same or better qualifications.  The idea that I’m one of millions is not as reassuring as one might think. 
On the other hand, with this group, I have met people with more experience, more tenure, more knowledge, even more talent, than I have, and they still have the same troubles I’m having.  It isn’t “millions.”  It’s 15 or 20 people who face the same struggles, the same frustrations, the same challenges, and we talk about ways of helping each other.  While the distinctions may seem insignificant as described here, the difference in the way this group makes me feel is enormous.
There is a third group, too, for which I’m grateful; it’s a small business network with whom I’ve become involved (and only a couple of us are un-/underemployed).  I have received a couple leads for consulting business from them.  Other groups with whom I’ve been active for two years or more have not provided the quality of leads I have received from this one, and it requires about a quarter of the time.  I don’t fault the others; I just appreciate the benefits I’ve received from this one.
So while my attitude may struggle sometimes, I think about how lucky I am to have met these networking companions.  They help to give me a sense that I really am not alone, and that I’m on the right track.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Year of Gratitude

I begin this blog as a way to practice gratitude.  I am going to try to think of something for which I am grateful every day during my 50th year.  
It is surprising to me that I am only 365 days away from celebrating my half-century mark.  Sometimes I don’t feel any different from the way I felt when I was 20.  Other times I feel as if I’m approaching 70.
There are those who say “Age is a state of mind.”  That tidbit of wishful thinking is nice to say, but it strikes me that it is usually spoken as if to convince oneself, or perhaps in an attempt to cheer up the aging.  It doesn’t help when I think about the fact that, when I was very young, I set a goal to retire by age 49.  What is most ironic is that, instead of being able to retire, I am financially at a stage that resembles where I was 30 years ago.  I have spent so much of my life (and funds) on other people and other things, and have not made the kinds of choices that would allow me to now agree that age is only an attitude.
But my attitude is one thing I can choose.  With that in mind, I will not focus on my age here.  It is what it is - the passing of days is beyond my control, and I don’t want to spend any energy on trying to slow it down.  If anything, that would simply keep my life from picking up.
Rather, I want to try to be a grateful man, old or otherwise, and to keep in view the beauty around me in the friends, experiences, and places that I can enjoy each day.  I can choose what I look at, and I want to look at beautiful things.
Today, I am grateful for my gracious, long-suffering mother.  She insists on making sure I’m taken care of, asking me what I want to do, or eat, or what-have-you.  She puts up with my moods, pretending not to notice them, and denying she is ever bothered by the dark days.  She tries her best to make sure I’m happy even though there isn’t really anything else she can do about it.  I am lucky to have such a mom.
And so I start a year of gratitude.  I wonder what my 50th birthday will look like....