Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-nine

Day 169 - Practicing Assertiveness
I was presented with the opportunity to practice being assertive today.  I have an acquaintance who seems to enjoy being in charge of things, especially when he has been previously tasked with managing them; he has a very hard time letting go when his duties have concluded and the responsibility has been passed to someone else.
I was told by a colleague that just such a situation had occurred with this person for the second time, so I had to address it more firmly.  I had spoken to this individual about the behavior when it happened a couple weeks ago, so I was a bit perplexed as to why it was happening again.
I was proud of myself for handling it the way I did.  I was direct and firm while maintaining my integrity, and allowing him to maintain his dignity in spite of being out of line.  His contrite response gave me the impression I had handled it well.
The reason I would be grateful for such a situation isn’t so that I can be in control or have power; I am glad it happened because historically I have not been very good at asserting myself.  I am sometimes too concerned about accommodating the feelings of the other person to be as firm as I need to be.  This time, I chose my words and suggestions carefully without cutting myself off at the knees, and was very happy with the way things turned out.
Maybe I am getting better at this after all.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-eight

Day 168 - Opportunities for Self Reflection
There are moments in my life when I suddenly put the puzzle pieces together, and understand why I do the things I do.  Sometimes.
Self reflection isn’t always easy.  I often find myself - like most people, I think - too far into the trees to see the forest.  I am not always able to understand in the moment the motivations behind my reactions, or to recognize the triggers for what they are before I react.  So when I realize I’m behaving in a way I would like to avoid, I have to mentally stop, take a big step back, and see what has led me to the spot where I stand.
Sometimes I witness the same (or similar) behavior in others and can more easily see the triggers and surmise the motivations.  It is so much easier when it’s someone else I’m observing.  
I am reminded of the story my mom tells about how my twin brother and I learned to walk as toddlers: Keith would pull himself up and fall down, over and over again, and I would watch him; when he got the hang of it, I stood up and walked.
I am grateful for those moments when someone else’s behavior instructs me on my own - I recognize it, and can practice in my head how I can behave in the future.  I strive for self-improvement, and since I’m far from exemplary, I am glad these moments come quietly.  Most of the time.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-seven

Day 167 - Trusted Friends
I had a relaxing opportunity to sit down with a couple of trusted friends today, just to talk over a cup of tea.  One is the “oldest” friend I have - a friendship of 33 years (though I suppose I should mention that he is two days younger than I) - and the other is his partner.  We haven’t had a chance to catch up in any depth for awhile, and it was nice to be able to talk about anything and everything without having to put up any facades or choose words.  It is something I have always appreciated about my friendship with him - we can (and do) talk about everything.
I have often heard about people who have very few close friends, and thought about my own relationships.  I am lucky to have a number of good friends, most of whom I trust to some degree, and some who invite me to join them for happy hour and social gatherings.  But when it comes to people I could call at any hour of the night with any emergency, I could count the number on one hand and have a finger or two left over.
I feel fortunate to have these friends.  Ultimately, quantity is easily outweighed by quality.  To have a friend I can trust on this level is a blessing.  It is a relationship I do not take for granted, and try to nurture as best I can.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-six

Day 166 - Traction
I received an unexpected phone call today from the Director of Human Resources at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle about the resume I had sent to their Director of Sales regarding the open Director of Catering position.  The DOS asked the DHR to interview me next week when I’m in town interviewing at the Embassy Suites, since she (the DOS) will be out of town on business; so we scheduled an afternoon appointment on Thursday.
There is a part of me that is excited about this position.  First, it is a waterfront hotel, and I have worked at two waterfront properties in California.  They can be an easy sell.  Secondly, it’s downtown, where I would prefer to work - using public transportation is my goal so I can avoid a commute in my car (I’m tired of driving in traffic), and it is more prevalent downtown - and the hotel is relatively close to the neighborhoods I would like to consider living in (I'd love to walk to work, but that neighborhood is likely to be very expensive).  And there are other conveniences based on its location and unique qualities that make me feel I could do a good job.  I try not to think about the downsides.
It is interesting to me how the two interviews I’ve been able to set up in fairly short order are for jobs about which I have some strong reservations - it’s not that I don’t want a job (quite the contrary), but rather that these are for duties I do not enjoy.  Yes, it’s possible the pay might be good, and the “better” opportunities might be there in time, but can I be happy in a job I dislike?  More importantly, what am I supposed to learn from this, assuming it is some sort of lesson?  Is there a reason beyond the economy why I have been able to schedule two interviews in Seattle in one month's effort while needing six months to get one interview in Portland?
Two weeks ago (Day 150), I mentioned that I hoped to get some traction from my networking in Seattle.  Here we go!  I am assuming the universe is trying to tell me something, and I want to allow the good to come. Naturally, I can't say whether I'll get either job; nevertheless, I focus on the aspects of these opportunities that make me feel good - the chance to live independently again primary among them.  My friend-and-mentor, Cleon, has suggested I go into business for myself - a prospect that I think will be somewhat easier if income is not an issue - and wonder if there is some opportunity elsewhere that I’m not noticing.  I don’t know, so I move toward what feels good, and hope for the best.
I haven’t had the chance to network much into the training field in Seattle (my friend Dana’s suggestion that there isn’t much opportunity in Portland appears to be true), so I have no idea what kind of traction will develop until I meet some colleagues there (which will happen mid-December when I will attend three events within two days).  Hopefully something will come of that, too.  My emotions are on slippery territory, so I will take this one step at a time.  
Traction is good.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-five

Day 165 - Thanksgiving
Mom said this was the first Thanksgiving that she did not prepare a feast in 56 years.  I had put out an open invitation to a number of friends to come to our place for the holiday, but all of them already had other plans.  Then Paul, my best friend from high school, invited us to his house instead.  He and his partner would be roasting the turkey they had raised, and we agreed to bring a couple dishes.  As the day approached, he ended up inviting seven others to the celebration.  We had a wonderful time.
And I ate far more than I should have.
I met an astrologist at Paul’s who suddenly told me that next year was going to be particularly good for me.  I hope she is psychic, too.
I was particularly grateful for Paul’s invitation.  I was afraid this would be a disappointing holiday.  I am lucky to have such a friend as Paul.  
I am also lucky to have such a mom.  She is an amazing support to me, and although my situation makes it difficult sometimes to show just how grateful I am, I hope she knows.  I do try to say so, and to show it.

I am grateful to Cleon, Jake, Seth, and all the other networkers in my social circles.  Without them, I would never have survived the last ten months.
I am also grateful to my friends Alix and Amy, for their support in my networking in Seattle.  I have regained a sense of excitement, and they made my efforts so much easier by providing their assistance.  Then there is my friend Denny, who offers me a sense of calm.  Blaine and Dan, Scott and Harold, Randy and Wade and Thom, Ken, and all the Boys, bring a smile to my face just thinking about them....  I could list so many people here, and I’m sure I’d leave too many out by mistake, but I am grateful to you all.
Finally, I am grateful to Ignacio, who has brought a bright light into my world.  I don’t think it has been nearly as dark here since we finally met in person two months ago (after corresponding for how many years?), and I’m looking forward to a few more walks.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-four

Day 164 - Tea Lights
I had three meetings today.  The first was by phone with my daughter’s school Family Liaison to discuss Catherine’s upcoming graduation from high school.  Then the Portland Leadership Forum Planning Committee gathered at a diner to discuss our upcoming meeting and next year’s plans.  The third was a networking coffee meeting with a colleague I met at the HR Lunch Bunch a few weeks ago.  In all, not much is really cooking, but the pot is on the stove.
Shortly after I got home, I received an unexpected phone call from a hotel in Seattle; my friend Alix had told me of an opening for a Director of Catering, and the call was in reference to my application.  (While I am not terribly interested in the job, I need full time work and didn’t want to pass up an opportunity that was offered without looking into it.)  To make a long story short, it turns out the Director of Sales, to whom this position reports, is a guy I used to work with several years ago when we both worked for Coast Hotels.  I was surprised and pleased to get reconnected with him, and we agreed that I would drive up to Seattle next week to interview.  He will put me up in his hotel the night before, and we’ll talk (presumably) in the morning.
I was so surprised by the smallness of our world.  I have my hesitations about getting back into hospitality, but this could also get me a few steps closer to my goals.  I can’t be sure where this path will lead, but I’ll never know if I don’t take it.
At the end of the day (literally), it comes down to something putting a little heat under me to move.  No one lit a fire - it is rather like a tea light - a small flame to keep the cup warm.  It’s what I needed to feel like my life is moving forward, and not stagnating where it is.  I’m happy for that.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-three

Day 163 - Small Successes
Sometimes the little wins are sweet enough.
The day started with a meeting of The Breakfast Club of Portland job seeker’s group, and I was pleased to see most of our participants returning, along with two new attendees.  We were able to review the returning members’ goals from the last meeting and celebrate their successes, as well as support everyone’s goals for the next two weeks.  I felt the meeting was productive and positive.
Then I gave a free coaching session to a job seeker from the Breakfast Club.  She is a smart woman and I think very aware of the path she wants to be on.  Unfortunately she is in a job she isn't enjoying, having tried a job for all the right reasons, but discovering, after working in it for awhile, that it isn't a good fit.  She wants to get out of it and back into something she can enjoy.  We talked about a variety of industries, including hospitality, that she thought might be interesting.  As we talked, though, it became clear she was passionate and enthusiastic about only one.  By the end of the conversation, she knew what she was going to do.  She isn't desperate - she is still employed - but she needed some help in getting to a point of clarity.  I think we got there.
From there, I went to the glass school to try my hand again at making glass drops.  Judy had given me a good idea of what I had been doing wrong last Saturday, so I was eager to practice.  Sure enough, the drops went together very well - they’re not perfect yet (and one of them caught an air bubble as I made it, so I wasn’t surprised when it cracked as it cooled; I will fix it next time), but I was pleased with the six that turned out.  I am looking forward to making more.
The work day finished with a coaching session with the married couple.  Karin brought her resume that she revised per our conversation yesterday.  Frank didn’t bring his, so as to allow us to focus on Karin’s - she has a deadline to meet for a job application at the end of the week.  As we discussed how to quantify results in a resume, it all started to click for Frank, who clearly was now able to help Karin as she works on it from here.  We made a lot of notes on her draft resume, and I felt made significant progress.  I am looking forward to seeing the end result.  I was also delighted to receive payment.
I am grateful for the small successes that came today.  I may not say “less is more” yet, but small is big these days.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-two

Day 162 - Different Perspectives
I had the chance to view the job seeker’s life through three different lenses today.  
It started with a coffee meeting and free coaching session for a husband and wife who had attended my recent presentation on “Opening and Closing an Interview” in Hillsboro.  They are both looking for work - he was laid off recently, and she is reentering the outside work force after several years as a stay-at-home mom.  Their focus for today’s meeting was primarily to help her get her resume in shape.  We spent over an hour marking up what she had, and giving her some direction as to what she needs to present to potential employers.
Naturally, they were both concerned about how to honestly present their skills (especially her experience) when discussing home-based and volunteer work.  It is my firm belief that even when you don’t receive a paycheck for work that you do, it is still work, and you’re still using important skills.  Like many stay-at-home moms I’ve spoken with, there was an apparent need to justify or rationalize the work that was done in raising children.  I believe that budgeting skills, coordination skills, communications skills, managing and training skills - so many different abilities - are not only transferrable into a potential new job, but are vital to the success of the target organization.  You don’t have to pretend that these skills are marketable.   They are.
My second meeting was with a CFO in transition who has been attending the same job finders meeting on Mondays that I have.  There have been moments during a few of the meetings where he seemed frustrated and annoyed with how the meeting progressed, so when he asked to sit down with me to talk, I gladly accepted.  I wanted to know his perspective on the group, and on his job search, and how the group (and, by extension, how I) could be of greater help.  
I will admit I do not think like a CFO.  I have found that financial executives of my colleague’s calibre often think in “bullet points” - concise structure is often paramount to understanding, and understanding is critical for forward progress.  So when this group’s meetings meander through seemingly directionless conversation, which it often does, he gets frustrated.  Other participants often speak in stream-of-consciousness monologue, and don’t present a clear message of what they are looking for.  As a result, he is unable to think of ways to help or encourage, and feels the meeting is unhelpful to all of us.  He needs greater structure and clarity to perceive value.
Those who process the way I do - and as the moderator does - tend to look instead at the big picture, including the emotional (“touchy-feely”) aspects of the discourse.  We want to be sure all attendees have a chance to talk about what they are looking for, and also how they feel, so we can best help them on all sides of their efforts.  Sometimes job seekers need simply to feel validated in their work to then be motivated to keep their momentum.  We want them to feel good about what they are doing now so they keep doing well tomorrow.
The contrast to my perspective is essential for my understanding as I try to make a positive contribution to this and other job finders groups (especially the one I moderate).  The balance of needs is, I think, the key to adding value to these conversations, so the feedback I received today is very helpful.  
Then I went to the meeting which we had spent an hour verbally dissecting.  My colleague wasn’t able to join us (he had an informational interview to attend across town), so I couldn’t observe his reactions to the conversation.  We had about half the regular attendance (mostly for scheduling issues), which made it far easier to take a looser approach, and I wondered, as I observed the discussion from a different view as a participant, how he would have felt about it had he been there.  Still, though we didn’t stay on topic very well, I felt as if it were a good meeting.
I came away from today’s activities with a sense of greater understanding.  I don’t know exactly how this will help me in my search for my own opportunities, but I suppose we rarely do; only time and reflection can provide that insight.  I’m just glad I have the chance to be the occasional observer and not always be trapped in the trees, unable to see the forest.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-one

Day 161 - Checking Motives
I had an interesting experience today - nothing special, but it brought clarity.
An acquaintance from Southern Oregon was visiting Portland this weekend, and we had a chance to get together briefly before he returned home.  It was a nice meeting - he’s a pleasant person with an upbeat demeanor.  We talked about a number of things, but the subject that bubbled up at one point was “intimacy.”
Since I recently began dating again, I have thought about intimacy - what is real intimacy vs. just physical attraction, connection, and/or emotional closeness?  What transforms a more casual relationship or physical interaction to a genuine sharing of vulnerabilities?  I am not even going to look the word up in the dictionary because I’m not talking about an academic definition; I am exploring what goes into a deeper relationship, emotionally speaking.  For me.
The visit with my friend caused me to further challenge myself: when I meet and engage someone who triggers certain feelings, what are my motives?  Am I looking for a momentary validation, or something more lasting?  Does this person’s energy resonate simply within my physical needs, or am I wholly edified by the character this person presents?  How can I tell if it is real?
While I don’t expect today's visit to lead toward a deep and lasting friendship, I am glad for the conversation; it has helped me put my important relationships into perspective, and to appreciate them all the more.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty

Day 160 - Learning Opportunities
I went to lunch with a new friend today; I describe him as such because he is more than an acquaintance and colleague.  He is becoming a trusted advisor of sorts after a period of several months.  I consider him a friend.
I asked him to get together because I missed his presentation on Strategism; I was in Seattle and Victoria the weekend he presented, and I wanted to know more about it.  He gave me a brief description over lunch, but I must be ADD, because I was easily taken off topic.  We talked about all sorts of things - reading auras, politics and social movements, and more.  Joel is such an interesting person, and I learn something every time we speak.  I really respect him a lot.
Then I went to the glass school to work on more drops for a chandelier.  It was disastrous - the worst work I’ve done so far.  I sat at the torch for two hours and only made four drops; none of them turned out.  In fact, I was so frustrated, I didn’t try to fix them.  Many of the more recent attempts have not been what I wanted.  I really felt like giving up altogether.
As I was leaving, I mentioned my failure to Judy, the wonderful assistant, who asked me about how I was working the glass.  By asking me a few questions, and giving some general advice, I figured I knew what I was doing wrong.  I wish I had asked her two weeks ago why the glass was moving the way it was.  Or wasn’t.  
While I knew the four pieces I left for annealing would never hang on a chandelier, I was glad to have had Judy’s advice.  I look forward to coming back and trying again.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-nine

Day 159 - Reminders
Today was rather usual.  I went to a job finders support meeting, and then offered some free resume coaching to a potential client.  There wasn’t anything else at all exciting (except the 30 seconds when I thought I had left my briefcase - with laptop inside - in the library, forgetting I had put it in my trunk for the coaching session; that was a long 30 seconds).
As the day closed, I was grateful for the reminder that I’m doing what I love to do - helping people in their careers.  Every time I talk to people about what I do, or offer coaching services (paid or not), I am reminded of why I love what I do.  To see the understanding brighten a face is all the motivation I need to keep doing what I do.
And so I keep doing it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-eight

Day 158 - Routine
Over the past ten months, I have developed a routine.  I start my day with “work” - job search activities, email, follow-up on various tasks, and consulting my calendar to plan the day’s agenda.  Then I go to the gym (when my calendar allows), and work out for an hour with weights, or half an hour of cardio.  Then I resume my “work” for the rest of the day.  Sometimes, that work continues well into the evening, but I admit it is often interrupted by other things (or people).  
And although it may not be the routine I would prefer (which would include going to work... that pays...), it still offers me some reasonable expectations from which I can make plans.
I had three things going on this afternoon - a meeting with a networking friend, then a meeting with a personal friend to talk about resumes, and then a networking mixer.  Honestly, I’m sick of networking, but I guess this is one of those moments where sometimes the tedium of your job is not the part of your job that you like.  OK.  It is the means to an end, and I hope to reach that end soon (though I admit I will never again stop networking).
At least I can expect to keep the routine going for the foreseeable future.  It’s something to count on.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-seven

Day 157 - A Weekday of Rest
Most of us look at one day of the weekend (Saturday for some, Sunday for others) as a day of rest.  Among the unemployed, many of us stick to the Monday through Friday schedule to keep a sense of normalcy.  Travel can wreak havoc on “normalcy,” though, so I was glad to have only one appointment today.  I had the chance to rest from the trip up north.
I got my laundry done.  (I’ve discussed that here before.  Drat.)  I got a workout done.  (I’ll discuss that later.)  I met with a networking contact and had a good conversation.  It was not a strenuous day.
Although I’m not earning the income I need, I’ve never been busier in my life.  It is nice to have a day off.  Well, most of the day off.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-six

Day 156 - Fog
I began the day with a pleasant networking meeting with a recruiter, to whom I was introduced by a good friend.  He seemed genuinely interested to help, though perhaps a bit unclear as to how.  I take responsibility for that - sometimes it’s not easy explaining how trainers benefits an organization when there is a lack of understanding of what training specialists do.  I try to give my networking contacts an idea of the strategic importance of employing trained trainers, but also understand that thinking beyond one’s ken is not the norm.  Perhaps I need to work on that part of my story.
Then I drove home.  I stopped by the Museum of Glass in Tacoma only to discover it is closed between Labor Day and Memorial Day.  Really?  They can’t get enough visitors to cover expenses for nine out of twelve months?  I was disappointed.  I was told they’re building a glass museum in the Seattle Center (where the kiddie rides used to be up until a few months ago).  Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy that someday.
The rest of the drive was uneventful.  The highway patrol were out in force - I passed through at least four speed traps (that was how many I noticed, with cruisers parked along the freeway, radar guns pointed at oncoming traffic), and figure there were others that I didn’t see.  I drove through a number of patches of fog, and while it looks peaceful, it can be full of unknowns.  Fortunately everything is clear when you come out of them.
Naturally, I thought about the analogy, comparing this drive to my current situation in life.  I am in a fog; sometimes it is thick, and I can’t see anything; sometimes it is light, and while I can see the road I’m on, it isn’t clear what the destination looks like, or how close or far it may be.  Sometimes there are traps that will hold me back if I’m not careful.  I know I’ll get there if I stay on the road and pay attention to the signs.  
I think of the story I heard years ago about approaching life as if driving at night - though you only see a few hundred feet in front of you, the destination is still reached as long as you stay on the road and keep driving.
The fog will lift in time.  I just want that time to be now.  Still, I was glad for the reminder that the destination is coming if I continue to move along the road. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-five

Day 155 - Quiet
The morning was quiet.  Ignacio had gone to work, and the ferry wouldn’t take me back to Seattle until the afternoon.  I spent the undistracted time working (i.e. looking for job postings, emailing colleagues and friends trying to network into new circles), and sipping on my coffee.  One doesn’t normally think of the search for employment as being peaceful, but today’s was.
The departure was not as easy.  The short time spent in Victoria was a bright spot in an otherwise “partly cloudy” period of my life, and though I have enjoyed several clearings in the preceding months, this was particularly bright.  I didn’t want to leave.  But leave I must, and I busied myself in the process of travel as I boarded the vessel to hide the emotions that were barely kept under the surface.
I found a seat on the upper deck with a nice view and a table on which I could rest my laptop.  As soon as I was situated, I realized I had chosen a spot toward the back of the boat where motion would be greater.  It was OK, I told myself, since I would take my Dramamine now, which should take effect before we got to any rough waters.
The announcement came that the passage would be more “lively” than the trip up in the morning.  Again, I comforted myself in the knowledge that the motion sickness medicine would help.  I was a little less sure when we left the dock only moments later.  In fact, we were in active water very early into the trip, and as a result, I didn’t eat much of the salami, cheese and crackers I had ordered.  I couldn’t finish the coffee, either.  As soon as the steward came by to pick up the trash (which I had to keep hold of so it wouldn't be launched off the table by the next swell), I closed my eyes and tried to keep my stomach quiet by dozing off, making the trip seem that much shorter.
I made it without incident to Seattle, and my dear friend Amy picked me up at the pier.  By the time we made it to her place, I was feeling much better.  We walked down to the pub where a friend of hers was encircled by more people than the corner could accommodate, so we took a table for ourselves and ordered dinner.  I had the lamb burger, which not only tasted great but settled well.  I was exhausted, though, forgetting for the moment that Dramamine makes me sleepy, so we walked back to her house and I went to bed.  The quiet of her home was incredibly relaxing, and I went right to sleep.
I remember when I was a teen, and my mom would tell my brothers and me to turn the stereo down.  Now, as I am older (and don’t listen to music at nearly the decibel levels I used to), I find I value my quiet time.  I think more clearly, feel more deeply, and process my emotions more effectively when I have no distractions.  I believe that’s what meditation is about.  I am grateful for quiet moments.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-four

Day 154 - Consideration
It was a dark and stormy day.  The clouds were heavy and low, and the strong winds scrubbed the shoreline with foamy seas.  Those brave (or foolish) enough to walk along the path risked being showered as the driven waves broke on rocks and seawalls.  ...I suppose it matters little when it is raining sideways.
Ignacio took me along Dallas Road to a breakwater, at the end of which is a small lighthouse.  New benches sat at its base, empty and wet in the gale.  The breakwater was probably ten feet wide, and stretched out in a curve into the open ocean.  There were several other people walking along the top to and from the lighthouse in spite of the gusts, which were strong enough to render the umbrella fairly useless.
There were moments when I was afraid of being blown into the water, though others didn’t seem so concerned.  I doubted Ignacio would continue any further if there were a real danger of being sent into the drink.  As my anxiety rose, I reminded myself that others were braving the elements successfully, including children... though children offer less wind resistance with less surface area, and being as tall as I am and wearing a heavy leather trench coat, I could catch the wind like a kite and be hurled into the cold Pacific....
My discomfort must have registered on my face, because after taking a few photos about two thirds of the distance toward the lighthouse, Ignacio suggested we go back to the shoreline.  I agreed - I figured there would be other opportunities to walk all the way out when the wind wasn’t quite so strong, and I could enjoy the stroll more completely.  We meandered through a seaside park and stopped for coffee and a nosh at a local cafe on Menzies Street, and then home.
It was a lovely day - the weather wasn’t all that, but the experience was.  At every point, there were small considerations - was I up for walking a distance?  Did I want to see the government building (and hear a bit of its history)?  Did I want to visit his favorite home store (Nood, on Yates Street), and have after-dinner drinks at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress Hotel?  Little things that considered my interests and well-being....  It is wonderful to be with a thoughtful friend.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-three

Day 153 - New Territory
I had a wonderful day today!  I had the chance to be in Victoria, BC, and spend the day (actually the weekend) with someone very special.  And in doing so, I got to see a part of the city I have never experienced before.  Yes, we went by the landmarks you know as a tourist, but I wasn’t really a tourist this time.  I was a visitor.
We went shopping at a local market so I could make my (mom’s) Macaroni & Cheese for dinner; I wouldn’t normally think of going to a grocery store as a special event (except when I’m really hungry), but given the nature of the visit, this was quite special.
It was nice to have a new experience with someone I care about; it was a wonderful departure from the day-to-day challenges of life - a mini-vacation - and I loved the day, rain and all, and I am indeed grateful.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-two

Day 152 - Reconnecting
I had the opportunity today to reconnect with someone I met awhile ago and with whom I felt a strong connection.  It was wonderful to spend some time together, and I look forward to more.
It reminds me that there are many people with whom I have not communicated in awhile, and I’m grateful for the various chances to reach out and find out how they are doing.  Friends bring so much to my life, and I wish I had the ability to gather them all up in one place at one time and express to them how I feel about what they do for me, and how much I love and care about them.  Friendship is an amazing process.
Let’s talk soon.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty-one

Day 151 - Being Unsettled
As I was reviewing what I have written so far, I found that I skipped a day by mistake, so my numbers are a bit off.  What I have listed as Day 144 was actually 145; so I’ll write about what I was grateful for on day 144 now.  And tomorrow, I'll be back on track.
I was having coffee with my friend and yoga instructor, Denny, and we were talking about how sometimes this gratitude blog wasn’t easy to write - sometimes I can’t think of anything to be grateful for, and at the moment, I’m feeling unsettled.  He said, “So write about that.”
He’s right, of course.  Similar to my post about loneliness, feeling unsettled brings me awareness of - and appreciation for - the times when my life seems clear and focused.  If I were never confused or weary, I’d never recognize the value of the times when I have clarity.  There is always something positive that comes from every situation.
Thank you, Denny, for being the catalyst for positive thought.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifty

Day 150 - A New Effort
I decided recently to expand my networking efforts to include Seattle.  I am familiar with the city; I have family and friends there, and have some great memories.  What surprised me the most was how energized I was as I began the networking efforts.
Networking in one town can help the process in another.  I had the chance to meet with a colleague in Seattle who is a member of a networking group here in Portland.  It began a fairly successful effort that I hope will continue to get some traction.  I will return in a few weeks to follow up, and look forward to more excitement.
I’m glad to have something that fires me up and gets me out of the house.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-nine

Day 149 - Second Chances
I had a very important experience today.  It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time in awhile.  
I had the opportunity to offer a mock interview to a colleague, and I felt as if I were the better for it.  When we first met well over two years ago in a business networking group, I had heard some less than flattering things about him from others in our organization.  He was responsible for some things that hadn’t gone well, and unfortunately was not held in high esteem by some of the other members.
He hired me a few weeks ago to do some interviewing coaching, and today was the mock interview.  He turned out to be very articulate, smart, engaging... and if I were to have had a position open, I would have hired him on the spot.  
So why is this an important experience for which I would be grateful?  It offered me a second chance to create my own opinion of him apart from earlier connections; I feel better about our friendship, and that is always a good thing.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-eight

Day 148 - Developing Reputations
I have been working for some time now to get the word out that I’m interested and available to speak to groups about Interviewing Skills, and it appears that ever since I began moderating a job seekers group almost a month ago, the opportunities have begun to appear.
I spoke at the Hillsboro Job Seekers Network today, and had a wonderful time.  Sure, technical things didn’t start out right, but it all worked out well in the end.  I received some kind feedback, and they have asked me to come back in December or January.  I may even get some work from it.  We’ll see.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to develop a positive reputation.  I try to give as much as I can afford; I do what I love, and trust the money will come someday soon.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-seven

Day 147 - Diversions
I had a brief visit with some friends from out of town, and I enjoyed it immensely.  They were only here for a couple days, so I had but one chance to get together.  Great people.
Later, I went to my Monday networking meeting and shared a couple hours with fellow job seekers, some of whom are becoming real friends.  I enjoyed the presentation given, and felt that it was time well spent.
Then Mom and I went to the glass school’s annual Macaroni & Cheese night - taking Mom’s famous Mac&Cheese, naturally, and had a nice time there, too.  
It is fun - and healthy - to have occasional diversions - friends who make me smile, something different to do.  Everyone needs to smile from time to time.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-six

Day 146 - Ushering at a Band Concert
I admit I have not, historically speaking, been a huge fan of symphonic bands.  I normally prefer full orchestras.  But when Denny asked me if I could volunteer as an usher, I felt compelled to go.  We had been talking over coffee a few days before about things coming into our lives for a reason, so I went for it.
I was really impressed and surprised by a volunteer band.  I have few opportunities to enjoy live music, so when it’s good quality, it’s always a joy.
I was glad to have been of service to the group, which, in turn, entertained us brilliantly.  Would that life were like this all the time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-five

Day 145 - New Plans
I like making new plans.  Sometimes the “old” ones don’t work.  Often, they don’t account for something unknown (how could they, right?).  And life always turns out differently anyway.
I still prefer to make plans - they help me focus my energies and attentions, and the anticipation of doing something I enjoy makes me feel good.  I am getting better at leaving the expectations somewhere in suspension, but I can set the direction to some degree.  It’s like the proverbial fork in the road - I get to choose which path to take.  And if I don’t like that path, I can choose another one as the choice comes up again.
I have broadened my networking plans to include Seattle recently, and I’m feeling re-energized about the process.  I have no idea at this point if it will lead to anything other than giving me a renewed sense of interest and purpose, and making plans for the trip north are helping me feel recharged.  I’m not trying to leave the area so much as to find more opportunities - I am enjoying many aspects of life in Portland, and very pleased to be happy here.  
It’s just nice, sometimes, to be able to mix things up a bit.  Making some plans is a good start.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-four

Day 144 - Managing Expectations
I had an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar today; when I made the appointment yesterday, I expressed my desire to speak with two specific people (both of whom she confirmed would be working).  I went in expecting to speak with either or both of them.  
I was disappointed.
I was reminded, naturally, of the quote I often give when teaching customer service courses - The difference between delighting and disappointing the customer is defined as the gap between what the customer expects and what he/she experiences.  I thought I had adequately explained to the young woman at the Apple Store who took my call what I expected, and when I arrived, I was addressed by an Apple “Genius” who wasn’t as personable or as helpful as the two I had asked to speak with.
My first inclination was to be upset.  Getting upset doesn’t help anything, though, so I took what he could offer in terms of help, and decided instead to come back at a later date when one of the two I wanted to talk to would be available.  I also thought back on the conversation I had when I set up the appointment, and I realized that while I had been clear on what I wanted, I did not ask her to confirm that she understood.  Instead, I should have asked her to repeat my request, and to be sure she would make the appointment I then expected to have.  It might have gone better had I managed the expectations better.
Lesson learned.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-three

Day 143 - Pressing Forward
I didn’t want to go.
I had a work-related networking meeting today, and I just didn’t feel like going.  I was thinking it would probably be a waste of time anyway, and I wasn’t into it.  I would rather go to the gym and work out my stress there.  I was feeling discouraged and frustrated, and couldn’t see how this meeting could possibly benefit me.
A dear friend told me I should go.  I need to go.  I’m so glad I listened.  Here was another moment when, as I spoke to people about employee engagement, I remembered that this is what I love to do.  This is who I am supposed to be.  I was SO glad I went, and grateful to my friend for encouraging me to press on.
And I might get some work from it - I am having coffee with one of the other attendees in a few days.  At least I’ll make a new friend.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-two

Day 142 - Seeing Progress In Others
I had a chance to have dinner with a fairly new friend.  He is going through a lot of significant changes in his life, and when we got together a couple months ago, things seemed to be weighing very heavily on him.  You could see it in his face, and hear it in his voice.  His eyes quietly spoke of his emotional fatigue.  
What a difference a day makes.  Well, sixty days.
Tonight, he is upbeat, lively, energetic.  His humor is on.  He looks great, and obviously feels great.  
He thanked me for the things I had said to him two months ago, and for the support I gave him.  While I was gratified to think I had helped, my first thought was “that’s what friends are for.”  It didn’t occur to me to do anything else.  I was delighted to see the improvement in his life, and all because he did what he needed to do, and allowed himself to be healthy in the process.  He did all the heavy lifting; I just offered a kind word.
Still, seeing his progress made me feel better about my own, even if I don’t see much.  I have to admit I’ve made some headway, and I’m reminded of it as I watch him thrive.
Happy news is happy for everyone.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty-one

Day 141 - Yoga
I had forgotten just how much I enjoy yoga.
I had planned to go two weeks ago, but I cut my thumb that afternoon and went to urgent care instead.  I have been looking forward to this class that much more ever since.
There is an amazing sense of peace in a yoga class.  I am not talking about the group exercise classes at the gym - I don’t equate those to the practice of yoga, though they may be using yoga poses.  No, I go to a yoga class to learn, not just exercise.
This class wasn’t as strenuous as I expected.  It was an hour-long class (some are 90 minutes) and I barely broke a sweat.  Yet afterward, I was exhilarated. There is something that happens in the mind, not just the body, in a good yoga class.  I need to do this more.
The instructor, Denny, came highly recommended, and shortly after the class began, I understood why.  
Thank you, Gary, for the recommendation; thank you, Denny, for an awesome class.  I look forward to my next opportunity to be there.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Forty

Day 140 - Questions
I have heard people say from time to time how dogs are “better than people” - they are always happy, never complain or argue, come back to you even when you shout at them, and never question what you are doing or why you are doing it that way.  Sometimes I wonder if I should be more like a dog.  
Then I think of all the things I would never have learned if I hadn’t asked the questions.
I have a lot of questions.  Sometimes I have thought about asking a whole bunch of questions when I get to the pearly gates.  Sometimes I just want one big question answered.  Most of the time, I ask questions of others to learn things from them - why they are saying what they are saying, or what has started a current train of thought.  I enjoying asking the questions behind the questions so I can get a better understanding of what motivates.
Right now, I want to know why I am in the situation I am in; what is the bigger picture here?  What am I supposed to learn, and why is it taking so long?
At least I have enough of a mind to ask.  I can be grateful for that!