Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Now Hiring: Ego Stroker

I realize that I give the impression that I have it all together. Confident, stable, squared away, large and in charge. Because I have so successfully maintained this persona for decades, today's post may come as a shock. It's time you know the truth: I have self-confidence issues.

After 11 years at Judson Press, I was pretty well masking my insecurities, but transitioning to a new job is slowly unleashing the ugly weepy pathetic in me. It started when I made the fatal mistake of reading my predecessor's job performance evaluations. Hey, they were in my files. It's not like I went looking for them. Anyway, they were good stellar. And I'm well aware that others who worked with her liked her a great deal and found her to be very good at her job. My "boss" and colleague Burt noted my competitive nature and my discomfort at stepping into someone else's shoes (possibly because I whined about it), but he wouldn't lie to me and say that I was going to be even more awesome than she had been. He was mean like that. Instead, he said that she and I each had our strengths. Whatever. While Burt wouldn't humor my need to be declared supreme ruler of all things communications, because he recognized my desperate need for affirmation and recognition he did dole out little compliments to sustain me. It worked. I was happy.

But we know what happened soon after I settled in and decided I loved my new job. Losing Burt hurts on many levels, but from a completely selfish perspective, without him I feel adrift and less sure of myself.  I'm now going through the dreaded transition period which I didn't experience during my first week and which I thought I had successfully avoided altogether. Quite frankly, change sucks. It doesn't help that I've finished my mega project and now find I have time to breath and think too much and psych myself out determine next steps, all by myself.

Coworkers have kindly suggested I call my predecessor if I need certain questions answered, but inside my head (always a dangerous place to be) I childishly balk at the idea because I don't want her help. I've made it my life's work to leave every job I've ever had as the best that had ever been in that position. Calling her for assistance would be like admitting I'm not the supreme ruler of all things communications. We can't have that.

I know. I'm ridiculous.

In addition to missing Burt's general support, I miss his praise for my little day-to-day accomplishments. Freakin' Angel readers know that for me, it's all about attention recognition for a job well done. I would probably possibly take a pay cut if it meant greater accolades and pats on the back. (This is clearly why I don't earn a larger salary.) I now find myself in the awkward position of needing to train others around me to stroke my ego help my other colleagues (especially those in leadership) understand what makes me tick. It's not going to be easy.

Case in point, the mega project.

In two months time I put together a 36-page annual report. I didn't hire any freelance writers. With the exception of two articles by Burt, I wrote the copy for every other page in the publication. The designers we hired did a great job and I thought I'd pulled off quite a feat as a new employee. When I sent the final draft to the powers that be, these were the responses I received:

  • Overall, the report looks great! (I had to ask this individual what he thought of the piece before he offered even this much, his original response was to correct a mistake on page 13.)
  • You've done a fine job on this under exceptional circumstances
  • Overall, I think you are in great shape.

Boys and girls, what do each of these "compliments" have in common? Modifiers. In the wacky world of Kim, they translate as follows:

  • There are parts of this report that completely miss the mark, but the rest will do.
  • Under these circumstances, you did a nice job, but it wouldn't be that impressive if the circumstances were normal.
  • There are things you definitely need to fix, but you're getting closer to something acceptable.

I know. I'm ridiculous.

I think, however, I may have found a cure for my special brand of crazy. I've just started interviewing for an Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications. While a professional with great credentials and experience is the natural choice, I think I'm going to look for someone who shows the potential to idolize me and make me feel good about myself.

I'm feeling better already, just thinking about it...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Approach to Winter: Grin and "Bear" It

The frigid temperatures, and what I hope is just a temporary visit from the Funkapotomus, have led me to conclude that I would do well as a bear. Yes, I do believe I would enjoy hibernation a great deal:

The Top 10 Reasons I'd Like to be a Bear

  1. No matter how hairy they get, no one expects a bear to shave.
  2. I could gain 40 lbs a week over the summer and then sleep it off beginning in October.
  3. I'd wake up in bathing suit shape in April or May without having done a lick of exercise.
  4. Even if I still had some pounds to shed, no one would dare say anything about it. Cause I'm a bear.
  5. If someone woke me up, I'd be perfectly justified in biting their head off. Literally.
  6. No more running to the bathroom. I could hold it for months. 
  7. It's the perfect life for an introvert.
  8. Male bear wouldn't expect any action for a few months. 
  9. Sleeping away all those months would make the wait for season 3 of Homeland a bit more "bearable."
  10. The kids could live on milk for a few months, meaning I'd do a lot less cooking. Although I "bearly" do any cooking now.
So, what animal would you like to be?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I've Been Thinking

I've had some interesting thoughts lately. They're a bit meatier than musings, but not substantial enough for a proper post. I figured they were worth sharing, however, so I'm throwing them together and calling it "I've Been Thinking." Let me know what you think about what I thought.
  • I'm thinking we have officially lost the meaning of every single holiday with the possible exception of Labor Day during which we all appropriately celebrate not having to work. Until this year, one thing I most appreciated about Martin Luther King Jr. Day was that it stood for something. Much of the nation actually made this federal holiday about more than a day off; it was a day to give back, a day to serve, a day that the man whom it honors would have been pleased with. But in 2013 a couple of enterprising businesses officially blew it.

    Parx Casino in Philadelphia promoted an "I Have a Dream" sweepstakes. The bright marketing folks for the casino apparently thought Dr. King's speech was about hitting it big on the slots, not establishing equality for all. Seriously, was there no one with an ounce of sense participating in that creative meeting? No one to ask "Are you freakin' kidding me?" Bad taste, to say the least.

    Blue Cross River Rink's radio ad wasn't quite as tacky. It simply promoted this special day as an opportunity to go ice skating.
  • Speaking of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal government decided  was an ideal occasion on which to celebrate the President's inauguration. I agree that it was a thoughtful, symbolic choice. As I watched bits and pieces of the hoopla, however, I wondered what this all was costing and who was footing the bill. When I Googled that shit (an inside joke for the Outer Banks gang), I read on Wikipedia:
In 2009, based on its fundraising efforts and crowd estimates for the Obama inauguration, the presidential committee set its budget at $160–$170 million for the inauguration, including about $45 million for the gala events. The federal government contributed about $49 million, including $1.2 million to cover the actual swearing-in ceremony.The District of Columbia and the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia projected costs to provide support for inaugural events at more than $75 million alone for police, fire and medical services. To help fund the efforts, President George W. Bush declared a federal state of emergency as a precaution so that funds could be sought from Federal Emergency Management Agency (???!!!).
City public schools are struggling to survive and those in the suburbs are cutting arts, music, computers, and libraries, but we're throwing some serious parties in D.C. Damn, I love our government. When Abby becomes President, I'm advising her to pull the plug on the parties and put that $160 million toward feeding people, educating children, and ensuring the elderly are treated  as well as our nation's prisoners. Imagine the reaction of the American people if a President made such a bold move.
  • While we're talking about parties, are there no parents around when tween and teenage girls are leaving the house for dances and parties? I went to a shindig on Saturday night where I saw shorter dresses than I would wear to bed, much less out in public. Seriously. One wrong move and these young ladies were going to share everything with the rest of the party goers. One girl (no older than 13) actually wore a dress that made it look like she was in bondage; black straps everywhere and a zipper down the back. I'm pretty sure I'd lock Abby in her room before I'd let her leave the house looking like a teenage tramp. If you ever see her looking like one, alert me immediately. Girls, have some self-respect.
  • Speaking of young ladies, I'm thinking of starting a teen fitness escort service (nice transition, huh?).You would hire an outgoing, physically fit, athletic young lady or young man, and pay them to get your sedentary slug of a child to work out. It's amazing what a tween or teen will do when encouraged by the opposite sex. I see it as putting peer pressure to positive use.
  • And finally, while I'm sad that Stan Musial has died, I like that he passed at a time when we needed to be reminded of what makes an athlete a star or a hero deserving of our admiration. May the Lance Armstrongs of the world take note and may we, the fans, try to get back to a place where character counts. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In Memory of Burt, a Recent Additon to My FPL

So I'm feeling a little sensitive these days. In fact, I cried at work yesterday after promising myself I would never cry at my new job. Of course, me saying I'll never cry at work is like Lindsay Lohan saying she'll never get in trouble again. The dice were loaded from the start.

It's possible my sensitivity is just a function of hormones, or it could be that I'm a bit emotional because people keep dying wherever I work. (I'll spare you the tally of losses when I was with the American Baptists.) If you saw my recent Facebook post you already know that my boss/colleague and new friend Burt passed away on Sunday after battling leukemia for many years. That same day, my aunt was first diagnosed with the disease. To say I'm freakin' pissed at cancer and all the lives it's taking would be an understatement. It seems I hear of someone in my circle of friends/community being newly diagnosed at least once a month. Enough already.

I don't want to turn this into a 100% depressing post -- I'm aiming for 77% or less -- so allow me to say just a few words about Burt. They're actually a bright spot. And perhaps they'll explain to my new coworkers (only one of whom knows this blog even exists) why I was such an emotional wreck when I found out he had died. The thing is, Burt was one of those individuals whom you can tell after meeting for the first time is going to end up on your FPL - "Favorite People List." My FPL is pretty select and does not necessarily correlate to those I consider my best friends or those I spend the most time with. FP's, due to their inherent goodness, do not always make the best drinking buddies. Maybe "favorite" is the wrong word. Perhaps "best" is more accurate. You know who I'm talking about - those individuals who stand apart from the rest with their goodness, decency, moral fiber, and kindess.

I had two months with Burt in which to confirm my gut feeling. I found him to possess all the qualities needed to make my FPL, as well as other super-traits including thoughtfulness, supportiveness, intelligence, and humor. When I first started at Villanova I repeatedly heard from others that I was very lucky to be working with Burt. Everyone who knew him liked him, including the staff at Antonella's, the little Italian place he preferred for lunch. My husband Rob met Burt just once, for less than 15 minutes, and agreed with me that he was "a good guy." And despite battling leukemia and dealing with nearly annual bouts of pneumonia, word is that he never ever complained or sought sympathy. Me? I whine if I have a paper cut or don't get my 8 hours of sleep at night.

I'm going to miss many things about Burt, including:
  • Seeing him in his jaunty cap and trench coat (he always looked as though he should be strolling the moors in Ireland)
  • Irritating him by calling him "Sir," or "Boss" 
  • Him insulating me from "outside forces" that sought to complicate my position
  • His quick sense of humor and the quips we tossed back and forth over our cubicle divider
  • His daily soup check in the Holy Grounds cafe. Since I started working here, they never did offer Italian Wedding Soup, his favorite.
  • Our proposed parallel parking challenge
  • Comparing kid stories
  • Working with him every day
Yes, Burt was one of the good guys, committed to his work, and even more committed to his family. He had two sons, 10 and 13, and you could tell they were his world.

I guess it's understandable that I'm sad about losing Burt, but I am blessed to have known him for as long as I did. And when I think about it, I've been blessed many times over by those special, unforgettable individuals who have come and gone from my life. I just wish they didn't have to serve as regular reminders to cherish the moments we have with those we love.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Power of Prayer?

When I worked for Judson Press and the American Baptists, not surprisingly, we had a tendency to pray. We'd pray before meetings, we'd pray at weekly worship services, and we prayed in earnest when someone in our midst was in need of healing. I'm a pretty good prayer-participant where thinking and listening are concerned, but I'm not particularly comfortable praying out loud in a group. I guess you could say I don't pray well with others.

In the two months since I've been at Villanova, my colleagues and I haven't prayed together once. I didn't realize just how much I missed it until yesterday, when praying was about the only thing I could think to do to support a friend and coworker who we learned is in critical care. Burt, the man who hired me and with whom I have worked every day since starting here, has been successfully fighting chronic lymphocytic leukemia for about seven years. A few weeks ago he was happy to report that he'd been selected to participate in a clinical trial for a new form of treatment that apparently provides a cure. On New Year's Day, however, Burt was admitted to the hospital not for his trial, but for pneumonia. And yesterday, his wife told us that Burt was moved to intensive care where he lies sedated in critical condition. It seems his malignant cancer cells "exploded" and the doctors are exposing him to major doses of chemo in an effort to fight back. If Burt manages to survive this, it will take months for him to recover.

Understandably, the mood was somber in the office yesterday and "I'll pray for him," was on nearly everyone's lips. I can't help feeling that corporate (group) prayer is called for at a time like this, even though I don't believe it "works" in the way we'd like.

 Before you label me a heretic, allow me to explain.

I don't believe that the more people you have praying for someone or something, the better the chances are that God will listen and grant your request like some consensus-seeking genie. The God I believe in loves each of us equally; no favorites based on the number of friends or family members we have in our corner. I'm fairly certain He doesn't base His prayer-granting decisions on the number of prayers being said or on the fervor with which we say them. Can you imagine if we had a God who said "I would have healed your friend Ann again, but you guys just didn't pray hard enough this time." How many of us could believe in a God like that?

I've struggled with the concept of prayer for several years now, wondering how it can make a difference if, as we're taught, God already has a plan for our lives. Last year I read a devotional in Oswald Chambers's My Utmost for His Highest that offered an explanation that makes sense to me:
To say that "prayer changes things" is not as close to the truth as saying, "Prayer changes me and then I change things." God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person's inner nature. 
I feel the need to pray for Burt, both personally and corporately, because prayer opens my heart, mind, and spirit to the One who loves us and knows us and has a plan for each of us.  Prayer comforts. It reminds us that when we can no longer fix things ourselves, there is One who is and has been in control. God may answer our prayers with "yes," "not yet," or "I have something better in mind," but regardless of whether we like His answer, we can trust in Him.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Popularity Factor

Relationships are tricky terrain. Of course, it's also "Tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that's right on time." (A little something for you Run DMC fans.) There are many fine lines that exist to keep relationships in balance and when one of them is crossed, the results can range from discomfort to outright chaos. While the lines differ in each marriage, I believe most of us can agree on the importance of maintaining balance in the areas of:

  • Love - seems obvious, but should one partner feel they love the other more than they are loved in return, things can go downhill very quickly
  • Intelligence - while Rob likes to think he's smarter than me (and nearly everyone else), I know this is untrue and therefore equilibrium is maintained
  • Need - this is a tough one. Depending on the state of your mental and emotional health, the level of neediness can swing wildly. While I find I appreciate Rob more when I'm needy, should my neediness last too long, I begin to feel pathetic and balance is affected in a negative way.
  • Contributions - this is not financially-based for me, but rather pertains to what's being shared in the way of responsibilities on the home front. As evidenced by my recent post "A Love Story," an uptick on the husband's side can reap bountiful rewards. But, even here, should he start contributing too much, I feel guilt and discomfort. (With time, however, I believe I could adjust.)
I was originally going to include Attractiveness in this list, but if you look at some couples, you can see that the balance is way outta whack. Personally, I'm not sure whether I'd rather be married to the sad or scary looking dude, or the head turning hunk (and vice versa for you men). Once again, I prefer a reasonable balance. I think couples should be within 2 points of each other on the completely objective 1-10 attractiveness scale. But really, this could be the subject of its own post.

What I actually want to address today is the issue of Popularity. For the past fifteen years, Rob's connection to the Phillies has provided him with a ridiculous slight advantage where popularity is concerned. Recently, however, I have begun to think that perhaps his popularity is a result of his personality. The evidence lies in the number of social get-togethers Rob is invited to "with the boys," not all of whom can be Phils fans, right? There's the Pinocchio's Beer Garden Gang, Select Company Cool Kid Dads, Heatherwold Heathens (they are not all heathens, but I like the alliteration), Client Comrades, Home Base Buddies, and heck, he even has a Men's Bible Study Group at the church. I believe Rob could go out for a beer with any one (or more) of these groups any night of the week.

When I compare Rob's popularity to my own (and comparing oneself is always an excellent idea), I'm considerably bummed out slightly concerned. The honest truth is that I am not half as popular.  I have one primary group of girlfriends and the Freakin' Angels are freakin' difficult to engage socially. In fact, I'm usually the organizer of any social get-togethers. Perhaps they're getting together without me? I'm basically tethered to my other friends through Rob and rarely receive an invitation to socialize outside of the couple-context. In a divorce, I'm pretty sure they'd pick him.

My phone's not ringing, the texts aren't coming, and my inbox offers nothing but spam and prayer concerns. It's bleak, readers, bleak.

Since my school days, I have never been one of the popular girls and frankly it's never bothered me until now. I think it's because now my popularity, or lack thereof, affects not only me, but my husband and my kids. How many dinners, parties, BBQs, getaways, game nights, social events, etc. are we not being invited to because of my clearly lacking/irritating/self-absorbed/woe's me/snarky personality? And how much does my lack of fashion sense, including knowledge of the latest jewelry designs and stylish footware impact my popularity rating?

I figure I have three options here:
  1. I can sit around and blog/obsess about it.
  2. I can work on my personality and my wardrobe so the cool kids will like me.
  3. I can forget those snotty bitches women who don't recognize how adorable, charming, witty, intelligent, and of course, humble I am, and stick with my hard-to-get-out-of-the-house Angels and other equally wonderful, though few in number, women friends.
I bet you know which way I'm leaning.

To end on a positive note (hey, it's a new year; I'm trying new things), I don't think Rob has any friends calling him who are 15+ years younger or 40+ years older. Today I had lunch with a certain seminarian who actually made it a point to get together with little old me before she returns to school this weekend. I'm feeling pretty damn special. And on the other end of the friend age spectrum, I may be the only person you know who has maintained a friendship with a woman I met when I was in my teens. She's now a lovely 88-year-old widow.

Yes, Monty Hall, I think I'll go with what's behind Door #3!