Sunday, October 16, 2016

Curious at Night

Monday night, as per our usual routine, Bob put our scruffy dog Tank out.  Our condo has a backdoor in the kitchen that leads to a small fenced in yard.  I was upstairs, brushing my teeth when Bob came upstairs and announced ‘your stupid dog won’t come in.’ I asked ‘so what did you do?’  Bob replied ‘I left him out there.’   Sigh.  I grabbed a flashlight and headed outside to see what was going on.  I found Tank sitting by the fence on high alert, all attention focused on the gap between the fence gate and the fence.  He was curious at night.

Silly me, I said to Tank, ‘what’s over there?’  I put his leash on, opened the fence and he led me (pulling on the leash frantically) over by the garbage cans in the driveway.    All of a sudden: BAM!  THE SMELL!  SKUNK!  No noise, not even barking from Tank, just STINK.  I pulled Tank back into the fenced yard and both stunned, we headed back toward the deck and house.  I brought Tank into the kitchen.  Tank furiously started rolling around the kitchen floor, clearly trying to get the direct hit skunk juice off his face.  I hollered for Bob.  Bob bolted down the stairs, yelling ‘OMG, THE SMELL, THE SMELL, THIS IS BAD, OMG, THE SMELL.’  If you know my husband, you have a very clear picture right now of the DRAMA.  You’d think the world had ended.  Even he admitted later that he might have over reacted.  Sigh.  So I carried Tank upstairs to the bathroom and closed the door.  Sigh.  10:30 at night and instead of curling up in my warm bed, I was bathing my dog.  Oh and my dear husband was outside the bathroom door still FREAKING OUT.  He opened the door and handed me rubber gloves and a bucket of cleaning solution.  When he opened the door, he loudly shouted ‘OMG, THE SMELL, THE SMELL’ and I heard audible gagging noises.  Sigh. Despite his freaking out, he was quite helpful.  

For those who wonder, tomato juice is a myth.  According to Google searches, tomato juice is not the solution for a skunked dog.  The best cure for skunked dog is a bath with Dish Detergent, Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda.  The formula for the best solution for skunk is listed below, in case any of ever have a dog who is curious at night!  Oh, but don’t get the solution in the dogs eyes.  That was kind of hard to do, given that he was skunked in the face, but I managed.

Formula for Best Cleansing Solution for Removing Skunk Smell from a Dog

                ¼ cup baking soda
                1 Teaspoon Dish Detergent (Dawn or similar)
                1 quart of Hydrogen Peroxide

I bathed Tank.  Thankfully he was pretty calm in the tub and after two latherings and several rinses, I figured, that was the best I was going to do that night.  I used my blow dryer to try to get him partially dry.  Exhausted I brought him downstairs, told him to ‘go to bed’ and he curled up in his bedding corner in the kitchen. He wasn’t happy, I wasn’t happy, but we were moving on.   It still smelled pretty strongly of skunk in the kitchen, up the stairs, in the hallway and in our bedroom.  I collapsed into bed and tried hard not to engage with my dear husband as he asked ‘why did you let Tank explore over by the garbage cans – what were you thinking?’  I simply said ‘I did not go out with the intention of having Tank get skunked.’  I honestly did not anticipate that his curiosity was going to lead to that result.  I should have anticipated that a curious dog at night would result in getting skunked, but I just didn’t.  Maybe I’ll remember this experience and never again allow Tank to follow through on his curiosity at night.

On Thursday night, I had a different experience with curiosity at night.  This one had a much more positive outcome.  I had heard of an event in Boston called Q Commons.  It’s an event at over 100 cities around the world where they offer 3 local speakers and 3 national speakers (simulcast) to address the most compelling topics in today’s world.  It’s an event that is held twice a year – fall and spring and I eagerly signed up to participate.  The format was interesting – each speaker got 9 minutes and then at two separate intervals there was an opportunity to discuss the topics at your table.  I’d love to tell you about all of the topics and all of the speakers, but this blog post would go on and on if I did that, so I’ll focus on one today.  One of the topics was about racism.  A local speaker, a woman from Columbia who works for a non-profit Emmanuel Grace in Boston, described her reality regarding discrimination and racism and frankly I was very surprised by her talk.  She mentioned that her daughter (4 ½ years old) who is part Latino and part Asian would experience discrimination in Boston.  She described that she had suffered from white males, but described two encounters with white males that were positive.  I was shocked.   Here is a woman who is educated, affluent and living in one of the most progressive cities in America and she is experiencing racism and expects her daughter will experience it also.  

When the time came for our table talk, I couldn’t help but initiate the conversation at my table about what she said.  The man sitting next to me was from Nigeria.  He was in his early 30’s and an engineer.  The man next to him was from Hong Kong.  He was in his 50’s and I think he was retired.  I asked, is this really the reality in Boston?  How can it be?  The Nigerian man said he had experienced racial profiling in Missouri when he was a student there, but had not experienced racism in Boston.  The man from Hong Kong, said that when he was younger and living in NY, he experienced difficulty finding work because of his race.  I’m guessing that was back in the 70’s.  I had expected that back in the 70’s and in the rural mid-west it exists, but was still surprised and curious about racism in Boston.  

So I remain curious about this.  I don’t want to deny this woman’s reality but part of me wonders, is she so focused on finding racism that she sees it everywhere?  Is she benefiting her daughter by teaching her daughter to expect this or is that going to lead her to a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Part of me wonders if she would better off teaching her daughter that she is strong, smart and capable of anything and not setting her up to expect racism.  Honestly I don’t know and I certainly don’t want to judge this woman and her parenting style.  There is plenty of that going on and I don’t want to be part of any hint of parent shaming.  I’m just so surprised by this and genuinely don’t understand it.   The talk certainly got me thinking about this and talking about this.  I was curious at night, but hopefully as I continue to explore my curiosity, a positive outcome will result.  Since she is local, I’m hoping that I can offer her a cup of coffee somewhere nearby and talk to her about her experience so I can understand it better.

And lastly, one other story about someone who was curious at night.  I am studying the book of John with my Bible Study Fellowship group.  This weeks’ passage was the famous ‘Nic at night’ story.  For those unfamiliar with the passage, a Jewish leader, Nicodemus, went to Jesus at night as Jesus was starting his ministry.  Nicodemus was curious about Jesus and most likely did not want his other Jewish leader friends to see him talking to the highly controversial Jesus, so he went at night to get a one-on-one audience with him.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be ‘born again.’  Now, please, don’t’ stop reading!  I know that the term ‘born again Christian’ gives many of you a very negative reaction because you’ve met some born again Christians that you don’t like very much.  Hear me out and be curious about what this story is all about.  

What Jesus was trying to tell Nicodemus is that when a man (or woman) wants to become right with God, the way it happens is that God sends HIS spirit into the man and makes his heart new again.  The Greek word ‘again’ can mean ‘a second time’ but also ‘from above.’  It refers to the amazing spiritual awakening that happens when a man (or woman) recognizes his or her personal sin, confesses it, and receives a new heart, a new spirit and eternal life.  The rebirth is a beautiful thing.  For me, my rebirth happened over 18 years ago.  Shortly after we moved to MA, I knew my life wasn’t complete.  Although I had accomplished many of the things I had wanted – I was hopelessly unfulfilled.  I had a beautiful home, two healthy and adorable children, a loving and hard-working husband, a promising career and still, despite all this, I felt terribly empty inside.  I wondered ‘I have what I thought would make me happy – is this the best it gets?  If it is, it’s not so great!’  I started my spiritual awakening and found Faith Community Church. There I heard of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  I confessed my sins and declared that Jesus was Lord and my spiritual re-birth began.

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spiritt.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
                                John 3:1-17 NLT

So are you curious about anything at night? Let’s hope your curiosity doesn’t lead you to the garbage cans!  I can think of many things we are tempted with late at night that are the equivalent of the garbage can and skunk experience.   Like Tank and I, we don’t intend this curiosity to have such a negative outcome, but we should.  Please learn from me and DON’T go being curious near garbage – I’m thinking things like gossip, materialism & hate.   You can probably think of some others.  They always lead to STINK and DRAMA and no-one wants that.   I hope instead that if you are curious at night, you will find your curiosity causes you to explore and think differently about some social injustice that may be happening in your community or that your curiosity brings you to contemplate your relationship with God and your desire for spiritual rebirth.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Follow me (click the link to the right) and you’ll get an e-mail every time I post something new.  I hope to post about once a month.  Hope you’ll join me again in November!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Embarrasing Moments at Work

So, one thing I like about blogging is that it's an opportunity for me to 'keep it real' for the on-line world.  Of course, I post the best looking photos of myself that make me look at 'my thinnest' but I do try to let you all know what really goes on and not just post sugar coated pinterest worthy things.  So today's posts is one of those posts!

I used this story in my presentation at the Vendavo Pricing Summit in April 2016 and I also used this story in my webinar for the Professional Pricing Society in July 2016.  It's a good story, well I guess you'll be the judge of that, but regardless, I hope you enjoy it.

When I first started in my current job – contract center manager - I had the opportunity to attend an executive training course on negotiation skills at Harvard University.  I had only been on the job less than a month and was eager to improve my skills in negotiating.     So Harvard is not like most college campus’s.  It’s pretty intense and the people who hang out there are pretty intense.  My college days consisted of classes (in my Frye Boots and Calvin Jeans), studying (mostly at the library) and quite a few evenings downtown or at my sorority house drinking cheap beer and flirting with boys.  Where my son went to school in Clemson SC, it was much the same, only warmer and more sports events to attend.   

Harvard is a little different atmosphere.  Just arriving at the facility was intimidating.  The place reeked of ambition.  No Frisbee playing millennials here.  The courtyard was full of eager, hungry, ambitious 20 somethings all in designer business suits with smart phones and laptops (in briefcases - not backpacks!)  The class I was in had about 300 people.  They all came from different backgrounds, and many different nations.  As I chatted with people during the morning coffee hour I asked people 'What do you do?'  One guy said he negotiated hostage situations.  Another guy (with a foreign accent) said he negotiated border disputes.  The woman at my table said she had gotten her PHD from Harvard several years ago.  And there I was!  Little ole me, new to the job.  Thankfully the most I would ever negotiate was a pricing deal for semiconductor chips and not something where someones life depended upon it, but I felt woefully inadequate at that class.  I can't think of a more intimidating environment, but I was not deterred.  I joined in eagerly, hoping to learn and realizing I had a lot to learn.

So day 1, after lunch, the session was ‘Difficult Tactics and How to Deal with Them.’  I was given a small, quiet man as my partner.  We were the buyers.  We were negotiating against a large man with a booming voice and a slick, polished, sexy man.  They seemed like they knew exactly what they were doing.  My partner and I felt doomed.  Sexy man had on a tight shirt, tight pants and a skinny tie. His hair was perfect.  He was thin and muscular and he had more of a smirk than a smile. Large, booming voice man had a genuine smile and was friendly, but at 280+ pounds, 6 feet 5 inches (maybe more) he was a very intimidating presence.  I know I should not judge these people by their physical appearance, but I have to say, I was intimidated, whether I wanted to feel that way or not.  We did our best, but we knew we got beaten in the negotiation.... basically we caved and we caved often.

After we concluded our mock negotiation, the professor asked the 300 person audience, okay, show of hands how many of the sellers got $300,000 or more?  A handful of hands go up.  I slumped in my seat and hoped to disappear.  Sexy man jumps up eagerly.  The mike is handed to him.  He gleefully says, we got $450,000 with a loud excited voice!  I slumped further in my seat.  Can I tell you?  He wasn't looking so sexy anymore!  The professor says rather baffled, hmmm, I don’t think that has ever happened before, we usually don't get anyone paying more than the asking price of $350,000, please tell me more.  Sexy man goes on to explain how he and his partner achieved such a wild success.  The professor curiously asks, who were you up against? Who were the buyers?   More slumping, but of course, sexy man points to me.  There was no where to hide.  I embarrassingly explained a weak excuse and worked hard to convince the audience that even though he won the negotiation if it was the real world, I would not be a repeat buyer and my awful purchasing experience would cause me to go on YELP and other social media and trash his business.  

But the damage to my ego was done.  I actually thought my career was over as well.   There were 300 people in the class.  Did I tell you that I wasn't the only one from my company there?  Oh no, as luck would have it, there were other people from my company participating in the training.  My boss was there and ‘oh joy’ my bosses boss was there.  I thought for sure I would be fired!  I quickly and quietly exited the room at the end of the day and tended to my wounded ego.  When I got home (thankfully a short 20 minute drive) I grabbed a glass of wine, slumped under a blanket on the couch and called the dogs over.  Of course the dogs didn't want to sit with me, so I felt rejected again!   Bob was sweet and listened to my sad story and gave me a big hug. Some awful reality show must have been on and I watched for a bit and headed to bed early.  

I pulled myself together and went back the second day.  I tried sitting at the other end of the room so no-one would recognize me and thankfully had a much, much better second day at training.  By the third day I was my eager, ambitious old self with pages of notes and a few successful mock negotiations under my belt.  And thankfully I wasn’t fired.  Lucky for me, contract negotiations involve more than just good negotiation skills. Process and pricing savvy are crucial components as well.  I brought a lot of process and pricing expertise to the role, even if I didn't have a lot of negotiation skill at the start of the job. One of the biggest things I brought to the table was an ambitious attitude and I was willing to learn new things.

So what's the lesson I want you to take away from this? Don't be afraid to learn new things.  Don't be afraid if while you learn something new you make mistakes.  I learned a lot from those mock-sessions and the humiliation of discussing what worked and didn't work in a large audience of people in very different backgrounds.  Don't convince yourself that you are of lesser worth than others with fancier titles or better degrees.  Don't let someones physical attributes or dress intimidate you. Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time, even if they are designer pants or extra large (or worse extra small) pants.  Talk to yourself with kindness and know that your training and experience are valuable - even if they are quite different from others.  Learn, grow and never be afraid to try something new.  And like me, if it doesn't go so well, keep trying!

So, I hope you enjoyed my 'embarrassing moments at work' story.   Make it a great day!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Leaving and Cleaving

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.  Genesis 2:24

Hello friends,

Maybe I should say, hello stranger!  I realize it's been quite a long time since I've posted anything in my blog.  Have you missed me?  I have fond memories of blogging, but have found myself with a few life changes that have put blogging (and often crafting) at a lower priority level in my life.

No worries though... it's all good!  So, without telling you everything about my life today, let's just sum it up with this statement.... I had put my career on hold for the last 15 years as I raised my family and am happily now pursuing a career in pricing and finance.  I went back to work full-time a few years ago and for the last 18 months have been in a pretty exciting and demanding job.  What do I do?  Well, here is my elevator pitch.  I manage and provide strategic direction for pricing for strategic customers.  I have a small team and together we help the global sales and business unit managers succeed in pricing negotiations with a lot of pricing analytics and con-calls! My favorite thing to do at work is present and communicate and lately I've had lots of opportunity to do presentations at all levels of my organization  - from presenting to the c-suite, to presenting to the people who answer the quotes and process the orders.  I also have had a few opportunities to present to the pricing community.  Just last week I presented '5 ingredients for successful deal negotiations' for the professional pricing society on a webinar.  It takes a lot of preparation, but I love it!

I'm happy to focus most of my attention to my work and when I'm not working, I am trying to spend my free time not in front of a screen, thus the blog has gone unattended.

But today seems like a good day to update my blog post about a topic many of you, my blog readers, will face someday.  Today's topic is - 'How to beautifully and loving releasing your son to his wife.'

So my baby, my adorable and beloved youngest son Eric, got married in early June.   We adore his wife Jessa and have known her since she was 16 years old.  We had a glorious day celebrating their marriage and a few weeks ago we drove them to the airport (at 4am) and kissed them goodbye as they started their new life across the country in northern California.
On their way!  CA here we come!

We've known they were moving to CA since April, when Eric told us her was pursuing a job opportunity there.  For the last few weeks and months, many people have asked me how I feel about this move and while I must confess I am a little sad about it, the mature part of me knows it is a healthy and natural thing to happen.  When the sadness creeps in, I hold firm to the goodness of God and the wisdom of all those who have faced this transition before me.  So what does God's word say about this?  It clearly says that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.   I think we all know what leave means but what the heck does cleave really mean? Here is what Merriam Webster says
  1. 'to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly

So basically, what God's word says about this topic is that the wise thing to do is for a young couple to leave behind their lives as single people and join together with their spouse in a solidly new relationship.
I do's are done..... now onto the party!  Mr. and Mrs Eric Monroe...

They are so stinking adorable.   Love them both sooo much!
Part of me is sad that they are so far away (and in a different time zone) but it's fun to talk to them and hear all their new grown up adventures.  And it will be fun to visit them when we go this fall!  Since they only have each other and are starting out with new jobs, new apartment, new friends, it will actually be easier for them to leave behind their old single lives.  What won't be easy will be navigating through all the challenges of being young and poor and learning how to love each other and live together!  I have faith that they'll make it.  They are both wonderful people and solidly committed to loving each other with a real sacrificial love.  It won't be easy, but if they work at it, it will be worth it!  I pray for them and know God will meet their needs if they seek Him.

So what's next for my blog?  Well, I'm not planning to abandon it!!!!  Instead, I'll probably post once a month or so, so please do stay as a follower and leave me comments!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Cards

Hello friends,

Well, I did it.  I got all my Christmas cards finished and in the mail.  Every year I tell myself I'll start earlier, but every year I find myself scrambling at the last minute.  Hopefully all of them will arrive by the day after Christmas, maybe some will get there Christmas eve!

Speaking of Christmas eve, what are your plans?  We are heading up to Little Bear Lodge.  In the town of Bradford they are having a Christmas Pageant.  I do not know if I've ever been to a Christmas pageant, but I'm going to try to talk the family into going.  Its outside and involves kids, caroling, hot chocolate and animals.  I'll be sure to take pictures.  I'm guessing it's going to be adorably small town.

Since we'll be away for Christmas, we went to Christmas eve service last night (12/22.)  I know, isn't that crazy that they offer Christmas eve service on Christmas eve, eve, eve?  It was really nice.   There is a lovely church in Lexington, Grace Chapel, that I've been checking out.  They did a very nice service, lots of traditional music and an uplifting message.  I counted over 50 musicians - it sounded awesome as they led us all in traditional and modern Christmas hymns and carols.  Of course it was a candlelight service and of course we ended with silent night.  It was really nice.  I wish I could go back Christmas eve!!!  I'll be definitely going back in the New Year.

So, back to the cards.  Below are all the various designs I made.  For those that know me, I do not like make 'assembly line' cards, so I pick a few designs and make 4 or 5 of each.  Which is your favorite?

I'll be back with two more Christmas cards and a project to show you on Saturday December 26th for the papertrey ink blog hop.  

I wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas!  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Create along with us Papertrey ink

So one of the first Christmas cards I worked on this weekend was a card that was inspired by Papertrey Ink's December release.  Here is the card I made.

Below is my inspiration from Amy Scheffer.  You can see the details of her card on her blog.

I hope you are enjoying pre-Christmas festivities.  We had a fun weekend up in NH at Little Bear Lodge, our little cabin in the woods.  Sarah, Ivan, Eric and Jessa all joined us.  We found a great tree (at a nice last minute price) and did some very simple decorations on the tree.  We have a pile of pinecones still to add, once they dry and open.  We can do that when we are up later this week.  The lights are on and some red berry garland. We also added a bunch of white crochet snowflakes.  It looks rustic and pretty with the burlap and fleece tree skirt.

Sarah decorated this adorable sled she found at a yard sale this summer and it looks great under the sign Bob had made for us.  Even though there is no snow (and no expectation for snow this week) Little Bear Lodge is all festive.

After decorating, I got busy making cards.  I'll post them over the next few days.  Today we got to go for our traditional long walk.  To go to the top of the hill and down to the road again is 4.2 miles. Today we didn't go all the way, we turned around early, but it was a good 3.5 miles.  We don't bring Joey, he's not up for those long walks anymore, but Tank enjoyed the brisk winter air.  Don't you love the New England stone walls that are just out in the woods?  It's kind of a neat and unique feature of a walk in the woods in these parts.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Preparing for Christmas

Hi friends,

Well, Christmas is one week away and I have lots to do.  I still haven't made my Christmas cards, much less got them ready for the mail and I have not started holiday baking yet either.  Thankfully I have all of next week off from work, so if I get busy, I still can do these things - but the cards may not get mailed till Tuesday.  Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

I made a few Christmas themed cards a few weeks ago.  Let me show you those.

This first one is quite retro and fun.  I actually really like it and plan to make several more.

This one is a fun new image I found at a stamping store in NH.  There are two versions of this image on a card.  The first is a 'flat' image where I just color her outfit and face.

The second version is with the button.  In the store this looked super cool and fun, but now that I have the card in front of me, it looks weird to me.  It is a fun technique to add the 3 day element, but somehow I'm not a huge fan.  What do you think?
So, in addition to having some cards to make, I also have some baking to do.  I found the following fun Christmas food on pinterest.  I love chocolate covered pretzels, so I'm sure these will be delicious.  I also love that they are super easy.  

How do you make these?  Super easy.  I used Snyders butter pretzel squares.  Layer your cookie sheet with the pretzel squares.  Unwrap the rolos (this was the most time consuming part of the whole process) and put a rolo on top of each pretzel square.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes (250 degrees) then take them out and put your other pretzel square.  Smoosh it down.  After it's cooled, melt some white chocolate and dip the corner in.  Dip again in colored sprinkles.  Yum.

What else am I baking?  Betty Crocker Christmas cut-out cookies.  These will take much more time to make.  Make the dough, refrigerate it, bake the cookies, then frost them.  I usually set aside 2 days to finish these and every year I wonder if they are worth it, but I love them.  Best Christmas Cookies around.

If you want the recipe for these, here is the link.

Hopefully I'll get my cards & cookies made and my gifts all wrapped by Tuesday.  Then the rest of next week I can start reading some of the many books I've recently checked out of the library and relax a bit to start the Christmas vacation.  I have two work books ('Multipliers' and 'the Challenger Sale'), one social justice book ('Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria') and one self help book ('Thanks for the feedback') all on my shelf to read.  Oh and I have a few movies as well.   How about you?  What does your week before Christmas look like?

Stop back next week, if all goes as planned I'll have some cards and cookies to show you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Blue and Green Christmas Card

I was inspired to make two cards for the Papertrey Ink challenge so here is the second one.

This card uses soft stone card stock with white and shimmering white card stock with just an accent of Hawaiian Shores and Simply Chartreuse.  The stamps and dies are from Dawn McVey for PTI. This set is called Spruce and Sprigs.  At the bottom of the blogis the inspiration photo for the blog hop.

Thanks for visiting today.  Make it a great day.