Round Two: Your Definition and My Definition Differ Greatly

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Yesterday, early in the morning, I had my weekly one on one with the boss.

He’s in the US this week, so it was nice to have a face to face meeting. I have such respect and yes, I’ll say it, affection for my boss. He’s amazing.

I had a long list of items to discuss, and we jumped right into the fray.

It was a good meeting, much cussed, much discussed. Decisions made. Strategy set.

When I’d exhausted my list of items, I said to Boss Man, “so, do you have anything for me?”

He said he did. There were a couple small items. “No problem, boss, I’m on it.”

He continued,”Also, I wanted to let you know that I’m going to put you on a development plan.”

Then the world went molasses on me.

Oooooh. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

My hearing slowed down. My head swam.

I’ve been a manager for a long time. Development plan is a cute little Human Resources euphemism for “You suck, we’re trying to fire you, but we have to do a ‘development plan’ first to document what a toad you are.”

What had I done? In four months I already blew this gig?

Sure, I was a little blunt with that supplier, but damn, they suck at invoicing! And ok, I might have made a joke in a serious meeting, but that’s just my way. Everyone seemed to appreciate the moment of levity! And fine, I might have been late to work a few times this week, but that’s mainly because I was on seven in the morning calls with India, and I took them from home.

I’m not a perfect employee! But damnit! I work hard and my intentions are right!

While the edges of my eyes went wavy, and I tried to figure out where exactly I’d screwed the pooch, I noticed my boss was still talking.

“And so we’ll be working on this over the next month. Being new, you may not know that development plans are only offered to our top performers, so be aware that not all of your coworkers will be doing this same activity.”

Wait. What?

Oh. I see. “Development plan” as used at *this* company is a good thing.

Whew.

My heart can now regain regular rhythmic activities.

(And then I almost cried….but I held it in. A girl crying at work is sooooo uncool.)

Curse you PowerPoint!

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Oh how you vex me.

Sure, so the boss of my boss says….”Karen, put together a couple slides on [insert name of project here].”

And because I am that kind of employee, I say, “Yes boss!”

Then I when the boss is out of earshot, I sigh. Deeply. Loudly.

Then I make motions not unlike a cat would when being shoved into a mailbox.

Then I open up a blank PowerPoint screen with the company approved slide template.

And I sigh again.

It mocks me. The blank slide mocks me.

The company approved slide template has a graphic and logo running down the left side and the bottom of each page.

This takes up valuable real estate on every slide.

In this already limited space further limited by the corporate branding, I’ve been asked, essentially, to describe the d’être for my department.

My powerful team and successful program that was a decade in the making by my very talented predecessor.

I’m to boil that down to a few salient bullet points, format them in the corporate way and in corporate colors.

I have to make all the bullet symbols line up. And the font on every page should match in typeface and size. If I put in a table of numbers, all the numbers should line up like obedient school children.

I haven’t even BEGUN to discuss “transitions” where you have your text come swooping in or looping out or emerging from thin air. I hate transitions. I really, really hate them.

I’m not *good* at PowerPoint. There are some people in this world who can make magic happen with the PowerPoint software. Unfortunately I am not one of these people.

One would think with my creative mind that I’d be all up and over PowerPoint. Nope. See, the times when I’ve gotten clever in the ol’ PowerPoint, I’ve received dismissive looks and suggestions for edits. My sense of humor doesn’t really translate to the rigid slide format produced by the PowerPoint software.

No. Must maintain a professional attitude. Must use a tool with SO many moving parts it could make the Pope cuss (you suppose they use PowerPoint at the Vatican?).

Must do a good job on this as I’m only sixty days into this new job. Must help them continue to think I was worth hiring.

Must make PowerPoint magic.

Oh and did I mention…this all must be done by Monday?

Oh The Humanity!

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Side note:

I’d considered taking the week off from blogging because awkward commentary on awkward things seemed, perhaps, inappropriate after yesterday’s post.

But then I decided…well hell, writing this blog, no matter how trivial the topic, is what keeps me sane. I need to write something, anything, every day. And so, dear readers, despite my ongoing grief and my travel plans that will take me back to New Mexico for a few days, I’m going to try to keep on writing this week. Because it’s who I am.

Thanks to all for your support in comments and via email. Ya’ll rock.

And now, onward……

So I have a topic I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while.

I’ve not brought it up before because, well, I was dealing with all the emotions.

It’s essential that I my footing on this and make peace.

I don’t think it is any secret that I mostly use Apple products for my computing needs.

I had the great fortune to be able to use a Mac for work in my last three jobs, a time frame of almost fifteen years.

I have Macs at home. I have an iPhone.

Yes. I’m a Mac person.

Doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use the PC, I just haven’t had a lot of need to. Sure the occasional lookup on the PC at the library. Sometimes using my best friend’s machine to check email.

Not a problem.

Well. A month ago, I came to work on my first day, and into my hands they plopped….

A Dell.

Not just a Dell. A three year old Dell.

A three year old Dell that originally came with Vista but has since been blasted with some corporate approved version of some other member of the Windows family. I’ll be dag blarned if I can remember what it is.

(Because one click on the Apple logo in the upper left corner and it will tell me what OS I’m running, but I can’t find the similar on this machine. Oh wait…start….control panel….system…. Ah ha! Windows XP.)

The Good Man assures me that whatever the OS is on this machine is better than Vista.

Oh? So…ok.

I’m getting used to it, using this machine day by day.

It’s slow. It’s stodgy. It’s….well…it’s Windows.

I’m used to “hey, I wish this thingamabooper was over there instead of over here” and so I drag it over and off it goes, happier than anything, to its new location and it just does what it’s supposed to do.

Not so with my Windows. You have to find the thingamabooper in the right file and ask it nicely, maybe even coax it, to come over and perhaps make the transfer. Like a professional bureaucrat, it wants rubber stamps and approvals and nodding heads to let it know that, yes, it might be ok to be over there.

And it will go over there.

And then, later, it will go back to where it came from, without asking.

So okay. I’m adapting. It’s all just fine.

But I have a confession to make…

(I’m so ashamed.)

I find I really kind of like the ol’ right click. I never thought I needed more than one button on my mouse. It turns out…right click is pretty darn handy.

This whole PC thing is not so bad, really!

Sssh. Don’t tell Steve Jobs. He’d be so disappointed!

I Left My Heart….

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Wait. Where did I leave my heart?

If you are a Twitter type of person and you follow my tweets, you may have gotten some of-the-moment tweeting about what I’m about to describe.

There was an “incident” upon my departure from New Mexico about three weeks ago. I’ve tried to brush it off, but I find I cannot. I’m rather shaken to my core.

The executive summary is this: I got my heart broke by an eight year old girl.

And I may never recover properly.

I flew out to New Mexico for one of the annual “Chick’s Trips” that my best friend and I love to put together.

I came in on a Thursday afternoon and my friend picked me up at the airport. Earlier that day, her husband had taken their two daughters, my goddaughters, on a camping trip. He was out spotting elk for an upcoming hunt His girls are avid outdoors women, so they are able to help.

Fabulous. That meant some one-on-one girl time with my best friend in the world.

There was cussing. There was discussing. There was a trip to the Ruidoso Downs.

Big fun!

We all got back my friend’s house in Las Cruces on Sunday afternoon. I had to fly out Monday.

So Sunday evening I got to have some quality time with my little girls (who are not so little anymore).

I had a chance to chat with the older of the two, she’s ten, and has had some troubles with another girl at school. I wanted to make sure that going into fifth grade, she was holding up ok.

I got to sit next to the younger of the two, she’s eight, at dinner.

The next morning, the eight year old asked me to go on a walk with her out to look at her flowers in her yard. I told her I would be happy to.

As time will do, it went all slippery and got away from us. Nina Karen didn’t get her walk in with the younger goddaughter.

This all came to a head at the El Paso airport. We arrived a bit early and my kids wanted to come inside the airport to see me off.

Without delay, my younger goddaughter began insisting to her mom that she needed to come with me on the plane.

Her mom told her that she couldn’t come with me.

“But why!?!?” was the inevitable reply.

What followed was a long and persistent debate between mom and child about, logically, why she couldn’t just get on the plane and come home with me.

Then the tears began in earnest. My younger goddaughter began sobbing.

And that’s when the truth started pouring out….

“You and Nina Karen always go off somewhere and we never get to go!”

Early on, my friend laid down some age requirements for chick’s trips. Plus, sometimes Mama just needs a break.

“We always have to go with dad and you get to go have fun!”

Which isn’t very nice to the dad who is lots of fun. But he’s a boy and boy fun is different.

“Nina Karen always comes out here and we never get to go to California.”

Well, sure. Since I don’t have little ones, and I get awful homesick, I do tend to fly that way a bit more often.

“Other than her name, I don’t even know Nina Karen!”

Ok, that one hurt. That’s so not true, and she later apologized for having said it. But in that moment, she broke my heart.

She wasn’t done by a long shot.

I held my baby girl in my arms as she cried and cried, her tiny body racked with sobs. Of course, I started crying too. Then her mom was bawling. And her big sister was crying from the get go.

Four weepy girls all clutched together at the El Paso Airport.

I apologized to my girl and through tears she said she forgave me.

After a while, her sobs began to slow down. Then, time went and got us again. The long hand moved too quickly on the clock face, and it was time for me to leave.

I had to go home. But which home? My California home because The Good Man waited for me there. He is my heart.

But that little crying girl is also my heart.

I’ve never felt so torn between two places in all my life. It literally felt like being ripped in two.

I cried all the way through the security line, and the TSA man shooed me along.

Then I cried all the way through the terminal.

I used my phone to call my husband to tell him what happened, and started sobbing even harder.

With every tear, my heart broke a little bit more. Ground glass under a bootheel.

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to try to make this right.

My best friend is working on a road trip out here, maybe, to cut costs and make it easier for them all to come out here to California.

I’m working over in my mind a plan to go back to New Mexico. But when? Our weekends are booked through Labor Day.

I just know that I am as heartbroke today as I was three weeks ago.

The Hispanic culture embraces a concept called “Comadres”. Co-Mothers. Best friends are like mothers to each others children.

I don’t have kids of my own, but actually, I do. Those two girls are as dear to me as if I’d birthed them from my own body. I feel their pain, I revel in their joy. I would sacrifice for them with nary a thought.

Nina Karen has got to make things right.

I’ll tell you this, I’ll never again miss the chance to take a walk with my girls just to look at the flowers.

“Las Comadres,” a painting by Juana Alicia.

Word of the day: Obdurate

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ob·du·rate   [ob-doo-rit, -dyoo-] –adjective

1. unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding.
2. stubbornly resistant to moral influence; persistently impenitent: an obdurate sinner.

Ah obdurate. How I embody you so.

This word crossed my path again yesterday while watching an episode of Jeeves & Wooster, a fun British show that dates back to the early 90’s. The PG Wodehouse books date back much farther than that, some written in the early 1900’s and now in public domain (thus all loaded up on my Kindle!).

The Good Man introduced me to Jeeves & Wooster and I’m now hopelessly in love.

I love language and words, and Wodehouse certainly had a way with the Queen’s English.

So I sort of chuckled this morning when I turned to my blog idea generator, and this was the suggestion:

“When other people tell me what to do….”

Answer: I become obdurate.

I’m not proud of it. It’s just in my nature.

As the third of three kids born to a very smart and very in control family, I was “the baby” and thus everyone just, you know, told me what to do.

This certainly got me past many a hazard in my infancy, but there came a time, I don’t know what age, when damnit, I was tired of being told what to do!

So much so, that being told what to do made me act out.

It’s a trait that’s carried through to adulthood. In fact, it only became more deeply entrenched an increased in velocity.

One would think that this would make me a very bad employee. Actually, when it comes to managers I like and respect, I have no trouble being told what to do in the workplace.

No, Madame Obdurate is more of a home life kind of gal.

Which makes friends, family and loved ones *ever* so happy.

I find my tendency to dig in when someone tells me what to do really isn’t all that unique. It’s pretty much a go-to for most of us.

Because we’re all special little snowflakes, we want to do things our own damn way and I don’t care what you say and pa-tooey!

Yeah.

As I often say to my friends, you don’t have to be free of your emotional baggage, you just have to be self-aware about it.

See how I reel ’em in? Look at that face? Would she harm a fly? No, I don’t think so. But tell her what to do and WHAMMO! Obdurate all up in your grille!