To Lynn on Her Birthday

Dear Sweet Friend:

For this birthday, you will be getting the gift of life in a brand new body. The physical health and restoration your time on earth does not allow, you will receive in divine style. For what compensation your employers have long withheld, you are being promoted over their heads!

And yet, this is not the way you planned or expected things to go. It’s not what I expected for you either. And I’m selfishly disappointed that I won’t get to see you triumph over your many challenges in this life. But triumph you will in the next.

I just have one request. Will you write to me and let me know how you’re doing over there?

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How Much Should One Person Accomplish in One Day?

Seriously. How much should a mature, responsible adult accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day?

Let me qualify that.

How much should a mature, responsible, unemployed adult accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day? Has she done “enough” this day to justify her occupation of planetary space for one more day…

OK, I’m not being completely honest…

How much should a mature, responsible, unemployed, Type A adult personality accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day?

I’m still coming to terms with the realization that I’m a Type A. Years ago when the Type A/B designations came into popular consciousness, I easily lumped myself into the Type B bucket as I understood the personality definitions. To my understanding, Type As were high energy people who were always busy, always productive, and highly successful. That was not a definition that I associated with.

It never occurred to me to associate
my self-assessment as “lazy” whenever I wasn’t busy
or my guilt at not accomplishing some kind of measurable results every day
as the hallmarks of one who is a solid Type A. It took the insight of a homeless person to inform me that I am most certainly a Type A personality.

We were both looking for work at the time. That morning, I picked her up from her current place of residence–Union Gospel Mission–and drove to a local job fair. While sitting in my car, watching and waiting for the growing line of job hopefuls to shorten, she tagged my impatient body language and conversation under the circumstances as that of a Type A. And so she pronounced me to be! Right then, right there.

Did she know what preconceived notions she was challenging? What self-perceptions must I confront to answer this pronouncement?! What a complete shift in the concept of my own productivity would be required to accept this reality?

Yeah, OK. I give! I’m good with all that now.

So the question remains, How much should a mature, responsible, unemployed, Type A adult personality accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day? It’s 5:00 p.m., and I’m feeling like I haven’t done this day justice at all.

Wait. WAIT! I hear the mail truck…

Ah, yes! My TurboTax Home and Business 2013 software has arrived ahead of the promised delivery date, and I’m going to get right on it. I’m good!

Sorry to have bothered you while I doubted my productivity on this particular day…

I’m Back

And you know what that means.

I can once more characterize myself as “UE” or Unemployed. As an independent, who has only been offered (and accepted) contract positions for the past seven years, I’m not sure I can legitimately characterize myself as unemployed, laid off, let go. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that I still haven’t learned how to make it seem otherwise.

Let’s back up. I am more than grateful that my most recent contract dovetailed so perfectly into the one before that. I never took for granted the fact that I managed to parlay one, then two contract gigs straight into a third. The result is that I was serially employed for 28 months!

… without any substantive time off. Sorry, in all honesty, I just had to throw that in there… the fact that the time/money tradeoff always taints the unemployment angst.

But back to being “back.” Because this development is so fresh, I propose to take you with me on this latest adventure in real time. It’s only been since Thursday, December 5, and I have many curiosities to share already.

Let me get back to you on that…

Confession: I have a Fine Arts degree

The time has come. With much trepidation, I am outing myself. I am divulging a professional secret that I have kept closely guarded from my colleagues in Technical Communications and even more so from colleagues outside of TechCom.

Never mind that almost every one of my generation came into technical communications from some other discipline by default. That is common knowledge. But for many, those disciplines were English, Engineering, Computer Science. Something that logically lent itself to the transition. How does one command credibility as a TechCom professional with an Art degree as academic background? What could be more frivolous?

Well, TechCom is my “third career.” The third incarnation of my professional self. But I earned a BFA in Fabric Design. There, I said it.

What the heck does one do with that? And more to the point, does anyone even know what it is? I’m still proud to say that I was privileged to work in my chosen field as a designer. I designed carpet for a major manufacturer. I actually got to use my degree to make a living!

My second career move was involuntary. I started the layoff roller coaster early in my professional life. I moved or fell into computer graphics pretty much at its inception. I cannot say that my Fine Arts degree was of much help in this field, but I can’t say that it wasn’t either.

And when I finally moved into Technical Writing, I was sure that my resume looked like I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. There was no plan to it at all! But it began to feel right. And as I embraced that strange reality, I was surprised to see how it all fits together. It does make sense!

I am a writer now. I am an editor. But that does not mean that I’m not still creative! It doesn’t mean that my artistic ability and training aren’t brought into what I do everyday.

My canvas is still the same blank page.

Only my tools have changed. Words are my tool of choice. My skill is expressed in my very own unique combination and molding of words to my own device. Both professionally and personally.

To those with a limited perception of what Art is, I assert:

I am a writer and I have an Art degree.

I have an Art degree and I am a writer.

I LOVE rain!

For the second week in a row, tepid Texas skies provide the moisture that my yards and plants and soul need to survive.

The overcast skies that some find depressing are to me the harbinger of Nature’s provision for its own.

In the clouds I find hope.

In the thunder I find promise.

With the rain I find an outpouring of Grace and a reminder that He will provide. 

In this flood of knowledge I find peace.

Completion: A Capable Death*

Cora died yesterday. Her sudden passing has caught everyone by surprise. She only just turned 50 – What? a year ago?

Cora and her husband, Scot, are friends from church, with whom I have numerous connections. As church members who live in the same part of town, we are in the same Care Team—members who help other members “in our own backyard.” Scot can be quite handy actually, if you have an electrical or computer problem to solve! But both of them have also provided support to me through periods of physical and emotional challenge.

I first got to know Cora in the alto section of Fellowship Choir. Cora is one of those people who are annoyingly upbeat all the time! 🙂 Cora was a great supporter of the church music program. She proudly claimed to be a devoted “ding-a-ling” in the adult handbell choir. And she had a soft spot for the Strings of Faith—an instrumental/vocal ensemble that I am privileged to sing with.

Professionally, Cora was most recently the Director of Technology at the Alzheimer’s Association in Fort Worth. She’d been there for 10 years! She and Scot are both admitted computer geeks. I know she loved the work that she did.

But late last year, she told me that she’d left that position to explore other things. I was astonished, but congratulated her on her new-found liberty from corporate existence. She said that she had to get away from the stress. What? That didn’t sound right. Cora loved the IT environment. She thrived on it.

She also said that she had actually thought about me a lot since making that change… what I had gone through in my latest, long-term confrontation with unemployment and how I had come to realize that I had something to say and I had to say it… how I had found purpose in putting my thoughts into words in my own unique way. Indeed, she has been a devoted reader of the blog that I launched as a result.

When she told me that, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but I took it as a compliment. I also did not at all connect what she said with the fact that we were at a church luncheon where the presentation topic was on wills and estate planning.

Cora died yesterday. At the time of her calling, she was with her mother, Elizabeth, who is in an assisted living facility. As an only child, who lost her father about the time I began to know her in Fellowship Choir, Cora has been her mother’s mainstay and in fact, the glue that has held their widespread, international family together since her father’s passing.

What better place for Cora to be than with her mother when Cora left us? I wonder whether Cora would have been with her mother yesterday if not for the fact that the facility called that morning to say that Elizabeth had fallen. I think God arranged for Cora to ascend this life from her mother’s side, from whence she came to this earth.

And I think that Cora knew. As surprising as her passing is to the rest of us, I think Cora knew it was imminent. Whether she knew that she knew, she cooperated with God to the last second to accomplish his plan for the completion of her life.

Years ago I experienced the tragic loss of a friend who was only 32 years old. She was broadsided in traffic by a more powerful vehicle, though it was likely her own fault. I so struggled to make sense of this death of such a young person. In God’s mercy, I was already in a ratio-emotive behavioral therapy group to deal with ongoing depression. Through therapy exercises, I came to the realization that death—at any age—is the logical and natural completion of a life on earth.

Death is a homecoming. Death is coming full circle. Death is the fulfillment of God’s grace to us.

Some people don’t need as much time as others to realize completion. By our earthly estimation, Cora left us prematurely. But she left in God’s perfect timing. On Easter Sunday—the one Sunday of the liturgical year when you are the least likely to get a seat in church—Cora will have the best seat in the House.

Godspeed, my friend Cora.

*I’m not sure why this title is appropriate, save that my Muse tells me so. Let Merriam-Webster be your muse to determine its personal significance to you in processing this story.

What Do I Want?

I was just surprised to receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate in appreciation for a presentation that I gave last month for my local STC chapter (Lone Star). This was my first time to be “the speaker” at a monthly meeting and therefore a professional milestone. After 12 years of STC membership, I knew that speakers agreed to present at their own expense (even the ones from out of town). But I also knew that the chapter typically presented an appreciation gift to the speaker.

I had no idea that it would amount to $50! especially for a “local” speaker. So I was surprised to receive the gift by way of email yesterday.

It’s an interesting coincidence that just last month I sent an Amazon gift certificate to a friend in honor of her 60th birthday. Prior to that purchase, I had placed my first ever order on Amazon for 2011 tax software. Other than these two purchases, I am not familiar with Amazon at all.

But now I have the opportunity to purchase $50-worth of anything I want from Amazon! The problem is that I have no idea what I want or where to begin.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I am not a shopper. So window shopping, or its present day equivalent, browsing, I just don’t find to be inspirational nor a good use of my time. Besides, with the breadth of Amazon, I think I could easily start down that path never to return…

I am not someone who always has the goal of her next acquisition in mind. My goal is to satisfy my financial obligations and ultimately, to have financial security, whatever that is.

I am not an extravagant person. While I do claim to have educated taste and to enjoy things and experiences of sophisticated quality and value, somehow I don’t have a list-in-waiting of “things” I need to satisfy those abstract desires.

I want to be comfortable in every sense.

I want to be sated with good quality, well-prepared food .

I want to be challenged and ultimately gratified in meeting the challenge in my professional career.

I want to be respected.

I want to be accepted and embraced in all of my uniqueness.

I want to be celebrated despite the fact that my birthday is on February 14.

But … I just can’t figure out how to buy any of these things on Amazon.

And that’s because my wants are simple. My wants are basic.

In other words, I just don’t “want” anything that can be bought on Amazon. Either I already have what I want or

I need to keep shopping.

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