Giving back

homestead girls xc 2015Remember that big trophy case in your high school? You know the one; it houses all the awards from sports and band and club competitions. It’s filled with statuettes and plaques and medals and team photos, and you always stop to look at it when you go back for a visit. Heck, my daughter’s school is big enough that it has a trophy case for each sport.

Except hers.

No matter how hard you look, you won’t find any awards on display for the girls’ cross country team, even though the team has historically been successful. Heck, this year alone they placed ninth at the state finals, piling up wins and places along the way. So where are the trophies? Where are the ribbons? Does the school hold girls’ xc in complete disdain?

Nope.

When I attended Awards Night, I saw all the hardware displayed in its shiny glory. One statuette must have been at least two feet high; it stood on the table like a beacon, luring the girls to come back for another season, another success. And that was only one of the awards. The spread on the table would have wowed anyone.

By the end of the night, it was gone.

That’s because the coaches felt that since the girls had earned them, they should keep them. They’ve made it a tradition to present each senior runner with one of the awards from the season, choosing according to some anecdote that matches each girl with a particular race.

These aren’t just the varsity runners; they’re ALL the senior runners. That includes seniors on JV who may never have earned an individual award in their high school careers. By the end of Awards Night, everyone had something to commemorate her contribution to the team.

That’s pretty selfless of the coaches, if you ask me.

After all, they’d have one impressive trophy case if they accumulated all that hardware in a single location. They could revel in their success every time they walked past. Look what we’ve accomplished! Don’t we produce great teams?! 

Instead, they tuck their successes away in their hearts and memories and give the credit to the girls who showed up every day and worked their tails off. To the girls who ran two and three and four hundred miles over the summer to stay in shape. To the girls who collapsed after crossing the finish line because they had nothing left.

Don’t get me wrong. The coaches worked their tails off, too. They poured hundreds of hours into the season–after teaching all day. They ran and biked alongside the girls. They gave up time with their families. They were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every practice and meet. They praised and prodded and encouraged, even when they were mentally exhausted. They earned those trophies, too.

That’s why giving those trophies to the girls means so much. The coaches taught the girls how to stretch, how to eat, how to race, how to persevere, but the most important thing they taught them was how to give back.

We gain so much more from giving credit than from taking it.

Thanks, Coach W and Coach B.

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Generationally speaking

young and oldI follow a blogger who writes about her challenges and opportunities as a 20-something in the workplace. Even though I’m not in her demographic (unless you count my 40-something as two of her 20-somethings), I generally find raw truth in her commentary.

When one of her posts popped up in my feed the other day, I noticed something.

Like me, she had taken  an unintended break from blogging.

Like me, she has made major life changes in the past year.

Like me, she has taken a new job in a completely new industry.

Like me, she is discovering the truly important elements of a career.

Sure, she’s half my age and sees life through a lens unclouded by experience and tradition. She’s fighting for recognition and I’ve got a long resume. She has future and I have history.

But you know what? We’re not all that different. In fact, deep down inside, we’re pretty much the same.

We want to make a difference.

We want to love what we do and where and with whom we do it.

We want people to judge us by our abilities and accomplishments, not our age, background, or gender.

What we really want is to be relevant.

So even though her writing centers on generation gaps (I’ll see her Gen Y and raise it my Gen X), reading her commentary constantly reminds me that the only real generation gap is in our minds. People are people. Let’s stop making judgments based on the folds of our skin (I refuse to call those things around my eyes wrinkles) and focus on the folds of our brains and the chambers of our hearts. Age is irrelevant.

Thanks, Kayla.

**Want to read her blog? Here’s the recent post that had me vigorously nodding my head in agreement: 5 Reasons Why…

And if you just delete the word “older,” you’ll find a guide to interpersonal relations, regardless of gender, HERE.

Linen and lace

MomSome women and their moms are peas in a pod. People describe them as cut from the same cloth, more of the same, me and mini-me. Not so in my case. My mom and I see the world differently, want different things from our life experiences, and have different comfort zones. If we’re cloth, I’m linen and she’s lace.

I long to explore other worlds; she works hard to make her own world beautiful.

I fight to prove my self-sufficiency; she has made a life taking care of others.

I paint a room in broad strokes; she focuses on the trim.

And yet, I wouldn’t be who I am without her influence.

She built a world that left me comfortable enough to explore others because I didn’t have to worry about my own.

She taught me what she knew: life skills such as cooking, running a household, caring for children, checking the details (although I’ve never, ever given a plant a milk bath since I’ve been on my own). Her care actually fostered my self-sufficiency.

And the rooms we’ve painted, both real and metaphorical, always look better when we work together.

We may be cut from different cloth, but we make a fine outfit.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Take heart

ImageIn a conference room, educators, administrators, and parents meet at a table. Suddenly, in the midst of their discussion, gunfire erupts nearby. At the moment of recognition, some reflexively dive for cover, while others spring from their seats and head toward danger.

I can’t shake this image.

What makes some people instinctively jump into the fray, even in the face of potential harm? I’d be willing to bet that at the moment of action, not a single person in that room thought about which path she would take. No one weighed the options. No one considered the risks. No one considered what was at stake. In that split second, each person simply reacted. For the first moment, gut instinct was the only driving force.

Please don’t misunderstand; I don’t believe one action was better than another in this case. The people who put themselves in harm’s way died, but they were heroes who tried to save others. The people who sought refuge rejoined relieved and grateful families, sparing them the searing pain of personal loss.  You can’t separate wins from losses in such a situation.

What I’m trying to understand are the reasons people react in such divergent ways.

I’m becoming convinced that in crisis situations, people’s actions are very often the reflexive culmination of their life experiences. Every day is preparation for the next; no action is wasted or forgotten by the psyche. Each one becomes a stone in a person’s foundation. Each one becomes a part of who we are.

If that’s the case, everything I do makes a difference in who I am. When it comes to my moment of truth, I want my foundation to be strong, regardless of whether I face danger or seek shelter.

This changes how I look at everything.

To the women who lost their lives confronting a dangerous man, thank you. Your willingness to stand between others and danger demonstrated courage and selflessness in a way none of us can fathom.

To the people who took refuge, thank you, too. Fewer families will be torn apart by the grief of losing a parent, child, spouse, sibling, or friend. Each spared life is a blessing to all of us; there is enough suffering in the world.

Ancient history

Last weekend, I had the chance to speak on behalf of my company at an event honoring our longevity in and contribution to the community. Aside from a mild (but quickly waning) apprehension toward public speaking, I also felt a frisson of delight about being our spokesperson.

I carefully crafted my speech, trying to find just the right mix of appreciation for the past and promise for the future. I felt really good about it and hoped it would go over well. Even knowing I was part of a larger event, I stayed pretty focused on the part that centered on me.

Of course, it wasn’t about me. It took all of thirty seconds after the doors opened to realize that I was just a tiny cog in that wheel. Former employees from all decades of the company’s existence poured through the doors, exchanging grins of delight as they took in all the once-familiar faces. The speeches became secondary–like polite pauses in conversation while a newcomer interjects a loosely related observation–conversational inconveniences affably accommodated for the sake of propriety.

The “real” program took place all around me in the form of reminiscent conversations. As I heard memories awakened and stories retold, I began to see inside my company to its bones. I saw its heart and soul, its hands and feet in the people and their stories. I breathed their excitement as they relived the early years full of inventions and patents and hope. I felt the warm mantle of their sense of common purpose, of family.

Yes, I know a lot about my company. I know the facts and figures and plans and strategies. I’ve even been here long enough to have experienced a few of the old stories myself. Still, I never expected the welling sense of pride those people gave me about the place where I work. It’s my heritage, too, after all.

The lessons I learned that day are these. Know where you come from. Understanding your past is a foundation for your future, whether you build on successes or learn from mistakes. Neither underestimate nor overlook the lessons others have learned. More importantly, companies are built on people, and people build companies. Honor them, learn from them, remember them. They brought you to where you are today; give them credit.

Walking on sunshine

I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day… Sunshine, on my shoulders makes me happy… Good day, Sunshine!

Last week, Love Life Infinity nominated me for a sunshine award. According to LLI, this reader-forwarded honor is “specially given to those who are earnestly inspire others by their inspirational ‘arts’  in the blogosphere.” Holy cow.

I never aimed for inspirational; I had set my sights on informative, interesting, and hopefully somewhat insightful. To be called inspirational is a bit overwhelming for me. Thanks, LLI!

According to the rules of the award, I must answer 10 questions and similarly nominate 10 blogs. It’s a clever way to turn people on to interesting reading material while helping fellow bloggers increase their exposure and, hopefully, their readership. Count me in.

–Aside: Word of mouth, btw, is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. Companies are just starting to figure this out. Check out WOMMA if you want to dig in.–

1. Who is your favorite philosopher?

Can’t really say I have one–unless it’s me, of course. 😉

2. What is your favorite number?

3. Or 9. Or 39. As if it matters.

3. What is your favorite animal?

I love dogs, especially big ones. I used to have a bull mastiff who stole my heart.

4. What are your Facebook and Twitter URLs?

Here’s my Facebook URL, but I’m fairly judicious about friend requests. On Twitter, I’m @tampyd. I don’t tweet a lot.

5. What is your favorite time of the day?

I love the dusk hours, when the sky settles into a rich cerulean blue. I see houses come alive with light as people return from the workday and gather at their tables or settle onto their sofas. It sets my imagination whirling, spinning stories of what might be.

6. What was your favorite vacation?

The best vacation EVER was my bicycle trip through Tuscany. My aunt and I celebrated our 100th birthday–her 60th and my 40th–together with my uncle and many new friends we made on the trip. Wonderful company, wonderful food, wonderful scenery, wonderful time. And where else can you get a really good cup of coffee for 90 Euro cents? And in a porcelain cup, no less! The very best souvenir from that trip was a fast friendship with Sally, whom I met on that vacation.

7. What is your favorite physical activity?

Running, when I’m really on my game.

8. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Water or coffee.

9. What is your favorite flower?

I love the smell of lilacs, the grace of calla lilies, the delicacy of lilies of the valley, the sunshine of daffodils, the elegance of orchids, the jauntiness of tulips, the cheer of Gerber daisies… I think I love them all, especially in big bunches or when they’re delivered unexpectedly to my door.

10. What is your passion?

Words are my passion, in all forms. A witty jibe, a carefully crafted sentence, a clever retort, a double entendre, or a straightforward “I love you.” Spoken or written, mine or someone else’s. (Usually someone else’s!) Grammar, spelling, syntax, reading, and writing all fit in there somewhere, too.

Blogs that inspire ME? In no particular order, each of these has touched me in some way, from tickling my funny bone to soothing my soul. Some are blogs and some are particular posts. You’ll note that I’m somewhat eclectic…

5 things to do today

People, Places, and Bling!

Get Write Down to It / Letters to my Treadmill

New Equus

Eurolinguiste

Daddy Drinks

Armstrong is probably guilty but it is definitely meaningless

Gen Y Girl

MWF Seeking BFF

Things I Have Learned from Running

Zucchini variations

Enjoy!

Self-addressed silliness

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a new practice rearing its ugly head at gift-giving events. As guests arrive and deposit their gifts, they are asked to address an envelope to themselves. The guest of honor takes these envelopes home and eventually deposits thank-you notes into them, needing only to slap a stamp in the upper right corner to make them mailable.

This offends me. Call me old-fashioned, but addressing my own thank-you note just seems crass and, well, lazy. I’ve bought a gift, added a card and pretty packaging, and happily delivered it to whichever event I was summoned. I don’t think it’s wrong to expect the recipient go to the “trouble” of writing my address.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m generally glad to share in the celebration. I don’t begrudge the gift, and I appreciate the acknowledgment. I guess what gets my goat is that this practice transactionalizes the whole affair–as if the gift and the thank-you fill a square instead of carrying specific meaning. Maybe self-addressing makes the acknowledgment process more efficient, but it certainly feels less sincere.

The next time I attend one of these events, I intend to skip the self-addressed silliness. If I receive a thank-you note, I’ll know it’s because the person cared enough to send it–not because I made it easy.

What’s next, a stamp?