Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Didn't I Hear Back From You?

Communication is a funny thing. It takes a commitment from both sides. If you ask someone a question whether in person, by text, by email, or in a letter you hope for a response. That's seems pretty natural and not asking too much. Some people see the effort you put in to the question or conversation and respond accordingly; others will almost always leave you hanging. Why do you suppose that is?
I'll admit, by nature, I am a detail oriented person. Whether it's a personal email or a work-related one, if I make an inquiry or extend an invitation or even just start a conversation I hope for a timely response (I suppose it would be too pushy of me to expect it?). Some people I know see the effort that goes into things and they respond, others for whatever reason don't bother. I certainly understand the demands of busy schedules; my calendars and To Do lists would be mind-boggling to some.
To say that how people respond (or don't) could be correlated to being a generational thing, to me, is just an excuse. Some people (young or old) are quick to ask a question, but when you reply, they leave it at that. They don't comment, they don't respond; basically they leave you wondering if they even received your response or if they did are they upset or just being nonchalant about it. If you follow through on it you may eventually get caddy responses like: 'Sorry, I'm just so busy, you wouldn't understand' or 'I thought you'd know.' Really? Are we suddenly expected to be mind readers? I don't know about you, but my crystal ball is a bit cloudy. Perhaps we didn't give them the response they were hoping for so they've simply moved on.
Should we have to ask people to be courteous? Must we include disclaimers in our messages like, 'Please respond so I can get a proper head count for the event', 'Please respond so I know whether to keep time open in my afternoon for you', 'RSVP', or 'Please confirm that you received my response'? I can see some of those being appropriate if it's work-related or you're trying to meet a deadline, but on a personal basis it would seem petty. But then, if we're being honest, many of us wish we could be more blatant and say what we are really thinking. Of course, lol, if you're a blogger you've created a platform for yourself to be able to say things without really saying them. Kind of like a subliminal message that works IF the right people take the time to read it.
So what has been your experience? Are you good about responding to people in a timely fashion? Do you consider the value of the other person's feelings or schedule? Do you experience people not responding to you? How does that make you feel?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's About More Than Chicken

This past week my husband and I celebrated 34 years of marriage. Our children are either married or away at college so we are still adjusting to the empty nest syndrome. We threw caution to the wind and left for one night away at Frankenmuth, MI (Little Bavaria as it's commonly referred to). If you've never visited Frankenmuth you really need to Google it and then go for a visit. There's the traditional homemade chicken dinners with yummy sides of buttered noodles, mashed potatoes with the occasional lump just so you know it's real, stuffing, veggies, soup, assorted salads and breads, and then finally you top off the meal with a small dish of soft serve ice cream, but always topped with a plastic camel, mermaid, or figurine rather than a cherry. It's a time-honored tradition.

On this visit we had a terrific waitress named Jan. She was strong (especially when she lifted the heavy trays), but a real people person. We were one of her final tables for the night so we weren't in any sort of hurry. We started chatting about life, people, problems with the world, and ways the world could be a better place. Jan is not just a waitress at the world famous Zehnder's restaurant, Jan is also an 8th grade U.S. History teacher at an inner-city school. She is passionate about her job and really wants to make a difference; one student at a time. As we chatted we discovered she'd had one student who was 15 years old and was being tried as an adult for murder. She also had a student who was finding his way out of his predetermined life and was receiving a full scholarship to MSU. Jan had seen the full scope of possibilities and downturns in this school district, yet she is still driven and passionate about making a difference; one student at a time. Along the way she teaches life lessons; what is acceptable and what's not, manners, and respect. You need to take pride in whatever you do and give it your all. You will never be given respect if you don't first respect yourself.

We couldn't help but ask why, after a long stressful day at school, she was moonlighting at a very busy restaurant in the evenings. The answer was clear; one that we hear way too often in today's society. The teachers in her school district had taken a 9% pay cut to help with a budget deficit. There are often many misconceptions about teachers. Sure there are some who've been in the system long enough that they are making decent money, but many teachers today (with both bachelor and master degrees) are not making a fraction of what they should. Of course, people will say it's an EASY job and you get summers off. Sure an average teacher has 6-8 weeks off during the summer, but many teach summer classes, continue to tutor, take on outside summer jobs, coach sport teams, teach driver's education, etc.
In Jan's case she took on the 2nd job year round as a waitress so she could still keep up with her mortgage. My son and daughter-in-law are also teachers. I know MANY teachers that attend my church. Teaching is a job that demands respect; they have a great deal of responsibility in helping to raise our children. We've been blessed to have had some amazingly devoted teachers pass through our children's lives over the years; teachers that made a HUGE impact.
So how did we leave the evening? We'd gained some insights into a common problem, we listened to someone else's perspective that we didn't know, and we left a sizable tip as a thank you (that sparred a whole new conversation). Jan didn't take anything for granted and was extremely thankful.
Not every blog post will have the promise of a hidden gem of intuition that is priceless, but that's life ... no guarantees. I write about real life ... my life. I write about what I know and what I observe and hope that others can connect to it. The moral of this post? When you take pride in yourself and your work, the respect will come. Do the right things first and foremost for yourself and hope that others recognize your diligence.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Autumn Is Upon us

It is that time of year when the yellow busses are out making the rounds in the early morning hours, some of the nights are getting a little cooler, holiday decorations are changing in the department stores, and football is underway.
So what are your favorite parts of autumn? The trips to the cider mills? The 'pumpkin' everything at Starbucks and Tim Horton's? The thrill of a touchdown and hopefully the marching band playing a high school halftime show? What about the change of tree colors that will arrive in the next 30 days or so? There are A LOT of great things about the upcoming season. I actually look forward to putting on a light sweater. I think I am just about done with wearing my shorts and showcasing my 'extremely white legs'.
Every season has it's downfalls though. For many the summers can be too hot, the winters are too cold and snowy, and the springtime causes too much coughing and sneezing. But what about autumn? I LOVE the fall! I love having the windows open again. I love the splendor of the tree colors. I love going for walks and hearing the crackling leaves under my feet. What do I not care for? Hmm ...
While I do enjoy college and professional football and having a game on in the background while I do something else I don't care for the attitudes and showboating of many professionals. Players get paid A LOT of money, most of them anyway, but when some score a touchdown they showboat with a ridiculous little sidestep or salsa and (in my mind) look completely ridiculous. Okay, so they got a touchdown ... isn't that in their job description? Isn't that what they're being paid to do? I understand being caught up in the moment and being excited; that's the sport, that's adrenaline. Showboating with a rehearsed dance, to me, makes them look immature, cocky, and kind of dumb. Now there's a roll model, huh?
Maybe when the cement worker finishes laying a seamless new driveway he should break out into a waltz or a gliding side step to show everyone how 'smooth' his moves are. Maybe when a college student aces a midterm they should start a line dance down the hallway. We don't see baseball players choreographing their celebrations when they hit a homerun. A basketball player will execute a slam dunk and maybe high five his teammates. So why do football players (guys who will mostly only play 16 actual games in a season) feel the need for the hype? Why do they need to capture the attention of the nearby cameraman? Is it because they only play once a week? Is it because their seasons are so much shorter compared to other professional sports? Does it give them less time to attract sponsorships and fans?
I may be a suburban housewife who works full time, writes a blog, has raised her children, adores her granddaughter, does a great deal of fundraising, and takes dance classes on the side but I do know that I find it annoying to watch a grown man prance around like a peacock displaying his colorful feathers. Will it ever change? Most likely, not. Most likely neither will my opinion.
What do you think? Does it bother you? Do you enjoy watching it and learning a few new dance steps? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Going Back To School

Flipping the calendar from August to September represents more than just the start of a new school year for kids, their teachers, and bus drivers. It's also the start of a new season for parents; funny thing is it doesn't matter if you're the parent of a 2nd grader or a college student. My youngest packed up last week and headed back to college for her senior year. As the parents of a last child going through the process there are a lot of things that will change; some we're glad for, others not so much.

My husband and I were thrilled that we did not have to tote a mini-fridge or microwave this year; especially since her campus apartment does not have an elevator and she's on the 3rd floor (that's 35 steps up and 35 steps back down, but who's counting). We're certainly not saddened that we'll never have to complete another FAFSA form. There has been a realization this past week, though, that while the routine has seemed extremely familiar it also seems a bit nostalgic. It's a big year; for her and for us. She has a lot on her plate this year with musical performances, classes, internships, a pep band job, and being the president of a new school club ... oh and just to add more into the mix she's hosting her own radio show once a week. 

For my husband and I, we have another 2 semesters to help prepare us for our empty nest (good thing we really like each other). Of course, she's more than welcome to come back home after graduation (at least til she's ready to start the next phase of her life). So what did we do this past week? We helped our daughter move back to school. Once in her room I did, once again, what I've done for her and her brother on move-in day each and every year at college ... I unpacked the linens and made the bed, then took her to the grocery store and bought her a bag of groceries. For the first week, at least, I have complete peace of mind that she has a comfy, clean bed and food to eat for breakfast. From here on out it's her responsibility to remember to eat and make her bed (fortunately she is a neat freak and always keeps her room organized and clean ... proud mom moment).

I remember when my son had his first move-in day at college (back in 2004). We pulled the car up to the curb and were given 10 minutes to unpack EVERYTHING onto the lawn, then move the car. We could take as long as we needed then to transfer everything to his room. I stood in awe and watched some parents unpack their car, hug their child (young adult), then drive away and leave them standing there alone with all their stuff in a giant pile on the lawn. I can't tell you how many 'piles' I supervised for kids I didn't know just so they could start making trips to their room. It was their first clear moment of panic. I always believed that the responsibilities of being a parent didn't end when the child turned 18 or you dropped them off at their college, but maybe I am old-fashioned.

Next spring when our daughter graduates she will walk across the stage and receive her diploma and afterwards we'll hug and look at each other and say, 'We did it!' Okay, maybe 95% of the credit will be hers, but the other 5% will go to my husband and I (for the packing, the unpacking, the carrying of mini-fridges and microwaves, the financial assistance, the pep talks, the Sunday dinner leftovers packed in Tupperware containers, the mailed cards with encouraging words, and the homemade treats - enough for her AND all the roommates.)

So here's to another year. May it be an exciting one full of good challenges and lots of memories.