Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Countdown, continued

I'm in vacation countdown mode (two weeks and two days, to be exact) but the stress of getting everything done between now and then is either going to kill me or make me twice as ready for some time away! I'm in the process of hiring two employees for a grant at work, and of course the entire process is finally happening just in time to coincide with vacation. I'll be making the job offers on Friday, finishing up their training curriculum and orientation (new position, new process in our clinics, totally uncharted territory) and they will start the day I come back from vacation - no stress at all.

I passed my written scuba exam with a 98% (missed one out of 50) and Dave and I will get a couple more Saturday pool sessions in before we leave. I've also been working hard to get back to summer weight (and better muscle tone) with regular cycling and cross training classes - nothing like knowing I'll be wearing a swimsuit to get those priorities in check!

Tonight is Pancake Night for me and Jace, our regular Wednesday night tradition - now he's the one that's making the pancakes, which is nice for both of us! I'll treat myself to one pancake, and then some fruit and yogurt in addition.

Then I'll start tackling my list for the rest of the week - dog baths, continue painting file cabinet, laundry and some other cleaning. I stayed at work late last night in order to get some things done and take off half days tomorrow and Friday for Jace's spring break. Looking forward to spending some time with him, I think we'll go see a movie of his choice. Next week we're heading to St. Louis for the opening day Cardinals game, with Jace and my dad. I may have to work this weekend to make sure I can take off Thursday next week. Just have to keep reminding myself that I'll be relaxing on the beach in 16 days and counting!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Remembering Mom, 2011

Today would have been my mom's 70th birthday. I think about her almost every day, almost thirty years after her death - not in a sad way, necessarily, but mostly just in passing- when something happens or I see something that reminds me of her.

There are so many memories that I hold on to – it is likely that I would remember many of these things anyway, but I think I hold on to them tighter because they are what I have had to remind me of her, and to keep her a part of me.

My mom wasn’t an outgoing person, as far as personality goes – she was quiet and introverted. My sister Ann, who was only four when Mom passed away, reminds me of her the most, from what I can remember. Ann and Susan’s looks, their profiles and mannerisms (and their body type – that darn thin frame!) are so similar to her.

But I see her in so many other things, as well - her love of music has stayed with my brother and me - Rob has learned to play the guitar that she had when we were little, and he is so talented. I love the piano, and can still remember many of the songs she played for us in the evenings mom and her side of the family.

I didn't go back and read what I've blogged about her in the last couple of years. I have probably written about some of these things before, but they are some of my favorite memories, and it is nice to remember them again tonight:

  • We moved to St. Clair when I was five, and our house had a library with bookshelves and the grand piano that Mom found and stripped and refinished by hand. We grew up calling it the "music room”, and I remember sitting with Mom at the piano many times, while she would play and we would all sing. That room is probably the one that I remember most from my childhood, and my favorite room growing up. I still play the piano when I'm home for holidays, sometimes with the lights off, just enjoying the solitude and the music.

  • We had a huge garden, with green beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatos, cantaloupe, potatoes, AND strawberries, my favorite. Probably even more kinds than that, but I can’t remember. She canned so many things, and made strawberry jam, which is a favorite of mine to this day. Plus there was a flower garden down at the bottom of the hill, with a million zinnias – always loved those.

  • Mom made most of our clothes, and our Barbies' clothes, too. Somewhere there’s a GREAT Halloween picture with me, Susan AND Robert dressed up in witch costumes that she made us for trick-or-treating (Ok, Rob – we’ll call yours a WARLOCK costume!).

  • Her love for reading - she took us to the library in our home town every week, and I would always come home with stacks of books (30+ years later, that hasn't changed for me).

  • I remember when she sat me down and read me a book and explained to me about being adopted, when I was four - I still have the book.

  • She loved to cook and bake, and had so many wonderful recipes - we had homemade bread every day - and would actually consider it a treat to have to have store-bought bread every once in a while!

I think about Ann and Rob reading this... I know Ann was so little, and she wishes she could remember more. I was just lucky that I was the oldest, and can remember some things - I know Ann remembers the doughnuts she used to make on the weekends.... but does anyone else remember when Mom made liver burgers one time, trying to fool us into thinking they were regular hamburgers? Or the chocolate chip cookies she made so often, that had grated carrots as one of the main ingredients? Those were awesome, and we never did mind that there were carrots!

But some of my treasured things that I think Mom must have liked, I've really just made guesses about... she had a Simon & Garfunkel Greatest Hits album, and Ann has it now... I'm assuming she must have really liked them, enough to buy the album, and hearing them always reminds me of her - but were they really one of her favorites? Or what did she think about some of the books/authors that were on her shelves?
Not that those are "her", or even the things that really matter; they're just some of the little things that we lost when we lost her... that "not knowing" anything after 1982. There are so many things I'd like to know, her thoughts or feelings about things that I wouldn't have known to ask about at age 11 and will never know.

I think that's probably the biggest thing that hits home with me now is that I am getting close to the age that Mom was. I think about Jace, and how he is now just a year older than I was when my mom passed away... I don't feel like I could have possibly been as young as he is now, but I was. NOT that I'm planning on going anywhere in the near (or distant) future, but still - if that were the case, have I given him enough to remember me by? Have I given him the good stuff?
I know my mom did that for us, and I hope that Jace could say the same about me. Of course I've made some mistakes along the way, I'm definitely not as patient as I could be, and on and on. But for the most part I think I've been a good parent and role model so far to Jace, and I'm very proud of him. Thanks for your part in that, Mom, in what you taught us and gave us in your time here. We love you and miss you, today and always.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bring on the Woo!

I had dinner tonight with a friend that I served on a community board with a couple of years ago. It was great to visit with her about work, she is on the physician recruitment side at the other large health system in town, and I am on the physician clinic operations side at our health system. We had a great time catching up on personal and professional topics, and it was nice to be able to "talk shop" with someone about the challenges and rewards in health care, particularly now that I'm in a new position within our system. I was talking about being the "newbie" in my area, and my struggles of learning just how and where I fit on the team. My comment was that I bring a lot of interpersonal strengths to the team but I am definitely learning about the finance and technology portions of clinic operations management. My background and inherent strengths are more geared towards team building, employee satisfaction, and communication.

Her reply was "Yes, but you bring the 'woo' to the team, remember!?" When she and I served on the board together a couple of years ago, one of the first things the president coordinated was a team building exercise based on the book "Now, Discover Your Strengths", by Marcus Buckingham. As we prepared for our year of leadership, we each took a strengths profile, and learned how our different personality types interacted with others in our group.

After my dinner with my friend tonight, I came home and pulled out my book to review it. I've taken a couple other personality profiles during my years in leadership, and all of them have profiled me in a similar fashion. This particular profiling system had 34 key strengths, and out of these my five core strengths were:

  • Communication - you like to explain, describe, host, speak in public and write. This is your Communication theme at work.
  • Empathy - you can sense the emotions of those around you. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with their perspective, but you ancipate the need... you help people find the right phrases to express their feelings... for all of these reasons other people are drawn to you.
  • Input - you are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information- words, facts, books and quotations, or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, etc. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories, but to add more information to your archives.
  • Positivity - you are generous with praise, quick to smile and always on the lookout for the positive in a situation. Some call you lighthearted. Others just wish that their glass was as full as yours seems to be. You inject drama into every project, celebrate every achievement, find ways to make everything more exciting and more vital.
  • Woo - "woo" stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them, want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport.

I had to laugh, because so much of this is unequivocally ME! From a personal standpoint, Dave always likes to tease me that I'm "all about the party" - I love meeting people and talking to them. We initially discussed the option of just renting a house with our friends in Honduras, but he knows that I'm all about the resort life, meeting new people and connecting with them. And I am definitely an "information gatherer", both in work and in my personal life. I don't collect tangible items, it is the intangible information that intrigues me... give me some good non-fiction or a night of music trivia and I'm thrilled! (Garry Dykes, you're still the man, I aspire to be half the music trivia guru you are!)

But from a professional perspective it was also nice to review all of this tonight, and find some encouragement in these positive traits and strengths that I bring to my new job... it has been a long and exhausting week, with many things that were challenging for me. I had a couple of financial discussions with physicians, and numerous other obstacles to tackle this week, and I'm so glad it is Friday, and I'm looking forward to a couple of days of relaxation with my family. TGIF, people!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Four weeks from Friday we start our vacation, a.k.a. my 40th birthday trip - not that I'm counting the days down or anything. I'm very excited - we know it is going to be a different trip than our wedding trip in Jamaica, as far as the type of the resort. Most people that I tell about our upcoming vacation have never heard of Roatan, with the exception of divers, most of them are familiar, as the island is one of the top 10 dive locations in the world.

Our friends Shawn and Lucas have been there two times in the last 18 months, and the pics on her blog look awesome. I pulled her blog up the other night (it is a private site, so no sharing it on here!) and let Dave read all about their week there in December. She's such a great storyteller, and that trip was no exception - so many fabulous pictures and stories of their time in Roatan, it was exciting for us to see all that they did, and know we'll be right there very soon, enjoying the beach, the relaxation and the diving.

Here's a link to the resort website, Bananarama Dive Resort . The accomodations look simple but clean, the resort is small and the owners are actively involved in day to day resort operations. We've checked out all the ratings on Trip Advisor, looked at the feedback from other guests on there (both good and bad reviews, but mostly good) and I feel like we know what to expect. That seems to be the main issue with any negative reviews - people thought they were getting a different experience than what they had - were upset about bugs, or the fact that the resort is on generator power, or that there is only one "fancy" restaurant on the resort, or that things are usually quiet on the resort by 10 or 11 at night. But we know these things going in, our expectations are reasonable, and we're ready to relax and have fun with our friends Rick and Jan!

I'm taking my written certification test for SCUBA this Saturday afternoon, so busy reviewing for that this week. Paige will be home for spring break starting Saturday, so we're looking forward to seeing her and having a nice weekend with all three kiddos. I'm also going to have to go pull all my summer clothes out of storage, and determine a very small but versatile amount of clothing to take on vacation. Our diving gear (fins, masks, wet suits and Dave's vest) will be one of our two checked bags, and we're going to try to make all of our clothes (and my toiletries) fit in the other suitcase and carry-on. I always overpack, so this will be a new challenge for me, to keep it pared down to minimum. Better start now, only four weeks to get this all sorted out- ha!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Second-Guessing: A Personal Hangup

Here's our newly renovated game room:

(Still have to paint that lateral file cabinet on the right)

It isn't quite the same as having a huge basement, but we're still pretty happy with the transformation of our third bedroom into a second living area - and no, the new carpet isn't pink, but it does look that way in the picture. Speaking of pictures, I certainly wasn't looking for one of The Godfather, but I couldn't resist when I saw it. This is one of those movies that guys love, and Dave is no exception. Seems like it is always on TV, and I know if Dave sees it on the menu, we'll be watching it. So it was a perfect choice for the room; Jace thinks it is so cool, he now has it as his wallpaper on his phone.

Finishing this room has been fun, and has made me reflect on one of my most frustrating personality traits - and find some satisfaction on having a bit of success with it. Hi, my name is Nancy and I'm a procrastinator. I regularly second-guess my decisions and change my mind. Not about everything, and amazingly, not even really about BIG things. But there are some smaller, less important things that tend to waylay me every time. Looking back on past projects (home projects, not so much at work) it is easy to see my M.O. - if I'm not sure how something will turn out, then I just wait... and wait... and wait. Case in point is the hanging of pictures.

Thinking back on the four houses I've lived in since college, I'm embarrassed to say that I can recall unhung pictures in each home - tucked in corners or closets, or leaning against bare walls for months, and even years. All because I couldn't decide how and where to hang them; so the best decision was - well, no decision. It definitely causes anxiety for me - I mean, what if I hang something on this wall over here, but THEN I find another picture that would go better in this spot? Then I'll have to remove the anchor, patch, repaint, etc. Nope, better just wait until I have all the pictures I'm going to want in this room, and THEN I'll arrange and hang them.

But this time was different. Now, that's not to say that there wasn't some indecisiveness. Just ask Dave, who patiently accompanied me to look at art to hang over the sofa in our living room, after painting and changing our color scheme in that area. I bought one picture, then found another piece at a different store, dragged him there to look at it, almost bought the second one (at the cash register, debit card in hand), but then decided that the first was a better fit. And then I hung it, without having a plan for all the other walls. (Ok, he hung it the first time, I decided it was too high, and then lowered it myself when he was traveling the next week.)

But for the most part, I did just make some decisions and then go with them. The living room isn't quite complete yet, but it is getting there; and more importantly, there are NO pictures leaning against the walls, they're all hung. Success!