How Do You Value Yourself?

I have a situation in my work life, which I can’t elaborate on here, but which got me pondering about the value of people and their contributions to the world. You see, I live in the work of IT consulting, where we essentially rent people out by the hour and in so doing, puts an approximation on their value to the company and the customer. If the customer pushes us to reduce our hourly rate, what does that say about their perception of the value of that person’s services?

You see, for much of my adult life, I’ve been a person who was very driven by my work. Being experienced and senior, and being able to draw high rates and provide significant value to customers was a significant driver of my self-esteem. So, when these types of work things happen, it leaves me pondering just a bit about my own personal value. After all, dollars and cents are easy to judge. Other things, not so much.

Now, I’m educated enough (and have done enough therapy) to realize that my contributions to the world are more than just dollars in the revenue column. But those other sources of value are intangibles and let’s face it, if you’re doing low-level work and drawing low rates, it has an impact on the future of your career. So, it left me puzzling a bit over the whole thing and also thinking in a broader sense about how we as a society define the value of people.

For example, nurses and teachers, who directly impact our most vulnerable citizens, draw very low salaries. What they do is vitally important to all of us, at some of the most critical moments of our lives. So I guess that’s an argument that value can’t be judged by money.

At the same time, rock stars and baseball players draw huge salaries and I personally could care less about most of them. So I guess that’s not a good measure of value either.

Mother Theresa touched thousands of lives and never made a dime herself. Again, another example of how your value can’t be measured in salary or financial rewards.

So, all of that said, how do we measure our value? By our contributions? By how we live our lives? By how we treat others?

For me, I’ve decided to treat this work situation as a temporary bump in the very long road of my career and ignore it. And at the same time, I’m going to focus on my impact on others and how I can positively influence their lives to be better and more rewarding.

After all, I don’t think I want my epitaph to say, “She Billed the Most in 4th Quarter.” I’d rather be remembered for leaving the world around me a better place.

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Up to his nest again, I shall not live in vain.” ~ Emily Dickinson

There Was a Milestone, And I Missed It

I’m in the profession of project management, where our work is driven to meeting milestones and in many ways, job performance is measured by your ability to hit them on-time and on-budget. As a result, I’m a little surprised when an event that should be a milestone blows right by me without the slightest notice. After all, I’m trained to focus on this stuff, right? Well, in my personal life, not so much. In fact, in my personal life, I’m dramatically anti-deadline. I don’t even knit gifts for Christmas because I can’t stand the pressure of having to hit deadlines at home and at work. As a result, I track my personal progress by much vaguer measures. Am I happy with what I’m doing? If so, I’m on the right track.

Given this approach to personal matters, I guess it’s not surprising that I recently hit a blogging milestone and didn’t even notice. This will be my 127th post, which means that I hit 125 posts recently. For some reason, 125 posts seems like a weightier milestone than 100 did.  I started this blog to see if I could find my writer’s voice, and while life has sometimes gotten in the way of my writing, I’ve managed to stick with it more than I expected. Congratulations to me for sticking with it (something that I’m sometimes challenged with). And thanks to all of you who have been with me on this little journey, praising my better posts and being kind about the not-so-great ones.  While I technically could do it without you, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, since hearing your thoughts about what I’ve written is really the best part.

Happy 125th,

MardeeKnits

Aftermath

I woke this morning to find that winter has come to Colorado. Not in the form of snow, since we had our first snow on the second of October, but in the form of moist, cold air, the type of which we don’t experience here all that often. While only flurries are in the forecast for our area, my Midwestern sensibilities make me think that we’re about to get a big dump of wet, heavy snow. It’s unusual, in this place where the sun shines 300 days a year and a ‘partly cloudy’ day means that there will be a sprinkling of clouds in the bright blue sky, to see the Front Range bathed in a fog that has hung for several hours.  In fact, it seems a bit surreal.

The house seems a bit surreal, too. After a week full of company filling the house to the corners, it’s strangely quiet as all the guests have ventured off for the train station and the kids have gone to work. That leaves me here, with a pair of somewhat confused Westies, who seem to alternate between napping and watching carefully for their people to come back.

I’m a little bit that way myself. While I find holidays and company just a bit overwhelming, I’m always a little sad when it’s over and can’t wait for the next one, when the people come home again and the house is busy and full of life.

All in all, we had a great holiday. We got to catch up with loved ones that we hadn’t seen for months and enjoy a big delicious dinner surrounded by friends and family. The only challenge is that we’ve already eaten up all the turkey and pie. As I write this, I’m finishing up a big plate of Thanksgiving side dishes, which are still plenteous, but there is no pie. (Sad face). That said, we did eat pie for a good five days and I’m not sure how much more my waistline could handle and have my pants still fit.

In any case, it was a good week. I hope you all had a great week too – please feel free to tell me about it in the comments.

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Even though it’s not here yet, today I am thankful for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Our house will be a crazy place filled with lots of extra people but I love it. My in-laws are coming and we haven’t seen them in months, as is my son who hasn’t been home since August. It should be a great time.

My daughter and I were talking the other day about the tendency for retailers to rush us straight from Halloween to Christmas. Her opinion (and I think she is right) is that we should take more time to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and not let the Christmas season start until after we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving well and properly first.

Maybe the Canadians have it right – they celebrate their Thanksgiving day in October, giving plenty of time to enjoy the harvest season without having to worry about the impending Christmas season. On the other hand, some of the Canadians I’ve worked with were a little shocked at how big a deal we make out of Thanksgiving, since most US companies take two days off and many of us stretch it into a full week by taking vacation. I didn’t point out that after the feast, we’re basically full-bore on Christmas shopping. I suspect they think we’re materialistic enough without pointing that out.

I’m excited for this year’s Thanksgiving day, as well. We will be hosting a large fun group at our house. One of my close friends is joining us, and hopefully bringing her family’s traditional pecan pie. (She brought it last year and my kids voted that she was invited forever as long as the pie was part of the bargain). Also, this year since I’ve learned a bit about high-altitude cooking, the meal should be better. Last year was okay, but several of the dishes weren’t quite up to my usual standard and I was stumped as to why. (Duh, we live at 6,000 feet!)

So, today I’m thankful for a happy feeling of anticipation and the chance to enjoy friends and family. I’m also thankful for those who are willing to take so much effort to get here, since all of the relatives are coming by train and the shortest journey is 12 hours of travel.

What are you thankful for today?

Peace and Quiet

Today I am thankful for a quiet house and a bit of peace.

It’s been a busy few weeks, both at work and at home, made more busy, loud and pressing by the noise of non-stop political phone calls, campaign ads on television and radio, and political signs popping up in yards all over the neighborhood. I’m a little sleep-deprived this morning from staying up late to watch the election returns. It was a late night, although not as late here as for the folks on the East Coast, since we stayed up long enough to watch Mitt Romney give his concession speech at 11:30 p.m. (which was 1:30 a.m. for my friends in Eastern Time).

This morning started early and is uber-busy but at least things are quieter. I watched a few more election results over a 6 a.m. coffee and then headed to my computer to begin my work day. I’m amazed at how much quieter the house feels now that the phone has stopped ringing. It will take me a while to decompress, though, I suspect.

I’m still boycotting Facebook because I turned out to be wrong in thinking that the day after the election, people would stop talking about it. Silly me, I should have known better. There’s an interesting combination of political opinions in my friends, from the far left to the far right, and their reactions were starting as soon as people arose this morning. There’s a mixture of jubilance and despair.

One thing I do know is this – whether you’re happy about the outcome of the election or not, we will be okay. America is a strong country full of smart people and if we can find ways to stop shouting and start working together, we can work miracles. All of this positioning and pushing for only our own agendas isn’t healthy.

As for me, I’m just happy to have my peace and quiet back. And after a two-week break from Facebook, I have found that I have a lot more time and better concentration when I’m not on it. So, you might find me sneaking back in from time to time to update my friends on what I’ve blogged about,  but that might be about it for a while.  If you miss me, you just might have to pick up the phone. And wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace?

P.S. As a friend of mine aptly said, “Colorado is blue and smoking a doobie.” Isn’t that an interesting result?

Of Politicians and Polling Places

If you’re like many of us, at least here in Colorado, you’re probably glad it’s Election Day. It’s been a long and angry battle this year, and as I write this, the presidential election is too close to call.  It’s also been very divisive. I’ve lived through a lot of elections and I remember some pretty ugly races but I think this year may be the worst I’ve seen so far.

Now, rest assured, this isn’t going to be a political post. One of the things I pride myself on is that while I have deeply held political beliefs and can get as passionate about them as anyone else, I respect the opinions of others and I have friends everywhere on the spectrum from the far right to the far left. I love them all. I’ll also be glad when all of the heated rhetoric is over and we can get back to the business of running our country instead of fighting about it.

What concerns me this year is the anger and hatred that I hear in people’s voices as they speak about politics and the state of our country.  It seems that the voice of moderation and compromise has been suppressed in favor of taking stances and holding positions firmly. Rather than listen to each other, we are busy shouting our own beliefs, trying to be heard.

So, I personally am making a stand on Election Day today and I’d like to invite you to join me. As the nation stands in wait for the results of the election, I’d like to ask you to be kind to your fellow voter. Listen as much as you speak. Don’t shout to be heard. Keep your deeply held beliefs (by all means, don’t compromise those) and exercise them in the voting booth, not on the street corner.

Perhaps if enough of us show the way, we can get back to what really makes our country great – which is that when we band together, we can make miracles happen.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Memories and Recipes

Today I am thankful for the church cookbook from First Congregational United Church of Christ in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

This was happenstance – one of those little moments in life where you set off to do something trivial (in this case, bake pumpkin bars) and end up reliving your own past from decades ago.

We had a fellowship dinner for church on Saturday night and I was signed up to bring dessert. Since it’s Fall, what could be more appropriate than pumpkin bars? So I dug out the best recipe I have, which is from an old church cookbook that was probably published in about 1990, and made the bars.

The next morning, the cookbook was still on the counter and I started thinking about it and remembering some of the great food in its pages. I flipped through looking for a chicken recipe for dinner, and ended up finding one we always loved, a chicken and wild rice casserole. It was one of our favorites when my kids were little. (And I mean seriously little. I think this cookbook is probably older than my son).

One of the interesting things about church cookbooks is that all of the recipes are contributed by members, and they are usually family favorites. Some of  them are even named after people from the church, such as Cameron’s Favorite Goulash or Sue’s Homemade Bread. As I flipped through looking at the names of people who had submitted recipes, I was reminded about all of these people that I haven’t seen in probably two decades and yet still remember very fondly. I found myself wondering what ever happened to them, hoping they are happy and healthy, and realizing that some of the older folks are probably either very senior or no longer with us. I was sad (again, 20+ years later) in reading the name of Marion Fish, remembering the day that I sang at her funeral.

It was more than just a trip down memory lane. It was a tour through my own past, and through a happy time when we were surrounded by church family and people who cared about us. You see, for all the rhetoric about what religion is or should be, for me it boils down to that – a sense of community and people who would do anything to help each other.

A friend of mine likes to say to our knitters, “You are my tribe.” She’s right, and I’m lucky to have found more than one tribe, willing to take me in, comfort me when times are bad, and rejoice with me when they’re good.

What more could I ask?