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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Accentuating the Positive

I can’t believe how fast this week has flown by. I need to backtrack. (I’ll talk about last Friday in a moment.) Saturday was the first full day of set construction at school and it was nice to see some old familiar faces and new faces as well. We were able to build the main structures of two rolling units for the spring musical, even though we were fighting with a lack of tools and battery power. Sunday, Michael and I went to brunch and then saw a great production of Legally Blonde at Marriott Lincolnshire. We have three friends in the production and it was wonderful to see them perform again.

Ragtime rehearsals are now in full swing and we’ve really made a lot of great progress this week. Except for spring break, we are now on a Monday through Saturday Rehearsal schedule until the show goes up in middle of April. I’m really enjoying working with our production team. Staging 130 students is a daunting task– but with a lot of preparation and collaborative input, I think we’re able to make the process fun for us all.

At one point yesterday, I was explaining a section to the cast and then said, “Does that make sense?” and the choreographer said, “I understood it.” I turned to her and said, “Yeah, but you’ve had 13 years to decipher me.” She laughed and said, “That is true!” It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing these annual productions this long.

Now back to Friday. It was one of those crazy weather days, lots of snow, cancelled rehearsals and changed plans. I’d talked to my Mom that morning and also a friend I’ve known for many years. That afternoon, I found myself working online, checking Facebook periodically as I always do… and this really magical thing started to happen… There was this sudden rush of positive messages coming my way. It was totally out of the blue and really inspiring. I heard from friends I hadn’t spoken with in a while and a few I hadn’t really talked to in years. I suddenly found myself in the middle of an online lovefest and couldn’t have been happier.

There is nothing more rewarding and that gives you a sense of validation, then having someone tell you how you had an impact on their life. Being told “Thank you for being you” is probably the greatest feeling of all. If you are like me, you always want to be a positive influence but as humans we naturally have our good days and bad days. There are periods where I feel I’m constantly in negative mode and I really hate that. Staying positive when constantly facing adversity is a tremendous challenge. I think that’s why I’m so sarcastic. It can annoy people but making light of negative situation has always helped me get through the day. Hopefully, I’m able to make someone smile or laugh along the way.

I’ve made connections with some of my favorite people, just by taking a moment and either complimenting them on something they’ve done and sharing how their very presence lights up my day. You never know what you might miss, in terms of a great friendship, if you don’t take that first step.

Finding the positive in an awkward situation can be the key to finding the solution. I had a supervisor that I butted heads with constantly until the day I decided to take a different¬† approach. She was a “my way or the highway” type personality, whether or not she was wrong. I found the ability to look at the issues from her perspective and start there to find the solution… even though what we were doing was already the best that could be done in that circumstance. By making it clear that I was identifying with her, somehow opened her ears to hear my point of view. Representing the opposing side would just cause her to shut down and not listen. Approaching it by showing understanding led to our ability to work together as opposed to a constant stalemate. I think we were eventually able to appreciate each others opinions and find real resolutions. You have to be able to get a foot in the door first.

Take the time to compliment someone today, even if it’s someone you don’t really know. Reconnect with an old friend or acquaintance and share with them some positive impact they’ve had on your life. It could be totally unexpected and you’ll make their day.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: Cash and Roxie playing in the snow last Friday.

Our Scars Affect Who We Are

When I was about five years old, my Dad came home from work for lunch one day and we were playing. He was sitting on the sofa and was throwing a small pillow that I would chase after and bring back to him and he’d throw it again. I guess we were playing fetch (and I was the dog). On one of those throws, the pillow flew out of the room and as I was chasing it, I slid across the floor, landing on my right hand, and tearing open my index finger. I think it only required four stitches but there was blood. I remember it happening, going to the doctor, getting a chocolate Tootsies Pop for being so brave and then a cherry Slush from Dairy Queen on the way home. I don’t remember any of the pain. As a result, my fingernail is permanently bent on the side and my cuticle is a little deformed. My Dad and I talked about it recently and even though it wasn’t his fault, he said he always felt bad about it.

Fourteen years ago at my last job, I had an accident with a cherry picker that could have killed me. My nose was broken, I had a black eye and a really nasty gash on my head. That wound required many more stitches, surgery on my nose and left me with some permanent scars. The biggest one peeks out of my hairline on my forehead and is about 3-4 inches long running back through my scalp. It’s still sensitive to this day but I hardly even think about it or notice it… it’s just a part of me.

Even though I’ll always have the physical scars as a reminder, it was the mental scars of the event that really affected me. The accident was a result of me doing my job. There were no labels or markings on the equipment and I was trying to move it and load it on a truck because the maintenance department had not done so, fulfilling the work order I had submitted. I was under a deadline and was told, “You WILL do what ever is necessary to have this completed”. The rest is history. I was back at work before I had to be, even as my nose was packed with cotton, black eye and stitches.

What I never expected was to be called in and have my job threatened. They said I acted irresponsibly and then tried to make me sign a statement saying I was completely at fault. They were trying to prevent any form of law suit, which never even occurred to me up to this point. I refused. I continued to be treated poorly after that. I knew my days were numbered because I was now a liability… and I left as soon as I could. (Within a couple weeks of the accident, the safety and warning stickers that had been absent, suddenly appeared all over the equipment! Extra safety gear was purchased and new policies were also put in place.)

The emotional scars I carried with me from that accident far outweighed the physical ones. A couple years later, I realized I hadn’t really looked at myself in the mirror since then. Yes, I used the mirror to shave but I wasn’t seeing myself. Looking at the scars… really seeing them… brought back the pain of how I was treated as a result of just trying to do my job.

The physical and emotional scars we carry with us really have a huge impact on who we are. They affect how we act or don’t act, our decisions and our reactions to others. Being able to share those scars with others–¬† significant others, friends and co-workers, gives them so much incite into how we think and react the way we do. It’s our own abilities to build the trust and feel safe enough to share our experiences with others, that affects our relationships and attitudes.

I have a friend who lashed out at me once in a particular situation and I didn’t understand why. Later, she shared a particularly painful experience from her past and I was able to make the connection. That knowledge enabled me to prevent it from ever happening again. The key is to not let our emotional scars disfigure our hearts and personalities. We have to try to learn from them and use them to make us stronger. Our scars affect us… we just can’t let them become us.

Today’s Pic of the Day: My right index finger.

How Did I Get On This List?

For about eight months now, I’ve been getting at least one email a week from the Obama campaign (this week I got three). I’ve been invited to dinner, to volunteer and of course, to donate money. I’ve gotten emails from campaign staff, Barack, Michelle, Joe… and a few days ago, Jill Biden invited me to sign Michelle’s birthday card (and while I’m at it– make a donation). After all this time I still can’t figure out how I got on this email list.

I did support the President in the last election but I have not even begun to make up my mind regarding who I’ll support this year. I’ve always thought it would be exciting to be be a part of a campaign but I’d have to believe in the candidate 100% in order to do so. Quite honestly, I hate politics. The whole game gives me a headache and usually I find myself voting for the lesser of two (or more) evils as opposed to voting for a candidate I truly believe in.

I know politics is supposed to be a taboo subject in certain gatherings, especially family– and in my family, we are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Yes, I’ve had my fun getting my Dad riled up about a politician or issue but after a while, maybe it comes with maturity, I’ve found it much more productive to try and find our common ground. My parents are what I would consider, religious right Republicans and they probably consider me to be a far left wing Democrat. In reality, I’m probably right in the middle. I’ve found the best thing about our discussions (finding the common ground) is that I actually hear more of the true issues and reasons my parents vote the way they do, than when we are discussing the politicians. If we avoid the politicians, we can have an intelligent, bonding conversation about the needs and future of our country.

I really have a low tolerance for negative campaigns and mud slinging. I also despise campaign promises that are so grand they can never be accomplished. In my view, the presidential race is about selecting a figure head who can instill pride and confidence in the American people. Their platform comes in a distance second. I don’t believe the President has nearly the power to evoke change that many believe they do. They have to get bills through congress and by the time they are done– it is either so watered down or has so many other considerations attached to it… it’s unrecognizable and usually does more harm than good.

So back to the campaign emails… You know what has been missing from these emails? A platform. You would think in at least one of the more than 30 emails I’ve received, at least one would actually inform me about the candidate. Yes, health care reform has been mentioned… but what does that mean? How will it be executed and financially be controlled? What are it’s implications for our national welfare? How will it impact me directly? Doesn’t it make as much sense to share the vision as it does to beg for help? I might be more likely to contribute or volunteer if I know what I’m supporting.

I’ve been trying to formulate a letter in my head to send back in response. I haven’t found the exact wording yet, but when I do, I might share it here.

I’m not sure what the next email will bring… perhaps an invitation to another dinner or maybe a chance to win a potato from Michelle’s White House garden. I’d be happier to just hear a solid plan for the future.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: The church next door. I’m not sure it translates well in in this photo– I love this peaceful image I get to enjoy, just outside my door.

Defending My “Hate” Blog Post

I just thought I should take a moment to defend my previous post about an incident that happened at school last week. Apparently, the title alone was offensive to some (well, at least one). When I went in for my monthly meeting with my supervisor, he had a copy of it on his desk. So someone must have sent it to him. His only real concern was the title, “Hate Is Alive and Well in Bartlett, Illinois”, because it suggests Bartlett is racist. I could have just as easily substituted any other city, state or country… but the fact is, the post was about a specific event in a specific place. Racism IS alive and well in every community… we can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does.

Whether spray painting the N-word was ‘just a prank’, a joke, done out of stupidity, ignorance or actual hate doesn’t matter. It symbolizes hate. It has the potential to cause fear and anger in those that are faced with it.

Did I suggest that all of Bartlett or Bartlett High School is racist? Absolutely not. But does hate exist? Does bullying exist? Most definitely. I felt I needed to post the incident because too often our rose colored glasses allow us to ignore problems that continue to exist. My blog is about my life, my experiences and my opinions and I think I have the right to share.

One of the main reasons I felt the original post was so relevant, was a discussion I had with a former student recently. He made a comment that nobody wanted or needed to hear about hate. He said everybody knows about it and it doesn’t need to be talked about anymore. I completely disagree and thought this was a good example of why we need to continue to educate about the need for sensitivity and acceptance.

The majority of responses I got were from alumni, appalled that this happened. Some shocked that this happened at their Alma Mater. Others were not surprised at all.

The school’s reaction has been positive, increasing security efforts to assure this doesn’t happen again.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: CENSORED

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

 

 

I’m Finally Admitting It… I’m A Prophet

How many people are planning their lives around the end of the world December 21, 2012? Did you take your umbrella with you today because a man on TV told you to? Did you sell your house and give all your earthly possessions to a TV evangelist? Well, in a world full of forecasts and prophecies, I’m finally coming out… I, too… am a prophet.

The end of the world. Astrologer Nostradamus has predicted it, the Mayan calendar predicts it… or does it? Even the most educated scholars on the subject say you can’t really give credit to any of these predictions until after they’ve happened. So what good are they? They exist primarily to create fear.

Not even 24 hours after the 9/11 attacks on America, email was circulating claiming it was another fulfilled prophecy of Nostradamus. There were at least three or four variations of the quoted prophecy, all of which turned out to be fake. One was even claimed to have been written 100 years after his death. All about creating fear.

I don’t really know if a comet is headed our way… or Nibiru (Planet X)… I do know that worrying will do us no good. We’ll have to wait and see. And will it rain or snow or be overcast? You can’t even depend on meteorologists to get it right. There are some things that can be predicted… There will be weather.

So now its time for me to finally reveal my prophetic skills… My intentions are not really to scare and shock anyone… I just feel my calling to share my cosmic abilities with the world…

 

My Predictions for the Coming Year

1) I predict that governments will raise taxes ( and/or create new ones) in the coming 12 months.

2) I predict a child will be left behind.

3) I predict HGTV will reveal a new series all about square footage and granite counter tops.

4) I predict around the middle of April, most Americans will experience a sudden shock to their bank accounts. (April 15th to be precise.

5) I predict in the 11th month of this calendar year, a president will be elected (or re-elected) in America.

6) I predict the cast of Jersey Shore will be intoxicated this year.

7) I predict that those people that bravely skip breakfast and lunch will be hungry by dinner.

8) I predict a new infomercial, selling a brilliant new product, will sweep the country and rival the Chia Pet, Snuggie, and Shake Weight.

9) I predict at least one sock will disappear mysteriously from your dryer.

10) I predict that by the time you’ve read these predictions, you will have laughed, rolled your eyes, or both.

 

And for my final prediction…

I predict that I will never be revered as a great prophet, even though ALL my predictions will come true.

So sayeth I.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: Collins decided he would help me write this blog post. I hope you enjoyed it.

No Day But Today

No Day But Today. My mantra, my watch cry… my inspiration. I even seriously considered getting it tattooed on my body. No other phrase inspires or moves me more.

We were watching the Idina Menzel Concert that was recorded for PBS last night and she sings a gorgeous rendition of it. I can’t really explain how it affect me besides making me teary, gives me chills, makes my heart pound and always gives me a feeling of renewed hope.

The music and lyrics come from the musical, RENT and are featured in the songs Another Day and Finale B. Before Menzel’s rendition, there was no song actually titled, No Day But Today. RENT was written by the amazing Jonathan Larson, whose own life emphasizes the lyrics. Larson died tragically, the night of the final dress rehearsal prior to the off-Broadway opening of his show. He suffered an aortic aneurysm and never saw the huge success his creation would become. He never lived to receive his Tony Awards or see his show run over ten years on Broadway, become a movie, or tour the world. Luckily, one day he penned the music and lyrics. If he’d waited, it might have been too late. No Day But Today.

Idina Menzel- No Day But Today Video Link

Music & Lyrics by Jonathan Larson

There’s only us
There’s only this
Forget regret– or life is yours to miss.
No other road
No other way
No day but today

There’s only yes
Only tonight
We must let go
To know what is right
No other course
No other way
No day but today

I can’t control
My destiny
I trust my soul
My only hope
is just to be

There’s only now
There’s only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today

No day but today.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: My cast from the 2009 Introspect Theatre production of Jonathan Larson’s RENT.

Bucket List or Wish List?

Do you have a bucket list? What things do want to do, try or accomplish before you die? I know there are a lot of people that have such a list. I don’t really have one. Instead of a bucket list, I have a wish list.

I think anything that you do to help create a plan or focus for your life is a good thing. Even resolutions– as long as you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. I put dreams in a different category. A dream job or dream relationship can happen.. but they also rely on the participation of other people. Getting hired or creating your dream job can easily turn into a nightmare if you are working with the wrong combination of people. This is out of your control.

So, I decided to share some of my wishes. Wishes can come true under the right circumstances. Some of my wishes I can easily attain and others I can’t control.

My Wish List (in no particular order)

1) I wish I had more time to read and write. I’m trying to do more of both (writing this blog and reading with my Kindle Fire) but there is never enough time.

2) I wish money didn’t matter. I don’t need to be rich, I just wish there was enough so decisions didn’t have to depend on it.

3) I wish my babies: Cash, Roxie and Collins could live forever. I hardly ever refer to them as pets, they are my family.

4) I wish I lived in New York City. I wish I could do what I am doing now, in some variation, just in my favorite city. Michael’s involvement running the family business makes this impossible right now, plus it would mean giving up our amazing (and frustrating) 123 year old house.

5) I wish I was a better partner and friend. I wish I always knew the right things to do and say in every situation.

6) I wish I could help parents understand their kids and kids to understand their parents.

7) I wish my family and friends, scattered around the country, all lived closer.

8) I wish I lived in a world free of hate, judgement and fear.

9) I wish I lived in a world free of tyrannical government control… run by dishonest people whose only real welfare concern is their own.

10) I wish I had to the time and ability to help more young people realize their true potential and motivate them to be the best they can be.

What’s on your list?

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: My babies, 5am.

How Far Is Too Far?

Most people that really know me, realize I have few filters when it comes to speaking my mind. Not that I would ever intend to be rude or offend anyone or share their secrets… I just believe in saying it like it is. Yes, sometimes I’ll express an opinion or share information and then wonder afterwards if I did the right thing. In the long run, I just prefer to get things out in the open and hope the information might lead to a better understanding or resolution. So my question is, “How far is too far?”

Immediately after I published my last blog post, my partner, Michael said, “Are you going to get fired for that?” I didn’t name any names or place blame on anyone, so that never even crossed my mind. The fact is, IF that were a possibility, I’d be better off not being there any longer anyway, right?

In business and education, everyone works under a veil of fear. You learn NEVER put anything in writing you might not want shared with the entire world; and never share anything you can’t back up or defend. So there’s always this looming secrecy surrounding certain subjects or projects that keeps you from being effective.

When people share their insecurities or frustrations regarding a subject or a relationship– I often find myself trying to help resolve it. Why else would someone share that information? If they just want to complain, then I’m the wrong person to tell. Maybe misery loves company, but if you tell me, I’m going to try to fix it if the opportunity arises.

Ignorance is NOT bliss. Moving blindly through life, unable to make progress because you are being kept in the dark is not a good way to live. Problems need to be addresses and sometimes just getting them out in the open can bring unexpected solutions from resources you didn’t think to consider.

Many times I’ve heard people say, “If I’d known that….”, but they didn’t. So, a potential solution may have been lost. So, how far is too far?

I think if someone shares information with you and you are in a position to make a change or influence a choice, it’s your duty to speak up. Where I get in trouble the most is that my tone of voice sometimes insinuates a know-it-all attitude that offends or hurts someones feelings. My passion for getting involved and excitement when talking about it has been translated as yelling or anger. In those situations, all I can say is– then I guess you really don’t know me. OR, often I haven’t been given the whole story so the person takes it personally.

If two friends aren’t speaking because of a misunderstanding, do you sit idling by and watch it happen? If you know a project someone is working on has already been canned, do you watch them spend countless hours on it without telling them? If you know there is a theft problem that is quietly being investigated, do you let people leave their belongings out where they can be taken? If a friend or colleague is about to make the biggest mistake of their life, do you say something?

How far is too far?

 

Update on my last blog:

First, I want to thank everyone for their concern, outrage and support over the incident at school. I was able to gather some information to report to my superiors and also provide some possible solutions. I’ve received quite a bit of staff support and expressions of frustration in the matter and hope the right steps will be taken to prevent further activities like this from happening in the future.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: The Fly Rail.¬† Looking up at the fly rail, backstage in my auditorium.

 

HATE is alive and well in Bartlett, Illinois

I’m so furious right now I can barely see straight.

I have to back up a bit. As the Auditorium Manager at Bartlett High School, I have the never ending battle of keeping the auditorium secure. It’s supposed to be maintenance’s responsibility… backed up by our school’s dean’s assistants. With all the cut backs, man power is low and things like security have been left to suffer. At one point in my career at BHS, the auditorium was not allowed to be used if I was not present. Because it is used so much between 7 am and 11 pm and there is no money for overtime, I am only allowed 40 hours, much of which is spent either setting up events or running sound and lights for them. There are a lot of meetings that take place needing no direct technical help, mostly during the day. The auditorium is supposed to be locked up until it is used and then locked immediately after. So guess what is left unlocked all the time?

A few months ago, maintenance moved some rolling units out of my secure shop area and left them backstage. As a result, I had three 50’s style microphones stolen before I was aware the items had been left in the less-secure backstage. This past Monday, I came in and found things not as they should be, but the doors were locked. On Wednesday, I found out it was because a dean’s assistant found eight students smoking in the costume loft backstage.

Today topped it all. Someone must have found an unlocked door, found a can of spray paint and painted the N-word in huge letters across a four foot by eight foot set piece backstage.

Think hate doesn’t exist? Think again.

 

Today’s Pic of the Day: Snow finally hits the burbs of Chicago. (It was 53 degrees yesterday.)

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Why is it so difficult to communicate with each other? Is it because we are too busy to listen? Are we unable, as intelligent human beings, to express ourselves, listen, process and respond?

As people, we refer to ourselves as superior beings. What makes us superior, is our ability to think and communicate. Why is it then, that sometimes I think my dogs are better communicators than most people? I almost always know exactly what my dogs want from me. Why? Because they ask or tell me what they want. If they don’t like something, they as usually pretty good at communicating that as well.

It amuses me how we hold ourselves and our intelligence in such high regards yet we are unable to talk to one another and comprehend what the other is saying. I just plugged in the word communication on the Amazon website and it comes back with 261,780 books in the search results. Is there really a need for that many books on the subject? Is it really that difficult? If it is, why are there no required courses in the subject in our public schools?

Here are some of my observations:

1) First, people are often afraid to openly communicate their feelings or needs. Often because they fear the response.

2) People don’t listen. Whether they are distracted by other things or trying to think about what they want to say, they aren’t listening and hearing the other person.

3) The most common response to a question or need, particularly in business is, “I’ll have to think about that.” or “I’ll look in to that and get back to you.” Then the conversation can be halted and no discussion or response is given. End result? No solution or resolution and added frustration on the part of the person asking the question.

4) Often, people are unwilling to listen or address your issues because their plate is full of their own. This is especially problematic when you are required to report to some above you and any decisions require their approval. This also happens in relationships, unfortunately, where one is allowed more power or control.

5) Nonverbal communication is often more important than the actual words. Eye contact and body language are usually better at telling the real story.

6) Be willing to ignore the tone. I’ve experience more frustrating conversations resulting in misunderstandings from placing too much importance in the tone of someone’s voice. A person’s tone isn’t always directed at you even though it feels that way. A person could be frustrated by the situation, their own inability to provide a solution, or something entirely unrelated to the conversation itself.

7) Written communication has vastly changed. Email, texting and online messaging are not the same as a formal letter or memo that have pretty much become a thing of the past. In an attempt to be brief, details are often omitted that need clarification. Again, tone may need to be overlooked. Your state of mind and that of the author may be totally different, allowing the reader to misinterpret the content. Not sure? Ask questions. Communicate.

One thing I’ve made a habit of doing is repeating myself multiple times, in different ways, anytime I think I could possibly be misunderstood. I also try to repeat the person’s response back to them for clarity. Again, listening skills are so important.

We are all unique individuals that talk and think differently. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to truly communicate effectively. When presenting a problem or issue to someone, it always helps to also have a solution to present as well. No one likes to listen to people complain all the time. Presenting possible solutions encourages discussion and ultimately a positive outcome.

Today’s Pic of the Day: Ken G. in my play, September’s Heroes. Ken is an extraordinary young actor, leader and model student. He is up for a scholarship that you can help him win! I’ll post the link below the photo.

You can vote for Ken’s essay at: http://www.wyzant.com/scholarships/v2/essay34795-Carol_Stream-IL.aspx

On that page, all you have to do is click the “VOTE” box. With your help, he could be awarded a scholarship of $2,000 to $5,000 for college.