My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

LionessWhat shape do your career aspirations take? Mine probably most resemble a puppy. At a job interview, you’ll see me shaking hands, rolling over, and performing any other trick I think will impress my potential caregiver/employer. Feed me! Love me!

I try to maintain my dignity like an aloof cat, pretending the man behind the mahogany desk would be really lucky if I would join his company. Like he’s the one being interviewed. But I blow it when he asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Five years? Are you kidding me? I’ve never worked anywhere that long! Really, I just want you to pay me enough money so I can keep up with my bills and have some sort of answer when my friends and family ask where I’m working these days. I don’t do manual labor and I don’t work late nights. Also, I can’t type, but I hunt and peck so well, you’ll barely know the difference. So, please, when can I start?

James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras have found that visionary companies often use Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals to stimulate progress. A BHAG is not your run-of-the-mill goal. It’s so big and hairy, so audacious, it positively reaches out and grabs people  and drives them to do amazing things. Aiming to put a man on the moon, now that was a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.

If it works for organizations, I figure it must work for individuals as well. I’m not job-hunting right now, so I have time to prepare my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. When the time comes, I will firmly answer the man behind the mahogany desk with a deafening roar:

I’ll have the filet mignon!


I Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Blog

veryinspiringblogaward-1As a blogger, I don’t want to bore any innocent readers who may have stumbled over here and decided to keep reading. Therefore, I’ll spare you the details of my oh-so-busy life and the multitude of excuses for why I haven’t posted in more than a month.

This blog is my creative outlet, and I am always surprised and excited when someone comments on a post or follows me. Especially when I consider that someone a “real writer,” like the talented lady over at who found my blog and actually said I made her laugh. Though we’ve never met, her kind words about my writing encouraged me. She recently nominated me for this award, and I thank her.

Now, there are some strict rules about receiving this nomination, and they involve writing seven things about myself and nominating 15 other bloggers and not eating meat on Fridays or something.  Anyway, I promised I’d spare you the excuses, so I’ll just apologize for not following the rules.

But, many thanks to for the nomination. And a quick shout out to a few other “real writers” who deserve recognition:

The Midwest League Traveler – I don’t even follow sports, but he’s writing a book and I can’t wait to read it!

Paige Kellerman – A formerly-battered employee who managed to escape and become an author. Watch for her book in June!

Erin Wright – Her encouragement of my writing means so much. Check out her fun spin on the world of editing. Seriously, it’s cool.

Spring Fever All Through the Week

Sick Dog

The bug that disrupted my stomach last week was merciful (or clueless) enough to do so on a Thursday, which is one of three acceptable weekdays to call in sick. As excruciating as retching over the toilet can be, there’s something even more uncomfortable, and it’s the task of telling your boss about it and redeeming one of your precious sick days. Even more unthinkable is to do so on a Monday or a Friday.

But the ultimate transgression is to call in sick on the first warm, sunny, gloriously spring-like day of the year. No matter how vividly you describe your gruesome symptoms, nobody believes you’re having anything but a Ferris Bueller kind of day.

So, I am thankful the bug attacked in the wee hours of a Thursday morning. By Friday, when the birds were really belting out their praise of spring and the sun was shining in full force, I was well enough to make a brave appearance at the office, weak and subdued but displaying a valiant effort to catch up on the paperwork that had done its own vomiting on my desk. It’s common practice, after all, to toss any confusing or unwanted paperwork on the desk of the one person greedy enough to stay home while everyone else is holding down the fort. Serves her right.

Not that I’m complaining. My employer is kind enough to grant five paid sick days a year, and I repay that kindness by never using more than two.  In fact, I always arrive early the morning after a sick day, and I take an abbreviated lunch to compensate for having been paid to spend a day in bed.  Guilt aside, the extra effort is necessary just so I can catch up. Sick or not, I must complete my work, which is patiently waiting for my return. Tapping its foot in passive-aggressive irritation, but patient nonetheless.

Some of the other people in my department have more time-sensitive tasks. Lucky dogs. When they take their sick days, my employer can rest assured that the rest of us will step up and make sure everything gets done. Again, my own obligations are detained until the party in question recovers from her own variety of spring fever. Recuperating from others’ illnesses takes its toll on me. No wonder my immune system is vulnerable to such nasty viruses as the one that so recently visited me.

It makes me wonder, who’s really paying for these sick days?

If I Were a Yahoo

Gee, I'm glad I don't have to do this job from my comfy home. Getting dressed is so much more fun!

Gee, I’m glad I don’t have to do this job from home. Getting dressed and fighting traffic is so much more fun!

Just when I think I have myself figured out, I go and make a decision so directly in opposition to who thought I knew myself to be. Like that time I turned down the opportunity to telecommute.

For years, I wished I could work from home. The types of jobs I held were perfectly suited for it, requiring only a computer and a phone. I hated driving 45 minutes to work in good weather and more than an hour in the snow. There had to be better ways to spend a small fortune than on gas. Chocolate and coffee came to mind.

Eventually, something nearly as good as telecommuting came along: a job so close to home that I never even had to get on the highway. I had time to listen to two songs on the radio as I took the little side road to my office each morning and back again for my lunch hour. I went weeks between trips to the gas pump. Then, they made the offer. Management asked for volunteers to work from home. In return, participants would suffer some newly-created, less-than-ideal shifts. It was time for a little SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

I was confident I already knew telecommuting’s strengths and opportunities. After all, I had been dreaming of such a break for a long time. Rolling out of bed and logging into the computer while my coffee brewed, wearing my pajamas all day, saving on gas, throwing in a load of laundry between customer calls, avoiding annoying bosses and coworkers. But suddenly, the offer seemed even more burdened with weaknesses and threats. Like all the toilet paper I’d have to buy once I was going at home more than at work. The worthless schedule . Sure, I would be at home, but I’d be working when I was used to being out. And my cats. While I love them, I did not relish the idea of their walking on my computer and sticking their butts in my face while I tried to assist customers in a professional manner.  And come to think of it, I would miss the camaraderie of my coworkers and the sage advice of my manager. At home, I wouldn’t be able to poke my head around the cubicle and get a second opinion on anything. It would be only a matter of time before I drew a face on a volleyball, named it and started consulting it on important business matters.

I conjured a frightening image of myself on the verge of insanity: unkempt, wearing pajamas at noon, holed up in a closet and whispering to my customers so the feline predators wouldn’t find me, isolated and depressed without any coworkers with whom to commiserate. My boss would forget all about me, and my prospects within the company would be extinguished. So, I turned down the chance to do something I had for so long thought I desperately wanted. Did I make the right decision? I don’t know. Let me ask Lucille Volleyball.

Goin to the Office, and I’m Happily Married

workwifeAs a romantic, I am not required to take my marriage vows to the extreme. I do, though. Call it going the extra mile. Sadly, I am only obligated to meet the bare minimum, like any other married person.

In sickness and in health, for most balanced people, means that I am not to annul my marriage if my husband’s appendix bursts or he catches the plague. I take it to mean that when I get an ingrown toenail, he has to listen to me whine about it for as many days as it takes that nastiness to heal, without placing an ad on craigslist for “Wife: Free to a good home. No references required.”

Until death do us part, for all practical purposes, means that if he dies, I can simply replace him. In fact, he prefers to believe that I would find someone to keep me company, as opposed to what I have in mind. Moving on is so boring. Devoting the rest of my days to mourning is much more my style. I find the idea of wearing a black veil and a bit of his hair in a locket to have a more dramatic flair.

To love and cherish, too vague. Too many people love their real spouses while simultaneously cherishing work spouses. Perfectly acceptable for the general population, but not for one obsessive, hopeless romantic such as myself. Even though I spend twice as many waking hours with coworkers as I do with my husband, and some might call it cute to have a special connection with some lucky fellow at work, I find the thought quite depressing.

Naturally, I would make quite a spectacular work wife, since I wear makeup to the office at least three days of the week and always leave bed head at home. But I don’t want the thrice-divorced guy from the warehouse complaining about his newest wife, all the while telling me how amazing I am because I am not her. Nor do I want the overtly happily married man, who reminds me that his trophy homemaker of a bride is the one who designated me his work wife. And under no circumstance do I want that young, single guy who winks at all the ladies, even the ones who don’t wear makeup three days a week. Despite their performances, any one of them would only be filling some emptiness that had nothing to do with me, and the only way for me to find any value in the relationship would be to do the same.

Problem is, my home life is not the source of unhappiness. And frankly, if I can’t put the effort into wearing makeup all five days of the week or trimming my toenails properly so they don’t become ingrown, I don’t have what it takes to be a successful bigamist. Sorry, fellas.

Bad Writing: the Ultimate Office Torture


Cool cats proofread their business documents.

The right interrogator could get me to confess to anything. First, fingernails on a chalkboard.

“Alright, I took 62 minutes for lunch!”

Next, bring in a woman to talk nonstop about her husband’s shortcomings, using the phrase “Bless his heart” over and over until I want to stick a pencil in each ear. “Yes, I surfed the Internet on company time!”

Finally, make me read the following:

Employee’s, We had a great physical year even better then last year, you should be proud. Choosing Employee of The Year has been a difficult task for Carl and I because their was so many accomplishments  from all of you making it hard to choose from,  little on name just one. Your all valuable employee’s, myself and Carl takes this award seriously.

“Stop! I confess to whatever you want. Just take that poorly written memo away from me!”

Not everyone feels this way. Most people do not critique menus and plumbers’ truck decals. They don’t have fond memories of learning to diagram a sentence in grade school.

Attention to grammar, punctuation and spelling is a skill that often has no real value in the office. When was the last time you missed a promotion because you could not properly conjugate a verb? Can you remember your company suffering a terrible quarter because the CEO used too many dangling participles?  The worst grammar offenders can be the most business-savvy, intelligent leaders of the company.

So, why bother proofreading your interoffice emails? Because even though 99 percent of your coworkers may not notice your bad grammar, there’s always one nerd in the office who cares. It may not be fair, but some of us can’t help but lose a little professional respect for someone who cannot compose a correct sentence. And maybe, just maybe, a customer cares. What if that new client just can’t justify paying thousands of dollars to someone whose emails make him sound like he slept through elementary school? Good writing is not pretentious and snooty. It’s efficient and it communicates your message without confusion, while poor writing is actually much more difficult to decipher.

If you want to work on your written communication but can’t remember the name of a single English teacher you ever had, it’s ok. Look around your office. There’s always someone. Maybe it’s that guy who reads thick books on his lunch break. Didn’t he mention an English degree? Ask him to proofread those really important messages before you hit “send.”

If you don’t want to enlist others in your quest for better communication, there are plenty of resources out there. Although you can buy reference books, all you really need is to surf the Net. Yes, on company time. One of my favorite sites is that of Chicago writer and editor, Erin Wright. Her blog playfully tackles common grammar issues, making the English language fun. That way, when they finally bust you for surfing the Web on company time, you have a valid excuse. Just be careful in telling the boss that he could benefit from some grammar tips.

An Introvert Goes to the Gym

English: President Barack Obama walking with V...

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Is Obama considering how to sneak off and shoot a few hoops without his VP? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, I faced my neurosis. I had a secret, and not a very juicy one. My office mate and I belong to the same gym. For months, I’ve known this fact, while she did not. I intended to keep my foolish secret forever.

Long ago, I gave myself the title of introvert in order to sound less…weird? Antisocial? Sociopathic? I’ve heard Barack Obama described as an introvert, and if it works for the President, it works for me. Although he’s probably never rearranged his schedule to avoid Joe Biden at the White house gym.

I often prefer my own company to that of others. Some people can’t stand spending time alone; I crave it. People simply exhaust me, especially when I am enclosed in a small office with them five days a week. Listening to others chatter about their every whim and the most private details of their lives is too much. I could not bear to continue the torture at the gym as well.

So, I chose to keep my gym membership top secret. When my office mate flaunted her new gym shoes and crowed to others that they should find the type of will power she had and join her for a workout sometime, I busied myself with my work and said nothing.

Because I rarely talk about my personal life, this simple lie of omission was easy. It also helped that I heard my coworker admit she had not been to the gym for months, because her friend was unable to go. With this revelation came a sense of relief at being able to work out whenever I wanted, without a chance of bumping into her. It also brought a new sense of pressure to keep my secret.  If she learned I was going to the gym, I worried, she might ask me to take her friend’s place at the elliptical machine right next to her. The horror!

And with the new year, suddenly, she seemed to be going again. I saw the gym bag. I heard her talk about dropping her friend off after their workout.  My phobia reached a whole new level of crazy, as I started tracking her schedule, so as never to go at the same time.

Last week, I hit rock bottom. Fully intending to go there directly from work, I heard her say that she was going to the gym after work and I felt my heart sink. So, I did what any lunatic would do. I skipped the gym, and I became depressed. I was disappointed in myself. How had I gotten to this point, where I was depriving myself of something that was good for me and that I actually enjoyed, for the sake of some idiotic secret? It no longer made sense.

I hung around the house that evening, watching the clock. After sufficient time had passed that I knew she must done with her workout and nowhere near the facility, I went back. Hey, no one ever said being neurotic would be easy.

But today, when I heard her say that she had forgotten her gym bag and would have to go home and get it, I decided to take my chances. My mental and physical well-being were at stake. I realized there was a strong possibility she would arrive at the gym while I was still there, but I was ready to face my fears. I would no longer be a prisoner of my own madness. Nevertheless, I sped faster than ever to the gym, hoping to increase my chances of finishing before her arrival. My face was hot and my heart was racing.

I thought going to the gym was supposed to help lower blood pressure, not raise it.

About twenty minutes into my workout, I felt so good, I nearly forgot about her.  I did cast a few furtive glances around, to satisfy myself she was not bobbing along on a treadmill somewhere. I did not cut my exercise short, though. I did my full routine, and scanned the gym as I made my way to the door. Crisis averted!

Then, it happened.  Just as I approached the glass doors, I saw her walking toward the building. What could I do? Head held high, I walked straight toward her. I smiled and greeted her at the front door. I wished her a good workout and walked to my car.

Hours later, I feel a burden has been lifted. And yet, I think about that moment when I saw her, right before she saw me. I wonder if I would have had time to run to the bathroom and hide in a stall until the coast was clear.