Monday, December 02, 2019

Suffering, Perseverance, Character, Hope ...

In the comics, radiation creates superheroes.

Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and becomes Spider-Man. Gamma Rays force Bruce Banner to become the Hulk. The Fantastic Four were bombarded by cosmic radiation upon re-entry during a space mission. Weirdly exposed to radiation in very different ways, they all became superheroes as a result.

In real life, radiation causes burns and scar tissue.

Maybe I'm just less aware of it, but it certainly seems like fewer people get radiation for cancer treatment nowadays. It seems the focus is now on straight chemotherapy. At least compared to 20+ years ago when my dad did to treat a small tumor in his tonsil. The doctors removed the tumor, the tonsil and a significant amount of surrounding tissue on his neck. The doctors then gave him chemotherapy and radiation to treat the site, to make sure the bad cells would all be killed off. I don't know if back then they already knew it would cause scar tissue bad enough to eventually threaten his ability to breathe and straight up take away his ability to swallow food. I don't know if back then they already knew there would be a possibility of him needing a tracheotomy just to breathe, and that he would have to be fed a liquid diet straight into his stomach via a feeding peg. Everyone was just doing what they could to help get the best outcome, and my dad had to okay with it--or not okay when he was not comfortable with the options -- every step along the way.

Several years after surgery, the scar tissue grew around his esophagus, he lost a tremendous amount of weight. It then began to compromise his breathing. Two days before Christmas Eve he needed a permanent trach tube. It was put in, and our lives significantly changed. Mom became his full-time caregiver, and my sisters took turns. And when his health began to deteriorate to such a point that he became a fall risk, we moved in, so I could also help back up mom 24 hours a day. Everything changed. We persevered.

Suffering is supposed to show you what you're made of. It was astonishing the grace with which my dad (and my mother) handled his immense suffering. He prayed a lot, we all prayed a lot, for God to carry him and all of us through this experience. His continued gentleness and great love for people astonished me still, even as he grew bent over, slept less and less at night, and more and more during the daytime. His character was awashed with Love.

The Hope is that even through suffering, God sees and knows -- and although this is more Catholic than Protestant in mindset --  He can somehow accept our small offering of suffering for the souls of others, as a small, pale imitation of what Jesus did for all of us, to rescue and redeem us from permanent separation from God.

I miss my Dad. He was my personal superhero. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Secrets Out In The Open

If you knew your life is a collection of experiences
designed to help your soul develop--
How would your outlook on life change?

If you knew your life, our lives, this life, all life
was already sacred
and you were made for a purpose, much nobler and good,
How would your outlook on living change?

If you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt
that you exist, are alive and conscious,
because you are loved (so very loved!)
Would the steps you take each day be different?

If you knew that your reaction to being alive
your embrace or rejection of that Existence-Love is what truly mattered,
Would you be the same person you are today?


Thursday, February 07, 2019

Grabbing The Vision



2018 was a doozy of a year, and I pray 2019 is better. God Willing, it will be so.

I believe it will. I'm finally getting some semblance of a routine in a seedling form, so I hope it takes root. We had to change routine when we relocated to assist my elderly parents, and that was a major, stressful change. Routine is something I really cherish, and breaking it really made me feel lost. I of course, have been enjoying helping my folks, but I had lost sight of all else. So stabilizing is super-important.

It has helped so much to have reconnected with a group of friends that I had long ago lost touch with. I didn't realize how much I had missed and loved them until we all got together again. Our workplace was unusual and good; and with the 25 years that has passed since, and the perspective, the unusual goodness of the place has only become more stark and obvious. Sometimes you don't know the blessings you have while you are enjoying them or taking them for granted. Ah, youth.

I'm excited though. This past Autumn I mailed out two new mini comics to editors to begin introducing myself as an illustrator and storyteller because I'd like to get back to drawing books. It's easy to get discouraged from doing that when a book you work on gets shelved, but I need to be stronger than that.

A girl can dream. A girl can grab the vision of a bookshelf of books with titles and "by [her name]" printed on the spines ....


Monday, December 03, 2018

Dilettante or Renaissance Mind ... ?

It's December 3rd, 2018.

Over the weekend I decided to stop freaking out about "feeling" scattered. To stop freaking out about "feeling" unfocused. I've decided to embrace the ability to have a great love and respect and interest for a great many widely varied -- and mostly unrelated -- subjects and creative activities.

This "sudden" decision didn't actually come up out of the blue, or without much wrestling. No, there there was quite a long while there where I was in a bit of a stasis, where I wasn't sure if I was just a lame dilettante because I literally didn't have enough time to delve into each of my very many interests deeper. I felt guilty. Like a pretender. The joy of enjoying the beauty of each subject was getting lost in a "prove you should be here" kind of feeling. But I recalled a conversation I had with a close and dear friend who listened when I recounted my conflict, and and she told me "Why not Renaissance Mind?"

I mean, I love love love comics, opera, house building, language learning ... (for starters. We won't even get into pottery, quilting, fashion design...!)  If I could triple my day from 24 hours to 72, I wonder if even that would be enough time to cram in developing all these areas further and to the level of expertise that would be satisfying...?

As it is, I've developed the comics the furthest, and have finally worked up the nerve to venture into picture book illustration -- which means I must expand into color work!! Picture books are illustrations (aside from comics storytelling) that I've always really wanted to do and has now become a nagging ache to fulfill.

As for the other Favorite Things, Had to quell the desire to sing arias by at least joining the church choir. That has been wonderfully good, not only because Worship of God is satisfying (that Italian though. If there was a worship song that was operatic ... !) I deal with the house-building fascination by finding joy in watching PBS' This Old House, and many house buying and house renovation shows on HGTV or the DIY network. And learning language? I had to sell off the French, Greek, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese dictionaries and settle for developing my understanding of Spanish better, and share that love with the kids I taught at the homeschool program I worked in.

Maybe this is why Heaven is eternal and we live forever with God: so we have time to learn all these beautiful things ...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lessons From The Layoffs 02: Get Over Holding All Business Meetings at a Coffee Shop

In this age of the mobile office and work-from-home entrepreneurs, coffee shops may be a good way to initiate a meeting with a new client or have a quick face-to-face catch up with a co-worker, but --

holding one's business meetings regularly at a coffee shop is not a long term business strategy.

Holding one's business meetings at a coffee shop is not a substitute for an actual office (whether that's at home or rented in a commercial space.)

Let me illustrate --

I enjoy writing at coffee shops. There is definitely something about sharing the space with other people who like coffee and treats-to-eat-while-drinking-coffee that makes visiting a coffee shop GREAT. I've definitely been inspired in and have written and planned out work-related things in coffee shops a lot. So yes, DO support your local coffee shop (and clean the table up after yourself before you leave!)

I've also had great meetings in coffee shops. When you think about Nashville and how spread out we are (and are further becoming as rents and house prices go way up past the median of affordability for the average worker/business person) it's crucial to have an "in between" location for friends to be able to meet and catch up.

Having an in-between location to meet would be especially necessary then, for business associates who are probably otherwise both working from home. Maybe your co-worker is allergic to dogs, or there really aren't enough chairs around your dining room table to seat who all need to discuss plans going forward. Or maybe it really isn't appropriate to meet your client at your house. All of these examples are legitimate reasons to need to meet at a neutral public place.

Nonetheless -- let's face it -- there's only going to be so much really in-depth business planning you can do in a public place when you involve one or more people beside yourself, and this is the long-term strategy point I'm trying to make.

Starting up a home-based business is the dream of many, and in some circumstances it can be run from home always. There are also times a home-run business spins out and grows to where it can be moved into a commercial space. The distinction and timing can be clear-cut to the small business owner, though not always.

However, in these layoffs I'm bumping into curious hybrids of the coffee shop business meeting that are like seedless fruit: convenient, but leaves nothing behind to replicate itself and thus feed the future (of the company).

This "seedless" coffee shop business meeting hybrid is where the coffee shop meeting is the main office meeting. Always. What this shakes out to really mean is:
 
        1. Entrepreneurs are not taking the time to develop their business in a timely manner. 

        2. Company Supervisors are not understanding that "supervising" actually means assessing their workforce in order to utilize each person to the best of their capabilities. 

The coffee shop meeting is just not a great long-term strategy. In-depth planning takes time, and means discussing company issues that are really not appropriately discussed in a public space. A public meeting by its very nature cannot truly provide the time for in-depth planning mobile workers.

We're not talking micromanaging, we're talking discussing goals and schedules, which necessitates impartation, which sometimes necessitates "taking over" a room -- and that just cannot really be done in a public place. This is why companies have conference rooms.

This isn't how everyone operates but I've seen enough to recognize it's a slippery slope. And it contributes to the illusion that there is communication happening -- and we have enough people in management positions who don't seem to understand what management and communication means. Which that in itself is another post ...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Lessons Learned From The Layoffs 01


Last week I hit a crisis point where I really thought my dreams were just crushed and over.

But excelling at whatever one does lies in the ability to toggle back and forth from focusing in on the details and pulling back to see the big picture.

As an artist, I know this to be true because in order to paint a picture, I need to both look at the canvas at large and then the little pieces that fill it. When I draw a comic book page, I need to draw the picture up out of the page in stages, then also fit that page within the context of the story itself.

As an employee, we can have the luxury of one or the other -- being the details person, or being the big-picture person. But when one is self-employed, or running their own business, looking at both the details and seeing the big picture are crucial, even if you still have the "luxury" of focusing on either detail or big picture. I also think a great employee still has to think like an entrepreneur; in the sense that the practice of mindfulness in the details of one's position and how it jigsaw puzzles in with everyone else's in the company produces excellence in one's area; which further encourages better quality in everything else around.

So rather than see this latest situation as "Layoff #4" (over the past 24 years) I've learned (sometime back around layoff #2) to look at the big picture of how this all works within the framework of my own life story. This is a time to be dispassionate and not take things personally.

What do I learn from it?  

How can I avoid those business mistakes? Can I avoid those business mistakes? What can I personally do better at the next job situation (whatever form that takes?)

Examining the 4 layoffs (soon to be 5 in May) I've personally been through, and the 3 I've been through with my husband, I've noticed 2 large, recurring themes or problems, (that have some small differences between companies):

#1 Money and Vision separate.

#2 Lack of Communication.

The two are different, but both lead to the same thing -- layoffs and/or the company closing outright.

My husband and I had discussed Problem #1 even before we got married, because he'd noticed this too, even when he didn't yet know where I had worked.

Problem #1 was prominent in two of the seven companies, and secondary in a third. In this scenario there is a partnership where one partner had some cash, and the other had a great idea, and they said "Let's make a company!"

Without knowing the details -- other than cold observation as an employee -- in one of these examples it seems like one partner realized he wasn't going to get his money back in the time frame he expected, so he pulled the plug. In that first example I don't see it too much as the fault of the "vision" partner. In examples two and three, however, I plainly do see the vision partner really could have been more considerate about the budget and time frame involved.

Lesson learned? That old saying that Time is Money. If you're a partner and it's not "your money" you have to respect the money/time frame.

But even when it is YOUR OWN MONEY you still must respect the money/time frame issue. Just throwing money at a thing isn't going to make it automatically work out or be successful. This is why we have bosses and supervisors, which now creeps into Problem #2 territory.

Problem #2 will need it own post; because that addresses the whole larger issue of the delusion of there being better communication just because we have smart phones and social media.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Life Beyond A Lay-Off ... What's Next ...?

"Experience doesn't make you wiser. Evaluated experience makes you wiser." 
Andy Stanley
(boldface mine)

Sometimes we get into repeat patterns ...
where things you thought were going to happen, don't. 
Things you hoped would happen, don't. 
And it seems like everything is just unraveling.

Then sometimes we are surprised --
by the beauty of our eyes opening and of finally understanding
certain things you once thought were not yours, 
actually are supposed to be, after all.

Listening for that Breath of God
for that moment where He speaks
and reminds you of who you are in Him, 
requires patience and pursuit.

Sometimes the patterns are there for you to notice
and change what needs to be changed.