Working Stiff

I am not a business expert. I do not have an MBA. I’ve read a handful of business books and took a business class about five years ago, but I have worked at five different organizations in the past decade.

I’ve seen a lot of interesting work situations unfold in my own career. If I may, I’d like to share three ideas that I think make for a happy worker and workplace:

1. It’s OK to make mistakes
If a work environment and a supervisor make it OK to make mistakes – unintentional, of course – I promise that bold, creative ideas will come forth. If not, a culture of CYA (cover your ass) exists, where everyone lives in a state of heightened fear for their position or the favor of his or her supervisor. What can be learned from mistakes? How can people move on? Make it OK. And truly move on. I understand that this speaks to only certain workers – physicians and engineers don’t quite get a pass, but maybe they can think of how they would build a building or cure a person if they had any tools possible at their fingertips.

2. Provide clear, meaningful work, roles and responsibilities
No one wants to sit in an office clock watching. We are human, put on this earth to create. Give people assignments that are clear and have a level of responsibility in line with their position. While we’re not all creating art, figure out how can work at all levels be made meaningful, and you’ve got a happy worker.

3. Provide advancement and training
Most workers want to advance in *something.* Maybe it’s not Excel or graphic design, but maybe it’s learning how to deal with conflict or time management. Get at the root of how you can help the individual, and the worker will be helped.

I wrote these ideas on a napkin and finally put them to digital paper. What are your ideas?

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Shapewear

I had a few key meetings today – the kind where I needed to wear something more than business casual. So I put on a dress and a jacket, pearls and heels. Because of said dress, I added a Spanx-y type undergarment to the ensemble. You know, shapewear being a lady’s foundation for clothing. Or something like that.

As I huffed and puffed to sausage my way into them, I was reminded of the times growing up I saw my paternal grandmother enfold herself into girdles. I would see her struggle and think, “man, I am never doing that.” {I also foolishly thought during my high school years that I would never be a double digit size, so my younger self can go take a flying leap.} Fast forward: I was wearing some serious shapewear. And for the rest of the day, each time I needed to pull those darn things on again, I had to think of my grandmother’s wriggling into flesh colored bindings, all while I did the same.

And then I realized that I wouldn’t want Miss Red to see me foolishly tucking myself into something uncomfortable.

By the time I made it home I was done with them. As I changed into yoga clothes I tossed the offending undergarment into the trash. It was a gift to past me, present me and future me.

– MD

Giveaway Wrap-up

Our final giveaway closed yesterday morning, and per random.org, Marki was the chosen winner of Summer Pierre’s cheesecake tote. Marki said that she would carry her scrapbooking supplies in the tote. Tote away!

I’m happy to go back to writing words for a few people to read, but are giveaways something you’d like me to bring here from time to time? Let me know either way.

Limited Edition Print: Children's Books, by Summer Pierre

Before I sign off, a huge thanks again to Enid, Lily, Ellen and Summer for participating with their crafty wares. I really appreciate it, and I think the recipients will, too!

– MD

Cheesecake Tote Giveaway, Courtesy of Summer Pierre

UPDATE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED – MD

Is anyone else out there ready to cry now that it is completely dark at 4:45 p.m.? This happens each year, and the turning of the tables on this time thing will change soon, but goodness gracious, hold me.

Thanks for those who played along with the upcycled knit baby hat giveaway. Using random.org the two winners were selected. Congratulations to Nina and Joeli! I will be in touch about your hats. Hope your girls wear them in health and warmth! Thanks again to Ellen!

Are you ready for my final giveaway? It’s pretty rad, and as I mentioned earlier, it comes all the way from New York City. For us Midwesterners, that’s a mighty big deal. Well, maybe not as much, according to this article. I can also throw some attitude, because I lived there, yo, when I was little.

Our final giveaway is a cheesecake tote. Not a tote made out of cheesecake, but a tote with a depiction of a cheesecake on it. Behold:

Cheesecake tote by Summer Pierre

Artist, musician, poet and mama Summer Pierre is kind enough to offer this. Summer and I met at a Lynda Barry writing workshop years ago at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. I remember seeing a woman smiling and doodling on the chartered bus we took from downtown NYC to the Omega campus, and lo and behold, that fantastic woman was in my class. There was very much a camp-like feel to the process, but somehow we ended up sitting next to one another during meals, chatted, and have stayed in touch every since. It’s like real-life sleep-away camp and the friends you make from it FOR EVER.

Summer is the real deal, folks. She has made and sold CDs, run a successful Etsy shop, and published two books, The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week, and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life, along with her Forgive Me zines, volumes 1-4. She does all of this, and more. Thank you, Summer, for offering this giveaway.

Here’s how you can enter:
1. Visit summerpierre.com and poke around.
2. Subscribe to her blog.
3. Visit her Etsy store, and add her to your favorites circle if you are a member.
4. If you are on Twitter, follow her feed @summerpierre.
5. Comment below on what you would tote around in your cheesecake tote.

The giveaway closes Wednesday, December 7 at 8 a.m. CST. One entry per e-mail address is permitted. One winner will be selected using random.org and announced on Wednesday evening.

Good luck!

– MD

The Rhythm

We welcomed our sweet baby girl into our world almost four months ago already. I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying by.

I find myself living between worlds constantly in search of my rhythm, my family’s rhythm. As soon as I think I have found it, we are off embarking on a new chapter.

*   *   *   *   *
Pregnant. Summer off. Home with toddler. Moving. New baby. Toddler back to daycare. Working from home. At-work working mama.

Dressing. Feeding. Cleaning. Drop off. Pick up. Playing. Loving. Off to bed. Exhausted.

Running around all day being mindful that my “work” hours are actually my most restful. Finding myself missing out on the sweetness that are my children as I’m rushing and stressing trying to get by. Maybe even on time.

*   *   *   *   *
Between the tears of getting our shoes on right out of bed, I almost missed my boy singing jingle bells as we walked out the door.

Slowing down. Trying to do it all. Finding new ways to enjoy the moments.

Smelling the evergreens

*   *   *   *   *
I find myself unsettled. Balancing my work and my family, not to mention myself, precariously between each other. Never quite able to feel satisfied in any area.

I am so grateful to have a job that I adore for so many reasons. I am challenged. I am rewarded. I am granted the flexibility every working parent should have. I am able to do work that is meaningful to me. I am grateful. And yet.

I so long to spend the days being a mama to my kiddos, with my kiddos.

*   *   *   *   *
Crafting and snuggling.
Singing and exploring.
Learning and doing.

Enjoying the rhythm that I found so natural.
Enjoying every moment of each of my children growing up.
So fast.

*   *   *   *   *
It’s different for me after my first child. Returning after my first maternity leave left me longing to snuggle and stare at my baby. The second return to maternity leave is different. I am longing to be with both baby and toddler. My heart hurts that I am missing out. And yet.

I wish I would be satisfied and satiated, as well as able, to be a stay at home mama. I don’t think I would be, but I don’t know. I wish I could know if it would be enough for me. Then it may not be so hard to go to work.

*   *   *   *   *
Today is day four back in the office. I can’t say that it’s any easier than the first. Perhaps even harder as I can identify the rough spots in my rhythm. In our rhythm. Thinking of the moments I’m missing, even when I’m there.

I try to find comfort in remembering the rhythm will always be constantly changing.  As hard as it is with so much on our full, lush plate, all I can do is welcome and try to enjoy the flow.

– NVC

December Giveaway from Ellen Carlson of Half-Pint Resale

UPDATE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED. – MD

December! December is here!

Aloha, friends. November wrapped up nicely, and while I didn’t make my daily posting goal of NaBloPoMo, I’m glad that I posted more and introduced giveaways from crafty mamas, in time for the holidays.

I’m also happy to announce that Polly is the winner of the Ten Finger Workshop teeny tiny clothespin people. Polly, we’ll be in touch.

Our next giveaway is from someone who makes a difference in people’s lives each and every day. Not only does she work for a non-profit, she also, ya know, in her spare time, co-runs the insanely awesome and amazing Half-Pint Resale. And sews and crafts and cooks like mad. I mean, the woman barely sleeps and always, and I mean always, makes time for her friends. I am also very lucky to count her as one of my closest friends, and her youngest son and Miss Red have a kindred friendship like none other.

A and Miss Red

So, thanks to Ellen of Half-Pint Resale and wearer of many other hats, our next giveaway is two, yes two, upcycled knit baby hats. They come in Size 0-3 months and 3-9 months.

Upcycled knit baby hats from Ellen Carlson

Miss Red wore them everywhere the first year of her life and I buy one each time a friend has a baby.

Miss Red in a hat by Ellen Carlson

They are completely unique and awesome. The photos above are examples; the two she will provide will be different.

Here’s how to enter:

1. Visit Half-Pint Resale’s Facebook page and friend them.
2. If you are on Twitter, follow their feed, @halfpintresale.
3. Check out Ellen’s personal blog for more information about her hats and custom shirts.
4. Comment below on who you would place the hat on.

Two lucky winners will receive one hat each! The giveaway closes Sunday, December 4 at 8 a.m. CST. One entry per e-mail address is permitted. The winners will be selected using random.org and announced on Sunday evening, when the final giveaway will be posted.

Good luck!

– MD

Cyber Monday Giveaway from Ten Finger Workshop

UPDATE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED – MD

Hi friends! Did you enjoy the rest of your long weekend? Ours was sublime. Lots of lazing about. Watching Miss Red “clean” in a tutu and rain boots. Catching up with friends and projects. Oh, and I wrapped all of the presents I have so far.

Anyhoodle, thanks again to Enid at Haley Studio for her Black Friday Giveaway. Using random.org, it was decided that Lorraine is the winner (I removed her multiple comments to make it only one entry). She said that she’d make these mitts with her yarn. Congrats, Lorraine, we will be in touch!

So maybe some of you are participating in Cyber Monday. See, work is about fulfillment, doing good, and the internet.

Are you ready for the next giveaway? It’s a set of teeny tiny clothespin people from Lily Hoyer-Winfield of Ten Finger Workshop. This crafty mama of three boys knits, sews, crafts, frames, cooks and runs a homestead like none other. I adore Lily. She has such a great sense of humor and is so giving of her time, energy and smiles.

Miss Red playing with a few of her favorite Ten Finger Workshop toys

I’ve also been lucky enough to custom-order some of her little people, which Miss Red fondly calls “toy mama” or “toy dada,” etc. They are heirloom pieces. Lily was also kind enough to make a set for ALW and NVC for their joint baby shower this summer. Look! It’s their families!

Nesting families by Ten Finger Workshop

Really, I could spend an hour talking about Lily and how great she is. Which is why I’m so pleased she offered a giveaway for you, dear readers.

Here’s what’s up for grabs:

Clothes pin people from Ten Finger Workshop

Here’s how to enter:

1. Visit Ten Finger Workshop and “Like” it.
2. Comment below on how you would use your teeny tiny clothespin people.

That’s it! Easy peasy!

On her page she has a number of her projects. Consider purchasing an item or placing a custom order. Or, looking for a guitar? Her husband, Todd Cambio, is a supreme guitar maker. Check out his page, too.

The giveaway closes Thursday, December 1 at 8 a.m. CST. One entry per e-mail address is permitted. The winner will be selected using random.org and announced on Thursday evening, when the next giveaway #3 will be posted.

Good luck!

– MD

Where I’ve been, part 1

So I took an unintentional hiatus from the blog. My goal with the help of the other contributors, was to post weekly, which in blog land, is like yearly. But I work full-time, and fill in the blank, so that’s what I could handle. I even updated the look a wee bit and was feeling good about it.

Then February came along. What happened in February besides me turning 33? Well, our Governor decided to screw everyone over. It’s a national and international story, and I won’t recap the details, but how it got more complicated was that I work for one of the unions that is getting extra screwed over.

I came back from a Bat Mitzvah in Westchester County, New York, which is its own level of crazy, to the most insane work and political environment I have ever seen. With my co-workers, I started working mind-mending doctor hours, on my feet or on the laptop until I literally fell asleep. Eating rice cakes like they were going out of style. Ruining my kidneys with the amount of adrenaline coursing through them.

The Capitol Rotunda, February 18

So I was MIA from life, basically. Forgetting things. Not around for friends and family. My husband became, for all intents and purposes, a single parent. The house came apart. But through all of it, he said, “go work.” Because we never knew what was going to change and when. One day, when I was driving Miss Red to daycare, she said, “Mama, ‘member when you go work to help teachers?” Needless to say, tears started falling down.

Democratic Assembly Member Brett Hulsey's Door on Feb. 23

There were rallies. People occupied the Capitol, sleeping on the cold marble and air mattresses. Susan Sarandon came into town. Michael Moore. Tony Shaloub. But my favorite part? Seeing my town, my lovely, amazing town, come together and really dig in and learn and voice and share.

Miss Red and my Husband

Where are things now? Eh, pick up a paper or read something online. It’s a marathon and most of us are built for sprinting or watching YouTube videos, but there’s still that fire slowly burning.

Miss Red, Thug in Training, pre-rally, cookie in hand.

Where else have I been? Stay tuned for Part 2, The 20-hour Tour.

– MD

Where are you?

I don’t really like posts like these. But I’ve been so afraid to even open my blog, for fear of how much I’ve neglected it, that I needed to post something. So here it is. I’ll be back.

BRB.

Entitled

I wrote last week that I’ve been traveling and working long hours at my job. It’s OK, because I’m still in love with my work, and most importantly (to me, at least), am passionate about what I’m working for.

In the middle of my travels I was able to spend two nights at my parents’ house in Milwaukee. The same ranch house I lived in for six years before I left for college and never moved back to. One night when I got back around 9 p.m. from a long day of production, I sat in the living room as my mother made me a lovely necklace. In her empty-nesting years she has thrown herself back into crafting – sewing, quilting, jewelry making, flower arranging – and it’s nice to see her enjoying her evenings. I was talking about my day, sharing stories and more. At one point, I said that while I was so happy at work, I wondered if it was an issue that I didn’t have a great title, like “Manager” or “Director.” I have plenty of friends who reached these titles in their late 20s or early 30s, and now 32 and happily nestled into a job I love, know that I won’t get that title. At my organization there is no stepping into a larger title or role. I can grow my skill set and expand what I’m doing, but I won’t get “Sr.” or anything other higher designation now that I’m in a union. It doesn’t work like that.

In the middle of stringing the necklace, not even looking up, my mom said, “Honey, you are 32, have a toddler and work full time. You can’t have that title.” And while I know it’s true, I have been gnashing over the truth of that. Why do titles matter? Why do they matter to me? As someone who has been fairly career-oriented, I was always striving for next-next-next. Pushing, pushing, pushing. I clearly remember sitting in a job interview 7 years ago and when asked the dubious, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question, answering quite clearly, “As the Marketing Director of a non-profit.” Somewhat gutsy, given that the current Marketing Director of the non-profit I was interviewing at was sitting in the same room and she was new to the job herself. But that’s fine ‘cause we’re friends now.

This hangs in my office. By These Are Things.

So here I am, 32, and not a director. When RBVH and I finally met up this last weekend (I was the one who fell asleep and missed our coffee date – yeesh), she and I shared the same concerns. Should we be pushing, pushing, pushing for more?

But maybe what I’m not ready to say aloud – but guess what world? – I can say it on the internet! – is that I’m OK with not having the title. It’s not that I don’t think I could handle what came along with it, it’s that I like the other titles I (sometimes) come with: mother, wife, friend, partner, creator, (fledging) runner. Why? Because I’ve found my center-for-now. Sure, it gets wacky, laundry never gets put away, I miss having Fridays with my toddler, but I’m able to be all of the parts of me while at my current job.

I guess you’ll just have to call me Lucky.

– MD

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