Lessons Learned from Death

I cannot believe that anyone who has witnessed the illness and death of a loved one will ever say, “That was a learning experience, right there.” We are consumed by the shock that we will never see our loved one again, and in our minds, we rehash the hours spent in hospitals and doctors’ offices. If you know someone has a terminal illness, you are never fully prepared for when the time comes to say goodbye; however, you know that time is coming and you have some time to get your heart ready. It’s not the same for losing a loved one over a matter of a few days or hours. Your heart isn’t ready to say goodbye, and you are just gobsmacked when all the hysteria is over and they just aren’t around anymore. It’s an indescribable void in your life, an empty hole that needs filling. As if you are walking in a fog, you put one foot in front of the other and go about the daily tasks of your life. In your quiet alone time, you long for them to come walking through your door; then reality sets in, and you remember the door won’t open and they won’t be standing there. This “after death” time does not get easier. It just gets different.

But there are some lessons that I have learned in going through this that are worth sharing. I have learned to be more loving, more caring, more giving — because what if someone is suddenly gone and I don’t have them anymore? I have learned to be more appreciative of the people in my life, and I place more importance on the nice things that others do for me. I have learned that some things that used to get under my skin about another person have suddenly become so trivial that they don’t even merit a negative thought. Oh, that we would always treat others as though we may never be with them again.

Don’t you think that anyone who is dying will tell you to go live your life and just be happy? I have learned that the most love you can show to another human being is to truly wish for them to be happy, with you or without you. That is the meaning of love — when you put someone else’s needs, desires and happiness ahead of your own.

I have learned that our days our numbered and that God is in charge, not us. When God decides it’s time to bring us home to Him, it’s going to happen according to His plan, and there will be no stopping it. And because we have only a certain number of days, we should live them according to His direction. If we do this, we might have a chance at being happy once again and God will see to it, as if our loved one reached heaven and had a talk with God and said, “Hey, look down there at her, let her be happy again.”

I have learned to appreciate things a little more, both in my workday and among friends and family, because we don’t know when it might suddenly be gone. All the good things in my day that I couldn’t wait to share with my loved one who has passed? I now just have to keep those stories to myself and remember that the person whom I loved probably knows in heaven what’s going on. The bible speaks of angels as messengers coming down from heaven. So who’s to say they don’t go back and report stuff? We just don’t know, do we?

I have learned that a death of a loved one will strengthen our faith in God and our resolve to live out the rest of our life in a way that is pleasing to God – because if someone we love is so easily snatched away, then surely my time will be up when I may not expect it, so I should probably keep my heart and mind a little closer to heaven. From Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I have also learned that it is okay to love again, to meet others who may have experienced the same things that I have, and who might just understand. But I’m going to love deeper, and harder and better. I’m not the only one who is going through this — there are others out there who need a hug, a kind word, and they need to be told that it’s okay and you will get through this. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

The Perfect 10: Employee vs. Boss

Long ago, I worked for an amazing boss who told me something I will never forget. He refused to create an annual review for his staff, because he said he could write all day long about how great an employee’s work was – but if he wrote something, anything, negative about the employee’s work? That would be the thing they would remember, not all the positive comments he made. It’s so true. We don’t remember the positives in an annual review, but we will never forget what we were marked down for.

In the last annual review I had at a former job, all aspects of job performance were rated 1 for the worst and 10 for the best, then the boss could circle the rating number for each particular job task. There were 3 typed pages of performance review items, and my supervisor told me she would never give anyone a 10 rating for perfection on any task, because nobody is perfect, and that made her uncomfortable. But what if some of her staff’s work would really merit a perfect 10 on a scale? Wasn’t there anything that I did that she thought was the best and didn’t need improvement? Probably not, but I would still strive for that 10, you know. In all competitions, everyone will strive for the perfect 10.

The reason I am writing about this is because I just worked a 12-hour shift, and sometime during this long day, I made a huge mistake. I can’t think about all the good things I’ve accomplished in these 12 hours, but my soul is crushed because someone made a complaint about something I did or said. Recently I’ve been sick and physically hurting, but I know we are short staffed and I feel like my employer needs full participation from us. We need to show up. If the boss isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And I’m wanting a 10 for crushing the workflow, not just for my employer, but for myself. I’m driven to perfection, almost OCD about it. If I can’t finish first, I don’t want to play. There is probably some type of psychosis associated with that, I don’t know. It’s just my makeup, I guess. Even the Bible talks about doing your best you can do. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23. The Lord deserves nothing less than my best effort, for certain. But what does my employer deserve?

I’m always having to prove myself, especially as I get older… that I can still race with the young ones even though I’m an old horse. I very much like the company I work for, and I can only see us improving and growing by great leaps and bounds. I wish I was 20 years younger and could have been here long ago. My mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, and now I seem to be not as physically able to withstand the rigors of very long workdays like I used to as a paralegal. Years ago, we worked day and night getting ready for a trial, and when it was all over, we calmed down and then everyone got colds and their bodies cried for a regeneration of normalcy that only rest and recovery could provide, this after we were so pumped with adrenaline for days on end just trying to get to that perfect 10, which was winning our case.

So I made a mistake. Someone told me, “It’s going to be okay. You made a mistake, and you are going to make more mistakes, and you will learn from it.” But I don’t want to make mistakes and I don’t want to feel the humiliation that comes from the boss having to have “The Talk” with me because I screwed up. I would be so much happier if everything I did could merit a 10. What is utmost on my mind right now is not the 11.75 hours that I did something right today. It’s my supervisor telling me that all he knows right now is that I screwed up and we’ll know more about it later. He is just doing his job, and he has to say that. My employer is not going to close the doors because I screwed up. I haven’t caused us to go out of business. But what I did do is take quite a hit to my ego and my own personal quest for the 10. Maybe in the future I can get more 7’s and 8’s and they can help me balance out my -3 mistake, who knows. I will cut my work hours down to a normal 8 per day, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Easter – It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Easter is almost here. It’s the most thought-provoking holiday. And I always get emotional thinking about Christ lugging that cross through the dirt, with blood streaming down his head from the thorns that punctured his skin when they were so fiercely applied, a crown of thorns he had to wear to mock him as King of the Jews. There is no species on earth so cruel as a human being inflicting pain and degradation upon another.

On the day of the crucifixion, I imagine that Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, was undeniably relieved that Pontius Pilate let the crowd choose to free him instead of Jesus. Ancient sources do say that Barabbas, on the day that he was released, went to Golgotha and watched Jesus die on the cross. Barabbas lived until he engaged in another Roman revolt. It’s ironic that Christ died so Barabbas could have eternal life, as Barabbas witnessed first-hand what went down that day, and how could he not believe it?

Christ has all the believers, but it is the unbelievers that he really wants. I have enjoyed many a spirited conversation with atheists and agnostics regarding their disbelief in what happened to Christ when he died and rose again. And I have to ask them, “Do you believe that Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941?” They will always say yes. And I agree, as there were witnesses who watched it play out and they wrote about it – it has a very descriptive presence in all of our history books. So I then ask them, “But you weren’t there, so how can you believe it happened?” And they say, “Well, lots of people were there and they witnessed it.” Bingo. Lots of people witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus and they wrote about it. In fact, they wrote about it in the best-selling novel of all time, our Bible. Oh, ye, of little faith. When the atheists and agnostics are suffering on their death bed, they won’t be praying to the Japanese at Pearl Harbor to save their souls – they will pray to God to relieve their suffering. There is no atheist in a foxhole.

I know Christmas is a big deal. We trade presents because the three wise men brought presents to the baby Jesus. None of this story could take place without first the birth. But Easter? That’s the big one, the one I get all emotional about. Christ came into the world, born of his mother like every other mother has given birth to many over countless centuries. And without the birth of Jesus there would be no Passover, no Easter, no resurrection. But the history of what happened with Christ’s resurrection and eventual return to the skies was almost too much the fodder of science fiction for that day and time. Who could make that stuff up back then?

We are told that after Christ died and the stone was moved from his grave, he appeared to Mary Magdalene at his tomb and later to his other followers on a mountain in Galilee. Different books of the bible tell different stories about the times that Christ appeared after his crucifixion, but there were so many witnesses that it could hardy be refuted unless all these witnesses were all deemed to be stark-raving mad, which they were not. To some writers of the gospel, Christ appeared in a vision only, and to others He appeared as a physical being. But he did appear and he had some pretty strong words about what we were supposed to do – believe and be baptized and be saved.

I think everyone believes what they grew up with. If you grew up going to church and your parents were of the Catholic faith, odds are that you will also stay steadfast in the Catholic faith of your parents. If you grew up in an agnostic and/or atheist background, or where there was no mention of religion either way? Then you may carry that on in your life. You would probably not understand why we Christians make such a big deal about Easter. It is a very big deal, indeed, to we Christians. We weren’t there, but others were. They witnessed it. They saw that when Christ was nailed to a cross, and hung up to die, there were soldiers who finally slit his side with a sword, which was customary at the time to hasten the death process. Peter, to whom Jesus first appeared, was forceful in his revelation of the event.

I wasn’t there. I only read about it in a book. But I believe it happened. It’s a very big deal to me.

Big Brother in the Workplace

One of my ultra-conservative friends was all aghast over the fact that his son and his wife were discussing a particular purchase in the privacy of their bedroom where there was a voice activated virtual assistant in the room. Soon they began seeing popups for that particular item on their P.C. They then surmised that a voice activated virtual assistant must be some type of government spy device set up only to get their private information. Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. With the dawn of new technology comes an awareness that perhaps marketing tools might be part of our electronic devices. If I do an internet search for some particular item, it should come as no surprise to me that I will be getting advertising popups for that item. It’s a good idea to clear the cache, cookies and history from your computers, folks.

How far should this go in the workplace, though? Should it be okay for an employer to read what the employees post in a chat screen or in emails to others? The answer is yes. Not only is it legally okay for an employer to read what is posted in its workplace chat forums, but it is also okay for an employer to obtain information from any device owned and provided by the employer. People don’t seem to understand this. I have cautioned employees for twenty years to please realize that employers can and will have access to what goes across their servers at any given time. Those servers are maintained by employers not as a spy device, but mostly as a way of troubleshooting what system problem might arise. Most employers don’t have time to go into chat groups and read emails just because they have a nose problem. However, it does happen and it can cause a lot of chaos.

Yesterday someone made a mistake and posted a sign-on password (it was not mine, mind you, and I did not post it) on my personal chat page in our group chat site, and it appeared right beside my name as though I posted it. Obviously someone was accessing the site and forgot where they were and they posted their login ID under my screen name, and I’m sure it was unintentional. But it brings to mind the fact that big brother is alive and well in the workplace, and just happened to make the not-so-bright error and got caught doing it. I laughed it off but it did kind of irk me a bit. If you are gonna spy on our work chat groups, can’t you be a little more careful about it? Everyone just thought I made a stupid mistake and posted my own sign-on ID in error. It’s okay and I’ll let them think that I did it. About a month ago, a coworker told me that she was sure that nobody else reads our private chats. I smiled to myself and wondered how, in the year 2019, people can be so unknowing about how things operate in the workplace.

Somebody else with a pretty common login ID is reading our stuff, and it’s okay. My supervisor is getting right on that. I’m just laughing because they will know who has that login and who posted it on an open forum like that. They are so busted. You are welcome to my postings, whomever you are. I know better than to get really personal on a workplace computer. The lady who thinks workplace computer chats are private? She thinks differently now, and she is, like my ultra-conservative friends with a voice activated virtual assistant, just totally shocked! And I’ll bet that heads are just spinning when they read her posts.

I had a terrific supervisor who gave me probably the best advice ever about typing anything in the workplace: “You can type anything you want — just don’t press send.” Amen to that.

I’ve Lost My Patience

The dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Right after I read that? A pop-up appeared for the word tolerance — the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. I think those two, patience and tolerance, have to go hand in hand, or there’s gonna be trouble in River City, so to speak.

Not an hour ago, I attempted to put new printer cartridges in my fancy printer. My tolerance was low and my patience was waning fast. After paying a good sum of money on second-hand printer cartridges, I discovered that my fancy printer, after software updates, will only accept the name-brand expensive printer cartridges, so I can return the second-hand stuff and reorder the fancy printer cartridges. Wait a few more days for the new fancy cartridges to arrive from Amazon – the true god of all shopping. You have to turn the printer off, rerun the software, and on the third or fourth try, your printer will tell you that it doesn’t recognize your new fancy cartridges, just turn the thing off and re-enter the software. If patience had a level, 10 being you have lots of it and 1 means it’s gone, I’m at about a 7 at this point. I kept trying this for, oh, 45 more minutes and I got several more printer messages. My printer talks to me with messages that test my tolerance. Patience level? Fast becoming a 5. It’s time to walk away from the printer and make fresh (decaffeinated) coffee, because I know that when I return, I will feel better.

When my son was in junior high school, I attended his parent/teacher conference, and one of his teachers greeted me with, “Oh, you’re the mom who threw the printer into the swimming pool.” Oh, how could he tattle on me to his junior high teacher like that? I was so embarrassed and had to admit that yes, I really did that, and after my son dished that printer out of the pool, it worked like a dream. It’s pretty hard to justify that childish behavior to your son’s new teacher. It’s a good thing I no longer have a swimming pool – but I do have a window in my office that opens to the great outdoors. I know when to walk away from this printer.

Like most scenarios in life, everything returns to normal after you give yourself time to step away and re-evaluate the situation. I came back to the printer, updated the software, read a zillion more messages, realized that I am not smarter than this software, the printer finally likes me, makes whizzing noises, sends me happy messages, and prints my pretty color pages again. It’s okay now. Calm is restored. Patience level back to a 9. Thank you, Folgers Coffee, for getting me through this.

We need patience in every aspect of our lives. Just yesterday I had to have lots of it in dealing with an edgy co-worker. I needed patience and tolerance when I got a letter advising my insurance rates are going up again. God just has a way of taking care of all of my needs in ways I don’t even know yet. Two days after I got the notice of my mortgage insurance rate hike? The insuror sent me a check for $400 as a refund that I didn’t know I was getting. The things in life that I seem to lose patience over just aren’t all that important anyway. When I’m driving and I get impatient with the slow driver in front of me, I have to stop and wonder if maybe by driving so slow behind this guy, I have averted an accident that I may have had up ahead. Again, the Christian glass has to be half full and not half empty.

I look back in time and realize how lucky and how blessed I am to have all these nice material things. Right out of college, I lived in a cold, dank, dark basement apartment. The rent was $135.00 per month, and I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every square floor tile in the bedroom until it shined. It was my first apartment on my own and I was so proud of it. There was a piece of shag carpeting in the living room on a cement floor with no padding under it – but I painted the walls and made it clean and I was happy. I did not even dream that I might have a nice home some day, with a nice office, and beautiful surroundings, and this fancy schmancy printer. I’m grateful for the blessings, and hope and pray that I learn to have more patience.

A Winner’s Creed

Okay, so I realize that some people just don’t share my enthusiasm for life. To each his own, I guess. Gotta realize we’re all made from a different recipe. I inherited my mother’s knack for trying anything to see if you can achieve it, and she got that from my Grandma, who was successful in her job, in her own business, and in her private life. I believe it boils down to having an attitude of “I think I can” about most endeavors. Sure, I’ve tried things that turned out only “so so,” and after awhile the enthusiasm would wane and I would try something else. But it’s that “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude that leads me to try a lot of different things. It boils down to going after what your heart desires, realizing that with education and practice, you can accomplish most anything. We only get so many days on this planet — so many days with our loved ones, so many days to throw our hat into the ring and try something new, go somewhere new, see something new and learn something new.

Here is my Winner’s Creed poem which I have framed on my wall. It’s my favorite.

A Winner’s Creed

If you think you are beaten,
You are;
If you think you dare not,
You don’t.
If you’d like to win.
But think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose,
You’ve lost;
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a person’s faith;|
It’s all in the state of mind.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster hand;
They go to the one who trusts in God
And always think, “I can.”

Author Unknown

The Office Bully

I’ve been working for forty-six years. Wow. And years ago I thought age 35 was old… I have come to the realization that most executives rely on an office bully to snitch and keep them apprised of what’s what. That person, in my experience, has been a woman who is usually of large stature; she doesn’t wear fancy clothes and lots of makeup; she boasts of her proclivity to be so awesome herself; and she just might have no conscience. She excels at being a narcissist. She is a real company person, totally devoted to being the one that administration looks to for their say on personnel matters, and she doesn’t even know they are using her to tattle on the office staff because in her mind, she is irreplaceable. I worked with one such office bully who reported directly to the partners after she went through our garbage cans each night after we left. And I sat in a new young personnel manager’s office one day after being summoned there as a sounding board because the office bully had written such scathing comments about her in the company email. Another office bully accidentally copied me in on an email to the boss wherein she stated she hoped that soft-spoken employee “x” was out looking for another job instead of just out sick.

These types of people wear their meanness toward others as a badge of honor. They are proud as a peacock when they can get dirt on someone and spread that gossip around the office. And I am again faced with confronting another bully in another office — guess what? I’m over sixty years old now, and I don’t give two solid cares what that bully might think. I work for one of the top employers in the U.S., and they don’t really do drama at work. We don’t need her to snitch and frankly, we are just too busy doing good things and making the world a better place to live in to be concerned with her simple-minded approach in her perceived climb up the ladder. The trash will eventually take itself out.

You can always kill ’em with kindness. And that is exactly what I am doing with the office bully – the golden rule applies. But I have made it clear to her that I will not be subject to her gossip and the buck stops here. When she starts in with negative evil gossip about others, I just let her know that I’m going to tell them. The look of abject horror on her face gives me a shred of satisfaction that I nipped that in the bud. I will be the subject of her next rambling on to some other poor audience, and better me than someone else.

I had a very wise boss who told me that people are more important than jobs. Thankfully, that is one of the mainstays where I work. We employ people of all social classes, of all incomes, of all pay grades, diversities and nationalities. We believe that every single person has worth and something good to contribute to our organization.

We know about the office bully – she still goes running into the boss to snitch. She still lurks around the coffee pot seeking those whom she may devour. And her mouth probably salivates when an unsuspecting new victim arrives whom she can sink her teeth into. But she has no home life. She has few friends aside from immediate family. She has a myriad of illnesses and is very unhealthy. Her social life centers around having her job; and now I am her friend. I treat her with kindness and respect because she deserves that. I stood up to her and did not turn her away. Other staff members have mentioned how much she irritates them, and I impress upon them that it’s always good to treat others the same way you would like to be treated. That is the basis of Christian faith.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13

It’s so easy to be nice to people at church on Sunday morning. There they are, looking all pretty in their nice clothes, smiling and shaking hands with everyone. But that should not end when you walk out of the church on Sunday. Being nice to people who are not nice to you just takes help from God. You must sift through the outward criminality of some souls to realize that the same God who made you doesn’t love you more than someone else. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.

Last night, as the office bully was leaving to go home before me, she walked up to tell me that she hopes I have a really nice night. I wished the same for her. I wish that for her for her coming days, weeks and years. I’ll let you know how it turns out.