Things that make me grateful this Thanksgiving week:
- I work with colleagues who make me laugh. I can be in the worst mood in the history of moods, but someone will make me laugh and break the spell.
- This year, we were able to get stress puppies for a couple of our programs. They made the students happy. They made us happy. We smiled the entire night, and we are looking forward to their next visit.
- Our college started a food pantry this year to help when someone in our community needs help.
- Everyday, when I leave work, I know I have helped a student in his/her attempt to reach a goal.
- The library deans and directors of our TBR colleges are giving and helpful people who have not a single territorial bone in their bodies and are always there with counsel, advice, and encouragement.
- Despite the myth, I don’t read books at work. But I am surrounded by them, which is still pretty great.
This past week, a student brought a calculator up to the desk, as students do about a hundred times a day. She handed it to me and said, “I’m the one you’ve been calling. The one who kept saying I had turned it in already. Last night, I put my hand in a pocket of my jacket, and there it was. I was so ashamed.”
We chase down a lot of calculators during the semester. Lots of students need them, and they are easy to slip into a backpack and forget. Most of them come back after a single phone call. And some students are adamant that they have turned them in as this student was.
But this student did something different. She owned up. She could have slipped it in the drop box after we closed. She could have just laid it on the desk and walked away. But she came in and admitted the mistake.
Often I find that it is students who restore my faith in humanity. Owning up to a mistake is not something that many people want to do. In fact, there was a book written about the phenomenon of the false apology, titled Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). So someone who goes out of her way to claim a mistake gets a shout-out from me.
Someone once said (a coach probably) that mistakes mean nothing, what makes the difference is how we deal with them: Denying them. Blaming someone else. Or saying everyone else does it. Those are the typical responses.
Owning up may not be the most comfortable path. But it’s the only one that results in growth.
Two weekends ago, I decided to fix my leaky bathroom faucet. Like all potential amateur handypeople, I went online to see how hard it would be. According to the first website, it was an easy, inexpensive fix, and you’d have to be crazy to call a plumber for the job.
I took my iPad into the bathroom and started my task. Within two minutes, I gave up. My sink looked nothing like the ones used as examples online. I decided to be crazy and call the plumber after all.
On Tuesday, the plumber came and showed me the state of my faucet. He had several parts in his hand (not like the one round washer in the videos). He said he could try to fix it, but this type of cartridge faucet often had issues. But he was happy to give it a try. However, considering the faucet was old and the hot water tap would likely have the same problem in a few months, I decided to go with a new one. When he showed me the state of my drain, I was glad I had let a professional take over.
I am not handy. A few years ago, I needed to change my front door knob. Once again, I went to the web, and this time the knob was identical to mine. After four hours of sweating and anxiety as nothing went right, I was successful. But I realized that, in most cases, I should put household repairs in the hands of people who know what they are doing.
There are many things I do well. And I’m all for learning new things. Still, I know there are things that I will never do well. And age and experience has taught me to know the difference. And get help when I need it.
If Facebook is any indication, people have strong feelings about the end of daylight savings time. My mother hates everything about it. As early as August, she was already telling me how she was dreading the long dark nights of winter. She seems to be in the majority, if at the extreme end.
On the other hand, I am neutral on the topic. For most of the year, it’s already dark when I go home. So I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
However, there is one thing I love about this weekend in the fall: the gaining of an hour. I think of it as a ‘reset.’
I don’t change my clock the night before. I wait until morning, so it actually seems that I’ve gained an hour. And that ‘early start’ motivates me to get things done. Today, for example, I had already written my bills, washed my hair, ironed clothes, and found last year’s winter gloves before my usual ‘get-out-of-bed’ time. And the momentum continued throughout the day.
Now you may hate the end of Daylight Savings Time. Or you simply missed this chance to reset. But here’s the thing: there is always another chance. For example, today is Flag Day in Panama.
Ready, set, reset!
As you might know, two weeks ago, I took a nasty fall on marble in downtown Nashville. I bruised my left arm and my right knee, bruising the bone.
Oddly, for someone who is mostly sedentary and well padded, I have injured my knee more than once. The last time, after limping for a week, I went to the doctor. She sent me to a physical therapist. There I learned a very important lesson. When you injure yourself, at first, it makes sense to rest and not cause further damage by putting too much pressure and weight on the knee. But at some point, if you don’t move it, it will get so stiff that it won’t ever want to move again. So you’ve just got to grit your teeth and do it.
Or let the physical therapist do it. He iced my knee for a few minutes and then he started to move my knee in bicycle motions. When I left, I was walking normally with no pain. And with major respect for physical therapists.
So this time, I knew the drill. I did the exercises the doctor gave me. And when I could bend my knee, I started making myself walk upstairs in a normal fashion. It took another few days to be able to walk down the stairs normally. (Before then, I had to put down my left leg and then bring down my left leg, repeated for each step.) A few days ago, I came home and was in the kitchen before I realized I had walked up the steps without hesitation. I was healing.
The lesson here is that is time for rest and a time to get back up and get out there. The wisdom is knowing when one phase ends and the next begins.
Two weeks ago, President Jimmy Carter, 95, fell at his home and had to have fourteen stitches. A few days later, he was in Nashville, helping to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. Carter has long been one of my heroes. His commitment to service is unparalleled. At any point, in the last twenty-five years, he could have said, “I think it’s time for me to rest,” and no one would have faulted him. But he is still out there, living out his faith daily.
One week ago, I fell while trying to get a close-up photo of a statue in downtown Nashville. Somehow, in trying to keep my balance, I managed to slam my right knee, my left arm, and my left hip onto the concrete. By the time I got home, my knee was refusing to bend, and it made me a little sick to look at it. I went to the Vandy Clinic and had an x-ray. Nothing was broken, just bruised. I was told to rest, ice, and compress. Which I did.
Now, like most people, I often think of myself as the hero of my own story. I could imagine myself falling and continuing to do my job with aplomb. But let me be honest. I did not. I did not build houses. I did not rescue puppies. I did nothing heroic.
What I did was limp and complain. To be fair, I didn’t mean to complain. But it hurt to sit down. Then it hurt to stand up. It took three times longer than usual to walk to any destination. And the time it took to wrap and ice my leg meant I had to get up earlier to get to work. Yes, I went to work, but I’m pretty sure my colleagues in the library wished I’d stayed home.
But a lesson in humility is never wasted. No, I’m no Jimmy Carter. And I never will be. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t try.
As we recover from our malware incident, things are slowly getting back to normal. In the library, all is fixed except the student printing network. We have been printing student papers and assignments on staff printers in the back.
Tuesday I had a meeting with my boss. Telling her the printing issue, she asked, “Can’t we take the print management software off the printers until the server is fixed?”
To be honest, I stared at her for a few seconds, but I wanted to laugh. We had added the print management system to the printers. Certainly, we could take it off! But all I could think was “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Of course, the answer is pretty simple. I was too close to the problem. The two things (the print management system and the printers) were so entwined that I had started thinking of them as a single unit. It took someone outside of the library to ask the question.
Now it turned out it would have been too cumbersome for the overworked IT guys to remove the system off every computer. But they could remove it off some. So now we have six computers in the LRC where students can print. All seems well.
The moral of the story: You never know where a solution can come from. Don’t hide your problems. Share them.
If you looked at my to-do list for yesterday, you would probably think that I was quite productive. I completed 100% of my tasks. But to-do lists can be misleading. Most of the tasks I’d written down at the last minute, knowing my memory is not great.
What were some of the items?
- Take bread out of the freezer to make sandwiches for lunch.
- Put batteries in my LED candles for the fireplace.
- Write my mother.
- Study French.
- A cursory glance would show that some of these items were more important than others.
If you asked which of the items had the highest priority, I would say write and write my mother. But is that where I spent most of my time? No.
Now writing my mother was fairly easy. I had just seen her the day before, and most of the letter dealt with things we’d discussed then. So that was not a problem. It was written and in the mailbox before dark.
But I didn’t get to my writing until after 9 p.m. while I spent way too much of the day doing things that weren’t important and could have been put off with no consequence whatsoever. (Do you know how long it takes to take batteries out of the industrial-strength wrapping and then put them in twelve small candles? I do. Way too long.)
So if you judge my day by what got done on the to-do list, I am a winner. But if you judge by what important things got done, I’m a slacker.
Spoiler alert: I was a slacker.
But tomorrow is another day.
Our college president told us at convocation to never waste a crisis. She is an incredibly positive person, but she probably didn’t expect a crisis to come so soon. Friday, we started having problems with our computers; by Monday, nothing seemed to work. We were in the midst of a malware crisis. We couldn’t get online. We couldn’t even turn on our computers.
What struck me was the patience of the students. They came in the library. We told them the network was down, and they stopped in their tracks. But then they smiled and just found a chair to check their phones while they waited for their next class. A few were upset, which was understandable, but the majority took the news in stride.
Wednesday, I had an appointment at the mechanic’s. I’d waited for more than three months for a part (a downside of having a ten-year-old car), and it was finally in and ready to be installed. I drove over and settled in a chair with what seemed to be never-ending episodes of “Property Brothers” playing on the television in the waiting room. It was supposed to take no longer than two hours. Three hours later, an apologetic service manager walked up to me. The wrong part had been sent. They couldn’t get it to work. They would have to reorder, and I would have to return.
I would be lying if I said that it didn’t upset me. I felt a surge of irritation rise from my stomach to the top of my head. I felt a tone coming up in my response.
Then I had a moment of inspiration. Suddenly, I thought of those students who were so patient in the library, who didn’t fuss, who didn’t take out their frustration on the library staff.
I realized that the poor man in front of me wasn’t at fault. The mechanic who tried so hard to make the part fit wasn’t at fault. And the person who sent the wrong part didn’t do it on purpose. And by lashing out, I would only make everyone feel worse.
I shrugged. “These things happen.” And I made my appointment for Friday.
I don’t tell this story to make me look good. I tell it because a good example can really make a difference.
At the moment, we have a sheep on the lam (see what I did there?) in my neighborhood. She was part of a Scottish festival at a local park when she escaped. Sheep are not known for their brilliance, but she has managed to avoid capture now for more than a week despite several sightings.
She is now a local celebrity. She was on the local news. She has a Facebook page. And she has become the focus of many of us in our part of town. We want to get her home. After all, it’s hot. It’s a suburban part of town, so there are cars everywhere. And there are coyotes.
One thing I’ve appreciated about our escaped ewe is how our community has come together. People have gone out looking for her everyday. There have been search parties. And any spotting is immediately put on social media The owner of the ewe has been invited to future events and has invited us all out to his farm.
It’s a nice reminder that people are more than their social media presence. Because, if I’m being honest, our Facebook page is often filled with complaints about the service in restaurants, people who park badly, people who drive badly, and people who have the nerve to differ on political issues. And gun shots. People are always hearing gun shots, to the point that one person finally posted that if every noise was a gun shot, there would be nothing but bodies lining the highway that defines our neck of the woods.
But the sheep incident has brought out the softer side of our neighborhood. It allowed us to gather around something other than others’ faults. When the complaining starts again (and it will), I’ll set aside my irritation by remembering the good instead. Maybe I’ll even make Belle my screensaver as a reminder.