That One’s On Me

“Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.”
― Mark Twain

news searchBack when I was a reporter, there was a loyal yet somewhat annoying group of readers who picked apart every article and never hesitated to send us a daily critique of our mistakes, real or perceived. Somehow, I’d been lucky enough to miss out on most of their assessments. My fellow reporters, one in particular, made enough errors to keep them busy.

But one day it happened. I got the e-mail, or rather, my editor did. She called me in. “Sorry,” she said. “I don’t even know if he’s right or you’re right. Check your notes.”

I looked at the story. Damn. I’d made a mistake, pure and simple.

“Nope, it’s my mistake,” I told her. “I’ll return the e-mail.”

“Keep it short,” she advised. “Don’t say more than you have to.”

I kept it honest. “Dear Mr. Smith,” I wrote. “Thank you for your e-mail pointing out my error in today’s paper. You were right, it should read ‘this way‘ and not ‘that way.‘ While it’s not an excuse for my mistake, maybe a little explanation would help here. When I was writing the story, I thought the second sentence in paragraph three would work better if I switched it with the second sentence in paragraph two. The problem was, the transition sentence, the first sentence in paragraph three, was then incorrect. I apologize and we will run a correction in tomorrow’s paper.”

“Good luck,” the other reporters told me. “Mr. Smith is a jerk.”

smileys pixabayWell, so be it. I sent off the e-mail. Not three minutes later I received a call. It was Mr. Smith.

“I don’t care that you made the mistake,” he said. “We all make mistakes. But you’re the first reporter to admit it. I usually get a bunch of crazy excuses with the blame placed anywhere but on the reporter.”

I thanked Mr. Smith and smiled. It wasn’t the first mistake I’d made, and it likely wouldn’t be the last. But admitting it gave me the freedom to make more without someone calling me a fool, or losing their respect.

It also kept them off my back.

Image Credit: (Focus on the News) © GraphicStock

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Step It Up

A fellow blogger, Amy Punt, someone I follow for her thoughtful, outspoken, edgy viewpoint, spoke to the ongoing problem women have being heard when they speak out against powerful, popular men.

They’re readily dismissed as attention-seekers or worse, and it can take a lot of substantial evidence before we’re willing to give up our idyllic beliefs about our favorite celebrities. A lot of evidence about some really perverse things.

She also wrote about her hope the millennials will step up and take a stand against this behavior. It got me to thinking about my first job, age 18, at one of the top banks in the nation. (I won’t say the name because things have changed way too much since then, and what I’m about to describe certainly doesn’t reflect their standards today. They’d be sued to high heaven.)

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Fortunately not all women in the 60s and 70s just put up with their boss’s behavior.

My boss, the operations manager, would ask me over to his desk for trivial reasons, just so he could watch me walk away. He liked the way I walked, and made no secret of it. When I objected, the asst. operations manager, a woman, called me aside and had a long talk with me, telling me to “stop being so uptight” and “get over it.” I never did, but I did shut up.

This was 1978, the height of the women’s movement. A lot had changed, but obviously we had a long way to go. Eight years later the Supreme Court found sexual harassment to be illegal, and included “unwelcome conduct” or anything that “created an abusive working environment” as sexual harassment.

More importantly, most people today would consider my boss’s behavior unacceptable. There’s no undercurrent of thinking that the law or company policies (many which are more exacting than the law) are too strict. Yes, the men may like the way the women walk, but they’re smart enough to keep quiet about it, or tell only select others. We can’t stop the thoughts, but the actions can be controlled.

That’s not to say it’s perfect out there, I know. I hear plenty of stories about sexual harassment, some subtle, some blatant, in work places all around me. But it’s better, much, much better.

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Think of the fight she fought — and where we might be if women didn’t have the vote today.

The 1960s and into the 70s was an era of activism, heavy-duty, life-altering, extreme activism. We haven’t really seen that sort of push for change in the decades since, although some change has come. With this new generation stepping up, maybe we’ll move forward in our thinking once again at the kind of radical level we saw once before.

No amount of persuasive talk is going to change some people’s minds about some things. However, sometimes all it takes is intelligent people speaking up and letting loose all the other smart people who think the same thing but believe they’re alone in their convictions. Keep it up, Amy, you’re smart and you have something to say. We’re listening.


Image Credits: (Retro Girl) © stadobaranova — Fotolia; (Vintage Girl) © Tshirt-Factory.com — Fotolia

That First Magic Step

I could use a little disruption in my life to change my focus, if only for a moment. Enough of a spark to take my mind off of that which usually occupies my thinking.

It might open me up to a refreshing change in my life.

It’s scary, and exciting, to think we could work to make our dreams come true. Scary, because we might fail. Exciting, because we might succeed. I know by now it takes more than a simple wish on a shooting star or a genie’s lamp.  It takes action. I want to turn things around for myself, but first, I think, I have to change my thinking. If I don’t I’ll end up in the same situation I’m in now. The details may be different, but the resulting satisfaction, or lack thereof, will be the same.

The question, of course, is what part of my thinking needs to change? There is a large part of me that has grown in a positive way in recent years, yet I’m stuck in a place, physically and mentally, I don’t want to be.

There is a seed of thought of exactly where I do want to be, and I have to be willing to dream it’s possible. Then, I have to take the steps to make it happen. One at a time. If I think too far ahead, I’ll freeze up and it will never happen.

I’ll worry about roadblocks and setbacks, heartbreak and disappointment. Already I can hear this little voice in my head saying, “you’ve done this before, where did it get you?”

I think even the middle ground could be a pretty fantastic place to land.

It got me pretty far, actually. Just sometimes I fail to remember what I now take for granted.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that reality is usually a middle ground, not as terrible as we fear or as incredible as we hope, but in this case I think even the middle ground for me could be a pretty fantastic place to land.

As I write this my body is aching, I’m worried how I’m going to pay my bills this month and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in more than a week. Reality can sap the joy out of dreams if you let it, but today I’m not going to let it.

I’m going to wish on a shooting star, then take the first step to make my dreams come true.


Image Credit: (Magic Lamp) © Flynt – Bigstock

Peace and Grief

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
― Helen Keller

If you believe in an afterlife, as I do, than you believe my friend Laurie’s brother Monte is whole now, healed from the cancer that took him from us. More than that, he is free from all other physical, mental and emotional constraints that held him back in this world. Helen Keller’s blindness was a significant disability, yet we all exist in an imperfect state, and there are things we too don’t “see” in this life, things that limit us in other ways.

While there is a peace that comes from faith, there is still grieving. Family & friends will miss his laugh, his strong opinions, his kind heart. A good man was taken from us way too young. Monte would have been 50 this August.

My thoughts, prayers and love go to Laurie and her family, as well as all who cared about Monte. Thank you to those of you who prayed for him and Laurie in the past few days.


Image Credit: © pelinni — Bigstock

High Power, Low Heels

Recently a friend of mine, a male friend in his 70s, asked me why women wear high heels.

The answer is simple. You look sexier wearing them. You’re taller and slimmer, you stand straighter, you may even walk more confidently.

But they are so, so bad for you, and your feet just may hurt like hell in very short order. A 25-year-old woman should not have bunions, and yet I’ve known several who have, all because of their shoes.

Looking sexier isn’t always the way to go.

A news story from Great Britain brought this issue front and center again this last week.  A 27-year-old temp worker, Nicola Thorp, was sent home from her receptionist job because she wore flats instead of the required 2″ -4″ heels. She’s started a petition to change the law in her country, and her efforts are going quite well, with more than 110,000 signatures collected so far.

There was no reason the temp agency could come up with, according to Ms. Thorp, requiring the heels. It’s clearly a matter of image, make that, sexism. Put the pretty girl at the front desk.

A friend of mine was recently advised to seek a job for which she didn’t have the skills, and the individual doing this job coaching told her, “it doesn’t matter. You’re pretty so the old codgers won’t care how good you are.” He pushed the issue, telling her she had an asset she wasn’t using. It was futile explaining to him how sexist and demeaning this is, even though every example he gave of women who held their jobs with similar “qualifications” only reinforced what was obvious to us.

Here’s what was particularly frustrating about that conversation: this isn’t a man you would, in general, call sexist. Yet in this area, he’s blind to his thinking.

AdobeStock_98604038 [Converted]As is much of my country, and many others as well. We still expect women to look pretty to succeed. There are multiple problems surrounding this, not the least of which is, some women are pretty. Most, with a little mirror time, clean up good, and want to put their best face forward, literally. No one is going to get away with telling them not to do that in the name of defending women’s rights.

But relying on your looks in your job is giving up your power. There is no strength in going before your boss, even going through the office doors, knowing your chief asset is your appearance.

So where does the line get drawn, how is the issue resolved? One small step can be made by not using your appearance to gain favor as a worker. Other than meeting a standard of proper grooming, your shoes shouldn’t be winning over the executive suite. In fact, they shouldn’t be noticed.

If you’re dressed properly, they notice the woman.

And if they notice you, that’s power.

Looking for Clothes

 


Image Credits: (Shoes) © Klemen Petrič – Fotolia; (Girl at Mirror) © sapunkele — Fotolia; (Looking for the Right Outfit) © NinaMalyna – Fotolia

Facing the Fire

One of my best friends’ heart is breaking this week.

Her younger brother is dying of cancer; he may be gone by the time you read this. He was diagnosed several years ago and immediately went in for surgery. After the surgery, he developed an infection, which prevented him from getting chemotherapy in a timely manner. Despite that, once he did receive that treatment it initially seemed to be successful, however, eventually the cancer spread, and he will lose his battle.

He is a man of faith,

and while this is not a blog about spiritual things, it’s important to know I share his faith and look forward to an eternity of fullness with God. I speak of it here only because for a long time I wondered if I really believed in an afterlife. Faith is a funny thing. You speak the words, but do you believe them? When I learned how close this young man was to death, my immediate thought was, soon he will be with his Savior. My faith, thankfully, is real.

Stormy skies IIIMy friend, Laurie, has faced so much in recent years. I don’t know how she bears it, but she does it with grace and humor. And probably the occasional meltdown. About seven or eight years ago her husband Dave, whose mental state had been failing steadily throughout their marriage, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. He was on the verge of death when he had his surgery. Fortunately, he’s had an incredible recovery from that trauma — and it is a trauma, don’t let the word benign fool you — but his troubles weren’t over.

Sometimes the hits keep coming.

About the time Laurie’s brother was declared cancer-free, before it came back with a vengeance, and maybe four years after her husband’s brain surgery, Dave was diagnosed with the exact same kind of cancer her brother had. She was in shock. Thankfully, mercifully, his treatment went beautifully, and he was cancer-free at the end of the chemo treatments.

Except — wait — a brand-new tumor developed three months later. So they started all over again. By this time they knew her brother was in dire straits, and while Dave’s situation still looked a whole lot better, it was cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

Oh, I forgot to mention. During this entire time Laurie’s mom’s health was steadily failing. She died last December.

Dave is cancer-free now and we’re believing the best.

It can be a lonely journey sometimes.

Those of you who’ve been through this sort of thing know the myriad of challenges that come along with trials like these. Laurie has had to take time off of work and that has put a strain on her relationship with her employer. Their finances have taken a hit.

The golden moments have come from their children. Their incredible daughter will be a junior in college next year and their adorable son graduates from high school shortly. Thank God for healthy, happy children, although Laurie is aware there are probably issues from the time Dave’s mental state was deteriorating.

lightstock_209357_medium_user_7579580 [Converted]There are people in our lives who face a far greater share of life’s challenges than others well before they should. Laurie had more than a few burdens to bear before this as well, but her faith, her family, her friends have carried her through the hard times.

I went through a hell myself of an entirely different sort several years ago and she was there for me. We need people who have faced the fire and survived to help keep us strong. How unfair that seems, so let me be strong for my friends in return.

I will face the fire with you.


Image Credits: (SuperWoman) © Pearl — Lightstock (Sailboat in Storm) © brickrena — BigStock (Stormy Skies) water © AG — Fotolia; skies © Andrii Salivon – Fotolia; clock © Jakub Krechowicz – Fotolia; dock © Filip Miletic — Fotolia

Everyday Value

My neighbor died today. Her granddaughter found her on the floor at home, apparently dead of a heart attack.

Her little dog was frantic, as you might imagine, and the granddaughter is taking the pup home for now. She told me she hopes one of her cousins will take him in as she’s due any day with her first child and doesn’t need the additional burden.

maple branch rev c milavas sm shadowThis lady was nice, with a wry sense of humor and countless grandchildren who took advantage of her. The police were at the apartment keeping them out; they all insisted they had things they owned in that apartment, and likely some did, but at this point under the law it all belongs to her and her estate.

I suppose the police would need to wait for the locks to be changed, because you can bet those kids all had keys. This wasn’t an entirely bad group, but one or two were pretty awful. One young man came to my door early on asking for the passcode to my wireless account. When I refused to give it to him, he broke into my apartment and got it off of the wireless box. Of course I changed the passcode and now he’s in jail for breaking & entering as well as felony theft. In my state, you serve time for theft of services.

Now, mine wasn’t the only apartment he broke into; I didn’t report the crime until the police came to me. And I shouldn’t say he broke in, although legally it was B&E. I’d left the door unlocked when I went to get my mail and he ran in then. Creepy. I lock the door now even when I take the garbage out.

But I don’t hold it against my late neighbor. I liked her. She did her best and I know she was struggling financially, or she wouldn’t have been living in these apartments. She didn’t own a car, in fact, she maybe didn’t even drive. She was disabled and couldn’t walk in a straight line very well because of the way her body was twisted. I’m not sure her vision was very good, either.

It’s funny the impact virtual strangers have on your life. I don’t know this lady’s name and I never had much of a conversation with her, but I appreciated her as a neighbor. She was kind and courteous. She loved her grandchildren, and despite what I’ve said so far I’m sure most of them are good people, young, perhaps, and a little thoughtless, but they will miss her. The granddaughter I saw today certainly seemed genuinely upset.

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We wonder about the impact we have on others’ lives, and it can be as simple as being a good neighbor. Earlier this week I was walking into the grocery store and smiled at a woman approaching from a different direction. She smiled back, a genuine, friendly smile that made feel good. I’d been having a difficult day. It made a difference.

“Thank you for smiling!” I told her.

“And thank you for smiling, too!” she said back cheerily. I felt good the rest of the day. That woman is important to me in that small way.

If ever you are feeling unimportant, if ever you wonder your value in life, it is there. It is in the small things and the grand, for life is made of all those things.

But mostly the everyday things.

Image Credits: (Leaves) © milavas — Fotolia; (Smileys) © Stuart Miles — Fotolia