Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conversations that start innocently...

Samantha is six years old and has one week of kindgarten left. It was my turn to put her to bed tonight, so we started to chat:

Samantha: Daddy, look, I cut my hand (she shows me a small scab).
Me: Sorry, sugar. How'd it happen?
Samantha: (Smiling) Well, Kenneth bet me I couldn't jump off the high part of the bench, so I did it. Then I kinda landed like THIS! (puts her hands on the ground)
Me: Did it hurt when you did it?
Samantha: A little, but I didn't cry. I never cry at school.
Me: Never?
Samantha: Nope. I'm brave at school.
Me: Okay. Is Kenneth a good friend?
Samantha: Yeah daddy he's a good friend, but sometimes I can't tell what he's saying.
Me: Why not?
Samantha: Because he's black.
Me: Huh?
Samantha: He has black skin. And sometimes I can't tell what black people are saying. We have black boys and girls in my class, and my teacher is black, and sometimes I don't understand them.
Me: What do you mean? Do they use different words?
Samantha: No, they use the same words as us. They just say 'em different.
Me: Interesting.
Samantha: And a lot times when they're talking, they'll go "YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYIN'!" (cocks her head at an angle as she says it).
Me: They all do that?
Samantha: Yep. And sometimes white people say it too. That makes me laugh.
Me: I think it's time for bed now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ultra-focus, gradually broadening

For Debby it was cancer that did the job. Illness has a way of doing that.

Lottery winners experience the same phenomenon. So even blessings can do that.

For T.K. Foster and Mike from "If's of Og", two former commenters on this blog... well, we don't know exactly what happened to them.

Diseases, blessings, mysteries -- what common power do they share? All of them can radically change the direction of, and the focus of, our lives.

For over six weeks I've been absent from my blog, and from commenting on the blogs of others, due to my own events that have required focus. It's nothing quite as big as disease or lotteries, though. Simply stated, my job demanded my full attention since late March.

-- In late March, all Directors of my company were brought together by the new company President and asked to develop new business plans. We were in financial crisis.

-- I wasn't actually a Director yet at that point. But I was asked to lead the team in the planning process. I saw it through, and in 30 days we completed a realignment project that would normally take at least 90 days.

-- I was promoted to Director, but at the same time, over one-third of the company was laid off. Including my best friend at the office (James W), who also frequently comments here at the blog.

-- Since the layoff, I've been building a new team and preparing to launch a couple of new company-wide programs. The first is scheduled to go live in one week.

-- In the past week alone, people on my team have experienced the psychotic breakdown of a spouse, a sibling's relapse into drug addiction, an outpatient surgery and the death of a parent. This obviously takes a lot from me as a manager to help them personally, and still somehow makes things work while the employees are absent and project deadlines keep coming closer.

I've never been particularly focused on my career. It's just been something to pay the bills while the majority of my energy -- mental, emotional, physical -- went to other pursuits. For almost two months now I've had to literally rearrange my life to be able to meet the new demands at work.

At first it was overwhelming and I messed up a lot of things. I missed some key family moments. My workouts stopped completely and I got sick (those two are always connected in my health history). I quit writing blogs, reading books, watching movies, playing piano or playing video games.

Now I'm gradually reintroducing those things, one at a time, and figuring out how to define "balance" for myself. It's different every day. It's an exercise of constant adjustment and monitoring.

I don't see any overall good/bad themes emerging from my experiences over the past six weeks -- it's just life. I've gotten a promotion and some of my friends lost their jobs, but who's to say if this is good or bad? Maybe in three months I'll be miserable and they'll land something great! Judging those things is like judging the NFL draft... you can only do it three to five years after it happens.

So in the absence of any ability to discern the master plan, I'm trying to do the things I need to do today, and have fun while doing it.

Because a smart dude once said "each day has enough trouble of its own", and frankly, I've got my hands full with this afternoon's troubles. Tomorrow's are going to have to wait.