2.09.2016

Musical Memory Lane

Ask people what was the best decade for music and they pick the years where they came of age. At least, anecdotally, that appears to be the norm. The question is a great conversation starter, regardless of their answers.

While I love pop/rock from the 50s forward, the 80s were my favorite decade. However, I don't know that it's because that's when I really got into music. I think it's more of the influence of MTV.

Music videos brought a whole new level of engagement to the game. Reading liner notes while listening to an album and articles in Rolling Stone were no longer the only ways to get to "know" your favorite musicians and bands. While there was definitely some spin put on performers to make them appear personable, or not depending on the marketing benefit, it was that much easier to make an emotional connection when you could see them cavort across your TV screen.

The emotional connect was especially easy if the artist was hot like my fave of the decade. Dr. Noah Drake, himself.

I could listen to this album every day of my life and not be bored.
But, another reason I topped out in the 80s for pop/rock was that I segued to listening to country almost full time by the time the 90s came around. I've never really gone back so my knowledge of new pop/rock artists is limited to my trendier friends mentioning them or reading an online article when they do something outrageous a al Lady Gaga's meat suit.

This past weekend, I went to Tucson and decided on bypassing my usual 80s on 8 Sirius/XM station and settled on Prime Country. They play songs from the 80s and 90s so right when I was really getting into the genre.

It was amazing how easily the tunes that I first heard 30 years ago, and may not have heard for 15 years since, came back to me. In my four hours of total drive time, there were literally only a handful of songs that I couldn't sing along with. Fortunately, I was alone in the car so no one was subjected to my exuberant enjoyment. #notagoodsinger

Some of the artists are still popular. Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and George Strait are some examples. Some of the artists have either passed away or their careers have. And, some are still around but playing small venues and not getting a lot of radio play. The latter are what made it a musical memory lane. Those are just songs and people I don't hear anymore.

It was a fun way to pass the time and helped me not get irritated by all the driver who couldn't read the "Slower traffic stay right" signs. Oy vey, those people, they vex me!

As an aside, my car came with a free year of Sirius/XM when I bought it. Brilliant! Even though I only listen to about a dozen channels for the most part, I have chosen not to live without that first world luxury. It completes me.

Here's a little bonus quiz for you. Can you name each of these artists from their pictures?












The answers are:  Terri Clark, Pam Tillis, Clint Black, Don Williams, Conway Twitty, Johnny Lee, Mickey Gilley, KT Oslin, Randy Travis, Ronnie McDowell and Steve Wariner (one of my all time favorites)

2.08.2016

Grateful For First World Problems

Between Christmas and New Year's, my dryer stopped heating up, my water heater sprung a leak in the middle of the night, my toaster decided to only heat one side of the bread, the cold water faucet in my bathroom broke and I spend $300 on tickets to see my Green Bay Packers get demolished by the Arizona Cardinals.

To say things weren't going my way was a bit of an understatement, in my opinion.

Fortunately, I was reading the perfect book for my doomsday week.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/24611936-the-gratitude-diaries

A friend whom I consider to be even more negative than I am said that this book had made a positive impact on her attitude. The author tells her story in the first person as she spends a year trying to be more grateful. She cites a great deal of research on what makes us grateful and how it benefits our health and mental wellbeing.

I used her techniques to reframe what was going on and it made me feel so much better.

Instead of bemoaning the expense and inconvenience of having to buy major appliances right after Christmas gift giving, I thought about how lucky I was to have the resources to replace them at that very moment.

Instead of being unhappy about the water heater starting to leak in the middle of the night, I considered how lucky I was that my cat woke me up by patting my face with his very wet paw.

The biggest difficulty about replacing the toaster with another $20 one from Target was spending a few days finding the Goldilocks setting.

My Uncle Bill was visiting from Wisconsin so he fixed my sink and my only effort was spending $10 for the parts and making visits to two different hardware stores.

The $300 I spent on game tickets was paid for out of a 50/50 jackpot win where my $60 investment paid off with a $320 win so the tickets netted out to a $40 expense.

Because I'm not a complete Pollyanna (and the book doesn't say you should be), I can't reframe my team's loss in a positive manner. A little bit of my soul was crushed each time Aaron Rodgers was sacked. Sigh.

Looking at my life, it's easy to say "Of course you should be grateful! You have a job you enjoy that pays you well, your immediate family is in good health and nearby and you have a good relationship with them, you have oodles of friends and you get to travel all over, all the time."

All that's true but I sometimes need a kick in the pants to remember it. To reinforce the thought, I went to Ted to find a talk. And, I found a great one!


Listen to this woman as she talks about events and situations that are unfathomable to many of us and how she isn't bitter and is, indeed, grateful. It is a very powerful message.

January was my turn to host our monthly Directors/Senior Managers Meeting. I told my story of my travails and how the book had made me realize how grateful I was that I could deal with life's temporary lemons.

I then showed them the video. You could have heard the literal pin drop. Well, if it had dropped on a table and not the carpet.

I closed out with these words, "First world problems, let's be grateful we have them."

2.06.2016

A Rewarding Experience

Our Sales Team has an annual day where they present all matter of Sales Awards to the team. There's a breakfast session for half of the team and a lunch session for the others. It's led by the Sales Managers and Director and they selectively invite colleagues throughout the business whom they feel are critical to their successes. It's an honor to be invited and I've had the great privilege to attend the past two events. (They know me well enough to invite me to the lunch session instead of the breakfast because, well, mornings, ugh.)

I enjoy attending for several reasons. The main one is the chance to see everyone. Most of our Outbound Sales team works from home so it's a delight to catch up in person. I also like seeing who wins, of course. And, it's heartwarming to see the support and enthusiasm the team has for each other. They do a lot of celebrating of their colleagues' wins.

This year's event was pretty fancy. It was held at a nearby hotel and we had a lovely meal and almost everyone was dressed up. I even wore a skirt! It was fun to see everyone in their finery as we're a place where you could wear jeans and a t-shirt every day and not stand out. The Sales Leaders even matched their clothing by wearing black and purple. They looked sharp!

This year's Sales theme: SPIRIT. Each letter stands for something. (T for Teamwork, naturally.)
Lots was said about the hapless P that had a hole and ended up being taped to the other letters.
Besides the Sales Awards, our VP of Sales and Marketing does a presentation. He is a gifted storyteller. He's funny, ties his story all into the theme and engages individuals to make it feel more personal. His usual slides are boring black and white (and he mocks himself as do we about that) but he even managed color pictures in this presentation. He puts in a lot of effort to make it look effortless.

Also presenting is our CEO. He's been using this event for a few years to present his theme (different than the Sales' presentation theme) for the year. Prior year's themes have included Customer Is King, Listen and The Value Of Rest. He also does a lot of preparation to make his presentation look natural and more conversational.

One very cool set of awards is given to non-Sales folks. These are deemed the people who made the most positive impact, are the most helpful and are generally just awesome. There are just a few given out each year so it makes it a special prize.

This year, they gave one of those awards to one of the IT Team. One of our newer Help Desk Analysts got an award and it was his first invitation to the event ever so he was really surprised by it all.

He was also very humble and grateful. I sent out a department wide email when I got back to the office announcing his award and the accolades from the team immediately came tumbling in. His reply to us all: Thanks everyone,  I couldn't have been able to help anyone without help from everyone here so I'd like to show my gratitude with either healthy granola snacks or doughnuts on Monday.

I'm pretty sure he got lobbied for doughnuts because, well, IT.

Such an awesome response from an awesome person. He gets an award and he ends up rewarding his team. I wish I were that good and I'm grateful to him for giving me a role model. Wouldn't it be great if we were all that role model for others?

2.02.2016

A Family Affair

I got an email out of the blue from my Mom's cousin, Tom, a few weeks ago. He and his wife, Agnes, were driving through on a road trip vacation from Wisconsin to California and wanted my parents' contact info. He happened to have kept my email address from when I collected RSVPs for my parents' 50th Anniversary a few years back so I was his first, and last, stop on the social network.

I didn't tell my parents so they were super surprised to hear from Tom. Shorty was all like, "Guess who's here?" and I was like, "Yes, I know." It's kind of our thing.

Coincidentally, when Tom and Agnes were scheduled to be in Phoenix, my Mom's sister Betty was here on a visit, also from the Homeland. So, we had quite the crowd gathered at my parents' house. In addition to us and Aunt Betty, my Uncle Jack and his wife Rose Mary and my Uncle Jim (both are my Mom's brothers who live here) were in attendance. And, Agnes' sister and brother-in-law who were on the road trip.

It was a great evening. My Mom's Mom was Tom's Dad's sister. (Don't worry, there isn't a Family Tree quiz coming up.) There were lots of stories from back in the day about that generation. We have no one left of that group so any new information is precious to me, especially since we moved away when I was pretty young so I don't have a lot of my own memories of them.

There were also quite a few stories of shenanigans from my Mom's generation. Lots of tales of adventures on the farm. Actually, more than one farm because, well, Wisconsin. (Stereotypes are sometimes accurate.)

Back row:  Kathy, Agnes, Tom, Betty, Steven the Giant, Mary, Jim, Shorty (Charlie)
Front row:  Rose Mary, Jack
Off to the left side:  Orbs. Apparently, my parent's house is haunted.
All in all, a wonderful family treat.

By the way, supporting my belief that everyone in Wisconsin is less than Six Degrees removed from a Pfister, Agnes' sister went to school with my Uncle Bill (Shorty's younger brother).

12.04.2015

Competitive Much?

We just completed a food drive for St. Mary's Food Bank at work and it brought out the best in us. And, maybe a little bit of the worst in those of us who don't like to lose.

Our charity team came up with a great idea to increase participation this year. They set it up as a challenge between the North side of the street and the South side (we have a bunch of buildings as part of our campus).

One of my colleagues offered to match her team's donations up to a certain amount. She then emailed the other leaders in our building with the details. Several of us chimed in with more offers to match and several others put in some good amounts of cash as well. We raised a LOT of money.

The best part for me was that I just had to write a check - she did all the shopping. I admit it, I'm fundamentally lazy.

She then posted pictures on Facebook of her shopping results and tagged in some of us from both sides of the street.

I might have started some trash talking by posting the count to date and posting "I'd say the Southsiders have some catching up to do!"

This was Wednesday morning.
More money was collected, more shopping was done and more pictures were posted. 

A mid-day shopping spree.
This was the count after lunch today.
The South had risen but it looked like we had it well in hand.
The end of the competition was at 3 PM. The official counter was on the South Side and, ten minutes before the deadline, they brought in several hundred items.

Freaking sandbaggers! 

It was the Marketing people, I'm sure. They sandbag their sales goals, too. ;)

Final count.
We lost by 40 items. 40 freaking items.

One of my colleagues and I went out to Dairy Queen to drown our sorrows. We were truly morose. But, even an M&M Blizzard wasn't enough to soothe my soul. Sigh.

When all is said and done, the great news is that we almost tripled our original goal and did a fine thing for the folks who are served by St. Mary's. 

The not so great news is that I had to endure the winners' trash talking. I'd like to say I would have been more gracious if we had won but I'd probably be lying.

Oh, in case you were wondering, we're already planning our strategery for next year.


11.26.2015

Holiday Memories

Every holiday with my family and our long time friends consists of a few eternal things.

  • Steven will yell at Shorty to get out of the kitchen. 
  • Shorty won't be able to stop himself from offering cooking advice and commentary, even when he's not in the kitchen.
  • Despite all of us having similar beliefs, there will be some sort of political discussion that gets loud.
  • Steven will mix up the food on my plate so that it's all touching despite the fact that it's just wrong.
  • I'll make several Brandy and Cokes for myself until I get lazy and make Steven mix them.
  • Stories will be told with the assumption that we all know the people and context even though they happened before some of us were born or are about places we've never been.
One change for this year was that I didn't have any Brandy and Cokes.

Maybe because of the lack of booze, I also didn't have the usual reaction to the stories. They're often about people long dead that I've never met so my eyes glaze over then I leave the room to go watch some form of sportsball. Or, they're stories I've heard so many times that I can recite them word for word so my eyes roll then I leave the room to go watch some sorts of sportsball.

There's something to be said for consistency, I guess.

After dinner today, my Uncle Jack started in on a tale from, heck, 25?, years ago. They were at my Great Uncle Louie's farm and Louie started outing my Grandpa Don for all the cars that he'd wrecked over the years. Model A, Model T, Packard, the list was a pretty long one of what we would consider classic cars.

As the story progressed (some of which I had heard before), my imagination filled it out and I heard it n Uncle Louie's voice. They should have a picture of him in the dictionary next to the word laconic. I could also hear my Grandpa Don trying to rebut it all but having to admit the story's veracity.

They've both been long gone but that moment made them seem so with us now. That moment also reminded me how much I miss them. 

They were both quality people and theirs was the generation that lived through the depression, served in WWII and Korea, farmed back when small farmers could make a living and worked hard no matter what their professions may be. They knew everyone in their town and could recite the lineage of everyone even outside of their families. They were semi-tough on their kids but totally soft on their grandkids (and great nieces and nephews). When people wax sentimental for the good old days, their stories are what they're comparing today to.

On this day of National gratitude, I'm grateful to still have some folks who lived through the old stories and have the cognizance to tell them. I can't promise that I won't continue to roll my eyes at times but I think I've gotten to the point in my life where I truly appreciate the history and being able to share it with my loved ones.

I hope some day, future generations will appreciate my repeated stories, too. Of course, they'll be able to google (or whatever replaces google) everything and catch me in any embellishments. Damn technology.

BTW, all of the wrecked cars were dumped into the water on the family farm property. Somewhere under the surface is an automobile graveyard. I can't imagine doing that today. 




10.09.2015

Love Springs Eternal

I had the great fortune to attend a wedding this past weekend that gave me a huge warm fuzzy.

The Bride and Groom have both loved and lost, raised families and adore their grandchildren. You could say that they are seasoned veterans of life. Just seeing two people find each other is fantastic; seeing two people combine their families and friends so well is truly heartwarming.

They were both escorted down the aisle by their adult children. The Bride's ex-husband kept their youngest granddaughter occupied during the ceremony. Their grandkids played together before the ceremony and whooped it up on the dance floor together at the reception. This is what a family should be like.

(Side note - the youngest granddaughter has a future as a pop star or President of the USA. She danced on the stage with the band and refused to yield it until sheer exhaustion kicked in. That kid is going places.)

In addition to the families, there were many friends there. I got excused from table decorating (and stayed drinking with the boys, natch) but helped with the day after brunch. Other friends assembled decorations, prepped food, set up tables and chairs and basically did what they could to contribute to the event. You could tell everyone was very happy to be part of celebrating the occasion.

Weddings are always (well, almost, I've had my doubts at a few) joyous events. The love and hope for a lifetime together in partnership and love chokes me up every time. No matter the age of the participants, the feelings are the same.

Geez, I'm getting sentimental which is not my nature. (Really, I've been tested.)

Here are some pics from the wedding and the brunch.

Cool gift idea!

Different take on a sign in book.

Gorgeous table decorations
(prettier because I wasn't involved, I'm sure).

TKay is always the craftiest. Plasticware wrapped in napkins and tied to real shells.

Mason jar with Mimosa - awesomesauce!