Sunday, September 20, 2015

Make Someone's Day or How Dress Shopping Inspired This Leadership Message

Recently I had to go dress shopping for a family wedding and was not quite in desperation mode, but had the pressure to appear as the "cool Auntie from Florida", not one of the "'Golden Girls". Not being at my preferred weight and size added to the dread of the whole experience. Of course my husband was forbidden to go with me. So armed with a huge dose of self esteem conversation, I went to the Mall on Saturday. I went to the big department store where in the past (aka 2 sizes ago) I had great success and much to choose from. Immediately I knew I needed help...where were the dresses for me? You know, conservative, sleeves, flattering and not costing an arm and a leg. And then Rebecca came along.

To make a long story short, and after camping out in the dressing room for longer than I ever have, I came out with a beautiful dress, $43 (down from $118), and confidence was restored. No Blanche or Rose here! But it was the salesgirl, Rebecca, who helped me, reassured me, found more "little black shrugs to cover my hefty arms, but really, ma'am, you don't need them" than I knew existed, convinced me that no, I didn't need to go to a higher size, that dress looks great, and then smiled that "That's the one" when I came out in dress #53, which had been my favorite all along...I just appreciated her sweet affirmation of my choice. ""You're much too hard on yourself" she would say. "Just go and have fun", and all the other choice salesgirl-speak phrases that she may have used to everyone else in there, but I felt were just for me. She was genuine and made me feel she would have brought every dress on the floor so I could find the right one!

So do you have a "Rebecca" in your professional life? Someone who encourages, reassures, helps you find just the right resource, lets you know that everything is going to turn out great and that you'll just have to relax and have fun? Someone who's patient with your occasional self-deprecating comments, yet doesn't let you stay there? I hope you do! I hope someone is there to help you be your best each and every day. We have that in our Media Specialist PLC's and other configurations/PLN's/Mentor-Newbie pairings/etc. that our District Media Supervisors have set up and encouraged. And how about the flipside? Are you a "Rebecca" to someone else? Don't just let your bucket be filled to overflowing without letting it spill out to benefit someone else. Someone else, not just another Media Specialist, perhaps a teacher at your school, needs to be encouraged, guided, praised, lifted up. They need to find just the right resource to help them shine. They need to know someone's on their side and available. It might just be a Snickers bar in their mailbox to say you're thinking of them...but it will make their day.

The wedding hasn't taken place yet, I'll let you know how it turned out. But I know for sure that I'll be rocking that dress thanks to the help of that salesgirl who did a little more than just her job. She went beyond Salesgirl 101 and made the day of this not-there-yet Golden Girl who is still a very cool Auntie from Florida. Go be a blessing to someone today and Stay Grounded!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I'm Retiring.....Someday

Not sure  what planet I was on lately, but I was completely caught by surprise when I realized I could retire anytime or sign up for the state's deferred retirement program (DROP) now! It's not that  I haven't been counting my years carefully enough, but I've just been having such a good time doing what I'm doing, so I just would answer "someday" when asked when I was planning to retire. Actually, I wanted to answer "so I look that old?", but I took the high road. Even though I complete the "Information Sheet" each new school year of how many years I taught, have been in Media, was at my current school, etc., it didn't hit me that I just completed 30 years until I sat down with a financial consultant to review some accounts we had.

So what a range of emotions I experienced at the thought of retiring! Euphoria was first, excitement, anticipation....then sadness, anxiety, regret at so little time left. Actually, those last 3 didn't last long, to be honest! I started thinking of the great things that go with retirement: more time with the grandkids, helping my husband with some new life challenges, daily workouts for an awesomely fit 60+ body, more time in my flower beds, etc. Then  some of the more work-related things came to mind: not worrying about the annual equipment inventory, not having to deal with school board shenanigans, not trying to preserve my personal days for when I really need them, not stressing over observations, not venting about the way reading is taught, not bemoaning a ridiculous system that penalizes me for the school I've chosen to teach at, etc.

Then I had a major revelation: I can experience both the work and non-work related things now! I can have the same peace and joy and contentment today, rather than wait for retirement. With better management of work activities, I can devote time to my family and self and hobbies now and experience those blessings while I can, well , still really enjoy them! And the work stuff? It's all in my attitude. Not that I want a care-less attitude, but maybe a care-free one would be more appropriate. You know the familiar Reinhold Niebuhr prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". If I'm valuing each day as if it were my last at work, I could focus on the people and relationships that are the most important and enduring, not the petty differences and squabbles that want to rob my serenity.

Something that contributed to my times of reflection was the untimely death of a former principal. I worked for her for over 10 years, shared a birthday (10 years apart), enjoyed strong support of the media program, and generally had a great relationship with her. I emceed her retirement party (I could always make her laugh) and tried to stay in touch. Unfortunately, cancer didn't respect her retirement plans and within 3 short years she passed away. We were all quite stunned and deeply saddened.

So I'm not putting anything off until retirement. My retirement "attitude" starts today.  I'm loving what I do everyday, whether it's family, workouts, or checking off equipment. And if you ask me when I'm retiring, I'll have to say "Someday!" Stay grounded, friends!