Thursday, September 27, 2012

A reason to celebrate

In an ideal work world, all hardworking, dedicated workers would get to decide when to give their two-weeks' notice and go out on their own terms, probably after a farewell reception and, at the place I know so well,  getting an original work of art signed by co-workers. 

But after 53 years of living and 31 years of professional employment (one year at a starter job and 30 with my current company), I know it doesn't always work that way.

So, on a a recent Thursday, I shared this little note with my co-workers:

Thirty years ago today, on Sept. 13, 1982, I began spending 38- to 40-plus hours most weeks at what was then known as The Oklahoman and Times. I can only think of one person for sure who has been here in the NIC all that time, but there probably are others. So many of those who were here then have gone, and many others have come and gone.

Given the way employment is these days, and even more so for journalists, I'm glad to still be here. I have had many roles, from reporter and assistant metro editor to religion writer/editor, and now I am editing, proofreading and doing some layout ....

Again, given the economy and our industry, I don't know if I'll be here by the time of my official service anniversary (I didn't go full-time until October 1983), so I decided to have my own little celebration.

At 4 p.m., I'll put cookies, candy, nuts, chips, dips and a few veggies on the table ....

***And remember, if you reply, please send it just to me and not to all. Your co-workers will thank you. No need to reply or say anything to enjoy something sweet or salty.***

The following weekend, I started trying to express why I needed to do this. I think what triggered it was spending the previous week on a 30th wedding anniversary vacation trip that included visiting people I had not seen in a long time. Of course, we tried to catch up on highlights in our lives, including in our careers. That provided lots to talk about, especially since several of us met as journalists.  I loved the conversations.

Afterward, I was aware of some second-guessing about choices that I've made that have led me to where I am right now professionally. But I worked through those fairly quickly, realizing that, any time I have considered doing something else, when I prepare my "balance sheet" of positives and negatives, staying where I am seems right. At first out of desperation and now out of faith, I've always prayed along the way as I've encountered questions, doubts, challenges and crossroads at work. Looking back, it is easy to see that God has used my relationship with my career to help refine my relationship with Him and to trust Him as my ultimate employer. That has provided a sense of hope and security, especially in times in which involuntary workforce reductions have left what to me looked like some of the most skilled, productive, cooperative, willing, dedicated and loyal employees without jobs -- and without the appreciative send-off their years of service deserved.

So, on that Thursday, I said another prayer and hit "send" on the email, casting to God my lingering fears that I would appear vain or attention-seeking. (Is it clear yet that that's not what this is about at all?)  I'm glad I did. Co-workers old and much newer seemed eager to respond graciously -- and I learned there are about 10 in the "news and information" center who have been here as long or longer than me.

The timing also was significant for me because it was the day before I had to have my desk cleaned and belongings packed -- not for a move out of the office, but to relocate to a different floor. Moving is typically a traumatic, down to the last minute process for me, and inviting all those in person and email responses slowed me. But they also seemed to help facilitate what became the smoothest move I've ever experienced.

I may never get that card bearing one of our staff artists' original work reflecting something about me and my years of service, accompanied by signatures and well wishes from co-workers, but God helps me see that as I continue to give my best at work and in all things, seeking to glorify Him, the material things matter less and less. He also helps me see that even though my skills as a reporter (which it's hard for me to imagine now how I ever survived that role!) and now a copy editor are needed and valued, what is  more important is that I strive to maintain a positive, cheerful, helpful attitude each day. I can only do that through faith in God, starting with prayer, strengthened by worship and Bible reading, and blessed as I follow through in action.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Milestones and transitions

I can't think of a month I've ever had with this many milestones and transitions, except perhaps September 1982.

Sept. 1 -- Vacation starts. First meeting at my 12-step group's new office. Spending time with a friend at Arts Festival Oklahoma.

Sept. 2 -- back at my church after missing two Sundays there.

Sept. 3 -- we're off for a vacation to San Antonio by way of McKinney and a visit with a longtime friend in Belton.

Sept. 4 -- 30th wedding anniversary, celebrated along the River Walk in San Antonio.

Sept. 5 -- not going to let a possible health issue slow me down!

Sept. 6 -- catching up with another longtime friend.

Sept. 7 -- after leisurely days and nights along the river, a jam-packed whirlwind return begins. First stop: Aggieland, visiting the newly opened after remodelling Memorial Student Center and  staying through the first Midnight Yell of the SEC era.

Sept. 8 -- busy day of visiting, starting at niece's house near Waco  at 2 am, continuing with husband's sister in McKinney in the afternoon, then meeting their cousin from Florida, for the first time in about 30 years, in Dallas, and finally heading north to my mom's for the night.

Sept. 9 -- more visiting with the cousins, then quickly to eat with mom and more family before returning home to Oklahoma.

Sept. 10 -- a welcome extra vacation day before heading back to big changes it work. If only I had taken time to resolve the health issue!

Sept. 11 -- back to work. The countdown is on for desk cleaning in preparation for the following Monday's move to a different floor.

Sept. 11 -- uh oh. Health issue demands attention. If only I'd gotten antibiotics Monday. Surely this fever will break soon -- and it did.  Little did I know the energy would stay zapped much longer.

Sept. 13 -- back to work after just missing my 4-hour shift on Wednesday. And will I celebrate a personal milestone or not? Yes, I will! Cookies, candy, chips, veggies and dip to share with co-workers in honor of the 30th anniversary of when I started regularly spending usually more than 40 hours a week at the company I work for. I feared it might seem vain or something to call attention to my anniversary, but I also knew co-workers always appreciate good chocolate and other treats. I'm grateful I followed through with what seemed kind of a crazy idea, even to me.

Sept. 14 -- cannot leave work until my space is packed and ready to move. Deadline work is finished about 12:30 am. Departure achieved at 2 am.

Sept. 15-16 -- exhaustion. Not sure if it's aftermath of health issue or stress of moving and the emotions of so  many memory-producing milestones. Probably both. Something about the work move prompted me to call another friend I haven't talked to in a while. Got answering machine. Good even to leave a message.

Sept. 17 -- moving day. And everything seemed to go smoothly. Anything that seemed to be problematic was quickly resolved. I am grateful and amazed.  And so it continued every day of week one.

I still cannot find words to express how grateful I am for all of these experiences. I'm far from perfect in my journey as a Christian, but I've prayed all along the way, and I continued to have faith and look for the good even when obstacles or interruptions or distractions arose. And things always worked out for good. This is so different for me. Traditionally, change and moving paralyze me with fear and anxiety. And getting sick along the way would typically set me back even further.

Despite all the positive changes for which I am so grateful, I know this is just a foundation. I am praying for willingness and ability to shift my focus from so much on myself to more directly on others. Right now, God still seems to be guiding me to share with others as He works on me. So, I continue to wait and watch and pray in faith to see where this all leads.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Waiting .....

I desperately wanted to publish a worthwhile post this week and not another placeholder, but I just cannot do it. I prayed in faith for God to help me make sense of what I was trying to express, and the answer I seemed to get is that it is OK to let that topic  wait. It's OK to just check in this time. But it's still important to check in.

Life is full and rich. I feel gratitude for several recent experiences and insights, and great hope and joy about so many things. But I'm also physically and emotionally exhausted for a variety of reasons.

My biggest fear is that I will forget some of the details of these experiences before I can get them expressed in writing. (Yes, writing helps me remember.)

With prayer, faith and action, everything else has managed to turn out beyond what I could have hoped, so I choose to believe this will, too.

Looking for inspiration just now from one of my daily devotionals, I read this title for tomorrow's entry: Waiting for His Very Best. Hmmmm. Right before I saw that page, I was thinking I needed to find some guidance about waiting. And here it is. "Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

The combination of the title and the Scripture help me believe it will be worth the wait, to see what God has in store, for my words and my life.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

No vacation from trying to find words

Is blog deadline still in effect  when I'm on  vacation? The answer should probably be no, that I can take a break,  but I still feel like I want to post something, even though I don't know what to write. I keep thinking and hoping some little tidbit from the trip will come into sharp, simple  focus, but nothing has. Maybe that's because I also took a bit of a break from intentional, focused prayer.  I read my devotionals and prayed each day, but I seldom made it through the whole list, and my focus was very weak. I did give thanks many times each day and also sought God's direction. I just missed devoting time solely to God.

I think I need to post even these few musings about posting to ease the transition out of vacation. That will also buy me time to compose some more meaningful reflections on an anniversary vacation that was relatively simple but so rich and fulfilling. I can quickly express gratitude here to God  and feel the peace that continues to come from doing even simple things such as responding to the urge, I believe God-given, to try to find words.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September's song endures

As I turn the page to September
I'm grateful to take time to remember
Rich blessings of friendship, family and spirit.
Sweet music of life: To hear it! To share it!

I am feeling nostalgic. Gene and I, God willing, will celebrate our 30 anniversary on Tuesday. But for the first time in 59 years, Mom and Dad won't celebrate their anniversary this month. That hit me when I was reading the anniversary list in the September newsletter for their church. I felt the same sadness when Daddy's name wasn't on the March birthday list. It's part of that transition in the first year after a loved one's death.

As for me and Gene, I feel humbled and blessed that we've come this far. As delightful as some people make love and marriage look, statistics bear out that it isn't easy, and relationships don't always last. We've had our share of struggles, but before push comes to shove, we somehow manage to kiss and make up. The good far outweighs the bad, and the future remains as bright as we will let it be. I thank God and Gene and also give our families a lot of credit for that!

(For some of my past reflections on the sweet music of life's Septembers, click on the link to my 2010 post;postID=5331822284127896412. The song endures.)