Thursday, January 27, 2011

Letting it go

Yesterday the new service desk manager at our organziation was announced. This was the position I'd applied for and later withdrew my application. The person "groomed" for the position was given the job. I hold no bitterness towards this person. They're a good supervisor and I think they'll be very good at it. But it's been hard this week not to feel bitter about my organization.

There are times I feel left behind as a supervisor. Certainly in my direct department, that makes 2 people (one that used to work for me) that have advanced above me. The thing that sticks in my head was the phrase "groomed". I get the feeling sometimes that parts of my chain of command have written me off and stuck me in a corner out of the way. My boss certainly intimated my opportunities in my department may be limited and it's always wise to keep an eye on what's out there. Not to say anyone's pushing me out the door, but I think the expectation is that some people think I've advanced as much as I can, whether because they don't think there's a place for me or they think I'm not capable.

That last bit is what really burns me. Because I KNOW there are a couple of senior leaders that don't think I have what it takes to be successful at the next level. I'll be the first to admit I made some mistakes in the past and should have done better when I had the role. However, when the feedback you get from your director is that you're not doing a good job and "I don't know how to tell you to fix it", it makes it difficult to succeed. And when that same director asks you boss why he's telling them all the time about your successes, that sends a loud signal.

However, I try not to let it get me down. I really like what I do. I'm knowledgable, respected by the people I want to be respected by, and I think my staff believes I'm a good leader. At least one of them has thanked me for mentoring them. So I'll keep on going. But I'm convinced in order to move up in my organization I'm going to need to make a sideways move into a different group. Or, for all I know, things will get shaken up in my group. We have an opening for a supervisor and bringing in new blood is always a good time to shake things up. Who knows.

All I can do is keep getting better at what I do. And that I do very well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's in the genes

Nicholas attended solofest last week. That's a twice a year event where musicians in the school districts in our county play solos for a judge to see how well they do. If they care to, they can compete for a spot in the all county band. Solos have different levels, the higher the level, the more difficult the solo. The difficulty of the solo goes into the calculation of whether or not you make all county band.

Nicholas did a level 5 solo (pretty tough for a 7th grader) and got a 97 out of 100! This not only qualified him to make the all county 7th/8th grade band, he is first chair! For the second time in a row! Meaning he's the best in the county among 7th and 8th graders at his instrument (the euphonium). Not too shabby for a budding mucisian! I found out from a music teacher friend of mine an 8th grader did the same solo as him and scored a couple points less and didn't even MAKE the all county band!

The funniest part was when I asked Nicholas how he thought he did after the solo, he said "Pretty good but not as good as last year. I messed up some stuff." He's SUCH a musician! We always think we suck. This I know from experience. Ellen and I are looking forward to seeing him again play in all county band. It will be his 3rd time. Christopher is doing a jazz solo later this week but we're not holding out for him to make all county jazz band. He plays sax and the competition is so fierce, nothing short of perfect will make it. We know some VERY talented sax players in Nicholas' band and they didn't even have a chance. But we're hoping he can get a good score!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Colder than a witch's tit

Hope my pals in the northeast are enjoying the deep freeze. It's not too terribly cold here, only about 13 degrees. But cold enough, dammit. We had some fun this weekend. Unfortunately, one of our favorite toy store/train store is closing. The owner is having trouble competing with electronic games and he figures 19 years is enough in one business. But, that allowed us to get some good stuff at a discount. Ellen wants to try model rocketry as a hobby so we got her a rocket, launch pad, and all the other accesories. Now we're waiting for spring to launch it! I always loved rockets as a kid so I was more than happy to encourage her.

As a quick update on some previous posts, of course, Ellen was right about not obsessing about school. I did some work today on one of my papers and realized that it's not as hard as it looked and I should have no problem meeting the deadling as long as I pace myself. I really need to stop sweating this stuff.

Finally, just an amusing anecdote to my post title. My late mother in law (who was never shy about a little colorful language now and then or stirring the pot) was always fond of saying it was "colder than a witch's tit) in this kind of weather. Perhaps it's the guy in me, but I'm fond of that particular phrase. So, the other day my pal Lois posted on Facebook the question which is colder, a witch's tit or a well digger's ass. Now, I hadn't heard of that second phrase so I asked Ellen, mentioning the FB post. She stated she'd had a lively discussion at work about that very topic! Small world, is it not?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I must give thanks to my lovely wife for keeping me grounded. The new semester started this week (on Tuesday). You may suspect that I get a LITTLE obsessive when it comes to school work. Such as having a paper due on 2/7 and starting to think I'm behind and there's no way to do all the research in time and on and on.

Ellen, on the other hand, was good enough to remind me I have over 2 weeks to get it done. And it's not like I haven't done anything like it before. That course builds on all the work I've done so far. And nearly every paper I submitted that I thought was not bad got a really good grade.

So I'm trying to pace myself and get some work done every night and so far I'm doing well! I've got a outline under way which I should have done some time next week. Which should still give me plenty of time to gather resources and actually write the thing. My other course is not too demanding right now so I'll just keep plugging way.

Wives have a great way of smacking their husbands upside the head (figuratively if not literally). Thank the Lord for such a wonderful lady.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Words of Wisdom

I was picking up Nicholas from his youth group tonight and overheard the coordinator say the following:

"Sometimes Jesus asks us to be last so other can be first."

Talk about powerful. After all the stuff going on and questions I had about career and home, that's pretty much the answer I was looking for. I've been reading and thinking a lot about the concept of "servant leadership". I think sometimes the best thing to do is just take care of your people and Jesus will take care of you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Leadership 101

I've been reading a lot about leadership lately for the courses I'm taking this semester. Probably the best things I've taken away from my MBA courses so far are those that make me think about how to be a better manager and leader. I've been thinking about vision along with this reading. I feel the need to emphasize customer service more with my team. I've got a few team members that seem (to me at least) to find our customers "bothersome". The complain about going above and beyond for them and seem to think the organization should take a "you missed the deadline too bad" kind of approach. I don't see it that way. My challenge now is to try and instill in them the passion I have for what we do. I think a couple of my employees are showing up just for a paycheck. And while I wouldn't fire someone just for that, my feeling is that if they don't want to come in every day with the attitude to do the most they can to help the customers, perhaps they should find a job they enjoy.

We'll see how it goes, but my boss is behind me so perhaps I can turn it around and make our organization just a little better.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lead me Lord

For those of you that see my Facebook posts, you may know that last week I submitted my resume for a promotion at work. One of my collegues left the company and her position opened up. I thought it might be a good move for me as it would still be managing first line support teams. Well, today I had one of my periodic 1 on 1 meetings with my boss (who this position also reports to). As was expected, one of the supervisors on the team also submitted their resume for the job. She reported to my co-worker that left. My boss basically told me that he'd be happy to interview me for the postion, but that if it came down to chosing between her and I, she'd get the job. So I've decided to withdraw my application.

Now, before you get all indignant and outraged (which I appreciate), truthfully I was relieved. Odd as it sounds, when I applied for the job, I wasn't sure it was the best thing to do. There would be significantly more travel involved with that position. Further, I was concerned that I would be further removed from the customer. As it turns out, I actually enjoy interfacing directly with our customers as well as my business partners.

I really do enjoy what I do. I've been really successful in this role. I get to "get my hands dirty". I've always believed the Lord will lead me where I need to go. When I first learned this position would open up, my first thought was whether this was an opportunity the Lord was presenting or if I was already in the right place. I believe that prayer was answered today.

Truthfully, I'm content where I am right now. Balance between work and home is good. I have the time to devote to Ellen and the kids (and school). And there's nothing wrong with being content. Would I like to do more? Sure. But not at a cost to my personal life. Also, I'm not totally sure that I didn't apply for this position to prove to some people at work that I could do it. I know there are some people, some in senior positions, that don't think I'm capable of being a "manager" as our oganization defines it. I certainly don't agree with them on what a "manager" is. But that isn't the right reason to take a job. I don't have anything to prove to myself.

If the Lord needs me to be somewhere else, He'll provide my the opportunity. He always has in the past. In the meantime, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Off the Record

I had to have a conversation today with one of my employees. It was a "coaching" kind of meeting to discuss a customer complaint. During the converstion, the employee asked to say some things "off the record". While I certainly didn't mind the openness, can you really tell your supervisor something that is "off the record"?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pushing my Buttons

I could go on a lengthy rant, but for the sake of my blood pressure and those around me I won't. I'll go on a short rant. I believe I've posted before some of the issues I have with the Catholic Church lately. Not the people mind you, but the hierarchical Church structure/administration. The last couple of days has really made me shake my head at them.

Our regular assisting priest is on sabbatical to deal with some personal issues so we've had a "substitute" priest. The first one was a very nice retired priest. However, the active priest that baptized Nicholas when he was our associate priest was available so now he is our priest until the regular one returns from sabbatical. He USED to be the pastor of his own church until he was basically fired. I won't go into all the reasons, but it was pure politics. He has a deep love of the poor and was trying to help out an inner city parish that sorely needed it. And he got no support whatsoever. Top that off with a post from a local blogger that Ellen found talking smack about our parish and how we were so fucked up because we have a pastoral administrator and a staff person that believes women should be priests and I was off baby.

Over the years I've come to suspect that our Church in Rome has become a bunch of Pharisees. Jesus spoke well of them when he said the worship with their lips but their hearts are far from the Lord and that they place large burdens on their flock they won't themselves shoulder. Lately it seems the Catholic Church is all about RULES. We have a rule for this, a rule for that, and you can only be a REAL Catholic if you follow all the RULES. Our Church is going to Hell because we haven't been following the RULES.

The Catholic Church is going to hell in a handbasket because we are forgetting about what Jesus asked us to do. Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, help the poor, visit the sick and the prisoner. Instead of doing that, we're re-writing how the Mass should be said. We're arguing about who should be a priest. We're debating points of theology that don't really make a difference. Love the Lord as yourself and love your neighbor as yourself.

I go to Mass every week to worship and give back to God (when I play, that is). It's about spending some time with the Lord. Truthfully, the words and forms we utilize aren't that important. At Mass, the only thing that matters to me is receiving the Body of Christ. I swear, if there was another Christian faith that actually believed in Transubstantiation, I'd be outta here. Anyway, as I've told others, you can't fix something from the outside so I'll keep going and hopefully convince some people that it isn't about the Rules. It's about Jesus, stupid.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Lady!

Today is Ellen's birthday. To celebrate, I took her to see Bugs Bunny at the Symphony last night. Our philharmonic orchestra played the music for Bugs Bunny (and other) cartoons while they played them on a big screen. It was 2 hours of fun and music! The experience was awesome and I highly recommend seeing it if you can.

Today after church we went to our favorite BBQ joint with the kids for lunch. The food was yummy as usual and we had plenty left over to take home. The boys and I also got her some new charms for her bracelet. Overall I think she's had a good birthday and she certain had a lot of fun. So Happy Birthday to my lovely wife. Here's a couple of then and now pictures:

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Bad Science

Don't know if you heard about this but there was a doctor that published research that linked autism to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines. Something about trace amounts of mercury or some such nonsense. Well this physician has been totally debunked, defrocked, and now people want his head for defauding people. (Here's a link to the story)

I've come to realize that too many people hear a story and then take it as gospel without doing more research or getting more facts. I saw a story on TV where one family didn't vaccinate their kid and he ended up in the hospital, all due to the fear cause by this very bad science.

However, the worst part was some woman still defending the study. She claimed it "saved her family!" And just how did it save her family? She didn't say, but I'm guessing her reasoning is that she didn't get her kids vaccinated and they were not diagnosed with autism. Right?


It does NOT follow that just because you didn't get your kid vaccinated and they didn't develop ANY given condition that the vaccine causes that condition! There are too many variables involved! That's like saying I wore my helmet riding and I didn't get hit by a car therefore wearing helmets prevents you from getting run over. Never mind that the reason I didn't get run over might have something to do with the Screaming Yellow jacket I'm wearing, the fact I use a mirror on my bike, that I only ride in daylight, or just that I was damn lucky.

To make it even more personal, both my kids got vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella. One was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and the other wasn't. So did the vaccine cause autism or not? People can be really stupid.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What a revolting development

I received an email last Friday from my MBA chair that one of the classes I'd registered for was cancelled. I was disappointed on many levels. First of all, it looked like a good course (it was an elective). It was on change management and that's been a big theme at work. Second, I had planned on reading all the textbooks for my courses prior to the semester starting. Of course, I'd read the books for that course FIRST. I'm on the last of my original textbooks so I'd have been done by Sunday for sure. Now I had to order a new textbook and have to return the ones I don't need (and pay return shipping). Finally, I had submitted and been approved for reimbursement for that course so now I had to resubmit the paperwork.

Basically a lot of hassles and a lost week of getting ahead in school. It was rather the annoyance. However, classes actually start on 1/18 so I should be able to do all the reading by then. However, courses go live online on 1/11 and I had wanted to be done reading by then so I could dive in WAY ahead of time. Oh well. I'll still be pretty far ahead of the game. Who knows, I may even be able to get a paper written before the semester officially starts. Am I being TOO motivated?

Monday, January 03, 2011

What a day

I knew today would be rough at work, being I'd been out a week and we expected a lot of calls today with all kinds of new programs going in after the first of the year.


Pretty much all I did today was handle team email and call back a few customers. And that took up my ENTIRE day. By 4 pm, my brain hurt. Literally.

However, being home was gold. All I did was hang out and do some reading for school. We watched Mony Python and the Holy Grail, which is still stupidly funny. I want me a Holy Hand Grenade. So tonight I get some rest and go back tomorrow to do battle once more.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Year

Can you believe another year has gone by? Where the hell did 2010 go? I'm still having trouble with the fact it's January.

I had a nice week off, but tomorrow it's back to the normal routine. In a way, it's probably a good thing. I OD'd on holiday eating and desserts and such. Also, yesterday was a REALLY long (if fun) day. We went to my mom's for "dinner" (meaning a big meal at 2 pm), had to run out of there early to get to Church to set up and play for Mass at 5 pm, then we ran to a friend's house to hang with them and a high school buddy that's home for the holiday. She works in Canada and only comes home a couple of times a year.

All in all that was the highlight of the day. We had a great time hanging out. Our friend has 2 girls that are the same ages as the boys so they had a blast hanging out together. As an amusing side note, Christopher had to wash his hair and look good before we went out there. He said it was because he was looking grungy but Ellen and I think it's because he was going to be hanging out with a very cute young lady.

Today has been a relaxing day just getting a few things done and watching some football. I've got a lot of work waiting for me when I get in tomorrow after being off for a week so it's nice to relax before diving back in. I've got one annoying school thing that happened on Friday but I'll relate that at a later time after it resolves itself.

Hope everyone had a Happy New Year and that 2011 is full of blessings.