March 17, 2008

Simple Gifts

Today was, for the most part, a cold, dreary spring day. My heart sank as I looked out the office windows this morning and saw a harsh, gray sky above and growing puddles on the street below. It also didn't help that 60 percent of the office lights were off, thereby adding to the general atmosphere of gloom. And with both attorneys out of the office for the better part of the day, the urge to curl up with a good book was hard to fight.

Of course, seeing as this is a Monday and that type of laziness is not appropriate at work, I set about trying to be motivated despite the quiet office. I decided to combat the blah-ness by thinking about the little things in my life for which I am thankful. So here's a far-from-comprehensive list of things in my life that make me smile:

- A free Chick-fil-A sandwhich most Monday evenings and the chance to share it with friends.

- A wonderful, fulfilling job working for capable, but gracious, attorneys.

- A house that is lovely, but improvable.

- My Nash, a dog so lovable he has transformed my view of pets.

- Finding a black dress on clearance at

- Good friends.

- Classical music stations that stream their broadcasts in real time over the Internet, thereby adding warmth and sophistication to my office.

-Being able to take classes at Covenant Seminary for free.

-The pair of black flip flops I found at the Covenant Free Store last fall.

-NBC's "The Biggest Loser." There is something exciting and inspiring about watching people strive to lose the most weight and gain a new life. I cry at every episode.

- The writings of people who use words well.

- Knowing that - thanks to my crock pot - my house is going to smell wonderful when I get home, and dinner will be ready.

- Suddenly remembering an accidental pun I made when I was 10 that made my mom laugh so hard she cried.

March 12, 2008

Some Phone Etiquette Pointers

When you call a business, the person answering the phone might not know who you are. As such, beginning the conversation by saying, "Hi, how are you?" before you've identified yourself might elicit a less-than-warm reception. It implies that you assume the person on the other line ought to know you from the sound of your voice, which, unless you are a very good friend or family member, is typically not the case. People might be less willing to speak (or less patient when they do speak) with someone who does not make their identity and intentions immediately known. I know I am.

[The interesting thing I have found is that typically a client or someone with legitimate business will clearly identify themselves and state their wishes. It's the solicitors that begin by beating about the bush, which never endears me to their causes.]

Which leads me to my second helpful tip of the day. When you place a phone call, do not begin the conversation by saying, "Who is this?" Since you dialed the number, you ought to know who is answering. If you are unsure as to whether or not you've dialed correctly, say something like, "Hi, I am trying to get in touch with State Farm (Joe Schmoe, Bethlehem Baptist Church, etc.)."
But when you make someone else's phone ring, you have the responsibility of first identifying yourself. This is all the more important when calling a person at home.

These simple, but important, rules of phone usage will prevent you from irritating people when you call them. And it's always important to not irritate people.

March 5, 2008

Snow Day!

Nash attempting to destroy my snow angel.

Our snow-covered abode

Chasing snowballs

My snowman - before someone ate it

March 3, 2008

"So, what do you do?": Rethinking Work and Identity

Lately I have been thinking about work.

Currently, I have a wonderful job that I find gratifying and edifying. I get to go home when I'm sick or the weather is really bad, my bosses don't act like they're better than me or anyone else, I get to help people, and I can drink all the tea my body can handle. It's a great job.

But while this situation is awesome, it also is relatively new. For most of my adult life work has been frustrating at best, downright maddening at worst. I won't go into any of the details because, frankly, I don't want to think about them. It will make me angry. But what made these bad work situations worse was the feeling that I could never escape from the job. When I was at work, I was in the midst of the crappiness. When I left work, the frustrating situations would stew in my head.

And when in a social setting I would inevitably get the question, "So what do you do?"

I hated that question because I hated the answer. I hated having to be reminded of my job and how unpleasant it was.

But what's even worse is that part of me hated this question because my answer was never impressive. Even in a good work environment, being a clerical assistant doesn't sound too interesting. Neither does working out of someone's basement. My friend worked as a graphic designer and hated it because the company treated its employees badly. While she and I could commiserate with each other because we both had jobs that drove us crazy, I secretly envied her because at least her job sounded cool.

It was this wishing for a good-sounding job that got me thinking about why my job (or job title) was so important to me. Slowly I realized how much of my sense significance I attached to my job. It's natural to seek satisfaction and some fulfillment from work (after all, one spends at least 40 hours each week on the job), but my job had become my source of personal value.

Once I became aware of this I began to notice how much value our culture puts on one's job or job title. Why is it that within 3 minutes of meeting someone new most of us invariably ask the acquaintance about his or her profession? It's like we've been conditioned to view people in terms of what they produce. I understand that many of us are simply trying to make points of contact and find common interests, but I think there is a small part of us that likes to classify people according to their jobs.

Now that my work doesn't frustrate me I have more energy to think about these things, and I think my goal will be to make a concerted effort not to ask people about their work, at least initially.

It doesn't define them, just as my job doesn't define me. And there are much more interesting things to talk about than the office.

More later on why it seems as though we expect people to dislike their jobs...