Graduation time

My sweet brother just graduated from the local university with a bachelor of arts degree. Mark majored in history and minored in psychology. (Didn't think I knew that, did you, little brother?) He plans to enter the seminary at Immanuel Lutheran College in the fall. Congratulations, Cecil! I'm so proud of you!


Safe arrival

My newest nephew made his appearance early Saturday morning. Thomas was a few weeks early, but healthy, precious and ready to be loved by his older brother and sister.

Psalm 118:29: Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.


Tigers softball week 2 results

For those sports fans out there, here is a recap of the second week of the season. The highlight of the game was Mark's in-the-park grand slam. (I was on first base and it was not a good feeling to know that he was behind me. I felt like the hare, but I probably looked like the tortoise.) I got to play left-center field, which is one of my favorite positions on the ballfield. My dad was at pitcher and his accuracy was remarkable, considering the strong winds.

We ended up losing 12-6, but at least the game was closer. Our usually taciturn manager Joel sent this e-mail:

Just an update on where we stand in our Wednesday night league. We are in 8th place (out of the 10 teams), but in all fairness the teams we lost to are in 2nd and 3rd place. We play Chippewa Trails Trucking (1-1) next week at 9 pm. I think we can take them.

Stay tuned for the Wednesday results and see if Joel's confidence was well placed. :)


Book review: Letting Go of the Words

Increasingly, people rely on the web for many things: paying bills, doing research, product support, and the list goes on. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice (Ginny) Redish explores how to write for this relatively new medium.

As writers, we often assume that users will read every word that we write. Nope. They scan. We assume that people will arrive at a website page using the very careful navigation we've set up. Not so--maybe they found the page using a search engine. Speaking as a user, my frustration with some websites has lead me to give up on them.

This book has 13 chapters and is full of real-life examples of what actual websites have done. Writing for the web requires you to understand what your goals are and who your audience is. What I found most useful about the book was the way Redish demonstrated what was good and not so good using short call-outs. Overall, I felt like there was lots of great information, even for experienced writers, but there were times I felt like she was repeating herself, especially with the end of chapter summaries. This book is a worthwhile resource for anyone looking to improve website content.

Beginning a blog

Before I actually started this blog, I thought for several months about doing it, but I got hung up on the details. What should I name it? Should I blog under my real name? What should it be about? I finally decided that it was more important to just start the blog. If you're wondering about blogging yourself, read this post by Penelope Trunk. Good food for thought.


It's the little things in life...

It's funny how little things can make you feel happy. I am reveling because I went to the library this morning and the newest John Sandford book was on the reserve shelf with my name on it! I think all my good plans for the afternoon just got derailed by the tantalizing thought of a good read!

I also opened a new box of Honey Nut Cheerios this morning and won a $5 gift card. Perhaps a shopping spree is in my future. Maybe I should go buy more cereal. :)


Tea time

I went to meet my good friend Leah for tea this morning at Infinitea Teahouse. (How posh and British I sound!) It was actually Leah's idea, so I can't take credit for it. I am not a tea drinker, but idea appealed to my sense of propriety and etiquette, so I agreed to the proposal.

Deciding on a tea was difficult (there are over 160 to choose from). After sniffing from the sample test tubes, I admitted my ignorance to the gentleman behind the counter and asked him for a recommendation. He suggested tea #37 named Super Nova. He went on to tell me that it had hints of chocolate and vanilla (and some other things that I can't remember right now). To be honest, the name Super Nova had me hooked. Who wouldn't want to drink something called Super Nova? It just sounds awesome. Leah was more discerning than I, choosing her tea based on things other than the name. She chose tea #98, organic mint mate. After the tea was done steeping, the gentleman delivered two charming iron teapots and two small teacups to our table by the window. I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor of my tea, but I preferred Leah's mint tea. I think we're going to have to go back sometime soon. Tea #123 (Organic Summer Lemon Iced) is calling my name.

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play

It's that time of the year again. The smell of worn leather. The crack of a bat. The bloody knees of my brother Jer after he slides into third base. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the softball season has begun. For 13 of the last 14 summers, my family has fielded a co-ed slow pitch softball team in the city league. We've had our ups and downs like any franchise. (We went 0-10 our first season, but rebounded the next year.) I served as team manager for several seasons, but am happy to just be showing up and playing now.

Our first game was on May 13 and we did not have an auspicious start to the season. The umpire assumed that there was no game because it was raining, so he was 30 minutes late to the game. (After beginning the game, my feelings toward the umpire did not improve. Let me just say that I should have followed my mother's timeless advice: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.") There was a puddle the size of Texas behind home plate, to say nothing of the swampy batters' boxes. It didn't take long for the brand new game balls to become muddy and heavy.

Between my goofy brother Mark performing antics at third base and my sister Elizabeth buzzing with righteous indignation at first base, it felt like home to be back on the pitcher's mound. The fresh smells of the ball diamond feed the senses and there's nothing quite like a softball game to remind me that it's spring again. (Good thing I got something out of it, because we lost 16-3!)


Support networks

I have a huge family and all of them have done a phenomenal job of supporting me. My friends are fabulous. Sometimes I think people want to ask how I’m doing, but are afraid that it might be like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut (apologies to Miracle Max). If I’m completely honest, it can be sensitive and sometimes it feels a little raw. But the knowledge that others are thinking about me as I am going through this far outweighs the other stuff.

There’s something unique about support from people with whom you have a professional relationship. The first couple days, it was strange to wake up and realize that I was not going into “work” this day. The projects I owned no longer belong to me. From the first moment I heard the news, I began to feel a separation between me and my co-workers. People I talked to and interacted with every day are no longer part of my daily world.

During the first week after losing my job, I heard from three former co-workers in different ways. I sincerely appreciated the gestures. One was a simple e-mail with two sentences: I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to ask. Try as you might, there is something intensely personal about losing a job. No amount of reassurance completely erases the initial seeds of self-doubt that are sown from the experience. But the way my work friends responded helped. A lot.
(photo credit: imdb.com)



This past week was “one of those weeks.” I feel like I’ve got my car in neutral on the Indy 500 and everyone else is speeding past me going 200 miles an hour. I finally went outside and did lawn work until I couldn’t move anymore. At least I felt like I’d gotten something accomplished. This job-search-inner-examination-where-is-my-life-headed stuff is exhausting.

Grandfather to the rescue! Conversations with Grandpa are peppered with jumbled alphabet soup acronyms. His verbal shorthand includes pearls like YBBI (you’d better believe it) and KISS (keep it simple, stupid). For this situation, Grandpa tells me, “DSKG.” Don’t stop, keep going. Sounds like a pretty good theme for right now. It gives me a different perspective. Just keep moving. Check.


Back to kindergarten

My friend Julie is a wise and thoughtful woman. She lost her job ten months ago and despite not having found the right opportunity, she remains cheerful, positive and encouraging. We have had several conversations about our similar experiences. One of her comments gave me pause. “Be careful of volunteering too much of your time,” she said. Taking Julie’s observation to heart, I have been careful about taking on additional responsibilities.

However, I broke protocol on Friday and spent the morning helping my mother at her job. Mom is a kindergarten teacher and it was the annual kindergarten round-up. The corporate world is very different from a kindergarten classroom. I am used to conference calls, writing reports and adult conversation. Today, I strung lights, cut out cardboard figures, wiped up glue and poured drinks. At best, it was controlled chaos and constant excited chatter. After two hours, I was ready for a nap! It was like I was a high school student who was “job shadowing” for a day. I thought I’d share a few pictures from the day.

Here is my nephew Andy posing as an astronaut. (The theme of the round-up was Space.) My talented sister painted this cardboard cutout.

This is my mom, teacher extraordinare, showing her "yoda soda" concoction.

Running for the finish line

Yesterday a marathon was held in my hometown. Over 200 people ran 26.2 miles. More than twice that number ran the half marathon (13.1 miles). I walked 3.5 miles yesterday and considered that a good workout. :)

I admire the dedication and commitment of these people, who plod for hours (literally!), powered by willpower and their own two legs. I am proud to say that I know several of these runners personally. Congratulations to my brother Mark, Gretchen and her father Tim, Susan, Sherman and Kacie, and Ryan and Erin, all of whom completed the half-marathon. Wow!
My friend Anne channeled her inner Phiedippides and ran the entire marathon. What an amazing accomplishment.

Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Book review: Rebound

Martha Finney's new book Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss is an easy read, with some worthwhile ideas. Most of the information seems to be common sense, but when you are contemplating the possibility (or reality) of a layoff, perhaps a simple checklist is exactly what you need. Written with a light touch of humor, it may help job seekers gain perspective. Each chapter is short and concludes with three summary items (what to do, what not to do and what to do first).

Several of the chapters deal with the ego-blasting effects of losing your job. It’s hard to not take a job loss personally. Finney’s book does a nice job of gently nudging readers in the right direction. It’s not personal. It’s business. I particularly enjoyed chapter 4, a tongue-in-cheek checklist of who could be on the list to be laid off. Bottom line: Did I learn anything new? No. Did I find the book worthwhile? Yes, in the form of affirmation and shared experiences.