Gratitude Train

gratitude

Last week we continued the journey toward thirty things to be grateful for in November, a play on the traditional daily posts that typically flood your newsfeed, I highlighted [THE RIGHT TO VOTE], [FRIENDS AT WORK], [FOOD], [OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN], [INSPIRATION], [HOME], [FUR KIDS], and [COFFEE] as things I was grateful for. To continue in my thirty days of gratitude, here are the eight things I am grateful for this week:

[FALL WEATHER] The weather has been nothing short of gorgeous of the better part of the last month in southeastern Michigan. We’re bouncing between 50 and 60 degrees, with minimal rain. It’s been nice to soak up the fall weather this season. I needed it!

[SUPPORTIVE SUPERVISOR] I am incredibly lucky to have a supervisor who is supportive, invested, and innovative. She listens to me, encourages me, and pushes me. She laughs when I tell her that she has made me visible in our organization and it means I can’t come in looking like a bum anymore.

[READERSHIP] I try to write for myself, but sometimes that just isn’t what happens when you start to gain readership, you start to write for your audience and that’s okay. I was overwhelmed by the support I received after I wrote Knock Yourself Out earlier this week. It’s pretty awesome when you write for yourself and it ends up resonating with people.

[NEW NOTEBOOKS] I am truly a nerd, I get far too excited about new notebooks, pens, markers, post-it notes, binder clips, ANYTHING!

[SOCIAL MEDIA] There was a high amount of hesitation before I typed this one out, but as awful as social media can be, it does allow me to keep in contact with people in my life that I don’t see on a regular basis. It, if used wisely, can be a source of news, inspiration, and community.

[MY CAR] Justin and I both drive dependable cars, that we don’t have to worry about. It’s an incredible comfort to know that we have transportation to wherever we need to go, whether it be work, the hospital, to the grocery store, or on vacation.

[PAID TIME OFF] Working in an organization that provides paid time off is absolutely something to be grateful for. I am one of the few lucky ones that feels I receive an appropriate amount of PTO, between promotions, rollover, and my tenure at the organization, I have an ample amount of time to use each year. It has been very beneficial this year in particular.

[WATER] Clean, fresh, ample water is not a given anymore. I take for granted my access to water, I am able to wash my clothes, take a shower, run the dishwasher, water my lawn, and drink as much as I need without a second thought. For that, I am grateful.

What are you thankful for today?

Thirty Days of Gratitude

gratitude

November is a month for giving thanks and appreciating the things that you might usually take for granted in everyday life. If you’re even the least bit active on social media you’re aware of the different challenges going around where individuals list the things they are grateful for each day in November. I’d like to think that we should all live that way 365 days a year, but that is rather idealistic of me.

There’s something special about Thanksgiving, a low-pressure holiday that gives you the opportunity to sit with family, enjoy the fall season, eat delicious food, and spend time basking in shared gratitude. It is, hands down, my favorite holiday of the year. While I won’t be posting something I am grateful for everyday throughout November, I will be doing a blog post on each Thursday in November highlighting the things that bring me gratitude, by the end of the month you will have 30, one for each day. I hope you’ll join me, and if you don’t want to join me publicly, that you’ll at least do it for yourself. There’s power in gratitude, it has the potential to completely reframe your thinking and attitude if you let it!

[FAMILY] If you know the least bit about me, you know that family is the most important thing in my life. I have been incredibly lucky to have been born into an amazing, tight knit, crazy group of people that keep me grounded. I am beyond proud to share my family with Justin and love the little family of our own that we have built. We are outnumbered by furbabies, but I love the life that we have created.

[JUSTIN] My inspiringly strong husband gets a shout out of his own. He has been dealt some pretty significant challenges and he just takes each of them in stride, moving toward a resolution. He understand the impact that this has on me and is supportive, even when the roles should be reversed. He makes me laugh, cares for our zoo of animals, and is my best friend.

[MY JOB] As stressed and frustrated as I get in my work, I am beyond grateful that I am employed in the field of my choosing, doing and supporting work that I am passionate about. It’s not always easy and I am constantly learning but knowing that I have a secure future is an incredible comfort. Not everyone gets to do what they love every day, I’m lucky to say that I do.

[COMMUNITY] The last year has been difficult for Justin and I, but we have been so lucky to have the support of the community around us. Our people that are not blood related but feel more like family have gone above and beyond to hold us up as we navigate through the unknown.

[THE CORNER OFFICE] I haven’t given this blog as much love and attention as it deserves lately, but I am very grateful for the outlet it has given me and the people it has brought into my life. After graduating college I didn’t see how I was going to be able to incorporate writing into my everyday life, having this space has reignited a creative fire in me that I’m excited to have back!

High Five for Friday: A Structure-Less Week

Whew. September has been rough, and this week was no different. I’m hopeful that October 1st will bring me a little relief, maybe that’s unrealistic, but I’m comfortable with some wishful thinking at this point. This week was incredibly odd, every single piece of structure I rely on, inevitably, ended up shifting just enough to throw me off. But, alas, here I am on Friday, September 30th, completely in control of my day…I hope. As always, there were some brighter spots throughout the last seven days, here are the top five!

High five for

[ONE] I am so grateful that my sister is a knowledgeable professional in the veterinary field. Bruno had not been acting his usual upbeat self for a few days and we thought it was because he might have a piece of plastic in his stomach after he went on a chewing binge with a screwdriver earlier in the week. My sister picked him up, took him to work with her, and had him checked out for us. It turns out he has bronchitis and possibly kennel cough, which I didn’t even realize was a thing. She did all of this while Justin and I were at the hospital, something that we would never be able to do without her. Bruno is on antibiotics and is on the mend, but we are forever grateful that my sister cares so much about the work that she does and helps us take care of our four-legged furry kids.

[TWO] After two weeks of unexpected issues with Justin’s treatment, his white blood cell counts were finally back to a normal range on Monday. Beyond normal, actually. It meant that he was approved to continue treatment, which was a relief. Even though they rescheduled his appointment, without telling us we were both excited to see the end to this roadblock and will be ready to get back to the usual routine next week. He even got the thumbs up to continue with his trip to Nashville for the weekend!

[THREE] Speaking of Nashville, Justin was up super early this morning, and started texting me knowing that I would be up enjoying my coffee by 6am. It was nice to chit chat with him while he’s hundreds of miles away as we both watched Morning Joe.

[FOUR] After reactivating my sciatic nerve pain early in the week, and Bruno’s bronchitis, I had to contact my supervisor to see if she would be willing to let me work from home for the rest of the week. Thankfully, she is incredibly understanding, was supportive and even apologized for the increasing rate of ridiculousness in my life. We couldn’t help but laugh as I described the series of events that pushed me toward working from home. Despite the pain, and a sick puppy, I was incredibly productive yesterday. The nice aspect of working from home is being able to tackle projects that you usually set aside to put out fires in the office. I could barely move, but I was busting through my to-do list all day long.

[FIVE] For the last 36 hours, Southeastern Michigan has been getting non-stop rain. Literally, it has not stopped for almost 2 days. When you’ve got a puppy who needs to get rid of some energy, that can be frustrating. Even though he’s not feeling well and sleeps most of the day right now, Bruno went through spurts of energy yesterday. Around lunch time, I decided both of us needed to get out of the house. I asked him if he wanted to go for a car ride and I’ve never seen him get so excited! We went to the post office to drop off a package and to the new Panera drive-thru close by to pick up lunch. He was so excited and observant of everything going on. He even got a treat from the girl running the drive-thru window! It was a great little break for both of us, even despite the never ending rain.

High Five for Friday: Ready for a Long Weekend

Good Morning! It was a pretty mellow week in my neck of the woods, the weather is slowly starting to cool down, I managed to stay productive and relatively positive throughout the work week, and am gearing up for a long, lazy Labor Day weekend. Without further adieu, here are my top five from the week!

High five for

[ONE] I am very excited about my agenda for the day. I only have to work 3 hours this morning, all of which I will be doing from the comfort of my home office. Once my 11am conference call ends, I am officially off the clock and starting my long weekend. I have some plans with a friend tomorrow, and lots of laziness planned for the rest of my (almost) four days off.

[TWO] In an effort for Justin to “get up and moving” (doctor’s orders), I have promised him that we would go out to dinner at least once a week so he’s not stuck at home all day, every day. On Monday we went out for some mexican food and followed it up with a trip to Target. It was nice to just go out and spend some time in the real world. A little date night to start of our week!

[THREE] We know that I love the Brain Candy Podcast, well at least you do if you read Saturday Share: Podcast Round Up last weekend. Well, in an effort to support their work, they are selling some pretty awesome gear on their website and yesterday I got my Nerdy by Nature tank top and rotten bananas pin. I was pumped when I saw the package on the counter. I may or may not have slept in my tank too!

[FOUR] I have been trading in my usual hours of television in the evening for listening to some podcasts as I relax at the end of the day. It’s actually been more relaxing than I had anticipated. It allows me to hang out in the same space as Justin, but we can be entertained separately, instead of sitting in different rooms watching different things. So, the majority of my evenings at home have been spent on the couch with the hubs!

[FIVE] I spent a lot of time this week focusing on new projects at work with some of my peers. It’s incredibly satisfying, after six years of doing the same kind of work that I am able to find new ways to do it! I get antsy when my work gets stagnant, I need to be challenged, need to build new skills, and need to progress. The fact that I am still able to do that with the same scope of work is pretty awesome!

 

Saturday Share: Podcast Round Up

I have a new obsession. Apparently, I am constantly obsessing over things. I’m not sure why, but I digress.

I am currently obsessed with Podcasts, I don’t know why, they are completely outside of my usual interest, but over the last month I have found some great ones that I enjoy listening to, I’ll even binge listen! It started with my favorite MTV Challenge cast member: Sarah Rice. Coupled with Susie Meister, also a MTV Challenge cast member, Sarah started promoting their new podcast on her social media accounts that I was following. I was a big fan so I ventured over and fell in love. Over the last month I have sought out other podcasts and have rounded up my favorites to share! It’s no surprise that each of them are centered around my favorite television shows.

 

 

braincandy
Photo from iTunes

[The Brain Candy Podcast] The one that started it all! Susie and Sarah are brilliant, funny, thoughtful, and diverse in the topics they cover. I started listening because of my love for Sarah and the MTV Challenges, but have stayed because of the insight they share, and their true personalities that have become like friends that I look forward to chatting with. One of my favorite episodes is “Episode 60: Serial Killers, Mental Illness, & Forever 21?” The ladies broke down some serious mental health disorders, include narcissistic personality disorder, which I am INCREDIBLY interested in. The Brain Candy Podcast has been a great thing to listen to as I go about my work during the week. The only thing I would improve is to have more than one episode a week! Check out their website to read Susie’s blog, check out their store, and support the podcast on Pantheon  to get access to behind the scenes videos, extra interviews, and even a book club!

 

ggpod
Photo from Twitter

[Gilmore Guys] I just recently found the Gilmore Guys Podcast and have been jumping around to listen to episodes that interest me. With the Netflix Revival coming in November, I’m trying to stretch out my Gilmore Girls binging so keep me juiced while we wait for Thanksgiving weekend. I cannot wait for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall! The podcast recaps each episode of the show with one host watching for the first time, and the other being a Gilmore veteran. The guys are knowledgeable, insightful, and funny! My favorite episode so far has been “Gabs – Scott Patterson” which is an almost 90-minute interview and chat session with Scott Patterson, who played Luke Danes. They talked about the making of Gilmore Girls, the cast, the prospect of picking up again, and Scott’s life. It was great to listen to. Follow these guys on Twitter: @GilmoreGuysShow

 

 

twww
Photo from Podbay

[The West Wing Weekly] Again, another television related podcast, maybe my actual obsession is my favorite TV shows, but I love this podcast! Josh Malina, who you know from The West Wing and Scandal hosts with Hrishikesh Hirway, a musician and well-known composer, a conversation about each episode of The West Wing. I find Josh hilarious and have been a fan for a while so when I realized he was also hosting the podcast I jumped in with both feet! Both Josh and Hrishi are incredibly smart and insightful, and give you a behind-the-scenes view of the making of the show. So far, it has been incredibly interesting to listen to Josh describe the early episodes before he was cast as Will Bailey, and you get to hear is point of view as more of a fan of the show. I’m so happy there is a way for me to indulge in this show so long after it originally aired. As a (relatively) new fan, it’s so nice to be a part of a current conversation of The West Wing. Check out their website for more information on the podcast, get some background on the guys, and other fun West Wing things!

 

 

Just for Fun: 25 Things

Four years ago I wrote: Things You May Not Know About Me. A blog post, inspired by an US Magazine segment that I loved to read. Celebrities highlight a list of things that, generally, people did not know about them. I still remember having fun writing that post. Come to find out, my initial post got the details wrong, I listed 9 things and thought the segment was from People Magazine. Four years later a simple google search gave me the answers I needed. In an effort to buck up my spirits after a week that just seemed to drag me, kicking and screaming, we’re going to play this game again – just for funzies.

about me

We’ll be following the actual rules this time around, pretend this is US Magazine and that I am a famous celebrity you love to follow. Here are 25 Things About Me You May Not Know:

[ONE] My first car was an 89 Dodge Omni. It was a hand-me-down from my parents, my dad made me read the entire manual before I was allowed to leave the driveway, after which I had to show him that I knew how to change a tire. In exchange, however, he helped me paint glitter stars all over the ceiling and let me tape pictures of my friends all over the dash.

[TWO] I buy office supplies without any plan to use them. I love the different colors, patterns, uses, and the idea behind them but I have a hard time using them because I don’t want to waste them. Due to this, I have an endless supply of post-it notes and binder clips in my home office.

[THREE] I secretly love my freckles. I always have.

[FOUR] I got head lice as a preteen and it took over my life for an entire summer. We eventually narrowed down that I got it from the movie theater. I, now, can’t walk into a movie theater without feeling creeped out.

[FIVE] I’m embarrassed to admit just how many books I’ve purchased without opening or getting passed the first chapter of. I always have good intentions but lose interest incredibly quickly.

[SIX] I have a collection of stickers that I’ve been accumulating since I was in preschool. I just can’t bear to part with them.

[SEVEN] My mom and I had a booth at a craft mall when I was in college. We had so much fun developing products to sell and were pumped as we sold throughout the holiday season, but couldn’t keep it going after January. Sometimes we talk about taking a second stab at it.

[EIGHT] I can clearly remember the day when my feelings for Justin transitioned from friendship to something romantic. We didn’t start dating until two years later.

[NINE] I went on seven mission trips as a high school and college student. I’ve built houses for Habitat for Humanity, worked in a food bank, built a church foundation in Mexico, volunteered with Narcotics Anonymous, painted, cleaned, and done countless odd jobs that I can’t even remember.

[TEN] I was an elementary education major for two years in college. After going through a program orientation meeting where I was told about the certification process and student teaching I changed my major.

[ELEVEN] I have a subscription to TIME Magazine, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Inc Magazine. I hoard issues, even if I have no interest in reading some of the content.

[TWELVE] I drink coffee purely for taste and caffeine. It in no way quenches my thirst, I have to have water nearby whenever I’m drinking that tasty concoction.

[THIRTEEN] I put way too much stock in my blog stats. I set goals, I do math on daily averages to see how I can meet my goals, and try to schedule posts to increase readership. I hate how that desire to see the numbers influences how I use this space. I’m trying to get back to writing for me, not for the numbers.

[FOURTEEN] At about thirteen years old, I transitioned from a regular ballet class to a pointe ballet class. I hated it. I loved dance and ballet was always my favorite, I was too clumsy for pointe and it really bothered me that I was no longer as solid of a dancer as I had been.

[FIFTEEN] Speaking of dance, I still dance in my head (and with my shoulders) when I hear a song that I had a routine to, oddly enough, the routines I developed myself are the ones I remember the least of.

[SIXTEEN] I don’t find most babies cute. Most of the time they look like a combination of an old man and a potato. Baby man-tato.

[SEVENTEEN]  As a kid my favorite movies were: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, and Follow That Bird.

[EIGHTEEN] Years ago, my mom used to have decorative plates hanging on the walls of her bedroom. I used to wake her up on Saturday mornings by telling her the stories from the plates that I made up on the fly.

[NINETEEN] I get incredibly excited whenever a celebrity that I have tweeted or mentioned in a tweet likes my post. Like, nerdy, overly, embarrassingly, excited.

[TWENTY] I am incredibly nostalgic. I like to visit places that hold a memory or remind me of my life. The renovation of my high school was slightly disappointing, as it now looks completely different from the outside.

[TWENTY-ONE] When I was around ten years old, I fell in love with the Super Slicer infomercial. I would watch it over and over, mesmerized by the ingenuousness of the product. Eventually, my dad got so sick of listening that he bought me one. I never once used it. For years it sat in the back of the kitchen cupboard. For my bridal shower, he wrapped it up and sent it with my mother. I opened it in front of 75 women who were incredibly confused.

[TWENTY-TWO] Buying Christmas presents is one of my favorite things. I wish I had an endless supply of funds to buy thoughtful gifts for everyone in my life. I hate generic, random gifts, so I take a lot of time picking out specific items for people and I definitely notice when someone has taken the time selecting a gift for me as well.

[TWENTY-THREE] If you’ve made it this far, you are a champ. Or incredibly bored. I applaud you.

[TWENTY-FOUR] I have endless nicknames for my animals. Gusser Goo-Face, Allie Bear, BrunoPup, Bubbas, Peanut, Princess, Fatty, Handsome…

[TWENTY-FIVE] I have always believed that if you made it this far on this post that you should share 25 things about yourself. Do it!

5 Easy Team Building Activities You Can Implement Today!

The Corner Office (3)

Working in a leadership role 40 hours a week means that I am responsible for creating a productive, motivating, and engaging atmosphere for the team of people that work underneath me. This, by far, has been one of the bigger challenges in my managerial career. With a variety of personalities and responsibilities, team building becomes difficult and can sometimes seem as extra work, something that you’re doing outside of your general responsibilities. The funny thing, team building is a huge part of your responsibilities as a manager, it is part of your job to ensure your team feels like they can accomplish their goals with the group of people they work with. It’s a tall order for sure.

In my [not so] extensive experience, I have found a few strategies that work for me that don’t seem like a ton of extra work. Sometimes it forces me to think outside of my comfort zone, but I suppose that’s part of the experience as well.

[WEEKLY TEAM MEETINGS] Previously, I used team meetings for very little OTHER than going through an agenda of to-do lists, updates, and planning sessions. I had tried a variety of frequencies – monthly, bi-weekly, as needed, etc. Eventually, I realized that these team meetings were the only time that we were all together and they had much more potential than just program updates. Weekly Monday Jumpstart Meetings were born. Now, every Monday morning my team comes together to share a few different things. Our standard agenda includes:

  • A view of the program calendar for the week ahead
  • How was your weekend?
  • What did you work on last week?
  • What are your projects and goals for this week?
  • Program Updates/Tasks

When we have time, I develop additional team building activities within the meetings. Most recently, we went through a Strengths-Based Leadership assessment and I developed a two-session series to discover their strengths and how it impacts their ability to work together as a team.

[MONDAY E-MAILS] Before weekly Jumpstart meetings were developed I started sending Motivational Monday E-mails. An e-mail sent early on Monday morning (usually) that includes inspirational quotes, a round up of weekly tasks, pictures, and three things I am grateful for. Two years ago, after watching a TED talk, my time decided that they wanted to adopt an “Attitude of Gratitude” so each week we list the 3 things that we are grateful for. I start it off in the Monday e-mail and throughout the week they hit “Reply All” to share their three things as well. Recently, I included 3 Things I am Excited About, by starting off the week thinking about what we are grateful for and excited about, it seems we are more prepared to hit the ground running in a positive way.

[FORCED FAMILY FUN DAYS] In college I went on a few mission trips, every night we had devotional time that usually included what was called “Forced Family Fun”. Time that we spent together doing different activities, sharing with each other, and enjoying our time together. I stole that idea and a few times a year, I take my team away from the office and we spend an afternoon doing something out of the ordinary and fun as a team. Over time I stepped away from planning each afternoon, and at this point each of my team members have planned their own Forced Family Fun afternoon. We’ve watched movies, always eat a ton of food, gone to the apple orchard, visited Belle Isle, art therapy, and we always end each afternoon with writing cards to each of our teammates for them to read when they get home. I always let them leave early, and I always feel a little recharge after a fun afternoon with my team.

[TEAM BOOK CLUB] A few times a year someone on our team will pick a book for everyone to read, we spend some of our Jumpstart time talking about the book content and how we think it relates to our work. We’ve read several books as a team, some great and insightful, some were agreed to be not so great. I have found that reading books together gives the team a foundation of common language and understanding on how they relate to one another.

[ASSESSMENTS] Not assessments of their performance, however we do those as well. Personality and Stregths-Based assessments have come in handy to help increase that foundation of common language and understanding I mentioned above. I have used the Stregths-Finder 2.0 and Strengths-Based Leadership books on several occasions, and will be doing the DiSC Assessment with them in the fall. Giving them the opportunity to learn about themselves and sharing that with each other gives insight to how we work as a team and how our personality traits may influence how we interact with people.

And there you have it! My top five team building activities that I use with my team on a regular basis. They aren’t full-proof and may not work for every team, but for the time being they are working for me.

For more of my posts on leadership and “the work” go here.

May the odds ever be in your favor.