Friday, October 31, 2014


Yesterday, October 30, 20114, marked 10 years since my classmates and I escaped from a devastating flash flood.  In the aftermath, the university arranged for a grief counsellor to visit the class.  The counsellor told us to focus on the fact that we survived, we were library students and to seek ways to accomplish the greater good we were spared for.  I don't dwell on the flood very often and I go weeks without thinking about it, but it is always in the back on my mind.  In April, the only significant rain fall we had was one that dropped 5 inches.  On that day, at one point, I found myself fixating on the rain.  I both mentally and physically shook myself, reminded myself that I lived on the second floor and then hopped in the shower to take my mind off the weather.  Periodically, I remember the words of wisdom uttered to help us reframe the situation.  These words remind me that I have the tools to give more meaning to other lives and at times change them.
In the past week, two potential pathways forward, have presented themselves.  I could say that next week I will start down a diverging road, but in reality I believe that the split has been there for some time.  I had been just stagnating at the split, unable to move forward on the road that this life, here and now is on and somewhat too trepidatious to embark on the unknown path.  In the past several weeks, I have decided to embrace the unknown and set myself down that path.  Now another split has presented itself.  Both possibilities are ones that I want for myself.  I find it amazing that the first challenge for both come on Wednesday, November 5.  The first I present myself for at 3:30 and the second at 5:45--I am grateful for daylight savings time--otherwise, I might have needed to choose one over the other.  Events are lining up which confirms my belief that if I think positive and start working toward a direction then, possibilities will present themselves.  Sometimes, the path I choose is one that presented itself unexpectedly.  But I have always been able to connect that path to the focus and energy spent working for the change.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


As I search for the path forward, I realize that my place in not here.  I see a peer forced into retirement, administrators shuffled around like a failed cabinet, and realized that lessons learned by me during the LDP were not learned by others.  I had a difficult meeting yesterday but overall I would determine that it was successful.  The objectives I set out for myself were met. Regretfully, the assumptions that I had hoped could be chalked up to unnecessary worry were instead confirmed.  Changes sometimes retain the status quo.  I learned a lot yesterday and was able to get what I wanted out of the meeting but it was a challenge.  It is difficult to find a way for the other side to hear when it doesn't want to listen.  And even though I believe that I was heard, I do not know if the message will be reflected on in a constructive way.

Today, this photo from Chaco Canyon resonates with me.  I see myself metaphorically where I stood to take this photo of the sacred space of Casa Bonito.  I am approaching the doorway, I am not there yet and I cannot clearly see what is next but I am ready to proceed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Going After What I Want

The title presumes that I know what I want.  Sometimes, what I think I want isn't what I actually want.  For example, what I think I want is a big bowl of ice-cream.  Of course, I want a big bowl of ice-cream--who wouldn't, right?  But if I just get myself to drink a glass of water, I don't need that bowl of ice-cream.  Why?  Because I was actually thirsty.  So what I thought I wanted and what I really needed are not the same.  Of course, we all know this and play this sort of game: if I can just have that designer purse then my life will be perfect--perfectly in the debt, that is.  Let's say that I get the designer purse, as we all know, my life is the same--just more in debt.  Which is the saying that my life isn't the same, it's actually worse--because now I need to pay for said purse. What I actually want was a change in my life but what I needed was probably not the purse.

The challenge is to root around for what is actually needed.  We are so accustomed to working on satisfying our first impulses that we have to drill down so deep it's almost like excavating a secret hidden Egyptian tomb.

I'm going to take a minute and look at what Maslow told us about the hierarchy of needs.  I have co-opted this handy little photo from the internet. [Properly cited, of course.]  Meeting our needs should drive what we want.  The problem happens when we are not clear about what needs we are seeking to meet.'s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg
What happens when our basic needs are not being met?  Looking at this list, I think I should be working on Esteem and Self-actualization.  But clearly, based on recent posts, I may be working on these part of the time, but I keep getting dragged down to the lower levels.  Why?  What is missing in these levels?

Could it be as basic as food?  Maybe.   Although I am eating enough--more than enough--food like products, I'm not eating actually eating a lot of food.  Could it be as simple as changing my diet?  Probably not. This is one thing--one thing--that I need.  But, I have to dig a little deeper than that.  Theoretically the physiological is being satisfied--I'm hungry, I eat.  I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.  The question is why am I making poor food choices?  I am coming to realize that when some of the higher level needs are not being met, it is masked by a lower level need.  For example, thirst is actually a higher level need--we can live longer without food than water--but when we need water, this need is masked by a lower level need--in this case hunger.  

What is not being met in my life?  I think that probably right now Safety is my primary concern.  Not security of body, health or property.  But rather that of employment.  When I go to work, I don't feel safe.  I am constantly worried that the other shoe is going to drop.  I don't think I am going to lose my job--it could happen but it isn't likely.  But I am not safe and secure in knowing that I am valued, that my self-esteem will not be knocked off the block.  We humans are a complicated lot.  I would say that you have to have phycological safety as well and the more immediate physical safety. 

What I really want is to have this psychological sense of safety at work.  Today, I have a meeting with my new supervisor and it is my goal to be able to communicate this need to him.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Future Desired State

Over the past several months I have been involved in a Leadership Development Program (LDP) with a cohort of peers.  It has been a good program overall.  For me it came at a time when I am contemplating where to go, what to do next.  Last week was the end of program so in our final days we covered political acumen and next steps.  One of the trainers recommended describing the Future Desired State.  This resonated with me and I want to take a few minutes exploring what that would look like.

I don't see myself in the current system that I am.  I have gone around and around with this.  Civil Service security vs finding a position that I can make a real difference.  Previously when speaking with one of the trainers, I voiced that I was leaning toward the former.  During a break, I indicated that I was leaning the other way now.  One of the trainers, said "At what cost does the civil service security come?"  There is a cost and I am not sure I want to bear that cost.

I have been chaffing in this system for a while.  I can see the value in the way the current head of the executive committee runs her system.  When she took over there were some pretty shocking ways of doing things that desperately needed to be addressed.  I also have great respect for the way that she handled the financial melt down several years back.  But I tend to use the analogy of Cuba when speaking about what is going on now.  When the revolution occurred, Cuba had serious inequities that needed to be addressed.  Castro did go a long way in raising the educational and economic levels of the general masses.  However, he never trusted the people and he became dependent on power.  As a result, Cuba has stagnated and the people have suffered. There is a delicate balance to achieve when making sweeping changes that require a tightening of the reins.  Once the course has been set, trust is required.

One leader that I greatly admire is George Washington.  He was a man that walked away from power and look at the result.  Had he been a different man--almost any other man--the greatness of the US might never have been achieved.  He trusted that what he started would continue.

If I am comparing my current system to a dysfunctional state, then perhaps this is not best place for me to be.  So what is my Future Desired State? As indicated above that would be something on the lines of Washington leading the US.

I want to take the tools that I have added to my tool box over the past several months in the LDP and apply them someplace where I have an ability to utilize them to the fullest extent.  I want to work with a Library Board, develop partnerships in a community and lead the library I am charge of into excellence or if the case may be continued excellence.  I want to be able to encourage a staff into doing more than they thought possible.

I want to be able to flex my wings and soar within my community.  I do not want to worry that the next step that I take is one that will be my downfall.  I don't want to worry that I didn't go through the proper channels or or enough channels or that I made a mistake by talking to the press about the wonderful program that we are having.  I want to be able to make partnerships or encourage partnerships without going through levels and levels of permission.  I am a professional with customer service as my primary motivating factor and I would like to be treated as such.  I want meetings that I go to to be collaborative and engaging and not a sit and listen event.  Again, I am a professional and so are my peers.  If a mistake is made, address that mistake with that person.

That is my Future Desired State.  I want to be the Director of my own system, however, small.  I have the skills, I can learn what I do not know.  I have so many strengths that are not being tapped and that is becoming a roadblock for me professionally.

Like a budded rose, I want to bloom.  I need to find the sunshine and rain to allow that.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Week Ahead

Today I have a big meeting that I guess could go either way. I am optimistic that is will go well.  I want to spend a few minutes thinking about what I want out of the meeting.  Of course, I want show up well.  I want to seem professional, calm and collected.  If I am triggered, I want to take a few seconds to get past the trigger.  I also want to get my point across.  That point being that I want both sides to grow, to get something positive out of the meeting.  I want to clear the path and start fresh on both sides.  I want to take lessons learned and to implement them.  Again, I am optimistic that it will turn out well.  And if it doesn't, oh, well as long as I keep my promises to myself that is really all that matters.  I can deal with anything else.

The meeting was interesting.  I would say that it was successful and that goals that I wanted to achieve were indeed met.  But, there didn't seem to resolution that I could see.  Perhaps, I was just a step in the greater agenda.  I am not sure.

I want to add a flower to this post.  I chose this one because the individual flower isn't that special but when grouped together it becomes more than the individual.  I also like that there are a variety of stages to these flowers which in this case I want to represent the various stages that a team is in.  Some are just budding, some a full-fledged but each cluster works as a unit and the clusters support the whole.

Yes, I think this is a good image to represent how I feel about the tasks for this week.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On Being Thoughtful

I have been considering my own management style quite a bit recently.  I have also thought about what I have appreciated in others that have managed me.  For the most part, I have had very competent supervisors that I have been able to respect and in whose opinions I value.  With several supervisors I have been able to have conversations with them about the employees working under me.  These were not conversations about a problem that needed to be solved right then and there.  They were conversations about what strengths and weaknesses an employee has and how we can leverage those qualities to get the best performance.  It was also a conversation about good employees and how to provide them with enough growth opportunities. And when needed there was enough previous context, to speak productively about how manage difficult employees.
I haven't had this kind of conversation in a long time and I have missed it.  But it is only through reflections that I have come to realize that it has been missing.  When you have something for a long time, and something different comes along, you know it is different but it isn't always easy to tell exactly how it is different.
I have a lot of decisions to make in the near future.  Where to go, what to do.  How to get where I want to go.  Where is that I want to go? For a while now, I have been letting the status quo pile up around my ears.  I have been casting about, knowing that I have little interest in pursuing more responsible positions where I am.  If I remain for the next 6027 or so days (16 1/2 years) then work would simply have to become only a 40 hour a week proposition and fulfillment would have to come from some other sector in my life.  This is a challenge for me, because by nature, I have embraced my careers as a teacher and now as a librarian.  I wanted to be a great teacher and a fantastic librarian.  I truly want to be a very good manager.  I know that I have a lot of growth in this area--realistically who doesn't.   I have tried to make a difference where I can make a difference when I can make a difference.  I know that my community appreciates this and I think some of my supervisees do as well.
One thing I am willing to do.  I am willing to turn the mirror inward and I am willing to correct my behavior.  But I also realize now that in order to do that effectively I need to feel safe.  It is has been a long long time since I have felt safe.
Since safety is the second rung on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I need to work on establishing a safe environment.  I think it will be a long time before, the environment is safe here, so I need to use some of those positive qualities that I possess: an ability to stretch, a willingness to adapt and change, a strong positive sense of adventure, a willingness to take risks, monitor course and change tack as needed.  I have done it before, I can do it again.  This life is an adventure and when I think about adventure, I want to remember impromptu hike down into the Grand Canyon.  This was the adventure of a lifetime.  I did that! That was me that casually decided to go on a 12 mile in the Grand Canyon!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Making Changes

Over the past few months I have been taking a leadership development program.  This week is the end of the program and we need to do a 1 minute presentation distilling what we have taken from the training. A while back someone made the comment that "It is rough and tumble when you get to this [administrative] level."  I have mulled this over periodically and chewed on it some more this weekend.  How does all of this fit with me?
Over the past 3 years, I have gained 35 pounds.  For a while when I arrived in LA, my weight was stable but then it began to creep up and over the past year I have gained 15 pounds.  I am a stress eater, so the weight gain means that I am stressed.  To be a good leader, I need to address the stressors.  I need to think about what exactly is causing me stress and then work on remediating either my response to the stressors or the stressors themselves.
My questions is why does it have to be rough and tumble?  Why do I feel that it is rough and tumble now?  Why do I spend a large part of my day in fear that the other shoe will drop?  Why do I feel, that I need to sedate myself at the end of the day with cheese and pizza sauce?  This isn't who I want to be.  So it is time to turn the ship--now luxury size--and establish a course that will lead me to a better place.
For a while now, I have been tossing around pros and cons of where I am right now.  But the pros are not going to help, if I am at the core not satisfied.  Why should I settle for safe and secure when it is dismantling me piece by piece?  Here are my assets, I am adventurous, I am willing to take the bull by the horns, I am able to see my faults and I am willing to work on improving them.  It is up to me to find the place where I can grow.  It is up to me prepare myself to be in that place.  So from this day forward, I will work toward that goal.  I will explore all the different facets of what makes me in order to become a much better me. Get ready world, I am here.

This was me during my first year in grad school.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dear Committee Members: A Novel

Several weeks ago, I was on the reference desk at another library when a reference call came through.  I don't exactly remember what the customers question was but she suggested that I read Dear Committee Members: A Novel by Julie Schumacher.  She thought it was the most hilarious book that she had read in years.  While on the phone, I requested the book and in about a week it arrived.  It is slim with a minimal cover depicting a porcupine walking off the front--we get to see is hindquarters and it appears that some of his quills are up.
Three days ago I opened the volume and started reading the various LORs (letters of recommendations) written by Jay Fitger, Professor of Creative Writing and English, Payne University.  Dr. Fitger or perhaps he is just a professor--but since he has tenure I am swinging toward Dr.--takes his creative writing very seriously.  The LORs for the most part are the ones that many a writer would like to share with the world but generally don't.  Through his candid often tangential letters we follow that his university's department is beleaguered and becoming marginalized for the sexier programs like Economics whose department's renovation has created any number of hazards for the neighboring English Department.  Jay has had various relationships that have ended badly--primarily due to his own bad behavior.  He is somewhat garrulous and eccentric but perhaps not quite to the degree of some of his colleagues.  And he making considerable if unsuccessful efforts in propping up his last graduate advisee who has lost all of his funding which means that he cannot finish his novel.
for the most part found the novel amusing but not necessarily as brilliant as the customer found it until I reached the last 10 pages.  The twist that concludes the novel is shocking and snaps the previous 180 pages into perspective; thus making the overall memorable.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In a Quandry

As I approach my 48th year, I am thinking about the future.  It is hard for someone like me to stay put.  And it is hard for someone like me to be satisfied with the status quo.  In a recent strengths finder assessment, I was labeled--Achiever.  Which means that I am always searching for the brass ring.  Always looking for what is next.  So, here is what I have got.  Try to go or try to stay--which is to say that both are an effort.
Why stay?  Well, simply put--right now is pretty good.  I am happy in my position, I love the community and the community is always giving positive feedback. So why mess up a good thing?  It's in my nature to challenge, to see the new, the different, the next thing, so on one level, I feel in a rut.  Why go? I don't know that I have anything more in my future here, and if it is offered, I am not sure that I want it.
I hate these mid-life quandaries.  If I stay, I have 16 1/2 years to having full medical coverage.  I might actually get to retire at something closer to 65 than never. Right now, I am 33% to that goal.  When I realized this, I felt like I was selling my soul for civil service security.  And to add to that I know that with my banked sick and vacation time, I have a pretty security time blanket to deal with any emergencies--family or personal that might come my way.  This is important for worse case scenario girl.  Really, really important.
But then I see things like--Director of Library Services in Cape Cod, State Librarian in Hawaii, etc.  Oh, to run my own show, to be challenged every day and energized by that challenge.  Oh, to shake up my world and get myself out of any ruts I might be in.  Stars in my eyes.  Sparkles and fireworks going off in my imagination.
Which way to go?  What to do?  If I log in to Facebook and play Bejeweled, then I can numb myself and pass the next 16 1/2 years. But really, I don't want to be numb.  Yep, that is right, I am an adrenaline junkie and I have Gypsy leanings.  I have met others in my tribe and many of them are in Hawaii--so I long to go back to my island home.  I was thinking yesterday, that Hawaii is the one place that has felt like home to me.  It was the first place that I chose to be and didn't just let serendipity move me there.  I baptized my stay the first night, when I cried wondering what in the world I had done, no job, no friends, limited fund--what had I done?  But then I stopped myself, bucked myself up and told myself it was going to be ok.  Within a week, I had a job, a car, a place to live, and an entire set of new life long friends.
Over the years, I found myself and I was given a new lease on life--literally.  The tenth anniversary of that horrible yet miraculous night is coming up.
So I can say that Hawaii is truly a magical place.   Maybe the magic is still there?  If I don't try, I won't know.