Sugar Glider

I just finished another PAC. You know, gigging for Microsoft at their Partner Advisory Council. It’s nice to be out of town. Nice to stay at our regular hotel in Seattle, which is part of our timeshare.

Seattle should be a coffee hub. I say should be. Because our hotel’s coffee is the worst. We tried drinking it a few times, thinking it couldn’t be that disgusting. Yet, it is.

IMG_20170427_074217378

Okay, so I happened to photograph the decaf one. No matter. The regular, which also comes with the room, tastes like dirt in a cup. I don’t care where coffee is grown. It shouldn’t taste like the rainforest just because it grew there.

I had a new PAC this time. New acronyms, new presenters, new participants. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Your lead can make the experience good or rather horrible. Blessedly, I had a great lead and an even greater assistant, also a contractor, who sent me the agenda, list of participants with company names, and a list of the most regularly used acronyms. Only 57 of those on the list. I felt like I’d won the lottery. That, folks, is organization.

But back to the rainforest. The second day’s agenda included one more session after lunch. I didn’t notice it went from 1:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m until after we returned. I groaned inwardly. Any breaks? Please, God. I can only tread water in the acronym ocean for so long.

The first speaker stepped up. A tall glamorous blonde woman in a blazer, hair past her shoulders, smiled at the group. She introduced herself.

“I don’t know if you know this, but last fall during this PAC, I had been on the job for less than a month.”

Not the first time I’ve heard this. Microsoft has a habit of throwing people into the fire pretty much right away after they get hired.

“I don’t have it here today, but I had a sugar glider with me. Anyone know what that is?”

We all looked at each other. I had a vague reminiscence of a bat-like creature, left over from a trip to the zoo. But it couldn’t be.

Maybe this? But made of sugar. Like a Boy Scout-crafting project.

glider

She smiled again.

“It’s a marsupial, like a flying squirrel.”

sugar glider

The look on my PAC lead’s face was priceless. Shock. Concern. Worry. Everyone else in the room looked uncomfortable, but laughed at the incongruity of it all.

“He stayed quiet for PACs, but unfortunately, not much after that. People kept asking me, is your stomach growling? Are you on dialysis?” She laughed. “I got the reputation of the lady who carried a pouch on her chest.”

What happens at PACs, stays at PACs.

 

 

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Hair Peace

hair-piece

Yesterday, we drove up to Seattle so I could take notes at the fall Microsoft PACs. My hair, always an independent entity, didn’t want to behave. I plotted a blowout. We found a place on the way at a mall, just inexpensive and quick. It was part of a chain.

We stepped to the counter and found we were at least a half hour early for my appointment. But they took us a few minutes later.

The stylist, a small Asian man by the name of Abraham, smiled at me.

“Do you mind if I cut your husband’s hair first?”

“Not at all,” I said.

I sat in a spare chair and watched the other customers and stylists. To the right of me, a mom got her hair highlighted while her little girl, a beauty with long dark curly hair, entertained herself. She sang songs and imagined and ate snacks. Her mom talked to her, and I could feel the love between them.

Abraham cut Jonathon’s hair, mowing it with a razor. He pointed out cowlicks to Jonathon, who nodded. His head is full of them and one of the major reasons he keeps his hair clipped so short. I watched as Abraham thinned out the sides and evened up the back. Jonathon looked sharp when he finished. I sat next to the pot of coffee, enjoying the peace.

My turn. I sat in the chair and got draped with cape and towel. Abraham washed my hair.

“Your hair is curly. Do you want to make it curlier, or…?”

I told him I wanted it straight.

He nodded and said, “It looks really good natural. People are starting to pay $80 for perms again.”

He round brushed my hair, pulling and drying.

“Your hair has so much body. You have a ton of hair.”

Yes. I do.

I wasn’t sure I liked what he was doing. He pointed out how he was putting movement into it, how my hair fell a certain way. I mentioned the flat iron and put down the dryer and reached for it.

“You know what, Abraham? You do what you want to. You’re the boss, applesauce.”

“Oh, thank you, Susan!” Abraham half-hugged me, grinning.

And that’s how I ended up with a swingy 70s sort of bob. I like it. Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to duplicate it, but it’s fun.

Somehow, Jonathon and I found a little island of peace in the midst of all the political melee. I want to point out that not once did anyone bring up the presidential election, or riots, or Trump, or anything. There are still great folks in the world, serving with excellence, if we get out and take a look.

Eager Beaver

Last week, I covered another Microsoft PAC. I think it was my sixth. I’ve been with the same group, the Resellers, every time. This group is onto it’s third lead since I started working with them. The last guy, who reminded me of my brother in that he got along with everyone, left for greener pastures. The new lead, a woman I’ll call Wilma, had been on the job for 2 weeks when the Partner Advisory Council cropped up.

As I typed along, I noticed something. She took every action item.

“I’ll post that in the portal.”

“I’ll get that answer and email it to the group.”

“I can get the spreadsheet right now, and you can play with it while Fred is talking.”

She wanted to get all the action items at the end of each day. I tried to highlight things in red as I went along, but it got pretty tough to keep up. All I could do was shake my head. She reminded me of this.

eager beaver.jpg

I thought, Girl you’ve got to slow down. Let other people do their jobs. Oh wait. You’re still trying to prove yourself. And I thought about my old job at IDC. It was constant going, deadlines, adrenaline. I’d wake up at 2:00 a.m. in a cold sweat, trying to remember if I’d FedExed that package to Ireland. Did I? I was so tired I could not remember.

The new lead had an assistant. Let’s call her Betty. We hit it off right away.

“How long have you worked for Microsoft?” I asked her.

“Oh, I don’t. I’m a vendor.”

Imagine my surprise. Betty and Wilma had a good working relationship already. I thought they’d worked together for months, if not years.

“No, I do different events. The rest of the time I live in my small town.” She smiled.

I could appreciate that. We went on to discuss how Microsoft people are all in, all the time. They’re on 24/7. They’re completely committed. Betty went on to say the culture is like this. It’s the standard.

“You know, Susan, if you’re so tired you can’t form complete sentences, that’s bad.”

We both noticed Wilma struggling with this. Don’t get me wrong. Wilma is fabulous. Her adorable Canadian accent shone through, especially as she got more tired. She’s quick and on top of her game. I admired her drive. But working to the point of exhaustion…yes, it is bad.

I thought about the treasure verse from the book of Matthew. That verse always confused me. I have no treasure box laden with gold coins. I have money, of course. I spend a lot of it on a mortgage each month, which depletes the old bank account considerably. Does that mean my treasure lies there? I don’t think so. I think time is even more of a treasure than money. We receive a finite amount – an amount we don’t know the measure of – over the course of our lives.  I do know I don’t want to spend all my time at work. We’re so much more than our accomplishments, our rank. The time that I do have I want to give to family and friends and serving God wherever and whenever I can. I aim to be an Eager Beaver in those areas. I want to create a lasting investment.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. – Matthew 6:21

 

Conference Post Mortem

Swag alert!

Swag alert!

Just thought I would check in.  The spring PAC (Partner Advisory Council) is over.  I’m under an NDA so I can’t say much more than that.  But perhaps you would know what lessons I gleaned this time?  Well, boys and girls, sit back, relax, and let me tell you.

You might feel invisible to your crowd, but you aren’t.  Let’s say your group schedules breaks but doesn’t ever take them.  You find yourself typing and typing and typing.  Your bladder stages a protest.  It reaches critical mass.  Reluctant to disturb the flow of the presenter and the questions, you sneak out the service entrance to find a restroom.  Unbeknownst to you, your absence causes a stir.  “Where did she go?”  They send out a posse to look for you.  They scour the bathroom.  They call your cell phone.  As if by magic, you’ve made it back to your post in 3 minutes.  Nobody thinks to look for you back at your station.  You don’t answer your cell phone because you’re taking notes again. Not my true story, but one of them.

Smaller groups rock.  Especially if you get the same group you’ve had since 2012.  Which I have been blessed to do.  I missed one PAC – the spring one last year – due to some failed electronic communication.  Other than that, I’ve covered them all with the same people.  It’s gotten so I know who pipes up the most.  I know their voices and accents.  They guy from Germany wants to discuss licensing issues.  The Dutch counterpart is all about improving the customer experience.  The Brazilian guy, well, he’s just very nice.  The very best part?  The guys like me.  They know me.  They believe in my ability and they like my work.

My PAC leader, someone who could be a brother from another mother, is a genial guy. He likes people.  His welcoming attitude sets the tone of the gathering.

He passed me in the hall during one of our infinitesimal breaks the first day.

“I left something on your desk.  A present, ” he said.

“Oh, thanks,” I said.

A present?  What?  That doesn’t happen.  I thought maybe it was a card or something.  Nothing major.

It was a box containing a brand new 7″ tablet.

The PAC leader appreciates my work.  So much so that when he passed out 7″ tablets to all the participants – 10 of them –  he gave me one, too. He didn’t have to do it.

One of the guys from the U.K. looked over at me and said, “How do you do it?”

I said around my smile, “Well, you guys are great.  You make it fun.”

He smiled back.

Doing this kind of work makes me realize the impact of an encouraging word or gesture. Even if we come from different nations, we’re rather similar on the inside.  We all want to feel like our contribution matters, like we’re important.  A couple of the regulars came and shook my hand at the end of the day yesterday.  One brought chocolate from his native country and made sure I got some, too.  I’m overwhelmed at the favor God bestowed through this experience. Now, if only someone would edit the notes for me…

Nice Boys

Eliot and Isaac

Yesterday, I got a distress email from my Microsoft conference boss.  She had some horrible notes she couldn’t wrangle alone.  I put in 7 hours for 28 pages.  Good times. That, combined with babysitting my darling nephews, made for no time to blog.  Sorry.  Thankfully, Jonathon and Zac stepped up to help.  We sure enjoy those little guys.

Before I tackled the notes, I’d promised Eliot, 5 and Isaac, 3, a hike to the creek.  The sun shone down weakly thorugh the gathering clouds.  Rain would show up again in the next day or so.  We wandered up the street.  I pointed out squirrels gathering nuts for the long winter.  Chickadees swooped around us.

Upon reaching the pond, Isaac started throwing sticks into the water.  Then they both progressed to rocks.  I moved them down the path.  It was slow going.  Pick up a choice rock.  Admire it.  Toss it pond-wise.  Repeat.

“Hey guys?  Let’s keep moving.”  The clock ticked.  I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.

We wandered on the gravel path.  The trees above us alternated green and gold leaves. When we reached the creek, more sticks begged to swim.  Big or little, it made no difference.

“Aunt Susan, look at this!”  Eliot held up a large stick.  Instead of pitching it, he held it under his arm.  Ditto with a couple of rocks.  Isaac kept his hands free, charging up the path.  Eliot poked along.  He had no reason to rush.

We crossed over the new bridge.  Isaac hopped up and trotted over.  I helped Eliot clamber up.  Wary, he glanced at the water a foot below us.  Getting dirty would be uncomfortable.  Getting wet would be much worse.

A couple of weeks back, a work crew carved a new path out of the hillside.  The boys agreed we should explores it.  Up and down we marched, avoiding a few tree roots.  I spotted a blue-winged woodpecker along the way.

“Look!”  Isaac picked up a rock for me to check out.

“No,” I said.  “We’re leaving the rocks here now.  They’re holding up the hillside.”

Isaac, ever creative, picked up the ostrich-egg sized rock and moved it from one side of the path to the other.  There!  Much better.  I chuckled.

Suddenly, the path ended.  Ahead of us, the crew had prepared the ground.  The freshly dug earth showed they planned to extend the path’s length.  The ground still contained uprooted plants.  Rocks bulged out of the dirt.

“We’re turning around here,” I said.

“No,” Isaac said.

Oh boy.

“Yes, we are.  We can’t go any further down this path.  See?  They’re not done with it yet.  We could stumble on those huge stones.”

“NO!”

I thought for a minute.

“Yes.”

Isaac didn’t like that one bit.  He ran past me down the path, back the way we came.

“Noooo!”

Then he turned and looked at me.

“I’m gonna punch you in the face!” he said. His little face scowled at me.

Oh boy.

I did my level best not to laugh.  This is his new catchphrase.  He’s the youngest.  I gather he garners respect when he says this, in spite of his pint-sized cuteness. He can’t even reach my face.

“Isaac, come here.”

“No!”

“NOW!” My voice rang under the trees.

I got his attention. He walked over to me.

“That is not acceptable.  We don’t say that, especially to people we love.”

His pale blue eyes looked into mine.  What would I do next?

“You know what we do instead?”

He said nothing.

“We hug them!”

I grabbed him in my arms and held him close. I felt him relax. I released him.  We smiled at each other.  We walked back to the bridge. After a few more rock-tosses and some photo ops, we made it home safe and sound.

I want to remember that when people close to us “act up”, it’s not their true selves. This, folks, was not the happy-go-lucky Isaac I know.  Even nice boys have rough moments.  Heck, nice girls, too, especially when we don’t get what we want. Can we give people the benefit of the doubt?  I’m up for trying.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
 – I Peter 4:8

 

Shine of Satisfaction

It’s over.  The great Microsoft PAC of fall 2014 has ended.  Let’s all observe a moment of silence.

That’s enough.

I took the notes, I edited the notes, I emailed the notes to my boss.  All 107 pages of partner goodness.  Yessir.

I feel like this.

Minus the eating garbage and bleating, of course.

I could have more editing to do.  The notes might get returned in the event I missed some particular formatting.  It’s possible.  But for now, I’m basking in knowing I did the best I could do.  I made a concerted effort to type cleanly the first time in order to save on editing later.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time doing this.  The “take a moment and reflect on your achievement/milestone” part of life often eludes me.  I tend to gloss over things as if completing a big task didn’t really matter.  I never want to toot my own horn.  Because I’ve gathered over the years that this is what we think of as pride.  But I don’t think it is.  Attaining a worthwhile goal boosts your belief in yourself.  It’s a confidence-builder.  And boy howdy, have I needed one.  I’ve been itching for a new challenge for a while now.

I went into this conference with a certain amount of trepidation, fully aware of how grueling it would be and wondering if I still had “the right stuff” to pull it off. I prayed before and during the sessions.  And something strange and wonderful happened:  I relaxed.  I felt that peace that passes understanding soothe my spirit.  No matter what, it was gonna be okay.

I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.   I’m sure I could – and will – continue to improve at dynamic transcription.  My abilities do have limits.  For example, my shoulder still throbs despite the massage I got earlier today. However, I’m happy with what I was able to do and that I got to contribute, in a small way, to the success of the meetings.  It’s enough.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. – Psalm 68:19

 

 

 

 

Fall Facts

I’ve been thinking about fall a lot lately.  Tis the season, I suppose.  But I bet there are some things a bit different about fall in the Pacific Northwest.

Let’s start with the negatives. For instance…

  • Rain happens.  Fall is a time when it can rain.  A lot. It’s kinda how you know summer, with slightly less rain, is over.
  • Jumping into a pile of freshly-raked leaves is discouraged.  And not because we’re neatniks. Damp leaves and a possible close encounter with a slug could create an unpleasant experience.
  • Fog. It won’t be enough to cancel school, but comes on thick.
  • The birds stop singing.  Guess they need to conserve energy to stay warm, or they’ve all flown south.
  • It feels like twilight all.day.long. It never quite gets bright enough to call it “daytime”.

On the upside….

  • Pumpkin everything!
  • Coffee earns a greater place in the spotlight. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
  • Fleece.  Not just for sheep.
  • We have colorful fall leaves, too.  I’m sure we’re no match for the east coast and their lovely trees, but we do well.
  • The shorter days make us huddle indoors around cozy real or fake fires, catching up with friends and family.
  • Along the same lines, we start to gather together to stave off the isolation of bad weather and colder temperatures.
  • We reflect on our own mortality and remember this, too, is only a season.

What’s fall like where you live?

 

Dear readers:  I will be covering the Microsoft PACs again, starting tomorrow.  I probably won’t be able to blog much over the next week as I take and edit the notes.  Please know I haven’t forgotten about you or died.  My keyboard will belong to others for a few days.  Back again soon!