The Moment

fall sunset.jpg

(source)

It’s Friday. Well, okay, it’s actually Wednesday. But tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it’s the end of the work week after 5:00 p.m. today.

So much to say. Jonathon’s getting more opportunities to make money. He will start teaching, a master’s degree course, on December 3. He also proofread a an algebra textbook and made some bank there. He’s really taking off. God is so good.

I worked for Microsoft last week, taking notes at the fall PAC. It went well, if a little long. Ended up with 105 pages. I wrote a novel, folks. Not a good novel, but a novel. Over 40,000 words. Wow. Crazy.

We headed home a day early. Thursday morning, we packed up. I got settled in to work at the dining room table. Suddenly, I had company.

“Mom, can I sit here?” Ruby looked at me. She wanted to draw at the table.

“Sure,” I thought. But I wondered if I could keep concentrating with someone else sharing the space.

“Mom, I’m gonna make a beat,” Zac announced. He set up camp at the table, too. He opened his laptop and laid out his mini keyboard and speakers. He flipped on the fake fire and started sampling melodies. Aloud.

Alrighty then. How would THIS work? With all those pages to edit, I wondered if I’d be able to focus. I had already done the autocorrects for the partner comments and a little of the overall spell check.

I sighed inwardly. Then I got down to it.

“Mom, what do you think of this?” Zac played a melody in a minor key. It sounded like an old player piano.

“Creepy,” I offered. I continued fixing all the contractions that looked like don’t’. You can run a macro for that. Huzzah.

I hummed along. Rex sauntered in and lay down by the fire. I knew it wouldn’t take long. He loves to be warm. Dakota started barking. She could see me through the rotunda’s glass door. I let her in. She trotted into the dining room. Rex hissed at her but didn’t move. Dakota sighed and laid herself down on the other side of me. I should have taken roll call.

I peeked over at Ruby’s drawing. She was coloring in the dress on a little girl she had drawn. Pink. Nice.
“Looks good, Ruby,” I said.

She smiled.

A peace washed over me. The fire sparkled. The kids chatted back and forth, ribbing each other. Rex passed out. Dakota wandered in and out, sniffing each of us, looking for treats.

It felt magical. Could I someday have a telecommuting job? I soaked up every minute of it. (Yes, I finished the editing.) I know how rare these moments are. With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I just wanted to say how thankful I am for this life, for now. We can’t relive moments. We can only live in them.

 

Friday Fast Pitch

Good morning! I know I haven’t written in awhile. Let me catch you up.

  • Microsoft PACs were last week. I had a new group, with all new faces. I swam in a sea of acronyms and accents. Then I got out of the water and back to work.
  • This week, we’re down one PM (out on medical leave), and my co-worker is on vacation. I’m lone-rangering it. Not too bad, but keeping busy.
  • My foot hurts. Really bad. I’ve done something to it. Running, unfortunately, doesn’t help it. Going in to see the doctor next week. Might get in today, if there’s a cancellation.
  • We had our Easter services last week. Those of us who brought the music got blessed by the Holy Spirit and the great turnout. It felt like a huge party! Jonathon did a bang-up job designing a brand new set and lighting.
  • Ruby’s home on spring break this week. I stayed home with her on Monday. I asked if she wanted to bake something. She shook her head no. We made chicken noodle soup from scratch at her request.
  • Zac’s spring break was last week. He took care of the animals and the house while we were gone to Seattle. We watched “The Matrix”. Again. I guess it’s a favorite of his. Zac’s out of school April 27, finishing his freshman year of college. What?! New adventures await.

As spring moves on, I find myself grateful for the longer glimpses of sun and warmer temps. Jesus does heal us. Time helps, too. Life blossoms again in fresh and different ways. Let me remember to define myself by who I am in Christ first and foremost.

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.

 

 

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