interview with a worker bee

my love is on loan,

sent out on an aimless wind.

 

what happens here is between my

meticulous wings, always

 

buzzing, always hovering

above unnamed flowers.

 

the taste of completion

is like no other;

 

you keep moving toward it,

keep caressing the target:

 

knowing that on the other side

of the other side is a

 

convivial feast just waiting

for these mandibles.

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more & less: 16 intentions for 2016

 

20151231_131703 Addendum: Work on handwriting and aligning columns? Nah…

Note: The blur on the left column was not intentional… but it fits. Focus is on the right.

Happy New Year to all! ❤

ink

this is not how it’s done.

this is not business as usual.

 

retirement is an illusion;

life is this, here, now.

 

the pain of the present can be counted

on to be capitalized: traded and

 

tucked into the pockets of those living

in penthouses above, outside of, time.

 

we say we want our freedom,

but we can’t handle it; we give

 

it away again and again to

the highest bidder, and we don’t

 

even get to see the profit margin:

it slinks off into the night like wet ink.

paso por paso (or, instructions for the puzzle of life)

Puzzle 1

Clear a large space.

Establish boundaries (cat optional).

Start with the sharp edges and work inward.

Take it one step at a time; build frameworks where possible.

Follow your first impulses/impressions.

Smile between the furrows. (This is supposed to be fun.)

Others will be inspired by you and will sometimes want to sit with you and your endeavors. Savor the companionship.

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Simultaneously work on random patches and patterns. They will gradually begin to make sense and fit in.

When you’re in the midst of the mess, go make a sandwich.

Consult the big picture often.

Study each detail: the shape, shadow, grain, texture, color, depth (cat teeth marks).

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Vary your attention regularly between the big picture and the small details.

Try many things, and be willing to make many mistakes. You will come frustratingly close many times, and be wrong.

Admit the mistakes. Be willing to work backward to undo them.

You will be overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task. Become comfortable with a certain level of chaos.

You can’t keep putting everything away in its neat, tidy place. Sometimes you have to lay it all out on the table for all to see, for you to face.

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Have faith that you will find everything you need.

If you do not find everything you need, have faith that you will be able to improvise.

Sometimes you have to stop looking for something in order to find it.

Deeply study the empty places to determine how they need to be filled.

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Each new day will bring renewed perspective, light, focus, and energy.

20140918_204305

Turn your thinking on its head. Keep rearranging.

Revel in the satisfaction of the right fit, of each small piece clicking into place.

Drink lots of coffee.

20140920_114112

Welcome help along the way; others bring unique perspectives and often see things we’ve missed right in front of our eyes.

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Develop a love of quiet simplicity.

Be prepared to spend many hours alone.

Accept that you’re going to hit a wall sometimes. Find a way over, under, around, or through – or wait it out. Walls (we) have a way of shifting.

Breathe and be present. Feel each piece in your hand and dwell with it.

20140920_151709

Embrace the paradoxes. Find humor in them.

Everything is an experience. Everything is a writing opportunity.

If you’re stuck in one area, move to another. There are endless areas in need of attention.

Do the work consistently, and sit back and enjoy the transformation.

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Take the time to celebrate the triumphs.

Then, be willing to let go, dismantle every piece, and start again.

four-teen

20140825_083527-1

my daughter is

writing poems and

 

playing piano

keys while the

 

world is spinning, telling her

she should be working.

 

the singing apple is still falling

from the tree

 

in slow   motion

ecstasy;

 

obelisk of beauty and utility:

reaching, perching on the edge

 

of still pools, longing

to be space-craft.

20140730_162545

an open letter to myself: the round tuit club

Dear Self,

You have now been set free from the traditional work setting for two and a half months. You have indulgently slept in and napped, read a luxurious number of books, journaled, traveled, spent time with family and long-lost friends, started a blog, baked and cooked, beach-bummed, played the piano and rediscovered long-lost songs, purged and reorganized your house and over-abundant belongings, reveled in all-night movie marathons with your daughter, and lowered your overall stress level, blood pressure, and desire to leap off a cliff.

Bravo! You have played well.

It is now time, however, to work.

I’m not talking about jumping at the next job that comes along (although they haven’t exactly been knocking down your door); I’m talking about the real work of seeking — the exciting and excruciating work of laying out all of the options and deciding the next path.

Fortunately, some of this has already been occurring while you have been playing. Thank goodness humans, particularly writers, operate in this multitasking manner and repeatedly process those little niggling things — like where you should work and live, whom you should contact, and how you should proceed — while still having fun. Otherwise, you would stew in your indecisive inactivity and go crazy (more so than usual).

By work, I’m also talking about all of the little (and not so little) un-fun and unromantic tasks on your to-do list that you have ignored, glossed over, and otherwise tried to forget. (See your first blog post of June 27.) They are still there, like tiny fruit flies hovering — and as much as you swat at them in annoyance, they are not going to disappear! You must go to the source and just do what needs to be done.

Not when you get around to it — because you already have that.

tuit

Now. Now is the time.

I am hereby instating the ROUND TUIT CLUB — in honor of your father’s love of puns and creation of cardboard ‘tuits’ as emblems of no more excuses. (This one is made out of a chunk of wood; you are going to need a three-dimensional tuit to tackle this to-do list.)

Labor Day seems like a fitting time for this inauguration; also, the waning of summer (although technically you have until September 22) and waxing of a new school year has always been a refreshing call to you of renewal.

Don’t get me wrong — procrastination has its proper time and place. After all, by putting off the more unsavory items on your list, you have redirected a more focused energy to some of the other long-overdue things that needed your attention.

But it’s time to get all those annoying little ducks in a row, kid, before you start your next venture.

And here’s a bit of advice: Don’t try to take on all of the ducks at once. That can be really overwhelming. Just take it one duck at a time — one duck a day, if you will. Two ducks on a good day. And every once in a while, when you line up one duck a few more will want to follow. Just go with it.

OK then. Hop to it, tiger, and I promise to end the animal analogies.

hop to it

Love,

Self

[Insert tilde here that your computer refuses to generate for some reason.]

schooled by a six-year-old

When you finally begin to unpack, rearrange, and reorganize the luggage of life (literal and/or figurative), you are always bound to find treasures. They often make up for the hassle and hard work, as well as the more painful findings.

This round has been no exception.

While (finally) unpacking some boxes from my (last summer!) move, I came across this little gem from my girl’s first-grade journal:

quality_edits

After allowing the initial gushing and wave of nostalgia to wash over me, my daughter’s simple yet wise-beyond-her-years words made me stop and think.

We so often use the word quality when describing our lives and the items and moments those lives produce. We spout the terms quality assurance, quality control, and quality management in our work life; we try to have more quality time in our home life and relationships; we discuss quality of life when facing challenges such as illness, injury, work-life balance, and aging; we seek out the Quality Inn signs on road trips during the alphabet game to find that ever-elusive ‘Q’.

But do we ever really stop to think about the word in its simplest form and meaning?

Quality Inn Sign_full

For a six-year-old unaware of these coined phrases that often lose their meaning with overuse and under-implementation, the word quality simply comes down to the desire for an ideal approach to each and every endeavor — whether at school or at home, whether assigned or initiated — to 1) take one’s time (that is reasonably given as needed); 2) check one’s work (against clear expectations and guidelines); 3) concentrate fully (by being in the moment and reducing distractions and multitasking); and to — consequently — 4) be able to do one’s very best.

At the end of the day, don’t we all want to do our very best? Is this really too much to ask — to be given the tools (including time and training) needed to reach our full-quality potential?

For many workplaces — and sadly, many schools — it is.

In too many instances, we are on a “fast track” of results-oriented learning, teaching, producing, packaging.

Too often we allow others to dictate the definition of quality to us, and we forget that quality is not a job that is “as good as can be expected given the current constraints / workforce / budget / deadlines / contract / student ability / teacher ratio / structure / process / [fill-in-the-blank].”

We are persuaded to buy in to the emergency appearance of quality. Often, we feel we do not have a choice; we feel forced to forfeit pride in our work.

But then just as often we are wrongly called out as part of both the cause and consequence of this illusory “quality” that comes with an inevitable expiration date — and price.

Admittedly, quality is a subjective term and is often measured in tandem with (and tragically too often eclipsed by) its ‘Q’ partner: Quantity (which is, incidentally, not even remotely helpful in the alphabet game).

Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say on the subject:

Quality — a distinguishing attribute; superiority in kind; degree of excellence; peculiar and essential character; an inherent feature.

Quality is inherently inherent. It distinguishes a person, a piece of work, a path.

When someone at work says, “It isn’t personal; it’s just business,” I have to take pause and wonder what that intrinsically means about that person, that workplace, that work.

Rockwell

If you agree with Norman Rockwell (as my father did and had this painting hanging in his office as an operations manager for thirty-five years), quality of work is personal; it defines the person.

Since Olivia was old enough to toddle around and forage for resources, she has invested countless hours working on projects until the outcome was “just right” by her — and only her — standards.

Be it a sprawling town constructed of cardboard, clay, paper, and plastic, complete with buildings, bridges, moats, roads, homes, schools, and stores; a poster board menagerie of sea otters adorned with calligraphy headlines, colorful borders, and hand-made drawings; or a Powerpoint presentation of sculpted grey clay cats set against a vibrant red backdrop; the message of each project was clear: Olivia would not be rushed and would not stop working until she achieved her own high-quality end goal.

Historically hurried by teachers, art and music tutors, fellow students, and friends to “work a little bit faster” — Olivia has found a way to push back and demand the time and space needed to complete her work to her own satisfaction.

I am proud of my rising eighth-grader for standing her ground in the name of quality. At times, my own frustration and desperation have threatened to take over — in my own work and in the guidance of my daughter’s — as the late nights and approaching deadlines loomed; but in the end, Olivia has always pulled it off, and on her own terms.

These four tenets of quality — captured by my first-grader (and forever-friend as noted below by another found treasure) — sing out to me now as I ponder my next job, relationship, project, path:

  • Take my time.
  • Check my work.
  • Concentrate.
  • Do my best.

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~