June 23, 2010

Is It Okay To Disagree?

Tomorrow afternoon, I have the hideous honor of attending my annual performance review. I dread these and I confess that I hate getting any kind of criticism. Even the positive criticism stuff. I'm sorry but there is just nothing worse than sitting in a stifling hot office getting beaten up for an hour about your job performance. Managers don't beat you up because they WANT to it is because they HAVE to. I think I have only gotten one perfect review in 10 years. When I was an executive assistant to a bigwig VP, I did everything but jump off a skyscraper for him but the great thing was is that he knew it and recognized how much I did for him. He fully knew that he could not function in his job without my help. Did I make sure he couldn't function in his job without my help? Yup. It paid off both literally and figuratively. I eventually did leave him to take a more career-oriented role and he left his job there shortly after. He was one of my favorite people that I have ever had the pleasure of working for and we still keep in touch to this day.

In just about every job performance review I have ever had in my 10 years of professional work experience, I think every manager has told me that I need to speak up and contribute. It's not that speaking up or coming up with new and fresh ideas is a hard thing for me to do. It is more along the lines that I am afraid my ideas aren't good enough, or that they aren't even that original. I have to give huge props to my former boss. My first year at this place, I was intimidated by him and was definitely his "yes girl." I did whatever he wanted exactly the way he wanted it with zero suggestion as to how to make it better or even expand upon his ideas. So, at my first review, he told me that I need to step it up and asked what he could do to help facilitate that. For the next two years, he let go of the reigns on me and let me have some creative freedom. Rather than telling me the exact specifications for a promotion he let me put together several samples of campaigns to choose from. Many were thrown in the trash, some were huge hits and others were altered so much in the end that I barely recognized them (which is what happens when there ends up being too many cooks in the kitchen).

My boss was let go last fall and it has impacted me immensely. I feel like I have to start over from square one with a boss that isn't use to my style and frankly, we butt heads a lot.  Promotions have been e-mailed to me with the entire copy already written and laid out as well as what the pictures and "look" should be like. Now, if I worked for an agency, this type of detail would be spectacular, but I don't! I'm supposed to be the Marketing Specialist. The campaign guru. I feel like the perpetual creative wind has been kicked out of  me. I've been trying some backwards ways to get some more freedom, but most of them have fallen on deaf ears. Besides just the creative roadblocks that I'm experiencing, there is an entire philosophical difference of opinion when it comes to advertising. I am very much the marketing that is in the camp of a catchy headline and tagline in which the entire promotion then gets built around. It is a different marketing world out there today and people no longer want to feel pushed or manipulated into buying your product. They want to feel like they are genuinely getting a deal. They want to know exactly what they are getting and walking away with. They don't care about interest rates in and of themselves. They only care how an interest rate can affect them. It is SO important for businesses not just to SAY they are different but they have to PROVE it. Putting a generic ad in the newspaper isn't going to get attention. Putting a DIFFERENT ad in the newspaper will. How do you be different? Well in the ever so regulated and generic financial services world, it is in what you say. It is coming up with offers that are different than what they are seeing everywhere else. I have attended about a million webinars in the past two years preaching exactly this. So why do my very different and new ideas keep getting rejected? This rejection makes my blood boil. What makes it worse is that I am given no logical explanation as for WHY I can't take a unique approach. I was told "I've been doing this a long time." Um. SO HAVE I!!! Overall I am fine with someone telling me that what I am doing isn't the direction they want to take. I've gotten pretty used to my stuff becoming unrecognizable over the years. What I don't like is being told flat out that my opinion is not even remotely valued or trusted. At least the line "I've been doing this a long time," made me feel that way.

This is why I am asking the question: is it okay to disagree? After being told over and over again for years to speak up, and when I finally do, I get "I've been doing this a long time," did I make the wrong choice in vocalizing my disagreement? Am I in huge trouble here? I confess, I am a little terrified of my review. I always get nervous for them and they end up not being the worst thing in the world, but this time around, I have that gut feeling that I'm going to take a pretty severe beating.

Thank goodness for a well-planned girl's night out and PTO on Friday- I have a feeling I'm going to need that glass of wine.

June 16, 2010

A Friend For Life

I have a very good friend who I met in college some 14 years ago. For a good 5 years, we were inseparable. She was my club-going, wild friend. We shared a lot and went through a lot together. She was the first of our gang to really settle down with a guy and me and the rest of the gang weren't having that. While my other close girlfriend completely wrote her off, I backed off and gave her some space. I told myself that if we are truly best friends, we'll find our way back to each other. I told her that I understood her need to step away from our wild, party lifestyle. A couple years later, I received an invitation to her wedding. I was sad to not be a part of her wedding party, but happy she wanted me to be there. My now husband was my "date" and it was a great, fun night with a friendship reignited.

My friend also struggled with infertility. Amazingly, we both got pregnant within about 5 months of each other and now have boys close in age. We are LOVING it. Over the weekend her family came over to spend some time with us- it was the first time they were able to see our new house and with the boys getting older, we thought it would be fun to let them play together. They had fun, but Jack was pretty territorial over his toys (which hilariously, he never plays with otherwise). When it came to naptime, the boys had some trouble settling down. So we scooped them up to sit in our laps in the recliners and rocked the boys to sleep which watching "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." My friend asked me, "So back in college did you ever think we'd be sitting here rocking our boys to sleep together?" I know that is a little bit of a loaded question- at least for me. I told her, "Back then? No way." However, I knew in my heart that I always wanted to settle down and have a family. I probably would've preferred it to the wild lifestyle we were leading back then when I was DESPERATE to find someone to love me. It was after our falling out that I didn't think we would ever be rocking our kids to sleep together. The question and the moment was very special to me. I knew at that moment we would be friends for life.We have even started making plans for the rest of the summer.A lot of my close girlfriends don't have kids, nor do they plan to so I've felt really alone over the last 21 months. I love that I have this old friend who I will get to raise my son with. I'm excited to see them become friends. I'm excited to take vacations together. I'm excited to have a friend to share life with again.

June 10, 2010

You Can't Always Win

I love the show Glee for many reasons. Mostly because I was a choir dork throughout the better part of my life and I can completely relate to these characters. Singing was my LIFE in high school and college.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I loved the show even more after Tuesday night's season finale. In a world where Hollywood endings of "happily ever after" and the "underdog always wins" is leaking into mainstream society, I actually loved that they didn't win. I loved it even more that they didn't even place. Why? Because this is how the real world works!!! I'm not trying to be a negative nelly in any way, but in high school, college and definitely life in the world as a working adult- you win some and you lose some. I've definitely lost more than I have won in my lifetime. Not that I haven't tried or worked hard enough, but because, that is just the way things go. How you learn to handle those times that you lose is what builds character. When you win- it feels that much sweeter. I lost a lot of softball games growing up. I wasn't chosen to sing in the All-State Choir. I didn't get cast in the musical "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" my junior year in high school (I was aghast at this seeing as I would've made the perfect Sally Brown). I didn't always get picked for the solos. All of this losing stuff that I learned throughout my childhood taught me how to roll with the punches in the adult world. I didn't get an offer for every job I ever interviewed for. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I got many more rejections than I got offers. Even in my current job, MANY of my ideas are shot down on a daily basis.

Nothing shows this "give me what I want without having to do any work" mentality better than some of the Gen Y's out there. I work closely with a Gen-Y'er right now and no lie, it is insanely frustrating. It is plain to see that she grew up very differently from me and has gotten a lot of handouts. After graduating from college she EXPECTED the company to hire her into Marketing. At her first review, she EXPECTED to get a huge bump in pay. She got the job, but didn't get the pay. I'm not gloating, that's just a reality of this world right now, honey! After being in the business world for over 10 years now, I have definitely learned not to expect anything- I just continue to work hard with HOPES (not expectation) that it will pay off someday. Besides, I would much rather be recognized for the work that I do rather than simply just showing up every day and keeping a chair warm.

I have heard all stories from my sister, who has boys ages 8 and 4, that recreational sports now have leagues for baseball and soccer where they don't keep score and where everyone gets a trophy. I'm not going to sugarcoat- I didn't like to lose in softball and I'm pretty sure I cried more summers than not when my team didn't do well enough to bring home a trophy. However, this is where I learned about motivation. This is where I learned about team work. How on earth are the youth of today ever going to learn how to accept failure? What is going to motivate them? I love my son. I love him more than anything on this planet. It takes a ton of restraint not to spoil him, but I guarantee, he will not get everything he wants. Not from us. There are a few things that my husband and I have stuck to since having a kid- the early years have been about his schedule and sending him to an actual school as opposed to a typical daycare regardless of the cost. The other that I know we will stick to is that he will have to work to get the things he wants. Good grades. A summer job. Sure, he could easily slack off and we would foot the bill, but that is not how we want to raise him.

I do want my son to have many of the things that I didn't have growing up; however, I still want him to grow up understanding what having a work ethic is, how to be motivated and sadly, he needs to understand how it feels to not get everything he wants.

June 08, 2010

Just Because I Have a Kid

 Just because I have a kid...
  • Doesn't mean I can't get my work in on time
  • Means that daycare closes every once in awhile and their closed dates do not always coincide with work's paid holidays. I have to take those days off. I don't have any other options.
  • Means that he comes first. Always. 
I write this post walking a little on eggshells... from someone who came from the world of infertility, I remember feeling like those who had kids somehow got a free ticket to get out of work whenever they darn well felt like it to have all this great wonderful time outside of work. I always got stuck being the one to work. It drove me crazy. However, the shoe is now on the other foot. I don't find it any great treat having to pick up my sick child from daycare to go home and have to clean up his blowouts, keep his fever down, wipe his tears away. It is heartbreaking. It is exhausting.

It is still strange for me to be on the other side of infertility. So many times I feel like I shouldn't ever complain. Not that I take a second of being a mom for granted, but, there are a lot of things that I thought would be easier than they are when it comes to caring for a small child. I actually take back a lot of things that I might have said back in my bitter infertile days. The work situation is one of those things. I regret complaining about not being able use a kid as an "excuse" to leave work (those were my old words). It is definitely not an excuse- it is very real. I also was naive to think that it would make my marriage better and more beautiful but the reality is that it adds a whole new level of complexity and complication to the relationship. We have to work harder than ever to keep our marriage happy.

June 03, 2010

To Neighbor or Not To Neighbor

My husband and I have been together for nearly 8 years (lived together for 7.5 years... yeah... don't judge). The first house we moved into together was in an older, more established neighborhood. We made some minor attempts at getting to know a couple of our neighbors, but we discovered their teenagers were actually closer to our age then they were. Let's just say, we didn't really fit in. Sure, we had some polite conversations with people but we never really felt like a part of anything.

We have now been in our our new neighborhood for 21 months- it will always be easy to remember exactly when we moved into our beautiful new house because we moved the day after Jack was born. Being in a new development, we have many lots between neighbors but already, we feel like we have found a good place. Two of our neighbors (one of which is a MN Viking) have kids nearly the same age as our son. It is already nice to be amongst people who GET it.

But, how neighborly do we want to get? Do we get all Wisteria Lane and up in each others business? Sometimes I'm not sure if I want my neighbors to know EVERYthing about me. We were recently invited over to the home of one of our nearby neighbors. They definitely own one of the prettier homes on the block and dare I say it, they are a bit intimidating. I was nervous to go there. I don't know why, I just was. Their house was a virtual museum. How they keep a home that perfect with a 7 and 5 year old, I have no idea. Their kids played with our novelty 2 year old for awhile but quickly got bored with trying to entertain this little person who doesn't quite speak as many words as them yet. In our nerves, we let the wine flow. While they were perfectly nice and polite people, they weren't the most engaging conversationalists we had ever met in our lives either and found ourselves being the major contributors to the conversation. Then the subject of religion came up... and it dawned on us that these people hardly ever utter the f-word and definitely never say god or hell in their regular speech. Being a self-confessed potty mouth, this immediately made me feel suddenly like I was less of a person. Then something strange transpired- they started giving each other the "look". I immediately gathered up my husband who had imbibed a little too much and my son and thanked them for a lovely evening thinking that we had way overstayed our welcome. I was totally uncomfortable with how the evening went. I felt like they were looking down their noses a bit at us and trying to figure out why. We make plenty of money, have a pretty house and drive nice cars. It's not like we have the trailer across the street or anything, so why do I feel this way? I would love to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the night was truly awkward and I find myself wondering if we should really bother to get to know them much further. We offered the obligatory "Next time, we'll have a barbecue at our house," invitation but I don't know if we'll really follow through with it.

So, I ask the question- how close should you be to your neighbors? I would like to be close to those with kids Jack's age. It makes the most sense. Jack loves the little girl across the street (and vice versa) so we find ourselves often walking across the street to let the kids play with each other. These are cool people though. They sit out front with their beers, watching the kids play, throwing a ball out to the dog. They are quite a bit younger than we are, but at least they don't look down on us. At this point in my life, I'm not sure I need more friends, but I would like my son to have many.
 
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