It’s been a bad calendar quarter for funerals (two too many) but a good 90 days for learning. The metaphorical coin that carries what you’d like to keep on one side has something that you’d like to avoid on the other; learning from others while they’re living and learning from others after they’ve passed on […]
Going home can sometimes be “interesting,” even when it’s somebody else’s home you’re visiting. That legacy visit was my treat as I caught an annual dose of Tigard High School boys basketball as the Tigers visited the Forest Grove Vikings last week. While I don’t think history books show Vikings making it to the Pacific Northwest (nor […]
Is there a perfect first “real” job? Probably not. But there are some real stinkers to avoid if you have the choice. And I’m not talking about summer jobs, volunteer work, and or that paid – or unpaid internship – that might be out there. All of them, IMHO, are important. But for serious importance […]
Even in the big planet we call earth, life exists like it’s one small town. My friend Wendy Yanowitch’s saying that “Life is made up of six people and lots of mirrors” plays out in my world weekly, and I suspects plays out in yours as well if you start watching the connections. If this […]
There is no place like home. And when you want a break, sometimes there is no place like home alone. Even with just my spouse, our engaging 9-year old son and one spunky canine pup at home, it can be a relief to have two out of the first three leave town so you have […]
Let’s face it; sometimes it’s about the glory, or god – sometimes, though, it’s just about the money. My lunch with a friend I’ll call “Julie” last week is one such case. Smart and hard working, she jumped from a burning ship to a role she thought would be a great way to spend the […]
Trailblazer, aviator and stereotype breaker Amelia Earhart once said “When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it.” Amelia, however, wasn’t helping raise a son. She also hadn’t just rebuilt a coaching practice working with individuals and teams back to pre-Great Recession levels. Taking a risk for her, covering a gamble, was perhaps easier, with less downside […]
As a quasi-Christmas Episcopalian (church perhaps once a year; no communion because the "drink the blood of Christ" stuff freaks me out), I have an ambivalence toward Christmas.
Start with the fact that I've never been great with surprises ("Wow! Nice tie." Subtext: wish I still wore them) and you have the makings for a recipe for trouble in December.
Toss in the uber-commercialism surrounding the holiday season that spans pre-Halloween through to Boxing Day and that trouble moves to disaster. The spirit of the Christmas story always seemed to me about giving, not simply gifting. In the relentless hustle to buy that distinction is hard to hear, and harder to feel.
Being a parent and living Christmas through my son Traylor's eyes has changed the holiday season though from Grinch-as-hero to getting misty-eyed reading the last lines in the Polar Express. I enjoy it not for the any religious significance but for the chance to relish the spirit of giving time and self to my now nine year-old.
Christmas, though, was for others.
This month my spouse Chris and Traylor surprised me with the product of a Friday night swing-by in the Mission; I had been on a campaign for canine companionship as a solution to the hole in my heart from the loss of our much-beloved mutt Roady three years ago.
I'd even zeroed in on the right breed and age; an Irish Terrier in the 1-3 year range so that we could avoid the challenges of puppy raising (and house training), avoid worrying about dander/pollen allergies for Chris, and still have a good 10-12 years of life with the chosen pooch. While the Irish Terrier Rescue Network folks were strangely unhelpful (e.g. describing a possible rescue placement as "mauling' another dog may be accurate but is not a formula for enticing family members to warm to the breed), I figured the right terrier would show up in a matter of time.
There is a saying in the world of adoptive families that you adopt the child you're meant to have, so when Traylor called from dog rescue to say he'd found a mixed breed with a hint of terrier that he loved, I knew that karma had played another of her life-changing pranks. "Porter," one of four pups that had been rescued on their way to death in Merced before getting a life-pass courtesy the San Francisco SPCA, joined our household the week before last at the age of 12 weeks.
While there is no doubt that Porter is Traylor's dog - my son has even parked his stuffies in the upper bunk to make way for a real live version of a bed time huggable - there is little question that Porter's 7 pound presence is a gift for me too.
While Roady did a better job of laughing at my jokes, and letting me know that whatever I thought was correct, Porter's already shown a flare for picking apart the holes in my logic, if not creating a hole or two in my socks. Porter's not the dog I had in mind, but then again I never had being a parent in mind either.
At the end of the tale "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" the Grinch's heart grows three times its previous size when he learns the true meaning of the season. That's what it's like being a parent for me every day; little Porter ups the growth range another notch.
Good things still come in small packages. And this holiday season, I've learned that sometimes the greatest gift of giving is learning to receive the gift that someone else have given you.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.
As a quasi-Christmas Episcopalian (church perhaps once a year; no communion because the “drink the blood of Christ” stuff freaks me out), I have an ambivalence toward Christmas. Start with the fact that I’ve never been great with surprises (“Wow! Nice tie.” Subtext: wish I still wore them) and you have the makings for a […]
Sometimes the job you’ve been promised won’t be there; sometimes the job you think you’ve lost may return. So how do you know if it’s a sure thing? You won’t. Learn why the “sure thing” today is likely the maybe thing tomorrow, and what you can do to make yourself better prepared when that sure-thing-to-make-or-nothing […]
This might seem like a story about Steve Jobs. It’s not; it’s a story about you. Turns out that we get the hand we’re dealt in life. Events happen; it’s what you do with them that counts. The Twitter tweet was was factual save the for last line. “Steve jobs was given up at birth; […]