Tuesday, June 2, 2009

25 Years June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009 marks Gordy’s and my 25th wedding anniversary. I wanted to express how grateful I am to have this wonderful man in my life. Gordy is an honorable man; a Very Good Man and I am so blessed.

25 years of marriage to my best friend, Gordon Thomas Miller

24 cars (or some other equally large number) that we’ve owned over the years. We’ve really slowed down lately. The coolest was our 37 chevy. The largest was a Buick Wildcat (73?) and the most fun (for me) was a 70 AMX (although it caused Gordy a few headaches)

23 years old, Gordy’s age when he married me

22 varieties of iris in the front gardens. We initially planned three gardens and now have seven with more plantings in the woods and ditches around our house. Gordy’s method of accidental gardening works pretty well – particularly when paired with Gordy’s surefire weed control (Roundup)

20 years old, Gordy’s age when he became a Christian. It is this aspect of Gordy, more than any other that I appreciate about him. Gordy isn’t a religious man, he is a faithful man who is able to love his wife so well because he first loves his Lord

19 points, the impossible cribbage hand. Gordy and my dad had this wonderful relationship that often wove its way through cribbage games, hunting and wood. My father greatly shaped the person I am and I love that Gordy was as much his son as I was his daughter. 19 was also my age when I married Gordy

18 the legal drinking age (back when I turned 18). One of the things Gordy so quietly does is to take care of his friends during tough times. Gordy wasn’t afraid to stop his friends from making destructive, life-damaging decisions that we were a bit too young and stupid to recognize for ourselves

17 years old, the age I was when we started dating, although we didn’t get serious until a few months later after I’d started college. We did go on one date when I was sixteen, to a youth group Valentine’s Day dinner, at which Gordy barely spoke to me and after which I had the worst crush on him

16 years, the length of time we have dealt with Celiac’s disease and its effects on a daily basis. Gordy is unbelievably compassionate to my discomfort and never demanding despite the fact that my illness frequently results in his needs and desires going unmet

15 weeks, the length of time I carried our last baby. Our miscarriages have greatly shaped my perspective of Gordy – this man who would have been an amazing father has suffered the loss of two children, one that was old enough to know that he was a boy. The pain and loss was not solely my own and yet Gordy was my strength during that extraordinarily difficult time

14 months, the length of time we lived with Gordy’s parents while we were building our house. It was much easier for me than for Gordy and I ended up with a real love and appreciation for Gordy’s mom

13 years old, my age when I became a Christian although the older I get the more I think of that as a beginning of a process rather than a singular event. (I tried to redo it at 16) I can’t imagine what kind of person I would have become without God’s grace

12 years ago Gordy graduated from college and we moved in with his parents to build our current house. Construction, and now cabinetry, became Gordy’s post-college trade. He is becoming an artist, particularly on the pieces he designs for us

11 years old, the age our son would have been this year, had he lived

10 or less, real arguments we’ve had over the years (I really can’t remember)

9 days, the length of time we will be in Alaska this summer to celebrate our 25th anniversary; also the number of glasses in our cupboard. I buy ten break one and then the rest are safe

8 years of college, first me and then Gordy. We put each other through school. I typed Gordy’s papers. When it was all said and done, we didn’t end up with different jobs so much as different perspectives

7 pets over the years. Friday the Siberian Husky that we had to give away, Max, the German Shepherd that was my surrogate child, and our barn cats, Skeezik, Baloo, Hermi, Bob and Ping

6 bookshelves in our library with more on the way. We are readers, bibliophiles, who tend to buy books wherever we go; also the number of tomato plants in this year’s garden

5 years that we lived in Albany, our first house. It was a beautiful old house and we occasionally reminisce now about what we would do with it if we still had it

4 years that we lived in Reeseville while Gordy was attending Maranatha. He worked three jobs, including as an Assistant Pastor at Hillcrest for 2 ½ years. Gordy never considered himself the college type but he was determined and succeeded beyond his expectations

3 weeks, the longest span of time we’ve been apart which occurred in 1996 when Gordy served as a counselor at Red Cliff Bible Camp. It was tough, but worth it

2 miscarriages (confirmed) I believe there was at least one more but it occurred too early to be certain; also the minimum number of kisses I receive every day (when we’re both home)

1husband; one-and-only

0 regrets

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts From a Recent Conference on Leadership and Technology (DigitalNow)

Last week I returned from the DigitalNow conference. It is a gathering of nonprofit professionals who have an interest in exploring the way technology can affect strategy. This was my eighth year attending the conference and each time I come away with insights that help me do my job more effectively as well as save my company money. Here are a few of this year's take-aways:

Clay Shirkey, Author of Here Comes Everybody, spoke about group action and how social media facilitates group action, not only online but in person. Some quotes are, "The old way was to gather together in a group and then share. The new way is to share and then people will gather."

"How do we use these tools? These things don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring." Think email and cell phones.

Regarding social media tools such as facebook or Twitter, "In high freedom environments these are more for fun. In low freedom environments these become potential tools."

The example he used was in a Middle Eastern country where people are often mistreated when arrested. Statistically, people are less likely to be tortured if the police know that someone else knows that the person is in police custody. The people are using Twitter to text when they have been arrested so that their friends can contact the police station to inquire of their arrest.

It is very cool to me that this tool that, in the US has often been seen as the bastion of inanity, is serving a valuable purpose.

Poetry About Where I Live

My Morning Commute #3
~Sue Miller

For more than 25 years
They have been there
On the bench out front
Leaning on the front window counter

They talk, smiling, gesturing
Heads shake, arms wave
As opinion are rendered
World problems solved

They look like old men
But what is old after 25 years?
They could not have been old then
(Though I thought they were)

I want to make up a reason to visit
Maybe to listen
Maybe to share
Maybe to solve a problem

But my shoes are not worth fixing
I have no good excuse
To visit Park Street Shoe Repair

Poetry About Where I Live

My Morning Commute #2
~ Sue Miller

I have watched for years
A black lab
Following the children from the farm house
To the new house across the field

A tiny one on a big wheel
Two mothers in doorways
Guardian with child

Two boys
Bouncing backpacks half the size of their bodies
Guardian with children

Teenagers on ATV’s
In a controlled race
Guardian in the wake

On this day, the master has returned home
Unplanned. She is at the wrong house
Racing across the field
arthritic hips, full-out run
Tail high, ears flapping
Joy undiminished by pain
The Master has come home!
Guardian no more

Poetry About Where I Live

My Morning Commute
~Sue Miller
Every day I drive past this little pond
High on the four-lane, pond below, to my right
Reflecting blue sky, or gray
With two duck houses

This year there is a drake, small brightly colored
He sits…
On the front porch of the duck house
In the water, floating

There is no hen
For nearly three months he is there
Beautiful, bright,
Then gone

Weeks later a set of paws rest
In the bare space between water and tall grasses
Paws, gray legs, perked ears,
Pointed nose
Bright eyes

Upright, attentive, the coyote lays
Ready to leap
At the wood duck that is no longer there

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nothing to Show for It

Have you ever had a work project that takes so long that people start wondering what you're doing? I've got one of those right now. I'm setting up e-Learning programs. We've never done anything like this before so I've had to learn a lot about instructional design, formulating questions, recording audio, converting audio to flash, inserting flash into our learning management system and publishing everything -- along with a smattering of XML so I can troubleshoot when things aren't working properly.

So today, our board Chairman says, "What have you been doing?" In a nice way; not critical. I wasn't really able to explain it. I've rerecorded audio for the first course twice. I've converted it to flash twice. I've deleted and started over twice. Yes, I've wasted time that I would rather not have wasted. But how do you learn to do these things if you can't take a class and you can't hire a consultant? I only know of trial and error. Unfortunately this project has had a bit more error than my usual efforts.

I hope to publish the first course within the next two weeks. Wish me luck. There is still plenty that can go wrong.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cutting People Slack

I try to cut people some slack. All people. Lots of slack.

It all started, or at least came to the forefront of my awareness, when I had my third, last, miscarriage. I was really messed-up. Gordy's Grandma Dunbar had died on a Friday and then I miscarried the following Sunday. I cannot emphasize how much I mean it when I say, "I was really messed-up."

I can't remember when, exactly, Gordy's Grandma's funeral was but there were some days between our miscarriage and her funeral. I got it into my head that I needed a new purse. The strap had broken on my old one and I was not going to go to the funeral without a new purse. Looking back, I'm sure it was a way to fix something I could because, at that moment, there were so many things that I could not fix.

Gordy, being Gordy, simply drove me to the mall so that I could find a new purse. As soon as we got to the mall I started thinking maybe this wasn't such a good idea. There were people in there and I would have to speak to at least some of them. But I thought that if I could handle buying a purse, maybe in a week I might be able to handle the rest of my life.

We went in through one of the department stores and I began cutting through the clothes racks. Gordy followed. As I came to an aisle I started to step across and then noticed a lady with an infant in a stroller coming toward me. I said, "Excuse me," and stepped back between the clothes racks to let her pass.

She went off. As in, "You have no business cutting through there. You could hurt people. You could have tripped over my baby. You should be shot!" Okay maybe not the last one, but we stood there through a good 30-second harangue of how I was endangering her and her child. I apologized again, and with a "Well you should be sorry!" she strode off.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel that the slender thread on which you are relying for you sanity has just snapped? I lost it. Completely. Poor Gordy, I was standing in the department store sobbing as if I had lost my one and only child. Which I had. It just took that moment, that complete breach of trust that people are supposed to be kind to each other, that slammed it home so thoroughly.

Gordy, who is an amazingly kind person, helped me through the day. (He had just lost a baby too, but was focused on helping me.) I was determined not to leave without completing the simple act of selecting and purchasing a purse. I know it sounds really stupid if you haven't been there but it was a milestone. Like getting back on a horse that throws you off. I needed to have that piece of normal to get me through all of the abnormal.

I bought my purse. We left. We made it through the funeral and eventually we healed, as much as anyone can from a miscarriage. Now I can purchase a purse without a second thought (probably too easily). But I still remember vividly the lady in the department store. I never, ever, want to do that to another human being. So now I try, very hard, to cut people slack.

Slow checkout line? No problem.
Someone cuts me off? Just please don't hit me.
Someone completely goes off at me? Suck it up. They are having a very bad day. I've had some of those myself.

I'm by no means perfect. I can be intense, focused and goal-oriented. I still get frustrated and want to hurry when I'm feeling late or pressured. Remember the Mall Lady, I'm reminded. Cut others some slack.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zero Follower Blogging

Last week a friend asked, "Why blog? What is blogging?" I answered that it is a narcissistic tool that people use to publish things that otherwise would never be seen. (Or something very close to that.) My friend said, "Oh, well that explains why you do it." I think -hope- she was kidding, but there definitely is a narcissistic element to blogging. It is the ability to tell people things about yourself, your thoughts and opinions, without interruption. And when your blog is, like mine, blessed with zero followers, there is this temptation to put anything out there. Stuff that you really aren't intending for people to see but have always wanted to say. Very tempting.

I post on a variety of sites: Work-related ones like Linked-in and ConnectIn as well as facebook, twitter (minimally) and a BBC site called the H2G2 (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). I really like H2G2 because it is completely anonymous. I could be posting to a conversation with my neighbor and wouldn't know. It has allowed me to explore concepts in faith and religion with substantially less risk.

Blogs seem to be the opposite of anonymous and yet, because they are so ubiquitous, they still are in a way. (Think zero followers.)

I started blogging because I am following a list of guidelines for developing my understanding of social media. The goal is to see where social media fits in a business world. Should senior staff blog about issues? If so, what is the best way to encourage readership among our target audience? Is there a tool other than blogging that can achieve a better result? Which social media elements are best suited to enhance my employer's impact with its customers?

In the end, of course, it still comes down to thinking you have something to say even if it is something about which no one else cares.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bustin' Up a Starbucks

Recently I read that the smell of coffee causes a relaxation reaction in most humans... This post falls into my list of things that make me say, "Hmmm."

The scene is the Starbucks off PD in Madison. I don't normally get frufru coffee in the morning but I was going to be driving for about three hours so I thought I'd stop. I pulled in to the drive as two girls were walking out of the store. There was a vehicle in front of me that stopped to allow the girls to pass.

The parking lot is narrow. You drive through vehicles parked on both sides to get to the drive through and the lady in front of me was planning to use the drive through. The girls were parked towards the front of the lot and, if the lady in front of me (let's call her Ms Too Nice for Her Own Good, Nice for short) had pulled forward, she would have blocked the girls in.

Then a car pulled up behind me. She had not seen the girls walk out and could not see them in their car. All she could see was that there was this huge gap in the cars in the drive up line. She (let's call her Honker) started honking.

And then there are the girls who walked out of Starbucks, in front of the vehicle that allowed them to pass, and are, now, sitting in their car chatting -- as opposed to pulling out of their parking spot so that Nice could pull forward.

And me in the middle, waiting to park. Honk! Honk! From behind. Oblivious girls chatting. Nice, sweating an uncomfortable decision: Who to inconvenience?

As Honker became increasingly impatient and, obviously agitated a parking space opened at the far end of the lot. Honker, tires squealing, whipped around Nice and proceeded to park at the far end of the lot. Nice, finally pulled a bit forward, blocking in Oblivious Girls but opening room to another parking spot that I took.

I walked into the Starbucks thinking Honker was rude, but that it was over. As I was standing in line, I watched, dumbfounded as Honker walked up to Nice's car and proceeded to tell her off for... what? Not pulling forward? Honker, apparently having said her piece, turned and walked into the store. Nice, looking miserable, chucked an empty water bottle at Honker's back (apparently intending to miss -- it was a wimpy throw).

That was the end of the altercation. Honker got in line behind me. She was pretty, blonde, over 6 feet tall in her heels and didn't look like she had just reamed a complete stranger for being overly nice.

Nice must have made it through the drive through, eventually. She was an attractive African American woman.

I got my frufru coffee and left. Oblivious girls were still chatting in their car.

I ended up wondering who was more miserable. Was it Nice for being right (mostly) and mistreated? Or was it Honker who, inconceivably, believed that it was appropriate to tell someone off for no good reason? Or was it me, who watched the whole thing and once again decided that I really don't get people.

One thing I know. It wasn't Oblivious Girls, who are probably still having a good time talking somewhere.