Thursday, April 29, 2010

Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down

I remember a card my mother gave me once in high school. The message was "Don't let the turkeys get you down." I don't remember who the turkeys were at that time, but I seem to have found some lately and they've been getting me down.

The worst thing is how distracted I get after an interaction with a "turkey." One day this week I managed to walk out of the house with only half my lunch and none of the things we needed for our weekly afterschool activity after one such interaction. One last week had me give up three hours of paid work rather than sit there stewing about another turkeyish situation.

I hate how much I let these people and these situations influence and consume me.

So, what do you do when the turkeys start to get you down?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top 100 Children's Novels

I stumbled on this the other day as I was looking at my blog feed. The TeacherNinjas blog asked which of the top 100 Children's Novels you've read. The list comes from School Library Journal. Here is the list:

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950)
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)
49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson's Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)

So, I've read 25 - How about you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Undercover Boss - part 3

The final rule from Undercover Boss is this - increase opportunities and increase loyalty.

Keeping connected to your people and recognizing their work will go far toward fostering loyalty in your employees. Add to that opportunities for them to grow, to share their expertise with others, to be seen as a leader, and you will add to that loyalty. 

Why should you always be the one to be the leader? To be the example? Let your staff share something they do well. If someone is good at building customer relationships, video tape her and show it to the group, or have her role play it. If someone is good at organizing information, change his responsibilities so that he can use those skills to the benefit of your organization. Offer training or mentoring opportunities to develop latent skills in your employees.

So tell me about a time when you had new opportunities at work. What difference did it make in your morale?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Undercover Boss - part 2

Rule #2 from Undercover Boss - Recognize people's gifts and what they bring to the company.

Not only do employers need to stay connected to their front line people, but they need to acknowledge what those folks do. When the bosses on the show would do their "reveal" at the end, and tell the people they worked with who they really were, they would often say how great those people were and do something special for them - send them to training, give them new responsibilities, mentor them in career development, etc. The people's faces would light up. They would say, time and again, how much it meant to them that someone noticed what they did and thought it mattered.

So, recognize people - let them know you notice the work they are doing. They will want to keep it up to get your attention again.

So, have you worked for someone who did this well? Or did it poorly?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Undercover Boss - part 1

This spring, my husband and I watched the new show, Undercover Boss. In the show, a CEO or COO of a major company (White Castle, 1-800-Flowers, Hooters, and Seven Eleven, for example) went undercover in his own company to see how things really worked.

We enjoyed the show, and I noticed a few trends - some rules for business.

Rule #1: Keep in touch with those who work on the front line.

Each boss was amazed at the quality of work (in most cases, positive) being done by the folks on the front line and the difference those people made in the work of the company. They were surprised by the hardships their employees were dealing with outside of the job. Those front line employees had information about how things could run more efficiently or more pleasantly, but the upper echelon leaders rarely knew this information.

So, if you want to be successful in business, keep in touch with those doing the work of your business.

What is your experience in business? Have you been the one on the front lines? Did your boss ever seek out your input on important business matters?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nostalgia Week - Cottage Cheese

I know - cottage cheese, right? How weird is that? But I have a serious thing for cottage cheese at this one particular restaurant.

Every table automatically gets a bowl of cottage cheese, a bowl of kidney beans and a basket of breadsticks to help you pass the time while waiting for your meal. When we go, I get one bowl of cottage cheese, and the rest of the table has to get their own. Ever since I was 4 or 5 years old, I have had a crazy attachment to this cottage cheese. My mom tried to replicate the recipe, but never could get it just right. The owner would smile when she asked for it, but he never told her. I never get tired of the stuff and look forward to having it at least once a year when I go back home.

So, I've shared some of the foods that take me back to the good old days - do you have any?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nostalgia Week - Tootsie Pops

More nostalgia today - this time for Tootsie Pops.

The other day, I was watching a show with my family about food-factory tours, and one of the spots they talked about was the factory where they make Tootsie Pops. Watching the program reminded me of a favorite memory related to Tootsie Pops.

When I was a kid, our family went to a particular restaurant/bar on a regular basis. In fact, my parents went there every single Friday night for several of my elementary school years. Most of our family celebrations took place at this restaurant. And they always had a collection of Tootsie Pops for kids when they left the restaurant. Often, my dad would get one early on in the meal for me. He would put it in his pocket to save until the end of dinner. But every time - magically - there would be two in his pocket when we finished dinner. 

Now, if it were my son, he would want to know how it worked. I don't remember ever caring. I just loved the treat. It wasn't until I was an adult with a child of my own that I even thought to ask how my dad pulled off the trick. Turns out, he would get up to have a cigarette or use the restroom or get a drink from the bar, and pick up a second from the owner and pop it in his pocket. I never paid enough attention to notice and put the pieces together on my own. To this day, though, when I see a Tootsie Pop, I smile and remember the special treat my parents and their friends put together for me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nostalgia Week - Keebler

I've been feeling a little nostalgic lately and these cookies are always a part of any reminiscing about my childhood. 

When I was my son's age, and a little older, I would go to my grandparents house after school. My grandfather and I would play cards and eat cookies - Keebler Fudge Sticks, among others. Years later, those cards we used were always sticky with cookie crumbs, and I loved them. My grandfather developed Alzheimer's  as I got older and he became more difficult to interact with. But I still had - and have - those memories of card games and Keebler Fudge Stick cookies.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Journey of Grief

We have had several friends lose a parent or other relative (sometimes a couple) in the last month. Other friends have experienced the anniversary of the death of a spouse, a parent or a child. Grief seems to be all around us. And from my own experience, I know that what those people are feeling right now is only a piece of the grief journey. It lingers much longer than the day of death, the funeral, and those first days when you try to figure out what life is supposed to look like without that person around.

The other night I was overwhelmed by all of the grieving people in our lives and couldn't sleep so I got up and scribbled this in my journal:

Grief is like the ocean. You wade into the water - you expect this sorrow. It is now a part of your life. Sometimes it barely covers your toes and other times you feel it climbing higher and higher up your legs.

Sometimes, as you stand in the water, you see a wave coming - an anniversary or a birthday or some other event you thought you and the deceased person would share. You see the wave start to build and you brace yourself for it. It jostles you, but you stay standing.

Then sometimes your focus turns back to the beach. You get caught up in life. Or you watch other people go on about their business, oblivious to you standing in the water. As your focus is on the beach or on the ins and outs and ups and downs of the everyday, you never see the wave coming. It crashes over the top of you, taking your breath away - taking your feet out from under you. Your butt's in the sand, you're coughing and sputtering, wiping the water from your eyes and wondering where the wave came from. You thought you had it "together."

In my experience, that is the journey of grief.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

Last weekend I went with my family to see How to Train Your Dragon. It was excellent! We have started looking for the books at the library to see if they are even better than the movie. We are already planning to buy it the MINUTE it comes out on DVD. If you haven't got to see this movie, check it out. There may be parts that would scare younger children - my seven-year-old covered his eyes at a couple moments, but usually just for a second and then he was watching again because he didn't want to miss anything.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Volunteer Syndrome

Recently, my father was in town for a visit and ran into an old friend. He explained that he was in town to see us and she asked for my name. When he gave it to her, she said she recognized it from church. His response was something about me having volunteer syndrome.

Less than a week later, the superintendent from my son's school asked me to lead a "committee" for the school. When I mentioned it to Dad, he said, "And you practiced your 'firm No Thank You?'" Apparently my father thinks I take on too much.

And he is probably right. It is flattering to be asked to serve, and I love to feel like I am helping people or causes that are meaningful to me or to my family.

Do you have "Volunteer Syndrome?" Or have you perfected the "firm No Thank You?"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bad Blogger

Forgot to get some blogs in the pipeline for this week and it has been a busy one. Hope to be back on schedule next week. Happy Holy Week!