One Word for 2017

This ended up being a long post, so grab a cuppa and get comfy. I hope to see you all at the end.

Back in 2015 I started choosing One Word for the new year instead of those pesky resolutions that are always broken before the snow thaws in the spring. In 2015 Entrepreneur was facing a cancer diagnosis and my One Word was Fearless (fear less). I believe it helped me focus during that time and continues to be a reminder today.

In 2016, my One Word was Present. I wanted to focus on trying to be more engaged in life, physically, instead of living vicariously through today’s social-media-technology-addicted world. Did I succeed? Overall, I’d say I had mixed results. I did really make an effort to not be obsessed with my phone at the expense of enjoying the moment. Some days were very successful…some were colossal FAILS. But it did make me realize just how easy it is to get sucked into living a virtual life instead of a real one. Last year helped me try and find a balance and use social media more sparingly. Plus, taking care of grandchildren doesn’t lend itself to distractions! In fact, I found myself so present in their well being, work and teaching that a lot of other things took a back seat….like blogging. Which also explains why this post is more than two weeks late.

This year, my One Word is Joy.

I’ve become painfully aware that, while I enjoy a lot of activities and have had many happy moments, a deep feeling of Joy is something that has been elusive the past few years.

Most people would define Joy as feeling extremely happy or something that gives great pleasure. But I think I disagree. Happiness and pleasure are temporary…and most of the time they’re dependent on external influences. Once the source of the happiness is gone, then what? I tend to go in search of the next happy or pleasurable moment. So my life becomes a string of happy/pleasurable experiences…or not.

No, I think Joy is something completely different. To quote CS Lewis,

Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

And, oh baby, is it ever hard to find Joy in the world today. That is, if Joy is defined as something tangible and measurable. And, who doesn’t equate Joy with the feeling of satisfaction and happiness when our world is all good? But, what happens when our world falls apart? What happens when we suffer bitter disappointment, unbearable loss or extreme suffering? But, let’s not be so fatalistic. What about the days when those technology devices we are addicted to don’t work seamlessly? What about when the basement floods or the (pick an appliance) breaks? What about when, after picking up after a toddler, we turn around to feel like a tornado went through the house right behind us? What about the never-ending stress of worrying about your children’s welfare? We certainly are not happy campers during those times. How is it possible to still feel Joy when it seems as though Life’s purpose is to exhaust us into submission?

I suppose it depends on your worldview. Happy and pleasurable moments come and go. If I base my mental well-being on only the things that go right in my world I’m probably not going to be very enjoyable to be around much of the time.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
~James 1:2-3

So easy to say, so hard to live. Many times I wish God would not test my faith so much.

If I base Joy on having a worry-free, prosperity-filled life….well, let’s just say I’m setting myself up for an epic FAIL. No, I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

My goal this year is to be more aware of when Joy speaks to me; to pay more attention to my inner voice so I’m not distracted by the temporary elation of pleasure and happy moments when everything is going my way; to be able to feel calm amidst the irritations, inconveniences and injustices of this life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13

And just to begin this journey with a positive attitude, here’s a photo of a recent instance where Joy made an appearance.

meridia-sunset
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~Psalm 16:11

Time definitely doesn’t wait for anyone

Twix 10 months
Texture by Kim Klassen: chill magic, 100% soft light

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.

To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.

To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.

To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask someone who just avoided an accident.

To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.

Treasure every moment you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with. And remember time waits for no one.
~Unknown

This really puts things into perspective. I hope this weekend and every day forward, you value every precious moment in life. We’re given 86,400 seconds each day. How we choose to spend them is completely our decision. We can spend them being bitter, resentful, angry and depressed. Or, we can value every second we have and spend that time making the most of what’s been given to us.

It’s a hard concept. Believe me, I’m learning this the hard way. Many times, at the end of the day I realize how badly I’ve failed and lost that precious time. We all need to learn how to savor every moment, and not take time for granted. A lesson sometimes learned too late.

Liking up with Friday Finds.
fridayfindsbutton2

Teach. Evaluate. Adjust. Repeat.

The first part of May ended my 8th year as an adjunct instructor for the journalism school in town. And while some years seem more successful than others, every year offers new insights into the minds of twenty-somethings, who are less than 15 weeks away from being unleashed onto the advertising industry. This is their capstone project and a “C” in this class is necessary for graduation. Although, I guarantee the attitude of “Cs get degrees” will not be getting anyone a decent job in the industry anytime soon.

Technically, I’m a lab instructor for Strategic Campaigns…a class that provides the last safety net they will have before sinking or swimming on their own. And I take my job warping young minds quite seriously. They bring in us “industry professionals” as adjuncts when the number of labs outnumber the available faculty.

Obviously the beauty of this is that we are NOT part of the tenured faculty and therefore, not required to sit in on exciting staff meeting or put up with, endure endless, participate in the academic bureaucracy of higher education.

So, this year I had 17 deer in headlight, naive, aspiring strat comm students ready to take on real-life clients. Split into student agency teams, every year these students get to learn, first-hand, about such wonderful things as clients from hell, team dysfunction and the stress of deadlines versus party nights. All good things to know in this industry.

And inevitably, every year there’s a sleeper team (or two) that surprise me at the client presentation. All semester long they appear to be amazingly dysfunctional. You’ve heard the expression herding cats? Or, nailing jello to a tree? Yeah, that’s what it sometimes feels like. And somewhere in the class  there’s always, always, always the stereotypical frat boy, the untethered free spirit, the drama queen and the slacker. But in the end they all seem to pull it together and shine like the sun. Call it blind luck….or pure panic. I’m not sure which one it is most of the time.

So after the grades are recorded and diplomas in hand…and no risk of retaliation…the administration releases the students’ evaluations of the course….and their instructor.

Most of the time I’m okay with the evals, understanding not everyone appreciates my teaching style. This year was a pretty good year for evaluations. And I’ll share some of the comments made by a group of stressed out, sleep-deprived students suffering from severe senior-itis.

…nice person and great teacher; but she is a tough grader.
Yes, I’m a grammar Nazi and proud of it. For some reason I think a college senior should know how to string words together in a coherent sentence.

…make later deadlines for assignments.
I would but then you’d be graduating in August.

…be a little less unimpressed
I had to laugh at this one. Evidently I was less than subtle about my disappointment with the first draft of their team’s strategic plan.

…too much per week for us to do.
I’m not sure this one is going to make it in the crazy-busy world of advertising.

…professor was very strict to us
Oddly, this was put under one of the three best things about the course.

…try to be less intimidating.
If they think I’m intimidating, they may be in for a rude awakening.

…she was awesome.
I like this one.

When it’s all said and done, and after the client leaves with an impressive campaign book representing 15 weeks of blood sweat and…yes…tears, they all look like this:

Muse jump for joy

Adaptive-thumbs up

6Think swings 1

I do need to comment on this one. This team’s client has playground equipment in various places around the building. I’m talking huge slides and swing set areas like you see here. How awesome is that!

So now that the Teaching is finished, it’s time to Evaluate. Adjust. Repeat.

Would you like the senior discount?

Absolutely!

Today is my birthday and I think I now officially qualify for most senior discounts. Although I don’t really feel as old as the calendar insists, I’m now at the age where I probably have more memories than dreams.

And I suppose that’s okay. I do dream about (early) retirement though. Especially on Mondays…and when it’s a 10F morning…and when it’s a sunny 80F afternoon…and when my grandkids are in town…

But on this semi-major birth day, I find myself looking introspectively at my life. And after reading many of your New Year’s reflection posts, it got me thinking………

What was my biggest achievement of the year?
Personally, my biggest achievement was losing 30 pounds over 9 months. When we returned from last February’s vacay, I was so unhappy with how I felt. And after years of whining about it and making excuses, I finally got frustrated enough to do something about it.

What was my biggest disappointment of the year?
Probably not limited to this year, but in 2008 I made the decision to leave the right-brain world of advertising to work with Entrepreneur at his business. While it was necessary for my sanity to get out of the stress-induced environment of that particular ad agency, I miss interacting with other right-brainers. From time to time I reflect on where life has taken me, very conscious I didn’t achieved the career position I’d hoped for at this stage in my life. Has it turned out for the best? In many ways, yes. But I find myself needing to find alternate creative outlets to fill that right-brain void.

What is something I did that I’ll remember for the rest of my life?
Well, let’s see….I didn’t sky dive, climb a mountain, win the Nobel Peace Prize or discover anything of value to the world. So, I’m at a bit of a loss to one particular thing I did that was that memorable. I have loads of memories from over the years. I hope I remember them for the rest of my life.

Where did I excel – and where do I need to improve?
Areas where I need improvement are wide open…beginning with trying not to worry about my kids so much. I’m working on that anxiety thing, along with not holding on to detrimental things of the past. I’d like to think I’m better at photography and writing, but not sure I’m excelling in those areas…yet.

What are three words to describe my past year.
Challenging, frustrating, surprising

In what way(s) did I grow?
I think I’m growing in the area of patience with others…realizing that everyone has their cross to bear and sometimes they fall short of my expectations. And while trying to be more patient, I think I’m growing spiritually to be able to better extend grace to those who need it…whether I really want to do it or not!

What am I thankful for this year?
I’m thankful for family. I know that sounds like a cop out, but I am thankful we have good communication and relationships with our kids; that they feel they can come to us when there’s a problem. It wasn’t always that way (aka: the tumultuous teen years), but we’ve all come a long way since then. I’m thankful they know they know the door is always open if they want/need to come home. I’m especially thankful for beautiful grandchildren. I believe family becomes more important to a person the older…and…wiser they get.

grandkids

What kept me sane?
Well, first, we’re assuming I am sane. That said, going to our church, The Crossing, and listening to their messages and music is what keeps me focused on what’s important in life. Finding a place that makes you feel comfortable yet challenges your preconceived ideas of what you thought religion was is so amazing.

What valuable life lesson did I learned since my last birthday?
This too shall pass.

Toothpaste Moments

Danger!
Mouth operates faster than brain.

Toothpaste moments. I heard this term about 4 years ago in a professional development class and thought the analogy was spot on.

Toothpaste moments. We’ve all had them.

Toothpaste moments. The very moment when your brain kidnaps common sense and better judgement and leaves the building…and then you speak. Moments that are like squeezing too much toothpaste out of the tube…no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot put it back into the tube where it belongs. There it is. Squeezed out all over the toothbrush, counter and sink. You’re probably wearing some of it as well.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
~James 3:7-8

Words hurt. While there are no physical scars with words, the emotional scars last a long time. Every time we spew caustic comments or remarks directly at another person, it hurts. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that’s exactly why we do it. We want to hurt them…but don’t want to leave any physical evidence of our assault. When done intentionally on a consistent basis, we call this emotional abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s directed at our children, spouse, parents, friends, co-workers, complete strangers or the dog.

But what about those times when caustic remarks are shot in the heat of the moment…but we sincerely regret saying them after we’ve cooled off? Those are toothpaste moments. We’re sorry we squeezed them out all over the other person, but we simply can’t put them back in our mouths. They’re out there. And now, all we can do is apologize and try and clean up the mess we’ve made.

Intentional or not, there are times when we’re all as skilled with words as our weapon of choice as a master swordsman. And equally destructive. Solomon and James had a lot to say about our tongue.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
~Proverbs 12:18

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire,
and is itself set on fire by hell.
~James 3:6

Did you know the tongue is mentioned more than 90 times in the bible? Most of the time not in flattering terms. I suppose that’s also why forgiveness (and all variations of the word) is mentioned more than 100 times. Guess God knew we’d need a way to combat the destructiveness of this dangerous weapon.

Perhaps Peter said it best, Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech ~1 Peter 3:10.

Toothpaste moments. Like toothpaste, it’s best to keep them inside our mouths.

Desire vs Reality. And the winner is…

Have you ever wanted something badly but knew deep down in your soul you couldn’t have it? Strange how the want overwhelms reality. It makes you keep fighting for that last bit of hope, when deep down, you know it’s really just a pipe dream.

“Out of all of my professors from the Journalism school, Lisa helped best prepare me to enter a career in the field of strategic communication because of her real world experience and expertise.”

Then, others reinforce your want and tell you to go ahead and try for it. That your chances are good. You would be a strong contender.

“She possesses a teaching style that is motivational and inspirational. She strongly encourages her students to want to learn and be the best that they can be.”

You begin to really think you have a chance. You dare to hope. You want to drink the Kool-Aid.

“… her capstone teams have been among the best of all the teams over the last couple of years…the fact that her teams seem to turn out great work on a consistent basis would seem to indicate that Lisa is doing something very right.”

Deep down, you really want to believe what others are telling you. You begin to drink the Kool-Aid.

“Lisa was by far one of the most informative instructors I had throughout my time as an undergraduate. Her experiences, high expectations and wealth of knowledge truly pushed me to develop more creative ideas and to come into my role as a young professional.”

You continue to hope. And pray. And wish. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Student evaluation question: The instructor was excellent (average over past two years on a scale of 1-5, 5 being Strongly Agree) 4.55

And then there comes a point in time where reality returns and tears apart the dream. It becomes oh so apparent that, despite your very best effort, it wasn’t good enough.

Some of you remember I applied for a full-time strategic communications faculty position in strategic design or writing with the local J-school. Since I’d been an adjunct instructor for strat comm capstone projects for the past 5 years, when the opportunity opened up for a full-time position, I threw my hat in the ring for consideration. What began 5 years ago as a whim turned into a passion. A passion to interact with the next generation of professionals, and help them be everything they can be.

I took a shot at my dream. And lost.

The disappointment was crushing.

I really thought I had a decent shot at being considered.

Why wasn’t I good enough?

I doubt if I will every really get a straight answer to that question. Having letters of recommendation from a capstone client, the capstone coordinator and former students wasn’t good enough. Being in the industry 30 years wasn’t good enough. Being an adjunct instructor already working with advertising students wasn’t good enough.

What, exactly, would have been good enough?

But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. My pity party lasted 5 days. In five days I went from stinging hurt to tearful sadness to bitter resentment to panicked self-doubt to seething anger to just plain I-don’t-give-a-$#!%. And now that it’s all said and done, I can honestly say that I. Don’t. Care. Sure, I wanted it. Badly. More than I’ve ever wanted any other job in my life. They didn’t think I was good enough. Does that make me any less confident I could have done the job, and done it well? Hell no.

My fourth day of pity partying, I realized this was NOT a referendum on my ability to teach effectively. After student presentations, I enjoyed their emails and notes thanking me for being hard on them; for teaching them what they needed to know; for being a good instructor.

And that’s all that matters. I don’t need my name on a door for validation. I don’t need to feel the pressure to devote massive hours to research in order to become published. I don’t need to possess or win awards so the stats look good. I may not have all those impressive credentials, but I can hold my head up, knowing I have positively impacted the learning process of more than 75 talented, future advertising professionals.

I know I’m effective. I know I can teach strategic design and writing. There is no doubt in my mind I would have been a great instructor for those positions. So, I’ll be happy doing what I’ve been doing for the past 5 years. The students that walk through my classroom door in January are all that matters. My focus and passion will be on them for 15 weeks. And that’s more than enough.

So…the winner is…Me!

Time to put up or shut up

The teaching bug bit me hard about 5 years ago. A friend at the university asked me to fill in for an instructor who had to back out at the last minute.

“Sure. What do I have to do?”

“Just oversee advertising journalism seniors with their capstone project.”

No official curriculum. No books. No lesson plans. Sounded reasonable…and not too taxing with my 40+ hour a week ad agency job. Guide students who were to draw on the previous 4 year’s worth of knowledge and create a phenomenally creative strategic advertising plan for a real-life client.

They looked at me with terror in their eyes on the first day. I looked back at them with the same terror, realizing they had no idea where to begin.

That first year must have looked like a divine comedy. The reality was, underneath it all, there most certainly was a curriculum. And lesson plans. And grading. I quickly assessed that these very green, fresh-faced advertising professionals needed refresher courses on everything from research to messaging to creative briefs to design to presentation techniques. And don’t even get me started on writing skills. So, I treated them as I would any other intern I’d been responsible for assimilating into the agency. I taught.

So began my love affair with “formal” teaching.

After seeing the amazing results that first year, I was forever hooked. The contagious energy given off by these young, creative minds was addictive. They just needed to learn how to harness the energy and focus. The next year I jumped at the chance to do it again. Do it differently. Do it better. During the years I’ve taught, I’ve been an instructor, coach, therapist, cheerleader, intercessor, best friend and worst nightmare.

All the while as an adjunct, I not-so-secretly hoped for a chance to do this full-time. I casually inquired about the possibility, but was shot down when told universities prefer faculty with masters and PhD degrees. Since I was in possession of neither, I resigned myself to be happy as an adjunct.

Until now.

The strategic communications department posted “non-tenured, professional track” positions a few weeks ago. Now we’re talking! The glitch is, the positions are open to a national search. Well, $#!%. Seriously, what are my chances against industry professionals from major market areas? Ad men/women with prestigious client campaign notches in their belts? And, God forbid, one of them would hold a PhD on top of everything? An obvious overachiever was probably standing in the way of my dream job. Sigh. All I can bring to the table was my 30 years in the industry (though not in major market areas), 5 years as an adjunct and an overwhelming, passionate desire to teach.

But I’ve thrown my hat in the ring anyway. I hit the send button with my packet of information yesterday.

So I’ve put up. If I don’t get it, I’ll shut up.