Where I Learn Things - (from) Erica

We all have people who make a difference in our lives. Spouses, coaches, mentors, friends, family members. They can be anybody really. Sometimes they can even be folks who are a lot younger than us... Really, anybody can teach us anything if we let them.

Today, I want to share one of my mentors with you. Why? Well, she is leaving our library division this week. It's not because she wants to go. There's a budget crunch. We need librarians at other locations. She is, in terms of service time - the "low person on the totem pole."

My friends I will miss Erica.

The upside is that Erica is headed to my "home branch," the Hilltop Library. I started there almost 24 years ago, made a pit stop or two at other locations and returned (home) in the mid nineties for a few years before coming to Main Library in 1998. They have a great group of people on their staff. I am friends and play hockey with the branch manager. The assistant manager is a good friend. Their Circulation manager was in my wedding, and is in fact another mentor in my life. Many of the staff members I was fortunate enough to work with are still at the branch. I know they'll take good care of Erica. She'll fit right in. It will all be fine.

The downside of course is that we are losing Erica here in our division.

I am devastated. I've been walking around all week in a state of denial, pretending it isn't really happening. Today is her going away party, (with Diana, another of our librarians who we will also miss) and the reality is hard to avoid any longer. Erica starts at Hilltop on Monday.

Life will be different from now on...

I've talked before about how, and why my outlook has changed in the past year or two, what things put me back on the positive track. I haven't talked about Erica.

She's been with us in the division for a little less than 2 years if memory serves. In the summer of 2008 we seemed to be scheduled together on the desk quite often.


Quite often Erica was talking about a project she was excited about, a techie thing that had caught her eye, or a weekend event she planned to attend.

Always talking - but always about something interesting. Erica's youthful exuberance was infectious. Her attitude made a difference to me and to the entire division. She made us all Glad.

I could go on and on...

Instead, I'll share an email I sent to Erica a couple months ago, when the library was considering the initial steps to handle our budget crisis, steps that all of us thought might include layoffs. Remember, she is the "low person on the totem pole."

That means a whole lot more when layoffs are a possibility, so I sent this the day before the "Big meeting to decide everything."

(*note - ultimately no layoffs were involved, and other cuts were made instead)

I've been meaning to say something to you for a long time, but I get kinda misty eyed thinking about it and so I'm embarrassed to say it in person, cause you know I don't publicly get like that.
I want you to know that you are a HUGE part of why I got enthusiastic about my work, about technology, about - well hell about caring what happens here, and with the library.
Your enthusiasm, your resolve, your zest for life were all there for me when I needed that kick in the ass. You're a difference maker, and no matter what you do, no matter what happens - you always will be!
I thought today might be a good day to spit all that out.
So there!
I can't thank you enough,

And I still can't.

Of course, we'll survive here in our division. We have a great group of folks.
But today, I just want to say out loud - so everybody knows...

Thank you Erica, for helping me find Jimmer again...

What Do You Want To Do?

Every year Netter asks me this question as my birthday approaches, and every year I have absolutely no idea how to answer.

While I think birthdays are special and people should take one day to celebrate themselves, I think we can all agree that as the years advance the thrill wears off. The magic of the birthday subsides.

While 13 makes one a teenager, 16 means you can drive, 18 brings adulthood and 21 means you can consume alcohol (responsibly of course), and then 30 or 40 mark milestones of sorts, what really is the difference between 40 and 41? Right?

Still there was the question last Thursday night. We had a 3-day weekend with a few commitments to work around, my birthday was on Monday - "What did I want to do?"

So, I tried to come up with something... "Let's go down to the Short North," I said. "We've been meaning to go walk around and discover a little bit. Let's do something different, go to lunch, and then just explore."

This was the plan for Friday -

And then it rained.

So, I punted. Let's go to lunch at that TGIFriday's in the mall where they have the California Club I like so much, I'll get my glasses adjusted, we'll walk around, it will be different. Shopping at the mall is different. We're usually shopping at Walmart. We walked around Easton last year, let's walk around Tuttle today.

Friday's was closed with facilities issues. Undeterred we headed for another restaurant in the mall, had a nice lunch, and continued on our way.

Malls are quite different than what I remember from my younger days. For example, what exactly is this guy selling? Seriously, I didn't even have to go into the store (I won't say which one.) to see this. It screamed at me as I walked by.

To be fair, this isn't a phenomenon unique to malls I guess. We did see this gem among others when we visited Walmart last week. Apparently Halloween costumes are now required to bare as much skin as possible, at least for the ladies. We saw a similar costume for Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, sexy witches, you name it. This one of Cinderella made me remember a quote from the movie Pretty Woman. Unfortunately, I cannot find a good clip, and while I can find the text at IMDB quotes to paste it here, it just looks awkward. It was toward the end of the movie and came from Kit.

But I digress.

Shopping these days is different, and this is how I want things in my life to be right now - different.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, we took a break from different and did the same thing we do almost every Saturday during the fall. We watched college football with our friends in the "nayvorhood," (another post, another day). We love driving to the hood and hanging out. That will never change.

Sunday we returned to "different" and finally made the trip to the Short North. First, we attended "How I Became a Pirate," (K is a member of the stage crew), at The Columbus Children's Theatre. We followed that with a trip to the North Market, and a walking tour of the rest of the Short North, as well as parts of Columbus' downtown and Arena District.

That's right - we walked. We walked a lot. My feet were tingling when we were finished that's how much we walked.

For many, many reasons, I loved every minute of it. I love downtowns. I love eclectic. I love seeing things we don't ordinarily see, and I love discovering things for the very first time.

I've driven up and down High Street in Columbus hundreds of times in the 26 years I've lived in the area. Never once, had I seen this. Right there, on the side of the road, through the guardrail.

Who knows where it leads?

When I stopped to take this picture, Netter and I started talking about the railways in Columbus. She told me about the train station, that used to be here and which tracks went where. She reminded me that an arch from the train station is on display in a park near Nationwide Arena.

I've always wanted to ride on a train. A real train, not that goofy thing at Kings' Island or Cedar Point. I know that passenger trains have mostly gone the way of the Dodo, but a fella can dream can't he? I want to take new journeys and blaze new trails.

I know there's a way. I just have to find it. That's what I really want to do.

Thank You Very Much

I've taken some time away from the blog lately, putting some ducks in a row, working on some plans for changes I hope to be making. It's just time for some things. I'm sure many would understand.

I hope to be in this space a little more regularly from this point, in part because I am looking forward to talking about some of those changes as they happen. This is where we break things down after all.

But, well, today is my birthday. Netter and I are headed out for the evening to take some time to pause and just be as it were.

One thing that has been incredibly overwhelming today is the number of well wishes I have received - text messages, phone calls, Twitter, Facebook. My Blackberry battery is almost drained and as I think about it - well, I am one lucky man to have so many wonderful friends and family.

I am working on finding a way to personally thank each and everyone of you, but in the interim - so Netter doesn't have to wait to go out with her husband...

I am going to borrow this from Kailey and the All Ohio State Fair Youth Choir.

Thank you very much!

Where I Learn Things - Cinque

I want to begin by saying how happy I was with the way my Listening post was received last week. That was very nice of all of you. I promise a follow-up post sometime in the near future to answer questions, and talk more about being a good listener.

Today I'd like to make a belated return to my series about Where I Learn Things. I've been weeding through my RSS feeds (down to 61 as of today), adding and subtracting, discovering and rediscovering some great content and I am excited to be able to share that with you today.

Right out of the gate I want to introduce you to Perry Maughmer's blog - A Wider Lens. Perry blogs about leadership, life, being human, looking in the mirror, business, strategy, and emerging trends. In other words he makes me think, (without over-thinking) and that is always a good thing. Too often we get stuck in our day-to-day, and forget to look at the bigger picture. If you read Perry's blog, chances are that's not gonna happen.

(I've only recently discovered Perry's blog. I followed a link from my friend Nate Rigg's, and my friend Christa pointed me that way as well so a big thanks to those two great folks.)

Of course the day-to-day is still a big part of who we are, and a big part of who I am is being a Dad (although happily my girls still call me Daddy). For great stories from Dads I check out a number of contributing authors over at Dad-O-Matic. From their "About" section:

Dad-o-Matic was founded in 2008 by Chris Brogan who was inspired by the work of Doriano Carta (now Editor-in-Chief) on his personal blog where he shared interesting experiences about being a dad.

The concept was simple: build a place for dads to share thoughts and ideas about parenting. This can be views, news, reviews, and advice. You don’t have to be a dad to participate. It’s just a blog from the Dad’s perspective.

For more day-to-day, keeping it real content I check in with my friend Oneita who blogs for the Detroit Free Press at her blog O Street. While it's true that a lot of Oneita's content is about Detroit, it's not just about Detroit. It's about growing up, and parenting, and being a good citizen, and even controversial topics like racism, and politics.

Oneita fosters a discussion in her forums that is both respectful, and insightful. I've had the opportunity to talk to Oneita a couple of times. She caught me off guard one day by calling me. I was at work when my phone rang. I recognized the area code as being from Michigan, thought it was one of my relatives, and picked up.

Me: Hello

Oneita: Hey, what are you doing?

Me: (Not recognizing the voice.) Um, I'm okay. How are you?

Oneita: Oh, hey sorry it's Oneita.

Me: (Thinking in my head: Holy Crap, Oneita Jackson just called me.)

At this point I remembered that I had emailed Oneita requesting a copy of her free blog tips, and my phone number is in the signature line of my email. As Oneita and I discussed, why would I put it there if I didn't expect to be called?

We chatted for a few minutes, she said she would check out my blog too, I requested an RSS feed to her blog specifically (instead of all of the Free Press blogs collectively), and we hung up.

A few days later Oneita called back. She needed to explain to her IT folk exactly what I wanted re: the RSS feed.

She emailed it to me a little later that day. It was pretty cool to be honest. How about that for listening to your readers?

The last blog I want to share with you today is from my colleague at the library Helene Blowers. Helene blogs about libraries, and social media, and changing trends in user experience on the Internet among other things. In other words all the stuff that occupies my attention just about every day. Needless to say, reading Helene's blog, well... I learn a lot.

What occupies your attention on a daily basis? Where do you learn things?

It Doesn't Mean I Don't Love My Library

Over the weekend a friend posted this on their Facebook page.

I've watched it about 100 times.

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, - maybe...

What strikes me about the folks in this video is how much fun they seem to be having - at work. I used to have that much fun at work. But, the sad truth is that I have been doing the same thing for the last 11+ years, and well you know, that math is easy...

That's about average for me. When I moved from Circulation Services at the library I had been doing that for about 12 years.

There's nothing wrong with my job. I just need a new challenge. Is that a bad thing to say? I hope not. If it is, well I'm sorry because I really do still love my library. I just need a new challenge.

Is there another job for me at the library, another step? Well now, that would be perfect wouldn't it? I understand that there are budget constraints and such, but yeah, the selfish part of me would love for that to be true.

I wonder where the road goes from here?

I Am Listening

It seems I talk a lot about making changes, changes in fitness habits, changes in church-going habits, in diet and exercise, in career, etc... and so on.

Sometimes I'm good at making those changes. Sometimes I get derailed in my efforts. Always, I'm trying. It may not seem like it, but I am. It's that good Catholic guilt. What can I say?

This week, I'm working on a change that should be easy, but has honestly proven to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm trying to spend as much time as possible just listening.

Yep. Just listening.

About 7:00 Sunday night I popped out my Blackberry and put up my first update of the day. For me.., well it's no secret that's a touch out of the ordinary. I'm usually plugged in and interacting all day every day and sometimes well into the night. The keyword there being interacting. I'm trying to be involved in the conversation and building relationships both old and new.

Only lately, especially on the weekends, I don't feel like I'm interactive at all. In fact I'm kind of a broadcaster - and my friends, I am not fond of the broadcasters.

Now it's true, I'm usually posting updates from football parties where I'm connecting on a face to face level, and I post about the Buckeye games and other similar topics, and sometimes big conversations get started from some innocuous comment about the kicking game, or a freshman running back. There are times when I'm involved in those conversations. More often I'm revisiting them on Sunday or even Monday morning - catching up as it were. Ultimately, I appreciate that folks are involved, and commenting, but I want to give something back.

So, this week the goal is listening. Everybody talks about two ears, one mouth and such right... I wonder how many keep that in mind on a day to day basis.

I'd like to think I'm not a bad listener, but I want to be a really great listener. I know some great listeners. I want to be like them.

I want to hear the things folks want me to hear.

What do you want me to hear?

And just for kicks - riffing off a series of Q&A posts my friend Cammie is currently working on, I am wondering if there are things you'd like to know or topics you'd like to discuss?

Ask away...

I'm listening.

The Kids Said What... Second Edition

Never thought I'd see a second edition here, but I've been collecting quotes from the girls and lo and behold the material is just there, so once again I am playing along with my friend Cammie for The Kids Said What.

Here we go.

We like to try a lot of different foods for dinners and such. While discussing the different tastes of things one night at dinner D popped up with this nugget:

"If you have tastebuds on your tongue so you can taste things, do you have smell-buds in your nose so you can smell things?"

Yes, she is 13. No, I have no idea where it came from. It was worth a big laugh at our house though.

K provides a couple of teenagery quotes for our next two.

You know that boy (or girl) you really like, but he doesn't like you, or he toys with you and takes advantage of you emotionally, until one day you are just over him (or her) and you've had enough?

Yeah, K's got one of those for herself. Here's what she has to say about him these days...

"It's like they hooked a leafblower up to an ego-machine and stuffed it down his throat."

Yes, I am a proud Daddy!

Of course she followed that one with: "The ego is like seeping out of him."

That's my girl!

Thank goodness she figured him out - that LOSER!

I don't know if it's cool for Daddies to add that kind of editorial content, but I am!

A few days went by until D chimed in with our next prize. She had been given a homework assignment to describe her "writer's voice." (Yeah, I know. I think it's an archaic term too. So does Wikipedia, but of course not everybody trusts Wikipedia yet. That must include D's English teacher.)

D struggled with finding an answer to this question until I got home from work on Tuesday at which point her eyes lit up, she smiled a big smile, looked at me, and said: "Hello Man-with-an- English-degree."

Yes, I helped her, but not without a bit of grumbling about the obscurity of the term and a Google search to be sure I was thinking of the right thing. Hey, I graduated 8 years ago, and I've yet to use that degree for anything other than creative writing. Give a guy some slack.

For the record, D's is an "active and building" writer's voice, i.e. she builds her story to engage the reader. It's a good solid way to write, and I hope she continues with this creative outlet.

K completes our quotes for the week with a comment on cooking, or rather cookery.

As many of you know, Netter's Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan was broken on Tuesday. It wasn't her fault really. I distracted her while she was cooking by calling on my way home. Consequently she turned on the wrong burner on the stove (i.e. the one that was under the pan) and scared the entire neighborhood when the pan popped and broke. When it says "don't apply to direct heat," it means don't apply to direct heat. See for yourself.

I used Twitpic to post the picture on Twitter and Facebook, and I wasn't surprised that most of the talk was not about the cost of replacing the pan (not all that expensive really) but instead was about the lost years (15) of "seasoning."

K was watching the conversations and asked what seasoning meant.

When Netter explained... well, K gave us this.

"That's disgusting! It's time for a new pan anyway!"

Ah teenagers. Gotta love 'em.