Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quick Quotes 3

TM Amy in a sorrowful tone:

Just eat my last broccoli stalk. Please.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Being the Boss

I almost fired someone yesterday. I've only ever fired one person before and if you've been lurking here in the glitter bushes for a while, you might remember that it was very upsetting for me. I am an educator. I am a trainer. I want people to succeed. I am distressed when people fail; at some level i feel like their failure means that somehow i have failed them. Anyhoo, in this particular circumstance multiple mistakes had been made and personal attitude was bad; I was at my wit's end with this team member. It had become obvious to me that this particular failing was indeed not my failing, but rather the failing of the individual. Monday night i thought and thought and thought about what to do. I contemplated it. I evaluated it. I pro-and-conned it. I lingered over it. I tried to balance my gut feelings, my emotions, my intuition, my experience, my team's feelings, past events - you name it; it was all in the swirling pot of my brain. Even after i lay in bed trying to sleep the situation played through my head. It was 4 hours before i could even fall asleep. Tuesday morning i had my conclusion - a drastic course of action was the way to go. I talked to my boss; he and i hashed and rehashed the situation some more. The fastest, cleanest, easiest solution was to fire the person. The meeting was set. Cards were laid on the table, the hatchet was raised and at the last possible second, i pulled the punch. (nothing like multiple, totally unrelated metaphors to muddy up a sentence - yikes; sorry) Instead, an action plan was devised and put in to place. The team member left the meeting appropriately scared, but still gainfully employed (or as gainfully as you get in non-profit). I don't think they have any idea know how close it was to going the other way. After the meeting my boss looks at me and says Well, i wasn't expecting that. Yeah. No kidding. Neither was I. How did that happen? How did i go into the meeting with one resolve and then do something totally different? At first i was mad at myself. But as my boss and I debriefed, i realized that I didn't chicken out. It wasn't that i was unwilling or afraid to fire the team member, instead it was that during the conversation another option presented itself. Instead of being locked into my own course i saw another way. Last night as i thought about it more (cause that's what i do) the happier i became with the new solution. Yes, i was totally ready to fire this person, but now they have a chance at redemption. Now, they know that this is their last chance at redemption. Now, if they can't straighten up and fly right they will know the outcome. Now, it won't be a surprise if the hammer drops. Now, no one can say that i didn't really try to help them succeed. It was the right thing to do. I wonder how often the right thing is NOT the easy thing? During a much needed and well deserved bubble bath even later last night it struck me again how the thing about being the boss that no one ever prepares you for is that you hold part of a person's life in your hands. You hold a chunk of their financial stability and possibly part of their self-esteem and self-image right there in your hand. It's right there, people - you gotta hold it like a wee glass egg. In the hiring process i think about how each person that i reject has to continue their search; i am aware of that power and try to be gentle with it. I hate, hate to write those NO letters to people that i've interviewed because i can't help but to imagine what it would feel like to read it. But firing someone is really different. You aren't leaving them in their crappy status quo; you are creating a new, crappier status. If you fire someone, you instantly take away their paycheck. You take away their ability to pay the rent. Or buy groceries. You make them unemployed. For a lot of people, how many weeks does it take for unemployed to turn into moving home with my parents or homeless? Obviously, i realize that if someone is fired as opposed to down-sized or laid-off they did something to deserve it and really they are taking away their own paycheck, but you are the one who signs the paper. They may have earned the firing squad, but you are the one who has to load the bullet and pull the trigger. Damn, people - that is a lot of responsibility. After 9 years i would have thought that the weight of that responsibility would have eased a bit. I'm not as timid about large command decisions as i once was, but they really don't get any easier. I thought for sure they would get easier. I am no longer afraid that my actions (or inactions) will have catastrophic effects or that any mistake on my part will wreak untold devastation. I am more confident and answers come to me faster and with less mental anguish (yep, there actually use to be MORE mental anguish), but i can't say that it is easier. I like being the boss. I like the creative freedom over my program. But i have to say that it makes me uneasy to think that i can change someone's life with one sentence. But maybe that is the way it should to be. Maybe I'm supposed to feel uneasy so that i am never hasty in using that power. [when i was still mad at myself yesterday i said I'm such a big marshmallow and my boss replied No, you have just the right amount of marshmallow. it made me smile] I can honestly say, however, that i'm glad i didn't consciously think too much about the whole too-much-power-over-someone-else on Monday night while i wrestled with solutions to this specific situation. I'd STILL be trying to figure out what to do. Here's hoping it all works out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

new food experiment

Ahhhhh... food... i remember when i was eating various sorts of solid food and not just Saltines and Special K and raisins cause that's what my recently virus-attacked GI system can handle. Someday -perhaps tomorrow- i'll have food real food again. Anyhoo, last week -before the unpleasantness- i continued to do new things by making a dinner of completely new-to-Niki food. I had a coupon for Morning Star products and found these Asian Veggie Patties on sale - hey i am happy to try new things when it costs 87 cents for 4 patties or less than 22 cents a piece. The egg noodles were from the Dollar Tree and i wanted to try them cause i love Ramen noodles, but they are crazy high in fat and these claimed to be fat free. Plus, at a dollar for 4 servings or 25 cents a piece how could i go wrong? AND, they are made from duck eggs - how cool is that? Duck eggs would certainly be new. Soooo... i made my stir-fry base from shredded broccoli -a new technique for me- and added some chunk broccoli and carrots and snow peas -not at all new; i just like them- and sauced it up with soy, chili paste and a new chili sauce. Then i cooked up the noodles and added them to the pan. The veggie patties got nuked because that really is the best way to cook them and i served it all up on my beloved vintage Dragon and Phoenix china Gotta say - it was yummy. The amount i cooked easily covered me for dinner and lunch the next day; factoring in the veggies and sauce this new experience cost me $2.70 or $1.35 per serving. I wish all of this years' new experiences could be this tasty and cheap. The only drawback was that the patties were a little salty and the stir-fry sauce was a little spicy so i was left with the need for a touch of something sweet and tongue cleansing - like a lemon sorbet. Or some almond cookies. Or even a fortune cookie. But alas, there were no such things to be found in the pantry. I substituted the closest thing available a 100 calorie pack of mini shortbreads. Wow. That is a far, far cry from fortune cookies, for Pete's sake. You know we are all about authenticity and classiness here in the Nikiverse.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ode to a Saltine

sweating, freezing, shaking;
losing vital fluids from every orifice imaginable;
haven't eaten in 24 hours;
pepto turning my insides unnatural colors;
but then there is you - my darling Saltine.
crispity, salty, life-saving cracker-
nothing tastes as good as you.

Friday, February 19, 2010


One thing i've been enjoying about this winter season are the icicles. TM Amy and i were talking about the fact that there seem to be not only an abundance of icicles this year, but that they were staying around longer. It is nice to see groupings along building fronts that look like the way kids draw icicles in pictures. I also really like when you find surprise icicles, like the ones under my neighbor's steps or over my bathroom window. So far, my favorite has been the icicle that formed around just one half of this wrought iron heart on the fire escape. I'm enjoying the beauty of the crystal clear ice, but i will admit that i wish this one would stop dripping on my head!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


So last night's snow didn't really amount to much in my neck of the woods. Most schools are in session. We are actually doing shows again. The roads are lined with bulldozers finishing the clearing of turn lanes. Things are getting back to normal around here. That is, unless you want to go out of my back door; you can forget about that until Spring.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shopping Cart King of the Mountain

It's all fun and games until somebody is upended and buried by the snow plow.

calendar book

Last year i was at an art museum and saw the cutest book in their gift shop. It was a calendar book for you to write down important dates so that you'd remember to send cards. I loved it, but the $25 price tag was ridiculous. Twenty-five dollars? Really? Surely i could make one for cheaper than that. So last fall i took a composition book, counted the number of pages, counted the number of lines on the pages and did a bunch of math to figure out how to get 366 dates evenly spaced with new months starting after a full page break and without there being ink bleed-through on opposing dates. I'm pretty smart, but honestly, the date design really was the hardest part of the entire project. Using a changeable date stamp I marked all 366 dates. Then i went through my calendars, datebooks and address book to fill in all of the appropriate information. Voila! Now i could easily keep track of when i should be making cards and getting them in the mail in a timely fashion. I had every intention of making it pretty, but after the math and the stamping and the writing i was sorta done with the project and set it aside for awhile. A few months later i decided to make my functional book lovely so i spent an evening picking out coordinating papers. Somehow, i ended up working in purple ;-) Plaid for the covers, marbled for the end papers and 2 different florals for tabs and front embellishment. At this point i realized that i didn't have enough of the proper adhesive to embark on the project so i set it aside again. Recently i was snowed into my home. What better time to finish projects that have been languishing?, i thought. The cover papers were cut, corner rounded and applied with 2 different widths of Terrifically Tacky. The black binding was a bit too harsh with the pastel plaid so i grabbed some aluminum flashing tape along with a matching Sharpie and a heart embosser. Once the outer covers were done i moved to the inside covers. I love using composition books, but there is so much printing of school related stuff inside the covers that you have to cover them. Again the papers were trimmed and corner rounded before being adhered. The marbled paper looked great, though for some reason i didn't take a picture of this step. Anyhoo, before i covered the inside of the back cover I attached a matching grosgrain ribbon to be used as a bookmark. I had left an extra page between each month so that i could do edge tabs. I used glue stick to hold the pages together to make a thicker base for my purple tabs that i staggered and applied with Mono Adhesive. The way that i worked out the math of the dates took over half of the book, which left plenty of room in the back for a Holiday Card Log where i record from whom i receive holiday cards and make my own lists of who to send New Year's cards. I used the lighter floral paper to make top tabs to mark the two separate sections after once again glue sticking 2 pages together to give it some heft. Time to decorate! I had plenty of the papers left to do some type of design, but after a bunch of trials i found that i really liked the plain plaid and didn't want to cover it up. I picked a cardstock quote sticker that embodied the purpose of the book [What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other? - George Elliot] and inked it to match the paper. I cut a simple heart out of the aluminum flashing tape (second hardest part of the project; i am a terrible free-cutter when it comes to symmetry and it took about 6 tries before i had an acceptable heart) to bring a little flash to the quote and to tie it thematically to the binding. Finally, the lower right-hand corner received a quick happiness rub-on. Once the bookmark was measured and cut my very own, personalized, didn't-cost-a-ridiculous-$25 calendar book was done. It makes me smile. I love that i can just turn to any day and see what occasions i should be celebrating. For instance, if i turned to today - Feb 15th- we would find that it is co-worker Stacey's birthday as well as the birthday of my beloved BFF, Rea. Many Happy Returns!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Musings on my lost Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day, people!
Unlike many single people I don't hate Valentine's Day.
 Just because i am not currently in a romantic relationship doesn't mean that i spite people who are. I think it is nice to take a day to reflect on the meaning of love in your life and to celebrate it. And no, i don't think that it is a holiday just for consumerism either; that is, it doesn't have to be about that if you chose to make it meaningful.
This particular Valentine's Day is interesting for me. You may have noticed that 2010 has been an introspective, thoughtful year in the Nikiverse, so far.
 With my recent ponderings on the nature and necessity of love i've been thinking a lot about all the different types of love that one experiences on a daily basis: friends, lovers, family, God, cherry rum snowballs, puppies, babies, adrenaline, fried food, bubble baths.
But today... today my thoughts circle around those fellows with whom i have celebrated Valentine's Days: my first boyfriend who at 18 to my 15 was too old and frankly too crazy for me; the jock who was dumb as a box of hair, but the best kisser EVER; my high school sweetheart who i left behind for college; the one who i loved clandestinely though we both knew it wasn't going to work; my one ill-fated foray into internet dating who stole my heart and then revealed that he was married; and the beautiful boy who changed my life forever:
  I met him at the end of my sophomore year of college, less than a week after my 20th birthday. He was 19 and transferring in from a school in North Carolina. He stayed with my unofficial roommate Matthew, touring the campus, sitting in on classes, hanging out and getting a feel for the school.
And a feel for us.
He fit in with my friends easily and by the time he left for his California home 4 days later i was already properly smitten. We stayed in touch over the summer and by the time Labor Day rolled around i couldn't wait to get back to school to get to know each other in person.
He brought a West Coast sensibility to things that i didn't quite understand, but he was really fun and ridiculously smart.
 Did i mention that he had the most green, green eyes i've ever seen?
I would not characterize it as the most healthy of relationships:
 when it was good it was very, very good
 but when it was bad it was toxic. Have you ever been with someone where the passion was so all-consuming that it was volatile?
 He was really good for me and really bad for me.
 For almost 4 years we were together, apart, together, apart, together, not even speaking to each other, together, apart, together... And then it was over.
He died by his own hand.
And then i died, too.
Well, not really, since i am obviously typing here, but i was shattered to the point of non-existence. Grief is a weird and terrible journey that everyone does differently. It took me a decade to truly be okay, mostly because i spent a lot of time convincing everyone that i was okay when, dude, i was seriously NOT okay.
I still miss him, but it is a healthy, nostalgic missing for a love lost and opportunities denied instead of the shrieking-razorblades-in-my-chest-when-i-breathe that it used to be. In my family we never refer to him -ever- to the point where the subject is taboo. For a few years i sometimes had to convince myself that the whole thing actually happened the silence was so pervasive. Even among our closest friends the only time we could manage to speak his name was when we had had too much to drink and were crying in a hotel closet in Indiana.
I have only recently found myself relating stories or anecdotes that involve him to friends or co-workers without feeling compelled to either share the tragic ending or going out of my way to avoid it. Finally, the stories from that part of my life are simply stories, which is how it should be.
Today would have been Kurt Richard Henning's 38th birthday.
I buried him 15 years ago tomorrow.
His death but, more importantly, his life shaped the woman I am today.
 Love can be brutal, but it can also be kind.
I'll never regret loving him.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blizzards are made made for rum

Most places have some version of a summertime icy treat. Whether you call it a snowball, sno-cone, Hawaiian ice, shaved ice, Italian ice or slushee, you all know what i'm talking about: a concoction of ice and sweet flavoring that is exactly what the doctor ordered on those dog days of summer. But what about when you are literally surrounded by snow and ice? An icy treat doesn't seem like a great idea unless you really have nowhere to go and can adult-it-up. Start with a vessel of some sort, like a nice amber Depression glass cut goblet and scoop up some freshly fallen snow Add a yummy flavoringlike grenadine and some rum. I would normally use spiced rum for something like this, but there was no Captain in the house so i mixed some silver and 151. That, of course, caused a great deal of melting so I added a bit more snow, stirred, added more snow, stirred, added more snow You get the picture. Once you have a consistency you like, enjoy your cherry rum snowball either in the warmth of your living room or out on the porch in a snow suit. Who says there is nothing to do in a snowstorm?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Smiles for Sam

My nephew's best friend has osteosarcoma. That sucks. It is not only heartbreaking that Sam and his family are suffering through this life-threatening illness, but it is hard to know that Zachary is trying to understand what is happening. It seems like the life lesson of watching your best friend fight for his life is a bit harsh for a 9 year old. But he is a strong kid with a good heart and he wants to help his friend by raising money. In these lean times, one idea was to have a $1 chip-in button on his blog. I figure that even i can afford $1. If you want to know more about Sam and Zachary or give your own dollar, please go to Smiles for Sam. Thanks. ps- less cancer and more rum in the Nikiverse tomorrow

The most beautiful sight in the world

I went out yesterday to clean off my car and dig out the driveway, only to find that my neighbor had already done it for me. sigh... isn't it wonderful?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hello Blizzard 2010

I figured before the next snow tonite i better get the last set of snow pictures posted. Some were taken while it was still snowing and some were taken when it was time to start shovelling. Here is the view from out of the sunroom back door; i was going to try to go out there to get some backyard shots while the snow was still falling, but thought better of it after i tried to open the door. Not only was it the volume of snow that fell, but there was tremendous wind all through Saturday and into Sunday so that places you wouldn't expect to have snow like the windows of the sunroom were covered. It even snowed up into the porch. When it finally stopped, the snow was level with my front porch, the three steps completely obscured; luckily, one of my more industrious neighbors freed them making a wee path out to my car Which i looked out for a while and then went back inside. I like to shovel snow at night. Why? I have no clue. But at about 10:30pm i went out to look at the snow in the moonlight and do a little excavation Needless to say i slept well that night. I only dug out my car and a few feet of the driveway, waiting for the plow to do the heavy work out to the road. Sunday afternoon i cleared off my favorite spot on the porch railing and perched myself with a book to enjoy the afternoon and wait for the plow. Which never came on Sunday. Or Monday. In fact, it wasn't until 9:00 this morning that you could find the way out to my street. Luckily i didn't have to go to work so it didn't really matter.