Friday, April 28, 2017

5 Things I've Learned from 1 Year of Work

Wednesday marked one year since I started my current job. This is my first "real job," meaning that it isn't a seasonal, part-time, or volunteer position, but a paid full-time job. So, making it one year is an achievement for me. In honor of that accomplishment, here are five things I've learned from my first year of work.

1. Life Is Fluid

Our organization changes constantly: staff members come and go, departments are reorganized, and roles change. Updating our organizational chart has made this concept really tangible for me, since I move the boxes around, delete lines, or add names every time there is a change...and there always seems to be another one.

However, our organization isn't the only thing that is fluid. Life never stops changing. Over this past year, I've had to adapt as people move away, friends get married, and my siblings keep growing up. (My brother is engaged now.) Change is simply part of life. I'm learning to embrace it, but it is a hard, slow lesson.

2. College Gave Me a Foundation

A couple of months ago, I felt like I didn't actually know how to do my job. So I started to do some reading: What do I need to know to become a successful copywriter?

The answer: I already know the basics. Now that I have read more about copy writing, I've realized that my study of writing in college, especially of persuasive writing, gave me the foundation I needed for my profession.
  • Know your audience and what they are interested in.
  • Know your purpose for writing.
  • Make an outline.
  • Answer all of the audience's objections to your argument.
  • Back up your claims with proof.
All of these items are essential parts of writing about your product or service in such a way that people will want it.

I have plenty more to learn about copy writing, email marketing, and free lance writing, but it was a relief to know that I have a foundation. I know enough. I don't have to be an expert right now.

3. Draw Benefit from Everything

Through a series of conversations with MAK, plus reading a book called The Intellectual Life, I started to think about how each project at work, each email to a coworker, and each meeting can be a moment to grow. Each of these, even the most mundane, is an opportunity.

This paradigm shift has been important in helping me to set and work towards professional goals. If each task is an opportunity, how is the task in front of me helping me to grow as a writer, a professional, or as a human being? Something good can be drawn from it.


4. Do Nice Things for People. (They Notice.)

This lesson is self explanatory, but I'll give you an example anyway.

Last Friday, as she was leaving the office for the weekend, my boss gave me a nice thank you card--just because. Her card signaled to me that people are truly impacted when you go out of your way to do your best for them, whether that is through respect, good work, or acts of kindness.

"Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are." -St. Teresa of Calcutta

5. Rest Is Crucial

Work is hard. Sometimes I forget that, because I am doing mental labor instead of physical labor. It doesn't seem like I should get tired, but I always do. So, rest is crucial to restoring my energy and refreshing my mind.

I have learned, this year, that rest can take many forms. Sometimes going for a run is a form of rest for me, since exercise helps my mind catch up on all the things it needs to process. At other times, my rest takes more conventional forms, like reading a book or sleeping in on the weekend. I need to do these things, because rest gives me the refreshment and perspective I need before I focus on my work again.

These are just a few of the things I've learned from my work this year. What has your work taught you?



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Receive His Love for You

I wrote this meditation for my household sisters, but I wanted to share it with you on this beautiful Feast of Divine Mercy, which is an appropriate time to receive and rejoice in God's love. 

Since I read the meditation to my household sisters out loud, they were able to close their eyes. You won’t be able to do that, since you are reading it on your screen, but I encourage you to read slowly and pause to close your eyes when you feel inclined to do so.

Before you begin, I want to remind you to use your imagination, but don’t force yourself to think of a particular image just because you think that is the “right way” to pray. There is no right or wrong way to pray this meditation. Simply allow the Holy Spirit to lead you where He wants you to go during this time.

Call to mind God’s presence. Breathe deeply and slowly, and allow your mind to become quiet.

Now picture yourself and God together, however that may look. Maybe you are a little baby and the Father is holding you close to His chest. Maybe you’re about 5 years old and you are making mud pies or playing tag with the Child Jesus. Maybe you are your current age and you are sitting in the living room with the Father, just hanging out. Whatever image springs to mind, stay there in your imagination.

Now God looks at you. It is a look of deep, pure, knowing love. He sees you—for who you are, for all you are.

How does it make you feel? 

Can you meet His gaze? 

Now He says your name. What does His voice sound like? Hear Him tell you, “I love you.”

Now feel His love wash over you like a wave. His love washes over your head, comes down and ignites your heart, flows through your arms to your fingertips, and goes all the way down your back, through your legs, and makes your toes tingle. You are filled with His love. You are surrounded by it. You are breathing it. Now it is shooting out your fingers and toes like sparks or fireworks.

Stay there for a moment. Let His love fill you, refresh you, and strengthen you.

[silent prayer time]

Tell Our Lord that you love Him too. Thank Him for spending this time with you. 

Open your eyes.

God made you because He loved you and is loving you. This is the fact that matters. It is why you exist. It is why you are called a child of God. You have a choice whether or not to accept that identity and to respond to God’s love. It is a choice that you will have to make over and over again throughout your life, because love is more than a feeling; love is a choice.

What will you choose?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Not Your Normal Trip to the Grocery Store


Today, instead of driving to the grocery store to pick up an onion for my chili and some salad for this week’s lunches, I spontaneously decided to walk there. I know. That’s not a normal person move; but, the weather was nice, the grocery story is only about a mile from my house, the neighborhoods are safe, and I’m young…so why not?

The walk there was dandy. Nothing to report.

As I was returning from the story with a string-pack on my back and a cloth bag full of groceries in each hand, I was thinking, “I must look ridiculous…people will think that I’m a bum…that I don’t belong in this part of town….” Then suddenly, “There are people who do this everyday.” 

It’s true. There are thousands of people in the world—probably more—who have no other means of transportation other than their own two legs. They don’t have a car, and they are not able to access a bus or train system, or they might be too poor to afford it. They have to walk anywhere they want to go. They walk to work, walk to the grocery, walk to church, walk to the library, walk to the pool, walk to everywhere. I am sure people get used to it eventually, but that still takes dedication in a world that is constantly zooming around past you.

I began to think about how not having a car to drive would affect me. I have a 20-minute commute one-way to work, so if I didn’t have a car, I wouldn’t have my job. I couldn’t have my job. It would be too far away from where I live for me to walk, and no bus could get me there (or anywhere close).

As I was walking and thinking about this, I felt a sense of solidarity with those who are forced by their circumstances to walk wherever they need or want to go.

Solidarity is not a new idea or experience for me. After all, that was part of what my time living and working in a maternity home was all about. Most of the moms had to walk, or ask friends for rides, before they came to live at the home. (Once they got there, we were able to provide them with bus passes, thanks to a grant.) I felt like I was really experiencing a small part of their lives—and others’ lives—by walking, even if it was only for this one trip.

It was good to be reminded of people other than myself and what their experience of life is like. My circumstances truly are a blessing.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

These Days

In case you were wondering, here is a glimpse at what I am up to these days, when I am not working or traveling.

What I'm Knitting    
 

A lacy stole made from a blend of super kid mohair and silk. Imagine: very soft, fine wool. I've been working on this project for nearly a year, and I'm almost finished. As you can see from the picture, my final ball of yarn is dwindling quickly. I have really enjoyed this project, especially working with this yarn, so I will be a little sad when it is finished, but then I will have the satisfaction of finally wearing my stole! "I like your scarf." "Thanks, I made it."

The story behind this project is that I bought all of the materials for the stole, and even started knitting it, when I was a sophomore in high school. That was around 8 years ago. Apparently I didn't have the dedication to follow through with the project then, even though I thought it was pretty. Last spring, while I was job hunting, I rediscovered this project in my stash and determined to finish it. To do so required tracking down the book at the local library that had the pattern in it, since I had never bothered to write it down and simply kept renewing the book! Thankfully, the book was easy to find. I checked out the book, photocopied the pattern (just in case), and started knitting.

While working on this project, I finally figured out how to knit and watch TV at the same time. Hence, rows and rows of this stole came forth from my needles while watching the 33rd season of "Survivor" and plenty of "MASH" episodes with my housemates.

What I'm Growing


Aloe vera. Isn't it beautiful?

This particular plant used to dwell in a much smaller, bright orange pot. I bought it last May or June; it was on clearance at Kroger. Although I enjoyed the plant and watered it on a regular basis, I didn't pay much attention to it. Then, in September or October, I realized that it had outgrown the orange pot. There was a whole family of aloe plants in that tiny pot!

This led to a Google research adventure. I learned the best type of soil for aloe, that baby aloe plants are called "pups," how to separate and re-pot the plants, and so on. My original aloe plant had four pups last fall.

And guess what? It has more pups now! There are two largish pups, which you can see in the picture. They are in the front right of the pot. Then, there are three or four wee baby pups that are just peeking out of the soil. They are beautiful and delicate. (If aloe can be delicate.) Unfortunately, you can't see them in the picture, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Plants are one of my newly discovered enjoyments, so you can look forward to more posts about plants in the future.
 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

On Being Content


It’s fascinating which conversations stick with you and drift around in your thoughts for a while.

A few weeks ago, when I was talking to a friend on the phone, she asked me, “Are you content?” Her question was timely. The week before that, I had begun to realize that nothing in my life was broken. Rather, everything was quite alright; so, I had no reason to be discontent. Instead, I decided, I have every reason to be grateful for the people and circumstances that are currently part of my life.

Both my friend and I were beginning to understand that we can have sunny sky days and disastrous Jonah days, feel elated and downtrodden, and still be content with our lives. As human beings, we have the ability to exist at a place within ourselves that is deeper and more foundational than our emotions. Although our emotions are legitimate reactions to our circumstances, they are immediate and fleeting. We always need to take them with a grain of salt, so to speak. This has been an important lesson for me.

So, that’s why my friend asked, “Are you content?” She saw that my answer would tell her more about my life than my current emotional reaction.

The answer is: yes, I am content. My lifestyle is simple, but I have a great deal of freedom, since I only have myself to take care of right now. My job challenges me to learn about and try many styles of writing—from administrative memos, to marketing emails, to event ads. The people I work with are striving to know God and do His will. I have two fantastic housemates who make me laugh, put up with my occasional grouchiness and my tidying spurts, and love great music. (The Oh Hellos, anyone?) My friends live all over the country, but they are just a phone call (or plane ride) away. I have met some new people over the past month or two, and I am hopeful that new friendships will develop in time. I’ve gotten comfortable with being at home in the evening and doing nothing but knitting while watching TV.

Most importantly, I am content—or rather, at peace—with my relationship with the Lord. When I can’t sense His presence, it can be tempting to think that I’ve gotten something wrong, or that I need to fix our relationship by trying some other devotion or prayer. But I don’t think that’s what He actually wants. In those times, I think He asks me to trust that He is still leading me.

Prayer is a gift from Him. So, whether I am distracted or bleary-eyed, I am thankful that He gives me the grace to make my effort to be with Him each day. And I am content to wait until He reveals Himself to me.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” –Psalm 62:1

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

All Is Gift

I don't remember this morning's Mass readings. But I remember that Father's homily was about gift.

He defined a gift as "something you don't deserve that is freely bestowed on you." The giver does not expect to receive anything in return, but gives from the abundant generosity in his heart.

Father went on to ask us: "What gift has God given you? How does He want you to use it?"

Often, I forget that I even have a gift. I forget that God has given me the capability to understand and express ideas through words. The gift of writing. 

I just write. I don't think about it. 

Last week, we received two responses to the monthly newsletter that I write for the company I work for. Both were positive comments on the quality of the email. This morning, another person responded to a different email campaign I wrote, saying they were grateful for our prayers and support. 

I wrote those emails. 

God gave me the gift to touch others through words and that happened. They were moved. They saw a glimpse of His goodness.

How thankful I am for this gift! 

What gift has God given you to change the world with? Ask Him to help you use it!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How that One Random Shoe Ended Up in the Road

For the last few months I've been going to Art Club, an informal gathering of artists that my friend MAK started. Now, Art Club isn't exactly what it sounds like. We look at art and talk about it; or we have a discussion question like, "What does it mean to be an artist?" We had never made art—until this past Wednesday.

Since no one had volunteered to facilitate our discussion for this week, MAK decided that it would be fun to do a little free writing with jazz music playing in the background. I've always been terrible at free writing. Maybe because my perfectionist side has trouble relaxing and letting the thoughts flow. My inner editor gets overly focused on the details of sentence structure, diction, and punctuation, which makes free writing more like torture than riding a roller coaster.

But on Wednesday night at Art Club, I let my thoughts carry me away. The result? I wrote fiction for the first time in about two years! It was exhilarating. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to make up stories.

Just for fun, here is one of the fictional scenes I wrote this week. The only edits I made were to add paragraphs. Enjoy! 

"How that One Random Shoe Ended Up in the Road" 

Even when you think your day cannot get any more awful, it will. Trust me. I've been there.

My boyfriend dumped me that morning. I spilled red Kool-aid all over my new white shorts. And then, as I was crossing the street to get in my car, I stepped in a pothole, with a car coming down the road toward me, and I couldn't get my foot back out. It wasn't a particularly large pothole, but it was large enough that my foot (and I have big feet) could go in it. Why my foot wouldn't come out, I have no freaking idea, but that car wasn't slowing down and I was like, "Holy crap, I'm going to die."

So I bent over, untied my shoe, and booked it across the street without it. And what do you know, that damn car hit the pothole and my shoe sailed through the air at least 25 yards and landed in somebody's driveway. He was just backing out and squashed my tennis shoe flat as a pancake. 

I swear this all happened in the space of 75 seconds.