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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

This I believe: do good business and your business will do well, should the conditions for what you offer be at all favorable.

What is good business? To me it’s about operating in a manner that supports all stakeholders—not just the ones that write you the biggest checks, such as the advertisers, or the shareholders, who so often are focused on the near future’s bottom line, not the long-term sustainability. Employees are more than expense—they create the value of your organization. And in today’s complex world when so often the users of your products are not the customers who write the checks, it’s still good practice to keep the users happy so that they continue to use your services.

I get that these days it’s really common that the real customer (or at least the biggest customer) is often not the user. For example, in health care the insurance companies bring in most of the money. But without patients coming through the doors, insurance won’t be paying out for services. Same with online “free” services, such as social media and news outlets. We have always had to put up with advertising, whether it’s print advertising in our publications, which keeps subscription prices lower, or whether it’s to watch network television. Now, in order to use electronic services—paid and free—we have to consent to let all of our online activities be followed and sometimes, even when we don’t want to watch an ad, those ads keep playing anyway, using up valuable computing and server resources. Maybe we can’t opt out of necessary services, such as certain health care procedures or visits, but we can reduce using them for optional care. And with other more discretionary activities, we can stop using the service at all. With fewer users of services, the real—or the one paying the most—customer makes less money. Chasing away users of your services is bad for the bottom line.

It comes down to respect. Businesses need to respect all sides of the profit-making equation, even if not all equally contribute to the bottom line in an easily quantifiable manner. Reasonable employees and reasonable customers are why a business can provide what it provides in order to make a profit. Treat these stakeholders well, and your business should grow. Really, it’s not trickle-down, it’s trickle-up.

The hubris of scorning the “little people” is just not good business. Betting that the user will put up with almost anything is not a good long-term plan, especially in the face of an improving economy. Odds are most people remember how a business has made them feel—I know I do and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Treat me well and you might have me for life—without paying for any constantly playing videos or pop-up ads or whatever the next intrusive form of advertising is. (Visiting me in my dreams?)

You can say I’m a dreamer, but there are really no good reasons for it to be a dream for people to be treated well by corporations and other organizations.

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(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

Sometimes living in this old house gets, well, old. I kind of want to chuck it all and move into an apartment—until I see the price of rent for a one-bedroom apartment is almost $300 more a month than the mortgage payment on our 2200-square-foot home. Still, we are only the second homeowners in this place the first homeowners built themselves with its listed build date of 1947. Some parts of our home are put together in, shall we say, rather creative but not standard ways.

Yesterday I was entertaining a plumber here in our fair castle. The truth is more like I was staying away so I didn’t chat him up and raise the billable hours. The pipes draining from the sink were just worn out—and put together in some archaic manner. What started out as a minor leak had become more of a waterfall from time to time—good thing the only items directly below in the basement are a utility sink and a bunch of utilitarian storage—not that anything needs water damage. Oh, our pipes were draining all right—all over.

And don’t even get me started on the little critters that arrived with fall weather. In my 26 (and my husband’s 29) years in this home, we have never had mice inside the house, most likely thanks to the fact the garage is detached. We think we have taken care of the few that snuck in, because we have seen no evidence in all the places where they were partying down. However, I still have clean-up to do in hidden spaces. My family calls me “Safety Mom” because, of course, I would never not think of the possibility of such a thing as Hantavirus—which means I feel I have to go through a bunch of safety procedures before and during cleaning.

Oh, and we found out a few weeks ago that the leak that had sprung from our refrigerator’s icemaker looked suspiciously as if little rodent teeth had nibbled on the line. At least it wasn’t a problem with our not quite four-year-old appliance.

Speaking of appliances, though, not all maintenance problems in homes happen because of the age of the home. Just this past weekend my husband Sherman installed an over-the-counter microwave to replace (the expensive) one that had died earlier this year—or died for all practical purposes because the repair bill to fix it would have been as much as we spent for a new microwave. No, today’s appliances are no longer built to last as long as the appliances they replaced (although I have high expectations the life expectancy of this new microwave should at least beat its predecessor!) Gone are the days when I could rely on my trusty 20-plus-years washer and dryer—despite that I am still ignoring my Google calendar’s reminder to call for a dryer repair for the sensor that quit a mere year and a half into the current dryer’s life.

Some household tasks, though, are simply maintenance—too bad they are often costly. Am still waiting to hear from a furnace repair company. The only unique part about that is that we are unfortunate in that we have two furnaces to maintain. Despite the 1947 build date, the neighborhood story is that our humble abode began as an even more humble basement house during World War II because the owners could not get materials. That means the main floor is almost built as a separate house upon the original house. When we replaced the systems, we really wanted to pare down to one whole-house furnace but the house was too solid between the floors to make that happen in any sort of an easy fashion. Heck, in the basement we were happy to get three ducts chiseled into the more-solid-than-necessary walls in order to convert from a radiant heat wall-mounted furnace.

Enough, though. I’ll stop with the whining for now.

Because here’s the part where I remind myself how lucky I am that I get to maintain a home. Not only do I have a roof over my head (solid—thanks to the 50-year shingles we added about a decade ago), but right now it’s warm—as well as dry again—and all the systems are working well enough. Because it’s our own home, we can have dogs running in—as well as ruining—our yard, if we choose. No one lives right next to our walls and we can paint those walls whatever color we want—which we did just over four years ago.

Yes, I get to live inside this one-of-a-kind, now-pink house. All the maintenance—though sometimes overwhelming—is just the price we pay for getting to stay and grow old in this old house that became home—mostly sweet home—when we ourselves were also a whole lot easier to maintain.

How future trails traveled might look--and that's OK.

How future trails traveled might look–and that’s OK.

Still waiting for the thermometer to climb above zero, although the sun has been up for almost four hours by now. With these seventy degree drops in temperatures (from Sunday), most of us around here are a bit grumbly, despite having received great enjoyment from our previous exceptional fall weather. And yet, we’re not unused to cold weather—just not so soon after such unusual warmth.

My husband Sherman was home yesterday which meant we had plans to get out into the great outdoors—plans that we definitely adjusted in order to move in the warmest way possible. No casual hiking or walking—only running would do. Even if our running looks more like hiking or walking these days, what we call running does warm us up more than anything where one foot at a time stays on the ground.

Keep in mind that yesterday we were only dealing with a sixty degree temperature swing—almost balmy compared to today, right? So out we went in the middle of the day—with all our extra layers—to a quiet dirt path where our footing would remain sure, even with the light dusting of snow covering that path.

Well, at first I wasn’t certain my hands could survive—thanks to having two doggy-related potty stops right at the beginning where I had to remove gloves—but as is usually the case, the more we moved, the more our bodies and my hands begin to warm up. Pretty soon I was so glad we had not stayed in. There is something so peaceful about running in conditions that cause others to stay away. Just us and one other woman running (her=fast and us=slow) and another man and his Husky walking and nothing else moving except for hundreds of geese disturbed from their rest on a nearby lake.

I don’t understand it, but my body’s asthma is happier on a frigid day than on a hot one. On a cold day I feel younger and more able to move. The heat is less of a friend than the deep freeze we are experiencing. Now, keep in mind, I know better than to push myself—circulation and breathing as well as sore muscles, tendons, and ligaments—on such a day. Yet, I also don’t feel as if I am pushing myself in any other way than trying to get my hands warmed up enough to stay outside.

No, the biggest battle about going out for a run on a cold day—especially a surprisingly suddenly cold day—is getting out there. Well, that and getting yourself back inside before you start to sweat once you finish.

I have to say I almost loved it as much as I loved that day last week when I got to run at my sweet-spot temperature of fifty-degrees. In many ways yesterday was better because I got to do the run with my husband and dogs—and then after we finished, we got to go back inside to a warm space, so much the more appreciated for our having gone out into a cold that hadn’t been nearly as bad as we had thought.

Season’s plummet—the re-run—turned out pretty well after all.

. . . as we should call it in these parts.

'Tis the last rose of autumn 2014--and I'm not letting her die outside!

‘Tis the last rose of autumn 2014–and I’m not letting her die outside!

Wind chimes peal, switching back and forth from more constant rhythmic songs to bursts of noise, made from frantic beats. Leaves swirl and twirl, cascading to the earth, looking almost as if they are some form of moisture. Big change is coming to this sweet weather I might have said came from some other season if only the fall colors had not been so prominent.

Around these parts (front range of Colorado) we so often do not get transitions. Come late spring, it’s cold and then—boom—it’s hot. With fall, the opposite is true. What’s a body to do?

Well, not deal with the changes very well. In late May, I sweat too much and feel too lethargic for the burgeoning joy of spring that feels more like the summer that will soon seem normal or even a little cool. Usually late October is when the pattern reverses itself—I shiver and hunker down until my body realizes that the cold isn’t that cold. So I should be happy we’re one third of the way into November before I get to make this often harsh transition.

But by now I am so, so spoiled. Some nights have barely dropped into the 40s. The extra blanket has remained at the foot of our bed. The only gloves I’ve worn are lightweight.

And for me, this introduction to wintry blasts often comes with our first snow removal job. Other than my hands that seem to want to mimic some of my son’s Reynaud’s Syndrome symptoms, the rest of me often likes being out in the elements while I am pushing the snow blower. The air feels crisp in a good way and, after the initial shock of leaving my warm bed, I give in to the joy of being outside in what’s often a quiet (well, quiet if I drown out my own snow blower’s sounds) and peaceful time without much of the usual bustle of so many of the city’s citizens. However, part of my ability to feel contentment outside comes from realizing how much calmer the winds are here than in my native Nebraska—wind is a real game-changer but here our winds often only mark the initial changes.

Unfortunately, if I am called to spend extended time out in the snow in the next few days, it will be with this body that only yesterday was sweating even while I was driving around with my sunroof open and the windows rolled down.

Mother Nature, one year could you just give us a little time to get used to the idea of a new season before you drop us into one? No? I didn’t think so—why start now? Now, where did I put the hat and those socks, boots, and gloves—oh, and, shudder—the shovel?

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Memory is usually one of my strong points—or at least it was until I was really deep in the sandwich of raising my kids and watching over my mother. And even if my memory is nothing like it was in my youth, it’s still pretty good if I am listening and/or participating in something. So why can’t I remember much about one particular activity from my freshman year in college? Usually the phrase isn’t “What happens in Bach Chorale stays in Bach Chorale.” As far as I know what happened is that I practiced with the group every Monday night until we performed a good part of Bach’s St. John’s Passion during Holy Week.

I now realize this experience should have been a big deal. The St. John’s Passion is very difficult. And while I come from a very musical background—having played piano, clarinet, oboe, and violin, as well as having sung in parts since I was 10—I am a generalist who has never taken musical theory—or practiced much individually—I’m rather a musical bum. Or as my music teacher mother finally said of me and my brother, “I don’t know why I wasted so much money and energy on your music lessons if you were just going to turn out to be jocks.”

That is, musical “jocks” who didn’t take musical preparations as seriously as we took our physical workouts. My brother has almost perfect pitch and we both picked up reading music easily with our first piano lessons back in kindergarten. In some ways music was so much of our early childhood that we don’t even know how we know what we know and too often we get by on that easily developed knowledge.

From time to time I discover I “know” many parts of the St. John’s Passion my choir is practicing even if I can’t tell for certain what all I have sung of this music. For certain, my choir did not sing the words in German, but I have had particular English phrases from the songs stuck in my head ever since that one “lost” year—and I sing them, too—just ask my dogs who have been called malefactors many a time.

So it seems very strange to me that I can’t access exactly what I did in those practices. Did I find the music hard or not? Shouldn’t it stand out if it seemed that way? Maybe my malleable 18-year-old brain was just in the middle of constant learning and it found the music neither harder nor easier than anything else I was learning in my first year of higher education. I do know that while the choir itself was geared toward generalists, music majors who did not have time to be in the traveling choir were required to participate in this choir instead. Perhaps we amateurs were paired with these people deliberately as I do remember one person who I would say was my mentor during rehearsals.

Fall trimester Monday rehearsals seemed hard because by Monday night I would realize just how little I and my poor time management skills had accomplished over the too-short weekend. But by the second and third trimesters, I also had added track practices—that jock thing—and sorority meetings. It’s possible I was just in a daze at choir practices due to panic over what all I had to accomplish after my longest day of the week ended and before I could go to sleep.

Whatever the reasons, I don’t really know what I did or did not do in that choir. I did decide I didn’t enjoy being in the choir enough to do it and track together for several months. Ever the generalist, I didn’t really care about all the music theory and jokes bandied about between the director and the music students. However, what I most learned from the experience was that I liked Bach.

Bach still appeals to me, even as my brain feels so much less malleable than it did when Bach and I first met, well, first met in choral singing anyway. The genius of what to me is a call and response between the various vocal sections of the choir is just a marvel and adds so much to the meaning of the pieces. I love all the counting—even when I get lost. Learning German is a bigger stretch and though I loved learning foreign languages in my early days, I am glad that I learned these songs first in English—the emotions of the words I don’t yet understand are stuck to the notes in my mind already.

Each time I practice this particular music I re-discover a little bit more of what I learned so long ago. So glad to get back to these specific works of Bach that somehow are a part of me—despite my not giving them the attention they deserved the first time around.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

This continues to be an “am-I-dreaming” sort of fall. Yesterday we had mostly clouds, some lower temperatures, and a nasty bit of wind and then—it got better. Though the grass was crunchy this morning, I’m not sure we’ve still had a major hard freeze. All I want to do is take pictures of this glory, but today, memories and the descriptions will have to do. Out on yet another picture-perfect outdoor excursion, this time I had to give in and just experience the beauty—thanks to leaving my cell phone at home.

So I kept my eyes open and looked around knowing that I could not visually preserve what I saw. Oh, but what I saw . . . you’re just going to have to believe me on this one.

And not only couldn’t I record anything I saw, I also couldn’t obsessively preserve how far I went and how fast (slow) I ran. I couldn’t listen to my “coach in a box” tell me how to sense how my body was doing—I just had to feel the signs without relying on any data.

How’d I do? I don’t know but I also don’t care. I felt good simply because of all the beauty and wonder surrounding me. How could I not have a good run?

I ran between geese, saw all sorts of very happy dogs running and walking beside their humans, watched moms and nannies basking in the sun while wearing infants or pushing strollers, listened to other footsteps crunching on the path, faster and slower, and—kept wondering if I should pinch myself to see if it was all real.

The mirror-like surface of the lake showed me a double view of all that human and not-so-human activity, blue skies, snowcapped mountains, and trees—bare or leafed in colors ranging from green to autumnal. Houses shimmered in that backdrop—an urban wonderland called home for some very lucky souls.

My soul, however, soared just for the chance to be there doing what I was doing in that moment, no matter if I appeared to all the world like a middle-aged woman bound to this earth. But that earth—oh my, what an earth it was.

And when I turned to leave that Garden of Eden of a space—paradise even with its planted gardens turned back to fallow dirt—I walked out into the neighborhood where colors continued to surprise me—especially at ground level—maybe more so for the barrenness of many trees. A few tattered but boldly colored non-native annuals remained peeking from protected spots. But hardy xeriscape perennials continued in full bloom in colors of purple, orange, and gold, scoffing at the minimal nighttime low temperatures we have experienced, as if to say, “You call that cold?”

As I turned my eyes upward, I searched my memories but came up short for the names of all the yellow, brown, orange, and red shades found in my 64-pack of Crayolas I so treasured. I could not find enough words to describe what I saw: this tree with the leaves turned the exact shade to match the burgundy house’s paint, that tree’s fluorescent yellow and orange leaves electrified by white-bright sunbeams, the true green leaves tipped only with gold.

(Only now at home can I access the palette of those shades: maroon, raw sienna, burnt orange, burnt sienna, brick red, ultra orange, orange red, red orange, goldenrod, yellow orange, orange yellow, lemon yellow, and mahogany. Still, I know I saw them all today, along with a spectrum of greens, and it was enough. Really it should have been more than enough, but can you blame me for being greedy enough to want to savor every detail I can?)

Words I can share with you—the pictures you’ll have to imagine for yourselves. These moments of gold are the currency we hoard to keep ourselves through the long nights and muted landscapes soon to come.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert