5 Things I’m Thankful For (In the Midst of Winter’s Gloom)

This blog has been discontinued due to amoeba brain.

Hello Friends, yes it’s been that kind of winter. 🙂 For the few weeks (forever, it seems) I’ve been in survival mode, my brain descending into ever deepening layers of slush, reduced to basic functions such as watching TV and scrounging for salty, fatty snacks.

Even running has lost it’s appeal. I continue due to doctor’s orders. ‘You must not let up on the running. It will be the best therapy’ he said. What if I’m reduced to ugly crying because my easy 5K has become an insurmountable task?

It’s time for a pattern interrupt, a jolt of positivity. So, here are five things I’m thankful for.

Work and Fantastic Coworkers

The doctor asked, “Have you been missing work?”

“No, I find it easiest to concentrate there.”

Strange but true. It’s easiest to leave my raincloud behind when I go to work, partially because I have one focused task at a time, and part because of great coworkers who are so crazy they make me feel sane laugh and joke and make me happy. There are crazy conversations about stuffing people into barrels and feeding them spray cheese with one coworker. Another coworker lovingly, and in a motherly sort of way, pinches and slaps me when she passes me in the hall. I told my sister about how at the end of a long shift, I wrapped my arm around this coworker, and she wrapped her arm around me, and we walked off the manufacturing floor together.

“That would never happen at my work,” she said.

A Neverending Supply of Folk Music

Thanks to Spotify, of course.

This song, with it’s sublime string introduction, is one of my favourites right now. I’ve sung, whistled and hummed it almost every day for, I don’t know, weeks? It also serves as a romantic theme in the series I’m currently writing.

Damien Rice: I Don’t Want to Change You

 Winter Running

IMG_0839Despite recent bad, bad runs, I’ve enjoyed running outside this winter. I was a big chicken, and ran on the treadmill for November and December. But soon I got very bored and started staring out at the snow and sunshine, saying, “It’s not THAT cold, is it?”

Cue trips to Walmart to find makeshift winter running gear. The proper stuff is far to expensive, even if it is really pretty… (sigh).

In my grape Kool-aid purple jacket and three layers of pants, out I go to slog where no runner has ever slogged before. I’ll stop when I can’t feel my legs anymore.

Sermon Podcasts and Other Audios

Because sometimes I need help to shut up the voices in my head. An outside voice speaking truth and inspiration can pattern interrupt long enough to reboot my brain and stop the negative thoughts for a while. The church I attend records and podcasts their sermons, so during the week I can listen to them again. LIFE leadership audios are also excellent.

And… Summer!

You know, it always comes back. It always does.

How to Make People Talk

I am told I would make a good interrogator.

The other evening, midway through a long shift at the factory, I joined a conversation between coworkers including one, rather eccentric, Russian gentleman.  “I didn’t realize this, but so and so can really talk,” one said, “He came to my house to borrow something, and he wouldn’t shut up.”

“It’s often like that. You wouldn’t suspect [my trainee] of being talkative,” I interposed, “But if you ask him about cricket, he’ll talk for an hour.”

“Cricket?  Like the game?”

“Yeah,” I said, “I like finding out what people like to talk about and then getting them going on the subject. You can learn so much.”

“Thats just what the KGB do,” the Russian gentleman said.

I stared at him.

“They get you talking about what you’re interested in, and before you know it you’re telling them everything.”

“That’s not why I do it!” I said in great alarm, “I do it because I’m genuinely interested in them.”

“But that’s what they do,” he insisted, “They interviewed me once.  They’d seen my school files.  They knew I like the sciences so they tried to get me talking about that.” He then launched into a diatribe on Einstein’s theories of relativity, and I was ready to listen attentively, but a coworker interrupted with a question for me.  That was the end of that.

Half an hour later, my coworker and I were sitting in our process room with the tablet coater running and nothing to do but monitor it. I had asked my coworker, a recent immigrant from India, about his native languages and how the looked written.  He proceeded to provide examples.

I had a view of the windows.  As I nodded and asked questions, the Russian fellow walked past.  He stopped and grinned at me.  Then he made wringing motions with his hands.

I giggled, and then had to explain the whole thing to my coworker.

It isn’t a psychological technique for me.  I don’t know any better way of gaining trust and building rapport, especially with someone whom I don’t naturally relate to.  As a trainer, I need the trust of my trainee–both to accept my teaching, and also to like me.  We spend a lot of time together. We might as well be friends.

Dale Carnegie said, “So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”

10 Things I’m Thankful For

In a few hours it will be my birthday.

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere this week, due to the pendulum swing of my schedule.  While on day shifts, I try to make up for the lack of social life while I’m working evenings.  My brain has been packed, and much of what I’ve come up with to write is so snarky I don’t dare infect you with it.

So, in hopes of soothing my soul and inspiring you, I’d like to share ten things I’m thankful for–at the dawn of my 24th year.

In no particular order…

1. Strawberry the Car

20140305-205529.jpgThis week I’ve logged a lot of miles in my magic carpet.  I picked up the print edition of We are the Living from the courier (an hour and fifteen minutes away), I went to dinner with two college friends, and before the week is out, Strawberry’s little wheels will take me to my second 5K race.  Since I got my own car (after 5 years of waiting) I’ve been granted a whole new level of freedom.  I’m grateful for that.

2. A job that challenges me.

I’ve worked at the pharmaceutical plant for a year and a half now, and the job has yet to get easy.  That’s perfect, even if it is frustrating at times (like today).  As long as it keeps me learning I won’t get bored or stagnate.

3. I work in pyjamas all day!

Scrubs, actually, but they’re just as comfortable.  Some people don’t like wearing a uniform, but I wouldn’t change it.  They’re loose, modest, and save on laundry.

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4. Coffee

Mmm… coffee.

5. Autumn is coming

Now, this also means that winter is coming, which in Manitoba is a six-month affair… but let’s not think that far.  I look forward to the crisp air, the falling leaves, and pumpkin everything–except those fake pumpkin syrup things every coffee shop hawks at us.  Ew!  Pumpkin cheesecake (sugar free, low carb) is on the birthday menu tomorrow.

6. Stevia

The secret to healthy living, as far as I’m concerned.

7. Coworkers who are also friends.

I’ve had some excellent coworkers over the last three years, and I’m pleased to still call many of them friends.  Work is so much better with them!

8. WiFi at home

Wow, what a relief to not have to drive, walk or bike to find WiFi!  As a blogger, it was getting a bit ridiculous.  I was single-handedly supporting every coffee shop in town, I think.

9. The Electric Donkey

Also known as my next 5K race, and what has been motivating me for the last month.  I’m so excited!

10. My family

We’ve had some wonderful visits lately.  Our bonfire pit has added another six inches of ash to its layers, I think.  They’re the best people to hang out and drink coffee with on a Saturday evening, and I look forward to celebrating my birthday with them tomorrow.  I’ll bring the cheesecake!

So tell me?  What are you thankful for?  Feel free to comment with your own lists.

 

 

Will You Tolerate What You’ve Created?

“Never be satisfied as a drone worker, just showing up and going through the conveyor-belt routines you’re taught. In any position, always be looking for things to improve. And never, ever compromise your moral standards in the name of ‘Everyone is doing it.’

Are you uncomfortable with anything you see at your workplace or in any other position in which you serve? What should you do about it? Why do you think so many people just go along with wrongs they see happening every day?” –From Wavemakers, by LIFE Leadership.

This passage troubles me. In fact, the sheer weight of it makes me want to curl into a ball in the corner. Don’t put this on me! Don’t saddle my integrity with this! Don’t you see I’m doing the best I can?

There’s a lot that goes on in my workplace that I don’t agree with—from teasing that goes beyond friendliness to signing for work that hasn’t been done.

It actually takes work to work an honest eight-hour day because the culture is to waste the first and last fifteen minutes in visiting.  You mean we actually work at a factory? It’s not a social club? It takes concerted effort to do a good job because people are so accustomed to accepting ‘good enough’. I should never have to ask the question “did you actually do this, or are you just saying that?” But I do.

I’m not saying I’m perfect—far from it. This week I’m nowhere near my usual cheerful self, and holding tight to my integrity is a daunting task. I’m struggling to stand. How hard can I push for excellence without breaking relationships? I don’t want to be a legalistic taskmaster. I just want to do a good job.

This really bothers me because I am weak right now and I wish my coworkers wouldn’t make things harder for me—unintentional though it is. I don’t have the energy to pick a side in their political games, or discern whether they really calibrated the scale or they just filled in the numbers.

Do I say ‘No, I will do right,’ or be washed away by the current?

This quote offers some insight.  It’s not exactly on topic, but read it through the lens of your workplace and I think it will make sense.  Edward Snowden said:

“If living unfreely [sic] but comfortably is something you’re willing to accept—and I think many of us are because it’s human nature—you can get up every day, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck [sic] for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.

But if you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied”–as quoted in Wavemakers.

He was talking about national freedom. I’m talking about personal freedom, job quality and heck, the jobs we wish we could work at. The job we have—the culture, conditions and general attitude—is what we have helped to create.  Whether by commission or omission, our workplace is what we’ve made it.

We want a supportive, inspiring, positive environment. We want fulfillment and advancement. We want freedom. But who will create that if we don’t?

Who will shine bright if I won’t?

“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can,”—Sir Sidney Smith.

Why Christians Should Make the Best Employees

As a Christian, realizing your coworker has the same faith can be like finding a fellow countryman in a strange land—an instant connection.

But sometimes a coworker claimed to believe as I and hoped no one else knew. I remember one young guy I worked with who was often late, disappeared once for a few days (he said later he was sick), and was laughed at behind his back because he was lazy, stupid, and couldn’t be relied on to do his job well.

And then I found out he was quitting to go work at a Christian camp. I cringed.

Another time, a coworker was telling me a humorous story about another guy who used to work there who, while out in the field, would hide his vehicle and take a nap. My coworker caught him because he forgot to turn off the flashing beacon on the vehicle. He told me his name and my heart sank. I’d gone to Bible School with him.

Neither of these are isolated incidents in my short career.

It shouldn’t be this way. Christians should be the best employees. Why?

We are Ambassadors of Christ

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (1 Corinthians 5:20 NIV).

I’ve been drilled since childhood: we need to share the Gospel with our friends. But if we do not display the results of the Gospel in our lives, why should they listen to us?

Excuse me, but the fruit of the spirit is not laziness, tardiness, abrasiveness and irresponsibility. If we cannot be trusted, if the supervisor has to correct us constantly, if we take longer breaks than is our due, if we gossip and engage in political games, what proof of the Gospel is there? Faith without works is dead.

By being the example of an excellent employee, we build our platform for witness.

Work is our Divine Mission

Paul said to the slaves in Ephesus (a position more like the typical employee of our day and less like the North American slavery we are accustomed to reading about) that they should obey their earthy masters with respect and with sincerity of heart, “Not only to win their favour when their eye is on your, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord,” (Ephesians 6:5-8 NIV).

Do you see what he says? “Doing the will of God from your heart.” Your work—God’s will. We serve wholeheartedly, because God has given us a job to do, and he is our true master. Even before the fall of mankind, Adam was given work to do. Work is not a punishment, but a mission.

God is leading me to see my job as a sacred calling: yes, manufacturing pharmaceuticals, a divine appointment. Every day when I walk into production and look at the board for my assignment, it isn’t just my supervisor who has given me that task, but God—my true master. Whatever I am doing, I must do it well. Whoever I am working with, I must bless.

I like calling it an assignment.  It makes me feel like a secret agent.

It’s far harder to do than to say, because by definition, excellence requires going against the current. And the current sure is strong in my workplace.  It seems I’ve failed just as many times as I’ve succeeded.  But it is fulfilling to know that my job in manufacturing is just as important as my job as a Sunday school teacher.

Your work is your mission field.

I hope to flesh this topic out further in the next couple of weeks, with the intention to write a more comprehensive ‘theology of work’. Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay on the subject, called “Why Work.” It is challenging, but incredibly affirming for those of us who don’t work in traditional Christian ‘ministries.’