Fallen Tree

Days passed. As they did, the demise of the felled tree in the neighboring house’s back yard became more and more apparent. The leaves turned a triumphant gold before withering to brown and wilting to the ground. The remnants of crab apples clung to the dead and dying branches, their last chance at life, withering hopelessly as they clung.

Our neighbor had died some months ago, and while the yard was still being kept, nothing was done to remove the old fallen crab apple tree from the yard for several weeks. I inspected the thing the day after it fell. During a storm, the night before, the winds had howled ominously and the rain beat the ground hard, as if the earth its self had committed some kind of terrible crime they sky could not, and would not forgive. It was no punishment for the ground, despite the violence, because the ground took in the water, practically dying of thirst from the many dry and hot days that came before the storm’s relief.

I contemplated the dying tree as I sat with a large cup of tea in one hand, and my feet planted firmly on the freshly cut grass. How long until all things fall and die? How long did that tree stand for before it’s unexpected demise? How long had the old widow next door (who I can say I never saw nor met) lived in that house and for how long alone? I could not and cannot say. We saw the ambulance take her away, and heard from another neighbor she had passed.

She was as much a mystery to me as her death. No. As death itself.

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A Really Bad Dr. Visit

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At Work

Today was not all it could have been. While I was paying attention to our task list at work before July 4th, others were requesting their vacation time for the rest of the week, including the higher ups who were more focused on their time off than realizing we needed direction on a package design that has artwork due this coming Tuesday. So without direction, with myself and one other designer in for the rest of the week, and employee photos to do all day today and Friday…I can feel myself panicking a little.

I actually stand corrected. I’m here alone for the graphics team tomorrow. And I have a list a mile long for employee photos and other things that need doing, but require approval from my management…who are all on vacation until Monday. When I am not here.

On Monday, I’ll be at the doctors office in the morning and taking the rest of the day to recover from the doctor appointment…which exhausts me to think about. So, I, team member who is doing the food styling and photography for the panel images, is not going to be around to even start the project. Which means that the day the packaging is due…is the only day all of us are back from our vacation time and can actually talk about the design and process, much less get groceries, do the shoot, and finalize the images in photoshop.

It wouldn’t be such an issue if the images did not require food styling. I was never trained in food styling, and my boss and coworkers are satisfied with my work, but because I am not experienced in it, I feel like I take such a long time to do things that my photo shoots for the front and back panels of our packaging take me all day to do. So of course my anxiety is higher than ever knowing our time crunch and many obstacles.

My coworker has been doing her best to calm me down. She keeps telling me “How can we move forward without a direction from the higher ups?” And “It really isn’t any of our faults that everyone took vacation on us without prioritizing tasks.” Not that it’s really helping. Because normally the graphics team is the last brick in the wall, and until that brick is placed, the wall isn’t complete. Us being behind, no matter who held up the process before the graphics team was even involved, means production is held up…and it ends up being our fault. So we get shafted. Which sucks.

So as I sit down here, waiting for employees to come to the photo studio for their photos to be taken, I cannot help but sit in a puddle of sweat, both from the heat and anxiety. Especially when the employees don’t show up for their photo and I have to fight with myself over if it’s really worth it to be doing the shoots today. Especially with so many people unexpectedly on vacation.

Here’s to hoping today and tomorrow go quickly.

Unhelpful Criticism

“I don’t mean to use such harsh words, but this look like something our China team would come up with.”

Please tell me what in this phrase is a helpful direction? What does that even mean? I guess you would have to be a racist to know.

Clearly, my boss really struggles with giving constructive criticism.

This particular phrase really bothers me, firstly, because it speaks badly of a team that the owners of the company chose to work with overseas and that we are trying to have good communication and relationship with. I haven’t ever seen our China team come up with a design, and if they work for us and were chosen by our leadership, why are you insulting them? Aren’t we all working for the same goal? Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side? Saying things like this puts a bad taste in the domestic team’s mouth and just makes you look racist.

Secondly, “don’t mean to use harsh words,” is not an excuse to then use the harsh words. You do mean to use them. We all know it. It only makes people more aware of how much you actually mean to use and are going to use harsh words. It means you are aware of how you sound. It means the words you have chosen to use, were selected and intentional to be harsh and you know it. Foolishly, you are trying to remove yourself from your own responsibility, which is an indicator of bad leadership. To be a leader is to have responsibility, and to show you wish to remove yourself from the responsibility of your position and the tact you know you ought to have while holding it lessens your dependability.

Constructive criticism doesn’t use “I” or “Me” statements. It explains why a design or photograph does or doesn’t work based off of brand goals and statements. It doesn’t use insulting analogies. It builds up where it needs to and it makes helpful….emphasis on helpful…suggestions to give a better direction.

Consider this a public service announcement.

Memorial Day Weekend

Milwaukee is not an area I’m very familiar with, and since the accident I was not very willing to drive on the interstate to get there. Still, we had made plans. Plans to visit our friends who had just bought a house and desperately wanted us to come see it since we had gone for so long without being able to see them all winter because of bad weather. I told my husband I didn’t want to drive. I always drove and after the accident I wasn’t ready. He said he would as long as we found a route that would get us there that didn’t involve the interstate he would do it.

We found a route but it was adding nearly an hour and a half to our trip. I pleaded with him since the weather was nice and there was ardor traffic that the interstate wasn’t a bad ride, that only if he tried it it wouldn’t be that bad. It really wasn’t. I told him I’d even drive it he felt like he couldn’t because I was so certain that the route the gps was taking us was just over the top too far.

“I’ll get on the interstate.”

So he did, and I was so proud of him.

The hard part for me was trying to figure out how to encourage him, without inflating his ego. Driving on the interstate is something very normal. It really doesn’t feel like something a person ought to be praised for. Yet, I knew it would be something he ought to be praised for to encourage him to do it again. I talked to him about it a bit.

“Baby, I’m really proud of you and want to encourage you to drive more on the interstate, but I also don’t want you to think that driving on the interstate is a big deal in general. It’s actually a pretty normal thing that people do and fairly frequently. I don’t want you to think you’re some kind of hero for doing it.”

I worded it poorly I know I did. It I didn’t know how else to say it. He didn’t seem completely deflated by the statement, but I could tell I had put him off a bit. I ended up driving us home after our overnight with friends, and what a drive home it had been.

Of course, once again we hit some freak rain, and it was just as hard as the day we had our accident. I breathed deeply and pushed through though. Dropping my speed and making everyone go around me. Then suddenly, the semi in front of us hydroplaned into the ditch, which of course got me shaking and nearly in tears, but I pushed through going ten under the speed limit until the rain subsided. My husband offered to drive after that, but I was white knuckling the wheel so hard that I just told him I’d take us the rest of the way home. Just to prove to myself that I could.

The situation made me swallow my words to my husband earlier. Maybe a person is a hero for driving on the interstate? Maybe people don’t do it all the time? It’s terrifying. The speeds are high. The weather can be treacherous. The drivers can be more so. The whole circumstance not only made me realize how hard it can be, but just how much I had been affected from the accident and how much I needed to have that moment in the rain to prove to myself that I could do it again. Just like my husband did when driving us to our friends house.

I had belittled his bravery as well as my own, and done a disservice to both our psyches. Needless to say, we are healing as much as we can considering how near to us the accident is, having only been a couple weeks ago.

An Ideal Accident III

The more I reflect on the accident and the more my husband and I talk about it, the more we find to be thankful for.

This is probably really odd to say, but it’s too true to ignore and we can only attribute it to small miracles and God’s protection.

One of the first miracles was that we were not hurt. Every time I think about the accident I consider all the things that could have gone wrong and didn’t. No gas leaks. No broken glass. No air bags went off to cause us further injury. We made it out alright all things considered. Minor bumps no some whiplash that is being dealt with and healing nicely.

Another miracle was having the accident just over the border from a no-fault state. Had we been a couple miles behind where the accident occurred we probably would have been slammed with a ticket or twelve (especially for being an out-of-state plate). Not to mention we were close enough to family that we could get off the road and moving forward to home right away without either of us having to drive in our shaken state since my aunt drove us to meet my dad half way at a job site he just happened to have near that area.

With how busy that road was….we never hit anyone else. That never ceases to amaze me when I saw how many people were around me as I was losing control trying to hold my lane. Because when we stopped spinning it was like all the traffic was gone suddenly. The road was clear for a while as we got out and assessed the damage. That makes no sense outside of supernatural to me because there were lines and lines of cars around me and behind me and then suddenly none. Even as we assessed the damage of our car in the rain, there were suddenly few to no cars so we could be safe for a little while.

The insurance has been easy. Words I never thought I’d ever say. Mostly because of no other vehicles being involved. In two weeks we have money in our hands to get the vehicle we need with more coming once it has been purchased. We have no expenses being charged to us because the deductible was met. We got no tickets because the accident was an “act of God.”

I’m not sure if the accident was an act of God, but everything else certainly was. Certainly the circumstances surrounding it were. The people who came into our situation to help us out, the “coincidences” and the timing were all too perfect to be accidental. My husband and I have found a great deal of growth in this struggle, and it has been a blessing, even while difficult. I’m learning to be more giving when organizing how each of us will get to and from work. My husband is learning to adapt, communicate, and make hard decisions…all things he has struggled with in the past. I’m learning to set limitations for myself, which have been good, and hard for me because of the pain in my neck and back. I’m usually all go, and this has made me slow down as having only one vehicle has done as well.

Another miracle has been how my husband and I have been able to have consistent work schedules that are so similar and jobs so close to one another, that we have had no issues with having only one vehicle. Yes, there is a bit less freedom in it, but it has been good for us to learn how to plan better and organize our days more to get us to the places we needed or wanted to be. It also makes us spend way more time together and we’ve been growing our communication because of it.

In all, things have been okay, now we face finding a car for my husband before winter, which while a while away, really isn’t as far off as it seems. I hope that goes as smoothly as everything else has.