Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Art of Balance

Here are the top 3 reasons that I have printed a half-dozen paintings and taped them to the office wall facing my desk. Each print is between two and five inches in each dimension.

(1) My sister Gina is a trained artist and I've received from her a refined appreciation for artwork.

(2) In most of my work, "good" is defined objectively and precisely, e.g., by exceeding a numerical threshold or satisfying a set of criteria. I think that the art on my wall is also "good," albeit in a totally different way, and I think that this balance is important.

(3) I've chosen a few paintings, like "A Farmer's Garden in Simsbury" (Thomas Worthington Whittredge, 1875), which express work in a way that balances my work in a different way. During the day, I don't till the soil or pick out weeds. But I like to recall the connection between such physical toil and my own intellectual toil.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pro-Life Colleagues

Of the forty members of my group (including me),

* 3 have children in-utero
* 5 more have had children born within the last year
* 4 others have had children born within the last two years

This means that thirty percent of the group has a child younger than two years old.

Hooray for the youngsters! Hooray for their parents!

I know that my parents sometimes received flak for having five children. I will do my best to support my colleagues who are having children (while waiting for my own turn).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adding a Song to the Message

Seemingly, part of building relationships with one's office colleagues is "sharing a part" of oneself with them.

On my personal telephone, I have a singing voice mail message, which changes according to the time of the year or my own personal interests at the time.

E.g., my current voice mail message on my personal telephone is set to the tune of "Johnny Appleseed":
The Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me
The things I need,
The sun and the rain, and an
Answering machine!
The Lord is good to me.
Many people who call seem to like these singing messages.

What if I had a singing message for my work phone? Over the years, I've developed plenty of answering machine jingles with content that would be completely "office-appropriate." E.g., to the tune of the Chili's baby back ribs commercial:
If you leave a message, I will
Call you back, call you back, call you back.
Please leave a message
And I'll call you back.
Some could argue that this would be completely unprofessional. But I think that it would bring a smile to my colleagues.

Note: You may recall that my current office voice mail message already gotten positive reviews. C.f., my 06May11 post. How much more would be gained by adding a song?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hallway Encouragement

I have known that my colleague "Agnes" was Catholic. But we'd rarely discussed our faith.

Today, though, out of the blue, she sent me a message with the subject "Fw: Marriage in Maryland Needs Your Support Now."

Preceding a detailed request from the Maryland Catholic Conference, she included a brief note:
Phil, Not sure if you if support this point of view but if you do make your voice heard. Agnes
I think that it is very good to be able to share perspectives on this kind of issue with colleagues, and to be able to support each other even at work.

Therefore, I was very pleased to receive Agnes' message.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Extra Ounce

I had a pretty disappointing weekend, during which some exchanges didn't work out at all as I had wanted, and right now I am feeling fairly glum. I didn't sleep well last night and I'm physically and emotionally weary. While my work provides some welcome distraction, in an office by myself is one of the last places where I want to be.

There is a temptation for me to allow this restlessness to trickle into my interactions with my colleagues. Or, even if I am able to maintain a professional level of courtesy and attention, I feel like I'm on a steep slope of not bothering to seek to treat them with the love of Christ.

On the other hand, however, I suppose that it is possible that my sufferings could actually enhance my efforts to treat them with Christ's love. In a sense, my sufferings could be an "extra ounce" to add to specific efforts to show them respect, genuineness, and concern.

Amidst my tough times, I have decided that I am offering my sufferings to the Lord's "discretionary fund," to be used for the benefit of whoever He wishes - and I suspect that it is possible that some of my colleagues could be among the recipients.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Being "The Guy Who ..."

Yesterday morning, I went through the wringer as I gave a dry run of a presentation to my colleagues. They were picky as could be - They didn't like the size of the plots, the style of the font, the order of the slides.

Their critique ultimately will help me to prepare for the external presentation that I am scheduled to give next month. But it is nevertheless somewhat overwhelming.

About halfway through the ninety minutes of scrutiny, I felt about ready to call it quits. "OK folks, I get the point, I need to completely start it over, Can we just skip the last ten slides? I'm ready to go check my email and eat lunch." At least temporarily, I wanted to forget that this presentation existed at all.

But then I took a deep breath. Trying to be an undercover missionary makes these situations a little different.

It is bad enough to possibly be "the guy who has a prayer card on his office wall, but is incompetent at presentations." But now I was also on the verge of being "the guy who has a prayer card on his office wall, is incompetent at presentations, and also gives up in the face of criticism."

Instead, I would rather be "the guy who has the prayer card on his office wall, might not be perfect at first, but works hard to do his best." So I did my best to attentively field their suggestions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Commonplace Praise

Months ago, my sister Gina gave me a book called "Abandonment to Divine Providence" and insisted that I should read it. I started to read it, but only made it few a few dozen pages.

This evening, I restarted reading that book. In the very first reflection, Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade includes a comment on the Blessed Mother that caught my attention:
No matter what her jobs were - ordinary, commonplace, or seemingly more important ones - they revealed to her, sometimes quite clearly, sometimes obscurely, the activity of the Almighty and were an opportunity for her to praise God.
Tomorrow at work, when it seems as though my jobs are ordinary or commonplace, I will try to be attentive anew to the activity of the Almighty and to allow those jobs to bring praise to Him.