Friday, September 15, 2006

Oliver With A Twist

Last weekend my son and I found a two week-old baby squirrel in our front yard. Our cat, Chloe, was curled up around him trying to tend to and protect him. At first we thought she had caught the squirrel as her prey and was proudly presenting him to us. Interestingly enough, this was not the case. Chloe, like us, was concerned about our new baby friend and wanted to ensure his safety. It was quite sweet watching her be so protective and maternal.

After several calls to known animal groups and researching the care of baby squirrels on the internet, my son and I placed our new house guest in a deep, open box with towels and a few almonds. The poor little creature was terrified out of his mind, but after a few hours of allowing him to acclimate to his state of the art cardbox box house, he became a little more trusting of us. We were instructed to feed him (oh, yes, it's a boy and a proud one at that) a puppy formula called Esbilac. It's been the cutest thing watching him nurse from the bottle and then wash his little face afterward. I broke down and bought him a moderate cage and some fun treats. We also decided to name him Oliver Twist, given he was technically an orphan. He's been a delight to care for this past week. According to our sources, when Oliver is about eight weeks old, we can release him back into the wild. "The Wild" being our lovely suburban street with high end homes and an ample supply of gorgeous trees to run up and down. Poor little guy.

We're enjoying our temporary house guest. He's been an absolute delight and I can now add caring for a squirrel to my list of accomplishments.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tending Our Friendship Garden

One of my favorite pastimes is gardening. There’s something immensely satisfying when you can have this wonderful sychronicity with nature that results in a lush, beautiful garden. In the quiet, tranquility of my garden last week, I began to reflect on several of my friendships, their impact my life and vice versa. The more I contemplated my relationships, and the more I tended to my garden, the more a gardening analogy took place.

In tending to our friendship garden we first need to understand the nature of each friend we are privileged to have. Like flowers, our friends come in varying varieties. Once we understand the individual nature of our friends, the better equipped we are to be the kind of friend they need in return.

Our perennial friends are always in full bloom, bringing a continued robust beauty and charm to our lives. They exist through self-renewal. Through thick and thin we can count on our perennial friends to be available, day after day. They are delightful, and bountiful by nature. Because of their loyalty and steadfastness, we place our trust and devotion in our perennial friends and they us. We admire and are endeared to our perennial friendships and value greatly their influence on our lives.

Our annual friends are those with whom we see primarily during life events (i.e. holidays, weddings, birth of a child, etc.). Our annual friends bring a vigorous beauty when they are present in our lives. We savor their presence and appeal during the narrow window of time we have with them. They add value to our lives, but in small snippets. We love them and look forward to their next blooming in our lives.

Our exotic friends are those who bring a unique diversity to our lives. They are bold and exquisitely gorgeous. They teach us to look beyond the ordinary. We see the world through different eyes due to the impact of our exotic friends. Whether they’re of a different culture, sexual preference or mindset, we embrace them wholly. We delight in their ability to provide us with a new paradigm.

Desert Flowers
Our desert flower friends are those who bring a harsh and sometimes barren element to our lives. Our desert flower friends have many redeeming qualities, which is why we put up with their coarse nature, but they are clearly a challenge to maintain. They may have a prickly exterior, can be excruciatingly judgmental or opinionated. They have a harsh exterior due to painful life circumstances, yet they are survivors because they have weathered such incredibly harsh conditions. You admire them for their strength to survive and search diligently to find the tenderness amongst the thorns. Our interaction with our desert friends tends to be limited due to the protective barriers they put up. Yet, we acknowledge that despite their tough exterior that eventually a beautiful desert flower will emerge and we hold steadfast to share in that day.

We all have weed friends. These are the friends we politely need to weed from our lives. They are toxic, time consuming in non-productive ways, and highly annoying, altering the overall beauty of our friendship garden. Our weed friends serve no purpose and add zero value to our lives. Weed friends will continually make themselves known in our live, but the sooner we weed them out, the better and more plentiful our friendship gardens will grow.

Our network of friends is vital. For some they are our lifeline. For many they are our families. The types of friends we have in our friendship garden will speak volumes to the nurturing and care we invest in these relationships. What kind of flower would you consider yourself to be in your friends’ gardens? Are you loyal, dependable, and add value and beauty to your relationships or are you toxic, harsh and require meticulous understanding? How we conduct ourselves in our friendships will determine the overall beauty of the relationship. That reminds me, it's time to trim the rose bushes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Having a Strong Work Ethic

My pastor preached a sermon this past Sunday on "work ethic". This is a subject dear to my heart for several reasons. One of which, I'm a recruiter by trade and look for top talent across the globe in virtually every discipline. Two -- I come from a long line of hard working individuals. My dad worked tirelessly for over 30 years for the same company. The only time he took a sick day was when he had a heart attack and that was only because he was strapped to an operating table and my mom and I had confiscated his keys.

As a recruiter, I have the unique opportunity to speak with scary smart, creative, cutting edge individuals who are shaping the future of our businesses. I love the intellectual stimulus my craft affords me. I get a high of sorts speaking with hard working, innovative candidates and hiring managers, and when I'm able to match the right candidate with the right job opportunity. It's intensely satisfying to know you had a hand in defining someone's career path as well as the future of your client's company.

There is one particular recruiting story that I've always held dear. I was working for a utilities client and had been tasked with hiring about 35 armed guards. These are the dudes with the AK47's. The recruiting process is grueling for the candidates with written and shoot tests to be performed to the highest of standards. The job itself isn't that sexy. The main focus is to stand guard. No laptops, no corporate in-house environment, no desk or cubical space or fancy office; just standing hour after hour, with weapon in hand, guarding the facility.

Several of the candidate's I hired were from the local marine base. These were soldiers who were rolling off their tour of duty. Soldiers who had seen battle, soldiers who put their lives on the line, soldiers who were not afraid of hard work.

One evening I called one of the candidate's to give him an offer. We were paying a whopping $16.00 an hour. Again, this was a former Marine of the United States who had endured battle. When I gave him the offer, he started to cry and it took him a moment to pull himself together. I thought it was due to the low salary, but I was wrong. He cried because he had been praying for a new job. His wife had just had a baby and he wasn't sure how they were going to make ends meet now that he was no longer with the military. He promised me that he would be the hardest working armed guard I’d ever hired and that I would not be disappointed that I hired him. I was humbled and moved by his gratitude. He made such an indelible impression on me that I've never forgotten it to this day. I've made offers in the several hundreds of thousands, with equity, stock options, benefits galore and every kind of perk you can imagine and not seen as much sincere gratitude as I did from this man. Additionally, he provoked me to be a better recruiter and to always keep my work ethic in check.

When I went to bed that evening I was proud to have had a hand in helping this man know that he and his family were going to make it. Yes, I had a part in the process, but he would never have been selected if it weren't for his hard work ethic and stellar military record. He's crossed my mind several times over the years. Usually when I'm on the phone with an MBA candidate who wants $150K base salary with only one year of relevant work experience. I can't help but shake my head in disbelief.

I'm thankful for the examples of hard work I grew up with and continue to come in contact with day to day. As my pastor repeatedly said this past Sunday, hard work is not a curse, but a blessing. I'm thankful I'm in a profession that allows me to witness this on a daily basis. A profession that also keeps me challenged to work hard and give it my all. I have a son who watches everything I do and my work ethic is part of the legacy I'm handing down to him. How I work today will determine how hard he works in the future. In a way, my work today will affect the future. Now that's a great benefit!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Grand Canyon

My son, Stephen, and I recently took a trip to The Grand Canyon. We try to plan two family vacations a year. This was our big end of the school year bonanza. Given my son is a major train enthusiast we decided to use this form of transportation for our journey to The Grand Canyon.

We boarded our Amtrak sleeper car at 6:00 p.m. By 6:04 p.m., my son had already unpacked and was giddy with excitement in his bunk. It was endearing to watch his exhilaration. As our train pulled out of the station, Stephen was completely charged-up and exclaiming repeatedly, “We’re moving! Mommy, we’re moving!”

The train ride to William’s Junction was about 12 hours. Stephen slept about 13 minutes and was diligent about waking me every 20 minutes to show me a passing train or grazing cow. I had considered Benedryl, or perhaps slipping a rufy in his apple juice, but forewent the thought hoping that eventually he’d wear his little buns out on the sheer bliss of the evening. NOT. We arrived in William’s Junction around 6:00 a.m., exhausted, hungry and in serious need of a shower. Once we arrived at our hotel Stephen and I immediately passed out in our respective beds. Once we awoke, six hours later, we spent the remainder of the day, swimming, walking, shopping and enjoying the sites.

The following morning we were off to The Grand Canyon. We boarded this quaint, old steamer train. Along the way we saw cows, elk and the local sheriff. He went through each car and regaled everyone in western sing-along’s. It truly brought out the red-neck in all of us. About an hour into the ride we were accosted by train robbers which led to a bloodless shoot-out with the sheriff.

FINALLY, after two days of train rides, a Mitch Miller sing-a-long, and a train robbery, we had reached our intended destination. The Grand Canyon! We were instructed to carefully climb a small flight of stairs that would eventually lead us right to the Canyon’s edge. With cameras and water bottles in tow, we sprinted like puma up the stairs to the top and then there, … there she was. In all of her beauty, color, and splendor! We had come face to face with one of the modern seven wonders of the world. I held Stephen close as we simultaneously embraced the majestic canvas before us. I believe we both uttered something profound like, “Whoa”. The moment was both surreal and humbling. You can’t help but be enraptured by the colors, magnitude and grandeur of the canyon’s landscape. Stephen and I stood for what seemed like hours just taking in the exquisite creation before us. It’s astounding how inspiring nature can become. She does nothing but BE and we are in awe.

My son and I spent two day exploring this great chasm, making new friends, and learning about how the canyon came into being. It is said that the canyon does not need man, but that man needs the canyon. It's true. My son and I needed this time together, exploring, bonding, and slowing our lives down enough to appreciate the beauty around us. There were countless “Wow” moments where I encouraged Stephen to drink them in and keep a mental snapshot.

One such moment, which was by far my most special of the entire trip, was during our train ride back to LA. It was around 3:00 a.m. Stephen was snuggled with me in my (very, very tiny) bunk. We were gazing out at the celestial night sky. Thousand upon thousands of stars sparkled and danced in the heavens. The moment was magical. We were in absolute awe at the beauty before us. Stephen grabbed my hand and said “Mom, I’ll never forget this night.” I was touched by my son’s genuine appreciation for “The Moment”. I too will never forget that night. It was special in so many ways. During the entirety of our trip we saw many wonderful sites and came away with a deeper affection for nature and, more importantly, each other. They say that life should not be counted by how many breathes you take per moment, but by how many moments take your breath away. These four days with my son were saturated with “take your breath away moments”. Moments that will forever be etched in my heart. Moments that have become tender memories of our special time together; moments that were truly, well… Grand!