Room for Improvement

I have said that the first casino company I worked for was awesome because they developed me.  They brought me along.  I was given opportunities that were beyond me, and given mentors to learn from.  I had a really good career there.  As I was exposed to other companies, I realized not everyone does this.

Today, I had that kind of day at my current employer.  I was given the opportunity to develop new behaviors, become aware of some skill gaps, and in the long run, be a better leader.

I am considered a fairly successful speaker/trainer/facilitator.  I worked hard at it years ago with my first training job, was open to feedback anyone would give me on my presentations, and have never forgotten the best piece of advice I was given when presenting: Have I earned the right to be in front of that group today?  That means, did I prepare?  Understand their roles?  Understand what their day is like?  Understand what they see and hear and think on the job – where are the constraints, etc.  I know my material, I anticipate questions, and I often do some discretionary research so I can drop in interesting facts or stories.  (Did you know Bill Harrah was the first person to put carpet on the casino floor?  Did you know the creator of the DiSC profile created the lie detector test? Fun facts!)  Recently, I’ve given a string of key note addresses to large internal groups of leaders.  My presence was specifically requested.

That last sentence sounds braggy.  I don’t mean it.  I say it to illustrate the point that I am considered to be a successful speaker.

Guys.  I’m not that great.

For the last two days I’ve been in an intense “speaking with impact” workshop.  The audience was a small group of Sr. Consultants or Business Directors.  There were eight presentations recorded, three 1-1 feedback sessions, 3 in the moment group feedback sessions, seven on the fly presentations, one planned presentation and did I mention the recordings?

I have recorded myself before.  I have had job interviews that were audition based and I recorded myself before those to watch and learn.  At Prosci training this past February we were recorded and did group playback.  I get it.  It’s effective.

New groups of peers do intimdate me.  There were some presentations I felt I could barely string two sentences together because I was also focused on posture, gesture, volume, inflection, what I do with my face, the weird thing my eyes do while I’m talking, how much I’m walking around the front of the room and how much “eye connection” (not eye contact – that is soo last season) I’m making.

I used to think I was good. Then I saw the tapes.  Now, I just think I have a lot of quirky presentation qualities.  But none more obnoxious (to me) than the T-Rex arms.  I gesture a lot with my hands, but I keep my elbows locked at my sides.  All I could see was this scene from the movie Meet the Robinsons:

To this day I still refer to poorly thought out plans as “little arms plans.”

So much of the advice and guidelines the facilitators gave was familiar.  I know that some of it I’ve heard before.  I had this moment where I thought, “I’ve forgotten more about great presenting than some people will ever know!”  They did this bit about handling hostile/resistant meeting participants and that’s my thing!  I was the best at coaching leaders on handling resistance.  I wrote the model for my last casino company!  I can talk about that with some sense of expertise.  Until I got in front of this group.

Ultimately, it’s good news.  I have some very actionable things to work on.  I have increased awareness.

I realize I’ve started to speak like I write.  It doesn’t take long to realize I write run on sentences, use a lot of ands, elipses, and parenthetical references.  Other than the t-rex arms, that is what I’m taking away the most.  Create more, succinct sentences.  Stop adding connector words and phrases.

“You know what the trick is?

No, what?

You gotta make it shorter!”  (One of my most quoted Sports Night bits – just for fun.)

Benny Batch, Hans Gruber and me

I asked my sister what I should do for dinner Friday night and her response was takeout while watching Sherlock Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. I thought that sounded like as good a suggestion as any. The show is on my watch list and no time like the present. The show is good, but not a binge watching show for me. I watched two episodes Friday night and can see how they might all be a little bit the same. Space is needed between episodes.  This does get me incredibly excited about Benny’s upcoming movie, The Imitation Game.  I think he’s great, I can just see how the plots of Sherlock are going to get redundant.

Saturday I finished wrapping all the presents. I made a Christmas cookie staple, Cyndi’s Amaretto chocolate chip cookie.

Coconut!  Almonds!  Amaretto!

Coconut! Almonds! Amaretto!

Holiday tradition also dictates that I post this picture of the recipe.  Cyndi often comments that she does not like this picture.

Holiday tradition also dictates that I post this picture of the recipe. Cyndi often comments that she does not like this picture.

To even things up this year, I"ll post what I look like while making the cookies Saturday morning.

To even things up this year, I”ll post what I look like while making the cookies Saturday morning. Looking good, Sarah.

Saturday afternoon I had plans to attend a Die Hard trilogy viewing party.  Having never seen any of the Die Hard movies, I knew for sure I had to go watch the first one.  I had every intention of watching the first one and then moving on with my day – leaving the remainder of the trilogy to the Die Hard fans (see what I did there?! No?  Okay…).  Turns out a Die Hard trilogy viewing party can actually be a pretty good time, especially when accompanied by fun people and all the beer in Central Ohio, of which I drank my fair share of.

I can’t tell a lie.  My fair share of all the beer in Central Ohio did not make Die Hard a good movie.  I enjoyed watching, but mostly because young Alan Rickman is kind of hot.  Must find man with husky British accent.  I know this movie is the father of modern action movies.  So many of my favorite pop culture things reference Die Hard.  Both Friends and HIMYM make significant references to it.  I really wanted to feel a connection.  Mostly, I just had a lot of fun watching it.  We moved onto Die Hard 3 (apparently Die Hard 2 is no bueno, and we were not allowed to speak of Live Free or Die Hard at any time, lest you be pelted with candy and verbally assaulted.  All in good fun.).  After the two Die Hards we watched Speed.  At this point, everyone watching has had their fair share of beer and that makes Keanu’s acting amazing.  Speed is really good, guys.

Sunday started as per usual – coffee, newspaper, slight hangover.  (Changes coming in 2015 on that – I promise.)

It continued with something I’ve been saying I wanted to do for a year – find a local theatre group and go see a play.  My pal Jenn sent a link to a small theatre company, the Available Light Theatre, and the show they are doing now called, She Kills Monsters.  The show description said it was about a girl in the early 90’s who was a geek and a gamer.  I like geeky stuff, it sounded fun.  The show was 1000 times better than the description of the show.  I’m so happy we went to see it.  It was touching, it was funny, and it was relevant.  I loved it, loved seeing some live theatre, love a little eager theatre group.  In the spirit of theme days, after the show my group went to the board game bar, KingMakers.  This was my second trip there (the first was a blind date – and while the date was a dud – it made for good first date activity.)  There are board game attendants and they have a library of more than 500 games.  I had no idea how interesting or complex board games could get.  We played one called King of Tokyo last night.  I won both rounds.  Not to brag…. but I did.  I had a good strategy – everyone else wanted their Godzilla monster to attack all the time – I let my empire slowly build and then attacked like mad once I was fortified.  Duh.  Basic King of Tokyo strategy.  Dinner at my favorite taco place in town wrapped up a great night.

I also got my first Christmas present last night!  Jenn and Shawn are doing their part to make me a proud Ohioan:

New necklace!

New necklace!


Fat cat in a little sweater

I did something a little mean yesterday.

I intentionally made Oliver look silly for my own amusement.

Years ago when he was a little cat, I bought this Christmas sweater for him.  It is the one and only piece of clothing I’ve ever bought for either of the cats.  He was too wriggly for me to ever get it on him and I forgot all about it.  I’ve been pulling out all the Christmas decorations, finishing the house this weekend and I ran across it.  He’s older and easier to manipulate now.  I thought I’d put him in it.  Well, Oliver is bigger than he was when I bought the sweater…

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

I couldn’t help but hear the “fat guy in a little coat” scene…

Oliver was not so happy with the sweater.  He stumbled off the couch cushion and tried to wriggle his way out of it.  I was nearly in tears laughing.

Sooo mean of me.

Fat cat in a little sweater...

Fat cat in a little sweater…

Poor Oliver

Poor Oliver

I took it off a minute later and will retire the Christmas sweater forever.  My one and only foray into pet clothing.

I wouldn’t dare even try with Quinn.  Look at that face – she does not care for ugly Christmas sweaters or shenanigans of any kind.

She's a lady.

She’s a lady.

I did actually get the rest of the decorations out after that.  All is merry here.  All is bright.


And then one day…

Last month a dear friend from my Louisiana days posted a note on Facebook about a sermon she recalled from years ago.   The pastor had spoken about what happens when that “and then one day” moment happens…  You know the kind, you’re going along, happy as a clam and then one day you get news that shakes up your life.   It might be news that is amazing and remarkable.  It might be news that wrecks you, tests your faith, and seems insurmountable.  How do we react to these “and then one days”?

That dear friend was struggling with a bad news kind of one day and I’ve been thinking about her ever since.   This week I’ve had two  friends who have been dealing with their own “and then one day” moment, also both of the bad news variety.   Last month I got a “and then one day” moment with the phone call telling me the new job was mine.   Clearly, a good news situation.  But I can’t help think of how soon things can change.  How abruptly your life can change.  How we never know when the biggest days of our life are going to happen.

It made me think about some of the “and then one day” moments of my past, days that one piece of news changed things…

  • I was just having breakfast in the dorms…and then one day a friend’s roommate joined us and told me about the Disney Internship program
  • I was just running errands with mom…and then I heard dad had 6 months to live
  • I was just reading the paper in my underwear… and then one day Ex Hubs proposed
  • I was just walking in the door after work… and then one day Ex Hubs told me he wanted to move to Louisiana
  • I was just binge watching Grey’s Anatomy…and then day an old colleague emailed me about a job opening at the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission
  • I was just trying to keep my head down and do a job…and then one day I accepted a new co-worker’s offer of getting lunch
  • I was just finishing training New Hire Orientation and on my way to a follow up meeting…and then one day I stopped in my boss’s office on and got fired
  • I was just packaging chocolate at Kakao… and then day I got a call from BGSU about grad school
  • I was just bombing some project manager interviews…and then one day I finally got 10 minutes with the hiring manager and got the dream gig in Columbus

I didn’t wake up any of those mornings expecting the news I got that day.  And it’s nice to think about the amazing surprises that are headed our way, but with the recent bad news surprises my friends have been dealt it’s that side of the spectrum I’m thinking of.  A couple years ago I read Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project book and she talked about the time to prepare for the unexpected was when things were normal.  You can’t start saving after you lose the job.  You don’t want to try and find the paperwork when there’s an emergency.  I’m motivated to try and be more prepared where I can.  Get organized.  Take better care of me in so many respects.  Finally make that list of accounts and passwords that I keep meaning to make just in case “and then one day” strikes.  I’m probably not about to become a doomsday prepper or anything.  I’m just saying, I could probably do more to be able to enjoy the good days and be prepared for the scary “one days.”

Twas the night before December…

Twas the night before December, and all through the house,

the long weekend passed by, last Wednesday I hardly remember;

This could be due to the hefty cold I had,

I can hardly recall a time I felt so bad;

I slept from Wednesday at 2 for 24 hours,

Thanksgiving morning (my favorite!) restoring few of my powers;

I read the paper and started a fire,

my half cord of wood allowing enough for a pyre;

the Macy’s parade went by in a hurry,

while dancing girls did kicks and snow did flurry;


The fridge was stocked with Thanksgiving food,

the big question is: am I in a cooking mood?

At 3pm I decided to bear it,

if I was going to get that turkey cooked I needed to start lickety split;

From turkey in the oven to pie in the fridge,

plus five additional sides, did I over-make a smidge?

Sprouts from Brussels and my favorite stuffing,

cranberry sauce, rolls and potatoes that need fluffing;


Twelve hours I let the fire burn,

Then with the goal of feeling better to rest I turn;

Friday I must do chores, I cry,

To clean and organize the basement I need to be spry;

Cold and sleep medicines combined,

I can’t risk another day of falling behind;

I get a slow start but eventually I overcome,

It’s easy when Black Friday I abstain from;

Besides nothing is better than finding one’s stuff,

Black Friday came without cost, sure enough;

I thought I would shower and make it out that night,

But even after make up and blow dry I was still a sick sight;

Back to the couch I went with a plop,

scrolling through Netflix and Hulu nonstop.

Saturday will be better, I have real plans,

I must tailgate and be one of the OSU fans;


We started at 9 with breakfast and Peter,

Conversation and mimosas could not be sweeter;

Then into the madness with Rex at the helm,

I was prepared for tailgating to overwhelm;

We walked in and out of tents and beer stations,

circled the stadium and marveled at the younger generations;

A campus bar was our next stop,

where we watched until halftime on the patio of a pizza shop;

Then we decided to swing uptown,

a more grown up bar to see OSU take the crown;

Studio 35 provided respite from the crowd,

but O-H-I-O shenanigans were still allowed;

The less rowdy group delighted in the win,

but my cold medicine was starting to wear thin;


I flew to my car and was home in a flash,

After changing into sweats back to the couch I crash;

Tailgating was a full day of work and I must rest,

for Sunday I create Christmas at my nest;

I try to wake up early to no avail,

the to do list will be there, now greater in scale;

I clean up a little and make way for the tree,

a large Noble Fir this year I decree;

It is in place, but leaning a little to the left,

hey I’m just one person and this tree has much heft;

The decorations go on it and pine needles fall,

the cats come play and now the needles cover my hall;

The tree is up with new ornaments to share,

One for the new places to say “I’ve been there!”



The mantle is decorated and stockings hung,

The crooked tree has garland and lights strung;



Time to stop writing this silly poem and get some shut eye,

Tomorrow I start the new position and must be super fly;

So for now I’ll exclaim, as I shut down this post,

Happy December 1 to all, and I love you the most!

mille fois merci

The literal translation for the subject line is “a thousand times thanks”.  It seemed a fitting title for the Thanksgiving inspired recap of the many things I have to be thankful for.  Because while I may have been most vocal (and by vocal, I mean whiney) about the blues I had this year, I’m so lucky to have so much, be surrounded by so many, and have the opportunity to explore so much more.  So, instead of celebrating the wild and crazy night before Thanksgiving, I’m sitting here being grateful (less grateful for the cold that I caught from the dear goddaughter of mine last weekend, but still grateful).

I am thankful for new friends.  I struggled during the transition here, needing to make new friends and find new support systems.  I think I made a lot of progress with that this year.  I joined Meetup groups, accepted invitations to parties where I’d only know one or two people, opened up my home to others for dinners, and started scheduling happy hours.  I just realized I don’t even have a picture of one of my new favorite friends.  I met Jenn when her husband, whom I work with, invited me to a 4th of July bbq at their place.  I thought she was so funny I practically followed her from room to room like a puppy.  She and I are very similar and when I found out there was a Harry Potter themed murder mystery weekend at this castle lodge an hour away, I asked her if our relationship was at the place where we could talk about going away for the weekend.  Not only are we going, I think there’s about 8 others who joined us.  Grateful for friends who think that sounded like a good idea, friends who go to festivals with you, friends who like the movies you like, friends who come over for dinner…

New friends!

New friends!

I’m grateful for the friends I’m still in touch with even though I live far away from them.  I work pretty hard to stay in touch with people who matter to me.  Some days (weeks, years) I’m better than others, but it cannot be said that I don’t do my part to keep in touch with people I think add to my life, people who are awesome, doing interesting things, tell me interesting stories, tell me what I need to hear, tell me what I don’t want to hear, let me be crazy, encourage the good ideas…

A selection of those friends

A selection of those friends: Always my Claire, Meg and Kristy

Grateful for my family – as I get older and wiser – I continue to accept them, the roles we all play, and respect the boundaries that are in place.  I’m especially grateful for my niece and goddaughter this year.  I love that my sister and I FaceTime occasionally so I can see her, that I have a special place in her life, and that she is so very cute.  I’m grateful for getting to know some members of my extended family better.  From my mom’s cousins who live just north of Columbus and are so much fun to hang out with to cousins, aunts and uncles that I haven’t spent much time with until recently.  My youngest cousin on my mom’s side is a bright, intelligent, kind, and confident woman – when did that happen?  She is a far lovelier 24 year old than I was.  I was able to spend time with my Dad’s younger brother and his wife when they rolled through Columbus on their way to Buffalo earlier this fall.  Jerry is my godfather and was always a fun uncle growing up but as an adult I haven’t spent much time with him.  I don’t always get back for the holidays.  We spent a day together in Columbus and had so much fun!  I showed them so much of town, we toured quite a few pubs, introduced them to Kentucky Bourbon Ale (you’re welcome), showed off my house and got to hear stories about my dad.  It was a wonderful day and I think both parties were a little surprised.


I’m grateful for my constant companions – these furballs.  Oh, if cats could talk…


And I’m grateful for all the things I learned buying and working on my house.  I’m grateful to have been able to buy a home, start making it my own, and I’m grateful Lowe’s is just a mile away.



A thousand thankful wishes from me tonight.  Happy Thanks & Giving to all of you, also.