Category: Relationships

The Secret to My Success

valentinedayValentine’s Day seems like a good time to recognize those folks around us who have had a hand in our success. Certain elements are required in order to be successful in any endeavor. In engineering, a strong foundation in your chosen area is essential. This may be acquired through education and experience. A desire and ability to learn continually (our field changes so rapidly that this is not a luxury but a necessity) is also required. Being able to work well with others is always important, even if the job is mostly solitary. There are still times when you have to interact with internal and external customers. But when I reflect on my own career, I can truly say that my success was in large part due to the folks around me that were willing to invest in me.

It all started with my first job out of school. I worked my way through college, and upon graduation I embarked on my career in electronics. I was hired to work for a major semiconductor company. When I look back at the uncertain young woman I was in 1990, entering a mostly male field and armed with an electronics foundation that was mostly theory but with no real world experience, I can see how those first months were pivotal for me. I was incredibly blessed to have an amazing co-worker named Curtis who took me under his wing. When I look back at how many times I asked him for help in that first year and his always patient and cheerful response that enabled me to complete the task I had been assigned, I can see how I became much more confident in myself and my ability to utilize my electronics knowledge because of his tutelage. rubberbandsHis love of Calvin and Hobbes and his willingness to forgive me when I shot him in the eye with a rubber band are fond memories I carry to this day. I was only at that job one year, but it was my important first one out of school and Curtis’ mentoring made a huge difference in shaping my future and helping me to be successful.

My next job was for another semiconductor company, where I would spend the next twelve years. During that time I was surrounded by incredible people who were willing to help a still fairly new employee learn the ropes and make her feel welcome. It was an amazing experience because those folks were truly a family and they welcomed me into the fold without reservation. One engineer in particular, Norris, is one of those few people that are incredibly intuitive in electronics. They don’t have to labor through understanding like I do. lightbulbSometimes it takes awhile for the light bulb to turn on over my head – Norris was born with the light already on. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard, he does. In fact, he works harder because he also takes the time to mentor those that he works with. I could bring any electronics problem, large or small, and know that Norris would provide the guidance I needed to work through it. I learned so much from him and the other folks in our test engineering group that were always ready to lend a hand. I also learned to have a great work ethic that has served me well over the years.

JayJayAnother group of people that are often unheralded are the sales people that I worked with. These could be parts sales, equipment sales, or salespeople that represented several different manufacturers. Typically engineers and salespeople seem to be diametrically opposed in how they think and what their goals are. But the salespeople that were constants for me during my career have been phenomenal in providing support when I needed it. While there are too many to mention, I would like to share with you about one sales rep named Jay. Whenever I needed test equipment for one of my test racks, chances were, Jay was representing that particular manufacturer and I called on him often. He was the kind of guy that would do whatever it took to get you the product you needed on time. He was also a very smart guy and would share his knowledge to help solve problems, even if it wasn’t related to the sale. He was generous with his time and he celebrated with us when we did well and when we weren’t doing so good, he did everything that he could from his end to help things improve. He was supportive in all of my engineering endeavors, even those that didn’t bring him income. When I started teaching software seminars and needed an extra computer for a client to use – he loaned me one of his. When I created a web page for test engineering and the table I was creating was giving me problems, he came over and showed me the html code that would solve the issue. Beyond that, he helped me when my life took an unexpected hard turn. He was there to provide wisdom and tangible assistance during a very difficult time.

I met Jay in the mid-90s and although we both took different career paths since then, we pcbraceletalways managed to keep in touch, even if it was just a phone call months or a year or two apart, until recently. The last year and a half my husband and I stayed in much more frequent touch, walking alongside Jay and his lovely wife as he battled with pancreatic cancer. Being able to laugh with him, cry with him, and pray with him, was a privilege of our friendship that started so many years ago, when he was a salesman and I was a test engineer. Jay is with the Lord now and isn’t suffering any more. The last time I saw Jay, I told him that I was really glad that God had brought us together. I would not have traded our friendship for anything. I miss him a lot and in times of trouble I can still hear him say as he frequently did, “It’s gonna be okay.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of work and the responsibilities we have, but ultimately what really matters is the people doing the work. I am grateful for all of the individuals, too numerous to mention, that gave of their time and talent to help me to succeed. The folks at Design News are also in that category, providing many opportunities for me to grow as a writer. You may want to pause and reflect on the people who played a role like that for you, or commit to be that person for someone else. If you would like to honor anyone that played a role in your success, please feel free to share.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jay. Thanks for being my friend. I miss you.

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Our Need for Community

write-2930023_1920As writers, we often find ourselves working in a solitary place. For some of us, that is the only way we can unleash the thoughts in our head in a coherent fashion. It is time that many of us have to work hard to obtain – perhaps by shutting ourselves away from our busy and boisterous families by sneaking into the back bedroom for thirty minutes. For others it might look like a trip to the local library or Starbucks with our laptop in tow, hoping we don’t bump into someone we know, so we can use the precious minutes we have carved out of our busy schedules to actually write. Our understandable predisposition to gain solitary time in order to respond to our calling may become an obsession if we aren’t careful. It can become quite easy to duck out of social activities when our work-in-progress is tugging at our hearts. But many famous writers were notable as recluses, so what’s the harm?

lonestarActually, it can be harmful. I think it is important to recognize that God created us to be in community. Not only is it good as a writer to enter the social sphere, it is good for our souls. Writers are observers of life, and our writings reflect the truths we have found through our observations and experiences. You can’t observe or experience if you keep yourself segregated from the rest of humanity. Being in community also satisfies the yearning we all have to be part of something greater than ourselves, whether we recognize it or not. That is why I am so excited about the upcoming writing conference I am attending: Lonestar.Ink in Dallas this February. I have been a writer for many years, yet I have never made the time to attend one. I am not sure what to expect, but I am very excited about the possibilities. Sure, I expect to leat-grandmaearn some good stuff from some successful authors and editors who are willing to communicate their knowledge with others. I am also anticipating that this will be an opportunity to network. But I also see it as something else – as an opportunity to break out of my solitude and connect with other people that have similar dreams and goals. People who will get my grammar puns and appreciate them without rolling their eyes (well, maybe…) and of course enjoy the conversations and debates that arise as writers compare notes on both technique and content.

Another strong reason to get out into the community (and attend a writers conference) is explained by developmental psychologist Susan Pinker. She reveals how in-person social interactions are not only necessary for human happiness, but could also be key to health and long life in an intriguing TED Talk where she explains that social interaction is the number one predictor for longevity. She explains that this isTED not limited to close acquaintances, but includes everyone that we interact with as we move through our day. Further, “Face to face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like vaccines, they protect you now in the present and well into the future.” As a matter of fact, her entire speech made me really glad I signed up for the conference. Her research shows that brain activity becomes much more engaged with a live partner. Recruiters from Fortune 500 companies thought the candidates were smarter if they heard their voices, compared to when they read their pitches from a text, email or letter. So theoretically, pitching an agent or publisher at a writing conference makes me smarter then sending a query letter…quaking knees and all.

Pinker says, “It’s a biological imperative to know we belong.” She points out the benefits of social contact, “Building inter-person interhyperboleaction into our cities, into our workplaces, into our agendas, bolsters the immune system, sends feel good hormones surging through the blood stream and brain, and helps us live longer. I call this building your village, and building it and sustaining it is a matter of life and death.” So now I can extrapolate from this information that attending the Lonestar.ink writing conference is a matter of life and death. Okay, I might be slightly exaggerating, but hey, it’s still a great idea and what’s a little hyperbole among friends?

 

Love Thy Neighbor

2017birthdayThis is one of my favorite pictures of all time. It was taken in 2017, and the occasion was my birthday. I am a little older now and hopefully a little wiser. The people in this picture portray a tremendous blessing in my life – I am honored to call them friends. So many countries are represented: Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Iran, Peru, Mexico, Rwanda, Germany, and of course, the United States. It is so much fun to have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, and I have found that we are more alike than we are different. I have also found that if given the chance, people will come together, regardless of race or country of origin, when given the opportunity. Many of the people in this photo recently donated money to buy a Car for Cyprien. He is pictured in the center, the man on crutches. The only time they have met Cyprien was at this party, yet when asked, they contributed so that he could have transportation.

flood-965092_1920It’s been almost five months since Hurricane Harvey. When an event like that occurs, it catches us completely off guard. We live in such a blessed country of plenty that the devastation wrought by Harvey is hard to fathom for those of us who are on the outside looking in. But even as far away as Dallas, we saw the effects. Evacuees made their way into our communities. Most everyone I know was shocked at the gas pump – stations were temporarily running out and prices reflected supply and demand. For me personally, I watched my son-in-law Aaron receive a phone call as we were about to eat Sunday lunch. He didn’t stop to eat and was gone within ten minutes, after bringing in school books and our grandchildren’s car seats into the house from his truck, because he needed to go directly to pick up two other members of the Army Reserve so they could deploy to Houston with their unit. Our daughter Melissa had the responsibility of our three grandchildren by herself, at the beginning of a new school year. They were ready to sacrifice for our neighbors.

cloudsheart3Local community organizations and churches stepped up to stand in the gap and serve those who had been devastated by Harvey. Individuals answered the call for volunteers and city and government officials worked side by side with citizen volunteers to rescue Harvey victims. Jesus prayed for unity – and in this time of tragedy it was beautiful to see that prayer being answered over and over. Instead of looking at each other through the petty lens smeared by our broken humanity full of grievances and complaints, we were looking at each other through the same lens Jesus does. All of the divisive issues that have been blasting through the media didn’t seem important anymore. We were faced with our common humanity, and how beautiful it was to see our response, the same response that Jesus calls us to – love thy neighbor.

martin-luther-king-jr-393870_1920We have been given a great capacity for love and love can overcome our differences. Scripture tells us in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” As we celebrate the holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, let’s remember his words and weave them into the fabric of our own communities: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. King also said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” Let us love our neighbor, regardless of how different they may be from us. Let us rejoice in our differences, knowing that in the depths of our hearts, we are the same.

Images from Pixabay – free for commercial use

 

 

 

Forgiving Ourselves and Forgiving Others

I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. I know many people who struggle with it, in that they are either unable to forgive themselves for something they have done or they are unable to forgive someone else for hurting them. When I think about God’s limitless grace and that it is through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross that we have received forgiveness for all of our transgressions – what is even more amazing is that God initiated it! We read in Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates his great love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He died for us knowing we were a mess, yet loving us anyway. His forgiveness heals us and if we are unable to forgive ourselves, or others, we are unable to fully experience the peace that comes from the healing power of Christ.

When we forgive others, we make a choice to humbly follow the example Christ set for us, and I believe God will use that step of faith to release healing in not only the person offering forgiveness and the person being forgiven, but also anyone else who has been affected by the broken relationship.

It’s no wonder we sometimes struggle with forgiveness – it is such a universal struggle and that is why songs are written about it…For those of you who are battling with events from the past, it might help to remember what Paul writes in Philippians 3:12-14,

“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Many people focus on verse 14 but notice what Paul says in verse 13: “Forgetting what is behind” is SO important before proceeding to verse 14 – We need to NOT allow our past to dictate our present or influence our future. It doesn’t mean we won’t have consequences from the past that we will have to deal with, but the past need NOT affect the choices we make today or determine what is yet to come. If you consider Paul’s past before he became a Christian, he crossed many lines in persecuting the church. This becomes very powerful because he put his transgressions behind him and by focusing on what lay ahead, he overcame his past to become a great pillar of the church whose influence through the Holy Spirit has guided Christians for thousands of years. Wow! He initially had to deal with a lot of unpleasantness because of what he had done previously, but he didn’t let that stop him – something you might want to share to encourage someone who may be struggling with their past. The example of Paul in Scripture reassures us that there are no lost causes and we can all have a new beginning. God forgives us when we ask, therefore we should be able to forgive ourselves and receive the peace and hope that comes with the grace He freely offers.

forgiveFor those of us who have trouble forgiving others, I don’t believe you will ever be truly at peace until you do. It doesn’t even matter how the other person responds (if they are even around to respond – offering forgiveness is an intentional action that flows out of your heart – while it is hoped that it blesses the person you are forgiving – their positive response is not a requirement). Scripture is clear on God’s desire for us to forgive one another. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I believe God gives us a great gift by teaching us to forgive one another and it is also for our own benefit – a heart weighed down by the bitterness of being unforgiving can never experience true joy. I love this video by Matthew West called “Forgiveness” because it speaks eloquently to both sides of forgiveness. If you have something weighing you down, I hope listening to this song will help you to take the steps God may be calling you to take, so that restoration can occur through the power of Jesus Christ and despair and disappointment can be replaced with healing and love.

Matthew West – Forgiveness

 

[image courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

 

 

 

Start With A Smile

Here is an interesting premise to write about. Imagine that you are going to live in a foreign country. Your company has transferred you there, and you are expected to adjust to your new surroundings and begin work immediately. You have learned the language in a classroom, but have had very little, if any, conversational practice. Your physical needs of food, shelter and transportation are provided through your employment. But when you venture out, it is into completely unfamiliar territory. And while your co-workers are very nice, they don’t have a lot of time to provide guidance. If you are going to explore your new home, you must be brave.

I have recently been hired to help three young adults from Japan, here for one year, to learn Business English, while they work for their company and interact with American clients. When I spend time with them, it amazes me at how courageous they are. They have been living and working here for only about two months, and are driving our highways, shopping in our grocery stores, and venturing out on their own to experience American culture, which in so many ways is very different from their own. Something we take for granted like going to an American grocery store is very bewildering since it is much different from grocery shopping in Japan. I can be brave in my writing by exploring new places on paper, but these young adults are doing it for real.

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One of the great things about being their teacher is that while they are learning from me, I get to learn from them. That opens up new ideas and ways of thinking, enriching my own experience as I enrich theirs. Just because I have been hired to teach them Business English doesn’t mean it has to stop there. Conversation and cultural immersion will greatly facilitate their success in their goal of becoming proficient at conducting business in the United States and promote understanding between our two countries. We took them to ride my horse this weekend, and what a blessing it was to introduce them to this part of American culture. Their smiles were priceless. Lunch at a local country cafe with real Texas chicken fried steak and mashed taters topped off the day. It was fun to see the waitresses equally fascinated with my students and smiling – they were showing each other the signatures on their master cards which were in Japanese. The great thing about smiles are that they are universal, they transcend any language.

If you are wondering what you can do to get inspiration to write about something new, just look around you. You don’t have to be a teacher to befriend someone who recently immigrated here or is working here for an extended period of time. Sometimes it takes bravery on both sides to reach out to someone different from us, but the blessings you’ll receive by doing so can turn into lifelong friendships and may even turn into a great story for you to write about someday. And it really is not all that hard – all you have to do is start with a smile.

It’s Not About the Candy…

Yesterday I was thinking about Valentine’s Day. I usually don’t think too much about it, because it doesn’t hold that much importance to me anymore. I must admit that before I was married to Phil, Valentine’s Day used to mean a lot more. It was with much anticipation I awaited its arrival during those times that I was in a relationship, as an opportunity for the person who professed love for me to show it in tangible ways such as with flowers and candy. The irony is that because those relationships weren’t that great,  I needed them to prove their love by remembering me on the holiday that is a celebration of love. (No ruffled feathers here please – for those of you in great relationships that still love Valentine’s Day – enjoy!)

But for me, as the years have gone by, its importance has grown less and less. Phil works hard to support our family and spends his free time doing things with us and for us. So on those occasions when he forgets to get a card or pick up a present, it seems ludicrous to me and unfair to him to get upset. Rather, I am grateful because I am incredibly blessed with a loving husband whose actions show me his love for me every day, not just on holidays.

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So when Phil came home from Walmart today – not with a big candy heart, flowers and a card, but instead with Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Altoids (which he knows are my favorite treats), it made me want to cry (and I did a little). Not because he gave me the candy (although I’m glad he did – Yum!) but because of the heart-spoken message behind it. In those packages of chocolates and Altoids was a message that said “I love you so much, that I know what your favorite things are and I want you to have them.” No, it’s not about the candy, but it is all about the love behind it. And if he didn’t have time to do anything or he forgot, it would have been just fine. Because it really is not about the candy…