Life Goes On…

Colorado is such a beautiful part of the country. I often have to remind myself that I actually live here. You are never far away from a trail, the mountain backdrop provides astounding vistas, eagles soar, horses roam free and wildlife share the land with us.

Cows roaming the Tellar Farm Trail

This morning I hiked the Tellar Farm Trail, a beautiful trail about fifteen minutes from my home. The trail runs through a working farm so you actually hike among grazing cows. At this time of year there are tons of newborn calves in the field stretching their legs and running around with youthful exuberance. There fur is soft and their huge eyes full of beauty and wonder. It is apparent they have not habituated themselves to humans like the older cows. You can see them trying to figure out who these strange creatures are walking so close to them. Some are more bold than others and stand their ground as you draw near. Others bolt more quickly. But eventually they clear the path and allow the humans to continue walking on the trail.

This morning as I hiked I experienced both the up and down side of life. I saw one cow that had just given birth and the calf’s fur was still wet. The cow kept licking her newborn and nudging it toward her udder encouraging it to suckle. The newborn’s legs were still wobbly and it stayed close to its mother for protection and encouragement. It was so beautiful to see, the continuation of life.

Further down the trail to story was much different. A black cow crying out in pain, placenta hanging from its backside so at first I actually thought I was going to see a birth in progress. But the painful reality soon set in. There on the berm was a lifeless body, a little black calf laying on its side motionless, looking like a dog that had been hit by a car. The mother would walk a few steps away and let out a painful cry. A few hikers stood on the opposite side of the berm looking on. As they tried to get closer to the lifeless body, the cow came charging back, standing over the body and protecting it. The calf was dead and the mother appeared to be crying out in sorrow.

Within a hundred yards of each other the complete cycle of life was playing out before my eyes. On one end birth and renewal and on the other end death. It was a powerful experience. And I thought I was just going out for a hike this morning.

What Can You Change?

I am on the faculty of a school that will instruct park and recreation professionals on how to start, implement or augment environmental sustainability practices into their departments, agencies and hopefully their communities. Part of the curriculum will be a class on change management taught by moi. I’ve had many opportunities to both learn about the concept of change and to implement change in agencies. Did I do good? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But it took me a long time to figure out what it was that I could or could not change, and the answer was so simple that of course it alluded me for a long time. Hopefully I can make this road easier for others.

Bottom line, it comes down to one simple fact – the only thing you can change is yourself. We spend a lot of time learning about organizational change, creating the vision for change, creating systemic change, resistance to change – yada, yada, yada. The one thing we forget to mention is that none of it is within our ability to control. It all reverts back to what I said before – the only thing you have the ability to change is yourself.

A few years ago I attended a very powerful training session conducted by Ted Willey. I have attended many seminars in my life, but this one was transformational for me, probably the only one that ever was. Ted has written a book called “The Power of Choice”, and his training is based on one very simple concept: we are the product of the choices that we make, period! There is no blame, there is no fault, as human beings we simply choose. So, for example, you are not fat because McDonald does not put nutritional information on the food you buy, you are fat because of what you choose to put in your mouth. And if those choices include taking in more calories than expending, the end result is fat – period!   Or, you are not late because there was a horrible traffic jam and you got stuck in it. You are late because you failed to adequately prepare to get to where you needed to be when you needed to be there. It is the concept of 100% responsibility. We are response – able, not response – impaired. It is a pretty hard line way of thinking of things, but in the end, I find it to be true.

The world is filled with people who point the finger the other way – woe is me, my life is so bad because I married the wrong person or my life is so bad because I am stuck in this nowhere job. Horsefeathers! If your marriage isn’t working, you can choose to do what needs to be done to fix it, or get out of it. If you are stuck in a nowhere job, get a new one. Now, I am not saying that this will be easy, but you have the power to change your circumstance. It may not be overnight, and it may be very difficult, but the power lies within yourself.

So, in teaching change it occurred to me that we all think about change as good or bad. In the end, it is neither – it simply is. As humans we choose to put a value on change and that value differs depending on how a change affects us individually. A change may be great for some and horrific for others. We can see it playing out in Wisconsin right now. Changing collective bargaining rights is good for government – it will help balance the budget. But changing those rights is bad for union workers – it is the foundation of their power base and why they exist. The existence of government or the existence of unions. What should change and why? Remove the emotion and you see the simple fact: it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. If we accept that premiss related to change and take the stance that the only thing we truly can change is ourselves, we approach change management in a very different way. We take the emotion out of it and work to discover ways in which people will choose to change their behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and, (if you’re really good) values.

So that is the journey I will take as I put together this seminar. Should be interesting to see what I come up with.

Why am I always amazed…

Blue skies over Colorado

Today I finished the process of setting up my new printer. When my MacBook Pro, for some reason, would not recognize the printer, I called HP support to see if they could help. Lo and behold, I spoke to someone who actually spoke English without an accent (he was from Canada), who knew Macs and who could actually help me solve the problem. He was very good and very thorough and I wound up getting all of my issues resolved. How often does that happen? If tech support were always like this, no one would mind using it. Unfortunately that is not the case, I guess that is why I am always surprised.

This afternoon the weather was gorgeous and the sky overhead was such a clear sky blue that I thought I would share the view of the sky from my deck. Weekends are the best, even when you are retired.

Credit Card Company Mumbo Jumbo

This situation brightened my day today. We got a letter in the mail from Macy’s collection department that our account was overdue and to call the customer service number or pay what was owed before they turned it over to a collection agency. We are pretty meticulous about paying our bills and have an excellent credit rating, and so this concerned us. I called the number on the letter and was told that the account was current. Ok, then why did I get the letter? The guy on the phone was not sure why we got the letter but was really nice and did a little deeper investigation. Here is what he found out – hold on to your hats…

In November, Macy’s sent us notification that their credit card was now going to be American Express (or so we surmised from what they sent us). We thought, ok – this works for us. We had a Macy’s card and wanted to continue having one. And with the bonus of it being an American Express card, we would now have a credit card can we could use at Costco. What the customer service rep. said to me was that Macy’s was not discontinuing their in-house card program in lieu of the American Express card, it was merely offering The American Express card to current customers with no annual fee. But wait, it gets better. What he said was, if you choose to use the Macy’s American Express card outside of the store, you get a Macy’s American Express card bill. If you use that SAME Macy’s American Express card but purchase something in a Macy’s store, you get a separate bill because that charge is assigned to the Macy’s program. If you are scratching your head, join the club. I repeated this back to him three times, and each time he said yes – that charges are assigned differently from the SAME CARD depending upon whether you use the card in a Macy’s store or outside of a Macy’s store.

Needless to say, with a system as clear as this, I made a payment to the wrong bill and that accounted for the collection notice from Macy’s. I had one bill in arrears, and the other bill (from the SAME CARD) with a credit.  Long story short, it is all straightened out now. Our mistake was in assuming that this would be a clear process with one bill. I guess that is just too much to ask for.

Inspired by Julie and Julia

Hiking Pictures

I watched the movie Julie and Julia last night and it inspired me to try to start blogging again. At this point in time, I am not sure what the focus of the blog will be, but I am willing to start that journey and see where it takes me. I last blogged in earnest when my mother was dying. Today a good friend posted on his Facebook page that today was the 21st anniversary of his mother’s death. He posted a song called Mamma’s Arms and my heart went out to him when I listened to it. I posted the song “Everything I Own” by Bread for him. That song was a favorite of mine back in the 80’s and when I listened to it again today I cried during the lyrics “Nobody else will ever know the part of me that can’t let go.” There are some days, like today, that I am painfully reminded how much I loved both my mom and my dad and how much I still miss them. And to find out that it can still hurt so much after 21 years made the day a little harder to bear.

So, as I restart this journey of blogging, I may be all over the map for a while, but am hoping to find a focus and maybe even a following. Let’s see what this will bring.