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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weekend Journal-Boring or Perfect?

Friday night:  Pizza Hut! And a visit to the grocery store - my favorite. (NOT) Actually, I felt a bit smug strolling through the deserted aisles with my family, thinking about the fact that no complaints about my healthy choices would be hurled at me when we got home. ("Why didn't you get anything to eat??") HOWEVER, the trip was much pricier than usual as I found the cart laced with items like beer, ho-hos, frosted animal crackers, hot cocoa, etc. (UPDATE - most of these food-like substances were gone by end of weekend...except the beer. At least my grapes and apples last longer. Sometimes for weeks.)

Saturday: After sleeping in to that glorious hour of 8 AM, we weaseled ourselves into the vast storage tunnel of Christmas decorations! (Oh yes, it's always a grand day for us - a time when I weather Doug's cuss words with a smile as we try and remember how the damn lights are hung.)  Eventually, the deed got done.  We even allowed ourselves a trip to WalMart and splurged with one of those-there lawn ornaments. Pretty classy, heh?
 I was kind of thinking Christmas card? But wasn't sure if I wanted to go with the White Trash theme.
I won't continue with more boring details of the weekend, but let's just say it ended with food, books and movies. But if I had to nail down one aspect of the weekend that truly made it great, it had to be the quality and the frequency of the laughter. The Kramer recipe: each family member needs a few unique passions and peculiarities. (E.g., Jedi fetishes.) Tolerance and a penchant for giggling helps as well.  Oh - and don't forget  two or three bizarre pets, preferably saved from the depths of the gallows. They're always entertaining - because they really have a story to share.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Extra Dose of Gratitude

It's really not a big secret. A little gratitude goes a long way.  Remember that last time you sincerely felt thankful for something? Didn't the happiness fill you up from the bottom of your toes to the tip of your ears? Studies are now showing that it even improves your heath and well-being. I know it's true because I read it - here's the article. Thank You. No, Thank You Article by Melinda Beck of WSJ  It's just so insanely logical, isn't it?

Many of us on this American feasting day are undoubtedly thanking our lucky stars for family and friends. But something happened a few weeks ago that has given me an extra does of gratitude.

After church, I was asked, "Are you Alex Kramer's mother?"

Yikes... "Yes."

"Well, she just won $599 in the raffle drawing!"

 It was the Kramer family's lucky day! Of course, much to her dismay, she had to split her winnings with Cole. Just because that's life.  And, of course, since the parents purchased the raffle tix, we determined how the proceeds were to be spent. Each were to place $200 into their savings. As for the remaining $100? They could spend how they wish; however, a portion of it had to go to a charity of their choice. This is the good part - the results:

Cole:  $50 was sent to St. Jude's Hospital to help children fighting cancer. The other $50 went to the latest Spiderman Wii game. Yes, he decided to give $50 back to charity. Good for him.

But just wait.

Alex:  She sent her entire $100 to a charity called Love 146  which is devoted to help stop child sex slavery and exploitation. Not sure how she heard about it and we had a heck of a time explaining it to Cole. (We managed to avoid the topic actually.) I'm quite proud she felt so much empathy about a particular cause. I even asked if she was sure she wanted to donate the entire $100. "Yep. I don't need anything Mom." Then she showed me the website and told me a few heartbreaking stories.

Last week, the checks went into the mailbox. I'm pretty sure a few others will be feeling the gratitude of a few smalltown kids from Iowa in a couple days.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The CFO and The Crippled Lamb

When I was young, oh so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in anyway. Wait! No - that's not where I was going with this post. The words began and John Lennon's voice popped in my head. Sorry. Let’s start over. When I was young (as in "child"), never did I picture myself working as some sort of manager.  Honestly, my memory may deceives me a bit, but it seems the only career I gave any real consideration was that formidable field of acting. (I attempted to orchestrate numerous plays with the town kids, but no one quite shared my enthusiasm for Grease.)  In the meantime, I grew up. After experimenting with pre-law, music, English and finally business, I found myself at my current position: CFO of a bank. But ever since I stepped out of grad school, and into the working world, ne'er was there a period that I wasn't in a management position. Hmmm. And I’ve often wondered how I, Stefanie Elaine Ronfeldt-Kramer (non-aggressive, conflict-avoider, people-pleaser, sensitive-skinned weenie )landed in management. Then finally, after 17 years in banking, it occurred to me. “That’s precisely the reason." Nobody wants a bossy boss.

I’m in the middle of doing performance reviews – not one of those tasks that make me jump out of bed and say, “Gotta get to work, Hon! See ya!”  But as I’m talking to my staff, I’m taking more time to hear comments. I'm reading expressions. And I’ve become much more contemplative about the process. Perhaps, just perhaps, this interaction is much more meaningful than I’d like to admit. People do like to hear they’re good at their jobs. And believe it or not, they like to have goals. And one more thing - people generally don’t mind suggestions to improve their performance…as long as the suggestion is given in the spirit of helping.

I guess I’ve been struggling with purpose lately. Wanting to be a writer (since I’ve got a lot of important things to say), but not getting any dibs on getting my latest and greatest book published. Wishing I could spend more time with my family so I could give even MORE motherly and wifely advice. Shouldn't I be doing more than budgets and ensuring our network is stable? As my hubby often tells, perhaps I'm over-thinking my purpose. (I never over think.) But maybe I'm just... missing the boat. God has probably put me in this position for a reason. Not that I have all the answers for my staff, but maybe I can help them to either a) work in an “unintimidating” and encouraging working environment and/or b) attain a certain career aspirations. At least for now, I will try my best to do just that.

I used to read a children’s book – The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado - over and over again to my kids when they were young (younger). Josh, the lamb, wants to run with the rest of the herd, but has a bad leg. I won’t ruin the ending, in case you haven’t read it, but the theme is about understanding that we don't always understand our purpose. But we should have faith and eventually, God will make us understand. It's a great story - for all age groups. I think it's time for me to pull that book out and read it again.

Signing off now - to get a refresher on Harry Potter 6, before we watch HP 7 sometime this about serving a purpose. Is the whole world spellbound?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dog Boy Wonder!

Cole and Percy. Percy and Cole. Do they share the same soul? I wonder.

Last night, after coming off a gruesome day of fighting head pains, I decided to force down a piece of cinnamon toast. No sooner did I sprinkle the sugar on my bread when I heard a little voice say, "Cinnamon toast sounds good!" And when I turned around with toast in hand, here's what I saw:
My two beggars...

Consider the parallels-
  • When we go walking, both Cole and Percy are the pacesetters. Neither dawdle. Except for the occasional bladder break to mark some territory (not just talking about the dog) and the occasional distraction of a kitten or bird in the ditch. Admittedly, Cole uses much more discretion during our nature walks. No need to hold him back on the leash.
  • There's the hygiene issue. Both seem to have a distaste for bathing and hair-brushing. Both have similar repulsive reactions when I go after them with either a brush or a nail clipper.
  • Obviously,their extreme penchant for meat isn't completely uncanny; however, Cole was tempted by some of Percy's meat snacks. I'm hoping Cole didn't sneak any behind my back. He begged me, but I refused.
But the most striking similarity between Cole and Percy is their love of life and their love of people. Yesterday, as I lay on the couch clutching my head in my hands, Percy hopped up several times to check on me, slathering me in puppy kisses. Then later, as we winded down the evening, Cole told me that he saw a lady at church who had cancer. He felt sorry for her, so he prayed that she would get better. While it makes me weepy to type this, I feel quite proud of my son for being so caring. The "lady" with cancer just happens to be a friend of ours.

I love Cole's super "puppy" traits; fast, loyal, doesn't worry about unimportant details (like hygiene?) and, the most (all) important trait - his loving nature.