Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

My First Job June 18, 2012

My first job ever was as my dad’s secretary. (This was the early 80’s – before the term Administrative Assistant came into use).

I was really little. So little in fact, I don’t remember how it started, I only know that the story goes that it was my idea, and I was around 3, maybe 4, and my main job responsibilities consisted of answering the phone (for real) and probably things like bringing stuff to my mom and moving things from one part of his office to another. But really, what I remember most in those early years is answering the phone.

Two things you should know: My dad has never been good at saying no to me, and his clients and colleagues had a very good sense of humor.  And the ones who knew my dad really well weren’t surprised he let his toddler answer the phone, and the ones who didn’t know him that well learned a lot about him from those few seconds of phone time with me. People who had a problem with me answering the phone probably weren’t going to get along with my dad very well.

As I got older I continued to be his “secretary” off and on, although it eventually became more of a running joke. When I got old enough to understand what answering the phone actually meant, I lost interest in it (an interest I’ve never really regained. Much to my current boss’s dismay).

Since I didn’t want to answer the phone anymore, my job description throughout most of elementary and middle school consisted of applying mailing labels and stamps to thousands of newsletters every month, (along with my mom and younger brother), at a rate of $.05/piece. (This was way before the days of electronic newsletters). When I got into high school I still had to help with the newsletters, but also got trained on the art of collating and using the binding machine so I could help make his training books and presentation materials. I probably got paid for that too, but I don’t remember how much. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t doing it for the money anyway.

I was doing it because I was really bored. I wasn’t very popular in high school.

My dad was a Sales Trainer, which meant that he trained people how to become sales people, or how to become better sales people. He was self-employed and like many self-employed people, the work spilled over into other aspects of life. Child labor issues aside, my dad often relied on the principles and methods from his sales training to inform his parenting. It worked better than you might think. At some point I’ll blog about that specifically.

When I was an adult and starting my own business, I relied on that lifetime of sales training to help me get clients and close deals, and while ultimately I learned that I’m not a natural salesperson, I also learned I can do well enough to get by, but more than anything, the philosophies of his sales system really do double as useful life lessons.

Which is why, when my dad went into semi-retirement 3 years ago, he asked me to help him write a book about his sales system.  It seemed a natural fit because he had about 30 years worth of experience in his head, but no idea how to organize it into a book, and I liked to call myself a writer, but also knew the selling system, so theoretically could easily organize the information into a book.

We estimated it would be a roughly 3 month project.

Three years later, it’s finally done. But three months, three years, whose counting, right?

The important thing is that its done! AND it’s for sale on Amazon! Right now its only available in digital format, but will be available in paper back as well within a week or so.

My original plan had been to have it go on sale on Father’s Day, and surprise my dad with it,  but technology and the space time continuum conspired against me. But given the way this project has gone, one day late is basically ahead of schedule.

And the coolest part, aside from having had the chance to do this project with my dad, is that it’s given me the opportunity to learn a lot of new things.

I’ve learned that taking a pile of information and organizing it into a coherent, organized and universally accessible book is a lot harder than it seems. I’ve learned a lot about digital printing, and Amazon specifically.  I’ve learned the basics of a graphics program, and I’ve been inspired to starting to learning basic web design and language.

It feels good to be learning again, and I feel like this could be opening some potential new doors for me down the road.

It kinda feels like the whole, secretary at 3 years old thing, has come full circle in a way.

But anyway, if you have any interest in sales, or negotiation or even strong communication, you should check out the book – Sell More Easily, by Howard Maslich (edt. by Meredith Maslich).

And if you do happen to buy it, and read it, please leave a review on the Amazon site – that’s one of the fastest ways to increase its ranking. Which is important, because after three years, the ROI on this project needs to be really high. Really, really high.

 

Born This Way April 13, 2011

When I was 6 years old, my parents started allowing me  to go down the street and around the corner to my friend’s house by myself. I had a Strawberry Shortcake digital watch and my parents would tell me what time to be home and expect that I would look at that watch often enough to note the passing of time and thus be able to return home on time. 

I understood the watch to be more of a fashion accessory than a tool…

I frequently came home late.

I don’t remember specifically, but my guess is that I was often late coming home for dinner, which was a major crime in my house.

So one afternoon, I asked my dad if I could go to my friend’s house, and he said “Yes, but be home by 6:00.  And if you aren’t home at exactly 6:00, then I’m going to come down there and find you and then bring you home and lock you in the basement forever.”

My dad was a funny guy.

No really, he was a very funny guy. He was always making jokes and being silly and by the ripe old age of 6, I knew that very little of what he said was to be taken literally.

(My mom was the disciplinarian.)

So on this day, I laughed at my dad’s funny joke, perfectly secure in the knowledge that he had no real plans to relocate my bedroom, or to install a lock on the basement door, and set off to my friend’s house.  

Around 6:15 he showed up at my friend’s house and I happily assumed he’d come to keep me company on my walk home.

When I came out on the porch where he was waiting he said “Why are you still here? Why didn’t you come home at 6 like I told you to?” He wasn’t angry so much as bewildered. I wasn’t the kid who flagrantly ignored my parents -that was my little brother.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to,” I said.

“But I told you, 6:00, and I explained that this was your last chance to not be late before we stopped letting you come here by yourself.” That’s when it dawned on me that there had been real information mixed in with his jokes. It was a shocking revelation.

“Daddy,” I said “Sometimes I don’t know when you’re being serious and when you’re kidding.”

“Oh,” my dad said. “Well, I guess I can see how that could happen. So from now on, when you aren’t sure you ask, and when its important I’ll make sure you know, ok?”

I agreed and we had a lovely walk back home wherein I also confessed that I didn’t know how to know when it was time to come home, and then learned that Strawberry Shortcake could be more than an accessory.  

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When my parents went to my third grade parent/teacher conference they were told that I had a very wry sense of humor.

I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean it as a positive thing. I’m pretty sure she thought she’d found a gentle way of saying I was a pain in the ass.  

She had no way of knowing that her words would make my dad burst with pride. I’m pretty sure that of my entire academic career, that was my dad’s proudest moment.  Which isn’t to say that he and my mom both weren’t totally proud when I made honor roll in high school, Deans List in college, or earned a Master’s Degree.  But those achievements were no less than they had come to expect.  Both of my parents are very intelligent and put heavy emphasis on education, doing all the things parents are supposed to do to support their children in school – dedicated supervised homework time, joining PTA, giving me answers on my math homework etc etc.  But they couldn’t be sure I’d develop a good sense of humor (here good = witty, sarcastic and ironic) despite the constant exposure, until they had outside confirmation.

I think that my sense of humor has become one of my best known and appreciated personality traits, and in general has served me well in my life. Probably better than my education when you consider my popularity in storytelling, blogging, and social invitations, compared to my career path…

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So…yesterday I had my one year review for this mindless job that I’ve had for, god help me, an entire year. I had to do a self eval answering questions about my professional goals and development, and I was actually expected to take it seriously.

It took every once of my self-control, and the supervision of a co-worker, for me to avoid writing “I HAVE A MASTERS DEGREE AND I’M A RECEPTIONIST. CLEARLY MY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT GOALS HAVE GONE A BIT ASKEW.” Instead I found a balance between being realistic and playing the game:

Q: What is the most interesting part of your job?

A: I’m a receptionist. And while I love my job, nothing is interesting about it. (This is pretty true – I do enjoy my job. It’s not hard or stressful, and leaves me time to blog and write and surf the internet a lot. What’s not to love? But I didn’t think that “Huffington Post” would have been acceptable as the most interesting part of my job.)

Q: Where do you want to be in a year?

A: I wish I had an answer for this question.

During the official review meeting where we discussed my self eval, he was fine with those answers. I also threw in some “real” answers to make it look like I at least gave a tiny crap about my job since I’d like to keep it at for a while now that I’ve been rejected by every grad school I applied to.

He had only one real point of feedback in terms of areas for improvement. His exact quote?

“Sometimes it’s not clear if you’re being serious or sarcastic.”

I said “On the phone? With staff?” Because I thought I did a pretty good job of hiding my personality at work, and by personality I mean sense of humor.

He said “Yes.”

I said “I’ve suspected for a while that I’ve lost the ability to sound sincere, even when I totally am.”

He looked at me for a moment, probably trying to decide if I was being sarcastic. (I wasn’t, seriously.) Finally he just gave a shrug and said “Well, just…do what you can.”

I fear this might be a losing battle, given how many years of positive reinforcement I’ve had for my sense of humor.

But I’ll do what I can…

 

Just Drop the Presents and Back Away Slowly… December 22, 2010

Filed under: Home — Meredith @ 3:37 pm
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The other day I was reading a post on my friend Tara’s blog about how her son is suddenly afraid of having Santa come into   their house. And I completely empathized with her son, because when I was little  I’d   had the exact same issue.  Although no one offered an alternative, like Tara did for Declan…I was expected to simply suck it up. But then it WAS the late 70’s, before parents got all coddling and super sensitive to their children’s phobias.

When I was little, we had a ritual for Christmas morning. My little brother usually woke up first, and then would wake me up, and then we’d wake our older sister up, and then we’d go wake up mom and dad. Once dad was up, we had to wait with my mom in their room, while my dad went downstairs and did…stuff. I never thought to ask what he was doing, because I assumed I knew. He was obviously first checking to make sure that Santa had in fact come (I recognized that mine was just one family, one house, among millions, and it was conceivable, perhaps even reasonable to expect that mistakes could be made, homes over looked); and second, assuming Santa had come, daddy was checking to make sure he’d also LEFT (I recognized that Santa had a lot of work to do in one night, and it was conceivable, perhaps even reasonable to assume that at some point, he might want to sit for a bit, and being old as he was, could easily nod off.)

When daddy came back upstairs and gave the all clear, we would line up at the top of the stairs in order from youngest to oldest, and then run down the stairs taking a sharp left at the bottom into the living room with the tree and all the presents.

The Christmas I was 4, when I entered the living room, I saw the blanket from the couch drapped over part of the wing back chair and covering a large and suspicious bulge in front of the chair.  The wing back chair was exactly the type of chair a man of Santa’s stature might choose to sit in, should he be so inclined to “set a bit”, while visiting our house.

I looked at that blanket covered bulge, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Santa had in fact, chosen to set a bit and had fallen asleep. Daddy had then addressed the issue by covering him with a blanket, clearly hoping I would not notice. I decided to go along with the plan, and carefully avoided the area.

After I had opened all my presents, my mom said “Wait, there’s one more!” I looked around, wondering what box I’d missed. Then she said “How about you look under that blanket?” I. Was. Horrified. Several questions ran through my head: WHY would I want to see what was under that blanket? Was he holding my present on his lap? Had he fallen asleep mid unloading? What if he got mad because I woke him up?

I shook my head, declining the offer and picked up a new toy to play with.

“Come on!” My dad said cheerfully. “Look under the blanket!” Had my parent’s lost their minds? Did they think that just because I hadn’t cried at the mall in a few years, that I was somehow over my fear of Santa, and to the point that I wanted him to become a house guest?!?

“NO!” I said and tried to move further away from the blanket.

“Oh come on. Just peek under there,” my mom encouraged. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Why, I wondered, did Santa have to pick THIS HOUSE to fall asleep in? Why not a home where they wanted him? And now I was convinced, not only that Santa was there, but that my parents had been brainwashed by his elves and could no longer be trusted. In a tearful panic, I crawled onto my sister’s lap and begged her to be the voice of reason, and possibly my new guardian.

To be honest, I don’t remember what she said, but I remember everyone laughing at me, and me not caring, but starting to wonder if maybe they didn’t realize Santa was under there. Then my sister said “How about if I take the blanket off?” I had a wave of panic, and immediately got out of her lap and hid behind her as she leaned forward and started to pull at the blanket. I covered my face.

“LOOK” my mom said, and I hesitantly moved my hands and saw…

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a beautiful, blue and white Holly Hobby kitchen set, all assembled and ready to play with.

And with that, I wish you all a Very Happy Holiday, with just a tiny bit of crazy in it so you’ll have stories to tell 🙂

 

 
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