What I Would Say if Someone Asked

Share five things you’re good at.

Imagining worst case scenarios.

If my dog runs away at the dog park, I imagine him picked up by a ransom-seeking trench-coat clad stranger who will send proof of life videos of my beloved Swirl eating discount store kibble with no butter. Don’t get me started on funerals – the eulogy path is wide and very, very long. I rush to death as a consequence of practically everything. I don’t consider this a talent as much as attention to preparedness. I am, I would say, extremely prepared for catastrophe.

Speaking up.

Speaking up is a complicated thing. I value speaking up. I value advocacy. A lot. But I’m also wary of becoming that lady who attends government meetings pulling a rolling suitcase crammed with testimony, newspaper clippings, and Hersey’s kisses. I do actually have an opinion about everything but I’m trying to be measured and focused in what I say. Solemn, thoughtful, like a wise old woman with a hand carved walking stick. An oracle. I’m just kidding. I don’t have the right clothes for an oracle. No cloaks. I do have a walking stick though so that’s half the battle.

Mentoring people.

I wasn’t mentored so much as I was pushed off the end of the dock and expected to swim. This sounds harsh but nobody throws a person off the end of the dock unless they think the person will swim. They have to have confidence in that person’s abilities or at least a strong hunch that they’ll survive. And they have to be willing to take the rap if there’s a drowning. In other words, a good mentor pushes people to do what they don’t think they can. I know this because this is how I was treated as a young professional – I still kind of gasp and sputter when I think about how cold that water was – so that’s what I pass on. No drownings yet. But some close calls.

Writing things fast.

I can write really fast because I can type really fast. I can, as they say, type like a ‘bat outta hell.’ Last time I was clocked – which was easily 50+ years ago – I typed 85 words a minute. So not fooling around. I am not error-free, however. Errors today are no big deal but back then errors meant much Lucille Ball-type wrestling with little jars of white paint. I once had a temp job that involved typing a letter to the food editor of each major newspaper in the U.S. It started “Cherries are spring.” I began each letter on a crisp white sheet of Michigan Cherry Association letterhead and then prayed for no errors but when you focus on no errors, you’re going to make one. Because each letter had to be perfect, I threw the mistakes in the wastebasket under the desk. At the end of the day, I folded up the bad letters and put them in my purse. That doesn’t speak to my writing speed, it’s just a great memory.

Making 40 cups of soup.

It’s not that my soup is that great. It’s that I’m not afraid to make 40 cups of it. For the past couple of months, the homeless outreach group I work with has organized a Sunday Night Soup Brigade. This means that five or six people make a lot of soup and bring it to the outreach bus to be taken to people living on the street. My first foray was a really pretty good bean with smoked sausage soup, but the beans required a lot of soaking and cooking. Then I landed on a beef barley vegetable soup that has become my signature soup. Sometimes I think – would I want to come face to face with someone eating my soup and have them tell me they hate celery? No. I avoid that. That said, I’m not afraid of a celery-hater. And I’m not afraid of making 40 cups of soup, 60 might be pushing it, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

One Comment on “What I Would Say if Someone Asked

  1. Jan – Each one of these musings can stand alone and I enjoyed them all. (I particularly identified with the worst case scenario. I, too, like to be prepared) Thank You.

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