Thursday, April 3, 2014

But I Want (You to Want) It Now!

It only took me about five years of marriage to realize that I had absolutely no chance of ever controlling my husband. Nagging, complaining and demanding gets me nothing except a pissed off man. In fact, he told me early on in our relationship that he doesn't like to be "should upon." Got it. Of course he would tell you that I occasionally slip up and try to make a helpful suggestion.

Given that I exert no influence over my husband, it was only natural that I should want children so that I could control someone something in my life. "And that turned out really well," she said sarcastically. I've learned to accept that my children and I don't like the same music, clothes or degree of cleanliness in our bedrooms, and I'm even becoming accustomed to the way they completely ignore my demands requests. The one thing that still gets my panties in a twist, however, is the frustrating difference between "mom time" and "teen time" when it comes to getting somewhere or getting things done.

One of my children is a lot like me, exhibiting those desirable Type A traits and taking care of business on a daily basis. My other child is not quite as neurotic, high strung, obsessive driven. This didn't matter as much when that child was younger and it was okay for me to manage his/her life, but now, as a teenager, it's time for me to step away and let him/her take care of those things which are most definitely in his/her control. Examples include finding a summer job, pursuing areas of interest, choosing colleges to visit over spring break, and applying for special programs /opportunities that are awaiting smart kids like him/her.

Let's just say we do not express the same manic tendency level of enthusiasm for completing tasks. I'm not even sure if this child has a to do list. Dear God, how does one function in this world without a to do list? My child's slower pace is maddening for a formerly geeky girl like me who finished every term paper ahead of schedule and does a happy dance every time she accomplishes something.

Just last night while together with friends, I went on and on about casually mentioned my frustration with what I perceive to be a lack of initiative on the part of this child. Case in point. Said child is very interested (he/she doesn't fake it when he/she is not interested) in attending a summer program at one of my alma maters, yet, with a deadline looming (May 1!) said child still had not started the application. The past rainy, dreary weekend had been the perfect time to accomplish such an assignment. I believe I may have casually mentioned this to my child, but alas he/she did not see the same obvious opportunity that I did. Clearly he/she was never going to take care of this and the deadline was going to pass, and I was just going to have to be okay with that because it's time for him/her to take responsibility.

My friends listened sympathetically. We drank margaritas.

Upon returning home - in a much better mood than when I left - my child asked me to digitally sign his/her application for the summer program. Which he/she had completed while I was out bitching seeking guidance from fellow moms.

Ah yes, another classic parenting moment and an important reminder that just because my children don't do things my way or as quickly as I would like, doesn't mean they're doing them wrong. Of course doing it my way is always preferable and is more likely to result in success in life (and extremely high stress levels), but it's okay to let my kids be who they are. Remind me about this next year when it's time for said child to start preparing for SATs...


Thursday, March 27, 2014

11 Signs You Married the Right Guy (based on scientific research conducted with women who read nothing but romance novels)

I receive a daily email from Good Housekeeping. I do this because I like to pretend that someday I'll use that easy-to-make-with-home-ingredients facial mask, plant my own organic vegetable garden, and stitch that Home is Where the Heart Is sampler.

Last week my GH email featured the compelling headline: "11 Signs You Married the Right Guy." Being well aware that I married the right guy, I was eager to confirm how lucky I am. And, I'm all about lists these days. And Facebook quizzes that tell me which actor I should be with (Will Smith), which Downton Abbey character I'm most similar to (the Countess of Grantham), and where I should live (London). So the Good Housekeeping* lucky girl list went as follows:
  1. He always brags about you. If you get a promotion at work or even just win concert tickets, he can't resist telling everyone you know before you even think to mention it. Because he's your biggest fan (arguably next to your mom).
  2. Even after years together, he still does little chivalrous things for you. Like open doors for you or carry you to your doorstep when your feet hurt after wearing high heels all day and you just can't bear to walk one more step.
  3. He doesn't try to change you. He knows you're messier than him, that you always need a pet cat, and can't cook to save your life, and all of that is all right by him.
  4. "I miss you" isn't just a sweet thing you say. It's a reality. Even if it hasn't been that long (like, two hours) since you saw each other.
  5. You can cry in front of him without feeling embarrassed. He knows when to worry and when you’re just caught up in a scene of a movie. 
  6. When your friends complain about their significant others or the guys they've gone out with, you get kind of quiet because you don’t have much to contribute. You don’t want to brag, but you just don't have to deal with any of that nonsense because your significant other is great to you.
  7. He’s close with your family, and he’s made sure you've gotten to know his. He’ll call your dad or your grandma without any hesitation. It just makes sense that you’d go to his nephew’s birthday party, even if he's not there. 
  8. He cares about your friends. If one of them is having a bad day, he suggests you go spend time with her or invite her to join the two of you for dinner. If he hasn't heard someone’s name in a while, he asks how she’s doing. 
  9. He lets you vent. Sometimes when something frustrates you, you just need to go over it again and again. He doesn't get annoyed at this, and he dismisses your apologies. The only thing that bothers him about the situation is that you’re upset and he wishes you weren't.
  10. He tells you, out of the blue, that you look hot. And it’s on the day you didn't dry your hair or put on makeup or even change out of your T-shirt and sweatpants.
  11. You can do things like travel together without fighting all the time. We've all seen (or been) that tragic couple fighting over where to get lunch at the airport. You can do tedious things with your S.O. without all this fighting.
My immediate reaction to this list is are you freakin' kidding me? "this is not for married people." At least not for people who've been married more than six months a year. Of all my married friends, only the couple without kids could possibly see themselves in this list. (Kids change everything.)

So let's dissect this. Actually, let's rewrite it so it reflects reality and not a romance novel:

1. He always brags about the kids. You brag about yourself to your mom and dad who think you're awesome for just waking up today.

2. Even after years together, he still does little chivalrous things for you. While he won't can't carry you to the doorstep when your feet hurt (because you've put on weight since you got married), he will go get the car so you don't have to walk as far. Then he'll give you sh*t for having worn high heels when he knows you're going to cry about them later.

3. He doesn't try to change you. He knows it's your job to change him. You know you're perfect just the way you are. And yes, he eats your lousy cooking just so he doesn't starve to death.

4. "I miss you" isn't just a sweet thing you say, it's actually bullcrap. It's code for "I'm having so much fun with the guys, but I don't want you to know because you'll make me feel guilty."

5. You can cry in front of him without feeling embarrassed. I You should hope so. If I was you were embarrassed to cry in front of my your husband, he'd never see me you. He knows not to worry because I'm you're just a emotional nutcase.

6. When your friends complain about their significant others, you get kind of quiet because their issues pale in comparison to yours. You don't want them to worry that you've married the wrong man.

7. He’s close with your family, and he’s made sure you've gotten to know his. And you both know there's a healthy dose of dysfunction on both sides. He’ll call your dad if house repairs are needed, and you'll be sick on the day of his nephew’s birthday party.

8. He cares about your friends. If one of them is having a bad day, he says, "Sucks being her, but I need you here to watch the kids so I can go to the gym for a couple hours." If he hasn't heard someone’s name in a while, he thanks God there's one less woman for him to deal with.

9. He lets you vent for about 10 minutes, during which time he wasn't listening anyway. Sometimes when something frustrates you, you just need to go over it again and again. He eventually gets totally annoyed at this 1) because he's watching the game, and 2) because if something needs fixing in your life, fix it already.

10. He tells you, out of the blue, that you look hot. And that's how you know it's time for sex.

11. You can do things like travel together without fighting all the time because you go to all-inclusive resorts where the drinks keep flowing and everyone is happy all the time.

Now that's much more accurate, don't you think?

Of course, this list in no way reflects my husband, because I know I married the right guy.

I just feel sorry for the rest of you.

*While Good Housekeeping was kind enough to share this terrific list, I recently discovered it was first published in Cosmopolitan, which explains a lot.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Not Reflected in the Score

It's not everyday that a lacrosse game makes you cry. Unless you're me, in which case you cry over everything from the sunrise and puppies to death and taxes. I can tell you that in the case of this game, however, I wasn't the only one emotionally affected.

On Tuesday evening, Villanova men's lacrosse played Princeton here at Villanova. For those of you who remember everything I say and write (which means you probably need to expand your social circle), you may recall that Chris Bates, husband of my friend, the late Dr. Ann Bates, is coach of the Princeton team. For the last two years, a small group of Freakin' Angels has road tripped to Princeton to see a game. When we learned of the match up here, Angel Kim G. suggested we make it a group outing and extended an invitation to our wider church community. In the end, we more than qualified for a ticket discount with a group of 44 "Ann's Fans" planning to attend.

Tuesday evening was cold, but can I be totally dorky and tell you that we were comfortable and warm in each others company? (Literally. The minute someone got up to hit the snack bar, their absence made you chilly.) There was something so incredibly moving about this group of 40-some people, from ages 5 to 55, all gathered together to celebrate our friend Ann and cheer on the man she loved. On a personal level, the gathering was a living reminder of our human need for community, the need to belong to something bigger than ourselves. I was awed by the blessing that these people are in my life. My Freakin' Angel friend Cathie, who does not cry, was also touched by the experience. The next day, she sent this email to the group:
I'm thankful:
> For you all and for your friendship.
> For the warmth that comes from having you all in my life & from sitting close under blankets.
> For our families and how they can all just blend together.
> For laughter.
> For a win for Princeton.
> For Theresa's on the spot medical assistance (damn those bleachers).
> For cocoa and pretzels generously delivered.
> For strong arms to carry Gemma when mine get tired.
> For Kim's organization in purchasing tickets for us all.
> For Nicholas' (Bates) never ending smile.
> For joy on a cold night.
> For Dickie's excellent photography work to capture the gems below.
> For Ann's friendship that continues to give to each of us.
Just a few of the girls in the group
When I asked Cathie's permission to use this in my blog, she said those were just the quick ones off the top of her head, there were plenty more things to be thankful for. Amen to that. 

Cathie wasn't the only one to share her feelings after the game. Kim S. (we have lots of Kims) noted, "A couple of times during the night I looked around and felt so lucky to be a part of such a great group." And Kim G. added, "It was so fun and such a blessing. I remember thinking that it's quite possible that a similar type of group someday soon will be gathering to watch some of our kids in their ventures. I truly consider you all family."

Someone who I never expect to share her feelings or express emotion is my daughter Abby. She'll tell you she loves you at least twice a day, but she doesn't put her feelings on display (I'm not sure we're actually related). For the first part of the game she voiced her displeasure at being there. "Cold and bored." After I further bundled the blankets around her and pulled her up close to me (and paid for hot chocolate), she seemed satisfied and even passed on the opportunity to go home early with a friend. When we arrived home after the game, Abby was almost giddy and unusually affectionate. In fact, when it was time for bed, she said something about snuggling with Rob and me, and when I agreed, she retrieved her favorite blanket and cuddled up between us, arms wrapped around me. If you think that's kinda weird, you've never watched your teenage daughter grow up too quickly and wished you could stop time and have her be a little girl again. The little one who wanted to sleep with you when she was scared, or not feeling well, or daddy was out of town. When they're little, those nights can be frustrating, but when they're 13, you know each time they cuddle with you could very well be the last (until you're 40, at which point you're happy to snuggle with your mom again).

I guess what I haven't said here is that I firmly believe Abby was moved by the friendship, love and affection our group of 40-some showed for one another. She knows how much my friends mean to me, but there was something incredibly powerful about seeing, and being part of, the sheer number of moms, dads, and kids gathered together for much laughter and joy. It's contagious. In fact, I hope that if you haven't yet been afflicted with this degree of love and friendship, that you catch it real quickly. This wonderful group of people is more than happy to spread it around.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Psycho-Killer on the Loose. Mom Subdues Him with Martial Arts Skills.

It's a good thing I didn't have plans last Friday night or I would have missed all the excitement. Stuff started happening around 4 p.m. I had picked Ian up at school and we made an emergency frozen yogurt run. As we're driving home and about to cross the main intersection in town, a car with flashing lights flew through the red light, headed in the same direction we were going. That car was followed by three unmarked-yet-official-looking SUVs. None of them did the polite (a.k.a. safe) emergency vehicle thing where they actually pause at the red light, taking into consideration the driver on their cell phone who's not paying attention. Nope. These drivers were flying. Anyone in the way was a goner. I swear one of them was practically on two wheels taking the turn.

I said to Ian, "Something's going on." I've always been very observant. I told him that that was no run of the mill police activity. We wondered, was there a political figure in town that had to be quickly moved to a safe location? Was there something happening at the mall? Were we dealing with terrorists?

Upon arriving home, I took note of an increasing number of sirens coming in our general direction. Ian, always the joker, said, "They're coming to our street." I wasn't amused, but he wasn't joking. Sure enough, a couple local cop cars made their way around our circle. Rather than speeding through, however, they were clearly taking their time. They were driving slowly in search of a bad guy who got away after a federal drug bust at a nearby seedy motel went badly. We locked the doors and watched the action from the living room. All told, over the next hour or two, at least a dozen cops paid a visit to the neighborhood. I called Rob who was in Florida at spring training. Of course, there was nothing he could do to help from that distance, even though he had easy access to a baseball bat, his weapon of choice.

As word began to spread around the neighborhood via email, we learned that one of our neighbors was driving home, and more than a little surprised when she turned the corner to find one cop in the road with his gun drawn, another cop canvassing the area, and a third officer in her driveway. The third officer was kind enough to tell her that her children were safe. Which made her wonder, "Why wouldn't my children be safe? Why do you know about my children??" He explained the scenario and told her to stay inside and lock the doors.

Being the calm and in control individual that I am, I wasn't particularly worked up about this situation. With everything locked up, the authorities on the scene, and my 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, I figured we were completely safe. But then the sun set and the bad guy still hadn't been found, and there were helicopters overhead, and I had to take Abby to softball practice. And suddenly I was pretty freaked out. The fact that our shed door was partially open did not ease my anxiety.

I hustled both Ian and Abby into the minivan, which I had parked in the garage so they wouldn't have to come out and face the cold-blooded killer still on the loose in our backyard (this is how those urban legends are formed). No longer calm and under control, my heart beating furiously, I quickly backed out of the garage to put some distance between us and this madman. Unfortunately, I was quicker on the gas pedal than the garage door was on its track. Now I could not fully open or fully close the door, meaning I could not get the van out of the garage, and the door was open just enough to allow the psychopath to come in, wielding his chainsaw.

At this point, I call Rob. He has a baseball bat. In Florida. I manically explain the situation. He cannot help me. I figure out how to disconnect the power to the door so that I can manually open it with my brute strength. I get the van out. Now I cannot close the door. Ian helps me with his brute strength. Filled with anxiety, I back out of the driveway, taking a section of the lawn with me when I fail to keep the steering wheel straight. We leave the house,  knowing the garage door can be lifted and the fugitive from justice may be hiding in there when we get home. Rob texts me: "Don't go straight home after taking Abby to softball practice. Find a television somewhere and see what's going on before you head back." I don't listen.

By the time we return, all activity on the street has ceased. The helicopters are gone. My shed door is still ajar, but not widely enough to have allowed in what they tell us was a very big man. Still, three days later, Abby refuses to put the sleds away in the shed because that homicidal maniac could be hiding therein.

This whole situation was unnerving in how unnerved it made me feel. I always thought I'd be calm and cool in any dangerous situation. Figured worse comes to worst, I could put those eight years of martial arts to work and bust up the madman with a few swift kicks to the head. And if that didn't work, I could pull out the super cool and scary looking knife I was gifted with upon earning my 2nd degree belt. But alas, rather than allow my adrenaline to prepare me for a fight, I allowed my adrenaline to drive me into my garage door (which I later managed to fix with duct tape, by the way).

Naturally my dad's response to all this was to highly recommend a firearm safety training course (I would first need the firearm), but based on my sweaty palms, nervous stomach, and shaky legs, I'm pretty sure I'd be more likely to shoot myself in the foot, literally, than to scare off the bad guy.

Whom they still haven't found...


Thursday, March 6, 2014

I'm Going 'Round, 'Round, 'Round...

I'm picturing a hamster cage, sort of like the one here on the right. It's got a nice little hang out pad or dome on one end, which connects by a tube or passageway to the hamster wheel on the other side.

I believe I've become the hamster.

I've been here before; I think most of us have. It happens when we over-commit, forget how to say "no," and make promises we're not sure we want to keep. We find ourselves spinning madly out of control and getting nowhere fast.

Here's the situation. Everyday I go to work and do a job that I absolutely love. I know what needs to be done, I know how to do it, and I enjoy my responsibilities. I consider this the "hang out dome" part of my day. I am steady and content and sitting on my butt (at the computer) for hours on end. But around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. as my day is about to end (hey, I start at 7:30 a.m., so don't judge me), I start to feel the slightest pang of anxiety. On my drive home, the traffic is much heavier than it should be, giving me entirely too much time to think. I spend 20-30 minutes considering what my options are once I reach my humble abode. For most people, heading home after eight-plus hours in the office is the best part of their day; the at home options are far better than whatever they've just left behind. For me, this transition time is the equivalent of the tube/passageway section of the hamster cage. As I pass through, my anxiety reaches a dangerous level, and before I know it, I'm on the hamster wheel.

As I spin, I know I have some decisions to make, namely, what should I do with my time? There's the gym, and I know I should go, but I don't want to go, even though I always feel better afterwards. Then there's my never-ending list of things to do. If I could handle just a few small things, I'd spend less of my weekend making myself (and my children) miserable with what needs to be done. One of my most stressful options responsibilities at home is making dinner. Like the gym, this is something I know I should do (if not for me, at least for the children), but don't want to do. Unlike the gym, however, I rarely feel better when I'm done. Mostly because my cooking stinks and I don't know what to make, and God forbid I try anything new (the picky eater being me).

If I survive those couple of hours before dinnertime, I now face a decision about what to do with my evening. That's assuming I don't have a meeting on the calendar for youth committee, church session, or book club, and that Abby doesn't have a sporting event that I'd like to attend (providing me with a very good excuse reason to not take care of other stuff). Do I clean? Maybe I should handle the laundry. Or put the dishes in the dishwasher, and wipe off the table, stove and kitchen counters. For some reason, the prospect of cleaning up after I've just tortured myself by making dinner (or serving bagel bites), is more than I can bear. And don't suggest that I have the kids clean up. No one else in the house can properly load a dishwasher. But I digress.

Because I am a completely insane individual, I recently decided that it would be fun to add a little something extra to my list of time-killing obligations. I committed to spending about 10 hours a week handling the social media for an organization I'm fond of. Normally this is the kind of work that I would thoroughly enjoy, but because 1) it's brand new, and 2) I'm spinning on a hamster wheel, the whole thing has me a little stressed out and wondering what I've gotten myself into.

You might be saying to yourself, "I wonder what Kim really wants to do with her time?" Well, it's nice of you to ask, and I'm not embarrassed to say that I want to catch up on American Idol (love that Harry Connick Jr.), watch last week's episode of Scandal, or binge watch some new series. If we want to pretend I'm more highbrow than that, then let's say I'd like to read, or at least play spider solitaire (I'm up to three suits!) or sudoku until my eyes glaze over and I can shut my brain down and go to sleep.

Ah, sleep. My happy place. The other night, Abby asked me why I go to bed so early. Without hesitation, I told her that some people do drugs to deal with stress; I go to bed. (Then I asked her to fill my weekly pill organizer; the irony wasn't lost on either of us). It's true. Sleep has always been a wonderful avoidance technique for me. I recall during college, if I felt the least bit tired, I could convince myself that sleep was more important than my school work. Worked then. Works now.

Not surprisingly, by going to sleep early, the morning comes more quickly. I love mornings. I realize this makes little sense, given the way I've just compared my life to a hamster cage, but for some reason everything dissolves away overnight and I wake up happy, even though I know what I'll face at the 4:00 hour. Makes me think of the movie Groundhog Day when every day is a repeat of the last. I'm detecting a rodent theme here. Of all the animals I could compare myself to...

The good news is that I think I may have found a solution. I've been asked to join the Sanctuary Choir at our church (I felt flattered at the invitation, but in reality 1) they will gladly take anybody and 2) they just want to use me to help bring the median age down closer to 60). Singing has always been a source of joy for me. In fact, it's one of my favorite memories of my Pop Pop: "When you're unhappy, Kim, just sing." So I might say yes to this choir opportunity. That will take care of Thursday nights, giving me one less evening to figure out on my own. Although it does add one more commitment to keep...

Hanging on by a thread...


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

College-Prep Chronicles, Volume 1

I am currently gearing up to appropriately stress over the realities that I will face as the mother of a high school junior. I figure I have seven months to work myself into a frenzy. Already I've been hit with a few reminders that clearly indicate my not-so-slow progression toward having a child "preparing for college:"
  1. A letter from a local college admissions consultant, offering his services (for an undoubtedly steep fee).
  2. Notice of an upcoming SAT Boot Camp.
  3. A report from Rob that a couple of our friends whose kids are also sophomores have in fact signed up with one of those college. admissions gurus. Said gurus are dictating recommending the ideal cocktail of courses that will ensure said sophomores are accepted to their college of choice.
  4. When I asked a friend what her family was doing for spring break, she mentioned the possibility of making a few college visits.  
Dear God, is it that time already?

I don't want to panic unnecessarily, so I sought out the advice of an acquaintance who happens to be one of our high school guidance counselors. I sent her an email that went something like this:
Dear Kristin, I'm not freaking out or anything, but I saw the notice about SAT Boot Camp and I'm wondering if Ian should be going to that. I also heard that some of his classmates with particularly overeager engaged parents have already had their kids take the SATs. Are we late on that? What is the normal progression for these things? I'm freaking out over here...
Kristin assured me that we hadn't missed any important milestones in the frantic drive toward my son's college career. PSATs come next fall (and they recommend students take them without training/boot camp first), followed by SATs in the spring, which can be taken again the fall of his senior year. And I think there's an ACT in there somewhere, too. I thought I saved the email so I'd have this important information at my fingertips, but I've just looked for it and can't find it, and now I'm freaking out a bit. Take a deep breath...

The important thing about this whole process is making sure that Ian doesn't pick up on my hysteria concern. I wouldn't want him to stress out, too. Although something tells me it may be too late for that. Just yesterday he confessed to struggling with his grades (for the first time in 10 years), from which he tearfully concluded that he was destined to be a failure in life, never to amount to anything because of a C in Algebra 2. I don't know where he gets his flair for the dramatic. But seriously, these kids feel an overwhelming amount of pressure when it comes time for the reality of post-high school preparations. Between their own hopes and dreams, their parents' wishes, and the unspoken competition with their friends, junior and senior year is a hotbed of anxiety, stress, fear and insecurity. I've actually been advised to avoid all conversation about college applications and acceptance letters with any current high school seniors. "So, did you get in to your first choice?" might just be the thing that sends them over the edge.

I'm relatively certain that this won't be my only blog post on the topic of college; there's just so much territory to cover:

  • How to manage the impulse to nag your child for months on end to finish his/her applications.
  • How to control a strong desire to "lightly edit" their college essay.
  • How to avoid adding stress to what is already a stressful experience. 
  • How to refrain from pushing Villanova down their throats putting too much emphasis on Villanova, given my employee discount.
  • How to control your inclination to compare your kids' performance/grades/abilities to those of their friends, and question why he/she got in to that school and your kid didn't when they're clearly superior.
(Clearly, the next two years will be all about perfecting my avoidance techniques.)

Given the amount of ground to cover, let's call this part one in an ongoing series that I'll title the "College-Prep Chronicles." 

I welcome your topic suggestions and feedback.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reaping Your Rewards?

Our gene pools provide us with all kinds of personality traits. On the downside, my family tree has provided me with a healthy dose of crazy. On the upside, I was also bestowed with an above average work ethic. Sometimes this hides the crazy (i.e. at work), other times it reveals the crazy (i.e. at home). Just ask my kids.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who, like me, works for a large non-profit (albeit not a university). She expressed her frustration with a situation in which a coworker would have had to go above and beyond to take care of a time-sensitive project. Only a couple small steps were required to make sure the project was satisfactorily completed, but rather than take those steps, this coworker offered a (technically legitimate) reason why it couldn't be handled, and wrote it off. This led to my friend -- who shares my stubborn, hard-working Pennsylvania Dutch heritage -- having to trek through snow and ice, literally climbing over downed tree limbs, to get to her office and complete the mission. She, too, could have given her boss a legitimate reason for why the project wasn't going to be completed in time, but instead she made it happen.

Her experience made me think about some of the challenges in working for a non-profit. While those of us who pursue this career path recognize that we're never going to get rich (though I must state for the record that I feel more than fairly paid), the one thing we hope for is recognition for a job well done. Or even a raise based on performance. Yes, I said it! Imagine if your work determined your reward. It's such an old-fashioned concept. Because I've worked for non-profits for the past 12+ years, I haven't experienced this approach to employee compensation. In fact, this same friend noted that, after years with her organization, it was clear that whether your job performance was exemplary or average, everyone got the same annual cost of living increase. Granted, "non-profit" often translates into "no money," but I would argue that one whose performance is above-and-beyond should warrant, for example, a 4% raise, whereas a coworker who turns down every opportunity to take on more responsibility should only get 2%. That way we're still averaging out to that dismal 3% overall.

I had a conversation on this topic with my sister who works for a global health services corporation. She mentioned how she still calls home when she receives a great performance evaluation (even at our age we're still seeking our parents' approval). While I, too, tell mom and dad when something nice happens at work, my sister's evaluation means something substantially different than mine. For her, a superior review equals a bonus that's worth about 50% of my salary, as well as a raise for the new year. Again, I made a conscious choice to work in this world, and I would never survive in hers, but still, the financial differences, based on job performance, definitely sting a bit.

In light of this reality, I'm wondering if it still makes sense to work your ass off demonstrate an exemplary work ethic. At what point does this kind of employee succumb to thinking that "It makes no difference how hard I work, so I will no longer go above and beyond, giving up my personal time to get the job done." I have friends who are fiercely protective of their time away from the office. They refuse to check email, answer their phone, or schedule an important 30 minute conversation with a client if it needs to take place when they're "off the clock." I'm completely incapable of cutting myself off from my employer regardless of the time or day, but perhaps those individuals are the smart ones.

I think this approach to employee compensation, where everyone is treated equally, reflects one of the major problems with our society today. If we give people no reason to try harder, work harder, take pride in their work, or go above and beyond, why should they? If unemployment or welfare pay better than minimum wage, why bother pulling yourself up by your proverbial bootstraps and taking a low paying job? Whether you're with a large corporation, a medium-sized non-profit, or a small mom and pop business, if you've learned that your performance provides little reward, how long will you continue to give it your all? For some of us that work ethic is so ingrained, that we can't imagine ever giving less than 100%, but it certainly makes you think (and obviously harbor some degree of resentment).

I know Christians are supposed to take comfort in our reward being in heaven, but the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16), in which everyone is paid the same regardless of how long they work, just doesn't provide much comfort in today's secular world.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one.