A Bird, My Hero, And An Unforgettable Day

About a year ago we had an unexpected visitor. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was a blue heron. We had never seen such a large bird in our backyard, so we were curious about him. I often observed a blue heron wading in a nearby creek, so I was excited to see it up close. Then, it dawned on us. This big fella was coming to eat our fish! We have a small pond in the back yard with about 80 gold fish ranging in length from 2 to 8 inches. “Go away!” I shouted, only after I had snapped a couple of photos of this beautiful predator.

blue heron at the pondOver the next couple of weeks, we realized that we had become a regular stop for our long-legged visitor. A couple of times I caught him gracefully stepping out of our pond. I feared that all the fish were gone. And, my fears seemed justified. Before our daily visitor came, whenever we approached the edge of the pond, dozens of fish would come slurping up to the surface in anticipation of food. Now when we approached there was complete stillness, and all we could see were the maple leaves that covered the bottom of the pond. This was not a good sign.

As the weather got colder, the visits from the big bird became less frequent and we were able to see that most of the fish still lived happily under the temporary safety of the ice. But, a few weeks ago, our blue heron came back. We developed a daily ritual. We would spot him through one of the windows and run out hollering. He would flap his huge wings and slowly rise over the rooftop of a neighbor’s house. Friday, when I was out for my run, I saw him flying through the neighborhood, and he was headed in our direction. I almost turned around but just accepted that he will fish in our pond whenever we’re not home.

How could we keep this bird away from our yard? And, what happened to his natural food source that he was now forced to forage in dangerous environments where there are people, dogs, cats and cars? We thought about some kind of motion alarm but were really at a loss for what we could do.

Today, right as we were finishing breakfast, we spotted our feathered stalker roaming through the yard. My husband ran out, yelling. This time, rather than flying off, the bird awkwardly flapped his wings and ran towards the farthest point in the yard. He was injured. My husband continued to shoo him from a distance and the bird simply found a spot to hide in, behind a tree next to the fence. His behavior was quite troubling and indicated that he was seriously hurt. Our mission changed entirely. Now, instead of shooing him, we were concerned for his health and well-being.

We called several places and found out that animal control will come if the animal poses a danger to humans. We also found out that the wildlife rescue league will help with information and contacts but you have to transport the animal to a clinic or a rehabilitator. Before I had time to digest the information, my husband went outside and in less than twenty seconds, had the bird pinned down and was inspecting its injured wing. The bird was bleeding and the wing bone was broken. I found a box, punched a few holes in it, and we prepared the bird for transport. But to where? The poor bird looked terrified and it was clear that he was in pain.

We didn’t know where to take him and waited to hear back from our nearest wildlife rehabilitator. I also called our vet who told us to call wildlife rescue and advised that we don’t catch the bird. I didn’t volunteer to the person on the phone that we already had. The phone rang and it was the rehabilitator. She could not take him but told us to call the Pender Vet Clinic. When I told her that we had the bird ready for transport, she was surprised. She told us that they were dangerous and could poke an eye out with their strong beak, and that handlers wear masks for this reason. I looked at my husband in disbelief. I told him that he was my hero and thanked God he was not hurt.

We handed our injured buddy over to the good people at Pender. We signed away our rights and responsibilities so we will not know if the bird is going to be okay or if he was euthanized. But, we worry about the blue heron who was just doing what blue herons do – fish. We worry that something has happened to his natural habitat and that he has to risk life and wing just to get his sustenance. We worry that more wildlife will crash with humanlife, and not survive.

Every year we’ve lived in our house, we’ve had an animal visitor. Badgers, raccoons, mallard ducks, a bat, – even a coyote has come through here, but only as casual passerby’s. But, our beautiful blue heron has left an impression because he came regularly. Does the future restrict wildlife to zoos and preserves? Will we even have wildlife in the future? I think about my role in this blue heron’s fate. Our man-made fish pond, that beautifies our home and raises its buyer appeal, also creates a danger to wild water fowl and brings them to unfamiliar territory, where they can be injured or killed. We don’t know how the blue heron was injured but perhaps it would not have happened if we didn’t have a fish pond. I pray that our blue heron friend will survive and return to its natural habitat.

Much Love

PS. To donate to the Wildlife Rescue League, a nonprofit organization, which was very helpful to us and our blue heron friend, go to:  http://www.wildliferescueleague.org/

Also, to find out more about thePenderVetCenter, where they kindly took the injured blue heron, go to http://www.pendervet.com/pender-exotics-veterinary-centre.html

Getting To Know You, Ego

Several weeks ago I tuned in to one of Oprah’s Life Classes. She was talking about ego and how it gets in our way to do the real work of our life. Oprah pointed to clip of herself wheeling 60 pounds of fat onto her stage, showing the world how much weight she had lost. Though she presented that episode as an example of her ego taking over her authenticity, I didn’t see anything wrong with what she had done. After all, she had accomplished something great and was in a position to inspire many others to follow in her steps. I know plenty of people who are egocentric, putting their interests ahead of others, and giving no benefits to those around them. But, as the show continued, I began to understand Oprah’s lesson. It was tough to admit that I too have been egocentric and made decisions in my life driven by ego. When I did things to fill a need – to feel worthy, smart, or accepted – that was my ego at work. 

I forgot all about the show until this past Monday. In meditation I asked to be fully open to this week’s lessons.  I “heard” that the lesson would be about ego. I really didn’t know what to expect but decided to pay attention. Pretty soon I saw just how much ego is part of my day. It dictates what I wear and gets me to apply makeup every morning to cover up blemishes. My ego drives me to look a certain way and present an image to the world that helps me mask my insecurities about how I look or what I know. I faced my ego head-on on Wednesday when I decided to get up early and run with another person who was attending the conference with me. Before going out, I actually considered applying makeup for my run.

I started to feel bad, thinking, “Man, I’m a real ego-maniac!” How many women feel this insecure about their blemishes that they would consider wearing makeup to exercise? Then I remembered all those commercials about skin products that tighten, smooth away wrinkles and gradually remove dark spots. And then, there are the magazine ads that tell us that our skin needs help, or that our bodies are not right. Entire industries thrive on deepening our insecurities and creating a need to be perceived as flawless! Sure, I found an excuse for my inflated ego, but in the end, I am the person responsible for it.

Perhaps the biggest test happened on Friday. As soon as I walked into the office I knew something was happening. There were cameras, mics, lights everywhere and lots of people scurrying back and forth, busily applying makeup or rearranging furniture and wall-hangings. A show was being taped about the Hispanic College Fund. Immediately, I felt inadequate. I was casually dressed, and had not spent as much time on my hair and makeup, as is usual. But, that wasn’t really what was nagging at me. You see, two years ago, I would have been in front of the camera telling the story of the Hispanic College Fund. Now as a consultant, I was bothered that I could not contribute. But then I remembered the lesson I was to learn this week. It was my ego that was uncomfortable. My ego was itching to be in the spotlight, and to be perceived as a leader in the organization. All of my discomfort was from ego and when I recognized it, I was able to manage it. On Friday, I contributed by focusing on my work and being there to support in other ways. When the workday ended I felt grateful for the awareness and the lesson.

This week I learned that our ego, if left unchecked, can deceive us, hurt us, and could hurt others when we make selfish decisions. When we care too much about what people think of us, about how we look, or what we have, then we run the danger of not carrying out our life’s purpose and we might miss the beauty of our truly flawless spirit.  

I pray that you and I will continue to gain awareness of our egos and are able to manage and keep them in check.

Much Love

Here is a link to Oprah’s Life Class on Ego

http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/The-Complete-Webcast-of-Oprahs-Lifeclass-with-Eckhart-Tolle-Video

Who Cut The Cheese?

On a rare occasion my husband and I enjoy going to one of those all-you can eat places that serve mass-produced, cheap food. This weekend’s choice was Cici’s pizza. I haven’t had pizza in almost a year so I was excited. We got our salads, filled our drinks, and headed for the pizza. When I got back to the table, there was only one more thing I needed to begin my culinary adventure. Parmesan cheese. I found it hidden behind the napkin holder. I did one quick shake to give my pizza the final touch. WOOSH — the entire contents of the shaker landed on my plate, the table, and on my black jeans. I was covered in cheese. Intentionally or unintentionally, someone had not screwed on the top properly. 

 

What happened next surprised me. I burst out laughing. Seriously, a loud, from-your-belly laugh lept out of me! What’s more funny, not in a ha-ha way, is that I am not the type of person who would find this funny. I am person who would be very upset with being the victim of someone’s prank, or of an unfortunate incident. This made me think:  What has changed that transformed me from the being the person whose day would be ruined by this incident to the person who laughed, dusted off the extra two inches of cheese and enjoyed her meal?

 

I have always been a serious person. Teasing, practical jokes, pranks were never my thing. Presenting myself as a mature, professional, confident woman has worked for me and helped me in my career, especially when I first started. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that there is a funny side of me that wishes to be developed and set free. And, my career would benefit greatly from turning up the funny dial. In fact, all of the books I have read about public speaking strongly encourage presenters to learn to use humor to connect with, energize, and impact their audience.

 

But, when you have been serious all your life, how do you start using your funny bone? I mean, do I even have one? The first step is to make room for my funny side. My serious side has had free reign for too long. I started by trying to look for the funny things in daily situations and to stop taking myself so seriously. People who are funny have an uncanny ability to see the very same things we see, and see the humor in it.  People who make us laugh take risks and are not afraid to point out the irony or the warped way in which stuff happens sometimes. They have a unique perspective and the confidence to share it. I remember a time when I noticed this kind of perspective in one of my biology classes. The professor was showing a graph of the change in amounts of uric acid in camels’ urine as they traveled for months in the desert without water. While my brain processed the information about the uric acid, one of the students in my group quipped about the horrible luck of the graduate students who had been tasked with collecting the camels’ urine in that study.  The entire room burst out laughing. Only a funny person would have that mental picture.

 

I will never be as funny as my brother, who happens to have an overly-developed funny bone. He is a singer/comedian. But, in making room for the funny side of life (and me) I am relaxed and more open to positive experiences. So you see, we can all benefit from being funny. Laughter is great for the mind, body and spirit. Besides, looking for the funny side of life helps us see the silver lining in all things. I hope you let your funny side come out this week and that you find the humor in all of your experiences.

 

Much Love,

How Will You Be Known?

Banana

I did not want to be known as the one who grades the bananas in the dining room

You could say that my career took off when I moved to the DC area and joined a large corporation. I had been working as an administrative assistant by day and computer graphics artist by night. Knowing that answering phones and filing would not open many doors to management opportunities, I practiced graphics programs until I was experienced enough to score a moonlighting graphics job. So, when I moved to this area and got a full-time job as a graphics artist at a large company, I felt my career was on the right track. 

One year later, I could not believe my luck. I had been promoted to team supervisor within a week of being hired. My employer had given me a chance to prove that I could manage a small team that produced quality work. I took this trust very seriously. I came in early and left late, met all deadlines, ensured that our work was well done and on time, and I was always willing to take on more responsibility. My skills and work ethic were quickly recognized and pretty soon I was working on high-level projects creating executive and board presentations.

Due to the sensitivity of the data I worked on, I often worked on the executive floors. It was a tremendous opportunity. One day, as I was headed back to my floor, I stopped by the executive dining room and grabbed a banana for a snack. I got in the elevator and punched my floor. Just as the doors were closing, I saw a hand slice through the closing gap. The doors stopped and re-opened. It was the CEO. He smiled, said hello, and stepped in. I had worked on several projects for the CEO, and even had a congratulatory letter signed by him for one of the recognitions I had received that year, but I had never been this close to him. I did not know what to say. The silence was awkward so my mind was racing and trying to come up with something to say. “They had good bananas in the dining room today,” I heard myself saying. “Yes, they were very good,” he said.

Then, it was over. As I walked to my desk, I was disappointed in myself. Was my company’s highest leader going to know me as the woman who assesses the bananas? I was horrified at the thought.  I made it my mission to find another opportunity to speak with the CEO. You could say that I was stalking him for the next several weeks. One day I finally got my chance. This time I used the time to introduce myself, tell him where I worked, and what project I was working on. From then on, every time I had a few seconds with the CEO, I made sure to tell him my name and make a comment about something I was working on or something about the company, like the stock price hitting an all-time high. Eventually, the CEO got to know me by name.

This week I had the privilege to speak to a group of emerging women leaders . As a member of a panel, I was asked to speak about the lessons I have learned about leadership. This basic lesson of self advocacy and being prepared to speak with upper management is one of the most important skills an emerging leader can have. Hard work and dedication is great for your career, but it’s equally important to be a self-advocate and tell people who you are and what you’re doing. Your hard work may never get past your peers and your supervisor if you don’t speak up.

Self advocacy is not bragging about yourself. Your goal as your own champion is to have as many people in your company, including upper management, know who you are and how you fit into their world. I could have been a nameless person whom the CEO recognized as the someone who comments about the fruit, the weather, or some general topic. I decided to be the person the CEO knew by name. He knew what area of the company I worked in and he knew that he had signed an award letter recognizing me for outstanding performance. When I met the CEO, I mentioned preparations for the upcoming shareholders meeting, or the rise of the stock price. But, it wasn’t always about business. I also asked him about his golf game, or his trip toEurope.  He asked me about where I went to school, where my family lived. Eventually, I was someone he knew and was happy to run into. Self advocacy is an important part of career advancement. Remember that opportunities are given to the people decision-makers know by name.

Are you prepared for an elevator ride with the CEO? How will you be known in your organization?

Much Love