Saturday, August 27, 2016

Communication

We started a one page office newsletter this week at work.
Nothing fancy, picture of the twins born this week to one of our organizers, updates on negotiations, school budget fights, etc.
A note that someone is looking for a mini fridge in case someone has one they aren't using.
That kind of stuff.

The reason we started it is because with everyone going in different directions, and yet everyone's work having an impact on everyone else, it's easy to assume that communications is fine and yet.....not always.

I find it a struggle sometimes when deciding who should be at Meeting A or Meeting B.  You want all the principles involved to be there, yet you don't want everyone tied up in every meeting all day long, or you'd end up all talk and no action.
It's a balance, and the best you can hope for is to try to get it right.

In this age of social media, I know more of what my friends and cousins are up to than I ever did, yet if I spend all my time on FB, when do I have time to sit and talk face to face?

Miscommunication is a problem sometimes too.  I have fallen victim of bad texting, have you?
I've sent a text to a friend meaning one thing, and they have read it in a completely different light, because the tone of one's voice and our facial expressions make a world of difference to meaning, and that doesn't always come through in a text or phone call.

As a general rule, I prefer communication in person, if not possible then by phone, and if that's not possible, then by text or email.

Another part of effective communication (and I struggle with this) is the ability to stop talking and to just listen.  Like many, I'm guilty of trying to think of a response while the other person is still speaking.

Written communication, is of particular interest to me.  The ability to convey the information I want is a part of it. That's the science.
The challenge is to convey emotion. That's the art.
Good writers and painters can to that.
I great piece of writing, artwork, photograph, play or movie can bring tears to our eyes.

We are social beings. Communication in all it's forms is a part of who we are, a part of what makes us "us.".


Friday, August 19, 2016

Thank you to those who serve

I spent two evenings this week with some of the most dedicated people you can find, the teachers, paraprofessionals, tutors, and other support staff of the Windham schools. 

On Wednesday they packed the Board of Finance meeting to urge the board not to cut the school budget before it sends it to a referendum. The next night, they were on the streets to speak with residents at the Third Thursday Street Festival to explain the importance of fully funded public schools and of voting in the upcoming referendum.

It has been my pleasure to come to know education members like this over the past year. They have so much in common with the nurses and healthcare workers I had already come to know. The dedication to students is the same as the dedication to patients that I experienced every day in my 21 years of bedside nursing.  
Nurses and teachers, healthcare workers, paraprofessionals, and support staff, share a love of service that is echoed by our public sector workers.

Financial gain is not part of their equation. Instead, love of students, and patients, and community are their motivation. 

It's easy to become discouraged when you're told, as one of our healthcare Locals was this week in negotiations, that management doesn't feel there's a "market for healthcare in this town."
It's easy to become discouraged when a major party candidate promotes hate and bigotry. When he says declaring bankruptcy time and time again and stiffing workers and small business owners of the time and wages he owes them is "good business."

Education, healthcare and the public safety net are not a "business."
They are a service.
They do not exist for the purpose of making the hospital or charter school CEO rich. 

If you find yourself becoming discouraged, spend some time with the dedicated teachers, paraprofessionals and educational support staff in your community, spend some time with the nurses and other healthcare workers, spend some time with the public servants, and you'll understand as I do.

Thank you Windham teachers and PSRPs, for two wonderful evenings and for the great work you do on behalf of your students and community. 

Maybe we should build a wall.
Then we can put,those who take from society on one side and the those who serve on our side.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Looking back, looking ahead

A little over a month ago, I sat with my president and we reviewed the past year, my job performance, my personal strategic plan, and what I hoped to and should work on for the coming months.
It's something that we had wanted to do for a bit and we finally found the time.

Developing a personal strategic plan in itself was very self reflective and helpful to me.
We get caught up in the day to day and need to force ourselves to step back and look at our lives as though we were looking at someone else's life and be objective about it.  That way we are less likely to wake up one day and say, "how did I get here?"
My president is a master at this, with her guidance we have developed with our executive board strategic plans for our organization, we have asked our employees to do the same for themselves, we have asked our divisional councils to do so, and we are beginning to work with our Locals to do the same.
They are fluid, living documents. Statements of where we would like to be in the future with benchmarks of time and units of measure to evaluate our progress. They are meant to be evaluated on a regular schedule and adjusted as needed.

The personal strategic plan I developed and discussed with Jan is a combination of personal and professional evaluations and goals.
I'll not share it but I will share that my overall goal is to be as valuable as possible to the organization.
I have sub goals that I believe will lead me to that objective and then a clear dilatation of my specific areas of responsibility within the organization, with more specific steps that will hopefully allow me to achieve my sub goals and overall goal.
The idea is to use this as a tool to evaluate regularly to see, have I been pulled off course as I deal with day to day responsibilities? Do I need to adjust my plan because the situation on the ground has changed?

So, where am I, one year into this new position?
Let's look at the past month.
I attended the AFT Convention for the first time as the state VP, with 30,000 members in education, healthcare and public service. Previously, I had attended as a president of 370 Registered Nurses who had formed their own union.
Yeah, it's a different role.
While I am adjusting to a role of representing a much larger and more diverse group, I am also adjusting to a transition from being a charter president to a vice president. I think I've done well, but I'm not perfect, and I continue to learn.
The following week I attended the Democratic National Convention as a delegate. Besides being very exciting and interesting to be there and be a part of history, it was an opportunity to spend a lot of time with a lot of influential people. Having the opportunity to have conversations about the hopes and dreams of our diverse membership is a two way street. I want to tell legislators and they want to listen, because, frankly, representing 30,000 active members/state residents is a big responsibility and honor for me but also for the legislators.
Then it was back to the office and this week, and through a series of travel commitments and illness, I found myself the officer seeing to the day to day back here in Connecticut. (Of course, Jan, Jean and Ed were a phone call away, and I used those calls)
I got to chair my first Executive Committee meeting this week.
I won't lie, I was a bit nervous before, but it went well.

So, where am I, one year into this new position?
Still learning.
I hope I can always say that. I think if I ever get to the point where I "know it all," it will be time for me to leave.
I'm comfortable in my new role. I have incredible support form those around me and I hope I am a source of support for them.
I think I'm doing good work.
I keep in my mind the incredible work our members do, in education, in healthcare, and in public service, and that pushes me to do the best I can.
I'm looking back to see, am I on track? Am I making progress? Have I remembered my goals?
Add I'm looking ahead.
I've been given a gift and I understand that, and I want to make the best use of the opportunity to be as valuable to the organization, our members and the movement as I can be.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Love

You'd think after 41 years of marriage I'd have this thing we call love all figured out.
You'd think I would have the answers, that I'd found the secret to a long and happy marriage.
Sorry.
I don't have the answers.

Some people hear we've been together for this long and say "congratulations" like it's an honor we've won that many strive for but few achieve.
Please don't look like it that way.
We know many who are divorced.
We did not do it better than them.
Most of those people are correct to be divorced, some waited too long.
Some people suffer through too many painful years, even abuse, before making the difficult and painful decision to split.
Michelle and I haven't done marriage better, just different.
Loving one person your whole life doesn't make you an expert, doesn't mean you are more successful.

There are so many different forms of love.
Parents and siblings,
bothers and sisters and cousins,
close friends,
lovers,
men and women,
men and men,
women and women.
Sometimes, love is instant, like the first time you see your baby's face.
Sometimes it builds slowly, like the acquaintances who know each other forever, and then start feeling something closer.
Sometimes love lasts a lifetime, sometimes a summer.

Love isn't finite.
It isn't like if you love one person with your whole heart and soul that you cannot love another.
I love Michelle, and my children, and my siblings and cousins and friends.
Love for one does not diminish love for another.
It seems to grow as your experience it.

Sometimes we look to those we love to be a source of fulfillment.
Please don't, it isn't possible or fair to those people.
They can provide support and strength, but fulfillment needs to come from within, from self-love.

All forms of love are special, all precious, and we all deserve to find it, not with just one person, but with many people in many forms, during our life.

So don't look at us being married for 41 years as something special, don't hold us up as something to emulate.
Find your own forms of love, and embrace them.

Michelle and I have been lucky to have been in love so long.
It's special and comforting.
We have gone through many of life's trials together and that makes for a special bond.
We have times when we are ready to walk away, times when we are so angry with each other.  But anger is not the opposite of love.....apathy is, just not caring any more.
We've not experienced that with each other.

Life isn't a fairy tale, it comes with bills, and mortgages, and family.
There are days of doubts, it's not happily ever after.

Sometimes though, even now, we feel like we are back as we were in high school.
To this day she excites me if she dresses or undresses in front of me (and she knows this)
But our closest times are when something great or something tragic happens and we want the other with us to share the moment.

So don't look to others to find the definition of love, because it will be different for you.
Go out and find it in the forms meant for you, and have the courage to embrace them when you do.




Sunday, July 31, 2016

DNC in review

I couldn't speak the words to the National Anthem, something I had recited millions of times before.
But this time I was standing with the other delegates of the DNC and at that moment on day 1 of the convention, the enormity of the situation struck me, and I was choked up.
It was then that I realized I was really there, really going to be a part of history, really there the night the glass ceiling was shattered. And it was then that I realized it would be a week full of emotions.

The Mothers of the Movement who have lost sons and daughters to police shootings, the Police Chiefs who have lost peace officers to assassinations like in Dallas but have seen the community rally to their side. My own Senator Chis Murphy and others, including Representative Gabrialle Giffords, call out for reasonable gun control measures so that 20 first grades and their teachers need never die again as they did in Newtown, CT.
The salute to veterans and active duty and to the victims of 911.
The rousing speech of Rev Barber, the inspirational speech by Doloras Huerta of the United Farm Workers, the quiet story of Bill Clinton and the pride of Chelsea.
The eloquence of Michelle Obama and the conviction of Barack.
Vermont passing during roll call so that they could go last and Bernie could move the nomination of Hillary, one of the classiest moves we will ever experience in or out of politics.

And there were other, quieter moments.
Like sitting with Representative Jim Himes and discussing what it is like to be in a union and what it is like to be a democratic legislator from a conservative district and later sitting with Mrs Himes, in the middle of the convention, and discussing not politics, but life, and my growing up in Connecticut and her Canada, much as any two people would do had they met elsewhere.
Sitting with my Congressman, Joe Courtney, at breakfast and discussing his reelection, the second district, and having him introduce me the Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez.
Having a friend back home send me a copy of a text from his daughter, excited about serving Lt.Governor Nancy Wyman lunch at a local restaurant and telling Nancy about it.

Late night conversations back at the hotel over a nightcap or two and hearing the passion of the other delegates.
Being there when the glass ceiling was shattered with the nomination and acceptance speech of the first female nominee for president by a major party.

It was an amazing week. Our political system is not perfect. But WE THE PEOPLE have the ability and the responsibility to be involved and that is what makes it better, not sitting on the sidelines and complaining that we have no voice.