Micromanager? Not Me!

Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf

Published the week of March 13, 2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune

This past week someone asked me if I would mind if they changed or tweaked an idea that was birthed from my brain. I, of course, answered, “No problem.” I actually meant that. A few years ago I probably would not have been so nonchalant about someone tweaking a vision I had for a venue.

 I no longer have the need to be in charge. In fact, I don’t like being in charge anymore. I no longer feel threatened if someone feels something could be made better by tweaking or adding their ideas to something I created. I now like collaboration. However, I will say when it comes to my books I don’t always agree with the tweaking, and I will fight tooth and nail in leaving a line or a word or something I feel I believe in and is necessary to a story, but it is not because I want to have the last word but because I want to put out the best work.

I must admit I am still a micromanager. Aren’t we all? We micromanage the little things in our life — that we possibly can control. That can lead to amusing conflicts in our households.

I am the drawer organizer in the kitchen — or at least I try to be the organizer. When the dishwasher gets unloaded, my husband is our dishwasher unloader person, I am the person who hand washes if we have pots and pans. This division of labor works well. I don’t mind washing dishes, but I dislike unloading the dishwasher for some unknown reason. He doesn’t like to wash dishes. This is where one area of micromanagement shows up in our relationship.

He rearranges the dishes I put in the dishwasher. I rearrange the dishes he puts back in the cupboard. He doesn’t understand why I don’t load the dishwasher right. I must admit I don’t understand his formula. I don’t understand why he can’t put things back correctly in the cupboard. My theory is that mixing blades should go with the mixer. Gadgets should go in the gadget drawer. We don’t get each other, and we constantly jockey for our way of arranging things.

When we had the wastebasket sitting in the kitchen, I felt it sat too close to the laundry room door, making me have to twist my body to open the door and squeeze in the laundry room. I would set it where I wanted it. A few hours later it would be moved a few inches to where he wanted it closer to the door.

Our cats get confused when I move their cat dishes where I think they should be, and he moves their cat dishes where he thinks they need to be.

When I fry bacon it is on a low flame and takes a little longer so grease doesn’t splatter all over the kitchen. When he fries bacon, the flame is high. When he is walking past the bacon frying while I am cooking, the flame sneakily gets turned up. I slink past the stove when he is frying bacon and turn down the flame. We micromanage and drive each other crazy with these little things.

Our life becomes a negotiation over the little things, and most of the time neither one of us realizes we are doing it.

I think the same is said for volunteer organizations and our church organizations or even our interactions with our friends. Many of us have a tendency to own what we do, and not give others the chance to help us make our environment or activity spectacular because of team input.

I realized the past few years I probably steamrolled over many people in my volunteer activities or work situations. I so protected my ideas and my vision that I couldn’t see others creative and constructive suggestions would make it better. It was my way or the highway.

A good manager values input, can sift out what will work and incorporate others’ ideas into their vision.

I rejected others’ input for a few reasons. One of those reasons was insecurity about myself and my ideas. It was a threat if anyone threw out an idea that didn’t jive with mine or told me something was wrong. That would make me more rigid in my managing skills. I wanted it my way. If someone rejected an idea, I would feel it was a rejection of me as much as what I had suggested or written. In order to keep that control, I was the one who had to be right.

I make mistakes, and this week I made some doozies on a script I wrote. I make mistakes because I am not really a detail person, and so I make detail goofs. I realized how far I had come when I took ribbing about, and was laughing right along, and able to own up to the fact that — yes, it was my mistake. Although I had made the changes, I didn’t save them so no matter which way you looked at it — I flubbed.

I haven’t grown up enough yet though to not be a micromanager in my house. I must admit it keeps things interesting because each of us never knows where something is going to be moved on any given day depending on our need to control for the day. I can’t control the big things but by gosh, my mixer blades will be in the right drawer.

 

Presidents and Their Best Friends!

Column the week of February 20, 2017,Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday in the Albert Lea Tribune. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

FDR at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, NY. Fala is 4 months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garettson of Rhinebeck, NY. August 8, 1940

FDR at a picnic on “Sunset Hill” near Pine Plains, NY. Fala is 4 months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garettson of Rhinebeck, NY. August 8, 1940

Today is Presidents Day. Do you know why we celebrate this day? I am one of those people who have not paid much attention as to the observance, other than it is a holiday to shop and have a long weekend.

I decided to look up a little history, and then I thought it might be fun to look a little into the history of first dogs, too. Those presidents loved their animals.

Following George Washington’s death in 1799, the day of his birthday, Feb. 22, became a day of remembrance because at the time he was venerated as one of the most important people in history. It wasn’t until 1879 that President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a law declaring it a national holiday. Presidents Day isn’t celebrated on any president’s actual birthday but on the third Monday of February. Today it is a holiday to recognize the achievements of all of America’s chief executives.

If you enjoyed the little tidbits about the day, visit the History Channel at history.com for more.

In researching some of the information for Presidents Day, I found many of our presidents had first dogs. I always feel you can tell a lot about a person by the animals they have. Or the fact they are an animal lover at all. Our past presidents loved animals.

In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a Scottish Terrier named Fala. Fala had his own press secretary.

Did you know John F. Kennedy was allergic to dogs, but in spite of his allergies they had nine dogs, one of which was named Pushinka, which was a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Herbert Hoover used his dog, King Tut, in his campaign photos in 1928. They say it could be possible it was his police dog that helped him win the election.

During George W. Bush’s reign his Scottish terrier, Barney, was an internet sensation with his “Barney Cam” videos.

The website dogtime.com has an impressive list of presidents and their dogs, plus the other animals in their lives.

George Washington had interesting names for his dogs: Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan were American staghounds. I can guess what President Washington had on his mind when he named his black and tan coonhounds, Drunkard, Taster, Tipler and Tipsy.

Maybe the name Fido for a dog caught on when Abraham Lincoln named his dog, Fido.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.” He certainly had the dogs to back up his statement.  He named his dogs, Peter Pan, Paul Pry, Calamity Jane, Tiny Tim, Blackberry, Ruby Rouch, Boston Beans, King Cole, Palo Alto and Bessie. The most famous of their dogs were Rob Roy and Prudence Prim. These dogs got baths with bluing to make their coats look whiter.

These are just a few of the White House dogs. My research found 32 presidents owned dogs, but this number is a little fuzzy depending on the resource. These dogs came in all shapes and sizes from terriers to collies to sheepdogs and yes, let us not forget Bo, President’s Obama’s Portuguese terrier. That I could find he is the only president that brought a Portuguese terrier to the White House.

Richard Nixon’s dog, Checkers, is immortalized in history in the Checkers Speech. Unfortunately Checkers’s life ended and Checkers never made it to the presidency, only the vice presidency.

Other animals that helped the presidents in the White House were  mockingbirds, parrots, an alligator, silk worms, horses, tiger cubs, a goat, a cow, an elephant, white mice, cats, a Piebald rat, a zebra, a hyena and many more usual and unusual creatures.

Perhaps Dwight D. Eisenhower summed up the reason we have had so many first dogs.

“The friendship of a dog is precious. It becomes even more so when one is so far removed from him … I have a Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion … he is the “one person” to whom I can talk without the conversation turning back to war.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today let us also remember those first dogs, that as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, bring consolation, diversion and solace to the past presidents. We might owe them more than we know

Unlimited Coffee Doesn’t Pay The Bills

11048645_996381253719106_4106219762973711992_oSomething About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published the week of February 6, 2017 in The Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel

Memories light the corner of my mind. Misty water-colored memories of the way we were. Those lyrics from the song “The Way We Were,” sung by Barbara Streisand,  brings to mind all those favorite places of mine that have closed over the years but hold precious memories. I remember eating at the Canton Cafe in Albert Lea and loving their pork tenderloin dinner along with a bowl of oxtail soup. What about collecting Santa Bears from Macy’s or Hanthorn’s Store, which we called the dime store, here in my hometown? I have precious memories of my dad’s successful hometown shoe store and the whirl-a-whips at Hanson Drug Store. Time moves on and businesses change. Some go away just because of time and change, and some go away because we are more mobile, more prone to buy on the internet than to be loyal to brick and mortar stores and our hometown businesses.

My community no longer has a clothing store or a shoe store. We are down to one drugstore. Our department store closed and a chain store replaced it on the outskirts of town. Kiester lost its grocery store and the city decided to revive it, but still it struggles. Our loyalty has changed, and we, the hometown consumer, are somewhat responsible for that change.

When a business in a small community closes, we hear various opinions as to why the business could not succeed.

“They were too expensive.”

“They didn’t have enough variety.”

“The service was terrible.”

“The staff isn’t friendly.”

“It doesn’t surprise me. They weren’t open on Saturdays or in the evenings.”

“The business was better when it was owned by the former owner. There’s too many changes. It needs to go back the way it used to be.”

I must admit I have probably said some of those things a time or two about some business or other in my community or other communities I have lived in. If I did, I apologize because I wasn’t being fair. I didn’t look at it from the side of the business owner.

I grew up the child of a small business owner at a time when people stayed in their communities to shop. People appreciated the businesses in their own hometown, and those businesses flourished.

I like to have coffee with friends in restaurants and coffee houses, but I haven’t thought about the cost to a small business owner for me to sit all morning and coffee in their establishment. I may have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast or a donut. The cost for that is probably around $2.50 in a community cafe. If I have 10 friends join me and we stay all morning and are waited upon by the waiter or waitress and have endless coffee flowing, the cost to all of us would be $12.50.

Think about the cost to the establishment. They are paying the service person, a cook and all the utilities, plus the cost of coffee. I don’t think what we paid would begin to cover the costs the business shells out to be there. We could add eggs and toast or a sandwich to the mix, but still we were sitting there swigging down coffee or pop all morning, and yes, it is easy to drink coffee for hours.

Many restaurants have specials. How many $4 burger baskets must you sell to pay the utilities and help and still break even? The same can be said for department stores, grocery stores and other businesses. We all want those bargains, and if stores don’t offer them we chose to find a place they do. As a consumer, I look at what it is going to cost me and don’t look at it with the business owners point of view. What does it cost them to keep the business open?

We have a new business in our community. It costs $5 to have all-you-can-drink coffee and unlimited sweet treats. The coffee is roasted at the business and the unlimited beverages includes lattes’ pour overs, hot chocolate, tea and other specialty drinks, but yet I have heard the rumor that people think it is too expensive to have an endless supply of those items. I guess it isn’t a $1.50 cup of endless coffee. Think about it from the owner’s standpoint. How many customers do you have to have to pay for the cost of the roasted coffee and unlimited baked goods? Will $5 do that?

I am good at complaining and my friends will tell you that. I don’t always shop in my community, but I don’t shop much. I stay hunkered down in my house, and if I do buy groceries out of town it is items I cannot get in town. The same can be said for our hardware store. We use it frequently, but for those items I can’t find there I do need to go out of town. So I do admit defecting from community businesses from time to time.

We had a wonderful department store for years, but a chain store was built in our community and people seemed to prefer that to a store that was established, and had the same variety and items if they would have taken the time to check it out. The store closed.

I am going to make more of an effort to support my local businesses and to be aware of the costs owners shoulder to keep their businesses running. I am going to try and complain less and not listen to unsubstantiated rumors. Rumors can close a business whether they are true or not.

We want businesses to be here when we want what we want, or when we feel the need to indulge ourselves in town. We complain when the businesses are gone because we miss them, even though we visited them on a sporadic basis. We can’t have it both ways. Which way will win out?