The start of a new year is a time of reflection for most. We look back at what we have accomplished and set goals for the New Year. Often times we see the dawning of a new year as a chance to start anew.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of my forty-eighth year. I choose my birthday as a time to reflect, determine what I have learned and how far I have come. So much happens in a year’s time.
Last year was the first year my mother did not call me first thing in the morning. She always said she wanted to be the first one to call me and wish me a happy birthday. My mother not calling last year hurt my feelings and even more so when I did not hear from her at all. What I thought was stress from my father’s passing was her dementia stealing her memories.
After dealing with a natural disaster that killed 42 people and forced me to evacuate, there were two other major events at work. The first targeted my fellow employees riddling their workplaces and cars with bullets and injuring one of them. A few days later I had to respond to a school shooting that took several young lives. When all these events occurred in one year, it made me want to move as soon as I finished out my term at work.
After the New Year rolled around my mother’s health took a turn for the worse. I had to find a place for her to live where someone could assist her with daily functions. I had been out to see her in January and I thought all was well with her having full time caretakers. I soon found myself having to learn about dementia, it’s effects on those afflicted and those tasked with caring for them. Six months later I was back in my hometown having to sell my mother’s home and all her possessions.
I hated having to be the one to rid her of what used to be her memories. Yet it was healing for me to close the door on the house that held so many negative memories. I am finally free of the baggage I have carried for so many years.
Being in the middle years of life means loss is a constant companion. After losing my mother to dementia, I will have to one-day deal with the loss of her presence in this world. A few weeks ago I lost my dog. I spent seven years loving this dog that had nothing to give me but his love, lots of laughter and sweet memories.
I like to take my birthday off from work. The weather usually takes a turn into fall right before my birthday. Every few years I am granted a reprieve and can take part in my absolute favorite birthday activity, taking a nap on my porch swing. This year, I managed to talk one of my coworkers into making me a German chocolate cake so I will go to work. With any luck, I will cut out early. The weather this year is looking promising. The temperatures should be in the mid seventies. It will be perfect for some reflection then a nap on that porch swing.
Seven years ago a large black and white mixed breed dog walked into my life and joined my pack of three dogs. More accurately, he walked into the glass door of the store I was meeting him at. He had my heart instantly. The rescue worker told me he was at least seven years old, he might be hard of hearing, vision impaired and he definitely was prone to seizures. She offered to give him to me but I insisted on paying full price for Lenny.
It did not take long to realize Lenny was not hard of hearing and he was not vision impaired. He just did what he wanted to do and on his time schedule. Nothing fazed him. I only heard him bark one time in these seven years.
The fifth dog into my pack was Moose. Once Moose came into my pack, Lenny became what a dog should be. Lenny bonded with him and trusted Moose. He would chase Moose, jumping and trying to block his path when Moose was running after a Frisbee. Moose never once lost patience with Lenny and they both had a fantastic time.
Earlier this year I learned Lenny had cancer. I don’t know how long he was living with it before it became obvious. A tumor was removed from inside Lenny’s mouth and his toe was removed as well. Malignant melanoma was the diagnosis. I had no idea a dog could get a skin cancer. The vet told me Lenny had about 5 month to live.
Five months later, that prediction came true. Those five months were filled with fun, chasing Moose, eating as many cookies as he wanted and whatever dinners he desired. You would be hard pressed to know Lenny was a sick dog.
Then today Lenny fell and something was obviously wrong. He could move his legs but could not stand. His neck was stiff and his eyes kept involuntarily moving from the back of his head to the forward position. His 130 pound body was immediately loaded into my truck and off to the emergency vet we went. Moose came with us. He was his one canine friend and I hoped he could offer some comfort to Lenny.
The doctor was kind and he did a great job explaining things to me. He believed Lenny’s cancer had likely spread to his brain. He was not going to recover. I knew it was time to let him go and the tears free flowed down my face. The doctor told me if it helped, it was what he would do for his own dog. It did, but I continued to cry. Moose came in the room and Lenny seemed to perk up a bit as he recognized the scent of his old friend. I lay down with him and held him while he was injected with the anesthesia. It was easy and peaceful. I knew the exact moment he took his last breath. I stayed there with him for several minutes after he was gone.
On the ride home, Moose licked my face then dropped his head onto my chest and stayed there for the rest of the ride. I think he knew my heart was broken. I am grateful Lenny found his way into my life and blessed me with seven years of the purest form of love only a dog can give. Run cancer free my kind, gentle soul.
I recently listened to a podcast of an interview with one of the founders of Netflix. Netflix founders started the company on the premise employees will have a job as long as they are a productive member of the team. When the employee is no longer effective, it is time for them to move on.
Netflix shows all new hires training Power Points. One of the slides lists the nine behaviors and skills the company values in their colleagues. These skills and traits are further defined so there is no ambiguity about what the company means by each trait.
These are fantastic values and I wish every company looked for these in their staff. How much more would you look forward to going to work if your company valued these traits in it’s employees. A Power Point slide states, “Imagine if every person at Netflix is someone you respect and learn from…” Yes, imagine that. It sounds like the ideal workplace.
There is a catch though and it is a big catch. “Adequate performance gets a generous severance package”. Most companies, especially unionized companies expect just a ‘meets standards’ performance. Unfortunately, most companies set this bar pretty low.
To maintain this high level in their staff, Netflix further explains its stance. “We’re a team, not a family. We’re like a pro sports team, not a kid’s recreational team. Netflix leaders hire, develop and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position.” Do you find this a bit harsh? Maybe it is but Netflix does not expect anyone to work for them forever. The concept seems to have worked for the company as they continue to be a powerhouse. Work hard as long as you can and you won’t get cut from the team.