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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Character Building Project

           Chief Obbatinewat - symbol used by ShawmutBank

Once, I drove from Boston to w. MA with a life-sized bust of the Chief safety-belted next to me.
I was stopped by a police office who was concerned about my mission. 
Another of Mr. Seyffer’s Character Building lessons.

            My career in the financial and training industries was a loosely woven cloth that came together most unexpectedly. Previously, I worked for Amherst Associates, Inc.. It was a financial consulting firm that specialized in using computer models to design insurance reimbursement models for hospitals.  After that, I worked for Human Factors East. It was the hardest, most life-changing career move I ever made. The company was dedicated to building leadership skills at all levels within organizations. In particular, we focused on senior management – C.E.O., C.F.O. levels whenever possible. I was responsible for marketing and some training. A thimbleful of the draught we offered would be that we were teaching people to look within themselves to find the answers they needed for just about any situation. We made it fun, but it was still work. It required being open to seeing familiar things in an entirely new way. There were three-day, or intensive ten-day sessions. While very well-received in the San Rafael, CA where the headquarters were based, it was a harder sell in conservative New England.  Ultimately, the Eastern offices closed, but my life was forever changed.            
          With those two jobs to shore me up, I felt that I was uniquely prepared to apply for my next job. I submitted an application to work in a bank in Amherst, MA.  in September, 1983. There were no openings at the time.  The Human Resources person interviewed me briefly and said she would keep my résumé on file.  I was shocked when, one week before Christmas, I received a call from a woman in Human Resources in the Main Branch of the Shawmut Bank in Springfield, MA..  It is about a thirty-minute ride.  My interview fell on December 23.  As luck had it, there was the first snow storm of the season.  I was worried about where to park, I didn’t have boots that went well with my good suit.  If I changed my suit, I would have had to change my handbag.  I was grateful I had pulled my hair back in a tight knot that was close to frizz and water resistant. The snow crystals melted as I raced into the bank. It was a building designed during the Art Deco era. I was a bit too self-absorbed to take it in, but at first glance, I appreciated that it was a splendid and regal interior.  I was ushered upstairs to a small room. A human resource attendant left me there with a cup of water.  I interviewed with a very conservatively dressed, dry man whose intelligence radiated from his eyes. I was told this is Mr. Burr, an  Assistant V.P. of Marketing. He was quick with repartees and humor.  We had a rapport. When the interview was concluded, I thought that was it. But know, a man in a diminutive shape and a powerhouse of energy nearly jumped into the room.  He was older, clearly Mr. Burr’s boss, V.P. of Retail .  He pumped my hand and said, “Ken Seyffer.”  Which actually confused me because that was not my name.  It was a funny glitch.  I played with it, “Ohhhh, no, my name is Dawn Evans, you must have me confused with Ken Seyffer.”  There was a second where the whole thing fell flat, then Mr. Seyffer’s head dropped back and with a barking laugh, he pulled out a chair, indicated I should do the same, and we sat across from each other. We talked for about half an hour about nothing to do with banking.  Abruptly, he stood up and left the room. I didn’t have a clue what to do.  Was the interview over? I waited. And waited. Just as I gathered my purse, brief case and nerve to walk out, Mr. Seyffer returned with Mr. Burr. We sat down at the table again. Mr. Seyffer asked me if I had any unanswered questions at that point. When I denied any loose ends, he said, “It was truly a pleasure to meet you. I am sure that, whatever you do, you will go far. And remember, when you make a mistake in life – and you will – just look at is as a Character Building opportunity.” Handshake, then gone. My heart sank.  “Whatever do I do now?” I thought. “That sure sounded kind of like a brush-off.”
I was left with Mr. Burr. Mr. Burr said, “Don’t mind him, he is a bit tightly strung. Now, returning to the business at hand.  We would like to hire you as Director of Training. You would come in at an Assistant Vice President level. While the salary is not commensurate with what you were earning, you will have more stability, good benefits and more vacation days here. There are annual bonuses and cost of living increases.  You have room to go up in your pay grade, so there is every reason to believe you will be back at your old salary within a year. We would expect you to basically set up the department from the ground up. You will get a budget. As you prove yourself and the value of the department, that will increase. How does that sound to you?”
“I am thrilled.  Exactly to whom would I report?” Honestly, I was slightly intimidated by the Director of Retail. He was charming, but he had street smarts. He was very sharp and a lot faster on the uptake than I was. Mr. Burr was a bit conservative, but there was clearly more to him than he let on.
“You’ll have to learn to put up with me.  When do you think you might be able to start? Would January 2, 1984 fit your schedule?”
I filled out my W-2 the same day. It was a phenomenal Christmas present.  
And, thus, an eleven-year fulltime career (followed by an eighteen month part-time stint) was launched on the morning of the first snowstorm in 1983.
This entire memory clip was excavated from the archives of my mind unexpectedly this morning. I opened an email from a friend and colleague named Gladys Diaz.  In particular, two paragraphs appeared in her blog that were uncommonly familiar to me.
 Gladys wrote a close version of the opening dialog I used in one of the training programs I designed and delivered monthly THIRTY years ago – nearly to the day.  Her words were not quite the same, but the content was uncannily the same.  Gladys was probably ten at the time and had never heard of Shawmut Bank.  Something like a shiver raced through me when I read her post… please, take a minute and consider:
 “Your thoughts affect your beliefs and your beliefs affect your perception of the world, me
n, relationships, and even yourself.  The more you focus on your fears, disappointments, what you don’t have yet, and anything else that reaffirms those disempowering thoughts, the less likely you are to experience what it is you truly desire.
You are 100% responsible for creating both the life and love your heart desires.  The more you focus on what you want, without driving yourself crazy thinking about how it must or should look and what needs to happen for it to come about, the more likely you are to attract and draw those things into your life.”

I am left wondering if we just keep repeating the same lessons with different teachers until we finally catch on!

Thank you, Doug Burr, Ken Seyffer and Gladys Diaz. I am still working on the Character Building project.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Making of a Diamond

I took an unexpected detour yesterday.  I was waiting for a friend to join me in the “home theatre” that is available to reserve for residents of my Providence apartment complex.  While I pine for Martha’s Vineyard every day, I am learning to appreciate some of the bonuses of city life.  Food delivery, easy access to Big Box stores, a swimming pool that comes with no responsibility, visits with my best friend from high school, weekly social events and mixers and, yes, the home theatre.  At the pool, I make the acquaintance of a wide and varied assortment of people.  Marnie, the financial services recruiter, who is going to be married to her fiancé, the manager of a local baseball team next month, often has unscripted weekends because her fiancé is on the road.  She let me in on her pastime.  As it turns out, the personnel at the concierge’s desk have taken us both under their wings. They do everything possible to make the two of us comfortable in a theatre that holds twenty people.  Gestures such as offering to adjust the room temperature, entrusting us with the remote to control the volume, even offering us films from their own libraries reflect their kindness toward us.  We both feel so grateful for their investment in our movie nights.
   Physically, finding a way to be comfortable in a new setting can be daunting for me. I have found that if I bring my yoga mat, my own pillow, and “borrow” a decorative pillow from the adjoining formal living room designed for functions and events, that I can make myself a perfectly comfortable nest on the floor.  I am much happier avoiding the uncomfortable theatre chairs and skirting the use of my wheelchair for two hours.  I have watched three movies in three nights: Frozen, Argo, The Descendants.  Diverse.
             Last night, I was lying on my makeshift sofa, waiting for Marnie to join me from her apartment somewhere in the twelve stories that towered above me.  The minutes  ticked by, then, a text. “Be right down! Finishing up phone call with my fiancé :)!
I decided to weed out my Notes on my phone. I started the task, but had to put it aside because Marnie arrived.  I was glad to have done so.  When I returned to it long after the closing credits of The Descendants, I discovered my log of Notes was a kind of time capsule that I had, quite unintentionally, been keeping since early 2012.
              On some pages, I found one word. I had no idea what it meant to me at the time I wrote it. “Navigate.”  Into the trash they went. On numerous pages, I found phone numbers, with no names. I deleted those easily.  On other pages, I found phone numbers with names, but I no longer had a reason to call them. Into the proverbial cyber-circular file.  I found a list of my allergies and medications.  I updated those.  I found  a churning, ever-changing list of usernames and passwords.  I stopped updating those when I read an article about Internet Safety.  Apparently, it is not a good idea to keep such a thing available even if your phone is passcode protected.  Of the nine or ten versions, I deleted the majority.  Call me sentimental. I kept one or two. The list shows where I go and what I do most of the time. Someday, I might like to remember that I was a regular customer of Lands End or that I preferred local banks over the national kind.
                What surprised me most were the notes to myself.  Going back to Jan. 2012, I had jotted down a steady stream of reflections that seemed germane at the time. They are recorded in reverse chronological order. I know I have three full notebooks and countless documents filed in my computer. After all, thinking is what I do best. However,I did not even remember feeling the urgency to either dictate or write these thoughts when the only reliable scribe available was my phone.  As I scanned through the notes,  I thought, “This person is undergoing some enormous force of change.” Suddenly, what came to mind were diamonds. 
                 A rehearsed presentation from a fourth grade project by one of my children bubbled up from my memory.   From it, I remembered a few key facts about diamonds. I know that only with sufficient heat and pressure, found up to 250 miles into the earth’s core, can carbon crystals be crushed and reshaped into diamonds.  It can take 1 to 3.3 billion years for the transformation to take place. There is a process by which molten lava, or magma carries the diamonds closer to the earth’s crust.  Fields of diamonds may be found as deep as 1.5 miles below the surface of the earth or even, in the right conditions, on the earth’s surface.  Diamonds are known for their hardness, conductivity of heat, and their brilliance. They are very difficult to contaminate by any other matter.
               For the first time, I considered that, perhaps the past three years of turbulence in my own life was, in fact, the heat and pressure that is reshaping me into a diamond.  A raw diamond at that – uncut, unpolished, but inarguably harder, stronger, more difficult to crush. Possibly, I will emerge with the ability to reflect light quite brilliantly. 

Notes from my IPhone   May, 2014 back to  January, 2012

Whatever you do over and over, you tend to get very good at.  What is it that you choose to be good at?  What do you choose Not to be good at?  Those are some of life’s most important questions.        May 5, 14

The thing most worth sharing was the love that let us build our lives together. Ap. 24. 14

The length of time is takes to heal depends on the resistance you give to the loss of the relationship and the things you choose to focus on.
Pain, resistance and loss are happening in your mind, they cannot occupy the same space as the present.  First, notice any angry, judgmental thoughts as you have them. That’s all. Think, “Hmmm, that’s interesting.”  Then, move on to laying them down. As you do so, your regain your power. 
So?  You have negative emotions?  Don’t judge them. Notice them, let them go.
The pain you are hanging on to has some hidden rewards.
For me, it’s a sense of righteousness.  I deserve better than this.
In my version, the other person is the bad guy and I am the victim. I am not a victim.
The thing is, I will have to change my own behaviors if that is true. I am not a victim.
What price am I paying to hang on to that version of my story? Happiness,
Peace, Love, My health.
CHANGE the story, change the outcome.
I ask myself again and again, Who would I be if I let go of this story?  Me
Practicing and acceptance and letting go are the start to healing a broken heart.
Bring acceptance to my thoughts and see what happens.
After conversation with Gladys Diaz

“Regrettably, love does not stop conveniently upon command.  If only that were so, I might not have suffered so keen a sense of loss and abandonment.”

My friend Elizabeth Steele offered, “Embrace the future.
                      The truth is a great compass.”  10.10.13

There are many kinds of bravery.  8.3.13

Some stories ask to be told. They take you to the EDGE of your seat
In preparation for you to drop in.  These stories tell about us about our lives rather than relaying a bigger theme.  We tell stories to preserve our histories….
our histories both as a people as well as individuals; all are captured by these tales.
Our stories preserve our past and shape our futures.  Our thoughts
create our experiences, our thoughts create our destinies.   7.12.13

When my mourning comes around, the morning comes, too. 6.29.13

Change is the norm to which we must acclimate.   6.8.13

An unkindness of ravens, a murder of crows, a lamentation of swans. What might
a group of humans be called?  5.7.13     follow up http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/what-do-you-call-a-group-of

Hope takes shape in many things.
Grief is deeper than sorrow, Grief can obscure hope. Light, love, life can all be obscured by sorrow.
When, though she can’t see it, those of us who love her most illuminate her path, (until she can do so for herself)  God is present.  Now, then and forever.
Sometimes all hope needs is perspective. 
And then, the light cometh.
Show me where a rainbow starts and I’ll show you how love fills our hearts.
Rock of ages past….let no moss grow on a rolling stone.

Use your gift to speak for those who can’t.
Those words appeared in my head as clearly as a voice in the room as I was getting
out of bed, alone.  And then, again, when driving on Beach Road with water and
sky surrounding three sides of me.       8.12.12.

I may just meet you in hell. 1.19.12

Yesterday, I met up with a frustration of a technological nature. I had written a posting for my blog.  The topic?  How to Best Choose Bed Sheets.  This is a topic that is near and dear to me for a variety of reasons. Then, for not apparent reason, my computer froze.  I know that is rare with MacBooks.  Even more unusual was that I had somehow, overlooked my compulsion to save, save, save my document every 15 minutes.   I don’t trust autosave! Forty-five minutes in, all I could do was stare at my essay, suspended on the screen.  The cursor wouldn’t move; the page was unavailable to respond to my commands.  The MacBook wouldn’t shut down. When I did the last ditch measure (hold down the start button for ten seconds), I was able to reboot the computer.
The file was lost. Perhaps it is buried somewhere in Word in a secret code that I can not decipher. However, it was frustrating to lose my work. I think it has been over a year since that has happened.  It is for that I am grateful.  I will revisit the topic of thread count and cotton, but I didn’t have the heart to grind it our last night.  Autosave should have done so, but I am now manually selecting SAVE.


Friday, July 25, 2014


Peace wears many disguises. It is often easier to find without using the word “NEVER.”

Recent tumult in my life has taught me innumerable lessons.  In fact, I have pages and pages of them that I have written down with the firm aspiration of sharing them with other life-travelers at some point.  They need to be shuffled and straightened and edited and culled until we are left with the very best.  My hope is that these life lessons, should you have the good fortune of learning them before experiencing them, will leave you with a little less pain and a lot less sorrow.  However, I am so absolutely,
 R E S O L U T E L Y confident of this one that I offer it in advance of all the others.
Avoid saying NEVER.  Never is a judgment that once uttered, almost without exception, goes about proving you wrong
After four miscarriages in three years, I was told I would NEVER have children. I did not believe or accept this pronouncement.  After science, patience and the hand of God, I was ultimately blessed with three of my own children.  A clear demonstration that NEVER does not – necessarily – dictate destiny.
For some reason, I have found that when I make an emphatic statement that includes the word NEVER, I often find myself in the situation doing exactly what I thought I would never do.  Lets start with my children when they were in elementary school.  Early one October morning, I was standing in a tight circle with other mothers talking about our kids’ Halloween costumes.  I was saying how long it took to sew just one of my three children’s costumes. One of the mothers, with her youngest of her four on her hip turned to me and said, with close to a sneer on her face, “Don’t tell me you are one of those!”
“One of what’s?”  I asked. 
She said, “One of those mothers who make the rest of us look bad.”
I was taken aback, but laughed it off.  However, I felt like I had just been boxed on the ears.  She had no clue that the words I used before I had children were already silently echoing in my head.  Fortunately, none of the women gathered that morning could possibly know that I once said, 
“I’ll NEVER turn into one of those mothers who feels like she has to make her kids their Halloween costumes.” 
When I uttered those words, before having children, I had absolutely no sense of what fun and joy and satisfaction was tied up in choosing the pattern and the fabric with my each of my children. I couldn’t have imagined how uplifted I would feel (and still feel the residual ripples now) that I was part of something that was important to my child. “Never” reliably trips me up.
           Until I was 38 years old, I was pretty athletic. I loved to run 3-5 miles daily. I played tennis whenever I could find a court and a partner.  I took exercise classes as well as weight training classes. I studied yoga and signed up for both modern and ballet through continuing ed. .  I strapped on my cross-country skis at the first coating of snow. I swam daily through two of my pregnancies.  I was active and loved to be outside.  I am not boasting. Rather, I am setting the stage to better illustrate a point.  I recall an idle locker room conversation with a friend after a Step Aerobics Class.  We were talking about how great exercise felt and what a great balance it was to motherhood. My words haunt me still, “I could NEVER imagine life without being able be outdoors and be physically active.” Less than a year later, when I was 39, I saw one orthopedic surgeon, then another.  Their recommendations did not waver.  The second doctor summed it up, “You need to make major life changes, your life will NEVER be the same.”  I sat in his office holding myself unnaturally still.  Stunned, I could barely hear the rest of what he told me about the premature aging of my joints. Stop running, biking, skiing, dancing. Tennis was out. I could swim, until my shoulders started to dislocate, then I would have to stop doing that. Finally, as I remember it, I interrupted him and said, “I see. Thank you.” I shook his hand and then drove home shaking my head the entire way. 
          I rationalized that I was not going to let those doctor’s NEVERs stand in my way. What I didn’t count on was that no matter how hard I pushed myself physically, I seemed to do more harm than good.  At that time in my life, my husband was my most ardent fan. He cheered me on. 
“You will get stronger. We will find a way to heal you, “ he said.
He was as eager as I to find answers and solutions. We chased those answers for ten years.  When the diagnosis was clear – Ehler’s Danlos Sydnrome, it was not as much of a relief that either of us expected.  Regardless, I did discover that I could still find ways to exercise. Instead of trainers, I use physical therapists.  Instead of yoga, I found pilates.  When swimming became problematic, I started pool (and even ocean) walking. My life has evolved as my abilities have changed.  When I uttered that careless locker room NEVER so many years ago, I had yet to learn what seems to be an inviolate truth.  We can curse the world when it does not deliver the life we want and had, perhaps, planned, or we can try to rise to meet the road on which we find ourselves. To my mind, there is only one path to happiness.
            In the past fifteen years, two of my dearest friends released me. Another one dismissed me from her life entirely. These were people to whom I had surrendered my heart and trust entirely. Many people would say I am too loyal for my own good, and that I am far too empathetic. The fact that I moved eleven times in my first thirteen years taught me the value of abiding friendships.  I hold more fast to my friends than most. My closest friends have been in my life for twenty to fifty years. It takes an act of Congress or God or, as I found out, direct rejection, for me to give up on those deep friendships.  I had the attitude that I would NEVER give up.  The idea of giving up lifetime ties seemed impossible to me from where I once sat.  Today, it seems yet one more new direction that life may take me. It would be easy to say that I would NEVER  let go of  someone whom I love and with whom I have  soul-deep ties. The newer, wiser Dawn knows better. With time and circumstance, anything is possible. 

NEVER is the negative form of FOREVER.  How realistic would it be to say that I will forever be polite, that I will always be a good listener, that I will be forthright and truthful in all things, that I will be kind, suspend judgments of others and, oh, that I will exercise only the best fashion sense?  There is a real possibility that I will fail to do one or a combination of these things over the days ahead.  I might make mistakes, I might be cruel, I might – on occasion - let slip my inherent belief that life is wonderful, that people are good and that I am surrounded by blessings. My point being…..how can there be a NEVER  if there is no FOREVER?  The universe is expanding; our world is constantly changing. We are compelled to adapt in order to survive.  What’s more? If we adapt readily to change, studies show that we have a much better chance at lifelong happiness.  For all these reasons, I skirt the use of the word NEVER. I have come to believe I have a much better chance at a happy, peaceful life if I relinquish the word Never, and it’s mate, Forever, from my vocabulary.