I learned today that an old friend and colleague, Craig Pfaff, passed away back in May. He had had a stroke in 2015/2016 and his health was never quite the same after that. I knew when I got a “non holiday” card from his wife that it would likely be bearing bad news.
A little about Craig and me. When we first started working together, I was 26/27 and in the middle of my marriage ending. Craig would have been probably around 45 at that time. We were not so much friends as work colleagues, but when I showed up at the office one morning without my wedding band and nothing but heartbreak in my eyes, he stood up and said we were going to breakfast. I don’t recall anything in particular that he said or didn’t say, but it was exactly the right thing to do.
Later that same winter the power was out at my apartment for 4 or 5 days. At first I slept under a mile-high pile of blankets at home, but once Craig found out, he called his wife Robyn and they set me up that night on their hide-a-bed. No big to-do about it, but it simply was not acceptable to him for me to continue (like the young idiot that I was) to keep staying at home.
Craig was both a friendly back-slapping salesman and often an openly cantankerous fellow. He decided to leave the company where we worked but told no one of his plans. I saw him, briefcase in hand, and he said he was leaving. Not in two weeks or the end of the day, but right then and there. He also said he didn’t ever trying to keep in touch with work colleagues because it never works out. I was in a total state of shock as he walked out the door, presumably never to be seen again.
Fortunately for me, the salesman side of him over-rode his melodramatic declaration of never being in contact. He kept track of everyone’s birthdays and I would get emails each year wishing me well.
Fast forward to 2007 when I made my own departure from that company. As fate would have it, we happened to be unemployed at the same time. We would meet for coffee to compare stories about interviews gone wrong or potential opportunities. I was contacted by a partner to our old company about a possible business venture and Craig and I hashed out the pros and cons and discussed making it a business partnership. That ultimately fell through, but I have to say there is nothing that makes the ego-killing experience of being unemployed more bearable than having a co-conspirator. Ultimately, we both got jobs, but ever after Craig was one of my go-to people and mentors for work-related challenges.
Over the years, our contact waxed and waned, but the coffee dates continued. When I broke my foot, he came and picked me up. After his first stroke, I gave him the ride. Meet ups became fewer and farther between as his health struggles increased. Finally, he sent me a note and said he could no longer could keep up with trying to stay in touch with people and this time he meant it. I did not hear from him again after that, in spite of occasional reach-out attempts on my part.
Ours was not a deep or really even particularly close relationship. We did not share much about our personal lives, other than maybe an update on his son Michael’s career (so still, work related). It was much more akin to mentorship, but I guess you just never know the lasting impact someone’s kindness can have on your life. I have had meet-ups with lots of other folks over the years who are on their own job hunts and I did not put two and two together until now that my coffee dates with Craig were largely the inspiration.
So, for Craig, I encourage all of you to take someone to breakfast or coffee and in a low-key and maybe even slightly cranky way, spread a little kindness to someone who needs it.
This post was originally written in October 2012 when I was working for LexBlog. It was posted on the Client Services team blog, Please Advise, and can can now be viewed on LXBN. Re-posted here with permission by @kevinokeefe.
I was out of the office for the better part of two days this week, having been summoned for jury duty. I have always believed that jury duty is a civic responsibility and I made arrangements to be there, but I was not exactly excited at the prospect of having to find non-existent time in my already packed schedule to serve. In the end, I was excused from having to sit on a jury, but regardless, I must say that I discovered a new found respect for our judicial system through my experience.
As someone who is immersed daily in conversations with our clients regarding how they conduct the business of law, it can be easy to forget that everything we do here at LexBlog ultimately supports the practice of law. When I first joined LexBlog (exactly 2 years ago, Sunday), I noticed how much it helped me to actually go visit law firms and see their actual day-to-day goings on. Spending a couple of days in the midst of the legal system only served to deepen that appreciation even more.
It is easy to be cynical about the US justice system and of course it is not without it’s flaws, but I was struck by the efforts we go to in this country to ensure folks are given as fair a trial as possible. Serving jury duty is basically the Constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers come to life. I was also moved by just how human and emotional the jury selection process can be. In the day and a half I sat through the voir dire process, there were tears, laughter, confusion, anger, and respect all represented amongst the potential jurors. Some folks were glad to be there, others wanted any excuse to leave, but yet all took the responsibility to appear seriously, whether they wanted to be there or not.
It also occurred to me that the ability to have a jury of your peers requires the expertise of those educated in the law. Without lawyers to translate our complex rules and regulations into something any of us can understand (and, too, without judges to keep order in the proceedings), the process might as well be relegated to the type of vigilante justice sometimes seen in the court of social media. To those of our clients who serve our courts in this capacity, I thank you.
And, what ran through my mind more than anything else as I contemplated being called to serve on a jury was how I might feel if I was on the other side of the table. None of us can know what events in the future might put us in the position of needing a jury of our peers to decide our fate. I can only hope should that day ever come for me, that the people summoned will show the same respect for the process that I endeavored to show.
Here are a few short steps to have a happy/healthy/successful/long/fulfilling life:
- Sleep 7-8 hours a night
- Take Naps – *NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN PEOPLE*
- Eat your vegetables
- Cut out sugar and alcohol, and saturated fat, oh and carbs. Pretty much don’t eat anything that tastes good.
- Eat real butter instead of margarine (now we’re talking!)
- Don’t drink cow’s milk, but also don’t drink soy milk if you are a woman
- Get plenty of vitamin D, but I guess not from milk. Get it from sunshine, yay, unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, in which case get used to having crappy vitamin D levels.
- On the 5 minutes the sun comes out, wear plenty of sunscreen so none of the vitamin D gets in. Also because skin cancer = sucks
- Ladies take your calcium with vitamin D, but calcium citrate – not calcium carbonate if you are prone to kidney stones otherwise you will end up in the ER with, well, kidney stones. Note: 99% of all calcium supplements will be calcium carbonate, except expensive name brand ones.
- Don’t go to urgent care or you might get misdiagnosed with diverticulitis and end up in the ER with kidney stones even though you told the urgent care doctor that this feels just like when you had a kidney infection in college. Also get a C. Diff infection from antibiotics prescribed for misdiagnosis. Learn the hard way about the importance of probiotics and a good primary care provider.
- Eat yogurt, because probiotics *ALSO NOT HAPPENING*
- Keep a food journal
- Keep a journal-journal (can I write about how much I hate keeping a food journal?)
- Socialize with friends (without sugar or alcohol..??)
- Spend time with family, but in real life not on social media, which is fun when they live all over the entire country and airfare to go visit your parents is more than airfare to go to Hawaii. Of course, fish and relatives get old in 3 days, so don’t stay in that place you just spent more money than Hawaii to go to for too long.
- Exercise regularly. And exercise includes the following:
- Aerobic activity
- Strength training
- Core fitness
- Getting 10,000 steps a day, even though days you work out with your trainer and you can barely sit on the toilet the next day you are so sore don’t count because that kind of torture does not equal steps
- Do something creative like look at pinterest to see exactly how much of a loser you are because you can’t make handmade pasta in the shape of chinese lanterns
- Turn off the TV (Is a life without binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix even worth living?)
- Drink red wine and eat dark chocolate (take that, #4! And, uh, does white wine count if you don’t like red wine?)
- Follow your passion
- Eliminate debt (if only my passion for giving unsolicited advice paid better, or at all).
- Meditate. Sit in a quiet place and calm your mind. Being a FOMO media loving American makes this very easy.
- Get an annual physical, and your eyes checked, get an annual mammogram, go to your dentist twice a year, and visit your various specialists that you have accumulated since you turned 45. Make sure all the various medical professionals mention that losing weight will solve all your problems but then don’t give you any guidance on how to do that. Get a colonoscopy before you are 50. Tell your husband terrifying stories about how he will never be able to handle the prep for your own amusement.
- Lose weight by calculating a mystery point system, journaling what you eat, and going to regular meetings. You will lose weight if you do these things. You will not lose weight if you do none of these things and just keep paying for your membership.
- Go to bed at the same time as your spouse. Unless your spouse routinely goes to bed before 8pm, in which case sit in the other room with the TV on ruining your brain with blue light and mock him from the sofa for his sleep weakness. Definitely wake him back up when you go to bed and tell him you are doing it for your marriage because you read an article on the internet once that couples should go to bed at the same time.
- Get off social media. (Well, then how am I supposed to know which friend of mine has some vague problem they are willing to post about but not say what it is.)
- Don’t smoke. Done. Never started. Super glad. If you have friends who smoke don’t ask them all the time if they are going to quit or tell them all about lung cancer. They will band together and plot your murder in which case your non-smoking life will be much shorter than theirs.
- Be married. I don’t necessarily recommend it to someone training for a long distance triathlon unless you like hearing about swimming, running, biking, bike parts, bikes in magazine, lifting up a bike with one hand to prove that yes it really is super lightweight. The only defense is to do your own endurance event and then you both talk about your events non-stop and effectively ignore each other together.
- Have a pet, especially one that eats too fast and promptly barfs their dinner on the carpet and then is hungry again. They will especially like to do this the morning you are having company over that night and just finished vacuuming.
- I have heard having children both makes you immortal and want to run in front of traffic, but I haven’t done that one so I can’t really comment. I can have fun getting “that” look from people when you told them you chose not to have kids, like, on purpose. It seems to be a mixture of pity and longing.
- Stop reading and making lists. They definitely make you depressed and feel bad about yourself. Hang out with your friends and family, drink a little wine, eat a little chocolate, run around the lake with your friend regularly enough to get some exercise and also not need to pay for actual therapy, and maybe eat some vegetables with those carbs. Hug your cat and your husband on a regular basis. Definitely watch Stranger Things on Netflix, but maybe not all at one time, just like 2-3 episodes a day.
My company is undergoing an organizational change. This is nothing new. You work long enough and every organization changes. Change is the only constant, right? I was not part of this latest re-org, but I will have to say goodbye to a number of colleagues at the end of June. Sad to say, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to watch people leave, or be the person leaving. These situations are never easy, but I’m usually able to maintain some sense of perspective. Having changed jobs, I know you can leave one and find another one. There are good people in lots of places. Job transition is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen to a person.
This time around, however, I have been having a much harder time maintaining my objectivity. I have only been with this company for just over a year, so I don’t have the kind of relationships that come with working with the same people for many years. Yet I feel like I am losing my best friends. Some of them have been with the company for 14 years. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for them to think about leaving after that amount of time. It hardly seems appropriate for me to be this level of upset after such a short amount of time together. Why do I feel so devastated?
Over the years, I have had a few great managers, some good managers, and fortunately only a small number of really bad managers. I have worked for great companies and not-so-great companies and some in between. I have had work that was satisfying, work that was boring, and work that was way over my head. I have worked with a lot of exceptional people and met a few I was not sorry never to see again. Very rarely, if you are lucky, you have the chance to work somewhere with a fantastic boss, amazing leadership, and co-workers that you universally respect and admire. When all of those pieces fall into place, it’s downright magical. I have had pieces of it here and there, but it wasn’t until I came to my current job that I got a taste of the kind of magic I hadn’t had in a long, long time.
I’ll offer just one example, of many. The group of folks I work alongside (most of whom are leaving) go crazy bonkers for team member’s birthdays. Because my team is all in the field and I’m the only one who physically works in the office, they adopted me for their birthday shenanigans. Offices get decorated with super hero signs, tropical flowers, we “put a bird on it” (a la Portlandia) for one birthday, and recently decorated someone’s office to be the Alaska Airlines Boardroom – complete with in flight magazines and airplane sized booze bottles. For my birthday, these amazing people decorated my office with a running theme since they knew I was training for a half marathon. They put out a water stop, finish line, and a huge RUN LYDA RUN sign on my door. Inside my office they covered the walls with inspirational running quotes, but not only did they decorate my office, they all showed up to work in track clothes and wore race bibs that said, “Team Lyda.” I was touched beyond words. It is powerful to be seen and known.
Upon hearing about my birthday treatment, a friend of mine said she had heard there were workplaces like that, but didn’t think they were real. Well, this place is real. And very, very special. My deep sadness comes from knowing that with all these people gone, the thing that made this place so magical is going with them. I looked into the future and I am mourning what would have been.
The truth in both work and life is that impermanence is part of the deal. The bad times don’t last forever, but neither do the good times. None of us gets out of this life alive. And I think the only way you navigate through these ups and downs without losing all hope is through gratitude. When the magic happens, you have to cherish and appreciate every moment you get. I am so thankful I had the chance to work with these wonderful people. I’m working as hard as I can to appreciate that I even got that opportunity to be with them and not focus on their leaving.
My friends, you will be missed. And I thank you for the time we have had together.