July 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mike!

Posted in Career, Children, Family, Women tagged , , , , , , , at 9:08 am by Liliana

Mike and Karen

Mike and Karen

Today is Mike’s birthday. My oldest child is turning twenty five.

The year Mike was born, I was twenty five years old.

Jeff was a graduate student at Columbia at the time. I was teaching English at a public high school in Manhattan. We lived in a tiny studio apartment on the Upper West Side.

I can never forget the delight I felt when I found out that we were going to have our first baby. I knew he would be a boy, I never had any doubts. We decided on the names early – Michael Steven – after his two grandfathers.

The love I felt for him, even before he was born, was pure joy and it had no beginning and no end. And even before I held him in my arms, we understood each other so deeply, we rarely needed words to communicate.

Mike is moving to Boston in a few weeks, about to start law school. He has a girlfriend he loves and we all love, a Texas girl named Karen who is joining him there.

Jeff and I will be helping the kids move.  Is there some kind of poetic justice in the fact that we are moving them into a tiny studio apartment in the middle of a big city?

Happy Birthday, Mike!


July 16, 2010

Back to School

Posted in Books, Career, Children, Family, Good people, Home tagged , , , , , at 6:47 am by Liliana

Joe and Sasha (at Sasha's graduation)

Joe and Sasha (at Sasha's graduation)

At forty nine, my brother-in-law Joe is back in graduate school. This summer has been very intense for him. Classes every day, from morning until late afternoon. Tons of reading. Several papers a week.

It’s funny (and a bit alarming) to see him acquiring the behaviors of a typical college student. He is full of energy, ideas and new information. He doesn’t have time in the evenings for much besides studying. He stays up late almost every night.

I woke up around 1 AM last night and noticed that the light in the study was still on. When I opened the door, Joe blinked at me sleepily. In the midst of writing a long research paper, he was lost in thought and educational theories.

“Almost done?” I asked.

“Three pages to go on this one. And then I need to write another one.” He answered.

Well, I went back to sleep, but Joe staid up and wrote and wrote.

The kids, worried about him, checked on Joe several times. Mike, Sam and Nicky repeatedly came to see if there was something they could do to help. There wasn’t.

Still, in one way, Joe is totally unlike a typical college student. When I came down this morning at 6:30 am, to get ready for work, he was up already. Joe was writing in his journal, having a cup of coffee, and about to take Kaya on their early morning walk.

“How many hours of sleep did you get?”

“Maybe three, “ Joe answered. He was tired, but in a good mood. He didn’t even think of disappointing his dog. But as the two of them left for their walk, he got back into the mode of a student again.

He left his paper for me to read and edit. It was excellent!

April 25, 2010

Anti-Cancer Challenge

Posted in Cancer, Career, Children, Family, Food, Garden, Health, Home, Women, Work tagged , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana



Conner is an American woman who lives with her family in south-western France. She works as a nutritionist, cooking instructor and health writer.

A little more than a month ago, she started an interesting experiment.

In Connor’s words, “I am adhering to an anti-cancer lifestyle for a year comprising a super-healthy diet, daily exercise and restorative sleep. I report here on my successes and struggles with the program and hope to show that it’s possible – and even enjoyable – for a busy person to adopt an anti-cancer lifestyle.”

In this week’s post, Conner gives a progress report of her success thus far. As planned, she has been exercising every day for about thirty minutes. Getting enough sleep, though, has been a challenge. She is busy with work; her children have been on spring break; she has a house to take care of. It’s no wonder she has not always succeeded in sleeping seven hours per night.

But with spring vegetables in season, she has been eating well.

“I have been enjoying daily doses of delicious spring vegetables (crisp asparagus, squeaky spring onions, spicy young carrots, tender spinach, pungent garlic shoots) these last two weeks which has felt invigorating and cleansing. I love coming out of winter and eating fresh spring greens; to me, their emergence from the wintry soil symbolizes hope, vigor and resilience.”

Read Connor’s blog and keep up with her progress.

Best wishes to her for a very healthy and successful year!

March 23, 2010

Advice on Good Interviewing Etiquette

Posted in Career, Work tagged , , at 7:12 am by Liliana

Good Interviewing Etiquette

Good Interviewing Etiquette

Unemployment is at a record level, and a lot of people are looking for a job. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, you want to use your opportunity well. Here is a bit of common sense advice on good interview practices:

Timing & Planning

  • Schedule your interview for your best time of day
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Have contact information ready
  • Complete necessary forms in advance

Apparel & Appearance

  • Shine shoes & check fingernails
  • Get a haircut & comb hair neatly
  • Choose suit with shirt and tie or blouse
  • Coordinate accessories

Reading & Research

  • Read information on the prospective company
  • Research company web site for latest news & press releases
  • Google people you’ll be meeting for background information
  • Know how to pronounce names of people you will meet
  • If this is a second interview, review notes of past meetings
  • Be acquainted with current news so you sound well informed
  • Create a list of good questions you will ask the interviewer
  • Check e-mails just before leaving for any last-minute rescheduling

Take With You

  • Cell phone (turn off before interview)
  • Portfolio or business case
  • Resume copies (at least two)
  • Business cards
  • Blank paper or notebook and pens

Getting There

  • Plan on being punctual and arrive several minutes early
  • Plan on extra time if weather requires
  • Google map the directions
  • Find out where to park ahead of time
  • Identify the correct building entrance
  • Pay attention to your posture
  • Make appropriate, positive opening comments
  • Your handshake should be strong and firm

Best of luck.

March 2, 2010

RepairClinic.com Warehouse

Posted in Career, Children, Organization, RepairClinic.com, Women, Work tagged , at 8:14 am by Liliana

Kim Messer in the RepairClinic.com Warehouse

Kim Messer in the RepairClinic.com Warehouse

RepairClinic.com has a 50,000 square foot warehouse in the back of its building in Canton, MI. It is a highly automated, modern operation, storing thousands of appliance parts. Thirty-four employees work hard to make the place run efficiently and ship any order that comes in by 6:30 pm the very same day.

All of us at RepairClinic are proud of our warehouse. We are also proud of the woman who runs it. Kim Messer is a force to be reckoned with. Her smile and youthful appearance disguise a tireless leader and a skillful manager. Always open to new suggestions, better ideas, and operational improvements, Kim is fearless with new technologies, and there is nothing she is afraid to learn. She is continually thinking of new ways to make room on the warehouse shelves, to save space, to save money, to improve production, and to make life easier for her employees.

At home, with a husband and four kids, Kim keeps just as busy. She is a golfer, and loves to read and to travel. And just to make life more interesting, she is finishing her degree at Eastern Michigan University, taking two classes each semester. How does she do it?  She does it all with good humor and grace.

March 1, 2010

Working together at RepairClinic.com

Posted in Career, RepairClinic.com, Work tagged , , , , , , at 8:02 am by Liliana

Working well as a team

Working well as a team

At RepairClinic.com teamwork is valued highly. The most effective way to accomplish this result is when the people involved synchronize their contributions and efforts towards a common goal. With mutual support, a sense of ownership towards their roles, and by collaborating in using their talents and experiences, each member contributes to the success of the team.  The relations of the members must be based on trust, honesty  and respect. Every person’s point of view should be heard, their skills acknowledged. Conflict should be recognized as part of human nature and treated as an opportunity to hear new ideas and opinions. Each member should be allowed to participate equally in the decision-making process but also understand that the leader might need to make the final decision.

Steps towards accomplishing this goal:

  • Clarify team roles and support flexibility.
  • Clarify priorities and deadlines.
  • Discuss changes.
  • Be aware of each other’s workload.
  • Recognize and acknowledge each other’s efforts.
  • Improve physical environment and comfort.
  • Develop communication, negotiation and conflict management skills.
  • Encourage your coworkers to be active and incorporate some exercise in the daily routine.
  • Pay attention to your own needs and feelings.  Pay attention to the feelings and needs of others.
  • Make connections – good relationships with coworkers are important.
  • Accept help – support from those around you can help reduce stress.
  • Priorities – set realistic goals and take small steps to deal with tasks one at a time.
  • Keep things in perspective –  avoid blowing events out of proportion.
  • Take action – make a decision to address the underlying cause of the stress.
  • When mistakes are made, be forgiving and compassionate – towards yourself as well as others.

February 15, 2010

Job Loss

Posted in Career, Family, Good people, Money, Work tagged , , , , at 8:02 am by Liliana

Joe - on to a new adventure

Joe - on to a new adventure

Last week my brother-in-law, Joe, lost his job. He has worked for a book retail company for fifteen years, but business has not been going well for a while now. These are transitional times, and crossing  junctures is never easy.

Joe is close to fifty years old and he has invested the best years of his career in an industry that is becoming outdated. What does one do? Joe has many talents. He is a masterful and creative writer, an excellent judge of books and he speaks several languages. He has proven to be a patient and understanding manager, and he gets things done. But he is also a kind and gentle man, full of empathy and limitless capacity to see into the souls of others. He is honest to a fault and the duplicity of corporate dealings has left him drained and disillusioned. He is ready to move on.

So, even though Joe’s job loss is frightening and disorienting for him and his family, it also feels like an opportunity. Now he can consider what he would really like to do with the rest of his life and not just settle for the easiest answers. For the last few years Joe has been deliberately analyzing and appraising his alternatives, trying to bring his options and  his affinities to the same page.

Somewhere on this journey of discovery, Joe realized that teaching has always been a part of his life. His mother was a teacher and this is a calling that has always appealed to him. This insight has made all the difference in easing the transition and Joe has decided that he wants to  be a high school teacher. His managerial skills came in handy in researching the program that is right for him. Today, he heard that he was accepted into the University of Michigan Education Program (MAC.) His family is convinced that he will be a glorious teacher.

January 26, 2010

A bad, awful day

Posted in Career, RepairClinic.com, Work tagged , at 8:11 am by Liliana

Cloudy day

Cloudy day

On certain days, it is difficult to find even a sliver of grace. Petty, annoying little things wear at us, like the interminable drip of a leaky faucet, until all our resistance has broken away. Last week I had one of those days.

I did not sleep well the night before as I had a lot on my mind.  We were out of groceries  and all I could find for breakfast was some sugary cereal I didn’t like. It was a cold, damp morning, and my car was out of gas, so I had to stop and fill it up. I came to work at RepairClinic.com, tired and with a slight cold. I felt I needed to  accomplish a lot and I felt stressed and overwhelmed. I was not in a good mood.

I made a cup of hot tea, sat down at my computer, and tried to change the tide of the day. I checked my calendar, planned out my projects, then wrote and posted my daily blog entry.  Just as I started, a warning message flashed on my computer – “You are infected with a virus!”

Yes I was! My computer was completely paralyzed. I called Brett, our IT expert, and he shook his head. It was a bad virus, and there was no way to uninstall it. My entire computer would have to be cleaned and rebuilt.

So, the entire day I had to work on a very old computer that our department keeps around for emergencies. It had none of the graphic or design programs I needed. I wrote  and worked on content but had no email and could get none of my projects done. People kept coming over to see if I had finished this or that, but I had finished nothing.

I couldn’t wait for the day to be over, to have dinner with my family and relax in the warmth of my home. I called Jeff to tell him that I was on my way. Well, he said, don’t rush, things are a little cold at home. Why? The power had gone out early in the afternoon and the house was  dark and freezing! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

January 11, 2010

Monday morning at RepairClinic.com

Posted in Career, RepairClinic.com, Work tagged at 9:11 am by Liliana


My workstation at RepairClinic.com

I must admit that in the large scheme of things, Monday mornings do not rate very high. A frigid, snowy Monday morning in January in Michigan rates even lower. Today, I dropped my 16 year old son, Sam, at his high school at 7:30 am and any lingering trace of sleep dissipated quickly during that time. Sam has gotten in the habit of listening to rap, and I can tell you that there is nothing like very loud music to wake one up and prepare one for driving on a slippery highway.

The company I work for, RepairClinic.com has a large Call Center on the first floor, and a huge Warehouse in the back of the building. Many people come in to work much earlier than I do, but still at 8 am, the place is pretty quiet. The second floor is where most of the administrative offices are, and that includes the Marketing Department where I work.

I have a simple set of rituals that help me start my day. I walk over to our little kitchenette and fill up a large mug of coffee. I turn my computer on, check my calendar and read my email. Depending on the meeting schedule and upcoming deadlines, I decide which project I will be working on that day. I pick the most difficult and complicated tasks first, because I concentrate best in the morning silence, with my mind still fresh. By 8:30 or so, my colleagues start arriving and the day starts in earnest.

Now, Tuesday mornings I genuinely look forward to. Why? Because on Tuesdays we have our Marketing meetings and those include bagels, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and other lovely delicacies. It’s a much gentler way to ease into the day than loud rap music.