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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Top Ten Thursday - Talents

Welcome to Top Ten Thursday!

Today we're talking about the Top 10 things we are good at!

I was thinking that we tend to be super critical toward ourselves. We should be more organised, work harder, eat less sugar, always say and do the right thing, bla bla bla - let's not forget that there are many things that we're good at (without even making a great effort) and doing brilliantly!

What are those for me?

1. Writing
You knew this was going to be on the list, right?

Ever since we were supposed to write essays at school, I liked to craft stories, true or fictional ones. 

I'm also pretty good at summarizing what has been discussed at meetings which often makes me the designated minute taker. 

In Switzerland companies are obliged to include written reference letters in an employee's leaving package. This document is supposed to be both truthful and favorable. Now writing one for somebody who did a great job is easy. How about the person you fired because they were lazy, rude and unreliable,..? That's when line managers were really glad to have me as their HR person...
Sadly I am also their go-to person for condolence cards.

The other day I came across a former classmate of my post-graduate studies.
"Remember how we switched oral exam dates?" she laughingly said.
Ohmigod, yes!!!

When we were advised of our big day (which we knew was going to fall within a two weeks' period) I couldn't believe my eyes. It was the one day I could not not be at the office. We were going to have wage negotiations with the unions. The one day the entire company was relying on their HR leader.

M (my friend) on the other hand couldn't believe her day was at the very beginning of that 14 days' frame; she needed more time to prepare. She made calls and handed in a written request so we could switch dates.

"They said no!" she cried on the phone. "I'm so screwed!" I asked her to send me her request as well as the rejection letter. When I saw what (and how) she had written, I was like no wonder it was denied. I made an appeal which got approved. Up to this date this fact gives me the confidence to ask for an exception.

2. Listening / Getting people
I generally like people. (As long as they don't piss me off, haha.) I am interested in what drives them. I want to hear their stories. And boy, do they tell me things way beyond the need to know basis. And I'm talking about job interviews here. People I possibly meet once in my / their lives will tell me everything.

3. Keeping my cool / Knowing what to do in tough situations
In my over 20 years of working in Human Resources (more than in my private live, fortunately) I have been involved in exceptionally emotional situations like the wife of one of our key managers committing suicide - leaving him a single Dad to two little girls and us short an important business driver from one day to the next, or one of our sales rep's having a panick attack right there in the meeting room. Back then I thought he was having a nervous breakdown. 
Anyway, I remember having risen above myself or something. If prompted I would have thought I'd freeze, or at the very least get super nervous. Even though I was probably on auto-pilot I felt calm and crystal clear, and I did what had to be done.

4. Languages
Of course as a European I had the advantage of growing up in the middle of it all. French was compulsory for every high school student, back then English was voluntary (it's not anymore these days, kids start in 3rd grade already which I think is great) but almost everyone took it anyway, and you got to choose to learn Italian and Spanish which I did all through college as well. I can order pizza really well, hahaha! 

5. Planning
I tend to think of everything important, and I know how / where to get it and whose help to ask for. However I don't like to plan all that much. I don't know why. It's great to be prepared, right? Anyway, I think I'm better at

5a. Improvising
It's when I really thrive. I can usually whip up something acceptable with the resources available in very little time, be it a meal or a blog post ;-)

6. Teaching
I think I manage to get into people's brains and find out what way works for them to learn stuff. Some will prefer to just read, others need to shadow you or do it themselves. 

We kept having issued with Store Managers who thought when one of their partners (employees) were sick, they could just call another store and ask for somebody to fill in, no harm done. The thing is, in Switzerland you have to pay a sh**load amount of sick days, meaning the store with the sick partner actually got charged for two salaries that day. 

Our Finance department kept sending them charts and spreadsheets to show them how their costs were affected. One day I teamed up with a Finance guy, and we created a board game with Playmobil characters, Monopoly money, Las Vegas style dice and all. In other words we did some playful visualising. I think it was one of my most favourite days. Seeing those managers playing the game and actually really understanding how those transactions worked (they had to pay the other store upfront, in cash - ouch!) was so rewarding.

7. Rubik's Cube
When I was in fifth grade I was bored. Somehow I got my hands on a copy of the instructions on "how to solve the Rubik's Cube", and I learned them by heart. Underneath the school desk ;-) 
I can still do it. My hubby's relatives whom we visit every Christmas always ask me to "redo" their cube that got messed up. If for nothing else, this is what they will remember me for.

OK, this is where I got stuck. I mean, I can drive a car pretty decently, I haven't had any bad accidents, and sometimes I even manage to parallel park, but I don't feel this is worth going on the list. 

Colin was looking over my shoulder. "Watcha doing, Mommy?"
I told him. "Anything I should add?" I asked. This is what he said, and I'll take it:

8. Finding stuff
What he meant is finding stuff you can't just simply google / order. Like toys. Or sports jerseys. After this summer's soccer WC he became a fan of Gareth Bale, and he wanted a Wales national team's jersey for his birthday. I canvassed the sports article retailers, and they would all laugh at me. "Bale? Kids' size? In Switzerland? Good luck, lady!"
Good thing the world doesn't end in Switzerland. Thank you, British guy on eBay!

Also, the good old "Mom, where is my INSERT RANDOM ITEM?" works at this house.

I have been doing pretty well at tracking down long lost people, even in times before the internet. School reunion? I have organised a handful.

Oh, or how about a medical dictionary? When my brother emigrated to Israel, he needed a document stating in English that he was in perfect health even though he's had a tumor removed from his spine. Now of course our regular doc issued this certificate in German, but you know how that sounds at the end of the day: mostly Latin!

It was a time before internet, so I called a state hospital, told them about our situation and asked if there was such a thing as a dictionary with all the medical lingo. Of course there was, and I was welcome to come to the library and use it. 

Great! When I arrived at the reception the nurse was looking at me funny. 

"You're not who I was expecting" she said. 
Sorry about that, I can't make myself taller, skinnier, prettier,...?
"No, it's not that. When you said your name was Stutz (my maiden name back then) I assumed you were Dr. Stutz, you know, who is working here? The medical library is for personnel only!"
She could be convinced to turn a blind eye to the rules though and handed me the giant book.

9. Cooking / Baking
Considering I used to live off canned sweet corn and frozen pizza, I'm doing OK. I like to experiment and try and make new things. Not everything will be a winner, so I'll always come back to my tested and proved dishes. Lasagna, enchiladas, risotto.

10. Being a Mom
I love that he said that! I wonder what makes a good mom in the eyes of an eight year old. Upon being prompted, he went:

  • She is always nice and looks after me and my friends
  • She only yells when I really mess up
  • She buys yummy treats for me
  • She allows for lengthy iPad time 

Now we want to hear about your talents! What are you great at?
Would you like to join us for next week's Top Ten Challenge? The theme is gonna be "top ten cool things I saw, heard and / or  experienced this week that made my day" and it posts September 29.

Please sign up here or send me a message!

The prompt for October 6 is going to be  "top ten things to take care of before leaving on vacation",  (Sign up here

But wait! Don't leave just yet - visit my fellow Top Ten Bloggers and see what they came up with! The linky-tool is up, please use it to link up your post!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

8 reasons to be proud of my 8 year old

I can't quite wrap my little head around it. My boy turned eight years old yesterday. EIGHT!

Usually I've been doing lists of ten. Today let's do eight. Because.

Eight reasons to be proud of my eight year old:

He's really intelligent, I'm not bragging. When he was four he read his own birthday cards and started to do math. And he didn't stop at 1 + 1 = 2. All of a sudden he just knew that 7 + 7 was the same as 6 + 8, hey and 3 + 3 + 4 + 4, and, and,...

Of course school has been easy for him so far. 

He's also able to focus no matter the environment, so when we're on the go he'll do his homework at SBUX.


He can probably see all those pictures in his mind when he plays. The most amazing thing he built back when he was watching Lightning McQueen every day was this race car track.

Homework is a bit of a killjoy when one wants to build landmarks out of LEGO pieces!

Now kids usually care about their own needs, and that's OK. I love those little gestures that show me he cares about others, too. For his 7th birthday I brought cake to his school and stuck around to take home the empty boxes. 

He first shared a piece with every classmate and the teachers. Of course I brought too much, and he took the boxes down to the school yard where he handed out cake to other friends.

There were also "strangers" who were surrounding the scene like hyenas. Free food!

He said. "Now hold on a minute. My Mom baked this and she hasn't even had some herself! Here, Mommy, for you!" Major aaaaaawwwww moment!

I also think that he is in touch with his emotions. He is pretty balanced. Once he gets mad, it usually doesn't take long and he's back to his cheerful self. I hope he'll be able to keep that quality.

The other day when he had to hand me back the iPad he said "when you have a minute check out what I built for you in Minecraft." Of course I am not familiar navigating this world or underworld or whatever it is called, and I asked him to show it to me:

An illuminated heart on an island! Wait, there is more! An inscription!

When he started Kindergarten I saw myself walking him for a while, just like any other Mom. If not not to make sure that he looked both ways before crossing the street, then that he didn't take his sweet time and that he brought everything home. On Thursday of the first week he informed me that he didn't need me to take him anymore. He'd be fine. 

But, but, wait! I haven't nearly taken enough pictures! So I was given Friday:

Ever since, the guy is going places alone or with his friends. Of course he is late sometimes, and of course I can't count the snack boxes, hats, gloves or even shoes that went missing. I figure he'll still be like that when he is forty.

Not only does he go to school, daycare, his friends' and my office, I can also send him on grocery runs to our local store just 0.3 miles away. 

I just thought the other day that him being THAT BIG has its advantages. He picks his food and balances his tray on his own when we eat at a self service restaurant.  Win! 

Even as a baby he seemed to sense what was going on around him. On my third day or so after giving birth I was hit by a surge of post-partum hormones and I was crying for no reason. Colin was looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes as if he was saying "come on, Mom, I'm here, it can't be that bad, now, can it?"

Fast forward seven years and eleven months, I was on the phone, using my "I'm not gonna yell, but I'm really annoyed" voice and he kept running by, trying to find out who I was talking to and what they did to upset me. He tried to shoo him away. 

An hour or so later he approached me and asked "did I unintentionally harass you when you were on the phone?" 


It's fun to be up and about with him. There's always this little thing he'll do that makes me smile.

Sometimes I ask him to bring me a bottle of water from the fridge. 
He can do better than that!

Ice hockey has been his passion since he was about two years old. The team booklets of the hockey teams have been among his favourite books, that's actually how he taught himself to read. He recognised the players and that's how he knew how to spell their names. 
Of course he wanted to become a hockey player himself. All beginnings are hard...

...but Romano Lemm, one of his idols, told him it takes practice. And look at him now!

Diplomatic / justice loving
You may say he doesn't like to take sides. When prompted which one he likes better (pasta sauce, piece of clothing,...) he'll probably say "they're both great."
He'll however look out for those who might get the short end of the stick. "But that's not fair" he'll say.

I'm in no rush to find out what profession he'll choose that reflects those awesome traits, but I'm sure whatever he'll do, he'll be excellent at it. Also there will always be tasks he won't master - but he'll have friends or coworkers around who will do them for him....

PS: In case I forgot...

Colin's Minecraft Birthday Party

We've been fortunate to have a gorgeous September. Looking at the weather forecast for Colin's Birthday Party, things did not look very promising. The day before it had been pouring. I was praying for at least one hour with no precipitation because the thought of two handful of excited pre-teenagers in our house...

Birthday Boy enjoying his giant LEGO set first thing in the morning
Lunch! (Anything to pass the time until his friends arrived!)
I was very thrilled to see this bit of blue sky as we set out for our treasure hunt.

The guys were looking at the instructions for one second and sprinted off...

Where did that bit of blue sky go..?

Look what the treasure was!!! T-Shirts for everyone!

Miniature volcano eruption

We made it home with just a tiny bit of drizzle. 
Everybody was hungry. Time for some grass block cake!

Did I mention C wanted a Minecraft themed party?

They were too busy being two handful of excited pre-teenagers, so we didn't get to actually play with everything I had prepared for. Well, the stuff isn't going anywhere, and I don't expect Colin to lose interest in Minecraft anytime soon.

Last highlight before they were picked up or went home independently. I'm still trying to wrap my head around about how quickly they're growing up right under my nose...


Everybody seemed happy!

Speaking of... my happy hour had arrived, too!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Use Your Words - A Day in Ancient Rome

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: 

Gravel ~ Stool ~ Clothesline ~ Stick ~ Squirrel ~ Sunflower

They were submitted by On The Border - thanks, Diane!

As this post is being published, Colin's birthday party countdown is 22 hours. Even though I started preparing early-ish, I feel super stressed out about everything that still needs to be done, so wish me luck!

He has been in 3rd grade for a month now, and while he isn't experiencing any difficulties in school, I can feel a certain shift from afar. Longer hours and unpredictable amounts of homework. No more stickers for acing a test. We've also added an activity (swim class) and changed daycare days, so he's able to have more playdates with his friends. I'm glad he copes really well, even though he is having less free time. 

Sometimes we have to get super organised in order to get everything done. Like the day he wanted to go to the movies to watch the Secret Life of Pets. He walked to my office after school, and we went to the Mongolian BBQ place for lunch. There is no exotic meat (crocodile, donkey, bison or zebra) and also no hot coals grill at lunchtime, but hey, as long as there's bacon...!

Then we drove to the cinema, purchased our tickets and settled down at the Bubble Bar for, well, homework. The youngster waltzed right in there and wanted to seat himself on a bar stool...

The movie was fun. A bit flat maybe. A couple of dogs who usually wait by the door for their owners, prance around town with the dog walker, bark at squirrels or chase after sticks at the park find themselves in the middle of an adventure that includes a scary encounter with a couple of rundown straying cats that are coiled up in a clothesline, a bitter rabbit called Snowball, killing a venomous viper and the pursuit of an animal control vehicle in a stolen taxi. 

On our way home we picked up groceries to make dinner, and upon arrival at home I transfered the laundry that has been washing during our absencee and started a new load.

The next day I thought to hell with my to-do list, and I indulged in some me-time to enjoy that gorgeous weather. I went to Jucker Farm, the pumpkin patch. You may remember - the one that hosts the pumpkin regatta! Their display follows a different theme every year. 

I couldn't believe my eyes - as I approached the exhibit on the gravel path I spotted the Roman Sea God, right there on the waterfront of the local lake!!

It was clear to me that I must have time traveled to ancient Rome!

Legionaries, chariots and forums, oh my!

I just love this place! It's over an hour's drive each way but such a happy place! There is a playground, an apple maze, hammocks, and they sell a lot of agricultural products beyond pumpkin. 

Fresh produce, jam, syrup, vinegar, pasta, tomato sauce, cheese, deli meat, roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, you name it!

Oh, and I saved the best for last. Coincidentally I found out that at their self-service restaurant there is a narrow stairway leading down to the wine cellar. 

The wooden table you can see below? It qualifies as "additional seating", so instead of getting annoyed by wasps and flies outside, I totally seated myself here and enjoyed my lunch!

How about you? Any recent time travel?

Now go find out what my friends' words were, and what they did with them:                                                                                                  

Baking In A Tornado