Coffee Share 180628

This is a Weekly Coffee Share update.
Our get-together is hosted by: Eclectic Alli.

Here’s the link for last week.

Here’s the link for this week.

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Coffee Club Summary: 

  • I finished my 4th week post-op and am still healing well.  Physical therapy has begun and I’m attending to my list of targeted muscle building exercises – hoping for some faster healing in the next few weeks.
  • Then there’s the latest on my war with nature – I’m still standing against several gophers. Another one finished his service for my trap.  The garbage bins were up the hill (long driveway) for collection, so I laid the vanquished (still snarled in the trap) on a short rock retaining wall until I could retrieve the bins.  A couple of hours later, I heard the truck pass by and did my slow-scurry up to retrieve the bin.  On turning to finish my commitment to the gopher – I discovered – “What the ?” he was gone . . .  Both the known-dead gopher and trap were no where to be found.  It had not occurred to me that anyone – or, more likely, any critter would be interested in my dead gopher.  Perhaps the neighborhood feral cat, or a high-flying, carrion-collecting buzzard took up the challenge of hauling away both gopher and my trap.
  • I think some nearby neighbor is about to find parts of my gopher still locked in the death grip of my trap in their backyard, right beside the prized rose bush they want to show their friends stopping by for coffee later this afternoon.  That might be fun to watch.

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Greetings All!  I’m in a great mood.  Because I work from home – when I’m allowed to work anyway, and because I was actually tired of reading so much (am surprised that this is even possible) so I joined our weekly team call with my director.  Wow – lots of stuff happening back there and I’m left to hang up the phone and go water the backyard trees, thus meeting my US version of the “Walk About” as part of my recovery therapy and saving my trees from the raging heat overtaking my small town.

I wanted to share with you (over our virtual coffee break) something that I think you’ll find inspiring and heart-warming.  As was noted last week, there is plenty in the news to grind us down.  I promise you that this quick real-life event will lift you up from where ever the news and social media rancor may have dropped you to.

In the mid-1990s, I was part of a management team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, US charged with building a team of support engineers for one of our key technologies.  It was a crazy and exciting time.  Work was nuts-busy and our family had just welcomed our 3rd and last born child.  For a glance of how that came down, you should check this story out,  but back at work, something more profound was happening.

I mapped out my hiring to be a middle-heavy balance of newbies, mid-level experienced engineers and gurus.  I had just seated the last hire of the 15 person team.

The team was settling in fine.  They were bonding in record time – which was fortunate because a big test was coming our way.

One day, one of my newbies, Jacquie, came into my office, closed the door and settled  into my guest chair.  By this time, she was both an employee and good friend, but she did not look happy today.

“I need to talk Gary.”

I smiled back, welcoming her visit regardless of what she had in mind, but noting that this looked serious.  It was.  I pushed my keyboard away and turned to give her my full attention.  “I’m ready.  What can I do to help?”

Her eyes were too large and as she began, they made me curious as to what would cause such a thing.  She looked frightened.

Jacquie was about 26 years old and a single mom with a 5 year-old boy at home.  When she joined the team, she was quiet, but very friendly and hard working.  As one of my newbies, she had little (technically) to bring to the team other than a great attitude, great spirit, hard and consistent work, but her work volume was much lower than almost everyone else – as expected – because I hired her to learn quickly and become productive over time – with the hope that she would love the work and be with us for 7 years or more.  She found several ways to contribute and she did her best to begin and progress along a healthy learning curve.  All was going very well and I was pleased with her progress.

She began to lay out her issue.  “A few years ago, I had a nasty cancer,” she said.  “My doctors and I thought it was fully in remission.  But, I had some tests last week and yesterday, my doctor told me that it was back and – and, I don’t know how this is going to turn out this time.”

You most likely know me well enough by now that I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this nailed me.  I struggled to find something encouraging or hopeful to say, but, as part of a team paid to fix things, this was not something I could fix. I finally found a discussion path that I could work with and she gave me all the facts that I needed to know about as her manager.

We settled on a plan that I would work out with HR that included lots of flexible time for her to do chemo and rest from same.

At this point – I’m going to spare you most of the details of her situation. It did not get much better.  She did begin working from home – back when my company rarely allowed this, but I’m bigger than most HR types, so I won several of those discussions.  But I was beginning to see that she and I  were going to hit a wall.  Her productivity was dropping fast and lacking that, I was supposed to put her on disability, which would start a chain of events that would push her out of employment and make it more difficult for her to carve out a life for her and her son.

There was no way to avoid this path – unless I could – hmm,

I called a special meeting with the team.

“Thanks all for coming.  I’ll be quick.  Some of you know that Jacquie is in trouble.  She has cancer and her working from home helped, but she is falling well below what I need for her productivity.  If I can’t – if she can’t get her work up to a certain level, I’ll need to put her on disability,” and I explained what that would mean for her.  “We have an option that I wanted to offer.  “I need [an amount of work] to make a case that I don’t need to put her on disability.  There are 14 of you and almost all of you are more productive than she is.  I can’t pay anyone overtime, but would you be willing to give her 30 minutes a day?  If yes, you will more than cover her daily expectations and my management won’t want me to press the disability button.”

My team, all looked at one another for a few minutes, said very few actual words, but everyone was in and we went for it.”

Jacquie did not have an extended family who could step in nor, at the time, did she have a boy friend or anyone who could care for her boy if she lost this battle.  We had all heard that things were not going well with her treatments and she was very worried about starting the whole disability thing because that path would only care for her for a certain amount of time.

jacquie 1

Later, when this team was done, they had more than exceeded our productivity goals, Jacquie was able to relax about the whole disability thing because these folks, many who had only known her for a couple of months, managed to push back her disability start date for about 4 months, giving her time to focus on her therapy and – yes – find a wonderful young man to promote from friend to finance who both knew her situation, her son and shared their Christian faith.

The coolest thing for her, was that her focus on the therapy worked and she managed to once again push that cancer back into remission.  Her marriage was more of a celebration than than just a wedding.  She was able to run the disability course at a time when she was much better prepared.  Her new husband was standing firmly with her regardless of how her condition turned out – her boy would have a good father if she lost this battle.  Physically, she bounced back some, but was never able to work again because chemo left her so frail.

I was humbled by what this team had done for her, but work is work and things changed.  About 5 years later, I was living with my family back in California, working for a different company and now dealing with my mom’s cancer.  This one had no happy ending in sight.  She was stage 4 mesothelioma and was working with hospice when I got a call at work from; of all people – Jacquie. . .

She was more than still alive, loving most of life and very happily married.  Her boy was now almost 11 and they had a rock solid family up and running.  Oh – and she was calling me – to encourage me about the situation with my mom. . .  “How did you even hear about us?” I asked.

“You still have lots of friends back in Colorado Springs Gary and we heard.  You are in our prayers and I told them I wanted to reach out to you to let you know.”

I almost dropped to my knees.  This woman had twice fought a worse battle than I had ever faced and she was calling to encourage me. . .  And she was very encouraging BTW and I found myself on the receiving side of some amazing grace from this wonderful woman.

It was about, I’m not sure here, something like 7 years later that I got a call from one of those friends I’d stayed in touch with to let me know that Jacquie had finally lost her battle with cancer, but (I quickly did the math) her son was almost a legal adult and his dad and he were as ready as you ever could be for losing mom and wife.

Guys, don’t let the media bury you with magnified horror stories and leave you hopeless.  There are plenty of folks out there who don’t need much of a reason to dig a bit deeper to help one of the Jacquie’s in their lives.  To this day, I’m so proud to have been part of that amazing team.

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Gary photo n bio

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