Under pressure

Warning: This is a mega-post.

 

The content of this video really spoke to me and reminded me that I certainly could have it worse. First world problems and all that.


 

A few weeks ago, I reported that I’d been “called up” for another acting assignment as a consultant. I was a little wary when I first heard of the offer because it came not from the manager of the unit, but my then-current manager.

See, although I’d made the pool, the process of awarding indeterminate positions (something I’m not likely to get by virtue of my location and unwillingness to move) was ongoing and so I would be appointed as a result of an unadvertised process. It’s a fancy way of saying they couldn’t wait for the formal appointment process to get to the acting positions.

The last two times I was given an acting consultancy, I was acting in the role of training coordinator. It was not something I enjoyed. In fact, you could say that it drove me crazy.

This time, I would be committing to three specific projects:

  1. create an 18-month training plan for three business lines;
  2. help manage the overtime for the training team; and
  3. administrate a SharePoint tool created to capture and calibrate performance management ratings.

I would have no further involvement with the three training plans other than to create them. This was important to me because it was the maintenance of the plan that really got to me before (make the plan, change the plan three times before it’s even approved, then change it at least once a week thereafter, but keep all activities and escalating costs within the original budget request).

I was okay with that and decided to accept the four-months-less-a-day appointment. This will take me into the first week of May.

There was a tacit understanding that I could be appointed another acting consultancy from the pool through the formal process. We agreed to cross that bridge if it was erected.

So I started collecting information from business expertise and operational management on training needs for the proposed plan. Due to a restructuring of our internal college and learning networks, the planning process has been delayed pending the completion of a new tool (also a SharePoint site, incidentally) to help in the planning process.

I got a handle on the overtime process fairly quickly, organized the drive folders to reflect the (fairly simple) process, and track the overtime budget. This last is a bit of a sticking point. Almost a month into the fourth quarter I still don’t have a definitive number as to what our Q4 OT budget is . . .

I met with the then-administrator (going on parental leave as soon as his baby arrived, hence the urgency of my appointment) of the performance management SharePoint site and tool. I was given a brief tour and told that everything was set up and ready to go. All I had to do would be to watch the dear thing tick away.

Oh, yeah. And as a bonus fourth task, I was to write a nomination for the Service Excellence Awards.

My work of the first few days, aside from orientation, was to write up the nomination, due in a couple of days. Though stressful, my writing skills carried me through the nomination form and I met the deadline.

The OT process seemed to order itself fairly well.

After my initial consultation with the then-administrator of the performance management SharePoint site, he disappeared. The news came out a few days later that his wife had had her baby and he was officially on parental leave.

That was when issues started to emerge from the cracks like cockroaches in the dark.

I had already requested Designer Plus permission of the site (the highest a non-IT employee can receive) and for SharePoint Designer to be installed on my computer. The last time I had done any serious SharePoint admin, Desiger was off-limits. I didn’t know how to use the program and so turned to my friend Lynda.com to help me learn it.

I was asked to validate the management structure so that the appropriate accesses and permissions could be set up and set the deadline for noon on Thursday.

I became aware (belatedly) that a new set of custom list templates had to be imported into the site. This was not something I could do, and I have to put in a third service request to IT to have one of their specialists take care of that.

Once the templates were on the site, I created the new lists from them. Unfortunately I wasn’t advised that I could not change the names of the lists without breaking the cascading lookups and Kwiz forms customizations. Of course, when I tried out my newly created lists, they didn’t work.

Not having learned how to use either third party app (Cascading Lookup Plus or Kwiz), I was understandably at a loss as to how to proceed.

So I went ahead and amended the security list with the most recent changes to management structure.

On Friday of my second week in the acting consultancy, there was an information session by the creator of the tool, someone self-taught, like myself, but far more adept.

In that session, I learned about the naming issue, but when I’d created another new set of lists with proper names after the meeting, they still did not work. Before the day ended, I was finally informed that I would have SP Designer installed on my computer over the weekend.

On Monday of my third week, I confirmed the presence of Designer on my computer.

Then I received a call from one of the Directors indicating that the tool had to be ready to go for Wednesday. The creator of the tool was otherwise engaged for the day (two other business lines were setting up similar systems and his expertise was required).

Understandably, I panicked.

I thought my inability to get the lists to work properly meant that I had to get the templates reinstalled. I contacted the person who had imported them and asked for his help. I put in another service request to have the templates reinstalled ASAP. I got an emailed and cursory response to some of my questions from the tool’s creator, which didn’t help me much.

I initiated yet another service request for a custom permission level to be created for the site. This was another piece of the puzzle I was apparently missing. I was informed, however, that the properly named lists should work and that no reinstall was necessary. I called to cancel that service request, at least.

But the day ended without further action and the last word from my manager was to make it happen. I’d have to get the tool in functional shape by Wednesday at 9 am. I was authorized to work overtime, if necessary. How I was going to manage it, I didn’t have the first clue.

Needless to say, I hardly slept. The next day, I frightened everyone in my immediate area (sorry ladies) by having a full-blown freak out.

The creator of the tool was able to spend some time with me in the morning sorting things out. We fixed the three lists by deleting and recreating the cascading lookup columns in all of them.

I was shown how to import the three custom workflows using Designer. Running out of time, the creator fixed up two of the three and told me I’d be able to take care of the last one myself. Then, my sole support had to go help the other business lines. He said he’d try to get back to me later in the day.

So I fixed up the last of the workflows to the degree I could.

My manager called for an update and I was honest with her about the status of the project. We might be in trouble for the 9 am deadline.

Shortly after, the creator of the tool called back about ten minutes before he left for the day. He confirmed that I’d done a good job on the last of the workflows but said that we wouldn’t be able to go any further without the custom permission level (remember the second service request from Monday?) and two custom security groups for the lists themselves.

He said to add the security groups to my permission level request and try to get them all actioned right away. He committed to working with me first thing in the morning to finish off everything.

So I called IT and got them to change the service request and expedite its assignment. I informed them I’d be working late and so someone in BC might be able to help me out. It was all I could do.

I turned to fixing up the instructions and wording on the SharePoint site around the use of the tool.

About an hour into my overtime, one of the people from the other business lines, also tasked to have the tool up and functional for the following morning, called and asked me about the workflows.

I shared what I could with her and in return, she advised me who I could contact to have the permission level and security groups set up. Unfortunately, that person was in Quebec and had already left for the day.

I updated my manager at her home and, not being able to go further on my own, called Phil to pick me up.

My sleep was only marginally improved and the next day dawned a weary one.

My first order of business Wednesday morning was to get in touch with the IT person I was referred to the night before. He was very helpful and the work was completed quickly, but not in time for the 9 am deadline.

I called the creator of the tool and he finished two of the three workflows. Again, he had to leave to help others and said he’d call back as soon as he could.

I tried to follow his set up for the final workflow, but received an error when I tried to run it on the sample entry we’d made to test the tool.

The creator of the tool called back just before noon and fixed the last of the workflows. We ran it and everything was working. My relief was intense.

My manager called and I reported our belated success. We then turned our attention to the wording on the site and the three official communications pieces that should have been sent out at 9 am that morning.

I made notes for the rewording of the site, and then we worked together to revise the three email communications for our business line.

After two hours of work, my manager’s email crashed and she lost the drafts. There were tears.

We reconstructed the communications in record time (the second time around) and were able to send them for translation before I left work. My manager would not be at work Thursday or Friday, so I was the point person for approval of the communication content before they were sent on to the executive director for final approval and release.

Thursday presented its own challenges, but the communications were released just after noon. In the late afternoon, I started to receive requests for access to the tool.

Everyone should have had access.

Another panicked call to the tool’s creator and he helped me sort out part of the problem. The other was an issue that wasn’t related to anything I had done (or not done) on the site.

Friday morning saw the resolution of the access issues, and I was finally able to implement my manager’s suggested revisions for the site messaging from Wednesday afternoon.

Can we say WHEW?

This was, by far, the most stressful week I’ve experienced at work in the fourteen years I’ve worked for my employer.

Phil was incredibly supportive through the whole week. I’m so lucky to have such a great guy. I survived and am back to my usual, laid-back self, but this is not an experience I’m eager to repeat.

Lessons learned: I must get detailed documentation on any project I’m parachuted into the middle of in the future. This was a situation in which I literally didn’t know what I didn’t know (and what I needed to know to be able to do the job). Being deemed a SharePoint “expert” has its drawbacks.

And that is my tale of woe and triumph for the week.

Next weekend, I’m attending an event on Feb 1 (Imbolc for the paganish), and then, on Feb 3, I’m delivering my ‘how to get published’ workshop. It’s been moved from the afternoon to the evening and reduced to two hours, but it’s still going forward.

All is once again well in Mellie-ville.

How about you? Have you had (seemingly insurmountable) work challenges that you’ve been able to meet? Have you been able to surface from a sea of overwhelm and make your way to shore?

The Learning Mutt

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Hell month, meet the week of epic . . . stuff

A.K.A. Where the hell has Mel been?

To preface this, admittedly lengthy, post, I have to admit that my “problems” are all of the first world variety. Also, as with all problems, I’m generally the author of my own misery. Even with events over which I have no control, I can still control my reaction to them. While I’m usually good at this, occasionally things stack up in such a way that I end up overwhelmed and unable to function. Then, I simply have to reposition, admit that the universe is trying to tell me something, and adjust my attitude appropriately.

Sometimes that means letting a few things go for a bit.

That’s the short version.

The long version follows.

What I thought I Mothers’ Day weekend would look like

At the beginning of this month, all I knew about Mothers’ Day weekend was that a friend was doing a Twitterview on Saturday at noon, and that I would be heading out to my sister-in-law’s for Mothers’ Day supper Sunday afternoon.

Outside my house

Outside my house

The city has started to work on Regent Street, the main traffic artery that borders the west side of my property. This has been a minor inconvenience, but since they’ve been tearing up a different part of the street every day, it’s been difficult to know which detour will actually get me and Phil home after work.

This municipal project will be ongoing until the snow flies and the ground frost shuts things down. I’d accepted the inconvenience. This work has to be done. All the catch basins, storm drains, and water supply lines will be replaced. The traffic and street lights will be replaced. It’s just going to be very dusty and noisy in the interim.

Construction panoramic

Google’s auto-awesome is so cool. It made a panoramic shot out of my pictures!

My mother is getting some work done at her house. The roof of the carport, upon which a deck had been built years ago, was leaking, and in a driving rain, water would run down the wall in her entry and on two occasions, it has trickled through to the light fixture in the hall and burst the bulb.

Construction at Mom's

Construction at Mom’s

She got several quotes and settled on a solution which involved removing the wooden deck and the gravel and tar beneath, sloping the surface for drainage purposes, installing cement backer board, new membrane, a thin layer of concrete, a non-slip surface, and new, aluminium railings. All of the new materials will be water-tight, up-to-code, and weigh much less than the layers of tar, gravel, and the substantial wooden deck that was there.

On May first, I signed up for an introductory month with myoga.ca. Having thrown my back out last month, it was important that I start doing something to get back into shape. Though I haven’t attended a tonne of classes and have had to rearrange my schedule a few times, I’ve already seen the benefits with regard to the way I feel. I’m strengthening my core and stretching my joints. It’s a good thing.

Early in the month, I had also looked into changing insurance providers (house and automobile). I found a quote that Phil and I were happy with, and had planned to call on May 10 to finalize things.

So I expected a busy weekend. I just wasn’t prepared for a confluence of events to derail my plans.

Complications arise

At the end of last month, I applied for membership in, and was accepted into, SF Canada. I soon learned through the listserv that the online annual general meeting (AGM) would be held on the afternoon of May 10, starting at 2 pm. No problem, I thought, there will be ample time for me to attend both the Twitterview and the AGM and still get the insurance finalized.

Then a friend’s spouse died and the viewing/funeral was also scheduled for Saturday, at 1 pm. At that point, I knew I’d have to miss the Twitterview, but I had to go support my friend. I also set aside the insurance. Though there might have been time, I didn’t want to cram too many things into one day.

The final straw was good thing. The weekend previous, I finally ordered the adjustable desk I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The company, Candesk, is Canadian and offered the best value for the quality and price. I had only paid for standard ground shipping, but shortly received a notification from FedEx indicating that they were handling the shipping.

I can only think that the Guy Viner, the man behind Candesk, upgraded my shipping. Many thanks for that grace.

I got the call on Friday from my mom. The desk had arrived. I emailed Phil and suggested that we not spend all of what was already promising to be a busy weekend dealing with the deskage, but Phil wanted to get to it, he said, so we wouldn’t be tied up beyond the weekend.

Plans change

Upon arriving home, I promptly cancelled my yoga class, and got to work emptying out my existing desk. The plan was for Phil to set it up in his office space downstairs. He needed the real estate, he said. Phil also got to work emptying out his old desk, dismantling it, and taking the bits out to the pick up for a future trip to the dump.

Then, he took a nap.

After a brief break, I continued the emptiage, storing the contents of my desk in tubs and boxes and in stacks on the dining room table and coffee table.

I decided that I wouldn’t go online that night.

Out of the box

Out of the box

Mom was going out for brunch with friends and cancelled our Saturday morning breakfast date. So that morning, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs (there have to be some compensations), Phil and I got to work dismantling my big desk and moving its parts into the basement. We started to put my new desk together, but I then had to get ready to go to the viewing.

Upon my return, I promptly fired up my computer, temporarily relocated to the dining room table, and joined the SF Canada AGM. It was three hours. It was also very interesting, and I may have gotten myself noted for a committee or two. No word yet on when said committees will be struck, who will be on them, or what work will be required.

The desk assembled

The desk assembled

Phil had, in the meantime, finished assembling the desk, and after the AGM, we relocated it in its destined position.

I then started working on rearranging the remainder of the office, moving book shelves, dusting, and emptying out the wooden filing cabinet I got from Kim last year.

That jewel has been sitting in the living room, serving as storage for CDs, DVDs, and board games. Now it would be moving into its proper place, in my office.

I determined that blogging was probably not going to happen that weekend.

Checking email, I noticed that I’d received a request from the editor of Bastion Magazine for further revisions to my short story. I made a note and hoped not to forget.

On Sunday, after French toast with Mom, I resumed the work. I attached the computer cradle and cable minder to the desk and set up my computer. Phil had to help me move the filing cabinet into the office. Then came the work of trying to get all the stuff I’d unpacked from the old desk into the filing cabinet.

The desk at sitting height

The desk at sitting height

The desk at standing height

The desk at standing height

My old/Phil's new desk

My old/Phil’s new desk

I didn’t get it all done before leaving for my sister-in-law’s.

Mothers’ Day dinner was lovely and the day was so pleasant that we ended up sitting outside until the sun had almost set. We also got a bucket of potatoes and some eggs. My sister-in-law’s partner is a farmer 🙂

We got home in time to watch Game of Thrones, and then I set to on the revisions to my story.

Off to the races

The week at worked promised to be a hectic one: meetings, overviews of the new performance management process and program, training, the onset of monitoring, and working group meetings.

Hectic might be an understatement.

It was also raining. All week long.

When we got home from work, I went into the basement to put a couple of winter coats in storage and find Phil’s spring jacket. I also found an inch of water on the floor.

I later confirmed with my mother, who had lived in the house since she and my father bought it from my grandparents when I was two years old, that it was the first flood she’d ever known about. The first flood in 42 years.

I grabbed a mop and bucket while Phil got the sump pump in order. Though we’d had it for 15 or 16 years (since a basement repair required its installation), we’d never had to use it. The pipe expelled into the garden, and Phil had to dig it up and extend it to the driveway.

He temporarily rigged up an old vacuum cleaner hose, ran across to the hardware store, and got the tubing and clamps he required.

Phil later explained that with our unusually long, cold, and snowy winter, the ground frost was high enough to prevent the water from running through as it normally would.

Monday night, work on my office resumed at a much slower pace, I went to yoga, and then revised my story one last time for Bastion.

On Tuesday, we had a vet appointment for Nuala. Good news there. Nu is on a reduction plan for her prednisone, and her ears have continued in fair health.

The contract for Bastion arrived and I filled it out and returned it.

By Thursday night, I had almost everything sorted, but by then, the week of epic stuff had taken so much out of me, I got sick. Go figure.

I made good use of my day at home and finalized the insurance arrangements.

And today, I was ready to get back on the social media horse and resume blogging.

So that’s the story of my epic week of stuff, a week that wore me out more than hell month. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad, but all of it was epic. It’s always a mixed bag here at writerly goodness.

The Next Chapter: Overwhelmed or underwhelmed?

You may have noticed that I have been a little quiet here on Writerly Goodness lately.  What’s the deal? you ask. Fair question.

One piece of the puzzle is that I am a little overwhelmed right now.  I’ve taken on a submission challenge that I probably won’t meet, and several courses, that while excellent, have also eaten up a good chunk of my creative time.

I’m trying to prepare two short stories for submission at the end of the week, and one of them has yet to be finished.  I know.  I’m stressed. 😦

I’m also working through the next revision of my work in progress and this coming week, I’m on the road for work again.  I rarely finish the things I need to get done while I’m travelling.

The other piece is that I haven’t been taking advantage of all the interesting creative things coming my way.  I haven’t been motivated.  The time issue may be part of it, but I suspect that the overwhelm and stress has left me a bit down in the last bit.

This is about to change.  I’m going to make contact with a few people this weekend to see if I can arrange for some interviews, and in a couple of weeks, my creative event schedule is getting underway, starting with Sudbury Wordstock, June 7 and 8, 2013.

Then I’m off to the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! Conference in Orillia, June

English: Waterfront of Orillia, Ontario, Canada

English: Waterfront of Orillia, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

12-16.  I’d like to catch a Chi Series reading on the 12th as well, because one of my all-time favourite writers, Guy Gavriel Kay, will be reading that night.  I just don’t know if I can do both in such a short turn-around.

Other writerly goodness on deck: an interview with Barbara Kyle (which I’m very pleased about), and possibly something of a departure that I don’t want to spill the beans about in case it doesn’t pan out.  I’ll also be blogging my experience in Margie Lawson’s course, and, on the learning mutt side of things, my first training for trainers experience (where I’m headed this week).

When I get my outdoor office set up, I’ll probably show that off too, with the new view sans birches.

Later in the summer, I’m hoping to head to When Worlds Collide in Calgary (might be

Chinook arch over the city of Calgary, Alberta...

Chinook arch over the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

hooking up with an editor/writer friend for this and meeting a couple of other writerly friends on site), and in the fall, I’ll be taking off to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference where a whole pile of authors, agents, and editors I follow will be.

Having put off the migration to WordPress.org and a self-hosted site, I’ve turned my attention to adding video or podcast elements to my blog.  Not sure how soon that might happen.  I have to put my techie hat on for that.  And the site revamp is still lurking.  Once again, I just need the time to spend a day or two and dedicate myself to the changes.

There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening, I’ve just yet to get excited about it 😉  It’s kind of creeping up on me, though.  I just wish I had more time off to get everything done (!)

So I’m not really underwhelmed, I’m just under-invested at the moment.

Summer will be here before I know it!

One Sundog Snippet yet to come this week.  See y’all soon!