Testing, Testing

19 04 2017

This week, as part of my duties as vice president of standards for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, I chaired a Master Artisan jury session – a formidable event for jurors and candidates alike. (For details on this, visit https://www.pacrafts.org/our-guild/master-status)  It brought back memories of my experience on the applicant side of the equation.

How long had it been since I looked at the work that earned me Master status? How would those pieces look to me now, after all those years? I’ll admit, I was a little more than nervous, but I hung the works together and stepped back.

Damn. While they are not representative of my current work, they are part of me. They still speak to that place I was when I created them.

I am humbled and honored to chair this year’s Master Artisan jury sessions.  Remembering what it feels like to take the test helps make better teachers. I will not forget.

German Bitches Get Things Done

15 02 2017

I am one of those women, the ones who get the call when something needs to be done and no one else wants to/will do it. It should go without saying, but to be clear, I am talking about things that require a lot of work and offer no pay – volunteer jobs.

Full disclosure: my maiden name is Krauss (and let me tell you, I get a lot of heckling from my  dear Jewish husband about those two final consonants!)  My Teutonic streak gets me into trouble, but it also gets me out of it, because of that hard-headed need to prevail.

I live my life in dogged pursuit of doing jobs well.  I am ever encouraged by seeing others who are in my camp, so last night, it was a real affirmation to watch the Westminster Kennel Club award Best in Show to Rumor Has It, a stunningly strong and composed – and female – German shepherd dog. 


German Bitches Get Things Done.

Another Fine Mess

11 01 2017

Well, I’ve done it again. I have ignored my own boundaries and landed myself in the thick of something I promised myself I would stay out of.

After starting the New Year by promising myself I would “just help from the sidelines,” in less than two weeks, I find myself suited-up, helmet on, cleats laced, and adrenaline-pumped – right back in the midst of the game.  

Even after talking to myself (okay, yelling at myself) for months about steering clear of just such a scenario,  I could not say “no.” Why couldn’t I?

What’s in it for me?

I just agreed to do a hard job for no pay not just because I am a damn fine person (I am); there has to be more to it. Exactly what that “more” is matters only to me, but it matters.  It’s that little boost of energy that will keep me moving toward the goal.

When you are asked to do something for someone else that, on its face, looks like all work and no fun, look a little deeper and see if you can’t find some little something to answer What’s in it for me? If the answer to that question is “Nothing but headache/heartache/hardship,” then you really must decline; but if you can identify even a small personal benefit to doing that favor, making that sacrifice, you might find yourself doing more for others AND feeling happier, too.

That’s what I’m counting on, anyway – since I can’t keep from playing, I’m going for the WIN-WIN.

And Another Thing

8 04 2015

I’m the kind of person who believes in actions, not just words.

I get involved with the stuff in my life. I believe it is only right to play hard, not just watch the action. After all, if it weren’t for those who lace up the cleats, don the helmets, and get banged up on the field, there’d be no game to watch.

Problem with volunteer groups, though, is that there are lots more cheerleaders than players. There’s often a very small group (sometimes a group of one) with the job title community organizer-carpool coordinator-busboy-cruise director-financial manager-welcome wagon-and another thing . . .

Yes, it is our fault – those of us who believe we should work for the privilege of membership (or are control-freak-megalomaniacs) – that we end up wearing more hats than our necks can support. We set ourselves up for an ever-growing workload by Doing The Work.  We’re committed and we’re good at what we do.

That’s great for the group, while it lasts. It is, however, very bad long-range planning to have so few hamsters in the wheel.  When we burn out – and it happens fast and hard – organizations that do not have a good spread of essential duties across the membership and willing and ready successors to key roles often find they’re scrambling to restart from a standstill.

I love the few groups to which I belong. I have allowed myself to be exhausted by having worn too many hats for too long, though.  I see, now, how unfair it was that I did not say “no” to a few more things along the way to this point. By having a few people do everything, it takes the pressure off the rest of the group, but it also robs folks of the opportunity to learn and grow by taking on responsibility and to feel good about actively contributing to the whole.

Should you volunteer to take on some responsibility in your circle?  Sure.

Should you take on one of those “other duties as required” roles?  NO!

Play on the team, but don’t feel you have to takes the snap from center, drop back, throw a perfect spiral downfield, make a great block, run a perfect slant, and catch the pass.  Division of labor and well defined roles make for much better games.

Let someone else catch the damn pass, once in a while.

Let It Go!

3 12 2014

Although I have not seen Frozen and I have (perhaps luckily) heard its big song less than a half dozen times, the refrain is playing on a loop in my brain.

After what feels like a hundred years (really been about eight), at the end of this month, I am leaving my positions on the boards of my state craft guild* and my local chapter.**  I am sure it is what I want, what I need, and what the organizations need, but I do it with mixed feelings.

Many of you, I am sure, have found yourselves in similar circumstances: you’ve dedicated a large chunk of your energy, your brains, and your passion to a cause, an event, a job and one day, you wake up and realize you have no more to give.

You’re exhausted.



You know it’s time for you to turn over the reins to someone else. You’ve done your fair share and then some . . . but you feel a little bit funny walking away, even knowing that you truly NEED to take back your self.

I’ll admit there are a few ugly reasons that keep me from simply feeling relieved at unharnessing my self-imposed yoke. First, I feel an unreasonable pang of guilt for leaving a post (feels like quitting – I hate quitting!) that I know will be better served by fresh ideas.  Perhaps, it’s more that I fear that my value as a person is diminished, now that I am not a recognized member of the varsity . . .

The worst, shamefully, is that I fear giving up control within these two organizations to which I have been so deeply devoted.  It’s a selfish and silly feeling, but, there it is. What if those who succeed me do not treat my babies with the same love and respect?  What if they decide to cut their hair, change their names, or let them speak French???

They will – because they accept the role for the same reason as I did – to serve the organizations and help them prosper – exercise the same care and invest the same thoughtfulness and assert the same passion as I did these last several years.

If familiarity does not absolutely breed contempt, it surely breeds stagnation; it is time for me to let it go . . . or in the words of another famous movie songstress, Lili Von Schtupp,  Let’s face it – I’m exhausted!


*Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen www.pacrafts.org

**Yellow Breeches Chapter www.ybcrafts.org

PGC Thanks Cert


29 05 2013

I’m not sure when it happened, but one day – right out of the blue – it occurred to me that the “stuff” I like does not magically happen.  Well, it was a shock, I tell you: almost as big a shock as learning that dinner did not simply materialize on the table; money did not spring forth from my father’s wallet; or clothes didn’t take themselves out of the dryer and tuck themselves into drawers.  Nope, I had to DO things to put food on the table, pay my way, keep my home in order.  I learned this about my personal life a long time ago; why’d it take so long for me to see the world at large works the same way?

There are a lot of wonderful communal things.

Who’s responsible?

Who puts up the bunting for the Memorial Day Parade?

Who waters the beautiful planters that line the streets of our little hamlet?

Who arranges meeting space, sets up schedules, records the minutes, and keeps members of the various social and civic groups informed of the goings-on?


There are generous-with-their-time folks who make these things (that I took for granted for too long) happen.  When I “grew up”, I realized that if something is important to me, I should do my fair share to keep that important thing healthy.

What’s a fair share?  Here’s my definition:

Give as much as you hope to get.

That’s the fair thing to do. Do it yourself.

Don’t Burn the Bridge; Pass the Torch!

7 09 2011

Once upon a time, there was a community of busy people who wanted the same goal.  It was a lofty goal that made everyone in the group feel special.  As time passed, some of the people began to feel “specialer” than others, because it seemed that the rest of the group turned to them for leadership/energy/financing/organizational skill/flat-tire-fixing   .  .  .  you get the idea, I am sure, if you’ve ever been part of a club of any kind.

Now, on one hand, it feels good to feel special, on the other, after a while, it feels like work.  Then it begins to feel like a thankless job.  Then it begins to feel like they’re the ONLY ONE who cares whether this (insert name of any voluntary membership organization here) even survives!  Then, it gets really weird – other folks offer to do some of that work, to help keep the group alive and flourishing.  And what do you think happens next?  The original “specialer” people are even MORE miserable than when they were all alone pushing that rock back up that hill.

I can see my community’s original movers and shakers ready to retire from the day-to-day work of keeping the organization vibrant and I can see the energetic young’uns testing the waters, getting ready to assume the mantle.  I am in the middle.  I am not in a legacy position, but I can see the time is right for me to mentor others and encourage them to take the reins of the group.  I hate to admit it, but I felt a momentary pang of “who will do all the work with all the love and all the attention and all the energy and all the dedication and all the effort and all the . . . “Bullshit!

Every organization grows or dies – period.  I love to garden and part of the beauty of a flowering tree is its willingness to allow its hard-worked leaves to fall to rest around it and trust that new strong flowers will burst forth, bringing new leaves and new energy to the plant.  We must trust that the new leaders of our groups will continue to reach for the sun. They have grown from our organization.  They know what to do to keep it alive and well. Give them support and give them a chance.  They will blossom and we will all benefit.