Hey sister, soul sister...

I made a huge mistake tonight. I let my iPhone pick the music for my 30 minute walk/jog using the Genius feature. I thought I had picked a safe song – “Andy, You’re a Star” by The Killers. I figured the Genius would create me a fairly rocking list of songs to “jalk” to along the streets of Gosforth. Unfortunately instead the big G decided to host me a playlist full of songs by The Decemberists, Bright Eyes, The Pixes, Death Cab for Cutie, Iron & Wine, and Spoon, along with some Coldplay, Damien Rice and Imogen Heap thrown in for fun. Well, let’s just say that a huge majority of the songs on that list are associated in my mind with my sister Susie and by the end of the 30 minutes I was missing her so much that it hurt more than the running itself. The most evil part is that because I was using my C25k iphone app to monitor my run progress, changing the playlist wasn’t an option without losing my progress in the application. ARGH I HATE YOU APPLE GENIUS!

So...I miss my sister. A lot. More than Kraft Mac & Cheese. More than Wendy’s even - and that’s saying a lot. It’s not that I don’t miss the rest of my family and friends immensely – I miss them all every single day. But being away from my sister is like missing one of my feet – I feel unbalanced and a little bit disabled. No one in this world can aggravate me as much as Susie can – she knows the buttons to push going back 30+ years. No one can appreciate and comprehend the person I have become as much as Susie either – she’s the only person who’s been engaged the entire time. My sister and I are opposite sides of the same coin, and living this far away from her physically hurts. God knows we don’t see eye-to-eye or get along all the time, but throughout my entire life - since the day she was born - Susie has been the single consistent beautiful thread in the patchwork quilt that is my life. I learned what family is really about through being a sister to her for the past 31 years and through her returning the favour to me. Having 4,500 miles between us doesn’t diminish our relationship but it damn well makes it harder to communicate and impossible to have shared experiences, and I mourn those facts a lot these days.

I loved the simplicity of our relationship when we were children – bossy braniac Julie and sweetly sinister Susie. The pair of us were known to everyone in our lives simply as “the girls”, yet even from a very early age we were incredibly dissimilar in our approach to life, which in hindsight proved to be positive building blocks for the bond we have now. As children, everything around us was complicated in a very nasty and adult way but the two of us lived in this fun little universe that we imagined for ourselves, a universe protected from the craziness around us and usually ended in either giggles or hair pulling. Of course, we don’t pull hair these days – luckily we’ve moved on and work out our differences in much more "adult" ways (usually involving alcohol). I truly love the complexity and nuances of our relationship now as adults. It’s sometimes painful, sometimes ridiculous, usually bizarre, often funny...and always, always loving to the best of our abilities, even during bad times.

I had planned to write something longer about the reality of being an expatriate with tight family bonds so far away, but the words are escaping me and sadly our dinner won’t make itself, so instead I will finish with some quotes on sisterhood which I like:

“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”
Marion C. Garretty

"Husbands come and go; children come and eventually they go. Friends grow up and move away. But the one thing that's never lost is your sister."
Gail Sheeny

“ Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers.”
Pam Brown

“You can kid the world. But not your sister.”
Charlotte Gray

“ If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child.”
Linda Sunshine

“ A sibling may be the keeper of one's identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self.”
Marian Sandmaier


Monkey Management 101

I just read a short and succinct book about delegation called 'The One Minute Manger Meets the Monkey'. I am pretty sure the author thought his audience had the attention span of a 9 year old when he wrote it because every fifth page has only one sentence on it, usually consisting of some sort of management mantra or painfully realistic principle. For example, here are some of the more poignant short attention span catchphrases used in the book:

"The Golden Rule of Management - THOSE WHO HAVE THE GOLD MAKE THE RULES"

"Experience is Not What Happens To You; It's What You Do With What Happens To You"

"Never Let The Company Go Down The Drain Simply For The Sake Of Practicing Good Management"

and my favorite:

"Things Not Worth Doing Are Not Worth Doing Well"

(poor punctuation and odd capitalisation directly transcribed from the book)

Interestingly though, I have found this short read quite helpful. I've identified a couple of bad habits I've exhibited in my recent past both personally and professionally, and I have a couple of decent new strategies for trying to keep other people's monkeys off my back (monkey being an analogy for the 'next move' in any project or activity). It was a worthwhile read, although I was a wee bit turned off by some of the fairly old school management style examples utilised, and also by the author's tendency to spoon feed the lessons to his audience. Despite those shortcomings, I definitely recommend it to anyone else fairly green to direct accountability for leading others and probably also for overburdened soccer moms who need to teach their husband's and/or children to clean up their own messes.