Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Operation Mother's Day: PRACTICAL Porter... Carol Porter that Is!

I love it when things converge making it clear that your intuition is leading you in the right direction. I have quite a collection of photos and gift ideas to choose from, making one of my biggest challenges of the week the order in which to feature these great women. According to my calendar, today is Administrative Professionals Day.

But first some quick announcements...
  • Julie A. Cole... come out, come out, where ever you are? There are lots of readers waiting to meet you. Anon, if you're out there and ready to do your thing... feel free.

  • Today is Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday, but in light of our Mother's Day Celebration we will move it to Saturday. Tune in. As there might very well be something in it for you.

  • Are we having any husbands, uncles, brothers, or sons reading our block this week? Consider posting a comment, so we know you're out there.

  • I am 642 short of my goal. Thanks for plugging away at this for me. 5,000 viewers by May 1 is my goal... for reasons with which you are all way too familiar.

Ok, back to Operation Mother's Day...

Carol Porter is a dear and valued friend of mine, who I met while working at Southern Methodist University. Carol was the administrative assistant in the office where I worked, which is to say... she ran everything and knew everything. I have a couple of favorite memories of Carol. One such memory was during my interview for the job. She asked how I felt about moving coolers (drink coolers, that is). Little did I know at the time, our office was a one-stop shop. As employees of New Student Programs we did it all... including things such as making coffee for parents, directing lunch traffic in 110 degree Dallas heat, and yes, hauling coolers filled with drinks across campus.

My second memory happened only weeks into my position. I was on my way to a meeting and right before I darted out the door, Carol - thank goodness for Carol - gently said, "Don't you want to put on some lip stick?" This is the same woman who earlier in the week gently suggested I needed to soften up the direct, "New Yorker" tone of a memo I had written, so as to be better received by the kinder, gentler Texans for whom it was being written. That was just the beginning of our perfect yin and yang relationship. Carol the epitome of grace, professionalism, and calmness... me... louder, less graceful, and more frazzled.

She is also practical. While I was dreaming big about how we could transform our orientation program by adding this program and taking on who knows what, Carol was the voice of reason. She has an eagle eye for detail, is the ultimate bookkeeper, and possesses a healthy amount of skepticism.

When asked about the best Mother's Day present either given or received, Carol answered without reservation. Her birthday is May 10, so it always fall on or around Mother's Day. For that reason, her two children always make an extra special effort to be home for the occasion(s). One year her son, who is an insurance adjuster, was unable to be at home because he was doing assessments on damage done by a hurricane. All State Insurance sent flowers to Carol apologizing for her son's absence! How about that?!

Are all you bosses making note? One of Carol's most memorable Mother's Day gifts was compliments of the company for which her son works! Now that's impressive. Flowers, I might add, are an extra special indulgence for Carol, because it is something she might never buy herself. So, in honor of Carol, today we will brainstorm the best of PRACTICAL gift giving.

Let me start by introducing another friend from SMU with whom I recently had lunch... Arlene Manthey... mother of two boys and perhaps THE most energetic person I have EVER met. She radiates energy and there is no way to be around her without having some of it rub off (perhaps the reason I am honoring more than one mother today). DARN... I took a picture of her yesterday at lunch and didn't realize until I got home that my memory card was not in my camera. You'll have to visualize a tall, attractive woman with a great smile.

Arlene also had little problem answering my prompt of the best present she'd ever either given or received. Her answer... Giorgio Perfume. She said she considered the gift somewhat practical, because it is something she would buy for herself once it ran out. Of course she then went into an animated discussion of how you can't buy this perfume in stores anymore because according to some nervy woman in a department store, Giorgio Perfume is considered "totally 80's and out of date." Her resourceful husband and kids have resorted to buying her perfume on Ebay. She also said - now that she was all worked up - that you also couldn't buy Juniper Breeze Body Wash at Bath and Body Works anymore. It's considered a "classic" and needs to be ordered on-line (can you tell we were commiserating about getting older?).

I got to thinking more about her perfume dilemma on my drive home. Perfume is something manufacturers have a moral obligation not to discontinue. The perfume a woman wears in many cases (Arlene's included) her trademark scent... THE scent by which her boys have come to recognize her over the past 21 years. I feel the same about my mother's perfume - . The scent of my of my mother's perfume brings me right back to my childhood in seconds flat. When company's discontinue a line, simply because it doesn't generate the requisite revenue, they do so at the expense of whole families having to mourn the loss of something that automatically conjures up fond memories of warmth and familiarity.

Oh, how I digress... Back to PRACTICAL gift giving. What are some of the best examples you have of practical Mother's Day gifts, either given or received? If, as an added bonus, you want to share some ideas about thanking an administrative assistant, feel free. Recognition of hard work is appropriate any time.

As for me... signing off until tomorrow and...

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