Tag Archives: paralegal

Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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What Makes a Volunteer?

What is it that causes some people to volunteer repeatedly?  They are active in everything, always jump in to lend a helping hand, and juggle several volunteer positions, full time jobs, and other obligations.

Why is it some people never volunteer?  They will joint an organization, but never go beyond the membership stage.  Even when the organization is in desperate need of assistance, they refuse to lend a helping hand.

I have been a volunteer in a variety of organizations over the past 30+ years.  If you belong to several organizations you find that it is always the same people that volunteer, always picking up the slack while others sit idly by.  What is it that causes this difference in people’s willingness to give.  Why is it some people can juggle huge loads and always take on something else, while others are overwhelmed with one or two things?

This has been on my mind for several reasons.  I belong to the St. Clair County Family History Group.  A few years ago our treasurer passed away unexpectedly, and no one was willing to step up and fill that persons shoes.  After a year one person said she would do it — the only reason she hadn’t volunteered before is because that is the type of work she does for a living, she held other committee positions, and was hoping someone would step up to the plate and take the position.  No one did, so Sue stepped in and has done a phenomenal job for years.  Sue made an announcement in May 2014 that she and her husband were planning to retire and move to Michigan’s U.P. within 1-2 years and that she would no longer be able to handle the position of treasurer.  She announced early so that if someone wanted to take over and have her handy to answer any questions and walk them through the steps while she was still in the area, that would make the transition easy.  No one volunteered.  She has now submitted her “formal” written resignation to the president.  I am wondering, actually doubtful, if anyone will volunteer.Volunteer - Make  a Life by What we Give

Now you may wonder why I don’t take the position.  The reason, I already hold a board position as Vice President, plus I am Newsletter Editor for the club.  I also try to manage the website, a position that was emptied and no one took over.   I am not good with the website and have been asking for about four years for someone to take it over, but no one has.  I announced a year ago that I was willing to hand over the VP position, which only requires you to run the meeting in the event the President is absent, which has never happened in the past 11 years I have been a member, and once a year you put together the Annual Report – a booklet of all the committee chairs annual reports.  No one volunteered and so I continued in that position.   In the same club we have another member who is moving out of state and has announced that her board position and committee chair position will be vacant.     That means we now have two board positions that need to be filled and two committee chair positions that need to be filled immediately.   I have my doubts that there will be anyone who steps up to the plate and takes on the openings, because we have other committee positions that have been vacant for years.

I am also a member of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club and have held various positions over the years, the most recent was as Member at Large — a board position that is relatively easy to have.  The Vice President of that club is moving out of State and had announced that his position would be vacant and someone would need to take over.  Every month before the meeting begins the VP walks around and solicits three members who have had the training to serve as part of a 3-judge panel for the photo competition that month.  The person also has a short 30-60 minute commitment once a week to pre-judge the photos submitted, making sure they are suitable for the categories they have been submitted into.  A relatively easy position with low commitment.  I was not going to be at the meeting in which the elections were taking place, but let the leaving person know that in the event no one volunteered I would take over.  Need I mention that I am now Vice President of the BW Shutterbugs?

I have spent most of my adult life volunteering in various organizations.  When my kids were young I was active in the PTO, serving as secretary for 6-7 years, chairing a committee that gathered and added grocery receipts from a particular store to raise money for the school, chaired a prize committee for the annual carnival, chaperoned field trips and volunteered in the classroom from time to time, all while holding down a full-time job.  I also was co-leader of the girl scouts, leader of the Tiger Cubs, secretary for a collectible club, and in addition to my full-time office position sold Tupperware.  My kids were involved in karate, scouting, AWANA and dance. Oh, I almost forgot, I volunteered in the nursery at the church we were attending.  If I could do that with two young children at home, why can’t people who are retired and have no young children at home dedicate some of their time to an organization?

This past weekend I attended a workshop where the purpose was to handcraft items that will be placed in gift boxes.  Those boxes are donated to hospitals to be presented to parents who give birth to stillborn babies or whose babies die shortly after birth.  They include gowns for the baby to be buried in, tiny stuffed animals, blankets, hats, etc.   A very important and much needed item so I dedicated my Saturday, from noon to 9 pm to help out.  While I was at the workshop someone asked me what I do in my free time.  I guess when you put it all in a list, it overwhelms some people.

What do I do?  I am Vice President and Newsletter Editor of the St. Clair County Family History Group, Vice President of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club, I write a genealogy column for The Lakeshore Guardian, I am an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, I have a weekly blog, I am writing a book about our families dealings with DHS and trying to adopt our granddaughters, my husband and I have a photography business, Times Gone By Photography and we both have photos in a local art gallery, for sale in a local hospital, for sale at a couple local stores and we both have websites on Fine Art America, plus a business Facebook page, Times Gone By Photography.    In addition to that I work full time as a paralegal, and my hobbies include scrapbooking, reading, photography, and genealogy.

When people say I should relax, eliminate some of those items, I respond “Why?”   If you don’t have a wide range of interests and activities life becomes boring.  I don’t want to reach my old age and have nothing to look back on, regrets that I didn’t do things, or be bored in retirement because I have no hobbies or interests to keep me busy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can do the couch potato in front of the TV just like everyone else.  Then I realize that the things I want to do are sliding away and I get busy again.  My “chill time” gets me re-energized for the next round of activity.

What makes a volunteer?  Why are some people willing to plunge right in wherever needed and others always spend their time on the sidelines, observing but never fully participating?

Are you a volunteer or an observer?  What are your reasons for the position you take on volunteering?

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Why didn’t I do it?

Back when I was a kid I loved to write.  I would write long letters to my grandparents, I had several pen-pals in various countries, one I remain in contact with still, and I would write stories.  A class that many disliked in high school but I enjoyed was composition, and for my final writing assignment in that class I wrote an article on child abuse.  Horrifying information, but if I remember correctly I got an A on the paper.   I wanted to become an onsite news reporter.  Getting out and seeing what is going on in the world and writing about it.  Active, interesting.  Why didn’t I?Regret - our past makes us who we are

I didn’t go to college for journalism because I allowed my mother to influence my decision.  This was back in the 1970’s and equalization in jobs and society’s view on women and certain careers was still very negative.  My mother told me that journalism wasn’t a good career for a person who wanted to have a family because if I became an onsite reporter I would have to pick up and go at all the times, would never have a family, and I should go into a more stable career such as secretarial.    For some reason I let her thoughts on journalism as a career influence my decision and I went into clerical work.

Clerical work has served me well.  I have worked as a clerk typist, administrative assistant, secretary, office manager, and after returning to college am now a paralegal.  I like office work, but I have often times regretted that decision not to pursue my chosen career back when I was younger.  I have dabbled in writing over the years, though.

Back when my children were young I took a correspondence course on writing magazine articles for children and loved it.  Unfortunately I was also working full time as an office manger, held various volunteer positions and had two children who were also involved in extra curricular activities.  I never managed to find time to do the writing I wanted.  Then after my children were older I participated in a writing group at a local art studio for a while, but that didn’t provide the outlet I wanted.

In 2004 I moved to St. Clair County and became a member of the family history group.  A few years later the newsletter editor decided to give up her position and I took it over and still hold that title today.    As newsletter editor I select material for the newsletter, write some articles, layout the paper and handle the mailing.

In 2011 The Lakeshore Guardian, a local free newspaper, was looking for someone to write a monthly column on genealogy and my column  Who Am I? was born.  They recently developed an online access and some of my more recent columns can now be viewed on their website.

Writing - If a story is in you it has to come outMy husband and I have been trying to adopt our two granddaughters who went into foster care in 2010 and the parental rights were terminated in 2012.  We immediately applied to adopt and have been involved in a very frustrating situation ever since.  The youngest child was awarded to her foster care parents for adoption, a heartbreaking loss, and I did a Shutterfly book after she was lost to adoption called KAE-LEE JOY GROGAN:  Forever in our Hearts. We continue striving to obtain visits with and adopt the older child, Kiley Grogan, who has severe mental, physical and visual handicaps.  She is a precious little girl who we want desperately to be returned to our family.    I have discovered that our story is unfortunately not uncommon.  People have been waging similar battles for years and I have decided that the public needs to be aware and am in the process of writing a book that tells what has happened to us and our beautiful granddaughters.

I was just accepted to a position as an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, a local newspaper.  Me along with with five other new columnists were announced in their June 26th edition and my first column was published on July 9th, Michigan Gun Owners Deserve a Measure of Confidentiality.  Being an opinion columnist is a new and exciting adventure and I am looking forward to the challenge.

When I started writing the book mentioned above I found a freelance writers group that deals with the business end of writing.  One of the first things I heard in that group is that writers should have blogs.  A blog helps you connect with people and gets them familiar with your writing style.  That was the reason I began this blog.  I did have a hard time with it though, because so many blogs deal with one topic or area of interest, and I like to write about all kinds of things and didn’t want to be locked into one format and at the same time didn’t want to juggle numerous blogs.  That was how I came up with the name of my blog “Life is a Melting Pot.”  That title leaves me free to write about anything and everything, including my other interest as a photographer, for which I manage a Facebook page Times Gone By Photography and have a website of my photos on Fine Art America, Times Gone By Photography:  Grace Grogan.  Writing - desire to write grows with writing

What I have found is the more I write, the easier and more enjoyable it gets.  When I look back now at my desire to become a journalist when I was making career choices in 1977/78 I think “Why didn’t I do it?”   I can’t go back now and do it over, but it is never to late to start a writing career.   While I no longer desire to be an on-sight breaking news reporter/journalist, one thing always on my mind is that Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60’s when she began writing the Little House books.  Her mid to late life start is an inspiration and has played in the back of my mind for years.

Now to my writing…..

 

 

 

 

 

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EVOLUTION OF THE CLERICAL WORKER

Gregg Shorthand Used for taking dictation

Gregg Shorthand was used for taking dictation Click on the photo for a clearer view

One day this past week I was working at the computer and after juggling three phone calls in a row a client in our waiting area said “I wonder who had the first secretary.” It was an interesting thought. How far back does the use of office personnel go? While the answer to the question is interesting, the fun part of this was reminiscing about my own 35+ years in the clerical field and the changes that have occurred in that time.

Today the title of secretary is not commonly used. Administrative assistant, office manager, and executive assistant are some of the current positions held by office personnel.  Regardless of title the basic duties have not changed but the way they are performed has through advances in technology, education, and gender roles in the workforce.

It is believed secretaries existed prior to the establishment of the Roman Empire. Referred to at the time as “scribes” the position was held by educated men. As time progressed members of nobility and those who were wealthy and powerful used secretaries to serve as advisors, take dictation, handle correspondence, keep a schedule of appointments, and maintain accounting records.  By the late 1880s technology was advancing and office work required the ability to handle such modern conveniences as telephones, typewriters, and adding machines. It was during this time that women began to enter the work force and adapted well to handling of secretarial duties.  There was no equalization of pay and women were paid at about half the wage that a man earned for the same work. This made women financially beneficial to the employer. For men the position had been a stepping stone to higher, more prominent positions. Women were not considered capable of handling higher ranking managerial positions and were unable to advance beyond the clerical position. The employment of women in clerical positions expanded from approximately 2.5% of the work force in 1870, around 53% by 1930 and almost 80% by 1980. Since 1980 there has been no change in the number of women holding administrative support (clerical) positions.

My first office job was as clerk-typist for the Michigan Chapter, NASW, a position I obtained shortly after high school. In the 35+ years since I have worked for a variety of firms and my official title has included secretary to the president, administrative assistant, office manager, and paralegal. The required education for doing clerical work has changed and what was previously taught at the high school level is either obsolete or requires a college education.

When in high school I took clerical classes including Gregg shorthand, advanced typing, and “secretarial block,” an all-inclusive class designed to advance our office skills. We learned to operate a variety of business machines including the 10-key adding machine, the stencil machine, and worked to build our shorthand and typing skills.    Still a gender-based world, we were taught how to properly stand so as to appear attractive if taking dictation from a standing position.  Another element of the class included following our instructor at a fast pace down the halls as she gave dictation, so that we could follow an executive who was too busy to sit behind a desk when dictating.  I never encountered such an executive, but the training did make us accurate with our shorthand.

My training actually goes back to when I was in grade school and was one of 3-4 other female students selected to run the school office while the secretaries were at lunch, answering phones and running the ditto machine. If you are familiar with that piece of equipment, you know I am referring to the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Shall I date myself? I learned to type in 8th grade on a manual typewriter, and when we moved to high school we were thrilled to be able to type on the electric IBM Selectric typewriter. Copies of correspondence were done by placing a piece of carbon paper between the letterhead and a piece of onion skin paper. Typewriter errors were corrected using correction tape or liquid paper.

My second office position in the early 1980s was for an importer, and my dictation was frequently transcribed onto a telex machine. A message was typed onto the machine using shortened words, eliminating vowels and other unnecessary letters to reduce the cost of transmission. The message was then sent overseas to suppliers and we would wait to receive a telex response, which printed out on paper for reading.   The use of computers and email communication did not yet exist.  By the time I was in my third office position the fax machine was a new device that required dialing a number on a regular telephone, then once the connection was made activating the fax machine and hanging up the telephone.  We also had new “word-processing” typewriters on which you could read one line of text on a small narrow screen located on the body of the typewriter and make corrections before it printed onto your paper.   We were thrilled to have such technologically advanced machines.  Eventually one computer was purchased and put in a central location to be shared by all six clerical workers.

Workers entering the clerical field today think nothing of having their own computer, internet connection, communicating by email and having access to fax machines and copy machines. Most have never used a typewriter and have no idea what Gregg shorthand is. While I would never give up the modern conveniences of today, it is fun to remember the joy and excitement of each new technological advancement and the ease each has added to the clerical workload.

 

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