Another Rec Lab has come and gone and it was again, full of fun and lovely people, most of whom I only get to see once a year but who I love dearly.  The amazing thing this year was the cohesiveness of the entirety of Rec Lab.

Typically we have a Discussion Leader that talks about one thing, a Monday Night Celebration that is usually a theme of a different sort, and Fireside evening programs which are quite diverse as well.  But this year was somewhat magical in the way that Discussion Leader Connie Nunemaker’s talks, focused on Gardening and including our friends the pollinators, was carried through in the Monday Night Flower Power celebration and the Fireside talks which had a number of links to butterflies and stories from the beautiful garden of life.  Even the donated items for the Fundraising Auction were linked in many ways to gardens with plants and floral handmade items.

And Tea Time was fantastic with its garden theme.  Barb Benson outdid herself with an organized, well-planned, and beautiful set-up for each afternoon’s refreshments.  She included a focus on sustainability that I really loved: For every time you brought your own mug, you got an entry into the drawing – for one of her husband Jewitt’s artistic cards.  [And there must have been a lot of us participating since I didn’t win once! ;-)]  I am hopeful that Barb’s efforts will continue to guide the Tea Time committee well into the future… until someone comes up with an even better way of doing things, once again.

I was so happy that Connie Nunemaker agreed to speak for Rec Lab as she was a delight and a thrill for many who gushed about how much they enjoyed the Discussion.  She truly had something for everyone.  From soil science to flower bombs, the language of flowers to free plants for your garden, she led informative talks where everyone learned a little something.  One of the more interesting points was about rainfall and how one of the reasons it greens everything up is because, as rain falls, it gathers nitrogen from the air (which is about 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen) and puts it into the soil.  Nitrogen is what makes plants greener.  So after a rainfall, everything looks to have greened up significantly for good reason!

But as is the case with any large event, there were shortcomings.  And these are a chance for us to learn, though I sometimes wish that I could learn more easily.

What I learned through my failures this year is that, instead of working on how to proactively prevent issues, I should focus on how to reactively deal with what I foresee as potential problems – though this year I failed on both counts for the main concern I had.  Maybe that’s why I got to hear from those hurt most in the debacle.  It’s a penance I’m willing to pay though I wish I’d had the foresight to prevent the issues in the first place.

I struggle with the concept of letting things happen as they will… simply “learning from them for next time”.  Some may feel that it is only through failing that we learn… or maybe that we learn best through failure.  I can agree with the latter but not the former.

My dad often said, “Experience is a dear school.  A fool will learn by no other.”  Perhaps it is because I heard this so often that I am the way I am… constantly looking to make things better, constantly evaluating and dreaming of the next best iteration, always looking for the group to discuss ideas in hopes that, together, we can avoid pitfalls and find our best success.

I’ve seen many groups come up with amazing solutions… things one person alone would have never developed so quickly.  I have always thought that was the purpose of a Board ~ to develop ideas as a group, to keep each other on task and on target, to assure we are moving forward as a full team for our best effort.  I’ve helped many groups, often with non-aligned end goals to find win-win solutions so I know it can work.  It was one of my favorite things to do as an engineer in the steel industry.  Perhaps it’s just that I lack the skillset to do that like I once could.  Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s Minnesota.

A friend recently shared with me, “Board work can be soul sucking.”  I can see through my experience on many boards that this is often true.  I have seen success stories and had many good experiences, but it seems that it’s often some of the most trying work I’ve done.  Maybe it’s because it’s voluntary work!

But I believe it’s more because I care too much.  Dan told me as I struggled this year:

Very few are capable of going ALL IN like you do. Many have fears that hold them back from a full commitment to something. Most Americans worry more about their own image.  When we let that go then we become empowered to truly help others.  You have a gift and the freedom to share that.  This scares those who cannot understand it.

Maybe.  In discussions prior to the spring Board meeting I had the encouragement of multiple Board members in bringing up my topic of concern.  However, when I brought the idea to the floor, I stood alone.  I was immediately accused of “stepping on the toes” of another committee.  I guess I thought we were all on the same team!  Instead of being seen as an idea to discuss as a Board, my idea was seen as an attack on multiple fronts.  And instead of fighting for it, I just let it die.  Being off-site for the meetings doesn’t allow as much personal interaction or reading of body language in the room.  Perhaps this is part of the reason I seem to lack the capability I once had in business, and even on other Boards.

And I do jump ALL IN.  But I’m finally learning that it just isn’t worth beating my head against the rock.  [It always seems to take me longer than others to learn this… I’m pretty tenacious.  Or maybe just not so smart…]

Another friend recently advised, “When you feel like you’re caring too much, think to yourself, how much will this matter in five years.”  I’ve revised this down to five months or even five weeks.  And sometimes, it’s only five days to realize that most of life is really irrelevant in the grand scheme.  In reality, it’s all just an experience here on Earth.

I believe I am finally at a place where I can let go this year, my last as a Rec Lab Board Member, and fully enjoy the event without becoming consumed with trying to assure we’re thinking of everything, avoiding all the pitfalls, making everything awesome!  I am doing well so far to not need to correct any typos in the minutes, to not need to address any actions during the meetings, to not feel a need to put in my two cents.  OK.  Let me be honest.   I FEEL the need to do these things.  I’m just deciding to not do them.  I’m letting things be as they are.  My input is not required.  Nothing is really critical enough to necessitate my involvement.  It’s an idea I contemplate frequently these days.

And I am hopeful that, at next year’s Rec Lab, I will not be a detriment to my friends and roommates – who BTW did a wonderful job of encouraging me and helping me through this year as I struggled.  I thank them for their caring compassion.  It meant the world.

For Rec Lab 2019, all I need to do is assure that the Art Show is prepped for displaying the created works next May.  [Sorry, Laura, I’m taking the easy gig this year!!  Though Discussion turned out to be pretty easy too so I hope you enjoy it instead.]

And there were plenty of things for which to be grateful and proud.

  • Watching the fun at Monday’s celebration unfold was hilarious!!  All those women with low hanging balls!  And seeing the creativity of costumes was wonderful.
  • Watching as so many people took time to care for others ~ helping them learn, sharing experience, and being creative ~ was inspiring.
  • Hearing the Fireside stories was heartwarming, funny, and challenging.  Tina shared a story about assuring you don’t live life too quickly and instead enjoy the moments, even the tough ones, as they are often the ones that bring you closer to each other.

I guess my painful moments gave me a chance to let others care for me and I am so grateful that they were there for me.  And it allowed others to give me insights that helped me see where I need to go from here.  Though some of those insights were painful, they turned out to be the most informative and helpful.

It’s hard for me to take a back seat and “not care” (as I put it).  As with any experience, I am hopeful that the growing pains will bring good lessons that lead to improvement.  And, in all reality, most of the downfalls were not enough to ruin what is, by and large, a wonderful event at a happy place.

Here are some of my favorite things…

Redneck Life with Laura Burlis, Ann Hippensteel, and Jill Featherwolf (thanks, Jill!); my polymer clay time; June’s collaborative switch plate (this is the heart of Rec Lab to me – working together to create something beautiful); my upcycled thrift shop finds ($4); Tracy Gulliver’s “star” talk (love it when a first year attendee jumps right in to participate!); Laura, me & Lutz ~ Hippy Time;  Mother Nature – Connie Nunemaker (this year’s Discussion Leader); more of my polymer clay and Jill’s Owl – love him!; and me – Happy (jacket before photo).

I also loved Laura Burlis’ Glacier Trip presentation – FABULOUS!!  Another example of why we shouldn’t rush through things… she spent almost an hour on this – AFTER Fireside – and had a HUGE audience.  And my most favorite time is Art Show where we can see all the wonderful work from our week together.  Here’s a video.