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The Admiration Project ~ 2015 Issue #4





Gosh, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard this phrase in the last 10 years.  It has been used so often that it now produces an instinctive eye-roll.  The kind of instinctive reflex that was initiated when you heard as a kid and swore you’d never repeat once you had kids of your own… but you do.  You know, like, “if you stick that lip out any further you’re gonna trip over it…”, “you better be careful, your face is gonna freeze that way…” or the ever popular “make sure you have on clean underwear in case you get in an accident.”  Oops, maybe that’s just my “East Tennessee” showing and you did not grow up hearing those endearing tidbits of wisdom.

Ahh well, I digress – I’m quite sure none of those sayings have much to do with where I’m going with this post, other than,

Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves

“it is what it is… until it ain’t anymore.” 


What does that even mean?  To me, it means

  • to settle,
  • to accept what is presented to you,
  • to give up,
  • to believe there is no hope for anything better.

Dramatic or extreme?  Maybe… but to have experienced the highs and lows of what I have seen exhibited by the people I am admiring in this post, they are more than worthy of being described as extremely admirable, not people who live by “it is what it is.”

The management of the facility where I have worked for over 25 years announced in January that it would be closing its doors on May 1 of this year.  I drove away for the last time on Friday.

I want to use this edition of The Admiration Project to admire those co-workers and friends whose paths crossed with mine over the last 25+ years BECAUSE of this place.

This is a photo of where I began my career with Check Printers in July 1989.

Circa 1986

Circa 1986

I was a fairly new mom with a 17 month old heading back into the work force; and I had landed a new, flexible position that allowed me to work just two days a week.  The way the story I’ve been told goes is that the programming manager that hired me asked one of the other programmers if they should hire me and he said, “yeah, we don’t have any girls.”  I’m guessing if that comment from 1989 had been made in 2015 it may have been a tad politically incorrect, but I thought it was quite humorous.  I also took it as a bit of a challenge — to prove “a girl,” at least “this girl,” wasn’t an “is what it is” kind of thing.  Those two men proved to be some pretty great guys in spite of their reason for hiring me, and provided me with an environment in which I was able to learn and advance.  I admire them to this day.

There were many other admirable and amazing folks employed at Check Printers back in the late eighties and early 90’s.  I am fearful to start dropping names because I KNOW I will leave someone out.  That being said, there is ONE name I cannot omit…

Jim Knight – There is no end to the number of people who passed through Check Printers, be it, the Nashville location, the Winston-Salem location or the Jacksonville location that his generosity and Southern gentleman charm did not touch in a positive way.  I’d also venture to say that this man has never uttered the phrase, “it is what it is.”  He taught me that nothing should ever be “settled for.”  He was a proponent of  lifetime learning while giving you enough space to explore a better way, but still maintaining the importance of capitalizing the word Customer.

By 1990 my two day a week part-time gig had turned into a full time career.  There were people I worked with during this time that I was still working with in January of 2015 when the closure was announced… people who are now dear friends, friends that had been with me through the birth of my second child, a divorce, a second marriage, two bonus daughters, the loss of two adored Chessies and the birth of two precious granddaughters.  People I admire because they know when to give you a hug, they know when to say nothing and they know what it means to be a friend.

Then there are the admirable folks who were around during the loss of our naivete associated with moving from working for a privately owned company to one that is publicly traded.  The beginning of several false endings for some of us and unfortunately, the beginning of the end for many, and the beginning of the use of the phrase, “it is what it is…”  These folks knew when it was time to laugh, time to put your head down and work and how to offer a hand when their work was done.

Circa 2009

Circa 2009

 This photo shows the building after the name change from Check Printers to RR Donnelley.  It was taken at the peak blooming time for the pear trees, trees that have also seen their end.  They were cut down several years ago.  There were no saplings of another kind to replace them, another “it is what it is” moment, I suppose.

Through the last 25 years, there have been many people pass through these doors that I admire.  The reasons are as varied as the personalities.  Some for the way they handle anything life throws their way, even their own end of life.  Some for the extreme generosity they have shown me.  Some for life-lessons they taught me, both professional and personal.  Some for their ability to make me laugh.  Some for their knack of giving nicknames, (mine which I will not share here).  Some for upholding their work ethic when it would have been easy to take a short cut.  Even some to push until I thought I would break, but became stronger in the process.

June 2015

I have driven to this building to report for work for 2 weeks shy of 26 years.  The only thing I have done longer in my lifetime is to be my parents’ daughter and my son’s mom.  It was bittersweet as I drove away for the last time on Friday.

My contribution for this post is being made to The American Heart Association.  Check Printers and RR Donnelley have had teams participate in the local Nashville Heartwalk for many, many years, and I want to show my admiration for my co-workers with this donation.  If you are a former Check Printers employee or a former/current RR Donnelley employee of the Nashville facility, I hope this post has made you smile today.  I hope this post will inspire you to tell at least one person who has your admiration that they have made a difference in your life.

P.S.  My team now consists of 4 “girls” and 1 guy.  I guess that warrants an “it is what it is.”   Please know that I admire each of you in many ways.


The Admiration Project ~ 2015 Issue #3

Image from

Image from

So I had this list… a list I started compiling in December of 2013 of my “admiration project” nominees… in the beginning I had grand aspirations of being able to do one a week, well since I am tying the posts to a donation (and I still have my day job) – I cut the goal to once a month.  It was a good excuse for me to be able to “lower the bar” and actually set a goal I could achieve… so it’s once  a month, and here is the March installment (albeit 1 day late).

Back to the “list,” well it’s a good thing it was in pencil.  For those of you that know me, and more importantly know my husband and/or my parents, you have to know they are at The Top of any admiration list I could ever compile.  Spoiler alert:  Parents coming in October for their anniversary (and my birthday) – Husband coming in June or July (our anniversary or his birthday, respectively).  In my book blog, anyone who has lost, or loses a child or parent, automatically goes to the top of the list.  Thus the March post…

I’d like to say “my best friend,” but I think we all have “best friends” at different times in our lives, so to label a person as “the ONE best friend” is difficult.  The handful of people I have called “my best friend” at different times in my life were important for a reason at that time.  Less than a handful have remained what I’d still call “best friend” at this point in my life, but they were ALL important.  I am glad to say that this is one of the people who taught me what it means to be a best friend, AND, she is one of a handful of ladies I still call “my best friend.”

“My best friend” lost her dad last month.  Surviving that, which most children will have to do, is a feat I admire.  It is also a life-changing event I cannot fathom.  My dad “hung the moon,” as did hers, I am sure.  I knew him, and I’m quite positive he hung a moon over her bed every night while she was a child and looked at the moon and wished her well every night once she was an adult and gone from his home.  We live states apart now and I hope she is able to feel the warmth of my admiration, love and support through this post.

It was not likely that a friendship would have organically developed between us two.  After all she went to the RIVAL high school and could/should have been considered an enemy from the start, but somehow, through divine intervention we were assigned to the same floor in the same dorm just an elevator apart as freshman at UT Knoxville.  Somehow, we overcame the rivalry of “high school” and became friends, allies, sounding boards, strong shoulders, silly sisters, and confidants.

I have many memories I cannot share here for the safe keeping of many embarrassing “best friend secrets” that come from young, extremely naive, girls being away from home for the first time.  (There’s probably a reason our dad’s let us live in the dorm… after all, it was a 30 minute drive, at best, from home.)  But…

  • Remember when we were sitting on your bed in the dorm and President Reagan was shot?
  • Remember the “Tang” under the door?
  • Remember the mattress in the elevator?
  • Remember Spring Break in FL after I had moved to Nashville?

To this day, over 30 years later, we are still in touch.  Do we call regularly?  Shamefully no.  Do we see other at least every 3 years?  Shamefully, no.  Do we exchange Christmas, birthday, and holiday cards?  Not regularly.  Do we call or text once a month?  No.

Do we call or email when there is a crisis?  YES!  Are we looking at that same moon and sending good thoughts both ways every full moon?  YES!  Do we send an unexpected gift that means much more than a regular/obligatory token?  YES!  Are we VFL?  YES!  Are we BFF’s?  YES! YES!

My dear friend, I admire you.  You were so much more mature than me, “back in the day,” (I sure hope I’m mature by now.)  I admired you back then… I mean you had the coolest car… you taught me to clog… shoot, you even had a declared major your freshman year!!!  I admire you now.

I would like to challenge anyone who is reading this to reach out to someone you admire.  Send them a note, make a phone call, let them know they are or were an important part of your life.  Then, if you are able, please make a donation in their name to something important to them.  Share this blog with others so that the word will spread and admiration can spread far, far beyond my small universe.  Life needs to be full of more positive, loving, giving messages.

My friend, In honor of you and your father I am making a donation to:

The Dream Connection, Inc., P.O. Box 10924 Knoxville, Tennessee 37939

The Admiration Project ~ 2015 Issue #2 ~ Coach Campbell

Mr. Campbell

Mr. Campbell

The second person I will recognize in my Admiration Project passed away in February of 2014.  (I did not realize that the anniversary of his passing would coincide so closely with my post – just another one of those coincidental moments that seem to follow me around.)  This admirable man was one of my favorite high school teachers.  He primarily taught me numerous levels of mathematics, but he also taught me the arts of patience, compromise and giving.

Mr. Campbell was my Algebra II and Geometry teacher during my sophomore year of high school.  Coach Campbell, as he was also known, coached every sport available at the time, basketball — both girls and boys, football and baseball.

Patience… I am of the opinion that to be a teacher, especially a high school teacher, one must be blessed with more than an average share of the trait.  Aside from my own father, I’ve not met many people with such an abundance of the stuff.  Mr. Campbell was the epitome of patience; he had me in 2 of the 6 classes he taught a day back in 1977-78.  He taught me patience by exhibiting his own never-ending poise, restraint, self-control and fortitude for EVERY student in the class.  He miraculously enabled each of us to learn at our own pace.  He taught us to be patient with ourselves while we were learning and how to be patient with one another as he devoted time to each “best method” of learning to the students in the class.  He was a champion of being able to engage the full room on all levels.

Compromise… He taught us all a lesson on not only how to compromise, but when.  I was ten years out of high school and twelve years past the teachings of Coach Campbell when I came upon this Far Side cartoon.  It remains one of my favorites and immediately brought the memories of this man to mind.  He had quite the dry wit.  math phoebicIt was our Geometry class that was in need of some compromise – those “proof” exercises were going to be make or break for several students in the class.  Coach Campbell made a compromise with those students… it allowed them to still be successful and pass the class, it allowed the rest of the class to have the benefit of extended learning, and it allowed him to fill everyone’s needs.  A definite master of compromise.

 Giving... There were a handful of us math aficionado’s, for lack of a better word, (like geek), who couldn’t get enough of the stuff.  Mr. Campbell recognized that, and in turn, gave of himself to us.  He gave up half of his lunch hour to hold a “private” class for less than 5 people!  I think it ended up being only two of us, but as long as anyone showed up, he gave his time and knowledge.  I’m sure he could have used that time to prepare for the afternoon classes, grade papers, work on “things” that coaches do for his team, or just simply take a break.  But he didn’t, he gave as long as anyone was there to receive.

Mr. Campbell was a man who made a difference in this girl’s life.  He was an amazing example of many things, but selflessness is what comes to mind.  I am disappointed in myself for never telling him how much I admired him, but I hope that he somehow knew, since I kept showing up for “lunch-time math.”

He continued to give after his teaching career ended, and in his honor I am making a donation to Blount County Community Action Agency’s Meals on Wheels.

The Admiration Project

This entry is just over a year in the making.  In November 2013 a friend of mine from high school lost her daughter suddenly and unexpectedly.  I had a daughter the exact same age and could not begin to imagine that kind of loss.  I drove the three hours to be there for my friend, give her a hug and try to say something comforting.  However, it was her who was there for all of those in attendance; it was my friend who comforted those who came to be with her; it was a strong and admirable woman standing before us, honoring her daughter.

In what I should no longer continue to see as odd or ironic, I saw in that service something I never expected, a reference from a recent dream that became what was the spark to this year long project I have committed to begin, and more importantly, finish… The Admiration Project.

A few days before that dream, I was having a conversation with a co-worker who said that she “admired” me.  That word stayed with me for several days because in my mind, “admiring” someone is not something I have ever done frivolously.  An admiration of someone came from a place of deep respect.  That compliment given to me days earlier, while sincere, I processed as undeserved.  Or maybe I was uncomfortable with it simply because I felt it was an honor I had not yet earned with this person.  Anyway, back to the spark…  Just days before I made the drive to the celebration of life for my friend’s daughter, I had a dream.  In this dream I was going to South Africa on a trip and this person in my dream was “admiring” my adventurous opportunity.  (Noteworthy here is that I have never thought / wished / mentioned traveling to South Africa.)  As I often have very vivid dreams, I try to put the pieces together and figure out how they apply to something going on in my waking hours, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Then on November 18, 2013, as I sat in the church watching a slideshow of the exciting life this young girl had lived, a photo came up of her sky diving in South Africa!  My mouth dropped open for an uncontrolled instant, then I leaned over to my mom and said, “I just had a dream about being in South Africa!”

The service began and I listened to this young lady’s parents and others give an account of her life, her accomplishments, and her dreams for the future.  My admiration grew that evening.  It grew for my friend and former classmate, a person I had only seen a handful of times since we graduated 30+ years ago, as she stood before us so strong in her grief… to extend to the daughter she raised, a person I will never know.

And so the “admiration” compliment I had received a few days earlier along with the random reference in a dream to a place I had never been before became connected, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as the death of this young woman.

As I drove home that next morning with only my thoughts to keep me company, The Admiration Project was born.  This project is a challenge to myself to take time and write a letter, (handwritten) to the twelve people I admire most.  Along with that letter I will give a donation to a charity or project in their name that is inspired by the way they have had an impact on my life.  That letter will also challenge them to send just one similar letter to a person they admire within the next year.

If you are reading this, I challenge you to do the same, send just ONE letter of admiration to a deserving recipient who may or may not know the impact they have had on you.

Part of my waiting a year to start was I wanted a way to track how far this spreads – I wanted to know where these “admirable” people live and what organizations or projects they inspired people to contribute to.  Reality is, I’m not going to be able to program an interactive map on a blog – and it’s just an excuse to not take a risk and follow through, so instead, I’ll just ask that you leave a comment and tell me where you are, where the other person is and any organization you may be contributing to as a part of your admiration for that person.

“I am in Nashville, TN; my admirable person is in Maryville, TN and I have contributed to the Abbie Jane Harper Memorial Scholarship Fund.”

P.S.  If you are reading this and recognize yourself, your letter is in the mail.

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