Friday, May 20, 2016

A Gift for....ME

That's right.  Today marks the 29th year with my Employer.  No, he won't remember but my first supervisor was the only one who ever did.  She was a retired School Teacher...who obviously had first hand knowledge of the notion hired people are suppose to work hard, why mention it?  The weird part is that I've worked so long, I "earn" 4 weeks of vacation a year.  Unfortunately, there's never enough time to take it and I end up "losing" a week every year because we can only carry over 45 days.  Such is life.  

Okay, so I'm still trying to figure out how to get in those last 5 days before they evaporate June 30th. 

In the meantime, I'm taking a week off.  I call it the "Home Improvement vacation".  The one where stuff around the house gets done that's not earth shattering, but necessary at some point.  Like painting the front porch.  You get the idea. 

So if it gets quiet here for a week or so, don't worry.  I'm re-charging my batteries.  (Translation: NO political news for a week....besides, Morley Safer dying Thursday a mere week after retiring was kinda depressing).

Happy weekend y'all!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I Owe You...a word of gratitude

I get it America.  You're mad as hell and you're not going to take it any more.  Word of advice?

Grow up!

I'm not the only one tired of self entitled, label calling, self centered behavior that is passing for the "new normal".  It's not okay to give yourself a title, then berate everyone who isn't you.  Why?

Because nothing gets accomplished if everyone is living in their own little world and sucking the air out of the room.  Live and learn.

I began my college life at the community college.  We use to refer to it as "High School Plus".   The work was harder than what we'd left behind, but we had the opportunity to learn without going bankrupt...and if we wanted to go home and sleep in our own bed, that was okay too.

I was in the "Work/Study" program which allowed me to pay my own way, so my education truly felt earned.  My hometown wasn't large, but with an Air Force Base, we had a variety of individuals who passed through.  Some of them even stayed.  It made us more like a melting pot than just a traditional southern town.  One of my most important life lessons occurred on that campus.  Between classes.  And I learned how much deeper life goes than what we see.
During my Sophomore year, the T.V. mini-series "Roots" was playing.  I was standing with a group of friends, chatting between classes.  There was Bobby, the Student Body President I'd known since first grade.  His buddy Terry, the 6'4" poster boy for athletes: a kind, handsome, blue eyed, blond who wanted to date but became catatonic around girls.  (Dating Hubby, I was deemed "safe" therefore the exception to his rule).  Juan was a light skinned black kid who believed he was white.  Because he told us he believed he should've been. (Yes, when I was in school it was simple: you were either White or Black). 
We were talking about a committee meeting we'd left when we were approached by Joe.  A tall, broad shouldered black man, he was older than us.  To be honest, his presence was intimidating.  Not because of his color, but because he scowled. Constantly.  He'd glare at you without saying a word and storm off before you could respond.  It probably didn't help that the campus rumor was he was a drug dealer not to be messed with.  Yet on that day he marched right up to us and asked a question, probably not expecting an answer.
"Any of y'all watching 'Roots'?"  he demanded as conversation abruptly died.  "You know, you owe me," he added, looking at us one by one. 
I was shy.  Comfortable with lifelong friends but usually the one doing the listening, not the talking.  I was so taken aback that Joe had even approached a group of goodie two shoes that I just looked at him.
So he said it again.  Firmly.  With authority.
"You owe me."
And then I heard this little voice say, ever so politely, "I don't owe you anything." 
Oh crap!  Was that me?
Joe turned to me, fire in his eyes and asked,"What did you say to me little white girl?"
From somewhere deep inside, probably where stupidity and cowardice dwell side by side, I replied politely, "Unless I borrowed money from you.  I don't owe you anything.  Now my great-great-great-great granddaddy may owe your  great-great-great-great granddaddy an apology and more.  But I haven't taken anything from you."

So what did my trio of male friends do?  Juan gasp out loud like a southern belle who'd been slapped, Terry's expression was stunned horror and Bobby was looking at me as if I'd lost my happy mind.

And then they all took a step back.  A giant step.  Leaving me to face Joe alone as they watched from the sidelines.

Joe studied me for a moment, fully aware my bravado was probably on the verge of wavering after such a declaration.  He took a step closer, looked me in the eye and said with great conviction, "Good for you!"

I stood there, waiting for the "But".  What came next was a lesson I never forgot.

"I have had white professors kissing my black ass all day long.  Apologizing for slavery.  Apologizing because we live in the South.  Apologizing for how cruel the white actors had to be to the black actors.  After the 10th one apologized, I asked him, 'Do you own any slaves?'  When he sputtered that he did not, I replied, 'Then why are you apologizing to me?'  You don't know me."

That's when it hit me.  I didn't know him either.  

Somewhere in the distance a bell rang.  My trio of buddies looked at me apologetically before going in three different directions to class.  I stood there as Joe waved over a female friend.  He then proceeded to tell her that I had stood up to him because I had principles.  That I wasn't swayed by the belief of the masses.  She eyed me suspiciously.  Then my sense of curiosity raised it's silly head and I asked Joe where he was from.  He seemed surprised by that but in the next five minutes I learned he was from the North, (New York.  Or New Jersey?) and was 10 years older than us.  When he was my age, he'd been in the Army, fighting in the jungles of Vietnam.  He was attending school on the G.I. Bill.  He wanted to teach.

Now I understood that scowl.  The things he must've seen at my age.  The things he must've endured.  He was old enough to realize the world wasn't a nice nor fair place, yet he was kind enough to want me to embrace my beliefs.  Little did Joe realize I was his first student.  

As we parted, I said something about going to get a Coke.  Now in the south, that's how we refer to a Coca-Cola.  Joe did a double take and his friend's eyes widened.  

"A soda.  In the canteen," I offered in explanation.  I was so young and naive it never occurred to me that he thought I was referring to his "rep" as a possible drug dealer.

Joe shook his head...in relief.  "Little girl, you scared me.  You didn't seem like the type to do drugs.  Make sure you stay away from anyone that does."

I nodded, feeling silly.  Then Joe gave me a gift I can still access today.

Looking me in the eye, he smiled.  The biggest, most heartwarming grin I've ever seen.  To this day, I can see him smiling at me.  Because he meant it.

"See you around," Joe said, waving as I walked away.  

And each time we'd pass on campus, we'd wave.  He usually beat me to it.  I joked it was because he was taller and saw me coming.  

It took a while for the trio to question my encounter.  I remember thinking they needed to grow up and look past the obvious.  "I stood up for what I believed and he praised me for it," was my only reply. If they couldn't see past what they thought was the obvious, they needed to learn.  First hand.

Thanks Joe, for that gift.  For not embracing a label, or slapping one on me.  For letting us have a moment both educational and personal.  I hear there's a remake of "Roots" about to hit television again.  If you were to say, "You owe me" today, I'd give you the same reply.  I'm not so sure today's generation would do the same.  They'd probably be too busy on their phones to even notice you, start screaming about you invading their personal space or put a hand out to receive a trophy for making time to acknowledge your presence.

I've got your six, Joe.  I will make time to listen in hopes a real conversation begins.  It has to start somewhere.  Why not from the lesson learned from a Vietnam Vet just trying to make the world a better place: in war and in peace.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Queen of Soul's got it right

I know we're suppose to be an informed society but lately, all I'm reading is people "screaming" at each other in disagreement.  The vile name calling and the attempts to shame another's "ignorance" while showing their own is just...

...depressing.

And if everyone is shouting, who is listening?  How can you share opinions and knowledge if everyone is yelling all the time?

This is why I keep blogging.

I've been told blogging is dead, passe, irrelevant and a waste of time.  I feel sorry for those people who shirk a blog's sharing embrace.  Truth is, I've learned a lot from the people I've met through this medium.  I LOVE learning.  I love LISTENING even more...even if it is with my eyes.

The thing is, my friends here are from a variety of cultural belief systems.  We have varied lifestyles.  We live in different places yet all understand Earth is our community.  Most of the time I wish these folks lived right next door.  Kim could take our photos while Maurcheen sang to us.  Savannah would cook us an excellent meal while Ponita tended to any injuries received through over enthusiastic hugging.  

You see, despite the fact that we are a mixed bag of cultures, religious beliefs (or not), whether conservative or liberal politically speaking, our conversations are just that: shared observations combined with discussion.  I've never known anyone in my group of invisible friends to snap at the other or accuse them of being ignorant or just plain stupid.  We discuss, we share, we add to each other's knowledge.  Sometimes y'all are my best cheerleaders even if we've never met face to face.  But I know your heart.  Even if we don't agree, (because humans seldom do, all the time) there is one thing we all share.

RESPECT. 

It's something the rest of the world should consider before speaking.

So here's to letting the Queen of Soul sing us into a happy weekend.



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When You Wish...

As my ol' pal Opus is clearly stating, 
sometimes you just need to sit in the weeds and make a few wishes.  

One wish has come true: a very busy annual work event is OVER!
(This was the 24th one I've participated in and sadly, it was the worst ever).

Online fundraiser is over.
Wish the so-so results had been better.
But something is always better than nothing.

Unless you're talking U.S. politics.

I wish America would come to its collective senses.
I get it America.
You're mad and you're not going to take it anymore!
Yet kindly take a good hard look at your current clown...um...candidate of choice
and remember we're stuck with that circus for the next 4 years. 
And no, Canada has been a GREAT neighbor.
We shouldn't be bothering them about extended, 4 year vacations.

My current wish is that my vacation at the end of the month gets here soon!

Next wish is yours.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do Not Say Their Names

Most of the work related training sessions I attend deal with some aspect of public safety.  When you're in charge of a facility open to the public, you're expected to know how to handle every situation known to mankind...and a few you've probably never even considered.

These sessions generally occur annually.  Sometimes we know the topic, sometimes we only know the location.  And no, that doesn't always give you a hint of what's to come.  Our session at the Fire Department's Training Facility had nothing to do with fire but with understanding/handling inclement weather conditions.  I have to wonder if the Fire vs. Water thing was on purpose or just coincidence.  Our trip to the Red Cross wasn't about First Aid, but how to respond when your facility becomes an Evacuation Site...and the Red Cross takes over your office.  We do, however, update our CPR training every two years so we have a little medical knowledge.

Today's training began deceptively simple.  Located at our Main Office, when I saw two Deputies wander in, I wondered if we were about to receive an update on our "How to recognize Gangs" training from several years ago.  After introductions the program began with a video presentation.  The first three words which appeared were:
Avoid
Deny
Defend

Okay, I'll admit the first thing that came to mind was my current policy on any discussion of Presidential candidates.  My sense of humor deflated as the air was sucked out of the room by the reality of our topic:

What to do when faced with an armed assailant in a public place

My gossiping co-workers stopped whispering and the room grew deadly quiet.  We all looked at the officers as if we'd stepped into the wrong room.  We're in recreation. Senior citizens and kids aged 6-12.  We're not in a situation like Sandy Hook or Columbine or Ft. Hood.  We know these people.

That's when the Corporal told us what we never realized: the shooter in the Mother Emmanuel Church shooting in Charleston lived 15 minutes away from where we sat.

The world has changed.  In my head I heard an old adage from childhood: "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

So for two hours we learned what those three words mean.  In a nutshell AVOID translates into, "If you can get to an exit, use it!"  Even though we're wired with "Flight vs. Fight" instincts, there's another one: Freeze.  Many of the victims in the above shootings were killed because they froze.   They simply sat there and waited for what they believed to be inevitable to happen.

DENY does not mean to fall into a state of denial and mumble, "This can't be happening!"  If you can't get to an exit, don't let the shooter get to you...deny him the opportunity. (For you politically correct folks, 98% of shooters are male).  I was amazed to learn that, statistically, when encountering a locked door, most shooters will simply move to the next room.  Lock that door, turn out the lights, line up against the wall next to the door and shut up.  In some instances you may have to barricade it with everything you can find while looking for an alternate exit. 

Unfortunately for some, their only option will be DEFEND.  Let's just say this falls into the category of "do whatever you need to survive", which included the instruction to "fight dirty".  (While it may sound like a 3 Stooges routine, go for the eyes, throat and groin).  One of the deputies,  previously a Marine with a tour in Afghanistan, pointed out, "The only person who ever complains that a fight wasn't fair is the loser."   The Corporal encouraged us to think, "I have to live through this for...my spouse, kids, family, dog."  Whatever it takes to find the courage to live, hold on to that and fight back.

There's one part to these incidents the media doesn't cover: how to respond when the police arrive.  It's simple: DO WHAT THEY SAY!   If you're ordered to put your hands in the air or lie on the floor, don't get huffy and argue that you're a victim.  First, it wastes valuable time in finding the shooter.  Second, the officer has just arrived and has no idea if you're the shooter or an accomplice.  When you're told to exit, GO!  We watched in amazement as a woman came back into a room to retrieve her purse while a gunman held a Board at gunpoint.  Your ability to quickly follow a command can potentially save the lives of those still in the shooter's sights.

When I first started this job, I would've thought this lesson was for big cities. Yet less than 6 months ago, in a gang related incident, someone came to one of our recreation centers with a gun and shot someone.  The Director was standing next to the boy who was killed. 

While much information and techniques find their way into the "Danger" compartment of my brain, perhaps the single thing which stood out was a policy now embraced by law enforcement: Do Not Say Their Names.  Don't give shooters the fame and glory they were seeking with these horrible acts by using their names in conversation about the event.  No name...no notoriety.  Period.

I can do that.  Because the two names sticking with me today are those of the two Deputies who must protect and serve 600 miles of County with limited resources.  Thanks to them, I have the personal ammo I need to not roll over and play dead when the going gets tough.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Restless

If you haven't read Kim Ayres' recent blog post, rush right over!  You'll get to take a cool tour around Africa without leaving the comfort of your chair.  Which made me realize I am...

...restless.   

No, I don't want to jump on a bike and tour the world.  And I'm trying to look at this we-sold-your-Center-but-we-promise-to-build-you-a-new-one as an adventure in the making.  (Although that gets difficult when badgered with questions I'm not allowed to answer yet).  Much of it comes down to a comment that I made to Kim.  Ever since I took my first job as an adult, I discovered something about myself: after 5 years, I'm ready to move on.

It's as if I approach a new job as an adventure: a system to learn and skills to improve.  After I get a handle on it, I work to upgrade that job, make it even more efficient.  And once that's done to the best of my ability...

I'm...bored.   

Which is a relief, actually.  For the first couple of jobs, I feared I'd never keep a job.  What was wrong with me?  My Dad worked in the same industry for his entire career until cancer took him before he reached retirement.  Sure, his company was bought out several times but he hung in there.  Because his generation went to work to support a family, not to feel "personal satisfaction".  I grew up thinking Dad-the-hard-worker was being taken advantage of by his employer.  After all, one of his bosses had a plaque in his office that read, "How can I soar like an eagle when I'm surrounded by turkeys."  Motivational, huh?  That little seed planted itself in my mind and made me think, "I will NEVER work in a place that treats me as just another number!"

Yep.  I've become Dad.  Dependable and trustworthy.  Approaching my 29th year with the same employer.  And yes, some days I do resent the fact that "loyal" is interchangeable where I work with "stupid enough to keep doing her job + more".

But you know what?  I may still be in this job out of loyalty to my husband (who is self employed, therefore I am our insurance) but reading Kim's story reminded me...there's a lot of life out there to embrace.  So I can't hop on a bike and tour the world.  I can still feed my curiosity.  I can help our charity's family of soldiers...after all, even my worst day at work, no one shoots at me or plants bombs for me to stumble upon.

There is satisfaction in knowing a job doesn't define you as a person.  I LIKE helping people.  I like working on the family tree to discover the tales of those who came before me.  (Okay, a couple of them make me feel boringly normal. But I'd rather read about an ancestor's tale of escaping a POW camp during the American Revolution, complete with sword scar to the face and wife sneaking into the woods to nurse him back to health before he returned to battle, than have lived that).

I love writing stories, some of which will never see the light of day but they bring me comfort in knowing I can compile words in an entertaining manner...even if they only entertain me.  

And I love that I have you, out there on the other side of this computer screen. You don't live next door or even across town.  You're spread out across a vast array of countries which you've shared so generously with me in a myriad of ways.  Did I remember to say "Thank you"?

Best of all, no matter what's happening at work, I can take a mini-vacation by checking in to see how things are in your neck of the woods.

So, how's it going today?  And thank you for always listening, without interrupting.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

From Knowledgeable...to thrown under the bus in less than a week

This will be brief.  So I can remain polite.  

If you read the last post, you know work changes are a-comin'.  Can't say I'm overjoyed by it, but change in life is inevitable.  Or in the views of my employer, "You have two choices: take it or leave it."  (As an "At Will" state, they have the perrogative of showing me the door, whether I want to use it or not).

This morning a senior put her head in my door and said, "Have you seen today's newspaper?"  When I shook my head, she backed up and said, "Um, maybe I shouldn't say.  If you don't know....and all."   I assured her if it was about our Center, I probably had an idea.

As was requested, I've been quiet, haven't mentioned a word of this to the seniors because the Boss and I agreed when the time came, he would speak to them.  Ease their fears...especially of change.  Give them the "carrot approach", with the promise of something new to embrace.

Problem is while I kept my promise, the Boss forgot seniors could read.  On page two of today's local paper is the headline, "County Council approves sale of (our) Senior Center." 

Oh joy.

In a pre-emptive strike, I told the group here this morning what was going on.  I began with the headline, paused as they gasped and waited on the million questions to follow.  This time they were stunned into silence.  Hopefully I sounded upbeat and reassuring stating the facts.  Sure,  I had to dodge a couple of questions about location.  (Because I plan to keep my word and not tell "where" until there's a groundbreaking ceremony...in case that plan gets changed too).

So as I go answer my ringing phone for the umpteenth time to calm their fears, y'all remind me that this is a holiday weekend.  That's one less day to answer the phone.