Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Oh I haven't forgotten.  It's just that I don't always share my "Thank You" notes here.  But today I decided to do just that.

Thank You Thursday salutes: Mike Rowe. Yep, my game, my rules. Thanking someone for making my life interesting doesn't mean it has to be a personal buddy. For those of you who aren't familiar, Mike Rowe is considered a "t.v. celebrity" by many.  To me, he's a mix of all things unique and interesting, combined with creativity and a voice you've heard narrating many a program.  With a varied career from Opera Singer (I'm still shaking my head over that one), to QVC host (where he was fired and rehired 3-4 times), commercial spokesman to being, as some fans note, "The voice I hear in my head when I read his words".  He has a quick wit, a sense of humor anyone can embrace, an adorable dog Freddy who waxes poetic on Fridays on Facebook and equally adorable parents who are often found in his commercials.  His Mom even does her own Bounty paper towel commercials!

That photo says it all: part fun, part learning a skill.  This is a man who appears unafraid of tackling any job...or highlighting those who do.

I admire Mike because, quite simply, he's a nice guy doing his best to help others find the occupation of their choice, without the financial burden of a college degree. Check out his website mikeroweworks which provides scholarships for those wanting to learn a trade skill.

So Mike, thanks for truly caring about others, for keeping common sense alive, for making me laugh, for increasing my vocabulary and for not making me feel as if I should address you as "Mr. Rowe" just because you appear on t.v. (Thursday nights at 9 pm. on CNN...if the world behaves and you don't get preempted...again.) 

Most importantly, thanks for "speaking" to me...not as part of a demographic, but as a friend. That means a lot. My regards to Freddy. (My dog Boudreaux insisted I include a doggie biscuit, but it wouldn't fit through the screen).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And I Keep On Rolling Along

Today is one of those milestone moments for me: 28 years with my employer.  Oh, my employer won't remember.  I'm in local government and there are just too many of us.  In fact a moment ago, I was talking to my Dept. Head, who also hits that mark this year.  During our conversation she said to me, "How long have we been doing this job?"  I laughed and said, "Exactly 28 years today for me."  Her reply?  "Oh."

Yep, that about sums it up.

I grew up in an era where Dads (mostly) went to work for years on end until they retired with the proverbial gold watch.  I never understood giving someone a time piece when they arrived at a place in their life where they no longer HAD to be anywhere at a certain time.  As a kid, I wondered how it would feel to be appreciated by someone for showing up, doing the job (and then some) and only missing work when it was absolutely necessary.  I wondered if Employers contemplated what the workplace would be like without you. 

The answer, I discovered, was that most Employers just want you to work in a timely and economical manner.  The bottom line is easier to recall than an employee's face. 

I recently read that the average American will have five "careers" in his/her lifetime.  According to that, I have one more coming.  Oh, I use to worry about changing jobs...even though I never left a job without another one waiting.  I went from a Tele-Communications Operator for the state police, to a Paralegal for a free legal services outfit, to Director of Elections, then my current job as Director of a Sr. Citizens Center.  I soon realized that after five years of learning a job, getting good at it, then trying to improve it, I got...bored.  Okay, so I only lasted 2 years as a Paralegal but that's because the Lawyer did some morally questionable things I wanted no part of, so I left.  

My work goal was simple: make a difference in life.  Yet in the back of my mind, every time I made a change, I questioned if I was doing the right thing for the right reason.  Was I striding towards improvement or running away from something I disliked?  In the back of my mind was always the example set by my parent's generation: you worked to provide for your family.  No one said you had to be in love with your job.  

I'm pretty sure a couple of times Dad wasn't even "in like" with his job.  For most of my life, Dad was in the furniture business, just like his father.  My Dad's first experience with furniture was helping deliver it.  I was never sure how you could find selling furniture to people fascinating, but it paid the bills.  And paying the bills was the most important thing.  Okay, it was cool to learn that my quiet Granddaddy had come up with the company slogan, "Feather your nest, with a little down."  The man who owned the business built a country home, complete with fishing pond, which he named "The Nest".  And in the hall was a framed poster of Granddaddy's slogan.  I was always weirdly proud when passing by it.  Today I understand why.

Being employed is a road littered with hills and valleys, broken up by the occasional high points. Watching Dad deal with his "career" taught me about dedication, dependability, perseverance and respect.  I grew up in a changing South,  one of the first kids to go to an integrated school.  While it was fairly easy for the kids, it was a new concept for our parents and grandparents.  Having been brought up on the Golden Rule, it was a natural concept Dad carried to work.  As a kid I remember watching other adults walk around the black delivery men as if they had the plague.  I thought it odd that it was okay for these men to carry furniture into their long as they left quickly.  But Dad treated everyone he worked with equally.  I still remember Mose, the largest of those men, with his jolly laugh and kind smile.  He once told me how much he respected Dad...because Dad respected him.  

One of my siblings once commented that Dad's job was boring simply because he stuck to it.  She didn't see the need to rise up through the ranks in a single occupation.  To go from Sales, to Store Manager, to District Credit Manager and then Corporate Credit Manager wasn't something to be proud of in her eyes.  It was boring.  Period.  

And yet, in spite of his company being bought out numerous times, which resulted in a pay cut and loss of his retirement fund after one buy out, Dad still went to work.  He still did his job, to the best of his ability and beyond because work meant one thing to him: providing for the family.  And he did it well. Sadly, Dad died of cancer before he could retire.  At least he was spared the stupid watch.

But even in death, Dad's job and his sense of humor prevailed.  Dad's last employer was located next door to the funeral home.  Dad had lamented how much people spent on caskets, which had, what he termed, "limited use".  I laughed that it was funny a furniture guy was demanding a plain pine box for the hereafter.  But he made me promise...and he gave me a joke.  Which is how, when I felt slightly overwhelmed surveying the sea of caskets, Dad provided me a way to handle it.  As my family wandered around discussing the various choices, I stood in a corner shaking my head.  The man at the funeral home, who'd known Dad for years, came over, probably thinking I was so overcome with grief that I couldn't focus.

I indicated we needed to step into the hall.  He followed and asked how he could help.  Trying to keep a straight face I repeated Dad's request.  "Mr. Otis, Dad asked me to bury him in a plain, pine box.  And he said to tell you that if I couldn't find one, you should send one of the guys next door (to the furniture store) to get you a box that the refrigerators come in."

I don't know if you're suppose to feel glee watching a guy at the funeral home try not to laugh out loud, but it felt right.  With a knowing smile, Mr. Otis ushered me into the next room.  There were a selection of "plain pine boxes" which looked remarkably like the high dollar ones we'd just left.  Dad got his wish...and I didn't have to go get the refrigerator box.

Perhaps in the eyes of my sibling, I'm boring too, for staying with the same employer.  But you know, "boringly normal" is what keeps this country running.  The people who show up, do that tasks and keep the world moving along without seeking a spotlight.  If everyone walked away when they were bored with work, nothing would ever get done...or they could find work as a politician.

Dad and I share the same work ethic: you're hired to do a job, you do it and you're compensated for it.  Not well, granted.  But I chose to work in public service because I want to make a difference.  Some days I do, some days...not so much.  Yet on the days it goes well, I feel like those adults I admired growing up:  I'm contributing to the greater good.  Working together makes life safer and easier.

And on those days when it's not so fun, I'm grateful I have something else of Dad's:  his sense of humor.  How else would I have made it in one spot for 28 years?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spring Cleaning

Just wanted a more refreshing, less busy look.  Hopefully your eyes will like the change as well.  It's subtle...but green like the great outdoors.

See you down the road.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Happy Weekend!

Okay, so that may be a little difficult this weekend, but we're gonna try.  

I'm still trying to kick the end of that head cold to the curb (cause it tried to take up residence in my lungs) while Hubby skipped the cold and went straight to an upper respiratory infection.  We're both on antibiotics and while my sense of humor is improving, his is currently on a downhill slide.  But he recoups faster than me anyway.  Then there's an archery tournament this weekend, which means lots of people in and out our yard...remember, Hubby's shop is on the back portion of our 5 acres.  The range is across the road, so we're talking 80-100 people a day...because this is a state tournament.

In the middle of all this we had a loan closing so Hubby can add on to his shop (yea, that's good!) yet the two of us ended up having to complete the dreaded IRS 990 tax form for our non-profit. (Yuck!)   In spite of my being prepared (everything was ready to go January 31st) which I hand delivered to the responsible Board Member (in mid March) and Hubby's attempt to "motivate" said individual, it still fell back on us.  You know your day is going downhill when the CPA you thought was handling the paperwork, due May 15th, calls May 12th to see if you can come by and "help".  But he can't explain why on the phone! (And he sounded 100 years old...found out later he was 25 years younger than that..and retired!).  Sigh.  Have I mentioned how much I hate math?  I mean really hate math?

But we prevailed. (However, there's something very wrong when a 4 page form comes with 48 pages of instructions!) So I'm adopting the attitude expressed below and wandering into the weekend in hopes of better times...and less coughing.  The dog is starting to look at us funny.

Y'all have a great weekend!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

To Russian, With Love

          I ask “why?”, not to be nosy but because I love to learn.  My DNA is hardwired to seek “the rest of the story”.
          For the most part, my curiosity’s been a good thing, fed by Mom’s urging to “go look it up.”  Today’s kid would either search Google or simply wonder why their parent didn’t give them the answer.  I LIKED consulting that old encyclopedia of my youth, which often led to other books.  Or unexpected moments of hilarity.   Like the time I used it while babysitting my 5 yr. old brother.  There was a photo section on dogs, some of which made him laugh hysterically.  I can still see him rushing toward Mom, trying to balance that book as he yelled proudly, “Look Mom!  A Chinese Skinless!” He was pointing to a photo of a Mexican Hairless.  
I never once thought Mom didn’t know the answer to my questions.  I’d soon realize she was honing my skills for the day I flew the coop.
“Go look it up” also instilled in me there are two sides to every story…although one pundit claims they're 3 sides: Yours, Mine and the Truth somewhere in the middle.   I don’t like 30 second sound bites which theoretically state the truth.   I want to hear what the other guy has to say too.
Only once did my “need to know” mentality bite back.  It wasn’t that the individual felt the need to correct me or just plain shut me up.  It was who wanted to muzzle me: a teacher.
In America, every generation has grown up with an “enemy”.  Just check war movies by generation and it doesn’t take much to figure it out.  Either it’s individuals led by the likes of Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein or specific countries.  Sometimes the reason for being designated a “villain” is clear: say Hitler and the Holocaust.  But occasionally, an entire nation gets painted with the brush of evil thanks to one nutcase. 
I never expected that painter would be my teacher.  Or that I’d be singled out as a twelve year old traitor to America.  All because I asked “why?”
I don’t remember the teacher’s name, just the public tongue lashing after, of all things, an emergency drill.  Unlike Fire Drills, where you marched, single file, out the building to prove you could keep quiet and remain in a straight line while the building burned, our other emergency drill was…well, silly.  It was mostly for Tornadoes, but was also to include bombings by “our enemy, the Communists”.  There were two versions of this drill.  The first was sitting under our desk with a book held over our head.  The second involved getting on our knees, head against the wall, with a book on our head…which made us look like a row of weird, midget coffee tables.  There was always a boy in class brave enough to wonder out loud how a stupid book would help if a bomb dropped on us. 
Returning to our seats we were about to start the lesson when a kid asked who the enemy was.
“Russia,” the teacher replied, eyes rolling in exasperation.
Another kid wanted to know why them.  No, it wasn’t me.  I was painfully shy.  The smallest kid in every class, I tried to blend into the background, not be singled out. 
Sensing a plot to derail his lesson, the teacher spat out that Russians were evil; they hated us and would drop a bomb on us in a heartbeat.  They were not to be trusted and their goal in life was to kill us.
I was alarmed.  But not by the teacher’s claim we’d be murdered in our sleep by Nikita Khrushchev’s evil henchmen.  To me, a guy named Nikita didn’t sound scary…it sounded like his mama gave him a girl’s name. What alarmed me was that the teacher’s answer just didn’t make sense.
Another kid wanted specifics.  How would they get here to murder us?  What would they use to kill us?  Did they have to be mad at us first?
The teacher insisted we were hated simply for being American.  All. Of. Us.   For no reason.
As a kid brought up on the Golden Rule, that reasoning made no sense.  Suddenly I heard my tiny voice whisper, “But why?  They don’t know me.  I haven’t done anything to them.  How can they hate me?  I can’t believe some little Russian kid wants to die any more than I do.”
If looks could kill, this story would never have been written.
My innocence was the proverbial straw and I caught teacher’s wrath.  I can still see him seething as he told me, “You are stupid if you believe the Russians won’t hurt you.  Their children want to kill you too.”
Turning a flaming shade of red (how ironic), I shut up.  I don’t remember if I told my parents or if I was too embarrassed at having been singled out.  The lesson I took home that day was this: if you aren’t willing to try and understand the other guy, then no wonder he wants to drop a bomb on your head.   I understood Khrushchev wasn’t a nice man.  But I had a hard time believing every little Russian child wanted me dead.
And so I grew up, still asking “why?”…though not generally in a group setting. I’ve never outgrown the need to understand why people behave the way they do.  Now, just because I listen to both sides does not mean I agree with everything said.   It’s simply my way of viewing the whole picture.  Just because Hitler was a failed, tortured artist didn’t give him the right to torture others.  And while I occasionally wonder about Putin’s motives, I don’t believe the majority of Russian kids want to be KGB when they grow up.  I think they simply want to grow up.
Today, I received affirmation that little girl me was right.  Russian kids did not grow up with the goal of sending me to the great beyond ahead of schedule as I slept.  Some of them grew up to appreciate the concept of true freedom.
Nikolay was one of the soldiers our Foundation recently helped.  His last name sounded Russian too, but I didn’t ask.  The photo he sent of himself proudly holding his bow looked like photos of Russian youth I’ve seen in the past.   Stoic, yet proud.  Today I discovered his hometown is Moscow.  And yet he chose to serve in the U.S. military.  According to his Facebook page, “I’m just a regular guy, whose job is to jump out of planes and murder enemies of the United States of America in close combat.”
So Nikolay didn’t grow up to be my enemy…he’s got my back.  And when he was injured taking care of me, the Foundation and I were able to return the favor.  Take that Khrushchev and Teacher Man.  It’s comforting to know Nikolay and I grew up with the common belief that life is all about choice.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I'm Here...Kinda

Last week was our annual Sr. Fitness Games...the senior citizen version of the Olympics.  I'm still working on the video presentation for Monday night's banquet.  And even though there are the "tamer" games of Checkers and Card Playing, there's also Shuffleboard, Track (walking), Horseshoes, Basketball Free Throws and the like.  Just a couple of examples below...yes we have male competitors but they're outnumbered 10 to 1.  

I swear it was tiring just keeping up with the camera!

 Sadly the colorful red and blue horseshoes got replaced by ugly metal.
Funny, the Boss thinks we should use "plastic" ones next year 
because she finds them too heavy.  
She's younger than me.
I'm guessing the seniors might throw the plastic ones back at her.

You gotta admire her form.  :)