Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Office Christmas Party

Christmas in the post-War United States
Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I really feel bad that I have neglected this blog for so long.  I am making it my goal to try to keep this updated a couple times a week starting with this post.

Today was the day for my office Christmas party.  It wasn't going to be a major affair.  Just lunch and for those that wanted to participate some games and a gift exchange.  Typically, I do not look forward to these affairs.  My plan was to go to the party, sit with a couple friends, grab a bite to eat, and quietly watch the festivities.

I consider myself to be quite the introvert.  So much so that if you look it up in the dictionary you just might find my picture.  As an introvert, I tend to dislike being put in social situations that make me uncomfortable or anxious.  Even at church, I hate the dreaded "greet your neighbor" portion of the service.  Today ended up being one of those situations.  When I get forced into one of those situations, I tend to withdraw and am easily agitated.

It takes me a while to get comfortable around most people.  Once I do, I can be very friendly and talkative.  Until I reach that point, however, I tend to clam up and not say a whole lot.  When I arrived at the party today, I was handed a label with a picture from a Christmas movie.  I was told that there was assigned seating and we had to sit at the table that corresponded to the label I was given.  The idea was to force people to mingle with people that they wouldn't normally sit with.  That was strike one.

Normally, I get to the office pretty early, usually an hour and a half to two hours before everyone else arrives.  Since I get to work so early, I also eat lunch earlier than most, usually around noon.  Today's party was supposed to start around 1 pm so I was already hungry when I arrived.  It took a while for everyone to arrive.  Then there were the speeches from the bosses.  They didn't want everybody to flood the small buffet line, so they sent one table at a time to the line.  So even though my table was closest to the buffet line, we went last.  It was nearly 2 pm before we got to the line. Strike two.

I grabbed a paper plate and plastic cutlery and got in line.  Whoever was responsible for ordering the food didn't do a very good job.  When I got to the front of the line, there wasn't a whole lot to choose from.  The vegetables did not look appetizing at all.  The ham looked very dry, and you really couldn't get anything from it as all the slices were gone and there was nobody to slice more and no knife to cut it.  The chicken was gone.  That was strike three for me.  I left without eating, went back to my desk, and finished up my day.

From what I hear, I didn't miss a whole lot.  My best friend in the office told me the food wasn't very good.  And my observation about the ham being dry was accurate.  I wish that I could feel more comfortable in these situations.  Unfortunately, like Popeye, "I yam what I yam."  Even to this day, after 23 years of marriage to my wife, I still am uncomfortable when all her aunts, uncles, and cousins are at events.  I'd say maybe someday, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Easy Tips for Home Safety

Burglaries are one of the most common crimes in America with one occurring approximately every 15 seconds. However, a homeowner can do much to decrease intruders' interest in the home, to make the home difficult to break into, and to keep people and belongings safe should a break-in occur. Each of these tips is easy and inexpensive to implement.

First, homeowners must beware of leaving certain items outside that unintentionally lure intruders onto the premises. For example, burglars are attracted to expensive items on the property, such as scooters, bicycles, lawnmowers and power tools that are outside and easy to steal. Having motion detector lights installed around key entry points such as the garage or using landscaping lights around trees and bushes will make intruders less likely to creep around the house.

Second, homeowners must take special care to secure their property when on vacation. Timers can turn lights, radios and televisions each day at specified times. A trusted neighbor should be notified to keep a watchful eye on the premises when the homeowner is going out of town. In addition, vacationers should have their mail put on hold.

Thirdly, homeowners can make it difficult for burglars to get into their homes should they make it onto the property. Of course, keeping doors and windows locked when away and at night is a necessity. Outside doors and doors between the house and the garage should be installed with steel deadbolts and strike plates. Sliding patio doors can be easily lifted from their tracks by burglars; therefore, these should be secured with strong rods or dowels in the tracks as well as locks.

Finally, homeowners should use a home security system and have it monitored by a reputable company, such as Alarm Relay. These systems will notify the alarm Monitoring company if a door or window is breached or if motion is detected; these systems can also monitor for smoke or fire. The company will then notify police or the fire department in case of emergencies.

Homeowners can take a variety of easy steps to secure their properties from intruders and burglars. Making sure that doors and windows are locked each day is just the first step in home safety. Security monitoring companies help in this endeavor by having dispatchers on alert 24 hours a day to notify the authorities in case of a problem.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Crying Wolf...or in this case Racism

I confess.  I am a white man who grew up in America.  I make no apologies for it.  The reason I bring up my race is that I had a little run in on Facebook recently with one of my friends, who happens to be an African-American woman, who I went to high school with.  If you have read this blog before, then you know that I am a dyed in the wool conservative.  My former classmate, a liberal.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that my former classmate and I were close friends back in high school, but it was cordial.  We reconnected a few years ago on Facebook.  I can't recall who sent the initial friend request through Facebook, but needless to say we did reconnect.  The last time that I saw here was at the funeral of our mutual friend David Mills, who was also an African American liberal, not that it matters.

Our little run in occurred when she posted a link on Facebook with the headline "Rick Perry Refuses Obama's Offer For A Tarmac Handshake" that was on the liberal website Huffington Post.  Along with the link to the article were her comments of "So disrespectful. So racist."  That is where I took offense.

Ever since Barack Obama became president, it has become fashionable to label anybody who disagrees with him or gives him any sort of slight, it is automatically labeled "racist."  After a while, you get tired of hearing that same, tired, baseless attack.  Usually, I ignore liberal Facebook postings that I disagree with.  This time, I made a comment.  Perhaps, I should have stuck with my policy of ignoring those posts.

Essentially, I told my friend that I was disappointed that she decided to pull the "racist" card out of the bag.  Needless to say, she was not happy with my response.  I won't bore you with everything she responded with, but basically attacked me as a white man who would not understand what she experiences as a black woman.

To a degree, she is right.  I do not know what it is like to be a black woman, or a black man for that matter.  That does not mean that I do not understand what it is like or that I haven't experience racism myself.  I have witnessed racism in all its ugliness and I have been on the receiving end of racism when growing up.

When I was in elementary school, we were given the opportunity to bring music that we liked into the classroom to share with our classmates.  I brought in a record from the Disney movie "Dumbo" because I liked the song from the video below.
Several of my classmates mocked me and gave me a hard time because I brought in a record that was performed by some sort of derogatory term for African Americans.  I was quite hurt.

A few years later, I was an overweight, 4-eyed white kid in a school with a large African American student body.  I was left out of a lot of recess activities because I didn't "fit in."  Eventually, I was able to show that I could hang with the more athletic peers on the field of battle as it were and earn a level of respect.

I would be naive to think that racism doesn't still exist with some people.  People as a whole are fallen, sinful individuals, and nothing is going to change that.  Unfortunately, in the Barack Obama age, society has become like the proverbial boy who cried wolf.  The more people cry racism where it doesn't truly exist, the more likely people won't react when it really does.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Not so Happy Mother's Day

Bowie Baysox
Bowie Baysox (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here is hoping that everybody had a very happy Mother's Day.  I would like to say that ours was spectacular, but unfortunately that is not the case.

The day started off well enough.  My wife got up with me early and we went to my new church.  After church we went to do the grocery shopping before we started our primary plans for the day.  Our plan was to pick up our son at school and take him to a Bowie Baysox game instead of our usual visit of taking him to Golden Corral for lunch.

The visit started our well enough.  We picked him up, and he was excited about going to the game.  We got to the stadium, and he wanted a hamburger and french fries for lunch.  He enjoyed the game, but unfortunately our Bowie Baysox lost the game.  When it was time to leave, we stopped by the restroom before starting our drive back to his dorm.

That is when our troubles began.  After my son finished urinating, he announced that he didn't want to go back to school and dropped to the ground in the men's room.  Thankfully, another gentleman asked me if I needed help with him, and I had him go to the first aid station to see if they could help.  He called one of the park policeman working security for assistance.

The three of us tried to calm my son down.  We even tried to get my son into a wheelchair to try to take him out to our car.  Eventually, we had to call the fire department and have them send out a crew with a stretcher to try to get him out to the car.  I got him to walk out of the restroom, but he dropped again.  At that point, the security officer, two paramedics and I carried him out to the car.

Once we got him to the car, he got up on his own and climbed into his seat in the car.  We then headed back to school without incident.  Once we got back to school, he ate the dinner that the had for him.  While we were there, they showed us the technique they use for getting him up when he drops.  I hope we never have to use it, but it was good info to know for the future.
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Autism and Compartmentalization

It has been far too long since I posted anything on my blog. It has been an even longer time since I have posted anything about my son and dealing with aspects of his autism.  This post will fix both of those items.

My son has always had a way of compartmentalizing certain things.  For example, there are certain games and activities that he will do with me that he won't do with my wife and vice versa.  There will be times that she will try to get him to play one of the word game routines that he does with me and he will quickly change the conversation over to one that he does primarily with her.

Likewise, there are certain activities that he associates with school or the dorm that he refuses to do at home.  Sadly, one of those is using the toilet for his bowel movements.  The school and dorm have been getting him to use the toilet for bowel movements.  There hasn't been any progress on transferring that behavior to the home setting.

Today, we saw another example of how he compartmentalizes certain things.  This time in regards to food.  For the past few days, he has been home on spring break for school.  Originally, he was scheduled to go back to the dorm tomorrow.  Since we have been having an extremely difficult time getting him back to school after breaks, my wife came up with the idea to take him back today after having Easter dinner at her parents' house.

All weekend long, he had been talking about going to Grammy's house to have ham and mac & cheese.  We got to dinner and he refused to eat the ham.  The only thing he would eat was the mac & cheese.  We left my in-laws house and took him back to dorm where we got there in time for him to get dinner.  They had fixed a plate for him consisting of ham, mac & cheese, green beans, meat balls, potato salad and a deviled egg.  After insisting that I remove the egg and potato salad, he then proceeded to eat everything on his plate, including the green beans.

I wasn't surprised to see him eat the ham and meatballs, and of course, mac & cheese is one of his favorite dishes.  I was shocked to see him eat all of the green beans.  If we ever tried to put vegetables on his plate at home he would insist that they be removed from his plate.  Just another example of how he will do certain things at school that he won't do at home.
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Sunday, February 9, 2014

No Coincidences-Full Circle

My wife and I are regional co-chairs for the Benedictine Foundation.  The Benedictine Foundation runs the school that my son has been attending for the last few years.  Today was the day that we had our regional meeting to talk about the annual Spring Gala that takes place in April.  This year, the theme of the event will be "Roman Holiday."

Since our home does not have a lot of space, my in-laws graciously agreed to host the meeting at their house.  They have been actively involved with the Benedictine Foundation for far longer than my son has been attending the school.  Prior to our son getting in, our nephew, their grandson, was in attendance at the school.  My father in law serves on the Board of Directors and was vital in getting our son into the school.

During the meeting, everybody went around the room to introduce themselves and to tell how they came to be associated with Benedictine.  My wife was first to speak and told how our son was currently attending the Benedictine School and that our nephew was a graduate of the school.  A few other people told theirs stories.

Then it was my father in-laws turn to speak.  He spoke about how both of his grandchildren were students at Benedictine and how much the school had helped them.  Then he spoke about an event that occurred nearly 50 years ago when he was in the United States Air Force and stationed in Taiwan.  He talked about how he and my mother in-law decided to adopt a local child to add to the family.

When they got to the orphanage, the nuns took my mother in-law to one part of the orphanage, and my father in-law to another.  After they each toured the facility, they met up and both had found the daughter to add to their family.  They found out that the girls were twins.  They decided to adopt the sisters to keep them together.  One of them became my wife and the mother of my son.

Now, I had heard the story of how they came to adopt their two daughters.  What I had not heard, and neither had my wife, was the fact that the orphanage was run by nuns from the Benedictine order.  In fact, one of the nuns was from Minnesota.  Years later when my in-laws related the story to Sister Jeanette, who was the driving force in making the school what it is today, that she knew the nun that was in the orphanage.

I am sure that a lot of people will think that this is all one big coincidence.  I prefer to think that it was more like the Hand of Providence.  How else could you explain that my wife and her sister would be in an orphanage run by Benedictine nuns, both would have sons with autism, that would attend a school founded and run by Benedictine nuns.


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Monday, January 20, 2014

A Working Life

I have spent the vast majority of my working life in the retail industry.  When I was 15, I started working at a local convenience store.  From there, I moved on to a small local grocery chain that had about seven stores in the area.  I worked for them for about 5 years when I landed a job at one of the major supermarkets in the area, thus doubling my hourly wage.  Unfortunately, that position only lasted two months before the chain decided to pull out of the DC market.

After I lost my job at that chain, I was unemployed for about two months until I landed a job in the Safeway chain.  At that time, no frills warehouse stores where you bag your own groceries were popular.  I started with Safeway with their version called Food Barn,  After I graduated college, I moved from the store side of the business to the backstage side in the local division buying office.  I spent 21 years at Safeway before the company decided to centralize the buying function to their corporate offices in California.

That was the start of a rather tough period in my life.  It took almost a year to find a solid full time position that would pay the bills on a regular basis.  We thankfully made it through that tough time, but it was definitely a struggle.  We didn't have a lot of money in the bank, and unemployment didn't come close to covering our expenses.  I had a severance package for a few months, but after it ran out, I went through whatever retirement savings I had in my 401k with Safeway.

It was during this one year period that I tried a failed attempt to work in sales.  I really floundered as a salesman.  A lot of what I did was cold telemarketing.  It was brutal.  Most of my calls were calling numbers out of the phone book.  It wasn't very productive.  I might have had a little more success if I had of had access to a service like List Giant.  They provide targeted lists to sales and marketing folks for the purpose direct mail and telemarketing.  With a more focused and targeted list of potential customers, I might have been more successful in sales.

After that, I moved on to a company that did the category management function in the stationary category for grocery chains in different parts of the company.  Unfortunately, it looked like that company wasn't going to be around for long, so I left there after a couple years when I landed a job as a buyer for a company that sold products to property management firms for apartment rehabs.  I stayed there for another two years before I finally got back to what I knew best.

For the last six years, I have been back in the retail world and it is the happiest I have been since my Safeway days.  It is also the longest tenure of a company that I have been with besides the 21 years at Safeway.  The company I work with now has retail stores in airports across the country.  I started off as the candy and snack buyer until we decided to put in a software package to do our store planograms.  For those that don't know, a planogram is a diagram of where to put product in the store.  I volunteered to head up that initiative for the company and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
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