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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Sunday, December 29, 2013

If You Like Your Lightbulbs....

Electric bulb from Neolux (max. 230 V, 60 W, E...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If I were running for president today, I would run on the platform "If you like your light bulbs, you can keep your light bulbs."  After all, that particular line worked pretty successfully for one particular president when it came to his health care bill.  So what if it was a big colossal lie.

Thanks to the ruling elite who know far better than the rest of us what types of products we should have and use, effective January 1st, the United States will ban the production of an item that has been in American homes for over 100 years, the incandescent light bulb.  Thomas Edison must be spinning in his grave. You'll still be able to buy them until existing inventory sells through, so stock up now.

George W. Bush proved that he was no real conservative when he signed into law the bill that phases out the traditional light bulb.  Sure compared to Barack Obama, he is a right wing nut job as my liberal friends would say, but no true conservative would take a safe and reliable product used by nearly everybody and force people to have to go to more expensive, and in some cases, more hazardous products.  That is not how the free market works.

Granted, the choices we will now have will last longer and save you on your electric bill, but the initial outlay is a bit much for the average person's wallet, especially those who live paycheck to paycheck.  It is really going to be a hardship for lower and middle income families.  I am not crazy about any of the options the government is forcing upon its citizenry.  Just another little bit of our freedom being taken away from us.

English: Compact fluorescent light bulb
English: Compact fluorescent light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The compact fluorescent bulb, or CFLs, are the most affordable of the options that we will have to choose them.  Frankly, I hate them.  I hate there twisted curly-q shape.  Sure, there are some that have the twisted bulb nicely encased in a more traditional light bulb shape, but even those still have their problems.  They are dangerous.  CFLs contain mercury, which is such a horrible toxin that states, including Maryland, have banned the use of mercury in thermostats for your home cooling/heating system.  If you happen to break a CFL, you might need to call in a hazmat crew.  If you think I am exaggerating, just check out what is on the Environment Protection Agency's website regarding cleaning up a broken CFL.

The other option that folks have to choose from are LED lights.  LED lights apparently aren't much safer as they may contain arsenic and lead.  Again, there are very detailed instructions on cleaning up an LED light if they break.  One site I saw said to wear gloves and a mask when cleaning up a broken LED light and to use a broom, no vacuum.  Then dispose of those gloves, mask, and broom after cleaning.  Also, LED lights are extremely expensive.

Today, I did my grocery shopping at my local Wegman's Supermarket.  I decided to pick up a few packs of incandescent bulbs.  Unfortunately, there was only one 4-pack of 60 watt bulbs available.  I looked at some of the options available to me and was saddened.  Some of the LED lights were nearly $20 per bulb.  I conservatively have about 20 light bulbs in my house.  When I do have to replace them, they usually come in bunches.  That is not an outlay of cash that I am prepared to make.  Hopefully, there will be something more affordable.  Until then, I will be stocking up on my incandescent bulbs while I can.


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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Spread Some Joy--Say Merry Christmas

The Christmas holiday season can be a time of great stress for some people.  I am not immune from the stress of the holidays.  My son has been home from school for the Christmas break since Friday.  I am already stressed about trying to get him back to school on January 1st.

I should explain what happened on the Thanksgiving break with our son.  From the time he got home for that break, he refused to leave the house.  Even though he talked about going to my brother's house for Thanksgiving dinner, when it came time to go, he refused.  We ended up having dinner at home.  Thankfully, I had bought a small turkey that my wife planned to cook the day after Thanksgiving so that we would have "leftovers."

When it came time to take our son back to school on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it was one of the worst experiences in some time for that task.  We fought him for most of the afternoon before giving up for the night.  He hit me so hard in the ear that my ears rang and I had some residual hearing issues for several days after.  My wife finally got him back a day late but it was a monumental task.

So what has me stressed a few days before Christmas?  You can probably guess from the preceding two paragraphs that so far during the break, my son is refusing to go anywhere.  I offered to take him out to lunch for hamburgers, no luck.  Same thing with trying to get him to go for a ride to look at Christmas lights.  So far he is saying he is going to go to my sister's and my in-laws houses for Christmas.  Let's hope he does.

Sunday mornings is one of the days that I usually use to take care of my grocery shopping.  I left the house to go take care of the groceries and it was pouring down rain.  I got in the car, with everything on my mind and headed to the store.  By the time I got to Wegman's, the rain had slowed to a trickle, so at least I wouldn't get drenched going from the parking lot to the store.

My stress did not subside once I got inside the store.  In fact, it started to increase.  One of the first things that I was looking for in the meat department was out of stock.  It was going to be dinner tonight so I quickly came up with a Plan B.  The store was particularly crowded, and the aisles of the store were stacked with merchandise so maneuvering through the aisles was difficult at best.

As I was nearing the end of my shopping trip, I am sure that my face was not the friendliest it could be.  It was then that I pushed my cart pass another father pushing a car with his little daughter in the seat.  She leaned over and with the biggest smile on her face squealed to me, "Merry Christmas!"

My demeanor instantly changed and the frown on my face melted and was replaced with a smile.  I look at her and cheerfully said to her, "Well Merry Christmas to you too!"  She laughed with delight.  So do yourself and someone else a favor and put a smile on your face and tell somebody "Merry Christmas."  You just might make someone's day.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Solution to the Washington Redskins Name Controversy

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present
Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I grew up a Washington Redskins fan.  For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of the team.  My earliest recollections were in the late 1960's when they were a horrid team.  I lived through the George Allen years, and thankfully, the Joe Gibbs era.  I have remained a fan even through the mostly bad years of Daniel Snyder's tenure as owner of the team.

Now, these days, my beloved Washington Redskins are under attack.  I live in the DC area, and it seems like you can't watch a local news broadcast without somebody bringing up the team name.  Even President Obama, when he should be more concerned about the government shutdown, is chiming in saying that the Redskins should consider changing the name because some groups think it is racially offensive.

This isn't the first time that the question of whether or not the Redskins should change their name has been brought up.  It is the first time that it has gained the traction in the media that it has.  Naturally, those that stoke the fire are the liberal, politically correct, elitists of the world.  I don't have to tell you how little use I have for that crowd.

Years ago, when Tony Kornheiser of ESPN was still writing for the Washington Post, he suggested that rather than change the name of the team, the team should change their mascot.  Instead of the noble looking Native American that adorns the helmet, he suggested to change the logo to a potato, as in redskin potatoes/  A humorous concept but then we would have to re-write the team fight song. Here is my first pass at it:
Hail to the Redskins, Hail to Victory, Spuds on the Warpath, Fight for old DC.  Run or pass and score, we want a lot more. Bake 'em, Fry 'em, Touchdown! Watch the point soar. Fight on, Fight on, til you have won, Spuds of Washington!
It just isn't the same.

Instead, if things persist, my suggestion would be for the Redskins to take a page from the musician Prince.  Remember when Prince decided to change his name to a symbol?  Until he went back to using the name Prince, everybody always referred to him as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince."  The Redskins could do the same thing.  Instead of the Washington Redskins, they could become the Washington the NFL team formerly called the Redskins.

Quite frankly, I hope it doesn't come to that.  I am so tired of the liberal mindset where anything that is offensive to anybody has to be forbidden.  I find the name Barack Obama offensive but you don't see me calling for him to change it (though I thought about Tweeting that).  If the NFL does cave in and forces the Redskins to change their name, I may be done with the NFL.

Hail to the Redskins!
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Think the Coffee Machine at Work is a Dude!

The only way to #JumpStart your day @samsungca...
Flavia Machine via dickster1961

We have a Flavia machine in my office.  For those of you who do not know what it is, it is a single serve brewer that uses individual pouches to brew a cup of coffee or tea.  It can also be used to make cappuccinos and mochaccinos by combining two different pouches.

Unlike my Keurig K-Cup brewer, the Flavia machine has a sensor under the spout to prevent the brewer from brewing if there is nothing beneath the spout to catch the hot liquid.  I hate to admit this, but there has been more than one occasion when I began brewing a K-Cup and forgot to place a mug under the spout.  What a mess!  Sometimes you just operate on automatic first thing in the morning, and accidents happen.

Recently, I have been having a few issues with the Flavia machine at work.  As you can see in the picture above, when the machine is brewing, the liquid flows straight down, directly into the mug.  On more than one occasion, the machine has been a little less than accurate with the brewing of my beverage.  Instead of the drink flowing straight down into my mug, the drink sprayed either behind the mug or off to the side.  Not only do I not get a full beverage, but then I have a mess to clean up.

It reminded me of my when my son was learning to urinate in the toilet.  Let's just say that his aim wasn't the best.  Not that I myself am not subject to occasional bad aim, especially if I wake up in the middle of the night and need to relieve myself.  Sure, I have all sorts of reasons...er excuses.  Perhaps I didn't turn on the light because I didn't want to disturb anybody, perhaps I was sleepwalking, or I just didn't put on my glasses and couldn't see.  So that is the reason I think the coffee machine at work is a dude.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Is Customer Service Dead?

I started working when I was 15 years old.  At that time, the concept of customer service was instilled into my psyche.  I was taught that the better I treated the customers, the more they would return, resulting in more hours for me, and therefore more money.  Consequently, I tend to spend my money at businesses where I am treated well.  Conversely, I avoid those places that don't.

My wife and I have recently had some very bad experiences. The first occurred when my wife went to get her eyes examined.  She had her exam and got her prescription from the doctor. She picked out a set of frames and wanted to find out how much her glasses were going to cost before committing to purchasing them.  The customer service representative refused to help her saying it would take too much time to figure it out if my wife wasn't going to buy the glasses.  We took our business elsewhere.

On another occasion, my wife and I went out to eat at a local brew pub.  We have been regular visitor of this brew pub since they opened several years ago.  Over the years, I have built up a sizable collection of pint glasses and t-shirts from the various seasonal beer launch parties that they have every month.  Unfortunately, after our most recent visit to this establishment, we will never be back.

I ordered a salad and my wife ordered the seafood cannelloni.  When they brought our food, my wife's dinner wasn't hot.  She complained about it and asked to have the dish remade.  Our server was very apologetic and seemed willing to help.  Unfortunately management wasn't so helpful.  He came out and told us they could not remake her dish.  Instead, he argued with us, telling us that the dish was made correctly, brought out hot, and the best they could do was reheat it for us.

We objected saying we wanted a fresh dish as a reheated dish would not be as good as a fresh dish.  Eventually, the server came back out with another plate.  This time the food was hot and you could see steam coming from the sauce.  Unfortunately, it became obvious that it was the same dish heated in the microwave.  The pasta was overcooked and hard.  The cheese looked like a frozen dinner that had not melted completely.

We came home from dinner and I went to the corporate website and sent a complaint detailing what had happened during the evening.  In the past, whenever we have complained about service in a restaurant, we have either received a written apology, and in some cases gift certificates to visit again to give them another chance.  This time, we received no acknowledgement that we had a problem.  We won't be back to that establishment ever again.
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