Sometimes the message is all about the perception of the receiver.


Well, it’s been awhile since I blogged, and the least I can say about it is that life kind of got derailed for a bit.

As you may remember, I had experienced a kitchen accident leaving me with a good sized chunk missing from my dominant index finger. That’s all healed up now, but typing was a real bummer for a few months. Sometimes you just have to stop, rest, and take stock of what’s important.  As such, I just needed to take a blog break for a bit.

As part of a break from blogging, which I’ve missed, I’ve been thinking about the types of things I write, and the sorts of things I post on other social media. 

What prompted me to do a deep think about these things is that I’ve been forced to check myself, to make sure I wasn’t posting things that may be generally offensive to others. You see, a friend said something to me that was kind of mean, said in spiteful, sarcastic kind of tone, about some things I post. These things were general posts about stuff that I do, or places I go, and I couldn’t figure out what was it that I did that was so offensive.

I began to stew on this quite a lot, to the point where I felt compelled to ask my mother, and several trusted friends, what it could be. Being familiar with my postings they had no answer for me, and were equally as puzzled. 

In thinking this through, I remember something from a college communications course I took. The instructor looked us all in the eye one day and stated emphatically that how information is received is a product of the receiver, of their life experiences, and many times you can’t do anything about that. Our perception will color everything we see and hear, and sometimes the intent of the speaker/poster is lost getting through all of that.  I see how that is true in my life sometimes, especially with political and social issues. 

Sometimes there is no intent other than sharing your joy in doing something that makes you happy, but it can get caught up and discolored in the filter of others’ unhappiness.  It’s painful to hear. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t fix that because it won’t make these people happier to see me unhappy… at least I hope not. I’ve made an effort to try not to post when I’m sad or super angry about something. It gives the effect that my life looks super rosy on Facebook, and that is an unintended result. I have a regular life with ups and downs, just like everyone else.

Blogging is quite different for me than regular social media. This is the space I use to help myself work through some things I struggle with sometimes. I like to keep it as positive as I can but once in awhile you will see things here that aren’t as happy, like today. Thanks for your patience while I work through this.  It was hard to write about, and I spent more time than normal editing this post.

Having said that, I always do my best to end my blog posts on a positive beat. I want you to know that it really is ok to be happy. It’s ok to share what you find joy in doing. Rock on, happy campers, and many blessings to you all!

Advertisements

We, the People of Retail…


I just arrived home from my 2nd job at the Big Red Box Store, and I have a bit of a rant to share with you, my Faithful Readers.

This is supposed to be the season of giving, sharing and treating each other with kindness. I’m happy to say that I witness that a lot during my time at the Big Red Box Store. However, there are a some people who have some bad shopping habits. I mean, REALLY bad shopping habits.

I witnessed a boy, about 6 years old or so, try to fold a shirt and put it back on the shelf like he found it. His mother, in her haste to get on with her day, said to him: “Son, just put that down and don’t worry about folding it. They have people that do that.”

Ahem…We, the People of Retail, would like to share some things with you about that. Yes, I said “we”. I feel pretty confident that the people I work with, and many thousands of others who work in retail would agree wholeheartedly with what I have to say below:

1. People who work in stores of all kinds do have the duty to clean up, or “zone”, their areas every day. However, that doesn’t give anyone the right to shop in a sloppy manner. Not only are you making a mess for the people who work there, but you are also leaving the place messy for the other shoppers who come behind you and try to shop in the same area. We, the People of Retail, can’t be there right behind you to clean up after your sorry butt, and have many other duties as well to get done.

2. For the love of all that is Holy, do not teach your children to shop in a slovenly manner. They will shop how you shop, so please teach them to shop nicely with your words and your actions.

3. Please do not leave your garbage lying around, or try to hide it behind items on a shelf. Every store has multiple garbage cans. Please find one, or ask for help to find one.

4. If something spills or breaks, please notify one of the store employees immediately, and keep others from rolling their carts through the mess while waiting for one of us to grab some cleaning supplies. Once I was helping someone in the grocery area, and I heard a wet sound of glass breaking. Sure enough, I went around the corner to find that someone’s kid had thrown a jar of salsa onto the floor. That happens, no big deal. What was disturbing about the whole thing is that they just drove their cart through it and tried to act like it wasn’t there. I asked them to please hold still while I cleaned up the floor and the wheels of their cart, but they just ignored me. Not cool to track salsa through the store and be a dick about it.

5. Do not let your kids play with things in the store, sit/stand on the shelves, climb the shelves, play hide and seek between the clothing racks, or any other obnoxious play that belongs outside. And for the love of God, do not let them get on the bikes and the skate boards we sell just because it keeps them busy and keeps them from distracting you from your shopping. They are your kids, you are responsible for them.

6. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, drop your young kids off at a store and leave them there for hours. Eventually they get bored and get into trouble. It’s not nice to do to them and we aren’t your babysitters.

7. Please have patience when we explain that we are out of stock for the particular item you wanted. We can’t help that you waited until the end week, after that popular item has been on sale for several days, to come in and try to buy it at the last minute. Pouting about it and asking what we think they are supposed to do now because we don’t have that item in stock is not an appropriate way to act.

I know that my Faithful Readers wouldn’t ever shop sloppy, or let their kids run rampant through a store without supervision. I bet you know some people who do though. Please feel free to share the aforementioned items with them, if you think it will help.

Overall, I guess I just need to ask that general public think before they shop. Treat people how you would want to be treated, and don’t be a dick. Be nice. Not only will We, the People of Retail, appreciate it, but so will all of the other people shopping around you.

Here’s wishing you all a happy shopping experience this Holiday Season!

Cat Herding Rule #2 – Avoid Scope Creep


Let me first begin by saying that I am guilty. I have let meetings get out of hand and I have had to learn how to run meetings the hard way. Scope creep is something that I have to consciously, and constantly, be aware of needing to avoid at all times.

So, what is scope creep? It is not a guy who hangs out in the mouthwash isle too much.

Scope creep happens when a group doesn’t stay on task, and allows themselves to get entangled in details outside the original parameters of a given project. That’s one definition. What that means in regular English is that scope creep is ADHD in a group format. If allowed to run unchecked, nothing of value will get accomplished except to blow peripheral issues way out of proportion.

Something I have witnessed is that scope creep can skew a project way out of shape in under a minute. Here’s an example of a meeting where scope creep runs away with itself:

Susie: Good morning everyone, thanks so much to joining us today to discuss Cat Herding 101. Today’s topic will be how to provide structure in a project.

Bob: Herding cats sounds like fun, Susie, but what about dogs? Dogs have way more personality…

Diane: I like my hamster better. They take up less room and are easier to keep penned up, so don’t need any herding.

Ralph: I don’t know why we have to talk about herding cats, they sleep most of the time anyway.

I have literally been in meetings where the discussion got out of control this quickly, and the meeting facilitator didn’t do a very good job of making sure everyone stayed on task. There are a few things that one can do to keep the meeting on track and stay focused on the topic at hand:

1. Provide an agenda giving some details about the topic to help get the group started with what needs to be accomplished.

2. Begin the meeting by sharing your expectations about what will be discussed, and how much time the group has to get everything accomplished.

3. Everyone’s time is important. Make sure that the meeting has a purpose and get it accomplished as quickly as possible. Keep something with you that displays the time so you can make sure not to lose track. One of the things I despise most is a useless meeting, and especially if it goes on for an hour and nothing is really accomplished.

4. The instant someone gets off topic, drag the group back to center. You don’t have to be rude about it…. be kind, be funny, but be insistent that the group needs to focus.

5. When a topic pops up that is peripheral to the purpose of the meeting, but still needs to be talked about, form a “parking lot”.  A parking lot is a list of things that come out of the meeting that need attention, but aren’t necessary to accomplishing the task set before the group. Make a commitment to the people who bring up the topics to discuss it with them at another time soon, and then bring the group back to center.

6. Keep the group engaged in the topic by making sure to speak concisely and keep the flow of the meeting going. There’s nothing that will kill people’s attention so quickly as someone who drones on and on about the same thing several times over. Say it once, perhaps reiterate it at the end of the meeting if it’s super important, but don’t beat it to death.

7. Ask their opinions. People will better stay engaged if they can participate. This is especially important in brain storming session. Commonly the quiet ones, who might never speak up on their own, will pop out with some fantastic idea or worthwhile details when asked to share their thoughts.

8. Delegate/assign tasks to the group if possible. Just because you are the meeting facilitator it doesn’t always mean that you have to carry the lion’s share of the work. The group was formed for a purpose, and unless you as the facilitator are only there to provide information, the group needs to actively participate in the project at hand.

9. Send an email to all the attendees detailing what occurred at the meeting, and what the follow-up expectations are (who is to provide what for the next meeting).

10. Be aware that scope creep is something you must be constantly vigilant about. It can happen at every turn in your project. This is true whether you are in a work meeting, a religious meeting or just running a home improvement project. Always come back to the task at hand so you don’t get bogged down in the extra topics/situations that arise.

Well, that’s my cat herding lesson for today. Here’s hoping that your meetings run smooth, your project participants are engaged, and your project focus stays clear and uncluttered with wandering cats.

Of role models and fishing trips…


Today, I had to dig a little deeper through the murk collected in my mind to find the blessings that were just waiting to be picked up and marveled at.

Thus, cup of coffee number two. I don’t know exactly what it is about a second cup of coffee that does the trick for me, but I am guessing that it’s just the time it takes to drink the first one and start on the second that gives me time to think and work through the garbage floating in my head. Sometimes it’s easy to mistake the garbage in your head for truth, or for something worth keeping. It took me a little extra long to sort through all of that floating rubbish today.

And, the coffee just tastes and smells good. Hmmm!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Father’s Day, and do wish all of the Dad’s reading this blog a very happy Father’s Day…especially for those who’ve stepped up to be a role model in the absence of a child’s father.  You could be a friend, a neighbor, step-dad or boy friend of a kid’s mom, grandfather… or just a guy on the street who chooses to do the right thing, regardless of who is watching.

Being a role model is not something a person always chooses to do consciously, but it is something everyone is anyway, all the time. For the purposes of this post, let’s narrow the scope a bit. A while back, I wrote a post about what it takes to make a person a mother. The long and short of it is that not all people can be Mom’s, but sometimes people just step up and do the job. The same goes for Dads.

Yesterday was an eventful day. The Flirt picked the boys and I up at 9am, and we drove to another town that was holding a “Ribfest”. It was a nice day, and the food was good. We shopped a little and then came home. Later the boys and I went to pick up supper to take my parent’s house, as we celebrated Father’s day early with my Dad. As we waited for our order, Older Son noticed a car in distress. It was half hanging in the ditch, and the driver couldn’t get the car started again. After we got through the drive-thru, we parked the car and went to see if we could push them back onto the road.

The car contained an elderly couple, with the husband driving.  I’m not quite sure how he ended up with his tail end hanging in the ditch, but the car wouldn’t start and his nose was sticking out into the lane. I offered that we would push him out, and we tried but the three of us weren’t strong enough to push this big old car back up onto the road. Pretty soon a big burly guy came out of the chicken joint and tried to help, but the four of us still couldn’t get it done. Then a kid came out to help, and he couldn’t have been any more than ten or so, but his was the last bit of strength we needed to get the car back up on the road and parked the nearby hotel parking lot. It’s amazing what people can accomplish, regardless of size, when you work together.

Something struck me about these two who came out to help…nobody asked them, they just did it. I wonder if they even knew each other…probably not, but they both had something in common: Someone at sometime modeled that behavior for them.  It’s one thing for me to tell the boys to get out of the car to do this, but it was another thing altogether for them to see two other strangers come out to help, unasked and didn’t ask for anything in return…I hope it’s something my kids remember and repeat. These two guys, even though they were a kid and a twenty-something, were good role models, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they will make good dads, uncles, neighbors, grandparents, etc…

Fishing is something that I used to enjoy as a kid, and Younger Son has expressed an interest in learning. The Flirt and his family are all very much into fishing, and are willing to take us with them when they go. While at my parent’s house last night, I asked my Dad if he still had any of the fishing poles they used to use. Amazingly he did, and tackle boxes too. The poles need some help, but the tackle boxes are FULL of all kinds of interesting things. What’s in them is not nearly as important as who they belonged to. One tackle box belonged to a close uncle that my Dad spent many summers with, and the other one belonged to his own father. I don’t know when he acquired these, but I am willing to guess that these two tackle boxes hold more than just fishing supplies. There are a lot of childhood memories wrapped up in both of these boxes for my Dad, and I am feeling pretty privileged that he gave them to us.

I tried to talk my Dad into coming fishing with us, but fishing isn’t so much his bag. My Mom loves to fish, so I’m hoping we can get her interested in coming out. More on how that progresses later.

Fishing is an interesting way to get conversations started, especially if there are just two of you alone in a boat. I once went fishing up the river with my Mom’s father, whom I never did get a chance to get to know very well. He and I chatted the whole time, and I am kicking myself now for not having the wisdom to pay closer attention. The only thing I remember him talking about was something that happened during the time he served in WWII. He told me a story about how the plane his group was in got shot up by the enemy, and the hydraulic line got a hole in it. He stuck his finger in the hole and left it there until the plane landed. He giggled like a kid when telling me that the government gave him a medal for putting his finger in a hole…he really thought that was the funniest thing. Many years later after he passed away, I found out that the military had awarded him a Silver Star for this because he kept the plane in the sky and saved the lives of his crew members. This is a huge demonstration of how little things count.

The purpose of telling that story isn’t to brag up my grandfather’s heroism, though he is deserving of it, but to point out that those quiet moments when you are hanging out with someone who matters mean a lot. That one fishing trip up the river was the most time I ever got to spend with him at any one time, and I am grateful for it. While I don’t remember a lot of the conversation, I remember having a really good time. He was a good guy and I wish I had been able to get to know him better.

I am fortunate in that my Dad still lives, and I get to see him often. Yet, there are so many other men that have come and gone from my life, related or not, who have made a difference. They have not only taught me things, but they have helped shape who I am. While my kids aren’t so lucky to have a father who wants to be a positive role model in their lives, they sure are lucky enough to have men in their lives, most especially my own Dad,  who are willing to step up and help shape them into the men they will become.

To all those who are Dads, or just have the fortitude to step up and be the Dad or role model a kid needs…I hope you have a tackle box full of memories from your past you can pass on to someone, and that you share those memories, knowledge and values with wild abandon. Happy Father’s Day!

Life is full of little trade offs…The trick is to find balance.


As all of my Faithful Readers know, I have two jobs. I work at the Cube Farm by day, and The Big Box Store by night…the blue one. I think you know what I’m talking about.

Lately, I’ve had thoughts of defecting to The Other Big Box Store. The red one, with the bulls-eye.

I have a friend at The Cube Farm who has been talking to me about switching over, and I think I just might do it. I have to say, though, that I have been at The Blue Store for long enough that I’m comfortable there. The whole problem with that place is that it’s impossible to get your work scheduling straight, it’s disorganized, dirty and they have such a high turn over rate that there is never enough help. As a result of not ever having enough help, many of us “Floor Help” end up cashiering instead of keeping our departments straight. I hate cashiering, and my right elbow and wrist hate it too.

Every time I go to The Red Store I marvel at how clean it is, how every employee has a scanner to use and that things just seem to be more orderly in general. It’s so tempting to defect, but I would be giving up a lot of benefits I get at The Blue Store that wouldn’t be available to me at The Red Store. Hm…lots to ponder.

Life is full of all sorts of trade offs, and some have been very worthwhile. Let’s take last night for example.

I picked up The Flirt, and we went shopping last night. We bummed around the mall, just going from one store to another looking at stuff. At several points he grabbed my hand and held it as we walked.  Wow… have you got any idea how long it’s been since a man has picked my hand up and held it? Oh…many more than I can count.  That Flirt is full of all sorts of delightful surprises, and I’m looking forward to finding out what else he has up his sleeve.

So, what’s the trade-off?  I gave up time with my boys at home for the evening.

I think the whole trick is to find balance. Sunday evening The Flirt came over for pizza and movies, and we all had a good time. Hopefully I can find and maintain just the right balance, and not let my social life get the better of me.

I think we can do this… Well, I guess we’ll find out!

A bluff called back


Well…I thought calling someone else’s bluff was an exhilarating experience.

It almost doesn’t quite compare to having that call met, but also challenged.

Heh…

I never really thought feeling 14 again would ever be any fun. Apparently I was wrong!