Monday, March 31, 2008

One of the best days of my adult life

Last week was a very low point in my professional career. There were a couple days I almost walked into my boss's office and just quit. It was a miserable week and one I never hope to relive. In the midst of that darkness, I received an email from the guy who is writing the book on the Canal. He was organizing a short-notice canal walk on Saturday and was inviting me to join the group. Even though I love the canal and I love hiking, it was hard to get excited in the mental state I was in. But I replied and told him I would be there. That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

(Those confused with the what the "Canal" is: The Sandy Beaver Canal was the only privately owned and operated canal system in Ohio. After a great flood wiped out much of the canal in the early 1850's, it was abandoned and much of it dismantled. There are scarce traces of it, most of it only evident where the locks and dams were. For years I enjoyed the history of the canal and last year I started regularly hiking to the locks with Ell and our friend Brad. I found a website on the Canal hosted by a gentleman named Jerry King. Jerry is a professional photographer and has put together an extensive photographic collection of the entire canal system. His website is HERE.)

Very few of you know anything about the canal beyond what I've told you, so I won't bore you with the hike or where we went or anything like that. But I have to tell you how the day made me feel. First of all it was amazing to be around people with intense knowledge about something I care about just as much. I would never trade my hiking times with Ell and Brad for anything, but those times are mainly about the hiking more than the history. The hike on Saturday was only being done for the sake of the history. I found myself soaked into information and time lines and engineering and details heaped upon details. I was in heaven.

To make it even better, as we set out into the woods we ran into the people that owned the last few miles beyond the section we were hiking. They gave us permission to continue our trip which essentially doubled our journey and doubled my happiness. We extended the trip even further by visiting another section when we had finished the second leg. The day was beautiful, the sights were amazing, the people were knowledgeable...... I'm beaming right now just thinking about it.

As the title says, Saturday turned out to be one of the best days I've ever had in my adult life. I was in the company of people who didn't roll their eyes when I went on a history tangent. The sun was shining and I could literally feel it chasing winter away. I was out hiking which I still have to figure out how to make it a full time job (with benefits). But most of all, I felt like me. No fake niceness or hidden tears, no confusing emails or reports, and no one around me who didn't want me there. It was so refreshing and calming. It ended up being the breath of fresh air I was too beat down to realize I needed.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Can I scream now?

***Warning***If you're tired of hearing me talk about my job situation, you may want to stop reading for three months and then come back to see how it all turned out. I know other people have much bigger problems than I do, but this is what's on my mind and in my emotions right now, so I'll probably be talking about it for a while. You've been warned.

It's not been a fun week at work. Coming back from a relaxing vacation and being thrust right back into the midst of a very tumultuous job situation was not easy. I struggled with the very thought of putting on my tie Monday morning. I have nothing against the tie, or ties in general, but that tie was a huge representative of a job I'm not wanted at and where I don't want to be. It just felt wrong to try and put on a happy face and walk into a building that I've grown to despise.

Even what was a nice gesture made me struggle. My teller (and friend) Linda, from my last branch, came to see me Monday. She was, and is, having a really hard time figuring out how I can function and even be around people that I should be hating. I couldn't argue with her. My only answer was I have to make this work until I can find something else. I don't have a choice. On top of that, I'm not sure my faith would be worth much if I wasn't able to act civil and right towards the people I want to be hating and bad-mouthing and destroying. (And yes, my brain has entertained some very malicious thoughts.) Remaining upright and just needs to be my goal in these 90 days. But even that doesn't make me want to be here.

Tuesday the bank started a focus on a new banking program that (in theory) is supposed to save us time but in inception will end up taking up so much of the time we don't have enough of already. As I sat through a pointless tele-conference that afternoon on the program, all I could think was that I wanted to just walk away now instead of putting myself through the headaches it is already causing. Why, oh why, does this job seem like it's becoming more silly and non-productive than ever? (I know why; the question was rhetorical.)

Then yesterday, I had a meeting with my boss where he laid out another long list (twelve items) of things to be completed in the same 90 day window as the previous other five items that will determine when/if my job will be terminated. These twelve things are on top of all my regular duties and the fill-in jobs that haven't slowed since I came to this branch. I asked him how I was supposed to do more work on top of what my job description calls for now. His response? "These things are now part of your job description." Clever, isn't he?

Anyway, so that's been my week so far. My head teller is off all week so I'm wearing the Office Manager hat and a Teller hat, and trying to juggle all the stuff my boss keeps throwing at me. I knew it was going to get rough in their goal to have me quit, but I guess I wasn't prepared "enough" for what it would look like. Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts, and keep your ears open for jobs. 'Cause I'm gonna need one. ;-)

Monday, March 24, 2008

At the Bank

A middle-aged lady came into the bank this morning to get some of the new gold dollars. The dollars come in rolls of $25, and when informed of that amount, a puzzled look crossed her face.

With a furrowed brow she asked, "I thought those rolls used to cost twenty three dollars. Did you raise the price on dollar coins?"

I could stop the story right there and get a good laugh (and I'm not sure how my teller didn't burst into laughter herself) but this lady was serious so my teller remained serious as well. She replied, "No; they have always come in rolls of $25."

But the lady fought back. "No. No. I remember. I used to get the same-sized roll of dollar coins but I only paid twenty three dollars for them. I remember it like I remember the names of my children!"

My teller remained very polite and said, "Well ma'am, I'm not sure what to tell you. The dollar coins are equal to one dollar, and there's twenty five of them in each roll. That equals $25. So do you still want a roll?"

The lady let out a not-so-subtle hrmmpf, and took the money. I laughed a silent chuckle at the whole scene but I feel sorry for her kids. Poor nameless souls. :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Just wanted to wish everyone some joy in your Sunday. Whether you're a Christian and rejoice in the knowledge that our Saviour lives, or maybe not but you still found a giant chocolate egg and some jelly beans waiting for you this morning, or anywhere in the middle, I hope you have a wonderful Easter morning.

(I hesitate to go on a rant after such a nice introduction, but alas I cannot help myself.) I had to get a vehicle title transferred the other day, and I couldn't remember if the Clerk of Courts took personal checks. So I called them and this was the conversation:

Them... "Hello, Clerk of Courts office."
Me... "Hello. I was wondering if you take personal checks for title transfers?"
Them... "Well, we normally don't."

WHAT?!?! What in the world does that mean? My question was a closed ended question. In other words, there can only be a YES or NO answer. But somehow the people there have found a way to not give a straight answer. Furthermore, they've decided if there is indeed a specific rule in that office pertaining to that question, there may be times they stretch the rules.

I'm not sure what pissed me off more, the fact that they didn't really answer my question or the fact that a government agency has loopholes and circumstances where they feel they can break the rules. Probably the second. So how do I get into the circle of untouchables that are allowed to use checks? Or what special thing do I need to gain access to the NO-NO area? Is the Clerk of Courts office the kind of place where slipping a twenty to the attendant gets my work done quicker, and then pay with a check? (Which is an oxymoron to the 'nth degree.)

Does this annoy anyone else besides me? If not maybe this will... I took cash just in case I didn't talk to the same lady who gave me the "normally" answer. When I walked in the office, each and every window where service could be transacted, had a little sign that said, "Please make checks payable to Clerk of Courts." The same sign hung on both walls facing the seating area. You're head's spinning now, isn't it?

I guess I'm living in a fairy tale land where I think there are rules and regulations to be followed, and people know those rules and regulations and know how to enunciate them to the general public. Oh well. Happy Easter anyway. :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Down time in the Hills

Ell and I just returned from our beloved Hocking Hills. We take a trip there (at least) once a year, and usually with friends. Our goal for the last thirteen years has been to take someone new every time we went. We've only succeeded about half the time, but this was the third year in a row we were successful. And we had a blast.

The absolutely amazing and breathtaking scenery aside, it's so awesome to spend quality time with people you love. Whether it's cooking or smoking our pipes or sitting in the hottub or hiking or sharing a quiet talk or the hundred other things that happen over those few days, the trip is so great. We love sharing the beauty of the place with our friends, and we love being able to allow the time to refresh us.

With my job turmoil and Ell's crazy schedule of late, this trip may have been the most needed one in a few years for both of us. Ell wasn't able to erase the cafe from her mind or schoolbooks from her suitcase, but she was able to catch up on some sleep. She took three naps on Sunday alone and at least one on every other day we were there. I was able to talk out some of the mixed emotions in my brain with guys and ladies who I respect in personal and professional capacities.

I'll leave you with one of the scenes from our trip. Even though it's only one of a number of places we hike to, the beauty of it will hopefully show you why we love the area so much. (Our friend Jess took the picture.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Funny

During these last three months as I've been dealing with the job situation, I've been very negligent in posting Friday Funny's. With St. Patty's day coming on Monday, and a plethora of amazing holiday jokes to choose from, I just can't let this Friday pass without sharing one of them with you. So here goes...

(To be read in a drawling Irish brogue.)

Do you know why they put exactly 239 beans in Irish bean soup?

Because one more would make it two-faaarty!

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

90 days

For those of you following along with the struggles I've been having at work, I wanted to let you know that the end has been defined. Yesterday I had my annual review, which is where my managers give me a rating based on my performance last year. At least that's what it's supposed to be. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately depending on your position,) the review sheet is somewhat editorial by design. That design allowed my boss to make the score two levels lower than it should have been. (On a five point scale I got a 2 where I should have received a 4.) In reality I was expecting something like that to happen.

What I was not expecting was the additional issues they chose to place on me. As I've said before, within the finance industry you can't just fire someone; there has to be a process. I thought if I could keep my head above water and work as hard as possible I could make a go of a rough situation. Turns out I was wrong. In addition to the low evaluation, I also received a 90 day probationary notice with five detailed items that need to happen within that time or my position would be terminated. Of those five items, only a couple are things I can ultimately control and as such there's no way I can guarantee my job any longer.

As much as I tried to go in prepared, I was thrown off by the probationary notice and the subsequent horribly derogatory comments. Both of my superiors blasted me with straight out accusations as well as side-swiping innuendos, and it threw me really off balance. I don't have a temper (and I didn't lose my cool even under their heat) but I couldn't help getting defensive at what they were saying.

As anyone with a Psychology background knows, being defensive in a situation of underhanded attacks only shows weakness and allows the one attacking to control the conversation. Yesterday I lost that battle. They prodded me to speak and I couldn't help sounding like (in my mind only maybe) a little child who was getting bullied by the older kids. They stuck in little lies and inaccuracies that I had to discuss which left me sounding like I only cared about silly things and couldn't see the whole picture. I pride myself on being a good salesman and getting people to focus on things I want them to see while ignoring things I want them to ignore. Yesterday I was beaten by a better salesman than myself.

I'm very down and mad that I let myself get beat, but furthermore I'm upset that somehow they have me internally second-guessing. Am I actually not a good leader? Do I come off with a bad attitude sometimes? Am I offending in my tone of speech? Do I not know how to sell comparable to my peers? Am I the reason that branches don't hit their sales figures? Yes, all of those were issues they accused me of. The thing confusing me is that people who know me personally would never say those things, but my work persona could very well be different. Even though much of what came out of their mouths was following an agenda laid out for my exit, they really have me questioning some deep down personal, emotional issues. Issues of laziness, stupidity, dishonesty, self-esteem, and others I'm too embarrassed to admit.

I want to thank all of you who've kept me in your thoughts and prayers the last few months. I told Ell last night that after the initial depression I went through, I had been excited about my future and my potentials. Yesterday all I felt was fear. I hate fear. Getting another job doesn't scare me, but the uncertainty does. Paying our bills does. Supporting my wife does. I don't know what the future holds. I guess I have 89 days to figure it out.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Some thoughts to start a new day

It's 6 a.m.

I'm sitting in the Encore Cafe while Ell is baking and cleaning and prepping.

There is an ice-snow-sleet mix falling outside on top of the four inches of snow that fell yesterday.

We stayed at Ell's brother's (and sister-in-law) house last night because we were at the Cafe until 11:30 p.m. last night.

I'm nursing a cup of black tea for my dry throat from sleeping in a house with a furnace for the first time in years.

How wonderful it is to have friends who are so compassionate as to open their house to us at a moment's notice.

Did anyone else see or hear that intense lightning and thunder at around 5 a.m. this morning? Crazy.

I apologize to my friend (and ex-coworker) Linda for not keeping up with updates and such. Sorry lady. I'm trying to find time in my day but it's getting harder and harder.

Ell found out her uncle killed himself on Thursday. It was his birthday.

Both of our dad's have lost their entire families now. That's hard.

Elton John's Candle In The Wind is on the Cafe radio right now. I've always liked that song. It makes me sad though.

That bi-annual stupid sheep holiday is this weekend when we move our clocks forward. Ben Franklin was a smart guy but he couldn't have known the selfishness of our present day when he thought up the idea. Such a wasteful thing it's become, and we don't even care.

It's been great to have my friend Kyle home for spring break, even if our times together have been too short.

Sometimes I feel like dancing in public. But I know people would find that weird.

I'm on my second cup of tea.

A nice aromatic pipe smoke sounds good right now.

I miss my Dad.

A snowplow just drove by and completely covered the sidewalk in front of the Cafe.

I'm happy to be in this place right now.

I only have enough seasoned firewood to last one more week and I can't find anyone selling non-green firewood anywhere. There are some who say they have it but it always ends up being green. Lying bastards.

I don't consider bastard a swear word but many of my friends do.

Did you know I don't swear? Except for bastard and pissed, but I don't think they are swear words.

Ell and I confirmed with each other a while ago that neither of us want kids. That felt good to be on the same page.

Ell spent $75 on groceries yesterday. That's more than we normally spend in months. She got a lot of extra's we don't need, but's it cool to have some store-bought crap in the house.

I really love my wife and am so proud of everything she's doing in her life right now

I think I'm going to sign off now and read the morning newspaper.

Have a great day; yes, I mean you.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What talks? Oh yeah, money.

The subject of money is on my mind this morning.

Ell and I live much more simply than we used to. Well, we've always lived a little simpler than most, but now we spend less than we used to. I guess we don't have the free time we once had, which could (maybe) be the reason, but we've also made a conscious decision to turn our finances around. We spent too much as young married adults, so much so that we reached a point where we had to stop spending and start repaying because we were out of money and credit. That was one of the best decisions we ever made as a couple.

It's well known (for regular readers) that I'm currently in a job that's not longstanding. At some point I'm going to have to make a move or one will be made for me. That in mind, my ears have been very sensitive to all the sayings and comments that people make about jobs and income. Things like, "I'm gonna have to work my whole life, I might has well do something I like." Or, "Be happy in your job or you won't be happy in anything." And, "Do something that gives you joy or it'll give you death." To name a few... So as I reflected on those and the fact that I'm not happy in my present situation, I started to wonder what actually would make me happy and if I'm in a position to pursue it.

Those thoughts brought me back to the fact that I don't really have the liberty to "do what you love" right now because of the financial mess I mentioned at the beginning of this post. But yesterday I came across some good news. Here's a list of the things Ell and I can see an end to in regards to paying out:

-We only have three payments left on our car
-We only have a year and a half left of a $1560 per month bill
-We only have nine years left on our mortgage
-Ell will be done with school next year and will hopefully get a great paying job
-We are finally making enough now to actually consider starting a savings account

Those may not seem like much to others, but to us they are HUGE. It means we have finally turned the corner towards a healthy financial future. I feel good about those things. (On a side note, even though this all seemed like good news as we discussed it last night, we couldn't let go of our usual Gen-X cynicism. We started listing, with smiles of course, things like that could go wrong like our cars falling apart or the house falling down. It's a slow road to total change.)

And since we're now doing the right things, the wrong thing would be dropping it all and trying to finish my novel, or setting out on the AT next week, or anything else that wouldn't make us any money. I need to stay committed to a job I don't like with hours that suck. (Read *** each 12 1/2 hour day gets me more and more annoyed by banking hours jokes ***) Ell needs to stay committed to the crazy schedule she keeps that makes mine look like kindergarten. And both of us need to continue our common sense banking even if she sees clothes that she loves or I find a nice pipe that would look great in my pipe rack. (Not that either of those are common occurences, but they are our weaknesses.) We had our crazy fun and we are paying it back so we can do it again; this time within our means.

Not sure why I felt like sharing that, it was just on my mind.