Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Can't help but laugh

We had a nice little celebration in our branch today. Our investment representative cleared and surpassed her annual revenue goal before July 15th. Quite an accomplishment in this down economy and all the turmoil surrounding banks these days. Many of her customers were referrals from the tellers and platform staff within the bank, so as a thank you she had a catered luncheon brought in. She also put together a little game with wrapped items as the game prizes. I won two prizes.

As I unwrapped the first item, I laughed right out loud. I'm usually good at controlling my emotions, but when I saw it the laughter just burst from me. It was a wall hanging complete with a faux distressed frame and a countryed-up display of torn burlap straps spelling out words. And yes, one of them was love. It's the sort of thing I can see my Mom decorating her very-country living room in the house I grew up in. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice piece. But in our present state of throwing away all the silliness that we've accumulated, this was more than I could stand.

I'm not sure if I fully explained our hearts in my last post, but Ell and I are being gut-level honest with reality. If we don't need it to survive, there's a good possibility it won't be around long. We're not throwing away our lives; there's quite a bit that sentimentality won't let us discard. But as a whole, we really see all the extra "stuff" as just that, things we can do without.

So I have two new things up for grabs. The one I explained above and the second which really made me chuckle: a two foot long, rustic, painted-wood sign that says,
"Live Simply*Care Deeply*Love Generously"
I can think of no other way to meet all three of these goals than to give this thing away.
And that makes me laugh.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Want anything?

Ell and I are preparing to upset our lives. I've hesitated to talk about it because I wasn't really sure how to explain it or what people would think. We know some people already find our decisions strange; this shouldn't be anything new for those folks. So here it is... After a couple heart-to-hearts this past week, we made the decision to get rid of most of our "stuff", including our house.

Ell and I have always had somewhat of a disdain for "extra" material possessions. In fact, we enjoyed and look back with fond memories the times when our house was bare. When we moved from our first house to the log house, all of our possessions (except for my Lazy-Boy and the refrigerator) fit into two trips in a Volkswagen convertible. And besides cars, very little of what we've owned was bought new. Yet despite all that, we've accumulated enough "stuff" to fill a 1700 square foot home.

Besides the extra "stuff", Ell has grown tired of how much it takes to live in the log house. To live the way we live takes more physical effort that most people realize. While I could grow old doing that work and living that way, I want to see my wife happy more than I want to live out some ideal I've built up in my head. So the house is going on the block. We're probably going to offer it to our friends and family first and then put it on the market, but either way it should sell fast with all it's charm.

To me, the location has never been ideal, the winters are hard, and the problems always present, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad to be leaving it all behind. I love that our house is so unique. I love the way Ell has decorated it. I love how comfy it is around the fire. I love the way it invites people into it. I love the size of the logs and the ancient tool marks still evident in their grain. I love it like it's family and I will miss it greatly. But everything has it's season, and ours in that house is coming to a close.

I know a couple of you are screaming, "THE GARDEN, THE GARDEN!" Yes, that's the only thing holding me back right now. I've put a lot of years of sweat and blood and time into that garden. I'm ten years invested into soil preparation, compost, organic matter additions, brick paths, year round crops, lifetime plantings, and so much more. I can't take any of it with me. This pill is almost too big to swallow and if I was honest I'd admit I'm having a hard time moving past it. Maybe a few more heart-to-hearts need to happen. At least for me.

Full circle brings me to the title of this post. Over the weekend we started separating stuff into piles labeled keep, sell, give away, throw away, and leave in the house. Like I stated earlier, Ell and I have never been big on "stuff". We've accumulated it but mostly through gifts and presents and the like. A few years back we tried to slow that by asking people to stop all gifts and donate the money to charities instead. We just didn't need anything else. (Despite repeated requests, we have some family members and friends who politely ignore us and buy gifts anyway. And we love them for it.)

So don't be surprised if you get an unexpected package from us. We give it to you in love, but require nothing in return. Not even the obligation to keep it. Your trash can is as good as ours. Keep us in prayer as we head into this next phase of our journey together. And if you want an awesome log house, give us a call.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Extremely stupid

I love oxymoron's. They intrigue me, really. I mean, in the cultures of old when language and grammar were developing, were these phrases really the best they could come up with to describe what they were trying to say? What about inventing another word, or rephrasing like terms? Anything. But then we wouldn't have anything to talk about, would we? Here's a list of some good ones. Feel free to add more.

Of course we must start with the classic, Jumbo Shrimp.
  • Divorce Court
  • Bad luck
  • Active retirement
  • Dry Ice
  • Fresh Frozen
  • Headbutt
  • Radio Show
  • Fine mess
  • Paid volunteer
  • Same difference
  • Numb feeling
  • Civil War
  • Down escalator
  • Bittersweet
  • Plastic glasses
  • Junk food
  • Soft rock
  • Elevated Subway
  • Fail safe
  • Awfully good
  • War games
  • Only choice

Any more you can think of?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thank you

I want to extend my gratitude to all of you for your kinds words regarding my last post. While I didn't write it to garner such attention, I will always accept the warm fuzzies all of you extend my way. This job thing has been going on now for almost eight months, and I know it can escape many brains when not often discussed. Those of you who commented (and I'm sure many who didn't) and still hold me in your thoughts and prayers despite the absence of updates, for you I am most thankful.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where's Sam's office now?

Yesterday I realized I haven't been very diligent in updating all of you on my job situation.

For those of you good at math, you know that my 90-day probation leading to termination ended June 30th. The week before, I was in an unrelated meeting and my boss mentioned he was extending my probation and then promptly moved on. No more conversation, no questions allowed. This type of management is his M.O., so while frustrating, I wasn't surprised as his abruptness. I knew a separate meeting would happen in a few days; and it did.

In that next meeting, he explained to me he was very pleased with my adjustment into the new branch. He said the staff really like me and it was obvious I'd earned their trust in a short amount of time. He also said my sales record spoke for itself and I'd made the branch a lot of money despite a shaky economy. BUT... (You knew it was coming right?) ... He went on to say there were a couple areas I needed to work on and that was why he was extending it.

To say I was pissed would be an understatement. You see, those 90 days of probation were a significant step in terminating me without having to worry about negative legal recourse. But in those 90 days, a full time and a part time person had quit. So on top of my normal overloaded schedule, I had taken on a large share of their missing productivity and workload. That left management cornered with a hard decision: a) continue on their previous course to eliminate my salary by letting me go which would in turn slice their own productive throats, or b) keep me to fill in the blanks despite their otherwise, set-in-stone plans.

They decided the branch couldn't afford to function without me, so I wasn't let go. But since they still wanted my salary out of their cost center, they extended the probation. This left the door open to cut me in another 90 days if they'd filled the vacant positions I'd been covering. Corporate bastards.

I decided right there to not be bent over any longer. For some reason (professionalism is all I can assume) I'd remained calm in every previous conversation. I'd taken the high ground and told them I disagreed with their assessment but I would try to be the manager they needed to be. This time, I'd had enough. I leaned across my boss' desk and told him exactly how I felt. I told him that if he really thought I was doing a great job, he would have released the probation and not extended it. I told him I was tired of being the branch's punching bag. I told him that I knew my salary was the only thing they couldn't live with and that everything else about me was top- of-the-tier performance. I told him his "areas of improvement" were a joke and I challenged him to find anything about me I wasn't doing top notch. And I told him I didn't want to be a warm body if their plans were to fire me no matter how well I performed.

Proud of me, huh? I wasn't sure what had come over me, but I needed them to know I knew the farce they were pulling and I needed them to know it pissed me off. My boss just sat back in his chair and said nothing for about a minute. Finally he said, "Well, we're extending the probation. Despite your production numbers, your salary has always been an issue in this district. I can't lie and say it would be a real problem if what you earned was made public. All I can say is that if we're paying you more than anyone else we want more work out of you than others. You've proven you can do that, but your cost is still a big bite to chew. Sorry." And he walked out.

I'm fighting a losing battle; I know that. But praise God, I still have a job. There are so many other people out there that just get laid off or fired, and that's it. God's given me some extra time to get things in gear, and complaining and anger aside, I'm thankful for that. I still get down sometimes wondering if I really am a bad employee as they keep saying, but I know otherwise. Their stories never match up, and I can't change the salary I was given when I started, so I just keep on keeping on.

As for the future, I didn't get the job that I'd made the final cut for. (They chose the internal candidate.) I was granted a couple interviews with other companies that just didn't fit. And I have a couple really good leads developing right now. So the future has potential. My prayer is that I can walk out of here on my own terms. That would be ideal.

Thanks for listening to me ramble.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Garden (from afar)

On the Fourth of July I was up on the roof cleaning out the gutters and realized it was a pefect afternoon for pictures. The first two are of the garden and the last shot is of the grape vines which are looking mighty good this year. (You can see a more close up view by clicking on the individual pictures.) Of course it looks different even now only two weeks later, but you still get the idea of it's gloriousness. (Yeah, I made that word up.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Early morning sights and sounds from the Volkswagen Show

It's 6:30 am and even though it's summer, the sun is still hiding behind the gray clouds. I've been awake for almost an hour now. As I sit on our OSCAR cooler and listen to the sounds of early morning --complete with a snoring contest in the surrounding tents-- I see the first van door slide open and a groggy person crawl out. Most of the people who had planned on camping left when the worst of the rain hit, so the field is pretty empty. (We didn't leave but instead used the falling wetness as an opportunity to play rain Frisbee. The shelter we had bought to protect us from the 90 degree sun had proven to be a poor rain guard, so what other choice did we have? In fact, I'm not certain those that cowered under it to stay dry ended up any less wet than us crazy fools out in the rain.)

Our part's peddler neighbors who left when the second storm hit have just returned. They seem less drunk than when they left, but the day is still young. They laugh as they empty the water out of the bins of heads and gaskets and hoses. They'll have a few hours before the crowds arrive to dry out the parts. (Are water-logged engine parts easy to sell? They are if you leave out the water-logged part.)

The poor lady that had to follow me into the porta-jon seems to have recovered. The guy who followed her? Not doing so well. It seems a light rain has started to fall, because the words I just wrote seem to be running together. (Hope they make sense when I go to type them.)

Jim, the owner of the shop hosting this event, is humming around on a golf cart. Part trash gathering, part BS'ing with the half dozen people up this early.

My friend Brad is still sleeping on the ground under the screen-sided shelter. His signature mohawk rising high on the pillow. I wonder how wet he is? (Speaking of wet, I hope the campstove lights or those pancakes and coffee we brought aren't going to see the light of day.)

The old man in the Vanagon is up. He doesn't seem to be a morning person; grumbling something like, "Where's my dang coffee pot?" Those type of people make me laugh.

The guy who dared drive a honda to a VW show is up. I think I'll make it a point to walk by him later wearing my Honda Eater (complete with the VW symbol split apart in classic Pac-Man pose ready to chomp on the honda symbol.)

The clouds seemed to have tricked the rooster at the farm down the road. He just crowed for the first time.

An old Bug is pulling in with it's distinctive tapping engine. That should wake some people up. Yep. The guys in the Bus next to us are stirring. Brad's still snoring though. It woke up Brandon, the guy who gave us Yingling last night. His 6'2" frame is stretching out cramped muscles from spending the night in a new Beetle.

The distinctive orange and white striping of the loan Westfalia Bus is popping up over by the main tent. What a visual beauty that is.

The man in the purple bug who left it here last night is wiping down the curved fenders. Can't have water spots at a car show, now can we?

Oh dear!. The lady across the filed should not be wearing shorts like that. I don't care if this place is teaming with love-filled hippies, even hippies don't want to see that.

The two hour cleaning I did on my GTI seemed to have paid off; it's still shining in the falling rain. The inside got wet last night but it still looks good too.

The coffee guy is doing better, someone shared their joe with him.

I think I'm going to pack a bowl of Blue Diamond in my Peterson and walk around. Maybe bum some coffee. Yeah that sounds good.

The best bumper sticker I saw yesterday: Who are the Dead and why do they keep following me?