Saturday, December 27, 2008


For my 400th post, I thought I'd share a significant link. As many of you know, I have a dream of one day completing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It's a dream over fifteen years old, but after getting married I kinda put it on the back burner. (Which in no way is Ell's fault; marriage just has a way of rearranging priorities.) A few years back, my dear friend Diana reminded me of my dream, and it's been on fire since that day.

Diana and her fiance Jason are embarking on their own thru-hike this coming Spring and they honored me with a request to document their trail journals. I already had a website set up for my own hike, so I started the process of changing it over to focus on them. If you look to the right at my blogroll, you'll see a link to the site.

They'll start adding their own posts next month explaining how they're preparing and organizing for the six month trip. Once they hit the trail, I'll be updating the site on a regular basis, probably on a daily/weekly basis, so everyone can follow them on their journey. I'll also be adding pictures and anything else they send my way. Check out the site now and be sure you follow them starting in January.

And speaking of links, now that Ell is out of school, she added a new post on her blog. Check it out, too.

Happy 400th, ELEVEN.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Funny

If you didn't see this on the Tonight Show, you'll love it. (Even if you did, you'll laugh again for sure.) Jay Leno went into the audience to find the most embarrassing first date that a woman ever had. No one doubted why this woman won the prize.

First Date

She said it was winter, snowing and quite cold. Her date had taken her skiing in the mountains outside Salt Lake City. It was a day trip as they were truly strangers and had only met once before. The outing was fun, the skiing great, and the coffee hot. The day was uneventful until they were headed home late in the afternoon.

They were driving back down the mountain, when she gradually began to realize she should not have had that extra latte. They were about an hour away from anywhere with a restroom and, to top it off, they were in the middle of nowhere.

Her companion recognized her discomfort, and suggested she try to hold it, which she accomplished for a little while. Unfortunately because of the heavy snow and slow driving, there came a point where she told him that he had better stop. She informed him it was either the side of the road or the front seat of his car.

They stopped and she quickly crawled out beside the car, yanked her pants down and started going. In the deep snow she didn't have good footing, so she let her butt rest against the rear fender to steady herself. Her companion stood on the side of the car watching for traffic and indeed was a real gentleman and refrained from peeking. All she could think about was the relief she felt despite the rather embarrassing nature of the situation. Upon finishing however, she soon became aware of another sensation.

As she bent to pull up her pants, the young lady discovered her buttocks were firmly glued against the car's fender. Thoughts of tongues frozen to poles immediately came to mind as she attempted to to disengage her flesh from the icy metal. It was quickly apparent that she had a brand new problem due to the extreme cold.

Horrified by her plight and yet aware of the humor of the moment, she answered her date's concerns about 'what is taking so long' with a reply that indeed, she was 'freezing her butt off' and in need of some assistance. He came around the car and as she tried to cover herself with her sweater and then, as she looked imploringly into his eyes, he burst into laughter.

She too got the giggles and when they finally managed to compose themselves, they assessed her dilemma. Obviously, as hysterical as the situation was, they also were faced with a real problem. Both agreed it would take something hot to free her chilly cheeks from the icy metal.

Thinking about what had gotten her into the predicament in the first place, both quickly realized that there was only one way to get her free. So, as she looked the other way, her first time date proceeded to unzip his pants and pee her bottom off the fender.

As the audience screamed in laughter, she took the Tonight Show prize hands down. Or perhaps that should be pants down. "Did you see the young man again?" asked Mr. Leno. "I married him," she replied. "He's sitting right here next to me."

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hello and Goodbye

I hugged and was wished well and then turned out my light switch.

And with that flip of the switch a year of fear and uncertainty was over. A year of searching and praying and crying was done. A year of anxious anticipation was gone.

But over the last week I also realized what else was coming to a close............ an eight year career in banking. I'll tell you, that's a little scary. What should be making it even scarier is that my new job, even though still in the financial field, is not banking. The one thing I've known for so long is now gone. The one thing that while maddening, was my career. Now I'm moving on to something I don't know. But I'm not sitting here scared. Is that confusing? Yeah, to me too.

I truly feel this is where I'm supposed to be, and in that surety I find comfort and calm. So goodbye known and familiar and routine. Hello unknown and unfamiliar and strange. Hi, I'm Sam. And I'm ready for you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This is for you ladies

In two days, Christmas Eve, I'll walk out of NC bank forever. While getting a new job isn't out of the ordinary or worthy of a lot of posts, this change causes a few deeper thoughts for me. There's a little more going on than just switching office plants and deciding where to put my stapler. This departure is a finality of the deepest kind, the kind that involves people.

Many of you know about my commute and that those two hours were a large decider in my decision to leave. But one thing I hadn't considered was the fact that those two hours will all but eliminate any chance of me ever seeing these people again. Why? Because I doubt I'll be making the drive down the river to see them and I doubt they'll be driving up to see me either. Even though it's only a couple hours, those couple hours become monumental in the face of busy days and lives.

My friends Andrew & Lyndsay have spent the last 18 months living fourteen hours away from their childhood homes. Friday night they loaded everything they hadn't thrown away, sold, or left for free, into a Toyota and drove away. They left their friends and jobs and schools behind; their time there was done. As I talked to Andrew on his long drive home, he commented that the only people who bothered to call him about the move were the friends he'd had before. Not the people he'd lived with for 18 months, but rather the people he knew before. The people who never stopped being his friends even though he was six states away.

And those are some of the feelings I'm wrestling with. Are these coworkers I called friends just relationship flings? Of course not. I think of Cyndy who was my rock and I hers in some really stormy situations, Linda who never stopped supporting and loving me, Alice who very likely kept me off heavy medication these last twelve months, and of course others. Are these ladies not real friends? Are these friendships not real relationships? Because I knew the answers to those questions even before I asked them, how can I say I'll never see them again? How can I say they or I won't make an effort to connect; and effort to not forget?

Because I refuse to live in a fake snow globe of reality, that's why. Of course there could be efforts made on both parties to bridge the separation and the miles, but let's be bluntly honest here: it's probably not going to happen. There is a very real possibility I will never see a single person I've known and worked with for the last four years. That's just life.

Will I forget them? I hope not but probably. Will they forget me? I hope not but probably. But one thing I will remember is that for a few short years in the long timeline of life, I was loved and shared love back. In a place and time where existence should be bland, calculated, and cold, I smiled and laughed and felt. I will not look back on those years as wasted or blank. There will be memories and emotions. And not one, no not one, of those memories or emotions will involve the job or the location or the business; they will be because of the people and only the people. The people I was able to call friends.

I sat down to write today with the intention of describing a tragic human action we put ourselves through. But as I typed I grew to realize this time of transition away from the bank will not be all separation and no feelings, but rather an opportunity to realize I've been blessed by these women and honored to be a part of their lives. My heart will truly never forget you, even if my brain does. Thank you Cyndy and Linda and Alice. I love you all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Funny

My friend Tom has always been a fan of Funny, and this week he sent me his own addition in honor of the holiday season. Enjoy.

How the tradition of putting an angel on top of the Christmas tree really got started:

One year, Santa was having a really bad December. The elves had gone on strike for better pay, the gift building materials were late being delivered, and Mrs. Claus had served him with divorce papers. On top of that, as Christmas Eve arrived, all the reindeer came down with severe diarrhea; not pleasant for the guy riding behind them.

As Santa sat going through his final checklist before leaving, the doorbell rang. "Who could that be at this time?" he grumbled. "Everyone knows not to bother me tonight of all nights!" Santa opened the door to find an Angel holding a Christmas tree. "Where do you want this?" she asked. Santa showed her where to put it.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The end is near

It's been weird the last couple workdays.
One of my co-workers is sad and has already cried.
I chose not to tell an annoying customer I wouldn't work here when he told me to call him in February.
I've been giving out refunds left and right like presidential pardons.
Coming to work doesn't seem like work anymore.
Last night felt like a weekend night because I wasn't dreading work the next day.
Have I ever mentioned how much free food banks get around the holiday?
I've had trouble containing my smiles.
I forcibly made a customer leave my office last Friday for being racist.
For the first time in four years my email inbox is empty of work emails.
I feel like spying around this old building to see if I can find interesting things I can take with me when I leave.
I've quit defending the bank when customer's complain about it.
Ell told me I'm happier now.
She woke me up this morning with the exclamation, "One more week!"
I keep passing work to others with the excuse they need to hit goals while secretly I just don't want to do it.
I find myself checking the clock more often.
I seem to have rediscovered prayer time and that makes me happy.
Have I mentioned lately how excited I am for this new job?
Anyone want to go hiking next weekend?

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Beginnings

As many of you know, this last year has not been an easy one for me. It started the day before Christmas Eve, 2007. I was called into a meeting with my boss and his boss, and was informed I was to be transferred to another branch as of the new year. Furthermore, I was told the move was being made due to salary considerations. In other words, they felt I made too much money and were moving me as a subtle suggestion for my resignation. The transfer moved me fifteen miles further from my home and added an additional two+ hours onto my workday.

For the next six months, my boss's boss put me through a downsizing process required for someone in my position that was not on disciplinary notice. You see, my sales and service results were not out of order. In fact, I was statistically outperforming all of my positional peers and had made significant headway into a sales market that had years previous been placed on record as a declining office. So with nothing derogatory on my service record and a positive sales balance, this executive had to enact a probation process based on an external reason.

When I was hired into this company, I was originally hired in a large Metro (city) market but had shortly after taken a position in a Community (rural) market. The executive that hired me into the Community market knew I would be successful so he made no changes to my salary. Two years later brought a branch and district reorganization within the company, and my branch was moved under a different executive. She was/is not a people person and only looked at bottom lines. Her bottom line showed I made more money than most and so salary was chosen as her external reason for non-disciplinary action.

For six months I fought through the probations she placed me on and kept my nose clean. Eventually my boss grew a pair and stood up for me and my results. The twice enacted-probation expired and my record was cleared. Unfortunately I was now permanently stuck in a 12 hour job, a two hour commute, gas prices over $4.00 a gallon, no change in salary, and the scars that remained from the raping of my integrity. In addition to that, the job was taking its toll on my emotions and mental capacities, and had robbed me of friendships and family time. Enough was enough.

For the next six months I interviewed with other banks and industries, and tried to get my name into as many hands as possible. This morning it was with great joy that I submitted my resignation and two week notice. Praise the Lord. (Please understand I must wait until I'm done here to disclose my new employer.)

As I write this there is a new spring in my step and a smile on my face. The past year has been straining and draining on me and Ell and I want to thank all of you for your support. I earnestly express my apologies if I've missed a call, cancelled a get-together, been cross, seemed distant, or anything else. These were a tough twelve months, and I can look back now and say I was often not myself. For that I'm sorry.

And that's what new beginnings are all about; closure of the old and welcoming the new. So here's to New Beginnings!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It is NOT cold in here

It started last week at our friend's house; Grant and Jess. Grant called me into his kitchen and reaching into the refrigerator he asked, "Does this feel like its working?" It wasn't. We removed the important stuff and I left him and Jess to figure out their next move.

Over the weekend, I read the blog of a friend who went through the exact scenario with her mother.

Then Tuesday I found out my own Mom and Dad lost their refrigerator. (Click on MOM in my blogroll to read their story.)

Also on Tuesday, my friend Paul wrote that his family's fridge went to the appliance afterlife.

Last night I was invited to a Beer School and one of the founders of the group told us his story of refrigerator demise.

WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?! Is there a secret conspiracy of mad fridge gnomes running around breaking stuff? Probably not but why is all of this happening right now? And why to so many people at the same time? Weird, I tell you; weird indeed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not sure if this makes 25 or 26

Without going back through Eleven's archives, I can't remember if I've ever posted about the issues I've had with my teeth. In case I haven't, and to tell the most recent chapter, here's a recap...

As I approached my teens my parents realized I had only lost a couple baby teeth. A few x-rays later, it was discovered most of permanent teeth were in but being held up inside the roots of my baby teeth. The only solution was to pull the babies to make room for the big boys. For the next six or eight months, every few weeks, I had three teeth pulled at a time. The total was supposed to be 24 teeth extracted, but I ended up losing two or three the old fashioned way.

The next step was to correct my improperly shaped upper jaw. So, as it became trendy in the 80's to do, they slapped braces on my teeth. Part of that setup was a wrap-around bracket on my back two, upper molars. Over the next few years, those brackets held an interior wire, outer braces, a separator, and a nasty retainer thing that broke the first week I had it. The end result was an almost pretty smile. Problem was, they never removed the back brackets.

Once into my thirty's I finally had the brackets removed only to find that twenty years of being wrapped in metal and unable to be brushed had caused the teeth to rot. Both teeth were pulled. This summer I broke a tooth doing some sort of rough-housing and had to have it pulled. Coincidentally (or maybe not,) it's the same tooth my Dad and his brother had missing from their mouths as long as I can remember.

When the left side bracket-wrapped tooth was pulled, it opened up room for a wisdom tooth to appear. It came in all funky but wasn't a problem until a few weeks back. Something happened to the tooth and it caused an infection to spread across my upper jaw. The pain that went with that infection was some of the worst pain I've ever had. The easiest way to solve that problem was to have the tooth pulled. I'd already been through it 24 or 25 times, what was one more? So Monday afternoon, bye-bye wisdom tooth and bye-bye pain.

My favorite part of this story is that overall I have very healthy teeth. Besides the fact that my baby teeth were so strong they didn't want to die, I've also never had a cavity in all of my 33 years. Pretty cool for a guy who's had 25 or 26 teeth pulled.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cover up

Wow. That last post was a real conversation starter. It was all I could do to moderate the activity. I think I'm going to post today just to get people's minds off the topic. Seriously folks, enough is enough; let the comment section breath for a few minutes.

Watched the movie, Love Guru last night. When it first came out it got mixed reviews. The most common critic stated it was just run-of-the-mill Mike Myers humor. Well, as my friend Grant said, "I like Mike Myers humor, so I guess I'll like this one." I agree with him. It was pretty darn funny.

One line in particular is still making me laugh. Mike Myers is standing on the counter in a bar, surrounded by a swarm of people, holding a giant, over sized bottle of champagne. He yells out that he wants to propose a toast. The toast was this...

"This is for all the lesbians and virgins: Thanks for nothing!"

It's crude and funny for all the right reasons.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I'm rolling my eyes

Not sure if anyone is following this story, or even cares, but I have to comment on the current auto bailout.

A few weeks back, the world watched a common sense bailout of the United States financial world fail only to get another one passed by dumbing it down and removing the basic concepts of responsibility and honesty. The big cheeses from Ford, GM, and Chrysler, along with their pal from the UAW, decided to make a trip to D.C. to get their own piece of the pie. It looked so easy, right.

So they walked into the meeting, basically demanded their handout, and even had some numb skull politicians ready to sign the check; the most vocal being Nancy Pelosi. Some smarter politicians spoke up and asked for a better plan and for responsible decision making before handing out money. These smart fellers and ladies endured some name-calling, including Unpatriotic, but stuck to their guns. They even had the smarts to expose the extravagant private-jet travel the four men had used to come to the Capital as well as their overly inflated salary packages. When it was all ironed out the big cheeses went home without a check, embarrassed for their exposed selfishness and stupidity, and a formal request from Congress for better plans and an attitude adjustment.

Skip ahead to this week. All three of the men are headed back to Washington. All of them cancelled their private jet flights and made the trip in Hybrid vehicles. (In all fairness, the GM and Chrysler CEO's originally stated they would fly commercially and Ford's CEO said he was going to drive to D.C. in a Ford Hybrid vehicle. Showing their obvious out-of-touch lack of original thinking, GM and Chrysler quickly changed their plans and chose one of their own Hybrids to make the trip. So transparent.)

All of the men, as well as the UAW chief, are bringing with them new business plans, sales forecasting, more economical vehicle models, realistic loan repayment plans, concessions from the union, details of their monetary needs, and promises for more respect of the system.

Here's my problem... why now? Are these your actual plans or ones you came up with in the last two weeks? Did you change your mode of travel out of compassion for the planet and it's people or because you didn't like getting your hand slapped (or being outdone by your competitor's good idea)? Did you reprimand the employment bank (that pays laid-off employees 95% of their wage) because it's a horrible idea or because you don't want your industry to look greedy when under the spotlight? Wait, never mind; the answers are quite obvious.

Honestly people, this is grade school children behavior. They have behaved badly and are changing their ways only because they got caught. Those selfish, pompous asses walked in there with the assumption they would just be handed cash because they thought they were special. Of course we know the auto industry is vital to our country's survival. But at the same time we thought someone that big and that rich and that important would understand the brevity of their position and be responsible and professional with it. Turns out we were all wrong. These people can't even decide to make correct travel decisions without seeing what Johnny's doing and playing a game of copycat. It makes me want to vomit.

I have many friends and neighbors who work for Lordstown or in many of the markets that the auto industry touches. I'm not saying I don't care about them or their families. I'm not even saying I think a bailout of the big three is a bad idea. I'm saying we should reevaluate these men and the people that support them. If I or you don't do our job or what's best for our companies, we would get fired. These people get raises for the same actions. Where's the sense in any of that?

Not sure why I felt like writing about this, it's just been heavy in my head all week. The actions and reactions of these men make me sick and I wanted to share my distaste with you.