Saturday, November 30, 2019

Work

Bob asked about the job. It's hard to tell, really, what's going on there. I know that it has been very slow, compared to other years. Sending people home this close to Christmas is unusual. Management explained it as our teams have gotten more efficient and do the work more quickly. That may be true. Others have pointed out that because Thanksgiving was so very late this year, people weren't thinking about Christmas shopping until 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday'. That may be true also. There are other theories going around. I try not to think about them. I work for one of the county's biggest employers. If these jobs are lost, it will be a very big blow to a community that already struggles. The ripple effects will be felt by every business in it. 

Whatever it is that's going on, I've been trying to be very cognizant of the fact that there are people who cannot afford to live on less hours, especially right before Christmas. If there are not enough volunteers, they 'force out', which means people are told that they are leaving early. No choice. I have heard that shortened hours are really putting some people in a pinch. So when they ask, I generally try to take the time, since I'm primarily there for the benefits. 

I've gone to another building to work down there and will probably be there for the rest of the pre-Christmas season. I'm now sucked into the mandatory overtime thing. I don't like it, but, you know, it is what it is. I've always thought that being part of a company is a two way street. You should be able to depend on them but they also should be able to depend on you when they need to. 

It gets unbalanced sometimes. The first year I worked there, we were working 10 hours weekdays, 8 hours Saturday and Sunday. Mandatory. For 7 weeks. People were walking off the job, which made a hard job even harder.  I was pretty fed up with it by the end of the season. It was a very painful year on a personal level and I had no time to prepare for Christmas. I didn't even get my tree up. My house was a mess, I was barely able to keep up with dishes and laundry. 

After that, they had a focus group. I give him a lot of credit. The head of our branch of the company was there. We discussed the situation. I told him very pointedly that what the company asked of people that season was unreasonable and that if next year played out like this, I would not remain with the company. 

Another issue that was brought up was the mandatory overtime. A co-worker brought up the fact that when you are a flexible employee, trained in different department, you are caught in a trap. If you are trained in receiving and quality control, you work mandatory overtime as the product is brought in. If you are trained in pack/ship, you work overtime during the high volume shopping times: Christmas, Easter, even changing seasons when the product goes out.  When that dies down, you get sent to returns because the volume of returns peaks after a peak shipping time. She complained that she was working overtime virtually year around and that it was not working for her and her family. 

Other objections were raised. I was proud to be a part of that group, because really, sitting in a room with the big boss, I figured everyone would clam up and refuse to speak out of concern of putting a target on themselves. But everyone did. We were all very plain spoken.

Management listened too. I felt like every concern that was brought up that day was addressed over the course of the next year. Every one. That says a lot about the company itself, in my mind and makes me, personally, more amenable to helping them out when they need me.

The following peak season was much more manageable. 

Now another peak season has come after what appears to be a lean year for us. 

I am working mandatory overtime, although I pointed out that I should not have to, since one of the things that came from that meeting was that for multiple people working in multiple departments, you could only be required to work overtime in your home department and one other. I've met the requirement already and should be exempt from mandatory overtime in this department. 

That being said, I recognize that I have a responsibility to my company, and will certainly work as much overtime as I can. I am going in on Sunday, and at 5AM for the rest of the week. My hope is that they will keep their original promise and that I will be allowed to leave work at my regular time. My daughter is caught up in peak season as well, and someone needs to be free to pick up William after school. It used to be Tim, but he wants to go hunting. For the next two weeks. When I worked on Friday, I had no idea what time we were going home exactly, until five minutes before we went home, which makes it pretty hard to plan. Since William did not have school that day, it was not such a critical thing. I raised my concerns once again, though. Hopefully it will be discussed and agreed upon. I'm perfectly happy to work on the weekend, and to go in early whenever they need me to, but I cannot stay late.

It will work out how it is meant to work out. I really do feel that the next week will give us a pretty good idea of how the Christmas season will go for us. 


Friday, November 29, 2019

The Wardrobe

When I was a little girl, my bedroom set was red and white. a little twin bed with bunnies marching across the bottom. It had a matching wardrobe, something with four drawers, a mirror up above, and then to the right of it, the wardrobe, which had a full length mirror.

I got to thinking of that a couple months back. I know that the bed moved with us from NY state to PA, but I never knew what happened to that little wardrobe. It was such a sweet set.

I went on ebay, and some of the local auction sites to try to locate one, but there was nothing. Lord knows, I don't need another piece of furniture. I'm going to have an awful time downsizing 2 or 3 years from now, when we're moving into our retirement home.

The day before Thanksgiving, I saw this.

I gasped out loud when I saw who had it. My cousin.

I messaged her right away, to tell her that I would take it, but there was someone who had already messaged that she wanted it.

I was surprised at how disappointed I was. I really could have cried.

It is surely was not something that I needed, but I couldn't help picturing it painted white with red trim, and a little girl dancing in front of the mirror pretending that she was on television.

Funny how the strangest things pop into your mind, isn't it?


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Unsheltered. I know I say this a lot, but really, the best book, I've ever read.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Fears.

We have been working short weeks for a while now. I try to volunteer when they ask who wants to go home. Not all the early days are voluntary, in some departments, and I've heard stories of people unable to make their rent at the end of the month.

It's certainly a departure from most years when we would be in the middle of our Christmas rush and working crazy overtime.

Yesterday, I was sent to another department, which I don't mind. At 11:30, much to my surprise, the person in charge said, "We're done for the day. Are you staying?" I said, "If I can." They sent me to the office and then everyone seemed to disappear.

Walking in to the office, I was told to go home. I blinked. "Why don't I go back to my own department?" I was told they had nothing for me.

So I left. When I got home, I opened an unemployment claim. If it's come to this, I might as well get my waiting week out of the way.

A friend was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer a few weeks ago. Metastatic breast cancer is a personal bogeyman of mine, and I was privately struggling with this. Privately, because it seems very dramatic to be thinking about your own fears when a friend is dealing with the reality of it.

I was talking to my sister about our friend, and she said, "Didn't you know?" Turns out that she got the call from her doctor who was telling her that her tumor was a grade four. Our friend was hearing 'stage four'. Her cancer is stage 2, a step down from my experience.

I cried with relief.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Dark

William has been rather slow in getting over his fear of the dark. Our biggest problem has always been that when he's here, he walks from room to room, flipping on lights. We send him back through to turn off the lights as we explain yet again, that he needs a light on in the room that he's in. He doesn't need every light in the house on.

So tonight, he came in. His grandpa and I were curled up on our respective couches watching The Antiques Roadshow. We had the floor lamp switched on in the corner behind the glass topped steamer trunk that serves as the end table between the two couches. 

William walked over and switched off the light. 

We sat in the dark illuminated by the flickering light of the television set to see what would happen next. 

He roamed into the office and then back out. He roamed into the library, and then back out. "This is kind of neat," he said. He asked to borrow his grandfather's flashlight. He prowled around from room to room, and then much to my astonishment headed down to the basement to explore in the dark. 

Eventually he came back up. 

"I'm using my imagination," he said. "Did you know that you can have an adventure when the lights are off?" 

"Yes," I said. 

And with that, he headed off down the dark hall.

Late Edit: Last night he slept without a nightlight. Not one word about it. And no. I have absolutely no idea what has happened here. 

Brand New

My sister is a nurse and she works 4 10 hour shifts a week. She says to the rest of us: "I don't know how anyone keeps up working 5 days a week." Due to a lack of work, I've had a number of short weeks lately.

I always feel behind. We have a big house, Tim's always wanting to go camping during the summer weekends. Plus he's been going through the hoarder's house and he's been hauling his finds home. Our own home started to look cluttered. It really was bothering me.

I've been steadily working on this house, room by room, downsizing/hauling stuff away and then putting the room back to rights.

Yesterday was our bedroom. I cleaned and rearranged furniture. We have a window that is 70 inches long and 30 inches high (that now opens, thanks to the a new window there.) I needed new curtains for it. The old window let in a lot of cold air so we had a heavy curtain there. With the new window, insulation was no longer the primary concern. Our bedroom is at the back of the house on the north side and doesn't get a lot of light.  I wanted something to block anyone from the house next door seeing in but still let in any available light. We browsed in several stores and couldn't find what we needed. It's an odd sized window.

We were headed back home and as we passed by, I said, "Why don't we stop in Goodwill? Maybe there will be something there."

We looked and Tim said, "You're not going to find anything," and wandered off to look around. He found a old friend and started talking.

I continued to look and was shocked spitless to find exactly what I was looking for. In exactly the right size. It was even the perfect color. I took them over to show Tim. He was a little surprised. "Those will work," he said.

As we were walking out, he saw some blinds that piqued his curiosity. He studied them, but couldn't make out how they worked. Or even if they worked. Shopping at a thrift store is never a sure thing. For $2.99 each, he decided to take the plunge.

Once home, we went back to work on the bedroom. Much to Tim's surprise, the blinds were brand new cordless 'zebra blinds'. He never saw them before and the man does love a gadget. He got them hung on the french doors and was perfectly delighted with them. We hung the new curtains in the new window. Tim sat down with the brass lamps that I'd found for our bedroom years ago but needed some electrical work before I would trust them. Once repaired, we popped the new shades on them, and they were perfect too.

It always seemed like our bedroom was kind of cramped but with the new furniture arrangement, with the airy window treatments, the room looks wide open.

Last night, sitting in the living room watching Jeopardy with a the first fire of the season crackling away in the library, Tim looked around and said, "Doesn't it feel like we have a brand new house?"

And it did.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Putting my House In Order.

I've got another Friday off work, due to lack of work.

It's another gray and dreary day, but earlier in the week, we got the windows replaced in the house. 16 windows. We had an outside group come in to replace them because:

                          1) It was faster. A three man team got here at 10:30 AM and were done with the                                        installation by 2.

                          2) The windows come with a lifetime guarantee. Even against breakage.

                          3) That guarantee transfers with the sale of the house. The new owners will have the
                               same guarantee.

I'm still hoeing out the house, room by room. My sister is coming to stay with us when she's on call, so that was great motivation to get the second floor done. The attic stuff has migrated back to the attic  on the third floor. We've been making a lot of trips to Good will.

Today, I'll be putting the freshly washed curtains back up and setting our own bedroom (always a last priority) back to rights.




Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Professors

I saw the post as soon as I woke up this morning. Kevin King and Steven Weeks were released by the Taliban after over 3 years in captivity.

I held my coffee cup in the dark, frozen still, tears of joy springing to my eyes immediately.

Have I met them? No, but their capture in August 2016 rocked my world in ways that I still cannot adequately explain. They were professors at the American University of Afghanistan. Their capture was a punch in the gut for me, the actual playing out of my very worst fears. They were colleagues of my youngest daughter at the university.

They were taken from a car by terrorists.

It was then that I fervently began to pray for Cara to leave Afghanistan. My opinion doesn't matter to her (and rightfully so ~ she's an adult), but I carefully followed the news there, and even prior to the kidnappings, it seemed as if the situation was devolving. Whenever I mentioned my fears to Cara, her response was always, "I'll know when it's time to go."

Two weeks later, the university was attacked by terrorists. 13 were killed, most of them students. It was the day that I was returning home from the funeral of my grandson.

I knew the drill. She'd explained it to me. I was never to call. If they were in hiding, a ringing cell phone could alert terrorists to where they were. I was supposed to wait. If something happened, the school would contact me if she couldn't. It wasn't long before there was a comforting message on facebook.

My concerns continued to grow, but I learned to keep them to myself. Cara had enough to cope with. I lay awake many, many nights, just praying. For her, for the situation, for the missing professors, for the injured students, The whole thing made me physically ill.

Every now and again, I'd see a report on the two captive professors and I felt sick for them and for their families. They were living my very worst nightmare.

This morning, in the dark office, I read the headlines and I remembered how terrifying those days were.  I googled and read reports of their release and I cried. Their capture had been terrifying to me. My tears of relief were because they were freed.  But I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that some of those relieved tears were because my girl no longer lives in Afghanistan. 








Friday, November 15, 2019

A Day Home

Due to lack of work, I spent the day home.

Laundry. Check.

House cleaning. Check.

Pot of venison vegetable soup simmering on the stove. Check.

I did some more Christmas shopping. William so enjoyed the Harry Potter themed children's murder mystery dinner that for Christmas, we got him a Pirate Treasure Mail Order Mystery  We'll put the first package under the tree, and then act as if we're received the others, one at a time, in that day's mail. It should be exciting for him, and the reviews are great.

Being all in the holiday spirit, I even have wrapped everything that I've gotten so far.

I'm pretty much prepared for all the mandatory overtime that comes with our peak season at work. But, for today, I am home.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Christmas shopping

I do my Christmas shopping early. It's peak season for my company. The first year that I worked there, I was working 5 10 hour days a week, and 2 8 hour days on weekends. That year I did not get a tree up. Christmas shopping was a marathon 'get it done' completely lacking in joy. I vowed to never have another year like that.

So, I do my Christmas shopping early.

This year, the perfect gifts just seem to be jumping out at me.

The other day, I was talking to a friend on the phone. She was telling me about a snowman she saw at the local animal shelter thrift shop. She said that it was about 16 inches tall, glass. She fell in love with it as soon as she saw it, but it was $24.99.

"Mary!" I exclaimed.

But I couldn't blame her. It's been a rough year for her. Her husband was the one so badly injured when a truck lost control on an icy curve, swung into his lane and hit him head on as he was coming around that same curve in the other direction. There have been a lot of bills, the driver of the other vehicle was very under insured and that insurance didn't even cover the first week in ICU.

Danny operates heavy equipment, and his job won't take him back. His leg damage makes him a potential liability and they don't want the risk.

Lots of financial insecurity that is slowly sorting itself out, but still, I can understand why she wasn't going to pay $24.99 for a snowman.

The next day, I headed over right after work to see if I could find that snowman. Much to my horror, I walked in there to discover that the store was almost nothing BUT Christmas. Table after table after table. I died a little.

There were a LOT of snowmen mixed in there.

Resolutely, I began walking along each table, one at a time, scanning the displays when I came to this. I knew as soon as I saw him that this was what she'd seen. I picked him up and sure enough, he was $24.99.



I carefully picked him up and headed to the register. Mary and I have been friends for 50 years. I know a lot about her, but I didn't realize that I knew her tastes in snowmen too until that very moment. 

Remember the old mercury glass ornaments? This is glass and designed to look like that, but he's pretty heavy. He's also a collectible. 

I honestly haven't been so excited about a Christmas gift in a long time. I can't wait for her to unwrap it.




Sunday, November 10, 2019

Kansas

The concert was great. It wasn't really what you'd call a mega concert, being held in a gorgeous historic theater in the town of Erie, which is roughly an hour and a half from here.

We got there a half hour early and were ushered to our seats. It was a lot of fun to watch everyone coming in. Most of us were (ahem) pretty mature. Lots of bald or gray heads, wheelchairs. There was one bald head with a very large tattoo right in the middle of his forehead. I have no idea what is was. He didn't look like a dangerous sort...more like a harmless goofball sort. A bunch of people were standing there talking in the aisle not far from us, and one very overweight fellow lifted his arms high as he talked animatedly, his saggy jeans exposing a bright red thong to the crowd behind him. We watched a couple with their four kids come in and head right up front. The seats up there were $125 each, and there was no discount for children. That was $750 for that family, which I found fascinating. (They all left as soon as they heard Dust in the Wind) Mostly though, the folks filing in were plain ol' oldies, the sort of people you'd find at your high school reunion.

Tim and I were sitting comfortably in our comfortable seats, people watching, one of our favorite activities. The concert was well attended, but there were plenty of empty seats,

At the last moment, the people sitting on the other side of Tim were ushered in. I thought it was another mother/daughter duo (plenty of parents introducing their kids to the classics last night), but lo, I was wrong. The younger girl was in a very short skirt, very high heels, and a faux leopard print coat. Her seat mate was very stylishly dressed. She could barely talk, but the younger girl was pretty manic. She struck up a cheerful conversation with Tim right away at the top of her lungs.

Tim, who is very shy, looked as if bolting might be an option.

The music started, and it was great. Tim got a very pained expression on his face as the screamer screamed. Over and over and over. She was very excited about the music, she was very excited about her 'beautiful high'. Tim said that her seatmate said that she had washed her pills down with alcohol.

We figured out that this was not a mother/daughter duo when the girl began gyrating in front of the older woman who  grabbed her and stroked her.  We briefly discussed moving to some of the empty seats, but we were in the middle and couldn't figure out how to do that in the middle of the concert without disrupting everyone in the row.

"Oh, boy," Tim said a couple of times in my ear. "Oh boy."

She attracted quite a bit of attention and every time that the lights swooped over the crowd, she was up and screaming and gyrating around to the pleasure of a row of fellows behind her.

In the end, their 'highs' must have worn off simultaneously. The older woman sat slumped in her seat looking sick (which was a bit worrisome). The younger woman slouched over her phone on facebook.

The music was great. It really was, and we enjoyed it very much. We're not sorry we went.

At the end, the band thanked us and left the stage. Like a flash, leopard coat girl flung her coat on and began to complain about how hungry she was and how she wanted a hamburger. With cheese. And a tomato. She was starving. The older woman still looked as if eating something, ANYTHING, might not be a good idea. They left.

Tim stood and reached behind him for his coat. "It's not over yet," I said. Tim looked surprised. "They have not played "Wayward Son" and they won't get away with that."

The applause went on until the band did return. They said they had one more song, and that the crowd probably knew what it was.

We did.

It was worth waiting for.

At the end, they thanked us for 46 years of support and begged us not to die on them.

We all laughed.

A highlight for me was those 'aha - I remember THAT! - moments when they played some of their songs that do not get a lot of airplay, like this, a song I'd forgotten completely, but remembered just as soon as the introduction began.


We both enjoyed ourselves.






Friday, November 8, 2019

Silver lining

It's snowing.

Meh.

It was snowing when I headed out for work.

Sigh.

Leaf collection was not finished, so the roads are a mess.

Boo.

Was offered the option to leave work early since a truck did not make it in.

Yay.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Revisited

Tim and I were watching Jeopardy. A commercial came on for the Warner Theater in Erie. Kansas is playing there Saturday night.

Tim's a pretty low key type fellow, but right away he sat straight up and said, "I want to see that." I've never seen him get excited about a concert before. It's always me. I got very excited to see Jethro Tull. I got excited to see Christopher Cross. He generally tags along because he is a good sport.

Anyhow, he was excited. I went into the office and brought up the ticket information. He said, "I don't know. Those are pretty pricey..." and he stood there undecided.

I said, "Do you want to see them?"

He said that he did.

I pointed out that we had the money.

He stood quietly staring over my shoulder at the computer screen.

I waited.

"Let's do it!" he said.

And so we are.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Contractor.

Our new roofer guy just got back from Virginia. He called Tim yesterday and asked him if he's got any work for him. He lives across the street from the Wayne St house, and is hoping that Tim picks him up to help with that project. Tim said, "Well...there's this roof..." and told him about the leak discovered in the rental down the street.

The guy showed up yesterday morning to look at the roof. It's a matter of  taking out a chimney, and sealing a vent. He's also replacing the back half of the roof, just to be on the safe side. Discovering the problem has not adequately been addressed in the dead of winter makes an even BIGGER problem. Tim left it as, "Get an estimate to me when you have a minute."

The guy came back at lunchtime with an estimate. Tim wrote him a check for half the job, and told him to start when he was ready.

He'll be here today.

He was such a lucky find for us.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The phone rang early this morning, and Tim answered it. "Good morning, sunshine!" the big voice boomed. I would have recognized it, but Tim hasn't listened to my cousin enough to know that's one of his trademark salutations.

"Pardon?" Tim said.

The voice thundered out laughter.

It was my cousin, Tim. He's the one we gave permission to hunt on our property. After a bad car wreck, he thought his hunting days were over. He got a 7 point buck this morning and was thrilled.


"Tis the season!

 
'Tis the season


Hunting season


Our county got its first snow the day after Halloween (trick or treat!).