Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Elephants Don’t Chew Gum

There once was a little elephant named “Ellie”.  Ellie was a very good little elephant who tried to always do what her mama told her.  But, Ellie was also a very curious little elephant, so she also asked her mama “why” a lot.  Sometimes, even after her mama answered her question in a very kind and patient way, Ellie still needed to find out the answer for herself.
One day, Mama called Ellie in from the yard:  “Ellie, come in please, we are going to the grocery store.”
“Why?” Ellie answered as she continued to push her baby elephant in a stroller around the yard.
“We need to buy yummy peanuts, hay and chocolate milk,” Mama answered as she gathered her coupons, grocery list and tucked them into her purse.
“Okay, Mama.” Ellie put her baby and stroller away, went into the house and picked up her little pink purse.
As Ellie and Mama strolled to the store, Ellie saw lots of things that made her curious.
“Why is that leopard wearing a yellow hat?” She asked.
“See the big brim? It keeps the sun out of her eyes,” Mama replied.
“Why do people ride in cars but we have to walk, Mama?”
“Because we are too big to ride in cars, Ellie.”
“Why is the sky blue? Why is the sun so bright? Why are some houses big and some houses little?”
Mama kindly and patiently answered each of Ellie’s questions so Ellie could learn about her world.
As they neared the grocery store, Ellie saw a little girl blowing a great big pink bubble-gum bubble.
“Oh, Mama! I want to blow great big pink bubbles, too!” Ellie cried as she watched the little girl’s bubble grow.
“No, Ellie, elephants don’t chew gum.”
“But why, Mama?  Why don’t elephants chew gum?” Ellie asked.  Mama’s mind was on the list she held in her trunk, so she didn’t answer Ellie.
“Mama,” Ellie said again, “Why don’t elephants chew gum?”  All the way to the store, Mama had kindly and patiently answered all of Ellie’s questions, but now she was feeling a little bit tired, so she said firmly, “Elephants DON’T chew gum, Ellie.”
“But, Mama, why?  Can I buy some gum? Please Mama?  I want to blow a big bubble, too!” Ellie whined.  Mama didn’t like it when Ellie sounded whiney.  Giving Ellie her “Mom Eyes” look, she said, “Absolutely not.  Elephants DON’T chew gum.” And then she walked into the store.
Ellie knew better than to ask any more questions after Mama had given her the “Mom Eyes”, but it didn’t stop her from pouting and walking very slowly behind Mama in the store.
Shuffling her big elephant feet, she followed Mama as they finally made it to the check-out.  Staring at the floor she thought “I wish I could have some gum.  I’d show Mama that elephants DO chew gum!”  Just then, Ellie saw a quarter lying on the floor right at the end of her trunk.
Quickly, Ellie glanced up at Mama and saw that she was busy chatting with the Rhino in the check-out next to her.  Slowly, Ellie reached her trunk out and picked the quarter up.  Then she edged past Mama and scooted toward the gumball and mini-toy machines at the end of the check-out aisles.
“Ellie, where are you going?” Mama asked her as Ellie slipped past.
“I just want to look at the toys, Mama,“ Ellie lied.  She knew she shouldn’t lie, but she had to buy a gumball!  Quickly, Ellie slipped the quarter into the gumball machine and turned the knob.  A big blue gumball popped out.  Ellie snatched the gumball and quickly tucked it into her little purse, just as Mama said, “Come on, Ellie, time to go.”
All the way home, Ellie thought about the big blue gumball hidden in her purse.  She knew Mama would be sad that Ellie had disobeyed and lied, but Ellie was so excited to get home and try to blow a bubble that she pushed her guilt way down deep and just thought about the fun she was going to have.
When they arrived home, Ellie helped Mama put away the groceries.  Then she went outside to play.
Looking at the house, she checked to make sure Mama wasn’t watching, then she tip-toed around the backyard shed and pulled the gumball out of her purse, “Now I’ll show Mama that elephants DO chew gum!” she thought as she popped the gumball into her mouth.
The gumball was hard and sweet.  Ellie smacked and chewed (and drooled a little too) until it was a gooey mess in her mouth.  She tried to blow a bubble like the little girl at the store, but it wouldn’t work – no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get a bubble to form.
She stuck the end of her trunk into her mouth to adjust the gum.  As she pulled it out, the gum stuck to her trunk – creating a long gum-string that went from her mouth to the tip of her trunk.  She put her trunk back into her mouth and tried to scrape the gum off on her little tusks.  Instead, two more long gum-strings formed! 
Reaching her trunk down, she tried to wipe the strings off with her toes, but more strings formed.  She tried to throw the gum, but only got another string stuck on a branch above her.  She shook her trunk and more gum stuck to her big ears.  She shook her whole body and stomped in a circle – gum stuck in her eyelashes all the way to the wisp of hair on her tail.  She was COVERED in gum.
Then she heard Mama:
“Ellie?  Ellie!  Where are you?”  She wanted to answer Mama, but the gum held her mouth glued shut.  “ELLIE!” Mama called.
“Mama!” Ellie tried to say, but it came out sounding like “Mmmhmmh.”
Ellie’s big eyes filled with tears as she tried to answer again, “mmMhmmm!”
She heard the backdoor slam as Mama came out of the house.
“Ellie, Where are you?” 
“Hm, ombr hmmm, Mmmmhmmm!” Ellie replied and tried to move, but the gum had her stuck, stuck, STUCK.
She heard Mama’s footsteps drawing nearer.
“Mmmhmmm! Mhhemlp!” She tried to say, wiggling her big rump and doing a little dance.
“Ellie?  What are you doing?” Mama said as she rounded the shed.  Her big eyes got even bigger when she saw Ellie covered in gum and stuck to a tree.  “Where did you get that gum?” She asked as she reached up and pulled the gum away from the tree.
“Mhat mm mdorem,” Ellie tried to answer, as big crocodile tears streamed down her gray wrinkled gum-covered cheeks and dripped off her trunk.
“I can’t understand you,” Mama answered as she kept gently pulling gum off of Ellie.  Finally, Mama managed to get enough gum removed so that Ellie could move out from behind the shed.
Still crying, Ellie followed her Mama and let her use the hose to clean the gum from her tusks, trunk, toes and tail.  Using her soft trunk, Mama gently cleaned the gum out of Ellie’s eyelashes.  When the gum was all off Ellie’s body, Mama put a garbage can in front of Ellie so she could spit the little bit of gum still in her mouth into the can.
Then Mama looked at Ellie and said, “Now you know why elephants don’t chew gum.”
Ellie sobbed and said, “I’m sorry, Mama! I’m sorry I lied.  I’m sorry I didn’t listen! I’ll never ever do it again, Mama! I promise!”
Mama wrapped her trunk around Ellie as she whispered to her, “I know you won’t, sweet baby.  I love you.” And together they started walking toward the house.
Just then, a boy on roller skates rolled by, Ellie saw him and said, “Ooooo, Mama! I want to roller skate!”
“No, Ellie, elephants DON’T roller skate.”
“Why?” Ellie answered as together they walked into the house.
~ The End ~

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hockey & Craptastic Refs

Funny how this blog's title references hockey and yet I very rarely mention hockey in my posts, huh? That is going to change right now:

HOCKEY. I love it. Especially during games like the one I had the pleasure of watching last night.  My son's JV team has been struggling all season.  They started out strong with four wins in a row, then sputtered, losses piled up, the team seemed to have forgotten how to play together or what positions were, how to catch a pass, how to ice the puck, how not to screen your own goalie. Morale dropped and every game became painful to watch.

Last night our team was taking on The Ponies, a team that had beaten our boys 9-1 in the last meeting.  Optimism was not very high in the stands, but still, the hockey moms and dads showed up, ready to cheer for our boys, win or lose.  And cheer we did! The team that won four straight games at the beginning of season suddenly reappeared on the ice.  The passes were crisp, the boys' feet were going, going, going, positions were remembered, players moved on the ice in sync with one another, the opposing goalie was pressured and peppered with shots - it was gorgeous.  And then came the refs....

Every parent at one point or another feels that their kids' team gets screwed by poor reffing or one-sided reffing or blind refs or refs who should be "home-town" but who aren't or "home-town" refs handing the game to the home-town team.  It happens all the time, I know. But seriously, I swear, I haven't watched a properly ref'd game since during last year's season when our Bantam A team played the Bantam A team from the other "rich" suburb, which is despised more than our supposedly "rich" suburb, so since the refs hated both teams equally, the game was actually ref'd pretty fairly. That was not our experience last night.

We, like all hockey teams, have a few kids who tend to get more required two minute breaks in the little special glassed-in box than other players - it is just how it goes with a sport like hockey.  Sometimes those kids really deserve the time out but sometimes one can understand why they did what they did that got them tossed.  Last night, we watched as Pony player after Pony player cheap-shot our kids right in front of the refs and were ignored.  At one point, an opposing player literally tackled our goalie, crashing him to the ground so hard that our goalie was very slow to get up, so slow that the EMT actually went out onto the ice to check on him. Did that Pony player get tossed into the box? Nope. But one of our kids did. Why? I have no idea. In fact, when one of our kids got tossed, another one asked the ref why that kid was getting a penalty, so the ref threw the questioner into the box with a 10 minute game misconduct penalty.  That was how it went all night long: the refs ignoring the other team's infractions and tossing our kids liberally, in what seemed an attempt to give the game to the opposing team.

Whatever the refs were up to with their plan, our boys were having none of it.  Battling through three or four three on five penalty kills, getting beat up by the other team, and a penalty about every three minutes of every  period, they allowed no goals through three full periods of play.  The goalie who was crushed in the second period finally got up, shook himself and continued to play, playing better than he'd played in a long time, and definitely earning his shut-out.

Hockey parents are a different breed. I don't know if it's because of the amount of time we have to spend in refrigerated arenas from the time our kids begin hockey (in Minnesota, usually around age 4) until they reach college or if it's just that hockey is an aggressive sport which in turn causes the parents to be more vocal than say, swimmer parents (I am definitely one of the loudest swim parents in the clubs in which we belong), and quite excitable.  Last night, with the way the refs were calling the game so completely one-sided, the hockey parents came out in full force.  Is it wrong to yell at a ref? Yes. Is it wrong to yell at a ref who is allowing the play to become dangerously rough and out-of-hand and who is calling the game completely one-sided to the point that the team getting away with illegal hits/play know they aren't getting called and the team getting called on everything decides that it doesn't matter since they'll be tossed anyway so that instead of a game, it becomes an all-out brawl on skates? No. I don't think that is wrong at all.  I often wonder what role the referees played with the tragic hit on Jack Jablonski last year that resulted in Jack being unable to walk ever again? Did the refs have the mentality of "Let 'em play" or were they calling one side more than the other and allowing frustration and anger to boil over into violent play that night?

The whole time following the Jablonski tragedy, the focus was put on the players, the coaches and the parents.  The refs were not brought into the equation.  Why not? Out of all the people in an arena during a hockey game, the refs have the most power to control a game.  Yet time and again, they fail in their duties to make fair calls, to set the control early in the game, to show both teams that violent play will not be tolerated.  Instead, they ignore all but the most egregious of hits (and, sometimes, that all depends on which team they've decided to call that night), putting kids in danger from some sort of ridiculous bias that infiltrates their calls.  Who supervises refs? Where is MN Hockey in their oversight of refs?  Are refs sanctioned when they allow play to continue even when it is obvious to all watching that every hit is moving toward a hit that will put another kid in a wheelchair?  Not that I know of.

I'm not advocating taking hitting out of hockey.  In fact, I thought it was ridiculous when Minnesota Hockey changed the rule on checking from Peewees to Bantams.  (If anything, they should move it all the way to Squirts - at least at Squirt level the inexperienced players can't hurt each other as much - they're all small at that age - as compared to the size disparity between boys once the kids hit Bantams.) What I am saying is that the refs have a responsibility to the players to not only call penalties fairly, but to remember that if someone gets hurt on their ice due to the lack of calls or one-sided calls, that kid's blood is on their hands.

Back to last night's game. One positive of the poor reffing: our boys not only remembered how "to play like they play when they really play" (Thanks, Dennis Green, former Vikings coach), but they also overcame the team that schooled them the last time while also overcoming refs intent upon giving the opposition every opportunity possible to score.  That's a win of which they can be proud.  They overcame adversity, pulled together, worked as a team, and got 'er done.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bah! What's a little cold to a Midwesterner?

Last winter's warmth seems to have made wusses out of some Minnesotans.  Yesterday we managed to get out of the below-zero temps, but then dropped back into the negative teens overnight.  Tuesday, a bunch of schools closed or were delayed by two hours.  Not my kids' school, I believe because the Superintendent grew up in Minnesota and last Supe'd at a district in Colorado, so he understands cold weather.  However, the weather people are whipping up fear over wind chills in the -40s and temps hovering near zero like this is something new for people in the upper Midwest.  It isn't.

I remember a January back in the mid-'90s when the temps never reached above-0, or if they did, it was only for a day here or there.  I happened to be employed by McDonald's (that lasted about two months and then I had to quit because I couldn't stand it any longer) at the time, and remember the temps vividly because that January, McDonald's decided to run a promotion on Quarter-Pounders: "Buy one Quarter-Pounder, get one for the price of the high temperature that day, if it's below zero, it's free!" We gave away more Quarter-Pounders that month than what McDonald's had planned on. (Who knew that we could have a 31 day stretch of near-to-below zero temps in January in Wisconsin?!)  That was also the month during which I was relegated back to the drive-thru order window.  At that McDonald's, they had decided to make the drive-thru more "personal" by eliminating the microphone from the order menu and having three drive-up windows: order your food, pay, pick-up.  It was quite confusing for most people who were used to speaking into a microphone on the large menu, and frequently I would encounter people screaming at the menu while I hung out the window, waving to them to drive forward.  There was also a newspaper box between the menu and my window at which people would stop and try to talk to someone to order their food (which always cracked me up to see) until I, once again, would hang out the window and wave to them until they realized that they were talking to a newspaper box and pull forward for my "personalized order service".

Being in the drive-thru order window really sucked.  It was placed in the back of the store and isolated from everyone else; the only entertainment was the people coming through the drive-thru.  On nights we were slow, the time dragged so much that I was tempted to sneak a book back there and read.  That probably would have gotten me fired, so I never did it, but it was definitely a temptation.  So, on the nights that dipped below zero, I entertained myself by seeing if it was true that liquid, when thrown into the cold night air, would freeze before it hit the ground (it does - hot coffee works especially well).  Fortunately, the drive-thru was not where anyone would be attempting to walk, otherwise I would have probably gotten into trouble for making an ice-slick right outside my window.  After a month of working the coldest of nights, opening the window to let in freezing air, closing it long enough to regain feeling in my fingers, opening it again, waiting endless minutes for people to decide if they wanted the Number Two or the Number Twelve Value Meal and "could you please make sure that Little Timmy's burger has nothing but a burger and a bun ("You mean 'Plain', right, ma'am?"), oh wait, change that, now he wants Chicken McNuggets and do I pay you?" I ended up with a cold and strep throat and out of work for a week.  It wasn't long after that McDonald's management was presented with my two-weeks notice and uniform.

In the late '80s, I was a high school student who lived seven miles out of town.  Our bus came at 6:50am every day.  Lucky for us, we lived on a dead-end road, giving us two opportunities to catch the bus since it had to turn around at the end of our road and come back.  Most mornings, my mom would be watching for the bus to go by the first time, then yell to my younger sister and I, "The bus went by! Hurry up!" causing us to scramble into jackets and run out the door.  (Our driver, "Igor," was notorious for speeding past our driveway, so unless we were actually at the end of the driveway, he was happy to leave us in a cloud of diesel-fuel exhaust. I'm sure this had nothing to do with the hi-jinx and shenanigans my sister and I engaged in on the 30 minute ride into town...)  I don't remember wearing a hat on any day of the three and a half years of high school (I graduated a semester early and ran off to Nebraska in January of my Senior year), including the days when the temps were below-zero.  Nothing wakes you up more than being the third person on a cold bus and sitting on ice-cold vinyl, your hair frozen from the 30 seconds you spent running from your door to the end of the driveway.  Or if that didn't wake me up, irritation from the non-stop drone of country music ("I've got ocean-front property in Arizona...") usually did the trick.

These were the days when there wasn't five buses going through one neighborhood.  Our school district didn't have that many buses nor did it have in the budget to cover the gas all those buses would require, so students of all ages rode the bus, all students got a tour of the various schools' parking lots in our district (we had two grade schools, a Junior High and a High School) either on the way to school or coming home.  My sister appreciated the fact that she had me on the bus with her; if any older kid bullied her, all she had to do was let me know, and I'd send my usual seatmate, John (a large jock-type guy from my class) to take care of the bully.  It usually only took John heading down the aisle toward the offender to make them stop picking on Heidi.  Then she'd flash me her cute grin, big blue eyes twinkling, a little smug with her knowledge of the power to take care of mean kids.

We had no downhill or nordic ski team at my high school, but we did have Ski Club.  There was a limited number of spots in the ski club (corresponding with how many kids could be shoved into a school bus at one time with ski gear in the back), so getting signed up as soon as possible was key to entry.  Then, once the local ski hill was open (sometimes in November, but always by December), every Thursday my friends and I would don our "ski bunny" outfits: cute Columbia jackets, tight but warm (yeah, right) ski pants, a fleece neck-warmer (or a bandana) and matching head-band (placed just so - hopefully covering one's ears - in hair made huge with ratting, a curling-iron, volumizing mousse and half a can of Aqua-Net hairspray), warm socks, and (hopefully) warm gloves (no mittens, thank you). Then we jumped on the waiting bus filled with cute upper-classman boys and our ski chaperon (whom I never once actually saw ski - I'm pretty sure she spent the entire time in the main chalet's bar) and headed to the ice-covered (man-made snow isn't the same as "real snow" and don't ever let anyone tell you differently) ski hill.

I don't remember a ski club trip being canceled due to the weather being too cold.  I do remember skiing down WHIZ-BANG! hills and then the freezing ten minute chairlift rides back up (longer if people fell getting on or off the thing or if we were a little too exuberant in our quest to get the whole thing bouncing by swinging our skis back and forth) to the top.  We became masters at finding the longest runs, made longer by a little creative skating in between runs and lifts.  But keep us off the hills because it was below zero? Not a chance.  We skied until we started to notice patches of exposed facial skin turning white (I was notorious for a patch on one cheek that was in the shape of a heart) and we could no longer feel our fingers or toes.  Only then would we troop to a chalet, where we'd warm up with burn-your-tongue-hot apple cider and french fries, giggling over boys, complaining about the burning pain in our toes as they thawed out, and discovering that frozen Skittle candy turns to powder when stepped on with heavy ski boots.

One of my favorite memories happened Freshman year when an adored by all English teacher decided to join us.  I had the honor of helping him learn to ski, which also gave me entry into the world of the HOT Junior and Senior Male Ski Club membership.  We dragged that poor teacher down hills that a novice skier never should have attempted, but, bless his heart, he was game and tried anyway, frequently ending up in a heap mid-hill, skis, hat, poles scattered fifty feet above and below his landing spot.  (I was accused of being a "stealth skier" by the boys I was trying to impress, due to my ability to "sneak up" on them on the way down a hill, scare them by practically skiing over their skis and laughing when they'd fall down. They threatened to attach bells to my jacket so they could hear me, but never did. Thinking back, that probably wasn't the best way to impress them, but at 14 years old, what did I know?) The teacher always got up, usually with a little help from one of us, gathered his things (or we brought his gear to him), shakily reattached his skis and slowly made his way back down to the chairlift and tried again.  His courage and tenacity only made us love him more, so when he got into trouble for a nasty picture a student drew (and he put up in his classroom, never noticing the dirty picture within the picture) in his class and was threatened with removal, the whole school participated in a walk-out to support him.  (Unfortunately, the power of a walk-out only remains when students do it for First Period and then return to school, which didn't happen that day as most of the Junior and Senior and some of the Sophomore and Freshman classes disappeared for the rest of the day.)  He was allowed to finish out the year and the next, but moved to a new school in another city a year later.

Our school was only canceled once due to the cold, and only then because someone broke into the bus garage and unplugged all the buses in the middle of the night, making them inoperable in the morning.  Whenever my kids start asking "Do you think school will be canceled because of the cold tomorrow?" hope lighting their eyes, I get to smash that with "Not a chance. Get your homework done and go to bed." "Are you sure?" They'll ask, at which point I'll launch into, "What are you whining about a little cold for? You don't have to be at school til 8:30am; back in my day, I had to be on the bus at ten to seven every day and -"
"We know, mom, and you walked to the bus uphill both ways, barefoot and with no jacket, too..."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Take America Back

It's been a while since I went political here, but Hillary Clinton finally testifying in front of the Senate combined with his majesty's coronation this week has prompted a need to say a few things.

First, we have only ourselves to blame for the re-election of PBHO.  The choice of Romney was a poor one, dictated by the GOP's little understood need to follow union rules of seniority when picking Presidential Candidates.  Only the fact that Romney picked Paul Ryan as his VP Candidate saved him from getting beaten worse than he did in November.  I know that I personally wasn't supportive of Romney until he picked Ryan.  (I was more excited about the idea that Ryan would be VP than anything else, actually.)  Also, whoever told both Ryan and Romney to back off Biden and Obama during the debates was foolish. They should have gone in there with their debate guns blazing and verbally taken them down.  What did they have to lose other than the election? Which is what happened anyway.  Perhaps if they had gone balls out and attacked the net, the American people would have seen the two people in power for what they are: liars and frauds and taken another look at the GOP pair? Instead, Romney went on the offense in only one debate, which lifted his polling numbers, but then backed down in the subsequent debates.  Why?  Did the powers that be go after him for his brilliant performance during the first debate?  Or did he get threats along the lines of the ones that Glenn Beck deals with on a daily basis?  No matter what happened, the fiery Romney of the first debate all but disappeared in the rest.

Part of the issue also was the fact that aside from Romney, there were no other truly viable candidates in the Republican Primaries.  We were offered Ron Paul: Libertarian, firebrand, crazy uncle who is entertaining during Thanksgiving dinner but a little scary too; Newt - been there done that cheated on my wife - Gingrich (although I would have paid good money to watch him debate Obama just for the sheer entertainment value it would have provided); Gary Johnson: "I'm a Libertarian but not like Ron Paul bring on the Occupy Wall Street dirtbags because I'm all in support of them"; Rick "I have 11 kids and counting don't I look good, ever see my wife? no because she's too tired out from raising all those kids and boy, I have soft feminine hands and like to attack Michele Bachmann whenever I'm allowed to speak"; Michele Bachmann: has more backbone than 90% of the Republicans in Congress but is known for shooting off her mouth a little too vehemently on the social issues and therefore giving the MSM extra ammo in getting the lazy libs who know more about the doings of Snooki than our government more reason to hate her; Tim Pawlenty, former MN Governor who decided that raising taxes on cigs were actually "fees" and believed in climate change until he decided to run for President and then changed his mind on climate change and who is now a lobbyist - there's integrity for you. Herman Cain was in there for about a minute until he faced a dual attack by Republicans and the Left for supposed sexual harassment (which once they got him out of the primaries mysteriously disappeared) of his employees.  (I would have voted for Herman Cain given the chance.)

Seriously, looking at the people we were offered as choices, it's no wonder that Romney stood out as the best of the bunch, even with his Romneycare background, his TV evangelist hair and ability to morph into a used-cars-salesman swarmy demeanor.  Where in the heck was Allen West or Rand Paul or Darrell Issa? Why couldn't anyone get Scott Walker or Jindal to run?  Why were the only people running has-beens or lacked so much integrity and/or charisma that there was no way they'd be able to beat Obama at thumb wrestling let alone a national election?  Does no one actually care where the country goes anymore?

Now we're stuck with four more years of serious attacks on our Constitution and liberties.  What are we going to do about it? Why hasn't anyone in Congress found the balls to stand up to Obama and write up Articles of Impeachment for his use of Executive Orders, Benghazi or Fast and Furious?  Why are all but Rand Paul and Ron Johnson letting Hillary Clinton off the hook for Benghazi? Why?

Here's the answer: Most of the people in America today don't even know what happened in Benghazi because the MSM has let it drift away like Hillary's concussion.  And if they do know, they have no idea what to do about it.  Those of us who do know what is happening also have families and jobs to do and we're busy and feeling defeated after two years of the psychological warfare of the national election.  Those of us who joined the Tea Party to help usher in a GOP controlled House of Representatives found out that we were held in contempt by those in power in our party.  We fought against Obamacare and it barely passed because we were standing there, holding our representatives and senators accountable.  But two years later, they were so full of their own power that they stopped listening to us and only cared about their re-elections. And for the most part, we as good little Republicans voted them back in for fear that if we didn't some crazy spending Democrat would take that spot and then we'd be really screwed.

We're already really screwed. Until we stand up and take back control of our American system, things will continue to slide toward Obama's vision of America, which is a little too close to the America envisioned by Ayn Rand in "Atlas Shrugged" for my taste.  We have no Galt's Gulch where we can steal away and begin anew, waiting for America to be brought to her knees before reappearing and taking her back.  We have to begin to take her back now.  We must get the Conservative message out to the people in a way that they can understand it - so that it makes sense to them.  Unfortunately, we may already be too late.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lunch Lady Union or Another Job Bites the Dust

I've recently posted about my job search.  Here's an update:

I had two interviews for a "Floating Nutrition Services" position (meaning, Traveling Lunch Lady) in the last seven days.  The first interview was over the phone and consisted of the interviewer asking me a bunch of (mostly) generic questions.  She assured me that every person applying for a job with our school district has to answer the questions.  Here is a sample of the questions and my responses (I dare you to try to figure out which ones were my "real" answers and which were the answers I wanted to say).

Do you believe humor is important in the workplace? Yes. Humor is important in life.
Why? Really? If you have to ask that, you don't have a sense of humor.

Do you believe that your co-workers should be highly skilled and competent? Yes.
Why? Because I don't like stupid people.

If you noticed a co-worker was having an emotional day, what would you do? Tell them to "Suck it up and get to work."

Your supervisor seems to disregard high-priority tasks. What would you do? Tell my supervisor that I'm not getting paid the big bucks like s/he is, so s/he can get crackin' and get his/her job done, because I'm not paid enough to be doing both my job and his/her's.

A large food order comes in which includes large bins. What would you do? Try to lift the bins, hurt my back and file a worker's comp claim.

A new piece of equipment is delivered, which you are not familiar with working. What do you do? Ask someone to train me on the equipment or find a manual.

Do you need to be liked by your co-workers? Yes and no.
Why? It is in my personality to be liked by people. However, sometimes, I really don't care. Especially if my co-workers are not highly skilled and competent.

Those are only a few of the very random questions I had to answer.  I told tMotH, "Well, I bombed that interview," and then proceeded to tell him all about the questions.  We had a good laugh, and I wrote off that job possibility.

Monday, I was called for a second interview, so I guess I didn't screw up the questions as much as I thought.  On Wednesday, I put on my "interview outfit" - the only pair of black pants I own that currently fit, a black sleeveless mock-neck shirt, a fuchsia deep-necked sweater, my pearls and the only heels in which I can currently stand to walk - and headed to the District Offices for the interview.

The person with whom I was interviewing found me in the lobby and led me back through a brightly lit cubicle area, which she called "the dungeon" (I've always thought of dungeons as dank and dark which this area was neither) to a small conference room.

"This second interview really shouldn't be called an 'interview' as we've already checked out all your information and have determined that you would be a great fit for the Nutrition Services Program. Which, really, we all call ourselves 'Lunch Ladies.'" She began as we sat down. "Basically, what I want to do today, if you're still interested in the position, is go over what we do and how it all works. Would that be ok?" At my nod, she then went into all the various duties lunch ladies do, how the "floater" position works and then added, "Of course, per our union rules, if we don't have anyone absent at any of the schools, we'd still have you come in and work so you could continue to train."

"Huh? Union?" I stuttered.
"Yes, we are a union district, so everyone who works for the district must be part of the union." She replied.
"Even the part time lunch ladies?"
"Yes. Actually, all but two of our employees are part time workers."
"What if I need a day off? How does that work?"
"Well, days off are hard because as a union, all the day off requests go by seniority."
"Seniority in a part time job?"
"Of course. It's how the union works.  Now, does all this sound good to you or do you want a few days to talk to your husband and figure out what you plan to do?" She smiled. She really was a nice woman.

I told her I needed a few days and left the interview.  All the way home all I could think was "Seriously? Union for part time workers? No wonder why our schools don't have any money. I am NOT working for a GOVERNMENT UNION and giving them my money so they can give it to people intent on destroying the country. Nope. Not happening."

This experience has been more of a testing of principles than a job search.  I can't wait to see which one of my principles gets tested with my next job offer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ahhh The Irony...More Job Stuff

Now that the Holidays have passed, my goal has become finding a part-time job to supplement the family's income stream.  It has become more important since The Man of the House (TMotH) has been off work (read: "Voluntarily at first then Laid-off") for almost three full weeks and the savings, once nice and plump after the Hurricane Sandy earnings, have become slim.  I've applied several different places and have updated my contacts via LinkedIn and posted on LinkedIn that I am actively seeking employment.  These measures have resulted in one completed interview and one upcoming interview (Wednesday, I'll be doing a second interview for a position as a school lunch lady - yay me!).

The completed interview was with a staffing agency for temporary office work.  I decided to check into that option since it has been approximately eleven years since I last worked a "Real Job" in a "Real Office," and the gap on my resume`, not to mention the fact that finding references from that last "Real Job" has proven almost impossible, causes many potential employers to overlook my stellar qualifications. (Seriously, a degree in Broad Field Social Studies with a Psychology Major Emphasis isn't a shoe-in for a sales position? Really? Unbelievable!)  I also am not terribly excited about re-entering the fun world of office politics; I'd rather have needles inserted into my eyes than having to deal with back-stabbing co-workers and all the drama that goes with a group of people (women in particular) shoved into cubicles eight hours a day and forced to "work together".  So, the idea of being a temp is appealing because I figure I can side-step any drama with a quick, "I don't know and don't care since I'm not here for long, thank you," while also adding "recent work experience" to my resume`.

I interviewed with a company that is owned by the company for which my best friend happens to work.  This proved advantageous when the (inevitable) question regarding references from my last office position came up: per Bubba's instructions, I replied, "Bubba is my bff and said that she can vouch for me," which quickly caused a stir (apparently Bubba is quite well known and admired in her company, a fact that doesn't surprise me at all since I am her number one admirer) and the question to be dropped.  I left the interview feeling quite optimistic that they would be able to find me a position somewhere and called Bubba immediately to thank her for letting me "drop her name."

About three hours later, a staffing person from the company's sister company called to ask if I would be willing to have him present my information to a company that was looking to fill a temp part-time position. Upon hearing the staffing person's company name, my heart began to race and my hands became clammy.  (Once upon a time, many years ago, the same company placed an inexperienced, numbers-phobic, 19 year old woman in an accounting office doing work with tax returns.  This young woman hadn't even completed her own tax returns at that point, leaving that job to daddy to complete for her, had barely passed Algebra II in high school, and had yet to complete a full semester of any college-level math - had attempted college level math but had dropped the classes upon discovering that a passing grade was not going to happen in this lifetime.  That didn't seem to matter to the staffing company, and I - ahem, the young woman needed a job, so I - she - accepted it.  I was fired by lunchtime the first day.  Apparently, having numbers knowledge is important when working with tax returns.) I questioned the staffing person about the amount of number/math-type work would be required, to which he replied, "Not too much.  Just some inventory and purchasing, but the bulk of the job is administrative." That relieved some of my anxiety, which was further relieved when he told me the flexible days and hours and the rate of pay.  At that point, I agreed to let him present my resume` to the company, and immediately emailed Bubba saying "Wow! That was fast!"  Her reply came as a huge shock: "I think it's great that you'll be working for Planned Parenthood."

HOLD THE PHONE...Where? Planned Parenthood? Seriously? No. No way. Uh-uh. Not happening.  Bubba was surprised by my reaction given the fact that we were both tossed from a "Conservative Book Club" (Read: "It doesn't matter how conservative you are, if you're not Pro-Life in every way, you're not invited back.") for being too soft on the pro-life stance held by the club (Bubba is pro-choice, I am more pro-life than pro-choice, since I believe in exceptions).  TMotH was also surprised by my less than enthusiastic response to the job offer, saying, "If you don't do it, someone else will," like somehow that point would change my mind.

I have to admit to feeling torn, I mean, it was a possible JOB, and I am looking for a JOB.  They would have allowed me to pick which days I wanted to work and probably would've been pretty nice to me.  But the idea of having to walk past protesters to get to my job at a place of which I really am pretty opposed to much of what they do was less than attractive.  Not to mention the reaction I would be sure to get from my conservative friends.  I could just see it:

Me: Hey! I got a job!
Conservative Friend: Yay! Where?
Me: Well, it's only a temp job working in an office.
CF: Where is it?
Me: Uh, do you have any duct tape?
CF: Why?
Me: To wrap around your head, just in case.
CF: C'mon, just say it.  Where are you working.
Me: Are you sure you don't want to wrap your head with duct tape first?
CF: It can't be that bad. What is it, a strip club or something?
Me:  Ha ha, yeah, that's it. I'm working in the office of a strip club.  That'd actually probably be better than this.
CF: Where are you working? I promise not to freak out.
Me: Ok. Planned Parenthood.
CF: ARGGGGGGGGGGH....(sounds of splattering as brains hit me and the walls around us.)
Me: Dang it. Another friend gone.  Should have taken my suggestion and wrapped her head in duct tape like I told her to.

Fortunately, the company didn't choose me for the job.  I'm thinking that they checked out my recent position as writer for the conservative blog and wondered if I might not use any experience at their establishment as fodder for articles (not a bad idea, actually) and marked my name off the list.  However it happened and for whatever reason, I am thankful and relieved.