Tuesday, January 31, 2012

24 January 2012

I frequently have lunch with one peep or another on those days I work in the office. Last week, I went to an Italian place with just one dining companion. We both bemoaned that it couldn't be $5 Martini Monday at noon on a Thursday. It just seemed plain wrong.

We also discussed work and work strategies. Well, it was more tactics, but people confuse strategies and tactics to the point of making the distinction meaningless, and there's no need to belabor that here.

After lunch, she suggested we stop by Dairy Queen for ice cream, and there, she bought me a cone of vanilla. The ultra-white soft-serve vanilla that only DQ seems to sell.

I think she saved my life, and that surely deserves a card.

Monday, January 30, 2012

23 January 2012

As you might know, I had a birthday recently. It was the anniversary of my Glorious Birth, as I assume the egotistical mantle that was previously worn by the now dead North Korean leader. For most of these, now, 59 years, my mother would call toward 5:30 AM to sing Happy Birthday. She called at that early hour to remind me of how early I awoke her that frosty morning back in January of 1953.

She hasn't made that call in years. Even if the darkness would permit her to remember the number and how to dial it, I'm not sure she could figure how to leave her message after the beep. Even when she had a firing neuron, the only way I knew she had called was that I could hear her arguing with the “hateful woman” about letting me on the phone. (She and Buck never agreed to release called ID, and they do not understand why people don't pick up the phone when it rings.)

I carried on that tradition for a long while, but I've let it go in the past several years. Lily and Josh, as young adults, are not so enamored of the tradition, and I'm not sure I'm close enough to many others for the singing to make sense. Well, except in that definitely creepy sense.

So I wake up the morning after, turn on my phone, and notice I have a message. It's the husband of a bud singing Happy Birthday to me. He has no idea of the background. He's getting a note, and some of you are getting sung to more.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

22 January 2012

We have a part-timer who knocks out odds and ends for us, and those details are often far more important than much of the rest. Lately, she's been handling about a half-million data requests and stat reports for me, and that alone should be enough to warrant a note. However, there's more.

She does all this while sitting on a big green Pilates ball. Yes, she eschews a chair for a ball. The idea is that while she works, she's also building strength in her core. As I think of it, this is one fine idea, one that more of us should pursue, though I suspect we can achieve better posture in a myriad of ways, not just with Pilates balls.

Nonetheless, having her in the office sitting on that ball brings a certain difference to the area, and I like it. We don't have just one more drone hunched in a chair. We have someone making something more, and something personal, for herself from the day job. I think this world, especially the work-a-day world, could use more thinking like this, and that's why she's getting today's card. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

21 January 2012

It was a far busier week than normal with three professional groups meeting in the office for three separate purposes. Fortunately, it all occurred during the week, and many of the peeps pitched in to cover many of the details that can make the difference between a productive meeting and a total disaster.

One in particular pulled a surprise. The group with which I was working on my birthday did not know it was my BD until lunch when I led them in singing Happy Birthday to me. Yeah, I can get weird like that once in a while. As we were finishing up for the day, the one peep came waltzing into the room. She carried a pecan pie and a carrot cake. Nuts and vegetables for our health. What doctor couldn't agree with that?

She'll be getting a card for that.

Friday, January 27, 2012

20 January 2012

It's the wake of my birthday, and that's motivating several cards. I might have to bend my one-a-day rule, but that's a decision for the weekend.

To maintain a little cognitive balance with work, I'm working on a year-long project with two work colleagues. The one sends us five words on the fifth of the month. The other paints something about those five words. I write five haiku about those five words using only commas for punctuation, and then the first peep write a short essay about what motivated her choice of the five words.

It's the kind of thing that keeps us sane, but I doubt it'll threaten the day jobs. Yeah, we all work together.

Anyhow, one of the peeps gave me a small moleskin notebook in which to develop the haiku. This will be fun, and I look forward to using it, especially since I just got a new fountain pen to write these notes. I just wish the pen would improve my writing. Maybe that'll come later.

Until then, she gets my rather scrawled thank you. I suspect it'll pass muster.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

19 January 2012

We wear many hats at work because we, generally, run very lean, and that means while we each have a job, there are many other things we wind up doing. For example, I have scrubbed toilets at 7 AM on a Sunday morning because our cleanup crew doesn't come on the weekends and someone in my focus group had a problem that I didn't know about.

When we're working in a hotel somewhere, we can call upon hotel staff to handle most details, leaving us to focus on our work. These are details like making and bringing lunch. Or finding a multiple outlet and extension cord.

When we're working in the home office, and it's the weekend, we have to make the best of what we have. That means that in addition to facilitating the focus group's discussion, I need to collect lunch orders, organize them, send them to the restaurant, and then scoot out to fetch lunch. Why, yes, it would be easier to use a restaurant that delivered, if there were any open in the office park on the weekend.

Today, I got lucky. We were working in the office during the week, and some peeps pitched in to make sure the step-and-fetch happened like it should, not as I could get to it. One of those peeps received yesterday's card. Another one get's today's. I doubt they know just how much better they made my life this week, but maybe they'll have a small glimmer now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

18 January 2012

This is a busy week at work, what with three groups of people visiting in four days to handle three different activities. Long, very long days, but the work goes well, and the people are congenial all around. They are also going out of their way to be helpful. Perhaps that because the sight of me a 7 AM is a fright, but I suspect it's more just the nature of the folk with whom I work. Well, most of them, but you know how that goes.

One was preparing the room even before I arrived this morning, and she's not even assigned to the project. She's just there early and helping out. I'm sending her a card for that even if she didn't fetch back whiskey from BJ's.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

17 January 2012

I work with a talented bunch of people, and they go out of their way to make life simpler. One colleague just queued the data requests for some three dozen end-of-year reports that I need to send next month. I'm pretty sure she just saved me a million years of labor, not to mention the motion sickness that would arise as I stared at so many flashing and ever so slightly changing screens.

More to the point, a few years back when I did these from beginning to end all by myself, I usually finished the lot somewhere toward July. This year, it'll be over by mid-February, if not sooner. She deserves more than a card, but cards are what I have, and she's getting one.

Monday, January 23, 2012

16 January 2012

Instead of a long weekend at the beach processing the untimely death of a friend and my own survival of another year on this planet, I wound up making several trips to a local urgent care clinic. These guys will take people on a moment's notice whereas the regular doc wants a week or two to brace himself for my visits.

I made three visits this holiday weekend. In each instance, the doctors assigned to me possessed extraordinary bedside, or table side, manners. One in particular seemed more counselor than physician, and left me wondering if her training was initially as a nurse. This is the primary reason I seek out nurse practitioners for healthcare.

Regardless, urgent care clinics are often characterized by fast-paced treatments, not so much by slowing down to hear what someone is really saying, and I had the good fortune to have three listening providers in a single weekend. They're getting notes. Yes, that's more than one a day, but I suspect it'll be alright.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

15 January 2012

For an otherwise healthy man, I seem to spend a lot of time in the company of healthcare providers. A very few days ago, I was in my regular doc's waiting room. It was time for fasting blood work.

I loathe fasting blood work because it makes for an upside down day. Yes, I'm addicted to breakfast. Mama wouldn't let me leave the house without breakfast, and we don't have to look far to find support for having breakfast. The docs should get a grip and listen to Mama.

So I'm setting in the man's office looking over the selection of last year's Time magazine, and what do I see but several Out magazines. For those of you not in the know, Out is a periodical written with gay and lesbian people in mind. I used to subscribe, but I gave it up because the lifestyles portrayed had little connection to my reality. I'm unlikely to pay three digits for a t-shirt. The magazine also came in a brown wrapper, and that offended me.

Nonetheless, it's good to see Out as a choice in a doctor's office. I might even read a copy next time. For being open and making my world a little more open, the doc gets a card.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

14 January 2012

We often read a lot about loyalty to a company, especially the one that pays us, and loyalty is a fine thing. It is also earned, generally, before it's given. More often, though, loyalty is earned by one person and given by another. I'm not sure many companies mind the corporate culture enough to ever learn that loyalty to a company could happen, at least in my experience.

And then there's payroll. Most people will tell you there's nothing more important in an enterprise than payroll because that's what keeps the peeps coming back. We like our money. Let the money stop, and we'll see how far loyalty carries the bottom line. I believe we now know what we are.

To this end, my company just changed payroll companies, and our HR manager has been working overtime, and probably been dreaming it too, as she moved the payroll information from one system to another. As best I can tell, she made it happen at least for me, and I'm pretty sure I'm not all that special, leaving me to think she got it for everyone.

With all that going on, she found the time to add home addresses to some of my cards. Now, I feel all guilty, and I think I'll not add any more to her workload than I can help. She gets a note of gratitude today.

Friday, January 20, 2012

13 January 2012

I have has the odd fortune of working with some of the best and the worst bosses imaginable. I won't go into detail regarding the bad bosses, not here. I won't mention their endless need to control and micromanage all the while never communicating what it was they wanted done, much less empowering the peeps to make a decision and move on. No, that's a topic for another project, the one about how to not lead.

Of the good bosses I've had, they each defined what they wanted to happen, and then left me to make it happen in the best manner I could. They knew, or at least learned quickly, that it's imprudent to solve my problems. Just because I'm emoting (e.g., whining) about something or someone is not an invitation to take direct action. It's more an invitation to nod in agreement.

More than one person has told me I needed a dog to whom I'd explain things, even when I studied Physics. Later when I was working on Statistics, I had a cat who sat on the table with my books and papers, pointing out my mistakes with her tail.

These days, I have one of the better bosses. (I won't say best because he reads this mess, and I don't want him to get a big head.) Today, I stepped into the office on my day off to pick up the chair I'm sitting in now. I bid him farewell on my way out, and he hopped up to get the front door for me. What he didn't now is that I had a very vocal surgical incision on my tummy, and I wasn't sure how I'd hold the chair and open that door. He gets today's note.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

12 January 2012

I work in a small company of about 50 people. With one exception, we're all in the same facility. The range of skill sets is as varied as the range of personalities, but I need to state upfront that what the one does is no more or less important than what the other does. When we all get it right, we all look good. When one of us fumbles, and we all fumble at some time or another, we all have to pitch in for the recovery, or we all look bad.

During this last month, I've made about 8,000 requests of one particular department, and in particular, one individual in that department. This is because most of our agreements with clients involve a summary report of statistics from the previous year. Yep, at some point in February, lots of people out there get letters and CDs from me.

What brings me to this page is the work of one particular individual. He has been providing responses to those requests at light speed, so fast that I find myself queuing his emails so that I can handle them all without getting confused. He is making us look good, and for that, he's getting a note.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

11 January 2012

Facebook has changed the world in ways we might not yet recognize or appreciate. I've been a fan of online communities for a long time, and FB has taken that concept up a notch or two. The world is now a much smaller place, and it's only going to get smaller.

Here's the deal. When I write these pages and the corresponding note, I post the text to a blog one week later. I want the note to make it through the mail before the blog post goes up. Each blog post is then mentioned on Twitter and Facebook. I don't see much interaction from Twitter regarding these posts except for the one fellow in England, and yes, I do track where the incoming traffic originates. Facebook is a little different. I see the majority of readers starting on Facebook.

Well, ain't that cool, and what's it about?

The thing is that yesterday on Facebook a friend mentioned that she was really getting into the postings and that she looked forward to the next 362. Given the snark that is possible and the silence that is common, her comment warmed my heart, and as I told her I felt like a cat in a sunbeam. It was a thank you in cyberspace, and I, for one, am quite willing to go with that. Yeah, I'm easy that way.

She gets today's thank you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

10 January 2012

Tomorrow, I go to the dentist to have two fillings replaced and an inlay applied. That will make three 50-year-old fillings replaced in a month.

Now, why in the world would I express gratitude for that? Well, it had been about five years since I'd seen a dentist, which sounds odd because the cleanings are free with the company insurance. Free cleanings are one thing, but the fillings and crowns are something entirely different, and they come with an alarming price tag. I really didn't want to engage a dentist until I knew I could handle the cost of the other stuff.

Still, why be grateful here? It was about the worst two hours in recent memory, even worse than extended precision plane delays, and this one seems ill disposed to offering nitrous even after I asked. He asked if I was nervous. I said it wasn't a matter of nervous. It was a matter of two hours. He said there would be lots of breaks.

Let me tell you now that those breaks did not count.

What I'm grateful for is the end of the recurring dreams in which a molar disintegrates, and yes, I know the dream analysts are now having a field day with that one, but I believe none of that, at least in this case. This was a matter of seeing a few teeth headed downhill fast.

But now, the dreams are over, and that's a very good thing so Painless gets a card. (We'll discuss the nitrous next time.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

09 January 2012

This one goes to an ex-boss who is now a colleague. As a boss, he had some room to improve, and I'm certain he knew that. Of course, I suspect I can be a challenge, more like aggravation, to supervisors more often than not.

He's a busy man. He travels more than I do, and today, he stopped by my office to tell me he had some slack in his schedule. He then offered to pick up a few details of mine. I didn't take him up on the offer because, at least for the moment, I have things under control. Well, I think I do.

Regardless, it was a kind offer, a welcomed offer, and unexpected. It left me feeling like I was a member of a team. That's a good feeling.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

08 January 2012

As a preamble to the visits with the chiropractor, I engaged a freshly graduated and licensed massage and body therapist. I knew him personally in only the vaguest sense, but we're friends on Facebook, and that left me with a name, face, and contact.

Earlier, I'd engaged a few acupressure massage therapists, probably not licensed, but the lack of anything resembling skill with English lends them an air of authenticity. On my feet, I find them brutally worthwhile. On my back, I need a day of recovery. It's good, but there are limits to what I'm willing to put up with.

Enter my Facebook bud and Swedish massage in my apartment. Yes, in my apartment. For just a little more money, he comes over with his table, dissembles me, takes a tenderizer to the pieces, and then puts me back together. The left over parts are sent to the Wake County Landfill. Or hazardous waste containment. I forget which.

All this manipulation might seem time consuming and expensive to some. Those people should checkout the fees on back and neck surgery. Spinal fusion ain’t cheap. It's also not something I want to engage anytime soon.

Besides, this fellow comes to my highrise trailer house and works on me in my living room. This is a very good thing, and he gets a card for being willing to make house calls.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

07 January 2012

The last 10 to 12 years have been a period of relative darkness for me, and by darkness, I don't mean depression, though there have been rounds and bouts with that. You come out at the tender age of 50, live in a world filled with hate, survive, and then we'll discuss your accumulation of scars. And memories.

This time what I mean by darkness is the physical onslaught of the medications associated with growing older. Cholesterol and blood pressure medications. For some ten years, I took an assortment of these and slowly gave in to the side effects. Statins with their cramping. ACE inhibitors with their debilitating cough. ARBs and lethargy. Beta blockers and even more lethargy.

This meant that the fellow who ran 50 miles a week and went to Tae Kwon Do training three and four times a week slowed down, got fat, and became an old man. A fat old man. Now, I can read calendars and look in mirrors as well as the next guy, and I'm not naive enough to think I'm immune to the ravages of time, but I see no reason to pay good money for chronic fatigue and cramping.

Last month, I though I was headed for another round on the downward spiral, but I got smart, and went to a chiropractor. In three weeks, she turned it around. I think she'll be on retainer for a long while.

Friday, January 13, 2012

06 January 2012

My mother lives on the edge of darkness. She converses more with the dead people she sees around her than she does with anyone else. She does have a few lucid moments, but they are fleeting, and often there's a look of panic in her eyes when she drifts back into the darkness. It's little wonder she expresses such anger with the dead people around her.

My step-dad provides her care, and he does so with little or no break aside from the time he takes her to the beautician. I do not know how he does it, and I don't know what we would do without him, though I'm pretty sure we would not do as well. He's getting a card.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

05 January 2012

I travel a lot for work, and I live in an apartment building that does not have a facility for receiving packages. Moreover, I order many things online because it's substantially simpler than going shopping in a store, not to mention far a more economical use of my time.

Rather than permit UPS, FedEx, and USPS to stack packages by my door for a week at the time, I use the office as my shipping address. There I can trust the people to hold my shipments until I return. Given the tons of materials the office ships and receives, my little bit is hardly a dent in the surface, but at Christmas, I have more.

Two men at work are responsible for shipping and receiving, and they are very good with setting my packages aside, looking over them as though it was their job. I always thank them when they hand me a box, and I try to get them a beer or three when the company has an outing somewhere that serves beer, which is far too seldom, but we know how these gestures are quickly forgotten.

Today, I send them each a card. Yes, I know that breaks my one-a-day rule, but this is a reasonable violation. Besides, how would I ever be able to face the one who didn't get a card? Or look at him in the interim until his card arrived?

They're good men, and I want them to have tangible evidence of my appreciation. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

04 January 2012

There are many casualties of divorce, and one of mine was my relationship with my children. I missed most of their adolescence, and when I was there, the maternal unit was usually irritated about something. I'm not sure a greater presence by me in that house would have done much to improve their lives, and I can see tremendous potential to make them worse. I refused to put them in a position between the ex and I, and in doing so, placed myself further away. Perhaps one day, we'll move beyond that.

I was somewhat surprised when I received a text message towards 8 P.M. on New Year's Eve from #1 Son. He was asking if he could come up and spend the night. Of course, I said he could, and a very few hours later, he and his girlfriend were on my couch watching things drop on TV while sharing a rum drink. The following day, we had a delightful lunch al fresco in downtown Raleigh soaking up the almost 70-degree afternoon.

I can work with that, and he gets a much deserved thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

03 January 2012

The third card goes to the manager of the apartment building in which I live. Like many organizations, the previous building owners tended to extract as much profit as they could while doing as little maintenance as possible and have the building remain standing. There has been a change in management, most of which I do not understand, and now we see more on-going maintenance.

Late last fall, I turned in a maintenance request, and left for a long business trip. When I returned, I noticed that not only had my request been fulfilled, but they had also attended to several other problems. They left me with what feels like a new apartment, and the result was that I abandoned my plans to move.

Although I personally thanked the manager for these repairs last November, I know that her's is often a hurried world, and I doubt she receives many tangible forms of gratitude for her work. More likely, she receives far more expressions of anger as she finds herself the focus of someone's disappointment.

Perhaps this card will cause a smile.

Monday, January 9, 2012

02 January 2012

Today's card, the second, went to my ex. She sent a $100 donation to Equality North Carolina Federation to support the fight against the amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina. For whatever reason, she sent the envelope to my address. Now, ENC is written on the tag along with my name in my mailbox.

At first, I wondered what she was up to. Our relationship is not as good as it could be, and I find myself suspicious as I consider her motives. After Christmas, she called about something I've now forgotten, and she asked if I'd received any letters from ENC. I said no, and then told her about the wrong address on the envelope.

Today, I put her envelope and check into another envelope with an explanatory note, this time with a correct address. I also sent her a thank you card. It seems reasonable to let go of this bad feeling, and I hope I have.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

01 January 2012

The first card in this project will be to the CEO of the company that employs me, and before the snark regarding my brown nose can begin, let me assure you that I have a natural talent for leaving this man a seething, quivering mass of angry protoplasm. It is never my intent to do this, but it is the occasional upshot. My preference would be to never do it again, but the very minor pragmatist side of my psyche tells me to brace myself. Let's just hope he keeps signing those checks.

So why are we here with this one? In December, we have this thing whereby people can pay a dollar to wear jeans on a day other than Friday. Yes, I know that's banal and a signal that the culture has matured to the point of rotting, but it is what it is, and we use the proceeds to sponsor a couple of families in dire straits for Christmas. It's a worthy endeavor.

To make the matter more interesting this year, I publicly challenged The Man, who does not own a pair of jeans, to wear jeans one full work day. In return, I would add $100 to the kitty. He did. The VPs each matched me. Now, two families have happier children, at least for a Christmas.

I am proud to write this card.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quick Discoveries

After I wrote a little, I learned something. The Hallmark cards I bought to see me through the period until the Amazon cards arrive do not take the ink from my fountain pen. Not well, anyway. I should probably change over to the Sharpies, but not yet. Do you suppose people will complain about the way the ink beads?
I also need more return address labels. Those I received ages ago from a failed fund raiser are about gone. Fortunately, Kinko's has an online facility to make more, lots more, and in about a week, I'll have new labels. These will have my smiling face upon them. That'll worry someone, I'm sure.
And stamps. Forever stamps. No-lick stamps. Stamps with Mark Twain's picture upon them. I went to the local Post Office, but it was closed early for a late lunch, and I wound up ordering them online, which is likely how I'll do it from now on. As sad as this is to say, I suspect the days of a physical presence for the Post Office are growing short.
In hindsight, I'm thinking those stamps must have shipped from China. It's been days, and they're still not here. Pine cone Forever stamps will just have to be sufficient for the while.


I was staring at the morning news toward the end of December, 2011, maybe it was the Early Show, and a brief segment regarding New Year's resolutions aired. I rarely make resolutions, and this topic hardly took my attention from my cooling coffee, but then for the briefest moment, the subject shifted to gratitude. This fellow had spent a year writing thank you notes to people in his world to let them how his gratitude for the things they did.
I liked the sound of this idea, and the next day, I decided to write one of such cards each day in 2012. Because I didn't pay that much attention to the segment on the news, I didn't catch the author's name, much less the name of the book, but with a little snooping on Amazon, I found both. The name is John Kralik, and he wrote A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life.
Being the impatient sort, I downloaded the book on my Kindle as I prepared to run out and fetch some note cards and envelopes. Yes, I had ordered them on Amazon earlier, but not even Amazon Prime can compete with holidays and weekends, and I knew my lazy self would become quickly sidetracked if I started the year in an automatic holding pattern.
To make this project tractable, and something I'm likely to finish, I've established a few rules. Each note will begin with “I hope this letter finds you well.” Each note will end with “Sincerely, Jim.” In the middle will be one or two sentences describing the thing that I'm grateful the person did. I'll write these notes with an italic nib on a fountain pen. I'll probably use permanent black ink for this project, but a big part of me is thinking that more colors would be better, and a very small part of me is screaming to use the Sharpies, which frankly have some merit here.
Maybe a few of these parts are better left to the Spirit and how it moves me over the many days hence.
Oh yes, there is another thing. I'm only doing one a day. Just one. If several things come up on a given day, I might make a list to consider on the following days, but I don't want to write 500 the first day, and then burn out, leaving none for the rest of the year. That would defeat the developmental purpose. Developmental? Yes, developmental. Surely, these things will progress in some manner through the year, as will I. We'll see next year how this all worked out.