Category Archives: work

The Presentation

Photo credit: Ben White

In the Events division at my job, the process of getting a travel program going is divided into lots of pie pieces.  We have the folks who source the hotels and write the programs, the folks who program the program websites, the folks who book the air, the folks who write and design the communications, the folks who manage the participants, the folks who go on site and run the program.  Then there’s what I do; from the time a program sells until the participants arrive at their destination, I oversee all the other pieces of pie, getting all the details wrapped up tight so the program runs successfully.

Over the years I’ve been corralled a few times into doing work in other departments; I’ve been successful but I don’t like it much.  A couple of months ago we got the opportunity to bid for a big piece of business with a client that I’ve worked with for 15 years – in fact I’ve done 46 trips for their various regions.  As you can imagine, this opportunity has taken on a life of its own – specs from the client, questions back to them, a preliminary presentation made.  The number of meetings has been alarming, especially since I really don’t have that much input.  Others involved are excited to be doing the work, love the corporate lingo and are happy to be jumping through all the necessary hoops.  I completely understand this work has to be done but it doesn’t ring my bell.  So I smile, answer any questions asked of me and multi-task.  It really makes me appreciate zoom meetings.

The notification that we made the initial cut and have a presentation date slated came down on Tuesday.   We had a meeting on Wednesday – I knew this would be the meeting in which decisions were made about who would be part of the presentation.  I’ve been dreading this prospect for weeks; while I certainly wouldn’t be tasked with heading up the presentation, I worried that with my overwhelming experience on the account, they would think I would be handy to have in the room.  Not my cup of tea and the idea of flying to the east coast for two days for this presentation doesn’t excite me at all.

They didn’t ask me.  I can’t tell anybody at work how relieved I am not to be part of the presentation team.  But I can tell you all – I am very happy to stay home.  I’m not even going to grouse about the fact that there are two “practice” meetings that I have been asked to attend, even though I’m not practicing.  Phew!

What topic could you give a 30-minute presentation on without any preparation?

Before / After

The next step in the front porch drama has concluded.  I’m sure you remember the photos of tim and me from sandblasting last summer.  So so dirty. 

What I didn’t say at the time was that what we uncovered when we got rid of the 3-4 layers of paint was horrific.   Completely uneven, a few long gouges and all the holes from when the house had been insulated back in the `80s.  My vision of painting the weekend after the sandblasting and being done were shattered.  tim walked me through plastering process but as the weeks went on, I knew I wasn’t up to it.  3 years into this project, I just needed a professional.

I found The Stucco Guy through my hardware store.  He came out, looked it over, took a few photos and the next day sent me a quote.  I accepted but by this time it was too chilly to do stucco work so we made a date for this spring.

They came last Tuesday morning and spent most of the day prepping.  Then on Wednesday they did the base coat.  It was a little disheartening because it is dark gray on application and it made the front porch seem quite gloomy.  They assured me it would lighten up over night and they would do the final coat the next day. 

On Thursday, I purposely stayed upstairs in my home office; I was so worried how it would turn out and if I would like it.  When he texted me at 4:30 that they were done and cleaning up, I was almost afraid to go downstairs.  It’s so beautiful that when I stepped out onto the porch, I teared up a little.  Best news?  He didn’t increase the price he had estimated for me last fall.  Very reasonable for 3 days of work (for 2 of them) and such a fabulous result.

There is some work to be done yet, but it’s the kind of work that YA and I are qualified for (little sanding, little painting) and hopefully will be done within the next month.  Only 3+ years to remodel a small front porch.  Gotta love these old houses!

When was the last time you gave in and called a professional?

Grading on a Curve

Today’s post comes from Ben

After last week’s blog title, “April, Not Farming Yet”, I got to thinking, I really am “farming” every day. I could say I’m not “planting” yet or not “doing field work” yet, but it’s a bit of a misnomer to say I’m not “farming”.
And this week, I’m still not out in the field and I still haven’t planted anything. The co-op spread oat fertilizer Thursday afternoon and while the fields weren’t very dry, I was going to try Friday morning to get them worked up and then plant Friday afternoon. Then we got an inch of rain Thursday night. Again. I don’t wanna complain about it raining, but I would like to get something planted. 

I have been getting things greased up and ready to go: checked tires, pulled the drill from the shed to the barn and back again to be sure all the chains were moving and it appears to be working.

I pulled a muscle in my lower back while clambering under the soil finisher checking tires. Every year that job gets harder. Kneeling on the gravel is no fun either. And trying not to use the one shoulder too much. And the one knee hurts anyway. It was kinda funny all the noises I made under there.

Got the camera’s working in the drill box, just need to finish securing cables. It sure is something to think it takes a week for a letter to go across town, but I can order rubber grommets from Amazon and get them from Louisiana the next day. Or the extension cable from Ohio the next day.

I took the new rear blade out to grade our driveway. There is a real skill and art involved in maintaining gravel roads and my hats off to the grader operators who can do it well. I can’t. I know how you’re supposed to do it and I understand the principle of the thing…but I sure can make a mess of it.

OK, the first grading of the spring is never good anyway. Some of that is my fault, some is just the way it is. This first grading, even on our township roads, one of the things is to cut down the edge, so rain water will run off the sides and not down the road. Plus, that pulls back in some of the gravel that got moved off the road by the snow plow. However this also brings a lot of dirt and grass onto the road. Typically, the good grader guys will leave this mess off to one side, and in a couple weeks it will have broken down and it can all be graded back into the road.

I got this new rear blade that can offset, angle, and tilt up and down. All by hydraulics. Three functions! I only have two hydraulics. (I’m hoping to add a third hydraulic to this tractor.) Plus it’s much heavier and cuts much better than my old blade. It sure did cut the edges down! And drag it into the middle of the road. And raising the right edge angled this way, is backwards when angled the other way and watching the left edge. I had my hands full. And it’s all behind me. And I sure made a mess of the road.

It will be better when I grade it again in a couple weeks. Fingers crossed. Kudos to Parm, our township grader operator.

New chicks are doing well. Growing and eating a lot. Duck numbers are holding. Had a concert at the college and prepping for commencement in two weeks.

This photo is the ‘patch’ for the lighting we’ll be using for commencement.

This right here is about the most important information I will use all week. It tells me everything about the lights and how to hook them up and make them work.

Made a mess of anything lately? What’s the most important thing in your life this week?

Making Myself Scarce

I came back to work from New Orleans on Tuesday and found a message on my phone from a Sheriff’s Deputy letting me know he had a subpoena to serve me. I phoned him back and he said he would serve it to me sometime in the afternoon. He didn’t show up.

Yesterday I phoned him again about it, and he said had two subpoenas that had got mixed up and he served mine to the wrong person, but had retrieved it. I told him I would be in all afternoon. To me, that meant I would be at work from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm. I went home for lunch.

The Deputy showed up at my work at 12:15, and was really honked off to hear I had gone home for lunch. He left in a huff, telling the receptionist that I could just track him down. Well, in my 30+ years of being served subpoenas, it doesn’t work like that. He is supposed to find me. Nevertheless, I tried phoning him to apologize for the mix-up but his voicemail was full. After some emails to my superiors, I phoned the Sheriff’s Office and told the receptionist that I would be in all afternoon and to please let him know. He never showed up.

I have no idea what case the subpoena is for. I have no idea when the hearing is. I will gone all next week. I really don’t want him to show up today to serve me a subpoena for a hearing next week, since I will be out of town If we don’t have sufficient time to prepare our schedules, our Human Service Department attorney from the Attorney General’s office will file a complaint and ask for the hearing to be rescheduled. Unfortunately, our attorney is gone until Monday! I plan to spend today laying low, not answering my phone, and hoping beyond hope that the Deputy doesn’t show up. I need to make myself scarce.

When have you wanted to hide? Have you ever been served a subpoena? How do you make yourself scarce?

Strike!

The recent teachers’ strike in Minneapolis reminded me of another teachers’ strike in Luverne in 1975. I think Luverne teachers’ strike was the first one to happen after the law was changed to permit public employees to strike. I was a senior in High School, and my mother taught Grade 3. She was only a couple of years from having the serious flare-up of her Multiple Sclerosis that caused her to retire early.

I was a senior in High School, and I and my classmates were worried that the strike would prolong the school year. My mother bravely manned the picket line with her fellow teachers in some really cold December weather. It lasted a week until the school board came up with an offer that the teachers could accept. There were some hard feelings between the striking teachers and the very few who crossed the picket lines to sit in empty classrooms. Everyone seemed to get over it pretty quickly, though, and all the staff just went back to getting along with each other once school was back in session after Christmas vacation.

I was really proud of my mom on the picket line. She was a pretty rule abiding person, and it was fun to see a more militant side emerge. She was proud of herself for taking a stand.

Of which of your relatives are you the proudest? Have you ever gone on strike? How do you protest?

Goodbye, SBM

We heard the sad news early in March that our one, true office supply store closed. Southwest Business Machines was a fixture in town, and it was a good place to find just the right office supplies that Walmart didn’t have, or either had cheap and unsatisfactory versions of what we wanted. Husband is very fussy about his pens, and they have to have just the right ink flow and roller size. He also liked their brown, expandable folders with elastic closures. I liked the pink pencil top erasers that work much better than the cheaper red ones. I use a lot of pencils in my psychological testing. I like the blue .07 mechanical Pentel pencils they had. It was also a good place to buy computers and printers, and they installed our new printer in January. Husband could buy #3 pencils by the box.

Last summer the road in front of the store had major work with lane closures and detours, and I think that business suffered. I image that office supply stores like SBM have a hard time competing with the larger stores like Office Max. The nearest big box office supply store, aside from Walmart, is 100 miles away. I have a hard time justifying driving 100 miles for pencil top erasers. There are office supplies at our work, but the State purchases what is the cheapest and not necessarily the best. I guess we will have to stock up and be opportunistic shoppers of office supplies, just like we are with groceries.

What are you particular about? What are your favorite office supplies? What stores are you mourning?

A Member of the Pack

I have been reading up on Cesky Terriers, the breed of puppy we are getting in May. They are considered temperamentally different than the majority of terriers due to their comfort in being part of a pack. Your basic terrier is an independent thinker, bred to work alone and make its own decisions on how to deal with vermin and prey. Cesky’s are more reserved and standoffish, but very dedicated to their people.

The Cesky was developed by a guy in the Czech Republic who wanted smaller terriers he could take in a group to hunt prey on river banks. He started out with Scotties, but they fought with one another more than they hunted. He decided to come up with a new breed, and interbred Scotties with Sealyhams, a Welsh breed known for its calmness and lack of territoriality . The new breed he came up with was very good at working with other dogs, yet really good at flushing vermin and working as part of a team. I hear from Cesky breeders that they are not door darters like our Welsh Terriers were, dogs who wanted nothing more than to rush out any open door so they could explore the countryside and make their own fun. Cesky’s want to stay with their people at all costs.

It is important at my work to be able to work as part of a team. I guess I am more like a Cesky than I am a Scottie or a Welshie. It doesn’t pay to be a lone wolf in my line of work. I know that isn’t the case for everyone, though.

Are you a Scottie or a Sealyham? How well do you work as part of a team. What is your favorite breed of dog, and why?

Why?

My company is still on “work from home” protocol.  For another week and a half.  You can work in the office if you want or you can work from home.  Most of us have been given an additional big monitor so that we can have one at the office and one at home so working at home is a pretty sweet deal.

There are people going in but not many.  I had to check on a mailing yesterday in Building 5 and it was quite deserted.  Echo-y even.  In cutting through the back hallway to get to the mailing center, I turned a corner and found a little nook with a printer on a table, a rug and five chairs.  There are no offices nearby.  And with hardly anyone in the building, the nook had an eerie, otherworldly feel.  Kinda like a surreal set in a Man Ray movie. 

I thought about this funny little scene all afternoon.  Why a printer there?  Why a rug?  And for heaven sake, why all the chairs?  Does someone really think there will be enough paper shooting out of this printer that there needs to be a waiting area?

Do you have a favorite chair?  To snuggle up in to read?  Or to watch tv?

Expert Advice

Husband was highly gratified yesterday to get an email from a local soil scientist who works for the FPAC-NRCS office in town. That is the soil conservation branch of the US Department of Agriculture, and they work with local ranchers and farmers to promote soil and water conservation. The sender of the email had heard through the local grapevine that Husband was a passionate proponent of urban agriculture, and she needed his advice putting together some soil health teaching/demonstrations to help local urban gardeners improve their garden soil and increase their production. She explained she was new to the area and was more familiar with the soil issues of area ranchers than she was with those of urban gardeners and the peculiarities of our local urban soil. Husband replied he would be happy to help.

We are usually asked for our expert opinions by the Court regarding rather sad and troubling situations. This was a delightful change. Also delightful was figuring out how on earth she got our email. It involved a tangled pathway from former clients, the Food Pantry, a pastor of a Lutheran church we don’t attend, and the pastor’s mother in law who is one our our fellow parishioners. Living in a small town can be quite interesting.

What could you provide expert advice on? What are the informal pathways that news and information travel in your family and community?

Good News

This has been an awful week for bad news. In times like these, I think it is helpful to focus on whatever good things are happening in our immediate settings.

Our son let me know last night that his West Highland Terrier had successfully excreted the leather shoe laces and leather slipper he had ingested last week. There was concern it could have provoked an intestinal crisis. We seem to be in the clear. I have received excretion updates all week. I am relieved the terrier is ok.

Our daughter informed us that her work evaluations are stellar, and her place of employment is investing a lot of money to train her in three very expensive therapy modalities in the next several months. She is supremely happy.

What are the positive things that have happened in your life this week? How do you cope with bad news?