Category Archives: work

Musical Chairs

Our bell choir is aging. We have a few members who are in their 30’s and 40’s, but most of us are 60+. The younger players tend to be more agile, and play the smaller bells that require more speed and dexterity. That leaves the treble and bass bells to us slower and steadier players. I play the G and A below middle C. Husband plays the C and D below middle C.

We have five octaves of bells. The bells increase in size as they get lower, and our lowest bell is the F one and a half octaves below middle C. Those bottom bells are huge, and have to be rung with both hands. (Usually, a ringer has at least one bell in each hand. Not these low bells). Our director asked me this week if I would mind switching to the lowest bells, since I am the least arthritic of any of the other older players, and the current player is having too much arm and had pain to continue in that position. I said I would be happy to, but I might invest in some wrist supports.

I shall miss G and A, but it’s nice to have new musical challenges sometimes. I suppose it is a compliment to be the least orthopedically challenged older player in the group.

What are your challenges as you age? What promotions did you experience at work, and how did they work out? What are your experiences in musical emsembles?

Sold Out!

One of the types of programs that I have are called Warehouse Runs.  Winners come here to Minneapolis and run through our extensive merchandise warehouse.  There is a lot of energy around these programs and I love the participants who are all very excited and appreciative.

I always like to get donuts for the warehouse crew the morning of a run.  Having their work schedule and plans disrupted by all the festivities can’t be fun for the warehouse workers so I like to reward them a little bit for their hard work. Yesterday morning was the first in two years that I’ve been down to the donut bakery I like in Bloomington; it’s an old-fashioned kind of shop with all the old favorites and nothing pretentious.  After I picked up the donut order and was leaving the little shop, I noticed that the back of the “Open” sign didn’t say “Closed” – it now says “Sold Out – See You Tomorrow!”

It was a nice change to see that a little local business is not only surviving but apparently thriving.  It must be quite satisfying to be selling out so often that they can rely on a sold out sign.  I’m having to find a new lunch caterer for my warehouse programs since the previous caterer (who was excellent) wasn’t able to hold on through pandemic.  Along with too many others.  So while I was happy to be supporting them again and that they are doing well, it was tinged with a little sadness for the other businesses that have suffered.

You can have your favorite donut or pastry this morning.  No cost, no travel and no calories.  What will you have?

Pride of Workmanship

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

I knew a young woman who was an indifferent student through high school, the kind of girl who gets lectured endlessly by school counselors who knew she could do better. Her early employment history after college was more of the same. She did what people told her to do, but not much more.

At some point she began working in the office of a company that tried to match temporary workers with jobs offered by companies who didn’t want the trouble of finding, compensating and training temp workers. Like so many companies, it was badly run. Upper management was clumsy, rewarding the wrong workers and failing to produce sound policies. And yet, like many badly run companies, this one did well enough to keep making a modest profit and thus could continue functioning as a business.

Then something strange happened. As that business grew, it assigned two young women, including my friend, to head up a new branch office. While neither of them had distinguished herself in earlier assignments, this was different. Both women had been paying attention to the shortcomings of their business and had thoughts about how they might do better. The two women threw themselves into an effort to run their office in an exemplary way. They did not expect their model to lift up the whole business, and in fact it did not. They didn’t expect their excellence to be identified and rewarded, and in fact it was not. And yet they experienced the rare joy of managing the only effective office in an organization that continued to limp along with shoddy practices.

Good things happen when people take pride in their work. We all have known workers who slacked off whenever possible, but we have also encountered workers who set a high personal standard for excellence. A persistent mystery in business management is exactly how some workers demand a high level of work from themselves. Studies show that the level of compensation is not the critical factor. What seems more important is pride, pride of workmanship.

When I edited a small magazine I worked with writers and photographers who were badly compensated. My magazine paid so little for articles that we couldn’t demand outstanding work from contributors. Some contributors, acknowledging that we paid poorly, sold us articles that were slick and poorly written. And yet some contributors gave us good articles in spite of our amateurish payment programs.

My own work became an example. I realized that I was the untrained editor of a very badly run publication. All of us on the magazine’s staff were ignorant about making magazines. Most of us tried to do our jobs well, but the business was a sort of clown show because had never been trained and now were badly led. 

And yet I came to understand that, with all its obvious faults, this was my magazine. Whether it was wretched or entertaining, I was the single person ultimately responsible for the quality of each issue. I began rewriting bad articles, trying to turn sow’s ears into silk purses. Our readers never guessed how hard I had worked to salvage shoddy original copy. It didn’t matter to me whose name was on a story. What mattered was that each article should be as funny, interesting or educational as possible.  We continued to print pictures upside down, print captions riddled with misspellings and make all sorts of factual errors. But more and more, almost in spite of ourselves, we began putting out a magazine that people really liked. Our readers were on our side, hoping desperately that a magazine like ours would triumph over the amateurism, disorganization and lack of resources that continued to plague us.

Later, when I became a freelance writer/photographer, I discovered how easy it was to write articles that were marginally better than average for that field of journalism. That is, I could knock off a slick article in two hours that looked pretty good, even if it was pretentious and lacking merit. That could have encouraged me to be lazy, and yet the opposite happened. I came to value the fact it was my name on an article. I took that to be a promise that I would do the very best work I was capable of, in spite of how meager my reward might be. The longer I worked as a freelancer, the higher my standards became. It became increasingly important to put out articles I was proud of.

How did you acquire the standards you hold yourself to in your work? Have they evolved over time? Did anyone serve as a model for you of doing the job well? What gives you pride in your work?

Working Music

Writing therapy progress notes and psychological evaluations is tedious work for me. I need music while I write. In fact, I have music playing in my office unless I have a client in the office with me. I usually listen to classical music, although lately I have streamed Radio Heartland, too. A counselor friend of my son insists that classic honky-tonk music is the best accompaniment for him to write therapy progress notes. Husband needs dead silence or else he gets distracted when he writes.

Many years ago, the office administration staff at my agency were delighted when our Regional Director at the time phoned to let staff know where he was on a drive back from Fargo, and then forget to turn off his cell phone. He proceeded to sing (well, bellow) along to a rather raucous country western song on the radio about true love. The administrative secretary put it on speaker phone so all the staff could hear him. When they teased him about it, he said “Well, I really missed my wife”.

We listen to classical music or the XM Radio 40’s channel or jazz channels when we drive together. Lately I have revisited CD’s by Solas, Salsa Celtica, and Le Vent du Nord on my way to work. Something about the right music makes me really ready to start my day.

I have a long list of CD’s I intend to spoil myself with for Christmas, mostly classical recordings. I am particularly interested in recordings of music by Ludovico Einaudi, a modern Italian composer. Check him out if you aren’t familiar with his work.

What music helps you think and get things done? What are some new recordings you have discovered? What music annoys you? What music makes you sentimental?

October Already?

Today’s post is from Ben.

Kinda quiet around our farm. The neighbors are all busy and working like crazy, but it’s quiet at our place.

The stuff I write about our farm, it is exactly that, just ‘Our’ farm, it’s certainly not how everyone is doing things or the way anyone else does things. I had someone at the theater comment that they figured I’d be busy farming. No, since I have the neighbors combine my crops, I just wait for them to get here. I try not to get impatient about it. That works best when we have these nice fall days. If the weather starts to crash I have to work harder to stay patient and remind myself it’s out of my control. The neighbors have been doing this for years; they’ll get to it when they get to it. Might be a couple weeks yet if the weather stays nice. Might be November if it’s not.

Corn can stand out there for months without too much damage. Oh, the deer and raccoons get more, but some guys leave it stand until Spring (if they don’t have the animal pressure). But soybeans aren’t so tough. They need to be harvested before we get too much snow. The stalks will break and, depending on the weather, they may not dry out again. The big farmers are going hard on soybeans now, and I know some have already finished and moved into corn. Because you never know when this nice weather will end.

Soybeans go fast; yields are generally 40 – 80 bushels / acre. They don’t need to be dried, so two combines in a field, one dump cart, a couple trucks, haul, dump it in the bin, back to the field. Nothing too it. (Fingers crossed and it all goes well).

Corn takes longer; yields might be over 250 bu / acre. More trucks, more hauling, usually drying time and expense, and it’s just more involved. And if it’s raining or the fields are muddy or something breaks down, it takes longer yet. You just never know. And that’s why the big guys are rushing now even though it seems early.

I have so few acres, they’ll finish my beans one day and corn another. Sometimes my guys fill all their stuff at home, then come over to my place late in the day, fill all the trucks and carts, and finish the next morning.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have my own combine. I saw one at an auction once that sold for $2000. But I’d still need a bean head and a corn head and trucks or wagons. And time. That’s the biggest thing, time. So, I’m really OK waiting for the neighbors to get it. They’ve never missed a crop. One year it was so wet and muddy they had to wait for a freezing cold day to come back and get into one field which was too muddy otherwise. But they always get it. Good neighbors’ matter. (I saw three combines sell at an online auction this past week; a 2005 model sold for $36,500, a 2000 for $34,000, and an older, well used one for $7,600. No heads included. Those sold for $15,000 for the corn head and $12,500 for the bean head. Add another zero at the end for brand new stuff. Roughly.)

As we were talking about enjoy fall on the blog, lately Kelly and I spend some time in the evening sitting on the steps outside the garage. We play with the dogs, watch the chickens settling in, watch the ducks, and just generally enjoy the quiet and the smells and the time.

Kelly tries to get a walk in after work. It’s getting harder as the daylight shortens. The dogs though, they love the walks more than Kelly does. Just once she’d like a walk by herself. The three dogs go nuts when she starts off. Barking, fighting (playing), knocking over the little old Granny dog, Allie. It’s a little bit crazy they’re so excited. And if Kelly lets them out the front door, then she sneaks out the back door, it’s only a matter of time before they sniff her out. She could be up around the corner and out of sight, but they’ll find her. Last night they were circling the house making sure they didn’t miss her. She said it was like being stalked by wolves.

Anything you’re anticipating?

Do you like to walk? What’s the farthest you’ve walked? Got the app showing your steps?  

The Presidential Suite

Husband works in Bismarck every Wednesday, 90 miles away from our town. He drives there every Tuesday night and stays in a hotel in Mandan, just across the Missouri River from Bismarck, and 15 minutes from his office. He drives home on Wednesday afternoon.

He has a standing reservation every Tuesday night at a fairly inexpensive, sprawling, older hotel that used to be called the Seven Seas Motor Inn. There is a large statue of a pirate in the lobby. The pirate remains although there is no longer any nautical theme in the hotel. They also serve a good, free breakfast every morning, so Husband can get a quick start to his day of work.

For some reason, even though his reservations are for a standard, one person room, the hotel staff puts him in grander rooms at no extra cost. He doesn’t ask them to. Last week he was in the Presidential Suite, which boasts an office, bedroom, living room, and bathroom with a jacuzzi. The hotel is never full. Husband says every Tuesday night he has been there, a local club has had bean bag toss competitions in one of the larger meeting rooms.

When Husband worked on the Three Affiliated Tribes Reservation, he was housed in a double wide trailer that formerly served as the Women’s Sober House. He certainly has had some interesting digs over the past few years. I am glad his commute, which is the same distance from home, is now on interstate highways and not hilly, oilfield roads.

What have your work commutes been like? What is the grandest hotel you ever stayed in? Which was the worst?

On A Roll

Three vignettes from yesterday.

Since I’m still working from home, I had on my “uniform” yesterday of jersey shorts and a tank top.  I threw on a nicer top for a client call and never took it off.  At noon, YA and I drove down to Walgreens to get our drive-thru covid tests (since we’d been to the fair so many times).  When I got into the car, YA looked me over and said “you’re not wearing THAT, are you?”  I replied that since I wasn’t getting out of the car and the Walgreens technician would only see the top 1/3 of me, yes.  YA rolled her eyes.

On the way home (both tests negative, by the way), as I was waiting at an intersection to turn right, a man with his two white/cream golden retrievers was standing on the corner until the “walk” light came on.  The dogs were gorgeous, so I rolled down the window and called to him that his dog were beautiful.  He said thanks; I turned right and drove on.  “MOOOOOMMM” said YA. 

I purchased a thing-a-ma-gig at the fair that makes it easy to put my hair in a bun.  I’ve been playing with it and when I got home I put my hair up, making the bun pretty high on my head.  Then I had a client call.  A bit later YA came into my studio.  “Did you have your hair like that during your call?”  I replied yes and she responded “It was already bad enough that you’re wearing that shirt” and then she proceeded to show me a picture of an anime character (see above) and although she didn’t say it directly, the implication was that I look like Zeniba.

So I’m three for three in embarrassing my child in one day.  Not sure I can best that record without seriously trying.

Tell me what cartoon character you look like?  Or would LIKE to look like?

Out Of The Doldrums

Ever since April, 2020, Husband has stayed at home, seeing only a few psychotherapy clients a week and filling his time with volunteer work and gardening. He was relieved to be done working on the Reservation. He had his pension and Social Security.

I noticed over the last year, though, that he just didn’t seem to be getting much done at home, and his typically solemn demeanor became even more lugubrious.

Since he was hired at his new, part-time job last week, everything has changed, the world is full of new and exciting possibilities, and I can hardly keep up with him. It is really good to see. He really was deep in the doldrums, and I didn’t realize just how deep. He feels he has a purpose again. A ten hours a week job made a huge difference! His new found exuberance has partly taken the form of cooking, however, and I worry we may need to get a new freezer.

What helps you to feel really happy? What helps to get you out of a funk? What gives you purpose?

College, Ducks, and Corn

Today’s post comes from Ben

Typically, there isn’t a lot going on in August once the oats and straw is done. One year it rained a lot and oats was late and straw kept getting delayed and I was still doing straw in September and that just made me grumpy. But usually, August is a pretty quiet month.

College classes started so I’ve got homework again. ‘MN Rocks and Waters’. This first week is plate tectonics and continental drift. It’s interesting but there sure are a lot of terms and I hope I don’t have to memorize all of them.

I’ve been picking some corn ears, looking at plant health, and monitoring progress. The plant looks pretty good; not seeing any fungal diseases (which wouldn’t be expected in a dry year like this) Some ears look better than other ears.

Most have above average girth counting 16 or 18 around (it will always an even number) and length varies. Good ones count 42 kernels long. Shorter ones count 30. There are ways to estimate final yield by doing the math. We’ll see. I won’t bore you with the details. It doesn’t take into account how many deer are out there anyway.

Soybeans are looking OK too. Starting to turn yellow (meaning maturing) and it’s interesting you don’t hear so much about estimating soybean yield. Not a perfect science perhaps.

The ducks have learned to spend the day outside and go back in at night. It’s still wet inside their pen no matter how often I clean it. It’s the end of the pen where the water is, they’re just sloppy drinkers.  Kelly and I were talking that we don’t remember if they’re always this skittish. There is a breed called ‘Indian Runners’ and they’re always totally crazy. But I just don’t remember if these breeds are usually so nervous. Maybe it’s the mallards? Maybe in another month they’ll mellow out a bit. After all, they’re just barely a month old. It’s impressive how fast they grow.

I gathered up all the round bales of straw and put them in a line. Just so they’re not scattered all over the fields and to make it easier for the guys to pick up later.

If there was alfalfa hay growing under the oats it would be important to move them as soon as possible so as not to kill the alfalfa. But in this case, I’ll be digging up the field in another week or two simply to control weeds. And since I don’t know when they’ll pick them up, this may be a snow fence too.

I got parts for the grain drill that I want to get put back on this fall. And some new parts for the corn planter I could be working on.

My mom is adjusting to her room in the Long Term Care area. One day she said the bad was outweighing the good. But she says good things about the staff, and she gets ice cream every day, and yesterday she said she’s almost ready to call it home.

With rain predicted for the next few days I cleaned gutters out this morning. One was more involved than expected; it wasn’t just cleaning the leaves out from the top; it was pulling off an extension under the deck and snaking a hose up in there to flush it out.

Do you wear any rings? What is/was your wedding ring like?

Stylistic Differences

I was looking through a magazine the other day, and I ran across an ad for a Swedish Women’s clothing company. The styles were fanciful, with skirts, tunics, dresses, pants, and sweaters in wild prints and vivid colors that are worn in layers with leggings. The clothes looked really comfortable. I like wearing layers. Wearing such clothes, though, would be a real stylistic change for me.

In the winter I dress pretty low key, in pull over sweaters and cardigans with corduroy pants and sensible shoes. Nothing fancy. I want to be warm and comfortable. In the summer, I just switch to Capri pants and shirts. The only time I dress up is when I have to testify in court. My coworkers always notice and comment “You must be going to court today!”

Changing my clothing style so drastically would excite rather a lot of comment at my work. No one who I know of in town wears anything like the Swedish clothing I saw in the magazine. People might think I was having a crisis in identity. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I think I could possibly venture out with maybe one new, wild, Swedish ensemble. We will see.

How would you describe your style? What is the most outrageous outfit you have ever worn? If you could, how would you change the style of clothing you wear?