Friday, September 15, 2017

What is value?

Last night, I went to a singles' event.  It was an interesting experience, well-guided, and thought-provoking.  One gets really contemplative with some of the questions they ask.  They sound silly on the surface, but it really was worth going.  I didn't get a date out of it, but I may make contact with someone later.  Who knows?

One of the last exercises we did was stream-of-consciousness writing.  For six minutes, we were to keep writing.  We were given the first four words, and then we kept going from there.  When it was over, we were asked to share three of our best sentences that we wrote.  The first four words were "What I value is," and we took it from there.  Many people wrote lists, whether bullet-points or lists in sentence form.  My sentences took a different bent.  It was kind of awkward, but the sentences I shared were, "I feel the meaning of the word "value" has been... well... devalued due to oversaturation.  I guess the best place to start is what I most appreciate having in my life right now. ... I enjoy [my job], and it's where I hope the permanent roots prove to have begun."

It was very impromptu, and thus a bit clumsy.  If I'd had a little more time to think about it before writing, I think my three sentences would have read thusly:

"I feel the meaning of the word "value" has been... well... devalued due to oversaturation, due in part to the world of advertising.  I suppose that it's indicative that what I ultimately value is value itself, deep meaning to things and experiences.  I've been told on numerous occasions that I overthink things, overanalyze situations, and infer meaning where none simply exists, but the search for purpose, deep meaning, and yes, value in my vocation, recreation, relationships, and especially in my walk with God is a continual endeavor for me, because I suppose in the end, I want my life to have had meaning -- something I suppose we all strive for."

Friday, April 28, 2017

What changed my mind?

Unlike my usual entries, this one has a specific audience: my coworkers.  Feel free to keep reading if you're not, but there might be some jargon in here you won't understand, or you'll just lose interest, though in all fairness, the latter could happen even if you are one of my coworkers for whom this post is meant.  I apologize if it gets hard to follow in some parts; I'm intentionally eschewing using people's names.

In case the grapevine hasn't already gotten to you, last night I was nominated and voted in as County President of WARLCA for our county.  For those in the know, this was not a position I particularly coveted; truth be told, I was practically dragged into it kicking and screaming.  I had reasons for not wanting the position: I didn't think I would make a particularly good president, for starters; sometimes, I have the same feelings about the union meetings held by those of you who never attend said meetings; but most of all, I didn't think an RCA should hold office.  I felt that someone with more experience should be president, that an RCA wouldn't have the confidence of the full-timers behind them, and I especially worried that an RCA as chapter president would send a message of general union weakness to management.  My name had come up at a previous meeting as being a "good choice" to succeed my venerated predecessor and then-president; however, so opposed was I to this notion, that I originally planned to skip the meeting.

That changed on Wednesday, the very day before the meeting  The events of the work week were snowballing and when a coworker said something about the upcoming meeting, it flipped the switch internally.  On Saturday, we were shorthanded and ended up having to split two routes, resulting in the curtailing of standard flats, and probably raw as well.  I made a point to case all my raw, and leave just the flats for the regular for whom I was filling in. The way that whole situation was handled by management was still resonating at least through Tuesday.  On Monday, one of the regulars told me that she wishes they'd called her in, that she'd have come in to help contain the chaos, and then asked for a different day off that week.  It was still being talked about on Tuesday, with some murmurs about X-time being owed, who would have come in, and just the overall disgruntlement one would expect there to be.  And then on Wednesday, the subject of the meeting came up, and how it was primarily about electing new officers.  That's when one of the carriers said that if they couldn't fill all the officer positions, our chapter would be absorbed into the Skagit chapter.  I already knew that, but when she repeated it at that moment, it jarred me.  When I transferred to the office I'm at now (before that actually), I noticed something about management there that wasn't at the office I was transferring from.  Four years later, that particular problem remains, though there is a little more effort to take care of it.  (A glaring moment of lapse, however, befell me yesterday, more on that in a bit.)  But since then, I've noticed other problems in our office, as all my fellow coworkers from every craft have.  It just struck me that we're having some infantile and avoidable confrontations, and it just seems like it shouldn't be.  We'll always have problems; technological advancements, population growth, and other factors will keep the nature of the job in a constant state of flux.  But when the problems of our office alone overwhelm the shop steward into stepping down from that role, then it becomes clear that absorption of our chapter must not be allowed to happen.

Right now, attendance at the meetings is a little low, and it's understandable.  Most who only attend once in a blue moon wish to attend to vent frustrations, get some answers, and if necessary, get our steward to initiate discussions with management to resolve the issues.  That's what unions are for, after all.  And our district representative doesn't attend every meeting.  But even when he is there, attendance still fares so-so at best.  And we can't even get any members from across the river to attend.  I can understand nobody from Deming, Acme, or Maple Falls attending, but I'd at least like to see if we could cajole a couple people from Everson to attend.  But I digress.  The point is, even when people are steamed right around the date of the meeting, it's inconvenient for them to attend.  If we were absorbed, it's all but guaranteed no one would attend a meeting, thus ensuring that our issues would only ever compound.

I can't guarantee that I'll be a good county president.  I was told I was nominated because I'm observant.  I'll let you decide for yourselves on that one.  I've been told I'm nosy, I overthink things, and even read into things when there's nothing to read into; but I haven't been called "observant" much.  And if you wouldn't have even thought to call me that before now, then I'm probably not.  But what I do observe just in my office alone, is that we need to keep our chapter local.  Yesterday, I had a flat tire on route, and had to call the office twice before help was sent out to me (four times actually, but twice I got a busy signal).  My vehicle was immobile for an hour and a half with a flat tire.  That's sixty minutes longer than it should have been, and it's because the first supervisor I talked to didn't contact the motor pool guy.  That's an issue that wasn't even initially a compensation issue, at least not for me.  I just wanted to get back on the road and finish up and wasn't even thinking about money or O-time, or anything like that.  NOW it's a compensation issue: because I had to wait an extra hour to get help, I went over forty hours.  I got overtime this week because of two split routes, schedule changes, a second run to complete an auxiliary parcel pick up, and a really long wait on a flat tire.  Three of those four things are, in my opinion, things that could have been handled better.  And at the meeting, I heard about an issue at another office that was even worse.  I strongly believe our chapter needs to stay local for our own strength.

Looking at the County Unit map on the WARLCA website, I see it wouldn't be the worst thing to be absorbed.  Right now, our county is the only political county that is also its own county unit with WARLCA.  Other county units are at least two counties big.  Some are three.  Two of them are five whole counties with a piece of a sixth to them.  So, if we were absorbed with our neighboring three-county unit, we'd probably be renamed to the "North West" county unit.  But looking at some of the spreads on the map, I wonder how well represented some of those areas really are.  How well are the issues being handled at their levels?  I have no idea.  But ultimately, that's the key thing I can do as president, if nothing else: we can keep our resolve and focus more finely tuned by remaining our own county unit.  That's how we can make beneficial change happen for us.

And that can only happen if we have people serving as officers.  It almost seems silly, but it's true.  If next time, someone comes along with some really good ideas, I'll gladly defer to them, whatever is best for us.  I joined the union following an accident.  I'd held off joining because I wanted to work a whole year at one office first.  Those plans were quickly changed.  I joined then because I needed the union.  And at the risk of sounding like cliched movie dialogue, it seems now the union needs me.

Hi.  I'm the county unit president.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What's in a passport?

So a little over a week ago, I posted a Facebook status, "And the passport is in the desk."  This status got one like from one friend I haven't met, and have only talked to over the phone.  I don't know if she got what I was saying with that.  I talked to my sister later, and she understood what it meant.  I don't know if anyone didn't get what I was saying, honestly, but the silence in response to that post was deafening.  Either way, I know I have to say something about it for my own peace of mind.

So, just in case anyone DIDN'T get it, the passport is in the desk, because like most people I suspect, I use my desk to store things that are important, but might not always be of immediate use.  I used to keep it up in the dash of my car because I used it a lot.  Those who know me know that I was frequently going to Canada to visit my girlfriend.  The time has now come that I no longer know when next I shall be crossing the border, because I no longer have a girlfriend in Canada.  After the better part of seven years, I decided that it was time to break it off.

This was not a decision I made lightly or in a moment of rage.  I held off breaking up for a long time, and as the now-ex-girlfriend can attest, I did indeed fight to try and save it, including a couple meetings with our pastor to try and help gain perspective and focus.  However, at one point I met privately with the pastor, and after explaining the extent to which I was frustrated, he calmly said, "At this point, it's okay for you to walk away."  At this point, I knew it was inevitable, and I still made a last ditch effort to try and prove myself wrong.  It was a long road, and I remember at one point feeling my emotional ties snap, to where I emotionally checked out of the relationship.  And I still tried to make it work, hoping to gain back what was lost.

I suspect a lot of it had to do with a fear of being alone again.  Before the Canadian girlfriend, I was in another long-distance relationship, and broke that other one off to be with her.  So, this is technically the first time I've been single in over a decade.  But to be honest, this was the first one where we were really together, lived within driving distance of each other, and were making serious plans.  Yeah, I really didn't want to throw it away.  But also, who I was while single, and even in the other relationship, was vastly different than who I was with the Canadian girl.  I was significantly more pathetic then, probably even creepy.  I distinctly remember when people found out I was in a relationship with this Canuck, they treated me differently.  Teenage girls that I worked with at a dead-end job stopped treating me like a member of the Addams family and started treating me like a human being.  I was different; I was happy.  And I did not want to go back to being what I was.  I was certain that if I did, then spiraling back into that person would be unavoidable.

To some degree, I have a little.  I'm a bit sadder and moodier now.  I'm more on-edge, and feel prone to snap.  I've noticed it in a few moments of tension at work, where I just about yelled at one person or another over something trivial.  I feel like my humor at work is a bit off too.  Not that I'm funniest person at the office, but once in awhile I can get a laugh.  Even I can tell my punchlines are not good.  My mood is not what it was, and if I can't rein it in, I'll return to being a social pariah in my professional environment, which is pretty much all I am now.

Who am I now?  I have a cat now, so I have someone to come home to, but as much as I love the little fuzzball, he's not another person, and can be a little twerp himself sometimes.  I'm still a Christian, but lately, the only way I can get Sundays off from work is to actually put in a leave request slip, which is just wrong, but that's another topic for another time.  And having just moved to a new place, I haven't really found a church that I want to call home either.  My job is about the only solid external anchor now, and I worry that I'm gonna end up married to my work and die alone.  I don't want that to be who I am.  I want to find a new home church, a new group of friends outside of my coworkers, and maybe even be able to hang out with my coworkers outside of work sometime.  I want to find a woman who can make me a better person and help keep me that way, and someone I can do the same for.  I want to keep believing that this is possible.

Surprisingly enough, what I don't want to do is vomit all over my ex.  I don't want to air the dirty laundry or unload to the world everything that pissed me off, especially towards the end of it all.  This actually surprises me because I remember the weeks leading up to the break-up where I dwelt on everything that was irking me.  I kept venting off the steam several times to myself and to the Lord in prayer.  And if someone actually wanted to hear all about it, I probably could summon up the frustration to launch into it again.  But for right now, I really don't want to.  We're still friends, and I don't want to hurt her.  I want the best for her.  I still see some of the positive things in her that made me think we could go the distance together, and I don't want to destroy those things.  I don't want to rant about the things that drove me away.  I'm guessing that means I'm either ready to move on and date again or I'm nowhere near ready to move on and date again.

The Bible says there's a time to refrain from embracing, and for us, that time has come.  Goodbye, Erica.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What's in a hamburger?

A couple weeks ago, we were eating out at White Spot, and they were featuring some of their new menu items.  One of which was a new sandwich of the hamburger variety that boasted a patty that was half traditional hamburger meat, and half bacon.  Now, you can say what you want about the ubiquity of bacon fanaticism, but my thought was really more about the concept of the hamburger itself.  This past weekend, I tried a sandwich that was supposed to be a hamburger patty wrapped up in a very small pepperoni pizza--think like a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.  The next night, we went to Red Robin, and I order the Red Robin Royale Burger.  The common factor among all three is that they were pretty tasty, but what made them special was the toppings.  See, for all the hype of a patty that was half-bacon, it tasted no different than a regular hamburger patty.  This is mainly because when you simply cook bacon for the simplest of bacon bits, there's a great risk you slightly overcook it, and when you do, it tastes almost the same as ground beef.  Slather on toppings that have pronounced flavors of their own, and you can't tell the difference.  This is also why I don't bother ordering ground beef as a pizza topping, or bacon, because those baked crumbles have little flavor by that point and just fall off and make a mess.

And that's not even considering that ground beef is pretty flavorless when cooked.  Maybe it's just me.  Maybe it's because I worked at McDonald's for four-and-a-half years and have been rendered incapable of tasting beef from both cooking it and eating them for so long.  But I find that hamburgers in general are only worth ordering if you like the taste of the toppings.  It's not like a good steak, where you can pick off onions and ask the chef to go easy on the pepper if you don't like those things.  Oh sure, on the odd occasion that I still order a McDonald's double cheeseburger, I still get it without the onions, but if I also hated ketchup and pickles, and couldn't tolerate mustard, I'd really have no reason to eat one.  Hamburger meat by itself, just isn't that big a culinary treat.  Now you can make some good sloppy joes and meatloaf, and do not for a moment suppose that I'm including steak and prime rib, or even pot roast in this conversation; but at this point, a hamburger is just a meat slab between buns, and whatever toppings and sauces you find tasty.  

I'm no culinary expert, so I can only surmise that ground beef is the least of all beef cuts and that the grinding process only makes them worse.  They're still passable, but the point is, really, stop trying to "revolutionize" the hamburger.  The only way to really revolutionize it is basically convert uncooked meatloaf into patties and grill 'em that way.  And even then, no guarantees that that would work.  The hamburger's pretty good the way it is.  Of the three I mentioned at the beginning, the Royale is easily the tastiest.  

Mainly because one of the toppings is a sunny side-up egg. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The room with a revolving door versus the opium of stasis.

This past week, another roommate moved out, and a new one moved in.

A little context.  I moved to my current dwelling in 2012.  It has three bedrooms.  The master bedroom goes to the landlord, I have one, and the third has had a handful of roommates over the past three years.  I'm not even sure I can remember all their names, either.

There was the guy who juiced everything.  I really don't remember why he moved out or what he's moved onto.

There was the dude who worked at the theater and had a medical marijuana prescription.  His grandmother left him some money in her will with the stipulation that he had to go to college.  So he moved out to do exactly that.

There was the lady who just moved out.  She's a nurse, and she moved out to move closer to her work.  One of the family members of one of her cases is highly allergic to cat fur, and since the landlord has a fairly affectionate cat at the house, she needed to get away from the little fuzzball.

There may have been a couple others who didn't even last a week before finding something more convenient, someplace cheaper, or something else.

Now there's a new guy, a freelance translator who works largely with hospitals, but some legal and other various associations as well.

I'm not even sure where I'm going with this.  Is it me?  Is it the landlord?  Is it really these opportunities for them?  When will the time be right for me to move out and move on with my life?  I'm not even getting ants in the pants to leave the place, though if I had more brains I suppose I would.  My landlord roomie is certainly a belfry full of bats half the time, but when push comes to shove, he's someone who'll shock you and make you glad you had him in your corner.  Plus, I really love the cat.  When I do move out, the cat's coming with me.  My significant other and I like to joke about how it'll be the three of us when we finally get a place of our own.

As for the other roommates, I don't know if I made any impact in their lives, and I'm not even sure if they impacted mine.  Just a weird, almost ethereal feeling as I see people come and go.  Am I numb to it all?  Have I grown enough to not be jealous of their moving on to better things?  Am I depressed that I don't feeling anything more?  Am I weak person for not moving out sooner?

Truth is I don't know.  This is as much me looking for an excuse to have something to post in my personal blog after not writing anything for all of 2014.  Do I really need another reason beyond that?  Perhaps, but since I pontificate considerably more on my other blog, I thought I'd share a personal sentiment.  And that sentiment is, one room causes doldrums, one causes new chapters.

Maybe next time I should switch rooms.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Feeling bad for not feeling bad

“In years to come, they may discover what the air we breathe and the life we lead are all about, but it won’t be soon enough, soon enough for me.”—Paul McCartney, “Tug Of War”

Last week at work, an announcement was made over the speakers that a former co-worker had taken her life.  She had retired before I transferred to the office I’m at now, so I literally never met her, never worked with her, didn’t even know she existed, since no one told me any tales about her after she retired.  Now, I should point out that I am no stranger to death.  I’ve attended funerals for relatives, a relative of my significant other, classmates, a coworker, and even a late boss.  Not to mention people I once knew whose funerals I was unable to attend.  Still this was the first time that a suicide victim was someone whom almost everyone else within a particular social circle of mine knew. 

And therein laid the problem for me.  Just about everyone else knew her, but I didn’t.  I wasn’t deeply moved, and what did stir within me were the ripples of emotion from other people, like aftershocks or a domino down the line.  I learned (from a coworker who claims to have barely known her either) that this woman was having both physical and emotional difficulties.  Her family all lived faraway, and one of the apparently closer ones, whom she wanted to move in with, said she didn’t want her to move in.  So, her last months were very sad and tragic.  And I was a little saddened by it too.  So if nothing else, I proved I’m not a robot.

Still, I was left with a little bit of sadness, and no way to really express it that would be appropriate.  I didn’t feel like crying, nor did anyone else in my immediate vicinity, though the supervisor who broke the news to us was breaking up in tears as she told us.

I guess I really don’t know how to feel about the whole ordeal.  No one really blames me for not feeling much, and yet I feel bad for not feeling bad.  While we look upon death as natural and part of the cycle of life, it’s still sad when it hits close enough to home for us, and even more so when the cause is neither natural nor accidental.  I want to do something for those who knew her, like be ready to fill in for them if they need a day off to grieve, but no one seems to need it.  I guess they figured with her physical complications, she wasn’t bound to live for long.

Overall, I guess the saddest part for me is imagining what must have been going through this woman’s mind in her final days.  Our society is a little more (albeit very little) sympathetic to those who would choose suicide because of constant pain, but it’s so tragic to think that the reason she did it might have been that she believed her entire emotional support network was frayed and disconnected.  I don’t claim to be or to have ever been clinically depressed, though it’s been suspected of me before; nevertheless, I have frequently known the feeling of sadness that comes with an unmet need, but you don’t want to actually ask for help.  You want someone to care enough for and about you to a) recognize something’s wrong in the first place, and b) offer help or initiate contact or conversation, and it has to be that way because to get help after you asked for it first doesn’t feel as meaningful, or even genuine—they only care because you asked them to care and not because they actually care.  You want to be reached out to, but unless you overact the emotions, no one’s gonna be able to tell that you need someone to talk to.  It’s a vicious quicksand.  I heard someone say that most suicides are just a cry for attention.  Well, if a little attention can stop it, I’d say it’s worth it, even if it’s just long enough to get them to a trained professional to help them.

I’ve seriously contemplated suicide a few times in my life, but I’m glad I’ve never gone through with it.  I’m very thankful for the relationship I have with my fiancé, who can almost always tell when something’s bothering me, and sometimes worries something’s wrong when fatigue causes me to act like I’m depressed.  I’m also thankful for my relationship with God, by Whose grace and mercy I’m still chugging along and learning, finding meaning in life.  If that sounds trite or cloying, it’s because I’m not good at sharing my faith (tends to happen when the majority of your friends throughout your life are atheists who are stalwart in their doubt or denial), but I really do mean what I say.  But right now I only hope that I can be there for friends when they need me.  I’ve been there for friends with relationship issues, which is practically the height of irony given my entire life, but I’ve never yet had to be there, as far as I know, for someone on that edge.  I only hope that if I am, I never find out what the stakes are, because I know I’ll panic and give lousy advice or listen wrongly. 

I don’t know what to say to wrap things up.  Always beware of becoming too self-absorbed?  Be a good friend?  Even then, there’s only so much you can do.  I can’t really say everyone’s responsible for their own actions, since we know that physical and mental disorders can many times render a person inculpable for their actions.  I guess don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re at that place.  No one wants you to commit suicide, and those who do aren’t worth you giving a shit about them.  Talk to God, talk to the Suicide Hotline, talk to friend or family member.  Talk.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What's in a double take?

As bad as I am at keeping up with this blog, this is pretty bad that I’m a month overdue mentioning that I took the fiancé back to Michigan.  My elder sister got married a month ago, and my significant other and I spent some time seeing some more sites around the ol’ stomping grounds in addition to attending the wedding.  This trip proved to be a bit more trying than the previous one, mainly because of the mosquitoes.  I hate mosquitoes, mainly because they love me so much. 

But being a tourist in my own hometown for the second time really gave me a chance to take an outside look at what I want for my future.  In many ways, it still has the same rural charm that I’ve always simultaneously loved and sprayed OFF! on me to keep at bay.  Cruising down the old roads, swerving and slowing down on some of the dicier gravel roads, or even just going to my nephew’s little league game.  Plus, the added bonus of seeing how the school has expanded and improved from when I was a student there.  Truly some great moments.  But whether it was the few adults who were acting inappropriate at said little league game, the fact that every business there plays the awful, awful country station for its patrons, or finding out that the newly elected county sheriff seriously considers extraterrestrial abduction as a plausible explanation for any missing person report (no joke, they won’t even let him speak at press conferences anymore, the deputy sheriff has to address the local news outlets), there’s just something that says either my hometown or I have changed too much to be compatible anymore. 

Strange as it sounds, I’d like to think it’s me that’s changed.  For starters, if you’ve had even a semi-happy childhood, your hometown will seem like Mayberry when you think back on your youth.  To notice these things now is to say that the world, or at least that corner of it, hasn’t actually gotten any worse, we’re just more aware of it now.  And to that end, we can say our parents did a good job of protecting us from these things long enough until we were able to absorb the brunt of these reality-dealing blows.  Some might actually call that bad parenting, but I disagree: it’s managing your own home environment to be as healthy as possible for the sake of those you love most, and sometimes that necessitates being the shield or filter.  So to that end, I can say that my parents did a great job raising me.  Not that I’ve ever thought any different, but I don’t suppose I’ve ever actually told them that.

More to the topic at hand, I’d like to think of this newfound incompatibility to be a sign of personal growth.  I don’t think I’m too good for my old hometown, although I’m certainly glad Mount Vernon’s chief of police doesn’t leave green cookies outside to lure Martians, and that the local supermarkets don’t play that ersatz country/Nashville pop while you’re shopping.  But overall, I’m not dismissive of it.  I don’t want to say it’s like outgrowing an old favorite shirt, but that’s kind of what feels like.  I’d like to think it’s not so much outgrowing the old hometown as much as just outgrowing the memories, though I’ll always cherish them.  Where this personal growth will take is anyone’s guess, so I guess I just gotta buckle up and survive the ride.

I’m not sure where I really want to settle down, though I’m pretty sure it’ll just be wherever the fiancé is happiest living, or where the jobs are easiest to get.  As long as we’re happy there.  I guess a hometown is just what you make it.

And apologies to all the people who read this who are either older than me or have more established lives.  I don’t have funny or endearing stores of my children or really even much of a home life to share.  It’s either this or zingers from work that you had to be there to find funny, thickly laced with job jargon.