Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sales + inventory = customer service

I've known that we need to replace the mouse and keyboard on this primary PC. In Sept. when Tom was here visiting and I graciously offered him use of our PC, set him at the keyboard, he looked at me rather astonished and said, "But you have no letters on some of these!" Well I'm an old typist, so I seldom look at the keyboard...sure enough; the letters are worn off the keys. Jerry is a hunt and peck, but I guess either he does know where the letters are or just didn’t think it was worth mentioning. Our wireless mouse has an insatiable appetite for batteries and requires new ones every couple of weeks. So today I decided that we should make a trip to our friendly Office Depot and replace both. Has to be wireless and Jerry, resident electronic wizard accompanied me so I would get the right set up.

Armed with the only visa rebate card that I still have from purchase of the new laptop, which I add at $35, was the only rebate card issued to me and the one with the least $$.. Office Depot has to be sexist or chauvinistic? The rebate cards came to Jerry! How can that be when I paid for them using my ATM and registered the products to me? I am the one who has the Office Depot account? Surely they had to do some research on that? Amazing in 2009 it was! Well I didn't fret too much, although I considered writing a letter of inquiry to them about how could my husband get the visa rebate cards when I paid for it. But as in so many things, time passed and I got over it. Well, this is MN/WI not CA and so long as it was all in the family I can accept.

But back to today's venture. We arrive and I begin to peruse the wireless keyboards and mice! I do not like dinky keyboards, which seem to be the dominant characteristic of the featured sale item, eliminating it from consideration. After a bit of time trying the feel, I decide on a much higher grade Logitech combination which is on sale but for lots more $$. Jerry has meantime wandered off to the cameras, apparatus, or other electronic areas of the store after remarking that I should get whatever I want because he can use anything. What? Well he knows me well enough that I surely will get what I want and I smile that who does he think he is kidding with that comment; 44 years into this marriage! After several test finger drives I finally decide on the keyboard and mouse. Now to find that sales kid who was attempting to help us early on before he realized I intended to test the keyboards and lost all interest in dealing with this customer. I could see it in his eyes, "what if she asks me something...."

As I could have guessed, the sales kid is now aisles down the way speaking with a person who may be a much less inquisitive customer than me. But he did say, "Let me know when you are ready...." So I do. I have already satisfied myself that there are no sets with the identification number I have selected on the shelf! This is not rocket science, but the sales kid with the stud in his nose looks in the same place as I tell him "I already looked. None there...” He replies, "well would you buy it online?" Ummmm I sure would but do not want to pay shipping if it is not in the store and he assures me that with the price there will be no shipping. As he clicks on line I see it is $20 more so I decline immediately. Is this a new Office Depot ploy, don't stock and when a customer comes in and wants to buy something, direct them to online which will cost more? He informs me that he cannot sell me what they do not have in stock! At that I begin to sing, "what, I'm shocked, shocked, what, Texas has a whore house in it? Oh let's do a little sidestep,” Jerry has now returned to the scene and rescues this sales kid who appears befuddled beyond from my antics. Jerry calmly asks if they will be receiving any shipment this week. To this, the kid awakens and says, “I can take your name and phone number and call you when one comes in. I will set it aside for you then..."

So we do that and leave after picking up a few miscellaneous office supplies. At the cashier station as I walk up the girl who is to be on duty walks away! What am I invisible? I know I'm short but what? The clerk at the adjacent register offers to help me right now and apologizes, "she must not have seen you..." But then the cashier asks me the magic question, "did you find everything you needed?"' "Well no I did not, the keyboard and mouse on sale is not in stock. No I did not in fact; I feel I have wasted my time. Why advertise what is not is stock?" Of course she has no answers after Jerry explains that the sales kid in the back did take our name. This cashier says, "Well that's all we can do. So sorry."

Indeed! And stores like Office Depot may well wonder why business is down. When there is an opportunity for a sale, you have no stock. Office Depot has now joined the ranks of auto and furniture dealers in not stocking inventory. I do not understand this, but Jerry an ex-business owner has more sympathy in that inventory ties up capital. But yes, this customer says, "why place on sale what is not is stock?" Now I can wait this week to see if such item arrives at the price on the in store ad. But it remains darned inconvenient. No wonder I prefer to order online from the comfort of my keyboard and mouse, even if the letters are worn off and the mouse has a voracious appetite for batteries.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Edgar A Guest Poem "Fellowship of Books"

While downloading photos I was perusing an old Ideals magazine and ran across this poem by Edgar A. Guest.  He was known as the poet of the people for some time and was syndicated in over  300 newspapers in the early 1900's...Kind of reminds me of  something that Tom's father could have written.

I was up at the Library today pestering Lavonne, our librarian to have application copies available of our 2010 essay contest for senior high students who live in this county.  She being  the great gal she is, said, even better she'd get it onto their website!  I always enjoy my time at the library, but as you know I do not check out the books, because i have the urge to always write in my books and the library does not appreciate that.  I am on the friends of the Library organization and  a good  supporter of  the efforts.   

Every time I am there I  fondly gaze at the desk where  still sits Tom's father's  poem...  But enough,  here is 

The Fellowship of Books

I care not who the man may be,
Nor how his tasks may fret him,
Nor where he fares, nor how his cares,
And troubles may beset him,
If books have won the love of him,
Whatever fortune hands him,
He'll always own,, when he's alone,
A friend who understands him.

Though other friends my come and go,
And some may stoop to treason,
His books remain through loss or gain,
And season after season
The faithful friends for every mood,
His joy and sorrow sharing,
For old times sake, they'll lighter make
The burdens he is bearing.

Oh he has counsel at his side,
And wisdom for his duty,
And laughter gay for hours of play,
And tenderness and beauty,
And fellowship divinely rare,
True friends who never doubt him
Unchanging love and God above
Who keeps good books about him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First two reads of 2010

"The Rule of Four" by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.  An interesting tale about an ancient manuscript, the Hypnerotomachia,  that consumes the lives of Princeton students.  This novel combines shades of the Da Vinci code and the Ivy League with a good dose of mystery and Mark Twainish antics of the young men.  The characters are good and the story kept me reading.  Borrowing from the jacket, "..the story of a young man divided between the future's promise and the past's allure, guided only by friendship and love."   This is a first novel for the two  authors who are life long friends. I found some interesting phrases amidst the mystery, intrigue and action.

Pg. 70..."Adulthood is  a glacier encroaching quietly on youth.."
Pg. 196  "..Hope, time and the solitude of years..."
Pg.313  "Awakening to someone we know but perhaps take for granted, or ignore.."
Pg. 363  "Imagine the present is a reflection of the future...." 

"October Sky" (aka Rocket Boys) by Homer Hickam.   It was first printed as Rocket Boys. A movie was released as October Sky which was used to reprint the book.  This is the first memoir in his trilogy about growing up in the coal mining town, Coalwood, West Virginia in the late  50's.  The Russians have launched  Sputnik and Homer and hs  friends engage theselves in rocket building to  help the American effort.  Despite  disasters like blowing up his Mom's rose fence while  launching these homemade rockets, the quartet of boys spend years perfecting their rocket manaufacturing and launching. They form their own space agency.

 They have  fans around town and in the mine who  regularly come to observe their launches from  an area far from town provided by his Dad  to avoid more disasters.  Eventually through the coaching of a dear  teacher they enter the science fair and even  make it to the National  Science Fair in Indianapolis.  That is Homer's first big trip away from West Virginia.  

Homer Hickam and his brother are raised by Mom; Dad who is the mine boss lives in the home too but the mine is his primary focus. The antics of the fighting brothers cracked me up. They ride a school bus miles up the mountains to another tiny town to attend high school. The brother is a jock, but Homer is interested in going to work at Cape Canaveral! Homer does fulfill his childhood dream and becomes a NASA engineer. The one day that schools close for a severe winter storm does not deter these boys who are out at it,on their sleds up and over the mountains to enjoy the day. The return trip home almost is the undoing of Homer.

My cousin, Carol,  recommended one of the books in the series to me to gain perspective of  life in the coal mining town.  She and her family,( my father's brother was her father,) lived in Harwick, PA. as did my Grandmother Ball.  If I had ever heard about this book before, I likely turned up my nose thinking why would I want to read about boys growing up?  I so enjoyed it that I ordered the complete trilogy.

 Many of the attitudes and characters reminded me of beliefs and similar people I knew growing up in New Kensington.  Good writing throughout this enjoyable  first novel.  I'll  read the other two books in this set and  likely order his other novel about German U-2 boats off the eastern coast of the US in WWII. 

Pgs. 298--9  "It was Coalwood moving,  talking,  humming on its eternal symphony of life, work, duty and job.."..."..they acted as if nothing had happened.  That was the West Virginia way, and they were better at it than I was.."

Pg. 399.."I enjoyed the attention as long as people didn't press too close.  I had that West Virginia need for a certain amount of space between me and a stranger..."

Tempus fugit Eureka or not!

When retired friends used to tell me that they have less time retired than they did when they worked, I would get very annoyed. How could they say that! Imagine how foolish! I could not wait to retire to have the free time to do all the things that I could not do while spending 14 hours commuting and doing all that managing in the bureaucracy. Well some of those things I planned to do were derailed when we moved to MN, but substitutes appeared so that I would have no need to resurrect my adolescent lament”nothing to do."

I just read Nancy's post on the Lipstick Chrons blog about the Devil in my pocket and plead guilty to the same addiction of checking email and Facebook which are big time users. I have tried to curtail my addiction as well. First thing after arising, I hop onto the laptop which resides on the kitchen counter overseen by Col. Wally and/or I check Pearl B., my blackberry to see if any critical emails arrived. My definition of critical varies significantly from Webster’s as I find myself roaming through the messages. Most of these are easy deletes, stories friends are compelled to share, but some are amusing and will require attention later. Now I am plunked on my stool to read my online WSJ. Sometimes this takes longer than other times and may lead to meandering further to research something that catches my eye. By the time I complete that and finish reviewing my ace email an hour or two can pass. And that does not count if I switch to Facebook to just see who's dong what and who needs to know what I'm planning.

I have tried to curtail my 'puter time to late evening after dinner, before briefly watching something inane on TV (unless it's NBA) and before my reading time, but this does not work at all. Spending an hour or two on the computer in the evening is sure to beckon insomnia for the night, especially when I get onto the Facebook pathwords game, keeping my farm up there is enough.

As Nancy aptly sums up, we have lived fruitful productive lives without the need to be connected electronically 24/7. She mentions how this has cut into her reading time as evidenced by her NY Times stack near a chair and into her writing time which becomes an issue for a professional writer. I think about my cousin Carol's email the other day, where she tells me she has read five other books this month. How does she have that time? Well, Carol is not so connected!

OK so I am now seriously analyzing my time spent at my 'puter. This is better than some I know who are absolutely computer cyber illiterate. No way would I want to be unable to conduct my financial transactions online or to shop online. And some of the other time spent is how I stay informed and intouch. One big concern I had retiring as a high level government manager was that I would miss the information I had access to daily working at the top levels. I was well informed on issues like Medicare, Medicaid, social Security, Long term care, Healthcare financing. I did not want to lose that edge. It has been beneficial to know about these issues in retirement. Perhaps some work related information has proven itself irrelevant in the scheme of life, but other information has given me an edge in transactions. Knowledge acquired comes in handy. I do not get a hard copy of WSJ, so reading it online is a no-brainer. Not a time waster; would it be different if I had the paper pages in front of me? Well only if you consider the additional keyboard roaming and 'net surfing I can do from online to clarify and research information. I'm satisfied to accept my WSJ time as well spent in continuing information assimilation.
Now what about FB and email? I can't consider this a time waster; these are part of my social connections. Would it be different to be able to sit and drink tea, coffee and or wine with these friends in person? Sure, we'd see our faces! Unlikely that we’d do that daily, likely once in awhile. How much time would I spend that way? For one thing, it would not be possible as my friends are around the country and coast to coast and for another it is doubtful that we would gather in our pj's first or last thing of the day. So if this is how we can reconnect and relive slumber parties in cyber that sounds like time well spent to me too.

What about those hours I spent yesterday when I was downloading and transferring photos and placing online orders for prints? Well, finger strokes sure beat driving around town. The same goes for looking and buying online. It saves drive time and hassles.

What about those online games, especially Farm Town in FB and Pathwords? Here I must concede to little redeeming value other than keeping me off the streets. Then again it keeps me out of the kitchen and or the sewing or craft project room. These are activities that do not consume daily time more like a couple hours a week.

You know what? My computer time, Facebook, email, serves me well. It's the change in the way we live today. I will no longer worry that it's wasting time when here I have satisfied myself that it's working for me! Besides, it is not hurting a damn what if I didn't vacuum  this afternoon, there is later on.  Our home is not dirty but rather well kept, we eat decent home made meals most days, our clothes are washed ironed and ready to wear.  I have solved my own question, time flies but I'm riding on it's wings and enjoying the view! 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Googling the gadget

Now here I have wandered  off task again attempting to afix the comment  gadget onto this blog and for some reason I am stuck!  I just wanted to see if I could  set up a way to gather casual feedback from  readers who happen by.  Now and then I  would hear from some, but not in a while.

Some friends  read and some email  or FB me direct with comments.  But I do wonder who else might be reading and  their reaction? I don't need  that as a validation or encouragement to continue my  blogging, just curious.  Well on another blog I follow, "Life in the Second Half"  today, Nancy commented on this very subject.   She's in Lake Tahoe and I am here in the grey belt of MN. Yes it is still dreary and the  shop roof glacier has not completely fallen.  Photo from yesterday as we watched the 18 inch slide over two days.  This morning there is a 3 foot bite taken out near the back, but it's still hanging there.  MN amusement, watching the roof glacier.  Back to Nancy's comments where I wonder how great blogging minds can be running in the same circles? Nancy mentioned the  fun of meeting others.  Some think this may be dangerous, but it can work too.  I have two friends one in WA and one in FL whom I met over email  from another friend and a now long defunct website many years back.  It is  an interesting way to  develop a friendship.   I particularly  enjoyed reading Nancy's explaination of  how and why she blogs.  I do this too to maintain my  writing skills as well as to  generally keep myself amused.  Oh and lest I forget, there's Sandy's constant  reminder with each phone call!

I have many tasks at hand today and focused first on organizing  and downloading some photos to Kodak share to get prints so that I can update my father's scrapbook/album.  These are photos from my cousin and our trips to PA.  This is a task which I have expanded by my constant need to edit and improve things.  Maybe this is my obsession.  Isn't there an old  story  written by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Edgar Allan Poe about the person who keeps writing and tinkering to ensure their longevity?  Or was that the builder of the Winchester Mystery House?  Well maybe if there isn't such a tale, that's a sign I could write such fiction? 

Enough,  I am confined to quarters and resting and recovering, I hope, my left glutes from a strain I inflicted.  I think it was the new non Curves ab-machine Friday which Teresa placed in the center of the room at Curves. Being brazenly adventurous and foolishly curious I got right on it, without instruction.  I am not timid which has not been always a good thing.  Anything that  works and  strengthens abs is for me. Teresa came over to advise right form after I'd exhausted my  curiosity and  tormented my left glutes beyond forgiveness!  Usually I get these aches in my right side, but since Friday evening and persisting today, my left glute remains very angry with me!  Enough Advil and it  is masked.  I thought I had it whipped but last night I hobbled.  A night in bed and I hobble around better in the morning.  So it's a grey frosty MN snowy day and I can keep occupied inside and recuperate!  I'm not even interested in my local friendly chiropractor for an adjustment until this pain stops. 

I noticed  on a previous post that I referred to potential conversations with grand daughter on her visit.  If anyone is curious and does not already  know, none of those conversations occurred,  instead this  grandma bit her lips and tongue to prevent saying what she really thought.  This was not the most pleasant visit; she came with a cold so I  thought that had part to do with it, but it became apparrent the girl was beyond being not interested this trip.  In fact, she moped, mourned and pined for her CA boyfriend and  spent most of her time texting and phoning CA. If it was not him it was her Mom or her Mom's mother or her Dad!  What is going on here!  We are puzzled why she wanted to come for this winter visit? She wanted to see and experience winter which she did  with  a one hour  outside experience and then viewed it from inside the house or car.   I spoke  briefly to her that this was not as much fun because of her phone preoccupation, even suggested that she  set it aside  for a bit, but  she  chose not to do so.  Not conducive to talking; especially when she closed herself in the bedroom  for hours on end.

I predict a train wreck ahead, and at the  barest minimum a very rude awakening someday.  One of my Curves colleagues admonished to forget it, that she had tried  having their grand daughter live with them twice while going to school and all it did was aggravate themselves.  "They will do what they want to do..."    I am not meant to deal with pouting  19 year olds.  Sadly by sheltering and  over protecting their children, Jerry's son  and wife   have stifled their  socialization and development  with an insulating tight cocoon.  I saw this clearly in Janine this visit,  our 19 year old grand daughter has demonstrated regression to the age of 14.  Water under the bridge unless some seeds we planted root.  What an analogy--water and or seeds of discontent? 

BTW this brings back my favorite research project, do people triumph over their environment?  DIL is clearly doing what she deems best for her child, repeating her own learned pattern of family insularity. She learned this from her own mother.  I find this most peculiar in CA of all places where people generally mix and mingle freely. At least it was that way for was so easy to meet people and make friends there.  But not so they.  Jerry observed years back that they are  compulseively clannish with their relatives to the point of  near exclusion of  other friends.  Then again maybe we are the strange ones, living away from family and making our own lives.  In my case, 3000 miles across the country.  Yet we think we did quite well.  Jerry often  comments that we were better off until his sister and his mother moved nearby in CA.  He had been on his own from the age of 15, so he finds clinging to mom's skirts bizarrre. 

Now back to my gadget to gather feedback.  I have just  downloaded  and; installed my new  2010 Quicken and some  investment analyses tools, so a simple  Google gadget should not be vexing me.  But it is and so I must get off   this and go back to the settings and figure this out.  Maybe the "followers" button is supposed to do it and I have that, but here I am thinking there must be something more.. that's another one of my character flaws or strengths---my curiosity and striving for always something more, different, better, to experience, see, read, do etc.  Simple contentment escapes me... 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Grey blahs and sunshine slivers

Grey, gloomy day here again today. This is not good because it enforces my dreary mood. When we lived in Newcastle CA where the valley fog makes life dreary in the winter, we could drive just to Auburn and see the sunshine or at least up slightly above Auburn and get the rays. That always elevated my mood. I must have a dose of what is known as SAD, seasonal affected disorder, or something like that. Here there is no escape when it is overcast, we’d have to drive to south of Kansas perhaps to find the sun. I just need to see the sun after a day of it hiding. I find the older I get the worse the glooms can be.

I have any number of entertaining projects facing me, but the grey blahs take over. Reminds me of that line from Little Orphan Annie, “…and the goblins will get ya’ if ya’ don’t watch out..” Yesterday afternoon I almost finished the update on my Uncle John Irwin’s family scrapbook. One more page to lay out then I can disassemble and reassemble the book and place it where it rightfully belongs in the living room by the red dragon chair.   My Uncle John Irwin’s family is the source of most all of our magnificent antiques and I have assembled quite the story about his grandfather, John R Irwin, millionaire, host and contemporary of President Wm. McKinley. I am grateful that Aunt Jinx got to see the book before she died; she got a big kick out of it. We’d laugh about the contrast between the wealthy Irwin’s and our poor family of coal miners. She thought it comical that I researched and assembled all the information about the Irwins in one place. She had several old 1940’s newspaper clippings to share with me too that started my interest in the mansion and the lifestyle of the rich and famous back in the 1800’s when $1 million was worth something! No one wrote about the Ostroski’s or the Kochanowski’s. After she died though, I found more photos of Uncle John’s family and some of his Army history that I wanted to include in his red book. There is no one left to pass this along to unless John’s niece, Margaret, (in Ohio) who is older than me thinks her son would like it. Uncle John had a son from his first marriage but had no contact with him. I recall that my mother said, his son did come to Uncle John’s funeral. Maybe someday in PA I can track him down; Lord knows where I’d start. Margaret does not know either. It’s difficult to acknowledge a rich legacy with wonderful stories will end due to lack of interest. Perhaps the Freeport PA historical society would appreciate the collection of information. They were helpful to me in tracing the Irwins.

But now there I have rambled off in another direction. This meandering aligns with the grey blahs, so I indulge myself. This morning early the roads were slick with the thin coating of ice left over from last nights' almost drizzle. So Jerry cautioned me to wait a while until I leave for Curves because it is slick out and he sees the sand truck headed down the road at the end of our street. Sometimes I think he thinks I am an idiot. Of course I know it's slick but if I am to live in this wintry arctic like land, I need to keep up my confidence in driving.

This morning before leaving I had to make up the sleigh bed in the patriotic room where granddaughter slept when she was here.This bed is likewise a priceless antique from the Irwin's.   I’d washed sheets but left it disassembled and the unkempt sight was getting on my nerves. Besides the patriot bears were upset at being displaced off their seating arrangement for so long. They usually assemble at the head and oversee the room. I tried again to use the bed sheet garters that my Aunt Jinx used to keep sheets from sliding and gave up! I thought these a neat idea but how those sheets get attached is too sore an adventure for my fingers. I think of Aunt Jinx who would shake her head and say, “Patty, here do it like this.” That done did not shake the blahs so it was off to Curves where I found Teresa in the same funk. This does not help; the grey blahs are taking over all of us.

Back home the mail brought lots of tax related information for my aunt’s estate and for Uncle Carl; this all required gathering so I can send it all off to the accountants once everything is received. But one bright envelope was from the Lower Burrell PA People’s Library thanking me for donating Jinx’s 1940 Ken Hi Year book to them. I’d sent it months ago and thought no more about it, but today came a personal note of gratitude from the librarian with apologies for not acknowledging it sooner. They had none from 1940 so this helps their collection that can be useful to anyone researching that time. I so appreciated that and felt a slice of sunshine that I’d done something good! Today “thank you’s” seem to be archaic. A couple years ago on this blog I wrote about our grandson’s inability to thank us for his gifts; this blog post annoyed my daughter in law so I removed it, although I wonder why I wimped out. It merely stated the facts and recalled my own grandmother. But Angel was offended for her 20 year old son who knows better, so in the interest of some family accord I removed it. After that Brian sent a nice card; I’m sure his mother went out and bought it for him to send. But forward to 2009-10, Brian has not learned because we heard nothing for his Christmas cash gift, sent to his parent’s home where we know it arrived, so he is about to enter the life of receiving a card only. And here this week I have received two hand written thank you letters.. first from a local candidate for a campaign contribution and now the librarian. Sunshine slivers.

Just as I emerged from the shower and was about to dry my hair, my friend Bonnie called. We yakked on the phone over an hour catching up and wracking our heads about where we might go to have some coffee someday soon to just sit and visit. Shoots, we will likely just come here and drink wine or something more soothing. I am always surprised by how long some of my phone calls last. I mean it’s different when Sandy (in CA) and I gab for a long time; we don’t see each other. Our cell phones are our lifelines. But here with Bonnie who lives right in town or with Michele, the long phone conversations make less sense. Still it helps me pass the time and feel connected and it’s a good way to chase the grey blahs. Phone calls with friends give slices of sunshine.

It is going on 5:00PM so no sun can be expected today. I will be content with the slivers of sun I’ve gotten today. It’s time for a good glass of chardonnay to toast that we can seek sunshine from elsewhere than the sky; it’s the attitude.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stupid is as stupid does

Albert Einstein said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” I’ve been living that comment again lately and yesterday in particular.

Yesterday I received a letter from the PA state police forwarded to me from my Uncle Carl’s address. In July while in PA, with the help of his doctor, I took Uncle Carl to Logan House, an assisted living center in Lower Burrell. It is a lovely place where he has his own apartment; it is very expensive but his funds can pay for it. Uncle Carl is my last living relative on my mom’s side, 91 (soon to be 92). He has dementia, not Alzheimer’s but definitely dementia, such that it was no longer safe for him to remain in his own home despite care givers. So he has adjusted and doing well there, his sense of humor remains and he is content and happy there. And I have peace of mind knowing all is well with him.

But back to stupidity. Uncle Carl had a minor traffic accident in April which I learned about when we were in PA in May. No one was injured but he should not have been driving. Somehow he got into his head with my constant chatter, that he should relinquish his driver’s license and sell his car. He did that willingly and for that I was grateful! Meantime, his doctor sent the forms with the dementia diagnosis to the PA Department of Transportation, known as PennDot. So PennDOT has notification from his own doctor along with the incident accident report and the emergency room physician’s diagnosis about the dementia.

Having had a career in state government I understand non-thinking employees. I absolutelydrilled into my staff that if they were there to provide customer service; oublic service is supposed to be that.  I understand how brains are checked at the door in the morning and possibly after so many years in bureaucracy the people no longer pick up their brains when they leave for home. Suffice that bureaucracies with lifelong employees who know no better are frustrating entities on any given day. Probably everyone has encountered frustration dealing with their own state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as it was known in CA. CA DMV was distinguished as being the worst government bureaucracy in the state. That distinction was duly earned because most folks encountered nothing but  frustration dealing with them. I nominate PennDot as achieving stupidity beyond what DMV could have expected.

I’ve corresponded by certified mail, with PennDot at least four times regarding Uncle Carl’s driver’s license. I have provided copies of my Power of Attorney and signed, certified and sworn that I cannot find his “current” driver’s license to physically return it to them. I gave up trying to get through to them on the phone because neither anyone in their offices nor their Medical Unit answer the phone. Granted those employees went without pay during the PA budget crisis this past summer. I suppose if I had to work without pay I would be grumpy, but I would do my job and certainly answering the phone is a basic service of government agencies. Perhaps someday PA voters will not elect people like Ed Rendell as governor and things might improve. But I digress; PA is a strong Democrat state with unions holding and pulling major political ropes (not strings) and with extreme taxation policies. One last harangue on PA which taxes even what the feds exempt; it is one of only 11 states with heinous inheritance taxes. Wealthy PA elderly move to Florida for more reasons than the climate.

So yesterday the mail brings me a letter from the PA State Police in Apollo demanding that Uncle Carl surrender his driver’s license in person so that his “suspension” can begin! If he does not appear and do so, the fines begin at $100 and threaten incarceration and who knows what else! Stupidity reigns!

Fortunately there was a phone number and a state trooper had signed the letter personally. Even better he answered the phone. I explained the situation and Uncle Carl’s dementia and that I have been unable to find his driver’s license in his home despite many searches. This trooper is completely sympathetic and understands. He tells me that PennDot sends these on automatically. He goes on to say that the explanation from families is usually similar to mine, they cannot find the license and they are desperate. He understands that an Alzheimer’s or dementia medical diagnosis should be enough to convince PennDot that the person whom they are threatening cannot respond. He even shares that he has had to make house calls to homes of these elderly when there has been no response to demand their license and they nearly have a heart attack on the spot. He does not enjoy that at all. How could he; he is a state officer reduced to doing bureaucratic tasks that at best are unnecessary and at worst stupid. So he tells me to stop by the next time I am in PA, or call him and he will make arrangements to meet me so I can sign the affidavit yet again with my power of attorney stipulating that Carl will not ever be driving again and the license cannot be found. He is a very nice individual and then as we talk he says even better he will mail me the affidavit; as he says, “Why would you go through the trouble to fabricate something like this? You have enough to do managing for your Uncle long distance. PA does not have to complicate life any more for you.” I want to reach through the phone and hug him for having the rarest of all qualities among bureaucrats—common sense! Hooray! We laugh and ponder what could happen if he is told to go to the assisted living center to confiscate Carl’s license and the entire population of 34 residents arise in agitation. He assures me he will personally enter this into the system and be done with it. Now a state trooper has become a clerk for the PennDot bureaucrats who cannot read, refuse to read and refuse to even answer their phone. I will not include his name, to protect his privacy, but be assured he has a special place of gratitude in my prayers. If there was ever a system that needs quality improvement and customer service training it is PennDot. But I am retired and do not do such things anymore; I’ll not be offering my services to them!

After the mail, I go to the Legion to donate blood at the mobile Red Cross blood drive. I donate regularly because it is something I can do and blood is needed. But I do not know that Stupidity eagerly awaits me as soon as I arrive! Stupidity knows no geographic boundaries. You can run but you can’t hide from it!

Syd, an elderly lady has run the bloodmobile for 35 years for the Legion; she retired from it last year saying it was time for her to give it up. I have been donating blood probably for as many years, beginning first in CA during my career in CA state government where the blood mobiles came to the offices. Another local woman, not known for sense, stepped up to take over Syd’s coordinator job. Syd’s system worked and so one would expect that Shelly could follow that model and all would be well. Wrong! Shelly is not the sharpest knife in the drawer; she’s more like a butter knife among the meat cleavers.

As I enter I see only one solitary old lady at the reception desk who cannot handle the demand of one person at a time. Syd had two or three there to keep each other company and facilitate the sign ins. This does not bother me because I know the routine, sign in, take the same packet of materials, sit down, read (I speed reed) the information, return the packet, get a number and proceed to the holding area until the Red Cross worker comes to escort you for another series of questions and tests. I do my self service check in, get through the screening and donate blood. There is a seating area where donors had always been served refreshments. As I am donating I notice few people sitting there, but this is early in the day not the busiest time of the day when working folks are on their way home. But I see the few donors go to the tables and leave quickly; this appears strange because I know it is important for donors to replenish their fluids before leaving. I also notice two young girls, teens or twenties somethings, who are sitting at the refreshment tables, yakking and doing nothing that I can observe. Shelly, the new coordinator who is a large gal is across from me donating blood as well. Then I notice Syd, our retiree, fluttering and throwing her arms in the air.

When I get to the refreshment tables I see a sloppy mess, and look for a clean place to sit and drink and eat. In the past here was always a crew of the older ladies serving, asking how many gallons you donated, cleaning tables, and generally working at making donors comfortable. Syd flutters over apologizing, “we only have orange juice or cranberry-grape today...” What, no cokes, no plain cranberry, no coffee, no bottled water? She serves me a small glass of water in a Styrofoam cup obviously meant for coffee. The table which usually has fresh popcorn from the Legion bar, plates of cookies, cheeses and crackers, bags of cookies, raisins, candy, and other varied treats looks sparse. There is an empty plate at the far end where two men are sittin.  Shelly appears and Syd flutters to her asking if she can please put out more cheese to which Shelly replies, “well I can’t put it all out now…” I ask Shelly where the beverages are and she responds that she has two juices. I tell her I do not drink those, thinking to myself that perhaps the orange juice would be fine with a good shot of vodka. I mention that at least before we had cokes and coffee to which Shelly walks away and Syd flutters nervously and apologetically. Two men at the far end of the table are sitting drinking their water. As soon as they get up Syd brings the cheese platter to me. She quietly remarks that she guesses she will stand and move the plate back and forth, apologizes again quietly so as not to call attention. I question what happened to the fleet of women who used to provide hospitality to donors and Syd shrugs her shoulders and flutters away. Shelly is nowhere to be found. I suspect she is back in the kitchen stuffing her face.

This is more than I can tolerate, so I gather my coat and say, “forget it, I will go out to the bar and get something to drink!” On my way out the two young girls who are doing nothing ask me if I want a card and waive a business card in my face. When I ask, “What for?” One says to remind me of the next donation date. I smile and tell her directly that I will not be donating here again. I realize that these two are Shelly’s workers, likely a daughter and friend; they of course cannot be bothered with hospitality so the dirty tables and lack of attention to donors is what we get while they sit yak and offer cards! The Red Cross always mails out postcards and there is publicity in the newspapers. Duplicate useless effort.  The end of hospitality which has been replaced with stupidity!

Through the door in the bar I get a Coke from Patty, my friend and bartender. I tell her I have never seen such a lack of concern for donors in my 35 years of donating; she mentions that Shelly has taken it over. I acknowledge that stupidity has now replaced hospitality. There is a man sitting at the bar with a beer and a big meal; he also was a donor who left disgusted and said he will not donate there again. I commiserate with him and tell him that there are blood drives at the fire departments nearby and across the river at the Red Cross blood center in La Crosse. Meantime I have experienced yet again what happens when someone takes over knowing not what they do. This is the danger of volunteers. A person who has never run anything and could barely function without a monitor assumes control. One would have thought continuation of the system that worked would be the best strategy but stupidity knows not beyond itself.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pink of the winter sky

Yesterday, early evening while stirring the pot of home made "refrigerator soup" simmering on the stove, the  sky outside our kitchen window caught my eye.  There was so much pink.  I could not miss that, so I donned boots &  jacket, camera and captured some of it.  
I have not ever seen this coloration in the winter sky here in MN.  Sky blue pink!   It was beautiful and outside it was quiet, hushed, briskly cold, but so clear. It cleared my head and vision.

Granddaughter was snugged in downstairs  watching football with Grandpa Jerry.  I am too fidgety to sit through a play off game when I don't have a favorite team playing.  Janine, granddaughter,  arrived Wednesday from CA with a head cold.  I fear it  is a virus from  her description that it  left and returned.   So we've been doctoring with Vicks and Nyquil.  It is sounding better but still not gone; I would have had a medical visit about this with all the concern of  H1N1, etc.  and especially before flying, but then that's me.   So this has stifled her visit somewhat.  Of course it is winter in MN and we don't have much activity; she did come to see the snow and experience winter.  Well here it is.   I am disappointed that she's not able to muster more energy, but hope she sheds this before her return flight Friday. 

Have been quandrizing (my word)  with this visit with Janine for several reasons which have manifested themselves clearly this trip.  Since her last trip here in April, she seems regressed into more dependency, less reaching out or experiencing as a 19 year old  could be doing, sticking with her chosen only boyfriend, and  tightening the ties to Mom & Dad's apron strings.  I wonder how long this can last?  Will she ever become her own person?  There is still time enough.  Her responses to questions at times evoke,  "my mom says...."  That's better than "John says...." I suppose, but I wish this girl woud grow some independent gumption and begin to have her very own opinions, views, circles, likes, friends, you name it. Isn't that one purpose of education, to create a  drive for independence and the foundation to chose wisely?  Maybe that's passe now too!   It's one thing to raise and shelter but too much and it cripples.   I hope she does not trade parental control for John's control.   I cannot understand any of this. 

But there is always hope and the pink sky seemed  to be God's benevolence shining, "G'wan outside, breathe the fresh air, enjoy it and let it go!"   And that wonderful old verse from Corinthians, "be not dismayed, by reason of this great multitude, for the battle is not your's but the Lord's"    That verse came clearly to me outside in  18 degrees appreciating the pink sky.  I remembered when I received that verse at a Christmas Eve candlelight service in Fair Oaks, almost 40 years ago.  I have kept it to  bolster me at times and can hold fast to it.  Faith is a good thing that allows us to let go and trust. 

Prone as I am to signs and intuition and guidance, I interpret this glorious pink  sky to mean, let it be and let ME.  That's pretty good advice for someone who has no control over this situation.  Besides the last thing I want is control!  No way!  All we can continue to do is provide the seeds, exposure and hope.   Hope that there is another pink sky somewhere.  Pink sky at night, sailor's delight; pink sky at morning sailor take warning....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Memory & the making of

Barbara Kinglsolver, author, (One of my faves) wrote, " It's surprising how much memory is built  around things unnoticed at the time."  As I reflect on my life and where I am today I affirm that quote.

I have tried a couple times today to talk to my cousin, Carol in FL.  We reunited you will see elsewhere in my blog in October in PA.   I have a question which she may not know and which I am sure she will not consider as important as it is to me--Joseph Bosman, a funeral card I found at my aunt's in PA.  John Bosman introduced my father to my mother. I learned this from Carol.  John married Julie who is still alive in PA.  John also  introduced  my father's brother & wife, that would be Carol's father, Edddie to her mother Esther.  And so my Grandma Anna said to John, "now you have married off my sons."  But they were long time family friends.  I have a photo of them in my father's book which I thought was Uncle Eddie and Esther, and which Chrissy (another cousin, Eddie's daughter and Carol's sister)   clarified. 

Well as someone whose parts of life are disconnected I am curious.  And if Bosman was a family connection why did no one ever tell me?  Or did they and while I was young and busy and otherwise occupied,  did I ignore it?   And so today at age 65 I am so curious as this maybe a part of my jigsaw puzzle to piece together for the picture.

Today I was looking through some wooden boxes and found two necklaces that Steve (with Jerry's help) bought me;  one a small "MOM" with a crystal heart in gold and another  with just a heart with a diamond speck.  I remembered when they were given to me.  MOM on Mother's Day long ago.  No one to call me Mom anymore.  Another on my birthday.  I think on  the memories of these, teary at times, and then snap myself back to the reality of today and the way life has happened. 

The other day I was changing dresser scarfs in the bedroom and wanted a long one to go over the big dresser because the lace one  was just too dusty.  Oh  I looked, but couild not find just what I wanted.  I have found several linen ones and  some of damask, but I want crochet or lace.  And then I missed my Aunt Jinx who died in July.  Because I could have called her, explained what I wanted and she would have crochetted one to fit  for me.  But that can no longer be.  And it's not just that I want something I cannot's the realization and  reflection of what we lose as our family ties slip...there is no longer anyone to talk to about things.

My cousin Paula in  CA  calls and asks me about things; I am her only link to the family and to our grandparents.  I feel very old.  It is up to me to preserve our stories and our history.  And so after me, who cares?
So today I consider how to talk to granddaughter when she arrives Wednesday for a week.  My sense is that she is tying herself down to a losing proposition with her  boyfriend. An even worse losing proposition by whizing through remedial high school in the name of college (junior college in CA)  to do who knows what... That's one reason why we wanted to get her here for a visit.  Other than her phone calls at least she will be away from that dufus for a week + .  And I want her to know things;  things that she will not hear elsewhere.    Maybe we can have those conversations while I have her help me store away my angel collection till next year.  Maybe when we clean out the crystal and china in the hutch, a day long task.  At 19 she has not a clue about life's memories and how it will be important later in life as it is to me today.  As it is when I reconnect with my friends from childhood and high school.  Memory, it's what builds as we live our lives.  It is elusive in our 20's, 30's even 40's ....who cares about that old stuff.   But there comes a time and if we have not built the foundation  to that time, we will have nothing....barren land.

I do not want to idealize my life looking backwards to memory, but  to cherish those memories  I have.  Sometimes in our quiet times that is what is left.