Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Big Change At Work

I try to avoid the topic of my job here. Is it just me or is it that men can leave all the stress and responsibility of their job there at work at the end of the workday while women stress about their own occupational responsibilities and workday encounters 24/7?

I dunno. Anyway, this week I’m going to break from tradition and speak to the big changes happening at my work, which also happens to be the same place where my wife works. Our employer is switching software vendors which in turn is driving major changes in the way thousands of our co-workers do things on a daily basis.

Difficult? You may have heard the phrase, difficult as turning the Queen Mary. This change is like turning the Queen Mary in dangerous, uncharted waters with a crew learning as they go while those in charge of the fleet advise, “That’s not the way we did it.”

Since I’m the equivalent of a deckhand, I don’t have that much to do with it all. But I did have one rather unique experience, having to deliver a ten-minute address on how the changes will affect my work team in front of an audience of over 150.

Now my great fears in life are, in this order: flying, speaking in public, death. So giving that little talk in the auditorium wasn’t easy. I did inject a little humor into my speech, which actually went over pretty well, with a couple folks wondering afterwards if I might try stand-up.

I passed that along to my two sons who were doubtful of my honesty, to say the least. “Was anyone recording this laughfest?” asked my son Scott. Then he added, “Might want to hold up on the comedy club tho. I've seen the home movie of you performing a standup in the basement of our old home.”

Oh, well. I still think I can be funny at times. Anyway, tomorrow the big change begins. We’re all on edge and nervous. And there’s not much I can do to help with it all. To draw another parallel to transportation, remember that movie Airplane where that inexperienced pilot brought the jumbo jet full of anxious passengers in for a landing at the end?

I’m the Leslie Nielsen character who repeatedly comes into the cockpit and says, “Good luck. We’re all counting on you.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grant At One

Grant hit the big ONE yesterday. That’s one as in one-year-old. My one and only grandchild took it in stride as the picture above indicates. His parents threw him a bash on Saturday for close family. He got a lot of nice birthday gifts as well as one in the “other” category—a Michigan State t-shirt that said “start ‘em young, raise ‘em right”—a gift from uncle Scott, himself a Spartan alumnus.

I don’t think he’ll be wearing that one much if at all. His father Greg is a big Michigan fan like myself.

As much as he enjoyed his presents, his cake and all the hoopla, Grant didn’t seem overly concerned with hitting his milestone. Or maybe he is proud of making it this far since one of his favorite gestures is showing everybody that he’s “so big.” Waving bye bye is something he’ll only do on occasion. He’ll clap too but copying a patty-cake demonstration draws a “what’s the point” expression.

Trying to get him to stand up and try walking also gets a “what for” attitude, especially since he can zip from room to room now on all fours. And though he jibber jabbers a lot, trying to make sense of it requires an expert in baby talk. Wendy and I did think we heard him say ‘grandpa.’ He is a lot more interested now in what I’m doing than he was at six months.

Wendy’s efforts to cuddle him like she used to in her recliner are often rebuffed as Grant squirms loose so he can get back on the floor. Right now, he’s a gotta go, gotta do kinda guy. Only when he’s tired will he give in and let Wendy rock him to sleep in her arms.

We usually get to see Grant up close and personal about once a week, which is just right for Wendy. Of course, lest we forget that Grant has a 'sibling', we have to entertain his canine brother Simon as well. And Simon refuses to be ignored, especially when we pull out the camera to take pictures of the little guy. Over comes Simon to pose too.

Grant and Simon get along as well as you expect brothers might. But it wasn’t that long ago that Grant was sitting in our kitchen when Simon became excited at the arrival of guests and began scurrying about the house. He bulled over Grant just like you might expect a linebacker might do to a quarterback in a football game.

Afterwards, Grant cried. Simon tried to make up with some kisses but our grandson didn’t look in a forgiving mood. I think he was thinking, “Dog slobber doesn’t always make it better.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dream, Dream, Dream

For many, many years now I’ve had a recurring dream. Despite occasional variations in setting and circumstances, the main part of the dream is essentially the same.

I’m back in my old job working as a reporter for a daily newspaper--a job I left better than 35 years ago. Deadline is looming and I haven’t a thing to write about. It’s a very stressful dream and if I wake up in the middle of it, I feel a wave of relief.

What’s a little odd about it is that no boss is breathing down my neck, glaring at me or otherwise concerned that I can’t find a bit of news to report in this one-horse town. In some variations, I go out looking for news and come back days later, still with nothing to report. I get no lecture from a Lou Grant type. Or from my old managing editor who sometimes makes a cameo appearance. I’m not fired nor is my pay docked.

If there’s a meaning behind this dream, I can’t fathom what it might be.

Lately, I’ve had another recurring dream, one that makes more sense to me. I’ve just retired and am figuring out how I’m going to pay for the rest of my life here on this earth. In the latest version of this dream a strange lady hands me an envelope stuffed with bills, implying that a collection was taken up on my behalf.

True, I have been studying various retirement scenarios. And it seems so often the advice about retirement comes down to one word—don’t. I go to the AARP retirement calculator and after I punch in my numbers, it tells me that both Wendy and I should wait until we retire . . . till age 71!

Wow. It makes me wonder if retirement is a Ponzi scheme with some older Americans working longer in life to support those who don’t. I’m going to try that AARP retirement calculator again and punch in that I have a million dollars. I don’t, but I’ll bet it still will advise me to keep on working. Then again, if I punch in that I have a million in the bank it might just say . . .

. . . dream on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Toys Story

Wendy and I visited our grandson Grant this past week, in his native habitat so to speak, checking to see what toys he got for Christmas. The little guy was a bundle of energy pushing a button on this one, flipping a switch on another one, with all kinds of sounds emanating everywhere.

He has his own key chain complete with door lock chime and a remote starter, even a light. Then there's a discovery table with what appears to be a cell phone and a calculator, both of which make a variety of sound effects. And he has a pint-sized house facade with working doorbell. The kid made out okay with Santa.

It's amazing how far toys have come since I was a kid. The only time my toys made a sound was when I wound them up or pulled a string. And they didn't say or do much. We had to supply voices and sound effects with our own imagination. With computer chips implanted in so many toys now, they're capable of doing their own thing.

While shopping myself for a toy for Grant recently I passed down the toy aisle and suddenly had a pack of toy dogs barking at me. They must have had motion sensors, right? They don't make toy dogs yet with a sense of smell, do they?

I ended up buying a soft "singin' soccer ball" that promised lots of fun for ages six months and up. And for the ball, I think. Cause when I brought it to the checkout and put it in front of the cashier. the ball called out, "Wheeeeee, this if fun." I had to smile. It was cute . . . the first time.

Then I put it way in the back of the car as I headed out to make some deliveries for my employer. But as soon as I got out on the road I heard, "Wheee, this if fun." I get it. The ball responds itself to being bounced around and stuff. Another kind of motion sensor.

I hit a bump in the road. "Goallllllllll!" the ball called out. This was getting annoying. A few seconds later as I changed lanes I heard, "Let's play."

Let's not. I could see that this could continue the rest of the afternoon so I pulled into a parking lot, got out and opened the rear hatch door. Not happening, ball dude!

I pulled the ball of the bag--"Wheeeeee, this if fun"---and looked for some kind of instructions on the box. I didn't find any. Was there a battery or something I could remove? I found some kind of velcro flap but I had trouble opening it because the ball was securely attached to the box. I didn't want to tear the box apart to silence the ball.

Then I remembered. To make the ball talk initially, I pressed on a nose on the face of the ball. Maybe if I pressed it again, it would shut up. So I did.

"It's music time," the ball said.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooo! Anything but songs for babies and toddlers. I pressed the nose again.

"It's learning time," the ball responded. Hmmmmm, maybe I could handle that. I got back into the car and drove on. Strangely, that shut him up.

Maybe the ball thought it was in class and had to be quiet. Boo-yeah.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Ring In The Old

Ring in the old as in, it might be us. We're getting there, Wendy and me. Actually, isn't the saying supposed to go . . . ring out the old, ring in the new? Somehow that doesn't seem to apply.

No big party for us to host or attend this year. Usually we get together with Wendy's sister and her two boys, have snacks and drinks, play games, then toast the New Year with Dick Clark and company at midnight.

But this year number two son Scott's in Washington, number one son Greg and his wife were up north being entertained at a bar by Greg's old college roomie on guitar, and Wendy's sister's boys are old enough to be doing their own thing. And they did.

So this year on New Year's Eve we enjoyed dinner out, six of us together, then Wendy and I joined her sister and husband at their house for a drink, the four of us, then Wendy and I were back home before nine, to spend the rest of the night, just the two of us.

Instead of playing board games, I browsed the On Demand movie selections offered by our cable provider and selected "500 Days of Summer", an independent studio production that offered a light-hearted twist on the traditional boys gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl theme.

That lasted till about ten o'clock. Then we started to watch a horror movie until Wendy fell asleep on the couch. I started nodding off as well. Had Wendy not suddenly awakened at ten to midnight, we might have missed Dick Clark's counting down to 2012.

Today I leafed through some old journals I had made going back over 20 years. On past New Year's eves, we had done video skits, formed an impromptu pick-up band to play some tunes, launched a skyrocket that drew a police cruiser to our neighborhood, and enjoyed lots of entertaining board games.

Just a few years ago, my nephew Mike suddenly crashed to the floor, performing a pantomine in hopes of getting his teammates in Cranium to guess what catch phrase he was demonstrating. His brother correctly guessed "stunt double." Mike's mother just hoped he hadn't hurt himself.

Maybe next year we'll have more energy come December 31 but I wouldn't count on it. For one, it looks like it's going to be a particularly busy year at work. And I'll be pushing 60 next time we sing "Auld Lang Syne." (Hea, I spelled that right first time!)

Dick Clark, you may have to carry on the tradition for us next New Year's. We're counting on you.