Friday, October 31, 2008

I Might Not Be Employed Tomorrow

If I'm not, it won't be my fault. I am all about fairness and what's right. I try to be fair, I try not to lie (even a white lie to keep from hurting someone's feelings), and I have no patience for anyone without the same convictions.

One of my "supervisors" is such a person. I'll call him La-Z-Boy--anyone who knows him will know to whom I am referring. He lies about the most inconsequential things. So much so that when his wife became pregnant with twins, we kept waiting for him to come in and tell us she had unfortunately had a miscarriage. Ouch! But seriously, some people can lie so much that it makes other people feel that strongly. When the twins were born, La-Z-Boy had these two nannies (named Heather and some other name I forget) who were living with them and caring for the babies. Turns out they were totally fictitious. He tells outlandish lies. He went into great detail about two years ago telling everybody how they were digging a hole in their back yard to build a swimming pool. Every day came a new installment of the trials and tribulations of putting in a pool. I guess there was no way he could have known his wife would want to have a surprise birthday party for him and invite all his co-workers. I didn't go to the party, but I was told by several people that there was a pretty nice hot tub--no swimming pool. And nobody ever called him out on it!

So now La-Z-Boy has ruffled my feathers. Last week as my hours were approaching 40 and I still had one more shift to work, he called and told me not to come to work. I guess the wardens we work for in this prison have some sort of policy against overtime. Okay . . . it is a 45-minute drive and not worth it with the price of gas and I could certainly use the time off. Then I found out the other two people who work the same shift each got five hours of overtime. Never mind, just forget it, it's not worth the fight. It's only a few hours. Don't worry about it.

Tonight I came to work as usual, started to work as usual, and La-Z-Boy called me and said since I had 37.75 hours before this shift I need to go home at 2:00 a.m. We had a short heated discussion about how unfair that was to me since the other two people had gotten overtime last week when I didn't. He responded to me that the other two people would not get overtime because he had somehow adjusted their time sheets. (We clock in and out on our computers on the company website, but certain people can go in and change things.) Hmmm . . . I'm thinking there is something not only basically wrong with this but also illegal.

So I'm clocking out at 2:00 a.m.

But I'm waiting right here for the Human Resources Director to arrive.

Monday, October 27, 2008

When I Have the Time

As previously stated, I catch up on all my Internet stuff at work whenever time permits. Time permits tonight because I just don't feel like working, so my two co-workers are taking up the slack for me. We do that for each other, and fortunately we don't all usually have a case of the I-don't-give-a-craps at the same time. So tonight it's my turn.

While reading Lil Sis' blog about OCD tonight I was reminded of the dishes I have which are exactly like her square ones. I don't recall whether it was an accident that we purchased the exact same pattern of dishes or if one of us copied the other. No matter. They are beautiful dishes, and I am hoping one day to actually use mine. Either that or I will leave them to Lil Sis so she will have LOTS of them. That's if I ever get back to Ohio to rescue them along with all the other "stuff" I left there.

I loved Ohio . . . really. I loved everything about it--even the snow--everything except (in the end) The Man who took me there. Actually it was my idea to move there. We had just endured a terrible ordeal in Georgia and needed a change of scenery, and besides The Man had grown up there and his family were all there. I loved it immediately and desperately wanted to stay, but when the time came I knew I needed to be with my family again. I had been estranged from them for three years, only seeing Lil Sis a time or two and my son and his family every chance I got. I did not see or speak to Lil Bro or Mom for the whole time I was in Ohio. When I came home my family all called me one by one, and they all cried--even Lil Bro.

The area in Ohio where we lived was farm land and not much else, yet I was never more than 10 miles from whatever I needed--three miles if I didn't mind paying a little more. The terrain was flat, and how I loved that for bicycle riding! There was an old railroad bed which had been transformed into a biking/hiking path, and I never lived more than 5 miles from an entrance to it. The trail was well used by bikers and walkers, old folks, children and dogs. Never did I feel threatened or in danger riding on this path which was 11.5 miles long. There was only one time when I rode the entire trail from end to end and back. And I never rode the trail that I did not wish Lil Sis could be there to ride with me.

I worked a seasonal job in a hardware store which was part of a grain elevator where the farmers took their wheat, corn and beans. For most of the time I lived there I was close enough to ride my bicycle to work, and I thought that was heaven. The locals thought I was insane. I guess new folks didn't move into town very often because I was certainly the talk of the town. Of course there was my Southern accent which stuck out like a sore thumb.

I also "worked" in my sister-in-law's greenhouse which she opened shortly after we got there. I say "worked" because it was more fun than work. I guess I miss her and the greenhouse most of all. She became my best friend and confidante. Since I left she and her husband have bought a larger greenhouse, and I have wished many times I could be there to help.

Here is a story that underscored for me how small the town was. A man called the hardware store one day to ask if we had peepholes for doors. I checked for him and told him that indeed we had one. (One only.) He asked me to hold it for him, and then as an afterthought he asked if I would charge it to his account and bring it out to the car for him. He said, "I don't feel like putting my leg on."

There seemed to be an inordinate number of people in that area with missing arms, legs, fingers, maybe toes. It took me quite some time to figure out that most of it was probably due to farming and getting things caught in machinery. There were also factories in the area--small though it was--and I had heard one especially gruesome story about how a very nice man named Bob had lost his arm. He mostly used a mechanical arm but sometimes came in without it attached. It took some time to get used to it.

I was amazed at how young the old farmers looked. One of the told me he was 73 years old, and I just refused to believe it. I wanted to stay there until I looked younger, too!

In this small town there was a very busy railroad. On my way to the hardware store one morning--on my bicycle--I noticed a plaque in the ground near the railroad crossing. This was something I might never have seen in my car. The train happened to be on the tracks this particular morning as I approached, and I stopped beside this plaque. It has the name of a night policeman who was killed there in June of 1896. While I lived there I asked every person I could think of who might know how he was killed. I even asked the computer guy at the library and he didn't know. Several people told me it was a bank or train robbery, and one even told me he was shot by the John Dillinger gang. I've done my research, and Dillinger wasn't born then. I have tried every way I know (and have had time for) to find out how this policeman died. Even on the website for the Ohio Fallen Officers, it lists his cause of death as "unidentified." They thought enough of him to put a plaque (marker, monument) in the ground, so I'm thinking he didn't just die of natural causes on that spot near the railroad. I never got around to taking a picture of the marker.

When I have the time (and the money?) I will go back there to collect my things. Maybe I will remember to take some pictures. I really miss that little old town.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

Now and then a situation arises which changes you. That was profound! As if no one else had ever had that happen. I can't even count how many times over the course of my life I have had these occurrences.

But recently I had an experience that was so life-changing that it has me looking at things through completely different glasses. I have struggled most of my life with nicotine addiction. I started smoking in the first place to be "cool", as it was cool in those days to be a smoker. We had no idea the harm smoking would do. Had we known, though, I still don't think we would have given up the coolness of it. Just like the hip-hugger bell-bottom pants, the peasant blouses, the platform shoes, the long stringy straight hair and going without a bra, it was a part of us. It defined us. It proved how grown-up we were!

Fast forward to adulthood with its pressures, responsibilities and challenges . . . and its excuses for not giving up cigarettes. Over the years I have quit and started back more times than I can count, never giving serious consideration to my family history and how these things can be handed down from generation to generation.

In August of this year I decided I needed to have a complete physical. It had been five years since I had had one. Oh, I had seen a doctor at some point when I was so deathly ill with a sinus infection that I could not go on another minute without a Z-Pak. But at that time my life was such that I just could not make time for a visit to the doctor. (At this point I was in Ohio, my favorite doctor was in Georgia, and I just wasn't ready for a change.)

My doctor is part of a diagnostic clinic, and when I say complete physical I mean complete. He obviously heard something in my chest he didn't like, so off to the X-ray department I went. The next morning I was awakened from a sound sleep by my cell phone playing "River of Dreams" (one of my favorite Billy Joel songs). It was my doctor's nurse telling me in rather unemotional tones (but I guess they have to do that) that the X-rays showed a "spot" on my right lung and I would need to come in for a CT scan. Somehow I managed to go back to sleep and when I woke up later I wasn't even sure if the call had really happened. But I checked my cell phone, and there it was . . . a call from my doctor's office.

I sat in my bed with my laptop typing out a pitiful poor-me-this-is-so-unfair account of the day. Oh, what would I do? I started compiling the DVD to be viewed at my memorial (I would, after all, be cremated). I could not decide whether to tell anyone; I didn't want to worry my family. But on the day I was to go for the CT scan I happened to be with my son and his wife. I did not want to tell them what was going on, but somehow I just felt compelled to. They were both visibly shaken but optimistic that the outcome would be a good one.

But how could it be? Had I not known for years that smoking was very bad for anyone but certainly worse for me because of my family history? How could I even expect to have a good outcome even though I had, once again, quit smoking? So I was planning my memorial, picking out the music and the photos (need to get some more photos out of storage and I don't have "At My Funeral" by the Crash Test Dummies on my computer). What to do first? There was so much I had not told my only child, my 31-year-old not-so-grown-up overprotected son. There was so much to do. Most of my "stuff" was still in Ohio even after two years of being back home in Georgia. What to do about that? And the "stuff" I do have will have to be disposed of. What about my two cats? They love each other, and I would like to keep them together. Oh, who will take them and love them?

So on Friday before Labor Day I tremble as I prepare to go for my CT scan. I can barely breathe, but I shower and dress and put on makeup as if it would matter at all, and drive the 20 or so miles to the diagnostic clinic. I wait only a short time before I am called into the room where the very imposing machine sits. The technician explains to me that I need not undress as she is only interested in a limited area and the machine is very precise. I didn't even need to take off my shoes, she told me, but it just felt more comfortable to leave them beside the chair where my purse was now sitting.

The CT scan took very little time, and the technician tells me that my doctor will call me with the results. Later that day my doctor's nurse called to set up an appointment to see the doctor for the verdict. Since it was Labor Day weekend, it would be Tuesday before I could see him. It was absolutely the longest weekend of my life. I could not force myself to see or talk to anyone at all. I don't think I even left my house again until Monday night when it was time to go to work. And then I went to work early because I just could not stand to be alone with myself any longer.

My appointment was for 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, and I'm not sure how I managed to keep quiet until then. I waited for what seemed an eternity for the doctor to come into the room. When he did, he barely got one foot in the door before looking me squarely in the eye and saying, "You're fine." He obviously knew how worried I had been by the haggard look on my face. As it turns out, the "spot" was some sort of scar tissue, possibly from slight pneumonia or another ailment I had either forgotten or not felt sick enough to count. I will see him again at the end of November to have it re-checked, but the doctor saw no need for concern. Before CT scans and the vast strides made in medicine and technology, I imagine I would have had a biopsy to determine the nature of the "spot."

To say I felt relieved is more than an understatement. I was not even in my car when I was on the phone with my son, telling him the good news. "I'm fine," I said, echoing the doctor's words exactly, and burst into tears. I came into work that night practically floating on air, prompting one of my co-workers to ask if I'd had a sexual encounter, though he used other words. I told them all what I had just endured and how very grateful I was to be alive.

It wears off, of course. One cannot go around all the time in a grateful mood, floating on air. It just isn't practical. There are days I'm sure I don't even give it a thought. But on the days I do, I am more than exceptionally grateful for every day of life I have. By no means do I think I am completely safe . . . there is that family history, after all . . . but I do not believe I will ever even think of smoking again.

When I was so sure I was dying, another thought that entered my mind was, "Who will ride the tandem with Lil Sis?" Seriously. I'm doubly glad we don't have to answer that question.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

That Reminds Me

Seeing Lil Sis' blog tonight reminded me of all sorts of things: why the judge still fears our mother, why I missed Homecoming one year (I'll have to try to figure out which one), having a flat tire on a car I wasn't supposed to be driving and wrecking one I was supposed to be driving but not that fast on a dirt road with my Lil Bro and Lil Sis in the back seat.

The thing with the judge was this: I didn't see any harm leaving the house with him even though I was only 14, he was only 15 (and driving), and we had two other female friends with us. It seemed so innocent. Mom was gone for the weekend, or so I thought. We had been out having a grand old time (probably went to get an ice cream or something equally dangerous) and actually got back home pretty early. The judge and I came skipping up to the house with an arm around each other, laughing until we saw Mom standing in the doorway. (You see, the car wasn't there because my brother Bo had just left in it!) The two girlfriends had already gone inside and were shaking in their boots. I will never forget the look on the judge's face as Mom questioned him. She asked how old he was and when he told her he was 15 she said, "Don't you lie to me." He was tall and stocky, a football player, and he was driving a car. (A lot of the boys around there did that at that time. I don't know why, but their parents allowed it. I thought it was cool.) Anyway, she told him to leave and never come back or call me again. Another boy (who later became my first husband and the father of my only child) told me that the judge came directly to where a bunch of guys were gathered and was still so upset that the car in which he was sitting was shaking. The next day at school the judge had a new girlfriend. And to think . . . I could be happily married to a judge now.

And the flat tire . . . well, that was just stupid. However, I was just 15 and did a great many stupid things. (Oh, wait, I never stopped doing stupid things!) Anyway, we lived in a trailer park which at that time was top of the line as trailer parks go. A classmate who lived about a mile away--out the "back" of the trailer park on a dirt road--wound up at our house, and I decided it would be a good idea for me to give him a ride home. It was about to rain after all, and I couldn't let the poor guy walk a whole mile in the rain, could I? The car was just sitting there, doing nothing. It was a 60-something Volkswagen Bug, and I had been practicing driving in it since it had a manual transmission and all girls needs to learn to drive a manual transmission. Anyway, on the one-mile-each-way trip, wouldn't you know I would somehow pick up a nail in the tire and it would go flat? Fortunately it went flat at my classmate's house, and he was able to change it. Then I was on my way again with the flat in the trunk, and it was time for me to leave to spend the weekend at a friend's house. What was I thinking? That Mom would never see that the spare had been put on the car? She called me later at my friend's house and reamed me out. She must have had plans for the weekend, because she didn't drive up there, beat me half to death and bring me home kicking and screaming.

The wreck will be for a later post. There are still some powerful bad memories of that one. Ditto the missed Homecoming.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Go Dawgs! Woof woof woof woof!

So it turns out Lil Sis slept (when she slept) mostly on the ground. Either the air mattress she brought on this bike ride had developed a leak or she brought an already defective one which I could swear we threw away. Did we somehow imagine we were going to patch it? What would have made us think that?

My intention was to leave work at 0600 this morning and drive the two hours to meet up with Lil Sis, ride 40 miles or so on the tandem, eat a couple or three meals and then sleep the sleep of the dead. Didn't quite work out that way. In the first place, my work never ever ever cooperates with what I want to do with the rest of my life. As is the case most every Thursday night--the only night of the week when it is expected to be calm and easy--several things fell apart. An early morning delivery had been assigned to a brand new driver who seemed to have a non-working telephone number. So I was calling or emailing his dispatcher all night long to get updates on the satellite hits he was performing on the trailer. (Ain't technology wonderful? When I first started in this business in 1990, there were no cell phones and very few trucks or trailers with satellite tracking. And even then I was expected to talk to each and every driver twice a day. The division I work in now requires us to be in contact with the drivers every three to four hours! Again . . . ain't technology wonderful?) And this was not the only thing to go wrong, but I won't bore you with that.

So I finally left work at 0648, dreading the drive through Atlanta, trying to decide whether to go straight through town or take I-285 (which I hate with a passion). As luck would have it, the ramp to I-285 westbound was backed up, so I went through town. It was a breeze! Still, it was nearly 0900 when I got here and after 0930 when finally we got on the bike, so we decided to do the shortest ride option (16 miles). Turned out it was just enough. The weather was just right, overcast but not cool and no rain. Then we made the best decision of all: get a motel room! Not only had Lil Sis slept on the ground but there was also a train which seemed to run every three minutes and sounded like it was coming through the tent.

And here we are at the Jameson Inn with our laptops and wireless Internet, air conditioning, television, comfortable beds--all the creature comforts! After 17 years of riding bicycles, we decided we have earned the right to be comfortable.

Tomorrow we will rise when we please, ride whatever distance feels right to us and be glad we will have this haven to welcome us at the end of the day. It will also be our sanctuary should things not go so well between our beloved Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers.

Go Dawgs!

Counting the Minutes

I noticed Lil Sis didn't blog tonight, so I assume she either couldn't find Internet service at the small college which is the base camp for our bicycling adventure this weekend--or she was too busy trying to get her air mattress inflated. I had to work tonight, and I had called her on my way in to see how she was doing. Then I felt guilty all night because when I called her she had been to buy batteries for her pump (she had loaned me her batteries at one point and I forgot to give them back), then she couldn't get the pump to work at all. I imagined her sleeping on the cold hard ground all night, and it made me very sad. Hopefully there was someone else with a pump who could help her out.

It wasn't bad enough that she had to load and then unload the tandem by herself, but now she is sleeping on the ground. Oh, well . . . we'll be in about the same riding shape since I have worked all night and will not sleep AT ALL before we ride today. I have done this before, and somehow the riding is more exhilarating than tiring, though I think tonight I will sleep very well!

I am strangely excited about this weekend's ride. It might be that I didn't do many "exciting" things this summer, or it might be that this ride signifies the end of the cycling season for us (normally), but why would I be excited about that? Change of seasons, maybe? There is a ride in Charleston which I have not been able to do (and won't be able to do this year due to work duties), but someday . . . It just happens to fall during the busiest time of year for me--just before Christmas when our logistics company is helping out one of those large carriers of packages. Have you ever wondered what they do at that time of year when their volume increases so drastically? Now you know: They get help. It is a crazy six-week period that seems to pass by in an instant. It is exhausting and frustrating, and then in a flash it is over. Kind of like Christmas itself.

Anyway, I'm taking a break from trying to keep up with all the drivers we have on the road right now, and I'm counting the minutes until my relief comes in and I can go. Normally I hang around to make sure the transition from 3rd shift to 1st shift is smooth, but I have already let them know they will see my backside going out the door as soon as they are in their seats this morning.

I really should get out more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yeah, what she said!

Okay, folks, I'm trying really hard. I want to blog, I really do. I'm just having one hell of a time finding the time and the subject.

I read Lil Sis' blog every single night, as she takes the time every single night to compose them. I find her blogs to be informative and entertaining. As she is SOOOOO much younger than I, she remembers things that I have long ago forgotten; and she remembers them with such clarity that I know they must have been real.

So the Halloween thing rings really true. Except for one year before Lil Sis was even a gleam in the old man's eye! Our older sister (I'll call her Nurse), older brother Bo and I got honest-to-god real Halloween costumes one year, and they were not store-bought but HOMEMADE by Mom. And as I recall, they were gorgeous! I was a pink and white bunny, Nurse was a black cat, and Bo (Lil Sis will appreciate this) was a devil--shiny red, horns and all. We all had tails! I don't know why that still impresses me so much, unless it's the fact that I don't think I could construct any kind of costume with a tail that would actually stay on during a night of trick-or-treating. I don't remember how old I was at that time, but I was very young; and I don't remember much (good) about my childhood, but I remember those costumes. Maybe somewhere there are pictures of us, though they will be black and white.

And then there were the times when we were ghosts. I do remember those as well. And I'm not sure the eye holes in the sheets really helped much! I remember falling down a lot.

This job is really interfering with my blogging. Guess I need to go check the lottery numbers!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My First Blog Ever

As the title suggests, this will be my first blog! I am sitting at the home of Lil Sis who is helping me to get started. Not sure how often I will be able to blog but hope I find it as therapeutic as she does. I admire the fact that, busy as she is, Lil Sis blogs every single day and I can hardly wait to read them.

I must be one of very few people without Internet service at home, so my blogging time will be limited to the rare nights at work when I have spare time. Yes, I said nights at work. I work in the transportation and logistics industry which runs 24/7. I prefer working nights because there are fewer people in the building . . . and no bosses!

Wednesday night I bid farewell to a co-worker who will be leaving for Iraq soon. It was a sad moment for us all to see this young man leave. But I couldn't help being proud of him. In fact, he had reasons to get out of going if he chose to: his father has just been diagnosed with leukemia, and his sister is chronically ill with some disease I was afraid to ask about. I pointed out to him that he might not have to go, and he agreed; but he said it was something he felt strongly about and was dedicated to. This made me feel even more proud, and I told him as an American I truly appreciate what he is doing.

I'm not a very political person, so I won't say whether I agree with the war in Iraq or that I even understand it any more than I did the Vietnam War. I guess I feel that once we have committed to do something we need to follow through . . . and win. In 1969 every "man" I knew was in Vietnam or on the way. They all returned, but some of them were never the same.