Sunday, February 28, 2010

█ ♥ █ O, CANADA █ ♥ █

Thanks, Vancouver, for being such an awesome Winter Olympics host city!!! I'm going to miss hanging out with you every night! Can't wait to see you in person someday!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm still standin' - yeah, yeah, yeah

Based on recent FEEDJIT results, I really didn't think anyone was reading this blog anymore, so I was touched this week when a couple of my reader friends asked me: "What's up with your job?" in reference to my 16 January blog entry. Since I wrote that piece, I've learned that I'll probably be around until April or May or perhaps longer than that. Here's the skinny:

  • There are currently 10 people in my role.
  • The reorganization eliminated our role but created a new role with a different title and job description.
  • There are 5 of these new roles.
  • We were given an opportunity to apply for the new roles.
  • I decided not to apply for any of the new roles, for a variety of reasons but mainly because . . . 
  • . . . another group is "re-orging" and this group may have some opportunities that are more closely aligned to my skill set and interests.
  • Meanwhile . . . there's still a lot of transition work to be done in my "current" job.  
The bottom line is the refrain of the famous Elton John song: I'm still standin'. Maybe not better than I ever did, and I'm not necessarily feelin' like a little kid. But I haven't been voted off the island just yet.

OK. I would really like to blog about everything I have seen and felt these past few weeks. Some of my colleagues and I have experienced almost every emotion imaginable: shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, fear, confusion, giddiness, apathy and everywhere in between. Yet for some reason I haven't been able to write about these things. I want to be brave and optimistic, but it's not always easy.

Bear with me as I get through this. Because I will. Eventually.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympics geek

I'll admit it. I'm an Olympics geek. Since Innsbruck and Montreal 1976, with very few exceptions, I've been one of those individuals glued to the television from the Parade of Nations to the closing ceremonies. When it comes to winter sports, I have my favorites: speed skating, hockey, figure skating. I also like freestyle and am excited about snowboarding. But the truth is, there's no winter sport I won't watch. Even curling fascinates me.

I love Day 1, seeing video clips of the host city (and Vancouver is beautiful! Wow!!!) and the interviews with the athletes, and of course, the opening ceremonies. I thought the Canadians did a wonderful job with Friday night's opening ceremonies . . . the techno stuff was cool, and I enjoyed the music and focus on Canada's cultural diversity. I love watching the athletes walk in. It's fun to see their enthusiasm, and the interesting clothes they wear: Kudos this year go to Team Sweden's hats, Team Canada's mittens, Team Bermuda's bermuda shorts, Team Czech Republics way cool pants, and Team USA's cabled sweaters. But Team UK, in my opinion, had the sharpest looking ensembles this year. :-)

I get annoyed when the television networks cut to commercial during the middle of the Parade of Nations. This seems so wrong and . . . disrespectful. While I doubt that any network types read this blog, I sure do wish they would make Parade of Nations commercial-free.

Like everyone else, I was saddened by the death of Norad Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger. Watching Team Georgia walk in was . . . well, my heart goes out to them, Kumaritashvili's family, the people of the Republic of Georgia, and all lugers everywhere. 

Yesterday . . . Day 2 . . . I bookmarked the official Olympics web site so I could easily keep track of the medal count. I rejoiced when I learned that Team Austria won a bronze early on, and Slovakia won their first ever gold. I secretly pulled for Canada during the women's moguls, hoping that this might be the event where they'd win their first gold on home turf (they got silver.) My heart skipped a beat during the short track when the two Korean skaters fell. Ah, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

Today . . . Day 3 . . . I'll be glued to the TV as much as possible, or checking the web site to keep up. It'll be hard these next few weeks, because I'll want to stay up late watching, which will make it even more a struggle to get up in the mornings. Oh, well. That's just the way it is! If for some reason I'm not blogging much for the rest of this month, you'll know why.

I love the summer games as well, and look forward to London 2012. And Sochi 2014. And São Paulo 2016. And wherever after that!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A winter's day

Check out the view from the bedroom window today. They say we had about 8 inches of snow Friday and Saturday. All I know is, it was a LOT. (I haven't been out of the house since Thursday and have no plans to go out until tomorrow!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My first job

My annual Social Security statement arrived in the mail not long ago, and as usual, I was amazed. Amazed at how little I'd get if I became disabled. Amazed that there probably won't be any Social Security when I'm eligible to "retire" at age 67. But mostly, amazed that I've been paying into Social Security since I was 11 years old. That's right. As of this summer, I've been working for thirty-five years. No wonder I'm so tired!

I realize that some of my peers might be seriously appalled at the idea of an eleven year-old girl working, but that was my reality. OK, it's not that I had to work at the time, but my parents were the type of parents who strongly believed that kids need "something to do" in order to stay out of trouble. So . . . they arranged for me to work for a friend of theirs, a farmer who grew (among other things) tobacco.

My first job was as a farmhand during tobacco season (June-September). I was a "hander" - basically that involved taking a handful of tobacco leaves and handing them to a "stringer", who laced the leaves around a wooden stick with twine. It wasn't exactly hard work, but it was dirty and monotonous, and we worked in all kinds of weather: heat, humidity, rain, thunderstorms, hail, hurricanes, tornadoes. You might think I'm joking, but I'm not. Fortunately, we mostly worked under a shelter. And we did get to stop when things got really rough. At least once, I remember taking cover inside someone's pick-up truck during a lightning storm. Sometimes it was actually fun, even when people played tricks on each other, like secretly putting tobacco worms down your shirt (and then squishing them. Ew.)

We worked Monday through Saturday, and we usually got started by 6AM. I was picked up between 5-5:30AM every morning. That meant I had to get myself out of bed around 4:30-4:45AM. I had my own alarm clock, and was responsible for getting myself ready to go on my own, in the dark, and that included making my own breakfast. My favorite breakfast was an egg sandwich, made with white bread. (We only ate white bread back then. LOL!)

There were about 14 of us in the barn crew - 8 handers, 4 stringers, and a couple of guys whose job was to hang up the tobacco sticks in the barn. A separate crew worked in the fields, and two or three people drove tractors from the fields to the barn and back. We'd work at a different location everyday, depending on which fields were ready to be harvested. Our goal would be to fill up a barn with the sticks of tobacco. This was referred to is "putting in tobacco." Some of the barns were larger than others, so if we filled up a small barn early in the day, sometimes we'd move on to another barn and/or another field.

Later in the season, we sometimes had the option of unloading the barns of cured tobacco, taking it to a packhouse (a special barn for preparing and storing cured tobacco), removing it from the sticks, and getting it ready to go to market. This was called "taking out tobacco" and it was more fun - and much easier - than putting in. However, if you got asked to take out, that meant instead of working 10 or 12 hours a day (which was the norm for putting in), you might work as many as 16 hours a day. Fortunately, this didn't happen to me often.

Every day around 9:30AM, we'd all pile into the back of the pick-up truck and go to J.W.'s - a neighborhood store at the crossroads. As soon as we got to the store there was this collective burst of energy. Everyone would run inside, get a cold RC cola or Nehi Grape and a honey bun or Moon Pie or pack of Bugles or whatever. I'd buy some "penny" candy to stick into my pockets for later, and life was good. I was as skinny as a rail, with a metabolism that could handle anything. (Would love to have that again, ha!)

We'd get about an hour and a half off for lunch, and during that time we were expected to eat and rest. I learned the art of the fifteen minute power nap, but sometimes I opted to watch The Gong Show instead. Some of the other kids also watched The Gong Show, and it gave us something to talk about during the long, hot afternoons. 

It really was dirty work. Tobacco leaves are covered with a natural resin, and the continuously touching it causes your hands to become covered with black tar. I got to know Lava brand soap very well during those days, but even Lava couldn't get my hands completely clean. Every summer, my palms took on a reddish-brown hue, and it was obvious to anyone who recognized the signs that I was a tobacco worker.

For my efforts, I was paid something like $1.50 to $2.00 per hour, and made anywhere from $40-80 a week. This is where the Social Security thing came in - by law, my employer was required to make contributions on my behalf. Mom and Dad encouraged me to give 10% of my earnings to church, but beyond that, it was all mine. I bought some of my back-to-school clothes and supplies, but mostly I spent my money on entertainment -- the occasional movie and record albums or eight track tapes. Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles, and Boston were just some of the many artists and bands supported by the sweat of my brow. Literally.

I could've spent my time in other ways. I was certainly jealous of my friend Jan, who spent summers indoors, with air conditioning, watching TV and babysitting her little sister. I was somewhat envious of those who were allowed to be kids and do kid things when I was getting myself up before the crack of dawn and making my own breakfast. But the truth is, now that I look back on my first job, I'm glad I had the experience. I learned many lessons during these summers, and one of them is that I can thrive in all kinds of circumstances. That alone was worth it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beach music

I've never been a beach-y kind of person. Maybe this is because I grew up near the Atlantic Ocean, so I never thought it was that big of a deal to go to the beach. Actually, we lived in the town of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina for a while when I was a kid. But even after we moved inland, we still went to the beach several times a year. Meh. I always dug the mountains more. At least until recently.

For some reason I've been fantasizing about beaches lately. Not the Atlantic beaches from whence I came. Not the Florida or California beaches of my youth and young adulthood. Not the "cool" beaches I've visited in New England and Ireland or the "hot" ones in Barbados and Australia. Nope. I want to walk on beach that's all mine. (OK, my friends can come, too. But only close friends. And family. Of course.)

My fantasy beach has pristine white sand, and the water is clean and so clear you can see the fish in it. The sky is a perfect azure blue. A grove of healthy, green trees and pretty dark-colored rocks separate the beach from the rest of the land. Beyond the trees there's a private cabana with a friendly bartender who looks sort of like Ricky Martin serving up some fantastic piña coladas . . . OK, seriously, it's not about that. It's about . . . getting away. To someplace warm. And secluded. Some place where I could relax. Unwind.

Maybe it's the weather we've been having lately. I'm suffering from sunlight deprivation, or maybe a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I need some Vitamin D. I need to feel warm sand on my bare feet.

Yes, folks, I need a vacation, but not to the ordinary-usual-boring-crowded-cliché kind of place. I want to go to someplace that's off the beaten path. Like Seychelles. Or Kuna Yala. Or Palau. Or Kauai. Or pretty much any tropical beach whose name has a lot of vowel sounds.

Take me away! There's only one tiny little problem. I may never come back!