Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sitting in a cabin in the woods . . .

Sitting in a cabin in the woods . . .

This is where I always thought I would write my first best seller – in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the Ozark Mountains.  This has been a bit of a dream of mine for over 20 years. Now, here I sit, in a strange house not three miles from the home I thought I would write my first novel in. But you know how things go – times passes and many want-a-dos don’t get done.

I have missed these mountains. Tears flowed when I reached the hollow of Ponca – I knew the switchback was close . . . bittersweet tears. Tears of joy that I was lucky enough to come through here again for the first time in years, and tears of sadness that our home in these misty mountains now belongs to someone else. This is a place truly like no other I have ever visited or lived. It holds a piece of my heart and that will never change. I had convinced myself I would live in this area for the rest of my life – just didn’t happen that way.

We were reminded just where we were once we arrived and got settled in. We tried to call home on our cell phones and experienced not having service for the first time (we live in the city now) – no network was found. When I tried to use the phone in our rented cabin  to call collect, the phone wasn’t set up for that so I was unable to make a connection. When I called directory assistance, just like when dialing zero – I got the message, “Call cannot be completed as dialed.” WE were really remote 🙂

Not only was this the first time in years we were able to spend the night in a place we considered to be heaven, no one, and I mean no one,  knew where we were or that we made it safely, with the exception of Ruby Ray and Bobbie.  They had been our neighbors (maybe six miles away) that lived off the blacktop and we had stopped in and visited with them when we got here. No one would ever think to call them. I didn’t write down where we’d be staying and only mentioned it in passing. There was no letter or email confirming our reservation.

For some reason, we found it quite amusing that no one knew where we were or could get a hold of us – this was the first time in years we had disappeared off the face of the earth, or so it seemed. It was also just a bit disconcerting in the event there was an emergency back home. Making our daughter a little worried though, we thought that might be good medicine for her – make her think about her own actions at times and how she has made us worry. Yeah, we are kind of ornery like that sometimes. Regardless, that’s not the way we planned it – it’s just the way it happened.

I could tell it’s been awhile since I have experienced this place and its ruggedness – when we made the turn off the blacktop, I was a little nervous about driving my car in the rocky makeshift road. I had to go back to a time in my mind when I knew, when I didn’t get all freaked out, when I just did it as part of my daily experience. I’m kind of a city girl, but I took to life up here like I was born to live here.

That morning we could hear the balls from the sweetgum trees hitting the tin roof, and the birds and squirrels in the trees, with the occasional elk bugle thrown in just to remind us of exactly where we were fortunate enough to be. And the smell – not really sure how to describe it – fresh, green, woody, smoky, wet all at the same time. In October the colors are amazing, a sight to behold – red, green, orange, gold, brown, and purple. It is absolutely beautiful, and one of the things I miss most about living in this part of the country. I could just sit on the porch all day and look at nothing and everything all at once. There’s a lot to see if you pay attention to the little things.

People say they go to the country for peace and quiet. It’s peaceful for sure, but it’s rarely quiet in the mountains. It’s just a different kind of noise, and often times it is loud. Squirrels chirping, birds, crickets and frogs singing, trees dropping things and creaking, wind whistling (if there is any), and animals moving about. Yet you can still hear the silence within all the noise.

God, I miss this place . . . and I still haven’t finished the novel . . .

Just something I was thinking about today . . .

Sexual Harassment Seriously!?!

I am not sure to what think about the way we are inadvertently raising our kids today. Here’s this poor little six-year old boy getting in all that trouble for kissing his little girlfriend’s hand. I understand that boundaries need to be set. It just seems to me that this big of a fuss and the resulting repercussions are damaging to young children’s psyches and their future opinions and attitudes about the opposite sex and sex in general. Quite frankly, I don’t view kissing a girl’s hand to be a sexual act – but the school called it sexual harassment. Now this little boy’s mother is having to explain what sex and sexual harassment is to a child who doesn’t know and at this age, shouldn’t have to know.

Though he is a little young to be kissing a girl’s hand – how gentlemanly gallant and sweet. I can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever make that “mistake” again. I mean really, was it that bad; was is that big of a deal? I just read that the school overturned his suspension and allowed him back at school. I guess this is one of those times the media was really helpful at persuading the “powers that be” to reconsider their views of a situation they have passed judgment on, a situation that will make a lasting impact on other lives.

If you haven’t heard about it, here’s a couple of links to the story:

Little kids have crushes, always have. I did, and I’m sure you did, too. When I was 12, one of my “admirers” (he had a crush on me, not the other way around) used to spit in my hair and tripped me once while I was getting off the school bus, causing me to chip my tooth – probably why I remember it and Greg so well, still got a chipped tooth. Greg had no idea how to show a girl he liked her. I bring that up because this little boy didn’t do anything mean and disgusting like that.

When I was seven, I had the biggest crush on the son of my mother’s best friend. His name was Ricky and he was so cute and sweet. We played house a lot, with our siblings playing, too. Ricky and I pretended to be husband and wife; we always said we would get married when we grew up. Sometimes we held hands and several times kissed each other . . . on the lips (no tongue of course – we were 7!).

That innocent little “summer romance” is a wonderfully dear memory of my childhood and did not affect me negatively in any way. I didn’t grow up “fast” or “loose,” and have a healthy attitude towards sex and the opposite sex.

Maybe it’s just me, but as a society, we need to chill out. We need to remember what’s it’s like to be kids or teenagers. I’m not saying we should let kids run amuck, but let’s remember that they are kids. I am aware that technology, societal changes, and increased violence (sexual and otherwise) are game changers in the way kids grow up these days and that adds a new element to how boundaries need to be set. But let the punishment fit the crime.

Now I wasn’t there, but from what I heard and read, it seems to me that the little boy’s parents should have been called and they (parents and teacher/school official) should have talked to him relaying that though what he did was a very nice gesture, it is just not appropriate for little boys to do, particularly at school. Let’s not do it again, or the consequences will be more severe. Notify the little girl’s parents. PERIOD.

These types of incidents always perplex me . . . I don’t know, just something I was thinking about.

Unemployed in Your “GOLDEN” Years

It’s hell to be in your fifties and be looking for work. I know quite a few people who are over the age of 50 and have all of a sudden found themselves unemployed. You can’t help but wonder if they are discreetly weeding out older workers. A man I know had a pre-interview assessment test with one of the manufacturing plants. He is an Instrumentation & Electrical Technician. He assumed he would be given a test regarding his skill set. When he got there, the test was given on a computer. The HR person told him to sign in, where she promptly watched him type in his name, last four of his social security number, and his date of birth. The test he took was not what he was expecting. It was multiple choice and asked questions like:

On the job site, do you value safety above productivity?

All the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely, or never

When you are on the job site, you consider safety to come first:

All the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely, or never

The average person misses how many days of work in a 6-month period?

Zero days, 1-3 days, 4-6 days, 7-9 days, or more than 9  days

Regarding the last question, he told me, hell he didn’t know what the average person does, he’d never taken a survey before – that’s never been in the scope of his job. (I had to laugh at that!) There were quite a few weird vague questions like that. And as far as safety goes . . .  that is always number one!

Within two hours he heard back from the plant and after judging his “assessment tests,” they determined he did not have the qualifications they were looking for. He was a little shocked, especially since he knows someone in management there and they had mentioned there had been a big shake up and many people were let go, some for not knowing how to do their job. We both agreed the test they gave him was an odd way to gauge if he knew how to keep their factory running, as well as understood electrical and instrumentation basics, processes, and proper safety precautions.

My daughter and I talked about these types of personality assessment tests years ago when she was in high school, as many retail establishments use this type of screening in their initial applicant hiring process. She told me she was really good at taking them, as she knew exactly what they wanted her to say – regardless of what her real answer might be. She also usually got whatever job she applied for. One of the places she worked, she was good friends with the hiring person’s girlfriend, and he told her straight up that she was the only one he had ever seen who had made 100% on that test.

My point is, it’s a game, and many people figure it out at some point in time. I personally am not sure how this would validate anyone’s professionalism or work ethic. For older employees trying to find new jobs (especially those who haven’t had to look in awhile), this is a screening method many are unfamiliar with and the unspoken nuances aren’t as well known. If I owned a company, this is NOT a screening process I would utilize. I don’t want to hire a bunch of people who essentially just kissed my ass by telling me exactly what I want to hear . . . and being dishonest in the process.  But then again, that’s just me. Having said that, I have had to take a couple of those tests and looking back on it, don’t think I was interviewed for those positions. Which doesn’t surprise me – I’m not big on playing games.

My friend said he’ll know what to do next time, too . . .

I have some friends who work as government contractors at one of NASA’s space centers. Late last year, the contract they worked on was rebid. Their employer won the bid, but bid the work so cheaply, concessions had to be made and one of those was the lay-off of about 50 people at the beginning of this year. Every single person laid off was over the age of 40, most being in their 50-60s. People who had years of experience and had devoted their lives to the space program, regardless of the capacity. BUT they were also the oldest, many there a number of years, so they commanded higher salaries, typically more vacation time, and possibly higher medical expenses due to their age (as well as being out on disability for surgeries).

I asked my friend if this didn’t smack of ageism to them and if they were going to file a grievance with the EEOC. Of course they didn’t, as most of them were hoping to get picked up on another contract so certainly didn’t want to burn any bridges. For some of them, the space program was all they knew. And though government workers and contractors often get a bad rep, some of these people worked really hard for their money, and made significant contributions to the overall goals of the nation’s space exploration plan. Unfortunately, a high percentage of my friend’s friends are still unemployed – I ask about it pretty regularly. Nothing like using all the money you have saved for retirement to make ends meet when you are let go from your job with another 10-15 years left until you can really retire. I can just imagine how unsettling and frightening that must be!

Not sure how this growing trend is going to affect our nation’s collective knowledge base, as well as the economy, and how our country deals with its aging population.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts or experience with this . . .

“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”  ~Benjamin Franklin, quoted in the Montreal Gazette

This blog is the place I will write, when events inspire me. Though I am expressing my own opinion, I am not expressing it necessarily to persuade you to think my way, but to make you think about a subject period. There is a lot going on in the world around us today, and we must always be thinking about how events will affect us or those we love, or even those we have never met. Frequently, we need to question society and the way actions, attitudes, relationships and interdependencies will affect us now and in the future.

To give you an idea of who I am and how I think, my favorite book is The Children’s Story, written by James Clavell.  I happened to see it at the library and its physical stature was so different from his other books it caught my eye. Once I got home, as I walking into my bedroom, I opened the book and started reading the first page. I found it so riveting, that I sat right there on the floor of my bedroom and read the entire book. (It’s a small book!) If you have never read this book, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It will make you think about and examine many things – most aptly critical thinking skills and our freedom of speech, expression, and thought. Later I read that Clavell said this book came together quite quickly – requiring no rewrite and changing only three words.

I hope you enjoy my postings and random thoughts, and I hope they inspire you to think about the world around you — locally, nationally, and globally; and to question the status quo. I look forward to your feedback 🙂