All posts by X Teri

Cell Phone Voicemail Etiquette

Although it’s just my opinion and I’m probably the last person who should be able to recommend normal behavior, especially with cellphones, I will nevertheless offer an obvious guideline. If you are going to take the time to call someone, especially in lieu of texting/email/messaging, please state the general nature of your call when you leave a voicemail. Please don’t say something inane such as “Call me back” and end the call. If we could call such a vote today, my vote is that we shall henceforth never returns calls to people who leave messages like that. Ever.

For example, if you are afraid that you might not have either enough time or energy to communicate your message, say ” 911 ” for an emergency and ” 411 ” for a request for an at-leisure call back. Either one is short, yet contains the essential 2 types of messages.

Better still, why not leave a message something like this: “I have very important or juicy news that I personally and desperately wish to tell you. Call me back.” By doing this, the person you are calling will immediately know without threat of stress that the call is not time-sensitive or urgent.

Under no circumstances is it fair or wise to sound desperate without leaving clues as to whether it’s a true emergency, something that it important to you but not necessarily to me, or any combination thereof.

While I’m moaning and complaining, if you are going to take the time to call, leave a message – any kind of message. Take a second and be creative. If you are going to make me go through the motions of checking voicemail, putting in my password and listening, please make it seem like there was some effort and genuine effort involved. Zombie calls should be made by legitimate zombies.

I think that we all need to focus when we call other people and be better communicators.

It’s unfair to leave the person getting your message without a clear understanding of WHY you called.

Again, just a few words from my frazzled brain for you to consider.

I Admit to Not Being A Great Driver

Most people state that they are better than average drivers. Statistically, this can’t be the case. With males, it is nigh on to impossible to get one to admit that his driving ability is anything short of Indy 500-ready at all times.
Not me. I have to remind myself to be mindful. I don’t consider myself to be a good driver at all. 
(Unless my insurance agent is reading this, in which case I am the best driver west of the Mississippi.) 
I also wish all the vehicles I drive had rear video cameras that I could easily see on the dash. How normal people feel confident as they speed, seemingly oblivious to the imminent death on all sides, is a mystery to me.  Seeing a wide angle shot of traffic as it approaches would be the single best thing for drivers at my skill level. Could someone surprise me with a retrofit at no charge? Thanks, and your children will be safer for this way if you do. 

Economy Causes Cremation to Be More Popular

Another news story today indicating that cremation is finally getting really popular. Even if it is due to the economy, it’s great news.

I like it when society comes around to my way of thinking.   : )

Cremation is almost always a better choice. The only downside is that the industry might use it as an excuse to creatively jack up the price to make even more money. But that’s because funeral homes need to focus more on present services rather than hardware. I can easily think of several ways to make more money.

Hopefully, the stigma of cremation people used to have will subside – forever.

Open Door Policy

My friend Joe loaned me is copy of a law enforcement-related leadership book. As with most such accidental occurrences, it was quite interesting. When the original presentation by the author of the book was announced where Joe works, he was less than enthusiastic. It turned out that he enjoyed the presentation and learned to look at things slightly differently.

One of the amusing revelations is that the speaker talked about the stupidity of the ‘open door’ policy. Managers claim that an open door signifies availability, listening, and responsiveness.

The speaker explained that this is, in fact, counter-productive and wrong.

Why wouldn’t a manager be out among his subordinates, in their areas and comfort zones? He’s being paid to manage them and therefore should be familiar with their world and jobs. Expecting subordinates to go to his office where they are not comfortable and where they normally perform no duties is actually bad for the organization.

If a manager goes to his people’s areas, he is learning and his subordinates can talk to him without being afraid of appearing as if they are brown-nosing or ratting on the group.

I’m supposing that Joe had never heard this commentary before because he seemed to like it.
I’ve heard it before – and I like it, too.

Pefect Organization System … and Other Myths

There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ organizing system. Unlike other people who talk about minimalism, I’m not talking about a literal interpretation of that statement – as any system can be improved. I think the human element determines most of the likelihood of improvement or success for someone trying to organize. For what it is worth, a superbly-motivated person can do a miracle with plain cardboard boxes or plastic bins. (Just as you can get a trainer, go to the best gym, buy pre-packaged foods OR control your diet sensibly and walk a lot to lose weight.)

Organization is never a finished system. Anyone can set up an astonishingly efficient method to deal with excess, clutter, and stuff – but few stay the course. Possessions tend to multiply quietly. It’s not a sudden process.

It is the intent to implement a system, any system, and work it that matters. If you have disposable income and wish to invest in an expensive ‘name-brand’ organization system, please do so. But your system won’t outperform someone who listens to me and has nothing but cardboard boxes and a commitment to try something different.

Each person has his or her own balance in the house. How much stuff should be in there is highly subjective. But even though the amount of stuff is subjective, the ATTITUDE toward the stuff is strikingly different for a motivated organizer/minimalist.

If I were to go into someone’s house to help them with organization, among the first questions I might ask is “Regardless of what is in there, are you willing to consider ridding yourself of some of it?” Reticence when answering indicates that there is more going on than just a huge pile of stuff in the way. Organizing might help, but only to allow the person to pile more stuff inside the house. And so on…

As for me personally, I have a lot of stuff around me that I would personally get rid of and then determine whether I miss it or not. But I live with another person who has different ideas of what ‘enough’ is. My wife is much less inclined than most of her contemporaries to want a bunch of stuff, including shoes, clothes and strange kitchen appliances. My balance is determined externally by my wife rather than my own comfort zone. I probably would have 100 pictures and pieces of interesting things on the walls and 2 pieces of furniture per room on the floor. I think it would be an interesting game to see just how few things we would use and need for a year.

Just like everyone else, I have an ‘extra’ room, the one that most people feel like they need. It’s the room-size equivalent of the crazyglue drawer in most people’s kitchen. Everything can easily get piled in there, especially when you want to quickly (instead of permanently) reduce clutter. As a minimalist, every time I put something in the extra room, I consciously note that I’m doing it. I know if I stop noting that I’m doing it, the extra room would probably end up like most people’s houses – crypts for stuff instead of living places.

Talking to many people has led me to the conclusion that many people are wanna-be hoarders. They have an attic, an extra room, basement or garage that gets stuffed to conceal how much unwanted stuff they have piled in their house. It doesn’t add fun or interest to their lives; it is there because of the perceived value and the horror of the thought of it being given away. They know they should give 1/2 of it away but somehow the piles of stuff obtains its own gravitational field, so it sits, accusing you year after year. Moving it from the living room corner to a closet or other place doesn’t address the “stuff stress” that comes with it.

 

02282012 Table Coasters = Madness

Is there anything more egregious than a coaster?

To state emphatically that you must use another small rectangle without legs on top of your table before you can drink at it? (A table on a table…)

Isn’t a table for placing items to be used, drank and eaten? Why add another layer on top, allegedly to “protect” the supposedly more expensive surface underneath?

Wouldn’t it be more logical to just purchase a table with a surface that isn’t prone to spots or streaks? Or, more shockingly, to just not concern yourself with streaking or spots on your table? I’ve noted that the most virulent attacks regarding people not using coasters properly tend to come from people who have 7 foot Jesus replicas in the their living rooms, or furniture so hideous than even street walkers wouldn’t sit on it.

I understand that people feel the need for things to “look good,” whatever that might mean to each person doing the looking. And clean – we can usually agree on clean, too. But as I see coasters and other objects, I see more stuff that has to be fussed with, bought, cleaned and worried about. Even if I had a million dollar home, you can be sure that I would insist that people burn my coffee table on purpose instead of fussing about the idea of water rings and things of that nature.

Maybe I went a little overboard, but I think if people would just have tables and furniture where this type of nonsense became a non issue, we could all relax more, spend less money and have simpler lives. But I guess if you need to insist on having horrible coasters in your house, it’s your house and your cluttered mind.   : P

If you are going to have coasters, at least make them with family pictures on them, or of something interesting to distract your visitor from worrying about staining an inanimate object.The internet is full of brilliant examples. I’m considering a line of coasters that resembled pieces of damaged wood, cracked tile, or old food. In other words, the coasters themselves will look like they need to be cleaned. Very ‘meta,’ huh?

 

Minimum Wage, Labor Efficiency and The Idiocy of Not Preparing Ourselves

Start with the premise that every adult goes to college, gets a degree, stays healthy and fulfills the imagined expectations of the steps necessary to achieve the American dream. Every single adult. I know it is a far-fetched premise, but imagine it – or even a future where most adults enter the job market with great educations and equal footing to the job market. Our push toward more education, health and opportunities ultimately results in just such a scenario if we can ever come together and agree upon a common implementation for access to resources.

How do we decide who mops the floors, cooks and delivers the pizza, works at Subway, or digs the ditches? How do continue to pay them less than is needed to sustain themselves?

We could no longer justify a terrible minimum wage. No one would “deserve” it. If we are still able to choose our field of work, most people would choose to do the work that traditionally has been identified as more meaningful. (Some people tell themselves that others have earned or somehow deserve their lower economic place in life. I know you find that hard to believe – that someone could be so dumb, right? Maybe laziness is a factor for some people, but certainly not everyone?) Implicit in this context is the idea that we are demeaning those who do service jobs by assigning their functions to the column of “less important.”

Factor in that we have continued to automate manufacturing and other sectors to such a degree that labor is at a massive surplus. Throw in the idea that we will still have a large population, one which grows increasingly old as health care, diet and lifestyle make further significant inroads toward human longevity.

Since people live longer, they retire later, further minimizing the job pool for those earning their degrees and looking for a spot to work, regardless of pay. No one is to blame as younger adults have no method of earning a living in the way that our ancestors did.

How do we “pay” those who have no means of employment? If we don’t pay them and no jobs are available, how do we fund a system to sustain them?

For those who do work, why would we allow a system of pay that cannot sustain them in the economy? Again, someone has to perform the service jobs and other functions that can’t be done by machines. If people are allowed to choose careers, then we will undoubtedly have a role reversal toward those who are willing to do the service economy jobs that are currently looked down upon by many people. It is indeed a strange possibility to imagine that well-educated people could and would choose occupations that are otherwise considered lower class in our current system.

Memory of Drunk

Years and years ago, probably in 1975, I learned a great lesson in parenting. We lived in a trailer near old Highway 68 (now 412), on 48th street, where Denny’s, Marketplace, and several large hotels now sit.

My mom and dad had been fighting at my Uncle Buck’s house. (One of the many times…) Mom forced me and another family member into her car to drive us home, a couple of miles away. Normally, I would have spent the night there with my cousin Jimmy. Why mom insisted on forcing me to go, I’m not sure.My best guess is that she did it is because it was the last place I wanted to be – with her, especially driving.

Mom was so intoxicated that I couldn’t imagine staying in the car. Because she hadn’t been able to fight with my dad and scratch that itch she would get when she wanted to fight, she took it out on me in the car. How we got anywhere without killing someone I’m not quite sure.

At one point mom hit something on the side of the road. I don’t know if it was a mailbox, a car or five innocent children. Since I had just listened to a presentation at school, I was now familiar with the word “alcoholic.” Mom was already slapping me and pulling my hair for crying, so I didn’t feel as scared as I normally would.

I called her an alcoholic.

(Hearing grownups at school talk about the evils of drinking made me think about it in a quite different way. People I didn’t know where standing in front of me telling me clearly what I knew to be true – that alcohol could be extremely destructive. It was a revelation.)

The car went silent. Mom’s face froze in a drunken flash of anger. She jumped out of the front of the car and started screaming, opening the back door on my side and yanking me out of the car by the hair. She told my sibling to get out, too. Before mom got back in the car screaming, she tried to kick me. She was so drunk that he foot hit me in the knee instead of my face.

She got in the car and drove off, leaving my sibling and I on the side of the road. It was about 9:30 at night. A few years ago, I talked to my Aunt Ardith about it to see if she would verify any of the story. She remembered it, as mom told her 444 times about the story of the first time any of her kids called her an alcoholic.

My sibling and I had to walk home, in the dark, on busy 68.

Regardless of what anyone might otherwise wish my mom to be known for, her addiction to alcohol will be the predominant memory defining her. Mom was quite capable of being a good person; her love of drinking, however, tarnished everything in her life. She wasn’t a person who occasionally suffered the effects of drinking – drinking was a constant force in her life.

Nothing Great Without Something Bad

When I attended Southwest Junior High, the one smart thing I did was to enroll in band. It contributed as much to my preservation as anything else might have. Band opened doors for me, allowed me to participate in something without being athletic and gave me an opportunity to look, learn and listen to some great people. Like nothing had before, I could socialize and watch the workings of normal people. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of normal people around me – just not ones I could interact with socially. Band allowed me to listen closely to others and see that my situation in life wasn’t normal by any definition.

The point of this post isn’t so much about how important band turned out to be for me but to demonstrate how life always seem to come in give-and-take doses for me.

One year, the band director Mr. Morris managed to get me a scholarship to band camp. Whether he paid for it out of pocket or someone else donated the money, I can’t be certain.  What I do know is that there is no way I would have ever been able to go were it not for his involvement. It would have never occurred to me to even ask mom and dad for the money. The band camp was held at the U of A campus in Fayetteville.

It was one of the best weeks ever in my life, even including being trapped along on an elevator for a couple of hours.

When I came back home from band camp, instead of going to my house, I went over to my paternal Uncle Buck’s house. I was still on a mental high from everything I’d seen and experienced during my time away at band camp. It seemed like life might be worth experiencing and that people didn’t all think I was weird.

Mom and Aunt Ardith were of course drinking even when they drove over to pick me up. I could smell the beer just getting into the car. They continued doing more of the same when we got back to my aunt’s house. I went back to Jimmy’s bedroom on the other side of the house to play around on Jimmy’s console computer and watch television.

I don’t know how much time passed but horrific screaming interrupted my thoughts. It was my mom, screaming my name at the top of her lungs. It sounded like someone was pulling her tonsils out with a fork. Jumping up, I flung open the bedroom door and ran down the hallway.

Aunt Ardith was straddling mom with her knees by her ribs, using handfuls of mom’s hair to yank mom’s head up and down, hitting it against the RCA console tv. Mom’s head was making a ‘clunk’ sound each time Aunt Ardith threw her head down. Mom was screaming at me to get Aunt Ardith off of her. Aunt Ardith looked at me with murder in her eyes as I told her to let mom get up. Instead of letting go, she asked mom if she was going to shut her f%$%^ing mouth if she did. Mom cursed at her. Aunt Ardith gave mom’s head one final clunk and then got off her.

Mom took several seconds to get shakily to her feet and then attempted to hit Aunt Ardith. Aunt Ardith pushed mom’s fist away and slapped mom so hard her head swiveled and she had to sit down on the floor again, still crying and cursing. My aunt lectured my mom about her need to make everyone mad and start fights.

(Sidenote: I would have never hit Aunt Ardith. Yes, she could be angry at times. But she didn’t hit me in violence or scream at me needlessly. I never saw her hit mom unless mom hit her first or so vilely screamed at her that she was pushed into it. Aunt Ardith was my gateway to normal experiences that most people take for granted.)

Without a word, I turned and went back to Jimmy’s bedroom. In less than 2 minutes, mom stormed into the bedroom, cursing me for letting her get beat up. She screamed at me to go get in the car. Mom was so drunk that she kept hitting the doorjambs as she walked. How we made it home I’m not certain.

Incidents like this one made me doubt the truth of any good moments in my life. It seemed back then that it was impossible to enjoy life without getting a punch in the gut in return. 

First Step Toward Gay Marriage in Arkansas

Finally, after years of me insisting it was inevitable, a judge in Arkansas ruled that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. He mentioned, among other things, the 2004 amendment passed here in Arkansas. Whether the appeal is strong or successful, the inevitable tide has turned. I am glad to be alive to see another indicator that our society is moving toward acceptance and inclusion. Some people have not reacted well to the confidence I’ve shown toward this social justice issue, even though history demonstrates that we are moving toward a very progressive society, whether individuals want it or not.

Whatever your opinion, be honest and rational about it and go on about your normal life and treat people like you want to be treated. The moon is not going to crash into the earth tomorrow and there isn’t going to be a gay army running to grab you away from your regular life.

10 years is a long time ago. The stats indicate that 3/4 of the population voted for the amendment. Without getting bogged down in the details, it amuses me intellectually to see so many people trot out the “will of the majority” argument, as if majority arguments are constitutional. Were it so, the status quo of any social issue would remain stagnant: women wouldn’t vote and some minorities still would be denied the right to vote, equal housing, etc.

I’ve from a declining area of Arkansas. Were this area in control of the law, there would be very little social justice in Arkansas. People insist that life must remain as it is. All change is thrust upon them involuntarily and every imaginable argument is made to fight social equality. For many, much of the argument toward maintaining the status quo is based on their own interpretation of religion. That people violently disagree on what religion indicates is immaterial to them. That our society is based on a system of secular laws that cannot be dictated by religion is anathema to them. They don’t “get it.” I would hate to be accountable to any dogma that encourages me to marginalize other people, regardless of whatever ‘sin’ they might be perceived to be committing.

(People do “get” that some religious folk have a problem with homosexuality and that even some don’t believe that homosexuality is not a choice. We really do. It would be easier to get our heads around it if most or almost all religious people shared a similar outlook – but they don’t. If people within the same denominations of a religion can’t agree, then I’ll go out on a limb and add that agreement is almost impossible in general society, too.  It’s not a question of ‘sin,’ but rather one of law. Our society is secular and we can’t limit one group’s options because of our religious beliefs. There has to be an overwhelming justification for any limitations based on discrimination. Then again, some people still believe that world is flat and that the planet is a few thousand years old. We need to listen to these people talk and then, without comment, turn our attention to people who are engaging meaningfully in our world.)

The reactions are going to be strong for many people. I’ll hear the same cliched and tired logic from those who oppose social change. The volume will proportionally increase as the validity of their claims decrease. But it will be interesting.

Decades after forced integration of schools and laws designed to FORCE people to comply with race equality issues, we still see racism and subtext to disparage minorities. It will be the same with gay marriage. Those who resent it will fume and fight the permanent change in attitude now required to be considered civil in our society. But time cures these people of their resistance. Even if their bitterness sticks with them, it will lessen with the next generation until it is a footnote in history.

In a few years, people will forget what all the fuss is about. Gays will be marrying, divorcing and proceeding on with their own private lives, just all we all do now. If you disagree with gay marriage, chances are that you won’t remember the sting so clearly. You will wonder why it was such a big deal at the time. That is how all social justice issues develop. After huge exaggeration and upheaval, the issue settles into a background concern.