Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who Are You? and Can You Stay?

          Dementia is a thief which robs the mind and interferes with the souls of all associated.  Last week mom was living in another world for the most part.  This weekend hit hard.  The way it’s been described to me, it sounds like she lost was between worlds – panicked at not being able to communicate.  Just not getting a grasp on anything.  Being transported to another dimension is bad enough – the “between worlds” thing is worse overall – at least from my viewpoint.

          Probably all of us, at some point in our lives, have seen the child that just isn’t understanding direction and becomes more and more frustrated with himself or the instructor or the other kids or what have you.  He throws a tantrum and won’t allow himself to be rational.  And the harder we try to explain or understand, the more irrational the child becomes. That is what the “between worlds” is like.

          Even before the Dementia set in, mom seemed to favor Corey over the rest of us – not that she meant to (or means to) but it just seems that way.  And now with the dementia, it seems much of her world revolves around Corey who is able to get her to do things (even over the phone from another state) than the rest of us have.  But evidently I became the favored one on Saturday.  She was in a very confused place and couldn’t seem to get out of it.

          Sunny had dropped off a small bag of items that she wanted me to have.  The idea was for me to retrieve it from mom’s house on my next visit.  But mom had it in her head that the bag needed to be in my possession RIGHT NOW.

          When she couldn’t get a hold of me by phone, she decided that she would walk to my house.  One does not walk to my house from hers – not unless one wants to make a day of it.  (I's about 20 minutes by car in regular traffic) She’s been to my house twice – but always with somebody.  She didn’t know where I lived before dementia robbed her of her memory.  She doesn’t even recognize the city name when I tell her.

          But for convenience, her mind has moved many into her neighborhood – often just up or down the street.  As she left the house, my nephew-in-law followed to make certain she didn’t get lost.  I don’t know if she ever found where she thought my house was.  I’m thinking not.

          Nate and Ellen had a dinner appointment with my youngest son and his wife – but because of “grandma’s” strange behavior, they didn’t want to leave her alone.  And so Ellen called Sunny and told her about “grandma’s” strange behavior and how she was a bit concerned and freaked out at the idea of leaving her alone.  And so Sunny and her two youngest stayed with mom while Ellen and Nate went to dinner.  Sunny said my mom talked about me and my visits and was very anxious about seeing me again but couldn’t get a hold of me (mom had finally gotten a hold of me before Nate and Ellen had gone to dinner; we had talked for a few minutes)

          Her mind was still quite distorted the next night when she called again.  She misdialed and had meant to call Corey, whom she thought was having car problems and was quite worried about him.  I knew she was frantic and too far away to calm her down. 

          I called Corey to ask if mom was worrying for nothing.  He said he was on his way home and would be to mom’s in about ten minutes.  I called her back.  She was so relieved – like the child who has been missing her tangible security (a blanket, a toy) but finally gets it back.  I still wish I could have embraced her in person and not just over the phone.

          The thief took a vacation only a few days this week – I had hoped for something more permanent, but knew that is all it was.  A HOPE.  And I don’t know what makes her personality change from visit to visit – the distorted mind last week, the turmoil and frustration set in her own mind this weekend, and the still forgetful but almost normal yesterday and the day before.  Even this afternoon over the phone – but not in person.  The theif returned.  Dementia hasn’t robbed only her – it’s taken from all of us.  I want dementia behind bars PERMENANTLY!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our cracker box of a house

          I’m really not a kitchen person.  That would be my husband’s domain.  I thought I’d be happy with just a hot plate. I’m actually loathing our kitchen which consumes of more than just a hot plate.

          First of all it was designed for tall thin people – neither of which I am – though I was thin at one time.  I obviously blew out – but was never up.
When we first moved in I figured I could put the food away or I could put dishes away – but there is no way I could reach both areas.  As I seem to be the only one in the household who is capable of doing dishes, I chose to fill my reaching area with dishes.

          I used to refer to it as a trailer kitchen – though I have been in much roomier trailer kitchens since we moved in.  My husband called it a Galley – though I believe there is more elbow room in your average galley.  I kid you not – if there is more than one person (not to mention the dog) in the kitchen, we are literally in each other’s way – unless of course one is cooking and the other is doing dishes.  If the fridge is opened, someone is in the way. 

          Now the person who designed the kitchen must have decided that eating and preparing were done at the same time – while standing.  I don’t know where homeowners were expected to sit – seriously.  There is no dining room to speak of.  So we have a table right next to the sliding door and across from the pantry (realistically a closet with two shelves). 

My husband loves to have company over.  So if anyone is sitting at the table and someone needs to exit the kitchen – the chairs are in the way.  I have seriously gone out the sliding door and gone around through the front door (but only if the front room is my destination) just to avoid inconveniencing everyone else – yet someone is always inconvenienced.  Trying to get to the bathroom is an entirely different story. Our house was not designed for company.  It was barely designed to live in – although the bedrooms are actually really nice sizes.

Beside our stove are the washer and the dryer.  Another piece of work.  Trying to do laundry.  Can’t sort it in the kitchen.  Can’t open the back door fully because the dryer is in the way.  I really want to hook the washer and dryer up on the opposite side of the wall – which is on the outside currently.  How great it would be to make a room outside.  I don’t even care if it’s insulated or not at this point.  Make a laundry room and eventually use a separate wall to move the table to.  We’ll have to lose the sliding door.  Oh, well. 

          Oh, that’s another area where a lot of thought was given – whoever installed the sliding door.  I’ve been in houses where the sliding door wouldn’t lock and a broomstick was inserted between the slide and the wall to prevent the door from sliding.  Not in our house.  The lip where you would put the broom handle is actually on the outside of the house.  Good job!

          We do have two bathrooms.  Now that’s a plus.  Well – one bathroom with bath included and one with just a sink and toilet.  But still – we didn’t have two toilets in our much larger house and we really needed a second one.  Our one bathroom was larger though – probably both of our current bathrooms combined.  But the tub over here is a little bit larger than the turkey pan sized tub that we had at our first house.   

          We do have a problem with the water pressure however.  Sometimes we have to flush and plunge at the same time.  Or we have to take the porcelain top off the tank and push the plug down.  Oh, the joys of using the bathroom.

          Then there’s the heat.  The furnace seems to want to heat up the living room – and as there is no ventilation, the bedroom gets hot.  Very HOT.  Or we can leave the fireplace running (it’s electric) and warm the front room and the furnace thinks since that room is warm that the whole house must be.  And then our room stays cold.  I would rather have it cold than hot.
          I suppose I shouldn’t complain as we’ve had several homeless people wandering the streets with their shopping carts (especially on garbage day).  Too many people are down on their luck.  For how much longer?

          I’ve seen houses offering a lot less than what we have for a much larger price.  We actually have quite a good deal as far as rent/mortgage is concerned.  So I know we are blessed.  Sometimes I have a tendency to overlook that.

          I look forward to the day when we can afford a luxurious bathroom with a human sized tub and Richard can have his luxurious kitchen.  That would be great!  When no one is down on his luck and that everyone can have his own place. Right now I am trying to be more gracious about what we’ve got.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Losing My Mom to Dementia

          I go to my mom’s twice a week to make sure she is eating lunch and learning that she doesn’t always have breakfast.  I didn’t know how we would introduce her to the idea of taking in a stranger (a companion who would help us watch her) but perhaps the idea may appeal to her if we introduce her as permanent company – so that mom won’t be so bored. 

          Corey is on vacation this week.  My niece leaves the house at six.  I am not certain of her husband’s hours – but do know that he’s not always there – which is understandable.  Ellen and Nate are a newlywed couple and shouldn’t even have to face this dementia challenge while starting out their life together.  But mom had invited them to stay.  And so even though mom has people living with her, she is still often left alone – and actually does get lonely.

          Four to six months ago she didn’t seem to have a problem with it.  Said she preferred it.  Liked being able to spread her wings without her children’s interference.  Now, for the most part, at least into my ears, she has admitted being bored.  To cure that boredom, she often goes shopping – which is fine if somebody drives her – but she is not always coherent enough to even remember where she’s going or how far it may be.

          This Tuesday I was late getting to her house – which wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if Corey had been home.  Actually – mom’s car was there when I arrived, and since she can’t drive it herself, she has allowed Nate to take it.  So he was there.  But he was in the basement.  She thought she was by herself. 
          I had called to tell her I’d be late.  And she waited for me.  I had some errands to run and took her with me.  She was really disoriented.  She hadn’t eaten.  We ate lunch at 12:30.  And we went for a drive.

          She had no idea where we were and kept on asking, “Now where are we going?”  I could have said Mars and she would have continued to ask me.

          She did enjoy the ride for the most part – but my car does seem to make dysfunctional noises – especially when going over a bump or pothole in the road.
          “What was that?” she asked me.
          “My car was in an accident a while back, and ever since it has made that noise.  Kind of sounds like I have a body in the trunk,” I joked.

          Great.  The one thing that she remembers.  Every time it made that noise she would ask, “Do you really have a body in the trunk?  Sounds like that body is still back there . . .”

          I had to stop off at the bank.  She had wandered off – Not only did she not know the area, I was afraid she wouldn’t remember how she got there that she was with me.
          After we returned to her house, she opened her mail.  There was an ad from Shopko (a variety store) and she decided that she must go to see what clothes were available. 
          Shopko is not far from her house – and she has walked there.  She has also come out of Shopko and left in a direction that does not lead her home. 

          I HATE leaving her alone.  And because of her comment about Shopko, I pointed to my own blouse and said, “I got this at Wal-Mart.  You have looked at the clothes at Shopko.  I’m pretty sure it will be the same selection as they had last week.  Why don’t I take you to the Wal-Mart near Jenna’s school, and we will just pick her up before I bring you home?”

          In the event that Nate returned while we were gone, I left a note that mom was with me.  She looked with interest at some things and disapproval at others.  She ended up with two blouses – which I don’t think she needs.  But at least I could watch her.

          Picked Jenna up and she was so excited to see her grandma.  And that made my mom feel good – for that moment.  I drove mom home.  She was exhausted and I figured she was too tired to leave the house again.

          On Thursday I arrived early.  She was at the house by herself.  She hadn’t eaten yet and so we had a fast food breakfast.  I should have taken her to a senior day care – she was dead set against the idea four to six months ago.  Perhaps she’d be more receptive to the idea now.

         There have been times when she's asked my two year old niece to go walking with her.  Oh, there's a scary combination.  We've learned to hide Anna's shoes so that we can say to mom that we can't find her shoes and she can't possibly take a walk without them.

          She said she wanted to go for a walk the other day..  I thought she meant around the neighborhood.  She decided that we would go to Sam’s Club.  The road is under construction.  I tried to discourage her from going – but she was determined.  I said the sidewalk was closed.  She said she was aware that the sidewalk was closed and that we could walk in the right lane of the road because “that is what it’s for”

          My eyes bulged as I tried to dissuade her, but struggled on nonetheless so that she wouldn’t be alone.  As we got closer to the store, she asked why we were going to Sam’s Club.  I told her that we were having a walk and that we should have just stayed in her neighborhood.

          “Well, let’s just look around while we are here.”

          As we approached the doors, she found amusement in watching two seniors pointing here and there and asking each other where they had parked.

          “They don’t even know where they parked,” she said.

          I found it ironic that she was seeing humor in a situation that has been part of her life even before the dementia.

          She said she didn’t need a cart.
          “That is good,” I said.  “Because whatever you get has to be carried home.”
          “Why?” she asked.  “We drove here.”

          “No.  We did not drive here.  We walked.  And I’m not even wearing decent shoes to walk in.”

          “We walked?”

          We’re not even in the front door yet. 

          At least she felt warn out again.  We both took naps.  I wasn’t happy about leaving her.  But I have to be home when Jenna returns.  And I need to start dinner for Roland. 

          We need to find a trustworthy companion.  Someone who is willing to watch out for her in exchange for room and board and meals.  And if she drives, she’ll have thirty or so restaurants to choose from.  Mom does enjoy going out for lunch. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Gave Birth to Anne of Green Gables

          I have given my daughter the nickname Anne Shirley. Jenna does not have red hair, but she does have an overactive imagination and is very theatrical.

          The first homework assignment she brought home for her English class was a list of simple sentences to be rewritten with added reasons.  For example:

The girl cried.  Rewritten: The girl cried because . . . .  Her average classmate may have written:  The girl cried because she was sad.  The girl cried because she couldn’t go outside.  The girl cried because her ice cream was gone.

          But leave it to my Jenna to go on and on with more words than just one sentence.  The girl cried because she couldn’t complete her surprise project because she had run out of red ink before she could finish the fairy-angel’s wings and so she would never be able to give her gift to her mom.

She really does talk that way.  When we remind her to clean up after herself, she is all over the place – “Oh, why do I always have to do everything?  I know you’re just gonna say ‘you have to clean up the front room because most of it is your stuff.’ But not all of it is. It’s not fair.” 
Actually I don’t know if the punctuation is accurate as she tends to rattle on without pausing.  A period (.) I guess would indicate a pause.  For the most part she is hard to understand – especially if she is producing tears.

I know where she gets it from.  My mom used to call me Sarah Bernhardt–  whoever that is (or was) and I was perhaps just as thrilled to be called Sarah Bernhardt as Jenna is at being called Anne Shirley.

The difference is that Sarah Bernhardt was an actual person, an actress.  Anne Shirley was invented by Lucy Maud Montgomery (though there was an Anne Shirley, an actress who portrayed Anne of Green Gables in 1934) 
The book has been dramatized on television and in the theatres since 1919 and the character has been played by various actresses including Mary Miles Minter, Toby Tarnow, and Megan Fellows (pictured at the beginning of this post) and has been enjoyed by readers for over a century.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Amazing Ever-Hair-Style-Changing Hair Band

        Many of us have sat through primary programs that have had participants who would never make it to poster child for illustrating reverence.  Sometimes we laugh at the misfortunes; some roll their eyes and come up with all the answers for how to discipline.  Some parents take it with a grain of salt.  Some are mortified and embarrassed. 

I don’t remember Jenna being so ill mannered in our last ward, but she was making faces during the program last year. This year she displayed her fidgety fingers as she bit her nails (while waiting in line at the pulpit) and fussed over her hair band and seemed to create a different hairstyle with each adjustment. 

The hair band fell off her head as they stood up to perform one of the songs.  She did sing, but frantically looked all around to see where it had gone.  Jenna’s among the tallest girl – if not the tallest – which made it more obvious.

Still not as bad as my brother’s ward – which had a HUGE primary when Kimball and Ellen were four and six.  I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to put the six four year olds on table tops.  Kimball was quite reverent, but the two next to him were kicking one another and pulling hair (as I recall) elbowing, fist fighting.  

That was my view.  Those three four year olds sitting on the same side as I was.  Most everybody who was on my side saw those two four year olds fighting and missed most of the program.  I actually think that was more irreverent than Jenna’s amazing hair-style-changing head band.

Four more years and Jenna will be in young women’s. Perhaps by then she will learn to keep still.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Working with Swire Coca-Cola

          When was first called to work at Swire, the company was located downtown.  I would take the bus to a stop two or three lights east of where I needed to be and walk the rest of the way.

I was working in the human resources area doing filing. It also became my job to help them pack up and move as they were leaving the downtown area and settling on a neutral location between Salt Lake and Provo and combining their employees into just one building instead of two.   I remember being with them after the move – I think until they were all settled in.  And then my position was through.

I returned to Swire for another assignment – handling and counting money that each of the drivers would bring in from the vending machines. The girl who trained me was really nice. 
It was an easy job – except for the one time when the power went out and we couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces.  Though it was possible to count each bill, we didn’t know it’s value by touching it.
Brand new building.  Still hadn’t worked out all their bugs.

While working in the money room, Adia informed me of an indefinite position opening in another department.  I was interviewed by the team supervisor and started a new position after a couple of weeks in the money room.
I liked working there.  The work was consistent.  It wasn’t hard at all.  And I caught on quite quickly.  There was a phone on my desk in which I could call people, but it never rang.  I really liked that I didn’t have to answer it.

The department consisted of three primary positions.  One would batch papers (that was usually the job I did) by sorting them into groups of color and paper thickness so that the person scanning them could change the tracking device.  When a new machine was purchased (much later on down the road) the batches didn’t have to be sorted into color and paper weight anymore – just counted.  The new machine was so much easier to work (or so I assumed)

Aside from batching and scanning, there was keying.  Typing in the number to match the one on the document.  Fairly easy, but required accuracy.  It was my least favorite of the three jobs.  I suppose they all got boring.

Ever since DCFS I heard that more and more companies would be going to a paperless system.  It was more believable at Swire than I can ever imagine DCFS would ever (or will ever) be. 

I worked at Swire in 2002 when Coca-Cola products were the only cola products to be sold within the downtown or Olympic participating areas.  There were promotions.  There were incentive programs.  There were a lot of benefits that came with working at Swire.

After a few years with Adecco, I went on with Swire full time.  I worked there until a year before I had Jenna.  I would go back if I lived closer to Draper.  The commute and gas prices just don’t seem to work together right now.  Especially since I’m looking for just part time.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Working Temp Jobs

          I started my temp jobs with Kelly.  I don’t recall any jobs through Kelly that weren’t banquet involved.  What a letdown.  NOT the field I was looking for.  There was one assignment I’d been given to insert flyers and advertisements together. There was a large group of us who got the job done in less than two and a half hours.  We got paid for four.


          The only other temp agency I worked for was Adia – which later became Adecco.  The name changed when I was doing secretarial work for DCFS.

          Now there’s a trip.  Working for the state.  Department of Child and Family Services.  Felt more like Dysfunctional Communication for Society.  I really was not at all thrilled about how agents or clients were being treated.

          My “job” was to assist a secretary who evidently had a huge work load.  She was great at training me – but would often send me to other departments as her work load was not as horrific as Adia was led to believe.  I had been told I’d be working for two months?  I can’t remember.  They never told me to stop coming.  And I could actually walk to the location.  I was there for a little over a year.
          Mostly I did filing and copied case loads for adoptions – which is NOT the department I was hired for.  But it was a paycheck.  I was great at my job.  I became a lot more familiar with the copy machine than I would have liked people to know.  I became known as the “copy queen”.

          At first I copied everything exactly how I found it, being certain to return everything back exactly how I found it.  As I got more familiar with what the case loads contained, and all the duplicate copies, and all the fax covers – I must say that I did a complete turnaround on my case copies and was able to “clean up” in the original file.

          One day I was told that they really couldn’t afford to keep me on anymore.  And that was to be expected really – Hey I had already worked at least ten to fourteen months longer than expected date and so it didn’t seem that big of a deal to me.

          I was invited to apply to work on with DCFS directly.  Oh, right.  I saw how their employees were moved from location to location at the drop of a hat.  If I wanted to work downtown Salt Lake, I would apply downtown Salt Lake.  If I wanted to work in Magna, I would apply to the outskirts of where I actually lived.  But I wasn’t going to start a job in Murray so that I could be relocated with less than a full day’s notice.  No thank you.  With the temp agency, I had the option of saying, “sorry, no.  Doesn’t work for me.”

          There were a few other assignments I had with Adia – mostly warehouse work.  I packed auto parts at NAAPA and bycicle safety kits with another company and binder kits with Franklin and NuSkin products with a packaging company. 

          A lot of breakage of machines.  A lot of wasted time.  I didn’t mind the warehouse assembly lines.  I preferred clerical work.  Minus the phones.

          I was called back to DCFS (through Adia) in less than a month after they let me go.  Reception work, answering phones.  Hated that.  I actually don’t like phones all that much.  I find them necessary at times.  But overall I find them very bothersome.

Didn’t do that for long.  They had me as a multi-tasker.  I was given a pager so that I could prioritize who was important and who could wait.  What a trip.  I was a temp with my own show to run.  I was there for another year, I think.  And then they had to let me go again.

          Funny stories about DCFS:  I was writing a letter that needed the approval of the administrator.  He totally misses the point of the letter and harps all over the letterhead (as if I really had anything to do with that) though it was understandable.  
 All the letters that I had sent out, in all that time, had been on the same letterhead.  Two other mayors had been in office since the one listed on the letterhead.  I found amusement in it.

          There was another time I had left DCFS of my own free will.  The state came up with a brilliant plan – state owned buildings would be less costly than privately owned buildings (what a grand concept, huh?) and therefore all state employees would be relocated to state buildings.  Not me.  I still worked for Adia.  Didn’t care for the new location.

          Within a week, the employees were back to the “privately owned” as the state owned building had to be condemned.  Our tax dollars hard at work.  It makes one be proud to be a Utahan.
          When I was called to work with DCFS again it was a building located right next door to Adia.  I was there for about three weeks when Adia merged with another temp agency providing them with the new name Adecco. 

As a “secretary” I was making the most money I had ever made in my entire life, and I wasn’t doing a darn thing to earn it.  When I arrived, the girl I worked with had me searching through clip art to create a flyer for an upcoming pizza party.  Seriously? 

I was literally scrounging for work.  Sending out emails.  Nobody was utilizing my skills.  I resorted back to the building I had come from.  Does anybody have any work over there?  They did.  They would send it to me, and I would send it back.  Come on.   I would have just rather just remained in the first building where I had started.

I enjoyed getting to know the agents who actually worked at Adecco and were the ones finding workers to send to locations.  They seemed professional and on the ball.  That was then.

When I tried to rejoin the force just last year, I wondered what it is that is keeping them in business.  Those finding jobs do NOT communicate with one another – certainly not with me.  It was such a hassle just finding the place too.  I think my experiences with Adecco are so in the past.

Overall I did enjoy the temp experience (with last year’s exception) because I did have the option of picking and choosing.  But I wasn’t always thrilled with the commute for some assignments.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finding My Place at Patrick Dry Goods

          I took the bus downtown to 2nd south and walked over to 2nd west from there.

          Patrick Dry Goods had three floors.  On the first floor one could pick out fabric and towels or order them by catalogue.  The second floor carried notions and the third floor carried some baby clothes and socks – mostly through catalogue – but did keep certain brands within the warehouse.

          The elevator used in the building seemed ancient compared to the building itself. It reminded me of the broken (and noisy) elevator in Thoroughly Modern Millie.except the gate pulled down instead of horizonal center.  And there was no dancing.

Mostly items were purchased from name brands and then sold to Ma and Pa stores who couldn’t afford to purchase directly from the name brands as they were unable to meet the minimum amount required.  Patrick’s was like the middle man between the two.

I was hired as a secretary.  My job entailed photographing items, creating catalogue pages, and assisting with the orders.  Secretary was my title, but the job description just sounds so different from what I think of as secretarial.

I liked my boss – though I often wondered how he came to be in that position.  He appeared to have no spine – wasn’t good at making decisions – or perhaps he really did value the opinions of those around him.  I think he included us so that we would make the decisions and he wouldn’t have to.

The first floor and vice president couldn’t seem to keep a secretary – or perhaps he never had one.  Quite opposite from my boss.  He was a control freak.  He had the final say on everything.  Including manipulating my boss – who would let him.

The forms we filled out had three parts.  The white copy to go to the customer, the yellow copy to be filed under the manufacturer ordered from, the pink copy to be filed under the customer whose order we would fill and the blue copy was filed numerically.

I thought it was a very good system.  If for some reason we couldn’t find it under the manufacturer, we could refer to the numerical order or the client.  But that was our department.  I didn’t think our vice president was near as organized – didn’t care for his system at all.  And I told him so.

I actually wouldn’t have said anything at all, except he would rotate me and the secretary from the second floor to do his secretarial work as he was without.  Well, maybe he was without because of his dumb filing system – which I may have accepted except I had my own floor to compare it to.

Everything got filed under the name of the manufacturer.  Everything.  A customer had called to find out where the ordered product was and when to expect it.  He had the receipt number, but did not have the name of the manufacturer – and so the vice president asked me to go through each document filed under the manufacturer until I could find it.

That is when I explained to him how much easier it would have been just to separate all the copies in the first place.  If he had done it like we do upstairs, he could refer to the blue copy or the pink copy in the other file – but it always was his way or no way. 

At my suggestion to separate the copies, he flew off the handle and said if I didn’t like his filing system that I didn’t have to do secretarial work for him anymore.  I didn’t like it and so I returned back upstairs.

Of course, the rest of the week I wondered if I would get fired for speaking my mind – the secretary from the 2nd floor said she was impressed and wish she would have had the nerve to speak her mind like I did.  Whatever.  I did not do any more secretarial for the vice president.  I stayed on the third floor and sometimes would assist with overflow stock on the forth.

It wasn’t a bad job.  I ended up leaving to work in strip mall mailbox location.  Patrick’s remained strong for another year or so after I quit.  I think Wal-Mart contributed to their downfall. Don’t know what is located there now.  Last time I saw it, the building was vacant.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Insurance Company File Clerk

          After high school I got a job at my dad’s work (an insurance company)  as a file clerk.  It was back in the days where not everyone had a personalized computer.  And the computer that my dad worked on (he was a computer programmer) was one of those ancient wall to wall machines that look along the lines of a horrible sci-fi.

          My job was to pull microfiche, file microfiche, scan documents to be cut and inserted into microfiche, and to cut and insert.  Mostly I pulled or filed.  I rarely ever cut and insert.  I actually may have done it only once.

          We were located in an ancient building which used to be a lodge for the lions (probably at the very moment they were founded) The company outgrew that building and moved to a much nicer location only eight blocks away.  (The first building we were is now some kind of night club or dance hall – or at least last time I checked)

          I liked our second location a lot better.  I think we all did.  It was definitely a lot roomier. And I could take walks outside during my breaks without constantly looking over my shoulder as the first location seemed to be in a seedy part of town.

          I left the insurance company to go on my mission. 

          After I returned I did not go back to the insurance company my dad was with.  I continued to do temp jobs (in addition to Snelgroves STILL) and had some assignments that led me back to the world of sorting and filing microfiche.  Unfortunately the girl they picked to be the supervisor had no concept of numerical order nor did she know how to alphabetize. 

It was a very unprofessional atmosphere with a turnover of employees between the ages of 10 and 25 (although very few of them actually seemed mature enough to be 25 – and okay, perhaps 10 is an exaggeration.  Though I actually know more sophisticated 10 years olds than some of the co-workers I had.)

          I worked three assignments at the same company.  I will NEVER go back to it – though I really did enjoy the work itself.  But if I had wanted to hear all the muck and garbage that came out of the employees that were around me, I would have just stayed home and watched Jerry Springer

          My dad was forced to take a medical retirement.  But the insurance company that he’d been with treated him well.  For many years after his death, my mom continued to receive turkey cards and updates.  I thought that was impressive.

          They have since moved their location at least one other time.  Last I heard their most recent location was at the triad center.  And I’m guessing they have done away with the fiche and have a more reliable filing system.

          I have enjoyed office work the most of any job or assignment that I’ve had.  I would think that modern technology has made it even easier.  It’s impractical for me to work full time while Jenna is still in school.  But when I have searched for part time, I have applied for office position (minus reception work or anything that is phone related)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Waiting Tables

          I think everybody ought to have the opportunity of waiting tables for at least two months.  Some may have to do it longer to really appreciate what hard work for little wages really is.  Although I don’t know if it’s quite as feast or famine as it used to be. 

          My second job was at the ice cream parlor where my mom worked.  I was probably there longer than any other job.  I think I started out at 2.67 an hour.  Milkshakes were less than two on the menu. I’d seen the prices going up quite often.  Wish my paycheck had been increased as rapidly.

I mostly worked weekends and one or two nights during the week.  I would come in at 6:00 or 8:00 and work until after closing.  Everybody did everything and tips were split among all of those who worked that shift.  Our assignments consisted of being host or hostess (seating customers and bringing them water), waiting tables, making orders, taking orders for and making cones, cashier, dishwasher and those who were really competent would have the honor of relieving the candy lady when the need arose.
          There were a few nights when patrons would enter consistently – but for the most part there were gaps of “looking busy” and then they’d swarm in due to some concert or high school dance or what have you letting out or ending up.  And as a waiter/waitress one always wondered if it had been announced to “be sure and stop by” as it was always crowded.  And then we were working just as hard as any aerobic class – maybe harder.

          My favorite jobs were either waiting tables or dishwasher – which wasn’t actually assigned to the girls all too often.  Making orders wasn’t too bad if the ice cream was soft enough to scoop out.  But on really busy nights, we would end up getting in each other’s way.

          I didn’t enjoy doing cones all that much – also a job that was more popularly assigned to the boys.  Counters were okay.  It was a “do-it-all” task and it was by the doors which sometimes invited a welcoming breeze.

          When the family business was handed to the next generation, they attempted to add new things to the menu – like sandwiches, soup and coffee – which they would stop serving after six.  And once in a while I would work the day shift.

          The day shift workers would clear tables, but that’s as far as it would get.  Never did a single dish make it into the dish room until I came on board (day time shift)  making sure to fill a tub with soapy water and drop each of the soup bowls into the water when I separated the other items in the cart.  Really.  How hard is that?  Dropping soup bowls into a tub of water? 

          Those who were assigned to do dishes loved me.  It certainly made their job a lot easier.  But I had done dishes before.  I knew what it was like.  I was getting paid to work – not to stand around and visit.  I just didn’t get why it was always such a big deal for the day shift to get off their duffs and help out a little.

          Also I don’t recall any of the employees ever being coffee drinkers.  We often received complaints on the coffee.  Sometimes we’d actually invite the customer back to make his or her own coffee (how professional, huh) I think they did away with it after a while.  We honestly just didn’t know.

          I made several friends throughout the years.  I graduated high school.  Moved on to another job.  Sometimes I would substitute for somebody at the ice cream store.  Went to school.  Returned to the ice cream.  Went on a mission. Returned to the ice cream. And continued to be on the payroll at least two years after quitting my job again (as I would still sub at least once a paycheck)

          I worked at the ice cream parlor (or subbed) in addition to at least three or four other jobs.  The ice cream parlor was never a full time job. I probably put in more hours when I was in high school than I had since.

          Funniest story ever.  Nathan (not his real name) and some other co-workers were on their break discussing going to prom.  One asked Nathan who he’d be asking out.  He said he was considering asking me. 

          “No way!  Who are you going to ask really?”

          Confused by their reaction, Nathan asked what was wrong.

          “She’s like in her 20’s.”

          Nathan didn’t believe them.

          A group surrounded me.  The spokesman of the group asked, “How old are you?”
          I was 24 at the time. 

          Nathan’s jaw fell on the floor.  I was flattered that he had wanted to ask me.  But at the same time I thought it was very hilarious.

          All of my mom’s children had worked there at one time or another. It was a good first job for most of us – as well as some of our neighbors.

          The ice cream parlor has been folded about twenty years, I guess.  They kept the name, and continued producing ice cream at the factory.  After 79 years the brand name was retired. The factory continues to operate. But there is a different name on the packaging. But to the best of my knowledge they still keep the iconic sign where I used to work. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Week of Employment

          I don’t remember leaning toward a specific career.  I took on jobs just to get by.  My first few jobs were just for spending money.  It seemed to have a more grown up feel than just doing chores.

          I received my first job when I was 13 or 14 years old.  I delivered a weekly newspaper.  Informative scoops about events in the surrounding community.  It was called the Green Sheet.  I delivered it on Thursday mornings for about a year.  And then I stopped.

          My second job was at the ice cream parlor where my mom worked.  I was probably there longer than any other job.  (More on that in its own post) I was there before college, after college, before the mission, after the mission . . . and even while I was working at other jobs.

          Searching for jobs was always more work for me than the job itself.  I have worked so many dead-end jobs just to avoid hunting.  I suppose there was room for advancement in some of the places I worked – but none of them offered positions that held my interest.

          I spent about two years as a manager at a pack and mail.  Customers would bring in goods to be shipped – sometimes my assistant and I would have to wrap them.  As with so many other companies I have worked for over the years, the pack and mail place went out of business – I believe at the time I was still employed there.

          I was interested in teaching.  First putting myself through school to become a teacher’s aide – and then go for my teaching degree while working as a teacher’s aide.  Problem is, I wasn’t a great student.  I don’t mind learning – but it’s got to be at my pace.  I find I get burned out with pushing courses after only six months and then I need a rest.  The desire to teach (as a profession) is no longer there.  I don’t mind clerical work.  That’s what I am most comfortable with. 

          The last job that I worked at (one that provided a paycheck) was Swire Coca-Cola.  I quit my position about a year before Jenna was born.  Since then I’ve done clerical work for Roland and some of his fellow workers.  But he has since changed professions – I suppose he could return to it eventually . . .

          Anyway, I have decided that this week I will post a job for each day of the week.  Nothing spectacular.  It may be of no interest whatsoever – but it’s part of my character.  And the story unfolds . . .

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Learning to Love My Grass, Part 2

          So often we look at others’ lives and wish they were our own – or that we could have that kind of luxury or peace or knowledge or whatever.  For the most part we only see just one piece of the puzzle.  We see what we perceive as beautiful and elegant and glamorous; we don’t see the struggles behind whatever it is that we think we envy.

          Everybody has struggles.  Those that don’t or think they don't are at a disadvantage because they aren’t growing.  We all make sacrifices.  Little day to day things.  Sacrificing the doughnut as a result of better health.  Giving up a bit of time each month to contribute to your child’s education or the welfare of those in your neighborhood or church.  Not spending money on one’s self but giving it to another who’s more in need – though it often feels like the finances of the giver are even less than the receiver.

          I had a missionary companion whose family put all their Christmas funds into buying wheat.  That’s what Santa had left them.  It was hard for her to explain or even comprehend when she went back to school and listen to her classmates talk about gifts they had received.  She was only six.

          There have been those who have sacrificed their jobs while attending to their families or the other way around.  Losing their families because they are always at work.  Everything comes with a price – or so it seems.  And we don’t always know or understand the price that the other person has had to pay for whatever we perceive as wanting a part of our own lives.   

          And certainly the cruise appeals to us a lot more than attending a child’s bedside while at the hospital AGAIN – but at what cost.  Do we ever see the full picture?  Do we see the cruise as a luxury that we may never have because we obviously don’t have the finances that the other obviously must have.  Obviously?  Do we understand what sacrifices were made on their part in order to have a cruise – or why?

          Are they cruising to satisfy the wishes of a dying spouse?  Are they cruising because it was recommended by a physician or therapist?  Have they been setting 10 dollars aside every month for the last 30 years? 

          Until we understand fully what we see on the surface isn’t always the glamour we envision, until we understand the sacrifices made to get there, we don’t really KNOW if the other man’s grass is always greener than our own.  It may only appear that way on the surface.  But do we have an understanding of HOW it was grown?