Thursday, September 29, 2011


I have prepared and lived off a budget for the last two years. I start every month knowing where every dollar is going to go do the work that I want it to do. (Starting in October, I will be taking that knowledge to the penny....those little bastards add up to real money really fast.) I pay my bills and have enough left at the end of the month for saving and fun too, and my husband and I have zero consumer debt. I don't go to my income source (employer in my case) and insist on an increase in my operating revenues - if they feel that the work that I am doing merits an increase, they give it to me.

The federal government hasn't passed a budget in over 2 years and is over $14 trillion in debt. Every time I turn around, the federal government is trying to increase their revenue by demanding more money from me, and it doesn't matter if any of us think that they're doing a good job. They then take MY money and bail out losers. (Companies who lost the battle in the market place as well as people who lost their minds and promised to pay way more than they could ever dream to pay.)

Based on that information, does it come as any surprise that I have neither respect for nor trust in the government's handling of finances? Is it a shock that I am frustrated and angry with the way that Washington deals with money? Does anyone really question why Rick Santelli's rant heard round the world resonated with me and so many others?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why some people have such a hard time getting a job....

There is no question that the economy is in the tank right now. There are entire industries that are so depressed that there are no jobs in them, and it will be quite a while before they recover - if they ever do. (Some will just disappear as they should. There market for wagon wheels and buggy whips never recovered after automobiles took off.) There are a lot of people unemployed, and it can be difficult to find a "good" job. That does not mean that there are no jobs available. Lots of places are currently hiring and can't seem to find anyone to fill their openings. Part of the problem that they face is that their starting wage is less than what the government is currently handing out for unemployment checks. (I'll skip my rant on that for right now.) The other, much bigger, problem is that so many people are clueless about what an employer is looking for in an applicant. As a member of the management team where I work, here's some free advice from personal observation.
  • If you want a job, you can't consider a job/task to be "beneath" you. You need to be willing to do manual labor. This could range from working at a factory to scrubbing toilets.
  • Having names or stars tattooed across your face is going to be a major strike against you.
  • Do not list your special skills or qualifications as "I love being a mom" or "white water rafting" unless you are applying at a daycare or outdoors outfitters respectively. Those do not apply to retail, factory work, etc.
  • Purchase and use a belt. If your underwear is hanging out, you will not get the job.
  • Do not use your prison "offender" ID as your form of identification. Go the the DMV and get a state ID if you don't have anything else.
  • Use deodorant/antiperspirant.
  • Your hair should be neatly styled/trimmed and WASHED.
  • Do not wear a hoodie, oversized pants, and chains to an interview unless it's at Hot Topic - and even then it's questionable.
  • Don't show up reeking of weed.
Just a few suggestions....

Friday, September 23, 2011

True Story.

Where I work, the outrageous is ordinary. As a result, it takes a lot to get me to do a double take. It was accomplished today. Here I was, trying to sell the last day old donut to pretty much everyone who came through the line. A chocolate donut with chocolate frosting filling and chocolate icing on it. Instead of "selling" it though, I went with a humorous line that sometimes works. It is so over the top that even if people don't want the donut, they normally laugh instead of getting upset about someone trying to get them to buy stuff. Today, one of our regular customers decided to join the game and up the ante.

Me: Give a home to this orphan donut? It's sad and lonely because it was picked last....just like when the chubby kid wants to play kickball at recess.
Dude: Well of course he got picked last. He's up against some pretty stiff competition here. You've got cough drops and beef sticks right here next to it. He needs to get some buddies to help him out.
Me: That's the problem. They all got adopted and taken home. He's the only one left.
Dude: Yeah, I'll bet they were all white.

He went there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dress Code

Over the last couple of years, I have seen people come into the gas station in a lot of "different" clothing options. Most of them don't even phase me anymore. Weird costumes when it's not Halloween and outfits straight out of a Tyler Perry play are pretty common. Folks coming in slippers and pajama pants don't even register as anything out of the ordinary. However, there are limits.

In case anyone was wondering, it is NOT acceptable to go out in public wearing a wife beater tank top and a pair of boxer shorts torn halfway up the leg.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why on earth would you work HERE?

As a little back story here, I have a bachelor's degree in Spanish from a nice private university. After school, I got a "good" job at a large company that is pretty prestigious in its field. My family was happy for me and thrilled that I was "doing so well in a career that used my degree." I was really good at my job. All of my reviews were positive, and I was the one that got called on to fix the big problems or teach people how to use a new tool or product offering that had been developed. The problem? I hated it there. The people were nice, the pay was fair, and I was miserable. I tried different managers, shifts, and departments to see if it was people, schedule, or the kind of work that I was doing that was the issue. I hated being stuck at a desk all day. I hated having to talk on the phone instead of face to face. I hated that I rarely saw sunshine because I couldn't even look out a window. I woke up every morning feeling like Office Space where every day piles on the last making each new day the worst one possible. 

It was not a good fit for me, so I decided to make a change. I tried a few different jobs for about a year and finally ended up at my current job where I have been for over two and a half years working at a gas station convenience store. Yes, it pays a lot less than I could get elsewhere, but it's enough to put clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and food on the table. Plus, I never have to sit at a desk, I rarely take a phone call, I get to talk face to face with people all day, and I have a big bank of windows where I can see the world pass me by. It's fast paced, always changing, and pretty good exercise most days. In order to do the job well, it's a lot harder than it looks. The company isn't perfect, but the pay is fair and the people are nice. I don't mind going to work either.....the only time I have to persuade myself to go is if I'm overtired or just feeling under the weather. (That's not to say that I love it enough to go even if I wasn't getting paid....) The only thing that I really hate about the job is listening to people tell me how I should get a "better" job as if the place where I work isn't good enough. And like there's only one set of standards to determine how good a job is.

As an aside, this is probably something that you should consider the next time that you go to a gas station, grocery store, or any other retail location. The person who is scanning your purchases at the store could very well be a Mensa candidate. (Not that I am....just saying - they work in all walks of life.) Don't look down on them for "lack of ambition." It just might mean that their ambition and purpose are outside of their employment. Sometimes, it just comes down to quality of life or home/work balance that leads folks to a certain job. Don't demean the work that they're doing. Frankly, aren't you glad that the person who is running the cash register or helping you with your purchases isn't an idiot? You've found those too on many occasions - isn't a smart, efficient, and capable person a refreshing change?

Back to the point of it, I am tired of such a stupid question. I have tried a lot of different "canned" answers to it, and none really hits the point of it. Either it's too long, not strong enough, or has enough sarcastic zing to it that in a normal store, I might be in really big trouble for it. (We're given a lot of leeway where I work. It comes with the neighborhood.) If anyone has suggestions for me, I'd appreciate it. Here's some of the previous answers to "what are you doing working HERE?"
  • Because here I get more windows than any CEO at a Fortune 500 company.
  • So I get the pleasure of your charming company.
  • I like it here.
  • Have you SEEN the movie "Office Space"?
  • Because every once in a while someone gets tazed in the parking lot.
  • This is more interesting.
  • Doing freelance translation work is inconsistent which makes it hard to pay the bills.
  • Because this is the only place that I've ever worked where I've called a customer a dipshit to their face in front of my manager.....and not gotten in trouble for it. 
  • You don't get secretary spread if you're on your feet and moving all day.
  • Reality TV has got nothing on Friday and Saturday nights in here.
  • I'm going Gault.
Any other suggestions?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

¡Feliz Fiestas Patrias!

A mis amigos Chilenos ojalá q tengan un día divertido y seguro por las Fiestas Patrias. Pásalo bien - toma un pisco, disfruta el asado, y baila la cueca.

Ten years ago today, I was privileged to experience and enjoy Chilean Independence Day with a group of amazing people. Tín, Sandra, Caro, and Benja trying to show me how to dance the Cueca....hours and hours of playing Uno with the fastest paced and craziest set of house rules that you'll ever imagine...a delicious asado cooked up in the back yard....pisco sours.....watching the sun come up before going home for the "night."

The thing that I remember and hold most dear to me is the time with friends. I think of that time and those friends often. These are not ordinary friends. They were what made my time in Chile one of the most amazing and wonderful experiences of my life. When I first met them, it didn't matter to them that I couldn't understand anything that anyone was saying (no amount of classroom time can prepare you for the Chilean dialect and accent) or that they had to repeat themselves and sometimes translate for me. They were patient and never made fun of me while I tried to speak, and they graciously corrected my grammar and (occasionally embarrassing) translation errors. They made sure that I knew what time to be where (and how to adjust for "tiempo Chileno") and that I got safely back to my house since the buses don't run all night. Most importantly, they made me feel included.

To all of my favorite Chilenitos, I can not begin to thank you enough for the blessing that you have been in my life. Doy gracias al Señor por amigos como ustedes. Q Dios bendiga su día y su vida.

Monday, September 12, 2011


There is a lot that I don't know. Some of those things, I know that I don't know. Others, I don't even know that I don't know. There are even things that I think that I know where later I find out that I didn't know anything at all.

All of this doesn't discourage me. On the contrary, it inspires me. There is so much in the world to learn, and I get to spend my life in a quest to start to learn the things that I don't know yet. It's exciting when a new nugget of truth is uncovered that opens a door to all sorts of new questions and shines light on more areas to learn. I never want to be an expert. I never want to believe that I have "arrived." I hope that you don't either.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Post Office

So, the US Postal Service is claiming that they are in dire financial circumstances. They probably are. They're run like everything else that the government touches. I think that before we call it a day and let the whole thing go under, they should try a few reforms and see if that doesn't correct the system. Here's a few ideas
  1. Pay structure - especially that of the "higher ups" needs a major overhaul. Two years ago there was an uproar when folks found out that the postmaster general made about $800,000 for the year even though the USPS was in trouble financially. That's about twice as much as POTUS makes, and I'm pretty sure he's got a bit more on his plate.
  2. The unions need to make some concessions. Big ones. The pay and retirement packages need to come in line with similar private sector positions. (FedEx and UPS manage to make money.) They also need to be able to lay off workers when there isn't enough work for them to do.
  3. Drop Saturday delivery. It would mean that you could have one carrier per route and not need to juggle schedules to figure out how to get that sixth day covered. 
  4. Quit offering discounts on bulk mail. You would see a significant decrease in the amount of crap that was going through the mail if these companies had to pay regular price for it. Less volume equals less cost to process, ship, and deliver it.
  5. Require all mailboxes to be curbside. Delivery would be way faster and more efficient if you didn't have carriers walking the entire route every day. All that they would have to do is drive up and down the streets dropping off mail and picking it up if the flag is up. Combining this with the lower volume in mail due to increased bulk mail costs, and I wouldn't be surprised to see labor costs cut in half. 
  6. Outsource to private business partners. A lot of the uproar over closing neighborhood post offices is that in some cases the people who use their services have a hard time getting to the larger central office. Find local pharmacies, convenience stores, coffee shops, or whatever who are willing to help provide some of those services. All that you would need is a small store with a little extra bit of counter space to set up a scale to mail packages. That and to buy stamps are what most people go to the post office for anyway. Pay the store a percentage of their postal service sales, and everyone is a winner.
Supporting the USPS isn't just clinging to nostalgia. There are still people out there who receive and write letters. The post office just needs to streamline its business.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing.”

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? – William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:

“Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa.”

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers – athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. – Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: “…denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.”

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…


This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.