Feb 25, 2011

Blackjack Makes Me Happy

We are traveling to the Upper Penninsula to see my daughter this weekend.  She's an engineer and she  works on brakes, ABS and traction control.  She has to test her products in winter conditions so two or three times a winter she goes up there for two weeks at a time.  Now, you should know, we see our daughter all the time.  She lives within 5 miles of us.  So why, you ask, are we driving over 350 miles on snowy roads, over one of the world's largest suspension bridges to see her?

I threw the bridge part in because it makes me nervous to drive over the Mackinac Bridge in the best of conditions.  Add icy roads with the wind whipping the bridge back and forth ever so slightly and I become a nervous wreck.  Back in 1989 a Yugo got blown off that bridge.  It's a long drop, plenty of time to be thinking about what's about to happen.  ~shiver~  Still debating whether I will allow my husband to drive me over the deadly abyss or whether I will insist on driving.  I like to be in control when I think my life is at risk. I'd fly the plane too if I knew how.

Back to our trip Up North.  It's a chance to get away.  To break the routine.  But most of all, a chance to go play some blackjack.  We are staying near an Indian casino.   I am the family Blackjack expert.  After studying the strategy in a few books and some long practice sessions over the years, I know what I'm doing.  I've taught my husband, my father, my daughter, sister, brother-in-law, niece.  This weekend it's my youngest niece's turn to learn.   She's 18.

I can pretty easily teach someone the strategy of the game but what I can't teach is gambler's nerve.  You either have it or you don't.  My sister and daughter do not.  To have gambler's nerve the money has to be invisible to you.  You play for the thrill and you don't let the money influence your actions.  My oldest niece has it.  She makes me proud.

I feel very lucky this weekend.   And no, I don't see any contradiction between my last post about not believing in fate and stating here that I do believe in luck.  I'm a complicated woman.

Feb 22, 2011

I'm No Puppet

My dear cousin Bonnie and I have an on-going disagreement over the cosmic workings of the universe.  She believes in fate/destiny/kismet and I do not.  She believes that certain things are meant to happen and that people are sometimes powerless to stop moving down destiny's path.

I don't believe that.  I am not Fate's Pawn to be moved around the chessboard of life on a whim.  I make of my life what I choose.  My decisions, my actions, my rewards, my consequences.    


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 

William Ernest Henley 

Feb 20, 2011

Joe's Gorilla

We had to bring the gorilla in on Friday.  The high winds were causing him to slam up against the house over and over again.  If anything happened to this gorilla I would be very sad. These days the gorilla hangs right outside our patio door.  But the first time I saw this gorilla was the day I met my father-in-law, Joe. At that time he was hanging in the corner of  Joe's living room.  Joe was going for sort of a jungle thing.  Not only did he have this awesome gorilla, he also had tropical plants all over and a giant fleece blanket with a picture of a majestic lion hanging on the wall.

That day back in 1984 we knocked on the door, Joe yelled "Well, come in.  What are you waiting for?"  in a loud and impatient voice.  He was 100% Polish and I grew to learn that his entire family speaks that way, including my husband.  It sounds as if they are very exasperated to have to explain things to you that should be obvious.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  They are warm and loving and full of life, a little strange too, but that's all part of their charm.

The minute I saw this gorilla I knew I would like Joe.  Joe made no apologies for his life.  His ex-wife and kids probably feel that he should have made a few here and there.  He was indifferent to his wife to the point where she finally had to leave him.  After the divorce he didn't try very hard to see his kids.  But he was not a mean man and I'm sure never intended to hurt anyone.  I think he would have been a little shocked to think his kids were affected that deeply by him and his actions.  He just did what he wanted to do,  not really giving much thought to anybody else.  He probably shouldn't have gotten married.  But you know what they say about hindsight.

My husband spoke with his Dad pretty regularly, at least once a month or so but we didn't see Joe often.  He couldn't be bothered with the effort to come see us but was always genuinely happy when we made the effort to go see him.  It became harder to visit him once he moved out west, first Vegas and then out to the desert of Arizona in a tiny little town called Dolan Springs.

The last time I saw Joe was in 2006.  We took a big driving trip out west, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Vegas, Grand Canyon.  We stopped for an afternoon with Joe.  Even though my husband and I saw Joe every few years, my kids hadn't seen him in probably 10 or more years.  It was a nice afternoon.  Joe's gorilla was sitting on a table out back of his place, surrounded by Joshua trees and cactus.

Joe passed away not long after that.  My husband was able to go be with him at the end.  That's a good thing  but I know he misses his Dad alot.  I do too.  When Jim went to clean out his Dad's house he guessed I would want the gorilla.  He was right.  

Feb 16, 2011

Is Vintage Older than Antique?

I visited a craft-slash-antique store yesterday.  Although I love the Antiques Roadshow I'm not really an antique shopper.  I had another reason for going.  I am going to make a necklace holder.  My plan is to take a nice big old picture frame, the more ornate the better, and paint it gold.  Then where the painting normally goes I'm going to place a piece of  velvet lined cork board.  Either a bright green or deep purple velvet.  Next I'll add some ornate nails all over the board and then hang it on the wall.  Boom, necklace holder.  My current method is to drape necklaces over the edge of a picture I have hanging in my bathroom.  It's not very efficient. I'll post a pic once I'm done.

Anyway, I searched this craft/antique store and found nada, zilch, zip in the way of old frames.  All the frames had old timey paintings in them. I also saw a lot of the 3D String Art things everyone did back in the 70's.

I was almost tempted to buy two framed illustration pages from old encyclopedias.  One was a page of wild flower pictures and the other was garden flowers.  I resisted.  My next stop to find a frame is the Salvation Army.

One thing I noticed today is that many of the items I grew up with are now considered antiques.  Not only is the kitschy crap from my childhood fetching a pretty hefty price but so are ordinary mundane objects like corning ware.  Pretty ironic when you consider that not 15 years ago we were offloading this crap at garage sales at prices ranging from 5 cents to 1 dollar.  Now that Mork & Mindy lunchbox has a sticker price of $29.95 and that's with no thermos and rusted edges all around.  Imagine if it were in mint condition.

At first I asked myself why we didn't save all this shit?  We could be rich.  Then I remembered that we had to make room for all the new shit.  Here's a sampling of some of the items from my childhood that now populate the antique store shelves.

There's still hope for my box of beanie babies 20 or 30 years down the road.

Feb 13, 2011

Once Bitten

I've decided I will not be attending the 2012 Family Reunion in Germany, if there is one.   There are a number of reasons.

The Germans don't sound all that enthused to be planning it.  Every time one of them talks about it they make it sound like they'll do it if they have to but suggest that we end on a good note since the 2007 was so awesome it will be hard to beat.  It takes a lot of work to plan these reunions.  I don't want to force somebody to do it.

I've been to Germany four times in my life (five if you count the time I was 2).  It's understandable since I have so much family there but I want to see new places.  I want to go to Ireland and Scotland.  My  husband really wants to see Italy.  Even though I'm not a beach person I would like to visit Hawaii.  How are we ever going to experience these awesome places if every "big" trip takes us back to Germany.

The biggest reason I don't want to go to the reunion is that several of the relatives there have made it quite clear they don't really like me.  One of them to the point of being downright rude and mean about it.  Granted, he's only a relative by marriage but you know what, I don't have to subject myself to it and I certainly don't have to do it when it's going to cost me thousands of dollars to do so.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't have to be liked by everybody.  I know I'm not everybody's cup of tea.  I can be loud and obnoxious, socially awkward, a know-it-all....... somebody please stop me.... because I could go on and on.   But I do expect the common decency of politeness, especially in a family setting.  I don't expect that I'll get it in Germany.  I actually expect it to be pretty bad since he'll have an audience.  He's a mean and petty little man and rather than bring it to the point of confrontation that it is inevitably moving towards, I would rather just avoid the situation altogether.

I'll spend my time with the people I enjoy being around and who enjoy my company, or at least do a passable  job of pretending they do.

God, my blog is so serious these days.  I should just get a therapist.

Feb 3, 2011

You're such a little cutey!

I'm an HR professional.  I am not an engineer.  I have however worked with engineers for 23 years.  By working with engineers I mean, hiring them, firing them, laying them off, counseling them, promoting them, listening to them bitch and accepting their resignations. Today was filled with the fun part of my job.  Hiring them.

I spent the day talking to and shaking hands with about 50 young engineering students/grads at a recruiting fair.  Some of them are such cute little things I just wanted to pinch their cheeks.  Today's fair was quite different from previous fairs.  Back in the day the job market was exploding and they all graduated with multiple offers.  Today job offers are scarce, making the engineers eager to make a good impression.  They're all so nervous that their palms sweat and they nervously twitch as they talk to you.  (Hand sanitizer is a must at these events.)

It's satisfying to be the one to offer them their first real job.  The salary we offer is usually the most they've ever made in their lives.  They are so happy and grateful. Everything changes after about five years.  It's like clockwork.  All the training we've patiently bestowed on them leads them to believe we couldn't possibly run the company without them.  They end up in my office demanding promotions and pay hikes.

I especially love when they print out some totally uncontrolled salary survey from online to prove that we are only paying them 70% of their market value.  As if I use a Ouija board to determine what to pay them.  They don't realize how insulting they are being.  I work hard to make our pay as competitive as it can be.  I track the market.  I make sure we don't underpay anybody.

My company would go bankrupt if I gave every five year engineer what  they think they are worth.   Don't get me wrong.  They ARE valuable to the company.  But if I let a five year engineer be indispensable I wouldn't be doing my job as an HR person.  The trick becomes making them feel appreciated without caving in to their every demand.  

Engineers are a unique group of people.  A bunch of nerds with a little bit of arrogant thrown in.  Being a nerd myself I really do like them.  I also know that our company couldn't be successful without them.  That's why revel in days like today.  Finding our future superstars.  I try not to think about the unscheduled appointment in my office, five years from now where they set me straight on how much they are worth.