Tuesday, April 19, 2011

42 Years of Work & All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt (this is for you dad)

After 42 years working for the state, my dad is retiring from work this Friday (well, technically Thursday, they're closed on Friday). Forty. Two. Years. Serving the community of the State of South Dakota. It's not often that you hear of people who have basically worked for the same 'company' for forty two years.

Let me put that into perspective. My dad was hired in 1969. The same year that we put a man on the moon. That's black and white television people!

I'm sure my dad has seen numerous people come and go. A lot of his comrades have already taken that road to retirement, as he watched with a half-envious eye. But he stuck it out. The people that work with him now, may or may not know the amazing accomplishments he has had during his extensive career, but do they really know the man? I'm guessing they could have an idea. BUT....

I'm here to tell you *big sly grin*!

So, a list of things you may or may not know about James (Jim, Jimmy Bob, Bob) Douglas, in no particular order:

A long, long time ago, in a land not so far away, my dad played a mean acoustic guitar...

in striped shorts and black socks...

with cowboy boots.

Yep. Old West meets a hippy wannabe. He used to sing too, but just let me say, the stroke hasn't affected his singing ability. He used to play a song by Meatloaf, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" and he'd have me be the backup singer. To this day, "Bat Out of Hell" is one of my favorite albums (CD, whatever).

He used to make stop-motion videos with an 8mm camera. For those of you who don't know what that is...think of it as a precursor to Pixar. He used to make playing blocks chase one another and make him and his friends magically disappear from atop a picnic table. Truly amazing back then.

My dad used to be a land surveyor on the weekends. I seriously hated that. Because, let me tell you, holding zero was definitely NOT on a 15, 16, 17-year old girls' top list of things to do on a weekend. "Holding zero" meant that once he found the metal stake in the ground, my job was to hold the zero on the measuring tape over the stake while he took the other end where ever he had to go. I got paid $5 an hour to do this (which was beyond fair, actually). Here's the thing, my dad never wrote anything down until we were completely finished and back in the old orange metal truck. Then he would sit and do a quick sketch of the plot completely from memory.

My dad worked a lot, but he always managed to make some time for my brother and I. I still remember him helping Brant and I build a snowman out in the front yard. But not your ordinary snowman. Ours was a frozen replica of Snoopy. For the final touch, my dad spray-painted his ears, nose and eyes black. Can you say awesome? He built snow forts and took us sledding. I don't mean that he stood and watched, he was on the back of the sled right behind me.

He always loved going to the movies, and it was a special treat for him to take us...right after we stopped at the corner gas station where he loaded my brother and my pockets with candy bars and other goodies and then instructed us to keep our hands in our coats until we sat down. I think one of the first movies I got to see with my dad was Star Wars.

The original one.

My dad used to check my Trigonometry homework for me...in his head.

When my first dog, Bojo (named after the song, Mr. Bojangles) died at 16, he took her to the top of Flag Mountain and buried her there so "she could see where we used to live." We lived on Taylor and there wasn't a soul living on the mountain back then. She died during the night and my dad buried her before I could see her in that state.

My dad has NEVER, and I really mean NEVER EVER said anything bad, degrading or mean about ANYONE. I have never heard him. Even when he had every right in the world to do so and no one would blame him. He just didn't. He always found the good in everyone and still does.

In the same sense, when I was growing up, my mom and I would often be at odds. But even if he didn't agree with her, he didn't fail to back her up. They were always a team. A force to be reckoned with. I couldn't get my way with dad when mom had already told me "no." I think that says something about BOTH my parents.

My dad was the one who got me my first library card for the "grown up" section. I will forever be grateful as it fueled my love of mystery, thriller and who-done-it novels.

He had an uncanny ability to explain things to me in a way that I could understand. He had the patience to explain it over and over and over if need be.

He taught me to snow ski and how to drive.

I have, sometimes unfortunately, inherited his dry sense of humor. You just get it or you don't.

I could go on forever about how he dealt with his stroke and recovery, but let me just tell you that the doctors told my mother he would either die, or be a vegetable for the rest of his life. That gives you only an iota of the amount strength, faith and determination he has. Of course, because of that strength, faith and determination, the rest of you are stuck behind him in traffic..while driving...5 mph.
I know you see his red truck and take a different route.

I had more than my share of teen angst, boy problems, popularity problems and the huge drama high school can bring a girl or the feeling of being overwhelmed in college. I used to try to get my dad to help me. A lot times, I would get so frustrated because he would just sit there, for the longest time, and not say a thing. When he finally did speak, it was usually some short sentence that was supposed to make me feel better. At the time, I would sigh, roll my eyes and wonder why I had even bothered to talk to him. But, those sentences are the very core by which I try to live my life. Two of the most powerful statements were:

"What was meant to be, will be."

and one that I use often:

"Life is like eating an elephant, you do it one bite at a time."

Wisdom at its very simplest, and yet so widely profound. I think that pretty much describes my dad to a tee.

It's hard to know your co-workers for the person they are outside of that environment. This is just the tiniest glimpse of who he is as a whole.

Congratulations, dad. I love you and I'm proud of you. I hope you enjoy every minute of every single day without the responsibility of punching a time clock.

(Oh, and good luck to you too, mom *wink*).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kohl's, King Kong and Canines

I've spent nearly a month at my part-time position at Kohl's. The jury is still out on whether or not I like it. It's about 50/50 on the things I enjoy and the things I don't. Remember those "10 Things Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You" type stories in Reader's Digest? Here's my own, involving retail:
  • Obviously, making minimum wage is far from enticing. It's right next to making $3.50 an hour bartending, but at least while slinging drinks I could make tips.
  • Standing on my feet for eight or more hours at a time not only effects my feet, but at my age, includes my knees, back, and neck.
  • Why are you out shopping if you're so unhappy about it? Come back when you're in a better mood.
  • I know you don't want to apply for the Kohl's credit card. I really hate having to ask you, but I have someone watching to make sure I do, so try to understand my position. (And on the same note, I know marketing, and let me tell you, I don't believe pushing people to apply for credit or giving me their email address after the first polite "no" is a good policy. The check-out is the last impression of the store, and if it's a bad one, it won't matter how good the rest of their shopping experience was, they'll remember the end.)
  • Throwing all the items in a huge pile with interlocking hangers is NOT going to help me check your items at breakneck speed. Trust me on this one.
  • I would rather take your clothes off the hangers and fold them nicely, but I've been told if it's busy, I'm supposed to leave them on the clothes and throw them in the bag. Oh, and if you want the hangers, especially the small ones for kids' clothes, I'll give them to you, just ask.
  • If you have an item without a tag, it will save you time to bring another one up just to scan. I will love you for this.
  • If you think I'm doing a good job, have a pleasant personality, or provided you with exceptional service, please go online or take a comment card and let my manager know. It's about the only way I can get a small bonus (like a "tennis shoe day" or "front parking spot").
I do love meeting all the different types of people. There are people who are so willing to share their life with me while we stand there for 3 minutes, that I feel like I know them and we should have drinks sometime. I also met one lady who talked so fast, I didn't understand one tenth of what she said, and I'm from North Dakota for Pete's sake! We normally talk fast.
And for a quick laugh...I was a bit nervous when I was on my own, wondering if I was going to screw up or have to page a manager when a young woman came up with a basket of stuff. I carefully scanned each item, folded and made small talk. Then I attempted to look for the UPC code to scan on the basket when I realized it was one the store provided to its shoppers. Brilliant.

We had our family night a couple of Fridays ago, and Kaiden insisted on watching "King Kong," the newest one with Jack Black and I don't know who else (I'm horrible at actor/actresses names).
How can you not love that face?
The reason he picked this one is because he plays a video game based on this movie. I've seen the original, the one in 3-D when I was younger and we only had one pair red eye/blue eye glasses between 4 of us, and now this one. I cry. Every. Time. I think it's the whole idea that humans just don't know when to leave well enough alone. Every one of those planes knocked out of the sky deserved it.

This past week, I also toured a college and met with a recruiter. When I was a kid, I had always dreamed about being a veterinarian. I had adopted every stray animal that crossed my path. When I finally graduated high school, I chose the art field. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I had heard a rumor that you had to attend more school to be a vet than to be a 'real' doctor. Obviously, the Graphic Design field isn't doing much for me, and surprisingly, the whole idea of animal doctor is quite appealing to me. The thought of having to deal with vomit, poop, pee and horrible smells does not terrify me like it did in my early 20s. After all, I AM a mom. I read the list of classes I would have to take, and I didn't flinch once. I was actually excited. My problem is, would we be able to survive financially if I went back to school? If not, it can't even be an option. I don't think I will qualify for any grants, as I currently have a BA, but I'm looking into it. Since I currently have a degree, it would only take me...at the longest...18 months, not Vet though, Vet Tech.
I nearly cried when Far Side retired.

A few other highlights this week:
Again, no shirt.
  •  My oldest now has three teeth missing on top in front. Lisp-city.
  • After detecting a faint odor in my downstairs office, and after my version of the Spanish Inquisition, I learned that my youngest had peed in my garbage can because the light was off in the downstairs bathroom.
  • The aforementioned child also told his Grammie that he, "thought she was dead" because my husband's phone does not have her on speed dial, and when he tried to call, it only continued to ring.
  • He also called his older brother a "freak show." Not common terminology in our home.
  • I found no less than 3 empty boxes in my cupboard at the exact same moment that I had a craving for what had been in those boxes. Add that to a bowl of mini-wheats that sat in the frig overnight because I have been adamant about not wasting ANYTHING. (I will never eat those again.)
  • The vitamin packs that I had been taking to help stave off heart disease, clogged arteries, high blood pressure and low energy caused me to gain weight. Yeah, I'd rather be skinny(er).
  • Kamrin's excuse for not going to sleep tonight? "My tummy wants something to watch and there isn't a TV in my room." Hmmm.
  • My husband has never been the romantic type by any means, but after being down in the dumps for two days and an 8.5 hour shift at work, I came home to a bottle of wine...and he hasn't had a drink of alcohol since October 2009.
  • I had a huge 30 pageview spike on my blog, several days AFTER I had written. I can't help obsessing about why that is.
  • I overheard my son tell his friend that his mom is, "sorta famous, because she writes things that a LOT of people read."
  • I'm worried about my dog. He has always hated spending a lot of time outdoors. He has no undercoat (he's a Shar Pei), so he gets too hot or too cold easily. Suddenly, all he wants to do is lay outside. He's been a bit clingy lately. One day I went to look for him, and he's sprawled out on the patio. I seriously thought he was dead. He didn't respond right away when I said his name. He is a bit deaf and has vision problems, but it scared the living crap out of me when he finally jumped up.
  • Why is it that a man can drop his clothes right next to the bed and crawl in while a woman has to shut off the TV, lights, lock doors and start the dishwasher before going to bed?
  • I've said it a million times...if you put the remote back in the same spot, we wouldn't have to spend 20 minutes looking for it so we can see what the weather is going to be like!
And finally, this is what happens when it snows in the middle of April and the boys can't play outside.
Yes, he did this himself.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Living On A Budget? My Top 10+ List To Save Money.

Since I've technically been unemployed for a little over 2 months now, and since technically my husband and I are NOT good savers for a rainy day, things have gotten tight. I mean really tight. Especially when gasoline has reached nearly $4 a gallon now, fresh produce is outrageous, and no matter how hard I wish, the bills keep coming in. I'm sure you're all feeling some type of this pain in your own lives.

I'm a worrier. I start playing out the scenarios in my head about what will happen if I don't find a job...soon! I mean a real job. I hate being on unemployment, not only because of my own stupid pride, but because of the hoops that they insist you jump through to collect not even half the amount you were making at you're previous 8-5. By the way, ever have a question for them and you want to talk to a real person? Yeah, good luck with that.

Anyway, instead of counting sheep to fall asleep at night, I've been trying to think of creative ways to save and make money. Here's what I've come up with:

•Warmer temperatures have created a nice little lake in our backyard. Consequently, we have TONS of birds splashing around in the water and plucking the fat little worms who have come up for air from our over-saturated soil to eat. I'm throwing the uneaten crusts from my son's PBJs out there too, because, hey, fat little robins could equal "game hens" for supper.
Finger lickin good!

•I'm collecting all the lint/dog hair/dirt in the dryer trap to knit socks, as soon as I learn how to knit.

•Strict enforcement of the "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down." This will be an easy task for my boys, since this is their standard mode of operation.

•Pancakes are not just for breakfast any more. They expand to ten times their size once in your stomach and will keep you full through the entire weekend.


•Who needs soda for the kids? Add a little Alka-Seltzer to grape a Kool-aid pack at 25¢ each, wah-lah, grape pop.

•One lightbulb on at a time. We'll move from room to room as a group.

•I'm installing a quarter slot on the computer and the X-Box. If you want to play, you'll have to pay.

•The potatoes in the pantry that have sprouted will be planted in the backyard soon.

•What do you mean it's not pajama day at school EVERY Friday? It saves on laundry loads.

•I'm stocking up on various flavors of Tic Tacs to use as Easter candy this year.

They kind of look like jelly beans.

•Coupons, coupons, coupons.

•You think you can waste food? No way. I will save it and it will be reheated until it's gone or grows mold. You decide.

•You don't need a new Slip-N-Slide, Hefty garbage bags and left over rain water will do just fine.

And lastly...

•You want to watch Sponge Bob? Or any other cartoon that I've seen a million times? Hop on the home-made bicycle generator. Suddenly, TV will not be worth it.

Not kidding.

Have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, April 4, 2011

You Do What You Have To Do

This week I started a part-time job at Kohl's, which is an entire blog post in and of itself and will come later, I promise. My husband has shown amazing understanding and capability I hadn't really given him credit for in the past, as we shuffle his schedule to accommodate mine and the kids. I think due to my own control issues, I just haven't given him the opportunity (I don't think that's the word he would use), to exercise his talents in handling the kids on his own. I haven't entirely let go either, as I call every 15 minute break I get to ask how things are going, remind him what Kaiden has for homework, tell him to put the wet snowpants/hat/gloves/boots in the dryer for school the following morning and to make sure hubby stops by the DMV to renew his vehicle tags. Yep, loosening that acting head of household noose grip has not been easy.

But...we did have plenty that I was witness to this week, so let's get started.

When I have a captive audience (in the car, on the way to / from daycare), I try to engage the children in conversation so that I don't look like a complete idiot at parent/teacher conferences, like the fact that Kaiden has managed to eat breakfast at home AND at school. Apparently, instead of heading to the playground after de-boarding the bus, he grabs some grub. During this particular car ride, I decided to focus my attention on Kaiden (since a review mirror glance reveled Kamrin's half-closed eyes and slightly bobbing head.) Kaiden was explaining that they would not be having pajama/movie day on Friday, because they failed to get four stars (mental note: ask teacher about stars). I replied, "Well that's a bummer," to which Kamrin snapped to attention and loudly said, "Plumber? Where's a plumber?"

Kamrin has matured to a new reaction to anything he feels is "unfair" or sends him into a fit of stomping feet, a slammed bedroom door, the flinging of a tiny body on his little bed and a muted, but yet strangely audible, "I don't love you mom and dad....EVER!" He now retaliates by throwing his prize possessions (like his blankie) in the garbage.
Umm, ick. Into the wash!

When they are eventually found, he claims that, we made him do it. I don't understand this concept. Let me get this straight. He's unhappy because he is being disciplined for something, and yet wants to torture himself further by discarding that which is near and dear to him? Is this so that he can somehow shift the blame of his bad behavior from himself to his parents? Hmmm. Interesting twist. One afternoon, the boys wanted to play a video game but the controllers were nowhere to be found. I searched, Shawn searched, even the boys searched. I asked them to think back to the last time they played and to retrace their steps. When it became apparent, after comparing kid/dad stories, that the last game session ended with a disagreement and was shut off mid-game, I had an idea where to look. The controllers were then retrieved from the bathroom garbage. Kam claims it was an "ak-i-dent." Uh huh.

His second tension releaser at least puts his creative talents to use. He will draw a picture of all four of us, (or six if he includes the dogs), and then will deliberately put a large, red, cherry-scented-marker 'X' through those of us he is currently upset with. Is this a toddler hit list? It may come out in therapy one day.

Speaking of video games, I feel a weird combination of amazement and disgust at the gaming ability of my 4-year-old. He intuitively is able to beat each level (lebbel in toddler-speak) in half the time that it takes an adult. Now if this were something he could make a living at and NOT end up as an unshaven, 40-year-old, Cheeto-eating, socially inadequate adult living in my basement, then more power to him. I just don't see that happening. I moved the device into our bedroom, hoping to deter them from playing very often. Didn't work. Kamrin stood on the bed, eyes wide and unblinking, tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth when Shawn walked in. Without a head-turn of acknowledgement, he says, "Watch and learn, Dad, watch and learn." He needs to be unplugged.

Due to the random hours I am required to work, I did miss out on a few things. Kaiden lost his 6th tooth and now wears the coming of age, front-toothed gapped smile of most kids his age. Unlike ALL the other five teeth (ahem, Shawn), he actually pulled this one out himself.
For some reason, he never seems to be able to keep his shirt on.

The tooth fairy left him his loot and a note thanking him for the tooth and a reminder to brush his teeth (hey, if it doesn't come from me, maybe he'll take it to heart). She also attempted to leave a lipstick kiss mark, but happened to be wearing a too dark shade of lipstick and it looked more like she dragged her little pixie butt across the side of the card.

Both kids now have temporary tattoos. Kaiden has a large fire-breathing dragon on the inside of his arm, from wrist to elbow. Kamrin opted for something a bit smaller...in his armpit.

For cleaning their rooms, making their beds and vacuuming, the kids each got $2 and "won" a trip to Toys-R-Us with dad to pick something out. As per the norm, Kaiden got what he wanted, and then used his Vulcan mind bending rays (or something...) and convinced Kamrin to use his money to ALSO buy something Kaiden wanted. Dad has not been exposed to this trick often enough to recognize and put a stop to it. He's still a newbie.

In an attempt to gain a little extra sleep, I ignored my cell phone's urgent beeping Sunday morning until Kamrin brought it in to me. The text message from my mother read, "Kam, I'm in church. You can call Grammie later." Maybe having my mom on speed dial is not the best idea.

Here's a picture to prove that the two of them aren't ALWAYS at each others throats. A single snapshot of peace.
Kaiden is reading a book to him.