Fun Weekend with the Family!

Another fun weekend with the family! This time at Disney for the Star Wars Weekend. My oldest son is 3 and turning into a huge Star Wars fan so we made the trek to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for their yearly Star Wars Weekend. It lasts for a couple weekends from May thru the first part of June. It was great and we had a blast. We got to see everybody from Darth Vader to C3PO and everyone in between. Obvious exceptions were Han Solo, Luke, etc. Lots of Storm Troopers walking around and we got a few good pics. Every time we tried to get a picture with Darth Vader the line was closed, so my little guy was a little bummed out.

Otherwise we had a pretty good time. We hit up Universal and did his favorite ride over there, ET.

All in all we had a great time. Once again, spending time with the family is really what it’s all about. Doesn’t matter what you do or where you do it as long as you’re with your family. My New Year’s resolution wasn’t to spend more time with my family but it probably should have been. It’s the only thing I’ve really been serious about this year.

It’s funny how things work out. I’ve been fairly unhappy with how management has been running things lately and my response has been to cut back on work. If I’m not happy there then I should spend less time there. Makes sense to me. But the other side of that has been that I’ve been spending more time with my family. My wife said that the last couple of months have been some of the best of our marriage. We went out on two dates in May. That may not seem like a lot of dates to most, but I work A LOT and that’s huge for us.

Because I’m cutting back on work my wife sort of got her husband back. For anyone out there reading this that may feel like they have to work 60 or 70+ hours a week to keep things rolling (maybe you do) you should try taking some time to yourself. For your family if for no other reason. It’s the best thing that I could have done and I only did it because I was unhappy (still am) with the way my company is running things. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees and that was my problem.

I thought I was being a good provider by never being home and always working. Not the case. If you have a family and you’re always working somebody is missing you. A lot. Don’t miss your life.

Stereotyping. What’s wrong with it?

Another Wally-World incident. I spend a lot of my time working at Wal-Mart. It’s a great place to visit and it’s almost always good for a laugh. If it’s not the employees then you can usually count on the patrons to provide the humor. The other day I was leaving a store down south and I walked right into a pretty stupid situation. I literally walked out of the front entrance and directly between two people in a stupid situation. Well, in fairness, only one person involved was STUPID.

As I was walking out there was a younger customer yelling at an older (at least 60 years old) Wal-Mart employee. As soon as I was aware of what was going on I stopped and asked the elderly lady if everything was ok. The employee said that it was alright but she didn’t understand why the other, younger, woman was mad at her. So, I looked over at the younger woman, about 25ft away and she was yelling “why can’t I have free groceries?” and “when can I get mine?”, meaning free food.

The obvious question is, what is the young woman talking about? Well, to make a long story short some young guy filled a cart with food and then pushed it out to a waiting car and basically stole about $200-$300 worth of groceries. This happened in front of the younger woman and the older employee. As soon as the employee told me this I couldn’t help but laugh. Did this younger woman expect an old lady to tackle some young guy to prevent him from stealing? Not only would that be against Wal-Mart policy, but the old lady would have gotten seriously hurt.

Now, before anyone starts thinking that this woman was joking and that I misread the situation let me say that this woman was irate and completely serious about getting free food. She was seriously upset that someone got away with something for free and she missed out. This brings up the whole entitlement/younger generation thing but that’s not my point here. This woman was upset and she wanted to know why she couldn’t have free food.

She met a stereotype (in more ways than one) and due to that it was blindingly obvious to me that this woman would not respond to reason. This is where stereotyping saved me time and aggravation. Under other circumstances I might have tried to reason with this woman or explain what was happening in an effort to save the elderly lady some grief. However, the employee said she was fine and I could tell that this younger woman was just plain stupid so I left.

I laughed in part due to the absurdity of the situation but more so due to the younger woman. She was a perfect stereotype of a particular group of people. That’s the best and vaguest way a can put it without possibly offending a reader. And, I badly wanted to ask the younger woman if she realized how perfectly she fit this particular stereotype in look, speech/cadence, attitude, etc. She couldn’t have been a better representation if she were an actress cast for a part. But, she wouldn’t have cared. And, that’s where my interest and involvement stopped.

This woman represents a segment of society and I’m glad they’re pretty easy to spot. These are people that should be avoided. They can’t function in a civilized society and should be quarantined. I know that sounds harsh and maybe I sound a little elitist but this woman was a perfect example of what is wrong with our society. That we, as a society, tolerate this form of ignorance is ridiculous. Oh, and when I say “younger”, this woman was probably in her early to mid 40’s. She was younger in comparison to the elderly employee.

Stereotyping is good. Is it fair? Maybe not always. Stereotyping, profiling, whatever you want to call it, when a person makes a judgement about another person based on appearance or some incomplete knowledge from limited interaction, it can be a good thing.

I know there are always exceptions and someone may point out that con men will exploit certain stereotypes to take advantage of people but those exceptions prove the rule. When a serial killer starts targeting a certain area the cops or FBI will bring in a profiler. It must work.?

My only point is that I believe everyone profiles or stereotypes to one degree or another. Good, bad or indifferent, everyone does it. It’s human nature and it’s part of our survival instincts. Of course it’s not always right but it’s effective enough to continue doing it. I’m not a fan of the whole “PC” movement and I never have been. I don’t think it’s right to go around making generalizations about everyone but when something is too obvious to ignore, I’m not going to ignore it just to be PC.

To quote Huey Lewis, “sometimes bad is bad”.

Things Are Looking Up!

We’re moving out!

We’ve finally had it with our neighborhood and current abode. My wife and I live in a small house (not the one pictured) and since we’ve had children, it’s only gotten smaller. We always knew we would have to move eventually because there’s not enough room to expand our current home. However, we never thought we would move into our dream home. We have been truly blessed recently by finding a home that we both love.

My wife and I have lived in our current home for about 10 years. The neighborhood was fine a decade ago but after the housing market tanked we found that a lot of our neighbors were getting foreclosed on and their houses were becoming rentals. Now, I’ve rented in the past and I’m not one to look down on anyone for the way they live but renters hardly ever make good neighbors. In my experience. I know this doesn’t always apply to everyone but my neighborhood, my street, has suffered from renters moving in. The remaining “owners” that haven’t been foreclosed on have started moving out because of the recent tenants.

For some reason, that I don’t really get, renters don’t seem to take pride in their home. This isn’t going to be everyone’s experience but it’s mine. So, rather than deal with the hassle that comes with living next to renters my wife and I decided that now was a perfect time to buy a new home. We figured that it’s a buyer’s market and we might be able to find a good deal. We had no idea that we would find our dream home. Almost.

I say almost because there was one thing that each of us had to sacrifice. My wife wanted a pool and the house we finally found does not have a pool. So she had to come to terms with that; we decided we could add a pool at a later date once we’re settled in. I wanted around 10 acres but the house we found only has 3. This is still far better than our current home. There’s also plenty of available land around our property that we may be able to buy at a future date. We’ll be out in a rural area with little to no neighbors and the ones we will have are seeking peace and quiet just like us.

The other big selling point for our new home was that there isn’t any sort of home owners association. An HOA is offensive to me as a freedom loving American. For some reason these HOA’s have spread like wild fire in the last decade or so and I really don’t get it. It seems like every house our agent wanted to show us had an HOA. I couldn’t make him understand how repugnant the whole concept was to me and my wife. I just can’t rationalize spending money, that I earned, to buy a home and then turn around and pay a group of people to tell me what I can and can’t do with it.

It seems absurd to me but here in Florida, they’re everywhere. When did Americans stop caring about personal property rights and individual freedom? I know it seems trivial but freedom is usually lost through a series of minor assaults. It’s a combination of government and private citizens working together to deprive individuals of freedom for the collective.

And, it’s everywhere. It’s a constant brainwashing. People don’t just accept HOA’s, they think they’re a good idea! I have a friend that bought a house a while back, about 4 years ago. He found a great house and asked me to come take a look at it. I did. While he was telling me about the neighborhood he mentioned that the place had an hoa. I told him that was too bad and I asked him why he wanted me to see a house he wasn’t going to buy. But he was going to buy it. The hoa was a big selling point for him. He’s educated and successful but somehow he was convinced that an hoa was the way to go.

I asked him why he thought it was a good idea and he said it was a way to make sure that his neighbors kept their grass cut and didn’t paint their houses some crazy color. He seemed to think the hoa was there to protect him. Why would anyone care what their neighbor does? He said because it affects property values. Huh?

I just don’t understand why Americans, known for our love of freedom, are some of the easiest manipulated people on the planet. If George Clooney or Angelina Jolie says it, then it must be a good idea.

There’s a whole generation of people coming up that would gladly give up every freedom they had so long as they didn’t have to fend for themselves.

 

But, the good news is that we’re moving out and we found a great home. There are great deals out there for anyone looking. I know that Florida was hit pretty hard when the market tanked.

I hope anyone else out there that’s looking for a new home finds what they’re looking for.

I probably should have made my hoa rant a separate post.?

Weekend with the In-laws

Another Weekend with the Family

 

Grand Canyon

This picture is from the grand canyon. It comes on the jump drive you get when you buy the pictures at the Skywalk. It’s really neat, if you’re ever out that way. This picture really captures the peacefulness of spending time with the ones I love.

This weekend was another weekend spent with the family. Things haven’t been going too well at work. Mostly because of the whole raise (or lack thereof) situation. I’ve been turning down overtime and not working weekends, which is unusual for me. Upper management is starting to take notice and my immediate manager questioned me (again) about my attitude.

I’ve been trying real hard to prevent the company’s lack of communication about compensation from affecting my overall disposition and performance at work. It would seem as though I haven’t been too successful in my efforts. Basically, I’m still upset that they have yet to even address the raise situation. If they’re not going to reward my (or anyone else’s) efforts with a raise, then the least that we should expect is for them to address the issue. It’s already the middle of March. We completed our reviews in October. They’ve had plenty of time.

But, like I said, I’m not going to continue to sacrifice and spend extended periods of time away from my family if they’re not going to reward my efforts. So, I’ve cut back on accepting any overtime or weekend work. I did, recently, accept an offer from my manager to handle a new account’s roll-out for new cctv equipment installation. But that was just me trying to be a team player and not causing someone else to have to pick up my slack, which is what would have happened.

Because I’m cutting back, I have more time to spend with my family. That, is a VERY GOOD THING! It’s the only good thing that’s come of this situation.

Enough of my whining!

The wife and I took the kids over to my sister’s house and spent the weekend with the cousins and my brother in law. My brother in law is a great guy and we really don’t get to spend as much time together as I would like. I don’t have any brothers and he’s probably the closest thing to that.

There aren’t any kids in our neighborhood that are close in age to my children so they don’t get to play with other kids often. They really enjoy playing with their cousins. With everything that seems to be going bad right now, from the economy right on down to, you name it. It’s nice to be able to get away with family for a little while and just forget about the chaos of life going on around us.

I hope any and every person that reads this post has a good family to fall back on. I truly wouldn’t know what to do without mine.

I hope everyone can get away every once in a while. A little quality time with the people you love can fix just about anything. I should know, I’m a repairman!

Fun Weekend Getaway

Fun weekend getaway for the family, with the fishes!

Shamu Jumping!

This weekend I was able to getaway with the family to SeaWorld. It was a great time. We stop by a couple times a year and the kids just love all the animals. They’re currently revamping their penguin exhibit so that was kind of a let down because it was closed off for construction. But everything else was open and we had a blast!

My oldest is at that age where he has a thousand questions about everything and I was struggling all weekend just to keep up. I have never imagined myself as a know-it-all, but having kids has really helped me realize how much I don’t know. My little guy seemed to only ask questions that I couldn’t answer. It was almost as if he would start a line of questioning and once he detected some lack of knowledge on my part, he honed in on that topic. It was fun and I’m picking up a book on whales first thing tomorrow.

They were doing some kind of BBQ event and we took full advantage of all the booths. I can’t remember the last time I ate so much. I love bbq, my wife isn’t a big fan but she will eat it and my oldest son will only eat chicken fingers. That being said, those guys selling the bbq made a few bucks off me and it was all good. They even had live music. You really haven’t jammed until you’ve heard a country band do a R&B cover of Baby Got Back. It was hilarious! But, everyone seemed to like it so I kept my thoughts to myself.

Dolphins Jumping!

The kids enjoyed the animals and asking me questions I couldn’t answer. I enjoyed the bbq and the heartburn that followed (small price to pay). And, my wife enjoyed taking pictures. She LOVES taking pictures of the family on any and all outings. I can’t post my family pics here for obvious reasons but I will post some shots of the animals. Later this year, during the summer, we hope to go to their other park and swim with the dolphins. We’ll see.

Cool Backflip!

This little getaway was a real stress reliever. Sometimes when things are going bad or I’m losing sight of what really matters, it’s helpful to just get away with the family and focus on what really matters. I didn’t think about anything that was bothering these previous weeks while I was out with the family this weekend. And that’s just what I needed. Maybe it’s what everyone needs.

Automatic raise?

This is just another rant about my company. I work hard every day and try to give my company 100%. I have my off days just like everyone else but I always try to give them their money’s worth. I’m not one that “expects” a raise. I believe a raise is earned. My view is that an employee should do their job duties to the best of their ability everyday. Doing your duty earns your paycheck. However, going above and beyond those duties earns your raise.

My company conducts performance reviews on an annual basis. This means that I have to work hard all year long, out-performing expectations consistently, before I see a raise. I know some companies do reviews on a quarterly or semi annual basis, but not mine. I’m cool with this. I was informed of this policy before I hired on. But, ever since the economy slowed the company has seen fit to use the economy as an excuse to lower (or even skip) raises from year to year. Although, they were able to spend 2 billion dollars to acquire a competitor recently. And they continue to expand job duties and add performance expectations. They also insist on raising standards from year to year. I’m cool with this but it has to be a two-way street.

I’m aware of my options. I could leave. I’m also aware of the fact that my job isn’t mine, it belongs to the company. It’s their job, their money, and their decision to make. I know all of this. The problem is that I have worked for a lot of companies in my short life and this is the only company I have ever envisioned myself retiring from. I really like this job and this company.

I enjoy almost everything about my work. And I’m good at it. Which brings me to my review. Every year that I have been with this company I’ve gotten great reviews. I always exceed expectations. I am definitely an asset and not a liability to my company. I have never gotten a complaint from a customer. I don’t have any safety or ethics violations and, like I said, I’m good at my job. But my raises have consistently been below industry averages (with a few exceptions).

Whenever I try to talk to my manager about my raises he is less than helpful. He practically runs from any conversation about money. I’m not one of those guys that wants anything other than money from my employer. I don’t get a sense of purpose from my job. I don’t derive any level of personal worth from my job and it doesn’t effect my self-esteem. All I want is to be rewarded (in cash) for my skills. Anything else I get from my friends, family, and church.

Just recently I spoke to one of my managers about the raise situation and I was told “No one has gotten a raise yet”. I don’t understand this mentality. Should I feel better because no one else has got raise? I responded by saying that I have no control over anyone else’ work ethic or efforts, not to mention that I have no interest in anyone else’ financial situation. I didn’t see how one effects the other.? My manager seemed confused and almost offended by my response.

When did we get to a point in this country where we should take comfort in shared misery? Why should I feel better about a bad situation just because I’m not alone? How does that help me? I don’t wake up in the morning and say “what can I do to get Bob a raise?”. What I do is get up and try to figure out how I can give some extra effort to EARN the recognition I need to receive a good raise. I don’t believe a raise should be automatic and I don’t think everyone should get one. It should be based on effort. It should be earned.

The whole entitlement mentality irks me but it seems to be the trend. We’re all entitled to a raise and if no one gets a raise, then there’s no problem because we’re all in it together. At my company there are over-performers and under-performers. If everyone was an under-performer I don’t think the company would be okay with that.

Another issue I have is that middle management, that’s who I answer to, likes to respond with “at least you have a job” or “you’re lucky to have a job”. I don’t know which bothers me more. I’m not “lucky” to have a job. I have a strong work ethic and I make substantial sacrifices to meet my performance goals. I have cancelled numerous plans (many at the last minute) to ensure certain jobs were completed on time. My point is that I have earned my position in the company. If it was “luck” I would have been fired a long time ago. I get the point they’re trying to make, it’s a bad economy and some people can’t find work. Okay. But lucky? No. I’m not lucky. I work hard and earn what I get.

I guess this post is more of a vent than a rant. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that society is slowly minimizing the individual. It seems like people are moving toward a collective mentality. We’re being viewed as a group. This is a hard adjustment for me. I remember hearing stories about the Soviet Union and how productivity was discouraged. Initiative and drive were stifled and creativity suffered. I remember a quote I heard once. A guy visited the USSR and was in a cab. He asked the driver why no one was really doing anything. The driver responded by saying “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”.

I see that in our country’s future. Why should I go above and beyond if I won’t be rewarded for it? Or, worse yet, why go above and beyond if I’m going to be viewed the same as everyone else?

If there’s no incentive to distinguish myself from anyone else, why would I? The answer is that I wouldn’t. And, that’s what I’m pissed about. I don’t want to be that guy. But, in my situation, I only see 3 options. I can either accept it and keep on working hard without any incentive. I can quit and find another job. Or, I can stay and adjust my performance to my environment. I’m drifting toward the latter. But the worst part is I’m not alone. I look around and I see a whole country drifting toward the latter. The sad part is that there’s a large portion of the country that doesn’t even know they’re drifting. Or maybe they just don’t care.?

I dropped the ball today.

This is embarrassing. I was working on a project recently and because of the equipment involved, there was a substantial amount of money on the line. For the customer, that is. Well, I was doing what I always do and not really paying attention to much of what was going on around me when I heard a horn repeatedly going off.

This may require a few lines of back story. See, I work for a company that’s owned by a very famous company that a lot of people don’t like. Even though my job “duties” don’t involve the parent company in any way, I still have the parent company’s logo and lettering all over my company vehicle and uniform. Imagine driving a truck and wearing a uniform that said, uh, UPS (not the company I work for, just an example). You’re driving this big truck with big U-P-S lettering on the side and then you pull in to a parking lot and someone walks up with a UPS related question. My response is always, “You’re not going to believe me, but, I don’t work for UPS”. I’ve had people say “So, it’s camouflage, huh?” and some come right out and call me a liar. Either way, I don’t work for the company that has emblazoned it’s logo all over my truck and uniform. At least I don’t work for that division of the company.

Picture was borrowed from Youthedesigner.com

I really wouldn’t have any idea about how to work on the equipment that the parent company services. I do something TOTALLY different. In the service/repair industry my situation isn’t all that uncommon. But it’s hard to explain to people, especially when they’re upset. I’ve had a cop pull me over in drive time traffic and berate me because he was upset with service he was getting (more like not getting) from my parent company. I’ve even had  an irate customer run me off the road on a major highway. These instances are few and far between, but I’ve got friends that work for other companies and they’ve never experienced this kind of hostility from customers of their companies.

Back to where I was. I was working, outside, and about 30ft up in the air. My parent company is disliked by many. Some dislike this company passionately. So, I’m doing my thing and I hear a car horn going off repeatedly. I look around and there’s a guy doing donuts in the parking lot, not far from me, laying on the horn and giving a one finger salute to someone. I didn’t know who but I thought it was funny. You don’t see that everyday. At least I don’t.

Then I realized he was pointing it my way. Then I saw my truck and it clicked. So, I started laughing. It was funny. In the process of laughing at this guy’s rage and the absurdity of it all I dropped what I was holding. Straight down. 30 feet. It broke. And there went $1800 in hardware. I don’t think the madman in the car saw that I dropped what I was holding.

So, he didn’t realize it but in a way he inflicted a little pain on my company. We now have to eat the cost of the hardware that I dropped. I thought about coming down quickly and telling the guy what happened. I thought maybe I could give him a little satisfaction. But by the time I got down he peeled out but not before offering me a little snack. Follow? Think deep-throat.

I really dropped the ball. It takes a lot to make me laugh so hard I forget what I’m doing and drop a $1800 piece of equipment. I hope any readers out there found this as funny as I did. One person that won’t find it funny is whoever handles parts acquisitions for the account I was working on.