Work ethic

The prospect of going back to work has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably because it is inevitable that I will be forced to, it is food for thought nonetheless. I have to say that despite never really reaching a level of security and financial well-being I did accomplish a lot in my career and if n0thing else I know that some of the things that I did mattered to someone. I was never a guy that took a day off and noone noticed.

My father was a huge influence on me as a worker. More than one person remarked on my work ethic over the years and I simply explained that it is impossible to not be this way if you knew who raised me. My Dad was always working, either at work or on the house or yard. It came naturally to me to help him without being asked and it was unacceptable to sit inside and watch him work. So from an early age I was cutting grass, splitting wood or pounding nails. I didn’t mind, in fact I liked it.

My Dad was the epitome of old-fashioned. He believed in loyalty to a company. He believed in retirement parties and gold watches after 25 years of faithful service. He believed that the company rewards loyalty and that noone will ever succeed by changing jobs every few years. Most of all, he believed in shutting your mouth and doing your job, if you don’t like what you are doing then quit. Otherwise be quiet about it. This approach worked for him and was permanently etched into my psyche. He was a Union truck driver for a good company that he retired with. My mother wasn’t so fortunate.

My mother was the first in our family to experience the “new” corporate America in the 80’s. She was a manager for a now-defunct publishing company that sold textbooks to schools and colleges. They put her through school and she moved up the ladder steadily. 6 weeks before her 25th anniversary with the company she was laid off. They had already ordered the watch. When she asked what the company planned to do about replacing her she was told that S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) would be to replace her with 2 or 3 young college graduates who wouldn’t make cumulatively in one year what my mother did and farm some work out to a developing country. It didn’t matter that she was experienced and very good at what she did and none of her replacements knew the first thing and that the job was sure to suffer.

My parents had very different work experiences. I wanted to believe in my father’s way but my mother’s experience was not lost on me. I vowed that I would be a loyal employee and work hard but if the company was not loyal to me then I would always be prepared to look for something better. But I always stayed true to the basics my father taught me; your employer and you have a contract that if you provide a service then you get paid. It’s not a complicated relationship so don’t let pride and hubris get in the way.; work harder than everyone else and you will move up; be the guy who offers solution, not one who points out the problems; do good work and the rest will fall in place.

I started out in retail, then food service, then sales and finally management. I always managed to be a guy that my employers relied on to go the extra mile per the lessons of my father. I also learned to recognize a zero-sum game when I see it and if the job was a loser or the employer didn’t value me then I applied the lessons of my mother, move on before you become extinct. I developed my own hybrid work-ethic, work hard for those who value you and suck up what you have to because an an adult with responsibilities I needed the job and there was no room for ego unless somehow ego can pay my bills for me.

So going back to work is an intimidating prospect. On one hand I would like to be needed again, especially now that my kids are older and my parental superpowers are no longer needed. On the other hand I don’t know if I am too old-fashioned and jaded to work in certain industries. The last job I had before I got too sick to work was one that hired me for my experience and then never asked me to apply any of that experience despite having more of it than my manager. It was the final time that an employer failed to deliver to me when I delivered for them. How do I avoid that happening again?

I guess that I will know the right opportunity when it presents itself. I have learned an awful lot about people, in particular employers, in my life and my Bullshit detector is calibrated and fail-proof. I will know right away if I can work for someone or not. I know there is someone out there who appreciates a guy with his father’s work ethic and his mother’s resilience.

There has to be.

Pet peeves

Pet peeves, we all have them. Those things that people do and say that just make our skin crawl. We can’t help those things that go against our grain it’s how we’re wired. I probably have more than most, I’ll admit it. Spelling, grammar and punctuation always get a rise out of me when perusing social media. I hate to make it an indictment of intelligence but some people should really proofread their posts. It is very revealing, even more than the often stupid or controversial political nature of the post itself. I try to keep myself in check and worry about my own presence online. I’m spoiled by WordPress, my fellow bloggers actually know how to spell and structure a sentence.

My biggest pet peeve is one that bothers me more than most. I find myself calling people out when they say it. That saying is “to be honest”. When you answer an inquiry with “to be honest” what you’re really saying is, “I may not always tell the truth but this time I am”. It’s one of the most disingenuous things I’ve ever heard and it is everywhere! I hate it.

The very least that you can do for anyone is to be honest. That’s why they call it a virtue. It might as well be a virgin because nobody uses it anyway. Honesty is synonymous with the truth and we’d all be better if we told the truth. It’s less painful, it doesn’t require a good memory (see compulsive liars), and it takes a lot less time. Have you noticed that in the process of sugarcoating the shit out of something you take a statement that could be short and to the point and drag it out with filler words and lengthy diatribes just to soften what is the truth because we are so afraid to offend?

It’s painful to watch and as society gets more concerned with feelings and the line between right and wrong becomes blurry and grey this will only get worse.

People admire honesty. They admire the courage that it takes to tell the uncomfortable truth. I made a pretty decent living in sales just by being honest. Of course, my honesty has always been served with a side order of bluntness. I sold luxury cars and Honda for a long time. I was always top dog at every dealership I ever worked. And I was never slick and polished with customers. I just talked straight, knew my product and its competition and I told people the truth. More often than not I said things that could have gone either way but most people left me feeling that the car buying process was the best they ever had and it was just because I was honest. A lot of situations that often derail a sale were avoided by doing it my way, the biggest being when someone explained their budget and being able to keep them on a vehicle that they can afford. Many people don’t understand financing and may really believe that they can afford a vehicle when in actuality they are completely shocked at the numbers when presented and they leave. Time is wasted by both parties and a sale is usually lost. Totally avoidable. Especially when people often tell you in the beginning something that you recognize as not manageable. So when a customer asked. “Can I get this car for 200/month with no money down?” and you know that it will actually take $10,000 it is helpful to say no, not wait an hour to tell them that it isn’t possible. I had a customer thank me for saying no.

In short, don’t say “to be honest” because all it really infers is that you lied to them before. Nobody needs that. Just be honest all the time. It’s so much easier for everybody.

Good things

I really AM the luckiest sonofabitch alive. It’s official.

One exciting thing about getting my transplant is that I may return to work. i always liked to work, in fact I loved some of my jobs. The idea of being needed and valued and making a contribution has always meant the world to me. The problem is that I am afraid of losing my Medicare. Insurance became the deal breaker or deal maker towards the end of my career. When I was forced to change jobs after the finance company closed I found that insurance premiums were through the roof, had additional deductibles and were selective in what they covered. I’m sure that in the time that I have been out of the job market it has only gotten worse. That means that any job I may get may, after health insurance costs, may not be worth it.

Now hear me out. I am not a guy who wants to have anything handed to me. But good insurance is really hard to find and prohibitively expensive and may make the difference between getting by and not. If SSDI decides that I have to go back to work until 67 when my SS kicks in I may be in trouble.

So where does the luckiest sonofabitch in the world thing come in? Last month I met a guy in town that flips houses and does property management in his spare time. I cleaned 3 cars for him and we became friends. He learned my whole story and did his part to help me get some business. When he learned that I had many years experience in the hospitality business his ears perked up. “We need to talk ” he said. He had just bought a closed down convenience store in town and he wants to put in a full kitchen and he wants me to run it. He told me that whatever I want I will get it if I can run it without his supervision. This is an opportunity of a lifetime; cash, flexible hours and it’s less than a mile from my house. See, lucky. Of course it isn’t all luck, if I didn’t put myself out there in the world and make a name, and most important a reputation for myself, I wouldn’t be present and available for the good things to happen. I am very excited.

This will be a great experience for me. I really like Vin and I know that I can work with him. I really like the idea of working in my community and to be part of the gradual revitalization and gentrification of our little town. This is my home now and every day I feel more and more like I belong.

It’s a good feeling.

Stay tuned because I think I want to write about my work history and some of the cool things that I have been a part of. I’m enjoying this positivity thing, I think I’ll keep it up!

Change is good

I suppose that a good place to start, as I redirect my subject matter to a more positive place, would be to take a hard look at what is different about my life since I started this blog. As you remember, I began this project at a low point, possibly the lowest, in my life when my blog served as therapy. To be exact, I would write something and know that I had put it out there and hope like hell for catharsis of some point. To recap; Illness, bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce and near homelessness. I was angry at the world, I was intensely hostile and bitter towards my ex-wife and I wasn’t thrilled about living with my mother. Nothing against her, but the whole thing felt like a massive regression with no end in sight.

That was 4 years ago.

Things really have changed for the better. My health just took a massive turn for the better. I am one month out and I already have my staples out, the bladder stent was removed today and today’s checkup was so good that I am now on biweekly doctor visits. Most important is that I feel fucking great. I have color, energy and for the first time in a while I have hope for what the future brings. As opposed to sitting around while sick waiting to see how life could stick it to me yet again. The improvement in my attitude is almost as satisfying as the improvement in my health.

I now have a healthy relationship with my ex-wife. I forgave everything for her and I both. I couldn’t carry the emotional weight of all that anger anymore. We are co-parenting well and we talk often. Divorce has been good to us both. This has been good for the kids as well, for too many years they watched us tear each other’s throats out and I know it was hard for them. To their credit they are all thriving. The only one who is in need of adjustment is me, I still have a hard time knowing that I am not as needed as I once was. But all parents go through that I suppose.

As for my living situation, my mom is the best. She was never the problem I only disliked not having my own place. But she, and the whole town for that matter, have made room for me and I have quite a few friends and more than one business opportunity ahead of me due to my working and volunteering in the community. My detailing business has allowed me to supplement my income, save a few dollars and meet some great people. One of which offered me a full time job today at the convenience/sub shop he just bought. Things are indeed clicking along.

I know now that the key to everything is to keep a good attitude even when things go wrong. Life is about how you react to things it throws at you. I am truly blessed, not just a little lucky and grateful beyond what modern technology can measure. What I thought was the end has turned out to be a new beginning. Let’s see what I can do with it…

30 days

Well, today is 30 days since my surgery. The 30 day mark is big with transplants. It is usually known at this point how well the organ is working and if it is not adjustments are made and if it is working well then they give you a little more freedom. I have been going to the hospital twice a week (2 hours each way) and have been required to monitor every drop of fluid going in and out. It isn’t difficult, just tedious. Because I’m doing so well, I am down to once a week effective immediately and today I can stop monitoring my fluid. It really is going as well as can be possibly expected. I feel good about things.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to the direction of my blog now. With notable exceptions I have dedicated most of my posts to illness and the obstacles associated with. I think I’ve told my story about illness, now it is time to write about the joys of being healthy. Yes, even at 30 days out I already feel healthy. My head is clear, I have energy to work out, I’m recovering some muscle and putting on a couple of pounds (I need to, dialysis robbed me of all the muscle I had) and I’m remarkable impatient to start doing the rehab work in biking, hiking, lifting and hitting the heavy bag. I’m probably already pushing it but I can’t help it. Shit to do and places to go.

This whole thing has been a blur. Despite being of clear head I still haven’t completely grasped the magnitude of my good fortune and sheer luck (or divine intervention?) and the series of cosmic alignments that allowed it to happen. The realization that I am done with dialysis is the big one. The timing of this was nothing less than amazing, I was really suffering through dialysis and it was making my life miserable. I feel like I have a whole new level of freedom. I am giddy at the thought of riding Sturgis and the Americade next year. Free to ride, free to travel and no need to find a clinic nearby. The extension cord aspect of my life is over, at least for now. The fantasy of Kerouac’ing my way across these United States is now more reality than ever. I can take the RV and just go. This is not just a pipe dream, it is something I am going to do someday. And I’m going to take my time. Dreams have now become reality.

So I was thinking about new directions for the blog. I have always wanted to write about my work history. I feel that my experiences may help someone. I also want to write about marriage and family, raising children and of course divorce. In the process of forgiving both my wife and myself and letting go of a lot of anger I feel that my experiences as a husband and father may also help or at least be of interest to someone. I don’t think I have had a great life, I certainly wouldn’t call myself successful, but I have had some interesting experiences and I have lived some funny stories. The sky really is the limit.

I look forward to sharing the other side of me, the healthy and again optimistic me. Brace yourselves, none of you have ever dealt with me when I felt good. Parental guidance suggested. You’ve been warned.