Thursday, April 23, 2015

Knocking the dust off of this thing

Well, I figured that maybe I ought to knock the dust off my blog.

I haven't traveled "pretty" since my last blog on the subject. Come to think of it, I really haven't traveled much at all for that matter. I don't know why, but our field service requests have plummeted over the last two months and our field service group has had its worst two months in our history. It was so bad that the young lady that compiles our metrics into a report for management every month pulled me to the side.
"Hey, you usually have a utilization of over 100% but you're at only 40% last month. Did you forget to write some of your service reports or something?" She asked me.
"Nope, I just haven't had the work." I had to tell her. Still, I wanted to hug her for at least giving a shit and trying to give me chance to fix it if I had screwed up.

I suppose it's a good thing that I haven't had much work because my family and I've been fighting pneumonia or something very much like it for the last month. All of us have been cycling in and out of the doctor’s office, but can't seem to shake it. I'm sitting on a plane headed for home as I type this, and I've asked my wife to try and get me yet another doctor appointment for when I land. On my way to my customer, I had been feeling better and thought I might finally be licking it, but mid-way through the week things started to degrade again. I feel so sorry for everyone sitting around me in the plane right now where I'm coughing non-stop, but I really don't have much choice as I can't exactly stay in Detroit until I get better.

When my company leased our facility in Austin, it was hoped that it would become something of a training center, both for our employees and for providing training for our customers. It never really blossomed fully into that role, but they do provide classes for our customers once a year or so. They just had one a couple of weeks ago, and the folks giving the class waylaid me at the front door as I arrived for work that morning and asked me if I wouldn't mind giving some training on how to maintain the equipment. I laughed and thanked them for giving me a whole 15 minutes to prepare when they had had this class scheduled for months, then I shut up and got to work as two of the people giving the class are people that might be able to help me keep my job, or get another one should the need arise. It was probably just as well that they did wait until the last second to ask me, because I essentially have stage fright and hate speaking in front of large groups. One or two people are Ok, but a classroom full makes me a nervous wreck. If I'd been given weeks to worry about it and dwell on it, I would have had a nervous breakdown before the big day arrived. Anyway, one of the guys in the class was a customer that I had already met during a service call, and I was immensely grateful when he related to the others in the room how he had called for help on a Saturday afternoon and I had come into the office at 8PM that night to get his equipment back up and running so that he could finish his testing. Considering how slow things have been, it never hurts to have a grateful customer brag about you in front of other people in your company.
We were taking a short break from the class so that everyone could get their caffeine and nicotine fix when he walked up to me.
"Do you know a guy named Frank that works here?"
"Sure, he's my manger." I replied, "Why do you ask?"
"Well, there is someone in your front lobby that is here to see him and I think you might want to take care of this one personally." He said with a shit-eating grin on his face. I had been talking to some of the other guys in the class, so feeling a little confused about the way he had said it, I excused myself and made my way to the lobby where I found an absolutely stunning young woman standing at the counter. She had exceptionally long blonde hair and a flawless figure that she had adorned in a chic skirt suit. She was at least my height, maybe even taller, and so I appreciated her courage in wearing heels that I'm pretty sure were longer than her skirt. The lobby area was filled with many of the men on break from the class, and they all spoke in hushed tones, doing their best to look at her without being too obvious about it. Since I'm facing her, I can see all of the men behind her staring at her with goofy looks on their faces, and trading grins with each other.
"Good morning, can I help you?" I asked her, putting on my best "I'm a professional and will not make an ass out of myself" demeanor.
"Hi! Are you Frank?" She inquired.
"No ma'am, but he works for . . . Umm. . . I work for him." I fumbled, turning bright red in the face. So much for not making an ass out of myself. . .
"If you don't mind following me, I'll be happy to take you to his office?"
Two things occurred to me as this stunning young woman and I made our way through the building. First, her heels made a loud squeaking and squishing sound with every single step that she took, and I figured that was probably irritating the hell out of her. Been there and done that. The other thing that struck me was that in some ways it must be uncomfortable to be THAT attractive. Everyone that we passed on the way to my mangers office grew silent, including the women in the customer service area that we had to walk through.  Don't get me wrong, if I had to choose between being plain Jane, or looking like this incredible woman, I'd take the incredible option please, but in a way I kind of felt sorry for her. I don't think I'd like knowing that people were staring at me when I wasn't looking, or talking about me after I passed by.  It turns out that she was pitching a software package for our service department. I find myself wondering if she was as capable as she was pretty, and if so, was she respected for her ability or just hired because of her looks? Things that make you go "hmmm. . .  "

I think I told y'all a while back that my son and his wife were getting divorced. Well, I am pleased to share that they have decided to work things out. He is in the navy and has just transferred from a base in Washington state to one in Virginia, and the timing was just right so that they were able to stop mid-way and spend Christmas with us. I swear that even I don't understand why, but I've got to be honest - I was an asshole to my daughter in law the entire time that they were here. I would even realize that I was being a jerk just as the words were leaving my mouth and would chastise myself, but then I’d turn right around and do it again the next chance that I got. I know damn good and well that a marriage typically either works or fails as a result of the efforts of both people, and that my son no doubt shared the blame for their breakup, but I guess that on some level I was still angry that she had caused my baby pain. Intellectually I know that wasn't fair of me, but there are some things that are hard to deal with in a logical manner. I guess I probably made it just a little bit harder for them by making them both uncomfortable. After they left, I felt worse and worse about my behavior and finally called her to apologize. She very graciously told me several times that I had nothing to apologize for, but I know I was a bitch and so does she. . .

Do you remember that we had to tear our upstairs bathroom apart a year or so ago because the walls were rotted away due to a water
Tearing apart our water damaged bathroom
leak? Yeah - it is still unfinished, with no shower, tub, or floor. A year or so ago we also had to have our foundation repaired, which required replacing our entire down stairs floor. In this process we discovered that our kitchen cabinets were water damaged and rotted out. The point is, we have lots of very expensive work to do around our house and we can't afford to do it all at once. I was going to start buying materials each pay check and store them in our shed until we had enough gathered to start working, but then we discovered that the shed itself was rotted out and wouldn't be capable of protecting materials from the elements. I tried to repair the existing structure
Laying tile floor after foundation repair
by jacking it up so that I could replace the rotted lumber that had been in contact with the ground for decades, but the floor literally fell out as I was lifting the building. The more I looked at it, the more it became obvious that it would be more feasible to build a new shed instead of trying to repair the old one. Once again we donned our demolition hats and went to work tearing something down. It sure seems like I spend a lot of time doing this.
Building the new shed took a LOT more time and money than I had anticipated. I guess it took us about three months of working on it every weekend, and spare moment, but eventually we got it done. That's when I discovered that my wife and I had different "visions" of what we were building. I had been building a
The shed/workshop that we built
Shelter for lawn tools and firewood
shed - a place to store my materials, yard tools, lawn mower and tiller. She, on the other hand, had been building a workshop - a place to not only store materials, but to actually work on them. A wood shop/workshop if you will. I didn't hate the idea, but it did leave me with the dilemma of finding a place to protect and store our yard equipment. We had kind of a decorative structure along one side of our yard, but it had no roof or walls, and so offered little protection from the elements. Well hell, there goes even more time and money that I would rather have spent on my house, but I didn't have any better ideas, so I put a tin roof on it and built partial walls to keep the worst of the rain off of anything we put in it. I did have a somewhat clever idea when it came to the walls though!
New Fence
As if I didn't have enough stuff that needed work, my wooden fence was very old and brittle, and my wife was often complaining that she was scared the neighbors aggressive dog might get through it and hurt the children. I figured I'd hit two birds with one stone! I bought new fence pickets for the stretch between our yards and then took the old fence pickets and used them to enclose the structure. I think it gives it a cool rustic look kind of like the buildings you see in the old western movies so I ran with that theme.

So now I have a partially enclosed place to store firewood and lawn equipment, one stretch of new fencing, and a damn fine shed and workshop where I can store materials for rebuilding our damaged home. The only problem is that I have no money left for buying the materials. . .

Oh! Last week we discovered that we are gonna be grandparents again! It seems that once my son and his wife decided to work things out, they got right to "work" on it. *giggle*.  You know it still kind of boggles my mind. As a teenager, I had often dreamed that someday I would find someone crazy enough to love and marry me, but it never once crossed my mind that I'd be a parent someday. Now not only do I have three beautiful children, but I'm a grandparent. How very weird . . .