Friday, December 31, 2004

Confessions of a Whistle Blower (Part 3 of 3)

A special Executive Committee meeting was called; a committee comprised of four long time members who had hired the ED (three of whom I trusted, one I couldn't), and three newer members (one level headed individual who observed everything and said little, one who thought the ED walked on water, and one who can only be described as a loose cannon on a power trip).  The board member who directed us to write the first memo, didn't even bother to show.  But the one who had approached me the week before was present and accounted for.  He was a Board officer, as were the other two members I knew I could trust.  Two days after collecting our reports, the three of them met with the ED and gave him the opportunity to come clean.  He had been hiding many important things from the board, things they needed to know.  The outcome of that meeting resulted in the need for the Executive Committee meeting on New Year's Eve.
There were three staff not involved in our report to the officers.  They had not been heard, and the ED's supporters insisted they have their chance.  Those three worked in remote offices, and two of them were cut from the same fabric as the ED (do as little as possible, for as much money as you can get).  I was constantly at odds with them, as neither of them believed in the core value of accountability; and everything I do revolves around accountability.  One by one, the three were called into the "executive session" and questioned by the members, and the ED.  Three hours later, myself and the remaining staff were summoned.  Expecting this to be our chance to address the members in person, we all went in ready to state our case. 
First we were informed the ED had resigned.  Then, we were advised by the ED's supporters just how close we all had come to being fired.  The three of them wanted to keep the ED and fire all of us.  Thankfully, reasonable minds prevailed.  With that attack on us deflected, the three reprimanded each of us for our handling of the situation, and for not following the 'grievance procedure.'   We pointed out no written procedure existed, and we had originally acted on the advise of a board member, who unfortunately, was not present.  The stone faced three were not amused and reminded us that firing the staff was still a viable option as they tried to take over the meeting.
A half an hour later, I walked out of that meeting feeling very dazed and confused, like I had the wind knocked out of me.  Like we had done something wrong.  What is so wrong with being passionate about your work and the organization you work for?  What is so wrong with believing in the mission of the organization and wanting to be part of the fulfillment of it's purpose?  What is so wrong about wanting to do what is right?  Moments later, the three officers took me aside, thanked me for sticking it out for so long and apologized for their lack of leadership over the years.  Recruiting and selecting the next ED, they assured me, would not be taken so lightly as in the past.  They had learned a valuable lesson, and I believed them.
There is a human side to everything that happened two years ago, and my involvment took it's toll on me.  I lost over twenty pounds in three weeks, not to mention numerous hours of sleep as I struggled with my conscience.  A conscience burdened with the guilt that I was stabbing a very sick man in the back.  Months before, the ED had been diagnosed with cancer.  He had no family in the area, he wasn't from this region...he considered us his family.  We encouraged him to leave and be with his family, but no one else would hire him, so he stayed.  And became an unbearable burden to us.  But in business, one can not let personal feelings cloud professional judgement.  Too many business ventures have failed for that very reason.
As for the three who supported the ED, they are now gone.  The loose cannon was asked to step down from the Board, and the other two retired.  And the two staff members who emulated the ED's work ethic?  Gone, as well.  One couldn't handle the new ED's accountibility practices and quit, and the other 'worked' herself out of a job.
It took time, but the Board did find and hire the right person.  And what a difference...talk about night and day.  While it has taken the better part of the past two years for the new ED and I to clean up the mess left by the prior ED, the organization is recovering and is back on track.  So much so, that we are currently in the process of constructing a $2.5 million office building in one of our communities to bring over 40 jobs into the region.  These are not burger flipping, "do you want fries with that" jobs.  They are high tech, $40,000+ per year jobs being brought into a region where the average income is $21,700 per year.  We are helping a local company bring its jobs back to Idaho.  Several years ago, the company outgrew it's first facility in Idaho and was forced to move operations to a facility in Washington.  Now they have outgrown the Washington facility, and we are building a new facility in Idaho designed specifically to meet their growing needs.  We are going out on a limb to bring these jobs back, we are fulfilling our mission...doing the very thing the organization was created to do.

Sometimes, you have to go out on a limb in order to get the fruit.

Confessions of A Whistle Blower (Part 2 of 3)

Board members began to take notice of his behavior, yet did nothing.  In May 2002, the ED attended a five day grant conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I later found out he met his son on the island, and I seriously doubt he even attended the actual conference, which was paid for by grant funds (our tax dollars).  During the Beltway sniper incident, on a daily basis he made comments that were more suited for a sporting event.  He tried to engage the staff in an analytical review of the snipers activity, but no one wanted to participate.  That's when I started getting telephone calls from Board members, asking me to comment on the ED's mental health.  My response to them, "If you have to ask me, then you already know there is a problem."
Things finally came to a head in mid-December, when we received advice from one Board member who felt it was time to deal with the situation.  He advised us to prepare a memo to the Executive Committee expressing our concern about the future of the organization, but the memo had to be signed, preferably by the two senior staff members.  While my co-worker's glanced at one another and nervously shifted their weight, without hesitation I said, "I'll sign it."  Everyone just fell in after that and we executed the plan one week before the next scheduled Executive Committee meeting.
On the day of the Executive meeting, a Board member showed up at the office an hour early.  I knew why he was early; he was one Board member I could trust.  He was one Board member who had called asking me to comment on the ED's mental health.  He knew about the memo we had signed.  And now he wanted some answers.  He walked into my office, propped his arms on the filing cabinet next to my desk, looked me straight in the eye and asked, "How are things going?"
The time for silence was over.  I let out a sigh, looked at my office mate, then at him.  "There are three things you need to understand."
"Okay," he responded.
"First of all, he's my boss," I said.
"I know," he replied.
"Over the past seven years, I have worked very hard to earn the respect and trust of the Board, the staff and many others.  And I do not wish to engage in any activity that would harm, diminish or otherwise minimize what I have worked so hard to earn."
"You won't," he said.
Out came another sigh.  "This isn't easy...in fact, it sucks."
"I know, but you've got to talk to me.  Tell me what is going on."
My office mate took that as her cue to leave.  I followed her, shut the office door, faced him, and spilled the beans.  Everything came out.  I won't go into all the sordid details, but when I finished, it was clear the organization was headed for a financial train wreck.  Soon.
"Can you prove this?" he asked.
"Yes. It's all documented," I assured him.
"Put together a written report citing everything," he instructed me as he started out the door, "I'll be back in three days to pick it up.  Tell the rest of the staff to prepare one as well."
Throughout the meeting later, before and after my monthly financial report, I thought about what I had done, what I would say in my report.  I really don't remember the meeting itself, it was just a blur; all I could think of as I sat across from the ED was whether this would back-fire in my face, or if it would compel the powers that be to finally deal with the problem.
Three days later the staff reports were picked up while the ED sat at his desk, casually chatting with his daughter on the phone.  The following week, on New Year's Eve, the shit hit the fan.
(To be continued)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Confessions of a Whistle Blower (Part 1 of 3)

Something really has me bothered.  It seems everywhere I turn, especially in the press, I keep hearing the same message, over and over: the moral fabric of America is worn, faded, full of holes and just plain worthless.  Excuse me?  What self appointed schmuck decided it was their purpose in life to smear the principles and values I chose to live and work by every day?  Have we all become so diluted by our bottled water that the line between good and bad is too blurred for us to know the difference?
I for one, am tired of seeing the negative, dark side of human nature elevated for the sake of amusement.  Too much emphasis is being placed on spotlighting the personalities who would rather stomp you and I into the ground for their fifteen minutes of fame, than to lend us a helping hand.  I rarely hear about people doing the right things for the right reasons.  But I know there are stories out there about them.  I know those people exist.
So let me pose this "What would you do?" question.  You know someone at work is abusing their position of power and authority, and they are wasting scarce resources.  Would you be willing to go out on a limb, and risk losing your job, to do what is right?  What if that person was your boss?
If you are not into reading about good winning over bad, then this journal is not for you.  However, if you hunger for such proof, read on.  But I warn you, there is no way to make this "a long story short"...so get comfortable.
It was exactly two years ago.  Two years ago this week, the shit hit the fan at work and I found myself inextricably in the middle of a coup that would turn an organization upside down, yet save it from financial ruin.  All at the hands of one man, who by all outward appearances, came across as an intelligent, articulate, nice man.  But looks can be deceiving.
For over seven years, he held the position of Executive Director (ED) at the small non-profit where I work, and as the Financial Manager, I reported directly to him.  We both joined the organization as the dust of a major crises was settling.  He was hired shortly after I was.  I started as a part-time intern, and within two months was hired full-time.  During the following years, I saw his involvement and committment to the organization slowly decline, to the point where the majority of his time was spent on such important activities as balancing his checkbook and writing letters to his family.  There were many meetings between the two of us, where I found myself encouraging his participation in the organization's cash flow, budgets, and other financial matters.  But he always dropped the ball and showed no interest.  When a problem arose which I did not have the authority to resolve on my own, I brought it to him, and offered my thoughts.  When I finished, his reply, every time was, "What do you think?" even though I had just laid it all out on the table before him.  He couldn't make a decision to save his life.  Staff confidence in his leadership ability and business savy began to wain.  Pretty soon, myself and other staff members were forced to shoulder the burden of his duties, along with our own, while he collected his fat paycheck.  For the sake of the organization, we covered for him and kept things going smoothly.  You see, the ED had one heavy advantage over us, and he played it to the hilt.  He had a majority of the Board of Directors eating out of his hand.  And the last time staff members had voiced concern about the previous ED, they were all fired, without recourse.  This included my predecessor.  My boss made sure everyone knew that.
Now you might say, just find another job...but it's not that easy.  The rural area I live in has been economically distressed for many years, and I did not put myself through three years of college so I could go back to being a waitress.   Years before I had taken a 50% cut in pay when I moved back to the area from California, and I had finally got my financial legs under me again.  Quitting or walking away was the equilvalent of going backwards...and that was not an option for me.  There was only one thing to do...stay and tough it out.  On two occastions, I took my concerns to Board members I thought I could trust.  Both times I regretted it.  Both times I was assured my confidence would not be betrayed.  The last time the ED reminded me what would happen if I did it again.
As time passed by, the ED's work ethic all but disappeared.  In 2001, things got worse.  We lost some key staff members (they took jobs in another city and state), and the cash flow began to dry up because no one was out promoting the organization and securing new contracts.  Making payroll and paying the bills became a monthly challenge for me.  And a darker, unstable side of the ED emerged.  Shortly after 9/11, he changed the background on his office computer to display photos of the Twin Towers exploding from the impact of the planes, withOsama Bin Laden in the foreground.  And he placed a life size poster of Bin Laden on the door of his office. 
(To be Continued)

Greatest Quiz

What 60's rock band are you?  <--click

Surprise!!!!  I'm...

The Beatles!

You are The Beatles, They were the most popular rock group in the quickest amount of time in the 60's and well into today..you only toured for a couple of years and the screaming fans made your music impossible to be heard. You are loved and made a huge change in rock history and music forever. You will never be forgotten!:]

 

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Calling All Angels

If ever there was a time you are needed, it is now.  Be you human or not, you are needed.  This is a time for giving, a time for being, a time for remembering.  In this world there are souls filled with grief and confusion who need your assistance.  Shine a light of healing on their path.  Reach out and touch someone.

And know this -- the gratitude for that which you are willing to do shall always come from within.

    

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Not Forgotten

Sometimes the news can be just a little too overwhelming for words...for those affected by the natural disasters which struck our planet this week...you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood (<--click)

Monday, December 27, 2004

Aromatherapy

Hmmmmmmmm.  I've found a new favorite Pleasure.  Oooooooooohhhhhh it smells soooooo gooooood!  I just can't stop.  Santa brought me some Bath & Body Works goodies...Coconut Lime Verbena...it's heavenly.
I just put some on my hands, and I find myself bringing my hands to my nose and smelling.  Feeling a bit like Mary Katherine Gallagher...but this smells much better than armpits!  Way better.  Hmmmm, lime and coconut.  Who knew?  Lime and coconut.  Isn't that a line in a song?  ~You put the lime in the coconut and mix it all up.  Put the lime in the coconut and mix it all together.~

Coconut Lime Verbena – Luscious blend of fresh coconut, lime and fragrant verbena warmed by vanilla and musk.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Read List for 2004

A short list of books I've read these past twelve months (not necessarily in this order): 

The Guardian - Nicholas Sparks

Finding Caruso - Kim Barnes

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Hide and Seek - James Patterson

Acts of Malice - Perri O'Shaugnessy

Motion to Suppress - Perri O'Shagnessy

Cashelmara - Susan Howatch

The Far Pavillions - M. M. Kaye

The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara (re-read #2)

Glorious Appearing: The End of Days - Tim LaHaye & Jerry P. Jenkins

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon (re-read #3)

Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon (re-read #3)

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon (re-read #3)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Another Bottom Feeder Rises

Was just watching Fox News, and it seems Amber Frey has been busy outside the court room.  Just heard her book is about to be released on Amazon.com.   Apparently, as she placed her right hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth while she was bearing 'Witness' on behalf of Laci and Connor, she was signing her name to a book contract with her other hand.  If Amber Frey has the capacity to write a compelling read about her ordeal as the other woman in Scott Peterson's deadly game, then I must have the capacity to fly.  I once thought she was an innocent victim.  Then came the make-over, the new ward robe, and a new attorney, Gloria Allred.  A star is born?  Any sympathy I felt for Amber disintegrated tonight; I now realize she is yet another Loser who made the choice to make a buck off someone else's pain and suffering...all in the name of Justice.  If these are the kind of stories that get published because this is what America wants to read, then I need to make a run to the corner drug store.

I think I'm gonna be sick.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Well...This Explains Everything!!!!!!!!

You Were Nice This Year!
You're an uber-perfect person who is on the top of Santa's list.
You probably didn't even *think* any naughty thoughts this year.
Unless you're a Mormon, you've probably been a little too good.
Is that extra candy cane worth being a sweetheart for 365 days straight?

 

Like this was a surprise...before I finished the test I knew what it would say!!!!   Perfect???...hah!!!!!  Double hah!!!! hah!!!!  What the #%&@ does uber mean anyways?  It's not in my dictionary...what the #%&@ kind of dictionary doesn't have the word uber in it???!!!!!!!! Oh, I like being on top all right...but I'm not thinking Santa's list!!!!  Mormon?!?!?!  WTF?  No the $@&^*@# extra candy cane was not worth being a #%&@* sweetheart for 365 #%&@ days straight!!!!!!!!   Who's the #%&@*! idiot that designed this stupid test and what the #%&@ do they know????!!!!! 

But then, the year's not over yet.....and I did have a couple of naughty thoughts the other day....maybe there's hope for me after all.

Were You Naughty or Nice This Year? <--Click

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Holiday Greetings

Go Placidly Amid The Noise And Haste...
      .....and remember what peace there may be in silence.  ~Desiderata

Monday, December 20, 2004

For My Mom

The Rose (Bette Midler)  Marilyn Monroe

Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower, and you it's only seed.

It's the heart, afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance.
It's the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes a chance.
It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give.
And the soul, afraid of dyin', that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes The Rose.

 

I always think of you, Mom, when I hear this song.  It was released right after you died.   It says it all.  I'll never forget you.  But in the end, you were wrong about love.  You said love, is like a razor that leaves your soul to bleed...I say love, is like a flower, and you it's only seed.

Just For The Fun of It

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Okay, I'll go along with a couple of the above statements, but not all of them.  But I do love to communicate...that much is TRUE!

What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have? <--Click

I Am a Quitter

Smoke-free.  31 days and counting!!!!  Ah!!!!!!!

Thank you NicoDerm CQ!Clear NicoDerm CQ Nicotine Transdermal System Stop Smoking Aid

It's working!  :)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Your Very Welcome...

To those of you who thanked me for smoothing out your airline travel experiences, I'm glad I could help in some way.  Yes, I do remember that you hate to fly.  So it seemed only natural for me to give you something with the hope it will make each trip easier on you.  Anything I can do...I will do...without hesitation.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Good Intentions, the Truth, and the Spirit of Christmas

Every year, as Christmas draws near, I am taken back in time to my youth...back to high school, back to 1973.  I was a junior that year, with two younger sisters, being raised by a single mother.  Mom worked nights as a bartender at a respectable lounge, and I babysat every night.  That's just the way it was.  And so when my friend Mark asked me over to his house for a little get together the day after Thanksgiving, I told him I'd come.  As long as I was home by 5:30 p.m. so Mom could leave for work on time, everything was cool.

I showed up at Mark's around 11:00 a.m. and he offered me a cola, which I accepted.  That day I had several cola's, for some reason they just tasted really good.  What I didn't know was that Mark was spiking my cola with 191 proof alcohol, because, he would later explain, he thought I should have some fun.  Even though earlier, I made it clear to him that I had to babysit that night and therefore couldn't drink, Mark took it upon himself to help me out.

By 3:00 p.m. I was toast.  In fact, I was praying to the porcelain god at that point.  A half an hour later Mark and another friend, Steve, are desperately trying to get me to sober up.  I've got to be home in two hours to care for my sisters, and the only thing I'm fully capable of doing at the moment is sitting on the floor, singing to the toilet bowl.  So Mark and Steve come up with Plan B (Plan A was to get me drunk).  First they will feed me lots of hot coffee, and then walk me outside in the fresh, cold air for a while.  That outta sober me right up.  What they didn't count on was my lack of cooperation.  Did they honestly think I was accepting any more liquids from either of them?  Get that away from me, and I am now wearing the hot coffee.  Time for a change of clothes before taking me outside to walk it off.  Mark's sister Jodi helps me into one of her shirts, and a pair of Mark's jeans.  The shirt fits fine, the jeans however are a bit too big in the waist and I have to keep pulling them up so as not to trip over the flared legs.  And now it is time for my walk.

Mark has me on one side, Steve on the other.  I remember being very happy about something as they took me outside.  Short sleeves, no coat, no shoes, it's maybe 30 degrees outside and I don't feel a thing.  Neither do either of my feet because they are not working.  Mark and Steve remind me how to walk, and forty-five minutes later I can manage the right...left....right...left thing without verbal cues or other assistance.  Time is running out, but I'm still very drunk, and barely able to keep my eyes open.

At 5:00 p.m. Mark decided it was time to face the music and take me home.  He and Steve get me in my car, and Mark gets behind the wheel.  Problem is, Mark has never driven a clutch before, and my car is not an automatic.  But we made it to my house, just barely in time at 5:25, and minus a clutch (Mark's house is 5 minutes from mine...maybe we could have walked faster).  Mom knew the minute I stumbled in the kitchen and announced that I was home that I was stinkin' drunk, and she was hacked.  I remember Mark kept apologizing, and taking the blame for my condition, telling her he spiked my cola. 

But Mom was not buying his story.  She told him, point blank, "Dona knew she had to babysit tonight.  She knew better than to get drunk." 

"But Mrs. Lannon, it's not her fault.  She didn't know.  I put just enough in so she couldn't taste it."  Mark pleaded and begged for my mother's understanding, but his words fell on deaf ears.  I was put to bed to sleep it off, while Mark agreed to watch over my sisters, and Mom left for work.

Somehow, while I slept in the basement, Mark's party got moved to my house.  I woke up around midnight to loud music and a hell of a hangover.  After I figured out I was home, and added everything up, I knew I was in big trouble if there was a party going on upstairs.  And what about my sisters?  Their room was up stairs where the party was.  Who was taking care of them?  By the time I reached the kitchen, I was ready to blow.  I walked into the dining room, found Mark and asked him what the hell was going on.  The party was getting out of hand, he didn't know half the people there, and he was getting scared.  So I put a stop to it.  Stop to the music, stop to the party, stop to everything.  As every one finally left, I checked on my sisters.  They were awake, but okay.  I kissed them good-night, then helped Mark clean up the mess.  Mark went home, and I went back to bed, exhausted.

I was awakened the next morning by my mother's angry voice and forceful hands as she shook me out of bed.  "Get up!  Get up right now!" she yelled.  My eyes were barely open when she announced, "You get your ass out of bed and get on the phone.  I know you had a party here last night.  Call everyone who was here!  I want them in this house in an hour!"  Then she stormed out of my room.  Could it get any worse?  I was up shit creek without a paddle.  I called Mark on the phone.

An hour later, everyone Mark knew was once again sitting in my living room.  They had no idea what was about to happen, and I felt sorry for them.  More embarrassed for myself though, because I knew what was about to happen.  At least, I thought I did.  I knew this was about the party, and I was half-right; but there was more.  Mom stood in the middle of the living room, looking everyone in the eye as she spoke.  And when she mentioned the $500 cash missing from her room, I felt a part of me die inside.  That's why she was so angry at me this morning.  In Mom's eyes, I had betrayed her confidence and crossed an invisible line; the line of trust.

Mom could lay on a guilt trip better than anyone.  "You have not just stolen money, you have stolen Christmas from two little girls," she said, pointing to my sisters who sat at the dining room table, looking especially forlorn over their breakfast cereal.  Mom went on, "For an entire year, I've been saving money so we could have a nice Christmas this year.  Now, because of someone in this room, there won't be any presents, there won't be a Christmas tree, no dinner, no visit from Santa...you have taken everything.  Everything I had planned, you have stolen from my family."

I glanced at Mark, who was sitting next to me on the couch.  He was in shock.  Mom set the terms, if the thief would fess up in private, she wouldn't press charges.  Everyone left, except Mark.  He was now green around the gills, and repeatedly apologized for creating the mess I now found myself in.  Again he pleaded my innocence to my mother,and while she was touched and admired his devotion to me, she made it clear she didn't believe him.  She knew he was just sticking up for me, because that's what teenagers do for each other.  His words changed nothing in her mind.

Mark and I both knew who took the money.  The following weeks at school it became obvious to us.  The person flaunted it under our noses, all the while denying it to our faces.  We knew who the thief was, we just couldn't prove it.

And while mom refused to accept my innocence in the matter, something happened that December to my family.  In the days that followed the theft, word got out about our misfortune.  Within a week, we received three boxes of food, with a ten pound turkey from Mom's best friend, Shirley.   We traveled to the mountains to select and cut down a Christmas tree, which none of us had ever experienced before.  I remember sitting in the cab of the pick up, bundled up in layers of clothing, drinking hot cocoa with my sisters, Mom and Mom's friend who drove us to the snow covered mountains.  People came to our house, delivering good wishes, gifts, food, cash, clothing, decorations, anything and everything.  I never saw anything like it before.  The times I mentioned to Mom how wonderful it was to see the Christmas spirit bestowed upon our family, she quickly reminded me whose fault it was to begin with.  I had given up defending my innocence; she was just too disappointed in me to believe anything but the worse.

But that year in December, I learned something new about Christmas.  I learned that Christmas isn't about opening gifts, or eating a huge dinner.  It isn't about the stories, or the music, or the lights, or the decorations.  Christmas is caring for your neighbor.  Christmas is sharing with others.  Christmas is loving those who need it most.  But above all else, I learned the Christmas Spirit lives and thrives in the hearts of ordinary people.

And although my mother never found it in her heart to see and accept my innocence, to believe Mark's word as the truth, that's okay; because I know the truth.

Basement...Done

I think that's it.  Oh, and a slight change in the number of boxes...need to add two more...I forgot about the silks, picks and other floral accessories I keep in my office; total boxes of Christmas decorations=24.

Seasons Greetings to All!

Bottom of stairs from Living Room to basement.  Garland is filled with ornaments of Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon characters, along with other childhood reminders. 

South end of family room from bar.  Hmmm, how did I get those lights to have that star effect? 

South wall of Family Room from North End, with three of my woodland Santas.

Bar, with my Silver Bells collection.

That's all for now.  More maybe later.  Can't wait to see everyone elses.  Come on...share!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Meanwhile...Outside

Here's a shot from outside the house.  We usually turn the basketball hoop into a giant candy cane, but after so many years, someone got tired of putting it up (...and it wasn't me).

My "office" is the room on the left with the light on  :)

Who Needs Elves...

First floor complete!  On to the basement...


Since you asked, the stocking in the center says, "Dear Santa, I have been a very good kitty this year..."

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tis The Season

Want a good laugh?  http://journals.aol.com/emfeasel/MyElegantChaos/entries/458

Feeling Kinda Holly

 

It Takes A Village

The North Pole is up and running!  Only took me three hours to set it up this time.  I'm getting better and better.

If you look closely, you will see a wreath on most of the buildings.  Each wreath has a letter in the center.  The letters are N O R T H   P O L E.  But for quite a few years, all I had was NORTH PE.  I searched and searched and it took awhile, but I finally found the OL for sale on eBay!  I was very, very happy that day.  I mean, who wants a Christmas village called North Pe?

Spokane

 

Okay, since someone just can't seem to stand it that I'm back from Spokane and have yet to share the trip in my journal, it must be time to write about it.  We left Lewiston a bit late, around 9:30 a.m.  Drove up on the Idaho side (it's much more scenic) and came into Spokane via a short cut we found last year.  Started the shopping venture at Spokane Valley Mall.  First stop was Victoria's Secret, where Sam asked the same question he asks me every year..."What is Victoria's Secret?"  My reply, as usual, "Only Victoria knows and she's not telling."  We buy Amy and Kari PJs each year, always at VS, but we didn't like the ones they had, so we kept looking.  But I didn't leave empty handed.  I mean, a girl like me can't walk into VS and not buy something.  Especially since I only get up there once a year, maybe twice.  The Spokane Valley Mall is not that big, and it didn't take us long to cover all the territory.  We left the mall, with only my pink shopping bag in hand, and two bottles of water.  Headed across the parking lot to hit my favorite store, Linen N Things, to purchase new cookware for ourselves.  Then to Old Navy to acquire gifts for all Sam's great nieces and nephews (relatively speaking).  Ending at Sam's favorite, Sportsman's Warehouse, where we found a pair a great binos for Kari's boyfriend, Isaac.  We have this deal, if he has to go into VS with me and stand in the middle of racks and racks of women's unmentionable's, then I have to go into Sportman's Warehouse with him.  I'm pretty sure Sam's getting the better end of the deal here, since I'm sure he really DOES enjoy going into VS with both eyes open, whereas Sportman's Warehouse does absolutely nothing exciting for me.  I did think about hiding in one of the canoes just to liven things up a bit.  Wonder how long it would have taken him to notice I was gone...  ;)

Stayed at the Pheasant Hill Best Western, and ate dinner at Appleby's.  I had the Shrimp Fetticini Alfredo with a Strawberry Margarita, Sam had the Bourbon Street Steak with a Lime Margarita.

Next morning we are off to North Town on Division Street.  On the way I snapped some photos for Robin, so she can get her Spokane fix.  Arrived at North Town Mall, which is much, much larger than the Valley Mall, to finish our shopping.  Spent the whole day there, and ate lunch at Chili's.  I had the Quesadilla Explosion salad, Sam had the Smoked Chicken sandwich and we each had a strawberry lemonade.  Delicious!  Found PJs for Amy and Kari (finally), a leaf blower for Marvin (Amy's husband), and we always get the girls a calendar featuring their breed of dogs.  Kari has a Rottweiler named Missy, and Amy has a Vizsla named Skeeter. 

By 3:00 p.m. our feet were killing us and it was time to head back home.  Made one last stop at Pier 1 Imports to see if they had any brushed aluminum canister sets (for Amy), but no luck.  I'll have to keep looking.  Recognize this place, Robin?  We are heading West on I-90, and the Spokane Airport is about 5 minutes away, with Robins AFB another 15 minutes.  Another 30 seconds, and we will be exiting I-90 and heading south towards Pullman, and Lewiston.  Arrived home, safe and sound, at about 5:30 yesterday with most of our shopping done. 

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Vacation Time!!!!

Every year at this time I take a week off from the daily grind of number crunching to get my shopping done and decorate the house.  Except on Thursday I have to go to the office and attend the Executive Committee meeting and give them an update on the audit and other financial matters.  Oh well, it goes with the territory. 

Believe me, it takes a week to decorate.  When Amy and Kari lived at home, we split the decorating between us; they did the upstairs, and I did the downstairs.  Now, the task is much larger, and requires more time to complete.  The first thing I put out is my North Pole Village.  It gets set up in the dining room garden window.  But that will have to wait until Wednesday, because tomorrow we are off for two days of shopping in beautiful Spokane (I'll take the camera with me Robin and get some pics for you).

I'm really starting to get into the holiday spirit now.  Today was a busy day.  Spent the morning doing a little shopping.  At noon I headed for Amy's home to attend the annual Ornament party.  It's a lot of fun and there's always a couple of ornaments that everyone steals back and forth.  Mine is soooooooooooo cute.  It's a snowman, made of glass cubes with the letters B-R-R-R in glitter on the body. 

Then it was off to Christine's home (a co-worker) for some holiday cheer and a game of Dominoes.  What fun!  I've never played it before and now I'm hooked.  May have to pick up some for myself tomorrow.

Well, that's all for now.  Got to get up early tomorrow for the drive up to Spokane.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

12/14 7:57 p.m. - Just got home and there was a message from work.  Good news!  The meeting was cancelled for lack of a quorum.  So I'm free!!!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Let the Festivities Begin...

Feeling:  Overwhelmed!  (my own...AOL needs to expand that list)

Today the Christmas decorations came down from the attic in the garage....and I'm thinking that maybe I don't need to buy any more decorations for Christmas...EVER!  I counted the boxes (I was curious) and there are 22!!!!!!  Now, some of the boxes do contain the Santa collection started by my Dad, and the Santa's are 12" and taller, but still.  There is something to be said for doing things in moderation.  I need to remember that.

I Will Be

I will hold you
Let me ease your weary mind
I shall be a temple
Where you can release
Your sacred thoughts
Without saying a word
Unwind
Relax
I will hold you
I will comfort you
I will soothe you

I will ease you
Put your mind to rest
Once and for all
Time
I will be for you
As I have always been
As I will always be
I will be for you

DLC 12/11/04

Friday, December 10, 2004

Brain Farts...or Where's My Short Term Memory?!?!?

Sometimes lately, I swear my brain is on vacation.  And I hope it's having a great time, cuz I sure miss it!

Like this morning.  I'm downstairs, in the middle of drying my hair and I remembered that I need to take copies of our 2003 W-2's to the bank today.  I'm bent over at the waist, getting the roots dry, singing and dancing to the radio, when I straighten up..OMG!..it's Bozo the clown!   Shit!  Gotta fix that!  Get the hair tamed down to a presentable volume.  Note to self: time limit for drying the roots is three minutes...not five!

Turn off radio.  Walk out of the bathroom...stop, go back into bathroom for a light spritz of perfume (Provocative Woman by Elizabeth Arden).  Exit bathroom.  Let the dogs outside for the day.  Gotta wash those french doors...again!  Put on shoes.  Hmmm, need to buy some more lotion for feet.  I'll stop at Bath & Body Works on the way home.  Grab remote for the gas fireplace and turn temperature down to 68 degrees.  Grab television remote and shut off television.  Shut off lights.  Head up the stairs.  Oh, the stairs need vacuuming.  Probably should wipe the baseboards too.  Add vacuum bags to mental grocery list.  Get a whiff of the Yankee Candle Clean Cotton room freshener and remembered that we're out of Bounce.  Add that to the grocery list.  Gosh, that fiddle leaf fig is looking a lot like the plant on 'Little Shop of Horrors'...what was that actor's name again?  Get to the top of the stairs, head to my office to write down the items for the grocery list.  Can't find pen, cuz they are all downstairs with the Christmas cards I was working on last night.  Go back downstairs and locate pens.  Back upstairs for paper.  What was I supposed to get?  Oh yeah, Bounce, vacuum bags.........something else.......what was it?  Stand there in office.....thinking.....pull socks up...boy, my skin is really getting dry...oh yeah, Bath and Body Works. 

But I know there is something else I need.   What was it?  Tapping foot while looking around on my desk.  Nothing.  What was it?  Oh well.  Grab keys, feed cats, go out and start car.  Come back in the house, go back downstairs to retrieve cup of coffee on table where I left it to put on my shoes.  Back upstairs.  Rick Moranis...that's his name.  Grab purse, head out the door.  Get in car, drive to work, and on the way I go right past the bank.  Oh crap!  2003 W-2's!  I'll have to do that on my lunch hour today.  Hopefully, I'll remember that bit of information come lunch time.

I am amazed that I can remember something from a movie I haven't seen in years, but I can't even remember something I thought of ten minutes ago, like those stupid W-2's the bank wants.  Geesh!  And yes, I forgot.  I got distracted by poinsettias at the flipping grocery store.  So I now have four lovely poinsettia plants, vacuum bags, Bounce, and lotion.  The W-2's?  They are now strategically taped to the front door so I don't forget them on Monday!

 

~~Laughter cannot be imitated.  It comes from the heart. ~Bozo the Clown ~~

UPDATECopies of the W-2's have left the house.  Last seen being hand delivered to a bank worker on Monday morning.  And to be honest, after reading this entry again, I have concluded that my mind is NOT on vacation; on the contrary, it's in overdrive.  I'm just processing WAY TOO much information ALL the time...you know...thinking too much.  So, I now have a mental Post-It in my brain that says, "Don't sweat the small stuff."  Think it will help?

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

My Ride...Yeah, It's a Chick's Rig

Looky Robin.  Ain't she purty?  All spiffy'd up and clean as a whistle!  The classic chick's ride...in Dark Garnet Red.  And fast...my, my, my, lil Lady Liberty has got some poop to her, believe me!  She's very responsive.  ;)  I love to drive real fast with the windows down, the sunroof open, and my music cranked up, too.

Now all I need is the tire cover that says "There's Only One" with the American flag.  And maybe some running boards.....

A Thought

I found my mantra!  Thank you {{{{{{{Christine}}}}}}!  You truly are an angel on earth...
"I am a person that believes in the personal dignity of every human being.  I am known for my authenticity, honesty, and clarity in my interactions with others.  I am firmly committed to the well-being and life of community and will use my gifts of critical reflection, organization, passion, and speech to foster unity and well-being in all the communities to which I work and belong."

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Go Big Blue!

Woo-Hoo!!!!!  I just heard on the radio that U. S. News & World Reports released their 2005 Best Colleges in America ranking , and my alma-mater, Lewis-Clark State College, is rated the #1 Public Comprehensive College for the Western Region!!!!!!  For the SECOND consecutive year!!!!!  Oh...yeah!

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/brief/ccbach/ccwest/ccbach_w_pub_brief.php

I knew there was a good reason why I picked LCSC over the University of Idaho!!!!!  Besides the cost, and location, student to faculty ratio...LCSC rules!

Okay, back to work.

The Little Engine That Could...Says Dad

In his younger days, my father raced cars.  He loved cars, and everything about them.  Restoring them, tinkering with them, looking at them, selling them.  He lived and breathed cars.  At his car lot, his office walls were lined with everything related to cars, from calendars to license plates.  But there was this one black and white photo of a 1962 Ford Falcon with racing numbers and business names painted on it.  For years I saw that photo on the wall, and thought nothing of it.  I just figured all along it was another photo of a car.  Then one day, I asked Dad about it.

He looked up from his deposit book, and casually replied, "The Falcon?  I beat a Corvette with that once."  Then he started to whistle.

Huh?  Did I just hear him right?  I looked at the picture again.  "You what?" I asked.

Still focused on the deposit, he replied, "I beat a Corvette, with that Falcon."

"Very funny, Dad.  You beat a Corvette...with that," I laughed. 

He was deadpan serious.  "I did," he said as he scooped up a set of keys on his desk.  He stood up, still whistling, walked across the office, and stepped outside.

I didn't believe it for a minute.  He was always pulling my leg.  Joking with me, pushing my buttons, and I was pretty sure this was one of those times.  I didn't question the fact that he raced that car; I was certain he had.  But to beat a Corvette?  Impossible.  Not likely.  No effing way!

But, I was intrigued.

A few minutes later, he strolled back in the office.  I was giving him that look, you know, the look...the out of the corner, narrowed eyes, wrinkled nose, you don't fool me, mister! look.

"Hey, honey, would you mind watching the office for a few?  I gotta run to the bank."  He grabbed a dealer plate from his drawer, stopped and stared at me.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I just don't believe you."

Bewilderment crossed his face.  "Believe me?  I said I'm just going to the bank."

"Dad!  Stop toying with me!"

"Toying with you?  What are you talking about?"

"That!"  I pointed to the photo.

And he started laughing.  I knew it!  He was kidding.  "Honest, honey, I really did," he replied.

Before I could say anything, the door opened and in walked Walt, a long time friend of Dad's.  "Ask Walt.  He was there," Dad said as he passed his friend.  "Be back."  And he walked out of the door, whistling all the way.

Walt smiled and sat down in a chair.  People were always stopping by Dad's business to just visit.  You never knew who was going to walk through the front door.  I looked at Walt with a smirk.  He knew something was up. "Ask me what?" he asked.

I pointed to the photo.  "Tell me about the Falcon," I said.

It started out small, and then the smile soon spread from one ear to the other.  "The Falcon?" He whistled.  I was beginning to think the Falcon was a hynotic word.  Everytime someone said the word, they'd start to whistle.  Then, the bomb dropped.  "Your Dad beat a Corvette off the line in that car."

"So, it's true."

"Oh, it's true all right."

I still didn't get it.  How could it be?  "So, that car really did beat a Corvette?  I don't see how."

"Well, now, the Falcon wasn't stock, you know," Walt explained.  "Bobby Jackson, he was the mechanic, he had the touch with engines.  And the Corvette, it was stock.  Straight off the dealership floor."

I thought about it for a minute.  "So, what your saying is that the Falcon was a little more suped up than the Corvette."

"A little.  But not much.  But still, it was your Dad's driving that got the Falcon off the line from start to finish.  Of course, it was just a quarter mile."

I stared at the photo, picturing in my mind the smoking tires, the roar of the engines, the streak of color as the two cars screamed down the track.  Now that would be something to see.  "What year was that?" I asked.

Walt thought for a moment.  "Well, now, it was 1963, I think.  Your Dad was working for Adams Ford at the time.  That's where he got the Falcon."

1963.  I was six years old, living in Los Angeles.  The year before, Dad had come down for what would be his last visit.  1963.  That was the year everything changed, the year a lie fabricated out of jealously became a wedge driven between a father and his daughter.

I was still staring at the photo, imagining what it must have been like to witness the day a Ford Falcon beat a Chevy Corvette in the quarter mile, when Dad returned from the bank.  As he and Walt talked, I sat quietly watching him engaged in conversation.  Wondering.  Did that race take place before, or after he got the news that he was not allowed to see me?  If it was after, did his frustration with a situation he had no control over become the impetus that launched him off the start line that day?  Did he find a way to turn all that negative energy into the power he needed to achieve the impossible?  To somehow, beat the odds. 

 

 

Saturday, December 4, 2004

The Vietnam Experience

I know this guy, we'll call him F.  He's a Vietnam vet and served a full tour of duty...two years, I think, maybe more...patroling the rivers of Vietnam's delta region.  His CB handle is Mother Frog, so named from his days in Vietnam when he was responsible for the lives of many young men on the river.  He is a natural born leader, and made the rank of Sargent within a year of being drafted.

But he carries within himself demons I can not even begin to imagine.

With Christmas just around the corner, my thoughts often turn to him and his family.  You see, F and his family do not celebrate Christmas, or any holiday which recognizes Jesus.  F believes in God, he just doesn't believe Mary was a Virgin or that Jesus was conceived by immaculate conception.  He reads the Bible daily, but only the Old Testament.  And while his beliefs go against everything I was raised to believe, I respect his ideals.  Perhaps, when I finish this entry, you will understand why.  He is not Jewish, in fact, I don't think there is a name or label for what he believes.

F was raised in a christian family and he believed in the holy trinity.  He grew up, graduated from high school, the military drafted him and F went to Vietnam.  Somehow, his best friend, B, ended up in the same company as F.  And it was through their shared Vietnam experience that F's views on religion began to change.  B came from a family who did not believe in Jesus.  The two passed hours talking about their own views on faith, both keeping an open mind toward the other's.

Then one night, everything changed.  While camped on an embankment with their platoon, F admitted to B that maybe there was something to his religious views.  Maybe his own beliefs, the very ones he was raised on, were wrong.  So he asked B to tell him more, and B did.  F went to sleep, thinking about his friend's words.  The next morning F and B woke up, and found the entire platoon dead, their throats slit.  They were the only survivors.

But that's not all.  A short time later, while riding in a Jeep with three other men, they hita land mine.  The blast tossed the Jeep and all five men into the air.  Three of the men died, two men survived.  And the survivor's were F and B.

F returned home from his tour of duty, and married his high school sweetheart, who is also B's sister.  For almost 30 years, neither F nor B spoke of Vietnam.  Ever.  Not to their family, to their friends, or each other.  F went to work for B's father in the construction business.  F and his wife raised four daughters who are sensitive, intelligent, fun loving people (I danced with three of them on the deck).  F is my step-mother's brother, and my husband's good friend. 

It was only recently that F opened up about Vietnam.  I remember after the wedding of his youngest daughter in 2002, F got totally blitzed at the reception.  We all knew it would happen.  It seems to be a tradition with F, his three brothers, and my husband, that the father of the bride or groom has to get completely shit faced on shots of Crown Royal at the reception (the bartender said they went through 2 litres between five or six of them...maybe more, it just depends on who they can corral into having a shot with 'em).  Men will be men.  And F had already been through this three times before with his other daughters.  So it came as no surprise to us when the time came to take F home, that his wife would need some help (he's a really BIG guy).  Sam and I, as well as several other guests, got F and his wife safely home. 

While Sam helped F downstairs to sleep it off, I sat out on the deck with everyone else.  I waited and waited for Sam to come out, but he didn't.  So a half an hour later, I ventured into the house to see what was taking so long.  When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I found F and Sam, siting and talking, with tears streaming down their faces.  Feeling like an intruder, and somewhat embarrased, I turned back up the stairs. Sam emerged a short time later and we went home.  The next day, I asked Sam what they were talking about.  "Vietnam," he said. "That man is carrying some awful terrible demons inside him."  Then he added, "I don't know how he has done it all these years."

I don't know either.  But I do know one thing, F snores like a chain saw when he sleeps.  I've heard him, on camping trips and at the cabin.  If you don't fall asleep before he starts snoring, you have lost your chance for sleep; he is that LOUD.  And how he escaped the blade of the assassins that killed his men back in Vietnam...I just can't fathom it.

 

~~"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more...." John Burroughs~~

Friday, December 3, 2004

...Just a Light Switch

I have six sisters...well, actually they are all my half-sisters.  My older sister, Lyn is married to Dean, a rocket scientist.  Honestly, he really is a rocket scientist.  They live in the Los Angeles area, and are both employed by Rocketdyne, the division of Boeing that produces the SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) for the Space Shuttle.  Dean is one of two lead engineers for the Boeing Space Shuttle program.  And no, Dean was not involved in the Challenger disaster.  I think the SRB contract was with Morton-Thiokol at that time. 

 

In January 2000 I attended a work related training seminar in LA.  Lyn and Dean picked me up at the airport, took me out to lunch, and then on a tour of their Boeing location in the valley.  Highlights of the tour included their offices, some top secret stuff (cool top secret stuff, not bad top secret stuff), rocket fabrication and assembly, and the newly remodeled launch control room, or ROSC (Rocketdyne Operations Support Center)...it was all very, very cool!  And way over my head!!!!!  Dean gave me a music video filmed over two separate launches (finally, something I can understand!).  The video, titled 'Boom' is distributed to all the LA area schools to spark children's interest in the sciences.  Lyn and Dean decided to end my tour with a quick visit to the brand new, yet to be opened Visitor Center/Rocket Museum.

We arrived at the building which housed the museum, and Lyn asked me to wait out in the hall while she and Dean turned on the lights.  Before she disappeared into the darkness, she told me if anyone saw me, I needed to hide because they weren't supposed to be showing me the museum since it wasn't open to the public yet.  Okay.  So, I'm patiently waiting in the hallway, and I can hear the two of them stumbling around in the darkness.  A few minutes pass by, and still no lights.   I'm on the lookout for human activity in the hall, while they continue their search.  Finally, I stuck my head inside the room, and on the wall to my left I see a plate, which resembles a light switch panel.

I call out to them.  "Hey, there's a plate over here by the door.  Do you think this is it?"

From across the expansive room, Lyn responds, "No.  It's over here by this door."  So I wait a few more seconds.  I can hear them talking to one another...questioning...searching. 

Then I hear Dean's voice in the darkness. "Why don't you try that one by you, Dona."  I took a couple of steps, and pushed the slide controls up.  And behold.  Lights!  My sister is mumbling something, and above her voice I hear Dean laughing, as he declares, "I guess you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what a light switch looks like!"

And that, my friends, was the day I outsmarted a rocket scientist!  But don't worry, I won't let it go to my head.  It was, after all, just a light switch.

P. S.  I do find it rather odd that my sister was more concerned about being caught showing me the public museum, when a half an hour earlier they were showing me a whole bunch of top secret stuff.  But then again, I never could understand her.

P. S. S. The really funny thing about this is the fact that when I got my pass from security, Lyn told them I was a VIP.  Yeah, sure.  One look at my Walt Disney sweat shirt, my jeans and tennis shoes...I'm pretty sure security was convinced.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Working Girl

Patience, it seems, has it's own rewards.

I've been with my current employer for almost nine years.  The business is located in the basement of the Port of Lewiston administration building (yes, Idaho has a seaport).  When I started in early 1996, my desk was in the reception area, out front.  Any visitor to the office must have mistook me for someone who got paid to just sit at a desk and entertain them, because no matter what I was doing, people who were waiting for another staff member always had to strike up a conversation with me.  No, I wasn't the receptionist, and I don't want to sound unfriendly, but it always seemed to happen when I was on a tight deadline to get a project done.  And I can't just ignore someone who is talking to me...but then, that does depend on the tone of the conversation.  Thing is, I'm the accountant, CFO, or my "official" title, Fiscal Officer (no saluting, please...I've seen it a million times already).  Anyways, when you are dealing with numbers, constant interruptions are just not conducive to productivity or accuracy.  Whether I was working on payroll, or a detailed reconciliation, the visitor didn't seem to understand that I really needed to concentrate on my task. 

Fortunately in 2002, after six years of "being there" in the reception area, I got moved to an office in the back of the building.  Wow, what a difference that made!  I shared that office with my boss, which wasn't too bad really.  It was a major improvement from the reception area.  But, this past September my boss posed a question to me.  Would I be interested in moving into a vacant office in the Port of Lewiston upstairs?  I had to think about it over the weekend.  Hmmm, do I stay or move?     Duh!  Move!

So, today was moving day for me.  To give you some idea of how significant this change is, it was like going from working in a submarine to working in the penthouse suite!  Yes, I'm moving on up!  To the east side!  The office is in the east corner of the building, has two windows, and is painted in a beautiful two tone seafoam green with a nicely done paisley border (wainscoting treatment).  I spent the entire day, running up and down the stairs, packing all my stuff out of the old, and into the new.  Okay, so most of the running was in the morning, by the afternoon my right knee was about to give (an old softball injury sustained in 1980).  But, I got everything moved.  Yea!  And tomorrow I need to get it better organized.  I feel a little bit like Melanie Griffith's character at the end of 'Working Girl.'

There is one caveat.  It's on a trial basis.  If the Port Manager doesn't like the arrangement after six months, I'll have to go back downstairs.  So, I plan to be on my very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very bestest behavior (guess I'll have to leave my Evanescence and Def Leppard CD's in the car).