Trying Something New

I think we all need to try something new every now and again.  I’m a fan of it, aren’t you?

So in the spirit of trying something new, I’m looking around for a new path.  A new career perhaps?  A new way of getting things done.  And I’m not sure where this new search is headed.

I’m looking at going back to school.  Need to solidify that this next week, but it is a real possibility.  And if I get all the paperwork done correctly, I’ll be going back to school to learn something completely unrelated to anything I’ve ever done in the past.

Something entirely new.

I’m looking at jobs I never thought I’d look at.  Desperation?  Perhaps.  But perhaps it is time to look under a new leaf.

I had a friend who up and quit a decent job to try something new.  His new path has been rocky and unsure, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen him happier.  He quit lots of things he was really really good at to go off and do something he really really wanted.

He’s one of my heroes for that.  He chose it, I’ve had it forced off onto me.  But we have to play the cards life gives us, because leaving the table isn’t an option.

I’ve had a few friends, some quite close, decide to leave the table.  I don’t think it worked they way they intended.  It is messy, it doesn’t ever work the way you intended.  Or at least I hope not.  I’d hate to think my friends intended to leave the mess they did.

So I’m looking down a new path, and right now it has lots of twists and turns.  I’m still not sure where it is taking me, nor am I sure where I’ll end up.  But do we ever?

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Guess I Blew It!

Well, I guess I blew NaBloPoMo for the month.  Not only did I lose a post somewhere in the mix, but I sort of took the holidays off of writing.  But I had a good reason, really.

My brother was in town, with his wife whom rarely gets out to see us.  My niece was also in two, and any chance I get to chase that lovely little rugrat is time well spent in my book.  I also watched my first Auburn game this year.  I generally don’t watch football because I get a bit emotional watching it.  I was very emotional yesterday.  And while my team lost, they did it with gusto and skill.  Trick plays, onside kicks and shutting Mark Ingram down cold.  All in all, one of the best Iron Bowl games ever.

So I guess I need to do the obligatory thankful post.  Isn’t that what bloggers do on Thanksgiving?  Well, although I have plenty to be upset and not thankful about, I do have much for which I am thankful.  So here’s the list.

My children, who bring me great joy.
My niece, who is beautiful and graceful.
My Nephew, who makes me laugh, despite his recent entry into this world.
My FIL, who is now helping us out when we started by helping him.
My family, who are supportive and caring.
My friends, who are both enjoyable and meaningful.

When I look at that list, I am a truly wealthy man.  Whatever else goes wrong in my life, I have these things…  no, not things.  I’m not thankful for much of material value, but of the people in my life.  I’ve never been one who maintained close relationships.  I have many acquaintances and few friends.  Perhaps this is more than a Thanksgiving Day report, but also a New Years Resolution post as well.

Perhaps working on Friendships over this next year is something I need to work on.  Well, I have a month or so to change my mind.

Deacon Family Suppers

Deacon Family Suppers are a tradition at my church.  It’s a massive pot luck dinner that the Deacon’s organize and almost everyone attends.  And my first one as a Deacon is coming up this weekend.

I only have one thing to say about that.

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Okay, that’s not really what I have to say.  That’s really the code that Technorati insists I publish to “claim” my blog.  What I really have to say is that I’m looking forward to it, even if it is he Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I have visions of left over turkey and pumpkin pies being served, which isn’t a bad thing since no one in my family is cooking and we won’t have any leftovers.

But as one of the duties of a Deacon prior to such a dinner is contacting their deacon families and finding out how many people are coming.  So I’ve left messages all over town (literally!) and am waiting to hear back.

It’s funny how much you can take for granted.  I’ve been going to these dinners for 40 years (almost) and I’ve never once thought of how they occur.  The level of planning, distribution of duties, and so on have eluded me all these years.

Now I’m a cog in the big wheel, that makes things work and flow.  It’s an interesting change.

5 Years Ago Today

Man, I’m brain dead today. I haven’t been able to think straight cause I’ve got a bit of a stuffy nose and the meds make me feel all loopy and stuff. But I’ve also been kinda just not thinking. Immersed in a book, as it were. And I gotta tell you, it feels good NOT to think.

Sometimes I think we all think to much. Not enough smelling of the roses. Not enough quiet contemplation. I’d forgotten how nice it is to sit in a comfortable chair and lose yourself in someone else’s story. Or to just actively not think about stuff.

I suppose if you’re new age, that’s called meditation. Or maybe it’s old age, but I really think I need to try to get to that point daily. Cause, while all my problems didn’t go away, they don’t seem as insurmountable anymore. And I get to look at them fresh. Or at least, fresher.

So yea… I’m brain dead today. And yes, I’m loving it.

How many Engineers does it take?

So, how many engineers does it take to put up a Christmas Tree?

Apparently just one, who finally reads the directions.  The other 4 non-engineer men where just there to snark at him.  Of course, as payback for my snark, I had to put the lights on the tree myself.

Which is fine, really.  That’s how Christmas should be, after all.  Time with friends and family, and time alone.  Or at least, that’s what I think.

Speaking of time alone, our church is sponsoring a workshop called “Hope for the Holidays.”  I’ll have more on it in the next few days, but if you have someone who is grieving, then this might help.  Stay tuned for more information.  (I love saying that, like I’m all important or something.)

The Facebook Police Are Watching You!

There is a new adage.  Never put anything on the internet you don’t want other people to see.  It’s good advice.  That picture from your college days where you streaked across campus?  Yes, I’m talking to you!  Not a good idea to claim on Facebook.  Or MySpace.  Or whatever your favorite social networking site may be.

But what about those pictures you don’t mind sharing, but someone else takes as offensive?  Or the comment you leave on someone else’s photo?  Just how “careful” do you have to be on the web?

The answer is, extremely careful or extremely thick skinned.

Let’s say that you went to Europe on a dream vacation, one you’d been saving up for years to go on.  It took you all over the old country, including Ireland, Italy and France.  And, as long as we’re dreaming, let’s say while in Dublin you go to the Shangri-La of Stout, the Guinness Brewery.  Now my attitudes on beer are fairly well known, so maybe I’m not unbiased.  But let’s face it, when in Rome and all that.

Now that we are on this mythical trip, and we’ve gone to the wonderful world of the chewy beer, can you really imagine not getting a pint at the end of the tour?  I mean really, they advertise their pubs based on the distance to this brewery.  Could you honestly not hoist a pint, even if just to hoist it?  Few of us could.

And isn’t that an absolute natural picture?  Hey, look!  I really did go to Ireland, and yes, I really did hoist a pint of that dark creamy goodness!  See!

But don’t put that on your Facebook.  Because your employer may find it and use it against you.  And that’s EXACTLY what happened to Ashley Payne.

Ashley Payne taught in Barrow County, Ga until this past August, when the principal called her into the office to discuss the photos.  Ashley went to Ireland, France and Italy.  While there, she had a few pictures taken of her with a beer at Guinness, a glass of wine in Italy and France.  She was told she should resign and that they would be bringing her up for suspension and possible firing.  She resigned.  Now she’s suing to get her job back.

There are a lot of legal aspects to this, including her mistaken resignation.  But the point remains, she should never have been called into the principal’s office to begin with.  She didn’t have a picture taken with students.  She wasn’t on a school trip and she wasn’t really doing anything untoward.  Her Facebook page is private and the pictures were only shared with people she approved.  But one of those people violated her trust and shared it with the principal, and the only reason to do that was to get her in trouble.

She even went on the trip with other teachers, some of whom had pictures on public pages doing the same thing.  But they didn’t get called into the principal’s office.

This brings up an interesting point to me.  I’m pretty open on Facebook and Twitter.  And I’m extremely open here in this blog.  My family is always getting on to me about how open I am, and a cute event happened the other night and my son told me “You better not blog this” which is killing me.  First that a six year old knows what a blog is, and second… it really was cute.  But I’ll respect his wish.

I’m also involved in a few volunteer activities, and a job hunt, that the people I volunteer with and my potential employers may be looking either here or on my Facebook account.  In fact, the second I post this, Twitter will broadcast that the post has been made, and Facebook will too.

Some of my friends are ministers or CEO’s or managers.  I’ve had those types of friends comment to me personally about my posts or status messages.  I asked them why they don’t leave me a comment online, and the response is the same.  Because they are afraid that an employee or church member will read their comment, take it out of context and use it against them.

So the Facebook Police are watching you.  But they aren’t working for Facebook.  Instead, they are your friends and neighbors, co-workers and employers and any one of them may try and use something you’ve written against you in the future.  It’s a chilling thought, that someone would take an innocent comment between friends and use it to hurt you.  In effect, it is worse than government censorship.  How do you complain that “Susan” read something you really did write, but is using it totally out of context to hurt you?

There are only two reasons I can think of that someone would do this.  Either they really are taking it out of context, because perhaps they are catching a conversation between two people who have a history and are talking in “friend code” to each other, and they are offended.  The other is that they know they are taking it out of context and are really trying to hurt you.

The later is just despicable.  If you’re really out to hurt someone, looking for dirt to bring up for the express purpose of hurting another, then you are among the lowest life forms I can think of.  And it’s one thing if you take something I write or post for public consumption and try and twist it into something hurtful.  I mean, I put it out there for everyone to read, and if I offend you then there is the chance that I intended to offend you.  So we should be able to dialog about it and see where we agree and disagree.  But to use it to hurt me?  Come on and grow up.

The other, where it wasn’t really a public post but a discussion between friends, is worse.  Friends do talk in code, and there may be a level or meaning you don’t understand about what is being said.  Then, not only are you taking it out of context, but you are misunderstanding too.

In either case, the intentional goal of hurting someone is low.  It’s one thing to snark, but another thing altogether to go after someone and hurt them.  If you disagree, have the guts to stand up and say so.  Don’t sneak around collecting posts and messages just to “build a case” and then take it to someone else.  Bring it up to ME and let’s work it out.

I know the Facebook police are out there.  I know that there are people reading my posts and my status messages just hoping I or one of my friends will say something they can use against me.  I know people are reading my posts and liking them, but refusing to comment because of those people.  And I know I say and post things just to get a rise out of people.  It’s who I am.

So if you don’t like what I said, tell me or please shut up.  And don’t use my conversations with my friends to hurt them.  Because I will call you out on it.  I wish this meant that more people would comment, but I’m not that naive.  I know that other people are less likely to take the hassle of standing up for something as insignificant as social media.  But hey, right now I have nothing better to be doing.

So game on!  I’ve decided I’m not going to self censor at a higher level online than what I would offline.  If I’m not willing to say it to your face, I’m not going to post about it here.  But I’m not going to hold my online writing to a higher standard than my personal life.  At least, not on a personal blog.  I’ve got a journalistic blog as well, and over there I will hold myself to journalist levels of writing (which, btw, is pretty freaking low right now).  But I’m not going to censor myself because someone out there is out to get me.  One, because I don’t want to give in to that paranoia.  And two, cause hey!  It’ll make for some fun blog posts.

I LOST A POST!

I could have sworn I had a wonderfully snarky post written and posted yesterday.  I waited for the usual suspects to speak up and harass me about it.  But it didn’t post!  I don’t know why, but the post never hit the web!  Now I’m said.  But at least this post was easy to come up with as I grumble about what would have been.  So I’ll double up today, and have a non-grumbly post later.

Devoid of thought

I’m currently feeling fairly devoid of thought.  I wrapped up a story over at Beyond the Boards, I’ve played with the Zombies over at Geek Palaver, and I’ve even done a little freelance writing.  So my brain is pretty empty right now.  No great insights are coming to me today.  No wonderful messages to scribe.  Just another morning sipping coffee and looking through the job sites.

So instead of insightful, I’ll give you lists.

Things you should do this weekend:

Go see Christmas Belles at the VBC Playhouse.
Go see White Christmas at Lee High School.
Go see Mama Mia at the VBC Concert Hall.
Hug a child.
Kiss a friend.
Help someone do something unpleasant but necessary.
Make a baby laugh.
Contact someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

And if you’re really lucky, as I discovered on Twitter, you might even find someone inappropriately and unknowingly exposed in their Facebook pictures and can share it with them, preventing them future embarrassment.  And you can do it with absolutely no snark, and become one of my heros. Or you can do it with lots of snarks, and become one of my best gossip buddies.  Your choice.

I’m Feeling Lazy

I wrote a longish post at Geek Palaver today, and not really up to writing here.  But since I’m all about the NanBloPoMo this month, here’s something to tide you over till I get to a real post tomorrow.  Facebookers will have already seen this, but blog readers may not.  So here it is.  Sean’s Expose on the life of Ants.  And if you still want to read my writings, head to Geek Palaver instead.

The Tornado

When you talk about “The Tornado” in Huntsville, everyone knows which one you mean.  It’s the one in 1989, on November 15th.  The one that leveled building from the Parkway, along Airport Drive, and on through Jones Valley.  Only a lucky few in Huntsville at that time were unaffected by the tornado.

I was not in Huntsville then, but my family was.  I was sitting down for dinner at the Fraternity House in Auburn.  My mother was at home in Southeast Huntsville, about 4 miles south of the path of the Tornado.  My brother, however, was just topping the road at the top of Airport Road, where it becomes Carl T. Jones.  My father was at a doctor’s office in front of Crestwood.

My brother made it home to Mom with little trouble.  The Tornado rocked his car, but he wasn’t aware that it was a tornado at the time.  He had a brief scare and little else.  Seeing as he was only 16 at the time, and a new driver, that is a stroke of luck.

Father was less fortunate.  The nurses at the doctor’s office gathered everyone up in the two story building and moved them into a closet.  Dad was the last to enter, and the one to close the door.  Almost.  According to him, he never got the door fully closed before the tornado hit.  The wind pulled at the door and Dad held it mostly shut as it passed.  At some point, the roof of the building left, but the people in the closet didn’t realize it till after it was over and they could look up into the sky.  The top of the door jam broke and slammed into my Father’s shoulder.  He was the only one in the closet to receive an injury.

Dad’s group of 10 or so left the closet to find it the only part of the second story still standing.  The roof was gone.  All other interior walls were gone.  According to Dad, there wasn’t even much debris on the floor.  It was just wiped clean.  Dad was the only male present at the time, and being a good southern man, insisted on helping those women down from the building.

The only staircase left was full of debris, and initially they decided to wait until help arrived to get them down.  When it started to snow, Dad knew they had to get down without help.  He carefully climbed down the stairs and cleaned off the debris as best he could.  He then used a flashlight one of the women had in their purse to guide people down one at a time and get them outside.  He repeated the process for each woman until they were all out of the building.  They then walked to Crestwood Hospital where a command center of sorts had been set up.

I got the word from another Fraternity Brother that Huntsville had been hit.  I managed to get through to Mom first, and gave her a list of names and numbers to start calling.  Lines within Huntsville and into Huntsville were full, and getting through difficult.  Mom called down to the house with updates.  Fairly quickly the only member of the fraternity with family still missing was me.  Dad couldn’t get through to Mom to let her know she was okay.

Ultimately Dad never did get Mom on the phone.  Instead, on a whim, he tried me at the House.  He almost didn’t get me there.  The Brother answering the phone was trying to keep the line clear for Mom to call with news, and Dad had to quickly explain who he was.  After getting the bare details, I managed to get ahold of Mom and tell her Dad was okay.

Waiting at Crestwood, Dad ran into a friend.  The two of them were fine, Dad probably should have gotten a stitch or two in his shoulder but he didn’t want to tie doctors up from the more seriously wounded.  He bandaged himself up with the help of one of the nurses from the doctor’s office and started trying to figure out how to get home.  His truck was totaled.  The camper on the back was just gone, the truck was beat all to pieces and three tires were flat.

Dad’s friend suggested they see if it would start, so they tried and it did.  They then put the spare on the back, giving them two good tires.  They then stole two tires off another truck that had been wrapped around a tree in the parking lot.  With four good tires, they tried to drive home, only to find all the roads blocked.  The radio told them that the roads were all closed anyway.

But luckily the front windshield was still intact, and Dad had a sticker for the Army post.  He drove north, away from the damage and home, to cut through the post and come out far south of the damage.  He then drove his friend home, and then himself.  He got home around midnight.

I didn’t get back to Huntsville till that weekend.  I drove up with the other Huntsville Brothers to see if we could help, but by then everything was well under control and the damage had quickly turned into a macabre tourist attraction.

That’s my story of “The Tornado.”  What’s yours?