Happy Victoria Day!

As an occasional Canadian, I like to mark the start of Summer with Victoria Day, because it gives us one more week of easy books, car dancing to with the windows rolled down and beach trips without the funny looks.

Happy Victoria Day!!!!

That means summer’s here!  That also means that it’s raining on my parade in Oregon, because this map is 900% accurate for my region until August when it get’s mildly hot.

This is also why I like to close summer with the American Northwest end of summer weather- Halloween, but that’s beside the point.

Because it’s summer!

Time for shorter hours at work, cute skirts, fresh local vegetables, farmers markets during the week, happier coworkers, mini-cations on Thursday nights because it’s not dark at 5pm, eating on patios, festivals, and rain.

Rain.  Because even if it’s the summer- it’s still Oregon.

And it’s only May.

What are you doing this summer?  Tell me in the comments!

Loves, Mae

 

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Disgruntled Employee Monday

Okay, I am not really a disgruntled employee.  I’m just a regular “I hate Mondays, and am on third cup of coffee at 10am” employee.  And on Monday’s like these it’s easy to play my favorite hate-on-work game: If I Were The Boss.  The point of this game is to come up with the most outlandish things that would make employers, and companies better for the employee, and industry.

My fellow lower-level employees (we’re not actually low level, but we aren’t in power positions either), have been joining me the last few weeks, and this is what we’ve come up with so far.   I think these things point out that we might be a little bit more interested in the employee experience than the bottom line.. but we are after all employees, not management.

If I were the boss…

  1. Everyone would get off bankers holidays- one long weekend a month for everyone.
  2. If you can’t take a holiday off due to workload, or company necessity, you get a floating day off, to use as you like.
  3. Employees volunteer for holiday shifts, and then use their floating days as they wish.  If there is not enough volunteers, then those who would be normally scheduled will cover.
  4. All on-shift holidays will have non-monetary compensation (ie free lunches, and raffle prizes).
  5. Company paid benefits.  Actually paid for by the company.  This includes prescriptions, dental, eye and life- healthy employees are productive employees.
  6. Flexible and Compressed schedules.   Go home when there’s no work.  Work when there is.  Teams and partners can come together to work out what works for them as people, and as employees.
  7. Everyone is hourly.  You get paid for the work you do.
  8. Ratio salary caps.  The highest paid person gets no more than 10x the lowest person.
  9. Living wages. No one working full time makes less than a living wage, after tax.
  10. Reasonable sick leave- you do not use any sick days while hospitalized.  Employees are allowed 2 weeks paid sick leave a year, with additional unpaid days as medically necessary.
  11. Reasonable vacation days- all employees are given 15 days paid vacation, and 5 days paid public service time.  This time carries over.
  12. Family Support- the company will provide a low-cost buy-in childcare program for parents during school closures, for all ages.
  13. Company and Department Lunches.  Taking time out to regularly sit and break bread- either during staff meetings or simple functions.
  14. Regular department meetings.  Mandatory twice a month check ins for the staff with their management, and a member of upper management.
  15. Snacks.  Lots and lots of coffee and snacks.  Healthy, junk food, even those weirdo diet bars for those who are so inclined.  And while we’re ordering groceries- get good coffee, tea, and creamer, won’t you?
  16. Incentives and awards voted by the staff.  Executives receive a single vote, because executives higher paid, but not more important employees.  Which is also why one incentive plan covers all employees equally.
  17. Remote or field employees would attend all meetings via video.  The expectation is you look someone in the eye when you ask them to do your grunt work.
  18. Logical dress codes.  Everyone must meet the minimum standard (lets not look like h**kers, ladies and gentlemen), but you also don’t need to be in a suit and tie to sit in a cube all day.
  19. Partners desks for partners.  Team zones for teams (bull pen style).  Build collaboration not cubes.
  20. All the office supplies you need, without weird budget considerations (Dad’s Bic Pen Theory¹).
  21. Badges.  Okay I know people are going to hate on this, but if you have more than 15 people in your office badges help with names, faces, and security.
  22. Emergency plans.  What’s your company’s contingency if your office burns down?  If there’s a snow storm?  If head lice runs rampant in the local Elementary School?  Write a plan and share it with the team.
  23. Contract out. If you aren’t tech support- get tech support!  You don’t need to hire everyone full time, but you do need access to vitals like legal, tech, and logistical support.
  24. Eradicate the term “face of the company.”  The receptionist is a receptionist.  They are more than a face at the desk, they are a living, breathing (hopefully) useful part of your team who has more value to you than just a pretty face.
  25. Banning the Blackberry.  If you need regular contact with employees outside of the office, issue regular smartphones that are user friendly, and come with explicit instructions about when and how they should be used after regular business hours (do you really want me answering a call at 3am?).  Bonus if they are dualies and you save a little pocket space for your employees.

What would you change at work?  The temperature of the water cooler?  The number of bathroom stalls to women ratio?

XOXO Mae

¹Dad’s Bic Pen Theory- for those of you who haven’t worked for my father.  Companies buy cases of Bic Pens on the assertion they are cheaper per part, which is true.  However 1 out of 5 of them never work in the first place, 1 out of 5 are chewed on and never touched again, 2 out of 5 never write well.  Ultimately you are only using 1 out of 5 pens in the box, cutting your value drastically.  But if you buy the smaller boxes of slightly more expensive pens in the first place, you replace the ink, don’t throw them away (save landfills!), and they are sturdy enough to hold up against accounting during tax season.  Ultimately investing in good pens is investing in your company’s bottom line and karma by not creating waste.

The Light Before the Dark

Covesea Light House, by Simon Bowler

The fire lieutenant’s daughter daydreamed of living in the houses on the South side of town, the ones looking down on the Bay, with widow walks and windows that let the warm glow of the light house spin in.  She didn’t know then, what those were for.  A little girl from town, who’d never imagined what the terror could be, standing at glass doors, on the third floor as a hurricane with no name bears down on a little town on the edge of the Pacific.

Our little light was built before any of us were born.   Before the ships had engines, and the bay was mapped in the modern way.  There weren’t buoys and beacons and satellite driven navigation systems.  But the fishermen were the same, grown in this town, taught to haul nets from brothers and fathers before them, wearing the knit caps mothers and sisters and girls from the county school would work on in the long winter’s dark.

They say a storm came that destroyed everything. Winds slammed ships into rocks, or cliffs or one another, and suddenly there were only the very young or very old men to man this town.  And bereaved women pleaded and got us a light house built on the highest of low ground.  Tourist’s know its name, calling it in exotic accents admiring the way it seems to fit just right into the landscape.  We just call it the light.  But then, we are just the simple people of this simple town by the sea.

And the fire lieutenant’s daughter daydreamed of living in the houses on the South side of town, where she could watch the light spin and the children play at its base, while the ships sailed back into safe harbor.  The she grew, and met a boy who sailed those ships, and bought her a yellow house at the end of the street looking down into the narrow bay.  That little light would shine into their bedroom late at night while he was gone and it would call him home to her.  But instead of a refuge and a happy home she found herself alone, a widow of the sea before a man drowned, hating the reminder which stood so strong and proud in each of her windows view.

Then came the waves, on the evening of a sunny day, crashing into the rocks and spraying higher than the sea wall protecting the tacky taffy and ice cream shops.  When the alarm sounded, it was too strong, too dark, too late- the Storm had come.  Women gathered in the Greek St. Nicholas, as the winds beat upon the stained glass filled with false sun.  The sailors too would gather and pray, if it weren’t for the fact they were fighting to stay on this Earth in the storm filled sea.  So the women prayed twice, once for themselves, and once for the men, and God would hear some of them.

And the fire lieutenant’s daughter daydreamed of living in the houses on the South side of town, but tonight, in the wind and the rain, atop a widows walk, the light failed to bring him safely in.  And she watched as the demise of her daydreams fell upon those rocks, just before her last steps on the widows walk.

Inspired by the photography of Simon Bowler, and his above image of the Covesea Light House. www.simonbowlerphotos.wordpress.com

Crisis Adverted

Or the Legend of Weed’N’Feed’s Red Boot Laces

My dirty old boots, and their bright red laces.

I look down at my boots, after the exhaustion has set in, and watch as the borrowed red laces come to rest atop the crunchy layer of snow with each step I take.  Behind me they sing- song after song after song at the top of their lungs- children singing, unaware of the glory they keep in their exuberant youth with it’s abundant energy.

Me.  I’m tired, and cold, and wet and angry about the conditions of this little hike in the woods.  Two hours turned to four when the top of yesterday’s snowfall started freezing into a sheet of ice that my brown leather boots are not equipped to skate on or punch through. My laces snapped when I tugged them tight on the ridge, and my boots scream with these replacements, ridiculous red.

And I trudge down a path, hidden in snow, though I know this trail so well, it doesn’t matter.  Shouldn’t matter.  I step: left, right, left, right, wriggling my toes to keep warm.  Checking my watch, wondering how long it has been, how long there’s to go?  And they continue to sing their top of lung songs, Tarzan and Jane and the Merry Go Round.  And I continue to trudge down the path I know so well it doesn’t matter.  Shouldn’t matter.

But then it does.  The ground beneath me, frozen and hard, is suddenly steep and slippery and gone.  I scream out “halt” and twist to see if any of the children heard me, saw me, stopped for me.  Then when I understand their song has stopped and their feet are still, their faces have frozen too.  Little girls in ear flap hats are horrified as their leader keeps going down with the slide.

Dunk weighs two of me, and walked in the back of the line, carrying the overabundant emergency pack.  He could have stopped and opened the bag, pulled out everything until he got to the bottom- a safety harness’, two hundred rope feet, smashed under a hundred pounds of granola bars and bandaids. But he handed it off to a kid instead, and threw himself down the slide into the ravine behind me.

Together we clawed to stop.  Arrest I thought, over and over I screamed in my head, arrest, arrest, arrest, then I could hear the frozen river below.  And all I could think was I’m dead.

IMG_1948

The river that runs through Camp is often too fast to freeze in moderate temperatures.

If you grow up in the woods in the North, you know that water rarely freezes at thirty two degrees- a river can run well below that mark, so long as it moves as fast through mountains.  This one roared as water ran over the great rocks that I knew were below.  My fingers cold with our hike, barely made dents as I dug into the mudslide.

And I started to slip even more, and my head began to pull to the side, and I was upside down trying to not die.

Icicle Raindrops

Drips of water build “raindrop” icicles into the River under the perfect weather conditions.

Then I stopped.  I don’t know how a sixteen year old boy can stop a hundred and fifty pounds of sixteen year old girl and pack, but he did.  He stopped me, and held me, and pulled me up towards him- without ever touching me.

Stopped I could dig in- use my hands to steady my body, pull myself up so the blood had a chance to drain out of my head back into my body again.

Dunk was locked into the mud.  I was locked into the mud.  And our eyes were locked onto those damn red laces.  He had caught me, in a single act of desperation, just a few feet from the river’s edge, by the boot lace.

He let go, and we heaved one another up from the muck, hand to hand to keep one another from slipping again.  I said thanks and scrambled to the end of the mud flow, back to safety.

There would have been paperwork. He answered.  We climbed back up the hill, and I started a new song for the kids to sing along.

These days, when the kids at camp ask me why I always wear red laces I tell them to ask Dunk.  When you ask him, Dunk will grin, and look down to the river, and say She knows I hate paperwork.

This true to my life story was written in response to Dewey Decimal’s Butler’s reflections on being saved.  Neither of us are damsels in distress, though there may be a bit of klutzy geek girl in there.  Besides, Dunk saved me once, and I have saved his butt a few times too.

Don’t Kiss Me- I’m Scottish American

Today may very well be the Holiday I most despise.
Now if you don’t live in American culture, you may not know today is St. Patrick’s Day. I say this because this holiday seems to really blossom here, in the land of cultural bastardization I mean the great melting pot.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for a good party (or at least, this geeky girl is all for your right to have a good party and for me to stay home with my book).  I’m good with copious amounts of food colouring, if that’s what you’re into (I mean red velvet cake, anyone?).  I even like the sort of community event where there is a marathon, a parade and a street faire all on the same weekend (we don’t live downtown, and Portland has an okay transit train- so what’s there to object to?). 
My problem with St. Patrick’s day is this:

Not everyone is Irish.

I’m not.
My friends aren’t.
My co-workers aren’t.
In fact, most people I know aren’t Irish.  Or if they are it’s like 1/32 and their Irish ancestors came over in the Potato Famine and they don’t even know that Great-Great-Great-Grandma’s name.
I’m not prejudice against the Irish- they’re lovely people, history and politics aside.  In general they have a warm, welcoming culture, not terribly unlike my own Scottish American upbringing.  They have good beer, and decent food on the Celt scale, and the perfect genes for amazing hair (and if our recent-immigrant neighbors are any indicator they also make the most adorable babies).
I think it’s demeaning to pretend we’re all something we’re not, both to our own families ancestral cultures which are being belittled and ignored by this claim, and to the Irish culture, which is being co-opted by those who have no interest in engaging in the thousands of special rites, rituals, and norms that fully embody the rich heritage.
I’m proud to be the daughter of Scots.  I’m proud to have a mother who gave up her family and career and life to marry the man she loved and immigrate to a new country.  I’m proud to have Grandparents who brought their son, my father, into the world while immigrating- intent on building a brighter city, and a new home church (my grandfather was an engineer, and an elder in our church).  
I’m as proud to be Scottish as my Irish neighbors are to be Irish.  They are proud to have come from families that fought for peace during The Troubles (Protestant/ Catholic unrest from the 1960s to the late 1990s), proud to teach their children the step dances that once protected revolutionaries in their homeland, proud to call a mystical fairy-tale laden homeland their own.  
The trouble is, Saint Patrick’s day (when celebrated as Americans do) isn’t about that culture.  It isn’t about the pride, or sharing the history, or supporting the many current, historical, or ancestral immigrants.  It isn’t about Saint Patrick and his kidnapping, or priesthood, or his long work in Christian evangelicalism.  It isn’t even about that weird snake story (that National Geographic explains is a big fat lie).
Saint Patrick’s day (in America) is about getting drunk, dirtying waterways, sexually harassing others,  and gleaning fake “luck.”  And these traditions in “celebrating” Irish heritage cheapen the Irish people.
The Irish, contrary to 19th century American ideals are not drunkards who suck down green beer daily, in fact alcohol and alcoholism are serious issues often discussed in Irish homes and communities.  They do no go around dying rivers, canals, and fountains with often environmentally damaging chemicals like Frat boys during Rush- they have many centuries worth of conservation and environmental protection efforts, and they are a leader in eco-building and tourism today.  The Irish do not go around pinching a girls butt based on her shirt colour.  And they certainly don’t believe you will magically gather luck from the kiss of a person who happens to have been born or have ancestors born on an island with the Blarney stone (never mind if that person has actually ever seen, or touched this stone).  In fact, like most cultures- Irish fathers would really rather you keep  your drunk paws off their daughHolidaers.
And my father, like the Irishman next door, would rather that too.
So don’t kiss me- I’m Scottish American.
And don’t pinch my butt either- because you may very well end up with a green and black and blue eye when I prove my heritage.
And that would be a sad way to celebrate a sad holiday.

Loves,
Mae

Ritual of Return

It was the same each time, when they returned, each from a different destination, hers for work, his for pleasure- though he had done much better with his time.

They would talk, annoying the server, without remembering to check the menu to order. She would peel away the layers, like an onion he would think. A hat, a scarf, a sweater, a shirt- down to the tee shirt and St.Christopher which adorned her neck, tarnished with too many wears, too few moments of attention.

He knew the jingle of those talisman, a simple cross she had worn when they were young, dents from the nervous teething of a teen aged traveler. She would run her fingers over them, smoothing flat the icon of a failed Saint, rounding edges of the Christ knot, and they would discuss the day, the night, the trip.

It was everything they needed. In the dark corners of a pizza chain, picking at pepperoni with their fingers, ignoring the grumbling staff. This night was theirs from mission and a field visit. No husband, no wife, no work or church or requirements.

Just them. In the ritual of return.

Flash Fiction, prompted by Daily Post’s Time after Time