May 23, 2013

Ineligible to Apply

 When I first started working for grant-funded programs dedicated to assisting low-income and disadvantaged populations, I had a lot to learn about what made someone "eligible" for assistance. I had to delve deep into an inquirant's personal life.

Where is your residence?

How much money did your household bring in the last six months?

Do you receive food stamps? Unemployment benefits? Social security?

How old are you?

Are you disabled?

Have you ever been diagnosed with a learning disability?

Ohh.... thanks for playing but you are not eligible to apply for this program. Call again when you have been laid-off and/or lose a foot.

There were so many different answers to so many different questions and the combinations of such were like an intricate symphony determining someone's eligibility for grant money. Answer one question wrong and you could be knocked out. Answer one of the "golden" questions right, and none of the other answers mattered-you were in! For a novice government worker it was overwhelming!

One day I walked down the hall to the office of one of the other case managers who had been with the department for over twenty years and asked for help with a case. Another senior case manager had told me my client was ineligible to apply, but I still had questions. After flipping the file onto my second opinion's desk, I voiced my concerns about the client. She picked it up, scanned the documentation and said, "Yeah she is eligible." I pouted and sat down. I would never get the hang of this! I explained that I was already told by someone else that my client did not qualify. The woman across the desk smirked and said something I will never forget because it has become a metaphor for every discerning moment in my life since.

"Yeah? Well, when that case manager looks at a client file, she looks at every single way they don't qualify, and tries to MAKE them ineligible. When I get a client, I try to look at every way that they ARE eligible. This one is eligible."
Simple as that. Yet, it has taken me years to see how people apply this philosophy in other avenues of their lives. So many people are looking at a person, a group, a theory, or a social principle in a way that already sets them up for disqualifying them from their life.  Are you one of them? Are you trying to find an excuse to distance yourself from the convicted felon who has a kid in your kid's class? Do you pretend to be on the phone when someone of a different race comes into the break room at work? Are you hiding behind your Bible as an excuse to withhold grace from certain "untouchables" in your life? When you meet a new person and they say something you don't agree with, or have a lifestyle that is not in sync with what you feel is right, do you focus on that instead of focusing on all the things you DO have in common?

Are you making people ineligible to apply for a spot in your life? If you are, you are probably missing out on some extremely wonderful, rewarding, and loving relationships. And I feel sorry for you.

Try making everyone eligible. Seek the good and the similar in everyone, and I guarantee you will not regret it.

April 5, 2013

The Demise of Free-Thinking Sane People: Part 3

Sometimes, I get the pleasure of hearing why some of our youths cannot find work. It is always an enlightening experience. For instance, recently I was blessed with this tidbit of information, "I had to quit because I stood up all day and only got one half-hour lunch break, and two fifteen minute breaks."

Yes, that really happened. I almost gave myself an aneurysm while attempting to keep my composure. I have to ask, "What happened to this generation?!?" Why do they assume they should not have to pay their dues? What exactly happened to them to make them feel as though they should be able to make six figures at a desk job with nothing but a high school diploma?

I replayed all of my menial jobs that I had in my younger days. Working outside in 105 degree weather with one thirty minute break all day, scrubbing cars for assholes who yell at you because they think the rust stains that have resulted from their neglect through the winter with their months of salted streets and stinging winds,   should magically be gone after a ten minute car wash. The other job where your manager stole your tip money on a daily basis. The fast food position where you were hired on as a cashier, but the chicken fryer quit the same day you started so you ended up plucking chicken carcasses and throwing them into week-old fryer grease.

What happened? I distinctly remember laughing out loud at a 6' 5" college basketball player four summers ago when he called to tell me he couldn't work anymore because it was too hot outside. He said I wouldn't understand. Obviously, since I now worked in an office, there was no way in hell I could know what he was going through. I mean, right? I walked straight off the graduation stage and onto a full-time union job! Of course! He wanted me to talk to his supervisor. It was just TOO hot outside to work. I told him to suck it up and don't call me again unless he is vomiting or his skin was bursting into flames.

Guess what, young'uns. You are not going to start out in your dream job. You aren't going to begin some big fancy career straight out of college. You are going to have to start out at the bottom and work and claw your way up the ladder. Then, if you are like me, you will be knocked down a few pegs, have to start all over, work your way back up, get laid-off, and have to start again.

There are no free rides. There are no easy ways out. Sure, all of us know someone from a wealthy family who ended up not having to pay their dues. But, trust me those people are not really better off. Be a self-made person. Do your homework. Get your shit together and don't whine about every perceived injustice in your life. If your supervisor makes you do THEIR work-don't complain. Write it down. Put it on your resume. Guess what? Now you can do YOUR BOSS' JOB! That isn't something to complain about, that is something to leverage.

 Don't go into your career counselor or recruiter's job bitching about how "rough" it is out there. If they are even five minutes older than you they are going to laugh their asses off. Especially if you say something like, "I wish I had YOUR job." If they are like me, and paid their dues with a bad-ass mentor with crazy deep quotes coming on the regular, they are going to look at you and say, "If you want what I have, you must do what I do."

And just remember, if you didn't have to work for it, it probably isn't worth anything.

February 20, 2013

The Demise of Free-Thinking Sane People: Part 2

Once you have finally gathered the strength and courage to go out into the world after hearing about all of the scary things that may happen to you while you are dropping your daughter off at school, or crossing an intersection, you relax.

After all, you successfully got BOTH of your kids to their destinations without your 86 year old neighbor with the child-molestor van kidnapping them, you made it the two miles to your office without a meteorite falling from the sky and crushing you, and you have researched the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism for half an hour and are pleased to announce that  you are not suffering from any of them (yet).

You arrive at work feeling pretty accomplished, right? You are early, and you had time to get your coffee and some breakfast on the way in. You then walk into your office and sit down at your desk where you more or less are sedentary for the next 8 hours.

A lot of things can happen while you are sitting down for 1/3 of a day. For instance, your metabolism slows to a stand still and you eat half of a sheet cake that was baked by a co-worker all by yourself. I don't have any solid scientific or medical evidence on this, but it is my personal opinion that sitting in an office for 8 hours while consuming pure sugar out of boredom can make a person completely and totally bat-shit crazy. Also, office work can sometimes get monotonous. This can lead to your mind wandering while you are going about your usual business. I have found that this monotony and boredom can result in certain people making up shit to be offended about.

I have based my findings on newspaper articles detailing a litany of baseless lawsuits and editorials, as well as the comment section of any politically-charged online news article. Also, corroborating evidence was found in the newsfeed on my Facebook page. Due to the INSANE amount of information available to the public at large, and the boredom suffered by mammals who no longer have to hunt for food or chop their own firewood, or use their brain to do hardly anything to survive these days, you can't go a day without hearing someone throwing a fit about what the president had for breakfast, or someone going toddler-tantrum-style about the pay of some big wig CEO. Americans can start a petition or protest about occurrences half way around the world, even if they don't understand them or have a very limited understanding based on their own egocentric view of the universe.

And sometimes, as I sit in my tiny office and stuff myself full of strawberry cake with strawberry icing, I fall into the trap myself. When all you can find to read are stories about how pissed off you should be about every single thing that you don't agree with, you start to have an over-inflated sense of entitlement. Some people never snap out of it. They go on believing that everything in the universe should fit into their own tiny boxes, never offending the schematic they have set in their own minds. They become assholes incapable of recognizing the worth of other cultures and refusing to see things from a different point of view. Which is why, I have decided to give up sugar while I am at work.

Just kidding. I had three cinnamon rolls today.

February 15, 2013

The Demise of Free-Thinking Sane People: Part 1

The sanity of Americans, collectively speaking, seems to be sinking to an all-time low. All Americans. Not Republican Americans, or Democratic Americans, or Libertarian Americans, or Green Americans... All of us.

And why shouldn't it be sinking? We have a media whose only job is to make sure we are too scared to go outside, make new friends, take a vacation, or discipline our children. They keep us abreast of which new phobia is all the rage. And with technological advances, they can scare us with news from every single continent in real time! The media lets you know who you should like, who you should hate, who you should fear, what you should eat, and where you should live!

Every. Single. Damn. Day. If you are like me, your morning goes a little something like this:

You turn on the news in the morning while you are getting ready for work. You are just curious as to what the weather will be like so you know whether to wear a light jacket or a ski suit to the office. Also, it is just kind of nice to have white noise in the background as you complete your morning routine. As you are in the bathroom applying mascara you hear a perky, over-caffeinated voice coming from the next room, "Are you too fat to live? You might think so, BUT new research shows that if you are skinny, you might DIE earlier than if you are fat. Of course, if your BMI is over this certain threshold, you could ALSO be at an increased chance of dying sooner than those other people who are just the right amount of skinny. Find out where YOU fall after these messages from our sponsors." You look down at yourself and think, Ohmigosh. Am I the right amount of skinny? I don't even know what my BMI is anymore. Holy hell, when is the last time I went to the doctor--

Then the pharmaceutical commercials start and interrupt your inner dialogue about the BMI dilemma with the following: "Do you have frequent outbursts of laughter and or sadness? Millions of other Americans also laugh and cry. Some suffer from this everyday. You are not alone. BUT you are  ALL inferior and need this pill to make you better people."

Are they SPYING ON ME??? I laugh and cry ALL THE TIME. It is CONSTANT. Do I need that pill? Maybe if I were a better person, people would quit flipping me off on the freeway...

"Back to your news for the morning! But before we tell you how fat you should be for optimal health, we first take you to Mike in the newsroom. He is going to tell you some very critical information on how to know if your sweet, elderly neighbor is really a terrorist who is secretly plotting to kill you and your family. That might look like a regular old van in his driveway, but we have experts from a tiny island in the middle of the ocean who have had experience with one man who possessed a van much like the one your neighbor has-and they know better. And they are here to scare the absolute shit out of you purely for a network ratings boost. Mike?"

Holy hell. My 86 year old neighbor DOES have an old van. I better listen to what these experts say. It could save my life for heaven's sake! I KNEW he wasn't just taking his wheelchair-bound daughter to the grocery store in that thing. How stupid could I have been??? You just can't trust anyone these days. Man, you learn so much when you are just trying to see the windchill factor for the next 24 hours!

"Have you ever taken a birth control pill? If so, you are most likely going to die from a pulmonary embolism very soon. Please call us so we can sue your doctor BEFORE YOU DIE!"

Ok, fuck this. I'm going back to bed.

February 14, 2013

Wake Up

Sometimes you wake up and you just know

there are people in your life that you keep there for no reason.

Or, more accurately, people you keep there because they have always been there.

And if you remove them, there will be a nasty little clean spot around which the dust settled.

And that spot will remind you of how long it has been since an inventory of your well-being has been taken.

Sometimes, you wake  up and you just know

there are people in your life you have taken for granted.

They have always been there, despite your neglect and nonchalance.

And you can move them to the places where you have just been dusting.

And even if they do not quite fit, their spot will remind you of how far you have come since the last time you awakened.

January 15, 2011

Dear Eagle Watchers:

Dear Eagle Watchers of Alton:

Just because you catch a glimpse of a Bald Eagle on Route 143, that does not give you permission to slam on your brakes in the middle of the highway, or drive 30 miles an hour in the left lane while simultaneously trying to take a picture out your window. If you do decide to actually pull off the road, you should not get out of your car and proceed to stand in the MIDDLE of the right lane to get a better picture of said birds.

Yes, I realize they are our nation's bird, and are a symbol of all things majestic and brave and beautiful. But seriously people, they come every winter. And they hardly ever do anything that exciting, anyway. Now if one of them starts dive-bombing sight-seers on the levee, I will be the first in line to watch that show. Until then, I must ask if it is really worth taking your life (or the lives of those around you) into your hands to watch an over-grown hawk sit in a tree, or crap along the side of the road.

So, in closing, let me assure you that I, for one, will not feel that bad for wrecking into you if you are driving like a jack-wagon, or are standing out in the road as if it is your own private eagle viewing party. The road is NOT a parking lot! Go further up the river road where you can actually park and view the eagles in peace without the threat of becoming roadkill.

December 2, 2010

The New Driving Test

There needs to be a different take on the plain old driving test people take at the DMV. Surely there is a more life-like driving test than one where you are in a car with a crotchety old lady taking notes on her clipboard while you make laps around a parking lot, cross one busy intersection and drive politely through a low-traffic neighborhood.

Personally, I think the driving test should consist of a half hour trip on a busy interstate during rush hour. Because if you are trying to merge in front of me on 270 at 6pm, I really don't give two shits if you can do a perfect three-point turn-about, or that you know to stop for 3 full seconds at a stop sign. All I care about is that you know you should be going more than 40 miles per hour, and that if you really want out of the Exit Only lane, you have a fucking blinker on.

Now, I know it would be hard to perform a test of this magnitude on a daily basis... what, with all the DMV cronies being unionized and all. So, I propose that in the case that a proxy is needed, a new driver has to have a dash camera installed for a week, and can drive alone under a provisionary license, pending approval after the viewing of the week's video tape. Seriously, this whole driving debate has gotten out of hand. I know I have a short fuse when it comes to the road, and I know I have a lead foot, and that I prefer people who know to get the hell out of my way-- but that isn't the whole story. The rest of the story starts like this: PEOPLE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO F'ING DRIVE!!!

Now, they have these new laws saying kids can't drive until they are 18, because studies show 16 year olds have the most wrecks. No shit, they have the most wrecks. They are the least experienced! Now, instead of having 16 year olds who don't know what the hell they are doing, we will just have 18 year olds who don't know what the hell they are doing. And NOW they are two years behind in finding out what the hell they are supposed to be doing. So, when they are 21 and in college, they will still be driving like we did when we were 18 and now they can also drink, so it is just going to be a disaster.

And truthfully, some people will just never have a clue. There are 16 year olds RIGHT NOW that I am SURE could drive better than some 30 year olds I know. These are the facts, folks. I don't know what the point of this rant is, except that I am just really pissed that I am going to have to drive to St. Louis tomorrow in snow, and I know there will be idiot drivers out there who think they are excellent because some old biddy with tri-focals said they pulled out of a driveway without crossing the center line, so they got an extra star on their licensing test. And my panties are pretty twisted about it.