Monthly Archives: November 2015
It’s that time of the year when we will be faced with co-workers that insist on giving gifts and others feeling forced into accepting them, but then what? Is there an obligation to now return a gift with a gift? Or should we be able to gracefully decline the gift? And if we do, should the gift giver have the right to be offended or even angry?
I work in an office with people of many different backgrounds and financial obligations, so knowing what is acceptable when in comes to giving holiday gifts is unclear. To make it simple, my manager puts the offer out for a gift exchange, but leaves it up to the individual if they want to participate or not. If you do, there is often a limit on the dollar amount to be spent, usually $20. Now, of course, you will always have the person who spends way above the dollar amount, as well as those who spend very little, and feelings, both good and bad, always come into play. It is for that reason that I do not take part. It truly never ends well.
People never really accept your decision not to take part. It is not unusual to come into work and find a gift left on your desk from a co-worker. Does that now make you obligated to give them a gift in return? I don’t think it should. I mean, I didn’t ask for a gift and didn’t sign up to take part in the gift exchange, so why should someone go against my wishes and leave a gift? It may not seem like a lot, but if 20 people in your office do this, it can be pricey to return the favor. Many people do not have the money and this now places a burden on them financially that they didn’t ask for. Is this fair to do this to someone?
As I mentioned earlier, it also never ends well. If you decide not to give a gift back, there are always hurt feelings. In any office, little comments will get back to the person not giving out gifts that they “weren’t appreciative” or “were thoughtless of the feelings of others.” It’s that last one that I have a real problem with. How is it thoughtless of others feelings when you don’t give a gift back, but the other person didn’t care about the feelings of those that didn’t want to take part? Why do the feelings of one outweigh the feelings of the other? And what about the gift? Is it okay to give it away to someone else? I usually take the gift and drop it off in a gift donation box somewhere. Or give it to a co-worker who is truly struggling. I don’t make a big deal out of it because I don’t want anyone to feel bad, but someone will end up hurt. I just wish that we weren’t put in these situations to begin with. I’ve heard of offices that have banned gift giving all together and I applaud them for doing it. Now if only my office would do the same.
Let me start by admitting up front that I am not someone who goes out to shop the holiday sales. I don’t like crowds and I like them even less when I am shopping. I go to the grocery store early on the weekends to avoid crowds. I understand that some people make a game out of holiday shopping. My sister-in-law is one who gets in line hours before a store opens and rushes into the store for all of her must have items. Then she proceeds to return 75% of what she bought over the next week. It’s the rush for her and apparently many others. For me, I prefer to stay home and curl up with a cup of hot chocolate, a blanket, and if the weather cooperates, a fire in the fireplace and enjoy the quiet. There is absolutely nothing that we need that would make me go out into the frenzy.
But this year, there appears to be less frenzy. Many stores opened on Thursday, so when the reporters showed up to report on the shoppers, the stores were pretty much empty. I couldn’t help but notice that 3 out of 4 Baltimore news stations showed up to report live from the same Target store. Really? You couldn’t go somewhere else for another perspective? I can’t say where the 4th Baltimore station was. I really had no interest in clicking over to see where they were reporting from. Chances are they too were at the same store. My son remarked that their were more reporters trying to find a story than shoppers looking for a bargain. And they seemed disappointed that there weren’t any crowds or anyone needing to push and shove their way to the next bargain. They did have video of a fight that broke out at a food court somewhere in the country, but other than that, this year’s coverage seemed to be lacking in excitement.
I’m sure tomorrow’s story will be that sales were down or less than expected. (Kudos to those companies that chose to remain closed and let their employees spend time with their families.) Maybe those that were open should go back to being closed on the actual holiday. Sales were usually brisk and it was always good for video of shoppers that behaved badly. Regardless, I’ll still be at home. Enjoying the holiday lights and the silence.
It is that time of the year again. How to give back during the holiday is a question that many of us are trying to figure out. We never really have enough time to do our everyday things and then we are being asked to volunteer or donate our time to an an organization that needs help. One way is to contact your local hospice or nursing home and ask them how you can help the residents during the holidays.
The first thing that comes to mind is volunteering to serve a meal. Some places may turn down an offer to do this because many of the residents are on very strict diets and are not able to eat the same things. But many of the residents have very limited incomes. Usually, if they have Medicare, nearly all of their monthly check is paid directly to the nursing home. They are usually allowed to keep a small amount, maybe $25-35 dollars for toiletries and special things. Many hospices and nursing homes have “Wish Lists” on their websites. One item that might be listed is to pay for a day in hospice, which can run upwards of $200 a day, but other things on the lists are for personal care items, such as shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, disposable razors and toothpaste, etc. Many of us probably have a drawer full of things that we haven’t even used yet. Or extra toothbrushes from our last few dental appointments. Other items often requested are small blankets or throws. At this time of year, a throw can easily be found for a few dollars.
You can easily organize a hospice or nursing home drive at work. Decorate a box or basket and leave a list of what things are needed. At my job, we hung holiday tags along the window sill in the employee break room with items that are on the wish list for our local hospice. Employees that wish to participate take one or more tags and bring the items that they have selected and drop them off into the basket, similar to the Angel Trees that are found in the mall or area stores. It doesn’t take much to fill up a box, but it means so much to the organization and the residents who will benefit from your kindness.
Whatever you can do will go along way towards making someone’s holiday just a little bit brighter.
How many times does your boss talk about communication being the key to the office running smoothly? If you’re like me, you hear that every day and during every meeting. Changes happen by the minute in my office. You can be told something at 8:30 in the morning and by 9:30, after you have started to make the changes requested, someone else comes along and tells you that wasn’t what they were told and now you are at a standstill. Do you stop what you were doing and seek out your boss for “clarification”? Or do you continue to do as you were told? Often, regardless of what you decide, it will be the wrong decision because someone else will have decided to change the plan without discussing it with the key players.
I have realized that the more we communicate between the departments at work, the more we are criticized for doing so. Each of the section leads in the department have weekly meeting with the boss. While we each have a fixed day and time for our meetings, we often get a call or an email asking to meet at a different day or time, so we are never really sure if the others have already had their meetings. One of the ways that we as leads handle this is to compare notes. “Did she discuss this or that with you?” “Do you want to meet to discuss what we can do to help your team so we aren’t duplicating tasks?” “Let’s make sure we were all given the same information.” Sounds great right? Except it really isn’t. While the leads all want to work together, the boss doesn’t want that. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to save time and help one another out. The boss would really prefer that you don’t discuss things that affect the department among each other.
So, I’ve made the decision that I will not discuss anything with any other leads in the department. If someone asks a question, I will direct them to her and allow her to explain what she wants. If they want to discuss my section’s role, I will direct them to her. Maybe if I do this enough, the other leads will stop asking me what I’m going to do and she will have to decide every little thing. Of course, I’m sure I will get another lecture about how I’m not communicating with the other leads. “Really? I’m directing them back to you rather than have a conversation with them that you don’t want me to have. How is that not communicating?”
To help me remember, I have written, “Keep your thoughts to yourself,” in several different languages and will put it somewhere I can easily see it. Repetition is the key to remembering and apparently I need to remember not to communicate at work.
The property at the beginning of the road that leads to our street went up for sale in the Spring of 2014. It was a 150+ year old farmhouse on 4 wooded acres. The house was under contract several times before it was finally sold. We learned later that the property was sold to a developer who planned to build 16 new houses, which would amount to 1/4 acre lots. The street leads to our hidden development and had beautiful trees that canopied the street. In the winter, the trees often protected the road from getting a heavy dusting of snow, which made it easier to get out of our neighborhood. In the spring of this year, we left for work and when we came back in the evening, the house was torn down completely. There wasn’t a trace left as everything was hauled away in one day. A few weeks later, we left for work again only to return in the evening to what looked like a tornado had gone through and ripped out all of the trees. There were pieces and parts of trees every where you looked. It was horrible to look at and know that the trees that had stood for more than a century were gone. The trees that canopied the street were completely gone on one side. This was progress?
The first time it rained, red mud flowed down our street and into the sewers. Apparently when they cut down the trees, they also dug up the grass and weeds, so now there was nothing to prevent the erosion of the soil and it was clogging up our sewers and causing flooding in some of the houses on our street. Calls to the city went nowhere. People said they were told that there are little hiccups when you have progress. I’m sure those with flooded basements didn’t think this was a little hiccup. Large equipment was soon appearing on the property and eventually a crew arrived that would be putting in the utilities such as water lines, sewers and underground utilities. Our road leading to our homes was torn up and gravel was used to fill them in. More rain came and small rocks flowed down our street and our sewers became blocked again. Cars that were parked on the street literally had to be shoveled out to remove the rocks and dirt that were deposited around them. Holes appeared next to the drains on our street. The city came out and placed cones around the holes, but didn’t repair them. They said they would fix it when the construction was done. Or maybe they will fix it when it becomes a sink hole and swallows up someones car.
One day the crews cut our fiber lines for our cable and internet. They didn’t call it in and they didn’t stay around to wait for the company to come out and repair it. Stopping to speak to the repair guys on the second day we learned that this particular “utility installer” does it all the time at every site they are developing. We were out of television, internet and phone service for three days. Our provider said they would bill them for the repairs and the state would fine them because they never called in to see where the fiber lines were at. Which is probably why our water lines were cut several days later. Of course they tried to say that was a planned water “outage.” Shouldn’t you notify the residents that they will be without water during a certain time if it was planned? “Yes.” That was the county’s reply, but they were quick to add, “Progress means having to put with little inconveniences.” First hiccups and now inconveniences.
Our street was repaved in August, but only half of it. The rest was patched here and there. Holes and cracks are already making an appearance. I can’t wait to see what it will look like after the snowplows make a few passes this winter after a snowfall. We should have a lot of new potholes come next spring. The developer put up signs on each lot showing where each house will go. We noticed that it dropped from 16 houses to only 14. Then they apparently sold the property to another developer who put up new signs. They also raised the starting price for the new homes. Yep, looks like progress.
After growing up in the Midwest and living in the South for 11 years, the one thing I missed the most was not being able to see the leaves change in the fall. There was a saying that there were two seasons in the South, summer and February. For the most part, that pretty much held true. It was always warm and humid and then during February, the weather seemed to go through the three remaining seasons, rainy for spring, cooler for fall and really cold (or at least in the 40’s) for winter. When we moved to the Mid-Atlantic three years ago, I was looking forward to seeing the beauty that is fall. So I was rather disappointed when the past two years fall has seemed to arrive late and leave in a few weeks. The leaves never really turned colors. The just seemed to turn yellow and then fall to the ground. Hmm, not what I was expecting.
At least not until this year. Maybe it has something to do with El Nino, but our summer was rather mild when compared to other summers. We had a few days with the temperature in the 90’s, but for the most part, we stayed in the 80’s. We also has more rain that we usually received. So when the calendar said that it was fall, the temperatures actually seemed to agree. And because of that, Mother Nature has put on an amazing show. The leaves have been turning all sorts of colors and they have lasted for weeks. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many different shades of orange and red. It has been beautiful. It has also meant that my husband and I have been able to take our weekend drives where we just enjoy the fall show. Some of the roads, especially those in the state parks, are beautiful to ride through. Today we realized that the area around us has finally peaked. There are less trees to view and many more are almost completely bare now. So thank you Mother Nature for providing us with such a spectacular view of fall.
Our family had a good laugh Sunday morning about Daylight Savings Time and turning the clocks back. The laugh came when we asked our son if he would get the ladder to reach the one clock on the wall that needed to be manually turned back. He got the ladder out, took down the clock and proceeded to change the time. It took a minute for him to realize it was the hour hand (little one) that needed to turn back, but he had to go completely around eleven times to do it. Of course, the few minutes that it took was just enough to cause him to grumble about it “wasting time” and “taking too long.” And I didn’t mention that I had also grumbled when I realized earlier that morning that I needed to set the clock on the stove and the microwave…or that it took several tries to get the times to match up 🙂
This caused us to reminisce about growing up when you needed to change every clock in the house. My son shuddered at the thought. He’s grown up in the age of the cell phones and technology that makes the change for you. He owns a watch that we bought when he was much younger. We offered to buy him a new one and he asked us why. “I have my cell phone.” He’s right. I have a lot of watches and I can’t remember the last time I wore one. I work in an office where we can have our cell phone near us, so when I want to know the time, I look at my phone.
I remember the ritual the Saturday before the clocks were to be changed. My mom would go around the house after dinner and change all the clocks either forward or back. This was because my dad wanted to know what time it was if he had to get up after 2:00 am to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. Nope, he didn’t want to have to take the time to quickly add or subtract the hour to find the correct time. He wanted to know at a glance. It was our job as kids to go behind mom and make sure that none of the clocks were missed. Of course there was always one that wouldn’t get changed and I always wondered if it were my dad going behind us and changing it back. It was nice to think back to how it used to be in a time long past. I wonder if my son would think that he had missed out on doing this? Doubtful, but I still wonder.
And now I’m headed to the garage to set the clocks in the cars to the correct time. I guess we still have a few that don’t change on their own. But I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they do.
November is Lung, Pancreatic, Stomach and Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Month. The ribbons that are shown represent each individual cancer. Please honor those loved ones who have passed and support those who are continuing their fight. Look to your local communities to find out how you can help in the fight against cancer. Or visit one of the links below to find out more information. Anything, no matter how big or small, can help make a difference.