Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Since when is it ok to cry at work? It seems that one of the mainstays of workplace behavior has been turned on its head with the election of crybaby John Boehner as the new speaker of the House of Representatives.
As a woman who worked her way up the ladder in the federal sector, the cardinal rules I was given for each step were to be professional, knowledgeable, and no matter what happens, don’t ever let them see you cry at work. So why is it that all of a sudden, a man can turn on the water works at the drop of a dime and it is considered acceptable? John Boehner’s unpredictable crying jags make pre menstrual syndrome look like a walk in the park.
Can you see it? There is a debate in Congress about water conservation and in the middle of a speech John starts crying uncontrollably. Asked why he is crying he says,” I was just thinking about all of the water I drank when I was little and it just makes me…makes me…ooooooohhhhh… I should have gone swimming more…I just get all choked up about it….waaaaaaaaa!” Comedians, YouTube and bloggers are going to have a field day with this guy. Think about it. God forbid…this man is third in line for the presidency!
I know if I had cried like that during my career, I would have been labeled at the very least an overly sensitive female or at the worst a hysterical woman not suitable for management.
Several years ago I attended a coworker’s funeral. If there was ever a time to cry, this was one and I did. The person who had died was young with a young family, and had been taken suddenly. He was well liked and at the funeral emotions ran high. My boss was sitting next to me at the service with tears running down his face. When I offered him a Kleenex, I was sternly rebuffed with a look that said, I am not crying. Do I look like I’m crying? Why are you crying? We are management! So strong was the taboo against male tears or tears of any kind in the workplace, he could not even let loose at a funeral or let me off the hook for doing so.
I think crying is natural. I think some of us do not cry enough and hold in too much. Crying can be cleansing. Crying is the ultimate expression of grief as well as joy. The problem with John Boehner is you can’t tell which emotion he is feeling when he starts to sob. He just looks like he has lost it.
There is something very unnatural about John Boehner’s seemingly unprovoked auto-crying. I am worried about how those tears will manifest themselves in the future and what it will mean for all of us.
I hope he does not read this. I don’t want to make him cry.
Sheryl J. Bize Boutte
Monday, November 8, 2010
FOOTBALL AND FORDS
Sheryl J. Bize Boutte
November 8, 2010
I have never liked Fords. In my General Motors-centric family, Chevy’s ruled. We believed all of the negative things we heard about Ford’s lack of quality and dependability.
My earliest Ford experience came when we moved in the 1950’s and I had to ride in my grandmother’s Ford to our new house. I could not see out of the windows without standing up and that was no way to ride in a car with my grandmother’s rather unpredictable driving. I will never forget how small I felt in that cavernous, cloth-seated, smelly old car.
With that experience, I was more than ready to accept that F-O-R-D stood for “Found On Road Dead”, and “Fix Or Repair Daily”, and Flipped Over, Rolled Downhill.” Even my favorite aunt’s vintage Thunderbird was only made acceptable when she replaced the timid Ford motor with a Corvette engine. And my favorite uncle’s predilection for Fords made him the outlier in family discussions about cars. I can’t tell you how many times one of his Fords left him stranded on the side of the road.
These were my Ford values until I was introduced to a new Ford as I watched the Oakland Raider vs. Kansas City Chief’s game on Sunday, November 7, 2010. Jacoby Ford. Rookie. In other words, a new Ford.
A Ford who grabbed a kick-off return and ran 94 yards for a touchdown. A Ford, who in a sea of Chief’s, made a series of impossible catches, driving forward.
A Ford that did not leave us stranded.
A Ford with a well-tuned engine powered by the autumn wind.
A Ford that runs.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Sheryl J. Bize Boutte
October 29, 2010
Those who know us know about Big Blue. He has been a part our family for decades. He has been around so long that friends of ours call and ask how he is doing. But Big Blue has got to go.
Big Blue is a now faded blue 1979 Dodge “Power Wagon” that has been sitting in our driveway since my husband purchased him in the early 1980’s. My husband bought another Dodge truck in 1997, which he still owns and drives, but he remains attached and committed to Big Blue.
Although my husband has not driven Big Blue in years, that truck is still here. This manly 4X4, with 6” Rancho suspension, 3” body lift and 36” Dick Cepek tires is a prominent feature of our lacking curb appeal. He causes us to have to carefully back our car in and out of the garage, a feat that once drew a “wow” from a neighbor.
Recently, after many years of gentle prodding from our daughter and myself, my husband got Big Blue running again in preparation for sale. He went through the bureaucracy of the Department of Motor Vehicles to get insurance and a day pass so he could get a smog check and put Big Blue on the block. After being turned down by three smog stations, two of whom refused to do the check due to the age of the truck, and one who said Big Blue would not fit into his garage because of his 9-inch “over stock” lift, my husband is frustrated that no one will help him humanely dispose of his beloved truck.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do understand his attachment and the difficulty in letting go. If he asked me to get rid of some of the clothes I have that fill three closets, it would give me great pause. But at some point we all have to de-clutter our lives and move on.
At this point, I feel the nearness of the end of Big Blue. And as much as I want him gone, I still feel a twinge of sadness about his imminent departure. It is not just a truck; it is my husband’s first truck. And while he has been the home of countless spiders, a wasp’s nest and a large weed growing out of the truck bed, he was also the one that safely carried many Christmas trees, new furniture, and even his own replacement tires and optional performance parts. He survived being hit on the San Mateo Bridge,hail the size of golf balls, and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. There is meaning in all of this history that makes it simply feel wrong to hand Big Blue over to the junkman. After all he has done for us, and all he has been through, it would seem that Big Blue deserves a better fate than that.
But it looks like the junkman it will be. That’s just how the world is about old things. But I am going to think of Big Blue as a hero. I am going to remember him as the truck that gave us so many precious memories and in the end, gave his parts so that other trucks could live.
I can tell you one thing for certain; my husband and I will both shed a tear the day Big Blue leaves our happy home. And we have some friends who, when they call and find that Big Blue is no longer here, will do the same.
Monday, September 20, 2010
THE GREAT DIVIDE
Every generation chafes a bit at the introduction of some new ideas and ways of doing things. I can only imagine the angst over sliced bread or motor vehicles. Some changes have been welcomed ones, like electricity, seat belts, refrigerators, and on line bill paying, to name a few, as they truly made life easier or safer. The internet and smart phones have opened up a whole new world of connectivity and communication. But while many of us eventually embrace and utilize the “new” (as I have obviously embraced the internet), we may still have problems with changes that seem to move us further and further away from face-to-face human contact.
We are now in a period where we use the word “friend” to refer to people with whom we have even the remotest or fleeting relationship. We may have only “met” them on-line or once years ago, yet we label them with a word that denotes a familiarity that does not exist. But the truth is, we are increasingly operating on our own, without the joys of the handshaking, warm hug, flesh and blood interaction.
Recently, I was shopping in a grocery store in the southern U.S. When the clerk reached for my cart and began to take out the groceries, for a moment, I did not know what to do. In a world of self-check-out and self-check-in, there are fewer and fewer people to ask questions of, to converse with, to offer or receive a smile. Customer service used to be delivered, now it is something you have to seek and find, and only if you can’t “do it yourself.” While employers rejoice in their ability to reduce staff and increase their profit margins, some of us long to have the chance to get some help every now and then and leave feeling good about the human experience.
With the advent of “smart meters”, we have lost the monthly wave to the meter reader. With the increase in computer usage, we have lost the pleasant relationships we may have had with the local grocer and bookseller, and we are about to lose the daily exchange of pleasantries with our mail carrier.
I worked in Downtown Oakland for many years and developed wonderful relationships with shopkeepers, florists, store clerks and the like. Those contacts sometimes only consisted of a wave from the window as I passed by, but they always made me feel more alive and part of the great human fabric. Over the years I received so much from those encounters. I got my shoes repaired by “Big Willie” while he played the blues for me and we sang at the top of our lungs. I received a beautiful blue rose from a florist who thought that it would look good with the outfit I wore that day. I sipped Kenya AA at a coffee shop and helped the owner pick out new tiles for her bathroom. To this day, when I walk into a popular Oakland City Center eatery, I am greeted with a big hello from one of the long time employees. And at another, the owner lets me sit at a table in the kitchen to eat while we chat. You don’t get that kind of interaction on line or in a text or on a reader or on an “app.” While these things are useful, none of them is going to ring your doorbell with a surprise box of those decadent Godiva cupcakes (hint hint), or bring you soup and talk to you when you are not feeling well.
It’s as though we are physically being pulled away from each other in the name of easy and fast and more and now and me. It means that we will have to be more diligent about maintaining and nourishing our encounters and real friendships. It means that we as we use the current and future technology to enhance our lives, we can never let the “virtual” substitute or separate us from the “real.”
I am convinced that people will always need people, and islands of real interaction will always exist. I have faith that we will always be wired to have the ability and desire to leap over the chasm so we can still look into each other’s eyes.
We will surely face a lonely and empty existence if we let the great divide get so wide that it keeps us apart.
Sheryl J. Bize Boutte
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Peace and Love
Him sitting in the car under the brutal sun
His mouth a straight line of impatience
The hair curling on the back of his neck from the humidity
As he waits
Her floating from the house
In her sweet summer dress and sparkling sandals
Delicate fingers enclose the knob on the red door
Glorious and all legs
She owns the steps
One by one
He smiles and pretends to not have been irritated
Sheryl J. Bize Boutte
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
FACEBOOK ETIQUETTE FOR BABY BOOMERS
One of my daughter’s friends recently posted an article that listed the 10 commandments for using Facebook. It included things like not posting embarrassing photos, avoiding self-promotion, proposing to or dumping anyone, and other great advice for the legions of twenty and thirty somethings who flood the site. It prompted me to think about the increasing number of baby boomers like me who use Facebook and what our “Facebook etiquette” might be. Here is my list and I hope other boomers will comment and enhance:
1. Don’t “friend” your children’s “friends” unless you are expressly invited to do so. Just because they hung out at your house in junior high does not mean they are now your “friends.” This generational mix can sometimes backfire, embarrass your children and/or you, or result in postings that may make you uncomfortable. As my boomer sister says, “stay in your own lane,” with your own “friends” and your Facebook life will be fine.
2. Don’t fill your entire page with” Farmville”, “Farkle” or other Facebook game results. Make use of the “do not post to my wall” button as you play. Otherwise, it makes you look like you have nothing else to do, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.
3. Don’t send “friend” requests to people who are “friends of friends” unless you know them. Getting “friend” invitations from “friends of friends” is at best impolite and at worst, creepy. Also don’t hijack your “friends”, “friends “if you were never “real” friends to begin with. It's just not cool.
4. Don’t “unfriend” people to carry out personal wars on Facebook. Make sure that when you do it, it’s for a legitimate reason like disrespect, language, or subject matter you do not approve of. If the affront is serious enough or signifies a pattern of bad Facebook or non-Facebook behavior, it probably goes beyond this social site and should be taken care of off-line.
5. Don’t make the mistake that Facebook “culture” is the same for you as it is for the younger set. It isn’t. Certain subject matter that you may find offensive or unwise is perfectly ok with younger users. So don’t preach to them about what they write on Facebook. Do it in a private email if you feel you must and let the friend-chips fall where they may. You can avoid much of this if you follow rule #1.
6. Use moderation when you post pictures of your grandchildren. If you have to post photos of them using a separate program that requires a separate user name and password, you have probably gone too far. Also don’t post countless pictures of your dog, your cars, your yard, or your trip to the zoo with the grandchildren and the dog in the car. Be selective. Enough already.
7. Don’t use your high school picture as your profile picture. Everyone knows you don’t look like that anymore.
8. Don’t post long, meaningless, flowery soliloquies that you found in some Hallmark card that you are trying to make people think you wrote yourself. Believe me, people usually know you did the old cut and paste.
9. Don’t be upset if an old friend or coworker ignores your request to be their “friend.” Either they don’t remember you, don’t like you, or remembered that they don’t like you. Move on.
10. AND MOST OF ALL:
Do enjoy the social networking experience. Do use it to connect with your friends, old and new, and to share your life’s journey. Do provide them with comfort when they need it, and rally the cheers for them and their successes. Have fun with the experiences sites like Facebook can bring.
And no, I did not respond to my daughter’s friends’ posting. I just pushed the “like” button. Enough said.
Monday, August 30, 2010
The Real Cost Of Living as a Retiree
As a federal retiree, I was both surprised and disappointed that there would be no 2010 cost of living (COLA) increase for federal annuitants or Social Security recipients. The “promise” of the annual COLA has long been a central feature of both of these retirement systems and provided an important hedge against the never-ending escalation in prices, taxes and the necessities of life. With the decision to not provide this protection for retirees in 2010 came the message that the COLA was never “promised” or permanent. We learned that the determination as to whether or not we would receive these increases is based on the annual findings from the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Now I don’t know about other retirees, but when I sat down with my human resources representative to talk retirement, she never told me COLA’s were a “maybe.” However, at this point, my real issue is with the CPI and its utility in determining cost of living increases for retirees.
The CPI uses prices collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from urban and clerical populations that make up 87% of the U. S. The BLS surveys price information on the cost of food and beverages, housing, education and communication, medical care (but apparently not medical insurance premium cost), and recreation. The BLS process for information collection includes a monthly call by BLS staff to representatives from these areas that are located in doctor’s offices, retail stores various service establishments.
What I find most troubling is the fact that no one called me, or as far as I can tell, anyone like me. Real people are struggling with the rising cost of living and the zero raise in 2010 (and the planned zero raise for 2011) is hitting us hard. As our states, counties and cities try to survive in this negative economy, the citizens are being called upon more and more to support the infrastructure we all use and require. While I am not opposed to paying my fair share, my ability to contribute will be severely hampered by the lack of recognition of my “real” cost increases. Our federal government needs to acknowledge that my and others costs for living are not a function of the nebulous pie in the sky CPI. I am a federal retiree living with a PRI: Personal Reality Index. And to bring the point home; between 2009 and 2010 my PRI included:
v Homeowner’s Insurance: up 11%
v Auto Registration: up 48%
v Property Taxes: up 8%
v Gas and Electric: up 19%
v Health Insurance Premiums: up 18%
And yet the CPI indicates that my PRI does not have any value in determining a COLA.
The CPI alone is no longer a valid tool for determining what it costs to live in this country. Calling the retail stores and doctors offices will no longer suffice. Some combination of the CPI method and a survey of “real” cost factors should be created to assure a more accurate determination of COLAS.
The zero raise for federal and social security retirees in 2010 was a boneheaded move. To even contemplate a zero raise in 2011 when my PRI and that of many other retirees will surely increase even more is unconscionable.
And word to the wise: there are millions of us, we are organized, and we vote.
Sheryl J. Bize- Boutte