Wednesday, October 29, 2014

God's Beauty

I have been given a wonderful opportunity to fly to Atlanta for a couple days for some work related training. Although I am a little bit sad to be away from my girls for a couple of days, I am more sad that they can't see what I'm seeing during my flight to Atlanta. Neither of my little girls have had the experience of air least at an age when they were old enough to remember it anyway.

On a side note, I don't know if I have "officially" stated that I am a Christian in my previous posts, but this post will make a lot more sense if you knew that. (I would be a little ashamed if it didn't at least show through in what I have written though.)

Here's another little piece of knowledge about me: I enjoy listening to Barry Manilow on occasion. (You are either booing me right now or admitting that secretly you too enjoy Barry's songs.) The reason behind this is that my mom loved Barry Manilow.

I will now tie the two together for you.... Last night I had the joy of a sunset flight from Minnesota to Georgia. I happened to be thinking of my mom (who passed away last January) and I was therefore listening to Barry. Don't judge..... It's just my way. So, here I was, thinking about mom, listening to Barry, and I notice the sun setting out my window. (I had already been taking tons of photos so my little girls could see what Daddy saw.) It really got me thinking..... If this beauty and peace is seen at 40k feet. much more beautiful it must be in heaven.

There is no sound from the hustle and bustle of our earthly world. There is no filth, noise, or annoyance. (Or, maybe I don't understand what all makes up a cloud? ) It is purely God's beauty when flying above the clouds. Clear, crisp, and beautiful.

My girls may squeel and giggle over the pics I took,  but they will not understand the true beauty I was seeing until they see it for themselves with their own eyes. Much like our first views of heaven will be.

It is truly a blessing to see the reminders of God's beautiful creation in such colorful form while we are still here on earth. I may be a little sad that my girls will only enjoy my experience through photos after the fact, but I am glad that they already know about the beauties of heaven in our future and are learning to appreciate it here on earth.

Take some time to think about the beauty you see around you over the next few days. It doesn't matter if you're in the sidewalk or 40,000 feet in the air. God's beautiful creation is visible to us all. Until next time....

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be Polite....

"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet."

I'm sure many of you have heard that quote before. It has most recently been attributed to retired General James Mattis, USMC. I don't know that the quote originated with him (and I'm too lazy tonight to do all the background research), but he has certainly made it well known in recent years. There are a number of aspects to the quote that I am sure rub some people the wrong way and/or give them the wrong impression, but I wanted to take a look at how it can also be applied in our everyday civilian life.

The context in which General Mattis was using the quote (at least in the speech I'm familiar with) was indeed in the context of war. As a former Marine, I didn't think twice about what he said because I understood the intent, but I know a few people who used that quote to fuel their (incorrect) idea that military personnel are out looking for the next kill. That is NOT what was being said. In our most recent wars, our military has had to operate in the middle of cities surrounded by civilians. Being polite and professional is pretty straight forward. You are patrolling in someone else's backyard, near their families, while they are trying to go about their daily routines. While you're doing that, there are enemy combatants (many indistinguishable from the civilians) trying to kill you. It IS war. In a nutshell, be polite and professional to the other human beings around you, but don't lose sight of what you are doing, because one of  them may be trying to kill you. It is unfortunate, but true. That would be the extreme example of situational awareness.

On a slightly lesser level, I recall being told many times during my past years of martial arts training, to never let down my guard. It doesn't only apply to time spent in the ring, on the mat, or even during an actual fight. Situational awareness applies wherever you are and in whatever you're doing. Our natural instinct does much of it for us without having to think about it. It's kind of like the saying, "I wouldn't want to meet that guy in a dark alley". Well, most of us naturally choose not to walk down a dark alley. Common sense has us choose the safer, smarter route whenever we can. Even walking down the sidewalk in broad daylight can be dangerous. We are naturally aware of that car engine revving up a little too much behind us, or (not to stereotype or profile) that "shady looking" character walking towards you. That's where the be polite quote comes into effect.

I remember walking down the streets of Oceanside, CA, while on liberty during my Marine Corps days at Camp Pendleton. Some streets you couldn't walk 15 feet without having a panhandler begging you for money or having to step over a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk. There is no reason you can't smile and say hello (being polite), but you should also be prepared for that passing smile to be met with a knife or gun. There were enough police reports and liberty briefs to attest to the number of muggings of, or attacks on, unsuspecting people.

I've had numerous people tell me that I'm just paranoid to walk around the streets thinking about what I would do if the person I was passing lunged at me or pulled a weapon. Most of them are the same people who think that (legally) carrying a concealed firearm is paranoid, but that's a story for another time. Many of them don't realize that they too are doing it subconsciously. The problem is that subconscious reaction time isn't as fast as a proactively planned reaction. So, call me paranoid if you want, but that way of thinking has been stuck in my head for decades already. I've even survived all attacks with relatively minor injuries.

I'll finish this off with the mildest level of situational awareness....the office. I know, I know.... a whole bunch of reading before I got to the part that I started out saying I was going to talk about. Well, here it is. Situational awareness is an absolute must if you are going to survive in an everyday office situation. I'm not referring to a co-worker pulling out a gun and shooting the place up, but that is unfortunately happening a lot more often these days. I am referring to normal, everyday activities around the office.

I know everyone already has the be polite, be professional thing down at the office. (I know, I'm laughing too.) Being polite and professional really should be able to go unsaid, but look around many offices today and you'll realize that's not true. There are impolite unprofessional people occupying seats in cubicles all across our great land. We don't have to be one of them though.

Situational awareness comes into play everywhere from meetings to project planning in the office. Another similarity to war is that no plan survives first contact. You can gather data, crunch numbers, and devise the greatest plan ever seen in your industry for it to get thrown out on day one of implementation because of some minor detail that changed. Since your are prepared for the worst (at least if you're "paranoid" like me), you take it in stride, tweak your plan, and keep pushing forward towards the goal. If the detail that threw you off course happens to be human related (they usually are) you can start the mantra over again at the beginning and handle the situation in a polite, professional manner.

That's enough for tonight. Sorry, but I guess the class on how to build make-shift weapons with common office supplies will have to wait for another post. Until next time....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Love Fall

Growing up in Texas, I didn’t have the opportunity to truly enjoy the reality of four seasons throughout the course of the year. Texas is more of a three-season state: Summer, Hotter Summer, and Ice Storms. I will admit that there were a few days of transition between the heat of summer and the start of ice storm season. I really enjoyed those few days where I could actually smell the cooler air moving in. Although it was refreshing and invigorating, it didn’t compare to the “real” Fall I get to enjoy now living here in Minnesota.
Now, having lived in Minnesota for a little over eight years, I have started to get used to the change of seasons and started taking it for granted. That is, until my two little girls began to notice the change in seasons and reminded me of the great beauty. Although I can’t agree with their excitement that the cooler air means snow will soon be upon us (they don’t have to shovel it), I do agree that there is beauty everywhere I look.

I love the excitement my girls get from pointing out every single tree and every single color they see. A ride across town is non-stop chatter about red tree out the left window or the yellow tree ahead. We’ve been trying to get a few more bike rides in before winter hits and it’s funny to watch the lengths they go to ensure they ride through as many dried up leaves as possible….giggling the whole way.

Fall does of course bring its share of work with all the leaves that need to be raked. Raking does take a bit longer when you have two girls who want to run through, and jump into, every pile you rake the leave into. It’s all worth it though.

I was recently having a conversation with my neighbor about raking leaves. I was teasing him about coming over to rake his leaves out of my yard. The tree in the photo above is in his backyard and those leaves tend to work their way into my backyard. (To be fair, I have to admit that the two large Maples I have in my front yard put four times the amount of leaves in his front yard.) I do appreciate his plan of keeping his lawn mowed short in an effort to let all the neighbors’ leaves blow through freely. It would be an interesting concept to test on a large scale. I might even feel bad for the owner of the one yard they all ended up in….for a few minutes.

Even with the raking of leaves, I still love Fall. The colors, the brisk air, and especially my little girls’ giggles, far outweigh the work of having to rake. Besides, raking leaves is like stretching before a run when you have a Minnesota winter and shoveling snow ahead of you. So, enjoy the Fall and my excitement of what Fall brings because I can’t make any guarantees about what I will write once winter sets in and it’s 20 below for weeks at a time. Until next time….

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The New Guy

For those of you keeping up with my blog, you are aware that I just finished my first full week at a new job. A little side note: I find it a little ironic that the week I begin working in the Information Technology industry is the week I manage to delete 75% of my blog post pictures. (In case you were wondering where they went.) At least it was a deletion error on my own time and website and not a mistake at work during my first week. It's only Saturday evening right now and I'm already excited to start the second week in this new position.
I really enjoy what many refer to as the "honeymoon period" at a new job. There's just the right mix of nerves and excitement to keep the first days and weeks flying by. The challenges and rewards are abundant with all the new faces, company culture, tasks, and processes you get to learn in the first week or two. You also get to deal with being the new guy in the crowd.
Having an entirely new group of people brings a number of challenges and opportunities. I'm one of those "great with faces, lousy with names" people so I find this part a bit challenging. It's not just learning names though. You also need to learn the different personalities, groups, and different responsibilities of each co-worker. Just learning who to go to for what reasons can be a challenge. The fun part is that you get to develop new relationships and learn from a new set of people with different skill sets. I have found everyone at my new job to be extremely friendly and helpful which is an excellent indicator of what company culture will be like.
Learning the new company culture can sometimes be a challenge. It's not always a what you see is what you get kind of thing. I've worked for companies in the past that talk a lot about what their culture is like and then immediately begin showing you that it's a complete farce. Fortunately, it's very hard to keep the real company culture hidden for long (if that's the case in the first place).
The new tasks and processes are what I really enjoy. I tend to get bored if I'm not continually challenged in my work. Getting to learn new things with a new company pushes that boredom to the back burner and amps up my excitement to learn new things. Right now, I have the excitement of working in an industry that I have never worked in before (IT) while having the comfort of a role I have had for many years (customer service). To me, that's a win-win situation that I'm happy to have.
Being the new guy in the crowd also has both challenges and opportunities. I'm used to being the guy that knows it all (hopefully without acting like a know it all), so being the new guy can be a challenge for me. I tend to be hard on myself and push myself hard to try and know everything NOW. The opportunity and reward from this is that I love to learn and live for personal development. There is no shortage of opportunities to learn something new when you're the new guy.
All in all, I am very excited about the possibilities I have in this new adventure. The company culture is proving to be everything it was claimed to be. (I did more than my due diligence before applying for this position) As I said earlier, everyone has been very friendly and helpful. Don't even get me started on the joy of being away from a retail schedule and getting to eat supper with my family every night and not have to work on the weekends. We will see how this new opportunity for me (and my family) continues to play out. I'm sure you'll be hearing more from me on this in the future. Until next time......