637: Benefits

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There are advantages to living in a small town. Wonderful, affirming advantages.

There are also issues. One of those is the stranglehold a large employer has on the people who make up their current employees and their potential workforce.

See, in a larger metropolis, employees who are treated unfairly or just don’t feel appreciated for whatever reason, those employees can vote with their feet and take a different job with another company, generally without a huge amount of disruption to their lives. Many don’t even have to move their households to change jobs. As a result, some employers understand about treating their employees fairly, since they know the people have choices. At the same time, there is a correspondingly larger pool of employee candidates in a larger town, too, so maybe that advantage actually is a wash when all is said and done.

However, in a smaller town, a large employer is much more impervious to treating employees fairly because they know they are one of the few places anywhere around that has the pay and benefits people need to survive in this modern age. If an employee isn’t happy, they often are forced to suck it up, knowing that they will have to move their families and sell their homes to be able to relocate somewhere that has equivalent pay and benefits compared to the job they now hold with the abusive employer. This prospect is fairly risky, and many play it safe (throwing no rocks, here – I totally understand) and put up with being abused on the job, because it can be expensive to relocate – and it is certainly stressful to most people. I understand about needing a job, but at what cost?

Management has to get pretty obviously lousy to even casual observers before enough employees begin to lose their fear of the costs of calling it quits, and stand up for their rights, or just pack it in and say to hell with it, and get the heck out of Dodge.

I have been blessed in this employment department on several counts. First, I am a preacher’s daughter and for my dad, that was akin to being a military brat – we moved every year or so. I learned not to get attached to a house, or a geographic location, for that matter. It does not freak me out to move. I know I can land on my feet and be pretty content nearly anywhere.

The second advantage I have is that my career preparation happens to be a fairly unusual one that just happens to be in high demand in my part of the world, and indeed, pretty much the entire world over. I have always known that if I got fired today, I could pretty much be working tomorrow in SEVERAL locations not too far away, or as far away as I chose to go. Not everyone else has that security. Plus, I discovered that I can make a go of it even if I decide to leave the country again, so even if I were to be blackballed (yes, that does happen), I could still quite easily be hired overseas, because I am good at what I do, and I know it. That is also pretty liberating, and also something most others are unwilling to contemplate to escape an abusive employer.

They’d rather be abused, and stay where they are. Change is scary. It is also liberating, and full of infinite possibilities for a better life. Sometimes counting the cost costs too much. Be willing to take a chance.

Consider all the things that can go RIGHT, for once.

549: School

Jennifer Johnson, a teacher at Evergreen Campus of Health Sciences & Human Services High School (HS3) in Seattle, WA, works with students in her classroom on May 20, 2014.

Jennifer Johnson, a teacher at Evergreen Campus of Health Sciences & Human Services High School (HS3) in Seattle, WA, works with students in her classroom on May 20, 2014.

Being a teacher is a very mixed blessing. Yeah, I know what everybody says about teaching, how we are not paid enough, and how the job expects you to basically perform at God level, and how everything that happens in somehow your fault (as if you can control the choices that other people make on a daily basis). Yeah, I know.

Actually I went into teaching because I like teaching, because it was steady income, and because of the time off. Considering how much time off there is in a year’s contract, the pay isn’t horrible. Few other jobs get as much time off. No, we are not paid for our time off. We are paid for approximately (depending on the school system and their instructional calendar) 190 days of work. To keep us from starving during the summer, school systems now divide our 190 days’ worth of pay into twelve payments. THAT equals a fairly mediocre income, considering all the certification and licensing requirement hoops that teachers must jump through to qualify. But for approximately 246 days of the year (190 plus the weekends) of work time, it’s still not too bad.

Still, no teacher works a 40 hour week. If you are a teacher working 40 hours a week, you suck as a teacher. Period. Efficiency be damned, there is far too much to get done in that 190 days for you to be able to do a quality job in 40 hours a week. EVERY teacher worth their salt works far more than 40 hours a week during the months that school is in session, and often works even more days during their ‘vacation’ during the summer for certification purposes – or chaperoning student groups on summer conferences.

It is no fun being the world’s scapegoat. I know intimately how the USA feels, accused of being the root cause of all evil on the planet. Apparently, in my dedicated career quest to make a difference and improve the lives of countless people, I am considered just an inept, bumbling fool, ultimately responsible for everyone’s poor choices, and certainly not a professional educator striving mightily each day to inspire and motivate other people’s children to be and do better than they were and did yesterday. Ministers, missionaries, and priests are nodding in rueful acknowledgement of that truth. Let me ask you this – how am I supposed to fix in one hour a day what the rest of the world has screwed up in the previous hours (and years) before this kid walked into my classroom? The fact that I work on it again, and again, and again, each day, is a testament to my dedication and stubbornness. Or my complete and total idiocy – I am not sure which some days.

492: Decisions

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Every day brings decisions. Most of them are not Earth-shattering choices. What to wear. Generally, that one ranks fairly low on the importance list (unless you have a career in fashion). Some have potential long-term consequences: what to eat today, for instance, is not terribly important. But over time, with repetition of good (or bad) choices, that daily decision becomes vastly more important as the health consequences compound, with interest, over time. That is a daily choice with long-term repercussions. Some decisions are like that.

Other decisions obviously are more weighty from the get-go. Where to go to college – what major to study. Who to date, and who to marry. What job to apply for – and which job offer to take. Where to live. Whether to procreate (sometimes that choice is taken out of our hands by other choices we make).

Some of our choices lead to other choices, of course, and not just that ‘whether to have sex’ choice that results in ‘whether to have children’ choices. For instance, the ‘you choose a partner or career (or both), that is not conveniently located geographically close to your present location’ choice, for instance. This choice dilemma results in some difficult decisions, assuming you are not satisfied with doing things at a distance – which might work with SOME careers and a few (a very few) people.

You can move to be closer to the object of your desire (partner or career). Sometimes that solves the difficulty. Sometimes the chosen partner chooses you, too – and perhaps they can relocate instead of you, again, resulting in problem solved. That seldom works well with a career choice, but some careers are more portable than others are. For instance, being employed as a nurse is a universally necessary career with job opportunities anywhere there is a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Pretty much anywhere. Some careers are like that – and some are not. You are not going to find employment as a nuclear physicist in Podunk, Iowa. You are going to have to relocate, or take a job they do have available there.

Where things get complicated is when you have a partner, and you need to move for a career change – especially if your partner is also employed. Whose career takes precedence, in the choice of stay or go? Or, do you become a weekend-and-holiday relationship? Is there another solution that will work for you both?  Hmmmmm…….decisions, decisions.

What if you have a career, and find the ideal partner somewhere else? What then? Weekend and holidays? OR, do you pass on the soul mate in favor of your secure, enjoyable, good-paying career? Just how fulfilling is your secure, enjoyable, good-paying career….solo? Hmmm…….decisions, decisions.

Well, conundrums and arguments aside, people of faith don’t always have to make those choices. When you surrender your life to God, you discover that He actually does have your best interests at heart. When these gritty choices rear their heads, you can seek His wisdom and counsel. He is adept at opening doors, making circumstances and disparate pieces fall into perfect alignment, and placing the right people in the right moment to have everything that He wants just….work out.

The hard part is trusting that He will, and waiting until He does.

Keep your pants on, Abraham.

459: Security Blankets, and Letting Go

You have been warm and comforting (a little tattered around the edges, true), solid and there for so long that contemplating moving on without you is a scary business. However, moving on is what I am doing. For my own good, and coincidentally for your own good, too, I am going to move on. It is not just for me that I do this and make this choice. You need it at least as much as I need it, and since we both so clearly need it, one of us has to make the choice to do it, and I guess that one is me. Does not mean that I like it, or that I do it without real trepidation.

You have a new career, fresh, sparkling with opportunities and new chances, floored with solid earnings and a good future. You are already moving on. This is a good thing, and very, very much what you needed to do.

What I need to do is the same thing, in another direction. Does not mean that I don’t care about you. Does not mean I won’t miss you. But you can be so much more without me than you are with me. I want that for you, and I think you deserve it.

In the meantime, I need to see if I can find myself again, since I am no longer the person I used to be, either. I have six months to pull it together, and six months is quite some time for introspection, character-building and flaw-fixing. Let’s see how we both do at it! Let’s take our “before” pictures and show off our “after” pictures in six months…..Ready, Set……..GO!

391:How Come? (no pun intended)

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Why do people (read: men, mostly) in public positions, who have so very, very much to lose, engage in extra-marital sex? Why?

Some claim it is an addiction. Addictions are choices. You have to choose to try something, and choose it over and over and over, usually, to develop an addiction to it. You picked it, with a little help from some weak gene, perhaps, but – you picked it. Still your fault.

Some claim they were seduced. Duh. Sin is attractive (read: seductive), because no one would commit it if it was ugly, obvious and UNattractive. You chose to do it. Still your fault.

Some claim it was because their significant, legal choice for legitimate sex was unforthcoming with the goods. Sounds like a relationship problem you can work out with time, therapy and some serious romancing on your part – not to mention cleaning up the ugly parts of your life and character that are turning your significant other OFF to the point that they are not interested in you even touching them. And, if all those remedies are unproductive, you can divorce them and hook up (legally) with someone more compatible with your sex drive. Still your fault.

And SOME offer no redeeming ideas at all for their stupid, childish, undisciplined, sexually risky and career-risking behavior whatsoever. STILL YOUR FAULT.

319: Computers and Skinning Cats

Computers are wonderful things – when they work. The difficult thing about any computer, regardless of make or model, is that you KNOW it WILL DO what you are desperately trying to get it to do, but actually getting it to do it is the key. And the problem. And computers, to make things more difficult than they would ordinarily be, operate on the Murphy’s Law principle of inverse ratio: the worse you want to get it done (and the corollary issue of how quickly you need it to be done) affects inversely how long it will take the machine to graciously fall into line and actually perform the function you want it to perform.  The more you want it, the longer it takes. If you don’t care about getting it done anytime soon, it works the first time, and quickly at that. It does no good, by the way, to pretend that you have all the time in the world – the machine KNOWS, like any other sentient being, your true state of mind.  It sees right through you to the bitter truth: your career is hanging on this ONE DOCUMENT, and you need it ten minutes ago.

imagesFortunately for us luckless and transparent humans, the computer has a fatal flaw, which is why they don’t rule the Universe yet….there are multiple ways of getting the same function done. Rather like the old adage about skinning cats (which, by the way is a reference to fishing, not the furry, meowing sort of cats). Cat fish are a delicious variety of scavenging, bottom feeders, sort’ve like lawyers, except they taste better cooked. When you catch this fish, you will notice they don’t have scales like most fishes, they have skins like sharks, hence further proving their kinship to lawyers. You must skin them to cook them, and people who fish for them have preferred methods to accomplish this task, rather like computer users have a preferred method for performing whatever task they desire their computer to do.

For example, to get your computer to print a document, you can go to the top menu line and click File, and then Print. But you can accomplish the same task using hot keys: pressing the control key and the P key is also a command to print – and there are several more – clicking on the print icon, for example, will also cause your computer to print. See what I mean? If your preferred method fails, you’d better know another way. Or, you will be here all day, fighting with your sentient but soulless machine, trying to print this document upon which your entire career hangs. Bonne chance!