Happy 35 to Meeeeeeeeeee

I just celebrated my 35th service anniversary with AT&T.  By “celebrated,” I mean I got some very nice congratulatory emails/letters, a new watch and Keith and I get to go out to dinner soon.  I choose a watch as my gift for my 25th and 30th anniversaries, too, so, I’ve told my boss – she can’t fire me for five more years.  I need four watches – one for each daughter.

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Sorry, kids, I like a watch to tell time – not a cell phone  I gotta dig out of my purse.  And I like a nice big dial.  And no extra buttons.  A few years ago, I bought a cheap waterproof watch to wear during our frequent trips to Fiesta Texas.  Somehow I set the alarm for 3 a.m.  I could not figure out how to un-set it.  Finally I stuck the watch in the bottom of my underwear drawer and waited a few months for the battery to die.

A lot has changed in 35 years.

I plopped my briefcase at 23 different AT&T desks before starting to work from home in May in 2013.   I worked for AT&T, then Southwestern Bell, then Southwestern Bell Telephone of Texas, then SBC and finally AT&T again.  When I started with the company in 1979, I had to return to my former employer – Remco TV Rental – and swipe a phone book because they were all out at 9051 Park West in Houston.   Calculators were considered a “capital expense” and hard to get, so my creative boss found a company to bill the $100 wonder over three months.

Now any phone book left on our doorstep goes straight into the recycle bin, and if Excel doesn’t total it, I whip out my iPhone.

I was the first in our work group to get an IBM System 36 in 1986, but it wasn’t totally necessary for my job.  Now I die a little inside when my laptop is slow to boot.  It was a red-letter day when I got a speakerphone in 1988 and my unit could cluster around to ask questions of a plant foreman, or an M&P writer.  My friend Kim Soo described its color as “baby poop yellow,” but I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  Now I am tethered to a headset, and once I log off for the day – forget the phone, I curse every ring.

I don’t miss working in an office.  I surely don’t miss the commute, or the noise, or the odd lighting.  I do miss having friends I can see, though.  Yes, believe it or not, I still have working AT&T friends, and I treasure them.  But I can’t see if their eyes are bloodshot, or if that limp is still bad, or if they’re ducking their heads when they say “it doesn’t matter.”

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(clockwise, l-r)  Vicki (retired), Maggie Bob (retired), Gaye (quit), Me, Lisa (retired), Lisa’s Kristen (grown up), Donnette (quit) and Kim (retired) soon after I went to work for the company.  We used to actually eat lunch – together!  And sometimes dinner, just for fun.  Crazy.

But lots hasn’t changed either.  Not really.

Good managers are still good managers.  And others…well….

My friend Vicki used to say “a good manager can manage anything.”  Oh sure, plenty to quibble with there – but largely, I think she’s right.  And good managers are still good managers.  The kind of people from whom I used to sit across a table during monthly/annual close (Accounting) and know they were doing their jobs so I could do mine – now I just talk to that same type of people on the phone, and we share documents in T-space.   They’re reliable and mean what they say and don’t confuse activity with productivity.  They don’t wait to be told, and they don’t have to bully to get their way.  They’re not afraid to express an idea or an opinion, and they support others that have good ones.

Mechanized means faster, but not necessarily better.

I’ll all for mechanization of tasks, but when it’s not well thought-out, it just means you make more mistakes faster.   So do it right, or don’t do it.  I used to roll my eyes when my mom said, “That’s what you get when you try to hurry.”  Now I understand it.

You still have to look in a mirror.

So your boss used to see you come in, knew when you went to lunch, knew when you went home, etc.  And now so many people are remote – or, like me, working from home, so who really knows?  Well, in my case – I do.  I used to marvel that someone would risk their job by stealing a pair of scissors (jamming down a opened blouse, no less), or falsifying a time report (How many dead grandmothers have you had?!)  Now when I learn someone is a cheater, I am irritated – but I also fear for society.

There’s still a place for fun.

Granted, no more skits, or leaving a Baby Ruth in the toilet bowl for the QWL Manager to find.  But there’s some hilarious stuff posted in Q-rooms, and one joke on a conference call can lessen a lot of tension (of which there is often a prodigious quantity.)  Plus Facebook – yeah, that’s a place lots of us work friends whoop and holler.  I used to say it was harder to get/stay mad at someone I’d met – still true.  But now it’s also harder for me to get/stay mad at someone whose life I share digitally.

Ready or not, here it comes.  There’s always something new to learn.

None of the jobs I’ve done since 1997 existed when I came to work for the company in 1979  – certainly not my current one working with super users and the content of the AT&T Community Forums (which I love, BTW.)  But wow – never get too comfortable.  There’s always a new product, a new organization, a new “something” coming.   I’m not a fan of much hype – don’t tell me how wonderful it is, just tell me how it fits and what I need to do.

You can still do good things.  Or not.

We don’t pass envelopes for baby gifts or funeral sprays any longer – but paypal, hey, it works.   A congratulations or sympathy card mailed to a home address still gets there.  eCards just take a minute to send – and many do.  Kind words are still kind words, whether said in person or by email.  And my AT&T – and/or retired/former AT&T friends – remain the biggest source of selfless gifts to Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child in my world.

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Our game room is now – and will be for a few weeks – an “Operation Christmas Child Disaster Zone.” 

So Happy 35 to me!  And at least five more.  I need that fourth watch, people.

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Beardies

I don’t do maintenance items that don’t call me “Mommy.”

Rachel and Keith exhibit no such compunction.

Rachel brought bearded dragon “Louis” into the family this summer.  I could not believe anyone would want a lizard as a pet, but darned if she didn’t.  And I have to admit – for a reptile, he’s pretty chill.

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Rachel says bearded dragons are the “dogs of the reptile world.”  They’re usually very receptive to being held, petted, talked to, etc.  In fact – Rachel’s first day of class this fall, when she was gone much longer than usual – Louis’ underbelly had scary black “stress marks” from lack of human contact.  A few minutes of cuddling – he was fine, stress marks gone.

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Rachel keeps Louis’ glass tank at 100 – 110 degrees using a heat lamp.   She wraps him in a “blanket” (soft, cut-up T-shirt) to tuck him in at night.  She hand-selects his greens, worms, etc., and weighs him every Monday (he’s now 213 grams – pushing half a pound.)  She bathes him when he’s in shed.  Louis routinely falls asleep on Rachel, Hannah and Julia.   Spoiled much?!

Keith, of course, wanted his own bearded dragon – a problematic desire since his mean, checkbook-waving wife is always chanting, “Three kids in college!  Three kids in college!”  So Rachel won one for him in a contest sponsored by the much-respected Webe Reptiles.

Keith’s new beardie – Norbert – is a beautiful citrus color, like Louis.  He’s living in his own tank – apparently males cannot share the same space (true across the male species, I believe….)  He was born in Germany, shipped to Webe Reptiles in in Florida, then later shipped to us.  Yes, people ship lizards, and their un-boxing videos are a thing.   Yes, a thing.  Who are we to miss a thing?


I think it’s a little long, but I’ve been assured many un-boxing videos exceed 20 minutes.  You can fast forward to the 2-mimute mark to actually see Norbert.

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Norbert – king of his very Hogwarts-esque castle – is now 75 grams, or about 2.6 oz.  He, too, loves his heat lamp.  He’s watches everyone neat his tank, and responds to sound.  He’s not as affectionate as Louis quite yet, but like Hungarian Horntails, Swedish Short-Snouts and and Chinese Fireballs – he just needs some time.

So now we have two bearded dragons in tanks, and one roaming free through the house…

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…in fact, he’s the one on the left, and he’s my favorite.

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Glory Days: 4 Things

This weekend Keith and I attended my 40th high school reunion in Houston.   What a hoot!

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Fajitas almost as good as Keith’s

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Loved seeing my yearbook near the door.   Being yearbook editor taught me invaluable life lessons.  Plus it was just fun.

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My friend Ted and I were Madison’s “Gemco Debate Representatives” in 1974, arguing the heck out of students across HISD.  I took the third place $500 cash prize – an enormous help with college costs.  I think tuition at the University of Houston was then $9/hour. 

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Ted – a long-time State Department guy in Washington D.C. – and I now.  Both of our hairdos are a lot shorter.  Mine is also a lot grayer.

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Patti and I were best buds, often playing tennis at ungodly hours because that was the only time available to each of us.  I doubt she pictured herself in the legal world for umpteen years, and I know I never pictured myself with AT&T for 35 years.  But you know what?  We’re both happy.  

Four Things I’m Glad I Learned in High School

1.  How to organize – thanks to working on the yearbook.  Yearbooks before ours had lost money.  I was determined ours would end in the black – which it did, by a whole $50.  But we did that by meeting all our publishing deadlines.  I will always be grateful to my favorite teacher of all time, sponsor Marilyn Dodd.

2.  How to “cut it by 10%.”  Mrs. Spain – our senior honors English teacher – routinely collected essay assignments, flipped through them, handed them back and instructed each of us to “cut it by 10%.”  She then compared each version to ensure we included the same ideas/points.  At first I bristled.  Then it got to be a challenge.  Finally – a talent which served me well in employee information development, headline creation, quick tweets, etc.

3.  How to disagree respectfully.  I’ve never liked reading Shakespeare, but, of course, there’s no opting-out of the Bard in high school.  We had to read “Hamlet,” and I tried desperately to write the required lengthy essay by parroting all the things I thought Mrs. Spain wanted me to say.   All those “deeper meanings” and the like.   Kill.  Me.  Finally I just stopped and really thought about it.  “If a guy came up to me and started yacking about his father the ghost and his mother the tramp and abandoning his pregnant girlfriend and treating his best friend like dirt, I would think he was a selfish nut job.”   So that was the angle of my paper – Hamlet was a self-centered whackmole.  I got one of two A’s in the class, but mine was the only paper that strayed from the traditional view.  Debate class and intramural debate also helped tremendously.  I didn’t always like arguing “the other side” – but I could do it then, and can usually see it now (even if I don’t agree.)  BTW – Get in my face or ignore me, and I can argue very disrespectfully, too.

4.  Images matter.  Or that picture really is worth 1k words.  Our yearbook photos were less-than-stellar.  Really ate at me.  A year later – when the chance came up to learn to use the nice 35mm SLR Vivitar belonging to the owner of Remco TV Rental – I jumped at it.  Learning to take good pictures has helped me personally and professionally.  (So why did I forget my camera the night of the reunion and have to use my iPhone?!)

Four Things I Wish I’d Learned in High School

1.  Start saving.  I’ve always been fairly thrifty, but I’ve wasted a lot of money, too, that I wish I had now.

2.  Read more and more broadly.  I read a lot in high school,  but it was almost all World War II and Civil War history.  I didn’t appreciate an engrossing  novel until early in college, when my sister Judy and my mom were trading sackfuls of Nero Wolfe mysteries and I picked one up as a lark.

3.  More of the “why” as well as the “what.”  I temporarily memorized buckets of European history dates but even now am uncomfortable fitting them into timelines of modern day events i.e., why do they matter?  I don’t doubt they do matter, but I can’t explain them.  I’d rather know the “why” and look up the date.  Ditto hydrogen orbitals which I can dutifully chant – 1S1, 2S2. 3P6….but what do they mean?  I might have done better in college calculus if I’d ever understand why I wanted to measure the area under a curve.

4.  Stop and have some fun.  My workaholic tendencies have not always served me well.  I don’t care about football, but wish I’d gone to more than one game just to be with my friends.   Money was tight, but I could have gone to a few more movies just to hang out.

Four Things I Do Miss from High School

1.  Saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day.

2.  That wonderful smell and sound of a textbook cracking for the first time.

3.  Christmas break.

4.  And mostly….eating lunch with friends.

Four Things I Do Not Miss from High School

1.  Gym suits.

2.  Green beans dripping from the gloved hands of cafeteria servers.

3.  The “designated smoking area” outside the main building door.

4.   Caring what people think.

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Whew, this blog has worn me out….

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Do the Locomotion With Me

We have three in college this year.  What WERE we thinking?!

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Just before we returned Lois to A&M last week.  Though not a standard back-to-school photo, Rachel said it was “the most accurate representation of our sisterhood you could possibly imagine.”  (l-r)  Hannah is a freshman at UTSA.  Birds up!  Rachel is student teaching in preparation for graduation from UTSA in December.  Let’s Get Rowdy!  Lois is in her middle years at A&M.  Whoop!   And Julia?  Eighth grade, baby.  Last year of middle school.

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Hannah with a few thousand UTSA Class of 2018 buddies on Monday.  She’s the one in the orange shirt.

I held off posting an obligatory “first day of school” blog Monday awaiting happy news from Rachel, which arrived via text a few hours ago.  She got her student teaching assignment….drum roll….envelope, please….she’ll be at NEISD’s brand spankin’ new middle school, Tex Hill.  It opened this week, and is only 5.6 mi. from our house.  It’s the last middle school NEISD will build.   She’s over-the-moon excited to be assigned to the English department head.  We’re thrilled for her.

But in the meantime….speaking of education….Keith and I will be attending my 40th high school reunion this weekend.

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My senior photo which appeared in the All New & Quite Exciting 1974 Madison Marlins Mariner yearbook, of which I was editor – a great learning experience 

So what’s life like with three in college – and a middle schooler?  Julia needs breakfast and lunch made and her gym clothes are everywhere, Hannah wants more Lean Cuisines stocked in the freezer, Rachel dashes in and dashes out leaving a trail of Post-it Notes, the house stops when Lois calls?  Well, it’s a lot of activity to handle.  Reminds me of a song I expect to hear this weekend, because it was my favorite dancing tune in 1974.

 

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Posted in Family, School Rules | 5 Comments