How Bureaucrats Sneak Up on You…..

This is one of those situations that when intense frustration ends, it comes close to being funny. Here’s how it went. We decided to invest the very large sum of money to have the whole-house, standby generator installed. In this area, that means the propane tank will be underground. Naturally, we intended everything to go behind the fence. So, it turns out our yard is not actually the dimensions we think. Once measured by the people who make the rules, we were a few feet off the clearance required between the generator and something like the electrical panel it had to wire into. That meant placement in front of the fence. Next, the tank has to be buried a certain number of feet from that so now the word is that won’t fit on the same side as the generator. (Our yards aren’t very big). The tank will have to be buried on the opposite side of the yard on the other side of the driveway and walk. So, tear up 3-4 rows of pavers and a section of the walk to dig trench to lay in the fuel line.As if all this isn’t enough frustration, there are quite frankly inexcusable delays that equal into months behind schedule.

Okay, the tank gets installed and the gentleman who handled this part was a subcontractor. He was quite professional, explained everything going on and then as he finished, he mentioned in order to pass inspection, we had to have these yellow “cones” placed in front of the tank. This is in case anyone should happen to drive onto our yard and on top of the tank. When I looked at him in disbelief, he said after the inspection, we could remove them because probably no one would come back to check again. Except, and this is a big except – when I arrived home I found three bright yellow 16 inch high, 3 inch round posts in the ground with concrete to secure them. While there is no question that will provide a warning, there was definitely no moving them. Let us just say that when it comes to colors, the air surrounding me was blue as I vented my anger. Of course that was to several geckos as the guys who installed these had wisely not stayed around.

This also meant we were now in indisputable violation of Homeowner Association rules for what we can and can’t have in a front yard. Receiving notification of that violation did take a couple of months. We’d discussed a couple of options and Hubby decided planting hibiscus in front of each post and painting the posts green would work the best. We went through the approval process with the HOA and despite now being in violation of code because the posts are no longer yellow, I did insist at least one of the hibiscus should be yellow. I can’t imagine an inspector will ever come by again, but if so, I’ll argue the point.

The “Slippery Slope” of Compartmentalization….

Serious musings alert. A conversation the other day triggered the chain of thought about the ability to mentally compartmentalize. In this case, I’m referring to situations where you have multiple things to deal with and there is no way to manage them all at once. Although compartmentalizing is a type of prioritizing, prioritizing is closer to, “Let’s take this one step at a time,” rather than the infamous line of Margaret Mitchell’s character, Scarlett O’Hara’s, “After all, tomorrow is another day”. By that, I mean in keeping with her character, thinking about it another day also in general meant she would find a way to not take responsibility for her own actions.

Therein lies the three aspects of compartmentalization I consider to be “risky”. The first is the inclination to revisionism. The “well I should have said….” can morph into having thought you did so, then building the memory around that. (It’s not an uncommon trait as I have written about in other posts.) If the issue being compartmentalized is something that needs to be dealt with, then depending on when it is dealt with, the revised scenario may be brought out and either corrected or can lead to further complications. If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation that seems to be getting out of control, think back to how it originated and see if perhaps there was a basic misunderstanding in waiting to deal with whatever it is/was.

The second aspect of compartmentalization is the matter may be not overly significant to you, and yet important to another individual. You may forget about it through no malice and also cause complications because the other party/parties may view your forgetting in an unfavorable way.

The third aspect is if compartmentalization slides into repression/suppression. I do want to clarify there is a reason the phrase, “time and place for everything” exists, and that includes letting things go. Choosing to not deal with something immediately may well be the best option and then letting go of whatever it is may also be the correct choice.On the other hand, there can be unpleasant aspects to life which do require response/action and finding the way to do so is important.

Days Zipping Past….

It’s obviously been hectic or I would have posted. It’s a combination of things as it often is. There’s no actual let-up until Friday which will make it approximately two months of pretty much non-stop activity. Not that I will have spare time, but rather tasks will be spread out a bit more. Anyway, in the course of having a friend visit, I took her to Everglades City. We hadn’t been for quite some time and unfortunately our favorite place for lunch was closed since it was a Sunday and the other place was closed apparently for good. It looks as if it sustained some damage and was perhaps not re-opened. The assumption is back during Hurricane Irma, but who knows. We popped into the Island Cafe, an old-fashioned kind of place with an ice cream shop in the back part, which is separate from the main dining room. There was a lot of fried food, to include gator nuggets that we passed on. The food was good though, the service friendly, and the ice cream was excellent. We did stop at the famous Clyde Butcher Gallery on the way back and alligators were bellowing even though there weren’t any in the parking lot this time.

The fence is finally finished and if the freezer repair guy has ordered the correct parts, that will be taken care of Friday. Fortunately, it still functions well enough to not impact the refrigerator and we got everything moved to the one in the garage. It’s a filter issue apparently designed so it takes a repairman to get to it. He pulled all the drawers out and in truth, they did need to be cleaned, so I suppose that’s a good thing. That task simply hasn’t been at the top of my priority list. Ah well, so it goes.

Unintended or Ignored Consequences…..

Somewhat serious content alert. “Unintended consequences” is another term people often misuse. A definition posted on Wikipedia is, “outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action.”

The “misuse” from my perspective is when a new idea is proposed and opposition to the idea is raised, reasons for the opposition may be met with a comment such as, “Oh, you’re worrying/arguing over something that won’t ever happen.” In my experience, this is especially applicable when social and actual engineering is involved. (Business, too, but I’m not going to use those examples). Those of us who were young in the 1960s, a time of much social upheaval, brushed aside a great many concerns of our parents/grandparents warning us of potential breakdown of families, etc. A number of those consequences can be seen today. Therefore, a major increase in children with no father figure and the adverse affect that can have is not an unintended consequence – it is one which was clearly stated and ignored. Yes, I realized having no father is better than a dangerously abusive one, but there are many, many studies supporting the major problem of no father figure in homes.

Moving on, however, to an example of unintended consequences (although maybe some people did warn of this) is the recent advertising for a company that provides on-line ordering and delivery of pet supplies. One of the benefits is  the consumer will no linger have to wrestle with heavy bags of pet food, etc. That is true. What I recently learned and hadn’t considered is that some postal workers are having to retire earlier than planned because of the significant increase in heavy loads they have to handle. As was stated to me, via a third, “Sure, one or two deliveries a week is okay. But when it becomes almost a daily thing with multiple deliveries, that’s more than I can deal with.” When private delivery firms hire people, that is with the understanding there are likely to be heavy deliveries. That is not in general (or wasn’t) true for most postal workers. Is the adverse affect on postal workers more important than the benefit to the consumer? That, will of course, depend on your point of view.

It’s Always Hurts…..

Serious content alert.  I’m not sure I’ve posted about the expanded writing community I’m engaging with on Twitter. I’m no more proficient on Twitter than I am on Facebook and my friend who is a marketer is the one who got me signed up. A month or perhaps a little longer ago, one of the authors reached out and started a campaign to link more independent (which mostly means self-published) writers together in a supportive way. I have, quite frankly, been startled at the number that have emerged. There’s quite a mix of new writers as well as those who seem fairly well established and I had no idea so many were in the Young Adult, fantasy, and Sci-Fi genres. I suppose with the mega-hits of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones I shouldn’t find it surprising. Anyway, the past couple of days, authors have been posting about rejection and how to handle it or the anxiety that comes from waiting to hear about a query. One of the tough things to learn about the query process is hearing anything is unlikely. Even the standard, “Thank you for your submission, but it isn’t right for us” (or whatever the canned response) is at least better than having to assume you’ve been rejected. Way back when, a small publisher took so long to respond to me with a request for the full manuscript, I had literally given up and signed with what turned out to be a terrible choice. Had I received the other letter two weeks prior I might have had a chance with them. On the other hand, it might not have made any difference. However, getting back to handling out and out rejection. It hurts. Period. There are occasionally encouraging rejections with a suggestion or two about something to consider or even a referral to another source. In general though it is simply painful. Each author has to find a way to cope. I usually allow myself a short time of self-pity, then do something nice – yes, it often involves a lovely dinner/lunch somewhere. Chocolate and favorite beverages are good.

A Touching Post….

Pensive thoughts alert. A friend who is a marketing expert set me up with a Twitter account several years ago. While I use my personal Facebook for actual relatives, friends, and acquaintances, Twitter is pretty well devoted to my author side. About a month ago, one of the writers set a campaign into motion to engage the writing community in order for independent writers to feel more connected. It took off like wildfire and even though I don’t respond to everything by any means, I have definitely stepped up my engagement. Other writers, especially new ones, ask questions about things I have already been through and perhaps my own experience can be helpful to them. In this case  though, a young woman posted her grandmother just passed away. She was with her and they spoke of fond memories until the end. She was glad to have been there. I commented back my condolences.

As I’ve previously posted, I have a great deal of respect for hospice and the philosophy it has brought more to the forefront for many of us. Indeed, another friend was by his sister’s side last week as she passed on after not quite two weeks in hospice. In our mobile and geographically dispersed society we can’t always be at a loved one’s side in the case of something unexpected. The other side of that coin is there may be times the worst is expected and there is a respite/rally instead. Go anyway because one really never does know when the last day will come. I will once again urge anyone who has aging friends/relatives to check into the Five Wishes Living Will (https://fivewishes.org/). The difference in it and other such documents is the level of detail included; you think through aspects that may not have occurred to you before. I had a wonderful email exchange with the organization’s founders when I referenced them in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid (http://amzn.to/1aYPey5)

I realize this is not a cheery way to start a Monday, and my next post will be lighter for sure.

 

Sorrow for Notre Dame…

I think for most – and certainly for many – the initial news of a terrible fire at Notre Dame was viewed as possibly either in error or not the immense blaze it became. If you have been to the cathedral, you know the awe-inspiring engineering, the beauty of the architecture, the splendor of the Rose Window, the joy in strolling in the gardens. Setting religion aside, it is a  piece of incredible history on multiple levels. I can only imagine the even deeper sorrow for my friends who are Catholic.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hubby and I have been to Paris several times and the last two trips, we stayed near Place Saint Michele. From a location perspective it’s ideal for us. It is a short walk to Notre Dame and so of course, we always spend time there. In an amusing anecdote, when son was eleven and we were in Italy, we decided to go to Paris for Thanksgiving. On that particular trip, I booked us into a little hotel on Ile St Louis – also a nice location. We were literally in the shadow of Notre Dame. We all went to dinner and as often happened, son asked if he could go back to the hotel as Hubby and I lingered over dinner. That was fine, but when we returned, he was in the small hotel lobby reading. We asked why and his explanation made sense. The hotel was quiet and with the gargoyles of the cathedral dramatically lit at night, it did create a somewhat spooky feeling to be all alone in one’s room. He was well aware it was simply an emotional response, and he was fine, but I can’t say I blame him.

And closing on the word, “blame” –  notwithstanding the number of terror and other attacks that have become a sad reality, those were not my thoughts when I saw the dismaying photos. Buildings that old have weaknesses and in many ways, it is a wonder it survived the French Revolution and WW II. I don’t know how they will proceed with repairs nor what the end result will be. We can hope for preservation of as much as possible.

Competing for Time…..

This was going to be a busy week anyway. Multiple commitments, a friend coming into town, and some critical tasks as I am involved in preparing for two different fundraisers for two of the boards I sit on. So, a carefully orchestrated event was severely impacted by Mother Nature with only hours in which to respond. Several phone calls and quite a bit of scrambling, FB messages, and emails flying about that day and the next in setting up a new date. That, of course meant me being unable to attend an already scheduled event on the new day, but we’ll split, and Hubby will go to the function before he joins me at the rescheduled one.

The out of town friend in for a visit comes with the usual tasks of cleaning in prep, etc., and a couple of bedtimes later than usual, which doesn’t actually help with my insomnia. Related to dining out, I’m trying to decide how to creatively use some of the leftovers. Not a big deal, simply something to think through.

Next we have a crisis develop in another non-profit I work with, and it’s too complicated to get into, plus at the moment, we appear to have only bad choices. This is never a situation I like to find myself in, and yet, it’s not the first time either. Experience in such matters does help. I can delay things for a short while and hope a better solution falls from the sky or whatever.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no way I need to be concerned about getting bored. And to put things into perspective, two different friends have asked for prayers as members of their respective families have been entered into hospice and another friend is giving updates on the state of her daughter (several years younger than me) who is recovering from a stroke.

Missing Writers Conference…..

One of the things I do miss about the Washington, D.C. area is the annual writers conference in May. In actuality, the organization I belonged to was forced to finally fold due to the common problem with non-profits not being able to financially sustain in a high cost of living city. I gather another group has revived the conference. The timing was such that I was able on one occasion after we moved to attend the conference and one of son’s dance performances and perhaps the same can apply next year.

There is an energy to be had among writers even though for someone like me who has not been a commercial success, I do have to thicken my skin to hear how others have “made it”. There are always plenty of writers, however, who are still fairly new and can use experiences of those of us who have been around a while to perhaps help them along their way.I usually picked up a few good tips as well. The two conferences in this area have formats I simply don’t care for. There was talk several years ago about trying to have one here. Once the individuals involved looked at the kind of resources required, they realized it wasn’t practical. The small writers’ group has persevered over the years thanks to a couple of hard-working people. The main drawback is a lack of somewhere to meet and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in the near term. No, I don’t belong to the writers’ group for reasons I don’t intend to go into.

There are conferences in GA, NC, and TN I may look into for next year because the timing this year probably won’t work with the trip I always make to Louisiana around Daddy’s birthday, plus this is the year for the big dive show in Orlando in November. (The show rotates between Las Vegas and Orlando) Ah well, I’ll keep an eye out.

 

 

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know….

This isn’t as confusing as it sounds. A recent event with a major, mutual misunderstanding and some as yet unresolved tensions brought this expression to mind. I have been on both sides of this as in being in a situation where someone was convinced, “Well, you ought to know” directed at me, and me thinking the same about someone else. In the real world, however, I have also been in positions where I genuinely did not know certain things and I made mistakes due to that; some more serious than others.

Indeed, in continuing to reflect back on my Army days, I’ve mentioned my very first assignment was completely different from what it was supposed to be and it was a position to be held by a captain rather than the junior second lieutenant I was. At a minimum, it should have been a fairly senior first lieutenant. The rationale for why this  occurred is not the subject of this post, however. The individual who placed me in this position was also a demanding boss and only cut me so much slack. On the other hand, I was told in one of my moments of great self-doubt that his actual assessment of me was, “Yeah, she makes mistakes, but never the same one twice,” and the senior guys around me, to include him, did step in if it looked like I was going to make a really serious error. Which leads me to the first main point.

The event that set me to thinking about this was a case where Person A had an agreement that Person B was going to perform a certain service. Person B happily agreed and in fact was in multiple meetings when the service was being discussed. Person B had done something similar for Person C. The difference was an additional administrative requirement was applicable to Person A that had not been the case for Person C. Person B was not aware of this. Person A was not aware Person B did not know of the requirement. The lack of understanding did not come to light in time to correct the problem. “Well, they should have known,” was stated on more than one occasion. It’s a logical sentiment, but in truth, it was simply a mutual, unfortunate lack of understanding. Both parties are now very aware of the specific question to ask in the future.

The second main point is if you are thrust into a position you don’t have the training/background for, be willing to seek out the information/guidance you need and be willing to do the extra work to become as knowledgeable as possible as quickly as possible. The flip side of the coin is if you decide to pursue such a position, don’t try to pretend you won’t make mistakes. Again, be honest about what you’ll have to do and learn from the mistakes you do make. Stretching beyond your comfort zone or taking on new challenges is okay; just be honest about what it is you’re doing.