Gratitude vs. attitude at 6 a.m.


Photo by Misserion via Creative Commons

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am not a morning person.

Whether or not I embrace the darkness before dawn, I have no choice most days.  My Girl from the West starts school at 7 a.m. School is more than 25 miles away. We need to leave the house at 6 a.m. This means I get up at 5 a.m. in order to shower, prep things for Girl from the East to get to preschool on time, and most importantly,  to chug massive amounts of coffee.

Today we needed to stop at the corner gas station/convenience store to make up for some lunch shortcomings. As I entered the brightly lit world of piped-in pop music, polished tile, humming refrigerator cases and shelves bursting with packaged foods, I noticed the attendant on duty. He was well-groomed, middle-aged and whistling contentedly as he wiped the coffee /doughnut counter.

“You must put in some serious overnight hours, huh?” I asked, figuring the guy was lonely.

“Oh, it’s not so bad. I start at 10 and end at 6,” said the attendant as he walked briskly to the cash register. I noticed he had really nice teeth. The register sang a little electronic ditty as his fingers danced on the keypad. “I am so grateful to have a job. Very thankful.”

I grabbed my change, the plastic bag containing bottled water and Doritos, and looked up at the lean, tidy man with the dazzling smile. He was at the end of his shift and looked as if he’d just showered and shaved an hour ago. I wondered if he had a wife and children and if they missed him at night, when he wasn’t there to read bedtime stories or administer good-night kisses. Or, was a dark and empty apartment  awaiting, with only the mewing of a hungry cat to signify anyone’s absence.

It wasn’t until I slipped out of the artificial light of the shop and into the dark and chill of predawn that his words reached the processors of my brain.

“I am grateful to have a job.”

He didn’t say: “Working nights sucks” or “Those bastards at (Company X) let me go and now this is all I can get to keep Velveeta on the table” or even “I own the damned place but I can’t find find honest help so I’ve gotta be here myself.”

He was thankful. He had a paycheck. He had a purpose. He took pride in his work.

I’ve been hearing this so much lately, from people in all sorts of underwhelming jobs. Happy to be there, collecting a paycheck, doing something other than job hunt or collect unemployment. I can’t remember the last time I heard a workplace bitch-and-moan session.

Before this Great Recession that has cast my hometown in such a negative national spotlight, who would have thought anyone would embrace a gas station/convenience-store gig? Who would think maybe I felt a twinge of envy.

Not many, I’m sure.

Do I envy the job?The hours? No. But I do admire a person who radiates gratitude in the worst of circumstances, who makes being up at 6 a.m. a pleasant experience, who takes pride in his appearance and attitude even if he’s in a room all by himself.

All this I learned before 6:30 this morning.

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How to turn 24 hours into a nearly psychotic episode


by rubberpaw via creative commons

Discover a series of calls to my phone from an unfamiliar number.

Wonder why there are no messages.

Google the phone number because I think it is from a potential new client. It’s not. No other information available. Dismiss it as a wrong number.

Check e-mail.

Learn that a potential employer — not the one I am expecting to call but another one out of the blue with an enticing proposition  — has made several attempts to reach me.

Make snap decision based on multiple factors, including lack of time to think and previous string of bogus e-mails for job openings that require “significant available credit” and “must be a U.S. citizenship.”

Forget about phone calls. Forget about e-mail.

Attempt to balance overflowing platter of various plans and commitments and obligations and must-dos from the threshold of Friday to the gate of Monday.

Worry about possible client that has not called.

Awaken Monday morning and call company after reading its Web site.

Engage in productive conversation with company representative.

Schedule job interview.

End call. Jump for joy that a large-sized, reputable company has noticed me.

Come to my senses and collapse in heap on floor.

Realize that I have spent all my time looking and no time preparing.

Discover that I do not have 20-pound bond paper on which to print a resume and list of personal references.

Panic because I truly have nothing appropriate to wear.

Gag over the one suit I own, which I wore when Bill Clinton was mentoring Monica Lewinsky.

Wonder if it, too, has a stain on it.

Focus on the fact that I still don’t have real eyeglasses. Damn, why didn’t I make that appointment to get my eyes checked?

Consider that I need to find a babysitter.

Lose control of my senses and play the What If? game: What if they offer me a job? Good god, I don’t have any daycare  lined up. What if I can’t honor all the commitments to which I just agreed? What if my child freaks out because I have to pull her out of a school I just enrolled her in? What if the Earth explodes tomorrow?

Tell myself to shut up. Sit down. Breathe.

Fire off a barrage of phone calls, fill lined paper with list of thing to accomplish.


Start checking off items on list as they are accomplished.

Schedule time to find a new outfit for interviews.

Research company. Take notes. Realize company is big, with offices on both hemispheres. This might be a very nice position to land.

Direct mental note to self: Take any and all calls. Follow up immediately. Things fly at me when I least expect it.

Perform a quickie manicure and pedicure. Conduct other personal maintenance measures often neglected by a person who works at home and alone.

Prepare answers to potential questions and follow-up questions.

Sleep fitfully for about  five hours.

Wake up. Drink about two pots of coffee.

Attend youngest child’s first day of preschool and orientation.

Eat lunch. Start to believe things are turning around. This is a sign. I’m sure of it.

Feel the vibration of my cell phone. Answer it. It’s that number again. The one from last week.

Listen but fail to comprehend that job interview is canceled. Company has decided not to fill the position after all.

Feel a vein pop in my head. Maybe it’s an artery. I can never remember.

Understand that there’s a valuable lesson in all this.

Reassure you that when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

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I'm not ready to deal with it



Rather than look down the road at a horizon obscured by thick clouds, I’m focusing my attention on what’s directly under my feet. One or two footsteps ahead. That’s all I can manage.

When I look down, I see that my feet look like someone who goes barefoot too much. I see that I’m rough on my shoes. I see that people spit their gum on the sidewalks with great frequency. Why is that?

What I don’t want to see is that I don’t know where I’m going. I’m neither walking away from a problem nor walking toward a solution. I’m just walking. Maybe even a little aimlessly. Dangled just out of reach is a carrot. This carrot that I cannot grasp or fully envision is the answer to all my current problems. There are many other hands swatting at one another for that carrot.

This is all I can process now: carrots, shoes, gum on the sidewalk.

The road ahead, behind those clouds? It could lead to the gates of happiness and prosperity heretofore unknown. It could be another day just like today, which is one-half  blessing and one-half torture. It could be a cliff.

There’s no way of knowing. There’s only so much I can do to prepare.

I can’t allow myself to contemplate it for too long. When I do, I don’t sleep at night. I don’t eat during the day. I worry endlessly. Suddenly, the irrational and extreme actions of loved ones in the last few years make more sense. When you are close to the edge, you begin to feel its pull. It becomes a great struggle to avoid looking into the chasm.

For the first time in my life the expression One Day at a Time holds real meaning. It’s more than a lousy ’70s sitcom. It’s more than the popular bumper sticker in the parking lot at AA meetings. It’s a guiding principle at this point. God, let me make it to another sunset, let me find some sleep in the night ahead. Let me awaken to a better day tomorrow.

Let me find a carrot on the road ahead. Let the clouds part to expose clarity of direction.

And really, what is it with all the gum on the sidewalks?

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Y'all come back now


Not the Rocky Mountains

Not the Rocky Mountains


My brother, who has the pleasure of living in the Rocky Mountains, came home for Thanksgiving. It’s been a while since he lived here full-time. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. I’ve visited a lot  of places, most nicer. Some make me miss home.

I guess out West we here in the “flyover zone” are referred to as the flatlanders. I’ve had a few cowboys call me that. I thought it was a nod to the topography. Maybe it’s more of a veiled reference to the fact that we are apparently flatlining.

He, who hails from the land of eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, observes about life here:

It is cold.

It is dark and dreary.

No human forms can be found anywhere.

It is depressing.

To him I say: Isn’t that why you left? We all want to leave. It is dark and dreary. It’s December. Depressing? Not always. Lately, yes. Don’t even turn on the TV, radio or log on to the Internet. Just do what the rest of us do, hide behind a good micro brew, or a decent vintage, or just go to bed with a bag of chips, strew crumbs all over the sheets and pull the covers up over your head.

Oh, wait, maybe that’s the problem …

Sadly, there’s evidence to back his claims. First, there’s this bouquet of black roses delivered to our dying region.

Then,  a box of chocolates with a skull and crossbones on it, sent by Mr. Grim Reaper.

Seems like we’ve been in the spotlight a lot recently and our warts and chin hairs are not lookin’ pretty to the rest of the country. Not like the rest of the USA is shaving on a regular basis either.

I meet folks transplanted from all over the world who come here for automotive-related jobs. Many of my good friends were born not only away from this region but on a different continent. It’s all a matter of perspective. While some of them hail from beautiful places, those places lack something that we have here. Something they like about here.

Don’t ask me to produce a list of “things.” Those details vary from one person to the next. One woman likes the urban sprawl. She comes from a place where people are crushed together and space is too precious a resource. Another friend likes the grittiness, the diversity of race and culture. She comes from a very homogenous, orderly society. Homogenous can mean uneventful.

The worst offenders are those who leave and then return for a visit. I hate to say it but most who have left have no intention of returning. I have other relatives who sometimes only stay a night and then cut a hasty retreat to the airport. I know it’s nice where you live, but jeez …

All I can say is: If you hate it here, don’t come. We’ll just visit you in your nice place, sleep on your couch. If you left and are visiting, don’t rub our noses in the very obvious pile of poop on the ground. Buried somewhere in all this dirt is a diamond. 

I’ll take it with me when I go.