Category: The Daily Life

Mistletoe And The Workplace

mistletoeWhat is  your first thought when you see mistletoe?

Harmless decoration or inappropriate for the workplace?

I’m having some issues with this right now.  It is my feeling that mistletoe should not be displayed in the office.

In this time where sexual misconduct on the job has been a problem you would think employers would have some common sense about this.  I have no problems with decorations or trying to celebrate the holidays but some things I think could be left out.  Management should circulate a memo to remind employees to celebrate in a joyful but professional and respectful manner.  This message needs to be clear and consistent with the conduct which is appropriate for the workplace.

So what’s the harm with mistletoe?

Answer this question: If it is hanging over the cubicle at someone’s desk, what does it mean?  Unfortunately mistletoe has become a symbol for kissing and that “harmless” kiss could be harmful to reputations as well as pushing the boundaries.   And we all know that there is someone always out there who will do it.   I have seen too many people treat the workplace as if they are repeating their high school or college days.

Two years ago, the high-profile Chief Executive Officer of a company kicked off the holidays by hanging mistletoe from the front of his pants belt.  He was reported to the human resources department but people were initially hesitant our of fear of retaliation or being a Grinch.  The CEO’s response was that he was only kidding and everybody knew it.

I often make the statement:  “Can’t people just act right anymore?”

The sad answer is “no”.  Some people ignore rules, policies and common decency in exchange for a good time or excuse for bad behavior.

Maybe I am being to sensitive about mistletoe but I think the workplace should be about work.  Do your job.  How hard is that?  Have some integrity.  Is that too much to ask?

In the early years of my career I worked in an office which allowed people to dress up for Halloween.  There were no rules or policy about it and you can imagine how that went.  Some folks kept pushing the boundaries until management was forced to eliminate it altogether.  It is sad that today you have to spell out everything for employees in the absence of common sense and decency in the workplace.  The larger problem is that supervisors ignore the problem or refuse to enforce their own policies.

Hanging up mistletoe over your desk or in the workplace is only inviting the opportunity for inappropriate behavior.  Then when the office is slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit then you will wish you had been more proactive in these things.  Yes, even something as harmless as mistletoe.  Even with all the sexual harassment training, employers are assuming that they are covered and everybody got the memo with regard to their actions but you are still seeing claims of sexual harassment being filed.

With 52% of women in the workplace having experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace, Christmas can create even more of a threat with workplace parties and events within the office.  So do we need more reason to condone unwanted behavior?  A mistletoe hanging overhead in the workplace might give some the idea that they can get a “freebie” without it being unwanted while women will feel obligated to compile because of a harmless holiday tradition.

Remove the mistletoe in the office.  It’s stupid to allow an opening for sexual harassment over a harmless plant hanging over the heads of employees.

 

 

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The Other Side Of Grief

griefFor the first time, I have been directly impacted by the death of a loved one.  It has been an eye-opening experience for me.  While I can’t say that I have been overcome with grief, it has had its moments of difficulty.  I have been amazed at the things that have to be done and how people respond to you during these times.  Let me give you my view on this side of it:

How People Respond

This one is all over the place.  Everyone responds differently.  I have had people text or call me directly to let me know they were thinking about me.  This has meant a lot to me.  I have had flowers sent to me which touched me deeply.  While people really don’t know what to say, just acknowledging it helps a lot.  Some people say nothing or ignore the subject completely.  I think I can understand that because they simply don’t know what to say and they don’t want to make me sad.  However, having been through this, I think I would rather people say something than nothing at all.  Co-workers have had an interesting response as well.  I have had some who just said they were sorry for my loss and then others that lead with that and then into what they need me to do.  That’s pretty tacky in my opinion.  At least send separate emails.  People are funny and you really don’t know what to expect from them.

Funeral Preparation

Who came up with the idea of the traditional funeral obviously had no regard for the ones grieving.  I’m amazed at the decisions that need to be made even if the deceased had planned their funeral.  Do I really need to decide on what color scheme the pallbearers should wear?  What color does the casket need to be?  Do I prefer a flag or no flag on the casket?  Opened or closed casket?  These are some decisions I never thought I would ever have to make.  I can’t imagine if it were someone totally overcome with grief doing this.  I’m sorry but I also don’t not like funerals.  The visitation seems to be more like a family reunion.  The funeral service itself and then yet another ceremony at the cemetery.  A grieving person has to go through this over and over again.  People like to use the words “closure” or “paying your respects” but it is torture.

The Will

I was not made the executor of my loved one’s Will but let me caution you to be totally informed of what you’re getting into if you are ever asked to do this.  I would highly advise to have a neutral person who is not related to the family to carry out the responsibility.  It is much too overwhelming for a family member to do regardless of the size of the estate.  If you are making out a Will, make it easy as possible to disperse things you wish to give to those left behind.  Don’t make it a burden.  The execution of the Will only prolongs the process.  It is difficult to move on when you are having to deal with what’s left behind.

Family

I have been surprised with the response of my relatives.  Their reaction was not what I had expected.  I have lost contact with most of my family over the years and regardless of that, they responded and have been very supportive.  I’m still not ready for a family reunion but I have added several to my contact list and hope to remain in touch with them.

The Grief Process

Although I can’t say that I’m overcome with grieve but I can tell you that it’s a strange feeling.  There are moments I will have a flashback with no warning or cry without notice.  How someone grieves is not the same for everyone.  There is also no time limit.  I know most people expect you to get over something in 30 days or so but it really depends on the individual.  It also doesn’t help to ask continually “What’s wrong?”.  It helps much more to ask “Are you okay?” or “How are you doing?”.   Believe me.  There is a difference.  I have moments of sadness but also times of anger over what could have been or things that could have been different.  It helps to do things and to keep living your life.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m new at this.  This is my first experience with grief and the experiences that goes with it.  I think with everything that happens in life, you learn from it.  I think that I have learned a lot better in how to respond to others when they are going through it.  If nothing else, just knowing people care mean a lot.  You know that you are not alone.  My wife has been through this herself and she has been a rock for me.  She can relate and she is guiding me through this new area for me.  That means a lot.  You’re not always capable of thinking clearly or keeping your focus so it is important that you have someone you can lean on when you aren’t totally yourself.  We all need a little help don’t we?

No, I don’t like being on this side of grief but it is comforting to know I am not alone.  I will get through this and I will press on.

 

Paying My Respects Without Imterference

Today I will attend my Dad’s funeral. It will be the final chapter to bring an end to the last two weeks of my final time with my dad.

Father-son relationships can be tricky. It was very difficult for us. I know I spent a long period of my life seeking his approval. I just wanted him to say he was proud of me. He never did. Many years ago I made peace with that and I never kept expecting it.

As he laid in bed last week, he told me that he had wished things had been different. He said he was sorry that he didn’t spend more time with me.

It is true that for the first part of my life, his priority was the church. I told dad that it was okay and I understand more now. He did the best that he could. We also moved around a lot because churches did not appreciate his integrity and strict accounting of church finances. That integrity finally betrayed him and forced him to retire before he really wanted to when leadership failed to back him.

Integrity. That’s what I remember most about my dad. I never knew him to lie about anything regardless of the consequences. Yes he was strict but he was always consistent. He was decisive and I always knew what to expect from him.

Our relationship was challenging. He was always difficult to talk to. I dreaded it because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Even with our difficulties, he did try to relate to me. He constructed a basketball goal each place we lived and he was a pretty good shot. He would also take me to high school football games. He might have taken me to my first college or professional football game if the church hadn’t thought it was a sin to do so.

At every church Dad tried to make them better than before he came. He was a straightforward preacher who said what he believed. He and I didn’t agree with some things and even in his final days he was still firmly entrenched in it. He didn’t waver.

Our relationship didn’t get any better during my adult years. There was a large influence which manipulated his view of me. We spent more time not talking than we did together. It wasn’t my choice. It became more and more difficult to overcome the interference. I regret this interference deeply and today I boil over in anger about it. Things could have been different. The interference sabotaged our father-son opportunities.

I think one of the things that also hinders is was that we didn’t know how to relate to each other. In the final days I understood him more than I ever had before. It helped that we no long had the interference. I finally understood how to talk to him.

I so much wish it could have happened sooner.

He was a good man. He just never could navigate through the interference.

Damn that interference.

In his final days things were different and as they should have been. He was finally the father I had always wanted. I am no longer irritated to see his resemblance in the mirror. I am proud to be his son.

In one of his final days I asked Dad if it bothered him that I never followed his footsteps into the ministry. He was not. He said it wasn’t something hereditary. It was a calling. I was finally relieved about that.

During the times of the interference I only wished he would have reached out to me. I so much wanted him to make an effort. I wanted to be worth his effort. Unfortunately the interference kept that from happening.

I am certain that outside observers couldn’t understand why we had periods of estrangement. They never understood the power of the interference. They only saw me as the prodigal son. I always appeared to them as the one who ran away. I was the rebellious one. They never saw the battles I was having with the interference. As hard as I tried, it always won and affected our relationship.

Not today.

Today there is no interference. Today I pay my respects to the man who is a part of me.

He’s Finally My Daddy

I am watching my daddy die.

I haven’t called him daddy for a long time. For most of my adult life, our relationship has been strained and estranged for long periods of time.

Yet here I sit by his bedside watching him fade away to the heaven he has preached so much about in his sermons and believed in for many years. Some have called it “slipping into eternity” or going into the “presence of the Lord.” Whatever you want to call it, he’s almost there.

You think a lot about “the other side” when you are sitting here watching someone die. Some people don’t believe. I can see how hard it is to believe it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. There are many Christian beliefs about what happens when we die. Some think you immediately go to heaven, others think you go to an in-between place and some think we fall into a “soul sleep” until the return of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

As far as things on this side goes, dad and I have resolved our issues. Neither one of us can make up for the lost years between us but things are settled. At this point the petty differences we had before doesn’t really matter much now.

I now declare that our relationship resolved.

We are both winners. It was never a competition. It was a prideful standoff for way too many years.

We all make hard decisions in life. It’s easy when we are young and can blame decisions on our parents but when are adults and make the hard choices, it’s all on us. I was forced to make some of those hard choices which significantly impacted our relationship. That’s what happens sometimes in life. You don’t always get the Norman Rockwell painting. Many times you get the dysfunctions that would be too difficult for even Dr. Phil to resolve. You have to make choices that allow you to live your own live. It is sad, but these choices can hurt people and cause divisions.

I won’t sugar coat it, my dad was strict. He was a pentecostal preacher and that led to a lot of conflict between us. Whenever he said I was going to get a whipping there was no parole. It was gonna happen. Of course today, he would be accused of abuse but it was a different time then. That’s all he knew. I’m not excusing it or condoning it. I’m just explaining it. I seem to think I turned okay in spite of it. We all do our best. It’s easy to be a critic.

As the breath of life gets harder and harder for him, I sit here understanding this man more now. Over the past few days we have had the father-son moments that never happened between us. He was never the mushy type who talked about feelings. Death tends to force it out of our pride.

Dad was a preacher for over 40 years for a church organization which was very much a cult of people who mistreated him and church leaders betrayed him. The only reason he left this church group is that church leaders ignored improprieties and because of his integrity, it forced him out. The so-called leader whimped out and caved into pressure. Now that person is the leader of the cult group. How pathetic. Because of this, my dad had to find another way to support himself and my mom. Even though this church burned him badly, he still held onto their ridiculous teachings to the very end.

My dad was never a slacker. At many of the churches he had to work a secular job in addition to pastoring a church. He never had a college degree but he was always very intelligent and often figured things out for himself. The church seriously limited his talents and abilities.

I never followed in my dad’s footsteps. I asked him about that recently. It never bothered him because he said that being a minister wasn’t hereditary, it is a calling from God. I see too many who follow their father’s into the ministry as if they were continuing the family business. I’m glad my dad never felt slighted about me not becoming a preacher.

For the first time in my life, my daddy needs me. I am here without any hesitation.

I don’t recall him ever telling me that he was proud of me but that’s okay. He doesn’t have to. I resolved that issue many years ago and I don’t need that affirmation.

At this moment, none of that matters. Death humbles us all.

Keeping Calm When Plans Change

Most of the time I can deal with stressful situations. I haven’t done so well over the last 48 hours.

I am a planner. I can’t help it. I am usually thinking and planning three steps ahead. Sometimes it’s a curse. So when my plans become scrambled up, it can seriously throw me off.

I thought I had the next three weeks figured out but a sudden change in my dad’s health turned all of that upside down. You can’t plan on some things and I was ill-prepared for this one. With the calming help of my wife we were able to make the immediate necessary changes.

Let me tell you that work makes me mad. I don’t love my job but I like what I do and I am good at it most of the time. It made me mad because work has to take up so much of our lives. I hate that but it is the necessary evil of life. You have to work to pay for things but it never seems to be enough. Work is not the most important thing in life but we are so damn dependent on it.

I like being prepared. This time I am not and it is freaking me out a little. I have to keep hitting my mental reset button and keep focused on the current thing in front of me. Just this morning on the drive to work I was thinking about all the changes I needed to make and had to remind myself to remember that at the moment I was driving and I needed to do that before I move on to the next thing. I couldn’t think about tomorrow or the next day or my plans next week yet. At that moment I just needed to drive safely to work.

Being rattled isn’t the norm for me. I have been calm in the moments of being fussed at by judges or attorneys on my job while maintaining my nerves.

The dynamics of this situation are different. I won’t go into details but emotions are affected as well as changes in schedule. I suppose it’s easier to remain calm during a benign situation at work rather than one that involves more.

The two things that have been working are having someone to help you through it and doing one thing at a time. My wife has been awesome at helping me and even taking some of the planning off of me. I think sometimes I have to do it all but I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help. I have also just tried to keep the next thing in front of me. Don’t get swarmed with future scenarios and trying to resolve those issues before they possibly happen.

I said that I’m learning this. I’m not good at it yet. It’s a very difficult thing for me but I’m having a chance to learn.

If you’re panicking about a situation, take my advice and keep calm. Focus on the thing that is before you at the moment. Don’t stress yourself about looking ahead. You’ll get there but you have to take care of this first.

What If God Sent You A Friend Request?

I don’t normally watch prime time television shows but sometimes one captures my attention. Most recently I have liked the new CBS series “God Friended Me”.

This show is a mix of “Touched By An Angel”, “Highway To Heaven” and “Lost”. Okay, maybe a hint of “Lost” but still another show that makes you think after each episode yet without an island or the “others”.

The show features Brandon Michael Hall as Miles Finer.  Miles is an atheist who shares his views on his podcast.  His life changes when he receives a mysterious “friend request” from God.  Intrigued, he seeks to prove that the God account is a hoax but along the way he helps others through it.  One of his first friend suggestions by God is Cara Bloom (Violett Beane) who is a reporter.  They team up to find clues to the person behind it and find themselves investigating God’s friend suggestions and helping people in need.

The show is very well written and the intersecting storylines have left me saying “wow” a couple of times which is good because I am rarely surprised and usually see what’s coming.  In fact, we are told about why Miles became an atheist when, as a teenager, his mother had cancer.  He prayed for her and she went into remission and was declared cancer-free; however, on the trip from the doctor she was killed in an automobile accident.  Yeah, I did NOT see that coming.  It is no wonder that he turned to atheism.

Before you get turned off about “God” being in the title, I assure you that it is not a Christian show. Far from it. You won’t have a sermon or sneaky attempts to convert you. In fact, some religious folks will have a difficult time with the Miles’ sister who lives with her lesbian partner while Miles continues to proclaim his atheist views. Another twist is that their father is a preacher. So you can imagine the twists and turns this relationship dynamic creates.

The only issue I see that could be the show’s weakness is the elusive romantic relationship between Miles and Cara. This back-and-forth thing has been overdone before in countless other series and will tire viewers the longer this goes on.  It really isn’t necessary to keep viewers hooked.

“God Friended Me” is currently at a 1.4 rating in adults 18-49 and 10.4 million viewers in a pretty difficult time slot on Sunday nights following “60 Minutes”.   CBS had liked it well enough to order more episodes through the first season.

It is a good show worth watching if you don’t want to see murders, stupid comedy or weird things.  It is a wholesome show at a time when most TV dramas are dark.   It is amusing to think that God is on Facebook and his profile picture is a cloud and his only like is nature.

Miles Finer is definitely a likable character and someone that will think or do things you might if you found yourself in his situation.

 

 

Doing Anything Fun This Weekend?

I have one of those co-workers I try to avoid on Fridays.  I’m not being anti-social. I just want to avoid that annoying question. I’m not always successful in my escape and evasion tactics as he will find me and ask that dreaded question:

“Are you doing anything fun this weekend?”

I have the same escape plan on Monday mornings because then it is:

“Do you do anything fun this weekend?”

It’s too much pressure man.

Stressful.  Panic attack time.

I MUST have an answer for this guy!  I am under pressure to do something fun over the weekend.  I race through the events in my mind…went shopping, bought groceries, washed the car.   Oh no!  I didn’t do anything fun!

What’s up with this question anyway?  What are the expectations?

I have nothing.  No excitement here.  Move along.

So what exactly is this guy looking for?  I have two possible explanations for this:

#1 – He doesn’t know what else to say.  People who don’t know what else to say or feel awkward in starting a conversation might use this line as some type of icebreaker.  Perhaps they don’t know you that well or your interests and using it as a probing question so they can have a conversation with you.

#2 – It’s a setup question so they can tell YOU want THEY did.  They are very eager to talk about what they did and tell you about their lives.  They are excited to tell someone – anyone.  They want you to tell them what you did and then the end they think you will ask the same thing.  Then they can go with their tales of adventures.

Whichever one this applies to depends on the personality of the person asking the question.

This doesn’t remove the pressure of trying to come up with something exciting to report.  You don’t want to talk about any mundane tasks.  They want action and adventure.  Mowing the grass isn’t so riveting.  I spent three weeks in Europe and now I have to answer the weekend question.  Where were you when I got back from Europe?  I had enough tales to account for many weekends.

The most exciting thing about most weekends is that I didn’t have to be at work.

Boring.

The anxiety about weekend plans can be a problem without the pressure of facing the co-worker’s inquisition. After working 40 or more hours during the week, you wouldn’t want to waste your time off. I know there are others out there that don’t work a 9-5, Monday-Friday job but that’s been mostly what I have done and when the weekend arrives, I want to make it count.

Unfortunately most household chores and tasks are necessary on the weekend because you can’t fit them into the week. Grocery shopping, yard work, house cleaning and other things need attention on the weekend. Unless you are tackling a major project, it is usually good not to allow those chores to take up the whole weekend. I always like to have some time to go on an adventure. Many times my wife and I will go someplace or have an initial event planned but then it leads to other adventures that we hadn’t planned. I really like those kind of days when it all flows like that without being all planned out.

I fiercely guard my weekends. I do my best not to allow my work to take any of my personal time. There are some who like to talk about working the weekend as if it is some badge of courage. It doesn’t impress me how much someone works over the weekend when they could have gotten their work done during normal work hours. Sometimes working the weekend is necessary but sometimes it is a result of someone’s poor planning.

Most of the time when the “weekend guy” asks what I did for fun, my response is that I wasn’t at work so that was fun for me. He laughs and moves on to the next person.

Of course, everyone has their own definition of “fun”.  When I was in the Air Force, most of the guys thought fun was having parties and getting drunk. No, not quite my idea of fun.  Some people think playing golf is fun.  Everybody has their own thing that is fun.  I think it’s fun to play with the grandkids.  I’m not so sure that the office “fun” guy would agree.  He’s probably expecting stories of hang gliding or swimming with the sharks.

I’m sorry, I can’t (and won’t) compete with the office “weekend fun” guy.

So what are you doing this weekend?