Monday, December 31, 2007

This Thing Called Drum Corps--Part 1

It is the final day of 2007, and I could not let it pass away into the early morning hours of 2008 without writing something, how ever short it might be, about a summer 15 years ago, and what I did that sill marks me today.

In the summer of 1992, at the age of 19, I marched a corps. Translated, this means that I was in a drum and bugle corps called Sky Ryders. I played the mellophone bugle. It was the most concentrated and impactful experience of my life, and I alternately hated it and loved it, depending on how out of breath or sleep-deprived I was at any given moment.

That summer would be the first and last time I would march, as the expense associated with it combined with a summer's lost income, was more than I could handle, having to pay for college myself.

I had first learned of drum corps by happening across the televised DCI (Drum Corps International) finals competition on PBS a couple years prior, when I was still in high school. I was struck by how good the performances were. As I listened to the commentary between the performances, I learned that these folks were just kids, really. Once a person reaches age 22, he/she can no longer participate. And so, these amazing groups of people were made up of teenagers and college kids. Unbelievable. I wondered how they could be so good. At that point I had no thought of ever being good enough to score a spot in a corps, and I still didn't know enough about them to know how to even start the audition process, anyway.

And then I went to college--the University of North Texas, which has an amazing music program. I was in marching band, and there I met several members of the drumline as well as several trumpet and trombone players who had marched corps before, some had even marched for 6 or 7 years already. Many of them had just returned from finals and went straight into marching band rehearsals. I listened to them talk. I learned they had marched in Cavaliers, Madison Scouts, Blue Devils, Blue Knights, and even Sky Ryders. I began to learn which shows/programs a particular corps had performed in which year. I began to learn I simply must be a part of this amazing experience they were all talking about.

And yet I still didn't know enough or have enough money or enough self-confidence to decide to audition for one of the perpetually finals-bound corps. And I couldn't audition for the Cavies or Scouts anyway, since they are all-male corps. But then I learned that the Sky Ryders had relocated from Kansas to the Dallas area the year before and knew that I would audition for them.

And so, the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the autumn of 1991, with a full season of college marching band under my belt, and some really good playing chops, I went to Midlothian, TX to audition.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Interviewing Update

The follow-up phone call went very well yesterday...I guess technically it was two days ago since it is the wee hours of Sunday morning as I type this. I received answers to my questions and really feel like I'm getting a very solid understanding of the position and the expectations and what I can do with it.

Cenci asked me in a comment below what position this involves. The short answer is: Senior Field Trainer. The more thorough answer requires a bit of back story.

Actually, I had just written a loooooong backstory, but I think I can just write a couple of sentences and get the point across just as effectively.

I am currently a GM and Field Trainer. The Sr. Field Trainer is a new position for 2008 with added responsibilities and many challenges that will not only keep me busy and help my professional development, but it will also serve excellently as a way to greatly improve the consistency and effectiveness of the training programs throughout the organization.

There will be one person in this position per zone, and we have a handful of zones on the superstore side. I am absolutely confident that I can be successful in this position, and thusly make the position successful. I was nominated for the role by an HR partner, but I do not know how many others in the zone are also interviewing.

I want it. I want it badly. There are some opportunities in life that a person crosses and they know that opportunity is theirs. This opportunity is mine. It is mine now, today, and I will be successful in this role.

I should know something in the next week or two.

Now here I have riled myself all up again, and it's 1:17 in the morning. I don't need to be getting passionate about my job at 1:17 in the morning....I need to be going to bed. So, goodnight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rest In Peace, Anne-Marie

On Saturday, December 22, Anne-Marie collapsed at work. She worked at a bookstore in a northern suburb of Dallas. That bookstore is managed by my dear friend Nancy. Anne-Marie had just returned from her dinner break. She walked from the breakroom out onto the salesfloor, complaining of a headache for which she had taken an aspirin. A couple of minutes later, she returned to the breakroom where she sat down on the sofa and said to Nancy, "Tell me what's wrong with me. Help me."

She collapsed; 911 was dialed; Anne-Marie was taken to the nearest hospital. She was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm that had hemorrhaged, basically exploding in the brain stem. Her husband and other family came to the hospital; most of the store staff also went to visit her.

On Wednesday Anne-Marie was taken off life support. She was an organ donor.

The staff is going to gather after closing on Sunday night and have a dinner in remembrance of Anne-Marie. They are also going to play the CDs of her favorite musicians in the overhead music system as a way of honoring her life and contributions to this world.

Rest in Peace, Anne-Marie. May comfort find its way to her family, friends, and coworkers in time.

Thursday Off

I have today off as well as having had Christmas off. See my joy-filled face? No, of course you can't. You'll just have to believe me that my face is filled with joy right now. I am sincere about this. It is so very very nice to have 2 days off in a week.

I have a follow-up phone call on Friday at 10am regarding the position I interviewed for. I have several questions to ask of the person who interviewed me, and she has graciously agreed to take the time for another phone call. I really to infinity want this new position, and I want to make sure that I understand every aspect of it 100% and can be effective immediately in the position.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Best wishes to you all for a happy, safe, and festive holiday. Whether spent with friends, family, or in relaxed solitude, I hope your day has been remarkable in some positive way.

Mine went a little something like this:

*went to bed at 5:30am after staying up late late late watching several eps of Lost, Season 3 on DVD
*woke up at noon, continued to watch LOST
*ate light lunch of leftover chicken
* watched more LOST
*wrapped last two gifts that I forgot were sitting on table
*house chores
*made myself purdy (or at least clean)
*drove to Ft. Worth to spend Xmas with family
*felt sorry for self because my 2 sisters have so's and I'm alone
*slapped self for not being grateful for everything I do have, including 2 sisters who have so's
*watched ungrateful nephew open my gift to him
*ungrateful nephew threw my presents at me
*made decision not to get ungrateful nephew a birthday gift
*reminded self to feel grateful that I have an ungrateful nephew
*reminded self to delete stupid post from yesterday
*deleted stupid post
*laughing at self stupidity
*feeling tired from too much thought
*going to watch more LOST
*thanking goodness I have Thursday off!

Monday, December 24, 2007

This Christmas Eve

I am off to work in a couple of minutes. I hope to spread some holiday cheer at work today. I'd better find some first, heh. I'm tarred, so very very tarred. If you're doing any last minute holiday shopping, I encourage you to be kind and patient with the folks you meet along the way. I may very well be one of them.

The Night Before Christmas in Atlantis

If you know me at all, you know that I enjoy a TV show called Stargate: Atlantis. Below is a parody I wrote which I first posted in a comment on Joe Mallozzi's blog, and then later on David Hewlett's forum. In writing it I knew I wanted to accomplish 3 things: I wanted to mention each of the main characters as well as beloved supporting characters, I wanted the writers and producers to be the Elves, and I wanted it to be somewhat humorous. I know I accomplished the first two, and I hope I accomplished the third. I hope you enjoy it.

The Night Before Christmas in Atlantis

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the city
The twinkling lights shone, a serene scene so pretty.
The shield was raised over the stargate with care
In hopes that no enemy would infiltrate there.

Rodney & Zelenka were nestled all snug in their labs
While Lorne painted nightscapes in dibbles and dabs
And Sheppard with his Tolstoy and Teyla with her sticks
Had just finished a debate on the merits of classics.

When up in the sky did explode a great light
And a trembling of earth gave Chuck the Technician a fright
Away to the control room I transported fast
Wondering to what we should owe that bright blast.

The great light as it glowed on the city below
Surrounded the spire, a warm, soft halo.
When, much to my shock and surprise I did see
A man dressed all in red, a white beard to his knees.

With a sleek puddlejumper decked festive for flight
I knew at that moment he must be all right.
From the back of the jumper, his Elves hopped right out.
And this jolly old Santa took breath for to shout,

"Now Joseph! now Alan! now Martin & Paul!
On Robert, Carl, Brad, on the rest of you all.
Down the length of the pier, to the top of the spire,
Climb you strong, good Elves, climb faster and higher!"

As quick as a wraith dart, nary missing a step
For to dodge Ronon's glare, up the stairs those Elves leapt.
Onward up to the spire-top the helpers did climb
As Santa smirked and flew skyward, taking his time.

And then in a blinknod I heard near the gate
Voices discussing the meal which for lunch they just ate.
As I turned from the window and peeked down below
I spied those old Elves waving at me 'hello!'

Quickly they scattered as Santa's jumper came in to land.
And Colonel Carter stepped forward, extending her hand.
Santa shook it with mirth, a large bag at his feet.
He spoke not a word, but he paused for a beat.

Then with some silent signal, the Elves came to his side
And helped Santa pull his large bag open wide.
A jolly scene to behold, all of Atlantis was there.
Dr. Keller got a Josh Groban CD, Katie Brown a plant rare.

One by one they came forward, fear and hesitation melting away
For Santa had found them, even a galaxy away.
And they counted themselves lucky to be gathered together
Remembering all that in the past year they were forced to weather.

The line was winding down, the bag growing flat.
I turned back to the window, then on my shoulder felt a pat.
I spun around quickly to meet Santa's stare.
He handed me the bag and then suddenly wasn't there.

In that one short moment he was back in his jumper
The entire ship glowing from bumper to bumper.
The Elves waved goodbye and quickly scampered away
The hour was so late, it was now Christmas Day.

I felt in the bag, Santa's gift for me
It was perfect, exactly as he knew it would be
And I heard his voice shout out, "Stay together; stay alive!"
And I yelled back up towards him, "Thanks for Season Five!"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two Days More

Well the Cowboys game really killed activity in my store last night. With two days left before Christmas, people are finally feeling the pinch. Still, most are in good spirits. I work the closing shift again tonight, then go back at 10:30 tomorrow morning. We close at 7pm on Christmas Eve, and we'll be glad of it. It's really difficult to keep people focused on the 24th. They're all so exhausted and ready to go home to their families.

I saw that I have one last gift to wrap for my Dad, then I'm all finished. My family is meeting at 5:30 on Christmas Day for dinner and celebration. My younger sister has recently moved in with her boyfriend, so I guess he'll be there, and perhaps his mother as well. I don't know; it doesn't really matter, I guess. My sister hasn't married this man, which bothers my mother, which in turn makes me giggle. But the reason she states for not marrying him is strange. But that's a topic for another post.

I've been sleeping as much and as long as I can, but it doesn't seem to eliminate the tiredness. It goes right down to my core right now.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three More Days

Yes, I am counting down the days.

The days are good, the days are sweet.

The days are damaging my feet.

Hah, that was bad. Work is fast and fun right now, but we're all getting tired and are ready to have Tuesday off. Today and tomorrow we're open 7am-midnight, and 7am-7am on Monday.

So many people are being nice and friendly that they far outweigh the few who are not. Go Joy!

I'm making a public prediction here: Planet Earth is going to propel the HD DVD format ahead of blu-ray and secure it's position as the bankable high def format.

Hey, what did you get me for Christmas?

Tri-Movie Review

Even though most of my time is occupied by work these days, I still found some time in the past week to watch 3.5 DVDs. This is mostly because I completed my Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago. Go me. I have no idea right this second what is going to pop out of my fingers when I start typing about these fils, so be prepared.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Wow, Jim Carrey can act. When did that happen? The production design was intriguing, the kids were good. Billy Connolly...I just want to wrap him up and take him home in my pocket. But the story, based on the books of course, was...meh. Could that be why I stopped reading the books after the first one?


I watched this one on HD starting at midnight and had to turn it wayyyyy down so that I wouldn't disturb my neighbors. I absolutely must buy this film and crank it up during daylight hours. I haven't seen the live musical yet, but now I have to. Incredible.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

I don't know why I put this in my Netflix queue, but I am so very glad I did. I had no idea it would be so funny to me! I laughed so much at this film and have been wanting to talk about Steve Carroll's genius in it with some friends of mine, but I have suspicions that 2 of my dear friends are much older than 40 and still virgins. And it's not exactly an appropriate film to discuss at work, so for right now I've had to settle with chuckling on my own.


I only had a chance to watch 45 minutes of the documentary on Theremin, which discusses the life of (can't remember his first name) Theremin, the Russian scientist who invented the instrument. You know the instrument I mean....think the X-files theme. Yes...that's a Theremin. It is fascinating. It really is! Maybe I'll go and finish watching it before I go to work in a couple of hours.

Next up in the Netflix queue is Lost, Season 3, discs 1-3. At this point I cannot even remember where Season 2 left off.

(This post inspired by Charles' efficient Sweeney Todd review.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Crazy Yelling Beggar Man???

Yes, CYBM, one I have seen before, was found outside my store's front entrance begging for money last night. Security was called and spent quite a while getting him to calm down. Don't forget the 'yelling' part of CYBM. At least he was only in my store for 5 seconds before I could get him to leave.

I've dealt with this guy before. He likes to say, "God doesn't like ugly," when I'm telling him to leave. Last night I was outside the the store trying to get him to move (he was blocking the entrance doors), so I felt a bit better about being snarky right back to him.

CYBM: God doesn't like ugly.
ME: Then he doesn't like you very much, does he?

I'm sure there are a million more clever retorts I could have retortified with, but that's the first thing that popped into my mind. Possible future alternative responses could be:

>So you'll be receiving a lump of coal in your stocking for Christmas.
>Have you seen God's new lineup of skin care products for nasty yelling assholes such as yourself?
>What did you do to God to make him feel that way?
>I killed God and ate his eyeballs. What do you have to say to that?
>Let me know all about Ugly Hell, because you're going there soon.

Who am I kidding? I'll probably just be reduced to repeating, "Shut your mouth; get out of my store." CYBMs are so predictable, but why must I waste good material on them?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wish Me Luck

or wish me skill, or whichever word you choose.

This afternoon I interviewed for a new position in my company. If I am selected, I will still run my store, but my training role and responsibilities will change.

I should find out the decision in a couple of weeks. Several people need to weigh in on it.

Keep all your digits crossed for me.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tired Eyes and Blistered Toes

I should wear a pedometer at work. I have one, but it doesn't work well. My eyes are tired and I have, well had because I popped it, a blister on the bottom of one toe, from walking around my store so much today.

And Squeaky the Bookshelf Elf almost didn't have any food to bring to my staff because the person whom I asked to take it upstairs to my office for me (after I dropped it off at the receiving dock last night), put it in the breakroom by mistake.

But I got most of it back...Squeaky made me take it from the breakroom...and packed the staff's stockings full of goodies.

I must go to bed now and sleep a very long time. I work the closing shift tomorrow, so at least I can sleep in.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Sunday Thus Far

Today is my last day off before Christmas, so I am making the most of it. What I want to do and what I need to/will do are vastly different lists.

So far today I have accomplished:

1. Got off work at 12:30am (wtf we need to be open until midnight is beyond me)
2. Shopped for goodies for the below-mentioned stockings
3. Went to bed at 2:30; got up at 9
4. Put names on all the stockings...what's the name of that new cashier starting tomorrow???
5. Wrote, addressed, stickered, and stamped Christmas cards to all the GMs in my district
6. Made/ate lunch
7. Checked my favorite websites

Next on the list:

1. Go to a mall dept. storel (CRAP!) to return and replace a sorely needed clothing item that fell apart after 3 wearings/washings.
2. Buy a couple things at the grocery store.
3. Major house chores
4. Watch Theremin DVD documentary so I can return it to the lender tomorrow
5. Take my 2-ft Christmas tree down from the closet shelf and put on display
6. Go to bed early because I start a long stretch of long days early tomorrow morning.

I just re-read this and it is a stupid stupid post, but I am a list-maker. Now off I go to ready myself for the rest of my day. The sun sets in 5 hours, and there's lots to do before then.

Which Would You Rather?

This is not a trick question. Which would you rather have?

A. A $5 gift card

B. pudding, fruit bar, juice box, applesauce, crackers, candy cane, oatmeal packet, granola bar, star crunch, oatmeal pie, fruity snack, fruit roll-up, raisins, chips, and cup of ramen, a stocking with your name on it

Each year I help Squeaky the Bookshelf Elf find stockings for everyone on my staff (I have to visit several Target stores for a number of weeks beginning in November to acquire enough), write each person's name in gold glitter paint on the stocking, and then fill them with snacks and treats as my, um, Squeaky's gift to my staff.

They may only be filled with inexpensive snacks, but I feel it is a far better gift than it's monetary equivalent. This year I, um Squeaky, is able to do the complete she-bang for under $5 per stocking. Because I must buy in such bulk, it really knocks down the price per unit.

I think people like personalized gifts, even if it's just a 99 cent stocking from Target with their name in gold glitter paint on it.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To Bend or Not to Bend?

Many thanks to Don who sent me the lovely Christmas card and photo. He was diligent enough to write "Photo Do Not Bend" on both sides of the mailing envelope. And yet, somehow those instructions weren't heeded. Fortunately, the card came out completely unscathed, and the photo is in pretty good shape, all things considered.

I wonder what it would look like if he had written "bend it all to hell and back" on the envelope. Hmmm, I must mail something this way at some point in the future and see what happens.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Did You Know...

1 cow = 1,460 gallons of milk per year
1 goat = 5000 cups of milk a year
1 angora rabbit = 2 pounds of fine wool each year
a trio of rabbits = 72 rabbits after 1 year
1 hen = 200 eggs each year
1 beehive = 50 gallons of honey each season

Did you know that heifer international supplies animals, training, and businesses classes to people in poor communities throughout the world.

I like it when people are willing to learn and work to improve their lives. The idea of self-reliance has always been appealing to me.

It's $20 to donate a flock of chickens to someone. A share of a goat, sheep, rabbits, or pig is $10. An entire heifer is $500.

If I were a better person, I would have asked my family to donate to heifer on my behalf as my Christmas gifts. But I'm not a good person, which is why I'm glad there are organizations like heifer that allow me to donate to ease my muddy conscience.

Check it out and see if there's anyone on your list who would think that is the best Christmas gift ever.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kitty Adoption

My sister, BIL, and nephew have applied to adopt two rescue kitties. They told me on Sunday the name of the place, but I cannot remember it. It is one of the many organizations that PetsMart partners with for pet adoption services. My sister had to provide a couple of references and just emailed me tonight because they need another reference. There is even the possibility of a home visit.

I guess it's good that the rescue organization takes the adoption so seriously, but it's also rather amusing. I told my sister to give the org my cell number, and that I would return their call when they contacted me. We grew up having a cat, and my sister's family took care of Gracie (including insulin shots) during one of my 2-week sojourns a couple years ago, and they just finished taking care of my BIL's sister's 2 cats for almost a year.

Have you heard of anything like this before? I mean, references and home visits?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

N-i-k-k-i S-i-x-x

Yes, this person, formerly of Motley Crue, was doing a book and CD signing at my store last night. It was wild and wildly successful, and very entertaining for the average bookstore patron to witness.

My day started at 6am Friday morning, when I awoke after a mere 4 hours of sleep, made ready for work, then arrived at my store at 7am to see 20 people already camped out front. When we opened the store at 9am, 75 people streamed in to pick up their wristbands for the signing line order.

And then, all damn day long, people in and out of the store, asking the same 10 questions over and over and over and over. I took my lunch break at 1pm, at which time I enjoyed a piece of banana nut loaf cake (like banana bread) from my cafe. I should have eaten more, because I didn't get an opportunity to sit down or take another break for the rest of the day.

The atmosphere was like Harry Potter on heroin.

I say that in jest, but the title of this guy's book is The Heroin Diaries, so you can see the connection.

The rules of the signing were simple:

Wristbands for line order will be distributed starting at 10am on the day of the signing
You must have a copy of the new book and/or the new CD soundtrack to the book to get a wristband
One wristband per person
He will only sign the new book and/or CD
Absolutely no memorabilia is permitted
No posing for photos
Do not try to hug him
You will be removed from the signing line if these rules are not followed

Simple, right?
You'd think so.

Everyone thinks their situation is special. They think, 'hey, if he'll just take a look at this cool ratty nasty dirty poster I have from 1982, he'll surely sign it!' or 'I drove all the way from (insert city or state here), and no one told me about any wristbands' or 'I'm a recovering heroin addict, if you tell him that, he'll surely want me bumped to the front of the line'.

Um, no. Be polite, but be assertive and firm and loud. It's amazing how people respond to strength and will do what I tell them to. 'You must line up on the blue line on the floor.' 'I will have you removed if you have any memorabilia with you.' 'You must keep this area clear.' Not rude, not nasty, just spoken very loudly and with my total. I'm really damn good at these things.

So, the author arrived a bit later than planned, but he signed books and CDs for everyone who had wristbands. It was a very slow process, taking almost 4 hours, but several hundred people left happy.

My store is trashed...empty coffee cups, water bottles, and packs of cigarettes (wtf?) all over the place. But I made a crapload of money, and a few hundred new people have visited my store for the first time and hopefully will return to shop at some point in the future.

After he finally left, my boss (who had come to help with the event) and I went across the street to one of the restaurant bars and debriefed the event. We were self-congratulatory, of course. It was a great event and generated a lot of money, but I'm glad it's over. Now I can refocus everyone and everything on the holiday gift shoppers.