Well, it's finally happened... Ashley asked me to marry her. After months of anticipation and many sleepless nights my worries of loosing such a wonderful woman are over. I'm such a lucky guy! And the way she went about it - oh, it was soooo romantic. First she made reservations at a totally cool Italian restaurant where we had this really great meal while splitting a bottle of whine (actually she drank most of it as she seemed really nervous for some reason). Ironically the name of where we ate and the designer for her wedding dress are the same name... but they are not the same company... starts with an "s" or something - anyway.
After dessert we went down town where she had a carriage waiting for us to ride around the city. It was a bit chilly so we held each other close with my head on her shoulder. I had absolutely no clue what was about to happen. First she switched seats in the carriage so she could face me, which threw me off, but when she got down on one knee I was stunned.
"No, no, no, you are not doing this... Are you doing this? Please oh please I hope you are doing this!" My head was spinning.
She pulled out the black velvet box and opened the lid to reveal a gi-normous ring! I had to squint because there was no way I could look straight at it without getting sun spots in my eyes. I have no idea where she could have got it but it was beautiful. She held it out closer to me (causing a slight burn on my left cheek from the light amplification).
"Ronald *******, you have made me the happiest woman in the world and I don't think I could ever live the rest of my life without you." Her eyes were sparkling from the reflection caused by the moon's reflection in the ring. "Will you marry me?"
I tried to fight back the tears but just couldn't. I was so in love with Ashley and I was so overjoyed that she felt the same for me. I never thought I could love again until her. It was all so overwhelming. Finally though, I lowered my hands from my face and blurted out, "Yes!"
She beamed a most incredible smile that also sparkled from reflection of the Aurora Borealis amplified by the ring's power. Gently taking her other hand she slipped the ring onto her finger. We kissed, hardly noticing the chill in the air as the love in our hearts was more than sufficient to keep us warm.
Afterwards we celebrated the occasion with a bottle of Champagne which we soundly emptied in 3 minutes flat. Soon, I was asleep, my head buzzing from the bubbly and the fact that I was happier than I had ever been in my life. That was almost two weeks ago, but I will remember every detail of that evening exactly as it happened as if it were yesterday.
For further information on Ashley and my engagement as well as more photos of the ring and some of the false UFO reports it may have caused please check out Ashley's blog site.
PS Right now we're looking at June 7th wedding... more info to come!
Last night I attended a dinner meeting for the Sales and Marketing Council (SMC) which is branch of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA). The GHBA, in turn, is the local chapter of the National Home Builders Association (NHBA). For every major industry there is going to be a organization that affords professionals in that industry the opportunity to come together to get drunk, rub elbows and generally gripe about what the government should or shouldn't do in order for them to make more money.
That sounds bad, I know but there are good things about the organization too. Two years ago I won an award from the GHBA for Sales Manager of the Year. In the building industry this is on par with winning an Academy Award complete with red carpet, jumbo shrimp cocktail and acceptance speeches. When I made mine I was very sincere in my gratitude for my boss's support and my sales team who did all the actual work and should have been the real recipients of the award. Of course, being the attention whore that I pretend not to be I felt compelled to leave an impression on the crowd. The lights, the stage, the microphone - all those hundreds of people looking at me - the winner of this shiny piece of phallic glass. It was all too much. Thus I concluded my speech with one more thank you.
"And to the Ultimate Sales Manager in the sky, JC!" Beat chest once. Thrust figure toward heaven and bow head. Applause and laughter.
The event Emcee had nothing. If you remembered nothing else that night you remembered the Ultimate Sales Manager in the sky... that and the guy that got locked out because he felt the need to go get more jumbo shrimp cocktail while everybody was distracted with the awards presentation. I think he was was wearing a pink polyester tux and cowboy hat. Understand, it is Houston, Texas people and where else can you get jumbo shrimp so good you are willing to risk embarassment for just one more plate full.
The award itself didn't mean crap to me, but I was highly motivated to win it from the minute I was made sales manager a little over a year before. Understand that at that time there was a group of old-time sales people in the division I ran and they didn't like me that much, mainly because they couldn't really sell. They were riding a good market, were in "lay down" communities, and letting realtors do all the work for them. The only real reason they were around was because they were cronies with higher management. They were well aware of what I thought of them so they constantly pressured the powers that be to get rid of me. Finally, the city president caved and demoted me from division president to sales manager in another division. This after having the number one division in the city. Yeah, the system works.
From the moment I started as a sales manager - one with absolutely no experience in sales whatsoever (another testament to what a great team I had) - I knew that this award was my ticket to inflicting blunt trauma. This award signified credibility both in the industry and to the those managers and their sychopant friends that wanted me to fail. Sure enough at the reception party after the presentation there were those same dried up, withered old sales people standing in a little group waiting to congratulate me. I smiled and was gracious as I shook their hands, but my real source of joy was in my realization that my little award was "pointy" at the top making it a slightly easier to shove into one of their anuses... or ear, or nose - pick your orifice. Hanging around, a back slapping after an awards show isn't my gig so my date and I left the reception early and headed to a bar to meet up with some of her friends.
"Nice tux," one of her friends said, "I hear you won some type of award tonight?"
"Ya, Limo Driver of the Year. Buy me a drink, cause I'm a champion."
Since then, I hadn't been to any SMC events in over a year, but when I walked in the door there were a number of people who recognized me. They even printed my old company on my name badge. It always looks classy to cross out the company you once worked for and rewrite whatever company you feel like putting on there. I was tempted to put a random builder on my tag and wait for someone from that random builder to approach me inquisitively wanting to know who I was and when did I start given that they've never seen me around before. In response I would look at them funny as say, "Didn't you hear? I was just hired today to replace your boss." I could only imagine the look on that goofball's face. Oh, my little moments of inward pleasure. Now which way to the jumbo shrimp.
It actually was nice to catch up with some of the people there - that is the one part I actually like. Plus one of the all-star performers on the team that earned me my instrument of blunt trauma is now the Chair Person for the SMC and doing a great job of making membership in the committee worthwhile by bringing in top speakers and experts in the industry (You go girlfriend!).
After mingling and pounding a few drinks the evening's events began. As is customary the program opens with the Pledge of Allegiance and the invocation. Invocations in my experience, although a nice touch, tend to be a rehearsed prayer. Written out and carefully worded to maximize holy sanctimonious pretension in a group setting and tonight's was no exception. That is until our pious sales professional CSP, MIRM, CPR, XYZ, PDQ* giving this prayer reached the end. At this point there was a slight pause and studder signifying that he was no longer following the script and this was all add libbed. Yay, improv!
"...and, and Lord, please bring this housing market back to life as many of us have been hit hard during these tough tough times."
You know those scenes in movies where there is a serious moment of silence or dramatic pause and then someone laughs inappropriately? Last night, I was that someone. I couldn't help it. Some God-given instinct incited a loud laugh at the thought of these "tough times." These same tough times where we just pounded a bunch of free drinks, will shove roast beef and cheese cake down our throats, and then drive our Jaguars home to our 4,000 square-foot houses and catch sportscenter on our big screen plasma TVs. Did I also mention that Houston is the number one housing market in the country?
If you're having trouble foraging for food in these tough times I have an instrument of blunt trauma you can use to hunt rats with. I just have to get it out of the box with all my high school trophies in it. Try to hold on.
*SMC designators to signify a hierarchy of achievement - kind of like being in the Masons.
I’ve decided that of all the ways to relieve my stress at work writing about it seems to have the most holistic effect. I’ve tried working out, eating entire pints of ice cream, drinking, drinking while eating ice cream and working out and they just don’t seem to do the trick. Writing – or should I say writing with a touch of sarcasim, seems to do the trick… at least for now.
Given my little preamble I can now jump into my therapeutic release for today’s main event. It was another sunny day as I headed to work. Traffic was low, and I sipped away at my perfectly made hazelnut latte, while music played and birds chirped along in the background – at least that was the dream that played in my head as I woke to realize that I was twenty minutes late getting out the door. Traffic was hell due to the rain and drizzle, and I probably wouldn’t have minded the cold had I been able to stop for coffee but I was late and didn’t have the time.
As I walked in the door my manager, waiting at the door, said she wanted to have a meeting to plan out the week as we regularly do on Mondays. Sitting down at the table with my her and my counterpart in the south division I could feel the effects of my ADD meds kicking in and it made me thankful that I hadn’t had that perfect hazelnut latte after all. Ever see a sales manager blow out his jaw rambling on at 95mph? It ain’t pretty so I really didn’t intend to open my mouth. Just sit pretty, nod, make a couple scribbles on a few pages of some behemoth report that no one reads because it’s never accurate and then get back to my office. The look on my counterpart’s face (we’ll call him Bilbo – as in Bilbo Baggins because this story really isn’t that interesting so I figure using a Hobbit will bring me the credibility needed to win the Pulitzer – I digress) says he’s thinking the same.
“I’m glad I had the sales rollup report last night,” I said as our boss (we’ll call her Cyndi Lopper – there are no Hobbit look-a-likes that quite capture the grace – digressing!) walks in the conference room. “With the amount of activity this week I really got a better feel for the processes.” Now, this was not – I repeat not – brown nosing. Why? Because I’m the new guy and in order for Cyndi Lopper and Bilbo Baggins to stay out of my Shire I need to make them feel comfortable with how much I understand the business. Reasonable, right?
“Good,” Cyndi says with a smile, “You seem to be getting the hang of things.”
“Yes I am… now, the best way to leave the Shire is to follow this dirt path right back to your office,” I think. Last week Ms. Lopper told me how pleased she was that the sales team and office staff were really happy with me and that I was starting to fit in. It did give me a measure of comfort to know that I didn’t need to look over my shoulder so much and could focus on doing work.
Cyndi pulled out the report wanting to review numbers and figure out strategy for the week. “Ok, let’s start with…”
“Um, I have a quick question.” I smiled with a hint of apology in my tone. Then I launched into a couple issues that I recognized as problems from past experiences with other operations. In any case, they were anything but quick questions and the look on Mr. Baggins’ little face knew it. Cyndi Lopper glanced at her watch and then to Bilbo. Non-Verbal communication – ain’t it a bitch?
I knew what my little question was going to get me… confirmation of what I had suspected all along. So let me go back a minute. When I was hired I was told that one of the reasons they liked me was because of my knowledge of processes and operations and how valued that knowledge would be here. I’d heard that before, but inevitably the minute you implement something new, even if it’s something with strong proven results that they were all gaga about during the interview, the minute you get it rolling then you get asked to not do it. So to me, what they were saying was BS so after I started I made sure to keep my mouth shut, however, my boss and others regularly mentioned that they would like for me to speak up more in the meeting and present them with ideas. I continued to resist for the most part, but finally, I did put together a binder for the sales team and showed it to my boss and her boss for an endorsement. To my surprise they loved it.
“ Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should talk more?” Ms. Lopper even remarked that I am “too straight-laced” (contain your laugher people – they barely know me). They went on to tell me that everyone loves me and get a copy to the other division. Ok, so I distribute the book to the sales team. You know what…. I should’ve handed out cards that said they were all closet necrophiliacs. I was that popular.
My questions gave me the answer I was looking for – or better yet it got me the truth. And as I asked more questions I found out that the sales team really didn’t like me and no one else did either. Apparently I’ve ruffled more feathers than a hyperactive, groping, fox in a hen-house. I wasn’t surprised however. All last week people would get quiet when I come around. They would forget me on emails and the emails I did get were laced with carefully worded language. I started to hear phrases like, “reinvent the wheel” and “trying to make us like [previous company].” The phrasing comments were so consistent I could track who talked to whom on what day.
Now, it would be easy to fall into the trap of “they didn’t like my ideas and so now I’m going to go eat dirt and sing along with Striesan,” but that’s not my issue. The fact of the matter is that irregardless of how much people say they want your ideas, they want your input, they like change, change is good, bring it on – the fact is they don’t. That’s ok with me. It’s human nature no matter what you say so I can swallow that, but don’t tell me how great everyone thinks I am and let me run amok like Godzilla in Tokyo knowing different. Even worse, don’t tell me, “You have my back” in these situation. You don’t.
My little question has erupted into a 2 hour debate. Cyndi Lopper’s not having fun anymore and Biblo Baggins has to pee from the extra large coffee he drank. Although, I hate having my intuitions confirmed as to my standing in the company there is a certain amount of joy I’m taking out of the whole thing. There’s a demented glee I garner watching Mr Baggins rub his hand over his face in exacerbation. If he starts doing the pee pee dance I don’t think I will be able to contain myself. It’s at this point that as I make the point about creating a dynamic sales force that I refer to the team as being one dimensional. Uh, oh. Not only are they necrophiliacs but they are now pedophiles as well. Both Cyndi and Bilbo practically come out of their chairs. This is confirming too. You see along with the comments of, “we want your ideas,” and “we got your back,” goes the phrase, “we have thick skin.” Now, I realize it’s not what you say but how you say it; however I was purposeful in both my tone and selection of words to avoid this common pitfall. Now they were jumping out of their seats like angry fans at sports bar after watching a bad call on the TV. No – scratch that analogy. I was Hitler at a barmitzva… ya, that captures it.
At this point I realized I had confirmed all that I needed about what they really wanted from me. Get in step with our program no mater how jacked up and keep your mouth shut. We don’t need no stinkin’ processes. As we walked out of the conference room – well, Bilbo darted actually in a mad attempt to get to a urinal – then I heard the other comment I am weayr of, “What’s said in this room stays in this room.” This is to be interpreted as we will discuss this more… when you are not around.
“Got it, Boss.” I gather up my reports, “Thanks for explaining this all to me. Now that I know what really going on I won’t cause anymore trouble” I wonder which one of us is going to follow that path out of the Shire first.
Got this on a MySpace Bulletin and put so much effort into being distracted by it that I didn't want it lost in sea of bulletin posts. It was kind of fun and of course I injected my brand of humor... Ok, so here are the rules
1) Answer the questions below
2) Take each answer and type it into Photobucket
3) Take a picture from the first page of results and post.
4) You can't copy the persons answers who posted this before you!
1. The age you will be on your next birthday:
Great... Crack Pipes for my Birthday... and we get to light 36 of them this year
2. A place you'd like to travel:
It's a real place
3. Your favorite place:
This was right around the corner from my place in Chicago
4.Your favorite object:
5. favorite food:
It's kinda stringy but you get used to it
6. Your favorite animal:
Um, Ya, That would be a LIGER People!
7. Your favorite color:
Hey, All I did was type in "Black" That was the first thing - Just following the rules here
8. The town in which you were born:
No one that lives there knows what it is either... try the AAA Travel Guide... from 1963
9. The town in which you live:
Ya we do... it's cause I live here
10. The name of a past pet:
That's where my pet did his biznass too...
11. Dream Come True:
12. Your nickname/screen name
I know - everyone thought it was Superman.... ha. In your monitor!
13. Your middle name:
I'll be going to the courthouse first thing in the morning to get that changed
14. Your last name:
At least they both ain't wearing that damn thong thing from my middle name
15. A bad habit of yours: but it looks so glamourous!!!
Ratpack did it all the time
16. Your first job:
I was the horse
17. Your grandmother's name:
That's First AND Last Name. Can you figure it out?
You know I could have just put "Breasts" for all of these
... I forgot my sign in and password! Yes, with my "infallible" mind I suffered an althzimers minute and briefly referred to my computer as "Rosebud." So what have been doing? In short... work. And allot of it. Usually, I'm not getting away from there until 6 or 7 and then still taking calls as I drive away in a mad dash for home. I know that I should be grateful for the job and that in every situation I should find myself content in the Lord's provisions, but I just don't have the heart for this line of work. Maybe I'm lazy. Maybe I have a bad attitude... I don't know, but I swear if I sit through one more meeting about how to sell another home or take one more phone call from a sales person with their hair on fire on the other end of the line I may swallow Draino. To be fair the company I am working for is a really good company and given the current housing slump the management there could make my life even more of a living hell, but they are good people (yes, another reason I should be thankful) and I do like them.
I guess there are a couple things that just seem to kill my spirit... one is getting emails on my Blackberry (a device that I am quite sure "normal" people invented as a practical joke for those of us with ADD so they could watch us scurry around to answer the plethora of emails we are signaled to by the flashing red light much in the same fashion as rabid lab rats running to their next feeder pellet... hold on the light is blinking again and I need to get this... Crap! it was just SPAM, Sorry)... uh, ya, emails on my Blackberry at 8am on Saturdays and Sundays. "Judas-Smurfin-Christopher, People! I have a life... or I'd sure like to pretend I do." I guess my gripe is that I need a little time away from all the corporate blood-sucking. Come on people, even Superman needs to spend some time in the sun to recharge his solar batteries.
The other is the fact that one of the reasons they hired me was that I'm an out-of-the-box thinker which is very true. In fact it's probably the underlying reason for much of what I've achieved - that and listening to people's input. So ironically, the minute I start bringing up out-of-the-box ideas for the company's issues I get told "we're not doing that... that's too out-of-the-box" FutherMucker! Are you kidding me? Ironically, the issues plaguing the company are the sames ones I've seen at the last two operations I've been at and the same solution not only applied but worked with great success. Like I said they are good people and managers but out-of-the-box appears to be on par with removing the packaging from a new toaster and then making toast and my approach to the same toaster is to use it in the shower.
Ok, so that's just venting. It's really no big deal in the larger scheme of things. The more real issue is this feeling that I'm not doing what I should be doing in life. There's a discontentment that been simmering inside me and I can't tell if it's the Spirit, an early mid-life crisis, or gas.
At Church there has been allot of talk about God shining a light into our lives and stopping us in our tracks like a dear in the headlights not to expose sin (as the typical sermon analogy usually goes), but to make us reflect on where we are in life and where we are headed. I've felt like that light has been shining on me for a while lately.
The problem is that there is a fear that resides in me that holds me back. That fear manifests itself in the form of logical thinking... I mean I can't just quit my job - financially, I'm in the biggest pinch I've ever been in so this option would be foolhardy at best. And trying to do something on the side while keeping the job I have isn't working either because I'm just flat out exhausted at the end of the day. Aside from the logic of my personal drama is the choice of avenue I'd like to pursue - painting. At least it's not ballet, but even still the chances of becoming a successful painter that would make the amount of income I need is on par with becoming a professional athlete.
Despite that final thought, for whatever reason, I keep running the story of Gideon from the Old (School) Testament. Here's this little chicken who eventually attacks a savage enemy army with nothing but a few hundred nut cases (read "dudes with ALLOT of faith") carrying trumpets and torches... today that would be consider performance art.
Ok, well I guess that's the extent of my whining for one blog. With that off my chest I think I'll go buy a sports car and some gold chains. That or some Pepcid AC... Why am I still squinting?
PS - Thank you to my adoring fans who have faithfully continued to read my blog... I will be home around 7 tonight so go ahead and eat without me. I'm working late.