Thursday, April 30, 2009

New PMP

Well all this sluffing around the house just has to stop. I need Goals and Objectives, like at work when we had "PMPs." PMP stood for something like Performance Management Process but we would refer to it as in: "I got my PMP today." The managers were supposed to write these up for their employees but I usually used to put together my own and it would get filed unless there was a need to write up a new one to match whatever the boss might have thought an upper level director wanted it to say. There was a trend for a while to state regular objectives and then "stretch targets" for the things you thought you might be able to get done but wouldn't completely committ to. So here is my 2009 new PMP:

Mindy's new 2009 Goals and Objectives:

  • Keep house tidy and clean. Such as pick up, make beds, sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher. Enabler: That new lightweight vacuum with the onboard attachments. Stretch Target: Completely organize every closet, drawer, cupboard and shelf in the house.
  • Adopt healthier habits. All that sitting and eating donuts has added up, and it ain't pretty. I plan to watch what I eat and exercise every day. Enabler: Put new battery in digital scale. Stretch Target: Lose 30 lbs and participate in a bike tour with significant (40+) miles by fall.
  • Spend time with kids. Attend all baseball games, track meets, field trips, and school events in the upcoming months. Make arrangements for our summer travel and camping. Do things and go places together that are fun. Stretch Target: Delay the onset of the boys thinking it is uncool to hang out with their mom.
  • Learn to cook. Yeah, I know I tried this before. I'm going to try again. I'll start with packing those lunches and work up to making actual meals and doing the shopping. Enabler: Maybe I'll get out Jeffrey's DS cooking game. Stretch Target: Use the oven without burning stuff up.
  • Contribute. Since there will be less cash to hand out, I will serve my community in other ways, such as working in the Giving Garden, coordinating a neighborhood event, assisting with the schools, sports teams, and in the township. Stretch Target: Maybe make that bike tour a fund-raising one.
  • Connect. Maintain and strengthen the bonds I have with my friends and extended family by hosting some get-togethers out here at the lake while the weather is pleasant. Enabler: Some cooperation from Mother Nature would be nice. Stretch Target: With that clean house and cooking skill I should be able to entertain someone here for lunch, or even dinner at least once a week. Yes, I mean YOU. Looking forward to it.
  • Create. Keep going with this blog and my scrapbooking hobby. Enablers: Well my scrapping table will be organized according to #1, and I can do the ScraP SisTaZ challenges and attend workshops at Lynns. Stretch Target: Write novel. I do have an idea ready. I'm going to do it.
  • Get a job. Because the severance money and savings won't hold out forever. Enabler: Take advantage of the services of Right Management Consultants that are included with the severance package. Stretch Target: Something local, high-paying, that I find challenging and engaging, where I will be surrounded by amazing people and a pleasant environment, with flexible hours and generous benefits. (Ok, that one might be excessively stretchy even without being in the midst of a recession, but I gotta know what I'm shooting for!)
Of course there are many other things that are not listed here, but these are the new ones. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Around the House

It's hard to believe it's been a whole week now since I last drove down to Warren. Especially when I think back on what I have accomplished in that time.

I have just sort of been drifting around the house, picking up things here and there. Such as the Easter baskets that needed to be put away. Bonus! I found some jelly beans still hiding under the plastic grass!

Larry noted that he is still the one getting up to make the lunches and get the boys off to school in the mornings. I explained that technically, I am on vacation, since I had some days left that hadn't been used. He has chosen not to argue that point for the moment.

Sometimes I check my emails, and sometimes I check what's going on in Port Charles. I found out that Michael could wake up from his coma at any time now, and that new guy hanging around the docks could be Luke Spencer's long lost son he never knew about.

My Aunt Kathy introduced me to an online game called Farm Town. I don't like to play games and it seems like a silly waste of time, but since it's Aunt Kathy, I set up my farm. Now I take care of it every day and have learned how to plow and harvest crops so I can earn more Farm Coins. I really need more Farm Coins so I can build a silo. Once I get a few more levels I can get a horse! Here is a picture of me on my farm:


I did make a little list of some things that I was going to do during the day, but I never got around to them. I think I'm going to need a plan. When I get around to that, I'll share it with you. But right now, I'm, um, well...doing stuff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Off-boarded

Since I told you I would tell you, here's what happened on my curiously named "Offboarding Day:"

It seemed like it should be a big deal, the end of my 24 year (17.5 credited service) career, but as I saw my two boys and husband leave the house they didn't even mention it, or wish me well, or anything. And then the phone rang, it was my mother. She is a connoisseur of big deals. So much so that I didn't want to tell her this news, and so had called out for Larry to do it on Sunday as I left the house to go shopping. So now she was on the phone, trying to drum up as much drama about the subject as she could, and I resisted with short statements like: "I'll be fine, it's not a big deal."

After that I checked my email. I got one from a now former coworker wishing me well, and he included a memo from Troy Clarke, GM Executive, that announced that the separations were going to be happening this week but that employees would be handled with "respect and dignity." I promised to be on the lookout for that at my offboarding.

Eventually I left the house to drive through pouring rain all the way to Warren, and went into the conference room at the VEC. Just inside the door was a flip-chart with the words "Expressed Interest Offboarding" written diagonally in cursive with different color markers. I thought that was a nice, welcoming touch, but wondered how they would decorate the sign the next day when it would be the people who were truly involuntary.

I saw my HR lady, Terri, who didn't look quite so miserable as she sounded on Friday, but she was sitting at a table already talking to a man. Another HR lady greeted me so I sat down across from her. Terri looked over and said hello to me, and the man she was with turned around, and it was Tom, my old seat belt technical mentor. We both said "Hey!" in a "fancy meeting you here" kind of way, and then got back to our business.

The HR lady asked me my name, and then got out a piece of paper that I saw had my name and years of service written down on it, and a large white envelope. She proceeded to write my name on the envelope with a marker, and then looked at me and said, as if she had been rehearsing: "So what are your plans?"

I looked back and said "I have no idea."

She didn't seem to know what to say to that, so she got down to the business of going through the checklist of things I was supposed to turn in (computer, badge, car pass, credit card, etc) and stuffing them into that envelope. I had everything ready so that didn't take long at all.

Then she got out another white envelope and explained that it was full of information about the severance. She said "Maybe later on you can pour yourself a glass of wine and go through it, good reading!" I pondered the wisdom of GM recommending its severed employees turn to alcohol, but I just nodded in agreement. She quickly went through a checklist of items that were supposed to be inside the envelope, then stuffed it inside and said that was all.

It all seemed rather impersonal. Not that I was expecting a powerpoint slideshow of the highlight moments of my career set to the music pomp and circumstance. (Although that would be cool to see) but the packet she gave me didn't even have my name on it.

Then she said she would get someone to walk me out, and dissappeared through a door in the back of the conference room. I was sitting there picturing some burly bouncer type security guard, maybe carrying a large gun, but instead she returned with a man I recognized as an HR executive who once gave a talk at about Managing your High Potential GM Career at an affinity group Lunch and Learn. The very fine seminar title of Exiting Your Unrealized Potential Employees came to mind but I just chit-chatted about nothing as he saw me to the turnstyle doors and wished me well.

Later on at home Timmy turned the TV on since he was tired from track practice. I sat down with him as the local news show began a story about "GM begins eliminating 1, 600 salaried employees this week." They even showed a close-up of the Troy Clarke Respect and Dignity letter, and a shot of the very building I was in, with cars driving out.

Timmy turned to me and said, "Oh yeah, you did that today, how did it go?"

I smiled at him and replied "It was no big deal."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Goodbye Melinda

Friday was my last day of work at General Motors. They are going through with the staffing reductions that were a part of the original viability plan, and I'll be getting a severance package. This time.

Other than the brief flashes of terror I get when I consider my financial future, I am ok with this.

You may recall that two years ago I left my engineering job at GM on my own with no severance pay. But that was a leave of absence, and I did end up coming back to the company after 6 months but to the training department. I thought of it as a whole new beginning, a chance to learn new skills as well as apply the knowledge that I have of engineering and GM processes in a different way. At first it was all that and more. It was great fun learning how to write online training courses using the Lectora program, and I felt like I was making a meaningful contribution to the department. But over time I began to feel like I had stopped learning, and the projects I was getting and could hope to get were no more than busy work. My experience in Engineering wasn't really acknowledged. It turns out that Engineering is one of those jobs that everyone who isn't in it thinks they could do better than those who are. And although I went in there with a "can-do" attitude I found that those who are schooled in the field of "Instructional Design" don't believe anyone without that background can just step in and do it.

And then the economy tanked out, and GM began its frightening downward spiral. It became a very difficult place to drive almost an hour through the snow to go to every day. I started to secretly hope that I would get let go when they started to work on the staffing reduction plans.

When I had my performance review and learned that I was one of the people that they would be trying to "protect" from separation, I became irrationally frustrated.

So I told my boss I would be ok with it if I was let go. He wasn't exactly pleased with that, but did present my "request" to Human Resources, who demanded that I put it in writing.

I didn't want to write it down. That would mean taking responsibility for my own fate, which I ashamedly admit made me uncomfortable. I could see my poor nice boss sigh with exasperation when I resisted with "what are they going to do if I don't write it down, fire me?" Finally, after a clarifying discussion with the HR lady I did jot down the suggested "expressed interest" statement and sent it in.





And then I had to wait many weeks without really knowing what was going to happen, and the news about GM became more dire and incredible with each passing day. I also hated to see the agony in my coworkers as they struggled with all the unknown changes on the way, and felt guilty because I had to be secretive about what was going on with me.

Finally I got the word that I would be getting separated. The HR lady sounded like the most miserable person on earth. I tried cheer her up by acting all perky when she told me that my last day in the office would be April 17 and that I should go to a conference room at the VEC on Monday the 20th for "offboarding." (I hadn't heard that term before but I think it is goofy and makes me think of walking the plank)

I'll let you know how that goes. Right now I am having many conflicting emotions. I am sad that my career has with GM has come to an end, and I am sad for what seems to be happening to the company, because through it all I have always wanted the best for GM, and not just because I'm still holding some stock in my 401K. I realize that it is a might bit crazy to sort of voluntarily be leaving a job, any job, when there are so few to be had in the State of Michigan, highest unemployment in the nation right now. But then again I always wanted a severance package, and 2 years ago, albeit in a different economic condition, I was willing to leave with nothing. This time around I will get 6 month of pay and benefits, and have some more saved up in the bank since we never quite got around to adjusting our lifestyle up when I became re-employed. (Well, yes, there is the new kitchen floor.)

And, there is a beautiful Michigan summer just now peeking out and I'll be spending it with my darling little boys who I know are getting ever closer to being less little and darling with each year that passes by. I'm going to soak it up, all of it, every drop of a moment, and I know I'll never regret having that time with them, again, no matter how difficult things may become financially in the future.

And, in spite of the condition of the economy, and this state, and the automotive industry, I still cling to the hope that there is something out there for me to do, that I could both enjoy and be good at. Maybe even get paid for. For without that, well, this all would just be too darn depressing, and I don't wanna go there. I insist on being defiantly optimistic. I think.

Oh, I don't know.

There's only one thing I know.

I sure am going to miss Bob.




Friday, April 17, 2009

The Best Book Club Yet

This month it was my turn to host our Book Club. The selection was The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. A few weeks ago I was in Target and I noticed the book there and put it in my cart. As I was checking out the woman behind me in line commented on my purchase. She said that she had read that book and that the author had called in to her book club. Hmm.

I finished reading it on the Tuesday before book club, and then noticed at the back where it said how to contact the author. I went online and filled out a form with my phone number and the time of our meeting, but didn't think anything would happen on such short notice.

We were already having one of the best book club meetings yet. Julie brought excellent snacks and Jennifer contributed some cake. We had the usual hilarious conversations and a moment where Heather had Weepy Willy do his thing on the picture of our local newspaper editors picture. We drank wine and I showed my movie. We also talked about the book, since for once everyone had read it. We all agreed that it was a nice, light read. Chick lit. But since we have been doing book club for over six years now, we've been through a lot of these types of books, and agreed that this wasn't one of the better ones. We thought it showed that she was a first-time author and that the characters weren't all that well developed.

And then the phone rang. It was her!

Even though we were already well into the wine and had just been sort of trashing the book, the conversation went well and the call lasted about a half hour. She was very nice and answered all of our questions, although some of it sounded rehearsed, and she kept pitching her next books.

I think that we all agreed that this was the Best Book Club yet, and that Kate Jacobs is super cool for calling us. Maybe she'll invite us to the premier of her movie.

Maybe I should write a book.



Amy took a video of part of the conversation, if you'd like to listen in:


video

Melinda

This morning I was listening to the Broadway music channel on my XM radio when I suddenly saw my own name on the little screen. I never knew that there was a song with the title of Melinda. And it was recorded in 1965, the year I was born!

Here are the lyrics, I like them:

This is a dream Melinda
Just a mirage, so they say
This whole affair they all declare
Was dreamed every step of the way
You're a mere dream, Melinda
Out for a gay little spin
Telling me lies before my eyes
of days that never have been
There's no Melinda, they say for sure
But don't go Melinda
I know and you know
That you're no mere dream, Melinda
Gone when the dawn gleam is through
You and I know that long ago
before the dream there was you
There once was you


It is from a play called "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"

Here is a link where you can listen to it:

Melinda

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mindy Makes a Movie

So I made this movie...



It all started when Aunt Chris had her movie transferred to DVD, and then showed it at my Dad's birthday party.




Well, to back up even more, it started in 1971 when Uncle Fred was taking a film class and shot a silent movie on 8mm film starring his young wife (Aunt Chris) and best friend Byron. The story of the film is that a man breaks into an apartment to try to rob it, and ends up getting shot by the occupant. As kids we cousins used to spend our time during family holiday parties in my Grandparents basement watching Grandpa's old home movies, and this one. It got to where we knew every scene by heart and would shout out sound effects and commentary on the background images (look at those gas prices!) on cue every time. Then time and technology changes took over and the movie was lost but for our memories of it, until now.




So with the whole family gathered we watched the movie once again and everyone shouted out the same old lines, and the new generation of young cousins were mesmerized. And then it was said: "We should make a sequel!"




Next thing you know I am writing a screenplay of a CSI/cold case type story that included many of the props from the original movie that are remarkably still in the families possession, and begins with Cale finding a bone on the beach. I cast most of the family members in the various roles, and sent out emails with their lines and the day we would be filming.




We shot all of the scenes in two days using my father's 12 year old hi-8 video camera and the video feature on my Kodak. The lighting design consisted of a shop light clipped to the camera tripod, and an extension cord. It all took way longer than I expected it to. There is so much involved in setting up every scene such as camera angles, getting good sound, arranging the props and rehearsing. There were lots of mistakes and bloopers making for an entertaining outtake reel that is as long as the movie!




Almost every family member readily agreed to appear in the movie, with the exception of my two brothers-in-law. So we put their names on missing persons files to be added to the background props. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and we changed the script to fit the situation. Matthew got a new puppy? Write it in! Even my dad got in on the action, and completed his scene in one flawless take. We joked that was because his background as a Lawyer was acting all along.




As we lugged equipment and props across her house Mary Beth commented that "Normal people aren't doing this today." Very true but normal people weren't having this much either!




The difficult part came when I had to transfer the videos to the computer. There was much more involved than I thought when I noticed our computer had Windows Movie Maker that came with Vista when we got it. I had to use special cords and a converter box, and Timmy downloaded a free trial of Sony Vegas that would accept all of the different formats we ended up with.




Vegas turned out to be a very powerful editing program that is extremely difficult for a newbie to learn and use. With the help of my brilliant son I eventually got to the fun part of selecting and arranging the scenes, and adding sound effects, transitions, and music. I very much enjoyed working on it until the project got so big and complicated that the more I did the more I messed other parts up. That's when it was time to call it a wrap.




After even more ado we were able to format and transfer it to a DVD, ready to show the family at our Easter party.




I was so excited to watch each person straighten up a bit as their scenes came along, and to hear everyone howl with laughter at all of the inside family jokes we had thrown in. Of course they were all full of compliments for the almost professional quality of the production.




Looking back, it does seem a little bit crazy to go through all of this just to amuse the family for a half an hour. But it was really more than that. Just like the original film, this movie and the experience of making it are now part of our legend. Each person is forever preserved exactly as they were that weekend, digitally immortalized into a silly story that's as entertaining to watch as it was to make.




My mother commented that it was a shame that I wasn't in the movie, but I don't see it that way. This thing, the whole project of it, is my creation, from a part of me that is more personal than the image of my face or the sound of my voice. It is my art. I have found that I have a need to create, whether its through my profession, or scrapbooking, or even this blog. I made a movie!

Monday, April 13, 2009

All Kinds of Fun

I realize that my blogging has been rather scarce lately. I have been keeping my mind off of the upcoming changes at GM by pursuing other creative outlets such as scrapbooking and making a movie.


I took last week off from work to be home with the boys for their Spring Break. Since we weren't going to be going on a trip like last year, I asked the boys if there was something special that they would like to do around here. Jeffrey picked to go play Laser Tag with his cousins. That seemed reasonable, and we picked Thursday since Cale and Ramona had the day off and Mary Beth would be working from home and glad to get them out of the way for the afternoon. My mother decided to come along since she hadn't seen the boys for a while and just likes going places with all the kids.

So we went and picked them up, and Mary Beth gave us Laser Tag coupons from the entertainment book. My mom also ripped out some coupons for local restaurants but Mary Beth thought that they looked like crummy bars and suggested we head for Applebees or another chain instead.

As we headed over towards Utica I saw a place called "The Lodge" that I recognized from the coupon stack. It was a bar, but also looked like a place we could go and get some burgers. It turned out to be just right for us, it was clean and they had good food and a neat "loggy" atmosphere...and a giant bar in the middle but since this was lunchtime there were hardly any sad looking drunks leaning on it. It was perfect!

Then we went over to the Laser Tag place, but it was closed! I hadn't even thought to call ahead, but according to the sign they didn't open until 4:00 on days there was school, and we figured that district must not have had the day off.

The kids were of course hugely disappointed but I decided that we should make our own fun and suggested we walk across the street to what looked like a little park area and plan our next move. Well the kids ran ahead and the next thing you know they disappeared into a square cave-like opening in the wall under the freeway (M-59.) It was a walking path tunnel and the walls were coated with graffiti and if you scream in there you get a wonderful echo! It led out to a path to a bridge over the Clinton River which was rushing fast. The kids had a ball throwing ice chunks off of the bridge and watching them splash into the river and float under to the other side. They kept on doing that until Jeffrey announced that he needed to go to the bathroom so we ducked into the local library which was also right there.

After that I suggested that we explore "Downtown Utica" which I have always driven by but never walked the streets of. We saw some boarded up older building which caused the kids to speculate about hobos living there. (I don't know why but they have this obsession with hobos lately) and then came to a coffee shop that advertised selling ice cream. We went in and the owner lady took a long time scooping out cones of hand dipped (Ramona got birthday cake flavor and Cale something chocolate, and fat-free butter pecan for Grandma) and whipping up real fruit smoothies for Tim and Jeff and a Cappuccino for me. We slouched in the comfy leather couches and enjoyed our treats, and Cale and Jeffrey played a game of chess that was set up at a Bistro table. We were the only customers and kind of took over the place, which was fun!

When we got out of there we checked out the few stores that were there in Downtown Utica, which included an interesting home decor/antiques shop that the kids liked exploring and they didn't even break anything!

As we made our way back to the car I commented on how we managed to make our own fun and explore the local offerings without having to rely on the pre-packaged entertainment of chain restaurants and Laser tag. I looked back at the kids for affirmation of this and their faces were absolutely beaming with delight...

...As they looked past me to the Laser Tag parking lot and realized that more cars were in it and it was now OPEN!!!

So much for my improvised fun. We went in and played two games of laser tag, because that's what the coupon was for. For the first game I went in because I thought Ramona might be a little scared in there and want me with her. I could see the appeal of the place, it is all dark with black lighting and florescent paint and music and you get to go around with a light-up vest and hold a gun. Ramona went sneaking all over and I lumbered along after her. I imagined that I was like a Wookie, protecting the princess. Every so often I would see a set of familiar glowing whites-of-eyes and teeth fly by, and recognize them as belonging to one of my happy sons.

After the game ends they hand out these score sheets that tell you what happened in there. My boys took first and second place, and I came in last out of 19. I guess you're supposed to shoot at people or something. I sat out the second game in the party room where Grandma had taken refuge, and the kids came out all flush-faced and excited, especially Ramona who certainly never needed her Wookie in the first place.

I think we learned that day that there are all kinds of fun you can have close to home on a Thursday afternoon, both the types that you drum up yourself and the kinds that are pre-arranged for you, they're all good.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Break Snow



April 6, 2009 Spring Break Snowstorm. Lovely.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I got presents!

I had my birthday this week (44) and some of the things I got made me smile so much that I just have to share them with you.

In the mail from my friend Renee I got this perfect card, it plays Tiki Music! I have known Renee since the third grade so we have been remembering each other's birthdays for three and a half decades now. She knows me.

My mother likes to see me on my actual birthday and so met me for lunch at PEI WEI with my niece and nephew. They are such good company! Cale helped me to pick out what to eat. Since she asked, I had suggested to my mother that I would like a new purse and told her about the one that I had seen on Kim's blog. It could be the last purse I ever need. It is called a Miche and it is a plain black purse with these removable magnetic shells. Cuteness, fashion, and a well engineered concept. Love it.

Mary Beth, expert shopper that she is, acted on a tip and located these Grease Barbie Dolls on sale at Tuesday Morning. I already had the yellow one from a couple of years ago, now it's a collection! This may seem like a frivolous possession in These Trying Times but just looking at these lovely ladies makes me feel happy and that's worth quite a lot, imho. I just can't decide whether or not I should take them out of the boxes.






And then there's Becky, who presented me with a bag of lovely normal presents such as a pink shirt, an Easter decoration, and....this:



I don't have a very good explanation other than that Becky likes to go to vintage toy shows, and this is an item that we remember from our childhood. It recently showed up in the background of the shop in the movie Hairspray, and we both noticed it. I am trying to verify the story of how and why it was featured in our lives, and if I get that straight it'll be another blog post.