Friday, June 27, 2008

Natural Disaster Day

You can always count on the television media for a good chuckle. Whether they are grossly oversensationalizing a story or just plain screwing everything up, they tend to regularly step in one mess after another.

This being said, as I was at home for lunch today I was watching one of the news channels. They were so interested in covering events that they had a split screen. Not just two events being televised at the same time, but four.

As I sat watching I turned to my wife and asked if this was one of the signs of the apocalypse. It must have been natural disaster day for divided among the four screens were raging wildfires, tornadoes, flooding and Obama and Clinton campaigning for the presidency.

… by the way, if you haven’t noticed the size of Hillary’s head (literal not figurative) look at her next time she is standing next to Obama. Her head is twice as big as his.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When Office Politics Fail

Don’t you just love office politics? Those annoying little things that just get under your skin. Thinking one thing while expressing another in order to accomplish your goals. The only thing worse is when you have to play politics with people who micromanage and don’t let anyone under their command actually be involved in any of the decision making process. All decisions on all matters must cross a singular desk where they bottleneck and start backing up and affecting all maters material to that division as well as some that aren’t … in other words, everybody in the organization starts to get a little irritated with said division that can’t seem to accomplish anything because everything comes to a screeching halt due to egotism and micromanagement.

That being said, I generally try to refrain from writing things on here that could inevitably get me in trouble, but this time I am making an exception because I really don’t care if I get called on the carpet on this matter. I’m willing to share my opinion and take my punishment if necessary.

Each fall at our small, faith-based university we have a new student orientation weekend named with a Greek term meaning "fellowship." The last few years the person in charge of this weekend, whose office just happens to fall under a major micromanager, has been polling the students to get a better feel for what could be done to improve the event which officially opens each new school year. The main knock on the orientation is that it feels too much like church camp. Needless to say, the school’s response is to try to make it feel more “collegiate” and less “churchy.”

This August marks the beginning of our centennial year and the person who is presumably in charge of student orientation petitioned the faculty and staff for theme ideas to tie into the school’s history. Our original school mascot was the Jackrabbit. It was changed in the late 1940s to the current nickname. We really have no curent mascot to use with our nickname because no one can tell you exactly what a Pioneer is supposed to look like. Just ask Utica College in New York. To make a long story short, I submitted the theme idea, “Embrace Your Haretage!” with a big picture of a jackrabbit … and yes I misspelled “heritage” on purpose. We had ideas of t-shirts with the theme and logo printed on them going to every new student and faculty or staff member that wanted one. There are so many things we could do with the jackrabbit to benefit the school in the public eye, and seeing as how I am in the Public Relations Office, we have discussed these ideas at length. A few years ago, our office passed out jackrabbit t-shirts during homecoming and the students and alumni loved them. They were asking for more.

When this idea was passed on for an informal vote among faculty and staff, the majority loved it. Then it went to the administrator’s desk. Needless to say the idea ran head first into a brick wall that remains consistently closed to differing opinions. The only opinions that matter are the ones that generate from within the wall. None of the “senseless graffiti” that splashes up on the outside of the wall will ever seep through.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes because someone “poo-pooed” in my potty. I couldn't care less who comes up with the idea as long as it is something students will accpet and enjoy. I even pointed out that the idea would work without the Jackrabbit just in case said administrator (who actually likes the jackrabbit … or so I’ve been told) thinks we are pushing to change the school mascot. Just use the theme “Embrace Your Heritage” and tie into the school’s history in any number of ways.

But as we all know, rabbits don’t fly.

Anyway, once the idea was officially shot down we were suddenly without a theme for our student orientation, and the deadline for getting material printed on time was quickly passing. So the great wall opened up and brought forth a new “collegiate” theme for our centennial student orientation weekend………. “Celebrate a Century of Fellowship.”

“… And may God bless us, everyone. Don’t forget to save your nickels and pennies for the foreign missionaries. Now boys and girls lets huddle together and sing “Come by Here” and don’t forget to be in bed with lights out by 8 o’clock … we have a big day tomorrow.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hey batter, batter ...

Not a big fan of kids. I don’t really know why. It is probably because I am not allowed to beat other people’s children … or other children’s people for that matter. But still, being around too many kids makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I’m also rather over protective so therefore I feel like I have to be on the watch for anything and everything that could possibly harm whatever kid is in the area. This, to me, is rather tiring.

I know I’ve broached this subject before on this blog, but it comes up every year at about this time. While I don’t generally enjoy being around groups of children, especially at church functions where you are expected to treat every hellion as though it were an angel of mercy sent forth from the Almighty, I inevitably end up coaching girls’ summer-league softball. The last two years I have helped my brother-in-law coach his daughter’s team. This year, however, my child finally decided she wanted to play, so I am coaching her team.

My daughter is one of the oldest on her team. She plays in the 5-7 year-old league since she was 7 on Dec. 31. She is 8 now and is one of two 8-year-olds on the team. The other is a friend of hers who played last year and played pretty well. They both could have played up to the 8-10 year-old league and would have been successful at that level, but since this is my daughter’s first year, I thought I would keep her with the younger kids until she kind of learned the ropes. Her friend, therefore, decided to stay in the younger league as well.

Altogether, there are 10 girls on the team. They range from the quiet and shy 5-year-olds to the boisterous and out-spoken 8-year-old who is not my daughter. But they are all good kids. And like any kid they are seeking approval for their accomplishments from caring adults. Yet at this very impressionable age, you can already pick out the girls that are going to have trouble as they continue to grow.

I’m pretty lucky with this group really, we have several kids who seem to come from good, solid, two-parent homes. The parents love and encourage them and are willing to participate in their activities. Then there are others. One really cute little girl has a chance to grow up to be a good kid, but something is going to have to change or she will slip through society’s cracks and become another statistic. In an early practice I was talking to the girls about having their mother, father or older sibling just play catch with them so they can work on their hand-eye coordination and just get used to catching the ball.
“My daddy’s in jail,” this girl said. Then with a big grin on her face she added, “but he gets to come home in January.”

How do you respond to that? I said the only thing that came to mind … well, not the only thing, but the only thing that is appropriate to say to a 6-year-old … “Well, tell him he better stay out of jail because you need somebody to play catch with.”

Another girl comes from a broken home with a mother, father, step-father and who knows who else in the equation. She has a lot of talent and potential, but those involved in her life seem to be a little overbearing. Apparently she can never do anything good enough. They always expect her to do something more. She will do exactly what I ask her to do and then have to answer to her parental figures about why she didn’t do that one extra thing. We’ve played two games so far and this has had her nearly in tears at both games.

While working at a newspaper, I saw this parental behavior manifest itself in a high school basketball player. The girl’s parents sat at opposite ends of the gymnasium and continuously yelled at her throughout the game, no matter what end of the floor she was on. And I’m not talking about encouraging, well-wishes. The parents would joke about not being able to sit together because the other one yelled too loudly. You could tell that it really bothered the girl not to be able to perform to her parent’s improbable expectations. It didn’t help that she came from a very successful athletic family with an older sister who was bigger, stronger and more athletically gifted. And while this young lady was an excellent player, she would fold under the pressure of big games. You could see her physically become overwhelmed even though there was no need. There is no doubt in my mind this was due to her parents’ behavior. She was a very nice kid, but always seemed somewhat melancholy around adults who came to the practices or games … that is, until you paid her a compliment. I’ve never seen a kid’s demeanor change so much with one simple compliment than I did with her. She went form a kind of head-down approach to things, to looking up with bright eyes and big smile when I would speak to her.

My point, I guess, is that 5-7 year-old, summer-league, recreational softball can be an interesting study in child psychology ... and it’s probably not the most appropriate place for parents to expect their child to manifest herself as the next Cat Osterman or Jennie Finch. However, practices that begin at this early age can definitely carry over to detrimental behavior in later stages of life.

I just hope I don’t end up sending my child to year’s of therapy – not for softball related issues anyway.