Change Isn’t Always Easy

McDonald’s Restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa

My favorite cartoons growing up were the Looney Tunes; Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all the rest.

The older ones were great; I learned about life from the 3 minute shorts, but what really intrigued me were the cartoons about the future, particularly the one about the House of Tomorrow. It was supposed to be funny but it sent my imagination into overtime, and made me wonder if that’s really what the future held.

Looking back at it, I think the writers from the 1950’s had some insight into what to expect from the 21st Century, though most people just saw it as goofy entertainment.

Though I have been keeping up with the latest technology, I am sometimes take back by how much technology is changing all of our lives. We have an Echo Dot that plays our music whenever we want and of course, my computers, and cell phones, and tablets.

I see people walking down the street or sitting in coffee shops and restaurants, their eyes glued to their devices instead of talking to the person in front of them.  My own adult children have their phones out as I am trying to have a conversation with them. I don’t feel like it’s my lace to say, “Hey, put your phone away.” They aren’t 10 anymore and should know better, right?

But the changes aren’t just socially; they are starting to hurt our livelihood, as well.

I took my grandson, Thomas, home last weekend. He lives in the Des Moines suburb of Johnston. He was hungry, so we stopped at a McDonald’s close to his home. We walked in and I was expecting to see a long line of customers. It was just past 1 on a Sunday afternoon, after all. Instead, just a few people milled around the lobby, looking a little confused, including us. I started toward the counter to order.

“No, Grandma. We order over here,” he told me nonchalantly.  He pointed to a kiosk off to the side with a large sign hung above it that said, “Order Here.” I looked back at the counter (which had shrunk significantly in size from our last visit) and saw a sign above it that said “Pick Up Order Here.”

Wow, I thought. McDonald’s is losing it. Sure, it’s more convenient for the customer, but it’s missing the personal touch. It’s one of our basic needs as human beings. Why even bother going out to eat if you order your food from a kiosk?

It’s happening all over; the lines to the self check-outs at the big discount stores are starting to be longer than the regular check-outs. Jobs are being eliminated, one by one. Who will be next?

Those who are graduating high school may want to think about where the job market is heading and pick a career more suitable to the changes.

Sure we have the technology, but when are we going to realize that maybe crossing that line between convenience, and changing the way we live, is not always a good thing?




Work is a 4-letter word

This the last night at the umpteenth job I’ve had over the years. I’m  saying goodbye to yet another job and it has caused me to pause and contemplate what it all mean.

I have been working for most 35 years of my life and in that time, there are only a few that I can say that I really enjoyed. I have been a secretary, cashier, kennel worker, pie server, bookkeeper, cook, baker and a waitress. As funny as it sounds, I think I enjoyed being a waitress the most (Somewhere along the way it became politically correct to call us servers, but I can’t get used to it.)

What I liked most about being a waitress was the fact that it was different every day. I never got bored. I enjoyed the people, too, though some of them could really be jerks. Some people don’t tip, as a personal rule; some take their bad day out on you, and some are just plain mean. And people thought we got regular pay plus tips. When I told them that I made $1.96 an hour at my first waitress job in 1980, they couldn’t believe it. I relied pretty much on my tips to pay my bills. When my tips started getting smaller and smaller, I decided I couldn’t do it and switched careers…as a cashier.

I didn’t like it as much. I had to stand in one place all day and count money. I still got to work with people, but it wasn’t the same. I went back to serving for a while before getting a job with REM Iowa, working with mentally challenged adults. The pay wasn’t much, but I enjoyed helping my clients learn how to live independently. It also helped me learn how to better relate to my son, who is also mentally challenged. But it too became monotonous and I began to look at what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Once I started back to college, the choice was clear; I wanted to be the publisher of my own paper. Where else could I be busy all the time, do something different every day, and work with people? (besides being a waitress, I mean) Sounds perfect to me.

So here I sit, a few minutes left of my shift. I enjoyed my summer job editing web pages, but it too became tedious. Sitting for eight hours looking at the computer screen not only strained my eyes, but my back, as well. I need to keep moving. I think I said it before but I will say it again; work doesn’t have to feel like work if you really enjoy what you’re doing. Work doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.

Hard work pays off-Week 12

My parents taught me at a very young age that you have to work for what you want in life, it isn’t just handed to you.

The Hiawatha Advocate

I’ve watched other people go through life with no problems, and good things just naturally happened to them. Why them? Why do I have to work my tail off to get what I want, while they do absolutely nothing and still get what they want?

My dad once tried to explain his philosophy to me, that those people who get things handed to them aren’t learning anything and we should feel sorry for them. But it was tough for a 10-year old to understand this, but I think he was trying to prepare me for the “real world,” and that life wasn’t easy.

I began delivering the Penny Saver every week when I was 11 and made $13 a month. Not a lot, but it gave me some spending money.

I graduated to taking over my brother’s Cedar Rapids Gazette route when I was 13, and while it was pretty hard work, it didn’t pay much either. But I liked the fact that I was doing something to be proud of; I was bringing people their newspaper, something I know they relied on. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was developing a work ethic that would follow me the rest of my life.

I was eager to start a real job and applied for a cashier position at McDonald’s when I was 15, telling them that I was 16. (It was before they required proof of age to begin employment) I planned on getting a work permit, but the hassle of the entire process took forever, and by the time I got it, I had already turned 16.

I started working at Bishop’s Buffet in downtown Cedar Rapids soon after I quit McDonald’s, and became pie girl-silverware roller-tray carrier.  I made enough money to buy my first car, a 1972 Mercury Marquis. It was a boat and ate gas like crazy, but it was mine.

My father was right. When we’re handed things in life, we tend to take them for granted. When we work for it, we own it, we can say it is our ours. We can say, “I did that.” While all my friend’s parents bought their cars for them, I could say that I did it myself.

Most things in life are not easy, but the rewards greatly outweigh the struggles.  And if you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work.

Week 12 of starting a newspaper finds me in a very good position. I have four months until I am done with classes and six months before I put my first issue out, and I am still right on schedule. Pretty amazing for something that started with the dream of a little girl and an old manual typewriter.

Pretty amazing indeed.


The Hiawatha Advocate website


When good jobs go bad

My job is not as easy as it may seem.  I work with mentally-challenged adults and help them cook, clean, take them places and make sure they take their medications.  I have to admit that it’s a pretty cushy job and will sometimes compare it to babysitting.

Maybe that’s why I take it for granted sometimes.  I get paid just under $9 an hour and though I get paid for sleeping, it’s on a couch that leans to one side and I wake up feeling like I just got hit by a bus.  I don’t work that hard physically, but the mental and emotional stress can take its toll.

It isn’t very often that I have to confront a consumer (as we call them) in a situation that I’m not prepared for.  But, unfortunately, it does happen.

Most of the time, the ladies I work with are gentle.  Though there is an occasional, “I don’t wanna,” I can usually get them to see things my way, while thinking that it was all their idea, the whole time reminding myself it’s for their own good.  But in the end, and because I care, I find myself acting more like a mother than a support person.

All four of them have different levels of mental capacity, with disabilities ranging from autism to bi-polar disorder to personality disorders to brain injury.  The lady who has the lowest mental capacity and who needs the most help, is one that I have been the closest to.

Angie (not her real name) has an anxiety disorder, which makes her nervous and ask a lot of questions.  She has the IQ of a 5-year-old and when her medicine is working, she is the sweetest person. She has spent that last two months in the hospital because the doctors can’t seem to get her medicine right. 

She came home last week because the doctors thought they had done all they could for her.  She was all for most of the night but when it was time to go to bed, she freaked out.  She tried to run away in her nightgown and I told her that I would have to call the police if she did.  She saw that I was on the phone and thinking that it was the cops, she lunged at me and grabbed hold of my hair with both hands.

I was in shock and didn’t react right away.  Once I realized that she was actually pulling, I screamed and tried to push her away, something they tell us never to do if someone has your hair in their hands.  However in that situation, who’s thinking about that? 

I pushed anyway and heard my hair being pulled from my scalp. Things happened so fast, but I managed to free myself.  I saw clumps of hair fall from her hands as she stepped away, but as soon as she started coming after me again, I ran next door to get help.

Scenes like this don’t happen very often and my job isn’t really that bad.  It works great with my school schedule and I have learned a lot about life because of it.  But when things like this happen, it just reminds me why I went back to school; so I can start a career and not just a job.

It has been a great experience but I think it’s time to move on.