Last day at Scott & White

Today was my last working day at Scott & White. It hasn’t sunk in yet nor has that enormous weight been lifted. I find solace in knowing that I will be happier and more fruitful in the coming weeks.

It’s funny to go back and read previous posts on this site. Man, was I excited about working at S&W. I was excited about moving to bustling Temple as well. I just think that’s hilarious.

I had to endure the corporate exit interview mumbo jumbo today. I spent most of the day cleaning out my e-mail box, all of my files on my computer and all of the files and papers on my desk. The marketing department had a little going away party for me at 1:30. That was really nice of them. Someone baked a killer cake. Red velvet something or other with a really sweet cream. It was good.

Being the rebel that I am, I wore dirty jeans and my motorcycle boots to work today. I semi-complied by tucking in my shirt. I didn’t have any meetings and I didn’t see myself getting fired. One of these days I’m going to really let loose and run with scissors.

Elise and I are going to some new years eve party tonight. I think there will be a lot of people from Elise’s work there. I’m sure we’ll stay up too late and sleep in tomorrow.

I’m going to take the rest of the week to clean up, get organized and start packing.

Christmas 2002

Alas, Christmas is over. All of the presents have been unwrapped and the traveling is done.

As part of our premarital planning, Elise and I decided that we would spend every other Christmas is Des Moines with her family and the other Christmases with my family in Cat Spring. This was our first Christmas together in Des Moines.

We bought our plane tickets back in early October, so we saved quite a bit of money. Our plan was to spend December 22 – 26 in Iowa. Because of a family emergency, I had to change my flight plans and didn’t arrive in Des Moines until Christmas eve. Elise’s travel itinerary didn’t change. We woke up early last Sunday and I drove her to DFW to catch her flight. As I was driving back to Temple, I got a speeding ticket in Ft. Worth. I woke up early on Monday, called the Ft. Worth Municipal Court and got information on received deferred adjudication. Hopefully I’ll hear from the City of Ft. Worth soon. We don’t have the money to pay for a ticket and our auto insurance premiums to increase.

I drove to Austin Monday morning to have lunch with my parents and attend a memorial service for Todd. I left Austin and headed to Dallas to stay the night at Jenni’s house so she could take me to the airport at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Tuesday was travel day. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and got to Des Moines a little after noon.

Steve and Elise picked me up from the airport and we went to the Boeckman house. We had soup for lunch, went to church (which I only do once a year – voluntarily) and drove around town looking at Christmas lights that night. There was a teeny tiny snow flurry as we were driving through Des Moines, so I can say I had my first white Christmas. Needless to say, it was cold the whole time. When I say cold, I mean cold for a native Texan. Those Midwesterners laughed at your narrator’s shivers. If you’re a northerner, here’s a way to impress a Texan in the winter: Take a cup of hot water, take your Texan outside and have him throw the hot water into the air. It vaporizes. I was mesmerized. If you’re a Texan and want to impress your northerner, take him outside in August and show him how to fry an egg on the ground.

We woke up on Christmas morning and everyone opened presents. Then we ate. Then we ate again. Then we ate again. And again. I didn’t step outside on Christmas day. I ate again.

We woke up on Thursday to get ready to head back home. Elise and I had a long layover in Chicago so we sat in the terminal and watched people. That was fun. We saw a young pregnant woman who thought she was attractive enough with-child to let her belly stick out from under her little t-shirt.

Elise and I got back to bustling Temple at 11:00 p.m. We woke up on Friday to go to work. That was stupid. We both should have just taken the day off. I didn’t get anything done at work and I don’t think Elise did either. It didn’t help that no one else was working on Friday.

Friday night Elise and I drove to my parents’ house to spend the weekend with them. We got in at 10:30 and chatted until around midnight. We woke up on Saturday to open presents with my parents. We ate. We ate again. You get the picture. In 2004, I think we’ll just walk to Des Moines so we can regulate the calorie intake/burning ratio.

We slept in on Sunday and got up to eat, sleep and watch football. I washed the Jeep and ate some more. We left my parents’ house around 5:00 and came back to Temple.

So, it’s all over with for this year. Tomorrow is my last day at Scott & White. I’m excited. The new year is looking good for us so far.

Todd Mennen

On Monday, I sat to the right of my father, fought back tears and listened to a very strong man speak.

I fought back tears because I was trying to be as strong as Clay. I fought back tears because I didn’t want to think about standing at that church podium myself. I fought back tears because at the age of sixteen, a boy is supposed to be begging his father for car keys, not begging for one last chance to tell his father he loves him.

Last Thursday, December 19th, a very close friend of our family was killed in a car accident in Oklahoma. I debated internally, over and over, whether or not I should mention this on my website. My words could never serve justice in describing how wonderful a person Todd was. He was and still is a mentor to me. I guess this is my closure.

Todd married my older sister. Kathy is not my sister by blood, but by love. Kathy was there when I was born. Kathy has been and always will be in my life. I remember the days when Todd and Kathy were dating in high school. Todd would come to Don and Linda’s house to pick Kathy up. Todd always talked to me and we made each other laugh. Todd always had the little brother seal of approval.

Todd and Kathy had a baby boy when they were young. Society probably told them that they were too young to have a child. They did it anyway – and they did it well. Todd and Kathy had Clay when I was ten years old.

Don, Linda, Sharron, Kathy, Todd, Clay and I went on a water skiing trip when Clay was at that potty training age. I was Clay’s hero at that point-in-time. Everyone was trying to convince Clay that big boys wore Underoos, not diapers. Linda, Kathy’s mother, told Clay: “Josh doesn’t wear diapers, he wears big boy underwear. He has underwear with Superman on them!” I was twelve at the time and didn’t wear Superman Underoos. It was my job to convince Clay that diapers were for babies. It was hard to tell Clay that I didn’t have my Superman skivvies on at that moment, but that I normally wore them. Todd helped me and together we convinced Clay to wear normal underwear. It was a triumphant moment for me.

I convinced Clay to wear big boy underwear. I never changed Clay’s diapers. I never gave him a bath. I never fed him or burped him. Todd and Kathy never asked those things of me. Kathy did those things for me when I was a baby. Todd and Kathy did those things for their own children.

Todd and Kathy went on to have three more beautiful little girls: Lauren, Morgan and Julia. Luckily I wasn’t commissioned to convince them to wear Superwoman Underoos.

Todd went on to receive his MBA and provided for his family in every sense of the word. The Mennens moved forward in their busy lives. I started my busy life as a young adult. We would see each other during brief family visits. Though the times we spent together were limited, I cherished those moments. They went out of their way to come to my college graduation. They were there on my wedding day.

Todd always made it a point to talk to me. He always asked about news in my life. Todd always cared about me. I cared about Todd. I wanted to be like Todd. I still want to be like Todd.

I hugged Clay at his father’s funeral. I looked into his eyes and saw Todd in them more than ever. Clay is going to have to grow up faster than I could begin to imagine. Todd and Kathy made him strong. I know that the Mennen children will all do well because they have their father in them.

I wonder why Todd is gone. Todd was nine years older than me. Todd was a successful father and a successful husband. Todd was a successful man. I wish that he were here so I could ask him questions. I wish that he were here so he could give me a hint as to how to be as great as him. I wish that he was here so that one day I could tell my son that Todd wears Superman Underoos.

Todd didn’t have to wear Superman Underoos. He was Superman.

A couple things that I’ll miss

I’m really excited about leaving Temple and moving back to Austin. As I was walking in to work this morning, I saw something that made me think about how there are some things that I’m going to miss. I currently work at a rather large hospital. Hospitals tend to employ physicians. Physicians tend to make more money than most people. People who make more money than others tend to have cool toys.

I saw a brand new Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe parked in front of the Conference Center this morning. It’s not a Ferrari or a Viper, but a pretty slick car nonetheless. It looks like a 300ZX that’s been washed and waxed with $100 bills. I see a fair share of Audi’s and Porche’s on campus, but this G35 really stood out.

I’ll probably miss seeing helicopters take off and land on a daily basis as well. I work in a building a couple hundred feet from the main hospital. Between me and the hospital is the helipad. It’s really cool to see a helicopter take off from just a few feet away.

That’s probably all that I will miss. No, I take that back, there are some perks that I’ll miss – like free flu shots and the health plan benefits one gets while working at a hospital. I wonder if they were going to give us Small Pox vaccinations. Maybe it’s good that I’m getting out now – I heard that people died from the vaccination. They also gave me a free turkey for Christmas and a movie pass. I think that’s all that I’ll miss.

Best day in a long time

After ten hard months, I have decided to leave Scott & White and take on a position with another company in Austin. You can’t begin to imagine how excited I am.

Though Scott & White is a great place, it’s not the place for me. I’m happy to say that I learned a lot during my tenure and am proud to have worked with a great group of people on a very challenging project. It kind of makes me sad that I won’t be around for the completion of the project, but at least I made a contribution.

The project that I was hired to work on was the Scott & White consumer website, or “portal”. We used IBM’s Websphere product to serve the site and Interwoven’s Teamsite as our content management system. Two complex products that my knowlege of makes for a nice addition to the ol’ resume.

I don’t think I’m at liberty to disclose any intellectual property and speak of a specific launch date for the consumer portal, but the Scott & White Health Plan launched their portal this week:

There are some very smart and talented people behind this initiative and I wish them all the best!

Newman’s Bakery, Donuts

As I was walking to work this morning I caught the smell of donuts being fried. There’s a Shipley’s Donuts store on the corner of 31st Street and Hwy 36, close to where I cross the street before I get to work.

I’m not a big breakfast food person. I think that’s the proverbial balancing-each-other-out notion in Elise’s and my relationship. She likes breakfast foods, I don’t. I’ll eat breakfast foods – and by breakfast foods, I mean eggs, toast, pancakes, waffles, etc. – but I’d rather eat something else, if anything at all.

The smell of donuts was pleasant this morning for some reason. I associate the smell of donuts with work.

Shortly after I turned 16, I blew up the car that my parents had given me. I was a kid, I didn’t know any better. I asked my Dad if I could get another car if I got a job and paid for it. I really got myself into something on that one!

Enter Newman’s Bakery of Bellville Texas.

My good friend and classmate, Karen Davis told me that Newman’s was hiring for weekend shifts. She had worked there for a while and told me it was an honest wage for an honest day’s work. I signed on with no work experience to be a counter person. I learned how to mop floors, make change, make sandwiches, serve coffee, donuts, pastries and cookies. I wore a paper hat. I earned whatever minimum wage was at the time. I made enough to cover my $250 per month payment for a black 1993 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS. I worked for a car. I pretty much had nothing after I wrote my check to the bank.

I was a pretty active individual in high school. After club activities and Tae Kwon Do class, I usually couldn’t start my homework until 10:00 p.m. Weekends were my only time for socializing. That changed. I only had time to work on Saturday and Sunday. I had to be at work at 5:00 a.m. which meant I had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. All of my friends wouldn’t go to bed until 4:00 a.m.

It was then that I realized life meant work.

I didn’t enjoy my stint as a cashier and donut monger at Newman’s Bakery. Most of the employees were peers, but peers aren’t your regular friends at 5:00 a.m. We were all tired zombies who were having to work.

Mike Newman, my boss, was an alright guy. He was always the first one to work and was usually in the kitchen making the donuts and pastries all morning. We rarely saw or spoke to him. He signed the paychecks. He was okay in my book.

Eleven years later, Rose Newman still haunts me in my dreams. Rose is Mike Newman’s mother. I’m sure she’s a great lady and mother, but she instilled the “watch out for the boss” mentality for me. Every time the little bell chimed when the door opened, we would look out of the corner of our eyes to see if it was Rose coming into work. If someone had their wits about them at 5:00 a.m., they would sneak a peak at the schedule to see if she was coming in that day. It was a wonderful day if Rose had the day off.

Rose was a very petite woman with a piercing mouth. Not piercing eyes, but a piercing mouth. When she spoke to you, you couldn’t help but be intimidated by her mouth. I don’t know what it was – maybe her choice of lipstick or the fact that she seemed to have a permanent frown. Either way, when she spoke at me, I couldn’t help but stare at her mouth, waiting for another degrading order.

Karen told me in the early stages of my Newman’s career to always look busy if Rose was in the vicinity. I thought I did a pretty good job of doing that regardless of whether or not Rose was there.

I’d like to say that I worked well at Newman’s Bakery. Rose thought otherwise. My last day at Newman’s Bakery was on a Saturday. A nice Saturday – a Saturday on which Rose was not working. I was nearing the end of my shift and volunteered to mop the floors. Still being considered a rookie, I had managed to mop myself into a wall between the sandwich station and a proof box. I didn’t want to walk across the wet floor, so I rested one elbow on the sandwich station’s prep board and began waiting for the floor to dry.

Mike’s dad was sitting at his usually spot at the corner table in the diner, staring into space and smoking his cigarettes. He saw that I had stopped working for approximately 45 seconds. I saw him get up and walk to the back of the restaurant. I’d say three minutes had gone by and the floor was dry enough for me to walk across it and continue mopping the other side of the counter.

As I was mopping, the phone rang. One of my coworkers came to me and said that Rose was on the phone and would like to speak to me. Evidently Mike’s dad was an onsite spy for the Department of Slavery and Donut Servers (DSDS) and had called the chief. I answered the phone and pictured her piercing mouth as Rose told me that they weren’t paying me to stand around and do nothing. I politely told her that I was waiting for the floor to dry and that I hadn’t been standing around for long at all. No excuse is good enough for Rose Newman. Karen told me to always look busy. I should have pretended to wipe off the sandwich station while the floor was drying.

I apologized to Rose and told her that it wouldn’t happen again. We both hung up our ends of the phone. I thought nothing of it. This incident just proved to me that I needed to heed Karen’s warning at all times. My shift was over at 1:00 p.m. Checks were to be available at 2:30 p.m. on that same day. I drove around town for the hour and a half and visited with friends.

I came back to Newman’s at 2:30 to pick up my paycheck. There was a note in my envelope from Mike. He had handwritten a note saying: “Josh, we need to talk when you come in for your shift tomorrow morning.”

I never showed up for my Sunday shift. I knew I was going to get fired – I just didn’t want to hear it from Mike. I was going to be fired for waiting a few minutes for the floor to dry.

I still like to eat donuts. I still like the smell of donuts even though that’s all I could smell for many months while I was sixteen years old. I’ve even been back to Newman’s Bakery in little ol’ Bellville Texas. I didn’t see Rose.

I would like to go back to Newman’s and talk to her. I think it would be fun to see what kind of person she is in friendly, adult conversation and to tell her the story of my first job. I would probably thank her as well – I would thank her for teaching me to always look busy.

I need to go now. I should probably clean the wrist pad for my keyboard – I don’t look very busy right now.

Elise makes the Sports section

One of Elise’s photos made the front page of the Sports section this morning. The caption reads: “Tem-Cats’ LaTanya Felder dribbles upcourt during Temple’s 67-37 victory over Killeen on Tuesday (Photo by Elise Janicek)”. A smaller, cropped version of the same photo highlighting the sports section was used on the front page of the paper.

For the past two days now, I’ve actually had a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I walk with a quicker pace to work so I can get to the Inn at Scott & White where I pick up a copy of the paper. I then walk to work, grinning, with paper in hand, hurrying to get to my cube where I can sit down and see my wife’s work.

I’m like a child again – like a child among other children in April who is in a frantic rush to find one of the last hidden eggs on Easter morning. Once I find her picture, I engage in a bottom lip bite and a scrawny armed fist pump – much like how you’d imagine a bowler’s winning ten pin blowout celebration in a league tournament. Or something like that. Basically, I look like a monkey with an independently moving epileptic right arm who had a wad of Vick’s Vap-O-Rub shoved twixt its cheek and gum. In other words, I’m lucky I shut the door to my cubicle or others might think I’m having a fit. You get the picture.

I’m proud of Elise. It’s good to see her doing something that she enjoys and something that she’s qualified to do. I’ve been indulging in this mini-fantasy. Elise and I will be having a quiet dinner at a nice restaurant and someone will recognize her. They will approach our table with much deliberation to introduce themselves and say how much they appreciate Elise’s work as a photographer. She will be a local celebrity. She will introduce me. I will smile and say with undying pride: “That’s my wife!”

When that moment finally arrives, I’ll probably have lettuce in my teeth.

Elise is published

You might have a picture in your office or stuck to your refrigerator – one of a purple giraffe or a red and green Santa Claus. I have my wife’s first newspaper-published photograph hanging in my office.

My wife, Mrs. Elise Janicek had her first photograph printed in the Temple Daily Telegram this morning. You can’t begin to imagine how happy for her and proud of her I am. Look, it says right there underneath the image: “Photo by Elise Janicek”.

Elise talked with the managing editor at the Telegram last week and was asked if she would like to shadow one of paper’s staff photographers this week. Her first assignment was to tag along with a guy who was to shoot the Scott & White Holiday Lighting Ceremony. Before she knew it, she was handed a camera and told to “get to work”.

Evidently they like Elise and want her to shoot more. We’re both really anxious to see where this takes her. She already has assignments for the rest of the week!

Congratulations Elise, I’m proud of you!!!