Tag Archives: Memories

Painting at Work

In 2013, I wrote a blog post about exploring the artist in me—an artistic challenge that was inspired by my admiration for a painting that hung on the wall where I work. I was so fond of this particular piece of artwork that I decided to try to paint it myself. In that post I wrote:

My first attempt at creating art grew from an appreciation for a painting I passed daily at work on my way to the cafeteria. I was drawn to a modern painting of a couple of buildings. Maybe this was a resurfacing of my adolescent love for architecture. I admired the interesting colors and the straight lines and I thought, “I could do that” and I am going to try. I knew aspiring artists often developed their skills painting other artist’s paintings. But I knew I couldn’t sit in the hall at work all day attempting to paint this painting. So I took a digital photo of it and took it home. You can even see a reflection of me in the glass.

I took that photo in 2004 so the refection you see of me in the glass (in front of the red building) is a much younger version of me. In that 2013 blog post, I went on to describe how I painted my version since I was not a trained artist:

I decided to make my version of the painting the same size as the original so I could judge how well I achieved my goal. I printed out my photo and began to measure the dimensions of each of the features. Knowing that I needed to accurately translate the building’s dimensions from an 8 X 10 photo to a 16 X 24 canvas, I pulled out my calculator and determined the proportions necessary to “blow up” the scale. Using a ruler, I drew all the straight lines on a piece of paper to allow for any necessary corrections and then once I had the 16 X 24 drawing on paper, I redrew it on the canvas.

 I knew with my hand skill limitations and my desire for precise straight lines that I was not going to be able to paint straight lines either. So I used blue painter’s tape to block off a section at a time for painting. I didn’t even try blending colors; I just used the paint right out of the tube. While this can be a slow, tedious process, taping and painting and repeating, it allowed me to achieve my goal. And I thought a fairly true rendition of a real piece of art.

This is my finished painting that, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, we hung on our wall at home. I loved my rendering of the original painting and was very proud that I had been able to recreate it. It has hung in several different locations in our home for the past 13 years.

If you are a regular follower of my blog post, you know that I will be retiring later this year—as a result of the 2016 announced closing of my work site. While this will mean huge changes for me and my family since I have worked at the same location for almost 35 years, interestingly one aspect will remain the same.

With my work site closing, it was determined that certain assets would not be relocated out of state to where our operations were being consolidated with an existing company site. As a result, employees were encouraged to take home the plants located throughout our facility. I found this nice one to take home.

In the fall of 2016, I learned through the grapevine that employees would also be allowed to take home certain furniture and fixtures that would not be moved to the new site. And included in this allowance was some of the corporate art that had graced our walls for all the years of operation.

Some of the art work; in particular original oil paintings of our company founder and of one of our iconic corporate brands, will hopefully find new homes in local museums. When I inquired about the painting I had admired for so many years on my way to the cafeteria, I was told I could have it. Now almost a year later, that painting has now moved to our home.

With the two paintings side by side, I could easily see that while I had intended to reproduce it in the same size, I had far under-estimated the original’s size. In fact, once I got it home and held it up in several different places in the house, it was too big for the space being much larger than I even remembered. With its ultimate location uncertain, I temporarily leaned it up against our dining room table until we could figure it out, at least until my 2-year old granddaughter pulled it over onto herself with a resultant loud crashing sound. Other than being frightened by the sudden noise, my granddaughter was unhurt and when I picked up the framed painting, I was glad to see that it too was undamaged. Finding a place to hang the painting then moved up in priority.

With a two story entry hall, this wall space offered the scale such a large painting needed.

And so it now hangs.

I don’t recall when my company first purchased this particular piece of art so I cannot say for certain how many years I have walked past it on my way to lunch. Now in its new home, every time I stride through our entry hall, I will walk past this long-admired painting. I do not know if it will always remind me of work, only time will tell. But whether or not it does, it will still serve as a reminder of when I actually began to explore my creative side by rendering a likeness of it by my own hand, a pleasurable artistic activity I plan to spend more time enjoying once I do actually retire.

Being Humble

DSC_0072

I started to entitle this blog post “I’m a Humble Man.” But then it seemed that making that statement wouldn’t be consistent with being humble but rather boastful. So I settled on this less pretentious title.

When I put together my list of potential blog topics over four years ago, “Being Humble” was 14th on my list of about 35. Since then, my list of topics has grown significantly and now exceeds 150 titles. And yet, it is just now that I am writing about it.

I don’t know if I have been putting it off because I didn’t want to wrestle with this topic or if as I scanned down my list of topics to choose from for my next post, that a spark of creativity just never jumped at me when I read “Being Humble.” But whatever the reason, I am willing to tackle it now.

A couple of years ago when I wrote a post about What We Would be Known For, I included a list character traits that I aspired to emulate: dedicated, honest, loyal, trustworthy, dependable, loving, considerate, funny, happy, and spiritual—all traits that fit very nicely with my MBTI personality type, ISTJ. But, missing from that list, whether it was consciously or unconsciously, was humble.

I think part of the reason that I have delayed exploring this topic is that I have had difficulty tracing back to why I want to be humble. One of the thoughts that I had while reading through my dad’s sermons recently was maybe I would run across one of his sermons that had inspired me to be humble. I know being humble is a subject that comes up multiple times throughout the Bible so it is likely that I had heard my dad preach on that topic. But if it was one of my dad’s sermons that inspired me, it was not one of the 32 typed up in his book.

Merriam-Webster has a number of definitions for humble but I think the one that is most relevant for me is: not proud or arrogant; not thinking of yourself as better than other people. Or another way to think of it is not being a braggart, which I never have been. Anytime I notice myself venturing close to making a boastful statement, I get a funny feeling like this is not who I am and if I proceed to make the statement anyway; I feel very self-conscious about how it will be interpreted.

Even when I am recognized for something good I have accomplished, I often will deflect the comment or come back with a statement that it wasn’t that significant.

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

One of the hardest awards for me to accept was the year that I won the scientific achievement award at work. One aspect that made this a difficult recognition for me was the fact that I had to beat out other scientists who probably felt their submissions were more worthy than my winning one. But the engraved, wooden plaque that I received in recognition of my achievement has hung on my office wall for almost 25 years, not as a boastful badge of arrogance, but as a reminder of the joy I received in being recognized for my technical accomplishment.

In actuality, I very much appreciate positive feedback and will typically undertake a task in order to exceed other people’s expectations. This has probably contributed to my perfectionism, which isn’t necessarily a positive character trait (as my wife can attest). But it is one way to prevent anyone from finding fault in what I have done so that only positive feedback will be the outcome.

It seems to me quite a conundrum that I enjoy getting praise and yet have difficulty accepting that praise for fear of appearing arrogant.

Teacher

In my professional teaching, it always brings a smile to my face and a feeling of joy when I get positive feedback at the end of the course. This is certainly not my motivation for teaching, but it does validate that my efforts have been well received.

If you think about it, anyone can choose to be humble. It is something you can do completely on your own. But a question, why would someone want to be humble? And in particular, why I have chosen to be humble?

1964-01

Growing up a PK (preacher’s kid), I know I was exposed to the Bible verses about the first shall be last and the last shall be first as well as how someone who exalts himself before the Lord will be humbled and someone who humbles himself before the Lord will be exalted. Could it be as simple as I don’t want to be a hypocrite like the Pharisees or that when a record of my life is reviewed, I will receive positive feedback?

I honestly don’t know.

But what I do know is that for as long as I can remember, I have strived to be humble. Being humble is not necessarily something I do to receive positive feedback like the other character traits I listed earlier. I like for people to notice my dedication and my dependability. I’m certainly not looking for someone to compliment me on being humble.

No for now, I will just continue to be humble but further explore its engendering in me. And if my searching proves fruitful, then I will come to you with an update once I have that revelation.

Kids Photos on My Office Desk

Some additional items that I will need to take home before I retire are the photos that have graced my office desk for all these years. I started working at this location over 30+ years ago, before my daughter and youngest son were even born and when our oldest son was just one year old. So you could say, my kids have literally grown up with me while I worked here.

The earliest photos I brought to display on my desk were the ones that were taken when they were in school (or pre-school), the ones taken by a professional photographer in September at the beginning of each academic year. Each fall, they would get a new picture made and I would bring them all to work to replace the previous year’s photo. I have used these same frames all that time so the frames themselves are almost as old as my kids.

During the year, it was a gradual growing up process that my wife and I witnessed. But when I replaced the photo from the year before with the newest one, there was typically a stark difference in their appearance. My daughter was actually born five days after I started working here so every year she celebrated her birthday; I too celebrated a work anniversary.

Each time I added a new photo, I put it in front of the previous photo so that the frames include all ten or so photos of each child. Their last photo was of a high school graduation, a college graduation, or a graduate school graduation photo (not necessarily a reflection of their highest achieved degree but rather just the last time the event was captured by a professional photographer).

I often thought these would make a nice collage, all 5 X7 prints in a single matted frame but since I have previously scanned all these photos, I could also make a digital collage.

It is bitter sweet to look back over the photos and see how each child has grown over the years.

Photos have always been some of my most prized possessions as they bridge us back to another time, a time we may not be able to recall so easily within our mind. But it is also with the knowledge that these photos provide only a visual image of each child at that stage of their life. To know their personality, to know the fine adult that they have grown into and to know the person whom they really are, you would have to have witnessed their growing up all these years.

Sadly working full time all those years, I missed a lot of this growing up and so these photos, no matter how precious they are cannot make up for that. But once I retire, I will be able to spend more time with each one of them, the families they have started (and the grandkids!), to reflect on the memories of them growing up, to get to know them more, and to share in the sheer joy of just being there with them.

Photos on My Office Wall

IMG_2862

Some of the items that I will need to take home when I retire are these 11 framed photos hanging on my office wall. I cannot even begin to fathom how long they have hung on my wall, but I know they have moved from one office to another each time my office changed. Considering that I have worked at the same site and in the same building for over 30 years, they are probably quite old.

IMG_2863

A close up inspection reveals that these are really cheap, 8” X 10” metal frames with a “faux-wood” finish.   I think I probably bought them at Target years ago. At least once when I moved into a larger office, which had a larger wall, I had to search for additional frames of the same design to expand my gallery.

Over the years, I would occasionally change out a photo for a newer one but with one exception, the photos were always either of my family (wife and kids), travel, or my cars. And the reason I know this is because each time I added a new photo, I simply put it on top of the photo previously displayed.

I recently took down each frame and took off the back just to see what treasures were hiding inside the frames.

In some, I found just a few photos but in others, the frame contained four or five photos. As I looked through the photos “archived” in each frame, I saw some of these images for the first time in many, many years.

TrainBridge

Harahan Bridge over Mississippi River

The earliest of these photos were black and whites. Prior to getting married, I had bought all the equipment necessary to develop and print my own black and white photos from black and white film. But some of the ones in the frames I realized I had printed from color 35 mm negatives as I recognized the image as a familiar color snapshot from my first year of marriage (back in my “artsy” pre-digital camera age when the only way I could make a black and white photo was to either print it this way or to use black and white film).

Based on finding just four black and white photos, my earliest wall gallery must have only included four frames.

Once I started traveling internationally, I began to add pictures from my travels, replacing all of my black and white photos with color photos.

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

And as my travels increased, I needed to add additional frames to accommodate photos from all my trips.

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

When family members traveled with me on these international trips, they appeared in my displayed photos as well.

File0351

Sometime in the early 2000s, I began to display photos of my cars (at first two and then three cars in 2006) and then in 2011, I added photos from my two oldest children’s weddings.

20110526_6LOPV0KMEZ

As my travels continued, I began to replace old travel photos with newer ones.

DSCN1694

In May of 2016 when I bought my latest car, I planned on replacing the picture of my Mini, which we no longer owned, with my new WRX.

Car19

But then just days later, I got word that my work site was closing.

So rather than adding to my collection, I began to think about what I was going to do with my photo gallery when I left. Since the frames are so cheap, I wouldn’t want to display them inside our house unless I invested in much nicer frames.

And then I came upon the idea of hanging them all in our garage over my workbench. After all, once I retire, I will be spending a lot more time at my workbench doing one of the things I love doing, working with my hands.

IMG_2870

I’ve wanted to take down these shelves for quite some time since they just end up becoming a storage space for old paints and chemicals that are not even good anymore. Now I have a good reason to.

So rather than boxing up these old frames and sticking them in the attic or worse yet, throwing them away, they will simply relocate to one of my “new” office walls. Because after all, every time my office moved these gems moved with me. And so they will!

What, Me Worry?

AlfredENeuman

No doubt that phrase will be very familiar to any baby-boomer from his or hers days of reading Mad Magazine in the 1960s. Interestingly, as I was pondering exploring this topic of worrying from my past, this catchphrase popped into my mind. For long ago, I was a worrier, an extreme one.

Tractor

As a young adolescent, I worried about a lot of things. I don’t specifically recall why or what I worried about but I know I did. Whether or not this worrying was somehow related to fear as is sometimes the case, I do not know. But I do know my mother was afraid of a number of things (fear of driving, fear of flying) and maybe I picked up some of her fears (although I am not afraid of either driving or flying). When I became a teenager, this worrying ratcheted up to almost become an obsession.

HondaMotorcycle

When I bought a motorcycle, I recall worrying at night if I had remembered to lock the handlebars so it couldn’t be stolen off our carport. Since locking it was a daily habit I did without even thinking about it, off I would run outside before bedtime to check since I couldn’t consciously recall. Admittedly this was not rational as I am certain it was insured but that didn’t cross the mind of me as a 13-year old.

In college, a little more respectable without the big wheels

When I bought my first car in 1973, I used to worry if I would make enough money each month to pay my car note ($107 I seem to recall). At the time, I was in high school working part-time at a local department selling ladies shoes. But today, looking back over my earnings for those years while in high school and college, I actually made enough money each year to pay off the car in less than 12 months. In hindsight, needless worry but nonetheless enough worry at the time that I even had to seek medical attention for a stomach ulcer.

Wedding-02

After I got married, bought a house, and started a family, I had even more potential things to worry about.

1987-42

Later in life, I figured out that a lot of these old worries were rooted in a fear of not having enough money. I used to get very upset whenever something broke (cars, AC, etc.); not so much as I was literally expected to fix it myself but that there might not be enough money to repair it. But there always was.

However, somewhere along the way, and I can’t place a finger on particularly when, I developed a strong faith.

I don’t want you, my reader to think that this is turning into a proselytizing post but this construct is important to the outcome of my worries. For me, growing up the son of a Presbyterian minister, this is faith in God but for others, I recognize that this could be faith in a higher power.

Dadpulpit

Whichever form this might take for you, I developed a strong faith that what was meant to work out would work out. I know this belief borders on predestination and I am not necessarily supporting or disputing that theory. I simply believe at any given moment in our lives that what is meant to happen will happen.

With this strong faith, there is no need for worry. But that is not to say that occasionally I don’t slip back into my old ways and worry about something. I do. I just have to remember to step back and recall my faith.

Knowing now that fear of not having enough money was the root of a lot of my worries, I have tried very hard to make sure our three kids know that I have their back, that they can come to the “Bank of Dad” in a crisis. Sure, as all parents do, I wanted them to grow up to be financially independent on their own. But I never wanted them to experience my fear. Hopefully they haven’t.

So returning to my title, “What, me worry?” While it came to mind when I thought about this topic, it is not the laissez faire attitude this question might suggest. Rather, it’s faith that overcame my worries.

Old Files

IMG_2898

Even though my retirement is still months away, I have already begun to clean out some old files as the archiving staff will be leaving before my last day. I have been the head of Stability for over 25 years so some of my files go back that far. On the first day of our site-wide clean up, I began to go through some of these quarter century old files.

It was really interesting looking back at some of the reports I approved in 1991. Even more interesting was seeing the names of fellow workers from that period that I had not even thought of in probably almost that long. Sadly, a few of them are not still alive so as I ran across their names, it was with a touch of sorrow.

But as I thumbed through documents from some of the other companies we worked with in the past, it was joyous to see names of people I know now that back then were just another name on a report. It is truly amazing how small the pharmaceutical industry really is.

That first day, I only managed to clean out one 5-drawer lateral file cabinet so I have a number of other files still to go through before I’m done. I fortunately didn’t come across any original documents that would have to go through the lengthy archival process. I did, however, generate a lot of recyclable waste. I can’t image how many trips I made to the recycle bin but I know I met my Fitbit 10,000-step goal that day (I even had to search for additional bins as along with fellow employees, we filled up all the ones close by.).

In advance of this clean-up day, I actually started going through some even older files that dated back to when I first started working.

MeWorkPhoto

I ran across this photo of me that I think must have been taken for the company newspaper (remember those?).

IMG_2891

When I pulled out this file labeled “Programs”, I didn’t quite know what would be hidden inside. I was floored when I opened it.

IMG_2892

Inside was a Basic computer program I had written to crunch method validation data. My boss, when I first started, was very much into computerization (this was 1982) and challenged me as one of my first special projects to come up with a program to perform these method validation calculations.

When I was in college in the mid 1970s, I had studied Basic programming in a calculus lab course I had to take. Back then, the computer we had was a mainframe the size of two deep freezers end to end. We hand wrote out our program (there were no word-processors) and then typed each line of code onto a punch card (e.g., 100 cards for a 100 line program). Our task was to write a program to take multiple inputs of student’s individual test scores, generate a semester average for each student, assign a letter grade, and then rank order the students from highest to lowest average. I had had no exposure to computer programming in high school so this first semester freshman class proved to be a challenging assignment that I ultimately was not able to finish.

Imagine my chagrin when my boss assigned this project to me, a task far more challenging than my college assignment. Maybe it was the motivation of wanting to impress my boss (or the fact that I was being paid to do this rather than just earning a grade) but I remember taking home books on programming in Basic and hand writing my program at the kitchen table. Fortunately less than a decade after college, we were working on a “mini-computer” using a text processor that could take our lines of code and compile them into machine language—no more punch cards—so once my program was complete, I typed it into the text processor.

IMG_2894

Turns out writing it was a blast! I had to write several subroutines to perform the actual linear regression and to output the data in a table. I even figured out how to sort the data with a single pass through the calculated results, a functionality that had eluded me in college.

IMG_2893

In the same folder, I also found that I had started writing a computer program to manage our family budget. Only problem was this predated the invention of personal computers and so I had no computer of my own on which to run this program. But for a more “legitimate” business use, I did find that I had written a program to track our golf league participant’s scores and total them up to determine the season’s winners. It was almost like that student’s test score program I never was able to write correctly in college, only with golf scores rather than test scores.

IMG_2895

As I looked over these 34 year-old documents, I recalled the fun I had had writing these and the sense of pride that on my own, I had taught myself how to successfully program in Basic. It seemed that once I had slayed that old nemesis from college, I was bubbling with confidence to try even more.

I wonder on our next clean-up day what other treasures like these I may uncover that bring back such fond memories. I guess only time will tell.

A Sermon a Day

DSC_1975

This year for Lent, I did something different. Rather than the usual approach of giving up something for Lent as a sacrifice like chocolate or adult beverages, I chose the alternative approach and started doing something instead. I don’t recall how I came up with this idea but I decided that I would read one of my dad’s sermons every day during Lent. Having received and organized my dad’s over 700 sermons in 2016, I knew that I wanted to read them all so I thought this would be a good way to get started. And since I had them organized in numerical order from 1 to 710, I naturally started with number 1.

As I sat down that first time to read sermon number #1, I felt a closeness to my dad holding the same pages he had held over 70 years before.

DSC_1968

I also read the cited Bible passage upon which the sermon was based in my dad’s tattered “work” Bible, a chain-reference Bible published in 1934. After reading just the first sermon, I knew I had chosen a wise activity for Lent.

img_3751

I don’t know when my dad wrote this sermon but according to the date on the folder, he preached it for the first time in August 1946 in Duncan Oklahoma, a time when he was still in Seminary. It is entitled “Jesus, the Door” and is based on the scripture in John about the shepard’s fold and the single opening where the sheep went in to and out of the fold. It is the parable where Jesus states that he is the door. In the sermon, it was enlightening to read an actual shepard’s response to the question why there was no door in the fold, only an opening. The shepard’s reply was that after the flock went into the fold, the shepard would lay down in the opening acting as the door, preventing the sheep from leaving the fold and predators from getting in.

img_3328

For me, it made a clear revelation of this parable like I hadn’t recalled before. Looking at the seven dates my dad gave this sermon, only once could I have even possibly heard this one, a time when I was about 10 years old. But what really sent chills all over me was when I read my dad’s closing comments describing the Holman Hunt painting, “The Light of the World.” It was a copy of this very painting that I remember hanging on my dad’s church office wall. And it is the same painting that my sister got to see on her visit to Europe and which she brought a copy back to me that has now been hanging in my office ever since.

img_3743

I never knew the significance of that painting. That it was a direct tie back to my dad’s very first sermon, a talisman of where he got started. What a way to begin Lent!

And just five days into Lent, I came across another significant sermon: number 5 entitled “If Christ Be Not Raised!”

As I thought about it, I realized that writing a sermon about Easter and the Resurrection was probably one of the most important ones ever written by a young minister. As any Christian knows who has attended an Easter service and experienced the crowd, this one Sunday is the most widely attended of any in a calendar year. So a minister would want this sermon to be one of his better ones. And with Dad’s, I was not disappointed.

Based on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 15:1-20) where Paul writes about doubts that have arisen of a resurrection, Paul addresses three aspects that would be anathema to early Christians if Christ had not been raised from the dead; namely that their faith would be in vain, their sins not forgiven, and the dead gone before them perished with no hope of life ever after.

Then in archetypal fashion of including three main points in a sermon, Dad proceeded to build very logical arguments around each of these three that for a Christian would leave no doubt of their importance in supporting a belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

img_3752

In all my years of attending church/mass, it was the best Easter sermon I recalled hearing, and for my private reading, one with no crowds. My Dad must have agreed as he gave it almost annually every Easter for his first ten years of preaching.

img_3753

As I wrote previously about my dad’s sermons, also included in the numbered folders were the church bulletins from the services in which he gave the sermon. I delighted in seeing the “retro” cover image of some of these bulletins.

img_3754

In this one from April 17, 1949, there was a bonus: a note of welcome to my mom and dad on becoming the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Tallulah, Louisiana, his first church after graduating from Seminary and just months after his February marriage to my mom.

Then I realized that not only would I learn some things from reading my dad’s sermons, but I would also get a bit of family history from the stories told in the bulletins. Another bulletin announced our family’s vacation to Richmond, Virginia, a trip I well remember.

Vacation

So this is how I spent my journey through Lent, reading my dad’s sermons, learning from his words written long ago, and feeling as close as I have to him since his death over 15 years ago.