Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Work, work, work...

Been busy. I worked from the moment I got home on Friday all the way through Sunday afternoon. One of the people who report to me got 60 resumes to review in her email and I said…”Give me half.” Then I worked some more on the big Career Fair coming on Friday, the 27th.

We have 139 employers coming. Last year we had 205. Some registered, then cancelled as time went on. Today UPS cancelled. Shipping volume is down so much, they are not hiring. We are expecting many more candidates to show up than ever before. My secret wish is for 2,000 people to come. We seem to be stuck at about 1200 each year. Now, the word is out everywhere. Other fairs have been flooded with people, so we are preparing for the onslaught.

If you want to see a neat interview that a local TV station did yesterday, go here: http://www.wkyc.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=107959

I about fell through the floor when they gave us such a great plug.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What I learned from John Updike

The first book by John Updike that I ever read was “The Centaur”. I don’t remember why I picked it up. No one I knew was reading it. Maybe a high school English teacher suggested it. In any case, I was hooked. I loved his writing, his descriptions. Evocative, I guess critics would call it. When he described a skiing trip in a short story in a collection called “Trust Me”, I could see the snow, feel the cold. My sister in law doesn’t like him. Too much description, she feels. His descriptions could run on for an entire page without a single period. I couldn’t figure out how he got away with that.

Family Safe Alert: if you are related to me, you might want to skip the next paragraph.

How did I first learn about the mechanics of sex? “Rabbit Run”, of course. Something about how “their loins joined”. That’s as close as I got at the time. “Couples” just blew me away, all that running around with people not your spouse. Infidelity was such a major theme of his, I always wondered if came from his own life. Now, when I read his obituaries and tributes, it seems he wrote about what he saw going on in the post world War II U.S. He was “chronicling” it all, not necessarily living it.

As I do with my favorite authors, I hoard their books, afraid to finish reading them all. If there are no more books to read, something will happen. Something will stop. I’m not sure exactly what’s at the end of that road—it just seems to dissolve in the distance like the arms of a pinwheel galaxy, dribbling off into space.

A few years ago, my daughter called me from a book sale in Chicago. She had stumbled across a rich vein of Louis L’Amour western novels. OK—this goes into my “secret pleasures” category, so don’t tell anyone. I love those stories, can see myself as the hero in each one. She had called to ask me which ones I needed. Yes, I keep track of the ones I’ve read. She bought a dozen or so for me and shipped them over. I treated them like Krugerrands, like the last quart of Cherry Garcia. I finally pulled the last couple out of the dusty box I had stashed in corner of the bedroom. To keep from spinning off into space, I’ll start re-reading old ones before I finish the last one from the box.

I have a big collection of Updike’s short stories in one hard bound volume, “The Early Stories”. I bought it a few years ago but never opened it. Now you know why.

I own fifteen of his novels and seven of his short story collections. “Pigeon Feathers” was the first short story collection of his I read. In one story, I think it’s in “Pigeon Feathers”, he describes breasts as scoops of vanilla ice cream. I was still in high school when I read that. Who remembers lines like that from something they read forty years ago? People like me, I guess.

I noticed that he would crank out a new novel in December each year. I knew to go to the bricks and mortar bookstore at that time to see what would be that year’s prize. I was thrilled to find first editions right there on the shelf, and I happily scooped them up.

Then I realized that the reason I could so easily buy first editions was that no one else was grabbing them first. Usually I would find the Eighth Printing of a book and be happy with that. I vaguely knew that first editions could be valuable, so I was glad to own a few. One day I discovered a bunch of first editions of “Toward the End of Time” on a remainder table. I wept.

Well, no, not there in the store and not even in the car. Still, the idea that such a master’s work would languish on the remainder table in a common bookstore was incomprehensible to me. What was wrong with people? I bought them all and put them away as investments.

The guy was so prolific, though, with dozens of novels and short stories and hundreds of reviews for The New Yorker, perhaps it’s unlikely that I will run out of Updike to read. If I actually did finish everything, I know I could just start from the beginning and feel those same feelings and see those same visions all over again. I’m kind of looking forward to that.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

It's a miracle?

Tonight our pastor talked about how Jesus was not a miracle worker, meaning that that’s not what He was all about. Some people were disappointed when He didn’t work a miracle cure or some other wonderful thing, but when He did, it was for a specific purpose.

I thought about how when I was much younger, maybe eight, nine, ten years old, I used to pray for Jesus to make an appearance in my bedroom. I wanted Him to float down in a glowing ball like Glenda the Good Witch from Oz. Couldn’t He do that for me? Of course I was disappointed when it didn’t happen. In my little kid brain, though, I believed it was possible. Who was I that I merited such a heavenly apparition? Again, little kid brain did not take that into account.

Later on in life, I realized that He has made many appearances, in the form of the people He has brought into my life, beginning with wonderful teachers, continuing with good friends, insightful mentors, and strangers.

Especially the strangers. I’ve told you about Paige and Tabitha sharing their faith journeys with me. There have been other angels along the way, and I know there will be others, depending upon what I need in the future.

Even co-workers. On Friday, Yolanda, the woman who is a manager at work, just as I am, came into my office after a staff meeting, closed the door and said, “Let’s pray for Career Fair.” It was a good idea, since we are having a tough time convincing companies to invest in such a venture in this economy. So we prayed. She has such an eloquent Spirit—I wish I could pray as she does.

So did it work? Five more employers signed up that afternoon.

Then I got an email from a woman I met ten years ago, when e-commerce was just taking off. She was an HR manager for several start ups and had invited me downtown to see their offices. The CEO would dream up an idea for a dotcom and bang—it came into existence. One of his ideas was books.com, the first on line bookstore, before Amazon. There were literally stacks of books in the corners of these rooms in his downtown Cleveland company. It’s gone now, subsumed by the big guys.

Anyway, over the years I had tried to contact this woman but she was always too busy to get back to me. I never forgot her, but I gave up. Then here comes this email, asking about registering her new company for the fair.

So I ask you, just how cool is our God?