Monday, June 29, 2009

Leadership in a Cup of Coffee

The other morning (what other morning? I'm not really sure) I had a thought, as I sometimes do, and it went like this:

"Huh? I'm leading a training weekend for a day camp. I'm a 'director' of something. I really don't think I could have done any of this if I hadn't been a shift supervisor at Starbucks."

Actually, I probably needed to be a shift supervisor at Starbucks for a long time--as I was--to have acquired any of these skills at all. It took me about a year in that position to feel remotely confident to tell other people (especially people older or with more experience than I had) what to do on a shift, and just as long to figure out how to assign tasks and make sure everything that was supposed to happen, actually did.

Even though I was really nervous about Saturday, and even though I did need to get some help from Back-up Liz (the person who did a lot of this stuff before me and backs me up and bails me out fairly frequently) in organising the schedule, I put together the staff assignments, and I knew what components of the camp day I wanted to run through, and I actually led an entire group of people through an entire day . . .

Okay, sure, it wasn't like military boot camp or anything. I'm not that organised or that directive, and I doubt I ever will be, but I'm just saying. I think I did my job and I think I did pretty well at it, and I think a lot of that has to do with being a shift supervisor at Starbucks.

All that to say, if you're an employer and someone applies for a job at your company and the most significant adult work experience they have is being a shift supervisor at Starbucks? They might not be the one for you. But then again . . . they might. Just don't write them off.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oh. Except . . .

. . . you know that thing I promised not to mention again for a very long time? Oscar just disappointed me on that front again. Bleah.

The Mascot

This weekend I held a training session for the Camp Selah staff volunteers. This comprised everyone as young as 13 to as old as . . . I suppose it's just as well I don't know how "old as." Anyway, it was a pretty mixed group, with the younger ones by and large having more Camp Selah experience than the older ones, and the older ones having more life experience than the younger ones. I'm excited about this group. It's not necessarily the same mix of people that they/we have had in past years, but I think it is a good mix, and I'm excited to see what new things can come out of this new combination.

The night before, I was so nervous about this training thing that I woke up at 3 and never really fully went back to sleep . . . except for long enough to dream some dream about Oscar escaping and me getting pulled over by a cop. Also, another group from church was planning on using the camp this weekend, too, and, as we've only seen about one sunny day for every 12 so far this summer, I was, I feel, understandably worried that it was going to rain and we were all going to end up crammed into the Lodge at once and all my trainees were going to look at me like, "What the heck was the point of this? Great idea, Jenn!"

Then the sun came out. It actually came out! And it stayed out. Not in my Hometown. Not in the City. It poured in those places later in the day. But over Camp Selah the skies were blue and the air was warm and we spent most of the time outdoors. Also, the other group ended up being late, so there was scarcely any overlap at all. The teens and two other adults and I all stayed overnight, too, and it was great to see the teens having a chance to bond before the camp season started, so that when it does, they can jump right in as a team and rely on each other.

Also, I brought Oscar. Oscar's such a shy little dog. This is the dog who crawled under my desk at work when Pastor Ron came in to say hi to him. Yesterday, he had to ride on the lap of a teenage boys on the hour-ride to camp. He isn't a huge fan of car-rides and I wasn't convinced how any of this was going to go over--either with the teenage boys, or with the dog. He did shift laps a couple of times, but the guys handled him well, and one of them even eventually got him to settle down.

He spent most of the day being leashed up near wherever we happened to be doing activities, and every so often someone would approach him politely and pat him and let him smell their hands, and he didn't turn away. In fact, he actually started going to people volitionally. Everyone seemed to love him because he was responsive but he doesn't jump or bark. A couple of the teens called him the camp mascot.

By this morning before we cleaned up and left, he was trotting around the Lodge without his leash, in a business-like manner, looking as if he were trying to keep everyone tidy and in line. This is a really boring, "what I did on my summer vacation" kind of ending, but seriously, it was a banner day. I could not have hoped for better on any front. It's nice to have a day like that every once in a while.

Photos: Mascot-Oscar. jennw2ns 2009
All Fun and Game. jennw2ns 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009


Okay. I promise I will stop talking about Oscar's bodily functions after this post. At least for a long time. Even though right now he's also having flatulence issues. I am unfortunately well-acquainted with the extra-horribleness that is dog-farts, from my stint as a Nanny; I was hoping I would have a fart-less dog, but apparently not. This, however, is another . . . er . . . issue. Which I will try to solve and just leave you hanging as to how that went.

Right now the thing I'm stoked about is that somehow, in the projected time-frame (3-4 days, she said), the animal behaviourist's housetraining techniques seem to have worked. All of a sudden yesterday it was like a light went on, and Oscar was able to spend the entire afternoon out of his crate in the kitchen with my parents and without me, and contain himself. That evening, when we went into the living room (his current favourite place, although my bedroom is quickly moving up in the rankings), he actually "asked" to come up on the couch. Up to this point, even when it's been obvious he's wanted to sit with me, he has kept his distance. Last night I helped him up (not having known stairs until 3 weeks ago, he's still not up to par in jumping up on things ) and he stayed their glommed against my leg for about 3 hours.

Today he's run around the house all day and not messed anything. I took him to the vet and he actually went over and sniffed people's fingers when they greeted him, which he's always been too shy and skittish to do before. It's funny, these little doggy things that you would think should come naturally to them, that you might think you would want to curb . . . I'm just so excited he's not running away from everybody anymore and that he's actually coming to me when he wants me. He still doesn't come when I want him, which is a little frustrating. I anticipate some setbacks, too. But for now, I'm just happy with some small improvements.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I have some thoughts about Oscar that I will save for A Wandering Line, but for now, as an update, let me just say that we are having housetraining issues. This is more galling than ever now that I know that Oscar's kennel-mate in his past life is, according to the new owner "100% housetrained." Ugh! How is that fair?!

Last night I got some tips from the "behavioural guru" at PAWS, and we're trying them out. They involve me keeping Oscar on a leash (and therefore in my sight-line) at all times, and when that is not possible, putting him in his crate. I'm not sure which of us likes this less. At home he kept looking at me like, "Aren't you going to take this leash off me yet?" Here at work (yep! I'm blogging at work!) I have to keep putting him in his crate if I go out of the room to get a cup of tea or make photocopies. I also have to bring his crate, which is a bit unweildy, and since I have to bring my own laptop to work, too, is just one extra thing to cart around on a daily basis.

The thing about this is that it's discipline--both for me and for him. The goal is to get him to stop urinating indoors, but in order to get him to make that discipline a lifestyle, I also have to discipline myself, though sometimes I'd rather just get lazy and let him run around and deal with it later. But I don't really want to deal with it later, of course. I just want him to be perfect already. I fear I do that with people, too--including myself.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

White Picket Fence

So today I was walking Oscar at 5.30 or so, after I got home from work, and I thought, "When did this happen?"

I mean, okay. I'm not married and I don't have kids and I don't actually own the house I live in, but in the last two weeks I went from That-Weird-ThirtySomething-With-the-Shift-Job-Who-Wanted-to-Spend-Her-Life-as-a-Destitute-Missionary-Overseas to That-Weird-ThirtySomething-With-What-Might-Actually-Turn-Into-a-Career, who lives in a house (not an apartment, a house) with a Dog, who she takes for walks before 9 and after 5 on weekdays.

I am a little cynical about the whole visualisation fad, because back in my early 20's when I was visualising my life right now? None of this stuff was in it.

Fortunately (?) I do sometimes have to work weekends, and take kids on trips to Missouri and stuff like that, or I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even recognise myself.

Monday, June 08, 2009


You know those new parents who are so overwhelmed with the wonder that is their child, that they end up discussing things like the contents of his or her diaper in otherwise polite company? It's probably going to be like that around here for a while.

I came up with the title of this post the second day I had Oscar because he continued to hide under things. He switched to the kitchen/dining room table from the stools, and I still can't decide if that is because he decided he preferred more room, or because it's harder for me to reach him under there.

PAWS-JoAnne said that because he was with one owner up to this point, he hasn't detached from her and it's going to take him some time to attach to me. I'm trying to be patient, and I'm hopeful, because he seems to feel happier when I'm in the sort of vicinity, just not too close. But it is a little demoralising to say, "Oscar, come!" and have him run in the opposite direction. At least he sometimes seems conflicted by it, starting to approach before running away and whimpering.

The other thing that made him the "under" dog was his complete bafflement and timidity about stairs. I suspect he had never encountered them before. Going down the back steps to "go outside" was fairly problem-free after he stopped balking at the leash (which only took one afternoon), but going up was another story altogether. He would stick his head between the step he was on and the one above it and freak himself out as he looked at the ground. It was more or less hilarious, but it did mean hefting his 20 pounds up the steps myself. Which isn't that heavy, but sometimes he wasn't that amenable to being carried, either.

Today though? For the part when I've been home, he's spent most of his time lying sprawled on the dining room floor, not under the table, and when we went for our morning walk, he figured out how to climb the steps. Hooray for Oscar!
He's a quick learner, this dog. With only an afternoon of being totally resistant to the whole leash concept, now he trots along quite happily with it, always leaving some slack. He seems to like walks, though so far we've taken really short ones (with the exception of this morning), because he's little and because I'm not sure he wasn't previously treated in some ways, as the Milk Guy put it, "like a veal." He was terrified of the back steps for about two days, and for most of those he had to be carried up them because he kept sticking his head between the step he was on and the one above it and freaking himself out. But this morning he climbed them successfully all by himself. We were very proud.

He still likes to hide under things, though

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I Have an Oscar!

I picked him up today off the side of the road. A whole bunch of other people joined me to do something similar. The truck was at a rest stop off a highway, and there we all were, filling up our empty leashes with canines.Oscar is cute and snuggly, but also nervous. He used to belong to a breeder who evidently got sick of breeding dogs or something. I'm getting the impression that he's used to small spaces (he keeps trying to squeeze himself under the bar stools in the kitchen) and maybe more used to dogs than people. I had already been warned that he hasn't had a lot of leash experience, and this is definitely true. He kind of hates it, and will either sit down and dig in, or stand up on his hind legs and paw at the leash. We did have a few successful turns around the yard, so I think he'll get it eventually; it just might take him a while to figure out that walking is a good thing.

This afternoon we had a cup of tea together. Well, I had the tea, and I held him on my lap and he seemed quite happy there. After that the Milk Guy and Son-of-Milk-Guy and their two dogs came over for a few minutes on their way to somewhere else. Oscar seemed fascinated with the dogs and by the time they left, his tail was wagging for them, but since they left, he's been napping . . . under the bar stool. Hopefully he'll sleep tonight!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Look at the Birds of the Air

A few evenings ago I had supper with Mentor-Liz. Then we had ice cream. (Note: "cherry-vanilla" ice cream is nothing like the black cherry ice creams I like, such as Ben and Jerry's "Cherry Garcia.") Then we went for a walk. It was a short walk, but it was long enough for us to see a bluebird.

By which I mean, a real live, in-the-wild bluebird. It was sitting at the top of a chain link fence, and it stayed there for quite some time, undoubtedly so we could admire its beautiful blue plumage and red breast.

Back when I was really really little (like, probably too young for anyone to believe I could remember any of it) I thought I saw a bluebird once, but when I talked about it to anyone as a slightly older child, everyone told me that was impossible because they were extinct. They told me I imagined it. I very well may have, but the fact is that bluebirds are not, after all, extinct, even though people thought so for a while, and the other fact is that I really did see one, finally in real life and not just in pictures, and all of three nights ago.

Birds have always kind of seemed to me like messages from God. Not messengers, but messages. The messages are never verbal (Obviously. They're ornithological), so it's always kind of hard to explain what I feel God is saying through them. Maybe sometimes He's not saying anything. Maybe He's just showing me something He made that He thinks I will enjoy. I think He does that sometimes. It's just that the showing always comes with a little extra sense of His presence. This has happened to me with cardinals, chickadees, swans and parrots (yes--parrots living in the wild in Connecticut--I'm not kidding, or making it up). This time it happened with a bluebird.

I didn't think about this until I started writing this post, but sometimes there are things that you know exist, that you know can happen, that you're even pretty sure you've seen before . . . but maybe you've just read about them in books. And everyone says, "You've seen that happen? That doesn't happen anymore. You've just imagined it."

But maybe you haven't. Maybe that thing is just waiting in hiding, like a legend or a myth or an extinction, waiting to come out at sit on a chain link fence where you can finally see it and admire it's plumage and say, "Ah! I knew you were real!"

Thursday, June 04, 2009


So this morning for some reason I was thinking about something that I had learned from someone who used to work at Starbucks (kinda like me, although they're "used to" was a lot longer ago than mine). I have now forgotten what, or even who, that was, because I got distracted by the next thought which was a New Word for people who have ever worked at Starbucks and know something about coffee and the inner workings of the company: Buxerati.

It looks weird. But I don't care. I made it up. Once I thought I made up the term "bloggerati," but it seems that that word is already all over the web. I'm pretty sure Buxerati is original. At least, I'm posting it here as being so.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cruelty to Animals

Really? I kind of have to wonder sometimes about the person who came up with the name for the breed of dog that is part cocker spaniel and part poodle. I guess there might be some people who don't know what "kaka" is. Sister-in-Lu didn't, back in the day, when we were driving through her home state and she couldn't figure out why we thought it was so hilarious when the radio announcer said self-importantly, "This is K-A-K-A."

It was, too.

Anyway. My point is that it is impossible to say the word Cockapoo without sounding like you're talking about excrement in two languages. And I just think that's kind of mean. Although actually, it might be meaner to the owners of said breed than to the dogs themselves. The dogs probably don't care, really. But every time someone asks me what kind of dog I'm getting, I always kind of take a deep breath before I can bring myself to say it. It's a lot more awkward than explaining why I'm naming him Oscar.