IF YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR JOB AS MUCH AS THESE PEOPLE, QUIT! AND FIND ONE YOU WILL!

I had the most amazing experience today! My son took me to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. I’ve lived in DC for years and I’d never been there.

Collection after collection, it’s a rollicking trip through portraits of American leaders, heroes, cowboys and Native Americans, and two of my favorite Edward Hopper paintings, to the gilded age and a grand piano from the Teddy Roosevelt Whitehouse, and monumental Pac Man games. I saw my first, live and in person, Grandma Moses painting!

With all the wonders of the collection, what I can’t quit thinking about is not the art. It’s the people who work in the museum. I’ve rarely experienced anything like it. From the woman at the front desk, to the guards, to the clerk in the museum store, they all had something special and rare that is a lesson for everybody who has a job anywhere. They loved their jobs!! It showed in their enthusiastic answers. It showed in their curiosity! It showed in their pride.

I asked the woman at the front desk if there was a map. Such a pedestrian question, but she reacted as though this was her opportunity to share the wonders of the museum with me.

Later, we were looking at a display of Tiffany glass. A guard came over, not to tell us we were leaning too close, but to say, “Tell me. What’s with this glass? What’s so special?” He and my son went on to have a conversation about the delicacy, the colors… I moved on – too intellectual for me.

Finally we went to the bookstore. I asked the clerk if there was a book on the folk art collection. “There are two. This is the book on the current collection. I always tell people we have two and this one is my favorite, but come over here. This is an old one but it has the full collection, and it’s on sale — a great deal.” He stopped to tell another couple they could find a better book on artists of the blacklist in another room.

I bought both of the books he recommended and took them to his desk. He asked, “Did you see the Lichtenstein sculpture?” Alex asked if it was the cowboy in front?

“No. It’s out this door and around. Go see it. New York gave it to us! They gave it to us FOR FREE! And it’s a Lichtenstein. Go see it!”

There’s a question here: Do you love your job this much? If you don’t, quit, go find one you do. Not only will it change your life, but all those you encounter.

THE QUEEN OF CONNECTICUT AVENUE

Of all the original characters who are now gone from the streets of Washington, my most memorable was the Queen of Connecticut Avenue.

The Queen reigned from her spot in front of the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Tall, regal, and royal in her vibrant turbans and dresses, she reached out to greet her subjects with loud enthusiasm.

THE QUEEN OF CONNECTICUT AVENUE

THE QUEEN OF CONNECTICUT AVENUE

Queens can be intimidating, and I was intimidated. The first time I saw her, I practically ran past for fear I’d be singled out for her greeting and embarrassed if I didn’t find a dollar or two to out in the vase that sat on the sidewalk beside her. But the Queen gave you her greeting whether you paid homage or not, and I started looking forward to seeing her.

And what greetings they were! She called out in voice that was melodious, mellifluous, and animated, “Ohhhh, Honey. That outfit – I know it’s new – it works (with the word drawn out to last 4 beats) on you.”

“Ooooh, Sweetheart, that look is good on you! I hope you’re doing something special tonight.”

“Yes Sir, you are looking sharp today! Walking tall! Looking like you can take on the world and all.”

As long as the Queen was there, we had someone to notice new hair styles and fashions. We had someone to care about our feelings. “You look sad. Is the world beating up on you.?”

We had someone to care if we were there, to notice when we were gone, and make us feel that we were missed. “Well, there you are. Where have you been? I hope it’s somewhere warm and fun. I’ve been missing you.”

One of the recruiters in the staffing firm where I worked approached the Queen with the offer of a receptionist job. The salary was around $40,000 / year. “Honey, you are so sweet to think of me, but I couldn’t afford to take that big a cut in pay. Besides, I won’t be here but a couple of months. I plan to spend the winter in Florida.”

K STREET STRAVINSKY, 1995

WHERE HAVE THEY GONE, THE ORIGINALS?
 
K STREET STRAVINSKY, 1995
K STREET STRAVINSKY WHEN PEOPLE ON THE STREETS WERE INTERESTING

K STREET STRAVINSKY

 He’s at his post,

On the corner of Connecticut and K
Where the subway sends vibrations
up the escalator
to mix with the rhythm of rush hour traffic.
He’s dependable
as horns at intersections.
 
Bike couriers, briefcase carriers, joggers
        pass by adding their parts
But HE’S the street’s original,
Its Stravinsky,
He creates the dissonance.
He conducts the Rush-Hour Suite.
He sweats
        Clothed in every emotion he’s ever owned,
        and pushing a wailing Safeway cart
        loaded with thunder and rage,
        he screams his sermons —
       obscenities mixed with Bible verses
        trough a homemade megaphone,
        at strangers who rush, shoulders hunched,
        away from the madman’s strange music
        for fear they’ll wake up
                      humming it in the morning.
 
 
 
 

MR. MAGOO AND THE CHRISTMAS MOOSE

You said he was my moose!

You said he was my moose!

Bones, the golden Lab, gave Mr. Magoo a toy moose for Christmas. The moose was dead by nightfall! Perhaps his rubber chicken put him up to it — jealous, I suspect. No moose could replace him!

Whatever his reason, the moose didnt stand a chance.

THE STUFFING'S THE BEST PART

THE STUFFING'S THE BEST PART

 

I TOOK CARE OF THAT MOOSE

I TOOK CARE OF THAT MOOSE

 

POOR MOOSE

POOR MOOSE

DEAD MOOSE

DEAD MOOSE

Bones has not destroyed his Christmas toy — but it looks as though he might be trying to smother him.

Bones - smothering Christmas toy??

Bones - smothering Christmas toy??

 

I Have A Crush On Dick Cavett

I have a crush on Dick Cavett. I was smitten the first time I saw him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His voice! His accent — I really like his accent. His vocabulary! The words he uses and the way he uses them are beautiful and interesting — even when I don’t know what they mean.

More than any other writer, even Thomas Wolfe, Dick Cavett sends me to my Webster’s to look up words that don’t have a hint of ostentation because they fit so comfortably into his clear and rhythmic language.  In his book, Talk Show, he wonders if absorption with magic might, “have spared the world [Dick Cheney’s] predations.” I looked it up. It means the act of pillaging and victimizing for gain; act of a predator.

I used to think it was going to Yale that made him so smart (I called him an intellectual until I read what he said about people who call him an intellectual – that they don’t know the meaning of the word).  But lots of people went to Yale, and they came out economists or commercial lawyers. Only he came out Dick Cavett.

On The Tonight Show, then on The Dick Cavett Show, I watched him interview some of the most famous people of the 20th century. What set him apart from other interviewers for me, and apparently for the celebrities as well, was his kind of respectful irreverence. He was adorable. I’ll bet Ethel Barrymore (theater legend and Drew’s great aunt) had a crush on him too when he introduced her saying, “My next guest is no bowl of chopped liver, but a real high class broad.” I can’t imagine anyone else doing that. (I heard this in the 70’s so forgive me if I got the person or quote wrong.)

Then suddenly The Dick Cavett Show was gone. I kept waiting for him to reappear in a new show, but he didn’t. Then, last year, thanks to the magic of Google, I found him. The web had his quotes, his bio, even videos of his interviews. I was elated.

I discovered he had written a new book, Talk  Show. I ran to the book store to buy it. Allowing myself a few pages a day, I made it last from December through spring. Then I made an even more exciting discovery – one that will keep us together. Dick Cavett has a blog in the New York Times (see my blog roll)! Now I’m following him.

I don’t wish to offend Mr. Cavett, or frighten him. He doesn’t need to get a restraining order. I’m not a stalker and I’ve never followed him or anything. I don’t even know where he lives. And if I did, I’d stay a discrete distance away – most of the time.

DECENT JOBS – DECENT PEOPLE

A little over a year ago on October 13, 2010, a DC sanitation worker, Larry Hutchins, was going to get onto his truck so he could come pick up our garbage – yours and mine – when he was shot and killed at the public works site. Last week I saw the first news about him in a year, and it was because the dead man’s widow is suing the city. It’s the first news I’ve seen about him since the day after it happened.

When I first heard about it, I searched the news and the web for information about the shooting, about the men, maybe about a collection being taken for his family. There was little and then, nothing. I Googled and searched. Nothing. That couldn’t be, I thought.

When a worker in a Starbucks was shot, it was all over the news. Why was there so little attention paid to Mr. Hutchins? Was it because we care less about a man who picks up our garbage? This is Washington, D.C. where we just dedicated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Dr. King was about equality of opportunity. What about equality of respect for people in honest professions? This is not a criticism of the city, the police department, or the media. I think we get the media we deserve because we decide our values.

I own RuthiPostowStaffing and I’ve spent my career in the business of putting people in jobs. The shooting and its media coverage brought to my mind an experience I had early in my career. I was a kid, but even then, it troubled me. A young woman came into the agency responding to an ad for a secretarial job – back then the jobs for women were secretary, typist, or clerk. But she wasn’t qualified. She didn’t even have the basic reading/writing skills to fill out our application, let alone the typing speed of 45 wpm employers demanded for even our most basic clerical positions.

Before coming to Washington, I’d been a teacher in a sharecropper town in Georgia. I’d seen people, particularly women, imprisoned by their lack of education. I wanted to help her. I told her I didn’t have a job she qualified for, but I’d heard GEICO (which had its headquarters in Chevy Chase at that time) was looking for file clerks – even though I wasn’t certain she would have the necessary qualifications.

The girl got hysterical. “I don’t want no filing job. I want a decent job!”

Who taught that girl filing wasn’t decent? Who decided any honest work wasn’t decent? I was incensed then and the feeling has stayed with me all these years. I can’t stand the suggestion that any job is indecent or that some workers are less valuable because of the jobs they do.

With all the injustices in the world, I’ve wondered what made this one affect me so. Because it’s insulting and what I’ve realized is I take it personally.

I grew up in Prichard, Alabama, a paper mill town, raised by blue collar people who were strong and proud and decent. Mama was head cashier of a grocery store. She was the definition of a professional. Daddy was a tugboat captain, then air compressor operator at Brookley Field AFB. They’re the reason I’m here, that I’m educated, that I own a company, and I can write this. What they did was 100% decent work! Once when I was a child I saw the men picking up the garbage on Petain Street, and asked Daddy who would take a job picking up garbage. He said, “A man who’s doing the best he can to make a living.”

We all want our children to do and be all they can be. I’ll bet Mr. Hutchins wanted different careers for his children too. That’s not the point. The point is respect – respect for all workers who show up and do their jobs well.

Mr. Hutchins rode on dirty trucks and picked up refuse so our city would be livable. If you look at results, at making a difference in the community, what job could be more decent and what worker could have more dignity?

I’M THANKFUL

In this time of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for so many things

I’m thankful for Mr. Magoo

Mr.Magoo makes friends

Mr.Magoo with friend

 

 

 

 

And dogs in general                                  

A FACE TO BE THANKFUL FOR

BONES: A FACE TO BE THANKFUL FOR

Dogs meeting

Mr. Magoo, soft-coated Wheaten terrier, and friend

And beautiful sons

Who swear I love the dog more than them

 

 

 

 

Beautiful daughter-in-law Katia, with my son, Eric, Captain, USMC

Beautiful daughter-in-law Katia, with my son, Eric, Captain, USMC

And more beautiful daughter-in-law

 

 

 

 

 

extendd family

Extended family

And extended families that can’t be divorced

 

 

 

 

The strong women who came before me

The strong women who came before me

And I’m thankful for the women who came before me and made me strong

Mama

Mama

  And for a wonderful career in an exciting city

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

And for all the people my career brought into my life

And all their stories that made my career interesting

And for my business partner who completes me and makes it happen

And the success that let us support causes we care about
And for my heroes, the people who work for people who can’t defend themselves

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itx6xlguJBA NAEHCY

Second Chance Employment Services that helps victims of spousal abuse 
Second chances

And the people at Courtney’s House who help the victims of domestic sex trafficking

 And I’m so thankful for the man who doesn’t ask to be thanked
Because he brings calm into storms

EDUCATION, A PRIVILEGE TO BE PRIZED

Daddy

Daddy, Norvelle Guytan Simmons - This scholarship is for him.

My company announced today the awarding of the fifth annual RuthiPostowStaffing Scholarship. This year it goes to The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. I’m proud of our scholarship. Education is special to me. There was a time when education was a privilege, and in that time people prized it. For homeless children that is still true. It is not assured and they prize it.

My Daddy was 12 years old when he finished the sixth grade and his last year of school.

He was the oldest of four children of Willie and Mandy Simmons, my Grandmama and Papa. They lived near Brewton, Alabama where Papa worked with logging crews. If you’ve ever driven through the region, maybe you noticed it’s all pine, the legacy of my Papa’s crews that cut down the hundreds of years old hardwood trees and loaded them onto trucks that took them to the ships in Apalachicola.

Then as now, a hard life created people with limited horizons. My family was lucky enough to be literate, but once you could read and write and do figures, you had what you needed. You could read the Bible, write letters to kinfolks, and make sure you weren’t cheated at the feed store.

Papa and Grandmama were schooled according to the textbook of the day, the Blue-backed Speller. Asked how far he got in school, Papa would tell you, “I got through horseback, but Mandy got to Constantinople!”

Grandma and Papa

Grandma and Papa

When Daddy was 12, Papa said he had all the education he needed and told him it was time he went to work and helped put food on the table. Daddy lived to be 90. He raised three children all of whom he was proud to have graduate from college. He bought a second hand set of Compton’s Encyclopedias that he read cover to cover. He practiced grammar, “the mark of an educated man.” He never forgave Papa for stopping his schooling.

Five years ago, just after my company’s fifth birthday, Jenni O’Toole my business partner and I sat back to appreciate how far we had come since those early, often scary, days when we were new and struggling. Then we made one of our best decisions ever. We decided to earmark money for a scholarship. Great years or not so great, we would help young people get an education.

As women business owners, our first idea was a scholarship to support young women who were looking to use their education to launch careers in business. We approached a number of colleges and were told to, “just make a donation.” It’s amazing how hard it is to give money away if you care where it’s going.

Finally we forged a successful partnership with the University of Richmond and worked with them for two years. But we realized the young women we supported were going to get their education with or without us. We went in search of people who needed us.

The third year we chose Second Chance Employment for Women, which worked to educate and train women who were the victims of spousal abuse so they could afford to escape their abusers. That was a cause I could believe in. I could imagine myself tearing the face off of any man who hit me. When I asked my favorite minister what she would do if a husband tried to beat her, she said, “I’d be the finest minister in the prison system.”

In 2010, the scholarship went to a young woman who had been the victim of human trafficking, sold into prostitution by her grandmother when she was 12.

This year one of my clients told me about an organization that helps homeless children get educated. Homeless children? I tried to imagine the life of a homeless child. Where does she sleep? What does she eat. How does she stay clean and healthy? What hope does she have? The pictures I imagined were heartbreaking and I’m certain the reality is worse.

As I thought about it, I saw a circle closing — connecting my 12 year old Daddy who craved an education but had no hope of getting one to children who not only have no hope of an education but have no promise of the ability to keep a roof over their heads.

I talked with a representative of NAEHCY who told me some of their success stories, children finishing high school, college, getting advanced degrees. The people at NAEHCY give these children hope. They look at homeless children and see future educators, doctors, and lawyers. Most important they see children who will have the power to ensure they need never be homeless again.

For Daddy, whatever the question, education was the answer. Education was a privilege he didn’t have. This year’s scholarship is for him.  http://www.naehcy.org/

Mr. Magoo, Sheep Herding Dog

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Mr. Magoo, bred to herd

Mr. Magoo, bred to herd

Mr. Magoo is a soft-coated Wheaten Terrier. Wheatens came from Ireland where they were bred to be farm dogs and herders. Now that he’s three I decided it was time he learned to do what he was born to do, so we went to sheep-herding school with Susan Rhoades at Keepstone Farms in Virginia.

This was the most fun Mr. Magoo ever had! Let off of the leash in the pen, he was joyous. He took off into the middle of his small herd, separating them and chasing them through the mud (thus I learned why all the other dog-owners had their dogs in crates rather than riding on the seat of the car). I was afraid he was going to

Mr. Magoo gets a time out

Mr. Magoo gets a time out

be expelledwhen he ran one poor sheep, smack, into the fence, but it

Yea!! I get to chase something!

Yea!! I get to chase something!

seems Susan has seen this before. He just got a time-out.

She explained the herding instinct is really a predatory instinct (My baby a predator? No way!). It’s true. Herding dogs start with the instinct to chase and catch the sheep – although I’m sure Mr. Magoo would have no idea what to do if he were to catch one.

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Save the sheep

Save the sheep

Susan uses the stick to protect the sheep and force the dog to stay outside the herd, instead of charging into it. Mr. Magoo clearly wasn’t being hurt by it. As the lesson progressed, he got frustrated that she was blocking him. He turned to her and told her off – if you don’t know Wheaten Terriers, they can look at you and “talk”. They sound as though they are actually speaking a language you should be able to understand if you weren’t so stupid.

Before the half hour was up, he was starting to catch on to as far as

Getting the hang of it

Getting the hang of it

keeping the herd together rather than attacking, chasing, scattering and terrorizing them.

Next lesson maybe he’ll learn to get them to move in a straight line.

Now you're doing it

Now you're doing it

Wall To Wall Carpets – One Of Life’s Ponderables

 My Aunt Pauline was something! She had red hair and a red head’s personality – flair and joie de vivre (she’d have loved that description) – everything a red-head should have.

AUNT PAULINE AND UNCLE JACK

AUNT PAULINE LONG BEFORE I KNEW HER -- Style, Flair, Energy

She greeted her world and every experience with relish, and she had a way of speaking that made me feel whatever she said was new, different, and exciting. She could make taking Grandmama to visit Papa’s grave sound exciting.
I loved going to her house which was right around the corner, so I was able to go on my own to visit her from the time I was seven or so. She had things nobody else had – she had a waffle iron!!

Aunt Pauline was all about what was pretty, what was stylish, what was new, and what nobody else ever talked about.

There wasn’t anybody else on Petain Street like her. Of course she didn’t actually live on Petain Street but around the corner on Craft Highway which was pretty much the same except it was paved with cement instead of red clay.

Christmas time, when I was six or seven, the whole family gathered at Aunt Pauline’s house where Mama or one of the uncles gathered us for a group picture. I came across it a few days ago and it’s probably why I woke up thinking about her.
I was in front, then were my favorite cousins Carolyn, Margaret, and Mary Gayle. On the next row

The cousins gathered at Aunt Pauline's house for Christmas Eve

The cousins gathered at Aunt Pauline's house for Christmas Eve

were Patty and Polly. I stood in the front because I was the youngest in the family, except for Johnny, and he lived way away in Brewton so I didn’t count him – I was the baby. Everybody else was dressed between Christmas-y and casual.

All dressed up for Christmas with rollers in my hair

All dressed up for Christmas with rollers in my hair

I was all dressed up in a ruffled Christmas dress — except for some reason I don’t know I had rubber rollers in my hair.

After the photo, my cousins dispersed leaving me to play with my dolls while the adults talked. I wasn’t paying attention until Aunt Pauline made a declaration I found so remarkable, so unexpected, so far removed from my world that it captured my full concentration. I stopped playing and pondered the words I would never forget.

“Nobody has carpets that are wall-to-wall anymore. It’s not the style. All the magazines show carpets stopping at least two feet away from the walls — as an accent.”

I was mesmerized, unaware of any other voices, or any discussion there may have been about this trend in home decorating – just Aunt Pauline’s.

I’d had never known a single house in Prichard to have the now unstylish wall-to-wall carpet, or an accent carpet either. Even if we could afford carpets, Petain Street was paved with Alabama’s famous red clay and the clay dust got ground into every piece of furniture and every curtain.

The old wood floors in our houses, if they were covered at all, were covered with linoleum. It came from the store in big roles that were printed to look like carpet, with blue, red, purple, and green flowers. But the colors quickly dulled as the clay and sandy soil of land nearly at sea level were ground into it by our shoes.

Even before the linoleum dulled, jagged lines of cracks appeared in it. Nobody would ever think of paying extra to have the linoleum laid and glued down by men from the store. “What? Waste all that money on something we can do for ourselves?” So the linoleum buckled even while it was being laid and it cracked with the first footstep.

“Nobody is putting in carpets that go wall-to-wall anymore. It’s not the style. All the magazines show carpets stopping at least two feet away from the walls — as an accent.”

What more is there to say? It’s a riddle and I still don’t have an answer. I suppose carpet’s the punch line of this posting. More about Aunt Pauline later.