Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Softball Scare

Last night was my softball team's first game. I had to miss our one and only practice the week before because of work, so i was a little nervous to start playing the game again after 15 years. Brian has joined the team with me, but had to miss the first night because of exams.

I arrived to the field and was greeted with the news that our opponents were not going to come. But since everyone needed the practice, the team playing before us stuck around for a scrimmage. The first inning went well, and we switched to being the team in the field just as it was my turn to bat (SAVED! was my response). I played a mean right field, and showed a great deal of team spirit by running quickly from the dugout to my position, and back again.

The second inning started with me batting. Since it was only a scrimmage, each batter started with one strike and one ball. The first pitch, i swung and missed entirely. At the second pitch, the umpire behind me yelled "illegal pitch" as i swung my bat. Apparently if i hadn't swung it wouldn't have counted against me, but since i did swing, it was a strike. I went back to the dug out to chat with a friendly girl named Roz.

Midway through the inning, Roz was up to bat. She hit the ball right to second base, where the basewoman caught it off the ground and LAUNCHED it to first. The ball, the baseman and Roz were all zeroing in on the same target. THWACK went the ball into the baseman's glove...and Roz's head. In an awful moment of alignment, the glove and ball were right in front of Roz's left jaw, and the huge momentum of the ball sent Roz sliding 3 feet past first base, to lay sobbing and spitting blood.

The other team supplied her with clean wash cloths and water, as the umpires and middle aged mom/softball players assessed the damage. It was decided that she might have a concussion, might have injured a bone in her face and might need stitches for where she bit her lip open. Two of our players drove her to the emergency room.

I figured, once someone needs medical care, the scrimmage ends. Right? Wrong. We kept going. My next run up at bat i thought, "no way am i getting any where near this ball. When it comes at me, i'm moving out of the way." So when my bat connected to the ball and sent it flying towards third base, you can imagine my shock. I stood there for a moment wondering where the ball was going, before i made a mad dash to first. I didn't make it that time, but did later in the game.

My team also saw fit to make me catcher, despite my fear of the ball, the bat and other players running towards me. Since the job mostly consisted of chasing bad pitches after they had bounced off the ground, i did pretty well. At one point, there was a runner on third and first. The batter hit the ball to the infield. The player on third was headed home, but i was ready. I stood with one foot on the base and my glove ready, shouting for the ball. Which i caught. Unfortunately, my knowledge of softball comes from "A League of their Own," which is of course about Baseball. In softball, you can't just stand on home base, you need to tag the runner. Which I did not.

In the final inning, I was catcher again as a runner was headed toward me from third. The one really hard core guy launched the ball towards home base, and it could either be caught by me, or by the pitcher, who was standing 3 feet in front of me. Watching the velocity of the ball as it headed towards my face, I made the decision that i believed in the athletic abilities of my teammate, and stepped out of the way to the right. He caught the ball, then had difficulty keeping it in his glove. The runner was safe at home, and nothing hit me in the face.

We still won the game.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Financial Illiteracy

Today I went to a meeting on financial education. It was for United Way staff and it was billed as "not just the basics but moderate to advanced learning as well." I should have waited for a program that had just the basics. We discussed available credit versus credit scores, fixed rate mortgages versus APR rates for purchasing a car. I was so very lost. We were working in small groups and at one point a group member asked if i had anything to add to the discussion. I told him that i was so confused about what was going on, I wasn't sure where i was anymore. Eventually I gave up and started singing Journey songs go myself. Half way through "Lights" i decided that i really should take a beginners level class, because if something happens to Brian or my Dad, I'll be financially screwed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I don'ta think'em is what you think'em is

Now that I am a professional, I find myself working hard to fit into the norms of United Way life. I try to dress better, work long hours, and generally fit into the business culture. By in large, its going well. But part of culture is language.

I make a lot of jokes about Michigan being another planet, but its a planet where most people still speak the same language that I do. Mostly.

After my first two weeks of hearing people constantly talk about "Leveraging our work," I finally sat my boss down and told her that I didn't know what they were talking about. Leverage to me meant finding a crowbar to open something, or perhaps a show on TNT, or even a finance term I looked up on Wikipedia. None of these things fit the context. It turns out that in United Way-Speak, leverage means to coordinate efforts to produce better outcomes, especially meaning that the different types of work compliment each other. So that was my first United Way language lesson.

My second lesson was about tickling and Rocks.
Each quarter, our various business units set goals for ourselves. But we don't call them goals, we call them rocks. At each staff meeting, we set an agenda to discuss our rocks, and any other non-rock topic. It took a whole "rock setting" meeting to figure out what was happening.

One of our rocks is always about making sure we are entering our contacts into the database. Most of this is to help fund development, so they know who has strong relationships with potential donors. But it also helps to know who else is talking to an agency before you go out for a site visit. So, after each contact with individuals or agency, you put a note in their data base file. But on that note you can "tickle' other staff persons, to make sure they see the note. Tickling is very important.

So i find myself at staff meetings trying not to laugh as we discuss leveraging food, carrying and trading rocks and tickling at least 15 people a month.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My coworkers' lunch

Lots of people in my office are on Weight Watchers. Of my team of six, three are on Weight Watchers. They're all really supportive of each other, and talk about it a lot of the time. I'm feeling like I should join too. I do want to loose weight before the wedding and, mostly, I want to be part of the group. I want people be interested in my lunch too.

Friday, April 2, 2010

my coworkers

A friend asked me what my coworkers are like. Most of them are in their 30s or 40s. I’ve seen some other folks that might be close to my age around the office, but I think most of them are in different departments, like fund raising, marketing or 211 (where folks can call in and get information about how to access resources). I think I’m really proud to be the youngest person in my department, if only because it means that they thought I could hold my own in a group of experienced workers.

About half the staff at United Way is African American and a little less than half is white. A friend of mine once worked at an agency that explicitly hired staff so that their staff matched the racial composition of the people they served. Since we serve Detroit which is 90% African American and 3 counties that are a bit more diverse, I think the staff probably reflects the area well. It’s definitely the most racially diverse place that I’ve ever worked and I’m really glad that it is. I would have been disappointed with anything less.

Since most of the staff is older and we’re often meeting with very important people, everyone dresses really nicely. I mean really. I used to think a nice sweater and dress pants were enough. Now I find myself looking for blazers and accessories to dress up my limited clothes selection. Hopefully there’s a sale at Macy’s soon.