Day 8 Loving the Outdoors

Twenty years ago I was able to purchase ten acres on the headwaters of the Tallapoosa River.  This has became the place that I escape to enjoy the beauty of nature. I have realized in my old age how much quiet time with the Lord can free me from the worries of this world.

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The beauty of spring time brings new growth.  This Mayapple patch came up about two years ago.

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These plants just started to come up.  In the next two years they might produce a patch about half the size of the one above.

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Day 9 The Almost Forgotten Career

Have you ever had a job that you really enjoyed that was also stress free? This was the career that I had at Home Depot.  For thirteen years this was my second career that provided me with the extra income I needed to support my family.  Between working for the school system and Home Depot I would usually work seven days and about seventy hours a week.  Home Depot was a wonderful place of employment.

I was a part-time employee for all thirteen years, even when I average forty or more hours during the peak selling seasons. I had great supervisors during all thirteen years who would always work around my work schedule at school.  The customer service philosophy that Home Depot had was one the matched the one that I had when I was a store manager at Kroger.  One of the many blessing we can have from God is finding and using the gifts He has given us.  I realized at an early age that the gift I had was servicing others.  The philosophy of customer service fit this gift I was given.

Not only was this career an enjoyable experience but the knowledge that I gained from working in every department during this period in my life enriched my understanding of the home improvement industry. Over twenty years in the retail industry and thirteen years in the home improvement industry has greatly enriched my life in everyday activities from home improvement projects and the simple act of preparing an evening meal.

When I was in school, I was taught that part of a young Jewish child’s training was to prepare him for two careers, one that involve working with his hands and the other with the mind. This was the path in my training that I also follow.  Home Depot was the career that bridged the gap I needed financially for those thirteen years I worked there.  However, of all the careers I had this was not the most rewarding, but it was by far the most enjoyable. lighthouses

Day 13 And A Sysop

I started my interest in computers as soon as they were affordable and on the market. As a store manager with Kroger I would use Lotus 123 to create operational budgets for the store. I also developed a inventory control spreadsheet that would track the stores weekly sales with the store weekly invoices. I was probably a few years ahead of most stores managers using a computer at the store level to track inventories. This experience jump started a future for me that I was not aware of at that time.

During the my interview for the teacher position the possibility of another side job was presented to me. There was a position as a person who would oversee the up and coming new addition to the school called technology. This position (Sysop) would added an extra seven hundred and fifty dollars a year to my paycheck. Unknown at the time was how much time this position would take up. This was the first year that they had a network within the school.

One major feature of this new technology was the introduce of the computerized grade book. This was one of the new features that I embrace from the first day of school. However, I was one of the few to use it the first year, most of the other teachers used the old blue grade books. When I turned in a floppy disk with my grade book at the end of the year I was ask why my grades were not in the blue grade book. I had to print out my grade book files and put them in my blue grade book at the end of my first year.

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Day 14 And a Coach

Sports was something I always love, but had little time to enjoy. I played football basketball, and ran track during my freshman year in high school. But with the death of my father  I started working odd jobs since I was fifteen years old and when I turn sixteen I started working forty hours a week.  However,  I did enjoy playing softball for our church and coached the girl’s team because my two sisters love softball. Later on in my years as a store manager I took up and fell in love with golf.

One of the questions I was asked during my interview for my teaching was if I ever played basketball or coach. My answer was yes but, it had had been a long time ago since I played . However, the school needed an assistant coach for the boy’s basketball team and if I got the teaching position I was asked if I would be willing to coach the seventh grade team. At that time an assistant coach was paid two hundred dollars a season, The answer of course was yes, since I really needed a teaching position.

During my eight years at Herschel Jones I coached all but one year, It was during the years I was an assistant under Coach Johnson that I learned the true art of coaching. During the five of those years my wife also coached the seventh grade girls so basketball became a big part of our life during November thru February. Two of our daughters even had cheerleader uniforms made by their grandmother and would cheer with the school’s cheerleaders during the season. The friendships I made with the players and other teachers and administrators during this period were great. As I look back on these years I realized that the relationships I developed with the students as a coach made me a better teacher.

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Day 15 A teacher

When I first started college as a young student my desire was the be serve on the mission field.  One of the roles that I realized that I needed was that of a Bible teacher.  As I reflect on these years, I recall how my desire was not to learn but to complete the task of finishing school. At that time, I was like a young child traveling with their parents on a long trip asking countless times “are we there yet”.  The destination was the important event, not the enjoyment of the events along the trip.  When I went back to school this time I fell in love with the process of learning.  To be a good teacher you must have a love for learning and the desire to pass this love of learning to others.

It is amazing how God works in our life to prepare our paths for us.  After I had completed school and pass my test and received my teacher certification, I started applying at all the schools in Douglas County.  Having lived and worked in that community for almost eight years I felt I had a good chance of getting a teaching position.  However, there were no open teacher positions at any of their schools.  The week before the start of the school year, I had almost given up on find a teacher position.  I was excited when I received a call to come in for an interview for a six-grade social studies teacher position.

This was a last-minute position that was created by the enrollment of more students than they had planned, and this created a need for a teacher.  Following the interview, I was offered the job.   I enjoy eight years at Herschel Jones middle school three years as 6th grade teacher and five years teaching the Introduction to Technology class to all three grade levels.  These were wonderful years in which I was blessed with friendships that have lasted through these many years.  And one of the greatest joys is seeing several of these former students become educators themselves.

God opens doors and He closes doors.  Some will call this process of just going with the flow or fate.  However, when God leads, he gives you a peace that passes all understanding. As I have stated before, the example of the Lord’s prayer for us is a daily prayer to meet our daily needs and walk.  It best to leave the future to God, who will open and close the doors of opportunity for us.

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Day 16 Back to School

Having a bachelor’s degree made the process of getting a teaching certificate easy at that time. When I started this process there was a shortage of teachers and going back for the need classes was a simple process. At that time the colleges would help with setting up these needed classes and helping you would get all the material you needed to pass the Teaching Certification test.  My bachelor’s degree from Temple was in Bible and History. My grades however were not the best. My class ranking was one hundred and seventy-seven out of one hundred and seventy-nine students. However, Temple did let me enter their master program after I finished college and I was able to add on one year of educational classes to my course of studies before I left school and went into management with Kroger. It amazing how that extra year of taking graduate classes in education save me from taking those classes to get my teaching certificate. In seven months, I had taken all the needed classes.

However, I also had to pass the Middle School Certification test given at that time to get the needed teacher certification needed for a career as an educator. This test was made easy by having as my last class a teacher who walked his class through every aspect that the test would cover. I also had a great teacher as a mentor as I did my student teaching at a local middle school. These two teachers really make me work hard in both the classwork, and the student teaching required classroom setting, but the information I gained made the Middle School Certification test easy. Passed with great scores.

Up to this time in my life school was just a hurdle that I had get pass to move to the next stage. But the process of getting my Middle School Certification to become an educator made the desire learn and enjoy the process of education take on a greater meaning in my live. I had said with my college degree that at least I knew more than two more students in my class and the problem with that was I accepted and was content with just getting a degree. However, that view point change by this time in my life. In the following years I added two master’s degrees and a specialist degree to my list of certifications. I graduated with honors with all these degrees and had one B to go along with the rest A’s with the specialist degree.

As we age, we must not stop learning. We must continue to grow mental, spiritual, emotional and as for the physical aging process we learn to deal with the physical limitations placed upon us. We must strive to constantly improve in these areas so that we can set the example for those around us. Staying in God’s Word is the greatest treasure we have to meet the goals of growing mental, emotional, and spirituality.

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Day 17 Unemployed

Monday morning, I realized that I was truly unemployed. With no income coming in I started the task of job hunting. I was lucky and found a few temporary warehouse jobs working with a Temp Agency. Most of these jobs were in warehouse that worked in the printing.  I loved the working conditions  in each of the locations I worked and they reminded me of the warehouses I use to visit when I worked at Kroger. One of the first jobs was at a warehouse that printed and put together training manuals for the Federal Government. This job only lasted for a few weeks, but I did learn a lot about the printing business.

The second job only lasted a few weeks also, as it too was in the printing business. However, this one was different in that it printed the stand-up characters for in store merchandising displays like the race car drivers of football players next to drink displays. This was a very interesting job because I was always working on a different project. I stayed very busy and loved learning all the new skills. However, like the previous job they were really looking at this position as the probational period  stage for someone seeking full-time employment. After they realize that I was not looking for a permanent position I was let go so that they find someone else who could meet their future needs.

I worked a few more jobs, but as soon as the employer realized that I was only looking for short term employment the job request started drying up. I would get calls for job opportunities that only needed someone for a few days. One of the last one I took was helping a contractor build cabinets in the photo centers in a drug store. The two months of working at temporary jobs was exciting since I was about to learn and pickup new skill sets. However I need a job that could provide a steady income.

However, my luck changed when I was able to get a job at Home Depot. Since I had already started taking the classes I needed to get my teaching certificate this job was wonderful. They worked around my schedule and I was able to work twelve hour shifts on the weekend to get extra hours in and still have time for classwork school. Finally, a steady paycheck.

It was a tough year after I left Kroger, however looking back it was this change that put me on the path of a wonderful career. Sometimes we look back on events in our life and wonder if I could change the path, would I? The realization is that we cannot change the past, but we can look to God to lead us to a greater future. He did that for me.   The future career in education that I was about to embark  lead to the wonderful path that I have enjoyed for these past twenty-eight years.

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Day 18 Our way not your way

After nine months I was excited that the Vice President of Ingles was going to visit the store. We make sure that we were in Grand Opening condition and that every department was manned by the department head for his visit. Upon arrival I had my notebook in hand and was ready to take notes. First note was to get rid of the kid shopping carts that I had purchase for the children shoppers (this had been a big hit for parents with children). Next note was the remove the big Coke display from the front of the store (over two thousand dollars a week sale from this display). We continue the walk for several aisles until I was called to the front for a check approval. I handed the notebook to the zone manager and hurry up front.

Upon returning he commented on how clean the store looked and the freshness of the perishables ask why so many displays in these departments. I answer that was my way of cross merchandising high mark product to help increase sales. We then hurried through the rest of the store without any more questions. After the walk he went to the zone manager’s office to make some calls. A little later he left.

I felt like the walk must have went well. We had great customer service in all departments and the store conditions I believed were great. However, my zone manager had a short meeting with me after the store walk. He said the only comment he got from the vice president was that this was not a Kroger store and for me to turn it back into a store that follow all of Ingle’s guidelines. It was late so he decided that he would walk it with me tomorrow to get the store back on track. This was a Friday night. That night I discussed it with my wife who as a teacher had a better salary than I did as a store manager. We decided it would be best to go back to school and pick up the needed classes to teach. So, Saturday the decision was made to leave the world of retail. I had spent twenty plus years in this world. What was next.

That Sunday I turned in the store keys and felt a wonderful comfort and a new found relieve. Working seven days a week ten to twelve hours a day and then being told your work did not measure up to the company’s standards made me realized I was in the wrong career. However, the feeling that a new career was on the horizon gave me new hope for the future.

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Day 19 Starting a new Journey

When I left Kroger I was given three months pay, and a three-week training class to help develop me for a new career. Well after two weeks I was ready to work again and places my applications at both Publix and Ingles.  Remember this was before the days of the internet and on-line job searches.  After twenty years in the grocery retail business I knew I had the experience to succeed.  A few days later the zone manager from Ingles called me in and after a short interview hired me as a store manager. I took the job and reported the next day to my training store. As always, I can in early and stayed late and after three weeks was given a store. The store I was assigned to reminded me of the first store  I managed with Kroger just a little larger. Sales were down and it was losing money. A simple store walk told me why! Dirty, empty shelves and out of date product on the shelves. As I was walking the store, I also noticed that the customer service could be greatly improved.

Time to take notes and roll up the sleeves and work. The store’s last store manager was not a working manager and stayed up front most of the day. My style of management was a change for the store staff.  Within a few weeks the store floors were cleaned and wax, shelves started to be fully stocked, and the perishable departments were freshened up. This required me working seven days a week, losing a few employees because of not liking their new assignments, and having to fire one for stealing. Sales started going up with the better store conditions and improved customer relations. They went up so much that the store manager from the Kroger up the street came and visited me just to see the improvement. For the next nine months the hard work was paying off and I even started to receive a few small bonus checks for improved sales and profits. Yes, the store was making a profit again after six months.

My paycheck was not as good as what I made at Kroger and my wife who had to go back to teaching, but we now had a good income to live on. Once again, I was building another career. Same position but with a different team and all new players and coaches. However, the one loss I felt was having to give up my past time hobby of golf.  Could no longer afford it.

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Day 20 True Blue

Managing a new store in a great location with a great staff was a store manager’s dream. We excessed both our sale budgets and profit budget during the first year of the store’s opening. As far as the first-year results of a new store opening, we had one of the best in the entire division. Sales were great but the profit from these sales were even greater. Our inventories always came back great and our hourly usage to sales percentage was one of the best in the division. I was put on the company’s shrink team and would visit and conduct store walks to help other stores solve their bad inventories issue. I had several members of my staff promoted to other stores as department heads and one assistance became a store manager of another store. My yearly evaluation was not outstanding but excellent, which was almost impossible to achieve.

After the great results of the first year our sales started to level off. Profits were still great, but the sale growth was not as great as it was during the first year. We kept the store conditions as great as we always had in the past and our customer service was still the best in the area. However, at that time on the new housing was being developed on the other side of town and the now older store was seeing the store sale growth. During this period, I also had remarried and had my sons living with us as well as our new daughter. I had even started back in church and even though I did could not teach a Sunday School class I would usually have a lot of input in the discussions. I had finally achieved the goals I had been going after these last few years.

Then I received the unexpected call to come to the Central Office to met with my zone manager for a short meeting.  The short meeting ended up being over three hours long.  I was told I was going to be relocated to a different store and a reduced position. I ask why and they stated that it was best for the company and me. After twenty years with the company, working in four different states and eighteen different stores I refused this relocation because I had the store of my dreams. However, the store of my dreams was not my store, but the company’s store and I had no chose in the matter. Pride kicked in and I refused to give up my dream store, so I found my self without a job for the first time in sixteen years.  Afterward I went back to clean out my office and informed my staff that I was leaving they were speechless. As one department head stated that you would bleed the Kroger’s True-Blue color.

However,  I had a peace that everything would be OK.  I knew I was great and would bounce back again.

 

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