Monday, February 10, 2014


Clutch is defined by Webster as many things.  Some of them are related to cars and the connection between the engine and the transmission.  Some of them related to handbags and grabbing or gripping things but that’s not the one that I am focusing on today.  The meaning that I am interested in is the one that says “clutch (adj.) – done or accomplished in critical situations; dependable in critical situations.

The last blog that I wrote focused on Hannah’s first volleyball tournament and how well her 11 year old team played in a tournament full of 12 year olds.  They showed a lot of spirit, team work and most of all a lot of promise.  This past weekend she had another tournament and this time, as before, they showed a lot of sprit and a lot of team work but instead of showing promise they showed a lot of progress and a lot of wins for the effort.

They played in the choo-choo city tournament that was sponsored by the host club, choo-choo city volleyball club.  As with most tournaments they started out with pool play.  They were placed in a pool of a total of 5 teams.  They were seeded 2nd in the pool based on their performance from the last tournament.  Only the host club was seeded higher.  As before the tournament consisted of only 12 year old teams except for them. 

As with most tournaments they play 2 sets against a team regardless of how the wins and losses go and at the end of the day the teams are seeded into the elimination brackets (gold, silver, etc) based on their total wins and losses.  The format for this tournament was that only the top two teams in the bracket would advance to the elimination bracket, meaning that 3 of the 5 teams in the pool would be eliminated at the end of pool play.  Last tournament Hannah’s team ended in 4th place by beating Team 205 but this was enough to get them into the silver bracket since 4 of 5 teams advanced.  That wouldn’t be nearly good enough this week.

Being seeded second they drew the first match of the day against the 5th seeded team in the bracket.  The took the court to play Tennessee Blaze 12-1.  Coach Heather told Hannah that she would be held out the first game since she missed a practice due to weather this past week.  The game went well and 11 Black held a 1 – 2 point lead most of the game.  The first set ended 25-22 with 11 Black winning.  It was a great way to start the tournament and super boost for the team.  The second game started and it was obvious that the girls were brimming with confidence after starting so strong.  Hannah rotated in for several series and made several saves and even a block attempt.  For most of the game Hannah was in a rotation with Sydney where Hannah would play the front row and Sydney would play the back.  Hannah would come out and Sydney would go into serve.  This seemed to work well but Sydney was a little hit or miss with her serving at times.  The second game was very impressive for 11 Black.  They got on a run and late in the game the score was 21-10.  Tennessee Blaze got on a serving run right at the end and made the score a little closer.  The final score was 25-22.  11 Black was off to a 2-0 start on the day.

The next match was against Team Sting 12 yellow.  12 Yellow is a group of big looking 12 year olds.  11 Black didn’t play 12 yellow in the first tournament since they were in a different pool and were in a different bracket during elimination.  The match started and immediately 11 Black fell behind. Hannah rotated in for several series and she (like most of the other girls) struggled to keep up and catch up with 12 Yellow.  As before the girls adjusted as they played to the speed and the power of the other team and by the end of the match were keeping up point for point with the older team. The second match started and this time 11 Black went on the offensive. They scored several points in a row and took a 4-1 lead. Hannah played the same rotation that she had in the previous match where she would play front row for Sydney. At a critical point in the match 12 Yellow had taken a lead and were serving to 11 Black.  They rallied the ball back and forth several times and the ball came back over the net short, Hannah stepped back and set the ball back over the net short to 12Yellow. They recovered the ball and passed it back over the net, Grace made a diving dig and Hannah got under the ball and set it. After a brief hesitation (11’s don’t set and hit that much) one of the other girls stepped up and made a hit on the ball and scored on 12 Yellow to tie the game again. 11Black went on to finish the game 25-21 and improve their record on the day to 3-1.

The girls had a little time off between their 2nd and 3rd matches so they ate and rested. Eating during tournaments is a tricky thing. Eat and drink too little and you’ll be tired and dehydrated from lack of food. Eat and drink too much and you run the risk of being sluggish and lethargic. When the third match started it was clear that the team was not as perky as they had been previously. The third match was against the team 205 12 year old team that 11 Black played in their first tournament. The match started and team 205 took a quick 7-1 lead over 11 Black. Everything that had been going right in previous matches was going wrong. The girls weren’t moving or talking and balls were hitting the floor like never before. At 14-8 coach heather called a time out to talk to the team. I’m not sure what coaches say to teams at critical moments in the game but whatever coach heather said during the time out worked. 11 Black returned to the court, shook the cobwebs off and started playing volleyball again. Hannah played through her rotations and the game ended with 11 Black winning 25-20. The second match was never in question.   11 black took an early lead and never looked back. The game was never in question and near the end coach heather put Hannah in to serve. Hannah has a really good serve but has struggled with having enough strength to get them over the net every time. She lined up took her stance and belted her serve over the net. It was low and fast and aced the other team. Her grin went from ear to ear. She lined up for the second one, lofted it into the air and served it right into the net. It was a good serve but just a little too low. The game continued and 11 Black won 25-13.  11 Blacks record on the day stood at 5-1.  Shortly thereafter 12 yellow lost a match and 12 black became the sole owner of 2nd place in the pool and guaranteed of going on to play in the elimination bracket as one of the top two teams in their pool.  It is truly amazing to think that a team of 9, 10 and 11 year olds can play with that much passion, enthusiasm and skill.  The team that struggled in the first tournament but played well and showed growth now was one of the dominant teams in the tournament and a force to be reckoned with.  11 Black had proven to be one of the best 12 year old teams that Team Sting had to offer this season.  I learned during the break between games that over the course of the season and practices that each of the girls has gotten a nick name.  Coach Heather’s daughter Maggie is Maggles, Anna is Anna Banana and Grace is Grace Face.  The girls like to joke and kid with their new nicknames and they seemed to be enjoyed their run of success on the day.

From here on out the girls were playing with house money.  Any win, any success past this point is just icing on the cake.  The final match of pool play pitted 11 Black against the number one team in the pool, the host team Choo-Choo City Volleyball.  The match started and 11 Black coming off of a dominating win against Team 205 jumped out to a 4-1 lead.  The game continued and 11 Black continued to lead up to the point that the score was 20-15.  11 Black rode strong serving and good defense to keep Choo-Choo citys best servers from getting on a run.  No other team had held a lead on Choo Choo City all day.  The shock of being challenged in this way was evident on the faces of the players and the coaches for Choo choo city.  The two lead servers for Choo Choo city were very good and had been dominating other teams all day but 11 Black was very effective in their rallies and limited them to a single serve each.  At 20-15 the lead server for Choo-Choo came back up to serve and managed to get three serves that 11 Black couldn’t return.  The score was 21-18 when their second server rolled up to serve.  Again the strong serving from Choo Choo city caused 11 Black problems as it had other teams all day, at the end of her run the score stood at 22-23 and 11 Black had lost their lead but they weren’t done yet, Sophie, 11 Blacks best server was up to serve.  Sophie’s first serve was an ace, 23-23.  Her second serve was not an ace but it was a good serve and 11 Black rallied to get the point, 24-23, game point.  Her next serve was a good one but Choo Choo city rallied and won the point, 24-24.  Choo-Choo city served next and won the next two points and won the match 26-24.  It was only the second loss of the day for 11 Black against a very good team.  The second match started and Choo-Choo city took the early lead.  The score was close for the entire match but in the end 11 Black couldn’t pull the win out and the set ended 25-22 in favor of Choo-Choo City.  Even though they lost two straight to Choo-Choo city 11 Black had played them closer than any other team in the pool and nearly pulled off what would have easily been the biggest upset of the day.  They finished second in the pool with a 5-3 overall record and were moving on to the elimination bracket.  They prepared to play the first elimination match against Team Sting 12 White as the other teams packed and left.

For the first match of the elimination round we had to move from Court 1 to Court 2.  Court 2 was located about 2 blocks away from court 1 in a much older gym that looked a lot like an old high school gymnasium.  Since 11 Black finished 2nd in their pool they were slated to play the number one team from the other pool, 12 White.  12 White and 11 Black had played before in the first tournament but 11 Black had come a long way since then and were a much more confident team than they were in the first meeting.  12 White and 11 Black took the court and the match started.  The match was back and forth with multiple lead changes.  The score went from 5-2 in favor of 12 White to 7-6 in favor of 11 Black.  Hannah and the other girls on 11 Black took turns in their rotations and played well.  Each team got their shots at the other team and it was a very tense match.  Late in the match 12 White held a slim lead at 22-20.  11 Black rallied on some strong serving from Sophie and Grace and several impressive digs from Grace and Sydney.  The score stood at 23-23.  12 White scored and made it 24-23, game point but 11 Black wasn’t done and return a serve for a score to tie it at 24-24.  Anna came up to serve and uncharacteristically fired her serve into the net, 25-24 game point 12 White.  12 White took the serve, 11 Black rallied it back and then when 12 White returned it again it was more than 11 Black could handle and it went out of bounds.  Game over 26-24, 12 White.

The second match started and just like the first it was a back and forth affair with neither team being able to gain a substantial lead on the other.  Hannah rotated in to play front row for Sydney and made several saves including one near block over the net that resulted in a score for 11 Black.  As with the first match the score stood at 22-23 in favor of 12 White.  Then everything stopped.  Kathyryn was standing in the middle of the court holding her face and crying.  Somewhere in the last rally one of her team mates had accidentally elbowed her in the nose.  There was no blood but it was clear she was in a lot of pain and her nose and cheek were swelling.  There was a brief timeout in the match and Coach Heather was given a substitution to replace Kathyrn.  Coach Heather looked at her sideline and at the girls standing there and after a brief hesitation said “Go Hannah”.  Oh my, my heart jumped up in my throat.  12 White took the serve and it came over.  Hannah was standing at the front left and grace took a dig on the ball and Hannah passed it back over the net.  12 White bobbled it and it fell to the floor, 23-23.  Hannah was up to serve.  12 White’s Coach called a time out.  11 Black went to the side line and huddled up with Coach Heather.  I learned later what Coach said to the girls.  She told them that she was very proud of them and they had played fantastic.  She said that they had a chance to win this game and then she looked at Hannah and told her that they really needed a point and to go out there and do her best.  The timeout ended and Hannah walked out on the court to serve.  She stood in the middle of the court with the ball at her side and took a deep breath.  The referee whistled the play in and Hannah took her stance to serve.  She lofted the ball into the air and the hit it harder than I have ever seen her hit a ball before.  The crack of her hand hitting the ball was something you could feel as well as hear.  The ball cleared the net by 3 inches and landed in the middle of the court untouched., ACE!!!.  24-23 11 Black.  The adults and other spectators erupted in cheers but the team was happy but solemn.  They knew that the game wasn’t over and there was still more work to do.  Hannah stood back in the middle of the court again ready to serve.  Just as before she lofted the ball and hit it over the net.  The middle back player went to a knee to dig the serve and popped it back up but to the right.  Two of the girls chased it out of bounds but were unable to get to it in time.  ACE!!!  Game!!! 25-23.  11 Black Wins.  The arena erupted.  Hannah and all of 11 Black went nuts.  9 little girls were jumping up and down and screaming.  They were all high fiving each other and especially Hannah.  In the midst of the celebration Coach Heather pulled Hannah close to her and said something to her.  I learned later that what she said was that she now knew what Hannahs nick name should be.  “Clutch”.  The best nick names are earned and Hannah earned hers with a gutsy couple of aces with the game on the line.





Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Back in Black...

I got to watch my daughter play volleyball this past Saturday... 

That's nothing new right?

Except this this time it was Hannah and not Beth.

Hannah had her first club volleyball tournament yesterday and it was one of the most exciting sporting events that I have ever seen.  I know I'm a little prejudiced because I'm her father and all daddies think that their kids are amazing but there was more to it than that. 

Hannah was nervous, very nervous.  She had never played anything like volleyball before and was visibly nervous as we got ready to leave for the tournament.  She had her spandex, jersey, court shoes and cover up on.  She had her duffle bag packed and ready.  She looked like a volleyball player but she was not confident that she could be a volleyball player.

We drove to Pelham High School where the tournament was going to be played and got there a little early.  When we went in a couple of the other girls were already there and were milling around in the lobby.  Hannah started to get ready to go with her team and warm up. 

I guess I need to give a little background here.

Hannah is 11.  If you think that's a little young to be playing club volleyball you would be right.  Typically, the youngest team at most clubs is a 12 year old team.  USAV has rules all the way down to 10 year old but there just aren't that many.  Team Sting has had 12 year old teams for a while now but this year they decided to create an 11 year old team due to the number of younger girls who were trying out.  Hannah was placed on 11 Black with 8 other girls who range in age from 8 - 11.  Most of these girls are playing volleyball because they have a sister, a friend, a cousin or a mother that is playing or has played. 

There aren't many clubs with 11 year old divisions so 11 Black was entered in a tournament with 9 other 12 year old teams.  This doesn't sound like that big of a difference but in reality when you see the difference in 10 and 11 year old girls and 12 year old girls it is huge.  Most of these girls were 4 - 6 inches taller than the girls on 11 Black. 

Hannah's team was a year younger than the other girls in the group so they were seeded last in their pool which meant that they had to play first match.  The girls took the court and it was obvious that they were all nervous and not sure of themselves or what was about to happen.  They started practicing and warming up.  Hannah served a few balls and very few of them went over the net.  Hannah has been working on her overhand float serve and while she has a good serve she typically is a little short on power. 

Finally, the time for the first match came and the girls lined up on the court and got ready to play.  The other team served first and the game was started.  In tournament pool play typically each team plays two matches against the each of the other teams.  After all of the teams have in the pool have played each other the top teams in the pool advance to the elimination bracket and the lower teams in the pool are sent home at the end of pool play.  In this tournament the top 4 teams would advance and the last place team would not.  The first two matches went about like I expected.  The girls played hard but lost convincingly.  They were trying act as much like a volleyball player as they could but it very much looked like a team of 10 and 11 year olds playing a team of 12 year olds.  The scores were respectable at 25-17, 25-14, etc but the outcome was never in question.  Hannah made some digs and missed several as did most of the other girls.  Hannah didn't hit any of her serves in the first two matches and most of the other girls serves didn't make it.  What was surprising was that 11 Black didn't get discouraged or upset.  They did a little cheer after every point just like they have seen the older girls do and kept right on playing.  The second match was a little better than the first but basically had the same outcome.

There was a 3 game break after the second match and we noticed that 11 Black had disappeared.  The team took the court for the third match and this time they had a new cheer that was original.  They had gone out during the break between matches and made up an entirely new cheer.  The first game was similar to the first two matches but the girls seemed to be responding better and getting more in tune with the speed of the game.  The score was 25-18, their best showing of the day.  The second game started and things were going fairly well.  The score was 14-11 as Hannah came up to serve.  I because nervous since Hannah to this point had not made a serve all day and the coach kept putting her into serve every rotation.  I must admit that at this point I questioned why she kept putting her in when she apparently wasn't ready to serve.  Hannah stood at the line and one of her other team mates, Grace, came up to her, patted her on the shoulder, and said "good luck, you can do it".  The referee blew the whistle to signal Hannah that she could serve.  Hannah took a deep breath, tossed the ball in the air and swung.  The ball was a line drive serve right down the center of the court.  It cleared the net by 12 inches.  The ball hit one of the opposing players hands and shanked out of bounds.  Ace.  Hannah (and every other girl on the team) went nuts.  They jumped up and down and screamed and congratulated each other.  The mood and energy of the team changed from that point on.  These were not the same little kids that played the first two matches.  Hannah served two more serves and tied the match at 14-14.  The match ended in a loss at 25-20 but something was different.  These girls were no longer trying to imitate their mothers, friends and sisters.  They had become a volleyball team.

The fourth match started and 11 Black had to play the Team 205 12 year old team.  11 Black took the court again.  The nervousness was gone.  They were ready to play.  11 Black took the lead and never looked back.  Hannah served several in the game and didn't miss any.  There were several saves that she made that kept the other team from getting points.  All of the parents were cheering for their kids and the girls who weren't playing were cheering their team mates on.  Hannah came in to serve at 24-21.  Game point.  I have seen Beth in this same situation dozens of times but being a new player Hannah has never been in the position with the game on the line that she had to perform.  Especially with her serving being a little questionable.  She stepped to the line and again her team mates wished her luck.  The whistle blew, Hannah tossed the ball and served.  Right over the net to the middle of the other court.  The other team got a quick dig on the ball and passed it back over the right, right to Hannah who had just gotten back to her position in the back court.  She immediately dropped to a knee and passed the ball back up into the air.  A quick hit from one of the other girls and the ball went back over the net.  The girl on the other side of the court missed her pass and the ball shanked out of bounds.  11 Black had just won their first game.  Everyone went nuts.  The girls were high fiving each other and jumping and cheering.  I will remember the look on Hannah's face.  She was as happy as I can ever remember seeing her.  The second game against Team 205 started.  This time it wasn't the 10 and 11 year olds who looked worried, it was the 12 year olds.  The second game went faster than the first and the match ended 25-17.  11 Black never trailed.  They had swept Team 205 two game to zero.  The wins against Team 205 gave 11 Black enough wins and enough points to place them into 4th in their pool and into the Silver Tournament Bracket.

There was a little time off between matches before the silver bracket match started and the girls sat in a circle with the coach and talked quietly.  They were all very happy and proud of how far they had come in a short time.  Once all of the pool play matches were finished they found out who was their opponent in the silver match.  It was 12 Black.  12 Black is the Team Sting 12 Year Old Elite Team.  This is the top rated 12 year old team team for the club.  You wouldn't have known it from the faces on 11 Black.  They looked like they were ready for anything.  The girls warmed up and took the court.  The first game started and went back and forth.  11 Black scored nearly point for point with 12 Black.  After a few series the score was 11-11.  11 Black trailed by a point or two for most of the match and caught up to tie the score.  12 Black went on a run and made the score 14-11.  Then Hannah and Grace went through service and the score was tied again at 15-15.  12 Blacks best server came up to serve and got on a roll.  She was able to serve some difficult balls that 11 Black just couldnt field.  The score went to 19-15.  11 Black got a point and made it 19-16 but 12 Black went on another run and the game ended at 25-17.  I began to feel like maybe 11 Black had met their match.

The second game of the set started similarly to the first and after a few series the score was tied at 15-15 again.  11 Black was playing well and keeping up with 12 Black as best they could.  It was as even as it could be between the two teams.  Then Hannah came up to serve again.  Ace.  16-15.  Her next serve wasnt an Ace but it was returned by 11 Black for a point.  17-15.  There was as much tension as I have ever felt at a volleyball game.  Hannah served the ball but 11 Black failed to return it.  17-16.  12 Black went on a run and the score went to 20-16 in favor of 12 Black.  Again it was looking like 12 Black was going to finish it but the 9, 10 and 11 year olds werent quite done yet.  They rallied back and made the score 22-20.  It was amazing to think that these little kids who had never played volleyball as a team before today were 3 points from beating an elite team that was 1 to 2 or more years older than them.  My daughter, who had never stepped on the court to play a game of volleyball, and her friends were 3 points from what would be a huge win for them.  They had accomplished an awful lot in a day.  They went from being an inexperienced timid group of kids trying to learn a game to being an amazingly effective volleyball team that would make even the best player or coach proud.  In the end 12 Black rallied and the game ended 25-23 and 11 Black just missed getting that big win but for their first tournament they accomplished more than anyone could have imagined.

I feel sorry for any 11 (or 12) year old team that they run up against, they wont be expecting 11 Black.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Firing People Sucks...

Im sure that sounds a bit obvious…

We had to let someone go this week.  It has been a long time coming and was totally justified from a business standpoint.  Matter of fact it was over due and we probably let things drag on a lot longer than we should have.  That doesn’t make it any easier. 

As a manager and business owner you often have to do things that you don’t like.  It seems pretty simple in theory.  You have a set of rules that the company operates by and if an employee fails to observe those rules you give them a warning, then you give them a more severe warning and then if it still continues you terminate the employment.  In practice it’s a whole lot harder than that.  It’s not black and white. 

In this case the employee was fired for repeatedly being late or missing work altogether without reason.  It has gone on for months and we have had meetings and talks and while it would get better for a time the employee never complied with the rules of the company.  It was to the point that it was affecting the other employees and as employers we really didn’t have any right to reprimand or say anything to the other employees given the attendance of the other one. 

As an example this employee has missed or been late 17 times since the beginning of the year and we are only half way through March.  When you have as few people as we do everyone is important and everyone is critical to the production of our projects.  Engineering is a very deadline based business.  We work on projects and if those key people working on that project just go missing for a few days in the middle, it can put the entire project and even the rest of the office in a tail spin when we have to scramble to cover all of the deadlines and reallocate people to make sure everything gets done. 

None of this makes any difference it still is hard.  This is a person and you know that firing them has ramifications beyond just our company.  You start to think about what you are doing to them and their lives.  This person has a family and kids.  Will they be able to find another job?  Will they be able to get insurance?  Will they lose their house and their car?  What makes it even worse is that since we are a small business with 12 (now 11 employees) we are a family.  I know these people and care about them and it hurts to have to let one of them go.  In the end the only consolation that I can offer is that they brought this on themselves and that we did everything we could to help them and avoid this. 

It still sucks.

Engineering for Dummies

Melinda took over the blogging about noah trachs and CCHS in general and she does a much better job at it than I ever have so I have decided to change the focus of my blog.  Im going to focus on engineering and what I have learned running a business.  This might not be as interesting as CCHS and Noah but its very relevant to me and what I do.  So here goes Chris' Blog 2.0

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spike This (Part 4) - The Good, The Bad and the Swedish

After the middle school volleyball season ended Beth decided she wanted to play more volleyball.  I thought volleyball might have been over for us but she really seemed to enjoy playing and wanted to continue.  To continue playing in the off season you have to sign up for a club team.  As I have learned this is an entirely different animal all together.  Actually I have learned a lot of things since the school season ended, like that she just really scratched the surface of this volleyball stuff at school and there was a whole lot more to learn.

We began to investigate different club teams and narrowed our choices down to Alabama Juniors and Team Sting.  Beth attended both tryouts and was accepted onto both teams.  She decided that she liked Team Sting better, which was fine with me since the training facility was closer to the house.  In November they started having workouts and preseason conditioning for the players.  These were all held at D1 sports in homewood.  Most of the workouts consisted of different exercises to strengthen and condition the players for volleyball.

Volleyball teams are divided into Divisions by age.  Beth is 13 and turns 14 in august.  This puts her in the 14 and under division.  The team that she was placed on was the 14 Local team.  We chose a local team this year so that we wouldnt have to do much if any traveling.  Initially, she was placed on a team with 6 other girls.  As the preseason workouts progressed we were notified that they were merging the 15 Local teams and the 14 local teams to create two 15 year old teams.  This was due to the fact that beths team only had 7 players which is a couple short and the 15 local team had 12 players which is too many (did i mention that her school team had 18 players, yikes!!!)  When they merged they created a team with 9 players and a team with 10 players which works much better.  Beth was placed on the higher level team with mostly 15 year olds.

In December the practices started in earnest and Beth learned that everything she knew was wrong.  She found out that she served wrong, she stood wrong and she moved wrong.  the process of relearning how to play volleyball again had started.  She attended practices twice a week and gradually she got her game back together.  She learned how to serve correctly over hand, pass, block and spike.

Club volleyball is a tournament based sport.  In beths teams case they practice all season for 4 tournaments.  Originally, the first tournament was supposed to be played in February but as it turns out the tournament was overbooked and team sting had to reschedule a new tournament.  The first tournament was chosen to be the gadsden volleyball tournament in march.  the girls had been practicing for nearly 3 months without playing a real game and were ready to play someone else besides the other team sting teams.

the day of the tournament came...

Needless to say beth was nervous.  She hadn't played a volleyball game since late September and had never played a game with team sting.  The first tournament was in Gadsden so we got up early the morning of the tournament and got ready to go.  The ride was pretty quiet (mainly because we were all still asleep, or wished that we were).  We got to gadsden and started and went into the tournament.  I ould tell that Beth really was a feeling very nervous.  What she didn't know is that I had a surprise for her.  Beth loves Swedish Fish.  For those of you who don't know what they are, they are these little gummy fish.  But they are very stiff, much more so than regular gummy bears.  They are also not very sweet.  Anyway, I secretly brought her some Swedish fish and I gave them to her before she wnet into the tournament.  The effect was immediate, she calmed down and started to smile.  She seemed to get her confidence back and went into the school.   Beth met up with her coach and her team and they went to start stretching and getting set to play.

The pool play portion of this tournament consisted of four matches for each team.  Stings opponents were NASA VBC, Gadsden VBC, Alabama Elite and Southwest Georgia VBC.   They played their games well.  In the end the team only won 2 of their 8 games but beth played well and went on several sustained serving runs.  One of them was 9 consecutive serves and the other was 6. I was very proud of her.  I have said before that I never pictured my daughter as the sporty type but she has repeatedly proven me wrong with that.  She is one heck of a volleyball player and I am eager to see what she does next.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mediate This...

I was involved in a mediation this past week.  That in itself is not that interesting.  I mean the process is interesting from a legal stand point.  Rather than going to a court like a lawsuit or having a panel of arbitrators and hearing evidence you sit in two different rooms and a mediator goes back and forth trying to negotiate the differences and come to a solution.  It reminds me a lot of buying a car.  You make an offer to the mediator (your salesman) and he goes to the other party (the sales manager) and tries to get them to accept the deal.  When they don't he comes back with a counter offer and so on until one of two things happen; you settle on a deal or you get so tired and pissed that you walk out and decide to take the other party to court.  But like i said, that wasn't the interesting part just the setting...

Lets go back in time a little bit...

When I was in high school and college we went to East Lake United Methodist Church.  During that time I decided that I was going into engineering for my career and we had a pretty big group of youth that were graduating and going to college around the same time.  One of the ministries that developed in the church was a mentoring ministry where an someone in the church would "adopt" one of the college students and help guide them as they went through school.  Ideally, the mentor would be in a similar career field to the student so that they could provide relevant experience and advice and possibly even help with contacts and getting a job once you got out of school.

My mentor was Jim Smith (the names have been changed to protect those involved).  He was the president of Smith and Jones Engineering which was a local consulting engineering firm that did electrical and mechanical engineering.  Mr. Smith and I kept in touch pretty regularly since I was going to school in town and was at church most every weekend.  He also made a point of telling me to let him know when I was close to graduating and he would see what we could work  out about some sort of job.  At the time the economy was not great and the job market for engineers was slow.  Finding a job was not easy for newly graduated engineers.

I entered my Junior Year of college and I began to look for a co-op job.  In engineering school you are encouraged to take a co-op position in the last couple of years to expand your experience and help get you ready for the "real world".  Quite often these co-op positions become permanent positions with many firms like Southern Company, BE&K and Rust (I'm dating myself since most of these companies have changed names).  I thought this was the ideal chance to go ahead and let Mr. Smith know that I was getting close to graduation and looking for a co-op job since he had made a point to tell me to get with him when the time was right.  I talked to him and explained my desire for a co-op job and he said that they were looking for a couple of co-op positions.  I went to their office (by now they had changed their name to BQR Engineering) and met with Mr. Smith.  He passed me off to one of the engineers that worked in the mechanical department.  I got an interview and a tour of the building.  I thought I was on my way.  A week went by and I didn't hear anything so I checked with Mr. Smith at church and he said that he would see what was going on.  Another week went by and I didn't hear anything.  I called him and he told me that they had filled the positions.  He said that he was sorry but that it was the mechanical engineers decision and he had chosen someone else.  He then told me not to worrry that he would "take care of me" next time and make sure that didnt happen again.  I was disappointed but I felt like I still would have a job in a year or so when I got out of school.  In the mean time I got a co-op position with the City of Birmingham Engineering Department.  We didn't really do that much but I got to do a lot of home work.

Another couple of years passed and graduation was getting close.  My co-op job with the City was just a co-op and would end when I graduated so I had to start looking for a "real" job.  I remembered what Mr. Smith had told me and called him again thinking that this time would be different and I would have a job that would become a career and I would be able to take care of my new wife and provide for her and the family that we wanted to have.  He asked me to come down and talk to him so I did.  I went to his office and we had a nice talk and at the end he told me that he didn't have anything right now but that he would call me as soon as a position was available.  I told him that was great and that I was willing to do anything to get started.  He said that he understood.  I left, again thinking that a job was a sure thing and that I would be hired soon.  Weeks turned into months and no job ever materialized.  Finally, the time was approaching for my wedding to Melinda and i knew that I had to find some job that I would be able to have insurance for us so I finally went to work at Randy's Computers selling computers.  In over 2-1/2 years I was unable to get a job doing anything at BQR after virtually being promised a job.  The rest is history; I finally got a job at Miller and Weaver and from there joined BBG&S Engineering as a partner.

Back to 2012...

So the week before the mediation the attorney for the side that I was assisting called me to go over the process and told me that the way mediation works is that your party sits on one room and the other party sits in the other room and you rarely if ever see each other and the mediator goes between them negotiating the dispute.  This put me at ease a little since the engineering firm that is in the dispute is the one where I tried to get a job and Mr. Smith was the president.  Now we work with them on some projects so I have to interact with them on a regular basis.  Well of course the first thing that the mediator does is put us in the same room to start.  And to make matters worse the president  of the company is the one that came to represent them in the mediation.  Did I mention that he is the son of the guy that didn't give me a job on two occasions???


Why am I upset?

Dont I want to stick it to them a little?

No, thats not the way I am, thats not how I roll.

Well ok I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me that enjoyed it a little.

Anyway, it was more awkward than anything.  I just didn't like being in the room with them and having to tell them all of the things that their firm screwed up on this project.  Its a first for me and I don't hope to repeat the process either as a member of the prosecution or defense.

What I really thought about most of the time was how all of this might have been different if they had given me that job so many years ago.  Would I have been the engineer on that project?  Would I have been able to make a difference and keep them out of the court proceeding?  Would I have been the one making the huge mistakes and costing the company thousands of dollars in legal fees and settlement costs?  How would my life and my career been different?  How would the reputation of that company been different?  These are all interesting questions that I have no answers to?

I just find it very ironic that I was the one who was calling them out on their mistakes and that my testimony is the one that prevented them from getting out of the case and forced them to have to go to mediation and settle.  I guess the moral of the story is that you should beware of even making what appear to be small mistakes in life because you never know which ones are going to come back in a big way and bite you in the ass later down the road.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 A Golden Retrospective

2011 was a very eventful year.  I think that it will be remembered by the Golden family as a good year.  If you havent been there for the blow by blow this is a recap of the highlights.

Noah:  At the beginning of 2011 Noah was getting over the flu and his 3 day hospital stay.  From that point on to the end of this year he has been awesome.  He hasnt had to have oxygen at all this year and we have controlled his CCHS with nothing more than adjustments to his ventilation rate.  For my Non-CCHS friends that is a huge achievement.  He has had colds and minor illnesses but we have managed them and due in a large part to a correctly functioning CO2 monitor we are able to accurately measure his CO2 and make the appropritate changes to his ventilator. 

Noah has transitioned from using an HME (artifical nose) to a Passy Muir valve and then to a full cap over the course of this year.  We now wear the cap on a daily basis.  As documented in prvious blog posts, the use of the cap has helped his speech and breathing tremendously. He now knows most of his alphabet and all of his colors.  His speech is getting more distinct.  This has caused us to lose most of our therapists and for them to declare him on track developmentally with a normal 2 year old.  Again that is truly amazing considering where he started from.

On the developmental side Noah has learned to walk and then to run.  He is now working on the daunting task of going up and down stairs.  My hard headed son has tried to escape from his bed by diving out and learned that this is not the best way to get up in the morning.  Noah is also en expert at using an Iphone.  He can find it, unlock it and change screens to find his favorite games.

We were once told by one of the doctors that they couldn't say that they felt good about Noah and his prognosis.  I'd love to see how he feels about him now.

Hannah:  2011 has been a good year for Hannah too.  She has started to transition from a child to a young lady.  She has the biggest heart of anyone that I have ever met.  She continues to get better at piano and did exceptionally well at the first recital with her new piano teacher.  In school, she was evaluated for the RLC (gifted program) program and accepted.  She now goes to RLC every Monday and is really enjoying it too.  She also is the best big sister that a little brother could have.

Beth:  What can I say about Beth...  2011 has been the year of volleyball plain and simple.  The year started with Beth deciding that she wanted to play on the school team and then practicing like a mad woman to make the team.  Then once the school season was over she decided that she wanted to play on a club team and she went out for that and made it too.  So as I write this we are in the beginning of the club season.  It will be interesting to see if her new love of volleyball will be something that remains through 2012 and beyond.  She has also developed from a young lady into a young woman and is preparing for high school.  She is also working on her application for Jefferson County International Baccalaureate high school.  She continues to amaze and impress me with her determination.

As a family we went to Disney World this year.  We went before in 2008 and had a blast and we all decided that it was time to go back.  We were concerned with how Noah would hold up to the heat and the walking required since Disney World is part amusement park and part marathon.  He did excellent.  Our only gripe was that we had to push the trip back  couple of weeks and it turned out to be a hot week.  Next time we go we are thinking that we will try for a Thanksgiving trip rather than a summer trip.  The family is already talking about the "next" visit.

I hope that 2012 will be as healthy and fun as 2011 was.  I look forward to finding out.  So we say goodbye to 2011 but we will always have the 12,223 pictures that Melinda (and I) took during the course of the year to remember it by.  Here's to a happy and prosperous 2012.