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Archive for the ‘Career development’ Category

Proud Momma Picks a Peck of Pickled Passion

wtad.com/white pages/3.23.17

Bobbe White

Occasionally, we get to witness a person’s passion wiggle up from below the surface of the ground, sprout and bloom.

Yesterday, my co-workers and I listened to Angie Barnes talk about her business, “Momma Bee’s Garden.” No, she doesn’t have bees, but is expecting two hives shortly. (Not literally, of course.)

This is not an advertisement for her produce, but rather, an endorsement of one woman’s passion. She loves growing things. Don’t even offer her a seedling. This woman wants the seeds.  You won’t find any combines harvesting the crops, but you may see children helping. It’s not child labor. The YMCA Kids are digging it.

A lab Med Tech by day at the Quincy Medical Group, Angie utilizes every other waking moment to tend to her 100 varieties of garlic, tomatoes, radishes and etc. Some of  the funkier veggies are foreign to me. Foodies around the Quincy area know about Angie’s green thumb. Heck, she’s got two green thumbs, eight green fingers and ten green toes.

“Do you ever sleep?” I ask her.

“Not very much.” She doesn’t look tired. She looks excited. When she speaks of the local produce beneifts, I want to order a king-sized salad. When Angie tells her sweet zinnia story, I want to send her some. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when zinnia season is. For now, they’re only at Hobby Lobby. Personally,  I wouldn’t think of sending Momma Bee silk flowers.

Momma Bee makes produce educational as well as tantalizing. Check out Momma Bee’s Garden on Facebook for where’s Waldo (Angie) and when, among other useful gardening information. She also designs whimsical note cards (produce theme, natch.) Her photography skill is excellent. Oh, and the word is, She’s a heck of a baker.” She’s the real deal and now I’m hungry.

Congratulations Momma Bee on your little business sprout!  Now, tell me, “What’s YOUR sprout/passion?” I’d love to know. Message me, please!




Bobbe White

The red crush of Valentine’s Day is over.We all somehow survived. It’s always interesting around an office, even if you’re not a fan of the holiday. ESPECIALLY if you’re not a fan. Why? Because we performed complicated algorithms on how many floral orders were delivered in direct correlation to total number of possible recipients. For those who can’t remember basic mathematics (who can?), an algorithm is a set of detailed instructions, which results in a predictable end-state from a known beginning. In other words, I have no clue what that means. In other words, the total number of bouquet deliveries I observed was 2.75. Odd number? I think not. Two bouquets were legitimate, obligatory Valentine’s bouquets: one newlywed and one newly engaged. Those are obvious.

The third recipient’s bouquet celebrated not only Valentine’s Day, but also their wedding anniversary, which happens to be Valentine’s Day. She gets a ½ point, since Hubby was double-dipping: ½ Valentine, ½ Anniversary. Still, I’d give him a high five for picking this date.  He’ll never, ever, ever forget.  That leaves ¼ of a bouquet. There, on one desk, was one lovely red, variegated rose. The card read, “And you thought I forgot!” That was my desk, my $4.00 rose and my handwriting. Yes, I bought my own. I did last year and will again next year. Big deal. My husband doesn’t do flowers. So what? I just wanted flowers on my desk. Ladies, if you are feeling glum, because you were flowerless in the public arena, take control, stand tall next year at the floral desk and shout, “ONE ROSE, PLEASE. IT’S FOR ME!” Sometimes we need to complete our own darn selves. Besides that, the algorithm proved that we are in the 90th percentile. So there’s that. The bottom line?

“Teach your children well”.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

They’ll thank you one day.

Why Do We Live Here?


Written by Bobbe White for “The White Pages”  WTAD.COM

Why Do We Live Here?

Frankly on weekends like the last one, I do not know.  It was simply too cold and icy to justify; too treacherous to visit family, stay upright while attempting to walk into work or do anything, really. All of this on the weekend before Christmas! What rotten luck for us procrastinators.

It all started Friday after work. Here we were: coats zipped, gloves on and remote start buttons activated. Unless you’re like me, without remote start. We had a windshield scraping fest instead. But, it was as if Santa’s elves – with and without remote start- had descended upon our parking lot!  Even though it meant the remote starter people would have had to stay late, they did! It was the coolest thing ever. No, actually, it was cold as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks! And hockey players are the only ones who would’ve found our parking lot remotely enjoyable. Anyway, everyone helped everyone else get the icy buildup cracked enough to drive away safely. It was heartwarming and almost great fun. Almost.

Saturday was colder and windier. Ice drizzled on our cars. I chose to use floor mats on the windshield, to minimize scraping after work. It worked well on the left side, but the wind swooped in and took the right side mat, which found me executing a double-twist, triple Salchow* jump on the iced parking lot, to retrieve it.

*Salchow (sal’– kau): a figure skating jump with a takeoff from the back inside edge of one skate followed by one or more full turns in the air and (ideally) landing on the back outside edge of the opposite skate.

I wanted to go home. Customers had been sparse during work and Broadway was ghostly quiet, but while I was out, I went to the cleaners, the liquor store and the mall. Fortunately, I’d dressed warmly in my down-filled parka. I became uber toasty inside the mall. Then the zipper broke. In order to take it off, I struggled to slide it over my hips. Forced is closer. WD-40 anybody?  And I thought the Salchow was difficult!  When it was time to go outside and wiggle back into my coat, it was exhausting. A woman watched me curiously. I made eye contact with her and said-as if I always put my coat on over my hips, “My zipper broke, okay?” She smiled and edged away from me.

Sunday, was more of the same: icy roads, frigid temps, and the addition of a few inches of snow. A winter trifecta! I stayed home. The end.

Wait! I need to answer the first question: why do we live here? We live here because when the temperature rises to 23 degrees, everyone loosens their woolen scarves a bit and remarks, “It’s nice out today?”  And they mean it.

Happy frantic shopping week! Stay warm and safe.


11/10/16 Can we make America polite again?  PLEASE? Another campaign is underway. Not THAT kind of campaign. (You can thank me later for avoiding that OTHER campaign here. You’re welcome.)  This campaign involves no pollsters, badges, billboards, bumper stickers, debates or bashing.  This one’ been on the DL* (*cool-speak for under the radar). The term, study or project, may be more accurate. The project occurs Monday to Friday at my workplace, grocery; even traveling. I’m referring to “basic greetings”.  It’s just one sliver of our overall manners set, but it’s a biggy. My desk position is key here, seeing as it’s the first desk on the right, when entering State Street Bank’s main lobby. We strive for friendliness. Staff also acknowledges lobby visitors as a security procedure. (I.e. we see you!)

Many humanoids have a tendency to look to the right, my way, upon entering. They used to look left, but that was because she was blonder, younger and prettier than I was. I digress. When people enter, we say certain words. You know these: hello, welcome, good morning, hey, how are you, Hi, Ho, hi-ho, the Derry oh… When people leave, there’s a similar greeting.  You know them:  good-bye, see ya, see you later, thanks for coming in, have a good __________ (afternoon, evening, week-end, and holiday), bye-bye-bye. Honestly, we sound a lot like the Wal-Mart greeters of the banking world…or *NSYNC.

Frankly, I’m amazed at the people who don’t return the greeting. They give me nothing. Not even a grunt.  Oh, they heard it; some even make eye contact. Then…….silence, but not one word. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I get three words, “Where’s the bathroom.”  Not kidding.  Non-response is awkward and seems to happen more often. Maybe they’re deaf? Could be. Didn’t see me? Doubtful.  Rude? Ding-ding-ding.

At the grocery or airport concourse, I sample data encountered in public spaces.  I even like to smile at people abroad. Not AT broads, abroad, as in Paris. It’s not as acceptable there. As I anticipated visiting my daughter, she cautioned me against smiling. It’s cultural. That was tough, because I realized that even when I squint in the sun, I appear to be smiling. My apologies for looking pleasant. As impolite as the French seem, I find similar behavior from downtown Des Moines to DFW to Midway airports. People won’t smile back. I recently spent some time in the Carolinas. Now, THOSE people smile. And they greet. It’s lovely, really, quite polite.

Back to France, y’all. In spite of the smile deficit, the French have one encouraging custom. Every shopkeeper or market vendor says, “Bonjour!” (Hello) and “Merci, Au Revoir!” (Thank you… goodbye) ALWAYS.  It may not be smiled when said, but it’s guaranteed.

This week, try greetings as you come move about: home, school, work, shopping. And when passing my desk. Please? Thank-you! (More on please/thank-you another time.) If I’m with a customer, in person or by phone, I’ll give a wave, wink or that quick head jerk-nod thing that cool dudes give exchange. All I ask is that you do the same. And in my next life, I’d hope to return as a Southern Belle, y’all. Bye-bye, now!

Who Let the Clown’s Out? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who?

Written for WTAD.COM “The White Pages”

On Halloween, at Charlotte (NC) Douglas International Airport, a few employees wore costumes, hoping to make waiting passengers smile. It didn’t work that well. There were the usual Wizard of Oz guys, Pillsbury Dough boy and two clowns with neon lime green hair. One of the clowns walked through my gate, offering treats from a bag.  He didn’t have too many takers. Sensing a chill in our row, he walked right on by us. Of bad 2016 dress up choices, could any costume be worse than a clown suit? I think not. At least his face wasn’t painted, but seriously, have the airport’s Customer Relations people been living In caves? Nobody likes clowns much this year. Even on Halloween. Maybe two guys were late to work Monday and were told, “Just for being late, you two clowns can have these costumes; thats all we have left.” They should’ve taken a pass and waited to be turkeys or elves in a few weeks. Even before the 2016 creepy clown epidemic, there were many children and adults suffering from Coulrophobia (fear of clowns). Of all the Greek roots, there’s apparently no equivalent Greek word for clown. The closest is Coulro (one who is on stilts). The more familiar version is Clownphobia. The humor version is BOZOPHOBIA, which is right on the button, because whoever let these clowns out and about the terminal is a bozo.

Other than Bozo and friends, there was a witch at the ticket counter, a rabbit at Starbucks and Snow White posing for pictures with some passengers; not overly creative, but employees often have guidelines. One passenger on my Southwest flight wore really odd glasses over her glasses. I think she grabbed them out of the Mardi Gras box instead of the Halloween box. The best costume so far, however, was a Southwest flight attendant. An announcement said, “There will be a very special trash lady making one more pass up and down the aisle, before landing. Please have your trash ready for our special trash lady.” Here she came, in all her glory, wearing a trash bag, stuffed full of newspapers poking out around her neck. On the outside of her bag an empty pretzel package, peanuts bag, gum wrappers and bandage were taped. She wore a coffee cup in her hair. Now THAT’s my kind of Costume! In fact, next year, I may have to copy it for myself. I’ll be called, “White Trash”. I’ve been called worse… Hope you had an enjoyable, safe and chocolately Halloween!

southwest trash.JPG

Mothers of the Gulf War: Vivian Drees

A mother’s worst nightmare: February 25, 1991, Vivian Drees’ son, Tony, was critically injured in the worst scud missile attack of Operation Desert Storm. This very special mom talks about it as they celebrate “25 Years Alive Day!”


A Mother’s Perspective

By Bobbe White


If we are lucky in life, we will meet someone as impactful as Vivian Drees, a woman with a heart as big as Montana, make that, North Dakota, which is still bigger than most hearts. As a child, Vivian watched her parents take in babies, years before the term   “foster” parents became a silent badge of honor.  Years later, Vivian and husband, John, found themselves following in the same footsteps as her parents. John was an Army Reservist, a farmer and a solid man, whom Vivian met in June 1970. Their love and commitment for each other grew quickly, they were engaged by August and married in November 1970.  They knew they wanted a family and soon, they found kids entering their lives. Oh boy, did kids enter their lives! Altogether, John and Vivian had thirty children, including one of their own, a step parent adoption, and of 30 foster children, they were able to adopt five.


Each time a new child came into their home, the Drees explained to the children, “A new foster child is arriving soon. The child might have to return, at some point, to his real or adoptive home.”  Their biological son, Matthew, watched children come and go. One day, he asked Vivian, “When do I have to go back to my “real” home?” They’d never explained to Matt that he WAS at his forever home. She was touched and proud that, biologically or foster, the children were equally loved.  “Honestly,” Vivian stated, “I can fit every one of these children into my heart, even the ones who are damaged.” And damaged, some were.


One foster child, Tony, came to the Drees family at age 13.  He was a runaway Air Force base boy, from an abusive home.  Tony’s mother loved her husband more than her children. In the past Tony called his stepfather, “Stepmonster.” Tony felt angry, cheated and thrown-away. Vivian recalls, “On his 15th birthday, Tony asked to call his birth mother. I was apprehensive about the reception he’d receive.” Knowing her headstrong Tony wouldn’t give up until he was batted away from his mom again, Vivian stayed close during that call. “I’d hoped my instinct was wrong,” but her keen, motherly, sixth sense rarely failed. Everything John and Vivian had done to build Tony up was torn down by a short conversation with his birth mother on the phone, much like the day she said in open court, “I don’t want him, you take him!” Vivian’s sense was correct.


John and Vivian were inherent teachers; he taught expertise through modeling mastery, work ethic and critical thinking. As Tony’s frustrations and anger mounted, John instructed Tony to remove a tree stump in the field.  Armed with an axe, Tony assaulted the stump for hours upon days. John helped Tony learn valuable coping skills through physical work to ease mental angst. John taught in his classroom, “The Shop”, where he shared his ideology about being a father, a provider and a community servant. Vivian’s invaluable life lessons were taught by always being present, something she was able to do as a stay-at-home mom.  She taught her children, “The most important lesson in life is to realize that things aren’t fair.”  It is only then, that a person can move on.


As the years progressed, Tony and his high school buddies started finding trouble as some teenage boys commonly do. During his junior year, some boys robbed a Coca-Cola machine; Tony claimed responsibility. The summer before senior year, Tony stole the family car; a diesel station wagon. The transmission blew and Tony became “Foster Care Scared” and ran away. His parents needed the insurance money to fix the car, so charges had to be filed against Tony. Vivian reluctantly agreed with recommendation of the social worker and Tony’s attorney that he be sent to the State Industrial School for Boys for ninety days.  The Drees hoped this punishment would help Tony recognize his choices and behavior. The program worked. Tony went on to have a positive senior year and graduated at the age of 17. After graduation, Tony attended the University of North Dakota (UND) and then enlisted in the US Army for four years, serving in West Germany. When he returned to North Dakota, he returned to school at UND to excel in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as a student, an officers candidate, and student athlete, while finishing two years as an Inactive Reservist.


At the age of 22, Tony then requested to be adopted; an unusual request for a 22-year-old. His wish was granted and Tony finally had a real, forever home with the Drees family.


In January 1991, during Desert Storm, Tony received orders to join the fighting in the Gulf War. A week into Tony’s deployment, Vivian – again- had a cold, sixth sense feeling for her son. The evening news on February 25, 1991 confirmed her fears: a U.S. barracks was hit by a scud missile in one of the deadliest attacks of the Gulf War. She witnessed the chaos unfold on T.V., and knew it was bad, in general, and for Tony, personally. The Drees waited five long and agonizing days before hearing from Tony, who’d suffered life-threatening wounds: shattered, shrapnel filled femur and the backs of both his legs blown off.  After the first of 58 surgeries, Tony was transported from Saudi Arabia to Germany for his recovery. A nurse asked Tony what he needed, “My mom,” he answered.  He was running out of courage, he was abroad, alone and critically injured. This request activated the American Red Cross to get involved and within days, Vivian headed to Germany. As fate would have it, Vivian was met at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, by one of her foster daughter’s younger brothers who was stationed there. With this effort to accommodate her, Vivian realized that the kindness, which she’d so generously and selflessly given to her foster children, was being returned to her as life had come full circle in her foster parenting journey.


Tony was further transported to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, MD with Vivian by his side. His high-profile injuries found The U.S. President, top military leaders, nationally publicized journalists at his bedside, and the mother-son photo appeared in People Magazine. During Tony’s long and arduous recovery, Vivian was his fiercest cheerleader.


Upon Tony’s hospital discharge and Medical Retirement from the Army in March of 1992, Tony returned to North Dakota, bringing with him, the constant companion of war pain, both physical and mental challenges.  Tony’s recovery of body and mind would need to begin by building strength. A topic, to which Tony is no stranger even today, he keeps his body tuned, as any serious athlete does. Vivian and John were the yin and yang to his recovery. She was the compassionate, soft-spoken figure; John was the strong, quiet component. They both served as the “buoys” to a man drowning in a sea of pain.


Vivian is more than proud of Tony’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) management.  His negative experiences are now channeled into a positive career of helping others heal and succeed. A number of John and Vivian’s children came to them damaged, some succeed, some struggle perpetually. Their unwavering support for each of their children remains a constant vigilant journey. Those two were quite a team. Now, by visiting her parents in Canada, seven children, seventeen grandchildren and one great grandchild, Vivian is trying  fill a huge void left by John’s death last year. Without question, losing John feels so unfair to Vivian, but she knows the lesson; some things just aren’t fair. Serving as a dedicated Military Mom, a community servant and an advocate for foster children, she also knows she can fit the growing family into her home and her heart, and that is what keeps her going.


When asked directly about her bond with Tony she replies,”I am proud he is my son, I love him.”



Women of the Gulf War: Kitrina

During February, I’m digressing from my usual rants and honoring some very special women on the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War. You possibly read Kitrina’s on Facebook. If you have, please share it. These women’s stories are empowering and inspiring. 

Before serving in the military, Kitrina Serna described herself as stubborn, stupid, spoiled and a bit naive. She opted for culinary arts school over college. Her ambition was lackluster, until one day, a billboard to join the Army National Guard, intrigued her. Her part-time commitment would be just two weeks/year and one weekend/month for twenty years. How bad could that be in exchange for an education?

Kitrina never imagined she’d be activated and deployed. Like many guardsmen and women, all she’d wanted were education benefits. Then, Desert Storm happened. Kitrina was trained as a surgical technician. Once deployed, Kitrina’s first surgery, an amputation, was led by a 1-star general. “It was awful,” she recalls. “I had limited training before Operation Desert Storm, but not much practical; he was unimpressed with my abilities.” Before long, the heavy, rapid caseload had Kitrina working 12-hour shifts, six days/week at King Fahd Medical Complex, in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. She was a quick study, and became adept and efficient in O.R.  Humor proved to be a useful coping tool. “For example, a 21-year-old enemy soldier presented with a scrotum injury. It was my first scrotum prep. You can imagine the joy of the men on my team, watching a young woman, new to this scene, doing her first scrotum scrub. Humor helped us deal with it.”

Once Kitrina’s tour ended and she returned home, she was always introduced as, “This is Kitrina, She Just Got Home from War”. “It was like my new last name.” She wasn’t angry, per se, but numb. “I just couldn’t process what’d happened in war. You can’t tell your family and almost wonder who these people are, whom you call, “family”. They just aren’t capable of understanding. Kitrina remembers beginning to break down when she experienced a flashback, while driving home from nursing school, one day. “The song, ‘Highway to Hell’ came on the radio, just as it had while on the road to Baghdad.” After twenty-five years, Kitrina can still recall what she was wearing to school that day. The nightmares became brutal, as the numbness subsided. “I’d wake myself up beating on the bedroom walls.” Alone time was awkward. “Silence is so loaded.”

Kitrina worked through her PTSD and seemed fine for about 8-10 years, until the wife of a Vietnam veteran told Kitrina it was time to get help. In reality, Kitrina was struggling mentally and physically. Getting into the V.A. System was difficult, at best. One day, she packed a lunch, a USA today and ended up calling in sick to work. It was serious time for help. She told only one person at the V.A. that she was struggling -an elderly security guard- then, she collapsed into a puddle of tears.

Kitrina was diagnosed with Chronic Multisystem Illness. It presents with fatigue, joint and muscle pain, cognitive problems, rashes, headaches and intestinal issues. Research points to anthrax and other vaccinations, neurotoxins from gas and smoke from burning oil wells; all intrinsic to Gulf War veterans. She managed chronic pain with Vicodin; depression and anxiety with Prozac. Unfortunately, since 2003, Kitrina has been unable to work in nursing, but good things have happened since then. “I’ve been available for my children, more so, than if I’d been in the traditional work force. In addition, I’ve been able to be a caregiver to my mom, as well as my father-in-law, during their respective illnesses.

Kitrinia further reflected on her military service, “You know, being a medic wasn’t only about making people better. It’s about serving patients with dignity; even the enemy patients. They’re people too, just executing government’s orders, like us. One day, Tony Drees landed in her O.R., just a week after he landed in Saudi. A scud missile hit Tony’s barracks; he lost the meat off of the back of both thighs.” The severity of his injuries kept Kitrina’s surgical team engaged for hours. She felt a heavy impact of this raw reality, once adrenaline wore off, thinking, “How ironic that the poor guys on the table were the lucky ones, because the ones who didn’t get to O.R. were dead. I’ll never forget after surgery was completed, they turned Tony over, onto his back. He seemed so young, so vulnerable, lying there fully exposed – literally and figuratively. There must’ve been six or more people in that O.R., watching Tony. At that moment, and Tony doesn’t know this, I needed to give him his dignity, so I placed a towel over his private parts; he deserved dignity.”

Kitrina hasn’t seen Tony since he was in her O.R, until she picked up an issue of People Magazine a year later (5/30/91). Tony was featured with his mother, Vivian, at his hospital bedside. The issue described the day he was hit. The photo of Tony confirmed he was the young soldier, whom Kitrina had treated, from O.R.

As we concluded our conversation, Kitrina talked about that towel, 25 years later. She laughs at the fact, that at age 20, she didn’t give much thought to her parents’ character lessons as she was growing up. In hindsight, she takes pride knowing that the towel gesture spoke volumes about Kitrina’s character, at that age. Research defines her name further; it means pure, generous, and compassionate. “It was a small thing I could do. I guess if I were ever in this position, hopefully, someone would do the same for me. You can’t put enough value on dignity.”

Kitrina recognizes the fact that some people joined the guard for more noble reasons than she did, and she wouldn’t want to take that away from them, however, most people would agree that the reason for joining pales in comparison to the noble performance while serving.