Webb: Words of wisdom for my son on his first job

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rory dad

Life and work lessons from my father in 2013 during one of his biggest shows, where Rory found time to have fun while helping my dad run his booth in St. Charles, Missouri. Dad actually paid him, too. He did not pay his son. Work ethic runs in the family. I often envy my father for running his own business for 40 years.

A year into a job search, my son was frustrated. At one point after a promising interview didn’t result in work, he was exasperated: “Am I ever going to get a job?”

For those who don’t know Rory, he is autistic. Many things are a struggle. He thinks differently than most of us do, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. In fact, he has an admirable work ethic and gets more done around the house than any of us.

After graduating high school in 2014, Rory worked for his grandfather for several months, helping him remodel the in-laws’ home, among many other tasks. When he came home a year ago, he was eager to begin a career in Kansas City.

We did the best we could to help. My wife and mother-in-law took him job-hunting. He did exhaustive searches online. He even had a job coach. Nothing panned out.

Finally, more than a year into looking, a friend of the wife tipped us off on a gig that looked like a perfect fit at Waldo Pizza. On the night before the interview, Rory and I went over questions, and I ironed a pair of pants and shirt so he’d look the part. I’ve never enjoyed ironing clothes until that moment.

A few days after the interview, Rory told us that he had an email from the manager at Waldo. My wife opened it to discover that he was on the work schedule! He started on Monday and has thoroughly enjoyed his first two days of work. Most importantly, he’s proud and happy. That’s all you can ask for as a parent.

When he graduated, I wrote a blog to Rory offering him advice on being a man. Now that he’s secured a job, who better to offer advice about work than somebody who worked at six newspapers in 10 years and has had nine jobs in 17? (To be fair, most of those jobs were promotions, and I’ve never been fired or laid off).

Work hard: This will be easy for you. You already do it. Remember that you will never be successful without hard work.

Don’t work too hard: This is an easy mistake to make. There are times I look back on my career, especially in newspapers, and realize I did not take time to enjoy life. Work isn’t everything.

Learn as much as you can: This probably won’t be your last job. Take in as much as you can to prepare you for your next job. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Know that you can’t please everybody: Regardless of how hard you try, someone is going to be unhappy. Don’t take it personally. Be courteous, kind and respectful. Remember that your job is to serve your customers.

The customer usually is right: At some point, your patience will be tested. Keep your cool, smile and say “thank you.”

Always say “thank you”: “Thank you” is the most important phrase in any workplace, not only to customers, but also co-workers.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: This will not be easy. You’re going to find that little things will gnaw at you, but don’t let them consume you. Focus on the positive.

Don’t be the suck-up: Every workplace has at least one. Be respectful, but don’t compromise your integrity. Rely on your work ethic and performance. That should always be good enough.

Build your network: More now than ever, it’s who you know. Build relationships with your co-workers. Those connections will lead to another job someday.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind: Honesty in the workplace isn’t guaranteed, but you can control your truth. Speak up if you have something to say. Be courteous and thoughtful in your delivery, and you’ll be respected for it.

Don’t worry too much about money: Said best by a journalist, right? Money is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not everything. Do not keep a job that you’re miserable in just for the money. Take less money if you’re going to be happy. That said, don’t take a job that leads to living in a van down by the river.

One last thing: I am proud of you, son.

 

 

How to treat a lady, take five: Her kids

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The girlfriend's daughter and two sons at Nathan Sawaya's LEGOs exhibit.

Dating a girl with kids. Going to be honest here. It’s not something I’d thought about before the girlfriend and I started hanging out. Not that I was opposed to it. I’d just never considered it.

What I do know is the fact that she had kids sure as hell wasn’t going to prevent me from dating her. All you have to do is look at her for the explanation.

The girlfriend and I at Winefest.

In all seriousness, I love kids. I was fortunate enough to live with my brother’s kids for a couple of years after moving back from Texas in 2003. It’s proven to be one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life.

Changing diapers, feeding babies, crisis management, reverse psychology. You name it, I’ve taken a course in it thanks to those two years.

My niece and nephews climbing all over their uncle.

Nonetheless, I wondered how tricky dating somebody with kids was going to be. Let’s be honest, if they hate you, it’s a deal-breaker. All there is to it. But if they like you, even love you, that’s pretty damn special.

I didn’t meet the girlfriend’s kids – she has two boys and a girl – until nearly two months into the relationship. If you asked her, that was a lot earlier than she expected. I figured it’d be several months.

But she’s smart … and honest. The kids asked her about the guy she was dating, so she shared. And she built me up. By the time I met her kids, she had them convinced I was Superman (only on weekends).

Yes, I have an obnoxious tat.

Despite displaying my cooking skills with a feast of pancakes, bacon and eggs at our first meeting, the four of us didn’t hit it off right away. Understandable. Seven months later, it really can’t be going much better. A few of the reasons why …

KINDNESS …

It pays to be nice. I’ve taken the oldest son to work with me for a day, the younger son to an art exhibit and the daughter to Dave & Busters. None of that stuff is very expensive, but it’s been obvious the kids appreciate going out and having fun with their new live-in.

The boys and I before tailgating.

HONESTY …

But not necessarily direct. I’m not their dad. I know that. But I also know that they know that. They respect that approach. I’m not taking over, simply adding to their lives.

RESPECT …

This took a little time, at least for one of the three. Of course, this child could test the patience of Job. Being firm when you need to is important. It probably helped that I had to unleash the “look” at one point. It’s been gravy since!

CONTRIBUTE …

I think this is a mistake a lot of guys make. It’s OK to try. Kids appreciate genuine effort to be a part of their lives. I’ll help one clean up their room, show another what I do at work, then take the other to work out.

Just finished a 5K. Maybe I'll train one of the kids to run one next.

BE A GOOD MAN …

I’ve said this many times … kids are not stupid. They see things most people do not. What they see better than most is bullshit. If you’re a turd, they know it. Being a decent person goes a long way.

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST …

Treat their mother like gold. “The best way a man can make his children feel secure is to show them how much he loves their mother.” It’s true. Click here, here, here and here for more on how to treat their mother like gold.

Yes, the blog is back

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According to studies by NASA (or somebody who knows about blogs), you’re supposed to blog at least twice a week to build a following. That means seven of you will read this, considering it’s my second blog in four months. Don’t worry, the sports/pop culture/music video theme will return in time for football season.

In the meantime, I’ll fill you in on what’s been going on since April …

Seriously, 2011 has been the best year of my life. And it came right after arguably the toughest, though I wouldn’t trade those trials for anything. Wonderful learning experience. But the biggest change this year has been the girlfriend, Shana.

It’s really a great story. She was a senior my freshman year of high school, arguably the most popular and hottest girl in Burlingame. A timid freshman, I’m fairly certain I did not say a word to her that year (1990-91).

Shana’s mother was my favorite teacher in high school, one of my mentors, too. Without her guidance, I wouldn’t be a journalist. Shana’s younger sister Erin was a good friend in high school. I also went to school with her youngest sister Kerry (also still a friend to this day).

Ironically, Shana is the Curtis I knew the least about. Then we started joking around and exchanging messages on facebook. In September 2010, we were at the same BHS football game (the first for either of us in years), and there’s no question I was taken aback by how great she looked – even better than high school.

For various reasons, the stars were not aligned at that time. Of course, I’m oblivious to most signals. A few months later, after some overt flirting on facebook, she gave me her phone number.

Hint, hint. Did I call? No. After a few weeks of texting and messages on facebook, I finally get a message that read, “Look, cancer boy (my astrological sign is cancer), let’s hang out.” Finally, it registered. According to Shana, that was the THIRD attempt to ask me out.

Anyway, thank god for her persistence. We hung out on Jan. 8, watching Big 12 basketball, playing board games, chatting the night away. I knew when I left, that my life was about to change. Seven months later, we live together. And because she has kids, I inherited something I’ve wanted – a family (to go with the already awesome family I have, of course).

I used to joke that no woman would ever hold a candle, at least in my opinion, to Vivian Leigh. Somehow, I ended up with one who’s better, and she is my Vivian …

That's me (about 20 pounds ago) and Shana. Talk about hitting above your average.

JOB CHANGE: As many of you know, I gambled last year, leaving a damn good job in Tulsa at the World to be closer to home. Not an easy decision, and there were times when I questioned my sanity.

It took nearly a year to find full-time work. I worked part-time at Hill’s Pet Nutrition in the regulatory department, which was a good learning experience, but also extremely frustrating in waiting to climb the ladder.

In April, I was fortunate enough to catch on at Washburn University, as a media specialist with the Alumni Association. It’s really been a jackpot kind of job. Not only am I back in the journalism business as a designer and editor, but also finally writing again (something my parents and many friends have been relentlessly trying to get me back into).

It’s really been a great gig. My first magazine will be out in the next two weeks, and you cannot beat an opportunity that allows you to enhance your skills online. It doesn’t hurt that my co-workers rock.

HEALTH: Weight has been an issue my entire life. When I moved back here, with the help of my father, I committed to exercise. With the exception of a stretch at the end of 2010, that commitment has not waivered.

It’s been a blend of running, weight lifting, lots of situps (about 400 a day) and several versions of Tae-Bo.

We’re not sure what I weighed when I moved back in May 2010. Dad is convinced it was 300 beans. It’s possible. I’m sure at some point I did weigh that.

Thanks to the exercise, that weight dipped into the 250 range fairly quickly.

But not until recently, within the past few months, did I completely revamp my diet. A junk food junkie for years, out went fast food, dairy, pop, ice cream, and in came fruits, veggies, and lots of water.

Moving in with Shana, one of the healthiest people I know, has been a godsend. It’s been an invaluable education on eating properly. And in the short time we’ve lived together, the weight has come off quickly.

All told, it’s been about 70 pounds of weight loss since the end of 2009.

THEN …

Yikes. Not proud of that picture, but I've come a long way since September 2009.

NOW …

August 2011. Much better

Work remains, but I WILL GET THERE. In terms of weight, I see it as Ivan Drago …

BIG 12 BLOGS: The response to my pop culture blogs on the Big 12 was overwhelming, so I’ll be bringing them back soon. The Big 12 football preview will be the “Star Wars” edition.