There's No Fool Like A Cold Fool


Let me begin by saying I am a Texas boy. What that means, dear reader, is that winter was almost always a non-event in which temperatures dropped to a more comfortable and tolerable level for a month or two before returning to the life-draining, merciless heat of our ten month-long summers. Once in a while, though, Mother Nature would pull a fast one on us just so she could sit back and laugh at our antics.

Definition: The only ice Texans are meant to handle is in our iced tea.

Venture back with me to winter 2002.  For a few days time stood still, the earth moved, and folks in Hell were given a drink of cool water.  That's the only rational explanation for the blanket of snow and ice that covered Dallas during the first week of February.

North Texas had come to a screeching standstill, brought to its knees by this foreign white substance falling from the heavens.  I watched it all from my second floor home office, the bay windows providing a panoramic view of the frozen tundra.  I had a week off from work unpaid, mind you, since I was self-employed, but you can't put a price on the entertainment I was afforded from my lofty vantage point.

The weather forecasters warned all of us Dallasites to stay home.  Far be it from me to walk across the street to my salon, so I sipped coffee while watching the events unfold just beyond my vista.  The antics of one gentleman in particular caught my attention.  We shall henceforth refer to him as Mr. Blockhead.

Two other brave souls had gone before him in vain attempts to leave for work.  Unable to get any traction, their cars had merely slid backwards from their driveways and into the middle of the street running between our condominiums.  They would remain parked there until week's end, testimonials to their noble but failed attempts to tame the unfamiliar beast know as Old Man Winter.

Mr. Blockhead, undaunted by the failures of his peers, valiantly scraped ice from his car's windows.  He made very little headway, and after ten or fifteen minutes he threw his ice scraper down and went inside.  Figuring the show was over, I went to the kitchen to refill my coffee.

Ah, but the show had only begun.

I sat back down at my computer and turned my chair to enjoy the view from the bay windows.  Mr. Blockhead had re-emerged and was now carrying a bucket in place of his briefcase.  I had assumed, based on said briefcase and the suit he was wearing, that he had a tad more than an eighth grade education.  My assumptions proved to be unfounded.

There was steam rising from the bucket, and I remember thinking, "Surely he's not that dumb."   Once again, I assumed incorrectly.

Raring back, he flung the contents of the bucket on his car.  The wave of steaming water splashed across his windshield, and the ice melted instantly in a huge mushroom cloud of white vapor.  In the same instance, the windshield splintered as if someone had taken a ball peen hammer to it. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing as he stared in horror at the spider web of cracks that now covered his windshield.

Let me just say Mr. Blockhead is not representative of all of us Texans. We are quick studies. Now that I live in a state with real winters, I have learned exactly how to deal with the icy roads.

I bring home my laptop and work from the kitchen table. You're welcome.

One Step Forward, Two Reams Back

We've all had them. A good idea gone horribly wrong.

As Boone Supported Living transitions from paper documentation to the much more efficient online Therap system, I found myself reminiscing about a similar experience way back when.

Twenty-first century technology arrived with a loud "thud" around 1989 or so at the bomber plant where I worked. As the Facilities team came wheeling in the new personal computers to replace the old dumb terminals, everyone just stopped and stared. These folks had been there so long it was rumored they were occupying the land in 1941 when the mile-long factory was built around them and refused to go home until they were put on the payroll. Fitting for a defense contractor built during the cold war with no windows and enough steel and concrete around our office area that it was designated as a nuclear fallout shelter. 

During this technological advancement we were introduced to the brave new world of Electronic Mail and Office Systems, or EM/OS for short (the word "email" wasn't yet coined).  We were now connected to our sister divisions all across the nation -- but not the outside world.  We were still waiting on Al Gore to invent the world-wide internet.

The intent behind replacing the old green-letters-on-black-screen dumb terminals with the newfangled personal computers was to become a paperless company. 

Go ahead. You can chuckle here. I do every time I think about it.

My manager looked on in disgust as his new PC was rolled in and hooked up by the facilities engineer. "What the #&%! am I supposed to do with that contraption?"

"Well, you can use it to read and send EM/OS, create and maintain reports, and you can even save data to these floppy diskettes.  This computer will eliminate the need for almost all printed interoffice communications and allow us to conserve paper and significantly lower costs."


To him, this 756k beast was nothing but an oversized paperweight taking up space in the corner of his office.  I believe he went on to meet his maker a few years later without it ever being plugged in.

His answer to the "paperless" theory? He would have his administrative assistant print off all the EM/OS each day and put them in a folder.  He would then make handwritten notes on each one, most including messages to run copies and put into his staffs' mailboxes.  He preferred that his subordinates come to his office to retrieve their messages rather than the more efficient manner of getting them at their desk via EM/OS -- keeping in mind that the factory was slightly over one mile long.

I kid you not. One mile.

Besides, it was much easier to intimidate people in person.

EM/OS enabled staff to update managers in real time, thereby increasing the number of messages.  Which created more copies for redistribution. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Thanks to the new paperless system, the company's paper budget increased that year. 

A lot.

I am confident that we at BSL will be much more successful in reducing our paper flow as we move to Therap. So confident, in fact, that I will print off this blog post and pass it out to everyone I meet to make my point.


Sometimes You Just Know

The alarm goes off each morning, dragging us from a peaceful slumber that exerts its own grip in an effort to keep us in bed. We lay there for a moment, making bargains with ourselves for just ten more minutes. We succumb, closing our eyes until that dreadful noise starts all over again. The snooze button brings no relief. It's merely delaying the inevitable.

Is this how your mornings go? Mine did for many years. I remember thirteen years of going to a job that I didn't like. That's a long time to be miserable for most of your waking hours. I never want to go through that again.

Then there were almost ten years of running my own small business. The excitement of making your own way is a great motivator. So is a healthy fear of failure. And starvation.

Since I left Texas, there have been a couple of jobs that, while I didn't hate them, I also didn't love them. They were just... jobs. I was treading water. I knew there was something better for me out there, but I wasn't finding it.

In 2015, quite unexpectedly, my life changed when my path crossed with that of the CEO of Boone Supported Living. I didn't know it at the time, though. I thought I was just lending a helping hand by working part-time in direct care. I had no idea what the future held for me.

I admittedly didn't have a lot of exposure to people with developmental disabilities in my lifetime. It was new and different to me, and like many people I freely admit to some trepidation over the unknown. But I discovered they grow on you, and even though we often can't readily tell, we grow on them.  I have been asked more than once, "When will ____ be working with me again?"

Early on, one fellow discovered I love Star Trek and sci-fi as much as he does, so we instantly had something in common. He still loves to drill me on tidbits from the shows or movies that I didn't catch. It's those kinds of moments that reinforces my belief that this is not just a job. It's experiential.

My involvement and my role grew. As much as I enjoyed my time as a business owner, this is better in so many ways. When people left my salon they felt better about themselves, but it was nonetheless a superficial feeling.

At Boone Supported Living, we get to make a difference every single day, often just by simply showing up. My experience and talents brought me from direct care to the position I now hold, yet I am constantly amazed at how much our Direct Support Professionals love and care for our individuals. I never cease to be impressed as I watch them give so much of themselves. I see the joy they bring to the lives of our individuals. And, I see the joy our staff gets in return.

Life is great when the work you do is more than just a paycheck. That silly alarm clock has no effect on a life driven by purpose.

Statement Regarding Fulton Tragedy

There is a story in the local news that has also made national headlines regarding an individual with developmental disabilities who was in the care of a provider in Fulton. This is an extremely tragic situation, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of this young man.

I would like to offer some reassurance to families whose loved ones are living in a group home or ISL (Individualized Supported Living) setting. Boone Supported Living, along with our friends at some wonderful peer agencies across the Columbia area, have systems in place to ensure nothing horrible like that happens at any of our homes.

Our direct care staff, who pour out their hearts to love and care for our individuals, must lay eyes on them during every shift change. Senior management is in and out of homes frequently and meet regularly with those entrusted to our care. Our nurse is in each home weekly and periodically attends appointments with individuals. Service Coordinators from the Central Missouri Regional Office of the Department of Mental Health, who are often unappreciated yet work tirelessly for the people they place with BSL and our fellow providers, visit every month for service monitoring. These visits are also attended by each ISL Manager and our Director of Supported Living. Our CEO is hands-on and attends many of these meetings, plus she stops by the homes occasionally for a visit. She also communicates regularly with our individuals, often by text, sometimes by phone. Even the administrative and executive personnel in our main office see our people when they drop in along with the direct care staff assigned to their care.

The story out of Fulton is an extremely rare exception and not at all the rule. I'm sure I speak for all of our peer agencies when I say that any family member or guardian is welcome to visit at any point in time. The ONLY time they are not allowed access is because a court of law or DMH has determined their presence is detrimental to the well-being of the individual.

We cannot change what happened, but we can offer our sincere assurance that BSL and most other agencies in this field are in it because of a genuine love of helping others. It's more than a job or a business to us all; we live it and we breathe it every single day.