Tag Archives: Red Ventures

I Cried a Little at Work Yesterday

marcieIt came out of the blue Wednesday, I guess. “It” was an all-Charlotte-employees email at Red Ventures. (Even though we’re not in Charlotte.)

The subject of the email was an insanely popular employee at our cafe, Ilios. You’ll see how insanely later. Her name is Marcie, and I’d met her my first day at the company back in November 2011, when I was a contract worker with a future that extended, at the time, no further than February.

Lunchtime came – not soon enough – and I took the short stroll to Ilios, our onsite cafe. I got some sort of sandwich – even I don’t remember what kind, and I usually remember everything. Anyway I went to the register, and Marcie rang me up. I know this without trying to remember. She was smiling and upbeat. That’s because Marcie always was smiling and upbeat.

As the days piled up, we chatted as I was paying – she’d marvel that I always had exact change. It wasn’t hard – the cost always was $5. It was a real casual friendship – I didn’t even learn her name until the company trip to the Dominican Republic last December. At any rate, we chatted nearly every day. Sometimes she’d make smoothies – the mango one was the best – and she made coffee and other beverages in the morning. Always with a smile on her face.

Back to the email. It said Marcie was leaving Ilios, which was a bummer. It also said she was headed to California to pursue acting, which is ultimately cool.

My lunch-line friend is chasing a dream. Who can’t be happy about that?

Will she be a big success? Who knows? The important thing is that she’s trying. That’s half the battle right there. I’ve always thought I’d be a great singer – I’m better than a lot of the folks out there (at least the way I hear me, I am). But I’d never have the courage to chuck it all and depend on my voice for a living.

That’s why my sadness at Marcie’s leaving was overcome by my joy at seeing someone strike out on a mission.

A lot of other folks felt that way, too. A giant card went around for everyone to sign. I think there ended up being 11 more pages of well-wishes attached by the time it made it around RV. And, oh yeah, there was an envelope attached where people could give cash to support Marcie’s dream.

She got the card yesterday, at 2:30, at an event down in the cafe. We gathered near the tables while Marcie finished making coffee drinks for some late lunchers. Then someone called her over. They presented her with the cards and other wishes, then showed her that there was cake. Then they gave her a going-way present: a suitcase, red of course, stuffed with RV paraphernalia so she won’t forget us. And the cash – $717.

Marcie was overwhelmed. She’d been on the verge all day. As I’d gone through her line – even though the other one was shorter – I frowned to show her how I felt about her leaving. “No sad faces,” she laughed. She smiled, and I couldn’t help but smile and wish her good luck.

But with cake (we have cake for almost everything), cards, notes, a suitcase, and a big old wad of cash on the table, Marcie couldn’t hold it in any more. She started thanking everyone and she broke down. That’s when I broke down, too, and shed a few tears I tried not to call attention to. I got caught, of course. Not that it mattered. There weren’t many, if any, dry-eyed colleagues around. My co-worker and friend Heather expressed the only concern we have for Marcie: “I hope she’s not too nice for Hollywood.”

We have high hopes for Marcie. And much respect for someone brave enough to go for it. 

Of all people, Casey Kasem probably said it best: Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

ETA: Who knows what you’ll grab when you do … Good luck, Marcie.


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Pleasures, Guilty and Otherwise, and Something Else

Don’t praise me for doing something extraordinary. I had fun. It was just basketball …

We had a basketball camp at Red Ventures this week for 30 or so kids. Some have epilepsy. Some are autistic. Some are both. They came in a range of ages. They face a range of challenges. But you know what? They were just kids.

I signed up as a volunteer. I don’t play much basketball any more. But I still love the game, and I love showing kids the right way to play. How to throw a chest pass or a bounce pass. How to execute a crossover move. How to dribble with both hands. And one other main thing, which I’ll come back to later.

We signed up for two-hour blocks during the week – a morning session from 9 to 11 or an afternoon one from noon to 2. You could take one session or many. I took two. After we signed up, the times got extended for some of the sessions. Which was a good thing. We got a bit of training. The guy who ran the camp – Mighty Mike – explained his reasoning for it. Turns out he has epilepsy and loves basketball. As a kid, he had a seizure at a camp and got sent home. He was devastated, and he vowed he’d do better.

My first session was Monday afternoon. I picked a group of older kids, because I figured most of the volunteers preferred to work with the younger ones. I connected with them pretty quickly:

  • There was Bob, a tall guy who might have been 20. Only his name was really Jimmy. He was a jokester who had trouble communicating; every once in awhile he’d call out: “Let’s go, Bobcats …”
  • Joey and Brock were about 14 or 15 – both good kids and hands down the best two players. Brock had come from Ohio for the camp, it turned out.
  • Ben also was about that age. Mighty Mike’s whistle really bothered him. Any noise did. He showed me the earplugs before he put them in. He was happier then, though it increased his isolation.

There were other kids that day, too. We ran drills, practiced passing, ballhandling, and other basketball stuff. At the end of the session, Mighty Mike split the kids into teams and they played awhile.

My second session was Friday afternoon, the final one of the camp. Because of a conference call I wanted to be part of, I was a bit late for the session. I walked across the gym a little worried. Ben met me halfway. He gave me a high five. We chatted a little; it wasn’t easy – he still had the earplugs in.

I worked with a group of younger kids this time – many of whom had more challenges. But I kept my eye on some of my kids from earlier in the week. The improvement was spectacular. They weren’t necessarily better players, but they were more confident.

I hadn’t really learned anything yet, though. The final lesson – the big one – came during the final set of scrimmages. I’d been impressed Monday at how the kids with fewer challenges had been helpful with those who struggle. The team I was helping had six players. Which meant someone had to sit out the start of the game. We didn’t even have time to start figuring it out. Brock volunteered. You don’t find that kind of selfless act often.

The game also was a revelation: That other “thing” I like to teach young players is sharing the ball. I didn’t have to with these guys. The best players relentlessly passed the ball to open teammates and encouraged them to shoot. They got some shots in, too, but they seemed to care more – a lot more – about lifting the others. I asked Joey later whether he’d had a good time at the camp. He didn’t have to answer (though he did): His smile told the story better than I ever could.

I had a great time, too. The kids learned about basketball; I got a lesson in unselfishness. I hope I never forget it.

Pleasures: The Guilty Kind

I’m going to indulge in a couple in just a few minutes. The first is getting doughnuts this morning. I don’t need doughnuts, today or anyday. But I like them. And I promised Garrett last weekend that I’d get him some for his birthday (because of his schedule, it didn’t work out to do on the actual day of his bithday). He asked for Krispy Kreme.

But I suggested Dunkin Donuts instead, for a couple of reasons. One, in the aftermath of the controversial Cheerios interracial family commercial, DD had its own commercial featuring an interracial couple. Second, I really appreciated how the company and its employees reacted to that stupid racist rant posted on YouTube. I want to reward it with my business.

Garrett agreed, and I thought that was end of it.

Except Austin stopped by last night. Turns out he and Sam are coming over this morning. He was excited about the prospect of doughtnuts, but he wants Krispy Kremes, too. Because they have lemon-filled doughnuts.

So it looks like I’ll stop at both places. Because I love doughnuts. And I love my kids. So I’ll combine a guilty pleasure with one I freely admit.

Something Else

I’ll leave with this thought: Is it a cliche to say you hate cliches and then use them anyway? Or is it just arrogance? I think I’ll just skip the answer to that one for now.

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Reflections on 56 …

“Remember the feeling as a child, When you woke up and morning smiled. It’s time you felt like you did then.”

At 56, the morning still smiles when I get up, as brightly in Indian Trail as it ever did back when I was a boy in South Boston, er Cluster Springs. I sometimes write about those days, both the events I remember fondly and the ones that weren’t so special. I suppose that’s what you do when you get older.

And, oh by the way, the older thing doesn’t bother me at all. I’m glad to have grown up when I did. For one thing, they had festival seating at concerts. And of course we had all sorts of temptations in those days. I didn’t so much withstand them as survive them …

But enough of that. I don’t want to go back to those days. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Personally, the past 365 have been among the most eventful in my life.

“There’s just no percentage in remembering the past. It’s time you learned to live again at last.”

I feel like that’s what I’ve done the past 12 months. In June 2012, I moved upstairs at Red Ventures. Definite symbolism in the move. As a contract editor, I was downstairs. All the important stuff – except eating – happened upstairs (things have changed since – there’s important stuff on both floors). Upstairs was a frightening, mysterious place to me then.

That has changed. I’m still learning, and I hope I will continue to. (I’d better – stay in the same place at RV and you’ll find yourself getting lapped by the field.) But I’m pretty confident in my contributions and how they benefit the company.

That’s not to say that things are static. In September, my role at RV changed for the first time. I concentrate now on insurance. While much of what we do is proprietary, it’s safe to say that I edit and write and research stuff about insurance that shows up – if all goes well – in a great many places on the Web. My team of two young writers and I accepted the challenge we were given and – by every measure I can think of – excelled at it. Much credit, of course, goes to Team Kannon – Kelly and Shannon. They were so successful, in fact, that another cluster at RV “stole” Shannon from us. I’m happy to say she’s thriving in her new role.

But that change in September was nothing, my friends. The big one was coming in October. That’s when Austin dropped his bombshell – he was going to be a dad. I was supportive but scared. I needn’t have been so worried.

He and Grace have been terrific. They’ve made really good decisions, and they’re excellent with Samu-El. Every baby should be so loved.

I didn’t have a clue until he was born what a gift Sam would be to us. A colleague at work noted how I light up when I talk about the little family (and inevitably brag on it). I look forward to his visits constantly.

A lot has happened since Austin gave me the news: I’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman Island and Jamaica. I was offered reefer in Jamaica. I didn’t take it.

Back in the U.S., my role at RV has continued to expand. We’ve added a couple of new writers to our team. Team Kamantha – Katherine and Samantha – keeps me on my toes. They’re learning quickly – and they need to. I suspect another group in the office will steal Kelly from us sometime soon. She’s too good for my own good.

“Come with me, leave yesterday behind, And take a giant step outside your mind.”

A giant step outside your mind. Wisdom from The Monkees (by way of Carole King). Yep.

At 56, I’m not a journalist any more. I’m a marketer. I’m a would-be mentor. I’m an ideas guy. It was a pretty Giant Step this late in my career.

The morning smiles at me because I smile back at it. “I choose to be happy.” That’s what the boss of my company says. I do. And I’ve started taking other giant steps outside the routine, too.

I’ve gotten involved in Relay for Life again (as I was during my exile in Henderson). I’ve started being friendly again – had lunch the other day with a new kid who had just started work as a developer at RV. I didn’t know him at all, but the old guy and the new college grad had a pretty entertaining meal. I’ve signed up to help at a basketball camp at work for children with autism or epilepsy. I’ve reached out to all the young writers who’ve just started at RV to let them know I’ll help.

All this comes after a fairly long period of being withdrawn. Some might even say cranky.

Karen and children have asked me several times over the past couple of weeks what I want for my birthday. It’s a tough question. I feel like I have everything I want: A great family, a job I love, great neighbors (whom I wish I saw more of). I’ve got all the clothes and just general “stuff” I need.

It kind of reminds me of the end of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, right after (spoiler alert) Willie Wonka has given Charlie the factory.

Willy Wonka: “Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.”
Charlie: “What happened?”
Willy Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

I think they’re talking about me.


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