Diary

An Open Thank You Letter to Our President

Mr. President,

My name is Patricia and I am one of the many thousands of Americans who, under the snowballing effects of your… interesting executive decisions, have lost their job. I use to be an Office Manager for a company that designed and built custom homes and office buildings. But, since you have begun your campaign of systematically deconstructing our economy about a year ago (with a particular blow being dealt to the housing/construction market here in Florida and elsewhere)… that’s about the time I was laid off.

I was angry at you for a long time. I mean, I am 50 years old and I have rarely been out of work. I actually like working. I like feeling productive, like I am contributing rather than taking from the world I live in.  I learned that work ethic from my grandmother, Elizabeth. Her name means, “With God”. When she died a few years ago I was devastated. The whole family was. We called her “Gibraltar” or “Weeble”. Remember those? “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”? Yeah… that was her. In her honor I designed and had a tattoo inscribed on my back of a Scarab with wings. She taught me that it was the choices I made that not only determined my own destiny but affected the lives of others and by making the right choices you could literally change the world. Now, with the tattoo, she “has my back” so to speak. You see, since I was a kid I have had this fascination with Ancient Egypt and one of the first things that impressed me was learning one of their most basic philosophies… That one method for obtaining immortality was to leave behind something greater than yourself. That sort of echoed the things my grandmother was trying to teach me. And then I saw this movie called, “Pay It Forward” and I thought, yeah… and in my own small way I tried to follow these two principles. It started as silly but genuine ways. Singling out someone (or even a whole family) at a restaurant and secretly paying their tab… but you have to leave before they know it was you… That’s key. You can’t do it for recognition. Perhaps this is a novel concept for someone like you but when you do something for the purpose of “receiving” or to “get back” something in return (like say, recognition or accolades) undermines the whole objective of “giving” and “paying it forward”.

Anyway, so here I was… out of work for a year and unable to find a job. Oh, I have looked. I went on literally hundreds of interviews. But, with the affects of your “stimulus/jobs bills” and such, there are thousands filling out applications for the six positions available each week so, needless to say, some of us are getting frustrated… Okay, maybe I am exaggerating on the number of available jobs out here. But not by much. I’ll bet if I use some of the creative math you used for that “jobs created saved” thing I could prove my numbers to be correct. But, since you haven’t shown us the formula yet, you’ll just have to take my word for it as well. So… I realize I am rambling but (unlike many of your speeches when you aren’t using your teleprompter) I do have a point here. Be patient.

As I was saying, this whole “pay it forward” concept has really been playing in my head lately, as well as that Egyptian philosophy of leaving something bigger than yourself behind… and then it dawned on me… Well, more like “consumed” me… nagged me… called to me… and while this was going on I got this hair-brained idea. Why not take some of the cash I have in the bank and use IT to make money… before it’s gone. Then one night I was watching one of my favorite shows about flipping houses, followed by another tear-rendering episodes of “Extreme House Makeover”… and it was like those moments you hear about… clouds parting/sunlight breaking through/angels singing… You know what I mean. Where your epiphany came when you found your calling to “fundamentally change” my country, mine was inspired as a means of undoing the damage caused by yours.

So, Mr. President. I am proud to announce the formation of my new company. Yep, I am staring my own business. No longer will I sit here feeling sorry for myself or wasting energy blaming you for my predicament. “When a door is closed, a window opens.” Instead, since you are in my way, I am going around you. May I present to you, “Khepri Company, Inc.”, or “Kheprico” for short. It is official yet. I am in the midst of filling all necessary paperwork and working on the website. But the principles are already in play and wonderful things are happening.

Remember that Scarab tattoo I told you about? It represents the Egyptian god named Khepri. That is my company logo now. In heiroglyphics, the scarab means, “to be transformed”. Pretty clever, ey? Not only does this honor the most influential person of my life it describes the purpose of the business. Yeah, part is to make a living. I have bills to pay… and there’s that insurance tab you’ve forced down my throat… Oh… by the way. I’m not doing it. Fine me if you want. I won’t pay it… Throw me in jail after, I don’t care. I think I will have a lot of company… Anyway…

I purchased my first house a month ago.
melrose flip

It was a foreclosure. Go figure. There are lots of those out here, in case you didn’t know. I wonder if Peggy Joseph still has her house… You remember her… that woman who attended one of your teleprompter readings and afterward, she wept with joy that she didn’t have to worry about putting gas in her car or paying her mortgage anymore… Yeah…

So, this house was a pit. It was vacant for about two years and it was the eyesore of the neighborhood. It’s small, around 900 square feet… but by opening up the enclosed porch…

porch1

(adding a door. venting some AC out there) we are now at about 1,200. The “transformation” has been incredible…

porch2

This is what one of the bathrooms looked like four weeks ago.

 before

And this is what it looks like now.

bathroom2

But I’m not just talking about the house being transformed. I met the people to the right of the project. Chris and Cristina. They have another couple living with them… a couple who also are out of work and struggling. The man (also named) Chris use to make awnings. The house they live in was in need of some serious work as well but, with barely enough to support 4 adults and two children… groceries and utility bills came before landscaping and a new coat of paint.

When I first started out on this new adventure I had no clue how to make it work. All I had was the desire to make a living and a difference. Oddly enough, it has taken on that whole “If you build it/they will come” principle.

This is my brother, Ed.

 ed2

He is a self-employed contractor in South Carolina – “Carolina Home Improvement”. He took time out of his schedule to contribute to the project. He renovated the kitchen.

After re-landscaping the flip for that “curb appeal” aspect I noticed how filthy the white picket-style vinyl fence was that belonged to Chris and Cristina, which ran between both properties up front. So, I pressure washed it. Looks new! The next day I noticed Cristina out raking her yard. She has a nice garden now too. And Chris (the awning maker) was out helping Chris (the owner) take down the dilapidated awnings from his house and making new ones with some reclaimed frames and some canvas that his former employer donated. My crew and I will be painting their house next week. Going to break out the grill, turn it into a party.

My “crew”? Well, there’s Jared.

jared

He lives in the other end of the state but needs to find work here. His father has Diabetes and isn’t doing well so Jared wants to move closer to his family. I met Jared’s mom by chance at a cozy little Wine Bar we discovered a few months back called The Wine Toad… GREAT group of people…

Here are some of them with my brother, Ed

the gang

Visits there always wind up with a big cluster of people joining in and sitting around a growing table as we discuss current events and business opportunities and whatever pops into our heads while sharing a bottle of wine (or two… or… four).

And here is my brother (who never travels without his guitar) entertaining the gang.

at the toad

Anyway…  my two newest crew members live just around the corner from the flip. Their names are Shannon and Kevin. They are out of work too… and, they just had a baby… who (as it turns out) has some health issues.

I met Shannon quite by chance as well. I was out back working in the yard and through the open garage door I heard someone calling. She was wheeling her newborn through the neighborhood trying to sell personal items to make money to buy diapers and formula. I hired her to help me clean and landscape the rest of the back yard. Her husband, Kevin? He is Jared’s new assistant. Kevin has absolutely no experience in renovating houses but we actually see this as a GOOD thing. You see, THIS way, Jared can spend his time training Kevin to do things the right way rather than spending it UNtraining bad carpentry/construction habits. Kevin is so excited. He only wanted a job… a chance to prove himself. The transformation in his self esteem alone is evident just in the way he stands there listening to what you want him to do next. Shannon, she is in charge of keeping the work site clear of clutter and cleaning rooms as they are finished. I am training her in the fine art of “staging” rooms for maximum visual affect. We have about one more week to go. Then Kheprico will be placing its first “transformation” back on the market. Then, we start all over again. I already have a good lead on another “pit”. Oh… and the neighbors to the left? Their names are Tim and Cheryl. We noticed them outside planting new gardens and spreading pine bark mulch and in the air could be heard the sweet chorus of several pressure washers. Most of these people have lived there for at least two years and had never met. Now they know each others names… and their stories. They talk to each other and are helping each other. Our Open House is scheduled for next Saturday and, as everything else, Kheprico will do things a bit differently. We are having a Bar-B-Que/Networking Party. I have invited many of the neighbors and some of the business owners from The Wine Toad as well as the gang (many of whom are business owners with contacts to a host of others)…. Oh yeah… and potential buyers will be able to meet and shake hands with their potential new neighbors while touring their potential new home with the very people who know every detail and every story of the home that took place during its renovation. Each room will have a easel with a poster displaying “before” shots and a list of everything that was done to produce what they see now including “during shots” of The Crew making the magic happen… and we are creating a book for the (as yet) unknown new owner(s) telling the whole story from each of our perspectives of how this project changed us is some way.

This is what the house looked like a week ago as the new roof was being put on.

outside

So, you see, Mr. President. I am not angry at you anymore. I can’t be. It is because of your incompetence as the leader of my country that I have found what I am supposed to be doing… and it isn’t managing an office after all. I am doing what my grandmother taught me. I am making a difference and, in telling and demonstrating the lessons she taught me, I am teaching others to do the same thing… and they are paying it forward. Remember that silly thing I told you about… how I pay the tab for random strangers at restaurants? Well, we went back to one place where we had done that and the waitress who served us that day came over. She was in another area that day but she wanted to tell us what happened. When the people found out someone had paid their bill, they did the same thing… and so did the people THEY paid for. It went five tables that day! Isn’t that amazing?

So, you see, Mr. President, while you are out there trying to “fundamentally change” my country… I hate to tell you this but you are failing. In fact, as much as you think you are destroying the foundation this country was built upon you are actually making it stronger. People, who were once strangers, are now learning each others names and they are extending their hands to each other and we are joining together to create a bond that you can’t break. The harder you try, the stronger we will get and the tighter we will cling to each other. Some amazing and completely unexpected things are happening out here. I just thought I should warn you… and thank you. I for one am totally geeked… I have been enriched, empowered… and humbled as hell. Your arrogance use to bother me… the way you (and some of your supporters) seem to think yourself to be some sort of Messiah come to “fundamentally change” the world… But you are only feeding the outcome of your own Karma.  Even science backs up that little theory… “For every action will come an equal yet opposite reaction”, and (in your case)… I’d brace myself if I were you. You might think you are setting yourself up for some big returns on the investments you are making to tear this nation apart… But I promise you, Sir… you are wrong. “You reap what you sew”, “What goes around comes around”, “Karma”. Even Newton’s Law of Motion promises you that. But you aren’t paying attention. I know that… and that’s okay. I know you don’t realize that your Gravy Train is destined to derail. And, in the meantime, mine is finally on track… going in a direction I never anticipated to places I had never dreamed of. So… I guess it just goes to prove that the greater gifts and the most valuable rewards in this life are hardest to obtain because they have been set so high that the only way to reach them is from on your knees.

Sincerely,

Patricia Campion – Florida