Clanton: Going Postal in Houston

“A man’s gotta know his limitations.” (Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry)

We manly men like to think of ourselves as capable of accomplishing anything. The more abilities we perfect, the more we can lay claim to the vaunted title of “Renaissance Man.” I could be the exception to that rule.
I recently enlisted as a Rural Carrier Associate with the United States Postal Service. After all, how hard could it be?
There are a dozen Postal Service workers in the chain of events getting your mail from here to there. Twelve persons receiving, collecting sorting and sending, proofing and posting, servicing and serving, casing and carrying and finally, delivering letters and parcels, magazines and advertising circulars to your mailbox. Daily.
The USPS has contracted with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays. Fed-Ex and UPS also contract with USPS to deliver some parcels on routes that aren’t economically viable, since postal carriers do visit every address in America every day. Twice a week, the USPS is asked to insert those light-reading materials known as advertising inserts into the mail stream, which effectively doubles the volume of mail to be delivered on those days. All of these extra functions must be performed without fail, within time constraints and regardless of the weather. 
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That’s not the official motto of the USPS, but the phrase is engraved on the front of the James Farley Post Office building in New York City. And, it’s quite apropos, even though the USPS does indeed cancel deliveries from time to time on occasion of extreme conditions.
The men and women of the USPS are modern-day heroes. Each one knows his route intimately enough to be able to catch nuances that would otherwise delay delivery of important items. Hundreds of mailboxes; hundreds of addresses; hundreds of names, all mentally compiled and adjusted daily, as old customers move on, and new customers move in to the route.
So, earlier this year I was invited to interview for a position as a Rural Carrier Associate. I was assigned to a West Houston post office station, where I tagged along with a veteran carrier for two weeks. She was spectacular, and the difference in the way men and women think was never more glaringly pronounced than when I tried to learn her “system” for running her mail route. Women are from Venus, men are from Mars. Men are linear thinkers, and women’s brains are more like The Matrix, which is a helpful thing to have as a postal carrier. 
We “cased” the mail together — preparing bundles of mail grouped by address for delivery. We drove the route together, delivering and picking up from regular customers. I began to have a greater appreciation of what postal carriers do each day. Which brings us full-circle to the Dirty Harry quotation about man’s limitations.
I was able to complete about half as much work as the regular mail carrier in about twice the time. I was counseled by one well-meaning postal worker to sort the mail right-handed, so the addresses would be right-side up for everyone else. I am acutely left-handed.
I consider myself a pretty organized guy — but trying to organize and remember stop sequences and packages that weren’t familiar to me was a learning curve I barely climbed before the regular carrier left for a well-deserved vacation. My first day solo on the route was a disaster. 
One of the sources of stress for postal workers is the deadline at the end of the day to get “raw mail” collected on each route inserted into the postal system for distribution and delivery. There’s a big truck that visits each neighborhood postal station every evening to gather all incoming letters, parcels and packages, and deposit it at Houston’s central mail processing facility. You cannot miss that truck. 
I did. More than once.
The routines and rhythms of postal work can be learned in time. When you’re up against the gun to learn a route so someone else can take vacation, however, is a different kind of pressure. I failed. I had other postal workers helping me case the mail. Others helping bail me out by delivering mail to parts of the route I couldn’t complete before the mail truck deadline. It was taking three people to do one route. 
On a Tuesday night, after returning to the postal station way past time, I was told to not come in the next day. 
“Take a rest,” they said. “Come back refreshed.” 
I’m no dummy. I was creating more havoc than the system could handle. 
I resigned as a Rural Carrier Associate that week. The entry-level position I’d hoped to use as a foot in the door for other work more suited to my skill set was a rung on the ladder impossibly high to reach. A man’s gotta know his limitations. I do.
Brent Clanton is a Houstonian and member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. 

Women: Participate in Business Golf Now!

Here in Houston, there are a plethora of year-round business opportunities for golfers. Every Monday, for example, there are countless charity events at public and private facilities all over town. Men greatly outnumber women at these events, and it is time for this to change! Think about entering the wonderful world of golf…you will be glad you did!

Please do not fret about the fear and intimidation that many of us experience as we begin our journey into the game of golf. All of us who play have “been there, done that” as we began to learn about the game and develop the skills needed to play the game. Isn’t this the same for any new hobby or endeavor we want to tackle? Be realistic and patient.
Most important? Let’s rid ourselves of the number of untruths  out there about playing golf,  especially the biggest one of all — that everyone who plays this game does so at a high level.  Not true!  With this being said, there are a few things to evaluate so there will be a positive level of comfort when playing in business golf environments:
• Can you hit the ball about 100 yards off the tee?
• Can you hit a shot about 75 yards on the fairway?
• Can you hit out of a bunker?
• Can you strategize to reach a green when you are within 50 yards of the flagstick?
• Can you three putt most greens?
• Do you have golf etiquette and golf rules knowledge?
If you answered these questions with positive responses, do think about joining in on all the fun…now!  
If you aren’t quite there, allow an LPGA trained professional  to help you with your skill development and knowledge base about playing. You will enjoy the experience of learning and the transition into playing will be easier! 
A round of golf offers an opportunity to build a personal relationship with business clients or colleagues by spending four to five hours in a relaxed setting with people who otherwise can be difficult to reach.
Golf and business have become inseparable for many business executives and many believe playing golf is a good way to make new business contacts. Many also believe the way a person plays golf is very similar to how he/she conducts business affairs:
• The practices in golf usually parallel those in business.
• Golf gives you time to get to know a person’s true character.
• Golf is an ethical game.
• Golf and business demonstrate the same level of competitiveness.
Golf is a game that combines physical skill with mental stamina. To succeed in this sport, you will want to develop confidence in your playing ability and your place on the golf course. Doing this isn’t any different than applying the discipline needed to succeed in business. However, this game is steeped in tradition. The social skills you exhibit can be just as important as the physical skills you develop. Knowledge of the basic rules of golf and an understanding of appropriate social behavior and etiquette are essential.  
Understanding the following will help you to become a knowledgeable, courteous and enjoyable fellow competitor.
• The Invitation
• Dollars and Sense
• Arrival at the facility
• On the First Tee
• Order, Pace and Safety 
• The Tee, Fairway and Green
• In the Woods and Water 
• Cart Etiquette
• Appropriate Attire 
• Corporate Golf Games
• Terminology
You do not need to be a “great golfer” to combine business and pleasure on the golf course. Be a “great person” to golf with and you, as well as your fellow corporate golfers, will enjoy playing this great game!
LPGA Master Professional Deb Vangellow teaches people to play golf at Riverbend Country Club in Houston. Among other distinctions, Vangellow is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year and LPGA and Golf Digest Woman “Top 50” Teacher. 

Theater LaB opens 23rd season


Theater LaB Houston makes a theatrical move to MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) this fall with the start of its 23rd season of major Houston premieres. 
The new season, which opens November 4 with the one-man musical, From Broadway to Obscurity, promises to be TLH’s biggest and best to date. As always, it will introduce Houston audiences to an outstanding array of theatrical productions that are exciting, bold, contemporary and not to be missed. 
Dreams collide in this hilariously revealing and high-energy musical confessional from Jersey Boys’ Eric Gutman who, at the peak of his career, moved back to his hometown to raise his daughters. Having performed over 1100 times (and to 1.3 million people) with the national touring and Broadway companies of Jersey Boys, Gutman played six different roles, including three of the Four Seasons. 
A consummate theater and singing professional Gutman shares his backstage stories, audience anecdotes and how he felt during the ups and downs of his career. He intimately details the rocky road to “making it,” and sweating bullets auditioning face to face with Frankie Valli himself.
The show, which runs November 4-8, is packed with well-known and great songs from on and off Broadway, dead-on celebrity impressions and a heart-warming script as Gutman takes the audience on his musical journey from Broadway star to suburbia dad.
More Shows in November
Next on the intimate stage will be Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany.
The show is an adaptation of the acclaimed autobiography of Eleanor Ramrath Garner’s youth – adapted by her grand-daughter, Ingrid Garner. It is the true tale of an American girl trapped in Nazi Germany. It runs from November 11-15.
Also on stage in November is the regional premiere of The Twentieth-Century Man by Tom Jacobson. Based on an obscure anecdote from Los Angeles gay history, the play first appeared in New York City as part of the 2010 New York Fringe Festival. It runs from November 18-22.
History and Mission
Theater LaB Houston was founded in November 1991, as a new professional, non-profit theater. Its mission is to produce and stage the very best in contemporary plays from nationally and internationally renowned playwrights and guest artists performing their original and unique productions. The theater’s founding purpose was and still is to mount dramas, musicals and comedies that take audiences on an adventure as they explore the human condition and the major issues of our times. 
From 1993 through 2012 Theater LaB Houston performed at 1706 Alamo in the historic First Ward. In November 2013, TLH partnered with Obsidian Art Space to produce the 2013-2015 season productions at 3522 White Oak Blvd.
Season tickets are now available and can be ordered at 

New book tells 30-year history of The Rose

Much is new at The Rose, Houston’s leading non-profit breast health organization.  With another mobile unit added to its growing fleet, The Rose is expanding its Mobile Mammography program into Corpus Christi and Louisiana.   

A new face, Dr. Claudia Cotes, board certified and fellowship trained radiologist, has joined The Rose and is onsite at The Rose Galleria office. A native of Columbia, Dr. Cotes’ ability to speak fluent Spanish is a much needed asset. She joins Dr. Mahdieh Parizi, Dr. Dixie Melillo and Dr. Ward  Parsons as The Rose continues toward becoming a breast cancer Center of Excellence. 
All imaging services are digital and range from initial screening mammograms to diagnostic ultrasounds to biopsies. Physicians personally visit with clients following diagnostic procedures, explaining results and next steps. Same day results are important to keeping women informed and engaged in their own good health. 
The hallmark of The Rose continues to be its ability to move women into treatment once they are diagnosed with breast cancer and The Rose’s Patient Navigation Program is modeled nationally.   
A new book, The Women of The Rose, The Story of Mammograms, Miracles and a Texas Non-Profit That Beat All the Odds, will be released October 15.  The book, written by The Rose co-founder, Dorothy Gibbons, captures the 30-year history of The Rose, its service to women regardless of their ability to pay and shares stories of incredible courage and faith.  It also exposes the hard truth about who can and cannot afford health care.  
Gibbons said, “I’ve tried to be both fair and respectful, while allowing the public an intimate look at the making and growing of a nonprofit. It was, at times, a daunting responsibility, with days of frustration sprinkled by moments of deep joy. But, then, I don’t remember a day in our life at The Rose when we didn’t expect a miracle.” 
Gibbons has spent a lifetime promoting awareness and encouraging women to take care of themselves and know their own bodies, yet in the book, she insists “Awareness is not enough.” 
Gibbons said, “I am thankful we live in a time when it’s okay to talk about breast cancer and mammography. I remember when we couldn’t say the word ‘breast’ in public. And, I’m grateful for the Octobers filled with an over-the-top frenzy promoting breast health awareness. But, being aware isn’t enough. Awareness without action will not save even one life.”
As The Rose’s namesake, Rose Kushner, said, “All the education in the world doesn’t mean squat if there is nowhere for a woman to go to have a mammogram.” 
Today, there is a lot more awareness than in 1986 and a heck of a lot more money, yet too many women are still going without annual screenings and way too many are dying. A commitment of dollars to actually provide screenings and diagnostic work-ups, biopsies and consults is needed.
The book is filled with stories of women needing help, women winning and losing the cancer battle, people who showed up and gave it their all. The book offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of an organization that has impacted half a million lives. It’s a true story, as big and diverse as Texas.  
Access to Care is at the core of The Rose’s mission. The Rose Mobile Mammogram Units are booked year round and bring screening mammograms to women where they work, teach or worship. 
Over 300 businesses, school districts and corporations are partnering with The Rose.  Mobile events offer co-branding opportunities to major supporters and corporations. Physicians are also offering The Rose Mobile program in their offices, making services convenient to their patients. Health organizations and Federally Qualified Health Centers rely on the total services available through The Rose.
Today, The Rose provides access to care to over 40,000 insured and uninsured women each year through two diagnostic centers: The Rose Galleria (5420 West Loop South, Suite 3300, Bellaire) and at The Rose Southeast (12700 N Featherwood., Suite 260, Houston) and through a fleet of Mobile Mammography Units covering most of Southeast Texas.   
For more information, to schedule a personal appointment or book a Mobile Mammography Unit at your place of business, call 281-484-4708 or go online to   
The Women of The Rose is on sale now at both Rose locations, and the Kindle edition will be available on October 19.  Every book sold benefits The Rose.

Losing My Mammogram Virginity

From behind her pink-goggled eyes, the little girl smiled up at me. With a swim float encircling her waist and an Esther Williams-era bathing cap adorning her head, she had one message for me: “Do it for those who love you.”

As I stood nervously in the x-ray room, that statement gave me a measure of comfort, albeit in an a-ha sort of way.
So, this is why we mount campaigns around themes of “girl power” and “I am woman. Hear me roar.”
This is why we wear t-shirts emblazoned with slogans telling us to “fight like a girl.”
This is why every October, we pink out.
These cute and clever calls to action exist because monthly self-exams, mammograms and what they both aim to discover – well, these things suck.
A few days ago, I walked my most delicate parts up to a tall, torturous-looking machine, smirked sophomorically at the manufacturer name displayed across the top – Hologic – and prepared to lose my mammogram virginity.
Nothing ominous had sent me here. Just another year around the sun and a marked change in the conversational priorities of my yearly GYN exam.
“Schedule a mammogram before you are 40,” my doctor said casually at my last appointment. “Don’t put it off.”
Just a year prior she’d been asking if I had further reproductive plans (negatory). Now? Onto “older life” issues like the merits of elective hysterectomies and baseline mammograms.
So, here I stood, in an open-faced gown sans deodorant, lotion or perfume as per instruction, staring at the swimming cutie on the poster and starting to sweat.
The tech was superb. Informative and kind. She kept the process as dignified as possible.
“How old are your children?” she asked, eyeing the section of my paperwork that had asked about chest tenderness.
“Four and six,” I said, adding this part of my body hasn’t quite been the same since baby girl’s Birth Day in 2009. “Yeah. Is tenderness like that um…normal?”
“Honey, pregnancy does all kinds of wild things to women’s bodies! It’s completely normal.”
Exhale (sort of).
It was mid-afternoon and, no doubt, she’d already done this several times before me, issuing commands like “Move your foot to the left. Place your chin here. Put your right hand on that bar. Don’t squeeze so tight.  Relax your shoulders. Hold still.” And, my personal favorite (required while taking the x-ray), “Don’t breathe.”
I felt a wave of relief as she completed the first one. My best friend and my mother, both of whom I’d consulted prior to the appointment, were right. No big deal.
After the second, I felt more confident. And, those pesky shoulders were relaxing too.
Then she tilted the Ho (logic). Ow to the left. Double ow to the right.
I’d stepped away from the machine, ready to slip my earrings back on and be far, far away from this necessary drudgery when she informed me we weren’t done yet.
“I thought you said there were just four?”
“I said four to six. Let’s do one more, and if this one turns out good, then you’re done, okay?”
Okay. Dammit.
Thankfully, the Ho went back to her upright position, leaving me to approach with slightly less trepidation.
With my chin upward, cheek pressed to the glass, arms gripping the bars (tight, but not too tight), and my feet placed most awkwardly below, I thought of my precious little E.
“Doing it for you, sweet girl.”
After all, in the name of preventive care, temporarily squashed mammary glands are a small price to pay.
This is a beautiful, fragile life, and I intend to squeeze many more moons of joy out of the time that remains. (Plus, there’s Motrin and Malbec at home.)
So, c’mon Hologic – let’s do this.
Rebecca C. Walden is a freelance writer based in Texas by way of Birmingham. She is a marketing and public relations pro working in higher education.
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