9/29/2008

Patchwork Post

The lousy cold, or whatever it is, lingers. Mostly it's a dull headache that OTC pain relief isn't touching, and the occasional feverishness (febrility?). This might be a seasonal thing because it feels like what had in April, and in April/May the year before. Weird! So, anyway, I'm having a hard time constructing a cohesive post, so this is just what's on my mind tonight:

Sad to see the end of It Comes in Pints? but glad that the blogging will continue in some form. I have updated the links on the sidebar here at the blog tree-fort.

My professor sent out an e-mail to the class telling us to pick a date for her to come observe us teaching. Yikes. I'm not doing a lot of formal teaching--the high school needs far more of the informal kind (how scary is it that every time I try to type "informal" I type "information" instead?). I honestly am not sure how much I have to show her in terms of teaching. I mean, today I helped a student find articles--using my grad school's library access (so nice to be connected)--and sat in on a talk with a senior about a project. The rest of the day, I was working on a cartoon/video promoting awareness of some library databases--not much direct teaching there, really, but important library stuff for sure. I'm trying not to freak out about being observed. I mean, I can't really prepare for it, and while I don't think Prof. D. is going to tell me I suck and should change my specialization, I'm sure I'll get suggestions about how to improve. Dr. Red tells me I'm doing great. Deep down I think I can do this; I just wish I'd start feeling it.

One of my assignments from Dr. Red is to try using VoiceThread. If I come up with anything decent maybe I'll share. The reason I have an assignment is that it's the Jewish New Year (and a happy and healthy one to whoever is celebrating it) and school is closed. (The irony is, my former company was owned by two families who closed the office on Jewish holidays, until the merger happened and we were handed generic "floating holidays" to take whenever. It's a different vibe when the whole office is closed for one reason. And now I have this special day off again!) On top of that, there's a faculty in-service on Wednesday, so the students are off for two days in a row. I get to attend my first in-service. . . and nobody can tell what it's about from the e-mail that was sent around. So I really don't know what I'm in for on Wednesday.

Tomorrow, though, will be a mix of rest and errands. And schoolwork, of course. I have to go return a book (and pay an overdue fine, I think!) at the library branch near my former work. Not gonna stop in at work, but I might stop at the church up the street for a visit. That used to be my usual Tuesday lunch hour thing, and now I don't have it anymore. Wish I could figure out what I'm going to do in place of that now.

Then again, from time to time I catch myself checking to see if I'm wearing my access card from my former work. I guess I'm still adjusting. In many ways.

9/27/2008

Browsing for an Answer

I'm nursing a little cold/icky stuff that started with a sore throat last night. The slightly feverish part of it seems to be making a question stick in my mind. You see, at school, when it comes to Internet browsers, I've noticed that Firefox is more popular among users than IE. I've also noticed that Dr. Red and several students open up multiple tabs on their browsers.

My question is, why use tabs? What's the advantage? When is it better to use tabs, and when is it better to open a new window--or does it even make a difference at all?


9/26/2008

The Friday Five: Distracted Edition

It was a long, difficult week, one I hope never to repeat. My brain's a little scrambled; my heart, a bit sad. Ideas for the Friday Five just were not happening this afternoon, so here are five things I did instead of coming up with a "real" idea for the Friday Five:

1. Played "attack the pen" with the cat. It always makes me laugh when she hides behind the sheet covering the living room chair. Nothing but fuzzy white toes jabbing through to grab the pen.

2. Took the hottest shower I could get. Pilates started again Wednesday night and I've got very unhappy muscles in my upper arms and chest.

3. Went to dinner with Mom. Dad had a dinner to attend for one of his music organizations. I left at 10:30 and he wasn't home yet. Party animal.

4. Cuddled with the senior cat at my parents' house. She's sixteen years old and very attached to Dad. She decided that if he wasn't home yet, my lap was acceptable for sleeping.

5. Took the Color Career Test and was a bit weirded out that among my career recommendations were Author, English Teacher, and. . . Librarian.

In spite of how uncertain I've felt lately.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend, and has sunshine for at least part of it.

9/25/2008

Training=Bleh, Interaction=Good

So it was another morning that didn't get off to a good start, even though I got to sleep in a little bit because I was going straight to the training to meet up with Dr. Red. It wasn't worth going to school only to turn almost right around and backtrack to a hotel not far from my home. Of course, right before I left, I noticed that one of my shoes had a tear in the woven fabric and looked ratty. I got them on clearance over the summer and had worn them only twice so far. I was too busy running to stuff Advil and "feminine protection" (that's a chartreuse flamethrower, fellas) into my purse to do anything about the shoes.. I also drove right by the entrance to the hotel hosting the training, because they changed the name on the sign.

Also, in my haste, I forgot the power cord for my laptop. The battery didn't even last two hours into the training (aaagh!), which was really frustrating when the first half of the training turned out to be more basic than the claimed "refresher." I mean, there was a point where we had to interrupt the one trainer after said trainer unknowingly suggested a method of copyright infringement. (Said trainer also was getting snippy with us by the end of the training, just for asking a bunch of questions. We need to know this stuff to serve our library community--is that a crime?)

Fortunately, because Dr. Red had remembered her power cord and had snagged us some seats at the back of the conference room so she could plug in her laptop, I felt more comfortable asking questions of her, and when one of her really cool librarian friends also in attendance came and sat with us, we were able to make the best of things. Dr. Red even sort of liveblogged the second half of the training and took a hilarious picture of herself looking bedraggled and frustrated, to add to it. (I totally want a Macbook now.) It did get interesting for us at the end, when they finally got to the new features we'd wanted to see.

But what really made it good was getting a little one-on-one time with Dr. Red outside of the constantly-abuzz library. Tonight when I checked my e-mail I saw there was one from her sent very early Wednesday morning after she'd reached her destination for her conference. (Yes, she had to come to training after being at a conference in another part of the country the day before and getting in very late that night. Amazing.) The e-mail was a little note of reassurance that I was learning things and doing all right, and that I shouldn't feel discouraged. So it would seem my sniffles from Tuesday were still on her mind at the end of a very long day. It was a very touching note. Of course I was a little embarrassed and almost hoping we could go on as if it hadn't happened, but maybe it was a good thing. It brought out a little more vulnerability in both of us, and it just might have helped make our time today a little easier.

And I have a feeling there's going to be a running inside joke about "clicking the print button to print" for the rest of my time at the high school library.

Top Chef New York

Coming soon!

That little announcement made me happy last night.

9/23/2008

Not My Finest Morning

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Yeah, so I cracked a bit under the pressure this morning and got a bit sniffly. Fortunately it was in Dr. Red's office so nobody else saw, but it was humiliating. The irony, of course, being that I got sniffly because my pride was hurting and I was frustrated and angry.

I'm embarrassed because I have a reputation, at least among my family (and it seems I will never be able to live it down) for being a "crier" when I was younger. My entire childhood and teen years, actually. Most times I can keep it under control, but it's a tough, ingrained coping behavior that I've never shaken completely. If I had to guess where it came from, I'd say it was from watching my dad fly off the handle constantly and raise his voice. I can't handle anger and yelling, so let's just not upset people, even when I have a problem. I have to do everything on my own and know everything because it's expected of me. I don't know where that perfectionism came from but I've had those unconscious pressures on me since I was a kid. Then it turned into a vicious cycle--I'd get upset at school, and the kids would make fun of me. I had to be careful not to make a mistake, because both in school and at home I would never hear the end of it. I still avoid certain relatives at family parties because to this day they continue to enjoy talking about the stupid things I did as a child. Nobody else in my family gets treated this way, but I digress.

I've come a long way, there's no question. I wouldn't be on the verge of earning a master's degree if not for all the hard work I've done, inside and out. But I think that in some way I will always be held back, held apart from others, because of this occasional reaction. And it did catch me off guard this morning, that it happened. I let myself get tired. I'm still in a new situation. I could even play the PMS card. But for whatever reason, I just could not voice my frustration and my needs with Dr. Red. The worst part was that she called me on it, as I was trying to get it under control. I think if she hadn't pointed out the tears--it sounded like the way my parents use to taunt me, thinking it would get me to stop--then it would've passed. But I was even more embarrassed that she had noticed, so I just let the sniffles happen. It should've gone differently, like, "Hold on a second. Would you please explain to me why I'm doing this? I just feel unsure when I'm being asked to do something and I don't know what it's for. I'm not a hands-on learner, and I want to talk and observe and think about things before I do them blindly, which I feel I'm being pushed to do." Which I did actually say, in a slightly more diplomatic if not apologetic manner, once the sniffles stopped.

The thing is, I understand now that she was just being teacher-ly with me. I understand now that she is aware we don't have a lot of time together and she wants to show me as much as she can, so I'm well-equipped. I just didn't see it at the time, and all I felt was the pressure and my resistance in response, and my fear that she would see me as not being open to things because I was upset. It's like standing up for myself, the wrong way and at the wrong time. (Dammit!) The rest of the day went all right, but it really bothered me that it happened. From anyone else's perspective, I got upset over a silly bunch of widgets. By the end of the day, everything was back to normal, and we all were standing around laughing hysterically at this book (scroll down at look at the pages--it's like an Afterschool Special done with fluffy little chicks!).

Tomorrow, Dr. Red will be out attending a conference, and due to staffing transitions I'm pretty much the librarian in charge. I'm going to do a good job and hopefully make progress on the projects we started. Thursday Dr. Red is taking a local workshop and arranged for me to tag along. I'm hoping I can put my embarrassment behind me and just go back to being the hard-working, docile student I usually am.

I'm taking a big old dose of humility right now, and I figured why not complete it by confessing it to everyone in Blogland. Heck, I'm even sniffling about it as I'm proofreading this. I'm Kate P, and I'm not comfortable with expressing my needs and feel like an unacceptable person for crying. I worry too much about my reputation.

And I'm way too hard on myself and need to get to bed earlier.

9/21/2008

Morning Person Wanna-Be

One thing that's definitely different about going to school is the early start time. I have to be in school at 7:15, and while it is not a terribly long drive to school, my parking space* is a bit far from the main entrance, where I'm required to sign in. They're also doing long-term construction on the roads right near the driveway to the school. I usually leave the house around 6:45-6:50. One morning, I saw a trio of deer on the opposite side of the one major road I take. That never happened when I was leaving for work at 8:25.

Most mornings I'm up around 5:30, but I have a hard time getting going. It's dark, for one thing. The only talk radio station I can pick up (given that I'm across the street from a tower for one) is a drag to wake up to. If music didn't put me back to sleep and buzzers didn't give me palpitations it would be so much better. On top of the waking stuff I'm not so hot at getting to bed at a decent time. I'm used to burning the candle at both ends for the past two years--work in the morning, grad school work at night.

I'm not saying this to complain. In truth, I'm a bit concerned. I definitely want to be sufficiently awake when I leave the house, especially if there's a chance that deer might be bounding across the street. So, I want to know--any morning people read this blog? How about reluctant morning people? Any recommendations for making it easier to get up in the morning?

It just seems as if there's always one more thing to do before bedtime. Like now--gotta go wash the dinner dishes and pick out clothes for tomorrow. And make my lunch, and get ready for bed while watching Mad Men. . .

(*I got a designated parking space, but the previous driver forgot to return the hang tag for the mirror. I feel so illegal.)

9/19/2008

The Friday Five: Survival of School Week 1 Edition

O.K., so here I am on Friday night. I have my car back (it's quiet again!), and hopefully my adopted school's football team has won their game by now. After only five days in school, I've learned quite a bit already. So that's my inspiration for this week's Friday Five: five things I've learned after only a week at school:

1. Signing in and out daily, wearing a name badge (and a temporary one at that because the office ran out of the ones for student teachers and doesn't seem compelled to make any more), adult hall monitors, random morning bag inspections for the students, being warned to avoid the cafeteria because it's gross, "balanced" displays of subjects such as politics--yep, I'm in public high school.

2. Eighth graders can be "adorable" (something you've gotta take my word for, Dave E.).

3. Even if you sit with, talk with, and help out the 10th grade history class with their writing assignment, they still won't cite their references properly, if at all--and if a substitute teacher is involved, all bets are off.

4. The aforementioned writing assignment may contain hilarious items such as a slave originally from Sweet Home, Alabama, and push the limits of historical fiction by having the main character, a doctor, treat General Washington for a bullet wound. When not a single source states he was injured at the Battle of Germantown. (Also came across a story that wanted to do very bad things to Washington and probably warrants a sit-down with the guidance counselor.)

5. I'm checking books in and out, looking up resources, brainstorming with teachers, creating a kick-ass welcome board for the library, making avatars (didja notice?), putting comments on toast (see previous post), making wikis for teachers and students, and helping them set up blogs. I think not only am I learning things, I'm actually remembering and applying some of the things I've learned in the past two years of the program.

I still may have no idea of how to define my philosphy of education (one of this week's homework assignments), but darn it I can do an awful lot of this job.

Have a great weekend, my dear blogreaders.

9/17/2008

And How Was Your Day?

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As you can see from the image, I am learning things. A lot of things, actually. The good news is, Dr. Red and I started a wiki to help one of the English teachers. I came up with a good suggestion as to how the students can blog, and I think Dr. Red was a little impressed. (This is where I say "Squee," right?)

The car is in pretty bad shape. The bodywork from March's accident aside, this is going to be the first really expensive repair in the six years I've had the car. Something happened with the wheel bearings on the front axle--which they're having trouble with, so they've decided to replace the entire axle. Yeah, good thing they sent me a coupon. But, um, I've been complaining about the noise for a while now, so I'm also annoyed. I can't believe I drove down the shore and back with the car in that condition and (thank God) nothing happened. I'm hoping I get it back tomorrow, but we'll see.

I fell asleep between 5 and 5:30 for the second day in a row. Darn it, I didn't see what happened with the kids catching lobsters on Fetch!

I blame the cat for being on my lap. So would Ruff Ruffman, apparently.

9/16/2008

Attending a Virtual Meeting

I was asked by my mentor-teacher (let's call her Dr. Red) to sit in on a talk she's giving at a meeting in Sek-und Lyfe (spelling changed but I think you get what I mean). I had to join up and it was like being deposited on a street in the downtown of a foreign city, with all sorts of strangers walking up to me. Yuck. Also, not liking my default appearance very much. I tried changing it before the meeting, but the display was hard to read. Apparently my graphics card doesn't match the requirements so I'm wondering if that's part of the problem.

I'm typing as I'm listening to Dr. Red--although I have to click back every once in a while because she's answering questions that have been typed in chat. The meeting started off a little weirdly with horrible feedback--someone had problems turning their mic off.

Having only two days' experience myself, I'm learning about what the other librarians are encountering and what their concerns are when they are using Web-based modules/media with their students for learning and projects. Part of it is that the district/administration can have a problem with what appear to be social networking modules. In fact, Dr. Red was trying to get me set up for this meeting on a computer at school, and we got blocked by the security program. Which is why I haven't gotten much done tonight--I had to come home, arrange to bring my car in, feed the cat, eat dinner, and get set up for the meeting. Wasn't in a good mood most of the afternoon--this wasn't what I had planned for the evening. . . hoping the meeting doesn't go much longer because I have to get some other things done before I go to bed (and I need sleep).

It's hard when it's just me taking care of things at home.

9/15/2008

Day One of Class

Gotta dash something off before I make lunch and then crash. The good news is that my commute is considerably shorter now that I'm going to the high school. The bad news is that my car sounds terrible (deafening vibration at just 20 m.p.h.) and I'd better get it taken care of ASAP.

Today was only my second time in that library, ever, and it was a very busy day. I spent most of it helping with 8th grade orientations (three), which also helped me get to know the library, too. So far the students seem normal, and the faculty and staff are very nice. It sounds weird but just as I did when I first spent the day in a school library (back in 2006, the elem. school where I'll be later), I felt pretty comfortable in general.

The downside: I'm tired, and my feet hurt. (A classmate complained that her feet hurt, too, so I'm not alone!) The cat is freaked out that I'm up and leaving the house about an hour and a half earlier than usual and coming home earlier. She did get dinner a little earlier than usual, so no complaints there, at least.

The area I need to grow in during the next 12 weeks is being comfortable with teaching--confident that I can prepare for it, and actually do it. Also, I want to know, really and truly, what it means to run a school media center.

9/12/2008

How Was My Last Day of Work?

I feel as if I've been blogging about leaving my job forever, so I'll be as brief as possible. It was fairly uneventful. I mean, my boss wasn't in, his boss wasn't in. . . everybody showed up late and didn't feel like working. I didn't feel like working, either, but I did have to wrap up a couple of things.

Made one last tiny dent in the impossibly huge document generation project--I estimate there were still over 90 left to do (over 1/3 if you've been keeping track). I tried, and had little help to work on it, so that's what I was able to do in between training and meetings. Noted the outstanding items of work on a sheet and left a packet, including all my training notes (i.e., who was shown what, so they can't deny it), for the boss so he'd be up to speed.

Some co-workers took me to lunch, which was very nice of them. Twelve were supposed to go, but we ended up with eight. Out of the eight, two were from my department, which is the largest department in the company. Two more were supposed to come, but when one backed out to go to the doctor, the other one followed suit. Weird. But I enjoyed the little party.

When I got back from lunch, I saw I had an e-mail from the person who went to the doctor. Asking if we could meet to discuss anything else about my responsibilities I needed to tell her. Oh, come on. I've trained you every day for the past week. I don't like the insinuation that I've been holding out on anyone, and I don't have time to shoot the breeze for two hours because someone doesn't feel like working. I packed up my things in a hurry--and God bless the smart Office Services person who came up with the clever idea of packing my Bookends poster in a big overnight envelope so it wouldn't get wet. (I've had that poster since 2004--guess I've always had books on the brain.)

At 2:30 I was called into a conference room where angel food cake, strawberries, and a nice card awaited me, along with just about everyone in the office who came to wish me well. I explained a little more about what I was doing--and dude, the librarian stereotypes were in overdrive. If I had a nickel for every librarian stereotype thrown at me in the past two months, those school loans would be well on their way to being paid off.

The person who went to the doctor's arrived right at the tail end of the cake-eating and stereotype-destroying. She sat right down at her desk and made phone calls. I was looking to start saying my goodbyes so I could bail before five and avoid any parking lot weirdness. Any further parking lot weirdness, anyway. Finally, she came over, and said she just wanted to touch base with me and make sure there wasn't anything left I had to tell her. I said nope, I've shown you everything and we're done. All she had left to say after that was, "Good luck." One down, a few more to go.

It had started raining after lunch. I took my copier paper box of personal possession out to the car and got my umbrella. Came back in, said some goodbyes, turned in my access card and file cabinet key (my office door has no lock), and walked out.

No tears, no looking back. I feel good about how I left. And I have bigger things to think about. I have to figure out what I'm going to pack for lunch Monday.

The Friday Five: Remember These?

For some odd reason, the song "Fall at Your Feet" by Crowded House popped into my head this morning, and it conjured up the memory of my late friend J. (we both had mad crushes on Neil Finn), and how she'd commented that it was the B-side of "Tall Trees." She knew that because she had ordered the cassingle with a handful of cereal boxtops. Anybody remember cassingles? I had quite a few. Still have a few, somewhere around here--I didn't get a CD player until I graduated from high school.

That served as the inspiration for this week's Friday Five. I sometimes roll my eyes at the nostalgia for the '80s, because it tends to be focused on the early '80s. Where's the love for the late '80s/early '90s? Well, anyway, regardless of where in time these fall, here are five random things that, in addition to cassingles, brought me joy in my earlier days:

1. Slap bracelets. O.K., the one I liked really belonged to Younger Sister. It was orange and had smiley faces on it. Oh yeah, the best thing was that it made a thoroughly satisfying slapping sound.

2. Hot Looks dolls. Taller, soft-sculpture versions of Barbie, with wire armatures. Younger Sister and I stored their clothes (which were super-trendy and impossible for anyone but dolls to get away with wearing) in a plastic grocery bag, and whenever we sat on the floor of the "Backroom" (TV room/addition) to play, my sister's cat would burrow into the bag and fall asleep on the clothes. We have a picture of the cat wearing a bright pink beret (see what I mean about trendy?).

3. Flannel shirts and construction boots. (I know what you are thinking, and you are right.) Freshman year of college, I found a pair of low-cut boys' construction boots at Payless. I wore them with green lacy shoelaces. When the laces wore out, I found purple lacy laces to sub in. I wore my hair shorter back then, and at one point a classmate said that looks-wise the celebrity I resembled most was Isabella Rossellini. I was the grunge version of Isabella Rossellini. Hopelessly feminine, that's me.

4. Sugar Smacks and Super Sugar Crisp. Heck, any cereal with the word "sugar" in it. Don't see that anymore. And don't try to tell me it's honey, Honey. Once a year, my sibs and I got little boxes of sugary cereal in our Christmas stockings, and it was heavenly. And agonizing. On the one hand, you wanted to gobble them up, but on the other hand, you wanted to savor them for as long as possible before it was time to go back to Corn Chex.

5. My Casio keyboard. Around fifth grade or so, my friend got one, and we had so much fun sampling stuff that I asked for one for my birthday. It also was a nice break from being shooed away from noodling on the piano while people were watching TV or talking on the phone.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

9/11/2008

Rollercoaster

Today was tough to get through, for the obvious reasons if you're an American. I'm also reminded that on this day in 2002, the president of my former job (my boss) announced to us, after we'd been crying all morning from listening to anniversary tributes, that the company was closing. Yeah, he was a jerk. A big, goofy, stammering jerk who had me setting up his new business as he was running the existing one into the ground.

I was also way tired from trying to set up my student health insurance, and failing and panicking, the night before. Work started off with volleying e-mails as we tried to get a meeting set up between my boss and the IT gal who supports the program I manage. Because my boss will not be at work tomorrow, and he didn't tell me. It's his annual birthday golf outing with his brothers, and while I don't begrudge him that, it would've been nice for him to mention that instead my hearing it from his admin as inside info. He shook my hand, thanked me for everything I've done, and wished me well.

The co-worker who has been iterating "It's not my job" for the past week also decided she's taking off tomorrow. She did not come by to say goodbye before leaving at five today, and frankly I am insulted. Not surprised, but still annoyed that she couldn't get over her passive-aggressive self for two minutes to say goodbye. We've worked together for nearly six years. (UPDATE 9/12/2008: It was revealed to me this afternoon that said co-worker also gave me the finger after I told her, "Sometimes, it might be your job," and turned to walk to my office. Your comment is right, Amy G. Ultimately, I feel very sad for her, that a woman over 60 needs to behave that way and enjoys being so freaking miserable.)

My exit interview is tomorrow morning, because the HR lady has the afternoon off. Then lunch with some co-workers (although obviously with only a portion of my own department present), packing up, and I'm done.

Holy cow.

9/10/2008

Minor, Somewhat Accidental Crimes

1. Last Friday, the apartment manager sent around a memo saying they were doing maintenance on the trees surrounding the parking lot behind our buildings Wednesday morning, and advised us to move our cars. Work was expected to start at 8. I usually leave for work around 8:20, so I set my alarm for 1/2 hr. earlier. I overslept and wound up walking out to my car at 8:02. One of the tree dudes setting out cones gave me the evil eye and almost didn't move out of the way when I started driving toward the exit.

2. When the one attorney I work for (not my boss) took me out for a farewell lunch today, a senior lady he knew from temple stopped at the table to say hi. He introduced me as an associate from work, and I shook her hand, but she kept looking at me suspiciously. I hope he called his wife the minute we got back to the office. I am not a homewrecker, y'hear?

3. During a training conversation with Princess Shortcut, I asked a few questions that made her give up information that more or less confirmed for me that I was wise to be skeptical of PTB's announcement of "we will be hiring someone." It didn't specify that they were hiring a replacement for me, and I do feel very sure that they are eliminating my position by distributing my responsibilities among several people, and hiring someone under PS. Because she asked me if I had any materials about training someone on the program.* Not that I was making big bucks, but they're definitely taking the cheap way out. I hope they know what they're doing.
*3a. The irony is, when they hired PS and I had to train her, she developed a bad attitude (dropped the mild-mannered, happy-happy facade that got her hired) and complained to both our boss and HR about me. She thought I was "too hard on her." Would not be surprised if the race card was played. It was nonsense--the program is very particular and there is little allowance for error. She needed to get it, and get it solidly, but she didn't like my "questioning"--i.e., I expected her to be able to come up with the next step in a given situation, and she wanted spoonfeeding. They abruptly ended the training, and she was to come to me only when she (screwed something up and) needed my help. Training materials? WHY? You told everybody my training was terrible. Not getting my help there, PS. You act as if you know better. Prove it.

4. By 4:30, my head was starting to hurt. It occurred to me that I had been doing training almost all afternoon, and had forgotten to drink anything or eat the plum I had in my tote bag. After work, I had to get cash to pick up my clothes from the tailor/dry cleaner, so I stopped at the chain drugstore in the strip mall owned by my work that's on the way home. There's an ATM in there, and they have a refrigerator case. I got a bottle of Lifewater ($1.49) and a big bottle of plain water ($1.39). The cashier scanned the Lifewater and the register beeped. He entered something, and then scanned the water. The total came to just over $2, and I went, "What?"
I looked at the screen, and the Lifewater scanned as $0.25 and non-taxable (wrong on both counts). I told the cashier (he seemed new, very young and confused) it couldn't be right. He said, "That's what it came up as." I replied that I didn't want him to wind up short, and he scoffed at that. So I paid and left. He didn't allow me to pursue it, so I accepted that a dead end's a dead end. I needed to get that sugar water in my system--apologies in advance if the prices in the drugstore go up. I tried! Really, I did!


9/09/2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

I can't believe I forgot to relate the strange encounter I had at work yesterday. That was way more interesting than all that other blather. It was fresher in my mind yesterday, obviously, but I'll do my best to retell it.

O.K., so after I'd finished my afternoon training around 4:30, I took a trip out to the ladies' room. I say "out" because after the merger, where we downsized our office by half, they had to build public restrooms on the ground floor so we could share them with the tenant that took the space we didn't need anymore. We used to occupy the entire ground floor and had restrooms within our office, but now we have to go out to the lobby and use our access cards to come back into the office. Fun.

Now that we have public restrooms, we never know who or what awaits us in the restroom. Nothing criminal has happened, thankfully, but people treat it like, well, a public restroom, and it's usually not an acceptable level of clean in there. And pretty often, people are using the facilities while on their cell phones. Which I thought was the case when I heard a woman's voice while I was in one of the stalls. Then she said something else, which made me think, "Oh, man, is she talking to me? I don't feel like having a conversation right now, with a complete stranger." So I didn't respond.

She finished up before I did, and I heard her washing her hands. When I came out, she was standing there, a petite, elderly black woman in white pants and a white tank up, with dark glasses, her short caramel hair brushed back from her face, looking around the room.

"Where's the trash can?" she asked me, and she held up a balled-up paper towel.
"Oh, right behind you, under the paper towel dispenser," I told her. "I know, it's hard to see."
She thanked me and threw out her trash. "I'm just waiting for my daughter to finish work," she added. "My husband's out there keeping me company." I realized I had seen her and a man sitting on one of the benches in the lobby when I'd walked out the office door.

"She's my baby daughter," she continued. "My youngest is 45. I have six children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren." I said that was great. I was going to add that my parents love being grandparents, but she went on: "I died in 2001." Huh?

"My heart stopped on the operating table." As she explained, she pulled the neck of her tank top to the side, to show me the scar on her chest. It looked papery and fragile, quivering and puckered at the edges, a lighter brown than the skin surrounding it. I almost wanted to touch it, to see what it felt like. I didn't understand all the medical terms she threw out there, and there were quite a few, but apparently the organ was in a great deal of distress--bad ventricles and the like. "But I came back. Apparently, God had more planned for me, so I'm still here."

"That's amazing," I told her, and I smiled back at her smile. We walked out to the lobby together, and she said, "Oh, thank you for listening to me. You have a blessed day." I thanked her and returned the good wishes.

O.K., so on the one hand: TMI. But on the other hand: That was cool. I can't explain why, but it was. And not the first time random people have come up to me out of nowhere during stressful times. About this time three years ago, I was sitting my car in the parking lot of my bank across the street, and I was sobbing because I had paid a bill too early, and didn't have enough to take care of other expenses before my next paycheck. I had mistakenly sent the bill in early because I was in a daze from all the emotional pain of a bad breakup and my family being torn to shreds by one member's problems. I was so confused and angry with myself that I just sat there and wept. You know when you get to the point where you're so upset you can't even think clearly so you know what you're going to do? Yeah, that upset.

Next thing I knew, there was a voice at the window. "Are you all right?" asked a middle-aged woman. She probably thought I was injured, the way I was sobbing. I told her the stupid thing I'd done. When you have to explain it to someone, you get clearer-headed pretty fast. I told her I'd be O.K., and my parents would help me out. She seemed satisfied with that, and then she asked if she could pray for me. I said sure.

So right then she launches into a prayer, out loud. That kind of startled me. I guess I'm kind of used to the way people say they'll pray for you--and then they go off and do it privately. But no, there I was, a startled white Catholic kid from the 'burbs, listening to this woman ask the Lord to take care of me. Surreal stuff.

Some people, like my dad, rarely go somewhere without running into someone they know. But me, well, I get something completely different. I'd call them encounters with random strangers; however, sometimes I think they're not so. . . random. And just maybe my guardian angel looks more like Della Reese than Roma Downey.

(Oh, and last night I had one of those dreams that was very bizarre and yet felt very real. I woke up wondering if the young man with the blond crewcut and freckles sprinkled across his nose and cheeks, who was wearing what looked like a soccer uniform to Mass, might be my future husband. I'd be O.K. with that. He had strong, comforting arms. Hope he has an appreciation of the random.)

9/08/2008

Work = Whatever.

The "brain drain" (on the Training Train) continues at work, although I'm facing it with a brighter perspective than I was last week. I realized that no matter how well I train them, things are going to be said about me after my departure. "She didn't show us that," "Nobody said we had to do that," etc. Not to mention the continuing demonstration of bad attitude from a longtimer who basically isn't interested in learning more than the minimum, and doesn't really care if she does it right at all, because, in her words, "It's something I don't expect to be asked to do very often, because it's not my job, and if they want me to do it, they're going to give me what I need to do it." Really, the "it's not my job" cliche'? I just expected something a little less predictable than that. Speaking of predictable, someone else in the department called in sick today--after telling someone outside of the department on Friday that she would be calling in sick because she was annoyed with our boss. What is with all this unprofessional, passive-aggressive stuff? How's that working for you? And people wonder why they can't advance in the company. Try growing up and proving you can handle greater responsibility.

In any event, it doesn't matter what they're going to say about me. I know I did my best. No one in the department could compare with my commitment, my work ethic, and my quality of work product--and they know it. They are terrified the same will be expected of them. (Too bad they don't understand that if they all worked together, took pride in their work, and had a little friggin' confidence, it would be fine.)

What changed my perspective? A few things. Saturday, I went to confession at the nearby church where I'd been going to Mass during the summer because my church was closed, on the weekends I wasn't singing at the other (farther away) parish where I help out. Hanna was dumping tons of rain on the area, but I decided to go anyway. I parked on the street; for Sunday Mass, I usually parked in the lot of the bank across the street. When I got back in the car after confession, I looked up and alongside the building there was a statue and a plaque with a quote from St. Vincent de Paul:

Place all your confidence in God and God will protect
you in a special way at all times. Then you need not worry about what
others say of you or do to you, because it will all turn out to your
advantage. Divine providence never fails in matters undertaken for His
love.


I wrote it down so I would remember it. (Bet you didn't know I just ran out to the car to retrieve it! It was scrawled on the back of the fax I was trying to send to the school district Saturday morning. I am grateful I live in a safe place where I can go out to the car late at night.)

Also, because my stomach has been in knots since my boss was sharp with me Thursday morning, I pulled out my reflexology book and on my way to reading about that, I came across a section on stress. It described my situation and my feelings so well, I was in tears by the end of the second paragraph. Somehow, I needed that more than I'd realized. I did give myself a little reflexology treatment on my hands before I went to sleep, and I think it did me some good as well.

Right now, I'm just trying to keep things light and not mind the crabbiness flung my way at work. It's not my problem; it's definitely theirs. I'm simultaneously excited and scared about starting school. . . and trying to figure out why I'm starting next week when classes don't begin until the week after that, but that's another story for another time.

I've even made peace with not having anything special planned after my last day on Friday. I had thought about inviting people over, but time got away from me while I was dealing with viruses (virii?) and lost paperwork. And I'm just too worn out from work to host anything. Besides, I didn't get my new curtain rod (in pewter, purchased while on vacation in NJ in July) up over the patio door yet--professional help is coming tomorrow. (Lord, I need somebody handy in my life. Dad has many talents, but as evidenced by the current falling-down rod in place, he's no Mr. Fix It.) My sister's coming with her roommate for the weekend and we're going to the ballgame Saturday. That's enough celebration for me. Although the home team could add to my happiness by winning. I don't think that's too much to ask.

9/05/2008

Friday Five: Hit Me with Some Happiness

For a short week (courtesy of Labor Day), this was a long, rough week. Last night was especially bad because Lappy the Laptop was hit with a nasty virus and I couldn't access a thing. I cried myself to sleep, fearing I'd just lost two years of grad school work, and being furious with myself for not backing up really any of it. (Gonna remedy that ASAP.) The only reason I'm able to post right now is that an awesome co-worker in the I.T. department took pity on me and cleaned not one but twelve viruses (virii?) off Lappy, who had come in to work with me because I was determined to find someone, somewhere to fix it, and I couldn't leave it in the very hot, publicly parked car.

Speaking of work, right now I'm getting a ton of "teaching" experience as I train my co-workers. . . and I say co-workers with an "s," because it is completely undecided as to who is taking over what responsibility. . . and they all have pretty bad attitudes. Funny, they said they were so happy for me, but Tuesday afternoon seems so long ago. I've had a headache since yesterday morning, and it refuses to go away. Could it be tension? Nahhhhh. I know it's definitely not from the high school's informing me yesterday that there doesn't seem to be any documentation of my placement there for student teaching. Did I mention my advisor's on maternity leave until October?

Obviously, I need to get my mind off some really crazy stuff. So let's talk about five things that make me happy right now:

1. Air conditioning. It's one of the few luxuries I allow myself (1) in the car, to manage my allergies, and (2) at home, to keep the humidity from causing the carpet to buckle. I'm not excited about all the rain predicted to arrive tomorrow, but I am so over the upper 80s/lower 90s temps.

2. CVS. Even though I totally forgot to get tissues for my desk, it was a little bit of a pick-me-up to get myself a much-needed new toothbrush, soda, and girly-girl stuff like conditioner and nail polish. Which reminds me. . .

3. Nail polish. It's cheap and it comes in array of colors to suit your mood. (Um, if you're a girly-girl, I guess. Dunno what manly-men do that's comparable--run over ketchup packets with the car?) Plus it's kinda calming--forces me to concentrate while I'm using it, and then sit still while it's drying. (And, no, I am not a huffer.) I got "Blood Red" and "Shining"--hmm, those sound like vampire names or something. Speaking of vampires. . .

4. This book. I blew through the first one. I hate the number of typos (I hope they're typos), and the vocabulary and writing style is a bit limited (although considering the narrator is in high school, maybe the vocab thing is understandable), but the action and characters are interesting. If you had asked me in my early college days what I thought of vampires, I would've stuck my nose in the air and said I didn't get the attraction. The short-lived Kindred series changed my mind, although admittedly I first started watching it because the guy I was seeing was into vampires. And "Buffy" was interesting, of course, at least for the first few seasons.

5. The sheer fact that tomorrow is not a work day. After I go to yoga class, and get my stuff in off the patio so it doesn't blow away, I'm going bask in the joyous calm of reading, and polishing my nails. Ah, simple pleasures.

Hope your weekend is filled with them.



9/02/2008

Today Wasn't All Bad

I heard the good news that Mighty Maggie and her husband welcomed a new baby--(Mini) Mighty Molly!

Weird Fallout

Today I went into work with the awareness that most likely at some point during the day they were going to tell my department that I was leaving. It did happen, in the afternoon. It was a bit of a relief that Princess Shortcut was not in today, and the co-worker with whom I am fairly close decided to take the afternoon off. I called her after dinner. She took it much better hearing it from me, one-on-one, and not from the department VP along with everybody else. As a matter of fact, she told me she'd thought I was overqualified for being at the company right from the beginning, so she was glad I was moving on.

Naturally, everybody else in the department was surprised. And confused. The overall response was that they thought I was leaving to start pursuing my degree. No, I clarified, I've been going to school full-time for the past two years. While working full time. GASP!

They said they'd be hiring somebody to replace me, but they'd be working out what to do in the interim. I'm pretty sure they are contemplating discontinuance of the program I currently maintain. This morning my boss asked me if I could generate back-up versions of all the sets of pre-negotiated language for our tenants and store them on our server, and I'm wondering why, when we can call up any one set, at any time. At least two other people in the department know how to do it using the program. I told him there would be a storage issue, as there are over 250 sets. Each set averages around 600 KB, so 250 times that? And the time it takes to generate and save them and move them where he wants? Ugh. I said I'd check with the I.T. department about that and get back to him.

Of course, I knew I couldn't get to my car at the end of the day, unscathed. Princess Shortcut's protege', El Slackerino, was right behind me as I walked out at 5, and after he offered me a handshake he launched into his monologue. . .

"[Kate P], I just wanted to say I wish you the best-"

(Well, that sounds O.K., thanks; can I go before you get weird and/or make this all about you?)

"-I mean, I'm sorry our friendship didn't really develop--you know, for two people who like, believe in God, and follow God, you'd think it wouldn't be that hard. . ."

(Uh huh, yeah, now it's weird. Why am I the only one who makes you feel compelled to bring up God, and in this way? I'm pretty sure you're gonna get hit by lightning. Can I go?)

". . . and, um, I'm gonna pray that God, you know, guides you on the right path--you know, to where you should go."

(Dude, I'm pretty sure I'm on the right path, but thanks for the prayers. Oh, wait, I get it--I'm supposed to be grateful to you. You think I'm leaving because I'm troubled or something, and couldn't hack it working here and being friends with you. Thanks for clearing that up. I thought it was because I had started to plan a career change before you were even hired, but now I see it had everything to do with you. And, apparently, God. BTW--lightning. Gotta go.)

So then he's starting to repeat himself--honestly, the man can not come to a stop while prattling off the baloney--and did I mention he's wearing his mirrored sunglasses the entire time he's been talking at me? I can't tell if he's being sincere at all. Heck, I can't even tell if he's looking directly at me.

And I don't care! I want to go home and cook my eggplant, O.K.? Finally, he accepted one of my repeated "thank you" attempts and let me get in my car.

I wonder how quickly after that he got Princess Shortcut on speed dial. Cannot wait for her to darken my office door with a high pitched, "Ooooh, you're leeeaaaaving?" in the morning.

Maybe I can tell her I'm too busy saving 250 sets of language to the server to talk.