Monday, August 16, 2010

brake. Brake. BRAAAAAAAKE!

Son #1 has his learner's permit. I'll be in the passenger seat a great deal of the time for the next few years, as all the Sons learn to drive.

I sound exactly like my father, and fully expect to put my foot through the floor where the brake should be by the time Son #4 is on the road.

Laissez le bon temps roulez!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Questions and statements from Son #3, before 7 a.m. on a Monday

How does the Catholic Church canonize saints?
If you become a saint, does that mean you were always a saint?
Why does Uncle ____ hate the Catholic church so much? What are the SPECIFICS?
Why does he think that? That makes no sense.
When I'm a saint I'm going to send a meteor to the Amazon...and manatees...and baboons. Millions of lives saved. (Trust me, that is the short version)
Why is that not a certifiable miracle? There's no scientific explanation.
Why do people drag chairs instead of lifting them?
Even when teachers explain that they make noise downstairs?
And dragging them is actually harder than carrying them, because they are not heavy?
What do you think of the current Pope?
Maybe some saint is causing Tiger Woods' extended funk.
What do you think is the best haircut for an albino?

There were more, but they just kinda flowed over me and I can no longer remember them. I have only been up about one hour.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Rol's always good for a meme

28 Questions

From Rol, who gives me more than anyone else I've never met.

1. Was your dad named after anyone?

Yes. He comes from a long line of people named after each other. Were I a boy, I would have been named after his brother. I feel slightly bad about that.

2. What do you think is the minimal age to get married?

Somewhere in the late teens.

3. What’s the longest time you‘ve been involved with the same person?

25 years.

4. What actor/actress do you consider hot at the moment?

The only show I watch these days is Mad Men, so let's go with that guy who plays Don Draper. Although in the shirtless scenes I always want to tell him to have that big, hairy mole removed.

5. What is your favourite album by a band?
The Allman Brothers put out a "best of" in about 1979. It's in my car.


6. What is your favorite album by an individual?
John Prine, Bruised Orange/Chain of Sorrow.


7. What is something you‘d rather be a bit dirty?

Trucks.

8. What was the last TV show you watched?

Mad Men. Janey was wearing my dress (check the profile photo!) at the Christmas party.

9. How many people have you met from the blogosphere? Who are they?

I only know the bloggers I knew before they were bloggers, although I have had long email/FB conversations with some and think they would make great friends in real life. I'm looking at you, Celtic Knot and Sue.

10. What's your philosophy on life?

Don't worry about it. You'll figure it out. Just keep moving.

11. Do you think prescription drugs are over prescribed?

I think a lot of them are. On the other hand, I think people in end-of-life pain should be able to be as jacked up as they want.

12. Would you keep a secret from me if you thought it was in my best interest?

Yes. I'm a grown-up.

13. What is your favorite memory in the last year?

There have been a lot of good ones.

14. What is your favourite guilty pleasure?

I'm not sure I believe in that concept.

15. Tell me one odd/interesting fact about you:

I have no sense of direction.

16. You can have three wishes (for yourself, so forget all the 'world peace etc' malarky) - what are they?

i) Perfection

ii) Wealth

iii) Discipline

17. Who would you want to get together with and make a cake?

Paula Dean. Although it would probably kill me.

18. Which country is your spiritual home?

The one I'm living in.

19. What is your big weakness?

Stubbornness

20. What's your favourite Spielberg film?

Raiders of the Lost Ark.

21. What was your best/favourite subject at school?

English.

22. Describe your accent:

Maryland. But not Baltimore.

23. If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

Good lord, yes.

24. What do you wear to sleep?

Often, the clothes I wore that day. Occasionally a nightgown.

25. What is your favorite casual outfit to wear?

Jeans and a crisp button-down shirt. and heels. We must not forget the heels.

26. Do you use cigarettes or alcohol?

No, and only exceedingly rarely.

27. If I only had one day to live, what would we do together? (If you have no idea, just say something crazy, it'll entertain me!)

Probably sit and talk. After all, you're practically dead.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Maple Leaved

Our Canadian houseguests left yesterday morning. I went to work, came home, ate something that required no cooking and went to bed.

"You realize it's 8:00, right?"

Yes, yes I do. 8:00, and my bed looks as inviting as possible.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A sampling from the girly tray

I am not allowed to talk about what I'm writing about at work, obviously.

Go buy the paper on Wednesday :)

But, hey, I can tell you this much: Today, I wrote a profile on a local political candidate. I wrote about a church that is under construction. I wrote about the concerns of a certain group of local businesspeople, and the state's response to current conditions. And I wrote about a health care program.

None of that is really spectacular, but it was interesting for me, and much of it also was slightly out on the edge of the Girl Beat. Why's that? because people are busy.

There were so many candidates, the candidate profile people didn't have time for them all, so they gave me one.

The church, well, that is solidly in my beat, but I think I did a better job interviewing, this time, so that should the article be picked up by the Post I won't have to add anything to it. Love them facts 'n figures!

The business group thing? I got that assignment kind of at the last minute. I am always happy to grab Interesting Stuff at the last minute, because ordinarily that would have been someone else's beat, but he was off work that day, so LUCKY ME!

And the health thing took me forever to research, because I was enjoying myself and just kept interviewing people. And then the people I was supposed to photograph backed out. And a lot of people did not answer my phone calls and emails. But all in all it was still interesting to research, and I think will be genuinely helpful to some readers.

The health article and the business group article both came out kinda long, so I wonder how that'll go over. I don't mind if they both get edited way down, but I don't want to upset anyone, either, ya know? I'm still a newbie there.

Tomorrow is a proofreading day, and then I am going to write a sports article.

I've been carrying my notes for that around forever, because other things seemed to take precedence. Every time something more important came up, or something I could knock out in a very short period of time between interviews, I'd push the sports thing farther back in queue. It's finally at the front of the line, and yes, it has also occurred to me that to some people sports articles are the whole reason to buy a newspaper.

Then, tomorrow night I am going to cover a couple community events. Should be fun.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Weekend Dustbunny

The Sons and I have been cleaning house, today. It's not done, but it is a lot better around here than it was this morning, and that is generally my standard for progress on any front.

We have company coming on Tuesday--haven't seen these people in 14 years, and they'll be spending the night at our house as they travel from Toronto to Florida. I'd like the house to be orderly and all that, but---I'm not even going to be home until about 9:30 that night, so I pretty much have to do what I can, today, and then let the rest just go. I can only do what I can do.

I keep telling myself that no one in their right mind comes to the house of a working couple with teen sons and multiple pets and expects it to look fabulous, but...well, you know how it is.

I refuse to think that the goal of life is a freshly-shampooed rug, even though that WAS kind of on my tentative plan for this weekend.

Whaddya gonna do?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Why does this always happen? Why does this always happen to me?

Darn it, I thought the crying deacon photo and its accompanying article were going to appear in the paper today. Then someone had the audacity to get murdered, and the graduation rates have gone up, and there have been all sorts of other Actual News Items to report, and...crying deacon waits.

Crying Deacon is art, baby. Not my art, but the photographer's, and I get to brush up against it.

Maybe next issue.

And for those of you who aren't sure I know it's no big deal, here's a video to make you feel better:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

AM I STILL ALIVE?

Actually, ALF, yes, I am.

Today, though, it is a jittery sort of aliveness that comes from trying to write before the meeting---going to the meeting and being cornered by a county commissioner and then by a member of the school board who makes me swear everything is Off The Record---trying to write after the meeting---going to another meeting, but getting lost because when they said, "It's at the corner of 4 and HGTrueman," they meant one of the OTHER corners of 4 and HGTrueman, so it took me 45 minutes to find them---running errands all over town---coming home to a dog who smells you and a bunch of family members who want to talk and the house is messy but Hubby bought frozen pizza so no one will starve.

And maybe I had too much diet Coke today, too.

Things are hoppin', at casa de Wasteoftime. Hubby got laid off, and today was his last day, but his employer is trying to find him another job, so he has an interview tomorrow.

The Sons are doing Sonly things, which occasionally include washing the dishes or throwing in a load of laundry, but also include tossing DVD cases on the floor and trashing the kitchen while I sleep. Ya never know, really, which way it's going to go, but I am honored to be their mom and thrilled to see them on a daily basis.

The Dog Lady's dogs seem to love me. I am learning to love OUR dog, too. Paying it forward, so to speak. And the Dog Lady and I have become fast friends, which is great.

I have about 17 things I would love to do today, but by the same token it is nearly 8:30 and the smart thing to do would be to just have a slice of that formerly frozen pizza and relax a bit. Read my book. Chat on FB.

All is well, all will be well, the chaos is minimal and I have an adorable stuffed walrus on my desk.

How's by you?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

If a sky full of crap always lands in your lap



You got it: I'm going dancing, tonight. And "day 6 of headache from hell" can't stop me. If you're anywhere near Falls Church, VA, you should meet me @ Bangkok Blues. Guaranteed to be a great night.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Breathe into a paper bag moment of the day

At one of my newspapers, I sit in a cluster of 4 desks: the Navy guy, the Crime guy, the Education guy and me. We all write a bit more broadly than these categories, but for bloggy simplicity we'll go with that, OK?

I like them all and consider them all good at what they do. The Education guy started out at my job, years ago, so although I do not know what he earns, I know it is at least several thousand dollars per year more than I get.

Today, Education Guy realized that on his income, his 2 children qualify for free school lunches (for non-local readers: here we determine that based on a combination of household income and family size. So, the larger your family, and the lower your income, the more likely you are to qualify for assistance).

He looked so completely disheartened. I mean, this week he canceled cable TV, because it was getting expensive, and started applying for part-time jobs as a cashier or pizza delivery guy, for the extra income, but with the hours he works (Like all of us, more than 40 hours--he works a LOT more than 40, actually, but of course none of us is allowed to admit that on our time sheets) he's not sure when he can fit that in.

I think it had not REALLY hit him, though, until he saw that, today.

His family is officially below the poverty line.

And, yes, as Education guy, he interviews people every day who make more than he ever will, and who complain relentlessly about their poor compensation.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Kinda like snow.

Recently I spent an afternoon sharing a small, confined space outdoors with someone.

Can I get any more vague than that, in an effort to not tip off who I was working for at the time? Freelancing, and all. Anyway.

She had extremely dry skin, and mentioned it. Since I am still a Mom, I have everything in my purse, so I offered her my lotion. She declined.

A bit later she complained again, and I offered again, and no, she didn't want any.

As a mother of TEENAGERS, this is when my usual "Then stop complaining, if you won't accept help," impulse kicks in, but I did not whip THAT one out, as there is no future in being rude to people who can get you paid.

A third time, she started to complain about her dry skin. And then, just as the wind picked up, she started scratching, violently.

The skin flakes looked like snow, or ash, as they landed on me. There were that many, falling lazily all over me. I LEAPED off the bench, begging her to stop scratching. Which she did.

All this to say, I have very little to blog about these days that is not boring, or gross, or something I can't mention because it could wreck my career.

On the bright side, I am going to cash in early because my bedside table has a great book on it: World Without End, by Ken Follett.

Friday, June 25, 2010

SOTD returns


...or, Male Readers Feel Free to Talk Football and Politics.

My shoe collection had dwindled down to almost nothing. For the past month I have been wearing the same sad, ugly, uncomfortable, squeaky pair of loafers to work every day. This gave me persistent Sad Face.

Today, however, I found 7 pair of shoes at the thrift store. Wooot! To celebrate, I shall share them with you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day



Here for your edification are a few Classic Sayings of My Dad, for Father's Day. He's the baby in the photo, by the way.

Measure twice, cut once.
No daughter of mine is going to leave the house looking like that.
You think you can live on love, but one of these days you're gonna want a cheeseburger.
You've got to broaden your horizons.
We'll see.
If you want something specific, ask for it. If you ask for "a couple dollars," you're gonna get two.
In high school, the teachers chase you around, trying to teach. In college, you chase the teachers around, trying to learn.
Don't get an English degree. Study business.
Women civilize men.
Men are wired to protect and provide for their families. You think you understand, but you can't, because you're not a man, and I'm sorry but that is the truth.
Don't move to Asia. They make you eat rice three times a day.
Trucks are supposed to have dents. That proves you did stuff.
It's not hard, you just have to do it.
And the all-time favorite: Listen to your mother. I have to live with her.

Friday, June 11, 2010

George Bush Doesn't Care About Tone-Deaf People

Today started out sucky. By lunchtime, my coworkers in the newsroom were afraid to come near my desk, because the ooze of awful was sure to spread. But somehow after that it calmed down. And tonight? Tonight was genius.

Son #4 got coupons for CiCi's Pizza, which, for those out of the loop, is a horrible all-you-can-eat pizza place.They have great cinnamon rolls, and a passable salad bar, and it was about $32 to feed all 5 of us, so OK, we went.

And when we got there, they had karaoke.

We stayed for about 2 hours, because we were laughing so hard. It was hilarious. But the best part was when Son #1 grabbed the microphone from the little blonde girl singing a Taylor Swift song and said,

"I think you're a really good karaoke singer, and I respect you, but Beyonce is the best karaoke singer, EVER."

I have not laughed so hard in months. And boy, did I need it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Hurt (your wallet) Locker

Let me just quote Son #3:

"Gym lockers are mandatory. I never used mine. And I did not know, when they assigned me the locker, that there was a $3 fee for it. If I don't pay the fee, they won't let me graduate. I had to pay for a regular locker, too. $5. And I shouldn't have had to pay for that, either, because I never used it, never wanted it, but it's mandatory. It's not a lot of money, but still. It's like when you're at a stop light and some hobo 'washes' your windshield with dirty water, and expects you to pay him. Of course, there's nothing wrong with NOT paying the hobo, but if you don't pay the government, they won't let you graduate."

Excellent analogy, my son who was just informed he has been selected for a program for students with the potential to be high academic achievers.

And on a totally unrelated note (or absolutely connected, depending on your perspective), yesterday I had to proofread an article about negotiations between the school board and the teacher's union of a nearby public school system.

The union rep insisted that the schools would never be able to hire enough summer school teachers, if they did not raise the pay rate by $4/hour. The rate the school system is currently offering summer school teachers is, according to the union rep, "not even what they pay a first-year teacher."

What is this pittance they expect teachers to accept in exchange for their services on a summer morning? This ridiculously low amount no teacher in a sane frame of mind would stoop to accept?

$41/hour.

No, that is not a typo.

Honest.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Nip it, in the bud

Today was my 3rd day at the newspapers, which actually was only my 2nd day at the local one.

Got that straight?

Anyway, today they had their weekly "what's everyone working on?" meeting. Since I'm new, and the paper had been kinda holding my position open for a while, and I am writing Features, I am just starting to figure out what to write. I have a few article ideas which were handed to me on my first day, generally with a groan of relief that someone, anyone (else), is going to write these.

I'm doing a good bit of religious coverage, and First! African-American! Woman! stuff, and volunteer profiles, and stuff women do, and evergreen stories of happy people and kindness and adorable puppies and...you got it, Christine's covering the Girl Beat.

Not entirely, but, hey, I can see it.

This afternoon the newsroom was mostly empty for a while--just me and the police scanner. And then my desk buddy, who covers the Navy as part of his beat, came back from an assignment.Since the Navy is his beat, I feel obligated to give him first dibs on stuff like that. I also kinda figure that if he sees me as someone who gives him work when I find it, he'll pass things to me when he has extra stuff, too.

It's that half-Italian upbringing: we know all about One Hand Washes the Other.

I mentioned a few article ideas I have, and a few more which were suggested to me by a good friend---things with a Navy tie-in. I loved my 2 months on base, and would take any opportunity to go back.

He snagged one, and left the rest for me, and then he acknowledged that my instincts are correct: I am in a room full of men, and they all are glad they can shove all their Girly Crap my way.

And I'm more than happy to do it. All of it. I just need to make sure that they all can see that once my daily ration of Girly Crap is completed, I can also cover harder stuff. Realistically, that is not going to happen all that often, I don't think. The guys aren't going to just hand over stories about Things That Go Boom, because they like those stories. They'll mostly give me the stuff that makes their eyes glaze over. I know that. Heck, they even admit it.

But I made it clear, I think, that when they need to be 2 places at once, no one needs to hesitate. I am, after all, Sickeningly Industrious.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I'll take 2

I realized I need to bring my Desk Essentials to work on Wednesday, and again on Thursday, since I have 2 desks, half an hour apart.

Wow! Two desks, and they are mine unless I bungle. Not "until the job is done" or "until she returns" or "until some other circumstance over which you have no say steps in," but rather "because they are your desks and you will work here."

I feel just a little like Slim Pickens.

I can hear the phone call, now

Son #3 requested this morning that, should he move out before the cats die, I call him with the news of their death.

"I want to know," he said.

He asked me to call if one of them catches a terrorist, too.

So let's all hope that some day in the distant future I have to call Son #3 to inform him that Jake and Ellie died valiantly in the cause of freedom, and there is a giant pile of terrorist intestines on the front porch.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Flu: It's a good thing

Yesterday I was vertical and productive for 9 whole hours. Today, I feel about 80% myself. I think I'm on the mend, and Sons #1 and 3 seem to be improving, and Hubby and Sons #2 and 4 may have dodged this particular infestation entirely. So, that is good.

What is better, though, is that I have been in bed, pretty well unable to do anything but blow my nose and wait for the angel of death.

I realized a few things.

The positions I have NOT been offered have each had some pretty serious flaws to them--flaws which I was not able to see, for the most part, until after I did not get the offer. Not in a sour grapes sort of way, more like the Dude: "I've got information, man..."

So, maybe, on the career tip, things are working out better than I'd been crediting.

Also, while I have been sick, the family has been taking care of things. That means a lot. Hubby and the Sons have been taking my bout with the flu seriously, and stepping up a bit, and I appreciate it.

And now, I think I am getting back in bed until the Sears man calls.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now THAT's a comeback

Last night, Son #1's band came over for a meeting. They were standing in the court, waiting for everyone to arrive, when our elderly next-door-neighbor started to stare.

Yeah, at the dozen young black men standing in the street with my son.

She pulled Son #1 aside and asked him if he felt SAFE. Which of course he did. "Yeah, sure, this is my GOSPEL band, they're good guys," he said, or something like that.

She told them not to spend too much time running around outside, and not to play late. And then she walked away.

Which is when the drummer turned to her and shouted, "YEAH, I bet you used to OWN one of us!"

Not "it," but "something"

Yesterday I accepted two part-time jobs. They kinda add up to one full-time job. I'll start next Wednesday.

I'll be writing for the local newspaper 3 days each week, and for the paper one county over on the other 2 days. Features, mostly, and Other Stuff as the rest of the writing staff need assistance. They're owned by the same company, so they'll treat it all as one job. Which means I will be eligible for a 401(k).

But the total pay is: what? Floor scrapings? It is less than half of what they were talking about at the job I did not get last week; that's what it is. And, yeah, that is a major ego hit, even though several people at that company have reassured me that I am in the pipeline for the next tech writer slot to appear, and even though the newspapers seem thrilled to have me.

I keep telling myself, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." I also keep telling myself that I am pretty sure my Dad made more than that as a guy in his early 20s, with one semester of college under his belt, back in the 1970s. And that at the time, that was enough to support a family of 4.

That is probably not the most useful thing to be focusing on at this point.

It is so little, I could almost cry, except I have a raging head cold so I have no energy for that. I feel, as my favorite Southern woman puts it, like Hitler on a biscuit. But, hey, kudos to me for doing a job interview with a raging head cold. I am nothing if not determined.

It is better than nothing, as they say. And steadier than freelancing. It will keep me shoving stuff into my clips file, which has at this point grown large enough to require a third 27-quart storage tub. But, you guessed it, if I can find another position with higher pay, I will drop this gig like a hot rock.

And, yes, I will have to cut back on my Census duties, but since there is only a few weeks' worth of work left on that effort I figure I can at least work on the weekends and evenings, on that.

Perhaps once that is done, I can look into taking some sort of certification course which will improve my hireability in the larger world. There's grant money out there for people like me, or so Facebook keeps saying.

In the mean time, I don't have to be at work for the Census until noon today, so I am living on Zicam and tea.

And, yes, a less pathetic person would not even bother posting this blog entry. Please feel free to ignore. I am sick. It is crapping up my already less than stellar mood.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's a good day in the Boondocks

Son #1 had his Criminal Justice commencement ceremony this morning. Yes, I think the entire auditorium heard me cheer. I think Hubby may have gotten a few photos, too. And I got to witness Final Inspection, which was fun.

Sons #2 and 3 may call me Meine Fuhrer (to my FACE, even!), but the Sons do seem to be tidying up a bit more, and with fewer reminders, than they were 3 months ago when I first started full-time work. Yes, the Census is back to part-time, really, but I have also been doing some freelance stuff, so it DOES add up to a full work week.

Tomorrow I have a sort of interview thingy with the publisher of the local newspaper. They asked me if I want to take a part-time slot as a feature writer. I am interested, even though they pay in floor scrapings, because it is a foot in the door (and continued income, and would mesh well with the Census while I continue to look for full-time work).

And the Sears guy came back to figure out why our dishwasher STILL is not really working well and he concluded that the problem is, we eat too many leafy green vegetables.

Well, actually he suggested that we need to scrape our leafy green vegetables off the dishes before we load them in the washer, but Hubby and I agree that it just makes more sense to abandon all things our dishwasher finds challenging, and transition to an overcooked pasta and rice diet.

And the boss from my last temp job has offered to make good on his promise to teach me all about Photoshop and Quark, soon. I'm psyched.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I think I'll take up boxing

"Thanks, Pam. No, no, really, it's OK. It'll be OK. I'll find something. Thanks for pushing so hard for me. Keep me in mind for future openings. Yes, I'd appreciate that. No, really, it's OK. Something will turn up, sooner or later. And I have the Census and some freelance stuff, for now. I'll be fine. You did all you could. Have a great day, Pam."

Yes, today I had to comfort the HR woman over the phone, when she called to tell me they decided to go with a candidate who had more IT and information assurance experience.

Because I am no artist, on Draw Mohammed Day


Let me just use the images that have proven so eye-catching in the past.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Census Weirdness

I went out Enumerating today. I had a few houses in my book on which I have been unable to get information.

A few were obviously vacant, but I am not authorized to make that designation unless someone in the area verifies for me that, yes, that house with the tree growing into the roof is abandoned. Fortunately, on my third trip down that road, I ran into a woman who was able to sort that out for me for all of them at once.

I went back to one I'd visited a while back and caught the man at home. He stood in the doorway--well, kinda hunched in the doorway, as he was too tall to fit under the door frame--and before I could ask him any questions, he said, "I'm not going to give you any names or birth dates or social security numbers or income or anything."

"No problem," I said. "They don't make me ask about social security numbers or income, anyway. But can I ask you a few questions?"

"We don't have any illegal immigrants in here, neither."

"Yeah, really mostly all I need is a number. Can you tell me how many people were living here on April first?"

"Two."

"They want me to ask names and birth dates, but we can skip that since you don't want to say. Can you tell me what race each person is?"

"We're all white. Everyone around here is white."

Well, OK, then.

Since I am also white, well, I had to wonder if he would have said it the same way, and so forcefully, if I were not. But I was not about to ask, because he pretty much looked like he was ready to slug me the whole time.

I also stopped by an odd apartment building in the woods. You would never know it was back there, but I had found them once and gotten some of the information I'm supposed to collect, but not all. I've been back a couple more times with no luck. Today was my last attempt to catch someone willing to talk to me--as per usual, a lot of cars were there but no one was answering their doors.

Leaving the property I turned right, deeper into the woods, instead of left, toward the main road.

I have no sense of direction.

None.

Really.

Just ask anyone.

I realized it almost immediately, but since this was just a long, narrow, gravel road there wasn't much opportunity to turn around. I try to avoid using people's driveways, so I drove to the end, where the street got slightly wider, and turned back toward the main road.

As I passed one of the houses, a man flagged me down. "YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN!" he said. I was going about 20 mph at the time, which I think is not all that fast for a straight road, even if it is a bit on the narrow side. But, hey, I am paid to count people, not to argue with them, so I said, "Yes, sir."

"You should not even be here," he said.

"Yeah, I know, I got lost so I had to turn around."

"You should not even be on this road and you are driving too fast."

At this I smiled, waved, and started to pull away, and a woman came out of the house, screaming so much her entire face was red. I am not at all sure what she was trying to say to me, but you have to imagine--I was beyond the end of her 100-yard-long driveway, politely excusing myself from her angry husband, and all I could think was, "If you two were not so busy telling me to get away from your house, I would be several miles away by now, but OK..."

I also went to a house I'd almost given up and impossible. Every time I came by, they were gone, or only their young children were there, and yet today I lucked out and caught them all at home. They invited me in.

I'm not supposed to go into people's houses, but sometimes I do, if it makes more sense. Best part of that house? The Race question.

"We're all rednecks. 100 percent, All-American Redneck. You can put THAT on your form."

And he said it with such a charming smile, while changing his baby daughter, I was tempted to write it in. We are expected to write in that sort of stuff, if they want us to. His wife, though, told me, "We're all white. Well, I'm a little Mexican, but that's it, and the kids aren't Mexican enough to count, so we're white."

I'm not about to decide how Mexican you have to be to count as Mexican Enough, so I told her that she could have me check that box for her kids if she wanted. She decided to stick with just white.

They then had a bit of an argument over how many people to include on the form. "The kids move out and they boomerang right back. They turn 18 and you think they're gone and then they come back with more."

My attitude for the whole thing is pretty much just one of gratitude for the job. I don't care what boxes you want me to check. You can identify yourself any way you like. "No skin off my nose," as my mom would say.

I do wonder, though, why we are required to fill out those forms in pencil. Our payroll forms have to be in pen, "for the scanning machines." But the Census data has to be in pencil, also ostensibly for the benefit of the scanning machines.

Well, which is it?

Conspiracy theorists can start riiiiight about there.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Job Interview: Wish Me Luck....Again

I have a job interview in 4 hours. I know a good bit about the company but not all that much about the position. It's with Hubby's company (but not his department, program, or building; only our checks would come from the same place).

I sorta know the man I'd be working for--he and Hubby have worked together in the past, and for a while we were in spin class together*. I have met the government contact person I'd be supporting--she also worked with Hubby in the past. I think being a relatively familiar face can't hurt.

It is a position at the Navy base, and you all know how much I loved working there this spring.

I know I am competent, adaptable, bright and hard-working, and that all that can compensate somewhat for the fact that I am unfamiliar with some of the software I'd have to use. I can learn that stuff, if they give me a chance.

So, uhhhh...wish me luck, yet again.

*He is the only person I ever saw who refused to drink water in spin class. He said, at the time, that he doesn't bring a water bottle when he runs, so he doesn't need one on the bike. Which makes perfect, logical sense. And also makes him a bit terrifying, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I always steal memes from Rol

And so here I go again.

What's your favorite Doctor Seuss book?
Horton the Elephant Hatches an Egg.

If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be?
I think the Brady Bunch house.

What's the longest you've gone without sleep?
Maybe only 24 hours. I am a sleep wimp. I do not pretend otherwise.

What's your favorite Barry Manilow Song?
Oh, no. No.

Who's your favorite Muppet?
Sam the Eagle.


What's the habit you're proudest of breaking?
Turning down invitations because I have scut to do.

What's your favorite website?
lucianne.com

What's your favorite school supply?
Pencil sharpeners, and those big, pink erasers.

Who's your favorite TV attorney?
Uhhh...I dunno. I don't really have one.

What was your most recent trip of more than 50 miles?
I drove 87 miles, round-trip, yesterday to drop off paperwork for the Census. Before that, I drove to Northern Virginia to cover a seminar on aluminum auto body technology.

What's the best bargain you've ever found at a garage sale or junk shop?
For a while, I was doing really well on shoes. Not so much, lately.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I was getting ready to drop Son #4 off at preschool, when the first plane hit. I had just gotten home, when the second hit. We spent the rest of the day trying to track down Hubby's mom, who lives kinda near the Pentagon, and my uncle, who was stuck in New Mexico after the planes were all grounded (And who looks kinda Arab, and who got some Suspicious Looks for a while).I also spent some time in the preschool, volunteering. We ended up picking up all the Sons from school, early. Everyone wanted to have their children nearby.

What's your favorite tree?
Japanese red maple; ever since I was a kid I have loved them.

What's the most interesting biography you've read?
I'm not usually captivated by straight biographies. I do like reading books which include or are influenced by some personal stuff. Like Steven King's On Writing, or George Orwell's Burmese Days.

What do you order when you eat Chinese food?
Hot & Sour Soup, lemon chicken, Szechuan string beans. And something with tofu.

What's the best costume you've ever worn?
Freshman year at college, I was invited to a costume party at the last minute. I was wearing gray pants at the time. I put on a gray sweater and went as dryer lint. I felt witty and clever and oh, so subtle.

What's your least favorite word?
Douche. Lord have mercy I will be glad when that is no longer a word you can use to describe an unpleasant person.

If you had to be named after one of the 50 States, which would it be?
Georgia. Actually, they almost did name me that.

Who's your favorite bear?
Smokey the Bear. My uncle gave him to me when I was a baby and I still have him, although he has lost his badge and hat and a fair amount of stuffing.

Describe something that's happened to you for which you have no explanation.
When I was a kid, I was sitting in the yard w/my best friend Shirlee when a strange insect landed on my leg. It stayed there for a while, and it felt oddly warm and uncomfortable on my skin. When it flew away, there was a brown spot where the insect had been. I still have that spot.

If you could travel anywhere in Africa, where would it be?
Morocco, maybe, or Egypt, or South Africa. But I am not really hot to go.

What did you have for lunch yesterday?
McDonald's Southwest Salad with grilled chicken and a huge diet Coke.

Where do you go for advice?
Depends on the question. I hunt out Subject Matter Experts.

Which do you use more often: dictionary or thesaurus?
Dictionary.

Have you ever been snorkeling? Scuba diving?
No, and no.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What they don't tell you about the Census

Before I started enumerating, people generally had the same set of concerns: Would I get Scary Territory? Would someone attack me? Would people say angry things because I Work for the Government? Did I need a Big, Intimidating, Male Companion to ride with me? Did I need mace?

I've been officially on the job since Thursday, and so far although I have talked with someone who initially did not want to speak with me, people have been cheery, helpful, cooperative and kind, as a rule. Even that person ended up telling me pretty much everything I'm supposed to find out.

Here's the thing, though.

I have been to houses in foreclosure. Houses unoccupied because their owner is in a nursing home. Houses with trees growing through the roof, broken windows, and doors either boarded up or left ajar. Houses which may be abandoned, or may just be teetering on the edge.

I also talked with a guy who has been out of work for six months. He reminds me a lot of someone I know, and I wish I could do something for him, but heck, I can barely find work for myself.

I am seeing edges of poverty and uncertainty and despair, and sometimes it just hurts. I want to hug some of these people and pull them into my group of friends who are looking for work.

Who knew that being a Census enumerator would be so intense?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Enumeratrix Rides

Yes, today I actually went out to enumerate part of my territory. All the homes are within a few minutes of where I live, so that was very convenient. And, somehow, I managed to encounter just about every situation we learned about in class this week. I think I did fairly well, and I know that my data is accurate, and I enjoyed it.

Next week, they need a temporary crew leader assistant, and I will be doing that, which means I will be putting in a few more hours than most enumerators. Can't complain about that.

Also next week, I have a phone interview for a very interesting job.

Right now, though, it is 8:30 p.m., and I have a ton of stuff to do, and my computer is acting wonky, and tomorrow the entire family is home from work and school EXCEPT for me. I will be putting in a super-long day, between class and enumerating and all that.

The house is a mess; they do not seem to care. I think I need to make sure I get some sleep.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At least in my case it is not that hard to guess

Yesterday was my first day of Census training. Mostly it was filling out employment forms, getting fingerprinted (three times, in my case), and starting to go through the practice workbooks that explain all about what Census forms look like.

Not bad, but boy, is it dull.

Also.

You know those "gender and ethnicity" questionnaires everyone asks you to fill out these days? They are completely voluntary, right? Well, at Census training, they are also completely voluntary. However, if you choose not to self-identify, the crew leader/instructor is required to fill out the form for you, based on her observations.

When she explained that, I had to ask.

"You mean, I can fill out the form, if I want. But if I decide that my ethnic background is not the federal government's business, so I decline to fill out the form, they are going to make you guess?"

"Yes."

Ya just gotta love modern life, man.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gay wants to know...

Am I working? Am I blogging? Am I still alive, even?

Actually, yeah, mostly. Here's a recap--and so dull you'll understand why I have not bothered to blog, of late.

Friday night I went to the ballet.
Ha!
No, really, Brick and I went, and it was lovely, although I must admit I did not feel like I understood it. Oh, well, one needn't understand to appreciate, I hope.

Saturday was my last day at the newspaper. I drove around the southern half of the county taking photos of Navy people donating their time to Christmas in April, an annual service day. People all over the country help those who cannot afford to maintain their homes. It's a good cause, but of course the motto for the paper is:

We Care About The World, As It Affects Pax River Naval Air Station.

So, ONLY Navy guys. Marines, maybe. Civilians with a tie to the base, OK. Everyone else, well, you will just have to gain satisfaction from some other source, because my photos of you were deleted as soon as I realized I could not use them.

On the cute side, one of the team captains was an older gentleman who said that he could only allow me on the work site if my Mom would sign me in.

Darn. So cute. This is the kind of thing you can say once you are Older. I shall keep that in mind.

Also Saturday was the Celtic Festival. I took Sons #1, 3 and 4. We had a good time, especially as we were making our way there.

Lemme set the scene.

We're walking towards the entrance, and of course my mind is swimming with images of poverty from the photos I'd taken hours earlier. I had also had only a normal person's ration of sleep, since I got home from the ballet at 1 a.m. and was on the road by 7:30.

Coming toward us was a family leaving the Festival. Big, harried mom and 4 or 5 rambunctious kids. They were all but brawling as Mom tried to herd them toward the car.

"Justin, slow down.
Justin, stop that.
Justin, be quiet.
Justin, leave your brother alone.
Justin, put that down."

At this point the child I can only assume was Justin lunged toward his brother, toy sword in hand, and faceplanted in the grass. Mom looked down, and without missing a step, said, "GOOD. I'm GLAD you fell down."

Son #3 looked over at the Mom, and said, "I'm glad you fell down?"

Sons #1 and 4 flipped. "Shut up. Shut UP. Geez, shut UP. Shut UP!"

Me, I just busted a gut laughing, and clearly I needed to. Made my whole day. Granted, I have 4 sons myself. I have had 4 small sons. And one of them is of the rambunctious, hassle-your-brother sort. I know for a fact that there have been times when I have seen Karma befall one or another of the Sons, and I have looked on and thought (and even said), "Yeah, well, you kinda earned that one, kid." It was just funny, though. Trust me. If you're not laughing, well, that's OK, too.

Sunday my parents & sister came down for dinner. Had a lovely time.

Today is Son #4's birthday. He is 14. Holy cow. He is right now calling friends to invite him to his birthday party next weekend, "So we can celebrate the inevitable tightening of the grip of death."

And tomorrow I start my new, part-time job as a Census Enumerator.

See? Lots going on, but not a lot that is really fascinating enough for all 30 of you who read.

Thanks for sticking with me, anyway...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I saw the Green Hornet today

And I am not sure what I think of it, but I also got to shake hands with an honest-to-God-real-live admiral, and I thought that was pretty cool.Although I kinda wish I had not met him on the one day over the past 2 months when I didn't have time to put on makeup or do my hair. Basically, I met the admiral and I looked like hell.

Tomorrow is my last full day. I'll work part of Saturday and that's it, because the woman is certain she is really coming back this Monday. Really.

I've really enjoyed my past 2 months working with the Navy, and hope I'll be back there soon. Either there, or SOMEwhere with a permanent slot. I got a call today from a trade magazine I applied to...we shall see.

But, hey, I am on to my next temp job on Tuesday: I'll be a Census enumerator. Maybe this is it: I'll keep taking temp jobs for 2 months at a time, and blog about them.

Anybody got suggestions on what my next temp stint should be?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reprieve: I get another week at work

Yeah, yeah, the rest of you think that is crazy, I am sure, but I was thrilled when, about 5 minutes after I posted, the office called to say she's waiting yet another week, and so I get to work for 5 more glorious days.

Friday, April 16, 2010

FUNemployment

Ok, ok, so she did NOT come back on Monday. I worked a full week.

But this Thursday afternoon, she called again, to say that she will be back on this coming Monday, about 75% of the day, which means I am out of a job as of today.

Argh.

I really was starting to like things over there.

I left work for an interview w/the local paper: they do not have an opening, but there is some possibility that they will in September, or thereabouts, and I am a candidate in that case, but I need to come by every 6 weeks or so to remind them of my existence, and if I got the job I would no longer be allowed to do any local freelance work, or keep the political bumper sticker on my car.

Not that I care about the bumper sticker all that much.Trust me, I want a job.

The Census work will start in 11 days, which gives me time to catch up on some freelance stuff I've been kinda ignoring, so that is good timing, anyway. And I can polish up the house to a fine sheen, and all that.

Still and all, I would rather be employed than not. It was pretty sweet, for as long as it lasted, and the prospect of another temporary job is a bit disheartening. What will I have, come July? Maybe I'll be jobless again. Or maybe, by then, I'll be Fully Employed Somewhere on a Basically Permanent Basis.

I could clean stuff, but right now I think I need to work on my manicure. Just for tonight, I don't want to think that I am back to hausfrauing it and squeezing in freelance stuff in fits and starts.

Ugh.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ah, Crap

Thursday morning I woke up and my newly painted Bordello Red nails had smudged during the night.

I was out of nylons.

I had to run back into the house to get my totebag, with all my work stuff in it.

And then my car stalled out, halfway to the school.

As I dropped the Sons off, #2 leaned in the window and said, "I hope your day improves, Mom."

And then just before lunch, I heard it.

Boss is on the phone, talking all chirpily about how Great I am, and how Artsy my photos are, and how Fast I am, and all that. And the call sounds fine, from my end. It's my ego-stroke of the day, something I hear now and then, as I know he is working hard to find me a permanent position. and then he hangs up.

"Shit. Christine, come here."

The sick woman wants to come back, half days, starting Monday. If her physical therapist signs off, that's what she'll do. She was supposed to call back on Friday to confirm, and did not, but that does not necessarily mean she won't be there on Monday when I show up.

Boss offered to take me to lunch--we have been going for a regular Thursday lunch together for the past few weeks. We got to Lone Star and he ordered us each a beer. Which we both kinda needed.

After lunch, I covered the annual Aircraft Washing at the museum next to the base. Fun, and I got some good shots, and the elderly retired guy who promotes all that stuff gave me a big hug, even though he had no idea what a crap morning I'd had.

Then I left for Northern Virginia, which is surprisingly far from Southern Maryland. I was covering a seminar for one of my freelance clients. On the way up, my car stalled out again.

On the way home, my car stalled out twice more, in the dark, in a heavy rainstorm, on the Beltway. The windshield wipers were not functioning at all, so I could not see the lane markings and could not read most street signs. So I was relying on my GPS, but it has 4-year-old maps, so it was worse than useless--it kept telling me to turn into Jersey wall, which I could not usually see until I was within a few inches of it.

I pulled off the Beltway about 75 minutes from home (and 20 minutes from the car dealership where I had already scheduled a service appointment for Friday) at the first hotel I could find. Explained to Hubby on the phone that I was not the least bit confident that my car would keep driving, and that even if I could guarantee it would not stop in the middle of traffic again, I could not see the road to navigate.

Then Son #1 called to tell me that my Dad had emailed him, Hubby, and me to say that Son #1 needs to quit his band. Great. Helicopter Grandparenting, anyone?

I spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express, and although I did not wake able to do brain surgery I did rest well.

Next morning, dropped the Powerful Mom 5 off at the dealership, hung out for a few hours, and then Boss picked me up to visit the printer he uses for his freelance work, which he is starting to teach me. I'm not sure I got all I should have out of it, but it was interesting and a useful trip.

Returned to pick up the car (bad cam sensor, among other things) and drove home. Went to sleep almost immediately. Woke up, went back to work, where the wife of the base CO flagged me down to tell me how Funky and Stylish I always look, compared to everyone else. "They're all so boring. I LOVE your suit!" So, you know, that was fun.

Came home and had to blog about it all.

Tonight, I'll be taking photos of Son #1's band. Should be interesting, and I am looking forward to it.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Fashion Victim?

I've been watching the Vera Bradley craze with something sorta like disgust. They are ugly, OK? They have been ugly ever since the first time I saw them.

I remember that first time, because I was there to interview the shop owner, and she wanted to make sure I promoted her line of Vera Bradley bags and shoes, and I did, but the whole time I thought, "You will drive people out of your store, with these ugly quilted things, but OK, what do I know?"

And they certainly are popular.

Quite a few women at work have them.

Quite a few women everywhere I go have them.

Every time I see one, I think, "My goodness, that is god-awful."

And I just got one for Easter.

So, now, I am looking at this hideous thing on my desk and wondering, can I return it? FOR CASH? Because in no way do I want anything Vera Bradley offers. It is all the same quilted ickiness. Very Grandma Goes to Florida in the 70s.

On the other hand, they ARE exceedingly popular, and my current purse is not in terrific shape. If you choose to use something fashionable simply because you have it, even though you don't like it, is that crazy? Cheap? Spineless? And if someone compliments me on it, will I be able to resist to urge to say, "I HATE THIS PURSE, IT WAS A GIFT" for more than 2 seconds? Probably not.

I think I will just have to return it to Vera Bradley, because if I use this thing I will hate it every day until it falls apart, which could be years from now.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

Ahhh...dancing

Brick and I went dancing last night. Had a good time, even though we didn't stay out all that late, and saw some dear friends while we were there.

The bar was stocked with couples who REALLY knew how to dance. They had coordinated moves. Clearly they dance together, as couples, all the time. They'd sit down between songs and congratulate each other on their style.

I refused to cede the floor to those couples, though. Brick and I were there to have a good time, and we did. Broke a shoe, even, so midway through one song I danced back to my table, took off my shoes, danced back to Brick, finished the song in my nylons.

As I sat at the table, gulping water and catching my breath, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turned around, and some guy wanted a high five.

Yeah, I think Brick and I do OK up against the flashy dancers. Man, I want to do that again soon.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Mulch: it smells good

Hubby picked up about half a truck-bed-full of free mulch this afternoon, so I spread it in part of the garden beds. We need tons more, to make the whole yard look Done, but it's a start. The Sons helped me with some of the yard stuff, so it is in much better shape than it would have been had I been out there on my own for two hours.

It's not even 7:30 and I don't really fell like doing much of anything. Maybe I'll just go out there and look at the tulip poplar again, and smell the fresh mulch.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Tester: Christine Issue

Today's base paper has THREE articles w/my byline, AND a photo spread. I don't think the Pulitzer committee is going to call any time soon, but it is nice to see the stuff I'm working on actually go somewhere. Call me Queen of the Fishwrap if you like, I'm still having fun.

This week I've also been called a "world-class suck-up" by more than one person, but I am ok with that.

I had a meeting out at the airport this afternoon, and one of the men I was supposed to meet was delayed, so the rest of us stood out in the parking lot and soaked up the sun. Wow. Spring is here, the flowers are in bloom, the air is warm and you can forget we ever had snow.

And just so you know, it is officially Frozen Mocha Season. I am sitting here with a mugful and it is fortifying me for a few more hours of productivity (then, of course, I will collapse, sleep the sleep of the dead, and rise at 5:30 to do it all over again).

For those of you who need my services as Social Director, this Saturday I am going to Falls Church to meet some friends and see my buddy Wave perform. Wave and Beach are almost in town, and I try not to miss that if I can avoid it. Anybody wanna join us?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

April is gonna be a busy one

Temp job is crankin' along just fine. I will have a 2-page spread of Adorable Easter Photos this week, along with a couple other articles.

My annual Chamber of Commerce thing starts this week. Usually that is my Big Thing, as it means 11 articles in about a month.These days doesn't sound like much, but coordinating a meeting with the Chamber president has been a bear.

I have an article to write for Maryland Life--I have done my research, just need to sit down and write it sometime before early May. No biggie.

And I just got a call from the Census Bureau, offering me a temporary position as an Enumerator, starting on April 27.

The Census job is for 8 weeks or less, and they encourage you to work evenings and weekends since that is when people are home. I only have to put in 20 hours/week there. So, yeah, that kinda books my weekends and CWS Fridays for May and June, I guess.

It is always possible that by the time the Census job opens I will be out of a job at the Navy base, but for now it just looks like I will have 2 months of lonnnnnnnng days, this spring. But, hey, good for the bank account AND the resume.

And since the Sons helped make dinner tonight, and have not really trashed the house so far this Easter break, I have some hope that things will not go to hell in a handbasket during that time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Another job hunter is working for me

When I first started the temporary job, my boss spoke often about the woman I am covering for. She was "the best," he said, just like everyone else did.

Then I started turning in work and, not to brag, but he shut up about her.

Last week he asked if I would be willing to join him for some freelance work he does, on occasion. Hell, yes, I would.

This past Friday, he said the magic words I knew were coming. "I wish I could keep you here, instead of her. You get stuff done, and you're fun to have around."

But of course she is only gone for her medical leave, and he is only Boss until mid-May anyway. Neither one of us can do a thing to stop this train, or even slow it down. But it felt good to hear.

He keeps repeating that she probably won't return. Or if she does, it will be a lot later than she has said. I don't know why he thinks this, or what he's basing it on, but all in all what it says to me is, he is happy to have me here for as long as that works. That gives me a little breathing room--time to keep looking for a job, slowly, while bringing in a little money and improving my resume.

Every day I am there, I learn something new about how the Navy works, or about publishing, or something else like that, that I never would have learned as a freelancer. Basically, I am floating on a river of gratitude, all day.

Today, he came to work with a classified ad for a job which would suit me. He then called two different public affairs offices, to tell them that if they had a slot open in the near future they should keep me in mind.

"She's here until --- returns, but if she is offered something better, she'll take it," he said. "You should find a spot for her. She does good work, fast, and I don't have to do much to it."

Then he gave me a fruit cup, as it was snack time.

God bless him, you know? May he find a fantastic job, himself.

Friday, March 26, 2010

This bathroom needs a disco ball.

I've been watching something at work, and it is getting weirder.

The ladies' room has a long mirror on one wall, and below it a table. There are hand lotions and hair spray on there. Nice touch. But there is always also something else.

One week, a pair of baby dolls, dressed in sailor suits. Odd, but, OK, goes with the Navy theme.

For about 2 weeks or so, there have been a stack of inspirational cassette tapes. Joel Osteen. The Power of Positive Thinking. Something with a pyramid on the front of the case. That kind of thing. Odd, and who even has a cassette player anymore, but OK. Maybe all that positive thinking is good for the Navy. Right? We shall become upbeat warfighters.

This week, though: Cheezballs.

There is a giant jar of cheezballs, and another of pretzels, and a pretty decent sized container of salted peanuts, sitting on a table inside the public ladies' restroom.

Have we not heard of atomization, people?

If they had little individual packages of snack foods in there I might be tempted to take one. But the idea of reaching my hand into a giant jar of cheezballs, left in the bathroom...ugh. No.

Do people grab a fistful as they enter the restroom? You know, to kill time while they're in there? Or are they making big cones out of the paper towels and bringing them back to their desk? I just want to look at all the women's fingers, to find the one with orange dust. THAT woman has a cleanliness standard I cannot share.

I think we should hang a disco ball in there, and tell the men they can join us if they bring cold beer.

I asked my boss if the men's room has a similar selection of oddities, and he said, no. He suggests that people are leaving things in the ladies' room as a sort of de facto Freecycle. And that makes sense. And I did see those cheezballs on a shelf in someone's office, before.

I'm still not taking them home.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Educational quote of the day

From Son #3:

"I think my English teacher knows more about football than he does about English."

Bathroom, the second

Ok, so I have half a gallon of Killz and half a gallon of the same shiny white stuff I used on the hall bathroom left over. I also have a master bathroom with peeling paint on the ceiling.

You guessed it, yesterday I scraped and scrubbed and spackled and removed old caulk. This morning I am putting on the primer coat, and recaulking the shower. Should have a fully functional and actually attractive master bathroom by tomorrow, I think.

I also bought some silicone sealant stuff to use around the shower door glass. Have never done that before but hopefully it is not really different from caulking, because caulking I know I can do.

On the work front (because I know you are all curious) things have taken on a bit of a gallows humor vibe. I have a little over a month left there, at best, and my boss will most likely lose his job this spring, too.

He's the "Acting" PAO, and has been running this newspaper since 2006, but his "acting" status will lapse in May, and the Navy has to hire someone on a permanent basis.

Hiring the guy who has been doing the job for the past 3 years would make sense, right? But he has 34 "blocking veterans" ahead of him in line. Two of whom are currently living in the desert. All 34 of them would have to turn down the job, for him to be offered it.

Oh, yeah, and the job ad does not require the person who gets the job to have any experience in photography or layout, so none of those 34 blocking veterans have to be anywhere near as qualified as my boss, to take his job.

And yes, he is also 62.

We have decided that if both of us are employed in that building, come June, we are going out for a beer.

As an aside, last night as I was spackling the bathroom ceiling, Hubby came by to ask me what he should wear for his night out. He showed me several options, and I gave the thumb's up and thumb's down as I kept half an eye on my tub of joint compound.

I think I have become a man.

Friday, March 12, 2010

CWS Friday


Had off today, so I:
Finished painting the bathroom
Hung the new shower curtain rod and towel rack
Did 7 loads of laundry (folded 5)
Cleaned 3 cat boxes
Did 3 loads of dishes and wiped down the kitchen
Took out 3 bags of trash
and snuck in an hour's nap.

The house is not clean, but it doesn't look like I've run off to join the circus, either, and at this point that is good. Got the whole weekend ahead of me and who knows where things will go?

Oh, yeah, you know it. I'll be looking for work.

Monday, March 08, 2010

You know what you can't do at work?

When things get slow because you've finished everything they assigned you, and you've called about 10 people for future stuff and gotten voicemail, so you're just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring like the ugly girl on Prom night, you can't run downstairs and pop in a load of laundry.

This is something of a revelation, to me, as for the past 9 years of working from home I did that all the time----work as long as I can, hit a wall, and fill the time while I wait with other productive stuff.

Today, though, I just kinda fidgeted, and made work for myself. Which is good. Coming up with new stuff to do is good, and studying the style guides (we use 3, they conflict, and I am learning who wins) is good, and trying to understand those numbers and letters and crap tacked on to people's names is good. Because you can't really go through life calling everyone...well, not having any idea what to call anyone.

It's just weird to be desperately trying to come up with useful stuff to do, when I know that at home I could be sanding my bathroom or walking the dog or going through my email to find a Permanent Job That Pays Well. Interesting.

Oh, and today my boss called my blimp photos "artistic". Sounds like he's going to use a bunch of them for the big photo spread on Page 2. Ooooh, yay for me!

The best thing, though, was that it was finally actually kinda warm today. I think it hit 61 degrees.

Awesome sauce.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I'm almost Jared, from the Subway commercials

...because today I realized: McDonald's is walking distance from my office. I can walk over there, have a cheeseburger & a side salad, walk back, all within half an hour. Easy peasy.

Plus, today they were playing funky, bass-heavy, instrumental jazz music in there.

Mostly, though, it's just nice to have the weather warm enough to be able to walk outside without cursing the bitter wind.

My boss keeps asking me pointed questions. Why do I take so many shots? Why am I using the Navy style guide instead of AP? Why do I insist on wearing high heels?

Baby, you can have my stilettos when you pry them off my cold, dead feet.

He's nice about it, though, and a very genial guy, and I think I am going to become a much more disciplined writer because of him. I'm glad.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sorry about the FOD, Gentlemen

Hubby has warned me about Foreign Object Damage (FOD) on the Navy base's flight line for years. Walk near the airplanes and you are a de facto inspector, looking for small objects which might get sucked into a jet engine and cause a crash.

Today, let me just say I really, really hope I did not create FOD.

I had to interview some Search And Rescue helicopter pilots about their new helicopters. They were fun to talk to, inside the SAR shack, but then of course I needed photos of the helicopters, so we walked out into the wind and mist so they could pose.

My hair whipped around, and a piece wrapped around my earring (an adorable little opal stud I could wear even while talking on the phone) and pulled it out of my ear.

"I've lost an earring!"

And 6 men in uniform dropped to the ground, sweeping the wet concrete with their hands. They didn't find it, I didn't find it, but they assured me that the FOD rules are a lot less strict, that far from the jets.

Mostly, they were looking for my sake, so I could keep my earring. But also, as one said, "We're Search And Rescue! It's what we do!"

They assure me that if they find my earring they'll email me about it.

There's a new sheriff in town, and she says


"These days, hon, I have less time than you."

"We need to be in the car by 7:30. Not 7:34. If we get in the car at 7:34, I am late for work."

"Throwing a towel down on the spot where the cat peed doesn't clean it up. All it does is say, 'Mom, clean that up!'"

I have no idea if any of this is getting through to anyone, but at least I am saying it, as kindly and firmly as I can. To paraphrase Johnny Tremain, a woman can stand up.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thoughts on the office

Pantyhose is not nearly as heinous as I remember, but you need to have an emergency replacement pair at your desk. Sheila, the housekeeper, suggested I just remove them for the afternoon.

When I told her I couldn't, because all I had on was pantyhose, she smiled and said, "No underwear? You're a baaaaad girl."

I like Sheila.

Every time Sheila walks by to empty a trash can or vacuum something or scrub a bathroom, I think "When I go home, I am doing all that, myself. God, it is nice to have someone else do it for me, here."

I mean, think about it: I put trash in the trash can and it disappears. I am spending my days in a bubble of effortless cleanliness, a place where I can sit and think and write. When I'm in the bathroom, I don't stop to polish the mirror or pick up something someone else dropped. I just reapply my lipstick and stride on back to my desk. It is surreal.

Heck, I think I love Sheila.

Using 2 colors of eyebrow pencil really does give a more realistic effect. Shoot me, I sound like a maniac.

This week, I am interviewing all sorts of interesting people. I am covering a wide range of events. I've written an obituary. I also will visit a blimp and the new search and rescue helicopters. And if I time it just right, they play the national anthem as I walk across the parking lot on my way in to work.

I am having a blast.

And I don't really mind that it's only temporary.

Not yet, anyway.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sometimes, Son, you just make me wanna cry.

Sons #2, 3, and 4 and I went to lunch at Wendy's today. Son #3 got some ketchup on his chin, and he didn't seem to notice. I mentioned it.

So he dragged a french fry across his chin, and ate it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't Worry, I Won't Be Here Long!

"None taken."

That is the phrase that pays, these days, for me.

A few days ago I got a call from a company that runs several newspapers. Would I be willing to work on a few stories while someone is out sick? Of course, I would.

Yesterday I reported to the office of the paper, where I discovered two things:
First, they don't want just a few stories. They want a full-time person.
Second, the woman I'm substituting for is gone because her brain cancer has returned.

Since I'm still job-hunting, a full-time slot which may last as little as three weeks or as long as two months or more is a perfect thing for me. I can add to my resume, learn a few things, and bring in some cash, all just a few minutes from home, in an interesting environment, without committing to anything permanent.

Because you know I have a few jobs for which I have applied which I would just LOVE to jump to. That one? Or that one? Or this one here? Yeah, I would be on that stuff like white on rice. So I am free to keep those options open, and that is good. It feels like a half-step to the real job I'll have, somewhere not too far down the road.

My office is about 10 minutes from the high school, and my work day starts at the same time as the oldest 3 Sons have to be there, so I can drop them off in the morning, earning them about 15 more minutes at home and a break from the rampant hooliganism of the school bus.

Of course, it is not really my office.

The cubicle is full of little decorative items, spare change, notes from articles she hasn't been able to finish, hand lotion, plaques honoring her efforts in the community, packets of oatmeal (she likes raisin & spice), and photographs of her sons.

I look past my computer monitor at those three boys and I say a quiet prayer for their mother, and for them. "Please, let her come back here. Let her heal. Let her have this job back, this life back, exactly the way she thought it would be. Those boys need their mom."

The work itself is fun. I'm already learning a lot of new stuff, and of course I am writing, which always makes me happy.

Everyone is pleasant, but about half the people I have met have wanted me, my boss, SOMEONE to reassure them that I am only temporary, that their friend will be fine soon and will be back in the office.

My cubicle shares a partial wall with the man in charge. When he gets a call about the woman whose desk I am using, I hear his side of it. Apparently when she had her brain surgery earlier this week, she had a stroke. I have never met her, and her rapid recovery puts me back outside the office, but...I can't help but wish she could catch a damn break.

My boss keeps mentioning that her health has been poor for quite some time, and of course he wants her back, and of course she needs to take care of herself, but if she decides not to return (nice sugar-coating, that) it would be good if I were available to stay on longer, or, you know, well, maybe permanently.

All I can think to say is, I'm happy to stay here until she is well, and then I will gladly give her back her office and move on to something else.

You can tell which people really love this woman, because they refuse to say she'll be gone 6 to 8 weeks. Three weeks, maybe. A month, at the most.

"No offense! No offense!" they say.

None taken. Really.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm not suicidal, I just want my phone

Hubby, Son #1 and I all have Verizon phones. We have 2 wall chargers and a car charger, all interchangeable.

Son #1 tends to move the chargers around when he uses them. It is annoying, but doesn't always affect me -- I plug my phone in to the car whenever I drive around, and if the phone dies between trips I find a charger and plug it in at home.

Not today.

My phone has nothing left on it, and both chargers are missing. So I am sitting in the car, with my laptop, so I can apply for jobs while my phone charges. The heated seat is pretty awesome, and I have remembered to back my car halfway out of the garage, so that I don't asphyxiate myself, but I still feel a bit ridiculous.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

If you need a lighter you can find it, don't set the house on fire.

My "office" is the corner of the living room. That means I have had 9 years to learn to tune out most activities not directed at me, so I can focus on whatever I'm doing, at least for a little while. I don't always succeed, and I regularly fantasize about having a Real Office with a Door on It, but it's what I have and it usually works.

This morning I was reading my traditional online stuff--keeping up with a lot of you is part of it. And out of the corner of my eye I saw Son #3 run to the kitchen, come back with a glass of water, and toss the water out the window.

Apparently he had set a piece of paper towel on fire, in the dining room not 10 feet from me. He threw the paper towel out into the snow, but it missed the snow (hard to believe this is possible) and landed on a pile of dry leaves. He saw the fire growing and put it out with the glass of water.

I am a bit mortified that all this could happen and I would notice only the splash at the end. He, however, is glad that rather than having a conniption like a decent mother, I just asked him to refrain from setting our house on fire, in future, as we still need it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wakey Wakey, Eggs & Bakey!


Saw this in the grocery store today. Not some fancy store, either. Clearly, if there are people out there convinced that their dog needs gourmet food intended only for morning consumption, our economy is in much better shape than I realized.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's hard to be a guy

February 13th is The Girl's birthday.

She's been dating Son #1 for a couple of weeks.

Pressure's on.

Son #1 woke me up, on the 13th, desperate for advice. As he was explaining that he needed to come up with a birthday gift AND a valentine's gift for the most amazing girl in the world, and it had to show that he cared about her and not look like some generic bullshit last minute gift (and it wasn't, he had been stewing and polling friends and generally freaking out), The Girl's friend texted him a reminder that Feb 14th was also their TWO WEEK ANNIVERSARY.

The pressure was ON, OK? "I'm not gonna give her some dumb teddy bear holding a heart, OK? I want her to know I really LIKE her."

We went to the bank and then shopping, where he bought her a big heart of chocolates for V-day (easy) and 3 CDs for her birthday--all carefully chosen to match up with her likes, her whims, the things she's said over the past couple of weeks. I showed him the magic of the Gift Bag And Tissue, so he didn't have to kill himself wrapping stuff. (Teach a boy to use a gift bag, and he'll give pretty presents the rest of his life).

He wanted to take her out after her birthday party, but her father doesn't trust guys, so instead he spent both days with her family, including her grandmother, who has no teeth but talks anyway, so he had no idea what she was saying most of the time.

He totally went the extra mile, as far as I could tell.

He came home with a teddy bear. I am assuming that was her gift to him. It is sitting on the pile of musical gear in the living room.

Yeah, guys, we suck. Sorry.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Burlap Power

Son #4 got braces today. He quickly discovered that he can't pronounce most words. He can say his first name. And Burlap. And Power. And that is it, so far.


Burlap Power, baby, it's the wave of the future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The indignity of a wrist brace

My wrists have hurt ever since I helped the Sons shovel ice & snow off the driveway the other day. Finally decided to try bracing them, to see if it made a difference. Since I have 4 sons, I also have medical equipment for a variety of uses. I found a brace that fits my right wrist, and have been wearing it. It does help, but only because I'm willing to ignore the comments from the peanut gallery.

Son #1: "Your arm still hurts? Really? Wow."

Son #3: "You're not old. You're just not young. VERY not young."

Monday, February 08, 2010

You Disgust Meme!

Thanks, Rol. This gives me something to think about beyond the unbearable whiteness of the local landscape.

Foods which disgust me: Oysters. Most other things I can choke down.

TV shows I loathe: When you turn on the TV and there's a show on? Most of the time, I am going to hate that. Just, you know, assume.

Movie I loathe: Modern chick flicks. They bring out my inner snarkiness to a socially unacceptable degree.

Music genres I loathe: Anything that is mostly yelling and screaming.

Magazine which annoys me: Eh, the ones I read don't annoy me. But only Popular Mechanics makes me head directly to the couch to read it.

Makes me cranky at a restaurant: People who can't just order, eat, converse and pay. God, it's a meal you did not have to shop for, cook, or clean up after. Cut them a little slack for not making you feel like you're in Paradise for the entire experience.

Makes me cranky in public: Boorishness. Yes, Rol, you got that one.

Makes me cranky in general: Anything that wastes my time.

Pisses me off at home: Cleaning messes I did not create.

Pisses me off at work: Yeah, that would be the not having a job thing. I'm not pissed off so much as teetering on the edge of panicky despair.

Pisses me off in general: "Have you found a job yet?"

Celebrity I hate: Can I just not pay attention to them? I'm so out of touch w/celebrity culture I don't have a horse in that race. All the "celebrities" I have an opinion on are political figures.

Music artist I hate: Bono. Love "One", hate his self-righteous insistence that the middle class should pay for the charitable causes he values from the heights of wealth. Yeah, I've seen his hotel suite. The guy should shut up and be thankful.

I couldn't care less about: Most people's opinions on what the Sons should do with their lives. Their lives, their choices.

Movie star you despise: Steven Seagal. Cannot watch that man.

Politician you hate: All of the entrenched, government-expanding, tax-loving, self-serving, condescending left. See Bono.

Beverage you hate: Tequila. Sweet tea.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's (un)official

The snow stopped yesterday evening, and this morning I measured 17 inches on the deck. So, yeah, we got a lot of snow. We never lost power, though, and the 2 trees that went down under the weight of the snow didn't take anything with them. They kind of slumped along the side of the house, as if someone was pushing down on their shoulders.

Today is also the Superbowl, and we have friends coming over. Chili is in the crock pot, and they are bringing something, and I am sure we will all be glad just to see new faces. But of course that means we need to shovel the driveway, or at least part of it, so they can reach our house without snowshoes.

Come to think of it, they probably have snowshoes.

Friday, February 05, 2010

God Bless Sam Walton

We are expecting 16-24 inches of snow tonight, followed by heavy ice and high winds, and more snow on Tuesday. In other words, we are expecting to be snowed in for the next week. The storm has not even started, and school is canceled for the day. People are calling it "snowpocalypse".

Just, you know, shoot me now.

I just went to Wal-Mart (which was amazingly well-stocked, and packed at 6:30 am as if it were mid-day).

I bought snack foods, for people who are going to be cranky.
I bought soft foods, for Son #2 who still can't quite chew.
I bought healthy foods, so we don't all turn into Violet Beauregard.
I bought bottled water, should we lose use of the well.
I bought things that do not require cooking, should we lose electricity.

Basically, I bought everything. Want proof? Here ya go.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

"Ah fee supraseelee nah wha ou." *

Those were Son #2's first words upon leaving the oral surgeon's today. He had his wisdom teeth removed. He's now resting relatively comfortably, and eating mushy food. But not watching TV. Because,

"Ah dethpy telebisa." And I could not agree with him more.

*"I feel surprisingly not whacked out." He was slightly disappointed, as a girl in the waiting room told him she'd hallucinated rabbits inside her car on the ride home.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I love Turbo Tax

Took a day away from job hunty stuff, and prepared our tax return. It was a lot quicker this year, almost creepily so, so we are going to let it marinate a day before we e-file. But, yay, I think I am done with the taxes for the year.

Onward & upward, eh?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Job Hunt Emails


I hadn't been saving every last email about job stuff. Some of them, when it became clear I was out of the running, I just deleted from my machine. But here are the emails I have saved, so far, and printed out. The 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke is there for scale as well as caffeine. I feel kinda like Stephen King, when as a young writer he would slap every rejection notice on a nail sticking out of the wall above his desk. Except I am not sure they make nails this thick. I'll go with "stack", instead.

All hail the mighty stack.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

6 o'clock and allllll's wellllllllll!

All told, I guess we got about 12 inches of snow. The plow has not yet been through, and we are assuming that the Sons will not have school in the morning.

As you may have noticed from previous snowstorms, I tend to get antsy when I know I can't leave the house. "Snowed In" is about the most terrifying phrase in the language, to me. Combine it with feeling supremely under-the-weather, and I am not at all ready for prime time. I'm glad to just be keeping up with the messes in the house. My big goal for the evening is to dust the den, and take a shower, so I am no longer in the bathrobe I've been wearing for the past 2 days.

THERE IS FROSTING ON THE BATHROBE. THAT IS WHERE I AM, RIGHT NOW. I look homeless.

However.

Today, I moaned on Facebook about being out of printer paper and diet Coke. And a dear friend (dearer by the second) offered to bring me some, if my street was clear enough for a delivery.

I called her, to tell her she didn't need to do that (but of course if she was out, I would gladly hand her some cash for it) and it turned out she was snurfling much worse than I. She is dog-sick. And yet she wanted to give me something simple, just to make me feel good.

Damn, I feel loved right now. Thanks, Brick.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I hate snow Sofa King much

It has been falling since last night, and at this point we have maybe 7 inches or so, and it is still falling as hard as ever. We are snowed in, no question. The Sons are hopeful that there will be no school, come Monday. Me, I am just hoping that at some point Spring will come, and with it the Thaw, and we can put this bull behind us.

If you are reading this from some northern clime, and laughing at my piteous mewling about a lousy 7 inches of fluffy snow, I hear ya. I know. I am pathetic, and you are my hero. What can I say? I was born in DC. We do not do blizzards well at all. The only "snow" I want is a "snow cone", in the dead of summer.

Sick and tired of being sick and tired

I have The Cough. It is lasting forever, just like it does with everyone else, so I have no room to complain. But it is disconcerting that my children and all my friends, upon seeing me, first say, "You look EXHAUSTED." I mean, I am, but that doesn't mean I want to LOOK it.

Yesterday was Hubby's birthday. We celebrated with cake, crab legs, and the memory of throwing huge chunks of money at the plumber so we could have 2 functional bathrooms. Less than festive, but he is loved, even in a low-key manner, and even though he has a wife whose idea of a great afternoon is running all the errands and catching a quick catnap in the Giant parking lot so she can drive home without causing a major traffic accident. Yes, I napped 10 minutes from home. I was between stops, and could barely lift my head. "Ah, now I can go grocery shopping!" --how the mighty have fallen.

On a slightly odd note: Jake's skin rash remains, and the vet is sure it is an allergic reaction of some sort, and although it is highly possible he is allergic to the dog, he may also need high-protein, low-allergen food. So I bought some. The label reads, "With Chicken/Avec Poulet"...and I just wonder, do ALL cats speak French? Is that for their benefit? Would not surprise me all that much.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Smart Alternative!


Energy Club: The Smart Alternative, w/ Zero Trans Fats!
Yeah, that would be the giant bag of gumballs, or the candy orange slices, or the cream-centered caramels. Why anyone would choose oatmeal for breakfast instead of that, I have no idea. Lack of commitment to a healthy lifestyle, I guess.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unexpected Proof that I Am Old

"What time are you picking me up for the orthodontist?"

"A quarter to 9. Your appointment's at 9."

"Does anyone SAY that? 'A quarter to'? What is that, like 8:45? Why don't you just say '8:45'?"

Fiddlin' Writer confirms that her sons also ride her about "a quarter to" and "a quarter after". Apparently you have to have a mental visual of an analog clock to have that make sense.

Sonny, bring me my pills. And hush, I don't want to miss my stories.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Winter is for the birds

And yet, here it is, and we deal with it. How do we deal with it? We crank the tuneage. Like so:

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Monday, January 04, 2010

Do I smell "blog"?

Son #3, our chattiest Son, has started to attend an Assemblies of God church. If the weather is horrid and he will accept it, I give him a ride.

No one in our family is all that familiar w/AoG, so it is a bit of a mystery. But Son #3 is slowly explaining it all.

"Dad thinks they speak in tongues, but no one has done that. And what is speaking in tongues, anyway? Do they just say stuff? I say stuff all the time. What's so special about that?"

He waited a few seconds, let that soak in. Because, yeah, he talks pretty much. And then he leaned forward and asked.

"Do I smell Blog?"