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?"


"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.



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?

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?

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?