Singing the Birthday Blues… and no, it’s not my birthday

I have a fantasy that one day I will work among adults who do not celebrate their birthdays.

It’s not that I deny I’m getting older (still alive at 55). It’s just that I’m an adult now and frankly, it seems a little silly. Living one more year isn’t that big of an accomplishment. Most people manage it.

But more than that, there’s something else about birthdays that I really hate. Like, really really really hate. And people who know me are aware and act accordingly.

Last year for my birthday, Daughter drew a picture for me that highlights my feelings exactly. I will share it with you now when it is not my birthday because… Hello? Have you been listening?

Birthday blues (1)
That’s me in the Groucho Marx glasses.

I hate the attention. Can’t stand it. During any party my primary thought is, “if I leave, will anyone notice?” So when I’m the guest of honor, the answer is usually “No.”

Not always, but usually.

I’m aware that my dislike of parties can be an issue for my friends and family. Most of whom are very generous and loving and effusive with their emotions. Which is annoying as hell.

Honestly. I need to find new friends.

But work? Work should be free of birthday celebrations because, you know, it’s work. Yet at every place I’ve been, birthdays are all the rage.

At my last job, I had to tell my boss to please stop giving me flowers. She usually did it at the beginning and end of the school year, on Admin Assistant Day, my birthday, and all major holidays. I think she once did it on National Eat a Pickle Day. Not sure.

The thing is, Husband knows not to send me flowers at work and it never occurred to me to tell anyone else. If I’m in the hospital? Sure. Bring it on. If I’m home? Better yet. But at work? Nuh-uh. No way, no how.

Reason being:

“Oh how pretty – what’s the occasion?!”
“Is it your birthday? Oh my gosh! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
“Ooooh, how beautiful! Lucky you!”
“Are those from your husband or do you have a secret admirer? Haha!”

People who normally never talk to me — and honestly, it’s my favorite thing about them — are suddenly talking to me!

My God!!!

As I mentioned before, I now work at a convent. I have also stated that I am enjoying this job very much. It seems to have all the criteria for happy employment: meaningful work, pleasant coworkers, peaceful environment. I feel quite lucky.

Sadly, it has a downside. I became aware of it just two short days into the job, during lunchtime. I was in the dining hall enjoying a lovely bowl of tomato basil soup with croutons on top.

Have you ever put croutons in your soup? It’s quite good. You should try it.

Suddenly someone starts singing that damned birthday song. I look around and there by the dessert tray stands the poor slob to whom the entire dining hall is now singing.

But wait, it’s not just one verse! Because they’re Franciscan Sisters, they have to give it their own special flair.

Here’s the verse they add: “God’s blessings on you, God’s blessings on you,” etc. With their hands stretched out for the blessing.

Beings how it was only my second day, and beings how I didn’t know the person to whom they were singing, I figured it was a fluke. Sadly, it was not.

When it was repeated a couple weeks later, I knew it was their custom. An insane, diabolical custom in an otherwise sane environment.

At the time I was sitting next to Mr. and Mrs. Boss. Once the song was over, I turned to them and said, “By the way, I’ll be taking my birthday off this year.”

“Oh really? Do you have something fun planned?”

“No. I just won’t be here.”

Fast forward a few months and… well, two things are at play here. For one, I tend to forget things. Birthdays among them, including my own.

I would have missed last year’s completely had it not been for Husband. No kidding.

The other thing? The particular department I work for has a custom of taking the birthday person out for lunch, usually the week after. The birthday person chooses the location and everyone else chips in. In other words, it’s a free lunch of your choosing.

Yeah.

Mr. Boss asked if I’d like to do the celebration on my actual birthday, rather than the week after. I thought, hey, I’ll miss the dining hall sing-a-long!  “Um… sure!”

I chose a local joint called Sanchez Burritos. It’s a little like Chipotle – you go through the line and choose your toppings for a burrito, taco salad, rice bowl, quesadilla, etc. Only in this case, the place is run by three cousins from Honduras and all their sauces and meats are prepared on site.

You should get a whiff of this place. *swoon*

As can be expected, eating with four Sisters and a man who attended seminary (though chose marriage over priesthood), they all prayed as soon as they sat down. I waited patiently.

Then Mr. Boss pulls a surprise. He has us all hold hands while he says a blessing – for Me! Giving thanks I was born, moved to Minnesota, took this job, yada-yada.

Never had THAT happen before!

My face

Anyway. We wound up having a discussion regarding birthdays. It shouldn’t have surprised me – Mr. Boss remembered what I said at that lunch several months ago and planned accordingly.

This is what happens when people live their lives focused outward. They not only remember someone’s preferences, they act on them. Amazing.

Two of the Sisters admitted they avoid the dining hall on their birthdays for the same reason I did. “I eat in my room” one told me. The other said, “I just deal with it.”

Sister LaVonne said, “I think the celebration should reflect the person being celebrated. If they don’t like attention, you should respect that.”

I had a similar conversation once with Daughter, who is as much an introvert as I am. Her feeling was that if people care about you so much as to say, “Hey, glad you’re still alive bucko,” then you should be thankful there are such people in the world and just suck it up. Besides, you might get cake.

My thinking more closely aligned with Sister LaVonne: “Please go away.”

You know, I’d really like to hear your opinions on this subject and since I’ve never done a poll before, it’s time we start. We’ll make it multiple choice and we’ll even include a write-in option for you creative types.

Next week I’ll be out of town and in all likelihood not posting – unless I pull one out of the vaults. Haven’t decided yet.

In any case, I’ll give you the results of our birthday poll the week after that.
Please choose wisely. The fate of adult birthday parties is in your hands.

Not really, but let’s pretend.

All hail Lord Cockroach! (It’s only a matter of time.)

At my old job, if a cockroach was spotted in the front office or hallway, I was the one who dealt with it. It wasn’t in my job description but beings how I didn’t run off screaming at the sight of them, it fell to me.

I will now pause to discuss the two types of cockroaches of which I am most familiar. My plan was to add pictures of real live cockroaches, but I feared some of you might run off screaming. Therefore, I shall try my hand at drawing them.

The cockroaches of my youth, the little ones who regularly visited my childhood home, were these guys:

cockroach german

They are commonly called German roaches, though as a rule, cockroaches care little for ethnic labels.

They are about an inch long, have a dusty brown coloring and can be found most anywhere, such as in your kitchen right now.

They are looking for a snack and really wish you hadn’t tossed that rotting fruit as it’s one of their favorites. That was very wasteful of you.

They’d also prefer it if you’d stop cleaning so much. You’re wiping away all the good bits. And not to make too fine a point of it, but you’re cramping their social life. How do you expect them to find their friends if you keep wiping up their poop trails?

Honestly!

The other roach of my childhood was not as frequent a visitor, though he made quite an impression with my family nonetheless. My mom referred to him as a sewer roach, but he’s more commonly called (at least in the U.S.) the American cockroach.cockroach germanYou’ll note I used the same picture, just made it bigger. It’s not just that I’m lazy… okay, yeah, I was being lazy. But really, their bodies aren’t that different. It’s all about size and coloring.

He’s much bigger than his German counterpart and more of a shiny, reddish-brown.

Oh, and here’s an interesting fact: the American cockroach didn’t originate in America. He came from Africa. Wanna guess how he got here?

That’s right! It’s commonly believed they arrived on slave ships. So the next time you see one of these buggers, meditate on that.

The reason my mom called them sewer roaches (many in Phoenix do) is that they often come up through the drains. Plus, they’ve got that shiny thing going on, giving them a lovely sewer aesthetic.

Ah, the memories these fellas conjure up for me. I can still see Brother running out of the bathroom screaming, streaking down the hall because a roach came up the drain as he showered. Or my parents practically tearing apart our T.V. room because they spotted a particularly large one scurrying across the tile. “It’s as big as my foot!” my mom sputtered, somewhat known for exaggeration but in this case, she wasn’t far off.

Good times, good times…

It was the American cockroach I dealt with at my old job, back when I worked at a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sometimes we’d find them in the hallways, but more often they hung out where we did, in the offices and our break room. One of the offices was very close to both the break room and janitor’s closet. Meaning it saw a lot of cockroach action. Sadly, the secretary who used this office really really really hated cockroaches.

She and I, we became friends. All she had to do was come to my desk and give me that look.Bonnie

I’d ask her where it was; she’d give me its last known whereabouts. I’d open my cabinet and withdraw my tools: a plastic cup and a stiff piece of paper. After locating the little fella – who was rarely little – I’d slip the cup over him and slide the paper underneath.

cockroach method

Live capture, folks. I only do live capture.

Once he was safely ensconced within his plastic dome, I’d take a walk outside. He and I, we’d make our way across the staff parking lot and over the rocky landscape, out to the tall chain-link fence that held us prisoner. There I would set him free.

cockroach leaving

You see, I wanted to give the guy some options. He could take his chance crossing the street to enter one of the nice Scottsdale homes on the other side, where they probably served premium cuts of meat and world-class wines. Or he could return to our break room for a stale donut and old coffee.

My method had its detractors.

It is amazing, is it not, how many people are in favor of capital punishment? “There’s a roach in the kitchen! Kill it!”

I never argued with them. Instead I would say, “I don’t like to hear the crunch.” Because, you know, there’s always a crunch.

And besides, I liked getting outside. Dawdling by the mesquite tree, breathing in the city air… ah, the smell of exhaust fumes on a hot afternoon. There’s nothing quite like it.

“They’re just gonna come back!” my detractors would say in a terribly condescending tone. (My detractors were always men.)

I’d say, “probably,” and return to my desk.

The truth is, I kind of knew they were returning. I figured that was why they became so easy to catch. I think they recognized me.cockroach waving

“Oh, it’s the blonde – no need to worry. Field trip!”

What I didn’t realize was that they were returning for a reason and that reason was not stale donuts.

It happened during my last summer at the school. Our bookstore manager was trying to track down a package and was concerned it had gotten mixed in with some other boxes headed to storage. “I really don’t want to go in that room,” she told me, “but I think I have to.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“It’s the Roach Room.”

Gasp!

I’d heard tales of this room but I’d never actually been there. Now was my chance! I quickly offered my assistance. She said yes!

We made our way down the empty hallway. The room was at the end of the Social Studies department, where students learn history, political science, and how we got into this mess.

The bookstore manager got out her keys, unlocked the door and shivered a little. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked me.

“Yeahyeahyeah,” I said.

She opened the door and flipped on the light. I expected to hear scurrying… there was none. We stepped in. No roaches. None!

I was indignant. “I thought you said—“

She turned to face me and her eyes got wide. She pointed behind me. I turned toward the wall…

Holy hell!cockroach wall

It was just like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland where all those bugs are crawling up the cave wall!

It. Was. So. Cool.

She did not share my enthusiasm.

Anyway, here’s the thing: there were no drains in this room! No sink, nothing containing water or food. Nothing! Just boxes and boxes of books and old files. That’s it.

So what were the roaches doing there?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? They’re educating themselves. Reading up, studying our history. No doubt making notes of our failures and weaknesses.

Make no mistake about it, my friends. They will one day rule us all. They were here long before us and they will remain long after. We have to come to terms with this. There’s little sense in fighting it.

And when they finally rise to power, who do you think they spare but the one who showed mercy?

So the next time you smush one under your shoe and hear that crunch, remember there’s another one nearby. They’re always nearby.

They’re watching you.

They know what you’ve done.Cockroach mad

The Secretary, the Worm, & the water cooler: A morality tale in three acts

You may remember Worm from our post a couple weeks ago: a high school teacher with a reputation as a scavenger. I mentioned there was a shady incident involving him and the water cooler.

Prepare yourself. Here it is in all its gory detail.

Act 1

Scene: Break room of a suburban high school. Near the door is a reverse osmosis water cooler with instant hot and cold spouts. It is nectar of the gods for the 15 staff members who together pay its annual lease. (Their district office would not approve it as a budgetary item, saying the brown water from the tap was–this is a direct quote–“fine.”) The Worm is  filling his mega slurp cup. The Secretary, who pays the monthly invoices and therefore knows exactly who chipped in for the water cooler, enters.

Worm: (greeting her) Hey good buddy.

Secretary: What are you doing?

Worm: Filling my cup. Hey, were you the one who made those cupcakes? They were good. I had three.

Secretary: (conflicted; should she say something?)

water cooler

Worm: Course they were the last three! Haha! You snooze, you lose!

Secretary: (decision made) I don’t remember you paying to use the water cooler.

Worm: (acts flusteredmoves to sink – sloshing water on floor – starts pouring water down drain) Fine… I… I just won’t use it then!

Secretary: Oh come on, you had to know! It says so right there (points to sign on cooler).

Worm: (still pouring water, it’s a helluva big cup) All right, fine. Just tell me this — how much is the lease?

Secretary: What?

Worm: (still pouring) How much do you pay? What’s the total cost?

Secretary: A month or a year?

Worm: (finished dumping water, now filling cup at fridge dispenser) Gimme the annual cost.

Secretary: Three hundred and twenty a year, plus tax.

Worm: And how much does each person pay?

Secretary: (points at sign again) Twenty for the year. You know that—

Worm: Okay, so you need 16 people to cover it. What happens when you get more than that?

Secretary: (pauses; briefly impressed with his math skills) What do you mean?

Worm: What if more than 16 people pay for it? What happens then? What happens with the extra money?

Secretary: (keeps her voice steady) If there’s money left over, it would lower the price for everyone.

Worm: Well, I’m not going to do it.

Secretary: What?

Worm: I’m not going to pay, so I just won’t use it anymore.

Secretary: (sighing) Fine.

Worm: Fine.

Secretary: Fine.

(Worm leaves, from the hallway we hear one last “Fine”)

Scene 2: Secretary reenacts the incident for her coworkers in the front office: the receptionist, the other secretaries and clerks, even a few Administrators. They are universally charmed by her performance and outraged at the audacity of the teacher. The verdict is unanimous. The Worm is the worst.

Act 2 – The following day.

Scene: Secretary is at her desk; Attendance Clerk approaches.

Attendance Clerk: Guess who I just saw using the water cooler?

Secretary: I don’t know, who? … (gasps) … He wouldn’t!

(They pause as Worm walks by, carrying his full mega-slurp cup. They wait until he’s out of view.)

back of worm

Secretary: Why that little–

Attendance Clerk: He’s such a–

Secretary: I’m gonna kick his sorry little–

At this point the dialogue takes on a more profane nature than this blog typically uses. Therefore, we will fast forward to Scene two.

Scene two: Secretary relays information of Worm’s misdeeds to her previous audience. Her acting is top-notch and the judgment against Worm is swift: He’s guilty as hell.

Scene three: Secretary is at her desk composing an email to Worm. It takes several revisions. Finally she decides on a direct approach. Just two lines:

Hello _______,

Since you decided to continue using the water cooler, I'll need you to pay $20 for the year. Please submit it by the end of the day tomorrow.

Thank you,
Secretary

*send*

Scene four: Nighttime.

Secretary is home, telling Husband of her day. He rubs her back, says things like, “He’s the worst,” and “I’m sorry you have to deal with jerks like that,” and so forth.
Flash to Worm at home, watching TV. Wife calls him to dinner. It’s Hamburger Helper, the Stroganoff one. His favorite.
Back to Secretary, now in bed tossing and turning. At 2 a.m. she puts her robe on and sits at a window. She sighs heavily.
Now we see Worm in bed. Sleeping. Undisturbed.

Act 3 – The third day.

Scene oneSecretary is at her desk, completely absorbed in her work, when suddenly she is struck — PLOP — by a wadded piece of…. money?
She looks up in time to see Worm walking away. She looks at the wadded money on her desk: a $20 bill.
She laughs.

Scene twoHer final performance, she makes it a good one. She tells each audience member not to look at her, just pretend they are working. Then she walks by and tosses the wadded money at them.
Does it hit them a little harder than the original? Perhaps.
Does she stomp away a little more childishly? Definitely.
Yet all are astonished, outraged on her behalf, and immensely entertained.
Could we ask for a better ending? No. We could not.

Moral of the Story

Let us consider: In this Water Cooler saga, who behaved best?

On the one hand, we have Worm. He knowingly used something that other people were paying for, with no intention of paying himself. When confronted, he grew defensive and went so far as to hint Secretary was using the money to fund her lavish lifestyle. He then lied by promising he wouldn’t use the water cooler, then turned right around and used it again. Eventually he paid, but he did so childishly. Never once apologizing or admitting any wrongdoing.

What a Worm.

On the other hand, what did our Secretary do? (You know it was me, right?)

It’s true that Worm mistreated me, but he only mistreated me. Whereas I abused him to everyone in the front office. I gleefully told of his misdeeds and every time I told the story, it grew in detail. I tore the little man to shreds. Sure, I withheld broadcasting it to his fellow teachers, but — oh, hey there! — I’m now splashing it on the internet.

Truth is, I kinda hate myself a little bit over this. For one thing, I hate that I let it bother me so much. It’s a flippin’ water cooler, for crying out loud! No one was being harmed. Not really, anyway.

For another, I know that if I had the chance for a do-over? Um… yeah… I’d probably behave the exact same way. I mean, how could I not?! It was funny, and I’m all about funny.

But the thing that bothers me most? He was the one who made the first attempt to make amends. (The encounter I described in the other post actually came after the Water Cooler Incident.)

All this means is that… *gulp*… *gritsteeth*… Worm comes out ahead. He behaved better.

Damnit.

worm victorious

The Secretary and the Worm: A True Story in One Act

Get this guys: when I was driving home from church the wind was blowing really hard and making the snow swirl and dance on top of the road. It looked a little hazy and super cool, like you were about to have a dream sequence.

And if we’re really lucky, it’ll be the one where Gilligan thinks he’s a vampire.

Gilligan

But I’m not here to talk about Gilligan’s Island or the weather. Instead, I’m going to tell you about something that happened right before I left my old job at the school. It was a small incident and normally I’d never remember it, but this time my memory was razor sharp, and …

Okay, fine, I didn’t remember it. Fact is, I was cleaning through my closet and going through my stack of notebooks.

I have a serious notebook problem. Problem being, I keep losing them so I wind up buying new ones. So all these notebooks are half-filled or in some cases, two or three pages filled. It’s pathetic.

In any case, it was in one of these notebooks that I found this conversation I had with a teacher.

First, some background: the teacher and I, we have a history. He had a pathological need to be liked, and I didn’t like him.

I should have been more patient with the guy and I think I could have been, had he not been so damn annoying. Every morning he’d walk through the front office — most teachers don’t, you need to understand that. If their class was in the main building, they might, but even then they usually entered by a side door as it was closer to the parking lot.

This guy didn’t work in the main building; his class was in the “D” building, just outside. So coming through the front office didn’t make sense. Unless, of course, you wanted to go to the break room and see if anyone brought in donuts or muffins or homemade cookies.

After scarfing down several, he’d then make the rounds and say, “Hey good buddy,” to every secretary in the office. After they responded, he say, “Have a good one.”

If you didn’t respond — and this is the key point here — if you didn’t respond, he’s back up and repeat it. And he’d keep this up until he got your attention. Even if you were on the phone, you had to wave or acknowledge him in some manner.

You had to greet him. You had to.

secretaryHe’d also come to the front office at the beginning of lunch and during his prep period. Sometimes during passing periods too. And every time he’d check out the break room.

One time someone bought two pizzas for the front office staff. They wrote on the boxes in big bold letters, “FOR THE FRONT OFFICE.”

Not five minutes after the pizza was put in the break room, he was seen leaving with not one, not two, but three slices. When one of the attendance clerks pointed out to him what was written, he claimed he thought it said “From the front office.”

Yeah. That makes total sense.

worm

Anyway, before you say “Oh, those poor teachers. They don’t make enough and he’s forced to be a worm,” that would be a no. This guy was the wormiest of the worms. He was a Super Worm.

He was also a bit of a dope, and that’s where this exchange comes from. I enjoyed it so much, I shared it with every co-worker I could find.

Fortunately I also wrote it down because my memory is crap.

Scene: Break room of a large suburban high school. I’m sitting at the table eating my lunch, no doubt a homemade tomato/basil soup with freshly grated Parmesan. Just then, Worm arrives to fill his water bottle. (Oh! There’s a story with the Worm and the water cooler too! Damn, I don’t have time to go into it. We’ll save it for another time.)

Enter Worm

Worm: (facing water cooler) Have a good life in Iowa.

Me: (doesn’t say anything; I thought he was talking to the water cooler)

Worm: (turns to face me) I said have a good life in Iowa.

Me: What?

Worm: Aren’t you moving to Iowa?

Me: No.

Worm: I thought you were moving to Iowa.

Me: No. Minnesota.

Worm: Oh, right right right. Minnesota.

Me: Yeah.

Worm: (thinking hard) That’s where Lincoln was from, right?

Me: No. You’re thinking of Illinois.

Worm: Right right right, Illinois… oh, I know, the Packers!

Me: No. Packers are Wisconsin.

Worm: Right right right, Wisconsin… (snaps fingers) Cheese!

Me: Wisconsin.

Worm: Right right right…. You know, I didn’t study geography.

Me: Neither did I.

Worm: Don’t worry, I’ll get it. Before you leave, I’ll get it. I’m not giving up!

Me: *pleasegiveup*

For the record, he never got it.

 

 

Working among nuns and radicals

On a post about five or so months ago, where I told of my relocation up North, I ended by saying I got a job at a hospital near our house.

Maybe you wondered why I never mentioned this job again? Or maybe you never thought about it, which is completely understandable because why would you?

The reason I never talked about the job was because 10 days into said job, I quit.

Have you ever started working at a place and as you stood there watching the other employees do their thing, know deep in your heart it’s not your thing and never would be your thing and what in God’s name ever made you think it could be your thing?

Also, what I was told would be my schedule turned out to be more theory than practice. It might one day be my schedule, but for now it was anything goes. So I went.

What followed was a time of self-reflection, doubt, and existential malaise. Or, what is commonly known as, a job search.

grumpy-cat-300x200I forget how many interviews I had. Or how many times Indeed-dot-com notified me with: “______ looked at your resume!” Without bothering to note that “_____” was in California or Florida or Guam.

I tried to stay positive.

Hey, with all this free time, I can write blog posts galore! Resuscitate its Facebook page, update the blog theme, tidy up the sidebar!

Gosh, maybe I’ll even dig out that novel I’ve been working on for… oh gee, I don’t know… 15 years? Hey, now I can be a full-time writer!

Oh, if only I had a smoking jacket! Or smoked!

But lo, this writer’s dream was not to be. I found that with no pressure on my time, I make sad use of it. I needed to get out of the house. I needed a sense of purpose. I needed—gasp!—I needed to be around people. (For an introvert, this is a startling revelation.)

Then Husband found a help wanted ad in the paper:

Administrative Assistant with desktop publishing and database skills; ability to write and format newsletters; creativity and good writing skills a must; knowledge of video editing software a plus. Please send letter of introduction with resume.

There was one peculiar addition:

Must be knowledgeable of Franciscan spirituality or willing to learn.

Forgot to mention, the job was at a convent.

So, yeah. I’m working at a convent now. Have been for a little over a month. It’s a fascinating place.

I don’t mean to put down men—honestly, I love you guys—but there’s something about women who choose to live without them. It’s like they come into their own.

Also, this Franciscan thing.

The couple I work for–they’re a lay couple who oversee two of the convent’s ministries–they give me books to read so I can understand their work better. They reserve a quiet room for me, I can get free popcorn at the convent’s top-notch cafeteria. We meet afterwards to discuss what I read.

It’s like I’m getting paid to attend a book club.

Things I’ve learned: St. Francis was a radical. And here I thought he was just a guy who liked birds.

St FrancisThese nuns can be pretty radical too. Never before have I worked with a group of people who are so focused outwardly. Even things like tossing a piece of paper in the garbage—Wait! That can be recycled!—Wait! Did we write on both sides first?

The woman I work for, let’s call her Mrs. Boss, said if anything were to happen in town—if some injustice was occurring—these sisters would be the first ones marching out the door, carrying signs in protest.

And I can see it happening, too. Though it would be a slow procession, given their ages and several using walkers.

walkersSuch is my life now. Living in a blue state, working among Franciscan nuns.

And here I thought the biggest change for me would be the weather. 😉

Featured photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

 

Laptops, Ads, & Being Controlled by Two Dudes With a Podcast

I didn’t post last Wednesday. Did you notice?

Okay, tell the truth. Do you even know I post on Wednesdays?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Well, I do. Usually. This time I didn’t on account of computer problems. Don’t get me wrong, I have access to working computers.

My problems were… okay, here’s the thing: We have two desktops in our home office. They’re old, but they work. The problem is our home office. It’s a mess. And the thing is, it’s not my mess. If I clean it, I hear things like, “Hey! Where’s that vitally important document I need?! It’s supposed to be right here in this pile of dirty dishes!”

Which brings me to my next problem: they eat while they’re on the computers. Sometimes the mouse is sticky.

I don’t do sticky.

So our desktops are out, but I could have used a laptop. Every member of the family (except me) owns one. I’m certain that had I asked someone would have loaned me theirs, but I never asked. To me, laptops and cellphones are personal items. I’m not comfortable borrowing one.

Plus, you know, sticky.

And while I know I can post from my cell phone, and have done so, I’d just as soon not. That leaves my work laptop and up until this last week, it served me fine.

But then it happened, my friends. Darkness descended upon the workplace. Terror seized our hearts. It was IT!

The social misfits also known as “tech support” arrived on campus. They seized our MacBooks, threatened to erase all files if we didn’t upload them to the mysterious “cloud.” And then… and then… They re-imaged every one of them!

What did this mean, this re-imaging? None of us knew. Not truly.

What I do know is that when my laptop was returned and I logged on to my work email, this was the message it gave me:

You are signing in with a managed account and giving its administrator control over your google Chrome profile. Your Chrome data, such as your apps, bookmarks, history, passwords, and other settings will become permanently tied to (my work email address). You will be able to delete this data via the Google Accounts Dashboard, but you will not be able to associate this data with another account.

It was the “managed” and “control” parts that made me uneasy. I felt like I worked for the government!

Oh wait… I do.

It wasn’t that I had anything to hide, and I rather doubt our district office is too concerned about a secretary blogging from her home. Writing about a trip to Target, going to the theater, or showing pictures of her cat.

Merricat

Even if her cat is better than their cat.

And yet: “a managed account” … “administrator control” …

I’d been saving up for a laptop. This seemed like a good excuse to buy one. Trouble was, I had my eyes on this baby:

Spectre

Was it what I needed? It was way more than I needed. It was also waaaaay more than I wanted to spend.

But just look at it! Ain’t it gorgeous?!

As I was discussing my computer woes with Husband, Daughter walked into the room. “You mean the family member who knows the least about technology is talking about technology?”

(Daughter has a snarky side. I have no idea where she gets it.)

She added,  “All Mom needs is a laptop that’s pretty and has a nice keyboard.”

I should have been insulted. But, um, yeah. She gets me.

After a lot of searching, Husband found a laptop in my price range at Costco. It had a full-sized keyboard and… oh! It comes in blue!

I ordered it online and had it within two days. For the more tech-savvy among you, I’ll include the specs:

Not gold trimmed like the other, but for almost 1,000 bucks less? I’ll take it.

You may have noticed that both laptops are HPs. There’s a reason for that. Apparently, I’m a sucker for ads made by dudes with a podcast.

The podcast to which I refer is Reply All, with hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It’s funny, it’s informative, it’s highly entertaining. It also has one or two ads placed midway through, also done by PJ and Alex, also funny and informative. You find yourself listening just to hear what goofy things they’re going to say.

I first started listening to Reply All about a year or so ago, and I spent a lot of time listening to past episodes as I refinished our kitchen cabinets. Meaning I listened to a lot of ads about HP products, over and over again. All while inhaling toxic fumes. And when the time came to buy a laptop, HP was the only brand I wanted.

This is difficult for me to admit, I want you to know that. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who’s impervious to advertising. I’m far too smart to be snookered into buying something I don’t want or need. And from what I hear, most everyone thinks they’re immune to ads.

(Kinda makes you wonder why they bother spending so much money on them, doesn’t it?)

To some extent we are immune to ads, at least the first time we’re exposed to them. It’s seeing them repeatedly over a period of time that makes them stick. Especially when they’re for products we know little about, or feel intimidated buying. Or when the ads use people we know, or at least feel like we know. We trust them. We trust what they tell us. And we do it without thinking.

Or at least, most of the time we do it without thinking. This time, I thought about it.

When Husband was doing his laptop search, he showed me many different brands – Asus, Dell, Lenovo. All ones he owned at one time or another, all ones he liked.

“But aren’t HPs better?”

He shrugged. “Depends on what you want. Why are you so stuck on HP?”

“Um…”

I couldn’t exactly tell him it was on account of these two guys:

PJ and Alex
PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, hosts of Reply All and HP pushers.

Admitting you can be manipulated by ads is a hard pill to swallow. A bit of an ego buster. But no worries, I can rationalize it! The ads I heard were smart, informative and amusing. The ads did not, repeat, did NOT prey upon my emotions or feelings of inadequacy in any way. No way, no how. I am soooo above that sort of thing.

Or am I?

It’s my work laptop that is being managed and controlled. Not me.

Right?

The lesson I want to leave with you is this: Stay aware! Know what ads are selling and how they are influencing you. You are not immune to them, any more than I am. (Otherwise, why would it be a 70 billion dollar industry?)

Oh, and one more thing: After a full week of using this laptop, I can report that it is all I hoped for, needed, and is super sweeeet!

That’s the main thing. The fact that HP owners are smarter than everyone else? That’s just bonus.

A Thank You Gift From Larry: A True Story of Honest Work, Grateful Emails, and Tea

In the festive month of December, when holiday cheer filled the air, the high school office workers chatted happily and spoke of their plans for the coming break: a flight to Chicago, another to California, still another to Oregon.

But one worker, the quiet one in the corner, what plans did she tell? Nary a one, for she was on the phone.

It was a parent, a father, seeking information on a program Quiet One knew little about.

Did that stop her from helping? Of course not. Transferring the call would return her to office chatter.

Quiet One listened. He was out of the country, he said. Frustrated, lost, bereft. No communication given. Could she help?

She made notes, spoke with student’s counselor.

What’s this? Father’s name is not in database? He is not an approved contact? Calls are made, mother is reached.

But he’s in London, mother said. Why list him?

If his name is not listed, they told her, we cannot talk to him. He remains frustrated, lost, bereft. No communication given.

His name is added.

Father is called. Quiet one explains, he is grateful. He tells her what he seeks, she sends it.

He has a hotmail account.

She tries not to judge.

Me, email 1He is appreciative.

first thank youA week goes by, it is the day before winter break. Cookies in the break room, someone says.

Homemade?

Store-bought.

Quiet One opens her email.

emailShe frowns. Help a person once, help them always. That’s how it goes.

Quiet One contemplates. Respond thoroughly, she decides. Consider every angle. Anticipate every problem.

FinalHe sends his gratitude.

heart attackQuiet one is pleased. She has done well. Her work is now complete.

Another email arrives.From him , email 4Not necessary, she tells him. Just doing her job.

He insists.From him, email 5He must be joking, she thinks. He’s in London. What can he do?

She plays along. Response, email 5Quiet One turns off computer. Coworkers leave. Good wishes for a nice winter break.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Two weeks pass. The workers return. The mail is sorted. Quiet One received a card.

A card from Larry.

She opens the envelope. Tea bags fall to the desk.

TeaHer first cup of the day, Countess Grey from Fortnum & Mason.

A twist on the traditional bergamot-infused blend, Countess Grey is based on well-twisted orange pekoe teas, lifted by classic bergamot and a light orange flavour. Its light and delicate character makes it ideal for morning or afternoon drinking, when the spirits require a little reviving.

Quiet One is revived. She emails her thanks to Larry.

He responds.Final emailTo a man in London, she is his dearest.

A job well done.

Happy New Year. ☕️

Cursive Schmursive: If It’s Legible, Who Cares?

If I were looking for a new job — I’m not, you know, but if I was — there’s a new skill I can add to my resume: Handwriting Translator.

Reason being, throughout the day students approach my desk and show me a yellow slip of paper. They ask in meek tone, one befitting Oliver Twist: “Please, ma’am, I don’t know what this says.”

Well, maybe not that Oliver Twistish. But you get my point.

The yellow slip is our school’s “student request pass”. The student’s name will be there, usually written clearly, we hope written clearly, the rest… well, the rest is a crapshoot. It might be written clearly. It might be like a doctor’s scribbling.

I do my best to decipher the note. Usually it’s from our Attendance department, sometimes the Nurse’s office. Back in my greenhorn days, I used to follow up with a polite email, suggesting the scribbler fill out the passes more carefully or give up cursive altogether. After all, most of our kids don’t read cursive.

I no longer do that. Reason being, it usually triggers a rant:

How come they don’t teach cursive anymore?!

Why in my day…

Everyone is so lazy nowadays!

Cursive handwriting is the hallmark of civilized society!

I usually enjoy seeing people on their high horse. It can be quite entertaining and worthy of a blog post or two. But after the fourth or fifth time around the track, even I grow tired of their raging.

Pity they don’t feel the same.

In any case, I’ve come to realize that people of a certain age, the age being somewhere on the far side of 40, tend to feel strongly about this issue.

Well, at least women do. I’ve not witnessed any men going off the deep end regarding cursive. Maybe they do. I’ve not seen it.

In any case, I’ve noticed the arguments for returning cursive to the curriculum range from the ridiculous:

“You’re more creative when you use cursive writing instead of a keyboard”

(Oh, if only Hemingway, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, et. al., not insisted on using their typewriters! How much greater their works might have been!)

To the nostalgic:

“Remember those lined workbooks with the letters to trace? I loved those!”

I didn’t. As much as I tried to replicate the letters and follow their lines, my clumsy little hand would not cooperate.

And having to make such BIG letters too. The capitals absolutely insisted on touching both top and bottom lines. Not to be undone, several of the lower case demanded it too.

Cheeky little devils that they were.

Cursive alphabet

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. McCullough, was not a patient woman. She rarely approved of my feeble attempts.

Ms. McCullough and me

It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact several letters are battling identity issues.

The letter A, regretting her cross line and open bottom, caring little she represents my favorite article of apparel (A-line skirt), chucks it all away to look like an abnormal apple:

Cursive A

So too is S, no longer content with his smooth, sloping shape, chooses instead to shroud his silhouette.

Secretive little sneak:

Cursive S

G, ever the garrulous gent, decides he can’t give ground. He follows S’s guide and makes a point of it:

Cursive G

And what are we to make of Q?

It’s shameless, really. Q, in her printed state, is round with a little tail; the cousin of O with a quirky flair.

Yet in script, she opts for something different, a queer and querulous affair:

Cursive Q

Yet none of that comes close to Z, that zany zealot who zigzags his way in print.

For cursive… well, at first he seems to copy Q. He zips onto the page, zeroes in toward the bottom and… what’s this?

He zooms below the line, where he has no business being!

Cursive Z

Breaking all zoning laws!

You know what I think? I think Q and Z got together and hatched this devious plot!

“Why won’t they use us more in their writing?” Q queried. “I say we make them quiver and quake, every time they pick up their quill!”

“Zounds, Q, that’s zelicious!” And with that, Z zapped and zipped his shape in a most zesty fashion.

Q looked at him quizzically, but remained quiet.

For most of my early schooling, I disliked my handwriting. No, more than disliked. I actively despised my cursive skills. No matter how I tried, Mrs. McCullough’s elegant swoops and flourishes would never be mine.

Then sometime in high school, I was looking through old records and came across Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

Ignoring the cheesy mustache, I latched onto the words at the top.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 2.38.09 PM

Look at those S’s folks! Sure, Z still gets down and dirty, but capital S remains true to form!

Only then did it occur to me how adults (as they do in so many things) throw out the rules and do what they want. I decided right then and there, Mrs. McCullough be damned, I’d write how I wanted.

Which is how I finally embraced my own version of handwriting (more like smushed together printing) and never looked back.

 

WP_20171106_20_23_04_Pro

All this is a long way of saying, I don’t think it’s a big deal students aren’t being taught cursive. Maybe you disagree with me. If you’re anything like the women I work with, I know you do.

I still say it’s not a big deal. If our youth want to learn cursive, they’ll figure it out just like my kids did. On their own, with no Mrs. McCullough breathing down their neck. There’s no age limit to acquiring it, and there are plenty of sites offering free lessons.

And of course, they can always make up their own rules.

As for the argument that it teaches them fine motor skills and helps brain development, art lessons and playing a musical instrument do that too. And I’d argue do a much better job of it.

Now as for students not being taught how to properly diagram a sentence?

My God people! When will the madness end?!

Diagram

She’s Come Undone: Crisis Looms in Women’s Office Wear

I’ve been on a mission to clean out my closet and change up the old wardrobe. My goal is to eliminate morning angst.

I want to be able to pop into the closet, grab a shirt, pants & blazer — and by that I mean any shirt, pants & blazer – and boom, I’m out of there. Classy, chic, and completely office appropriate.

My mission is nearly complete.

But in pursuit of my dream, I have stumbled upon a most alarming situation. Something I believe will undermine women’s role in society if we don’t take action immediately.

What it is, you ask, that has me in such a dither?

It happened while I was doing the whole Google thing. My search terms being ‘classy’, ‘chic’, and ‘office appropriate’. I couldn’t help noticing that some women – and by some women, I mean nearly every woman wearing a button up shirt – seemed to have extraordinary difficulty buttoning up

These are just a few of the poor dears I came across:

 

What bothers me the most (and if you’re a woman, it should concern you as well), is that no one pointed it out to them!

I mean, come on! This woman missed TWO buttons!

Pink shirt

If a man has his fly undone, doesn’t someone take him aside? Whisper in his ear? Give him a quick heads up?

Of course they do!

But these poor women had no one. NO ONE!

White shirt
Alas, I fear this gal was unable to button up. She clearly needs the next size up.

 

And just look at this next woman! She missed a good three or four buttons, and even forgot a bra!

striped suit low cut

Aw hell, she’s even in her pajamas!

Couldn’t anyone tap her on the shoulder and whisper, “Uh, dear, you might want to freshen up a bit before you walk into that meeting.”

Really? ANYONE?!

And lest you think it stops here, oh no my friends. It gets worse. It gets much worse.

There are women who didn’t just forget buttons, they forgot to wear shirts!!!

 

 

I am deeply concerned, my friends. Deeply concerned!

Were a man to walk into a meeting dressed as thus, he would likely get laughed out of the boardroom. Or else have dollar bills stuffed in his pants.

Honestly, how can we hope to be taken seriously in the workplace if we can’t even manage a button or two? From whence shall our help come?

Therefore, I call upon my fellow sisters to make a pledge to one another: If we see each other unbuttoned, unzipped or unsnapped, where we definitely need to be buttoned, zipped, and/or snapped, we will discretely let each other know.

And please, oh please, I beg of you: should I ever forget to wear a shirt, please let me know!!!