Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Resistant to Change

It happened in summer 2009, and now it’s happening again. Change. It’s not that I am afraid of change. In fact, sometimes I find it exciting. I love first days at work, and I love last days even more.

I started working for Boss in summer of 2009, and at the time it wasn’t a first day I recall fondly. Boss has this certain degree of intensity that teeters on insanity. I had watched her work, from a healthy distance, and marveled at how she spoke without seeming to need a breath and how she plowed through that endless to-do list without breaking for lunch.

I vividly remember the meeting at which I was transitioned from my old boss to Boss. I gulped hard when I received the news. I pondered the necessary resume update and ultimately sent it out a few times. But then an extraordinary thing happened.

She asked me whether I was happy working there. I thought about her question and wondered how I should answer. And then I remembered a book I’d read about how women approach things like salary negotiations and work situations in which they aren’t satisfied. The book had said that women accept low salaries and undesirable work situations because they feel compelled to be a “team player.” Then the answer came out of my mouth.


I braced for her hand gesturing to the door. I cringed. But that didn’t happen.

“Why not?” she asked.

And then for the next year and a half she listened. She made my job into something that I actually wanted to do. She didn’t bat an eye when I asked for 2 weeks vacation in July and another in August; my last boss declared 2 weeks in a row impossible to even imagine. My back was gotten, in a big way. She listened, she got to know me, and she understood me. Quick with praise, she got me to work harder. I came to work with purpose rather than a “And what the hell am I going to do today?” attitude.

Just last week she announced her resignation. Her intensity bordering on insanity had gotten the better of her and her child. Her family life suffered as a result. Her last day in the office was today.

I have a new boss, I am now reporting to her boss. But even though I have a new boss, I feel like my rudder’s just been removed and I will end up floating around aimlessly again.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

When Was My Last Tetanus Shot?

The first part of the story took place on Tuesday morning. We’d ordered a new dining room set and had it delivered on Tuesday. The furniture delivery guys came and set it up in our dining room that I formerly described as Spartan. It used to be that we only had a table with 4 chairs in there. Now we have a table large enough for 10 chairs, a buffet and a china cabinet. I could totally hold a board meeting at that whomp-ass table now.

The house cleaning service was due to come on Tuesday afternoon. Todd hadn’t taken the dogs to work with him, like he normally does when the cleaners come. I went in to work around 1 and figured the boys could just hang in my car while I was in work for the remainder of the work day.

I left work at 5 and hit up the CVS on the way home to get a few things. Todd went to Bloodbath and Beyond to buy out the entire store in preparation for our “Thanksgiving a Day Late” festivities. I came out of the CVS ready to head home and ogle my new dining room before he got home. I inserted the key into the ignition, turned it, and nothing happened. I tried it again, nothing happened. I reflected on the money spent on a brand new starter, a brand new alternator and a brand new battery over the last few months and tried not to feel aggravated about the lack of vroom when turning the key.

I went into the store and called Todd on his cell and left him a message, “Hey love, my car won’t start. Will you stop at the CVS near the Home Depot Walmart compound and come help me? Thanks.” Then I sat in the car and waited, lamenting that I had left the house without a book.

He rolled in, driving his bitchen Acura. It was filled to the gills with bags from Bloodbath. He fished my jumpers out from under those bags in the backseat; the jumpers were still there from the last time the Jeep wouldn’t start, the week before Halloween. After an attempted jump, hitting the starter mercilessly with a plunger handle, purchased at the CVS, and jamming the screwdriver against the starter the car refused to start.

The dogs and I piled into the 3 square inches remaining in the Acura and we drove home, “Hon, it’s time for you to think about a new car,” he said.

“Ugh, I don’t want a new car. This one’s paid for, let’s just run it into the ground.”

“Sweetie, it’s aground. It’s time.” (Oh, and have I mentioned it flunked inspection on Monday as well?)

We took all of our new goods out of the car. Todd had bought new dishes, and all sorts of new kitchen toys in preparation for our party. We had a mountain of cardboard after unpacking. The recycling bin was already overflowing, and I knew that the prep for the party would create all sorts of recyclable waste.

On Wednesday morning I loaded the cardboard into the back of the truck to take to the dump on the way to work, and then I put our recycling bin in there too. At the dump I pulled up to the cardboard dumpster and unloaded the truck while I talked to one of the men who worked there. I pulled out the bin and hoisted it to the lip of the dumpster; my right hand was between the bin and the dumpster. I pulled my hand out and scraped the side of my index finger, from the tip to the knuckle.

The scraped off skin folded back, but the cut didn’t bleed. The dump guy asked if I wanted a band-aid, at which point I uttered the fateful words, “Nah, it’s not bleeding.” I set my bin into the truck, got in and drove off. A few seconds later, on cue, blood gushed from the cut on my finger. I searched the truck but had no napkins or tissues. Blood ran down the length of my finger, down the back of my hand and pooled near my wrist.

A few minutes later I pulled into the Walgreens in town. I scrambled to the door and found it locked. “We’re not open yet” the woman inside called out. I held up my bloody hand, she nodded and unlocked the door.

I thanked her as I rushed in. The first thing I saw was a Kleenex display. I held a box in my left hand and ripped open the top with my teeth. I grabbed a handful and wrapped them around my finger and made for the first aid aisle. Without breaking stride I grabbed a box of band-aids and that Neosporin spray stuff.

Once in the ladies room I washed my hands and saw the blood swirl into the bottom of the sink. The Walgreens lady came in and asked me if I needed help and hung out with me while I patched myself up, after ripping a band-aid open with my teeth.

When I got to work the paranoia set in. “When was your last tetanus shot?” a co-worker asked.

Good question.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's All About Expectations

Todd: Don’t eat the cake I made.

Beej: Why?

Todd: It’s horrible.

Beej: Oh no, what happened.

Todd: I think it was a bad recipe.

Beej: Well, can I eat the frosting?

Todd: No, that’s not good for you.

Beej: I don’t expect it to be good for me.


Monday, November 15, 2010


First I got stranded when the jeep failed to start when I went out to run errands at lunch. Then a few weeks ago I was stranded at the library when the jeep failed to start again. The library here in Podunk is right by the police station. A cop was in the parking lot and he tried to get the jeep started and to stay running. No dice.

The library is 2 miles from home, and it was a rare night that Todd was home before me. He came out and got the car to, kinda, stay running and he drove it home. Then it sat in the driveway until we got the chance to replace the alternator with one that, um, alternates?

I took turns driving Todd’s bitchen Acura, and our big red pickup truck, a.k.a the meat wagon, to and from work. I got home in the truck one day and said “You know, I am going to stack that firewood over there, and I am going to crank up my iPod inside the truck and rock out while I do it.” And then the music stopped a half hour later. And then the truck wouldn’t start anymore, because listening to music for a half a fricken hour in the truck drains the battery. (Does that sound ridiculously short to anyone else?)

“So, this only tells me that if I took the bus to work, the damn thing would break down and I’d strand dozens of people, that’s how bad my luck is with cars right now,” I complained to my sister on the phone.

“Don’t say that,” she laughed. “I am sitting in my car listening to the radio while the kids have soccer. With your luck you’re going to strand me now too.” But her car actually started though, because she’s got way better luck with those things than I do.

I am married to MacGuyver, and he replaced my alternator on Saturday, while simultaneously preventing a nuclear reactor from melting down and stopping a runaway freight train from derailing and plowing into an animal shelter filled with newborn puppies. Well, not really, but when you’re married to MacGuyver everything he does is astoundingly cool like that. And this morning on the way to work I was able to participate in the jeep wave again.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Three Favorite Photos: July 9-July 10, 2010

I am curled up by a raging fire in my living room.  Last weekend Sabine was wrapped up for the winter.  She's was stripped of her sails and is now sporting her new canvas cover.  She hibernates until next season while I long for what next season will bring.  It's too early to long.  It's only November. 

I've been organizing the 500 some-odd photos I took over the summer, and decided that to hold me over I will post 3 favorite photos from each day of that trip.  I only took 1 photo on July 9th, so in this entry you'll get 1 from July 9th and 3 from July 10.  Lucky you; don't say I never gave you anything.

July 9th, we arrived at the boat sometime after a million o'clock. 
I made our "nest" in our bedroom and Nemo made himself at home.

July 10, 2010.  We took a quick sail to the Statue of Liberty.

Yes, we got that close to the Statue.

Lady Liberty, artistically off center.  It was hard to get this shot, what with the waves and the boat moving, and the camera zoomed all the way in.

Lady Liberty all up in my grill.  Literally. 
This is our BBQ grill aboard Sabine, it mirrors her nicely.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Rock the Vote, Kind Of

My parents voted in every single election. I remember sitting in the car with them while they argued over the issue of whether our little Connecticut town should have its own police department, or whether it should be under the state police’s jurisdiction. Sure, it would probably save the town a lot of money. But how much coverage would my town have gotten from the state police? On the way home from the polls I listened from the backseat as Mom and Dad discussed how they’d voted on the different referenda questions. On the issue of the town police department Mom had voted one way and Dad voted the other. (My town did retain its own police department after that election, by the way.)

I have always felt guilty about not voting in the midterm elections. My parents always voted because they came from a country where they didn’t have that right, so they made sure that their voice was heard. I vowed to do it differently this year and to make my parents proud. I am currently sporting my “I Voted” sticker, and I wear it with pride.

On Sunday night Todd and I sat in front of the computer and evaluated the candidates and the state’s referenda questions. We do this before an election so that our votes won’t cancel each other out. Sometimes I pick a candidate that he doesn’t like; sometimes he picks one I don’t like. But we discuss and agree on our choices before hitting the polls. (For example, a few years ago we’d discussed whether ex-cons should have the right to vote after serving their time, as was the referendum question that year. I said yes and he said no. We discussed it and I made the point “Well, if we want them to be a functioning part of society after doing time, then this is part of being a member of society.” Then I brought up a friend of ours who is an ex-con and said “So, you think he shouldn’t get a vote?” He changed his answer to yes.)

This morning we went to a church near our house to cast our votes. I had a list in hand of all the candidates we agreed on. What I wasn’t prepared for was the referenda questions from my town. They were on a yellow ballot. I read them and didn’t understand a damn thing that was on there. For example, on my little yellow ballot this morning were these questions:

  • Shall Article III, Section 3.14 of the Town Charter be amended to provide that no collective bargaining agreement between the Town, including the School Committee, and any labor organization shall become effective unless and until ratified by the majority vote of the Town Council?

  • Shall Article VIII, Section 8.18 of the Town Charter be amended to provide that an all day referendum shall be required when any changes to the capital improvement or operating budget at the financial town meeting exceed $180,000; and Section 8.10 be amended to provide that the capital improvement program and capital budget be approved by the Town Council concurrent with the operating budget?

  • Shall Article XII of the Charter be amended to update titles and functions; Article XIII amended to provide for consistency review of the capital improvement program; Article II be amended to delete local district apportionment by voters rather than population; and should the charter be amended with punctuation and grammar corrections and to achieve gender neutral terminology?

Just what in the hell do these questions mean? I like to think I am a pretty smart person. I watch CNN every morning, I listen to NPR every day on the way to and from work, I read the Providence Journal every day. I have a Masters degree. Yet, I have no fricken clue what these questions mean so I didn’t vote on any of them.

I looked it up on the town’s web site later, and of course there were explanations on the site. Why can’t they write these questions in plain English, rather than in legalese on the ballot? More people would get involved in the issue and more people would make an educated decision rather than an educated guess when voting on these issues that affect my town.

Can I please have a do-over?


Monday, November 01, 2010

The Critique

Adrenaline surged, I think I was holding my breath. This was the moment I was waiting for—an honest and objective assessment of my first page.

Apparently Chuck, my main character, is unlikeable. He comes off as a jerk in that first page. We don’t know why he’s working at the bar in the casino if he hates it so much. They didn’t feel they learned much about him, nor did they develop any sense of sympathy about him.

I frantically scribbled notes as the agents spoke. At the very end, the agents thanked all the participants for submitting their work and called us brave. Mr. McAgentton said “There’s no way in hell I would have done that.” I sat there thinking “Why the hell wouldn’t you have done it. How do you expect the world to read your book if you can’t submit one measly page to get critiqued?” I am going to put my pages in front of any pair of eyes that want to critique it. How else am I going to improve?

Later on, after I left the conference, I 30 minutes south drove to Connecticut to visit Dad and wondered how I could convey all of that in three or so paragraphs. I reflected on how the readings of the other first pages seemed so much longer and wondered if they were using smaller fonts on those. Were the other writers typing single spaced?
I let the response rattle around in my head. I didn’t talk about it with Dad because, actually, he didn’t really know I was writing a book. I mean, I am sure I mentioned it to him but I mention a lot of things that I eventually toss aside when something else comes along. He doesn’t know anything about the story, so I didn’t really say much about it. Besides we were busy gossiping anyway.

Then I called Todd from Dad’s house and he asked me how it went. “Well, the agent meeting went well, but the critique was kind of hurty.” He apologized and said he suspected that would happen.

“But you know what? Actually, I’m not hurt. It was exactly what I needed. I don’t regret submitting my page, and I’d do it again. I’ve got some work to do, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to get critiqued. I didn’t go there to defend my work, I went there to learn how to improve it. Mission accomplished.”

Sunday morning I got up at 4 in the morning with ideas on how to make Chuck likeable. I convinced myself to stay in bed until 7, and couldn’t stand it anymore. I slipped on my sweats and slippers. I did a cuppa tea in the microwave and then set down to work.

After re-writing, and a profing by Todd, I submitted my first 50 pages to Mr. McAgentton, per his request. And then I looked up the particularly expressive agent because she deals in commercial fiction (which is my genre) and submitted my first 10 pages to her, per her submission guidelines on her web site.

And now I frantically click on the “refresh” button on my email. I pace and threaten to wear a hole in my hardwood floors. And I expect that the clicking, the refreshing and the pacing will go on for a damn long time until I manage to land an agent.