Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So, About The Job

I love my new job.

Except, you know.

I've begun chanting "I've only been here for three weeks" like a mantra. I've been told that no one has ever taken over all of their job responsibilities so quickly, which is nice, but I feel like an idiot pretty much every day, which is not so nice.

I recognize that it's arrogant to believe that I should already know how to do everything. Apparently, I have arrogance issues, then, because I hate -- HATE -- that this is not the case. Yesterday, I was able to answer three whole questions by myself. While this was an improvement over last Friday, when I was able to answer ONE question by myself, it's a tiny drop in the inquisition bucket of eight zillion questions I have to answer in the course of the day.

On one hand, this should be properly humbling and inspiring, right? So much to learn! I love learning!

On the other hand, waaaaaaaaah I don't know ANYTHING!

I keep telling the people in my life who are going through hard times something that I firmly believe to be true: in life, you have to struggle a bit (or, you know, a lot) in order to learn the big lessons -- the ones about mortality, and who you are, and all of that.

But there's that arrogance again, I guess, because the truth is that whether or not I believe that to be true, I get -- pissed off -- when I find myself in the struggle. Apparently, I really do think I should just know everything.

I recognize that the above is a ridiculous statement.

So. I am trying to apply my zen. I am trying to believe that the struggle to learn more quickly is a valuable one. I am trying to recognize that there is something lovely in the brain's elasticity and ability to bend around and incorporate new concepts. And, to be honest, I do recognize and believe all of those things, even if my recognition and belief is wrapped in a thick layer of frustration.

My saving grace is this: my new coworkers are truly amazing. I've never worked in a more supportive environment. They're encouraging and funny and awesome, and they keep telling me that I'm doing great, and reminding me that we're a team.

And I am learning. How to be good at my job, but also, how to be more humble. How to ask for help. How to let myself be supported and how to have realistic expectations of myself.

It's hard. Most lessons like this are.

But it will be worth the struggle.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Toxic

Sadly, more than one person in my life is currently dealing with a toxic relationship. 

When you brush up against someone who is poison to you -- and we've all done it -- it's easy to let that poison seep into your own pores and ruin everything you touch, so that you run the risk of becoming equally toxic to the people in your own life. It's sort of like how we react to people who commit horrible, atrocious acts -- we forget to be better than they are, and start to want to demand that they are harmed in the way that they have harmed others. We lose our ability to empathize and find our compassion. I'm not suggesting, in case you think I am, that people who do terrible things shouldn't be punished for them -- they should be -- but I do strongly believe that when we forget our own humanity and begin thinking of people as things, or deserving targets of anger and harm, then we have become what we hate.

It's important not to do that.

It's important to understand that people who are toxic to you are still people. They're people who are acting in a way that makes sense to them for a reason that you don't or can't understand and who are causing you pain because it's all they know how to do.

They're people who, for some reason, need to contain their pain by hurting other people.

I'm not saying anyone should continue on with someone who is toxic, and I'm not saying that toxic, poisonous behaviour should be tolerated. What I do think, though, is that it's important -- for your own sanity, for your own self respect -- to try to keep your sense of perspective, and to try to find some kind of empathy for someone who only knows how to lash out and can't figure out how to love -- because that is what makes people toxic.

And that is incredibly sad.

I was thinking the other day that I have two hands for a reason -- one to hold on, and one to reach out. Toxic people don't know how to reach out -- they only know how to strike out. They can't open up their hands because they only know how to make fists that strike. I can't imagine not being able to hold someone's hand if I need to because I'm too busy making a cold, hard fist with the intention of hurting someone who is determined to reach out to me because s/he does love me. What a lonely, sad, isolating way to live.

Again, I think it's important to remove yourself from toxic situations and relationships. But I also believe this: if you take on that poison and let it become who you are, then you have lost more than a relationship. You've lost what makes you amazing and wonderful, and that's hard to get back.

One hand to hold on, and one to reach out, and one heart to love.

Those are the things you need to keep, no matter where you find yourself.

Friday, April 26, 2013

sorry!

I know I've been erratic about posting this week... It's been a little, erm, unusual around here lately. I'm trying to figure out a way to make sure I can keep a regular posting schedule and should be back to normal next week. Thanks to everyone who's checked in to make sure all is well ... I'll be back to my regularly scheduled programming soon!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Learning To Let Go

I am a person who likes to think that, when confronted with a bad situation, I can fix it if I just try hard enough.

I have repeatedly found that this is not true. The tricky part of human nature, though, is this: just because you know intellectually that something isn't true doesn't mean that you stop believing it.

It's a challenge, though, because I will work myself into a tremendous stress ball trying to fix things when what I really need to do is back up and release my sense of ownership. Because I do not, despite all of my joking, run the universe. I can't control it.

Neither can you.

The only thing I can do is my best. Do my best and hope for grace and understand that my best is always good enough, even if I don't end up fixing anything.

And then let it go.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coffee Fail

Once upon a time, I bought a Keurig Mini.*

I loved that thing. It was glorious.  Right up until the day it was like, "So sorry, Ma'am, but I can no longer brew coffee for you. Lalalalalala look I'm a paperweight."

This was not a good thing. Yellie needs coffee. So I bought another one. It, like its predecessor, was red and shiny and made hot, delicious coffee.

Happiness was restored throughout the land.

Last week -- on a morning after I'd gotten about four hours of sleep because I'd been at the emergency vet all night, when I needed my coffee jump start more than usual? The Curse of the Keurig struck again.

Being muzzy headed and exhausted, I did something very similar to what I had done when my first Keurig decided to quit on the job:

I stared at it.

I may have whimpered.

I thunked it with the heel of my hand.

I pressed the brew button again.

The Keurig whined and then ... nothing.

NOTHING.

I may have whimpered a few more times and then considered curling into the fetal position.

When my first Keurig gave up the ghost, I worked from home. Lack of coffee was a definite situation, but it wasn't, like, a total emergency. HOWEVER, this time, with four hours of sleep and a fossilized Keurig, I was going to have to DRIVE.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, would want this to happen.

Fortunately, there's an Irving station down the street. Their coffee isn't, you know, terrible. But having to purchase coffee when I knew that I had coffee at my house -- even if it was coffee I couldn't brew -- and having to drive with no coffee in my system?

This made me unhappy.

Two Keurigs in less than two years makes me unhappy.

The one on my counter, which is toast, is still under warranty. I could, in theory, have called the company and demanded a replacement. That's what most people would do, I think.

It's not what I did. Here's why: this product is not working for me. What, am I going to call them every six to eight months after I go through this? How ridiculous is that? SO RIDICULOUS. It's not happening.

Over the weekend, I bought an old school coffee maker. K-cups? I laugh in the face of the k-cup. Bring me filters! Bring me whole bean coffee that I will grind in the privacy of my own home. WITH MY TEETH. (I'm kidding, I have a grinder.)

But mostly? Bring me a coffee maker that WORKS. For the love of all that is holy, I need coffee.

And trust me when I tell you that everyone else on the road -- and everyone else in my office -- wants me to have it.



*I know people who have other Keurig models who have not had my experience. All of these complaints are related directly to my ownership of the Mini.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"Oh! Thank you! What you said just reminded me that I have to do something!"

"You're welcome."

"That's like the third time today that you've done that."

"It's my superpower. I'm Reminder Girl."

"Mild mannered cubicle worker by day, appointment calendar by night?"

"... something like that."

II

"He just kept telling me to stuff it. 'Stuff your crew. Stuff your job. Stuff your logistics.' So finally, I just started agreeing with him. 'Yes, sir, I will stuff that. Yes sir, I will add that to the list of things I will stuff.' "

"Did it work?"

"Not really, but I thought it was worth a shot."

III

"... and that's when my SECOND Keurig shit the bed."

"Are you giving up on the Keurig?"

"It has ONE JOB: Provide me with coffee so I can function. Since it's not even managing that? I DO think I'm giving it up. It's taking up valuable counter space and for NOTHING."

"But you're not bitter."

"Do I look like I'm not bitter? I AM SO BITTER."

IV

"She's a very pretty kitty."

"Thank you."

"And I bet she's nice... when, you know, she's not at the vet."

"I know this is hard to believe, since she acts like a mountain lion when she's here? But she really is a nice kitty."

"At least she's pretty everywhere?"

V

"Are you losing weight?"

"Yep."

"I can tell."

"It turns out that when you're not self medicating with wine, like, every day? It's way easier to lose weight."

"So THAT'S how you survived that job for so long."

"Yep. Me and Merlot. We were a team."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Grace In Small Things

Bean and I spent the night at the emergency vet and got home at 1 AM. This was, as you can probably imagine, not festive.

But it was an exercise in kindness. From the man with the injured greyhound (who was named Oreo, so in my head, this gentleman's name is Oreo's Dad) who took the time to speak with me when I was incredibly upset, to the vet's assistant who checked in with me while we waited for a treatment room to open up and took the time to talk to Bean and comment on what a nice, pretty cat she is, to the vet who was calm and reassuring when I needed calm and reassurance.

And of course, there's Flinkie, who, after receiving my text about where I was going, called to see if I was okay and then just showed up at the vet, like there was nothing else she'd be doing on a Wednesday night.

As for Miss Bean, well, xrays were taken and tests are being run in a lab somewhere. So we'll see. But right now, she's curled up on the daybed and she's taking a nap, so that's enough for me. That, and gratitude for the kindness of strangers and good friends.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tired

I'm so tired.

I knew I was tired, but then I snapped at someone who was trying to be helpful to me yesterday, and my brain said, "You can be a real asshole when you're tired."

I've got a lot going on. A lot has happened in the last two weeks. The death of a high school classmate. A new job. Monday. And there's ongoing stuff at home with Bean (I can't talk about it right now, because of the random crying portion of the program) that means I only sleep for two hours at a stretch.

And allergy season to boot.

I know that, in life, the things that are bad or difficult are balanced out by the things that are wonderful. I do know that. I went out onto the balcony with my coffee this morning and listened to the birds and watched the seagulls for a while and thought, you know, this doesn't suck. All in all, you're okay.

Sometimes you need to struggle to appreciate the times when you're NOT struggling.

You know all of those signs that say "keep calm and carry on"?

I need to make one that says "Keep Calm and Try Not To Be An Asshole To People Who Only Want To Help You".

And then, you know, do it.

And maybe take a nap.

Tomorrow will be better, right?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For Boston

There are not very many places where I feel entirely comfortable in my skin. However, Boston has always been one of them. When I was applying to colleges, I only applied to schools in Boston. When I am wanting to get away for the day, I go to Boston. When I was homesick in North Carolina, I booked a flight and a hotel and flew there and spent the week just kind of bumming around with my camera.  


I am at peace there.


Yesterday afternoon, someone did something unspeakable in my city. My mom called from North Carolina and made me promise not to go there alone for the next little while. She cried, and I promised.

However. 

I refuse to let a coward who would hurt innocent people take my city away from me. I refuse to back down or give up. I refuse to let fear ruin or run my life. I don't believe that people who commit acts of terror really care that much about how many lives they take, but I believe they are deeply invested in the number of lives they change, and how many people they can force to live in fear. 

I will not think of yesterday's events the way the individuals who planted those bombs want me to. Instead, I will remember the people who ran into the fray, towards the explosions, to help. I will think of the people who came out of their homes to help the runners who needed aid. 

I will hold on to the beauty of humanity instead of the ugliness. 


I made this slide show in 2009; the song behind it -- one of my favorites -- will remain true for me. Boston will always be my safe place, the place where I feel welcome, the place where I need to be when I want to feel most myself.  No matter what anyone does.

For Boston: I pray for love. I pray for healing. I pray for strength. I pray for peace. And yes, I pray for safety.
.




video


music by Marc Cohn. Photos by me.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Clean

"So when you're not working at home, you're probably not going to keep your house this clean."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that statement, or something very similar to it. It makes me laugh a little, because it implies that there is a level of choice with the neatness and cleanliness in the house.

There really isn't.

Clutter and messiness in my own space makes me anxious. That's it. I worked out a schedule to deal with it because I like schedules, and I like not feeling overwhelmed and anxious. One or the other is fine, thanks. But both? Not okay.

So yes, my house remains very neatly kept. I actually think it's cleaner than it was when I worked here, because I'm not here as often to make any messes. This is very convenient. Other things that I don't have to do as often:

*buy coffee because I'm not drinking as much (here, anyway)

*do the dishes

*get more kleenex (it's allergy season. There's a box in every room, but I'm not going through them as quickly)

*empty the trash. Well, that's not true. I still empty it every day, but now it's not as full when I empty it, which I kind of like.

*replace printer ink or office supplies.

(Speaking of the above, I cannot get used to the fact that I don't have to buy my own office supplies for my new job. THEY HAVE THEM. I get to use them. If I want something, they'll bring it to me. WHAT IS THIS PARADISE? Ooooh, and I have a comfy chair! With wheels! And isn't it sad how amazing this all seems to me?)

So, yeah.

But anyone on the anxiety spectrum -- OCD or whatever you want to call it -- will tell you (and probably with a sigh) that the things that trigger them are not things they choose. I don't get to pick the "things left in the sink make me twitchy" aspect of my personality. That's not how it works.

The house? Is still clean. It has to be because whether I work here or not, I do still live here, and it needs to be neat and clean for me to continue to think of it as my fortress of solitude.

What are your quirks?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"Just picture a blue ocean. Breathe in the calm."

"I can tell you don't know me that well. My default setting isn't zen."

II

"Here's how I can tell she's lost weight: I pick her up and nearly toss her over my shoulder because she's so much lighter than my brain is expecting."

"So. You've been throwing her around like a bean bag?"

"Kinda?"

"Finally, her name makes sense."

III

"It's so weird. Everyone there is nice. And they're stressed out, but they're NICE. They seem to like each other. But they also speak sarcasm and smart-ass fluently."

"It's like the mother ship calling you home."

"Who could have suspected?"

IV

"So there I was, blogging away in the wee hours, when all of a sudden all I could hear was a swarm of vicious, angry, alien bees."

"WHAT?"

"That's what I said. 'WHAT?' And then I got worried, because ... alien bees."

"..."

"Then I looked out the window and saw that the black Jetta that is usually parked outside my window was running and it was the source of the noise. It wasn't angry extraterrestrial stinging insects after all. I felt a lot better."

"... There is something significantly wrong with you."

"Actually, I'm pretty good. But I think there's something wrong with that car. Cars should NOT sound like that."

V

"I was all 'oh I think I did the wrong thing' and then my song came on the radio and I decided that was the universe telling me that I did the right thing and who am I to question?"

"So in your head, 'The Universe' sounds like ..."

"...Freddie Mercury. Sometimes."

"'Bohemian Rhapsody'?"

"'These are the Days of Our Lives'."

"I NEVER hear that on the radio."

"I KNOW! That's how I knew it was the universe! I don't just proclaim this shit willy-nilly."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Highway Diva

I like to sing in the car. Wait, that's not quite right. I like to sing at all times, wherever I go, but I love to sing in the car. With air drumming, and dramatic head tosses, and car dancing.

Because there's a part of my brain that is convinced that when I'm driving, no one can see me being a complete moron.

This, of course, is not true.

Until recently, I didn't drive very much. But now I have to drive to work, which takes about twenty minutes (depending on traffic, which can be sucktastic). For those twenty minutes? I am a rock staaaaaaar. I am singing! And laughing at myself! And happy!

And ... NOT INVISIBLE TO OTHER DRIVERS.

Especially, as it turns out, at stop lights. Yesterday, I happened to turn my head to the right while belting out one of my new favorite songs in time to see:

A very attractive individual, who was ... laughing at me.

I should probably have been embarassed. I mean, that's embarassing, right?

But I wasn't, and I'm still not.

Because if doing what makes me happy -- even if it's as stupid as being an overly dramatic singer in my car -- makes someone else laugh and gives them a funny story to tell? 

Then who cares? Who cares if other people don't get it? Who cares if you love to sing in the car, the shower, the grocery store? Who cares if you like to bust out into a random dance step while you're shopping at a department store?

What difference does it make if it makes you smile? And how much of a difference could it make if you make someone else smile?

So someone laughs at you. So what? I can think of very little that is more horrible than taking yourself so seriously that you can't bear being laughed at... and if you laugh too, then you're being laughed with -- and laughing with other people is one of life's great joys.

When Neighbouring Vehicle saw that I was seeing the laughter, HE looked mortified. I wish he hadn't. I wish he'd given me a thumbs up, or broken into applause or something. That would have been cool. Instead, he fixed his eyes on the traffic light and appeared to be willing it to turn green.

That guy needs to relax, and just maybe, sing a song.

It works for me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sticking Up for Kim Kardashian and Other Weirdness

Before I say anything else, I have to tell you: I don't know why Kim Kardashian is famous. I've never watched anything she's been in, and I don't know anything about her except that she was married to a guy for, like, seven minutes before filing for divorce, and that she's really pretty (because -- she's REALLY pretty) and that now she's carrying the child of Kanye "I'mmma let you finish" West.

Other than that? She's just another carbon based life form on a planet covered in carbon based life forms.

And that is why I'm sticking up for her.

I was at the grocery store the other night and, while waiting in line to check out, scanned the magazine covers. Five out of the six I looked at ripped Kim Kardashian apart for being fat, suggested she was disgusting, suggested that her fella was going to leave her because she was gross, suggested that she had lost control of herself and was either dancing with sloppy, gluttonous joy OR throwing herself into a pit of grease and french fry filled loathing.

Now. As I mentioned before, I don't know why she is famous, and maybe the price of fame is to have your photo splashed everywhere on a day when you might not be wearing your most flattering outfit. I'm not famous so I don't know.

But I do know the following:

1) Fat shaming a pregnant person is not only ridiculous, it is also downright mean.

2) Being fat does not equal being gross, or out of control, or disgusting.

3) Being fat does not HAVE to equal being filled with self loathing... but it can be hard to love yourself and your body if people are constantly telling you that you're worthless.

4) Being fat should not mean that everyone who views you has the right to judge you, or make comments, or be unkind.

When we as a society begin thinking it's appropriate to judge, shame, and mock a pregnant woman for gaining weight, we need to reassess our priorities and reconsider our standards of beauty. When it's more important to be thin and pregnant than healthy and pregnant, we have a serious problem. When I see headlines that compare Kate Middleton's weight to Kim Kardashian's, headlines that say "You can hardly even tell Kate's pregnant but Kim's a WHALE" without taking into account differences in height, differences in body type, and the fact that Kate Middleton was hospitalized for a condition that causes her to vomit uncontrollably on a daily basis, it makes me so mad I might spew myself.

This is not okay. I don't care why she's famous, and I don't care if she's the most shameless self promoter in the history of famousness (is she? I really don't know). THIS. IS. NOT. OKAY.

Not even a little.

So. I don't know Kim Kardashian. I don't know anything about her. But I do know this: I hope she's feeling good in her body. I hope she feels healthy. I hope her baby is growing strong and well.

And I hope that, despite all of the bullshit headlines about her, she feels beautiful. All  women should, at whatever size they find themselves, but ESPECIALLY when they're pregnant.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Trials of Being Beansie

When I got Bean in 2003, my life was a little different. And by "a little different" I mean: completely and totally different. We had a house. I had a life partner (or, you know, so I thought). I taught high school.

She was a happy, if very sick, little munchkin. Then she started to get better. And get really, really big, until she was a sixteen pound, fuzzy, clumsy goofball.

We cruised for a while. She made me laugh, because in addition to being affectionate and adorable, she's weird.

(You can make a joke about people and their pets resembling each other now if you want.)

About three years later, things changed. The life partner demonstrated a significant inability and unwillingness to continue in that role. Bean and I moved into an apartment. I worked in Portsmouth.

She was not a happy kitty.

I mean, she was happy to be with me -- I'm her person -- but she didn't like the apartment. To be fair, I didn't like it either; it was dark in there all of the time like a small, ill-kept cave. I worked long hours and was gone a lot.

Neither of us were very happy.

And then I decided to take a job where I'd be working from home and move to North Carolina.

At first, Beansie thought this decision was ... um ... questionable. For one thing, it involved putting her in a kennel in the back of my car and driving to North Carolina. She was NOT INTO IT. Not even with kitty valium.

For another thing, there was already another cat living in the household we were joining. A small tortie who should have been named Lucifer named Isabella. A small, ANGRY tortie who quickly sized up Bean and thought "That cat might be enormous, but I am going to make her my bitch."

When Bean got over her fear of her new, pint sized (but evil) housemate and came out from behind the washing machine after three days of cowering, she surveyed the scene and decided that this was a pretty good deal. Big house. More humans to dote on her (and oh, man, my folks love her). And -- perhaps this is the best part -- I was home. EVERY DAY.

It was like she won the kitty lottery. Except for the tortie. But she learned to stay out of Izzy's way, sort of.

We did that for three years when I decided -- because I'm like this -- that I really wanted to move back to New Hampshire.

Again, I'm pretty sure that Bean found this to be a questionable decision. Didn't we have a good thing going in North Carolina, if you didn't count the other cat? Big house! Grammie and Grampie! NEARLY ENDLESS ACCESS TO KITTY COOKIES!

But we got back in the car anyway. At this point, she seemed more resigned than anything. 24 hours in a car? FINE. Two days in a hotel? WHATEVER.

Big, sunny apartment? SWEET.

And of course, I was still home all day.

Happy kitty.

About three years later, I decided -- not to move again, I'm over it -- but to take a job outside of the house. This is awesome.

But.

My timing is not stellar. Bean is nearly ten years old. She's no longer sixteen pounds -- she's started losing weight randomly (and yes, we have a vet appointment and yes, I'll keep you posted) and of course, right when I'm worrying about her health? I'm not home all of the time to keep an eye on her.

This is stressing me out.

When I got home from work yesterday, I had no idea how she was going to be. Would she be cranky kitty? Would she be up my bucket Beansie? Would she have destroyed things or yarked on the furniture?

I opened the door. She was sitting on the kitchen table. She chirped at me and started to purr. I put my stuff down and picked her up. She leaned her head back and gently nipped the tip of my nose.

So I guess we're good.

But I'm still going to worry about that skinny little whackadoo.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Suddenly, Sadness

People, I'm not going to lie to you: I'd been looking for a new job for a while. Not because I hated working from home, because I didn't. Except, of course, for the part where I could successfully -- and that should be in air quotes, like "Successfully" -- go several days without speaking to another human being in person.

That seemed like a problem.

There were other problems, too. Like when one of my favorite people got fired suddenly.  Like the fact that I didn't have benefits and probably never would. Like the fact that I was working between 11 and 13 hours a day, every day, for a company I didn't actually own. Like the reality that I would get a "nice job" on a regular basis and continue taking on new responsibilities, but hadn't had a raise since 2010.

You know, stuff like that.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I don't mean it to. That was the deal, all of that stuff, so I dealt with it.  For about four and a half years, it was totally fine.

Then I just burned out.

I don't think anyone was surprised.

So I started looking for another job. It took me quite some time to find one. The good thing about looking for a job while you have a job is just that: you have a job.

The bad thing about looking for a job while you have a job is that every job that you don't get an interview for is a reminder that you're stuck somewhere that's making you increasingly unhappy. I think it would be like being a zoo animal in a cage that sits on its natural habitat. I was a giraffe that could see other, happy, free roaming giraffes through the bars of my enclosure.

This did not make me a happy giraffe.

I don't like to live in negatives, so I found the things in my day that I did like and tried to work with those. Dance parties in the office! Hanging with the Bean! Writing! Anything that could help me to be positive and hold on to the shreds of my sanity that hadn't already flown out the window.

Eventually, I found a new job.

Released. To go play with other giraffes.

This was clearly awesome.

But it also made me a little sad, and I had to think about why.

I took that job -- the one I was leaving -- when I was at a low, low point in my life, and I was convinced that I wasn't really ever going to be good at anything again. I quickly discovered that I was wrong -- I was REALLY good at that job. I got promoted several times during my first year there. It was exciting and affirming in an "Oh, hey, apparently I am not worthless" kind of a way. It also gave me the opportunity to travel on my own, which wasn't something I had really done before and which was an amazingly positive thing for me.

Some people go to India and find themselves. I found myself in a computer screen and the airports of America.  While that's not going to be a bestselling memoir, it worked quite well for me.

So I stayed. Through turmoil and changes in ownership and mismanagement and lack of money. I stayed and I worked through it. My employment with that company lasted longer than the marriage that ended in divorce that caused me to go work for that company in the first place.

It makes sense that leaving would be a little sad. So I was.

But today? Today I start something totally new -- and that's not even a little sad.

That's just exciting.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"She calls me boss. Like, 'On it, Boss,' like I'm Gibbs. It will make me sad when I don't have that anymore."

"You'll always be their Gibbs, I think."

"Without the headslaps."

"Well, you can't exactly reach through the computer."

II

"You know how I told you I hate to exercise and that I'd never look forward to it, ever, because I hate it?"

"Yeah."

"I found something I liked."

"Like, a real activity?"

"No, the imaginary kind. Asshole."

III

"It's fun because I'm WACKY."

"Yeah. I've been trying to ignore the wackiness for years. But you finally wore me down."

"Yay! ... Hey, wait, that's not nice."

"Just think of it this way: you've made annoying endearing."

"... and I'm okay with it when you put it that way."

IV

"I don't WANT to do that."

"Dude, you're 8. The problem with being 8? You don't get choices. That's why it's fun to be a grown up."

"When do I get to be a grown up?"

"Not today, my friend. Sorry. Now go do the thing you don't want to do."

V

"So then I asked her what she did to her arm, and she was all 'I got a tattoo! Don't tell my husband!"

"Oh boy. He's gonna find out."

"Not from me!"

"How do you explain that? 'I walked into a tattoo needle?' That's crazy."

"Sometimes a girl just needs a tattoo."

"... or, you know, a BUNCH of them."

"That might just be you."


Like A Boss (Part 5)

on being the boss

Here's the thing:

I've been writing about terrible bosses, and everything that a boss shouldn't do; while I've been doing that, I've also been thinking about my own performance as a boss.

I would like to think that I've never made anyone uncomfortable, or been inappropriate. I'd like to think that the people I've worked with have known that I do, really, care about them. I'd like to think that I haven't been a total asshat as a boss.

I'm sure I've had asshatty moments, though. I know I can get impatient, and that I can be sarcastic. I know that there have been moments where I have been snappy. I am hoping that those moments were few and far between, but I expect they might not have been.

No one is perfect.

But I would like to take another, final moment to say to the team I worked with FOREVER: You guys. You guys are the best, and you're the reason I did this even as long as I did, and while I'm not sorry to be going? I'm sorry to be leaving this team. No one works harder or pulls off more miracles than you. I just love you guys. Amy, Emily, Tess, Bronwyn, Peggy, NiTara, Desiree, Sarah, Charlene, Curtis, Hayley, Blair, Desiree, and Dana: you've all been amazing every damn day. Thank you for being the best team anyone could ever have asked for.

It was easy to be in charge of such amazing people, and if my next team is even half as wonderful as you? I'll be in very good shape.

So, thanks for letting me be your boss for a while.

And don't put up with any crap.

Thus Endeth The Lesson

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Like A Boss (Part Four)


Don’t Pretend to Care

Remember when I was a teacher and I got my ass handed to me in the lobby by some students?

My supervisor called me five hours later and went to voicemail: “I hope you’re okay,” he said, “give me a call back. I care about you.”

I called him back and left him a voicemail.

He never called back.

Not ONLY did he never call back, we never discussed it. EVER. Until the day I gave my resignation and he said, “Is this about what happened?”

Because, you know, he CARED.

Boss Ladies and Boss Gentlemen – if you don’t care (and sometimes you won’t)? Don’t pretend to, and don’t half-ass it.  Your employees know that you’re faking it, and it makes them LOATHE you. Forever and ever.

Things that fall under the category of pretending to care, in addition to the above, are as follows:

“I really wish we could hire some help so you’re not working 60 hours a week. Except, you know, we’re not going to.”

“It’s important to me that you have a personal life. Hey, you can work from 6 am to 8 pm on Friday, right? And come in on Saturday, too? That’s awesome.”

“Enjoy your vacation. Get some rest. Oh, you’re going to be able to check your email while you’re gone, right? And can you dial into the conference call? Great. Yeah, have a good time. Don't even think about work!”

“I know you’re getting divorced and that sucks. Could you try to be more cheerful? You’re bringing me down.”

“I would LOVE to be able to give everyone a raise, but it’s just not feasible. Oh. Did I tell you that I just hired two new programmers? Do you know how much those guys MAKE?”

If you don't care? Don't try to act like you do. Just ... don't. It's better to have a boss who doesn't care than to have one who pretends he does.

Thus endeth the lesson

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Like A Boss (Part Three)


No one wants to read your mind (and other true stories)

I worked with a boss who liked to open meetings and conference calls like this:

“Hey gang. How’s everyone doing today? Great. Great. So. Guess what I’m thinking?”

This would be amusing except for the fact that he expected us to know. He expected us to know even though he never published an agenda for meetings. In fact, there was usually a pool of bets going as to whether or not he would even attend the meetings, despite the fact that they were held every Friday at noon.

When he did bother to come, he’d show up late, interrupting whatever we were discussing. And then he’d play his “use your ESP” card:

“Guess what I want to talk about now?”

We would guess incorrectly. We ALWAYS did, ALWAYS, because what he was thinking about or wanted to talk about would have very little to do with the work we were actually doing, and were generated as a result of a completely random series of events that he would string together  -- for example: Getting a coffee plus hearing Journey on the radio plus attending a high school lacrosse game equaled  “we need to rebuild a user interface” and woe to us if we couldn’t see how that made PERFECT sense --  but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be furious about the fact that we were not on the cutting edge of his brain.

“I need a team of THINKERS” he would fume. “You are USELESS.”

The problem with the above statement, though, was that he didn’t just want us to think: he wanted our thoughts to be the same thoughts that he was having.  For example:

“Danielle, why do you think that your favorite colour is black?”

“Well, you know, I like that it goes with everything, and black feels clean to me.”

“That’s WRONG. Your favorite colour is black because you’re lazy.”

You’re probably thinking I made that up, right?

I did not make that up.

When I found myself googling Miss Cleo and other telephone psychics – not because I wanted to hire one of them, but because I wanted to learn their tricks for appeasing people and making their clients THINK they were psychic, I realized: I should really be googling job websites.

So let me say this: if you are a boss and you expect your employees to read your mind?

You are a bad boss.

And if you are a boss who says she wants “thinkers” but then always tells employees that their responses to your questions are wrong?

You are also a bad boss.

Part of being an employer, I think, is providing leadership. As in – STEER THE FREAKING SHIP.  As in, if you’re going to a meeting and you want your people to be thinking along the same lines as you? Publish an agenda. Or just say, “here’s what I’m thinking we should talk about/ do/ work on.”  Those are active, useful tasks.

Guessing what you’re thinking? Is not an active useful task.

When you ask your employees questions – even questions like “what’s your favorite colour” and their answers are NEVER correct? Don’t complain that you don’t work with thinkers. Complain that you’re a terrible boss who has taught your employees that there is no value to thinking. There’s no point in brainstorming or working hard or even, in some cases, knowing a right answer. You don’t actually WANT them to think – you want them to say exactly what you want to hear. That’s not thinking. It’s parroting.  And after having “You’re WRONG” barked at them enough times, an employee will give up on thinking and do her best just to be a parrot.

If you want thinkers? Nurture thought.

If you want results? Be task oriented.

If you want to be a leader? FRIGGING LEAD.  Be open. Allow your team to be a team and work together (and, you know, to really WORK).

And if you just want people to reflect who you think you are? Start having your meetings alone, in front of a mirror. Everyone will be happier.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Like A Boss (Part Two)

Try to be somewhat appropriate
 
 
Let's just review some things that are not appropriate in a professional setting, especially if you are a boss:
 
*if you have a petite female coworker and you are a large, burly man? Picking her up and swinging her around is not an appropriate move.
 
*if you have a petite female coworker and you are a large, burly man? Picking her up and putting her in your LAP is not an appropriate move.
 
*When announcing yourself in a conference call, saying "Adolph Hitler" is not an appropriate move. Any kind of mass murdering historical figure, in fact, should be avoided during polite conversation.
 
*When an employee says she fears her ex-husband, musing aloud, "You know, I'd really like to meet that guy," is not an appropriate move.
 
*When working with a young, female coworker, do not suggest that she entertain a male coworker by dancing for him. This is not an appropriate move.
 
*Telling racial jokes during a business meeting is not an appropriate move.
 
*Indicating to an employee that his religious preference is dumb is not an appropriate move.
 
*Telling employees how they should vote? Is not an appropriate move.
 
*Referring to an employee as a dirty, tree hugging hippie? Is not an appropriate move.
 
*Telling an employee that s/he is an idiot, a useless waste who offers no value to the company?Is not an appropriate move. (Also, see Like A Boss Part One)
 
Here's the thing: being appropriate doesn't have to mean being excessively politically correct (although I'm a big fan of political correctness, it's true) -- being appropriate means not deliberately making people uncomfortable. If you feel like you want to use your platform to make everyone around you uncomfortable?
 
Become a comedian. Get a twitter account. Write a blog.
 
Because if you're doing this stuff at work? You're really just being a douchebag.
 
And that is not an appropriate move.
 
Thus endeth the lesson.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Like A Boss (Part One)


So as you may (or may not) know, I quit my job last week. Before you panic and think OMGWTF SHE’S GONNA BE HOMELESS, don’t worry, I start another job on Monday.

I’ve been thinking, though, that in the history of my employment, erm, path? I have worked with individuals who have taught me lessons that they, perhaps, didn’t INTEND to teach. Sometimes it has been like attending graduate school taught by the management impaired.

So welcome to a short blog series – Things I have learned from people I work with! – that will encompass my entire employment career and which will, hopefully, entertain you.

Lesson One:

Fear and intimidation are not inspiring.

I REALLY wish I had only one experience with a boss who was a bully manager. Alas, that is not the case.  I’ve had two. Well, sort of three if you count the place I worked where the entire corporate culture can be described as “Fear ‘n Beer” but THAT, my friends, is a post for another day.

Look, if you’re in a supervisory position and all you can think of as a way to motivate your employees is “What if I get my very large self right in that person’s space and scream at them”? You’re failing in a significant way. If your joy comes from watching employees whimper? That’s NOT COOL.  I’m not saying you need to coddle and nurture and handhold every day of your life – heavens knows, I’m not the most nurturing daffodil in the flowerbed – but I AM saying if your default setting is to try to make people fear you, or cry, or both? They’re not going to RESPECT you.

People work a lot harder for supervisors and employers they respect. Ever notice that?

When you don’t respect someone, and they are screaming at you for the 1156th time, your brain starts to count off the minutes the tirade is taking, acknowledging silently that you will never, ever, EVER get them back. And that you should really fix your manicure because, oh look, your thumbnail is chipped.  While your eyes glaze over and you make the proper yes, sir, no sir, responses, you take the time to note the spittle flying from Angry von Maddington’s mouth and think, if he spits on me, maybe I can add that to my formal complaint regarding this as a hostile working environment. Because, really. And then, maybe, you start HOPING he’ll spit on you, because won’t that be a good story later? It totally WILL be.

Trust me, when an employee starts half hoping you’ll spit on her because she wants to add to the lawsuit? You’re a bad manager.

And when the notion that you might ACTUALLY spit on someone, or strike them,  seems neither far-fetched or out of the realm of possibility?

You’re a TERRIBLE manager.

Because no one does their best work when they are terrified that someone is going to stop by their desk and rip them apart at any moment. No one thrives in an environment when they’re constantly being told how useless and stupid they are. No one – NO ONE – WANTS to work like that. If an employee IS working like that? That employee is looking for another job, and is absolutely right to do so.

In the meantime?

They’re kind of hoping for that spit. Because a lawsuit could mean that they got to own the company and fire your angry ass.

Thus endeth the lesson.