“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


To the dear folks at My Bank*

Thursday, February 28, 2008

If you are going to make a major change to your ATMs, like, for instance, sealing off the envelope holding slot so that one cannot access the deposit envelopes without actually starting a transaction, you may want to make it clear that there actually are envelopes and that you need to start a transaction to access them, rather than leaving it a mystery for your patrons to figure out, which might possibly end up sending them on a wild goose chase over the period of two hours or so, leaving them incredibly frustrated in trying to find a machine before finally figuring out how the new machines work.

Also, if you must make such aforementioned changes to your ATMs, you would be wise to be sure that the employees at your banks know how to use them and are able to explain to their customers that they need to start a transaction to access the envelopes.

And finally, you may want to set the ATM to give the customer a few minutes to fill out the required information on the envelope after making it available, rather than immediately starting to beep very loudly and eventually threatening to time out, not leaving any more time than before, when the envelope could be filled out entirely before starting the transaction.

Thank you.


*Not it’s real name.

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Somebody Help Me – I Can't Breathe

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This week has been absolutely miserable. Actually, the week is probably fine. It's me that's miserable. The company I now work for has a policy that new employees can only take 1 day off in their first 90 days on the job, so I am stuck working even though I am miserably sick and my co-workers are terrified of me and my germs.

I have a bottle of Purell on my desk which I use faithfully after every time I touch my face or head for any reason. (Great idea, Holy Mama.) But unfortunately I can't constantly disinfect the air around me. I suppose I could take a can of Lysol to work, but what am I going to do? Spray it every time I breath out?

The Geek suggested wearing a face mask to work, but I just can't do that. I'm sorry, but I am too proud, even if it is a hospital. Since I work in the office area I have no contact with patients, doctors, or nurses, which is some small comfort to me, but not necessarily to my co-workers.

Anyway, I think this poem sums up pretty well how I'm feeling today, and in case you missed it the first time around, here are verses two and three of the poem, though I spent all of Wednesday at work this time.

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Isn't It Ironic

Monday, February 18, 2008

I found out something new about my new co-workers today. The are really paranoid about getting sick. Much more so than I have found in any other office where I have worked in the past. Maybe it’s because I work in a hospital now – I don’t know.

On Friday, my throat started feeling a little scratchy. By Saturday I was scratchy and tired. Sunday I was scratchy, tired and had that indescribable but oh-so-annoying feeling of sick. Today, armed with kleenexes, a bottle of water, and a bag of cough drops, I went to work. The scratchy, tired, sick wasn’t horrible, just enough to be annoying.

But as the day progressed, the scratchy, tired, sick got worse. The scratchy got to the point that the cough drops and water really weren’t helping. People were beginning to give me that “don’t you DARE make me sick” look. My trainer told me that there were 41 people in the ER on Saturday, most of whom were complaining of a scratchy throat: I think that may have been a hint.

I finally decided to go home when I couldn’t stop coughing and the irritation in my throat was making my eyes water uncontrollably. I asked my manager to allow me to leave and she replied emphatically (and with a paranoid step backward), “Go home before you infect the whole office!”

This is very different than my experience in other offices. Most places I have worked have had the attitude that you work until you cannot work anymore. If you are so incapacitated by your sickness that you truly cannot do your job, then you can consider going home, but only then.

Here, it seems they are more concerned about keeping the rest of the office healthy. Which I can understand, though I find it ironic considering the only place I’ve been in the past week is the office, which means I caught it from them in the first place.



Do You Hate Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I've been hearing a lot of negativity this year toward Valentine's Day – even more than usual. There's the "it's just a trick of the floral and greeting card companies to get more of your money" crew, and the "why do we need a special day for love" crew, among others.

I can understand the animosity of people who are unattached and wanting to be with someone. At least they have a reason to dislike the day. But I'm also hearing this from people who do have someone with whom to celebrate love.

I've never considered myself all that much of a romantic, but I love Valentine's Day. Yes, I can (and do) choose to show my husband that I love him any day, but why not have a particular day set aside in honor of that love. We have a date night every Friday night, and we always celebrate our wedding anniversary, but it's nice to have one more day of the year that is set aside just for this purpose, one more day that gives us an excuse to go out and celebrate the fact that we are together, married, in love with each other.

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between? Can anyone explain to me the reason there is so much animosity toward this holiday? I don't know that you'll convince me, but I'd like to hear what you think all the same.




Wednesday, February 13, 2008

YoYo joined our crew of cats about 5 years ago or so. He was a scrawny, sickly little orange and white cat that our neighbors had been feeding on their back step for a while. It wasn’t the first time they had come to us, hoping that we might take in a stray cat. They took care of the strays in the neighborhood as best they could, but because of severe allergies they could not take them inside.

It was October and there were so many reasons to rescue him. He was small and weak and had been declawed in all four paws before he was abandoned by his previous owner. Winter was coming and if a bigger cat didn’t get to him, the cold would. Plus there were rumors around the neighborhood about some sick kids who were torturing stray cats.

So we brought him home. The very first night he was at home with us, he jumped on the bed, laid on my chest, and stretched his paws out in front of himself to gently touch my chin; he’s done the same thing nearly every night since.

He was always a little shaky, but we figured at first that he was just weak from malnutrition. We nick-named him "Squirmy" because he never stopped moving. We found out shortly after we took him in that there was something wrong.

Then one night we heard an awful noise. It was YoYo. He on the floor flopping around like a fish out of water. It was horrible. I picked him up and held him close while I sat on the bed. The seizure didn’t last long. When it was over his legs seemed to be weak for a short time, and then suddenly he was fine again.

In fact, he was doing so well that we decided not to take him to the vet, but to just keep an eye on him for the time being and see how he did.

A while later I came home from work one day to find him cowering in a corner, filthy from head to tail, his eyes matted and dirty. He had somehow gotten into something; we never did figure out for sure what it was. I quickly scooped him up and cleaned him up, cleaned his eyes as best I could and took him to the emergency vet.

Whatever he had gotten into had caused corneal abrasions in both eyes. The vet told me that he would probably see much like a person like myself who has to wear glasses.

While I was there I talked to the vet about the seizures and YoYo’s general shakiness. After examining him, the vet determined that he has a neurological disorder (I don’t remember the name of it) that is sometimes contracted by kittens in the womb. Most of them don’t live long because they are so shaky they can’t lower their heads to eat or drink. YoYo was one of the lucky ones. According to the vet, there is nothing that can be done about it, so I took my sweet, shaky kitty home along with a prescription of eyedrops.

That was a long time ago, and since then YoYo has had many seizures. Last night, he had the worst one we have ever seen. It was so violent that when we were first awakened by it we didn’t know what we were hearing, even though we’ve been through this many times over the years. I picked him up like I always do and held him close while I sat on the floor, stroking his fur and trying my best to comfort him. When it was over, it took a good half hour before his legs were solid beneath him again. It was terrifying, but by the time the Geek and I had to leave for work he was fine again, just like he always is.

This afternoon when I arrived home, I immediately checked on him. As is usual, he was laying on the bed next to another cat. When I walked in, he rolled over on his side and begged for a tummy rub. I complied and he began to kitty kiss my hand and wrist vigorously, as always. I’m sure he doesn’t remember what happened last night, and for his sake I’m glad of that. I just wish I didn’t remember it either.

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Back To Work

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today was my first day at my new job. It went reasonably well. The woman who was training me kept saying, “I know this doesn’t make sense now, but it will.” There was a time when I would have craved such reassurance when learning a new job, but not anymore. I’m not saying it wasn’t welcome, but I have started enough new jobs in my life that I know this fact like I know the back of my hand: it will always seem overwhelming and foreign at first, but give it a little time and some repetition, and it will soon become second nature.

In this particular place, that rule applies not only to the work itself, but to the building as well. It is an old hospital, with many low-ceilinged, narrow, labyrinth-like hallways and odd twists and turns and ups and downs. By the end of the day I managed to find my way to the break-room and the restroom by myself. Tomorrow my trainer promised to come find me if I haven’t found my way to her by 6:40.

That’s right. 6:40. My starting time is 6:30 a.m., and believe it or not, that’s by my own choice. I was given the option of starting anytime so long as I started by 7:00 on at least two days of the week. I chose to start at 6:30 every day. For a non-morning person, this is a remarkable display of growth and maturity, though I do have the option to fall back to 7:00 in the future if necessary. Of course, the main benefit of the early morning is that I will be home by 3:15 every day, which allows me time at home in which to accomplish a few things and still relax a bit in the evening.

All in all, I think this will be a good job. The work is interesting, the people are friendly and the atmosphere is comfortable. I must admit though, I really missed my home and my dog today. I know it’s silly, but after six weeks at home I’ve gotten used to Razzie sleeping in a nearby sunbeam while I make bread or balance the checkbook or do laundry; the comforting way the sun warms our home as it pours through the windows, even in the dead of winter; the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of a home well-cared-for without the stress of doing it all in the evenings; a good hot meal ready to eat with my husband when he gets home.

I’m going to miss all these things, but maybe someday I’ll get them back again. In the meantime, I’m making money which is always nice, especially when you’re making mortgage payments on two houses.



What Would You Do?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Last week on Wednesday I visited my new place of employment to fill out some necessary paperwork. Once they process that (sometime this week), I will begin working. I was there about an hour.

As I approached my car to leave, I noticed that the van on my driver’s side (which was not there when I arrived) was parked at an angle that did not match that of the lines designating the parking space, and that it was very close to my car. As I continued my approach I noticed it was very, very close. “Great,” I thought. “I’m not going to be able to get into my driver’s side door.”

But it was worse than that. I walked as far as I could into the space between the vehicles. The van was touching my car. TOUCHING MY CAR! There was no note left behind. The driver was not there. They just pulled in, hit my car, and left. I suppose you’d call that a hit and run, except I don't think it's traditional to leave the vehicle behind.

I spent a few minutes circling my car in disbelief, observing the collision at different angles while trying to decide my next course of action. Here are a few of the options that crossed through my head.

1) Call my insurance agent.
I quickly dismissed this option since the incident was pretty minor and I didn’t want to have it show up on my record or increase my premium.

2) Call the police.
Seemed like overkill.

3) Go inside with the license plate number and ask the receptionist to page the owner of the vehicle.
Yeah, and the owner of the van is going to immediately leave his appointment and come running out to talk to the angry woman who is there to confront him about his bad parking job.

4) Sit in the car and wait for them to return...
in the winter cold, wasting MY time when they could possibly be in there for hours. Huh-uh.

5) Take down their license plate just in case anything ever comes of it and leave.
Ding ding ding ding ding!! We have a winner!

I climbed into my compact car through the passenger side and over the center compartment, and pulled out just far enough at first to observe the damage, which fortunately was minimal on my car and was in fact hardly noticeable when compared to all the other little scratches on my very old car. Their van seemed to be slightly more dented, but really? I couldn’t have cared less about that. Sorry. I know it sounds cold, but they hit me!!

So how about you? Would you have done the same? What would you have done differently?

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Look At Me #19

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ever since I discovered the Look At Me website, I have wanted to blog their photos. Look At Me is a wonderful compilation of lost photos. This is my attempt at a fictional depiction of who that little girl might have been.

Credit for the photo goes to Look At Me.

Dad and I grew up alone together. My mother was only a part of his memories, since she died before I was old enough to remember her. So it was just him and me, except on Saturdays.

Saturdays were special, because Dad took me to visit Grandma on Saturdays. Sometimes he would stay and sometimes he would leave me there to spend the day, just Grandma and me. He would dress me up in my best dress, coat, and hat and a little shiny black purse that Grandma liked. She always said that a lady, no matter how little, should be properly attired when she went visiting.

On chilly days, he always made me wear that silly hat with the earflaps. He would tie the string under my chin, tap the rim of my hat, and give me a kiss on my cheek. I loved waiting for the kiss; I hated that hat.

But Dad knew that if he didn’t cover my ears, he would never hear the end of it from Grandma. She seemed to think that the cold wind would somehow sneak up in my ears and kill me on the spot. I always wondered how Grandma got to be so smart, and my conclusion was that smartness was a gift that was given to you on the day you became old.

Age wasn’t a process, in my child’s mind; it was more of a series of events. I didn’t understand that people slowly changed over time. I imagined it was like a new look which you were given when you graduated to the next level of age. In my mind, Grandma must have received the highest level one could achieve. Her wrinkles and snowy-white hair were a sure testament to the glory of her great age.

When I would imagine what she looked like as a younger woman, I pictured her as some kind of glamorous movie star with tall blond hair and diamonds everywhere, which is exactly how I imagined my mother. It didn’t matter that the pictures in the photo album didn’t match the picture in my mind.

On the days when Dad left me with Grandma, we followed a beautiful routine. Grandma always complemented my lovely dress (even though it was the same dress I wore every week) and we always had tea together. Of course, my “tea” was watered-down apple juice, but it was a long time before I discovered that.

I always assumed that Grandma’s tea was sweet and fruity just like mine. The only difference was that, as a grown-up, she got to put a bit of lemon and a sugar cube in hers and drink it hot. I snuck a sugar cube into my “tea” once when she wasn’t looking. I have never again used a sugar cube in my tea – or anything else.

When I got older, I came to the horribly liberating realization that I could make my own choices, that my Dad and my Grandma didn’t have to dictate everything I did. So I made the choice not to visit Grandma every Saturday. I told myself that next week I would go see Grandma. Next week, we would have tea together. Next week I would dress up in a proper dress and hat and coat and go visiting. But next week rarely ever came and pretty soon it was next year, and the next, and the next.

And then Dad told me that Grandma’s health was failing and she would have to go live in a nursing home where they would take care of her and make sure she got regular baths and regular meals. This didn’t fit into my picture of Grandma. She was so independent. She was always so clean, and her house always smelled like fresh-baked things. How could Grandma not have regular baths or regular meals?

So I went to see her in her new accommodations. It turned out that there was another level beyond the wrinkles and snowy-white hair. Grandma had graduated again, and the new look this time was stooped shoulders and disorientation, a far cry from the diamond studded movie star of my childish imagination. She smiled and held out her hand to me from her seat in a chair covered in cracked, rose-emblazoned vinyl. I knelt beside her, my mind screaming silent apologies for letting this happen to her, for letting her get so old without my noticing.

The next Saturday I brought tea and apple juice to her little room. She complimented my dress and scolded me for not wearing a hat. I drank the tea; she drank the apple juice. I used lemon and honey and reminded her that she was drinking apple juice when she asked for a sugar cube. We talked about the weather, and events that had been current 20 years ago.

When I left, I promised her I would wear a hat next Saturday, and as I looked back and saw her, withered but smiling in that vinyl chair, I remembered that old vision of a diamond-encrusted movie star and realized that her smile alone was worth more than the value of all the diamonds that I could ever have imagined, even as a little girl on her doorstep in a hat with earflaps.

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6 Weird Things About Me

Saturday, February 02, 2008

When Holy Mama posted this meme (like, a million years ago), she thought that "everyone in the world had already posted their 6 Weird Things." Well, make that every one but me. I've seen many different versions (mostly involving different numbers) of this floating around blog-world for almost as long as I've been blogging, yet this is the first time (in my recollection) that I have done it.

1. I hate chocolate. Really, really hate it. I can't stand the smell of it. When I smell gooey chocolate stuff baking it makes me a little sick.

People don't really get this – I mean beyond the shocked "you don't like chocolate!?" that I hear every time a new person discovers this about me.

A friend once told me that she didn't like chocolate either, but soon after I found her eating a brownie. When I inquired she responded that she didn't like chocolate with mint. Hello? That's like me saying I don't like cheese because I don't like cheese with...okay, bad example. I can't think of anything that doesn't go with cheese. But you get the idea, right?

Oh yeah, and white chocolate? IT'S STILL CHOCOLATE!! I can't begin to tell you how many people have tried to convince me that it's not chocolate because it's white. Yeah. It still has cocoa in it. It's still chocolate.

2. I don't like strawberries either. Strawberry flavored candy is okay...sometimes...but I really don't like strawberries. They're not as bad as chocolate, and I actually like the smell of them, but I could probably count on one hand the number of strawberries I've eaten in my lifetime and those were mostly only to see if my taste had changed.

It hasn't.

3. I've never seen the movie, "Titanic". Never have, never will. I am completely and utterly uninterested in seeing this movie. Someone once told me that it was irresponsible of me not to see it because it was about an important event in history. Yeah. Sorry. Not gonna happen.

4. My husband can remember every detail and every date of our courtship/engagement. I can't remember a single date and few details. Most of it is just kind of a blurry haze of googly-eyed-ness.

5. I hate puns. Seriously. Not just roll-my-eyes-in-mock-disgust hate. I actually despise them. I know I'm setting myself up with this one, but nonetheless, there it is. My Geek delights in torturing me with puns as did my dad before him.

6. Sometimes I secretly do weird number and letter gymnastics in my head – mostly when I'm bored. Nothing to do with math. I'm no genius doing complex equations in my head by any means.

For example, I once discovered that two co-workers, who happened to be sisters but had different last names due to marriage, had the same distance between the first letter of their first and last names. One had the initials B.H. and the other V.P. If you count the distance between B and H, and V and P, you'll find they are both 7 letters apart.

Of course, simple math would tell you that what follows is that the distance is the same between the first letter of each of their first names as between the first letter of each of their last names.

I know. I’m a freak.

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Addendum To An Infatuated Rave

Friday, February 01, 2008

If you happen to have been irresistibly compelled to acquisition by my infatuated rave over Eats, Shoots & Leaves the other day, and have decided that it would be a wonderful addition to your children’s grammatical education, please pause a moment and allow me to issue this warning.

It’s not a children’s book. That does not necessarily mean it’s not for all children, but I would really recommend that you as a parent read the book first and determine whether or not it is for you only, or for your children as well – not that you don’t already do that.

I still hold that Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a brilliant and hilarious book that teaches punctuation in such an entertaining manner that you won’t even realize you’re doing something so boring as learning grammar until you find yourself using a dash properly in your next blog post. But there is a smattering of slightly less than child-friendly references, the worst of which is when she apologetically refers to an off-color term sometimes used in the printing business in reference to an exclamation point. Nothing mind-blowing, but I just want to give you the opportunity to avoid explaining to your children the other meaning of a word that might usually refer to a chicken.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

I believe though, that Lynne Truss may also have written a version for children. That might avoid having to answer any scary questions. As for scary questions regarding proper punctuation, I wouldn’t worry. Ms. Truss will answer them for you.