Maiden Moment #2005

Obviously I went into work in a pretty lousy mood. I was working in the kids' department by myself, and at one point in the evening I had gone to drop off some non-kids' books off at recovery.

I walked back into the kids' department and stopped in my tracks as I was met by the Ex's cousin. I have nothing against her--she's nice, and in fact her family is one of the nicest parts of the Ex's family (I liked them more than I liked his parents). Not far into grad school, I had run into her and her mom in the supermarket, so she remembered and asked how school was going. She's a teacher, so we talked about school and jobs and stuff. She was looking for a particular author, so I helped her find a few titles.

As we were talking, I noticed at one point she was looking down--at what? It wasn't until later that I figured out she was doing a ring(s) check on my left hand. Whatever. It hasn't happened for her yet, either.

Then her mom came into the department, and she gave me a big hug. (Makes me think they would've liked me to have become part of the family.) We chatted for a bit--she sometimes sees my dad when he plays for the Mass they attend, so she told me a funny story about him--then her husband came over and we chatted a little bit more, then we wished each other well and they left for the DVD department.

It was uncomfortable at first, seeing them again, but they're such nice people it was easy to overcome (ring checking aside). Not the kind of thing to make this Maiden Aunt go home and beat her head against the wall, thankfully. . . no, that happened later, when after an evening of quoting The Princess Bride to each other and cracking jokes about the dreaded "urban fiction" question (response: we don't segregate our fiction!) with a male co-worker on whom I have a teensy crush, he complains about the operatic ambient music (what? I like "Old Man River" and "Nessun Dorma") and puts on Broadway.

Oh, that's right, completely ineligible for a crush.


Now I Reeeeally Hate Winter

I just had a teenage kid knock on my patio door and ask for some paper towels because his friend "cut his head and is bleeding." I don't know the kids. I didn't open the door.

I looked to my right, where the building entrance is, and I saw at least one other kid standing there. "Do you or your friend live here?" I asked.

"Yeah, I do," he said.

"Well, you're better off getting everyone inside and getting it taken care of," I said. Call me mean, but I didn't want to get involved, especially when they had the means to take care of it themselves, and I didn't need someone's parents giving me a hard time for getting involved.

Now, I'm thinking the kid walked across the snow to get to my patio door, but NO, he then walked to my right towards the entrance--where there are just piles of uneven rocks, presently coated in ice where the water has dripped and frozen--and immediately he slipped on the ice.

The kids laughed. They sounded fine to me. He got up and walked away. I walked away.

It's about fifteen or so minutes later, and now there are two police cars and an ambulance outside my building and the next building over. I don't know if it's related. I just called the building manager--I am so fortunate to have an on-site manager where I live now--and she assured me I wasn't responsible for anything, and she'd go check out what was going on.

Oh, hey, now there's a third police car. The first two are leaving.

Today is not the day for me to handle this kind of weirdness.

Can it be springtime now, please?

UPDATE (11:45 p.m., just home from work): The manager left me a voicemail saying that by the time she got outside, all the vehicles were gone so she didn't know what had happened--and she said if she'd been in my shoes she wouldn't have opened the door, either.

UPDATE (01/31/2009): I was still ruminating over this while I was trying to sleep--beating myself up for apparently being a total hypocrite after this post--as if I'd failed some cosmic test and now I don't deserve a high school librarian job. (Sometimes, when I'm anxious and tired, the guilt just bubbles up.) Then finally this morning I said to myself, "You did the best you could! You were already worn out and having a bad day, and you were about to leave for work, and then you got the daylights startled out of you. You reacted the only way you could at the moment, and it wasn't the worst thing." I still feel as if I have to redeem myself, though. But I'm moving on.

The Friday Five: A Frame-Up

This crazy winter weather! Some parts of the area got a little snow, compounding the problem of last night's freeze-up. I got a surprising call this morning: the computer guy was coming to fix my Mac at 1:00. So I ran and cleaned up everything--what I didn't have time to organize got stockpiled in the bedroom. The cat would be hiding in there, anyway.

So at nearly 1:20, I get another call. One of his employees is stuck somewhere, and he has to go help that person and cover some other jobs, so ETA would be closer to 4:00. No good--I have to be at work by 5:00. And no way to reschedule at that point--I just have to call next week. I understand I'm not a big priority customer, but I was really, really upset. I was really looking forward to having everything fixed. I had hoped to have access to my writing so I could enter a contest next week. . . I don't know if I'm going to make the deadline now, which is frustrating.

Needless to say, I needed cheering up. I had to go fax a thank-you note to the interview people from yesterday, and I decided I'd take a chance and see about getting my graduate degree framed. It, like everything else this week, took longer than expected. I give you the five steps to getting my degree framed:

1. Walk into the frame shop and summon the courage to call out, "Hello?" because no one is out front.

2. Be rewarded for my patience as the lady, after she calls the frame guy in from salting the back parking lot, lets me use the coupon that just came out in the local coupon magazine.

3. Enjoy the friendly antics of the funny red dog (depicted in the coupon page) who comes out to sniff me--and almost smooch me--as I wait for the lady to finish the phone call she picked up just after starting to talk to me.

4. Dither over practically every little aspect of the mats, the color of the mats, the width of the mats, the shape of the frame, etc. (I maintain that it's the frame guy's fault for giving a Libra too many choices.)

5. Realize that it has been over ten years since I got my bachelor's degree framed, and that the price obviously has gone up, despite the fact that the size of the degree has gone down, and put down a deposit.

Graduate degree: $$$$$
Frame for actual degree: $$$
Dog amusement and the knowledge that in about two weeks the degree will be up on my wall: Priceless.


Leave Your Issues at the Library Door

Or at least adopt a "live and let live" policy so citizens can use their library, huh?

So It's a Job. . .

. . . but is it one I want to take?

The interview went fine; I talked with the Children's librarian and the Reference librarian for nearly an hour. I've never done badly on an interview--I know how to keep my head and turn on the charm--but this fact tends to get me in trouble because then all employers think I want their positions very badly and are shocked when I turn them down after due consideration.

Not that I'm going to turn this one down if offered (and Lord only knows when that will be), unless something better turns up in the meantime. But honestly, this isn't much. It's part time, and pays nearly double what I'm getting at the bookstore (which is eh and as we all know double the eh is little better). I'm not crazy about coming up with programs but right now I'd do just about anything to be in a library and be around teens again. (As their librarian, just to be clear and non-creepy.)

Of course I had to be diplomatic and sidestep their suspicious question of, "Isn't your ideal position in a school?"

I was pretty honest: there's nothing in a school, in this general area, being offered at this moment. It's essentially true. The last job opening I saw was clear across the state and I'm not moving in that direction. Not for an elementary school position, anyway.

I can't wait to walk into the Career Services office at school on Monday and ask the guy, "What am I doing?" Because I don't know. I didn't expect to graduate in December. . . I didn't expect to be quitting my better-paying job so soon. . . I didn't know what to expect, and I was too crazy-busy just trying to graduate to plan--so what do I do now?

I'm not sure I thought this business of changing careers all the way through. I guess I thought I wouldn't have a problem finding a job. That's what all the library associations said--plenty of jobs! Join now! Grad school was advertising itself as the perfect way to change careers and soooo focused on me. I had a hard time feeling the focus while I was in the program at times, and post-graduation is more like "serve yourself." And I don't even know what I'm supposed to be going after.

Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't go back to my old job in a million years. I'm just have a hard time accepting that with more education I might spend a considerable amount of time making less than what I made last year (and even that was practically living paycheck-to-paycheck with school expenses and loan payments).

Maybe I have to pay my dues first. But is it too much to ask to get a little guidance?

The good news is that right now, it does not appear to be ready to snow when I go in for my rescheduled appointment next Monday with Career Services. As long as that storm predicted for Tuesday stays on Tuesday.


Job Search Surprise

Remember when I said the local library told me they weren't hiring at the moment? A few days ago, I got an e-mail saying they'd like to interview me the second week of February. Great, right?

Then I got a call yesterday (Monday) from one of the children's librarians, asking if I could come in this week. Um. . . wow. Yes, absolutely.

She e-mailed me the job description and I'm absolutely terrified by it (which is ridiculous in light of the fact it's part time), but maybe--if I decide I want the job--I'd be on the learning curve. I just need something to do, to get more experience, and bring in more money.

I was supposed to go downtown to meet with a school Career Services person tomorrow morning, but the weather has been snowy tonight and is expected to get worse. Figures, doesn't it? All I have to do is make an appointment, and January decides to be January on that day. Maybe I can have a phone appointment instead.

So it's been a strange week so far. Stay tuned, blog friends.


Speaking Up, Yielding Dialogue

After feeling as if I couldn't communicate anything to save my life (foot in mouth, having to repeat myself constantly) all week, I finally enjoyed one of those moments where things came out O.K. Plus, I got to get something off my chest. (Would that I could take care of a more irritating something, though, but way down the road.)

Sometimes at the bookstore, I work up at the cash wrap. It is surprisingly steady on the weekends, despite being past Christmas, but we do have downtime where a few of us cashiers joke around. Often (because most of us are single and have an appreciation for God's handiwork) we point out the cute customers shopping in the store--sometimes by way of a discreet post-it note system.

This afternoon, I was in for a few hours covering part of a shift for a co-worker who needed time to work on a group project for college. One of the cashiers with me was a fellow I'll call "Romeo"--a nice fellow, young as in maybe not quite 20, and open about the fact that he is gay--and he was craning his neck at a shopper and saying to me, "He's cute- Oh, wait, he's got a kid with him. You can have him." He said it lightheartedly, and added, "Breeders--oh, you heteros."

"Hey," I said. "I resemble that remark." I was trying to laugh it off, but I was a little hurt, because it brought to mind the fact that I was mocked in such a way on Thursday, when I was here (note: I don't know the person who took the photos, and not all of the signs represent my views).

So I told Romeo about it. How a group of young homosexual men, maybe around his age, maybe a little younger, had yelled, "Breeders!" at me and the people I was with, because of the reason we'd come there--and that it just was something I believed in--and how I felt about it. That it stung, and that I'd never point and yell at anyone like that, for any reason.

I kind of braced myself to be rejected for my somewhat controversial views, even if I had expressed them softly, but (as deep down I had a feeling he would be) Romeo was really nice about it. We wound up having a pretty good discussion about issues, actually, and even about kids. He showed me a picture on his phone of his adorable little niece.

I'm glad I went on Thursday, and I'm glad I had that moment today where I felt O.K. to tell someone about it.


Just Curious About Something

Do you ever get contacted by someone you used to know (maybe from college or an old job), out of the blue, and they seem interested in catching up--and then after you respond and tell them what you're up to, they talk up their business, or their spouse's business? More like pitching a service to you (and everybody else whose contact info shakes out of their address books)?

Do you fall for it, like, every time?

Or am I the only chump?

I mean, seriously--this last go-around, in the middle of the e-mail, I get hit with this: a bunch of links to the husband's business websites and "He is excited that he can now share this with you. If you would like more information, please let me know or visit [website]." Stock spiel. I mean, I'm mostly unemployed! I'm not even remotely affiliated with any business interested in whatever they're offering, and they know that, if they even read my previous e-mail.

I don't even know how to respond to it. All I really wanted was to see how big and cute their daughters are now.

Way to get my hopes up that I might be reconnecting with some old friends, and then dash them against some stupid business plan.


The Friday Five

Maybe it's my artistic side, but since my early teens my life seems to have a soundtrack running behind it all the time. Sometimes a song will pop into my head, and I'll wonder where it came from. . . then I mentally run through the lyrics, and some line is very relevant to what's going on at the time.

The other night, when I posted last, I was feeling so down that I needed to hear something, but I didn't know what. I started digging through my tapes (my scores of tapes that date back to college), and I pulled out one I had not listened to in a long time. I'd copied most of the songs from these two CD's belonging to a friend. Really somber stuff. I used to walk by myself on campus with my Walkman and this tape, often. Sad songs for sad times, I guess, and I've been fortunate enough not to have needed to listen to the tape for years now. But the thought of losing my writing the other night was incredibly disheartening. That sad tape was just the resonance I needed. And somehow, maybe it was the tape, maybe it was something else, eventually the fog started to lift, and things started turning around. When I got up the next morning, I felt as if a switch had been flipped. Thank God.

I think I'll always have songs that just evoke certain things in me. I'm sure just about everybody can name some song that they associate with a particular memory or feeling or person. Here are five songs that have personal meanings for me:

1. "Into the Mystic" (Van Morrison): The wedding party for my brother's wedding had to dance to this song. I was dancing with my brother's very tall college buddy who had been my escort down the aisle at church.

2. "Three Coins in the Fountain" (Frank Sinatra): Probably one of the most romantic moments in my life. Things with the Ex weren't all bad; just not completely right.

3. "Move Along" (All-American Rejects): A song I listened to, over and over in the car, to help me get over the Ex. It helped.

4. "Interstate Love Song" (Stone Temple Pilots): My brother, speeding down 95, driving both of us to college. Singing together.

5. "Oh Carolina" (Shaggy): My sister. . . too young to think anything of the lyrics, but bouncing around to the beat.

Try digging up an old song this weekend, for a good memory.

Somewhat Good News for the Computer Probs

After that sad, sad post the other night, a light bulb went on and I was able to dig up a couple of leads on businesses that repair Macs. As the library types would say, it's all about searching with the right descriptors.

Wednesday afternoon, I started calling them to find out more. The first call was answered by a cheerful woman who said sure, they fix older Macs and that they validate parking if I drive in. (Because it's in the city and G3s are incredibly heavy and unwieldy--like carrying a 14" TV/VCR combo--I would have to bring it in the car. No way I'd haul that on the bus. Anybody see Zoolander, where the dopey blond model drops the computer on the runway? Horrifying.) O.K., marked them down as a (fairly) viable option.

The second call was a bit off-putting. I had a hard time understanding the owner's accent, and the first thing he said when I told him my problem was, "Sounds like it's time for a new computer." That was not what I wanted to hear at that moment, because I'm far more concerned about saving my writing--"data" to him, I guess. A new(er) computer is probably an inevitable part solution to the problem, but don't sell to me over the phone until I know what I'm dealing with for the computer I currently own. Put a question mark next to that one.

Third call, I waited on hold for a minute, then got voicemail. So I left a message asking if they fixed older Macs. I got a return call but missed it--tried to call back but the man had left the office. I left another message with more specifics, and explaining that I would be out tomorrow (yesterday) but he could leave a message if he wanted. (Phone tag, yaaaay. /sarcasm). I appreciated the return call, so I marked them down as viable, too.

This morning, the man called again--I felt bad b/c I answered a bit sharply, having been about to grab some Advil--but once I realized who was calling I made the effort to be nice and forget about how sore I was. He was obviously in his car, driving somewhere (probably to fix somebody's computer!), but he listened to the problem, suggested it might be that the power management isn't working anymore, and gave a few recommendations for the solution. I felt as if this guy knew what he was talking about. Of course, right as he concluded and started warning me he was getting on Route Whatever and that usually causes his phone to cut out- It cut out.

I didn't call back. I figured it wasn't worth it until Monday, anyway, because I have no idea what my work schedule is for the coming week (bookstore is late posting it, grumble, grumble), and I would have to figure out when to schedule him to come take a look at the Mac--because it's either mail-in (hah) or on-site service.

A little frustrating, sure, but the situation looks a lot less hopeless than it did before.


I've Got Winter in My Discontent

This week just isn't going that great for me. I can't share the half of it, but here's a sample of what's bumming me out.

  • The local library sent me a "we'll call you when we actually form the position we're looking to fill" e-mail (semi-rejection)

  • People at work today seemed to be misinterpreting or just plain ignoring everything I said today (I really did try to tell the manager I couldn't work Thursday, but she looked at the schedule, made a comment about someone else, and walked away. Guess I'll call later today and try again.)

  • It's still really icy out here. As in my car doors keep icing shut and I'm worried I might break them (or all my fingers) prying them open.

  • And the big one: Monday night when I was writing on my G3, it fizzled out (that was the exact sound it made) and it will not restart.

All my writing is on there. I have a back-up that's about 75% up to date, but I'm not sure where I can get those disks read, if need be. But Dear Lord, please, I do not want my G3 to die. Not now. This was the year I was planning to finish my first novel, for good--sooner, rather than later.

I don't even know who could (or whom I'd trust to) repair it. Someone at work said her cousin's best friend works on Macs--but again, based on how bad communication was going today, she'll probably forget.

I've already cried about it twice, and I don't think I'm done crying. I'm scared about the future of this machine and its contents. And the implications for my writing.

I'm also mad at myself for not reading the warning signs when it shut itself off a couple of months ago. That time, it came back on right away, but the other night was different. Obviously.

I know it's just things, but it's also my hard work that I fear has just vaporized. I really, really, really hope not.

Is it just me, or is technology really mean this week?


The Friday Five: Polar Edition

Holy woolen undies, blogfriends! It is very cold here today. I've even braved the outdoors--had a fax to send, a plunger to purchase (it worked, yaaay!), and a mom who needed a few minutes' break from my niece and middle nephew. Yup, Mom got a break and I got a running commentary while watching a video the kids refer to as "Busytown." My parents probably could kiss whoever talked them into getting FiOsTV with all its very useful free children's videos.

I still need to warm up, though--so here are five ways to feel warm on a very cold day. (Sorry if cold days are foreign to those readers in more temperate places!)

1. Make hot chocolate. If I could drink milk, most likely I'd drink this. Instead, I make this on the stove.

2. Take a nap. Hey, it's conserving energy, and you get a blanket out of the deal. If I were to ask the cat (an expert on naps), she'd say you also need #3, which is. . .

3. Know the warm places to hang out. She does at our place:

Right next to the baseboards. She's sleeping there as I type.

On the counter over the dishwasher, after it has finished running.

That is a recent discovery for her. The heat is just from the hot water, because I don't use the heated dry cycle. You will notice she's not directly on the counter--there's a towel, in case anybody was feeling a little squeamish.

4. Turn on the oven and bake a little something. A few nights ago, I made a sweet & spicy nut recipe--mine's from a school recipe book, but it's fairly similar to this one. (I'll e-mail the one I use, upon request.) The bonus thing I learned from my mom is that once you take your pans out of the oven, you leave the door open a little bit and enjoy the leftover heat.

5. Pile on the warm clothes, especially if you're going outside. But do choose them carefully, or people will waste time on the internet debating what you've got on your head.

Speaking of turning on the oven, I'm off to make some dinner. It has been a very interesting day (and not just because it involved a plunger). My degree arrived today! (And there's your payoff for reading all of the Friday Five.) I can't wait to make up announcements/New Year's cards.

Wishing you a warm, wonderful weekend.

The Art World Loses a Great One

R.I.P., Andrew Wyeth.

He was one of the artists we studied a lot when I was in high school, and I remember going to the "Helga exhibit" at the Brandywine River Museum, when I was a senior, I think. The hallway in the wing housing the art classroom had a print of Christina's World.

I love the color and detail in his work, and the subjects (nature, people) feel very familiar and accessible.

If you don't know much about his work, I encourage you to look some up. You just might enjoy it.

Sometimes the Simplest Solution. . .

. . . is the one you think of last. Very late last night, after slogging through resume' updates, cover letter writing, and e-mail on the annoying school e-mail system which is made even more annoying by the fact I'm trying to use the "mouse" pad/buttons on the laptop, I rummaged around for a AA battery and replaced it in the mouse that apparently had gone on strike.

It started working.

I wasn't entirely trusting of it, so I thought I'd wait until this morning to make sure it still worked.

Yes, it still works.

Congrats to Karol for guessing correctly. I kept telling myself, "But I just changed the battery not too long ago!"

You never can tell, though. Thanks to everybody who tried helping me out. There's just no help for when I'm having one of those (hopefully rare) flaky moments!

So, uh, anybody know what to do with a clogged toilet?


Now That's a Story Time

My parents have my niece and middle nephew staying with them for a few days. My dad works, so when I saw during my visit to the library yesterday that they offer a Story Time on Thursday afternoons for kids ages 3-5 (perfect), I'd offer to give Mom a break.

She dropped us off (I don't have car seats) on her way to run an errand, and we went downstairs to where Miss B. was starting to read a story to about half a dozen kids on little rug mats (remember those from kindergarten?) and about an equal amount of grown-ups in chairs.

The theme was snow--because it snowed briefly this morning, and dang is it cold now--and by the second story my kiddos were really getting into it. They refused to stand up and sing, "If you're happy and you know it, waddle like a penguin," mind you, but they were completely enthralled during the third story. I sat with them on the floor (so they wouldn't freak), and if they weren't sprawled on the floor, they were snuggled up against me. I even saw my niece softly speaking the answers to the questions during the last story (spoiler: it rhymes "scarf" with "barf," and she hiccups up a snowman).

After the stories, the kids got to color a snowman picture on blue construction paper with crayons and chalk. This was very enjoyable to my kiddos, because, to quote my niece, they love "arts 'n' craps." Hahahaha. That is a running joke in our family.

Of course, they weren't satisfied to do just one, so they boldly asked for another one to color in. It was very nice of Miss B. to give them each another one, even as the other kids and grown-ups went upstairs. We wound up helping Miss B. collect and put away all the crayons and chalk. . . and they were still asking to do more, but they seemed to get that Miss B. had to leave so she could go pick her son up from school on time. These kids are arts 'n' craps addicts, I tells ya.

All in all, it took about half an hour for Story Time, and the kiddos were pretty well behaved, considering they hadn't been to this library before. It helped that when we went back upstairs, there were books to look at and puzzles to play with, and when my mom came in we all sat together to read and play for about half and hour or so more.

The kiddos were also pretty polite to my mom's friend who works at the library. She said hi to us when we were coming in, and came over on her way out to say bye to the kids. . . and also to tell me the library might have a PT position open for me.

Guess I'll be sending a couple of faxes out tomorrow.


"Storytime" and Other Atrocities

I don't normally get assigned to work in the children's department at the bookstore, but today I worked 9-5. Which apparently included a "Storytime" [sic] in the morning. The manager told me to read a couple of books. No problem; I've done that in the school library. I wasn't so much uncertain about my ability to read as I was what to read to these kids, who obviously were not yet school age.

It may sound weird, but I drew on my observations of the autism support classes at the elementary school library--and fortunately I found at least one of the books that the students liked to check out. I even asked the little girl who insisted on sitting next to me on the "stage" to turn the pages for me. (She came up to me afterwards and asked me to read her another story. That was enjoyable.)

Some of the moms/grandmoms, however, were really pieces of work. After I'd read two books and wanted to stop, one asked in an irritated manner, "I was led to believe 'Storytime' was thirty minutes." Whoa. Whatsa matter, lady, can't keep a kid occupied on your own?

I kept my cool and told her that's all I had picked out, but I could read another one if she had a suggestion. She then irritated me further by asking bluntly, "Can you read one that's more for girls?"

You know what, lady? I picked these stories more for the illustrations and the comprehension level. Most kids your daughter's age like the Cat in the Hat, trucks, and farm animals. Except in your sexist world, a story doesn't require mention of a purse or ballet shoes to appeal to a girl.

Again, kept my cool: "Do you have a suggestion?" This one. I didn't know it, so it wasn't exactly my best reading. . . but it took me to over the thirty-minute mark, and that was all that mattered. Reading to that little girl who came up afterwards helped mitigate that irritation, thankfully.

Seriously, though--"storytime" at a bookstore? This is the kind of thing that libraries do. They have websites and flyers to advertise them--there's a really good one not far from the bookstore, in my hometown. Parents/grandparents should get to know the local libraries.

Instead, I've got people showing up and treating the bookstore like a library. They hang out for hours and never buy a thing, and leave the place a mess, including damaged books, in their wake. Heck, they go a step further and spill coffee everywhere. They wouldn't dare do that at a library. Do they have the wrong idea about what goes on the library? Or do they just think it's too declasse to go to the library?

A lot of people wonder why prices go up, and the economy falls on hard times, and libraries close. So many don't have a clue, when one thing that could go a long way to making the local economy better is a little interest in being a regular library patron and a genuine consumer. Decide what you value, and act on those decisions. Otherwise, you have little right to complain.

Technology Bleg

This one's a bit of a mystery to me. Yesterday, my 2-1/2 year old wireless mouse stopped working. I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, just usual computer mousing. The receiver lights up when I plug it into the laptop, the laptop acknowledges the connection, and the mouse has fresh batteries. There's a total of one troubleshooting solution in the booklet, and that didn't do anything. I went to the "support" website (the initials "M.S." ring a bell?) but it appears this particular model has been superseded. Twice.

So, do wireless optical mice just "die" after a couple of years, or what? Do I have to go pick up a new one?

Please enlighten, if you can. Or you can just vent some technology rage. That's O.K., too.


Exam + Snow = Not a Typical Weekend

I think that overall, Saturday's exam went well. . . in spite of the fact that I hardly got any sleep the night before. Probably the fear that the entire area would be blanketed in snow or ice kept me up. When I woke up (earlier than necessary in case it would take a while to drive to the exam location), I could see out my window that indeed snow had fallen, but not much. But the traffic reports sounded dire--for the Turnpike. Ice and horrible accidents everywhere! No mention of the highway I was taking, and I wasn't sure what that meant.

It meant it was clear! After stopping at the Wawa for coffee (having survived a near miss with an old dude coming at me in a minivan who took the new right turn ramp and blew through its stop sign at the intersection where I was turning left and had the right of way--is it related to Winter Dumbass, Dave?), I made my way to the on-ramp and flew up the highway. Fifteen minutes, I think it took me.

The easy commute meant that I arrived over an hour early for my exam's report time. Regardless, I think I wound up in the right place at the right time. As I sat there in the parking lot sipping my coffee and considering my options, a white SUV pulled up. The woman in the passenger seat put down her window to ask me if I knew where B---- Hall was. I told her I thought it was the building right across the street from us at the intersection, and asked if she was taking an exam because I was supposed to in that building, too.

She said yes, and her husband (who was driving) asked me about whether or not we needed a parking pass, as the sign at the lot entrance stated. I told them I hadn't needed one in November, and that I'd "raise holy hell" (please excuse the language; I was tired) if they tried to make me pay. I'd paid enough for these stupid machine-read exams already. The husband turned the engine off. They got out of the car and asked me if I wanted to walk across with them, and I did.

Once I'd reassured the husband for the second time about the parking pass, and helped the wife find her room assignment, the husband took leave of us at a study area on the same floor as the exam rooms. Pest control issues aside, it was a nicer and probably newer building than the one I'd been in before--that had been the science building, and this was the business building. Figures. Anyway, it was nice to have someone to kill a little time with, and not sit there letting my text anxiety build. She'd been teaching for over ten years, but in a different state. She told me she was nervous because she feared she hadn't prepared enough. But when you have three kids, you probably fit in the studying where you can. Personally, I think the test prep book made her unnecessarily nervous--those kinds of books put in really hard questions, the likes of which I never saw on any test. Too bad we weren't taking the same exam so I could have been more convincing in that respect.

I don't recall how we got on the subject, but she mentioned her 20th high school reunion was coming up (so she's not too much older than I am), and that she had found a number of classmates on Facebook. She observed that quite a few of them were divorced, and even some still single. I told her about my experience at my 15th reunion last year, and that the positive response to my being in school surprised me. For some reason, I felt, I don't know, a little more at peace with the direction I'm headed, even if I don't have a clear idea of what lies ahead.

I'm sure my exam buddy did fine, as long as she stayed calm. As for me, I did my usual technique of reading carefully but not second guessing myself. I think I got to the third section and thought, "Oh, I am so OVER this already." I finished about the same time I had on the last exam, about twenty or so minutes early, giving me time to go back to fill in all the ovals precisely, and- hey, I've been sitting under a crucifix. I didn't know this campus had any classrooms with crucifixes still in them! While I counted nine questions that I wasn't sure about (one in Language Arts, one in Math, and the remainder in Social Studies and Science--always a struggle on standardized tests for me), if I got at least half of those right based on educated guessing, that's gotta be better than just passing. But I'll take passing.

Work's getting a bit stagnant--it's after Christmas and hardly anybody came out yesterday between the playoff games and the lousy weather*--I'm feeling that "itch" to move up to a job more in line with my education, even if it's temporary. Now that I've taken that last exam, I think things are going to start to pick up.

I think I'm ready.

*Actually, the principal of the Catholic school for the parish near my old job came in--I saw the school name on her educator's discount card. I asked her how she liked the new parish center, and then I took a chance on a bit of networking. Mentioned how I knew about it from my old job, and how I'd quit to do student teaching. . . wouldn't happen to be looking for a school librarian, by any chance? She said not at present, but handed me her business card and said to send my resume to her. (Guess I'd better get that finished.)


A Frosty Friday Five

They're predicting snow for tomorrow, and I'm taking my last certification exam during the second morning session at a local college. After that, I'm scheduled to work--right about when the storm is "cranking up." Is anybody really going to come out for lattes and Twilight books when it's snowing? I'm probably more nervous about driving (and other drivers) in the snow than taking the exam.

I've really come to dislike snow as an adult with responsibilities; it was much easier years ago, when snow meant school closings and going out to play. Here are five things I liked to do as a kid when it snowed:

1. Sled. The neighborhood where I grew up didn't get a lot of traffic, and rarely got plowed, so we could sled down hills in people's yards right into the street. The "big kids" like my brother and his friends often went over to a local golf course, termed "Dead Man's Hill" (don't think I have to explain that). Not surprisingly, today that golf course has "No Sledding" signs posted prominently.

2. Build snowmen. One time a whole bunch of us used the retaining wall in my parents' front yard to help us construct a giant snowman. Mom was impressed--she took pictures!

3. Eat the snow. What, you catch snowflakes on your tongue, don't you? A pristine field of snow is pretty tempting to a nine-year-old.

4. Make jell-o molds. I'm not kidding. Snow came early one year, on Thanksgiving, and Mom was doing yet another experimental recipe thing. Not much room in the fridge, and jell-o involves boiling water, so she handed the bowls to me and my sister and told us to put them in the snow in the backyard. It did work to cool them down and get them on their way to solid. I honestly can't remember if I tasted them, though.

5. Bury yourself in blankets and read. Sometimes after all the playing and helping your parents clean off the car and shovel, you're just too chilled to stay out there. That means it's time for hot chocolate and anything else you can do to keep warm, especially when your dad keeps the thermostat at 65 and you're better off hanging out in the family room with the kerosene heater.

Snow's fine when you can stay home, but slogging through it? I don't wanna! Hope you have a nice cozy weekend.


Suiting Up

On my to-do list today was to take my "interview suits" (anybody else have those? Mine are pretty much in this family, only one set is a black and taupe dress/jacket and the other is navy pinstriped pants/skirt/jacket) to get tailored when I picked up my dry cleaning this afternoon. These suits have not been worn in over six years, and, um. . . Man, was I a big girl then. And that was even having been in the process of losing weight for seven months prior to purchasing them. I wasn't even sure the tailor would be able to cut the pieces down that many sizes, but I figured I'd take the chance because undergoing the hassle and expense of buying a new suit, which would require tailoring anyway to shorten sleeves and pant hems, is something I'd prefer not to do at this point in time.

The tailor, a nice Korean lady who understands far more English than she speaks, got out her pins right away, so I thought that was a good sign. After several lengthy pinnings, the suit pieces started to look as if they belonged on me--the older, more in-shape, more-educated me of today. Even if I was wearing cat-printed socks (please don't tell my sister--she always rags on me about that when we go shopping and try stuff on).

Including the cost of cleaning one of the jackets, the total came to $155. Makes you gasp, but that's five pieces, all lined--and you saw the prices on that link, right? I think it's well worth it.

The only remaining problem? The interview shoes from six years ago are lonnnng gone.

Coming to the End of Christmas

Epiphany was yesterday (although we celebrated it at Mass last Sunday). No Wise Men showed up at my place, but I did have a nice time helping my mom run errands. First, she had to go to a photography studio to select portraits of her grandkids from a sitting she had won, a raffle prize that had snowballed from "I just want updated pictures of all the children" to a whole family portrait, because Older Brother and my SIL have to add their own terms to everything. Anyway, the photographer was a very personable man (married, darnit!) who did a great job with the photos, even drawing my shy Middle Nephew out of his shell--discussing cars is key. He even walked that nice fine line of flattery by guessing that my adorable niece looks a lot like I did as a child (yeah, except for her blue eyes!). Topping it off was his revelation that Oldest Nephew had complimented him very soberly, "You're really good with kids--everybody else always just starts throwing things around and making noises to get their attention." You have no idea how much we love this ten-going-on-forty boy.

After my mom plunked down her Christmas $$$ on her pictures order, we were off to the parish rectory to get Mass cards--our choir director/family friend's brother passed away last week (say it with me, CCFOAD) and we wanted to have him remembered in the monthly memorial Mass our parish does. My mom knows the parish secretary from their time as grade school moms together--her kids' ages are in between mine and Younger Sister's. We had a nice chat with her and with the one organist who does the music ministry's administrative stuff--I've sung for Mass when she's played a couple of times. It was kind of enjoyable updating them on what's going on with me. I had felt a little on the outs with the parish administration for not wanting to be on the formal cantor schedule for the past couple years, but between grad school and not wanting to see the Ex (long story), it just wasn't worth the aggravation. Things were considerably warm and friendly yesterday, to my relief.

Once we'd completed a couple more items on the to-do list, we got back to my place and made the cat suffer the near-monthly irritation of claw-trimming. It's a two-person job: one to wrap the angry cat in a blanket, and the other to work the clippers (and avoid getting swiped at). I'd never for a moment thought of declawing her when she was a kitten, but it certainly is more comfortable for everyone (including her) when her claws are shorter.

Speaking of the cat, and coming full circle to Epiphany, the tree will be coming down in the next week--which means no more of this:

The glowing kinda softens her "angry eyebrows," as my sister terms them.

I'm not exactly sad Christmas is over, although admittedly it was one of the better ones I've had in a long time. I think I'm still in amazement over that. Hopefully, even as Christmas things get put away, that spirit will remain around through the coming year.


Attempt #1--Foiled!

Apparently it's a bad idea to try getting anywhere near the Apple store to purchase a (saved-up-for-since-last-Christmas) iPod after 3 p.m. The place was jam-packed. Fire code violation packed. Darnit. I think I'll have to go earlier in the day. I had planned to go earlier in the day, but I wound up having to be someplace at 2:00 and that place was on the way to the mall.

I did, however, score my hard to find mascara--usually it's sold out online and I got the last one in the store. Not to mention two lipsticks for less than the price of one at CVS on the way home. (This concludes the girly-girl part of the post.)

Oddly enough, I heard through a friend that he'd heard the Ex had "been through a lot of drama" in the past year--situations similar to stuff he'd claimed he was "uncomfortable" (read: judgmental) with when it had come up involving people close to me. And I got the whole guilt-by-association thing as a result. My friend made a comment to the effect of "Good thing you didn't have to deal with that," and while I explained the irony of the whole "uncomfortable" thing, and that I still am relieved he's not in my life anymore (and somebody else's problem now). . . I still don't think it's a picnic being single, at my age.

I'm not going to whine about it, and I'm certainly not going to pick the guy lurking around the next corner just to be in a relationship--but I still have this fear that in spite of whatever absurd drama is going on with him, people still look at him and think he's superior to me because of his marital status. (And probably that he's some sort of freaking martyr now.) I know, I know--I really have to stop caring about what other people think of me. Been working on that for as long as I can remember. What probably stops me is that I have experienced being treated poorly because of what people think of me. Maybe it's my pride, or just some hurt that won't resolve, but I just want to do as much as I can to prevent being treated so poorly ever again.

Ha. As if I have any control over (a) what people think of me, or (b) how people treat me. I just can't wait for the day I finally find that place where I fit in, or at least have a few cool people on my side. I think finding that job might help.

Gotta get going on that resume', I guess.


It's not Friday, but. . .

. . . I'm doing a Friday Five anyway. (No time last Friday--scrambling to get things done and then worked from 5 to close. Too frazzled to think.)

When 2008 rolled around, I made a list of goals for the year, because I don't "do" resolutions. Now I'm preparing my goals for 2009, and in reviewing the nine I made for 2008, I see a few that I accomplished: Drop at least five pounds (that was down to the wire, and only as the result of working like a dog at the bookstore before Christmas), save for an iPod, get back to writing, and get a shorter (than my novel) writing piece published (hey, a guest post on my mentor's widely read blog counts, right?). But I also see five goals for 2009 that I'm carrying over from 2008:

1. Go to at least one museum. (Just did not happen in 2008. Shameful.)

2. See a Shakespeare play. (First time was in 2007, and I very much want to see another one.)

3. Purchase iPod. (Saving took me all year, sadly.)

4. Complete final review/rewrite of first novel. (I had bursts of writing, but I'm still not done. And I keep getting diverted by ideas for the second one that are coming more easily.)

5. De-clutter and keep home clean. (Working full time and going to school full time? What was I thinking? I'm just digging out from school now.)

Definitely need to add "Floss more" to the 2009 list. Oh, yeah--"Get a job." That one, too, for sure.

Do you have any goals for 2009? Do share! Or just feel free to comment on mine.


No More Magic Photos!

One summer at my previous job, the person planning the annual company picnic decided it would be more fun to have a photo scavenger hunt. In truth it was pretty ridiculous--this was during my personal year-of-hell so I wasn't having fun anyway--and I'm pretty sure my team came in dead last or next to last. (I also suspect some teams cheated.)

But, even though my team didn't get a prize, afterwards there was a raffle and I won one of the Polaroid cameras. I wondered what the heck I was going to do with it. It didn't get any further attention from me until a few months later when Thanksgiving was coming up. Mom mentioned that my brother's girlfriend (now wife) had her son (my oldest nephew) with her (instead of his going to his dad's--my bro is his stepdad). He was seven years old at the time, and other than my toddler niece there would be no kids to play with, which meant he'd get into all sorts of trouble.

Inspiration struck. I brought the Polaroid camera, some posterboard, and some markers. Let's play reporter! We will interview each person at dinner, and ask what they are thankful for. You take pictures, and I'll write things down. Then we taped the pictures to the posterboard, captioned them, and decorated. My mom loved it--she let us hang the posters on the dining room wall. That's when the questions about my switching over to teaching started to come up.

It has been a tradition ever since--and now my niece and middle nephew join in. After the success of the initial run, I mentioned the activity to the person at the office who had planned the scavenger hunt, and she scrounged up some leftover film for me. Which was great, because it was expensive--I was lucky if I could get the cost down to a dollar a shot. Yes, really. I managed to buy a bulk pack last year at one of those club stores and that lasted me a while. Problem was, I went back for more this past December, and they didn't sell it anymore.

The reason? They're not making Polaroid film anymore (#3 on the list). Fortunately, I found two packs of film I had left from the bulk pack, and then as backup I bought the last two packs at Walgreens (cheaper than CVS) a few days ago. There's not much point in stocking up, because the film expires. I have enough for Easter, and hopefully for next Thanksgiving as well. I just have a feeling it's going to be impossible to get more after that.

Guess I'll be switching to digital next year--and that's only if my oldest nephew is still interested. His sibs would still be too young for me to hand over my digital camera to them.

It just won't be the same, though.