Shout louder

The year is almost over and if you know me, then you know I don’t have a list of resolutions for 2010. I will do my best to go to the gym regularly (what the hell, I am paying for it whether I go or not) and to not bite my nails. I know it is a nasty habit, and I never claimed to not be a nail biter. If the stress ramps up, the nails are the first to go. The nice thing is that I am not endangering anyone’s health and in a week’s time of not biting my nails, you would never know the difference. I don’t even need to shell out for a patch or a special gum. I either bite or don’t bite but I am pretty sure I won’t ever not be a nail biter (have fun counting the number of negatives in that sentence).

I am still working on a project that has been years in the making. I need to do something with it (well, finish first, but I meant after that). This will involve a bit of self- promotion, and I suck at that. I was lamenting to a few friends that it seems that certain bloggers out there have huge followings, they have actual comments posted after their entries and the kicker is, it doesn’t even matter if it’s a good entry. I have seen misspellings, posts about nothing but them, them, them, and over the top rants (sometimes general, sometimes stirring the pot in some ongoing blog war), and people eat it up! I realize that most of it is because these people aren’t particularly extraordinary, fabulous or talented, but because they do a great job of projecting that image to the world and advertising, networking, hounding people to visit their blogs. As much as I would like mine to be more popular, I started it as an outlet for writing first, so it would be stupid to whine that no one is visiting. I know there are people who visit and don’t comment, and maybe the format doesn’t lend itself to comments anyway. It’s not that interactive. I try to keep each post contained as a small story and it doesn’t necessarily link to anything else. I don’t follow a timeline. You won’t hear what I had for breakfast, lunch or dinner unless it’s relevant to what I’m posting that day.

I am not going to brag that I’m so modest (because isn’t that defeating the purpose?), but self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to me. I would rather quietly work at something I enjoy and am good at and show you that way, than talk about how good I am. This is sometimes a problem. In the matter of the project I’m working on now, I have to convince someone else, who doesn’t know me at all, that it’s worthwhile in order to entice them into wanting to see more. I have to make a mighty promise—it won’t be a complete lie because the work is there, but I have to advertise it first, and this is where I’m terrible. I have done really well on job interviews. I’ve been hired on the promise that I would be able to do something well, and that involves self-promotion first, work later. It’s not such a hard concept and it appears that I have it in me to some extent, but I don’t feel at ease with it unless I absolutely have to do it (as in getting a job so I can pay for my food and mortgage) .

Another problem with self-promoting is that you will inevitably annoy someone in the process. I am not going to flat out label this as “haters hating,” because it’s not that simple. Not everyone is jealous or hating on others—sometimes the complaints are legitimate and those who feel hated upon should step back and consider the criticism. Sometimes it’s annoying to be told something is great when your senses and logic are telling you otherwise. Sometimes you see that what’s in front of you is only there because the person presenting it hustled, and got everyone else they know to hustle on his or her behalf. Sometimes you don’t want to be sold. Sometimes it’s better to discover something on your own without the blaring of “SUNDAY,SUNDAY, SUNDAY!!!" in your ear to garner your attention. Let me find the product I need, not the product someone else wants me to buy.

In most cases, you have to be a self-promoter in order to get ahead. It seems that success not just based on merit but on how loudly you shout and how many people you reach.

Praising Mediocrity

I went to breakfast with the company president not too long ago. I know that sounds like a BFD, but actually I work for a pretty small company now, and their culture is a lot different than the usual corporate gig. They want you to wear whatever you’re comfortable wearing. This means you will see anything from jeans to sweats. Here’s what you won’t see: suits. This means I have several snazzy suits that are now collecting dust in the closet. I hear you will be the object of ridicule if you show up wearing one, so I haven’t dared.

They have a lot of policies like that—I’m still getting used to it, actually. The president emailed me to set a time and date. I had seen him around but first felt unsure about his first name. It seems that every male co-worker has a monosyllabic name. If it had more than one syllable, of course it was shortened to a nickname. The president’s name is no different. I could have said Hi TomGlenNedDanWayneBobJimAl*, and gotten to it that way, but I wanted to make sure I was right first. So he would say “Hi GRC” and I would plaster on a frozen smile and reply, “Hi!” How rude is that? It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry forgets his girlfriend’s name (Except this one doesn’t rhyme with a piece of anatomy, luckily).

We were at breakfast for an hour and a half. I can’t believe how the time flew. Mostly we discussed my background, my interests, and ideas I had for the company. At one point, he told me how torn he is between balancing growth and maintaining a great company. At some level, the more people you hire, the bigger chance there is that it will slide towards mediocre. He stared dead at me and said “I hate mediocrity.” I wished I had told him how much he would have hated it at West Point. As a cadet you are labeled as “the best and the brightest,” but it’s actually mediocrity that gets you through. You are bombarded with so many tasks, some big, and some small, that it’s unlikely that you will excel at any one thing unless you are inclined to do so. I am guessing he didn’t see my transcript because that piece of paper shouts mediocrity from the rooftops. You have to be pretty good to get in, but you have to be mediocre to get through. If you fail every one of your English courses, it won’t matter that you got an A in Thermodynamics, you’re getting the boot, pal. You could have a 4.0 grade point average, but if you don’t pass the IOCT, you can forget about graduating. The entire four years was a balancing act which involved knowing how to do everything just well enough for the sum total to result in a diploma.

Most of the time I resented this. I felt like I spent four years sucking at everything, which wasn’t quite the confidence boost I needed. I still feel like I’m a square peg trying to get by in a round world. I didn’t share any of this with him.

He is a young guy—just over 40 from what I gathered, and in charge of an entire company. That seems like such a huge accomplishment (and he managed to mention that once upon a time he was the president of a company 7 times bigger than ours). It seems like—wow, but then I thought about it. In the Army, it’s not unheard of for a 40 year old lieutenant colonel to be in charge of that many people. Once you leave there, you get used to a different set of standards. The hardest job I ever had was also the lowest paying one (if you don’t count my stint as a library page in high school). I was a second lieutenant in charge of a Patriot Missile Platoon. You won’t find many people in their really early 20’s in charge of 30 people and millions of dollars (said in my best Robin Leach accent)of stuff. It’s not that most people aren’t capable, it’s just that there isn’t enough room for everyone to be the boss, and not everyone wants to be the boss.

It was a good** meeting. He offered some unorthodox ideas (“What if I offered every new employee $10K to walk away if they don’t like the job three months in?”) and it seemed like he actually listened to what I had to say. I totally get his struggle with avoiding mediocrity, but it seems like this world is geared towards averages, and good enough solutions and telling us that it’s okay to not be perfectionists as long as you get the job done. The funny thing is, I am generally okay with being mediocre until you get to something I truly put everything into. Only then will I agonize over the details, which means I never actually finish what I’m doing. If I could be mediocre there, even just a little bit, I’d be better off.
*Actual names of coworkers
**good=epitome of a mediocre word, and the runner up is "nice"


♪ ♫"It's the most pressure-filled tiiiiime of the year..." ♫ ♪

It is December 22nd and I have not sent out a Christmas card. I have the cards, I think I have the stamps, and I have the addresses (somewhere, written down or on labels ripped from envelopes of cards people have sent me), but it seems that my procrastinating tendencies are setting me up to fail once again. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, but every year it gets worse. It’s just one more thing to do piled on top of many more. I feel like everything was late this year. We didn’t get a tree until the evening of the 18th, which upset my husband like you wouldn’t believe. The original tree-killing date was the 13th, but it rained, and since it was a Sunday, we figured there wouldn’t be time to get a tree during daylight hours until the following weekend. My husband even threatened to go to a lot with pre-cut trees. This is the devil to me. We live less than five miles from an orchard with Christmas trees. I love the idea of walking through rows of living trees and finding the one you choose to sacrifice. The choosing is sort of done for you already when you go to a tree lot. I don’t like that you have no idea how long those trees have been sitting there, already cut, dropping their needles and drying out like nobody’s business. I don’t really think it’s so awful to get a pre-cut tree, but it reminds me of how my father would haggle the poor tree lot person for a bargain. If it was December 23rd
(yes, we really did wait till the eve of Christmas Eve to get the tree one year) chances were those trees left on the lot were as good as mulch. I remember one year (it was probably the same year but the haggling was an annual event) the tree cost only $20. We waited until late in the game to get a tree and this was done only to ensure that we got a deal. You can’t really haggle when the trees still have their roots and will live to see another year.

There is a lot of pressure during this time of year. I will admit that a lot of it is self-imposed and exasperated because I’m a procrastinator, but there is an expectation that you will send cards and give gifts in a timely manner. You have to be on top of things because there aren’t a lot of places selling “Happy New Year!” cards (and damn it, there should be, but never mind that). Sometimes I can’t deal well with expectations. In September, I joined a snail mail music club. Basically you make a mix tape CD of songs from your collection, mail it out to a selected group of people and in return you receive those people’s music. I signed up thinking, Oh, cool, something new and maybe I will get to hear something I would have otherwise missed completely. Some of the songs are absolute gems and you can tell the sender put a lot of care and detail into their selections. I put mine together and sent them off, and then I immediately felt inadequate. What if my mix was pedestrian? I didn’t use a fancy pants labeling kit, I just drew on the CD with a Sharpie. What if every person who got my CD already had that music? There was no theme or rhyme or reason to what I chose. I just picked a bunch of songs in varying genres and that was it. One person sent a Robot Love story of techno songs and artwork. Someone else’s clearly had a punk rock vibe. Mine was a disorganized jumble (“Eclectic mix!”). I am hoping I don’t become the sender no one wants on their list. I vow to do better next time.

I skipped the most recent round of music mail outs. I knew it would be too much for me on top of all of the other stuff that happens around the holidays. I didn’t want the pressure. I also didn’t participate in Secret Santa stuff this year. I have given up on myself in the Secret Santa category because that is too much work. It’s really sweet what some people put together for gifts, but if you say “Thirty dollar limit, these are her favorite colors, she says she likes silver jewelry and chocolate and picture frames” it’s like I can feel the walls closing in. If I have refused to participate in a Secret Santa thing, please trust me that it’s me and not you.

But back to the tree, and the cards. I just feel like a big fat failure. I should be more into the holidays with a four year old in the house, but I’m not feeling it. Maybe the Christmas spirit will finally hit me on the 26th, in true procrastinator style.


I have a confession to make: there are thirteen hundred and something unread messages in my inbox. Maybe at the time that I post this it will have reached fourteen hundred and something. I don’t even know how many messages there are if I counted the ones I’ve already read. I find the whole thing overwhelming. I know it’s a sign of my own poor organizational skills. To be fair, I check the ones from people I know. I read those and sometimes keep the trail around to reread and laugh about later. The unreads are usually from the following entities:
Amazon, Barack Obama, Monster, Zappos, Borders, Sephora, eBags and anyone else I’ve checked out donated to, signed the online petition for, or ordered material goods from that required my email address. I either did not uncheck the “Please send me every thought and rambling about what is going on with your deals, political gripes, begging disguised as a guilt trip over donating to a worthy cause, and other offers, or I never clicked the itty bitty hyperlink to unsubscribe on the bottom of the email messages I have received.

My email account is the virtual equivalent to the houses on that show Hoarders. Have you seen this? It’s one of those shows I’ve heard about but never sat down to watch, until I had a week away from home and wireless internet access. I streamed two episodes back to back over my laptop. I streamed another one the other day, while folding laundry. These shows inspire me to clean up, organize and get rid of things I don’t use or need. The living conditions are so unbelievable and disgusting, and yet you cannot bring yourself to look away. You want to see this poor person twitch and agonize over getting rid of a thousand empty Pepsi bottles or dusty and broken picture frames and unfinished needlepoint projects. You can’t help but imagine the smells when the cleaning crew unearths a bathroom or a flattened, dearly departed animal. You can’t make sense of how someone could turn their home into a dumpster and a toilet simultaneously.

I want to criticize these people from my perch on the watching end of the screen, but at the same time, I know I will hold on to something a little longer than necessary if I think there’s a chance I will use it in the future. I don’t want to feel regret when I later look for that thing and realize that it’s gone because I donated it. I know it’s stupid and things are replaceable if I need them later--trust me, I’m working on it. When you have too many things, it becomes obvious because suddenly you find yourself low on space and you also find it harder and harder to get the things you need out from under the things you don’t. It’s sort of that way with email messages, except you can use the handy dandy search function if things get too dire. You also don’t run out of space these days. Gigabytes are so cheap that you can practically use as many as you want, not as many as you need. I know I will do a mass purge at some point. Look into my inbox and you’ll know I’m a hypocrite for pointing the finger at hoarders. There are a few messages I probably need to set aside in folders but the rest can go. I’ve done it several times before, and the last time I took a screenshot of the blissfully immaculate inbox and sent it to my husband. Then the inbox stays manageable for awhile, then the mail piles up again, and it just becomes too much of a pain. Plus, email is deceiving. You might have 15086 messages, but your page only displays the latest ones, in manageable byte sized chunks (please kick me for the pun, I richly deserve it), so you don’t have a true concept of what you’re amassing. There are consequences if you have accumulated 6000 teapots, or newspapers, or cats. There are no major consequences if you have 6000 messages in your inbox. No one really cares. You close the window of your email account and it’s out of sight. A show about someone cleaning up the inbox of an email account wouldn’t yield nearly as many viewers as “Hoarders.” It just doesn’t have the same punch. It is completely on you to manage your pile of email without a psychologist or cleaning crew to stand over your shoulder and assist you. It is completely on you, and that, my friends*, is too much pressure.
*Who am I, John McCain?

Partly Sunny Mind

I sometimes think I would be a happier person if my memory wasn’t that good. I love that I can recall certain events so clearly, but the down side is that not all of the events remembered are happy ones. I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” the other day and it made me think. The focus of the movie was a company that provided a service that allowed you to isolate and erase the memories of an entire relationship with someone. The customer would take all of the physical reminders of that person, place them in a box and go to the company offering this service to have his or her memory wiped. Obviously this can only go so far—I can’t imagine this working if you have had kids with this person or you wanted to erase a parent or a sibling, but what if you could erase someone from your past? You could do away with the entire moping/dwelling period and move on, just as innocent and optimistic as you were before you met the asshole erased. Given a couple of recent stories from people I know who dated someone who clearly screwed up things in a spectacular fashion, that sounds pretty good idea to me.
I liked the movie, which is a great thing because it means I was able to get over Jim Carrey’s obnoxiousness. If you haven’t seen it, he’s not too obnoxious in this one, I promise. I actually think he does fine when he’s not making a concentrated effort to be annoyingly over the top, and someone must have liked that over the topness, because it’s what made him famous—it wasn’t me. I will never forgive him or Dr. Seuss’s widow for allowing the travesty known as the live action full feature film Grinch.

The next six words are rarely uttered from me so pay close attention: My favorite Jim Carrey movies are--

(in no particular order)

Dumb and Dumber—

(pauses to let that sink in)
Okay I know, I know, this one is over the top, yet for some unknown reason, I’m compelled to watch it whenever I catch it on TBS. Come on, she says “Austria” and he goes “Well put another shrimp on the barbie!” E? How is that not funny? No? Not even a little?

--The Truman Show

annnnnd (wait for ittttt)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and how can anyone not love Kate Winslet? If you don’t then please leave now). Now, if you hate Jim Carrey and wish to never read this blog again, that’s fine. My feelings won’t be hurt, too much. Actually that’s a lie. Seeing as there are probably three regular readers, it actually would hurt me some, but I would eventually get over it. Or, I know, I will just have the memory of you leaving my blog erased and continue writing as if I hadn’t been outcast by a Jim Carrey hater.

Anyway, what if this were a real service? I can think of a few things taking up space in my mind that I could probably function more effectively without. It’s not like I’d be wiping out years of my life, just a few days here and there would suffice. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky that there’s not to dispose. Most of it is good, and some of the not so good stuff has been live and learn, sure it sucks donkey balls but it’s character-building sort of material. Given some stories I have heard from the dating side, it’s evident that I am still pretty wide eyed about many things. I wouldn’t say I have “eternal sunshine” but maybe it’s “partly sunny” most of the time.

Now what if the business expanded beyond the relationship erasing services? Perhaps we could just get into deleting some of the more minor memories. The ability to unsee, unknow, unsmell, untaste, unhear, and unremember brief moments—mere seconds, really--would be priceless. With YouTube and people sending out messages to such “You’ll be sorry you clicked the link, but go on ahead, I triple dog dare you” items popping into our lives on a daily basis, erasing those seconds or minutes could be pretty lucrative, and I imagine not quite as messy and drastic as erasing entire memories of other people. Even if some of these things aren’t real, you still store them away. Now at least, can rest assured that the memory of the image/smell/taste/other brain searing negative item will no longer pop into your head at random moments.

So what about you? Would you erase something or someone from your memory or do you have more of a “Facts of Life”* philosophy?
*(You take the good,
you take the bad, 

you take them both and there you have
The Facts of Life, the Facts of Life.


Potty Humor

My daughter (who turned 4 in October) was using the bathroom and I thought I heard her say "Sometimes the toilet gets dessert." So when I was putting her to bed, I asked if that was what she said and she said yes. Then I said "What kind of dessert?" She said "Chocolate" and started laughing hysterically.


Last Christmas

Some people like this as a holiday song. I wonder if they realize the lyrics are bitter and not exactly full of joy? Yes, I am talking about the Wham! song. My last post inspired me to look up some Band Aid photos. That search inadvertently turned up some Wham! photos, and let me tell you, some of those were pure comic gold.

Presenting the many moods of George Michael and that other guy Wham!:



Reindeer games?

Wow, check out George Michael's sack*:

*Sorry, I could only hold back the seventh grade humor for so long.


"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of yoooouuuuuu!"

Does that sound like a line that belongs in a holiday song?

Did you watch it? Didja? Don't you feel old? Look how baby faced everyone was. They were just a bunch of crazy kids throwing together a benefit song. Sure the words were depressing, but it was catchy. I'll even admit that I still like it.

The title of this entry sums up the one line that sticks in my head every time I hear or think of the song. What you gain from watching the video is the not-so-subtle cleverness of the camera zooming in on Sting for the "bitter sting of tears" line. Well done!