Cat calls and dog poop

Today I experienced a new first: while out walking the dog a car drove by and someone shouted out, "Hey Sexy!"

It was early evening. I was the only one walking around in the area. I have little doubt that this was meant for anyone but me (not being conceited unless these people saw an imaginary person or they have a thing for stocky Corgis). This is where it gets funny--I was bent over and rising from picking up dog poop. Oh yeah, baby, that's hot right there. Steaming pile o' poo hot.

What I was doing was obvious (I thought). The dog was there, I had the tell tale knotted little baggies weighted with their doggie doo-doo contents. I wasn't even bent so all they saw was rump, which would have eclipsed my activities. I was facing them (sort of). And when it happened, I carried on as if I hadn't heard a thing (first rule is to not make eye contact or reward the crazy with any kind of acknowledgement).

Welcome to my life.


Tangled web

In my work experience, I have worked for two separate companies twice, meaning I was rehired, by two companies, twice. Now I'm attempting to go for three. I'm not doing this in an attempt to have multiple 401K plans across the corporate world, the lesson here is to not burn bridges. As tempting as it is to leave a place in a blaze of glory, the satisfaction from that is generally short-lived. At the time you think, Oh hell to tha naw, I am not working for those emmer effers ever again. The truth is, you never know, you just might.

I am working through my connections. We'll see how it goes. Oddly enough, my husband now works for this company as well, so we'd be keeping it in the family. The other two interviews I have lined up are contracting positions within the same organization (two different companies). The catch is that this organization will be relocating to San Antonio within a year, which means that the jobs in this area go poof. My guess is, the people who held these jobs probably jumped ship not long after the move became official. I've seen it before, when on of the places I worked was being shifted to Hunstville, Alabama. There were a couple of guys who were okay with the move and the rest? Oh hell to tha naw, I'm not moving to Hunstville. And then the jobs ended and the people scattered. Poof. Such is the life of a contractor.

I still plan to take some time off. So far I have watched lots of Netflix movies, I've recaulked the master bathroom tub and toilet (ick) and I am slowly going through my clothes that either need to be hand washed or require mending and/or ironing. I know no matter how much I get accomplished, there will always be more to do. It's just that the time always goes too quickly. Poof.


My weekend started on Monday

And aside from the "WTF, I can't believe I don't have a job right now" feeling it has been mostly fabulous. I took lots of naps (the cats are really onto something), did lots of laundry and I planted flowers in front of the house. Oh, and updating this here blog.

What I didn't do:
-Go to the gym
-Clean any part of the house beyond the "basic maintenance" and "let's move some dishes so I can actually cook" level
-Read the stack of library books on my dresser

I am working on getting a paying job. I am still coming to accept that I might not find the perfect job this time, or ever. It just doesn't seem to exist, but in the meantime, let's find something bearable that covers the bills and provides enough for me to save for when I retire and have my time to myself again.

I have been watching Netflix movies (thank you, instant watch) and probably burning up my new laptop battery in the process, but it's been good. Some of the movies are pure duds (I watched a movie called "Neverwas" which is filled with well known actors but it went straight to DVD. See also, "Tiptoes." These would have been career enders, so I can see why they got canned). For every crap movie, there is a hidden gem (okay, not sure if it's a one to one ratio, but I'm sure it's close to that), so if you like space science fiction that involves more thinking and less leaning on expensive special effects to get by, (Armageddon, I'm looking at you), check out Moon.


Think way back

Do you remember the commercial with the kids graduating high school? Someone asks one kid what he plans to do after graduation and his answer is, "Go home. Make a sandwich."

It cracks me up to this day. After Monday, I feel like that kid. It has been years since I have been off work, unemployed and with no known follow on job. For today I am fine. I have laundry to do, naps to take and if I were at work, I couldn't have made a quick run downtown to drop off the badges my husband forgot at home. See? It's not all bad. And after that, guess what? I came home and made a sandwich (PB & J).

In the broader scheme I guess I still feel this way. yes, two weeks after my own high school graduation I left for college and stayed there for four years. I graduated with the rare benefit of knowing I would be a second lieutenant in the Army. Then when I left the army, I was that kid. I was home every day, wondering what to do next. I eventually took a job as a contractor working for the Army. That's been my very general job description since then. We moved to D.C. and I did some more soul searching and then I took another contracting job with the Army (notice a pattern?) By then, even my husband had left the Army and worked for a pharmaceutical company. But now he too works as a contractor supporting the (wait for it) Navy.

Most of the time I can accept that this is not who I am. I know that this allows me to pay the bills and fund the things that I enjoy that aren't free and I have to accept that I don't have to love my job, but not dreading it is also a huge plus.

Sometimes you think, "Is that it? Is this all there is?" Sometimes life is pretty good. Sometimes you wish you were that high school kid again, not because you loved high school so much, but because at the time, it really seemed like the possibilities were endless.

Where's my chianti and fava beans?

This sounds like a good recipe, but I couldn't find black people in the spice rack.


More adventures in job hunting

I actually had an interview last Wednesday. I have already updated my online job profiles, so while browsing through the list of jobs, I applied to one. It sounded like something I could do, so why not?

I'm not kidding when I say that I had an email from the HR person in my inbox within two hours. Wow, I thought, that's a first. Usually you apply to these things and it's like shouting into a black hole. I never expect a response. Yeah, maybe someone got your resume, but there are many others like it and no one really cares if that one is yours. I took it as a positive sign and I contacted the guy to set up a time and date.

I set it up to coincide with a career conference. Have I shared how much I detest job fairs? I really do. I think I have scored two interviews from job fairs and one was a pyramid scheme, I mean "multilevel marketing" career. The big, well known companies usually have a giant crowd around their booth, while the little companies are so specialized that when you talk to them, you can already see their head starting to shake no. It's frustrating.

I printed directions to the interview from my job address (I know, what is this, the 1990's? Our GPS is currently being borrowed and I am too cheap to pay for the iPhone GPS application). But anyway--the directions seemed simple enough. It wasn't too far away, and it should not have taken more than 30 minutes to get there.

45 minutes later...

Yes, I know. Of course I got lost. You didn't think I was actually going to make it there, did you? Anyway--45 minutes later, I was frantically searching my phone's web browser for a phone number for these people. I called and admitted I was lost. Without knowing where I was, I promised I would be there by 10:30 (30 minutes after the scheduled time). I then turned on Google maps on my phone (aka the great battery drainer) and found my way to the office.

The interview was not one of my finer performances. The good news was that this was not a job I wanted anyway. The interviewer was the person I would have been replacing. It started out well enough, but the more I heard about the position, the less interested I felt towards getting it. The title included the word "assistant." What does that tell you? Well, the way the job was described, you were some director's assistant and your job was to do the things she could not handle, simply because her plate was overflowing and there are only a limited number of hours in a day. In the interviewer's words, you were expected to "take" work from your boss. she also mentioned that personality was going to be a big factor in determining the right person for the job. Red flag alert. Personality? Is this code that the boss is some kind of fire-breather? She went on to describe some other "quirks" of the leadership while insisting it was a fun place to work. Nothing she described sounded "fun" to me. I was still frazzled from getting lost finding the place, but I didn't feel too terrible that I was bombing. Before I left, I made sure to say "You know, this is the first thing I applied to on Monster where I actually got a response and an interview." The interviewer replied, "I know! That's how desperate we are!"


The job fair--well--I didn't need to be there at a certain time so of course I was able to find it no problemo.

Getting back to my office--I could either take the toll road (easy, but I didn't know if I had enough quarters and the same person who borrowed the GPS borrowed the EZ pass) or I could take the back roads of Fairfax county. I turned on Google maps and went through the back roads. Why did it take me an hour to travel about 15 miles? Some of the little windy roads were enjoyable but there were also many wrong turns and many suspicions of weird engine noises coming from under the hood.

I have a feeling this is just the start of something "fun."

Jobpacalypse now

Well it finally happened--yesterday when I was in my office minding my own business, the company president and HR director stopped by. I knew exactly what was going on. I was getting canned laid off. I did receive a small severance, and a handy little letter and offers to help carry my stuff to my car, which I declined. I had not officially started the Andy Dufresne shuffle of carrying a little out of my cell office day by day, but I had some things in bags ready to go. I was prepared for the trap door, or ejection seat, or any other method of getting the boot quickly, but for some odd reason, I still didn't expect it to be that day. I mean, who gets laid off on a Monday?

I know, denial is a river in...

Anyway, I was packed up, signed out and headed home by noon. I have never been laid off before. I did get "the letter" before and "notice" at my last job, but they didn't give me the boot that very day. I had a few weeks to hang out. It was like being a prisoner waiting to walk that green mile. I moved quickly, and actually found another job. I wound up turning in a resignation letter to my previous employer, so technically, I was never laid off.

I am kicking myself for not considering other offers. The last company actually made an offer to me in 2007, which I declined. They were the first ones I called when I got "the letter." I quickly accepted a job offer, probably because I had always wondered what would have been had I accepted their original offer. Maybe it was a hasty decision made under the cloud of not wanting to not be paid anymore. I know hindsight is 20/20. Had I known I would be in the same position roughly six months after starting work with them, I probably would have declined the offer. I'll have to add a crystal ball to my birthday wish list.

It was a good company. They had bagels and cookies and fresh fruit daily (with the exception of Friday, which was hot egg and pork product sandwich day). There were no vending machines, you could just take soda or juice from the refrigerator, free of charge. Someone set up new flower arrangements by the elevators every week. For once in my life, I actually had my own office, and a window. I had a MacBook as a work computer, and this didn't require reams of paperwork to justify. The benefits were unbeatable and my retirement fund is 25% larger than it was just six months ago. Oh and the job itself--kind of a pain in the ass, but given the other perks it was tolerable. It was nice while it lasted.

This time I'm going to be a little more cautious and a little less hasty.


Life is a Smiths Album

I watched "Just Like Heaven" yesterday--I am slightly embarrassed that it was in my Netflix queue (but not embarrassed enough to not mention it here). Recently we downsized our subscription (and by "we," I mean my husband) and this eliminated my queue, which means I have to go in and hijack his queue if I want to see anything besides "2012" and "Transformers 2" and any other over CGI'd disaster blockbuster atrocity. I'm kidding. Once in awhile he surprises me, which was why I assumed that this movie was his choice.

I know it's fluff. I knew the ending was going to be "and they lived happily ever after." I still sat through the 90 minutes of movie as if I didn't know this. I heart like Mark Ruffalo. I like Reese Witherspoon. I like the Cure (the title was nabbed from one of their most popular songs). The reality was that this movie should have been called "Girlfriend in a Coma," which is a Smiths song, and though it gives away a major element of the story, it is closer to the plot. "Just Like Heaven" just sounds nicer. Who wants to go to the box office and say "Two tickets for 'Girlfriend in a Coma,' please?"

I know what people say--Oh they're so depressing. Oh that stupid suicidal Morrissey, he hasn't offed himself yet? Oh all that angst. Oh I hate his voice (my husband).

Tongue in cheek, people! I like it because you know what? Some of those songs ring true. When life turns melodramatic and the world is against you, you really do feel like you just stepped out of a Smiths album. Currently playing for me: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now."

With my weird non-job still-going-to-the-office-but-not-canned-yet situation, I can't think of a more fitting line than:
I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I'm miserable now

Tongue in cheek! I know it's not so bad. Let's just hope that the ten ton truck doesn't come for me next.

First date

You know what is a terrible idea for a first date? The movies. Think about it—you’re in a dark theater making eye contact with a giant screen and you’re not talking (and you’re not supposed to talk). It’s a pretty bad idea.

I am married to a movie lover. We went on a few dates in college but I won’t go so far to say that we were dating. We went to movies. What was the first movie we saw? Are you ready for this one?

Mr. Holland’s Opus. Yes, that’s right, a movie about a high school music teacher who missed out on some of his life long dreams of making it big. You would have thought we were thrice our ages instead of people barely into their twenties.

Our second movie was “Twister,” which admittedly is a little more date-ish. I know at some point future husband bought a drink at one of these movies and asked if I wanted a sip. One straw, people. Of course I said no. He had no idea that I had an issue with backwash--and even if it's just one part per million backwash in a giant vat of soft drink it's still backwash.

It took a few more years, a few more dates and a few more movies before I would say we qualified as “dating.” Not only that but we are both shy and quiet which means things were a-w-k-w-a-r-d (and I am sure there are days when he wishes we could go back to me being quiet but those days are gone).

The lesson is what? I don’t know. Slow and steady? Go bowling instead?



I talked to the company HR Director today. Our company's HR department is a one woman show and she's fabulous. Unlike a lot of corporate HR departments, she really is looking out for the employees. My last company had a phone number you called and you received a ticket number. Supposedly someone would get back to you in 24 hours. What kind of thing is that? We actually had an HR person in the office where I worked, but she was only supposed to support the support staff, not the employees on actual contracts. We had to call someone in another office. Oh, and there was an HR investigation on my boss that was being conducted by an HR person two time zones away. Does that make any kind of sense? I believe the corporate policy was based on making it such a colossal pain in the ass to contact anyone regarding a problem that you would just give up and not bother. Imagine how refreshing it was to join my new company and realize all you have to do is send an email, make a phone call, and/or walk down the hallway and talk to a real person.

Her words to me were "Don't panic yet." She must have said this ten times. I'm still looking for other jobs. I even saw a great one at (wait for it) the Department of Labor. It was posted today. I need to think about applying and do a whole hearted job at completing the application (vs. my usual half assed click to forward the resume).

I know it could be so much worse. I think I'm doing alright (I have this urge to shop but I am on shopping hiatus until this is figured out). I realize some of this anxiety is me feeling sorry for myself after my husband was laid off, I was nearly laid off and now we're trying to recover from the not so great job-shake up of 2009.

Trip through the Lou

When I was four years old we took a cross country road trip from New York to California. My memory of the sequence of events is spotty and I only remember specific incidents from the trip.
1) The ride
No, no, it wasn't this. We had a 1978 Dodge Diplomat. It looked a lot like this one, except ours was blue on blue. The vehicle's appearance supports my theory that the 1970's were the start of the dark age of car design. The Diplomat (who names a car "Diplomat?" Was there an "Ambassador" too?) was known as the "new" car. Our other car was a 1968 Dodge Dart. Take a guess what we called that one. That's right, the "old" car.

The accomodations:
We stayed in Holiday Inns. Somehow the four of us shared a room and survived. In fact, the sight of the old Holiday Inn signs used to excite me, proving that at one point in my life I was truly easy to please.

The sightseeing:

The St. Louis drive by: I remember passing through St. Louis as my dad ordered my sister to take some photos of the arch. I remember wanting to stop and get a closer look, but we passed it and that neat looking thing was gone, only to reappear when the blurry photos were developed.

Cities: We visited San Francisco and L.A. I don’t remember which one came first. Near san Francisco, we stayed with the family of the realtor for our house in New York. This realtor had sons (and a daughter?) and a giant Afghan hound that I could ride like a horse. All of us put on KISS make up one night (I was the cat). The theme song seemed to be “We don’t need no education.” The beach was right down the street from their house. The weird part was that about 10 years later we wound up moving there. We tried to contact that same realtor, but she had moved elsewhere. We used the same agency and made friends with the new realtor.

National Parks: We visited the sequoias and the Grand Canyon. I don't remember much from these, but luckily someone took photos.

Theme Parks and terror: We also went to the happiest place on earth. The happy parts included the Dumbo ride. The not so happy parts involved the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. I don’t know who was responsible for deciding this was appropriate for my four year old eyes, but I do know this ride terrified me. I am pretty sure I screamed the entire time. It traumatized me so much that when it was time to get onto “It’s a Small World” (which involved a similar little boat that carried you through the ride) hysterics ensued. I’m pretty sure I was coerced onto the boat and I remember calming down when it turned out to be harmless.

We also went to Universal Studios, which involved the train trip over the collapsing bridge. No one told me it wasn’t real. To this day, in my head it really happened. I’m surprised my poor young heart didn’t quit on me.

No place like home (and mustaches):
The final straw was the trip home. In one of the hotels where we stopped, my dad got the idea to shave his mustache. Keep in mind that I had never seen him without it. Yup, more hysterics. I was screaming as if a strange man had invaded our hotel room, and in a way, that was what my head was telling me.

Some people might think this kind of road trip is a true adventure (*cough* my husband *cough*) but I’m not inclined to agree. Maybe it was from hours in the back seat of the car sucking on bottles of bug juice, playing tic tac toe and counting cars of a certain color, but as an adult, I find myself extremely averse to long trips in the car.


And now for something completely different

My husband and I have actually made it to the movies on a few occasions, a rare feat when you have a kid who can't watch the gory, or the scary, or the inappropriately funny with you (well, you could bring the kid, but be prepared to be judged and hear a chorus of teeth sucking and "oh no they din't"s when you bring "the baby" to an R-rated flick).

We have seen:
Repo Men
Okay I had to break my rotten tomatoes rule on this one. Usually if Rottentomatoes ranks something as rotten, I use that as an excuse to nix watching a movie. Most of the time that rule applies to something my husband wants me to watch with him (that usually involves a ridiculous budget, a hammy cast and/or Jerry Bruckheimer). Hypocrite that I am, I still wanted to see it. Why? Jude Law. I know he's lost some points due to the Phil Collins-esque pattern baldness, and the nanny cheating incident and the lollipop physique, but I like watching him. It also stars Forest Whitaker. It took a science fiction concept and a dystopian future (it's always interesting to see how that's portrayed, usually it's dark, dingy and depressing) and a plot that starts off okay but makes less and less sense as you progress towards the end. This isn't the only science fiction thing I've weathered due to J.L. I also watched "A.I." which is sort of unwatchable, except for Gigolo Joe. You come out of the theater wishing the whole movie had been about him instead. Oh and "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." Sky who and the what, you say? Yeah, that one might have lasted in the theaters for an entire two hours. But, Jude Law! And lots of ridiculous green screen fun. Hm. It turns out rotten movies that star an actor with the initials "J.L." seem to defy my common sense when it comes to picking a movie.

Hot Tub Time Machine
I know, I know, right? It's like, Noooo, come on, how could you blow a night out on this crap? My husband rarely sees comedy movies in the theaters and I figured out why. If you watch a bad movie in another genre, then it turns into a comedy and there's still some level of enjoyment there. If a comedy fails, you've got nothing. It doesn't become a drama, or an action flick, or a visual masterpiece, it's just a waste of money and time. I admit that I also liked "The Hangover" and "Knocked Up." I can watch, laugh at the jokes, and then be perfectly fine if I never saw them again. They're disposable movies. You go in knowing it's stupid humor while feeling incredulous that someone actually greenlighted a movie involving time travel through a hot tub (and you bought tickets). You lose some brain cells, you hand over your money, but it was still fun.

The blindsided

Just days after she won an Oscar, news that Sandra Bullock’s husband was messing around came out. I can’t even imagine being in that situation (if my husband managed such a stunt, I would be devastated, but once I regained the ability to speak, I would have say to him, “Well played, sir. Well played.”) The biggest deal is that everyone considered Sandra Bullock to be the one marrying down to a dirtbag, so the question for the cheating dirtbag was, “Why eat a burger when you have steak at home?” (A: Because sometimes you just really want a burger). Sandra Bullock is one of the few famous people on my husband’s “list” (The list also includes Janet Jackson and Eva Mendes). He loves that Sandy.

After the dust settles the next step seems to involve the offender checking into some kind of rehab and disappearing from the news until they emerge a changed-for-the-better-person.

As a government contractor, rule number 1 seems to be this: contracts end. As in, once the time is up and you have accomplished (or not accomplished) what you have agreed to do, you can no longer justify charging to said contract, which means you are not in a good situation. “On the bench” is what my company calls it, and while that sounds like fun in a college intramural softball team way, it stinks.

The good part was that I didn’t love my project. The customer was sort of a pain. I was the buffer between her and my company. It wasn’t an especially challenging job and the things I thought could make things better were not allowed to happen because the contract had strict guidelines on what we would provide. I had all these brilliant ideas (really, they were), and nowhere to execute them. So, while the situation of not having a job sucks, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am a tiny bit relieved.

On to the sucky parts—
1) How I found out:
I work at the government site (or should I say, “worked,” but we’re getting to that) part of the time and the rest of the time I was in our company office. A few weeks ago I had the tedious task of filling in a spreadsheet so the blank values we had in our database could be filled with (duh) data. It took ages (“ages”= a little over a week). I would stream episodes of “This American Life” on NPR and I would go to town looking up possible values for the blanks. It was dreadful but at the same time it felt like I was accomplishing something and contributing to the cause. The following week, the customer called me to ask when I planned to come in and turn in my badge. I thought, “why turn in my badge when I will be there next week to continue working?” Well the obvious answer is: Because you won’t be there next week to continue working. Duh. But the wheels in my head hadn’t turned to reach that conclusion yet. I thought it was just a case of the customer being difficult again.

2) I was holding down the fort alone the week the shit hit the fan.
My manager was not available and the other guy on the project was working on something else. My manager returned towards the end of the week. He was also under the impression that our work should be continuing. Had things gone properly, someone would have clued him in first, he would have told me what was going on, and I would have concluded on my own that I needed to turn in my badge.

3) The turn in
This was just…awkward. I had to go in, tell the IT people to close my email account, reset my own voicemail (this was a failure because the directions were wrong and the thing would not let me reset it, but you know what? Not my problem), get people to sign off on my outprocessing check list and finally, turn in my badge. I talked to the customer and put on the brave face saying “these things happen,” instead of going out in a blaze of glory because these are the same people that decided to eliminate my job. I returned to the office with nothing else to do.

4) The alternative
I have been offered the possibility to work in support of another project. The issue is that this would require a one and a half hour drive (in good traffic). Have I mentioned that I don’t carry a spare tire in my car? I don’t have runflats, either. I just envision myself stranded somewhere along the highway because of some kind of car problem. I know part of this fear stems from taking public transit for so many years. If a train broke down or there was a delay, it made the news. You were also stranded with hundreds of other passengers someplace along the highly populated train route. I’m not saying that the train is an ideal way to get to work in all cases, but it has some benefits (and don’t anyone say, but you can listen to audiobooks. My reading comprehension seems to be at its best when the information is going through my eyes).

5) The hustle (not this kind). It was September when I last looked for a job. I felt I had time to mentally prepare for it and I had some contacts in mind. It had been over 2 years since my last job change and I felt energized enough to get myself back out there. This time it feels different. I like my company. I don’t want to leave, but I don’t think I have a choice. I am planning to talk to the HR director but I’m not hopeful anything like “Work 10 hours a week from home for your current rate of pay” is going to turn up for me. I did update my profile on Monster and I signed in to multiple employers’ websites to register and upload my resume (here’s an idea, why don’t these companies get together and use one database application?) I did get a call today from a recruiter. It was going pretty well until salary (and what sounded like a lack of any kind of benefits) came up. When he said “Well you could take this now since you’re not working…” I pretty much stopped listening. It’s not that I’m above taking a pay cut, it’s that those words translate to: “Hey, I would like a commission if you get hired, so go on and take this even if it’s not quite what you want.” I want to say, “Oh, well, you know, I didn’t know I didn’t have a job and I needed one. Since you mentioned it, sure! Let me go on and take it.”

I wish there were a rehab I could go to—hide out for 30-45 days, and emerge at my own press conference as a completely refreshed and no longer jaded employee.