Coming out of her shell

Location: Heartland, United States

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wow ... a lot has changed

I just read over my last few entries, which were from last year. A lot has changed in 2007, including the fact that my husband and I did, indeed, buy a house.

But the biggest change of all has been this:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Morbid (and lazy) mood

Here is my obit:

'What will your obituary say?' at

Here is my tombstone:

Take this quiz at

Monday, April 10, 2006

Just for fun

I just visited a friend's blog that had a link to the quiz "What Famous Pinup Are You?" Here's my answer:

You are Betty Grable

The ulitmate girl next door
You're the perfect girl for most guys
Pretty yet approachable. Beautiful yet real.

Here's another one:

Your Famous Movie Kiss is from Spiderman

"I have always been standing in your doorway. Isn't it about time somebody saved your life?"

And because I'm getting my hair cut this weekend (also a manicure) — my reward to myself for doing research for six weeks:

Your Ideal Hairstyle:

Textured Bob

And surprisingly, this was the hair cut I already was thinking about.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

It's over

My research reign is over. And I am relieved.

Also a little shocked.

The past week was especially bad for research and work in general. My research project wasn't coming together. It wasn't done by deadline. And on top of that, the co-worker who was covering most of my regular duties was on vacation, so I felt like I was doing two full-time jobs – poorly.

I had reached my breaking point.

The end started out innocently enough. I asked my boss how the hiring search was going. He replied to my e-mail with something vague and cryptic about how hiring was like buying a house ... it takes longer than you think, but once you find the right one, it comes together quickly.

It was not the answer I wanted to hear.

I wrote him back. I didn't ask for anything, but I laid my cards on the table. I said that I hoped it did come together quickly because I was very unhappy and very stressed and that I thought the quality of work – both for my regular job and the research job – were suffering. I wanted him to know exactly where I stood ... or was dangling – at the end of my rope. My co-worker thought I was very brave for telling our boss all of this, but it wasn't courage; it was desperation.
And I didn't like the reply he wrote me back. It felt a little condescending to me and involved certain phrases typed in all caps, which I hate. But I was glad that he at least knew what the situation was, and I left it at that and went back to work.

Then about three hours later, my boss alled me into his office ... and closed the door, so I knew this was going to be a serious meeting. At one point earlier in the week, I had actually looked in our employee handbook for grounds on firing. If an employee displays an inaptitude for the work through no willful cause, then that it is grounds for termination, with severance offered. Severence is one week of pay per each full year worked. So if I could make it until Monday, I reasoned, and then get fired, I could get six weeks of pay, plus all my unused vacation days.

But I wasn't called into my boss's office to be fired ... not exactly.

The first words out of his mouth were equally shocking to me, however.

"S, you're scaring me."

I think I laughed, nervous laughter. It's a bad habit that Dear Husband hates. Anytime the going gets rough and I have something serious to say, I tend to laugh. It sort of ruins the effect.

"No, really, you're scaring me. I'm worried about you. ... I don't want you to quit."

I was stunned. I was speechless. This is the man who never expresses fear. Anger, irritation, displeasure, yes. Fear, no. And I also had never heard him admit that he didn't want someone to quit. ... Of course, I have no idea what he has said to other employees who have come and gone from our office, but it was one of the last things that I ever expected to hear from him. ... Admittedly, that's a little sad. But it was probably the nicest thing he had ever said to me. After six years, I am used to his personality. He is not one to give praise easily or often, but I know that when he doesn't like something, he is quick to remind us. So I learned to accept that as long as he wasn't complaining, things were fine. No news is good news.

He cared enough to be scared and admit that he didn't want me to quit because I was a valued player in the department.

And then he told me he would take me off research.

I was getting over my shock a little by this point. I made a token refusal. I said that I didn't want him to feel that I was pushing him into doing this just because I was unhappy.

"But isn't that a good enough reason to do it?" he said.

"Yes," I said, with relief.

And almost as shocking, someone else in the office had mentioned a passing interest in doing the research job – after I had done such a good job selling it for the past five weeks, telling everyone who asked how much I hated it. In fact, I think everyone knew I hated it, except maybe my boss, who saw that the work was getting done.

I think it will work out for the best. It sounds like the person taking over the job will have fewer distractions than I had. And unlike me, he volunteered for the job.

The only thing that makes me sad about giving up the research job is that I no longer will have any reason to talk to the corporate research director. Besides being a really good, patient teacher, he is also really fun to talk to. When I was talking about some of the research tasks with the person who agreed to take over the job, I mentioned that the trainer is kind of the Anti-"Our Boss." Our boss is known throughout the department as Mr. Glass Half-Empty or sometimes a sarcastic Captain Sunshine. The new research person remarked, "Hell, if you'd mentioned that earlier, everyone would have been fighting to take over this job." So I will miss working with someone who told me I was doing a good job every so often.

But to our boss's credit, after he told me that he would no longer make me fill the research role, he also apologized (another shocking thing) for not complimenting my hard work and efforts more often. He admitted that it is a weakness and that he will try to work on it. He even apologized for throwing me into a job I obviously hated.

I didn't make it to the bitter end, but I gave it my all. DH and I will try to take a vacation before my co-worker goes on maternity leave in about six weeks (if all goes as expected for her). I'm thinking we should go to Niagara Falls. I'll also probably take a few days off and go to Dallas to visit my sister. I still have never seen her apartment. I might do a mini-makeover, too.

The job wasn't all bad ... just mostly bad. And it's finally over.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I was never Spunky Single Gal

I read a feature story the other day about Spunky Single Gal. You know, the girl on television who is single, yet fabulously good looking, with the apartment no one on her salary could afford. The writer was lamenting how she is not Spunky Single Gal. And I realize, neither was I. Of course, I'm not Spunky Married Gal either.

I was glad to find out that I am not alone in my lack of spunk. Like the writer, I also experience tedium and frustration, and I was glad to learn that I am not the only one to burst into tears at work and have to make a dash for the bathroom. And she is 31, too, just like me.

Not that I cry at work often, but I did once recently. This was shortly after I had to take over the research job. I was told that one project that I particularly did not know how to do was canceled. But then it got un-canceled. And this was about a week before the project needed to be turned in. I was proud of myself that I did not burst into tears on the spot in my boss's office. Instead, I went back to my desk, repeating the mantra (in Tom's Hank's voice a la "A League of Their Own") "There's no crying in research. There's no crying in research." And I made it back to my desk. I'm sure it wasn't pretty because my boss gave me a double-take and asked me whether I was OK. I said yes and pulled myself together, until I realized that I just really, really wanted to cry and maybe I would feel better if I did. So I went to the bathroom and bawled for a few minutes. And then I took some deep breaths, brushed my hair, washed my hands and made it back to my desk looking relatively calm and collected.

And then I promptly burst into tears when the corporate director of research services called. That is the one advantage of being trained by phone. I have no idea whether he knew I was crying or not. But at least it was easy for both of us to pretend that everything was fine because he couldn't see me. Unlike my poor cubicle mate, who peered over the wall and saw me sniffling for sure but quickly and discreetly ducked his head back down, and we never spoke of it.

I'm not sure whether it is an advantage or a disadvantage of working in a department of mostly men. They don't know what to do about tears. It unnerves them, so they don't talk about it, which can be a good thing. But on the other hand, it's nice to have a woman in the office, who would know that sometimes there is crying in research.

But the guys in my office are trying in their own way. My supervisor -- my other boss -- patiently listens to me complain and lament about how stressed I am and the annoying things that happen, and he doesn't make me work too late; my boss helps me with the research duties as much as he can and is trying to get someone hired (and he bought me lunch the day after I had to switch to the new duties); and the other guys in the office try to encourage me and make me laugh.

And it works sometimes. I may not be spunky. But work is getting a little better (depending on the day), and my annual performance review is coming up in less than two weeks. I don't think my boss will have anything to complain about, do you? (Unless he wants to try to hire someone new yet again, right before the only other woman in our department goes on maternity leave.) And I am a believer in self-rewarding. (If I don't do it, who will?) And I plan a big reward for finishing up all the research duties.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A few words on work

I mentioned it in an earlier post, so I thought I would write some of the backstory about my job.

Tuesday, Feb. 21, was one of the days when I was especially bored at work. I wanted something exciting to happen. I even remember thinking that to myself. Of course, I was thinking more along the lines of winning the lottery or getting flowers delivered to work or maybe even a fire drill (which often happened at the old office; sometimes the office was even on fire). Something to break the monotony.

Instead, I got called into my boss's office. And he closed the door. And he told me that the researcher was quitting. I was shocked ... and I knew already, before my boss said it, that I was going to have to take over the research duties. I was the designated backup person in case the researcher got hit by a bus, God forbid, my boss had told me several years before. And I had made some effort to learn the job, but I had my own job duties to finish, and the researcher had his stuff to do, so I never got much more than an overview. And now I was expected to take over this job. My boss even tired to spin it as a positive opportunity for me because I had been in my current job for "what? two, three years?" and might like something new.

"Um, it will be six years in April."

At least he had the grace to look embarassed. But it did not make me feel appreciated.

I wasn't panicked yet. I figured I had two weeks to learn before the researcher left. And I went back to my desk.

Then the word came down: The resarcher was leaving immediately because he was going to a competitor.

Up until this day, I had really liked the researcher. We joked around. We traded e-mails about my pets, and he would share stories of animals in the news with me. I asked him to get together with me before he left so I would at least know the status of his projects. He never responded. Finally, I saw him with his jacket on and a box in his hands. I asked him to tell me where he was leaving things.

"It's self-explanatory," he said.

I stared at him with disbelief.

"You have a funny look on your face," he said.

"You know you're screwing me here, don't you?" I said.

"This isn't how I planned to leave," he said. And with that, he took his box and left.

And as I later realized, not only did the researcher not leave any notes, he also had stripped his desk of anything that might have been remotely helpful to anyone having to sit there ... no office supplies, no phone list, no calendar, no reference book ...

And I was left with all his projects and no idea how to do them. And no one else in the office knew how to do them either. I was going to be trained by phone by someone with corporate in another time zone.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Slice of life

I went to the St. Patrick's Day parade Downtown yesterday. The city has started the parade earlier and earlier to try to prevent so many people from getting drunk. It doesn't work. No offense to my husband, but the Downtown parade is not somewhere I would go with him because, frankly, he is not an intimidating man, and I'm not sure whether he could block me from the crazy people. Let me just say that last year, I watched part of the parade from the upper levels of the parking garage at work. From that safe distance, I saw a girl show her boobs multiple times in order to get someone to throw her beads. Someone else got shot during the parade, and this was not too far from the office.

Anyway, this year I ventured to the streets to take in the parade, but I didn't go alone. A girl in advertising and I went escorted by three guys from the office. The guys were very good about keeping track of us women. Because we met some interesting people.

We headed out for the parade a little before noon, and people were already drunk. Two guys walking in the opposite direction approached us arguing about stumbling into the street. The first guy says, "Man, you better be careful how you walk. You could go right out into the street. Something like this could happen," he said, as he shoved the other guy right into traffic. The second guy shoves back, and they are both oblivious to me, leading our merry office group, and only miss stumbling into me because I stop and step aside and wait for them to pass by.

We saw (and smelled) several people smoking pot in the crowd, including a white guy in dreadlocks who shoved through the crowd shouting, "The cops are coming!" There were cops everywhere, so you can only imagine how it would have been without the significant police presence.

Three very drunk, smelly guys stumbled among us, one of them smoking a cigarette that was about half-an-inch long. One decided that he knew J., the other girl with me, and tried to hug her. She declined, and the men in our group converged to get the guys moving on their way. The men had a scary moment when they thought they had lost me. I had moved up to stand by J. and keep my back against the wall. I wanted to avoid getting bumped from behind. ... But then a guy on my right tried to cozy up to me. The men in our group threw him a few sharp glances, though, and he edged away a little bit.

The three drunk guys finally moved along with the lead guy shouting to the straggler, "Coooooome ooooon. Leeeeeeeet's go. Yooor like a slow turd! You ain't never gonna come out!" That was the best quote of the parade, and the guy grinned drunkenly at us to see how we liked it.

A while after those guys passed by, we heard the crowd getting excited about the "green Jesus" coming down the street. It actually was a giant balloon of St. Patrick himself.

A duo of girls who were about 19 or 20 stumbled up to our little group, demanding to see whether we were wearing green. They concentrated their attentions of the men of our group. One girl decided that the guys were wearing insufficient green and she was "tooooooootally going to pinch you." In the end, she settled for showing us her St. Patrick's Day spirit with her green jacket, green shirt, green tank top under her shirt and her green underwear ... her hands did briefly stray to her fly, and I thought perhaps she was going to show us her green underwear, too. But she wasn't quite that drunk ... yet.

After that, we decided to head back to the office, declaring our parade experience a success with the sighting of the green Jesus and a new phrase to hurry up slowpokes at the office.

We passed by a girl fight in a parking lot, which had attracted a circle of onlookers chanting, "Fight! Fight! Fight!" just a half-block away from a traffic cop, who looked a little nervous when told by a passerby that he should go break it up.

And we passed a guy wearing all black who accessorized his ensemble with a belt of bullets.

And then we made it back to the land of suits and paperwork.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Random trivia about me

Thanks to my friend Kat who inspired me with her blog entry listing 50 things about her. This is not quite 50, but this is what I came up with as I contemplated going to the job I really hate. I don't normally hate my job, but I am doing someone else's job right now, until someone is hired, which won't be for at least three weeks if I'm being optimistic. I've already been doing it for three weeks. It is getting a little better. It's interesting, but I'm too stressed doing a job I don't fully understand, especially because this was not my choice. But as the person who is training me says, "I'm doing the best I can (and that's all I can do), and then I'm letting it go ..." Good advice. The other good advice he gave me is telling my boss, "I want results, not excuses." That cracks me up every time. I am getting a lot of support from my boss ... which is especially nice considering who my boss is, not the most sensitive or supportive person I've ever known. Of course, he knows how screwed they'd be if I quit ... which I briefly fantasized about. But I'm not that kind of person. I can't walk out on my responsibilities and obligations. And I try to get it done right.

Without further ado, in order to make up my long absence and inconsistent participation in blogging, I present Random Trivia About Me:

I still hold my hands in the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel when I drive. I always use my turn signals. I consider myself the better driver between my husband and me, but I have had more accidents that are my fault (one, with another car; a few if you count stationary objects) since we've met.

I like to write, but I rarely do it anymore. An English professor thought I should try to publish a short story I wrote. ... I never did. My college philosophy teacher wanted me to revise and publish an essay I wrote on ... something philosophical. I don't even remember what now. I even was offered a full-time reporting job once ... Ironic because I hate interviewing people. I had finished a reporting internship (which I only took because an adviser strongly suggested it and set the entire thing up), and they liked my work. Back in the seventh grade, I wrote an essay on Francis Marion, Swamp Fox of the American Revolution. I got a medal and was invited to tea with the Daughters of the American Revolution. My essay was read. ... I can't remember whether I read it or one of the ladies did. ... I'm a little blurry on the details now. But I remember the ladies loved my story.

More than writing, I love to read. In the third grade, my teacher (who also taught my dad in elementary school) sent me home for the summer with three big cardboard boxes filled with books. I read them all. And I still read a lot. I often still start and finish a book on the weekend. I stick mostly to mysteries and novels. ... I get enough nonfiction at my day job.

I get crushes easily.

My husband is the only person I ever kissed more than once on a first date. I did kiss one other boyfriend on a first date, but I fretted about it for days afterward.

My husband took me to Burger King at midnight for our first "date." (Give him a break, though. We worked nights at a daily newspaper, and that's when we got off work. Nothing else was open.) My husband knew what he wanted ... I'd only worked there a week when he invited me to Burger King. Thinking back, I was pretty naive ... getting into a relative stranger's car in a town where I knew no one and then going back to his apartment to watch a movie. But he was a gentleman, and about six and a half years later, we got married, so it all worked out.

When I was a toddler, I stuck my finger in an electrical socket. When I was older, I also got zapped plugging in the vacuum cleaner.

As a teenager, I refused to sweep the floors. Absolutely refused. In high school, I got a job as a kennel assistant, where I had to sweep and mop. I volunteer to clean cat cages for an animal rescue one day a week, and I also sweep when I am done.

I have never used illegal drugs. And I have never smoked a cigarette. I can count on one hand the number of times I have thrown up from too much drinking. I never had a fake ID or drank in public before I was 21. (Yes, I did drink at a party when I was 20 ... and ended up kissing my roommate's boyfriend, but that's another story ...)

I have never interviewed for a job and not gotten an offer. This is a blessing and a curse. I have never been rejected. But I also don't have much interview experience. I applied to one paper after college (and I didn't particularly want the job, but my adviser threatened that I better start interviewing). I interviewed, was offered the job and accepted. I loved the job but hated the town (this was the job where I met my husband, by the way). I turned down a promotion to accept a job back in my hometown, in a larger metro area. I sometimes wonder how things would have turned out differently if I had stayed and taken the promotion ... I quit that second job when I started dreading going in because of the person who got promoted to copy chief. I put a resume online and got three calls within a day. Two were from out-of-town papers, but one was from a local weekly. ... I was stunned and took my resume offline. I did, however, accept an interview with the local paper. I met the editor and managing editor over lunch. I thought the interview went OK but not great. I was called for a second interview and met the publisher. Little did I know that this interview was more formality than anything, as they offered me the job at the end of that interview. I was really shocked then. The editor, being relatively new to his position, expected an answer on the spot. The ME intervened, and I had at least until the next day to make a decision. The money was better ... and it was closer to the kind of work I wanted to do ... but it was an unknown. I took the job (and I'm still there, six years later).

I was born seven weeks early.

As a child, I was on a toboggan headed straight for a tree. Why I didn't jump off, I don't know. I hit the tree head-on, and I remember thinking, "I better not break my teeth. My parents have spent thousands at the orthodontist." I tilted my face up and hit the tree with my chin. I still have a scar.

When I was about 8, I had a tree house. My dad left my 6-year-old sister, my 3-year-old brother and me up there while he watched from the yard. I remember peering over the edge and feeling small hands on my back. The next thing I remember is my dad holding me over the sink and blood was everywhere. Miraculously, nothing was broken. I had a bloody nose and a few scratches. (My dad, quite possibly, may still be in trouble for this incident to this day.)

My sister, brother and I were into dangerous games and pain endurance. When I was in about fifth grade, we had a game that involved climbing a stepladder, jumping from the ladder to the bed and jumping off the bed -- blindfolded. It was great -- right until the time I landed on a dollhouse and got a black eye. I'm not sure my parents ever figured out exactly what happened. We cleaned the room up fast before they ran upstairs.

We also would jump down the stairs from the top to the landing. And we'd wrap ourselves in blankets and sleeping bags and roll down the stairs.

We ruined by brother's mattress playing a game called Sandwich. One person would lie on the box springs under the mattress while the other two jumped around on the mattress.

We also had a car game called Head Cruncher. One person would put his or her head behind the back of the second person. The second person would lean back as hard as he/she could. The third person was timekeeper. Whoever lasted the longest won. It was a great car game, especially when one person would ask to play Head Cruncher and then the second person would lean over to play, prompting the first person to shout, "Mom! She's on my side! She's touching me!" which would prompt my dad to start muttering various threats.

I also once poured water over a hot light bulb when I was about 9. I started out by dripping water on it and listening to the hisssssss. I thought that if I poured a lot of water on it, I would get an even louder hiss. I was wrong. The bulb shattered. My little brother, who was about 4, was in my room at the time. I went downstairs and told my parents that my lamp broke "for no reason." They asked my brother what happened, and all he would say was, "Water pouring. Water pouring." My parents never told me until much later that they knew what had happened all along. I thought I had gotten away with it.

We had some quieter childhood games, too, but they also were slightly morbid. My sister and I had twin beds and a LOT of stuffed animals. We would gather them all up on the bed and pretend we were on a raft. But not just any raft, a raft floating in a sea of blood and alligators. If any animals fell off, they needed special "medicine" from being in the poison blood/water.

I have never had to go to the Emergency Room. (Neither has my sister. My brother has twice. None of us has ever broken a bone.)

My sister and I dared each other to write on our walls in ballpoint pen. She made a stray line behind her door that she could claim as accidental. I drew a bull's-eye on the wall by my bed. I got in trouble. She didn't.

Now is it any wonder after all this why I don't have kids? My mom stayed home with us, and there was always an adult around, but we still managed to get into a lot of trouble doing dangerous and destructive things. But I guess that's always the case with kids ... My cousin's wife is a stay-at-home mom, and they have a nanny, too. Their kids still managed to push a Fisher Price play stove down a stairway, rip a door off its hinges by swinging on it and climb out a basement window.

My original college major was elementary education.

We took a family vacation every year, so I've gotten to see a lot of the country.

The only time I have been out of the country is to Tijuana, Mexico, briefly over the Canadian border at Niagara Falls and to the Caribbean on my honeymoon. I want to go to Europe someday.

I once had an asthma attack so bad in college that I probably should have gone to the emergency room, but I didn't. Instead, I called my boyfriend, who was four hours away; my ex-boyfriend, who wanted to take me to the hospital, but I wouldn't go; and my mom, who said, "I'm not there. I don't know how sick you are." At the urging of my ex-boyfriend, I did call the hospital to ask advice, and, of course, they told me to come in, but I still didn't. Instead, I sat up all night without sleeping because I couldn't breathe and cried. In the morning, my roommate took me to the college health center. I wasn't close to her, but that was a sweet thing she did. She stayed and waited with me to see the doctor even though she was cutting it close to missing her class. I didn't have to wait long to see the doctor. By this time, I could barely speak, and they didn't make me try. I wrote things down and pointed. The chief of staff was the doctor who saw me, and he gave me a lecture about not ever, ever, ever waiting that long to go to a doctor again. The next semester a girl I knew who worked on the school paper died from an asthma attack. My professor was shocked (and a little mad) when I confessed that I didn't go to the doctor when I had an attack either. I learned my lesson, but I've never had a bad attack since then.

I almost got kicked out of a college math class. For whatever reason, I decided not to try to test out of College Algebra, and the class turned out to be exactly like my math class from high school. I never paid attention. I wasn't disruptive; I was just spacey, looking out the window and such. The last straw for the teacher was the day I nodded absently to myself, and the class took that as an answer to the yes-or-no question the teacher was asking about a math problem (they knew I had one of the best grades in class). (The answer was no.) The teacher encouraged me to take a harder math class, but not in a positive way. I stayed in the class but was careful from then on to at least pretend to be learning.

I have never seen a funnel cloud or tornado in person, despite living all my life in Kansas.

I'm scarily good at writing online personals descriptions.

One of my favorite books is still "Charlotte's Web." I also like "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I remember liking "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," but it has been so long that I can't remember what it's about.

And that's all I have for now. Now, I must go to my dreaded new desk and get stuff done, get it done the best I can, and then let it go.