Incentives

I’ve complained before that being a functioning adult is tough sometimes. See previous post about the slog. But recently I had one of those days where it reminded me that part of my difficulty, genuinely, is that crazy shit happens to me on a regular basis.

On a recent Saturday I went to a large box store to pick up a grill I ordered for Dan’s birthday. The only reason I didn’t have this sent directly to my front porch is, Dan was home all week, and he’d have seen the huge box and probably opened it or figured out what it was. I wanted it to be a surprise. So I had it sent to the store. I just had that one place to go and one thing to do. I needed to pick up the grill (and its accessories) and buy a few other things at the same store. Easy, right? ONE store.

I got there and got my few things, then picked up the pick-up things. All was OK. The baby wanted to walk around on his own, and he even did that a bit and didn’t wreck too much stuff (I cleaned up what he did knock over in the toy aisle).

Then I went to check out. When I was checking out I said “I was just picking up these two things, so they’re already paid for. Let me know if you need to see the receipt.”

The kid behind the counter said “Oh, that’s OK. I can scan the bar code.” There were several bar codes on each item to choose from. He tried them all, and none seemed to work. Finally he got one to work on the charcoal bag but he could not get the one on the box to scan.

He paged someone for help. Another kid came over. She said “Oh, those are pick-up items. You don’t need to scan them.”

I said, feeling like someones sixty-year-old Aunt Barbara, “I think the charcoal got scanned. Can you make sure I don’t get charged for that since I already paid for it?”

The kid said “Oh, sure. No problem I’ll take it off.”

Great!

Then the kid picked up my six-pack of Oberon I was also getting for Dan’s birthday. “Oh. I can’t sell this…I’m not eighteen.” He turned to the other kid who had come to help. “Can you…”

She smiled and shrugged. “I’m not eighteen either.” She paged someone.

The guy who had originally given me my pick-up items came to the front. He went to scan my beer but he was logged in on another register so he had to page someone and get a code to log in again on that register or to log someone else in, I don’t know. I was just trying to keep my son entertained since we’d been there a while.

Everything finally got paid for and loaded. I got stopped at the door because I had the giant box and had to prove I’d picked up things and bought them too all in the same trip. Then I was free to go.

I rolled the caravan to the vehicle and unloaded. I got both kids strapped in. I was about to pull out when I thought “Huh, I should check that receipt…I forgot in all the chaos.” Oh look, nine bucks for charcoal.

I unstrapped the kids. I was really tempted to say the hell with it but…nine bucks. So we trooped back in and went to customer service. The same guy who had done the pick-up order and sold me the beer was at the customer service desk now. I said “Hey, it’s me again!” and told him I got charged for the charcoal I’d picked up.

He laughed and said “Oh, sorry about that! He can get you a refund,” and pointed to the guy next to him. That guy looked at my receipt and said “Oh, there’s only one on here,” so I showed him the pick-up email and told him there should be none on there. I finally got my nine bucks back. I think. I haven’t checked my credit card statement yet and I guess I’d better.

By then I was exhausted. Herding kids in stores is exhausting enough but I felt like I’d personally met every employee at that particular location and stood in every line they had to offer while I was herding the kids too.

I don’t know if it’s a typical part of adulthood but it happens to me a lot. I think I’m going to get one little thing done that day. It ends up feeling like I ran a marathon. I feel my patience draining out of me like sand through an hourglass. I do a good job at just keeping on going most of the time. I did feel like complaining to at least one of the twelve people I encountered at the one store, but it wouldn’t have done any good anyway.

You know how some people complain about kids these days, always wanting participation trophies? I think sometimes we should have them for adults too. Or maybe like the opposite of customer loyalty rewards, where instead of “thanks for being a frequent customer” the message is “Sorry you had a crappy experience” and you get a consolation prize.

The funny thing is, sometimes they do give those out to people who complain loudly, even when there’s nothing wrong! I’ve seen it happen at restaurants. “Here’s your free drink/appetizer/meal for not knowing how to order and being a difficult customer.” And as a parent I always hear “Reward good behavior instead of punish bad.”

We need an initiative to start handing out cookies or prizes when someone does a good job or someone else isn’t a jerk when they get bad service. Like adult parenting. Or an anti-asshole campaign. Maybe we could even collect “I wasn’t an asshole today” stamps and cash them in for prizes later.

Every citizen could get so many “not an asshole” stamps to share or dole out on a daily basis. When someone lets you go in traffic…beep and  hand them one out the window. When you hear someone tell their kid not to kick your seat on the plane…give both the parent and the kid one. Store and restaurant managers could have a deck of these and they pass them out to customers when they know something crappy went down and the customer didn’t act like a fool.

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The possibilities are endless! This could be a society-transforming idea.

If anyone wants to send cookies or prizes to me for sharing it I’d be glad to send you my addy. 😉

 

 

 

Attack of the Killer Slog

I haven’t had much time to write lately, and I still don’t have many answers to all the questions lurking in my future.

The living situation is still hit or miss. The landlord did let another set of new neighbors move in with a dog. He told us that since the dog is old and sedentary, it shouldn’t bother Dan’s allergies (?). Then Dan had an allergist appointment and something is in fact bothering his allergies. For now, the allergist said it could be the pollen and/or the dog; the house is very poorly sealed. Once the pollen dies down, Dan is supposed to reassess, and then we find out whether we need to move or not. He tried going off his steroid, though, and had to go back on it. So that isn’t good news, but since it is already the end of July, we might make it until our lease is up. We wanted to either move this summer or stick it out until next summer so we wouldn’t have to change our daughter’s school midyear, though. I may end up driving her if we move.

Speaking of moving, I’ve been at my new job for nine months now. We aren’t sure about buying a house until my job situation stabilizes. Some changes are taking place in September that might improve things, but I won’t know until I get there. Meanwhile, I upped my dosage. That helps me get by with my OCD but it also helps me make more mistakes and forget things.

A troubling concept to me in my adult life is that large parts of it are always going to be a slog. Mostly the parts bringing in income and supporting all the other non-sloggy parts. Isn’t “slog” a great word? Even if it sucks as an actual course of action? But seriously, being an adult requires a lot of slogging. Then you get to a bright spot and go “Woohoo, a bright spot, this made the slog all worth it…this will last me through the slog to the next bright spot.” And off you go slogging along again.

I see all these stress-relief techniques being promoted to help with this kind of thing, and I’m suspicious. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time doing nothing and relaxing. But does it really work like a pair of snowshoes, helping you slog a little less, or is it just a way to pretend you aren’t slogging? If you pretend you aren’t slogging, will you ever stop?

There are some great things going on in our lives. We’re awaiting the arrival of a new grand-niece. I can’t wait to hold her and huff the new-baby smell. One of my best friends is coming to visit in August and I’m knitting us bat hats. I’ve been knitting a lot more lately to keep from stress-eating across every bakery in town (but when I do want to stress-eat, damn, there are some good bakeries around here!). Dan and I are quietly working on alternate career plans in case the job situation doesn’t improve. I have my first poetry class starting in August. And of course, my family is awesome, even when trying to keep up with the toddler is pure insanity.

I just wish I could spend more time enjoying the fun stuff instead of “sticking it out” and waiting for something to change (again). But the trees are already starting to turn color, Halloween (my favorite holiday) is right around the corner, and I won’t be stuck at my freezing cold desk in Slogville for the rest of my life.

 

 

The Marriage that Almost Wasn’t

Today was my 17th wedding anniversary.

Since we are heathens, we were married in a civil ceremony at the Durham County Jail in 2001. The magistrate worked at the jail instead of the courthouse on weekends, so we packed up our witnesses and trekked to the jailhouse to get married.

Before that, we lived together for almost a year. But how it all happened is the story I want to tell now.

Dan and I are both dumb as bricks when it comes to love.

We were friends for years before we started dating. We met in karate class when I was 14 and he was 17. We didn’t always get along so well, particularly since I was the teacher’s pet and Dan thought that was unfair. We also had some pretty severe rivalry going on when it came to video games (he called me button masher) and Magic: The Gathering (I called him you cheatin’ bastard).

I went away to college for two years and then transferred back to the community college in our hometown. We were both seeing other people by then, but not really liking them all that much. I saw him at karate and on campus, and we ran around with the same gang of nerds.

By the summer of 1997, we ended up hanging out together more and more often. We liked a lot of the same things: hobbies, music, movies…often we complained to each other about what we didn’t have in common with the people we were dating.

I knew by then that I was attracted to Dan, but I didn’t want to screw up our friendship by acting on it. It took one if my girlfriends stabbing me in the back to get me and Dan together.

She had the same birthday as him, so on their birthday I took them out drinking. Now one thing everyone knows about Dan is that he’s a cheap date. A few beers and he is in lala-land.

On the way home I stopped to go into a store for snacks, and Dan was asleep…er maybe passed out… in the back seat. When I came out this hooker was trying to put the moves on him. She knew I was interested and tried to poach my future husband, the bitch.

I drove home in a fury, and the next day I had to explain to him what happened and why I sent my ex-friend home early and was not speaking to her. So that was how we ended up dating.

Fast forward three years later: Dan graduated in December and I was set to graduate in May. Both of us were looking for jobs. I was interviewing with just about anywhere for practice, but by the end, I had job offers in three different cities.

Dan accepted an offer in North Carolina. When he was weeks away from moving, we had a long-overdue talk about our plans. I thought that because he hadn’t asked me if I wanted to join him in NC, it meant that we were either going to try the long distance thing or split up. He thought that since I was interviewing all over, I was going off to do my own thing.

In this talk it became known that of course he wanted me to come to NC with him and of course I was perfectly willing to turn down three job offers. Like I said, dumb as a brick.

I moved my stuff down that May into his apartment where he had one chair and a cardboard box for a TV stand. We got married the next March and here we are, 17 years later.

I don’t believe in love at first sight or soul mates or any of that nonsense. But I do believe I ended up with the one person I want to spend the rest of my life with. We make each other laugh and get each other through the hard times. We’re comfortable together, like that favorite chair with your butt imprint, the one that makes you give the side-eye to any guest who tries to sit in it.

I’m not great at being romantic, obviously, but somehow I ended up with an amazing husband, partner, and best friend anyway.

Happy 17th Mr. F! With all my crazy-ass love.

 

What publishers do

I’ve been in scholarly publishing for almost 18 years (nearly all of them in production or management), and one reason I enjoy it is that there is always something new to learn. This article has a nifty list!

Right now I’m still learning about my new job and doing a lot of  hands-on production work, management, and user support for our publishing systems. In the past, I did a little of everything involving management, production work, author and editor education/support, training everybody and their brother, enforcing standards or trying to real hard, rights and permissions work, art processing, and various other odds and ends.

Even though I’ve never felt like publishing or management are my “calling,” it doesn’t get boring, and if it does, it doesn’t stay boring for long. The other bonus about the job is that when you have downtime, you’re surrounded by stuff to read.

 

 

 

Allergies: We’re Not Making This Up

Since my last post, thankfully, things worked themselves out. Our landlord is turning out to be a super guy. He offered the would-be tenants and their dog another place he manages; it doesn’t have a fence so he is going to build them one. So it’s great news for us; we can stay indefinitely. He told us he would not rent to a family with pets as long as we’re living there.

When it comes to allergies, everyone is different, but people seem to fall into two camps: those who get better due to exposure, and those who get worse. The ones who get better are the ones who might get used to their own pet, or can handle a certain breed. Or maybe they grow out of their allergies in adulthood. This doesn’t happen for the ones who get worse. They just…well, get worse. Exposure makes them miserable and can eventually damage their lungs, or set off other allergies.

Continue reading “Allergies: We’re Not Making This Up”

The Waffler At 40

Between vacation and work being a bit slow, I’ve had too much time to think lately. Aside from reading novels and half the internet, I’ve been considering my next educational move. One of the bonuses that came with my new job is the possibility of going back to school.

I can’t do this immediately, which is part of the problem, because now it is hanging over my head like a big juicy orange carrot. I can practically taste the crunchy sweetness. I daydream about the wonderful stress of struggling to complete readings and assignments on time while I balance a full time job and being a mom to two kids.

I turned 40 last year and started to feel the urgency (even more) of the question “What do I want to do with my life?” Like so many of the good people in publishing, I never set out to make it a career. Which is pretty silly, considering the fact that I started out with two related undergraduate degrees and I’ve been working in publishing for going on 18 years. It reminds me of something my dad said once: “Find a good job you hate, and stick with it the rest of your life.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not dissatisfied with my new job, and I fully intend to stick with it for the foreseeable future. But I also intend to take advantage of that educational benefit at some point. I had planned to wait until Rory was old enough for preschool, but then the obsessing started, and I keep feeling the need to do something.

What the “something” needs to be is figuring out where to go from here. I tried that book What Color Is Your Parachute? before and I kind of hated it. All that introspection just drove me batty. I can see the value of it. But I didn’t have time to sit down and churn through the book in a week or a month. I was taking my time poking along, as one does when one is constantly distracted by “get me a glass of milk” and “play with me” and “put me to bed,” and I started to realize that the answers I diligently wrote out a month ago for exercise A no longer applied, and now it was time to build on that for exercise B, which was screwed because now it was inauthentic and outdated.

I’m in a weird place of my own making, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, it does complicate things. I waited until I was older to have kids for a very good reason: I wasn’t ready to have kids in my 20s. I did go back to school in my 20s and I very much enjoyed getting my master’s in liberal studies, but it was for my own enrichment, and didn’t go very far toward answering that million-dollar “What do I want to do with my life?” question.

8-ball

Does anyone actually answer that question, or is everyone just bumbling along like me? After feeling stuck for so long at my old job, now I feel a bit like an indoor cat who has finally dashed out the door and doesn’t know which direction to run toward first. Hopefully not straight into a passing car.

I do have some leads, and I think I need to focus my energy into taking some baby steps toward exploring those leads. But the “hurry up and wait” part is hard, and sometimes I feel like there are so many obstacles: taking more time away from my kids when I feel like I’m missing all the good stuff, taking financial risk when I’m the only one working, and of course, committing to something only to realize it was yet another passing obsession.

I think my 2018 mantra needs to be “I’m good for now.”

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back at 2017

The past year was a big one for me and my family.

Things had been going downhill steadily at my old job for a while. When I was out on maternity leave in late 2016, the situation got even worse. I didn’t really want to go back when my leave was over. So at the beginning of 2017 I was stressed, dreading each work day, and really down that none of the applications I’d submitted while on leave had amounted to anything.

I made it to the second interview round at one college I really wanted to work for, but no further, and that left me in a funk for a few months. Then I dusted myself off, revised my resume again, and got back at it.

My friends and family kept me going during that time. My friends listened, gave me advice, met up for lunch or drinks, encouraged me not to give up, and discouraged me from lighting anyone’s office on fire (I jest!). My kids have always brought me joy cloaked in their delightful insanity. My husband and my mom were there to listen to me rant for the billionth time and to support me in my job search.

At work I was being micromanaged nonstop, and on top of that, the people who worked for me were being treated like crap by the organization at large. There was this ugly cultural shift over a span of years where people were just devalued, treated like replaceable parts, and disrespected. When we complained, the response was always some variation of the theme “You’re lucky to have this job.”

I tried to do what I could to help, but there was only so much I could do without backlash. Many of my close colleagues were in a similar state of paranoia to mine, and some of us spent nearly as much time documenting the dysfunction (to cover our asses— it didn’t actually improve anything) as we did getting work done.

All my passwords at the office were things like 9thRing0fh3ll and Pl@n0f3gr3ss and Justfuck@lly@ll.

I was willing to take any job that would pay living expenses, but I had to have benefits. When a family member has life-threatening allergies, access to an emergency room is a must-have.

When I finally did get a job offer, though, it wasn’t just any job. It was a great job. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling I had when I realized I was being offered the job on the phone. I felt so much lighter I thought I would float up off the floor, and I was grinning so hard my face nearly cracked. Dan saw me through the doorway and he knew before I got off the phone.

Suddenly we had a couple months to fix up our house and sell it, find a place to rent, hire movers, pack up over a decade’s worth of accumulated stuff, and move three states away.

No problem.

I had a week to unpack, settle in, and find my way around a new giant city and campus before I started work.

No problem.

It was stressful. But it was nowhere near as stressful as staying put. Running like hell from a bad situation was motivating enough, but I am so grateful I found a better situation to run toward.

I didn’t believe it was real for a long time, either. I was a ball of nerves until I got my offer letter. Then again until my references went through, my background check was complete, the lease was signed, the movers arranged…all the way up until my first day at my new job.

I miss all the friends and coworkers I had to leave behind, but I am so much happier in my new situation. Work stays at work. I can relax a lot more. I’m learning a lot, and I will even have the opportunity to go back to school eventually, but that’s crazy-talk until my baby is older and more independent.

It was a good year to shake the ant farm. I’m looking forward to learning my new job and settling into my new city in 2018.