Category Archives: work

The Rescue

I have a space between the stove and the wall, just wide enough for things to fall from my counter in that space, which because the wall is painted red (on the right), kind of looks like Hades:

dropped1blag

Recently the pepper shaker fell down that dark forbidding chasm. There is no way to move the stove, so you have to go in from the top. I half thought to leave it there. I don’t use it because I have a pepper mill. But it’s part of a set, and the weird thing about me is on occasion I can have sudden onset OCD. Most of the time, I really don’t care where things are or aren’t, and my desk at work looks like a stock photo for the “before” picture of a decluttering coach. But the set being separated started to bug me; that and the set came from a Yankee swap many years ago, one that I still go to every year. So I’m attached to it and you never know when you’re going need a last minute Yankee swap regift.

Operation Pepper Shaker Rescue began.

The pepper shaker was too heavy for duct tape lowered on a string. So I had to get creative. Luckily I have a set of orange Tupperware measuring cups from the 80s that have holes in the handles. Perfect for tying a string to. Or, I guess hang them up, if you’re weird. My Pampered Chef measuring cups would be useless for this.

I lowered my rescue measuring cup, and used a broom to sweep the shaker into the cup. I am absolutely positive I did not look odd squatting on top of my stove, holding a string and manipulating a broom. Perfectly normal activity.

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Now, much like saving minors from a collapsed shaft, I had to pull up the cup, carefully. It was horizontal, and the shaker could have fallen out at any time. I mean this is really tricky business.

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Oh my god, is the string fraying? Will I lose my shaker to the Hades abyss? Or is it camera trickery and my love of a cliche technique used in pretty much every drama from the 70s?

Just  little more, and we’re there…

dropped4blog

Success!!

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But wait, who is this running, er sliding, to happily greet the rescued pepper shaker?

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Awwwwww. See? I couldn’t leave the pepper shake down there.

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Sure, I’m weird, but you read til the end.

Under the Influence

Long, long ago, in a young adulthood far, far away, an aspiring writer read a short story in the Boston Globe Magazine. She can’t recall what is was about — probably it involved a young woman, but a line struck her and has stayed with her to this day: “We spend all our lives remembering the most basic things.”

I can’t tell you how many life lessons I’ve learned, often quite smugly I might add, only to get gobsmacked by the same problem a few years later. If I’m lucky, I remember what I did before and soldier on through; sometimes I don’t and need a second gobsmacking. I don’t recommend this.

I have several writer friends, and we check in with each other as a way to keep ourselves on track. It’s like having an exercise buddy, but way less sweaty. They will often tell me they were only able to write a little, but were reading a lot. They’ll tell me some quotes from writers that encouraged them or made them think or made them ask why? All good tendencies in a writer.

And I thought, huh. I used to do that. When did I stop doing that? Oh, yeah, when I had a husband, a kid, and a mother-in-law in assisted living. Right. Sure, now I have older parents, but I am no longer the first responder, and we have help. I still have the kid and he is away at school. And while he still needs support, I don’t have to go to back to school nights, or parent-teacher conferences, or god help us, math night. Can’t the math people go to math night and I’ll go to word night? I don’t even care what type of words they are — fiction, rap, poetry, monologues. OK, so maybe I haven’t quite let go of that stuff. Maybe I should read up on that. But what about writing?

When I thought of what I could read to be inspired, I was like, meh. I can barely keep up with my book group and romance novels. Reading about writing seems like a lot of work.

That aspiring writer from long ago is seriously rolling her eyes at me.

I actually didn’t have to go that far. If I had bothered to read my own “About” page, I would see: “I aspire to be the love child of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris. But I also have a serious bent that sneaks in between the laughs.” I should also add:  And I have memory gaps you can drive a truck through. But that’s not how I remembered how much I love, love, love David Sedaris. It was my friend Mike inviting me to hear David read in Boston recently. I have only heard him on the radio in snippets and never seen him in person. His essays make me laugh so hard, once when I was listening to him in the car, I almost drove off the road. He’d like that, I think. I have 4 of his books, and now I remember I got another for a gift that I didn’t like. So I think it was like, OK, that’s done.

But hearing pieces from his new book made me laugh out loud and my writing heart soar. He is about my age and tackling similar life things like midlife and aging parents in his irreverent, sarcastic, and sneakily self-effacing way. Yes, that’s how it’s done! He spares no one from his witty judging, especially himself. How could this love child get so lost on her own path? I could blame Cheeto flea, but really it’s more like my own smugness. Look! I write a blog! Every week! I don’t have writer’s block — I planned to have those cute hamster pictures in my editorial calendar. I have made it my friends. I don’t need writing advice. I am a writer. See my blog?

Somewhere along the way I went from being an insecure young writer to an overconfident older writer. Neither one is a good look, and everyone can use a role model. Especially one who writes like this: In the essay, “Jesus Shaves,” from the book Me Talk Pretty One Day, published in 2000, he writes about a French class he is taking in Paris with people from many other countries, and the students must explain Easter in their broken French:

”The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. ‘It is,’ said one, ‘a party for a little boy of God who calls his self Jesus and …oh shit.” She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

‘He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two  … morsels of … lumber.’

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

‘He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.’

‘He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here to say hello to the peoples.’

‘He nice, the Jesus.’

‘He make the good things, and on Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.’

Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as ‘to give of yourself your only begotten son.’ Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.” 

David goes on to describe how he says the rabbit of Easter brings the chocolate, but the teacher tells him in France that chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome.

“[The Easter bunny is] someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there is no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog — and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up.”

As soon as I got home from hearing David, I ordered his new book, Calypso, and one he published a few years ago, Theft by Finding. It’s like I discovered my favorite show just added two new seasons on Netflix. I can’t wait to binge. And this time, I’m not going to forget this most basic thing: I am the love child of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris and I’m going to make them proud.

 

 

Beware the Webinar

Just a quick one this week. Was your week crazy too? Did the Super Duper Full Worm Moon have anything to do with it, do you think?

So in the grab bag of life, I received this email at work. The last blogworthy one I got had more corporate gobblegook than an HR policy 150 page PDF.

In this one I was cordially invited to a seminar on engaging employees. I do internal communications for doctors, so the invitation itself was not so unusual. It caught my eye, and not in a good way.

“Hi Sandy,

With your role in communications, I thought you’d find value in the highly-requested replay of a webinar we hosted with the CMO/CCO of Booz Allen Hamilton, Grant McLaughlin, on connecting and engaging dispersed employees.”

Um. “Booz Allen Hamilton”? It sounds like a name Saturday Night Live would make up for a skit. Booz? I work at a respected academic medical center, and I would be embarrassed to even say that to my boss. I’m not a complete Pollyanna. I mean maybe of you’re a music promoter, or a “lifestyle” guru, or someone who actually sells alcohol for a living. Then it might be kind of funny. I’m a Word Girl, names of shit matter. But Booz, and I’m supposed to take you seriously?

So then I must apologize to the younger set. I next thought, “Ooooh. This must be one of those young, happening, slim suit, bearded, buzzed side cut, overly gelled hair swoop on the top guys. Maybe with tats.” You know, this guy:

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I know, I’m being youngist. Apologies. I clicked on Booz’s CMO/CCO-kookookatcho Mr. Grant Hamilton’s link. Yeah, no. He’s one of my generation. Ugh. Now I’m even sorrier and can’t unsee it.

Grant McLaughlin

Now I’m into it like a dog with a bone. As if Guy Smiley here wasn’t bad enough, I decided to find out who the other esteemed speaker is, the “Communication Expert,” capitalized because, you know, that’s a Very Important Improper Noun. Here’s Becky Graebe.  You ready? Here she is…

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Is she even real? She looks like a Barbie doll. Becky? Are you in there? Does she blink? And what’s with the hanging light bulbs? If you look fast, it’s like a starry ballroom or something, with our slightly vacant-eyes “Expert” floating around.

As is fitting punishment for making fun of my fellow human beings, now I was just totally creeped out.

These people are out there. Giving webinars, seminars, and doing who knows what other “educational” things to unsuspecting, hardworking communications people.

All I can say is, stay sharp and watch your back. Booz and Becky are coming.

 

 

As

I Am the Slurper

Koo koo kitchoo. Although calling myself cool is too much of a stretch unless there is a round of drinks going around that I am paying for, I like to think I have my moments. At the very least, I would say I’m a considerate, self-aware person, especially at the office. If I’m feeling perimenopausal and you’re a stranger crossing my path, well, good luck to you. But my coworkers I have to live with every day. I know the value of being a considerate office mate. Not like that guy who sucks the last drops of his iced coffee with a straw. What a jerk! And then there is a woman who someone said she makes the most noise doing absolutely nothing. Crinkling papers, paper clip jingling, moving stuff around on her desk. So annoying!

That’s not me. I try to be helpful, and if I can’t say yes to a request immediately, I let you know when I can. I try to entertain and not bore people with my stories. I empathize, I validate. Overall, I would rate myself a pretty decent coworker.

That was until the office holiday party. Did I drink too much? Interestingly I did have an office party with another group that involved alcohol, and since I haven’t been summoned by HR, I managed to navigate that party well, and I’m guessing I was “fun,” and not “fun?@!#$%^^&???”

Oh, no, this other party was just a bunch of us having a nice catered lunch, and my coworker who sits on one side of me said something about me slurping my coffee. But he teases everyone about the most ridiculous things, so I said laughing, “I do not slurp my coffee!” To which my coworker who sits on the other side of me said, “Oh yes you do!”

I had that Matrix moment, where time slows down and my morning routine flashed before my eyes: getting coffee from the kitchen, walking back to my desk, lifting the cup to my lips, and…

OH MY GOD! I’m a SLURPER!

How could I not know this? Me, self-aware, super helpful Sandy!? Of course then they also started complaining about the crunching noise of my daily celery and carrot snack. To that one I say deal with it. I try to close my mouth. That’s the nature of the food and not much I can do about it.

But slurping? Ugh, the absolute worst.

Actually you know what was worse? I sat down this morning and forgot all about it. I’m pretty sure I did it again today. I can’t even hear it! WTF? All those years of giving the side eye to people who make noise at work. I’d think to myself, surely you can hear that, you’re just being a jerk. But apparently being a jerk and hearing yourself slurp is not mutually exclusive.

Wow, so….sorry? I’m going to try to remember tomorrow, and I can only guess that my other good qualities have prevented my coworkers from poking me in the eye with a Sharpie. Or, I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. So that’s what that Beatles song was about.

 

 

 

What Do You Want an Afghan for?

When I was in high school, a bunch of friends and I were sitting around and one quietly asked, a little embarrassed, “Does anyone have a napkin?” and we’re not talking about something to wipe food from your mouth. Mishearing the request, another friend answered loudly, “What do you want an afghan for?”

As is the rule with all quality longitudinal friendships, we still joke about that moment. It’s a girl thing, getting surprised by your period, which has unceremoniously snuck up on you. Some of us can studiously count the days all we want and mark our calendars, and our periods laugh at us, sitting at the bar, eyeing us on the overhead TV. And the minute it would be most inconvenient, say, while you’re at a fancy restaurant with white fabric chairs, or giving a presentation at work to mostly men, or in the car on a long trip and miles away from the next exit and any supplies, she laughs evilly while sliding off her stool to come for you. She never comes at home when you are within easy reach of your supplies, or at your friend’s house who would also have supplies, and maybe wine. Oh, no. What fun would that be?

Bitch.

So at some point in your life, as a menstruating woman, you will find yourself asking a friend, coworker, or mere acquaintance if you’re desperate enough, “Do you have a napkin/tampon/pad?”

I can’t remember if I read this on a blog or as part of a novel, but I love this story. The woman is in her late 30s, maybe early 40s and has kids. She carries around tampons in her purse, and at one point they spill out in front of a younger, female coworker, whose eyes get big at the sight of the “super” tampons. You know, because kids, later in life flow. The little girly “light days” ain’t gonna cut it. It’s been so long, that the woman has forgotten there are other types of tampons, and only realizes it though the younger woman’s big eyes.

I can relate. At 53, yes, I still need tampons. Don’t get me started, and yes, I know when — if — this damn thing ever stops, I have other troubles ahead. Maybe whatever those troubles are they don’t cost a small fortune and require a shelf of space. I suppose I can be considered “lucky.” My period no longer plays hide and seek with me; however, she prefers to slide off her bar stool every 24 days like clockwork, which she never seemed to have the time for before.

Bitch.

I’m 53, this is supposed to be getting slower, maybe even skip a month here and there. Ha, ha, ha, she says. What is inconsistent is what happens at day 24, however. Any or all of these things can happen, and it rotates randomly. Leg cramps, backache, migraines; fast, heavy, slow flows, sometimes in the same day; it’s all part of the fun. As a result, both at work and home I have a drawer full/shelf full of 3 kinds of tampons and 2 kinds of pads, and more ibuprofen than a CVS. This has been my life for years now, and like the poor hapless lady in the story, I’ve completely forgotten that periods can present in any other way. That once upon a time, before electricity, I had light, irregular flows, and even skipped a period now and then. I maybe went through a box of one size tampons every 3-4 months.

Until my younger coworker asked apologetically if I had a tampon. Like she might take my last one. “Sure!” I answered enthusiastically as I opened my bottom desk drawer, which as you can see from the picture is chock full. “Oh wow!” she said, eyes big.

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And I saw it through her eyes — like that women in the story. Crap. I already know it’s ridiculous to have my period at my age, but you don’t have to put a fine point on it or remind me nobody has a drawer full of tampons at their desk.

Then she got overwhelmed by the different sizes, “I don’t even know what these all are,” she said, slightly panicked. I thought how could you not know? In the tampon isle there are boxes with all sizes, marketed to us by color and names like “regular,” “super,” “super plus,” and that one grand day they were test marketing “ultra.” I was so happy and excited I bought a box and I never found them again after that. I have a bone to pick with the ever-changing, yet declining helpfulness of the color packaging, but that truly is another blog.

Maybe if your period has a little more civility, you get to have just your one box of one size, tucked away discretely among your note pads and pens and sticky notes.

She grabbed one, I believe is was a super, and ran off. And I was left staring at my drawer. Resupplying it can sometimes feel like musical chairs. Every time I restock, I think maybe it will stop, and then what will I do with all this? (Answer: donate to a woman’s shelter). But she’s sitting on the bar stool laughing at me. She’s not going to pull that trick on me for a long time — Miss every 24 days.

Oh, no, not me. I got my full drawer at work and my full shelf at home. My coworker did come again a few month later, asking for a tampon. She seemed less shocked this time, so that was good.

If my period ever does stop I was thinking I could fill the space with yarn. I make a mean afghan.

Dedicated to my dear friend Ruthy. You know why.

 

 

 

Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

Reentry

I’m still on vacation, but that ends tomorrow, so you can stop being jealous. After the amazing sunset beach wedding last week, I headed to the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area on the PA/NJ border for a canoe camping trip. It was really peaceful and relaxing and the river current is just enough to keep you moving, but not so much that you have to white knuckle your way through the white water, reviewing for the 50th time in your head what you should do if the canoe flips. We just did one night of camping and so had about 30 hours of the quiet, slow lane.

And then we got to the end and called the canoe rental folks to come get us.

Within minutes a large group of canoes landed after us. A different van was waiting for them. They were laughing and loud and lively music suddenly started playing. Then a dressed up Jewish couple asked us to take their picture by the river — he in a suit and she in a nice skirt and blouse. All I could think of was this is reason #528 why religion isn’t for me. No way am I wearing Sunday best on a Thursday at a river in 90-degree heat and humidity. God can say what he will — he’s not the one sweating in pantyhose.

Then our van came and the driver reminded me of the pizza delivery kid in “Toy Story.” Remember that scene? The radio is blasting and he drives like a maniac back to Pizza Planet while Woody and Buzz get tossed around back. Yeah, that was us. While Foreigner was blasting on the radio, he was probably going twice the speed limit on the twisting and hilly 2-lane road.

Did I mention I can get motion car sick just watching the roller coaster scene in “Polar Express”?

While the young driver belted out the song on the radio — I was impressed he knew the words to a song from the 80s — I just looked at my friend and we both started to laugh. Welcome back to the world — zero to 100 at racing speed.

At least it will make going back to work seem manageable.

Photo credit: The Delaware Nature Society. I didn’t have enough battery power to take my own pics!