I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.


(With apologies to Carly Simon)


This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Friday

Day 36 - Korpulent

I went to my first physical examination in six years. When I checked in, the receptionist handed me eight sheets of forms to fill out. I was still filling them out when my name was called.

The nurse showed me to a comfy, upholstered chair in the examination room. She asked me all the same questions that were on the forms and then took my blood pressure. She told me to disrobe and put on the infamous gown that ties in the back and is too short even on me and then to have a seat back in the upholstered chair. I was halfway through that exercise when I started to wonder how many other semi-naked people had been sitting on that chair before me. I'm OK with them up on the table with the removable butcher paper, but not down here sharing my cushion. (I bet you'll think about that next time you are in a doctor's office, won't you?)

I sat tentatively in the comfy chair as directed, wrapping the gown around me as tightly as possible, and selected between a 2008 issue of Field & Stream and the really large print edition of the Reader's Digest which measures about two feet in each dimension.

In the limited amount of time that doctors allocate to each patient, they have to cover a lot of territory. This encourages them to use a technique that I call the "entering and leaving ovation" in honor of the Midwestern audiences who politely stand and clap for mediocre performances both to be "nice" and to be in an upright position aimed at the parking lot ahead of those in the adjacent seats. In the doctor's version, he or she will start conversing with the patient in a friendly manner while opening the door with one hand and opening the file with the other. The reverse happens on the way out and the last syllable will coincide with the click of the door latch.

The friendly chatter has the double purpose of trying to put the patient at ease while attempting to diagnose environmental health threats. "What terrific weather we are having! Sure could use some rain though. So, how are you feeling about these changes in your life? Any trouble sleeping or mood changes? Played with mercury lately?"

I try to save them time. "Hi, it's good to see you. I'm not clinically depressed. I always wear my seat belt. I'm not in an abusive relationship. I'm not drinking or using drugs. My turn-ons are Thai food, long walks on the beach and crisp, Autumn days. My turn-offs are mean people and nuclear war. Yes, the weather has been lovely." I'd like to think that Andy Kaufman would have handled the situation just like that.

I like my doctor and try to curb the sarcasm, but it's hard not to go for the joke when asked "Is your uterus still in place?" "Why, yes, unless it's gone to the movies, I'm pretty sure it's right where I left it." The doctor glanced at the door with longing.

As the essay portion of the examination was over, we proceeded to the butcher-papered table and a symphony of lights, poking, prodding and the womb with a view. I've never had a good experience that has included the phrase, "You'll feel a little pressure now."

All seemed to be well, so I was allowed to retreat to the comfy chair where I nonchalantly managed to isolate myself from any previous occupants by throwing my jeans over the cushion before sitting down.

The doctor stared at her notes intensely, slowly turned to face me, and fixed me with a riveting gaze. I was a little nervous at this point imagining that she was going to tell me that some organs were indeed missing or needed to be made that way.

She cleared her throat and said, "You're overweight."

This was not a surprise. I don't need to be weighed at the zoo but I was aware that I was fat since I had been there when it happened. She showed me a matrix where the intersection of two columns enumerated exactly how fat I am compared to my height. It seems that the whole problem could be resolved if I could grow to 6 feet 8 inches tall.

The doctor strode toward the door with a file in one hand and reached for the doorknob with the other. She glanced back to say, "I want to see you down twenty-five pounds." Door latch click. And I was alone in the germy chair.

So I think I'll make an appointment next week with the trainer at the gym where I like to pay the membership but not actually go. Some of those machines look like they could stretch me taller.

Thursday

Day 35 - Kicks and Giggles

Yesterday, during the mobilization to complete every Cub Scout requirement devised by campfire-smoke-addled men in shorts, we spent a few minutes on Elective 14b, "Know what to do when you meet a strange dog." Since my son usually cringes, screams and does body origami when confronted by animals, this was a timely topic.
Do not go up to a strange dog. If a dog comes up to you:

1. Stand up straight with your hands down. Let the dog sniff the back of your hand.
2. Don't make any quick moves and don't pet the dog.
3. Don't try to scare the dog away or show that you are afraid.
4. Wait until the dog leaves, then walk away quietly. Don't run.

© Cub Scout Wolf Handbook, Boy Scouts of America 2007
As part of the Great Job Search, I've been encountering Human Resources people and it seems that Elective 14b could be easily rewritten for this situation. Substitute "HR person" for "dog" and then change a few details. It's surprising how well it works.
Know what to do when you meet a strange HR person

Do not go up to a strange HR person. If an HR person comes up to
you:
1. Stand up straight with your hands down. Let the HR person sniff your resume. Be ready to shake hands as needed.
2. Don't make any quick moves. It's OK to pet the HR person through flattery, but never physically.
3. Don't try to scare the HR person away or show that you are afraid. Try tactfully to get contact information for the hiring manager. Ask smart questions that show you have researched the company.
4. Wait until the HR person leaves, then walk away quietly. Don't run. Send a thank you note when you get home.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I took part in a marketing research study today. I'm sworn to secrecy about the exact nature and source of the warm, delicious, cinnamon baked confection being tested by a large company known for baking. I'm sure that they aren't in it just for the dough, boy. {Dough + boy = hint?}

Market research is fun and somewhat flattering if you'd like to pretend that people with clipboards really care what you think. My pin money while I was at the U came from testing anything that didn't require ingesting or injecting. At the very least, it's free food or products for a little bit of time and answering some questions. And the marketing firms often give money to people whose names they don't collect.

Doesn't the glut of stupid products on the market suddenly make sense to you? They are the outcome of relying on the opinions of people who are free in the middle of a Thursday afternoon and need 30 bucks.

I enjoyed eating free cinnamon rolls without guilt because -- hey -- this is for science. I'll throw myself on gooey icing for the good of society. No sacrifice is too great for the advancement of technology.

The overlord of the study group was a steely matron with a nameplate that said, "Les." Les was more. She was more scary than almost anyone I've ever met. She made Mengele look like a Muppet.

Our group consisted of 30 hungry women who were led into a large room of tables and place settings where we were met by ... Les. Les seemed to take it personally when the chairs were not filled in order from the front of the room to the back with no skipped chairs. When dreaded skippage occurred, Les yelled and made everyone move by one place. Les is apparently bipolar with a frequency of oscillation of about 20 seconds. "Is everyone enjoying the Spring weather? DON'T LOOK AT THE NEXT PAGE! It looks like everyone is done with the second sample. You all are doing so well. Are there any questions? I SAID NO TALKING! You are all eating so quickly. You must have some place exciting to go." During the "happy Les" intervals, she tried to pull her lips into a smile, giving her a vulpine appearance as if she'd just chewed a leg off to get out of a trap and would be glad to chew yours off, too. She told the woman next to me that she'd have to slap her hands if she peaked on the next page of the answer book again.

The woman sitting next to me was not the least bit concerned as she was busy getting the address of the woman sitting next to her. The second woman had a large snapping turtle in her backyard and was concerned about it attacking her children. The first woman agreed to come over and bludgeon the turtle to death so that it could be made into the "best kind" of turtle soup. On the way out, I heard the Amazon Turtle Killer mention that she slaughters her own meat and eats most of it raw. I had glanced at her response form to see that she qualified for the study by saying that she purchased tubed refrigerated rolls at least three times a month. I envisioned them on her dinner plate next to raw meat and cup of snapping turtle soup.

I was asked today if I make up some of what I blog about.

No, I could not make up anything that weird.

Wednesday

Day 34 - Kub Scout-In-A-Day

We got a call last night informing us that the signed and completed Cub Scout manual for this year's activities was due by the end of business today for the awards ceremony next week. That wouldn't normally be a cause for concern except that we had inadvertently overlooked doing anything this whole year.

The scoutmasters had some personal problems and didn't hold many meetings and we lost the manual for a few months. We are bad parents. We should be stripped of our badges in a solemn rite and banished to a land where one sips white wine and listens to jazz while conversing brilliantly with people who don't snort when they laugh.

Sadly, in this reality, I had one day to complete 12 chapters of kid tasks or subject my son to being the only non-wolf at Thursday's soiree. Most of the parents suck at this just as badly as we do and I suspect that they take a few liberties.

Task 5E: Build a birdhouse.

Overachieving parent: Take child to lumber yard to select wood and
birdhouse pattern. Teach child to use hand tools to cut, assemble, and
paint a bird McMansion. For extra learning value, have the child
research the exact diameter of hole to drill for each species of bird and assess
the environmental impact. Sign the Cub Scout manual.

Normal, harried parent: Buy a kit of precut wood and let child attach
the four screws and glue the roof on. Make them read the little brochure
that accompanies the kit, Our Feathered Backyard Friends. Sign
the Cub Scout manual. Promise the child that they can paint it, then leave
it in the garage until they are 18. Sell it at the garage sale for 75
cents ... to a parent who needs one to complete a Cub Scount manual by
tomorrow.

Slacker parent: Follow this thought pattern --> Plan to build
a birdhouse --> This is nearly the same as hanging up a purchased, crude
wooden birdhouse since attaching it to a tree is like building something.
You have to use tools and all. It's only a matter of degree. -->
Anyone can see how to hang a bird feeder so no one is learning anything
really. My neighbor has a birdhouse. Child can look at that.
--> Have child see a bird. Sign Cub Scout manual.


I picked my son up from school as soon as the final bell rang. We went to the hardware store to identify tools in their native environment, the forest of slatwall where all the tools have homes as opposed to my basement where they live in a pile in a sponge-painted dresser. It was then off to the City Hall, a designated "important place in your community." The slacker parent would have gone to Target since that is the reining Agora in our community but desperation had not yet set in for me.

We sang the first and last verses of America, made a list of emergency phone numbers, drew a picture, counted to ten in Spanish, said hello in Mandarin (Thank you, Kai-lan!), discussed what to do if someone wants to sell you drugs, measured the length of a standing long jump, tossed washers into a pie tin from far away, learned to tie a square knot, and picked up litter on our street.

By the time a sleepy eight-year-old was tucked in, we had completed about two-thirds of the Wolf badge plus three arrow points (10 tasks each) and four belt loops.

We have until Monday to have a cookout, explain God, explore various facets of conservation, check our house for safety issues, and -- ta da! -- build a birdhouse. Anyone got one in their garage?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

On the job front, I posted my resume on my professional association's site and within two hours received a request from a local medical company to apply for one of their open positions. I don't know that it's a match but to be asked is encouraging.

Tuesday

Day 33 - Resume Kautions

I completed the final draft of my resume on Friday and had it reviewed over the weekend. After a couple of final tweaks, I posted it on LinkedIn on Monday and did a happy little dance.

The first draft had bounced because I lacked sufficient "resume power verbs." They sent me this list of suggestions:

Accelerated, accomplished, achieved, addressed, administered, advised, allocated, answered, appeared, applied, appointed, appraised, approved, arranged, assessed, assigned, assisted, assumed, assured, audited, awarded, bought, briefed, broadened, brought, budgeted, built, cataloged, caused, changed, chaired, clarified, classified, closed, collected, combined, commented, communicated, compared, compiled, completed, computed, conceived, concluded, conducted, conceptualized, considered, consolidated, constructed, consulted, continued, contracted, controlled, converted, coordinated, corrected, counseled, counted, created, critiqued, cut, dealt, decided, defined, delegated, delivered, demonstrated, described, designed, determined, developed, devised, diagnosed, directed, discussed, distributed, documented, doubled, drafted, earned, edited, effected, eliminated, endorsed, enlarged, enlisted, ensured, entered, established, estimated, evaluated, examined, executed, expanded, expedited, experienced, experimented, explained, explored, expressed, extended, filed, filled, financed, focused, forecast, formulated, found, founded, gathered, generated, graded, granted, guided, halved, handled, helped, identified, implemented, improved, incorporated, increased, indexed, initiated, influenced, innovated, inspected, installed, instituted, instructed, insured, interpreted, interviewed, introduced, invented, invested, investigated, involved, issued, joined, kept, launched, learned, leased, lectured, led, licensed, listed, logged, made, maintained, managed, matched, measured, mediated, met, modified, monitored, motivated, moved, named, navigated, negotiated, observed, opened, operated, ordered, organized, oversaw, participated, perceived, performed, persuaded, planned, prepared, presented, processed, procured, programmed, prohibited, projected, promoted, proposed, provided, published, purchased, pursued, qualified, questioned, raised, ranked, rated, realized, received, recommended, reconciled, recorded, recruited, redesigned, reduced, regulated, rehabilitated, related, reorganized, repaired, replaced, replied, reported, represented, researched, resolved, responded, restored, revamped, reviewed, revise, saved, scheduled, selected, served, serviced, set, set up, shaped, shared, showed, simplified, sold, solved, sorted, sought, sparked, specified, spoke, staffed, started, streamlined, strengthened, stressed, stretched, structured, studied, submitted, substituted, succeeded, suggested, summarized, superseded, supervised, surveyed, systematized, tackled, targeted, taught, terminated, tested, took, toured, traced, tracked, traded, trained, transferred, transcribed, transformed, translated, transported, traveled, treated, trimmed, tripled, turned, tutored, umpired, uncovered, understood, understudied, unified, unraveled, updated, upgraded, used, utilized, verbalized, verified, visited, waged, weighed, widened, won, worked, wrote.

There are a few here that I don't imagine get a whole lot of use -- "waged"? "umpired"?

This is a pretty long list.

Maybe they would be better off telling people what words to avoid. Here are some words that should raise a red flag with the most obtuse HR person:

abused, ambushed, assassinated, assaulted, astrally projected, bankrupted, bastardized, beamed down, blackmailed, bribed, browbeat, bungled, burgled, channelled, colluded, connived, contaminated, corrupted, counterfeited, crashed, "creatively acquired", crippled, decapitated, deflowered, deforested, defrauded, destabilized, destroyed, devalued, devastated, fleeced, embezzled, endangered, enraged, fellated, finagled, harassed, haunted, hijacked, incited, infected, infested, interfered, insinuated, kidnapped, kissed, licked, libeled, loathed, maimed, maligned, malingered, misappropriated, molested, murdered, overdosed, peeped, pimped, pirated, plagiarized, poisoned, polluted, prophesied, propositioned, prostituted, ridiculed, rioted, robbed, screwed (except in the hardware sense), skirted, slandered, smuggled, snatched, snitched, snorted, spoke in tongues, stabbed, stole, strangled, swindled, tattled, teleported, terrorized, traveled through time, vacillated, victimized, violated, vomited, wasted, whored

Why hasn't someone invented the Madlib resume?

Please comment on a word that you can't envision appearing on even the most twisted resume. No points for obscenities because that's just TOO easy.

Monday

Day 32 - Seven Year Niche

Today is our seventh anniversary. Since neither of us ever remembers the number of years, we either have to look at the documents or ask my oldest daughter. One year, we forgot our anniversary altogether and didn't notice until mid-May. This makes us sound like spectacularly unromantic people, though that's not the case at all. I prefer to think that we pace ourselves.

Our typical anniversary involves dinner at the Gasthof Zur Gem├╝tlichkeit http://www.gasthofzg.com/. This is a hearty German restaurant with all the stereotypes blaring: lederhosen, strolling accordion players, the giant glass boot of ale. It's the Hogan's Heroes of German cuisine, a sort of Fuzzy Reich with everything but the slapping. The word gem├╝tlichkeit is one of those abstract nouns that means that comfy feeling one gets when engulfed by warmth and nice surroundings. It's a fun place and, if you are going to let people coax you to drink by shouting at you, this is what to expect:

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der gemiitlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der gemiitlichkeit (Cheer!)
Eins, zwei, Drei g'suffa!
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi.

[This was not invented by the Man Show, despite what a number of heavy drinkers think. This is really a German song. ...Though a great many German songs are more shouted than sung and sound as though Adam Carolla thought them up.]

But we didn't think we should spend the money right now, so we didn't go there. But you should go if you want to have a good time and some terrific food that will lodge in your midsection until the Fourth of July.

What exciting, romantic thing did we do instead? We took the kids to T-ball practice and then stopped by a local sports bar for a Diet Pepsi and Grilled Reuben. To keep in the spirit, I yelled "Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi" for old times' sake.

Day 31 - It's A Zoo Out There!

We went to see the new kids in town.


Though it was a gloomy day, we decided that we weren't going to just lie around.


The children had a chance to brush up a bit.

We felt a little chicken, but we were glad in the long run that we went despite the rain.

Saturday

Day 30 - Keep Cheap

I've always been cheap. I've bought one new car in my life and I drove it until I traded it in with pieces of the trim and side panels in the trunk for safe keeping.

There is significant overlap between frugal and green living since both value the preservation of existing resources. Here are some entries from my Favorites list.

Frugal Blogs and Sites:

Suddenly Frugal http://www.suddenlyfrugal.com/ -- Good links and wide ranging topics. Little that you probably don't know if you are already a careful shopper but the blogger has a fairly broad audience and dishes up a sunny, "suburban lite" kind of frugality.

http://frugalliving.about.com/

Thrifty Resources:

Everyone knows about Craigslist. http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/ Check out the free, garage sale and barter sections, though use common sense in evaluating. I bought a riding lawn mower in perfect shape last year for pennies on the dollar. The lawn mower had belonged to the guy's in-laws; he was in the midst of a divorce and was liquidating anything that had to do with maintaining a house since he had moved back with his parents.

Twin Cities Free Market http://www.twincitiesfreemarket.org/
My favorite alternative to Craigslist. Smaller, less sophisticated and generally friendlier. I got rid of the rest of my infant supplies and gained a NordicTrak and a set of twin beds. The woman who picked up the baby things in December said that they were for a young unmarried pregnant woman who had come to the Cities with her fiance, they were without a home and she was going to give birth any day. [Hmmm, December 24th, young pregnant woman ... it could have been a fabricated story but I chose to think it could have been a glimmer of holiday magic.]

Thift Stores:

Goodwill - If possible, plan trips to take advantage of the calendar sale days. Children's clothes are discounted on most Thursdays. Sunday and Monday discounts are 50% off a different color price tag each week. Wednesdays are Senior discounts. http://www.goodwilleasterseals.org/site/PageServer?pagename=shop_calendar

Bethesda Thift Shop -- Terrific, no-frills store run entirely by volunteers. They have just moved to a new and larger location. [Odd observation of the day: They have a large selection of books and most are 50 cents or so. Except for copies of Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" which are $9.99. How does a thrift store amass so many multiple copies of a relatively new book and why do they think they can charge more for it? Are people buying new copies and then donating them as soon as possible?] http://www.bethesdathriftshop.org/about.html

Haven't been here yet but I hear good things. http://hopgaragesale.com/

Home Improvement:

http://www.thereusecenter.com/index.html

http://www1.umn.edu/reuse/

Coupon Sites:

http://www.retailmenot.com/ There are a lot of these out there. Just google to find several.

Activities:

Michael's -- Coupons and free crafts for kids on most Saturdays http://www.michaels.com/art/online/home

Miscellaneous:

A resource for businesses: http://mnexchange.org/

Resources You Are Already Paying For:

Public Library (books, videos, classes, computer resources, resume review services, online tutoring, language instruction, museum passes and much more -- all free!)http://www.hclib.org/ -- you can even borrow an energy meter to check the power consumption of household appliances

Annual Memberships/Free Admission:

Buy annual memberships for a small amount to get free admission for a year while supporting the work of these organizations. Generally, the cost of the membership is about two visits for a family of four.
Minnesota Zoo: http://www.mnzoo.com/
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: http://www.arboretum.umn.edu/
Minnesota Historical Society: http://www.mnhs.org/index.htm

Friday

Day 29 - Interim Konclusions

What have I learned in 28 days of being "at liberty"?

  • A lot about blogs, history and development of social networking, and the mechanics of blogs.
  • Sunshine is good.
  • The public library is an unparalleled resource. (Bless you, Ben Franklin!)
  • (Ironically) Scads of information about the life of Benjamin Franklin.
  • I can lose five pounds without even trying by not being chained to a desk.
  • There are a great many poor drivers out-and-about during the business day.
  • Life without a smidgen of caffeine has no pulse.
  • You can learn volumes just by listening carefully.
  • Art and music are all around and can be found in the most unlikely places.
  • I'm surprisingly good at playing Guitar Hero. Too bad it's not a real instrument.
  • Kindness and consideration are both more common and more rare than previously understood.
  • The cleaning that took all day can be undone by small children in a matter of minutes.
  • Raccoons do not co-parent.
  • After forty years of poor skin, the lack of daily stress has eliminated my acne just in time to get wrinkles.
  • I'm afraid of being stuck again in the cesspool of a poorly-managed, failing business.
  • Take a camera with you everywhere -- you'll find something interesting to capture when and where you least expect it.
  • My kids and husband are way cooler and even more precious than I knew.
  • There is an unending parade of interesting subjects to explore.
  • My fear of failure is alternating with my fear of success.
  • Exercising creativity is an essential ingredient of a meaningful life.
  • You never really know who your friends are until you need them.
  • Finding words for titles that start with 'K' or can be forced to include a 'K' is becoming tiresome.

And, finally:

My life has evolved enough texture that I have no trouble finding a topic or the discipline to write every single day.

So far, so good. Let's see what happens next.

Thursday

Day 28 - Happy Earth Day to You

I spent most of Earth Day driving around in my SUV. This seems terrible on a number of levels until you realize that Plan B was to continue the work in the back yard of cutting down trees.

Since I've become a sandal-wearing, granola-eating drain on society, I did spend some time at the Co-op of which I'm a member. As a shareholder, I think I made four bucks last year. They were giving out some kind of mock chocolate cake for Earth Day. It was the right color but somehow managed to proclaim its soy-ness in the aftertaste. I also made the rounds of the thrift stores to get clothes for the kids. I used my own reusable bags in two stores and the library. And I bought plants for the front porch. Beat that for green cred.

My husband is starting to politely question if I will ever complete my resume. It's embarrassing since I routinely work on other people's resumes with no hesitation at all. I obviously will have to buckle down and finish it tomorrow or at least by Monday.

The outside world is much different during the workday. Bad drivers abound. If one does manage to arrive at a destination alive, people are generally very pleasant. I sneezed in a thrift store; from aisles away came a chorus of "God bless you's." People smile, chat and tell you how high their poppies have grown and whether they think there will be a frost.

Being surrounded by a blanket of quiet for much of the day had reengaged my interest in listening. I've never been a good listener. Now, I'm starting to have my antennae up for the conversations around me whenever I'm in a public place. In Target, an elderly British couple navigates the store. The stooped husband steers the cart as the wife marches five feet ahead and shouts to him comments on every item that they pass. A few aisles later, a mother explains to a child that, because her shoes had cost more than anticipated, the little girl's sister will be getting shorts but that they can't afford shorts for her on this trip.

So when my husband asks about the resume, I really am listening. It's irrational but I'm afraid of finding another job that will have me leaving the house in the dark and getting home in the dark and once again missing the Spring Concerts and the T-ball games, not chatting with gentle people in stores, not having any time to write or draw or play music, and not hearing all the small, soft sounds of the sunshine and the soul.

Wednesday

Day 27 - I wouldn't want to belong to a club...

What did I do today and what did I learn?

-- I studied for my upcoming certification test. Today's section what the history of modern quality assurance and the related responsibilities of management. W. Edwards Deming, one of quality's pioneers and one of the few names usually mentioned as responsible for guiding post-war Japan to extraordinary quality achievements in the 1970's, captured his guidelines in his famous 14 Points. A quick review shows that my former employer, known in this log as 'Porkus', has now achieved a stunning score of zero out of fourteen.

-- Opening day of T-ball practice found me playing catch, throwing grounders and in general running around barefoot in the green, green grass. It turns out that I can throw a baseball and also field. Who 'da thunk so?

--Later, I stopped by a used sports equipment store to look for a more broken-in mitt to help my five-year-old grab the ball a little better. She had to use the rest room. After standing for a couple of minutes by the register, I interrupted the clerk who was playing with the register and talking to his friend. He suggested that I take her to a store at the other end of the mall. I had a suggestion for him, threw the socks that I was planning on buying on the counter and left the store. It's probably a good thing that I hadn't been hauling along the bat that I had also been planning on buying. I read a wonderful remark that a customer gave in a similar situation: "You have a fundamental misunderstanding. You are overhead. I am profit."

-- I wore jewelry and a shirt with a lower V neckline. By "lower" I mean that it could be seen that I have a neck. For other Porkus refugees, you know what an emotional step in the sunshine that is. For those that haven't had the -- let us say -- "experience," the Porkus HR department has an aversion to breasts that starts at the collarbones. I lost a former assistant for wearing a shirt with a high V neckline and an art deco profile of the face of Marilyn Monroe. Apparently the mere suggestion of a blonde bombshell was enough to indicate the dreaded cleavage.

So what did I learn? I learned that I can be a brain, an athlete, a basket case, and a princess. Why does that sound so familiar?

I'm 80% of The Breakfast Club!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv1I4q6lOpo

Tuesday

Day 26 - Krispy Bridges

I was reading one of my career development newsletters today that included an article about not quitting in dramatic or destructive -- albeit very funny -- ways "if you expect to get a good recommendation." It's that last part that was illuminating since it implies that you can make as big an ass out of yourself as you want if a letter of recommendation is not a goal.

As Spock said, "After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." I doubt he had quitting your job in mind, but it's a common fantasy to anticipate the ultimate gotcha. Our better selves often reign us in and the perfect, stinging farewell so rarely occurs.

One of my job search counselors uses the phrase, "Do not leave crispy bridges."

Life is not the movies. In the movies, characters know how to use silence and exits. Sadly, the other real people in the scenes that compose our lives have not read the scripts and usually don't say what they are supposed to and, some of the time, not even anything that makes sense.

If we can't exit stage right with a flourish, then we are stuck in the real world with the possibility that we are all closely interconnected and that our misbehaviours might haunt us. The way one ends something is as least as important as how one starts it. However you leave a work situation, it's important to do it professionally and with both style and class. It's likely that you'll outshine your surroundings and that's fine. Twenty years from now, you may not remember in specific detail an incompetent boss or that neurotic in HR, but you'll remember your own behavior in leaving a bridge without flame.

Just for kicks, here are some job quitters who did not take this advice:

Musical resignation ritual (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PJt0DXdZ0k&feature=PlayList&p=3A90654BB7E3ABB8&playnext_from=PL&index=0)

Manager resignation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrZGDAdF1us&feature=PlayList&p=3A90654BB7E3ABB8&playnext_from=PL&index=1)

Monday

Day 25 - Klear? Krystal.

I was just watching the end of one of my favorite "coming of age" movies. It wasn't "Dirty Dancing" or any of those first love/magical summer movies but "A Few Good Men." The main character moves from merely phoning in his life to finding his true self and calling. The climactic scene where Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessup is taken down is so gripping that it could be considered a guilty pleasure in itself.

One reason that it works so well is that Jessup may be right about the slippery slope we encounter when we purposely overlook the ethical cost of maintaining the privileges of our society. How wide is our individual span of responsibility? How far do you have to go to not be complicit? I want to eat more vegetables so I don't think about the children of migrant workers picking them and not being able to go to school. We are strong trade partners with China and tsk-tsk their appalling human rights practices in the belief that the gradual introduction of democracy and exposure to Western ideals will improve the situation in time. Maybe we can't handle the truth after all.

Sunday

Day 24 - Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow?

Today, we went to the Minnesota History Center and, among other fascinating displays, saw an exhibit about Benjamin Franklin. I've always had a weakness for Franklin due to his brilliance that bloomed in spite of, or maybe because of, his dissolute influences. He also had little tolerance for fools -- another platform that I can support. Maybe I'm just a big fan of the glass armonica.

Do you know the story of the whistle? Franklin recounted this story in an 1779 letter to his friend Madame Brillon:

When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my
pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for
children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way
in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for
one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with
my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and
cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as
much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought
with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried
with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me
pleasure.


This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.


As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I
thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on
levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, this man gives too much for his whistle.

When I
saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, "He pays, indeed," said I, "too much for his whistle."

If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, "Poor man," said I, "you pay too much for your whistle."

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, "Mistaken man," said I, "you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle."

If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, "Alas!" say I, "he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle."

When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, "What a pity," say I, "that she should pay so much for a whistle!"

In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.

Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the world so tempting, for example, the apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought; for if they were put to sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the whistle.


With the benefit of time and hindsight, can you not immediately tick off on your fingers the whistle for which you paid too much? I stayed too long in a job with a company with whom I had an ethical incompatibility -- as anyone who has read the earlier posts knows in detail -- as well as relationships and self-defeating behaviors that each overstayed their welcome.

Exercise for this week: Identify one whistle for which you paid too much and decide what you are going to do to remove it.

Saturday

Day 23 - Missing Commandments

Several days ago, I was staying up late and Mel Brook's "History of the World, Part 1" came on. I've always loved the scene where Moses comes down from the mountain with the tablets containing the commandments. In Mel's version, Moses is given three tablets rather than the traditional two. He starts to announce the "Fifteen Commandments," drops one tablet that smashes into many pieces, then quickly backpedals to say, "Ten ... Ten Commandments."

It begs the question, "What should the missing commandments be?"

Here are some suggestions:
  • Thou shalt not cut ahead in line.
  • Balding men shalt not wind their hair over their scalps.
  • Thou shalt not have the Dukes of Hazzard theme for thy ringtone.
  • Thou shalt not call at dinner time about long distance or cable service.
  • Honor thy in-laws but don't let them drop in without calling.
  • Loud children shalt not be taken to any dinner that costs more that $30 per person.
  • Co-workers shalt not hum all day lest they be stoned.
  • Thou shalt wipe up anything left on the seat.
  • Campaigning shalt not start more than one year before the Primary.
  • Thou shalt recycle.
  • There shalt be no Spiderman movies without Tobey Maguire.
  • Rock bands shalt stop touring when they are too old to drive the bus at night.
  • Thine mileage may vary.

Friday

Day 22 - Wrap-Up

To follow up on yesterday's topic, there was a total absence of raccoon sounds today. Somewhere there's a pregnant raccoon out wandering the streets. She's carrying a sign that says, "Will scurry for food."

Mid-week, I completed what I hoped would be the final version of my resume. I've looked at it enough that I kind of hate it. Fortunately, there is a wonderful resource through the library system where they will review and comment on a resume for free within 24 hours.

I got back about 15 things to fix and my heart sank a bit. I've fixed about half of them but the rest will require some work and thought. The reviewer basically was asking me to dig deeper and banish some trite and meaningless entries. I know she is right but I truly wanted to be past this part of it.

We lost our email for part of a day because the domain registration had lapsed. I expect a boatload of mail tomorrow to go through.

Part of next week's improvement plan will be to start getting enough sleep. I haven't really modified my sleep habits from what I was doing when I worked 60 or more hours per week. For two days in a row I've fallen asleep in the bathtub and awakened prunelike and cold.

Thursday

Day 21 - Raccoon Love

Our upstairs neighbor has the nursery all decorated and is awaiting the birth. Unfortunately, the upstairs is our attic and the decorating may consist of piles of feces and chewing up the electrical cables. This is the continuing saga of the raccoon in our attic.

I had Jim, the wildlife control expert, come out and inspect today. We confirmed that the big hole in my soffit is actually a big hole in my soffit. Jim is incredibly and almost disturbingly knowledgeable about raccoons and their living and mating habits. It would seem that a wild party has been taking place over our heads that puts to shame anything that happened beneath it.

In the early winter, one or more mature females and perhaps some younger females and males looked for a nice place to spend the cold months. They decided that my shabby house with its weak and damaged soffits might be a good place to dig into, literally. Winter passed. During the January thaw, they got frisky and invited the raccoon versions of John Mayer, Jesse James and Tiger Woods to join them for a little party over at my place. Things got out of hand as they often do according to those movies about Spring Break. The boys didn't really intend on calling the next day and the lady raccoons walked home in the morning in their high heels and slutty dresses.

According to Jim, this is what happens next. The alpha female raccoon gets crabby, demanding and territorial. (So she's exactly like me in a fur coat and a mask.) She drives the other raccoons from the nest and claims the whole area for her nursery. Once her pups are born, any perceived threat would be greeted with claws, teeth and fury. (I once knew an HR director who reacted in a similar fashion. I'm surprised there's not a special on the Discovery Channel about that.)

So, how do we get them out? After the pups are born, we will be able to confirm this by hearing them make squeaky baby sounds. We will call Jim and he paints the entrance hole in the soffit with a concoction that sounds like it is only slightly less odoriferous than Brittany perfume. He calls is "boar juice" since apparently male raccoons are "boars." It is a mixture of male raccoon feces, chopped up testicles and other ingredients that he declined to mention for the sake of delicacy. It frightens me to think what might be less delicate than feces and chopped up testicles. Jim is a font of knowledge and explained that this mixture could be purchased commercially or one could make it if you happened to have a lot of raccoon testicles lying around. I chose not to pursue the question of which of these two methods Jim was going to use.

When the mother raccoon smells the boar juice, she thinks that the male raccoon is there to kill her children whether or not they keep calling him "Fatty." (Note to my husband.) She moves the pups to safety in some nice hollow tree or a neighbor's shed and then we close up the hole. [The neighbors then call Jim to get the raccoon out of their shed and the cycle repeats.]

After the outside is repaired, we get to figure out how much internal damage has been done to the attic and if all the insulation will have to be removed and replaced.

To summarize the day, I'm paying a man $125 to rub crap on the outside of my house.

The other thing that I accomplished today was to finish and mail my state income taxes. To put this in perspective, this is like paying a man $440 to rub crap on the outside of my house. But at least it is done.

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And, yes, I've been working on the job stuff every day. It's sort of boring to write about but I'll give an update tomorrow. In the meanwhile, here's a guy with real job hunting issues:
http://unemployedstormtrooper.com/

Wednesday

Day 20 - King Klown

I spent the day shuttling a small child to the doctor's office where she received five injections to the dentist where she received two shots of novacaine. If you've ever spent a day with a stinging, bruised and puffy child, you know that a bar would make a reasonable third stop.

While I was still in the throws of feeling like 'the parent who caused all this pain that the child does not understand' -- but will be covered in therapy at some future time -- I got suckered into taking her to lunch at Burger King. It was my own fault. I wiped away her tears and asked, "What would you like to do now?"
Enough has already been said about the Burger King of TV ads, the monstrosity with the giant plastic head. If you actually go to a Burger King, you don't see that branding anywhere and that (say it like Martha everyone!) is a good thing.

When you enter the door of the local BK, this sign greets you on the inner door. Already on edge, I immediately got all Fourth Estate-y. What exactly do you have to hide, Burger King? It's not like you enriching plutonium in there. Is there a new bun toasting technique that you feel will allow you a strategic stranglehold over MacDonald's? Does someone at the Arby's across the street have a telephoto lens? Are you having it "your way" behind the milk shake machine and don't want anyone to find out? Are you literally holding the pickle and lettuce? Is there some truth to the rumor about why you never see stray cats or raccoons lurking near the dumpsters?

I suppose that this might be a security measure to keep crooks from casing the joint and finding out where the cash registers are. Crook to Accomplice: "I wonder where the cash registers are? All I see is a row of boxes on the counter with big buttons showing pictures of food labeled hamburguesa."

I'm puzzled that videotaping merits a larger font size than photography. Is the thought that a great many people carry cameras around with them in their phones, but bring in a camera large enough to use videotape and "Mister, you are WAY out of line!'? If videotaping is verboten, which should be easy compliance given the impending death of tape as a recording technology, does that mean digital motion recording is OK?

So, of course, I had to take pictures. They double-dog-dared me.

This particular Burger King has a kids' room with a large play area. It has fantastic climbing tubes and I generally wish that I were allowed to play in them. A couple of times I've pretended that my daughter was stranded somewhere in the maze and, good parent that I am, I have to climb through to retrieve her. Yes, I don't think anyone was fooled either.
Next to the play area door is this sign:

It's number 7 on the countdown that perplexes me. "Please Show Respect For Plant Life." It's a good thought and I can get behind it 100%. Only there are no plants. There are no plants in the play area. In the dining room, there are purple silk flower arrangements. Maybe the admonition is on the plaque for general principles. There was a meeting of the marketing management; after heated debate, "respect for plant life" squeaked past "Always write thank you notes for gifts from your grandmother" and handily beat "If you make that face again, it might stay that way."

There are two nearly identical signs on opposite sides of the play structure. In orange type around the white circles on the lower right, it says maximum capacity. It's as though Salvador Dali designed play structures. When next I bring in my maximum of zero or up to twenty children to play, I'll make sure that they are on the appropriate side of the structure, the one that doesn't extend into negative space.


And, Finally, here are the rules. I looked around and none of the adults looked happy enough to be there. (Reference Rule 1) And regarding Rule 6, the "anything weird" is intriguing. Remember, if you see anything weird, you can't videotape or photograph it.
And, in the end, maybe that's really what the sign on the front door is all about. Burger King doesn't want any pictures taken because they are afraid that someone will make fun of their signs!










Tuesday

Day 19 - Mortal Kombat

No, not Mortal Kombat the game. I mean the forced binary of the yin and yang world. Today was "Dress in a Costume Day" at the preschool. I watched all the little people parade by in their finery. There was Spiderman, a pretty princess in a poufy dress, Spiderman, Spiderman, Princess, Spiderman, Princess, Princess, Spiderman, Princess, Princess, Spiderman ... and one little girl in shorts who didn't get the memo.

I'm mystified by my five-year-old daughter who was brought to sobs this morning because she broke a heel. I'm more of a Spiderman myself. I have never relied "on the kindness of strangers" and that's been a damn tootin' good thing considering the strangers I've encountered. So this little creature wobbling down the hallway, all sparkles and feathers, both amuses and concerns me. I signed her up for both baseball and dance, hoping that at least one of them sticks. She enjoys the fact that they both have specific sets of apparel.

When my older daughter was small, we didn't have much of this situation since she was also a little more of a Spiderman. She had an impressive collection of Power Rangers action figures. [Go! Go! Power Rangers! You mighty morphin' Power Rangers!] If you escaped seeing the Power Rangers, they were stereotypical high schools students in their late twenties who, when faced with danger, turned into brightly costumed small Japanese men who used their martial arts skills to fight other Japanese people dressed as monsters. They saved the world and then went to the malt shop. My daughter staged a battle between the Power Rangers and the Barbies. The Barbies used the pink car for cover but it was to no avail, armed as they were with only hairdryers. Laser weapons trumped 500 watts of pure styling heat and a curling iron. Still, the Barbie heads were better coiffed lying on the floor. The Power Ranger dolls had a button where you could switch between the high school student face and the crime fighter helmet, at last incontrovertibly proving the adage that two heads are better than one.

Are we stuck in a world with this strict dichotomy? Princess vs. Spiderman, Power Rangers vs. Barbies, AC/DC vs. The Pet Shop Boys?

On second thought, maybe it's not so far fetched. Out of the whole world, I'm unaware of a single Spiderman and yet actual Princesses (or pretenders to the throne -- Yeah, Paris Hilton, I'm talking about you) seem to pop up with some regularity and do seem to find a way to survive in the world, if only through living off others. I guess Princess is more practical as a Plan B career than counting on being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Monday

Day 18 - Musings, Killer Kalendar and Raccoon Love

Just think ... Phil Mickelson has three jackets in a color that most guys wouldn't have one of.
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When you go to an Americanized Chinese buffet, they often have pizza. How 'come when you go to an Italian buffet they never have egg rolls?
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I was thinking about the nature of time this morning. I've learned that Monday isn't inherently evil or difficult. It can be a rather pleasant and lighthearted day when you don't have to go somewhere that you absolutely hate. There was an odd rhythm to the business life I experienced in the last few years. On Monday, all the complaints and new issues would hit the fan. Tuesday and Wednesday always had a lot of meetings since people tried to stay away from the already burdened Monday and Friday. By Tuesday, they had also figured out who was going to be blamed for whatever was unearthed on Monday. Since I had to prepare for those meetings, I was usually up until 2 or 3 in the morning on Monday night. I scrambled to stay one step ahead so that I wouldn't have to stay up all night on Wednesday to be able to submit the invoices in time for the check run on Thursday. But I usually had to stay up. (On the day before I was let go, I worked from 9 AM to 2 AM nearly straight through. I was torn between wishing I had stayed up all night to get all of the invoices done and wishing I'd never bothered to do any of them at all.) By Thursday afternoon, things had begun to lighten up and people were generally more at ease by Friday. Weekends were times to cram in as much actual life as possible before the Sunday evening grim realization that tomorrow it would start all over again. The stress levels were like this. Over and over and over and over. The week as the nearly indivisible unit of corporate time.

...................._______
...................................\
.....................................\
.......................................\
.........................................\
______ ..............................\_______

Now I set weekly goals as I always have done but I'm not constrained by the artificiality of the deadline. The day is now the unit of measure and the flow is the sinusoid, not the pulse.

Jennifer Krempin Brigman, Editor-in-Chief of the blog Tripping On The Ladder has a heartfelt take on this issue:
http://www.trippingontheladder.com/2010/03/one-of-the-best-gifts-of-career-transition-the-gift-of-time/

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I have raccoons in my attic -- and the time to enjoy them as noted above. (This should be a clarification for those who thought I had bats in my belfry.) I had a fascinating interview with an animal control professional today that I hope to document in one of the next postings. No one discusses the sex life of raccoons for an hour without coming away a little changed by the experience. Let's hope in a good way.

Sunday

Day 17 - Koncert

Another good day. We went to the Arboretum (http://www.arboretum.umn.edu/) for a concert and some play time. It was another gorgeous Spring day. Vast swaths of daffodils were everywhere.

The concert featured jazz violinist Randy Sabien with one of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. GTCYS (http://www.gtcys.org/index.asp) is a program for talented elementary school through high school musicians. It is a rigorous extracurricular activity that places kids in one of six orchestras. There are coached by professional musicians and perform challenging classical material. This particular orchestra seemed to be composed largely of high school students.

Randy (http://www.randysabien.com/enternew.html) conducted a lively first half of the concert. He has a ready wit and obvious ease both with the young performers and the audience. His earlier workshop with the students was focused on understanding the elements of jazz and integrating them with the kids' extensive classical training. The influence was evident during the pieces that called for improvised solos. Many were a bit stiff --- how much can you rock in a tuxedo? -- but some showed the beginnings of the ability to swing. Randy's star turn on "Sweet Georgia Brown" was a moment to be savored in his ability to deliver both pitch accuracy and bending emphasis. That dude knows how to phrase.

The second half of the concert under the direction of conductor Andrew Bast reverted to the symphonic orchestral pieces more typical of GTCYS standard fare. Bast has a nimble baton and obvious connection to his young group. The concluding three pieces were a dynamic Offenbach overture, a Bach fugue from The Well Tempered Clavier that took me back to piano lesson practice days, and a lively and well-executed Bizet Farandole.

My son made an airplane out of the program and through most of the concert I did an apt imitation of one of those many-armed Hindu goddesses to prevent him from throwing it.

Saturday

Day 16 - WelKome Home, Me!

I was sitting on the bleachers watching a college lacrosse game when a wee small voice whispered somewhere about two inches left of my right ear. "Brain, what do you want?" I replied. The whisper again. By sitting very quietly and being exactly where I was when I was, I heard the song again in the breeze, in the gathering nightfall, in the crisp contact of the aluminum bleacher against my skin. I think I am me again and I might actually be a little bit happy.

A few years ago I had a coworker who quit to take a job closer to home to relieve his lengthy commute. He had been gradually upgrading the quality of his life by moving to a lovely home overlooking the water in a quaint and historic small river town. Most of the houses there look like bed-and-breakfasts and it seems like half of them actually are. I liked him because he was bright, authentic and had a dry but wicked sense of humor. These traits took center stage and he became almost boisterous in the week before his last day. Where in the past he would take three sentences with strategic word choices in responding to any request, during the last week he would lightly state the unvarnished but never unkind truth. It was remarkably efficient and invigorating. I kidded him that his "short-timer's" status showed. He said, "I feel like I'm myself again and I never, ever want to go back to what I've been while I was here." I always hoped that he maintained what he recaptured.

And now I understand.

I carry my camera and a notebook with me almost everywhere. Remember when you were sixteen and in love and every song had a secret meaning made only for you? The world is filled with things worth taking pictures of and making and writing about. There are colors and sounds and possibilities.

I volunteered today to prepare the facilities for the Little League season that starts next week. I was scrubbing the refreshment stand with a man who is polymer scientist. He told me about a co-worker who had a heart attack while leaving his office. In his workplace, there are posters with pictures of the members of their emergency response team and contact stations. Yet, the other employees walked past this man obliviously. When people did notice, they had no idea what to do despite having the information at their fingertips. There were posters and defibrillators that literally have audio outputs to tell you what to do. Still, no one made an emergency call until after nine minutes. The man died. These were not evil or stupid people -- they had been drained of their natural ability to take decisive and independent action like those proverbial frogs in the pot of hot water. Two bits says Hannah Arendt didn't work in a cubicle.

<-- This is your brain under the sedation of a toxic environment.



<-- This is your brain generating the fireworks of being aware that you are alive.



Here are some pictures of random and weird beauty:
































Friday

Day 15 - Kholesterol


My husband had the afternoon off and we took off to test a hometown favorite immortalized by the Travel Channel's Food Wars (http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Food_Wars). Minneapolis boasts competing bars both making version of the Juicy Lucy, a cheese stuffed hamburger of epic proportions. Not having sufficiently low cholesterol to be able to handle sampling both versions, we chose the 5-8 Club http://www.5-8club.com/.

This old-time bar is within sight of one of the urban lakes and green spaces that make the Twin Cities such a marvelous metropolitan area.
At 1:45 PM on a weekday, the parking lot overflowed and extended to the nearby streets. Entering through the back door that is the main entrance, it still felt a little like the speakeasy it has been during Prohibition when this location was out in the boondocks, before the city had grown around it. The restaurant's patrons were a boisterous and diverse group and nearly elbow to elbow. We found a spot at one of the tables near the bar. The interior was tidy and cheery and adorned with framed posters of nostalgic greats like John Wayne and Elvis. Service was equally cheery.
The family at the table next to us happily told the server, "We liked your show on the Travel Channel." And we realized that she was indeed the restaurant manager featured on the show.

The hamburgers were as good as advertised. And, just think -- these are the guys that lost the Food War. Next time we play hooky on a weekday afternoon, we'll check out the winners at Matt's Bar a few blocks north http://www.mattsbar.com/.








Thursday

Day 14 - Klown-lateral Damage

I had a lovely message from the Unemployment people this morning. My 'shut-up' money is apparently classified as 'in lieu of notice' and I had to write little explanations of what termination money was for what and then fax in the pay stubs. To backtrack a bit, Porkus gives terminated employees their owed pay, any vacation pay and one week of pay "in lieu of notice."

For those new to the jargon, this is what 'in lieu of notice' means on a real close and personal level.

Photobucket

Some years ago, Porkus had combed the employee records and identified those employees who started working there before signing non-disclosure and non-compete forms became a requirement. They then forced employees to sign the forms and back date them as a condition of continuing employment. It would appear that these documents are even less enforceable than the typical non-compete that doesn't have spelling errors and isn't signed by a member of management who didn't work there on the date that the contract implies. At termination, I was asked to recall this absolutely binding (wink, wink) document and then consider signing a better written one in exchange for some more severance. I have close ties with local competitors so this wasn't really a bad idea.

The irony is that the local competitors are less ethical and quality-conscious than Porkus so why would I want more of what I didn't like already? As for sharing the confidential secrets of Porkus' success, it would be like a crew member of the Titanic announcing that the secret is to bring fewer lifeboats. Or (local Midwestern joke inserted here) wanting to hire Denny Hecker as a life coach.

So, "Confidential Information" is "any information concerning the operation of the Company or its customers, [sic] which is of a non-public nature." The extra comma is a nice touch and I'm glad that there will still be employees there who use punctuation at all since you would think that ee cummings wrote most of the emails. The giggle for me is that anyone who has seen Porkus even on a satellite photo knows that implying some ineptness and lack of vision on the part of management is simply confirming public knowledge. So the blog's in the clear.

The more interesting point is that it created a certain "Lady or the Tiger" conundrum. To cut to the chase, I now know the value of cloying acquiesence in $ net. Know that joke where the punchline is, "We've already determined what you are. Now we are merely negotiating price ..."? I had the form notarized.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Remember that episode of Gilligan's Island where they were almost off the island and then Gilligan messes it up at the last minute? Yeah, I saw that one, too.
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I went to a Cub Scout bridging ceremony this evening. The adult volunteers do good work and try very hard. Bridging and presentation of the Arrow of Light award are Scout upward transitions into the next ranks. The text seems to have been written by the comedy team of former California governor Jerry Brown, Rudyard Kipling and Tonto actor Jay Silverheels. There's a lot of "many moons ago", "this mancub", and references to self-actualization. My mancub was busy wiggling in his chair and poking his friends. One of the transition gifts given to the boys moving up a level was a stout walking stick that would do Friar Tuck proud. Got the picture? Six nine-year-olds with big sticks in a church basement beyond the arms' length of their parents. Yes, jousting time! I'm sure there were a few Akela moments on the ride home.

Wednesday

Day 13 - PerKing Up, Klingon style

Out of the slump today. Sunshine and general productivity returned. I have completed every module of the state's program for newly unemployed workers and am blissfully free of every backward glance. Though, right before sitting under the bodhi tree, I did take the time to search out a picture of my former boss.

Does he remind you of anyone? No "Sympathy" from me, Mick Jagger!



A little harsh? OK, live and let live. Now picture him with a gold sash ... yes, that's it! Hab SoSlI' Quch!

QamuIs Heg qaq law' lorvIs yInqaq puS (with apologies to Zapata)

bortaS blr jablu'Dl'reH QaQqu'nay'

And that's why they call it free speech, baby!




Tuesday

Day 12 - Kaput

This was that day that they warned me about. The dark, cold, rainy day when I didn't get the spark and didn't do much. My Daily Plan showed progress but I couldn't get it together enough to go to the Networking Workshop this evening in the pouring rain. It cost $1000 to fix my husband's car so that put a big crimp in my projected jobless survival time.

I started communicating with the people on my reference list to verify that they were still willing to do that. Tomorrow I should start on the skills identification exercises. I have a pretty good understanding of the breadth of the market now based on reading hundreds of ads. I want to take a fresh look at my experiences and my portfolio to refresh my resume. From there, I'll be able to clean up my LinkedIn profile and then be fairly solid. I'd still like that million dollar idea to strike that would allow me to be self-employed and more in control of my own destiny.

I'm looking forward to a sunny day tomorrow.

Monday

Day 11 - (Almost) DeKaffeinated

It was unemployment request day again. I have a lot of confusion over what is the waiting week and what the severance covers and all that. I hit the button and do a superstitious little dance.

I used to crave that morning cup of coffee from the Porkus coffee pot, aroma gently wafting as it sat to the left of my monitor after the morning meeting. It was a little ceremony each morning. Now, I have 4 ounces of Diet Coke every few days and find that it's possible to be awake without it. Who would have thought it?

I continue to work through the state's syllabus on emotional transition. I guess they think having a bunch of angry people with time on their hands seems like a poor idea. There's a certain "little engine that could" theme that runs through their documentation, but you have got to give them points for effort.

Motivational speakers often cite Abraham Lincoln when discussing someone who suffered numerous professional and personal failures but kept striving until he achieved success. As long as you define success as being shot on your new job.

I found some ads for quality jobs that were intriguing. I've been waiting to put the final touches on my resume to figure out what I wanted to emphasize. Since I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, I may have to find out what opportunities are available and shape my objectives around those.

Tomorrow: Networking Workshop

Sunday

Day 10 - Happy Easter!

A time of renewal and growth.

Saturday

Day 9 - Karma Delayed

The day of my first Tweet. Putting a tentative toe into the electronic shallows. The term "shallows" is not accidental, given the general level of the tweets that I've received. Still, this is the new world and I'm intent on finding my way in it.

We drove to my daughter's college today to watch her play lacrosse. We carried our normal cloud of gloom with us. As soon as we appear, they start to lose. I've attended tens of games but have never experienced a win. Still, they win whenever I'm not there and have progressed to the playoffs. Which I shouldn't attend.

We have a simple, healthy and colorful meal planned for Easter tomorrow. Based on my recent Porkus experience, I almost want to serve bitter herbs as a symbol of the bitterness of slavery. If only one could count on a large wave when it is really needed ...

But, on a day like this, karma can be trusted to have it all work out in the end.


Friday

Day 8 - Kleaning up

A good "Good Friday." This was a good time to clean up old business and generally air out the house. I worked a little on my job transition plan this morning to keep the momentum going but moved on when it started raining and the kids went from chanting "Mommy!" every two minutes to every thirty seconds when they could no longer play outside.

The Lupus Foundation truck came to pick up the porch full of donations. It's a pleasure to be able to walk down the hallway without approximating playing Twister. The Lupus Foundation does a wonderful job in serving those afflicted and raising funds for research to find a cure. I didn't know much about this particular disease. The most common form is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It manifests itself in a variety of systems, making diagnosis difficult and delaying effective treatment for years in some patients. The disease occurs nine times more often in women than in men. Prominent people who had or died of SLE: Michael Jackson, Ray Walston ("Uncle Martin" the Martian from one of my favorite childhood sitcoms "My Favorite Martian"), Phillipine president Ferdinand Marcos and the much-admired reporting free spirit Charles Kuralt. To schedule a pickup: http://www.lupuspickup.org/lupuspickup/web/whoarewe.aspx

While we are talking about both community service and cleaning up, here's another wonderful and free service. I had a damaged American flag that needed to be disposed up in a respectful manner. Some research revealed that the American Legion provides this service. I called the local post and they said to come on down. I took them the flag and it was easily taken care of. It also gave me a good opportunity to discuss flag etiquette with the kids. Legionnaires, count me in for the next pancake breakfast! http://www.legion.org/

We hit the library, the garden center and the animal shelter. When my older daughter was little, we regularly went to the animal shelter to pet the critters. I think we told her it was like the zoo, only free. I found a cat that I would like to bring home. I left without him, logically feeling that $100 could be better spent. Later, I looked him up on the website and found that he has medical problems, doesn't like other cats and isn't too good with children He's also been there a really long time. Naturally, all these negatives make me want to bring him home all the more. (Now you see why I could work at a place for eleven years where they had a meeting in which the upper management discussed whether or not I am Jewish.) My spousal unit surprisingly was supportive and suggested that we could back tomorrow just to find out more.

I also cleaned three rooms and took a nap. Still tired as all get-out.

Thursday

Day 7 - Kasual Thursday

I put in half a day on the Job Quest and then took the afternoon off. Tomorrow is Good Friday, the kids will be home tomorrow and, if I were employed, I'd take the afternoon off and make it a long weekend. I figure the same rules ought to apply now.

I am so tired. Perhaps the next few days will be about regaining my strength. I worked 60+ hours per week for so long and have kept up the pace this week -- all of a sudden, I am soul-wrenchingly tired. It's like my brain and body got together behind my back (sounds like something from Mummenshanz, doesn't it?) and decided that it OK to rest.

I'm sleeping very deeply and having colorful dreams. In one, I'm taking a crocodile with me everywhere but I need to be sure to remember to keep a fist around his snout. If I loosen up, he'll get his jaws open and bite me. It's all very casual -- as though everyone is commuting with a large reptile. Strangely, other people around me also have crocodiles but theirs have a hole where the snout should be. Yes, K., you were in the dream, too, though I don't remember what you were doing. Singing "Gentle On My Mind"? I wonder if that will become less frequent over time. See you later, alligator!

I went to the Arboretum this afternoon to trade my gift card for a membership. The early Spring has the bulbs erupting while the surroundings are still grim and gray. This statue could be a metaphor for Porkus. Working there was like standing naked in the cold while a frog spits on you for eternity.

What could the artist have been thinking?