Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Welcoming the End of 2009

I keep saying that I can’t wait for this year to be over. What a horrendous 365 days this has been. I’m done, ready for the good things to start spilling in. Therein lies the rub. At some point I have to stop counting the bad things and tallying the good things, and when the bad things seem to start piling too high I need to look back at my list of good and hope that they balance out. Because in reality if I let myself get thrown off, if I allow the scales to become unbalanced then what view of my life am I left with? I have to remember to see all of the trees in the forest, and the beauty of the forest as a whole.

Friday, October 16, 2009

You Can’t Transition-Proof Your Life

I’m beginning to learn more and more each day that life is about transitions, and how I deal with the transitions is what shapes me as a person… as a functioning adult in today’s world. I still think that it’s strange to refer to myself as an adult. I know I am of that age group and actively functioning as one, but part of me still feels fresh out of college barely prepared for the responsibility handed to me. At what point does someone transition from a “punk college kid” to a “makin’ it in the world adult”? Does the Mary Tyler Moore theme suddenly erupt as you’re walking in to your office one Monday morning? Does it become really truly adulthood when you buy your first new car? Make your first mortgage payment? When you have your first child?

Like a lot of things being an adult is a state of mind, one that needs to be transitioned in to. Here in the U.S. you can drive at 16, help decide who runs our government and be sent to war at 18, and drink legally at 21. The rates on car insurance go down at 25 and you can join AARP at 55, retire and collect social security at 65 and then what?

In the past two weeks the reality of the working during a recession hit my company, and for the first time I experienced companywide layoffs, gracefully masked as a “reorganizing”. Fortunately for me I was spared the pink slip but returned to the office missing the 15 people that had been let go. Talking to one of my coworkers who works at another office in Arizona that lost 27 people, a large majority of their office staff, he compared it to grieving the loss of someone to death. Suddenly they’re gone and the reminders of them are everywhere but you have to pick up the pieces and move on. It is a horrible thing, but you learn from it and hopefully your company is better for it, and you all transition together to making it work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shine On, Harvest Moon

Fall arrived on swift wings to Portland this year. One week it was sunny and in the low 80’s, and then suddenly the leaves on the trees are turning gold and red and the highs will hit the upper 60’s if we’re lucky. It all seemed very sudden, and I couldn’t help but feel a little blindsided by it having to change out my wardrobe so quickly. Personally, I like an easing in to my seasons, I think it helps me to mentally process that there’s going to be a different type of weather pattern in the near future. This year, ready or not, Fall is here.

I’m not ready, give me back my summer!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm just sayin'

I get so frustrated with people who leave voice-mails at my office with message like: “This is my tenth phone call and no one has called me back.” So, knowing that it’s something I can help out with, I call the person back… and it just rings and rings and rings. How would they know if someone has called them back or not if they don’t have a voice mail system for me leave them the information they need. Or, better yet why don’t they call during the business hours that I leave in the out going voice-mail so that I can help them out then? Help me help you. Sheesh.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


It can be frightening, really, if one stops to think about it for a moment about how brief a pet’s life is when compared to the span of a human’s life time. When I adopted Tigger from Hubby’s mom back before he was hubby the thought never entered my mind that she wasn’t always going to be there with me. As years wore on and my life’s circumstances changed she was always right there, a static and predictable aspect of my home life. It seemed though, that there was always room for more love in my life. Anyone who knows me will agree that I’m an un abashed animal lover and if I could I would open my home to many more than I currently have. Which is why when Hubby and I moved in to a house we adopted a dog, and then six months later another cat.

I feel a bit guilty, in retrospect, for being selfish and bringing more animals into our home, but at the time I couldn’t have known how Tigger would react. With the two other animals in the picture and vying for Hubby and my affections Tigger became more reclusive choosing to spend her time alone in the sleeping in the bay window or on the back of the couch in the other room rather than in my lap or on the cushion next to me. We joked that she was just becoming a crabby old lady cat, but I made sure that her spot next to me was available at night, and most times she took it.

A month ago Tigger started throwing up every two hours or so and acting very lethargic. It wasn’t like her at all, and it worried me. Hubby and I drove out to the emergency vet hoping it was something easily cared for. After two hours and inconclusive x-rays we drove home with her still sick and instructions of hopefully care for her to make her better.

The next day Hubby came home for lunch to check on her to discover that she was still throwing up regularly. He took her back to the emergency vet to have blood tests done. Her blood pressure was so low they had difficulty drawing her blood, but what little they did get confirmed that she had developed feline diabetes and her body was essentially shutting down. I was at work, crying my eyes out trying to decide what to do. She was my baby, she had always been there for me even if she didn’t know why, and here I had put her life in question because I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe that’s just my guilty conscience talking.

In the end my amazing boss drove me to the emergency vet so I could be there with Tigger and Hubby and make the decisions necessary. Ultimately, it came down to five days in the veterinary ICU and a lifetime of two insulin shots a day for her or end her suffering. If money hadn’t been a factor I would have done anything possible to make her healthy again. But, as it is with everything in life there are no guarantees. And as I held her, and looked down at her I asked her what she wanted. Unquestioningly, I know she wanted us to let her go. So, we did.

Ultimately, she lived a good eleven years and was a very happy spoiled cat for most of them. I know we made the right choice to let her go because it was what she wanted. I still miss her terribly, but I know she’s in a better place now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Holly Hobby

I often wonder if I have too many hobbies. When I was younger just about any craft that you put in front of me I would instantly become infatuated with. Often my mom would take me to Michael’s and we would wander the isles and I would say, like most children, “Oh Mom, can you get that for me?” She would take one look at the drawstring bag, or the beaded necklace, or piece of doll house furniture and respond “You could make that.” Now at this point in my life, fifteen or more years later, I don’t know if she was saying that as a way to get me to stop asking her for something or if she honestly believed that I could make everything I wanted. To this day, I still hear those words ringing in my ears when I go shopping.

I explored many, many crafts in my youth including: sewing and quilting, scrapbooking, cooking, baking, making miniatures for my dollhouse, flower arranging, writing, drawing, painting, collage, decoupage, gardening, and beading or jewelry making. I still practice a few of these hobbies to this day, and I may have picked up some new ones, and part of me is thankful for my Mom’s voice ringing out that I could make anything I wanted.

Now when I walk through a craft store my mind reels with all of the things I could make - oh that charm would look great on a beaded necklace, oh that fabric would make a nice skirt, etc. Truly, it’s a dangerous thing for me to walk in to a craft store unattended. I am glad though, that I have learned the importance of the reality check, because really I could make all of those things I want given the time and money. However, seeing as I have a full time job with an hour commute each way and a husband with three pets that don’t take too well to me ignoring them for long periods of time.

So I’m left with a mere few choices for my creative habits, but that’s okay with me. It is far less expensive, far less time consuming, and far less crazy making if I limit myself to the number of crafts I do. On the other hand, I can’t limit myself too much or I find myself crying out inside for a creative outlet. As it is with all things, hobbies come down to a balancing act.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jesus and Buddha walk into a bar...

I was thinking this morning on my walk from the MAX station to work about a conversation I had with one of my coworkers about two weeks ago. I happened to mention in passing friendly conversation that I was a Religious Studies minor in college. Typically I’m reluctant to mention this fact to people, especially coworkers, considering it is a touchy subject for many and I don’t think it is very appropriate to discuss religion at work. In fact, it just may be against the law. Actually, I don’t really remember what brought it up but what I do remember is the conversation that ensued.

A little background on me: I was raised in a Christian family, and was quite active in the church up until I went to college. My beliefs went through an adjustment period as I grew and changed and came into myself as an individual. Hubby’s family is, for the most part, Jewish with the exception of Hubby’s Mom who practices Bon. When asked, I typically respond that I am a Buddhist because the majority of what I believe is encompassed in Buddhism. I’m not going to get in to the deep recesses of why I believe what I believe, suffice to say that it is my choice and I have put A LOT of thought in to it.

Let’s get back to where this all started - that conversation. What it came down to was me trying to explain to her as how I viewed the Buddha in terms similar to Christianity. Somehow, I managed to end up comparing the Buddha to Jesus. This may seem to be a strange bridge but allow me to explain. Christians generally believe that Jesus came to earth as a means by which God could save the sinners from Hell. Similarly, Buddha found a way to escape Hell – in Buddhist terms this would be continual reincarnation and the suffering that is life – and shared. That is not where the similarities end. Both taught to love, be kind, be spiritually faithful, and one can escape from Hell. Now, to clarify, I’m not saying that the Buddha is “the savior” in the same respect that Christians consider Jesus to be their savior. Buddha (which means the enlightened one in Sanskrit) would be more of a prophet or a teacher, the one that figured out the key to enlightenment for the everyday practitioner (or Average Joe Buddhist). Buddha came in to the world as a Hindu and didn’t necessarily intend to start his own religion. Similarly, Jesus was raised as a Jew and probably had little intention of starting his own religion either – he was sent to put people on the right path.

I realize that comparing Christianity to Buddhism may seem like comparing apples to a prickly pear, but my personal understanding is that most religions when you take away the dogma all come down to two things: answering the question of powers larger than us as humans, and being a good person.

As ShoeDiva would say: “I’m just sayin’…”

Monday, July 13, 2009

What's in a Genre?

As I have mentioned before, I love books. I love to read and do so quite a bit more frequency than I used to. With that in mind, also knowing that I used to work at a small used book store, and being the daughter of an English teacher has made me a bit of a genre snob.

After yet another foray with my book club and a bottle of wine mostly between me and ShoeDiva we took a stroll around Powell’s to sober up. Giggling at the counter culture nick-nacks with ShoeDiva and FishSticks I started to think about my lack of experience with genres outside of “Literature” and “General Fiction” (This could have been a result of a conversation they had been having but the alcohol has wiped that memory from my mind). When the giggles died down I turn to FishSticks and ask if she could recommend a good bodice ripper to me. She looked at me and a smile spread across her face as she began to ask questions and lead me over to the Romance section of the store. I sighed to myself wondering slightly what I had gotten in to and sheepishly answering her questions.

Up until recently I looked down my nose at the Romance and Sci Fi genres, I could see why people might enjoy them, but it wasn’t something I could get in to. In fact, while I worked at the used book store I had women who came in regularly to trade the romance novels they’d blown through for a new set. I couldn’t help but wonder at the time what the draw was. I turned to the back cover to read the description on a Nora Robert’s book and had to keep myself from laughing too hard at the novel’s synopsis. Maybe I took myself too seriously, maybe I took my reading habits too seriously, but I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to read anything in that genre. Now though, the notion strikes me that as in all genres there are different levels of quality, and what better way to find out than to ask some who I know and trust?

Having fettered down her options down to a manageable queue of likely possibilities, FishSticks starts to hand me books from the shelf when I have two in my hands and she’s going for a third and I can’t help but say: “Wait!” I didn’t even know if I could finish one of these let alone three and the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my friends after a tentative step into the Romance novel wading pool.

It was three days ago that I walked out of Powell’s having purchased my first Romance novel. I’m sure this book is training wheels for the likes of me – a story of a woman who wakes up a vampire and some innuendo thrown in. So far it has been a quick and overly simple read. I believe I shall now refer to the bodice rippers as the “Brain Candy Genre”.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Who Are You Calling Domestic?

I was talking to my Mom last night and telling her about how I had just made a batch of Pesto from the basil that I had grown – after I had done some sewing, and done a bit of gardening. Her response: “My, aren’t you domestic!” That comment irks me a little. What is so wrong with enjoying making things with your hands? If a man were to make a bench or fix a leaky pipe we would call him “handy” so why is it when a woman does traditional things she’s considered domestic?

I know that I can go to the store and purchase a jar of pre-made pesto, a necklace or a dress for the party I’m attending, or even as many tomatoes as I can fit in to my car but where is the joy in that? There’s a simple pleasure in producing something whether it’s sewn or home grown that you can’t get from picking it up off a shelf in the store. It may be more time consuming but at least you know what it is a product of.

I know that I made my favorite pajama pants, not some poor child laborer working for twenty cents a day in Indonesia. I know that the lettuce in my salad I grew from seed in my back yard, so I know it isn’t tainted with Hepatitis C or whatever the latest food outbreak is. The same goes for any other little thing that I create or grow, there’s a satisfaction in knowing where it came from and what went in to it.

I suppose that my adverse reaction is probably due to the word domestic itself. To me the word domestic causes a mental cross reference to animals that we have as pets or food stock – so domestic means they are no longer wild and untamable. The other image I get is the typical “bare-foot and pregnant in the kitchen”.

I guess one might even call it a cultural revolution that as of late gardening is growing in popularity and there seems to be a great number of people who still enjoy crafting and sewing regularly. My personal belief is that it needs a new name… instead of domestic just call me “make it yourself friendly.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eat the View: Part 5, “Rise of the Word Garden”

Every morning I get up at 5am and go out to the back yard to water my vegetable plants. Living in the North West means that we actually have day light at that hour, it’s not much but it keeps me from stubbing my toes. My plants all loved the heat wave we had a few weeks ago making them all double in size. I had hoped that would mean tomatoes soon, but then the cool down back to normal temperatures quickly dismissed that idea.

As one might imagine, I check out my plants every morning as I’m giving them their drink of water. I have had about half a dozen or so snow peas to harvest on my snow pea plant every day and my cherry tomato plant has tiny green tomatoes on it. The problem is because our temperatures have gone back to their normal range of the 70’s it is not really warm enough for the tomatoes to finish ripening. So, I wait. Watching and hoping. I know sooner than I believe I will have more tomatoes than I know what to do with, but a part of me feels a little like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka jumping up and down and screaming “I want it now!” I’m still learning that I can’t rush nature.

ShoeDiva came over on Sunday night to have dinner watch the season premiere of True Blood and in the down time between eating and the show starting we sat out in the garden with a bottle of “3 Buck Chuck” and began to talk. Like they say, one thing led to another, and we ended up naming all of the plants in my garden. We stayed with a theme of author names and tried to match them with the plant’s characteristics (did I mention there was a bottle of wine involved?): my two zucchini plants ended up with the names Poe and Wilde, the snow peas are Hemingway, the strawberry plants are Dr. Suess, my Shady Lady tomato plant is Plath, and the basil is Doyle. The list goes on, but I won’t venture to try to remember all of them. Being the intelligent ladies that we are, because we don’t want me to forget all of these fabulous titles we have bestowed upon these plants we wrote the names on popsicle sticks and put them in the soil next to the plant. Now I’ll never forget that my Lemon Verbena plant has been dubbed Lincoln Steffens.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's the opposite of a "Pity Party"?

I am feeling full of deep thoughts this morning. I think it may have something to do with the big thunderstorm that rolled through yesterday evening. It seems like it hit all of a sudden, and after a torrential downpour, thunder & lightning and perhaps even a little hail, by the time I had finished cooking dinner it was all done.

Hubby's dad (MusicMan) has been doing something daily that I find intriguing. I guess he's been feeling down about the housing market and the balance between work and life so his business coach advised him to get up a little earlier every day and do something he loved before he started going through his routine of getting ready for the day. So MusicMan has started emailing every morning his thoughts on life. He started out with a group of ten or so people and Hubby tells me that MusicMan is now up to 50 on his list. Hubby forwarded the emails to me (MusicMan is titling them "Passion Party", the opposite of "Pity Party") and I read through the first 9 of his emails this morning. WOW. They are really simple observations on life, but you can tell that he's pouring his soul in to them.

I hadn't really thought about it much, but I think that I have my own little "Passion Party" every morning when I water my garden. It was still raining this morning so I didn't water my plants when I let Cleo out... & I kind of was disappointed about that. Like I said, I hadn't realized that watering my plants is kind of like a morning meditation for me - doing something I enjoy before I get my day started. And I do it every morning.

I hope you're doing something for yourself lately.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A "Material Girl" I'm Not

Day one of the month of June and I already feel summer in the air. I feel like we hardly got spring first but that’s just fine with me. I love spring and summer in Portland they’re nothing like what I grew up with in Sacramento – it just feels like there’s so much more life in the heat of summer here.

With the heat of summer comes a change in wardrobe. Everyone sheds their big wool coats, knitted scarves, and rain hats for sun glasses, strappy sandals and short sleeve shirts. Now, let me get one thing out there, I am not nor have ever been what you might call a girly girl. I like to think that I’m in touch with my femininity but not obsessed with it. To be completely honest, I haven’t really been too concerned with fashion until the last year or two and even then I’m all for function over fashion. I won’t pin-point all of my evolutions here for you, though if asked I could likely tell you.

I don’t know if my evolution in to femininity is a result of me growing up or a result of the world in which I live and work. Given, I put more energy in to how I look in my office setting than I do at home or with friends. I find that if I have extra money I would rather spend it on a dinner out than a new pair of shoes. That doesn’t mean that I don’t look at a nice pair of heels and think “Damn, my legs would look nice in those.” I may think that, but I likely won’t be able to bring myself to spend over $50 on an item of clothing. Heck, I spent $20 on the cocktail dress for my company holiday party last year, and then another $10 on jewelry and I’ve worn the outfit three times. Though I can’t tell if that is just being frugal or me thinking that fashion isn’t worth all the money people put in to it.

I can’t put my finger on what makes me feel how I do. I just know that I am not “a material girl” or “high maintenance,” I do know that I like to feel like I look good but don’t feel like I have to be fully “done up” to go grocery shopping. I’m sure I could go on for pages about the evils of the fashion industry, but I won’t waste anyone’s time with that.

In the end I think what this all means is that I’m growing more comfortable skin. I think that’s all really anyone can ask for.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eat the View: Part 4, Back to "The Word Garden"

The weather forecast predicted a high in the upper 70s over this past weekend, something for Portlanders to get excited about and cause to start making plans to be outside all day. I had ordered some tomato starts to be delivered in the beginning of April, and while I received them at their promised date, they have been relegated to living in our garden window until the weather was more appropriate for putting them in their permanent home outside. In the meantime, I have watched them inch ever higher and waiting impatiently for the day when they will start producing. Luckily I’ve had other things in the garden to be focusing my attention on to abate my “limited tomato based thinking”. While Hubby ran around mowing the lawn and other important yard tasks I took advantage of the warm weather and decided that my tomato plants would be able to survive outside now that the lows are hovering around fifty degrees.

Toward the end of March I planted four Oregon Snow Pea seeds in the hopes that one would sprout and produce snow peas for us to enjoy through the season. Much to my happy surprise all four sprouted and have been growing ever skyward. Noticing that they were starting to climb on one another I improvised a trellis with a tomato cage that wouldn’t come to use for a little while and strung some gardener’s twine diagonally between the bars to give the peas something else for their little tendrils to wrap around. When ShoeDiva came over to help me pull weeds on Saturday, she was shocked at the growth of the snow peas in the month since she had last seen them. Truth be told, I’m a little amazed at how quickly they’re growing too. But seeing as neither of us has really had any experience with veggie gardening our surprise should be no surprise.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Guilty Conscience Strikes Again

I’ve written about this before – but I think it is a common topic among writers – finding inspiration. I have been so busy traveling for work lately that I have all but forgotten about my blogging duties. That could be just an excuse, but I’ll never tell if it is or not. Technically, I’m already doing better about my blogging consistency than I was last year and that is probably a good thing. I think I have subconsciously committed myself to posting to my blog at least once a week whether it’s a second hand article or I’m just “phoning it in”, and when I don’t I feel guilty. So I suppose that’s where blogs like this come in.

On my commute to work this morning I spent some time on the MAX thinking about what I should blog about next. I don’t want my posts to be too garden-centric, so I ruled that out. I don’t want to post about work or traveling for work, although that may come up at a later date, I’m tired of thinking about it right now. But again I come back to feeling like I’m writing for an audience and not for myself. In reality I should just be writing about whatever I want to write about and not what I think people might want to read. So, I guess ultimately this blog post is just going to be two things: me feeling guilty for not posting, and me not knowing what to write. Maybe I should just take the advice of my college professors and all of those years of participating in NaNoWirMo and just sit down with the intention to write and something will be produced. Lovely, I’m sure that will be incredibly entertaining.

I don’t know if anyone that I don’t know is reading this or not, but if you are reading this and would like me to write about something feel free to leave a comment. Cheers!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eat the View: Part 3, In “The Word Garden”

The time of year that I have been anxiously waiting for since our first cold day of fall has finally arrived. Spring! Sadly the turning of the season of new life doesn’t necessarily mean that I can start putting my veggies in the ground just yet. I have been reading gardening blogs of people who live in a warmer climate and drooling over my garden’s potential – dreaming of the day when I can actually transplant my tomato starts in to the raised planter bed that Hubby and I built with the help of CodeMonkey and his lovely wife LadyNurse. Alas, it is still too cold and if I prematurely put the plants out it could damage them. So, the tomato starts have taken up residence in my kitchen window along with the basil, sage, oregano and marjoram starts. The snow peas I planted outside in a 5 gallon pot over a month ago seem to be growing quite happily in this cold weather. I am regretting, though, not having staggered planting them because now we will have an abundance of the peas all at once. Looks like I will be learning how to freeze fresh produce.

This is my first edible garden, and I would like to think that I’m taking it slowly and not getting too excited but it is hard to judge my level of excitement until I get to the “uh oh, I may have done too much” point. By the way, I am nowhere near that point yet. Once we get fully in to the swing of growing season it is likely that that is when I will look at my over abundance of crops and wonder what the heck I was thinking. In the mean time, I’m enjoying watching little sprouts pop up in the starter pots in my kitchen window and imagining the fun meals I can produce with them when the time comes.

If you would like to read my previous posts on the subject see:
Part One, and Part Two

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April is National Poetry Month

Dr. Maya Angelou said: “Poetry is music written for the human voice.” April is National Poetry Month and was first celebrated in 1996. It was created to promote attention to the literary form and history of poetry. How can you celebrate National Poetry Month? The Academy of American Poets has a list of thirty ways to celebrate poetry in April:

Read a poem a day – books of poetry can be found at your local library, or there are websites dedicated to poetry by certain authors or on certain subjects. One of my favorites is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

Write a poem of your own – use free verse, make a haiku, write a sonnet, the style doesn’t matter just the attempt. Writing a poem is not as complicated as some people might think, the most important part is being uninhibited and turning off your internal editor. Just write everything that comes to mind, you can edit it later. Choose a style of poetry that fits your subject, research rhyme scheme and meter standards to find out if your poem is a Couplet, Villanelle, or Shakespearian Sonnet.

Add a verse of poetry to your personal email signature – if you stumble across a line you enjoy while reading, share it with others. Make it short and to the point, and always site the source of the line.

Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day – on April 17, 2009 carry a poem in your pocket and share it as you see fit with those around you.

Kay Ryan, the current Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2008-2009, said: "Poems are transmissions from the depths of whoever wrote them to the depths of the reader. To a greater extent than with any other kind of reading, the reader of a poem is making that poem, is inhabiting those words in the most personal sort of way. That doesn’t mean that you read a poem and make it whatever you want it to be, but that it’s operating so deeply in you, that it is the most special kind of reading."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

27 Years, and All I Got Was This T-shirt

One of my coworkers pointed out today that now that I am at the ripe old age of 27, my age is a cubed number. He’s in the accounting department, and has a love for numbers, that’s all I need to say to explain that.

It’s strange to think that at 12:35am this morning I changed from being 26 to 27. You always hear people say things like “You’re only as old as you feel,” or “Age is just a number,” and even “Act your age, not your shoe size.” All are relative truisms, but I think I have come to mark my life more by events than by my age. A quote from the character Leonard in the show Big Bang Theory rings true to me: “My parents focused on celebrating achievements, and being expelled from a birth canal was not considered one of them.” It couldn’t have felt truer than it did a few weeks ago when I found out that a job I was hoping would be created was not opened due to budget constraints. This event sent me into a swirl of self doubt and to revisit my quarter-life-crisis stage. My first, and returning, thought was “I’m going to be 27, and a receptionist. I thought I would be doing more than that by now.” The thought that I should be doing something else haunts me frequently. It has haunted me since six months after I graduated from college.

All those thoughts disappeared though after I took a minute to reflect on my current position. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in this country alone that have found themselves without a job because of the recession. So, first I count my blessings that I have a job. Second, I have a good paying job with benefits. Third, and not the least of all, I actually enjoy my job. Yeah it’s not the most thrilling thing and not what I thought I would be doing but there’s something to be said for enjoying your job. I have always told myself to get a job doing work I enjoy and everything else will follow. I’d have to so that the only bad part about this job is the commute.

Here’s to another year, and more achievements to come.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Five U.S. Presidents You May Have Forgotten

Another article I wrote for my company letter, was going to post it on Presidents' Day but you know how these things go...

Traditionally, Presidents’ Day (February 16) is a federal holiday honoring our nation’s fist president, George Washington, and our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. This month, we would like to honor five lesser-known presidents.

William Henry Harrison, 9th US President. His term (March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841) was the shortest of any US president, only serving the office officially for a little over 30 days before he died of pneumonia. His untimely death, the first death of a US President in office, brought about the 25th Amendment to the Constitution detailing the succession of the US President.

Millard Fillmore, 13th US President, was the second Vice President to take office after the death of the elected president. The most notable accomplishment during his term (July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853) was having California signed in to statehood – a process begun by his predecessor.

James Buchanan, 15th US President, has been ranked by most historians as one of the worst presidents. During his term (March 4, 1857 – March 4, 1861) the Southern states declared their secession but Buchanan declared the action illegal and remained inactive on the topic. Failure to avoid the Civil War has been considered the worst single failure by any U.S. president.
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th US President, was sworn in to office after winning the election with a mere one electoral vote over his opponent. His term (March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881) was marred by indecision and conflict including the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 which ended in the death of 70 striking Baltimore & Ohio Railroad employees.

Calvin Coolidge, 30th US President, was dubbed “Silent Cal” for being a man of few words in social situations. He completed Harding’s term as president and then was elected to office in his own right serving as president for a term and a half (August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929). Coolidge signed the Radio Act of 1927 which regulated radio use in the U.S. until the formation of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1934.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Five Interesting Firsts

I originally wrote this article for my company newsletter, and thought I would post it for others to read as well.

February is Black History Month and typically a time when we reflect upon and appreciate African-Americans that have made an impact on American history. We all know the names Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama. Who are some of the lesser-known African-American history-makers?

First published African-American writer in America – Jupiter Hammon (1711 – 1806?) was a lifelong slave on Long Island, New York who was given a formal eduation and is considered one of the founders of African-American literature. He was deeply religious and his poem “An Evening Thought,” was published in 1760 as a broadside and noted as the first published writing by an African-American in the U.S.

First African-American Lawyer – Macon Bolling Allen (1816 – 1894) was a self-taught lawyer who was accepted to the bar in Portland, Maine is 1844. Soon after that he was admitted to the bar in Boston and became the first African American Justice of the Peace. Allen moved to South Carolina during the American Civil war where he felt his skills as an abolitionist lawyer could be of use.

First African-American Olympic Gold Medal Winner – At the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, track and field athlete John Baxter Taylor, Jr. (1882 – 1908) earned a gold medal for his part in the U.S. medley relay team. Taylor ran the third leg of the medley race, running 400 meters in 49.8 seconds.

First African-American Woman Elected to Congress – Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005) was elected to New York’s Twelfth District congressional seat in the House of Representatives in 1968. In 1972 she became the first major party African-American candidate, and the first woman to run for president.

First African-American to reach the peak of Mount Everest – In 2006 Sophia Danenberg (1972 - ) was the first African-American to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. She suffered many ailments during her climb and bad weather conditions held back the other members of her climbing party. She and her sherpas were the only climbers to witness the event.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Eat the View: Part 2

Almost a month ago I posted a video called “This Lawn is Your Lawn”. The video is about the initiative to have the front lawn of the White House be partially converted to a vegetable garden to fill the first kitchen. The movement has been dubbed Victory Garden 2.0 after Eleanor Roosevelt’s WWII era Victory Garden at the White House. I think this is a magnificent idea, and one that Obama should take to heart when he has a moment. I really do believe that if he takes the lead it could have a profound impact on our country in ways we may not be able to calculate. We can’t exactly expect the leader of the free world to focus on something that we find important – then it comes back to us to stand up to do it ourselves.

Around the time that I posted that video Hubby and I had dinner with the Married Couple Collective (MCC) and found that many of us felt the same way about growing our own produce to the extent that we can. The other two wives and I chatted and found that they already had a plan laid out, if not planting beds already built, so they were already ready for planting when the time comes this year. Hubby and I on the other hand, don’t have much in the yard.

When we moved in to this house last year there wasn’t much in the yard but grass and a tree in the back. Last Spring/Summer my main goal was to beautify. We planted three rose bushes, cleaned out some weeds, purchased a lawn mower, and this fall I planted some bulbs. The plan for this season: build planter boxes and grow some veggies for ourselves. The great thing about this plan and the conversation with the MCC, is a built in growing community. We’ve worked out a seed-share program between the three couples to share the packets of seeds that we order.

Really it’s not much. It is just a little bit to provide for me and Hubby, perhaps even share any over abundance I have with others – but my reduced demand in the grocery store might just translate to something larger than I can conceive. I like that.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being A Good Receptionist: Part 2

As I have mentioned in other posts I am a receptionist and administrative assistant for a growing company. My tasks day to day vary largely but mostly come down to a few things: 1) being polite and courteous, 2) being knowledgeable about the company I work for, and 3) being open and available to help out almost all of the time.

The second thing on my list is a little bit more complicated and usually comes down to experience and a willingness to gather information. You will get questions from callers about the company and for different people and sometimes people are going to need to get the answers from you. If you are a temp it would be understandable for you to not know how to answer every question that comes to you, but it’s more important to know who to go to in order to answer those questions. And of course, it should go without mention that the longer you are in a certain position/ office the more you should know about it.

Lastly, your job as an administrative assistant is, by its nature, to assist. Learn how to prioritize, and who to prioritize for. I am an admin. for the entire office, and my office my tasks are based on first come first serve basis for all but one VP. Also, I’ve been given the right to say “no” when a project comes along that I don’t have time for. I love that. It is not secret that to be an admin. you need to be a organized person, if you aren’t become one. Make lists, create a filing system for your tasks, and know where and what they mean.

All in all the most important parts of being a receptionist and administrative assistant come down to personality, knowledge, and organization. Even if your goal isn’t to be the best receptionist to grace the office system, it could be an opening in to another position if you work it right.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being A Good Receptionist: Part 1

As I have mentioned in the past I am a receptionist and administrative assistant for a growing company. I have been working in this office for a year and a half now, and I started here as a lowly temp in a completely separate position. I often caught a glimpse of the girl that they had at the front desk, and at the time it always seemed to me like she could care less about the job or the company. I remember thinking to myself at the time “how could she have this job?” She looked miserable, unprofessional, and as if she didn’t care. Turned out that she didn’t last long, and I was asked to take the job because I had demonstrated that I was a hard worker in my temp position. In other words: that when the receptionist is unhappy and unprofessional it presents a bad first impression of the company.

Let’s look at it from the other side – the guest. The guest comes in to interview for a job opening and is dressed in a suit and tie and greets the receptionist who is wearing ratty jeans, a t-shirt and a zip up hoody. How does that look to the guest? It looks like an unprofessional office or maybe even makes him feel over dressed. All in all he feels uncomfortable already and maybe he’s thinking this isn’t the kind of office he thought it was. Even if the office is casual with no strict dress code, as mine is, the receptionist should dress on the nicer side of business casual to be, if nothing else, an equilibrium between the company and the guest. The executives in my office frequently wear jeans and a polo shirt if they have no outside meetings that day but I always make it a point to wear dress slacks or well tailored jeans and a blouse.

Another first impression about the company is formed by the guest when the receptionist greets them. This one should be obvious: Smile, say “Hello, how can I help you?” and go from there. It is not too hard to be nice to someone who you will like only interface with for ten minutes or so. I like to update the guest on the status of the person they are meeting with: “They will be right up.” Or “He/she is finishing up a meeting/ phone call and will be with you shortly.” Just so the guest knows if they will be waiting a tremendously long time or not.

The front office area is the domain of the receptionist. Take care of the people that come through it to the best of your ability because you never know when it could benefit you.

Read more in Part 2.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Bibliophile's Dilemma

As 2009 loomed around the corner I had decided to abstain from the annual tradition of having a New Year’s Resolution. This decision came mostly as a result of my own cynicism and a deep seeded bitterness that “they never really work out anyway”. In past years my resolutions have been either loosely worded with vague meaning (i.e. “I will take better care of myself.”), or something that I have been working on for a long time (i.e. “I will try to buy more organic produce.”) and would likely continue to work on it with out any though to “that’s my resolution!”. In the end, like most resolutions and attempts to better one’s own life, they work out or they don’t. So we can’t say that I necessarily resolved to not make a resolution, because that’s just silly, but the fact that it’s the beginning of a new year and the fact that I stumbled upon this article has sparked a thought in me.

It has been a goal of mine, as it is with many bibliophiles, to read the classics. I am sad to discover that I have only read a mere eight books on that list. At least four of the books were in the top ten. I want to increase the number of books on the list that I have read, but it is not going to happen easily – I am a slow reader and am part of a book group that tends to read more recent publications. On top of that it is impossible for me to read two fiction books at the same time – I tend to get the plots confused. (I know what you’re thinking how did this woman graduate from college with an English degree? Very careful planning. ) I know, I know it’s all the same excuses to not accomplish the aforementioned goal, but I didn’t set a time line on it, nor did I necessarily resolve to do it. Just because I want to at some point accomplish this, and it just happens to be at the beginning of a New Year, that doesn’t make it a resolution. Right? Perhaps purely by my say so it is not a resolution but more of a desire for accomplishment.

Now my internal devil’s advocate says, who dictated that those books find their way to the list of top 100 books of all time? I am sure that these choices were based upon some literary prowess based on style, plot development, word usage, and proper punctuation, but you have to know that someone somewhere would disagree with their choices. It looks like Time Magazine did on a few. So then, what is a book lover to do? Follow someone else’s arbitrary list, or determine one of my own?
That’s it. I know exactly what my non-resolution for 2009 will be. I will read whatever I want to read.