Monday, January 30, 2012

Hear me roar

I am in a bit of an isolationist mood right now.  Such a mood leads me to thoughts such as the following:

"The Vikings want a new stadium?  If we don't give them a stinkin' stadium, they're going to California?  Go ahead!  Good riddance!  No one NEEDS YOU!"

"It's an election year and all the politicians wish to pollute the airwaves with their messages of lies, misinformation and hate-mongering?  Go away!  Most voters have made up their minds already which party they will vote for and no amount of ludicrous mud-slinging will convince them otherwise - least of all, ME!"

"You people on want to give mixed reviews on the new Yaktrax I plan to purchase and make me doubt myself?  Knock it off!"

"Explain to me why employers with jobs for which I am actually qualified do not contact me, but the one slightly intimidating long shot that I send out does?!?!?!"

So that's a little scary, right?  I sound a bit rage-ful I suppose, which is misleading.  I am not full of rage.  Varying amounts of confusion and irritation, perhaps.  But mostly I am a peaceful person.  Today.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I have a question for all you working professionals out there. 

Let's say you are at work.  It is a Friday afternoon.  Everything is calm.

In walks your mail carrier, done with her shift.  Apparently she has been spending too much time on her route chatting with your company's receptionist to the point that they have discussed hair straightening devices.

At some point in the course of their idle and time-wasting conversations, it was discovered that the mail carrier had a hair straightening iron that she could not use.  She was thinking of offering it to one of her friends (for a price), but the receptionist says that she may be interested too.

Back to Friday afternoon.  Earlier in the day, when the mail carrier delivered your company's mail, your receptionist gave her a hard time about forgetting to bring the straightener in to show her.  As if it would have been totally appropriate for an employee of the U.S. Postal Service to carry around hair styling equipment in her truck.

So now it is later in the afternoon, and the mail carrier, burdened by guilt and fearing future lectures from the receptionist, arrives at your company bearing the iron.  Instead of making a visual examination of the device and making up her mind, the receptionist decides that it would be a good idea to plug in the iron right there at her desk and give it a spin.

You watch this ridiculous scene unfold, secretly hoping that the receptionist's boss will come out and see this blatant disregard for professional conduct.  Before that can happen, a customer walks in.  Now what?  Does the receptionist apologize and put aside the piece of non-business related heat producing equipment? 

NO.  She pretends as though it is perfectly acceptable to be doing what she is doing.  And keeps doing it while the customer sits down next to her and waits for their appointment with a company officer.

How would you react to this? 

Maybe you would just shrug and say "Oh well, no harm done!"

Maybe you would report her to her boss.

I did neither of the two.  I chose instead to become irritated and blog about it later.

I offer this story to show you why I am glad that it is Friday and now I have two days to forget about this episode.  Except that I have now immortalized it in blog form, so maybe not so much. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Show me those pearly whites!

Yesterday I went to the dentist for my six month cleaning slash check-up.  It was fine; pretty much the normal routine.  Sadly, my long-time favorite hygienist has retired, but hopefully she has moved on to better and fun non-work related adventures. 

Hopefully I am not jinxing myself to say this, but I have never had a cavity.  This is surprising (to me) due to the fact that I not only do NOT floss on a regular basis, but that I also regularly consume sugar, coffee and soda.  I also sported a full set of braces in my teens, which cannot have had a positive effect on my overall dental hygiene.

So my dentist visits typically consist of some form of X-Ray or photograph, a thorough picking over with those little metal devices that they have, polishing, flossing and then a quick visit with my dentist to admonish me to floss regularly, not scrub too hard when I brush and to try and use my mouth guard at night (I am a grinder). 

This time around, I had to submit to a photograph of my face for their records.  Not probably my ideal look, but apparently they like to have record of what we look like when we are not there.  As if my bite wing pictures were not reminder enough. 

Here is another fun fact for you:  I have a small mouth.  'Tis true; just ask my orthodontist.  My upper retainer could be offered for proof or comparison if I had not lost it on Christmas break of my freshman year of college.  Thankfully, my lower retainer is semi-permanently bonded behind my lower teeth, so it is impervious to my absent-mindedness.

I am proud to say that I do not fear the dentist.  This means a lot, especially from me as I am quite definitely NOT as calm about visits to the doctor for any reason. 

As a child, I was the patient of a very proactive children's dentist.  My teeth were "slow," you see.  As in, they did not fall out as quickly as common experience would dictate.  For this reason, my first "lost" tooth came courtesy of a forced tooth extraction in October of first grade.  And it was not just one tooth; it was both of my lower front teeth. 

Over the course of the next five years, I had many more forced extractions.  In the end, a grand total of half of my baby teeth were pulled.  The other half came out naturally.  Once I had my wisdom teeth extracted at age 21, the balance toppled to the unnatural side.

I share this information as a lead in to a very strange and unusual discovery that I made at age 12.  You see, in most of my tooth extraction procedures, my dentists instructed me to close my eyes.  I was not sedated, but I follow orders very well.  I was told that I would then feel a "slight pinch" in my gums, but not to be alarmed. 

For years, I accepted this pinch without questioning the source.  As you may be able to guess, this feeling was the injection of Novocaine into my gums to numb the area around my tooth to allow for relatively painless removal. 

When I reached the mature age of 12, my dentist must have decided to remove the blinders.  I was not warned and I did not close my eyes.  When he approached me with what appeared to be the longest needle known to man, I balked.  To my surprise, it turns out that this was the same instrument that they had been using all along.  Can you believe it? 

Here is a fun fact about me:  I HATE NEEDLES.  I hate them and fear them.  They are never the harbingers of anything good to my life and I find them to be sneaky.  I cannot trust them.  Had I known all along that I was being routinely attacked by them in the dentist's chair, I would likely have required restraint.  Just ask my mother how blood drawing episodes in the medical lab used to go for her.  Drama.

So there you have it, my dental history.  Aren't you glad you kept reading?  Perhaps tomorrow I can talk about more lame medical history. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

This is why I am tired today

Now that my brain is starting to absorb its daily caffeine allotment and my thoughts are becoming more cogent, I feel up to writing an entry.  The weekend is over, and the new week has started with a bracing blanket of icy snow resulting in a simply LERVLY commute.

What happened over my weekend?  Everything.  And nothing.

Friday night was pretty quiet.  I just went home and chilled with Lena.  We went to bed at a decent hour and awoke at what I consider to be a decent hour in the morning.  Lena may have begged to differ. 

Saturday was again pretty quiet.  I did some work on my spare bedroom, but it is still far from done.  Most of my time is consumed by sorting through paper.  Old statements, letters, photographs, notebooks.  You name it.  I have it.  Sometimes I discover things that have been long lost and will have future use.  But most of it is junk. 

The problem with this junk is that while some of it really is pure garbage and can be disposed of as such, some of it is more "sensitive" and "personal."  You know, bank statements and the like.  They contain information that should not be released to prying eyes.  As in the potential identity thieves who will almost certainly raid my garbage.  Yep.

Most people solve this problem by using a shredding device or fire.  I do not have a legal fireplace, but I do have a shredder.  Unfortunately, this shredder is designed to accommodate only 2-3 sheets of paper at a time and my pile of papers to shred is WAY bigger than that.  Also, Lena has a tendency to freak out, bark, growl and attack loud things such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines.  I fear that prolonged use of the shredder in my home could be disastrous.

There are some alternatives that I am presently exploring, but in the meantime, my piles continue to grow.

Back to this weekend.

Saturday night, I was inexplicably tired and decided that going to bed at 9 p.m. would be a good idea.  I made sure that Lena had every opportunity to go outside, but I think that she was still a little confused by such an early bedtime. 

Despite my exhaustion, I did not sleep soundly.  At some point in the night, I found myself dreaming that I was in my bed, but that Lena had jumped to the floor and that I could not get her to come back up.  It was upsetting.  To calm myself, I decided to force myself awake in order to reassure my eyes that Lena was still sleeping soundly on the bed.

To my dismay, my dream was true.  Lena was on the floor by my door, looking back at me beseechingly.  According to my clock, it was 3:40 a.m. 

As this was atypical behavior for her, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and groggily pulled myself out of bed to take her outside. 

To my surprise, as soon as she reached the lawn, she promptly squatted and put forth what I can only say is the biggest movement I have ever seen a dog her size make in my life.  It was somewhat impressive, but it cannot have been comfortable for her.  I then remembered that she had not pooped for a second time on Saturday, and I theorized that this was simply the result of that anomaly.

After voiding her bowel and bladder, I assumed that Lena would readily return to bed.  While she seemed perky enough and willing to follow me, she remained restless in bed.  I was not sure if she assumed that we were getting up for the day at 3:40 a.m. or if she was still expecting more visits to the bathroom, but I was tired and not ready to start the morning.

She stayed on the bed until 7:20 a.m., at which point she jumped down again.  By this time, the sun had risen and my room was filled with natural light.  I decided not to fight her and took her outside again.  She did indeed need to void her bowels, but this time it was not solid.  I was now starting to become alarmed, despite the fact that she seemed upbeat. 

We returned to my bedroom to see if we could get just a little more sleep.  This is when I noticed that Lena had been busy. 

On the edge of my bed farthest from where I sleep, was a little pile of doggie vomit.  And there, on the floor next to that side of the bed was another little pile of doggie vomit. 

It was at this point that I finally gave up and decided that I was not going to sleep any more that night.

I quickly cleaned up the vomit, threw my bedding in the wash and prepared my SpotBot to work on the floor stain.  I then sent a text message to my brother (the vet) outlining the events of the morning and seeking wisdom.  His response was prompt and helpful, although I suspect that it came mostly from the brain of his ER vet girlfriend, who has proven to be the MVP of my life as of late.

In the end, Lena was fine.  I withheld food for the morning and started her on bland food in the afternoon.  But this morning, all seems well. 

My theory is that Lena gets bored during the week and likes to spice up her weekends with a little bit of drama.  Thankfully, none of it has been life threatening nor has it cost me an undue amount of money in vet bills (thanks to my MVP), but it has cost me in sleep. 

So if I seem a bit incoherent, remind me to drink more coffee.  This is going to be a long week.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Easy choices and little rants

To all the drivers on the freeway today in Minnesota:  REALLY?  Is that how you were taught to drive in icy conditions whilst snow is falling?  REALLY?  I could have sworn that we all knew by now that changing lanes without signalling while leaving NO space for the car you are cutting off to brake was a bad idea.  Apparently white work vans are exempt.  What?

Now that my rant is out of the way, rest assured that I did not have any accidents in my morning commute.  The Corolla did just fine. 

Last night I discovered that Lena does indeed have her limits when it comes to cold and snow.  I was totally ready to do a full walk yesterday, but we only made it about one-third of the way before my poor dog was having noticeable trouble keeping her paws on the ground.  So much so that she could not bear to finish her bathroom duties.  We returned home, defeated, to allow her feet time to warm up so that she could do her business in our own yard. 

It is important to note that it was not snowing yesterday.  It was just cold.  This morning, on the other hand, sometime between Lena's first outside visit and the one she makes just before I leave for work, it started to snow.

Isn't that always the way?

You should be happy to know that I came to a decision about my weekend plans.  It all came to fruition because of a phone call I received from my mother last night to inform me that we had been invited out to my aunt's house for dinner on Sunday to see my cousin who is home on leave from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  As this also coincides with my uncle's surprise visit from Belgium, I feel an urge to attend.

The other component of my epiphany was from my dentist's office.  One of her receptionists called me yesterday to confirm my cleaning appointment next Tuesday. 

Due to the fact that my dentist's office is now located clear on the other side of the Twin Cities metropolitan area from the area in which I presently reside, I generally try to make sure that I schedule said appointments as late in the day as possible, which is 4 p.m.  So yes, I do have to take off from work a tad early, but they won't stay open later for me.  I checked.

Now that I have Lena, I have to consider what this means.  If I were to go to the dentist at 4 p.m., be done by 5 and then try to drive home to her, I would likely not arrive until 7.  This is unacceptable to Lena, so I have opted to bring her to my parents' house for the days of dental cleanings. 

If you've been following me thus far, good for you.  If not, let me summarize.  The Sunday dinner invitation paired with the impending dentist visit translate into me going to my parents' house on Sunday afternoon and coming home on Tuesday night.  Normally, it does not work this way.  Usually I spend my Sunday afternoon or evening driving back from their house to my own.  Now I will reverse this trend.

Got it?

Of my three options, I suppose this does not really match clearly to any of them.  It is a combination of the stay at home/go to see my mom choices.  Technically, I could combine all three and tell my father that I want to go to the farm with him tomorrow, but I think I will pass.  Now to get to work on all those piles in the guest bedroom...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A phone, a stapler and a ceramic bluebird

Do you know how to tell when you're starting to get paranoid about all the job applications you've submitted in the past six months?  When your cell phone rings with an unfamiliar telephone number and you immediately assume that it is an interested potential employer.  Instead, it is your dentist's office, reminding you that you have a scheduled cleaning next week.  Bah.

One of my many work-related skills is my speed and accuracy.  Seriously, give me a project.  I don't care how ridiculously boring it is.  I will knock that out so fast your head will spin.  That's how focused I am.  Oh, how I wish that potential employers could see and be impressed with this skill.  Sadly, resumes, curriculum vitaes and even cover letters are not conducive to sharing this kind of super strength. 

It would be super cool if there was some sort of product review service for employees where co-workers could input their praise for later viewing by managers or other potential employers.  This information could show up in a background check, for instance.  I mean, I know it is important to know the criminal history of someone you may bring into your office, but wouldn't you also like to know the good stuff?

I'm just saying. 

(Sorry if you hate the phrase, "I'm just saying," but it felt right.)

I am now reaching the point in my week where I must decide what to do with my weekend.  When I was in school, this was not really an issue as I always had class on Thursday evenings, which meant that Lena needed to be at my parents' house, which meant that all of our weekends were spent away from home.  Without school to tie us down, we have options. 

Sure, we could go down to the parental domicile.  We were there last weekend, and it was just fine.  This weekend, however, my father is planning to head to the farm.  So we are left with a few options.

1.  Stay home.  This is the easiest option as it involves no extra driving and gives me the potential to keep working on my disaster-zone guest bedroom organization project.  I have not given it much attention since my vacation, and it is starting to really bug me. 

2.  Go to my parents' house.  My mom is apparently not going to the farm, which means that she will be alone with the dogs when my dad leaves.  I do not want her to be lonely, and I would invite her up to my place, but I no longer have a second bed as it was transported to the farm and I have not yet purchased a secondary sleeping surface.  And my second bedroom is a mess (see option one). 

3.  Go to the farm.  This is the trickiest option.  There is the potential that fun could be had, but if my mother is not there, this is not a certainty.  If I chose this option, my mother may change her mind and come as well, but we haven't broached the subject yet.  As she is one of my regular blog readers, I suspect that I will hear from her shortly after this entry is published.

To be honest, none of these options is a clear winner.  The responsible part of my brain tells me to go with Door #1.  I would like to assume that by choosing this, I would actually get some hard-core cleaning done.  But one never knows.  I can be easily distracted when cleaning is on the agenda.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ice Maiden

So apparently there is some sort of Internet blackout thing going on in protest of some bill before Congress that concerns the Internet.  That is as far as I got.  You may be upset with my apparent ignorance and my blithe treatment of the subject, but really I am just not in the mood to get all riled up right now.  No matter how beneficial it may be to raise my blood pressure and get all hot and bothered in these Arctic temperatures. 

Speaking of cold weather, I am concerned that I might be on the slow road to wimpiness.  Normally when winter hits, I am Nanook of the North.  Helen of Tundra (that's the name of my boots... awesome, right?).  I put on my winter gear and trudge forth into the world, regardless of the temperature or icy ground covering.

For some reason, this year I am having problems and it seems a bit ridiculous.  After all, we have had little to no snowfall.  Honest, if I look out the window right at this moment, it is sunny and the brown grass is completely visible.  Aside from the inches of salt and occasional patch of ice, it could be October.  Or May.  They all look the same in this state. 

But no, it is January 18, 2012. 

Don't be completely fooled.  It only looks like October or May.  If one was to walk outside, one would quickly find that it does indeed feel like January.  Do you remember when I told you (in my last entry) that Lena and I were going walking?  Technically, we did go for a walk, but it was not up to our usual length due to the fact that my face went into paralysis. 

Maybe my memory is failing, but I feel like I used to be able to withstand this kind of weather with greater strength and fortitude.  Now, when I get the slightest twinge of stinging pain, I turn around and hightail it home.  In fact, I distinctly recall as a teenager that I stupidly decided to take our Sheltie, Maggie, for a mid-afternoon walk in the middle of a snowfall.  We lived out on the edge of town, so our walks were conducted on the shoulder of a country highway. 

No one was out driving, if that is any hint to my idiocy.  But my Scandinavian blood was strong and we walked onwards.  In the end, what drove me back to the house was an alarming occurrence in which my eyesight became red.  Not completely, just whenever I blinked.  I don't know what this signifies in medical terms, but it cannot be a good thing.  To this day, if I ever reach the point of visual redness, I know something is wrong.

But now, I don't even get to that point.  I just wait until Lena (who is apparently unaffected by the temperature) relieves herself, and then I lead the expedition homeward. 

My theory, which is rooted in strong science, is that our unseasonal warm spells of the past couple of months have decreased my body's cold tolerance.  Perhaps if we can now have some prolonged periods of real winter temperatures, I can get my resistance back.  Not that I am wishing sub-zero wind chill on my beloved state, but if it will help me be less of a wimp, so be it. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cake science and other geekery

Well, I am back into the baking game.  Secretly, I believe that my desire to bake is driven by a similar source to the thing that makes me want to construct Lego projects or go back to the chemistry lab.  There is something about following directions to their desired result that makes me feel good about myself. 

Theoretically, this should be simple.  I mean, we are taught to follow directions at a young age.  Is it just me, or did anyone else have slightly sadistic teachers who deliberately put obtuse directions on assignments with the hope of catching the kids who completed the work without reading carefully?  Not that I ever fell prey to such connivance, mind you. 

In reality, all recipes are not created equal.  The less detail, the more room there is for interpretation.  In some cases, namely with cooking, this is OK.  When it comes to baking, you should really try to follow the rules.  Stray but a little and it will fail.  To the ruin of all. 

Can you tell I have been reading Tolkien?

So, on my Monday off of work, I decided to make good use of my oven and made a Sweet Potato Pound Cake.  I am sure you are all aware of the health benefits of the sweet potato, but if you are not, you should really educate yourself. 

In order to make this cake, one obviously needs sweet potatoes.  They must be cooked, mashed and cooled prior to mixing into the cake batter or they will mess up the butterfat, dontchaknow.  So I did it.  I did it ALL.  Baked sweet potatoes for an hour.  Let them cool for an hour.  Got my hands and fingers messy removing their skins (and this is a big deal for me). 

The end result?  Delicious.  My coworkers all had positive reviews.  Except for the guy who won't even try it because he "doesn't care for sweet potatoes."  So he doesn't really count, right?

Tonight I shall endeavor to cook.  This will not be done with the aid of a recipe as it is really more of an attempt to rid myself of excess half-full boxes of pasta and make more room in my cupboard. 

In other news, Lena has improved.  No more puffiness, so no more Benedryl.  The sky is looking deceptively sunny, so we may venture on a walk, unless the temperature proves too low.  So tonight, cooking, walking and probably more Tolkien.  If you must know, I have re-read "The Hobbit," and am not working my way through "The Silmarillion" for the first time.  Eek.  Or is it, "geek?"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My weekend (thus far)

Hoo, boy.  This has been a weekend of good and bad, people. 

Friday was good; my dad and I went out to dinner and I had a lovely spicy ham and cheese sandwich.  It made me happy. 

Saturday morning, I awoke and took Lena in for a vet check-up.  She was due for her heart worm test and a Lyme vaccine booster.  I had initially been hesitant about the vaccine, but her records indicated that her former owner had the shot administered, so I figured that she handled it well.

The vet visit went off without a hitch and we returned to the house for a day of relaxation.

Around 5 p.m., I went with my parents to meet some friends for dinner at a local favorite pizza place.  It was fantastic, and we invited the friends over afterwards to check out the progress on my parents' bathroom remodel.  In the course of this visit, Lena started to experience some changes in appearance.

It started when my mom was holding her and I happened to notice that one of her cheeks looked a little swollen.  This quickly escalated into an all out facial expansion.  Immediately, I put in a call to my vet brother.  No answer.  So I called his vet girlfriend.  No answer.  So I called my vet aunt.  She answered.  Her advice was to give Lena 25 mg of Benedryl. 

After a run to the drug store to purchase Benedryl, drugs were administered and eventually things got better.  Of course, this was after several rounds of vomiting and some intense scratching sessions. 

Thankfully, this is a three-day weekend for me, so I can keep an eye on Lena for an extra 24 hours.  But honestly, I can do without any further excitement for the rest of my time off.  Viva la boring!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weather patterns

I can hardly believe that I let my 11 month anniversary with Lena come and go with nary a thought.  It is almost beyond comprehension (to me) that on February 8, it will be one year since she came to live with me.  I was always one of those people who said that they wanted a dog, but just didn't have the time, space, money, etc. 

But then I went and did it.  And you know what?  It really hasn't been a problem.  Yes, occasional vet bills are not wonderful to contemplate (or pay), but in the long run, she is way cheaper than a child would be.  Come to think of it, she is probably way cheaper than a boyfriend.  My mother is probably reading this and worrying, but never fear, Lena will not stop me from dating (should the opportunity ever arise in the future). 

So the weather predictors have forecasted snow in the near future.  Not a lot of it, but at least an inch.  Based on what we have had so far this month, that would make our total ground accumulation equal to about an inch.  It's been crazy; yesterday the high temperature was 52 degrees!  52!  Insane.  But from a commuter's standpoint, it has been heavenly. 

And you know what?  Getting 1-2 inches isn't really that bad either.  It's still drive-able and cleans up really quick.  Although there will inevitably be the morons who think that they do not need to adjust their driving habits for winter and will careen into the ditch, much to the satisfaction of everyone else on the road. 

Realistically, winter in MN is far from over.  There is no way of knowing if we will be paying for this extended heat wave come April or May, but for now, I will take it.  Thankfully I no longer need to contemplate the additional driving necessitated by being in school on top of working full time.  I must now only worry about getting myself home at the end of each day.

This weekend, there is a new event coming to the Twin Cities, St. Paul to be specific.  It is called "Crashed Ice" and is an event sponsored by the fine folks at Red Bull (of energy drink fame).  Apparently there is a world championship for this sport, and part of it is coming here.  In fact, the starting line is located next to the famous Cathedral of Saint Paul, site of my fabulous fall archives internship.  It is a little strange to contemplate adrenaline-spiked people on ice skates racing next to and down the steps of this religious landmark, but that is just what they will be doing.

According to their website, the "sport" originated in Stockholm, Sweden in the early 2000's.  I suppose the Swedish part of me should be proud, but I am not quite willing to commit to that claim until I see or know a little more about it.  True, I do love me some hockey, but this seems a little bit... odd.  Unnatural somehow.  To be honest, it sounds a bit like something my brother and his friends would have made up when they were in middle school.  In fact, they did make up a game that involved snow and hills, but I will save the details of the thrilling game of "Saucerbee" for another time. 

Monday, January 9, 2012


I need to learn to be more of a positive person.  At least with respect to my career future.  I think that I can hold on to my charming cynicism in other areas of life, but I need to think some happier thoughts about finding a new job.

It will not be easy.

I have become sadly accustomed to rejection.  Some of it is outright and honest; these are employers who take the trouble to tell you that they are passing on you for their job.  Some of them just never respond.  Come to think of it, this whole thing sort of plays out like dating.  Either you have the honest people who need closure so they come out and inform you in no uncertain terms that you will not be going out any more or they just disappear and hope you get the picture.


My realization came today as I gathered my mail after Lena's afternoon walk.  After a quick scan of envelopes, I found one from a place I applied to just last week.  As it was light and appeared to contain only one sheet of paper, I assumed the worst.  Instant rejection.  So convinced was I that I nearly threw it away immediately.  Thankfully, I opened it instead and found that it was not a rejection but merely a receipt, thanking me for my submission and letting me know that my materials would be reviewed in February when the committee reviews all applications.


That's nice, right?

When seen from space, there is probably a detectable pattern of rejection expectation that plays out in other areas of my life.  But I will refrain from outlining them here.  Instead I will go in search of warmer foot covering as I fear my toes are going numb.  Where are my sock monkey slippers?

Back into the shell

Excuse me, I am just coming off the high of a very relaxing and lovely weekend.  It all started with my executive decision to stay home.  This may not have meaning to you, but it has a great deal of meaning to me.  Now I shall explain and you will find the meaning that you lack.

Way way back in the long ago when I moved back to Minnesota after college graduation (ten years ago, to be exact), I started my independent adult life.  True, for the first few years of that life I lived in a condominium owned by my nursing-home bound grandfather, but it still felt pretty cool.  As I did not own the place, I was occasionally subject to mass intrusion by my immediate family for holidays or other big ticket visits.  My brother also became my roommate a few times on his summer breaks. 

But at that time, my parents lived in Wisconsin, a good five to six hour drive away from me.  Last minute visits were rare, so I was able to (mostly) live in my own little "grown-up" abode. 

Then I got my undies in a bunch and decided that I really needed my "own" place.  As the housing market was hot, I hopped right on the crazy train and purchased a townhouse of my very own.  I reasoned that it would be an excellent investment as I would only be building equity with each monthly payment.  Little did I know that major market changes were on the horizon, but that is part of a different story.

For several more years, I lived out my life in relative solitude.  This is not to say that I was a hermit, but I did have some strong home-body tendencies.  I could spend entire weekends at home with good books and/or movies and have no contact with the outside world.

Then my parents moved back to Minnesota.  Shortly thereafter, my brother died unexpectedly.  These two separate and unrelated changes led to me spending more time away from my house.  My parents initially lived in my grandfather's condo, but eventually their Wisconsin house sold and they bought a house of their own here in Minnesota. 

The next major event that led me to continue spending weekends away from my own house was the addition of a puppy to my parents' household.  I had long been wanting a dog of my own, but I felt that my schedule and lifestyle would not properly accommodate one.  Pippi satisfied my puppy longings, and her cuteness and terrier tenacity kept me coming back every week.

By the time Thor came around, I was already hooked, but he solidified my need to leave my hermit habits behind for a time.

When I made the decision to attend graduate school, I finally found a legitimate reason to stay at my parents' house on a regular basis.  My townhouse is located in an outer suburb which makes travel a bit of a chore to certain places.  To be clear, the commute from my house to school was in excess of an hour.  The commute from my parents' house to school was about 20 minutes.  The math makes sense.

Finally, last February, I adopted Lena.  Combining dog ownership with graduate school was a bit of a scary decision, but I went ahead with it anyway.  Luckily I had my parents and their hospitality to help me handle the transition.  It was also helpful for Lena as it allowed her steady access to a fenced yard to encourage her free-range requirements that cannot be met in my townhome development.

But now, school is done.  I have a dog of my own, so there is not as much of a need for me to get my puppy-fix elsewhere.  Hence, I can now contemplate a return to my more hermit-like ways.  Is this good or bad?  Time will tell.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Technology be trippin' yo

I have a little gripe to get out of the way while it is still fresh in my mind.  As I am becoming a seasoned veteran of the job application process, I am learning that some employers use more sophisticated methods than may be useful.

In the case of my most recent adventure, I found an archives-related job in an interesting location at a university, so I decided to apply.  This university utilizes one of those online submission programs that has you fill in all of your information to create a profile, upload your documents and then submit everything.

This specific job had three "special" questions attached to it to determine qualification.  The first two were archive and education related, and the third was about supervisory experience.  I was able to answer yes to the first two, but I had to say no to the third.  True, there was an option for "No Response," but I decided that honesty was best. 

I reasoned that the hiring committee would be willing to at least take a look at my information because I was at least over 50% qualified.  Besides, the position was for an ASSISTANT Archivist, not the head of a department.  After answering the questions, the program let me proceed to add my resume, cover letter and list of references. 

So far, so good, right?  Well.  As soon as I hit the final submit button to get my confirmation number, the site informed me that I would not advance to consideration because I did not meet all of the qualifications.  Seriously?  They could not have told me this BEFORE I went to the trouble to write a carefully worded cover letter? 

In a less technologically advanced situation, I might have been given some consideration.  They would have been able to review my education and work experience to see that while I have technically never supervised anyone, I have PLENTY of experience in a group work environment and am perfectly capable of training and keeping track of people. 

This brings me back to one of my fundamental frustrations.  Many if not most of the "good" job openings require some level of experience (which I do not yet have - in the library field).  So first of all, how does one go about getting into a supervisory position without any supervisory experience?  And since when does having experience mean that you are any good at it?  There are tons of terrible managers out there, but apparently they are better qualified than me for every single job in the world because they can point to this in their employment history. 

Never mind that I have done exemplary work in all areas of my life.  Who cares?  Never mind that I had to take an entire class on how to be a successful library manager.  It apparently means nothing.

So I am a little bitter at the moment, if you cannot tell.  Having an automated message inform you that no real human is even going to read your carefully written submission is more than disheartening.  It is downright insulting. 

In other more positive news, I have signed up to be a judge for History Day.  As a former participant, I never really considered that I could be qualified to be a judge.  Of course, I do possess a B.A. in history and I also now have a Master's degree.  Oh, and I do love to evaluate things.  It is also a wonderful feeling to complete an application and not be rejected immediately upon submission.  So I guess I am 1-1 for the day.  I suppose that is good enough for now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood

Sadly, I believe that I am now fully re acclimated to the work environment.  Never mind that I slept through my alarm this morning for a whopping 30 minutes of non-snooze-button-sanctioned dozing.  Don't worry, I still got out the door in time.

If there is one thing that I believe helps me through my morning drudgery, it is my new Nespresso machine.  It was a graduation gift from my parents, and I have used it every single morning that I have awoken in my own home.  Lest you confuse this machine with its more well-known associate, the Keurig, let me set you straight.  The Nespresso does not make latte's.  It does not make chai.  It does not make hot chocolate.  It makes espresso. 

There is a difference here, people.  Not that I am knocking the multi-functional nature of other single-serve machines, but we are talking seriously high quality with this here device.  It is sexy and sleek.  The espresso pods must be ordered online and have fancy names like "Fortissimo Lungo" and "Roma."  No Dunkin' Donuts K-Cups here, nosiree!

You may be thinking that I am silly to forsake all other coffees in favor of espresso.  Honestly, if you found a way to travel back in time 15 years and tell 16 year-old barista Megan that she would one day love to drink espresso every morning, she would have laughed you out the door.  It was hard enough for me to work in a few drops of espresso into my hot chocolates without making a face. 

So what has happened?  Well, if you asked my grandmother (which you can't because she is dead), she would tell you it is because I grew up.  This is the woman who drank instant coffee (the crystal stuff) every day.  I remember going to the grocery store with her as a child and sampling coffee only to be horrified by its bitterness.  When I inquired as to why anyone would willingly drink this beverage, my grandmother informed me that it was an "acquired taste."

How does that work?  Does anyone know?  How did I bring this habit upon myself?  Is it due to the influence of my mother and her love of lattes?  Is it because I spent my working adolescence in coffee shops?  Or is it just because I am old?

In other news, I have made the decision to spread my job search net a bit wider.  That's right, I have applied for positions in Nebraska and North Dakota.  Before you question my sanity, hear my reasoning.  As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am aware that many people cringe at the thought of living in the "flyover states."  However, as a Minnesotan, I am aware that some people make a deeper distinction, especially when it comes to the flat states. 

It is for those very reasons that I hope my interest and applications will receive greater attention and consideration.  Not only am I willing to relocate; I am willing to move to the lands of zero elevation.  On the plus side, I am already technically a Midwesterner and the potential culture shock should not be quite as significant.

So now that I have sent a whole new batch of applications out into the world (I really should come up with a total "to date" count to illustrate how many times I have tried), I must play the waiting game and still keep and eye out for new prospects.  If you see any good jobs pop up in Hawaii, just let me know.  I know they are dying to have a pasty white Minnesota girl come and tell them all about Dewey Decimal, yo.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Comforting myself

I believe that it is a true sign of maturity when one can calm one's own nerves effectively.

My vacation is over.  It was not exotic and I did not see anything new or do anything crazy or stupid.  I did not fly anywhere in an airplane.  I did test my limits of family interaction, but I have survived mostly unscathed. 

One of the most difficult things about taking time off is facing the inevitable return to work.  For me, the hardest aspect of this is that I must alter my sleeping schedule back to the ridiculous alarm time of 5:30 a.m.  The night before is the worst; I sit in bed anxiously remembering all of the things I so blissfully pushed out of my head while I was on break.

Last night, sleep finally came sometime after midnight.  But it did not last, readers, it did not last.  I awoke every hour until I finally opened my eyes to read that my clock was at 5:15 a.m.  Normally, I make use of my snooze button a few times every morning.  But after the first one ended at 5:35, I decided to break the habit (for today) and get up a little earlier. 

With a heavy sigh, I swung my feet down to the floor as Lena joyfully leaped from the bed.  If only I could muster up her enthusiasm for the day!  Next, I trudged like a weary soldier through my morning routine to the marching tune of "I hate my job, I hate my job."  When I finally made it to the shower, I stopped my chant to think about my day from a different perspective. 

You see, it isn't really that I hate my job.  It is more that I am frustrated and ready to move on to a new job, and every day that I spend in my old one is a reminder that I have not yet achieved my goal.  Never mind that I have had my MLIS degree for only two weeks so far.  Plus, I really do enjoy seeing and speaking with my coworkers, and I knew that once I got back into the swing of things and took up those relationships again, I would feel better.

And you know what?  I was right. 

Even though my job search is far from over, my dating life is stuck in reverse and my house still looks like a disaster zone; it will be OK.  At least for today.  If you ask me about this tomorrow at 5:30 a.m., I might have a different response.