Friday, June 27, 2008

Me, Me, Me!

First, an update. I'm pursuing all kinds of leads on the job front, some more promising than others. I might even stay put, but change departments if such an offer comes through. Keeping all options open, as they say... I'm reasonably hopeful that something will materialize.

At any rate, this little episode kind of blind-sided me, both professionally AND emotionally. I made a vow to myself lo, these fifteen-plus years ago that I would never again let anything or anyone except me determine who I was--I would never wrap my self-image in any particular person or any particular job. And when the announcement that they were dissolving my department came down last week, I was stunned to realize just how much of my self-worth I had invested in my position, and how bereft I felt at the thought that I could no longer claim that title. It was weird. In my worst moments, I was feeling like a fraud--I'm a good editor (although don't expect me to edit my own deathless prose... I have no eye for my own foibles), but I always worried that I was a bit laid back and type-B to be an effective manager. I had to remind myself rather vehemently that even without the title, I had the skill set, the experience, the track-record. And then I heard something through the grapevine that made me feel a bit better: that one of my former reports who had moved to another department said that I was the best manager she had ever worked for--that I was kind and patient, and that she tried hard to do good work for me, not because I demanded it, but because I expected it. Wow. Maybe the world can use more type-B managers...

At any rate, in keeping with the title of this post, I'm going to be completely self-centered and haughty and post three pictures of me from the 80s and 90s that I like a lot. They are of me in my habitat, if not at the time the photo was snapped, then at some time in the increasingly distant past.

In chronological order...

Here I am in about 1985 (note bright yellow Reebok hi-top Freestyles... SO mid-80s!) in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. The gentleman is Charlie, who was the lead guitar player in the band my ex had fronted back in Syracuse. He came to visit us in San Francisco, and I went into full tour-guide mode. Man, was I ever the booster for that city! I just loved hiking the hills and strolling the parks, and I think I generally walked all my victims'--I mean, guests'--legs off! Just ask Jeff, whom I regaled with all my tours within the span of a few short days about a decade after this picture was taken. I still have that shirt, by the way, but it has seen better days. I love it, though, and so I keep it, threadbare as it is! The Reeboks? I no longer have those.

Who's that behind those Foster Grants? Why, it's me again. Although those are Rayban Wayfarers. This was taken at a statuary yard on Melrose in Hollywood, back around 1989 when I was splitting my time between San Francisco and LA. I'm not a fan of LA, as most of you know, but I like this photo. The cheesy milk-maid and Venus statues, the shy Virgin Mary, the white lawn jockey... I was letting my hair grow out, trying to affect that Veronica Lake peek-a-boo coif. I never felt that I fit into the whole Angelino look, but I believe I pulled it off in this snap.

And here I am in Boston, in 1990, six years after my brief residence there. I had given up trying to be the brunette Veronica Lake and had gotten a short, loosely waved bob instead. I was visiting friends, who took me to the bocce courts along the Charles River to show me how to play. The gentleman in the photo was one of the regulars at the court who took a shine to me and wanted to take over as my bocce coach! I was the only female on the courts, and given the attention I received I got the distinct impression that I was the only female who had ventured onto the courts in quite some time! Heh!

I look back at those pictures and I think how far I've come from there. I may have looked happy and self-assured but I was struggling. I didn't know who I was, really. I am much more comfortable in my own skin now than I was then... despite the fact that there is more of me for that skin to cover than there used to be. Even with the layoff, I'm happy with who I am. Not complacent. But happy to be me, where I am, with my true countertop (that's an in-joke). And that's quite a gift.

Thanks for indulging me! I promise I will post something a tad less self-absorbed next time! And maybe one day I'll see a recent picture of me that I like enough to post here. But don't hold your breath. Heh.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Losing My View...

I snapped this photo from my office window back in the spring, after I found out that my employers were planning to renovate the building and my department would be moved to an entirely different part of the "campus." I love the crab apple tree when it blossoms, and the whole scene looks lovely at every time of the year. I'm so fortunate to have landed that office! But alas, I AM losing the view and the office, and not to the renovation. I've lost my job.

Yep... come the middle of July, I will turn out the light in that office with the lovely view and head off to... well, a new job, I hope! Or maybe a few weeks of rest and relaxation and interviews before taking up the career cudgel again.

Ah, the joys of right-sizing! My entire department was dissolved and its responsibilities shifted to the Boston office. This despite our proven track-record of sweeping adoptions. Oh well.

One of the ironies of this situation is that Jeff and I were just this past Sunday regaling some old high school chums of mine, Rob and Shary, and their delightful daughter Ginny, with stories of educational publishing over bits of flaming cheese in a Greektown taverna (and they were regaling us with anecdotes of vodka swilling and cow-head stewing experienced while visiting Ginny during her Peace Corps posting to Azerbaijan). And lest you think educational publishing is not nearly as exciting a topic as drunken hi jinx and ew-factor food in western Asia (and you'd be right...), all three of our audience work or have worked in education, so there was common interest! I hope! At any rate, it was a wonderful lunch. And since Ginny is staying in Chicago for a while, I hope we will be able to repeat the experience again!

For all my pals who may read this and worry--I don't think this will turn out to be all that dire. I have to admit that I've been rapid-cycling emotionally through all the phases: denial, anger, sadness, etc., etc.--so much so that I sometimes think my head is literally spinning, but I'm starting to cycle closer and more often toward acceptance. I have some promising leads. I'm good at what I do; I know the vagaries of major adoption state standards; books I've edited and projects I've managed have returned millions of bucks into the coffers of my soon-to-be erstwhile employer. So I should find something. I might even try my hand at freelancing again, should the opportunities arise. This might actually be a blessing in disguise.

Anyway, if you're so inclined, spare a positive thought or two or three for me! I'll keep you posted on developments!

Oh, and any of you who might by chance run into my mom... I haven't told her yet, so mum's the word. I'll break it to her gently, probably soon, but I'd like to solidify some of those leads a bit before I do. She'll worry, and I want to spare her that for a while. (By the way, she's a technophobe, so there is zero chance she will read this!)

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Stellar Customer Service

Okay, I know I've been rather slow to blog lately. There is no excuse for this. I've just been lazy is all.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my friend Erin posted about some really crappy customer service she received when she tried to change the date for a truck rental. I'm sure we all can empathize: call, get put on hold, get cut off, rinse, repeat and repeat and repeat. And it seems that in recent years so much of what passes for customer service is so bad that we just expect it. Sigh.

But in the last month or so, I've been the recipient of TWO (count 'em!) instances of great customer service, and I want to give credit where credit is due.

The first award goes to Midwest Bags. Ever since I got my laptop at work, I've been scouting out a nice, practical but chic bag for it. Oh, the powers that be give you a bag with the laptop, but it is black, and ugly, and heavy as all get out. The only good thing I can say about is that it can slip over the expandable handle of a rolling suitcase so you don't have to schlep it around the airport on your shoulder. Except, of course, when you check your rolly bag. Anyway, I knew I was going to have to fly out of state for focus tests, so I hoped against hope I could find something acceptable.

And then I saw it! A colleague had this very cool red leather rolling laptop bag! This was it, although I hesitated to covet the red leather... didn't want to be a copycat or anything. She was happy to tell me all the wonderful things about the bag. It's a McKlein bag--Chicago made!--and the model is Glen Ellyn, named for a Chicagoland suburb. Not cheap, but it's a beauty! It has the rollers, or you can zip them off and carry it if you wish. It has a cushy interior sleeve for the computer and lots of room for other stuff (files, books, iPods, etc.). Anyway, I did some searching and found the best price here, with free shipping even! And check out the colors!! Aqua!! That's the bag for ME!

Just one problem...I found it on Monday evening while surfing at home, and the trip began on Thursday morning. Overnight shipping was REALLY expensive. I ordered it anyway, but resigned myself to schlepping the ugly black bag this go-round. But guess what? I had it on WEDNESDAY! With free shipping, it took fewer than two days!! That's what I call GREAT service!

The second award goes to FedEx. I ordered some furniture the other day and, while half of it has been back-ordered until July, part of the order arrived today via FedEx (luckily, today was one of my "summer Fridays," a perk we get at work for putting in more hours the other days for a couple of weeks, so I was home to receive it). It was delivered just a little after noon, and when the doorbell rang, I headed down to sign for it. I was planning on having the guy haul the box (long, flattish, and heavy--this is the kind of furniture you put together yourself) into the interior foyer. I figured that Jeff and I could work together to get it up the stairs when he got home.

But when I told the delivery guy my plan, he said, "I'll take it upstairs for you, no problem!" and he hauled the thing up to the second floor and even put it in our hallway, where it will rest until I get around to unboxing and assembling it (i.e., until who knows when...).

I was stunned! Who does that anymore? Well, this particular FedEx guy, obviously! He said it was his pleasure, and that he was just glad to find someone at home on a weekday!

So... my hat's off to Midwest Bags and to FedEx for providing stellar customer service--above and beyond the call of duty!

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Our Only Fan

Jeff and I have been spending our evenings of late (well, a portion of them) playing Irish jigs and reels--he on the mandolin and tenor banjo and I on my spiffy new guitar:

It's the same kind of guitar we bought Greg for Christmas--a Washburn D10S. A dreadnought. Which means a honkin' BIG guitar. I'm kind of dwarfed by it, actually (although some would say that I'm dwarfed by just about everything...). It's a nice, loud instrument!

Anyway, Shelly (who, alas, is starting to show her age as a geriatric 14-year-old feline) will come sauntering in, hideous sock toy in her jaws, about two or three songs into our repertoire. She will sit on the floor in front of us, watching and listening, for another song or two. At some point during those songs, she drops the hideous sock toy (sometimes in my open guitar case), and ambles over to the sofa. She launches herself up on the arm thereof and settles herself in for the rest of the set, purring loudly enough for us to hear between songs. It's really funny, because in her whole life she hasn't shown much interest in music, except for Laika and the Cosmonauts. Well, we're playing stuff like "Kesh Jig" and "Old Hag You Have Killed Me" instead of "Aztec Two-Step" and "The Man from H.U.A.C.," but to her, I think there must be SOME connection!

An aside... a couple of months ago when Jeff was in Boston on business, I hauled the guitar out to practice by myself. It didn't take but two or three chord changes before Shelly loped into the room, all happy and expecting, it appeared, to find that Jeff was home. When she didn't see him, she was visibly disappointed. (Don't ask me how I know when the cat is disappointed. It's really obvious.) Anyway, she did me the favor of listening to me plink away on my lonesome!

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