Monday, December 30, 2013

Gifts

It's always a challenge to find Christmas gifts for Mom.  Not only does she not want anything she tries to get rid of the stuff she does have by giving it to me whenever I visit.  Plus she always pleads with me not to spend any money on her. But I really want her to have wrapped packages to open, so I'm always determined to find something.

Every year I get her a Robert Tuckwiller calendar (he paints lovely landscapes of the area of Virginia where we are from).  So that's an easy one.

This year I got her a pretty Marjolein Bastin bluebird refrigerator magnet from Hallmark.  She had a bunch of photos and magnets and things on her refrigerator when she lived in Gainesville, but now her frig is a small one and somehow nothing ever got put on it. She seemed really happy with the little decoration.

A bestselling book from a few years ago (Wish You Well by David Baldacci) has been made into a movie that was filmed in Giles County, where I'm from.  Part of it was actually filmed on the tiny little road where I grew up, right down the street from our house, in the old abandoned one-room building that was my father's school.  (Don't picture the school in the Waltons, that's too modern - picture the one in Little House on the Prairie.)  My cousin's young daughter (whom I've never actually met) is an extra as one of the schoolchildren.  The movie is completed but hasn't been released yet.

I found a copy of the book that meets Mom's requirements: it's a trade paperback but it's not too heavy, and even thought it's not actually Large Print it's easy to read.  Inside the book I put a pretty pink and lavender bookmark, and Mom's started reading it already.

I also bought her a small box of chocolates that had whole hazelnuts inside.  She just loves hazelnuts.

So she had several pretty packages to open and she seemed genuinely delighted with each of the gifts.  We opened presents in her apartment on Christmas Eve and then went to my sister's house for a lovely lunch on Christmas Day (roast chicken, green beans with almonds, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, carrots and homemade pecan pie that consisted primarily of butter, Karo syrup and brown sugar).  We all ate too much, and Mom took home a leftover piece of pie.

It was a lovely holiday visit.  I am aware that I get too caught up in trying to make sure everything is perfect for Mom, and often having Greg there makes it even worse because instead of letting him help me I just add to the pressure by feeling like I have to make sure everything is perfect for him, too.  Being aware of my tendency to get too stressy makes it a little easier to cut it out when I see it starting, so I think I did a pretty good job this time of just relaxing and enjoying the time with Mom.

It's been too long since I've visited her, and I want to go again within the next couple of months.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Little Sketch of Niceness

From a tumblr blog called 'please stop being sad':



I'm going to try to remember this more often.  Things are really going well, right now.  The only one causing me stress is me, putting pressure on myself to do more.

:)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Six Years Ago Today

I grew up with a father who was impressive.  I grew up watching other adults treat him with respect and admiration.

He grew up in a very rural area on a road that had just a few years earlier been a cow path.  He was born in his parent's house and had three sisters and two brothers.  When he graduated high school he decided he wanted to go to college, and he got a job and joined the ROTC and made it happen.  He was the first in the family to go to college, and the last for decades.  Actually, counting immediate family… until me.

The nearest university was Virginia Polytechnic Institute, which was two mountains away and might as well have been on the moon.  He went to the only car dealership around and talked the salesman into giving him a car to go to college.  He promised he'd pay for it as he could, and he did pay it off.  He was then the first person on that mountain road to own a car.

From what I understand, he was kind of a terror zooming around in his car, but then again it may have just been the fact that there was an unfamiliar loud machine roaring around and scaring everyone's horses and mules.

He graduated college and joined the army and married my mother and they went around the country on Army bases.  During World War II he worked for the Adjutant General's office in Texas, and he told me once that he would sometimes go over the border into Mexico to find the men coming back from the war, who would be drunk in bars and in danger of missing their discharge processes. 

He and mom had a son and a daughter, and he left the military and went to work in a department store.  If it's true that people sometimes get stuck in one particular style, that 50's era was my dad's: he wore suits and ties and hats his whole life.  He eventually opened up his own ladies clothing stores, and went on buying trips to New York. 

He and mom had me in 1966, and decided, after spending their whole adult lives living in various cities around the country, to move back to that little road in the country.  The house he was born in had been torn down, and he bought land and built a little brick ranch house right next to where it had been.  One of his sisters lived next door, another lived down the street, and another lived a few miles away on a different mountain.  One brother lived nearby, and the other had died young in a coal mine.

By this time everyone had cars, but dad was (as far as I know) the only one who had moved away.  A lot of them had barely been off the mountain.  Dad would often drive people who needed to go into the city (Roanoke, more than an hour away) and weren't comfortable driving themselves.  What must that have been like for him, coming back after so many years?

He became a broker, and worked with companies setting up retirement plans and stock portfolios for their employees. He knew he would be retiring and wanted to have a job that would continue to provide income.  Despite the drastic career change, he was very good at it.  We shared an office in the house, filled with legal pads and giant leather books of tax codes and copies of the Wall Street Journal; he would use it during the day and I'd do my homework in it at night.

He was social and loved to be around people. Even when he was in his 90s and had lost a lot of his hearing and eyesight, you would never have known it; at his 92 birthday party he made the rounds, laughing with the adults and the children alike.  He was unfailingly kind, always turning the other cheek and looking for the good in people.  He didn't like music. (Who doesn't like music?)  He read all the time, financial newspapers and magazines and Bible studies and Western novels.  He had many lifelong friends who were exceedingly loyal to him.  He loved his family.  He never spanked me.  I literally never once heard him yell.  I also never saw him laugh until he cried.  He always gave me good advice about clothes, and taught me how to look for good quality fabric and stitching and fit.  He gave me good financial advice, about saving and retirement plans and taxes.  In retrospect I can see that he tried to teach me how to get along with people, how to make them like me and how to be social; but my shyness and introversion prevented much success with that.

That was my dad.  He and my Mom were happy together for so many decades, and I was happy to have him for a father.  He had a long and seemingly happy life, dying suddenly with no illness and, I hope, no pain at the age of 92 at my mother's side.

The world is emptier without him.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Societal interpersonal cultural weirdities

There's a weird cultural dynamic going on in my office.  I am in the same part of the building as the IT department, and they contract a lot of guys from India.  (Honestly, this whole company is very culturally diverse with a lot of people from other countries, which is one of the things I like about it.)

It might be a cliché, but here it's true.  There are a couple of dozen Indian IT guys.  And they are all guys.

Our building has the typical locked door system where you have to buzz yourself in by unlocking the door with your ID card. The sensor thingie is not by the door, it's about 10 feet away, and on a pole around 2 feet off the ground.  I assume that's to be easily reachable by someone in a wheelchair, although I'm not really sure exactly why the sensor deal can't be right by the door itself.

So it happens occasionally that I reach the door, beep my ID on the sensor, take the three steps to the door and open it and realize that there is someone coming up behind me.  I hold the door open for them, they walk on through, they say, "Thanks!" and I say "Sure!" and we go our separate ways inside the building.

Except for those Indian guys.  They see me standing there holding the door wide open and they always, and I mean every-single-time-always, go over to the sensor, beep their ID card pointlessly, and then come over and attempt to take the door away from me so they can hold it open.

This just pisses me off.  I started holding the door but getting behind it, like opening it in front of me, so that they can't take it from me and they have to just stand in front of a gaping doorway looking uncomfortable until either they give up and walk through looking pitiful or I give up and give them the door.  They just looked SO sad and lost that despite the massive stupidity I actually started feeling bad about it, and so I stopped doing it.  I mean, politely drawing attention to somewhat strange or inappropriate social reactions is fine, I think, but I'm not trying to spread discomfort and sadness around.

But seriously, what exactly is the sexism going on here?  It's not that they are trying to be chivalrous and they think it's the man's job to be polite and hold the door.  (Still sexist, but possibly trying to be nice.)  And it's obviously not that they think I can't hold the door.  And what part, exactly, does beeping the ID card to 'unlock' a wide open door play in this whole cultural dynamic?  What's so wrong with their brains that they can't just walk through an open doorway?

Ugh.

I did receive my official certification, so yay for me.  There's a Workforce Analyst job open at a pretty cool company that I've been eyeing, but I feel guilty even thinking about applying for another job when they just paid nearly $4k to train me on the new technology that hasn't even been installed yet.  I swear, if it's still open next month after the holidays are over, I may just apply to see what happens.

Wonder if any men from India work there...


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Certification

I am so very happy to be back home, in my own house with my own bed and my own stuff.  I like my stuff.

This is the first time I've ever been on a business training trip, and it was interesting to me how many others in the class were taking it so much less seriously.  To be fair, many of them were already using this very technical forecasting/scheduling program when I've never even seen it before, so they probably felt less worried about taking the final test and becoming officially certified.  But if a company is paying $3,000 plus travel expenses to send you to a class, shouldn't you be a little concerned that it would be bad to fail?

I don't know, maybe part of it is that all of the responsibility for using this thing falls on me, I'm not part of a large department of people who can share info and help each other.  Either I figure it out and do it right, or it won't get done at all.

Maybe I'm becoming the lady who has a stick up her butt.  That's also possible.  The second to  last day we got through the end of the manual at noon, and almost everyone left.  The instructor laughed at the rest of us who stayed to get another four hours of practice and called us his over-acheivers.

More stick-up-the-butt evidence was my getting annoyed at the others in class who wanted to know the most expensive restaurants to go to so they could take full advantage of their expense accounts.  Three nights out of the five, I went back to my hotel room after class, connected to my work VPN on my work laptop and actually worked while eating room service that I spent $20 on.  Including the tip.  I mean, my company is stupidly profitable and I'm certainly not worried about it going under or even downsizing, but still.

The other two nights I went out with three IT people from my company who just happened to be there attending coding meetings that week.  There was the very quiet, very skinny 29-year old semi-redneck geek woman who listens to country music, drinks energy drinks and alcohol, smokes cigarettes, eats fast food, considers 6 hours a lot of sleep, and gets sick once or twice a month. There was the skinny 27-year old 6'5 Christian man who has Bible tattoos, piercing rings in his earlobes, refuses to go to Hooters because it's not moral, spends hours online gaming, and seems to make a genuine effort to be kind all the time.  Then there was their boss, a 50-something guy who has five kids, is going through a divorce, has a pacemaker, is overweight, doesn't wear a seat belt, and spends a lot of time smiling.  None of these people knew who Quentin Tarantino was, or Joseph Gordon Levitt, and seemed genuinely confused and slightly disturbed when I spoke (briefly) about my husband's awesome exploitation/grindhouse/horror movie website.  (which is this)

I tried very hard to be social enough to at least bring me up to a Normal Human level of interaction, without forcing myself to be so far out of my comfort zone that it ended up hurting me.  It's a fine line.

A third bit of stick-up-the-butt evidence was the way the class members and the instructor all talked down about call center agents.  Excuse me, the term was call center a couple of decades ago, now with emails and voicemails and chats the term is contact center.  Often someone would make a disparaging remark about how demanding the contact center agents were about their schedules, or how sneaky they were with trying to get away with misbehaving, or how needy they were in general. This also happened with Big Boss Guy, who told me how he had hired several members of his team from the contact center department, and laughed when he said that they were underused and misappropriated resources well above a contact center agent role.

I hate that. It's disrespectful. And even if it's true some of the time, it's not true all of the time, and in my personal opinion, not even a majority.  I need to figure out a kind, non-confrontational way to tell people who say those things to get their heads out of their asses and stop being snotty and mean.

In my contact center, the job is hard as hell. They are taking incoming calls, but from basically people who are being transferred from somewhere else, and they're not even sure why. The agents have to get enough info about the caller to determine if they can even afford our stuff, and if they can, they have to sell them a vacation to take a timeshare tour.

It's genuinely a good deal, there is absolutely no deception involved, it's a good value for the money and a worldwide luxury brand, but still.  It is timeshare telemarketing.  They get hung up on all day. They get told NO at least 90 to 95% of the time.  All day, every day.  It's really, really hard.

And dammit to hell, if they do a good job, they get PAID.  I wonder if Big Boss knows how much, because all those commissions and bonuses and incentives add up.  The actual hourly wage is a fraction of the income for the good ones. And the bad ones... get fired.  No pressure!

I try really hard to be nice to them, to help them out with their schedules/time off/whatever, if I can.  And they are so nice to me, too. They appreciate it, they express it, and they give me high-fives and side-hugs whenever I go to the call center.  I mean contact center.

Anyway, I am feeling better about my job in general.  I got a raise a few weeks ago, they just paid thousands to train me on this new thing, so I'm taking that to mean they are confident in me and my future with them, even though my actual boss is still as remote and non communicative as ever.

(He didn't even tell me about the raise, I went in and asked for one after my one year anniversary, and he told me "my stock was solid" with him and he would see what he could do.  The next month it just showed up on my paycheck.)

After being gone for a week, I'm kind of looking forward to going in and working at my cubicle tomorrow. Relatively speaking, of course.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Out of town

I'm in Indianapolis for work-related training.  Last Sunday night I flew up here and this afternoon I'm flying back to wonderful, warm, comforting Orlando.

It's so freaking cold here.  I went to Penny's and got a winter coat last weekend so I was prepared, but I just dislike it so much.  The way the cold wind scrapes across my face, my breath freezing in the air in front of me, people scraping ice off their cars, my nose running. Give me heat and humidity any day over this.

I'm taking a certification training class to learn the new workforce component of the fancy phone system that will be installed soon.  This dealie is replacing the system I have worked with for over a decade, and while there are many similarities it's not the same.  And nothing can replace having a buttload of experience; whenever anything weird happens in my current system I just know what to do, but now I'm starting all over from scratch.

It's okay.  I'm staying positive, or at least trying to.  And this time tomorrow I'll be back at home.

HOME.  *sigh*

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Quick Update with 2 NOLA pics

Mom is better.  Her side still hurts, but she can sleep and bathe and get around normally, just with extra pain and achiness.  She's been taking Bayer Back and Body aspirin for the pain, but she's going to try to stop taking it today.  It's not addictive, but she just hates taking anything.  Good grief.

Annoyingly, I sent her two New Orleans postcards and one greeting card stuffed with pics of me and Greg in New Orleans, and they all arrived on the same day.  I deliberately space out mailing things to her so that she'll get mail more often -- many days she gets nothing and it disappoints her, she so loves getting mail -- and very often they all arrive together.  I suppose I need to mail one thing, wait until she gets it, then mail the next thing.

Here are a couple of photos from New Orleans: the first is Jackson Square, Greg is talking to one of the artists. The second is one of at least two silver buskers we saw.  We regret not asking: Why silver?  Now we notice that there's even one in the new Popeye's commercial.

Jackson Square

Silver guy 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NOLA Art

One of the things I was most looking forward to in New Orleans was seeing artwork.  Finding art galleries in the French Quarter, seeing artists selling their work in Jackson Square and in the French Market.  

Most of the time it's possible to find good artwork without even spending too much money.  We have a small watercolor of the fountain in the Piazza Navona that I bought during my fam trip to Rome,  a print of a watercolor of umbrellas in the rain that we bought from the artist's wife on the street in Manhattan, and also a print of the art installation The Gates that we bought from the photographer in New York.

Traveling: if I'm doing it right, I'm buying artwork.  Preferably from the artists themselves, and hopefully inexpensively (I have nothing against a good quality print).

Board Meeting by Jose Balli
We saw this black and white painting -which is large in real life, maybe 3 feet across - from the street as we were walking past a jewelry store.  We went in and it turned out to be a jewelry store/art gallery:  Jose Balli.  I slightly regret not buying a print, although for an unframed unmatted print it was kind of expensive.


Sherry Dooley, Outsider Artist we met in Jackson Square. I loved her work, which manages to be emotional, dark and yet pretty.  I bought a tiny print on a painted board of this painting:

Lucy Walks At Midnight by Sherry Dooley

I found an art gallery collective called RHINO (Right Here In New Orleans), and bought an original collage card made by an artist in her 90's.  How cute is this card?  She even glued a tiny pearl in the oyster.

Collage card by Bluma K

We also met J Hurt in Jackson Square.  He doesn't seem to have a website, but here is his Facebook page.  He had this one on display, he told us it was made with flyers from the House of Blues (I think it's funny that there's a Dave Attell one in the upper corner, he's a comedian, not a musician, but Greg and I are both big fans of his.)

not sure of the title, artist J Hurt

But the one artist who really blew us away was David Harouni.  We just came across his gallery wandering around the French Quarter, and it kind of ruined us for other artwork for a while, we'd walk past other galleries and not want to go in because we were still too full of David Harouni's art.  We bought nothing, because he only had original works for sale, and no prints or anything remotely affordable for us.  Oh, if only we had a few thousand dollars to spend on artwork.

not sure of the title, artist David Harouni
This is one of the paintings we saw that day in his gallery.  It's also quite large and much more impressive in person rather than looking at a 100k jpg image.  We spoke to him for a few minutes, he was nice but busy.  He had his easel and paints set up and had one large painting in progress, next to two boxers sleeping curled up together on a doggie bed.

We bought some cool art, saw some cool art, met some cool artists, so I'll call that part of our trip a success.




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Worrying

Mom fell yesterday.  She's not hurt badly, at least it doesn't seem like she is.  She was trying to bend over to get something out of a cabinet and lost her balance.  She fell and hit her back against the cabinet door.

She has a bruise on her ribs.  She doesn't want to see a doctor, and this time I think I agree with her.  Hopefully it's not the case, but even if her rib was cracked or broken, there's not much they can do, and going through a trip to the hospital and having an x-ray would be so hard on her.  She said it doesn't hurt to breathe, but it does hurt.

She told me not to worry about her.  But there is so much to worry about: what if she does have a broken rib, what if more damage is done, what if it gets worse, what if she's in too much pain, what if she tries to do too much without asking for help and it won't heal.  I didn't say any of that, I just made her promise to be still and ask for help to get dressed/undressed/etc.  I wish I could be with her to help her myself.

Sometimes I just feel so selfish, living where I want to live instead of being there where she needs me.  Sometimes it feels so awful to think that she is paying strangers to take care of her.

I hope she sleeps better tonight.


 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just Me And My Baby

We went to New Orleans, and now we are back.

We decided the easiest thing to do would be to take the weekend to get ready, go on Monday morning, come back on Friday afternoon, and then have another weekend to recover.  I kind of admire people who just come to work with their suitcase in the trunk, go directly from the office to the airport, then come back from the airport to the office.  That's commitment to maximizing their travel time.  I once had a co-worker who did that, seemingly thoughtlessly, as though to do it any other way would waste time and be wrong.  Although she came back with a cold or a sinus infection or the flu almost every single time.

I'm feeling kind of low right now, which is probably a combination of post-vacation letdown, allergies making me tired, and the ugly gray weather. 

We had a great time in New Orleans, despite the rain there.  I agonized over whether to take my Nikon DSLR, trying to balance my desire to take photos with my desire not to carry around a heavy camera, but in the end I took it.  The rain kept me from using it much, I was only able to take it out for a half of one day.  I did also take a few hundred pics with my iPhone.  I'm still sorting through them all and will post some soon.

Our main goals for experiencing New Orleans were to eat great local food, go to bookstores and art galleries, and hear live music.  We definitely accomplished that.  We also wanted to get away, which we rarely do; away from work and responsibilities and normal everyday life.  Staycations are nice, but it's kind of a gyp when I am on "vacation" and yet still need to wash dishes and do laundry.

Culinary highlights were crawfish beignets and an alligator sausage po boy on Leidenheimer bread at the Market Café with a live band playing, a half muffaletta from Central Grocery which we shared at a table in a courtyard near the French Market area, jambalaya at Napoleon House, gumbo and boudin balls at a French Quarter restaurant called New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Co. (our dinner was highlighted by a parade, we were eating upstairs when we heard the drums and we ran outside onto the balcony to watch it go by and they threw candy up to us).

We also had non-Creole or Cajun food twice: once we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in the Quarter, it was delicious but the best part was taking the leftover margarita in a Go cup and walking around drinking.  Oh, New Orleans.  And once we had perfectly cooked medium rare hamburgers at the Wow Café on Canal Street; the hamburgers were the best part, but we did enjoy our dinner entertainment provided by the loud, laughing drunky people at the table next to us.

On the way there I made one rule: there are so many wonderful restaurants, we were absolutely not allowed to go back to the same place more than once, no matter how much we loved it.  We broke that rule immediately by having our first breakfast at The Ruby Slipper, which was both right by our hotel and completely delicious.  We ended up eating breakfast there every day but once (we had café au lait and beignets at the Café Du Monde for breakfast one day), enjoying barbecue shrimp and grits, poached eggs with pork debris, their own local coffee blend, two musicians playing on the street right outside, and the really nice waitress who wrote out a list of things for us to be sure to see and do.

My blog title is from the theme song to Treme, which we starting watching a few weeks ago.  It's so good, filmed on location in New Orleans, and now we are especially loving watching it and spotting places we've been.  The theme song is really catchy, and was playing in my head while I was there.

"Down in the Treme
Just me and my baby
We're all going crazy
Buck jumping and having fun"
~John Boutte


Hey look, the sun is out!  I can't seeeee!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Superman



His melancholy head tilt is deceptive, he's actually
looking at a kitty on the floor and making scritchy noises
on the couch to get her to jump up beside him

He's gone from weighing 240 pounds to 160.

He's gone from not exercising to being a runner.

He's gone from never seeing a dentist in his life to having a dental routine that includes an electric toothbrush, flossing, mouthwash and twice-yearly dentist visits.

He's gone from daily back pain and daily giant ibuprofen pills to daily back-strengthening exercises, and maintenance chiropractor visits a couple of times a year.

He's gone from never seeing a doctor to having yearly checkups and taking daily vitamins/supplements (not to mention impressing the doctor with his weight loss and the improvement in his back:  "I tell people to lose weight and exercise, but they never actually DO it").

He's gone from being a fan of exploitation and horror movies to being the webmaster of his own popular genre website.

He's gone from saying he doesn't know how to write to having his reviews sought out by movie companies and quoted on DVD boxes/ads.

He's inspiring.  He takes care of himself in a way that his parents never did, he created a website that is respected in the industry, he works hard every day to be a healthy, creative person, in addition to working hard every day at a stressful, unrewarding full time job.

He's my sweetie, and on October 1 we will have been married ten years.  I can honestly say that he is more handsome, healthier and cooler now that he was then.  And I love him even more.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Waiting

Rainy afternoon
For Greg to get off work, so we can drive home in our little orange and be cozy inside our home, making dinner together and watching tv and petting kitties and sharing those little moments that make up our lives.

I really like that we can carpool together now.  He drives our little orange to his office, then I drive to mine, and I go back and get him in the afternoon.  Sometimes he ends up having to stay late, and I'll sit in our car reading my Kindle.  I have to admit, I like those moments.  Greg always feels terrible when I end up waiting for him, but it's kind of relaxing to know that I can't do anything but hang out and read.  I can't clean the kitchen, or return emails, or hang up clothes, or sort through all those handwritten family letters that belonged to my late uncle, or scrub the shower, or any of the other zillion things that are constantly banging around in the back of my head.  I like it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our Little Orange

Well, it was sure nice not to have any car payments, and to have two cars that were paid off.  But then Greg's Matrix had to have the transmission replaced, so...

Anyway, now we have a new car payment, but we LOVE our new little car.  It's a 2013 Prius C, which is the smallest Prius.  We average around 60 miles per gallon each day on our commute.  We took lil' orange up to Georgia on our road trip to visit Mom, and got around 45 miles per gallon.  Plus, it connects to our iPhones with bluetooth, and being able to use the car to make/receive a phone call or listen to music we stream from an app is the coolest thing ever.

Why orange?  We picked it out online and the color was called Habanero, which looked red.  Then we saw it, and it's not red.  I was kind of appalled, but Greg loved it immediately, and it really grew on me.  It's certainly easy to spot in a parking lot!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

The weekend before last Greg and I went to GA to visit Mom.

She seems to be doing really well, overall.  She gets tired easily, but we still went and had lunch at IHOP one day, and Red Lobster another.  She seems to be doing pretty well in the assisted living place, although the food there has gotten markedly worse in the past few months.  This was my third visit, and the first where I thought the food wasn't good at all, ever.

Mom really, really didn't want us to complain about it on her behalf, and she's hoping it gets better when they finish some building renovations they're in the middle of.  I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it, but I suppose it's possible.  My sister keeps taking her things like grapes and bananas and snacks and ice cream, so whenever the food is really terrible Mom just comes back to her apartment and eats.

It was wonderful to give Mom hugs, and to tell her that I love her, and to find little things to do for her around her apartment, and to just hang out with her reading the paper or watching tv.

It's always so hard to leave.  I'm hoping I can work it out to go for another quick visit before Greg and I both go back for Christmas.

Last weekend I had to work on Sunday, because I do a payroll report that has to be turned in on the first.  Regardless of what day of the week the first is, or if it's on a holiday weekend.  I didn't stay the whole day, so it wasn't too bad, I guess.

The days are counting down for our trip to New Orleans.  I am getting into listing mode:  I have lists of things to pack, restaurants to go to, sights to see.  We just started watching Treme, and so far we like it a lot.  It's a typically well-made HBO series, but it is actually filmed in New Orleans, and focuses quite a lot on music.

Sometimes I think the looking forward in anticipation part is the best part.  :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Antjoy

It was pure joy, seeing Adam Ant perform live, singing along and dancing in the front row.  It was the best concert I've ever seen (and I've seen Prince four times), and it was one of the best nights of my life.
My Sweetie-Pants, wearing Adam's concert t-shirt
that we bought last year
I really am still amazed that he's back.  He seemed irretrievably lost for so long.  Several years ago I told Greg that Adam Ant would never be back, he'd never release another album or go on another American tour, but I told Greg that if a miracle ever happened and he did a concert in America, we'd do whatever it took to get to wherever it was, even if it meant buying airline tickets and a hotel and traveling across the country.  It won't happen, though, I said.



This is my profile picture on Facebook
And now he is really and truly back.  He looked so good in concert, he performed without stopping for two hours, dancing all over the stage and interacting with the audience and smiling.  He sounded great and looked happy.  

I smiled the whole time.  I was in the front row again (although not quite in the center) and I swear Adam looked right at me several times.  Whenever he did I would forget the words of whatever song he was performing.  The band was great, and again, he did so many of the old punky songs, including several album cuts (and not including several actual hits, which in my opinion are pop blandness, relatively speaking, and Adam must think that too, I think).

The audience was largely middle-aged, which is fine, and many of them were dressed up, which was really cool, and all of them were on their feet dancing and singing for the whole two hours, which was like a religious experience.  At one point I told Greg that I loved them all, the whole audience.  Antpeople!

A new royal family, a wild nobility.  We are the family!
Antmusic for sexpeople
One of the main things that keeps playing over and over in my head is his performance of Shrink, one of the best songs on his new album.  It's about the time he spent in mental hospitals, in therapy, being medicated.  He pantomimed being punched in the head, in the crotch, and staggering around drugged and disoriented.  

A fist in the skull is worth two in the bush
You feeling lucky right now
Or does your brain need a push?

Is it me or is it just medication?

Good Morning mister, how's it been?
Your daily bread's a daily sin
Look at the mighty how they fall
I have the shots but it's your call
Your fifty minutes is up up up up

Woooo!

We saw several of the same people that were at last year's concert, including a woman from North Carolina who was driving around to all of his concerts in the southeast, and a teenager who was dressed head-to-toe like Adam's Kings of the Wild Frontier look.  

He took off more and more clothing as the concert went on...
The two hours went by way too quickly.  When the encore was over and the lights came on, Greg and I walked over to the side as instructed.  He stayed with me as long as he could, helping me stick the Meet and Greet ID on my blouse and put fresh batteries in my camera.   I know he hated to leave me because I'm sure he could tell how freaked out I was.  I wasn't even exactly nervous, I was just overwhelmed and really kind of numb.
My ID stuck on my envelope protecting the items to be signed.
Also, I had on special occasion nail polish!

Then he left, and they started taking the 20 or so Meet and Greet people upstairs.  I got my Meet and Greet goodie bag, which consisted of a pretty cool cotton Adam Ant tote bag, a magnet, an autographed photo, a patch and a badge.

The guy I knew from my internet research must be Alex came out and gave us a friendly little speech about how many items we could get autographed and how it would work, and asked us to line up.  I was fifth.

Then Adam Ant came in.  He glanced around the room and when he looked at me, I looked away.  They didn't rush people through, but things moved pretty quickly, and soon it was my turn.

I gave my camera to Alex.  The signing area in front of the room was a step up, and I stepped up.  Adam gave me a quick hug and a little kiss on the cheek.  I got so freaked out I forgot I was holding my glasses, I never did put them on.  
The worst picture anyone's ever taken.  :(

We posed for two photos, which have to be the two worst photos of anyone in the history of people.  
I posted this one on Facebook, and a friend
commented that I look like I'm about to cry. 


Then he asked my name, and he started signing my stuff.  
See my glasses in my hand? 

I'm so glad you are back, I told him.  I love your music, I love your new album, and I'm just so happy to see you in concert again.  And your performance tonight was even more awesome than when you were here last year.

Thank you, he said.

Then he gave me another quick hug and a kiss on the cheek, and I stepped down.

Luckily the Hard Rock Live is well-staffed and organized, and they led me down the hall and into the elevator and around the side and out the door.

Greg was sitting on a step outside, waiting for me.  When he saw me he stood up and gave me a quiet hug, and I only sobbed a little.

It's taken me forever to write this post, at first because I was still so freaked out.  I swear, it took me a week to get to the point where I didn't tear up every time I even thought about it.  I cried at little at my desk at work a few times.

I remain overwhelmed.  I'm still trying to shove this experience into me, into who I am, into my world view and my history and my story.  It just meant so much.  I've done a terrible job of explaining it.

Waiting for Adam.
SO HAPPY.







Friday, August 2, 2013

Antfan.

I haven't written about this, because I am freaked out about it.  Sometimes I'm giddy and happy and can't wait, and sometimes I'm nervous and a little frightened, and sometimes I'm regretful and sure I've made a bad mistake.

One week from tomorrow Adam Ant will be performing, again, at the Hard Rock Live here in Orlando.  Again, I have front row tickets, and again, Greg and I are SO excited to see him perform.

But this time, after agonizing about it for several months, I bought the Meet and Greet ticket.  For $300.

So, okay, that's a lot of money.  I certainly wouldn't have done it if Greg hadn't kind of pushed me.  And that didn't include admission to the actual concert, and it doesn't allow Greg to come to the Meet and Greet with me.

According to the rather exhaustive research I've done online, the Meet and Greet will consist of my being herded back to an area backstage, given a VIP Adam Ant tote bag with an autographed 5x7, a badge, a magnet, and a patch.  I will wait in line with other Meet and Greet obsessive fans who also had a spare $300 to spend on an experience that will last mere moments.  When I reach the front of the line a person named Alex will take my camera (and I can't bring my good camera because DSLRs are not allowed, so I'll take my little point and shoot Nikon) and take two photos of me looking nervous while Adam smiles uncomfortably.  If I were like every other person doing the Meet and Greet  I'd then give Adam a present that I'd made for him; I am not going to do that.  Then Adam will sign whatever mementos I brought for him to autograph.  If it's a pre-concert Meet and Greet Adam will chat with me for a few moments, being friendly and British-ly polite, and then I'll get to meet the other band members.  If it's post-concert, he will say a few words and I'll then be rushed out by staff members.

I think this has brought about in me a minor existential episode.  The idea that I can meet someone who has had such a big impact in my life and in the person I've become, for cash, seems really bizarre, like trading baby kittens for the ability to fly around on the starship Enterprise.  The possibility of then being disappointed by it seems too awful to survive.

But how can I not?  The opportunity to stand next to him and talk to him, and see the reality of him being a person, is just irresistible.

The really stupid thing is that I HAVE met him.  Of course I saw him in concert multiple times, and of course I figured out how to find out which hotel he was in (leave the concert at the beginning of the last song and follow the tour bus/limo), and of course I hung around the lobby/bar for hours.

The first time was in Atlanta on the Friend or Foe tour (1983), and it was just a glimpse:  I was in the lobby when he was rushed from the limo to the elevators.  He had a sweatsuit on and still wore all his makeup from the concert.  It was shocking to see him, a human person, just like me.  He was a person!

The second time was in Washington DC on the Strip tour (1984), and my friend Jaime and I hung out in the lobby and met one of the band members, who invited us to the "party room".   It was a regular hotel room filled with band members and groupies.  I am pretty sure my parents would not have been too happy about their 17-year old daughter being there, but I didn't do anything bad.  When Adam walked in, Jamie and I waited until he was standing by himself and then rushed over.  I love your music, I told him.  And your tattoo, I said, touching his tattooed upper arm with my fingertip.

The third time was in Norfolk VA on the Vive Le Rock tour (1985), and I saw him walking through the lobby from the elevators towards the bar.  I was on the other side of the lobby, too far away, so I called out "Adam!' and when he stopped and turned toward me, I jogged over.  He waited for me, which in retrospect was pretty nice.  Hey, I said when I reached him, nice shoes.  We both looked down at his checkered Vans.

This time I was ready, and I asked if he could autograph my tour program.  While he did, I told him how much I loved his really early music, the punky songs that at that time were largely unavailable except on bootlegs.  I don't want to buy bootlegs, I told him: Do you have any plans to give those songs a real release, or even re-recording?  He told me that he was bringing them back a few at a time, mostly on B-sides, and had no plans other than that, at least not yet.  He loved those songs too though, he told me.

Then a bunch of girls/groupies/fans/toadies clustered around him and I moved away.  He did release all of those songs a few years ago on a comprehensive multi-cd box set called Antbox.  And he's doing a few of them live on this current tour.

One week from tomorrow, I'll meet Adam Ant again.  I'll stand next to him, and hear him say my name, and get his autograph, and have a photo taken with him.  I feel a bit like I am doing this to please a 17-year old girl who only exists in my memory, and a bit like I'm participating in the whorification of my musical idol.

But how lucky are we both, though, really.  After more than a decade of struggling with mental illness Adam is back, creating and performing and, I think, enjoying it.  I am here, the loyal fan, well off enough to have a spare $300, still remembering all the lyrics and actually learning the new ones and positively joyful to dance to my favorite music ever at yet another concert.

I suppose it's beautiful, regardless of the minor details.


Adam Ant in Spin magazine


Friday, July 19, 2013

Scarlett Who?

A year ago, I weighed 165 pounds and wore a size 16 Petite.  I was also 5'0, which I still am, and will remain until I start shrinking.  Today I weigh 133, and wear a size 10.  I lost a lot of the weight in the first few months, since January I've only lost around 5.  I'd still like to lose more weight, and doing it slowly is fine.

I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself.  It wasn't easy to lose weight. I basically did it by using the LoseIt app to track all my calories, every day.  It made it possible for me to stay a few calories under goal during the week and have a big cheaty meal on the weekend without going over my weekly goal.  It made me realize how little food I actually need, compared to how much I was eating.  It helped me see the difference between eating until I'm not hungry instead of eating until I'm full.  I still eat potato chips and drink wine and have fried food every now and then, I just have to budget for it in my calorie total.

I apparently will never, ever be able to give up potato chips and wine.  

What a different experience shopping is now!  I used to shop only when I had to, and buy whatever didn't look too terrible.  The choices in a size 16 Petite are nearly non-existent, it's in that terrible gray area between Misses sizes and Women's sizes, and it's genuinely hard to find.  Now that I can wear a size 10 it has opened up a whole new world of options.

When I was in my late teens and 20's I wore a size 3 and shopped like it was my part-time job.  *sigh*

Now that it's kind of fun again, looking for sales and trying on different things to see what might be flattering, I've been going shopping more often.  Last weekend I was in the mall and I went past a Victoria's Secret store, which normally I just avert my eyes from in a spasm of self-hatred.  But this time I decided to go in.

Yuck, what happened to the Victoria's secret stores of the 80's, when they had romantic lacy naughty things like garter belts and teddies?  Are teddies even a thing anymore?  All I saw was neon-colored bras and panties and yoga pants and cosmetics.

But then I remembered the Frederick's of Hollywood store.  

I went in slightly uncomfortably, thinking maybe of getting a pretty lacy garter belt and some stockings.  I love old-fashioned, romantic lingerie.  I was immediately swooped upon by a sales girl (I say girl because I believe she was around 11) who smiled at me and used what was probably a lot of training to not only get me to feel comfortable but positively flattered.

"Instead of a garter belt," she said, "what about a corset with garters?  Oh, you would just love a corset," she assured me.

The other sales girl jumped in.  "You've never tried on one of our corsets?", she asked.  "You won't believe how good you look!"

I succumbed and followed her into the fitting room with a black corset, with garters on the bottom and laces on the back and a little row of ruffly lace across the top.  "You just call me when you have it on," the 11-year old said, "and I'll come and lace you up.  You'll love it!"

Okay.  I took off my Adam Ant concert t-shirt and my beige bra and pulled it on.  Hooking it up was pretty challenging, especially given that the hooks were up the side. The bottom ones kept coming undone when I worked on the higher ones. I finally twisted it around and pulled the row of hooks to the front, and managed, after a few minutes, to get them all fastened.

And then I stood there, looking at myself in the mirror, holding the corset against me, with the garters dangling down over my jeans.  What had she said?  Call her when I have it on?  How am I supposed to do that?  I peeked out the door, which was at the very back of the store, not separated at all.  I saw a crowd of people, including several guys, and I quickly retreated back into the dressing room.

Okay.  Surely she meant she would check back with me.  I looked at my watch, and waited.

Five minutes later it occurred to me that I could call her on my cell phone, but that seemed pretty weird.

Ten minutes later I realized the little dressing room had no AC vent, and I was starting to sweat a little.  All righty, that's enough, I thought, and unhooked the corset and put my bra and t-shirt back on.

"You know," I said as I went up to the counter, "I think I really do just want a garter belt."

"Oh no," she said, "I forgot about you!  We just got so busy," she explained, as she took someone's credit card to ring them up.

A woman standing in line saw me holding the corset.  "Oh!," she said to me.  "Did you try it on?  Didn't you just LOVE it?"

"Well, no," I said.  "I think I really just want a garter belt."

She started rooting through her giant purse.  "Oh," she said again, "you really have to try it on.  You would not believe what a difference it made in my life."  She stopped rooting and pulled her cell phone out of her purse.

I stood there, trying to listen politely.  What was she talking about?  And why was she talking to me?

"You know what I mean," she said.  "When you hit that certain age," she rolled her eyes, "everything just goes south, and then I gained weight, and my marriage suffered.  Seriously!  But the corset just pulled everything in and up and made everything look so good, I even took a picture!"

I laughed.

"No really," she said, tapping her phone.  "Here!"

And she held up her phone to me, and showed me a photo of herself -- neck to navel -- wearing the corset.  She did, I must say, have some spectacular cleavage.

"Oh my!"  I said.  "Oh, well, you do look… really good.  Really!  I mean, I see why you took a picture."

"You HAVE to try it on," she entreated me with all the passionate intensity of a Christian trying to save me from hell.

The 11-year old joined in.  "Go on, you really will like it," she smiled at me.

Well.  How could I say no, at this point?  The stranger had showed me her sexy camera photo.  I felt obligated.

"You just let me know when you're in it, and I'll come in and lace you up."

Uh uh.  I looked at the 11-year old.  "How about if you give me three minutes, and then you just come in, okay?"

So there I was back in the dressing room.  At least this time I knew to pull the hooks around to the front first.  I hooked, twisted, then waited.

The 11-year old showed up promptly, knocking on the door.  "Ready?"

"Sure!"

She came in and started adjusting the laces up the back, and then yanked.  I actually staggered backwards a little.  "Wow," I laughed.  "I do feel a little like Scarlett O'Hara," I marveled, looking at the way it nipped in my waist.

"A lady said that to me yesterday, too!," the salesgirl said.  "Who is that, was she in the Avengers?"

I hesitated.  "Well, no.  She was in Gone With The Wind."

Our eyes met in the mirror, and I knew she had no idea what that was.  "Oh, right!" she faked. 

"Your pale skin looks so pretty with the black fabric.  Very sophisticated!"

I could just picture the binder of Frederick's of Hollywood Sensitivity Meets Flattery training materials.  "Thank you," I said. 

"There you go!"  She gave one last yank and tied off my laces.  She left me alone so I could admire myself.

Okay, I bought it.

This one, only in black.  And
I look exactly like this in it!

It really is awesome, even if Greg does have to help me get into it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My own tiny personal break room



It may very well be kind of neurotic or anti-social to spend all my breaks in my car.  But I like the parking lot; this is my view.  And I get the best spot in the shade under the big tree because I get in so early.  (Yes, I'm Sheldon.)

I like sitting in my car and eating my lunch, or calling Greg, or calling Mom, or going on Twitter or playing a game on my phone.  It's way more relaxing to me than having to make small talk about congress or work or some popular tv show with a co-worker/stranger in the break room.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. ~ Dolly Parton




Driving home from work, we are on the 408 toll road heading east, going past downtown Orlando.  It's stormy pretty much every day during the summer afternoon commute, although not always this dramatically.

At least we are headed home, where even if it is windy and stormy, we will be cozy with our kitties.  Who may well be hiding in the back closet, but still under the same roof with us.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Morning without you is a dwindled dawn. ~ Emily Dickinson



This is actually the same intersection from my previous post, the one with the Poppy Z. Brite quote.  This time, though, it's morning, and I've just dropped Greg off for his stupid day of work and I'm on the 7-minute trip to my stupid day of work.

We went in extra early, and it was a lovely morning, really.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Watering the grass I'm standing on

Well, the job that I wasn't impressed with or interested in actually called and offered me the position, for 5k/year more than I'm making now.  I considered it, but turned it down because A) a lot of that extra money would be eaten up with gas and tolls, B) no pension, C) the work area was depressing, D) no paid PTO days or accruing PTO hours until January 2014, and E) they were just weird and disorganized and strange through the whole process.

The other place brought me in for a second interview.  They remain very interesting to me, but who knows -- we'll see if they come back with an actual job offer.

In the meantime, last week I did it.  I got up the courage and marched in.  I didn't mention to my boss that I know that a half dozen people have gotten many thousands of dollars in bonuses so far this year because of the abandon rate that I have worked to lower.  It's half of what it was last year before I was hired, and it's directly related to my being there to forecast how many calls we will get, schedule agents at the right times to answer the calls, and to set hiring parameters to make sure we have enough agents.  The supervisors and managers have a hand in keeping the abandon rate low by controlling when agents log off the phone for breaks/lunches/impromptu training, however they do it by looking at the call volume numbers from my forecast.

I did mention that he told me, nearly a year ago, that if I did a good job they would reward me, potentially with bonuses.  I asked him if he thought I had done a good job, and he said yes.  I pointed out that my major responsibilities are actually somewhat above my title of Analyst, most of what I do is at a Manager level (and I also reminded him that a couple of times lately he has accidentally referred to me as a Workforce Manager).  

He told me that he would be happy to set me up with a specific compensation plan where I would be paid bonuses based on a scale.  I said that'd be fine with me.  He said he would consult with the director of the call center (who also reports to him) to get his feedback on how that should be set up/measured.

He also told me that he sees changes happening within the next 6 months that would mean the creation of a new Workforce Manager position.  He said while he couldn't promote me into that position (I don't know why not…?) and it would have to be posted as an open job, he thought I would be the obvious candidate given my experience within the company.

So.  Now I'm waiting to hear back from him about what kind of comp plan, and I'm wondering how much of a factor the potential new position should be if I should actually get a job offer.

I also told him that I had been offered a job making more money and with less responsibilities.  I told him that I turned it down, and that I am happy working for this company, and that I think it's a good company (which is true).  He said that he would encourage me, and everyone, to go out into the job market and interview somewhere else occasionally just to "see what else is out there".  He said that can have an impact on the "grass is greener" assumption.

I see his point, but it had the opposite result for me; I have found out that I'm making less money that most others at my level and I'm doing much higher-level things.  When interviewers ask me why I am considering leaving my current position, all I have to do it describe my job, and that answers that.

Still.  I do like it here, and I like having more responsibility.  Also, I heard a great saying recently:  The grass is greener where you water it.  So I'm trying to water my grass here.

For the past several weeks I've been consciously trying to let work go, to NOT check my email when I'm home, to NOT bring my laptop home, and to stop and question the situation if I start to feel pressured or stressy, to hand off work whenever possible.  I've found out that a lot of the stress and pressure I'm putting on myself, and I've been focusing on NOT doing that.  I still think about work when I'm at home, but less.  It's actually made a difference, a noticeable one.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some Nights




I took this pic, again, driving around in the every-single-summer-afternoon rainstorm.  I funked up the image a bit in Snapseed and then added the text in Photoshop.

I'm a big fan of Billy Martin but am crediting Poppy Z. Brite for the quote, because she was still Poppy when she wrote it and hadn't begun transitioning yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It was a dark and stormy afternoon...



Inspired by my friend Angella, who has recently become intimately connected with Instagram and is finding new creative joy in photography.  I have been playing around with Snapseed, a similar photo editing app, and I think I'll share them here.

This is a familiar summer afternoon sight for Floridians, who get rained on every day during the afternoon commute.  I obviously did mess around with the focus area and the saturation and the contrast, but I swear this is just how dark and stormy the sky looked.




Sunday, June 23, 2013

Everything is defined by my head, really. I just need to fix my head!

I had two interviews this week.  One was for a company that processes orders in a call-center style way, and uses the same technology as a call center.  This company wouldn't do an initial phone interview, wouldn't give me any idea of a salary range beforehand, brought me in for a single 30-minute interview with one person, showed me a windowless, crowded workspace, quizzed me on call center workforce terminology (What are the three components of Average Handle Time? What are the steps to create a forecast?) and, ultimately, can go suck it.  I'm pretty sure they are not going to call me with a job offer despite the fact that the interview went okay, but if they did, that'd be a big fat NO unless they offered me a brazillion dollars more than I'm currently making.

The second interview was at a place that had already done an extensive phone interview with me and given me a salary range.  The benefits are better than what I have now (including, oh my god, a pension) and would begin on day one.  The job description sounds like a combination of challenging but reasonable, and I'd actually be part of a team.  (Maybe someone would even notice if I didn't come in.)  It's also an extremely large, profitable, stable company.

The only negative would be that it's even farther away from home and I couldn't carpool with Greg anymore.  It would be around a 40-minute drive, and that would be taking freaking toll roads.  Ugh.

I think the interview went well, but you never really know.  I'm hoping they call me in for a second interview.

I tried to go to work this week with a different perspective.  While it does feel weird that I have such a distant boss (did I mention that he came to my building for a meeting with me recently and I realized he doesn't know exactly where my desk is?) I do also like being autonomous.  It also occurred to me that I have a lot of power.  I suppose it's odd, but since I am doing work so far above my actual title I'm the one setting policies and putting procedures in place and telling the managers and HR and even the director how things should work, and they are all listening to me.  I do feel underpaid and bit undervalued, but at the same time I feel heard and respected.  That's certainly something.

I'm going to keep looking and I'm still cautiously hopeful about the one job possibility, but I'm also going to try to frame my current job differently in my head.  It's all about perspective, really.  I'm working on having a more positive perspective at work, on not putting so much pressure on myself (one benefit of having a boss that doesn't know what I do day-to-day is no real deadlines, ever, so why am I putting so many on myself?), and not thinking about work EVER when I'm not actually at work.

This weekend I've tried really hard not to think about it.  I didn't bring home my computer, and I haven't checked my work email even once.  I still had an unpleasant work dream a couple of nights ago, but maybe it'll get better.




Saturday, June 15, 2013

Someday, I'd like to dream about something other than my job.

Last Saturday marked the one year anniversary of my last day at my previous job.  What a long way I've come since then, and how much I've changed.

I used to spend a lot of the time just monitoring incoming phone lines and the agents taking calls; I'd switch agents from one line to another if necessary, track down agents who were missing, and try to make sure that calls weren't holding too long waiting to be answered.  While I was doing that, I'd have plenty of time to do other things if everything was working okay - I mainly just had to keep a close eye and react quickly when anything started to be a problem.  But I was good at it, and could head off most problems, so I had time to write blog entries and read message boards and blogs.  I tried to do it discreetly, and unless I am in complete denial, I looked busy while switching back and forth between screens.  You know, as opposed to my coworkers trying to hide the fact that they were reading magazines or playing games on their phones.

I did a good job, I really did.  But it certainly wasn't challenging.  And this new job that I've been in since the beginning of August last year has been nothing but challenging.

I've learned to speak up.  Now when I have meetings with directors and senior directors and vice presidents I can keep my head enough to talk, answer questions, and even ask them questions.  I've also learned to speak up for myself, both when defending my work or ideas and also about HR related issues when they refused to honor the verbal agreement about PTO time/paid holidays.

I've learned to do a buttload of things I'd never done before in NICE IEX TotalView, the program I use to forecast future call volume and schedule ~200 agents.  I had no idea how little I knew, but within the first few months of working here I'd read the entire manual and most of the program's help screens.

I have a much different perspective on the industry in which I work.  I can see how this company is structured on a level I didn't have access to at my previous job, and going to that convention in April gave me a whole different view of how everything fits together and what other companies do.

I've learned to train people: I've trained dozens of managers, supervisors and team leads on the program we all use to see schedules and watch agents.  I've learned to lead meetings and take control if it gets off track or loses focus.

I've had to learn to be less intimidated by people, or at the very least to hide it from them.  I've struggled with taking things personally, and have hopefully gotten better about having the perspective to know it's almost never personal.

But here's the other part:  I know that I have made a massive difference in the way this call center works.  Before I came they forecast future call volume on a spreadsheet, guessed at how many people they needed to staff the call center, and did schedules for the agents on a spreadsheet.  They had no way of knowing if the agents were actually working the right schedule, if they were missing for any part of their shift, and whenever anything came up for the agents to attend (like meetings or training) they just pulled agents off the phone at random.  They couldn't see how call volume was likely to go later in the day, or whether they were under- or overstaffed.

But... here's the other other part.  I don't think they, in particular my boss or the VP that he reports to, really have any idea what I do, how well I do it, or how much of a difference it's making.  The managers know how much of a difference it's making, because it's directly affecting them.  But the call center director has only been there for 2 months, so he didn't see what it was like before.

(I was very entertained to discover that, upon his first tour of the call center when he had his final interview, the new director guy asked where the "workforce department" was, and was visibly shocked to hear that it was in fact just a "workforce person".  But this person does the forecasting, and all the scheduling?  Yes, he was told.  She sets staffing levels?  She approves time off requests?  What about scheduling training and meetings?  She does that, she does that too, she does that too, he was told repeatedly.)

I suppose part of it is me, I could have done more to explain what I was doing and how it all worked.  Honestly, it took a few months for it to really sink in that they had no clear idea of what the whole concept of workforce management really was.  I was going merrily along, fixing things and setting policies and figuring stuff out, and kind of assuming that someone was keeping track of me.  But now I really don't think that was the case.

The final straw was when I found out that the three managers, the director and the senior director (my boss) all got big bonuses based on the extremely low abandon rate, which is low because of my ability to manage the call volume and workforce.  I mean, that's what they hired me to do, isn't it?  And maybe they thought I wouldn't find out about that huge bonus that they all got, or maybe they just don't give a fuck.  

So, I got mad, and then I started working on a plan to go to my boss and ask... for what?  A raise, a promotion, a bonus, some sort of acknowledgement of the degree to which I rock?    I'm still thinking about it, and I'm still not sure.  And I also updated my LinkedIn profile and my resume and applied for a couple of jobs.

On Wednesday I had a phone interview for a job that sounds SO perfect.  It sounds challenging, but without the massive stress of my current job.  I'd be replacing someone who is relocating, and be part of a team.  I haven't heard back yet about an in-person interview, but I'm cautiously hopeful.

I suppose if I could hang in for another year or two things might change completely.  The new director guy is backing me up with my pleas for help, to hire at least a couple of others who would do workforce stuff too, but my boss keeps saying it isn't in the budget.  The truth is that they are all sales people who don't see value in a non-revenue-producing role.  It's possible that they may do it next year, and it's possible that in a couple of years I could be heading up a whole workforce department.  But do I even want to do that?  

This job is challenging, but in a way that is exhausting me.  I am so wiped out when I get home from work I barely have any energy to be creative, or to get things done around the house.  I hate that.

And truly, the thought of leaving just makes me so happy.  I am really grateful for the various things I've learned while at my current job, and the opportunities for growth, and the experience.  But I am ready to go somewhere else.