Archive for October, 2009

When Bad Things Happen

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

In any relationship, but even more importantly in a long distance relationship, it is imperative that you have a plan for when emergencies arise. Because unfortunately, they will: that’s just life. Not to sound all Negative Nellie but we’re all only one phone call away from a crisis.

Since Mr. J and I have been apart I’ve lost two grandparents, three aunts, one uncle, and very painfully: my three cats (before Alex and Jamison, my current cats).

This last week we had one of the most feared phone calls that a parent could ever take:

“Your child is in intensive care and may not make it.”

Now I know that if you’ve checked my “About Me” page you’ll see that I said Mr. J and I were DINKS: Dual Income. No Kids. And we don’t have any children. Together.

But Mr. J has a son from a former marriage. And he got that dreaded phone call last Wednesday evening.

His son was in intensive care: H1N1, his lungs so filled up with fluid impairing his breathing to the point that his lips were turning blue. Because of his compromised situation, he was placed into a drug induced coma.

Mr. J’s son is in TX – far, far from where we live (either of us) in the Snow Belt.

To further complicate matters, Mr. J and his son aren’t on speaking terms and haven’t been since his parents divorced. But estrangement doesn’t mean that Mr. J has ever, for a single second, forgotten his boy. The pain I’ve seen in my husband’s eyes makes my own heart ache. The fear I saw when I arrived at his apartment, five hours after I received the call, made my blood run cold.

I wish I could say I empathize. But I can’t. I don’t have any children. Medical issues prevented me from carrying a child and ironically from being able to adopt one either. There is no way that I could understand what it means to get a call that says your child may not live. I didn’t even try.

I just held Mr. J while he tried to process this terrible truth and to understand how to act: should he go and risk upsetting his son still further? But there was really no question: he had to go.

Early the next morning Mr. J headed for the airport and I packed up his cat to bring back home with me.

Because of the estrangement from his father, I’ve never really considered Mr. J’s son my stepson. But that all changed the moment we got the call.

In a flash I was on Facebook, asking for positive energy and prayers. My parents, who’ve never even met my stepson, were on the phone around the clock, asking for updates, talking to Mr. J, worrying like he was their own grandchild. Over a hundred people Mr. J’s son doesn’t even know were pulling for him.

Thankfully, Mr. J’s son has made it “over the hump” per his pulmonary doctors. They believe he will make it now. But he has a long road ahead.

I hope that somewhere along the way, he and his father can sit down and work out their differences. I keep hearing a line from a Don Henley song in my head, “You see a lot more meanness in the city….the kind that eats you up inside.”

Meanness, anger, bitterness. Don Henley had it right: they will eat you up inside. My fervent prayer is that this crisis will open the door of communication between two men who haven’t spoken in over ten years.

If anyone has a spare moment, I’d appreciate positive energy sent my stepson’s way. May he grow strong in body and in understanding of how precious life and the lives of those you love is. May he open his heart to recognize how much his father loves him. And may he know that he has a whole community of people he’s never met who wish him love, joy, and sweet, sweet recovery.


Irony and my beater car

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Just in case you thought losing my debit card while participating in wicked gambling (i.e. cashing in a winning lottery ticket if you haven’t read my last post) wasn’t bad enough for the week, the next day was even better.

I believe I’ve disclosed that I used to work for a retail company that was aimed mostly at women. Now, I’m working for a company that is aimed mostly at men. (For you social scientists in the audience: I know, I know, I’m perpetuating stereotypes but hey: they’re stereotypes for a reason.)

Without getting too specific on whom the company is that I’m working for, I’ll just say that they sell a lot of guy things, including tools, stuff for cars etc.

The day after the debit card incident: I stop at the mailbox on the way home from work. We live in a sub division that has a mailbox tree for about a dozen houses.

I always feel slightly lazy as I pull across into the wrong lane of traffic in order to get to the mailboxes. I can’t even be bothered to park on the correct side of the road and walk the 8 feet to the mailbox.

Because of an earlier incident of locking myself out of my house, my house and mailbox keys are firmly attached to my car keys (and you might recall that my husband lives in another state and therefore is no help in said situation).

While this is very annoying in the winter when it is 50 below, it beats the heck out of walking out of your house with car keys in hand only to realize you’ve just locked yourself out of the house in the before mentioned 50 below.

That was one funny story: when it was over. Maybe I’ll get motivated to retell it at some point.
But I digress.

I’ve turned off my car, glanced stealthily around to see if any of my neighbors are watching me be so lazy, quickly open up and retrieve my mail, depositing it onto my passenger seat and then slip the key back into the ignition and start to get excited about spending the weekend with Mr. J.

I turn the key. Nothing.




Now I’m really looking around: sure enough, here are some neighbors wanting their mail. Which of course, I’m blocking access to their mailbox.

Because I’m so lazy that I couldn’t be bothered to do anything but roll down my window, I can’t even get out of the car on the driver side. I’m calling out apologies to the neighbor lady while digging in my purse for my cell phone. Thankfully, Mr. J is home.

After wiggling over the gear shift, and shuffling my coffee cup, the mail, my purse, trying not to do permanent damage to me or the car, I manage to shimmy out through the passenger side…..if shimmy means: sweat with anxiety and curse up a storm, of course.

Thankfully I had the forethought to pop the hood (and every other door on the darn car as well).

As I raise the hood, I am punching in the numbers for our house phone. I barely give Mr. J time to say hello when I bark, “Car’s dead.” And looking down at the white and green corrosion on my car battery cables I say, “I’m out by the mailbox. Bring a diet Coke.”

Did you know that Coke would clean away battery corrosion?

It is one of the only things I know about cars other than where to put the gasoline.

Let’s just take a moment and think about how clean my insides should be since I sport a two-can a day habit. I’ve been told it doesn’t quite work that way but I’m going to pretend it does.

“Do you have battery cables?” I ask.

The silence on the other end tells me Mr. J does not. I know I don’t have any in the trunk of my car.

Again, I’m going to blame my father (see Lottery Ticket fiasco): “How on earth did you let your daughter (never mind that she was 35+ years of age) move into the snow belt without a set of battery cables?”

See, this is what happens when you don’t have children: you remain a child in yours and your parents view. It might sound strange, but it is true.

Now the neighbors are half grumbling, half offering to help. Luckily someone in this state is smart enough to have jumper cables and Mr. J pulls his car around and after the diet Coke drenching we are ready to try and jump the car.

It starts within a few minutes and within an hour it has been fitted with a brand new battery that will surely last longer than I intend on having her.

When I had shared with my parents the new job opportunity my mother had said, “you’re in an industry you love: women’s apparel, jewelry, etc. And you’re going to move into men’s products instead?”

“Hey,” I’d responded, a tad flippant. “I’ll have one tricked out beater! And besides, the money I’ll save from NOT shopping will be like getting another pay raise!”

Of course, as I’m pulling into an auto parts parking lot I’m struck by the irony that I’m having to buy auto parts when I’ve just accepted a position with a company that in two weeks would have afforded me a 20% discount on the battery: which would have been just about enough to buy a set of jumper cables.

Go figure.

Posted in LJ's Story |

How a Winning Lottery Ticket Lost Me My Debit Card

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

This is one of those deals that could only happen to me.

First let me say: I do not play the lottery. I’ve never even purchased a lottery ticket (if you don’t count the time I bought 50 back in 2002 when a bunch of us at work bought a fair few because the pot was so big. We didn’t even win back the cost, dangit.).

My parents were in town recently and bought a pre-generated ticket and hit three numbers on it for a win of $100. Back in their home state, (even though they have the same lottery) some doofus told my father he’d have to take the ticket back to the state where he purchased it in order to cash it in.


My father sent me the lottery ticket which I stuck into my wallet and promptly forgot about for a couple of days. Remembering as I headed out for a Spin class at the gym, I grabbed it and my debit card. I figured if I was going to stop to redeem the ticket I’d get gas at the same time. Sounds reasonable, right?

Spin class was brutal that night: It was an Anaerobic Endurance ride which basically means you burn a bazillion calories and run very high heart rates. By the time I got off the bike I could barely walk. So basically it was a great ride!

I gathered my gear and then headed home, remembering as I hit the exit ramp near my house that I needed to go cash in the lottery ticket. I diverted from my normal route home and stopped at a local gas station.

I am a pay-at-the-pump kinda girl. I never go inside a gas station unless I’m on a road trip and need to use the facilities. Truth by told, gas stations creep me out: all that sugar & fat (read: cookies, candy and chips), tobacco and (usually) a lone check out clerk. Stir in gas and a cashbox and you’re just begging to be robbed.

At the pump I whip out my handy-dandy debit card when I get to thinking: first of all, I’d already warned my father there was a hefty handling fee on his lottery winnings.

Second, I was going to cut my father a check for the money he was going to get. I reasoned that instead of topping off my tank to the tune of $30, as well as paying out the winnings, I’d just take my gas as my handling fee. I hit the “Pay Inside” button on the pump.

After gassing up, I went inside and approached the clerk. “I need to see if this ticket won and redeem it,” I say.

He points me toward some laser device on the wall. “It’s right there. You walked right past it.”

Well excuse me. Do I look like someone who plays the lottery all the time? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…..obviously someone wins sometime.)

I shuffled back to the little reader and after a moment of fiddling with the stupid thing: this is harder than ringing your own groceries at Wal-Mart, I did confirm that I had indeed won $100. Or rather my father had.

I brandished the ticket to the cashier and he seemed abashed to realize I’d actually won more than $2.00. He subtracted out my gas purchase and I was on my way, feeling rather superior for some unknown reason…..

Flush with cash, I stopped at a liquor store: I’d just accepted a new job so I wanted a bottle of Martini & Rossi’s Asti Spumante so Mr. J and I could celebrate the next evening. (Basically we have a crap palate and can’t abide anything but the sweeter wines, thus no champagne: too dry.)

When I got home I logged onto my bank account and cut my dad a check for his winnings: the full $100 – what kind of daughter do you take me for??

A full 24 hours passed before I went to make another purchase and realized my debit card was not where it belonged.

I spent the better part of two hours retracing my steps. I knew I had it in my hand before I decided to take my cut from the winnings. I dumped out my purse, my gym bag, turning my car almost upside down, etc. I went back to the gas station, the liquor store: No card.

As an aside, I had called my bank and confirmed that there were no fraud charges and had the bank put a temporary hold on the card like a responsible citizen.

That stupid, stupid card. Where could it be?

When I returned home after my fruitless searching Mr. J had arrived home. We once again turned the house upside down until finally, after two bottles of bubbly, we declared defeat and called the bank to report it lost or stolen.

I fully expected that stupid card to come dancing (literally) out of my bedroom two minutes after I hung up the phone. Because isn’t that what usually happens??

In a strangely circular logic sort of way (similar to the chicken and the egg scenario), it was a good thing I’d had the winnings from the lottery ticket to tide me over until my new debit card arrived, otherwise I wouldn’t have had any cash (though I suppose I could have bummed money off of Mr. J). On the other hand, this whole thing would never have happened if I hadn’t broken my routine for that stupid lottery ticket.

Just so you know, because surely you’re wondering: the debit card was in Tahiti having an affair with my Social Security Card – which I couldn’t find for my first day of work on my New Job!

Posted in LJ's Story |

Starting Over Again

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Is everyone familiar with the TV show, Cheers and its catchy little theme song? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…”

Like the song suggests there are times when I do enjoy hanging out with people who know me, friends and co-workers alike. They know my history, my quirks, and the sometimes oddball paths I’ve taken in life.

Work friends in particular may know more about me than I realize because chances are they haven’t forgotten all those sordid things that I’ve forgotten I’ve told them. Come on: you know you’ve done the same.

Who hasn’t gone out after work, had a few drinks, and said a little too much? Or in a moment of anger, said something they wish they could take back? I know I have. Because I haven’t always been the most discreet at work, maybe said too much about my medical history, or mistakes I’ve made in my youth (see previous post for multiple examples), I find the thought of starting over with a new company something of a liberating process. It enables me to start over, the slate wiped clean, so to speak.

As I’ve geared up for the move I’ve thought about all the ways I can start over. For example I could revamp my wardrobe so that I only wear long flowing skirts and ruffled blouses. Or I could go with more colorful options, instead of the brown and ivory I favor. Or what about being more tailored and conservative like Talbots or Ann Taylor?

No doubt there are some stressful days ahead: learning a new business, figuring out who the contact people are for everything from IT to office supplies, learning a new company culture etc.

I remember well (and hate) that feeling of helplessness that tends to come the first week of a new job. I am going to do my best to remind myself that it is natural to not know where to find the bathroom and it is normal to feel lost on a new computer system for a few days.

Now that would be real progress: far more important than deciding to wear wool dress pants instead of chinos.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Wish me well!


Advice on Leaving Well and Careful Beginnings

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

On Leaving:
Whether you are in a commuter relationship or are just changing jobs here comes some more career advice. Once you’ve made the decision to leave your current position, handle yourself with grace and dignity. You want to do everything you can to leave on as high a note as possible.

Resist the temptation to go out with a bang, brutally slagging off everyone you’ve ever worked with, airing all of your grievances in one last blaze of glory.

In my youth I made the mistake of doing exactly that. My rationale was that I was doing those left behind a favor. A change in upper management had occurred six months before I left and I (along with others) really disagreed with how things were being handled.

When I left that company I viciously listed every single “fault” I thought the new management team had. My hope was that someone would listen and things might change for the better for my co-workers. Did they? Heck no.

In all likelihood all I did was ensure that I’d never be eligible for rehire. And it was (and is) a great company.

Another good reason to not burn any bridges is that most industries are rather incestuous. I’ve been in two industries in my career and I’m constantly amazed at how many people you run into repeatedly. You never know when your “new boss” might actually be your “old” boss.

Since my bridge burning days I’ve done everything I can to ensure that I leave on as positive a note as possible. Even when I don’t like how I’m being treated on the way out the door, I’ve bitten my tongue and smiled. Remember: it is only two weeks. You can survive almost anything for two weeks.

Careful Beginnings:
Even more critical as you move from company to company in your career is how you handle yourself in the first few weeks in your new position.

Don’t be that person who comes in (we’ve all met them) and every sentence begins: “At my old job we did XYZ.” Or “This is how we did it at ABC.” Or my personal favorite:“Wow! We had it so much better at MNO!”

Did you now? Shame you aren’t back there, isn’t it??

I know of which I speak. I’ve been on both sides of this: the poor sop having to listen to it until I thought I’d go deaf and even more embarrassing, the idiot saying this every ten minutes.

It is amazing the life lessons we learn through trial and error isn’t it?

Now when I go into a new position, I strive to understand the company’s culture, their business, and their processes. I’m a firm believer in getting my hands dirty and I always want to dig in and do the day to day work myself. I personally find it harder to manage a group of people if I don’t have a solid working knowledge of what their day’s work is like.

If I’m going to bring in key learnings from my previous jobs I present it differently, not referencing my previous company with brain numbing monotony. Ask questions, lots of questions and find out what is “our” philosophy here at ABC Company?”

So there you have it: leaving and beginning with grace, Lara-style.

Any other words of advice for me as I head off into my new career?