Posts Tagged ‘LJ’s Story’

And Then I Set the Cat on Fire…

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Ever have one of those days? From the moment you reached your hand out from under the warm cozy comforter into the dark, freezing bedroom to shut off the blaring of the alarm you just knew: you were going to regret getting up.

You shiver into your robe and a dull throbbing in your temple taps a rendition of “All My Trials,” and your joints ache; a voice in your head whispers: “go back to bed.”

But you ignore it.

This was my day earlier this week. By 10am I had burned my wrist with my curling iron, I’d dropped almost everything I picked up: including my laptop bag, with laptop inside, of course, and I’d been late to a meeting – something I can’t stand. My father used to say he’d rather turn up 30 minutes early than five minutes late.

By noon I’d slammed my knee on my desk and almost hyper-ventilated during another meeting.

At 1:30p, after gritting my teeth through yet another meeting I went into the well-appointed women’s restroom, tried to stand so as to not activate the automated faucets which can (and have) splash my suede jacket. I took a long, deep breathe. Twice.

“Everyone can’t be an idiot, Lara. The common denominator is you. Get. A. Grip.”

The afternoon was little better and by the time I got home I’d had more than enough.

A warm bubble bath and a well worn copy of one of my favorite novels was calling my name. I lit a candle I’d received for the holidays, preparing to disrobe and slip into the luxurious warmth of my garden tub.

Just as I reached for the faucet I remembered I needed to call my father. He’d started physical therapy and I wanted to get a progress report.

I Skyped my parents on my laptop and we talked for a few moments.

In the middle of my relaying my rotten day I suddenly smelled something horrible.

Something was burning!

Immediately I ran for the dryer: after all when was the last time I’d cleaned out the lint trap?? Try September.

I opened the lint trap and pulled out a 3-inch pile of who-knows-what….but that wasn’t what smelled. I walked over to our gas fireplace. No smell there either.

“The candle,” I remembered. I walked into the bathroom, took a whiff of the candle: there wasn’t any particular smell, good, bad or indifferent. “What a dud,” I said, blowing it out, hurrying back to my laptop to my parents who were concerned.

“No idea,” I said, as way of explanation.

Just then Alex, my long haired (previously) long tailed tabby cat came into view.

His tail was a disaster!

Luckily, thankfully, the fire had gone out before it burned down to his skin. He didn’t seem to be hurt at all, in fact, he didn’t seem to even be in distress.

I almost collapsed with panic at what could have happened: how Alex might have been painfully burned. Or when getting away from the flame, his long tail could have brushed against the cotton shower curtain or my bamboo-fiber robe.

The next time I wake up and feel like I should stay in bed I’ll probably still get up. But I’ll make sure there are no open flames…which Alex will appreciate. In the meantime we’re calling him Stubby……

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You Might Be Old If……

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Just a short blurb: I’m getting my (grey) hair colored when a song on the PA system catches my attention. The musicians sound familiar but I don’t recognize the song.

I ask my stylist who the artist is and she says, “Scissor Sisters”.

“Oh,” I say…..never having heard of “Scissor Sisters” but thinking how appropriate that a group named the “Scissor Sisters” (I just like typing the name) is playing in a salon.

I cock my head to catch more of the group and to see if I can place why they sound familiar.

It comes to me: “They sound like the Bee Gees,” I say.

My stylist says, “I don’t know who the Bee Gees are.”

I may cry.

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Calling All Food Allergies: A Look Back at the Holiday Season

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Oh the holidays. A time when everyone gets together and eats too much, gorging on sugar cookies with butter cream frosting, rocky road fudge, almond bark pretzels, rum cake…..and that’s just for breakfast!

This year was different however. This year food allergies and medical issues reared their ugly heads and almost everyone in the household had something they couldn’t eat.

With each arrival to my family home, there were more and more things that had to be avoided worked around or segregated so as to not contaminate someone else.

On the list of things people couldn’t eat:
Chocolate
Caffeine
Pepper
Walnuts
Tomatoes
Dairy
Alcohol
Wheat (gluten)
Apricots
Grapes
Mushrooms

What exactly was left that we could all eat? A turkey but no gravy? Vegetables but no butter? Pumpkin pie but no crust? Egg, but no nog?

Bear in mind I said these are things that people COULDN’T eat, not didn’t want to eat. We’re not talking any odd diets (that will come later). We’re talking about food their bodies cannot currently tolerate.

My sister and I are the ones with the gluten intolerance: no traditional stuffing, gravy, pie crust, dinner rolls, etc for us.

For me, the almond bark covered pretzels were the thing that kept calling my name. I knew it was bad when I was fantasizing about covering sesame crackers with stuff that is little better nutritionally than flavored liquid paraffin!

My mother, on the other hand, was on a “white” diet: no spice, no whole wheat, no pepper, caffeine or alcohol….sucks to be her.

On 12/23 a mini food war almost broke out when someone in the house asked if we were going to be eating our “traditional” Christmas Eve dinner: chili and cornbread.

My sister and I stared at each other in disbelief. Hello? No spice? No gluten? No way! There might have only been 2 people in the household that could have actually eaten that meal.

Due to health issues my parents were mostly housebound during this holiday season. My sister and I were the ones doing the shopping. Every time we’d go out my father would ask us to pick up bologna and white dinner rolls.

My sister and I, admittedly, have some eating quirks. As such we could not understand why the heck anyone would want to eat full fat pork bologna.

Twice, we forgot it and the dinner rolls. We did not purposely forget. I mean we didn’t sit there and discuss the fact that we weren’t going to pick them up. However, people in the house began to eye us suspiciously when we returned without the requested items.

Then: Christmas Eve sailed in on the wings of an ice storm.

As the ice and snow mounted tension around the Christmas Eve & Christmas dinner meals rose as well, “Are we eating chili for dinner?”

“No one can eat it!” I responded, testy.

“Well I can!” Came the snappy response.

“You’d be the only one!”

Another “discussion” broke out. Certain individuals were threatening to get out on the slick roads in order to get the @#$% dinner rolls. My sister and I had already promised to meet a friend at a local restaurant for lunch. We assured the household that we would pick up the stupid dinner rolls.

“Like you’ve done every time you’ve gone to the grocery store?” Was shot back at us as we left.

As we’re standing at the lunch meat counter of the neighborhood grocery story I picked up a 2 lb log of bologna and measure the weight of it in my hand.

“Don’t you think he wants pre-sliced?” My sister asks.

“I was thinking more of a slap upside the head,” I say, deadpan.

She stares for a moment and then we break up with laughter, like the 12 year olds we used to be, giggling all the way to the register with our 8 oz of Oscar Meyer pre-sliced Bologna and white bread rolls!

The moral of this story? The holiday season is not the time to try and change people’s eating habits. On the other hand: sometimes people can’t help the food “choices” they’re making. A little tolerance practiced by all would be a good thing.

Do me a favor: tell me my family isn’t the only one with strange food hang ups tied to holiday meals.

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I Hate the Food I Eat…

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

The relationship I have with food has always been complicated. I’ve been an emotional eater since early childhood. I’ve been as much as 150 pounds overweight and am currently 40 pounds heavier than I’d like to be.

My mother’s type I diabetes meant that in my household: food = life. When her blood sugar would take a dive, we fed her a cookie or orange juice. What I learned was that when scary things happen ingest sugar!

At various times in my life I’ve eschewed:
Processed food
Red meat
All meat
Fat
Dairy

None of these ever created permanent weight loss unfortunately and over time I gradually drifted back into eating all of these food types.

I named this post for a quote out of a Police song: “When the World is Running Down.” ‘Same food for years and years, I hate the food I eat.’

As of late, the food I’ve been eating now hates me back.

In October I “suddenly” developed gluten intolerance. I say “suddenly” because for 18+ months I’d been having symptoms that I thought were other things. But when I developed pain so acute I thought I might die and my sister (the poster child for all things “non-mainstream food plans”) suggested that I try cutting gluten from my diet I didn’t even know what gluten was.

How many of you know what gluten is? Basically it is all wheat and barley products. Gluten is in the usual places you’d expect to find wheat: pasta, bread, cereal and virtually all baked goods.

Even more insidious are the places you wouldn’t necessarily suspect to find gluten: almost every frozen prepared meal, soy sauce, some ice cream, some chicken broth, some prepared frosting, beer, meat replacements such as veggie burgers and even in my favorite green enchilada sauce.

Off of my dining list:
Neighborhood bakery
Takeout pizza
Pad Thai at my favorite Asian restaurant
Eggplant Parmesan (bread crumbs)
Gourmet hamburgers or grilled brats (pesky little bun)

If you consider what the typical American eats and having to cut out all wheat products, basically my dietary choices are honed to the following:
Animal meat
Legumes/beans
Oil
Rice
Nuts
Produce
Wine (so all is not lost)

What about diary? You might be thinking. Is there gluten in milk??

No actually, there isn’t. But I couldn’t just develop gluten intolerance, could I? Suddenly I developed a dairy intolerance as well.

You’d have thought I’d have dropped 10 pounds since I could no longer eat bread, milk, cheese or anything processed. But instead I gained 15 pounds. Perhaps eating almond butter by the spoonful wasn’t the best idea….

Did you know that there is such a thing as Gluten Withdrawal?

There is.

Imagine the worst gut wrenching (literally, like someone was twisting my insides) pain, almost explosive flatulence (sorry, real life isn’t always pretty), heartburn, acid reflux, a headache that felt like a I had a steel band around the front half of my head and dizziness and vertigo every time I stood up.

Of course the timing couldn’t have been better. The initial pain that caused me to cut out the gluten occurred two weeks after I started my new job. The subsequent withdrawal took another two weeks to live through and dovetailed with my stepson’s H1N1 diagnosis and his entry into the ICU.

Luckily, my darling husband was terrific about my sudden departure from what most people would consider to be “normal” food. He suffers from his own food allergies and so understands what it means when your body starts treating certain foods like it is poison.

In fact I’ll say that without his support my transition to a gluten-free diet would have been markedly harder.

Learning to eat out, grocery shop, and to eat while traveling has been an experience. However, it was completely worth it.

Once I survived the withdrawal I felt amazing. Things were suddenly clearer, the colors of the world were crisper; it was like a veil had been lifted. The tummy troubles and the headaches all went away as well; I felt buoyed and happier than I had in years.

If anyone has their own gluten intolerance stories to share or want to ask me further questions, please feel free to share and/or ask. I’d also welcome any good gluten-free tips: recipes, places to shop, places to eat etc. that you can pass on.

BTW: I have done research on Celiac disease. I know that the medical tests are all but useless unless you are actively eating gluten when you have them. But I was in such acute distress that there was no way I was going to keep eating wheat just to be tested.

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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.

Nothing.

Nothing.

WTH?

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.

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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.

Whatever.

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!

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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!

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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?

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, somewhat prophetically as it turned out, at least half of us in a commuter relationship will at some point in time have to leave their place of employment and probably the town in which you live.

For many people leaving a job is not that big of a deal. They didn’t really care that much about the job or their co-workers. To them they are just people where they work.

For me one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do since turning in my two week notice at work is to watch my team move on without me.

From the moment I knew I was going to resign I dreaded the time that I’d have to say those words aloud: first to my manager and then to my direct reports and the people beneath them.

Logically I know that it is no longer my place to be involved in strategic planning meetings for the company and that it is normal that I am removed off of distribution lists and department pow-wows. But in the spirit of full disclosure I will say that at times it has been a painful process for me.

The team that we have now is a close knit group and the economic downturn hasn’t made things easy for us in the work place. But we stuck together because we’re like family.

If we’ve stuck together through thick and thin then why leave?

I’ve asked myself this question repeatedly. One of the biggest drivers was the opportunity that was presented to me, while risky, offered me a chance to grow within the industry that I love via the use of technology. I will actually run my own department. In my career I’ve always been Robin to someone else’s Batman.

Heck, I’ve never even been a First Wife.

Ironically, at first there is no department: just me. I pointed this out glumly to my husband, “I don’t even have a Robin in this new position.”

“Batman started out alone, Lara.” He said. “Robin came later.”

As dorky as that sounds, it made me feel better.

Leaving people you care about is never easy. But with technology what it is today, you can stay in touch. I hope the people who’ve come to mean so much to me at my current job will stay in touch. I hope that we aren’t just work friends.

As those of us in a long distance relationship know only too well, in any relationship where you don’t see the person every day, it takes effort to keep those relationships alive. I’ll do my best to maintain contact with the wonderful people I’ve worked with for almost eight years.

And here is to meeting new people, and learning new things…..and hoping that I get my own “Robin” sooner, rather than later.

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(More) Interviewing Dos and Don’ts and how I did EXACTLY what I told everyone not to do.

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

I’m 100% certain you read my previous blog on “Interviewing Don’ts” (and if you didn’t, then scurry back in blog-time and read it.

We’re still interviewing at work. And I believe I can now say I have heard it all.

Remember in the last post I was ROFLMAO about the girl who was going to text her mommy to make her feel better about herself? (Yes, she did invoke her mom during an interview and thankfully I missed that line during the actual interview because there is no way I could have kept a straight face. Seriously. Go read my blog. It was funny.)

Enter candidate #2: This woman was no where near as young as Text-Mom girl. Oh no. This one was absolutely old enough to know better. Here goes:

First of all, if I could make a comment about appearance in interviews. All I really ask for is that people are neat, they don’t smell – good or bad, and that their clothes are clean.

I get that most women are not running around in Jimmy Choo shoes or Hermes scarves, particularly for the entry level positions we’re hiring. Generally I’m not too picky about clothing provided it fits, i.e. not so sloppy they look like they walked in wearing their Saturday morning sweats nor so tight that I’m wondering if the circulation is being cut off in their arms, across their chest etc.

And while I’m on the topic can we discuss button up blouses that are straining so tight I’m concerned that if one of those buttons flies off I’m going to have an eye put out? Because really: I don’t need a peek at your chest: it only makes me sad about my lack thereof.

Having said that, I’d also caution someone against wearing too much jewelry. Before you go ballistic on me and we start debating what is “too much” allow me to say, I wore my thumb ring to my interview (mostly because I forgot to take it off). Hey: I can take a little walk on the wild side too!

But back to my latest interview: this candidate had rings on every finger. In fact, she had two rings on one of her pinkies. She had enough bangle bracelets to open up a Zale’s jewelry store and she had on a gold necklace that spelled her name out in wire….just in case I couldn’t read her resume.

Ah yes: her resume.

On her resume there was a sizeable gap in time. Like any good interviewer I questioned her about it.

“I worked some temp jobs,” she said.

“Such as?” I prompted.

“I worked two months at a gas station.”

“Good,” I said. “And the other 8 months?” I queried.

“Well – I worked for XYZ Company from home. Well, I mean….my mom took the typing assessment for me on-line because I don’t type very fast but I did all of the actual work.”

I’m sorry. Did she just say that she committed Employment Fraud? And that her Mom committed the fraud for her??

We always (with reason) have two people in an interview room with a candidate. With this little admission of typing fraud my head jerked up and I saw a similar expression of shock on my co-interviewer’s face.

Needless to say, we weren’t in that interview too much longer.

Ironically, we too have candidates take an assessment which includes a typing test. As my fellow interviewer handed her the slip of paper listing the URL to go to in order to take the test it took all of my strength of will to not say, “Here, hon. Tell your mom to knock herself out.”

After the candidate was gone the two of us laughed to the point of tears. “On the plus side,” my co-worker pointed out, “You can assume she’d be honest.”

We chuckled as we imagined what our own respective mothers might say to us if we asked them to take an assessment for us. Most responses involved getting cuffed upside the head by our mom and being told, “Get your own #$%!* job!”

What was the deal with these women bringing up their mothers in interviews? They undercut their own authority even more so than women who are offered jobs who say, “I’ll have to discuss it with my husband.” Really? Do you need a note from your mommy (or husband) too?

Fast forward to my interview, the one where I was the interviewee for a change.

I went through six different people beginning with a recruiter on a phone screen. Then a phone interview with someone from the company and then four in person interviews: three of which required me to fly to California for a day. The fourth one occurred here in my city.

I entered this process thinking, “how hard can it be?” I’ve been interviewing people for years. Surely I know how to answer interview questions. Perhaps more importantly I know how to NOT answer some questions. I also do a fair bit of public speaking and generally can think and speak well on my feet. Therefore I decided I had this thing nailed. It was in the bag.

Ah the power of my own arrogance.

The first two phone screens went quite well. Flush with my success I boarded a plane and was only a tad bit nervous as I flew across the country to have my first face to face meeting.

At 9am, I met with the recruiter I had been speaking with on the phone. Imagine my shock and embarrassment when I had trouble answering basic questions about why this job interested me. My answers were wooden. I repeated myself. Frankly: I sucked.

After we finished meeting I had a few minutes to run to the loo and grab a diet Coke.

In the washroom I stared at the woman in the mirror and wondered what happened? How had I gone so tongue-tied? What about all of my career accomplishments and accolades? I dabbed at sweat on my brow and quickly scanned my own resume to remind myself of all I’d done. I even reread the letters of recommendation I’d brought along in case they wanted them. (They didn’t but I ended up feeling better!)

“Get it together, girl!” I growled at my reflection.

Luckily I did manage to get it together when I met with the Managing Director and Senior Vice President. Since subsequently I was offered a job I’d go so far as to say I acquitted myself rather well.

I’m sure that when the Director and SVP sat down with the recruiter and exchanged notes about the interviews the recruiter probably wondered if they’d all interviewed the same woman.

Then it was down to the last interview, back in my city. It was at this point that I once again became too cocky. I figured I must have passed the tests in California or I wouldn’t be sitting across the desk at the executive office now.

It was as I discussed how my tenure in my current position (retail dealing in cosmetics, jewelry and women’s apparel) would translate nicely into a different business sector (men’s products: tools, etc.) that I committed the cardinal sin: I said, “When I was discussing this position with my mother – ”

I broke off in horror. Had a truly just brought my mother to my interview?

I sure did. I was aghast.

Hastily I finished the sentence. Inwardly I was cringing but I just smiled and carried on with the interview. What else could I do?

I feel a bit of a hypocrite to offering advice words of advice at this point, but here goes:

1. Practice, practice, practice. Have a friend “interview” you.
2. Use your favorite search site and research interview questions. Double points for “difficult interview questions.”
3. Make sure your clothes are appropriate for the interview. Dress appropriately for the level of the position and the industry it is in. Clean, neat and well-fitted is imperative.
4. Beware of what you mock….for one day you too could become someone worthy of mocking.

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