Cartoon Fall

A lot of snow fell yesterday—over two feet by some official estimates. I can attest to that. I spent a significant amount of time away from my desk, digging people’s cars out of the snow. My signal that it was time to go inside? When I performed a cartoon-like banana-peel fall on my driveway, culminating in my tailbone meeting said driveway’s icy, snow-packed coating. I swear I was suspended horizontally, legs flailing, for at least 30 seconds. I know that’s not actually true, but it felt like it. I’m just glad I could provide some comic relief for the folks surrounding me.

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Casual Employment

It’s been nine months since I last wrote here. During that time, I experienced an ersatz promotion from my in-office employer. I was made Content Lead for an Eastern European division of a particular client’s training program. I was in charge of putting together their training content. Then I moved on to a Central European country’s training project, and then another. Once complete, I was assigned a South American training project. But, due to financial reasons, was told that all “casual” employees (of which I was one) had their hours cut to zero. Many full-time employees were let go permanently. It was a mass layoff. This, apparently, is common at said Casual Employer Inc.

And, so, I am once again at home, working on freelance projects and keeping my dog company. All of my children are away at college, and my home echos with their absence.

Despite my initial challenges with handling all-day, in-office employment, I miss the purpose I felt driving their each day. And I admit to enjoying the camaraderie I felt with several co-workers. My dog doesn’t like chatting, and our ideas of going out to lunch aren’t the same.

Looking for permanent employment is proving challenging this time around. I was very fortunate last time, applying for one of the first jobs I saw, and then being offered the job. Easy come, easy go. I’ll take the challenge.

The Imitation Game

Last night I saw the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game. This morning, I sat at my computer to resume the edit of a fairly complex and lengthy computer-network training manual, feeling the touch of Turing’s ghost in every word. The movie moved me. I found Turing’s drive and imagination so far beyond my own that it was a challenge to comprehend. I do, however, find it fascinating. What broke my heart, though, was the way society treated Turing and his ultimate death as a result. What could he have achieved if those around him could have opened their own minds to a fraction of what Turing  was capable of. I continue to wonder what bigotry and ignorance has done to our world—what could have been, if only we all could have been more accepting of those who are different from us?

Working on Location

I have worked out of my home exclusively for the past 17 years. Although I found it challenging at the beginning—the isolation and keeping company with only people under the age of 5 years took some getting used to—I grew to love my cozy home office, and my ability to spend so much time with my children. But three weeks ago, I began working for a company that requires its contract workers to work onsite. Once again, I’m adapting. It’s taking some getting used to, especially in the face of this week’s impending Nor’easter. I keep asking myself if this is the wisest choice I could have made…

Birthday

Today is my birthday. I came across this piece, “Remember How We Forgot,” by spoken word artist Shane Koyczan earlier this week, and it moved me. His humor about the past and what that means for the future forced me to think about the impact I have and will make in this world.

So many passages resonate with me, but I think this one is the most powerful:

“Let no one say we’ll be undone by time’s passing
The memories we are amassing will stand as testament
That somehow we bend minds around the concept
that we see others within ourselves.
That self-knowledge can be found on bookshelves
So who we are has no bearing on how we appear
Look directly into every mirror
Realize our reflection is the first sentence to a story
And our story starts:
‘We were here.’ ”

Banning Books in My Town

During a book club meeting a couple of months ago, one member—a respected, outspoken woman—mentioned in passing that one of our school librarians had received many complaints about a particular book. Another member countered that statement, by explaining that, as a librarian herself who was friends with the librarian in question, she knew that only one complaint had been received. The conversation ended there.

It started me thinking about how the loudest, but not necessarily most knowledgeable, person is usually heard most. That goes for almost everything, really. The squeaky wheel and all that.

If you don’t challenge your own and others’ assumptions, you’ll never know the truth. That’s not to say that you have to be contrary about everything (a good reminder for myself), but to think critically about everything you’re told is good practice. Don’t fire questions at the supermarket produce manager about how sure he is that the oranges actually came from the central region of Florida. Do question if it’s labeled organic and it looks like it’s not.

Back to loudmouths and book banning. I find it astounding that parents—well-intentioned parents—fight to decrease the amount of information their children have access to. Children who consume book voraciously rarely become degenerates or serial killers.

I don’t have data to back me up there. Just go with it.

I feel students should be allowed to read anything they can that’s appropriate developmentally. That’s the gray area and the common path for folks seeking to ban a book. They think it’s not “appropriate.” Well, it might not be appropriate for your little snowflake, but mine is fine, thank you very much, and I’d like my kids to have access to more information, not less. I’ll decide and take action if necessary. You can keep your book banning to yourself.

I was happy to discover that there have been no reported limitations in the past few years to our local libraries. But limitations can happen earlier on, in the decision not to carry a title or teach a book. Those are the easily hidden decisions that force us to be vigilant. Or they should.

The Pinterest Effect

I’m sitting here in my family room, watching “Modern Family” and looking at Pinterest. This is my life. Multitasking. I can’t just watch TV. I have to be doing something else along with it. Usually, that’s knitting, but not at the moment. I was scanning Pinterest for cookie decorating ideas and came across a humorous item—a photo of an oversized cat accompanied by the text “I’m not fat. I’m just so damn sexy that it overflows.” I read it out loud to my family because, well, I find it life affirming. And I’m not even a cat lover.

The thing is, they didn’t know I was reading from a Pinterest pin.

About 20 seconds after I read that, I turned to my son and said, “Ooh, we should make rock candy some time!” Again, it was another Pinterest pin. They didn’t know this, though.

My family just though that sudden shift was an example of my brain at work. Scary.

449 Followers

I’ve been flirting with the number 450 for months. I admit that I’m not a bountiful tweeter, being of the quality over quantity camp. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but I find my time better spent elsewhere. That’s less a dig at Twitter and its more efficient users and more a commentary on how I get lost in a task and discover hours later that I should have been doing something else—that task whose deadline is now looming, for example. (I’m a freelancer, and so good time management is my savior.) Having said that, I envy those who are so clever that they can manage their Twitter account and meet their deadlines—and do both well.

So, for months Twitter and I have done this dance, moving above and below 450 followers. I’m not concerned…scratch that. I am concerned. I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if I, at some level, was not concerned. Maybe “concerned” isn’t the right word. Maybe “fascinated” better describes what I’m feeling. Or “dismayed.” Each time I log in, my number of followers is different. When it’s 450+, I’m fascinated.

Right now, the number is 449. Color me dismayed.

I should say now that I work on social media as part of my job. I spend a lot of my Twitter time tweeting on behalf of a client, so when I return to my own account, I’m all tweeted out. Add to that my personal Twitter account, which exists solely to track my children’s tweeting habits. I occasionally feel the pressure to tweet from that account to maintain the ruse that I’m just another mom on Twitter—nothing to see here, kids. Just communicating with my tweeps. I swear I’m not stalking you.

Twitter and I have danced like this before. Every milestone had a brief period of wavering back and forth. At this 450 milestone, I may have plateaued. For reasons of my own appreciation of rounded numbers, I’d like to plateau on the other side of 450…

Spider Transport

So, I started the day by not being the only one in my shirt. I felt something itchy and went to scratch. There was a lump moving under my shirt. Another spider!

I did the only reasonable thing I could do. I screamed and ripped my shirt off.

It’s a good thing I work from home. That probably wouldn’t have gone over well in a sea of cubicles.

Clean Office

I sat at my desk, which sits within my home office, drinking coffee and reading up on what was happening around the world. I usually like to start my day this way, as I’m isolated in my office and alone for most of the day. It’s good to start the day with the entire world, and then slowly transition to my circle of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, and then finally to the few people involved in whatever project I’m currently copy editing or writing.

There I sat, in a bit of a haze as the coffee was just about starting to work, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A spider with the leg span of a decent-sized plum scurried across my desk. TOWARD ME. I screamed and jumped faster than anyone who knows me personally would expect.

So, it appears I was not alone in my office after all. I examined the surface of my desk and the carpet under it. No spider. I flipped my desk chair over, expecting it to be lurking there. Nope. Then I waited. It had to show up soon, I thought.

Nothing. So, I did the only reasonable thing I could do, short of burning the house down. I began gingerly tearing through everything on my desk. I got the vacuum out and started cleaning. Really cleaning—not just putting things in piles as I usually do. That would just be giving my little friend another place to hide.

Today, my office is spotless. And I think I may have seen the spider just before my vacuum sucked it up. I’m almost positive that’s what it was.

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