Tuesday, November 11, 2014

And Now, A Break for Some Inspiration

More like random thoughts, actually.  I've been pinning thoughts to a board since I heard of Pinterest. Here's a sampling.  Didn't realize how much I like simple black and white.  Have a good day.

Add caption
Real Simple emails these gems every day.

This site has several great ideas.
This image from here
This image from here 
Found this on Brain Pickings, a site I read every day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day Eve At the Post Office

Busy day at the post office, partly because tomorrow is Veteran's Day.  Some people actually knew the post office would be closed tomorrow, and were mailing early.  Many of these people (at least twenty) still asked if we would be open tomorrow, Veteran's Day, notwithstanding.  I gleefully told them we would be closed.

Some people (at least six) had come to the post office expecting it to be closed.  I know this because they said things like, "I thought you would be closed today," as they handed me items to mail.  After the first two, I stopped replying, "but here you are anyway..." Of course these people thought today was Veteran's Day, because all of our holidays have been converted to Mondays and Fridays to give us three day weekends. Several people, all apparently under thirty, expressed indignation at the notion of a non-Monday holiday when places like the post office would be closed, because really, what good is that?  

The onslaught of cool weather in the rest of the country has brought back many of our "snow-birds" who are still adjusting to life  in the desert.  They still seem a little bewildered-- maybe because they only need a light sweater when they go out in the morning and they are already hot by noon, when the temperatures are in the low eighties.  Year-round residents comment about how beautiful and "crisp" the weather is, how we've been waiting for it.  Snowbirds ask when it will cool off.  

It is the bewildered snow birds who were out in force today, asking about why the mail cost so much, and misinterpreting the meaning of "flat rate box."  The advertising wizards working for the US Postal Service have definitely scored with their message that there is a cheaper way to send mail anywhere in the U.S., but they have somehow failed to convey that "cheaper" isn't actually cheap-- cheap, meaning free.  "What about those ifitfitsitships boxes?  What about those?  I thought they were free."  Yeah. The boxes are free.  I'll give you the box... but they still cost something to mail when you pack them full of stuff and want to send them across the country.  

These are the same people who say things like, "No wonder the Post Office is losing money.  These prices are crazy."  This was from a woman buying a stamp.  Forty-nine cents, Oy!  She remembers last year, when they were thirty-nine... (They were forty six cents until this January.)

It was a stamp purchaser who won the prize today too. After asking for a book of stamps, and being asked which book of stamps she wanted, she said "The forever ones."  

"All of those are the forever ones, we have about twenty different kinds,"  I said, I thought I was being  helpful.  

"I want Liberty Bells."  I explained that those have not been available for a couple of years.  

"I need forty of them," she added. 

"No liberty bells, how about forty flags, or birds, or Santas?"

Heavy sigh.  "I really liked those liberty bells.  Just give me forty of anything." I pulled out two books of the flags.

"No, not those," she said.  I switched the flags for birds.  "Okay, but I need forty of them."

"This is forty, twenty on each sheet, eight on the front and twelve on the back." I pointed to each stamp to make it clear. 
This image is from here.
  It shows how the stamps in question appear on the sheet.

She took them reluctantly and proceeded to count them. "I need forty." She counted the first sheet. Twenty. Okay.
Then she counted the second, identical, sheet.  Twenty, she reluctantly conceded.

The line had built up behind her, but I couldn't help asking, "You didn't believe me, did you?" as she handed me her debit card.  
"It never hurts to check," she said sharply.  

To all the Veterans from all of us who owe them so much, a big thank you!  And not just for the chance to spend a day away from work...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Lament

I may have written before about my ambivalence toward Sundays.  

It's really more of a Sunday afternoon problem.  Sunday mornings are great. Even if you sleep in, there's usually a nice fat Sunday paper to look at and coupons to cut and crosswords to work on while you eat a late breakfast. It's still the weekend.  What could be wrong? 

But Sunday morning always turns into Sunday afternoon. Whether you are out after brunch or finishing up those nagging weekend chores or watching a game, the realization that the weekend is slipping away always intrudes.  Monday looms like the shadow of a dark tower over the sunny Sunday afternoon. (Can you hear the dramatic music?  Dum Dum DUM)

For me, it often hits around three o'clock, when I start to quiz the girls about whether they've done their homework.  Every little piece of clutter I see begins to irritate me because I know that it all has to be picked up and put away so that the week can start again.  The week will start again anyway, of course, but starting a Monday morning with the disarray of half-finished puzzles and not-quite-dry art projects and dishes from Sunday dinner congealing in the sink is somehow more Monday than I can handle.  

I walked around the apartment in circles for about forty five minutes, picking up here and putting away there, cleaning tables and wiping counters, barking directions at the girls and generally ruining everyone's relaxed Sunday mood.  Just so I wouldn't hate Monday so much. It's great when things are all about me and my need to control the world. 

The backpacks are ready. Showers are done and clothes are put away. The arena is clear. 

Was it worth it?  I'm kicking myself now, because I hate ruining Sunday, but if we get out on time tomorrow morning, maybe I won't feel so bad.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Yep, It's A Bunch of New Yorker Cartoons (About Philosophy)

Still trying to work that post a day thing... but I used up all of my energy doing laundry this morning.  Then I had to lie down.  Energy crisis or existential crisis?  

When I felt better, I went looking for philosophy cartoons.  Full credit goes to the New Yorker... because really, where else are they running philosophy cartoons?

See you tomorrow.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Indispensable at Work Isn't All it's Cracked up to Be.

It did turn out to be food poisoning yesterday, so I am better today, but the idea of food is still not too attractive.  But now you know, if you live nearby or hugged me recently, you won't be coming down with a stomach bug-- at least not because of me.

I had to leave work early because-- well really, because I shouldn't have gone to work in the first place-- I was sick and dizzy and utterly misguided about why it was important to go and stand behind the post office counter even though I was barely able to stand at all.  

I had promised to be there.  I was on the schedule.  People were counting on me... Yada yada yada.  

Somehow though, when I left, the postal world didn't stop spinning.  They managed without me. 

In real life, I don't think I'm indispensable, but in work situations, I somehow build up an idea that I HAD TO BE THERE.  But no.  Especially sick, where I really just caused more difficulty for everyone, including one poor customer who will bear the psychological scars of seeing me sink to the floor, ready to yiff, just as she launched into an explanation of her cell phone problem and why she had to send it back.  

Everyone wants to feel needed, I think.  Appreciated, at least, for contributions valuable to a team effort.  In our work lives, this often becomes the highest compliment-- "We couldn't do this without you." And since our economic stability is tied to our continued usefulness on the job, comments like these give us a little security. Worthiness and security are pretty important to most of us, but in a way, these values are constantly used to get more and more out of employees.  This happens especially often in a job market where employers feel more than comfortable letting employees know that there is someone waiting to take their job if they can't manage to meet expectations. Can anyone remember when we had a job market that wasn't like this? Yeah, me neither. 

But really... unless you are the world's leading brain surgeon, or the person in your region  who is most adept at defusing hostage situations, you are probably not indispensable at work.  Does everyone else's day go more smoothly when you show up?  Well, yeah, of course. Do you add a certain something and excel at your job?  That's awesome, but think about the pressure this adds to your work life.  I know, for sure, that someone else could do my job.  I just trained someone, and someone trained me.  Do I do my job well? fast? courteously?  Yes, but that doesn't mean someone else can't do it.  I work for a low wage, doing simple tasks. I like the location and the hours, and the fact that sometimes, like now, I can work on my own things while I'm here.  Sometimes I'm rushed and stressed and extremely busy-- Tax Day, Holiday Season, I'm thinking of you-- but let's face it, if I couldn't work here any more, someone else could do my job.

And I'm glad, really. I'd rather be an indispensable wife, or mom, or daughter.  These are tasks I don't always excel at, either, so it's good to remember that this is where I should be putting my effort, this is where I should be worried about being replaceable.  

I was down for the count by the time Mike and the girls came home last night-- 5 pm was as far as I could get yesterday.  Even though daddy was on duty and the evening went smoothly without me, the girls seemed pretty relieved that I was up this morning, doing my usual school day/work day prep.  It's too bad I had to feel so awful yesterday to be reminded about real indispensability today.  

Clever cartoon from here.  Wish I was as clever.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Two Words

The only thing I'm not completely sure of is which two words.

They're either:

Stomach Virus or Food Poisoning.

(Looks more poetic when I divide the lines up, huh?)

Anyway, in either case, I have been sick for almost 24 hours, so I'm hoping that whatever the cause, it's gone in the morning.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Conversation with an Actual Voter... Kinda

I was so wrapped up in boasting about my own voting yesterday, that I forgot to mention something election-related that happened at the bike shop post office this week.

On Monday, the day before election day, a fit, mussed, fortyish looking guy, wearing a plain white undershirt and a pair of blue pajama bottoms-- flannel, large plaid-- came up to the desk waving the yellow envelope that held his early ballot.  He wanted to drop it in the mail.  Not so unusual, people had been dropping them off for a couple of weeks. 

But, since the deadline for mailing the early ballots had fallen on the previous Thursday, I thought I would be helpful and let pajama guy know that, for his ballot to count, he would need to drop it off at a polling place. He was not the first citizen to have missed or simply ignored the deadline printed in red capital letters on the envelope.  I had already let a couple of people know they would have to drop their ballots off in person. They had thanked me.

"Where is one by here?" he asked, giving me the impression that maybe he didn't know what a polling place was. 

"At the high school gym, over on 82nd, or the middle school, off Granite Reef," I answered.  He still looked a little mystified about the fact that his ballot couldn't just be dropped off in the mail slot.  He looked annoyed that I had stopped him, actually.  He just wanted to drop off the ballot and be done.

He took a big breath, and sighed, and said, "OK, I guess I can go by there now." 

"No," I said, "there's no voting today, so you have to wait until tomorrow." 

Seriously, he asked me why he had to wait for Election Day for the polls to be open.

"They only have one Election Day, so no one's there for that now," I explained. 

"I can't just drop it off there? Won't they take it?" He was really annoyed now, wishing he'd never come in.  He could have dropped the yellow envelope into the mailbox in the parking lot and avoided this confrontational woman trying to keep him from voting...

"There's only voting on Election Day," I repeated, as though that would clarify things.  

"They only do it one day?" He looked disgusted, really miffed, as though something about having only one day to vote was deeply unfair.

"Yeah," I said, and because I couldn't help myself, I added, "that's why they call it Election Day." 

I don't think I was dripping sarcasm, exuding it maybe, but not dripping, for sure.  

He turned and shuffled away in his slippers, shaking his head about the stupidity of it all.  

I know now, from the results of the election, that he probably did get to have his vote counted.  

From the ice cream mogul my state has elected as the next governor to the evasively inarticulate gal we've selected to be our state superintendent of schools, to the prison lobbyist who will be serving as attorney general, the results are pretty disappointing from where I sit.  The current governor, Jan Brewer, beamed and fluttered her false eyelashes on every local newscast as the election returns came in last night.  The gal who rose to national  fame thanks to the viral image in which she popped her gum and wagged her finger in the face of the President, is apparently happy about the prospect of a slate of state officials who will ensure that Arizona will never escape her legacy of governmental buffoonery. 

On the upside, my town finally voted for a budget override that will put some money back into education. I'm going to take that as a victory, and try to ignore the rest for the next few years...

Full disclosure:  I confess to a nagging sense of judgement about the whole early voting thing.  I get absentee ballots-- you're out of the country, the state, what have you, you don't want to be disenfranchised-- but early voting when you're right here in town?  You can't take a couple of minutes to go to the polls on the same day as everyone else?  I'm sure there are good reasons for sending in an early ballot, so I know my judgey attitude is illogical, but still, come on, really?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day

Yes, I voted today.  

I wish I could say it was a show of my optimism and deep belief in democracy.  Unfortunately, as I get older, it's a more curmudgeonly urge that gets me to the polls.  I have a vague, but persistent notion that I forfeit my right to complain about the foibles and mishaps of the local and federal governments if I don't at least do my minimal civic duty to participate in the process.  And I like to complain, I really do, so I put on my sweater and made my way to my polling place at the local high school gym this morning.  

In this election, as in the last, school funding was my pet issue.  Though I live in a community which has a lot of children who attend public schools, the voting population seems be comprised of single young adults and retirees who shudder at the thought of their tax dollars being allocated to the education of future tax payers. I say those retirees may be well out of it, but those young singles better be planning to move somewhere else when they need to get expert medical help in twenty years.  I voted for school funding because, at this rate, our children will go back to doing their figuring on slates that they bring to school themselves for the few hours it can be held open, given budget constraints. This year, one day a week has been shortened and music and art have been slashed because funding can't be found. 

Seriously, if I wanted my children to be philistines with extra free time, I would home school them.  

Of course, there were major races for governor, attorney general, senate and house seats, etc.  I had some strong ideas about these, and voted accordingly.  But there was also the whole back side of the ballot, which I confess I almost missed.  It was a list of judges, with the question of whether each of them should be retained.  It must have been over twenty people I'd never heard of and had no opinion about. I know that displays a deplorably casual attitude about civic affairs, but honestly, if I'm not arguing a case in front of them, or waiting for them to hand down my sentence, how can I really know whether any particular judge should be retained?  Oh I know, I could research their judicial records, but for that many judges, I would have had to start reading before they were even put on the ballot.  That just seems excessive. Since I hadn't done the research, I skipped it.  Being a lazy voter is one thing, but actually making uninformed choices just felt wrong. 

I think that yawning list was strategic though, because at the end of it, there was a little proposition asking whether we should increase legislative pay... Yeah it was buried under all those judges.  Had I actually marked all of those lines yes, I could have easily rolled right along and done the same with this proposition and voted a pay raise for people I've been complaining about since I voted in the last election. Oy! 

I must say I'm looking forward to the return of ads for low cost accident lawyers, pay day loans, and heating and cooling specialists, now that the election has passed, but that's likely to be the biggest immediate benefit.  I fear that the election will not really go my way, my vote notwithstanding. But believe me, tomorrow and every day until the next election, I will be exercising the right I earned to complain, because hey, I didn't vote for this!

Monday, November 3, 2014

All the Glorious Colors

This looks like the ones I used to do as a kid.
Sometimes they had black velvet flocking...
I found myself coloring the other day.  Not sitting down with the girls and doing a fun art activity, but by myself,  in a rare moment when I was actually alone, and I felt like I really couldn't do anything else, and no one was expecting anything else from me. The girls had recently gotten some folders and a notebook printed with intricate patterns ready to color and the notebook, covered with a pattern of black and white swirls which formed concentric circles, beckoned to me.  The markers were right there. Charlie Rose's insightful interview with Benjamin Netenyahu ended and Sesame Street came on, but I didn't notice until I looked up from my work and saw Big Bird talking with kids about the many glorious colors of their skin.

I had to go to an appointment before I was finished, so I left many of the circles blank.  The girls couldn't believe I was the one who had colored-- they accused each other first, but then decided that I should finish it, since I was already doing a good job.  I should hope so.  Even though I'm out of practice, I have been coloring for more than forty five years. For several years when I was in grade school, big Doodleart posters with intricate designs just begging to be colored often featured as prizes in all kinds of school contests.  We would hang them on our walls and work on them for weeks until every blank spot blazed with color.  

I think something is wrong with me.

But I don't think I'm the only one.

Doesn't everyone else out there feel overloaded sometimes?  Maybe a lot of the time? I think I feel overwhelmed six or seven times a day, sometimes before lunch.  I didn't feel overloaded when I was coloring, and that is something worth repeating. 

I don't often tune out the world and pick up markers though, because I usually-- no really, I always-- feel so guilty doing something that is essentially unproductive.  Then I saw this article and I felt better, because it turns out that coloring not only relieves stress, but exercises our brains because it combines the logic of form and pattern with the creativity of color as we make choices to mix and match different tones.  It was on the HuffPost, so it must be true. 

I didn't give the folder back to the girls, because they want me to finish it.  Now I'm thinking maybe I'll get my own markers, so that I can keep the points fine and remember to put the caps on-- something the girls can't always do.  I still have the lingering mark of an apple green permanent marker on the sole of my foot from when I stepped on on it in their darkened bedroom the other night. Classy, right? 

Hey, I think you can still get those Doodleart posters on Amazon... 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Just An Ordinary Day

Once again I find myself trying to get this in before the end of the day... Maybe this is my writing pattern and I should embrace it, instead of fighting it.  

This is the thing though, the days just seem to disappear. Especially the weekend days.  I start the day with a million and two things to do, and by the end of the day, I still have a million on my list. Today, Delia wasn't feeling well, and even though nothing really seemed to be wrong and she wasn't running a fever, she still threw up.  She felt much better afterwards, of course, because you always do, but there is no way to convince an eight year old, or even a forty-eight year old, that that is true, until they've yiffed, and feel incredibly relieved. 

Still, I got our bedroom closet in shape, and moved the stuff we had been storing in our room into new storage places.  I threw away a bunch of stuff-- old mail, daily school papers, unusable craft items-- and that always makes me feel like I've done something.  I cleaned the girls room, partly because I was afraid to face the onslaught of genuine contagious illness with the room still a multi-layered mess.  

Everything is easier to face without clutter.  I know, because I've faced lots of things, usually in clutter.  

And of course, I had that nagging, back of the mind worry about the kids being sick that doesn't actually have anything to do with the kids.  I had to be thinking about what I would do if Delia was really sick and couldn't go to school tomorrow.  Because I have to work every day this week.  How's that gonna work? No sick days, no personal days, because actually, I work part-time.  

I have been working more at the bike shop post office lately, and find that, though I am glad to have the extra money, I really feel cranky about having to be there so much.  What a first world whine, right? "Oh poor me, I have to go to work almost forty hours a week." I know that, given the economy and my circumstances, I should be happy to have a job close to home.   But still, I feel like I can't get anything else done, and I feel like, after all those years of going to school, maybe having a full-time, low-paying, relatively menial job is not what I signed up for.  And I can't stand the fact that I worry about more than the kids when they look like they might be getting sick.Especially for a job like this, where my main contribution to the betterment of the world is the smooth acceptance of items for the mail.   I hate that I hope they're not really sick so I don't have to call out, and I won't lose the pay, which I'll really need if they're sick.  My head spins sometimes.

And yet... now the kids are in bed, and I'm headed there soon myself. And we all had enough to eat, and even though I had to borrow some money, we paid our rent yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in Phoenix, because the weather has cooled to the seventy degree temperatures we love to enjoy while much of the rest of the country starts thinking about where their snow boots are and whether or not they have salt to throw on the front walk in the morning.  When Delia wasn't feeling sick, she was playing with Fiona on the balcony in the fresh air.  They must have gone ten whole minutes before the bickering started. 

So yeah, it was a great day off. Glad I got to write about it.  Hope you all had a good Sunday too. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Writing Reboot

It's ten minutes before nine here, so I guess I could have waited a bit longer to write something today, this first day of November.  I mean, hey it's already November 2nd in some parts of the country.  No matter. I am taking advantage of the quasi-official November Blog Post a Day challenge to try to get back into the habit of posting on the blog.  The summer hiatus turned into a genuine fall slump, as far as my writing goes, but November always offers a chance for writing renewal because it is the month that someone decided that if they wrote enough each day, they could have a finished novel at the end of the month.  The quality of the novel is not assured, of course, but for so many writers, talent will never be an issue because they will never get anything on paper.  I understand their difficulty.  

Enter NANOWRIMO-- National Novel Writing Month-- during which budding authors can feel some solidarity with other struggling wordsmiths who may be toiling in solitary obscurity as they all try to get something down on paper.  Of course, no category of writer wanted to be left out of this chance to grab the brass ring and get all creative this month, so the novel writing challenge has engendered poetry writing, essay writing, and yes, blog posting challenges in which writers can get writing tips, encouragement and nagging reminders all month long-- whatever it takes to get our butts in the chairs and some words on the actual (or virtual) paper.  

So even though I have taken on extra hours at work, and am still the mother of four children, two of which (two of whom?) are still young enough to need daily feeding and bathing, not to mention homework assistance, I am jumping back into blogging with the intention of writing every day for a month. After that, I should have formed the writing habit again, and I should be unstoppable... right. At least for now, I should have plenty of ideas saved up from all that time I wasn't posting, right?  Uh, yeah, for so sure. 

I guess all I have left to say for now is, "See you tomorrow."

Thinking writer image from here