Friday, January 29, 2010

Flashback Friday: You're fired! (almost)

In honor of my being late yesterday to my first day of training, today's Flashback Friday features other stupid, stupid things I've done on the job.

In the summer of 2000, I worked a bunch of temp jobs after I got back from Japan. My very first one was filling in for a receptionist at some kind of blue-collar company. They taught me how to use the phones and answering them was my main task. The very first call that came in was from one of the bosses, who was off-site at the time. He called, I asked him to hold, and then I HUNG UP ON HIM. I was so flustered I didn't know what I was doing. Luckily, everyone in the office kind of laughed about it (well, at me) and the boss just called right back.

My exam dream just came true

Day one of the job seminar is over. It went great, except for one huge thing. Before I came out here, I thought, you know, I realize some little things might go wrong but if I can just NOT be late on the first day, that would be fantastic.

I was late on the first day. Really late.

But it wasn't my fault. I woke up on time, got out the door on time, headed out onto the roads on time, and then they looked like this (photos from the internets):


and this:


Some sort of freak blizzard had taken over the area's freeways. As I drove, increasingly stressed and distressed, GPS Nigel's ETA kept creeping later and later. When he finally proclaimed that I would be officially late, I called the place where the seminar was being held and told them I was delayed in terrible traffic and would they please tell the organizers that? The lady laughed and said she'd already had half a dozen calls from other seminar participants who were stuck in the same traffic jam. Phew!

That relieved some of the stress, but I was still in a hurry. I was in such a hurry, in fact, that as I made a sharp turn to pull into the parking garage, I forgot that the roads were (as you see above) extremely slick and I spun out a little bit. Thankfully, I didn't hit anything and I was able to quickly correct and get back on track.

So yes, I was late, and I almost slid off the road but other people were later than me and one of them got hit by a truck. And I think that makes me OK. Doesn't it?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Am I worth it?

I'll share more details once it's a sure thing, but I have a conditional offer for a work-from-home job. Conditional, because I have to successfully complete a four-day training seminar first. And that's how I came to be here, in a town outside NYC, all by myself.

I am unbelievably nervous. It's a work-from-home job, yes, but unlike when I edited the dictionary, I will actually have to meet my (prospective) bosses and "co"-workers. In person. TOMORROW. Before I left Ithaca, as I packed, I broke out the professional work wardrobe that I purchased back in 2000 and haven't touched since 2005. There were still a few usable pieces. Usable enough, anyway, to get me through a four-day seminar.

As I drove away from my husband and two kids this afternoon, headed for NYC, I had to fight the feeling that I wasn't worth it. What right did I have to inconvenience my family by leaving town for four days? What right did I have to spend our family's hard-earned money and resources on something that so totally benefits ME? Who did I think I was, to deserve a little work vacation?

It took me from Ithaca until about Liberty, NY - a good few hours of driving - to convince myself that I was asking my family to do no more for me than we've done for Jeremy many times in the past. I reminded myself of all the times we scrimped and saved and stretched to get Jeremy to that important academic conference while he was doing his PhD, or how we used up precious frequent flier miles to supplement a paltry student travel grant. It was all to further his education and work prospects. It's been a long time since we've done anything like that for me. And besides, I think I am worth it.

Especially if I get through this training OK, which I am fairly confident of because the job is a great match for my skills. But you never know - maybe my outdated professional wardrobe will kill my prospects. Let's hope not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Epistolary novels


At book club last night, we discussed Sorcery and Cecilia, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. I liked the book. I really did. It was fun and unusual and creative and set in the 19th century and it was an epistolary novel. That last 'and' should probably be a 'but.' I don't have a good history with epistolary novels. I avoid them, and when I do read them, I usually don't like them. That's why The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (another book club pick and an epistolary novel) was such an unlikely favorite for me. I was caught off guard by it and loved it almost against my will, despite the epistolary-ness of it.

The nature of my damage with epistolary novels is that I think it's disingenuous to have the narrator(s) scribbling away for chapters at a time - often with old-fashioned pen and paper - when in real life, if they did so, they wouldn't have time to actually experience any of the plot. You know, because they'd be writing all day. Sorcery and Cecelia is a fairly egregious offender in that regard.

Another issue is that I find epistolary novels to be singularly disorienting. It takes me much longer to wrap my head around the principal characters and plot of an epistolary novel because the point of view jumps around so much and the reader is thrust right into the middle of the action. I find myself having to pay meticulous attention to tiny details, often flipping back pages to answer questions such as, "wait, who was the letter to? When was it written? And from where?" It can get a little tiresome.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Genesis


On 25 January 2005 - five years ago today - I wrote my very first blog post. It was on My Adventures in Syria. It was titled "Thanks for the idea, Jeremy," and the full text of the post was "This is also a blog." I know, profound, right?

At the time, I think I had been vaguely aware of what a weblog was for maybe about a year. But it took me a while to realize that a blog was exactly the outlet I needed: I was living in a foreign country and I had a lot of stories and pictures I wanted to share with family and friends in America. I had been doing the old-fashioned mass email thing for a while but it always kind of bothered me that I was inflicting my stories and pictures on people who might not really be interested.

Then the Indian Ocean tsunami hit, at the end of 2004, and a friend of ours who went to Sri Lanka to help with the relief effort started a blog to document his experiences. Jeremy thought it was a brilliant idea and I did, too. So I started a blog, mostly at Jeremy's urging. Now any family or friends who wanted to read stories about our time in Syria could just go to a website instead of sifting through an email. At that point, my only regret was that I hadn't started the blog sooner, or even had one going when we lived in Moscow (I still regret that).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Flashback Friday: Three coincidences

Today's flashback will walk you through three coincidences, all involving a CD or DVD of music or speech, now that I think about it. They're not as weird as my personal Twilight Zone flashbacks, but they'll do.

1. The first took place way back when I was in high school. Do they still do school pictures these days? When I was growing up, they did. A photographer came to the school and took headshots of everyone and a few weeks later, you got a crinkly envelope full of glossy pictures of yourself. Then you got to exchange pictures with other people.

Anyway, I had a few school pictures of friends arranged casually on the bulletin board in my room. One evening, my sister Teresa was in my room chatting with me. In the background, I had the soundtrack from The Last of the Mohicans playing quietly. Well, it was playing quietly until an apparently big moment in the movie. It happened right when Teresa asked me who one of the pictures was. I said his name, "oh, that's [Person McSoandso]" and right then, the music swelled and did an intense, drawn-out chord progression. It was so dramatic. And even though I am not really anything anymore beyond facebook friends with this person, every time I happen to come across his name, in my mind it's said in a serious, dramatic voice with a huge orchestra punctuation mark. Probably for my sister, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ignorance is bliss

Jeremy and Magdalena got home from Puerto Rico on Monday. It was only in the car on the way home from the airport that Jeremy told me that on their second night there, he woke up at 3am to go to the bathroom and came face to face with a would-be burglar.

There was a pane of (sliding door balcony) glass between their faces, but still. FREAKY. Jeremy reached out and hit the glass door with his hands and it scared the intruder away.

In the morning, they discovered that a few of his family's rental cars had been broken into. In fact, one of the cars had had a wrapped wedding present inside. The thief took the time to unwrap the gift before, as it turned out, not stealing it. It was a spice rack. He left it behind.

I was so glad Jeremy didn't tell me about all this at the time. I would have worried so much about him and Magdalena. Instead, they're fine, they're home, and I never had to lose sleep over a situation that was completely out of my power.

Have you ever been glad when someone didn't tell you something? I withheld from Jeremy the information that I was pregnant with Madgalena for a little over two weeks. He was right in the middle of his PhD comprehensive exams at the time, which was an extremely busy and stressful period for him. I figured I could keep the pregnancy news under wraps for a while until he had spare brain cells to deal with it. I'm sure he was grateful.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Just the two of us

Jeremy went to Puerto Rico on Thursday for his brother's wedding and he took Magdalena with him. They get back today, which means I was absent from my youngest child for four nights and almost five days. That's kind of a big deal, considering the previous record for longest kid separation was from Miriam, for 24 hours, one time, almost two years ago. I really couldn't tell you the longest I've ever been apart from Magdalena - four hours, maybe? So the last few days have been an adjustment.

But not altogether an unwelcome one. I don't mean this to be an indictment of Magdalena and the everyday tasks she complicates, but maybe it kind of is. Miriam and I had a really special extended weekend in which we:

-played Candyland without having to put up barriers so Magdalena couldn't come and destroy the stack of cards, or swat at our gamepieces. This was pure heaven for Miriam.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: Jeremy vs. the muezzin


So yeah, there was this one time Jeremy wandered the streets of Damascus at 4am in search of a rifle so he could shoot the speakers off of our local mosque. That's most of the story, but let me give you some background.

But before I do, here's the part where I remind you that I love Syria, loved living there, loved the people, loved the food, gave my first-born child the middle name Damascus, for crying out loud, so please don't try to tell me I'm a hater for writing about this. Annoying things happen everywhere. This annoying thing happened in Syria.

Anyway. There are few things that say “you’re in the Middle East” as well as the call to prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, here’s a hint: it’s that musical recitation issuing from the minaret that invariably figures prominently in the background of most any BBC or CNN report coming from Baghdad, Cairo, Istanbul, and all the other Middle Eastern cities. (By the way, has anyone else ever noticed how often the call to prayer just happens to go off during those reports? Judging solely from Western news coverage, you would think the call to prayer is going off all day long.) (If you're still not sure what I'm talking about, you can watch a video I took of it here.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I didn't used to own these things, but now I do


Christmas break was awesome. The four of us got sick immediately upon arrival in Portland and it was the nastiest cold I've had in recent memory. The girls were spared the worst of it but Jeremy and I were ill for two full weeks. It was inconvenient being sick away from home but on the plus side, we burned through my parents' famous medicine stash instead of our own, and also there were people around to help watch our kids. That was nice.

Also over Christmas break, I acquired a few things that I think make me more of a real person than ever. These include a curling iron, a hair dryer, and makeup, AND a case to keep the makeup in. I feel so classy now that I don't have to store my fancy brushes and powders in the same stained toiletries case I bought at Old Navy 12 years ago.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My new reality

On our trip back to Ithaca from visiting family out west for Christmas, unlike on our trip there, everything went well. We had to leave the house at the unearthly hour of 3.45 in the morning to catch our flight. Luckily, Magdalena woke up at 2am and wouldn't go back to sleep so I was plenty alert and awake by the time we had to go. It would have been nice to get more sleep, but whatever. I'm still counting that as a positive.

All our flights were on time. We made all of our connections. Magdalena hardly cried and what little fussing she did do on our third flight paled in comparison to the fit the full-blown FIVE-year-old a few seats back was throwing.

And miracle of miracles, the girls slept on our long Denver-Newark leg, which, in another stroke of good luck, wasn't full so we could stretch out. During that flight, as they slept, I actually read a magazine in its entirety.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

2009 Stats

OK, I know I said we were done with 2009: The Year in Review posts, but here's one more. How about I tuck it away in a Saturday post so it's less noticeable? I forgot I wanted to do this until I saw it over at my friends' blog (Heissatopia). So I'm going to completely and absolutely steal their idea and run some interesting stats for My Adventures in Tucson/Limbo/Ithaca (but probably not as in-depth because I'm not as savvy as Andrew).

Friday, January 08, 2010

Flashback Friday: A not-so-fond memory of Syria

Man, sometimes living in Syria really sucked. Like this one time, when some construction workers parked a huge vat of bubbling tar outside our apartment building for a few days, spewing smoky billows of tarry goodness into our home. We started noticing the smell one Sunday morning and at first we couldn't tell where the stench was coming from. Then we looked outside and saw this:


Shockingly, our only defense against the haze and smell - some thin, loose, rattly window panes - was breached almost immediately. I was pregnant with Miriam at the time, but I think that even without a super bionic maternity nose, the smell must have been pretty bad.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Retrospecticus 2009

Here's the last wrap-up post for 2009 (see books and movies).


Miriam had surgery in January and got a black eye. As far as I know, no one called CPS on me. Jeremy achieved a big fat Reconnaissance FAIL when away from home for a job interview (though it was in East Lansing, not Ithaca, so it all turned out OK). Also in January, the music died.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Flashback Friday: Happy New Year!

Happy 2010! Here are some generic memories of New Year's Eve as experienced in my childhood.

When I was very young, my parents would make me go to bed at the usual time, with the promise that they'd wake me up when midnight came. I remember a year or two where I woke up to hear them tell me it was midnight and then went back to sleep. Other years, I got out of bed with the rest of my siblings and went upstairs to sleepily enjoy a lime sherbet float. This dessert is inexplicable to me. It was lime sherbet served in 7-Up or Sprite. In the entire rest of my life, I've only ever encountered one other person who had the guts to serve sherbet floats in public. I don't know if it's a Mormon thing, or an 80s thing, or what.

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