July 7, 2011

Dear Fellow Americans: You really must travel better.

Last night marked the end of roughly 20 days of travel, during which, I flew and took trains both domestically and internationally. While I enjoyed this much needed vacation, I also couldn't help but notice the atrocious manner in which Americans travel.  I'm not sure if this is a new phenomenon, or if as I age I get crankier - I'm thinking it may be a bit of both. But I'm telling you, the next time I run into one of these ignorant, rude or obnoxious American travelers...I don't think I'll be able to keep my mouth shut. Here's just a sampling of what I witnessed both domestically and abroad with American travelers over these past few weeks:

1. At Sea-Tac airport, the morning we departed, there was a family of four in front of us, traveling internationally. As they approached the first TSA agent in the security line (the one who double-checks your boarding pass against your ID), they just threw at her four plane tickets and four passports, none of them matched up...mistake number one. After the TSA agent tersely (and honestly, I don't blame her) reminded them to always match each ticket to each passport, she also noticed that none of the passports were signed...none of them. Now, for the two minor children, this is not an issue. However, the two, of age, adults, who were hoping to travel internationally, with their children, had not bothered to sign their passports. When the TSA agent told them they must sign the passports and provide other documentation to prove their signatures while she watched, they both acted surprised that the passports even needed to be signed!  In fact, the mother asked, "Where are we supposed to do that?"  Um, on the line on the first page of your passport that says: sign here or invalid.

Listen, the TSA agent was within rules and regulations to tell these people to pound sand - they are lucky she didn't. I cannot believe that two, supposedly intelligent people, who are parents, didn't double-check every single detail before traveling internationally...with their children. Moreover, it's just another example of idiots holding up the security line because they're either too stupid or selfish to care about the hundreds of people backing up behind them.

2. Buckets and buckets of you still don't realize that for carry-ons, liquids are limited to 3 oz or less and must be in a quart size ziploc bag. No, you may not carry full size toiletries in your carry-on luggage and NO you can't use a gallon size bag! Sure, there are exemptions for things like baby formula, and guess what? TSA has a handy little website to help you hammer these details out BEFORE you get in the security line at the airport. It's been years since these regulations were put in place; stop acting surprised.  The last time I checked, the Uni-Bomber was the only one who was actually living in a hole in the ground. You have access to this information; please utilize it.

3. No, you cannot carry your beverage through the security line. There is a Starbucks on the other side so please wait to get your fix and stop making the rest of us wait while you argue with the TSA officer because you have to throw your $20 coffee in the garbage. P.S. You cannot put your beverage in the little bucket and run it through the scanner either.

4. You must, must, must take your laptop out of the bag and put it in a separate bucket! Again, this is not a new rule so please stop acting surprised. Conversely, you do not have to empty every other electronic device you have into the bucket...just in case.

5. The area at the end of the conveyor belt where you pick up your belongings after going through security, is NOT the place to put your shoes back on and put everything back in your bag. There are roughly 300 people behind you; grab your crap and get out of the way.  There are benches literally everywhere put in place just for you to get organized again.

6.  Get in the right passport line.  The signs are in several languages so even if English isn't your first language you should be able to figure it out.  Again, there are people behind you...the ones you don't seem to give a damn about.

7. Don't cut in line. Don't pretend you don't see the line and walk around it. Don't be a tool. We all have connections and we're all in a hurry. If there is truly an emergency, ask for help and you will be escorted to the front of the line by an airport employee. But please, stop thinking your travel anxieties are more important than anyone else's.

8. When the gate agent announces the boarding process has started...DON'T RUSH THE GATE. There are boarding groups/zones for a reason. This "last one there's a rotten egg" business has got to stop. You have a boarding pass, a legitimate reason to be on the plane. It won't leave without you. If you have special pre-boarding circumstances the airline has a process for this. Please remove yourself from your "I am special" bubble and comply because again, there are roughly 300 people behind you. Don't cut.  Don't pretend you didn't hear the gate agent say it's not your turn. In general, stop being rude.

9. When boarding, do NOT...and this one really chaps my hide...put your luggage in an overhead bin 20 rows in front of your seat. The bin over your seat is for your luggage. I watched a little kid chuck his bag in the first class bins as he marched to the back of the plane. His mom just shrugged her shoulders and said, "oh well." No, not "oh well." That is inconsiderate. Use the bin over your seat and if your luggage doesn't fit then take a look at the damn size. You cannot bring on giant bags and expect them to fit. Which leads me to...

10. The limit is 2 carry-ons!!! One of them is supposed to be small like a purse or a laptop bag. Please don't act like it's OK to bring everything you own on as a carry-on because it's not. Your full size suitcase will be taken away from you and it will be checked.

11. Parents, it's not adorable when your kids run around yelling and screaming. I understand ear pain and crying, it's going to happen. What I don't get is you allowing bad behavior as if there is no controlling it. However, waiting until you get to the airport to bring down the hammer might be too late. Yesterday morning in Prague, I witnessed a father decide that 5 minutes before we boarded was the moment he was going to announce to his overly indulgent wife and bratty daughters that he'd had enough of their behavior and that he was now in charge...in front of the inlaws. Guess how well that went?

12. When traveling internationally, yelling doesn't help those who don't speak English understand you. And no, it's not OK to get angry with the person who doesn't understand you. YOU decided to travel internationally without learning a few words in their language. Don't you dare blame it on them when they don't understand you.

13. Don't behave badly and then blame it on others. In Vienna, an American woman literally pushed me out of the way as I was climbing the stairs to get on the train. I said, "excuse me" and she started yelling at me. I was deathly ill and trying to drag my bag up the stairs. I had also just insisted another woman go in front of me so she wouldn't be separated from her husband. This woman who was now pushing me had just witnessed me being kind to another traveler so she couldn't say I wasn't polite. She just decided it was her turn and she was going to knock me over to get what she wanted. When I called her on her behavior she blamed it on me and said if my bag was smaller (I traveled 20 days with a small carry-on and a backpack) I would be happier. Then she told me to go to the dining car and get tea for my throat. These written words might not convey the snark from her in this situation but it was incredibly rude. Wait your turn people, again this "last one there's a rotten egg" mentality boggles me.

14.  Louder isn't better.  Everywhere I travel abroad, I always know where the Americans are because they can't seem to turn the damn volume down.  Take a look around, there are others around you.  We don't want to hear your conversation.  At the airport yesterday morning it was solemn and quiet...until the Americans started rolling in.  It was a flight to Frankfurt, a giant international hub, where everyone can connect to get home, so there were a ton of Americans.  The international travelers were quiet and kept to themselves...the Americans?  Wow...just...wow.  There's a reason we're labeled as loud and obnoxious.  Be quiet.  It's OK, the world will not come to an end if you have to endure a little silence.  At a minimum, can you at least turn the volume down?  Just a little?

It all seems like common courtesy, but it just doesn't seem to click for so many people.  Without sounding trite, I always try to use the Golden Rule:  Do others want to hear my conversations?  Wait my turn in line because I'm no more important than anyone else.  Move quickly and courteously through the lines so others aren't held up.  Keep to myself and be polite.  Follow the rules.  Pay attention.  Is it too much to ask that we all do that?  Travel more politely.  Please.  I beg of you.

June 4, 2011

Sunny with a chance I might scream

I hate talking about the weather. I should clarify: I loathe talking about the weather. It is the most inane topic and I pity the fool who tries to engage me in a conversation on the matter. I am also quite passionate about other people around me discussing the weather. It's silly and boring and it doesn't make sense to me...at all. What's more, WE CAN'T CONTROL IT PEOPLE SO JUST DEAL AND MOVE ON.  (In all honesty, I did warn you.)

But I am curious. Why do you all seem to freakin' looooooooove talking about the weather? Is the topic that scintillating? What is it about sun, rain, sleet and snow that sucks you all into this mind numbing topic? (I'm bordering on passing judgment here, aren't I?) What I really don't understand is why people try so hard to control an element that is utterly uncontrollable. It seems as if you all think that sending enough energy to the weather will make it happen - i.e. the snow dance. Why??? Unless you are an evil villain with a weather machine in your garage I implore you to knock it the hell off.

And what really chaps my hide? Complaining about the weather. Guess what? You live where you live and the weather patterns, for the most part are established (lets save the global warming chat for another day). Yes, the spring lasts longer in Seattle and we had a La Nina this year so it was colder. Move or shut up because if I hear one more person bitch I might end up on the evening news.

But wait! Yesterday the sun came out (and so did all the inappropriate clothing for a whopping 60+ degree day.) And today it was even warmer, almost 80 in some spots, so I'm just waiting...for someone to complain that it's too hot. You know it will happen. Mother Nature can't seem to keep you weather whiners happy. It's as if a little bit of Goldilocks resides in each and every one of you; you're not happy until it's "just right."

It never will be. Never. Ever. So stop talking about the weather because I really don't want to end up in prison.

May 9, 2011

She had me at yel-low.

When I was in fourth grade my school had a program where once a month one of the parents would come into the classroom with a copy of a famous piece of art and explain it to the class.  The first piece I ever saw was Van Gogh's Sunflowers; our friend Holly's mom, Mrs. Rushton, told us about the piece.  (I really cannot believe I remember names.)  Mrs. Rushton told us all about Vincent and his mental illness, how he cut off his ear - all very honest for a class full of fourth graders - but it got to me.  She also talked to us about the colors Van Gogh used and pointed out the painting is not merely yellow and green, but rather many different tints, tones and shades of the colors, blending together to create the beautiful sunflowers.  And then Mrs. Rushton hooked me, she said that to this day (well, at least when I was in fourth grade) the paint was still wet!  No way!  She explained that oil paint dries very slowly, if at all, but that we could not touch the painting to find out because museums rope these famous works of art off.  She warned us sternly to never, ever, touch the paintings in museums (something I still want to do to this day).  Heck, I touched a marble table at The Huntington Library last week and the security guard nearly exclaimed, "off with her head!"

But I digress.  6 years ago I traveled to Amsterdam.  Guess what's there?  Yep, the Van Gogh Museum.  I had been looking for Sunflowers all over Europe (lazily never bothering to look it up online) and had yet to find it.  I realized on this day, my one day in Amsterdam, that this might be my chance - Sunflowers could be in the very building in which I stood!  Jackpot!  It took a while, and I almost blazed past all the other paintings to find it (annoying Jim and several patrons), but find it I did - a full circle moment.  I think I even cried a little.  My quest to see the first painting ever explained to me as a child was right there in front of me and I soooooooooooo wanted to touch it to find out if Mrs. Rushton was right.  But I controlled the urge - mostly because I didn't want to miss the rest of the exhibit (and every step I would have to retrace), but also because the exit was far too far away and there was no way I could stick my finger in that paint and make a run for it without getting into some serious trouble.

I left the museum that day with a book of all the paintings in the Van Gogh Museum and a print....of....The Bedroom.  Well, Suflowers is in my book and I fell in love with a new painting that day, one that now hangs in our guest room (OK, so it's a copy).  So, without further ado, here are two of my favorite Van Gogh pieces - one I waited to see in person for nearly 25 years - totally worth it.

Vincent Van Gogh
Sunflowers, 1888
Oil on Canvas
92.1 cm × 73 cm (36.2 in × 28.7 in)
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent Van Gogh
The Bedroom, 1888
Oil on Canvas
72 cm x 90 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

May 1, 2011

Knocked over! Knocked over!

So many things rushing through my mind tonight:

Hey, Dubya, now the mission is accomplished.

Hey, Trump, is this good enough for you? Do you need his birth certificate too?

Hey birthers, would an extremist Muslim President kill one of his own? Can we drop this now?

Tsk, tsk, Pakistan; you swore you weren't hiding him. You've got some 'splaining to do.

Crap, Boehner's gonna cry again.

Four more years!  Four more years! (Not that I'm overly excited about it, but I know many who really are not, and a little light hearted ribbing seems to be in order.)

Rush is going to say something stupid, isn't he?

Beck is going to say something stupid, isn't he?

Jon Stewart is going to say something brilliant, isn't he?

Do I still have to fit my toiletries in that stupid quart size bag?

Now can I leave my shoes on when I go through security?

Will TSA finally stop frisking toddlers and cancer patients?

There's just something missing without Peter Jennings delivering this news tonight. I feel like I need him to close the loop.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my friends and family who serve. Each and every one of you owns a piece of this.

Peace to all of the families who lost so many on that dreadful day. We never forgot.

March 30, 2011

Confessions of a "Good" Student

I've always been a good student - label it how you will. I study hard, get good grades, blah, blah, blah. And I don't really know if I'm a good student because I get good grades or if I get good grades because I'm a good student. It's one of those circular, chicken and the egg type arguments. At any rate, I was labeled from an early age, along with many of my friends, and we traveled in a pack through all the advanced classes our school district had to offer. Well, except for the time I boycotted sophomore AP English because I heard it was "too hard." After a week of SSR (silent sustained reading) in "regular" English, I'd had it. I marched down to the guidance counselor and respectfully requested my original slot in the AP class - crisis averted. I then happily (well, as happily as any normal teenager can) continued my journey towards high school graduation.

But there came one final crossroad (crossroads? See how much that AP class helped me?) before I graduated...Calculus. Me and my pack (grammar error noted) had moved together through all the advanced math classes from 7th grade on, and then Calculus reared its ugly head at us. It wasn't the subject matter that daunted us, but rather, the instructor. He was a known alcoholic. I knew a little more about the situation than I wanted to because he was our neighbor, three doors down, and I had spent much of my childhood around him. I knew it wasn't a rumor. I also knew he was very smart. However, I had no intention of marring my academic career (translation = grade point average) by taking Calculus from someone I did not trust to actually teach it to me. So I did what every grade point average loving, crazy, "good" student would do: I bailed and was a T.A. for the band director instead. Bright move.

But wait, there's more! I gained early acceptance to PLU (Pacific Lutheran University for those of you not from the PNW) my senior year and then sat back and watched everyone else scramble as they waited to apply during the normally prescribed time. I thought I had it made, was in the clear. And then PLU did something I never thought they would do; they sent me a math placement test. It had been a year since I'd been in a math class but I figured I could easily pass the test. After all, I was a "good" student. And even though the test was accompanied by a letter strongly encouraging a review with a math teacher, I ignored it. One afternoon, on a whim, I grabbed that math placement test and took it with no review, mailed it back to PLU and waited. When I finally received my fall schedule guess which math class I was placed in? Remedial Algebra, a 2 credit class. Dammit. I was crushed and I don't think I've ever told any of my friends this story, the same friends from my "pack" of "good" students - probably because I was ashamed.

I bounced back. Within a month, my professor could not understand why I was in a remedial class and waived the following 2 credit class, allowing me to go straight into Business Calculus, a 4 credit class. I would leave PLU with 2 more math credits than I needed, but also with a very important lesson learned - not to let my ego get in the way of what was best for me. I did very well in both classes, with the exception of functions, which I don't think I'll ever wrap my brain around (Thanks, Jen, for getting me through that topic.), and I graduated college, which is the main goal, really. Right? And guess what kids? You really do use Algebra when you grow up, but that's a discussion for another time.

Here's the thing, I just turned 40 and I still have nightmares about not taking that high school Calculus class. It is one of my biggest regrets and it drives me batty. My subconscious cannot seem to get past the fact that I did take a Calculus class in college. Guilt? Probably. So I've made a decision; when I finish at the Art Institute next year I am going to take a Calculus class at a local community college so I can close this crazy loop. And this time I know I will need some review before I take the plunge. I have a few things going for me: 1) I live with a math wizzard and 2) I'm a "good" student. That should help, right?

March 24, 2011

Shame on you!

Some of you know I'm more than a little irritated with the Chris Brown situation. He refuses to own what he did, passes it off as if it's not a big deal and says promoting his new album is what's most important. Pig. Been under a rock for the past few years and don't know what the heck I'm talking about? Chris Brown beat his (at the time) girlfriend Rihanna so badly, she was nearly unrecognizable and then denied it. She refused to admit it was Brown who did it too...at first. Ultimately Rihanna told the truth, forcing Brown to admit what he'd done. I have to wonder now after all that's happened this week, whether Brown would have admitted it had Rihanna let him off the hook - if he'd received treatment for his "issues", gone to court, done his time...wait...he didn't do any time.

Now Brown says he's paid for what he did and we should all move on and let him focus on his career. He appeared on Good Morning America a few days ago and his behavior was...well...the usual. The segment began with a short interview with Robin Roberts. The discussion was mainly about the album but she tossed in a few questions about the past and Brown did not respond well. At the time it seemed he was laughing it off and basically refused to answer Roberts' questions. It was the typical famous person avoiding the subject interview and turning the conversation to their own selfish advantage. I rolled my eyes. He performed. Show over.

Not so fast, an hour later it was reported Brown went ballistic after the interview, threw a chair at a window facing times square, yelled and screamed like the spoiled ass he is and then stormed out with his entourage. For days now, everyone with press credentials has been bandying the topic about, including Robin Roberts and I am disappointed in her response. Not only am I incensed with Brown and his behavior, but Robin Roberts is on my list too. I have watched her for the past few mornings, reporting on this event in a manner that makes me angry at and embarrassed for Robin. She is not handling it well.

First of all, I want to know why Brown wasn't arrested for his violent behavior? Maybe I'm missing something, but he could have seriously hurt someone with all that glass falling to the street below. Is this another case of the star treatment we are all so used to? Now, a journalist whom I usually respect, is letting him off the hook too. Robin Roberts has repeatedly said she forgives Brown, let's not make a big deal about it, come on back and we'll interview you again. Seriously? You sound like an abuse victim, Robin, and it is disgusting to me. Brown's behavior was unacceptable and evidence that he clearly has not "recovered." I don't care that you had an interview with him a year ago where you really connected and felt like you were friends. Brown treated you like crap on national television, trashed your studio and is now telling anyone who will listen that Good Morning America set him up and lied about the "talking points." You should be going after him like a piranha, Robin. He deserves it.

The only other option that makes sense to me is that Robin Roberts is pandering to get the interview. Barbara Walters is fast approaching retirement and Roberts has picked up many of her responsibilities in the Hollywood interview arena. This year the ABC Oscar special was hosted by Roberts, not Walters. Roberts has also hosted several specials in the past year ala Barbara Walters. See where this is headed? I do. For years, Walters has pandered to the rich and famous to get interviews and now Roberts is doing it. It makes me sick. I have loved Robin Roberts for years. She was the only female sportscaster I could stomach for quite a long time and I was thrilled when she joined Good Morning America, but she is changing...and it seems like it's for the fame. Maybe I got sucked into believing Robin Roberts was different because I wanted to believe she was better than most reporters. Maybe she was and then fame bit her just like it did Barbara Walters. I hope not.

So, shame on Chris Brown for his behavior. Shame on Robin Roberts for refusing to admonish it. Shame on me for believing a member of the media was different than any of the rest of them.

March 3, 2011

"I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!"

Ever seen the movie Airplane? I know I saw it as a kid, just can't remember when... Having watched it again as an adult I cannot believe my parents let us watch it. Hearing Mrs. Cleaver drop the s-bomb changed my life, but I digress. Lloyd Bridges has one of the funniest scenes in the movie: as he's freaking out the plane will crash into the air traffic control tower he shouts (with an airplane glue bottle firmly shoved up his nose), "I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!" - his response to what he assumes to be impending doom.

I have felt plenty of impending doom this quarter - lots and lots of deadlines with no end in sight. Guess what I decided would be a super great idea? I set a goal for myself. Gasp. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, a way to get myself back on track, start the new year off right, refresh. I gave up alcohol for roughly 90 days. Yes, I said it; I gave up alcohol between New Year's Day and my 40th birthday - roughly 90 days. I rose above Mr. Bridges' panic and did something smart for myself.

And then the quarter blew up in my face. I am by no means a heavy drinker; I really only enjoy beer and wine (and yes, Jen...margaritas!), and it is nice to come home after a stressful day and crack open a cold one. Except for the last 62 days (damn straight I'm counting) of stress, lack of sleep, deadlines, and dammit, I want a beer! But I set a goal and I will stick to it because that's what I do. In the end the airplane didn't knock out the tower and Mr. Bridges was fine. I will be too. Until then I'll just keep smelling Jim's glass of wine before he drinks it. It's just that...I picked the wrong quarter to...well...you know.

February 14, 2011


I have access to three gyms - one in my building, the one where my trainer works, and the one we paid a full year in advance for. I try to work out at least 5 times a week and find myself rarely, if ever, using the gym we actually pay for. This makes me feel guilty.

When we first moved back to Seattle we joined 24 Hour Fitness, the downtown location. While it is where I met my trainer, a connection I am thankful for, I hate.that.gym. It's more a single's club than it is a gym, the staff can be quite rude and the locker rooms are dis-gus-ting. There's also a swimming pool that seems to attract every freak in the city. We thankfully cancelled that membership.

Our new gym is amazing, with two locations very nearby, making it soooo convenient. What's even more convenient? Riding the elevator down to the 2nd floor of the building I live in, to use the adequate but not great gym. There are treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and a stair stepper - not bad. The weights are kind of sketchy and there is no special equipment like BOSU's because people steal them - jerks.

I really love the gym we joined - so much so that I was willing (both of us were) to pay a year in advance because we could get 15 months for the price of 12. We were not pressured...at all. We were however, so excited to get away from 24 Hour Fitness that I think we jumped the gun when making our decision. 7 months later, I sure wish we would have gone month to month before making the leap to an entire year in advance. By the time I meet with my trainer at her gym, use the gym in our building a couple times and try to exercise outside whenever possible, I rarely make it to the beautiful gym I love and paid to use...in advance. I mentioned that already, didn't I?

So I'm going to set a goal to go to the beautiful, amazing gym we paid a year in advance for (just recapping in case you didn't catch any of that) at least one day a week. Except not today. I woke up raring to trot on over to the gym we belong to but it's pouring down rain and that elevator ride seems so much more appealing. The irony in all of this? The gym I now belong to is called RAIN. Only in Seattle...

January 29, 2011

Lesson Learned

I got my first job out of college by responding to an ad in the paper.  The ad didn't even say much about what the job entailed.  I mailed my resume to a P.O. box and waited.  I graduated college in 1993, before the Internet...before the opportunity to research a company in advance and know what you were getting yourself into.  I was also very naive when at college.  I thought the career center was for the business students only.  Since I was a music major I assumed those services weren't available to me so I did not pursue them.  I missed out on valuable information about interviewing, the job search, coping in the workplace.  I regret my ignorance.

My job was for a local construction company and I was hired as the receptionist.  My boss hired me because we both graduated from the same college and she respected one of my references.  Within two weeks I was promoted because someone else was leaving.  I was excited and nervous all at once.  My boss would be going on maternity leave very soon after I took the position and I had a lot to learn before she left.  The morning I pulled into the parking lot and realized she would not becoming in my heart sank.  It was time to prove myself.

And I did.  I flourished.  Sure, there were a few initial moments when terror struck because I couldn't remember how to do something.  I remember the owner found me crying in the back room one day because I was so scared.  She reassured me everything would be fine and that she had faith in me.  I took that to heart and did the best job I could.  Pretty soon I was quite confident and getting everything done.  I was really proud of myself.

And then my boss came back from maternity leave.  Everything changed.  I had not spent much time with her before she left but knew that I liked her and was going to enjoy working with her.  She was a talker though and there were a few conversations that confused me. Conversations about old employees and how there had been a friendship but it had gone wrong and she never understood why.  I came to understand from my co-workers that there had been a few people in my position and they all left because my boss drove them out.  I was warned about this behavior so I could prepare myself.  I didn't see it at first but once we were with each other on a regular basis I realized what I had gotten myself into.

During this time I moved out on my own into my first apartment and bought a new car.  My expenses were modest but I needed the job and I certainly wasn't going to move back home; that equaled failure to me and I wasn't going to accept that.  I had worked hard for my independence and I certainly intended to keep it.  And I truly liked working for a construction company and all I was learning.  It is actually one of the reasons I am now working towards my interior design BFA and am interested in pursuing an MFA in architecture.  From an educational standpoint it was a very good job for me.

Personally, it sucked.  I'll just go ahead and say it:  I was bullied by a female boss.  It happens all the time and it is wrong.  We should stick together and support each other instead of tearing each other apart but unfortunately the latter happens more often.  Years later I had a female boss who was bullied by her female boss and I was able to share my insights.  But I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself.

When my boss came back she did not respond well to the fact that I had succeeded in her absence and this confused me.  People who had counted on her for years were now asking me to do things for them instead.  Do you see where this is headed?  Yeah, I didn't - idiot.  As I started to turn tasks back over to her the owners decided to keep them with me.  I get why that made her upset and possibly nervous.  She had been the hub of the wheel at that company for many years and here I was excelling.  I was a threat, but certainly not intentionally.  While I never took advantage of the resources the career center had to offer, I had held several jobs and I have an excellent work ethic.  You tell me what you want, point me in the right direction and I will get it done.  I did not know this would be a problem in this job.

What she didn't realize (right away, at least) was that the owners had bigger plans for her.  They started giving her more responsibilities and moving her towards more project management types of assignments.  She still wanted to hang on to everything else and found it very difficult to let me do those tasks which she had done for years.  One day she actually ripped an assignment out of my hands in front of our Vice President (who had given it to me to do).  He took it away from her and handed it back to me, indicating his wish for me to do it.  I was flattered but she was incensed.  Another time, an associate she typically worked with called me with information she should typically be delivering to my boss.  I thanked the associate, told her I'd deliver the message and reminded her she should be communicating directly with my boss because it was her job.  And yes, I know it is wrong to say, "that's not my job" but that's not what I was saying.  I was saying, "this is her job" out of self preservation because she was getting more and more irritable about people coming to me.

I went to deliver the information to my boss and she interrupted me, telling me to stay out of her business because that was her job.  If she had let me finish she would have heard me say I told our associate just that.  But she didn't and I left frustrated and upset.  It was Friday and things had been dragging on me and she really sucked the wind out of me.  I'd pretty much had it.  An hour or so later, she called me at home, supposedly to apologize, because she could tell I was upset and wanted to know why.  I started to explain but she instead cut me off again and started yelling at me that I was stepping on her toes and needed to learn my place.  That certainly made my weekend much better.

I won't bore you with petty details but I ended up enduring this for four years.  Our support staff was all female and the male project managers came and went so they were often not involved with things happening in the office.  In hindsight I think they preferred hanging out at the job sites because the office was a bit toxic at times.  The verbal assaults and the jealousy got worse and worse and ultimately I couldn't take it anymore.  I went to the owner for help.  She said she understood and would take care of it.  She took my boss to lunch, explained my position and then brought her back to the office to deal with me.  Bad idea.  It was bad....really bad.  And my co-workers, out of self preservation took her side.  They were used to her driving people out and knew it would be worse for them if they supported me.  Outside work they would tell me they disagreed with her treatment of me and said she was petty and jealous.  At work they would tell her I said those things.  She ended up setting my schedule so I had to cover the phones at lunch every day; it was mainly my job to do this anyway, but some were kind enough to rotate with me so I could go to lunch with co-workers.  She put a stop to this and basically isolated me.  They would all go to lunch without me and I knew they were talking about me.  They did it in the office where I could hear it so I knew it was happening behind my back too.

I kept my head down and tried to just do my job but she made it so difficult.  There were items we both used to do our jobs and she kept them all in her office so I had to go in there several times a day.  She made me so uncomfortable and was visibly hostile with me.  I remember having to leave one day for a medical emergency.  I went to her to explain and her words were, "just go."  No consideration, no "are you   OK?" - nothing..."just go."  I was getting sick more often, had chest pains, was sleeping poorly and had a pit in my stomach every day when I pulled into the parking lot.  I needed to get out but I hadn't the slightest idea how to do it.  If I wanted to stay in the industry she certainly wasn't going to give me a good reference and any competitor I worked for would surely get an earful from her.  I was stuck, at least it seemed I was.  The worst part was the owners knew what was going on but never addressed it.  As long as they were making money they didn't really care what was going on with the employees.  I saw it happen with the field employees too - sad.  We also had an office gossip who was related to the owners and she loved nothing more than stirring the pot.  She could get away with it because she was family and they let it happen.

Here's the chicken shit part of the story:  I left because I got married and moved away.  I told them that's why I was quitting.  Technically, it was; but I would have left anyway.  I was finally getting my confidence up to take the leap and then I met Jim.  I knew I could suck it up until the wedding and then just walk away.  And once she knew I was leaving things got better.  She needed me to train the person taking over my position and she needed me to finish my projects.  It wasn't easy.  There were bumps in the road and I got treated poorly several times by her before I left but I tried to ignore it because I was finally getting out of there.  On my last day one of the owners asked me if I would have quit anyway and I said yes.  I didn't tell him the truth though.  I said I wanted to go to graduate school; again, the truth, but not the reason I would have left.  I just wanted out of a very, very bad situation.

Here's the thing, I'm a tough gal.  I tend not to take any crap and to this day I cannot figure out why I stood for that behavior.  I think I finally just resigned myself to it but I am not proud for sticking around as long as I did.  It was a very unhealthy work environment.  Luckily, I was soon introduced to the best work environment of my entire career and I met someone I still consider a mentor to this day.  I think I went into that company with guns blazing because I was never going to be treated that way again and soon realized not every office is like that.  I was surrounded by men and women, all supportive of their coworkers, all working towards the same successes and goals...as a team.  It was wonderful.  Not only were these people my coworkers but many of them to this day are still my very dear friends.  That experience helped me recover and molded me into a true professional.  I have had several jobs since then and I haven't handled every situation the best way I could but I have grown so, so much.  I look back on that time and I shudder.  I want to go back and tell that young girl that things will get better and she will have some wonderful experiences down the road.  But she knows, she knows.

January 18, 2011

Go With Your Gut

Lately, a lot of people in my life have been struggling with decisions - good and bad.  "What should I do???" seems to be the battle cry as of late and I'm going to give you my best answer: Go with your gut. It never lies. We all know the answer deep down. Maybe we don't have time to sit quietly and listen to that voice; some call it God, others call it intuition. Regardless, it's there and we often ignore it because we either can't hear it or don't want to because we don't like what we're hearing.

How many times have you ignored the voice? Toxic relationship, bad job, pressure to participate - we all have our issues. If we really take the time to listen to ourselves we will do what is right for us and those around us. If you are feeling pressure to participate on a committee and your heart isn't in it will you give it 100%? You might feel the best thing to do is just suck it up and volunteer, even if it causes you great difficulty in scheduling and a lot of stress. Who benefits? You are miserable and you're likely not giving the committee your best effort. Maybe one less activity would make you happier and more productive when it comes to the other things on your to-do list. Do you hate your job but continue to sit there day after day, convinced you are stuck? I understand quitting is not financially feasible for everyone. However, no one is stopping you from making a list of the things you do not like about your job and doing what you can to make it better. If you can't, it might be time to start circulating your resume.

And I get it, when we are the person embroiled in the struggle it seems impossible. Often those around us have a clearer picture of what's going on and what we need to do. Deep down, we do too, we just refuse to listen to the voice. We need to stop ignoring it.

Case in point: Jim (my husband, if you're out of the loop) was miserable in his job this time last year. I watched him deteriorate daily as the stress of it ate away at him. He felt obligated to stay in the job for many reasons, most of all to support us both. But he wasn't listening to himself. At what cost was he hanging on? I finally confronted him and told him I could tell he was not happy and I thought he should walk away.  He was shocked. It took some convincing, but long story short he took that leap of faith and is now in a job he absolutely loves and I am thrilled for him.

I recently expressed my concern about keeping up this quarter at school. I didn't mention it in my original post, but there was a class I knew deep down wasn't right for me. I knew it was a topic that didn't interest me but I felt pressured because everyone else was going to take it and I felt like I needed to hang with the pack. Well, I went to the first session of the class last Friday and it was everything I expected...and more. I spent the next four days ruminating about it and feeling guilty about dropping the class. What will people say? Will the instructor think less of me? Will my director be disappointed in me? Guess which questions I didn't ask? What do I need? How do I feel about it? What is best for me? Until this morning: I woke up with a pit in my stomach and a feeling that something had to give. I knew what I needed to do but I wasn't taking action. It took three phone calls and within an hour I had done the right thing. I dropped the class. I already feel lighter and like I can dedicate my energy to what is most important - me.

Is it selfish to listen to the voice and do what is right for yourself?  I don't think so.  If we are not happy everything else suffers and we are not good to or for those around us.  I expect some of you might be thinking I'm full of it but if you are, are you one of those people who needs to let something go?  Think about it.  We are taught from a very early age about God, religion and taking things on faith.  Is it really that much of a stretch to listen to that voice?  It might be God; it might be intuition.  Either way, you are an expert on you.  Listen to yourself more often.  You'll make the right decisions and you'll be happier.  I promise.

January 8, 2011


I have a love/hate relationship with Oprah - it's been that way for years. There are times when I think she is brilliant and there are times I swear that if she doesn't stop telling me what to do I will never watch her again. But I always go back; I dare say many of you do too.  Over time I've come to understand she means well but is sometimes (OK, maybe more than sometimes) out of touch with the general public. I can live with that when she keeps giving me what I want; and that is the opportunity to make fun of Tom Cruise, drool over John Travolta and stoop to wondering who Jennifer Aniston is dating. Tell me you don't get just a little kick out of it too. You know you do.

So let's talk about this new network she just launched - OWN. I hear many of you complaining about or making fun of the name, but seriously, if you could do something that cool with your initials, wouldn't you? If you try to tell me you wouldn't guess what I think you are? A giant liar. We all have that tiny bit of ego in us that wants a few minutes (or more) in the spotlight and if we somehow found ourselves in Oprah's shoes I think it might suddenly be a little harder to sling mud. Think about it. I'm by no means her biggest fan, but I get it. She can do this so why the hell not?

When she launched her XM channel I was right there tuning in to every show. Some of them I still love and some of them wore on me, just like any show can - not solely because Oprah touched it. However, these days I walk almost everywhere, and we don't have XM in the house, so I rarely get a chance to listen. And I had nearly forgotten about OWN until last Sunday night. It was 10:00 and I was headed to bed and I checked facebook one last time. My friend Karen had posted about OWN and I was immediately sucked in. I said I wouldn't be, but I was. I quickly looked up our local channel and started watching. Master Class with Diane Sawyer was on and who doesn't like Diane Sawyer? Master Class ended and here came Oprah with an hour long show telling me all about her network and the new shows. Can you hear the sound of me getting sucked in just a little further? I think I finally went to bed around midnight.

All week I've tuned in an hour or two a day and for the most part I've liked it but I am surprised by one thing: they don't seem prepared for a full launch. There are many gaps in the schedule where they've just dropped in old (really old and really bad) movies and reruns of Trading Spaces. Really? One of my favorite shows on OWN is Season 25 Oprah Behind the Scenes, and I am beyond impressed with her staff, their creativity and their organization. Aren't many of these people the same people contributing to OWN? With Oprah's insistence on only the highest quality I am shocked the schedule isn't completely full, especially since she told me herself during that hour of "Welcome to OWN!" that the network is 24/7 of original shows. Not so far and it kind of takes the wind out of her sails for me. I'm sure it will eventually be everything she's claiming it to be now, but it's not quite there yet. Already this morning there was a marathon re-running of the first three episodes of Behind the Scenes, and they're playing episode 3 over and over again. Catching Liza Minelli smoking in her dressing room was funny the first time...the first time.

I'll keep watching and will settle on a few shows I really like.  For now it's Behind the Scenes, Enough Already!, and Master Class.  I tried Your Own Show last night and it drove me nuts.  If the 10 finalists are the best they could find out of 1000's I'm not impressed.  I'd rather Oprah do another season of her reality show about paying it forward and giving - remember it on ABC?  You have your own network Oprah, bring it back!  I'm pretty sure I'll pass on the cooking shows and I don't think I care to see The Judds, O'Neils, Shania or Sarah turn their lives around.  But that's the beauty of TV - I have a choice and so far Oprah has given me a few I really like.  Check it out and stop making fun of the call letters.  If you could "OWN" and run your own network, you know you would.  Yes you would.  Stop lying.  I mean it.

January 6, 2011

Half Way There

Lately I've been feeling a little itchy about school - restless, bored, irritated - fill in the blank and I've probably had those thoughts about it.  I start my 6th quarter Monday, in what is supposed to be a 3 year program - less than that for me because of transfer credits.  So, I'm probably about half way through my program, give or take a few classes.  I'm very close to achieving my goal of a second career (OK, fine...I've been around the block a time or two, but this is my second degree).  I should be excited instead of feeling an imminent sense of dread.  What is wrong with me?

I'm terrified.

Yes, I am scared of what awaits me at the end of this journey, and boy has it been a long one.  It might be 2 or so years of education, but I've struggled for nearly 20 years to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  Now it's finally (almost) here and I don't know what to do with myself.  What will I do once I'm no longer searching?  I will have to prove myself now that I have claimed, "this is what I want to do."  Gulp.  Maybe I should have just kept my big mouth shut.  I know...I know.

I breezed through the first 5 quarters.  Sure, there were struggles and I complained (a lot), but I am proud to say I have a "perfect" (I really hate that word) record of straight A's thus far.  Or am I?  I have always been very competitive, mainly with myself.  I can't help it, and please believe me, I do not enjoy it.  I am a perfectionist and it drives me nuts.  I find myself wishing I could just let go and be "good enough" while still enjoying other activities.

I start every quarter with the same intention:  go to the gym regularly, eat right, participate in activities outside school - stay balanced.  I hang on until midterm and then all hell breaks loose.  My drive for perfection at school causes me to lose all control and perspective in all other aspects of my life.  I seem to be able to focus on school only and my head is down, with blinders on,  until I can ultimately proclaim another quarter is over and I am that much closer to graduation.  And guess what?  I'm excited about those grades for about a day and then I start telling myself I didn't really earn them and that I could have worked harder.

But I'm still terrified.  The foundational courses are behind me and now it's time to prove myself in the studio classes.  I have to show my instructors what I can do and I feel stuck in the mud.  What if I fail?  I always thought I had a flair for this...until I started school.  We spend so much time learning what we are supposed to know that we lose sight of what made us passionate about design in the first place.  Now because I know things like color theory, I wonder if my color choices, which were always at a gut level before, are good.  I always loved color and putting the right combinations together; turns out my gut was based in many aspects of color theory but I still find myself questioning my decisions now.  Why?  I don't want to fail and I have set myself up for it...big time.  What on earth was I thinking striving for those A's?

I was doing the best I can, which I guess, earned me those grades.  But I'd really like to break the streak.  No one believes me though.  I truly hate it when people tell me I love getting A's and winning.  I'd be happy with less.  I swear.  If you could sit with me for the third day in a row in my pajamas, without a shower, manic about getting something just right, you might begin to understand how this plagues me.  I want to be different.  I want to enjoy what I am doing and stop competing with myself and just have fun.  I want to stop worrying about others approving of or liking my work.  I want to be who I know who I can be:  someone who strikes out on her own, makes great decisions and doesn't look back.  She's somewhere inside of me.  I've met her before and I'd sure like her to come out and play.  In the meantime, I'll start school on Monday and hope the cycle doesn't repeat itself.