Thursday, January 29, 2009


Yesterday Hubby got a voicemail from someone to tell him that they had sent him an email to request that he call someone else to let them know that he would be calling them tomorrow.

I suggested that he send the caller an email and follow-up with a voicemail to confirm the receipt of the email and to verify his intent to call the third party both before and after calling them.

There is such a thing as too much follow-up. (TM-F/UP)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Musings on being 34

This past weekend I turned 34 years old. While most people past the age of 30 hope they don't feel any different the day after turning a year older, this year I'm hoping I do.

33 wasn't the easiest year of my life. After the excitement of planning a wedding and getting married in '06 and then starting a new job, working from home, and buying a new house in '07, 2008 turned out to be a year to bring me back down to earth. Primarily, it was the year of losing control of my body.

In March, as you all know by now, I subjected myself to hip surgery and the long, frustrating recovery that, while beginning swiftly and promisingly, only really started to show real results 8 months later (of course, I seem to have set that all back recently but that's a different topic.)

Then, in August I got pregnant and for 3 months turned into an entirely different person - a zombified version of my former self who could barely drag my ass off the couch, let alone be productive at work or at home.

Getting pregnant then set-off a whole stream of thoughts, a sort of stock-taking of my life: The things I had achieved, the opportunities I had passed up, the dreams I hadn't fulfilled. All of which sent me into a sort of depressed state. I can't say I was what you would call formally or clinically 'depressed' exactly but more inwardly focused and a little melancholy. I seemed to have achieved so much and yet felt such little joy and satisfaction from it. I couldn't help but focus on the things that I hadn't done and that, of course, stripped the happiness out of what I already had right in front of me. Rationally, logically, unemotionally, I know that this is all stupid and that I have so much to be grateful for but emotionally, irrationally, and illogically, I have been unable to shake the melancholy. (Not being able to perk myself up with a Friday-night martini, incidentally, hasn't helped!)

Sometimes being so self-aware and such a logical thinker is great, other times its a frustrating inner tug-of-war between emotion and reason. Outwardly I know I seem to radiate logic and rationality, black-and-white decisions and thought-processes, but this struggle is often present behind-the-scenes. I deal with the emotional internally and then I express the rational results externally. Sometimes this process takes a matter of seconds, sometimes it takes months. I'm also guessing that there are some processes that began years ago and that I'm still not expressing externally as a result. The very fact that I don't think I have articulated this very process of mine in writing or verbally to anyone before is evidence of that! (Also, probably why people think I am such an open book and yet I frequently feel that most people don't know or understand me at all.)

That mini-epiphany slash insight into my inner psyche aside, I'm heading for a whole other set of "loss of control" moments in my life as a 34 year old this year. Already I am dealing with the resurgence of hip pain caused from my yoga incident and who knows what the aftermath of birth will bring for me in terms of physical recovery (and let's not forget the weight loss!) It's no secret that I am not good at dealing with physical limitations, pain, or discomfort - and yes, I realize this is going to make me a very ornery old person (sorry Hubby) - so 2009 is going to present it's own challenges for sure.

In that, I realize that I have two options: (1) Wallow in the pain, discomfort, and loss of control or (2) Do what I can to get through it/get healthy, take each day as it comes, and enjoy the other small pleasures that are still a part of my existence every day.

Small pleasures LIKE:

  • Having the flexibility to work from home and having latitude and decision-making capability at my job.
  • Getting paid fairly well and not worrying about being laid-off or losing my health insurance.
  • Looking out my back windows or sitting on my deck, taking in our beautiful back yard at any time of day, even on a work day, after years sitting in a cubical farm with no natural light.
  • Watching my dogs play and fight with one another. Appreciating the completely unconditional joy and love they express whenever they see me. (Even if they are a pain in the ass.)
  • Having and spending time with THE WORLD'S BEST husband who is caring, thoughtful, intelligent, hard-working, fun to be around, and my very best friend.
  • Planning for the arrival of my parents who, in their early 60s, are picking up their entire existence to move to the U.S. to be closer to me and my growing family.
  • Having a healthy pregnancy and (all signs suggest so far) a healthy baby, when so many I know have gone through so much for even the chance at the same thing.
  • Reading a good book and enjoying a cup of hot-chocolate in front of the fire place.
  • Being thankful that George Bush is no longer the President (on this of all days, I couldn't resist that one.)
I'm sure there are a lot more where those came from but those are the ones that come to mind easily.

I firmly believe (and have always believed) that everything in life is a choice (whether we like the options before us or not) and that we, for the most part, are responsible for our own happiness and outcomes. (I know, how right-wing of me!) So, I need to be more than just a philosophical subscriber to that belief, I need to somehow get myself back on track to being an active participant.

So, this is my mission in my 34th year: Don't just look forward, look around. Remember that life and happiness are not destinations they are journeys. We may not always get to decide exactly what path we take but we can decide whether we enjoy ourselves along the way.


The new home page of

Bush... don't let the door hit you on the way out.
On, second thoughts, I hope it gives you a good smack on the ass.

Friday, January 16, 2009


It's been a while since I got to steal a good Jon Stewart clip for my blog, but thanks to The Gurly Life's reminder, here's a great one to see out the horrifying presidency of George Bush. May he always be remembered as this completely dumb.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The return of the hip

If you've been reading my pregnancy blog, you'll know that I strained my groin and hip during a pre-natal yoga workout last week.

To say that I'm mortified is an understatement.

After months and months of struggling with post-surgery pain, tightness, and discomfort, the last 3-4 months had presented a slow breakthrough. I don't know when it stopped hurting or being an issue but I can tell you that it just did. I didn't need the regular massages that were costing me hundreds of dollars per month and the pre-natal workouts I'd been doing since month 4 of my pregnancy seemed to be doing all the right things to strengthen and stretch the muscles of my hip and thigh.

I'd almost forgotten how much those issues had taken over my life until I heard the "pop" last Thursday.

I was performing a side-angle bend and (stupidly) wearing socks on a carpeted floor. My foot slipped out to the side a little - but just enough - and I was forced to contract my adductors and hip flexors to maintain my balance, trying to bring my legs back together. But my legs were already too far apart - I would have been better to just topple sideways, ironically. I heard and felt an eye-watering "pop" somewhere around my sacrum and I dropped to my knees. When I tried to get up again, I had a searing pain in my groin.

I've been icing and resting like crazy (yes, it's very pleasant to ice your groin... not) since then and, while there has been a slight improvement in pain, it's still really, really sore deep inside and most specifically on the side where I had surgery. It figures, of course, because that's my weakest side. I can tell that all the old pain-points are inflamed: Piriformis, psoas, adductors, and glutes, as well as a little IT band again (probably over-compensating as a result.) Walking for too long is not an option (not that it would be anyway because of my broken little toe on the same side.)

I have a massage appointment on Friday with my miracle-worker masseuse but I also realize that her usual techniques may not be in play due to the fact I am pregnant. She's better placed than most to tackle these issues because she has a ton of foam positioning equipment that allows me to lay safely on my back or stomach (well, not ON my stomach but lay facing down with my stomach hanging between some carefully-placed foam pads.) So, I'm hoping she can take the edge off.

In the meantime, I know I just have to wait for the muscles to heal. I'm trying to keep the joint mobile by not sitting too long and performing light stretches and exercises from my post-surgery days but I've already recognized that I have to be careful there also - the muscles just need to do their thing and I can't speed along the healing process for them any more than I can for my broken toe. Too much tinkering on my side just makes it all worse and sets the healing process back.

More than anything I am really frustrated. I just thought I was over this. I guess I need to realize that, even when things start to feel better again in my hip (which I know they will again at some point - I just want it to be sooner rather than later), I have a weakness on that side and I can't jump into every exercise routine without that being top-of-mind. They say that, once you've injured a joint or muscle, that area will always be more suseptible to re-injury. I guess you only have to look at athletes to see that's true - they get one injury and then continue to struggle with re-straining those same areas, time and time again. Fortunately for them they have sports-therapists attending their every need. I only wish!

Anyway, that's enough of me feeling sorry for myself. It just sucks because I want to remain active in these last few months of pregnancy, for me, for the baby, for my weight, but it seems factors (or should I say body parts) are conspiring against me. My head says "get exercising" but my body says "rest". Right now, I'm too afraid of making it worse not to listen to my body.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Random rants about the hiring process...

I'm currently in the process of hiring for a part-time sales coordinator; someone who can not only help with some of the more routine/admin aspects of my job but can also keep things ticking along while I'm OOO on maternity leave. We're a small company (smaller as of late due to economic hits), so there's nobody to slough this stuff off to when I'm gone.

When I placed the ad on Craigslist on Friday, I knew that I would be getting a lot of resumes. The Sacramento region's jobless rate is hovering at an unpleasant 8.1% and state workers are facing 2 furlough days a month and/or an uncertain job future due to California's budget crisis. What I mistakenly assumed, however, is that this would increase the caliber of applicants.

Um, yeah, right.

I'm color coding the emailed applications I'm getting - green for call to schedule for interview, orange for maybe, and yellow for not likely unless you were the last unemployed employee on earth. Out of about 100 applicants, I'm standing at a solid 4 greens, 20 oranges, and 76 yellows. I'm sure that's pretty typical for any open position - it certainly has been for other positions I've applied for - but what's outstanding is the sheer haplessness/idiocy of the yellow folks. It really makes me shake my head in this economy.

I'm not sure if they're just so desperate that they're firing off resumes and cover letters without thinking or if they are really, truly only suited for positions that do not require any reading and writing skills. Anyway, here's a quick bulleted list of things that I've come across since Friday:

  • 5 different spellings of our company name. (It wasn't in the ad, so they had to do some research to figure it out... and then got it wrong!)
  • The wrong job title.
  • Cover letter greeting of "Dear Sir". Clearly someone who hasn't been in the workplace since 1950. Probably still calls assistants "secretaries" and flight attendants "stewardesses".
  • Inability to read that the position is listed clearly as part-time, temporary, and at an hourly rate of $20 - I'm getting people looking for full-time work with a salary history of $60k+ and no explanation in their cover letter as to why they're applying for this position. My automated response now reiterates PT/Temp and I'm getting people email me back to sat they're not interested, after all. Thanks for wasting my time.
  • A 3-page resume that lists, single-spaced and bulleted, all the applicant's 'achievements' and 'skills' but fails to back it up with any work history. I know this is a 'sales' position, but seriously, there has to be some substance behind all the puffery.
  • Resume headings in bright-yellow or weird fonts - ie: completely illegible.
  • Resume attachments in some out-of-nowhere software application, that can't be opened by any Microsoft program.
  • Inappropriate use of 'creative' words, no doubt to demonstrate a 'formidable' vocabulary: If I see the word "pique" one more time! And then there's the person who used "belies" instead of "underlies" or (more appropriately) "supports", therefore contradicting what he/she meant to say.
  • Word-for-word plagiarism of the ad to create the cover letter.
  • Cover letter entirely in "quotations" and center-spaced, bold/italic type. ????
  • 36-sentence paragraphs that make your eyes boggle.
  • Resume with everything in bold, no headings, no spacing or paragraphs.
  • Typos - not just the forgivable kind (and I, personally, am guilty of on frequent occasion) but the kind that should be caught easily with spell-checks or a perfunctory review. I'm talking letters clearly missing from multiple words and/or spaces missing from between words!
  • Repeat submissions - one a day.
  • Tons of people who, apparently, consider themselves to be the "perfect person" for the job. Let me (the employer) be the one to judge that. The use of the word perfect in this case is like "nice" in all other instances - it's a meaningless adjective. Not only is nobody perfect for anything (so, you're delusional) it really tells me nothing about you. See my bottom-line advice below, bullet #2.
... and this, of course, is just a sampling that I can rattle-off from the top of my head.

It all makes me wonder how some people get any job. In this climate, it's unlikely that some of these folks will.

The bottom line is that it's pretty easy to stand-out in a crowd of applicants. Here's what I consider essential for getting my attention:

  1. Get the name of the company and the position correct. C'mon, seriously!
  2. Demonstrate that you've really read and considered the ad against your own qualifications and goals by writing a short, concise cover-letter that highlights your relevant experience and achievements. (BTW, achievements = specific results, not just something you "did" - that's what your resume is for. It doesn't need reiteration.)
  3. Be sure you've understood what the company needs from you to apply - don't just fire-off a resume when the ad says it requires a cover letter, a salary history, and references. (I didn't request the latter in my case, but this is just an example.) With so many applicants, the person reviewing applications probably won't have time to reply and tell you what you're missing - unless your resume is absolutely spot-on and stellar. (4 out of every 100, so unlikely).
  4. Check your spelling and grammar. If you know you're no Shakespeare, keep your sentences and words simple - don't over-reach, it's so obvious it's painful to read. Do simple well. Red Flag: if you need to use the thesaurus to find the right word, you probably need to re-word the sentence to better fit your writing skill.
  5. Don't brag and list a ton of 'personal qualities' or character traits in your cover letter or resume. No good hiring manager is going to take you at your word anyway. Focus on objective facts - experience, skills, and knowledge. If they match what the company is looking for, you'll get the opportunity to demonstrate that you're "outgoing" and "carefree" in your interview.
  6. Unless you're a graphic designer or great at page layout, keep resume design clear and simple. Just like if you're not Shakespeare to writing, if you're not Picasso to design, avoid turning your resume into amateur art work. Do it well or don't waste your energy on it.
  7. If you're making a career change, taking a significant pay-cut or step-down from your previous job, address this in the cover letter. Otherwise, it's likely you'll be tossed aside as over or under-qualified and desperate for any old job. There are plenty of good reasons why you no longer want to be a VP or a Director or work full time, and its best to address those reasons openly. This actually puts you ahead of the pack (providing you're being honest to the employer and yourself about your reasons and not just trying to provide a reason to get this job while you're looking for another.) Depending on the position, it can be a great advantage to be an ex-VP who wants to spend more time with your kids!
And thus ends my rant. Perhaps you disagree with a couple of the above and have your own criteria, which is fine. I guess that's the hardest part for the job-seeker - trying to figure out what the person reading the applicatons is looking for. BUT, I maintain that most of the above (with perhaps the exception of #7 and #5) are basic dos and dont's.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year's Resolution Update

Just a quick post to say that I just finished writing Chapter One of my book. It may not stay chapter one as I may move things around a bit, but something has been written and saved. Progress has been made. Woohoo.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Enforced optimism and hope: In 2009 I WILL follow my dreams

This is by far my least favorite time of year. Yes, Sacramento's oppressively hot summers come a very close second, but January and February just seem to dump loads of heavy, black coal into my stomach, no matter where I am. The heady excitement of Christmas and New Year is over, all the pretty decorations and party invitations are disappearing one by one, the cold, wet weather now seems oppressive rather than festive, and the only major milestone looming in the near future is the tax filing deadline. Hardly inspiring.

This year the gloom seems more so because Christmas and New Year didn't turn out quite the way we planned and there wasn't even the distracting comfort of drunken debauchery to blurr the memories. So, instead of coming down from a high as I usually am, I feel like I'm grieving for the high that never came. It was a strangely flat holiday season (not horrible just not up to the usual standards), now followed by the even flatter promise of a non-eventful first quarter. Not even a ski trip to break up the monotony.

Work is... well, not going so great. I don't like revealing too much on a public blog but the economy and other circumstances made up for not such a great year for the company. Then, the final quarter of '08 presented some new variables that have me feeling even more unsettled about my professional situation than I usually do. While I have no plans to change jobs in the immediate future (with a baby on the way, now's not the time,) I'm looking more critically at all the possible paths stretched out before me in the longer term.

Personally, as you know, I'm about to jump into the deep end of life - motherhood. I'd like to say that I'm excited and full of joy but mostly I'm full of caution and trepidation. I'm sure that things will change once baby Vixen arrives safely but right now it seems still so far off, like a light you can't see at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. I know there is a light at the end, I know the other side is full of surprises - good and bad - but one thing is certain: when I emerge, I will be in an entirely new and different world and the entrance to the tunnel behind me will be firmly closed. There's no going back. Things will never be the same again. Given my general apathy to how some things in my life have gone in the last 13 years, maybe that's a good thing. Right now, it's just a big black hole of unknowns.

I hate this to sound melancholy because, even though I'm not jumping around with boundless joy, I'm not miserable, just very... pensive right now. I'm thinking about a lot of things, evaluating a lot of things, and trying to stick a red hot fire up my ass to get excited about achieving my 2009 resolutions.

My motto for 2009 is:"Follow my dreams". I know that's not a resolution in itself but it's the basis from which all my specific goals, especially the first, are born this year. I've spent the good part of 13 years following the expected and safe path, avoiding real risk and, with it, the prospect of failure; hiding behind finances, life dramas, and other excuses not to pursue the one dream and desire that has never really left me in all the 33 years of my life during which I've had conscious memory. There's no real reason why this year is the year to push all that other crap aside except to say "If not now, when?"

So, here are my New Year's Resolutions. And on #1, I start today.

1) Write a book.

Without expectation, without self-judgment, and without an end goal (other than completion) in mind. Put aside the fears that I'm not as good of a writer as my once highly-inflated teenage ego thought I was and just write. Every day, even if its just for ten or fifteen snatched minutes. Even if it's terrible and likely that I'll look at it six months from now and press the delete button. Even if everyone who ever reads it thinks it's, ultimately, unexceptional. I'm guessing Picasso didn't paint his first masterpiece on the first canvass he unrolled and I have to get over this weird expectation that I'll put finger to keypad and bestseller magic will instantly unfold on the screen in front of me.

Somewhere in my heart and mind I have harbored a (clearly ridiculous) belief that writing is a gift or a talent that you either have or you don't and that, if you don't automatically spew perfectly-formed prize-winning prose from your fingertips on the first try, you might as well go back to your 9 to 5 job and stop deluding yourself.

Yes, and you thought I was an intelligent, rational human-being. I guess we all have our achilles heel.

Back when I was a kid or in my early teens I was full of confidence and an unswerving belief that I had that magic gift, bolstered by some doting teachers in my school of under-achievers (where a pupil able to spell 'something' without a 'k' was a child genius) and my parents. Then, heading out into the more competitive environments of university and work, I was systematically stripped of my self assurance as I met many other people whose writing was equally as good if not substantially better than mine. Somewhere along the line the stories dried up with the confidence and I found that, when I sat in front of the computer, the passion was gone and every word I managed to get onto the page seemed to taunt me by screaming 'mediocre' right back at me.

I don't think much has changed in my heart but I have now been able to rationalize one thing in my mind - a 'writer' who doesn't write is about as good as a 'singer' who doesn't sing. You may have some natural ability but, unless you practice at it every day, you'll never reach your full potential. Even though I discount those teachers and my biased parents for their praise past, I also feel like there must be something there that made them want to encourage me to go further. So, even if it is a dim spark, it's up to me to turn it into a flame and see how brightly it can burn.

Hence, I will write.

I'm not sure yet if I'm going to report much on my progress here on the blog or if I'll feel confident enough to share anything I write openly with anyone for a while, but I do have a story idea and some characters brewing. My first step (starting today) is to flesh out those ideas into a more complete world; get a basic story structure going and a basic understanding for my characters, so that when I sit down and actually write those first terrifying words, they're not completely aimless. I'm giving myself a week, tops, to do that before I open that word doc and write "Chapter One" at the top. Where it goes from there, we'll see.

Ok, I'll cop to it. Although there's no real reason for 2009 to be the right time to make this happen (in fact, a lot of life-circumstances actually make it seem like the least-likely best time) there was one, small catalyst that recently made me say 'screw it, just do it'. Don't laugh, but it was the Twilight series of books.

Yes, a series of four teenage vampire romances made me want to write again. Think of me what you will but who can say (or judge) what touches each of us when and why?

It wasn't that the books are literary masterpieces, (they're not, even though the author has proved she has chops with her new adult fiction book "The Host") it was more about how the books made me feel. I could not put them down. I lurched from one book to the next with a hunger I haven't felt in a very long time. I was clearing 500 pages in two to three nightly sittings (note: it usually takes me a month to get through a book unless I'm on vacation.) No matter how corny the dialogue and somewhat formulaic the plot, I found myself completely emotionally immersed in the world of Bella and Edward.

I read books one and two so quickly that I was actually afraid that, if I immediately purchased the last two books, I'd be done with the series too soon. So I re-read the first two books, Twilight and New Moon, and actually delayed buying the final two installments until before I went on vacation to England. I promised myself that I could begin book 3 on the plane to the UK and book 4 not until I was on the plane back to the U.S. I actually didn't sleep on the plane back to San Francisco because I read almost all of, book 4, "Breaking Dawn." When I closed the last page of that book the next evening, I was truly sad.

Which is when it hit me. This is why I love books! This is why I wanted to write in the first place. It really has very little to do with intelligent prose and long, fancy words; to me it's about stirring emotions in the reader in a way that almost no other medium can do (at least in my opinion).

This was further solidified when I dragged Hubby to see the movie for the first book, Twilight, last night. Although it was gratifying to see the world of the book come to life on the screen and to put a face to the hero and heroine, there was so much the movie was lacking - and not for a lacking cast or crew. There are things words on a page, echoed in the mind of a reader, can do that a movie or a tv show cannot.

So, I guess it's fair to say that a teenage vampire book is my inspiration. (Note: my story idea is not for a teenage vampire book. I wouldn't even try to compete.)

2) Take a photography course.

This is a new dream/love that I have developed over the past few years.

I've always loved my photographs around my house, memories of good times and places. But recently I've been captivated by a professional photographer's ability to capture that moment (or a person) with depth and emotion. The way they can not just take a picture of a person but somehow capture something about who they really are or what they were feeling in that moment in time. Or, the way they artfully use light and composition in one still frame, to give you the same sense of place and time you had when you were standing there with all five of your senses. I want to learn to do THAT. So, I plan to.

3) Lose the baby weight in less than 3 months

I'm going to do it and there isn't a cotton-pickin' thing you can do to tell me I can't. As the tile on my desk says: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." I not only think I can do it, I know I can and will. I will be back to 'lean and mean' in less than 12 weeks and that's that.

... and I have a 4th but I'll tell you in person if you want to know.

What are your resolutions for this year?
Related Posts with Thumbnails