Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sad fish

My local Hy-Vee probably thinks I'm a major whiner because I complained about 3 different things on my bill tonight and I was refunded for 2 of them - to the tune of nearly $20.

It started with the peaches. I bought roughly 3 pounds of California white peaches on sale for $1.58. The checker asked me what they were and I told her. She must have misheard me because she rang them up as California ripe peaches instead, which were $2.48 per pound. I caught the error just as she finished charging my credit card. She sent me over to Customer Service, who refunded the entire price and let me have the peaches for free. Cool! Customer happiness = restored.

Then I came home and unloaded my groceries. My milk had leaked all over the bag. The cap wasn't on tightly. I thought if milk could get out then bacteria could probably get in. Ew! Still, I recalled the free peaches and decided not to complain about the milk. It was only a half gallon and it was on sale for 99 cents. I wasn't out that much.

Next I unwrapped the fresh salmon. I noticed it seemed a bit slimy and smelled strange. Eh, probably just normal fishy moisture. I seasoned it and threw it in a pan, but as it cooked I became more and more paranoid - for good reason. Cooking only made the smell worse. I tasted a little bit. Blech! Bad fish! I thought again about the free peaches. No, $7 in peaches could not make up for $11 in disappointing fish.

I bundled it up in the butcher paper and went back to the store. As long as I was going back anyway I decided to exchange the milk too. The look on that poor Customer Service guy's face was priceless. He actually unwrapped the fish and took a whiff. Why?! Did you not believe me when I said it was bad? I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at him. I got my money back! Customer confidence = shaken but happiness = mostly restored. I'll just have to be careful about inspecting my salmon in the future.

Incidentally, I had a similar experience once when I bought crab legs at Price Chopper which led to the creation of my shellfish cardinal rule: Always ask the butcher to get the frozen stock from the back. I tell him I'm going to go home and freeze it again - and that's not a lie, I usually do throw it in the freezer - but the real reason is because I don't know how long their thawed crab legs have been sitting in the display case.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sleep on it

I didn't sleep very well last night. I was anxious about a last-minute project at work. I thought it was finished when I left yesterday but several hours later I realized we had forgotten a piece. I emailed my manager about it at 11 p.m. and offered to come in today (Saturday) to work on it if needed. Then I went to bed and fretted.

At 12:30 I was half-awake when I heard a loud thud downstairs. My imagination went a little wild and I listened for footsteps. I tried to tell myself that no one would bother breaking into my house but I was starting to panic. I imagined ominous shadows creeping towards me and I shined the light of my cell phone into the hallway. Nothing was there. I decided if someone really had broken in that the 2 cats on my bed wouldn't be sleeping as soundly as they were. I relaxed and started drifting off.

At 1:30 my 3rd cat trotted in. He dropped something on the ground and meowed proudly. Immediately one of the other cats jumped off the bed to investigate. The two of them started fishing for something behind the bedroom door. Then they moved to fish for something under the nightstand. Then they moved to fish for something between the nightstand and the bed. I turned on the cell phone display to have a look, just in time to see a battered spider escape under my bed. GYAAAAH!

I hate spiders. I hate them more than mice, more than almost anything except cockroaches. There was no way in hell that I could fall asleep knowing a spider was under my bed. I got up and shined the cell phone under the bedskirt. I couldn't see anything so I went for a bigger flashlight. After at least 40 minutes of searching I finally located the spider. I had to move a nightstand and shove the cats out of the way but I managed to get close enough to kill it. Crunch. Then, not convinced that it wouldn't rise again like some kind of Lazarus zombie spider, I scooted the carcass onto a piece of paper and flushed it.

By now it was 2:30 and I was back to panicking about the project. I fell asleep sometime between 2:30 and 3, only to wake up at 7:15 as my cats warmed up for their morning races. I got up and fed them and tried in vain to go back to sleep. I sort of slept until 11. The cats woke me up every half hour or so and I didn't get much rest. Now I'm staggering around with a blinding headache and I'm tempted to down the leftover vicodin pills from my surgery. Oy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Under advisement

Last week I signed on with a temp agency that specializes in finance/accounting jobs. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have an income while I'm pounding the pavement. I met with one of their account reps and we went over my resume. She only had one change to make; she told me to lump all three of my positions at my current company into one heading so it will be easier to see how long I've worked there (5 1/2 years). Everything else looked fine to her.

Last week I also sent my resume to the director of career services at a business college. This afternoon he sent some templates that have been proven to generate interviews for his graduates. He wants me to dramatically change my resume. The trouble is, I really don't like what he's suggesting and his advice is completely different from the temp agency's.

Whose advice do I take? I think the real issue here is insecurity. The business college approach includes bold statements and lists of accomplishments. I don't know if I have enough material to fill a page. I don't like to brag about myself. I'm afraid if I put out such an assertive resume that I won't measure up in person.

I really should consider my end goals. Do I want to be a temp? No. Then maybe I should try it his way. And now that I think about it, I have 4 years of performance reviews from 3 supervisors singing my praises. This just might be doable. If it will improve my chances of being interviewed then it's worth a shot. Another bonus is that this format will force me to think about my strengths, which will help a lot with those horrid interview questions.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I went to the animal shelter last Friday. I walked a particularly eager dog. Actually, she walked me. For twenty minutes she yanked me up a hill and down a walking trail, stopping only briefly to roll in the grass. My shins were killing me! I had planned to walk several dogs that evening but needed a rest after that one, so I wandered from room to room and brushed a few kitties.

Then I bumped into a shady looking guy. He was skinny with shaggy gray hair, ripped up jeans and a faded shirt that said "Staff". He was mopping the floor with a kind of manic energy. First impression: is he homeless? Second impression: he must be doing court-ordered community service.

I tried to avoid him but he talked to me anyway. He asked if I was open to suggestion. I said, "Not really, no." That stopped him for a second. I don't think that was what I was supposed to say. Then he told me that if I wanted something to do I could fill up water bowls. I told him I was just about to leave. And then I left.

I don't know why I reacted that way. Maybe he reminded me of the felon on work release who used to rub my shoulders when I worked at Sizzler. I don't need to be hit on by another sketchy older man! Still, asking me to fill a water bowl was harmless. His shirt said "Staff", maybe he really is staff. You don't exactly wear your best clothes when you're cleaning up after a hundred animals. He was just too friendly and I don't like talking to strangers.

I'm a little depressed about it though. It occurs to me that I spend most of my time alone. Even at work I'm usually alone. People don't visit my cubicle very often. At lunchtime I bring something up to my desk and eat alone. I walk around grocery stores trying to avoid eye contact. The phrase "Secure in my anonymity" comes to mind. I hope not to be noticed.

It occurs to me that I'm working against myself here - because I'm lonely. Every future friend starts out as a stranger. I need to get over this reticence, especially now that I have to interview for another job. I do plan on going back to the shelter, and I suppose I should try talking to people while I'm there. It's silly, really. I'm only pretending to be shy. In reality I'm slightly snobbish because I think I'm smarter than everyone else.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I love to hate you

I had a Philly cheesesteak for lunch yesterday. I picked it up in the cafeteria downstairs and as I turned toward the cashier the grill cook hollered "don't forget your horsey sauce!" Um, gross. I hate horseradish. I also hate Cheez Whiz, but I can tolerate it on a Philly - although if he had given me a chance I would have requested provolone.

Anyway, as I grumbled my way back upstairs I got to thinking about how it's easier for me to list the things I hate than it is to come up with something I like. So here's my hate list in no particular order. Please feel free to comment with a list of your own!

Sharp cheese
Processed cheese
Bell peppers
Raw/undercooked onions
Soggy cereal
Soggy crackers in my soup
Soggy ladyfingers in tiramisu
Dumplings (aka soggy biscuits)
Raisins in cookies, bread or bagels
Pepperoni that hasn't been cooked til crispy
Summer sausage
Black licorice
Red vines
Malted milk balls
Cottage cheese with fruit
Christian music
Country music

Okay, I realize the last two don't really fit with all the food items, but I really don't like them! Ask me about my Hierarchy of Music one day. If you dare.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lunch date

This week I started volunteering at a local no-kill animal shelter. I thought it would be a good way to spend my time while I'm unemployed and it might boost my resume a little. I've heard companies like their employees to be involved in the community. It can't hurt.

So far I'm really enjoying it. They're very laid back with the volunteers. I can show up whenever I want to and help wherever I feel like helping. I've walked dogs, petted cats, changed water. It's nice. The environment is nothing like I expected. Most of the cats are allowed to free roam in a large common area. The dogs have roomy kennels. Some are housed together, most are separated.

One of the kennels has a sign that says "I need car rides! Love, Noah". I decided to take Noah out over my lunch break. The staff said he would love to run free for a while so I brought him home and let him loose in the backyard. I gave him a playground ball to play with and he mutilated it in no time at all. Whoops! I think I got it away from him before he could swallow any pieces.

After a half hour of romping I had to take him back. He really seemed to enjoy the car ride. He sat right up front and stared out the window. He didn't want to go back in his kennel, which was kind of sad. I will probably take him out again when I get the chance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Drag racers

I can't stay up past 11 anymore. I blame my cats. You see, on a typical weekday morning I stagger out of bed between 7 and 7:15. I take my thyroid medication, feed the cats and get ready for work. On a typical weekend I sleep in as long as I want to and get up when I'm feeling rested. In theory.

Cats don't distinguish between a weekday and a weekend. To them, breakfast time is 7:15 - which means calisthenics time begins at 7:30. Their preferred exercise is wind sprints; i.e., chasing each other in circles. It begins downstairs in the family room. They race upstairs, do a loop in the living room, then through the hall into my bedroom where they make a tight turn around the bed and launch themselves over me (sometimes off me) to land back in the hallway. Then they tear down the stairs and repeat the cycle.

Side note: did you just hear Jeremy Clarkson narrating the action? I did. I ought to name their route after the Top Gear test track. "Now they're around Hammerhead straight into the Follow Through, coming up on the Second to Last Corner they're into Gambon, around and through the Finish! Yes!" But I digress...

I've tried closing the bedroom door. The noise of 12 paws bounding across hardwood doesn't lend itself to sleeping. I've tried covering my head with a pillow. I get too hot. It doesn't seem to matter if I feed them on time or not. The point of this exercise (pun! ha ha!) isn't to wake me up. They genuinely like being frisky in the morning. Now, 3 hours later, they're all passed out for the first of many naps on their schedule. I'd like to take a nap too but alas, now that I'm up I feel like I'm required to stay up.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The "L" is for Quality

A strangely industrious mood struck me this morning so I tore myself away from the Dirty Jobs marathon and tackled some yard work. I am very tired!

First I cleared the saplings and vines around the fence. Then I set to work trimming the low branches on my trees. When I was finished (about 2 1/2 hours later) I had two big brush piles. I'm half tempted to list them on CraigsList as bonfire fuel - along with my saggy, baggy couch - but I think I'll just call the garbage company and tell them I have a bulk pickup.

Here are the freshly trimmed trees. If I'd thought of taking some "before" shots you'd see how badly the first tree was overhanging the community mailbox. Both trees have been smacking me in the face when I mow the lawn.

I took pictures of the brush piles too. Please note how beautifully my grass seed grew in. It's almost a seamless transition between the old and new grass. Thank you Nine for the fantastic daily watering job!

I'm trying to tidy up here and there in case I need to list the house for sale when I lose my job, although I still have no idea if I want to find a job in Kansas or somewhere else. I'm also thinking about going back to school for a degree in computers - not that I know anything about computers, the money just sounds fantastic.

I know trimming the trees won't sell the house but I'm hoping it will improve the curb appeal. Either way, I'm sure the neighbors will appreciate not getting caressed by branches when they pick up their mail. Or maybe they'll miss the feel of soft leaves brushing their hair? It's Kansas. You never know.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Musical bipolarism

My poor little Pandora station is a little on the bipolar side. In the space of a few hours I will listen to Sarah McLachlan, Genesis, Oingo Boingo, Pet Shop Boys, The Police, Skid Row, Nirvana, Metallica, Disturbed, Soundgarden, Live, Foo Fighters, Gin Blossoms, Lifehouse, REM, Sting, Bryan Adams... quite an eclectic range. I need to start untangling the different genres. It can be quite weird to go from "Fields of Gold" to "Enter Sandman" within a few minutes.

So far the station has been pretty good about finding appropriate segues. It's a little like playing "7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" with music. I think the link below will take you to my tunes. Check me out sometime: