Saturday, November 28, 2009

Congratulations! We’re Letting You Go.

Three weeks ago, I was given “the talk” by my boss. After 15 years, with the company, my position was being eliminated. In all honesty, this was not a surprise. The company had been trimming the fat (me being the fat in this scenario) little by little. “This is no reflection on your performance… corporate downsizing… budgetary efficiency… blah blah blah… yada yada yada”. The reason didn’t matter. Once the decision was made and announced, I could either sit there in a stupor wondering how the hell they could do this to me, or I could figure out what the hell I was going to do.

I still have a month to go. So I walk in every day trying not to look as if my tail is between my legs. I spend my days finishing up projects, updating my resume, and thinking of nasty things to say to my boss that I won’t actually say.

However, I do have a few items I want to review with my coworkers before I depart. Things I’ve been meaning to discuss for some time.

Here they are in order of most irritating to least:

1. It is FLESH out an idea, not FLUSH. To flesh out an idea is to give it life by elaborating on it as a painter does when he gives a flesh color to his subjects. To flush something out is to drive it out in the open and expose it. I am constantly being asked to flush out an idea. I usually respond with “I only flush out the bad ones” and leave it at that.

2. PENULTIMATE is a big word. Don’t use it unless you really know what you’re doing. This word means “second to last” and nothing else. It does NOT mean the very pinnacle of ultimate. It does not mean the position you strive to achieve (unless there are only two contenders in the race). Look it up if you don’t believe me. An executive at our company once announced “We will make ours the penultimate website!” Personally, I think he should aim higher.

3. “A lot” is two words. Always has been, always will be. No matter how many times you type it that way, it will never be one word. Not even alittle.

4. You do not “loose” the bid or “loose” money in overages. You LOSE them. It may look right in an email, but it’s wrong. Got it?

5. And to all my dear friends who at the end of the workday bid me “Drive careful!” I love you, and thank-you for the sentiment. (Should I tell them that it’s “carefully?”)

If I can leave any kind of legacy at all, let these lessons be it. Forget all of the revenue I helped to generate, the last-minute presentations I put together when the future of the company depended on it. Don’t take into consideration that I played an integral part in bringing in new clients. And forget 15 years of loyalty and hard work.

Seriously, all bitterness aside, I’m actually grateful it’s happened. I’m generally a person who sees the good in any situation. After this much time, however, extracting the good takes a little more skill. But good there is. There are three especially good things I get out of this situation. Time with my daughter, time with my son, and time with my husband. Because of my longevity with the company, I will receive a nice severance pay. I can take a month or two off and see what it’s like to be home when the kids come home from school. I can have dinner on the table more often and not have to pick up Happy Meals on the way home. I will have time to bake cupcakes for the class. Time to sew costumes for the school play. Time to chaperone on field trips. And time to shoot baskets before dark. I get the gift of time with my family, something I ached for with every utterly exhausted fiber of my being.

The ‘powers that be’ have no idea what a gift they’ve given me. Although, I’m not sure I want to tell them this. It would be nice if they were losing a little sleep from the guilt over letting me go. However in all likelihood, I’m guessing not so much. I suppose I’d settle for them adhering to the above listed guidelines.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Accidental Cougar

Somehow I managed to fall through the cracks when they were passing out the societal categories. Having spent most of my teenage years in the 80's, I'm a little young to be a Baby Boomer. And, I'm a little old to be a Gen X. Up until now, I've travelled solo through this society without feeling a part of the moral or the immoral majorities, the hippies, the tech heads, the grungies, etc. The only time I had even a remote kinship with others around me was in the age of John Hughes films. He was the only man who understood my kind. I, of course, was a shoe-in for Ally Sheedy's "weirdo" character in "The Breakfast Club" which didn't help my cause when it came to ‘fitting in’. I totally would have lied my way into Saturday school just to hang out with someone for a day.

Alas, as an adult, I grew away from that small group of Hughsies and was left again, groupless. That was until a new buzz word cropped up for which, I’m apparently fully qualified. I’m talking about the “Cougar”. People I knew were calling me a cougar before I even knew what this term meant. Suddenly my rank among co-workers was upgraded to rock star status. I could hardly hear myself think among the ‘You-Go-Girl!’s being hurled my way. I was continually forced to shift my purse to the other shoulder to prepare for oncoming high five’s. ‘What had I done to earn this distinction?’ I wondered.

If you don’t already know, a cougar is a woman over 40 who preys upon much younger men. It's true. My husband is 10 years and 4 months younger than me. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a cougar.

"Hello, my name is Sharon. And I am a cougar. I have been a cougar for 4 years now."
(all together now) "HI, SHARON!!"

And, as it turns out, there are varying degrees of ‘cougarness’. Your top of the line cougar will be pursuing men in their 20’s as a rule, mercilessly devouring one post-grad after another. The medium grade cougar makes it a rule never to date anyone her own age but is still seeking a meaningful relationship with her prey.

In my case, I’m what you would call an “Accidental Cougar”. In all honesty, we fell in love without much thought at all to our ages. I never intended to seek out a younger man. I was merely aiming for a decent guy who wasn’t living with his mother or wearing a Judas Priest t-shirt.

Sure, there are some generational differences. One being that he is a Gen X’er and I’m of no distinguishable generation. I can name all the characters on Welcome Back, Kotter. He can sing the theme to the Gummy Bears Cartoon. (I would have never guessed that they created a show inspired by candy until he told me it was so. Because honestly, who would have?)

As categories go, I’m generally happy with this classification, although I’m no candidate for a trashy reality dating show. Hubby and I enjoy a life like any other happily married couple. And we’re only occasionally tripped up by our age difference.

One night, while snuggling with him on the couch, I looked at my young hunk and said “We’re just like Hart to Hart.”
To which he said, “Who?”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Guinea Pig Report: Classic Pickle

As a wannabe publishee, my dream, like many others, is to write the next classic. The book that defines our era, that stands the test of time and (of equal importance), sells millions of copies worldwide! And why not? So many great authors before us have done so. Just like my 9 year-old son who plays Rock Band and imagines himself the next Steven Tyler, I fall prey to thinking I'm the next Jane Austen or Augusten Burroughs.

I try to balance my writing with my reading. With each book I read, I attempt to analyze each little nugget of goodness, dissecting the sentence structure, and contemplating the timelines the author chose, even examining how she moves from scene to scene. It is the author's choices in writing a book that intrigue me. I want to know what was edited out as much as I want to read what was kept in.

In my book club, we take turns hosting and the host chooses the book. Last month, we all agreed, the next book should be a classic. I attempted to send out telepathic signals to the chooser by repeating the mantra "Please not Wuthering Heights. Please not Wuthering Heights. Please not Wuthering Heights...” I think I had a short in my signal transmission however, because all she must have heard was the "Please" and the "Wuthering Heights" portions.

"How about Wuthering Heights?"
“Oh, God!” I accidently blurted out. “I mean… Oh, God! I’ve always wanted to read Wuthering Heights!”

That statement was true up until about 5 years ago when I actually attempted to read Wuthering Heights. I got about halfway through and packed it in. Now, I know there are many of you out there thinking “What? Wuthering Heights is a classic! One of the greatest romances of all times!”

To that I can only say this. Write your own damn blog about it then.

Let me start by saying that as far as structure, timing, editing, I can attest to the fact that this is a sound story with a beginning, middle, and end. My problem with Emily Bronte’s famed, no… REVERED novel is that I hate everyone in it.

But I was younger 5 years ago, and maybe I could approach it with more optimism this time. I opened the book with an open mind knowing that my friends were off enjoying their experience with Bronte. Surely, I could find some redeeming qualities about these two people.

Nope. I made it to chapter 21. I couldn’t take it anymore.

On the back cover of my copy, the last sentence of the description reads: “Heathcliff and Catherine remain in the mind long after the last page has been turned.” Yep. That’s true. Heathcliff and Catherine remain in the mind the way a popcorn hull remains wedged between your teeth, or the way the smell of skunk remains in your car miles down the road after you pass it’s bloody, mangled carcass.

I’ll give Emily credit. She wrote a novel in her 20’s. I’m in my 40’s and just now getting to page 78 on mine. She grew up the fifth child in a poor family in the early 1800’s and was self-educated. She only lived to be 30 years old. This is a woman who made the most of her short time here on earth. But let’s approach this without the sympathetic props, shall we?

I ask you, are there two more unsavory, nasty, self-absorbed characters in all of literary history? How is one supposed to root for their hero when your hero is a pair of bleedin’ asses?? Here’s the ending I propose instead that would be a little more fitting for these characters:

Heathcliff is buried up to his neck by Joseph who pours honey all over him and lets him get eaten to death by ants. All the while, Catherine’s ghost searches the moors for the rest of his rotting body.

And what about “the moors”?

Exactly. What about ‘em? Oy! Nothing like two people who tick me off to the point that I don’t care if they end up at the bottom of the English Channel, living in what the dictionary describes as “a tract of open, peaty, wasteland”.

This book left me with a sort of “good riddance” attitude. I can only imagine that what the author chose not to put in might have been moments of niceties between Heathcliff and Catherine. Moments I would have considered a nice relief from all the foul behavior we were bombarded with.

Have at it Emily Bronte fans. I think I’ll pick up a nice Austen next time.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Guinea Pig Report: Jill the GPS

I'm going to lay my cards on the table. Here it is. We don't like each other. There. I've said it.

I'm not talking about my husband and me. I'm talking about the GPS. The Garmin Nuvi comes with a wide variety of voices you can choose to give you directions as you drive. Since this device belongs to my husband Chris, he got to pick. Each voice has a name assigned to it and he chose "Jill". There are several others with a myriad of accents, male and female. I voted for the Australian guy named Biff, but Chris held strong and so Jill it is.

The thing about Jill is, she loves Chris. She's there to help him at every turn. When he comes to a crossroads, Jill sees him through it. (Please tell me these puns aren't wasted on you)

But let me tell you. She's a control freak. When I'm driving, I like to decide the route. Oh sure, we start off okay. She tells me which way to go coming out of the driveway and I think "How cute. She thinks I don't know."

By the time I'm leaving the subdivision she starts getting a little pushy. "In point 2 miles, turn right."

And occasionally I like to go off the beaten path. And that's when the gloves come off. She says turn right. I decide that the steering wheel is in my hands so I turn left. And then she says it:


Remember that snotty girl in high school that you despised? The one who knew she was soooo much better than you because she had the cool jeans and yours were Walmart brand? Apparently she's now doing voice overs for Garmin. She doesn't just say the word. She says it with a six pack of attitude. Yep, she's all nicey nice as long as you do things her way.

Now if Biff and I were driving? I'd be enjoying the open road with a friendly pal and the confidence that I'll get where I need to go.

Cool factors about the Garmin Nuvi are that you can load music and pictures into it. You can also choose your vehicle icon which includes a motorcycle, fighter jet, or alien spaceship. And it's super easy to navigate (last pun, I promise)

I really love that you can download new maps and even use it in another country. That would have come in handy on our honeymoon in Italy. Ever try to ask for directions in another language when all you know is "how much does this cost" and "do you accept visa?"

Would I buy another one? Heck yeah! But if I see Jill at the class reunion, I'm not telling her that.

The Guinea Pig Report: iPhone, u-Phone, we-all-Phone 4 iPhones

The third anniversary is the leather anniversary. I got him a leather jacket, wallet, and belt. Honestly, what else would there be to give? Unless we were into some unmentionable activities… which we’re not just for the record.

My hubby splurged on 2 iPhones (with leather cases). One for him, of course. Now, not being an electronic guru, I just didn’t know if I even cared about owning one of these things. I had always been fascinated by people who owned one and could stretch an image of their dog with just their fingertips. But I figured the fascination ended there.

Not so. Once I downloaded my first “app”. We iPhone people call them “apps” instead of “applications”. It’s our little jargon. What’s that? Your cell phone doesn’t have apps? Pity.

And it’s just that that gets you. You start with a free taste. I could stay up all night searching for new app freebees. For Christmas, I told everyone to give me iTunes gift cards so I could get another fix. I was hooked. More than hooked. I was on a gadget high so big I thought I’d never come down. I’d exhausted all the cool free ones. Shazam being my favorite. You can hold up your iPhone in a noisy Chili’s restaurant and it can still tell you what song is playing over the speakers, even if you can’t make it out yourself. Friggin’ amazing!!!

I’ve got GPS, restaurant critics, a carpenter’s level, a guitar, cute kittens with stupid misspelled captions, even an app that locates my husband right at my fingertips! Heck, I think there’s even one that controls the weather if I can just find where I put it. Yes, folks this was a love affair that would last a lifetime.


“Oh [expletive]!” says my husband from the other room. He dropped my iPhone moving it to the charger one day and shattered the glass front.

“No problem” I’m thinking. No doubt this is a 2-dollar part and is the last thing to go on and the first thing to come off in a repair. What could this possibly cost?

We take my shattered iPhone to the Apple Store with as much care as if we were bringing a wounded puppy to the vet.

“I’m sorry” says Eric, the 17 year old kid with the grommet in his earlobe. “You’ll have to make an appointment with one of our geniuses” as he checks out another teen customer who’s taking her own picture with a MAC.
Now folks, when entering a store in the mall, one doesn’t expect to hear the words ‘you’ll have to make an appointment’ but hey, they have geniuses! Fantastic! “Which ones are the geniuses?” I ask. I kept looking for someone with a pipe and a sweater vest and Einstein-esque hair but they all pretty much looked like Eric.

We make an appointment for the next day. They just couldn’t squeeze us in today. We come back and check in at our appointment time and still wait another 30 minutes to be seen by a ‘genius’.

He took one look at my shattered little friend and told us it would cost 350 dollars. 350 DOLLARS!!! I chuckled back with an old sit-com line. “I’m sorry. For a minute there I thought you said it would cost 350 dollars.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Yessiree! No matter what logic I laid at his feet about this being a cheap part and easy to repair, he wouldn’t budge. Not even the fact that we only paid $300 for the device itself moved him. “Apple policy” he cites.

I thought “Fine. I can live with the shattered glass front. Now it has character!” The fact was it did still operate perfectly well. So what if I had to extract tiny shards of glass out of my ear after each phone call?

After a week, we found a plan B. It was an unauthorized repair site where they could fix it for a mere 100 dollars. However the warranty would be officially voided. But in my opinion, if something else happens to this baby, I’m still not going to spend the $350 to get it fixed. The risk is only if a factory defect shows up suddenly. But so far, the gamble has paid off.

After this experience, I still love my iPhone but I handle it as if it were a test tube of plutonium. Oh, and for the record? I don’t think they’re really geniuses. I don’t even think they could make it onto Jeopardy.