Friday, July 8, 2016
I still have a bill with the local cable company, but it is solely for Internet. I'm actually satisfied with the Internet service. I will most likely keep what I have even after the provider switches to its new parent company. I'm not the type of person to shop around every month or two for better deals; I find a service and stick with it until something horrendous prompts a change.
We only have one television in our apartment and we don't have an adapter or antenna for it, so we don't get the local channels. Honestly, I think this helps keep my stress levels reasonable. I stopped watching news in October of 2011. I worked on my college's newspaper, which prompted me to keep track of the news. After the attacks on 9/11/11, though, I decided I couldn't take it any more. I was tired of being inundated with the same emotional images over and over, with heartstrings tugged, conspiracy theories fed, hatred and anger fueled. I found that I don't need to see news on a regular basis to find out what is going on in the world. I have the Internet, social media, and radio stations. I get way too much information as it is, even without access to CNN or local news.
My daughter and I didn't even realize what we gave up when we got rid of the cable service. It wasn't until we visited my parents over this past Christmas (2015) that we experienced life without pre-recorded shows. What we were missing truly hit home, however, when my parents came to visit us for three weeks in June. See, my parents watch a LOT of television. My dad is now retired and my mom uses the TV to fall asleep most nights (something about the glow, I'm sure). They never had a DVR until we gave them one a couple years back, but the never use it. My parents know the schedules and channels of all their favorite shows and they are perfectly satisfied with sitting down to watch what happens to be on at the time when they turn on their system. Needless to say, they were at a loss when they came to visit.
My dad actually ran through 75% of the the animated shows (non-anime) that Netflix had to offer. My mom took to her laptop to try to find news channels. She even asked me what I did for news. I explained to her that I didn't feel I needed it. We get by just fine with Netflix, (now) Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon prime. With all of the streaming services we have, and with a really good and reliable Internet service, we haven't been deprived of shows to watch. We can watch all of our streaming services on the TV, as well. If not through the TV itself (Netflix and YouTube), then we can watch it through the PlayStation 3 we have (Amazon, Hulu). Plus, we have a decent sized-collection of DVDs and Blu-Rays at our disposal.
Yep, I don't see me paying for cable (or satellite) service again any time soon. I really enjoy my untethered viewing freedom.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
I know talents are gifts from God. I also know that they don't mean much unless they are 1) honed with practice and/or 2) shared with others. I don't really put much stock in my own abilities, skills, or talents. I have come to accept them, though, after 30+ years honing them. If someone were to ask me what I can do, I would probably list sewing, baking, using Microsoft Office products. Well, I do occasionally admit that I sing, but I'm not going to do it professionally or even in a leading capacity. Maybe I have other talents, but these are my go-to skills. These are the ones I associate with myself. Where am I going with this?
On Friday we had an impromptu potluck breakfast of sorts in my training class. There really wasn't a set occasion, though we initially used the birthday of one of the class (it was over two weeks ago) as an excuse. Our trainer said she really wanted a sour-cream pound cake. She asked me if I baked. She also asked others if they baked, but no one said they did. I said I did and told her I baked cakes, cookies, etc. and she got excited. So, naturally, I volunteered to bring in the sour cream pound cake, even though I've never made a pound cake before, and my usual recipe--chipless chocolate chip cookies. I messed up the pound cake a little--forgot to add the vanilla--but that didn't seem to matter. Those in the class who knew about pound cakes (I guess they have a lot of experience with them) said that mine was great. One classmate even asked if I could make one for her father's 60th birthday party next month and offered to pay me for it. When they praised me I guess I looked sort of nonchalant about it, like it was no big deal. Perhaps I came off like Bender, as if I knew I was great.
The truth of the matter is, I take my skills for granted. Some things work well for me. There are some things that seem intuitive and the directions are easy to follow. Baking and sewing are the main things that fall into this category. It's not that I feel I'm the greatest ever at these arenas, far from it! It's more that I feel that I can do them, so they must not be extremely special. I do recognize that not everyone has these abilities and I don't value my skills so low that I assume if I can do it then anyone can. Yet, I've finally come to a point in life in which I accept what I can do. I am humbled and feel good when someone praises me (especially when they thank me) for my work. At the same time, though, I don't need endless accolades. At the end of the day I am satisfied knowing that someone enjoyed my handiwork and I am more grateful that I was able to add some positivity to their lives.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Friday, May 27, 2016
Almost all of the significant new beginnings in my life left me with excitement, but also some anxiety and trepidation about what was to come. Quite possibly the only new beginning that did not fill me with as much anxiety as excitement was becoming a mother. I felt ready and willing from the start.
Starting high school was great because I had the opportunity to leave behind the childish harassment (today it would be called bullying) of elementary/middle school. It was scary, though, because I knew no one; I didn't even have the benefit of my brothers in the school because it was an all-girls high school.
I started college half-way through high school. This was especially exciting because it was a full-scholarship and I knew my parents really couldn't afford to pay for this education. It was anxiety-provoking because I was leaving behind an almost familial-like group in my show choir. I was poised to take on more leadership responsibility in the choir and here I was essentially abandoning them to pursue my college career.
Moving to Florida to continue college was a significant beginning. I've now been in the state for about half my life, the other half being spent in my home state of Texas. Florida brought me my first job (a work study position), my completed education (bachelor's degree and two master's degrees, continue education in faith formation), the chance to start my own family, the first steps on my path toward teaching, and helped me continue to develop my persona and become a much more solid individual.
Today I began a new leg of my life journey with the start of a new job. This is the first permanent, full-time position I had in my "career" to date. The majority of my positions have been on contract and/or part-time positions. I'm actually looking forward to turning this opportunity into a truly permanent thing. Stability is something that I sorely need in my life right now. I am, of course, a little anxious because it is a new type of work for me. Yet, I choose to focus on the opportunity this new position represents for me and my daughter.
Friday, May 13, 2016
I don't have much vehicular know-how or skills. I can change a tire, pump gas, refill the windshield fluid, and replace my wipers. Beyond that, I am clueless when it comes to my car. Maybe I picked it up from my mom, but I also have the mentality of running my car until it's on its last bolts. It's been a year since I got an oil change because I face the daily choice of either feed us or pay for car maintenance. The main reason I keep fueling my car is because I need it to get us everywhere. It's probably a good thing that my car is not a living, breathing organic being because then I'd be hauled away on abuse charges. When it comes to anything going wrong with my car, I have endless anxiety. I am also eternally grateful that God has so many kind people on this earth.
My first vehicle was a Honda CRV. I actually wrote a grateful blog post about it when it was traded in. Sam worked well enough, despite my use. I actually took it too much for granted. My first ever flat tire was a memorable experience. My then-husband refused to leave his board game day at the comic shop to help me change it. I never changed a tire before. Luckily, I had maybe a mile to drive home from the ballpark (my daughter had softball practice) to home. I got Sam in the driveway and proceeded to pretend to know what I was doing. I got the car up with the jack. I was almost proud of myself. But, I had a hard time getting the nuts loose from the tire. An older gentleman from across the street came over & helped me out. He also taught me to loosen the nuts BEFORE I elevated the car.
The next time I got help with my car was when the brakes fell off of Sam. For a couple weeks I had been hearing grinding noises every time I stopped. I didn't know what the sound was. My daughter and I were just leaving the driveway to go to her soccer practice when a rather loud clang came from the car and I couldn't get it to move any more. I called my then-husband for help. He refused to leave his D&D game to come help me, or at least get my daughter to soccer. Another neighbor saw my predicament, helped me get Sam back in the drive & off the street, and even drove us to soccer practice.
Last year, I was driving along a street here in Orlando that takes a weird twist from a two-lane to a single lane right after a light (intersection). I wasn't paying close enough attention, probably talking with my daughter about her day at school, when I missed the street & hit the sidewalk/curb. I heard a frightfully loud noise and immediately knew there was something wrong with the tire. I managed to pull over into a small parking lot to assess the damage. The 2-week old tire had a gaping hole in it. Before I could even get started on changing it, a man pulled into the parking lot and proceeded to do everything for me. He even used a small pump to put air in the spare, which was apparently too low to use. That oopsie, by the way, ended up costing around $700 because the axel was bent out of shape.
Maybe I look complely helpless when I'm next to my car. I don't know for certain. I do know that I needed to inflate my tire for quite a while, probably at least 3 months. I didn't realize just how low it was until this morning. A man parked next to me at the building where I have a temporary assignment. He told me my tire looked really low and offered to use his portable pump to fill it. My tire is supposed to have about 30-40 pounds of pressure for optimal running. It had 18 pounds. Who knows in what kind of trouble I would have found myself if he hadn't decided to help me.
I know it's easy to be cynical. I know the world can be a scary place & people aren't very nice to each other all that often. However, sometimes I find myself the recipient of true kindness, at least when my car is in need.
Friday, April 29, 2016
I've been without a steady paying position for two years. I made a choice to move down to Orlando based on a job that turned out to be something completely different from what I signed up for. My leaving was a mutual dissolving of the work relationship. I have not had any position besides the odd temp job, the longest of which lasted a mere 3 months, since that time. I do my best to deflect the question when people ask me what I do. My resume is admittedly padded with the volunteer catechetical teaching I've been doing for my parish so that the huge gaping hole of time in which I have not drawn a paycheck looks a little more diminished than it actually is. I do my best to hide my unemployment from my daughter's school for fear that they will kick her out if they thought they wouldn't get their tuition money. They claim that they have tuition assistance, but I know that is not for someone living in poverty. It's reserved for families who suffer a sudden loss, not those who had nothing to begin with.
So, what makes unemployment a full-time job and where is the silver lining? Until recently, when I started to spend more time concentrating on doing things for my parish and with my daughter, I would spend more than half my time each day combing through emails and job postings. I would send off and fill out as many applications as I felt I vaguely qualified for. My resume, in all its revised editions, has been received over a thousand times, and that's not an exaggeration. I'm at the point in this sisyphean game in which I'm too tired to apply to jobs with the same gusto I had two years ago, or even one year ago. I get phone calls from 2-5 recruiters every other week and I send them the information, fill out the forms, give them the requested resumes, for which they ask, with no results. I really do spend at least 15 hours a week now applying for almost any kind of work, 45 hours a week up until December when I grew despondent, filling out the same forms with the same employment information over and over again. Anyone who is desperately unemployed has probably spent more time looking for a job than they would have spent being paid to work somewhere. That's not counting the time on the phone talking to recruiters or on phone interviews. That's also not counting the time spent driving to and from actual face-to-face interviews that leave you feeling confident for about 10 minutes and then either depressed or jilted afterward because you know they're not going to call you back. I actually relish the rejection letters I get because that lets me stop anticipating any possible positive outcome (I don't have "hope" anymore; see my hope blog post).
Okay, where's that positive spin that encapsulates the primary point of this blog? I will say that the time I don't spend hunting for a job, especially now when I'm losing a lot of steam, can be spent on other things. I have more time for my daughter. Being able to drop her off and pick her up from school at the regular times, instead of from after-care, gives us more time to talk and gives her more time to get homework finished. We are able to actually eat dinner together almost every day, the exceptions being when we are involved in something at the church in the evening. I am able to spend some of my non-job hunting time during the day to work on my crafting and sewing projects. I am able to take naps, which helps a lot when you consider how messed up my sleeping schedule is at the moment (insomnia + sleep apnea + bouts of depression do not allow for standard sleep cycles). When I am not worrying about how I am going to put gas in my car, or saying copious prayers that nothing happens to break down my car or computer or anything else major, I am actually a bit less stressed than when I was working. My days sort of flow now instead of fit together in blocks of time-crunch anxiety.
Don't get me wrong, unemployment and poverty suck. It's when I feel the crunch the most that I am in need of finding the positive in the situation and making better use of my involuntary free time. Luckily, I've always been pretty good at keeping myself occupied.
Friday, April 15, 2016
That's saying a lot. My. Home.
I don't have a roommate. I don't have siblings or a spouse to share it. It is only my daughter, myself, and our turtle, Evan. For the first time in my life, I have my own personal, private sanctuary, a place I can truly call my own. I don't have anyone to criticize me for my chaotic organization. I don't have anyone nagging me when I'm too tired to wash dishes or laundry and put it off for one more day. I am answerable only to myself and the occasional request of my daughter. I am free to be me in a truly judge-free zone.
This is why I don't invite people over to my home. I know it's far from clean. As a creative person, I have projects spread out everywhere. I know where things are and I will get around to them when the right motivation strikes. I don't use my mop (a Swiffer counts as a mop, right?) or broom or vacuum cleaner too often. My sink isn't often completely empty. There are projects, papers, class things, books on many of my seating surfaces in the living room and the tables in my dining room are not cleared and pristine. I don't always put all of my non-refrigerated or non-frozen groceries away immediately after coming home from shopping. My laundry sometimes waits a day or two after washing before it's hung up or folded into drawers. [I don't have a washer and dryer in my apartment, so laundry is an all-day affair that involves packing up, carting, loading, unloading, etc., everything to and from a local laundromat.] In a word, by anyone's standard my place is a mess. It's a livable mess, though. I keep food (i.e. eating) localized to the kitchen or dining area to reduce bugs. Bathroom trash stays in the bathroom until the rest of the household trash goes out to the dump. Our turtle doesn't make a mess, claw or bite things, or do much, really, that other four-legged pets would do. Organic refuse is kept under control. Most of our mess is paper-based stuff or items that were taken out for one purpose and await their return.
I've never really had this much freedom before. I always had to worry about invading someone else's space or accidentally taking someone else's food (I'm EXTREMELY sensitive about food ownership because of childhood experiences) that I thought was open to everyone. Even when I was married I worried about eating "his" food or I was constantly nagged about taking over "his" space or watching "his" TV. The house was NEVER mine--it was in his mother's and grandmother's, later his and his mother's, name. The furniture was his mother's and/or his grandmother's. Even the linens were theirs. Nothing in that house was really mine except for some of the portable things like my books and computer and clothing, the things I took with me when we lost our home to his new family. I put up with this dehumanizing treatment, but it hurt the most to see my daughter treated the same way. She never felt like his house was her home or that she was ever allowed to do anything in it. It was bad enough feeling like that when she visited other people, especially his mother, but to feel that way in what should be one's own home is appalling.
In our little apartment, my daughter and I are free to be who we want. We are free from having to "behave" so that others feel comfortable (read: they get to be them and we have to adapt for their preference, putting aside our true natures). This concept is so new to my daughter that she sometimes still asks me if it's okay that she does something in her room or if I mind if she fixes a certain snack for herself. I pray that she will finally get over that anxiety, at least with me. I had 30+ years of this kind of entrapment, she only had 12 years of it. I don't want her to suffer like I did. I want her to figure out who she wants to be and accept herself for that, not have to make others comfortable at the expense of her own natural behaviors.
My home is the only place where I am truly free from my social anxiety. I don't have to be overly mindful of where I sit, watch what I talk about, avoid eating things, pray when I want to, or acting silly if I feel like it, because no one is watching me. It is simply my daughter and myself, living free from judgement and criticism. I believe everyone deserves a safe haven where they can truly relax, let their guard down, and not worry about making any missteps that might offend someone or bring about a negative assessment from anyone. For the first time in my life, I finally have that. It will be a VERY LONG time before I give that up again, maybe never. I will let someone back into my heart LONG BEFORE I ever let them into my sanctuary (and my heart is boarded up indefinitely at the moment). I don't need that kind of stress or anxiety. I don't want it, either. I will socialize in the outside world. Let me keep my tiny piece of my sanctity.
Friday, January 29, 2016
- What are your strengths?-->Show us that you are aware of your skills and abilities.
- What are your greatest weaknesses?-->Show us that 1) you can feign honesty and/or humanity, 2) show us that you understand and/or desire to continuously improve yourself.
- Tell me about yourself-->We want to know what you feel are the highlights of your personal story and if you think you match our organization based on that (or we were too lazy to read your resume so we want you to summarize it for us).
- How do you prioritize your work?-->Do you believe you can multi-task and/or are you the type of person who panics when things become unpredictable?
- Tell us about a time when...-->Skills and abilities are all well and good, but how have you actually applied them?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 (10, etc.) years?-->Are you someone who is in the habit of setting goals?
It's this last question that I don't care for the most, though I take issue with any question that isn't straight-forward. I am honest to a fault. I don't like to lie, market myself, twist things to fit the situation. I am who I am and I accept that the vast majority of people don't want that. I'm not rude or obnoxious, but neither am I toadying or willing to kiss up to anyone for the sake of kissing up to them. I still haven't been able to craft an answer to the last question that satisfies my need for honesty. Don't get me wrong; as an industrial-organizational psychologist, with an MBA to boot, I understand the importance of setting goals. However, I focus on short-term goals or goals with definitive finish lines.
I don't look to the future, especially since my divorce pretty much forced me to live hand-to-fist and day-to-day. I don't make plans too far in advance because I don't have access to the resources to make them happen and I know that every tiny little change in life when you have extremely limited resources has the potential to turn into a minor disaster (like my recent computer issues, which sucked up every last spare dime I had for the month) that any other person with a steady job would have been able to handle with their cushion. I don't have a cushion. I don't have a fall-back plan. Heck, I don't even have a savings account because I don't have anything to put in it. I'm already living off of the grace of God and the government and the generosity of my parents. There's nothing left for me to pull out of my pocket. I've used up the back-up plan to the back-up plan.
Yet, if I'm being completely honest with myself, I've never really had an answer to this question. I had ambiguous dreams of becoming a genetic engineer or a researcher in the field of industrial-organizational psychology, but I really didn't see what those ideas meant beyond a vague concept. I never had any ambition to be a leader in any field, hold political office, run an organization or department, or do anything beyond fully applying myself in whatever job I was in at the time. Sure, I like challenges, but I also relish the comfort of routine. I would welcome the increased pay and responsibility of advancement, but I would also find satisfaction in being really good at my current position.
I finally found some of the words I wanted in a more recent interview when they asked me the five-year question. I told them, in complete honesty, that I had no career ambition per sé . I was looking for stability (NOT mindless routine, but the expectation that I would have a paycheck that I could finally rely upon to meet my basic needs). I believe that my lack of ambition does not illustrate inherent laziness. On the contrary, it represents something that most organizations lost when they started massive lay-offs in the 1980s for the sake of saving dollars: loyalty and dedication. Because I don't want or need to climb the corporate ladder, I can find satisfaction in my job. After all, the way I see it, when you interview for a job that is the position they want to hire you for, not for the job two levels up. If they wanted to hire you for the job two levels up then they would have advertised it and solicited résumés for that one instead. In addition, it means that I won't be looking to replace the person who is interviewing me at that time. I pose no threat to upper management, whom I would assume would like to keep their jobs. My lack of career ambition means that I will focus on the job at hand, not constantly waiting for my chance to jump ship to something bigger and better. I see myself as the foot who is happy being the foot, not the foot who dreams of becoming a hand or eye. Too much career ambition means that a person spends more time looking for the future and less time in the present. This actually jeopardizes that potential future because you're not building the foundation needed to make the future come to pass. Besides, if we were all leaders, then who would we be leading? The tip of the pyramid requires many more stones at the base to support it.
So, I'm sorry (not really) that I don't have ambitions to become the next CEO or vice president. I don't need to have my name in lights to find happiness in life. I understand the necessity of those lower-level positions and the difficulty organizations face in keeping them staffed. If I were running an organization, I would most definitely want some people on whom I could rely to fulfill their jobs without having to worry about how soon I would need to replace them. My current goals in life are to find a job that provides enough income so that my daughter and I are no longer in poverty and to be able to contribute to society in some meaningful, but small, way. I don't mind being a cog in the machine as long as my function can help the machine continue to run smoothly.