Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Ready to Examine You Now

Here's the info I promised on that new writing gig I am so excited about:

I'm writing for Examiner.com, a newish website that covers local news and events in major cities throughout the country. I am the new Twin Cities Family Entertainment Examiner, which means that I get to write about cool family activities, dining options, and other fun stuff. 

There are examiners on a wide range of subjects, everything from hunting to books. Everyone is in charge of their own stories, so you'll also find a range of writing abilities and styles (that's sort of a warning).

But here's the really important part: I get paid based on how many people read my stories. (Yes, I might have found the only job that pays less than the bakery.)

So if you have kids, or maybe if you just like me, it would be awesome if you would be a loyal reader and tell all of your friends. All of them. And hey, even if you don't live in the Twin Cities, maybe you'll get inspired by reading my articles and find something similar to do in your city! 

You can view (and bookmark!) my Examiner page here:

I've only got one story up so far - bowling, anyone? - but there will soon be many more. Enjoy, and please feel free to post comments and/or email me with suggestions!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Celebrities, Cake and Poorly-Managed Corporate Contests

Did anyone else watch The Celebrity Apprentice last night? I half-expected Candy Finnigan to come strolling into the boardroom. I didn't think it was possible, but I actually felt bad for Dennis Rodman. Not that they weren't all right about him, I just think maybe the intervention could have been held off camera. 

In other TV news (I use that term loosely), I believe that food shows are taking over my life...or, at least, my Tivo. Between Iron Chef, Chopped and Challenge, the Food Network is rivaling Bravo for my affections. 

This "Last Cake Standing" business will likely tip the scales in FN's favor. An elimination-style competition involving fancy cake decorating? It's like the best TV show ever. The only way I think it could possibly be better would be if the chefs had to travel the world, searching for clues that would tell them what to bake and how to decorate their creations...and then they would have to race, while carrying the cakes, to the finish line. Yes, I'm sure that would be a hit.  

Oh, and speaking of the Food Network, one last thing: 

I'm 98% sure we did not win the Welch's Ultimate PB&J Challenge. I have arrived at this conclusion based purely on the fact that I have not received any communication about the contest. Since they mysteriously took the contest website down, I emailed Welch's to try to find out who won and received this form letter (please note that I emailed them on March 26):

Thank you for contacting Welch's.

On our about March 25, 2009 representatives from the Food Network Kitchen and the Welch’s team, will review each of the Finalist Submissions and rank finalists and select (1) overall Grand Prize winner. The decision of the judges will be final and binding in all matters. The winner will be confirmed by U.S. mail and/or telephone and must meet all eligibility requirements including the timely execution and return of all necessary releases and documents required by sponsors.

We hope this information is helpful.

No, it's really not. But what I am deducing is that a winner was contacted and they must now wait to receive all of that winner's "necessary releases and documents" back before they can announce anything. Aside from being bummed about not winning, I just think the whole contest could have been managed better. I mean, they've got everyone's email addresses, would it be too much trouble to inform us that a winner has been chosen and that it wasn't us? Apparently. Oh well, better luck next time. 

But, seeing as Welch's clearly isn't very interested in retaining the customers it may have attracted with this contest, let's all feel free to buy whatever brand of jelly we want. I'm kind of partial to Smucker's Simply Fruit. 

Yes, I'm a little bitter.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Good Day

Wednesday was a weird day in all the best ways. So weird that I guess I needed two days to digest it before blogging...

First, I finally reconnected with the woman, whom I am affectionately calling "the cake lady," about the job in the cake shop. The job that I am coveting. The job that almost seems too good to be true because I would get to work with cake all day and actually get paid to learn the trade. Our phone conversation on Wednesday was brief, but the gist is that as long as business picks up with wedding season, I'm in. (The phrase the cake lady used was, "You're the one we want.") So if you know anyone in the Twin Cities area who needs a cake, please allow me refer to you a delightful little cake shop

So that was awesome. Then, later that day, I found out that I landed a new writing gig. A fun one! Writing about local family activities and entertainment. I'll post all the details here once I'm all set up and can point you to a link, but for now let's just say that I'm really excited about it. It remains to be seen whether there is any money to be made in this venture (pay is based on readership), but I think it will be fun. 

I'd like to take a moment to point out here that in all the job-hunting I've done over the last several months, the only three positive responses I've received (my current bakery job, the cake job and this new writing job) have been in situations where my corporate experience was irrelevant. Hmmm...I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me?

But wait! Wednesday was not over. This also happened to be the day that our brainy friend, Fred, made his Jeopardy! debut. (Yes, the Jeopardy, with Alex Trebek) Even though it's pre-recorded, none of us had any idea what would happen because contestants are (obviously) sworn to secrecy. Naturally, I wanted him to do well, but we were just excited to cheer him on...having no idea he would completely destroy the competition!! Or that he would have a similarly awesome run on Thursday. And I'm hoping for a repeat performance today, although I won't know until 4:30 p.m. CST. 

So there you go. In a single day, my job prospects improved by about 200% and I found myself knowing a Jeopardy champion. Life is weird. I like that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pieces of Me

I'm just about to write about how frustrated I am with writing, when it occurs to me that perhaps I should acknowledge just how schizophrenic this blog is. I mean, it's my personal blog, so I reserve the right to be as scattered as I choose, but my paranoia is forcing me to say to you, readers, that I know it lacks focus. 

While I like the idea of having a topic-specific blog and I understand that those sorts of blogs have a greater chance of garnering large numbers of readers, I also like to think that this blog is a more accurate representation of me...a 31-year-old TV addict with a husband and kids, having some sort of career/one-third-life/identity crisis. 

I've actually considered having separate blogs: one for mom/kid stuff, one for TV stuff and one for the life and times of a writer-who-doesn't-really-write-and-is-thinking-of-becoming-a-pastry-chef, but seriously...too much.

So anyway, this is my fragmented blog. Thank you for reading. 

Which brings me to today's frustration with writing. I've been feeling like I'm on the cusp of writing something. Like really writing. Not a speech or an article, but, you know, something that could turn into a book. But it's like my head is so full of ideas from the, oh, 10 years that I've been wanting to really write, that now I can't make sense of any of it. I don't have a driving idea. I don't have a character who has come to me in a vision. I don't even really have a skeleton of a plot. I've just got fragments of things floating around and when I try to write, I get maybe 300 words in and give up. I have many beginnings of things, but just when it needs to turn that corner and become something, I get stuck. 

I'm beginning to think that my desire to become a pastry chef is really just a way for me to legitimately turn my back on writing. To say, enough, I can't do it, and do something totally unrelated. The only problem is that I can't stop thinking like a writer. I can't stop formulating scenes in my head based on things that I see and hear. My brain and heart are telling me to write and yet I can't make the translation from thought to sentence. It all falls flat. I'm a writer who doesn't really write.

I am frustrated. And I am jealous of every writer who has ever written anything good (or even not good, at least they wrote something). It's beginning to feel like a foreign language. So I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm trying to work my way out of this stuck place...hoping that if I can figure out how to unlock all the writing that's in my head, maybe I'll feel a little less fragmented in general.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Distracted Genius

So, April is Autism Awareness Month. I realize that we still have 8 days left of March, but I didn't want it to sneak up on you...My goal this April is to include a fact or story or educational tidbit about autism in every blog post for the month. That doesn't mean that I'll only blog about autism next month, just that all my blogs will contain a note in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. 

Feel like joining me? The more people we can educate, the better the world will be for my little Owen and everyone living with autism. 

Speaking of Owen, today was the big 3-Year IEP Reevaluation Meeting. 

First of all, I just want to say how much it annoys me that these meetings are always so f*ing disorganized. It's not like this is a party planning committee or a casual get-together with friends. Note to public school system: When I walk into a room of supposed "experts" to hear what you have to say about my son and his educational future, I expect you to have your shit together. This includes actually reading what it is that you contributed to the report so that you can speak about it intelligently rather than reading it verbatim (grammatical errors and all) off the sheet of paper I have in front me. 

Alright, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I should say that overall the meeting was good. Or, at least, the information given at the meeting was good. He aced the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence test (phonetically known as the "wipsy" by educators). As we've known for years, the kid is a genius, only now he's got a documented IQ score of 125 to prove it. (Alright, if you want to get technical, a 125 is actually just the "very superior intelligence" level, not "genius," but whatever.) The psychologist who administered the test added that she thinks his score might really be higher, but by the end he was tired and distracted, so he didn't score as high on the final sections. 

The gist of the meeting was the usual: He is brilliant and he is socially awkward and has trouble focusing. How will all of this play out as he gets older? That remains to be seen. He will continue to get social skills support. We will continue to work with him on when he has to exert every ounce of his energy on focusing and when it's okay to relax and be silly (or stare off into space). We will try to help him learn to interpret facial expressions so as to avoid some of the embarrassing and awkward situations that such misunderstandings can cause. We will just keep doing everything we can and maybe the school's well-meaning, yet sorely underfunded and understaffed efforts will help a little too. 

All I can hope is that no matter how hard it becomes to navigate the social structures and classroom dynamics as he gets older, he can hold onto the knowledge that he is exceptional and always will be. And that we love him just the way he is. 

For more information on autism or to find out more about Autism Awareness Month, visit the Autism Speaks website.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Workers Unite

Another Saturday, another work day for me. It will be busy, which means it will go fast and maybe I'll break another quiche and get to eat it on my break (you see, I can be positive sometimes!). One of these days, I will figure out how to break a chocolate croissant...

So, I think we all knew that I wasn't going to love this job. That dealing with customers all day wasn't going to fill me with joy. That earning minimum wage wasn't going to leave me feeling accomplished. What I didn't expect were all of the moral issues I'm encountering with my employer...issues that I wouldn't have even noticed were I still an oblivious teenager, happy to slave away for nothing and not ask questions. 

When all the policies were explained on my very first day, I noted that this was the first food service job I'd ever worked where we didn't get a free meal while we were working (though we are allowed to eat food that's left over from the day before). I also found it somewhat irritating to learn that we are required to take our breaks within view of the bakery counter so that if it gets busy, we can be called back to work. 

My manager also mentioned that everyone here is "part-time" (read: they don't get health insurance), yet most of them work 5-6 days per week  But the red flag really went up when I was informed that at certain times of the year, I would be required to work overtime and failure to do so was a fireable offense. I'm not a lawyer or anything, but can it really be legal to require a part-time employee to work more than 40 hours per week?

Ok, so I was a bit put-off by all of this, but I figured I could deal with it (or quit, if it came down to it). However, now that I've spent 3 weeks there, I've noticed that shady business is the order of the day around there and it all comes at the expense of the underpaid and overworked - yet impressively honest and hard-working - hourly employees. 

I've been most appalled by the situation with my assistant manager, a smart Mexican woman with a four-year-old son, who started as a cook four years ago and finally got promoted earlier this year. When I asked her how often she visits her mother and sister, who still live in Mexico, she informed me that she doesn't, because she doesn't get vacation time. In fact, she added, she is only allowed to request two days off per year (unpaid) and that has to be done several months in advance. This is not, of course, what she was promised when they pushed her into taking the assistant manager job after the last one quit over disagreements with the owner. 

I realize that I'm not revealing anything shocking here. We all know that we treat our low-wage workers (especially immigrants) like shit in this country, it's just different to actually experience it and to work side-by-side with people who have to put up with it because they can't afford to go a week or two (or more, in this economy) without a paycheck. 

So what do I do with my moral outrage? Good question. Maybe a revolt isn't such a bad idea, after all.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To Hunt, or Not to Hunt

Last week, the Amateur Gourmet held a foodie scavenger hunt in NYC. It involved a list of iconic NYC food spots along with what to eat and/or do there for points. Participants (anyone could participate) then posted photos of themselves doing the things on the list and the winner was the one with the most points. The prize was two tickets to Tom Colicchio's upcoming charity event.

This got me thinking about my upcoming (June) birthday. I have a thing for treasure hunts. Scavenger hunts take a close second. (yes, there's a difference) For my 30th birthday, I spent weeks planning a "scavent" (scavenger hunt + event), which sent my loyal and surprisingly competitive friends racing through my hometown, solving clues and acting like maniacs. So fun!!!

And you might remember that I partook in the Great Urban Race last year. That's a for sure must do again (note to Gretchen: start working on our team name). 

So now I'm wondering if I should try to pull off another scavent of some sort for my birthday this year...which, of course, begs the question of whether anyone else even enjoys these things, or if I would just be once-again subjecting my friends to my whims. Now, part of me thinks that it's my birthday, so everyone can shut up and do what I want...the more mature part of me thinks it would be nice if everyone had fun. I mean, you don't really want people to start dreading your birthday out of fear of what they'll be asked to do next. 

Then there's the issue of orchestrating this grand event and not getting to participate in it. Inviting all of your friends over and then immediately sending them away on a race is kind of a bummer, even if the race is pretty entertaining to watch. 

Such a dilemma. And so commences the weeks of obsessing...oh well, at least this obsession is fun. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Memoriam

It was on random morning in January, 2004, that I woke up preoccupied with my father’s eulogy. What would I say about him? What would I miss? The fact that my father was still alive was of little consequence to my inner dialogue, which fretted over how to sum up a man who in some ways I hardly knew and yet was of profound importance to me.

It wasn’t until I was fully awake, having responded to the babies’ morning cries, fed them, changed, them, gotten them dressed, that I began to absorb the moroseness of waking up thinking about my father’s death. I couldn’t recognize it then as a premonition. I was ignorant, and blissfully so.

Sure, I knew he’d fallen off the wagon. I knew his drinking had been growing steadily worse, but the man had been an alcoholic for years, then sober for most of my life. He’d only started drinking again a couple years earlier and, while I was irritated by his return to the bottle, I wasn’t as worried as I suppose maybe I should have been.

I called him on his birthday – Feb. 24 – to offer to bring the babies out to see him. I wanted to have dinner. He said he was sick, sorry, not this year. I was disappointed, but didn’t think much of it.

Then, near the middle of March, I came home one day and saw St. Francis Medical Center on my caller ID. No message. The only reason I’d ever heard of St. Francis was that my father had been there once a couple of years earlier when he’d had what he was calling pneumonia (I wouldn’t find out until much later that he had actually fallen while drunk and punctured his lung). Something was wrong.

I called my mother. Despite their divorce twenty-some years ago, she usually had a handle on what was happening with him. “Is daddy in the hospital?” I asked. She didn’t know anything. This reassured me for the split second before she suggested that maybe I should call the hospital back to find out.

I called. He was there. The nurse said, simply, “He is doing better.” Better than what? She suggested that I try to speak to his wife about what had happened.

I called his wife. She was shocked that I had found out. I went to the hospital. He was in Intensive Care and was not himself. “Please,” his wife begged when she arrived, “don’t be mad at me. He didn’t want me to call anyone.” But who was to know what he wanted? He was only occasionally conscious, and when he spoke, it was often to ask where the train was headed.

I asked the doctor what he was on, why was he so out of it? “He’s not on anything,” the doctor said to me, a mix of confusion and pity on his face. “That’s how he is now.” He went on to explain that once his liver could no longer process the alcohol, it had begun to poison his brain. Soon his organs would begin shutting down one by one. This is it, I thought. It’s over.

All that was left to do was abide by his wishes for no heroic measures and to spend as much time by his side as I could. In one of his more lucid moments, I came out and asked him, “Daddy, did you call me? From here?” He told me yes. How he had dialed the phone, let alone remembered my phone number, will always be a mystery.

The days blurred together. He wouldn’t eat. We moved him to hospice care. I brought the babies, just nine months old, to see their grandfather one last time. I yelled in his face to wake him up, desperate for him to know that they were there, desperate for him to be there, if only for a second.

On March 18, 2004, around two in the morning, he took his last breath. I like to think he waited until St. Patrick’s Day had passed so as not to tarnish one of our favorite holidays.

And so, every St. Patty’s Day I raise a toast to an incredibly smart and selfish man. The man I miss more in death than I ever did in mere absence. The irony of toasting him with the very thing that killed him is not lost on me. He would approve.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Working for the Weekend

This is the first weekend when I have to actually go to work in probably 8 years. (The last-minute speeches that I wrote in my pajamas on a Saturday don't count.) I wouldn't say I'm pleased about it, but I knew it was going to be part of the food service grind. 

I like to tell myself that I'm not going to miss much while I'm at work, as most of the early part of weekend days are spent figuring out what to do with the rest of the day, or cleaning, or breaking up arguments over the Wii. Still, with my husband almost exclusively home (read: in town) on the weekends for the rest of the month, it's hard to muster a lot of enthusiasm for spending my morning with strangers. Oh well.

In better news, I think I've acclimated to the bakery. I don't know everything, but I know enough to get me through the day without any major screw-ups (usually). Yesterday was the busiest day yet, which is good and bad. Good because it makes the time fly, but bad because it draws attention to the incredibly inefficient way we are made to do things. 

Our manager, exercising the tiny bit of power she has in life, has taken a stand and decided that the best way to serve customers is on a one-to-one basis, meaning that I have to take the order, plate the order (or bring the order to the kitchen if it needs to be heated), ring up the order, and get all the beverages. To do all this, I will traverse the length of the bakery at least twice during each transaction. 

In most establishments offering counter service (and believe me, I've worked in several), the labor is divided so that one person takes orders and another person cashiers. During busy periods, you might have a third, or maybe even a fourth, person running food and/or getting beverages. This is what's known as "teamwork," a concept that the bakery apparently does not endorse. Perhaps this is so that errors can be immediately blamed on the correct person, I don't know, but it's clumsy and slow, two qualities that are generally thought to be unfavorable in the customer service realm. 

Am I going to stage a revolt to change the way we do things at the bakery? Um, no. Though it runs counter to my nature, I'm just going to let my manager have her power and go on thinking that she's running things well. It is her career, after all, while I'm just a vagabond, poised to hitch a ride onto my next professional adventure as soon as the wind changes...or something like that. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pride Should Be Rewarded

Readers, I'm referring you to the 37 Days blog today because I think Patti Digh wrote a really nice entry about this ridiculous issue with the girl in Indiana who wants to wear a tuxedo to her prom. 

My initial reaction was that someone should maybe tell this girl that prom is waaaaay overrated and probably not worth all the trouble, but obviously I admire her conviction and her willingness to draw attention to the inequality. That's not something that's always easy to do - especially as a teenager. 

Plus, as a parent, it hurts me anytime I see a school promoting bigotry. How sad that if a teenager is comfortable enough to announce her sexuality to the world, rather than reward her self-assuredness, the school district condemns it...hiding their hate behind a policy. What kind of example does that set? 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3 Years in 30 Minutes or Less

It's time for Owen's tri-annual (that means every three years, right?) Special Education review...that's probably not the official name, but it's basically the school district saying, "Hey, it's been three years since we really looked at why we're giving this kid services, let's test him some more." They do annual IEP reviews already, plus we meet with all of his teachers at conferences, so I'm not totally sure what the purpose of this review is, but it seems reasonable to me that they would review his services and his educational diagnosis as he gets ready to become a (gasp) first grader next year.

As part of this review, I have to be interviewed by the school social worker about his development. According to said social worker, I'm supposed to tell her about his development over the last three years. So basically ever since he got diagnosed...I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by this, which maybe subconsciously is why I somehow keep scheduling this interview at bad times and then having to call and reschedule it. But I think it will happen today, finally. 

This gets at my issue with the fact that so much of the diagnosis and treatment of autism relies on the parents' ability to remember and articulate every development, delay, concern, and quirk. I'm not blaming anyone for this - it's simply where we are in our understanding of the autism spectrum - but, as the parent of a kid with autism, it's kind of a lot of pressure. 

Autism is part of our everyday lives. I don't consider it an everyday struggle because it's our "normal." We're used to it, we know how to work with it, we know how to help Owen avoid meltdowns or come out of them when they happen. We don't always like autism, but it's part of us in such a way that makes it difficult to stand back and analyze, or explain to someone else...especially someone who doesn't know us. 

So what if I don't mention something important because it doesn't seem like a big deal to me? What if I've forgotten yet another important milestone (seriously, with twins, it all becomes a blur). I think he's doing great. He is happy. He reads at a second grade level. He is funny. He is silly - sometimes too silly. Is there a special program to help him stop being too silly at school? 

I know they don't expect me to know what he needs, but I don't fully trust them to know either. I don't feel that the the special services he's been getting this year have made any difference (good or bad) for Owen. Does that mean he needs more services or less? I don't know. Should I go into this interview with an agenda one way or the other? Would it help me sort out everything I'm supposed to remember from the last 3 years?

As usual, I suppose all I can do is try my best and hope that it's enough. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Showing ID

I like to think of life as a series of experiences...some (most?) of which you learn from, others which you simply squirrel away in the back of your brain for that elusive novel you plan to write someday when your kids are grown and you're too old to even care whether anyone buys it...but, I digress. 

My bakery job provided an interesting experience today. Still Finding Herself (whom I'd like to rename "Reality Bites") made the mistake of selling wine (we sell tiny, plastic bottles of wine) to a couple of underage, undercover operatives and next thing we knew, there were plain-clothed police officers swarming the counter (Ok, there were only two of them, but they sure managed to be in the way). It was an honest mistake. An avoidable one, yes, but also an understandable one. We sell wine so infrequently and our customers are generally so geriatric that asking for ID is not part of our routine. 

With a $500 fine slapped on the bakery, we (she included) kind of assumed she'd get fired. She didn't, which is particularly good because they are slapping her with a fine that will range from a minimum of $300 to a maximum of $3000. She won't find out until she appears in court. I understand that they need to be strict in order to get businesses to follow the liquor laws, but there is something incredibly sad about the fact that this girl, who is part-time, will have to work at least 45 hours in order to earn enough to pay the minimum fine. 

Ah, food service, dramatic and depressing. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Hooray! I made it through my first week at the bakery...and by the way, I should clarify here that although "bakery" is in the title of the place I work, no actual baking takes place there. No, all the pretty pastry is baked elsewhere and delivered each morning. I didn't know that when I applied and by the time I found out, I figured I might as well go for it anyway since it's not like I had any other job offers.

I'm starting to adjust to the mundanity of the job. Meaning, I've begun to settle down and realize that I only need to work about 1/10th as hard as I've been working in order to keep up with the status quo there. I suppose there's something liberating about knowing that as long as I show up and don't swear at any of the customers, I'm meeting expectations. And I get to sing that They Might Be Giants song, "Minimum Wage," to myself every time I punch the ancient time clock. 

I'm also getting along pretty well with my co-workers. I've learned to tolerate my manager (a.k.a. Woman of Crushed Dreams), the 20-year-old (a.k.a. Still a Teenager), and I actually like the 23-year-old (a.k.a. Still Finding Herself). I think I have a decent rapport with the "cooks" (a.k.a. the Reheaters). They don't speak very much English, but don't seem terribly annoyed when I forget to write down what kind of soup the customer ordered or whether they wanted it for here or to go. 

However, I did come across a new character yesterday: the Socially Awkward College Student, who takes herself and the job a little too seriously for my taste, but I'm hoping we won't work together very often, so that should be okay. 

Still, I have no intention of doing this forever (and by forever, I mean for any longer than 6 months) and I don't think I'll have to, because I have a really exciting lead on a really exciting opportunity in another bakery, where I would actually get to work on the production side of the baked goods vs. putting them on plates. I won't say any more about that yet for fear of jinxing it, but it seems promising. I should know more in the next month.  

Don't get me wrong, though - I don't think it was a mistake to take this job. If nothing else, it makes me even more motivated to find something better. Plus, it allows me to dust off my customer service skills...I haven't yet decided why that's a good thing, but I'm choosing to see it as a positive anyway. And, most importantly, it pays for groceries...and beer. But will it pay for the amount of beer it causes me to drink? Stay tuned to find out. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Windows Pride

A scene from the minivan as it speeds down the freeway:

Owen: Can we listen to that song..."Wind and Cried"?

Me: What? Windows Pride? I don't know what that is...who sings it?

Owen: I don't know who sings it. The beginning goes duh, duh, duh-duh. 

Me: I have no idea what that is...are you sure it's called Windows Pride

Owen (growing impatient): Not window! Wind...and...Cried!

Me: "Wind and Cried"? I don't...[lightbulb goes off] Do you mean, "When Doves Cry?" 

Owen: Yeah, "When Doves Cry." 

[Sigh of relief as the sounds of Prince fill the minivan.]

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Second Day

I almost didn't go to work today. I had a panic attack last night that lasted into this morning, during which I came up with a list of reasons to quit, excuses for quitting, alternatives to working this job...I really did not want to go back. And it wasn't that yesterday was terrible, I'm just neurotic and have trouble adjusting to change. Plus, once I start obsessing, things tend to get out of hand.

So anyway, since I'm a big girl and have decided to act like one, I went to work. And it was better. I dazzled my 20- and 23-year-old co-workers with the revelation that I am 31 years old. I thought I might actually have to get out my driver's license, their disbelief was so strong (yes, I look young, but I'm old, let's move on). And the big boss wasn't there today, so it didn't feel so much like my every move was being studied and critiqued. Mental note: Request to work on her days off.

One positive side effect of working (aside from the two-figure paycheck I'll receive next week) is that I appreciate the days when I don't have to work even more. Tomorrow I will get a day of rest before attempting my first 7-hour bakery shift on Friday. 

I realize I'm being a baby, but I don't care. 7 hours is a long time to stand in a 5' x 25' space, trying not to screw up when you're busy and trying to chat up bored 20-year-olds when you're not. Soon I will be wistful for a cushy office job that sucks out your soul, but at least let's you sit down and surf the internet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I survived day one of my return to food service. It was only a 4-hour "training" shift and it felt like forever...I'm just not used to standing continuously for that long. I am weak. 

I tried my best not to be in the way. I fumbled through many cash register transactions. I slammed my finger in the bakery case so hard that I was positive I must be gushing blood all over the fancy French pastry (I wasn't). But my personal favorite was when I was sent out to light all the candles that sit on the tables (apparently 2 p.m. is the romance hour there) and I nearly burned the place down. Seriously, the stir stick my manager instructed me to use turned into a torch and when I attempted to blow it out, I scattered smoldering bits of stir stick on myself and the foliage...I actually pondered whether that would make a good enough story as to make it worth getting fired on my very first day. Alas, the fire department did not need to be called. 

I'm trying really hard to be positive about this job. To find a way to enjoy it...or, at the very least, not hate it. You can't go to a job where you barely make enough to cover groceries and let yourself completely hate it or you will drive yourself nuts. And I have enough stuff to drive me nuts already. But...

Well, when I asked my manager if there was any kind of performance review schedule (I know, I'm an idiot, but I was wondering), she looked at me like I was crazy and told me that people don't usually stick around long enough to get raises. Oh! I smiled, Okay, then!

Best-selling-novel-set-in-a-bakery, I'm coming for you...you are my only hope. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Party Politics

When I picked the boys up from school today, they were all aflutter. "It's XXX's birthday today! We're going to Chuck E. Cheese tonight for his birthday party!" Um...what?

I was forced to explain to the boys that we had received no invitations anywhere. As I grasped for a way to tell them it was possible that they just weren't invited to this kid's party, Aidan began to cry, insisting that the kid himself had just invited him...and really, in the mind of a 5-year-old, how much more of an invitation do you need?

Now, this particular kid is one of the few we've actually had a playdate with, so I have to admit I was a little surprised to hear that the boys hadn't been invited to his birthday party...surprised enough, in fact, that I began to wonder if I'd maybe overlooked an invite that had come home amongst the 5 zillion pieces of paper the school sends home every day. 

So I did the unthinkable...I called the parents and actually asked if there was, in fact, a birthday party and if my children were, in fact, invited (or not). SO awkward! If I'd stopped to think about it a bit longer, I probably wouldn't have done it, but the boys were upset and I was confused and...whatever.

Two incredibly awkward conversations later (first with the stepdad, who claimed to know nothing, and then with the mom), the outcome was that my children did go to a birthday party tonight and I found myself eating Chipotle, drinking a beer and watching a Food Network Challenge (Dr. Seuss cakes!) in peace. Did I overstep my bounds? Probably. It still remains unclear whether they were supposed to be invited in the first place.  

I guess all I know for sure is that the birthday boy wanted my kids to come and my kids really wanted to go, so all parental politics aside, I'd say all is well. Have I damaged my reputation among the mommy set? Maybe. Should I care? Probably not. 

The moral of this story is: Be pushy. Pushy wins.