Fickle Beast

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Oh Mother Nature, how you vex me. I mean, you and me are usually good. Real good. I mean, you do you in your own way, and that’s fine. Of course it’s fine.

Musically riffing, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.

I’ve also seen tornadoes, lightning I thought would crack the sky in two and 120 degrees with nary a cloud.

You gotta do what you gotta do, sister, and usually I’m okay with that.

This morning I stepped out of my house and felt a little rain dripping down. Yes! Rain! Good.

Only, Mom Nature, you are a real fickle beast. Was it a good deep soaking rain? A nice drink of water for the poor parched state of California?

Nope!

It was like this:





Just enough to knock dust and schmutz from a nearby tree onto my car. You just created a rolling mud bog.

Just enough to moisten the roads so people could slide real good into each other.

Just enough rain to REALLY piss me off and not enough to make a difference.

Look lady, do more than spit at us, all right?

Be better, Mother Nature!




The Fiscally Responsible Zombie

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Back there in June, which seems like a lifetime ago, recall I had the fun chance to visit Amsterdam on a work trip? Yay!

While there, I made use of my company credit card because that’s the best way to go when it comes to pesky expense reports.

However, there are a few things that the company says no-no to on expense reports. For example, booze. I mean, how can one have a nice dinner in Amsterdam and not sample the local beer?

One doesn’t and this one didn’t. I sampled. Oh did I sample. No, I didn’t sample Amsterdam’s other claims to fame. I was on a work trip ferchrissakes! But light brown beer was a delightful dinner companion.

So what I did was expense the expensable parts and the not expensable parts I would pay personally to the credit card company. No problem, right?

Upon my return to the States, in the midst of chaos and twelve to fourteen hour days and working nights and weekends on this massive project (the whole reason I went to Amsterdam and Ireland) I managed to knock out my expense report.

Then I knew I would get a bill for about $110 US dollars for the “not allowable” stuff. The beer, mostly. Not gonna lie.

About a week and a half ago, I got a snippy notice from the credit card company. “Second notice”, they said and “we’ll shut off your card in five days unless payment is received.”

I also noticed that they had transposed two numbers in my mailing address.

Well, I got a bit high handed about this. First of all, I didn’t receive a first notice! Second of all, my address is wrong. Third of all, pfft! Or something like that.

I’m still working a lot of hours and so I dashed off a check but didn’t send it. I wanted to talk to my friend who runs the travel program. I needed to know if I could change my mailing address for the card or if she had to. She said I could do it or she could. No matter.

Great! Then life and my insane job intervened and quite a few more than five days passed. Ugh. Over the weekend when I had a few minutes to breathe, I picked up the ol’ phone and called the credit card folks. I knew I needed to take care of this problem like a grownup.

Imagine my surprise when I got a recorded message saying that a payment had been received and my balance was zero.

“Uh oh,” I told the Good Man. “The company paid my bill. Crap. Now I have to figure out how to pay them back. Or will they take it out of my paycheck? Gah. What a mess.”

The next day, I went back to my friend in Travel to figure this out.

“Honey, we don’t pay people’s credit cards. And if we did, just keep quiet about it.” She laughed.

But she looked up my account. “Hmm…” she said, rolling her mouse over the screen. “I can’t tell where this payment came from. Did you do another expense report?”

“No.”

“Hmm. Are you sure you didn’t pay it?”

“Yes.”

“Really sure?”

I thought back to the dates from May 1 through August 15, my head down working this project. The lack of sleep. The stress. The long days and working weekends and not having a single day off in all of that time. The disconnected feeling. The lack of awareness about pretty much everything around me.

“Well. I’ll check my bank account but I really don’t think so.”

I walked back to my desk, logged into my bank and searched for the amount. By golly, there was a payment.

That means that 1) I had indeed received a “first notice” from the credit card company and didn’t remember it and 2) had set up the credit card company as an auto pay from my account and didn’t remember it and 3) actually paid the bill and didn’t remember it.

So that means that when I was wandering around in a zombie-like intense work state, forgetting to eat meals and forgetting to sleep and often forgetting to change clothes and frequently forgetting to even brush my teeth in the morning, I managed to be fiscally responsible enough to pay my credit card bill?

Um. What?

I’m certainly glad that zombie Karen cares enough to pay normal Karen’s bills. I wonder what else I did when I wasn’t even on the planet.

I can hardly wait to find out.











Image found here.




Gimme Me the Check

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In those heady days of youth when skin was firm, recovery time was fast and the brain still spongy, I remember thinking “pfft, I don’t need to use lists to remember things. That’s so lame.”

Then somewhere in my late twenties I had to make the hard admission that my memory was just never going to be what I wanted it to be. I thought it would always be easy to remember things, and then suddenly it wasn’t so easy. Too many seemingly obvious missed items at the grocery store and dammnit, you start to love a real honest to goodness list.

So I started, grudgingly, making lists. Usually only a couple items on a sticky note, words to jog the brain. Over time that just wasn’t enough. The random words were no longer enough to evoke memory. I had to put down multiple and specific words. No longer could I trust my brain at ALL. These were dark days, indeed.

Years passed and my eyes got worse and my hair more gray and the little lines at the corners of my eyes were no longer laughs but crows, and I learned to love my Swiss cheese memory.

These days I am all about my to do lists. I write one up, by hand, every few days at work. Hand writing the tasks helps me to have SOME potential for a wispy memory of them.

I get out a shiny orange Sharpie and then I get all of those pesky things I am supposed to remember down onto a big sticky note. Once written, it feels good to let them go. No longer does my brain have to work to keep important tasks retained, nope. I can fill the brain holes with mental cotton candy like the score of last night’s Giant’s game (don’t ask) and the fact that there is going to be a Sharknado 2 (not that I saw the first one).

I love my lists so much that I actually keep some of lists that have all of the tasks marked off. It’s a keepsake to show me that busting my butt at work really does matter. A visual and handwritten progress bar that keeps me motivated.

There is a little dopamine blast I get when I check several items off the list. Yeah baby, that is the stuff. Gimme some more.

I even like to use the British colloquialism “tick the box” instead of check mark because “tick the box” is fun to say. It makes things feel official and proper and oh yeah, there’s that dopamine rush again. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

Seeing an unticked list doesn’t demoralize me, it peps me up. If I work a little harder, stay a little more focused, I can get out the black Sharpie and POW! Mark off the list. That little huff of Sharpie ink. The sound of the pen across the words. The tingles in my spine. The smug satisfaction I feel. Yeah. Love it. Love everything about it.

Even making the little fake list for the end of this post was utterly satisfying…

I should probably get help.









Photo and To Do List © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




Metaphors. What Are They Good For?

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The other day at the ol’ place of employment, I had an early meeting at another site and then came back to my particular office building, which meant parking on the top level of the parking garage. Ugh.

Early on with this parking garage, I made myself promise that no matter where I parked, I would take the stairs to get to my car. No elevators. Just a little extra exercise in the day. So when I get here early, I have one flight of stairs. When I get here late, I have five. That’s how the ol’ cookie crumbles.

So after starting really early in the day at an off site meeting and then running like my hair was on fire in the office all day long (gigantic project brewing with very hard deadlines and a press conference to announce it coming up too!) I was pretty dead tired at the end of the day.

I stood at the bottom up the steps looking up mournfully. Five flights? After the day I had? I was determined to keep my promise to myself and I lifted heavy legs up and up and up the stairs.

Around the fourth floor I started feeling gassed. Each step felt harder than the last. It felt like gravity was actively defying me with every lift of my knees. Finally, exhausted and sucking oxygen I made it to the top floor, stumbled to my car and flopped inside.

That last flight really got to me. As I stepped, I had the kind of pondering thoughts that my brain often makes to keep me entertained. Were those last steps so difficult because my leg muscles were wearing out over the sum total of steps? Or does it become harder to slip the surly bonds of gravity with each flight? Or some combination of both?

And that struggle, that last mile difficulty, well, it started to feel like a metaphor. For my job. I am (to use yet another metaphor) rounding third base on this gigantic project and certainly headed for home plate, but this last leg of the journey is proving to be the most difficult.

Here’s another metaphor. I can see the summit of this mountain, but the last 1,000 steps are straight uphill with no room or time to rest. Each day feels a little harder. Each moment is fraught with worry.

In about two weeks I will summit this sumnabitch and I will be glad I did. In a few months I will look back and it won’t seem all that bad. But right now, looking up, knowing I am so close but knowing all that I have to endure to get to the other side, it feels daunting.

It feels like gravity actively puling me down, down, further toward the ground. Yeah, climbing five flights of steps feels like a metaphor, and not a bad metaphor at that.

But what good is the metaphor? I still have to climb the steps. I still have to complete the journey. And I have not get so focused on the pain and agony and effort of each step that I forget to remember home and the loving arms of The Good Man wait on the other side.

It’s worth climbing those steps if only because it means I’m one step closer to him. What is a difficult journey without a meaningful destination?





Image found here.




A Pirate Looks at Forty-Five

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Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I’ve found
My occupational hazard being (that) my occupation’s just not around
I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown

–“A Pirate Looks at Forty” by Jimmy Buffet

Yeah, I might be taking a few liberties with a very fine Jimmy Buffet song that did not make a lot of sense to me when I was in my twenties and seems rather spot on now.

I find myself sneaking up rather quickly on the milestone age of forty-five. Or rather it’s sneaking up on me. What a milestone, I’m not even sure what it means. There are ages old enough to vote, old enough to drink, and then it all kind of gets muddled after that.

At this point in my life, I’m in a place where I don’t love my birthdays most years. For reasons that aren’t clear to even me, this particular trip around the sun is a little rough on me. Or maybe they are all a little rough on me these days.

And so weirdly (or not so weirdly) enough I have been thinking about that Buffet song dating back to the jolly era of 1975. The song is about a man who laments the fact that he was born too late to be a pirate. Jack Sparrow kind of pirate, not Somalia kind of pirate.

The man in the lyrics looks at his life and wonders what might have been. I have a very rich internal life and while I love my life today, I do often think about the what-ifs.

Yo ho ho, the pirate life isn’t quite the one for me, but I do have laments of being born too late. A hazard of the years going by, I suppose.

I’m not so unlike the main character in “Midnight in Paris” who wishes to live in the era where writers were valued and were paid quite well for their work. Where art wasn’t as much of a business as it is today.

I recently read a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald and grew ever more green with envy over how Scott Fitzgerald could keep them in a very high life simply by writing and publishing a few short stories.

I’m not implying he didn’t work hard at his craft. I’ve read some of his shorter works and of course “The Great Gatsby” and the man could write. But he also had a venue for those stories, popular magazines that were both willing and able to pay.

Oh to live a life where I could install myself in a Parisian pub with a bottle of Spanish red and write my words. Then know I might get many rejections, but when I get that “yes” that it really meant something on a large scale.

I was singing this sort of tune in my head over the weekend and because Fate is one hell of a comedian, I received an acceptance on an essay I had submitted to a very fine online publication. I am quite proud to contribute to this literary magazine, but the timing couldn’t have been more humorous.

One of my coworkers recently had occasion to read one of my published short stories about a scuba diver (if you haven’t read it, I’ll direct you to the right column of this page). She is also a scuba diver and she liked the story very much.

“You are such a talented writer! Why do you do this job?” she asked, and laughed.

“Because that doesn’t pay, and this does,” I said and sighed.

Oh, it could. Maybe one day. With a lot of work and a lot of sweat and a lot of blood and a mountain of rejection letters under my feet.

But as I sidle up to age forty-five, it sometimes feels like my best years have passed.

I once knew a bluesman who could play a muddy, gorgeous telecaster like he was drinking water. He made it look easy. So easy people were always sure they could do it like he did, and when they wondered aloud to him why it was so hard, they would say, “You must have just been born talented.”

He would reply, “Yeah, and at age twelve I picked up a guitar and played it every day until my fingers bled, and then every day since.”

Talent is nothing without hard work. I am more than happy to do the work, and I actually do the work every day. I type my words until my wrist aches and my head hurts. Then I write some more.

There are many days I simply wish I had started writing seriously earlier in my life when energy and time were not an issue. Then again, what did a bubbleheaded girl like me have to write about?

Maybe I had to live a little before I could open a vein and write the words.

Oh well, this is my journey. Not anyone else’s. Forty-five it is and forty-five it must be.

The dread leading up to the day started to wane in the final days. Resignation set in and now I suppose I’m okay. I tried on forty-five and it fit like a shiny new pair of fine leather shoes. A little tight and squeaky at first, but breaking in nicely.





If I’m going to overwork a metaphor, I should probably reuse a photo of a very favorite pair of well broken in boots






Image Copyright © 2010, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.