Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Way or No Way

It has lately become clear that I have a major time management problem, as illuminated by the fact that even without a job, I still can’t get anything done. As is so often the case, the answer may have something to do with ants, namely the 30 seconds spent removing them from the toilet seat before I can make preferred use of it. That adds up: 365 days times five visits per day times half a minute. I’m losing more than 15 hours a year! That explains everything. I suppose ants like to walk on the toilet seat because it’s smooth and has an intriguing smell.

Last Monday I attended a “webinar” on how to interpret one of the career assessment tests I took. Tuesday I met with my coach, Dwightly, and in the evening, I walked to Howie’s, where several weeks ago I appointed myself to be the greeter, for three reasons. The first was chatting with a fellow there I'd never seen before who said he has been attending for two years—I realized there might be a lot of great people going unnoticed. The second is that I often wonder if people are visiting for the first time and would like to be able to ask someone a question or two. The last is that I sometimes attend a group that in fact has an official greeter, but this person has never once said hello, nor appeared to be pleased to see me!

So I decided I would be the greeter who, you know, actually says hello to people and looks happy to see them, or at least attempts her idea of what constitutes such a facial expression, and is available to answer questions. It turns out that quite a hefty percentage of those who go to Howie’s (I now know) are introverts, and at first sort of looked away as they said “Hi” back, but quite a number were happy to be greeted, and as the weeks have passed, those who almost ignored me now say a few words in return, and many people look downright pleased; there is a trend toward friendly feelings. I do get to answer questions for first timers, and now and then a co-greeter joins me and we greet together and chat between greeting opportunities. When Howie noticed what I was doing, he put his hand over his heart.

On Wednesday I got a last-minute invitation to go to Marin, which I interpreted to mean a little drive up to Novato or so, basking in the sun, a substantial brunch. That did sound good! However, it turned out V. had something much more ambitious in mind. There was very little sun involved (whereas it was gorgeous in the city), but it was worth it—she took me whale watching at the Point Reyes lighthouse. The entire area was completely overcast, but standing on the platform a bit above the lighthouse, we actually did see whales going by. It was oddly moving to see these enormous creatures making their way through the immeasurably more vast ocean.

V. lives by herself and, like me, spends a lot of time alone, so there was some joking about who was going to choose how much the car window was rolled down and so forth. At some point, she said, “My way or no way,” which I also find to be an excellent philosophy if the idea is to remain single.

On Thursday, in a rare moment of multi-tasking, I was on the phone discussing with my mother how I can’t get anything done and also chopping up apples for my morning cereal, and in no time I had with one stroke sliced open two fingers. After applying bandages, I called back to say I was still alive and my mother offered to take the blame because she had lecturing me about wasting time at the moment of the accident. Of course I graciously assured her it wasn’t her fault (though it actually was).

However, I had to admit she was right that there may not come another era when I have so much time to use as I see fit, and I am kind of frittering it away. I was inspired later that day to install MySQL on the iMac, pursuant to learning something about SQL.

On Friday, I had a really helpful telephone conversation with my friend Steve, the person I know who has most recently gotten a job in IT. He told me what he does to find jobs and what people are looking for these days, which was a lot of stuff I’ve never even heard of. (Scrum master?) Later on I played around with the command line on my Mac, made some discoveries and started to think maybe I’d enjoy being an actual developer. Normally, unless really necessary, I avoid activities that blatantly constitute learning, but it’s not really that bad.

When I visited A. yesterday, the staff told me there had been four hours the afternoon prior when he couldn’t be woken up, and I noticed he was having much more difficulty speaking, though some moments were better than others. He was recalling a treat his mother used to make decades and decades ago when guests came to call, chess pie. He couldn’t remember the special ingredients that go into it and asked if I could find out online. As soon as I got home, I looked it up—a bit of cornmeal and a bit of white vinegar—and called to tell him. I also printed out the recipe in large type and mailed it off to him.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gentle Insect Criticism (For Its Own Good!)

I lately got this email from my mother:

“Every time I type ellipses, I worry, because you gently criticized them (mine) once. I have been uneasy about them ever since.

“There is a nice insect walking around on the arm of my chair. It might be a silverfish, and I should know, but I’m not certain that’s right.”

I no doubt had pointed out that ellipses are only properly used to replace missing words and shouldn’t be used to create suspense; i.e., to indicate a pause, whether ominous or weighty.

I replied:

“Ick, silverfish. I’m sorry I ... criticized your use of ... ellipses.  Go ahead and ... use them whenever ... you want.”

She wrote back:

“Now you have gently criticized my silverfish. When will it end??”

Last Monday I confirmed I can log onto the website of the career consultants I’m working with, took two assessment tests recommended by my coach, Dwightly, and also made sure I can log onto a website which offers self-paced virtual classes in IT, an amenity offered by the career consultants. Lisa C. was back in town again already, lucky for me, so we had dinner at Herbivore.

On Tuesday I made what should be the final visit to my oral surgeon for tooth #19. All told, it was 15 months from noticing a slight swelling on my gum to having a dental implant placed. Dr. E.’s fabulous good looks come up over and over again in his Yelp reviews, so I suppose some percentage of his patients develop crushes on him and make ugly scenes when they have to say goodbye for the last time. At least, that’s my theory regarding the crafty thing he did on Tuesday. After placing the abutment to which the actual crown would be attached by my dentist, he said, “Let’s get a picture and then I’ll come back and we’ll look at your X-ray together and then this and that,” and then he shook my hand.

I totally thought, “Why’s he shaking my hand if I’m going to see him again?” but in fact I did not see him again. Someone else looked at my X-ray and ushered me out, and I must confess I did feel a pang. I like Dr. E. and appreciate his expertise and how very smoothly everything runs in his office. I could also see he was attractive, but I didn’t actually have a crush on him—like everyone, I meet a handsome, smart Afghani oral surgeon pretty much every day—yet I still felt a little bereft at not getting to express my parting thoughts, so his strategy is pretty smart, if primarily meant for those who throw themselves on the ground and grasp him determinedly by the ankles.

After Dr. E. was a refreshing bike ride in the pouring rain to visit my dentist at Lombard and Franklin for the crown itself to be placed, and that evening was Happyness Hour at Howie’s, the second Tuesday of every month, when we gather an hour early to have dinner together, often burritos.

It rained several days in a row last week. On Friday, Tom had a furlough day from his job, so I asked if he’d like to take a walk. He said he would.  Usually whatever you propose to Tom, he’s enthusiastic. It was sprinkling a bit when we left, and soon got wetter. After a few blocks, he asked, “Are your legs getting damp?” and then he staged an outright mutiny and we went to a café for a cup of tea instead.

Yesterday I went to see A., my hospice visitee, and in the evening I watched A Better Life, a moving and upsetting drama about a Mexican immigrant in Los Angeles trying to keep his son from joining a gang.

Somewhere along in there, I also went to Papalote to pick up a rice and bean burrito, the big treat in this new era of eating. Everything I ingest now seems to have some health-related purpose. Is it anti-cancer and low-glycemic and does it promote the desired acid-alkaline balance? Bottoms up! A welcoming nod to fruits and veggies, grains and beans. A scowling no to sugar after reading an article in the New York Times that made a convincing case it causes cancer. Yes to spices, which are full of antioxidants. I had never pictured myself putting turmeric on oatmeal, but now I do. It gives the cinnamon and ginger a pleasing extra zing. Garlic and lots of it almost every day, because: garlic! Much green tea is being swilled, but not at too high a temperature—don’t want to get throat cancer, do we?

The hope here is that being judicious in one’s interactions with the Food Industrial Complex might lead to reduced involvement with the Medical Industrial Complex.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blogger’s Mother Uses Disappointingly Foul Language

I decided to work with the career consultant that seems to have more IT orientation and went downtown a couple of Thursdays ago for my first meeting with my coach. (“Put me in, coach! Put me in!”) I had been thinking it would be crucial for prospective employers not to know I have a pre-existing health condition, but Dwightly (not her real name) said it’s not necessarily a big deal for an employer who offers insurance under a group policy.

After our meeting, I attended a “power networking” session led by the director of IT recruiting for a recruiting firm which is a sister company of the career consulting firm. The recruiting company actually has a recruiter who specializes in SCM, which I know doesn’t mean anything to anyone, but happens to be what I’m an expert at, so that was good news.

I used to think that I’d better not lose my job because finding another would involve dressing up and networking, both things I was positive I couldn’t do, so I’m surprised and pleased to discover that I actually can do these things now that it’s necessary.

The next day I took BART to Berkeley to drop in on a class of students with disabilities for whom Peggy Klaus was doing a workshop. She’s the author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It and The Hard Truth About Soft Skills. The session was open to the public, which Carol Joy had alerted me to, and she also sent me both of Peggy Klaus’s books. After the workshop, Carol Joy treated me to a burrito at Chipotle, and then we went to Stonemountain and Daughter to look at fabric, and then she gave me a ride clear back to my front door, even though she lives in Novato. See why I thought I was one of an elite few?

On Saturday, Howie led us in a half-day retreat—four hours of meditation at the Happiness Institute on Market St., which is plastered with encouraging signs and artwork. It went by in a flash. It seemed like it had been only a couple of hours when Howie said, “For our last sit … ” Afterward, three others and I had lunch at Ananda Fuara. It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day. In the afternoon, I walked up to see my hospice visitee and then home.

On Sunday a week ago I did my cooking and on Monday, another friend from Howie’s and I had lunch at Source, per her welcome last-minute invitation.

I decided that the first substantive thing I must do in my job hunt was spend several days sewing, finishing up a number of projects I haven’t been able to get to, which remained true even once I no longer had to go to work, so that’s what I did this past week. On Wednesday, I went on a pretty routine bike ride: rolled along John F. Kennedy Drive through the park to the beach, admired the sun sparkling on the Pacific, Netanyahu passed by, the usual. The Great Highway seems to be an oft-used celebrity route. This was the third time lately I’ve found it closed for this purpose.

Yesterday I went to see my hospice visitee, got a burrito at Papalote, did some reading, and went to bed early: a perfect day. My hospice visitee, A., will never know this, but he has offered a wonderful refuge these past several months. One day when I was there, I had a tickle in my throat, coughed a time or two and had to drink some water, and A. seemed excessively concerned, asking if I would be all right. I didn’t have so much as a cold—I wouldn’t go to the hospice facility if I did—so when I had a hysterectomy, I didn’t mention it. When A. asked me what was new, I said, “I don’t think anything is. It was a pretty regular week.”

I said the same after being diagnosed with cancer and losing my job. Ergo, that peaceful blue room is a surgery- and unemployment-free zone, a place where those things just don’t exist, and there is something to be appreciated in that. A. doesn’t have to worry about my problems, and I don’t, either, for a couple of hours. We discuss movies, actors, books, writers, food. Our senses of humor overlap a good deal, and we both love words and language. I’ve been visiting A. since the beginning of September, 2011, longer than any other hospice visitee to date, and he seems like a friend now.

Before we return to a G rating here, let me just ask when Grover F*cking Norquist is going to be designated an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo for some of that torture these people think is perfectly fine as long as it’s happening to some non-rich unnamed dark-skinned person they’ll never meet? The damage he's single-handedly done to our country is incalculable.

Also, when I spoke to my mother today, she was nonplussed or worse to hear I’ve never seen The Nun’s Story. “What’s it about?” I inquired in crafty hopes she would recount the entire plot so I wouldn’t have to watch it myself, but she stopped right at the point where Colleen Dewhurst seizes Audrey Hepburn by the neck. “What happens then?” I asked, but nothing more was forthcoming.

“I saw Bridesmaids,” I offered, to fill a silence which was becoming uncomfortable.

“Well, I’ll tell you, The Nun’s Story is a f*cking sh*tload better than Bridesmaids.”