Saturday, March 08, 2014


I've given up Facebook for Lent.

I won't go into the boring details about how I came up with this "hardship" as my Lenten sacrifice. Suffice to say it was an attempt to give up something that wouldn't allow for any wiggle room (I can't help it -- I'm notorious for finding a loophole in my Lenten commitments), was enough a part of my life so I'd notice it was gone (I thought of sushi, but these days sushi is as much a part of my life as arriving in the Bahamas in my own private Lear jet), and wouldn't set me up for failure (I thought of giving up reading or movies on Netflix and On Demand -- but I knew I'd never be able to do it).

It's been a long time since I really recognized the Lenten season. Growing up as a Roman Catholic, the point was never fully explained to me. I knew the Biblical reason -- the 40 days before Easter, representing Christ's 40 days being tempted in the desert -- but the practical value of what I was doing was always lost on me. I'd either give up something that I wouldn't miss (kale) or I'd give something up...but not quite; like the time I gave up science fiction movies...except on Sundays...or except regular programs like Star Trek...or except if it involved a nuclear bomb, because nuclear bombs were real and not fiction...

This was not uncommon for most of the Catholic rituals and traditions -- we were just supposed to do without really knowing why, other than, if we didn't, we were officially committing a Mortal Sin (deep echoing voice), which meant an uncomfortable trip to the confessional. It is only now that I'm older and have been out of the Catholic Church for almost 35 years that I understand the value of some of those practices as a spiritual tool.

So just as I've come back to the comfort of reciting the rosary as a mantra to enhance my prayer life, I recognize Lent as a time of reevaluation and repentance without the crushing fear of Father Giratti yelling at me to, "Speak up!"

Facebook, I thought, was an automatic habit that eats time and, I admit, controls how I present myself to the world. Also, this would be a good practice in keeping my ego in check: is an observation still clever if there is no one to give it a thumbs up?

At first I thought I'd wimped out choosing Facebook -- I don't spend that much time on it, mostly because I don't have a huge amount of "friends" and those I do have are, like me, people who don't spend that much time on it.

Still, even checking the site takes time, so the first thing I notice is that I'm not online as much.

Granted, we're only into Day 3.

I was going to take the link to Facebook off my toolbar. I tend to automatically go to click on it, just out of habit and then have to stop myself. But I've kept it up there as a reminder of the self-evaluation that is the entire point of the Lenten season.

Each time my cursor hovers over that blue logo, I'm reminded how easily I'm hypnotized by culture and acting unmindfully.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Awesome Post About

My Awsome Endeavors to

Obtain an Awesome Job

If you are looking for a job, being in your 50s sucks.

There. I said it.

I know -- it's tough out there for anyone job hunting. But when your employment history pre-dates your interviewer's birthdate, there is an entire minefield of issues to overcome.

I really thought I had a handle on what to and not to say to an interviewer. I knew not to romanticize the way things used to be done or to throw in old war stories of how tough it was back in the day and how easy all these young whippersnappers have it with their newfangled computers. I knew not to be condescending to someone younger than me and by no means act like I knew more than they did. And -- though it took every ounce of self-control -- at no time did I mention all the misspellings and grammatical errors in every piece of professional employment correspondence I've ever received from an HR department.

Little did I know how sensitive a 30-something can be when interviewing someone who can't help but remind them of their mother -- and not in a good way. Usually, I'm not only defending my own employment history, but also the pre-conceived notions born of whatever messed-up mother-child relationship my interviewer is working through with their own mother. Your mother may be a critical hypochondriac, but I am not her. 

I've been on very few face-to-face interviews. I'm told that's step 2 these days. I have done numerous phone interviews, which I suspect are done because I fit a demographic they don't really want, but have to prove they're at least giving a chance to. Either way, it's so easy to say something innocuous, only to have it blow up in your face. I can usually point to the exact moment an interview fell apart.

For instance, there was the interview I did for a bank teller job. I know that these days a bank teller is expected to do more than process bank transactions; they are also the first line in selling more banking products. See? I did my homework. And I formed my answers as such.

So, even though I was't expected to do much selling back when I was a bank teller, I was prepared with an answer when the interviewer asked this question:

Interviewer: (obviously reading from a script): "Can you give me an instance from when you were a bank teller where you sold a customer a product or service?" (Note: She asked me. I was not offering an old war story.)

Me: Well, if I knew a customer had a heavy balance in their savings or money market, I would suggest a Certificate of Deposit.

Interviewer: But how would you sell it?

Me: Well, I have to admit, it wasn't too hard to sell when you told them the rates were over 10 percent.

Interviewer: (Icy edge to voice) You could get into a lot of trouble misquoting a CD rate. How would you sell it without exaggerating?

Me: (Clueless as to what she was saying) I didn't misquote the rate. It really was around 11 percent at the time.

(Can you feel it all falling a part? At this point, I could. I was getting sucked into telling a "back in the day" story.)

Interviewer: (chuckling) That kind of rate would never...

(I should have just backed off and made up some hard sell line about the wonderful virtues of a one percent return. But NO. Stupid me, I had to defend the fact that 11 percent wasn't hyperbole...and I had to do it without using the word "hyperbole," which I think would have made matters worse.)

Me: It was the Reagan era (shuddupshuddupshuddupshuddup) and interest rate were incredibly high. Look it up; it was a phenomenon. (STOP TALKING!!!!!!)

Sigh. It was all downhill after that.

Another bank teller interview:

Interviewer: What was your favorite part of being a bank teller?

Me: Well, we got to know most of our customers and it was nice and friendly. (Requisite "I'm a people person" answer required for any position involving contact with the public) But I also really enjoyed helping other tellers when they had trouble proving out their drawers. It was like a puzzle and I loved proving it down to the penny...

Interviewer: (interrupting) What services were you able to direct your customer to? Accuracy is all well and good, but...


Interviewer: (continuing)...did you enjoy presenting new products and services to your customers?

(I know, I know. I should have taken her advice and focused on how much I enjoy...cough, cough...foisting products on people...cough, cough. Instead, I jump on the "accuracy is all well and good, BUT" part of the conversation.)

Me: Well, you see, we really weren't expected to sell to customers (NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!) and in our annual reviews, our accuracy is really what my manager was concerned with.

...And there it went.

Then there was the interview panel I went before for one very diverse office job. Part of the job was running a cash register, an exact copy of one I've used before. On the panel was the current employee (being "promoted") who had devised this elaborate system of "cashing out" that required adding up handwritten receipts, separately adding up sales tax,  and subtracting refunds from both. I innocently (honest -- I wasn't trying to be sarcastic) asked if the register was broken that it couldn't run the report automatically, to which there was an awkward silence since apparently no one realized the register had that capability.

Stupid me -- I thought, Aha! They were trying to see if I had the chutzpah to point this out. Failing that, I thought it would certainly be a good reason to hire me -- that I knew a piece of equipment better than they did.

It wasn't until after the fact I realized they could never hire me -- I'd embarrassed them.

I've had my resume evaluated and gone through mock interviews with a consultant. We've gone over wardrobe and how to use the proper slang (I was actually encouraged to over-use the word "awesome" -- not, I might add, a synonym for "awesome," -- but the actual word "awesome" over and over and over again). I can't tell you how this grates on my brain.

Really, my interview skills turned out to be not all that bad. So said one consultant around my age, who was offering her consults for free. She confided in me that she was offering these consults in order to launch her own business because, after a year and a half of searching, she couldn't get hired either.

Actually, interview skills are a tiny portion of the problem. Just getting a response from an application is a practice in futility; and, believe me, I will apply for anything. They won't even let me dress as Lady Liberty and flip a sign outside a tax prep office (though, I can see their point -- an old lady out in the freezing cold flipping a sign is just...well...sad.).

Still, I soldier on. This week I applied for a job as an insurance adjuster, newspaper reporter, convenience store clerk, administrative assistant and a dog bather. I can't tell you how very, very AWESOME I feel about my chances.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lost in translation

First Scenario

It's noon and I'm in the kitchen.

Me: (staring into the cabinet containing all my pots and pans) You want uh...

Dirtman: Yeah.

Me: You know they're not...

Dirtman: So, three.

Result: I make him three cheese quesadillas for lunch (not four of the small tortillas because instead I'd bought the burrito-size tortillas).

Second Scenario

I've just watched a Netflix movie I really liked and want to watch it again, this time with Dirtman, who I think would enjoy it. He asks if it has any actors in it he would know.

Me: It's got that guy in it. (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) He was in all those movies. (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) The ones about that special kid. (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) You know...the English lady was in it too and then he was in another one with her. (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) You know...that movie with all the people in it. (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) Remember? He was in it and she was in it and...OH! Hugh Grant was in it! (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) THAT GUY! (Dirtman stares at me expressionless.) Oh! And he was with her in another movie -- all dressed up.

Dirtman: Oh. Alan Rickman.

Result: We watch Bottle Shock.


I am forever tied to Dirtman simply because he is the only one who can translate for me.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Dear New Year...

Dear 2014,

I've had this discussion before with your siblings. I think the fact that I even bother to stay up to welcome you is pretty decent of me, considering that, lately, your predesessors have been rude, destructive house guests. By rights I shouldn't even let you in the door.

And I gotta tell you, your brother 2013 was one ugly, nasty sucker. He was ugly when he arrived and he was still ugly when he left, in spite of our efforts to clean him up and teach him some manners. Sometimes you just have to acknowlege ugliness and move on.

Now, don't take this personally. Every family has one unredeemable member. You might tell us that we should have focused on his good qualities; and, darn it if we didn't. He'd be there, snarling and drooling in the corner and we'd want nothing more than to retreat to some other room and hide from him. But we wouldn't. Instead, we would sidle up to him, talk calmly and cheerfully, praise him. And he would let us until, just when we were ready to believe there was a tender, loving part of him -- he'd punch us in the face, hock a lugey at us...AND LAUGH!

So now here you are, 2014, and I'll admit you look like a civilized sort. I don't hear any mucusy rumblings or detect even a tiny bit of aggression. I might even go so far to suggest that, in light of the obvious inbred quality of the offspring lately, you are from a different, hopefully distant, branch of the annuated family? A less psychopathic branch, perhaps?

Good, then. We should get along nicely. So. Welcome. Be nice. Please.


P.S. It was very nice of you to start me out just after midnight with a commercial for dentures. I'd never seen a commercial for dentures. Very funny. We're going to get along fine.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Aggressive Holiday Decorating

(with illustrations)

It seems the Linguinis have a holiday tradition I've only just noticed. I don't know how I missed this, but the Heirs have determined (when they think I can't hear them) that I'm becoming a senile old bat who can't remember from one year to the next.

I enter the holiday season crankily complaining about too much Christmas too soon. I gripe about having to muster the amount of enthusiasm equal to the maniacal blinking lights, screaming commercials and nauseating made-for-HallmarkTV movies. I go out of my way to avoid those crazed tinsel-bedecked maniacs who have their shopping done by the first week of December and spend the days up to Christmas announcing what cookie they baked or what craft they manifested in front of their fireplace each day.

I assuage the depth of my angst by writing blog posts that try to either temper some of the excesses of the season or encourage others like me to just say, "heck with it" and spend December snorking down cans of Redi-Whip and reading Jane Austen (not that I...ever...did...DON'T JUDGE ME!).

That's only half of the tradition. The other half is that a week into December, Heir 1 comes along and drags me, kicking and screaming, into the holiday season.

And so, having read my post of last week where I extoled the virtue of moderation in holiday decor, Heir 1 showed up recently to not only to spew holiday cheer all over us, but to make sure that when he did, it was as tacky and unrelentingly tasteless as he could possible conjure out of a quarter-century's worth of accumulated Yuletide debris.

Heir 1: (pulling a mouse-eaten ribbon out of a box) Oh, yeah!

Me: Just throw it out.

Heir 1: Oh...It's going up!

An hour later, Heir 1 calls me in to observe his handiwork.

Me: It looks like Santa Claus threw up all over the bannister.

Heir 1: That's what you get for keeping every piece of red and green crap Joe and I ever threw together. I mean, seriously...

Holds up this:

Heir 1: You will literally hang onto anything.

Heir 1 suddenly gets a bright idea and picks the empty tea candle containers out of two votive cups.

Heir 1: (a minute or so later) Here! I made this! Now you have to hang it up!

Me: I think there is a statute of limitations on how long you have to hang up your kids' creations.

 We stand and observe the overall effect of Heir 1's artistry.

Me: People are going to think it's just tacky decorating. I'm not sure my friends will see the irony.

Heir 1: (patting my on the shoulder) Mom...oh, Mom... (I think he is about to lecture me on intellectual snobbishness) You know you don't have any friends.