31 December 2009

What Christmas music makes you merry?

What were some of your favorite Christmas recordings this year?  New and classics accepted. :)

29 December 2009

Rain, ice, hazards of same

We had that ridiculously warm Christmas, which led to lots of stuff melting, which disappointed my cranky self as I stewed in my too-hot apartment.  I forgot the added bonus of melting before a hard freeze: icicles everywhere!  Snow falling off roofs and refreezing haphazardly and absurdly!

And crappy, terrible, awful, hazardous roads.  And no white, snowy Christmas.  Bah-humbug indeed.  :) 

Since we won't get a full thaw again until April, we'll have this dratted ice lurking under everything for the next few months.  Boo.

At least we technically had a white Christmas, even if if was more dingy grey than perfect blue like last year.  I also appreciated the lovely white Christmas Eve, which led to some poetry . . .

Is there any kind of weather that leads to poetry for you?

28 December 2009

The Ghost Moon Strikes Back

Wow!  A sunny day today meant that I could see the ghost moon clearly at 3:30 pm, and it was fantastic!  If only I could have basked in the sun instead of being at work.  Well, at least I got in a few minutes during the white-knuckle car ride home.  Lovely sunshine taunting you during bitter cold snaps: what a frustrating tease.  :)

Have you seen a "ghost moon" recently?  Do you like them, or do you think they're creepy?

27 December 2009

Personal Boycotts

A few months ago, I started shopping at a certain store that was on my way home because I realized that their regular prices were cheaper than the sale prices at the other two stores on my way home.  As December descended upon us, I was reminded by the silence at the entryways that this particular store does not let Salvation Army bell ringers on their property.

When this store originally made their decision against the Salvation Army a few years or so ago, I was pretty ticked off, but since I never shopped there, what did my response matter?  Now that I do shop there most of the time, I found myself contemplating my anger and what I should do about it. 

Part of my miffedness was somewhat childish, I suppose.  I was used to hearing the bell-ringers.  They were a cheerful, regular part of the holidays for me.  I saved change all year to give them.  Going shopping in December and not being reminded of this easy way I could help people in need just seemed different, kind of wrong, like something was missing.

I could have just used this reminder to go online and give, but I remember being a bell-ringer during a particularly bitter winter.  I remember how grateful I was when people dropped in their pennies.  (I think I can still hear that bell reverberating in my head.)  Bell-ringers work in less-than comfortable conditions to make sure that other people can be more comfortable.  I guess I just want to reward that effort.

So I did my own private, personal boycott of that store, and I think maybe I will write them a brief letter (not condemning but) explaining why I chose to take (more of) my money elsewhere this month.  I figure it can't hurt.

Have you ever quietly voted with your dollars like this?  Why or why not?

25 December 2009

Home for the Holidays

Well, unfortunately, the predicted snowpocalypse missed us.  It got too warm, I guess, which is why I am sitting in my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt, sweltering.  In anticipation of Snowmageddon, the apartment staff cranked up the thermostat in the lobby directly below me before leaving to spend the holidays elsewhere. 

It's sleeting/snowing/raining outside, so I can't open my window, and it's night, so I have to have a light on to be able to write, and this makes things even warmer.

I just can't bring myself to turn the AC on during Christmas this far north in the Northern hemisphere.  There are some lines I just can't cross.

Don't worry.  I'm staying hydrated as I sweat and listen to Christmas carols.

I'm thinking of leaving the Christmas tree lights on again tonight since they didn't burn the place down last night (hooray, LED lights), and it was comforting to see them while I was doing my usual not-sleeping routine.  It's not every day you can turn over for the 57th time and see lovely blurry twinkling lights that are also still awake on Christmas Eve.  I'm sure lots of kids thinking about presents were on vigil with us, too.

Hope you had as great a Christmas as I did.  Aside from the excess heat, it was nice.  I was happy not to be working in RetailHades, not to have to talk to anyone (I made an exception for my family), not to have to think about looming economic crises for one day.

It was very nice to see my fully assembled Christmas tree, to get some exercise, to watch the snow, to read a bit, write a bit, think about poetry, eat soup, take a few pictures, listen to music, and actually relax for real.

Tomorrow, I'll get back to job applications, credit wrangling, cleaning, laundry, software installation, submitting for publication, and worry.  Today I wanted to be at peace, and I'm glad to say that things pretty much worked out that way, thanks be to God.

How did you spend your holidays this year?

24 December 2009

Let it snow!

The snowpocalypse has begun!  I'm hunkered into my cave and ready to hibernate for a bit as the snow falls down so beautifully I don't even mind if I haven't seen the moon in days.  Bring on the white Christmas!

At my RetailEstablishment, we have all sorts of doodads and stocking stuffers near the registers, including bookmarks.  Someone asked one of the employees how they worked.  Seriously.  The employee had to explain how bookmarks work.  Where do these people crawl out from under this time of year?

Be nice to your retail employees around the holidays.  It's crazy and hellish for them, and they just want to help you and keep their jobs.  :)

Merry Christmas!

23 December 2009

Merry Christmas Radio

Ah, Christmas on the radio.  I might enjoy it even more if I didn't keep hearing the same song.  I mean, I know there is a finite number of recordings of Christmas songs, but there is no excuse for me hearing the exact same recording of the exact same song by the exact same group 3 times in one 24 hour period.  Seriously.

There are a go-jillion Christmas songs to choose from!  Here is my advice to people programming radio computers:

Thou shalt not play the same artist in two songs in a row.
Thou shalt not play the same song more than once a day.
Thou shalt not play the same Christmas carol by two different artists in the same hour.

Do you have any suggestions or revisions to add that might make Christmas radio more merry (and less wearing)?

21 December 2009

Christmas Cards 2009

A while ago, I decided that this year I would write out my Christmas cards on Christmas Day.  It seems to me that Christmas is the day I most want to be thinking about and praying for my loved ones, and I'd like to think that mailing them the next day will mean that my friends get an extra surprise and the knowledge that I really was thinking of them on Christmas Day. :)

Any thoughts about this idea?

20 December 2009


So I found out I had an apartment inspection coming up around the same time I discovered that my what-a-deal-impossibly-sale-priced oranges were a tad moldy.  Fortunately, this occasion coincided with my employee discount days at my RetailEstablishment, and I was able to find a scented candle set that didn't smell terrible or make my asthma and allergies kick up.  I brought it home, wrestled off the plastic packaging, and realized I had no matches.

. . .

Ever had one of those situations where you didn't quite think things through?

19 December 2009

Cleaning Monster Attacks

I'm going to do it today: I'll find some place to ditch all my OWCP nightmare stuff and rearrange, so that my desk is a more comfortable place.

That was my goal for the day, and I refused to stop until it was done.  Unfortunately, this meant I totally forgot to go see a free coffee shop performance by two people I was dying to hear.  Sigh.  I win and lose!

So much space!  So much less heat!  The freedom of organization is so intoxicating!  I'm on a rampage.  Next, I want to get my coffee table cleaned/organized.  I wonder if my overhead shelves will collapse under the weight of all those thesis drafts . . .  Let's find out; shall we?

Is there anything in your house or office you really want to get cleaned?

16 December 2009

How to keep your Christmas tree ornaments in one piece

When my parents came to visit in May, they thought it amusing that I still had my Christmas tree up.  I really meant to take it down; I just never quite got around to actually doing so.  It's still up.  Decorating for Christmas this year was a snap.

To defend my decision to leave it up year round from this time forth, I would like to point out that leaving your tree up year round when you are a calm, quiet person who lives alone is a great way to make sure your ornaments don't get damaged.  Dusty, maybe, but at least no favorite sparkly bit gets crushed in the packing and unpacking rituals.  You can also be sure the tree is exactly the way you want it (and exactly the way you remember it from last year).  So there.  :)

I will have to redo it this year, unfortunately, because the uber-cheap lights I bought ate batteries like they were going out of production and then just stopped working altogether.  I also have some nice tiny turquoise ornaments to add this year.  See?  I'm not totally lazy.

How do you decorate for the Christmas season?  And how early is too early for outside displays, in your opinion?

13 December 2009


"Confidence.  It's not something you keep just for yourself."
- Musashi #9 Vol. 16

I have lost all confidence in myself.  It didn't happen all at once.  It's been gradually wearing away like my energy and memory and ability to focus.  Its loss, like theirs, can be traced back to that injury working for the federal government in 2002.  I lost hope in the government and justice.  I started struggling more and more in school and at work, and I now feel mostly useless, crippled, and incompetent.

It's not a great time to be trying to find other jobs.  I can't sell myself because I feel like no buyer would want such damaged goods.  How can I, in good conscience, try to convince someone to hire me when I wouldn't hire me?  I admit I would get some degree of satisfaction if I managed to obtain another government job (this one without any of the significant physical hazards of the last one), but that desire to be petty hasn't been enough to motivate me to finish a lengthy government resume.

Oddly enough, I started feeling more optimistic about my chances as I was looking through a book about how to make a great government resume.  Focus on what you actually do at work; match it up to skills mentioned in the job announcement and questions (in one case, all 83 of them).  Research the agency to find out what the job really involves, and find keywords.  Use principles of graphic design to format a text resume that is easily readable, scanable, and usefully written.  It helps that the only job I am not too crippled for is fairly entry level, so much so that my grades in college could potentially get me hired at a higher pay band even with no practical knoweldge/experience. 

Yeah, so that last bit's unlikely, but it's possible on paper, and  I have been too chummy with impossible lately. 

When my parents, who feel helpless, even though they are doing way too much to help me already, talk to me, I stress the impossible to them because it's what I know.  Don't expect me to be able to do what I could ten years ago; I'm too broken to do those things now.  I am a different, lesser person, crippled in more than just body.  I hate this state of being even more than they do, and my face is rubbed in it every minute I am awake (and there are far too many of those minutes a day, which is part of the problem). 

So much is impossible for me that it's been a while since I've even bumped into the positive possible.  I've stopped looking for it, even.  It would take a miracle to save things now, and a miracle may not be what God is planning for me.  Maybe even more quietly epic failure is His plan for me, and, honestly, I had a great run there for 21 years, so who am I to complain?

Anyway, this past Tuesday, when I got past being sarcastic about all the skills and experience I lack and my crappy retail job and my incompetent boss who is now actively trying to fire me since we have yet another new store manager (my incompetent boss is trying to use the confusion of his ascendence in this time of holiday hell to her advantage to fire me without any oversight) and my discouragement over all the skills I polished in college and never got to use, I realized that completing this resume could be more of a writing and style exercise, like something I did in technical communication classes back in the day. 

I used to be good at learning a lot through negative examples.  Why couldn't I spin things at my current job in a more positive light now?  (Because I'm out of practice, is the simple answer.)  But the light was there, and I could see that maybe the tunnel had edges, a long way away.

Today I was exercising on a stair machine on my day off.  As usual, I was reading a book (Musashi #9 volume 16, which came out 19 months after volume 15).  As I had suspected, a particular character died, and after that story finally wrapped up, there was a short side story told from the point of view of a girl who was really unhappy with her personality and who wanted to change.  She encountered #9 and came to the realization I quoted at the beginning of this piece, so you'd realize the end was going to be uplifting.

"Confidence.  It's not something you keep just for yourself."


I know I've been hurting my parents and concerned friends with my lack of confidence.  It made me feel guilty and a little irritated.  Why should my problems affect them?  And what was I supposed to make them feel better?  It was my problem in the first place, and I can't fix it, not as broken as I am.  I hate disappointing my parents, previous witnesses to most of my triumphs, bewildered long-distance spectators of my slow destruction and descent.  A recent phone call reminded me of this fact.

This quote and my pursuit of this job were kind of like a heartening, non-physical kick in the pants.  Maybe I'm too tired to fake confidence for myself, but I think I need to for my parents and other concerned people their age around me who are worried about me.

And maybe, just maybe, this time I'll be able to fake it first and long enough that it will grow to fill in the space I've left for it.  A person can dream, right?

12 December 2009

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Subaru

Something I have loved this Christmas season: Cars, trucks, and vans sporting antlers on the front windows and a red nose on the grill/fender.  It makes me laugh every time.  :)

Something I have not loved this Christmas season: Vapid Christmas carol lyrics that are ridiculous and stupid.

My un-favorite at the moment is from "Here Comes Santa Claus."  It comes right after the part where it talks about how Santa doesn't care if we have broken our toys and how he loves us anyway.  "Santa knows that we're God's children," Mr. Sinatra sings, "that makes everything right."  It is probably not Mr. Sinatra's fault that these lyrics exist, but it is his fault for singing them. 

I would just like to ask Mr. Sinatra how a fair, just anthropomorphic personification who keeps a list of naughty and nice kids and gives lumps of coal to the naughty ones and presents to the nice can be the same one Mr. Sinatra is describing, a watered down being who forgives all and doesn't care how we treat each other. 

I know, I know.  The song is really just to reinforce the lie of Santa Claus when small children ask why Johnny-the-evil-bully-next-door gets a jillion presents every Christmas even though he tortures squirrels and the neighborhood children, but that's not a lie I ever believed or intend to reinforce.  Ba-humbug.

I guess some of my irritation is misdirected here from my frustration that even Christian parents lie to their kids about Santa and wonder why their kids are easily confused in their thinking about Jesus the same way (Jesus is love, so He doesn't really punish bad and reward good) (?!). 

As a tangent, kids tend to love those stories where good defeats/punishes evil; they recognize something inherently right and just about that dynamic.  Just saying.

Anyway, do you have any "favorite" vapid Christmas song lyrics (or whole songs) you'd like to share?

11 December 2009

How can I keep from singing

I'm starting to wonder if I should voluntarily quite my choir next semester.  I just don't think I can do it anymore.  After that last concert, I don't know if I trust myself not to screw it up for everyone.

Not that they probably noticed the number of times I screwed up, even if I did.

To be fair, most of the problem stemmed from work.  I had requested the day of the concert off as I have every year for the past 7 years, and my request was approved, but we have a new manager now, and he keeps scheduling me when I can't work, but I can't ask to get out early, or I'll end up with even fewer hours and not be able to pay my rent, and you can probably see where this is going.

I should have just told him, taken my day off as I planned, had a great concert, and let him deal with the scheduling problems, but my job's hanging by a thread due to the machinations of another manager who is trying to get me fired, so I just couldn't risk it.  I woke up ridiculously early and worked, tried to relax and focus for several hours, and then tried to sing a full concert after already being awake and functioning for nearly 11 hours.  It didn't work.  I'm just not capable of something like that anymore. 

I missed words, missed cut-offs, misjudged my voice's breaking point.  My timing was off ever so slightly, pretty frequently.   I didn't blend well; I was too loud.  I couldn't see the director.  I kept getting distracted.

We had some stunningly lovely moments; don't get me wrong.  People I had invited told me it was lovely.  Most people probably didn't notice any of my mistakes (except one really obvious one, which they probably don't remember because it was early in the concert).  I don't even think the director noticed most of my flubs.  But I did.  (Did I ever.)

I can't guarantee that next semester will be better.  My focus is getting worse every year; my ability to concentrate is laughable and likely won't be getting any better without a miraculous healing.  There is no way to guarantee that I won't totally screw up the spring concert in obvious and embarrassing ways. 

It's selfish of me to want to sing in it anyway, selfish to even be willing to think about singing in another concert I could ruin just because there are those moments of indescribable beauty you earn when you make impossibly beautiful music with a group of people you've worked with for a time.  My weakness is swallowing up even the small beauties I have left. 

I am a desperately selfish person.  Or maybe I just know how diminished I am when I am without music, as I was in college for three years.  That is, I suppose, just more selfishness.  If the director told me not to come back, I wouldn't come back.  That's how bad I feel about my mistakes in this last concert.  But I still want to be in the next one, if I can.

Is there anything you're that selfish about?  Something you enjoy doing so much that you don't care how bad at it you are or how much trouble you make for others when you do it?

08 December 2009

The Current Snowpocolypse

AHHHH!  It's here!  The snowpocolypse!

It started out so innocently, like fine flour sifting down.  From the second floor, I could barely see it.  But even that dry, dusty, tiny snow powder adds up if it falls long enough.  Now the wind is kicking up, and it will get much worse.

On the positive side, all that embarrassed, Styrofoam-wannabe-snow that's been hanging around since the last dusting is finally covered.  It's been too cold for it to melt, so it just sat there frosting the grass and piling up miserably in corners and cracks in the parking lots and blowing around sulkily.  Now it is the foundation for a fine, slick, freezing, miserable winter.  :)

I think I'm going to get up early tomorrow.  Traffic will be challenging, I suspect.  You'd think that since we all live in this state, people would know how to drive in snow, but you would be so, so wrong. 

How do you prepare for snow in your neck of the woods?

06 December 2009

Why you shouldn't listen to pop Christmas songs on the radio before your classical Christmas performance

Because you remember the wrong words.  Ugh. 

(Also, it can make you a little teary, which can make you a bit congested before your concert.)

I particularly enjoy when the words of Christmas songs are altered for slightly dumb reasons, such as the line in "The Little Drummer Boy" being changed to "where ox and lamb are feeding."  I recently heard a version of "Silent Night" where a choir swells in wordless splendor, so you can't hear Mr. Sinatra say "virgin."  That one was great.

If you want a great Christmas song, check out "Adoration" by the Newsboys.  Powerful and thought-provoking, especially the repetitions of certain phrases.  Very well done.

Have you heard any examples of dumb Christmas song word changes recently?

05 December 2009

Confident Ignorance

I used to pride myself in knowing the right answers.  Then I discovered it was difficult to do so when there are no right answers or when you can't actually figure out the right questions.  It's a good thing I was a bit more mature and flexible by the time I started getting smashed by these truths.

Now, I'm all about asking the questions, especially when I don't know the answers.  I am very comfortable with admitting my ignorance.  I prefer that kind of honesty.  I wouldn't want to lead people astray simply because I don't want to be seen as ignorant, even though as a very finite being, I know I am.  I prefer to question honesty rather than to fight and die for a position about which I am not completely certain.

So I was intrigued by the following quote:

“A theory that is wrong is considered preferable to admitting our ignorance.”
– Elliot Vallenstein, Ph.D.

The author was talking about the prevailing position in medical research/science (and was challenging it, I think).

Any thoughts?  Do you think this idea is beneficial in the area of medical research?  Could any progress be made if the prevailing position was one of open questioning?

01 December 2009

Practicing for Failure

Why is it that I don't get better at failing, even with all the practice I've had?  Should I even want to?  I'm pretty sure that being good at failure is not something I should be striving for, but it's the only thing I've had a lot of practice in lately, so I should be great at it.

My small group music fell through.  I could blame it on unprofessional singers, but it was more a matter of priorities, or maybe high expectations.  True, we're not professionals, but if you commit to doing something, especially something as complex as an a cappella musical piece, then I darn well expect you to follow through.  I don't care if you're not a professional, if you're a college student, or if you can't play piano.  I just care if you do what you say you'll do.  I expect that you will.  I am . . . disappointed.

It's partly my fault for choosing the group members I did, but I really think I chose people who had the ability to get things done.  I tried to strike that balance (I thought I was getting better at) between pressuring enough to make them work hard but not so much that they quit.  Should I have turned into Captain Blood?  I don't know if that would have helped.

There were things I could have done differently, such as dropping that easy song the second time it went so badly because some of them just didn't want to learn it, or dropping both in favor of the one tune we all knew from an earlier concert and could have done with the Christmas words . . .

I think the trick is that even if you fail a lot, you have to keep trying or you'll lose.  Something.  Your forward momentum?  The game?  I don't know.  I blame Miles for his bad influence by insisting on playing the game and winning with the hand dealt.  I should pause and consider what he lost, I suppose. 

Sounds like it's time for another read-through.  Maybe I'll stick with the later ones.  I always did like the summary for Memory in the chronology for the Vorkosigan books: "Miles hits thirty.  Thirty hits back."  In theory, Miles was far more breakable than me.

There will still be plenty of beauty in this Christmas concert without my special pieces, and I can go sing from the balcony tomorrow before rehearsal.

28 November 2009

The cost of re-alphabetizing

Silly me; I forgot what happens when I re-alphabetize my books.  Pain.  Wow.  It's kind of stunning.  Day two of no sleep.  Hmm.  Not good. 

Still worth it?  I guess, so long as I don't get sick again. 

Our concert is coming up in a little over a week.  My small group may not pull it together in time, which makes me sad, but we have a couple of days to try to make it work, so I haven't given up yet!  Onward . . .

26 November 2009

Why I hope the Ultimate Dinosaur exists

There was no snow when I woke up.  :(  Why do I even bother to believe the meteorologists anyway?  I know they're only right about 2% of the time, but I still get excited when they promise snow.

One of my former-co-workers, who constantly lit up my life while we worked together because he had the strangest sense of humor and loved to say inappropriate, weird, off-the-wall-and-sometimes-apparently-from-another-universe things, used to talk about how when he would take over the world with his Ultimate Dinosaur, his first victims would be career politicians and meteorologists because of how useless they both were.

I like my snow to fall on days I don't have to drive in it (such as Thanksgiving), so I hope it doesn't come tomorrow.  I don't want to fight crazy traffic on the way to and from work on "Black Friday," and I especially don't want to fight crazy traffic driving on snow.  I like going to work at 5:30 because there's usually no traffic since what store in its right mind would open at, say, 3 am?  (I mean, besides the one right next to mine.)  I hope there's room in the parking lot for the employees . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!  May you survive the upcoming "Holiday Season" with style and grace!

25 November 2009

Just a tad too wet

A few days ago we had this day that almost didn't seem like fall.  It was damp, and I couldn't taste that dry, dusty bite that I think of as what proper autumn air should taste like.  That thought made me laugh.

That night, it was hazy, and unless you knew where to look for the moon (almost directly south, it seems), I'm sure you wouldn't have seen that faint fingernail of light shining through the haze.  I'm glad I saw it.

24 November 2009

Thanksgiving for the blessed

At work yesterday, someone said something wonderful to me.  He knows I've been having trouble with a particular manager who is doing her best to get me fired, and he said that if I needed a witness, he would speak up on my behalf.  I nearly cried; it was that touching.  He knew that they might not even care what he said, and he knew it might get him in trouble, but he said he thought it would be a real shame if I got fired. 

As Willy Wonka said, "So shines a good deed . . ."  Since things have been so bad lately, it really meant a lot to me, and it reminded me of the importance of telling the people important to you how you value them.  (Just in time for Thanksgiving!) 

I think this year I'll give Thanksgiving cards to the people at work who make working there a positive experience, and I hope it encourages them to appreciate the people who make their lives brighter.

Do you have anything you do for Thanksgiving to show people you're thankful for them?

21 November 2009

A family visit

Yesterday night was really beautiful because the sky was oddly dark, making the fingernail-edge moon startlingly bright, like a yellowed diamond or the edge of the light hanging over the table in the darkened restaurant where I went to eat an early birthday dinner with my older sister, her husband, and their adorably cranky 22-month-old son who were visiting.

His parents are incredibly good with him; what a team.  They kept him occupied enough to consume a meal, although they finished before I did, probably a necessary skill for parents.  At the end of the meal, he was having a great time reaching out to send that light swinging, and we shared ornery grins when I held it just out of his reach.  He is definitely in possession of my family's genes, as he is ornery, has bad ear drainage, and isn't quite sure about this hugging thing.  Also, he loves books.

I didn't really think it was a good idea to visit my 385-square-foot apartment because if there is a dictionary entry for childproof, my apartment is listed in the antonym section.  He seemed pretty hesitant about entering it, and his comment when I turned the light on was "books," which is a pretty accurate description of my home.  He may not be able to manage my name, but if he calls me Books, we'll get along just fine.

The poor kid wanted to run around, and he just couldn't, what with three adults on the floor, so he contented himself with knocking over a few piles, picking up some things he wasn't supposed to, and taking the lids off a few things.  He was always basically within arms reach, so nothing got broken, and he only pulled one book off a shelf above his head.  He met my visible stuffed animals (the ones lined up on top of my TV) and seemed really stumped by the dragon, though he knew dinosaurs when his parents pulled out the sparkly s-t-i-c-k-e-r-s they use as a secret weapon to get his attention. 

We read a few pages of a book, but it was past his bed time, and he hadn't slept well, and it's been more than a decade since I read to a really young kid.  His dad had the book mostly memorized.  We took some pictures in the lobby, and then they left, and I remembered to say thank you and good-bye, but I forgot to tell them to be sure to look at the moon.  They were heading in that direction anyway, so I'm sure they saw it.

18 November 2009

Thirsty for Logic

The VP of X at my RetailEstablishment's corporate office has decided that a reason sales are down this year is because the store employees have a drinking problem.  Yes, because we are drinking water and juice and coffee and such, people aren't buying our goods.  Obviously.  Therefore, no employees are allowed to have liquid with them on the sales floor. 

I'm sure he made this decision sitting in his office sipping coffee.

Customers are allowed to keep drinks with them even though they do spill all over books, furniture, and each other frequently.  Just saying.

The war on employee hydration at my RetailEstablishment started a while ago when they decided that giving the employees stale, expired coffee beans from the cafe was costing them money because they could charge us for coffee instead.  You read that correctly.  Then we were told that we had to keep our drinks out of sight because it was unprofessional to drink.  Now we're told we can't drink except on our lunch breaks. 

Keep in mind that our job is to talk to people.  For hours at a time.  Every day.

"It's like every day, there's something more to make it harder to want to come to work," a coworker said today.  Yeah, it's a tough retail climate, but why on earth would you take it out on the folks on the front line?

Hey, Mr. VP, do you know the meaning of the word "ludicrous"?  Please look it up.

I have asthma and allergies.  I'm also still sick right now, as are half the people in my city.  (Let's not even bring up how singers need to keep themselves well-hydrated.)  I can't go 4 hours without a drink of water (or 6, since sometimes we have that many hours before we have a break, and we can't really request our guaranteed 10 minute breaks because we don't have the staff, and even if we do, the management acts like we're a huge pain in the neck for asking and thinks of us as troublemakers). 

Let's be honest: I can't really go 2hours or even 1 hour without a drink without worsening my health and making it harder for me to do my job.  We're so short-staffed sometimes that even if I were having an asthma attack out on the sales floor, I couldn't go up and get a drink or my inhaler if I needed to.  If I went to get it anyway, I would likely be fired.

Now, I could understand this new policy if sales people were drinking vodka or cocktails out on the sales floor or spilling coffee all over themselves or the customers or the books, but this is not the case at my store, so I can't help but wonder what these corporate people are thinking.  Are drugs involved?  Beverages of questionable contents?  Mushrooms?

Today I had to call my doctor's office to ask him for a note saying that I need to have water with me.  The mind boggles.  I wonder what he'll think as he's writing it.  (X years of medical schools to write prescription for water?  You have got to be kidding me.)

I thought of a reason why they might be doing this.  You've heard of the need to be hungry for sales, right?  Well, maybe they want us to be thirsty for sales!  So thirsty that our throats get dry and we cough and hack and choke when we're trying to talk to people . . . 

Can you think of any "good" reasons (serious or funny) why anyone would create such a policy?  Do share.

16 November 2009

Long-delayed responses

You know what's nice about someone not getting back to you about important email right away?  The joy you get when the response comes months (or years) later.  Ah, you think, they didn't ignore me; they were just busy or disorganized or whatever.

So don't throw away that old email out of guilt!  Respond to it, and give joy to the recipient!  (Unless it's no longer timely; then you should change the subject line and just say hi.)

Have you ever received a long-delayed response that brightened your week?

11 November 2009

I wish I could sing

I am sick.  Fevers are kind of annoying.  How many times do I have to put on and take off the sweater/sweatshirt/blanket?  (12 or so, at least.  This hour.)  It's also that in-between seasons time of the year where outside temperatures and inside ones are at odds with each other, so the fever just intensifies that.  Also, coughing is gross.  And I can't sing!  That's the worst, even worse than the coughing and wheezing and breathing through a furry windpipe, etc.

10 November 2009

Still sick

Being sick is unpleasant.  I always forget how awful my stomach feels when I get some sort of virus that involves a lot of coughing.  I'm sure it's a great workout for my abs, which is good because I don't foresee a lot of other exercise in my future, at least not until I can stop coughing every five seconds and breathing like Darth Vader . . .

I've always wondered at the contradiction: carbonated beverages are supposed to settle your stomach when you're ill.  Why is that?

09 November 2009

Some things I did during my vacation

What I did on my vacation
  • + Exercised 7 days in a row (about 18 volumes of manga, and it was glorious except for when those three obviously very under 16 brats barred from the sauna and exercise room without adult supervision were running in and out of the exercise room without adult supervision, opening the door to the sauna while turning up the heat, making it about a million degrees in the room I was trying to exercise in)
  • - Didn't get any sleep on three separate nights (arms very awake, very awake)
  • + took care of several piles
  • - couldn't complete the most important piles (job applications, writing, researching) because my hands are just shot right now
  • + caught up on several shows I've been waiting to watch (hands free!)
  • - couldn't do much with my blogs (to prepare for rough holiday weather ahead)
  • + had two concerts that went really well
  • - got sick (thanks for coming to that concert sick, fellow choir member, and then coughing on me; I really appreciate it)
  • + heard Brahm's Requiem for free . . .
  • - . . . from the lobbey because I was coughing so hard it would have just been rude to try to stay in the auditorium
  • + was able to avoid leaving my house for one whole day (ahhhhhhhh)
  • - got my final "screw you" from Uncle Sam
  • + didn't cry

07 November 2009

Italian music, Italians, Latin

We had a mini-concert tonight, three pieces in a music department showcase they do every fall for Parents' Weekend on campus.  Our first song was in Italian, and I found myself thinking of a friend who is of Italian descent and has the ability to make any foreign language sound like Italian.  It's hilarious.  My favorite was his impression of The Count from Sesame Street, sounding like an Italian trying to sound (like an American trying to sound) Transylvanian or something.  You probably had to be there.  He makes incredible Italian food, too, and cheesecake, which is not exactly Italian, or is it?  Also, his wife makes the best chocolate bread pudding in the history of ever.

The concert went pretty darn well.  Wow.  That second song (in Latin) went much better than I thought it would from our rehearsals, but I think in a month when we have our Christmas concert, it could actually be breathtaking, like people in the audience might stop breathing during the pianissimo parts because they want to make sure they hear it all.  Then again, I think the chamber music concert hall we performed it in today may have actually been the best acoustic for it, so we'll see how it fares in the muddled reverb of a cathedral.  There weren't a ton of people at the concert, but those who were there will have a lovely memory of "Lux Aurumque".  Pretty. 

Excuse me while my eyes roll back in my head as I remember how lovely it was to be a part of that sound . . .

Ever had any fun with accents/other languages?

04 November 2009

Trying out new toothpaste

When I came home from the event I volunteered at on Halloween, my hands were covered with paint.  I had a concert the next day (a really formal one), so I spent a lot of time washing my hands that night, which is why it's kind of funny that I didn't notice that my toothpaste had thrown up all over the sink.

I was trying out a new kind of the toothpaste I use.  The new kind comes in a cool, futuristic dispenser (I had a coupon).  It's worked fine for the last month, but now whenever I use it, I come back later and find that it has vomited up a truly appalling amount of paste onto the counter.  (Where is all this paste hiding?  It's not that big of a tube!)  I don't know why.  The dispenser doesn't seem like it's jammed on or anything.  It just sort of oozes up a pile of blue when I use it.  Back to the drawing board, folks.

Have you ever tried out a new product and gotten something other than what you thought you'd get?  Or found it doing something not advertised? 

31 October 2009

The perils of paint

Today, I have learned that it is not smart to man the painting booth if you have a big, important formal concert with your choir the next day. 

I hope I am in the back row because it will not be impressive to be in the front row dressed all in black and holding a formal black folder with hands and arms speckled with red and green and blue (and black) paint.  Oops. :}

Have you ever done something like that because you just weren't thinking it through far enough?

30 October 2009

Yet another one sails away

Well, that tears it.  My new friend at work had enough and left.  What a huge, stupid waste.  She was worth at least two of my incompetent sales manager.  There is very little justice in a world where I'm stuck with the stupid sales manager and have to lose a great co-worker because our management is . . .  Yeah, you've heard it before.  Sorry.

But I can't resist this great example of my sales manager's greatness.  Because of this sudden situation, I was asked to come in and work on my day off, and, because I desperately need the hours/money, I came in early in the morning after a late night leading a small group for church.  Then, that morning, I picked up another sick co-worker's shift for that night, but I could only work from 6-10 (so I could get some rest before coming in early the next morning for my next shift).  As I was leaving at 10:15, my sales manager got extremely snippy with me for having to leave before 10:30 .  Yes, she got mad at me after I came in and saved her bacon twice in the same day on my day off outside of my regular availability.  She is a real winner.

I'm looking for a new hopefully less crappy retail job along with my regular job hunting. 

Morale is just so shot right now at our store, and sales, which were up, are dropping.  It's sad because it doesn't have to be and shouldn't be this way.  I wish there were something I could do to make it better, but I really have tried everything I can.

I was thinking about good companies and how they value their employees.  Maybe I'm still kind of an idealist, but I thought companies wanted to hire good employees and use their strengths as individuals and team members to help the company prosper.  My RetailEstablishment never read these books, I guess.  They would rather try to force everyone into the same (bent) mold and break them. 

We're all breaking. 

It's rough to watch.  I have so much to give, and they don't want it.  It's . . . frustrating not to be able to use any of your skills, talents, personality, etc. in a way that helps people.  It's worse when you can't just quit, when you're too damaged already to be sure you'll ever be able to find another job.  Being so invested in one place used to make me sort of stubbornly determined to do my best to help things change for the better, but when you have resistance and an endless landslide of dumb policies coming from your district manager to your store and thus know that the "open-door" policy is a quick way to get fired, it just grinds you down.

At least I'm proud I've hung on for over 6 years.  :)  Find your sunshine where you can, I guess.

Do you have any suggestions for retail jobs that would be good for a cripple?

23 October 2009

The weather outside is frightful

Today, it snowed that huge, gloppy, fake-looking styrofoam-snow-globe snow.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .  Even if it's before Halloween. 

When I was walking to my car after work, the snow splutted onto my hood and coat with the exact same noise spit makes when someone spits on you.  (Yes, I speak from personal experience.)  I wonder if there'll be a blizzard on Halloween this year. 

My latest energy bill said it was 8 degrees colder this past month than it usually is.

So, how's your weather?  Outlandishly cold/warm?  Surprising?  Normal?

22 October 2009

Enough sleepless nights . . .

I'm reading No More Sleepless Nights at the moment.  I'm trying to be fair by reading all the parts, even the ones that don't seem to apply to me as much.  I mean, it may be obvious that my insomnia is caused by chronic pain, but I think it's spiraled into some sort of vicious circle fueled by stress and emotional difficulties that come from dealing with chronic pain, the government, and unaccustomed helplessness.  It's interesting.

I'm not sure it's designed to deal with people who've been having trouble as long as I have, though.  I mean, by now my memory is so shot that when I sit down to write up the various details you're supposed to at the end of the day, I don't remember anything.   Maybe the more I try, the more I'll be able to remember specifics?  We'll see.

Regardless, there aren't any quick fixes.  I already don't drink, smoke, or ingest much caffeine.  Well, I do love a challenge.  At least, I used to . . .

20 October 2009

Sweater Migration '09

Just finished the annual process of sweater migration.  It may seem a bit early to you, but I wish I'd been able to do it two weeks ago.  All my layers are resettled, heavier ones to the bottom of the cabinets where I can reach them more easily.  The thermometer will probably only go downhill from here. 

It rained today again, the dark, drizzly, low-slung-clouds-sulking rain, and it bothered me for a bit until I saw the leaves on the sidewalk and remembered that rain and cold October days are how leaf shadows are born.  I do love leaf shadows.  I'm willing to put up with a little rain for their sakes.

What do you love about early autumn?

19 October 2009

spring in autumn

A couple of days ago, we had a lovely spring day, which was odd since it was October.  It's been a freakishly cold year (not that I'm complaining). 

It's weird to try to describe it, but you know how there will be those days in early spring where the temperature isn't that much warmer, but the sun is shining, and it's just been so stupidly cold for so long that even five degrees feels cheerfully warm in comparison?  It's also the way the wind smells/tastes . . .

Even if I can't describe it, I did enjoy it.  :)

18 October 2009

The adventures of MR HAPPY FACE in Retail

I did threaten to post some of my lovely MR HAPPY FACE art.  Ta-daaaah!

Please, don't be the person on the right.  This person makes MR HAPPY FACE cry (on the inside).

17 October 2009

16 October 2009

Tire pressure and sinus pressure

I have discovered another way I am like my car: sometimes we don't do well when the weather changes. 

Last year when fall and winter fought, and the temperature dropped, a warning light burned bright in my car, and the same thing happened this time.  The pressure in my tires was off, so I went to a gas station and tried to fix it.  I learned several valuable lessons from this experience.

  • There is a 75% chance that when I am unscrewing the air valve cap,  I will drop the air valve cap into the tire.
  • It is easy to pop part of the hubcap cover off to retrieve the cap.
  • It is easy to pop the hubcap cover back on if you know the trick (which does not involve kicking).  (I learned this one after cracking one hubcap cover with the help of a nice guy who was also at the gas station and noticed my cluelessness.  I hold him blameless.)
  • You can't tell if any air is actually going into your tire; you just have to believe.
  • Even if enough air goes in, you won't know until you drive your car for 15 minutes, according to the nice guy from the tire shop that was, in fact, still open.
  • There are nice people who will let you into the tire shop (the nice guy at the gas station pointed you toward) even though it is 5 minutes until closing, and they will stop vacuuming and come outside to check your tire pressure and fill the tire that is still low even though the freezing cold wind is blowing.  And then they will not charge you because you are obviously too pathetic, and, for once, you won't mind.

15 October 2009

About singing

"Singing well is one of the greatest pleasures a human being can experience."

- my choir director

14 October 2009

Another reason I am a bit iffy about government involvement in health care

I have allergies.  Lots of allergies.  I am basically allergic to the environment and much of the animal kingdom. (I am, for example, very allergic to koalas.) 

I was increasingly miserable until Claritin D came along.  Then I was less miserable, though I was more tired (but NOT drowsy because Claritin does not make you drowsy).  I had fewer disastrous sinus infection-bronchitis-pneumonia episodes, and that was nice.

Then meth came along. 

I didn't even know what it was because I live under a rock, but all of a sudden, it was a huge hassle for me to get my Claritin D.  I had to sign stuff and go to the pharmacy twice a month, and I couldn't actually get the correct number of pills for a month (28-31) because the government in its infinite, apparently allergy-free wisdom decided that a known and documented allergy sufferer like me can only get 2.4 grams per month "over-the-counter." That is about 20 pills, which, if you didn't notice, is 10 too few on average.

I can get a prescription, but it has to be renewed every six months instead of every year, and it takes about 20 minutes for this complicated prescription to be filled at my pharmacy.

I still don't really know what meth is, except that it is a Very Bad Drug, but if you use is, I kind of dislike you, and if you make it, I hate you and wish you had to take on the allergies of all the people you've made miserable because of your illegal, destructive, stupid activities.  And the people who invented meth?  I hate you most in this situation; may double my allergies afflict you.

Anyway, back to the government.  They will, of course, claim that their 2.4 gram limit has lowered meth use or something, but that's probably not true.  People made stupid destructive drugs before and will continue to innovate new ways to hurt people for "recreation" in the future.  In this case, I feel like the government's illegal restriction just stupidly made people like me suffer needlessly.

Your government at work in health care: all politics and theories of government aside, it makes me a bit nervous for some reason . . .

Have you come across any ridiculous government regulation of health care related examples in your own journey?  Do share.

12 October 2009

On to the next strategy . . .

I had fallen into a sort of cycle of pain, more of a spiral, like the one water makes as it's draining.  I'm trying to break it, so I'm doing things a little differently this time. 

I'm near the bottom of the cycle, so that means almost constant pain, but it usually results in my starting to favor my left arm even more, which results in more pain to my right arm and back, etc.  This time, I'm not babying the left arm.  I'm forcing it to remain on the steering wheel or the handle of the grocery cart when I would usually let it hang.

The result is not the miraculous one I was dreaming about.  I'm still in pain, and I'm still unconsciously favoring it (I can tell because the tendons in my right arm are outlined in fire, and I keep thinking someone's stabbing me in the back [wouldn't be a total shock at my RetailEstablishment]).

Maybe I'll treat it "normally" for another couple of days, but I'm not sure if I can.  Strike that idea from the list.

Anyone have any suggestions for strategies of how to outsmart my neurological problems?

11 October 2009

10 October 2009

Concert Prep

Concert tomorrow morning!  Yay!  We sing this concert in the little cathedral where we perform our Christmas concert in early December.  It has a really lovely acoustic that's perfect for the lighter voices of our young choir. 

I'm thinking about Christmas small group music, so I'm wondering, what are your favorite obscure Christmas carols that would sound stunning a cappella filling a little cathedral?

09 October 2009

Thank you, God.

It's Homecoming Weekend, so some alumni got together at a local pub.  I hardly had a problem with the smell of alcohol at all; I didn't get anxious about being around it at all.  I talked and listened to stories without feeling like I was going to throw up.  Yay, me! 

When I got home, two young men dressed in suits were walking slowly through the parking lot, and I got a tad nervous.  I sped up, so I wouldn't cross their paths, and then so did they, which freaked me out completely, so I sped up more and did my special only-open-the-doors-enough-to-get-through-and-then-let-them-shut-and-lock move, hoping they were there to pick someone up and would have to wait to get in, giving me time to flee up to my apartment.

No such luck.  They sped up more but still had to reopen the door with their key cards.  I could tell they were suddenly in a worrisome hurry, and I started bracing for a confrontation.  I should have taken the stairs, no matter how much my feet hurt, but I knew I didn't want a chase up a stairwell, so I waited for the elevator.  I don't know if he was drunk or high, but one of the guys got way to close to me and started mashing the single elevator button, apparently so addled he didn't realize the reason the button stopped glowing was because the elevator had arrived.  I wondered if I should let them get on, pretend to tie my shoe, wait for the door to close, and sprint/limp up the stairs, hoping they weren't getting out on my floor.

Then a marvelous thing happened.  The other guy with Mr. Under-the-Influence (UtI) actually pulled Mr. UtI further away from me.  When the elevator opened, he sort of manhandled Mr. UtI into the elevator and effectively trapped him on the other side of the elevator until I got off and limped as quickly as possible to my apartment where I locked the door with great enthusiasm. 

It was like a sheepdog herding sheep. 

I never saw any of this directly because I was Not Making Eye Contact with all my might, but I was impressed by what I saw out of the corner of my eye.

To the guy who shielded me from his drunk friend tonight: my thanks.

To the bartender who mocked my my sadness that his bar did not serve hot chocolate or root beer: just saying.

08 October 2009

The Benefits of a Master's Degree

Let it never be said that $50,000 of debt is worth nothing.  Today, I got $60 knocked off my car insurance for having a Master's Degree.

Any other perks you've encountered for graduate degree holders?

07 October 2009

Yeah, the moon again

Tonight's moon is on
the other side of full,
a bit smooshed on
the upper right side,
like a rakishly collapsed
puff pastry.  The sky
isn't fully dark yet.  It's
that luminous velvet
blue, and the moon
seems so bright
it hurts my eyes.


I hope not to have to post this too much, but I've been having trouble with my tendonitis and an illness affecting my voice at the same time.  This renders me unable to type or write & dictate my posts.  That explains the absence of posts, I hope.  I'm working on it and hope to have more posts ready ahead of time for whenever it happens again.


04 October 2009

Driving East

Why is it that sometimes when I'm driving east toward home, the moon just seems to keep getting smaller and further away?

02 October 2009

Farewell, fair co-workers; may you be going to a better place

Well, it's started.  Employees are leaving because of the stunningly stupid new policies at my RetailEstablishment.  I really wish I hadn't been right in calling that . . .  It would be nice to work a whole holiday season with well-trained, experienced co-workers.  We all have our impossible dreams.

Actually, on a more inquiring note, a co-worker and I were discussing the new focus on pushy sales tactics.  This particular employee is a born salesman.  He's very good at persuasion and sincerity.  (He's a high school speech and debate coach in his spare time.)  The way he sees it, if you go into a store, you should be prepared for the employees to sell at you.  I see a certain amount of merit in that idea.  However, there's a downside that goes unexpressed that says, "and if you aren't prepared for that don't come to our store."

But I thought we were desperate for business?  How is it good for business to harass a good percentage of your regular, paying customers out of the store?

Being both shy and independent, when I go into a store, I do so to find what I'm looking for and then leave.  I wish to do so in as much peace and quiet as I can because I do not like shopping, and I don't need the stress of added human interaction in the form of fending off sales people offering things I don't want or need.  I am a person on a mission, and if I need help with my mission, I want to be able to find assistance in a clearly designated spot.  That would be my ideal shopping experience. 

I am being asked to do unto others what would make me leave the store.  Wait, not asked, told to do so and told that I will be fired if I don't. I just don't get retail.  I guess someone somewhere is crunching numbers and deciding that the easily swayed yutzes who can be convinced to buy what we want them to are better for business that the steady, faithful customers who spend more money regularly to begin with.  As one of said steady, faithful customers, I feel a bit put out by this.  :)

If you enter a retail establishment, do you prefer someone to pounce on you as soon as you enter, asking you if you need help or suggesting something to you, or do you want to go in, look around, and find help somewhere if you need it?  I'm really curious because the split seems to be almost clearly down male-female lines on this issue, and I'm fascinated by that.

01 October 2009

Driving in October

Well, it's October.  I am afraid to drive in October.  The last two years in a row, I've had a car accident in October.  I wish I could hibernate the whole month.  So if you can spare a prayer, please pray that I won't be involved in any more car accidents . . .

30 September 2009

A ghost moon in early autumn

Lovely ghost moon out today.  It's more than three quarters full and middling large and has been hanging out since before 5.  I'm a sucker for a ghost moon, especially on a slightly too cold autumn day with abundant sunshine.

29 September 2009

Charity, love, beauty, music, joy!

I mentioned a song called "Caritas et Amor" in an earlier post, and one of our choir members found a good recording of it on youtube.  I wanted to share it since I doubt ours will be recorded. 

Can you guess where the sublime part I was talking about is?

28 September 2009

Failing with God

People at my church seem quite willing to talk about how you can't succeed without God.  They seem less willing to talk about what to do when you have God and are still failing miserably for no obvious spiritual reason.  I rely on God to get me through every minute of every day.  (It would be physically impossible for me to be functioning with my level of exhaustion without His support and unconditional love.)

Still I fail.  I cannot find any job, let alone the one I feel called to (teaching), and my debts are beyond catastrophic.  Without my parents, I would be bankrupt and financially ruined.  I am so grateful for my parents and for God for letting them be in a position to assist me, but they really shouldn't have to.

I think maybe I'm living part of a Psalm (I've been reading them lately).  Why are my enemies living in ease and comfort when they have committed injustices and laugh at my sorry condition, metaphorically?  Hold them accountable, Lord!  Rescue me, already!  Reward those who trust in You, Righteous One!

I've been puzzling about this language as I go through the Psalms this time.  Usually, the psalmist goes on to thank God for punishing the wicked and rewarding the faithful, and I guess I took that too literally, as something that had already happened in the story of the Psalm.  But what if it's at the end because it's a future aspect of the story?  Praise and thanks for what will most assuredly be because God has promised it will be so?

We, trapped in time, want this now.  How long, oh, Lord, do we have to wait for that now to happen?  Most likely we'll never see it on this side; we are sometimes so privileged here that we forget that, I guess.  Maybe I was so blessed I got spoiled?

The story will end happily.  Eventually.  I can't expect it to end happily now, or I'm setting myself up for more discouragement, and God knows I don't need to make things any harder for myself.

The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord in both the now and the not-yet-that-will-be.

27 September 2009

TMIA's perfume advice/plea

I have allergies and asthma.  Some particularly poisonous perfumes give me instant asthma attacks.  Others just make it hard for me to breathe and leave a taste in my mouth that I might get from licking something metallic and corrosive.  Other people have asthma and allergies, too, and this happens to them.  On behalf of all of us, I beg you to consider the following advice.

Please don't bathe in your perfume. 

If it hangs around longer than you or follows you around in a nearly visible cloud and basically smells as strongly as if you had bathed in it, then this is basically the same thing.  In a society that encourages regular bathing, I thought perfume was supposed to be an accent mark, a light touch of individuality, not something that makes people around you gag and be physically ill. 

I wish I were exaggerating more than I am.  I have seen people walking in our store and can tell when they cut across a perfume trail because they get this horrible, disgusted, twisted up look on their face that tells me they are not enjoying themselves at all and could really use a mint.

I can't really smell most of the time because my allergies and about nine broken noses have resulted in my inability to appreciate many of the finer scents in life, so maybe these poison perfumes actually smell nice (even if they leave a nasty aftertaste in my mouth and lungs).  However, the above paragraph indicates that maybe they don't. 

This situation brings up the question: why do people wear perfume that smells nasty?  Do you have any ideas?

26 September 2009

The return of autumn

It's really fall now.  Sigh.

The sun is shining in abundance outside.  Oh, I thought, I should go out and bask in the last rays of summer while talking to my sister on the phone!  What joy! 

I checked the temperature, in case this great sunshine meant it was too warm to lay out (pretty much anything over 73).  It's not even 60.


25 September 2009

Not to be a lawyer

There was a time in sixth grade when I thought I might want to be a lawyer.  It made sense at the time.  I liked to argue, and I liked to win (by having the best argument).  I also ran headlong into some injustice issues with my child-hating teacher and school princi"pal" who was apparently not my pal but my secret arch-nemesis, only I never knew. 

Anyway, I stopped considering law as a profession when I realized that sometimes you have to defend scumbags or people who are guilty but saying they're innocent, but you have to do it to the best of your abilities because it's your job.  No thanks.  Also, truth and justice don't always prevail.  If I couldn't clearly be on the side of truth and justice, I didn't want to play the game.

I don't really know what got me remembering that, but I think it had something to do with my lawyer for my OWCP case not emailing me back like he said he would.  He doesn't usually get back to me clearly and directly because he's a lawyer, and he knows the import of words as proof committed to paper.  He'd rather leave me hanging.  I can't really hold it against him.  We know my case has no chance, truth be d----d, so I guess I forgive him for giving up. 

Some games you can't win, no matter how well you play, so why play?   What a thoroughly reprehensible, practical, adult thing to say.  "Give me back my youth!"

So, do you remember a certain thing you wanted to be when you grew up and when you decided to cross it off the list and why?  (Sometimes it's really weird things that seem unrelated, but those make great stories.  :)

24 September 2009

Memorial for a tree I loved from afar

A tree I love has died. 

It was kind of a tall, loner tree on the side of the highway, and I liked it.  Last year, it got hit by lightning, and it seemed totally dead.  I mourned for it then a little, thinking thoughts about Japanese wa and pegs that stick up too much getting hammered down (or attracting lightning or whatever).  We got some heavy snow over the winter that pulled one half of the tree down, adding insult to injury.

I was happily surprised when more than half of it came to life again this spring. 

However, the lightning strike pretty much split it in half, and too much of the trunk rotted, so even though the leaves lived furiously, the other half has fallen, too.  I don't think there's any hope for it now.

Have you ever lost any bits of your landscape?  Any pieces of nature that were special to you that aren't around any more?  What went through your mind when you found them missing?

23 September 2009

Why I don't go to the doctor when I get a certain kind of sick

I am tired of paying money to a doctor to have him or her say, "It's a virus.  Fluids and rest.  Have a nice day." 

I admit I prefer this to doctors who give you antibiotics every time you get sick, as research is showing how bad of an idea this is, but I still don't want to waste money to hear the same thing, which is, "I can't help you.  Leave."

Don't worry.  I may have half-flu symptoms and half-cold symptoms, but I don't have a fever.  I'm at my usual 98.1.  And money is really tight, so unless I spike a fever or have to miss work, I'm giving the doctor a pass and giving myself plenty of fluids and 12 hours of bed time.  I'm being good, see?

Do you frequently get cold/sinus viruses?  Frequently enough to be able to police yourself?  Anything you've found that really works for you?

22 September 2009

A Little Pre-Holiday Retail Rant

I really want a new job.  This is getting ridiculous.  You want to know why RetailEstablishment is failing?  It's because of corporate stupidity, inefficiency, and wasteful practices that were going on for years before the economy tanked. 

Corporate HQ's new policies explain that our poor sales have nothing to do with a slumped economy and ridiculous HQ policies but are a direct result of our (the sales peons') failings.  We're not pushy enough.  Also, sometimes customers see us drink water or coffee on the sales floor.  Obviously, these are huge problems that must be corrected before they further kill our sales!  The solution?  No water and no water breaks.  (Those of us with severe allergies and asthma are ignoring this dictum and hiding behind desks when we need a drink to keep ourselves from choking or having asthma attacks.)  Also an emphasis on pushiness and customer harassment to keep from getting written up for not "doing our jobs." 

And here I thought they would emphasize knowledge, training, efficiency, or anything else that makes a long-term difference and leads to satisfied, repeat customers.  I am so silly sometimes.  What a kidder I am.

I feel like I live in a cross between You've Got Mail and Nickel and Dimed.  Management does not care if you can help the customers find what they really want and get them to it quickly.  Management just wants obedient little brainless sales drones who know 15 ways to segue into a pushy sales tactic.  They also like uniforms, apparently.

I'm stuck in this non-living-wage full time job with no options because I'm a cripple abandoned by the government.  I am a little frustrated. 

Some new and particularly stupid policies are rolling out soon, and I foresee a return to that 90%+ turnover rate our store is famed for.  (Joy, right before Christmas madness begins!  That's the best way to have happy holiday customers: half-trained employees trying to push unwanted merchandise on customers and being utterly incapable of actually helping them get what they came for.) 

We usually have a lot of quitting over the holidays, especially once management starts enforcing two months of no time off.  Most people want to at least have a couple days in a row that they can spend with their families, and they know that being jobless for a while won't kill them, so they leave.

And why not?  These bright, young, non-crippled, healthy things have options!  Of course they should take them!  Why would I want them to continue being miserable, treated like interchangeable cogs in the retail wheel, their talents wasted because of corporate stupidity?  I wish them well as they leave me behind!  I really do. 

I just wish I could go with them.

P.S. Hey, RetailEstablishment, go read that Norm Feuti book Pretending You Care (and think about it really hard), listen to your field employees (not the managers, but the troops, especially the ones who have been around for more than 3 years), and wake up!  There are ways not to be this dumb and wasteful, and you should try them before you end up out of business.  You have so much talent available; why are you squandering it?

I'll leave you with a positive quote I just made up:

God never promised us a rose garden, but He still gives us roses along the way. 

And allergy medicine.

Thank you to all the co-workers who have helped make my time in the big house of RetailEstablishment slightly less hellish sometimes.  I'm always sad to see you go, but I know you're in a better place.  It would be difficult to be in a worse one.

21 September 2009

Layering a Life: Adjusting to a New Schedule

Did you ever go to the city pool in the summer?  Someone would drop you off, you would go change and then go out to the pool and be faced with the biggest dilemma of the day: how to get in the water.  There were two ways. 
  1. Go over toward the deep end and fling yourself into the pool, instantly getting wet and experiencing an excruciating moment of freezing cold.  
  2. Start at the shallowest part and ease your way into the pool, then walk slowly deeper, letting your body adjust slowly.
In college, I definitely went with option 1.  It exhausts me just thinking about it . . . 

After college, I got hurt.  Suddenly, I was losing energy.  The things I had to do (graduate school, work) took up more energy than I had.  I was losing concentration and mental capacity and memory.  I couldn't trust myself to commit to a whole lot outside of what was necessary.  I was treading water. 

Now that I have my graduate degree, I have that time and some of that energy available.  I'm using it for job hunting, writing, submitting writing for publication, conducting research, church involvement, alumni organizations, blogging, and other things.

To avoid overwhelming myself, I'm doing it in layers.  I try one thing; once I get that into my schedule, I try adding something else.  Eventually, I will run out of energy to spend, and then I will have to stop at that my level of involvement and maybe back off a bit.  (In fact, I think this little bout of the flu may be telling me I've already reached my limit.  Boo.)

However, there's one more layer I'm going to add: replying to comments on my blogs.  Once I show that I can maintain this post-a-day (or a-week) pace without exhausting myself, my time, and my ideas too much, I'm going to start figuring out how to improve the blog designs and quickly respond to comments. 

But first, more orange juice.  And maybe some chicken soup.  (Not because of health value, per se, but because liquid is good for sick singers.)

How did you get into the pool back in the day?  How do you approach new situations now?  (And how would you get into the pool now? :)

20 September 2009

Dependence and Dependents

I technically qualify for government-subsidized housing.  When I went to the office to get an application, I found out why they were so vague on their government website: they're backed up by about five years and don't even let people fill out applications anymore.  On one hand, I appreciate that they don't want to waste my time and get my hopes up.  On the other hand, it makes me sad to think that my situation isn't as unique as I thought it was. 

I was told that they often make exceptions for people who pay more than a certain percentage for rent, but I left that information and my contact information, and they never even called me back.  From what I could tell, they don't even work at the office they're supposed to work at any more because there's nothing they can actually do.  It's impressively bad.

I've been a drain on my parents' finances since I got hurt, and I was willing to go on government assistance to prevent them from having to help anymore, but that's apparently not an option.  I feel bad for my parents.
It's funny: my mom was always afraid I was going to become a starving artist, but it was the completely non-artistic, government job that's going to lead to me starving without their help.  It just seems wrong and ironic in bad and obvious and unsubtle ways.

I'm really blessed that they are able and willing to help me out so much; it's incredibly humbling how kind they are about it, but I really wish they didn't have to be. 

Things I wish:
  • that I wasn't crippled and basically unemployable.
  • that the government would take a bit of responsibility for this situation.
  • that I could find a good job with health insurance very, very soon.
  • that I can somehow pay them back.

They say I can just be the one who takes care of them when they get old, but I'm more decrepit than they are, so I don't think I'll really get the chance . . .

19 September 2009

not getting sick

The plan was to dictate a bunch of hand-written short pieces into the computer using the Dragon today, but I may have overdone it a little yesterday with my three shifts in a row and lack of an immune system . . .  I choose to believe that this is just sinus drainage, but I assault it with chicken soup and orange juice just the same.  I'm also trying to drown it with water.

What are your tried and true methods of fighting off incipient illness?

How to (try to) avoid car accidents

Long day today.  I started out by getting up on time, leaving early, and still being late to work because I stopped by Panera to grab something to go for breakfast since I am out of food.  I don't know why I do this every six months or so: I should remember that in the mornings, Panera employees are not quite phased into reality yet, so they move at an eighth of the speed of our reality, resulting in five minutes or more per customer.  A guy ordering a bagel and a coffee took seven minutes, and his friend was still waiting.  I left with no breakfast and was still late.

I was working a double shift (someone needed today off, so I worked his shift and then my own), and it was already going to be a long day since I didn't get much sleep last night and had not breakfast.  Then someone called out sick, and no one else could fill in, so I picked up that shift, too.  Yes, I left at 7:30 am and returned around 11pm.  I'm glad I could get those extra hours because I like being able to pay my rent, but the ride home was somewhat fraught with danger.

When I am wiped like that, I often have to pull myself into focus by singing the first two lines of the chorus from Steven Curtis Chapman's "We Are Not Home Yet" to remind myself that I am on the road driving and cannot get distracted by shiny things, shadows, other vehicles, people in other vehicles, birds, flickering lights, or anything else because I must get home in one piece with my little car.  This became my theme song after the last accident . . .

What do you do to keep yourself awake, focused, and more safe on the roads when you're wiped out?

17 September 2009

Geese are like . . .

The Canadian Geese have been back for weeks, but they haven't crossed me in the road yet until today.  One was standing in the particularly appropriately named suicide lane today, and I stared that sucker down, and he didn't move. 

When I looked at him, I was reminded, for some reason, of the aristocracy of Europe past.  Canadian Geese think they are so regal, but they are ridiculous at the same time.  They have that sense of self-importance and entitlement (they are the rulers of all they survey), and when threatened (even just in their minds), they immediately go to war even if the enemy is a huge Chevy van thousands of times heavier and more dangerous than they.  They're also snazzy dressers.  You can tell they think so.

I've been snickering about this thought all day.  Geese amuse me.  Any nature around you been cracking you up lately?  Do share.

16 September 2009

Beauty, harmony, longing

A journal I love has a slogan I think they borrowed from Flannery O'Connor: "Beauty will save the world."  I was thinking about that today after choir.

I have not yet discovered the term that describes the kind of harmony I talked about yesterday from "Caritas et Amor" that kind of makes me want to stop breathing and just listen, but I did think of another way to describe it for the non-musical.

Have you ever been outside on one of the last perfect days of summer when the sun is shining, and it's warm enough to be comfortable in shirtsleeves, and a very light breeze is barely shivering the leaves, and flowers are blooming, and you check ahead of you to be sure there are no bumps in the sidewalk, so you can close your eyes for a few steps and feel the perfection of that moment with every one of your other senses just in case it can be stored away and taken out and remembered four months into winter when you feel like summer was just a story someone told you once when you were young enough to believe it.

It's harmony kind of like that. 

Cookies, caritas, self-motivation for grown-ups


Actually, not really.  I wish I felt more jazzed after sending in that submission to The Other Journal, and I'm glad I pulled it together, but mostly I just feel a bit smooshed.  That sleepless night and the nauseating pain today kind of wiped me out more than "Caritas et Amor" and hitting a deadline can fix.

Stroope's arrangement of Caritas has this beautiful kind of harmony at the end of several lines that sort of transports me.  I wish I knew enough musical theory to explain it, but it's like the lines come towards each other and the resolve is not really a resolve, just a bit of closer dissonance.  Or something like that.  We read it in choir today, and I loved reading it because when we're just starting out reading a piece in our choir of really non-professionals, everyone is kind of quiet and gentle with things, and the sopranos voices just sort of hover lightly, not strained or harsh or loud, and everything mixes into something like what I honestly hope I will hear in heaven someday.

Anyway, because I ate my vegetables today (my 18+ hour day), tomorrow I shall feast on a DVD I've been withholding from myself.  It's the next bit of that baseball series, and I hope no one gets intentionally walked.  (That scene brought back some surprisingly bitter memories.  I HATED getting intentionally walked, especially at the tournaments when the bases were loaded or almost loaded.  It drove me NUTS!  GRAWR!)

I will also take a crack at submitting to the Mid-American Review, running a lot of errands, possibly finishing up an application for a teaching position at a really unique college, and maybe singing a new song in choir.  Hooray.  Now, to bed.  To sleep, perchance, etc.

What do you use to reward/motivate yourself?  I know for some people it's food, for others books or music or movies.  Some people even use spending time with their friends as a reward.  So what's your cookie?

14 September 2009

Another looooong night

I didn't get any sleep last night.  What a looooooong night that was.  Today, I checked out a book called No More Sleepless Nights.  I hope it helps.  At least it deals with chronic pain as a contributor and gives strategies for that situation.  We'll see how it goes.  At the very least, I should be able to get some good quotes out of it. 

Now, off to bed, where I hope to actually sleep some. 

If all goes well, Wednesday and Thursday should see some design and component changes on my blogs here, so be on the lookout by the end of the week.  If you have any suggestions, speak now!  (Should I mess with the moon picture, or do you like it as is?)

13 September 2009

Eating healthy for unofficial cripples

One of the things I learned about chronic pain is that if it leads to sleeplessness and goes on long enough, it messes up your brain chemistry, and your body can't process nutrients and vitamins and stuff the right way anymore, so it's really important for people who suffer from chronic pain and insomnia to eat healthy!

How, exactly do you suppose one does so when one is crippled and thus can't really cook?  I suppose if one were also rich, one could by fresh, ready made healthy food all the time.  Unfortunately, I am not rich because I'm stuck in a crummy retail job due to being crippled and unemployable even when the economy wasn't tanking.  So I can't afford to by fresh, prepared food, and I can't buy fresh, raw food and prepare it.

My current solution is V8 Fusion (a nectar of the gods that technically takes care of most of my fruit & veggie requirements) and decent fiber/whole grain consumption via cereal.  Now I'm hearing that gluten can actually contribute to chronic pain, and there's no way I can cook gluten-free or afford to eat gluten free and still get enough whole grains and fiber and stuff.  I already eat less than the government food pyramid says I should, but I still maintain my weight (i.e. can't really lose any).  I think it must be that inefficiency at processing nutrients . . .

So, any suggestions on how to eat healthier on a strict budget with an inability to cook?  Any great foods you've found that don't require prep but are full of good stuff?  Any that actually save you money?

12 September 2009

Bitter ex-Patriotism?

I was proud of myself yesterday at the concert.  I was kind of anticipating some kind of bitter meltdown amidst all the rah-rah patriotism.  It only happened once for a few seconds during a verse of "America the Beautiful," which we never practiced before the performance. 

"Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!" was the line that led to my brief cynicism attack.  I think the original intent was that America was a paradise of freedom glowing bright to those who were coming from less fortunate circumstances and crying for joy at reaching it, etc. 

When I sang it last night, I teared up in frustration while my little voice o' cynicism snorted and said, "Yep, America the Bureaucracy don't give a darn about your tears. Tears don't affect it at all.  Tears mean nothing to it.  It doesn't care how many tears it causes you.  It just goes on gleaming smugly, knowing that the sheen of tears in your eyes gives it that extra little glow as you glare at it  . . .  Mutter mutter grumble growl."

Like I said, I was kind of proud of myself that it only reared its ugly head once. :-\

In fact, today the song I have been singing most from the concert was unexpectedly "Ah, My Homeland," which is the English translation of an Italian song from an opera, and I would tell you which one except that I can't remember, and I can't remember what I did with my program . . .  Anyway, it's a song the Israelites sing in exile, reminiscing about the land they loved that is possibly forever out of their grasp. 

I guess it reminds me of how much I really did love this country.  Maybe they're right that you can only get this bitter against something if you really loved it and it betrayed you.  Even if I know it only betrayed my too-high expectations, it still hurts.  I just wish I were a better person than this.  I don't have time or energy to waste on being bitter.  I'd rather spend it making a song ring with sadness and conviction, but maybe I couldn't make the music as convincing if I didn't have the experience of pain. 

"Oh, our spirits cry out to Jehovah, 'Hear our song! Hear our cry! Hear our prayer!'"

11 September 2009

some observations from an outdoor concert I sang in

rock man

While walking around a lake before the concert, I saw a man staring intently at two rocks. I was baffled and questioning his sanity until my return trip when I noticed several unnatural rock formations. 

The man was balancing rocks on top of other rocks in a way that looked like it defied physics and made me think of Zen gardens. I was kind of entranced and wanted to try it myself until I remembered that I couldn't because I can't use both hands like that anymore.

I wish I'd had a camera (and hands steady enough to take pictures).  It was beyond cool.

1812 Overture

Everyone who sings choral music should get a chance to sing this whole song in Slovanic with an orchestra on stage.

Singing that song--or any particularly loud, from the gut song--in a semi-enclosed space where you can feel the percussion and where you are doing your best to outsing an orchestra with more members than the choir is a huge natural high.  It doesn't make you as weak in the knees as the endorphins after an hour of playing racquetball, but it's not as much exercise either. I suppose everything is a trade-off. In the end, I'm also glad there were no cannons; being next to the kettle drums was plenty loud.

I'm not sure who planned the order of the concert, but having the hosts of the September 11 memorial event read the news reports that came in to their small station on the day of that tragedy directly before we had to sing a song that actually had "fff" marked in places with crescendos might not have been the best idea. It's hard to sing loud while wiping your nose.


Bugs sure do love outdoor concerts by lakes.  It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

pothole ice cream

This ice cream at the picnic had caffeine in it. My jaw is killing me.  I'm glad it didn't get bad until after the concert.

Fireworks over lake

= awesome.  Having to take an hour to find your way home when getting there only took 25 minutes = not really awesome at all.  (But at least I didn't accidentally run any red lights this time.)

The things we can't do anymore

I'm watching a baseball show, and I feel like I'm on a see-saw.  I love it.  They got so many little details right; you can tell they care about authenticity.  The sounds, the strategies, the mental game, the game itself: I love these things so much that it hurts to watch them because I can't (and probably never will be able to) do them anymore.  It hurts a lot because I didn't expect to feel this loss until I was old.  There's those expectations again; they smash us flat sometimes.

09 September 2009

Something funny I came across while researching something else

Just thought you'd appreciate a laugh. There's more.  It makes me a bit happy that there are other people out there who use stick people art.  I"m feeling somewhat inspired.

08 September 2009

Reasons (Not) to Lose Weight

Good reasons to lose weight:

  • So the next time I fall, there will be less to hit the ground.
  • So there will be less for my crumbling body to haul around all the time.
  • So I can spend less on food.

Good reasons not to lose weight:
  • It's nice to be warm sometimes (when I weighed less, I was cold most of the time).
  • It would be nice not to have to wear a belt (hard to put on and take off some days and annoying all the time).
  • It's not like I have money (or desire) to buy smaller clothes.


07 September 2009

A Moon in Summer

The moon tonight was utterly fantastic in that "only previously seen in a fantasy setting" way.  It was huge and close to the horizon.  A few days on the far side of full, it just looked all misshapen.  And the color: it was this fake-looking blood-and-water color that faded to a disturbing rusty penny shade as I drove. 

It should be illegal for the moon to be that fascinating when I have to drive.  I just wanted to pull over and stare at it.  I think everyone else on the road did, too, because for once, they were all under the speed limit.  It was dark, so I couldn't tell, but I think all the drivers were watching the moon with me heading east on 36.

06 September 2009

Being careful about what you pray for

I've said before that sometimes I think that all my struggles with pain and bureaucracy and all this are my fault because I prayed that God would bring me closer to Him.  He has.  It's been unpleasant in a lot of ways.  Today I randomly opened this book and found the following quote and thought that this man probably thinks I'm in the best place I could possibly be.  I wonder if I am.  It's humbling to think about.
"I don't want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit.  I want people to look at my life and know I couldn't be doing this by my own power.  I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through.  That if he doesn't come through, I'm screwed.  (I probably shouldn't write that word here, but it's how I truly feel about this.)"  - Forgotten God by Francis Chan (142)
It's true that being here is a little exhilarating, but it's also terrifying.  What if my idea of Him coming through isn't His idea of coming through? 

I guess we'll find out.  (Still I will praise Him.)

05 September 2009

I'll Give You My Tired

I just got back from a rehearsal for a 9/11 memorial service, and I wonder if I'm torturing myself on purpose.  I'm not much for rah-rah patriotism right now, and several of the songs we sing are high rah-rah-tolerance songs.  I got moved to the front row for no reason today (along with all the other Alto II singers), so I definitely can't start crying in frustration when we sing those songs. 

It might be tough; I'm feeling smashed pretty flat right now.  Still no teaching job (not really a surprise), but that doesn't make the debt I shouldn't have had to take on in the first place go away.  I wonder if 36 months of economic hardship deferment is going to be enough. 

I'm really hating government bureaucracy right now, and it's hard not to equate the bureaucracy with the government itself.  It's painful to sing "Give me your tired" (and a little funny because I'd love to give them my tired, all of it, all 6+ years of it, etc.), as it's abbreviated for our rehearsals.  The song is based on the poem on the Statue of Liberty ("The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, I think), and it's so open and inviting and gloriously full of hope and optimism, and I'm just . . . not. I think it helps that the song is sort of painfully dull and boring, although we seem to be doing best with dynamics on this one.  It needs all the help it can get.

We're also singing a Verdi piece (in clunky English) and the "1812 Overture" in Slovanic.  (Unexpected after we weren't allowed to sing in Italian.)  I love singing in Slovanic; we've sung several pieces recently for the college a cappella choir.  I love the way the altos just get to blast in Russian pieces; it's refreshing!  The rest of the volunteers for the choir are mostly just nice church choir members or friends of choir members who only sing church music translated into English, so this is a chore for them.  I think they're starting to get into it a little.  I wonder if there'll really be cannons . . .

04 September 2009

Me & Other Road Hazards

I should've known yesterday was going to be a bad day when I almost pulled the not-matching-shoes trick again (see July 27). Luckily, the second mismatching shoe I grabbed to put on was a second left shoe, so I couldn't fit it on my right foot, and I had to confront the fact that something was wrong, which led to the discovery that this second shoe was not, in fact, from the correct pair. (Last time, I put one shoe from each pair on correctly, so I didn't have to notice.)

Not much sleep, bad shoe day, 8-5 at work, and then a choir rehearsal.  If I had decided to go home between work and the rehearsal, I would've had to fight traffic for an extra 45 minutes or so and only had about 15 minutes at home, so I decided to eat dinner, do a little writing, and leave straight from the area near where I work. Not surprisingly, I got lost, but I knew enough to get there eventually (on time, even).

There is a lot of construction between where the choir rehearses and where I live.  Even on a Thursday night, traffic is bad. It changes from 2 to 3 lanes and back with little warning, and you have to pay attention because sometimes you need to go from 40 mph to a dead stop in a few yards.

Somehow I made it home after the last rehearsal, but this time I wasn't so lucky, and I got lost. Very lost. In a city I particularly hate to drive in because frequently streets are not marked by any kind of sign, and signs directing you to major highways are either nonexistent or so close to the turn-off as to be unhelpful on a road that has eight lanes.

If there are guardian angels, I think mine probably hates me because it has to work so hard all the time. While being particularly lost, I accidentally ran a red light. It's a good thing the other drivers were all paying attention because no one even came close to getting hit, and them blaring their horns reminded me once again that I need to pay exquisite attention while I'm driving because it's really not safe for me to be driving when I'm like this (which is most of the time).

I would get rid of the car, the car payments, and the (increasingly) expensive insurance if I could use the public transportation system, but I can't because where I live is so far from the metropolitan area that buses only come once an hour or so and only during part of the day. I can't afford to keep my car and insurance and use park & ride, so I'm stuck being a hazard to myself and other drivers. I hate this.

Just another thing to thank the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs for. Thanks, guys.