No school tomorrow

Until I went to college, nearly every adult I knew was either a teacher or in the United States Air Force. All my parents' friends were teachers, and all my friends' parents were in the military. While I think living on military bases overseas exposed me to a great diversity of people, all of those people worked for the same dude: The Government. Systems of promotion and raises and time off were pretty standard across the board. And while I was absolutely certain I did not want to be in the military and fairly certain I did not want to be a teacher, I didn't have a whole lot of ideas about what I COULD be. (Seriously, until I decided to get married, my best guess for my future was teaching English in Europe somewhere - maybe the best of both teaching/military worlds!) 

So it's been PRETTY FREAKING WEIRD to ride shotgun along Phillip's career, a path that's taken us down a mostly Big Time Corporate Tech Dude territory. Unfortunately for him, I was never career-oriented, being mainly concerned with just making enough money to travel. I don't think he was particularly hard core on career until we had Jackson, though, and since I was very happy staying at home, he had the space and also the pressure to actually DO this work thing. And that's when Work became WORK. 

But even before it was WORK, Phillip's perspectives on it were so different than mine. I used to chalk it up to White/Asian stuff, which a lot of it was (and is!), but it's also about what our own parents did and the other adults we knew growing up. My adults were teachers/soldiers. His were white collars on corporate ladders. Before we had kids I would rant about people who couldn't leave work at work, who traveled too much, who answered every email at any time of day, who cared too much about (ugh) money. 

Little did I know that I MARRIED one of those people. HA! And THANK GOD. Want to live in Seattle and have kids and a house and maybe dinner out once in a while? YOU NEED A JOB.

Phillip has spent GOBS of time strategizing his next career move. It's amazing. I STILL come from a place where you want to be a thing and you become that thing and you do that thing and hopefully you're paid enough to do the fun stuff you want to do in your life and that's pretty much it. Phillip thinks that's nuts. Phillip's dad likes to say, "You always have to be thinking about the next job!" Which *I* think is nuts. My husband's crafty strategizing, his willingness to take advantage of opportunities, his annoying work ethic, and his NO FEAR for asking for raises/promotions is amazing. Even if I WERE career-oriented, I'm positive I'd be far behind him, terrified as I am of promoting myself or asking for anything. I do a lot of leaning OUT, people. 

He's now at a company he's wanted to work for for a long time. He's happy there, happy to be part of this big Seattle tech thing that's happening. And I'm happy for him, even if the t-shirts and morale-building emails make me want to barf a little bit. (They don't just make a product, you guys, they make a way of life.) He's a devoted employee AND likes his job, which is mind blowing to me, someone who has NEVER liked an office job. And also, again, THANK GOD.

ANYWAY. My whole point of writing this. I'm getting to it. It's been a brain twist for me, or like a REWORKING of ideas I've always had, that you could go to work for a company and maybe move around within it, doing different jobs. You could RISE. And as you did that, you had frequent conversations about your performance, what you could be doing better, what you're awesome at, and what your compensation should be. You don't just wait around for the next across the board pay raise for your chosen career, you don't just hope things will be different that year, you negotiate it. If you're Phillip, you do a crap ton of research on nine million websites, develop your self sales pitch, and ask for more. Because you CAN. You might GET it. 

And you know what I feel like Seattle teachers are doing? This is their self sales pitch. This is their "Look. We are incredible assets to the company and we have sat around waiting for this company to get its shit together for too long." There is not one thing on the list of things that Seattle teachers are striking for that I disagree with. Or don't want for my own kids. 

There ARE crappy teachers out there. I KNOW. You can't have two teachers for parents and know all the other teachers by their first names and not be aware of some REALLY CRAPPY TEACHERS. But the teachers I know and love are crazy amazing people. The teachers at my kids' school especially. I'm serious. I don't know all of them, but I have a pretty good sense of the camaraderie at that school, the devotion to their students, the heart they have for the work they do, and the extra miles they go out of school. There are several stories I can't share here, but they feature teachers who made school families part of their families when it was most needed. We are not a Catholic school like I hoped to go to, we are not a private school which a lot of people choose since supposedly Seattle schools are so terrible, we are not a gifted kids school, or even an average neighborhood school - my kids' school is over 70% free lunch. There were three and a half white kids in Jack's class (Jack was the half). The kids at our school have names I can't pronounce because they were born in different countries. Our school doesn't even try to have an auction or a carnival because the volunteer base isn't there. Creating community in that school is hard work, but I LOVE my kids' school and that is almost wholly because the teachers have made it a wonderful place to be, for both parents and kids. I 100% support them striking for more recess, less testing, and equity for students of all backgrounds and I 1000% support them for asking their bosses for appropriate compensation for HARD WORK. 


Alert! Quinoa PSA! (Also: photography questions.)

I've recently started making a very easy and delicious (to Phillip and me) dinner. I basically stirfry a bunch of veggies and tofu (or maybe 1 kind of veggie and LOTS of tofu, because it's me we're talking about), dump it in a pot of just-made quinoa, and mix it all up with oyster sauce. I am embarrassed to tell you this is dinner, even though we both like it, because, I don't know. It doesn't sound good? But it is? ANYWAY. 

So I bought the Costco bag of white quinoa which lasted almost forever. We ran out and Costco trips are kind of a pain in my butt so when we happened to be in Trader Joe's the other day, I picked up a bag of their Organic Red Quinoa. New! Different! 

And two nights ago I made our standard Quinoa Stirfry. I remember saying to Phillip, "Mmm! I might like this red quinoa better! It's... chewier? Heartier? Tastes a little stronger?" 


Yesterday Phillip was away most of the day on a West Coast business trip (his first at the new job! Was home before I went to bed! Lovely!) and I had half the leftover quinoa for lunch. As I ate it I was thinking, "MAN this is YUMMY. I could eat VATS of this stuff!" But I didn't, because next up was a vat of yogurt and granola for dessert, my new favorite thing, which I would eat all day if I could because SUGAR!

That's what I had for lunch. And almost directly following lunch, like, as soon as I put down my empty bowl of yogurt, my stomach started to hurt. 

And hurt and hurt and hurt and YOWCH and now be happy that I'm going to spare you my afternoon of intestinal troubles. 

I didn't feel like eating dinner, but I had to eat dinner because taking my pills on an empty stomach is horrible, and I'm staring at the fridge thinking: no, no, no, no. I wanted a bowl of cereal, but I thought the milk was a bad idea. I wanted more yogurt, but that was probably what made me sick in the first place. I spied the other half of the quinoa and thought, "That's HEALTHY." So I ate that. 

And my stomach started hurting AGAIN.

When Jack came to inform me of his bad dream at 2am, my stomach still hurt. After I got him back to bed I grabbed my phone and googled, even though I KNOW I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. (Thankfully "quinoa indigestion" does not equal Cancer. FYI.)

BUT! I found this blog post and three-years-long comment thread about how quinoa suddenly made someone sick. Even people who'd been eating quinoa for years. Turns out you are supposed to rinse quinoa not because it's DIRTY but because the outer layer is POISONOUS! I feel like this could have been helpful information! For me! To know! I never rinsed my quinoa because... how? But remember how I said it seemed chewier? And the taste was different? Maybe more bitter? I probably 1) did not cook it long enough and 2) THE BITTER IS THE POISON!!!

My symptoms were INCREDIBLY mild compared to the people in this comment thread. (The woman at the campsite! Omg!) But the common theme seemed to be: I had no problem with quinoa for years! Until this one day! And now I can never eat it again! There was even someone who wrote and said that they'd eaten the Coscto quinoa with no problem and then one day the wife bought Organic Red Quinoa from Trader Joe's and that's when the misery began. 

Which is really sad to me, because I love quinoa. For a Not Healthy eater I sure do love my Whole Grains and Seeds And Weird Items Found In The Bulk Foods Aisle. 

AAAANYWAY. FYI. I will try eating quinoa again - not the red kind, though - and I will rinse it thoroughly (people say they just soak it, even overnight) (though how does this get rid of the POISON???) and I will cook it again and try a spoonful and see what happens. You bet I will update the internet on the status of my digestive tract.

All right, now that I have warned you about Evil Quinoa, I have a couple questions for any photographers out there. What Katie and I need on our baking website are PICTURES. However! All the pictures we've ever taken of Katie's cakes are crappy snapshots. Possibly this is because all we know how to take are crappy snapshots! I TRIED to take better pictures of yesterday's delivery, but no, they still look like crappy snapshots. 

I would be HAPPY to hire a photographer to snap our wares. Soon I'd like to make a whole bunch of things just for picture-taking purposes. But! I don't want to hire a photographer every single time we make something. That seems... inefficient. And annoying for, let's face it, the friend with a DSLR who I would sucker into being our food photographer. 

Phillip wants to buy a fancy camera (we left ours in Cabo - oops! I never wrote about Cabo!), but a fancy camera does not a talented photographer make. Do you talented types have any tips for me? Lighting? Backgrounds? Angles? I'll be honest and say photography is not one of the things I am eager to learn about and/or interested in doing better. (Sorry.) But I DO want to take a decent picture of a cake. I'll have to do that Saturday, in fact. IDEAS? HELP? A free computer program that makes it pretty? 


How to score free clothes from Banana Republic. Seriously! FREE!

Several weeks ago I fell victim to one of the dozens of "25% Off! Two Days Only! At One Of The Very Few Stores You Shop At!" emails I get every single day. I bought some cheap tank tops and a pair of bright blue yoga pants from Old Navy. Only I ended up buying them from the Banana Republic check out - you know how you can fill your "cart" and then hunt around the Gap and BR and Piperlime, etc. ANYWAY. That was just the first stupid thing I did. 

So a few days later I'm checking the tracking number, as you do, and I find out my package has been delivered. Except, um, no it wasn't. I open my door at least ten times a day hoping to see Surprise Care Packages (which is really sad, because I suck at sending them, OMG MORGAN I AM SORRY!) so I would KNOW if my package arrived. Which it didn't. 

It crosses my mind that my package may have been delivered to the old house (this was not long after we moved in) but no, that can't be right, because this would be my SECOND Old Navy order since moving in (see: dozens of sale emails, falling victim to) and THAT one was delivered to the right house. Someone ELSE messed up!

So I call Old Navy and then I find out I have to call Banana Republic and GAH and THEN I find out that yes, indeed, it WAS delivered. It was delivered to my OLD HOUSE. Perhaps the Old Navy site had my new address but the BR site didn't? Still trying to figure out how this isn't MY fault, and, obvs, failing. Sigh. 

Anyway, the girl on the phone asks me if I can "retrieve" it. And, well, TECHNICALLY: yes, I can. But you may recall that I was not feeling particularly charitable towards our buyers. It took me a few weeks to stop feeling... offended or something. Which I KNOW. STUPID. But GOD no, I did NOT want to show up at my old house and cheerfully inquire if they had my missing package? 

[Tangent! When we moved into that house it was a brand new address - the builders built 4 townhouses on one lot. Therefore, new addresses. And our address was exactly the same, save one little letter, as this old lady who lived on the other side of the freeway. We got mail addressed to Ethel So and So and Ethel got OUR mail for at LEAST a year. And we saved it up for a few weeks (nothing important) and exchanged it every once in a while. And exchanged phone numbers! So we would know if anything WAS important! We were THOUGHTFUL!) 

But we had changed all the addresses and the buyers had ALL of our info (while giving us NONE of their info) and I felt like, well, if they have something important of ours they will let us know. I was happy with this scenario. And I can be very DRAMATIC, and my five dollar tank tops weren't worth the emotional fallout of showing up on my old house's doorstep and having to talk to the buyers. GAH!

(I know you are rolling your eyes, but I! Don't! Care!) 

Phillip thought this was the dumbest thing he had ever heard and all the things YOU want to say to me HE said to me and WAS I REALLY SERIOUS and there was MUCH fretting over, I don't know, huge credit card bills we weren't receiving or something (EVEN THOUGH WE CHANGED THE ADDRESSES AND EVERYTHING WAS FINE.) 

So I attempt to convey this to the BR girl in, like, two sentences and she says, "Well, I can send you a replacement order, but half of those items are no longer in stock." And I say, oh, that's okay, never mind and THEN she says that they will REFUND ME. For an order shipped to a wrong address that I supplied and that I won't go pick up. BECAUSE I AM A WUSS. They are refunding me DESPITE the stupidity and wussiness. At this point I start to think BR is the greatest company on earth. 

FAAAAAAAST forward to another several weeks ago when Phillip decides, of his own accord, to show up unannounced at our old house and see if we have any mail. (I was not with him. AS IF.) And wouldn't you know! We had a HUUUUUGE stack of mail! Including my package! That apparently was just going to sit in the entry way until we sucked it up and demanded it back! WHATEVER! Anyway, there was absolutely nothing of any importance in that stack, except my order. And I thought, hey, why not, I'll see if I like these cheapo tank tops. 

And oh, I did. Hawaii here I come. 

So then I started to feel guilty. Because, you know, I was REFUNDED. For things I KEPT. I wrote myself a little "Call BR!" note and I only got around to it TODAY. I've worn the bright blue yoga pants at LEAST ten times by now. The guilt, it was festering. 

I called BR this morning and talked to a very nice girl named Heather and attempted to explain my (stupid, wussy) situation. Good customer service rep that she is, she never once accused me of being stupid and/or wussy, which I appreciated, but she also had no idea how to accept my money. That's correct. NO CLUE. 

I sat on the phone with Heather for a good fifteen to twenty minutes while she tried to hunt down supervisors and troubleshoot and we talked about Hawaii and whether it was sunny where I am (no) or where she is (yes) and blah blah blah and she never figured it out. I am all, "Have credit card, will give you number" and she is all, "But if I take your money, we'll automatically send out another order!" 

[Tangent! Having been the designer, builder and operator of several databasey computer systems in my day, I have sympathy for this particular issue. You design your system to do one thing, not all things. I get it. HOWEVER. It STILL seems a little ridiculous that BR couldn't figure out HOW TO TAKE MY MONEY.]

And you know what the solution was? I will paraphrase Heather: 

"Okay! So you could buy a prepaid mailing label, send it back to us, let us know that you need to pay for it."

Obviously this was a little confusing since 1) this was weeks ago, the packaging is gone 2) I've WORN the items, multiple times and 3) wouldn't they just have to send them back? I kept saying I didn't understand and Heather kept saying she understood that I didn't understand and kept saying it slower and slower and slower and finally I caught on to the part where she says, "Now, it's UP TO YOU, but you COULD blah blah blah..." 

And I said, very slowly, "OH. I think I know what you are saying."

And she says, "Yes. Well. I can't really SAY it."

And I said, "Okay, well..." 

And she said, "Just so you know, we do a one time courtesy refund or resend, so if you don't send it back - AND IT'S UP TO YOU - you might not get your courtesy refund again."

And I said, "I see."

And she said, "So you just decide what you want to do and let us know!" 

I feel sort of... FOILED. I mean, so much for THAT. On one hand I'm sorely disappointed with myself for not having had the foresight to buy a couple of snazzy dresses from Banana Republic instead of five dollar tank tops from Old Navy. On the other hand: REALLY? This has never happened before? (She said that, although I'm sure she's referring to HER experience, not BR's entire experience.) And THAT'S the policy? Because it was clearly The Policy as recommended by her supervisors, not something she came up with on her own. And now I STILL feel guilty because I COULD package them all up and do this ridiculous (RIDICULOUS!) refund/resend thing so that it's all correct in their SYSTEM (although honestly, even that doesn't make sense to me) but SERIOUSLY? I have better things to do with my time (see: write blog posts on retail injustice).

Not cool, Oblivious Coffee Shop Dad, not cool

Liz is probably going to write about this too, but I don't care, I am SHORT ON MATERIAL. 

How do you guys feel about coffee shops slash playrooms? There are a few coffee shops around town that attach a little toddler play area off to the side. I think this is a fabulous idea, personally, because a lot of moms stay home, most of those moms like to chat with friends in coffee shops and none of those moms are free to chat in coffee shops WITH their kids. So add in a few books and a tub of Legos and you now have the entire neighborhood SAHM population drinking coffee at YOUR store. This is a good idea IN THEORY. In reality, a lot of these play areas are grimy, cramped and full of the usual trials of being stuck in a small space with Other People and Other People's Children. So it's not ALWAYS a fun time, is what I'm saying. But you try them out and you keep a few and cross others off your list, la la la. 

Liz and I were meeting Carrie at a coffee shop neither of us had been to, so we didn't know what to expect. It was a smallish coffee shop with a smallish back room filled with grimier-than-usual toys. The floor didn't look like it'd been swept... ever, and I am not someone who notices dirt or crumbs or kids sharing sippy cups. (I KNOW. SUE ME.) But whatever, because I am the not caring type and because my kids find ways to get themselves dirty no matter where they are, I plopped Molly down and proceeded to do what I like to do on playdates, which is ignore my kids and talk to my friends. 

Except it was awfully HARD to talk to my friend due to the LOUD and ANNOYING conversation happening a few steps away, in the part of the playroom obviously designated for Mom Chat. In the Mom Chat area we had two guys dressed in sneakers and t-shirts chatting up two suits. I couldn't see the suits from where I was sitting, but I had a great view of the two casually dressed men, one of whom was the father of the other two kids in the play area, who were also LOUD and ANNOYING and BUGGING EVERYONE. 

But the dad was "Blah blah blah!" and the suits were all, "Hmmrrph! Klaaampf! Mmmrrrk!" and the other casually dressed man took long sips from his latte and looked blankly about the room and the oldest child-who-did-not-belong-to-Liz-or-me was all "DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!" And Daddy would say, "Five more minutes! Just five more minutes!" and then go back to, "Oh, you could make sixty grand a month without even TRYING," to the suits. 

Liz thinks the suits were loan officers. Seemed like the dad was trying to sell them on something, get them to invest in whatever he was doing? I don't know. The point is: WHAT A STRANGE PLACE TO HAVE A BUSINESS MEETING, MISTER. 

After the fourth or fifth time the dad blew off the daughter (and after Liz got tired of performing all appropriate parenting interventions between this man's two children) we decided to call Carrie and find another place for the kids to play. Because seriously. NOT FUN.

Let us discuss the various levels of offense. Shall we?

First, it's just rude to take up the ENTIRE seating area when you obviously don't HAVE to take up the entire seating area. These four people had commandeered the singular space for grown up conversation and made no move to make their area smaller or allow us the use of the extra chair they were hiding behind their own. IRRITATING. 

Second, a business meeting? In the playroom? Really? Like other people want to hear all about your bank loans and/or how you plan to get back in the black. And the suits surely were not excited about discussing finances against a backdrop of slobbered on Legos and "DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!" 

Third, when other people show up, people who are going to use the space the way it is meant to be used, you act, you know, AWARE OF THEM. You pay attention to your kid and how your kid is interacting with their kid. You don't share your entire financial history in the presence of strangers. 

FOURTH, when another parent is making sure two children aren't hurting each other, two children who happen to be YOURS, and you are sitting THREE FEET AWAY, perhaps you should GET INVOLVED. 

I hesitate to get TOO indignant, especially in light of what I wrote for Parenting this week but I just don't get what this guy was thinking. It's true that most of the dads I know (uniformly awesome dads, obvs) wouldn't be terribly aware of what the kids were doing, and probably wouldn't take much notice if another parent intervened, at least, not the way another mother would. But it was inconsiderate to us, inconsiderate to the suits and inconsiderate to his own kids. 

Although, who am I to just ASSUME I knew what was going on, huh? And then we went to Liz's house where MY child proceeded to be Grabby and Snotty and Selectively Deaf and we left twenty minutes later. So, uh, SHUT UP, ME. 

Before the boys wake up

I just wrote a loooooong angsty post about WORK and what kinds of work exist and which kinds of work are worthier than others and OMG MY FREELANCE PROJECT IS STILL HANGING BY A STRING CAN WE CUT IT ALREADY and then- yeah. Delete! Who cares! Not me! Ha! Am carefree and easy going!

It's Wednesday. It should be an easy-ish day. Phillip works from home most Wednesdays which means I will do the grocery shopping this morning so HE can haul everything up the stairs. And then his mom and dad are dropping by sometime tonight (they have been going through Jack Withdrawal since we have been Crazy Busy on the weekends and haven't visited, BAD KIDS) so Phillip and I can leave the boy at home and go out to dinner. Last night Phillip asked me where I wanted to go to dinner, expecting my standard, "Oh, I don't know, what do you think", but I immediately said, "SALVATORE'S" because I have been dreaming about tortellini alla panna. Which is the kind of thing I am not going to let myself eat after I have the baby SO I BETTER EAT IT NOW, RIGHT?

And Phillip knows not to mess with me when I have an Immediate Answer. Mmm, pasta drenched in cream sauce. I'm already drooling.

Well! Turns out I have nothing to report now that I've deleted the Post of Angst and am sitting here clicking 'refresh' on my feed reader.

How about a list of people/things with whom I am Taking Issue?

NBC: What is UP with the Olympic Coverage?! Do not tempt me all day long with your promises of women's girls' gymnastics when you are actually not planning to SHOW girls' gymnastics until ELEVEN O'CLOCK AT NIGHT. Hello, I am grossly pregnant and extremely uncomfortable. Eleven is TOO LATE, NBC, TOO LATE. And because I couldn't help myself I was continually flipping to the Canadian channel to see what was going on and by that time I KNEW WHO WON WHAT and that was the end of you, NBC. I turned off the television and dreamed I was wearing one of those NASA-designed swimsuits and sleeping in a bathtub. Which? WAY more comfortable than my bed.

Parents at the Wading Pool: WHERE ARE YOU? More to the point, where are you when your six-year-old kid waltzes up to my fifteen-month-old and me and nonchalantly attempts to make off with our watering can? THAT I AM HOLDING? I don't get this, I really don't. It's one thing to be sharing toys with the people sitting next to you, or letting another fifteen-month-old take the ball your own fifteen-month-old is not interested in and retrieving it later. But taking toys out of a baby's HAND? And not letting go when the baby's mother is saying, "Let the BABY play with his toy!" ARGH. Also! The Most Neglectful Parent award goes to the man who was hanging out playing with his iPhone and only looking up every ten minutes or so to note where his TINY KID was in the GIANT HUGE VERY LARGE wading pool.

People Who Do Not Leave Enough Room For Me To Drive Out Of My Driveway When They Park On The Street: 'Nuff said.

My Tomato Plants: Are you ever going to ripen? Huh? This is getting ridiculous. My lettuce is dying while we wait for you to turn red. And yes, I sit over there and plot how to rip all of you out in the fall and build myself a little garden box to maximize sun exposure and neaten up my yard, but WHATEVER, you should be doing your job right NOW. Don't even bother blaming it on the Mysterious Lack of Summer we had going on a month or two ago- everybody ELSE'S tomatoes are turning red. GET A MOVE ON.

The Ancient Decrepit Scale at my Doctor's Office: Even the nurses confess you don't work very well and I suppose that should make me feel a little better, but it doesn't. I am on track to gain just as much weight as I did with Jack, although YOU make me feel like I'll be LUCKY if that's all I gain! I was so depressed I had to go home and make cookies. And when Phillip asked me if he could take some to work I looked at him like, "You must be joking." Even though I ALWAYS give him cookies to take to work. I BLAME YOU, ANCIENT DECREPIT SCALE.

People Who Want Their Breakfast RIGHT THIS SECOND: Fine! I'll POST this sorry excuse of an entry and get you your Cheerios STAT!

Bread belongs in its own styrofoam bread-sized carrying case

Last week I was all GAH, HATE BLOGGING and WHINE WHINE WHINE and POOR WITTLE ME and barely looked at my computer this weekend. I KNOW! I actually spent my weekend with real people! I even went OUT! Friday night my sister took me shoe shopping because, as we know, I own one pair of shoes and they do not go with the dress I was planning to wear to the church tea party. (Apparently, all the primary level teachers at my sister's school know about my Shoe Deficiency and, when she told them about her Friday evening plans, sent their prayers and The Force.)

Amazingly enough we found a pair of shoes in a heel height my feet have never known (AND YET I STAYED UPRIGHT ALL AFTERNOON). And then the NEXT day I not only partied with the church ladies, I went out for Red Robin french fries with girlfriends and LEFT THE BABY AT HOME. See? REAL PEOPLE! OUTINGS! RED ROBIN RANCH DRESSING!

(Who thinks I have used up my allotment of capital letters ALREADY?)

Okay, even besides all those things, some rather blog-worthy things happened this weekend and then I was all YAY, LOVE BLOGGING. There was the fascinating article American Family linked to yesterday (not sure if that NYT link will work because of registering etc.) about multiracial children traveling in China, finally taking our car in to be fixed and having to rent a godawful Ford Taurus, then discovering that Jack is most likely allergic to eggs (WOE!)- all terribly interesting to be SURE. But what I really want to write about today is Grocery Store Bagger People.


First of all, I speak from experience. I was a Grocery Store Bagger Person in high school, although we called ourselves Commissary Baggers and we worked for tips. Being a Commissary Bagger was pretty much the only not lame job available to high schoolers on base. You could work at one of the food joints (LAME) and you could also do Summer Hire during the (duh) summer where the military matched you up with a military office and you worked for twenty-five cents an hour doing whatever the 20-year-old sergeant wanted you to do. When I was 15 I worked in Pass & ID, when you still had passes and ID cards made out of real paper, with a picture glued on to the front and run through a laminator. (AM VERY OLD.) My brothers mowed the grass on top of ammunition mounds (what are those things called? Never mind, I don't care.) The summer after my senior year, because I was special, I got to work at the base newspaper where I wrote incredibly dorky articles (and turned down an opportunity to go and write about paragliding, because I am a CHICKEN) and got to be in the thick of the Most Exciting Summer Event, when a fighter jet made a crash landing seconds away from our building. Oh yeah, good times on the American overseas military base.

But you did not do Summer Hire to make money, you did Summer Hire to put something on your resume or your college applications. If you needed to make some cash, you cozied up to Toni, the Head Bagger at the base commissary and begged for a job as soon as she had an opening.

Toni was three feet tall and all three feet made up of Crazy. She was mean and scary and owned the express lanes so she'd never have to take a huge order out to someone's car. There were rules and training periods and God help you if you broke the eggs. But if you got through your first few bagger weeks alive, you could make some serious money (and possibly Toni's affection!).

There were lots of baggers and we all took turns. When we weren't bagging we were lounging unattractively on plastic chairs at the back of the commissary and counting our tips. When it was our turn we hoped for a big family because that meant a double cart to haul out to the parking lot. And everyone knew double carts commanded Super Huge Tips. It helped that nearly everybody knew everybody. Especially if you were a high school kid bagging for a family with kids. Chances are they knew you or your family and yay for having parents who taught elementary school kids because THOSE families knew you even better. Tipping wasn't necessarily for a job well done, but for how much work it was to bag your 487 items and how far away you parked, in addition to whether or not the person buying the groceries knew their bagger. But we were trained by Toni and BY GOD we knew how to bag groceries. Bagging was long, boring and occasionally hard work and we were pathetic high school kids with no other options. I used to be able to tell you how much I could make in an afternoon, or what my highest take was, but I forget now. And it probably would sound like nothing because hello, over ten years ago, but it was big money for us.

All of that to say: I KNOW HOW TO BAG GROCERIES.

For the most part, I give the nice people at Safeway a break. They don't work for tips. I'm not even allowed to tip them I say "Yes, I would like some help out, thank you!" They are so bored they WANT to take your groceries outside. (I found this out when one of my numerous pharmacist friends worked at stint at the grocery store and passed on this helpful information. And when you have a kiddo in the grocery cart, you ALWAYS want help outside.) But perhaps if they did take tips they'd do a mite better job.

There are a few things you should be as a Grocery Store Bagger Person. You should be fast. You should be nimble. You should bag cold things with cold things and hot things with hot things and poisonous things by themselves. You should not make a bag too heavy to carry. You should be aware of eggs and bread and bag them safely. I even do my best to help my Grocery Store Bagger Person out, by grouping like things together on the conveyor belt. Yes, this may be due to my OCD about such things, but I'd like to think I'm doing them a favor.

Occasionally you get a great bagger and most of the time you get a decent bagger who is just trying to pack a lot into one bag, or puts one cold thing in every bag. But sometimes you get the Grocery Store Bagger Person I had yesterday and then you consider going on a Murderous Rampage.

He started out nice enough, although, COOL IT WITH THE QUESTIONS, Grocery Store Bagger! Yes, I found everything I needed! Yes, this will be all! Yes, I DID enjoy the weather today, thank you! Everything but the most important question: paper or plastic, which he totally did not ask me. But whatever.

When he was loading my bags back into my cart I noticed they were a little, uh, rounded. As in, things may be falling out. But I said thank you and dragged the cart to my car (I was baby-less! Whee!) and started the process of loading up the trunk. Whereupon I saw that one loaf of bread was buried underneath ten jars of baby food. Another loaf of bread was sitting under a jar of applesauce. The eggs were sideways and packed along side more jars of baby food and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. The grapes were perched on top of a pile of small boxes, about to bust out of their plastic bag, and the bananas were jammed between a box of cereal and a pint of ice cream.

I pulled out one loaf of bread, squashed and flattened beyond recognition. I SWEAR. If I hadn't been so exhausted (we'd walked down to the lake and taken the baby to the baby swings and limped all the way home and I WAS SO FREAKING TIRED) I would have marched into the store swinging that loaf of bread above my head and hollering for the bagger, the checker, the manager and everyone who thinks putting a jar of applesauce on top of a loaf of bread is in any way a marvelous idea.

But I didn't. I went home and bitched to Phillip about the Severe Lack Of Bagging Education going on in America today and ate ice cream for dinner. Because I can. Also, this post is embarrassingly long for being all about GROCERY STORE BAGGING and I think it's time for me to take a shower. Bye!

Totally vague drama cont.

Did you guys read Angela's post this morning? Go ahead, I'll wait.

After I hit 'send' on my oh so heavily edited email at midnight last night and was lying awake panicking about what would show up in my inbox today (so far nothing), I thought about how it doesn't pay to be a Nice Girl.

I think a lot of us are Nice Girls. We are hard workers, we do what we're told, we take ownership of our work, we follow the rules and we don't cause anyone any grief. If something goes wrong, we go over every detail of our involvement to see where we might have performed better, even if we weren't at fault. If we need something out of the ordinary, like extra vacation time, we have to build up the nerve to ask. It's not that we're asking for the moon, but we know all the reasons why we shouldn't or wouldn't or couldn't get what we need and we're nervous about making our case. In the end we make our cases very well- we're nothing if not thoughtful and thorough- but we never sense that we deserved what we asked for. We tell ourselves how lucky we are to be working for such flexible and kindhearted people.

Phillip spends a lot of time preparing for his annual review every year. He compiles his accomplishments, researches salaries and benefits and doesn't get all bent out of shape about the idea of negotiating. Last year I remember him telling me, "I want to be paid what I'm worth." On one hand I was proud- Go Phillip!- on the other hand that statement made me want to hide behind my hands. How cocky. How self-assured. You can't tell someone how much you think your paycheck should be, because that's what you're worth, and ever back away from it. The thought of what I would have to do to defend a statement like that makes me want to hide under the nearest rock.

It's not that I don't think I'm a worthy employee. Ask Phillip. I'd saunter around my living room spouting off my grand achievements, who sent me grateful emails, what I learned on my own that day, who I saved from a fire. But in the office I kept my head down and did my job and just sort of expected to be valued. Ha.

The email I wrote last night was quite possibly the first time I've ever really stuck up for myself. My first thought was, "Oh, of course I'll help, that's the right thing to do," even though it was the absolute LAST thing I wanted to do and, quite honestly, would not be useful at all for this situation. Phillip helped me understand that I was under no obligation to be a Nice Girl this time around. Where was that going to get me? So I said NO. !!!

It's not just work where this happens. Being a Nice Girl has put me in hard situations in church settings, friendships, school, even marriage sometimes. Often I'm so busy trying to figure out if I have a leg to stand on- if my position is worthy of defense- that by the time I'm brave enough to say something it's days later and I'd look foolish going back to the issue.

Women who have this already figured out know that 'Nice Girl' isn't the correct term. More like Pushover or Ninny or I'm Not Even Going To Bother Coming Up With A Label Because I'm Too Busy Rolling My Eyes.

Last night I sent an email that, even though I literally spent hours taking out anything that could be construed as bitchy or emotional or unprofessional or unnecessary, might make someone mad at me. I might have to defend myself further or, more likely, I will have to suck it up and live my life knowing that defending myself and saying no pissed someone off. I want to grow up and know what I'm worth, but right now I'm still sort of scared to check my email.

Aaaaand this ends this discussion. You're not supposed to talk about work on your blog! Even if you CAN'T get fired!


Some time ago Phillip sent me a link to Suze Orman's new book Women & Money, which he swears he downloaded legally from Oprah's site. (What he was doing on Oprah's site and why he thought I would read this book on the computer has not yet been discussed.) I find Suze Orman's call in show mildly entertaining, so I downloaded the book and started reading the introduction. Suze is not impressed with us women and our disinterest in the Financial. What is wrong with us? We're making money now- why aren't we making our money work for us? Why do we leave our financial futures up to other people? Blah blah blah. All of this very much applicable to me because 1) Phillip takes care of everything money-related in the Cheung household and 2) I once let a money market account I received for graduation fall into the Unclaimed Pile when I got married and changed my name and address and neglected to notify my Financial Adviser for, uh, several years.

But I did not necessarily agree with Suze's worldview, which goes something like Lotsa Money Will Make You Happy. Now, as my dad says, having money is a better life than poverty. But Suze didn't seem to take into account those of us who aren't exactly on the Career Track. Those of us whose lifelong dreams involve publishing a novel, dancing in the ballet, selling a painting, wordlessly interpreting poetry on the city sidewalk with a ball and a long piece of ribbon and a bowl of oranges. Our disinterest in our financial futures may have more to do with simple disinterest than fear and shame and traditional roles, as Suze suggests. (To her credit, she prints a letter from a starving artist friend making just this point, but she doesn't seem to think much of being a starving artist. And also, starving artists still have to pay the rent, right?)

You are thinking: why is she telling us all of this? WHO CARES.

Suze makes one point I found quite damning, however, and that is that women often don't know what they're worth. And if they think about it, they suspect they aren't worth that much. She tells story after story about women doing the same job as men, but not making as much money because they haven't asked for it. Women who do jobs for free, just because that's the nice thing to do. Women who are afraid to negotiate. Women who trade services and don't get a good deal. Women who think staying at home with children isn't a real job and they are worth less than the spouse who pays the bills.

Do you see where I'm going NOW?

I got an email from my former employer yesterday that boils down to: Gee, I had no idea how much you did when you were here, could you come in sometime and show us how to do everything? And I am steamed. STEAMED. There is a lot of backstory behind that email and WOULDN'T I LOVE TO SHARE IT WITH THE INTERNET but you know, bridges and all that. But I have been gathering input from Sources In The Know and crafting my response. (I am going to have to write two: the first one, and the second one with all the profanity scrubbed out.) I am angry about a lot of things, but one of the biggest things is that they didn't know much I did when I was there. And you know whose fault that is? MINE. I never liked that job, but I worked my butt off on the handful of projects this email is referring to and you know what my work accomplished? Making my company look good. Very good. And what did I get out of it? Nothing. I got a raise the first year I worked there, but the second year I waited around for my boss to say something, and when he didn't, I made excuses for him. I didn't want to cause a fuss. I didn't want to ask for anything. I was mortified at the thought of sticking up for myself and preferred to keep my head down and look for credit elsewhere. My job was stupid anyway, people in my position make peanuts anyway.

As a mom who stays home, I believe I'm doing a very important job. I want to be here. I feel absolutely no desire to go back to work and I'm lucky enough to have the choice. But ever since I had the baby, the worth factor has made itself visible in ways it never did before. For the first time in my adult life I am not earning any money. I never liked earning money, I never cared much about earning money, I still can't think of anything I would like to do that also earns money, but still- I have always paid my own way and I'm proud of that. I am much more conscious of what I spend now, and not just because we are down to one income. It's one income that is not mine. I don't have somewhere I go all day. Phillip goes to an office. The living room is my office. When he leaves his socks all over my office it makes me angry. I don't get any feedback from my day. I don't have meetings or discussions about how to do things more efficiently, I don't get emails thanking me for my work, I don't get phone calls describing new projects. A good day is when I find something new that makes my baby laugh, but there's often no one to share this with until I'm too tired to be very excited about it.

A few months ago Phillip and I were watching TV and a preview for I Am Legend came on. It was the first one we'd seen and it was hard to tell from the preview that it was a ZOMBIE MOVIE. But the tagline had something to do with being "the last man in the world" and I remember saying to Phillip, "Oh, but if you were the last person on Earth, at least you would know for sure that God was listening to you."

He said that was a really weird thing to say. And when I told my friends this a while ago, THEY thought it was a really weird thing to say. But I didn't and I don't. Whenever I shout up a prayer, my next thought is often, "Oh, that was a stupid thing to ask, like God cares about THAT." I think about people living in war torn countries, starving people, victimized people, people who might not be able to pay the electricity bill next month. For sure God is listening to THOSE people. How on earth does he have time for ME? Why would he care? I lead a rather charmed life, you know. It makes complete sense to me that my silly prayers end up on the zillionth page of God's to do list.

Is this the most scatterbrained post ever? And freaking long to boot? But all of this worth stuff coming up- the job email, the book, the movie preview, the mass of angsty thoughts surrounding me since I found out I was pregnant again- I feel like God is flapping his hands in my face trying to get my attention. Kind of like HELLO, are you LISTENING, maybe there's something I am trying to TELL YOU...



Nothing to see here, stop by tomorrow

I swear I had a million things to say today. I have erased, in this order, posts regarding 1) Catholic School 2) Why grown ups don't act like grown ups ie: is that 45-year-old woman I know smoking pot on the weekends FOR REAL? 3) how it is cold and snowing and I am stuck inside all day and 4) the status of my blogroll, which I am pretty sure no one gives a rat's ass about. (If you do: I am working on it!)

Oooh, I also erased a post about POLITICS because MY GOD we don't bring up POLITICS on the BLOG! What am I thinking?

Anyway, I am sitting here obsessively refreshing my UPS tracking number to see when my new jeans are going to get here (new! jeans!) while my mother-in-law does the diaper changing and feeding and putting to bed. I might even take a nap.

Except not yet, because I have to eat lunch and fancy up my sister's resume. I've had a string of crappy jobs and absolutely no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but I am VERY good at fancying up resumes.

So I am sorry to leave you with this pathetic excuse for a post, but you know, you can't just fling a post about Catholic education into an online den of RABID CATHOLICS without putting some thought into it. And let me tell you, this post contained absolutely no thought whatsoever.

Oh, and to update you on the Barfing: there has been no barfing since I last posted. THANK GOD. And for the record, yes, the baby spits up and all that, but not very often and NEVER EVER has his dinner vacated his insides in quite the way it did last week. So there. And just so you don't get too jealous, I will have you know that we go through about 47 drool bibs a day. DISGUSTING.

My last day is May 4

I hate looking for jobs. Hate it. I would rather talk to that annoying guy who keeps calling me about buying a plot in a Catholic cemetery. I tell him I'm not ready to talk about it and he somberly says, "Well, my dear, there never is a good time, is there?"  Yes, I would rather spend an hour talking about my very own burial plans than open the job classifieds and actually read them.

But you know what is almost as bad? Finding someone to hire. ALMOST. I said almost. It's a lot easier to be the person sitting on her butt weeping through the resumes than to be the person constantly mailing out the resume being weeped over. I get that.

This happened to me at my last job. I had to hire my own replacement and GOD was it a miserable process. I would tell you all about it, except I'm reminding myself that one does not break the cardinal rule of blogging and write about one's workplace, even if said workplace is three years in the past. I hate that rule! I think my website would be 100x funnier if I could write about work. THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN! But anyway, yes, I had to hire my own replacement and the process nearly rotted my insides.

Now I have to do it again. It's a little different this time, of course. For one thing, I am not quitting, I am merely taking an extended leave of absence followed with (score!) part time work from home. I am shedding pretty much every element of the job I hate and keeping the fun stuff for myself. So technically, I am out to hire myself a coworker for whom I already have immense amounts of pity because dude, her job is going to suck.

I received about five resumes in the five minutes after I posted the job online. Now I have about thirty. I can't bring myself to read the emails or the attached cover letters, but I've opened up every resume and the weeping, oh the weeping. It has begun.

First of all, people with fourteen degrees should not be applying for my job. People with fourteen degrees and thirty years of experience need to be working for big companies and wearing suits and making a whole lot more money than my boss intends to pay our new hire. These are the first resumes to make me cry. Is the job market really so terrible that these exceptionally overqualified people are compelled to apply for my crappy job? 

It's kind of like the other night when Phillip was watching that new Discovery Channel show, Planet  Earth. As we all know, I am not a fan of Nature and therefore have zero interest in polar bears or the ocean or amazing footage of a lion attacking a giraffe or whatever it was that I was supposed to race downstairs and come see right that very second. I am, however, a sappy disgusting sucker when it comes to things like baby penguins and baby buffalo and occasionally I can be persuaded to enjoy televised images of God's creation. So I'm sitting there watching the penguins huddle through the winter and the baby buffalo surrounded by the grown up buffalo, but I am no fool. I've seen the penguin movie. I know what's coming. And as soon as the narrator says, "The babies are cute, but nature is not sentimental" I am off the couch and flying back to my bedroom because WHY DOES GOD LET THE WOLVES EAT THE BABY BUFFALO!? THE PENGUINS HAD TO SUFFER ALL YEAR LONG FOR A CRACKED EGG?! Phillip tells me this is how the "ecosystem" works and the "food chain" and "circle of life" blah blah freaking blah, but all I can think of is: OH, THE FUTILITY.

And that is how I feel about people with fourteen degrees who apply for my job.

Then we have my own biases at play. For example, I am not hiring my replacement, I am hiring the next me. Therefore I am less interested in resumes from men, anyone with work experience before 1997 and because I will be this person's boss, albeit for a very short time, anyone I wouldn't be able to tolerate. Like former salespeople or event management types, who are most assuredly sparklier and talkier than me. Yes, I KNOW this is bad. Phillip's Disapproving Stare is with me the entire time I'm reviewing these emails.

I've also had to talk to two different recruitment agencies, which I never had to do the last time. These recruitment agencies are staffed by The Chattiest Women On Earth who swear up and down they have the perfect candidates for me, if only I pay the 10% fee or whatever it is that keeps these agencies running. (And I still can't figure out how they work.) But there is a reason I posted the job online and only left my EMAIL ADDRESS. There is nothing in the ad implying that they should google my company until they find our phone number, call me up and interrupt my very important blog reading schedule to ask me stupid annoying questions about "what I'm looking for". Send me a resume like everyone else! GOD! I swear, if these people knew me, they'd know they've automatically lost any chance they have just by trying to get me to talk on the phone.

But the worst part... Okay, so a lot of my job (or, I should say, the parts of my job I am shoving off on to this poor new person) has to do with these three things: Attention to Detail, Organization and Making Things Look Pretty. This is where you live and die by your resume. I'm sorry. I really am. I know that what your resume says should be more important than what your resume looks like. But seriously. Comic Sans? Are you kidding me? Are you TRYING to make me cry?

The resumes are what make the steam come out of my ears when Phillip finally gets home (at eight o'clock! I know! Like that is going to fly when the baby is here!) and I have my chance to Vent About My Day. Because OH, MY EYES.

Ways To Permanently Blind Your Potential Interviewer

  • Misspelled words. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, Job Applicants! What are you thinking? In this day and age of Microsoft-inflicted spell checker (and I HATE spell checker), there is simply no excuse. Do not tell me you are a detail-oriented employee when you have just reworked "customize" into "custimize".
  • Resumes that are longer than one page. If you have fourteen degrees and thirty years of experience, I can handle a second page. Even a third. I really can. (IF IT LOOKS GOOD. More on that later.) But if you are Sally Recent College Graduate with admin work and Olive Garden on your resume, do not let your resume run an extra three lines onto a second page. You are not applying to be CEO. Cut! Trim! Edit! Most of all, LOOK at your resume when you're finished! See those extra three lines? Do I really have to tell you how dumb that looks? How it dumb it makes YOU look?
  • Inconsistent fonts and formatting. The hell? Did you cut and paste your resume from the ten different ones you found online?
  • Resumes designed by your eight-year-old sister. This one I really can't figure out. Every single person who has applied for my job has a college degree. And I'm not saying a college degree makes you smart, I'm saying a college degree implies that you had access to some type of "career center" on your campus where you could, if you so wished, find out how to make an attractive-looking resume. It's not just crazy fonts and bad formatting, it's the lack of formatting at all. It's using 9 point text to cram everything onto one page (cut! trim! edit!). It's not using white space or paragraphs or any sort of visual organization whatsoever. It's using the first Word resume template option without thinking it if works for the information you want to convey.

Phillip used to get really frustrated with me the last time I was looking for my replacement. "People make misTAKES!" he would constantly point out. "Just because they forgot a period doesn't mean they're not worth interviewing."

I agree there is some truth in that. But leaving aside the point that he is the kind of person who would leave out a period and I am most definitely not, here are the facts: I have received thirty resumes in three days for one job. I am looking for any reason to reject you. I have also taken pains to point out that Attention to Detail, Organization and Making Things Look Pretty are as important (if not more) than knowing how to use PowerPoint or the fact that you were once a Big Shot So And So at the Very Important Place. I'm sorry. You are sending your stuff to someone who sleeps with Eats, Shoots and Leaves under her pillow and has died of shame over innocent ridiculous typos. (Another requirement for the job: a heaping dose of Krazy.)

OBLIGATORY BLOGGING DISCLAIMER- I rarely (read: NEVER) edit this website. I brain-vomit onto the keyboard. I hit publish. Finito. I am well aware of the hundreds of misspellings and grammatical errors littering up the place. I am not terribly inclined to put the little thingy over the 'e' in every instance of 'resume', thank you very much. But I am the most irritating perfectionist you have ever known when it comes to what I do at work. My anal retentivity is known far and wide, so much so that when I do screw up, everyone really enjoys pointing it out to me. Have you spent an hour deciding whether or not to center something on a page? Do you want to bury yourself alive if you see someone's named spelled wrong on something you distributed? Have you bothered to learn bits of Visual Basic just so you can make your job more efficient? Do you want my job? EMAIL ME!