Monthly Archives: February 2010

Size does matter

My phone is dying. I am sorry to see it go, it has been a great little phone. I have thoroughly enjoyed its company for two full years, now. It has been reliable, and grew with me through my introduction to and then obsession with texting. Though its keys cracked, it kept going strong. But now, with the space key barely functioning, its time has finally come. Let us all bow our heads in a moment of silence for this brave gadget.

The Sony Ericsson w580i

OK, enough of that.

Now, on to the new.

I am slightly in love with this phone:

HTC Tilt2

It is a freaking computer. It is a smart phone, with e-mail and such, but it also lets me work on word documents and the like…and such capability would be verrrrrrrrry nice for Companions. All of that capability would be very nice! It has a full qwerty keyboard with giant keys, a big, beautiful screen which also works in portrait or landscape as a touch screen (also with qwerty keyboards), a calendar that will alert you to appointments (SO NICE FOR COMPANIONS!). I want this phone.I want this phone a lot.

The only problem, it’s not a “little” phone like the last one. It’s a monster. The same size as the iPhone. So too big for my jeans pocket (where I carry my phone now). It fits in most coat pockets…but there are these seasons called “spring” and “summer,” not to mention “indoors.” It works in a purse..but..when I’m doing a lot of things like working or dog training I don’t carry my purse. My waistline is already naturally expanding, I don’t need to help it out with a big phone on a “belt” clip.

So how the heck would I carry it??

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Sick

I.feel.awful.

Wednesday I woke up with a bit of a stuffy nose, figured allergies.

Thursday I woke up with a very stuffy nose, and my voice half gone. I went in to work because I figured I had to. It is NOT smiled upon to take sick days. People admire those who don’t or “are too busy” to take them. So I exposed everyone at work an felt horribly guilty the whole time. But I still figured this was just a couple day thing. I “never” get *really* sick. Then I went home and taught the first class with dogs for a group of students. I felt so bad that even dog training didn’t leave me happy.

Friday I could barely breath and had no voice. At all. As in me trying to yell resulted in nothing but air. I stayed home from work. I tried to sleep. I tried to get better. It didn’t work.It was my hubby’s birthday. I tried to make the day happy for him when he got home at about 9:30PM. But he spent his birthday taking care of me. And all of my conversations with him were via word document. We also had volunteered to run some science events on Saturday, and since I was feeling bad he helped me finish getting ready for mine. Until 3AM. Long after I was in bed.

Saturday was a bit better, had some voice back, as long as I didn’t mind pain. Which was good because I was running the darn events. It was a LOT of fun but also very hard on my body, and again, horrible guilt for exposing all the kids. OH WELL. Came home, he napped a couple hours, we went to his birthday part. Exposing all of our friends. Who were awesome and sweet and included me in stuff even though I was a walking germ fest. I hope to god none of them got sick. We played games and “talked” and played Rock Band until after 2AM. Which was way later than I should have/wanted to stay out..but it was my hubby’s birthday…and I didn’t want to cut it off for him.

Woke up this morning sickest I’ve been yet. I feel so bad I just want to cry. Did nothing all day but sit and sleep. The hubby is taking great care of me. But still. I have no sick leave left at work. And I know it would be frowned upon to stay home. But I think I’m going to have to….because right now I could not drive a car, not enough of me is “here.” Designing structures so no one gets killed? Maybe not the best idea.

I hope to god I’m better before Wednesday, when I have two  more classes. Because this is not the kind of thing where I can just get a sub for the classes. And I can’t push them back a week, because I have other classes starting. So I don’t know what I’d do. The only other time I’ve had to do this I offered my students a free private lesson on anything they wanted…but none of them actually took me up on it. So I just felt guilty. UGH.

I hate being sick :-( Glad I’m not a mom yet. That would be hard. Another thing you can’t just get a sub for…

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Writer’s Workshop – Craft Time!

Today I’m going to participate in Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, which gives a handful of prompts to bloggers. Helps us come up with bloggy ideas and meet other bloggers – always good since I am constantly looking for new blogs to follow and, being a new blogger, am shameless about connecting to people to trick them over here!

Today’s prompt: Craft time!

Recently one of my best buds, we’ll call her Hot Momma, had her first baby. She loves using slings and wraps to carry her ADORABLE little boy around, but she doesn’t have to many. And I love to sew. Poifect!

So when planning to head out and visit her, I offered to make her a baby carrier of some kind. We eventually settled on a modified mei tai called a Frankenkozy. The versatility (front, back, or side wearing) and broad straps to distribute the weight of the little angel appealed to me. So off I went to the fabric store!

Once there it was quite comical..one nice thing about the Frankenkozy is you can use fabric of any kind on the outside, including cotton or flannel prints. The strength is in other layers. And of course, once at the store, I was completely overwhelmed by the abundance of choices. What if I picked a pattern she hated? I mean, she was getting a custom-made carrier, but shouldn’t she have some say in the colors? She’s going to be wearing it around all the time! Eek! I circled the store, grabbing things I thought were possible..and ended up with over 12 bolts of good candidates.

Enter brilliant plan.

I lined them up on top of each other in three stacks…and with three clicks of my camera phone and some quick thumb-typing the choices were on their way to Hot Momma! (And no, I didn’t mind the strange looks I was getting at all. People should understand the gravity of such choices.) She wrote back and told me she liked the idea of camo, but that the specific print I had was a bit odd and looked nothing like her husband’s camo. Living on base this would, of course, drive her insane. (I am anal-retentive. I tend towards friends who are, too.) So I circled the store again..and again..and again..taking pictures of every bolt or scrap of camo I could find. Finally we settled on one that looked pretty good, and with a bit more chatting to select the base material I had my fabrics!

Next came the cutting and sewing. It was an interesting undertaking, because I had never sewed pleats before. Lots of trial and error there! Lots of pleating, ironing out the pleats, making them go the other way, ironing them back out, making them go the first way again… After I got that figured out it was just a quick trip ’round with the machine, and the Frankenkozy was born!

I think it turned out pretty good:

Hot Momma and her adorable baby in the Frankenkozy

I love her adorable son’s head poking out over the top of the carrier since the head flap is turned down. So inquisitive!

She reports that it’s quite comfy to wear, and she likes it ’cause if her baby falls asleep she can comfortably stand or sit without disturbing him. Win-win!

It was purty darn easy to make, even easier if you aren’t the perfectionist I am, so if you’re looking for a baby gift try this one out!

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How do you find a therapist???

I feel stuck where I am.

I desperately want to go into counseling, to get more control over my life and my self. I’m tired of being reliant on a pill to get me through the day, and to keep me from being a danger to myself. If that’s all it was, I would learn to deal, but I also want to have kids soon, and you cannot be on my meds while you are pregnant/nursing. So I need to discover a way to cope without them, to at least get to the point I’m at now while off the drugs.

I also just want the experience of therapy. Talking things out helps me. But there are very few people I trust enough in life to talk to, and there’s only so many times they can listen to the same thing. And, while I greatly appreciate all that they DO listen, I feel like someone who actually does therapy (well) does more than listen, they help you process more quickly and give you tools to do so. I want those tools.

My problem is, how on earth do I find a therapist? There are SO MANY bad ones out there, as I’ve learned from other people’s blogs (for example…) and from the experiences of people I know.

My current doctors are all downtown, largely because while I live 30 minutes North of it (in no traffic, which happens so often around here) I work in downtown. But I don’t want to find a psychologist down here because my goal is to get to the point that I can go off meds and have kids…and quit work. At which point we’ll probably move farther North for the hubby’s job. And I know with depression it’s hard to get yourself to care enough to do what you know you need to. When I’m down it’s hard to convince myself to swallow a little pill in my hand with a glass of water in the other. A 30 minute drive and expensive parking? Not happening. However, when I’ve tentatively asked my doctors down here, none of them know anyone up North. So no doctor referral.

I know very few people in the North end, none of whom are in therapy or know someone in therapy or have kids in therapy (not that a child psychologist would do me any good…well..depending who you ask ;-). So no referral from a current patient.

For some reason psychologists and therapists put NO INFO about themselves online. I would like to find someone who has knowledge of the things I’m facing. I would also like to find someone whose theraputic technique is not “try harder.” I blame myself enough for the physical and chemical damage in my brain without a “professional” blaming me, too. And I already can completely shut down if I’m afraid someone is judging me, something I am obsessive about. I do not need a “professional” who I feel is judgmental.

I take that back. I found one great website where therapists will put up some info about themselves, their approach, what their main specialties and secondary specialties are. Unfortunately, virtually none of them are covered by my insurance, because insurance companies are a pain in the @$$ to deal with. And while my sweet, wonderful, supportive hubby is willing to pay for appointments completely out of pocket…we’re trying to save money and the appointments are ridiculously expensive and it seems silly to me when there ARE doctors who the insurance will pay for in full. So that website has basically confirmed for me that 80-90% of therapists would not be a good fit for me (even of the ones who seem great for someone else).

So basically, the only option I see is to pick someone blind. Off a list the insurance company provides.

And that terrifies me.

I do not want to go to a bad therapist. And, from what I hear and have seen, there are far more bad than good. So it will likely be multiple blind picks before I can find someone who 1) knows what they’re doing and 2) I can trust and talk with. And I know myself. A single off-handed comment that I think might be negative can send me into a downward spiral for days.  A bad experience with someone I pretty much have to trust and talk with (in order to see if they’re a good fit) will be very hard for me to get over.

I’m scared to move forward. But I’m tired of being stuck where I am.

Anyone out there have any advice on finding someone good???

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Operation GSC

The head of my division at work (basically the president of our company-within-a-company) puts out an order form for girl scout cookies every year on behalf of his daughter. Now when I was a little girl and my dad was a manager in his company and I asked him to take in the order form for my Campfire Girls whatever-we-were-selling-that-year, he always said no, because it would unfairly pressure his employees. To which I can now say, bull-hockey! The way most of us view it, this way we can buy girl scout cookies AND suck up to the boss, all in one fell swoop!

In short, I will admit it: I bought girl scout cookies. But it’s not because I’m weak. It’s because I’m focusing on job advancement.

Doesn’t that sound better?

Anyway, he put the form out and I thought to my self, “Self, do you want some girl scout cookies?” To which my self loudly answered, “YES!” “Alright,” I said to my self, “How many shall we get?” “Well,” said my self to me, “There are two kinds of cookies we like…and they’re some of the only non-chocolate specialty/really delcious cookies that come out all year, so how ’bout two boxes of each? I mean…how ’bout 2 boxes of each, that would look good to your boss!.” “You make a very good point, self,” I said. “I wonder if the hubby would like any?” The hubby assured me that there were two types of cookies that he really liked, too. “Well,” I thought to my self, I can’t buy me two boxes each and him one! Better get two boxes of each for him, too.” To which my self nodded seriously. So I ordered.

Fast forward several weeks. The cookies have come in. And unlike last year, when our awesome receptionist offered to deliver them to all of us at our desks (she sadly left for Arizona, no more cookie deliveries), yesterday my boss sent out an e-mail letting us know they were in and telling us to stop by his desk and pick them up, while dropping off our check.

Well crap.

My office is on the 4th and 5th floor of a high rise building. I work on the 5th floor. My boss works waaaaay down on the 4th floor. Down a set of wooden stairs which reverberate quite loudly when one is wearing heels, letting the whole office know I HAVE ARRIVED! Also, living in the Puget Sound, everyone is a hippy pretty health-conscious.

Now, I have 8 boxes of cookies waiting for me downstairs. EIGHT. That is a towering stack of girl scout cookie boxes. Getting them up to my desk un-remarked will take careful planning and execution.

So I waited.

Aaaaall day yesterday…

Most of today….

And finally, at 3:45 today, I struck! While downstairs helping a coworker, I glanced at my boss’s cube and noticed he wasn’t there. Not only that, much of the office was gone for the day! I’d already made my loud entrance down the stairs, and it was awhile ago. Perfect!

I nonchalantly stroll into his cube and glance at the order form. Yup. Definitely 8 boxes. No one may know I’m here now, but it’s a loooong, exposed walk back to my cube. So the brilliant part of my brain kicks in. Only take 4! That’s still a lot, but not unreasonable, especially if I explain some are for the hubby. Glancing around, I carefully pull out four boxes and saunter up the stairs, Mission Impossible theme song playing in my head.

I make it back to my desk, heart racing, safely unseen! Well, I think, that went well, why not go get the others? Besides, we’re supposed to cross our name off the order form when we take them, I don’t want him to notice a discrepency in his cookie amounts and start asking uncomfortable questions. So I pound down the stairs (nonchalantly, I assure you) back to his cube, check in hand. I write out the check, drop it in the envelope, and grab my remaining four boxes, and casually return to my desk. Success!

BUT WAIT! Now I have 8 boxes of cookies sitting at my desk! There’s no way I can get them all home tonight, and even if there was, there’s still time before I have to leave and some very tease-happy coworkers nearby! My cubical is totally exposed, the space under my desk is clearly visible, my bookshelf is clearly visible, there are no corners to tuck things behind! Where can I put them??

Looking around my cubicle in a panic, I seize on a solution.

My brilliant solution

(sorry it’s sideways…)

This is the only space in my office that can be closed off.

I am a genius. A genius full of delicious cookies.

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There’s no such thing as a free lunch

My biggest pet peeve at my job is the “optional” training lunches they hold FREQUENTLY. They bill them as being “optional” and “for your own enrichment,” but in reality, especially for young engineers, they are mandatory. When I first started I naively took the higher-ups at their word, and tried not going to some of the lunches, but they found me and told me I needed to be there. Well, no, that they would “like” me to be there. You know. If I chose.

There are so many reasons this bothers me.

First, I hate lectures. I hate them. I hate attending them. I had a really hard time in lecture-based classes in college because typically they move slowly and it’s hard to devote focus for that long when I’m bored. I never choose to go to lectures on anything, even though there were a bunch around my school, because it’s just not worth it! I’d MUCH rather read about it than listen to a lecture. I have a friend who’s a dog trainer who loves to learn more about the field through instructional videos. I go towards instructional books, videos are just difficult for me because, for all intents and purposes, they’re lectures. Now if my company wanted to tell me I had to read a report on something, great, no problem, happy to do it. But sitting there for a lecture? NO!

Second, it’s engineers giving these lectures, people. Now, I’m lucky in that my company focuses on hiring personable people, so the people I work with are in general really nice and good at casual conversation. But engineers are not typically the types of people who have a natural gift for standing up and talking to a crowd. So these lunchtime training sessions tend to be veeeeery booooooring. Even if the topic is good. I can only listen to someone read a powerpoint slide full of text, restating each sentence after they read it, for so long.

Third, JUST BE STRAIGHT ABOUT IT. These sessions are not optional. They are required. So just SAY that. When I was getting interviewed they told me about the optional lunches. I thought, great, if there’s a topic I need to know more about, I can go learn. But it’s probably not a “benefit” (as they pitched it) that I’ll use often. Same thing during my first day introduction to the office. But then when the time comes…nope, you have to be there. Now, if that’s the case just SAY it’s the case. But don’t tell me it’s a “benefit” I get of working here.

Fourth, part of why they say it’s a “benefit” is the “free lunch” they provide. Here’s what I say: 1) It’s not free. I have to sit through your lecture. 2) I get no say on what it is. Serving dry turkey sandwiches is not worth 1.5 hours of my time. Often there is nothing worth eating (by my standards) provided. This is not a benefit.

Fifth, something funny happened. Something that ended my patience with the lunchtime session “benefit.” When I first started, the company would pay for half of the lunch session. So half was my time, half was the company’s. It was still frustrating, because I didn’t used to take a lunch at all, but the sessions were usually only 45 min to MAYBE an hour, so that wasn’t too bad. But then, the recession hit (darn you, recession!). And someone in my office went to the higher-ups and suggested that they could save money by no longer paying for half of the training sessions (Thanks diligent employee! You’re lucky I don’t know who you are). Which they of course thought was a GREAT idea! Funny thing, though…once the company no longer paid for our sessions they got longer..and longer…and more frequent. Now sessions are always at least an hour and a half. Of MY TIME. I do take a lunch now, but it’s 30 minutes. So that’s an extra hour that I have to stay at work. And, since I am in this “session” through my lunch, it basically means I work 9.5 hours straight with NO BREAK (I do not do well without breaks). So on days like today, which is the last sunny day projected for at least a week, causing me to come in early so I could get home before sunset so I could work on rally obedience with my puppy outside (there’s nowhere well-lit nearby I can go), now I can’t get home before sunset. ’cause I have to stay an extra hour. ARGH.

Related to that, the notice for this “benefit” is getting shorter. We used to have an awesome secretary who at the beginning of every month sent out an e-mail with the dates of everything happening in the month. There were usually one or two training sessions, and I knew when they were so I could plan. Then she left. And the new girl is very nice..but not as organized. Now we’re lucky to get a weeks notice. A few weeks ago we were told on Thursday there would be a lunch session the next day. FRIDAY. They made us stay late on a Friday with no warning! ARGH!!

Part of my frustration, I know, is that I do not care about the topics. Don’t get me wrong, I love structural engineering. But I love it because of the math. Not because of the coolness of how ships are supplied with power while berthed. Or the fascinating topic of why concrete works the way it does. Or because I find the idea of a project that we’ve done interesting. Or ANYTHING AT ALL that civil engineers do. I like the math. The calculations. And the problem solving. And, to clarify, DOING those things, not hearing about them.

(I wish when I was in school someone had told me to decide what to study based on what I would go to lectures on. Because I would go to lectures on dog training. I was planning on going to an entire weekend FULL of lectures on dog training, until I decided it was too expensive and cancelled (darn economy!). And that’s saying something, given my feelings on lectures. But I don’t ENJOY learning about engineering. So why did I study it??)

I recognize that a lot of smaller companies do things like this…but they put it in the light of training. In the light of a requirement. They’re honest about what they’re doing. And they don’t start to take advantage of their employees after cutting their benefits (i.e. extending the time of the sessions after making it fully our time).

Be honest. Be honorable. And I’ll be quiet and suck it up.

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The up-side of early darkness

This afternoon/evening the hubby and I re-seeded a strip of dirt in our yard that used to be a stone path. See, we have a very interesting backyard. When we first moved in, you stepped out the backdoor and were on the patio. Walk across that and you’re on a stone path. The path led to a bridge which went over a ditch. Yes, a ditch. Full of…dirt. And weeds. And the previous year’s leaves from the MASSIVE tree that hangs over the ditch. Anyhoo, the bridge led to the other side of the ditch, where there was a teeny-tiny stretch of dirt before the fence (maybe 1′-6″ wide? Maybe?) that you could tight-rope-walk along. It was very cute and quaint (when viewed from the house), and we were kind of excited by the uniqueness of it when we moved in. Heck, we had no little kids, we can handle a ditch!

But here’s the thing: The bridge was falling apart. When we first moved in it seemed a little weak, but we figured we could maybe shore it up a bit if needed. We’re both engineers! Yeeeah, not so much. See, the bridge was made of wood, and it rains a lot here in the Puget Sound. And did I mention the huge tree? So the bridge was in the shade and the water didn’t evaporate. From junior-high science (do they even teach science in junior high anymore, or is it another victim of budget cuts?) we know that if you leave wood in water it rots, and if you leave nails in a moist environment they rust. So within a few months of moving in, if you walked across the bridge it was totally sound until you got..oh…right about over the deepest part of the ditch, and then one entire side would collapse from its supports. Reeeeeal safe. And of course, the bridge was so cool that EVERYONE who came to our house would instantly go to it and start walking across, leading to me running after them screaming, “STOP!!” So we ripped it out before someone could sue us. It was kind of scary how easily it came out…the hubby pulled off the handrail on one entire side in about 20 seconds just by rocking it. We didn’t need a single saw, just pull and the thing fell apart in our hands. *shudder*

Of course, that project finished, we now had a nice stone path leading to an empty ditch. (Have I mentioned NOTHING will grow in this ditch? The ground is solid clay! And it is HUGE. I plant more ground cover every year in the hope that by the time we sell the house it will look somewhat less dirt-and-weed-y.) Not so cool. So we ripped out the path. Amazing how heavy garbage cans full of rocks can be!

But once the path was gone, we were left with two little sections of grass, separated by a strip of dirt that’s 1-2″ lower than all the dirt around it. We are not increasing the home’s value here. I left it for the rest of the summer/fall/winter and hoped the grass would grow on its own to cover the strip of dirt. I mean, heck, the grass grows into all my other little areas where I have other plants and edging to keep OUT the grass! But noooo, not into the nice, inviting strip of dirt I left open for it!

So today, while it’s still late enough in winter/early enough in spring that we are getting rain, I went out and bought 4 bags of dirt, 1 bag of fertilizer, and 5 lbs of grass seed. The hubby and I spent the afternoon spreading out the new dirt, which must have magical growing crystals in it for what it cost, chopping up the layer of clay underneath the new dirt, mixing in the fertilizer, pretending that the dirt we added actually brought the level of that ground up to even with the clay around it, and then adding grass seed heavily to the strip of dirt and more lightly across our whole lawn. See, I have not a darn clue what kind of grass is currently in my yard, so I bought a special “mixture” of seeds that supposedly grow well in the Pacific NW (I’ll show them!). But then I didn’t want a strip of grass that looks different from all the patchy grass around it! So I sprinkled seed all over my existing lawn, hoping some will take root and grow to help the new grass camoflauge. We’ll see.

As we’re working the sun is setting, and we finish up soon after it’s dark (the yard is very poorly lit, it’s hard to work once the sun is gone). I head inside figuring it’s probably around 8, I’ll have a bit of time to grab some food and head to bed. Look at the clock.

6:01

SWEET!!!!!

So, of course, I used the extra time to blog.

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