The Zen Master and the Little Boy

One year a little boy received a horse from his father as a birthday present. The entire village exclaimed “How wonderful to have received a horse!” The Zen Master said “We’ll see.”

Several years later the boy had an accident while riding his horse. The resulting injuries would cripple him permanently. The entire village said “How awful.” The Zen Master said “We’ll see.”

Sometime after that the village was at war and all males of all ages were required to fight except for the boy since he was now crippled. The entire village said “How fortunate.” The Zen Master said “We’ll see.”

My husband lost his job which seems like a ridiculous phrase because we know exactly where it is, he just doesn’t have it anymore. I don’t have answers. I don’t even know all the questions. Does this change my job search? We’ll see. Does this mean we stop looking for a new house? We’ll see. Will we change our lives significantly or will he have a new job in a month?

It always has been and I fear always will be my dilemma. I can almost always see both sides. I survived in this house on marginally less income so I know it can be done. I have friends and siblings who are surviving and have survived on significantly less. I saved what I could within reason and so I don’t feel panic about paying our bills (or mortgage) over the next few months. It may be the push I need to find a better paying job to keep us up with our “former” lifestyle. But I know my company is stable and my benefits are sound so the risk of something new may not be the smartest decision right now.

It would be nice to have someone at home cooking and cleaning and dedicating 8ish hours per day to getting the house saleable. And with only one source of income, we might now qualify for the USDA 100% financing loan. But it might be just as easy to refinance and live where we are for a few more years. Or is it even too soon to start thinking about that?

Not to even mention what his thoughts are. I can only imagine what type of impact this has on him. He’s not the “me man, you woman, me must support you” type, but being unemployed can’t feel good.

So, we’ll wait a few days. We’ll let the reality sink in along with the boredom or relief or whatever comes. And then we’ll figure out a goal based on my husband’s fresh start. And then, my friends, we’ll see.

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THE Snow Storm

Broken record says “How did you do in Wednesday’s storm?” “How long did it take you to get home?” “Were you around for the ice storm of 2002?” I feel like I’ve told it so many times, but perhaps you haven’t heard it so no I will tell it again.

If you exist on the internet then you have certainly seen the pictures by now.

Coming soon to a theater near you...
Coming soon to a theater near you…

Yes North Carolina is filled with people who have no idea how to handle their cars in clear weather, let alone a “weather event”. But I thought I would be ok.

The flakes started coming down around noon. Being in a land that rarely sees snow, I immediately snapped a pic and sent it to my family. No more than 20 minutes later, the parking lot was covered. This stuff was coming down fast and people did not like it. I have windows in my office that look out on the main road, so I could see the rats leaving the ship but not making it far before they were caught in traffic. So I waited.

“What’s the point?” I thought. “I’ll just be stuck in my car. At least here I have snacks and warmth and toothpaste. I’ll just give it a bit more time to let these silly drivers get off the road.”

But the silly drivers did not get off the road. For a very very very long time. They wrecked their cars. They stalled out in the middle of the road and couldn’t get started again. They swerved to miss who knows what and started a 14 car pileup blocking all lanes of traffic from shoulder to shoulder. But after a few hours, the road out front looked clear so I decided to give it a whirl. My commute does not include freeways or highways or interstates so I thought I would be safe. I didn’t think it would be my typical 20 minute commute, but I was also fairly certain it wouldn’t be the 14 hour horror stories I had heard about “The Great Ice Storm of 2002”.

I made a choice. I’ll never know if it was the right one, but I made a choice. I saw things one only sees in movies about the end of the world. It could have been a poster from The Day After Tomorrow meets Independence Day. And it all could have been avoided if people were even the least bit courteous or massively less ignorant about how vehicles work.

One guy had stopped his car in the middle of the road, exited the vehicle, and walked a block up the street to buy a pizza leaving the rest of us to pile up behind his double flashers. And speaking of double flashers, it took forever to make a right hand turn because one idiot lead the rest of the flock to line up behind a truck with double flashers on AND NO ONE IN IT! The guys in the truck had gotten out to help some other poor person get traction so he could get out of the ditch and on his merry way but we were all patiently waiting our turn to make a right turn behind a car that was literally not going to move. Suddenly all concept of stop lights went out the window. It is critically important that I do not let this person in because they might make it to their house before I do. While there were some people who were genuinely trying to be helpful, pushing and pulling vehicles back onto the road, passing out snacks and shots of whiskey to those parked in their cars, the majority of Raleigh/Durham was full of jerks thinking about number 1 and causing more trouble for themselves and everyone else than they realized.

And let’s talk about basic physics shall we? An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an alternate force. So, we all could have made it up the icy hill using our momentum if you hadn’t stopped in the middle to do whatever asinine thing it was you had to do RIGHT THEN. If you slam on the breaks in icy conditions, you will lose control of the car as soon as you hit that ice (because you will hit it you dingus. It takes further than 2 feet to stop) causing yet another accident we have to wait behind. And I drive a stick which I wish sometimes was in big flashing lights somewhere. Because that makes a difference when trying to start while on an incline. And it makes a difference when you keep slamming your breaks on the way up the hill because the 5 miles an hour you get to in your automatic  is a little too fast for you. (I should mention that these hills are nothing like where my parents grew up, they would probably barely register, but it is enough in slick road conditions.) And also, just because you can’t see the lines on the road doesn’t mean you don’t know where they are. Driving does not get to become a free for all. We are not actually meant to use our vehicles as sleds. They can still kill people.

And then I was almost there. I had hit a stride where no on ramps were causing backups and no stupid drivers had fishtailed into some other stupid driver. I saw break lights tapping up ahead. I could have pulled into WalMart and walked, I do it all the time. I was that close. But I didn’t realize what was ahead.

Both lanes were blocked. Not because of an accident. But because two cars were abandoned in the middle of the road. Just left there. ½ a mile from my house and I was stuck dead in the water for 20 minutes. If I could have shuffled forward even 20 feet, I could have made a U-turn and parked at WalMart. But we never even scooted. I was stuck, car off stuck, for 20 minutes.

Of the people I’ve talked to, my story is the best. Well, my husband made it home in an hour and ½. But two of my co-workerswere out there for 2 hours and never made it off the main road. They turned around to wait it out at the office and try again later and even the second time around took them 3 & 4 hours. Another was stuck for over 6 hours. 2 lab techs ended up staying the night. Police officers stopped responding to accident calls unless there was a serious injury. Needless to say, I stayed in the next day.

Pearls

Wikipedia – Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks as a defense mechanism against a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside the shell, or an attack from outside, injuring the mantle tissue. This occurs under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk, and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the intruder, forms a pearl sac of external mantle tissue cells and secretes the calcium carbonate to cover the irritant. Consider me that mollusk. I am irritated.

I can’t let it go. I wish I could, but it festers inside me like a bad smell just waiting for a chance to escape.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there is a sense of fear among the rest of the team. They don’t feel you are working as part of the team and therefore are afraid of approaching you.”

Bullshit.

After an otherwise near perfect review. I nodded my head, told her of my disappointment in the comment and explained that I did not agree.

But then I went home and thought about it. Went to the play and thought about it. Went to work the next day and thought about it. It keeps digging in my brain making me more and more frustrated at my “team” and their childish and selfish behavior. I am working as part of the team, what I am not doing is engaging in idle gossip and negative behavior. I am no longer placating when someone looks to me for sympathy regarding a poor decision they were advised against making. I am setting up web conferences, compiling audit data from across all areas of Human Resources, helping to file documents that have been piling up since May 2013, discussing potential candidate sharing with another recruiter, working with managers and directors to share recruitment responsibilities in otherwise segregated departments in order to expedite hiring, and a whole host of other things that impact our WORK and the DUTIES and RESPONSIBILITIES of my position and YOURS. Nowhere in my job description does it state I have to stroke your ego or agree with how you handle our customers. I am not required to be your friend.

If you approach me and ask me to do something for you IE “Amanda, can you help me figure out why this new hire isn’t showing in our database?” I will help you. I will use my experience and system access to research the issue. However, if you roll your eyes, breathe out heavily and ask me to fix something someone else screwed up IE “*sigh* XXXXX strikes again. I can’t figure this out, dummy didn’t do something right.” I will still help, but I will stop you from continuing your tirade and ask what it is I can do for you. I don’t have time for your negativity, your constant bickering, your total lack of professionalism to our colleagues behind their backs. It affected too many pieces of my personal life and I refuse to let my job have that power over me anymore.

Which is obviously a pointless statement since one negative comment apparently is overpowering me.

“This is the sense from everyone on the entire team.”

Well then maybe this isn’t the team for me. Perhaps I should take my work ethic, professionalism and loyalty to another team that isn’t quite so juvenile. What would I do if I were let go today? If I didn’t have the safety and security of this position, what would I do? Where is my pearl? Acting? McDonalds? Aquatics manager at the YMCA? Professional Nanny? Return to school, and if so, for what? Pursue another career? I don’t think I’d stay in HR, but I don’t have a clue what else I would be good at that would still pay well enough to make ends meet. Maybe they’re looking for help at the zoo. I’d rather face the lions head on than realize I’ve been working with them only after they’ve silently torn me to bits.

Hospitals and Vehicles

When I tell you my littlest sister hit a patch of ice, spun out of control and rolled her car into a nearby field, my woes will seem a little less impressive. This past week has been a flurry of hospital visits, snowy conditions, and new cars.

It snowed in North Carolina last week. I didn’t even know it was coming until that afternoon when my colleague kept standing in my doorway muttering to herself while staring out of my window. Unfortunately, this is all too common a practice if there has even been a whiff of bad weather on the news. She looks at the sky, checks the state of the wind, mutters about the time and her commute, and threatens to call her husband to pick her up and drive her home. On this particular occasion, she was also being teased by others in the office. Taunts of “here comes the blizzard” and “wow, look at all the white stuff coming down” were being shouted across the room. It wasn’t until several hours later that any white stuff did come down.

I made arrangements with my playmate to move our rehearsal forward so she wouldn’t be driving to Raleigh through the worst of it. I didn’t cancel any of my plans, I still anticipated driving to work in the morning (even though I am less than ecstatic about my job, I still have a tiny bit of work ethic). By 8:00 that evening we had a nice inch of powder hiding the imperfections of the parking lot. When I walked in the door, I was greeted enthusiastically by the princess schmitten so I picked her up and dropped her in the snow to see what she would make of it. She sniffed it, licked it, licked it some more, and then with a look of disdain that can only be accomplished by a feline, she squeaked at me and shuffled back into the house, shaking each paw the second it lifted off the wet ground.

The scene was pretty much the same the next morning. There was a little bit of ice which made it difficult to get up the hill, but for the most part the roads were drivable and the rest of the state had decided that today was not a day to work so they were fairly empty as well. Temperatures rose throughout the day melting most of our winter weather. But as soon as the sun went down, the temperatures plummeted.

If you live in a state where snow is typical, then the people of the South sound kind of ridiculous with our complaints. But you must remember that where snow is typical, so also is the equipment and resources to handle it. When snow is not typical, the 3 plows available in the state have to be allocated to the most crucial areas. And though we can produce tobacco and pickles like a boss, we somehow cannot produce enough salt to melt the ice and snow.

I made it to work just fine, but the trip home was slightly more treacherous. The street leading into my neighborhood had fallen victim to the freezing temperatures and was now a solid sheet of ice. But I was already too far in before I realized. I slowed as best I could, but didn’t slow down fast or soon enough and so I slid. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was kind of fun, like sledding with a really big protective sled. No one was out so I wasn’t in danger of running over anyone, I was headed away from the parked cars, and I simply was not going fast enough to cause any real harm if I were to hit something. Or so I thought. I slid my front passenger side into the curb, felt embarrassed, corrected, and slid quite nicely into my parking space. Thankfully, I was curious to see if I had scrapes or dings so I walked around the front of the car to investigate and heard the sickening hiss of air escaping. I had somehow popped my tire. In the 15 minutes of daylight left, despite the freezing cold and loss of feeling in my fingers, my husband and I put on the toy tire and got ready for our respective rehearsals.

I drove on that toy tire another day. I have a nasty habit of misplacing my wallet and remembered too late that it was in the pocket of my other coat so there was nothing to be done. Imagine my disappointment when I left my office and walked to my car only to find that my spare tire had gone flat. “It’s 10 years old! How long did you expect it to last?” I melted faster than the snow. It turned out all five tires needed to be replaced. As I drove off with shiny new tires on my rusted out heap of junk, reading messages that my father had purchased himself a new car, I started day dreaming about the day I get to experience the joy of car shopping again. 2 more years. Will I be looking for a pick-up, a zippy racer, or a family van?

In the meantime, my littlest sister was having CAT scans and X-Rays to make sure her action movie reenactment hadn’t caused any significant damage to her person. Her car, of course, was totaled. It turned out that she would be fine, some significant soreness, some slight bruising, and some massive headaches (including her purchase of a new car) were to be expected, but other than the emotional damage, she would be ok.

Of course, that was mostly forgotten when the texts starting flying that another sister was experiencing her own hospital visit. This one for much different reasons. The first text came through at 7:30am, she was headed to the hospital. By lunchtime, I was an auntie for a third time. They too were hit with winter weather conditions in an area even less prepared for them and given our familial vehicular difficulties, I figuratively held my breath from 7:30 until the communication came through that they made it to the hospital accident free.

Monday – baby sister in a horrible car accident which she amazingly walked away from. Thursday – welcoming a new baby to the family. I’ll take your lesson January 2014! Look out family I am making time for everyone this year. Prepare your spare rooms!