The Break Room Dolphin Needs a Home

“Someone left a dolphin in the break room.”

“Huh??” is the only reply I can think of. I’m on the phone with a project manager at work, and the subject of this particular phone call is not exactly what I was expecting. 

The PM continues. “Yeah, a stuffed dolphin, in the break room on my floor. They left it here the same way they leave their leftover food out for people to eat. But it’s a stuffed toy.”

I consider this for a moment. What motivates someone to pack a stuffed dolphin along with their lunch box, ultimately with the goal of discarding it in the office break room? “Are you sure it’s been abandoned?” I ask. You never know. Maybe whoever it belongs to brings it every day as a lunch buddy and they didn’t realize that Flipper had been left behind.

“It’s been here for a couple of weeks,” the PM confirms. “It has a sign on it that says ‘Free’”.

“People are so strange,” is all I can muster, because again, I’m rather at a loss for words over this. It’s not unusual to find ‘help yourself’ signs attached to items in the break room, but normally the giveaways are leftover sandwiches from a lunch meeting, or fruit from someone’s garden. Stuffed toys up for grabs is definitely new territory in our office.

“And, V, it’s….it’s kind of dirty,” the PM continues, a hint of disgust in his voice.

And because apparently my cubicle is turning into the island of misfit toys, within ten minutes of hanging up the phone the PM comes bounding down the aisle, clutching the stuffed dolphin by its dorsal fin (I’ll have you know, I wrote ‘dorsal fin’ but then Google’d it to make sure that the fin on the dolphin’s back really is a dorsal fin and it IS, so go me). He’d wrapped a paper towel around it first so he wouldn’t actually have to make contact with the dirty fuzz and risk getting whatever diseases it may be carrying. The thing was decidedly grubby, but not so much so that a trip through the washing machine wouldn’t set it right, which you’d think a person would do before bringing it into their place of business and offering it up as a giveaway.

I  have no idea what to do with this stuffed dolphin I’d been presented with but my boss jumps into action, grabs it by the paper-towel-clad dorsal fin, sticks it into a cardboard box, and closes the lid. For ambiance he affixes a paper printout of a beach to the front of the box, I guess so that the dolphin will feel as though it’s been returned to the sea.

I suppose I should feel good about the fact that we gave the poor dear a home…but when I walk by the box I notice that he’s starting to smell just a bit and I wonder how long we’ll have a dolphin in a box in our row. All signs point to for the rest of my career, with any lingering smell being blamed on someone’s lunch.

 

 

I Would Like a Pony

For years, when I’d have meetings with my boss he’d wrap things up by asking me if I needed anything from him, to which I consistently replied that I would like a pony.

Now, I have no idea what I would’ve done if he’d actually produced a pony at any point over the years. My friend C has ponies and through her I have learned that they need lots of attention and space to roam around and do pony things. You cannot keep a pony in a cubicle and I already have cats at home and there is no room for any more animals. I think on some level I was just issuing my boss a challenge to procure something for me that was unprocurable; he was not ever going to be able to fulfill my request and he and I both knew it and I like to think I was letting him off the hook by not asking for real things like a raise or better insurance that were also not procurable at the company we worked for but that were a lot more reasonable to expect him to give me, thus making things uncomfortable for both of us if I were to ask for them. And so, every month we’d meet and every month when he’d ask me what I needed I’d reply that a pony would be nice.

This was at the point in my career where I was working in customer relations handling complaints that were filed against my company with regulatory agencies, which I still look back on as the best time in my professional life. My team consisted of six of us hourly kids, our boss, and an analyst who did reporting and also has mad Photoshop skills. To work in anything regulatory when you’re on the being-regulated side of things requires a certain sense of humor, but throw in customer complaints and if you can’t find ways to have fun you’re going to burn out real fast. Our team indulged in a fair share of mischief, and when you put together eight smart people the pranks are next-level.  I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that my slight fixation on ponies worked its way into those pranks, like the time that I went to Kmart and bought a bunch of pink My Little Pony wrapping paper and proceeded to wallpaper my coworker Bob’s cubicle when he took a vacation day. Now, before you feel too terrible for him, know that he got his revenge by dumping fifteen pounds of dried rice in my bottom desk drawer the next time I went on vacation.

Eventually, not being able to get things like raises and better insurance led me to take a job at a different company that did offer such things. I missed an opportunity when I took my exit interview too seriously and forgot to mention that I was disappointed in the lack of ponies I had been provided throughout my tenure there. C’est la vie, I suppose. At first I continued the joke of asking for ponies from my new bosses, and although the odd request did get me some laughs I ultimately got tired of it and have since stopped using it. And so I can take zero credit for what happened when I attended an all-day training class last week and….was given a pony.

Oh yes, I was given a pony. At work. 

The ponies were a part of a team-building exercise in which the training class attendees were split into groups. Each group was given its own pony, and the point of the game was to answer questions about the training material correctly in order to “run a lap” of a “derby”. The group to complete ten “laps” first would win the race. My group did not win, but I felt as though I had won the grand prize when we were told that a person in each group could have the pony for their very own. Much to my delight, I wanted it very much and the others in my group wanted it not at all and so the pony was all mine.

His name is Al CaPony.

I considered naming the pony Sarah Jessica Parker as she has quite the horse face but was informed that I was being mean to say that and so. Al CaPony.

And this just goes to show that dreams really do come true. 

My Guest Post on A Childfree Happily Ever After

I’m so excited to share that I was invited by childfree advocate and best-selling author Tanya Williams to write a guest post for her site, A Childfree Happily Ever After! I love Tanya’s positive approach to the topic of living a childfree lifestyle and I am so excited to be working with her!

My first guest post can be found here: https://childfreehappilyeverafter.com.au/news/im-childfree-but-i-dont-hate-your-kids/

Be sure to check it out!

The Wings of the Fried-Dough Pastry Stealing Seabird

I’m not especially fond of birds.

When I reveal this sentiment to people, more often than not it’s met with some degree of disbelief, as if I’d just said that I hate rainbows or kittens or chocolate. Which, really, is a strange reaction, because it’s not like anyone especially loves pigeons, or gushes about the redeeming qualities of crows. Who gets excited when they discover a woodpecker has moved into their neighborhood? Nobody, that’s who, because they’re distructive little bastards. The movie ‘The Birds’ was hardly a lighthearted adventure story, amirite?

So now you’re thinking, But those are abstract examples. What has a bird ever done to you? 

Well, I’m glad you asked, because as a child I was irrepairably damaged by the actions of a bird. Gather ’round, and I’ll tell you the tale.

The scene: a beautiful, sunny afternoon in San Diego. A smiling, pigtailed me walks happily down the path at Sea World with my family, taking teeny bites of the still-warm churro clutched in my tiny fist to make it last as long as possible. Sea World churros were a delicacy. If you got lucky enough to walk by the little food stand that sold them when it was open, the aroma of warm cinnamon and sugar and fried dough would catch you and pull you in. What small child can resist that scent and NOT beg their parents for a churro? Certainly not me, that’s for sure.

The peace of that idealic afternoon was shattered when, completely out of the blue, a seagull swooped down and snatched the churro from my hand. I stopped dead in my tracks in utter shock and horror, unable to fully process the transgression that had just been committed against me. My baby sister was quicker to react and chased after the filthy bird, which dropped my churro onto the lawn and flew away, but when she retrieved it the once-tantalizing treat was covered in grass and seagull spit and was ruined forever.

I have eaten many delightful churros since that fateful day, but my hatred of seagulls and general dislike of most birds was forever cemented.

Resting Busted Face

I feel like there are quite a few things that older people could tell younger people to save them lots of trouble in life, but that for some reason or another pearls of wisdom are hoarded from the youth who are forced to make these discoveries for themselves.  One of these such things that nobody warns you about (or at least that nobody warned ME about) is that you will face stormy waters ahead if you don’t sort your skincare regimen early on in life.

I was a lucky little lass in high school: my face remained fairly clear, in spite of the fact that my go-to makeup routine consisted of a Covergirl compact of pressed powder and eyeshadow that was usually either purple or white (ahh the 90s) combined with washing my face by swiping at it with a washcloth in the shower. I feel like instead of making me take PE from the cheerleading coach, which did not really enhance my existence in any way although it seemed to give her an opportunity to try out routines with the high school’s less-coordinated students, someone should have been educating me on actually caring for my skin properly so that I would have a jumpstart on things and my face would not end up looking like an elephant’s ankle by the time I hit my thirties.

I did learn mildly better habits in my twenties, such as occasionally remembering to take off my makeup at the end of the day and semi-frequently wearing a moisturizer with sunscreen, but this slightly higher attention paid to my skin did not save me from the hell that awaited me once I reached my thirties. Seemingly overnight, my once-oily skin dried out faster than Liza Minnelli after checking into the Betty Ford Center. Cosmetics that had at one time masked flaws now made me resemble a bridge troll and I had to get bangs to hide the fact that my forehead was perpetually peeling.

I took to the Internet to research remedies for my problems. After reading far too many articles online and wasting a ton of money on products that weren’t helping me at all, I called in the help of a professional and made an appointment for a facial. While shining a bright light over my face and gazing deep into my pores (sigh, how romantic), the esthetician asked questions about my normal skincare routine and what products I was using. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was working with a strong cocktail of moisturizer and makeup removal wipes from the Walgreens, so I just told her that I was looking for something new now that my face seemed to have completely flipped the script on me.

Fast forward a year, and I now have special day and evening moisturizers, a face wash that’s different from the face wash I use on the days that I use my Clarisonic, and recurring monthly appointments to visit the esthetician. It sounds like a lot, but I feel like the extra money and effort is worth it to be able to go out in public without wearing a bag on my head.

Youngsters, consider yourselves warned. Take care of your faces.

I Pity the Miracles

I actually feel a bit sorry for miracle babies.

Yeah yeah yeah, I get it, they’re called miracle babies in the first place because they are alive in spite of something that they shouldn’t have been able to overcome, doctors can’t explain it, minds are collectively blown. But once the miracle babies blow people’s minds, then there’s an added layer of expectancy about what the babies go on to do with their lives after they do the miraculous surviving, which is why I feel a bit sorry for them.

Still not following me? Let’s play this out.

Baby Suzie’s mom was told that Suzie would never survive outside the womb because she never developed a brain, but then BAM! Three days before her due date, Suzie’s brain develops at warp-speed, defying all medical odds, and she’s born normal and healthy and with a reasonably high IQ. The crowd goes wild. People wax philosophical about how meaningful Suzie’s existence must be for her to overcome so much. She lived because she hasn’t served her purpose yet, she is destined for so much more. She wasn’t meant to leave this earth yet because she has so much to accomplish, they will say to each other in slightly hushed tones, rubbing their arms as they get goosebumps thinking about how Suzie is going to make the world such a better place. Maybe she’ll cure cancer, or be the first woman president of the United States. Perhaps she’ll finally find a way to bridge all of the religious and cultural gaps that keep the world at war and we will finally all know peace on earth. Maybe she’ll crack the code and reveal to the world whether or not a hot dog is just a type of sandwich. The possibilities are endless! They don’t know what she’s going to do, but it’s going to be big.

Now, cut to Suzie’s mom rage-sobbing in her worn and stained recliner because forty-year-old Suzie is a Pizza Hut delivery driver who lives with her boyfriend Snake in his mom’s basement. Or, okay, maybe its not quite that bad, maybe Suzie lives in a small but tidy studio apartment with Snake and works a desk job and eats her lunch in the park nearby on nice days. But, Suzie sure as hell isn’t curing cancer. And nobody stops to ask her whether she’s happy, because she was supposed to be destined for so much more.

Suzie is just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, because smart capable people often grow up to live ordinary lives, no matter their origin story. Suzie’s last-minute, life-saving brain development may have been a miracle because it defied modern science, but ultimately it doesn’t obligate her to do more for the world than those of us who were just born, with no miracles or fanfare. But because she was a miracle baby, all sorts of people expect way more from Suzie than they otherwise would have.

On the other hand, people watched 16 and Pregnant and fully expected the girls on that show to be poor and live their whole lives in trailers or vans by the river, so if they manage to land a desk job or even a gig delivering pizzas, then the whole world cheers. So I guess there’s that.

 

Farewell, 2018

With just under two hours to go, 2018 is drawing to a close. I’m honestly a little shocked that New Year’s Eve is here already; this year flew by so fast!

This year was a year of milestones for us. Goals were achieved and dreams came true.  In so many aspects of my life, I am in a completely different place than I was a year ago, in all the best ways. Here are a few of the highlights:

Bill and I bought a house. To be more specific, we bought the home of our dreams – a beautiful condo in Edmonds. We love our home and our town, and are so excited to have found the place we intend to call home for the rest of our lives. We feel so lucky – it literally has everything that was on our wish list for a home.

I earned my Bachelor’s degree. This was a dream of mine for SO long! I am still in awe that I actually did it.  It was a ton of work, but I am so happy that I never gave up and that I saw it through. I didn’t just do the minimum, either – my final project earned a Capstone Excellence Award! My official graduation ceremony is in September 2019 and I am very much looking forward to celebrating this huge achievement.

I landed a dream job at work and I love it. Since leaving telecom almost four years ago, I had been trying out different roles and departments, but none of them really made me as happy as working in complaints at my last company did (I am aware of how strange that sounds, but I really did love that job!). Once I got tired of working in complaints, I worried that I would never find anything else that I would be that good at. Even though I had briefly considered pursuing a career change to Human Resources, my heart belongs in Regulatory. Ultimately I decided that was the place for me, and started looking in earnest for opportunities. The same week I finished school, I was offered a position with my company’s Regulatory team. I couldn’t be happier. Everything about this job feels right. 

Overall I look back on 2018 and feel that it was a pretty amazing year. Cheers to an equally amazing 2019!

 

Lists

Every December, I have to complete a self-assessment that will be part of my annual performance review and this year I meant to write “I consistently deliver results” but mistakenly typed “I consistently deliver resluts” and spellcheck didn’t catch it so it’s a good thing I proofread everything before I hit Submit because otherwise my boss may have thought I am involved in some sort of strange human trafficking effort instead of completing my tasks.

The end of the year is somehow full of lists to make. On my self-review I list out everything noteworthy that I did at work all year, summarizing twelve months of eight- to ten-hour days in a few paragraphs of highlights. Not mentioned are the day-to-day things that probably did make a difference but don’t warrant a shout-out from myself to myself, like making coffee in the break room when I go in there and the pot is sitting empty, or cleaning up that same break room because whoever took the last of the coffee and didn’t bother to brew a new pot also spilled some of that coffee on the counters and didn’t wipe up the mess, or not murdering the girl who sat a few desks away from me with my mind when she dissolved into yet another fit of tears because someone had the audacity to slight her by only thanking her once in writing but not verbally in a staff meeting for some task she half-completed and then abandoned to her colleagues when she lost interest.

Just as popular as the things-I-did lists are the lists of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve written some of these lists myself over the years, but more often than not I choose to skip over the whole resolution thing. I am especially not a fan of weight-loss resolutions. It’s an epidemic: people feel especially bad after a gluttonous holiday season, and resolve to get back on track in January with healthy eating and fitness.

Here’s the thing: I like the idea of resolving to take better care of myself. What I hate with a passion are all the people and businesses out there preying on people who want to use the New Year as a starting point to make lifestyle changes. Already, my social media feeds are clogged with “New Year New Me” pledges and those damn MLM’ers (side note: I found out that they’re referred to as “Huns”, because the stupid messages they send usually start out with “Hi Hun!”) are out in droves, peddling their wares to anyone who professes a desire to drop weight in the new year. Guys, diets don’t work. They just don’t. Those pills and wraps and teas will not work. The only thing they’re guaranteed to reduce is your bank balance. Diets like Keto aren’t going to work unless you literally eat that way for the rest of your life, which most people cannot realistically do but even if you can realistically restrict carbs forever you’re probably going to damage your kidneys in the long-run. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to only make changes you’re willing to make forever. End of story. If you really do need help figuring out what to eat, enlist the help of a registered dietician. Unlike the “health coaches” on social media, RDs have actual training in nutrition and can help you get on track to eating healthy in a sustainable way. And, for the record, every RD I know hates Keto too.

A lot of gyms are no better: this time of year, there are all these great introductory prices for new members who sign up for long-term contracts. In the past, when I’ve belonged to Gold’s Gym or 24 Hour Fitness, I could count on the gym being a ghost town in December and filled to the brim with new members come January 2. The issue I have with all this is that by March, only a fraction of these new members will still be going to the gym. I get it: working out at the gym is not for everyone. I myself only have a membership because I like to take dance classes. But people who sign up for these gym memberships at the beginning of the year are often stuck with them even after deciding that they aren’t a good fit, so they stop going but still pay the monthly fee because it’s expensive to buy out of the contracts they had to sign to get the lower prices. I highly recommend that anyone looking for a gym to join find a reputable one that has a month-to-month option, even if that place is more expensive. 

As an alternative to vowing to lose weight in 2019, could we maybe change our approaches and vow to take good care of ourselves instead? Yes, part of that is eating well and moving our bodies, but it also means doing things that make us feel good and banishing harmful things (like diets!) from our lives. It means making meaningful and longterm changes that help us to feel better.

Surely this is better than throwing money at the diet industry. And who knows – maybe at the end of 2019 we can add “did substantial financial harm to diet-product companies by not buying their crap products anymore” to our lists of accomplishments.

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is You (to Help Whisker City!)

The holiday season is officially upon us, and arriving alongside it are the annual pop-ups of gift-giving guides. People came out in the usual masses to shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be thinking of our friends and family, trying to find that perfect gift to show our affections and make their faces light up.

This year, I am so incredibly grateful for everything in my life. I have a warm home, all of my needs are met,and I am surrounded by love. Sadly, there are many in my community who are not as fortunate as I am, including many homeless cats. These innocent kitties are looking for a home to call their own this holiday season, and as much as I wish I could, I cannot adopt each one myself.

Last year, I began supporting a local cat sanctuary in my community called Whisker City. They are a small rescue dedicated to protecting the lives and interests of unwanted cats, committed to rescuing and rehabilitating abused, neglected, and abandoned kitties. After my cat Angel passed away, I went to Whisker City to donate unused medical supplies that I had left over. I was happy to know that other kitties could benefit from the supplies I had once Angel no longer could, and the volunteers at Whisker City were compassionate toward me and my recent loss while also welcoming me and inviting me to take a tour of their facility and to meet their cats. I’ve been supporting them ever since with monthly donations and a sponsorship of Voodoo, a beautiful Siamese that probably would live at my house now if she particularly liked other cats.

I am not asking for gifts for myself this holiday season; as I’ve said, I have everything I need. What I am asking for, what would mean the most to me and make my face light up, is for my family and friends to please donate to Whisker City. Whether you donate once or sign up for monthly donations, whether you can spare five dollars or a hundred, every contribution helps to take care of these kitties and to keep them safe while they wait for their forever homes. I honestly cannot think of anything that would mean more to me this holiday season than to see a rush of support for this organization that is so important to me.

To donate to Whisker City, check out the fundraiser on my Facebook page, or follow this link: https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MzE5NTY=

Thank you and Happy Holidays! 

If It Doesn’t Scan, It Must Be Free

I think too many years in customer service scarred me in some ways.

Yesterday morning, I stood in the usual line to catch my usual bus to go to work, but when said bus arrived it took the driver a really long time to open the doors and let us all on. When he finally did open them, he stood in the doorway and announced to all of us that the meter thing that takes money wasn’t working, so we didn’t need to scan our cards or pay any money. “Just get on the bus”, he explained.

While I felt that his instructions were rather straightforward, this turn of events apparently stirred a deep need in many of my fellow riders to ask clarifying questions or make their glee at not having to pay bus fare known to the driver. “Are you sure I can’t pay you?” one woman asked. “What a nice gift for us!” a man in track pants enthusiastically said.

During these exchanges, I eye-rolled so hard it’s a miracle I didn’t hurt myself, all the while thinking just shut the hell up and get on the bus already, quit stopping in the doorway to act like your stupid joke is the funniest thing the driver has ever heard in his life, oh for the love of god people just freaking sit down already. Lady, he already SAID not to pay, so stop making such a show of searching for coins in your Louis Vuitton knockoff bag and SIT YOUR ASS DOWN ALREADY. My inner voice was getting decidedly shouty.

Naturally, the majority of the people who got on at the next two stops repeated the exact same stupid comments, because of course they did.

When I was but a starry-eyed teenage cashier back in high school, I quickly learned that any item that didn’t ring up would prompt the customer to say “I guess it must be free!” because, yeah, that’s exactly what happens now, Susan. Look at you, finding the hidden free stuff in the store, you clever clever girl! It was at that young age that I learned the valuable skill of pasting a smile on my face and forcing a “haha” while quickly calling for a price check. Another one I grew to know all too well was during my call center days, when customers would shout the very triumphant “Thanks for nothing!” right before hanging up on me when I couldn’t make whatever thing they wanted happen.

Lest I seem completely persnickety, let me pause to say that I really do enjoy funny people and witty comments. On more than one occasion, an angry customer would hit me with a one-liner so good that I would chuckle appreciatively before I could stop myself, and when they’d demand to know what was so funny I would reply honestly that their comment was clever and I appreciated their sense of humor even when they were mad. Those conversations would typically end pretty well, and I think that’s probably because witty people are usually smart too and they can appreciate reasonable explanations even for things they don’t like. The “thanks for nothing” crowd, on the other hand, seemed to feel that reasoning and logic was a lot less valuable than giving them whatever they were demanding.

Perhaps these experiences left me hopelessly jaded and unable to experience the joy that comes with telling the cashier, “Yes, and many things I wasn’t!” when asked if I found everything I was looking for. We all have our burdens, and I suppose this is mine.