Thursday, January 29, 2015

Conversations

My nephew is about five-years-old. My brother called me Tuesday and told be about this conversation. My nephew was caught saying, "f-bomb". Mind you, not the actual word but just, "f-bomb".

The dad: What does that mean?
The child: Fart-bomb.
The dad: Where did you hear that?
The child: Aunt Marilyn.

To be clear- I am Aunt Marilyn. Also, I do not recall ever saying, "f-bomb" aloud.

***

I went to Wal Mart today to pick up some things and see my friends. I ran into Loren, who is 102. He's a great guy who had been retired but started working at Wal Mart many years ago because he needed something to do, which is a feeling I'm really relating to at the moment.

Loren: Is it your day off?
Me: No. I don't work here anymore. I'm going to teach, which is something I did a long, long time ago.
Loren: It can't be a long time ago. You aren't that old.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Guide to Online Dating

Some people do well with meeting somebody randomly in their daily life and falling in love. Others of us have had better luck tweaking the odds by expanding our dating pool and looking online. I have a lot of personal experience in this area, both good and bad, and I'd like to share some of what I've learned to help you find the best match. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started.

  • Explore the options.
There are a lot of dating sites. Some are very specific and some are very broad. Some are free and some cost money. Choosing the site or sites to use might be a little daunting at first. Paid sites might help you meet more affluent people or people with specific attributes you are looking for but they also have fewer members. If you don't live in a very large city, you might need to be willing to travel to meet somebody compatible. Of course, your own budget is going to determine your choice also. Some sites allow people to join if they pay but limit the amount of communication non-paying members can participate in. If a site like this has a lot of non-paying members it might be frustrating to figure out if a person isn't answering your messages because they aren't interested or if they can't because they didn't pay. A little up-front research can go a long way in making this choice. It's often a good idea to choose more than one site, if you can. If the idea is widening the pool of dating candidates, then more sites means more candidates.
  • Create a killer profile.
Think of this as a personal ad. You want to put yourself in the best possible light but also be absolutely honest. Don't make claims about yourself that aren't true, but like a job application, there is no reason to lead with your weakest aspects either. Be upbeat, interesting and authentic. Take lots of current pictures of yourself from lots of angles and in lots of outfits and then choose the best few. In my experience both men and women are not using their profile pictures to best advantage. Whatever you look like, somebody is going to be interested. There are as many tastes in mates as there are human beings. If it's a site with personality questions, like OkCupid or eharmony, answer lots of questions so people can know if you are compatible with them or not. Don't leave a lot of blank spaces in your profile. You have a small window in which to make a big impact. Use it to the best of your ability. Spell check your text and proof-read it. Don't be super demanding or needy and don't complain about your last relationship, but do mention very briefly what you are looking for in a mate.
  • Be picky but polite.
Now is a good time to take a personal, and private, inventory of what you are looking for in a relationship. Make a list for yourself of everything you are looking for in a mate and be brutally honest. You aren't going to share this with anybody. It's just for you. You can prioritize this if you want. For instance, I like nerdy guys who are tall and have beards. The first item is really important but the second two aren't. I won't date anybody who merely tolerates nerds. For me, for a guy to be datable, he has to be the kind of guy who hears the word nerd and jumps up and down with excitement. Maybe sports is your thing, or a really great 401K... or maybe you like short girls who are into bunjee jumping. Whatever you want, be honest with yourself about it. Now is not the time for compromises. Compromise is what you do once you're in a relationship.

When you have this list you are ready to search for matches and get to know people. Send a short message to people who look interesting and meet your criteria. Mention something that you saw in their profile that piqued your interest. That way they will know that you're a real person and not a computer bot. If you get a message from a compatible match, answer it thoughtfully. Have conversations. If you get a message from somebody who doesn't meet your criteria be firm and polite in your rejection. After all, you don't know each other yet. You have no reason to feel bad about rejecting somebody at this point. If they harass you or become aggressive, block and report them. There's no excuse for that. We should all be adults here. This is supposed to be fun and it can be, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Take your time. There will still be people to message tomorrow.
  • Meet in person.
After you've developed a connection with somebody you will want to meet them in person to see if that connection spills over into real life. Don't wait six months. More than once I've met somebody in real life after a long correspondence and found out that we were physically incompatible. Feelings can get hurt and it's awkward when that happens. Remember, you still really don't know this person. Make sure your first meeting takes place in a public location and that somebody knows where you are. Review your list before you go and keep in mind what you're looking for. You think you know your date pretty well by now, but you can't really know somebody you haven't met in person. Try to relax and have fun. The only point of a first date is to find out if you want to have a second date. Eventually you'll have a great first date that leads to a second date and then the whole thing is just as wonderful and complicated as any other dating situation.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Success!

Today I organized my spices. Jealous? Probably not, but I feel pretty good about it. I put them all on a little turntable thingy and now I can find what I need when I need it.

I have a lot on the agenda today, including this post. Successful unemployement for me means working my life like I would work my job. It means having a concrete set of goals to accomplish each day and it means evaluating my own performance. Vacations are fun, but for me, non-stop vacationing is depressing.

A walk, paying bills, doing laundry, and reading are all on the list. At the moment I'm reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and let me tell you, it's amazing. I'm about half-way through it and I wish I'd read it in graduate school. Of course, it hadn't been written then, but anyway, I'll do a full review when I've finished it.

If you're reading this, thank you! Drop me a line in the comments. Ask me a question. Give me an assignment. I'll pencil you in.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Today is the first day of a period of unemployment for me. It's planned and I have a lot I want to get done in this short period of time. I'm not really sleeping late and playing computer games as I've joked to some of my friends.

My boyfriend of three years dumped me. Then I applied to the Peace Corps and quit my full time job. From the outside this looks a little bit like a mid-life crisis, but it isn't. It's just a crossroads. Some people start out in life on a particular trajectory and stay the course their whole lives. They collect achievements along the way, but they never waver from that straight line that goes mostly up. I am not so unfortunate. My line is a lot more interesting.

I have choices and the opportunity to make mistakes. This is not the first and I doubt it's the last time I stand at a major turning point in my life. I actually liked my job most days and I was comfortable. This jump is a risk, but one thing I've learned is that refusing to take risks in life is refusing to live.

I can't see what things are going to be like in my life even four months down the line. I have an idea, but not a clear picture. That's really okay. Honestly, nobody really knows what the future holds. It's always a good idea to be on your toes. I can't wait to see around the next bend.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An Update

I mentioned in my last post that I'm quitting my job. I've been working for this company for almost four years and the people I work with are like family, but it's really long past time for me to move on. I have a Master's degree in Biology and I spent a decade running my own business. While working retail is not exactly stress-free, it has been a break from the higher stress associated with the kinds of careers with a capital C that most people with my educational background pursue. I'm just kind of tired of feeling like I'm not living up to my potential and I feel like I should be doing something to help people.

So... with Jasmine about to embark on her own life, I did a wild and crazy thing that I'm kind of excited about. I applied to the Peace Corps. It's a long shot that I'll get in. They get a LOT of applications, but it's something I've always wanted to do. Since my education degree is figuring heavily in my ability to get this position, it makes sense to me to get out of retail and back into education. In the immediate future I'm planning on substitute teaching.

I really don't know exactly what the long-term future holds, but I know I'm up for it and I'm pretty excited to find out.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Day In The Life of Me

Sometimes people ask me what a department manager does and I have a hard time answering. I do a lot of things. Since I'm going into my second week of my two-weeks notice before I'm no longer doing this retail thing anymore, I thought I would try to answer that question. This is how it went today..

I got to work, stowed my purse in my locker and strapped on my walkie before clocking in. Then I began a circular walk of the store. I started in the back room, where I poked into all the corners where the bits of merchandise that I'm responsible for might be hiding. There are a couple of places overnights might tuck a pallet or two and management might not notice, but it's my job to know. I found the places and looked to see how much merchandise of mine might not have been dealt with. I had to ask around to find out if it was worked, that is if they tried to put it out already, or if it hadn't been touched since it came off the truck. This morning there was some of each kind.

Then I walked up to the front, past the grocery and apparel departments. The produce guy asked if I drove past his house on the way to work. Of course I did. When I got to the front I entered the management office behind the cell phone store where I checked out a handheld computer and a printer.

Finishing my circle, I walked back toward the back through my own departments. I checked to make sure there weren't any errant carts of stuff that needed to be dealt with and I picked up some cardboard that was on the floor. The merchandise that hadn't been worked was in the form of breakpack boxes... which means boxes full of smaller items that mostly come to the store in plastic bags. A lot of it was towels and bathroom rugs. I took a large L-shaped cart of this stuff to the floor and put it out. All of it fit on the shelves, which was nice. The stuff in plastic bags is harder to keep orderly in the backroom bins than merchandise in boxes.

It turned out that two of those boxes had stuff in them that wasn't mine so I found the department manager those belonged to and let her know about them. I put all the plastic in the bins we use for recyclable plastic. Then I put the empty boxes away. They are a kind of box we reuse so they didn't need to be crushed for recycling.

In the course of dealing with the extra boxes and plastic, I discovered an L-cart of merchandise that belonged in my departments and had a sign on it that said, "needs worked". It wasn't very large, so I worked it. Some of it went out and some of it had to be binned in the backroom, but before I had a chance to bin it, it was time for the morning meeting.

I met my coworkers in the area at the back of the store near the bathrooms. A manager went over the sales from the day before and told us that we needed to make sure all of our freight was binned because there would be trucks over the weekend and the weekend crew isn't used to this. He also reminded us that we needed to clear our BAM (Be a Merchant) screens before the end of the day. We actually skipped the store cheer this morning. I get picked to lead that cheer a lot, I think because I remember the confusing part at the end. Maybe I just look cheerful, but anyway, today we didn't have to do it.

After that there was a fifteen minute break where I had a soda and a snack and got a little bit of ribbing from my coworkers about the guy I'm dating.

I spent the next hour of my morning binning stuff. Both the leftover merchandise from the L-cart I'd just worked and the stuff that the overnight crew told me had been worked. I have an area in the backroom for my departments. I found a place in the large rolling racks where a particular box would fit and I placed it in the spot, then I used the handheld to scan it into the bin at that location, then printed and placed a label on it that had the UPC on it along with other important information. I used a sharpie to write on the label how many items were in the box. This seems a little silly because it's against the rules to put a box in the bins with a number of items in it that the label doesn't already have printed on it... but anyway, it's the way it is done.

Along the way the computer beeped at me, indicating that a particular item really should fit on the shelf, so I didn't bin that one but set the box in question aside. My first cart of items that I'd been told had been worked turned out to have several such boxes so I took those back out to the floor to put them away.

When I got there, I found my assistant manager was working items from a seasonal counter where we had the Christmas appliances to the side-counter (the places on the shelf where the stuff belongs). She told me that it was our direction from the store manager to try and kill (get rid of) that seasonal area. This wasn't news to me and I have been trying to work stuff out of the seasonal area as I have had time anyway.

I talked with her about about how to deal with some extra dorm refrigerators and how we might rearrange all of our extra coffee pots. We formed a plan. Then I finished working out those boxes that the computer had beeped at me over. All of that stuff fit on the shelves, some of it filling places that were out on the shelf. I let my manager know about that too so that she could see if there was a miss-communication with overnights and look into that problem.

There was just enough time before lunch to rearrange the dorm refrigerators, so I did that. They look a lot heavier than they are. I had to change out the price signs which meant going to the back and finding the right kind of flip-chart style numbers to make the price on the refrigerator displays correct. Then I went to lunch. I went home, had an omelet and called and made an appointment for a check up with my doctor for next week.

After lunch I played with the coffee pots. All morning I was interrupted by customers who needed me to show them where particular items were but after lunch the traffic increased and I was interrupted more often. I needed shelves to make my new end-cap look right so I went to the backroom and climbed a ladder and got shelves. I moved one kind of coffeepot to the side-counter and another to my new end-cap.

Then I did my BAM screen, which today only had a couple of price changes and some label changes on it. For price changes I had to change the counts on some items, so I did that and changed out the labels for both the price changes and the label changes. That means about what it sounds like. I printed out new labels and then replaced the old ones with them.

I took my afternoon break. In the middle of my break I was interrupted over the walkie by a coworker who needed my help finding salt and pepper shakers for a customer. I helped them, then went back and finished my soda. Then the department manager over furniture told me I needed to kill an end-cap that had a few comforters on it so she could put card tables there. I took the comforters and binned them because they were full on the side-counter.

By this time the front desk had paged me several times to get my returns so I got my returns and did what I call, "the un-shopping". I put all the returned stuff away. That left me about a half hour in my shift which I spent working my reports.

The reports are printed on old-style dot matrix printers. They make me nostalgic. Anyway, basically I look at them and try to determine what is out on the shelf and hasn't been ordered. I poke that item's number into my computer and find it on the shelf. If the on-hand number in the computer doesn't match the actual on-hand number, I fix it. I only really had a chance to fix a few negative on-hands (cases where the we sold more items than the computer thought we had) before I had to turn in my computer and printer and clock out.

It was good day. I wouldn't say today was typical as the stress level was abnormally low and I got most of what I needed to do, done. Still, there were things that should have been done that I never found the time for, like scanning all the outs in all my departments. There are definitely a few things I will miss about this job. Mostly though, I'll miss the people I work with.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Uncertainty

Where there is light cast on one side
and not on another,
that is shadow.
Did I cast in error?
Should I have cast at all...
I have never been the one
to hold back
all the light I have.