Monday, April 30, 2012

When did eBay think it could be my parent??

Well, maybe the title is a bit unfair. I have been away from selling on eBay for a while because (1) I've either been deployed away working for my former job and making a decent salary or (2) the items I've found that would have gone for sale on eBay either sold quickly on my website or at a gun/militaria show. And Husband has been fabulous at keeping items listed on eBay when I'm not available and there's something that we know we can make a decent amount of money on if we can just find the right audience. Like, say, the entire eBay-ing world!

But today was just annoying! I've got a few items and some books that I want to list and figured that since I still have all of my templates saved it would be a breeze! When did eBay decide they can tell me what I can and can't say and how I can and can't say it?

For example, I have strict shipping requirements. The reason for that is because I've sold many items to people overseas and they've received their items within the usual shipping period and have let me know that they've arrived safely. I've also had many items shipped to people here in the United States -- some in states bordering my own -- and been told that either the item was never received or that it was extremely damaged and they wanted their money back. When I'd ask for photographic proof of the damages to the item and shipping container, they would have an excuse for not being able to provide it. And they always picked the cheapest route with no insurance or tracking capabilities so there was never any way to determine if the item had or hadn't arrived. So, I changed all of my shipping to a commercial shipping organization in brown uniforms because they offered free insurance (up to $100) for the value of the item and I as well as the buyer could track the shipment all the way to their door. My attitude became, "If you don't like it, you don't have to buy from me. I'm protecting myself and my company from idiots who just want something for free."

So, I would list in my eBay auctions to "Be sure to read all shipping policy information and if you're not willing to pay the extra expense, do not bid on my items!" Straight and to the point. No wishy-washy customer-servicey happy namby-pamby phrasing. I prefer to tell it like it is. Make it clear and plain so that it translates into any language easily (even stupid) and, no, the customer is not always right.

You would have thought that I'd tried to incite a war with the way eBay reacted! I had my template completed for the first item I wanted to list and big, bold "warning" boxes popped up on my screen telling me that I needed to review my return policy before they'd let me list the item. I'd said in my description that the buyer would need to read my policy information and even provided a link for it. That wasn't good enough. I'd have to fill out a form to make it simple. So I clicked back to fill in the form and they didn't offer anything like what I offer. In my business, photographs and printed materials are not allowed to be returned because it doesn't take a genius to know that some unscrupulous person will just scan it and make all of the copies they want and claim they're originals and sell them. The eBay form had nowhere I could specify that. So, I stated it in the little box they give you for additional information.

Then another pop-up box appeared. It didn't like the fact that I said I wouldn't accept money orders as payment. It also informed me that money orders were no longer allowed as payment through eBay except in certain categories (mostly eBay Motors). It wouldn't let me post my item because I said I wouldn't accept something that it won't allow me to accept in the first place. Ahhh....someone in programming figured out how to make the system recognize words but not the context of them. If I don't have the option to accept money orders checked in the payment box, what difference does it make if I say I won't accept them in the description? But, it wouldn't allow me to list my item until I went back and removed the offending sentence.

Finally, just when I thought I'd get my item listed, the shipping payment information I included caused the largest box to pop-up on the screen. It basically said that the way I phrased my listing by stating that if someone didn't want to pay for something that they shouldn't bid was wrong and I could drive away customers.

Um....that's kind of the point!! If they're not willing to pay extra for the shipping services to ensure that it arrives at their residence/office/deserted island, then I don't want to fool with someone trying to argue with me that they "really want to complete the auction and pay the money due but the shipping is just too expensive and [they] had no idea whatsoever that [I] would charge such an extravagant amount and how dare [I] not know that [they] are always good for their word and that [I] am insulting [them] by not just slapping a stamp on the item or, in [their] opinion, sending it for free." I've gotten so frustrated and people trying to argue about shipping at times I've told them I'll just stick their item in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and wish them the best of luck 'cause what they want to pay isn't going to get their item to them.

The pop-up box continued to chastise me on being "unprofessional" and how it could hurt me from becoming one of their Top Sellers. I don't list enough stuff to be a "Top Seller" and if I was operating a storefront instead of an online business (which I've done), my attitude would be exactly the same. It's not being "unprofessional" -- it's being honest. And, as I said earlier, the customer is not always right.

After over an hour of changing and adding and subtracting things from the listing, it finally let me post my item. All that work for something that's got a starting bid of $5. AND, I got a notice that they're changing the rules/regulations on listing items again May 1st (tomorrow).

I'll wait until the 2nd to list more items, if it will let me. Hopefully they will have made their minds up on what those of us who list our items for sale (and are the ones who've made them successful) will be allowed to do. It's sad when a company gets too big for its britches. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stupid not-feeling-well kind of day

I hate it when I wake up to crummy weather. I hate it even more when from out of nowhere I have a sore throat, horrible headache, and crummy weather. Add a low-grade fever and you've got a great snapshot of me today.

I do have to give a big "THANK YOU!" to Husband and Youngest Son for straightening up the house and running errands while I was in my medically-induced semi-coma this morning. Husband and I thought we could stay up late on Friday night like we did when we were younger while Youngest Son was at his friend's sleepover. Both of us are feeling the ill effects of trying to be "young" again today. And, yes, the evil couch has been taking its turns on the guys -- each of them having a moment or two to drift off to sleep. I've been staying on the loveseat but the curse is beginning to spread.

Anyway, EPIX is showing Iron Man 2 at the moment. It will be followed by Thor (which Youngest Son hasn't seen yet) and then the evening will be capped-off by Captain America. Yes, we're getting our Avengers prepping done tonight.

So, back to the living room and my attempts at keeping my own personal global warming in check. It's not terribly warm or humid but I feel like I'm in a sauna. Iced tea, anyone?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another speedy post!

Yup, still watching television. Oh, I've slept since my last post and now, but the weather outside is crummy and I'm not in the mood to go anywhere. Youngest Son had a blast at his friend's birthday party/sleepover last night. Watching the St. Louis Cardinals' game at the moment, and will probably watch Iron Man 2 tonight. Yes, I've already seen it and have it on DVD, but Robert Downey Jr. is just perfect for the role! He's had problems with alcohol; he looks like Tony Stark; and he's got a quick wit and good timing which makes him perfect, in my opinion, as a fan of the Iron Man comics.

So, back to the loveseat!! (The cursed couch has already claimed Husband today.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Quickie post tonight

Youngest Son is away at a birthday party/sleepover. Tonight Husband and I went out to dinner and watched the Stan Lee special and Thor on EPIX. It's the free weekend to try that channel on satellite and they have neat shows. Now I'm watching/listening to The Secret Policeman's' Ball 'cause Eddie Izzard is hosting it along with a bunch of other comedians and musicians. I usually never get to watch it live and since it's on, I figured I might as well.

So, don't be surprised if all of my posts are short this weekend. With EPIX channels 1, 2, 3, and Drive-In free, I plan to watch a lot of good (and bad) movies!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"I always take that way sometimes"

Okay....I just couldn't resist. I love Husband dearly and he is a very intelligent person. But there are times that he says things that just make me scratch my head. It's not that what he says is terribly wrong; it's that what he says, once you think about it, doesn't make any sense.

Everyone's heard about oxymorons like "jumbo shrimp" and "government intelligence." But Husband goes way beyond that at times. Unfortunately, I do have to admit some blame for this because of my English courses in college combined with my OCD that makes me a "grammar nazi" at times. And I'm also the one that moved him from "civilization" to a very rural area where proper English is just a passing fancy. Now he's learned a bit of slang and also repeats things that people have said to him without realizing it.

Today's little gem is the title of this post. I'd heard over the police scanner that there was a three-car accident at the intersection of our street and the main road that he takes from the Interstate on his way home from work. I knew he was on his way home because he had called to see if I needed for him to pick anything up from the store on his way. I called him to see how far away from home he was and he had just left work, so I told him that there's an accident at our intersection and it would probably be cleared before he arrived but that he might want to think about taking another route to our house. At first he didn't understand why I was talking about going another way because he didn't recognize the street names as being the big intersection at the end of our road. Then when I repeated my suggestion he said, "I always take that way sometimes." I asked him how that was possible and, of course, I could hear the frustration in his voice because he knows I'm not going to let him forget it.

It's like the time years ago that we were going to go shopping at the mall and he said that there was a video that he wanted to buy. I was trying to watch the budget, as was he, and he suggested a store where they sold VHS tapes (yes, it was a long time ago) rather inexpensively. I asked him which movie he wanted and it wasn't one that I really had at the top of my list to watch. But, to placate me and reassure me that he wouldn't spend too much, he said, "I'll go look and if I don't see one, I won't buy it." "Obviously," I replied, which only received a confused look from him. Then I had to explain what he said and why it didn't make sense. It still doesn't, but it's also our inside joke on when we go shopping and how we'll decide what to get.

I'm sure I can think of many more that have been said over the years we've been together, but all of the voices in my head are trying to remind me of a thousand things (many which are irrelevant and unimportant) while they're laughing over this latest phrase. Yup, it will be in the memory banks for years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Busy day makes for tired gal

Today's been busier than I expected. Woke up at 5 a.m. (as usual) and smelled something awful outside when I let the dogs out to go "walkies." Only Celeste came back stinking like she'd rolled on a skunk or something. Had to give her a bath quickly because she was stinking-up the house in record time. Husband went outside to look for whatever it was she got the smell from but there wasn't anything and the smell had left.

So, I crammed her in our small bathtub and tried to get her clean as quickly as I could. Not as easy as it sounds. She's in the process of shedding her winter coat, so there's lots of hair that liked coating the walls, the tub, the floor, me, and the drains. I was finally able to get the stink down to a tolerable level (just barely noticeable if you stick your face into her fur). Then I spent about 30 minutes trying to get all of the hair into the trash and off of everything to which it was sticking. I still have no idea what caused it but I've never wanted to own my own professional dog wash so much as I did this morning! There's one self-serve dog wash table in town but they're not open at 0-Christ-Hundred in the morning. If I had my own, it would be open when I need it!

Then I went to my therapist appointment today. I took her the three page list of things I can and can't do at work and what makes things easier and harder for me to work. She asked if I'd applied for disability benefits. I said I hadn't because I didn't believe I needed them. She held up the list and said that if I had that many things I should have applied years ago. That's something I'll wait and see what happens as I continue to look for answers on why I wasn't rehired from my old job.

Tonight I watched a neat show on PBS called Radioactive Wolves. It's about the wildlife that has returned to the area around Pripyat (outside of Chernobyl) and how the radiation has affected them. Very interesting show. I know it's kind of weird but I've always wanted to go to Pripyat and see the ruins left behind after the 1986 explosion. It's amazing how nature is taking back the area where people lived for so many years and doing so even after all of the damage done.

I then watched a segment on NBC's Rock Center about how Big Box Marts (like Costco) trick people into overspending on items and buying things they never meant to buy before they went into the store. And that's a reason why I don't have a membership card to any of these places. The lure of buying something you've never seen before but just have to have is too strong at times. I don't need 5 pounds of mayonnaise but I guarantee that if the price is right, I know people who will find a reason to make more egg or tuna salad sandwiches than could ever be eaten at one picnic.

Now, I'm tired and I've kept to my rule about posting each day, so I'm gonna relax and probably watch more television. And check the dog. And maybe think about taking her for another bath tomorrow. And making sure I've got something with me before I let them out in the morning to make sure that if there's an animal making the stink that it doesn't anymore.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Persistent little buggers....

Today I discovered that the birds who've decided to take up residence in the cover on my propane tank outside have finally hatched their chicks. And it must have been very recently because just the other day I checked and there were still eggs and today I saw a nearly naked bird.

I didn't really want them in there. When the weather began to get warmer and the birds returned from their winter migration, a lot were hopping around the backyard munching on the bugs that were disturbed after we had it mowed. Husband and our lawn guy noticed a few pieces of dried grass and sticks coming out from under the cover where the gauges and fill valves are. They opened it and found the very beginnings of a nest. Not much there so they swept away the debris in hopes that the birds would find somewhere else to live.

A few days later I was outside playing with the dogs and noticed more bits of dried grass and feathers sticking out of the space between the tank and the cover. I went over and opened it to find an incomplete nest but with more debris than had been there previously. I figured since there weren't any eggs I'd get rid of it and come back with some mesh to put over the hole on the top of the cover so they couldn't return.

They knew they needed to get the eggs laid and were faster than I was. The next time I went to the tank, not only was there a much bigger nest built but also four small blue eggs resting in a small space next to the cover. I carefully closed it because I didn't want to disturb the eggs or have any fall from the nest. I waited a couple of days to make sure that they'd not abandoned the nest and opened the cover again. That time I found the eggs in the same space but the birds had found a small square of cling film and placed it under their eggs. They meant business and they weren't going to be leaving. So, I informed the family to leave the nest alone and we would wait to see if the birds would continue incubating there.

I checked on them again and the eggs had not yet hatched but one of the parent birds flew out of the cover as I opened it. I'm really surprised it didn't try to peck at me or defend the nest. I'd made a lot of noise on the cover in hopes of shooing it away before I opened it. But, it just flew away and I saw the four eggs still in their little space. Today, however, I made noise and tried to make sure to shoo away any adult birds and thought I heard a bird above me in the tree giving something like a distress call. Nope, what I heard was coming from inside the cover and that's when I opened it a little and found the backside of the chick facing me.

So, I slowly lowered the cover and made sure not to disturb the nest. I don't know if all four have hatched or just the one I saw because I was too afraid to open it any wider for fear the naked chick I saw would topple out of the nest. I'm sure sooner or later we'll be seeing the little ones trying to get out of the hole in the top of the cover as their parents bring more food back to them.

And while it's cute and neat to see nature up-close, I'm still putting that mesh up after these are gone. Don't want a repeat every year and I'm just really glad I don't have to get my tank filled in the warmer months!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Three pages too much?

Last week my therapist gave me "homework" to do. I was supposed to sit down and come up with a list of things I can and can't do at work. Things that make work easy for me. Things that make work very difficult for me. Personality traits. Observations from others who've seen me work or actually worked with me.

I discussed this with Husband over the weekend and wanted his opinions as well because he (1) sees me every day and knows my moods/emotions sometimes better than I do and (2) we've worked together in "regular" jobs and have owned a business together. And I told him to be unbiased and be very direct and blunt about what he thinks could be an asset or a liability. Taking the easy way out, he told me to make my list and he'd read it, adding anything he thought I'd forgotten.

So, I did. I sat down and looked at a list of mental and physical traits considered good and negative for people in the workforce as determined by the Social Security Administration. I figured I'd use their employment/unemployment information because they're not out to make money by trying to sell anyone a book or set of CDs on how to improve your attitude and have their lists based on that. Kind of the way some of the online medical sites word things to make you think that you have every disease you're looking-up so that you'll buy a subscription to whatever it is they're selling.

At the end of my self-assessment, I had almost three pages (typed) full of mental, physical, and behavioral traits I see in myself or have heard others tell me (either through "self-assessment tests" or just them venting at me). So, I grabbed Husband and had him sit down to read the list as he said he would do. He didn't add anything. He didn't want to take anything away, either. I began to wonder about myself. Did I really get the list correct and think that highly and lowly of myself, or was Husband just too afraid to make any changes to the list because he knows that at times I can be very obstinate and resistant to change when I think I'm right?

I guess we'll find out when I take the list back on Wednesday. Meanwhile, I'm not going to worry about it too much. That's one of the things I said that I did on the list. And if I worry about it too much I'll end up posting about it, and I'm pretty sure no one wants to read about that.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Mythbusters tonight

Tonight there will be a rerun of the "Duct Tape Island" episode of Mythbusters on Discovery Channel. I've already written a review of it and it still gets lots of hits every day. I keep seeing strange questions in the "Search Engine Terms" on my Stats page that refer readers to my blog.

IMPORTANT NOTE -- If you're looking for answers about something in the show but I don't already have it in the body of the post, feel free to post a question in the Comments section! Then I'll let you know if I have any information about it and/or get the answer for you! I don't mind answering questions!!

The rerun of the popular episode will be right after the premiere of their "Men vs. Women" episode. No idea how that one is going to turn out but I'm sure it will be interesting. And controversial. I know there's a lot things considered easier for men that I'm able to do than most of the males I know. And I know some guys who can do a lot of the "lady-type" things better than me (laundry, housekeeping, etc.). If the episode is decent, I might post a review tomorrow.

That's all for today. It's been cold and dreary outside so I've decided to curl up on the couch (yes, the cursed couch!) and let myself fall asleep. Hasn't happened yet. Will have to change spaces before the shows air tonight.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Couch potato time: Redux

St. Louis Cardinals game on television. St. Louis Blues game also on television. Family wants to get caught-up on the episodes ofCommunitythey haven't seen.

I shall become one with the loveseat (y'all know about the couch) and try to avoid junk food. No guarantees, though....

Update: Cardinals lost but the Blues won in the 3rd period and clinched won their playoff series 4-1. Just FYI....y' case you were wondering....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Still banging my head against the wall

I was hopeful a few days ago when I received a response from one of my elected officials regarding my concerns about why I wasn't reappointed to my old job. They sent me a nice email:
April 18, 2012

Dear [Me],

I have sent the enclosed correspondence about your situation to [Governmental Agency Acronym].The enclosed copy is for your files.

If you have any new, relevant information, please send it to:

Name and address of possibly underpaid staff member
Office of Desperate to be Re-elected Official
Mailing Address to "Local" Office


Fax number that no one uses anymore because of e-mail and the Internet

Please be assured that we are continuing to work on this matter and will contact you as soon as we receive a response. If you have received this message by email, it is not possible to reply by email. Please contact my office by phone, fax, mail or online via webform on our website at

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.


Quite odd that if they can send me an email that I can't send another in return. I thought that was how email worked. All these years using the Internet and somehow I missed that.

Anyway, I opened the "enclosed correspondence" to see what it had. Here's what I found:
Dear Sir or Madam,

The purpose of this correspondence is to inquire about non-reappointment of [Me, but with my name in all capital letters].

[Me] contacted [Desperate to be Re-Elected Official] out of concern for this case. Her current mailing address is [none of your business].

Her email address is [also none of your business].

Her date of birth is [REALLY none of your business]. I have attached a signed Privacy Act Release Form for this case. (NOTE: The Privacy Act Release Form had all that info on it, so why waste time in a "letter" repeating it?)

According to [Me], she was recently not reappointed to her [old job title] position after almost 8 years of work without personnel or performance issues. As she has not received an answer from [Governmental Agency Acronym] regarding the specific reason, she believes that it is due to the fact that she has obtained a certified service dog to assist her. I have attached the email she forwarded to our office where she quotes the letter she received from [Governmental Agency Acronym], as well as her signed Privacy Release form. (NOTE: Didn't they already say they'd attached this? Who writes these things??)

I respectfully request that your office give each and every due consideration under the law to the request of the constituent. Please update me by email about the status of this application or the reason for this denial so that I can inform the constituent.

Best regards,

Name of possibly underpaid staff member

So, the letter was off and now all I had to do was sit-back and wait for an answer. My attempts at getting a straight answer from supervisors (and, I thought, friends) didn't work. My attempts at going through the Equal Rights and Equal Employment Offices had met with little fanfare and, as of this date, still no response. Now I was going to get somewhere!

Today, an email arrived from the political official's address. Inside I found:
April 20, 2012

Dear [Me],

I have received the enclosed correspondence from [Governmental Agency Acronym]. The enclosed copy is for your files.

Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can assist you with any other matters of federal concern. If you are receiving this message by email, please note that it is not possible to reply by email. Instead, please contact my office by phone, fax, mail or online via webform at www.I'

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.


Okay, a stock response with a quick flip of the ol' web address where donations are happily received. But, it had only been 2 days! I knew something was fishy. The government never works that fast. Not for regular taxpayers like us, anyway.

So I opened the attached "response" and here's what I saw:
Good Morning [Possibly Underpaid Staff Member],

Thank you for your recent inquiry about [Me]. She is concerned about not being reappointed as a [old job title and acronym for it]. On behalf of the [Actual Name of Governmental Agency and Acronym], the following is what I can share at this time.

March 24, 2012, marked the end of the current appointment period for all [old job acronym]. We were asked to evaluate our current work force needs based on [Governmental Agency Acronym]’s mission. This required making some difficult decisions. Clearly we had people who had contributed to our mission for a long time and were good employees. However, our current and projected staffing needs meant we needed to create a more nimble organization, which required making some very hard choices. At this time, it was determined per the Stafford Act and your Conditions of Employment, to allow [Me]’s appointment to expire. {Me] is free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.

Once the new [New Job Title] program (what the [old job acronym] program used to be called) is accepting applications, the non-appointed [old job acronym] (your constituent in this case) could apply. The details of this are still being worked out, and we will keep you posted. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any additional questions.

Best regards,

External Affairs Specialist, [Area for which I used to be employed]

Hmmm....something seems familiar. Why, yes! That whole second paragraph was nearly identical to what they'd sent me previously (and you can check my prior posts to verify it)!! They didn't even change the word "your" before "Conditions of Employment" in order to make it read correctly! They completely avoided the reason why I was asking for clarification and simply whipped together the same old spiel they'd been given to placate those who weren't rehired and sent it. And the Desperate to be Re-Elected Official's staff didn't even bother to check that it wasn't an actual response to my actual question before slapping the Official's name on the email and sending it to me.

Oh, sure, it looks "better" with them saying that I can apply when the new program opens. However, those who were reappointed also have to apply and if they're hired, they don't lose their accrued sick days and their pay could go up but cannot go down. Those of us who were not reappointed have to start from scratch, regardless of how much experience we have, and lose all of the sick days we'd saved working over the years. So, technically, someone who had just been hired prior to the "reappointment" period who was retained could be making twice what I made and have no experience but if I get rehired to my "old job" I'd have to start at the bottom of the salary tree again. Yeah...that sounds really fair.

I immediately went to the website of Desperate to be Re-Elected Official and left them a nice message that what I got was a whole lot of nothing that I hadn't already sent copies of to them. And, no, this person will not be receiving my vote in the election -- even though this fiasco had nothing to do with my previous intentions to not vote for them.

Oh well.... I'm still on the hunt for answers. Yeah, I may be just banging my head against the wall, but it's better than sitting and wallowing in self-pity or wondering what I did wrong (which was nothing).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Couch potato time

Move along....nothing to see here. Too busy watching TV and catching up on reruns of shows I missed the first time around.

You can go on about your business.

Move along. Move along

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My optimal job?

Went to see my therapist today. She's concerned that I'm not doing as well since I'm not working and still trying to find answers. We talked; she asked questions; I answered them; and then I left.

Well, it wasn't that simple. She asked me a lot more questions today than usual. And she was trying to help me determine what would be the best job for my personality. Politics was her first suggestion. I immediately told her that I wouldn't be a popular elected figure because I have a low tolerance for stupid and that the "shut-up filter" in my head doesn't always work. She asked if that wouldn't be a good thing to have now since it would be different from what we have now? I told her it wouldn't be a good idea because the last politician that spoke his mind and didn't really give a crap about what anyone thought was Teddy Roosevelt and there was an assassination attempt on his life (but he kept going with his speech). I also don't have the ability to promise things that I know I can't deliver or be beholden to people just because of the money they have.

We discussed my strengths and weaknesses. I told her about career fields that Husband had suggested that I had turned-down because I know that I don't have the personality to do them. She asked me what she thought my optimal job would be. What would let me do what I wanted to do and be able to do my job without someone micromanaging me? What would let me be able to help others but also make sure that people are doing their jobs correctly? What would let me feel that I'm accomplishing my goals/desires while I work?

The only thing I could come up with at the spur of the moment was "dictator of a third-world country." My therapist laughed and said that my answer didn't surprise her. Husband wasn't surprised when I told him tonight, either.

Now I have a "homework" assignment to make a list of things that I can and can't do while working. That's going to be interesting.

But for now, I have to go watch "Toddlers and Tiaras." I don't want to, but a friend of mine from high school is going to be on it and has been talking about it for quite a while and I said I'd watch it. Husband asked if I'm going to blog about it. I don't think I could express my contempt of that show and the way the kids and parents act well enough with polite words.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interesting information intake

Today I sat down, against the protests of some of the voices in my head, and watched a videoconference from the organization with which I used to be employed. I wanted to hear about their new goals for the future and how bright and rosy everything was going to be now that the riff-raff hadn't been reappointed and were no longer employed. Of course, it was easy to listen-in since the government has promised and promised to be more transparent and the video teleconference (VTC) was held on the Internet and not behind a protective firewall.

As all of the participating VTC locations were signing-in, I did see two disabled employees on one of the cameras. One utilizes a wheelchair and one had a service dog with him. This gives me hope that the entire organization wasn't looking for a way to remove those with disabilities in order to be come a "more nimble organization." Now I know that I can just focus on the region which determined that eight years of experience, training, and qualifications weren't enough because I don't know many with disabilities from there that are still employed.

Anyway, I heard a lot of interesting information in this meeting. In a quick summary -- even if you were reappointed to your job, that doesn't mean you still have one after the end of the year. Those who were reappointed were extended until 31 December 2012 but if they don't remember to reapply for the new program (or just decide they don't want to apply for it) then their job is gone. And when they reapply, they do have some preference because they're currently working and are already qualified for the job, but if they don't apply early enough or aren't really qualified enough they might not keep their job. And there are over 3,000 vacancies that they need to fill in addition to the appointed positions that are currently filled. So if a bunch decide they don't want to play by the new rules or don't qualify for their jobs, there will be even more positions available for new people -- or new "old" people, like me -- to take.

I found all of that very, very interesting. For so long I've heard many who were reappointed gloating over the fact that they still have a job and that those of us who weren't must have been lazy, stupid, or any number of other reasons for not being as good as they are. Now to know that they have to reapply for their own job is making many very nervous.

The times, they are a changing. The "good-ol' boy" network won't be around because the people who used to run it won't be in charge anymore. A lot of things that people took for granted have been identified and are being eliminated. Streamlining the program is making a lot of people upset and some have started to say that it's not worth sticking around through the changes. If they're that shallow, let them leave. The job is to help others, not just line your pockets when you feel like being out because of someone else's misfortune.

Will I reapply? Sure. I have nothing to lose. I'll apply for positions I want, though, rather than where they just stick people. That's what happened eight years ago when I first started working with them. I wanted to do one type of job; was told I'd be much more qualified for something else that I really wanted to do; and ended up in a job that I enjoyed but really wasn't as excited about. Maybe this will be the way I'll be able to find my place and use my talents in the best way possible for myself and the people served by the organization.

And, as I said, if I don't get rehired I don't lose anything other than a little time applying for the jobs. I don't have one now so I can't lose something I don't have. I'm still going to advocate for equal employment rights. It's very near and dear to me. And if all of my questioning and investigating keeps me from getting a job, so be it. I'm going to do what I think is right for me for a change and not just what everyone else wants me to do.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Top Gear brings back car memories

I'm taking the rest of the day off so I can get ready for the Season 18 premiere of Top Gear on BBC America. I've wished that I could go and see the show live or someday become famous enough to be the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car. Heck, I only got Grand Tourismo 5 for the PS3 so I could "drive" the Top Gear track!

I was working away from home this time last year and living in a hotel that had crappy cable channels and didn't get to see Season 17 until this past weekend when I finally saw it on DVD. I love cars, even though I've not owned many remarkable ones. My first car was a 1980 Chevrolet Chevette. I usually referred to it as either "My 'vette" in the hopes someone would confuse it for a Corvette (never happened) or as "Fred." If I didn't give it a name, I wouldn't have anything to call it when it wasn't working correctly!

Mine was a petrol/gasoline 5-door, manual transmission, vinyl seat version in that shade of beige that makes your car look like it's a perpetually dirty white car. The seats had a "patchwork" pattern embossed in them which gave you the look of someone with a strange skin disorder if you sat on them in the summertime with shorts on. It always seemed like hours would have to go by before the pattern would disappear from your flesh. And heaven forbid that you jump into the car on a hot summer day wearing shorts or a skirt! The dark brown vinyl collected the heat of the sun better than solar panels and nearly branded that ugly pattern into your legs! But Fred wasn't all bad. It at least had air conditioning -- one of the few optional extras added. I've always joked that the owner's manual said "Zero to 60 mph -- pack a lunch" and if it didn't really, it should have. But mine was better than the diesel versions my Biological Father bought himself after he moved-out. Many a winter morning was spent giggling under my breath when I'd have to stay at his house and he'd jump into the car and forget that the engine heater was still plugged-in and tried to back out of the garage. Those were my first introductions to the large "SNAP" of a live electric wire and the smell of ozone that comes before an electrical fire.

After I'd married the first time and Fred was getting-on in years, I traded it to my then-Father-in-Law in exchange for a Ford Tempo. The Tempo had automatic transmission (something new to me), cloth seats (no more having to fear sitting down in the summer), FM radio stations, and cruise control. Yeah...I thought I was living the big time with that car....for a little while. Ex-Husband sold his car and started driving mine because (1) it actually ran and (2) he like the "newer" car better. However, I knew the Tempo's live would be short-lived because Ex-Husband didn't know squat about cars and had no idea what to do other than put gas in the tank -- and even that was a challenge. In the divorce settlement, the Tempo (which I never really named because I didn't get to drive it as much) became mine since Eldest Son was going to be living with me and I needed transportation for work (something else Ex-Husband didn't have). He had treated the car so badly that one time after a day of rain I went outside to look for something and found that the trunk was flooded. Everything in it was ruined. Only my Ex could damage the seals around a trunk lid that badly.

So, Future-Husband (who is now currently Husband and will be for the quite foreseeable future) helped me get financing for a new car. Well, not a "new" car but a "new-to-me" car. It was a 1994 Ford Aspire. "George" looked like a jelly bean on a roller skate. It was a two-door green tiny thing with automatic transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM AND Cassette Player (moving up in the world!) that looked as if it would have difficulties getting down the road. Nothing could be farther from the truth! That little car got 55 miles-per-gallon on the Interstate and if you had a good tailwind, it would be pushed along and your mileage was even better. I swore that if I had enough people in the car and we stuck our arms out of the windows they'd act like wings and we'd take off like a small airplane.

Husband, Eldest Son and I enjoyed the Aspire for quite a while. Husband and I even took it on our honeymoon which helped a lot with the cost of the trip. But a few years later, when we were told that Youngest Son would be arriving in the world, we knew we needed to get a larger car so everyone would have plenty of room. I took "George" to the dealership and traded-up for a 1997 4-door Ford Aspire!!

Okay, a 4-door version of the same car isn't really any bigger, but we needed the back doors so we could get Youngest Son in-and-out easily in his car seat. Plus, Eldest Son was beginning to hit puberty and he was already pretty tall, so squeezing-in behind the front seat with his added height wasn't going to be an option for long. The 4-door Aspire was blue and had all the bells-and-whistles we could ask for and still got excellent gas mileage. I only had it a year when a distracted driver plowed into the back of it and shoved me under a pickup truck that was stopped in front of me. I had stopped as well and Husband, in his large Dodge Ramcharger, was ahead of the pickup and heard the accident behind him. The poor thing was totaled but for a subcompact, it protected Youngest Son in his car seat in the back and me in the driver's seat pretty well. We weren't too badly banged-up and everyone was surprised at how well the tiny car did.

After the insurance settlement, I got a 1998 4-door Ford Escort in their version of "British Racing Green." I liked the car but missed the gas mileage and the way I could zip in-and-out of small spaces with the Aspire. Husband finally had to sell the Ramcharger after it was too old to repair anymore and I gave him the Escort. I'd gotten another "new-to-me" car in a weird deal. I went to a large dealership "show" (where all of the big town's dealerships bring cars they want to sell and compete against each other for the customers' attention in an old parking lot) when I spotted a strange-looking black car. I'd never seen anything like it. It was a tiny station wagon but had a streamlined shape that just made it unique. I asked about it and was told it was a 2001 Suzuki Esteem Wagon and they were willing to sell it to me there with the best financing I'd ever gotten AND they didn't want a trade-in but gave me credit for one anyway. I secretly began to wonder what was so wrong with it that they'd want to unload it quickly but that little car is still running today with over 200,000 miles on the odometer!

Of course, Husband drives that one now. I'd had my fun with it while he drove the Escort and even decorated the back with Irken Army symbols from the show Invader Zim (and if you've never seen it you're missing out!). But when the Escort became too expensive to repair after we'd paid-off the title, Husband began his ownership of the Esteem. I was working away from home for up-to 8 months at a time and when I came home for a 2-week vacation in 2006, we traded-in the Escort for a 2005 Suzuki Forenza Wagon. It was to be my car when I finally was able to come home but Husband could drive it to keep it running. Two months later while I was in Texas a large tornado wiped-out a town south of us but the hailstorm hit our town and did over $3000 worth of damage to my new car! And it was a NEW car -- less than 300 miles on it!! Fortunately the insurance paid-off all the damages and the car ran well for a while. Then, we discovered that it wasn't really a Suzuki (built by them) but was really a rebadged Daewoo wagon. As a matter of fact, when we were taking it to be serviced once we passed a Daewoo EXACTLY like my car -- so we knew that we didn't have what we thought we did. And that explained why my Esteem -- designed and built by Suzuki -- still runs but the Forenza crapped-out on us early. I went to the Suzuki dealership and was not happy.

Fortunately, they were willing to take the "Forenza" off my hands and gave me an awesome deal on a 2011 Suzuki SX4 4-door sedan. It's black, like the Esteem, so everyone thinks we're just addicted to black Suzukis. I bought it and then was deployed away from home with my old job so much that I'd owned it a year before I could put any actual mileage on it. Husband could have driven it but he was afraid to since it was brand new and didn't want to get it scratched or dinged and make me upset.

So, if I ever do become famous enough to drive on Top Gear, you can tell that Jeremy Clarkson is going to have a hard time trying to say anything remarkable about my car-ownership history. But I like my cars. Husband and I used to have a 1941 Willys MB Jeep that I got to help tinker with as we restored it, but that's for another story. Meanwhile, I'll watch some of the old episodes on TV and wish that I had the Stig nearby to show me how to zip around the track without crashing or flipping-over on Gambon.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Can we stop with the Titanic stuff now?

Yes, yes, yes....I know it's the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. I would have known that without all of the televised fanfare and the re-release of James Cameron's movie in 3D. You know how I would have known that? Because I read! Because I studied in history class! Because my life isn't so shallow that I only believe things shown to me on Twitter or Facebook as so many people over the past week have shown in their posts that they didn't know the movie "Titanic" (1997) was based on an actual historical event!

And I make sure to put the year 1997 behind the title of the movie because, yes, there is more than one movie named "Titanic." In 1943 the Third Reich attempted to make a propaganda film espousing the positive reasons to invade Britain by using the Titanic disaster as the backstory. "Titanic" (1943) showed Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, as an evil capitalist and all of the British as greedy while a lone German crew member who seemed to know that something bad was going to happen tried to warn everyone but was ignored. This German officer was later the hero of the movie -- even though "Titanic" (1943) never played in Germany until the 1950s. It was deemed too controversial because of the passengers in Second and Third Class areas trying to scramble for safety and being locked-out or denied passage was too reminiscent of the Holocaust. With Germany beginning to lose the war, no one in the Third Reich wanted anyone to recognize similar goings-on happening in Germany and other occupied areas where concentration camps were in operation. A lot of that type of footage was removed before the movie ever played in Germany.

But "Titanic" (1943) wasn't completely lost to history. There were many scenes of the ship and people running to the lifeboats that came from "Titanic" (1943) and were used in "A Night to Remember" (1958). "A Night to Remember" was considered one of the most accurate depictions of the sinking of the Titanic because a lot of the information used to write the movie came from interviews with survivors in the book by the same name. It was the most accurate at that time because it did not show the Titanic breaking apart because no one had ever confirmed it and there were different memories of what exactly happened that night.

Not until Robert Ballard discovered the RMS Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985 was it confirmed that the ship had broken apart before it sank. After his discovery, more movies were made. "Titanica" (1995), narrated by Leonard Nimoy, was shown in IMAX theatres. "Titanic" (1996), a two-part miniseries, was made for television and got a lot of facts wrong but somehow still pulled out an Emmy win.

Finally in 1997 the world was "graced" (and I use that term sarcastically here) with James Cameron's version which was fictional but based on historical fact and recent discovery. Even now he has said that there are parts he got wrong but he's not going back to fix them all because "when would you know where to stop?" And Celine Dion's song and chest-thumping visage on every awards show and commercial hawking "authentic Titanic reproductions" became embedded in everyone's subconscious. And I do apologize to all of my readers who are now tortured with it running through their heads at the moment -- I feel your pain 'cause it's stuck in mine, too.

By the way, those "authentic Titanic reproductions" were usually of the blue diamond necklace Rose (not a real person on the RMS Titanic) wore while in the nude being sketched by Jack (another non-real person on the RMS Titanic). The necklace never existed. Actually, there is historical reference to a blue sapphire necklace similar to the one depicted in the movie, but it would have only been an inspiration for the one in the movie. And, sadly, I've been seeing more and more replicas of the necklace, the gemstone, etc. being advertised late at night in "honor" of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The latest incantation of the story is "Titanic" (2012) and is a four-part television drama based on the sinking. As if we needed another re-telling of the story.

And movies weren't the only things created about the RMS Titanic! Even if you don't count all of the books and memoirs written or related by survivors and their relatives, along with historical accounts and fictional dramatizations, there's still tons of stuff out there! In 1997 there was a Broadway musical about the sinking -- and it WON five Tony Awards!!

So, now that you've had your history lesson for today, can we please stop all the hoopla?

Don't get me wrong, though. It was an important event in history. Seafaring changed forever after the RMS Titanic sank and the International Ice Patrol was created from this disaster. Also, there now has to be 24-hour monitoring of communications channels, something that had the Marconi operators on the Californian not gone to bed, they would have received the Titanic's distress signal and been able to render assistance. And there are many who spent the last moments of their lives doing their jobs in the belly of the ship in order to keep it level and keep the lights on in order to help others escape, even though they knew they would be no way out for them.

Yes, remember and honor the memories of those who perished, etc., etc., etc. But now that the official time and date of the sinking 100 years ago has passed, can I please stop being bashed about the head with shows, movies, posts, and documentaries about it all? Just for a little while??

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Am-Dram: Junior Edition -- It's Over!!!

Tonight was the last performance by Youngest Son's theatre group.  They did a really good job and no one forgot too many lines or had to ad-lib much.  Everything ran very well and I'm very proud of my little thespian.

I'm also incredibly proud of Youngest Son today because he had been selected months ago by his band instructor to attend the District Band Contest and perform a solo and in a sextet.  He's been really nervous about it and today was contest day.  The scoring scale they use is from 1 to 10 with 1 being the best.  You can earn a 1+ if you're really, really good.  Youngest Son received a 2+ on his trumpet solo, just barely missing the 1-level score.  He also received a 1 on his brass sextet's performance.  The only criticism given by the judge to the sextet was for the baritone player to remember to not overplay the French horn.  They did an awesome job!

Then in the afternoon, the rest of the band arrived to join those who were there for solos and ensembles and the entire concert band played two songs.  The group received a 1 rating for their performance.  Pretty good for a group that has never been to a big contest like that before!

At the moment, Youngest Son and Husband are at the Cast Party for the play.  I would go but I don't know the family well and am not sure how they'd feel about having Celeste at their house.  I have no problems going to public places because she's a service dog, but I don't like to just invite my shedding partner into someone's private home and there wasn't time to coordinate with them on whether or not they have pets, allergies, etc.

But that's okay -- I couldn't wait to get home to make this post!  I'm so very, very proud of Youngest Son.  It's been a really big day for him!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Am-Dram: Junior Edition -- Ad-libbing Addiction

The second production of The Borrowers is over and the kids did very well tonight. The crowd wasn't as large and there were the rude ones who wanted to talk all through the performance, but the actors and crew did a great job of keeping everything going as smoothly as they could.

Youngest Son, however, did get a talking-to on the way home. He did a really good job and is one of the few actors who doesn't have a microphone but you can hear him throughout the theatre. Sadly, he's got too much of Husband and me in him. We both get bored easily when things are too easy and we both have a very dark and dry sense of humor. That being said, Youngest Son almost doesn't stand a chance. He has friends at school and hangs out with some as much as possible. Most of them are in band and/or theatre as well. But he is known for being annoying. I even saw a post on his Facebook page that said she thought he was nice but that he's too annoying and too much of a smart aleck in band class. And some teachers report that he can be irritating in class when he gets bored. I tell them to keep him busy and they won't have a problem with it but they never listen to me.

One bad habit he's picked up is ad-libbing when something isn't working right. He doesn't go way off on a tangent that isn't related to what's going on, but he's quick with a response or, especially onstage, ready to grab the spotlight until whatever is causing the problem can be remedied. For example, in class one day his teacher was upset at the amount of noise the students were making. She asked, "Why do I hear talking?" and Youngest Son, without missing a beat, said, "Because you have ears!" (For the record, he didn't get in trouble for that -- just told to "shut up.") During the performance tonight, I could see the wheels of his mind turning when one character skipped a section in which Youngest Son was supposed to exit the stage. He stayed out there trying to look like he belonged in the scene until he finally heard a pause long enough for him to yell, "Yes! I'll be running away, and with this wooden spoon I don't know where it came from!" as he grabbed a prop another actor had dropped and made his way off the stage.

During a scene change, he and another actor were bringing out one of those wooden cable spools that they decorated to look like a spool of thread. The other boy started arguing over which side went up when, a little to loudly, Youngest Son said, "It really doesn't matter what side goes up! No one can tell. Now make yourself useful," as he handed the boy a basket to put onstage. I was embarrassed. Husband was laughing himself silly. The audience thought it was funny, too. Great. That's all he needs -- positive reinforcement from total strangers.

At least last night and tonight another actor made his entrance on-time. Youngest Son told me that if he'd have had to wait a while he was trying to think of something to do to fill the quiet space and all he could think of was reciting Eddie Izzard's "Bees and Wasps" bit from his stand-up act. I told husband this and he, of course, laughed hysterically as he imagined our 13-year-old onstage reciting a monologue asking questions like, "Do earwigs make chutney? Do spiders make gravy?" And, yes, in a way I'm glad he was thinking of something to do -- but this is a kid who once he gets started has a hard time stopping. He loves the limelight and isn't afraid of too much when trying to get it.

So, I can't say that all of this comes as a surprise, but after the ad-lib last night and the continuation tonight, I'm almost afraid of what will happen tomorrow night on their last performance.

Almost....but I'm still going to watch.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Am-Dram: Junior Edition -- Opening Night

Youngest Son is performing this weekend in his junior high's production of The Borrowers. He and most of his friends are all in the show and tonight was opening night. One of the actors had been sick during the day and missed school. School policy says that if you don't show up to school, you can't participate in any after-school activities (games, dances, performances, etc.). Poor guy wasn't feeling too great when I saw him this evening and another actor took over the part. He had to come out with the script in his hands because he didn't know the lines but did a really good job as a last-minute stand-in.

I was asked by the drama teacher/director to do some old-age makeup on one of the girls so that she'd look like the mean old lady she's supposed to play. I agreed (in exchange for free tickets) and enjoyed showing the kids how I could take one of their friends from a fresh-faced young lady and make her look old and grouchy. I wasn't as pleased with the makeup once I got out into the audience and I discussed with the director about changing it and making it more noticeable for the last two nights. She agreed and I'm looking forward to seeing the look on her face tomorrow night when she's made-up. She was shocked tonight -- so tomorrow could be horrifying for her. But, I made sure to give her a good pep talk before the show because she was so nervous. She'd played the Genie in last semester's production of Aladdin and was worried she'd set the bar too high for herself since this is a drama and not a musical. I told her not to worry and to remember that the audience may have read the book or seen the movies but they don't know the lines for the play. All she'd have to remember is to get out there and have fun with her part and she'd be just fine.

And she was. Actually, they all were. Oh sure, there were forgotten lines and cues and props that went missing. That happens in any show. What I was worried about was Youngest Son. He has a habit of ad-libbing when something's not quite right or if he sees something wrong. Did he do it tonight? You betcha he did!

It was funny that Husband, one of the other actor's father, and the junior high assistant principal were there for the performance tonight. They were all major characters in our recent Am-Dram production of Arsenic and Old Lace. When one of the Borrowers suggested reviving Mr. Clock with some elderberry wine, we all thought it was kind of ironic since that's what killed the 12 men in the cellar in our play. I was praying that Youngest Son wouldn't say something like, "No! Not that! It's from the Brewsters' house!" and, fortunately, he didn't. But, when the Borrowers left a "sugar cube" onstage during the scene change to Youngest Son's scene, I could hear Husband laughing because we both knew he'd never let it just sit there.

And he didn't. Youngest Son is playing Gypsy Boy, a Romanie Traveller, and is decked-out in a horribly mis-matched outfit which is perfect for his character. Mid-scene, he walks over to his "caravan" to get a boot and stops to pick up the "sugar cube" asking, "'Ow the 'eck did this get out 'ere?" After going to get the boot and not finding it, he comes back out and says, "Well, there's supposed to be a boot but I canna' find it and it's supposed to be in me caravan but it's not so why don' ya' sit down an' I'll tell ya' about it?" I heard from him after the show that some of the kids were thinking about throwing the boot over the set and hitting him with it. I'm glad they didn't -- it would have just made him improv even more. Fortunately, the other actor onstage remembered his lines and kept the scene going so that Youngest Son could recite all of his lines and didn't have to ad-lib anymore.

It was a little rough in places, but all-in-all the kids did a great job. Looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow night!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Migraine sucks

I've been battling a migraine all day. Just woke up from a nap and realized that I only had 3 hours left to get something posted for today.

This is it. It's not much but it's a post.

Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Search for answers continues....

Ahhh....just when you thought it was safe to come back to the blog, I'm writing about trying to find out why I didn't keep my job again. Actually, it's not so much about why I didn't keep it. It's more about making sure that the reason for my release wasn't something discriminatory.

Today I resent the email I'd sent last week to the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer as well as his supervisor, the Equal Rights Officer (ERO), asking for more information and at least a response of some sort since he had marked my previous email as read but I'd not received anything. I also received only one response from my Congressional/Senatorial search for answers and completed the Privacy Act information sheet they requested so they could process my inquiry. Seems odd that one who didn't respond is up for election and lives in the same town in which I live! So much for "hometown concern" this election season.

I did receive a response from the ERO supervisor. I was somewhat surprised until I remembered that if the supervisor receives complaints about employees not completing their duties, they have to do something about it. Well, they don't "have to" I've discovered, but it looks better on their performance appraisals if they do. Here is what I received:
Unfortunately, I cannot provide any specifics with regard to your statements and that received from your cadre leadership. I can tell you that each organization now has an “established force structure” level. Basically, that we will only be allowed a certain number of individuals in any cadre based upon the number that is established for the cadre. My own cadre is going through this same situation. Please let me know if you do not hear from someone by next week.
Not exactly an answer to my question but it does address the fact that all cadres are having to cut-back. I replied with sincere thanks and asked for additional information as it is received regarding my inquiries as to why a simple reason of downsizing or a referral letter couldn't be provided so that those who've lost their jobs will have an easier time finding new ones. I then received the following item from a friend who saw it posted on a social media site:
So, [Assistant Administrator Name] graced us with his presence yesterday, and put on a dog and pony show - gist as follows. 1) DAE's will be assigned to the Region they live in. 2) If that Region is fully staffed, and you are offered a position, it will be as a "surge" type of role. 3) An email will go out in the next 10 days, a package within the next month RE: re-application. 4) We are top-heavy with those in the C3 to E range, so there's gonna be some payroll adjustments. 5) When asked if they are trying to get rid of people, responded "Some people are taking this the wrong way."
"Taking this the wrong way" -- are they serious? How else is someone who has worked for years without any issues (and I'm not just talking about myself) supposed to take not being retained in their job? Yes, it's a temporary job. No, you're not supposed to rely on it for your sole source of income. I didn't. I'm one of the lucky ones that has a spouse who makes enough to pay the bills if I'm not working, but I knew a lot of others that this was the best job they could find and all they had because you're supposed to be able to deploy at a moment's notice but no one else will hire you for a "permanent" job when you're planning to leave any time you're called-up. And when looking at the differences between what new employees were making with this organization and what they could make "in the real world," there's no denying that people would prefer this job over a "typical" one. I, however, did it because I was good at it (and I'm not ashamed to say so) and I knew I was making a difference. And, yes, the money I made helped when there were unexpected medical bills (usually mine and usually caused by the stress of this type of work) or if my family wanted to visit where I was working over the holidays (which helped my morale a lot) or perhaps all of us taking a trip somewhere (which never did happen).

Still no idea how all of this will end and I've been looking for something else that fits my personality and work ability so that I'll have something else to do during the day. I don't feel so much as if I'm beating my head against the wall with this. It's more like trying to figure out a mystery. Who's got the answers and whose buttons can I push just right that might give me some information that someone really didn't want everyone else to know. It's like when I used to be a reporter/editor with the newspaper. There's a juicy story in this somewhere. I've just got to figure out where to dig.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Am-Dram: Junior Edition

Youngest Son has a play in rehearsal this week with performances scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. His school is producing The Borrowers and he's playing the gypsy boy that comes out near the end of the play to say something prophetic but it's usually lost on the audience because of the strange Romanie/Cant accent he has to perform so that he doesn't blend in with the rest of the characters. However, after listening to him this afternoon, I'm not sure we'll be hearing much of the accent.

It's not that he can't do it. He and I have practiced and I've shown him a lot of information about the Travellers and how to create his character. It's just that he said that most of the other actors don't know their lines or aren't doing a British accent, so what's the point of him doing one? I asked what his teacher said about it and how she likes his performance? He said that they haven't gotten to his part in the other rehearsals and when they finally did today, the teacher had left and someone else he didn't know was in charge of feeding lines to those who couldn't remember them.

Poor kid. He really, really wants this to be a good, standout part for him because he's only been in musicals until now. He wants to show that he can do drama and be a character actor so that when he moves up to high school and begins the drama classes there, maybe he'll have an advantage of getting some of the bigger parts and learning more along the way. He's already decided that he's going to major in theatre when he goes to college. I'm trying to convince him to double-major in acting and technical theatre because there are tons of actors out there waiting for their big breaks but you can always put your technical skills to use even in a small theatre company.

We'll see how the rehearsals go for the rest of the week. Fortunately, he's acting with a lot of his friends (and girls that he likes but won't tell them, too). Even though he won't be onstage much, at least he'll have fun hanging out in the wings.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

100th Post!

I'm actually stunned I made it this far. If this were a television show, they'd have a big cake and a special episode. If this were a birthday, I'd get a letter from the Governor, Senators, and possibly even the President. If this were an anniversary, it would be covered on all channels, both cable and network, in one way or another.

On the other hand, I always knew I'd get this far. Yes, having ADD makes it difficult to keep myself focused and I can always find something else to do instead of sitting here and typing something. However, also having OCD makes me get up and type at least a little something every day because I can't stand the thought of having a date without a post. That just wouldn't be organized and I'd never forgive myself. Of course, if the reason were something I couldn't control -- severe illness, natural disaster, death -- then I could cope with it but would still be disappointed.

So, what have I done to make this event special? Nothing, really. I took a nice nap today. I did the special effects makeup for my friend again. I watched tonight's episode of Mythbusters where they tried square wheels on a truck. I think they needed a four-wheel drive truck, but no one asked me. The episode of Unchained Reaction (theme = flight) is boring....again. I don't really see the show going for another season, but there's already worse crap on TV so what do I know?

I'm looking forward to watching the National Geographic special with James Cameron about the Titanic. Yes, I know it's the 100th anniversary of the sinking. Yes, I know the movie was hideously long and all you really needed was the last third of the movie where the ship hits the iceberg and the sinking. There was a Broadway musical made about Titanic and I've never seen it. I don't think I will either because I can't imagine what the songs would be. "Glub, Glub, Glub! This water is cold!" or "Are You Getting My SOS?" Even Cameron said that his pitch for the movie was "Titanic plus Romeo and Juliet." I don't remember teenage suicide in Titanic but if you're going to try to cram a love story into a disaster, it's better to go big or go home.

Time to plant myself in front of the television and become one with the couch. Let me rephrase that -- become one with the loveseat. The couch has already claimed its first victim of the night. Better poke Husband so I'll be able to hear the show without having it turned-up so much that it annoys the neighbors across town.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Curse of the couch

Not much happened here today. Youngest Son went to work on his school's play which will be showing next weekend. Husband and I actually got to have lunch together. The star of our community theatre production came by the house for some special effects makeup work for his church's Easter pageant (will be back in the morning for more). Sat and watched A Bugs Life and Cars with the family.

Well, sort of. I sat and watched A Bug's Life and Cars. Youngest Son fell asleep on the couch and I had to send him off to bed. Husband decided to take his spot ("Because it's warm there" was his reason) and promptly fell asleep. I kept having to wake him up so he could watch the parts he likes in the movie. There must be something in the cushions of the couch that affects males because both Youngest Son and Husband will fall asleep there regardless of how much sleep they got the night before or what they've been doing during the day.

I usually sit on the loveseat because it's closer to the television and there's just enough room to stretch-out a bit (it helps when you're short). I let the guys argue over who will sit in the chair or fall asleep on the couch. At times when I sit in the chair so I can work on my laptop, they'll each take either the loveseat or the couch -- and invariably one or both (usually Husband first) will fall asleep. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't snore loudly. Even the dogs are often awakened from their sleep by the noise, which is odd because even the dogs snore around here.

It's late and I've got to get this posted so I won't miss my personal deadline of posting every day. Maybe I'll go to bed early. Maybe I'll stay up and watch television. Maybe I'll get some sleep in-between everyone else's snoring.

Oh, and what they say about me snoring....I've never heard myself snore so I can neither confirm or deny whether it happens or not.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mediocre Friday

Another short post this week. If you're a Christian, today is Good Friday. If you're Jewish, this is the first day of Passover. There may be other religions that have something special on this day but since they're not part of "The Big Three" (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) they don't make it onto the mass-marketed calendars.

I'm not celebrating anything. Over my many years I've fluctuated from being borderline evangelical and wanting to start my own "crusades" to highly agnostic and informing others that even though I believe in a god (or God or G-d, depending on your preference), it's got way too many other things to deal with at the moment instead of my petty issues. And I don't prescribe a "He" or "She" to the spiritual being represented because there's no way for anyone to know absolutely, positively for sure. I'm pretty sure he/she/it is too busy for a chromosomal scan for Xs and Ys. I done religious studies in many different areas and have dabbled in pagan practices as well. Just to confuse others more, when accosted by those demanding to know my religion (mostly so they could tell me how much better theirs was than mine), I used to tell them I was a Reformed Druid. That always put them back a step or two. If they asked what was the difference, I replied that Druids pray to trees and Reformed Druids pray to bushes. It was easy to get them to leave me alone after that.

And before anyone begins to castigate me because of what I'm posting, I'm not saying religion is bad. I'm not saying that it's good either. That's not for me to decide. For many it's what holds their life together. For others it's what has torn their entire world apart. The things done for and in the name of religion or a specific deity over the centuries is just embarrassing. Religion has a time and a place and after seeing a lot of good and bad examples from several types of them I find that "organized religion" -- the type where you're basically required to attend and mumble things on a specific day of the week towards the sky or an icon or just in some random fashion -- is not for me. In America we have freedom of religion and I'm free to get my spiritual adoration on however I see fit so long as it doesn't impede others in their search of religious freedom.

So I wish everyone a happy and safe whatever it is you're celebrating (or not) today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In for a penny, in for a pound

Yup, I'm back on the "crusade for answers" again. Can't help myself. I see and hear others who feel the exact same way I do and there's got to be something, anything that we can get as an explanation so that those of us who've lost our jobs (many after long employments) don't feel like we've been kicked to the curb because we don't fit the ideal of a "nimble organization." And I see others who've kept their positions basically saying "Tough crap!" to those of us unlucky enough to fit in whatever arbitrary mold was used to select the "keepers" from the "losers." Even one person said, "If we want to fire you, we don't need a reason because the regulation says we can release you at any time for no reason whatsoever." That's a nice slap in the face to everyone who loved doing their jobs, did them very well, and enjoyed helping others while spending months away from home, family, and friends in austere conditions and are now basically told to "Get lost!"

What did I do today, you may well be asking. Today I got tired of waiting for the EEO representative to answer my email (he'd marked that he'd read it but I don't know if he really had or not) and no answers at the phone number I was given to contact the same person. So, I figured if I can't go any farther up in the organization, I might as well contact those who help fund the organization and see what they have to say or can find out for me. Yup, I contacted my Congressional Representative and the two Senators from my state. I sent them all the exact same letter explaining what's happened, the responses I've been given, and why I feel that I (and others, though I cannot speak for them) have been treated unfairly by the organization or, if not the organization as a whole, at least by the Region for which we used to work.

Do I expect much to come from this? Not really. Well, the biggest wish would be to watch all of the people who work in the Congressional Liaison Offices going batty because of an employee who has a better understanding of Equal Rights than they thought bringing in the "big guns" but that's not going to happen. They hate it when Congressional inquiries are made on behalf of constituents who feel they've been wronged. And, with it being an election year, many Representatives and Senators will be more willing to help those they represent in the hopes of gaining votes. And since I'm no longer an employee, I have every right to contact whomever I want. I "stayed in my lane" as long as I could. Now I'll do it my way.

Like the title of this post, if I'm going in for a penny I might as well go in for a pound. They've taken their pound of flesh over the years and I knew that they'd never pay back all that I've given. I'm tired of playing it safe and sitting along the sidelines hoping to remain under the radar to keep a job that I love because I could help others in their times of need and would certainly hope that there would be someone there for me if I were in the same position. I'll find a way to continue to help others somewhere down the road. Whether it's with this agency or another remains to be seen. But I'm just not going to sit and "take it" anymore.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A little fall of rain

Today's post is going to be short because it's finally raining here and I'm taking some time to enjoy watching the birds looking for something to eat in the freshly mown grass. They were doing that after it was mowed yesterday, but the rain has brought up a lot of treats for them.

And I also just got back from my therapist's office and still feel in a funk about everything that's going on at the moment. She suggested that I go back to school. "And do what?" I asked her. I have a bachelor's degree and most of a master's, but I can't afford any more student loans. There aren't many grants/scholarships for second bachelor's (which I'd need to really do what I wanted). Plus, if I had the money to go back to school I'd have the money to open my own business and that sort of makes the whole conversation moot.

So for now I'm going to sit and watch the birds outside. It's quiet and the rain isn't falling hard, so it makes it cooler outside but not so unpleasant that you're terrified of going out in it. Well, I'm not terrified of going out in it but you'd think the dogs -- who will romp and roll in anything -- believe it's poisonous. They keep looking at me when I open the door for them to go "walkies" as if I've completely lost my mind.

They may be right. But they still have to do their business out there.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Going a little farther on my quest....

After I published my post "Let's see what this gets me...." I received mixed reviews regarding what I had done. Some people said that I was a crusader for those who'd been wronged. Others said I was wasting my time and burning bridges. I don't think of myself as a crusader. I'm trying to get my own answers but if I do find out something that can help others, I'm more than willing to share the information. I'm not overly concerned with burning bridges since I'd worked long hours in hard conditions to make my bridges sturdy and I feel it's my now former employer who came behind me, knocked them town, built them back with gas-soaked logs and then left an open flame nearby.

So, I waited over the weekend for a response from the gentleman I'd emailed in the previously mentioned post. I received nothing. I waited during the day yesterday as I listened to the horrendous noise coming from Stupid Neighbors' driveway (see yesterday's post for more information) and still received nothing. I finally found the name of the person in charge of the entire Equal Rights Office at headquarters and sent her a letter along with a copy of the letter I'd sent to the other ERO officer to see if I could receive any clarification regarding the information I'd received to date as well as to share additional information that I'd been receiving. Within two hours, I received an email from the original ERO officer I'd attempted to contact. Here is what I received (edited for privacy):
I want to assure you that [Federal Agency Acronym Here] provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. I have seen no indication that you received this notification because of your request to have a service animal in the workplace.

My best guidance would be to talk to your Cadre manager about the notification.

Should you wish to request EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Counseling, you may contact [Name] here in the Office of Equal Rights for the assignment of an EEO Counselor. [Name] can be reached at [telephone number and email address].

For your information, I am providing you with the EEO Flier, “Your Right to Equal Opportunity.” The Flier explains the EEO Complaint process, and your rights and the time limits for exercising those rights. If you intend to request EEO Counseling, please contact [Name] as soon as possible.
It wasn't quite what I was looking for but it also wasn't the same stock answer I'd received in the past. Now that I was beginning to receive messages from others who had been non-reappointed that also have disabilities and messages from others who knew persons who had been non-reappointed without a clue as to why their years of service would suddenly be stopped, I figured why not try to see this out to the end.

So, I contacted the person that was mentioned in the email I'd received. Here is what I sent (edited for privacy):
I have been referred to you by [Name] due to my suspicion that I and other DAEs who are not being reappointed at this time might be because we have disabilities on-file with our Cadres, Regions, and Headquarters.

I've attached the original email that I sent to [Name] and his reply referring me to you at the bottom of this letter. At the time I originally wrote [Name], I felt that I was the only one who had received a non-reappointment letter and wondered if it was because I now utilize a service dog to assist me to do my work and be able to deploy. I have been contacted by another DAE who also has a disability who was not reappointed to their position as well. This person does not utilize a service animal or adaptive equipment, but we both found it quite odd that after filing our requests for reasonable accommodation, the next reappointment period ending resulted in both of us not retaining our positions after approximately 8 years of service. I have been contacted through social media by others who have suspected or believe the same thing, but they have not confirmed with me any information and I therefore cannot speak for them. I am only addressing this for myself at this time.

[Name] stated in his reply that I should speak with my Cadre manger. He must not have read the paragraphs where I did attempt to contact both [Names and Titles], and was only responded to by [Name] with a "stock answer" paragraph, included in the letter below. When I asked additional questions, I was only given the same paragraph as a response -- implying that I would receive no other information than what had just been given to me.

I understand the "at-will" hiring and retainment process and I understand through 8600.1 that [Federal Agency Acronym Here] does not have to provide a reason for dismissal to DAEs. But with the questions I have raised and the fact that I am in two protected classes (over-40, disabled), I would believe that it would be in the best interest of [Federal Agency Acronym Here] to provide a reason why I would not be reappointed. That's what I was originally looking for because if I attempt to apply for another job and they ask "Why were you released from your previous position?" and I have no answer to give, that usually makes them suspect that I had done something wrong. When every performance evaluation I received was excellent and gave nothing but praise, I find it hard to believe that I did something wrong that wouldn't have been previously addressed with me before deciding to end my employment.

Any information or insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated. I really did not believe after working for so long in the Region and with two different Cadres that always gave me high praise and requested me by name for specific assignments that I would be having to come to ERO for guidance regarding my suspicions of discrimination.

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I have not yet heard anything today, but I have received more messages of support and disgust at my attempts for a simple answer. Even though I'd resubmitted my resumé prior to going on my "quest" (as some have put it), it's never been about getting my job back. If they offered it back to me, I'd have to really consider the terms and conditions before I'd take it. If they didn't offer it to me, I'd have lost nothing else but the time spent looking for answers. If they offered me another position in another Cadre, again I'd really have to consider the terms and conditions before I could consider accepting it.

I'm just trying to save my good name and reputation. After many years working with the same organization, it's unusual when someone is suddenly not retained in that position without good cause. I just want to make sure that there is a good cause and not an attempt to circumvent the law by stating that "a more nimble organization" is desired and those of us who aren't as "nimble" (whatever that means) are now considered worthless. They could have said that "cutbacks were needed, your job performance was excellent and letters of referral would be available upon request." Or they could have been honest and said the negative reasons why someone wasn't being kept so that they could make adjustments in any future employment endeavors. That kind of thing happens in many organizations where these economic times have required valuable employees to be released. Instead, those of us who were not reappointed were basically told that we didn't matter anymore. We weren't "good enough" to be picked to play on the playground with the rest and we weren't "worthy" of a reason why.

I don't know where this next round will lead or if anything will come about because of it. But the small part of me that has spent many years advocating for others has reawakened and has decided that I'm worth advocating for as well. Will this all work? Or will it all just blow-up in my face? I don't know, and I don't care. My self-worth is worth fighting for and I'm tired of people expecting me to just slink away quietly. Now it's my turn to be heard.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I almost feel sorry for this guy....

In the continuing story of the property/fence/boundary line argument between Stupid Neighbors (I figured by now I should just give them that as their pseudonym) and my family, they finally have gotten the hint that we're serious about having what they placed on our property removed. First it was their kid's tree, which was moved last night. Today, it's the 200-foot by 2-foot strip of concrete that is part of their driveway/patio they installed without having permits or a survey completed. I tried to warn them that they were over the property line but they just wouldn't listen.

So now they've hired someone to come and remove that strip because we told them we want it gone and we're even considering adding another fence along the property line to keep them, their pets, and their kids' junk out of our yard. We've tried being nice but they're the type of neighbors that if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

This morning after I'd taken my medication and had drifted back to sleep from their side effects, I was rudely awakened by a horrible screeching noise which was quickly followed by both of the dogs trying to get my attention and lead me to the door to look outside. There, in Stupid Neighbors' driveway, was a pickup truck and three guys. One of them had a hand-held cement saw and the others were watching him. This was not the water-cooled type of cement saw that works effectively on construction sites. What he had was the type you'd use to remove maybe an inch of cement quickly without the blade overheating. It took over two hours for him (and his buddies who kept refilling the gas tank on it) to cut a line along the boundary cord we'd stretched between the survey pins and additional cuts along the side to make the slab easier to remove.

Here's something you need to know about that slab. Not only is what they need to remove 200-feet by 2-feet, but it's also between 3 and 5 inches thick depending on where they're cutting. The person they hired to lay the concrete just used a Bobcat to quickly dig-up a pad for the framework and it wasn't completely level across all areas. This poor guy holding the heavy saw -- which, by the way, is not making quick progress through the cement -- is having to cut and recut until he reaches the ground underneath. He's lucky that Stupid Neighbors didn't put a wire grid or rebar in the slab or it would have taken even longer or broken his saw.

After all of the cuts were made, the same guy whacked at the slab with a soft-headed sledgehammer (I have no idea why) three or four times and then packed-up all of the equipment and left. I figured by now he had realized that he needed heavier and proper equipment in order to easily remove the massive amount of cement/concrete/whatever that is over there.

Nope. He has returned, three hours later, with a heavier sledgehammer and a crowbar. Not a long prybar that you would use in moving slabs of concrete, but a typical crowbar that you might use in small construction projects. And he's whacking the slab with the sledgehammer and then using the crowbar to pry away small chunks of concrete.

You have to understand that I've never worked professionally in construction but I have assisted in building items for local organizations as well as studying construction theory before working in technical theatre so that I could build safe and sturdy set pieces. And I can't imagine that this person believes that his way of trying to remove this amount of concrete will be effective, especially if he's supposed to be a professional. Maybe he came in as the lowest bidder (if they even bothered to get estimates on this project), and I could certainly see why he would be if this is the way he's going to get it done.

Whereas before my house was filled with the screeching sound of a wheel slowly working its way into the cement, now it's filled with the deep "THUD" that comes from each swing of the sledgehammer and an occasional "DING" when he drops the crowbar onto the slab. I don't think he's realized that you get better purchase and that momentum will work best in your favor trying to break concrete if you stand up while swinging the sledgehammer, but I'm not going to tell him how to do his job. As long as he gets it done, removes the debris, and fixes the yard where the slab is currently, then I'll be happy. It can take him all day (or two or three) to get it done; I'm not paying for it. And it's cheap entertainment for the dogs to watch him and growl at others who come by to see what he's doing.

I'd feel sorry for him, but if he chooses to work harder instead of smarter, that's none of my business.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No, it's not an April fool -- Get rid of your tree!

I'm pretty sure we won't be receiving any holiday cards from our stupid neighbors any time soon. Or ever. Last weekend they promised the concrete our or side of the property line and their bratty youngest kid's tree would be moved. As we suspected, it didn't happen.

So, when Husband went out and confronted Mr. Stupid Neighbor about it this afternoon, Mr. Stupid Neighbor said that it wasn't his fault that the contractor didn't come to meet with them -- while they were away on a day trip to a local tourist location. Husband told him that the tree at least had to go today and even loaned him a shovel with which to move it.

Mr. Stupid Neighbor got upset but took the shovel and dug-up the tree. He even filled-in the hole that was left in our yard where it had been. That surprised us all. I figured he'd leave the gaping hole just to try to get back at us for being right all along about the property lines.

Now the gentleman who mows our lawn doesn't have to worry about running it over next time. And Mr. Stupid Neighbor has learned that if he makes a deal with us, we expect it to be upheld unless we're told about any mitigating circumstances before the deadline.

We're no fools -- and the neighbors are learning that the hard way.