Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What you leave behind

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve gotten involved with a mentoring group here at work. Our CEO is leading it, and he started off by explaining that this group, this process, is not something that you just add on to your day. It means that for you, some things will have to go. So I started thinking about what has to go
-Watching the monologue and sketches for Conan O’Brian. Really, I only like his interviews.
-Playing computer games for more than an hour at a time
-Watching TV shows that I’ve already seen before (sorry, Fraggle Rock)
-I’d like to rearrange my schedule to give me more “work from home” days to save me the hour and a half commute time. That’s definitely something I can give up.

But while these are good starting places (and may make you shake your head that these are things I do now), I don’t know what else will go. I love doing roller derby. I love gardening. I love spending time with my partner and my friends. I like joining interesting committees at work that have little to do with my job description. I like watching sitcoms. But these might just be the things I have to let go.

I’m excited about where this growth process will take me, but I’m scared of what I may leave behind.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Leggings and a tennis skirt

For our internal campaign to raise fund for United Way this year, a friend and I bought a kayaking tour of beautiful Belle Isle in downtown Detroit, guided by another coworker. The three of us compared schedules and found that there was only one day in September that worked for all of us, a Sunday afternoon, which for me meant going straight from derby to kayaking. This seemed fine to me. I’d get a good workout in for my legs and then a good workout for my arms. Fantastic.

All I needed to do was bring a change of clothes for Kayaking and I’d be good to go straight from practice out on to the water.

All I needed to do was bring a change of clothes.

That’s all I needed to do.

And I failed.

So I ended up kayaking in by derby clothes—and old tank top with my sports bra hanging out of it, black leggings with bedazzled stars and a tennis skirt.

It gets better. After we finished kayaking, we went for dinner at the Detroit Yacht Club. And to be classy, I threw on a smelly sweatshirt.

This is why I can’t have nice things.

Monday, September 26, 2011


As referenced in a really old blog post—walk with the scientists—Brian’s department holds a retreat at the beginning of each year. It’s a time to get to know the new students and have some fun away from campus. The retreat used to be held all the way out at the biostation, several hours north, where most of the department does their field research. Bri’s professor (Trisha) had long lobbied that as an evolutionary biologist, she would not attend such a thing because a) non ecologists do not want to give up their whole weekend to tramps around in the woods with ecologists and b)she doesn’t do field work, and thus has no desire to go to the biostation. To appease her (and appear as if they had a unified department), the Ecologists compromised and will be holding the retreat near Ann Arbor every other year.

This means that when the retreat is in town, Trisha and Brian are obligated to go. Which makes me obligated to go. So we went. And it sucked. We joined a group touring a “fen”, which, as we learned after we were at the site and had no way to leave, was just another word for swamp. At one point, our tour guide decided to take the group into the swamp. Brian and I did not bring our waders, and so said we’d wait behind. The department chair assured us they’d be back in 5 minutes, and disappeared for an hour as we swatted at mosquitoes and talked about how much we hate ecologists. And texted the absent Trisha things like “your baby better have pink eye.”

Turns out, she had an even better reason for not attending. The night before, she was sitting around the house when she heard what sounded like fireworks outside. She ignored it until her husband called and instructed her to get the baby and get away from the windows. Her husband was a few blocks away at a police roadblock, being kept out of the neighborhood because one of their neighbors, who just so happens to be a big game hunter (he has a taxidermied elephant in his house!), had some sort of a mental breakdown and informed his neighbor (also a big game hunter with a taxidermied giraffe in his house) that they needed to prepare for the Zombies. Yes, the Zombiepocalypse was happening in Michigan. He then proceeded to shoot at what one can only assume were zombies and accidentally blow up his fuel tank during the process.

Trisha said they were up until 3am dealing with the police and such, and we all agreed it was a good reason to miss a boring retreat.

Friday, September 23, 2011


“Do you have a minute?” “Not really—“ “This will just be a second” *scary ushering into conference room, close door* “I’m promoting you.”

Awesome. Pinnacle of awesome. I want to make working for United Ways my career and apparently United Way loves me back and wants to be my career too. Great. Love it.

One catch to the awesomeness—she has to do some paperwork and send out an email to the whole org before I can tell anyone.
No worries, I’m a patient woman. I can wait all day. Or all month. Or a month and a half. Or two months and six days (not that I’m counting).

One way or another, this is now the blog of a United Way Basic Needs Specialist.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Soup, anyone?

The other day, Brian and I were at the co-op to buy some mulling spices. That unfortunately was an epic fail, as the co-op staff looked at me like mulling spices must be some sort of evil creation previously unknown to man and certainly never stocked on their shelves. Meh.

But, I did pause to look at the food that was on sale for super cheap because it was at the point of no return for expiration dates. There was a yummy looking red substance in a salsa jar that was only $1. $1 for presumably gourmet salsa. Delicious, no?

I came home the next day and decided it was salsa time. Brian had already eaten the salsa and claimed it to be “weak.” Since I like my salsa weak, this sounded good.
It tasted bad. Like marinara sauce.

I tried chopping up some cilantro to give it more of a salsa taste, but then it just tasted like marinara and cilantro.

After the two of us had consumed nearly half the container, I realized that despite being in a glass jar with a screw on metal top…this was tomato basil soup.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Confrontation

I’m quite a bit behind on my blogs, so I’m writing out a bunch now and will hopefully post them over the course of several days, instead of all at once and creating blog overload.

So here’s the first one: The Confrontation

I’m not really good with confrontation (despite it being my favorite Les Mis song). I would 100% rather have someone say things about me behind my back than to my face. Confronting someone directly makes me nauseous to enact. I can daydream about all the eloquent ways I would tell them what their problems are, but actually doing it just aint gonna happen. I’ll water it down and make it friendly by the end when all I really want to do is tell someone I don’t like them, don’t like their work ethic and would rather not interact with them anymore.

But a thousand times worse is when someone confronts me. I don’t think there’s a way to confront someone that doesn’t come across as mean and puts people’s backs up against a wall. And since one of my strengths is about reducing conflict, I hate it when it crops up for me.

The other day, I had a coworker confront me via email first thing in the morning. There was some miscommunication over tone (which is common in emails), some heated emotions because of external stressors, and some very angry seeming emails sent to me. I tried to be polite, explain the miscommunications and misinterpretations and generally be pleasant back. Things were resolved, a halfhearted apology was given. But now, I’m really not sure how I can continue to work well with this person.

I feel frustrated that they assumed the worst of my emails. I feel angry that they responded to me in what I feel was a disrespecting manner. I resent that that this person ruined a perfectly good day of mine because they were flustered and decided to take it out on me. And I worry that they are going to do it again. This person isn’t a confrontation avoider, or even one that will be gentle in their confrontations. They will throw it at you head on, in all the ways I dislike. I’m having a hard time getting past these feelings and envision any good future working relationship.

The part of me that talks big visualizes a whole confrontation of my own, where I remind the coworker that I’ve created several useful documents that highlight our team strengths and show that conflict is not a good way to work with me. I explain that I was upset too by their tone and wish that they would just assume the best of me in the future, rather than the worst.

But, I’ll most likely never mention it or laugh it off if they do and act like it’s not a big deal, while silently composing blog posts about how frustrating it all is to myself.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

No senior discount for you

I might be wrong, but I'm starting to get the feeling that part of the struggle folks are facing in Detroit is rooted in a mentality about what your time in the workforce is like. Today someone told me, very earnestly, that people aren't able to retire at 62 anymore (long pause for dramatic effect). I had another coworker refer to herself as a senior because she's over 50.

Maybe its because I'm so much younger, and have grown up expecting to live to my 80s. Maybe its because most people I've known worked white collar jobs that don't hurt your body so badly that by the time you hit 50 you can feel it in every joint and bone--but I've always expected to be working until at least 65. My parents anticipated doing that. Momma is talking about going down to part time after she turns 65 this year. Grandpa went into retirement and came out a few times until he was truly bored with working. Maybe its just that my generation keeps being told that there's no way social security will let us retire at 65.

I'm aware that there are real issues at hand. Reduction in benefits, rising costs of living, and lack of community support are just the starting point. But after this morning, I can't help wonder if part of the reason that Detroit's mature workers feel they are in such a crisis, and so put-upon is because they expected to retire in their mid-50s? Hearing that you need to work until your 70s when you expected to have spent 15 years of relaxation can't be easy.

Its got me thinking that maybe we need to begin the change process here by redefining a "senior".