Sunday, February 28, 2010

The future's so bright...or maybe it's just Florida sun

The weight has been lifted. It's another time of uncertainty in my life...which is compounded by external environmental factors (hello, Mr. 10% Unemployment), but I am not worried. I am not mired with pangs of self-doubt while continually berating myself with "Did you do the right thing? Did you?"

For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful. I feel free to dream, to explore, to really consider all the possibilities. I find myself being more spontaneous (such as when my in-laws said a week ago, "Hey, we're driving to Florida the day after your last day...wanna come?" and I said, without a second of thought - or maybe quickly enough to keep myself from having second thoughts - "Yes!"). Zoe and I are, as I type, comfortably ensconsed in a tricked-out Honda Accord hurtling towards Boynton Beach (home of the utterly fantastic Uncle Marty and Aunt Dee).

I hadn't planned on doing much computer work this week, but Dad brought his laptop that has an air card, so here I am, a mobile blogger. I have reached new levels of nerdiness in my newfound freedom.

The big questions from people at work were, "Where are you going?" (I don't know.) and "What are you going to do?" (I don't know.) I have some freelance jobs lined up, so I'll have some money trickling in. I'll be able to collect unemployment. In the meantime, I have dreams of finally getting the house cleaned up, going on every single fieldtrip with Zozer, working out as long as I like every day (instead of cramming in 30 minutes and then rushing home to get ready for work), and making photographs. I am actively seeking a "real" job and have a variety of resumes out to a plethora of potential employers for some pretty cool positions. We'll see what turns up. Several people have asked me, "What kind of job do you want?" Shoot, at this point I just want to work for a good company that values its employees and allows them to actually use their brains.

I am very sad to leave an amazing group of people at my old job. They sustained me there much longer than had they not been around. They sent me off with a helluva happy hour (invitation-only) Friday night, and I wish there was some way to tell them all how much they mean to me. I am fortunate to now count them as friends, not merely as colleagues, and will keep them as such the rest of my life. M came to the happy hour, too, and I think had a great time. People would drift over to our tables, "Is it someone's birthday?" He had a blast answering questions, building them up to great dramatic effect. "Nope. She's celebrating. She got fired and today was her last day on the job." "She got fired and she's that happy?" "Yeah, it was that bad. And...her aunt fired her." And then he'd point to my former colleagues, "And these poor people have to go back!" and they would nod dolefully.

In the meantime, I look forward to being able to talk to my old friends without having the spectre of a truly shitty job hanging over everything. "How are you?" "Well, I'd be great if I weren't working in a soul-sucking cesspool. You?"

However, there is much more to look forward to, than looking back. I have this week in Florida, then I come back for a week where I tackle my first freelance job (billing out at $75/hour thankyouverymuch). Then on Friday I hop a train to go see my awesome friend Val in Chicago for a weekend of shooting, good wine, and great food. Yeah, not so much missing the steady-job thing in the near future.

Right now, this very second, I am enjoying a beautiful sunset marked by the outline of palm trees. It is about 60 degrees outside. My daughter is reading books in the backseat with her grandmother, and I'm trading jokes with my father-in-law. Brother-in-law is passed out in the backseat, or he'd be joining in (it's already been a trip stuffed to the gills with giggles). M could not come...too late for him to take time off (plus I think he secretly cherishes the idea of a whole week at home alone...sans do as he pleases). Before we left, Zoe and I had this conversation:

Zoe: Is Daddy going with us to Florida?
Me: No, sweetie. He has to stay home and go to work.
Zoe: Okay. We'll call him from Florida.
Me: Sure. We can call him from Florida.
Zoe: And if he doesn't answer, we will leave him a voicemail.

Good to know that, at 4.5, she's already got it all figured out.

Here's to a great (warm!) week! I'll try to update more later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The bigger things

I think it's amazing how when your life seems to be crumbling around you, something happens that snaps everything into a sharp relief where it's so incredibly easy to see what's really important.

I woke up Saturday morning to a Facebook friend request in my mailbox. From my brother. Who I haven't seen in 6 years. My hand shook as I moused over and clicked the link, and then I cried as I read the message he sent.

Sunday night, my father had both of us, and our spouses (and Zozer of course!) over to his house for dinner. I think I about tackled them when they walked in the door. The next five hours were spent talking and catching up and laughing. There was a lot of laughing. One of the things I missed most about my brother was his sense of humor. He still has it, and if anything, it's gotten even better over the last 6 years. Although 6 years is a long time, it felt like we just picked up right where we left off. Only we look a little older and Christina, my sister-in-law, had a belly full of baby and my preschooler danced and sang and played before we tucked her into bed. It was heaven, and I collapsed into bed at 1:30 exhausted and happy.

Yesterday morning my father called. Christina's water broke at 7 a.m. and they were headed to the hospital. Talk about timing! At 12:08 p.m. Stella Vie came into this world, perfect and healthy. We went to the hospital last night and I was able to hold my new niece in my arms. It was hard to contain my emotions. (And really, is that name not the shit? First my cousin on M's side gave us Jane Isabella, and now we have Stella Vie. I am related to some seriously kick-ass baby namers.)

I almost cannot comprehend the serendipity of getting back my brother and sister-in-law, and less than 24 hours later gaining a niece.

So, welcome to our little family, Stella. I can't wait to watch you grow up!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hoot speaks out

Last week, for Valentine's Day, Zozer's class had a Teddy Bear Tea Party. Each child in the Bunny Room was instructed to bring a teddy bear for the tea party. M and I got the note from her teachers and eyed each other warily. "Can Hoot go?" Zo, as you know, is not a traditional teddy bear kind of girl. She much prefers owls. "I dunno," I told M, "I'll ask tomorrow." I asked the teachers and they glanced at each other and replied, "Well, we guess so, but it's really supposed to be teddy bears." Oh, for the love of Pete.

So the night before the party I collected all bears from Zoe's stuffed animal collection and made what in hindsight resembled a furry police line-up. She walked up and down the line, looking carefully. Finally she chose a small white bear that sports a blue sweater with a smiley face. We took him in the next day (with Hoot, of course, who spends all time except for nap time in her cubby) and all was well.

Apparently not. I received a distressed call from Hoot that afternoon. Apparently he receives decent cell reception in the cubby. He had witnessed the Teddy Bear Tea Party and was understandably upset at his exclusion. He had composed a letter and asked me to type it and deliver it to Zoe's teachers, which I did. It is as follows:

Dear Ms. Shari and Ms. Carrie,

Unfortunately, I feel compelled to bring a disturbing issue to your attention. It occurred to me today, whilst in the confines of Zoe’s cubby, that rampant discrimination is taking place in the Bunny room. Only teddy bears were invited to the tea party today, and I must raise my owly voice in protest. I must hoot for what is right.

You have no idea what I go through on a daily basis. I am jerked about, cried on, squished, forgotten, smashed and have even been the target of vomit. My wings are yanked, and I’m regularly held by only one (which is highly uncomfortable). I sleep with Zoe, which typically means I sleep under Zoe and am sometimes drooled upon.

I attend school every day with her, and stay home with her when she’s sick. I go to the doctor with her, and all family functions. I sit on Santa’s lap, and the Easter Bunny’s. (Next year I plan to lobby for an owl to be the international mascot of a major holiday…if the groundhog gets one, why shouldn’t I?) I sit in a steamy bathroom for every single bath, and am typically targeted with the blow dryer when she is. I am her near-constant companion, and I go the extra mile for that kid…one look at my current physical condition is proof. I should get hazard duty pay.

And yet, I was banned from the tea party today. Owls need love, too, you know. I had to sit in the cubby and listen while that stupid bear with the smiley face sweater (who is years old and still looks in perfect condition, a testament to the cushy life he leads) enjoyed a lovely day out.

It is simply not fair. I realize that nothing can be done now, as the party is already over. I speak out in the hopes that owls in the future will be allowed to attend social events in the Bunny room.


Hoot G. Zlatic
President, National Association for the Advancement of Owls

Unfortunately, Hoot's letter did not produce the reaction he desired, which was a formal apology and a promise to include owls in future events. Nope. The teachers cracked up laughing and shared it with all the other teachers at the school, and the principals. Poor Hoot. That owl just can't catch a break.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Will work for mochas

Sometimes the shit hits the fan, and all you can do is duck and defend yourself. Which is exactly what I did on Friday resulting in yours truly getting shitcanned from her job.

Now, before you go and get all sappy and worried and send me e-mails saying, "Are you okay?" know this: I am fine. I mean it. I am happy to have a resolution to a terrible work situation that has been growing progressively worse for months. Yes, I do realize unemployment is hovering around 10% right now. Yes, I do realize I'm competing against a gajillion other MBAs looking for work. But yes, I am confident that our frugal lifestyle will ensure our economic stability until I find something else, and I'm very grateful for the sound mental state that will be sure to return after I am finally gone (I have two weeks of my sentence left).

In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open for anything marketing-related. Folks have been asking me what I'd like to do. My answer: "Anything where I can actually use my brain." I would like to work for a company that values its employees, and preferably where the dress code does not stipulate solid neutrals. I'm sick of solid neutrals. I'm really not picky, and I don't feel as though I'm asking too much. Oh yeah, and I'd like to actually get paid what I'm worth, which is a shitload more than what I'm making now (another reason I'm not too upset to be leaving).

By the way, should you like to know the details of last Friday, well, that'll take some beer. You get me some cold Bud Select and I'll sit down and spell out the whole sordid mess for you. Suffice it to say that I've had enough family drama to last me the rest of my life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Family Portrait

Lately Zoe likes to point out groupings of three and label them, "Mommy, Daddy and Zoe." Trees. Cylinders in the fountain at Great Grandma's nursing home. Stuffed animals. If there are three of something, they immediately get labeled. She's been thinking a lot about her little family.

Most days when I pick her up, there is artwork in her cubby. It's been pretty neat to watch her art progress, and my second favorite part of the day is seeing what she created (the most favorite part being the hug when I arrive to pick her up). Yesterday, I found this waiting for me in her cubby:Uh oh. I got a little nervous. I mean, there are three distinct sizes on there, and let's just say that Fathead down there at the bottom isn't the most flattering portrayal of anyone. Part of me didn't want to ask, but I figured it would come out sooner or later. I did and didn't want to know how my daughter views me. Curiosity overcame fear. I tried to be nonchalant. "Hey, Zo. This is pretty cool. Who are they?"

Huge, huge sigh of relief when she pointed to Fathead: "That's Daddy!" I think those are supposed to be his ears there, under his arms, but I'm not sure. I didn't have a chance to ask because then she moved on to what she considered the only flaw in her art. "I forgot to draw arms and legs for myself."

I love that four-year-olds' drawings of people never, ever have torsos. We all just have arms and legs that sprout right out from our heads. Every single one of Zoe's friends draw like this. Well, except some of them forget to draw arms at all and there just two long, spindly legs that descend from the head in a jellyfish-like fashion. I'd rather have ears under my arms than no arms at all, so I consider us lucky.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Update on Express Scripts fiasco

I called Express Scripts back and voiced my complaint, and asked for overnight shipping. The woman was very nice but explained that scripts require 2-3 days to process, PLUS shipping. I replied, "So, because of errors on your company's part, I have to pay a lot of extra money?" She said, "It appears that you will have to get your prescription through a retail pharmacy." I went back to it, "Again, I have to pay a lot of money through no fault of my own. Do you understand where I'm coming from, and why I'm upset?" She finally said yes, that I was going to have to pay more money because of their mistakes, and then she said the magic words. "I'm putting a note in your file to give you a courtesy refund because of your inconvenience." Cha-ching. Thank you!

Then, for the second time today, I was asked if I wanted to include my e-mail address in the database. "Uh, sure, but I just did that an hour ago." "My apologies, but it's not in here. Would you like to add it?" Sure, why not. You'll probably lose it again shortly anyway.

If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Express Scripts was a government organization.

Express Scripts SUCKS

Warning: Raging Vent Follows

Our health insurance changed at the beginning of the year, which wasn't unexpected and that's fine. We were notified that our prescriptions now have to be filled by Express Scripts, which is also fine. I like the convenience of my local Walgreens, but whatever. Insurance is insurance and it's cheaper to go that route, so I'm okay with it. Per the mailings we received, I went on-line and tried to set up my internet account. About half a dozen times. Something was messed up with their system, so I called the toll-free number on my insurance card. This is when I discovered the most jacked-up voice prompt system in the world.

Our insurance ID number has letters in it. For instance, it looks like XYZ123456789. The prompt system, of course, doesn't know what letters you're trying to type, so it instructs you to push the star button for the letters. This means you enter ***123456789. Then it says, "You entered the star button for the first letter. Push the number on your telephone keypad that corresponds to the letter you want to enter." In this case, I'd press 2. The system then says, "Press 1 for A, 2 for B, 3 for C." I have to do this three times, as there are three letters at the beginning of our ID number. Nice.

I finally get through all that and get to a person, who then asks for the all the information I just took two minutes to type into the system. Grrrrr. She admits that there's something wrong with the Express Scripts web site, which is why I couldn't set up my account on-line, and takes down all my information for my prescription. Okay, cool.

My prescription is now due, and I've heard nothing from Express Scripts. I called this morning to check. I go through voiceprompt hell again, and get a woman who says, "Ah, yes. We couldn't fill your prescription because your doctor's fax number is incorrect in our system." Um, okay. You never asked me for his fax number. You asked me for his phone number and I gave it to you, and that's all you said you needed. And if you needed his fax number, why didn't you a.) call me to tell me that or, better yet, b.) actually conduct GOOD customer service and call him yourself? She responds, "We gave you an automated call. It sounds like you didn't receive that." Yeah, no shit, Einstein.

So I had to hang up, wait for my doctor's office to open, call him and get the fax number, and then call back Express Scripts again to give it to them. No freakin' way was I wasting any more time on the damn voiceprompt system so I hit zero. I got a person who verified all my information, AGAIN, and then told me that he had to transfer me to a different department to handle the prescription/fax number issue. He transferred me, and I verified my information for the THIRD time this morning.

During the numerous times I was on-hold, I went to the Express Scripts web site to lodge a complaint via e-mail. The Contact Us page has several ways to communicate. I clicked on the link for members, and was instructed to log in, which I cannot do because I couldn't set up my account to begin with, so I went to a general submit form. I typed my complaint, which I'll give you here because I'm rather proud of the vitriol:

I AM AN EXTREMELY UNHAPPY CUSTOMER. When our insurance switched at the first of the year, I learned I MUST get my scripts from your company. Fine. I tried multiple times to set up my account on-line. Something was wrong with the site, which an employee confirmed later. I went through voiceprompt HELL just to get to a person, who then took all my information. That was a MONTH ago. I have had NO calls, NO notification at all, and NO medication. I finally called back, only to learn that my prescription cannot be filled b/c my doctor's fax number is incorrect in your system. I was never asked for his fax number, only his phone number. I never got notification that I needed to contact him to get his fax number, and I do NOT understand why one of YOUR employees couldn't pick up the phone and call the doctor as I was told would happen to start my prescription. Your company has now cost me MORE money b/c I have to get my prescription filled at a local pharmacy, PLUS the added aggravation of having to call my doctor, get his fax number, and call your asinine phone system back to give it to someone. This is NOT a great way to introduce a new customer to your company. Fix your web site, fix your phone system, and for Pete's sake, actually DO SOMETHING for your customer and make lives EASIER instead of harder.

As expected, I received an instant automatic response that I figured would say, "We've received your inquiry and are working on it." I opened the e-mail to find this message, "You have received an important delivery from questions at Express Scripts or one of its companies. Please pick up the mail message (package) at your earliest convenience by clicking this button:" I click on the link and it opens a new window that says...wait for it..."We've received your inquiry and are working on it."

Let me get this straight. You sent me an e-mail that directed me to a new Web site just to say "We're working on it." You couldn't put that in the original e-mail? Really? I mean, how difficult can you people possibly make it for your customers to do business with you?

So, here I am, one month into my new relationship with Express Scripts, and I'm so pissed I could scream. And I still don't have my medication and now have to pay more money to get it at a local pharmacy.

No, you know what? I'm not doin' it. I'm callin' 'em back and demanding they send my script out overnight at no extra charge to me. F***ers.

OMG, I've become one of those customers I hate.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

90-year-old names

Sunday we went to the nursing home to visit M's grandma, who turned 92. We took her flowers that were buds when selected from the florist's fridge and were quickly blooming in the heat of the nursing home. Why are nursing homes about 90 degrees inside?

I always make it a point to look at the nametags on the doors as we walk through. I love the names. They are little old lady names (not many men...we women live longer, you know) and they tickle me. I wish they'd come back in style. I can never remember them on my own, so during our last visit I did some stealth shooting and captured them electronically. (Props to my friend Val who encouraged me to overcome my fear of nursing home cops who might take offense to anyone photographing anything in a nursing home.)

Here is my catch. Nothing great photographically speaking, but that's not why I did it. Here's to Frieda, Edna, Lois, Mabel and two Bernices. I'm sorry to admit that my Thelma and Viola shots were too blurry to post. Those are fantastic names! Zoe has a Selma in her class, which is close to Thelma. I get a kick every time I see Selma's name, and told her mom the other day that I thought it was really cool. "Thanks," she said, "She's named after her great grandmother." Well, duh. Selma/Thelma and the rest are all 90-year-old names. I went to high school with a Bernadette, and she went by Bernie, which I also thought was very cool. Probably because it was unique and my name is anything but. I guess Bernice could go by Bernie, too, but if I were going to go with Bernice I'd spell it Berenice, after the great photographer Berenice Abbott. Is that shortened to Berenie?

When I'm old and decrepit and in a nursing home, and they're wheeling me around the halls and snickering behind my back because I refuse to let go of a 50-year-old Nikon D300, some girl with a new-fangled modern camera is going to come in and she's going to be sorely disappointed with the names. They'll all be Amy or Jennifer, because in all my classes there were at least 3 Amys and typically 4 Jennifers.

With my photographic take for the day, I couldn't leave out Ann, the birthday girl, at 92 years young.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Shooting from the hip

stuck behind the bus on a rainy day

Turns out I'm not very good at it. Figuratively and literally. For the most part, I'm a planner. I like to know what's going to happen, and when. Of course, compared to M I'm completely reckless and unpredictable, but primarily I like to plan the work and work the plan.

This translates literally into my photographic process. While I'm content to wander about and look for images wherever I find them, once I see something that strikes my fancy I'll work it a bit. I'm not all obsessed with breaking out the tripod and spending 30 minutes lining up one shot, but, you know, I'm conscious of lines and negative space and backgrounds and such.

I recently learned of a photographer who shoots a lot without even looking through the viewfinder of her DSLR. And she's pretty dang good. Her theory is that when she's making images of people she wants to be able to interact with her subjects instead of having a giant chunk of black metal in the way. I can see that. What I can't see, though, is how she manages to nail the framing and keep her horizons straight and all that other stuff.

So I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Yeah. Good thing I'm shooting digital or I'd be pissed about blowing a ton of money on a massive waste of film. I'm not sure how many frames I shot...too many to count (it'd be depressing), but suffice it to say that getting only two fairly decent images out of a ton of shutter actuations is not what I'd call success.

I think I'll stick with looking through the viewfinder and leave shooting from the hip to others.

sometime between mojitos number 3 and 4, I think

Friday, February 05, 2010

Zoe's Tracks

Track design: Zoe's Daddy

Thursday, February 04, 2010

One is not like the other

While my hips and thighs appreciate the effort, I must admit that grapes are simply no substitute for chocolate.

And I wish the chunk of hair on the back left quadrant of my head would stop doing this flippy thing that bounces around whenever I move. It's distracting and annoying. Dammit.

Chocolate would probably help. Not in my hair.


I don't know why I find man-made decay and abandonment so appealing...I just do.

Photographer Elliot Erwitt said, "Photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."

Yeah. What he said.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hmmm, which way should I go?

Possible captions for this image:
  1. What if I want to go right?
  2. The neon signs, flashing arrows and traffic cop are on backorder.
  3. They could have at least made one in Spanish.
What's kinda funny is that just off to the left, where the arrows are pointing, is a large trash dumpster. I made a shot that included the dumpster, but it wasn't positioned well and I couldn't get it to work aesthetically.

Do you think they put all three signs up at once? Or maybe the first sign, and then after illiterate people kept going to the right, the second sign, and then when illiterate and blind people kept going to the right, the third sign? "No, no, no. That will never do. It's just not enough. Let's try arrows!"

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

All You Need

Beer A bigger paycheck An unbroken house A new car More lenses Cats that don't shed Less stress A portrait studio More time A smaller to-do list A house cleaner Less laundry A personal trainer More Christmas lights on the house Self-cleaning litter boxes A stress-free job More closet space Bigger bathrooms A lower percentage of body fat Tiffany jewelry Enough frequent flyer miles to see all your out-of-state friends at least once a year Unlimited Amtrak passes A closer national park A bigger camera bag That also functions as a purse Colleagues who act as though they've actually graduated high school Good hair days More happy hours Fewer reasons for happy hours Studio lights And giant soft boxes to use them Printers that never require nozzle cleaning More photography magazines A longer torso And smaller boobs/hips A free yoga studio Less junk around the house Doors that actually shut Real people who answer phones instead of voice prompt hell Chocolate Simplicity not chaos...

Red Door

Monday, February 01, 2010

Back to it

Man, does it feel good to be shooting again.

Christmas 09 Display

Photoshop has a nifty little feature called Photomerge. It's not perfect, but it allows you to do cool things like this. I took five shots of the front of the house in succession (obviously not keeping the camera very level...I swear I wasn't drinking...yet) and then merged them in PS. It allows a panorama without having to use special (read: expensive) panorama gear. So here's our 2009 display - M did a beautiful job, as usual. My image(s) don't do it justice.