About Me

My photo
...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Was Done In By Vegetables

(On the drive home)

Pandora: It's almost Christmas.

Hope: Yep.

Pandora: Are you getting excited?

Hope: Yep.

Pandora: (looks over at Hope) Yep? Really? You don't sound that excited.

Hope: I'm excited, Mom.

Pandora: ...

Hope: You know I don't believe in Santa anymore, right?

Pandora: I had a feeling, yes, but we never really talked about it so... I was just going to keep going until you said something. Guess I can let it go now, huh?

Hope: Well, you can keep it going if you want to, but... I know he isn't real.

Pandora: (stays quiet for a moment) Well... that makes me kinda sad. When did you stop believing? Last year?

Hope: I started thinking he wasn't real two years ago, but you threw me off with that letter from Santa because I knew it wasn't your hand writing. That was a good one, Mom. You bought yourself some time on that one. But last year I knew for sure he wasn't real.

Pandora: What happened last year?

Hope: Last year I was at Dad's for Christmas.

Pandora: ...and?

Hope: ...and he had this stupid Video email from "Santa" to me and that's how I knew it wasn't real.

Pandora: Yeah, I saw that video. He sent it to me before he sent it to you. I wondered how it was going to go over.

Hope: It didn't go over well, Mom. As soon as Santa told me that I better be a good girl and eat all my vegetables I knew it was fake.

Pandora: (smiles to herself) It was the vegetable line that did it?

Hope: Yeah. I mean... eat my vegetables? Come on, Mom! I know enough from talking to you that being a good person has nothing to do with eating my vegetables! And all Santa Clause can tell me is to eat my stinking vegetables??? I knew right then that it wasn't Santa talking to me -- it was Dad. Dad and his stupid vegetable rules...

Pandora: Hahahahahahahaha!!!

Hope: (stares at Pandora)

Pandora: I'm sorry, Honey Girl. I know that had to be disappointing and it isn't funny but... I saw that video and thought the same thing about the vegetable line and hearing you say that just made me laugh. I'm sorry.

Hope: (smiles a bit) Yeah... I guess it is kinda funny, isn't it.

Pandora: Yes... it is... I am sorry though. I'm sorry that was how you found out.

Hope: Eh... it isn't how I found out. I just started to know and that made me sure.

Pandora: Well, it makes me sad. Having you believe in Santa brought some of the magic back to Christmas that I lost once I grew up. It was really nice to have it back for a while.

Hope: (looks at Pandora) I can still pretend if you want me to.

Pandora: No... no pretending. This is a part of growing up.

(they sit in silence for a moment)

Hope: That was a really good letter that one year though, Mom. I sat in my room and read it over and over. It said a lot of good things. And I thought maybe it was you because of what it said, but the handwriting... I knew the handwriting wasn't yours. I even took it to school and showed some of my friends and they all started thinking that maybe it really was Santa. We all talked about it. None of us could figure it out.

Pandora: (smiles)

Hope: How did you do that, Mom?

Pandora: That's for me to know and you to find out, Hope. Santa may not be real, but that doesn't mean I don't have a magic all my own.

(Hope smiles at her mom and they quietly drive the rest of the way home.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Power Ball Ramblings

I was at the work Christmas party yesterday and I won one of the door prizes -- a Power Ball ticket. My first response when they called my number was, "Wow... I never win anything." My second response, after seeing what I won, was, "Nothing like winning something I'm not going to win, eh?" (Of course, during the white elephant exchange, I won a flying monkey which is also a symbol for something like, "You'll win the lottery when monkeys fly.")

I won't know until tomorrow whether I hold a winning or losing ticket, but we all know the chance of winning that is slim to none. And since there wasn't some little old lady that foolishly spent her last dime on that ticket, I'm pretty sure God wouldn't help me out on this one so... no sense in uttering a ridiculous prayer of some kind. But as I stood in the shower this morning I found a lyric from a Barenaked Ladies song running through my head: if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a house, if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you furniture for your house, if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a car, if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you love...

I listened to that song continue to run through my head until finally I started thinking, "Why is this song stuck in my head? I just woke up! Why did I wake up with that in my head? Sure... it's a funny song but... when was the last time I even heard that song? The tune is annoying... Why?" Then I realized, it's that stupid Power Ball ticket lingering in my subconscious!

After I had a good laugh at myself and that song, I found myself thinking, "What would I do with a million dollars? I always said if I had a million dollars I would just go to school and be a professional student for the rest of my life, but I haven't thought about this question in a while. Would I still do that?" Then I started thinking about all the papers I had to write and the crazy research I used to do and I started thinking about how I enjoy reading and writing on my own time and ... "No... no... that was something I said in my twenties while in the midst of grad school. I'm over that one. Forget it. So... what would I do with a million dollars? Hmmm... Would I quit working? Most people say they would quit working, but I don't think they consider the boredom factor. And I wouldn't want to just waste it all. Truly... a million dollars could go away pretty fast if one wasn't careful with it. Let's see... I'm 35 so we could break it up as though I would live another 60 years... I would want to invest some so Hope would get a big chunk of change when I kick the bucket... I'd have to make good on my promise and make sure I have that Arsenal Of Funds to help people... I would buy a house, but nothing over the top, just something pretty and comfortable... Would I quit my job? Hmmm... Maybe I would just continue to work because I like the people there. Or maybe I would just focus solely on writing. I would have to do something. I would get bored. Hmmm... Maybe I could do something ridiculous like open a gluten free bakery. What am I talking about? Me? Run a bakery? Am I being serious? Where did that come from? Dang... Thinking about this million dollar question is taking me way out there. My own publishing company though...? One where I support the excellent writers who are regularly neglected by the mainstream and Oprah's stupid book club? That's more my style..."

And then I looked at the clock and realized I needed to step back into reality because I'll be lucky to win three dollars from that stupid ticket. (I do have that flying monkey though... I could win the lottery the day monkeys fly out my ass... now if I could just find a way to get that flying monkey toy to fly out my ass...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Promise

...and it's a long drive home,
and I often wonder if I'll get there.

I feel the weight of an unseen hand.
I hear a voice telling me to submit.

Submit to what? Some kind of lesson?
What lesson? Which lesson? And how many?

...this long drive home,
dodging this and that and sometimes failing
simply because I dared take time to blink.

I'm always pulling the fragments together,
this constant reconstruction,
this endless transformation,
into some kind of cracked form
that somehow stays mobile.

Perhaps it's a good work, waiting to be completed,
but right now I have nothing...

...nothing but the wheel in my hands
and the promise of home.

Midnight At The Library

It was raining the other day. I usually tie my hair back into a tight bun when it rains so I can maintain a sense of professionalism, lest my hair flair out into a giant and uncontrollable afro. That particular morning, I was standing in the copy room and...

Cowboy: (walks into the copy room and hovers in the doorway staring at Pandora for a minute before moving further into the room) Hi Pandora.

Pandora: Hey Cowboy.

Cowboy: You got yo hair pulled back.

Pandora: Ya, it was raining out this morning so I pulled it back.

Cowboy: What’s rain got to do with it?

Pandora: My hair gets fluffy in the rain.

Cowboy: What’s wrong with that?

Pandora: Everything

Cowboy: Everything?

Pandora: Yes, Cowboy, everything.

Cowboy: Well okay then, Pandora. You do what you want.

Pandora: Thanks, I will.

The next morning I was at the copy machine and Cowboy walked in again.

Cowboy: Mornin’ Pandora.

Pandora: Good Morning, Cowboy.

Cowboy: Glad to see you got yo hair down today.

Pandora: Yep

Cowboy: That’s good.

Pandora: Good.

Cowboy: I couldn’t take it if you walked in today like Midnight At The Library.

Pandora: What? Did you just say midnight at the library?

Cowboy: Yes, mam. Got yo hair pulled back like that looks like you spending midnight at the library and that don’t look good on you, Pandora. You ain’t no librarian. (pats me on the shoulder as he starts to leave the room) Now you remember what good ole Cowboy says: no mo midnights at the library.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

...Know When To Run

I'm not a gambler. Money is too useful to me to be toyed with, but I have dabbled a time or two. The few times I have gone with friends to Vegas or to some random Indian casino, I have set money aside that I would've otherwise blown on some other form of entertainment. I go in with the following attitude: if I win I win and if I lose... no big deal, I was banking on it anyway.

Now I have a friend, old enough to be my mother, whom I love dearly. She's one of those people that would take a bullet for a stranger while the rest of us would only take a bullet for the chosen few. She's absolutely golden, but like the rest of us, she's got her things -- her trials and tribulations in the midst of her glories and triumphs.

Now this friend of mine had fallen on hard times. She'd been struggling to get by, paycheck to paycheck, since I've known her. She was tired, she ached, and weekend television and the newspaper crossword puzzle was the extent of her happiness. So when her birthday came around I wanted to take her out, away from her little apartment, away from the television and the crossword, and watch her smile and feel free the way she did when she was younger and less burdened. So, knowing she had a love for the casino, I pulled out $200 ($100 for me and $100 for her) and took her to Wild Horse Pass. I figured, a gamble on my dime, win or lose, was worth seeing her smile and laugh. The problem was, I forgot to tell her to leave her purse at home.

We sat down at the Keno machines, because that was her game of choice, and we commenced our talking and playing and smiling. At one point I looked over at her machine and saw that she was up $350. I looked at her and said, "Cash that shit out! Pocket $250 and put the original hundred back in!" but she simply waved me off and told me the machine had more to give.

More time passed and when I looked again she was down to $20 and I was holding steady at $150. I figured, once she lost the twenty, I would just cash out and we'd go to lunch or something, so I just waited for her to tell me she was done. It wasn't too much longer before I saw her reaching in her purse to pull money from an envelope that I knew was designated for bills, but I said nothing. She put in another $100 and it wasn't long before that was gone. When I saw her reach into the envelope a second time, I turned and said, "Isn't that bill money?" She just held a finger to her mouth as if to shush me and told me not to worry because she would win it all back. At that point I didn't know what to do. Like I said, I'm not a gambler and when I do gamble I'm certainly not optimistic about it. And I wasn't about to tell a woman who was my elder what to do with her money, so I just sat there, a little bit sick, staring at the $75 remaining from my original $100 that still sat in my machine knowing this poor lady was about to lose it all.

Sometimes (hell, most times) I revel in being right, but when she left her machine so someone else could sit there and stood behind me empty handed I wished to God that I had been wrong. The purpose of me taking her to the casino was to have a good time and enjoy being out, not to end up in my car worrying about how she was going to pay the electric bill.

I still had $50 in my machine, and I stared at it for a moment wondering if I should just play it or cash out and call it a day. I continued to push buttons as I said, "You lost it all?" And she said, "Yes, but don't worry about it Pandora. I'll be okay. You just finish your game." But I couldn't help but worry; it felt like my fault. If I hadn't brought her there she wouldn't have done that. If I hadn't brought her there she would've had money to pay for her needs. Sure, she's responsible for her actions, but she wouldn't have gone to the casino if I hadn't shown up to take her there.

So I sat there, watching my $50 slowly dwindle to $40, feeling sick inside. And at some point I decided to play it out to the end. At some point I sat there staring at the stupid numbers on the machine and I started doing math in my head -- how many numbers did I need to hit to win her money back? And at some point I silently prayed, "Lord, I know this is a ridiculous prayer, I know you probably get prayers like this all the time, and I know you probably hate that I'm even saying this, but... would you mind helping me out on this one? I'm not asking for millions. I'm not asking to hit the big one. I'm not asking you to forgive me for this. I'm not even really apologizing for it. But... this woman just spent her bill money when my intention was for her to just use the money I gave her and nothing more. So, is there any way you could help me out here? I don't want anything for myself, I just want to give back what she lost so we can both go home and sleep in peace." And then I mocked myself for even thinking that stupid prayer.

I watched my money dwindle down to $18 and I knew it was only about twenty more minutes before I would be at zero. So I finally just closed my eyes and pushed the stupid button over and over and over until... all eight of those stupid little balls lit up and all the bells and whistles started going off as my credits started rolling in and my piddly little $18 turned into $400. Without hesitating I hit the cash out button as the lady sitting next to me said, "Oh hell ya, girlfriend! You take that money and RUN!!!" And I took the ticket to the cashier and I took the $400 and I handed it to my friend. She hesitated to reach for it and I said, "You take it. I came in here expecting to lose $200 but you're the one who lost $200. So you take what you lost and you take what I expected to lose. It's your birthday and this is my gift to you." So she took it from my hand and held back a few tears as we walked out to my car in silence.

As we got into the car and strapped on our seat belts, I looked at her and said, "You do know that was some sort of miracle, don't you? You do know that the odds of that happening were slim to none, don't you?" She nodded in agreement and I said, "That was a pass, a one time pass in a losing situation. So say a prayer of thanks tonight because for whatever reason you're going home with money to pay your bills. But I will say this: if I ever do this for you again, you're leaving your purse at home."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dinner With Hope

We sit down to a plate of steamed flounder, rice, and salad. We say a prayer and begin to eat.

Hope: Everything's gluten free?

Pandora: Yep.

Hope: We've been eating a lot of fish lately.

Pandora: It's good for you.

Hope: Good thing I like fish or you'd be in trouble.

Pandora: Hmm... I would be in trouble or you would be in trouble?

Hope: (smiles)

Pandora: How was school today?

Hope: Fine. Taylor cried a lot this morning when she got there.

Pandora: Did you ask her what was wrong?

Hope: Yes, but she wouldn't tell me. She just sat in the corner and cried for a while and there was nothing I could do to help her so I went out to the playground. She stopped crying by the time we went to class.

Pandora: And how was she the rest of the day?

Hope: She seemed okay. But she's been crying in the mornings a lot. I don't know what's wrong, but I know her mom has been sick a lot lately and I know that if you were sick a lot I would feel like crying too.

Pandora: Yes, I would cry a lot if my mama was sick too.

Hope: Yes, but you're an adult. It isn't the same. We still need our mama's and you take care of yourself now. But I need you to take care of me. And Taylor still has her dad around her and she's still crying alot. If you got sick like that, I would be scared because you are all I have. I don't have my dad here to help me, and even though I love my dad I don't want to be with him, I want to be with you. I think I would cry every day if you were sick. (her little mouth turns down)

Pandora: Well, don't get sad now, Honey. I'm not sick. I'm all good. I can't eat the fun things I used to, but I'm not sick. I'm actually very healthy right now.

Hope: (looks down at her plate) Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you had stayed with my dad?

Pandora: Not really, no.

Hope: No?

Pandora: Sweetheart, I know what life was like when I was with your dad, so no... I don't think about it.

Hope: (stares at Pandora as though she's waiting for more)

Pandora: (puts down her fork) Okay. If I were still with your dad we would have a bigger house. I probably wouldn't be working the way I do now. I wouldn't be up in the morning stressing out because I need to get you to daycare and get myself to work on time. I wouldn't be worried about bills and such because your dad was always good with money. I may not have graduated from college because he's military and we were always moving and I never had time to focus and finish, nor did he want to pay for it. The house would always be clean because I would be home cleaning all day. The laundry would always be done so you would never go digging through the basket for a pair of socks. There would always be a well prepared meal on the table when he came home at night, because that's what I did, and we'd probably be going to some Baptist church somewhere, just like he does now. We'd probably go camping alot, like he does with you now. We'd probably go on trips and vacations, like he takes you on now. We may have even been to Europe by now and I know we would've been to Japan because he lived there for a while. We'd go skiing every winter, like he does with you now. And who knows, you'd probably have a brother or a sister because I always thought we would've had more than one child.

Hope: (chews her food and stares at her plate) But you wouldn't be who you are right now, would you... You wouldn't be writing at night the way you do now, would you... You wouldn't be able to talk with me the way you do now because he would always be around and you wouldn't be free to do what makes you who you are. You wouldn't laugh with me and make the jokes that you do because you couldn't do that if he were here. You wouldn't be happy either because he would always argue with you the way he does with his wife now. (she takes another bite and swallows) We wouldn't have a quiet house like we do now because we would have a fighting house like he has in California. And I probably wouldn't be who I am either. (she looks up from her plate) And I wouldn't be free either. I might not even be as smart as I am right now because I wouldn't have you the way you are and you help me be who I am. I wouldn't know how to think the way I do now, because you taught me that. I might not be the soccer player I am because you let me choose the sports I want to play. I wouldn't even be allowed to play the games I play or listen to the music I listen to because you play with me and you listen to the music with me. Neither of us would be who we are right now if we still lived with dad because you've made a completely different life for us than what he would've made for us.

Pandora: (sits in silence for a moment, not sure what to say) I have done my best to make a calm and peaceful space for us. I have done my best to create an environment where we can both grow and develop our lives into something strong and positive. It isn't always easy and I make my own set of mistakes and bad choices at times. There is a lot that I can't give you because I am doing this alone, there's a lot that I wish I could do for you that I can't because of the circumstance, but I do my best to give all that I can where and when I can.

Hope: (smiles at Pandora) You have done good, Mama. Our house is small, but it's nice. You have put nice things in it and you have made it pretty and comfy. I like our little house. And I like that it's quiet here. I like that when we come home there is no fighting. I like that I can sit and talk with you. And I don't have as much as some of my friends, but they don't have a mom like you either. You always tell me how proud of me you are, but I'm proud of you too.

Pandora: (again, sits in silence for a moment, not sure what to say) You are a special little girl, Hope. I love you.

Hope: (smiles) I love you more.

Alarm Man

There's always the legend of the Sand Man, you know, the guy that comes and sprinkles sleepy dust in your eyes to make them close? But why isn't there a story about the Alarm Man? You know, the guy that bursts into your room unannounced like a blaring fire alarm because the only way to free your eyes from the the sleepy dust is to terrorize you out of bed? Why hasn't anyone made a story about that guy? I think this is an oversight on the part of purpose driven fairy tale tellers everywhere.

Fairy tales are often told with morals attached to them, like Little Red Riding Hood -- don't stray from the path your mother told you to take, lest a wolf eat both you and your sweet unsuspecting grandma and you'll be stuck in the wolf's belly, like Jonah in the Whale, until some hunter cuts him open and fills him with rocks. (Gotta hand it to the brother's Grimm... I'm not sure I would've come up with the "fill his belly with rocks" part.) Or there's The Three Little Pigs with the moral being build a strong fortress out of your life, lest that wolf escapes the hunter from Little Red Hood's place and picks up a taste for pork chops and you just happen to look like a tender morsel and... what's a house made of straw compared to a blustery day? Really... there needs to be a moral to The Alarm man story, and a wolf (because what's a moral without a wolf), so here we go.

Once upon a time there was girl named Pandora. She had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to get herself to work on time (don't forget to make a sing songy sound and hold the initial "eh" sound out too long with your voice when you hit the word "every"). So every morning at 5:00 a.m., when Pandora was sound asleep, the Alarm Man would burst in with joy singing BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG!!! And he wouldn't quit until Pandora rolled out of bed, grumbled to all the way to the coffee pot, and then got in the shower.

One morning Alarm Man came to Pandora's house and found her sleeping with two pillows over head and quite possibly a few glasses of wine lingering in her system and no matter how loudly he BLANGED he just couldn't get through. He BLANGED and BLANGED for an hour straight, and sleepy Pandora just wouldn't wake up. After an hour, Alarm Man left her to sleep because it was time to wake the rest of the world. It wasn't until she opened her eyes at 6:15 with the light of the rising sun that she realized what had happened. "Oh Alarm Man!" she cried, "Why have you forsaken me?" And she jumped in the shower and she ran out the door in record time, in her feeble attempt to get to work on time. But on the road she got stuck behind a wolf (it was really a stupid city bus, but it sure looked like a wolf), and she sat there, frustrated and helpless as the wolf mocked her and said, "I don't eat gluten free, but I do eat those who aren't so timely." (see... it's important, even in spur of the moment fairy tales, to make sure the wolf rhymes.) And Pandora huffed and puffed and squeezed around the stupid Wolf (that was really a bus) as soon as she could and she got into the parking lot at 7:40 instead of 7:30 and she snuck in the back way and sat down at her cube and no one noticed that she had been missing.

The moral of the story? Not really sure. I wrote this so fast and thoughtlessly I didn't really get that far. To be honest, I was watching the clock. What happens when you listen to Alarm Man, but you end up late for work because you're blogging instead of fixing your hair and make-up? Hmmmm...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Take A Chance On Me

My decision to leave academics and cross over into corporate America was one based on financial necessity. I loved teaching, but to successfully get where I needed to go in the academic world required a PhD and, as a single parent, I was running out of time and money. I had spent a couple years as what they call a Freeway Flyer -- picking up classes here and there, contracted per semester, and paid per class. There was no benefit package and no job security. I was constantly worried and worn out. I knew I needed something more stable and so I went looking for it.

As an English Major, it made sense to find a job that required strong writing skills. I applied for advertising positions, technical writing positions, research positions, PR positions... you name it. Anything that said "good verbal communications" had my resume all over it. I always made it to the interview, but somewhere in the conversation the interviewer would say something like, "Master's degree in 19th Century Literature?" followed by, "Well, to be honest, I think you have too much education and not enough experience."

During that time, being the broke person that I was, I had taken out a payday loan that I was paying on regularly (for months...). As December drew near and the semester came to an end, I noticed a help wanted sign in the window of the Payday Loan shop. Knowing that I wouldn't get paid again until sometime in January and having made friends with the manager of the shop, I figured I had a fair chance at picking up some part-time work there, even if I was "over educated." The lady was more than happy to take my application. During the interview, much to my surprise, she said, "Master's Degree? You have a Master's Degree?" The next thing I knew they were offering me a full-time position as a manager with full benefits. Stunned, I told her I needed to think about it.

I went home that night and sat in a dark room feeling a significant blow to my ego. If I were to take the job I would go from Pandora The Professor to Pandora The Payday Loan Manager. When people asked me what I did for a living, I would no longer see their eyes grow wide after I said I taught English at the University; instead I would watch them cringe and feel they needed to take a shower when I told them I was a loan shark. But... a stable income with health insurance attached to it made more sense when looking at my little girl than not knowing if I would have enough classes to pay my way through life next month. Oddly enough, I got a phone call that night from the dean who informed me two of my upcoming classes had been dropped and one had been given away to a tenure track professor because she had lost a class due to low enrollment. That meant I would have one class to teach that semester, which also meant a mere $3,000 to stretch out over a three month span. At that point I sucked it up, told my ego I didn't have time for it, and took a job as manager of a payday loan.

Oh the irony of it all... I had all this crazy education that, from my perspective, big companies would've reaped great benefit from, but the only company smart enough to see my over educated self as an asset was the stupid Payday Loan that required a minimum of a high school diploma. They did benefit from it though. They stuck me in the middle of the ghetto in a shop that was dying and falling apart from lack of business, and in six months time I turned that thing into the biggest money making branch in the district.
(see Pandora's Payday Loan at http://www.dailyjuju.blogspot.com)

After about nine months in that hell hole, an acquaintance referred me to a mortgage company that was hiring. I went through three different interviews at that place. Each interviewer had an aversion to my education, but my time at the payday loan was my saving grace. The message that place conveyed on my resume was, "She wasn't too educated for us, she was one of the best loan sharks we ever had, and the girl means business." So... shady as that business was, I was thankful they took me in and gave me a chance because it opened the door for shady business number two to open the door and give me a chance.

I worked for a year at the mortgage company and was fairly successful, but just as things looked like they were on the up and up, the housing market crashed, all the lenders started closing their doors, and it wasn't long before I found myself unemployed. I had only been out of academia for a year and a half and, as I began interviewing for jobs again, I found, regardless of my time at the payday loan, I was still considered over educated and under experienced.

I spent three months unemployed. I had interviewed over and over and over and was rejected over and over and over. I had used up all of my savings and I was starting to panic because I knew I was sinking and about to drown. I was desperate and terrified. Finally a friend of mine called and told me to go to a contract agency and apply for a position as an administrative assistant he knew about. It only paid $11 an hour, but it was something and a foot in the door. So I went to the company and started filling out the application for the suggested position. As I answered the questions on the paperwork, I knew they were going to take one look at my resume and start laughing. There was no way around it. I was over educated and I knew it.

When I walked into the interview it was exactly as I anticipated; the guy took one look at my resume and said, "What are you doing in here?" So I gave him a brief synopsis of how I ended up there and said, "Obviously, I don't care how much I get paid. I just need a job. Surely you can find something for me, can't you?" He stared at my resume and said, "Well, I have one position that might work. It's only $16 an hour, and you're still over educated for it, but you have a good personality, I think they'll like you. If you play your cards right in the interview, you just might get the job. Let me make a couple calls and see if I can get you in." Two hours later, he called and told me I had an interview the next morning at 10:30.

When I pulled into the parking lot that morning I knew I had to keep my wits about me. I knew from all of my past interviews, despite all the pride I held in my education it somehow didn't work in my favor. I knew I had to say all the right things at all the right times, but more importantly I knew I had to somehow make it clear that my education was a strength, not a weakness.

When I walked into the office I was greeted by a tall man sporting a cowboy shirt, blue jeans, and a nice set of cowboy boots. He seemed rugged but personable and every bit as streetwise as he was business savvy. He was relaxed in the interview, which helped me relax, and everything seemed to be moving along very well until that moment he took a good hard look at my resume. I watched him stare at the page as he slowly sat back in his chair and said, "Master's degree in 19th Century Literature?" He leaned back and stroked his goatee and just as he opened his mouth to say, "Well..." I couldn't help it. My life flashed before me. It was do or die. I had nothing more to lose. So I piped in and said, "Wait. I know what you're going to say. You're getting ready to tell me that I'm over educated and under experienced for this job. I know this because they all say that. But before you make that statement, I would like an opportunity to explain something to you. I have a Master's degree in 19th Century Literature, yes. I know right now that if I had a Master's degree in Business Management I would've had a job yesterday. But I don't. And all that piece of paper really means to anyone is that we were smart enough to see the value in furthering our education and we were persistent enough to do it. The problem for me is that I was an English Major and no one sees value in that. But businesses need people who can think, and what business people don't understand about English Majors is this: all we do all day long is ask ourselves a question. And once we ask ourselves that question, we go out and find the answer to that question. And once we find the answer to that question, we come back, sit down, and not only tell you the answer to that question but convince you that answer is correct. And why corporate America doesn't see that as a valuable skill is beyond me."

After that, he smiled at me like a proud father smiles at the strength of his daughter and said, "Well... I guess we're all just a bunch of hill billies aren't we? All right then, Pandora. I'll give you the job. I know you're too smart for it and I don't expect you to stay in it for very long, but I'll take my chances and give it to you. It pays $16 an hour, but because of your education I'll pay you $19.50 an hour on one condition: You work hard for me. You show me that you can do everything you say you can do. And if you do that, when the time comes, I'll point you in the right direction."

I made good on my promise. I worked hard and if you spoke with him I'm sure he'd tell you that I went above and beyond the call of duty on more than one occasion. And nine months later, when the time came, he made good on his promise and he pointed me in the right direction. Ironically, or dare I say providentially, he pointed me in a direction where everything came together: my education, my experience in his department, my toes in the world of real estate, and even my time at the stupid payday loan pulled together in some beautiful way to make me the perfect candidate for the position I hold now. And I think of this and write this because I learned today that this man will retire next week. I think of this because I wouldn't be where I am right now if he hadn't believed in me. I think of this because I now hold a steady job with a solid income because one man took a chance on me.

...over educated and under experienced, or so they say...

Monday Morning Word Play

It's Monday and I am coming out of a long weekend of watching children and making sure they are entertained in addition to driving all over what seems to be creation (in my diminished scope) to make good on a promise to play an integral role in a Christmas Pageant I would otherwise have nothing to do with. I am tired. And so, it is unfortunate but....

I have nothing witty, nothing jocose, nothing waggish or droll, nothing whimsical, gleeful or frolicsome to share. The reasons being I do not frolic, frisk, or caper. I do not lark or romp or prance. I do not locomote in any way comparable to that of a sprite or fairy or brownie, elf or elfin. I am stuffy. I am prosaic, plebeian and platitudinous. I am humdrum and hackneyed, unable to elicit emotions evoking smiles from faces. I am a vacuous vat of picayune pansophism who can't even qualify for a spot on a stupid game show.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Have you ever spent about an hour working on something that you were certain was going to be good only to stop, just as you were about to finish it, take a good look at it, decide it's absolute crap and then delete the whole thing?

Yep... Me too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Mail

So I'm sitting at work today and my office phone rings (what a shock). When I pick it up the guy informs me that he's calling from the auto loan company because the mail has been returned to them and they need a valid address.

Now, most of you just read that sentence and automatically assumed this is going to be some kind of scam, but it's not.

I listened to him and said, "No. You have the right address. I haven't moved. I just don't pick up my mail sometimes and then the post-office returns it all." He sat there in silence for a moment. I'm sure he didn't believe me. He sounded confused as he repeated his request as though I had said nothing beyond, "Land Department, this is Pandora. Can I help you?" So I listened to him again and again I said, "You have the correct address on file. I just don't pick up my mail sometimes and then the post-office returns it all." Again he sat there not knowing what to do. It isn't as though I don't make my car payments, so he had no reason to think I'm avoiding them. But at the same time he sat there with an unopened returned envelope and, well... can you blame the guy for being stumped? I'm sure he was sitting there, much like most of you, thinking, "Who doesn't pick up their mail?"

Anyway, after I assured him that all of my contact information was correct, I hung up the phone thinking, "I hate the mail." And no, it isn't because it's just one more chore or one more mundane detail of life that irks me. It's because I have a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to the bad juju that possibly lurks in my mail box. And I know exactly when it began.

There was a time, before my divorce, when I happily walked to the mail box, when I dutifully sat down and paid all the bills right then and there just to get them out of the way, when I knew that today might be the day I got a nice letter or card from some friend that I hadn't heard from in a while, when I took advantage of the carpet cleaning coupons in the Value Pack, when I skimmed through the pages of the sale prints and such. But anyone who has ever gone through a bitter divorce, followed up by a three year custody battle from Hell knows that at some point the mail box becomes your enemy. The once happy jaunt to the mail box slowly turns into a dreadful trek because you know that there's going to be one more affidavit, one more grossly negative statement about why you should be considered an unfit parent, one more bill from the lame attorney who already sucked up the retainer, one more negative response you need to write in return for the low blow you just took. And it isn't too much longer before the bad debt starts to pile up in the background and debt collectors and their attorneys start hounding you to take care of the financial mish mash that remained attached to your once married name.

So, perhaps now you may understand me when I say, I finally reached a point where I just stopped going to the mailbox all together. Once the custody fight was halfway through its second year in court, I had pretty much lost interest in fighting anymore. I just wanted it to be over. And I believe that was the first time I had ever let the mail sit there so long that the post-office returned it. I remember it because the paralegal had left a message on my phone asking if I had moved because the latest affidavit was returned to them. I remember that because I didn't return her phone call. And I remember that because my attorney called the next day and left a message saying, "Pandora, I know you're depressed and I know you hate checking your mail, but you need to read this. Please call or come to the office and pick it up."

It was nearly three years before that fight was finally over. And though I feel no pain over that horrible time period anymore, I still have an aversion to the mail. The days of hoping for something good to come from it are long gone. Friends don't write letters or send cards anymore because that has all been replaced by emails, by text messages, by things like Face Book. Every so often, around birthdays and Christmas, Hope will get something from her paternal grandparents, but other than that... the mail is still nothing but bills and junk. I've given up on skimming through the sale pages because most of the time every penny has its place and I have learned to live by need way before want. And though I'm looking at my carpet right now and thinking I should find the cleaning coupon from the Value Pack, that thing usually lands straight in the garbage without being opened.

And as I write all of this, as I think about the lost hope of something good, I am reminded of the one friend I do have that recently decided to send a little light my way. We communicate "electronically" and write fairly often, but a few weeks back she sent me a message, giving me a heads up that something would be coming via snail mail. I made a joke about my poor postal processes, but I also made a promise to keep my eyes open for it. A couple weeks after that she sent me a message saying, "By the way, the mail I sent to you was returned to me. I will send it again in a few days. I'll let you know when I do."

Now, I could care less about the auto loan guy (they get their money from me with or without that stupid paper) but my heart sank just a little at the thought of missing something good that was sent to me by someone good. I apologized to her for my neglect and she was kind enough to make a joke or two about it, even made an attempt to relate to me and my lackadaisical methods, but I passed the mailbox that day feeling like a child that realized the only reason Santa quit showing up on Christmas is because I stopped thinking he would. There is no sleigh, no flying reindeer, and nothing good coming to me in the mail. But, as a believer in redemption, I not only checked the mail daily after that message, I checked it with a happy little step and bit of anticipation knowing that someday soon something good was coming. And it did.

On a Friday, upon my return home from work, I found a small package from a friend who had logged away in her memory my love for a show called Mad Men. She had included a little article about the authentic approach they give to every detail "from milk to makeup, letter holders to lowballs, no period detail on the 1960s set of AMC's Mad Men is too small." And she had made a little card with pictures of my favorite characters and wrote a note saying, "Have a Mad Men kind of day!! Though a kinder less destructive kind of Mad Men day. Have a Martini or a Pink Lady or something retro. Or think about Jon Hamm. Or the occasional cigarette while brooding." And as I studied what she had sent to me, I smiled. I smiled because this was the first good thing I had gotten in the mail in quite some time. It was so simple but so thoughtful and fun. And I realized today, as I talked to the auto loan guy, that I had already forgotten that happy mail moment and I had forgotten to tell her thank you. And I suppose this is a reminder that I should let go... because, the truth is, you never know for certain when something good is going to come your way, nor should you keep yourself from looking for it -- you just might miss it and it isn't often you get a second chance.

(and yes... I will go say thank you to her now)