Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Corpse

Standing in perfect majesty with arms spread wide;
I, in my lot,
At the top of the rise.

You admire my beauty, my boughs, my scent.
You trudge through the snow looking for the perfect one of me.
Your children squeal with delight as you set your saw to my trunk.

Your tools grind through my tough body.
My bark, evolved for protection from animals, elements
Falls away at the touch of your blade. I didn't evolve enough to be protected from you.

Your offspring's shouts of joy herald my fall.
With a great crash I land where others before, unknown to me, have fallen.

Dragged 'cross the ground, your kill.
Tossed into your vehicle, your prize.

Propped in your great room,
Strung with lights;
Adorned with baubles.

How you love the scent of my needles;
How you swell with pride as you gaze upon me.
How much happiness I give your family as you cleverly tuck packages in among my weary arms.


Now unadorned, naked and tired
I am manhandled down from my pedestal.
Such a shameful sight I am now that my needles have fallen away;
Now that my limbs are browned with age;

Now that the spirit has passed.

Dumped unceremoniously at the edge of your lot;
Rejected and neglected in my rotten state.
I am no longer your perfect symbol of joy; no longer the shining light upon the faces of your children.

Now I am simply dead wood, to be disposed of.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The art of being fabulous

When I was a girl I wanted to be fabulous. I would put my mom's big, big sunglasses on and hike up some thigh-high stockings. I'd clop around in shoes that were hideously large for me and I'd press my arm to my forehead in mock despair (somehow, in my four year old mind that's what fabulous people did). I wanted to be an actress or a model, or some other sophisticated thing.

I am neither an actress nor a model, and certainly not sophisticated. But, thanks to MPJ I am now fabulous!

Tagging other bloggers is hard -either they've already been tagged, or they still haven't done the last thing I tagged with (ahem).

I find these blogs fabulous, for their honesty and introspection and for what they share with the rest of us:

Here are a few things that make life good:

  1. Paper and Zoe, my two boy-cats. I feel about my cats the way other people feel about their kids. I can't stop looking at them. I'm amazed by their toes and their whiskers and the way their faces change when they look at me. They swarm around me when I'm sick, they cuddle with me when I'm cold, and when I'm working on a project they come sit at my feet and watch me (when they're not climbing on top of the project to "help"). I adore them, and I'm pretty sure they adore me too.
  2. Orange Spice Black Tea. If god has a scent, I imagine that's what it is.
  3. The view from my office. This week, it's snow. In the Fall I see red and golden leaves drifting slowly to the ground; Spring brings new, green leaves, slowly unfolding to the promise of sun and wind and rain. In the Summer the bright world mocks my indoor-ness and taunts me with sexy running girls in short shorts and tank tops. If it's dark I simply see myself reflected back at me. At any given moment of any day, I can turn and look outside my window and feel grounded. I came to this job from an industrial part of town; my office used to be on the second floor of the parts manufacturing plant for the trucking company I work for. I could look out my window and see tractor-trailer combos lining the street in gridlock traffic. I could see the shiny new models of trucks with their glossy paint jobs, and dusty trailers, and tired plant workers, and our nicely-dressed executives walking to the coffee shoppe across the street. When my office moved to this remote, suburban, tree-lined street I really hated it. There are no horns, no gridlock traffic, no shiny new tractors. No exhaust, anywhere. I've grown to love it, somehow, and the view from my window flips a switch in my head and removes all turmoil.
  4. Ajahn Brahm. I can listen to any random pod-cast and he will say something that resonates with me, something that addresses exactly how I feel at that moment. His talks give me clarity and serenity, and it makes everything make sense. Sometimes I disagree with what he has to say, and that gives me clarity as well, because it forces me to examine why I don't agree with him. When he talks about the inevitability of death, he giggles. I've never known anyone else who giggled at death and it tickles me to pieces whenever he does it.

In fabulousness,

Monday, December 22, 2008

I has a new book!

I'm getting back into learning CSS. It's still hard (my brain is weak from non-use) but I have a lot less going on now than I did the first time round.

Because of the holidays and decreased volume at work I have a lot more time on my hands. Winter is typically when I work on updating my process manual and situating things for next year. So, in between those projects I'll have plenty of time to devote to learning new and tricky things.

Maybe this time it will stick?

Christmas dispirit

Me and Christmas don't get along. In years past I spent a lot of time stressing out about doing what I was supposed to do and going where I was supposed to go. Then I spent a lot of time feeling guilty because I didn't want to do what was expected of me, and my lack of a Christmas spirit would ruin everyone's holiday if I didn't play along. The holidays have been a source of stress and a deep ill at ease feeling that I can't really put words to.

Christmas was a really big deal when I was growing up. My mom loved the holidays, and was determined to make it magical and special and wonderful for us, even when it was just the two of us. I knew she was sad that it was just us, the way kids know but don't understand and can't talk about. She did a lot of pretending, I think, so it could be special for me. She bought me presents and said they were from my dad, when Dad didn't get me anything. She continued the lie of Santa as long as she could. I believed that lie for a long, long time. My mom, after all, knew everything. She'd know if Santa wasn't real, right?

When I discovered that Santa was not, in fact, real, I felt cheated and angry. More than that, I felt like I was the butt of a secret adult joke. A joke where if I was good enough I'd get just what I wanted; a joke where if I behaved myself, that elusive man that I never really saw would continue to love me. In my mind, I think I got Santa and God and my dad a little bit confused; really it just seemed like a bunch of men letting me down, pretending to love me but never really giving me what I wanted. When I stopped believing in the lie of Santa, I also stopped believing in a God who loves me if I'm good. Being good didn't win me more time with my dad, and it certainly never got me the pony I asked for year after year.

I'm no longer mad about the pony, and I understand a lot more about my dad than I did back then, but I think if I had a child I wouldn't raise it to believe that love and presents were conditional on good behaviour.

That being said, if someone out there wants to buy me a pony I prefer an appaloosa. Oh, and roller skates. Galaxy red ones.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Party socks

My company's Christmas party was today. My managers flew into town from Minnesota and we had a big ham dinner with all the stuff (except stuffing). And we got gifts! Well, gift cards, to be exact, each stuffed into a small holiday sock like a Christmas stocking.

One of my co-workers got the matching sock to mine and gave hers to me, and I promptly discovered that they actually fit my feet. I provided laughs for the whole office in my bitty socks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The beach at Hug Point

When I was at the beach earlier this month, I made a wee video. It's not the best video ever (I don't post those videos) but I'm sharing it anyway. I drove to a town called Arch Cape, Oregon, a couple hours outside Portland; while waiting for the rest of my friends to arrive at the beach house, I took a small detour to Hug Point and walked down to the water.

It was very cold (well, okay, it was not that cold) and very windy, and the ocean was perfect. When I go to the ocean I feel filled up with a peacefulness I don't get all that often, a quiet happiness that soaks into my skin and drowns out every ugly thought I've ever had. So I made a video of it. The happiness is way out in the distance; you sort of have to squint to see it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree

I helped decorate my office's Christmas tree last month. Our salesman sets up the tree every year just before the Thanksgiving holiday; I usually spend a lot of time being mean about it each holiday because I hate Christmas, and he starts so early every year and he has way too much Christmas spirit and ... well, probably because I'm just mean sometimes. Something was different for me this year, and when he asked me to help him get the ornaments right, I couldn't resist. Actually, I think I was just feeling bossy because he was doing it all wrong.

I really enjoyed it, setting up this golden tree. We chatted as we worked, the salesman, me, and my receptionist, who sat at her desk and gave us helpful suggestions. We talked about Christmases in our respective childhoods, and our families; I saw a little side to him that I'd never seen before: the side that most people keep hidden. The side that says, "I'm still just a big kid inside, so don't be mean to me".

I think this tree is truly ugly, and I'm so glad I helped decorate it.


Colin would have been 41 years old today. It's snowing and icy in Portland, and I think he would have enjoyed the weather. He would have stayed home from work (whether or not he was expected in, 'cause he was like that) and wrapped himself in a blanket and watched the world go by.

December also means birthdays for people who aren't dead ... Carie, who isn't old, no matter how she feels, had a birthday yesterday (that I didn't forget this year). Two other friends and my own lovely mother will be celebrating birthdays in the next couple weeks.

I'm grateful to have all these people around me who are still alive to celebrate their birthdays. Thanks for not being dead, eh?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The pieces of me

Since Margaux told me to, I guess I shall ...
I tell you lot ten little bits about me then tag seven other bloggers. My bits, in no particular order:

  1. I love to learn; about myself, human motivators, technical stuff, job-related stuff. Sometimes, when I do the learning, I'm sure I can feel my brain getting stronger.
  2. I re-discovered roller skating this year, and it's my new passion. Every time I go roller skating I remember every good thing about childhood; it makes me feel free and light and happy in a way I always believed adults don't feel after a certain age. It feels defiant, as though I'm giving a big middle finger to every stick-in-the-mud grown up I've ever known.
  3. I have rituals for everything. For cleansing, concentration, to gain closure, to stop smoking, to change how I feel about things. If I have a problem that I need a solution to, I'll invariably end up performing a ritual for it.
  4. I fight against doing things simply for the sake of the thing itself. I've got to see the reason behind doing something, or somehow feel that the result of doing the thing is worth it to me. If I can't find motivation to do something, I don't do it. Sometimes this works out badly for me.
  5. I knew from a very young age that I would never have children. A fact that sometimes makes my mother terribly sad, though she exhibits a lot of understanding and respect for my choices. I'm pretty sure she'd still like to have a baby around.
  6. I feel like I don't relate to most of the people I know on so many levels. The things they talk about, and what's important to them, and what bothers them, and the things they put energy toward. Sometimes I feel like I'm from a different planet.
  7. I have a knitted hat with the word "cunt" on it (thanks to Bunny), which is my favourite hat ever.
  8. I used to want to be a psychologist; I entertained this dream until last year, when I realized I want to stay at my job until they stop letting me come back.
  9. I've never had a job I hated. Some were certainly better than others, but I've enjoyed something about every job I've ever had.
  10. I taunted Colin two weeks before he died, said something that makes my stomach lurch every time I remember it. I am not the sort to carry regrets and shame around, but if there was one thing I could go back in time and undo, it would be the things I said to him not long before he died.

I choose these lads and lasses for telling their secrets to the internet:

Mr. J

Yeah, I know that's not seven.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

God followed me to the beach

I'm at the beach. I could die of happiness. All my closest friends are here and are in good spirits. Aside from a little too much indulgence of some fancy Italian liqueur RHG shared, I feel good. I love the beach, with its salty wetness and big wind and cold, cold nights.

I had a dream last night, another dream about meeting God here. I kept hearing his horrible whisperings in my head, and I think I kept Mr. J up with my rambling mutterings about the voice of ocean, but aside from all that I'm having a great time.

I'm not ready for it to end, but I suppose it must.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I thought this would be easier

I'm also busy trying to learn stuff about the internets. I've been pretending to know stuff about CSS. I'm having fun with it, but boy is it embarrassing. Feel free to point and laugh.

I've been mighty busy ...

Here's what I've been doing at work:

  • Building an attendance tracker spreadsheet, with coded absence reasons, summaries, and vertical lookups (excel-gasm)
  • Creating templates for giving praise, gentle reminders to correct behaviour, and setting goals and objectives
  • Working on performance evaluations
  • Setting up tracking for error rates
  • Setting up my personal goals for 2009

The year is coming to a close, and this is what I do at the end of each year. It's keeping me very busy, and I feel really good about how things are going. I have closure for this year, and I can look back and objectively say I have improved in many areas.

I'm headed to the beach tomorrow (thank you, Carie, without you organizing this trip it never would have happened this year) and I'm looking forward to a whole weekend with good friends and that big ocean.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Evaluating me

It's Winter, and for me that means preparing for the coming year at work. I have something of an organizational problem; in many areas I am highly organized and things run perfectly. In other areas, not so much.

I have figured out that I am organized in the areas where there is a clear set of rules to follow, and nicely defined right-and-wrong. For the invoices my group processes, for example, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. I've defined the right way, written it down, make it available for everyone, and pay a person to answer questions: perfection.

An area I'm not very organized in is performance evaluations. I feel I am good at giving feedback to my groups on an on-going basis; I advise people when they're doing things contrary to the standard and give them an opportunity to fix it. But that end of year discussion where we sum up how effectively an employee has performed over the year, what the next year's expectations are ... that's sort of where I fail. It's there inside me, I'm just really struggling to get it out.

Part of the problem is that many of our goals are difficult to measure. Another part of the problem is that I don't have a lot of resources in place to measure other areas of performance. Every year I learn something new though, and this last year was no exception.

I bought a book, a managerial tool for writing effective performance evaluations, and it came with a disc (love books that come with discs). On the disc are documents that are designed to document various incidents through-out the year ... friendly reminders to correct behaviour called "ticklers", and commendations for a job well done called "kudos".

It's so simple. I should have thought of that. Sure, I write this stuff down. I have journal I keep for work, and I write my notes daily to track my own and others' progress. If the job was especially well done I send an email and put it in the employee's file. But the idea of a form for such things, which I can place in an employee's file to review for their evaluation ... this is genius to me. I wish I'd thought of it.

There are so many things that I just don't know. I happened into my position as manager. I got the job because I was the most practical choice in my office at that time; I am willing to do the work and to do it well. I have significant supervisory experience in my background, but no formal education in it and no real training. I'm bossy and capable, and that's pretty much the extent of my qualifications. Some things seem obvious, but there are a lot of things I don't think of.

Thank goodness for the library!

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