Thursday, April 30, 2009

May The Best Man Win

Because of all of the weird stuff that has happened in my life over the past several days, I have come up an all-new conspiracy theory!  Like to hear it?  Here it go!
As we have discussed before, I'm currently "Smoke On", which means that I let myself have cigarettes when I want them.  I'm not terribly hard-core on the smoking--a pack will last two and a half days, or more.  (Or, if I'm taking some 2000+mg of anti-biotics every several hours, a pack will last a bit longer.  Blech.)  I consider that "just barely" smoking.  And I don't smoke around my kids, didn't smoke while pregnant, don't smoke in my house (STINK!), and don't smoke around other people unless they are also smoking.  I'm actually courteous, and respectful of others, especially the non-smokers.  I'm courteous and respectful of them, mainly because I don't want to hear the inevitable whining from the whiny non-smokers, especially those that Saw The Light and quit, and are now trying to save me from myself.  People, people, people!  If Billy Graham couldn't convince me to be Christian, then do you really think you stand a chance at convincing me to stop smoking?  Ya got nuthin!
I was honest (read: stupid), when I told doctors and nurses and various other staff who asked that yes, I currently enjoy 6-7 cigarettes a day.  Sometimes 10.  Sometimes more.  Because of this, I have been the recipient of The Smoking Talk many, many times in the last four days.  It seemed to be all they wanted to talk about.  Never mind the completely unrelated infection coursing through your veins, let's talk about the smoking.  They were all very, very interested in the smoking.
I contend that there must be some prize money at stake.  Like, whichever health care professional can convince the most smokers to quit gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Bermuda.  Or, their mortgage paid off.  It's something really big, I'm sure of it.  If it wasn't really big, I can't believe they would be so focused on getting someone who barely smokes and thinks so little about smoking that I very often forget to buy cigarettes, to give up that disgusting habit.
Ahem....I can assure you, this is no "habit".  I smoke not out of compulsion, but because I LIKE to smoke.  It's not an obsession.  I believe that if I had a smoking "habit", I would not be so disciplined where my children and other non-smokers are concerned.  That's just my feelings on the matter--your mileage may vary.
So I want all you health care professionals to know that while being lectured oh-so-many times these last several days on the evil smoking thing, during those times that I was giving you that blank look, my mind was screaming, "What the hell are you even talking about?"  Did I come into the ER with a hacking cough?  No, I did not.  Chest pain?  No.  Stroke?  Nope.  ANYTHING related to smoking?  Anything at all?  Gee....I don't think I did.  In fact, is there anything in my health history even remotely related to smoking?  I mean...I am a bad, bad, smoker in her 40's, after all--you'd think it would show up somewhere, right?  Nope.  My medical history is completely free of any smoking related ailment.
It's not that I am not aware that smoking is not good for your health.  Duh.  And obviously, I am fully aware that it is not good for other people who don't smoke and are exposed to it, (which is why, when it comes to me smoking, I leave them out of it).  It's that the canned lecture means zip to me.  I already know all of this stuff.  EVERYBODY already knows this stuff.  You're not motivating me, even a little.  Smoke/Don't Smoke doesn't mean anything to me at all, because I don't identify myself as A Smoker.  I don't wake up in the morning wondering where my cigarettes are--it's usually hours between my waking and my having a cigarette.  I'm freaking busy, OK?  And if work is crazy and my mind is on other things, I don't drop everything and run outside at a certain time every day because that time is set aside for smoking, and somehow that is more important than getting the job done.  If I feel like hell, I don't try to power through it and smoke anyway--I listen to my body, and I pay attention to it when it is screaming at me to knock it off.  There have been long stretches of time in my life--years, in fact--in which I did not allow myself to smoke at all.  This just doesn't happen to be one of those times.  No big deal.
While I am, perhaps, more aware than most of the burden that habitual smokers place on our health care system, I have to ask....the you think this works?  With anyone?  Because maybe I'm just incredibly stubborn, but when someone lectures me, I am only motivated to do the exact opposite of what they want me to do.  Can't you find a better way?  Talk about stuff that I actually care about, rather than spouting off statistics, as if I haven't already heard them a million times?  I mean, I'd be far, far more motivated to stop smoking, if, say, some hot guy that I wanted to get with didn't like smokers. dropping, would be a good approach.  I'm just sayin'.
Until you change your tactics, however, I'm sticking with my cash prize theory.  What else could explain all the scrambling?  May the best man win.  (Too bad you're all a bunch of amateurs.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So, You Think It Might Be The Swine Flu?

Are you sure it isn't one of these other, animal related illnesses?
Chicken Pox--Contagious skin rash with an incubation period of 10-21 days

Mad Cow--A fatal bovine brain and spinal-cord disease, or grocer-speak for cheap rib eyes

Elephantiasis--"Big balls" should only be used figuratively

Horse's Ass---Diagnosed solely by angry wives and cured by withholding sex and hiding the remote
(Courtesy of our friends at The Toilet Paper.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

27 Hours In The ER: Character Building Exercise

 I'm not prone to exaggeration or anything, so, when I say "27 Hours", you can totally believe it.  I'm serial.
Anyway!  Check this out for weekend fun!  Friday, I woke up to what I figured was a new, icky zit on my chin, and I figured it was a good thing I had the weekend to hide out at home.  By Saturday morning, the "zit" looked more like a spider bite, so, we changed theories.  By Saturday night, when the entire right side of my face was swollen and I looked like I had been punched in the mouth by a very powerful south-paw, I thought perhaps a doctor visit was in order.  Off to the Urgent Care.
At Urgent Care, a lovely doctor handed me the strongest anti-biotics she possibly could (Two different kinds!  Variety pack!), and said, "If this isn't dramatically better by Monday, GO TO THE ER!"
And so....Monday.  I go to the ER to discover that half of the metro, thanks to our friends in the media, is now convinced that they have SWINE FLU.  And because I did not claim "Swine Flu" when I walked in the door, just some dumb, rapidly progressing, life-threatening infection....I would have to wait.
Three and a half hours later...I am allowed to enter the holy inner sanctum.
Let me just take a moment right now to tell you, for real, exactly how I feel about emergency rooms.  I effing hate them.  Oh, no, not kidding.  HATE.  You know why?  Cuz the service generally sucks, and why would I want to do that if I had some other choice?  Besides, I work for a freaking insurance company, OK?  Insurance companies WROTE THE BOOK on "Don't go to the ER, go to your doctor!" because, well, ER's are expensive, and we don't want to have to pay for that shit if we can possibly avoid it.  But every time I have had to go to an emergency room, the ENTIRE STAFF always treats me like I shouldn't be there, and that I am just making this stuff up.  They also act like they don't necessarily want to be there, either, which I find equally annoying. 
The thing is, you get there, and you wait.  You wait some more.  And you wait some more.  Then they lead you to a room, where you wait.  And you wait some more.  And you wait some more.  Then a nurse comes in and says it will be a few minutes, so, you wait.  A half-hour later, that same nurse may or may not peek in to tell you that it will be just a few more minutes.  20 minutes later, the doctor comes in, asks you what's wrong, then barely listens to you and doesn't believe anything you're saying anyway, because they figure you're just seeking narcotics or something.  Doctor exits, and a half-hour to 45 minutes later, the nurse returns to handle whatever treatment was ordered by the doctor.  Nurse inserts IV, then leaves.  A half hour later, doctor returns, actually examines you, then decides what to put in the IV--in this case, it was antibiotics.  Drip, drip, drip.  Entire bag of antibiotics successfully administered, we wait.  A half-hour later, nurse returns to discover your bag of drugs is all gone, advises that you will be going to radiology for a CT Scan, and tells you that someone will be wheel you down there in "just a couple of minutes".  A half-hour to 45 minutes later, somebody shows up to take you to radiology.  You get there, the techs are excellent, and your CT scan is done in a matter of minutes.  They call the ER back, so someone can come and get me.  15 minutes go by, and nobody shows.  Radiology calls the ER again--"Hey, the lady is still here!  Get her the hell out of here!"  15 minutes later, somebody finally shows up.  In total, you spend a half-hour there, on a stretcher, in a hallway outside of radiology, while people are walking by you, wondering what you are doing, laying there on a stretcher in the hallway.
Return to the ER, where, luckily, since you had to wait a half-hour in the hall way outside of radiology, the results of your CT scan got there before you did.  20 minutes go by, and you hear your doctor on the phone, right outside your room, discussing the results of your CT scan with some other doctor, but he says nothing to you.  Then you hear your doctor telling the nurse, "She can go home," in reference to you. 
OK, cool. 
20 minutes later, nurse comes in and removes the IV.  10 minutes after that, doctor comes in, advises you of what your life on drugs is going to be like for the next couple of weeks, scolds you for going to an ER instead of a doctor, says nothing about what was on the CT scan but insists that you MUST see an oral surgeon IMMEDIATELY.  Then the nurse comes in, goes over your discharge paperwork with you, also scolds you for going to an ER instead of a doctor, treats you like you are lying about the "real" reason you are there, and that there is no possible way whatever happened to you could have happened to you.  Acts like you don't take care of yourself, so, no wonder you're sick (never mind the fact that I probably got a stupid staph infection from some icky bitch in my office not washing her hands after using the bathroom (((shudder)))), and then doesn't even help you find the friggin' exit.
What possible reason would they have to believe that I do this sort of thing for fun?  I mean, this YOUR idea of a good time?
And I understand why emergency rooms are like that, so nobody needs to defend them to me, but, people.....that SUCKED, OK?  SUCKED.  I mean, I have NEVER, in my ENTIRE LIFE, ever visited an emergency room and not left in a very pissy mood.  I hate them.  HATE.  They act like your time is worth nothing, and treat you like you are lying about everything.  Next time, I'll just let the infection kill me.  It might take much longer than the 8 hours of emergency room bullshit, but at least I won't have to pay for parking.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Am (Not) An Animal

Nothing quite like an unexpected facial disfigurement to wake you right up.
I woke up this morning to a very scary looking infection, which, yesterday, I figured was just an icky zit, but, it is bigger than a quarter and growing, and the entire right side of my face tooks like I took a hard punch to the mouth.  Weird, weird, weird...
Power-shooting antibiotics is not my idea of a leisurely Sunday, but hey, at least they don't have to cut my face off.  Actually, I suppose it is a good thing that it is on my face, because I would have ignored it if it was anywhere else.
Do you think I can milk this for a day or two, and get people to wait on me?  Because that is my ultimate goal in life, as you know...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Open Letters

Dear Person Sitting At On-Ramp Signal:
Fascinating, isn't it?  How the light goes from Red to Green and back to Red SO FAST!  I can see how you might have missed that, three times in a row.  It's OK, though--I, for one, was not born knowing how on-ramp signals work, either.  And besides, you weren't in my lane, so, what the hell do I care?
Dear Person Stuck Behind On-Ramp Signal Virgin:
Clearly, I was in a much better position than you were, to enjoy the hilarity of someone sitting indefinitely at an on-ramp signal light, so, forgive me for laughing.  I must say, you demonstrated extreme patience in waiting until the second signal was missed before laying on the horn, however, passing someone on an on-ramp once they finally figure out that they are supposed to GO ALREADY is not recommended.  It would be lovely if morning commutes never involved me wincing in anticipation of a disaster directly ahead of me.  Luckily, I was in a stopped position at the time you made your daring move, so I could close my eyes.  The lack of crashing noises was an unexpected delight!  Nice drivin'!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pause For Parental Happy

Let me tell you a little bit about the Punkster...

She's like me, only...not. She's stubborn as hell (like me), and all of my friends have come to know her by her "other" name, which is Arguing Annie, a name bestowed upon her by her father and his wife, years ago, before she actually got good at the art of the beat-down. If only they could see her now.

She's also all about hangin' with friends, relaxing, having a good time, and that is ABSOLUTELY me, all the way. I don't think she looks a lot like me--more like a combo of her dad and my brother Randy--but she's been the cutest thing for so long...and I suppose she used it to her advantage for WAY too long, but, that's another post.

We differ in one small way, and that is that I am what I would like to consider a "thorough" person (detail-oriented freak, if you prefer), and she...not so much. She'd just rather hang with friends than, say, clean her room to any liveable level, put shoes on before going outside, do the dishes (her dish night takes three to four days), or study, or, any of that other dumb stuff. You can imagine what her grades looked like. OK, you don't have to imagine it, I'll TELL you!

Crap! They looked like CRAP!

I never had any serious grade issues when I was in middle or high school--I'm not sure why, it was just very easy for me. I think that it is probably easy for her, too, she'd just really rather be doing something else.

Anyway...I got a phone call yesterday from the child herself, advising that after a long, loooooong battle between us regarding her grades, that she is now practically acing everything, and that the lowest grade she has is just one C. Dramatically different from the many F's of months ago.

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for being totally stunned by this revelation.

And I would also like to say...

Wow! Holy Wow! How did you do that? I mean, seriously, you NEVER study! hehe...

In honor of No F's, I would like to share a series of pictures of Cissy NOT studying, because finally, after all this time, she has made it work for her. Yay!

I'm not sure what it is that I am supposed to give her crap about now that she is getting all those A's....her room is still a disaster, so, maybe I'll start there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Secrets of the Silent Husband

I thought this was an interesting article from Psychology Today, and I thought that the most telling line of all was the line about how a great many men fall in love with their wives as their wives are walking out the door.
Not that I needed any additional oppressive guilt in my life.
I wish it was easier--for everyone.  Not to leave, necessarily, but to make it through things without laying all the hurt on each other, considering that most of the time, we don't even mean to do it.  Certainly, it makes you think.
I have had some strange experiences in my life of dealing with other people, most notably that of all of the jobs that I have held, every time I left one of them, for whatever reason, about a year later, sometimes less, somebody from my old job called and asked me to come back.  And every time I would think, "What are you talking about?  You people hated my guts!  Don't you remember?"  Relationships, same thing.  It's like they totally forgot what an awful person I was, or whatever.
While I am not consciously aware of ever thinking "You had your chance" or anything overtly bitchy like that, my first reaction is always to decline any offers of reconciliation.  It's not because I think I'm so fucking great or find them unworthy, its just that...I don't forget.  I don't forget what it felt like to be treated like I'm an awful person, or be taken for granted, or, the very worst, not taken seriously.
Curse my elephant's memory.
One of the most important things you can practice in your life is forgiveness, though I am quick to stress, to everyone who asks and many who don't, that forgiveness is not the same thing as forgetting.  I don't have any bad feelings toward anyone, even if, in my little brain, they have done me wrong in some way.  Even people who actually HAVE done me wrong in some measurable way (talking illegal acts, here), I don't wish ill.  But I don't, and won't hang out with them if I can possibly help it.  That's because I don't forget.  Perhaps men do.

Every marriage therapist has heard it dozens of times. The tearful wife says, "I'm not sure he really loves me anymore," and the bewildered man drops his jaw in astonishment.

"What do you mean I don't love you, I go to work every day!" he protests.
"You would do that anyway," she says scornfully.

He sighs in frustration, ready to throw in the towel, because she seems to hold the trump card. What he is unable to say is this:

"It's true; I would go to work every day if you left me, but it wouldn't mean the same."

Chances are, if she left him, he would be a shadow of himself, merely going through the motions of living.

Men have a hard time giving the reasons why they value their wives because their wives are the reason they value everything else. We men tend to live in our work and routines, but we live for our families. In general, wives provide the meaning of life for their husbands.

The Toll of Divorce and Widowhood on Men
In terms of physical and mental health, as well as job performance and concentration, divorce and widowhood are more devastating to men than women. (Just think of the emotional well-being of your male friends whose wives have left them.) The following are a few of the elevated risk factors to the health, well-being, safety, and job performance of divorced and widowed men:

• Impaired problem-solving

• Narrow and rigid focus (can't see other perspectives)

• Lowered creativity

• High distractibility

• Higher error rates at work

• "Heavy foot" on the gas while driving

• More car crashes

• Hair-trigger reactivity

• Anxiety, worry, depression

• Resentment, anger, aggression

• Alcoholism

• Poor nutrition

• Isolation

• Suicide

• Shortened lifespan

Make no mistake, women suffer in divorce too, but in general the benefits of marriage and the psychological harm of divorce skew considerably toward men. This is partly because women maintain and nurture the family's social support structure. They remember people's birthdays and anniversaries, which friends like which kinds of movies, and whose turn it is to go where for dinner. When women leave the marriage, they take that support network with them, while their abandoned men sit by the phone and wonder why no one calls. Divorced women rarely face the same kind of emotional isolation as divorced men. (There is no need for an aphorism like, "No woman is an island.") They are less likely to develop mental health problems, alcoholism, and suicidal tendencies, and are extremely unlikely to engage in high-risk behaviors like speeding and playing with guns. By almost every measure, marriage is more essential to men than to women.

The Invisibility of Meaning and Purpose
We are not accustomed to thinking about that which provides meaning and purpose to our lives. Meaning and purpose rarely take the form of everyday goals and aspirations. Rather, they result from fidelity to our deepest values and are, therefore, more noticeable in their absence than in their presence. Men tend to under appreciate the value of their wives until it is too late, after she is exhausted from coping with her perceived isolation in the marriage. A great many men then fall in love with their wives as they're walking out the door.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone
To flourish, committed relationships require both parties to come out of their comfort zones for each other. In the realm of meaning and purpose, men need to appreciate the importance of their wives before they lose them. No man ever regretted on his death bed having told his wife too much how important she was to him.

Women need to appreciate the difficulty, indeed unnaturalness, of perceiving (much less articulating) meaning and purpose. Your husband will not do it as easily or as often as you would like, but he must do it more often than he would like.

Put another way, successful marriage requires that you both leave your comfort zones in order to grow into the love that rises from your deepest values.


Learning To Let It Be What It Is

Life is funny.
This morning, I awoke to find that my cell phone was not working.  What happened is, because my STBX and I have phones under the same contract, and, I was still under that contract when I left, I thought, and he thought, that it 'might' be easier for me to just keep that phone under the same plan and pay my portion of the bill until my contract was up, then just get my own.  I mean--we're not at each other's throats or anything, and are perfectly capable of cooperating on numerous issues, so, it seemed like a workable plan.  It's a few months.  No big deal.  Of course, paying my portion of that bill does not guarantee that he will be able to do the same--I'm only in charge of my own stuff, and ultimately have nothing to do with whatever it is that he might do with that bill, or even the entire contract.  It isn't up to me, which, trust me, is NOT my favorite way to fly, what with the "shit happens" thing hanging out there, but, whatever. 
Anyway...shit happened--bill was over-looked.
Now, normally, I'd be in an awfully pissy mood right now.  My life moves, and, I've always got a couple dozen things going on, most of which require me (in my mind) to be capable of instantly communicating with SOMEONE about SOMETHING, whatever something happens to need my attention at any given moment--interviews and callbacks, kids running all over the place and needing rides and/or permission to do so, friends with issues, friends without issues, get advice, give advice, pay me, pay you, where's my money, why haven't you called me back, blah, blah, blah.  I need my phone.  Never mind the fact that I have a home phone, work phone, and internet pretty much everywhere I land--when that extension of my left hand is not functional, everything in my brain just stops.  I'm sure that a lot of you are the same way. 
However...I am actually quite calm at the moment.  I feel like, this is not a big deal.  Like, I'm actually NOT addicted to my cell phone. 
How entirely unexpected.
I must tell you that I am not used to being....this calm.  About anything.  Historically, I've always got my fingers in the goop, in EVERYTHING--fixing, fixing, fixing, adjusting, adjusting, adjusting.  Everything in my world is a work in progress.  And I have quite a few more projects going than the average person.
Today, for some reason, I just don't care.  Don't Care.
I feel like somebody just gave me a vacation.  
How's that for trusting the universe?  Who is this girl?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dinner, Done.

Already in the middle of the month, and I just found out that April is
Hello!  I now have menu for the next 15 days...
(I'm sooooo NOT kidding!  I'll just leave the griddle right there on the counter-top until May.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

At Least It Wasn't Brain Fry

I woke up Sunday morning to the smell of burning electrical circuits, one of my most favorite (facetiousness fully intended) smells in the world, because, not being paranoid at all, when I smell that, I automatically assume that all of the wiring in my entire house is about to burst into flames so I walk around, dragging my palms over the walls, looking for hot spots, while my nose is working like some rodent.
Have I mentioned that I am deathly afraid of fire? 
I used to be Panic Attack afraid of fire, but I've calmed down to Incredibly Freaked Out afraid of fire.  I'm probably the worst at Christmas time, when I lie awake many nights, worrying about all of those extension cords and lights, and, oh-gawd I can't even think about that right now...
I finally located the source of the Very Scary Electrical Smell, which was my desktop computer, and when we popped it open, we found that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
No fire.  No computer, either, but, that's not a big deal compared to, say, not being able to reach your children because of a wall of flames.
See where my mind goes?  Isn't that awful?
I take full responsibility for killing the computer, because even though I do try my best to keep the dust out, there was probably enough cat hair compacted around the front USB jacks to built a whole other cat, so, yeah, it was definitely a death due to neglect thing.  Luckily, we have the rockin' little netbook, so nobody is twitching due to internet withdrawal.  I haven't decided if I am in the market for a whole new set-up or just a repair--we'll see what mood strikes me over the course of the next week or two, and, of course, what I can get away with.  You know how it don't WANT to have to buy a new computer, but, gee, you sure hate to waste this "opportunity"...hehe...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sorta Rock Star-ish

I have to laugh a little because I'm like a super-nerd, quizzical brain, high IQ, work-a-holic freak, toiling away in a mind-bogglingly complicated (read: Boring) industry, so there is nothing remotely Rock Star about me, but...
...this week was a very good week.
Here is the thing....I work in the health insurance industry. 
I also viscerally HATE the health insurance industry as it currently exists. 
I started hating it from the very first day I ever had a bad experience with some uncaring, unfeeling and generally stupid customer service dip-shit who couldn't explain to me why, after I had personally shovelled piles and piles of my money into the company coffers (hello premium payments) that my particular insurance company wouldn't cover whatever it was that I needed covering at the time, which especially pissed me off, considering that I am never sick and rarely ever actually used the insurance.  Yep, on the occasion I needed it, "sorry".  
And to top it off, they used my very least favorite combination of words in a sentence while talking to me, too, which made me want to reach through the phone and strangle them.  In case you are curious, those words are "Our Policy".
Trust me, no college student socked with hundreds of dollars in medical bills cares about anybody's "policy".
I continued hating the insurance industry at various times through the years, and certainly EVERY time I ever needed to use it or talk to anyone at an insurance company about my particular situation because the service was invariably crappy, and I find it personally offensive to pay through the nose for something and receive crappy service in return.  Fuck.  You.  I work WAY too hard for my money to be treated like it doesn't matter.
As luck would have it, one day I was offered a job working for an insurance company, and since I'm never one to be afraid of putting my money where my mouth is, I took that job, and got myself an inside view of how things really worked--now I could see for myself why health insurance seems so messed up all the time.
At my new job, mostly, there were no surprises.  The people who dealt directly with the public (customer service) had the lowest pay, and it was considered by the company to be an un-skilled position, which is why most of the people they got to do that type of work were....un-skilled. 
But that IS the face of many insurance companies, in most cases--"unskilled labor"--as witnessed by the hundreds and hundreds of people who were calling with complex issues, teetering on the brink of a financial disaster caused by medical bills, every day. 
You go ahead and think about that for a minute.  I'll wait.
Even better, large segments of the business are outsourced, which is not an unusual thing for American companies these days, and not to begrudge anyone in India a job or anything, but the reality is that the sheer TURNOVER of employees at over-seas call centers all but guaranteed that that segment of business would remain "un-skilled" indefinitely.  One of their managers once told me that to have an employee stay on the job more than 3 MONTHS was rare.  Three Months.  How much did you know about your job in the first three months, starting cold?  You can't learn the piano in three months, what the hell makes you think you can do this?  The language barrier alone takes months to overcome, and with complicated issues such as medical claims and payments, excellent communication is the only thing standing between resolution and disaster.  Believe it.
Meanwhile, back here in the States, "customer service", a group of less-than-committed individuals pulling in salaries in the low 20's, not enough to actually support a family, but dramatically more than their Indian counterparts, was largely made up of what I refer to as the 'poor' crowd.  By 'poor' I mean, poor in their way of thinking, and 'poor', meaning that their feelings regarding money will essentially keep them 'poor' forever.  Not ambitious.  Low 20's is "good money" for them.  Individually nice people, but, you get the feeling that if they were handed a 100K job tomorrow, they would still display all of those fabulous white trash qualities that we know and love, and would be far more likely to blow their salary on some stuff to fix up their car, rather than, say, provide a better educational opportunity for their kid, for example.
I'm just sayin'.
These are the same people who would spend an hour complaining about how their boss moved their break time 15 minutes closer to their lunch, but take exactly 2 minutes and 3 seconds to blow off some customer because the customer's issue was multi-faceted and complicated and they (customer service) "don't feel like thinking that much today."
I wouldn't be saying it if I hadn't heard it with my very own ears.
You know who I'm talking about...people who are annoyed when a customer calls right in the middle of their telling of a very funny story about how their dog was humping their husband's leg.  Or whatever.
And the means by which their performance is measured feeds directly into their simplistic way of thinking:  Call time.  Don't get me started.  "Can you get a customer off the phone in 2 minutes?  Because we have a lot of callers, and rather than hiring more people, we figured out that if we just talk less, we can handle the work load with less people." 
"Duuuh, yeah, I think I can do that..." and they DO.  You actually have people in customer "service" saying things like, "I wasn't going to sacrifice my call time on that", regarding some poor sucker who's doctor ordered a diagnostic test and now he has to pay 2 grand for that test because nobody took the time to explain to him, or his doctor, that it wouldn't be covered for some reason, which, believe it or not, is a fixable problem for an insurance company, but requires a bit of time and man-power to unravel.
Thankfully, the call time criteria is changing...a little.  Baby steps.
Without going into detail, because, well, it's boring, let me just say that the ENTIRE TIME I have been working in the health insurance industry, I've been on a personal mission to make it suck just a little less for the thousands of policy holders that I have assisted, either directly or indirectly, at my job.  When it was me doing customer service, it was easy--I'd just fall on the knife and "sacrifice my call time" and actually solve their problem.  Such a maverick.  Since I no longer deal directly with the customers much (and by the way, if you're any good, the insurance company will promote you out of that area and give you a raise, so, that's another reason why customer service is staffed almost entirely by the unambitious), I now find other ways to chip away at the bullshit.
This week, I took a gigantic chunk out of it.  A big, fat, policy-changing initiative.  A big, fat, policy-changing initiative which was nothing, really--can't believe nobody thought of it before--but, oh well, I'll take the credit for that, and my boss, and my boss's boss, and the customer service boss all love me.  The customer service people themselves hate my guts, because they are now required to think about something they didn't want to think about before, but, who gives a shit, right?  How about, regarding this one, teeny issue, customer service doesn't SUCK--how about that? was a good week.  All good.  Sometimes, when I'm saying those words, "Positive change from within!" I'm not in a position to believe it--I'm actually saying it to try to convince myself that it matters that I actually care about the work that I do.  I say it to bolster my own spirits.  Sometimes, happily, I require no such positive inner-dialogue, because the momentum caused by a simple act carries the entire conversation to a really, really good place.  Excellent.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tour de Cure

Hey all--
I thought I would post a note from my sister, who is an avid cycler, and does a lot of tours and, you know, Pleasure Cruises through the Austrian Alps and what-not (she is a very serious athlete, and yes, she can kick your ass, thanks for asking). 
This year, she is doing the Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association (a short, 67 miles, which is no big deal, right DC?), and she would love your help!
So, without further adieu...

Hi Everyone,

I recently accepted the challenge of cycling in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure fund-raising event with the Schering Plough cycling "team".  The Tour de Cure is a series of cycling events held in over 80 cities nationwide.  The Tour is a ride, not a race; it features different route lengths from a family-friendly 13-mile course to a challenging 100-mile journey.  I've opted for the 100k (67 mile) ride that starts in central New Jersey (Basking Ridge) on June 6th. I have joined thousands of others who will pedal in support of the Association's mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

I am asking you to help by supporting my fund-raising efforts with a donation. Your tax-deductible gift will make a difference in the lives of more than 23 million Americans who suffer from diabetes and over 57 million people in the United States with pre-diabetes.

It's fast and easy to support this great cause - you can make your donation online by selecting the link below or directly to me in the form of a check made out to the American Diabetes Association.

Any amount, great or small, helps in the fight against this deadly disease. I greatly appreciate your support and will keep you posted on my progress. If you want to do even more to help, please consider joining me in this great event - there are 30 and 13 mile options at this event for riders who don't want to spend hours in the saddle. Our efforts will help set the pace in the fight against diabetes!

More information on the American Diabetes Association, its programs and diabetes in general can be found at the Association's Web site:

For more information on Tour de Cure, please visit

Thanks for your support!

Smart Ass In The Workplace

Sometimes, I need to ask questions...
Sometimes, the people I need to ask are busy and wonder, could we talk about it later...?
Well, certainly we could...
I like to think that all of my questions are easy questions.  Seriously, as long as you are asking the right person, and you've tried everything to solve the problem on your own, but there is just one missing piece and you know who holds the missing piece...should be simple, right?  No more difficult than your basic algebraic equation.  Solve for X.  Done.
So it feels dumb when you say, "Hey, can I ask you a quick question about something?" and they respond by sending you a meeting request on Outlook.
Dumb enough to maybe....oh, I dunno....make a smart-ass joke about it.
What the hell, right?  Since the other person and I are now officially on each other's schedule, is it wrong to advise that in place of my 12-second inquiry, there will now be a brief Power Point presentation, followed by discussion and review?
Just curious...
I am of the mind that companies that have a lot of meetings waste a lot of time.  This company has a kajillion meetings.  I've been to dozens, and I'm just some schmoh.  My boss?  You never see her--she's always at a meeting.
I sit through meetings, tapping my foot the entire time (patience of a gnat), thinking about the pile of work on my desk that I should be doing instead of sitting at the meeting, where the pile of work is being discussed, as if by talking about it, they can somehow make it go away.
Never mind the fact that there is never a resolution--we talk, and at the end of the allotted talk time, nobody has committed to any action of any kind, they just scratch their heads and say, "well, this is a very complex issue".  From time to time, they actually set up a committee to look into it further.  And that is followed by status meetings, progress meetings, etc.
Initiative replaced by bullshit.  Film at 11.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

At Least I'm Affordable

This whole, "Not getting a damn thing done today," bit is surprisingly exhausting...
You'd think sitting at your desk, eating cold pad thai and occasionally typing something work-related would not be stressful, and ultimately, it isn't, but I happen to be bouncing off the walls today, so, I can't seem to connect with just one thought at a time, and that is the stressful part. 
I feel like I need to take a break, but I look at my desk and think, "I haven't DONE anything!  Have I EARNED a freaking break?" and then I don't take one. 
And THAT stresses me out.
But, screw it, I'm taking a break.
In leiu of actual writing, here is a random funny thing:
A friend of a friend of a friend of mine (wait....relative of a friend of a friend?  Friend of a relative of a friend?) opened up their cable bill today to find that it much?
.....How much?
Oh, that's right...NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS. 
Say it with me!  $900 Cable Bill!  Woot! 
And what the hell happened there?
Well, it seems somebody in the house discovered porn last month, and we all know how exciting THAT can be...
Try to imagine, if you will, just how much porn one would have to watch in order to see $900 worth in a month. 
Just picture it in your head. 
Seems like a lot, huh?
hehe...yeah, its awful, but that's funny, right?
(I have to ask...laughing at someone else's financial misfortune, which was caused by a teenaged that bad?  Oh never mind, I don't actually care...)

Monday, April 6, 2009

And I Don't Care If It's Monday, I Am....Truly Delighted...

Los Lonely Boys!  And all of the cuteness! (Seriously, I'm such a mommy, but I can't help but want to grab their little faces and smoosh 'em...)
Close enough to my birthday to call it a gift...!
Screw it, I'm just gonna call it a gift...
June 26th at the Zoo.  Woot!

Clearly, He Is Being Tortured

Jack has always been a snappy dresser, but the pink boa is new...

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's Friday, Keep It Innocuous

I'm not much for small talk, really, but find that most people don't want to think all that much while talking, which is why having a conversation with me is generally an assault to their senses, what with their only topics being the usual "Oh, it's Monday" or "Yay!  It's Friday!" or, "I'm so sick of the cold..." or, "Yay!  The SUN is SHINING!".  And even the stuff about which everyone agrees, they don't actually talk about it so much as one person makes a statement and the other grunts in agreement. 
To get along in the workplace, I have had to learn how to pretend to hate Mondays, and, pretend that every Friday is a damn good day, just is FRIDAY!  I also have to occasionally pretend that this stuff Mother Nature is doing is either GREAT or, a huge bummer.
Truth is, I don't care much.  The days pretty much blend together and the weather just IS, and there isn't much I can do about that.
I have a million topics pop into my head, daily--things that delight me, and things that annoy the living hell out of me.  I often find that bringing them up in conversation illicits a blank stare, and I don't know if I should feel bad that the person has no idea what the hell I am talking about or why I would lend that particular topic any importance whatsoever, OR, I feel like a total idiot and wonder...why I would lend that particular topic any importance whatsoever.
And that, my friends, is the 'real' reason that I have a blog.  You may refer to it as "social idiot" syndrome. 
I'm OK with that.
Because I have a blog, I can still talk about all the stupid shit that generates those blank stares, without having to feel the sting of the actual stare.  Cuz sometimes, I feel the urge to call someone up and say, "OHMYGOD I just LOOOOOOOOVE my new earbuds!  Like, I can hear people BREATHING in between lines of the song!  I can actually HEAR the pick hitting the string!  And you know, last night, I was doing the dishes, and I was listening to my mp3 player, and I thought it was super-weird because 'Moondance' came on, and you know how you CAN'T listen to that without singing along, right?  But my earbuds are soooooo awesome that I couldn't hear myself!  So I had to take one of them out so I could hear myself singing, so I wouldn't annoy the children with the bad singing-out-of-tune thing.  And then?  When I took it out of my ear?  It accidentally dropped into the dishwater!  But it's OK, though!  It still works!"
Now...usually, when you spit out that much dialogue in that hyperactive way that I do, you get a response similar to, "That's...nice...," and later, when they hang up, instead of thinking "that Shelly is such a delight!" they think something like, "that girl is so.....weird."
I mean...there are the people out there who have never even heard of the Moondance singing/dancing REQUIREMENT.  They don't know that the Moondance singing/dancing REQUIREMENT also extends to pretty much everything Van Morrison ever recorded.  Maybe (Gasp!) they haven't even heard of Moondance OR Van Morrison!
In which case, I ask you...who is the weirdo?
Based on the standards of the Small Talk crowd, this stuff is way too deep.  (Earbuds? ...Van Morrison? have to dance...?)  These things have nothing to do with weather or the day of the week, topics of conversation, they are generally way "out-there".
This complication extends beyond the things that I love beyond reason (earbuds...really.  Can we get excited about some more inanimate objects?  That's some real love for you.  Then again, I wanted to marry Paul McCartney when I was all of ten years old, so I have a very, very long history of having very strong feelings for people and things that couldn't possibly (or even legally) get me back, but, hey, that's between me and my shrink, so shut up...) It extends all the way to stuff that bothers me immensely.  I'm, uh, enthusiastic
Yes, we'll call it that.  Enthusiastic.   
Here is a typical "I'm so annoyed" conversation, and, because she is usually the one on the receiving end of these, we'll insert Barb as the victim.
Barb (answers phone):  Hey
Me:  (yelling) Do you have ANY IDEA how many people named John Larson live in the metro?
Me:  A BILLION, Barb!  A fucking BILLION, OK?  And guess which fine citizen sent me a copy of his doctor bill today, Barb?
Barb:  John Larson?
Me:  John-Fucking-Larson!  And do you think John Larson would put his date of birth on there?  Or maybe an account number?  Social Security Number?  ANYTHING?  JeeezuzFuckingChrist!  A little help here!  A middle initial!  SOMETHING!!!  I spent TWO FUCKING HOURS looking through every John Larson in the state!  And you know what?  Guess what!
Barb:  ....uh...
Me:  Not only did stupid-ass John Larson give me NO MEANS except his address by which to distinguish him from the other eleventy kajillion John Larson's in the state of Minnesota, but apparently, his ADDRESS is WRONG on the thing!  We never did figure out who the hell he was!
Barb:  ...uh....Wow...?
And by this time, even though she is a very, very good sport, Barb is reeling from the blunt force trauma of my "small talk".
Not to mention, gosh, I'd love to chit-chat about "Yay!  It's Friday!" but somebody just put a piece of paper belonging to a 'Michael Johnson' on my desk and now, much like the Pharaoh, I have to kill every Michael Johnson, just to make sure that THIS ONE dies. 
...weren't expecting the Moses reference, were you?
I'm blaming John Larson for the entire murderous rampage.
Not to worry, they'll never find him. 
You'd think, hearing stuff like that, that I'm feeling grouchy or something.  In fact, the opposite is true.  I feel like a million bucks.  Top of the world.  All of the life that drained out of me during the month of March has returned, and I am FULL, people.  Full of energy, full of happy, fully awake, fully alive, and back in kick-ass mode, where I should be, and where I need to be, to feel normal.  And I don't really care if anyone else thinks it's normal--they don't have to live with me.  March was a drag...a real drag.  Thank God it's over.
For today, just so that the bulk of the population can grasp the level of my enthusiasm for life at this very moment, I'm going to blame in on Friday! and  Sunshine! and leave out the details, because as we have seen, I tend to over-detail things.  A lot.  So, when I say, "Hey!  It's Friday!  It's a beautiful day!", you can simply grunt your acknowledgement, like you would normally do, and move on about your day, thinking that I actually have a grasp on this Small Talk thing.  Just pretend this conversation never happened...