Monthly Archives: August 2008

At Liberty

I am still experiencing a wide range of emotions.

I woke up on Thursday, unsure of whether or not I needed to go into the office. Eventually, I heard that I didn’t need to show up until Friday morning. Good! That left Thursday open to work on that staggering list of Things To Do. I went through my email, and addressed a couple of necessary replies. (Amy, I haven’t forgotten about you!) Early in the day, a Friend In The Industry called to ask if I was still shopping for CS3. Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. I found a suspiciously low price online, but haven’t been able to verify the morality of the vendor. Why do you ask? Because you can get me an ethical copy for an even better price? Oh, frabjous day!

I met friends for lunch, and lunch turned into… late lunch. We talked and talked and caught up and talked and laughed and people came in and out of the restaurant, while we remained. For hours. And hours. Fully five hours after I’d walked out of the house, I finally returned home. And I was anxious. Anxious about all the work I’d assigned to myself, and not gotten done. Anxious about how much time I’ll have to work on this Very Necessary stuff, once I’m busy working as a contractor for the next few weeks. Anxious about the stuff that I NEEDED TO GET DONE TODAY. My friend Nick sent me an email, and told me to not worry about it until next week. Take some time to let my head decompress. Mentally, I fired off a reply: But you don’t understand. You don’t “get” that I need to take care of these details before I can get more work. This is Very Necessary stuff! And then I checked the rest of my email. I read one from another friend, informing me that her very sick cat had taken a turn for the worse, and didn’t make it. My heart broke. I immediately called my friend to offer inadequate condolences. I cried for her loss. I felt useless during this time when she most needs help.

I took a breath. And another. I reassessed my situation. I heard what Nick had been saying. Sure, I could stress out about getting this stuff done RIGHT NOW, while my head is foggy with shock. Or I could wait until next week, or the week after, or when my contract is up, and work on my resumé and portfolio with a clear head and a better idea of what I’m trying to do. And I can take a day where I get “nothing” done. Take care of me. Play with the cats. Enjoy a brief moment of being At Liberty before I waste another minute panicking.

My contract begins at 8:30 on Friday morning. Everything will be fine. I’m counting on it.

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Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel

In our last installment, I had been relieved from my duties at my now-former place of employment. However, I was hopeful that I could nab a short-term contract to finish up the catalog I had most recently begun work on. Wednesday, I received word that the paperwork was in process, and I could expect to be back at work as a contractor on, probably, Thursday.

Late Wednesday night, as I write this, I’ve heard nothing further.

Once I get back to the office, be it Thursday or Friday or even next week, I’ll have to read that contract very carefully. I had offered an hourly rate, and the contract came back as a package price based on that. Which is fine, and completely logical. However, I want to make sure that I don’t wind up signing an agreement to finish up this job for a fixed rate, and then get roped into twice as many hours as were estimated, thereby halving my income from it. I’ll be looking for some sort of “and if this project takes more than an estimated 100 hours…” kind of thing in there. I don’t expect that it will, especially when the press dates are figured in, but just in case. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot the first time I do this.

When this contract is up, I would very much like to try to make a go of full-time freelance. The cats were STARING AT ME on Wednesday, so I went down to my local Starbucks to get some work done in peace. Yes, I became one of Those People. And you know what? It’s a terrific work environment. I got a lot done while I was there. My to-do list is still threatening to squash me, but I feel as though I made a healthy dent. I spent a good amount of time going through ancient files, building my online portfolio (still not ready for public viewing, sorry) and remembering how much fun it was to create logos. And how much I’m enjoying the idea of going into work, putting on headphones, and LEAVING AT 5. That’s right, leaving. At 5. Not spending half my day fielding interruptions from people who want various pesky things from me. Go in, do my job, leave. That sounds soooooo good to me right now.

A few people have suggested that I could write for a living, too. I am tickled that folks (including a couple of professional writers!) like my writing enough to say so, but I’ve never before written to someone else’s specifications. I am, however, a pretty darn good editor. Either of those avenues would be interesting to try out.

In the meantime, here’s a list of what I accomplished on Wednesday:

  • Showered and dressed
  • Started to-do list (Hey, I have ADD. A list is an accomplishment!)
  • Ordered new contact lenses (Night & Day by CIBA Vision. Love them. Loooooove them.)
  • Left message to make an appt. with dermatologist
  • Sent email to two potential clients
  • Had phone discussion re: contract to finish up project left in limbo
  • Left message for a friend regarding sitting for his cat
  • Nearly finished one of two web portfolio pages
  • Shipped two etsy orders
  • Fixed my wireless network (with the help of Dave)
  • Updated my LinkedIn profile
  • Researched cost of CS3 Design Standard software package (ouch)
  • Unsuccessfully shopped for miniature thank-you cards for etsy orders
  • Successfully shopped for rod for guest room curtains
  • Met friends for last bowling league game of the season

I have a ton more to do when I get some more time, but for now, a freelance gig is interrupting my freelance preparation. There are worse problems to have. :)

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And Now For Something Completely Different

My first real job was as a stock girl at a shoe store. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. I quit after my junior year of high school, and took that summer off. My senior year found me working at a supermarket bakery, where I stayed until I left for college.

My freshman year work-study job was a security guard. Which is, of course, ridiculous. All I really did was act as Gatekeeper for the restricted-access buildings, and shoot photos for the occasional replacement ID card.

When I returned home for the summer, my old bakery boss wanted me back (she had hired TWO people to do the work that I used to do, and still didn’t think they were doing it as well) but the Big Boss put me over in the deli instead. A delicatessen in New Jersey is one of the busiest places around on any given hot, muggy, summer evening. NOBODY wants to cook. Not indoors, not on their grill. It’s HOT. What people eat a LOT of is cold, sliced meat and salads. I worked the evening shift, from around 3pm to closing. Always alone. My biceps were better toned than ever before, from hauling around 10-gallon containers of potato salad and hoisting giant roasts onto the slicers over and over and over and over. I was underpaid, overworked, and learned to drink iced coffee from 2-lb deli containers, just to keep up with the steady stream of customers.

Back in the relative calm of school again, my work-study program shifted me to the Residence Hall office. I filed some paperwork, and had the master keys to every dorm room in our largest of the campus buildings, the 17-story Willoughby Hall. Our exterminator contractor could only hit so many dorm rooms in a given day, so I would spend a part of each day accompanying him from room to room, unlocking doors and making sure he walked out with the same equipment he walked in with. At the end of the school year, when it was time for me to return once again to New Jersey, my boss threw me a good-bye party. With a cake.

My return to NJ was semi-permanent, and I got a job as a supermarket cashier while I went to school. The money wasn’t bad, the union (464A) made sure we got a 25¢ raise every three months, the hours were flexible, and the guy going to Stevens Tech and I used to unofficially compete for fastest speed. I prided myself on having “regular” customers who would seek out my line, just to say hi. Even if my line was longer. I love doing a job well. When the store was sold to new owners, each and every employee was laid off.

Through a friend, I quickly found work at a 100-year-old company that produced beautiful, woven clothing labels. Levi’s Red Tab? We did those. Silver Tab, too. Anthropologie. Columbia Sportswear. The World Cup tournament and the Olympics. And then there were the layoffs. One person from each department. The last hired in every case. And that, in my department, was me. My boss was crying as he gave me the news. As soon as the hiring freeze was lifted, he tried to get me back. It didn’t feel like job security to me.

Just as my unemployment was about to run out, I finally found a new job. I had, in desperation, applied to work as a part-time telephone operator for a market research company. The people who saw my resumé and interviewed me, though, saw something better in me. I was hired on instead as a department manager, and I was the one hiring new operators by the end of my first week. I spent my days working full-time for Suburban Associates, and finished my degree in the evenings.

BFA firmly in hand, I said goodbye to SA and moved to Colorado. It took me nearly two months to eventually find work as a production artist for QVS Digital Imaging, a brand-spankin’-new prepress vendor. We were tied in with a mid-sized offset printing company, and as a result I learned how to prep files for efficient production better than anyone I have ever met. Even the most expensive and seasoned designers would turn over files to me that I had to spend time fixing before we could properly rip plates. I learned how to peel apart the most complex files, and put them back together seamlessly. Taking in all sorts of files on all sorts of media also meant that I had to learn the basics of a number of different software programs, in addition to picking up what computer maintenance and repair I could manage on my own as the files and disks took turns corrupting various systems. As the company grew, I was given the leeway to delegate tasks so that I could focus on the design services that we also offered, and I eventually became Senior Designer (and unofficially Really Tricky File Fixer).

After nearly seven years in that saddle, and with nowhere else to go at QVS, I threw my hat in the ring for what I had heard though the grapevine might be an upcoming design gig at a socially-conscious company nearby. The company was a perfect fit for my ideals, and I was thrilled to be offered a position, even if it wasn’t exactly what I’d been looking for. I was hired on as Digital Assets Manager, with the promise of “movement from within” when a design position eventually opened up. Eight months later, we laid off a third of the company. I was spared from the chopping block, however. As my department continued to reorganize, I eventually took on more and more tasks, until I was soon acting as the lead for two different catalog publications, and numerous magazine ads, although my title didn’t reflect the change in responsibilities. It took a couple more years for that to finally get taken care of, and in 2006 I was officially made an Art Director, in charge of three different catalog brands. Recently, I’d been butting heads stylistically with a newer hire, but my frustration with that relationship didn’t cloud my opinion of the company that I worked for, or of the rest of my colleagues. The company and I were still a perfect fit, and my coworkers were my family. By now, I had been there longer than most others, but we all arrived there for the same reasons: love of the planet, of humanity, of seeing what good we can do when we put our minds to it. On Monday, I was finally able to take a break from working on that particularly frustrating project, and get down to business on one of my own. It felt soooo good to be back in the saddle. I was in my element, feeling the groove. Every interruption was a fly in the ointment of My Gig. Still, the happiness from being back with my duckling couldn’t be quelled.

Tuesday morning began like any other. I set my coffee down at my desk, I tucked my purse behind my tower, I started to open the server windows so I could get into my files. My VP came over and asked me to come into her office for a quick meeting. Within minutes, my world was turned upside-down. The company was reorganizing again. My department, already scaled down to three people, was now down to one. And I wasn’t it. Thank you very much, we’ve loved having you, you’ve been a valuable asset to the company, but now we have to let you go. Someone will be waiting for you with boxes when you return to your desk. Please pack up, return your security card, and leave. We’re very sorry.

Well, wow, um, shit. Shitshitshitshitshit. This was NOT what I expected today. My mail had already been cut off when I returned to my desk. I burned DVDs of what personal files I could find in my haze, and a coworker helped me box up my things. I cried some. I twittered. The immediate response from the Twitterverse was overwhelming. My phone started ringing, and DMs started pouring in. Friends who know me offered up words of encouragement and cyber-hugs, while even relative strangers offered condolences and the occasional job posting. Suggestions were made. Leads were offered. On this end, a great deal of love was felt. I don’t recommend the Losing Your Job method of learning who your friends are, or how many you really have, but it sure did put a glossy shine on an otherwise nasty day. To all of you: Thank you. Thank you so very much. I have never felt so lucky to be in the unenviable postion of looking for work.

Post Script: I rec’d a phone call on Tuesday evening from the guy at work who is now in charge of what’s left of my department. He has been operating in ‘Oh Shit, I Am Fucked Here’ mode all day. I explained to him that I have no hard feelings toward my former employer, and had actually offered to come in as a contractor to finish the job I’d just started. I could almost feel his sigh of relief. He assured me that he would start the paperwork right away, and he hopes to have me back in the office on Friday. That contract would be short-lived, but at least I’d get to see my project through to completion. It would mean a lot to me to be able to finish it. I’ll keep all y’all posted with any further developments.

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Spur of the Moment

How spontaneous are you?

So began a conversation with Saucy Britches on Wednesday. She had gotten the idea in her head that we would meet up in Las Vegas for the Rockabilly Rave in early October. After doing the math, we decided that it was more than we were willing to spend on a weekend. Just then, an email from Frontier came in. With special last-minute weekend fares. For Oklahoma City. For this weekend.

Now that’s spontaneous.

15,000 frequent flier miles (kudos to Frontier for making it easy to actually use miles), plus a $5 transaction fee later, I had a round-trip e-ticket for my very first-ever trip to Oklahoma.* My friends picked me up at the airport late Friday night, and by Saturday, we were on the road to Lake Eufaula. Our first stop was to a grocery store to pick up vittles for the weekend. Normal enough. The abnormal part was when someone called out my name, and I turned around to see my cousin Margo standing there. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Margo, and I didn’t realize she was living in OKC. Days later, I am still stunned that she recognized me in such an unusual context. Also, that of all the supermarkets in Oklahoma City, of all hours of the day, of all days of the week, my cousin and I happened to be in the same aisle in the same store at the same time.

Eventually, we made our way up to the lake house, and heard from the folks already there that we had quite neatly missed the morning rain. In fact, the weather was perfect for a couple of tours on the WaveRunner and plenty of splashing around in the lake (including one ill-advised and surprising maneuver that tipped us off of the raft/tube thing) before it was time to shower off and grill up some grub. Nephew Alex set up his kit and impressed us all with his drumming (Really? He’s only been playing for a month?) and his ability to teach Ms. Britches some basics that she managed to grasp with speed. I’m glad that Alex stayed after the “adults” left the lake house, because he was good company at breakfast and he also captained the speedboat around the lake on Sunday morning while Tim re-learned how to water ski, and Ms. Britches and I looked suitably boaty.

The weekend ended all too early, after a pleasant dinner with friends that was capped off by what we were calling Crème Brûlée On Crack, but which the waiter referred to as a Bananagasm. Whatever it was, I’ll take two more. An o’dark thirty flight returned me to Denver in time to drive straight into the office on Monday morning, and all I have left now are my memories. Click on the photo for more.

Ms. Britches’ photos of the weekend are here.

*Full disclosure: I once drove through a small section of the panhandle on the way from New Mexico to Kansas. Black Mesa is beautiful.

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Furminator 2: Secondary Review

Thursday was my second night of Fur Madness. Using a more “enthusiastic” method as recommended by Ms. Britches in the comments to yesterday’s post, I was able to remove a larger quantity of fur from the Happy Cat.

Review: The removed fur still suffers greatly from loose, fluffy, static-yness. Great tufts of it stick to the cat. I’m not sure that two nights of Furminating removed any more fur than the slicker brush would have, although Test Cat does seem less shedderrific. How much loose fur he manages to create by tomorrow remains to be seen. Of note: Test Cat thoroughly enjoyed the new brushing style. Secondary Test Cat was still nonplussed with the idea.

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Fur-meh-nator

A couple of weeks ago, I had a group of friends over to watch the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics. Now, a group of people in the house, as far as one of my cats is concerned, only means that many more hands available for petting and scritching. And this would be, of course, the cat that sheds. As the fur flew about, human conversation turned to various pet brushes. Marge, Binky, and I talked about the Furminator, and I vowed to buy one for myself.

Last weekend, I went to PetSmart. HOLY CRAP, they want $38 friggin’ dollars for a CAT BRUSH?! Yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s a satisfaction guarantee. And the packaging shows all sorts of deshedding success. What really sold me, though, was my own friend’s testimonial. Still, though… $38…

Dave was with me, and within seconds had checked Amazon’s site from his nifty iPhone. $22 for the same model, plus free 2-day shipping for those of us with Amazon Prime. Oh, right, and I won a $5 Amazon credit through Blingo! Score! Okay, I’ll buy that brush for $17. It’s still three times the price of my other cat brush, but this thing is supposed to be the shiznit, right?

The Furminator arrived Wednesday, and I “unboxed” it as soon as I got home. Heeeeeere, kitty kitty kitty! Come here and get Furminated! Brush, brush, brush. Brush, brush, brush. Bruuuuuuuuush brushbrushbrushbrush.

Results: The Furminator removed the same amount of fur as my slicker brush, if not less, before the cat decided he didn’t like it and could he please be excused? The slicker brush never resulted in such a reaction. The Furminator is a lot easier to clean; but the tiny, fluffy bits of fur pick up in the air current and fly about. The slicker brush makes little hair mats, for lack of a better description. Much easier to dispose of.

I will give it another go tonight. If the cat is still shedding a half-pound of fur, and I achieve the same brushing results, I will look further into that satisfaction guarantee.

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Geeking Goodbye

This blog post has been interrupted by my evening spent with a friend who is moving to CHICAGO tomorrow. Chicago. Tomorrow. As in, when I wake up in the morning, he will be gone.

I don’t remember when Dave and his wife moved in next door. I don’t recall how we first met. I’m sure we nodded our hellos here and there as we passed on our daily errands. I remember being amazed by their incredibly well-behaved dog, and it may actually have been Oscar who gave me the opening to really talk to my neighbors that first time. For which I am grateful, because they are wonderful people. Jessi and I have planned many sewing projects, although only she follows through. Jessi has hemmed dresses for me. Jessi has given me broth from her batch, made with the carcass left over from my Thanksgiving turkey. Jessi has insisted on driving me to the airport so that I don’t have to take a bus. Jessi has looked in on my cats when I’m on the road. And Dave…

Dave has been my tireless, responsive, and sometimes apologetic ISP for the last year. Dave has been my Mac technical support, most often at home, but occasionally at the office when my own IT team has been stumped. Dave has answered every pesky question I’ve ever had, at all hours of the day. Dave introduced me to Twitter. Dave helped me move my lame MySpace blog over to WordPress. This weekend, Dave got me set up with Google Reader. Between that and my new (temporarily phoneless) iPhone, and Dave’s presence in my home* for his last few days in Colorado, I have been full of geeky happiness. Tonight, we shredded old bank statements, a whole box of them, and giggled the whole time.

Kids, my life is richer for having spent time with you two. Thank you for everything you are.

*Jessi left last week to set up house, and the furniture followed her a few days later. Dave has been wrapping things up on this end, and I wasn’t going to let him sleep on the floor of an empty apartment.

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