Flood Procedures

A hypothetical situation:

You work at a small, community bank at a part-time job. The job starts at 20 hours a week, but before long you begin to help out in another department, one that sorely needs assistance. You share the first job with another person, who also gets 20 hours a week there. The bank keeps the two of you sharing this position because it is less expensive than hiring one of you on full time with benefits.

Your work for the second department grows, and is something that can be worked simultaneously as the first job (for the most part). You are given permission to pick up more hours here and there (along with covering for those who are sick) as long as the average number of hours you work per week never goes over 30 over the course of the year. Then HR steps in, claiming that at your position, you cannot go over 28 hours a week more than once per pay period, effectively cutting the number of hours you can be given.

You carry on essentially working two jobs on a part-time schedule, hoping that the talks that you were told were going on about possibly offering you full time come through in the next few months. But they don’t. And they still don’t. And yet you wait. At your midyear review, you tell your supervisor that your job description is inaccurate, and has been for a while. You wonder if it could be updated to reflect your current responsibilities. She agrees with you, but says that no, it can’t, because – get this – HR would prefer to keep your job description the way it is because the specialized tasks that you perform every single day can just be lumped under “Administrative Support”. And changing that would mean putting you in a different pay bracket. Which would cost the bank money. Because that’s what it always comes down to: will it cost the bank money?

Then an intern is hired.

Initially, this intern is not wanted by the department forced – by the president of the bank – to hire him. They don’t need the help. There are other departments in greater need of assistance. Departments like, for example, the one you’ve been unofficially working for for the past year and a half. Departments that could really use someone with prior training and experience to help them keep up with their workloads.

But the intern is hired, and he’s given slightly less than full time. And when I say “slightly less”, I mean on average approximately 38 hours a week. Hours that you would kill for, even if they didn’t come with benefits. He isn’t majoring in anything related to the department he’s working for, so this internship will not help him get a job after college. In fact, it doesn’t take long for it to come out that the president of the bank had to force the head of the department (who is also your boss, though you’re officially part of a different department – don’t ask) to hire this intern because he is the son of president’s best friend. And he is home from college for the summer. And he needs a job.

That’s what his position is, you realize. A job. Not an internship. You’re annoyed, but you deal with it because hey, you don’t have any say, and bitching about it isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Then you find out that he makes more per hour than you.

And not just a little more. A lot more. Almost a quarter of your hourly pay more.

For doing what? I’ll tell you. Many of the same “administrative support” tasks you did before you began helping the other department. Basic things. Easy things.

And then at the end of the summer, when it’s time for the little prince to go back to college, what happens? The people who initially balked at his hiring treat him to not one, not two, but three going-away celebrations paid for by the bank.

Employees that have retired after thirty years of loyal service aren’t treated this well.


If your brain hurts thinking about this, you’re not alone. I can barely process this, even after writing it all down.

And I am furious.


A Brief Observation

I think one of the most damaging parts of Christianity – and any religion that paints humankind as “fallen” – is the way it makes you doubt your own moral compass. The more you internalize the message that you’re inherently sinful and in need of heavenly guidance, the less trust you’ll have in your own ability to make good decisions, which is arguably one of the most important skills you need as an adult. You just have to be able to trust yourself. Your instincts are important. You may not always be right, but that doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be wrong. It’s far worse to be perpetually paralyzed by doubt. 

Another list.

Can I have this cake topper? Please? It’s probably the best one I’ve seen so far.

Things that need to be sorted out for the wedding:

1. My shoes, hair whatsit, jewelry…basically all the accessories.

2. Nate’s jacket, shirt, shoes.

3. Flowers

4. We need to meet with Sam about the cake

5. Food and room for the reception

6. Meet with our officiant fellow and piano player

7. Seating?

8. Other decorations?

9. Lighting?

10. The honeymoon, oh my god

Yeah, so basically there is a ton to do and like, no way to do most of it right now. We can meet about the cake and get the quote on the flowers, but I think that’s really about it. It’s up to Nate to take care of his clothing and up to me to take care of mine, and at least the venue and the dress are taken care of…gah. I don’t even know. I wish this thing would just plan itself. The summer’s going to be gone before we even know what hit us.

Things to do before I die:


1. Go to Europe
2. Go to Asia
3. Own a house
4. Publish a book
5. Perform music live
6. Adopt at least one more dog and one more cat
7. Plant a garden
8. Get another piercing
9. Maybe get another tattoo
10. Live in another state that isn’t Massachusetts
11. Live in Massachusetts again
12. Be able to run a mile nonstop
13. Admit to myself that I probably want kids
14. Have health insurance
15. Save up $5,000 of spare money
16. Sell a piece of jewelry
17. Sell a short story
18. Own land
19. Work with a conservation organization
20. Hike the Appalachian Trail
21. Learn yoga
22. Weigh 135 lbs (lose 20 lbs)
23. Dress more adventurously
24. Pay off my student loans
25. Close one credit card
26. Work for myself – start my own business
27. Finish my bachelor’s degree
28. Become certified in a trade
29. Work on a ship as a deckhand/learn how to sail
30. Live in New York City for a month
31. Learn another language
32. Become an urban explorer

Shock me like an electric eel.

I’ve been feeling weird lately: restless, dissatisfied with the way I’m living, ashamed of how I never get anything done…and also completely exhausted. It’s not a new feeling and it’s not a rational feeling; after all, I hold down a job, pay my bills, take care of my animals, and I’m in a loving, committed relationship. What more could I want?  Should I want more? Am I being greedy? Am I being too hard on myself?

But I guess I do want more. I want to be healthy – I don’t think I’ve been truly healthy in a long time. I need to have my tonsils removed, I’ve gained weight since I started the Citalopram, my diet leaves much to be desired, and I’m alarmed at how addicted to caffeine I am. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve gone without at least one cup of coffee per day in months. I don’t even like the way I feel when I drink it anymore.

Furthermore, I want to be financially stable, but I don’t want to be totally reliant on this job, the way I am right now. I’m fortunate in that it’s not a consistently demanding job – obviously I have some free time at work – but I’m also coasting along not really doing anything, either. Compliance isn’t fulfilling, interesting, or…anything, really, to me. It and answering phones are the things I do around here so that they’ll let me stay and keeping putting a little bit of money in my account every two weeks, and frankly, it doesn’t feel good. I have free mornings Monday, Wednesday, and Friday right now (on weeks that I don’t need to cover for anybody). If I could find some people who needed their dogs walked, I could do that in the mornings, make a little bit more money, get some exercise, and meet both new people and dogs. Those are all good things. I would like that. And I’m uniquely fortunate right now in that my job does give me the time to do things like that. I need to take advantage of it.

The other thing that’s sort of vaguely stressing me out right now is writing. I haven’t felt like a writer in months. I know it’s not supposed to be about how you feel, but I’m just so discouraged. Everything that I write feels like utter tripe. I can’t create interesting, compelling characters, I can’t come up with coherent plots, and I can’t even describe anything very well. I don’t know what happened, but…words have become a mystery to me. Even my grammar and punctuation are horrible now. I don’t understand it. I used to be so convinced that writing was what I wanted to do, what I was supposed to do. I used to feel like I had a measure of control over my ability to put words together. I was enthusiastic about it, and sure that eventually, if I kept trying, things would click and one day I’d be able to actually finish something. You know what I’ve finished in the last six months? One short story. One. And it sucks. Being published no longer seems like even a remote possibility.

I think I’m just one of those people who thought they could cut it, but didn’t have the guts and the drive to see anything through. And frankly, I don’t think I’m smart enough to write. Everything that I’d want to write is so far about my head, subject-matter-wise, that even if I did finish a novel, I have little faith that any of it would make sense. Right now, just thinking about writing or looking back over past writing makes me feel like my brain is made of lead.

I know that all sounds very pessimistic, but I wanted to say it so that I would have something solid to start trying to solve. And to that end, here’s an incredibly ambitious list.

These are my goals for June:

1. Make some dog walking fliers and get them posted around town. Don’t worry overmuch about rates or anything complicated. Those can be determined as I go, and frankly, I doubt that I’ll have so many people interested that the more complicated parts will even be relevant.

2. Get my application in to the Animal Behavior College.

3. Wean myself off of coffee/caffeine.

4. Consistently keep the kitchen clean so that making fresh meals doesn’t seem like too much work. Cut my processed foods intake by about 50%. Work on smarter grocery shopping.

5. Rearrange the bedroom, get rid of all unused furniture, get rid of all unused clothing, and go through the high cupboards. Find a place to hang the planter.

6. Attend Scalzi’s book signing in Minneapolis.

7. Walk at least 1 mile with the dogs per day.

8. Get the cat in for his check-up.

9. Save money for the wedding. [Goal: approx. $2-300]

10. Meet all of my Compliance review goals at work.

11. Write. Work on rewriting Atlas City. Don’t be overwhelmed by it. Just do some writing. Maybe try out http://750words.com/.

Construction blues.

Holy hell in a handbasket.

There’s construction at the bank today – they’re filling in some holes in the entryway with re-purposed marble, which seems to involve lots and lots of jackhammering, rock dust, and general mess and mayhem. Oh yeah, and this is all happening about ten feet from where I sit, which means that I can’t answer the phone, can’t concentrate worth a damn, and my ears have been ringing for the past three hours. Fun times.

Anyway, Nate and I had a pretty darn awesome weekend. On Saturday, we went to the Minnesota Scottish Festival and Highland Games, where I saw more kilts in one place than I ever have in my whole life. It really was more like a small renaissance fair than anything else: tents with jewelry and various handmade goods, food stands, skill demonstrations (I got to see my first sheepdog trial, which was surprisingly cool), really, really good live music, and all in all, plenty to do. We ended up finding some people that Nate knew from his kilt forum, so we had a beer with them and hung out. I picked up some little celtic knot earrings, we had meat pies and banana cake, and Nate got to check out the Donald clan tent and do some research on his Scottish heritage. We hardly ever do anything like this, so going up to the cities and having a whole day together was a really nice change.

Then on Sunday we finally saw The Avengers, which was really fun – incredibly Joss Whedon-y. After, I was totally on a superhero high, so I ran over to the closest Red Box and grabbed Captain America, which we also hadn’t seen yet. It was freaking adorable. I loved it. It was also a good story follow-up to The Avengers, seeing as it dealt with all the tesseract hooey.

Um…what else. Samson somehow cut his carpal pad, so my poor guy’s been pretty miserable. It’s a lot better now, since the skin is finally growing back – I have no idea how he injured it like that. I’m just going to chalk it up to his crazy jumping and leaping when we play fetch. We kept it wrapped for a couple of days because he wouldn’t stop licking it, but he should be fine without the bandage now. I hope he is, because we have a pet interview as soon as I’m off work.

Oh yeah, I guess that’s news. I’m starting a dog walking business. Just a small thing to do on mornings and some evenings. I already have one client, though have no idea if there will be any more. I haven’t done any proper advertising yet. I just secured my membership with Professional United Pet Sitters, though I’m not planning on doing any real pet sitting…yet. I need to figure out what will work around my bank schedule, first. But I’m looking forward to it. Tonight, I’m taking my pups over to meet a little female pit bull. If it works, she’ll be joining us on our trips to the field a couple of evenings a week. I really hope it goes well, because I know mine would love to have another playmate, and it sounds like this girl needs some friends and socialization. So, fingers crossed, and in the near future I may be able to walk and play with dogs for pay! Which would be amazing! I think it pretty much goes without saying at this point, but I’m officially crazy about dogs now. I have no idea what was wrong with me before. They’ve improved my life in so. many. ways.

Well, I need to get going. I actually have a lot more to write about, but not enough time right now.

Quick post: The $100 Startup

I don’t usually read these kinds of books – in fact, I don’t usually read business books at all – but for some reason I ordered The $100 Startup a few days ago. It looks really interesting: studies and anecdotes of people who have started their own business with almost nothing, sometimes even stumbling into them accidentally. I’m going to try to write down my thoughts as I read it. I think the catalyst for this interest has been realizing, especially over the last few months, exactly how limited my moneymaking ability is. It really eats at me, to be honest. I feel like the skills I have are worth almost nothing, and yet I know that I’m not some shiftless ne’er-do-well idiot. But I don’t have a degree, I’m neither particularly handy nor good at crafts, and my patience with and desire to write tend to fluctuate severely. I know I wouldn’t be very happy being a freelance writer, and I certainly don’t have the qualifications to be a freelance editor. You know what I’m good at? Data entry. Data-fricken’-entry.

Also, I’ve never actually done anything on the side to make money before. My income has always been very straightforward: work, get paid an hourly wage, and pick up another job if the hours aren’t enough. 

But I’m tired of it. I hate knowing that the amount I get paid working at the bank is higher than I could get almost anywhere else in town…but I can’t have full time, and I can’t pick up another job for mornings because I need to be available to cover when other receptionists are gone. Barring yearly raises, which they are admittedly generous about, they’ve (I’ve? Is this my fault?) effectively capped my monthly earnings at about $950 after taxes and my 401K deduction…while also keeping me at part-time and ineligible for employer-subsidized health insurance. So the good parts, the parts that have kept me working here for over a year now, are that I’m in a position to learn a lot about banking, I’ve moved beyond basic reception-ing into compliance, which is definitely a step above, and the hourly wage isn’t terrible. But the bad parts are…everything else listed above. And I feel like the scales are beginning to tip.

I mean, seriously. $950 a month? That’s barely enough to live on, let alone make any kind of dent in my student loan debt or buy any kind of independent insurance plan. The last time I tried to take another job, it had to be a night job, and it was hellish. I have so little patience for food/customer service work right now, and I hate how under-valued those jobs are. So I’ve started brainstorming, but I’m at a loss because while there are plenty of things that I enjoy doing, they don’t have much business potential.

You know what the highlight of my day is? Taking the pups out for playtime and walkies. Now that I would do for money.

So anyway, the book. I’m going to read this it and see if it gives me any ideas. I’m really tired of drifting along just above the poverty level, but it isn’t going to change unless I do something different.