Category Archives: life changes

Small talk

Since moving, I’ve found myself in many new situations. I’ve interviewed for jobs, interviewed for volunteer work, and gone to events and meetings where I’ve met plenty of new people. One thing I’ve noticed is [what I believe is] a change in the way people speak with each other.

To me, it seems that small talk is more difficult. By small talk, I mean the casual chit chat that we make at cocktail parties and other social situations. With people using phones to communicate with people in other locations, we don’t chat as much with those nearby. It’s easier to text a friend and avoid eye contact than it is to make ourselves speak with a stranger. That leaves us out of practice, so when we have no choice but to speak with the person in front of us, the skill is pretty rusty.

I also think that texting and tweeting have changed the way we talk when we do speak with strangers, our conversations are stilted. While there is a lot to say in support of brevity (see what I did there?!), I feel like something is lost when we truncate our speech. It makes us more guarded, less open to getting to know strangers and, subsequently, less likely to learn and grow through communication with fellow humans. It also makes it more difficult to really understand each other.

I know, I know…I sound like an old lady. “Those dang cellular devices, with the tweetin’ and the textin’ and the sextin’….” But in the last few days I’ve had awkward encounters with a number of people of various ages.

In one conversation, a woman grew visibly restless when I spoke more than one sentence at a time. She looked eager to cut me off, only to reply to me with a short response of a few words. I quickly felt uncomfortable, like the old lady who rambles while the young person rolls their eyes at how slow and boring they are. But she’d asked me a question, and I really didn’t think I could explain the answer in just 140 characters. My replies weren’t that long, but soon they were incredibly short and also inadequate.

One could say that if she didn’t want to hear the entire answer, then I shouldn’t worry that she didn’t get the correct one. That’s her loss. But it also made me wonder what I was losing in the exchange. Her short answers (not curt–she was quite pleasant) forced me to ask more questions in order to get what I needed from her. But because I was already uncomfortable from her body language in the beginning, I was afraid to continue asking my questions for fear of being difficult or slow.

These exchanged also left me wondering if the person really wanted to be there. In most of the situations, the other person initiated the conversation (after I contacted them online about volunteering, meeting up, applying for a job). But when they only spoke in text-length sentences, I wondered if they were truly invested in the exchange. If they were bored or uninterested, I didn’t want to prolong the meeting and waste everyone’s time. However, what if they were only speaking in the new norm? Should I adjust my conversation to mimic their manner of speech? It was incredibly uncomfortable and frustration, not knowing if I needed to learn the new manner of conversation or if it was a signal that the other party was done with the interaction.

Have you noticed this change in speech? Or is it just a new manifestation of my anxiety when meeting new people?

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Birthday celebration, Part I

For my birthday, the bf planned a surprise weekend getaway for the two of us. I’m the planner in the family, so it was a big deal that he made all of the arrangements himself. He booked hotel, arranged for dog-sitting, and researched places to see and things to do.

It was lovely. We headed up to Idyllwild, a tiny town surrounded by state forest in the San Jacinto mountains, just an hour from home. The cool mountain temperatures were a welcome reprieve from the already relentless triple-digit heat of the desert. There are plenty of hiking trails, some well-regarded rock climbing spots (if you’re into that–I am not), and beautiful views.

We stayed at the Silver Pines Lodge, which sits near a creek on the edge of the main ‘village’ of the town. We started our visit by watching a video from their library. Our room had a DVD/VCR player, so we borrowed an episode of Huell Howser’s* show that featured Idyllwild. We were thrilled to see that our hotel was the first place he visited! We visited every place he mentioned except for one restaurant. It set the tone for a fun trip.

The bf was recovering from an awful case of bronchitis, so we had to forgo any hiking. But we did visit Riverside County’s smallest park. At .1 acre, Indian Relic Park is unmarked and not listed on county park web sites. But our hotel guide book and the Huell Howser special had all the info we needed to find it. The small, fenced-in area looks like a couple of boulders sitting on the site of the road. There are steps between the boulders, which lead down a slope (we’re in the mountains, after all) to a tiny open area with a couple of trees and some smaller rocks. In the rocks there are mortars used by the Cahuilla, the Native people of the area. And if you turn around to face the boulders you’ve just crossed through, you’ll find the other reason this spot is protected and unpublicized. There are well-preserved pictographs made by the Cahuilla. They are not ancient but are probably hundreds of years old, I’m told. And because they are near the base of boulders on the side facing down the slope, they’ve been protected from the elements over time and remain pretty vibrant. For some reason, the photos have disappeared from my phone, so I can’t share them.

More on my idyllic weekend in Idyllwild in my next post.

*If you don’t live in California, you should check out Huell Howser online. His shows for PBS highlight all of the wonderful things about the Golden State. Huell’s delivery might not sit well with all viewers, but his enthusiasm is charming and his topics are always interesting. He keeps a home in Palm Springs, and I dream of one day running into him on a hiking trail or at the market. He is one of my favorite California local celebrities.

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The joy of temping

I’ve temped on and off throughout my adult life. When I worked in television as a freelancer, I’d take temp jobs between projects to keep the income flowing. Of course, that was back when people had receptionists to take calls for them and secretaries who typed memos. I could get a call in the morning about a job for the day because a receptionist called out. It was an easy way to supplement my income, and at times I met some interesting people. I’ve also gotten long-term gigs out of it, so I’m always open to temping.

My current temp job is pleasant. The small office is friendly and there’s very little office drama. I’m respected by the other staff, not dismissed as temps often are. The office is on a beautiful street in Palm Springs with a gorgeous view of the mountains. There’s but one wrinkle in my day as a result of my temp status–office access.

I have no keys, which is understandable. I work in an office with my supervisor while the copier, large printer, mail and postage machine are in another suite. I have to leave the suite and walk down the outdoor hallway to another suite to copy and mail things, which are two tasks I do often in my position. If the staff have to leave (which they do often, since there is yet another location where they have to work at times), they lock the door. That can waste a little time when I walk down to make a copy and find the office locked. It’s not a big deal–the exercise is good for me since I’m afraid of the gym, right?

The inconvenience comes at lunch time. The ‘break room’ (a room with a water cooler, refrigerator, sink, and microwave–no table) is in the office. I can leave my lunch in the fridge if necessary, but I can’t eat it there. A perk of being staff is free lunch in the employee commissary at another location owned by the company. Staff close the office at the same time every day, and everyone goes to lunch together. As a temp, I am not entitled to free lunch, nor do I have access to the commissary building. I am expelled into the world to eat my lunch on my own.

Eating on my own is fine–I like to run errands and make my lunch hour productive. I also like to bring my lunch. But without a break room, I can’t eat food like leftovers that require reheating or refrigeration. I’m often busy at the job and can’t take fifteen minutes before lunch begins to head down to the suite with a kitchen to get my lunch from the fridge or to reheat it. If I forget to pick it up, I’d have no lunch. So I only pack simple bag lunches like sandwiches. That’s not bad, but it’s so much easier to bring leftovers than it is to buy specific lunch items.

I’m also left to my own devices to find a place to eat. It’s still 100 degrees or hotter midday here in the desert, so eating lunch in my car is a bad idea. I don’t want to sweat through my office attire and be smelly all afternoon. One option I found was a nearly abandoned mall down the street. There are three stores left in one wing, but the entire mall is open to the public and somewhat air-conditioned. I’ve sat in the empty, dark food court, eating my sandwich alone and reading email on my phone. It’s sad, but I kind of like it. I feel like I’m living a Douglas Coupland novel.

After a week of eating in the food court, I discovered the public library even closer to the office. I have eaten my sandwich on the way to the library, then set up my laptop in the stacks to update this blog. The library has an atrium and an indoor koi pond. It’s a lovely place to spend an hour. That’s my current plan for lunches, though last week errands took precedence over blogging.

As I learn the area, I’m sure I’ll find fun places to eat and write. I’ve found nearby thrift stores and plan to visit them on Mondays when the library is closed. And once the weather cools, I’ll be able to eat outside. There are a few beautiful parks that will make for a great lunch time picnic spot. Of course, by that time I may be relieved of my temp duties because the project is completed. Such is life for the temp.

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What about the pup?

As I discussed last week, I started a temp job about 2 1/2 weeks ago. I got the call on Monday, interviewed Tuesday, and started the job Wednesday morning. As new pet owners (we adopted our dog in May) and new residents of the desert, we have few resources to take care of our dog outside the home. Since I hadn’t been working, the pup was never left for more than a few hours at a time, except for one day when we left her at a boarding kennel while we visited San Diego. We’d been practicing leaving her out of her crate, but she learned to jump the baby gate we’d bought. Now we needed a solution for weekdays.

Not only is doggie day care expensive, but our commutes are such that we each have to leave the house before day cares open. So that was not an option even if we wanted to pay for it. We don’t know many people here, so there’s no one whom we trust to enter our home and walk our dog midday. So the night before I started my job (hours after the interview), I headed to Lowe’s for an extra-tall baby gate that didn’t have a pattern that made it easy to climb. This one is metal with bars like a prison cell (sorry, Pierogi), which means she can’t climb it. The bars are also close enough together that she can’t wedge her head in there, which she did when we met her at the pound. The gate gives her access to a bathroom, our spare room (actually the master bedroom–we have my desk, a sofa bed, and an entertainment center in there), and a tiny hallway. Each day we put her crate in there, along with her favorite doggy bed, water, and some snacks. I turn on the radio for some noise (and to drown out any other sounds that might bother her) and let her settle in for the day.

We’re still looking for someone we trust to come walk her midday and give her a little attention. But she’s incredibly well-behaved and has never tried to get on the couch. There’s no white dog hair on the dark upholstery, and the newspaper we put on it to discourage her (dogs hate the crinkle of the newspaper under them) has been unmoved. When I was home, she preferred to sleep all day and disliked going out even for potty breaks, so I don’t feel so bad. Well, maybe I feel a little bad. She likes to have us nearby, even if she’s just sleeping.  But right now, she’s only in this situation for three days per week, as I have a half day once per week, and the bf has one weekday off.

The other adjustment for the dog was her walk schedule. Instead of a morning trip to the dog park, I get up early (though not as early as the bf), walk her for 20-30 minutes, then start my day. Whoever gets home first gives her a potty break. Then we have to go to the gym on property, prepare and eat dinner, and walk Pierogi to the dog park. Somehow, that ends up taking up most of our evening. For the first week, we were eating late or eating crap that was easy to prepare–but at least it wasn’t fast food, right? I can only imagine how lost I’d be if I was trying to raise a child. It reminded me of just how difficult it can be for working couples with children. I can’t complain, really. But I do need to work out a better schedule.

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Filed under Dog ownership, life changes, Life in Coachella Valley, Productivity

I really need to budget my time

So my intent was to return to regular posts. I’d even started bringing my laptop to work so I could go to a nearby library and work on blog posts during lunch. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. (Or do you? They say–well, Steinbeck says…or was it Robert Burns? Or Sydney Sheldon? Aww, heck. If I don’t fully understand a phrase or its connotations, perhaps I shouldn’t use it.) So there’s this saying about the best laid plans of mice and men often going awry. In this case, my good intentions did not turn into practice. (Did I just coin a new phrase? Maybe I’ll just go back to talking as myself and not try to get all literary with my references.)

Anyway, my posts were supposed to continue past one day last week, but life got in the way. I’m still working on juggling everything, and I am determined to do so. Having a job puts me on a schedule, which should help me be more disciplined once I work out the kinks. And man, were there kinks in my plans last week.

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New developments: where to start?

Well, so much has happened lately I’m not sure where to begin. The silence on my blog has been mainly due to the fact that I HAVE A JOB. That’s right, I am employed again–at least for a little while. It came about in an odd fashion, as is usually the case for me.

About a month ago, I found an ad on craigslist.com for a rather low-paying job that was close to home. I had the skills to do it, so I figured it might be worth applying. Plus, the job was listed by a personnel agency, not by the employer. Putting my resume into the hands of a staffing professional sounded like a good idea. So I drafted a cover letter and sent it off.

I got a response from the agency, interviewed with them, and took the required tests on basic computer programs as well as a typing speed test. I think my typing skills have waned a bit (71 wpm w/0 errors), but I was still pleased. I made just one error in Word and two in Excel, and I can attribute one to user error in the testing program and another to some confusion about how to complete it (using keystrokes vs. pull-down menus). I was angry at myself for stupid, avoidable mistakes, but my score was still very good.

The staffing professional submitted me for the job but still wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit. In truth, neither was I. But after ten months without working, I needed to do something. But she liked me and mentioned that another job might be coming up soon that would be a better fit for me. I said I’d love to be considered for anything.

I followed up with a thank-you note and went back to job hunting. I never got a call about the original job, but that wasn’t a surprise. I put it all out of my mind and continued on. Then, a few weeks later, the agency called me on a Monday.  The second client she’d mentioned was ready to interview and would like to see me! I set up an interview for Tuesday. On Tuesday, I was ten minutes late to the interview due to Google map confusion and a freak thunder/lightning/hail storm that made driving a chore. But I put on my best smile and worked it!

I got a call that afternoon, offering me the job and asking me to start the next day! It’s a temp job, so they wanted someone immediately. There is a possibility of a permanent position, but I’m just taking it day by day right now. Things are going well, and I’m learning a thing or two in the process. But most importantly, I’ve got a paycheck (albeit a very small one) and some self-esteem. Working has really helped my mood. It’s great to have something to do every day other than clean house and walk the dog.

The immediate start date, though, gave me no time to plan a schedule for myself or my household. The last couple of weeks have had us flying by the seat of our pants, figuring out how to care for the dog and make lunches and commute and clean house. It’s far from difficult–we don’t have a child to care for–but it’s required some patience and juggling of chores. More on that tomorrow.

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Filed under life changes, Life in Coachella Valley, Productivity

So much new news!

I just logged into my WordPress dashboard for the first time in nearly two weeks. I found a draft I’d begun on a Monday. That day I got a call about an interview. I interviewed on Tuesday and started temping on Wednesday. It happened so quickly–I’m used to waiting weeks and even months between interviews and job offers–that I had no time to plan or create a schedule. Plus, the job started before back-to-back weekend adventures. You’ll hear more about the job, the adventures, and my readjustment to the working world after a ten-month hiatus.

But for tonight, I’m putting off the blog one more night so I can enjoy the most glorious evening in the desert. After weeks of relentless heat, it has cooled down to the mid-70s. We’ve opened the windows, and I’m about to head out on the balcony to take it all in.

Sweet dreams!

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