The Rusted Bucket List

Among the list of things I never want to experience again, getting stuck in an airport overnight is damn near the top. It’s right below pregnancy, which is just above having my brain surrounded by a fortress of mucus. This is what happened a couple of weeks ago when I was stranded at the airport due to inclement weather.

Weather wasn’t the reason I had to spend the night sick in the airport. It was American Airlines’ poor customer service. You see, when flights are delayed due to weather, it’s considered an “act of God” and therefore not the airline’s problem. However, when the gate attendant updates the departure in increments of an hour at a time until the flight crew is no longer viable, “timed-out” as they called it, the flight must then be cancelled. That certainly is not an act of God but one of poor planning. The Devil’s in the details, don’t ya know.

Pushing back the departure time for hours then cancelling the flight altogether at 2a.m. when there are no rental cars and no hotel rooms is ludicrous. Of course, they “know we have a choice when flying” and so thanked us for our business with an invitation to take a spot on the floor next to any stranger and make ourselves comfortable.

All that to say, I missed the last few Friday Fictioneers because it seems there is no end to the number of people who have no problem wasting my time, but I’ll save that rant for another day. Suffice to say incompetence abounds through space and time in workplaces everywhere.

jennifer-pendergast5
Copyright Jennifer Pendergast

Another Never Ending Story

In the vast expanse of the universe, there are large pockets of time. In one of them, there was once an enormous pocket watch. One day, or was it night? Yes, night, a dark and stormy night, and on that treacherous night, lightning streaked and thunder rolled for what seemed like an eternity. Then CRACK! The chain snapped and the pocket watch fell to earth. A thousand days and nights had come and gone without so much as a tic toc, but ever since that epic moment of impact, time wasters have roamed the earth without a minute to spare.

*****

Thanks for reading. More Friday Fictioneers are here. Thanks to Jennifer Pendergast for this week’s prompt and Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who has a thing or two to say about time.

Ten Years A Volunteer

The move was sudden but not completely unexpected. After all, it had been almost five years since we relocated, and that was only because we promised not to move while our son was in high school. Our professional lives had progressed much like everyone else’s, in starts and stops, not always of our own choosing, still, onward and upward from place to place for a job.

Then one day the call I’d been waiting over a month to receive came, offering a promotion that would finally let me step into the role I’d been hoping for my entire career. It meant we’d have to relocate to Florida, but I was excited for the opportunity. At the same time, another call from a different direction changed our lives entirely. We moved to Texas instead.

The first few months were spent learning to navigate the mangled highways in North Texas. Without a job and without children in school, getting to know people took some effort. Completely by chance while searching for a grocery store, I discovered a community garden that supplies a local food pantry and senior center with fresh fruits and vegetables. A sign posted the number to call for information about adopting a garden plot. I called.

A few days later I became a volunteer gardener. In Texas, that’s a bit like being an intern in hell’s boiler room. The first growing season I mostly dug nut sedge out of the neglected plot I’d been assigned near some fatigued fruit trees. I also harvested okra and got to know the other gardeners. It wasn’t long before I made friends with some Master Gardeners.

Certified Master Gardeners are the cream of the crop when it comes to volunteers. Always striving for excellence, how could I not want to be one of them? So, with the encouragement of my new friends, I applied for the twelve week training course offered through Texas A&M. It was great fun, educational, and most of all it opened up volunteering opportunities that filled my servant’s heart with joy. At the end of my first year, I received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for more than 100 hours of teaching and fundraising. Surprised by my new found enthusiasm for community service, it was clear that a search for paid work could wait.

Over the next nine years I poured myself into public education projects with local and national organizations, even going back to school to prepare for leadership in public affairs and community service. I believe education is the single most important factor in reducing a person’s vulnerability to poverty, the causes of which are numerous and complex to some and as simple as having a choice to others. It is my strong desire to serve an organization whose mission is to combat ignorance that perpetuates poverty. The luxury of choosing to do so for free is no longer mine. Ten years preparing for what’s next followed two decades of professional experience. Now it’s time to move on.

 

 

 

One Hundred Words 101

Friday Fictioneers has become a staple on my blog. Creating a story using only 100 words has impacted my writing in ways I did not expect when I first discovered the group of talented writers led by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Now everything I write goes through a rigorous edit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I’m often knee deep in chaff.

A photo is where the story begins, usually. There are times, however, when an idea that has been percolating in my mind mingles with the prompt in mysterious ways. The result ends up on the keyboard. I don’t question it. I just close my eyes and let it fly. Winging it is what we pantsters, as in fly by the seat of one’s pants, do best. There is no outline or structure, no discernable method to the madness that ensues when I am writing. That is why editing is an indispensable skill. The key most used on my laptop is the backspace, second only to delete.

I had a professor once who tried to instill, or was it impose, rules to be followed when writing anything. I resisted as much as my GPA would allow, but in the end, what she had tried so hard to get me to understand stuck with me. I use it, but probably not often enough. I’ll share it and you can decide for yourself if it is as easy as she made it seem.

Each idea must be supported by a sentence that answers one of three questions about the idea. How is it true? Why is it true? In what way is it true? The simplicity of this practice is deceptive because it can be difficult to admit that you are making a claim that cannot be supported.

I hate when that happens.

Today I did a lot of writing. I published a blog post. I wrote an article that will most likely never be published. I wrote two versions of a cover letter for my ongoing job search. A deluge of ideas caused me to work on several documents simultaneously. I could not separate my ideas fast enough to bother asking how or why or in what way any of them were true. As a consequence, I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening editing. Right in the middle of all of it, I had to stop myself so that I could start this post. It was nagging at me to be let out, like a sneeze that stings so bad it makes your eyes water.

That’s it. Be open to possibilities. Decide for yourself what is good and what isn’t. Let others help you along the way. Know that sometimes you’ll need to let go of one thing in order to accept something better. Know the rules. Know that you can bend the rules. Know that some rules aren’t worth the torment you feel obligated to endure for them. Know that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a summersault sometimes followed by a face plant. Have the courage to stare failure down and make it pay you back with interest. That’s how to write a story using only one hundred words.

Here is my story prompted by the prompt courtesy of Sarah Potter.

january-snowfall-nighttime
Copyright Sarah Potter

Since You’ve Been Gone

My mug is piping hot. I take out the biscotti, leaving one in the jar. “I’ll be back for you later,” I whisper. My heart flutters beneath layers of wool and flannel. The flashes are gone now, but the covers still end up on the floor. For old time’s sake I guess, when lava in my veins forced me to open a window. He hated that. The silence is louder than ever. I won’t miss being stuck in this place. The checklist, still on the kitchen counter, is incomplete. Perhaps I’ll have that last biscotti. Tomorrow might be too late.

*****

Lately my mood, and my writing, has been bluer than blue. I make no apologies. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading. I owe you all a debt of gratitude for the generous comments and thoughtful support.

Will Work For Life

An unsettling thought occurred to me while I was taking a break after completing six online job applications in a row. That may not sound like many, but it is. The process for jobs I am interested in is excruciatingly tedious. I won’t bore you with the details of my search and rescue mission on dot coms dedicated to helping us find work ’til we die.

Which is closer for some than others.

There seems to be a trend for people of a certain age to humble vent on LinkedIn. Humble venting is a bit like humble bragging, you know, when someone tells how grateful they are for something in that false modesty language with the undertone of “OMG, this awesome thing makes my life so much better than yours and now everyone will want to be my friend so that they can be amazing like me, but they can’t, no one can, not even you.”

Yeah, you know exactly what I’m saying.

ANYWAY, humble venters are people who tell you that they have finally found their dream job with one of the ten best ever companies to work for. A company that values experience and rewards thought leaders and sends fairies riding unicorns to their house in the middle of the night to lay out their business casual wear and set up the coffee maker so that all they have to do is press the button and hop in the shower.

THEN, they go on to say how horribly rotten the job search experience was for them. How a thousand man hours produced hundreds of applications that yielded only a few dozen interviews and how their ego was dealt a deathblow every time an email, thanking them for there interest, but to NEVER EVER expect to get so much as spam in the future, came after hitting refresh on their phone, iPad, AND PC fifty-two times each, oh, but now after torturous months, their faith in humanity has been completely restored.

Humble venters use run-on sentences.

I’ve been cautioned, thank you Mr. Petruska, not to post anything that might be construed as negative or derogatory or damaging or even halfway accurate about organizations that seem to only hire nit wits, dim wits, and knuckleheads for HR recruiting. So, I won’t.

I will, however, say that there are some serious issues with talent acquisition in the corporate world today, my friends, and until somebody makes that great again, there’s gonna be a whole lot of valuable resources wasting away in Margaritaville.

I’m just sayin’. What? Too negative?

The thought that occurred to me is that this experience must be a lesson in humility. This is based on that annoying premise that everything happens for a reason. On the other hand, there certainly have been plenty of humiliating moments in my life for no reason I can think of. Well, I have learned my lesson. Digital rejection is as bad as human rejection. I promise to never humble brag again. I do need to get hired so that I can humble vent. It’s on my bucket list, and if I don’t do it soon, there may never be an opportunity because I intend to get a job or die trying.

Have humility, will travel.

 

 

 

Measured Response

My creativity was temporarily out of order last week. The constant demand to prove my worth took its toll on my dignity, and in my weakened state, the Friday Fictioneer prompt wrestled me to the ground. I knew where the prompt was leading. I did not want to go there. I tried for a day or so to come up with a positive story, to no avail. The scene was always brutal and crushing. Just like my week was turning out to be.  Finally, I gave up.

A person’s positive outlook can come to an abrupt end with the realization that they must sacrifice more in order to contribute more. What a vicious problem this is to solve. The list of rejections I have received grows longer every day. Months of searching and hundreds of job applications have led me into a deep pit of disappointment. It seems no matter how precise the plan, trial-and-error is how I am destined to explore problems, a method that makes it difficult to see what to do next to get where I want to be.

The thought occurred to me to post an open letter to the organizations whose talent acquisition software has dispositioned me out of hand because my resume doesn’t contain the correct key words. I decided even a well-written rant would give me no pleasure. I suppose we all have a tendency to respond to things that we don’t need to respond to. I am determined to resist the temptation to let frustrating circumstances defeat me.

It turns out that even when we are methodical and deliberate, life can knock us off our feet and steal our lunch money. Luckily, new information can break through the darkness in the wee hours of the morning and give us just what we need to face another day. Below is my response to Liz Young’s formidable prompt.

broken-face-liz
Copyright Liz Young

 

The Sum of My Parts

Blistered feet carry me to the edge where I have fallen to my knees more than once. I’ve lost my way a dozen times, chasing someone else’s dream. My heart beats a mile a minute as I land on my ass with arms outstretched toward a seemingly unattainable goal. Why waste time wringing my hands when there is so much work to be done? This question strengthens my resolve. I ask, if not me, then who? The reply comes quickly. There is always someone else more desirable. The words sting. They ring in my ears. They will not break me.

*****

Thanks for reading. More punctual Friday Fictioneers are here. Thanks to Liz and Rochelle for keeping the light on for me.