Sunday, January 30, 2011

Starting Over

Well, at least it feels that way. Like I am starting over, career-wise. I know I should be thankful that I have even been offered a JOB in the current economy. And I should be thankful that my new job is not as a Wal-Mart greeter making $8/hour.

I am working in a very nice office building, in a spacious well-lit cubicle, working with very nice people. I am making good money, far above the Wal-Mart greeter salary. So, what's not to like?

I just expected to be at a different level at this point in my career. You know, CEO of Facebook or something. Well, maybe not exactly, but entry level accountant was not part of my future career path. Been there, done that, several times.

I don't need to be "the boss", or even a people manager. I just want to put my experience and skills to good use and I am having just a little difficulty getting used to working several levels below my capability.

I am thankful for the job. I'm just not happy about it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The suggestion has been made. And so, I am doing it.

Yes, I am baring all in a public forum. But no, its not what you might think. (Ah, I can hear the sighs of relief...)

I am shamelessly linking my blog to the thread of a conversation on someone else's very popular Facebook account -- the very funny, and often poignant, columnist who writes about life as a young mother of two small children at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Cut or Not To Cut

This is one of the questions my friend humorously offers up for comment from her blogosphere friends. She writes about circumcision, breastfeeding in public and many other issues that affect parents of young children today. (Read her LOL column at

Other friends of mine are dealing with teenage issues - drugs, sex, and college choices are topics of recent discussion. Whether or not to get your teenager an iPhone or laptop. Video games. Facebook. Privacy (the internet kind). Some topics change over the years, and some topics (amazingly) stay the same, but the truth is that there are always going to be numerous parenting issues for discussion and decision.

Its easier when your children are small because you make the decision and your kids just have to live with the decisions you make. Whether or not to live in the U.S. or in Israel. At what age to send your toddler to preschool. Circumcision or foreskin intact. Bassinets/cribs/beds/sleeping in the parents' bed. Bedtime and bedtime rituals. (This last one seems to be a re-curring theme on "The Nanny" TV show. Not that I've ever watched it or anything.)

It becomes more difficult with pre-teens and teenagers. How to monitor their internet usage. When to let them start dating. Driving privileges. Grades. Clothing that is acceptable (or not) to wear in public. The friends they choose to hang out with. How much time they spend on the phone/internet.

Life in today's world is complicated, and parents cannot be with their children all of the time to oversee their children's lives. I think the most difficult decision is when to hold firm on a parental decision....and when to let your child make his/her own decision. And, even let your child make mistakes. Because the only path to true adulthood is via making our own decisions....and by making, and learning from, our own mistakes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Groundhog Day

"Groundhog Day is almost upon us and I just can't seem to get into the spirit." Such was the caption of a Guindon cartoon that featured some sad looking characters, a cartoon I cut out many years ago and tacked on my bulletin board.

Groundhog Day is highly underrated. I will bet that most people don't even know the date, or what it represents, especially in "sunny" California.

On Groundhog Day, Punksatawney Phil, the "official" groundhog kept in Punksatawney, PA, is taken out and, depending on the weather, either sees his shadow or he doesn't. Punksatawny Phil is the unofficial predictor of six more weeks of winter or an early spring here in the U.S. In the frozen and snow-bound East Coast, Groundhog Day has a little more significance than in California.

Today I had lunch with my good friend Esperanza, who is from Mexico. She remembers the exact day she arrived in the United States -- February 2nd, which is Candelmas Day in Mexico, or Groundhog Day in the U.S. When she was a young child, everyone in her village celebrated Candlemas Day by collecting hay from the fields, piling the hay in the front yard, and lighting the haystacks on fire. A night when every household up and down the street was literally lit up, at a time when not every household even had electricity.

Groundhog Day, or Candlemas Day, occurs in the middle of winter, supposedly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In medieval times, on Candelmas Day priests blessed candles for use in the homes for the rest of the year. Candlemas Day also had religious significance for Catholics, as the presesentation of the baby Jesus in the temple 40 days after his birth, and/or the purification of Mary, his mother.

But Candlemas Day is basically unknown and little celebrated in the U.S. in the present day, even in the Catholic church. My feeling is, why not bring Groundhog Day back to its rightful prominence as a holiday that can be celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious background.

I am thinking greeting cards, tee shirts, mugs. Cute little groundhogs poking their heads up out of the earth. The commercialization potential is huge -- a true American holdiay.

Friday, January 21, 2011

All Good Things....

must come to an end. Or so, it has been said.

Only four more days until the end of my "sabbatical". Yes, I have accepted a job offer. And I am estatic to be back in the workforce. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to sitting in a cubicle in an office building. But not so thrilled to be commuting to work on a crowded freeway.

Looking forward to putting money in the bank, instead of taking it out. But not looking forward to the ring of an early morning alarm clock. Looking forward to working with people and doing something productive with my day. Not looking forward to giving up long hikes at midday or nursing a cup of Chai Tea at Starbucks all morning while reading the local newspaper.

Having had a significant dose of time off, I think I could get used to retirement. But, not quite yet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unclear on the Concept

There is a wonderful theatre in the town just west of where I live, which is now used to house all kinds of musical events. I heard Judy Collins sing in this venue several years ago; this was my first experience in the Campbell Heritage Theatre.

The Heritage Theatre used to be the auditorium of a local high school back in the late 1930s. The school was demolished eventually, and a park now graces the site, but the city never tore down the theatre. The theatre sat vacant for years and one wanted to take on the expense of not only refurbishing the theatre, but also paying for a costly earthquake retrofit. Eventually some community members who were interested in preserving local history raised several million dollars needed to preserve and upgrade the structure.

The refurbished structure re-opened in 2004, and it is a delight. While advances in modern technology have been added to make it a workable venue for the 21st century, it has thoroughly retained its 1940s style.

Later this month, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an all-male a capella chorus from South Africa, will be performing in the Heritage Theater. As someone who is quite fond of World Music, I decided to attend the performance. Which meant I had to buy tickets. No problem - I could easily buy them online at the theatre's website.

Right up front the website tells you that there are FIVE (not two, but FIVE) ways to purchase tickets. Online, in-person at the box office, by phone, by fax and last but not least, by postal delivery. (Does anyone even use fax machines these days?)

I checked out their online system. It was easy enough to choose individual seats (click-click-click and done)...until I got to the checkout line and realized they were charging me $5 per TICKET to use the online system. In person, or over the phone - no charge. But it cost $5 extra to buy EACH ticket online.

I don't get it. Shouldn't we be ENCOURAGING people to buy things online, to reduce the cost of paying someone to sit at the box office? Perhaps volunteers are sitting at the box office, and the organization has to pay someone to process the online credit cards. Five dollars per credit card order I can understand, but $5 per ticket is a bit steep.

So guess who is going to be driving over to Campbell to visit the box office tomorrow and save herself $30 in "fees"?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Salad Days

When I was very young, "salad" was iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, with Italian salad dressing. We only ate salad in the summertime when fresh tomatoes and cucumbers were in season on the east coast. Dinner was always meat-and-potatoes....and canned vegetables. Canned fruit for dessert, or maybe, chocolate pudding. On special occasions, like birthdays or holidays, my mom might bake a cake or less often, a pie. And on summer nights, if we were really lucky, we'd have store-bought ice cream that would drip down the sides of the cones and down our chins as we licked them in the backyard on a hot summer evening.

Things changed a bit after my mom died and my dad remarried. We moved to a bigger house with a bigger yard. We still had meat-and-potato dinners, but now they were accompanied by frozen vegetables, a step up from the canned variety. In the summertime, my step-mom grew her own vegetables in a patch of dirt next to the garage. It was a small garden, but I remember green beans and lots and lots of tomatoes. We ate tomato sandwiches for lunch (white bread, mayonnaise, lettuce and fresh tomatoes). We still had salads of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers with Italian salad dressing - but now with fresh, home-grown tomatoes.

Then I moved to the West Coast and (eventually) got married. My husband, having grown up in the mid-west, was also a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. But he didn't care for cooked vegetables (unless artichokes count). However, he loved salad. His basic salad was romaine lettuce and an-oil and-vinegar salad dressing of his own making, which I never could seem to master. We would toss in the tomatoes and cucumbers from the vegetable garden we kept in the front yard of our rented cottage, and perhaps mushrooms and red bell peppers and radishes and avacadoes from the never-ending variety of fresh vegetables available most times of year in California grocery stores. Thrown on top would often be peppery watercress that Jim would pick from the creek on his way home from work on Stanford campus.

Jim and I divorced after ten years of togetherness. And I experimented with some new things in my life. I discovered that "salad" need not contain only romaine lettuce. I ventured out into different kinds of lettuce and other greens such as arugula and baby spinach. I thought I had seen it all. But, no.

About six years ago, I ended up with an Israeli boyfriend, who wrinkled his nose at my concept of salad.

"What? Green salad? That is not salad. This is salad"....and he proceeded to make a red salad -- lots and lots of tomatoes, plus red and orange bell peppers, some scallions, and a liberal dose of a good olive oil. "Now this, THIS, is salad."

I ate many a red salad in the four years that my Israeli boyfriend and I were together. I still sometimes make myself an Israeli salad, especially if I have access to fresh vine ripened tomatoes from my neighbor across the street.

But today I could not pass up the dark purple, ripe avocadoes in the grocery store. So I stocked up on the "Spring Mix" of varietal lettuces, some fresh mushrooms, and a few ripe avacadoes and went home to make myself a nice green salad.

I am waiting for summer at the local Farmer's Market, where I can get tomatoes that are both tangy and sweet, picked only hours before. Maybe I'll make myself an Israeli salad. Or maybe, just maybe, I will buy some cucumbers and iceberg lettuce to go with my fresh tomatoes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dog People

There are "dog people" and there are "cat people" in this world. There are a few "animal people" who love animals of all kinds, but when given the choice, most people seem to have a preference for either dogs or cats. (This premise was tested scientifically during a recent chorus rehearsal, when our director asked the chorus members if they tended to be either cat people or dog people. Most chose one or the other; only a very small percentage said "both".)

As everyone knows, dogs love to be taken on walks or runs with their owners. (Cats, not so much.) I went on a walk on a recent sunny afternoon, at Los Gatos Creek Trail, not too far from my San Jose home and was accompanied by numerous humanoids walking or running with their pets. Los Gatos Creek Trail is very popular with 1) dog owners and 2) bicyclists. In fact, without an animal companion, or a bicycle, I felt quite in the minority.

I think cyclists like the Trail because it is a long, paved, fairly flat asphalt trail that runs next to the creek. And dog owners like it because there is a very popular dog park a short way down the Trail. (This fact has also been scientifically verified, by way of my talking to some of the dog owners as they exited the park with their pets. I didn't speak with any of the dogs directly, but most appeared to be very excited to be there.)

Most of the cyclists I see on the Trail are muscular guys dressed in black cycling spandex, who pedal furiously to get their exercise, and practically run over "walkers" like me. But on my trek the other day, I noticed this one particular guy on a bike who was not like the rest. He was a middle aged, slightly overweight fellow, pedalling slowly down the path. And every once in a while, he stopped some dog owner and offered to give the pooch a treat. He was a doting dog lover, no doubt.

Except after a while, I noticed that he had a particular pattern, since he was pretty slow on the bike and I kept catching up to him. He never stopped male dog owners, only female dog owners. Young, slim, pretty female dog owners.

Maybe he has found that giving out doggie treats is a good way to meet members of the opposite sex. After all, who doesn't feel comfortable talking with a fellow dog lover? Maybe he has found that meeting female dog lovers gives him better results than online dating.

But it kind of left me wondering - if he truly is a dog person, where was his own canine companion?

Friday, January 14, 2011

How to Find the Right Person

We spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to find the right person. We spend hours reviewing profiles online and go on innumerable, boring coffee dates in search of that person. However, most of us don't marry someone after only one dinner date. We usually spend weeks, months or even years in the company of that other person before "tying he knot". For good reason - it is difficult, and painful, to undo that knot once it has been tied.

Certainly, finding a lifetime mate is a very good reason to spend signifcant amounts of time, money and effort on the process. But, many of us spend more "awake time" at work than we do with our "significant other". So, it baffles my mind that, in order to get a job that we could end up staying at for years, we spend such little amount of time on the interview process.

Send in a resume, spend an few hours in an interview, and bam, if you are lucky, you are hired. Many people end up working in jobs they hate, for managers they cannot stand, for companies they do not respect. It seems to me there should be just a bit more "dating" in the hiring process before signing on that dotted job offer line.

Yes, separating from a company is defintely easier than going through a divorce, especially if you are moving on to a better position. But if the pairing is less than ideal, leaving a job can still be a painful process, regardless of whether you are laid off, fired or quit.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Once (or Twice) Around the Looney Bin

A young friend of mine has decided to write a book. She has written a humor blog (The Crazy Baby Mama) about being a new Mom for about two years now. She is really a good writer, a very funny writer. So, if the CBM can write a book, I figure, so can I. I have blog. I can write. I'm not intentionally funny, but I think I am a pretty good writer. And, since I do not currently have a job, I have plenty of time on my hands, so why not give it a try, even if my story is never published.

The question is, what would I write about? I am not interested in writing fiction, making up stories and characters and finessing plot twists and turns. Therefore, I would have to write about a subject I know something about, which seriously limits the topics available.

But it does bring to mind a subject I have had recent experience with: severe depression, from a patient's point of view. Not only a patient, but a patient who has been lucky enough to spend some time in a mental health institution, which just may be an oxymoron.

There is just one problem with actually publishing such an book - I might never get a "real" job again once my story gets out. This story is not going to be the crowning jewel on my resume; the corporate world will not be welcoming me back with open arms.

So while I prepare for an accounting job interview tomorrow morning, the possibility of writing my heart out lurks in the back of my mind. But if I don't ace that job interview tomorrow, maybe it won't be such a bad thing after all.

No, They Are Not Friendly

I went on my "usual" hike today, at Rancho San Antonio, where I seem to find myself several times a week. Rancho San Antonio is a bay area county park with acres and acres of trails and beautiful views of the entire bay on a clear day. Vegetation includes bay laurels, oaks, ferns, and lots of poison oak. This time of year, in the middle of the rainy season, new green shoots are bursting through last year's dead brown stalks.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to see wildlife - wild turkeys, deer, gophers and birds of all kinds are usually in close proximity, and not afraid of humans. And sometimes you see rarer species, such as coyotes stalking gopher prey or hawks circling above, as I was lucky enough to see today.

As I was heading up the last part of the trail to the very top of the hill with the fantastic view of the entire bay area, a couple was making their way down the muddy trail. They had just spotted the coyote on the hill, when, referring to the coyote, the wife said to the husband "Do you think he's friendly?"

Yes, I know he looks like your neighbor's friendly german shepherd, but a coyote is a WILD animal. While they have become accustomed to humans in their environment, they are NOT domesticated. They have very sharp teeth. For your own safety, please, do not pet the coyote.

And even though the shiny green leaves have fallen, and the tall, slender, upright stalks look innocuous, like any other forest scrub in winter, I also suggest staying on the trail. Unless, of course, you like being itchy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Friends and Enemies

I admit to watching "Desperate Housewives" on TV. On tonight's episode, when one of the characters gets shot, the cops show up at the hospital and ask the wounded victim if he has any enemies.

I never thought that I had any "enemies". But now, I'm not so sure. There are certainly people who have "dropped out" of my life over the last fifty years for various different reasons. Old boyfriends, college and high school friends who no longer stay in touch, people I used to work with, former neighbors, and friends from various social networks (by this I don't mean online networks), such as folk dancing, outing clubs, chorus or my old soccer team.

There are certainly people who I have seriously disappointed occasionally, including a former boss or two, and certainly my parents at times. But your parents have to forgive you -- after all, they are your parents. Hopefully you never end up working with your former boss again.

In more recent years, there have been a few people who have hurt me by their actions or words and with whom I have not been able to reconcile. And for some reason, at the start of this New Year, I feel that I should try to mend fences with these former friends. The problem is, that down deep, I don't necessarily want to reconcile with these folks, because that means I have to forgive them for real or perceived offenses.

I am very close to my ex-husband, but I have not spoken to his forty year old daughter, my step-daughter, for many years, after being on good terms with her for over twenty. She has had some problems in her life, and I have tried to help, but ended up severing ties several years ago after she made untrue accusations about me.

I no longer speak with a once close friend, who was my housemate for four years. I cannot forgive how he and his wife took advantage of my generosity at a time when I was severely depressed over losing my job two years ago.

I have tried to remain on friendly terms with recent former boyfriend, who is a really nice guy, but I am having some difficulty being on friendly terms with him, after running into him with his new girlfriend. I don't want him back, but cannot seem to forgive him either, since he was the one who broke up with me at a very difficult point in my life.

Although he lives on the East Coast, and I have seen him only once in thirty years, I have never truly forgiven my college boyfriend, who broke up with me by sending me a "Dear John" letter one summer.

I did once hire someone to "protect" me from a jealous girlfriend of a former lover for a short period of time. But she had some understandable emotional issues to resolve and while not really ever a friend of mine, I no longer consider her a threat to my physical being.

I suppose none of these people currently considers me an "enemy", at least to the extent that they might want to kill me, which is not always the case in the television world. Perhaps I just have to come to terms with the fact that not every person I encounter in my life will become my friend, and not all of my friends will be my friends forever.