Meet My Irresponsible Muse

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My Muse is definitely a drunk girl in a bathroom.

What incredible inconvenience, my mystery muse, to give me an idea whose time has come just in time for me to have NO TIME for writing! I’m already juggling enough, my muse! How can you just slap a story across my face and expect me to comply?! Don’t you see those IKEA boxes full of children’s furniture sitting on my nursery floor? Can’t you tell my mommy brain is in full effect? Don’t you see my struggling to get up into my cafe table desk chair? Why? Why now?!

 

So good news, I have a great idea for my next book!

Bad news, I’m like… SO pregnant and so busy and so distracted that I don’t think it’ll happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a preorder on my last new book so… cool! Thanks, Mom. Or ladyfriend. Or… stranger?! Regardless, you won’t be disappointed. Lay Her Ghosts to Rest is the best thing I’ve written so far and I’m super proud of it. Tell your friends! Make them order it too. Momma’s going on maternity leave soon and needs some residual income, if only enough to buy a few more ice creams before the summer ends.

 

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Cheeky preview of my next new thing. 

What’s Your Workplace Inequality Rant?

I’m a short lady who doesn’t necessarily look her age (from afar, at least) and while I have very healthy self-esteem and can command a room with just the power of my saucy attitude, I still deal with a whole lotta dismissive, condescending, underestimating bullcrap. Especially in the workplace. Especially from old men who call me sweetheart or honey and treat me like a precious little princess.

And we’re not talking Elena of Avalor or Merida of the Arrow in your behind if you sass her. I mean more like those people who dress toddlers up like pageant queens. Might as well just pat my head and wax my arm hair, because Momma needs to live out her beauty queen fantasies through you, my little princess.

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Pointed… at… your butt.

It’s infuriating. And even as I get older and start to look older, graying hair and wrinkly eyes and Anne Tayloresque ensembles and, you know, seniority and all, I still get treated this way because it has nothing to do with me or who I am or how I’m qualified or what my title or place in the hierarchy may be.

Little girls get lollipops, not respect.

I have no solution at present, other than possibly to borrow Merida’s bow, but I want to feel that I’m not alone so I like to put my stories out there and provide a forum for thought or discussion, much like the main character in my new book, Lay Her Ghosts to Rest, eventually does in her own workplace*.

I’ve added a discussion question on GoodReads for this purpose. What’s your workplace bullcrap behavior story and would you care to share it in my forum?

You can find it here. 

 

*Excerpt from Lay Her Ghosts to Rest

“Catori, that’s all so wonderful and truly a remarkable breakthrough but I have to tell you–this is what I’ve been waiting to tell you–that there absolutely is a better way and you’ve already found it. You’ve already implemented it. You have already made significant, compassionate, beneficial changes to this Institution and you did it just by being your own, admittedly flawed, self.”

Catori furrowed her brow. She wasn’t in the mood to celebrate whatever had made Dr. Sunkireddy so happy to see her. She wanted to wallow in the gravity of reality for a while. She wanted it to be clear in her own mind what she was saying and thinking and feeling and connect them all in a significant way.

But she didn’t want to be rude either. “How so?” she asked with little enthusiasm.

“You’ve started what could accurately be called a grassroots revolution among the employees here. They’ve been coming to me and the other counselors in droves over the past week, talking about you and the discussion groups you’ve been having in the Lounge after hours. They’re excited and relieved and hopeful and every single one of them credits you.”

“Oh.”

Setting and Forgetting Those Holiday Fires

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a giant clusterf*ck crisis at work so I’ve been off the internet and on the clock for almost 3 times my normal work schedule this week. That means no writing, no blogging, no tweeting and most of my Facebook activity took place on the potty, the only place I could scroll through my feed for three seconds without someone shouting FIRE! FIRE! and handing me a cup of lukewarm water to put it out with.

For now, I’ve got the flame contained to a dumpster out back and I’m planning on letting it simmer while I go “enjoy” my two days off with the fam. But it’s back to work on Monday to try not to get too burnt.

Merry happies to my blogging community. May your dumpster fire be easily extinguished.

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Lesser Evils are Still Evil

The lesser of two evils is still evil. And no, this is not a political post. This is about various levels of mistreatment and how the least awful can easily be mistaken for appropriate behavior by comparison.

I’ve had more than my fair share of jobs, partially because I often work more than one at a time (sometimes, more than two) and partially because I have a heightened sense of self-preservation and No Problem with job-hopping if it serves my sanity. Because of this, I’ve seen a colorful assortment of work environments and corporate cultures.

What I can tell you for sure is that:

1 There’s always one nutjob in every workplace

2 There’s always someone who’s been promoted who should not have been

3 There are more barely functional adults in the modern American workplace than you could possibly imagine

And

4 When trapped in the monkey house, you adapt or you suffer.

My last full-time employer was a company held together by ideological duct-tape and routine, the leader of which was a irrelevant megalomaniac whose occasional presence in his giant office often left hand prints in the dust that accumulated on his desk. His vice president only spoke to others when he couldn’t get his computer to work and spent most of his time “working from home” writing grants that he was never awarded. The next two leadership positions were held by women who busted their asses every day to no avail whatsoever and who eventually gave up trying, came to work to collect a paycheck, and played their fiddles while Rome burned.

The training I received from the human resources rep on a complicated procedure came down to her repeating how copy/paste works and why that makes everything easier than typing it out every time. And the president once said to me, after I had edited and formatted his PowerPoint presentation, “I tried to make it so simple that even you could understand it.” And not maliciously, mind you. He actually expected me to giggle and agree. He was surprised when I stared and squinted instead.

The professional development manager, by contrast, seemed like an OK dude. He deferred to me on matters I understood more than him, asked for help instead of demanding it, thanked and complimented me when I accomplished an important task, and talked to me like a goddamn human.

Until… I told him I was pregnant. He was my supervisor at the time and I had already laid out a working plan for how much time I would need off, how things would work while I was away, and a general timeline of events. His response was, “Oh, okay, well, congratulations, that’s great!” Then he got up from the conference table we had been meeting at, motioned for me to follow him down the hallway, and asked on the way, “So was this planned or not so much?”

Wait, what? Was my pregnancy planned? Is that… um… strictly speaking, an appropriate question… to ask anyone, ever?

“You know, sometimes things happen,” he joked… because he was the good guy… in the office full of… not so great… people. I mean, the smarmy head of research who considered himself so charming he could get away with anything spent a lot of time getting away with staring at his coworkers’ boobs. The scheduling guy who had lost over 120 pounds in the last year often commented to others how easily they could lose their extra weight with just a little effort. The head of that other department I had nothing to do with treated me like his own personal secretary and demanded that I pause all other projects to help him and, while I’m at it, bring him some coffee. Surely, surely the good guy didn’t suggest that I got myself knocked up irresponsibly and was now dealing with the consequences.

OK, no, we’re not actually talking about real evil here. I told you, this isn’t a political post. But it took me several months to figure out why I was so taken aback by Mr. Good Guy’s comment. At the time, I thought it was rather too personal a question to go shouting down an office hallway. It wasn’t at all where I was headed with the conversation (see above, re: plans and timelines). And as a fairly confident employee who is rarely intimidated by workplace authority figures, I was surprised and embarrassed by my stuttering response.

I was so ready to forgive the comment and move on simply because it wasn’t the worst I had heard. But not being the worst doesn’t make it OK. It was ridiculously inappropriate and understandably offensive and I shouldn’t have stood for it at all. Looking back, I’m angry at myself for letting it go.

The lesser evil is still evil. The less horrible behavior is still horrible. And for real, people need lessons in Adulting before they bring their bullcrap to the workplace because this isn’t even remotely the worst workplace horror story I have. It’s just the lesser of the lot.

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The Perspectiveless Slump-Frown

Just another example of how unpracticed we are at empathy, whenever I tell people I work on Sundays, I get the slump-frown in response.

“UGH! You have to WORK on Sundays? That sucks!” And then their bodies unconsciously respond by dropping all their emotional weight at once, pulling their shoulders and the corners of their mouth down with it.

Well, no, actually, it doesn’t. I rather like it. It’s quiet and peaceful, I can concentrate, and when I’ve finished an appropriate amount of work, I can take writing or social media breaks without guilt or paranoia.

But these slump-frowners aren’t considering what my work life is like. They’re not thinking, “You spend every other day at home with your son, chasing him around, listening to him scream and giggle, unable to go to the bathroom by yourself or sit quietly drinking your coffee at all, ever, and Sunday must be a nice little break from that.” They’re too busy thinking, “I spend every weekday in whatever hell my workplace gives me, Saturdays are for errands, and Sunday is my one day of rest at all, ever.”

Sunday is my one day of rest, too. I’m sitting at a computer in a mostly quiet room blogging and searching the internet for things to do with my son during the week.

I’m not saying I’m always the bestest at putting myself in other people’s shoes. I’m working on it. I think it’s just that I have worn the work-a-day shoes so I know both sides of this particular conversation.

Tell you the truth, if I had to choose between the childless work schedule I used to keep and the childfull nights and weekends work schedule I have now, I choose now. I still get up early every day. EVERY day. I still have tasks that need to be accomplished by end of day. I still bust my butt to keep all my balls spinning and my plates in the air. But now I get a squishy little love muffin to snuggle and a silent peaceful Sunday, gettin’ stuff done at work. I win!

How to Scare the Snot Out of a Paranoid Person

I work Sundays in a very large building attached to several other very large buildings for an organization that employs thousands of people, only 1/5 of which work on Sundays. On a weekday, 80-100 people work on my floor alone. On Sundays, there’s like… 5 of us. Maybe. And most of them just stop by to complete a couple of pressing tasks and leave within a few hours. As an introvert, I freaking love this situation. As a paranoid person, it can get a little sketchy at times.

Sound carries in big empty rooms. I can hear someone sneeze from the opposite side of the floor. And when I wasn’t aware there was anyone else around, that sneeze scares the bajesus out of me.

This morning, walking down the stairs in the parking garage, I thought I heard someone talking. That voice could have been coming from anywhere, any floor, maybe outside WHO KNOWS because parking garages carry sound to infinity and beyond on noisy days, never mind desolate Sundays. But as I approached the floor with the bridge to my building, the voice disappeared so I assumed it was further away and forgot about it completely.

UNTIL! some woman, who I presume was leaning against a car and that’s why I didn’t immediately notice her, jumped up, all aggression and intensity and yelled, “THAT’S WHAT I MEAN! I don’t even think she really thinks that, she’s just like, been programmed to think that that’s what she has to think…”

AH! GAWD! WHY?! I startled and expelled air, as one who is frightened does, but instead of coming out of my mouth in some form of appropriate exclamation of fear, it came out my nose. With company.

And that’s how some chick in the parking garage scared the literal snot out of me this morning.

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Doc Knows Best

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If all of the “thought leader” articles on LinkedIn were replaced with Doc McStuffins songs (“She’s Not Bossy, She’s the Boss”, “Be Good to Your Tummy”, “Don’t Be Afraid to Play”), the modern workplace might not be so broken.