Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Milestone: Thin Mints

Sometimes it is hard to see my own life clearly.  I make changes and then don't notice the results happening because they happen so gradually.  And then something happens that really brings home that changes have happened, and are continuing to occur. 

I've blogged about a couple of those milestones already:  discovering that my once-ever-present love of frosted strawberry toaster pastries has gone by the wayside, and the startling realization that I no longer enjoyed the taste of raspberry and coconut covered, cream-filled yellow cake pastries.  It caught me off-guard both times, when I found out that things I used to have to restrain myself from gorging on were no longer acceptable to my taste buds or my body as a whole.

Well, I've hit another milestone today.  Luckily, not one of complete aversion because it really would have made me sad to lose this food altogether, but one of moderation.

I don't know about in your neck of the woods, Dear Readers, but where I currently reside it is that dreaded and yet so very desired time of the year:  Girl Scout Cookie Season.  You know how it works, right?  Those little Pushers get out there with their bright, innocent smiles and the piles upon piles of cheerfully colored boxes containing chocolate, coconut, peanut butter, mint, lemon, and other delicious ingredients, and they entice you.  They cajole, they encourage...Nay!  They BLATANTLY PUSH those boxes of temptation at you, knowing that you can only resist for so long before you purchase piles of them.  And as you hand over your cash, your check, your credit card, they smile and reinforce your self-justification by talking about how the money is going to support such a good cause!

Then you get home and you look at the boxes and wince, knowing that you seriously overpaid, but deep in your heart you don't care because they are so full of tasty yumminess (and the money really DOES go to a good cause!).

If it isn't bad enough that you can't go to a grocery store or large retailer without having to pass tables manned by the Little Green Predators, they send their Minions out into the world.  Parents, loving aunts and uncles, friends of the family, all armed with The Sheet of Doom!  You know the one, right?  The order form with photos of the various cookies lovingly photographed and depicted, teasing you with glistening chocolate and powdered sugar.  They shove the sheet at you, talking about how Little Sally is only FIVE boxes away from winning the Troop's top seller award, and if you bought just one box, you could help her reach that goal.  They do this knowing that NO ONE can buy just one box of Girl Scout cookies.  I think there's actually a law against it somewhere.  And so you fork over even more money, and before you know it you have a freezer and cupboards full of boxes, taunting you silently, telling you that they KNOW you will open them with the intention of eating just one or two, and before you know it the whole box will be gone.

(BTW, Girl Scout Cookie makers, don't think that we, the General Public, have NOT noticed that the boxes are getting smaller but the price isn't!  Just sayin'...)

We did our civic duty, and ordered *mumble* boxes of cookies from one of our local Pushers...er...Girl Scouts.  They arrived, and have been sitting on the counter in the kitchen.  We've actually both done really well about inhaling them, and only one box of Samoas fell victim to a serious snack attack.  The other boxes either haven't been opened yet, or the two that were opened were eaten pretty gradually.  But the big test remained.  You see, the Thin Mints were still sealed in their pretty green boxes.  Until today.

I approached them with mingled anticipation and trepidation.  I know from past experience that Thin Mints are my Achilles Heel.  I can show restraint with other cookies, but Thin Mints?  Oh lovely Thin Mints...they CALL to me, and much like the sailors of old, I have found myself unable to resist their siren song.

But I opened the box.  The familiar and much-loved mingled scent of chocolate and mint rose, wafting to my nostrils like a delicate perfume.  I pulled out the cellophane-wrapped tube o' cookies and carefully opened it (You don't want to have it split and have the cookies go flying!  That would be a travesty and sacrilege!) and selected the first cookie.  I knew it was a true Girl Scout Thin Mint because it promptly stuck to the second cookie in the package, refusing to come unstuck.  Oh no!  I was forced to eat them both or not at all!  I suppose, Dear Readers, that you can readily determine the choice I made in light of this development.

I bit into them, tasting the chocolate and the mint, and allowed myself to truly enjoy the crunchy lightness of the cookie along with the creamy smoothness of the chocolate outside.  The mint was just the right amount, refreshing and cool, lightening the richness of the chocolate.  I ate another, and another (two...stuck together again).  And then it happened.


My body said "enough".

And I listened.

As you know if you've been following this blog at all, I have been working slowly on making healthier choices in my diet.  I have been incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, working on lowering my meat consumption and finding alternate protein sources, lightening the amount of starches...especially white ones...and making sure that when I use fats, I use ones that taste good and make sure that they are used in reasonable quantities.  (Yes, that includes real butter.  I love butter.  I will never give up my butter, but I don't have to as it is completely healthy in moderate amounts.)

I didn't think that it was making that much difference in my tastes.  I mean, I noticed that I can more readily taste artificial ingredients after months of eating as many organic whole foods as was feasible, and we definitely use a LOT less salt in our house than most people, but overall I kind of just didn't notice how much my eating habits had changed.

Until I found myself twisting the cellophane closed and putting the tube o' cookies back into the bright green box after only eating five Thin Mints.

It really does make a difference.  When you make changes, small changes a little at a time, it adds up.  I know that we hear it all of the time and most people just kind of discount it as something everyone says but no one does.  I have done that same sort of discounting in the past, but now...now I know better.  It has been proven to me three times over at this point.  I am making changes, small changes, and they are working.  This is the most encouraging thing that has happened to me in a while, and it happened in the midst of a lot of discouraging things.  I find myself revitalized a little because now I know that I have accomplished some goals without even realizing it, and if I can accomplish those goals, then there are other goals that I have thought were out of reach but now have been made aware just how achievable they can be.

So, Dear Readers, when you get discouraged and think that nothing you do matters and that life will continue as it always has no matter what you try, I ask you to come back here and read The Story of The Thin Mints and allow yourself to believe.  If I can do it, if I can make changes and have them produce results in my life, then you can too.  They don't have to be changes in your eating habits, they can be any kind of positive changes.  Give them a try, know that you won't be perfect at them, give yourself permission to take two steps forward and one step back KNOWING that still puts you one step further than you were when you started.

You can do it.

We'll do it together.

What do you say?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Presenting an Image

Have you ever interacted with someone who represents a business and had them be rude?  Not only rude, but intentionally mean-spirited?  I just had that happen to me today, and quite frankly, I don't understand it. 

I requested information from someone, the circumstances aren't important, and got an e-mail back that completely shocked me into open-jawed surprise.  That was quickly followed by fury, which I supressed long enough to send a polite reply back ending the conversation. 

The tone and words that were used in the e-mail were extremely insulting, and it frustrates me.  If anyone who worked for me ever replied to a simple request for information in such a manner, there would be a Come to Lys talk in the offing.  Even if the request were something that the recipient felt was outside of their duties or overly demanding, it is incumbent upon any representative of a business to present themselves in a professional manner. 

I do not feel that my request was over the top.  As a matter of fact, had the reply been put in more polite terms, I would probably have been quite happy to discuss the terms of further business which would have resulted in me giving said company money.  But as it stands right now, not only will they not get my money at this juncture, they will never get business from myself or my company.  Nor will I ever encourage anyone I know to do business with this particular branch of the company, at least until the person in question is no longer responsible for dealing with potential customers.  I won't bad-mouth them or spread the details of the incident because that is between myself and them, but I will not go out of my way to do anything positive for them either.

So, folks, remember this when you're having a bad day at work.  Yes, it is easy to slip and take it out on the person who calls or e-mails with just one more question than you can handle for the day, but stop and think before you do so.  You aren't just representing yourself, you are representing your company.  You don't know who the person is that you are talking to, and you don't know who they may know or do business with.  Word of mouth is an amazing and horrible thing.  If you do things right, it can get you a lot of business that you might not have gotten otherwise.  If you do things wrong, it can hurt you in the end.

You also don't know what the other person is dealing with in their day already.  If they are having a good day, well, you just killed that.  If they are already having a bad day, you have just made it worse.  Is that really the kind of effect that you want to have on other people?  Is it the kind of reputation that you want to achieve?  Personally, I want people to be comfortable contacting me, knowing that if I CAN help, I will, and if I can't I will let them know in a reasonable and polite manner as to why and what, exactly, I can do instead.

I am going to try to let this go now, because it isn't worth the anger that it has caused.  But the disappointment will remain with me and color any future interactions I have with this particular company.  Since there is a history pre-dating this incident, that will be a hard thing, but since I am now aware of how things stand, I can gauge future interactions accordingly.

Remember, it just isn't worth a moment of irritation.  The consequences may be further reaching than you realize.  Even if they aren't, and it is just confined to one person, is that really how you want others thinking of you?  Really?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Say It Now

One of the hazards of having a large group of friends and acquaintances is that there are much higher chances of having someone die on any given day.  Our many overlapping circles have had several losses over the past few months, and it takes its toll on the people left behind.

What it also does, at least in my case, is make me wonder.  You see, life goes on.  It isn't easy, and depending on how close you are to the departed it can be hard just to make yourself get up and face the next day, or the day after that and so on.  But eventually, even for the closest of friends / family, life does go on.  There is always that gaping hole shaped like the one that you lost, but the ache eventually dulls even if it doesn't fully go away.  And life goes on.

When it happens, though, it is common in this day and age of social media for people to express their sorrow and grief by talking about the one that they have lost.  You see walls and walls of friends and family discussing how much the person meant to them, and talking about events in their shared pasts.  It is beautiful and allows for a shared mourning, and I don't ever want anyone to think that I'm putting down those who do such things, especially since I have done so myself.

But it really does make me wonder.  Why don't we say these things when people are still around to hear them?  There is so much negativity in the world, and we could all make the world a brighter place if we said these kinds of things to the people we love while they were still around to appreciate the words and the emotions behind them.  It isn't necessary to make huge, emotional outpourings a constant thing, but rather why don't we simply make sure that the people in our lives know how much we value them?

I have tried to make a conscious effort to tell people what they mean to me more often, but I still do not manage to do it often enough.  I am striving to get better at it.  My goal is that when I finally leave this world I want everyone I have in my life, everyone that I care about, to know just how much they mean to me.

Imagine what it would be like if we all did that?

So my challenge to you, Dear Readers, is that you start making it known to the people around you how much they mean to you.  You can make the effort with large gestures or small ones, but it is important that the effort be made.  Tell your family and your friends that you love them.  Do it constantly.  Let there be no doubt about it.  Just as importantly, tell them why.  Let them know what it is that you love about them.   If they make you laugh, if they are always looking out for others, if they knit a mean sweater or bake a completely decadent cake, then tell them so.  Don't think that you'll tell them later, because you never know if later will actually ever come.

Remember, most of us wonder what others will say when we're gone.  Wouldn't it be better to say it to us while we're still here to appreciate it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Plague, Take Three

This is a warning:  I'm going to whine a little, and yes I would like some cheese with that, please!  Also, be aware that I am on cold medication and have lost half of my brain in the form of ...well...you know...so this may be slightly incoherent.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!! (Imagine a little skull and crossbones here, just for effect.)

I have The Plague again.  This is the THIRD time since Christmas that I have been sick, and I'm tired of it! (See what I did there?  Sick?  And tired? MWAH!  I crack myself up sometimes!)  But seriously, I have over 100 items on my To Do list, and I'm currently huddled in the recliner with a blanket over me and a cat lapwarmer curled up between my knees.  I SHOULD be doing things.  I have plenty of things to do, and I think of more every day.  And you would think that I would enjoy being in a recliner with a blanket and a lap-kitty, but even things you enjoy get old after a while.  This is the third time in two months, and I am mentally done with it!

Have you ever noticed that when you're sick, everyone has the perfect cure?  The thing that always works for them, and that they don't hesitate to throw out there?  Of course, there are two amusing parts to this for me:

1.  Most of the advice contradicts itself.  Person A will say to do something, and Person B will say that you should do the exact opposite.  It would be kind of amusing if I weren't in the middle of expelling the entire contents of my skull into mountains of tissues.

2.  If you remind people of their advice to you when THEY get sick, they don't want to hear it.  Of course, I generally don't want advice from others when I'm sick either, so I can get that in an odd sort of way.  Because really, when I'm sick I want sympathy, soft tissues, orange juice mixed with real ginger ale, and chicken noodle soup.

I don't really like chicken noodle soup outside of when I'm sick.  I mean, it is all right and everything, but it isn't something that I reach for as a matter of course.  But there is something about a really good chicken noodle soup that hits the spot when you're not feeling well.  But it has to be good soup, with a rich, homemade stock and lots of veggies, and the long, stringly noodles (not the short, fat ones).  Oh, and chunks of real chicken.  I'm talking about good amounts of chicken here, not the occasional tiny scrap.  It can't be some gourmet version of chicken soup, or some adulterated version. Basic chicken noodle soup is what I'm talking about, with carrots and celery and onions and maybe, just maybe a few peas or even some corn and green beans, but nothing else.  No fancy, schmancy versions with crazy ingredients that you only see used on The Food Network (tm), just a basic bowl of yummy goodness.

With crackers.  They are a must.  I'm more flexible on the cracker front, and am willing for it to be any number of types of crackers.  But don't mess with my chicken noodle soup!

So if you love me and you want to bring me something when I'm sick, bring me a small pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.  Or some orange juice and real ginger ale.  At least until I start getting better.  I can tell I'm getting better because I will start craving scrambled eggs.  Don't ask me, I don't know.  I just know that whenever I'm sick, I've reached the turning point and am on my way toward being well when the craving for plain scrambled eggs with salt and pepper and a little extra butter to finish them comes along.  I know that is odd, but that is how it works.

For right now, though, I'm still in the Soup Phase of The Plague (Round Three).  I live and die by my soft Kleenex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Emergen-C and Advil Gelcaps.

And my recliner.

And my blanket.

And my lap-kitty.

Thank goodness for all of them, because without them I would be a little ball of misery.

Now all that I need is some chicken noodle soup!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


The Husbeast and I spent this weekend at ConDFW.  ConDFW is a writers' convention here in Dallas that is mostly focused on Fantasy and Science Fiction writers, but in recent years has begun to draw other kinds of writers in as well. 

I love this convention.  For all of the other conventions that I volunteer at, visit, and have been on panels for, ConDFW has a very special place in my heart.  One reason is that it is at ConDFW that our good friend Rhonda Eudaly Simpson introduced us to Selina Rosen of Yard Dog Press, and Selina eventually became the publisher who published my first paid work, and my Husbeast's first piece of paid work.  So there are warm, fond memories of this Con.

The second reason that I love this one is that it is well and truly a writer's convention.  Some conventions have a writer's track amongst the many other tracks, but this one centers itself about writing and selling fictional works of either short story or novel length.  The panelists are writers and publishers, the attendees are writers, publishers, aspiring writers and aspiring publishers.  All of the panels have important information for someone, though every panel isn't for everyone.  It is hands-down the most INFORMATIVE convention that we go to every year.

Lastly, I love this convention because it re-kindles my creative juices.  It helps fire up my urge to put words together to form stories, and to send those stories out into the world to be enjoyed by others.  I know that there are those who say, "If you're a REAL writer, you just can't NOT write."  Um...yeah.  Those are the same people who are either so wildly successful already that they've forgotten what it is like to have to fit writing in with the whole "paying the bills" thing, or they are the people who write without any intent to ever submit.  Quite frankly, while I love writing and I love sharing my writing, some days it really just is hard to fit that block of time into the day between everything else. 

There is housework to be done, dishes to be washed, grocery shopping to do, dinner to be made.  I have to work on my jam business, I have to work on continuing to apply for day jobs since I got laid off.  I have projects that I'm working on that aren't writing but still need attention (a fan film movie shoot, crafting, The Great Reorganization, and so on).  And sadly, I have more hobbies than time as well, including photography, singing, hand-sewing / beading, faire, learning to crochet, knitting, learning to quilt, embroidery / cross-stitch, reading, and so on).  Oh yeah, and then there are folks like friends and The Husbeast who oddly enough want to spend time with me now and then.

So I love to write, I find time to write when I can, and I hope to get more sales over time.  But it is easy to lose steam once in a while.  ConDFW builds that steam back up for me.  I come out of the convention with ideas for new stories, techniques that will make my existing stories better, and contacts / resources that will allow me to expand my skills and my contacts (equally important things in the writing world!).

Sadly, however, it appeared that attendance was down at the Con again this year.  I hope that it doesn't cause enough issues that they decide they can't continue, because this convention truly is my touchstone, my way back to excitement and enthusiasm when the world has been wearing me down.  If it does end, then I will find other ways to fan the flames of my writing passion when I need to, but I will always miss ConDFW if it isn't around.  So cross your fingers for me in the hopes that they manage to swing another year, and that they manage to increase next year's numbers and continue on for many years to come.

And next year, if there is a ConDFW and if you love to write, I promise you that you will be greatly served by attending, even if you have to move Heaven and Earth to get there!

Thank you, ConDFW!  It was a wonderful weekend, as always!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The anniversary no one wants to celebrate

I was looking at my online calendar today and I realized that in exactly five days I will have been unemployed for one entire year.  Talk about the anniversary that no one wants to celebrate!  I can't think of a faster way to take a relatively decent day and drive it into the ground.  As I made that realization all of the cheerfulness of an enjoyable weekend ran out and depression set in.

I'm really good at what I do.  I know that it isn't generally socially acceptable to toot your own horn, but I really am one of the best administrative assistants out there.  I'm organized, reliable, and can juggle multiple crises at the same time and generally get positive results from all of them.

So why can't I find a job?

Am I asking too much money?  I guess it is silly to expect that someone with over 20 years of administrative experience, including six as the assistant to the CEO of a company actually get paid more than $9 per hour.  Yeah, I actually saw a job listing where they wanted an Office Manager and listed some pretty high level job skills...and offered $9 per hour.  That is not acceptable.  Out of my paltry six interviews in the space of twelve months I actually got one tentative offer for a position where they offered $12 per hour for an Office Manager job that was intended to run the office AND be the person in charge when the company's owner went out of town, which he said he did frequently.  I countered with $14, which is a LOT lower than what I was making, but if there were bonuses (which there supposedly were) and raises, I could start a little low for now.

He said no.  For all of the things he wanted someone to do, he couldn't bring himself to pay $14 per hour.  He didn't come back and offer again.  Apparently he found someone who would do the job for that little.  I presume that he got what he paid for.

Am I just out of touch with what employers want?  By replying to their questions with the information that I prefer a job where I am told what they want and then left to accomplish that goal, am I shooting myself in the foot?  Have companies actually reached the point they've apparently been striving for?  Big Industry Lobbyists have managed to coerce our so-called representatives into passing laws that have turned education in our country into a laughingstock, turning out drones who know how to mark little boxes but can't think their way out of those self-same boxes.  Is that all that companies want these days?  People who have to be given each instruction one at a time, no independent thinking or problem solving allowed?  No wonder we're falling further and further behind the rest of the world in almost every area.

I'm tired.  I'm depressed.  I feel useless.  I started a company and in my optimistic moments I still hope that this will be my way out of the corporate grind, but then moments like this hit and I see a stupid dream that will only serve to pull money out of our household budget even faster than if I hadn't started it.  Jars of jam sitting on shelves may look pretty, but they don't pay the bills.

No decisions right now.  I'm definitely not in the mindset to make any kind of decision.  I just...feel weighed down.  Like there's no way to make things come out right in the end.  I've been crying off and on for about two hours now.  Not sure how much longer it will continue.  It will pass, I hope, but right now...right now it isn't good.

I feel useless.

Happy anniversary, unemployment.  Happy anniversary.