Posts Tagged With: work

School

I am officially a stay at home mom these days. At least for the next year or so. How am I managing that on our pared-down lifestyle? I’m going to school.

I have been thinking about babies and careers for a long time now, and when it all came out in the wash, it came out English teacher. Not only are the benefits great and the hours conducive to kids, but I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days than surrounded by books and writing. I’m hoping my enthusiasm will be infectious.

I got my fieldwork assignment, though, and I panicked. Because somehow in the middle of all this, I forgot how much I loathed high school. Like, I hated it so much that I graduated in three years just so I wouldn’t have to be there anymore, only allowed because I threatened to drop out. And now I was going back? Voluntarily?

Careers and I have always been uncertain bedfellows. I have worked the longest at Disney costuming, and it took me years to realize it wasn’t going to work. I could put up with bad pay, lack of advancement opportunities, and the horrible commute. What tipped me over was the hours – 12 hour days, midnight parade rehearsals, never a break. In short, no room for children.

I remember feeling, on my last day, not exactly sad, but nostalgic. I looked back through the white steel gates to take it in one last time, the yellow swoop of the Team Disney building, the boxy windows of the Eat Ticket, the gray concrete parade building, where I worked, beyond. I watched dozens of people in different uniforms scan their passes and go though the gates. ‘you’ll never be a part of anything if this scale again,’ I told myself, not unhappy with the prospect but still lingering. Eventually I turned and drove home.

My first week returning to high school just ended. And it was ALMOST just as I had thought it would be, with one major difference. It was like attending your very favorite class in high school all day long. The kids were smart little assess. I enjoyed myself.

As supervisory teacher was showing me around the campus, the quad full of trees and planters, the tan cinder block buildings tucked under the mountains and the blue California sky, I found myself returning to that last day at Disney.

And I realized… I might be embarking on something of that epic scope again. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

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I’m realizing why it’s been so hard to blog lately… I’m not really doing anything.  My week mostly looks like me coming home exhausted from work, putting on my pajamas, and reading until I pass out.  I feel a little like a fuddy-duddy.  I let Brian make me dinner every night.  I haven’t even been working on projects, to be honest.  The quilt is still mostly done, and so is the Totoro mobile

Instead, I’ve been reading a weird combination of romance novels and parenting books, rotating back and forth between them.  I consider this the equivalent of Target putting the underwear section next to the baby stuff. Ironic, yet with plenty of precedent.

I have been going through old “inactive” employee files at work, and it’s been a hilarious and poignant time-capsule of documents.  There are pictures of nerdy scientists in those thick-rimmed 1960’s glasses, or wearing vibrantly striped ties from the 1980’s.  The documents are mostly type-written, and my favorite are the ones that are obviously tissue-thin mimeograph copies that someone stuck in their file, some stretching all the way back to the 1940s, in dusky brown.  There are form documents, too, where most of it is typewritten except where the Dean wrote in the person’s name by hand.  Or student evaluations that are also hand-written and then copied for the file.

It’s a strange treasure-trove of old scoldings, merit raises, newspaper articles and pamphlets, and sometimes obituaries.  I found one for a Botanist who was almost sent to a Japanese Internment Camp, but was able to find a home on the east coast with a family in South Carolina instead, to finish his education.

The task itself isn’t supposed to be interesting.  I’m just supposed to run this stuff through the scanner and then save it to the electronic drive.  I got lucky that many of the files are fun.  We’ll see what turns up next…

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November Start

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I told you it wouldn’t be a whole month until I came back again.  Nano is going very well.  So well, in fact, that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It usually drops in week 2, so we’ll see how much I hate this story and everything it stands for in another 8 days or so.  I’m no longer surprised that this happens, but every year I’m surprised by how genuine the feelings of loathing are.  You would think I would have learned by now that this is a phase.

Brian participated in the annual Baked Potato Decorating Day contest at his work, held every year on November 1st.  He won for his impressive rendition of Bag End, complete with round carrot door and broccoli Party Tree.  I am still upset by his refusal to let me make hobbits from tater tots, but I shall live through my disappointment.  His prize was $45 to Barnes and Noble, and we spent a blissful evening among the stacks of books.

“Do you want anything?” Brian asked me toward the end of our perusal.

I started laughing.  Because I want everything, of course.  They’ve come out with those amazing gilded Barnes and Noble Classic editions of American Gods and Anansi Boys, A Wrinkle In Time, Shell Silverstein poems, Cthulhu mythos, Robin Hood, Moby Dick, The Eye of the World, 10 Wizard of Oz books…  Moleskine has Harry Potter special editions sitting on the shelf.  I have not yet read Rene Ahdieh’s latest.  America’s Test Kitchen has a gigantic cooking bible.  I’m dying to purchase a slew of romance novels, and Uprooted. They have a vast collection of color-your-own postcards and a Pusheen luggage set.  I still need the Puffin In Bloom copy of the Little Princess.  They had fancy hard-backed editions of The Silmarillion.  When I said I wanted everything, I wasn’t kidding.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said.  I’m used to drooling and not buying.  Also, I didn’t help with the potato and I can’t remember the last time Brian bought books.  He picked up three and has been spending his nights reading, like I usually do, which is reward enough.

Writing and reading your heart out are what November is for.  We have a good start on that over here.

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An Office Behind Toontown

I always have worked best under deadlines.  Which is why I’m excited to have one for Blue Gentian now (entering it into the Other Half contest).  It intellectually feels weird that I will re-write 4 more chapters and then call it done.  I’ve been working on this thing for 5 years now.  But creatively, it feels almost done.  I’m even sorta proud of it.

Is it wrong to admit you like your own work?

I have just 3 weeks for those chapters, so I’m plugging along at a rapid pace.  No thought space for the blog, just for fires in churches, archers in empty buildings, a dancing queen, and a surprise murderer.

So, to tide you over is this essay I wrote a bazillion years ago about my job at Disney, as an assignment for my very first creative writing class.  I’ve been gone from Disney for 3 years and I’m sure it’s all different there now.  But this is a good approximation of how it was, or how I remember it was.

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AN OFFICE BEHIND TOONTOWN:

My desk is exactly three feet wide. There is just enough room for me to tuck my legs underneath the gray plastic top. I have managed to stuff a small space heater below the desk because it is always cold and I sit underneath the air conditioning vent. Between the computer and the large black conference telephone that sits on the desktop, there is room for nothing else on the surface. I brought in a lime green clock from home and hung it on the wall next to my computer screen. It is a personal item, with its cheerful tick and scrolling black numbers, and therefore it is illegal.

My desk is shared because I am a Costumer’s Assistant. The lady who trained me three years ago made it very clear that assistants don’t get their own desks. Still, I am the only occupant of this tiny island of plastic countertop. I know this because my papers are always where I left them. The stack of unfinished paperwork and the notebook with my “to do” list covers the top of the black telephone. Shiny fabric swatches that glitter in the fluorescent lights litter the base of the monitor in the same heap as the day before.

The walls around my clock are surrounded by white papers detailing how to make Costume Style Numbers, showing the Fiscal Calendar, lists and lists of phone numbers. Just above the desk are two cabinets, one on top of the other. They are packed full of empty binders. The bottom one also holds paper trays, staplers, and all the things that would be on the desktop of there was room. Behind me is a large walkway. People who don’t even work in the office go strolling in and out, staring at the Excel forms that are always open on my computer screen.

I ship costumes and fabrics to China sometimes, which requires me to leave my desk. When an order is ready to ship, I print out the checklist of everything I’m supposed to send. Then, I walk through the costume warehouse, down the concrete stairs, and into the shipping bay. Boxes stacked on pallets obstruct the middle of the room, and the walls are covered with metal racking. I go to the fabric holding rack and I count everything on the checklist twice.

The person in shipping used to save me boxes, but there’s a new girl now.

She has decorated the shipping desk with puffy stickers and her pens are planted in a lurid red cup of clay that her daughter made. The keys to the receiving bay currently sport a Hello Kitty key ring. She got rid of the boxes because they were too much clutter. Now, a box of just the right size and condition is almost impossible to find. I end up peeling off a lot of stickers and scratching out a lot of names with a thick black sharpie. Sometimes the shipment is several rolls of fabric and I don’t have to worry about a box at all. Instead, I have to drag the clear plastic bags full of cloth around and pretend I am strong enough to handle them.

My life at Disney is governed by rules, by sheets of paper that say can or can’t.

I wanted a special nametag, and so I filled out the application for a language pin.

I had to go in and take a test in the fancy yellow building where only the executives work. I walked into the hot pink lobby and climbed three flights of sprawling stairs. A man in an office with a gigantic window that looked out on a tree lined courtyard quizzed me in sign language. Once the test was finished, he handed me his business card, and a small blue pamphlet with glossy pages titled “Guest Services for the Hearing Impaired.” He informed me that I would receive my new nametag in two weeks.

Four months later, it arrived.

It is exactly the same as everyone else’s nametag, except that it has a little gold plaque at the bottom where two white hands have been inset.

The hands spell “S” and “L” in American Sign Language.

I was thrilled to have that name tag. I pictured myself strolling through the park on a sunny day. As I passed by the path near the Matterhorn, a family poring over a map, brows furrowed, would look up at me and notice the shiny white letters beneath my name and they would smile. Gesturing in perfect American Sign Language, they would ask where they should have lunch. Matterhorn is near Tomorrow Land, and the Pizza Port has great food, I would suggest. They would beam as they strolled off to Tomorrow Land and they would have a wonderful lunch because of me. It would make their entire Disneyland day.

This has never happened.

I like to attribute this to the fact that I never actually stroll through the park on a sunny day. I don’t do anything but sit at my desk and fill out paperwork. And ship things like fabric and costumes to China.

The man in the office doesn’t care that I don’t ever use my nametag as it’s intended.

If I want the plaque, I have to take the test. Those are the rules.

My boss e-mails me a list of eight different sample costumes that need to be shipped to China this morning: 1. Jelly Fish Girl, 2. Chimney Sweep, 3. Main Street Piano Player, 4. Department Store Santa, 5. Mardi Gras Showgirl, 6. Scuba Diver, 7. Thin Pirate, 8. Jungle Stilt Walker. China will look at them, paw them over, ask how many we want, and then give us a price for making them.

This can only happen if I send them to China in the first place.

I print out the e-mail list to use as a checklist. Then, I pull all the costumes off their racks, and throw them in a pile on the concrete warehouse floor. Once I have every single item of clothing on the paper, I pick up the heap and cradle it against my chest. The lump of clothes stops just below my chin. I walk down stairs to box it up, label it, and give it to the girl in Shipping and Receiving.

She prints out all the paperwork that I have meticulously crafted for her.

It has to be detailed and correct or it won’t pass Chinese customs. A box without the proper paperwork is in purgatory. It can’t go back to the United States, but it can’t arrive in China either. Instead, it waits for months in the damp warehouse on a foreign pier.

With the correct paperwork, Rocky takes it to the large shipping distribution center at Disney.

They weigh every item inside the box, note the weight on the paperwork, and then send it to China.

This is where I end and begin, in a cycle of boxes and papers, rules and regulations. The contraband clock on my wall ticks. The letters on my nametag gleam. I tape the brown box closed, I hand Rocky the paperwork. She takes the box to the shipping center and I climb the stairs back to my desk. I play my part, a cog in the works, governed by papers. I open my e-mail and the journey starts again.

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Office Quirks

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There are always office quirks, I suppose.  I’m getting to learn the ones here.  My last office was in a monument to the 1960’s brutalism movement on the 3rd floor.  None of the doors fit properly, which led to horror movie style wuthering when it got blustery out.  In addition, the building design made it so that it was a black hole for birds who would fly in the open balcony railings and then beat their heads against the glass terrarium-like windows to try and get out again.  We rescued most, with a net on a stick and plenty of squealing and flapping, but dead bodies were a common occurrence.

My new office is in the old Citrus Grower’s house, in what I think must have been the old sleeping porch.  There are windows on 2 sides, I am already referring to it as the tower, and it has an amazing view of freeway, mountain, and sky.  When the wind blows here, it whips the trees into a whispered frenzy.  And strange things drop from the sky with a thud.

It turns out that there is a palm tree in front of me.  It’s too close to the house for me to see the fronds, and the trunk is mostly blocked by the thick frame of one of the windows.  The alarming things raining down are the palm seeds, striking the roof of the kitchen-wing I overlook.  I thought it might be the apocalypse for a minute, there.  Now if I can just avoid the rattlesnakes in the “native area” out front next summer, I should be good to go…

I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.  That view really makes up for a lot, though.

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Fall, Daylight Savings, and Exhaustion

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Oh man, it’s Monday and time for a blog entry again, isn’t it?  I’ve been a bit out of it, and Daylight Savings doesn’t help…

Last week I presided over a huge extravaganza of events at my work.  2 days of a cadre of complex stuff.  It all was terribly exhausting, but went well.  I also got to work from the President’s kitchen on Thursday.  That was definitely the highlight of my time at Scripps so far.  Her house is BEAUTIFUL, and we used it as home base for our event guests since we’re between presidents and no one is actually living there right now.  It’s an understatement to say that it was lovely. Catering had left fresh flowers everywhere.

In the middle of that crazy was the Chapman Pumpkin Carving Contest.  Brian’s department had won for 3 years in a row, but everyone was SO BUSY this year.  They usually get planning about a month before everything happens.  This year they had a few days.  On the nights I wasn’t working late, Brian and I stayed up and made Memorial Hall (where the President’s Office is located) out of poster board so a mini-DeLorean could time travel onto the campus and they could pass out “Save Memorial Hall” pamphlets.  They defended their title, so they’ve now been winners for 4 years running.  I’m officially married to an award winning fellow, several times over.

Prizes were Harry and David pears… Brian brought me 2 of them as a thanks for mini-buildings.  I do not know why those pears are the best things in the entire universe, but they are.  I ate the second one for breakfast this morning.

I am now smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo.  It’s going well – so far, I’m ahead.  Crazy, right?  I’m never ahead.  I think the fact that the book is all in Epistolary form is helping me.  It’s easy to write several billion letters.  And if I need to cut out half those letters in the future, it’s also easy to do.  I’ll tell you right now, though… I’ve been doing one Scrivener chapter for each letter and my sidebar looks NUTS, it’s so full.

That’s about all from the realm of Caseyville.  I have not had nearly enough cuddle time with the kitten lately.  The weather is finally cooling off a bit here, though.  I have optimistically bought firewood. I’m determined to have a fall, whether the California drought lets me or not…

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Of Birds and Steele

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My new office is a strange place to work. It isn’t the people I work with, (they are all very nice, and so far pretty normal) but the building itself that is odd. Scripps College is known for its gorgeous architecture. White stucco buildings are decorated by columns and vast windows and topped by red clay roof tiles. The campus is mostly rolling green broken by leafy trees and flowers. Orange trees and Elms are everywhere, and the main campus smells like the sweet and tangy odor of citrus.

My building is not on that side of campus. My building is on the new side of campus, in a building that is the pinnacle of the Brutalism movement. They have tried to disguise the tall walls of thick concrete with a collection of eucalyptus trees and ivy, but it hasn’t worked. It’s named after the Steele family, but Steele is so apt a name for the place that I often forget it was named for anyone at all.

Inside, it is far from brutal. The office was remodeled last summer. It’s filled with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors. Those who are lucky enough to have an office with a window can pretend they’re working in a tree house. Outside the office is a small balcony with a wrought-iron patio table, partially windowed and partially not. This scene is the view from my reception desk. Our glass doors must remain unlocked during business hours, which with the mechanism on the door, also means unlatched. This creates some interesting phenomenon.

It sounds like a horror movie at my desk.

The wind wuthers around the concrete corners, through the cracks in the door, and down the hallway. Some days it’s only a soft whistle. But when the wind picks up it can become this sustained and wavering sound like something from the soundtrack of Amityville Horror; in the middle of a cheerful blue hallway of brightly lit fluorescents and generic paintings. If the wind gets very gusty, the door will open by itself. I feel like I ought to keep garlic at my desk or something.

The other problem with the building design is the birds. I am going on my third week here, and we have already had one die over the weekend on the patio. They fly in through the slim railings where there isn’t any glass and then get caught by the windows on the other side. There is a blue net by my counterpart’s desk that we use to coax them out again. The dead bird, crumpled in a heap in the corner, was a hummingbird. We called facilities to take it out. We had a wren today, and sometimes we get these little black birds with crested heads.

Between the wind and the dead birds, I’m not really sure what kind of a building I’m working in. At least I have nice people to man the fort with me if the avian zombie apocalypse starts in Claremont. Cross your fingers for me, okay?

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The New Girl

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I started my new job on Monday.  It is a scant 1.6 miles from home, and I took my bike 3 days this week.  It’s all uphill in the morning, which is kicking my butt.  I’m SO SORE.  But the ride home in the evening is glorious, zipping downhill in the gold light of afternoon through the tree-lined village of Claremont.

It’s funny with this new job.  I knew the scope of my life would shrink to something local and quaint.  I knew I would love working with everyone there.  They have been so welcoming.   Still, I didn’t realize how much I would miss Brian now that we are not just a phone call away from each other.  I am spending so much more time alone.  My eccentricities abound.  I zip into work on my vintage-style beach cruiser with a crate on the back, and then proceed to take notes in all the meetings with my fountain pen.  I say “yay” in meetings.   I am more vintage than corporate.

But I’m head over heels in love with Scripps already, and it hasn’t even been a full week.   The orange blossomed lined campus, the vast rose garden kept for cutting, the stained glass windowed library, and the massively friendly staff all say I can ride out being the new girl.

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With Bonus Miscellany

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Things I learned this week:

I’m not the one losing sleep at nights, but there is something about the small red tongue and dainty fingernails of an infant (wearing a gigantic bow) that makes it seem like sleeplessness would be worth it.  Especially when she is in the crook of your elbow and opens her big blue eyes to look at you.

The ukulele is infectious.  Both my aunt and a friend of mine bought one and are learning to play it. Evidently, the infection only spreads to other females.  We’re trying to convert my mother.

You know those employees you were told you really shouldn’t trust?  Yeah, you really shouldn’t trust them.

It is not editing five chapters a week that is hard.  It is making yourself sit down to write anything at all that is the real struggle.

Bonus miscellany – How can you tell you work at Disney? My boss just sent me an e-mail in which one of the lines was: “Damn chipmunks!  Always causing trouble.”

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Menagerie

Sometimes working at Disney is awesome.  Evidence is below.

Me this morning: So Zachary said we really need to keep the monkeys.  But what he didn’t realize was that there were a whole bunch of monkeys that aren’t show quality and need to be destroyed.

Overheard several weeks ago:  I don’t know, you’d better have them leave the lights on.  We’re going to need to shave the rabbits, and we can’t shave rabbits in the dark.  

Overheard a few days before the last:  Yeah, Lincoln is leaking again, so we’ll have to have an audio animatronics person change his diaper.

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