Archive for April, 2007

One Vacation Begins, Another Ends

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

As of yesterday, I am officially on Spring Break. Whoo-hoo! It’s needed, believe me. I’m getting a little burnt out on school. Which really sucks since I’ve got eight months to go. At least the summer and winter semesters won’t be quite so busy, since I’m taking nine and eleven units, respectively.

The summer semester will be all Gen Ed, and all via internet. I’m taking Business Communications (aka “No Brainer”), Creative Writing (oh won’t that be fun), and Cultural History of the North American Indian. I’m a little less than excited about that last one, mostly because it wasn’t my first choice. But it fits the GE niche and it’s offered via internet, so there ya go.

Winter will be Torts, Crim Law, some sort of speech class (yuck), and Worksite Learning. Worksite Learning means I have to work in a real office and I get credit for it – 1 credit for every 60 hours unpaid, or 75 hours paid. I need a total of two credits to graduate. I don’t think that will be an issue.

Speaking of paid jobs, I may be getting one in the very, very near future. As in, perhaps in the next few days. I wasn’t really looking for a job, but seem to have found one anyway.

It all started back at the beginning of the year when one of my instructors pulled me aside and said an attorney in her office was looking for a part-time receptionist. I put in my application and was called for an interview. It was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever had in my life, and believe me, that’s saying something.

The interviewer said things like “Mr. X is a good guy. He won’t ever yell at you. But he has bad days, and you have to know he’s having one so you can leave him alone. You don’t want to be around on one of his bad days.” Huh?? Then she started going on about what a flake Mr. X was “Sometimes he’ll be scheduled for an 8am meeting, but won’t show up in the office until 10, and he won’t answer his cell phone. You won’t be able to find him anywhere! One time he did that, then said ‘Oh yeah, I lost my phone two weeks ago. Guess I should have told you that’. He does things like that all the time!” Since I was in an interview, I tried to capitalize on this by saying “I had one position where I used to print out my boss’ schedule for the next day and give it to him his way out of the office.” She sort of got a weird panicked look on her face and said “Oh no, Mr. X wouldn’t like that at all. You can’t give him any information more than an hour ahead of time, or he gets overwhelmed.” Holy shit.

Then my interviewer started filling me in on office politics, telling me that some of the tenant attorneys were about to be evicted because of conflicts between them and Mr. X, who is the new owner of the building. Somehow it seemed like she shouldn’t be spreading that around in the interview process. Then she told me that the temp who was filling in kept calling the office in another town (where the interviewer was from) because she was feeling bullied by some of the tenant attorneys. Some of these calls involved tears and were made via cell phone from the bathroom.

The trainwreck only got worse when I stopped by my instructor’s office on the way out and was further enlightened as to the horrid state of office politics. Apparently the place is a real nuthouse. I was strangely challenged by the level of dysfunction, but was not-so-secretly praying that I wouldn’t be offered the job. Thankfully, I wasn’t.

The day before I went to my interview, I heard about another job, this one for a Legal Secretary at a non-profit place that offers legal services to persons of low income. I know a few people who volunteer at this place, so I got a sort of inside track on the opening. I put in my resume on that one, more on a “oh what the hell” than anything else, since they were asking for a minimum of one year of legal experience and for a full-time position. I made it abundantly clear in my cover letter that I couldn’t work full time at least until this semester was over.

Weeks went by and I didn’t hear a peep, so I thought it was dead. But out of the blue I got called for an interview. Go figure. I walked in, expecting to face a single person, but instead got a panel of five. I know I turned 47 flattering shades of red several times, and stumbled so badly over my thoughts that a few times I just sort of sighed and said “Let me start over.” I came out of there knowing that these five people had just met an idiot.

But apparently I’m an endearing idiot, because I got a call last week asking me about my salary requirements. The caller then went on to tell me that I was their top candidate. You’re kidding. I have zero legal experience and the interview was well below my best work. And I am only willing to work part time until the semester is over. I got another call yesterday to make sure I knew they “hadn’t forgot me”, explaining that some approval had to come from another office before they could make me an offer, and that the approving party was on vacation.

So it looks like an offer is going to happen, and unless the salary is below the range listed on the job posting, I’ll likely accept. Which means that even though Spring Break is here, my vacation from employment is probably going to end in the very near future. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle a full load of classes and still pull it off, but it’s only for the next few months, so I’m sure I’ll find some way to manage.

If not, I’ll probably be bitching about it here. See? There’s a bright side to everything.

Color Me Red

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

To those that celebrate, Happy Easter. To everyone else, Happy Sunday!

Among my to-do list this week was “color hair”. Back in January I had my hair professionally colored. I had never colored my hair before, so I splurged and had a pro do it. I thought a change would be nice and wanted to see what it would be like to be a redhead for a while. Besides, Beau Hunk likes redheads, and since he’s morally obligated to sleep only with me, I thought he might enjoy a redhead to play with for a little while. Nothing drastic, just a little strawberry to my original blonde.

I loved it. Beau Hunk loved it. It was awesome. But since I have hair down to my waist, I went with a temporary color. There’s no way I want to keep up with roots and such, and if I hated it, I didn’t want to be stuck with it for the next five years.

The only problem with the pro color was the price – $100. Yow!! That’s fine for a birthday splurge, but there’s no way I can pay that kind of green to get red every month. So last month I went down to Wally Mart and spent $8 on a package of Clairol non-permanent color. The color came out fine, but being the first time I had ever colored my own hair (or anyone else’s, come to think of it), I did a bit of a hack job. I missed spots, and didn’t use enough of the formula. That was no big deal, because the color was close enough to my own that the missed spots didn’t really show much after a week of washing.

Today I re-did the color. This time I was much more diligent, and used the entire bottle of formula. I rinsed out the color and was very pleased with the result. I had a nice, even copper color going, and didn’t see any obvious missed spots.

Then I grabbed the hand mirror and looked at the back of my head. Right on the crown of my head, I have a bright red spot that I cannot explain. It’s about the size of a baseball, and is right there on the absolute top of my head, so that no matter where I part my hair, it’s right there. And brother, is it red. I mean red. Cherry red. Bright red. Clown red. Holy shit.

The good news is that it’s temporary, so in the long run, no big deal. Within two weeks I probably won’t even be able to see it. Hell, maybe even in one week. But until then, I’ve got this spot that looks like I got clonked on the noggin with Bozo. I have no idea how this happened, since that part wasn’t colored first, and it wasn’t colored last. But man oh man, it sure is colored differently!

If I pull my hair back in a ponytail, it is more or less covered up. Unfortunately, I’ve been wearing my hair mostly down for a while now. So I guess I’ll have to get creative if I don’t want to reveal my Outer Bozo. Of course, it’s not a big deal either way. I mean, yeah, I’d rather not have anyone see my Clown Spot, but if they do … so? I’m certainly not prepared to take myself so seriously that I start wearing a hat or miss class over a bad hair week or two.

The bottom line is this: it’s temporary, it’s a freakish mistake (and only a small spot at that), and I refuse to lose sleep, have a tizzy, or hide because of it. In a week or two, four at the outside, it will all be water under the bridge and order will be restored in the universe. Until then, Mrs. McDonald says pass the fries.

On the Job Again

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

For better or worse, I got the job. They called with the offer on the day before I left for a four-day camping trip with my friends from the Bay Area. As it worked out, Woo was here and Beau Hunk was not when the call came. That meant I had to fudge my way through a job offer and the logistics thereof with a little boy yelling and banging on the door, because I had locked myself in our bedroom so that I wouldn’t have to fudge my way through a job offer with a little boy yelling and squirming on my lap and asking to talk on the phone. In retrospect, it was six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I started on Tuesday, April 17th. Thankfully I didn’t have to start Monday, because I didn’t get back from my camping trip until midnight on Sunday, after having been in a car for seven out of the previous eight hours. Yuck. That was just the beginning of the whirlwind.

My new employers are being very nice and are letting me work three full-time days a week. Which still sucks for me, because I have school four nights a week. Believe me when I say I can’t wait for this semester to end!

The place where I’m working provides no cost legal assistance to persons who have small income levels. (Sorry for the awkward wording, but I’m trying to avoid Google searches on the more common phrases that are used to describe what we do.) Our offices are an old house that, at one point, was split into apartments. That means we have two kitchens (a third was converted to an office), three bathrooms (all with tubs/showers), and I think my office used to be either a laundry room or a service porch. It’s a really neat place to work, and I’m digging it.

My office is upstairs with the attorneys. Most of the downstairs space is dedicated to client intake and is far more chaotic that the upstairs space. Right now I’m spending my time downstairs to get a feel for what we do and how that side of things works. Obviously I can’t get into details, but here’s a few observations I’ve made so far:

  • People in need want to talk. A lot.
  • We do not handle criminal matters. Spending the next five minutes reiterating the circumstances of your arrest will not change this.
  • Telling people “no” tends to piss them off.
  • If you tell someone no, they will call back in ten minutes, tell you the exact same story, and get pissed off all over again when you say no, as if they had never heard the word before.
  • I am not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice. Yelling “but I just need to know … !” does not change this.

It’s been a long time since I have been on the front end of a phone system with a number published in a phone book. I didn’t really miss it. All that aside, I think it’s going to be a good job, and I will enjoy the variety of work. But I think they better get me off the phones soon or I’m going to snap, and it won’t be pretty.

Adventures in Hiking

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

We live in a beautiful area with easy access to lots of outdoors activities. Fifteen minutes from our door is a gorgeous National Recreation area with spectacular fishing, biking and hiking. For the last several months, weather permitting, we’ve been taking Woo on hikes through the woods. Woo seems to really love getting out and being able to run along the trails. We take the dogs, and as long as no one else is around, we let them off leash to go run with the kid.

Frankly, the dogs are as much a utility as companions. We know there are things that lurk in those mountains that could (and would) eat us, given the right circumstances. We figure at a minimum, the dogs would alert to something with bad intent. At the absolute worst, they are canaries in our little coal mine, a first line of defense between us and the evil that lurks in the forest.

So far we haven’t had much of a problem. The worst that has happened so far is Beau Hunk hearing a bear off the side of a very popular (and populated) trail. A few weeks later we were on the same trail and ran into a man who was walking with his dogs, going the opposite direction on the trail. He warned us that he had just seen the bear – he had come around a corner with the dogs, and there it was, standing in the middle of the trail. That was pretty much the point where we turned around and hotfooted it back to the car. That was a little freaky, but lacked the visual factor, so there was a certain surreal quality.

Many of these hikes are physically challenging to me and absolutely kick my ass. Beau Hunk and Woo drag me over hill and dale, across streams and what feel like small rivers. One hike we went on had three stream crossings where there were no civilized rock-trail crossings – you just waded in. Which wasn’t as serene and refreshing as it may sound, considering that the water was mid-calf depth, ice cold, and I was in Goretex boots. Did you know that Goretex boots keep water in as well as they keep it out? I ended up walking for four miles with my boots full of water. Yippee. That was one of the less comfortable experiences, but that’s the way it goes.

Yesterday’s hike started out absolutely gorgeous. It wasn’t very strenuous, the views were lovely, and the weather rocked. A short distance from the car we ran into another hiker and his dog. Woo was busy petting the dog and didn’t notice he had his hands in the weeds. Since the poison oak here is in full bloom and all over the place, we took a minute to douse him down with Tecnu, which we keep in our daypack, for just this purpose. No biggie.

We continued on our way, hiking a narrow trail on a steep hillside. My dog was out front, the red dog behind him. Woo came after the dogs, but leading the humans, followed by Beau Hunk, and (as usual) I was bringing up the rear.

Suddenly the dogs barked, Beau Hunk yelled something, and in the midst of the chaos I became chillingly aware of a sound. A very distinct sound. A sound that is instantly familiar, even if you’ve never heard it before. A loud, dry, hissing rattle. Oh fuck, a rattlesnake. A very close rattlesnake.

Beau Hunk screamed at Woo to freeze. I screamed at the dogs to come. Miraculously, all involved followed the commands instantly and perfectly. The dogs ran to me, and Beau Hunk lunged forward to scoop up Woo and make sure he stayed well out of harm’s way. The snake continued its journey across the trail, rattling its way down the hillside. Beau Hunk threw rocks in the general direction of the snake to encourage it to continue its journey down the hill, and to put any thoughts of return out of its poisonous little head.

As a general rule, I’m not entirely freaked out by snakes. I can look at them in captivity, I can stroke and hold pet snakes, and seeing them on TV is the big “so what”. But a rattlesnake in the wild, mere feet from my dogs and my kid? Holy fuck.

For reasons I can’t explain, we kept going forward on the trail. We went another mile or so and decided to take a rest and have a snack. I sat down on a log to rest and eat my snack, which of course brought the dogs over to beg for food. I glanced over and saw they both were covered in ticks. I could see at least half a dozen clearly visible on each dog. As fast as I would pick them off, more would appear. That wasn’t the best meal break I’ve ever had. I think the final straw was when I looked down and saw a big honkin tick on my shirt. That pretty much sent me off the emotional cliff. Snakes are bad enough, but bugs? On me?? Forget it!

We headed home with a much closer formation, and this time with Woo walking between Beau Hunk and me. Wouldn’t you know that we managed to encounter two more snakes. Luckily they were Gartner snakes, but it still freaked us the fuck out, because they look startlingly similar to rattle snakes. So on first glance you just about shit your pants because you think you’ve come upon a rattlesnake that didn’t rattle. Both times we didn’t see the snake until our little group was right on top of it. The second time Beau Hunk didn’t even see the stupid beast until he and Woo had already gone by it and I was right next to it.

At that point we were completely fucking freaked, so Woo rode the rest of the way home on Daddy’s shoulders and I hauled the backpack home. Between the poison oak run-in, the horde of ticks, and the snakes, I had had quite enough for one day. I was very happy to get back to the car.

We thoroughly inspected each other and the kid for ticks, then loaded up the gang. When we got home, we didn’t go any farther than the garage before we peeled off our clothes and put them in the washer. Woo was checked for ticks that might have been lurking under his clothes, then immediately bathed. We followed and bathed too. The dogs have been dosed with Frontline and have been banished to the outside for a few days, just in case their newly acquired ticks are still hopping off. We also want to make sure they have a good chance to get rid of any lingering poison oak voodoo they are carrying. That’s usually solved by time and a few good rolls around the grass.

On the way home Beau Hunk made an admission – he used to have the name “Rattlesnake”, because every time he went off in the woods with his friends, he would find a rattlesnake. Why am I just now finding out about this?? I’m thinking this should have been a mandatory admission prior to marriage. Suddenly I’m a little less excited about out next adventure in the woods.