Saturday, June 28, 2008

Just wondering

A very good employee has a perfectly fine performance record. One day, she becomes aware of a task that needs to be done at her company. It's a money task and she wasn't hired to handle money. Maybe she mentions it in passing to her supervisor, who takes no action. So she decides to take on the task herself and starts doing it. Let's say it involves tracking and handling some of the outstanding bills that people owe the branch of the company in which this employee works.

After a few years, it occurs to the owner of the company to wonder how the outstanding accounts are doing in that department. When the employee is asked about it, she shows her work. It turns out she's done a pretty bad job of it. Now there are several thousands of dollars that customers never paid and some of the bills are years old (five figures). The employee insists that she was doing the company a favor by taking care of this important job that had fallen through the cracks. She stepped up when no one else did and she did her absolute best to accomplish it. If it turns out that money has been lost, it's not her fault since it wasn't her job to begin with.

Does the company have a reason to terminate or at least reprimand/punish the employee? Or is the company at fault for failing to keep track of its own finances? I lean towards placing more blame on the company. How could no one have checked up on outstanding bills for years? The company shows a great deal of mismanagement.

Then again, I also don't think the employee did a good job of assessing her skills and recognizing when she was in over her head. Having taken responsibility for a big pile of money like that, how can she say that screwing it up isn't her fault? I think she should have gotten more guidance from the supervisor, who also bears some of this responsibility.

So, disciplinary action? Termination? A handshake?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The opposite of me

In my never-ending movement towards becoming a bigger and bigger geek (at 5 feet, two inches tall, I can only get bigger in this kind of way), I have completely become a National Public Radio listener. It's really my husband's fault: he bought me an iPod for Christmas, a device I never asked for, and instead of using it for music, I've begun downloading NPR news shows, interviews and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."

An interview with Bill Bishop really caught my attention. He's a journalist and author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.

According to Bishop, Americans are increasingly interacting only with people who think like them. For instance, people have an increasing tendency to move into neighborhoods of people who vote similarly, live similarly and see the world similarly. We tend to have friends that all agree on values, goals and in what direction the country should go. Of course, people have always done this, but not to the extent to which we do today.

He points to this social pattern as the reason that our presidential elections have become so bitter. If one in two people is a Democrat and the other is a Republican, you might think that would make our country pretty well balanced, and yet we've had two of the most polarized elections in history. According to Bishop, this is because, while our population is pretty evenly divided between left and right, we have moved into tighter and tighter huddles. Since it's been proven that, over time, people who think alike tend to reinforce either others' thinking, the more time we spend in these clusters, the fewer ideas we have in common with people we see as "other." So, the farther and farther apart we get, physically as well as ideologically.

Apparently it's worse in urban/suburban areas. In rural areas where there aren't as many people, you tend to take the neighbors you get. There might be a mile or more in between homes and people don't come and go as much. Whoever ends up living near you becomes someone you find a way to get along with, regardless of their personal beliefs. In the city, with its dense, highly mobile populations, people look for markers that indicate that this is a neighborhood that will welcome them: coffee shops, people wearing Birkenstocks or lots of dogs being walked for some; for others the markers might be houses with large lawns and nice cars.

So I'm thinking about my friends and the people I'm close to and I'm realizing that I am totally one of these people who only likes people who are like me. I have almost no Republican friends and certainly no friends who are outspoken about conservative beliefs. I'm part of the problem.

I ask myself: am I content to be part of the splintering of America? Or would I like to try to be part of the healing? If I were to try to be part of the patching-up process, what would that entail? Maybe it's time to get some Republican friends.

I'd been considering doing some more volunteering with the Obama campaign, but maybe that's going in the wrong direction. Maybe I'd like to volunteer with the MCCAIN campaign just to take myself out of my usual sphere of social interaction. I wonder how that would be: meeting conservative Republicans, finding the things we have in common, making peace with those who think differently from me.

Making peace with those who have different beliefs and finding what we have in common. Am I brave enough? Is anyone?

Thursday, June 12, 2008



I finally have a job! A real, permanent, full-time, salaried position at an international, historical, stable, not-for-profit organization that exists only to do good in the world. My job? To support the staff of the polio eradication division.

I'm supporting the staff of the polio eradication division! At a not-for-profit whose total reason for being in existence is to help others. This is the real-est job I've ever had. I actually have a sense of how my daily tasks have an impact on the greater world. We're wiping out polio. It's that direct and simple.

It's not a writing or editing job, but there are writing and editing tasks involved. It's basically an administrative support job, but that's what I do well. So, it's not the dream job, but it's the next-best-dream job. Not the happy ending, but a happy ending. Bob and I are finally a two-income couple, which is how it should have been from the beginning. I've been dreaming of reaching DINK* status and now we're there.

I'm so happy! I'm so grateful. I'm so RELIEVED. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time: a temporary work assignment turned into a permanent job. This is the third time this has happened for me in the past 15 years and it's the way to go. I have always enjoyed jobs I got through temp agencies.

After three years of sweaty waitress uniforms, sore feet and holding my bladder through the dinner rush (which on Saturdays went on for hours), I'm back in a putty-colored cubicle with a sleek black computer and every weekend off. I have co-workers to whom I beam "good morning," an employee ID I want to proudly wear to bed and oh, so many cupcakes to bake. There are staff social events and a 401k plan and an employee discount in the cafeteria. There are piles of papers to handle, emails to read and candy dishes to hunt down. I will nod my way through long, tedious afternoons, muscle my way through Mondays and serve on committees. I'll find myself working late too often and wonder what the hell is happening to me.

It's life in the hive and I'm home.

*DINK=dual income, no kids.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Married and Lonely

Getting married two months ago was great, but I've noticed that this winter and spring it has been very hard to get my friends to spend time with me. I understand that they are busy. Everyone's busy. And many of them have boyfriends or husbands or even children. But I still remember that for the past several years it's been pretty easy to throw open the front door and get people to come on over to my place for dinner or get a bunch of people to meet at a restaurant for a couple of hours.

What's going on? Why does it feel like no one will come out and play with me? I've invited and I've invited, several times over the past five months, but I've received mostly responses saying they can't make it this time, maybe next time. This has happened with very good friends, but also with new friends that I haven't even spent time with yet, so it can't just be that I'm so unpleasant to be with!

I'm newly married and I'm lonely. I need more people in my life than just my husband, as wonderful as he is. I've discussed this with him and he supports me trying out some new activities so I can get more contact with others. I'm lucky that he doesn't take personally my need for others. He doesn't have the same friendship needs.

I'm married and lonely. What happened to all my friends? I have carefully made sure to stay in contact and not start ignoring them just because I'm married, but what's going on on their end?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thank you, N/A!

A second anonymous person has sent us a wedding gift and it's the bedsheets we've been needing. Thank you, Whoever you are!

I am my mother

In case anyone has ever wondered, "What did Regina's mother look like when she was 41?" here's a photo to help you out. I took this picture of myself yesterday because I realized that I have now become my mother: it's the hair, the mouth, the expression, the shade of lipstick. I am my mother.

What parts of you look exactly like your mother? Or your father?