Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I'm no expert ...

Some of the applications I've been filling out ask to rate my skills or knowledge on subjects.  Usually the choices range from "I know nothing at all about rocket science and brain surgery" to "I'm an expert at losing socks in the laundry."  

Fortunately for my sock drawer, I never claim to be an expert in anything.  The closest I'll claim is that I have the knowledge and experience to do the job without someone standing over my shoulder and watching my every move, however, I know my limitations and don't have any shame in asking for guidance.

I do it deliberately because I honestly feel that there is always room for me to learn something new.  Software upgrades and changes every few months.  A country's borders can move and new governments rename them.  Pluto got reclassified into something less than a planet.  Dinosaurs are renamed as archeologists learn more about them.

Ten years ago, a project manager hired me away from a company that I had a lot of history with on the promise of a guaranteed five year government contract that offered me more growth (learning) and promotion opportunities.  During the interview, he repeatedly asked me what I knew about Microsoft Access.  I told him that I was familiar with it, but would not claim I was an expert or even proficient.  I knew the basics, and had toyed around with it on my home computer, but hadn't spent a great deal of time with it because at the time, there were other database software programs I preferred.

Eight months later, a government program manager on whose contract I was working under asked me to do a task in MS Access that even with my limited knowledge I knew couldn't be done.  It was a task that he had put before several other contractor companies.  They had not been able to perform to his satisfaction so when contract review came up, they were replaced.

Now it was placed before me, the company I was working for, and when he told me what he wanted done, I told him it couldn't be done.  The look on his face told me that it wasn't what he wanted to hear.  He'd been told I was an expert at Microsoft Access.  It was why the company I was working for had been given the contract.

I politely explained to him that I never claimed to be an expert, and if he had been told I was by the project manager, he had been misinformed.  I also explained that what he wanted done couldn't be done because of the limitations of the software itself.  Reports can be created to run at the touch of a button, but they have to be programmed behind the scenes.  Parameters have to be set that tell the software where to gather the information from.

What he wanted was for the database to be able to produce a report generated by any one of the 50 division and department heads on the base for their specific requirements, which could include any of 1 to 100 or more different variables.  He wanted it to be instantly available to whomever was requesting the report with as much or as little information as they needed.

I told him that if I knew what information each division or department head wanted to see, I could build a report for them, but for that many users, it would take time and once the report was built, it couldn't be altered without another report being created for them.

For example, if they wanted a report of how many employees had been Lean Six Sigma trained the previous week for a specific command whose Division Head was Peter Piper, and whose date of hire was after June 1st but before November 15th, that could be written into a report available on demand.

But if Department Head Mary Mary Quite Contrary wanted a report showing her employees whose last name started with A through M, and who had been with the company for less than 5 years, but more than 1 year, who had completed their annual ethics training, and whose Division Head was Tiny Tim, new report parameters would need to be written.

Two months later my project manager told me that he had mislead me in order to woo me away from my previous company because they needed my skills to gain the overall contract for the company.  There was no "guaranteed" contract beyond the first year.  It simply had four more "options," and the option to renew the contract I was working under was not taken.  Within six months the project manager's option was also not renewed, and within a year the company lost the overall contract to a competitor.

The lessons learned there were many.  Honesty is always the best policy, especially when interviewing.  The grass might have looked greener on the other side of the bay with the new company, but it was certainly growing over a septic tank of deceit and dishonesty.

It is possible that in the past ten years the MS Access has been upgraded to do the task that he wanted.  I'd like to find out, and expand my knowledge.  In the meantime, I'm sticking to my one and only expertise ... of picking up the pieces and recreating myself.

Friday, April 13, 2018

thought provoking questions

I interviewed this week for a position in a Spring(ier) part of the country. I hadn't had any coffee before I called into the panel, and was trying to wake up with a mug of hot tea which wasn't nearly the same potency. I'm sure more than once I sounded like a babbling idiot as I tried to get my thoughts together for questions.

As much as I try to prepare beforehand, there is always one or two that catch me off guard and make me think long after the interview is over.
"Tell us about a decision you made that you regretted and what you did to correct it."
Hmmm ... forgetting that there was a season called Winter in the North?

In truth, however, I try not to think about decisions I wish I'd made differently. Somedays they would simply overwhelm me if I gave them thought. Instead, I try to focus on the lesson to be learned from the decision, or what I gained because of that decision.

If I said I regretted moving (to California, away from California, to Georgia, away from Georgia back to Florida, to Texas, away from Texas back to Florida, away from Florida to the North ... you get the idea), then I would have to own the regret for people I've met, places I've seen, and pets I now own.

I don't (can't, won't) regret those.

If I said I regretted marrying whomever, then I would have to own the regret for the extended family I gained, places we went, and pets we got.

I don't (can't, won't) regret those.

Regret is a negative that will eat you up from the inside and destroy your peace of mind if you let it. It isn't something that can be changed because it is past. Over. Done with. Gone.

The only way to "correct" a decision made in error is to learn from it, move on, and not dwell on it forever. Count the blessings you gained from it. When you continue to let a regret consume your thoughts, you can't grow from it and eventually just wither away into a bitter, negative person. Why continue to give someone/something that much control over your life when obviously they were a mistake, to begin with? Sometimes the best "revenge" for regret is to stop thinking about it as a mistake and look at it as a lesson you learned from.

"Where ​do you see yourself in five years, and how do you feel this position will help you get there?"
​Hopefully somewhere warm, with green grass, brightly colored flowers, leaves on the trees, birds singing and making nests, and no mention of snow WHATSOEVER.

I want to be grounded in a house of our own, with family and friends coming to visit for the holidays or weekends. Planting gardens, chasing chickens, and sneaking yet another cat or dog in that I can explain to the hubs with a "But it followed me home, what was I supposed to do?" Maybe even getting a miniature Highland coo because we're twins after all (short, wide, with red hair that gets in our eyes).

Getting that position puts me X number of hours closer to it becoming a reality than XX number of hours. It puts me along a parallel on the globe closer to where I want to be. Closer to Spring.

Yes, I know there will be heat and humidity and bugs. There is humid heat up here too (one or two weeks in August or September). There are mosquitoes and black flies also, in fact, cluster flies that appear and swarm INSIDE the house from WHOKNOWSWHERE!

But with humidity comes softer skin, not quite as dry and cracked as it can be for 9 months a year here. If you've ever had a crack on the corner of your thumb or finger, right by the nail, that seems to go all the way down to every single nerve ending in your body, you know the pain. They appear overnight and you don't know they are there until you hit them, and trust me, you will hit them with everything, every single time you use your hands. (Buy a case in super glue before winter, it will save your sanity!)

I am hopeful for change. A change of seasons and a change of address.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"It started as a game..."

This meme was started by Delores at Mumblings and now Words for Wednesday has grown feet which travel month-to-month to other bloggers for the words. This month, the prompts are provided by Elephant's Child.
Essentially the goal is to encourage us to think, write, and create.
​Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us. All or some of the prompts can be used to create a short story, prose, a song, a poem. Or you can choose to ignore them and just go off on your own.
To read the magic these words create this month, follow [this link to Elephant's Child]. Some of the magic is posted as comments under the words each week, while others will post on their own blogs and comment with a link. This week's prompts are: game, bag, torch, queen, fit, pardon and/or beach, shadow, orb, chilly, collision, desperate.

It started as a game of seek-and-find.

Each of them took a canvas bag and set off into the woods at dusk with only a small torch to light the way when daylight finally faded away. They were to capture a queen, however, none of them stopped to ask what she was a queen of, or whether or not she would even fit into their bags. If it had been a bee or wasp queen, that would have been one thing, although none of them had any idea how to do that without getting stung. If it was a fairy queen that might have been even more of a challenge, they would have to beg her pardon for stuffing her into a bag in the first place and hope that she didn't turn them all into toads before they could disarm her.

Walking in the dark, with their torch lights looking like fireflies bobbing through the trees, they were surprised to find themselves on the beach of a lake so vast they couldn't see the opposite side of it since their torches faded into shadow across the water. Standing there, wondering whether to find a way around or go back the way they came, they realized that an orb of light was dancing towards them across what they could only assume was water.

Whispering amongst themselves, they realized the temperature of the air had suddenly turned chilly and the orb seemed to grow larger and faster as it approached. In a panic now, several of them turned to run, dropping their torches which immediately extinguished, leaving them in the cold and dark. The sounds of several of them meeting in a collision only made each of them more desperate to escape whatever was coming.

When dawn broke over the forest and its hidden lake, voices could be heard calling out their names. Empty bags littered the forest floor, and the children were seen no more.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

word ...

Words for Wednesday is a weekly writing prompt designed to get creative juices flowing.  The weekly prompts can be used in any way ... all, some, or none of the words. The idea is just to become inspired to write...anything...poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, sci-fi or fantasy.  I've been continuing with characters that made their first appearance in January ... This month's words have been provided by Delores at Mumblings, and they are engine, thunder, rolling, blast, ancient, boulder and or misstep, ponder, volume, crib, split and brilliant.

Percy watched from the shadows of the forest as the train engine rumbled past him like rolling thunder.  Just then the engineer let loose a loud blast from the train's whistle and he stepped back farther into the woods wondering if he had been seen.  His contact was to meet him on the other side
of the railway, in an ancient cemetery that was near an abbey built into boulders on the side of a mountain in Salzburg, Austria.  It was a popular tourist attraction, and he was hoping that the cold and rain would make it less of an attraction than some of the other beautiful churches in town that offered an escape from the weather.

The information he had been given about his contact didn't give him much to go on, and he wondered if this had been a misstep of his superiors.  If all went well on this mission, it was to be his last, a concept that often caused him to ponder whether or not he could heal the hurt he caused his wife and daughter when he had disappeared from their lives.

The volume in his earpiece crackled as lightning struck nearby, and he whispered into a small microphone built into the collar of his overcoat.

"You're sure this thing won't turn me into a lightning rod?"

He could hear muffled laughter in his ear, and then his supervisor's voice barked at him.

"Shut it and focus on the mission.  We can't afford to lose this contact.  You remember the code word to verify that it is him, yes?"

Percy winced at the loud voice that felt like it was going to split his head in two.

"I'm to ask if he knows how to play crib, right?"  He smiled wryly, knowing that his response would further set his supervisor off.

"Cribbage!  How many times must I tell you?  Cribbage!"

"Right.  Right you are.  Brilliant game that cribbage is.  Only for the aged, is it?  No wonder I can't recall the name."

He could hear crashing and cussing as his supervisor must have pulled off his headset and thrown it to the floor of the van parked near the abbey.  Grinning he stepped out of the shadows and crossed the tracks.  He'd better get this final mission right or his supervisor might just make his death official rather than faked.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

what day is it?

Time seems to fly when you haven't been sleeping well.  Days all rolled into one ...

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of participants when Delores had computer troubles. It has now come full circle. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write, a story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. These are this week's words: configuration, blame, jaundiced, spend, destiny, blank, cornflower, dusting, minced, tasty, afterward, and plump. 

Percy glanced up from the configuration of zeroes and ones that scrolled across the computer screen as a sound outside his office door suddenly became louder and louder.  The alarm clock in his bedroom was going off and he realized he had been daydreaming about his and Ivan's childhood again.  He stood and walked into the bedroom through the adjoining door and turned the alarm off.  

When had he set it?  He couldn't remember.  Sleep had been evading his grasp for at least a week, and he had no one to blame but himself.  He'd been taking on not only his responsibilities but that of his superior when the man had unexpectedly become jaundiced and needed to be hospitalized.  The doctors had told him he would need to spend at least a week in the hospital while they ran tests to determine what had caused the condition.  Percy suspected it was his superior's drinking and hard habits caused by the stress of the work they did, although others thought perhaps he had been poisoned.

He stretched his arms and thought again back to those days when he and Ivan would pretend to be secret agents and wondered if they had suspected at that young age that they were setting their destiny.  If they had known what the blank future held, they might have chosen to play other games.

Stepping to the window he looked out over the azure-colored waters with the cornflower blue sky above it.  The temperature was expected to be near 100, with the humidity almost as high.  What he would give for just a dusting of snow to remind him of home.  He wondered what his wife and daughter were doing, and whether or not they would ever forgive him for leaving as he did.

He had missed them the most during the past holidays.  Eleanor's minced meat pies in the oven had always made the house smell warm and comforting.  She had teased him more than once that the only reason he had married her was due to her tasty baking during the holidays, and leaning back in his chair at the dining room table afterward he had always patted his plump stomach and laughed in agreement.

The memory of his mother's holiday pies and baking came to mind, and he once again drifted back in thought to that day his father had walked out on them, never to return while his mother was alive.  The unexpected end of her marriage and the abrupt departure of the man she had adored crushed her and she was never the same after that.  Many years later when the two boys had become men and were pursuing enemies of the government around the world, they had discovered that they were actually following in their father's footsteps.  

The fight, divorce, and disappearance of their father had all been a sham created to distance the danger between his work and his family.  It had been a decision made by the powers that were in charge at the time when news of the break-in at their home had been revealed.  It wasn't a random act, but a targeted plan to search for information the enemy suspected their father was keeping at home.  Finding out that their father had been working undercover for the government had been a shock to them, but they had been unable to share the information with their mother.  She had died of a broken heart when they were at university.

Now Percy had been forced to make the same decision for his own family, and it was one that he deeply regretted.  He, at least, had been given the option of a faked death over a painful divorce and abandonment.  The thought of saying and doing anything to hurt Eleanor even more than his death might have was not something he was willing to do and he had put his foot down quite fiercely when his superior had told him there was no other option.  He remembered the hurt and confusion that he and Ivan had carried well into their 30's, wondering if something they had done caused their father to abandon them.  He refused to lay that guilt on his daughter.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of participants when Delores had computer troubles. It has now come full circle. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write, a story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. These are this week's words: caper, sharper, (oops!) scarper, trash, bedlam, seams, penny whistle and/or glum, charmed, pork, glossy, pride, trench.

When they were younger, Percy and Ivan would pretend they were secret agents.  They would create an imaginative caper to spy on their parents and scarper to find hidden treasures.  The games they played made their investigative skills sharper and by the time the brothers were in middle school, they knew they wanted to become real secret agents when they grew up.

One weekend while they were looking for clues and secret messages in the household trash, they found copies of a draft divorce settlement agreement.  They knew their lives would never be the same again.  Agreeing to not speak of what they found, the brothers bond grew even stronger.

Weeks after their unsettling find they returned home from school to find the house in bedlam, and their mother in tears on the floor, the seams of one of her dress sleeves torn apart.  Rushing to her side they managed to calm her enough to tell them what had happened.

She had been walking their dog, Ralphie, as she usually did at that time when he escaped from his collar and wouldn't come back to her when she called.  She had gone back to the house to get the small penny whistle they used to call him.  When she walked into the house, she found the kitchen drawers turned upside down on the floor, and pictures pulled off the walls and smashed.  Hearing a noise upstairs, she found a strange man rummaging through her dresser drawers looking for something.  Startled, she screamed and he had grabbed her dress sleeve as he ran from the room.

The boys called the police and stayed with their mother while she worked with a police sketch artist to try to identify the man.  When their father finally came home from work with a glum look on his face, he didn't even ask what had happened.  He just went into the den and closed the door behind him.  Their mother had burst into tears again and ran upstairs to their bedroom.

Stunned at their father's behavior, the boys had quietly knocked on the den door.


Percy opened the door and entered cautiously.  "Uh, Father, did you want to know what happened to the house today and why the police were here?"

"I heard about it already.  The police came to the office at an inopportune time.  My boss was charmed that they interrupted a sales pitch to a potential client.  Needless to say, we didn't get their business, and it is highly unlikely that I will get the promotion I wanted.  I really don't want to discuss anything more about it.  Do you know what your mother is planning for dinner tonight?"

 Ivan shifted his feet nervously.  "I believe she has a pork loin in the slow cooker."

"Lovely.  I hate pork.  That will put just the right glossy shine on the day.  Let her know that I will be eating dinner out tonight.  Again.  You can leave now."

The boys looked at each other and backed out of the room, closing the door as they left.  This behavior from their father was completely new to them and they weren't sure how to react to his prideful indifference.  As they walked towards the stairs to comfort their mother, their father grabbed his trench coat out of the closet and slammed out the front door.

Ivan looked quietly at the door then to Percy.

"We need to find out who that man was and what he was looking for in mother's room.  I think father may have had something to do with it."

Percy nodded quietly as they walked upstairs.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wednesday's Words on Thursday

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of participants when Delores had computer troubles. It has now come full circle. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write, a story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. These are this week's words: tarmac, whine, lobby, vestige, dither, spark and/or enormous, jitters, dangle, stumped, bellicose and mangle. Oh, my!

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
Percy stood on the tarmac in the early hours of sunrise, listening to the whine of the airplane's engines as it powered down.  He could have waited inside the small airport's lobby where there were lights and air conditioning.  But since he had long ago lost all vestige of hope that he would see his wife and daughter again, he wasn't going to waste any more time dithering about whether or not they would want to see him.  He had always held onto some small spark of faith that this day would come but had kept it in the farthest reaches of his mind.  The work he had to do was far too important and enormously dangerous to let that thought come forward at an inopportune time.

Standing in the shadows, watching as two women departed the plane, he was surprised to realize that he had the jitters although whether it was from nervous apprehension or excitement he could not tell.  One of the flight attendants stepped to the top of the stairs from the small private jet and called to the women while a sweater dangled from her hand.  The smaller of the two women turned and stumped back up the stairs to retrieve it.  He could hear her laughter as she complained about being stiff after the long flight, and his heart skipped a beat at the sound of his daughter's voice.

As much as he had regretted leaving them when he did, he knew that if he had not, his bellicose for the work he had needed to do would have been compromised.  He walked slowly towards the lobby where both women were now hugging and laughing with his brother, Ivan.  His mangled leg ached as he walked, a wound from one of many battles he had fought since he last saw them.  There was once a time when he thought he would never consider taking a "desk job" but his most recent injuries made the decision for him. 

At least, he would be able to finally be with his family again.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Petrichor ...

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of participants when Delores had computer troubles.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write, a story, a poem, whatever comes to mind.  This month the words have been supplied by River and can be found here.

image source: WeHeartIt.com
I've been parched.  Thirsty for water other than snow. 
Rain and petrichor, the promise of spring.
I long to squat in the dirt; hands and knees black with the earth. The promise of life. 
To turn my eyes, squinted against the sunlit trees, budding leaves, and robins building nests for future generations. 
To wander the beaches, listening to the waves wash granite to sand as if the bay were a quarry of God's making. 
To feel the copper-colored grains of sand between my bare toes, free of wool socks, long johns, and snow boots. 
I long to rest, comfortable in the shade of trees thick with green, my personal space disrupted only by wildflowers, butterflies, and honeybees buzzing like the vibration of silenced cell phones.

I long for Spring.

1. petrichor = Petrichor is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil.
2. sunlit
3. squinted
4. comfortable
5. disrupted
6. phones
1. personal space
2. copper
3. granite
4. quarry
5. squat
6. parched

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Words on Wednesday

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of participants when Delores had computer troubles.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write, a story, a poem, whatever comes to mind.  This month the words are supplied by River and can be found here.

Dearest Olivia;

You have been the best friend anyone could ever have and I know that you have been worried about us and our sudden disappearance. I know that our phones were disconnected and you've been frantically trying to reach us.  There is so much to tell you and much that I can't tell you.  I just don't know where to start except to hopefully make you relieved to know that we are fine and unimaginably over-the-moon happy.

I cannot tell you where we are, and the postmark on the letter means nothing because the letter has been routed by hand through roughly four or five countries before being posted.  I'm sorry to be so theatrically evasive in what I tell you, but it is not just for our safety but for your own.  Which is why I must also ask you to stop contacting authorities about our disappearance and just let everyone lose interest in finding us.  Perhaps when attention is refocusing on others I will be able to reach out to you again and share the amazing details of what has transpired over the past year. 

I can tell you this much.  We are a family of four again.  Yes, four.  The brothers, a daughter, and a wife are reunited.  The expansive story created to protect us was effective for a time but was beginning to crumble around the edges and a decision was made to bring that mythology to an end.

As I write this, I can see in the distance a campfire and hear the singing of my daughter in a language that we both are still learning.  I'm using my husband as a footrest as we went hiking today and he is massaging out the stiffness in my ankles with an olive oil blend I created with herbs from our garden.

I do miss you and our morning coffee conversations terribly, but we are safe, happy, and healthy.  You are always in my thoughts and prayers, and I know we are in yours.

                                                                                                 Until we meet again,

1. refocusing
2. theatrically
3. unimaginable
4. olive oil
5. footrest

6. relieved
1. roughly
2. mythology
3. disconnected
4. expansive
5. campfire
6. singing

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words ...

The original Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and eventually taken over by a moveable feast of participants when Delores had computer troubles.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write, a story, a poem, whatever comes to mind.  This month the words are supplied by River and can be found here.

E: "Abs? Where is that ringing coming from?"
A: "Your purse.  Isn't that your cell phone ringtone?"
E: "No.  Oh my goodness!  I forgot about the phone your uncle sent to me.  I hope they don't hang up!"
E into a cell phone: "Hello? ... Yes, this is she. ... Where? ... On Merlin? ... Caldera Crossbow? ... Oh, crossing!  Yes, I know the place.  What time do you close? ... Thank you.  I will be right there to get it."
A: "Was it uncle?"
E: "No.  It was a Western Union office across town.  I have to go pick up a telegram."
A: "Can I go with?"
E: "No.  I think it would be best for you to wait here.  I won't be long."
E: "Abs?  I'm back.  Do you still have those pictures your uncle asked you to take?  I need you to do something with them for me right away."

[two days later]

E: "Hello? ... Where? ... 15th and Main?  Yes, yes.  I know where you are.  I will be right there."
[a week later] 
E: "Hello? ...  Gracious me!  I have been so worried!  What on earth is going on?  Is it safe ... What?  Yes, it is in the other room.  It was stunning by the way, thank you so much for remembering ... Alright.  I'm by it now.  ... Really? Blocks eavesdroppers?  Who would want to ... oh ... well, yes.  I suppose we can.  When? ... Right away? ... But for how long? ... No, she won't be happy to hear that. There is a class camping trip that she wants to go on and I was going to let her go but hadn't told her yet.  If we have to be gone that long, she will miss it. ... Really? Well, I suppose if you feel it is necessary. ... Yes, I will go pack for us now and we will leave as soon as she gets home. ... No, she is not alone, she is at the library with her friends studying. ... Yes, I'm sure, I dropped them off myself. ... What?  Why can't we take ... where? ... yes, I feel it in the planter now ... goodness! Where did you get all of this ... alright ... I'll go get her right now and we will leave immediately. ... Yes, we will be careful ...

1. caldera
2. Merlin
3. unicorn
4. crossbow
5. thoughtless
6. stunning

1. glinting
2. crop
3. valley
4. particular
5. deliberately
6. cave