B is for Bobble-Headed Baseball Butts

BI am not a fan of the open office concept.

In my opinion, corralling all your workforce into one common area and fencing them in with a series of padded fabric-covered walls does not inspire creativity or collaboration. It is, instead, the very definition of chaos.

By either luck or chance, I have spent all but the last two years of my professional life surrounded by four walls and a door. I reminisced not long ago with a few of my colleagues from the “early days” about how spoiled we were compared to the younger associates we work with today.

When we were first starting out in Corporate America, we just so happened to work for a company headquartered on a campus of buildings erected in the 1950s–a golden time when a cubicle was not a place where professionals (neither young nor seasoned) hung their hats Monday through Friday. These buildings were true office buildings with real, honest-to-goodness offices. They may not have all been large offices (some were little more than broom closets), but it was a place where you could close the door and have a private telephone conversation or hold a meeting without interrupting your neighbor.

I went almost 20 years without having to figure out how to display my child’s artwork on a moveable wall. I didn’t know that constant feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder to see if I was really working or just browsing for new sandals on Zappos.com.

I now have to put my phone on vibrate because I don’t want to disturb my cubemates. However, most of the people in my personal cube farm don’t share my concern for others privacy. I have sat two feet away from someone having a confidential one-on-one meeting with his manager. The person across the aisle from me once interviewed a job candidate while the rest of us tried not to listen to how she stumbled through several questions.

I have been forced to listen to loud chip chewing and noisy straw slurping. I’ve had to look at other people’s messy desks and have become obsessive about my own desk cleanliness.

My earbuds are my sanity and my BFFs.

I like my quiet, and I value my personal space which makes what happened last Monday the exclamation point at the end of my horror story.

The Older One had been home on leave for a week before deploying to Germany for six months. I took a few days off to spend with him, and so between working at home (the balance to the open office concept) and vacation time, I had not been in my office building for a week.

Sometime within those seven days, I got a new neighbor. He is apparently a big baseball fan.

I know this not because of how he introduced himself, but because of how he decorated his cube with his extensive collection of Cincinnati Reds bobble head figures. He has at least 20, and he has arranged them along the tops of all of his walls…even the one that is also my wall.

This is now my view…

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Every day, I now have the pleasure of gazing at bobble-headed baseball butts. You’re jealous, I know.

I’ve fantasized about pushing them over the edge while he’s away from his desk and then swearing there was a mild earthquake while he was gone. I’ve contemplated sending this picture to HR to support a claim that he is creating a hostile work environment. I could also just tap him on the shoulder and politely ask, “Do you realize your butt’s in my face?”

img_0204But I think I might have a better plan. I’m packing up my Disney princess/villain miniature shoe collection and taking it to the office Monday. I’m sure he’ll realize he’s invaded my space when he sees the stilettos lined up beside his balls  baseballs. If not, I’m pretty sure Maleficient can kick his butt…one bobble-headed baseball butt at a time!

 

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Exciting Day at Work #212

Today, I can officially add “excavator” to my resume.

While killing time between meetings, I was faced with a critical business decision: start Mundane Task #1 or continue Tedious Task #2.  I opted instead to clean out my purse.

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It really is “more than a gift card”!

In doing so, I successfully unearthed two crumpled receipts, a candy wrapper, a few empty Lactaid packets (every lactose intolerant girl with a latte addiction needs a handy supply of lactase enzymes in her purse), two appointment cards and an unused Starbucks gift card.

That sounds like a successful excavation to me.

RESUME UPDATE: Ability to locate and retrieve  lost artifacts buried for extended periods of time.

The added bonus to my mid-morning procrastination break…I now need to register that gift card on Starbucks’ website and upload the balance to my account.  If I work it right, I could kill another 10 minutes and rightfully move “prioritization” to the top spot on my LinkedIn skills list!

After that, I’m heading to Starbucks for a latte.

Sunshine for ’16

The sun broke through the clouds today.

Since Christmas Eve Eve (aka December 23, in case you’re wondering if that was a typo), my little spot on the weather map has been decorated with a constant theme of clouds, fog and rain drops. But today, the first day of a brand new year, I woke up to sun streaming through the slats of my bedroom window blinds.

Coincidence?

Probably…but still…that bright sunshine has me wondering what’s in the forecast for 2016, and of course that leads to thoughts of resolutions and how I might influence the number of sunny days ahead.

I have two resolutions swirling to the front of the list this year. The first is following through on a commitment I made to the Young One last year. Early in the year, we talked about working on a pretty big project together. It’s something we both want to do, and something I think we could both be very good at, but it’s not just any project. It’s a write-it-in-all-caps kinda project–as in a B-I-G project.

It is so BIG, that I never quite had enough courage time to get to it in 2015. Whenever the Young One would ask when we were going to start it, I was always ready with some other task that needed to be completed first.

“When are we gonna do that thing we talked about, Momma,” she started asking sometime around Ground Hog Day.

My response was always a variation of the same theme…

“After we get the house ready to sell.”

“After your birthday party.”

“After your brother’s graduation.”

“After we move.”

Around Labor Day, she stopped asking about it. I didn’t stop thinking about it, however, and I’m happy to say that today is officially after “after”. As of 10:17 a.m. on January 1, 2016, Project Mighty Mo is officially underway. Every BIG project deserves a code name, right?  I may be ready to do it, but I’m not ready to share details, so for the time-being, I’ll be talking in code.

With that resolution launched and sufficiently shrouded in secrecy, I’m prepping for the start of my second one. I’m putting it off until Monday, though, which while it may seem like procrastination, really isn’t. It’s just dependent on the start of the workweek.

While Project Mighty Mo will most likely bring about a good dose of happiness, I am realistic enough to know my shoe shopping habit needs more than what a code-named (aka unfunded) project can sustain.  So with the need to make some money firmly in place, Resolution #2 is the pursuit of professional happiness. That thing that gets me up in the morning and gives me a twinge of sorrow when I leave the office Friday afternoon has been in noticeably small supply lately.

I like where I work, just not necessarily what i do on a daily basis. It’s nothing illegal or immoral, but it’s not professionally fulfilling either. Nothing says, “I don’t wanna go to work,” like the prospect of another day spent wishing I had something exciting to do.

I’m hoping the two mentors I was paired with in December can help me add a little bit of clarity to my response to the ever-intriguing question, “What do you see yourself doing in five years?” Honestly, I’ll feel successful at project “Happy Momma” if I can figure out what I can see myself doing in five months.

If the streams of sunlight are any indication, 2016 is off to a nice start. Hopefully that and a few code-named resolutions are enough to make it the best year yet.

 

 

 

Red Cups and Date Rape Marketing

I am weary of the Red Cup controversy. I am cringing as I type because I have avoided the topic all week. Now that I’m faced with the writing prompt “weary”, though, I have realized that I’m not tired about much except how much time the media has spent on a cup that will find itself in a trash can or recycling bin an hour or less after its purchase.

I really think we have bigger things to worry about this holiday season than what graphics are or are not on a paper coffee cup. Let’s talk about ISIS or global warming or politics (but please not about Donald Trump or his opinions on the cup).

Kudos, though, to Starbucks for a non-marketing strategy that got people talking about their over-priced coffee. I say that with the utmost affection since (full disclosure ahead) my gold-level status is something of which I am quite proud. Now, let’s all agree to draw our own depiction of the holidays on our cups and move on.

I’m more offended by this stellar piece of marketing from the hopefully fired marketing director at Bloomingdales. 

   

While Bloomindales has apologized for the ad that appeared in their holiday catalog, they have not offered an explanation for how this endorsement of date rape got through the approval process. I am hopeful we’ll find out it was the case of an over-worked marketing executive who scrolled too quickly through the proofs and didn’t take the time to read every word or examine every picture.

That is not an excuse to be taken lightly, but the alternatives are disheartening. Either someone at Bloomingdales believes drugging your female friend is the key to a happy holiday or someone at Bloomingdales was affected by the scenario depicted here and finds that combatting rape culture is a lost cause. Both are frightening and cause me great concern for the world my daughter will step into when she is a teenager.

On the bright side, should I ever grow weary of marketing my current employer’s products, I may have to send my resume to both Starbucks and Bloomingdales, especially if I am looking to dial down my marketing efforts. At one, you don’t have to put much thought into marketing concepts. At the other you don’t have to think at all.

***Today’s post was brought to you today by Five Minute Friday and the word “weary”.  

Chaos Never Dies

Happy Chaos Never Dies Day!

Chaos

November 9 is “Chaos Never Dies Day!”

I learned about this little-known holiday from the corporate calendar that hangs in my cubicle. At first, I was a little panic-stricken to find out the powers that be at my company have chosen to tell all employees that the chaos in our lives will never go away.

However, since it’s Monday…and I’ve had to solve three crises before noon…and I don’t know what dinner is tonight…and my car hasn’t been washed in four months…and it might be Friday before any of us have clean clothes, I’ve decided to embrace the chaos! Today, I am raising my glass and celebrating all the crazy, completely-out-of-my-control things that happen each and every day.

Here’s to:

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The TAKE HOME folder.

The “TAKE HOME” Folder Black Hole. In an attempt to contain the miscellaneous papers/forms/bills/announcements I collect each day, I pile them into a folder that then I stuff into my computer bag at the end of the day. This is really just a clever disguise for all the things I intend to do when I go home from the office, but that I know will never get done.  In actuality, this innocuous blue folder is a black hole where things go in, but never come back out. In February, I’ll probably do my bi-annual cleansing of the black hole and find the order form for the perfect Christmas present for the Older One that I filled out, but never mailed. That perfect gift was also supposed to be a graduation present.

Oh, well…the fancy label on the folder says, “Take Home”, it does not say “Take Action”. I take it home every day. I’m good.

Renegade Mio. I have come to enjoy a little splash of Mio Liquid Water Enhancer with my daily hydration…except for today when the squirt of Orange Tangerine bounced off an ice cube, ricocheted off my keyboard and left a trail of destruction down the front of my pants.

Oh, well…I always have looked good in orange and in stripes. It’s a fashion statement!

Overbooked Wednesdays. I still don’t know why I thought scheduling the Young One’s vision therapy appointments on the same night as Brownie Scout meetings was a good idea.  I guess I figured since we were already in the car, we might as well go somewhere else. The fact that the two meeting times are 30 minutes apart, but the two destinations are 40 minutes apart apparently didn’t factor into the decision. I was never very good with numbers.

Oh, well…Frito-Lay made pre-packaged peanut butter crackers for those times when your mother overbooks your life and you have to eat dinner in-transit.

email

Please take note, that of the 784 items, only three are unread!

Email Hording. A few weeks ago, my cube-mate shared with me that her measure of success is how few email she has in her inbox. She starts to panic if she has to scroll down the screen to get to the end of her email list. I nodded my agreement and quickly angled my monitor away. What would she think if she saw I had 784 messages in my inbox? (And this was before last week’s Reply All fiasco.) I just have a little problem with getting rid of emails after I  respond to them.

Oh, well…what can I say. The Delete button scares me.

Momma’s Closet for Wayward Stuff. This is otherwise known as the foyer closet, and it is where I directed the moving team (aka the Hubs) to put all the things I didn’t want to deal with on moving day. Now, three months later, I can’t find the Young One’s winter coat or my tennis shoes, and I swear I used to have an ironing board.

Oh well…sounds like a perfect excuse to go shopping to me!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something…like that little light on my dashboard that says, “check engine,” and the funky smell coming out of the refrigerator.

Oh well!

Here’s to the chaos swirling around me every day and the fact that in spite of all the meetings and the to do lists and the things I forget in between, I somehow manage to survive…and get up the next morning to do it all again.

206 Email Responses Later…

Who are the people who click “Reply All” without looking at the email distribution list, and how do I remove them from my life?

Reply AllFortunately, this doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s enough to make me wonder where my co-workers common sense has gone. Today, as my email notification tone suddenly went from a nice soft “ding” to something approaching a synthesized medley of show tunes, I wondered what kind of sick mind came up with “Reply All” to begin with.

It started at 3:21 when some unsuspecting person in “Enterprise Support” (whatever that is) replied to someone’s request for support and copied two other distribution groups… which apparently included several thousand hardworking employees.

At 3:23, Michelle C. clicked the fateful “Reply All” button with an innocent,”I don’t think this should have come to me.”

I have to hand it to you, Michelle. You are a trendsetter!

Thirty minutes later, I had 179 email on the subject.

InboxShortly after The Reply Heard Round the Corporation, Louise D. told us all that she thought the sender had the sent the email to the wrong Louise.

Probably more than one wrong Louise, by the looks of things.

Email #46 from Stacy P. (at 3:31) declared, “I shouldn’t be included in this email.”

You and about 11,000 other people.

Then came a flurry of  “Me too,” and “Ditto,” and “What he said,” and finally, “Stop replying to all.”

At 3:53, there was a brief silence, then…

“Me too.”

“Same here.”

“Ditto.”

“Please remove me from this distribution.”

“Me too.”

“Same here.”

“Ditto.”

We were up to 181 when Darren E. chimed in with his helpful tip: “This wasn’t meant for you.  Please delete it.”

Thanks, Darren. I wasn’t able to pick up on that in the first 180 responses.

Response #190 from Dan R.: “DO NOT REPLY TO ALL!”

He very thoughtfully put it in all caps and changed the subject line, which makes it stand out from the others, but totally messes with my count.  

I have to track two subject lines now, Dan.  Thanks for that!

At 4:21, Michael D., summed up the afternoon’s festivities with his very eloquent response:

ConfusedI had a few instant message conversations going on throughout this mayhem.  We’re taking bets on how long this will last and what the final count will be.  My money’s on two hours and 262 emails. At close of business, the tally was just over 200.

I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.  We might actually be in the news as the company that finally broke Microsoft Outlook!

Memories of AP6

Until two days ago, I didn’t realize a person could mourn the death of a building. Yet as I sat at my computer watching the live feed from the scene of a six-alarm fire, I felt the sting of tears.

On the screen, I watched plumes of black smoke and raging orange flames dance on the roof of the building I walked through almost every day for nine years. The news reporter told me that 200 firefighters were called to the scene of the massive blaze that started sometime before dawn broke over Louisville, KY, home to GE Appliances and the industrial compound known as Appliance Park. I knew without the reporter’s back story that each building was assigned a number with the main manufacturing buildings being numbered one through six.

Number six, aka AP6, was the one engulfed in flames, and the one in which I spent the majority of my career with General Electric. I remember my first day on the job, and how I told myself I could overlook the run-down building with its peeling wallpaper and dusty corners because I had an office with both a window and a door! The desk was a relic from the 60’s and the orange upholstery on the chair was stained with something I didn’t care to think about, but it was mine. I was working for a Fortune 100 company, and I was happy.

As shabby as my new home away from home was, everything was right in my world that day as I settled into the first of my three offices in AP6. Now, I watched a wall directly behind that office collapse.

An aerial view showing an all-encompassing look at the six acre-building blazing throughout the day flashed on the screen, and I thought about cats.  Not just any cats…THE cats…the fabled pack of feral cats that roamed the far reaches of AP6. They were rumored to hunt rodents as well as interns unfortunate enough to take a wrong turn into the bowels of the legendary building.

I hope the cats got out. I’m sure the other buildings have plenty of mice to keep them well-fed. Finding signs of mice throughout AP6 was a common occurrence. My colleagues and I once gifted my boss a Nerf dart gun, so he could take target practice on the mouse we were sure had taken up residence in the walls of his office.

Oh, the good old says in Building 6.  I once practiced my Photoshop skills on an “OPEN” sign for our suite door.  We were forced to keep it closed during business hours for an entire week while work crews demolished the bathroom across the hall.  They had found asbestos in the walls, and since the workers were required to wear hazmat suits, common sense told me I should keep the door directly opposite the lethal stuff closed as much as possible.

A few hours after the blaze that finally brought down AP6 started, residents were ordered to stay indoors. The smoke from the fire was heavy with potentially toxic fumes from the components stored in the building.  I had to smile. AP6 was certainly going out in style.

Even with its less than desirable accommodations, I created a wealth of fond memories inside the walls of AP6.

The Hubs and I spent 13 years as a dual GE couple. AP6 was the only building in which we both had offices at the same time.

Bldg6-3My children roamed the halls of Building 6. The Young One filled my white boards with scribbles I regretfully wiped away the next day when I needed the space for brainstorming.

One Halloween, the staff and I spent an entire morning creating a haunted house in our office space in preparation for an afternoon of family trick or treat. The Older One, decked out as a young Harry Potter, bravely led me from room to room, warding off my sinister co-workers with his magic wand.

Bldg6-4The general manager of the division that worked inside Building 6 once declared AP6 to be an island in the tumultuous sea that was Appliance Park.  We worked hard. We hit our goals, and within the confines of our island, we were blissfully unaffected by the politics running rampant in other parts of the business. In celebration, we wore sarongs and ate pot luck lunches.

Bldg6-1Now, three days later,  small fires are still burning in AP6–the building unwilling the die completely. I know a part of it still lives in me. I have had offices in four other buildings since I resigned from GE five years ago, but none have left such an impression as AP6.

Some of the longest friendships of my adult life started in that building, and the most influential relationships in my professional network were forged in its offices. I gave my first business presentation in a room known as “The War Room”. I handed out awards for a division-wide fitness challenge from behind a podium in the auditorium, and I reported sales results in the Executive Conference Room.  I achieved the biggest successes of my career in AP6.

Watching it burn was heartbreaking, but while digging through a box of artifacts taken from my final office in AP6, I realized I took the best pieces of that building with me.  I have a wealth of business knowledge gained during those years that I use every day. I have friendships I cherish and a professional network I was able to call on during tough times.

Its walls are ash now, but I will always remember the years spent inside AP6 with fondness.

Bldg6-2Goodbye, AP6. We’ll miss you.

 

 

 

A To Do List Rant

Dear To Do List,

I’d like you to know you’re driving me crazy, and I’ve had enough.

You just keep growing and growing, but you never seem to have enough room for the things I actually want to do. You are definitely more biased to the have-to’s these days. No matter how many of those I mark off, you can never seem to be able work in a few of the want-to’s.

For example, today I wanted to go to the gym, but the three urgent have-to’s that came out of that 10:00 meeting, pushed another want-to right onto the “Maybe Someday I’ll Find the Time To Do” List.

I also believe you are conspiring with Email again, aren’t you. No sooner did I put “Go get a decent lunch” on your list, than I saw another urgent email from the boss pop up on the screen. Really? Do you know what it’s like to eat peanut butter and crackers at your desk every day? You need to let me have a grown-up meal once in a while if you expect us to continue to work together.

Can’t we come to some kind of a compromise?

Magazine

Ina and the gang at Food Network Magazine miss me!

How about this: Tonight, you let me read that food magazine that’s been begging for my attention for the past two weeks, and on Saturday, I will go grocery shopping without complaint. That sounds fair to me. What do you say?

What!!?? What do you mean I have to pack the Young One’s lunch and walk the dogs first? I suppose next you’ll tell me I have to wash the dishes and put away the laundry!

Oh yeah? Well, here’s a To Do for you…”Throw away the To Do List!”

I want to crumple you into a tiny ball and through you in the trash can. That’s right! I said “trash can”, not “recycling bin”. I don’t want to open up the chance for you to come back and haunt me one day.

Oh, but wait…. That’s another want-to, so I guess we won’t be doing that any time soon.

I’m too angry at you to have this conversation, right now, and apparently, I have more important things to do!

But before I go, I would like point out one little detail you may have overlooked. While we have been having this argument over want-to’s and have-to’s, I have managed to sneak in a blog post, and I’m checking a well-earned want-to off your list!

It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it!

***For today’s post, I drew inspiration from the Daily Post’s daily prompt which declared that someone or something you can’t communicate with through writing can understand every single word you write today.

Wine or Zombies? Such a Tough Decision

Before things get too crazy I need to switch from wine to tea.

malbec

Malbec! Malbec! Malbec!

Fortunately, I indulged in a very expensive two ounces of white chocolate peppermint tea yesterday. It is worth every penny of the $10 I spent, and it is brewing as I type. If I disappear for a few moments, it is only because the timer marking the moments to the perfect cup of minty sweetness has told me Nirvana is ready and waiting in a pretty red ceramic mug.

Excuse me while I indulge….

Mmmm…much better.

That bold and spicy Malbec has it’s strong points, but the subtly of creamy candy and mint has a soothing quality grapes can never match.

It’s Sunday evening. Time to get back to reality. Monday morning is on the other side of the moon, and all too soon, my life will be dominated by lunch packing, homework monitoring and bedtime rituals. Add into that a review of upcoming meetings, tasks left incomplete on a gotta-get-outta-here-kinda Friday afternoon, and you have a recipe of doom and gloom sure to send anyone to the bottle.

But I’m sticking with tea. White chocolate peppermint tea….Soothing…calming…relaxing…tea…

But there’s still a quarter of a bottle of Malbec calling my name and a 7 a.m. commute with the worst people on earth on the horizon. Monday morning drivers are the worst. They’re all hungover and half asleep. Surely a wimpy cup of tea can’t combat that.

Malbec…Malbec…Malbec!

Wait!  What’s that?

The newest grisly episode of The Walking Dead starts in an hour?

I need all my faculties sharp! My favorite character might get eaten tonight! I can’t be incoherent for that!

Somebody! Quick! Fire up the Keurig!

The Zombies are coming!

**I spend my Sunday nights drinking wine/tea and watching zombies devour fearless survivors.  How do you cope with the impending MONDAY?

A Dear Joe Letter

My Dearest Café Caffe,

I know I’ve seemed distant lately. I walk past you with a longing look and a sigh on my lips, but in all fairness to you I have to tell you the truth…I cannot begin my day like this anymore.

Coffee

Cafe Caffe just isn’t doing it for me anymore.

We’ve only been together for a few months, but taking a break from you while I was with my family on vacation has made me realize that making you a part of my life has been like pouring acid down my throat. Your darkness is too much for me right now. Just being with you leaves a foul taste in my mouth, and the more time I spend with you, the more my stomach churns and burns with the havoc you wreak.

Our relationship lacks the freshness I crave, and quite honestly, you’ve been cold lately. No sooner are we together than I feel a chill creep in that makes me rush through those precious mid-morning encounters, and I find myself longing for the heat we used to share.

Please don’t take this personally. I put all the blame on me. I never should have started this. I know I need something lighter in my life, something a little smoother and sweeter.

French Press

My new love is French (pressed)!

And yes, the rumors are true. I’ve found someone new, and he is all the things I have been longing for. I love his richness and his gentle warmth. His splash of energy has made my days so much more enjoyable.

Please don’t be bitter. You will be fine without me. You are never at a loss for companionship. You are always included in conversations and road trips with the guys.

You will move on, just not with me. Our office romance is over. I have a new coffee now, and it’s time to begin a new day.

Love always,

Stiletto Momma

Five Minute Friday**Today’s post was brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “begin”.