Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why I Won't Retire

At this point in my life, I earn my primary income as a temp. I don't mind it, I have chosen this employment path for myself. Thing is, sometimes doing it burns me out.

Nearly two weeks ago, I finished just under four months at a bank -- two consecutive assignments within the same division, but different departments -- and it was okay while I was there, not great, but not terrible. I got a call last week from the agency letting me know that the same bank, same division wanted me back again through the end of the year. I'd only been out for four days at that point (I would have started again this past Monday), and had taken a nasty spill on my walk to work on my last day, so I told the rep I couldn't start again right away because I wanted my hand to heal first.

The hand needing to heal was valid (it's still somewhat sore nearly two weeks out), but the rest of the truth is that I need time to recuperate from corporate culture and all it entails. I am not a corporate girl, and probably never will be. Granted, I didn't have to attend monthly departmental staff meetings or any of the compulsory corporate trainings as a temp, but being in the environment, in the cubicle, even when working with people I genuinely liked, sapped my energy, and it still hasn't fully returned.

So, the retirement thing that so many people look toward? Probably not going to happen for me. I work more than I don't, and I save as much as I can when I am working, because I know that every so often I'll need to back off and regenerate all over again.

I know there are plenty of people who absolutely cannot comprehend the choice to live and work this way, and at times I am even one of them; however, I can't comprehend being one of the millions, stuck forever (or seemingly so) in a grey cubicle under fluorescent lights for the next 20 - 25 years, so I guess I'll take my retirement in small chunks along the way, rather than all at once later on.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Emotional one, that is. Today has been a doozy, and I can only guess as to why.

This morning was fine. I had a late breakfast at Chestnut Hill Cafe, wrote in my journal a bit, had a nice conversation with a couple I used to see often when we all went to Dosie Dough on Lemon Street before it changed hands. Nice.

I saw Julie & Julia this afternoon. I loved it, it made me cry, of course. I nearly always cry at movies that are even the least bit touching. I rarely cry in real life anymore, which may be why I am watching more movies lately.

When I came home, I had a conversation with a friend that brought things up. Some old, some new, and I found myself in tears again. Since the conversation was via chat, sobbing didn't actually impede conversation. I hold too tightly to things that made me happy once, even if they are no longer relevant to my life. That was part of it. The other part was what comes next for me.

I have been working at a temp assignment since the beginning of August. In day-to-day dealings, I like the people I work with, but am not crazy about the work, and am not crazy about corporate work in general. I may be offered the position I have been filling this week, and even though I'm pretty sure I don't want it and know that it would drive me crazy if I took it, I begin to second-guess my gut instinct at the prospect of benefits and full-time work, especially in the midst of an uncertain economy. The conversation turned to this dilemma. My friend had my best interests at heart when encouraging me to take it, but I pushed back, because it doesn't feel right, and I don't want to take another full-time job, only to find myself miserable enough to leave it in a year or less. I don't want to disappoint people, but it feels as though it'll happen no matter what, sooner or later.

After that plunge, I took a walk in the fall afternoon, ate a juicy Asian pear, and came home feeling better. Then I knocked a jug of maple syrup with a loose cap (didn't know it) off a refrigerator shelf and had to clean up a sticky puddle.

It just goes on and on. Up-down-up-down. Some days are like this, I suppose, but I haven't had one quite this rocky for a while. I'm obviously on a transition point, one way or another, and it's clearly throwing me off-balance. I'm hoping I can breathe through it and come out the other side without major public embarrassment.

After today, the work week should be smooth sailing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I Noticed on My Walk Home

Before I left work today, I decided I wanted to pay a bit more attention to my surroundings as I walked across town toward home, then make note of what I picked up on here. Often, at the end of the day, all I really focus on is the being home, rather then the getting there, which defeats the purpose of a pedestrian commute, somehow.

Here are the few things that stood out for me today:

1. I forgot to roll the cuffs of my pants up when I changed shoes. The pants I wore today were a bit long for the flat sandals I wear to walk to and from. I didn't notice that they weren't cuffed until I was out of the building, so I was definitely more careful in the way I walked, to avoid stepping on -- or getting caught up in -- my pant legs. I also avoided walking down the middle of Grant Street past Central Market, since the pavers are loose and apt to squirt stale water when stepped on.

2. A woman coming out of Carmen & David's with a tiny tasting cone of something undoubtably delicious. I've seen this same woman order one of these before. The cone is only an inch or two tall, with a little, proportional scoop on top. It would be a good way to rationalize having ice cream more than once a week, but there's something about my Saturday ice cream ritual, and the regular small cone that lasts almost all the way home that I cherish.

3. The lush, overflowing planters lining the stoops and windows along Gallery Row. Round, square and rectangular planters overflowing with green, red, and variegated leafy plants, and tons of blooms, mostly red. I'm terrible at identifying plants, though I think I saw a geranium in one of them. They are maintained very well and looked so lush and healthy even in the heat and humidity of late afternoon.

4. A stylish woman waiting in very high heels. I only saw her in profile, and I'm guessing she was waiting for a car, rather than a bus, because of where she was standing. She was impeccably dressed and didn't look bothered by the heat, and carried off the tall, narrow heels with grace, something I have never managed to do.

5. The fact that I can't write while walking. As I crossed the first of three parking lots, I took my little notebook and a pen out of my bag to jot some of these things down, because sometimes things just don't lodge firmly in my memory. As soon as I opened the notebook and thought about uncapping the pen, I realized that I wouldn't be able to write and walk at the same time. It does seem odd that I can knit and walk but not write and walk, but I think it is because the activities of the two hands would be so different when writing than they are when knitting. I just carried the pen and notebook in my left hand the rest of the way home.

6. Half a dozen (give or take) little brown birds pecking under, then flying from, the hedges between Water Street and Kelly Michener. I'm guessing they were sparrows, pecking and scratching in the dust beneath the hedges until I got close, then wheeling up as a group to perch in the tree branches overhead while I passed.

7. A fresh drift of auto glass in the Kelly Michener lot. It seems like there is a fresh one every couple of weeks, which then gets dispersed by car tires into the surface cracks in the asphalt across the surface of the lot. Remind me never to park there, or to contemplate walking it barefoot -- there are also frequently shards of broken beer bottles scattered around.

8. An adjustable lamp in the window of Odyssey Salon. Nothing terribly special about it, just brushed aluminum with a swing arm, but it was on, or just below, the windowsill and caught my eye as I passed on my way through parking lot #3.

9. Small, bright sunflowers leaning toward the parking lot just off Mulberry street. These were at the far end of lot #3, and were very cheery and bright and leaning away from the fence they were planted against and into the parking lot, as if to say, "Hi! Notice us!"

10. Mostly clear sidewalk washing water running down the gutter along Mulberry Street. Apparently the sidewalk (between two houses) wasn't very dirty, because the water seemed awfully clear. I'd expected it to be from a car being washed (except for the lack of suds), because that happens frequently at roughly the same spot.

11. Around the corner/down the street neighbors waving from their front porch. I don't even know their names, but they were regulars at Dosie Dough, and I see them frequently on my walks through the neighborhood and we always say hello or wave (I was across the street today).

12. The insistent din of cicadas in the trees on my block. I didn't hear them at all until I got under the trees on the other side of the alley which bisects our side of the block, then, wham, all at once. I can hear them outside my window now, over the drone of the fan.

Wow, a lot more than I would have guessed, somehow, though probably not much for a 20 - 25 minute walk. Glad I carried out the exercise, though.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

That Haunted Feeling

Ever have one of those days when you wake up all twisted and clenched inside and can't quite figure out why? That was me today. I have bouts of anxiety, I know this, I deal with it, and get on with things, usually.

Today was worse than it has been in a long time, and I'm not entirely sure why. Could be that I'm trying to decide whether to go on a big expensive trip, but I've been mulling that for a month or two. Could be because I have a pre-milestone birthday tomorrow, but I haven't been feeling stress about that. Could just be that my brain decided I'd gone too long without major anxiety and I need to be kept on my toes. Who knows.

If I still lived alone, I may have stayed at home all day, even though it was a beautiful, sunny, summer Saturday and the markets were full of good food and interesting people. I'm glad I went out, I got some of that food, and visited with some of those people, and there were moments during which the anxiety abated, but never quite disappeared.

What have I learned today? That if I have major anxiety, I need to not hibernate. I need to get out amongst people and sunshine, at least for a little while.

Let's hope I remember this for next time.

Enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Which I'm Not Much of a Cook

Many weeks I go to market three days a week. Now that Eastern Market is open again, I'll likely be going to two markets on Saturdays. I love seeing piles of fresh vegetables and imagining what I could do with them. The problem is, I get tempted by all of that lovely, fresh stuff, buy it, take it home, and usually dump most of it into the composter when it gets brown and/or mushy. I hate that.

Today at Central Market* I only bought yogurt and milk (okay, and strawberry shortcake) and at Eastern Market only mushrooms (okay, and mango ice), because most of the piles of lovely produce I bought last week were still sitting in the fridge.

This evening I decided I was going to use at least some of it so that I wouldn't have to compost it all, and so that I would eat something other than cereal (it was an odd week, I was hibernating).

First, I roasted slices of eggplant and white zucchini in the toaster oven with a couple of cloves of garlic and some olive oil. I had them on slices of good Italian bread spread with chive goat cheese, not bad. I have some left over, and am thinking of putting it in sandwiches to take to Long's Park tomorrow night, to supplement my obligatory french fries.

Next, I chopped my bunch of chard, the other zucchini, a few mushrooms, and some garlic. I started the garlic in olive oil, then added the chard stems, mushrooms, and zucchini. I let them soften a bit, then added dried thyme (probably not enough) and balsamic vinegar. When they had cooked another minute or two, I piled the pan high with ribbons of chard leaves, added more balsamic, and put a lid on the whole thing to let the leaves wilt, while I boiled some whole wheat pasta. The result was definitely edible, but didn't have any zip. I have leftovers, which I will definitely eat, but I need to get more creative with herbs and spices if I'm going to cook random piles of vegetables.

I am not an intuitive cook, though I'd like to be. I'm just not quite sure how to get there from here. Any advice would be welcome.

*Part of what I did at Central Market today was to staff the Buy Fresh Buy Local table and hand out the brand new Local Food Guide for Lancaster County. It's a handy little resource, and will be helpful for people in the area interested in adding more local food to their diets.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why I'm Here

I am beginning this, sitting at Prince Street Cafe, because I miss blogging. I don't quite know what this will evolve into, but I know I'll be talking about living in Lancaster: what I do here, interesting things that may be happening, and anything else about it that may pop into my head.There will also likely be knitting content, and talk about the writing I may or may not be doing at any moment.

I don't plan to get intensely personal about my life, but that's not to say I won't talk about anything other than strictly general information. I hope people find me and enjoy what I have to say, but I make no guarantees about anything.

That said, I guess a bit of introduction may be in order. I am a woman in my late thirties, sharing a two floor apartment in a converted row house in Lancaster, PA with my boyfriend and another housemate. I am currently, technically, unemployed, having recently been laid off from my job selling yarn. I do a bit of freelance writing and proofreading, but not enough, at the moment, to be able to constitute a living wage.

In the short term, I am doing some writing, scanning the meager Sunday Employment ads, and trying to sort out what comes next. In the longer term, I'll have to come up with something. Ideally, I would like to find work in downtown Lancaster, because I love being able to walk to work and leave my car parked most of the time. Given the current job market, I may have to compromise, and give the temp agency more latitude in looking for assignments.

Work aside, I write and knit, and take photographs in spurts. I visit Central and Eastern Markets regularly, and try to take advantage of what Lancaster has to offer. I like to travel, but don't get myself out of town as much as I would like.

I am a new convert to Facebook and Twitter ( @wrtrmaus ) and do still manage to check Ravelry from time to time, which all adds up to a lot of time spent online, possibly too much, if I really think about it.

That's plenty for now. You'll be seeing more of me eventually.