Ponder this:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Michigan theater actor Jacob Hodgson

Other people have children and grandchildren to brag about.
I have my friends' offspring.

This is my Michigan friend's son, Jacob. And his dog, Hogar.
Hogar is happier than his face allows him to express. 
Jacob is an actor.

Jacob as Werner Kreilig in It Came From Mars.
But the heart and soul of the show reside in Jacob Hodgson, who plays Werner Kreilig, the radio show's sound effects man who is not-so-secretly in love with Dolores and the butt of George's anger towards the pending world war. Hodgson's performance is sweet, charming and innocent, and his German accent is flawless throughout the performance.  ~Donald V. Calamia, Encore Michigan
 All the actors are outstanding, but Hodgson, playing a young German immigrant in a time when Germans were viewed with suspicion, often threatens to steal the show — particularly during the second act, when fear causes Werner to act on his feelings for Delores~Performance Network offers a great view of "Mars"

Poster fromThe Little Dog Laughed  
Jacob's on the right. 
    And in a slightly different look, for the part of The Strange Man in Dr. Seward’s Dracula...

    Versatile, isn't he?

    You watch...this kid will be famous some day.

    Saturday, February 27, 2010

    The soakin' wet hangin' over the chair by the stove Carhartts blues

    I think we've gotten the entire winter allotment of snow in the past few days. 
    We've had an extraordinarily easy winter, so we were due. 
    • Twenty-four hour power outage: check
    • Passenger vehicles stuck in the driveway: check
    • Tractor stuck while snowblowing: check
    • Walking like duck to keep balance: check 
    • Walking like duck to keep balance while carrying ashes to provide tractor tire traction: check
    • Walking like duck to keep balance while carrying wood for woodstove: check
    • Opening the side door just to see the dogs wonder why there was a big white wall where outdoors should be: check
    • Admiring the snow clinging to the trees: check
    • Thrilling to see the bluebird males looking around for summer quarters: check
    • Watching the dogs frolic: check
    Ayuht, I think that's the whole Winter Experience. 
    Glad to have had it. 
    Now it can go and make way for spring.
    I am so sorry for the people in Garrett, Maryland. 
    "We had one report of 23 inches of new snow. That's on top of what we already had. We are probably close to 250 inches of snow for the year now... more than 20 feet." ~2/26/10, Brad Frantz, Garrett Maryland's director of emergency management
    Twenty feet of snow is just cruel, unusual, and unnecessary punishment.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Send these...the tempest-tost to me

    The single best feature of my daily work is meeting the people who come in.

    In many ways and places, middle aged women are invisible. In a building, an industry, where people expect to meet Bureaucracy, don't know how even to ask the right question to find the information they need, my friendly middle-aged face seems to be an attraction.

    So many of them sidle into the office, or phone, and say, hesitantly, "I don't know if I have the right place, but I'm trying to..." I love meeting those people, taking those calls; they are my specialty. I often feel so tentative myself that when I say "I understand," they know I do. I might not know a lot, but I know who knows, and when they learn that there is, in fact, a human, with a name, and a telephone number they can call, or to whom I will pass along their inquiry, their faces just glow with gratitude, their voices go saggy with relief.

    One very voluble woman has come in twice or three times to have documents notarized. I know the whole story of her insurance claim now. How the insurance company wouldn't send her the money ("It's not much probably a couple hundred dollars but it's the principle! It's mine! ...and everybody there knows it's mine but they need...!") until she proved she was her grandfather's granddaughter and how they had the deceased's address in New Jersey instead of wherever he  had truly lived. ("And I'm thinkin' well maybe he had another life a woman on the side that I never knew about hey y'know it happens! But....") A matter of a mistyped middle initial, apparently. How many times she's sent letters and documents ("...certified, return receipt and that's not cheap!") She's talks and laughs and barely stops for breath. I sit back in my chair. She is a wonder to watch and listen to, although the speed and the wealth of detail in each sentence leaves me with only a recording in my head that I must replay once she's left so I know what she's said. She stopped in a week ago, an envelope gripped so tightly in her fist that it crinkled, a  fierce close-mouthed smile on her face and fire in her eyes. "I got it! This is it!" Her smile broke open as ("Hah!") triumphant, she threw her glance Heavenward. "I won! I beat those b******s! Look at this! I got it! Here's the check!"

    Last Friday an elderly man stepped slowly through the door, the skin of his upper face white and smooth, arresting cold blue eyes casting around the room for the person he had come to see. He spoke in a Northern Farmer way, the corners of his lips buttoned up like his wool jacket. I offered to take a message and he assented, looking only at my pen poised over the message pad.
    "What's your name?" I asked.
    "Roger E__," he said.
    I said his name sounded familiar.
    Uninflected: "It should."
    He spared me his telephone number and left, accepting my assurance that my coworker would call him.
    I haven't yet gotten the story on Mr. E., but I will be asking.

    Post title from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Who Paul?


    This is not a political statement. 
    This is a visual aid to help me overcome a little mental glitch.

    Whenever I hear Mr. Paul's name . . . for just a  moment . . 
    I picture . . . 

    I'm pretty sure these two images of not of the same person. 
        These two people probably aren't even related.

    Thanks for bearing with me while I got this straight.

    Old business: Update on "A cloud outshone by its silver lining"

    I know all of you have been on the edges of your seats waiting to hear the denouement, so here it is:
    My title, salary, and hours have changed to, overall, "less." I had suggested the change (essentially reversion to my pre-department-head classification) to Power That Be in a conversation some weeks ago.  My days are still partly in Morning Job and partly in Afternoon Job, but the Morning Job portion is reduced by one hour. My workday begins at 9am instead of 8am. 
    I am pleased with this change for these reasons:

    • Three hours of daily torture is always preferable to four
    • Breezing in at 9am feels like having had half a day off
    • I have gained some points in the overall scheme of Power That Be to achieve a larger project, my salary having been a point of contention in discussions
    • I am still health-insured
    • It could be a lot worse
    • And, finally, the flush of joy at housecleaning did, as Friko suggested, wear off rather rapidly.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    A cloud outshone by its silver lining

    Last week Morning Boss allowed me to overhear her side of a telephone conversation that left me with no doubt about her impression of Things To Come. The following is what I heard:
    "[Power That Be] is combining departments all over the place. He's got the [Afternoon Job] department all in one room downstairs, he's done that with [that other department]. I don't know what his plan is for my department."
    Pause for listening to the other end of the conversation.
    "I know one who's gonna be goin'.....they don't want to be here....they're like a different person! It's nothin' did....so why do I feel so awful?"
    From the description of the "they" (and oh! how I wanted to call across to correct her grammar, "one" not being a "they"), I recognized that I was her subject.
    The governing board will meet tomorrow evening, during which, if my interpretation of what I heard is correct, there will be an executive session to discuss personnel matters, with one of two outcomes:
    1. My employment will be full-time in Afternoon Job;
    2. My employment will be reduced to part-time only, but in Afternoon Job (the "why do I feel so awful?" part indicates that's Jane's expectation).
    During this "overhearing" (it could hardly be called eavesdropping since we were separated by ten feet of mere air) I pretended to concentrate on the self-assigned task of the manual that I'm writing and organizing, but my right ear stretched and grew toward Jane until it drooped onto the adding machine keys.  The relief that washed over me made it difficult not to smile and sigh happily.  For the rest of the week's mornings, I had no work to do aside from answering the telephone. I handled no cash, no checks. Indeed, Jane pushed me aside as I began to sort the incoming mail.  All the week's evenings, Husband and I discussed the effects of a sharply reduced household income and the loss of health insurance . . . and the necessity and immeasurably beneficial psychic effect of my release from Morning Job.

    The foregoing is merely to explain my happily changed focus since Thursday when Husband and I concluded separately, together, and finally, that no matter what happens, we will be all right.

    I went to the supermarket and shopped as if my income had already been more than halved. I spent less than half what I would have spent a month ago and came home with more.
    I rejoiced in the prospect of having daily daylight hours to walk, with the dogs, without the dogs...even at dawn, since I wouldn't need to be on the road to work until late morning.
    I thought about having to give up my biweekly cleaning person. A sadness, that, since I find no joy in sweeping floors and Husband is a little persnickety in that area. Years ago I read an article about a woman and her adult daughter who were enthusiastic cleaners. The mother was quoted: "Ammonia is the only cleaner you'll ever need." The daughter, whose bent seemed to me near a break, couldn't bear to use balsamic vinegar on her salad because it made her lettuce look dirty. At the time I thought Husband would have enjoyed being married to either one. 

    On Saturday I happily cleaned baseboards. On Sunday I dragged out the step-stool and climbed up and cleaned and polished the upper kitchen cabinets and their crown molding. Very satisfying.
    I moved my Swiffer to the front of the broom closet and dug through the kitchen towel drawer for my microfiber cleaning cloths.
    I swept up firewood debris, and whisked up stove ashes as soon as it could be done without setting the broom afire.
    Ammonia be damned: Scrubbing bubbles are my new best friends. I shall be searching for cans of the stuff in bulk.
    When vegetable gardening time comes, I will be able to weed at will.

    I might be about to get my Donna Reed wish! 
    At least part-time.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    We have a cave under our land.

    Several years ago, two young men arrived at my house in a van with a housepainter's logo on the side. It was summer, I believe. I could see the vehicle moving down the long driveway toward the house, and expected they were lost and in need of directions. Such is our isolation here that almost nobody gets here unless they mean to. Very courteous and friendly young men, they said they were cavers and asked if they could cross our land to get down to the edge of the cliff at the end of it; there was an opening to a cave there and they wanted to get a look at it.  In the 1970s a local man and his friends had, if not "discovered" it, at least had expended a lot of energy to open the entry and map some three hundred feet of the underground passage.

    The first year they stopped by every month or so to make sure we still had no objection to their using the tractor track to go down through the fields, and to bring us up to date on their progress. They had cleaned out and stabilized the opening to keep it from closing up again to some extent with every rainfall, and were beginning to be able to get inside. The idea of a mapped passage under my feet fascinates me, but I could never get in there, despite J's invitation.  

    "Our" cave is not like this:
    Image source
    It's no more than a tunnel with the widest parts,  J says, eighteen inches. 
    The narrowest part of my body is wider than eighteen inches. 
    He must be a contortionist. 
    He's broad-shouldered and tall, but he's been in there a little more than a hundred feet, and he's identified where he is by the map that exists. 

    J stopped in three weeks ago. It was full dark. The dogs announced his arrival before I saw his headlights, so I was at the door when his van stopped and he got out and greeted me from the blackness. I greeted back and asked, "Who are you?" 
    "It's J," he said, and I hailed him more heartily and invited him in. J used to be a house painter and still drives his logo-ed van though I don't know if he still paints houses; 
    he seems to be employed full-time at spelunking and surveying the local bat population for white-nose syndrome.

    That night he wanted us to know that he would be going down to the cave to see what he could see.
    "It's dark," I said.
    "It's always dark inside," he smiled.
    "Oh. Right. Cold?"
    He shrugged. "I have my wet-suit."

    I think there's something a little different about people who don't mind going into little rat tunnels underground.  
    Why Go Caving?  For enthusiasts, caving carries the lure of the unknown and the thrill of discovery. In a small group -- and usually with a trained guide -- you'll enter a labyrinthine world of narrow pathways and tight crevices, lit only by the yellow glow of your headlamp. Depending on the cave, you may have to wade through waist-high water or scale up rocky walls. If you're lucky, you'll emerge in a large underground chamber filled with dangling stalactites and adorned with colorful, intricate calcite deposits. Half the fun is getting back out.
    "Half the fun?" Getting back out would be about the only reason I would stick my hand in!

    Nature is man's teacher.

    Nature is man's teacher.  She unfolds her treasures to his search, unseals his eye, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence.  ~Alfred Billings Street
    On my way to work on Friday morning I surprised a flock of thirty wild turkeys having a block party in the middle of my country road.  I say "thirty," but that's simply an estimate. Trying to count turkeys while they're doing their "Oh My Feathers Here Comes A Behemoth Let's Get The Flock Out Of Here" scurry is a little tricky.  
    Most of them moved en masse into the woods to my right. Two didn't know which side of the road would be the better choice and spent a couple of seconds weighing their options. One finally quick-strutted off after the crowd, and the other, whom I was trying to herd, very slowly and gently, with the car ("I suggest that I drive over here; you go that way.") decided that taking to the air was the best idea.  I watched him (I think it was a jake, an immature male) rise almost straight up, with those wide strong wings stretched out, the feathers spread. Twenty feet above the road, between the bordering trees, he turned in a circle and headed toward his flock. I lost sight of him as he flew into and among the bare branches. 

    I smiled: This is what It is about. This goes on
    "Wild turkey teaches us about the need to cultivate skills of cunning and agility. It is important to know how to read your environment and react in a way that preserves your way of life; this involves noticing that a certain situation has the potential to get dangerous for you, and knowing how to extricate yourself from it safely - and unnoticed where possible. Wild turkey is excellent at teaching people how to avoid arguments and unnecessary confrontation, through using skills of observation, cunning and agility."
    "Like all animal helpers, this animal will only appear when right and appropriate, and cannot be forced to visit you, commune with you, or share messages with you. In places where the wild turkey lives, you may find that the wild turkey seeks you out through a chance encounter. Wild turkeys are more than capable of disappearing from view, so sighting one (especially more than once) can represent the relevance of wild turkey's lessons in your life."  ~ Wild Turkey Lessons and Challenges
    Listen: I know there are turkeys galore in these fields, but I don't remember ever having come upon so many at such a short distance. 
    And listen: I know that this totem stuff might be a bunch of hooey.
    But then again . . . interestingly, my workday was quite unusually pleasant. 

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    My starving brain

    I think I'm losing my mind. It came to me this morning:  I am becoming stupid!

    I Googled around for "Can stress make you stupid?" and found an article, "The Reinvention of the Self," that appears to apply. 

    When I used to watch soap operas, on Fridays they'd recap everything that had happened during the week, apparently just in case a viewer was only able to catch that one day's episode.  In that spirit, here is the outline of June's [mostly] work life since late 2004. 

    I was promoted at work. Part of the process that led to my promotion was the requirement that I testify, at a civil service hearing, to the malfeasance of my department head (with whom I had been very friendly until she began to malfease). She was dismissed. 

    The promotion put higher numbers in my paycheck but was not, overall, a good thing for me.  It put me in a position of being boss to the former boss's deputy, a volatile personality who, within a few weeks, loudly and forcefully invited me to perform the classic impossible act and stormed out of the office, not to return for several days. 

    Other department heads knew about the former department head's malfeasance and the unsuitability of the unstable deputy for the position I now held, but felt that I had the ear of the administration and was, therefore, on The Other Side. Holding that view, they were fearful of sharing much "department head" wisdom with this newbie; each felt they might be the next one to be thrown under the wheels of the bus that they thought I was driving.

    My erstwhile friend Jane (also a department head, see above) did not speak to me. Several times each day we passed in the hall, hugging our respective walls, never making eye contact. Until the day she came to my desk, leaned over me and screamed at me, "Will I come in tomorrow and have Power That Be tell me, 'June will be taking your job now'?" 

    Enter The Felon. He ran for the office of Power That Be, The Main Man in Small Pond.  He campaigned through the village with an open car and a bullhorn, criticizing me by name.
    All's fair in love, war and politics. 
    The Felon came to my desk one afternoon and contemplated aloud what he would do to me when he was elected.  I suggested that we wait for that discussion until he was in office. At length he left, screaming from my doorway that I had made a Faustian bargain and I would suffer for it. As, indeed, I have.

    About that time, Husband left home, having had it right up to here with my self-medication.  I commiserated with a coworker who (I later learned) had gone straight down the hall to Jane's office to regale, with high humor, Jane and others with my tales of woe, and to The Felon (with whom an alliance had formed) with every detail. 
    That rule about not sharing extremely personal information at work is a good one. I wish I had heeded it then.

    Time passed. I got sober. 
    Husband came back. 
    The deputy found out that I was making twenty thousand dollars less per year than he had thought, and in fact, my salary was lower than his, and resigned. 
    New boss was hired.
    All appeared to be sorting itself out. 

    Then The Felon got elected, not as Power That Be, but as a member of the governing body.  
    One of Jane's employees stopped coming to work. Days later, a medical excuse arrived, and eventually the employee resigned.
    November 2008 budget approval meeting time came, and The Felon called for The Termination of June.  (His demand has always been treated as "termination of June's employment," but I have my doubts; I think he would like my physical existence terminated.) That evening his full request was denied, but he did manage to gain the votes to alter my position to part-time. To Jane's credit, she jumped in and volunteered to take me on as the needed part-timer in her office, thereby keeping me employed full-time. 

    When Jane told me the news early on the morning after the meeting, I was shocked. I did not react with gleeful gratitude. 
    I asked repeatedly, "What's the plan?"  
    In response, Jane cried, "There is no plan!"

    No one told my Afternoon Boss that he would have me only part-time until I did, upon my return from the conversation with Jane. 
    Never was there any discussion between Jane and my Afternoon Boss.
    Never did the chief administrative office take the lead in any part of the process.

    Memories of angry Jane looming over my desk and screaming came back and played and replayed in my mind and I became more and more fearful.  Jane interpreted my trepidation as rejection of her, and once again we were back to not speaking, hugging hallway walls, etc.  

    A couple of times during December 2008 I went down the hall to Jane's office and asked if there was anything I could do to help her since I had an hour or so to spare.  
    "Not yet," she'd say, not looking up from her work.
    On January 5, 2009, Jane (now aka Morning Boss) phoned me at 8:30am, "It's time. This is the first day of the fiscal year. I want you here in the mornings."

    For the first two weeks of my new placement, every morning Jane would get calls from her friends, fellow department heads. Her end of the conversation always consisted of, "Awful. Just awful. It's awful," as she stared, expressionless, at her desk. 

    The function and resulting quiet tappity-tappity atmosphere of Jane's office (aka Morning Job) is very different from the friendly and jovial atmosphere in Afternoon (formerly "Whole", aka "Afternoon, aka "Real") Job.  Computer programs I had never seen before, file cabinets full of unknown and unidentified material, deadlines of which I had never been aware.  I was frankly fearful.  My hands shook, my heart raced, I gasped for breath, and lacking it, I sighed to catch up on my blood oxygen. 
    Sighing elicited exclamations of, "What's wrong with you?" 
    My coping strategy of humming bought me, "Are you humming?" 
    "Stop it!" 
    Jane began to play her desk radio, with the volume set to stun to mask my tortured sounds. 
    My questions about how to proceed with various tasks were met with exaggerated patience. "You have done this before. See? that's your handwriting!"  Yes, I had done "this" before.  Once.  

    If only someone had said, "If you need an example, here is where the previous files are stored." 
    If only someone had said, "Here is the big picture; here is where what your part of it fits." 

    I had hoped that the 2010 budget year would return me, full-time, to my Real Job. It is the place where my skills and my talents come together and I shine.  Failure, unremitting day-after-day failure, makes me stupid(er). 

    The new Power That Be has done two things that give me hope: He removed The Felon from office on the grounds that The Felon's election had been in violation of the Public Officers Law, and he has said he wants me back in my Real Job full-time. The prognosis for the latter, however, depends on several factors beyond his control.  

    Every morning I pick up my yoke and try to act cheerful. I remain silent. I do not hum. I try to remember to breathe deeply and regularly, so as not to sigh. Sometimes when I speak to Jane, her reaction is as if I have not spoken. I do as good a job as I can. 

    I'm getting worse. My errors are no longer errors of ignorance; they are errors of I-don't-know-what. Where is my mind? The article I cited above offers an explanation:  
    "The structure of our brain, from the details of our dendrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inwards. The mind is disfigured."
    So it is not simply my perception; I really am getting dumber.  

    Your Score Summary Overall, you scored as follows: 
    72% scored higher (more stupid),4% scored the same, and 24% scored lower (less stupid). You are 24% stupid. This means...

    You are far from stupid. Congrats on a great accomplishment!

    I'm sure a few years ago I might have been only, say, 20% stupid.

    I have sent resumes and nobody's hiring . . . no funding. Maybe that's good. Yet another new job might send me straight to the loony bin.  
    I have kept notes and have put them together into a written manual of how to do the Morning Job tasks. New information is added daily. Friday I organized it yet again for the use of the person who will take my place. 

    Perhaps it is time to retire before I forget which end of the pen makes marks on paper.