Thursday, September 20, 2012

The "Free" Benefits of Nice

It's no secret that I'm a nice person. I enjoy small conversation with people I don't know, I like giving my neighbors and friends baked treats, and I think I excel at finding that "perfect little gift" for my family and/or friends that they didn't expect. I consider myself thoughtful, and yes, NICE. Once I overheard someone talking about me, who I thought was a friend. I didn't want to eavesdrop, but I was curious as to what this person was going to say about me. She mentioned that I was a nice person (this is what friends are for). Then she went on to say that by being nice she did not consider me to be a confident person, she considered me to be WEAK (OKAY, not a friend after all). I was quite surprised because 1) I thought she was a friend, and 2) she thought that being nice was a BAD thing. More recently someone told me that I was a nice person (I smiled), which made me BORING (no more smiling). Hmmm...I thought this person was my friend as well. I need to be more selective in who I classify as "friend." You know, the funny thing is that neither of these comments bothered me (too much) because I knew that they were wrong. I am going to guess that these two women have not reaped the great benefits that come with being nice (maybe because they are NOT NICE). I decided to put my "nice" to the test, and I began jotting down things that I received FREE by being nice. Here's a small list that I began about 2 months ago(there's more stuff like free parking passes and $5 coupons for groceries, but I had to stop somewhere). Almost daily I receive FREE stuff, and I think it's because I'm nice and I have a good attitude about people (we're all human and mistakes are made). Here's a small list: 1)I stopped into a boutique where the owner recognized me, as I have frequented her shop in the past. I was commenting that I liked some of her new wall hangings. I decided to purchase a piece of jewelry, and she asked if I wanted to purchase a wall hanging as well. I said, yes, but they were a little out of my price range- maybe next time. Then she told me to wait a minute. She went to the back of the store and returned with a wall hanging that was new, but slightly damaged (very slight, like undetectable as the damage was on the back of the wall hanging). She went on to tell me that I could have it, if I wanted it because she wasn't going to sell it. I was so surprised and pleased. The wall hanging is proudly displayed on my dining room wall. 2) I asked how the day was going to a drive-thru employee at Taco Bell. He wasn't busy, so we chatted for a few minutes before I pulled up to retrieve my oh-so-delicious-tacos. When I got home I realized that the employee had given me an extra taco. 3) I always smile and chat with Dunkin Donuts staff (who wouldn't? Their donuts and coffee always put a smile on my face). I almost ALWAYS get a free donut or a handful of munchkins with my purchase. 4) I ordered a Domino's pizza over the phone for pick up. I had a nice chat with the staff member. When I went to pick up my pizza, the gentleman told me he had given me an extra topping (there was no apparent reason why, but it was a topping I mentioned that I was considering, but chose not to purchase in order to say $1.50). 5)I was chatting with another local boutique staff member. I wanted to purchase a jacket that cost over $100. I really wanted it, but it was expensive. I joked that I would love a discount. She kindly declined. I kept talking with her while I looked around the store, asking her about different trinkets and about the merchandise they carried. In the end, I decided that I just had to have the jacket. When I went to pay for it, she whispered that she was going to give me a 10% discount. She didn't want other shoppers to hear her, so she couldn't tell me until I was standing right in front of her at the register...what a wonderful, unexpected surprise. I saved $12! 6) I ordered a series of photos on disks (700 pictures between two disks and I ordered 6 sets of disks). The order required several hours (the Walgreens employee told me that I wouldn't qualify for the one hour printing, which I fully understood). The next day I picked up the 12 disks and brought them home. 6 of the disks were fine, but the other 6 disks were blank. I went back into Walgreens with the disks. The same employee verified that the disks were in fact blank. Then she asked me if I could give her 2 hours to correct the mistake. I was a little frustrated, but I wasn't mad. When I returned to get the disks, three were still blank. She corrected them while I was there, which took another 20 minutes. She felt really bad about all of the trips I had made to Walgreens, so she gave me the 6 disks FREE and then she gave me a coupon for an extra 50 FREE photos (coupon with no expiration). This was more than a $50 discount! That's what I call a good deal. So, what do you think? Is being nice a weakness or a strength? Personally, I think I do pretty well as a nice person. :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Trader Joe's Moment

It goes without saying that the employees at the local Trader Joe's are an interesting, bright, colorful, fun, upbeat group of people. Last September, I was hired to work for this wonderful company, and I felt lucky. On one particular day, I celebrated what I call a Trader Joe's Moment, and I must share it with you. This little excerpt gives you a peek into the fun that I called "work."

I'm sitting in the break room which consists of a small, single room at the back of the store. I'm sharing a table with a co-worker of mine named Bee (names have been altered). We are happily eating lunch. Bu, another co-worker, is preparing his lunch at the other table in the room behind me. Food is always a conversation piece in the break room- What are you eating? Did you bring lunch? I'm craving a bagel from Towson Hot Bagels. What are you heating up in the microwave? That smells good.

Well, on this particular day, I'm eating my standard cream cheese on toast, with the all-healthy bag of chips, a can of root beer, a bowl of cinnamon apple sauce, and a granola bar. Bee is eating yogurt, as usual, and that's all. So, I begin my regular conversation with him about how he should eat something-ANYTHING more. He laughs and scoffs at me. Then I smell it...this funky, gamey, vinegar smell. Someone throws open the door and yells, "Oh my God! What is that horrible smell?"

I turn around to see Ti and Tay walk into the break room. Tay walks over to the bank of lockers where employees keep their swag and grabs a toothbrush and toothpaste. This is when I notice Bu's lunch, and it's hard to ignore. Ti moves in close, leans over Bu's lunch, and takes a big sniff. "Boy, that is an awful stink! What is that hot pile of meat you're eating, Bu? You frighten me." Bee laughs and so do I. Bu, not bothered by this remark, says, "I'm eating a bison meatball sub. Duh." This particular meatball sub consists of 6 bison meatballs sitting atop a piece of white bread with a slice of yellow American cheese and then an additional 6 bison meatballs finished with another slice of yellow cheese and the final piece of white bread. Remember the scene in The Breakfast Club, where Ally Sheedy's character eats a sandwich with Cap'n Crunch and pixie stix sugar? This is a similar situation.

In the meantime, Tay applied toothpaste to his toothbrush at the sink in the corner and began brushing. He walked around the break room and hummed as he brushed his pearly whites. Both Bee and I watched as Bu attempted to take a bite of his 10" sandwich. It was scary to witness. Both Bee and I wished Bu all the best, chuckled and went back to eating our minuscule lunches. Ti commented on Bu's impending indigestion and sauntered out. Tay finished with his teeth, put his cleaning supplies away, and left the break room smiling with fresh, shiny teeth.

Now this episode may not seem like much to others, but it was special to me. I can't explain it, but seeing everyone in their comfort zone around me made me feel "inside" and included, like I was a part of something great. It was a lot like being at home. It reminded me of when I was in architecture school at the University of Florida. I was surrounded almost exclusively by guys, and they are SO different than girls, especially if they feel comfortable around you. I felt lucky to experience this chance moment at work. Maybe you've had a similar experience at some time?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Take A Chance on Change

I stoop down in front of the aisle to see what's missing. All I see is cheese: white cheddar, brie, fontina, bleu cheese, goat cheese, gouda, swiss, parmesan, asiago, the cheeses seem to go on and on. I look at the first of 40 or so racks of cheese that I will be putting on the shelf. It's havarti, and it looks delicious. My stomach rumbles. I look at my watch. The time says 6:10am. Better get working. I put my earbuds in my ears, turn on a compilation of music, and begin mentally studying for my molecular biology test that is in 4 days.

I woke up this morning at 4:45am to make sure I had time to prepare for work: make lunch, eat breakfast, fix hair, apply makeup (what little I wear), and dress properly (I work in a refrigerator, you know). My work "uniform" consists of running pants worn under my jeans, two pairs of socks, a long sleeve shirt, a turtleneck, my sweatshirt, and a pair of gloves. Two days a week, I work at Trader Joe's, a wonderful grocery store that specializes in unique, well-priced products. Two other days a week I'm in school, taking pre-requisites toward a radiology program. Last semester I took "Math For the Health Sciences" that consisted mostly of word problems relating to nursing, radiology, and radiation therapy. I studied very hard and did well. This semester I'm taking Molecular Biology, and I have to say that it is certainly harder, albeit interesting. I still write book reviews for the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database, and I am finalizing my edits on my manuscript. My kiddies have sports and dance at night and lots of homework. So most of my studying occurs after they go to bed or when I wake up at 4:00am. This is not easy, but if I can get past the pre-requisites, get into a residency program and complete it, the rewards will be great. I plan to do this.

My life is very different than it was just 7 months ago, which is largely why I haven't been blogging. Studying takes up most of my free time, but I'm going to work hard to blog again because there is SO much to talk about.

Previously I worked one, 12-hour Saturday a week, managing weddings. As much as I LOVED this job, I knew that there would not be an opportunity to expand the position. I was interested in pursuing a career that required a specialization, where I could work more hours, and where there was a true need. My husband suggested that I look into the medical professions. I laughed at first thinking that I could never do this, I mean, my background is in the arts. How could I possibly be successful pursuing something that involved tons of science? After doing the research for almost a year, I decided to pursue the career of a radiologic technician (the person who takes your x-rays). There is a need for these types of jobs, there is opportunity to grow and broaden (mammography and sonography is possible with additional courses). I don't laugh anymore at this option. I'm actually really excited by the prospect of working in a hospital. Yes, it's true that I have two other degrees- a Bachelor of Design in Architecture from the University of Florida and a Master's of Science in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University. Yet finding work in either of these professions has proven to be difficult, and I discovered two things in the last few years leading up to when I turned 40 last year:


I have to remind myself that it is possible to do it all, and there are a lot of people that have told me that I either can't do it or I'm wasting my time, but I know they are wrong. Who knows? Maybe they are jealous that I am pursuing something that will lead to something greater than what I have now. A lot of moms I know are fumbling around trying to figure out who to become now that their children are of school age (I get it. I was there for a few years myself). I have to be focused and very structured with my time, and I am very lucky that my husband supports me, even encourages me. Again, in the end, I will be helping him and the family financially, which benefits all of us in the long run. It's hard to keep that in mind sometimes. I do get frustrated and tired sometimes, but I know I'm making the right decision.

Are you going through this as well? I know there are others out there that want to change their lives, or have changed their lives by going back to school, or have changed their lives by changing careers. What do you think? What's your take on all of this?

Friday, July 16, 2010

No Tattoos in This Mid Life Crisis, Just Another Degree

My life has changed in big and little ways since March 2010, thus the break in blogging. I was gearing up for my 11th wedding anniversary in March, my 40th birthday in April, my two childrens' birthdays in May as well as their birthday parties. Then in June, my husband turned the big 4-0. It's been a busy spring.

The interesting thing about my turning 40, is that, well, nothing interesting happened. I just turned 40. Nothing dire, dreadful, or frightening happened to me on that day. For me, turning 40 was about reassessing what I had accomplished/not accomplished. Hey, maybe everyone goes through this, but I was experiencing this for the first time. For the last year I have been trying to figure out how I'm going to move forward in life. Technically, I have 25 years until retirement, and I want to make the right "move." It took a few weeks, but I have figured out that my "midlife crisis" was not about tattoos, implants, or fast cars. My midlife crisis was all about the three E's. Let me explain.

Education (first "E") - I have decided to change my career, well, I didn't actually HAVE a career for the last 10 years, but I have worked steadily around the kids, laundry, groceries, and homework. I left my wonderful job at The Peabody and Evergreen Museum and Library. I realized that for the last (almost) 4 years, I have worked almost every Saturday and/or Sunday. My kids aren't getting any younger, and I want to be a part of their lives while they still want me to be a part of it. Now I have my weekends with the family...and it's glorious. I began reviewing children's books (5 books a month) for the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database. I love it, and I read a lot of great books (ranging from children's books to young adult). The other reason I left the weekend job was because, beginning this fall, I am pursuing a new career path. I have a Bachelor of Design in Architecture, a Master's of Science in Marketing, and now I'm going to pursue an AA in Health Sciences with a focus in radiography. Yep, after a year of pre-requisites, I'm going to apply to either a local college or a local hospital to become a Radiologic Technician. Hey, if you have two degrees, what's one more? Hehehehe.

Exercise (second "E") - I've noticed that I have lost weight, but I have also lost muscle. I mean, I look at the skin hanging around my thighs and think, Shouldn't there be something in there? The same thing, by the way, is happening to my backside. I don't think I'm supposed to feel my a** bumping my thigh when I walk. It's truly falling. I hope I'm not too late to get it to stand back up to it's former perky self (cross your fingers). I've started weightlifting again, and three times a week I am running as I begin to train for the Baltimore Half Marathon.

Elegance (third "E") - I think I recently heard Molly Ringwald (yes, "Pretty in Pink") mention that she was going to 'get back to pretty again.' This is what I strive for as well. My kids are old enough that I now have time to 1) shower regularly, 2) apply makeup, 3) sleep more (sometimes), 4) wear clothing OTHER than sweat pants, like maybe, a dress. I have been taking the time to wear jewelry, apply lip gloss, and wear shoes other than flip flops. It's time to take a little more care. My kids still find it necessary to stand in front of me and carry on a conversation when I'm 1) undressing, 2) taking a shower, and/or 3) going to the bathroom. But at least they're not staring at me from a baby bouncer and screaming demanding action while I do those things.

So, in a nutshell, I turned 40, I left my event's job, I have decided to pursue a career that has nothing to do with my former background(s), I am getting (more) fit, and I am wearing more jewelry. This new chapter in the next book of my life looks like a good read to me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Dog Walked Me

The dog walked me. This happens...a lot. Bob Marley (aka Marley) our 9 year old female Australian Shepherd, barks all the time in the house. She drives me crazy, but she's a wonderful dog. I decided to take her for a walk so that I could work on my "Blizzard Butt" (a new term used often, as of this February, on Baltimore television). The term is uncreative, yet accurate. During the two weeks of blizzards Baltimore experienced, I baked an apple pie, cheesecake, banana bread, cinnamon streusel bread, chocolate chip cookies, and a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and chocolate chips. I did not deny myself any of it, because being in the house for almost 10 days can make any sane person a little bored and cooped up. Pardon the segue-back to walking Marley.

Marley always walks me. She's just so happy to be out of the house. She tends to pull the leash, but it doesn't bother me. I often think I'm going to be bored when I walk her, but it's never the case. There is so much to see (for instance our daffodils are coming up, which is unbelievable considering our string of severe, harsh weather). Sometimes I see people I know, and I chat briefly with them. The best thing about Marley walking me, though, is the chance to think without any distractions. I have finished one manuscript, and I'm actively looking for an agent (anyone? anyone?) Now I'm working on the outline for the next manuscript, a second chapter book to follow the first manuscript. I carry a notepad and pen at all times. One never knows when inspiration will hit. The walks with Marley have proven to be as beneficial for me as for her.

Endless love...that's what our pets (aka additional family members) offer us. Our family is so lucky to have our two kitties, our dog, and our two new fish.

Book Review: Remedies, by Kate Ledger. A very realistic view of love lost, of unclear paths in life, and how one handles (or doesn't handle) the loss of a child and raising a teenager. The story is not all sad. Emily, the wife, reunites with an old boyfriend from high school. There is a feel of mid-life crisis from a wife's perspective. Simon, the husband, is struggling with trying to prove how valuable he is in the world of medicine. Jamie, the bored, lonely teenage daughter, is left to her own devices which has it's own consequences. The story holds you. Even if you don't live their life, you can feel it. It's a very good read.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

When Did I Go From Miss To Ma'am?

I'm sitting at a coffee table in a restaurant happily having breakfast while I edit a manuscript. A man, apparently younger than I thought, sits at the end of the same coffee table working on his computer. He leans over to me and says, "Ma'am, do you mind if I scoot closer so I can plug in my computer? The battery is running low."

What? Did he just say, 'ma'am'? I recover quickly and smile. "Sure," I say. Then I excuse myself and head to the restroom to see what he sees in me. I expect an old lady to stare back at me in the reflection of the mirror, but I don't see that. Yes, I am older than him, but I think I look okay. So, what makes me a "ma'am"? Is it an air of confidence? Maybe. Do I actually look older than I think I look? This is possible. Is it that I'm simply more comfortable in my skin? Possibly. I can't figure it out. Somewhere around 35 years, people started referring to me as a "ma'am" rather than a "miss". I simply wonder what happens at this magical age that causes the cross over from "miss" to "ma'am". I mean, I know there's no going back. It's just a hard word to embrace.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blizzard 2010-Creating "Community"

The blizzard has moved away from Baltimore, and we have over 26 inches of snow. Some of the drifts are in excess of five feet. Everything has come to a halt. It's lovely. This should happen more often. The heavy snowfall encourages (or forces) people to talk to one another and work together. This is the time when I get to see "community" happen. It doesn't happen often enough. It's nostalgic for me.

I grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia, in the 1980's. Back then, Alpharetta, was a small town. Everyone knew everyone (which could be a bad thing, but I was too young to realize this). The Milton High School Annual Rodeo and Antiques Show attracted the whole town. When I went to high school, Alpharetta, only had a few restaurants (that I remembered)- the Dixie Diner, the Alpharetta Soda Shop, and Hardees. In my senior year, Kentucky Fried Chicken opened, and everyone was thrilled. We had a Senior parade, which closed down Alpharetta. The Seniors rode in the back of convertibles and trucks and waved to the townspeople.

Today I walked on York Road to get to the grocery store, which was fine because the traffic was very light. There were no sidewalks available. On my way to York Road, I met new people in the neighborhood. I passed by an outdoor meeting of neighbors on the next street. The road had not been plowed and two cars were stuck in the three feet of snow. What were they going to do? I offered to buy groceries for a neighbor. It was a great day.

There's no school tomorrow and the next snow storm arrives in three days. The fun continues...

Note: I learned two new words during the blizzard of 2010. The first word was SNOW THUNDER. As I understand it, occurs during a big snow storm. The thunder is a different kind of rumbling. It's audible, but it sounds like someone has covered the thunder with pillows. The other word I learned was GROUND BLIZZARD. From what I understand, a ground blizzard occurs when there is already snow accumulated on the ground. The winds are over 30 miles an hour and cause the existing snow on the ground to spin around in the air causing white out conditions. We experienced both of these conditions with this last storm. It was awesome.