Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Witch spell is write?

I considered writing a post on my pet peeves. However, seeing as how that would've been subject matter lengthy enough for the fifty thousand word writing contest, I will limit myself to one particular item today. The lucky pet peeve to be discussed is......drumroll.......spelling missstakes! I am not taking on the world of grammar, as I am just as comma happy as the next person.
I am also not overly concerned with the notes we leave on the kitchen counter, or the casual emails we send. I guess it's the public displays of misspelling that drive me a little bonkers.

My mom is not a fabulous speller. I can say that here comfortably, knowing she will not deny it. She has many other more useful strengths, and knows not to turn spell-check off. I do remember her leaving me a note on the counter years ago requesting that I "vaccum". I was not fool enough to pretend I didn't know what she meant, so I just corrected the note and set off to deal with the carpet.

Again, it is not the casual and informal that get me. Rather, if I am reading a book that has typos, I get agitated. I realize that a lot of times it is not an actual misspelling that I've stumbled upon, but rather the wrong word for the sentence. Considering that someone cashes a paycheck for having the responsibility of checking one's work for issues, I do not consider it a job well done if I notice an error.

Another problem I've encountered, that has disturbed a fine piece of literature, was pages being bound out of order. I realize this has nothing to do with misspellings, but seriously?

Uh-oh...I might have strayed from the initial focus of my one particular pet peeve, so back to the world of public displays of the dictionary challenged. I was recently wandering through the science fair at my daughter's middle school. I was really trying to take in each product for what it was worth, the efforts the students made, and just the general wonder of science. I was doing pretty well until I reached the carbonation experiment. The students had used "rasins" to test the amount of carbonation in a few different types of soda. They used a lot of "rasins" and wrote a lot of sentences on a big display board that included the word "rasins"...so many "rasins"...must leave building.

I was admitting my inner critic issues to a friend, and asked if she thought the dawn of middle school meant that one was no longer to interfere with a child's work. She explained to me that there are parents who are poor spellers (yes, I should know), who might've thought "rasins" was a perfectly fine spelling for nature's candy. I argued that the bag or box from which they procured those "rasins" would have been clearly marked "RAISINS".

As usual, it has taken me a bit to get to the crux of the matter, and inspiration for the post...ta-da!! I live in Cicero and am rather disgruntled about the tax hikes, but my anger has not cost me my ability to spell. Clearly the person who penned this sign is far more agitated about the situation than I am...
I am sure this is just one of many bold steps citizens can make in an effort to be taken seriously.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 25, 2011


So I guess the trend for these past couple of posts has been for the story to not end with my telling of the tale. Luckily the snow that returned did not warrant disturbing Red who was busy resting in the garage. This afternoon there was a letter in our mailbox from the vice president of customer service of QVC confirming that the 2 cameras "we" ordered were shipped to a woman (whose name did not vaguely resemble ours) in Mississippi (which is a long way from New York). What fan-effing-tastic news Dan! I asked my husband if I could send a letter (since I had the complete name and mailing address) to the receiver of goods to tell them I hoped the camera bought with our money was working out well for them. He said "No." Well, actually, he said "I wouldn't do that," so I'm still not sure why I didn't. I asked if calling QVC at the number Dan provided sounded more reasonable, and he agreed.

In addition to her complete lack of empathy regarding our situation, the representative who answered the phone was very eager to explain how they do check when an item is going to a different mailing address and name than the billing one. Um, clearly not all the time. She then told me the letter WAS the alert message that would've triggered the thought that there was a problem if I hadn't known already. I mentioned that the order was back on Monday and today was quite a bit later. I suggested that she pass along a suggestion that they try to do something more proactive to try to keep such things from happening. She then felt compelled to tell me about the very large fraud department that they have there. Gosh, I hope they get paid well for whatever systems they have in place.

This would've really added insult to injury if I didn't already have a better camera than the one we bought Kathy in Mississippi! (say cheese)

Worst spending spree I've ever not had

The other day there was a message on the answering machine that was left by a speed talker. I was able to make out enough words to get the general idea that the call was in regards to confirming a purchase from Sears that my husband was thought to have made, and that the item wouldn't ship until he called them at a number that was not understandable regarding an order number that could've had nine or twenty-seven digits. The call sounded so odd that I thought it was phony. When we were all settled back into our house that evening, I told my husband about the message. He asked what order I was talking about, and with all of the patience I could muster up for him at that hour, (read...none) I grumbled that I didn't know what order they meant. He informed me that he had not ordered anything at all, and grabbed the phone to call the number (that I had to write down off the caller id).

The way the conversation was going from the end in our kitchen, it certainly sounded like something was amiss. I headed for the computer where I found our account to be $838 overdrawn. Now even on my worst retail therapy bender, I knew this could not have been my mistake. The actual page for our checking account still showed all of the money I thought was in there, as they do not show pending transactions in detail apparently. The $110 charge to Hot Topic online really caught my eye, as I worried briefly about exactly what I might find in my Easter basket, but then realized this was the beginnings of somebody else's shopping spree. (Somebody who had a desperate need for South Park and Hello Kitty shirts, or general goth apparel.)

I called the 800 number listed next to the charge and got in touch with a very helpful agent who guided me through what my next steps should be (and I had no choice but to believe him, as I certainly had no idea what to do). He could not do anything with regards to canceling the order as it had been overnighted and delivered already. He couldn't give me the information as to where it went, which I understood completely, even though I knew I was not going to take off my slippers and set out to take matters into my own hands with the imaginary pointy stick I pretend to threaten my children with.

My husband and I both put our bank cards for the account on the counter, realizing that nobody was wandering about town with our plastic. I called the bank and blocked the cards, since I couldn't get through to an actual human being to give me any different instructions. Of course, this action then prohibited me from viewing any account information on the computer (which was extremely helpful when the police officer showed up).

I had some trouble conjuring up an image of the hoodlum who was treating himself (of course it was a guy) on our dime. The police officer who took my phonecall asked if I knew who was making the charges...interesting, as I had not considered this option (nor was I going to). The officer who arrived began his questions along the same lines. It is a curious position to feel as though you are basically being asked "Have you pissed someone off enough that they'd do this to you?" or "Is the company you keep so deviant?" I was relieved that the officer took our word for the integrity of our friends and relations. He then moved on to where my husband had used his card recently. There had only been the place where the car was inspected and a pair of new pants at a department store. Eyebrows were raised about the service station, and I was instantly uncomfortable about the profiling of mechanics. My husband had not handed over his card there though, so we moved on to the young check out girl.

I understand the general concept of how one could get the information needed to use someone else's credit card for their own gain. (Not because I have studied such possibilities, but because I am a rocket scientist in my spare time!) The officer was describing the scene in more detail as to how they could watch a password being entered, and the number being in the system, and the security code on the back of the card being glanced at. I was pretty much just standing speechless like an idiot. I told the officer that I completely understood what he was saying, but that I imagined the whole thing being far more sinister, and not involving some young girl at the mall. Then I tried to create some story line in my mind that made me feel charitable or something, as if our bank account had helped some single mom make ends meet and care for her children. (Um, yeah, maybe that looking like an idiot pose was more true to life than I initially realized.)

Both Hot Topic and Sears were going to release the shipping information to the police once he faxed them from his office. He left our house just before 11:00 that night. As stressed as I tend to be, it was good for me to see that I was handling this occurrence well, in complete recognition that there was no element of actual danger to my family seemingly associated with it. Nuisance-yes...peril-no. I also needed to stay calm because I had inadvertently freaked out our daughter by shuffling her off to bed and quickly making phone calls that she could overhear. A five minute explanation paired with my unusual calmness relieved her very quickly, and I kicked myself for not arranging my plan in a slightly different order.

By morning, pieces of my typical defense mechanisms had started to kick in and I was angry. I also needed somewhere to put the blame, and decided it would rest with our bank. It seemed like most stories about fraudulent charges I had ever heard ended with folks being contacted by their banks with regard to suspicious account activity. I was also aggravated when I realized that my husband had walked (across the hall) to cash a check at the credit union the day before, and was not told of the insufficient funds account status. This wasn't a regular credit card that was approaching some ridiculous credit limit, but rather a bank card that was just sending our money right off. Plus, this target for my anger helped me keep my visions of the single mother safe, as I waited to hear what absolute essentials were on the pending charges list (yes, I was forgiving her the Hot Topic treats).

The bank credited all of the pending charges back to our account, and explained to my husband that they do not actually view the account to cash a check and instead have a code they enter. This is not an explanation that I am willing to accept for future business practices. My husband tried to help me understand that they see him there all the time, and probably didn't feel a real need to do any further checking as to whether he could cover the $28 check to begin with. I feel like the credit union should know them enough to put some policies in place to help protect them. There are still some charges hanging out there (including the one to Sears for the order that was cancelled, and allegedly not going to take place until authorized), but we are at least out of the negative balance range.

My husband suggested I just accept that it was the vendors' problem at this point. There was supposedly a charge to the Children's Place and QVC, which further supported my vision of the culprit. There was no one large purchase that tilted things in a crazy direction. They were all more modest charges that added up very quickly over three days. As I realized that the person still stood a chance of collecting her goods, I became agitated and pondered whether I should be trying to call each place in hopes of catching any shipments before they were en route.. I knew he was right on one level, but on another I REALLY didn't want anybody receiving things they were not entitled to. My anger started to shift, and I wanted desperately for the person to be cut off, and know that we were on to them. In a saner moment I did realize that the people who commit this type of crime do not intend to go on forever using the same person's bank account, and know eventually the money train will stop (and they probably hop on a new train).

When my husband spoke to the officer last night, some further investigation had been done. The shipping addresses were in New Hampshire and California. The case looked more like someone had hacked into the account, than physically getting the information first hand. I do not care for this scenario, as it makes me feel less safe. I do not feel as equipped to protect myself, because I do not have even a basic understanding of the methods of a hacker.

I was just speaking to a friend who has had her account compromised twice and she pointed out something that I am embarrassed to admit I would not have thought of. I share this information with you (and hope it is novel to at least two of you). Do not make purchases online with bank/debit cards. Restrict online purchasing to one credit (old school make a charge, get a bill) card. Obviously this keeps one's bank account from being touched during the actual charging. Yes, I realize that there are probably evil geniuses who know how to get right into an online bank account, but I have to keep some shred of sanity that will allow me to function in the real world today. (I am already trying to not fret over the online shoe purchase I made ten minutes before I got this golden nugget of a suggestion.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Yeah, yeah, yeah, so it's spring...whatever! I obviously should've waited until summer for the tale of the Lord of the Snow, the diabolical snow blower and its misplaced anger. This afternoon started out with some phony flakes of snow that slowly turned into a full on show shower. By 5:30 p.m. the roads were white, and quite slippery I may add. Here are the tracks my van left as I went rogue trying to get up the driveway and into the garage without getting stuck...
I swear my van only has four wheels...that apparently defy logic in how they work together!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wait, back up a bit

Happy Spring! My calendar wouldn't lie to me, would it? I have been waiting to tell this tale to make sure it is officially over. The story began one, of several, snowy mornings. I glanced out the window as our daughter was getting ready to head out to the bus stop, and saw a snowblower much like ours on the side of the road across the street. I figured our neighbor across the way had just maybe gotten fed up and left it there for a break. No, that didn't make any sense, but who was I to question his driveway clearing tactics. Wow, I never realized our snowblowers looked so much alike.

The next time I peered out the window, I saw the man across the street backing out of his driveway. I paused to see if he got out of his car at the end of his driveway to lug his snowblower back to his garage. Hmmm, interesting, he was driving away...and glancing at the snowblower...and giving a quick strange look at my closed garage. Oh...my...goodness! That was our snowblower, at the end of the subtle tracks that led up our driveway to the garage.
Lord of the Snow, who you may be familiar with as Lord of the Lawn from previous tales from other seasons, had managed to back his van all the way down the driveway, with the snowblower being pushed right along behind it. Then, after depositing the snowblower in the snowbank across the way, he put the van in drive and left for work.

Hopefully the photo gives some sense of the length of the trip, as well as the steep grade of the driveway. The gutter at the end of the hill must've been exceptionally exciting for old Red the snowblower (and noisy one would think). The view from our front door didn't really do justice as to how wedged into the snow Red was.

After our daughter left, I pondered whether or not my awe at the situation in front of me was "just me". I put in a call to a friend who was able to confirm that this did sound a bit ridiculous. Since I didn't have time to blog that morning, I made a quick Facebook post. the comments that followed provided further proof that this was not a "just me moment". I also sent the picture to my husband with a message asking if he'd noticed anything out of the ordinary when he left for work that day. Apparently he got my email after the one he, and some of his friends, had received from someone who had seen the initial post on Facebook.

He called me, and our conversation went something like this:

Lord of the Snow: You know, I specifically parked the snowblower off to the side a bit, so I'd be sure to see it when I went out to the car.
Me: Seriously? That is doing nothing for your case right now. Didn't you hear anything?

Lord of the Snow: Well, I guess I did hear a little something when I was backing out of the garage, and then another something at the end of the driveway.
Me: Wow.

Lord of the Snow: So was there any damage that you could see?

Me: Um, yeah, if you think I actually took the time to look over the machinery after hauling it back into the garage, you really still don't know me at all.

The story could've ended there, but Red was obviously suffering some anger issues regarding the ordeal, and chose to take them out on the wrong person. Flash forward a blizzard or two, where I found myself out dealing with the driveway. Clunk, a wheel fell off the snowblower. It was almost as if the piece of machinery had been pushed sideways for quite a distance, putting stress on it's parts. I put in a call to the Lord of the Snow, skipping any pleasantries and cutting right to the chase. He asked me if I had happened to notice any of the small pieces that might've fallen off when the wheel fell off. "Um, no" and I was instantly agitated by the suggestion that I should pay more attention to snowblower related details.

The wheel fell off while I was snowplowing two more times before (what I hope was) the end of the season, but never while the Lord was at the helm. Red showed a blatant disregard for who rescued him when he was abused and abandoned. Considering my feelings about the lawnmower, I suppose I would be wise to limit my motorized push machinery interactions to the vacuum cleaner at this point.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It really is Tuesday, isn't it?

I keep thinking today is Wednesday. That is certainly not to say that I have been so productive this week to warrant the passing of an extra day. In fact, the extreme opposite is true. I am hoping that by clearing out the clutter of my random thoughts, I can get myself back on the right calendarical (that MIGHT be a word) track. (Note: If you click on the box, you can link to where the Random Tuesday Thoughts madness starts with the Un-Mom).

Another reason Fozzie hates us is that we do not let him drive the car. As if he could see over the steering wheel like this guy...

I don't really even know what to say about this one. I cannot think of any correlation between one's fanny and this cleaning product. If it was to be worn by scooting tots to dust the floor, maybe...but just maybe.

This hot item was selling in the grocery store check-out aisle for $9.95 (hence us having to settle for just a photo). First of all, I hope there are better hat options available for Kate. Second, is this the barometer by which we are to measure celebrity status? "Well, I thought she was popular, but I can't find her on a paper doll ANYWHERE!" I also thought William was more handsome than that. What do you think they have on under their paper clothes? I didn't check to see if he was boxers or briefs.

I am no longer enjoying the challenge of texting with my antique cell phone. Since I have no keyboard, I am always trying to use words that don't use the same key twice. I will say "great" for something that really might only be "good" because I get discouraged by the wait to hit the same letter key again (and yes, my life does move at such break neck speed that a one second delay is just too much).

What on earth are these mannequins trying to sell me? And what are these boots made for?

Monday, March 14, 2011

His crate is his castle

In our attempts to give some attention to our canine friend, I am not certain any desirable results were achieved. Here is the first (of possibly more...many more) installments of "Why Fozzie hates us this week".

Fozzie does not recall signing off on any paperwork saying that he would participate in any science experiments regarding static electricity. He feels used because a loving blanket snuggle turned into something far less innocent as cameras were grabbed and much cackling ensued.

Fozzie would like you all to know that he is a Shih-tzu for crying out loud. And what friggin' part of that sounds Irish? None, apparently. He is not interested in any wearing of the green, as he is pissed that we completely ignored Chinese New Year.

Fozzie's look here tells me that he finds me grossly underqualified to tend to any of his grooming tasks. He was not tricked into thinking the kiwi dog shampoo I flung on his back was even a close second to the blueberry facials his women at the Chatty K-9 provide. He also didn't see why it mattered that he was getting his post-walk undercarriage mess on a bedspread I have claimed to not like anyway.

Fozzie has been spent a lot of time over the weekend in his crate away from home (a.k.a under the kitchen table) whenever he was able to break free. Although, since there is no door for him to slam on us, his nemesis (my daughter), tracked him down under there with some shamrock sunglasses that did not stay on...not even for one second...or at least not in the direction of the camera...and believe me she tried!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I might just be developing a slight blog addiction! There are all of these folks out there though that make it so easy and fun...nothing like your stereotypical pushers and junkies. I am not going to be terribly concerned (for now) as not many other hobbies are free, bad hair day welcoming and easy to do even while holding up a heavy sinus headache?

{one} what color is your kitchen?
dark purple, and I love it, but wish there was more actual wall space to show it

{two} do you have a good luck charm?

{three} do you prefer to write with a pen or pencil?
pencil...not a pessimist, just a realist

{four} can you use chopsticks?
sure...one in each hand with a stabbing motion...ok, yes, but not with great efficiency

{five} do you prefer baths or showers?

{six} what is your favorite salad dressing?
that totally depends on what is hanging out with the lettuce

{seven} can you sing the alphabet backwards?
you betcha

{eight} do you have any allergies?
penicillin and bits and pieces of the great outdoors

{nine} crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

{ten} have you ever hitch hiked?
no way!

Now I could casually step away from the computer, or I could wander around to see what Thursday fun buttons are out there! Happy Wednesday to you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Food for thought


So I finally took the .5 seconds involved in figuring out how to post that little do-hickey above. I fear that which I do not know. The following thoughts do have a food theme about them, but are truly in the "random" spirit!

Today's volunteer gig was very momentous as I graduated from the realm of cupcakes in the oven to macaroni and cheese, which obviously required a stove. It was a step up from the beloved blue box of Kraft, not a very tall step mind you, but actual shredded cheddar cheese did come into play. The request was to start with twenty pounds of macaroni. That may not seem like a lot, or even look like a lot in dry form. I am here to report that it IS a lot. I should also mention that just because there is enough room for two five pound bags of pasta in the pot of boiling water, doesn't mean it's a great idea to add it all. One should be certain that Hercules is standing by for the pouring it into a colander portion of the program. I was relieved that there were two of us assigned to the project. However, I was not amused by the gentleman who thought we needed him for consultation...constant consultation. Phew, I am home now, so I can let out a big sigh (complete with eye rolling) about it!

You know it's going to be a tough meal when the produce is mooning you.

I always thought beef jerky was missing something! I can only imagine what kind of performance it actually enhances.

And now, time to relax. However, I am slightly overwhelmed by thoughts (and smells) of produce. I just showered with cucumber soap, used apple shampoo, applied some pineapple body splash, used some nectarine soap for the makeup remnants the shower missed, then tried to tame the dry skin on my hands with some mango lotion. Oh dear, I think I might need another shower!

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's my motivation?

Well, I've done it again, and signed up for yet another contest. And yes, as my son guessed, the prize is once again...a certificate. I am not going to clear a space on the fireplace mantel, as this one seems like a pretty big stretch. It is National Novel Editing Month (Nanoedmo), wherein participants attempt to do fifty hours of editing in the month of March. I am trying to work on my own literary "masterpiece", but offered to take a gander at our son's English assignment last night, as I already had a red pen in hand...my help was not needed. I actually haven't even printed my Nanowrimo certificate yet because I was super satisfied with the online flair that was available (or rather, bestowed upon me).

I set to pondering just how it is that I go about deciding which personal challenges to set for myself. I did work on organizing the house. I tried exercising...tried. I make some efforts to eat healthier, and supplemented my efforts with Frito-Lay chips. One trend I see is that I am more likely to steer away from projects that are ongoing. A one month endeavor is not so daunting as a lifetime of sorting the paperwork on my kitchen counter.

While I was wondering how I could somehow trick myself into wanting to embark on some slightly more productive tasks, I was distracted by something colorful. See that snazzy blog decor over to the left? Once I checked the website and saw that there were "badges" I could have, I signed up immediately. Maybe if someone could find some swell broom and dustpan clip-art, or a cool poorly dressed sweaty exercising mama gadget, that I could post on Facebook, I'd be more intrigued.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where I find myself

I do not know exactly when it started, my need to find things. It might have been when the kids were old enough to care where their worldly possessions were. Very often the days tended to stretch out forever in the life of the stay at home mom, and a good quest gave me some sense of purpose. I guess I also had some secret hope that if I showed the kids what a good search looked like, perhaps I could train them to join my elite squad. I thought they would see how all of the hard work paid off when we found a missing item. There is also a chance that, as I felt like I was slowly losing my mind, I didn't want to lose anything else.

I do recognize that things get lost. I have absolutely no idea where my prescription sunglasses went, and while this disappoints me, I am at peace with their disappearance. The reason I can sleep at night is that I don't "see" them anywhere (no pun intended). My issue is when I can picture something, clear as day, in a spot where it isn't...then where is it? I can sometimes see the regret on the children's faces when they've asked me if I've seen something...here she goes again! Other times the boy-child is happy to munch on a snack while I make my laps through the house.

One of my favorite quests was the missing handheld Nintendo game. We launched a full scale investigation and our failure was just not making sense. This was one of the few times that I drove myself batty for something I really didn't remember seeing, but rather could not understand how it disappeared. I had the pleasure of finally finding the game, on my own, in the way back of the van. I was very happy to have saved the original packaging, as I wrapped the item up and put it on the counter for when my son returned home. I could've sworn I almost saw a tear in his eye as he asked me what I'd done. I tried to respond in the same split second as he saw the rip in the edge of the package, and knew I'd played a trick.

Today is Dr. Seuss's birthday, as my daughter reminded me. That was a pretty big deal in elementary school, and even though she is in middle school now, old habits die hard. She thought she might like to wear one of my Seuss t-shirts (yes, I have two...doesn't everybody?). They were not in their usual spot in my closet, and I heard the quiet protest as I offered to run to the basement to look...just a quick peek. Both shirts were right in one of my summer bins, and she wore neither, which was truly fine. But we also had these Cat in the Hat pins...uh-oh...I knew right where those were. I found the Thing 1 and Thing 2 note pads and sticky notes (she was bringing the post-its to her English teacher), but the pins were eluding me.

She made some suggestions of where she thought she had seen them last, as I told her I didn't really know why these searches took on their own life for me. My husband did not get out any detective props, but rather left quickly for work. We did have a schedule to keep and breakfast to eat, so I was able to just move on. I am not sure if I felt relieved or guilty when she came down from brushing here teeth with the two pins in her hand. Last year's pencil bag. I can't say that was any place I remembered seeing them, nor can I say that I would've been able to find the pencil bag.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

For what it's worth...

Well, I just got back from my first morning volunteering someplace new. It is not vital for this post to name names, and I do plan to go back next week. I also realize that three out of four of my volunteer gigs have had pretty much the same vibe, so this story is not terribly unique. However, I find the tale amusing. As usual, I will start at the beginning (and will also most likely include irrelevant details...my personal flair if you will)...

Making contact:
In my never ending quest to find peace in an organized countertop, I found myself purging a stack of random papers a few weeks ago. I made the eye appointment and orthodontist appointments (because that was two pieces of paper I could throw out, not because I was terribly concerned about eyes or teeth). I came across the ad I had ripped out of a magazine soliciting volunteers for a local organization. I suppose I could have just thrown it out, but decided to call the number listed for additional information. In response to my query, I was asked if I had checked the website. I apologized (yeah, I may never know why that is my first line, but it was), and said that I got the number from an ad. As the woman was rushing off the phone I realized that the website was not on the advertisement I was holding. I guessed (incorrectly) at the web address, and she quickly rattled off the proper one. I read through a lot of information about the organization including, volunteer positions, brief history, board of directors, and volunteers needed...and then noticed that the information was last updated during the summer of 2010. I used the link provided to email a message about my interest in volunteering for them.

Two days later I received acknowledgment of my email. Two days later I got a phonecall, from a different person than I was told I would hear from, to set up an interview. It was a Monday afternoon, and this woman indicated that she was already booked for the week. At this point I wondered if I should set out to find an organization in more desperate need to get a warm and willing body in their door. After two more days, she was able to rework her schedule, and we met on Thursday. Later that afternoon I was called by the head honcho (read: paid person). Her first question was if I was looking for a job. I was confused as I didn't realize that was an option, but what she was after was whether or not I was seeking employment that would cause me to give up the sought after volunteer position. There was more conversation, and I felt like the person I had interviewed with actually did a decent job of representing me to Honcho (yeah, let's call her that).

Showing my face:
On what turned out to be the wrong day (but there actually would not have been a right day, since I was not on her calendar), I showed up to see exactly what I'd be doing and to fill out an actual application. I stood for five minutes in the entryway, with neither of the two women who had glanced at me asking if I needed anything (as if maybe I just liked to wander into public places to dry my boots on the rug). I identified Honcho and told her who I was, and knew by the blank stare I was getting that I needed to come up with more information. She told me that if I could tell her a little something about myself, I might ring a bell. I went with my catering and other food service background (but was thinking-Oh, I write this blog, and I have a pretty good feeling that you are going to make decent fodder for it). She remarked that I was the "good candidate", and I would not have been at all surprised if she had said something near the complete opposite to some other poor soul. I was more prepared for the "Are you looking for a job?" question this time.

There was nobody there for me to help/shadow that day, so I offered to leave (for fear of what might have been asked of me otherwise). I told her would fill out the application she mentioned having me do, then I realized she had started looking for my application, so I restated that I did not have one. We decided on the day I would come for a little while to help out the usual Tuesday person, and to see how things worked. I asked about hats, and was told hair should be up and they provided visors.

First day (finally, I know, but some of that information seemed relevant):
Armed with a bobby pin and a hair elastic I got out of my car, slightly disappointed that I didn't have my ball cap, but knowing I'd have been more disappointed having to forsake it for a volunteer issued visor. I stood again for five minutes while Honcho and the same other woman as before basically ignored me. It was during this time that I realized that every single other person in the place had a ball cap (of their own desire) on. It was kind of charming actually as I am fairly sure all but three people were females over seventy.

Honcho gave me aslightly less blank stare than before, so I introduced myself. She said she knew who I was (but maybe wasn't sure WHY I was?). She told me I'd be making cupcakes that some women from a retirement community would be coming to decorate. I was shown the hairnet stash, handed three big boxes of cupcake mix, outfitted with some ill-fitting plastic gloves, and brought to my very own work space. I was told that I couldn't use the great big industrial mixer, but could use hand beaters and just make half a box at a time because no really big bowls were available. I asked about scoops for filling the pans and was told there weren't any, so I should just put the batter into a big measuring cup for pouring purposes. I did not sense a warm fuzzy feeling from anyone else in the kitchen, so was not completely surprised when Honcho's announcement "Everyone, this is Andrea. Feel free to come introduce yourselves" was not met with so much as a glance in my direction. She told me, quietly, that as I could see it was mostly old women working there and they were cranky. She said if I went in their space, they would not like it, and that I should try not to take offense. The follow up comment was "I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want to lose you." Oh, well that explained all interactions up to this point, yes, clearly she was trying to give me warm fuzzies! Then Honcho just sort of left me.

I could've blown up the place when I turned the oven on incorrectly, but rectified that situation soon enough. I was also told that the ovens I was being relegated to, due to the meals cooking in the convection ovens, were lousy and didn't cook well. I just kept wondering when the person I was supposed to be shadowing was due to arrive.

A lovely woman appeared, who I recognized, as my children have basically been following hers through school since they were three. Phew...she was the one I was supposed to be helping. The first thing she did was get me the ice cream scooper that they use for batter. Then she asked was why I didn't have the better gloves like everyone else (and promptly got me some). Next, she wondered why I was using the hand mixer instead of the huge one, and she got someone to get that rectified for us. Seriously, the mixer looked smaller than the one from my daughter's play kitchen. At some point it came up that we needed two hundred cupcakes...200!!!! I was working through a variety of cake batter consistencies...on the verge of panic for the first hour. I broke one in half to test as to flavor and doneness...yup, it was a white cupcake from a box. Then I sort of settled into a slightly organized groove where I was able to accept the fact that the cupcakes were sticking to the top of the pan, weren't browning evenly, and lacked consistent shape and sizing. I even managed to breathe when Honcho came to check on our progress. (As it turned out, cupcakes were my domain, as the person I was to be helping had been charged with making frosting and the chicken casserole.) I also noticed that my proximity to the woman I was working with made me more approachable somehow. She introduced me to anyone who walked by, and each person met her with a smile and some spark of conversation.

After three hours of baking merriment, I was able to put the last batch of cupcakes in the "better" convection oven. They cooked in half the time and peaked, instead of spreading out over the pan. I moved the 199 (of course) cupcakes to safety on another table, and tried to pitch in helping the other folks who were trying to be done for the day (as it was already thirty minutes past when the chicken casserole woman said she needed to leave by). Honcho walked through a couple of times offering no actual assistance to get things wrapped up.

Then I heard Honcho's voice bellow "Something is burning!" I was not concerned as my stuff was done..."Cupcakes!" I heard. Yes, when we shifted to the convection oven, I left two pans of cupcakes in the second oven after turning it off. Oops! I saw that she had taken them out of the oven, so I stayed in back. She came by to tell me that the smell had been getting worse and worse (as her office is right near the ovens). I told her at least I had 199. That fact was not ever really acknowledged. Three of us finished the chicken casserole (seven trays of it), and shared many laughs and a strong sense of teamwork. Honcho did come back out while we were picking up and asked me if I was a clean person...um, yes. Then she told me a couple examples of times when people were not...ok, noted. She mentioned something about cooking something different next time I came. Then she was gone again.

The other volunteers were so kind about whether I'd be back next week and how much I'd done on my first day. The woman who I'd been with all morning was so incredibly grateful for the help she found me to be, and thanked me several times for coming. I heard nothing else from Honcho. No thank yous, no how was it, no can you come back next week...nada.

After thoughts:
As I said, I do not think this almost ungrateful feeling from the paid folk is unique to this organization. I've felt it from the Girl Scouts and from a few non-classroom teachers at the elementary schools. I called my husband and asked him if the organization he currently does his volunteering for would like to hire me as a consultant for a session in how to better capture and maintain volunteers. (I told him I obviously didn't want to VOLUNTEER to do it!) I just don't understand how one paid person, in a room of over fifteen volunteers, feels entitled to treat folks like subordinates...folks who have no reason not to walk right out the door. Is it because:

-the actual employee is used to being with fellow employees/professionals?
-a person who volunteers is perceived as having nothing better to do?
-a volunteer's time is somehow less precious because they have more of it?
-volunteers have "sucker" written on their foreheads for the mere fact that they are volunteering to begin with?

It was a big struggle for me back in the days when I had to sit through training meetings for Girl Scouts, conducted by women who had never been troop leaders. There are a lot of things that might make sense in a book, but not when ten seven-year-olds are looking at you! I do not know Honcho's background. I am not sure how much, if any, time she has spent all hair netted and aproned up. She really was harmless, and as I said, I will go back next Tuesday (and not just because I think she might be good for the blog). BUT I WILL BRING A BASEBALL HAT...