Hardly Working: The Lazy Man’s Guide to Seeking Perfect Part-time, Temporary Employment

Recap: When the 2013 school year started, my 9-year-old grandson moved away to live with mama. I, Grammy, had a big role in his day-to-day activities up to this point. Now that he was gone, I would need to find something to do to fill the time, yes, but mostly to fill the void of being ‘The World’s Most Awesome Grandma.”

What to do?

I’ve been retired for 9 years and love the freedom; I’m not ready to be tethered to a structured 9 to 5 yet. Rather than settling down for a specific job, I got the bright idea to become a floating employee. That would allow me a couple of things: experience in a variety of areas, and interesting blog fodder.

At this point, employment was just an idea; I didn’t really have a plan.

I was running errands one day and saw something I hadn’t noticed before, it was a sign for a business called Spherion. The part of the sign that caught my eye was, “staffing agency.” I stopped in and chatted with a recruiter and decided to sign up. That was in September; I’ve yet to get that first call for work through this agency.

In conversation over supper one evening, John mentioned that one of his training peers had been a substitute teacher at one time. That piqued my interest, so, I did a little research to see if I qualified to substitute teach, and how to go about applying. I applied at 3 school corporations with the thought that I would get more opportunities; more work and more variety.

The application process for Yorktown was completed on Wednesday; Thursday evening I was called to fill a position for Friday. I was called in for work 3 days the following week as well. And boy howdy, did I ever get variety. Day 1: Kindergarten, Day 2: fourth and fifth grade math, Day 3: high school detention, and Day 4: high school English.

Now, for the fun part … blogging about it.

Stay tuned …

A Street Fair to Remember

Every year since time began, we buds have gone to the Atlanta Earth Festival the last weekend of September. Since the Carmel Arts Fair is on the same weekend, Joni suggested we go there instead.

Mary Beth and I met mid-morning at Joni’s. Did I mention that sometimes the husbands crash our girl parties? This time was no different; John and Dave were the party-crashers.  Dave was our chauffeur, and John rode shotgun. We took Joni’s Caddymobile again, because, even as tiny as we all are, we wanted as much space between us as possible. Apparently space trumps air-conditioning, because, as on our previous trip, the Caddy remains air-challenged.

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When we girls started having grandbabies, we decided that grandbabies trumped any buds outing, no matter what. Connie had the opportunity to spend the weekend with her grandsons, so we planned this particular trip without her.

Like sisters, we piled in the backseat, drew imaginary lines between us and whined if one of us got in the other’s territory.  On the way, we reminisced about the years we worked together … the days of yore … the olden days. After a few years of working in Kokomo with my buds, I left to pursue my dream of commuting over an hour one-way to Indianapolis, paying for parking, and permanent employment as an information operator. A job I hoped to use as a springboard to bigger and better job opportunities. It did eventually happen, but I was on that springboard for 8 long years. In the meantime, the buds I left back in Kokomo each got crying dolls, so that when their workgroup got too whiny, the dolls would become a crying choir. I still feel the sting of regret for leaving the fun behind to pursue a career in 411.

When we arrived at our destination, Dave-the-chauffeur, blocked an entire roundabout to let us out; what a guy. John waited with us at the gate of the city while Dave parked the car.  The guys quickly lost sight of us as we flitted from booth to booth.

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My first stop was a jewelry booth where each piece of jewelry was reversible. Reversible necklaces are genius. I checked the price tag and knew immediately that I was out of my element. This was not Walmart. My next stop was a booth with paintings. Price tag check: $1600 and $3800 respectively.  Uh oh, the $50 I withdrew from the ATM that morning was not going to go far. For $50, I would be lucky to get out of there with an elephant ear and a lemon shake-up.

Mary Beth surprised us all with a pre-lunch appetizer of beignets, which, I believe, is French for fried dough sprinkled with powdered or cinnamon sugar. It was a slightly different texture than an elephant ear, but certainly satisfied my elephant ear craving. I bought a cherry flavored Hawaiian ice to wash it down with. It was just okay; I probably should have opted for a different flavor.

While Mary Beth fetched our beignets, Joni and I took advantage of humorous photo ops with the life-like sidewalk sculptures:

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We decided to eat lunch at Mudbugs Cajun Café, which is where Mary Beth purchased the beignets. I had a catfish basket. Others ordered po’ boy sandwiches of BBQ pork, catfish, or chicken.  The food was good.

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We meandered down one side of the street and up the other.  The King’s Court Singers, sang “Men In Tights” on stage, then later they marched through the streets in their medieval attire, waving and offering greetings of “Good morrow!”

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We sauntered through the World’s Smallest Children’s Art Gallery where art projects were displayed by children from local schools. The petite art gallery even made the World Book of Records.

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After much meandering, sauntering, soaking in the entertainment, and price tag checking, I found something beautiful and within my price range. A father and son team from Anderson, were selling cheese boards that the son had crafted from wood, with attached wire cutters for precision cheese slicing. The son was very cheerful and helpful, making sure I got one exactly to my liking. I chose one for my son and daughter-in-law for Christmas, which I impulsively gave to them that evening. I’m not good at keeping secrets either. My daughter-in-law, or as I like to refer to her: my daughter-in-love, loved it. She thought my favorite cheese, Velveeta, would look fabulous on it. She thought that cheese in cans would look lovely sitting on the fancy board as well. So, there you have it, I am not totally devoid of class, and I have the best daughter-in-love in the world. [The one on the left]:

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A block or so away from the end, which was also right where we started, we happened upon a man face down in the road, surrounded by art fair security. We quickly surmised that the man was in need of medical attention. John and Dave had been sitting at an outdoor table a few yards away and saw it go down, sort of. The man had just purchased food from a vendor, then, turning to walk away, stumbled over cords in the road. He did a face plant into the pavement, where he continued to lie for at least 20 minutes before an ambulance and paramedics arrived to whisk him away to the hospital. The accident was unpleasant enough, but to have hundreds of people walk around you as you lie in pain and humiliation cannot be any fun either. His food purchase was still hot and fresh. As he was lifted into the ambulance, I wondered if someone would ask, “Excuse me, are you going to eat that?” Then I reminded myself once again that this was Carmel, not Walmart.

John and Dave were like the best Ninja bodyguards ever, staying far enough away as to not stifle our shopping, had we, in fact, chosen to purchase a jaw-dropping $3800 piece of art, or a $700 reversible necklace, yet close enough to stealthily ward off paparazzi and evil-doers.  As our shopping venture wound down, Dave-the-chauffeur ran to get the car, and once again, hosed up the roundabout as we piled into the car. I LOVE that guy!

As usual, Dave and Joni were an exceptional host & hostess team. They gave us all a sightseeing tour of Carmel, their hometown. We saw the condominiums they had considered moving into, Booth Tarkington Civic Theater, the Center for the performing arts (Palladium). It was 2:00 pm when we got back to Joni and Dave’s.  This is what a fun day with my buds looks like in the paradise that is Carmel.

Now back home again to the other paradise that is Walmart.

Spontaneity – the Spice of Life?

In June of 2009, John and I had a few free days.  We decided to take a mini-vacation to Mackinac Island – my favorite quick getaway.

Since it’s an 8-hour drive, we were going to leave on Monday morning, drive all day and stay in Mackinac City that evening.

It was Sunday afternoon and I had an idea.

What if, just on the spur of the moment, we left Sunday night?  We could drive north for a couple of hours, park at a well-lit, well-occupied rest stop, catch a few winks and hit the road again on Monday morning.  That would give us a few more daylight hours to explore Mackinac City’s shops and beaches.

John questioned – “we aren’t gun toters, what about our safety?”  And, “we aren’t youngsters; can we sleep comfortably in bucket seats?”  This, from a man who’s traveled unarmed in foreign countries with native guides, slept in tents on the sides of mountains, in huts with tarantulas hanging from the ceiling, and encountered wild animals in the jungle.

I questioned – “where’s our spontaneity?  We’re retired, who says we have to plan everything down to the minute?”

Half-heartedly, John agreed.  We loaded our suitcases, pillows and a couple of light blankets and we were on our way.

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A while later, as hoped, we spotted a busy rest stop and pulled into a parking space.  John, imitating Peewee Herman in Peewee’s Big Adventure, squinted one eye and drawled, “I’m a rebel, Dottie!”  Right.  We were rebels.

Our strategy was to be conspicuous enough to ward off evil-doers, and inconspicuous enough to ward off suspicion that we were actually camping out in our car at a rest stop.

It was a busy place.  In an effort to stall until there were less vehicles coming and going, we hit the restrooms and … well … rested.  When we returned to the car, we flipped through the atlas for a while, feigning nonchalance.  Finally, when there were no vehicles on either side of us, we lowered our bucket seats, got our pillows and blankets from the back seat and proceeded to catch a few Z’s, or try anyway.

Brilliant idea.  The place was lit up like a football field – high-powered lights from one end of the parking lot to the other; vehicles came and went all night long; carloads of loud people piled out, then back in again – driving off, only to be replaced by more carloads of noisy people.

Finally, it was morning.  We tossed our pillows and blankets in the backseat, maneuvered our bucket seats upright and set out to find coffee.

Over breakfast, I admitted that sometimes the idea of doing a particular thing is a lot better than the reality of it.  John admitted that he thought it was a little bit fun, if not an all out hoot.  It’s probably not something we’ll do again anytime soon.

Once in a while I churn out a good idea in the name of spontaneity.  Take last Friday, for instance.  John had been in Muncie running errands all morning when he called home to ask if there was anything I needed from the store.  I popped the question: “How would you like to spend the afternoon at the Indianapolis zoo?”  Forty-five minutes later we were on our way.

We got there just in time to enjoy the dolphin show and for the next couple of hours we strolled the entire zoo taking in all of the animal exhibits and snapping photos.  We even hit the gift shop on the way out, purchasing for our grandson a $3 toy that pops 4 feet into the air when turned inside out and placed on the floor.

We stopped at a restaurant we’d never tried before: Maggiano’s Little Italy, on 86th St. in Indianapolis.  As first-time diners, the chef introduced himself and brought out an appetizer, on the house, for us to try.  John ordered a beef dish; I ordered a chicken dish – the food was delicious.

On our way home, and again, on the spur of the moment, we decided to stop at our favorite Indy bookstore, Half-price Books.  Bingo!  Another winner!  They were having a one-night only, 20% off, storewide sale.  I snagged a steam train book for Elliot and a popular Food Network cookbook for myself: Semi-homemade by Sandra Lee.

I just love it when my great ideas morph into something wonderful.

We didn’t sleep in the parking lot, but we still had an amazing afternoon running around being spontaneous.

I’m In Love

OXO Pop Containers. One cabinet done.

OXO Pop Containers. One cabinet done.

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Have you ever been in love … with an idea?  For example, I am in love with the idea of being organized. The execution of it is a whole nuther story.

For the sake of organization I have bought baskets, boxes, labels, label makers, folders, file holders, containers, you name it. Unfortunately, bringing these things into my home creates temporary disorganization, chaos, confusion and a ton of anxiety.

I can’t blame Pinterest for my organizational bent. Fact is, I was in love with the idea of organization before the creator of Pinterest was even born.  Being in love with the idea of something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually good at it, although I have gotten better at it over the years.  I’ve built more rooms, put in more shelving and cubbies, bought more containers, and things are generally looking more organized.  John likes to say that I have become so organized that now I’m buying containers for the containers.

When I begin an organization project in a room or space, it starts with total chaos and it always feels like I’m doing it wrong. If I were doing it right, it surely wouldn’t be this difficult and time consuming. You have to be a mathematician to figure out how much space you need for storing each type of item. You have to be a design engineer to configure the spaces. You have to be a home décor specialist to make it pleasing to the eye. I am none of the above, and when I’m done with a project I always feel that I should have done it differently, meaning BETTER, and if I were smarter I could have done it right the first time, and in a much more organized fashion.

I like to begin with a clean slate, which means clearing the area of year’s worth of collected trash and treasures. When the area is clear, I look forward into an empty space full of hope. I look backward into STUFF … heaps and piles of confusion. At that moment, I wonder if this is the feeling a dyslexic gets when trying to transform confusion into order. It can be overwhelming.

I now have a number of successful home organization projects under my belt, things are looking great, but not without a lot of sweat and anxiety, which brings me to the excuse for my second love … PROCRASTINATION.

More on that subject, when I get around to it.

Saturday In the Park

Ch-ch-ch-changes … I used to be a warm weather gal. That was before menopause hit. Menopause, for me, has been rather mild. Not the pause that refreshes, mind you, just relatively mild. I’m using my friend Connie as a comparison. She turned into an ogre during her menopausal years. She’s back to her normal self now, but for a year or two, it was touch and go.

Before age 53, when the whole change-of-life thing started, my favorite place to be was on the beach or a boat, baking in the sun. Way back then, if you would have suggested that someday, not only would I choose to take a brisk walk through the park in below freezing weather, but that I would actually enjoy it, I would have questioned your sanity. Yep, that was then, this is now. It was 29 degrees yesterday when I got to the park. I chose to walk anyway, and I enjoyed it immensely.

When I arrived, the park had a desolate look about it. Two vehicles were parked close to the river. There were two men, each walking their respective dog. A family of 4 was fishing. One of the fisherpersons had chest-high waders on.Thy too seemed happy to be out in the frosty air

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There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic on the walking trails at this particular park throughout most of the year, so the squirrels are relatively tame. A rather large squirrel meandered close to me. He appeared to be striking various poses. He’s obviously been photographed before … perhaps he’s even a seasoned wildlife runway model, I thought. Haha … kidding … KIDDING!! As I maintained my stride, I nonchalantly reached for my camera phone so as not to startle the little fellow. The camera was in a pouch around my neck. The Velcro closure made a very loud ripping sound, which startled both my subject and me. The squirrel was at the top of the tree in nothing flat. Just like that, the photo op was over.

My walk for that day was over too. I’ll revisit the park next week; I’ll carry my phone in my hand this time. Perhaps I’ll run into the squirrel; he’ll pretend he doesn’t recognize me, I’ll pretend the Velcro incident never happened. I’ll get some candid shots of an incognito, local celebrity, runway model squirrel, and we’ll call it a day.

Wrong Hands

Cartoons by John Atkinson. ©John Atkinson, Wrong Hands

White Elephant in the Room

random insight from an unwanted houseguest