Archive | September, 2010

My Schizophrenic Life

30 Sep

I’ve always considered myself a jack of all trades. In fact, during my years of self-employment I identified my company as Global Concierge. What does a concierge do? Pretty much anything you need (as long as it’s legal). And the “global” part? Due to my travel/tourism background, I can pretty much get it done anywhere in the world (no small feat if you know international travel – or New Orleans). This background seems to be helping me support myself while I struggle with this reinvention thing.

You see, currently I’m working five part-time jobs. I am a Writer, Sponsorship Getter, Corporate Meeting and Event Manager, Garden Employee and Operations Assistant for a Tour Company. Many of these jobs I do all in one day. Choose a hat and I’ll wear it (though, due to the curly hair, I will have hat hair for the rest of the day)!

Just today, I spent most of the day in training for my new, part-time, seasonal job at a local botanical garden. Okay, and writing this at the same time (they’re showing photo’s of VIPs right now – wait, where’s my picture?).

When that ended, I headed home to have a telephone conversation with a tour company owner whom I do some writing, tour design assistance and operations for. Following that, I sent some writing samples to the head of an upcoming travel writers’ conference coming to town which I would like to attend but can’t afford, even with my five jobs. I followed that up with an E-mail to a meeting planning client whose meeting I didn’t work this year because they can’t afford to hire me (not due to my exorbitant salary, I assure you). Finally, phone calls to potential staff to work at the airport for a client coming into town. Oh, and of course, sitting down and telling you all about it.

That’s one day. Tomorrow I will get up and do it all again. And yet, I’m making less than half the salary I used to make. I’m beginning to think that if I’m going to have five jobs, I should re-think what those jobs should be. So, here is a list of my top five dream jobs:

1) Publishers Clearinghouse Prize Patrol

Job Description – Travel the country stalking people, handing out supersized checks (strange that they still use checks. To keep up with the times, perhaps they should switch to extremely large debit cards) and carrying around balloons, lots of balloons.

Salary – No Idea.

Benefits – Hugs from winners, travel, getting to play Santa Claus on a regular basis.

2) Oprah? Ellen? Craig Ferguson? Jon Stewart (just added him)? I’m still here!

Job Description – Read the Oprah/Ellen post.

 Salary – more than I’m makin’ now.

Benefits – You get a new car, and you get a trip to Australia, and. . . Ok, I’d settle for dental.

3) International Tour Manager (yeah, I’ve done this before and left due to burn-out, and couldn’t get back in due to world events).

Job Description – Escorting travelers around the world, exposing them to different cultures, exploring ancient ruins and world famous museums. Eating wonderful meals. Pushing wheelchairs through the cobblestone streets of Italy. Serving water on broken airplanes as the flight attendants refused (and I must take care of my peeps). Trying to figure out how Iberia Airlines stays in business.

Salary – wish it were more but it is what it is. I still miss it.

Benefits – Travel, Frequent Flyer Miles, Addiction to Melatonin, International Romance.

4) Mother (always wanted to do this job but it never quite worked out)

Job Description – Nine month probationary period includes nauseousness, vomiting, weight gain, incontinence and sleeplessness (will continue for at least 5 years). Following probationary period, anticipated duties include feeding, burping, lots of diaper changing, cleaning bodily fluids, educating, chauffeuring setting a good example, being on call 24/7. Desired qualities include the patience of a saint, leading by example, enjoys working with children, strong stomach and an inordinate amount of love to give.

Salary – this is an unpaid position.

Benefits – creating a human being and raising them to be, as we’d say in my family, a mensch. Oh and love.

Note – similar to supreme court justice, this is a lifetime position.

5) Full Time Writer

Job Description – uh, writing.

Salary – aaahh, as Shakespeare would say, “there’s the rub.”

Benefits – creative release, entertaining others (hopefully), working in my PJ’s, informing the public, continuous learning and a sense of accomplishment when it’s finally finished.

So, I continue with my schizophrenic life until I one of these jobs, or something I have not even dreamed of becomes available. For now, I feel a sense of accomplishment as, it’s finally finished.

 

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A Pirate Looks at Forty-Something

17 Sep

In honor of Sunday’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought you should know a little more about my past. While I’m talking about reinventing myself, I should let you in on a secret – it’s not my first time. You see, many years ago I was a banker. Yes, I did the panty-hose and pumps thing. Want a car loan? Come see me. Need to open a checking account? May I offer you direct deposit with that (that’s Banker talk for, “Would you like fries with that?”)? I was, in fact, one of the top sales representatives in the company. And on the side, I was a Game Show Host. I created game shows to train staff on sales and customer service (I’ll take “Play Nice With Customers” for $200). At the age of 24, after seven years creating a fine banking career, and with a guarantee of management in 6 months, I was burnt out.

This is where the reinvention comes in. I walked in one day and said, “I quit, I’m going to sail the Caribbean.” The responses varied. One comment, “But you’ve been here forever.” Seriously? I was 24! That’s a problem. One person’s response, “But you finally got your three weeks vacation.” Huh? Three weeks later I had collected my retirement and pension, sold my car, moved out of my apartment and given my dog to my brother (tears, sniff, sniff).

There I was, on a tall sailing ship built in the 1920’s. It was a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise ship, so I traded in the panty-hose and pumps for a t-shirt and shorts. Aaahhh, the romance of the sea. And the non-air conditioned office. And the rolling of the ocean. And the lack of stabilizers. And the sudden feeling of claustrophobia. And the nauseous feeling building. And the leaning over the side of the ship. And the getting a second peak at my lunch. Yes, the romance of the sea.

There are two sure signs of seasickness. First, you’re afraid you’re going to die. Then, you’re afraid you won’t die. I was making deals with God (and we know how well that has gone for me). My co-workers expected me to quit. I couldn’t do that as propriety would force me to return all of the going away presents I’d received. After about a month, most of the queasiness went away until I went to a new ship. Coincidentally, I was the Relief Purser and went to a new ship every month or so. Fabulous!

People have always asked me what the ship’s Purser does. While the Love Boat’s Gopher pretty much sat on bar stools drinking, hit on woman, acted like a goofball (and, I believe, had a secret crush on Julie McCoy), and later became a U.S. Congressman, my job entailed a little bit more. OK, being on Windjammer, there were a certain amount of drinks consumed, so perhaps I had that in common with Gopher (aah, to be 24 and a pirate again). But apart from that, there was a lot of work to be done. I was responsible for preparing the customs and immigration forms and meeting with officials to clear the ship and all crew and passengers into the various countries we visited. I have been known to use the phrase, “You people invented red-tape and sold it to the Americans!” Uh, I’ve mellowed with age (sort of). I was also responsible for handling the ship’s cash (yay banker girl!); I was the ship’s medical officer – undoubtedly due to my wonderful bedside manner, as I have absolutely no medical training. I also ran the ship’s gift shop, know as Sea Chest. As the Captain liked to point out, “Carole will be displaying her chest this morning.”

One of my other jobs as Purser was to paint numbers on the backs of crabs with white-out (really need to put that on my resume). If you’re going to have a crab-race, you have to know which crab is which, right? Hint: if you ever have to do this, tap on their shells so they don’t come out and bite you. This I learned by trial and error. And hosting boat races included warm Guinness beer, jumping overboard, water ballet and, well, let’s just leave it at that. Aah, the things I’ll do to be sure my passengers have a great time.

Windjammer was truly like living in a Monty Python sketch. After a particularly rough night at sea, passengers woke up to a chalk out-line of a body in front of the bar and the Captain walking through the halls ringing a bell and bellowing, “Bring out your dead!” (The response for all you MP fans – “But I’m not dead yet”).

From Banker to Boats (it’s a ship darn it, a ship). From Panty-hose and pumps to shorts and T-shirts. From sleeping on a cozy, queen size mattress to sleeping on a deck pad. As you can see, this is not my first reinvention. And I sure did learn a lot about myself. First, I’m stronger than I thought I was. I was the only woman, and the only American on some of these ships. I was called many names and, here and there, experienced sexual harassment. Still, I not only survived, I thrived! I kicked seasickness’ butt! I got those guys to treat me with respect and protect me like a little sister. I also got free spices in the island of Grenada since the ladies selling it in the square were convinced that I was a soap opera star who they watched regularly (who am I to argue?). I overcame my fear of change. I stepped out of my comfortable box and learned to truly live. This I will do again.

I’m from the Government and I’m Here to Help

10 Sep

Today’s entry is dedicated to my friend Shannon, who reminded me what it means to be fearless.

 

As this blog is about reinventing myself, it’s time for the cold, hard truth. Sometimes you have to take a step back, to move forward (heck, sometimes you even have to do a kick-ball-change). So this week, I danced with DES.

I won’t go into the looooonnngg story that got me here but, suffice to say, I encompass all that’s wrong with the economy. Last week my housing counselor (yeh, that’s right) told me to apply for the dreaded food stamps. Really? But I’m a middle class, Jewish girl from the suburbs of Detroit. After much consideration – and a few tears – I finally accepted the fact that well, I need help. And it’s time to call in those favors (read: taxes paid) I’ve done for the government.

You should know that, aside from my current financial problems, I have another big problem. Accepting help. Really, I have counseled drug addicted friends to accept help. I have tried to convince financially challenged family members to accept help. I’ve even gotten the warm-fuzzies quite often from doing charitable work. Yet me? Accept help? I admit it, I have trouble with that. Yeh, I know. It surprised the hell out of me!

So last Friday I called the DES (food stamp people) to be sure I was applying to the correct office. The phone rang. It rang 47 times. Hhhmmmm, do you think they know it’s me? I decided to just download the forms and say a prayer (although if those prayers had worked, I wouldn’t be applying for food stamps now, would I?). I spent 2 hours collecting my financial information and filling out their forms. Are you applying for food stamps? Check. Do you want health assistance? Sure. Electric company discount? Phoenix in the summer – uh-huh! Day care assistance? Well, I do like to color.

Two hours later, forms complete, I faxed. Or tried. And tried, and tried. A busy little fax machine on their end. Must be a lot of people getting good at accepting help. Finally, at about 9:00pm, success! It said it went through but, even if I am able to overcome my resistance to accepting help, I still have some issues with trust. So, on Tuesday, I called.

“Didja get it?” I asked.

“Uh, I don’t know,” he replied.

“Well I faxed it to the Guadalupe location on Friday.”

“Oh, as soon as they send it to us we’ll start processing it.”

“Isn’t this the Guadalupe location I’m calling?”

“Yes, that’s us.”

“But you said as soon as they send it to us we’ll process it.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” he replied.

“So, who are they?” I asked.

“The location that you faxed it to.” (What is this, an Abbott and Costello routine?)

“That’s you”

“OK”

Hhhmmmm, “So what should I do next?” I asked.

“Call back if you don’t hear from us in a week (this guy has a job and I don’t?)

I called today and, you guessed it. I spent the last two hours filling out the same forms that they said they didn’t receive (although she mentioned that someone else had called and told them they faxed their forms the same day I did and they hadn’t been entered into the system either). This time I was actually able to locate a website (conveniently called something other than DES, food stamps or anything remotely similar to Help Me) to apply on-line.

What I discovered? I am not asking for anything for free. Getting these food stamps might just become my new job.

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