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Elizabeth
06 October 2010 @ 05:00 pm
I *think* I e-mailed everyone who actually still lurks around LJ, but if I did not, my apologies, and you haven't missed much yet, I promise!

I am writing again, here:

http://www.elizabeyth.com/lessordinary

That is all. I may still use LJ from time to time to blather on about silly things, but seeing as I haven't written here in six months, it's not terribly likely. You can follow @alloblog on Twitter for update notifications if you like. That's it! As you were!
 
 
Elizabeth
06 March 2010 @ 12:53 am
Sitting where I am sitting, at the computer at my dining-room-table-desk, I can see one and one-half bookshelves of cookbooks. Not a lot, by foodie standards, but it's a happy little collection. A sampling:

Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: A cookbook my mom gave me for Christmas five years ago. Whatever you think of Rachael Ray (I like her fine), it was this beginner cookbook that started me down a path of focused cooking, more than pasta dishes, which is all I ever really cooked before.

The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook: I bought this the year I got a summer CSA vegetable share that turned out to be little more than bok choy and the occasional strawberry-sized green pepper. It's a lovely cookbook, though, and actually non-vegetarian.

An Improvisational Cook: At Powells.com, they have a Daily Dose book recommendation made by their readers. If your book is selected, you win a $20 gift certificate, unless the person who won the day before didn't claim theirs, in which case it is $40. I recommended a book (I forget which one now) and won $40, and this is the book I ordered with it.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: My mother picked this up for me at the charity shop on Hilton Head, where she volunteers. It was last year, before the movie came out and everyone started buying it again. I don't imagine they get many copies there these days. (I also found a copy of Larousse Gastronomique there last year. It weighed too much for me to take home in my suitcase.)

The Dysfunctional Gourmet: A spiral-bound novelty cookbook full of recipes with names like "The Salad Louise Made Right Before Her Husband Left Her For A Guy" and "My Mind Controller's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies". (This was a gift.)

I also went through a phase a couple of years ago where I collected cookbooks from the 1930's through the 1960's, mostly through Bookmooch. My oldest is the Women's Council of Grace M. E. Church Cook Book, Kokomo, Indiana, 1936. It has ads in it for Jenkins Motor Sales and Victory Cleaners and Dyers, with four-digit phone numbers.

I'm not cooking my way through any one book, but during this indefinite employment hiatus, I decided I am going to make at least one thing out of each of them. I've never cooked anything out of the old ones, and the only modern one I use regularly is The New Best Recipe.

The old ones may be a challenge, because they often say things like "Bake in a quick oven until done." Also... well, for example, here's a recipe for "Sandwich Spread" from the Grace Church cookbook:

2 quarts green tomatoes, 12 red pimentos, 2 cups sweet pickles, ground, 1/2 pound cream cheese, 1/2 pound butter, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 2-1/2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon salt. Cook 15 minutes. Thicken with 1 cup flour, 1 cup water mixed. Set aside. Stir in mixture and boil 20 minutes. -- Mrs. Frank Brasket

I probably won't be making that.
 
 
Elizabeth
25 February 2010 @ 12:04 pm
A month later, I can say with certainty something that I suspected would be true: getting fired was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me.

I have lost count of the number of people who have told me how much happier I seem. It's because I am happier, so much happier than I thought I would be. Every day that passes, I realize just what kind of insane damage that job was doing to me. It made me feel so incompetent, so incapable, that I began to despair about ever being able to do anything else, which convinced me that my only option was to try to make that job work, which was never, ever going to happen.

So I have work to do, now. I have to repair what that job broke, take some time to regain some perspective, find my confidence, and figure out where to go from here.

A couple of things I think will help: I've signed up for Mondo Beyondo, and online class about turning your dreams into reality. Eliza recommended this series and I really think I am going to get good things out of it. I have myriad pie-in-the-sky fantasies about an ideal life -- magical thinking, as I learned from my therapist -- and even though these fantasies in their entirety can't be reality, I think there are elements of them that I can bring down to earth and incorporate into the path I want to take.

I'm also going to investigate professional career counseling. I have always been pretty skeptical about this, frankly -- in my head, it's just someone who gives you a 20-minute bubble test and then tells you you are well-suited to being a Funeral Director or a Detective or an Airline Pilot, and sends you on your way. But it can't possibly be like that, so I shall put my prejudices aside and try to find someone who can objectively look at my interests and abilities (my interests being all over the map, and my abilities being non-existent in my own eyes), and help me develop a course of action.

In the meantime, though, I'm giving my days a bit of structure. Up between 8 and 9, I take a shower and watch a TED talk or three (SO addicted to these) over coffee and cereal. After that, as necessary, is admin time; I check my budget, pay bills, make shopping lists, that sort of thing. For the rest of the morning, I write. (I'm writing a novel! That's hard for me to say, but yes, I am writing a novel.) From noon to 2, I eat lunch, run errands, putter around for a bit. After that, it's two hours of what I am calling What's Next (tm President Bartlet). It's not just looking for a job, although there is that, but also doing things with a wider perspective. Researching and evaluating possible careers, making 1-year/5-year/lifelong goals, things that will help me determine what's next in my life. After that, around 4, I go for a walk.

And that is my day! At least, that's the rough outline of my day. I feel really good about having a schedule. There probably won't be any single day where I stick to it entirely, as I also need to do things like meet people for lunch and clean the kitchen and write LJ entries. I am also preparing to undertake an unprecedented clean sweep of my house, which for me needs to be done in short daily increments rather than hours and hours at a time on the weekend. But that will be my day, more or less.

The book has a time goal -- a 90,000-word first draft by June 1st-ish -- but the job does not. I know myself, and if I say I want to have a job by June 1st-ish as well, that will only stress me out, and I would like to live this little bit of my life without stress, for a change. Just for a while.
 
 
Elizabeth
10 February 2010 @ 11:23 pm
1. I shall be brutally honest: I LOVE being unemployed. I love it. I am planning to stay unemployed until at least May. I am not kidding. I will start to look for a job when I get back from Hilton Head on 2/20, but I won't pursue it very vigorously. I just have a lot to do, a lot I want to get done. I also want to take some time to think seriously about the direction I want to take my life.

2. Um, you might have heard that we've had some snow here in the past few days. It is seriously more snow than I have ever seen in one place that wasn't a ski resort. It's totally ridiculous. Of course, being unemployed and having my power stay on meant I was able to enjoy it much more than a lot of people. There's no way I would have been able to get to work at all this week anyway, but staying home without having to log in to anything was brilliant. I knit, I cooked, I cleaned, I watched TV, I napped. Michelle and I walked to a small neighborhood shopping area on Monday and Tuesday, just to get out. I shoveled around my car for about five minutes before declaring the situation hopeless and deciding that I would be fine not driving until I got back from HH.

3. I am knitting, knitting, knitting. I have finally finished two new sweaters for Cathy's kids, that I will put in the mail once the post office opens again (I swear, it's like Little House on the Prairie around here). I am working on a top-down cardigan sweater for myself, which will be my Olympic knitting project. I have put myself on a bit of a yarn diet while unemployed, so I'm trying to find projects to use up my fairly meager stash.

4. The snow meant that our final two performances were cancelled. I always get very attached to the cast of the shows I do, but there was something particularly special about this group (I probably say that all the time, too, but it's true). It's very rare for a cast of 15 to all get along, not one diva or any kind of troublemaker in the bunch. The women were all friendly and supportive of each other, the men were all terrific flirts with fantastic senses of humor. My stage manager gave hand massages that could make anyone purr and let me rub his head (he shaved his head for good luck before the show opened) any time I wanted. (I'm very tactile, and I love the feel of super-short hair on men. It made me develop a bit of a crush on my stage manager, dampered somewhat by the fact that he had a husband.) The crew people are always dedicated and professional, despite not getting paid a nickel. I love working at that theater.

5. I am working my way through Season 7 of Buffy. I have never watched it after watching it when it actually aired. I hated the Slayerettes so much, but I am powering through. I also watched the first disc of "Gavin and Stacey" on Eliza's recommendation, and found it as funny and charming as she did. I long for the second disc, but having gotten mail once in the past six days, it'll have to wait until I'm back from visiting my parents. I've also been in the mood for Alias for ages, but regrettably sold my DVDs a couple of years ago, so Melissa is hooking me up.

Also on the DVD watch list, should my unemployment last long enough: The Wire, Arrested Development, True Blood, Dexter, Shameless, and Flight of the Conchords.

6. I am feeling much, much better, pneumonia-wise. Also got my bloodwork back, and everything is well within range except for my good cholesterol, which is a little low. Total is 138, which is great, but my doctor would like to see an increase in the good/bad cholesterol ratio. The solution? A glass of red wine a night! Also exercise, but hey, one step at a time. :)

C'est tout, pour maintenant!
 
 
 
Elizabeth
31 January 2010 @ 11:08 pm
I remember doing this a few times before, so in honor of Tuesday's nominations (and I can already tell you that I whole-heartedly disagree with this ten best picture nominee nonsense), here are the eligible films I've actually seen:

Angels & Demons: Watched on DVD with my parents over Christmas. Tom Hanks phoned this in like no performance I've ever seen. I liked the girl, though I can't remember her name or her character that much, I just remember I thought she did a nice job.

Coraline: Saw this by myself in 3D. I'm not sure my eyes like 3D. I spent the whole time tilting the glasses up and down, trying to figure out if I was seeing it correctly. The movie itself was awesome, though.

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince: I think I saw this with Michelle, who hasn't read the book, and I remember saying that for a movie called HP and The Half-Blood Prince, there should have been more about the Half-Blood Prince.

The Invention of Lying: I saw this with my parents. I thought they would be totally unimpressed about the fact that it is basically one big eff-you to religion, but they thought it was funny, as did I.

Michael Jackson's This Is It: I saw this with my mother. She basically went along with me because I asked her to, but she ended up enjoying it just as much as I did. That concert would really have been something to see, and it did make you realize that he was not actually as weak as he appeared in interviews and such. I mean, dude was never a linebacker, but he wasn't sickly.

New Moon: Saw this with Michelle. Had improper thoughts about a 17-year-old. Other than that... meh.

The Proposal: Watched this on the plane to Paris. It was cute, funny, not terribly original.

Sherlock Holmes: Saw this with my family the day after Christmas. A smashing good time.

Star Trek: Watched this on the plane home from Paris. Fine entertainment, even for a non-Trekkie like moi.

Taken: I rented this. It was weirdly short, less than an hour and a half, and an hour and fifteen minutes of it was just Liam Neeson running around Paris killing people.

Ten! That is pathetic. I shall put my unemployment to good use and try to see more.

 
 
Elizabeth
29 January 2010 @ 11:05 pm
I think everyone knows this by now, but I was fired on January 22, and it is pretty much the best thing to happen to me in a long time. I'm not exaggerating when I say that walking out of the conference room where I was officially fired, I felt euphoric. I went back to my desk to pack up my stuff and everyone else in my department sat with me and looked sad, and I was bouncing off the walls with happiness and overwhelming relief. I didn't start to cry until it was time to hug everyone goodbye. I am going to miss those kids, a lot.

There was an incident in November that I can reasonably point to as the beginning of the end. I think, at that time, my boss wrote me off, and then just sort of waited for some barely acceptable reason to actually fire me. On December 18, I got a formal written warning. Three weeks later (well, three weeks of me being in the office, as I was off the week of Christmas), I was called into a room with my boss and the HR girl, and fired. I didn't make eye contact with my boss, not once. I let the HR girl give her speech and didn't try to conceal my smile.

What was actually kind of nice was that my boss more or less told me on Tuesday that I was about to be fired. He said something along the lines of "I'm done with you," and that he was going to talk to our chief officer and HR and get back to me. So I spent the rest of the week moving stuff off my computer onto a thumb drive, cleaning out my desk, and wandering around the building saying goodbye to various people I had worked with over the last six years.

I very nearly quit in November, and I'm SO glad I didn't. First of all, there's unemployment. Secondly, there is three weeks severance plus another two weeks of paid time off. Thirdly, and most importantly, I qualify for COBRA payments that are 35% of the usual totals, which is only available if you involuntarily lose your job. So instead of my health insurance costing $650 a month, it's only $230, and that will last at least as long as I'm actually out of work (the reduced rate lasts for 15 months). Thanks very much, President Obama, for signing that sucker into law, just in time.

Especially now. I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for the following Monday, because I don't have a primary care doctor and I thought it was time I started that relationship. I had been experiencing some pain in my upper chest, which felt muscular but also like it might be within the breast tissue, which is worrisome. So she had me get a chest x-ray, and called me that night to tell me there was something going on in my lung and that I needed to go back the next day for a CT. Turns out, I have pneumonia, which is totally unrelated to the pain I was having (the muscle twinged the next night at a certain point in the show, so I know what's causing that now). It's never a good time to have pneumonia, I suppose, but I'm so glad I'm out of work and can basically spend all day convalescing, without worrying about what might come up on that fucking BlackBerry.

Even I did not truly appreciate the enormous amount of stress and anxiety I was feeling every day (and because of that fucking BlackBerry, it was 24 hours a day) until it was gone. Walking out of that office for the last time, I felt like I had instantly lost 20 pounds. My Facebook status update announcing "Elizabeth Replogle is free!" was the last thing I did before shutting down my computer for the last time. I walked into the dressing room that Friday night and announced "I got fired!" and everybody cheered.

Seriously, I am so grateful to this cast and crew, these funny, fantastic people who have been incredibly nice and supportive and listened to me bitch and moan and cry for pretty much the entire time we've been together. I lost count of the number of times I walked in there with swollen red eyes, having cried the whole way home and then to the theater. Having somewhere to go at night, being a part of this particular group, was a saving grace I will remember forever. I'm not sure what I would have done without them.

Or you. You, who have also listened to me bitch and moan and cry for weeks now, you who called me up or took me to dinner or got me drunk. I don't know what I would have done without you, I really don't.

I don't have much of a plan in place yet. The show runs through February 6th, and on February 13th, I'm going to Hilton Head for a week. I am spending some time now sort of unconsciously pondering what direction I'm going to take from here. It's such a brilliant opportunity, at the start of a new decade, to be able to take this time to make some real changes and figure out what path I'm actually supposed to be on. But to be honest, I also kind of want to be a slacker for a while, just a little while.

So, when I get back on the 20th, Project New Decade will begin with gusto. Until then, though, I am taking a very, very long lunch.
 
 
Elizabeth
17 December 2009 @ 07:56 pm
In what I am sure will be a surprise to no one, I am trying to find a new job. I've been applying at several non-profits, thinking that I can at least feed my soul a little bit while I figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life.

Last Friday, I received a call from a woman, Megan, who is from an outsource HR company, regarding a resume I had submitted to one of the non-profits. She called my cell phone and since I didn't recognize the number, I didn't answer it, but she left a message saying she would e-mail me with her information and we could schedule an interview. Over e-mail, we arranged to speak at 4:15 on Monday. I asked if it was okay if I called her, since I have no privacy at my desk and I would have to find an empty office. She said that was fine and if I got her voicemail to dial 0 and have her paged.

I called at 4:15 and got her voicemail. When I reached the receptionist, she said Megan was in a company meeting, which didn't sound like something you can be paged out of. I was transferred back to her voicemail and said that maybe we hadn't thought about a time zone difference and I would call back in an hour, which I did, and still got her voicemail. I left another message and then sent an e-mail on Tuesday morning, saying I'm sorry we hadn't connected and to please let me know when we could try again.

I didn't hear anything back, not Tuesday, not Wednesday morning. So now I'm thinking, I don't want to lose out on my chance at this job because this agency is screwing up, but I have also left two voicemails and one e-mail that haven't been returned, so I sort of felt like I had done my fair share. At 3:00 I e-mailed the person at the non-profit where I had originally submitted my resume, and told her what had happened with the calls I had tried to make, and said something like I hope it wasn't inappropriate to contact her directly but I wanted to make sure there was no issue with this agency. She wrote back right away, said she had "lit a fire" (her words) and to let her know if I didn't hear anything by the end of the day tomorrow (which is today, Thursday).

As an aside, I very rarely get any calls on my home phone any more. I usually check it when I get home at night, but a lot of times I forget. I didn't look at it last night, but I did tonight, and it turns out Megan had called my HOME PHONE on Wednesday, about a half an hour after I had e-mailed the non-profit. She said in her message that she didn't get my voicemails, and that she did try to call me back but I must not have gotten the message.

Both of these things are clearly bullshit, which is obvious by the fact that she called my home phone, after (presumably) getting chewed out by either the person at the non-profit or by a supervisor at her agency. She had my work phone, my cell phone (which is how she initially contacted me), and my e-mail address (which is how we set up the initial interview time), but instead she chose to call me at HOME to try to set up another time? She also said that she really preferred to call the candidate rather than have the candidate call in, for reasons which make no sense to me, as if she's sitting there ready to pick up a phone to call someone, then why can't she sit there and wait for the phone to ring? I also can't be the first person she's dealt with who (1) works in a cube or other space with no privacy and (2) doesn't want everyone to know they're interviewing.

So it's all very annoying, because while she is the one who has fucked up here, she is still standing between me and this job, which means I have to be nice. I e-mailed her from home as soon as I heard her voicemail, apologizing (whatever) for our "miscommunications" and letting her know that once we set up a time, I will go ahead and forward my phone to an empty office so she can call me.

At the end of the day, though, I really think this is moot. I'd love to work for this organization, as they do many good things, but I'd be completely surprised if this position paid as much as I'm making now, and I can't afford to make any less than I make now. I wish we lived in a world where it was okay for me to get on the phone with this woman and just say, "Look, just tell me how much this pays, because I think we can wrap this up right now."

(Sorry to come back after all this time with nothing but venting! I'll do some New Year's Resoluting about writing here more often.)
 
 
Elizabeth
I am going on this trip, in four days. I am ready to go on this trip. I need to go on this trip.

I am afraid I am putting too much pressure on this trip. I am expecting this trip to change my life when it probably won't.

I mean, it will change my life in some ways, certainly. It will make my life experience better. I will be a more fulfilled person for having gone on this trip. I'm confident of that.

Everything is just weird right now. I know I am still dealing with Catherine's death in ways that I don't understand, because I have never had to understand them before. Right after it happened, once the initial shock wore off and we got back to work, I don't mean this to sound crass, but it sort of felt like she was on vacation. Maybe she wasn't there, in the office, but she was somewhere, and she'd be back. But now a month has gone by, and she isn't back, and the firm had a service for her, and it's more comprehensible, more real, that she isn't coming back, that she isn't anywhere anymore. (Okay, I still don't understand that, but I'm working on it.)

I don't know. I don't know how to describe how I feel. Unsteady, I guess. I feel like at any given moment, I'm just ever so slightly out of balance, like gravity isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

It's not depression, thankfully. I know what that looks like, especially in October, and this is different.

I'm sure part of it is anticipation. I have wanted to go to Paris forever. I have wanted to walk along the Seine and eat croissants and look at the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa and the Sacre Coeur and the light shining through the windows at Sainte Chappelle since I started taking French in 8th grade. I have wanted to do these things for so long, longer than I have ever wanted to do anything else, and now, finally, in four days, I will start doing them.

I'm going to get on a plane, and go far away, and spend six days wandering a city by myself, and get some perspective, and maybe it will change my life a little, not a lot, but a little, and that's good enough for me.
 
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Elizabeth
01 September 2009 @ 07:08 pm
My boss, Catherine, died over the weekend. The details are not confirmed, but apparently she drowned trying to save someone who had fallen out of a boat in a pond on her property.

If you have ever heard me talk about Catherine -- and some of you have heard me talk about Catherine A LOT -- then 99% of what you heard was probably negative. My relationship with her was very, very complicated. There were times when she was absolutely horrible, truly unprofessional by anyone's standards, and one time humiliated me in front of my coworkers in a manner I have never experienced in a working environment. She was hypercritical. She often gave vague directions and became obviously frustrated if you asked her to clarify what she wanted. She was the very definition of a control freak and rarely welcomed any input as to how to approach a project. Although she certainly had some appreciated qualities in a boss -- she gave public praise when it was due, and always made sure I got credit for my work in front of the partners -- I did not, on the whole, like working for her.

She was loud. Extremely, unabashedly loud. The most common answer to "Does anyone know if Catherine is in today?" was "I don't know... I haven't heard her." She was honest like a punch in the face. She was from New York City. She was side-splittingly funny, and when she laughed, the people in the offices across the street could probably hear her. She dropped the F-bomb at least once every ten minutes. She owned thoroughbred horses, five of them. About six months ago, she adopted a retired Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale, and brought in pictures when he arrived, as proud of him as a new mother. She used to hang out at Studio 54. She met her third husband at the firm, a tall, gentle, good-looking man who just retired after 30 years there. Her eyes lit up when he used to stop by her office.

If I had ever gotten myself into anything that I didn't know how to get out of, if I ever found myself in trouble and didn't want to call my parents, I would have called Catherine. She would have moved heaven and earth to help me, or anyone else in that office, and asked questions later. Her criticism was harsh and her behavior unpredictable, but her affection was deep and her loyalty was fierce. She was a force of nature.

I've never had this happen before. People have died, obviously, but not someone I saw almost daily for the last year and a half. I have no experience with this kind of thing, this thing where your first reaction is "But she was just here." Where you seek to cement the last time you saw the person and you realize it was when you said "Have a good weekend!" on automatic pilot and she said "You too, girl!" on automatic pilot, because that's what you always say every Friday afternoon. And that was it.

So what do you do? What can you do? After I found out, about 7:30 last night, I burst into tears. I talked to my coworkers. Then I talked, or hyperventilated, to my parents. I collected myself. I texted some people. My friend Michelle came down and we sat on my front stoop and got drunk on red wine and smoked cigarettes and talked about the things you talk about, which is mostly how much it sucks that the older you get, the more shit like this happens. I went to work today and it was very, very strange. It's going to be very strange for a long time, I think.

Very strange, and very, very quiet.

 
 
Elizabeth
02 August 2009 @ 06:00 pm
I write poetry, Toby. That's how I enter the world.
Tabitha Fortis, "The U.S. Poet Laureate", The West Wing, Season 3 Episode 17

That line has stuck with me for years. Literally, years. Since it actually aired, in the spring of 2002, as I was preparing to move into the next phase of my life in DC.

I've had quite a few conversations about this recently. It helps to know I'm not the only one who hasn't quite found it yet.

To be fair, there are a few I already know about.

Like, on stage.

I do not know if I am a good actor. I don't know how many other actors struggle with the nagging sensation that they kind of suck, but no one is telling them. It's hard to know that for sure, especially when you only do theater, and therefore can't sit back and watch yourself on film or on tape, in the process of acting, and say, well yes, I can see now, that I am good. I do get cast in things, here and there, now and then, and that's probably a sign that I do okay.

But, my level of ability isn't really the point. Not really. Acting feeds my adrenaline. There is a feeling I get on stage that doesn't happen anywhere else in my life. I look forward to every second of the process, from the table read to the performances, and even if it is a train wreck for other people to witness, it feels right to me. In those moments, on stage, I am well within myself.

I also enter the world in words.

I write. I am a writer. Did you know that about me?

It's taken me a very, very long time to be able to say that, out loud, and it still makes me kind of nervous. One of the all-time great Elizabeth Mysteries is that I feel no vulnerability on stage, despite a decades-long, deeply scarring battle with my appearance. Put me on a stage, in a quiet, serious moment, 200 pairs of eyes focused only on me, and I am fine, alive even.

But saying "I am a writer" makes me afraid of your judgment, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of words I have written, some of them out here in the world, some of them to one single person or another, some of them to a blank book no one sees.

I am a writer. I write things. I am writing things, I am working on things.

So, there are two, for starters.

However, I also know a few ways in which I for sure do not enter the world. I don't enter the world as a lawyer, nor doing business development for a law firm.

This is the balance that I think we all seek, and a rare few of us find. The two ways of entering the world that I can identify for certain are not ways that, right now, allow me to survive in that world. I do not know what it is like to earn a living from being who I really am.

I think I need to work on that a little.