Saturday, March 31, 2007

Good-bye Company South

Yesterday was my last day at Company South. It was a year ago that I accepted a position as an SSL VPN administrator.

I accepted the position after being laid off from Company X for three and a half months. It was farther than I wanted to commute (60 miles each way); was a Windows environment (I do Unix and IT Security); and was for a State Agency (the occassional bureaucratic bullshit).

I did, however, realize almost immediately that working with this particular group of people was refreshing. They were all grown-ups. They were all parents or grandparents and understood the importance of work/life balance. They all came in to do their jobs. They weren't surfing the web all day. They would take their few minutes of participating in the commeraderie and then go back to work. It was unlike any place I had ever worked before.

I made friends with my coworkers. They had more than earned my respect. Whereas as at former companies there was always someone who was an asshole who no one particularly cared for, at Company South, that was pretty non-existant.

My contract was supposed to last until July with an additional two year extension, but budget-time rolled around and they ended up pulling my contract.

I hated my commute. I didn't mind driving back and forth in my Mustang, I just didn't like the three hours a day I lost. I didn't like that Auburn Aries missed school events because there was no one else to take her when I couldn't be there. It's hard to get your kidless friends to help you out in those situations - regardless of how important it was to Auburn Aries. That kind of stuff is just too inconvenient. That's reality.

I ended up not going to the gym nearly as much because at the end of the my 12 hours away from home, three hours of which was spent in traffic, I was too gawd damn tired to drag my ass over there. We ate out more, ate later and gained weight. I spent more time with the people I worked with than I did my kid.

Every day posed some new traffic twist that drove me crazy...a stall here, an accident there, new freeway construction, useless traffic reports. There is a long list of why commuting sucks and I won't miss it.

There were seven very good reasons why working at Company South made it all worth while. Those reasons were Steve, Judy, Terry, Bruce, Karina, Kenny and Tim. This small group of people embraced me and my idiosyncracies. They laughed at my stories about Auburn Aries. They listened to my stories of Gayland and didn't bat an eye. Steve, the straightest man alive, could have passed for a Bear and I teased him about it. I even gave him Mardi Gras beads with Bears all over it. He took it in stride.

I learned a lot from them. They are genuinely good, grounded people and I'm proud to call them friends.

It was hard to walk out the door yesterday. Every time someone said anything remotely kind to me, I teared up. Everyone there seemed to really like me and was sad I was leaving as well.

As I drove out of town, I thought about how I wouldn't have to fill-up three times a week anymore but somehow that thought didn't help the images of all of us laughing and cutting up together. It didn't squelch the tightening in my stomach when I thought about not being able to take anymore smoke breaks with Steve, Tim and Kenny - my bruthahs from anothah muthah.

It's another chapter in my life that I've experienced that has enhanced who I am as a person. The closing of one and the beginning of another. The next group of people I work with may be amazing people, but my friends at Company South raised the bar on both personal and professional expectation and they'll be a hard act to follow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"It beats catchin' herpes from a drag queen..."

Once upon a time a High Priestess came to visit a family of Auburn-haired girls who lived in the Northwest. The elder Auburn was turning 44 and had planned on spending a weekend at the Coast with her family, so the High Priestess brought her guava jelly and coconut syrup Warm Cookies with a Whiskey Chaser mental notebook and joined in on the fun.

The smaller Auburn was so excited to see her "Aunt" that she could hardly contain herself. The days and nights were filled with laughter and love and talks and great dinners. The High Priestess hadn't had a cocktail in many weeks so when Auburn Pisces twisted 'em up, the High Priestess grew increasingly happy as the evenings wore on.

At a Mexican restaurant the Auburn's refer to as "The Uzsh" (short for Usual), the High Priestess became quick friends with the server who decided to name a dish after her. He said he would call it "The Pula." Apparently there was something lost in the Hawaiian to Mexican translation.

The next day Auburn's and the Priestess decided they were all going to get pierced together, sisters in pain and extra holes. First there was the time spent in Claire's for Auburn Aries' double earlobe piercings. This portion of the adventure took a long, long time. Auburn Aries was very brave and Auburn Pisces was very proud of her.

Next the three friends were off to a piercer so Auburn Pisces could get her ear cartilage pierced and the High Priestess could get fourth (and fifth) holes since three on one side and four on the other were not nearly enough! All went well though the piercer was very chatty.

It was after the two elder's piercings that little Auburn Aries realized she still had not spent her gift card at Claire's so we went back there again. It was at this juncture Auburn Pisces decided she could not frequent another Claire's for a long, long time.

The grown up weekend at the coast proved to be a fantastic weekend. Auburn Pisces got there first and was able to wash away the stresses of life in total solitude just her and the ocean. Sometimes there's nothing better.

The High Priestess went from being surrounded by the beauty of the Butte a stone's throw from Auburn Pisces' deck (only if you have a really strong arm and are a good thrower), to the uncrowded, peaceful Oregon Coast. Auburn Pisces watched the High Priestess face the Powers of the West as she called upon and received all that she needed. Auburn Pisces could hear the High Priestesses thoughts as she took everything in. It was a memory Auburn Pisces will never forget.

Golden Boy had a tough time keeping the muddler away from the High Priestess. It didn't seem to matter how many times the High Priestess was told a muddler is not a sex toy, she was always caught sneaking to the bar (a.k.a. kitchen counter) and trying to make off with the muddler. This made Auburn Pisces very sad because the muddler, which was a gift from Golden Boy, was critical in the way Golden Boy and JR would masterfully create her margaritas.

Everyone at the beach run shared many laughs over the weekend. One of which was the story of the High Priestess trying to be hoisted into Pony's huge-ass, 4x4, lifted, 35" tire, big mo fo truck after drinking even Auburn Pisces' margaritas at CC's. Hot Toddy went to great lengths to help his friend with the little legs try to get into a truck that was half a foot taller than her. Auburn Pisces almost missed the visuals of such an effort because she was soberly taking in the people and atmosphere - she could have driven if she needed to - just sayin'.

On Saturday morning the family was sitting around the breakfast table when the subject of lost and found at CC's came up. It was then that Auburn Pisces told Golden Boy any time one of her lost MAC lipsticks turned up in lost and found she wanted them back. Golden Boy tried to explain to Auburn Pisces that you really don't want lipstick back that's been in the lost and found.

Auburn Pisces tried to argue back by pointing out that no one wears her light shade of lipstick and no one would want it.

Golden Boy appeared surprised Auburn Pisces didn't get his point. "You don't want it back" he snapped, "it's better than getting herpes from a drag queen!!!" Auburn Pisces knew that Golden Boy was right and decided no lost lipstick was worth it.

There was also the afternoon run to the casino in which Auburn Pisces wanted no part. She really just wanted to hang back and get some ocean time but Vidal and JR were insistent. The High Priestess and Golden Boy wouldn't let up either. Reluctantly Auburn Pisces conceded and headed into Lincoln City with the gang.

Little did Auburn know that while she was gone Hot Toddy baked her a birthday cake and then sauteed onions to cover the cake smell. The gang surprised Auburn Pisces and sang Happy Birthday to her and gave her a card filled with thoughts of love that made Auburn Pisces cry...really hard. Never before had Auburn been so touched by her family.

All in all it was another great weekend at the coast for the everyone. Whether someone was throwing up in their handbag or throwing lighters at a sliding glass door because the music had stopped or whether it was because a big surprise or two was shared - or whether or not you talked to the stars on a ride home or ended up covered by a blanket and pillow on the bathroom floor because that's as far as one could go - or even if you got really hot and cooled off with the ocean breeze against your naked breasts in front two of your Boys, it was a week that will not ever be forgotten.

Auburn Pisces is blessed by those she has chosen to surround her.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Special Friends Day

Today was Special Friends Day at Auburn Aries elementary school. Just to share a little of my morning, their teacher had created an interview sheet as something to do while we were visiting. Aries had a good time with this one, though I suspect I've simply verified her thoughts that I'm *gasp* old...

AA: What was it like when you were my age.
AP: Things were a lot slower. It seemed easier to stop and smell the roses.
AA: But I can smell 'em now.
AP: Exactly.
AA: Mom. Whatever.

AA: What was the style when you were my age?
AP: Bell-bottomed pants and shirts with crazy colors on them.
AA: What the heck are bell-bottoms?
AP: Pants with leg holes so big they covered your whole shoe.
AA: Ew. Gross.

AA: Were there fast food restaurants when you were a kid?
AP: How old do you think I am? Yes, there was McDonald's, Taco Bell and Jack in the Box - though they really hadn't been around very long.
AA: Did you used to get a Happy Meal?
AP: No there weren't such thing as Happy Meals, but hamburgers were a nickel. Sheesh!

AA: What music did you listen to?
AP: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
AA: What the…you're weird Mom.

AA: What was it like to not have TV, CDs, answering machines, and cell phones?
AP: We had a TV; we listened to records on a record player where a needle touches the record as it goes around for the sound to come out; we actually answered the phone when it rang; and we waited until we were at home to call someone or we stopped and used a pay phone.

AA: Did you really walk to school two miles each way in the snow?
AP: No, I walked to school in sandals because it was hot in San Diego and it wasn't miles away, it was only a few blocks away.

With my impending birthday on Monday and 44 being unavoidably within my reach, I find myself working from home torn between reaching for or letting go of my youth. Poor Aries is probably wondering why I'm not using a walker to get around. Eh, when she's 44 she'll look back and see what I see now. That's the beauty of it all.