Saturday, May 5, 2012

Attention to Detail

Yesterday I had two interviews in Downtown Seattle. I have always hated driving downtown; it brings out the worst in me, and sometimes I’m surprised by how bad the worst is. I fantasize about simply plowing through the masses of pedestrians that putt along oblivious to the fact that I would really love to make a right turn if they would just pick up the pace a little. In my mind lines of cars disintegrate into a million pieces in front of me, never to be seen again. Cyclists ricochet off my fender and no longer presume to share the lane as if they were an actual vehicle. If I ever get a downtown job, I will most likely take public transit to avoid both stress and incarceration.

But the very worst part of having to drive in Seattle is parking. If I choose the convenience of parking in a garage I have to pay an hourly rate that eliminates my future children’s chances of a college fund, and if I by some miracle find street parking, the rate is still $4 an hour plus tax, and I have to be sure to come back every two hours to pay more. Yesterday I found street parking where I had the opportunity to increase my driving prowess by parallel parking on a hill behind a man taking his sweet time loading a giant stroller into his trunk, and once parked I honestly wondered whether or not the friction between my tires and the road was enough to keep my car from sliding down the sharp grade and into the fish stand at Pike Place Market. I would have moved if I thought there was a remote chance of finding anything better.

My first interview went well, I think. I’ve had several compliments on my interviews, but I’ve yet to land a job so I tend to take them with a grain of salt. But I think that I represented myself well, which is great because basically the job would be me assisting programs that are saving the world. I’d really like for world-saving to be something I do full-time.

That interview was over about 1pm, and my next downtown interview was at 3pm. So I found the place, parked on the street, paid for parking, and hung out in the Columbia Tower which is where all the cool downtown-types hang out. There are three coffee places and a shoe-shine stand. At 2:15 I went back to my car, paid for another two hours of parking, and headed to the job interview a couple blocks away. I rode the elevator up and down several times, unsuccessfully tried to find a bathroom that did not require a passcode, and tried to make my hair look as if I hadn’t just walk/jogged three blocks in the rain, which I had.

At 2:45 I went to the interview and was disappointed that unlike the first interview, the organization’s front desk did not have a candy bowl. That will be a factor should I find myself with two job offers in the near future.

When the interview was done I was extremely relieved and ready to go home. I knew that I would have just enough time to pick up the house before the world’s best husband got home. I charged up the hill, content to let the rain wash the last dregs of professional out of my appearance, and arrived at my parking spot, but not, however, at my car. It was then that the “No Parking 3pm-6pm” sign really caught my attention. Oh. Snap.

I called the car-kidnappers and noted the location of my dear little Altima and then proceeded to call my sister to lament my situation. That’s what I do in lamentable situations: call my sister. When she moves to Taiwan all on my phone’s contact list will probably be hearing from me a lot more often, especially when I have something to kvetch about.

I headed toward the light rail to ride home where my husband could pick me up, but after envisioning his look of excitement at having to drive up to Seattle to rescue my car and then back after a long day of work, I wondered if another option might be available. My sister patiently reasoned with the obstinate King County Metro website and then recommended a bus.

Whenever I’m on the bus, I’m never more than about two-thirds sure that I’m on the right route to get where I’m going. There’s always the chance that I’ve totally screwed up and am going to end up miles away from my destination (it’s only happened to me once, but it had a lasting effect). Still, I hopped on the 72 bus and got off at my prescribed destination. My sister, who was my equivalent of Houston at this point, admitted that the walking directions from the bus stop didn’t actually give a final destination. I was supposed to end at 610 North Lake Way, but the last direction just said, “Turn left on 6th.”

She stayed on the phone with me as I trudged through the rain in my nicest business clothes and shoes, took a wrong turn, looked jealously at runners enjoying a local path, and finally found myself walking along a plastic barbed-wire-topped fence.

“Then what?” I asked.

“That’s all it says… I hope I didn’t lead you on a wild goose chase.”

I, too, hoped that I was not now in an unknown part of Seattle miles from the light rail with a dwindling cell-phone battery.

But then, through the slots of the plastic fence, I saw a lovely, if somewhat dinged up, gold Altima.

“We did it! We made it!” We both rejoiced, triumphantly, and I ran through the gravel toward the little tow company office. “Thank you! Thank you!”

Stupidity is often expensive, and my lack of attention to detail (a thing never to mention in job interviews) cost $125. It’d be really wonderful if I landed one of those jobs, because it would make the whole ordeal more significant and somewhat less frustrating in hindsight. If not, it will just be one of my many adventures in a long quest to find gainful employment. A quest, by the way, which I shall carry out no matter how hard the rain, how steep the hill, or how much I want to kill pedestrians.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Shortcomings of Floss

Yesterday I had a phone interview in which I was asked if I had ever failed. I had to keep myself from saying, “Why yes, yes I have. In fact, I have a chronological Excel spreadsheet listing my latest 120+ failures, would you like me to email that to you?” At least then they’d know I was organized. So I told the interviewer about a job I had really wanted but failed to land. But that too, was apparently a failure because my answer wasn’t really what she was looking for. Even my failure story failed… paper cut… lemon juice. So I told her about another failure, and by the time I was finished, I was ready to get off the phone and go eat worms.

The interview was depressing, but it was destined to be the lesser of two evils. A larger, more personal failure was yet to come, one that would make me want to stop being an adult for a moment and sob out all my woes to my ever-sympathetic teddy bear.

I went to the dentist today. The last time I went to the dentist I found out I had cavities and received a lecture about the importance of flossing that I felt was a little impertinent to deliver to a paying customer. I cried when I told my husband that we were going to have to use our hard-earned money to get my teeth patched up. It wasn’t so much the amount (thank you Lord for health insurance), but the fact that I felt like I was a drain. Tooth decay was not where we had dreamed about allocating those funds.

So I dedicated myself to flossing. In the last six months I’ve flossed more than I ever have in my life, and I’ve been trying to brush for the recommended two minutes twice a day. And instead of putting off my six-month checkup like usual, I made my appointment right away. That was a big step in itself because I’ve never been one that enjoys hosting sharp metal tools and latex gloves in my mouth and then being asked, “How’s it going?” In those situations I would love to tell them about how much I enjoy being showered in my own saliva, but given I don’t really want to flap my jaws around when there’s a collection of torture devices skirting my gums, I just make a nasally sound the translation of which I hope was covered in dental school.

After months of my best efforts, the dentist told me that I had five new cavities. And, would I like to get some of those filled today? There was no thoughtful moment when he withdrew to give me a few moments to myself to digest the devastating news of my sub-par chompers and their five-fold heartlessness.

I really wanted to cry. I couldn’t cry right then, and when I left and got into my car I decided I still couldn’t cry because, well, I’m an adult. Mostly I like being an adult, but when it comes to the dentist it just means your fluoride isn’t flavored anymore, you don’t get a sparkly toothbrush at the end of the visit, and your mom isn’t going to stop on the way home to buy you a milkshake. Sure, I can now buy cigarettes and rent a car, but adulthood is not all sunshine and roses, folks.

So now that I’ve thrown a prolonged pity-party, let me tell you what makes me feel better. I’m currently reading an apologetics book, which is really helping me see a more academic side to my faith that I truly appreciate. But I just read a chapter on the author’s view on sin, which is that we sin whenever we define ourselves by anything other than who we are in Christ. If I’m first a runner and then a Christian:  sin. If I’m first a wife and then a Christian:  sin. If I’m first a world-changing, self-sacrificing, puppy-saving philanthropist and then a Christian:  sin. I am someone Christ paid for, and he’s my boss. That’s who I am regardless of what my dentist thinks.

Suddenly the cavities seem a little smaller. And maybe it’s silly to have to apply that grand of a concept to this small situation in my life, but I think the point is that I need to check myself when I start defining who I am by what I’ve accomplished or how many people think I’m worthwhile, or, perhaps, even by how traitorous my teeth are. It’s not who I am, and even when all those things are going my way, it’s not who I am. All of it:  how great my marriage is, how fast I run a race, how funny I am, how pathetic I feel sometimes, the stupid things I say—it’s not who I am. I’m not Katie - I’m the omnipotent God’s valued child, Katie.

So it still sucks that my teeth, despite all my TLC, have launched a campaign to force me into dentures before I’m 30, but knowing who I am helps me keep it in perspective. I have cavities, but I myself am not a cavity. I have failed but… well, I think you can see where I’m going here.

Much love,


Friday, March 16, 2012

Gonna Fly Now

In one window of Word I am writing this blog, and in another I am tweaking a cover letter for an organization I have applied to eight times. This will be my ninth attempt, and after I apply for this position I will apply for a second position with the same organization. I’m sure they won’t be able to resist me for much longer.

Tenacity is often rewarded simple because it often borders on annoying, and annoying someone long enough and often enough, he or she may give you what you want in exchange for sanity. My little sister is an excellent example of this. Her tenacious powers of annoyance are like a bulldozer.

When my sister was ten she was called to be a missionary to Taiwan, and while I went through stages of wanting to be a scientist, concert pianist, and private jet pilot as I grew up, she never wavered. She’s pursued this path with diligence so that now, at just 23, she has been picked up by the Assemblies of God to be a missionary in Taiwan. The only thing she lacks is enough monthly monetary support. She calls churches all over the Northern California/Nevada District trying to get services so she can share her heart for Taiwan and bless the people with what’s really a life-changing message. (You can ask non-relatives and they’ll confirm this claim).

The more services she can get, the more chances she has that either a church or the individuals attending it will sponsor her. When she has enough sponsors to meet her budget, the Assemblies of God will buy her a plane ticket, and she’ll be off into the clouds. And her exuberance to leave everything she knows behind and dive head-first into a completely foreign environment on the other side of the planet for years at a time to tell people about Jesus dwarfs that of a five-year-old waiting to open presents on Christmas morning.

This means that if she calls a church and doesn’t get through, she calls again. If she’s told to call back later, she does. If she’s told to call at 2:00am on Saturday morning and to repeat calling every 3 minutes while singing the national anthem, she does. Today she let me know that after exactly one year and two days of calling, leaving voicemails, being promised a call back, and general unresponsiveness, she got in contact with a church’s pastor. She almost fell out of her chair, and then she scheduled a service. After a year and two days I’d say that persistence has passed into annoying, and yet it worked.

In my sister’s case, and hopefully in the case of my soon-to-be-ten applications, whether something shows determination or is just irritating is a matter of perspective. This reminds me of one of my favorite Bible stories. (Please note any faith in me as a learned Biblical scholar is misguided and hilarious). Anyway, in Luke 18 Jesus tells a story about this widow who needs an evil judge to grant her justice. It looks hopeless because since this judge “neither feared God nor cared about people” he probably wasn’t going to expend any time or effort helping a friendless widow. But she kept coming to him, and the New Living Translation puts it wonderfully when the judge decides, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!”

If that widow was anything like me or my sister, she must have hated constantly asking for help. It’s humbling to ask for something that you can’t get for yourself. When people consistently don’t call you back, ignore your emails, don’t hire you even though you put your very best foot forward and wore lipstick and everything, it makes you feel second-class. I’m sure it builds character, but character won’t pay the bills for me, my sister, or anyone else in need of results.

After telling the story about the widow, Jesus tells his disciples “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice them quickly!”

I don’t think that since God promises swift justice to his people that he will also give me a dream-job exactly when I say he should, or that every church my sister calls for years at a time will give her monthly support. But I do feel that God’s not tired of hearing us ask, and even that He wants us to keep asking for his help. He’s in our corner, and will keep squirting water in our face when we get knocked down. Again, refer to my husband for all your sound exegesis needs, I’m clearly just finding spiritual parallels from the Rocky movies.

I’d conclude now, but I need to finish that tenth application to my favorite nonprofit. I’ll let you know when they cave.

Much love,


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fun with Rejection

    Today marks the day when I have applied for 103 jobs and been hired by only one. I guess you only need one, unless it happens to be temporary one for a whopping eight weeks. Then you definitely need a second. This has been a problem because, so far, 102 potential jobs have said, “No way José.” This body of empirical rejection, which has been growing steadily under my vigilant observation, sits organized by date and employer in an Excel spreadsheet. I find Excel best helps me to understand how my rejection has grown over time and predict how I might be rejected in the future. I’m prepared to submit the data to Washington State Unemployment should they ever get suspicious as to why a competent human being is still asking them to support her life of leisure after an unmentionable amount of time. Clearly I’m conducting an important psychological study and can’t be bothered with things like earning a living.

            In case you have an insatiable desire to know, I hate getting unemployment. Someone suggested I try to think of it as getting paid to do things like go to the gym, bake cookies, and clean my house, but that doesn’t help. First of all, if I actually were getting paid to do those things it would suck the sense of accomplishment clean out of them, and secondly, the only reason I’m getting paid to do those things (in a sense) is because I can’t seem to convince anyone to pay me to do anything else. This messes considerably with my essential belief that I have a respectable brain and that the $100,000 I spent on it in college wasn’t a hilarious joke that my alma-mater is now laughing about over expensive idiot-funded champagne.

            My job search has been peppered with glimmers of hope in the form of interviews. I’ve had zillions of phone interviews, in-person interviews, and even second interviews. It must be that I had something stuck in my teeth during every single one, because I have this idea that I interview well, and that I don’t sound, at least to me, like a bumbling idiot during my conversations with potential employers. I guess that’s a matter of opinion and less of a scientific fact. Granted, some of the jobs I’ve gone for have been a bit of a long shot, but certainly not all of them. Some of them I’ve felt I was excellently qualified for and thought, certainly, this is the perfect fit that God has planned for me, which of course explains my inexplicable failure to land any of the previous ones. Still others I’ve thought, well, this is certainly a step down and they’ll be grateful to have a chance at my greatness. It’s really an ego-killer after you get denied from a few jobs where you thought you were the one lowering your standards. Ouch.

            So what is the point? What is God teaching me through all of this? I’m open to suggestions, because I have no idea. I don’t think I had a problem with pride (though after that statement I’m questioning that statement) but this would definitely be a good cure if I had. Having to tell my husband, who thinks I’m about 100 times more qualified than I am, again and again that the job we were hoping I’d land didn’t call back is more gut-wrenching every time. I get tired of the feeling that I’m stringing people along by trying to look on the bright side and telling them I have promising interviews in the works. I do have promising interviews in the works, but I wonder if people question my ability to be realistic if these “promising” interviews have, for months now, all come to nothing.

            I wanted to write this just as a bit of catharsis. There’s nothing I can do but keep on going, just like many other job-seekers. My situation is certainly not something to complain about when I consider how blessed I am in the grand scheme of things, so my goal is not to whine like a baby. (The four previous paragraphs excepted, of course). I will find a job eventually. And then, when I’m the Director of Super Corporation making one gorgonzillion dollars a year with a company car, all this will be a big laugh. And maybe that will happen with job number 104.

            All the best to you, friends!



Sunday, September 25, 2011

I have to be better about blogging!

            I have to be better about what I put in my mouth.  I have to be better about cleaning my house.  I have to be better about calling friends.  I really have to be better about not giving the finger to everything I have to be better about and maniacally inhaling a box of Ritz Crackers while I sit on the couch and play Scrabble on Facebook.  That last one is probably the priority right now.

            I use the phrase “I have to be better about” too often and too flippantly.  I definitely hear it too often.  Friends tell me what they need to be better about, and so I counter with what I need to be better about.  I hear a lot about what the church needs to be better about, which includes me, what Americans need to be better about, also me, what wives need to be better about, me, and what humanity in general needs to be better about, still me!  For goodness’ sake!  Being faced by my overwhelming need for self-improvement really makes me want to hear a stronger case for complacency.  Sure, if you’re complacent nothing will ever get any better, but at least you won’t have to get up at 6:00 am just to have Jillian Michaels tell you, once again, that your abs should be on fire.

            Luckily I’ve found a way to organize my life that’s neat and tidy but doesn’t involve me carrying around some sort of intimidating shiny electronic device that also slices tomatoes.  Wait for it… an Excel spreadsheet.  Nerdy?  Yes.  Effective?  Also, I hope, yes. 

I was at the gym one day on the stair-stepper trying to disengage my mind from my body by reading a copy of Runner’s World magazine I found.  (I figure reading about working about while actually working out probably quadruples the calorie burn).  A certain article was talking about logging different types of runs and making notes in a workout journal.  Then it said something similar to, “after all, it’s the things we track that we’ll improve on.”  Light bulb!  Lip-service only may not be 100% effective. 

            I don’t like complacency—it worries me.  I worry that I’ll get through life and turn around and not know what happened.  Maybe I thought about doing something to help a friend but never even called them.  Maybe I ended up with a mediocre marriage because, despite thinking about putting my husband’s needs first, I never quite felt like it after work.  Maybe I thought about being better about those things, but the though never became anything tangible.  That thought scares me to death.  I’m not so worried about reaching my potential, because I’m not convinced that’s my end goal.  Nor am I worried about “living life to its fullest,” because I think people think that means wrestling crocodiles and running marathons barefoot in Antarctica.  And, as fun as that sounds, I will probably be okay if never have those stories to drop at dinner parties.  What worries me is being stuck on auto-pilot.  Left, right, left… while my time here keeps slipping away.

            Hence the Excel spreadsheet.  The things we improve on are the things we track, and so I made myself a spreadsheet because it’s something visible and measurable.  It’s not as OCD as it sounds.  My goals are daily, weekly, and monthly, and I only set them one month at a time.  The goals themselves are pretty manageable.  I took what was really important to me, those things I wanted to be better about, and listed them, and I track whether or not I meet that goal for the day, week, or month as appropriate.  I really feel like a nerd telling you this.  But I can’t think of anything more important than living a life that is worthwhile.  Not even having abs like Jillian Michaels’, and believe me, that’s up there.  God cares about how I live, and it affects every person I come into contact with, and so I have to live with some intentionality.  I don’t think a spreadsheet would be a good idea for everybody, but I think the idea of intentionally identifying areas we want to change and then making, like, an actual plan to make those changes is essential if we really do want to make progress.  The spreadsheet works for me because putting an “x” in a box really does it for me.  The “x” tells me, “hey, you did more than just let life happen to you today!”  It’s like getting a gold star on my spelling test. 

Anyway, everyone knows what’s said about failing to plan, but I like what my dad said better, “plan your work and work your plan, your plan will work.” Well, it’s certainly helping anyway.

            So this is me now.  God has given me many blessings and resources.  Time, friends, money, a job, certain abilities, the power of the Microsoft Office Suite… and I’d really like to be a good manager of those resources.  Today starts a new week, and I have a clearer picture now of where I really need to focus.  I’ve been surprised by which goals were the hardest.  So here I go—I’ll let you know how it goes.  Soon it will be a new month, and I’ll have learned some things and my goals will adjust accordingly.  I think I’ll throw in some nutty goals just for good blog-fodder.  You know, to keep you untold millions interested.  Tracking my life this way may be a little silly, but I think it’s sillier just to cross my fingers, close my eyes tight, and wait for myself to change into the person I want to be.

All the best to you!