A case of laziness or self-defense? You decide….

I was going to write about my first two, never-saw-that-coming(!) weeks back in the workforce after fifteen and a half years of being a stay-at-home mom. But something else has wiggled its way in and needs to be blogged about first. It happened three days ago, on Thursday.

I was on my way home from work and made a quick pit-stop at the liquor store for a bottle of wine. Back outside, the neck of my paper-bagged bottle in one hand (which, the thought crossed my mind, made me look like a wino, but with better shoes), and my keys in the other, I was about to open my car door when a voice called out.

“Excuse me!”

I looked up to where the woman was standing, about twenty feet away, under the awning of the convenience-mart adjacent to the liquor store. From the distance, she looked about my age and was sensibly dressed, in pants and a winter jacket. But I felt myself get instantly wary… and then berated myself for going to the inner-suspicious place.  Maybe she’s just going to ask for the time, I reasoned. Nope.  

“Are you going this way?” she asked, pointing left, up the block.

This was, of course, the way I would have normally headed to go home, a mere mile and a half away. It was just after five, dusky-ish, and any warmth from the sunny, January day was quickly diminishing. I wouldn’t want to be outside in the cold if I didn’t have to be. Empathy for the woman began to push against my caution. I could hear the echo of my kids’ voices chanting “Stranger danger!” But the echo wrestled with my mother’s voice, saying things about “acts of charity” and helping others in need. My spider senses were tingling. Or were they? Maybe, I worried, I just being uncharitable and didn’t want to be bothered with the hassle of taking an extra five minutes out of my day to help a fellow human being. Historically, I’d always tried to make people happy and help them. I was a people-pleaser. And a conflict-avoider.  (The easiest way to avoid conflict with someone is to just say, “yes” and give them what they want.) 

Then again, I was still wary.

I felt my head shake and a “no” croaked out of my throat. The woman kept talking, as though she hadn’t heard me (which she probably hadn’t — I hadn’t spoken very loudly).

“I just need to get up there — it’s just by the middle school — and I don’t want to have to walk that far with my prosthetic leg.” 

Oh, great. Now, not only am I being uncharitable, but if she’s telling the truth, then I’m stranding a cripple! The middle school was a half-mile away. Not that far, but maybe it would seem like it if you had a prosthetic leg. The guilt of that thought, however, was accompanied by a Big Red Flag. What I mean by this is that I had the sensation — instinct? — that something was fishy about this whole scenario. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could feel it. Something was off. I’ve learned to identify when I’m getting the Red Flag signal and to pay attention to it. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many times in my life where I’ve ignored these types of sensations. Always to my detriment. (People-pleaser!)

Suddenly, the words of my two self-defense instructors came into my head: “The best way to get out of a bad situation is not to be there.” Pay attention to the Flags and get out of the scenario before you get into a position where you can’t.

“I’m not going that way,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You’re going that way?” she exclaimed, her face lighting up. A brisk wind picked up, sending a shuddering preview of the rapidly dropping temp. My heart wavered at her hopefulness. Was I doing the right thing? Or just being cruel. Or even lazy. But I wouldn’t ignore the Flag, for whatever reason it had popped up. Yeah, something was off, here.

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again and opening the door of my nice, warm car. “Sorry. I’m not going that way.”

I got in and started the engine. Then, worried that the woman might be vindictive or mentally unstable, I actually went right instead of left. Because what if she saw me go left, and took down my license number and tracked down where I lived? Overkill on the paranoia? Probably. What should have been a three minute drive home took more like ten. I was resentful, too, that she’d put me in that position. And that I was too much of a coward to have made the left-hand turn. Then again, I’m around to tell the tale.

So: what would you have done?

Basic instincts: What drives us?

It is the deepest desire of the human heart to be known and loved.

This is something my spiritual adviser said to me a few months ago. I was struck by its profoundness, simplicity, and absolute truth. As soon as he said it, I felt the “click” — everything inside me went, “Yes, of course,” as though this thought had already existed in my soul and was just then being woken up.

Conversely, it followed that the deepest fear of the human heart would be to never be known or loved. That rang scarily true, too. What if…? *shudder* Well, maybe that’s too deep a glimpse into my darkest recesses….

In my ensuing ruminations on the quote, it occurred to me to add the following:

And, in being known, to be loved not in spite of who you are, but because of it.

These concepts have had immediate impact in my personal life, but I am eager to see how they will manifest with my characters, too. Eventually. When I’ve processed them more. ;)

it is the deepest desire

 

Fiction Relay – Part 51

Keeping one hand on Spence’s back, Blue reached her hand out and felt along the wall, trying not to stumble in the pitch black tunnel. Her fingers touched a cluster of long, dry reedy things that felt like withered roots. And if there were roots, she reasoned, even dry ones, they couldn’t be that far from the surface. But not close enough to punch a hole through and hope for some light.

Fiction Relay — Part 47 (by me)
Fiction Relay — Part 48 (by TRG)
Fiction Relay — Part 49 (by Joanne)
Fiction Relay — Part 50 (by KC)

Links to the entire story: Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, the Reader’s Digest condensed version on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

 

Reaching her hand higher, she snapped part of a root off. Flicking her wrist she muttered, “Lumos!” Nothing happened. Fuck Harry Potter. She dropped the root, reached her hand back along the wall, and slid her other hand from Spence’s back to his shoulder, trailing down his arm to interlace their fingers.

“How do you know where we’re going?” she asked Spence.

“Uh, this was the only way out.”

“How do you know it leads out?”

“I don’t. But the hole in the wall appeared right after that old witch-lady threw that light-bomb at it. Right before she disappeared.”

“Oh, good. We’re following a hag-trail.” Blue grimaced and shook her head. “Crazy old voodoo-mama. Throwing light-bombs. Saying you dug out that space we landed in back there, You scoop this here hole outta you mama, boy!’ As if the mountain was your mother. A mountain-mama! What, did she think you were John Denver?”Blue gave a superior huff. “And calling us twins. Eeww! I would soooo not have hot monkey sex with my brother. Bat. shit. crazy. bitch.” She shuddered.

“Hot monkey sex? Mmmm….” She could hear the teasing grin in Spence’s voice, and he gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.

“I’m serious, Spence. Doesn’t it gross you out?”

“Relax, babe. We’re sure as hell not twins, because I’m two years older than you. And there’s no way we’re related because we have two completely different dads, and we do not have the same mom. Megan was eighteen when you were born, and even if she’d had another kid at sixteen, and forgot it like she forgot about you… Sorry,” he added as he felt Blue’s wince in his mind, “but even if she’d forgotten having another kid, either Sam or Ephraim would’ve remembered that. They were all together back then. We’re not related.”

Blue sighed, feeling relieved at his logic. Despite how weird her life had been, and how even more weird it had gotten lately, Spence’s words rang true. She could feel it. They weren’t related. At least not by blood. The ground beneath them rose on an incline. Spencer pulled her to the right as the tunnel began to curve. There were no more roots on the walls. They seemed to be headed deeper into the mountain.

“Plus, you remember your own mom,” she said. Spence didn’t respond. “Right?” she prodded.

“I’m not sure,” he finally answered. His voice sounded distant, sad. “I have memories of her — of my mother… of a mother — but now that I’m trying to remember her the memories don’t seem real. It’s like I’m remembering a story someone told me. I don’t know. I think something happened to me in that secret altar-room of Sanderson’s. Like I was finally seeing the truth about something, but I’m not sure what I’m seeing yet. I haven’t put the puzzle pieces together.”

A dim light shone far ahead. It seemed to be coming from around a corner. As they neared, though, they both suddenly stopped in their tracks. A half-human scream/howl echoed off the tunnel walls. The sound was followed by a crash.

Shit! Spencer whispered in Blue’s mind.

Don’t go into the light, Carol Anne, Blue murmured back mentally, her body trembling. She tugged Spence’s hand to go backward.

Yeah, Spence agreed, refusing to budge. Only problem is — can’t you feel it? That’s the way we have to go.

—–

Megan backed away, wondering if she could make it around the large room and to the door for her escape. She hated leaving Sam and Ephraim, especially in this place that was such a cruel replica of the lab they’d all been tortured in, but Sam was right: she had to get to Samantha. There were too many people too interested in their daughter, and if, as Jose had theorized, Samantha might have the power to beat Sanderson, then she was in danger. Megan and Sam’s daughter was walking around with a target on her back and had only limited time before she would be hunted. Megan couldn’t — wouldn’t — allow that to happen. She stepped over Ephraim’s unconscious form and held her breath. Maybe the thick clouds of smoke would shroud her.

Raj continued his transformation. Megan kept tabs on Melissa, noting that the woman seemed so distracted by Raj that she didn’t notice Megan making her way around the room’s perimeter.

Raj fell to the floor with a thud. He writhed, and a half-human scream discharged from his throat, echoing off the cavern walls in a barking howl. His legs thrashed out so violently that he kicked the stainless steel table free of the bolts that fastened it to the center of the floor. The heavy table skittered as though it were made of tin foil. Megan jumped backward, just before a corner of it lanced a section of wall that was right where Megan’s torso had been. The loud crash muffled her gasp, but she realized the commotion had probably already drawn attention to her position. And the fact that she was trying to escape. She looked up in alarm. Her fears were verified. Melissa was staring straight at her. 

“Oh, no you don’t, Meagan!” Melissa sneered. She side-stepped until she blocked the room’s only exit. Sam growled and lunged at Melissa. Just then Raj finished his transformation. He snarled and got his monster claws under him. Panting, he rose to his full height above the smoke, his jaws pulling into a hideous smile at Sam.

And that’s when Megan saw it. Through the haze, beneath Raj’s feet, in a spot the stainless steel table had once covered, there was a small, square outline in the floor. A trapdoor.

And suddenly Megan knew that beneath it she would find the box that Sanderson so desperately wanted.

—–

Okay, Bossman. It’s The Reclining Gentleman’s turn! :)

How I got a job in today’s market

As you’ve probably noticed, and some of you have commented, I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to when I first started this blog over a year ago. I’ve been busy. Due to some some major changes in my life, I’ve been job-hunting — a daunting prospect for someone who’s been out of the workforce for fifteen years.(!) However, after a year of trying, revising, and trying again, I did it. Yay! (Whew!) I start my new job in January with a company I am truly excited to be a part of. (Nope, I don’t even think they’ve seen my blog, and I’m still saying that.) Here are a few tips I learned along the way that I thought I’d share for anyone else who’s currently in a career-change/job-seeking situation.

1) Have a great-looking resume. I was lucky on this one because I came from a desktop publishing background and knew a thing or two about good formatting. In fact, over the years I’ve helped a number of six-figure professionals with their own resumes. Sure, it was mostly friends and relatives, but I was consistently told that they were complimented on their great-looking resumes. The trick is to keep it simple. And clean. A resume should paint a mini picture of your well-rounded self, highlighting your best, business-worthy features. A great-looking resume will make you look professional.

Stick to one page. Hiring managers don’t have time to read your whole life story, and you don’t want to seem too full of yourself. Consider this: I have a lawyer-cousin with an Ivy-league pedigree and powerhouse job creds, including several years in D.C., working one step down from answering to the Commander-in-Chief. Yeah. That chick can piss in the pot with the big dogs. But her resume is still only one page long. One very impressive page. Keep it simple, keep it clean. Less is more.

The other side of having a good resume at the ready is the actual application process. Since I don’t have a great network of business contacts, I did my searching entirely online. Almost every job I looked at allowed applicants to download an existing resume. Having to type and re-type the info in every. single. time. would have been ungodly. My resume is in Word, and they all accepted that format. Also, even if the site parsed the info incorrectly (which sometimes happened), all I had to do was cut-and-paste the correct info from my resume.

2) Don’t sell yourself short. I put “Stay-at-Home Mom” as my most recent job title. It was honest and direct (and not cutesy, like “Domestic Goddess” or something), yet in the job description section I demonstrated that I could translate my mom skills to the business landscape:

- Responsible for coordinating and facilitating school, homework, extracurricular activities, party-planning.
- Responsible for budgeting and financial management.
- Implemented and regulated scheduling procedures of daily functions for organized workflow.
- Utilized skills in conflict-management and crisis-resolution on a regular basis.

Most employers already have a clue what it takes to be a parent. Many of them are parents, themselves. But by using business language to describe mom functions, I was able to convey to them that I had a clue what it took to make the career transition to their world.

3) Focus, focus, focus! Nothing will sink your job chances faster than apathy. In the beginning, a year ago,  even thought I knew I needed a steady income, I couldn’t wrap my mind around fitting an 8 a.m. start-time into my days. I (sort of) looked at part-time jobs, with hours (sort of) between 10-ish and 4-ish, with no weekends. And maybe no Fridays. But I wasn’t sure about those, either, because on the other hand I knew I would eventually need something full-time. I also wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do, professionally. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to get a job job (because I still wanted to work on my writing), and only half-heartedly filled out applications. This uncertainty did not reflect well, in-person, in the two interviews I managed to score back then.

I reconsidered and began revising. After assessing the pros and cons of all the different jobs that interested me, against the practical realities of those jobs and my existing qualifications, I narrowed down to two searches: “Receptionist” and “Assistant.” I also bit the bullet and made myself face the reality of the fact that I needed to work full-time. And I got over my hang-up about an 8 a.m. start time. (I mean, I’m up by 5 a.m. every day, anyway!) Simple, clean, and focused.

An interesting thing happened when I finally did get focused: I actually got excited about the jobs I was going after. And not just the jobs, but the companies, themselves. I was applying to do what I wanted for whom I wanted. Not just aimlessly going after a paycheck. And now I can’t wait for January, so I get to be part of that team.

4) Your great-looking resume won’t count for squat unless you can get past the bots. That’s what a temp-agency recruiter explained to me in October, after complimenting my great-looking resume. She stressed that there are sooooo many people going after the same jobs that most companies use computer programs to search for applicants whose resumes “tick” ten or more keywords for that job. Many highly qualified candidates get lost by the wayside, she said, because they don’t use enough keywords. She liked my “Skills” section because it highlighted the computer programs I knew, and my “Extras” section that listed my extracurricular interests, making me seem more well-rounded. (She also liked that I’d put “Stay-at-Home Mom” as my most recent job title.) She recommended, however, that I add in a “Summary” or “Objective” section — just a sentence or two — for a chance to get in more of those keywords and help me get past those darned bots. I made this revision in late October and immediately started getting more interest from employers. A month later I had an offer. Go figure.

5) There are good job-hunting sites and bad job-hunting sites. Indeed.com is great because it aggregates other job boards, so it’s kind of like one-stop Wal-Mart shopping for jobs. I was on Indeed at least once a day, seven days a week, once I really focused my search. With most job boards, you usually have to create accounts for other job boards. Some of these other boards were pretty decent. I liked Monster, Career Builder, and Zip Recruiter because not only would they e-mail me with new listings daily, but the listings they sent me were relevant to my search. Also, I found out that Craigslist has a great employment section. I didn’t even think to look there until a woman interviewing me mentioned that they’d had a ton of applicants for the position, from both Indeed and Craigslist.

Other sites, however, like Gigats and Job Diagnosis sent me listings that were completely ridiculous. I have neither an M.D. nor a J.D., so getting listings for jobs with titles like “Physician” and “Lawyer” were a waste of my time. As were the listings for positions that were already closed. Or that didn’t exist in the first place. Yeah. And I swear that the unsolicited emails from insurance companies looking for salespeople and U.K.-based firms I’d never heard of, with “guaranteed, commission-based positions,” started coming in after I filled out a profile on Jobs.com. I do not recommend filling out profiles on any of these sites.

6) Social networking sites count. Prospective employers do look you up on Facebook. And if you say you have a blog, chances are they may look it up, too. I know, because I’ve been told by more than one hiring manager that they Googled this blog. :) Fortunately, I’ve kept my online persona clean and, if not always professional, at least friendly. A no-sniping zone.

Also, I recently joined LinkedIn. I did this because it was the only way to apply for one of the jobs I was going after (you had to have a LinkedIn profile). Then I found out how much easier it was to apply to other jobs, because many job listings allow you to apply by linking to your LinkedIn account. Would’ve done that way earlier, if I’d known!

Well, live and learn. I hope these tips can help someone, because I know it’s not easy to be in the searching phase. Best of luck to you, if you are. And hopefully now I can get back to some more-regular blogging. Cheers! :)

D-day

I’m not usually given to poetry, but sometimes the story just wants what it wants. This is how it came out today. Let me know what you think.

—–

Shots pop from all around
Exploding chunks of turf near where I stand
Bullet casings that turn to mortar shells

I dodge and take cover from where I think the enemy is positioned

But then, a grenade to the gut
Bounced off my shelter from somewhere behind
Stunned, I whirl
And blink

Et tu, Brute? Et tu?

Were you the lone sniper all along?

No, it seems there are others
Just as hidden as you
They blast away, even as your grenade shreds my insides,
Rocking the earth with violent spasms

Until my feet have no ground to hold

You had drawn the enemy lines long ago
It seems
And I was on the other side
But did not know it

Mea culpa.
But why?

Now, as I fall
Limp and useless
In agony
Into the void
You despise me for bleeding
And crying

It is strange to see so clearly now

White hot pain
Blinding, searing
Destroying utterly
Completely

What was is no more

Fiction Relay — Part 47

Fiction Relay — Part 43 (by me)

Fiction Relay — Part 44 (by TRG)

Fiction Relay — Part 45 (by Joanne)

Fiction Relay — Part 46 (by KC)

To catch up on the entire story, you can link to the very first post, and all subsequent posts, from the Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, you can cheat and read the cliff-notes on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

—–

Raj felt his body follow Melissa’s directives out of the hotel room and down to the car. Earlier, when she’d been asleep, he’d tried to summon food and drink to himself to try to regain strength to his body. But the water had just leaked through rotted holes in his necrotic system, and the piece of bread, once he’d forced it down his unresponsive esophagus, had festered in whatever pools of gastric juices that still lingered in his stomach, causing him violent cramps. And he was powerless to double over in pain, or vomit, or otherwise react. Bitch! This was her fault. He was a prisoner.

Almost. His mind was still free.

Now, she drove them west, He he fumed at his helplessness to avoid her command. He was trapped in his own head, the silence overwhelming. On the plus-side, she wasn’t prattling on about her imaginary prowess and her simpleminded revenge plan. Meagan-this, Meagan-that! He was beyond sick of hearing it. But she could have at least turned on the radio or something. He’d had nothing but strange silence from her for hours now, ever since she’d returned from trying to capture Meagan’s daughter.

Which, he suddenly realized, was right around the time she’d unwrapped that coyote statue from its old-looking bindings.  In fact….

From his  position in the backseat of the car he studied her. Melissa drove, staring at the road, her eyes unblinking. The coyote statue was perched on the dashboard, staring straight ahead, also. Raj didn’t remember Melissa having brought the statue down, though he could have missed it. But right now it was almost as if the coyote was the one directing Melissa.

Something brown and furry zinged across Raj’s singular stretch of focus on the road in front of them. Then something gray and furry. The car slowed, and Raj realized they were following a pack — no, a swarm — of live, snarling coyotes, who were running down the highway.

The mountain. He could see it now, coming into his line of vision. That’s where they were all heading. And even in his weakened state he could feel the energy emanating from it. He wondered…? With Melissa’s focus elsewhere, Raj let himself sink into the depths of his mind. He began to draw energy from the mountain, regaining strength. And power.

—–

“Spence?”

Spencer’s head throbbed like a bitch, which was probably the reason that the cramped room he was in was also blurry. He sat up, pressed a palm to the front of his skull, and looked around for the familiar female voice that had just called him, but he seemed to be alone. He didn’t think he’d been out too long. There was one window, but it was only slightly darker than it had been when the General had caught him taking photos in the secret room, right around sunset. The room that only the General — who obviously was neither the General nor his father — was supposed to know about. At that point the General, or “Sanderson,” or whoever/whatever this entity was, had been livid. Spence had felt the waves of fury radiating off the thing’s body, even as the face of his father grinned back at him. That’s when the sickening pain had hit Spence’s stomach and he’d doubled over before blacking out. Now he wondered why he wasn’t dead. Why hadn’t Sanderson killed him? And where the heck was she?

Unless…!

In a panic, he reached out for Blue. He was relieved to feel her, to find her alive. She was pissed at someone, but not him. Who? And she was confused. She was worried about her bike and about her mother. And, Spence noted with a small sense of amusement, she was reluctantly admitting to herself that she was worried about her father. Maybe she’d called Spence’s name in his head, but it had sounded as though she’d spoken the words aloud, not thought them.

And then his gut dropped in horror as he heard his own voice saying back to her, “Babe, stop worrying about your bike. We’ll come back for it as soon as we can.”

In that moment Spence knew why he hadn’t been killed. That thing — Sanderson — had needed him alive to be able to rummage through his mind and learn enough to get to Blue, and was now using some sort of mental-disguise with her. Spence thought of what he’d learned in that room. His camera was probably toast by now, but he hoped the Sanderson-thing wasn’t techno-savvy enough, and hadn’t read Spence’s mind enough, to know that all of Spence’s photos automatically uploaded to a cloud-server. But why? Why Blue? He flashed on a memory of Sanderson’s secret room and the stone table in the middle that was covered with rusty stains and prayed that wasn’t what Sanderson was thinking.

All of these thoughts flashed through Spence’s head in a fraction of a second, just before he heard his doppelganger say, “Now get your sexy ass over here, you’re too far away from me.” Spence felt the sensation of the other guy running his hand up Blue’s thigh. His horror was instantly charged with a jolt of possessive anger.

“Now there’s my girl,” he heard the person using his voice say.

Wrong, jerkoff, that’s my girl!

He could feel Blue growing weaker and more distant, the longer she was in this thing’s presence. He had to risk exposing to Sanderson the fact that he was conscious. He needed warn her.

It’s a trap Sammy, please be careful, nothing is what it seems, please Sammy, please be careful. 

He thought the words into her head, using her given name to shock her into realizing how serious this was. And he hoped that, for once, she’d listen to him. Blue didn’t respond. He couldn’t feel her anymore. Dread built in him. Please, babe, have some sort of trick up your sleeve to get away!

Interminable minutes ticked by. Spence realized his head felt better, and the room was no longer blurry. Then he notice his skin was tingling, like electric ant-feet crawling all over him.

“What the–?” He stood up and half-danced a couple steps to get away from whatever was causing the sensation, but was unsuccessful. Suddenly found himself outside, next to the blue mountain, and in Blue’s arms.

“Babe!” He crushed his lips to hers, and she responded, seeming as relieved as he felt. “How did you–?” He said against her lips, but she pulled back.

“No time now,” she said. “We’ve got incoming.” She jerked her head behind her, and Spence looked up to see a dark blob swiftly approaching. The blob seemed to be snarling and angry. A deep growl to his left made them both turn their heads. Four huge coyotes were on the ground next to two SUVs. They thrashed out of clothes like the General’s bodyguards usually wore. Spence pulled Blue behind him just as the first of the huge coyotes sprang.

—–

Okay, TRG is up next! :)