The Wisdom of the Elderly (RFQ forthcoming)

cloudy skies - b&w

A few months ago I was on the phone, explaining my foray onto OkCupid to my 89 year-old aunt. Back in the day, Auntie had been one of the first female doctors in her neck of the woods. She’d also been married twice, and she’d always been a savvy investor — the woman is a self-made millionaire. Now, she’s in an assisted living facility with a deteriorating hip, her husbands are long-gone, and she’s essentially, if not all-the-way, blind.

But the woman is still sharp as a tack.

So I’m talking to her about my attempt to start dating again. My aunt expressed concern for my safety, that I was meeting strangers online. I reassured her, explaining that I didn’t use my real name online, and prior to meeting anyone I “talked” with them, via the site, enough to learn whether they were a “real” person. And then, of the ones I met with, I always did so in a public place. My aunt was a bit assuaged, but not quite.

“Do they have jobs?” she asked.

I chuckled. “Yes, auntie, the ones I’ve met with all seem to be gainfully employed.”

“Well,” she said, her tone still conveying doubt, “you should ask to see their bank statements.”

I burst out laughing — from delight at her protectiveness over me, combined with the ludicrous idea of actually doing something like that. Could you imagine asking for someone’s bank statements, just to date them? LOL! But even as my giggles subsided, I felt a “click” of truth inside me.

Um, what is it you do for a living, again? I respond to RFPs and RFQs for my construction firm. And how often do you get asked for your firm’s financials from other companies who want to consider hiring you? Um… all the time…? Yes: all the time — and you give it to them, no questions, in the line of professionalism! Meanwhile, have you ever dated a guy who, it turned out, hadn’t actually had a job? Okay…, yeah. Maybe Auntie’s on to something.

I began thinking about how funny it would be to write my own RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for guys who wanted to date me. If I treated dating like a business, I could ask would-be daters to answer the same types of questions that other companies asked of my firm. (Tell us about your legal history. Explain your experience with this type of project.) It was kind of a joke in my head, until I mentioned the story of my aunt and “my dating-RFQ” to my boss, one day at work.

“Ha!” he said. “You should totally do that!”

Whaaaa…?

Was my boss serious? I asked him. He said he thought the idea was fun, but yes, it was not a bad idea. Suddenly the joke took on a bit more substance. I began working on it.

I’m almost done with my RFQ. I’m not 100% sure yet whether or not I’ll publish it (I’m 90% sure that I will), but it’s been an interesting exercise. Due to the volume of RFQs and RFPs I’ve seen, it was actually pretty easy to write — especially the part that excludes the type of person I’m not looking for. The hardest part, though, is coming up with a list of qualities that I am looking for in a potential mate. But I’m getting there.

One day I’ll get this whole dating-thing nailed down correctly. I’ll figure out why I’ve been attracted to the “wrong” type of guy, and I’ll figure out what the right one is. In the meantime, I’ve got a new-found respect for the perspective that comes with age.

Especially when it comes in the form of advice from an aunt who loves me.

cloudy skies - color, cropped

New Day

WP_001042I am the Dawn.

I am the Light

and

the Darkness.

I encompass both

and many nuances in-between.

Little miss Sunshine? Ha! Not quite.

That’s not my description.

(Chin up, Buttercup: you’ll make it through the black.)

You see me radiant,

and you want the light.

Always the light.

Only the light.

But to know me you must know both.

And to have me you must accept both.

For the darkness, though difficult, is equally rewarding —

a promise I do not make lightly.

Listen to the sounds of the night. Become one with them.

Embrace your own darkness

and you can begin to embrace me

and mine.

Only then can you truly see my blaze

and become one with it.

It is always darkest before the dawn.

But

I am the Dawn.

WP_001063

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