Sunday, July 27, 2008

Some things about Aruba...

Originally inhabited by Dutch settlers, Aruba is an island about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is 12 miles long and 6 miles wide.

Papiamento is the official language of Aruba. But most everyone here speaks four languages: Dutch, Spanish, English and Papiamento. By the time kids are in the 4th grade, they've pretty much learned all four languages. We went to church today (can't believe we found it) and they had Spanish and English hymn books. The branch president spoke Spanish, the guy who gave the first talk spoke Papiamento (but he also said the opening prayer in English -- for us I think). We had a missionary from Sacramento translate the talks for us. He did great with the Papiamento talk, but struggled a little with the Spanish (Papiamento is a mixture of Dutch, English, Spanish and French).

The local currency is Florins. But they take US Dollars everywhere. But they won't give you change in US currency. They give you change in Florins. And I swear they just give you whatever they want back because I can do the conversion in my head, but it varies depending on who's giving me change. I'm thinking I might have enough Florin coins now to buy a candy bar.

Apparently tops are optional for women at the beach. And apparently bottoms are optional for baby boys at our pool.

It's HOT here. And the sun is intense. We were told the other day the worst months to be here are August and September, because the wind stops blowing and you're just dripping all the time and you never feel clean or dry.

The crime rate is about 1%. I think we've seen maybe one cop car. And that was today. And he was leading a parade of children on bicycles.

We're having a great time. I think our favorite thing so far was the all day jeep tour we took on Friday. We saw a ton of stuff and it was just fun off-roading in the jeep. I almost flew out a couple times. I loved it.

We're renting a house about 5 minutes away from the beach. It's a great little house -- exceeded my expectations. Our address is something Noord Bona Vista. There are several dogs in our neighborhood that just hang outside on the porch. They're polite enough not to come in. But we like them. Two have really taken to us. We call them Juan and Hans. Or, sometimes, Han and Juans. Pedro will come over every now and then. And then I met another one I like to call Geertgen.

If anyone is coming to Aruba and needs a place to stay, contact Kristi and she can hook you up with the proprietor of this house. You'll save yourself a lot of money by staying here and not at the Marriott or Hyatt or something.

I don't know what we're doing tomorrow. Maybe the butterfly gardens. And then Tuesday is sailing and snorkling. And as always, trying to keep an eye on Mark who tends to wander off on his own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sales Calls

I get a lot of calls at work that really shouldn’t be directed to me. One third of my calls are from people trying to sell me toner, printing supplies, etc. I usually hang up on half of them before I hear a voice because there’s always that little bit of silence that gives them away. And then if they ask to speak to “Leela” Abersold instead of Lila – they’re toast.

When I was younger and I answered the phone, I could usually tell it was a sales call too. They would ask to speak to my dad and I reluctantly told Dad the phone was for him. When my look gave me away Dad would look at me, knowing how hard this was for me, but demand that I tell them he wasn’t home (fully aware his voice was loud enough for them to hear) or sometimes he would say, “Tell them your Daddy's in prison.”

I got better at just yelling, “Dad! It’s for you!” when it was a sales call and I clenched my teeth as I quietly hung up the phone, knowing very well what he does in these situations. I would stand there for a minute, frozen; listening carefully for any hint of a conversation. When I didn’t hear anything, I would tiptoe over to his study, peek in and see him grading papers, with the phone receiver placed on his desk. He would turn to look at me, expressionless, and then he would pick up the receiver, check up on the telemarketer and then set it back down on the desk and return to his work.

“Dad!” I would say.
“What?” He replied angrily.
“Why don’t you just talk to them?”
“I don’t want to.”
“They’re just doing their job.”
“They should get a better job.”

I hated it. I felt so bad for them that I would just start taking the calls myself and kindly let them know that we weren’t interested in what they were selling.

The older I get, the more impatient I get with telemarketers. I don’t know how I still get these calls at work. I’m on that “do not call” registry which I’m beginning to wonder about. I recently stopped transferring salesmen to Lila when they ask for her. I stopped after handing over a fundraiser for MS and then hearing her yell “No way!” at the person on the other line and then hang up. I thought that was a little harsh for a good cause.

Just now I got a call from someone asking for Lila. I asked who was calling (knowing she had no interest in speaking to them). He answered really quickly – perhaps hoping I wouldn’t understand him – and then not care enough to have him repeat it. But I did have him repeat it. Twice. He asked to speak to my manager. I asked him if he wanted to speak to my manager or if he wanted to speak to someone who can actually answer his questions. He got impatient with me and said,

“Who orders the company’s printing supplies?”
“Oh, we’re not a company. We’re a state agency.” (Our usual response to sales calls)
“You’re not a company?”
“No, we’re not allowed to order the supplies we want. Someone who works in a big building decides that for us.”
“Can you give me the number of the person who orders the supplies?”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
“You don’t know who that is?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
“You don’t have their number?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Well,” in a condescending voice, “I’ll call back and maybe you’ll have the number then.”

I felt like I was being sent to my room and not allowed to come out until I figured out what I did wrong. I doubt he'll be calling back.

One night, my old roommate Ilene thought she had a really good strategy.

Telemarketer: “Could I speak to Ilene __________?”
Ilene: “She doesn’t live here, may I take a message?”

I laughed through the night.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Journal Gem #6

Wednesday, January 22 2002
10:42 PM

Note to me: Before asking Dad to edit my writing, be prepared for what I'm getting myself into. I had this light, informal and conversational style going on and Dad shrunk it down, stripped it of my voice and all its personality until it read like a textbook.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate and will even incorporate some of his suggestions, but I choose to retain some of the wordiness he was so quick to dismiss. He gave me a little lesson on the verb "to be" and then we sat down and rewrote a paragraph replacing the word "is" with other verbs or simply omitting it altogether.

It was when he started talking about how Anglo-Saxons spoke and the invasion of William the Conqueror that I decided to just play along for the time being and then do what I wanted to later.

I cannot deny it was an educational experience.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I’ll be Scooter’s mommy…

Several years ago I learned that it's not just dogs that need to be groomed.

Scooter, our family cat, has let himself go in his old age. He doesn’t clean and groom himself often enough to get all the mats out of his fur. So they inevitably clump together and gather more and more fur until they pull on his skin, causing him pain and stress.

I used to brace myself, pick up the cat, the comb, the scissors, and (if I was lucky) another person to hold him down while I groomed away. But it gets to a point when there’s not much you can do with an angry feline without fearing for your life.

Ever since I moved out, I would visit the house on occasion and notice Scooter’s uncomely appearance and tell my dad he needs to be combed. I don’t think he listened to me because every other time I visited my dad would tell me “Laur, Scooter needs you to comb him real bad.”

Well, it did get real bad. So bad I convinced my parents to take Scooter in to the vet to get shaved. He came back naked and ashamed. He found a cold, dark corner in the basement and didn’t come out for 3 days. But he was clean -- and not as hot.

We had him shaved for the second time a couple years ago. This time my mom told me it was my turn to take him in – even though I didn’t live at the house. So I dutifully dropped the cat off at Hillside Veterinary Hospital one morning before work and picked him up after work.


Here he looks independent, content to sit in the back seat, yet a little insecure about where I’m taking him.


Here he is clingy, needy and afraid to touch anything that isn’t me.

The past month or so I’ve noticed, when visiting the house that Scooter is all nobby again. I told my mom he needs to be taken in for a shave. Time and time again, I would come home and he was still nobby. About a week ago I was there and said to my dad, “Dad, you really need to take Scooter in to get shaved.” To which he replied, “No, MOM needs to take him in to get shaved.”

His tone had an implication that led me to believe he was still harboring an argument from a marital discussion about the matter. I chose not to pursue the issue. My parents went out of town and I have been house sitting for them in Sandy. I decided yesterday to just take him in myself.

Turns out he was also due for a wellness exam and three vaccinations.

The “technician” I spoke with wasn’t very warm and friendly. In fact, she was cold and judgmental. I asked if Scooter really needed to be shaved because his fur wasn’t THAT matted. She said, “Do you want him to just be combed?”

“Well, that’s what I’m asking…”

“Look, it’s a matter of sedating him or not sedating him.”

“Right. I thought you could assess the situation and see if he really needed to be shaved. Because I would rather not put him through that if you could just comb out his clumps.”

“Well, he seems kind of uptight. But if he’ll let me I’ll comb him.”

I stared at her, stroking Scooter’s mane as I reconsidered leaving him with this chilly woman. But ended up telling her to just comb him.

Five hours later I went to pick him up. They insisted I go back and get him rather than them bringing him out to me. Apparently he was “pissy” with her.

I walked to the room with all the kennels. The technician stood back as she opened the door to Scooter’s cage. For some reason I almost asked her if he had had anything to eat but stopped myself realizing that was ridiculous. I removed him with little trouble. Scooter hissed at her as we walked out. I sent a mental message to Scooter letting him know I didn’t like her either.

Here he is BEFORE:

Independent and resigned to the fact that he’s going somewhere unfun.

Here he is AFTER:

Clingy, needy and pissed.

Hopefully the every other year pattern will continue so I don't have to do this more often.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Slow adults at play

Last week I was driving in West Valley City on my way to jury a sculpture show. Not long after I turned onto Redwood Road from 3300 South I saw this crazy man darting through traffic like a maniac. No cross walk -- no intersection; he was on his phone, weaving in and out of cars on a major road right in front of me.

I, along with everyone else, was going about 40 mph so I started slowing down so I wouldn't hit him. He motioned to me like I should continue forward. I said, "Moron! What do you think you're doing in the middle of traffic?" in the sound proofness of my car.

After I was done staring him down, I directed my attention to the road again only to see this sign off to the right.

Of course. Look out for crazy people. My bad.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Everyone has things they're paranoid about, right?

(Please say yes...)

I, for example, tend to be paranoid about my teeth. I have been to the dentist 4 times this year already. I have a love/hate relationship with my teeth. I value oral hygiene, yet I hate the problems teeth can cause, and the accompanying expense. I hate cavities. And when I get a cavity I take the news as a personal failure. Granted, for awhile I wasn’t flossing as I should. And now the fear that my neglect is causing (not to mention will cause) problems for my teeth haunts me.

As a result, my current teeth cleaning regimen consists of brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day and rinsing with mouthwash twice a day. And no more of the wimpy Crest Pro Health rinse. I rinse with the hard stuff now. Only ADA approved for me.

The paranoia began with my last routine checkup in March. The dental hygienist kind of freaked me out when she told me I had potential problems. And then the dentist told me I had two cavities and one of my silver fillings was leaking, thus causing decay underneath. So I had to return for three fillings.

I complained about my dental woes to several people. When I complained to my sister that my mouth was a mess she said, “Dude, so is mine.” Somehow that made me feel better – knowing I wasn’t alone.

Although her response was the most helpful, my mom’s was my favorite. After telling her about my dental visit she said, “Honey, do you want to get a new dentist?” I loved that her solution for me was to find someone who would tell me my teeth were just fine. She wasn’t being sarcastic at all, trying to indirectly say I just need to deal with it -- she was dead serious. I know because she began to tell me how she wants a new dentist who won't scold her. Our dentist has been our family dentist for almost as long as I have lived and breathed.

I went back to my dentist for my fillings.

About a week later I noticed my teeth hurt on the right side of my mouth when I chewed. Naturally, I was afraid something was horribly wrong. The words "root canal" swam around in my brain for weeks. But it didn’t make sense because I just recently had a checkup. Wouldn’t my dentist be able to detect that right away?

I polled almost everyone I knew about root canals to see how their experience was. I even asked some people twice. I asked what their pain was like before they were officially diagnosed. How much it hurt after the procedure. How much it cost. I also looked it up on Wikipedia which, I soon learned, is not a good idea for me.

It’s been about two months since my dentist filled my teeth. Yesterday I went in to have him look at them to see if he could figure out why my upper tooth was being sensitive to hot and cold and chewing. I was not looking forward to this visit. The hygienist took some x-rays and then some other lady came in and did some tapping tests and cold air tests. She explained what she was doing. (Little did she know I was already too familiar with these tests because several weeks ago I visited my roommate’s dentist to see if he had anything new to tell me. He did the same tests with no painful results. Instead he just reshaped my teeth so my bite was more comfortable. Seemed to work for awhile, but now the sensitivity has returned, although it has now transferred from my bottom tooth to my upper tooth).

Anyway, there was some mild discomfort, but no “zing”. According to the dentist we were looking for a “zing”. (I’m never good at describing or qualifying pain). So after she did the tests, the dentist came in and did the tapping and the cold air tests. He also did a cold water test and an ice application. The worst was biting down on some strange plastic object in my mouth – over and over again. That will make anyone’s mouth tired – which is uncomfortable, but again, not sure if it is pain. It wasn’t pleasant, that’s for sure. At this point the dentist deduced that it was my bottom teeth that were giving me trouble -- not my top (according to my answers to the test). He then asked for a certain light instrument, shined it all over my tooth and called out different kinds of cracks in my tooth for his assistant to jot down as "things to watch." He assured me that a lot of people's teeth have cracks and not to worry. What I was worried about was how I came in complaining about my upper teeth but he thinks it's my bottom tooth. At this point I decided I was done with this exam and wasn't going to mention my concerns for the teeth on the other side of my mouth.

He told me to come back next week but I’m beginning to think maybe my teeth are just sensitive. A reliable source told me that sometimes teeth go through sensitivity every now and then. Maybe it does come and go. Honestly, I’ve gotten real good at chewing with certain teeth to avoid discomfort. Maybe I should try to make my teeth hurt by chewing all over. But to tell you the truth, just sitting here, completely still, I can make any tooth of mine hurt if I think about it hard enough.

Maybe Mom was right. Maybe what I really need is for someone to tell me there’s nothing wrong with my teeth. Except for I really think there's something wrong with my upper right teeth.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Journal Gem #5

Wednesday, October 4, 2000
Wedbush Morgan Securities
Portland, Oregon

I'm temping at Wedbush Morgan today. And I don't know if I can do this ever again. Here is a conversation that took place with me and my supervisor. (My unspoken thoughts are in parenthesis).

Kate: Hi Laura, you can go ahead and take over the front desk, Tracy will come out with some tedious project for you to do.

Me: OK, thanks Kate! (great another tedious project).

Tracy: Hi Laura, how are you? If I could just get you to three hole punch these statements for the brokers (as she loads a two-foot pile of papers before me).

Me: Haha! Oh my! (You're not serious are you?)

Tracy: Now some of them go in binders and some of them don't, and some of them don't need to be hole punched, so let me tell you which ones: OK, CFGE need holes, but no binder, CFWF need holes but no binder, CFPD don't need holes AND don't need a binder.

Me: OK, I think I got it, CFGE and CFWF don't need a binder and CFPD don't need holes.

Tracy: No, CFPD don't need holes AND don't need a binder.

Me: Oh, let me write that down (yeah, because I would really try to stick unpunched papers in a three ring binder).

Tracy: Here's the three hole punch, only stick about five in at a time or else you'll break it.

Me: OK, I'll be careful (cause that would be a terrible thing if we broke it and I couldn't continue this hellacious task).

...two hours later...still punching...

Tracy: Hi Laura, would you mind punching these papers for me too?

Me: No problem (if I finish all these maybe I'll get to it)

...30 minutes later...still punching...

Faint voice in back: Tracy, I need these hole punched

Me: (, no...)

Tracy: Laura, I have more papers! Ha ha, you're going to be punching papers all day!

Me: Ha ha (bite me).

...1:00 PM (right after my lunch break)...

Tracy: Now, you know you have to stay until 4:30 right? Because the guy yesterday just left at 4:00.

Me: Yeah, but I was wondering if I could leave at 4:25 so I can catch my express bus home. Is that OK?

Tracy: Well, actually, the phones keep ringing until 4:30 so we really need you to stay. OK, this is how you put these papers into the binders, just slip these metal brads through the holes and close them like this.

Me: OK (hoho! Now THAT's tricky)

Tracy: Oh, and if you could slip these papers of mine into this big binder, just unclip it like this and slide them on like this.

...and then she actually takes them out after she showed me how to put them in...

Me: OK ( couldn't have just kept those in there? Am I really learning something new here?)

Tracy: That's a pretty necklace you're wearing.

Me: Oh, thank you (bite me).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

7 AM to 6 PM

So I come back from vacation and it’s summer. When I left it was 65 degrees and now we’re nearing triple digits. That’s not the only thing that has changed since I left.

I decided to go to Big Lots yesterday on 200 South and the whole lot is torn up. And then Smith’s Marketplace is undergoing an extreme store makeover.

But the most significant change I’ve come back to is learning of the Governor’s mandated schedule change for all state employees. I love how I had to read about this in the paper. I thought maybe this was under discussion while I was gone, but no. Everyone either saw it on the news, read it in the paper; their spouse told them they read it in the paper, or they heard it through the grapevine. Thanks Governor Huntsman.

Apparently a survey went out to a random sampling of state employees AFTER the press release asking them how they felt about it. I’m sorry, but isn’t it less far-sighted to ask employees what they think about something BEFORE you tell them they have to do it?

Anyway, I didn’t get this survey. No one asked me how I felt about this new schedule. And I have some thoughts on it. So I found an interviewer who is interested in what I think:

Interviewer: So how do you feel about this new four day work week for employees?

Me: Oh, you mean the ten-hour work day? I think it kinda sucks. I mean, having Fridays off sounds great, but TEN HOURS of work in a row? Four days in a row? I have a hard enough time getting through eight hours half the time.

Interviewer: What’s the purpose of this change?

Me: To save energy I guess. By shutting state buildings down on Fridays, the state can measure how much energy is saved.

Interviewer: But the buildings will be open earlier and later. The energy hours still add up to 40...and aren’t a lot of offices open on Saturdays? Including where you work?

Me: Don’t get me started…

Interviewer: Sorry. So what are the hours you’ll be working?

Me: 7 AM to 6 PM

Interviewer: Is that too early for you?

Me: I don’t know, I’m up for it I guess. I recently started coming in at 8 AM rather than 9 and it hasn’t been too bad. It’s the ten hours in a row that make me tired just thinking about it.

Interviewer: How will this change your morning routine?

Me: Well, I doubt I’ll be able to work out in the mornings now.

Interviewer: So you exercise in the mornings?

Me: No, but I’ve been meaning to for awhile. So now it it’s NEVER going to happen.

Interviewer: So do you think you’ll have people coming in at 7 AM needing your services?

Me: Yeah right. I guess I’ll just check email and voice mail. I’m considering moving all my makeup and hair products to my office and taking care of that here. No one is going to need me at 7 in the morning -- or anyone else in this building for that matter. Maybe 7 AM can be our nap time. After waking up at 5 AM to get ready for work, I'll probably be ready for a nap by the time I get here.

Interviewer: This should help with your commute though, right? You won’t have to fight traffic.

Me: It only takes me about 6 minutes to drive to work in the morning. I’m not fighting any traffic. However, this will put a cramp on my walking to work when it starts to get dark. If I’m heading home at 6 PM instead of 5 PM it will be much darker. I’m not supposed to walk home in the dark – I hear there are bad people out there.

Interviewer: So what about Casual Fridays? Are you going to get to have Casual Thursdays now?

Me: Everyday is Casual Friday for me.

Interviewer: State Government observes all state and federal holidays. A lot of those fall on Fridays…will you just miss out on those hours off?

Me: Apparently we will still get eight hours of holiday and we just take those off during the week.

Interviewer: Some holidays are on Mondays, so you’ll get a four day weekend! That’s awesome.

Me: Yeah, except not really. Just because we get a Monday off doesn’t mean we get the whole day off. We only get 8 hours for each holiday. So I either come in to work for two hours on a holiday, or, work 11 or 12 hours a day during the rest of the week to make up for it. I am not working 11 hours. Not at my desk.

Interviewer: What about Gallery Stroll? That’s on Fridays. Isn’t your gallery open for that?

Me: Yes, we are. Thank you for asking. The upper echelons sure didn’t think to ask about that. Yeah, I don’t know how that will work. I guess we can come in on Friday nights and open the gallery. But if we’re shutting off the heating Thursday nights, man, in the winter it will be cold in this building.

Interviewer: How else does this affect your programs?

Me: Well, we have to completely redo our Traveling Exhibits schedule so we’re not installing or picking up exhibits on Fridays. That’s a huge pain – especially since I have to re-enter all 65 shows in our database with their new schedules.

Interviewer: It sounds to me that you’re kind of against this change.

Me: Yeah, I guess I don’t think it’s the best idea. But mostly, I’m put off by the way it was handled. I don’t like it when people don’t do their research or ask their employees how it might affect them.

Interviewer: Do you have a better idea for saving energy?

Me: Well, at staff meeting today I proposed “Dark Fridays” where none of us turn on our lights. I do that anyway just about every day. As we speak, I’m sitting in the “dark.” I mean, it’s daytime. We have windows. I can see everything just fine. It’s also freezing in here. Turn down the air, geez. Someone else proposed the idea of giving all state employees discounted UTA passes for the bus, frontrunner or TRAX. I mean, U of U students get them, why shouldn’t we?

Interviewer: Is there anyway the four-day work week could be a good idea for you?

Me: Yes. I’m glad you asked. Like I mentioned earlier, a four day work week sounds great. A ten hour day does not. How about we only work 36 hours a week instead of 40? I could handle coming in at 8 and staying until 6. How much more am I really going to get done at 7 AM? I’m a firm believer in being productive and efficient. Someone mentioned a study that proved employees gets the same amount of work done in a 35 hour work week than they do in a 40 hour work week. It’s just a matter of knowing how to handle your work load. I mean, we all have our busy weeks. There are days when I need to work 10 or 11 hours, but those are special events and occasions.

Interviewer: So would you only get paid for 36 hours a week?

Me: No, our hourly rates would have to go up. We’re doing the same amount of work. Pay us the same amount of money. It’s that ridiculous 7 AM hour that seems so unnecessary to me. Who is out and about needing state services that early in the morning? We’re staying till 6 PM isn’t that enough? Think how much energy we’ll save with hundreds of employees only working 36 hours a week instead of 40? No one thought about that did they?