Time out

Hey! This is my last week of near-absolute freedom to do whatever I want before I start my new job on Monday! Yay, me! I think.

There are still all kinds of things to do around Our Humble O’Bode before the snow flies, but I don’t know how many of them will get done in these last five or six days because I’m feeling a very strong urge to relax and do nothing in anticipation of re-entering the work force, an urge I think I just might indulge at least a little bit.

I spent yesterday morning and a bit of the afternoon tidying up the basement work shop. It didn’t look like tidying up at first. It looked a whole lot more like I was gathering up all the lumber that was leaning against the three walls of the work shop and throwing it all on the floor in a big heap, not an improvement at all. I needed to make some room on the floor, though, so I could knock together a frame that I eventually tipped up and screwed to the back wall, then added arms to so I could pick the lumber up off the floor and stack it on our new lumber rack.

I used to have something like this before I knocked down a wall to make room for a bigger work shop, but as it was part of the wall that got knocked down, I haven’t had a storage rack for months and lumber’s been piling up all around the walls of the room. This sucked in a big way. Every time I turned around in there I knocked something over. Finally, yesterday, I scrounged up some scrap lumber, cut it to fit, cleared a spot on the floor and screwed it all together, and voila! Storage for most of the lumber that was previously clattering to the ground because of my elbows.

It took me a little more than an hour this morning to fax a copy of my military discharge to the Department of Administration. They love to collect documents like that, and now that I’m working for them they’re putting together a file on me. I supposed that should make me worry, but I’m getting old enough that my paranoia doesn’t kick in until the commandos in stealth helicopters land in my back yard. Jane from the DoA doesn’t even register on my paranoi-o-tron.

You’d think the public library would have a public fax, wouldn’t you? I would. You can do just about anything else there: answer your e-mail, write a novel, print a form, and you can even check out books yet. But they don’t have a fax machine. “You could go to Kinko’s on Monona Drive,” the librarian suggested.

I figured I’d need a cover sheet to send a fax, so I sat down at one of the terminals and composed a very simple one when I couldn’t find a free template on-line. The computer locked up, though, when I tried to print it, and the librarian couldn’t figure out why. She logged in to the terminal right next to it (because I was still logged in to the locked-up terminal and couldn’t be logged in on two machines) so I could try again. “Is there a word processor on this machine?” I asked her, after a quick glance at the vacant directories.

“Sure,” she said, then came up short as she poked around in the same empty directories I’d just been through.

I thanked her for her help, jumped in the car and headed for Kinko’s. Did you think there were still places like Kinko’s out there where you could get big print jobs done? I sure didn’t. I was positive that everybody printed everything on computers any more, but no. The Kinko’s on Monona Drive is a classic offset print shop, with three big, stinky lithograph printers visible in the back of the room and piles of print jobs stacked on the countertop. I thought for a moment I’d been sucked through a crack in time to my days working in the basement of the Iola Herald.

“Help you?” the guy behind the counter asked me.

“If you can send a fax for me, yes,” I answered.

“You think we can do that?”

I smiled at him. “You guys have printing presses. There’s probably a fax machine in here somewhere.”

There was, and he did. He even had a printed cover sheet for me. Three minutes later my fax was on its way and I was headed home again. Total elapsed time from the moment I left the house to go to the library: one hour. Wish I’d thought of Kinko’s in the first place.

Nice Pants

There’s just no way to buy pants that doesn’t make it an unpleasant experience, and I can’t figure out why. It drives me crazy because there’s not a lot to figure out. You go to the store, you find the pants, you try on the pants, you buy the pants. There shouldn’t be anything difficult about it. I should be in and out in ten minutes, no more than twenty. It never works out that way. Never. Almost never. Well, okay. Today, it did. Try not to faint.

Since I’m starting my new office job in a week and a half I thought it’d be nice to get some new slacks, the better to look sharp and professional in my new work place. The closest place to buy clothes is at the Kohl’s on Broadway, practically just around the corner, so I hopped into the O-Mobile this morning, hit the gas and went roaring off to my destiny.

What a clod. I’ve been through this so many times at Kohl’s that I ought to know better. They have two kinds of dress slacks: Dirt Cheap and Holy Crap That’s Expensive! And they’re both made out of fabric so shiny I can almost see my reflection in them. I spent exactly five minutes browsing the dress pants at Kohl’s before making a Pfffth! noise through pursed lips, getting back into the car and heading north to East Towne.

(The name of the East Towne mall makes sense if you consider that the West Towne mall was built first and is, in fact, due west of Madison proper. The East Towne mall is sort of to the east, if you tip the map to the right a little bit and aren’t too literal-minded.)

I went to JC Penny’s because I knew where it was and I could go from my car to the Men’s Department in about two minutes. That’s my kind of shopping. As for the pants, they had three kinds: the two mentioned above, as well as Holy Crap That’s On Sale at Half Price! Quite a lot of the pants were made of shiny fabric again – what the hell is that stuff? – but after a short search I was able to find some made of a good-looking poly-wool blend that didn’t feel like plastic cling wrap. I bought three pairs, and a button-down cotton shirt on sale. It was Cheapskate Day at JC Penny’s. I’ve rarely been so pleased with myself.

Employable after all

image of blue skies

Yesterday I got the phone call I’ve been hoping for: A manager at the Department of Regulation and Licensing called to offer me the job I applied for in her section. When I interviewed for it a week and a half ago she told me they’d make a decision some time this week, so I’ve sitting on tenterhooks since Monday. I told her I’d be happy to take it. I start on September 27th.

That’s a load off my mind. I haven’t been looking for a job nearly as long as some people, but it’s been nine weeks since my position was eliminated, and when I listen to the news it’s mostly bad: unemployment claims are up, jobs are down and the economy gets worse each day. On top of that, I’m nearly fifty years old and my professional skill set is geared toward office work. I can type eighty words a minute, I’m pretty good at ginning up a spread sheet and I can sift columns of data for eight hours without going blind. Trouble is, the office environment is glutted with college grads looking for work. Confident as I am in my abilities, the trick was to get potential employers to feel confident about hiring a fifty year old geezer instead of a freshly-minted twenty-one year old.

And somehow I managed to do it. Yay, me.

For my next trick, I’ll have to figure out how to get to work. My new day job starts at seven forty-five in the morning, same time My Darling B puts her nose to the grindstone, and, as it turns out, quitting time will be the same for both of us as well. To do that, one of us will have to get to work at least twenty minutes early, then look for something more stimulating that picking his or her nose for twenty minutes while waiting for a ride home.

Buying another car to get around this little kink would be a waste of money, as far as I’m concerned, unless I can convince somebody to part with his Volkswagen Beetle for a thousand bucks or less. I managed to do that once before in my life, and I used up a lot of my charm convincing my new employer to hire me, so it’s hard to imagine haggling a Beetle owner down to practically nothing again. But you never know until you try. Winter has typically been the hardest season in which to sell a Volkswagen, and the snow’s going to start flying in just a few weeks around here. Perhaps I still have a little haggle left in me after all.

Just for giggles, I rode my bike from Our Humble O’Bode to the offices of the Department of Regulation and Licensing, just to see how long it would take me and how hard the route was. The good news: The route’s easy, and it takes only forty minutes even in my decrepit state of physical fitness. The bad news: Remember what I wrote a paragraph before about snow? There are quite a few commuters around her hearty enough to bicycle to work on the bleakest sub-zero days. I’ve seen them pedaling to work when temps dip as low as twenty below zero. I’ve never tried that, but I feel I can say without benefit of experience that I’m not made of that kind of stuff. I might ride my bike to work for a little while yet this year, but by the end of November or the beginning of December I’ll have to find another way to get there, no question.

The only other thing I really need to know about finally accepting a new job is, do I get to keep on receiving unemployment benefits from now until September 27th? What I can find on the state’s web site is that I have to look for work, which seems redundant now that I’ve found a job. I called the state office that handles unemployment benefits claims but, after navigating the phone tree options, a recorded voice informs me that they’re getting more calls than their automated system can handle. Then the line goes dead. No help there today; I’ll have to try again tomorrow.


image of rough lake

Day after Labor Day, back to the grindstone. Oh, wait. I’m still on seven-day weekends. Never mind.

Or not. I’ve still got some yard work to do before the snow flies, and from the way the weather’s been acting that’s probably going to be at about noon on Thursday. I’ve pledged that I will finish painting the siding on Our Humble O’Bode before winter, for starters. I haven’t ever attached a condition to that – “I’ll either finish painting or eat all the paint chips scattered around the foundation of the house! With milk and sugar!” – but I’d end up eating a lot of crow if I don’t, so the push is on. There isn’t much left. I should be able to finish in a week or so. The soffits and all the window frames need to be painted, too, but I never said anything about those so I think I’m safe there.

Other yard work, such as trimming the overgrown lilac and honeysuckle bushes, will get done only if I can finish painting. In that case, I might end up taking care of that next spring. Care to put any money on that?

The other Very Important Thing I’ve got to do today is return the videos we rented from Bongo Video that we should’ve taken back last night because the late charges are crazy expensive. I don’t know why we don’t just hand them the rental fee plus one or two days’ late charges when we take the movies out in the first place. I can’t remember the last time we rented movies and didn’t pay the late fees. We used to feel guilty about that, but guilt slowly morphed into self-satisfaction that we were doing our part to keep a local business afloat with our very own financial mini-stimulus program.

I picked one hell of a day to return the videos to the store on my bike. All the wind in the world is right here in Madison today – apologies to the folks in Galveston, but it’s one-hundred and one percent true. The wind was even kicking up rollers across Lake Monona big enough to surf on, not that anyone was taking advantage of it.


Went to my first job interview since I started my adventures in unemployment. Aced it. They want me. I’m hired. I start tomorrow morning.

Kidding. It was an interview for a state job; the state doesn’t work that fast. But I wasn’t kidding about how well the interview went, at least from my point of view. I had a good time, and I mean that in an entirely unsarcastic way. They couldn’t have made it any more comfortable for me unless they’d met me at the door with a chilled glass of beer, seated me in a Barcalounger, taken off my shoes and rubbed my feet while we had a little chat about our pets.

But I almost didn’t make it to my first interview, can you believe it? When they contacted me to set up the interview they told me it would be at the state building on Washington Avenue. I’m well familiar with the state building on the corner of Washington and Webster. I even thought to myself how nice it would be to work on capital square. When I left the house, I figured travel time based on a trip to the square and even had all the best parking spots in mind, which is how I got there with plenty of time to spare.

Then, as I was walking up the street to the state building, I checked my notes – which I wrote myself! – to figure out which entrance to use, and that’s apparently the first time I realized that the address they gave me, 1400 East Washington, was not the building I was walking to. It wasn’t even within walking distance. I had the sinking feeling it might not be close enough to drive to in time to keep my appointment, and that’s why you would have seen me running down Webster to the parking ramp at twenty minutes till two if you’d been in downtown Madison yesterday afternoon.

My lucky star was still burning brightly, though. Traffic was light and all I had to do was go straight up Washington to find the right building, an ordinary-looking office complex just before the bridge over the Yahara river. I even managed to get there with twenty minutes to spare, not as early as I would have liked, but not as late as I was sure I was going to be.

And the rest went smooth as silk. They gave me a copy of the questions they were going to ask me so I could prepare before I went in to see them, and after introductions we all sat down and they read the questions off the sheet to me, word for word. I guess that’s to make sure everyone gets exactly the same interview so we can’t come back to sue the state for preferential treatment. Not that I’m complaining. It gave me a chance to organize my thoughts, make a few notes and sound like I knew what I was talking about, and that’s sort of important when it comes to impressing a potential employer.

One down, who knows how many more to go?

Tried, Tested & True

I totally aced the tests I took yesterday at Job Center of Wisconsin. The counselors I was required to see there if I wanted to continue to receive unemployment benefits, and I really do so long as I’m unemployed, strongly suggested that I should take a series of tests, called Work Keys, to receive a certification telling potential employers I’m so very smart that they should hire me. Since I’m not all that smart, I figured a certificate saying I was could be a big help. Certainly couldn’t hurt, anyway.

So I went to the Work Keys lab yesterday afternoon, or actually I wandered around the campus of the Madison Area Technical College until I could buttonhole a security guard and ask him to tell me where the Work Keys lab was. Turned out I had to exit the building, cross four lanes of traffic and find an obscure entrance on the far side of a completely different building, so right off the bat I wasn’t doing so good. Thank goodness finding the lab wasn’t part of the test.

I was scheduled to take two of three tests, but I blew through them so quickly the proctor let me take the third one, too, so I wouldn’t have to go back. The questions were all multiple choice and the first two-thirds of each test was made up of questions that were so easy I read them over and over again, looking for the catch. “You worked 37.5 hours at a rate of $11.35 an hour. How much did you make?” That’s the question? Really? The last ten or so questions were so convoluted, though, they more than made up for the ease of the first slew of questions.

The first test was reading comprehension and the second was math. I aced the math. I admit I was pretty well chuffed about that, seeing as how I got C’s in math all through high school and college. I could only manage ninety-eight percent on the reading portion, though – bummer. The final test was looking up stuff on charts, tables and graphs. It had a better name than that but I can’t remember what it was. I aced that one, too. The proctor said I was the first person to take all three tests in one day and earn the “platinum” rating; if that’s true, maybe the job hunt won’t be as difficult as I thought it would.


I totally chickened out today. When I stepped out with My Darling B to the car this morning we could both tell it was going to be another day hot and humid enough to boil the most hale and hearty person until he’s limp and stinky as spaghetti with a double helping of garlic pesto, so as soon as I got back home I closed up all the windows, drew the blinds, turned on the air conditioning and retreated to the cool, cave-like confines of my basement lair where I stayed all morning and just about all afternoon, working on an on-line certification that’s supposed to make me more employable. That’s the longest sentence I’ve written in years. Don’t let this happen to your kids! Get them away from their computer terminals and out of the house now!

I went outside twice today, four times if you count when I drove B to work and when I went to pick her up. I don’t because I get into the car (and out again) while it’s parked in the garage and that doesn’t seem like leaving the house to me, although come to think of it I did stop at the grocery store on the way home this morning so I guess by my own count I was outside three times.

Round about one o’clock I walked to Fraboni’s up the block to buy a sandwich roll and almost made it all the way home without suffering heat exhaustion or massive blood loss. As if the heat hasn’t made it hard enough to go outside for any more than twenty or thirty minutes, a bumper crop of mosquitoes has made it impossible to go outside for any length of time unless you keep moving, and even then you’ll have to resign yourself to getting bit on every exposed patch of skin wide enough that a mosquito can land on it if you don’t douse yourself in gasoline and light yourself on fire. Mosquitoes won’t touch you if you’re on fire. It’s the only way to be sure.

The third and last time I went outside was to tip over a pail full of water, because we’ve already got enough mosquitoes. We don’t need to give them any of the conveniences that would let them make more. Power-walking as quickly as I could across the back yard to the garden I flipped over the bucket, paused a moment to make sure it was drained, then sprinted back to the door, swatting the many ranked legions of mosquitoes that were marching across my arms and legs while massed squadrons followed close behind me until I slammed the door in their pointy little faces.

Other than those few bursts of activity, I spent the day at my computer monitor trying to plow through the National Career Readiness Certification for Jobseekers. The helpful people at the Job Center of Wisconsin hinted mightily that, if I completed this, it would give me an edge in all the jobs I applied for at both the state and local levels, should I chose to do that. I’ve been applying for many state and local jobs, so I’m trying to finish this up as soon as possible but it’s like taking the SAT all freaking day instead of for only four hours, and I’m quite a ways from being done still. But, as it happens, I’ve got some free time …


Eleanor Roosevelt used to write a daily newspaper column called My Day. I’ve read the ones that were considered interesting enough to compile and print in a book (imaginatively titled My Day) and they’re about what you’d get if you went to any random blog, adjusting for the fact that Eleanor had a finger in just about every pie in Washington, D.C., let alone that she was the wife of FDR.

She didn’t let that prevent her from writing about utterly mundane things. If you can, imagine one of the Python boys seated at a doily-covered table (I’m thinking Graham Chapman would’ve made a great Eleanor Roosevelt) with a cup of tea in hand, squawking, “Someone sent me a most amusing present. When I came into my room this afternoon, I thought I was being visited by a zoo, for it was surrounded by four polar bears. On closer inspection, however, I found that the polar bears were guarding a goldfish bowl…” So, even though she was living in the White House, someone punked her room while she was out. Then, she blogged about it, because if you don’t blog about it, it didn’t happen. See? Some things never change.

That quote came from Eleanor’s January 7, 1936, column, in case you were thinking I made that up.

I’m no Eleanor Roosevelt, but I’m reminded of her column every day when My Darling B asks me, “So, what’re you going to do today?” Wow, you really want to know? I’m going to wash the dishes, then sweep the floor, then clean the cat box, then fold the laundry … eat your heart out, Eleanor!

For what it’s worth, then, here’s my day:

5:45 – Alarm goes off, get up to make coffee for My Darling B. Arguably the most rewarding thing I do all day. B gives me a kiss for it.

6:00 – Read comics while wolfing down a big bowl of granola generously doused in lactose-free milk.

6:20 – Sit on sofa to chat with B after she emerges from shower & pours herself a cuppa joe. Her side of the conversation always starts: “I don’t wanna go to work.” She always goes to work anyway, because she has a flawless work ethic.

6:45 – While B gets dressed for work, I clean out the cat boxes and fill cat feeders. A cat feeder is a great big bowl divided into five sections that rotates like a lazy susan. There’s a cover over the bowl so the cats can get to only one section at a time, and a motor turns the bowl according to a timer. The cat boxes are simple plastic pans that I have to rake the poop out of twice a day. We got the wrong motorized cat appliance.

7:00 – Drive B to work. I take the Beltline to Midvale Boulevard because it’s the fastest way to cross down. It’s also the most dangerous, hundreds of speeding cars jammed bumper-to-bumper as if it were a Nascar event. How we avoid mangled pileups & firey death every day is a mystery to me.

8:00 – Home again, home again, jiggidy-jog. Drink the rest of the coffee while reading the morning news.

8:45 – This being Monday, I applied for unemployment benefits. I can do this online in about two minutes, and thank goodness because getting through on the telephone is more agonizing than getting my teeth drilled. I think I could probably do it in less than one minute if a glitch in the system didn’t ask me to go through the login procedure twice.

8:47 – Update Facebook status & otherwise doink around on the interwebs.

9:00 – Unload the dishwasher, pile it with dirty dishes, start.

9:30 – Sort dirty clothes, throw a pile in the wash machine. Yes, I sort clothes even though I’m a guy. You can’t live with the same woman for twenty years and not sort the clothes.

9:45 – Apply for a job, something else you can do on-line in about two minutes, believe it or not. Hat tip to My Darling B for catching the vacancy announcement on the state job web site. Maybe I’ll be clerking in the Journalism department at the UW soon. Not holding my breath, though.

10:00 – Walk to the bank. This counts toward my physical conditioning for the day so I came back through Greenlawn Cemetery just to make a big circle.

11:00 – Pet the cat.

11:15 – (Yes, it took fifteen minutes to pet the cat. He’s a needy cat.) Off to the store to get nylon socks for the finches, by special request from My Darling B. No, finches aren’t into legware. These socks are bird feeders. Fill them with nyjer seed and finches come peck the seed out through the nylon mesh.

11:45 – Fix the bird feeder, fill up the thistle socks, sound the dinner bell. Go in and pout when the birds don’t come flocking to the sumptuous spread I put out for them.

12:45 – Start working on dressing up the windows I installed last weekend. The windows themselves look great, but the rough opening they’re hanging in is so rough it looks as though I used hand grenades to take out the old windows. I built a box frame around each one yesterday and I’m going to cut & fit molding around the insides today.

2:15 – Break time! Drink a quart of water while doinking around on the interwebs.

2:30 – Back to work on the other window. I’m losing hope that I’ll get a nap this afternoon.

3:45 – Knock off for the day and head for the showers to clean up before fetching My Darling B from work. The home improvement project still needs a little fine-tuning but it’ll do for now, and I really need to cool down and get unstinky before I drive across town.

5:30 – Home again, home again, jiggedy-jog. Sandwiches for dinner so B doesn’t have to spend lots of time in a hot kitchen on this hot day right before we head off to dance class.

6:30 – B catches a few winks before dance class while I doink around on the internet.

7:00 – Dance class. Swing dance tonight. It’s supposed to be a group class but only B and I show up so we get a private lesson. We learn a little technique, how to spin, do a little core work, then learn a new swing step, passing side-to-side, so we’ll have a few new moves when we go see Ladies Must Swing at the Terrace on Friday.

9:00 – Home again, home again … you know the rest. Time to relax. Wind down. Take it easy, Maybe read a couple chapters.

9:03 – Zzzzzzz …

Only a Test

image of hobo

I had to go to a class yesterday morning to learn how not to be unemployed. Now that I know, I can get to work on that right away.

In one of those letters “requesting and requiring” my presence, Job Center of Wisconsin asked me to attend a meeting of the newly-unemployed at their classrooms in the pole barn on the north end of town. Roughnecks in hardhats were tearing out the walls and ceiling and otherwise drowning out any useful information I might have gotten while I was there, so I nodded when the speaker appeared to pause for effect. I spent a lot of time pouring over the many brightly-colored handouts they gave us, too, and whenever the PowerPoint slide had the phrase “show of hands” on it anywhere, I raised my hand. Non-participation could mean ineligibility for benefits, so I was one hyper-participating mofo.

The case workers who interviewed me were pleased with my participation, so I must have been doing it right. I’ve successfully nodded my way through plenty of military briefings but applying those lessons to civilian life can sometimes be a little dicey. Civilians are likely to ask a question before they pause, for instance. Nodding makes you look like a great big goober in that case, but that didn’t happen yesterday, thank dog.

My case workers also encouraged me to attend several of the many workshops at the Job Center and, after looking over my resume, suggested applying for several state jobs advertised on their web site and, once again, were pleased when I said I’d already submitted applications for several. Just trying to stay one jump ahead of the game.

I applied for any and every job that I came even close to qualifying for, to make sure it was on the record that I was looking for work, but I’m under no illusions that I’m the only one putting in my resume. I scored particularly well on the last two applications I made but still haven’t been called for an interview. I’m guessing there were a few thousand applicants for those jobs and maybe a couple hundred ahead of me who scored one point better than I did. This becoming re-employed game could take a while.

The class ended with a test. They sat us in front of computers to answer a multiple-choice exam meant to evaluate our abilities to read, do math and solve problems. I may have been a bit too literal on the reading portion because I didn’t score very well, and the math portion pissed me off so bad I gave up at the point when I wanted to give the screen a tap with a sledge hammer. I mean to say, figuring out the volume of a cone is very quantifiable. They gave me a calculator and a cheat sheet with the freaking formula, so why did I come up with a result that was just a little bit off? Not way off. Not a misplaced decimal. Just a teensy bit off. I must’ve done that calculation half a dozen times before I finally gave up, picked “C” and exited the exam.

I did a great job of the problem-solving portion though. Go figure.

Great Wheel

Okay, I admit it: I’m getting restless. I’ve been unemployed for three weeks now and it’s making me antsy, BUT IT’S NOT BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO STAY AT HOME READING BOOKS, PETTING THE CAT AND WRITING DRIVEL ALL DAY. I hope we’re straight on that.

I’ve always said I don’t understand people who say they could never retire because they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves all day. That’s just sad. I can think of a gojillion things I’d rather do that go to work. Got that? A gojillion!

When my position was eliminated my employer sent me to a job-hunting seminar and one of the featured speakers at this seminar began her talk by pointing at me and asking, by way of trying to be motivational, “If you didn’t have to go to work, what would you do with yourself?”

I made a huge mistake answering her. Never having to work ever again would be my dream, so I laughed, which I realized later sounded a lot like a dismissive guffaw, and I said, “I wouldn’t do anything!

She rocked back on her heels and barked, “Huh!” heavily inflecting her canine reply with enough disdain to wilt a lesser man than I. “Well, you’ve got to do something! You can’t do nothing forever!

First, she’s wrong. I could do nothing for quite a long time. Twenty-one years in the military have trained me well in the ways of inertia. It makes my head fuzzy and I feel like a lump of mud, and if I kept it up for more than a week I’d be just as disgusted with myself as she was, but I could do it.

Second, what I meant was that I certainly wouldn’t end up biting my nails, wondering what to do with myself. I would instead happily spend the rest of my days reading & cat-petting & otherwise puttering, but I think she took it as a personal rebuke. I wanted to explain that and offer my apologies, until she doinked me a couple more times for by repeating the “You can’t just do nothing” meme throughout her talk. By the time she was done I was telegraphing death threats to her in Morse code by blinking my eyes.

So long as we understand that I would be able to cope rather well with not having to go to work, when “work” is defined as reporting to a cubicle daily to bang away at a pile of somebody else’s paperwork that never seems to get any smaller, I’ll continue my original thought: I’m getting a little restless about being out of work. It’s making me antsy because My Darling B shouldn’t have to venture into cubicle hell alone every day to bring home a paycheck.

I had these lofty dreams of becoming a writer, and she very graciously agreed to give me time to look for job vacancies that would let me pursue that dream. Isn’t she the perfect wife? She is, take my word for it. She’s also spoken for. You can’t have her. Just cry in your coffee and get over it.

But my dreams are not going to be enough to get me a job as a writer. Employers would like to see examples of your work, product, but the only things I’ve written in the past twenty-five years are performance appraisals, award write-ups and training manuals. They were damn good appraisals and write-ups, but I’m beginning to get the idea that, without the backup of some night classes in technical writing, they’re not going to win over a potential employer.

Shortly after my previous employer eliminated my position I got a call from the HR department inviting me to apply for a job as an admin assistant. In fact, it was the same job they hired me for five years ago. “Thanks for the years of dedicated service! Want your entry-level job back?” I’m sure they were trying to help, but it still felt like salt in the wound.

Yet now here I am, looking at entry-level jobs. The Great Wheel of Life has turned full circle in just a few years. I’d like to take those night classes but I don’t see how we’ll be able to afford them, or anything else, if I’m not bringing home a paycheck that’s a bit sturdier than the unemployment benefits crutch we’re leaning on now.