Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Make your bed!

I can’t talk a lot about my work, though there are many many stories to tell.  Amusing stories, amazing stories, unbelievable stories.  But privacy rules insist that I keep them to myself.  My job is to look deeply into people’s lives; into their employment, assets,  credit histories and collateral.  And after checking everything out, I decide whether or not to let them borrower money.  Sometimes a lot of money.

One of the more fun things about my work is that I get to look at a lot of houses.  I love looking at houses.  I’d be a Realtor if it weren’t for having to work with people.  And all those weekend hours.  But these days in my job I get to look at home appraisals from all over the country.   And the really cool thing is that since all the craziness of the mortgage boom busted and rules have tightened the appraisers have to provide interior photos!

Back in the old days – pre graduate school – appraisals didn’t have interior photos, and I’d see pictures of houses I’d like, and wish I could see what they were like inside.  Well, now all appraisals have interior photos!  And guess what?  People are clutter crazy!  And many of them don’t make their beds!  This doesn’t effect the value of their home, but it does make me smile.  I don’t think people realize the appraiser has to take pictures inside now.

Cause if they did maybe they’d at least put the toilet seat down.


Rejoice! The recession is over!

Heard on the radio during my long commute home tonight that the recession was officially over back in June of 09.  Gee.  Guess they forgot to tell us that up here in Michigan.  What with our unemployment still over 15% we must not have noticed all the rejoicing in the streets back then.  I know I was still employed in a library, albeit part time.  And that I got laid off in October of 2009.

I’m pretty sure I heard that one group making this astounding announcement was a University of Michigan research group.  Huh.  That would be the same university that assured us that many librarians were retiring and that the job outlook for people with my degree looked promising.

Credibility is a bit lacking.  Just saying.


Life is an 8 a.m. class

Many years ago, like many college kids,  I tried to avoid scheduling any classes at 8 in the morning.  Because it was just too hard to drag myself out of bed that early.  But when I graduated and went to work I found out that Life IS AN EIGHT O’CLOCK CLASS!  Rather than maybe having an early class a couple days a week, work meant an early start  EVERY SINGLE DAY!  That was a shock.

Over the years I got used to the early day of work, day in, day out, year in, year out.  Then I did the unimaginable and quit.  Really.  Just quit.  I went back to school where sometimes I had an early morning, sometimes a late night, but never consistency.  And I liked the variation in my days.  After graduation I found part-time work in a library and had some early days, some late nights and again I enjoyed the variation.

But the world changed when our economy went haywire  and library jobs were impossible to find.  So I’m back at the bank and getting used to waking up in the dark and driving through rush hour traffic to sit in a cubicle for the entire day.  Then it’s rush hour traffic home.  Life is once again an 8 a.m. class.

It’s exhausting and sometimes overwhelming.  But I’m working on getting settled in the groove.  The last four years have been, in effect, a very long, very wonderful vacation.  Which is more than most people get.

So I’m appreciative; even as I yawn while driving toward the rising sun each morning.


As the world turns

I’ve been unemployed since last October.  Looking for work is a sobering experience; it starts to play with your mind; makes you wonder about your worth and causes you to rethink decisions made long ago when the world was a different place.

You go to interviews smiling and hopeful, certain that the interviewers can see the value you’d bring to their libraries.  Your years of experience.  Your motivation and enthusiasm for the work.  Your fresh ideas framed in another life, adapted to fit the world of public libraries.

But after months and months of looking and writing and applying and meeting I still have no library work, and that world has become distant and even somewhat foreign to me.  Unemployment benefits are ending soon, husband is still adjusting to his forced retirement.  Tensions mount.

On a whim I applied for an underwriting job on, never thinking that anyone would be interested in me, a person who has been out of the business for over four years.  Turns out that though that particular job didn’t work for me it did lead me to call my previous employer who has offered me a full time job and the opportunity to get my head back into the mortgage underwriting world.

It was a difficult decision to give up the dream of working in a place I feel I’m meant to be.
And to give up the freedom these last few months have afforded me.  But it’s an opportunity I can’t ignore, so the week after next I’ll be putting on grownup clothes again and heading into work with the other rush hour commuters.

I know I’m lucky.  I’ve seen what it’s like out there for the unemployed and it is not pretty.  I also know I am lucky that someone is willing to take a chance on me and let me relearn the industry.  And I’m grateful for all of that, and will give back to them more than their money’s worth.  I always did.

But I’m going to miss the way the light falls on the trees in early afternoon.  I’m going to miss long walks with Katie.  I’m going to miss staying up late reading all night if I want to.  I’m just going to miss the possibilities that hover around each morning when I get up.  The possibilities to do anything or nothing at all.

I’m gonna miss this.


Reality check

Yesterday I attended an AARP sponsored job fair for unemployed people age 50 and up.  I haven’t had to get up so early and dress so nicely in a long time, and it felt strange.  It started at 9:00 in a city about an hour away, so I got to experience rush hour traffic again as well, and I have to say I was OK with that.  Skills long unused came right back as I maneuvered my way down a familiar freeway with all the normal stop and go spots.

I arrived about 8:30 and the huge parking lot of the civic center was filling up.  Inside a couple of hundred people just like me were already in line.  By the time they opened the doors at 9 there were a few hundred more behind me.  All of them dressed in suits, looking quite employable.  All of them over 50.  All of them unemployed.

I talked at length to a couple of women, one used to work in the federal government’s drug enforcement and left to raise her kids.  Now divorced and years away from any work experience she can’t find anything.  She’d welcome a receptionist job if it paid for her health insurance.  Another has been a lawyer for many years and doesn’t want to do that anymore, but can’t find anything else.

The speaker, a volunteer with AARP started out by stating that we might be sitting there feeling “a little bit old and a lot beaten up” as we searched for work.  All around me heads nodded.  She told us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, that we had a wealth of experience and employers wanted that experience.  But that we had to stop automatically closing doors, that some of us were more inflexible than we realized and we needed to show that we were open to ideas and new things, not  just focus on who we were and what we did in our old job.  We need to show a prospective employer what we can do for them NOW, not what we might have done for someone else some time ago.  And she said the young recruiters didn’t want to see us as like their moms and dads, they wanted to see us as more like them.

I have an interview next Monday for a position that would take me back to my old line of work.  I’m going to practice being hip and young and open and inventive and creative over the weekend.

Because I don’t want to be in the nicely dressed older  and unemployed demographic anymore.


Zoning out

This afternoon Katie and I went out to hunt for chipmunks.  Well, she went out to hunt for chipmunks; I was just enjoying the pretty day.  We stopped for a sit underneath the red bud tree.  I noticed the heart shaped leaves against the blue sky.  Katie noticed the chipmunk under the deck.

I dozed a bit, thinking about stuff; my employment situation, the housing market, what to have for supper.  You know – important stuff.   Katie did not doze.  When I came around she was sitting at attention exactly where she was before.  I’d like to think she was guarding me as I napped.  But I think she was just waiting for that chipmunk to venture out from under the deck.

Silly girl.


Walking in the fog

It’s been so warm here, the kind of warm I remember from childhood.  You remember…when you were a kid before houses had air conditioning and you slept on top of your sheets with your pj’s sticking to you and the window of your bedroom open so that the hot air outside could mingle with the hot air inside and your skin felt sticky and your pillow was hot…well…that’s how hot it’s been here these past couple of weeks.

Yesterday morning we woke to fog, and it felt a bit cooler, though maybe that was just an illusion brought on by the gray light and the cooling droplets of mist that stuck to my face and in my hair.  Since I’m still “in training” for that big 10 mile race coming up at the end of the month I decided I’d take myself for a walk before the sun got too strong and burned away the only bit of cool we’ve had in a long time.

So off I went.  The first mile ended at an overpass where as I watched the cars I realized that I was lucky I wasn’t headed off to work when so many people had to, especially those that were getting ready for a new school year to begin.

I’ve been thinking that I need to find work somewhere, and that the odds of me finding it as a librarian are slim…and getting slimmer.  Maybe I’m going to have to start expanding the criteria of work that I’m willing to do.  Maybe I’ll have to defer the dream job for awhile.  Though it sure was fun to dream.

Deep in contemplation I walked further down roads I haven’t walked in a good long time.  Past the golf course which was surprisingly (to me anyway) busy for a foggy weekday morning.

I walked six miles in total, and as the fog lifted I came across my favorite photo of the walk – the side of a barn covered in vines and layers of paint.

Isn’t it beautiful?  It’s sat on the side of this road for many years and I wonder how many people have enjoyed it’s colors prior to me wandering by.  It spoke to me, as if to say; “I’ve been around a long time and I’m still here.  You’ll weather this economic downturn  fine… you may end up with a few surprising colors of paint, but you’ll survive…just like me.”

It was a good walk.


Second interview musings

I had a second interview today at the urban library I interviewed with a couple of weeks ago.  I have no idea how it went.  Once again there was a question that I didn’t handle well.  This one was about how constant media, the 24/7 news shows and available information changes outreach responsibilities.  I really need to think about this; I’ve never considered how the two might interrelate.  So I muddled through and I doubt that whatever I said made any sense at all.

Regardless, I did the best I could.   I’ve never asked more than that from anyone else, so I guess I can’t expect more than that from me.

But still.


An interview reflection

Most of you know that I’m a frustrated librarian–frustrated because I can’t seem to find work in the field that I love so much.  Today I had an interview at a public library in an urban setting.  It’s a place that I could really do some good work, but we’ll see if I convinced them of that fact.

Of course on the drive home  better answers for some of the questions. surfaced effortlessly to the top of my mind.  Isn’t that the way it always is?    Instead of  stumbling around trying to connect how to use technology and literacy to improve the community I should have just focused on the fact that I am, by nature, a collaborator.  Instead of trying to come up with an instant idea, I should have stated that  I can’t claim to be an expert in those  fields, but I do know how to research and find solutions.   I don’t think I made that clear.

Funny, one of my strengths with patrons is that I’m patient while finding out what the reference question really is…yet today I jumped at the first thought that floated through my brain rather than working with the interviewers to find out exactly what they meant by the question.

Another lesson learned.


Who's economy is recovering? Not ours.

funky art 078 There’s a mall nearby that is closing.  All the interior stores have closed and only a couple of the big stores on the ends remain open.  There has been talk for years about what could be done to make the property more viable but it’s always seemed inevitable to me that the mall would fail.  Three or four years ago I did all my Christmas shopping there because it was never crowded.  Not even just before the holiday.

They were advertising wonderful sales at Macy’s; 50% off already marked down stuff.  Husband and I decided to go see what was available.  It was oddly sad.  Most of the store was blocked off, and merchandise was piled and hung in clumps, thoroughly picked over, like an overpriced garage sale.

funky art 081 But for me the saddest things were in the basement where they were selling fixtures; shelving, file cabinets, decorations, mirrors, tables and manikins.  The naked manikins, standing in groups, lined up or hanging in rows were somehow disheartening.  Like children not picked to play on a team in middle school gym class, they seem lonely.  And a little bit embarrassed at being unclothed.  Yet the symmetry of their body parts was intriguing as well.  The way they were grouped together, either as members of a marching army, or guests at a cocktail party seemed to inspire a story.  One without a happy ending.

Which is why I went back a day or two later with my camera.  To capture the end of an era.

funky art 080