Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Very Late - May Reads

Book Club: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood 

This is a collection of 9 short stories. I have mixed feelings about short story collections. I tend to get attached and then get really disappointed when they're over. The first three were a tied in that they were told from 3 different character perspectives reminiscing about the past. My pick to win - I would have read an entire book about it - was the short about a man who gave away shares of a book that he hadn't written yet in order to make rent and of course it becomes a cult classic. A very good revenge plot. A good recommendation for: indecisive people and maybe someone who doesn't have time to read a longer book. 

Bone Gap - Laura Ruby 

It was a magical realism story about a girl who goes missing from a small town where everyone knows everyone. Ehhhh...   I didn't like the over powering themes of beauty vs. ugly and made all men out to be sexual predators. It was supposedly empowering and feminist according to reviews I read. But mostly it was damsel in distress and a man comes to save the day. The man this time fitting a more beta-male archetype. A good recommendation for: Angsty teens who secretly like disney. 

The Residue Years - Mitchell S. Jackson 

A drug addict mother gets out of rehab and has to follow state protocols in order to free herself of the system - meanwhile her drug dealing son is trying to sell enough to set his family sailing in a comfortable way. Both of them struggle to look out for one another. I love that this looked at a broken system without pointing fingers and shouting "this is a broken system!" Jackson has a really strong voice and it was an enthralling read. The themes of addiction, family, consequence and cycle are tightly woven. A story gritty to the touch, a poverty - if you've been around American poverty, that rings true. This does contain drugs, sex, graphic situations. A good recommendation for: My old english teacher, Mrs. Hamblin. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Yoink! April Reads...

My friend from high school, Madison, is an inspiration. More well-read than any person I've ever encountered. So stealing from her...

April Reads

Devil in the White City - Erik Larsen
Dipping my toe into the non-fiction waters. I was pleasantly surprised. Alternating chapters describing the competition, struggle and artistic collaboration that went into the Chicago World Fair in the late 1890's and the gruesome story of serial killer H.H. Holmes. Has some dragging bits, but power through, it's worth it... all the best momentum of the H.H. Holmes story is saved for the end. A good recommendation: for history buffs and people who like Dexter. 

A Fall of Marigolds - Susan Meissner 
Light fiction. I'm a sucker for anything NYC... but this one tried too hard to be emotional. Swing and a miss. It ties tales of a woman who lost someone in 9/11 and a woman at the turn of the century who lost someone in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. A good recommendation for: Mom and hopeless romantics. 

The Contortionist's Handbook - Craig Clevenger
I read this because of the great book review by Chuck Palahniuk. Again - a swing and a miss. A lot of repetitive description again. I appreciate the amount of research that went into researching how to steal identities in the 1980's... buuuut... I never thought I'd say this, but that's enough drugs, sex and drugs and pathological lying to last me a lifetime. A good recommendation for: a short read if you're feeling like reinventing yourself. 

The Chronology of Water - Lidia Yuknavitch
This was last month's book club book. Local Oregon writer delving into memoir. Great story in bits, great prose in bits, great contrasts and themes and then terrible name dropping. I think I liked her childhood self, but I'm not so sure if I met her in person if I would like her. Overall thoughts: maybe I'll try her fiction but I think I may have had enough of Grown up Lidia. A good recommendation for: lit students who pride themselves on being edgy and people who have a strong tolerance for sexual deviancy. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend Update

So it's been a while...

This Week...

  • The work weight loss challenge went down in flames because my coworker thinks that it's "inaccurate." 
  • I wanted to quit my job 3 out of the 5 days this week. 
  • Portland passed law raising minimum wage to $15 an hour (Start date - ???) 
  • Laura got me up to Seattle for a girl's weekend. 

Inaccurate?! Laughable. Upon prodding, she gave more details about her interpretation... that it's inaccurate to weigh in on different days and at different times during the day. I suppose that would be true if we were all weighing in on different days like... Girl 1 on Monday, Girl 2 on Tuesday and Girl 3 on Wednesday. But the fact that we are all weighing in on the same scale in front of each other means that we are all experiencing the same advantages and disadvantages. Let's also talk for just a moment about how on the road to losing 20lbs weighing in on a Thursday at noon instead of Thursday at 9am or even Wednesday at 9am... it doesn't make much difference. And if you didn't get to pee beforehand, the weigh in will be amazing next week. I mean, seriously these things even themselves out.

So, Inaccurate? Pssshhhh... yeah, right. I think this has more to do with her being dead last by more than a 5lb margin than inaccuracies. But to each their own, good accountability buddies are hard to find. The other woman in the office and I are going to keep weighing in on Wednesdays to try and beat down the holiday pounds.

I think I'm getting better at my job... but I also think I'm still so untrained and I still haven't fully gotten the rhythm of what I'm doing... and on top of that, I thought I was doing the daily deposit correctly for the past month and I was wrong. I've been checking balances with the wrong account ledger (but funnily enough, the imbalance was not my fault, a correction I asked for was miscorrected)... though still, I was not doing the check correctly so therefore I am to blame for everything. So I endured the wrath of office manager and office manager in training.

Wrath = silent treatment and red angry faces. Then the whole jargon-spouting correction. Then me looking back blank faced because really I don't know what was just said.... Repetition of the jargon. Then my request for a demonstration along with jargon so I can interpret. I seriously feel like I'm trying to understand a foreign language. I haven't felt this dumb for such a long time (form and analysis anyone?) So I'm thinking this may not be the career path for me. Of course I'm going to see it out and make sure it's not just me backing out of a challenge.

All that in contrast made it extra delightful to spend time with Laura and get out of the city for a bit. The train ride was wonderful. So much beauty out here with the undergrowth and the moss growing on naked trees... the whole countryside was still so very green. She and I went to dinner at Market Street and did the girl chat thing until 3am... the next day we brunched, went to the Snoqualmie waterfall and the Snoqualmie Casino (first time I've ever played the slots, and most definitely the last) and had dinner in downtown Kirkland. We watched The Fault In Our Stars - the movie adaptation of my favorite author's most recent publication. All in all a fun, action packed weekend.

Back to the grind though... Let's do another week... let's see if I can't turn this around... As that ever-damp camp counselor from BYU Young Ambassadors said... "One more time, without the suck!"


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Insurance and a Weight Loss Challenge.

This Week's Read:

Brain on Fire - Susannah Cahalan Biography/memoir
New York Post writer has lost a month of her life. Literally. She can't remember a thing. Susannah contracted a quickly advancing disease that made her temporarily lose her mind. In this book she documents the research she's done to piece together her missing month of memory - schizophrenic episodes, seizures, inconclusive test after test trying to find the cause of her erratic behavior.



It's been a decent enough week. I'm getting the hang of my job a bit more. Enough that I've been spending a significant amount of time correcting my mistakes made this far. It has been a touch stressful - and I'm fighting some severe apathy. This is normal for me. Challenge - excitement - failure - apathy - quietly observing and learning without letting people see me fail or struggle to put it all together. That's my approach.

It is time for open enrollment at work for insurance benefits. I am feeling like a kid at christmas! Medical, Dental, Vision! OH MY! And much cheaper than the private market. The company is trying to push everyone towards HSAs so they don't have such a large expense. The number that HR was throwing around in the meeting was that Corporate is paying $6 million per year to insure 965 employees and their dependents. It gets worse before it gets better, right?



Mister is getting the bed put together. We are in the assembly phase. I am struck by two major things... 1) IT IS HEAVY.  2) IT IS STILL NOT DONE.

Making your own furniture - unless it is going to get dedicated 24/7 attention - will take forever and occupy half your garage and sometimes part of your kitchen (because it's less humid in there which is better for the wood).



The girls at work and I have started a bet. Whomever can lose 20lbs before 12/31 gets a visa gift card paid for by the losers. The gift card is either $30 or $1 for every pound the losers are away from their -20 goal - whichever is more. We weighed in on Wednesday last week. I've been back to tracking calories on I haven't jumped on the work out train again yet. But food is 75% of the battle.

I spent the weekend cooking again because it was really nice to not have to grocery shop and cook last week. We picked up some odds and ends and I made a couple more soups (really great for the fitness challenge) and some meatballs again. I feel confident in saying I've got 3 more recipes under my belt.



Mister's parents are coming for the Thanksgiving weekend. They're staying in a hotel downtown. I'm nervous of course, because I feel the need to impress and entertain. I kinda wish we could have put them up in the house but alas, no couches, no extra beds, no kitchen table/chairs... it's kind of limited entertaining... but the food is always good!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Training, Novels, A Friendly Visit and A Marathon

I've been training at work. Prior to my official arrival as warranty administrator, I got about 6-8 hours of training with the previous admin. AKA: Not enough. This seems to make sense. Rarely have I stepped into a position with a gracious amount of training. 

So the past two weeks has been a lot of "I'm sorry, I'm new, can you explain..." Which is good and all, people have been mostly receptive. And I'm making fewer stupid mistakes (though there is the occasional flare up). 

This is the most complicated work I have done in... well... ever. Turns out nothing is simple in the automotive industry. From paperwork, to car sales, to financing, to parts, to service department, to warranties. It is convoluted and everything is an exception. In fact, there are more exceptions to the rule than actual instances that follow the rule when it comes to the warranty billing. 

My boss, well, the big boss man of the store, turns out to be a very avid reader. He's the son of the son of the guy who started the business... so it would seem that access to the family fortune would be through participation in the family business. But prior to being the general manager, he focused a lot of time on writing for film and stage. That being said, I feel it is going to be an important component in relating to him. Everyone sort of walks on eggshells and treats him differently. I guess he can be a pretty terrifying commander when he is in a bad mood. I haven't seen that yet. 

We (the office staff - 4 women) and Boss Man went to lunch earlier this week. "He'll get mad if we don't talk enough. But if we bring something up, we better know a lot about it or he gets mad that we can't converse on his level." That was the warning I'd been given. "The problem is he's a GENIUS. You can't just talk about a movie you enjoyed, you need to know who directed it, who starred in it, what the symbolism was and how they used the cameras." 

Bring it on. 

We sit down to lunch and the ladies settle into their quietude... buried in menus trying to make decisions. Boss Man is criticizing the slow service. Which, in his defense, was ridiculously slow. I start the "so what are you thinking about ordering" question around the table, trying to prevent any fireworks. Boss man was going to order the same thing as me. I would look like the sheep. I can't have that. He's the boss man. No one asked me, so I had time to change my order before the waitress came. 

"Ladies first and Ashley, you have to order in Spanish," Boss Man jokes. 

Knowing full well that no one would step up to the plate, I place my order. "54. Pechuga de Pollo." We slowly make it around the table as the ladies order. Ashley did not order in Spanish...  Boss man... "Pechuga de Pollo." 

I mutter "copy gato" playfully under my breath. The woman who laughs at everything guffaws, in turn making the girl who laughs at nothing snort on accident and Boss Man is wondering why he's surrounded by nervously laughing women and none of us can tell him what is funny... at this point "copy gato" wouldn't be clever so I just keep my mouth shut. 

In true form, the table goes quiet. Just like they warned me. I step behind the conversational blockage and try to give it a little shove. "So, How's training for the race coming along? What time are going to beat?" Boss Man takes the bait and things start rolling slowly. Much to my pleasant surprise, conversation is easy and light through all of lunch. All it took was asking questions - who are you bringing to the christmas party? - what have you be reading/watching lately? - when you're not at work, what have you be doing to enjoy yourself? - normal peanut gallery questions. Everyone participated. Boss Man even enjoyed himself and contrary to what I was led to believe, asked questions back. He was very interested in what everyone had to say. 

I can say that between my coworkers, he's probably the most well-adjusted and socially aware. He's a challenge. He's smart, young, in touch with life beyond minivans and car sales, and has a high standard for what he expects from those who surround him. I suspect he is going to be one of my better bosses. I'm excited about that. 

All that being said, every time he's popped into the office this week, he asks me what I've been reading. Without fail, it's usually something different or I can give a new plot point that's occurring. We sparred over favorite authors and I urged him to read more female authors. It got him thinking, now when he pops into the office he gives me one female author and a book he enjoyed by them. 

Novels Read This Week: 

Random Family - A non-fic that follows the lives of two young women involved in a huge heroine ring that got busted in the 1980s. It sees them through prison, the birth of babies from different fathers and basically documents the complicated problem of urban poverty and it's relationship to violence, drug culture and family life.

FanGirl - Fiction. Twin girls go off to college. One extroverted and determined to become an individual, the other who tries to not speak to anyone, including her roommate - while she goes through classes and writes her fan fiction. The story is told from the hermit twin's perspective as she is forced into a lonely world without her twin (different dorms/social circles/classes) and is forced to grow beyond her comfort zone. 

Friendly Visit... 

My good friends Laura and Purujit came last weekend for a fun little dinner party at my place. Laura and I go way back. We met through a friend (Abby) in Pocatello when Abby's car broke down on the way to Lava Hot Springs on one of those -4 degree days in Idaho. We passed around a sleeping bag and waited for the tow truck and friends with cars to help us out. That was about 5 years ago. 

She moved to NYC - I moved to NYC. 
She moved to Seattle - I moved to Portland. 

We are destined to follow each other around the united states. It was great to reunite for our first time on the west coast. She reminded me of all the good times in NYC... the visit made me pretty home sick for the east. I interpret it as mourning... now that I've gotten past that, I'm ready to make the west coast home again. 


I roasted my first chicken today. We're about halfway through the cooking marathon. 

We have been cooking like mad people this weekend. It is winter and I want comfort food. I also want to never have to cook or make last minute decisions or else I will fall into a vat of cheese and stay there all winter. 

On the Menu... 
  • Split Pea Soup - Pea, carrot, celery & bacon. 
  • Chicken Noodle Soup - Rice, roasted chicken, carrot, celery, zucchini and carrot greens. 
  • Chicken Gravy
  • Pizza Dough 
  • Meatballs 

We tripled the soups, doubled the pizza dough and doubled the meatballs. It should last about 2-3 weeks. Mostly, I'm happy about not having to go grocery shopping for at least a week or two.  We only spent about $27 on ingredients. I'm interested in seeing how far it takes us... If it's satisfying... we can do this all month and really cut back on spending. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Written Word...

Welcome to the last day of  my working marathon. In 1.5 hours, I will have my first day off in 58 days. My big plans?
  • Stay in my pajamas as long as possible.
  • Take a really long meandering walk to the library and pick up the two books I have on hold
    • Random Family; Love, Drugs, Trouble and Growing Up In The Bronx. - Leblanc
    • Fangirl - Rowell
  • Read at least one of those books in its' entirety.

Yesterday was my first day in the new position. I couldn't be more excited. It seems like I can step in a really make a difference. Plus the staff in the office upstairs is SO FRIENDLY.

It seems like we'll all make a good team. A-type personalities that take a lot of pride in their work at each different desk. We each are in charge of different aspects of the Everyone is quiet and helpful. It's sort of like previous positions in that I have to figure everything out. There is no comprehensive manual for the position - though I received a good bit of direction from the woman who left. But I get to play Nancy Drew and piece the warranty billing process together. Another fun puzzle! However, this time, I'm stepping into a functioning system, not into a giant mess.

My favorite part of the new job is that now I have a place to use all my colored pens. The same claim goes through about 3 processes. Assign each process a color and run!


We went out to Joe's Crab Shack for my birthday. It was lovely. Quiet. Jia took me out the night or two before and we went book shopping. Carin and I went out to the lounge down the street - best fries ever. It was a pretty good birth-week.

Still processing the fact I'm 28. Getting super close to 30... So I should probably stay at the Chevy dealership for a while and get myself on a "career track" or something, that's the responsible thing to do right? I haven't made my year 28 to-do list yet... but it is the VIP on the thought train right now.

My parents were extremely kind and sent a check for present getting. I totally loaded up on warm clothes. Sweater, Sweatpants, Hoodie... just stuff for staying warm around the house. I'm still living thrifty and we aren't using the central heating until absolutely needed.

Mister was sweet as can be and indulged my nail polish obsession - slime green, pumpkin orange and a nice satin blue. The makeup junkie in me can chill out and ride the high for now.


No sickness in our household. Mister is down 15lbs - the lucky duck. I have lost a total of 4 this month. Pathetic. The phentermine stuff is not very effective with the weight loss, but it's been incredible for my focus.

I'm trying to build up my trust in myself again and make some very easy goals that I can commit to and knock out of the ball park. Slowly, I'll get back to my old tricks. Portland, unlike NYC, gives me the perfect environment for getting back into the swing of things. I am ready to get and stay stable. Good job. Great location/house. Plenty of time for healthy recreation. Life is on track for awesomocity.


Photo Update!!!

This is my new friend, Jia, from Rentrak... She trained me as she was leaving. Now we're both coworkers of non-Rentrak life. co-lifers?
My roommate and I at Joe's Crab Shack - Happy birthday dinner!
This book I've been reading/following. It's filled with suggestions for helping you find your "Line" (like in writing; your "voice").

My fancy library card. Outside my fancy library. First borrow happens tomorrow. Cross your fingers... no fines this time around. NO FINES!

The backs of heads at the worlds most boring seminar about warranty billing.

The walking path by Rentrak (TV Place)... SUNSHINE - 3 weeks ago.
The view from the train window on Thursday... "winter" is here.

This exists... just outside of the massively boring seminar.