Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On-call temp job... hours that normal people are sleeping... and people avoiding me...

It's been a few days, so I figured I'd pop in with a little randomness.

As of yesterday evening, I'm officially employed again, to a certain extent. It's temp work and will be on-call until after Thanksgiving, when I hope I'll be getting a regular schedule.

That means after getting home at 7:30pm from orientation, I had to be up at 3am to call in and see if I was working. It'll be like that daily until I get a schedule of my own.

I don't mind the hours, I've done the job before and it's somewhat intense, but I liked it and will again.

Calling this morning, I wasn't needed. So now what? I decided I'd better start getting used to graveyards again, so I stayed up. It's a little surreal being up before the sun comes up... correction: it's a little surreal to be up this long before the sun comes up.

Friends will find that I've rambled about a few things on Twitter and Facebook, just because. Two other friends were up at 4:30am when I posted, so it's nice to know I wasn't the only Washingtonian awake.

Wish me luck as I adjust back into working graveyard.

In other news, my ego was smarting over the weekend because a friend of mine is avoiding me. Ok: don't feel good, too busy to talk, somehow I pissed you off... whatever the reason, communicate with me. Please. If you want to tell me to go take a flying leap off a bridge, fine, but say something. I can handle it if I pissed you off and you need to go apeshit on me, but the quiet... that I can't take.

I'll admit that I'm not the best at keeping in touch with people either, so maybe this is karma for disappointing too many people in the past. Which reminds me that I have a short list of people I should really touch base with soon. I am thinking of you guys, I'm just keeping odd hours now and don't want to be a disruption.

But yes, if you want to tell me to take a flying leap, I'm tough, I can take it...

I also had joys in dealing with a lovely state-administered institution for the unemployed this week. My pity stipend didn't get deposited on Friday (like the website said), on Monday because of the holiday, nor all day yesterday. Meanwhile, I'm running from dental appointment to work safety training without a dollar to my name. Knowing I had to be up to call and touch base with the new boss this morning, I went to bed right upon returning from safety training. I woke about midnight, checked for my money, went back to bed, got up at 3am, called the boss, no work, checked for money. Nothing. I'll have you know that it finally appeared at 5:30am.

So there's that. It's about to start getting interesting around here.

And I'm still writing, though I worry how the new work hours are going to impact my project. I seem to write best during the times I'm going to need to be sleeping. We shall see...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Important Update! Splitting the Blog's Personalities...

Just a quick FYI, friends!

I've been debating on whether or not to do a spinoff blog just for my farming adventures for a while.

Today, I did it.

Here's all the other places you can now find me on the interwebs:

...The Farmgirl Files...

Redbubble Photographer Portfolio

Upton Family Farm - Ducks

My Photography Facebook

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Short Story: A Friendly Probiotic

For those of you who don't know, I'm working on an exposure therapy program to get over my writer's anxiety. I've been wanting to do this for a while, so baby steps. I sent out a story to four friends online today and didn't have a panic attack. So it's time to give everyone something to read.

A Friendly Probiotic


“No Soy, no gluten, no fish…” the label read. She breathed an inward sigh of relief in reading those magic words on the pill bottle. No fish. It was a little thing that most people wouldn’t understand, but in her haste to shake the side-effects of the nasty antibiotics, she had neglected to check the pill bottle for allergens before purchasing.

Opening the bottle, she took one more than the recommended dose and relaxed a bit. Those damned antibiotics were going in the garbage. Nobody needs to be made sicker to repair a minor problem. The body aches and the heartburn were tolerable, but at the point her tongue started cracking, well, that was enough for this foray into the world of standard medical treatments.

She was thankful for those words on the bottle of probiotics, “no fish,” such a small thing to anyone else. Originally, the thing that had captured her attention was the description, “a friendly probiotic…” it proclaimed. As if a probiotic could come running up to her and rub against her leg like a kitten wanting attention.

At first, nobody had believed she could possibly be allergic to fish. Peanuts, maybe, but fish? Fish is good for you, full of Omega oils and healthy fat. How could fish make a person sick?

She remembered the heavenly smell as her dad smoked salmon, back in the old days when everything was right with the world, before the divorce. The fishing trips, where somehow she always caught the biggest fish even though she was a little wisp of six years old and had no idea of strategy in sport fishing.

She remembered the taste as well, which was savory and satisfying. Soon, though, she learned that the flavor came at too great a cost for her.

Lying on the floor, with what felt like the worst flu ever, combined with heartburn, her face red and feverish, her motions weak and sluggish. “What’s wrong?” mom would ask, “Did you swallow a bone? I told you to be careful.”

Nobody realized what they were seeing. It passed as always, and life went on, a little brush with death left ignored and unrecognized.

There was a salmon bake coming up at the school. “Are you sure you want the fish?” her mom asked, “You don’t like fish.” And surely, by that time, she had learned that she didn’t like fish. She liked fishing, gutting and cleaning her catch; she loved the smell of it cooking and the look of the beautiful pink meat on her plate. It was the agony that came afterwards that made her suspect the healthy meal as having something in for her.

It felt as if something was sitting on her chest, she wheezed for breath yet tried to stay as still as possible to make the pain go away. Yet her family remained unaware that her problem was more severe than a minor stomach upset. “She has a sensitive stomach,” they would say. At times, there would be visual and auditory distortions to go along with the general feeling of “I’m dying.” The colors flashed and ringed her vision and words came to her slowly, out of the ether, like a contact attempt from the afterlife.

Yet, she still fished with her dad on the weekends, asking to keep the catch to barbeque over the campfire. Her time with her father was limited and fishing was a shared bond. He didn’t understand her as she came into her teen years, and to her, he looked like a foolish old man who didn’t know a thing. So they fished, luckily never catching anything on most of their forays.

She wondered in retrospect if she had let those many fish get away for her own good.

The last occasion, they camped near the river, near her older sister’s house. They had hiked up and down the river for hours before they settled on the little pool to drop their lines in. And the bites came. The fish were small, but assuredly legal, according to dad. Of course, dad had no use for rules and she held no fishing license.

They cleaned their small meal on the rocks and grilled them over the campfire. It was good.

Minutes after eating, she was seized by the horrible pain, the burning pressure in her chest. She lay in the camper, in the upper bunk, the horrendously dated green and gold upholstery mocking her foolishness. “You can’t eat that, dummy, you’ll die!” it seemed to scream at her. Her senses were overloaded and all she could do was lay still and wait it out.

“Are you okay?” her dad hollered in the door. He was outside with the campfire and his flask, like any other camping trip. “I think I swallowed a bone,” she choked, trying not to panic the old man. He accepted her assurance that she would be alright and returned to the fire.

It may have been hours, but probably minutes in the grand scheme of things. Nothing stretches time better than feeling like you’re dying. Finally, her body forgave her sinful indulgence and allowed her to sleep.

She never knowingly ate fish again. Her family never accepted that she was allergic and she was never officially diagnosed. If she was offered the finned death, she would smile and say she was allergic, though nobody believed it. People aren’t allergic to fish. People are allergic to cats and peanuts, not fish.

It further confounded people that she could eat other seafood. Shellfish allergies were real, after all.

She remembered her brush with death in the form of a Caesar salad. She had become careful and suspicious of food over the years and asked many questions before accepting food from others. “What kind of dressing is on the salad?” she asked at the potluck with schoolmates. “Caesar. It’s a Caesar salad.” Her friend replied. With her fear of food, she mistakenly judged the salad to be a safe bet and consumed a decent portion. She missed three days of school.

Later, casually picking up a bottle of Caesar salad dressing at the grocery, she saw the awful truth: “anchovy paste.”

Her paranoia still hadn’t reached its peak. After high school, she had taken a job at a fish restaurant, presumably until something better came along. There, she was faced with the evil prospect of employee meals. Training was such that the oil that cooked chicken and fries could never cross with oil that cooked seafood. It was to protect those with shellfish allergies. There were allergy warnings next to the menu. None of them covered her affliction.

The employees weren’t allowed to cook their own meals to avoid people taking larger than acceptable portions. She ate a lot of salads in those days because they touched nothing.

Then the rashes began. She cut and breaded the evil fish daily for the masses of customers who rushed through the door for all-you-can-eat. At the end of the night, her arms were covered in angry welts. Long sleeves and longer gloves helped her deal with her problem for years, but even her face began to show the effects, blemished from the splash-back of the evil fryers.

And yet, her problem went undiagnosed. People thought she was crazy. She lost a lot of weight at that job from never eating anything unless she had personally changed the grease that day.

Her allergy wasn’t forgotten, but it became routine. She never ate fish and it never crossed her mind that others did. And never did she meet another with the same affliction.

Of course, as to be expected, she married a fisherman. He suffered endless frustration that while she took part in his hobby, she’d never consume the bounty of their trips. At family gatherings he’d say, “She doesn’t eat fish…” as if it was a common choice, flummoxing the hosts. And when she’d refuse anything off the barbeque because someone had also cooked fish there, he’d just shrug. Her husband wasn’t a very good advocate; in fact, she suspected he didn’t believe in her allergy either.

Clam chowder, crab cakes, scallops, they were all off the menu. She had learned from the seafood restaurant that the cheap and imitation versions of these foods were really made with scab fish. Cheap cod that wasn’t good enough to be sold as fish. Scallops were mostly made with the scraps of halibut left over after cutting to send to stores.

It just wasn’t worth the risk. As such, she hadn’t had a reaction in a long time. Then she found that a lot of pills contained fish products, that most fertilizers contained fish products, some body washes and deodorants were also suspect.

Finally, she met one other person with her condition. They related well on many levels and became fast friends. Yet it flummoxed her when her friend told her of the great Caesar salad at a local restaurant.

“You can’t eat that, you’ll die,” she said, shocked.

“I just eat it until my lips go numb,” her friend responded, a wicked look in her eye. “I stop when my lips go numb so I don’t die.”
(c) Kelly Upton Barnes and aliases 2013


Monday, November 4, 2013

A Last-Minute Reminder to VOTE tomorrow, Washingtonians!

I know, I know. I push the farmer's point of view quite hard. In fact, even if I'm on a break from farming, these issues are dear to my heart.

So I plead with each and every Washingtonian reader of this silly little fangirl blog to please vote Yes on I522 and get those darn ballots turned in by the deadline tomorrow.

What does it mean? You've heard so many ads talking about how labeling GMO foods will hurt the small farmer.

It's simply not true. The small farmers are hurting anyway. Having to add a few little words on their product won't put them out of business unless they're headed that way anyway.

I've not met one single farmer in Kitsap County, where I've farmed for the past three years, who is against labeling GMO foods. Not one.

Labeling doesn't restrict these food manufacturers from making their products with the same ingredients they're using currently. Labeling just gives the customer more information that they may or may not use in choosing the foods they'll buy. And being a cynic, I'm going to assume it's just one more thing on food packaging that the average buyer will ignore, sort of like those famous buzzwords, "New and Improved."

I hold my opinions on GMO foods for many reasons, probably the most important one, which is woefully underdiscussed: food allergies. I suffer from an unconventional food allergy: fish. I can eat seafood, but I choose not to for fear of cross-contamination or "imitation" seafood (read: fish products) being snuck into my meals. Nobody believed me at first when at a young age, I tried to explain to my parents that I got sick every time I ate fish.

Now, if GMO producers get their way, they can sneak genes from any one living thing into another. There's no way to be warned of these things. If I'm eating a tomato, shouldn't I be able to be confident that I'm not eating peanuts or fish within that very tomato?

It may seem overdramatic or doomsday-ish to put it this way, but imagine an epidemic of unexplained illnesses that cannot be tracked to a single product or manufacturer because the actual illnesses are allergy reactions, brought on by genes spliced into foods that you thought were safe. Now what?

This is personal. I go out of my way to protect myself from things I know will make me sick. Most of us with food allergies, which are becoming more common, mind you, are very careful to avoid the things we know could kill us.

Some of the most common GMO crops out there are also those that are causing the ever-increasing allergy reactions we're seeing. Soy is a culprit I'd go after at length if I wanted to write a dissertation, but this is simply a friendly, though a little desperate, reminder to vote.

For whatever reason you have care or concern for our food supply, please don't listen to those sneaky chemical companies that are funding the No on I522 campaign. Yes on I522 will have little or no effect on the lives of most people, farmers included, and will be a good resource for those of us who choose to not live our lives in fear of secret ingredients in our food.

Look close, these are the people that say I522 will put farmers out of business:

Writing cues, stories not to be shared, and my sporadic participation in Nanowrimo.

I've been going in fits and starts with my Nanowrimo project. Nothing too bad about it, I'm keeping my word count in a safe enough place to not have to stress out and I'm writing other stuff as well, just for variety so I don't get stagnant in the main story.

Right now, the novel is at a predictable point and I'm letting it sit there. No reason to rush through something that should fall into place on its own.

I'm trying to blog often as well, mainly because I'm not able to break my writer's trance at an appropriate stopping point.

Today, I wrote a short story, just because. It's a story about that one friend who seems untouched by the world, somehow ethereal and yet fragile and perpetually broken. I think we all have one of those friends whose being seems to be against every rule of nature, making things look so damn easy and never letting on that inside they are nothing but a ball of suffering, but they're used to it.

There's reasons I don't share most of my work. A lot of it is just too personal. It's also the reason I have a hard time naming my characters, because I fear that someone will see I've used their name and assume that I'm writing about them on some sneaky level, seeking to tear them down or rip them up.

One of these days, I'll have to publish something, or at least share it with my friends here. Who knows when I'll manage to get over the fear of offending others, but I'm writing, and writing needs to be shared. Someday everyone will see what I've been working on. I promise.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So I'm writing... interesting how that happens... and trying not to fall into the abyss...

Day three of Nano and I'm still writing. I'm not sure how this happened, maybe it's the meds for the jaw infection, maybe it's just time. But I'm writing... and coming back to write more. Without a panic attack. Without sweaty palms. Still a bit of a racing heart, but I think that's just the meds working in my system, so ignoring it.

I had the unfortunate realization yesterday that I'm actually depressed. Hiding it well, even from myself, but there it is. I should have known that the urge to drive to the old workplace to visit with my former employers was just because I needed human contact.

I really make the mistake of bonding with people too easily. Now that I never see these people anymore, I'm lonely and lost. And when I do see them, I think I'm coming off almost desperate and creepy like someone who's never had a friend before. Sorry, friends, I'm going through something and it's making me weird and antisocial and sometimes overly friendly and almost creepy. Can you forgive me?

I think part of this is my meds. But a lot of it is just loneliness creeping in. It's not like I live alone or lack for friends, but I've always had most of my real human contact in the workplace, especially since moving out here when most of my close friends are in different places, like back in Seattle.

So hopefully enough of my friends won't be skeeved out by my depression and tolerate my neediness for a bit. I just really need hugs and reassurance that I'm not gearing up to rush headlong into another disaster. And I'm really hoping to find that the people who cut me loose from my dream job aren't secretly hoping I go jump off a cliff and get out of their hair.

At least I'm not conspiring to infest their business with gerbils, like I wanted to the last time I had a shock-separation from a job. There's no bad blood here, I just miss my extended farm family.

So when I call or message that we should do something soon, I really mean it. But I'm going to need a little coaxing, because I'm close to crawling in my little box for the winter. And if I ask you to program my damn number in your phone so you're not wondering which weirdo is texting you, please do it. It's a little thing, but it makes a difference right now.

If I haven't called you back lately, bug me. Find me online or by text or whatever and bug me. I need it. And I'll try to come to your place and we can hang. And I'll try not to be too creepy or too maudlin or too anything else like the last time I went through a bad depression and drove most of my friends crazy, ended up making a shit ton of bad decisions and had to pick up all the pieces and start over again. I don't want to burn bridges, I just need to know that I still belong here.

And if I've told you, unexpectedly, that I love you lately, it's just a part of the whole depression. I just feel like I should let the people who've been there for me how much I value them. And I really hope it hasn't come across as creepy. Because I'm not running headlong into another disaster, I just give a shit about you and want you to know.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The oft-taboo, evil, sometimes embarassing workplace crush...

A random topic for a random day. I've had my share of workplace crushes, so many that I'm someday going to make a Singles-esque screenplay about them. Yes. That embarrassingly funny.

You can't help it. No matter what you're doing, there's always one coworker that you can't resist taking a few extra looks at during the day. It's even harder when you work in industries where the only people you see for 12+ hours a day are coworkers and customers.

Whether or not your workplace has a dating policy or not, if you're working 12+ hours a day with the same people, you're going to socialize. Because they're the only people you manage to keep in touch with.

Some people even jokingly have a Work-spouse. You know that one confidant of the opposite sex who you go to as a sounding board or to be comforted when things aren't going right? The one your real significant other is jealous of?

My first workplace crush was a guy named Steve. He was a mechanic of sorts and had a ruggedly handsome look of an 80's tough guy. I would assume he went home at night and worked on his motorcycles. He smoked Marb Reds and always had a pack in his pocket. He teased me mercilessly when I was the new girl, but the one time during my training where everyone was yelling at me (okay, they were trying to coach me along, but it was getting out of hand), anyway, I lost my shit and started crying because I couldn't assimilate all the shouted comments all at once. I ran off under the pallet racks and Steve came over to comfort me. From the first day I met him, I was charmed. He was married, I had a boyfriend. But in workplace crushing, all rules are off. I liked my Steve eye-candy more than I can explain.

One day, the machine I was working broke down and he turned it all off and was underneath it looking at a gear box or something. I was leaning on the belt chatting with him and was so entranced that I didn't immediately notice when he turned the belt back on and I fell off the end! Like I said, I could get a good screenplay out of this.

Next job I had, everyone was falling for the workplace crush trap. I've never worked in such a love-geometry-fest in my entire life since then. It was foodservice and that meant that if you were ranked above cashier, you were always stuck staying late. By my second week, I was night lead, by second month I was acting assistant manager. In between, I picked up a boyfriend and a couple work crushes. And a couple others had coworker crushes on me. The boyfriend story will never be told. I know where that guy went when he left the company and I'm ashamed to say I ever knew him.

It was insane. Everyone was dating everyone, everyone went out together in groups. Or you'd send someone to the convenience store and everyone would drink beer after the store closed. Never have I been drunk at work since that job. If you weren't dating someone, people still thought you were because you worked the night shift together. Or you took someone to the baseball game. It was just lucky to find someone else who had the same day off most of the time. I know I had my heart broken at that job entirely too many times and I know I broke a few hearts myself. But there was no way I was going to date more than one person at a time. And I kept stupidly falling for the troublemakers.

One man from that job (not counting he-who-won't-be-discussed-here) really left my heart in pieces. In a corporate clean-out, we all got laid off as a group. Kept in touch for a while. He was a talented writer on top of being cute and funny. But it was just a work crush and while you don't ever forget a good work crush, you have to move on.

Next job, met my dream man. He wasn't a coworker, but a delivery man. Was told to stay away. Should have known better after the last situation I was in that I was told to avoid a man, but I'm stupidly stubborn and I really liked this guy. So I asked him out and got laughed at. Again and again. Years later, I finally discovered why. UPS Guys get hit on everywhere they go. 130 stops, 130 flirting secretaries. No wonder he never took me seriously. But we're married now. I won that battle with patience.

Next job, had a minor coworker crush on a supervisor who I would have gone to high school with had I transferred during the years I lived with my grandparents. He was married, I was in a relationship. But he was just one of those people who was so easy to get along with. Great attitude about life and all that. I hope he's well, he left that job before I did.

I went through a few jobs without a serious coworker crush, but I did meet a lot of cool geeks who I wish I had kept in touch with.

Now here I am, on the cusp of unemployment because I don't have a firm plan one way or another and the existing employer just gave me an unexpected week off. The temp job is ending after tomorrow most likely and the next temp job probably won't start until mid-late November. And the sad thing is that I'm missing someone from work. Which is super-stupid because this is a work buddy, not a work crush. I think I'm just channeling my frustration from the unexpected layoffs and hours reductions and other drama. Or I'm in denial. Either way, it is what it is.

Anyone else have issues with coworker crushes?

Definition of Work Spouse