Friday, July 30, 2010

Screw this, I'm staying home

I called in a mental health day at work today. I'm finally at the point where I'm almost permanently and continually annoyed, so of course I had drinks last night with the always-helpful Vinnie. After I ranted and raved for a few minutes and then sagged in my chair over my riesling, Vinnie asked, "Pixie, it's not time for an afternoon off--it's time for something a full day, an overnight trip alone, a weekend...something where no one is bothering you or asking you to do anything. When's the last time you did that?" Since the answer to Vinnie's question was stunned silence (I couldn't remember the last time I really had some good undisturbed time alone), I played the mental health card and will spend this overcast-ish and somewhat humid Friday alone, doing a few small things but nothing major.

Meanwhile, the vet prescribed an appetite stimulant for Hazel. It works, but only about two or three hours after you give it to her. So, I have to feed Gracie her food with her medicine in it and give Hazel her pill. Then I have to feed Hazel--or try to feed her--the food with her medicine in it a few hours later. Yes, I know, yet one more thing to tend to. But if that's all I have to tend to today, then maybe it's tolerable. Maybe.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Man, if y'all thought I was low on give-a-damn a few weeks ago...

People, I have hit new lows of give-a-damn lately, which is why I haven't posted worth shit. I've been hitting new nadirs of "meh" and fighting waves of irrepressible anger with a side order of cranktastic despondency, and I have super-sized this Unhappy Meal with a 32 oz cup of GTFO and [facepalm]. Needless to say, I don't think anyone out there in the blogosphere particularly wants to hear anything I have to say right now. I don't even want to hear what I have to say right now.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going to get a haircut and then meet a friend for a late lunch afterwards. I had been feeling rather drained lately--I was just barely posting on WAD, I wasn't sleeping well for some reason, and I was actually getting annoyed at having to work 40 hours a week again (I know, I'm being ungrateful). So my friend is all amped up and going on about this and that, and she just gushes, "Oh, I can't wait to see you! I need my Pixie Time!" That one sentence--I need my Pixie Time--absolutely sent me over the edge. While I didn't retaliate in the moment, I was furious. Why does everyone need their goddamn Pixie Time? I thought. Hell, I even I haven't had Pixie Time for the past six-plus months and now everyone else seems to think they can have me?

I commented on this recently on Rev. Kit's blog on this post, and I've been thinking about it some more since I commented there. I realized that, while I do have fun with that particular friend, much of our interactions is me bolstering, supporting, defending, rationalizing, cheering up, and generally giving to this friend...and I'm fucking exhausted. Not exhausted--fucking exhausted. And I'm finding that a lot of people lately want something me--look at my website and give me suggestions, help me get a job at Guy's firm, give me some advice in my time of need, run this or that extra project at work, blah blah blah. And while all of these are important and valid requests that we all make of each other, I'm just...done.

I realize that we allow ourselves to play roles in each others' lives. For some we are the lean-er, and for some we are the lean-ee. Some of our friends are only good-time friends, and some are the friends you call when you feel like complaining and gossiping. (And some are the friends we call for bail money--they are in a class all their own and God bless 'em.) We all tell people how we want to be treated, but what happens when no one is listening? Case in point: At lunch the next day with my I-need-my-Pixie-Time friend, I told her how wrung out I was and that I would be scaling back my obligations and activities for a few months. She reacted like it was a good idea. Later during lunch, we realized that she and I had a friend in common that I saw sometimes on my morning runs. The following Monday, I met this mutual friend on a run and we chatted briefly about how we knew my lunch friend. The next day, my lunch friend emailed me and said that it would be great for us three--the running acquaintance, the lunch friend, and me--to get together for dinner and drinks. I said, sure, that'd be nice sometime. She emailed back that she knew I was trying to cut back, so it was up to me when and how...and then not even half an hour later, she emails the running acquaintance and me, "Hey! We ladies need to get together soon for drinks!!!"

Jesus. God. in heaven. Go read what you just wrote me in that email and then punch yourself, please. Hard. In the face.

I didn't even respond. I deleted both emails and just focused on work. And in the ensuing several days, I've become reflexively annoyed at everything. When the ATM spits my card out and the screen says, "Please take card" I shout back at it "Jesus, do I have to do everything around here?!" Meanwhile, Gracie has given Hazel her cat shelter cold/sneeze, and Hazel won't eat. I mean, I haven't seen her eat anything since Friday afternoon when she had a couple of bites of warmed-up tuna and a few crunchies. The vet said that the cold is making her not be able to smell food, so she's not eating it (cats rely that much on their sense of smell). If she's not eating by Tuesday, then we have to give her appetite-stimulating medicine, and I'm here to tell y'all that I'm fucking sick of medicating cats. I spent 18 months doing that with Maddy, and while I loved and still love my tortie girl, I'm sick of sickness and I'm sick of tending yet one more thing that isn't working or doing quite right.

I'm sure I'll be fine, but I'm just tired momentarily of being really positive and excellent and awesome and on top of everything for a long time. I just want to drink iced lattes and get massages every day for a week. I'm not so much physically tired as psychically tired. And cranky. And then there's the inevitable person who is afraid of a negative mood and wants to tell me to cheer up. Listen--I've been as cheery as I can be for having watched the economy tank for the past year and a half and working as hard as I have just not to get laid off. I think I've earned my cranky mood, so just let me wallow in it for a few days and I'll be fine.

If anyone needs me, I'll be on the balcony, drinking an iced chai and flipping through a Crate & Barrel catalog, which is about all my brain can handle right now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

...I thought I'd never build anything again! [swoon]

I got word yesterday from Sven that I'm going to be doing the CA on the 1st and 9th floor Gestalt HMO clinic renovations. As I nodded and said thank you, it occurred to me that I hadn't really done CA since...good Lord, almost since starting this blog. The last decently-sized CA project I had was MHRC back in 2007 and a little of 2008. Good heavens, no wonder I've been feeling so out of sorts--I have architectural blue balls.

For those of you new to WAD, CA is short for "construction administration", which is what we call the actual process of building the stuff we just designed and drew. It's usually the most frustrating and also most rewarding part of any project. As the contractor asks you questions about your drawings, you start to feel as if you couldn't draw your way out of a wet paper sack, and then you want to answer each RFI with the words "Just build it already!" But you really learn the most in CA, when someone has to build what you designed with the clients on board and then drew and thought through and then drew some more and maybe even redrew a few times. CA means that you did the thing you set out to do--you drew something that got built and now it's getting lived and worked in and used. It's the natural end to a project, and when you draw stuff and work on master planning projects and space planning layouts for 2+ years and never do CA...well, you feel kinda empty.

Unless you work for a starchitect; then you just keep on drinking merlot and drawing things you'll never build and you never know the difference in your life. And that makes me drink. But I digress.

So, now I get to do CA on the CDs (construction documents) that I just drew, which means I get to amp up my learning curve a little more, and I get to feel real and useful and annoyed and frustrated and overworked all over again. To wit: Guy is dead in the middle of doing CA on the building he did with Scooby Doo & Associates, and for him, "cutting back" his time at work right now means only working 45-50 hours M-F. He has so many RFIs that whether he works 45 hours a week or 60, he can't make a dent in them. (Evidently, the Scooby Doo Disease has spread to some of the subs on his job.) But there's a silver lining: if I'm doing CA and Guy's doing CA, we finally having something in common to talk about at we didn't already.

Friday, July 16, 2010

We can rebuild it, we can make it stronger, faster, cheaper...

Yesterday morning, our receptionist called Howie to the front. I heard him say over the phone, "Who's here? Huh...? Oh...oh! Yes! Okay!" He went to the front, I heard a female voice, and then he returned with a young woman: Tara, an intern I worked with for a couple of months back in the summer of 2008 but was laid off in that same fall. Evidently, with Intern Timmy and Liz moving on to bigger and better things, Howie suddenly found himself in great need of good but inexpensive help on a sudden rush of small projects. Tara, to her immense credit, had worked mostly with Jann during her few months here, and Jann emailed her one day recently to ask if she had any availability to work with us again. Tara jumped at the chance to get back on track with getting her internship hours, now that she just finished grad school.

I suppose I'm not surprised that Howie would hire someone like Tara to help him out. He's got a lot of stuff to do, plus he's not the easiest person to work for, so he really needs youngish interns because a) they bill cheap on projects but know how to use lots of different kinds of software, and b) especially right now they're not in a position to push back when he leans on them (work harder! faster!! more!!!) I asked Tara how much/long she'll be working with us, and she said Howie hadn't really told her. I mentioned that we'd all just gone back to 40 hours a week, and she said she might have it to do--evidently, Intern Kimmy told her that she'd worked nearly 80 hours last week and more than 50 a week for several weeks so far this year. I suddenly thought that perhaps I could have been helping her, but then I remembered: Howie needed cheap help.

Either way, it was great to see Tara again, and frankly it was nice to see a new employee. Seeing anyone get hired here lately made us breathe a little, though we know that no one's really publicized the hire. Still, nice to have her back and to see Kimmy get some help.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interwebs, meet Gracie

We have named the new kitteh Gracie. Well, I named her Gracie. Guy wanted to name her MacGruber, but I said no. (I swear, I don't know what's wrong with that man, but I bet it's hard to pronounce.)

She's only been here since Saturday afternoon, and Gracie's fur is already looking better. She's smoothed down and floofed up, and the white on her paws is looking a little brighter. We're working on giving her a bibbin--we could tell that she wasn't getting a lot to eat at the shelter (too many aggressive kittehs around her, plus she was always nursing). She's decided that she belongs everywhere in the house, and every seat is hers. She already knows the sound of the crinkling treat bag and the swoop of the food container coming off in time for feeding.

And what does Hazel think of this new little interloper?


Actually, she's getting more tolerant of Gracie with each passing day. The first time she saw Gracie on Sunday, it was hate at first hiss. But Tuesday night at dinner, Hazel followed her into the kitchen, sniffed her butt, and hissed loudly. I said, "Well, Lulu, you sniffed her ass--what did you expect it to smell like?"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: O hai!

O hai. I wuz tolded yu needed a noo kitteh.

Sumwun brot me into the sheltr while i waz havin kittenz. I had 6 and 4 livd, and when thy wr dopted owt, sumwun brot in moar kittnz, and i nursd them to. Nao I just wana liv quietlee and happee.

This luks lyk a gud playce to hang owt. Kan i wach TV with u?

Yayz! Iz comfee to sit heer wif mai floofy tayl and eerz!

Maybee dis me mai furever hoam. kthxnite.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The latest scuttlebutt from Design Associates and the life of Pixie

I suppose scuttlebutt is more like gossip, isn't it? But as my Georgia grandmother, M, once said as she removed the Virginia Slim from her lips and tapped the ashes into a fern, "Honeh, it ain't gossip if it's true."

So, some of you remember that the ever-awesome Intern Timmy left DA back in May for a higher-paying intern gig at another firm, and more power to him. Well, in the past couple of weeks, the ever-awesome Liz (if you remember her from the Pomme de Terre saga) left DA to a non-profit organization. For more money than architecture was paying her. And to be fair, it wasn't hard for someone to pay her more than DA was--our base (hourly) salaries are low because we get paid overtime and profit sharing, but if you've had no raises and no overtime and no profit-sharing for almost two years, som'n's gotta give. Before she left, Liz confided in me in the ladies' room that working at DA had actually been kind of a step back. "I used to do all the things that Howie does, back at my old office back east," she said. "But working for Howie, I get micromanaged and get forced to jump through intern-like hoops and do redlines, economy notwithstanding, y'know?" And she's right--working for Howie has been really tough during the recession, as he doesn't have enough to keep him busy and ends up getting over-involved in the project instead of getting out of his staff's way and letting them succeed. So, vaya con Dios, Liz!

Meanwhile, Audrey, our female partner at DA, took me to lunch recently to talk about all the intern stuff I was doing and to get some ideas for how to improve intern (and architect) mentoring at DA. It felt really good to talk about the work I'd done on the big seminar I'd just given, and it was even cooler to watch someone so accomplished take notes while I talked. We discussed how to teach and model good communication skills, how interns could teach managers, and how hormones affect alcohol tolerance. Um, that is to say, we did each have a glass of wine. Riesling. Yum.

My longtime friend and confidante, Vinnie, met me for a long drinking-and-talking session at the Oxford Hotel's bar (opened the day after Prohibition was repealed--yes!!), and he noted the confluence of Audrey taking me to lunch with another interesting bit of news. The week before we went to lunch, Guy's office, Acme Architects, landed a big healthcare job that meant they were going to have to hire a passel of well-qualified architects. Now, being that the market is flooded with architects these days, they shouldn't be hard to find. But with Winston, one of my former DA colleagues now working at Acme, Guy confided that Winston would likely be recruiting from DA's ranks. And why wouldn't he? If you haven't had a raise in two years, and you've been at 36 hours for 18 months, why not go work elsewhere for more money on a challenging project? Vinnie's angle was that Audrey was also trying to shore up the Pixie angle--make sure she knows she's well-liked and respected so she doesn't bail on DA for greener pastures. Perhaps so--Guy said that my name did come up in Acme's higher management's discussions about who to recruit. However, Guy and I both decided that me working at his firm is our "if Pixie gets laid off" plan. We've rather liked not working together for the past almost-four years.

Speaking of working, last week DA had an office meeting and announced that we were all going back to 40 hours a week. (Longtime WAD readers may remember when this all began.) The news left me with mixed emotions, as most things do. On the one hand, I had been looking forward to having the extra four hours when all this started. And while I didn't get a lot of writing done, per se, I did use the time to do errands and cleaning that I usually did over the weekend. But that was when I actually got to work half-days on Fridays. Frequently, the four-hour cut was used for vet and doctor appointments, or a long lunch with friends at other firms. Perhaps I didn't defend the time fiercely enough, but it seemed like I wasn't as productive as I could have been with the half-day gift I'd been given. And now, we were being allowed the full 40 again, and the very sound of it made me exhausted. What kind of wimp had I turned into?

Plus, whatever brief elation I had at getting the extra time was whooshed away when I realized that at the moment, I barely had 36 hours' worth of work to do. There wasn't much left to do on the CDs for Gestalt's 9th floor project I'd been working on, so what was I to do with the time? I managed to help Norman out a little bit with some Revit stuff on his projects, but then Wednesday, Sven whoomped! a big, fat, marked-up set of 9th floor DD drawings from the contractor on my desk. "Here's Glasnost's comments," he said. "And when are 9th floor CDs due?" I peeked up at him. "In a week," I replied. So much for not having 40 hours' worth to do.

So, I know that's a lot of catch-up, and that's not everything that's been going on, but I at least owe y'all a decent explanation of what's been going on. More later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sorry folks, we're fresh out of give-a-damn here at WAD

I've done a piss-poor job of posting decently lately, haven't I? It's been with good reason. I'm burned. out. Not so bad burned out that I don't care about anything at all and I'm just sitting at home in my underwear on a bean bag eating Cheetos, but I'm just...done.

Over the past year-plus, I've put a lot of effort into various professional and personal endeavors, and all that effort going out and not a lot coming in is wearing on me. For example, right after I did my big presentation in Miami a couple of weeks ago, I had to come right home to a project deadline as well as the deadlines for presentation submittals for two different conventions/symposia. I didn't even get a chance to sit back for a while and just enjoy having done something awesome--it was backtoitbacktoitdostuffkeepitmovingdomorestuff. Now that all those deadlines are behind me, it's come to my attention that I really need to take the summer off from a lot of my commitments and just enjoy being.

Now, believe me, I'm not going to stop blogging (and tens of cheers erupt from the blogosphere!). But I do need to cut back on some of my obligations...and then not feel guilty about cutting back. So, I'm going to enjoy the 4th of July weekend with some wine, friends, beanbag chairs, Cheetos, arts and crafts festivals, and general laying aroundness. And I recommend all y'all do the same. I'll be back next week with some interesting news and goings-on at Design Associates--see y'all then!