I’ve read So Big (first published in 1924) by Edna Ferber many times since I was a little girl. It is one of several classic books that shaped my idea of what being an admirable woman would involve: an appreciation of beauty, a love of learning, enthusiasm, a capacity for love, an ability to work very hard, and, above all, resilience. In So Big, Ferber creates a wonderful character in her protagonist, Selina, and uses beautiful language to do it.
Ferber kicks off the book by immediately grounding it in a mundane portrait of everyday life and behavior that almost every parent has at some time indulged in. Selina is described working – at housework, at cooking, at farming. She is a woman “[w]ith little time for the expression of affection. The work was always hot at her heels.” However, from time to time, Selina would glance at her baby and this happens:
Yet, in that moment, as the woman looked at the child there in the warm moist spring of the Illinois prairie land, there quivered about them an aura, a glow, that imparted to them and their surroundings a mystery, a beauty, radiance.
“How big is baby?” Selina would demand, senselessly. “How big is my man?”
The child would momentarily cease to poke plump fingers into the rich black loam. He would smile a gummy though slightly weary smile and stretch wide his arms. She, too, would open her tired arms wide, wide. Then they would say in a duet, his mouth a puckered pink peal, hers quivering with tenderness and a certain amusement, “So-o-o-o big!” with the voice soaring on the prolonged vowel and dropping suddenly with the second word. Part of the game. The child became so habituated to this question that sometimes, if Selina happened to glance round at him suddenly in the midst of her task, he would take his cue without the familiar question being put and would squeal his “So-o-o-o big!” rather absently, in dutiful solo. Then he would throw his head back and laugh a triumphant laugh, his mouth a coral edifice. She would run to him, and swoop down on him, and bury her flushed face in the warm moist creases of his neck, and make to devour him. “So big!”
So Big relates the story of Selina’s life. She is raised by her father, a gambler, who teaches her to roll with the punches (metaphorically – sometimes they have a lot of money and sometimes none). When he dies, she gets a job as a teacher in a community of Dutch farmers in Illinois known as High Prairie. She marries one of the farmers, Pervus, and discovers how hard farming life can be.
Selina has one son who survives childbirth – Dirk (the baby who plays the “so big” game). Selina experiences a change of fortune and becomes prosperous. She hopes that this will allow Dirk, who is interested in architecture, to explore the arts and the intellect in a way that she wasn’t able to.
The second half of the book is centered on Dirk, and yet Selina keeps stealing the story from the edges. Dirk becomes obsessed with earning money (he sells bonds). Selina is disappointed in this outcome and yet she herself thrives, finding satisfaction in her work and the friends she continues to make.
This story is not a romance novel – in fact, romantic relationships tend to go badly. However, it does have some of the most AMAZING romantic moments. The lunch auction! The slate! The machinations of the Widow Paarlenberg, which entertain and delight the High Prairie congregation every Sunday! The trilliums!
Beyond romance, the story is full of complex women. Selina’s friend Julie is usually quite happy to be led about, but in moments of crisis she shows amazing stubbornness. Maartje Pool, the woman with whom Selina boards, is shabby and overworked and lacks education but she is the core of her family. Some of the women are clearly forces of nature and some less so, but none of them should be underestimated.
There is some language that was not considered offensive at the time (pre-WWII) but is today. However, Selina is a model of someone who is interested in everyone and everything. As an older woman, whenever she visits Dirk, she likes to explore different parts of Chicago, especially those populated by different communities (Italian, Chinese, and Black, for instance). To Dirk’s utter horror, she takes random people home to her farm and feeds them, not out of pity, but out of interest, enthusiasm, and a genuine love of feeding people. Dirk treats his Japanese servant much like any other expensive appliance. Selina would have the man’s life story within five minutes.
There are so many themes in this book to pick apart. For instance, there’s the book’s unashamed embrace of unregulated capitalism – the one element of the book that I heartily dislike. There’s also the theme of living for another person. Selina lives for Dirk, hoping to impart to him an appreciation of beauty and an acceptance of other people. Her goal is to give him all the tools he might need to follow his dreams, whether those dreams turn out to be lucrative or not. Paula, a beautiful friend of Dirk’s, is a whip-smart woman with a love of money and fantastic business sense. In a later time period she’d be a financial mogul, but instead she has to live vicariously through Dirk, feeding him ideas and convincing him that they are his own. While the second half of the story is told from Dirk’s point of view, he is not nearly as interesting as either of the women who share such an interest in him.
The element of the book that has always stuck with me, from my first reading at about the age of ten to my most recent reading last week at the age of forty-four, is the portrayal of Selina. Regardless of whether she is doing well or badly, she never allows an often joyless life to sap her ability to find joy in the world. It’s not that she’s a Pollyanna-type of person, nor is she perpetually cheerful. It’s simply that she never stops noticing things. The same characteristic of noticing potential that helps her in business helps her in life.
Early in the book, Selina rides to High Prairie from Chicago for the first time with Klaas Pool in his wagon. Selina is enchanted by the landscape and gushes about it to Klaas, who is utterly baffled. For the rest of his life, he teases Selina with the phrase, “Cabbages are beautiful!” The author relates that Selina is not offended by Klaas’s mirth; she’s too excited about her new life to be offended.
For equipment she had youth, curiosity, a steel-strong frame; one brown lady’s-cloth, one wine-red cashmere; four hundred and ninety-seven dollars; and a gay, adventuresome spirit that was never to die, though it led her into curious places and she often found, at the end, only a trackless waste from which she had to retrace her steps, painfully. But always to her, red and green cabbages were to be jade and burgundy, chrysoprase and porphyry. Life has no weapons against a woman like that.
I’m so grateful to this book, which taught me early to value beauty in the ordinary. It is one of my formative books, all of which share a similar trait of heroines who are resilient, tough, generous, blessed with an unshakeable sense of self, and capable of finding beauty and joy in everyday life. Some others that leap to mind that I discovered young are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and of course my beloved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have felt so blessed to have these heroines in my life, reminding me that cabbages are beautiful.
Romance Readers Guide to Historic London
I read travel guides like any other book. In a world where people seeeeeeeeeeem to think Oh, no, who uses Lonely Planet anymore when you’ve got the internet in your pocket, let me tell you, internet. Browsing through a travel guide is worth your time. You’ll find at least one thing that you may not have found on Expedia’s Top Ten Things to do in London that is clearly a perfect trap set personally for you. (To the point that if I vanish next fall, it’s because the Dennis Sever’s House is RHG bait and I knew that and I booked a visit six months in advance anyway.)
I also saw this particular travel guide advertised at RT, and seeing as I am going to the UK this fall (Stay tuned for meetup details) and three of those days will be spent in London, YEAH YOU BET YOUR ASS I GOT THIS.
The concept behind this guide is to help romance readers find places that appear in our favorite historicals, and explains what’s still around and what you might be able to see. For example, the Serpentine is still there, but Almack’s is completely gone. It includes relevant excerpts from a large handful of romances, from Georgette Heyer to Erin Knightley. Do you want to know exactly how to get to Vauxhall Gardens? Or go to Tattersalls? Need an idea of what to expect from the various Royal Palaces around London? Or want someone to explain exactly where Mayfair is, what that means to a Regency historical reader, and how to get there? This book has you covered.
Hotels and places to eat are sorted by price range (from “Governess on holiday” to “King’s ransom”) and then ranked by how authentic a feel the historic establishment has. How old is, is it a Grade Listed building? How preserved is it? Does it have period decor? Does it give you that feeling of being in “Merry Olde England?”
The Guide also goes through an exhaustive list of hotels that are old and of interest to the historical romance reader. Rouillard lays out in stern detail how, should you stay in a hotel that was built back in The Day, you could expect small, weird shaped rooms and perhaps no elevator (but in the interest of accessibility, she does tell you where there are no lifts), and that Americans will sometimes be… distraught… over the idea of a small hotel room. But if you want to fork out for a room at Brown’s Hotel, where many of the political movers and shakers of the last two centuries have stayed, what you need to know is all there.
My favorite part is the listing of pubs and taverns and restaurants. It’s an impressive list that gives the history of each place (“The current building only dates from 1667 – yawn – when the pub was rebuilt after the Great Fire.” – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese) and tips on what food is offered and what the best bets are for meal choices. Also important, Rouillard gives the basic price range and dress code – after all, you wouldn’t want to be turned away from your High Tea at the Ritz because you’re wearing sneakers. (I know that none of you would dare.) Also very handy: a lot of these tiny tiny pubs are hidden and tucked away in the medieval nooks and crannies and you need some specific directions to find them (“Down an unmarked alley…”).
SPEAKING OF THE HIGH TEA, there are many options, dissected and ranked by price and snootiness. (I will be doing one, but in Edinburgh, not London. I’ll report back, don’t worry.)
One thing I found annoying: Rouillard includes notes on things “for the guys” like the Imperial War Museum or the Sherlock Holmes Pub. First, what? Second, these parts are still relevant to the interests of romance readers, some of whom are dudes. Third, gender-essentialist much? Finally, please don’t do that. She explains this as, “You might need something to salt your conversation with as you plan this trip for your dude to go along with it” but…ugh.
I will be going through this book with post-it tabs as I finalize plans for my own trip. I have my major excursions planned, but there’s a wall left of the Newgate prison to see (complete with ghost), and a girl has to eat, so pubs that are older than the United States are going on the list. I’m excited! I don’t know if I’m going to make it to Vauxhall, though.
Even if a trip to London isn’t in the cards in the near future, this book is fun to read. If you’ve ever wondered what all of the places that keep appearing in historicals are like today, this is for you. I wish I could afford a room in some of these hotels, but I will content myself with knowing they exist.
I went to the Oakland Book Festival last weekend. While I thought the panels and talks I went to were very good, the name is misleading. This event is really the Oakland Ideas Festival.
Very few of the program items focused on books, authors, or literature. There was a poetry reading, but otherwise the only readings were for children. Even the programs that featured fiction writers – there were a couple of them – didn’t include readings.
As a writer, I was disappointed that the festival doesn’t do more to promote books and authors, especially local authors. But since I’m also an idea junkie, I had a good time.
A panel called “Free Press and Fake News,” with Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery, The Nation senior editor Sarah Leonard, The Intercept deputy editor Roger Hodge, and East Bay Express editor Nick Miller, left me chewing over a lot of ideas.
Two things in particular caught my attention. The first was that there has been a forty percent drop in the number of journalists in recent years. That’s mostly because there’s been a drop in the number of newspapers as well as a tendency by the ones that remain to reduce the size of their staffs and “do more with less” – that absurd idea of modern management.
What this has meant is that there are many fewer reporters covering state government – not just state legislatures, but also the many agencies of state government, some of which are very powerful. Worse than that, there are many fewer people covering city councils, school boards, and other local government entities, especially in smaller towns.
The Washington Post’s current motto is “Democracy dies in the dark.” That’s true on the local level as well as on the national one.
As I may have said before, I was practically born on a copy desk. My mother always said she wasn’t the first woman copy editor on the Houston Chronicle, but she was the first pregnant woman on the copy desk. When I worked on the Chronicle as a copy girl one summer, I worked with people who had known me before I was born.
My parents started each day by reading the paper and commenting on it in detail. I grew up learning not just to read the news, but to parse it, to analyze the editorial decisions that went into making up the paper, to question things. That means I grew up understanding journalism with all its flaws, while still believing in the absolute importance of thorough reporting as part of our democratic system.
I still believe in that.
It occurred to me while listening to this panel that the most important thing someone who is interested in journalism could do right now is to move to place with no serious newspaper and start one. If done as an online venture it could be done on the cheap. And I have noticed that there are a number of non-profit news outlets doing great work these days. There’s no reason you couldn’t fund local news that same way; some people already do this. Of course, it would be a hell of a lot of work and there wouldn’t be much money in it even if you did get some grants.
People who’ve retired from bigger papers and have a little pension or a severance package are in a position to do this, but it would also be good if some younger people would create their own jobs this way.
Of course, for those without much experience, there aren’t enough small papers out there where aspiring journalists can build their skills before starting their own pubs. I mean, it takes the guidance of a good editor to learn how to cover a city council or police station. The only answer I have to that is that folks should study journalism at a good school that also publishes a good student newspaper.
My alma mater, the University of Texas, and its superb student paper, The Daily Texan (where I worked when I was in school), come to mind, but I’m sure there are others. Obviously, the best choices are state schools with modest tuition (if there are any left), since you’re not going to make a lot of money doing real journalism. Also it would probably be good to pick up some tech skills while you’re at it.
My parents started their own paper forty-five years ago – with a print pub, since that was pre-internet. They each had twenty-five to thirty years of experience when they did it, and they were fed up with working for the Houston newspapers. They started a weekly in our small town (which was fast becoming a suburb) and then did two more companion papers in nearby communities.
They were hell on wheels when it came to covering city councils, school boards, and water districts, and smart enough to make sure they also got lots of photos of high school sports. They were also stony-cold broke – so broke that my father made most of his drinking money by doing a bit of low key pool sharking at a local bar. (Old guy wearing trifocals, how good could he be?)
Fortunately, my father also figured out how to run a newspaper business office and got some good ad clients, because they sold the paper for a nice chunk of change and were able to retire. Unfortunately, without their passion behind it, the news coverage went to hell after it was sold. But at least I didn’t have to support them in their old age.
The financial side of all this brings me to the second thing the panelists said that stuck with me. They all said, “Subscribe.” The advertising model doesn’t work well any more. They need the money.
I see this repeated everywhere: pay for the news or we won’t get any. And while I think that’s a good idea, it’s also true that most of us can’t afford to pay for all the different publications we’d like to have access to. So it’s still a difficult situation.
It reminded me a lot of the Patreon program that many fiction writers and other artists (and probably some freelance journalists) are using to bring in income these days. The changing landscape of publishing, just like the changing landscape of journalism, is making people come up with creative ways to getting paid.
Of course, there are only so many artists one can afford to support. But clearly it’s a time for creating new ways of paying people to bring us news and insights, whether they’re reporters or scholars or artists.
Thinking about the similarities between journalists and fiction writers when it comes to making a living made the Festival resonate with me. It was a good event.
But it still wasn’t about books.
Fandom: Legend of Korra
Characters and Pairing: Lin/Tenzin
Summary: A few months ago, Lin was a promising young police officer. Now she has to find a new path.
Notes: Set in the same AU as "Avalanche". It's called the President Beifong AU on AO3, even though I haven't really gotten to any of the presidential stuff yet. This fic comes with thanks to multivitamins and praticamente-innocua, which between them gave me the strength to start recovering from The Cold I've Had Since March.
( While the welcoming party's attention was on the Avatar, Lin climbed gingerly down from Appa and all but collapsed in Tenzin's arms. )
So, the stalls - weird mix of very popular and no-one looking, which didn't appear to correlate with how easy it was to get the attention of someone staffing them. I had a really interesting conversation with a fellow who is involved in running a fabric/sewing/craft/quilting shop near here (and I know which mob they are, and I wasn't impressed with them five years ago, but maybe I should give them a second chance, because they do stock a wide range of items that I find difficult to get. Plus, he was willing to show off all the features of the expensive gadget that he was showing, even after I said that I covet one but cannot in any way afford one. I think I would need to set up a sideline in selling shiny things if I bought one, although fancy cut vinyl stickers are something I've love to be able to do...). There was one stall focusing on Fiskars items, and the person demoing a cutting ruler with built in rotary cutter was talking about how she can use that despite shoulder issues, etc etc, show special, etc etc, especially if you buy it with the rotating mat (which was on my wishlist) etc. So, bought one of those and a square rotating mat (the other one I'd seen was round, and I didn't really want a round one) for a total of $120 -- looking at the Spotlight web site, just the ruler is $125, so I'm feeling pretty happy about that. (even if it was that I gave in to a sales pitch, I'm justifying it that I was specifically looking to buy equipment that will make my life easier)
The exhibitions- I did in no way manage to do this justice. There was a wearable art exhibition of about a dozen pieces, and I wish I'd given the time to reading all about them, but by the time I found the displays I was already hitting headachy, so reading was limited. From there I went to the travelling exhibition, which made me realise how little I value textile art. I kept thinking 'but these aren't really quilts' and things like that -- it was only when I made myself step back and examine them as artworks, and started thinking about them that way that they started to make sense (things like printing a photograph onto fabric, and then building from that - there were at least three of these, and I couldn't make them make sense as quilts). As 'pieces of art that people would put on display' some of them were fabulous (and some were just meh, but that is me and art at the best of times. And then there was a vast exhibition of a range of works, from competitive ones (there must have been two different competitions displayed, at least, there appeared to be two sets with state winner ribbons), through to several quilt guild groups showcasing work-to-theme sets (and I really liked that - what do a range of people do with the same one). I did find that this area was a bit confusing, and I wish that more of the quilting groups had just had a piece of paper with meeting times on, so that I could work out which one(s) I would actually be able to get to. The one I'm most likely to have any luck with is the one where there were really really enthusiastic people encouraging me, telling me that everyone is welcome, and if you are a beginner, everyone is really helpful. And they meet on Sundays, so I will definitely think about going to that one.
Presentations - I happened on one on free motion quilting. The person presenting it did a really good sales pitch on a few things, and then a really good 'how to learn' set of instructions, and I was inspired to purchase their starter kit, because it had a couple of things that I had already been eyeing off, plus a pre-printed set of quilt as you go blocks, so I got a couple of bits for 'free'. Which, oops, means I have another project*, but I'm just going to put it in the music room, and I'll get to it when I get to it (the second half of this year is probably going to involve a lot of me-at-home time, so I have hopes of craft). Other than that, I didn't go to any of the presentations. If I were to go again, this would be why I was going, and I'd look at the schedule ahead of time, and plan around that.
Not buying fabric - mostly this was easy. I hate buying fat quarters, and a lot of places seemed to be mostly selling those. There was a stall selling 'french linen' which had absolutely beautiful fabric, but I have no projects that would have benefitted from those fabrics, and I don't need fabric for a new project (in future years, I can imagine picking a project, and then going shopping for fabrics, because it would be a great way to go a hunting -- so much more variety than just going to a local store), so resisting it was easy. My downfall was a basket in a corner of one very crowded stall, where 'bolt ends' (~3m) were being sold at $3/m, and there were two really good ones for backing baby quilts, which cost me $20 for just over 6m. There was a third I kind of liked, but it doesn't fit with the kind of colours I usually buy. I'm kind of regretting not getting it, because actually, it kind of suits something I have in mind. But really, *not buying fabric* was the goal.
Overall - I got in early enough that it wasn't horribly crowded, I managed to see a bit of everything and have an idea of what I might go back for in future years, if it falls at a time I can get there, and I only pushed things a little too hard (ow. and apparently, when I don't have water, and my mouth is too dry to dry swallow tablets, I've reached the point where chewing paracetamol tablets seems perfectly sensible, and I don't even noticed the bitterness). Oh, and I read a chapter of the textbook (including answering as many of the questions as is possible without pen and paper), and about half the next one, so I actually go a reasonable amount of study done.
Now: resting in bed. Might have to get up and have hot shower to kill off the rest of the headache/back ache/hip ache. Don't have to do anything responsible until nearly 4pm, when I have to go collect youngest from the train. *flop*
*and when I opened up the kit, it turns out that there is a quilt pattern in there as well, so technically I think that this means I have two new projects, because I've never made a quilt from a kit, and I kinda wanna see how I go. Bets on how far from the original pattern I deviate should be kept to a minimum, because I don't think I've ever met a pattern I didn't want to vary.
by Dialecticdreamer/Sarah Williams
part 17 of ?
word count (story only): 1071
:: This story takes place the same day as “Insurance Salesmen,” picking up as Edwina arrives at work. This story will begin to make obvious and plot-critical connections between the earlier stories. I currently expect to wrap everything up within a total of twenty parts, around 25k words. ::
:: Pay Special Attention: Warnings will be listed by chapter, with the proper spoiler-cover on the index page and listing all necessary warnings. In this chapter, it's time to regroup and reassess their problems. Also, this is a promise from the author of a happy ending, because the plot is not about a missing shoe. ::
Tension wound between them as the professor, too, slipped into the kitchen. Sighing, Mister Williams turned to Edwina and politely cleared his throat. “Miss Edwina, now that I know of your education, I look forward to discussing the matter with you on Monday, at supper.”
“Yes, sir,” Edwina agreed, torn between reluctance and hope.
( Read more... )
Wonder Woman (please be good! Not that I saw the show or read the comics, but as a woman who goes to see comic book movies, we're due one about a superheroine that's good) is occupying my brain more. But apparently the news about the merchandise isn't great.
Anyway, I’m watching Smallville season 5 for the first time on DVD. (I’ve been spoiled for a few big things on the show over the years. And the next DVD boxset I will go through will be a better show, but I’m watching it with much nostalgia for my experiences of the fandom for the first year or two. Quick recap: CHLOE.)
The colour palate is very striking, coming off the greys of metal, glass, stone and shadows of Person of Interest. I’m also rewatching the Pirates of the Caribbean movies right now, which has the blues and greys of the sea and brown and black of the ships, so the warm, bright, sun-kissed hues of Smallville, where everyone’s outfits are colour-coded, jumped out at me.
( spoilers up to 5.4 )
Edit: Also, he's making a weird noise in his sleep. He's burping or hiccupping, I don't know, but it sounds like the sort of bubbles you'd hear popping in an old video game. It is super adorable.
Learning to read as an adult might change the way your brain works
Evolution Runs Faster on Short Timescales
Reinventing high school
Male Fish Borrows Egg to Clone Itself
Taiwan is closer to being 1st Asian place to allow same-sex marriage
Scientists Have Observed Epigenetic Memories Being Passed Down For 14 Generations
'A Kingdom On Wheels': The Hidden World That Made The Circus Happen
Last show for Ringling: Why it’s not really the end of the circus
Scientists Hunt Hard Evidence On How Cop Cameras Affect Behavior
Hundreds protest over minimum wage at McDonald's stockholder meeting
Why Colleges Already Face Race-Related Challenges In Serving Future Students
How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science
8 in 10 people now see climate change as a “catastrophic risk” – survey
Africa is not poor, we are stealing its wealth
Doctors Once Thought Bananas Cured Celiac Disease. They Saved Kids' Lives – At A Cost
There Aren't Enough Slaughterhouses to Support the Farm-to-Table Economy
The struggles of war babies fathered by black GIs
Why Black Lung Disease Is Deadlier Than Ever Before
Border Walls and Biodiversity: New barriers, new horizons
Trump Wants Families On Food Stamps To Get Jobs. The Majority Already Work
How the Right Is Perverting Religious Liberty
Trump's budget means deep cuts for health care safety net
In Trump's America, Infrastructure Is Not for the People
I read Trump's budget with an expert. His take: it's cruel and based on phony assumptions.
SMBC: Marine Biology (This is not a funny comic.)
New police taskforce to target Indonesian gays
Army trucks roll deeper into Philippine city that is under siege while thousands flee
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should I accept a huge favor from my new staff members?
I’m a mid-level manager with a large, field-based team. I think I have a real camaraderie with the team, and upward feedback surveys show that as well. At most, I see each team member a few times a month, but we talk often.
My team knows that I am single, new to the area, and recently bought a home. Some of them offered to help me move, which of course I declined. I even got texts the day of the move, asking if there was anything they could help with, or offering to move anything I didn’t trust the movers to do!
Today I was talking to “Bob” and “Todd” on the phone and they asked how I was settling in. I said “great” and made a comment about how many odds and ends there are to buy, and that I should rent a van or something. They asked why I needed a that and I replied that I wanted to buy a rug, but can’t fit in in my car. Bob and Todd then offered to help — Bob has a large truck, and Todd offered to help carry. They even proposed a day after work to go. Am I crazy for considering it? Is this out of bounds? I wouldn’t ever want them to feel like I’m taking advantage of their kindness, so I would give them money or a gift card to a restaurant I know they like. What do you think?
If you were peers, I’d tell you to accept their offer at face value (but not to pay them, because it can seem insulting to hand cash to someone who wanted to do you a favor, although buying them a meal or another gift is fine). But as their boss, the power dynamics make it trickier. Their offer might be entirely genuine and they might make the same offer to any colleague, but it’s a muddier area because you have power over them. (And imagine if you needed to give one of them very negative feedback a few days after they do you this favor — it’s messy.)
The reality is that a lot of managers would take them up on this offer anyway, and honestly, if you do, it will probably end up being just fine. But there’s definitely risk to it. If you want the safest course of action, it would be to decline the help, but tell them how much you appreciate the thought and that the offer was really kind of them to make. (Be sure that you leave them feeling warm and fuzzy about the whole interaction, not like you snubbed their genuine offer of help.)
2. Taking time off when I’m a one-person department
I’m the only person in the IT department serving support for 600+ employees at a company, which is crazy alone. I requested time off over a month in advance and sent a message to all department heads to ensure anything I needed to complete would be done a week prior to my absence. Now, one of the owners of the company is requesting me to send them a back-up plan.
No one can take over my position and they cannot afford to hire someone new. I work salaried so my hours are insane and I’m constantly exhausted. I need this vacation or I’m sure to quit. Do you have any advice on what I can send them as a “back-up” plan? I do not want to have to answer my phone or emails.
Given the constraints of the current situation (including that they wouldn’t be able hire someone new that fast anyway), it sounds like they need an IT firm that can provide backup support when you’re not available. It’s not just for this vacation; what would they do if you were out sick or hit by a bus or quit and left the position vacant? There are loads of reasons why there needs to be a back-up plan in place beyond just this vacation.
Ideally, you would have pitched this long before your vacation was looming, but you can do it now and point out that it will be necessary plenty of other times in the future as well. If they balk at the price or the logistics and pressure you to be available on your vacation instead, say this: “That really won’t be possible. I’m exhausted and in need of a real vacation where I can disconnect from work.” If needed, you can change that last sentence to “the place I’m going doesn’t have reliable phone or internet.”
Also, one IT person for 600 people is insane. It might be worth you considering switching jobs (unless you love it there, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case) because this sounds pretty bad.
3. How can I push back on being forced to ask for donations?
My office is doing a fundraising challenge. Previously the fundraising team has sent out general emails about incentives for staff members who get people we know to donate, which I have ignored. I just learned that during tomorrow’s all-staff meeting, we are going to have to populate a list of names of people we know, tweet/Facebook/email them right there (to ensure we do it?), and continue to follow up for the next few weeks until they give.
I don’t want to do this. Besides my personal distaste for asking people for money, this request is particularly tone-deaf given our nonprofit is trying to fight a growing perception of being transactional (rather than community-centered), and several of the people expected to fundraise are losing their jobs (to budget cuts) next month.
I’ve read the posts about employers expecting employees to donate, but I’m not sure what to do when they’re expecting me to be the solicitor. (Note: I’m currently in my notice period, so I’m not worried about job security if I politely refuse, but I don’t know what to say.) What would you do?
Gross. Try saying, “My friends and family have made it clear they’ll unfriend people who solicit them for donations, so this isn’t possible for me.”
If you’re asked if that’s really true of all of them, say, “Yes, all of them. They really hate this stuff.”
The fact that you’re in your notice period will make holding firm on this especially easy, but hopefully you’ll inspire some of your colleagues to do the same.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with involving staff members in fundraising work. It’s the insistence that people mine their personal contacts without giving them a choice that’s tacky and inappropriate. It’s fine to say “hey, we’d love it if you’d think about people in your network who might be interested in this.” It’s not okay to say “you must harass your personal contacts whether you want to or not.”
4. My boss sends non-stop thank-you emails
My new boss sends me emails that just say “thank you!” Or “thank you so much!” as replies to almost every email I send to her or that she is copied on from me. I try to appreciate the gratitude, but we are crazy busy and they just feel like a waste of time for her and for me. I often receive them late at night, and while I myself often work at night or on weekends and don’t mind receiving requests in off hours, it feels like an unnecessary interruption to my downtime to send an email with essentially no content. My uncharitable instincts tell me an email that just says “thank you!” sent at 10 p.m. is just to let me know she’s working so late, but I don’t actually think that’s the case.
My passive aggressive instinct is to send her a reply that just says “You’re so welcome!” every time but that doesn’t solve anything. I’m usually all in favor of direct communication but I’m really afraid of coming across as super whiny for complaining about something so small. We are new to working together, and I would like to put my best foot forward. Also, does she think I’m ungrateful for all of her work because I don’t acknowledge every communication with a two word email?
Let it go.
It takes her two seconds to send, and it takes you two seconds to read and delete. And it shouldn’t be interrupting your downtime unless you’re checking your work email already, in which case that’s not really downtime.
She’s a big thanker. There are worse offenses. Your best bet is to shrug it off.
5. Interviewing when you’re not sure you want to leave your current job
I currently work at a startup and I really love it there! However, I have some worries about our future sustainability for various reasons. I don’t think we’re going to go under immediately or anything, but I know that when you work for early stage startups, there’s always that risk!
I’m not actively job hunting but I have been keeping my eyes open a little wider lately for these reasons. A job at a larger company where I have friends recently opened up. They encouraged me to apply and I decided to give it a shot.
I’m genuinely not sure if I want to take another job or not. Like I said, I love my current job. But it seems foolish not to look into other opportunities if they come along. If we go under in a few months, I’d definitely be bummed out for passing up this chance to interview. But is it unethical to interview for a new job if I’m not sure I’m ready to leave my old one? If I were to hypothetically get an offer and then decide I didn’t want to leave my current job, how should I handle that?
So not unethical! Just like it’s not unethical for them to interview you without being sure they’d hire you.
If you were sure you wouldn’t take the job if offered and were just using them for interview practice or really weird entertainment, then yeah, that would be shady. But it’s totally normal to interview even if you’re not absolutely sure you’re ready to leave your current job. In fact, interviewing can be part of how you figure that out — sometimes you might find that you prefer your current job to any of your other options, and other times you might realize that you can do much better.
If you end up getting an offer and decide you don’t want to accept it, you’d just say, “Thank you so much. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided not to move on right now, but I really appreciate the time you spent talking with me.” (However, if you realize after you interview — but before you get an offer — that it’s a definite no for you, it’s courteous to let them know at whatever point you’re sure you want to withdraw, rather than waiting for them to put together an offer.)
accepting a big favor from employees, taking time off when you’re a one-person department, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
I have June 2nd off, so I am going to actually watch Wonder Woman in a movie theater. Usually I'd just wait until it's on Hulu or Netflix or ahem, but I want to support Wonder Woman. I'm really, super hopeful that it's as great as the trailers are making it out to be and I really hope it doesn't bomb because Hollywood would very much use that as an excuse to not have anymore woman-led superhero movies or similar, so I'm going to make it a point to go to the theaters. I love Gal Gadot and I love her Wonder Woman from Batman v Superman, so I'm hopeful.
Property Brothers is currently showing its previous seasons on Hulu. I love love love listening to/watching/reading about housing and decoration, and Property Brothers is great for all of that. I am nowhere near owning my own anything, so I have to live vicariously through everything else. Like Pinterest ;)
Currently on 7 of 25 hats. \o/
Title: Love Buzz
Author: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Young King
Status in Japan: 3 volumes, complete
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations + Heterophobia Fansubs
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates
Summary: Five years ago, pro wrestler Fuji Kaoru disappeared one day before a match. Now she shows up at her old gym out of the blue, with a five-year-old daughter in tow. But not everyone is willing to welcome her back with open arms.
Chapter Summary: Fuji's family really wants to meet her ex.
Chapter 12: Do You Want to See Your Daddy?