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  1. The Mini-Refrigerator that Turned into a Giant Headache

    June 25, 2017 by Diane

    My mini refrigerator died. It had survived thirteen years, which in refrigerator years is, like, fifty, but after this last heat wave, or my five-millionth defrosting job, it went to the happy junk yard in the sky.

    I always time my defrosting duties for when my landlady is out of town, so I can store all my perishables in her full-bodied refrigerator. She was in Reno until Saturday. My mini fridge died on Friday. I had to get a new mini fridge pronto before my landlady came home with a Costco-size load of groceries. That gave me twenty-four hours to get my food out of her refrigerator. So on a day I normally work my second job because my first job doesn’t pay all the bills, I went hunting for a new refrigerator that wasn’t in the budget.

    I scoured the internet for brands, and read reviews. Armed with a list of possible candidates, I got in my car.

    First, I headed to Costco. I walked the entire store and found zero mini fridges. I also found zero food demonstrators, so I had zero sustenance for my epic journey through Costco.

    Next up: Walmart. I loathe Walmart only slightly less than I loathe IKEA, mainly because the people who work in Walmart seem profoundly unhappy, and none of them speak my native language, the Queen’s English. I traipsed hither and yon looking for mini refrigerators, and finally spied the empty shelves where once they stood.

    I looked around for a helper.

    “Excuse me,” I said to a young man wearing a blue Walmart smock. “Do you have any mini refrigerators in stock?”

    “Que?”

    “Refrigerators.”

    “Si. Here.” He directed me to the empty shelves and we stood side by side gazing at them.

    “Are there any in back-stock?” I wondered aloud.

    “Que?”

    “Back…”

    I drove across the street to Target.

    I spotted a young woman wearing the Target colors: a red top and khaki pants, and asked where I might find the mini fridges.

    “The kitchen section, if we’ve got any,” she said.

    I walked five miles looking for refrigerators that didn’t exist. First, to the kitchen section, where I found shelf labels, but no actual mini fridges. I hunted for a helper. There are no helpers in Target. There are shoppers wearing red tops and khaki pants who have no idea what’s in back-stock, but no Target employees walking purposefully, or even sauntering, down the aisles. I know this, because I walked up and down every aisle until I was at the front of the store once again, asking one of the cashiers for help in the kitchen section. She pointed me to a guy with a walkie-talkie who promised to help, and then promptly disappeared. I asked another cashier who pointed me to guest services, where walkie-talkie-guy was chit-chatting with an employee. “I’m on it,” he said when he noticed me, and promptly disappeared. I asked another…I’ll cut to the chase. Somebody finally found a mini refrigerator, I paid for it, and a beefy fellow wrestled it into the back seat of my Corolla.

    I drove home.

    Dare I tell you what happened next?

    Remember, I was under a deadline. My landlady was packing to come home. She would undoubtedly stock up on food before arriving. I had less than 24 hours to get my new fridge into my cottage, out of the box, allow four hours for it to stand upright before plugging it in because that’s what the directions say, clean it, turn it on, and get it to the proper safe food temperature which takes, oh, twelve hours.

    I decided to get that refrigerator out of my car by myself.

    Granted, this was a mini version, and half my height, but it was twice my weight, or what felt like twice my weight after pushing and pulling and shoving and angling and using forceps to get the dang thing out without breaking my car door. This, I imagined, is what it feels like to give birth. Without the mess.

    I dragged it over uneven pavement to my back door, heaved it over the doorstep, and rocked it down the hallway. I clipped the packing straps in two, and started cutting the sides of the box with an Exacto knife before realizing I could lift the box off its base, wrangle the fridge off the styrofoam, and push it into position.

    Done.

    I hunkered down and opened the small door.

    The photo on the outside of the box showed a variety of food filling the shelves, one item being a jar of Mayonnaise. I should have realized…the jar was Barbie-doll size. Upon closer inspection of said photo, the Mayonnaise jar was no bigger than the Yoplait yogurt crammed next to it.

    This refrigerator had midget shelves.

    The freezer? Huge!

    Obviously, this mini fridge was designed for someone who lived in a man-cave subsisting on frozen dinners and a single stalk of celery.

    I’m a vegan.

    I need a crisper that’s bigger than a wallet.

    I needed to get that refrigerator back in its box, down the hallway, over the uneven pavement, into my car, and returned to Target in exchange for another refrigerator at some other store which, hopefully, had something in stock.

    The clock was ticking.

    I got to work.

    …to be continued.


  2. When Honesty Goes Awry

    June 11, 2017 by Diane

    At work one day, while cutting through the room where my boss was interviewing a bookkeeper, I heard the question we’re asked at every job interview:

    “What’s your weakness?”

    Does anyone answer that question honestly?

    “Well, I’m always late for work, and I’m a slob. I’m a hoarder, too, so my desk will be a mess. Oh, and I like to read books when I should be working. And text friends. And surf the ‘net. And take personal calls. And naps. That’s about it.”

    The bookkeeper answered:

    “I have a hard time working for a place where I don’t feel appreciated.”

    Good answer! I thought, and then, wait, wanting to be appreciated is a weakness? Isn’t that a right?

    How about this answer:

    “I like to be paid on time.”

    It got me to thinking: in what other situations do we avoid honesty? What if we just said it like it is?

    “Do you take this man to be your lawful married husband, for better or for worse—”

    “Can you define ‘worse’?”

    Or how about this classic:

    “Does this dress make me look fat?”

    “Uh, yeah. Pretty much.”

    Okay, so blunt honesty isn’t particularly nice.

    “What’s my weakness? I’m honest to a fault. That tie you’re wearing makes you look like a doofus. When do I start?”

    We’re told to be honest, but along with that expectation comes the understanding that if you can’t be nice, then lie. Or deflect.

    “That dress? What a lovely shade! It brings out the blue in your eyes.”

    Maybe there’s a middle ground for honesty. Something that’s not too honest,

    “I have low self-esteem, because I’m one of twelve children and my parents ignored me.”

    …or not honest enough,

    “My weakness? I’d rather not answer that question.”

    …but just right,

    “That dress isn’t quite as flattering on you as the green one.”

    “My weakness? Not having a prepared answer for that question.”

    Our degree of honesty depends on our relationships. We’re blunt with spouses and family members, but not with co-workers or strangers. Why? Because we know our loved ones have signed on “for better or for worse,” but a stranger might want nothing more to do with us.

    So we lie to be liked.

    Or to be president.

    We just don’t call them lies.

    We call them alternative facts. Because we can’t even be honest about lying.

    I appreciate honesty. It builds trust. On the other hand, if honesty reveals a psychotic personality, how much trust can I muster?

    There’s vulnerability in being honest. We risk losing respect when we admit, “I don’t know, I’m wrong, I made a mistake.” But when we lie to ourselves, we’ve lost something far more valuable.

    Better to speak our truth,

    “I really don’t like working with numbers. But I need this job, and don’t believe there’s something else out there, or something I can get, so I’m willing to settle. That’s my weakness.”

    …just not in the job interview. At home, in front of the mirror, looking ourself dead in the eyes.

     


  3. Tips for Introverts Who Feel Lost and Overwhelmed

    June 4, 2017 by Diane

    Dear Digby,

    I’m not sure which direction to go in my life, so I’m dabbling in a bit of everything and feeling overwhelmed! I’m an introvert with limited amounts of energy, so I need a clear sign. What can I do to determine what would be the best use of my time and energy?

    Pooped

    Dear Pooped:

    I hear you, and I sympathize. I, too, am an introvert with limited energy. I take on too much, and wonder why I’m spent at the end of the day, unable to do anything more than watch reruns of The Bachelor in my imagination. When I skip my coveted downtime on Sundays—hanging in the park like some beached whale, reading a novel and eating chocolate, my anxiety ramps up. I start the work week on limited reserves, adding more stress, exacerbating my symptoms. Then I scan the environment, both internal and external, for the cause of my anxiety, magnifying it.

    My advice: allow yourself downtime every day—even a half hour!—and for at least half a day on the weekend. During that downtime, do relaxing activities: doodle, color, read, listen to music, meditate, take a walk, spend time in nature, play, hang out with one or two close friends. Too many people in your orbit will drain you. It’s okay to be a lazy-bones. In fact, you need it, to recharge.

    Now, for a clear sign as to where your limited stores of energy would be most beneficial for your success, ask yourself these questions:

    What does success look like to me?

    Success means different things to different people. Everyone knows that. But not everyone knows what success means for themselves. Is success writing a novel and submitting it for publication? Getting hired by a specific company? Starting your own business? Recording your own music? Is success devoting time to a spiritual path? Teaching, coaching, or motivating others? What gets your juices flowing in a good way?

    What, specifically, am I doing? 

    If success is still a vague concept to you, imagine yourself doing things that make you feel accomplished. Are you writing? If so, what are you writing? A blog? A newsletter? A screenplay? Are you designing a web page or brochure? Visualize the activities that bring fulfillment to you.

    What are the steps I need to take to make that happen?

    Once you have a solid idea of what success means to you, jot down all the steps to reach that goal. List them in reverse. Start with the final step, then ask yourself: in order for that to happen, what do I need to do? And before that, what? And before that, what? And keep asking until you get to the very first step you need to take. For example, your list might look something like this:

    Receive a call from my agent that a publisher accepted my book

    Submit edited manuscript to my agent

    Edit manuscript

    Revise manuscript

    Get an agent

    Contact possible agents

    Research possible agents

    Get a copy of Guide to Literary Agents

    …and so on, to your very first step:

    Write an outline for my novel.

    Now that you know that first teensy-weensy step, it’s time to do it. Yeah, get up off the lawn, you beached whale. Ask yourself:

    What time of day am I most productive?

    For me, it’s 10 am – noon. Fat lot of good that does if my goal is a creative project, since four days a week I’m working my day job during that time. But that leaves three days a week that I can be productive doing my own projects. Are you a morning person? Or are you sharper after dinner? Surely you can find two hours, or one hour, or fifteen minutes of productive time in your day. Block that time out on your schedule.

    What time of day am I the least productive?

    For me, it’s afternoons. Right around 3:00, when I should be getting a nap and cookies instead of working. Maybe for you, mornings are snooze-ville. Schedule non-brain draining activities during that time. Answer emails. Return phone calls. Watch webinars. Do chores. Exercise. Or do the tasks on your list that don’t require a lot of brain power, like reading e-newsletters or books related to your field.

    Give your project a trial run

    Devote three weeks to see how it feels to work toward your goal. Twenty-one days, that’s all. Every day, check your energy barometer. Do you feel juiced up with excitement, or crispy from adrenaline surges? What is your body telling you? As introverts we’re super in touch with our bodies, so all we need to do is trust our instincts.

    By giving yourself a fair shot, trying something out for 21 days, you’ll find your answer. Either it’s the right direction to take, or it’s the Wrong Way. If it’s wrong, then let it go and focus on something else. Maybe during those 21 days you discovered a side road that looked promising. Go explore that now for 21 days.

    But I just want a clear sign. Now, not 21 days from now!

    Okay, calm down. Ask yourself this:

    What do I want?

    If you don’t know, pick something. Anything. Then find a comfortable place by yourself, turn off all devices, put up the “gone fishing” sign, close your eyes, mentally relax your muscles, and visualize yourself doing that one thing. How does your body feel? Sit with it for awhile.

    If you’re torn between possibilities, do the visualization for each one, checking in with your body’s signals at the end of each exercise. Jot down any buts you come up with:

    But I can’t do that because_________

    But I need _______ before I can do ________.

    But I don’t have the chops.

    But I’m not ready.

    But it’s impossible.

    Through the day, be aware of solutions that present themselves in whispery thoughts, or from something you read, or something someone told you. Or ask a friend what they would do to overcome these temporary obstacles.

    Still not clear?

    Pretend you know the answer. A friend recommended this to me recently. Say, “If I knew the answer, it would be ______.”

    How does that feel?

    Bottom line:

    You have your answers. Sometimes you won’t like the answers, but you’ll know, deep down, what’s true. Sometimes the answers are buried under all the chatter in your brain, or lost in the swirl of activities you use as distractions. Sometimes you need others to help nudge them out. But if you settle down, and trust those flashes of instinct, you’ll find your way.

    And when you do, enjoy the journey. With plenty of rest stops along the way. Now, where’s my beach blanket?

    Takeaways this week:

    For more tips on finding your ideal productivity time, check out Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, by Josh Davis.

    To learn productivity tips from a guy who spent a year experimenting on the subject, read The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey.