Happy Friday

I have three minutes before I have to leave for work, and wanted to dash this out. I'm wearing jeans today. I've never really been a fan of jeans, having found that they're not particularly comfortable especially if you fidget a lot, and they're totally gross if you get wet from rain or snow…but with the return to corporate America “casual Friday” has become a miniholiday, and since we're allowed to wear jeans, I've been doing so.

And finding that I quite like them. Today, for example, I'm wearing them with my favorite black boots and a charcoal sweater designed to look like there's a white blouse underneath. It's comfortable, and just dressy enough for casual friday at BigFinancialCompany.

This week has seemed a month long, partly because I was stuck in a training class, and partly because attending the class has skewed our schedule just enough earlier to be uncomfortable. I'm eager to return to my cushy 10-7 shift on Tuesday.

May everyone have a blissfully happy Friday, and a wonderful weekend.

Originally written at 7:41 AM.

Locked Work Update

So, if you're not on my Christmas list, you might not know that the company where I've been working since 12/12/05 is CitiFinancial Mortgage, which is the subprime division of CitiGroup's mortgage branch. I spent the first 10 days without computer access, because even though I work for the largest financial institution in all creation…the umbrella company so iconic that their logo IS an umbrella (yeah, okay, they stole that from Traveller's, but, hey…), the fact that I was hired during the holiday season, and in the middle of a stage by stage move (all the Dallas ops divisions are moving from scattered campuses to one big campus in Irving) meant that they couldn't manage to create a login for me.

So I spent a lot of time stacking files, and bringing files to underwriting, closing, audit, or escrow, which, if nothing else, forced me to meet everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. They may have taken ten days to give me computer access, but they're all so amazingly friendly…it's very cool. The people I didn't meet by wandering around being helpful came to my desk and said, “You're the newest processor on S's team, right? Welcome!”

Finally, the day after Christmas, I had access, and they threw me into processing. I think I scared our supervisor a little when my first four files came back with no underwriting stips (conditions). But, you know, in a good way. By the 7th of January, I had 10 submissions, two closings, and two declines (I'd never have sent them TO underwriting if I'd had the option not to, on those). And somewhere along the line the two male underwriters started calling me “Famous.” Well, first it was, “So, you're the famous Melissa,” and then it was shortened to just, “Hi, Famous.”

On January 11th, I was pulled away from the team and my pipeline to attend a month-long training class. If you've never done any processing before, or only a little, it's a good class. The trainers are upbeat, bright, funny, and generally nice people. It's not their fault they have nothing to teach that I don't already know. Really. But it's a requirement, and they welcome input, so I've been trying to balance being helpful with not showing off. Thankfully, they understand the need to be occupied, so they provided each of us with a bunch of pipecleaners, koosh balls, plastic slinky-like things, and small tubs of play-dough (the substance, but not the brand).

Yesterday, our training class ended at 3:15. The trainers can't release us from the building before 4:30, so we were sent to our managers, who, for the most part, said, “Enjoy the ability to bail while you can.” I pointed out that I was meeting Fuzzy at six, so had time available if there was anything to be done. (They know how bored I've been in this training. Not that the trainers aren't wonderful, marvellous people, but…out of the twenty people in my class, 5 are wholesale, 2 are ALP, and the other 13 are consumer direct. The five of us who are wholesale processors have oodles of mortgage experience. The ALP women use completely different forms and software than we do (ALP = Alternative Lending, they're the people who get our loans when even we can't do them), and the consumer direct people are all green, green, green.

So, for the first week of class, as we did things like spending an entire day learning how to read an appraisal (no, I didn't actually murder anyone. Really.) And on Monday and Tuesday they paid us – and I'm not making this up – to play Hangman to fill the last half hour of the day. ANd the whole time I've been politely telling anyone who asked “How's training going?” that the class is very good, if you don't already have oodles of experience.

Anyway, back to yesterday. I mentioned I had time to kill, they said, “Really??? Well A's alone on your team right now. Can you get two files done by the time you need to leave?” And I said, “Of course.” So I was given two files to process, and was done with one and 90% done with the other when we had to go. I came in early this morning to print the last few pages, and carry it to underwriting, and on the way back my manager stopped me and said, “So, about your training?” And I said, “Yes?”

“You're done as of tomorrow,” she told me.

“Oh?” I asked, trying not to jump up and down with glee.

“We need you on the floor, and you know what you're doing, and the underwriters say you don't make mistakes.”

“I try not to,” I said. “I don't like stips. It's like a game – how few stips can I get?”

She laughed, and said, “Exactly. Clearly you have a lot of knowledge, and it's being wasted. And I know you'd rather earn bonuses than play with clay.”

“Um, well, it was magenta clay, at least,” I said.

“So, you're finishing MAGIC (customer service stuff – it's FUN – it's ROLEPLAY!) tomorrow, and then you're back on the team on Monday, while everyone else does two weeks of software training.”

“THANK YOU!” I said.

So, yeah, I'm kicked out of training for knowing too much. Although, I'm going to ONE day of software training so I can learn the broker-engine in a training environment without my phone ringing, and have the opportunity to ask questions about some of the fields I'm not sure of in the main processing software. Still, two days is WAY better than two weeks.

Which brings us to this evening. I went to my desk to find out about my two files, and they were both approved. “Do you mind sending out the approvals before you go?” my manager asked. And of course I didn't. As I was working on them, my favorite underwriter, the one who gave me the name “Famous” walked by and asked how training was. I gave my spiel about the trainers doing their best to keep it interesting, and he said, “No. I mean, really, how is it for you?” So I told him, and he said, “Yep, thought so.”

I thanked him for the lack of stips on my file. He grabbed the folder and threatened to add some, “just cuz I've been too easy on you.” And we talked for a while about Citi's underwriting philosophy, and how they tend to be conservative with income but generous about credit burps.

“I want your job in a year,” I told him.

He said, “Totally possible. Talk to our manager A. She'll make sure it happens.”

I'm TIRED, but I'm really really happy about this decision to work for Citi. Really happy.

Observations on a Windy Winter Morning

The sky outside my office window is delicate this morning, like pale blue silk swirled with cream. Even though the sun is up, it isn't fully daylight, and a wash of pink shrouds the world the way a bridal veil hides one's face. For a moment, all is still, the space between breaths, and then the quiet morning is blown away, quite literally, buy the wind that comes whistling through the trees sounding like a steam engine's stuttering whistle as it pushes past the cracked-open windows of my house.

The wind seems to be a prairie wind just now, of the sort that both Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder both wrote – ceaseless, constant, almost a being in its own right, alternately a howling monster and a whispering stranger, a brutal enemy or a caressing lover. Last night, tucked into bed with small dogs pressed against me, the wind was a comforting sound, easing me down into the waves of sleep.

This morning, though, the bluster is sort of hollow. In another life, one as recent as two months ago, I'd be staying home, making tea, writing in bursts like gusts of wind. Instead, I'm dashing out this blog entry, and heading to Starbucks for a triple venti latte and (because my mood calls for it) a butter croissant, on the way to work.

At work, with doors that encourage you to step through them in digitally devised pseudo-female voices heavily laced with the gentle tone one uses when addressing the criminally insane, and windows that allow us to see the world from behind their hermetically sealed panes of tinted glass, the wind is left outside. There is no breeze, no taste of outside, just stale office air, recycled, re-used, reduced to something LIKE actual air, but not quite IT.

And the wind is left outside.

Sometimes, I hate handling the finances.

When we moved back to California from South Dakota in 1998, I opened an account with BofA as the bank we were using in SoDak had no branches west of the Rocky Mountains at the time. I've never particularly liked anything about them, other than their tendency to be pretty much everywhere.

When we moved to Texas, we opened a local BofA account, because BofA California and BofA the rest of the world are on different computer systems, and while the ATM cards let you withdraw from any machine, you cannot deposit into a California account from a Texas ATM, etc.

But now I work for a really big financial institution, and as employees are given spiffy perqs like free accounts with instant overdraft approval and features one generally has to have constant, large balances for, for free, and as I've just spent far too long fighting with BofA's customer service (and I use that term in the loosest possible manner, as really, they wouldn't talk to me (even though they always have before) because Fuzzy's name is listed first on our checking account, and therefore the ID linked to the online account is his, nevermind that the man has to ASK ME what his ss# is, most of the time), I'm actually considering moving banks, even though we have so much stuff on autopay that it will be a total hassle.

So I'm seeking your input, because all of you are intelligent, net-savvy folks with a range of patience with customer service that pretty much brackets my own. Tell me about your bank? Not details, of course. And do note, I am doing other sorts of research as well, I'm just curious about what you love and hate from a customer standpoint.

And yeah. Comments are screened. Poll Follows under separate entry.

Wired. Wordy. Wrambling. Um. Rambling.

It might be the result of a triple venti (nonfat) cinnamon dolce latte consumed while doing countless “high cost loan” worksheets during the afternoon training session today, or it might be due to the storm front that has finally arrived (although we've only gotten minimal rain), cooling and moistening the air, if not the earth, but I'm antsy and wired today. I came home (after a post-work dinner with Fuzzy, and a post-dinner trip to buy cute office supplies) considering taking the dogs out even though it's full dark. It's only eight-thirty, actually, and our neighborhood is pretty safe, so I might, still.

I haven't felt at all energetic in a while. I've felt both bored and boring, dry, stale, stagnating. I've jotted some stuff in my new moleskine, but the pretty journal is largely unadultered by my messy scrawl, and I haven't been near a computer long enough to compose anything.

I've surfed a few blogs, but I have no focus for blogging right now, more interested in waiting til I decide where I want to go with the blog this year. I know that things will change once I'm back on a schedule more suited to my normal sleep patterns, but, like Kate in the fluffy but cute “Kate and Leopold,” I'm already feeling that Sundays are tainted by having to go to work on Monday, though it's not that I don't like my job (hate the training, but like the actual job), as much as the HAVING to be there. If it were optional, even if the option was psychological, I wouldn't have to fight this trapped feeling, and wouldn't have to endlessly, silently, internally chant, “It's not forever, and it doesn't define you.” (I've put that in the blog often enough now that it should be obvious this is a real issue.

I don't post about the day to day stuff at work, because it's work, and I've always tried to keep work out of my blog. Always. It's too dangerous not to. I'm not good with euphamisms, or cute blognames for real places and people, so if I tell anything it will be everything, and that's just really unwise.

I wake up in the middle of the night and feel suffocated. I like the money, but I don't like having to have a schedule. I feel like there's never enough TIME, and I don't like living this way. I'm losing my sense of balance. I haven't written or IM'd with certain people who mean much, and give much, and I feel bad, but there's just no time, or when there IS time, the energy is wrong.


It's only been a month.
I have to give it time. Find a rhythm.
Remember to breathe.

My first Moleskine

My First Moleskine

Originally uploaded by Ms.Snarky.

Ms. Eclectic and her enthusiasm for these retro-chic notebooks are what finally caused me to succumb, but the word “Moleskine” has been flickering around my head for over a year – I think I have WarriorPoet(2), over at OD, to blame for it really. But I'm not entirely sure.

In any case, the black notebook with the graph-paper pages beckoned to me from the shelves of Barnes and Noble, tonight, and since I was in a writing mood, and my feet hurt, and I'd already picked two books, I decided that the time was ripe to purchase my very first Moleskine. I smiled when I opened it and found that it really did come with a postcard (with a quotation from Italo Calvino)…a notebook with inspiration to write! How clever.

(If you're one of the three people left on the planet who doesn't know why Moleskines are cool, go here, and read all about them.)

The picture in this entry was taken with my camera phone, hence the poor lighting and focus, but I think it captures the spirit of cafe creativity really well.

I have to go now. There's writing to be done.

And yes, this is in addition to the red leather journal.

Chocolate Tears

The brown wrapper and silver foil used to mean somehing special to me. They used to mean a magical few moments with sweet darkness melting on my tongue while a smile spread across my lips. Alas, the silver foil is long gone, replaced many years ago by a plastic mockery of the old wrapping, and to my utter disappointment, more than the wrapping has changed.

Unwrapping a Hershey bar used to be special, even a little mysterious. The slightly stiff outer layer of paper would whisper at me when I peeled it open carefully, or hiss when I went for the more visceral RIP. The foil would uncrinkle with a metallic sigh. The dark chocolate would be revealed, it's sections waiting to be neatly broken and shared among all present, or simply savored one at a time.

Tonight, when I ripped open the slippery plastic painted in classic Hershey silver and brown, it clung to my fingers with staticky insistance, and I had to fight to make it fall to the table top, for later crumpling. And the chocolate? Well, perhaps my palate has been spoiled by too much chocolate noir, tempered with Godiva raspberry bars and Dan's truffles, but my Hershey bar resembled chocolate about as much as my chihuahua resembles a wild wolf – there was a slight relationship, but not much more.

Am I too much a snob because I no longer find pleasure in the simplicity of a Hershey bar, or is it the candy company that is failing to put forth a product worth savoring.

Maybe a little of both.


So, I was watching “Before Sunset” yesterday, while sitting on the couch in a Nyquil-induced altered state,and there was this bit where Ethan “I so need a shower” Hawke's character was talking about the concept of writing an entire novel that takes place in the space of a single song, and I thought, “Now THAT would be really cool,” and I've resolved to play with it at some point.

* * * * *

Earlier this week, the chick who desperately needs hair style help on Surface quoted Albert Einstein on imagination, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” and I remembered writing that down in one of my “magic notebooks” at some point in my life (probably eons ago in high school AP Chemistry), and liking the notion…this inspired me to set up my digital commonplace, something I've been meaning to do, and have never gotten around to, though friends have started THEIRS. Anyway, if you're curious it's here. It's a work in progress, and not really planned for public consumption as much as my own ease of use, but hey, it's there, so read if you want.

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My new favorite drink is Starbucks' Cinnamon Dolce Latte (though I generally order it with non-fat milk, and foam instead of whipped cream). It's a perfect morning drink, and goes really well with a plain croissant or some fruit, but works well in the afternoon as well.

* * * * *

I still can't shake this cough. I'm not really SICK, as much as dehydrated, and the cough is a reaction to that and to the really bad air we've had lately. There was a grass fire across the street from work the other day, and in my head I can still smell the burnt-popcorn-like stench of flaming grass. I wonder if this feeling of dryness I have is more mental than physical…almost, I think it is, but I bought a humidifier anyway.

* * * * *

My posting will be spotty for the next few weeks, as I rebalance my schedule, my job, all sorts of tiny personal things. I feel sort of stale, and need to recharge the batteries and consult with my muse. She's teasing me with those lovely blue Ty Nant bottles, you see, and that won't do.