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Thoughts, Rants, and Musings


Jibralta
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This morning, while researching a last name, I learned about something called a “one-name” search, which is where people focus on a name only. Through this research, I came upon a pdf of facebook genealogy sources posted by a genealogist named Katherine Willson. I downloaded it and it is awesome. Through this list, I learned of a series of books called “No Land… Only Slaves.” The authors were a mother-daughter team, Edith Smith and Vivian Lehman. It was intended to be a 30-volume work, but it looks like only 18 volumes may have been completed. Edith, the mother, died in 2018. Vivian experienced a series of losses around that time and seems to have stopped researching altogether. 

History is unfolding so much as I search through these old records. It’s occurred to me over the last week or two how important the history of slaves and slavery is. I mean, duh, everybody knows that we had it in the U.S., and that it was a big part of the Civil War. But tracing that history is very difficult because slaves generally did not make it into the record books. It was the mentality of the day, but it doesn’t stand up to reason in the long term. As the authors of “No Land… Only Slaves" wrote:

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The title of our series was inspired from our personal experience researching at the Bossier Parish Clerk's Office. We found that many of the pages within these massive deed books were blank, with but a brief caption in the center of the page which read "No land transferred in this instrument, only slaves." That was it. A huge page about 2 foot by 1 foot with a single sentence in the center and the names of the transacting parties on the top corner. We were stunned to think that when these records were transcribed into the books, the land was deemed valuable enough to merit meticulous transference to each page, but the slaves did not. With this heart-rending thought, we chose to make a book dedicated to the deeds of the Slaves themselves and not the land.... In this way, our books are a different way to look at deeds...

I’d like to chase down this “No Land… Only Slaves” series. It’s become quite rare, and seems very informative. I hope those who have copies digitize them. 

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In the spring of 2020, I started reading this challenging book by James Fennimore Cooper called The Pioneers. Not long after I started the book, I got a job surveying surveying tributaries that fed into Lake George. I soon realized that I was living and working in the area that James Fennimore Cooper was a large part of, and I spent that summer feeling a sense of awe that I was walking around the woods of a land that he had known 100 years before. 

The Pioneers is not known as his greatest work. It's sort of all over the place. I think it may actually be one of his first attempts at a novel. But there's a definite (and surprising) theme of environmentalism throughout. The pioneers themselves are generally not portrayed in a flattering light. They're wasteful of the land and its resources. I thought it was very interesting that environmentalism had such early roots. 

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When I was in college, I was a fine arts major for about four years. It wasn't my original plan. But I ended up in a ceramics course during my first semester and I was very impressed with the robust curriculum. There was so much to learn and students were taught to be fully self-sufficient. We learned the whole gamut of skills from mixing our own clay and glazes to actually building kilns. 

One of the firing techniques I learned and enjoyed was called raku. This was a low-fire technique where you fired your pottery until it was glowing red hot and then removed it from the kiln with a pair of tongs and tossed it in a pit filled with leaves and covered to complete the process. You could do this thing called flashing (which I always did), which was lifting the big steel plate from the pit and allowing the flames to burst forth from the pit. It produced an iridescence on the glaze. 

My experience with pottery and building kilns gave me a lot of confidence in strange ways. For example, one night, one of my friends brought a group of guys from his home town up to the college to hang out and party with his college friends. We built a bonfire in the woods near campus and drank beer.

It was a dude party. I think I was the only girl there, and my guy friends were busy talking with the other dudes. One of the guys threw a steel angle iron into the fire. It was about eight feet long and had been there when we got there. I watched as the end of the angle iron turned bright red with the heat. I knew that a hard strike would crack the red hot end off. So, I grabbed the angle iron out of the fire and swung it against a nearby tree until the red hot end snapped off and spun off into the woods. I still remember how heavy it was, and how I had to crouch to get a good swing. 

Before I even straightened up and turned around, I knew I'd done something appalling. It did not go over well as a conversation-starter lol. If any guy had even thought of talking to me before that, those thoughts were long gone. Nobody said anything to me, actually. Not, Hey, that was cool. Nothing. It was a weird place. I was a strange girl. We were on different wavelengths.

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I got a raise yesterday. It was just a cost of living raise, but unexpected and (obviously) nice. For the last 4 years, I've been the one getting myself raises by switching jobs. 

It's been a crazy 11 years. I've been though a lot during the course of this career change. Arnold has been here for most of it. He was there when I was laid off for my first architecture job. He was there when I moved house after accepting my second job. He was there when I sat for my exams (and he supported me thoroughly). He was there when I made the decision to leave my second job, which had derailed my career path slightly. It was a big risk, and he was worried about it. He was there when I got the job offer from the owner of my third job. I had the guy on speakerphone and both Arnold's and my eyes flew open when we heard the salary--way more than I expected, way more than what I'd been making. His concerns vanished immediately after that, lol.

Arnold was there through the chaos and misery of my fourth job, and (since I was working from home during much of it) he experienced the blow-by-blow of each miserable day first hand, 24-7. He was there for my marathon of job interviews (except for the two in-person interviews where I showed up in my Covid-mask, like a ninja lol) and the multiple job offers I received in that final week of my job hunt. He talked through my concerns with me and voiced his own. He was there when I received the job offer from my current job on the evening of my final job interview.

Just before Christmas, I had dinner with my aunt, who I haven't seen in years. She was so proud of me. She said, "Look what you've done! You set out to get what you want and you got it! You've done so well and I'm so proud of you!" I sat there smiling, absorbing the love, but wondering in the back of my mind if she was right. I still have this residual anxiety from fighting so many battles. I find that I have a hard time trusting my employers. 

I think that I am working for a very good company, among very good people. Everything I see there makes sense. I don't find myself trying to justify other people's bad decisions because the decision-making is very logical and makes sense to me. There are no cliques, no favoritism. The owners are fully engaged. Everybody takes responsibility; there's no finger pointing. The level of talent is higher than any other place that I've worked. People don't avoid difficult problems or try to pass them off onto others.

During my end of year review, the owner of the company told me I was doing a great job and to keep up the good work. The studio director agreed. He added that he'd spoken with the other people in my my studio and everybody liked my energy. And yet I still find myself jumping at shadows a little bit. I hope that ends soon, and that I relax and enjoy a good thing. 

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I've noticed something about myself over the years. I have a cold side. It doesn't happen often, maybe five times in my whole life, but it does happen. And when it happens, I notice, and it makes me wonder.

The first time it happened, I was still in college. There was a guy there who worked as a server in one of the food halls. He served the food with hate. He really did. One day, he died in a drunk driving accident. I was glad. I knew it wasn't right to be glad, but I couldn't find an ounce of sympathy for him. All I felt was relief. My roommate's boyfriend was his friend, so she was upset. And I was sensitive to that. But internally, I shrugged at his death. 

At the time, I worked for the electricians on campus and rode around a lot with the foreman (Joe) in his van. Joe knew the guy. All of the campus employees knew each other. When the lunch guy died, Joe mentioned it to me. I said, "You know, that guy was so mean. I hated it when he was working. He gave everyone an attitude for no reason. When I heard he died, I thought, Good." I never heard Joe laugh so hard--and Joe was not a mean man. I guess I wasn't the only one who disliked him.

Another time it happened was when a former coworker died. She ran a division at the company I started working for in 2013. She was the only female "boss" architect in the company. I wanted to like her and made every effort to be friendly, but she was a total btch. In retrospect, I am sure she is at least partially responsible for some of the difficulties I faced there. But she was never nasty to my face, just... frosty towards me. And I've seen her be downright mean to people. For whatever reason, she took a different tactic with me. But I felt her constant, steady dislike towards me.  

She ended up getting chased out of the company, taking a bunch of employees with her (her team worshipped her), taking a bunch of clients, and starting her own company. She died of a brain tumor a couple of years ago, and once again I thought, Good riddance. I did feel sympathy for her kids. I think she was probably a good mother to them. but beyond that.... nothing. Indifference. It felt so odd.

I'm not the kind of person who generally holds a grudge. I have a lot of patience for people. There have been lots of times where I find myself at loggerheads with someone, times where I learn that someone has said something unkind about me, or betrayed my trust in a minor way.. and I get past that. I can put those things behind me and carry on the friendship or professional relationship without any resentment. I remember, of course. And I think about it as we are getting along together. But I don't cut them off. Probably because I'm amused by people who act that way (my boyfriend does not understand this).

I think people cut themselves off with me. Sometimes it's because they are subtly and steadily hostile towards me, but not always. Sometimes it's because they overburden me.

The last time it happened was back in 2019. I had this coworker, Catherine. She was a project manager at the company we worked for and I worked directly under her. Catherine struggled with a lot of personal issues. She was never mean to me. In fact, I think she adored me--too much. It was very uncomfortable. She was also totally irresponsible and incompetent and I felt that her failure to properly make simple decisions threatened my employment at the company we worked for. It made my life hell for the five or six months that I worked for her. On top of that she bathed herself in self pity. I think that's what finally did it for me. I pretty much hated her by the end of the project and was glad when she was finally fired. She died about six months later. Chances are it was suicide. I felt... deep relief.

It's been over two years since she died and I still feel nothing but relief. Why is that? 

All I know is that I have a Line. I'm not sure where it is or what it is. But there's a point where I am done with the foolishness, and that's it. The End. I go cold and I don't care anymore. Sometimes I know when the line has been crossed, sometimes I don't. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. But I do wonder about it. 

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I understand what you are saying -what I noticed was - you were sensitive in one of those examples to your friend who was mourning the loss of that person.  You know I think even in noticing means you care -not about the specific person you felt cold about but you care about how you relate to people and what it means.

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On 1/8/2022 at 5:28 PM, Jibralta said:

And yet I still find myself jumping at shadows a little bit. I hope that ends soon, and that I relax and enjoy a good thing.

To follow up on this.... I think that by and far, my coworkers are calm people who approach problems methodically. I don't sense a lot of anxiety from them, no cutting corners to please the boss's unrealistic timelines. And that flies. And I like it. Yes, there are some very, very tight timelines. And Nadine applies pressure, believe me! But she is never resentful or dismissive. She does have a very direct, intense, high energy, almost forceful personality which I am still getting used to.... it comes off as a little intimidating. But it's actually quite benign.

Funny thing is, I've heard this complaint about me. And when I was describing her to my boyfriend, he pointed out the similarities as well. I guess I never had to deal with it first hand. Now I'm sitting across the table from someone who is at least as intense and forceful as me and I'm like Whoa, she's scary. The first week of work, I actually thought she was taller than me. I felt physically intimidated, like she could beat me up. She's in or approaching her 60s, and I'm a tough, strong girl who has literally knocked teeth out and kicked physical ass in my life. So, that's saying something. During the second week, I realized I have an inch or two on her and I felt better 😂😂 

Everybody likes her. I mean everyone. Colleagues, clients, consultants. I think that is a good sign that someone is a good person. I still get frazzled after having a meeting with her, though. Her energy amplifies my own energy and anxiety. Yesterday, my coworker and I came out of a meeting with her and all of her intense-intense-intensity. He was dead calm and I wanted to run screaming down the street like my hair was on fire. I don't mind being energetic, but I'd like to leave the anxiety component behind post-haste. My coworker's post-meeting calmness yesterday gave me great reassurance. 

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I've rarely worked with non-intense people. I prefer blunt straight shooters over sugar coating but I do sandwich emails if needed - compliment/positive -filling = what the issue is -outer bread is positive. 

To me work is about intensity and intense energy -that's why it's work especially if the work involves some high pressure and high pressure deadlines.  Certainly with non-deadline stuff I kick back more, and expect others to do the same - also many years ago I learned from my boss that if you want to delegate you have to be very organized -not fair to stress others out because you didn't plan well. 

So I do that -but I also am not a huge fan of delegating.  I do it when needed - I do it when it would be inefficient to do so - but it's not my favorite job responsibility.  

I started working at corporate type jobs in the late 80s - I also think this is a generational thing (you and I are not so far apart in age) - where intensity is focused on more (intensely?) and maybe in a negative way.  Not so when I started.

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6 hours ago, Batya33 said:

but I do sandwich emails if needed - compliment/positive -filling = what the issue is -outer bread is positive.

Yeah, the sandwich thing.... I'm not a big fan. I mean, a ham sandwich is a slice of bread, the meat, and another slice of bread. Nobody calls it a "bread sandwich" because everybody knows it's all about the ham. 

Can you elaborate a little on the rest of your post? To be honest, I'm a little confused. I thought you were talking about your own experience, but then you said "generational thing," mentioned our respective ages, and said something about positive and negative. What are you saying, exactly? I'm happy to respond, I'm just confused about what you are saying.

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On 11/18/2021 at 6:42 PM, Jibralta said:

Poor Eddie. He is not doing well. We went out to dinner with him and his wife a couple weeks ago. His speech was slightly slurred, and he was having trouble with his left hand. He'd had fluid drained from his head not long before that, so I hoped it was just a result of that surgery... but from recent experience with my boyfriend's coworker, Robin, I thought that the fluid could be a bad sign. 

I called him last week to check up on him and he called me back on Saturday. He told me that he'd fallen out of the bed on Wednesday night, that he couldn't get up, and that his wife wasn't strong enough to pick him up.... "It was a very unhappy situation," he said. He didn't mention the incident to his doctor, but when he went in for occupational therapy a day or two later, the therapist thought he didn't look right and sent him to the hospital. They thought it might be a stroke. He was going in for a CT scan on Monday.

But it turned out not to be a stroke... So, I guess it's probably the cancer.

Ok, so I think Eddie is milking it a little bit. Perhaps quite a bit. We were over there for Hanukah dinner in December and Eddie's wife told us that they'd gotten all of the cancer out of him, and that in terms of brain tumors this was the best one you could get. Meanwhile, Jerry was practically falling face-first in his food and slurring his speech. He was still having trouble with his arm, but that seemed to be because he wasn't doing the exercises that the occupational therapist gave him. I think the slurring of the speech and incoherence might be him overdoing it with the pain meds. 

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10 hours ago, Jibralta said:

Ok, so I think Eddie is milking it a little bit. Perhaps quite a bit.

Just to be clear, I think he's on the path back to health and has been there for a couple months. But he never told us that! He's been acting like his prognosis has been getting worse. 

You know, I'm not really surprised. This is Eddie. He glories in drama. But it is kind of annoying because I've been carving time out of my life to make time for him. I thought he was dying, for god's sake! 

Oh, Eddie. Smh.

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Back in September, Arnold and I met a bunch of old friends from high school for an early dinner on a Sunday afternoon. It was a mixed bag of people, some of whom I've barely seen since high school. We had a lot of fun.

There was one girl there, Jennifer, who I think I last saw when I was 18. She came along as someone's girlfriend, so I didn't expect to know her. I introduced myself, and someone else said, "Jennifer went to school with us."

I took another look and realized who I was looking at. I apologized and greeted her as the old friend that she was. At first glance, she looked fine. A little thinner than she had been in high school, but still attractive. However, as the afternoon wore on, I realized that something was wrong with her. 

The first thing that surprised me was that her teeth were rotten. I think one was even broken or missing. The second thing that surprised me was that she didn't really interact with the rest of the table. She stared down into her plate with a deeply furrowed brow, and talked almost exclusively to Billy, her boyfriend, in whispered tones. She was a shadow of the Jennifer that I knew from high school.

I knew that Billy's sister Hannah (also at our table that afternoon) was very happy that Billy and Jennifer get together. Billy had a major drinking problem a couple of years ago, and has been sober for just about a year. Jennifer doesn't drink at all.

In Hannah's mind, this was a perfect match. In my mind, it was a perfect match too, but for a different reason: Jennifer was a serious drug addict. I would bet money on it, and I hate betting money. She's on some kind of opiates, I'm sure. I'm still really surprised about it, months later. 

Jennifer and I sat sort of across from each other, but we didn't talk a lot because of the way that she kept fixating on her plate. She did have a couple of elaborate stories about how she was getting screwed out of money. I just nodded. I understood her frustration, but I didn't understand the problem and didn't want to critically think about it. 

She asked me what I was doing for a living, and I told her I was working as an architect. I saw in her eyes a look of satisfaction, and a slight nod of her head. She said, "Good for you." I knew she meant it. That was nice. I like that my old friends are proud of me.

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