Third One’s the Charm

delivering a radiator in the rain

Since I was last on here in January, my job situation has changed, again, but this time the position is more permanent. I went to work my shift at Dollar Tree on February 8th, did my 7.5 hour shift, drove home, then texted my manager that I was returning to leave my key in her office as the schedule I wanted didn’t align with the schedule she needed me to work, so there was no point in trying to continue to leave one job early to make it to the other.

customers providing a laugh

This gave me more hours with Advance Auto, and my boss did her best to schedule me as much as my part-time position would allow, and some overtime as we worked to get the store I was hired for open. I had been offered a job at Pep Boys that would have given me more hours and more pay, but was turned down over a corporate agreement from the East Coast when Advance Auto bought out the retail side of Pep Boys – a non-compete upheld in a state that doesn’t enforce them.

this is not an example of rockstar parking

This left me bitter, that my higher paying job had to come with disgust and my minimum wage job obviously with disregard. I may not have been as active in the workforce as my peers over the years, but this was no surprise. Cogs in the wheel aren’t allowed to rest, because then they have time to think and be happy and do things differently. I spent my off-time filling out applications for a variety of places that offer customer service interactions until I got an interview.

I left on my lunch break on Saturday and let the owner at SD Barber Supply know that I only had 30 minutes to spare. She appreciated my honesty and offered that I come in for a trial shift to see if selling supplies to professional and amateur barbers would be a good fit for me, and so that I could get some training before the other sales associate left to pursue something else. I agreed to work 11a-5p on Wednesday and it went so well that I put in my two weeks notice with Advance Auto.

when the business next door is cleaning their floors

I was going to work out the rest of my shifts, but why should I work more hours for less money when given the opportunity to reverse those numbers, so I told Advance that I wouldn’t be showing up anymore. After two weeks, of working Tuesday through Saturday at my new job, my boss at Advance Auto asked that I bring in my shirts so she could complete my termination. She had kindly waited for my travel reimbursement to go through before starting it, so I wouldn’t lose out on pay due.

part of the recall for possibly damaged cans

It was on this day that I learned someone else was leaving, but keeping the opportunity to come back and work a shift when available, so I did the same, and kept my shirts. I could use the Monday off to write and spend time with myself, one of my favorite things to do, or I could come in and stand behind a counter while Caleb sits behind a desk. I get along with everyone I work with and having the new location be so much busier keeps me energized throughout the shift.

one of the regulars

These Mondays are only temporary though, as after two months I will be moved to a Monday through Friday schedule, and I’m not sure how long that will last but I’m enjoying having weekends and holidays back to spend time on things I enjoy, and I should keep it that way. My store is split in half, with me working the barber side, and currently having part-time help; and the tattoo side that also has a driver so that supplies can be delivered to shops and offer their artists a place to get their weekly needs.

I have learned about taper and faper blades, gel vs wax vs clay, texturizing powders and color enhancements. There’s a lot that goes into hair these days — designs with different tools, dyes, jewelry, and tons of products — and most of my customers are great, even when there’s a language barrier. There are those few though that feel the need to finger the gel, sniff the powder, splash the aftershave, and attempt to cut their hair at the counter to test the sharpness of the shears.

fancy stickers on repurposed packaging

I know some people look at my job hopping as indecisiveness or perhaps a freedom to explore and I would have to agree. I would also tell my younger self to look for employment that makes me happy, where my boss respects me, and where I’m treated properly as these three jobs with women managers have taught me. One couldn’t respect my schedule, but that’s not in her job description, and she didn’t treat me differently for it. Another didn’t want to lose my skills and work ethic, and I can’t blame her for that with the current employee pool she has to search through.

I do it for the view

These women have asked me to perform tasks, have been there to listen, and given everyone a fair chance after mistakes have been made. Looking at my former employers, of the male persuasion, that was not the case. This is still a problem the military faces, especially with more trans issues and mental illness cases, than training and manning can handle. I struggled with my chain of command after suffering a concussion and instead of them working with me, they pushed me away and out of service.

welcome in

Caleb has gone from turning wrenches in the oil-filled depths at the bottom of ships to filling out paperwork that used to be reserved for police officers because they no longer get paid to appear at crime scenes unless there’s a body of proof, as if all citizens are equipped with defensive weapons, breathalyzers, or blood test kits, though it seems we might all be prepared to lift fingerprints with items found around the house. Many prior crimes are now being dismissed, but I’m not trying to go off topic, though reading some of my earlier posts… it’s what I’m known for.

Anyway, props to Caleb for being able to manage a changing workforce as it’s being imposed from the government and civilian sectors. Twenty years is a long time, unless you live to be a three-hundred year old tree, and the only way to know what it’s like is to live through it. I can’t imagine having the same job for that long, but that’s probably because my parents and grandparents couldn’t do the same. We’re not afraid of commitment, but we appreciate the challenge that comes along with learning new things and the ability to leave when the situation changes.

Posted in Military, People | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Today

drive to work

Though there may be things in my life that I don’t feel like writing about because I know I won’t want to look back on them, by me ignoring my blog completely I’m giving up on any chance to look back on the good. So, I am going to make more of an effort to put down what stands out from my days, even if they are a bit repetitive for the time being; having two jobs that can keep me busy from 730am to 1030pm some days or both give me two days off in the same week for much-needed rest and me time. 

This morning started with a body-burning pilates living-room session. Some people might like to warm up their muscles and cool them in the shower, but I prefer to steam up via candle flames, which provide enough light in the early morning and is easier on my eyes prior to the sun coming through the windows and my ears as I don’t have to listen to the vent fan scream at me. I can continue to exist in a state of peace as I transition from dreamland to reality, something I seem to be doing more of lately. 

I get a message from my boss at Advance Auto asking me to call her because she’s having trouble scheduling me for the week. I have the option, online, to ask for time off, days off, or change my availability. I’ve tried all three now and have to be aware of how long those changes last as the latter left me not able to work until 2099 or something weird. I deleted the requests and sent them via text after our call to clear that up. 

A bit of back story here to catch you up. I recently changed job fields, again. In November, I applied for a few jobs and two responded, so I went to interviews. The one at Advance Auto went well, as I showed up early and the other guy didn’t show at all. Dollar Tree on the other hand hired me on the spot just for being there, which is reminiscent of everyone getting a gold star, but I took it. I also accepted the raise to an assistant manager that I got after speaking with the district manager on day two of my training. 

Between the two, I average about 50 hours a week and have already seen a high turnover rate at both jobs. Dollar Tree has one assistant manager leaving so she can finish her schooling in San Francisco, had a cashier walk out in the middle of her shift, and had another cashier that called out all the time and finally decided to quit. Advance Auto had a girl who just couldn’t show up on time, a guy who ghosted a company after finishing his training, and another guy who found something better for him. 

winter living

Here I was worried that missing an hour or calling out for a shift might cost me my job, but these people are giving me security as I start to look around at what else is out there. I got a phone interview with Chuze Fitness, looking to hire me for the front desk position, if someone leaves and I just looked at their assistant manager position and it would be a few dollars more, which means I could work less and still build towards Caleb’s retirement in under two years, which will be a big change for us in many ways. 

I had a customer the other day suggest I look at a job with the city that updates their postings every two weeks as I might find something as well. As much as I might feel that I owe these companies loyalty, they will continue to profit without me, so I can give them honest work while I’m there and until I find somewhere else to spend my precious time, preferably traveling, but working in the meantime. I hadn’t thought of the opportunities that being a retail assistant manager might bring, but I will start to look. 

The Advance Auto store that I got hired to work at isn’t quite ready for customers yet. I got to help set the shelves and apply item labels, but now we wait on inspectors to check the work of some shady contractors who didn’t care whether the job got done right the first or third time before they brought someone else in to finish. My boss gets to oversee these guys all day and sends her employees to other stores in the area to spend their shifts. 

I’m becoming a bit of a legend with wiper blades as I was able to find the right adapter and replace them when a few of the guys and one from Pep Boys next door were having trouble. I was also sent down the street to check on a Mercedes, accidentally took a blade off the wrong car (same make and model though), and had to pick up a special set from WorldPac and deliver it back. I am by no means the all-knowing car parts seller now and still ask for help when I don’t know where something is. 

What I don’t know to ask for help with I will be shown along the way when someone notices I’m not doing it right or could be doing it better. I enjoy the team spirit and camaraderie that I feel at Advance Auto as I learn more about my co-workers’ personal lives and share laughs with them that fill the store with the sound of my joy, something a few of them enjoy causing. “Laughing — a momentary anesthesia of the heart — because emotions have greater inertia and persistence than thoughts.”

Advance Auto uniform

Dollar Tree is less personable among employees because there can be an overwhelmingly long line sometimes, to the point where a customer got upset and threw his basket down. Others leave frozen foods out and drinks half full for us to throw away when we find them. The intentional mess that is a constant helps others hide the torn packaging of their stolen prize. Under the new store manager, we are working hard to clean the place up, and though it’s an uphill battle, some of our customers have noticed. 

Ok, so then I research fancy resorts on different discount apps to see which one gives the better deal, but then realize that I don’t stay at resorts unless it’s my birthday or our anniversary. Advance Auto requires me to take an hour-long lunch, while Dollar Tree only allows me thirty minutes, which I think is sufficient. One day Caleb was able to spend the hour with me and we walked the perimeter of the shopping plaza. 

Today, I will walk into Barnes and Noble. I’m not there to buy anything, but I will pick up a few titles, give them a sniff, and read their back cover. There are so many topics to read about and I’m grateful that I’ll never run out of options, unless of course all the libraries were to suffer the same fate as the one in Los Angeles in 1986, where firefighters feared a flashover, but they were still able to save so much, unlike other historic collections over hundreds of years that have met with dictators. 

I still had some time left and wandered into PetSmart, which I always thought was Pets Mart, but I had mixed emotions going in there with no companion excitedly trying to get to all the balls and a large tire with a rope that we should have taught him to swing from, but that’s in the past now. What’s left are all these caged animals that I want to buy and set free — the small snake, the pygmy bearded dragons, the parakeets, fuzzy rodents, and tanks of fish — but that would only encourage the store to buy more. 

I do appreciate the hour to spend walking, talking, reading, shopping, or researching whatever has my interest at the moment; though I also like getting through the workday and being able to be out of uniform when doing those same things. I’ve been working so much while Caleb has been in Singapore but him being home for the holidays and having eight days off, while I only had one, was tougher on us than perhaps we thought it would be. 

pygmy bearded dragon

But that’s why we thought about this when I changed jobs anyway. We wanted me to find something that would help us work towards retirement, Caleb wants me to be in a field that I have a degree in, and I want something that gets me out of the house and lets me socialize for a while, as needed, which is a lot more than I realized. I do think it’s having the desired effect though as I start to get back to the things that matter most to me and make time for them throughout the day. 

This isn’t about not wanting to do these things, but having the mental energy and positive attitude required to pursue them. I’m thankful to have my time off back and not have to worry about useless things, which is why I won’t ever be a manager and take on all those responsibilities. I’m ok with doing my time and clocking out. It’s crazy how one day can turn into one year and tiny habits disappear that created who you are. I’m thankful to the people who have stuck by me, even though I can be difficult. 

So, after lunch, I tried to do some annually mandated compliance training but got sent on a tire pick-up and drop-off, then spent some time on the phone with Deborah, again, this time with her explaining why she wasn’t coming in today to pick up Torque ceramic car wax spray, but that she would try to be less lazy and slow tomorrow. Good luck to her and whichever vehicle is getting the fancy treatment at $40 per bottle. My next trip would consist of four stops, all within miles of each other. 

I got hired as a driver and retail parts pro and enjoy what both bring to my work day. One allows me to talk with people and learn more about them and the vehicles they use and possibly help them fix a problem or continue a project or take a trip or return home safely. The other allows me solitude under surveillance to take in the scenery and let my thoughts wander and to take these calmer driving practices into my vehicle. 

The night shift arrives and the drivers can leave for the day. Caleb is getting settled into his exit row seat for his long-haul flight return from Singapore, where he spent just a week this time. I’ll get home and some of tonight’s ingredients consist of hot kimchi and frozen mango (because they’re more consistent and precut). I’ve bought frozen avocados for the same reason, but the chunks are bigger and the center doesn’t always thaw by the time I’m ready to eat, so it’s a surprise. 

just another day for a tire shop

I’m currently still reading The Library Book by Susan Orlean, hence the reference earlier. Upon starting this book I realized that I’ve watched a movie adaptation of one of her previous works and think I would enjoy reading more from this author. I have to thank the life of Chas Lummis, who in living gloriously almost a century ago has kindly reminded me of how wonderful my life can be if I’d take the time to notice and make memories every chance I get. 

P.S. I’ve had my tires aligned before but have never seen the process. Today, I got a peek at how it’s done. I’m fascinated by how much I don’t know and am thrilled that I’m willing to learn and watch others perform their best skills and continue to hone mine.

Posted in Animals, Books, History, People, Places | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How long has that been there?

Is that a tiny cat?

At this point, I’ve worked at Dollar Tree for seven weeks and find myself surprised at the dirty little treasures I find or the bulk trash from someone clearing out our stock of varying glues. Our most asked-for items are lighters, super glue, and batteries; which seem like a deal at $1.25 for an 8-pk. Some customers want to know when we’re going to add the 25 cents to our logo, but they are hesitant because the price could increase further. We do sell some $3 to $5 items in the freezer section, so we have found those boxes open, with one item missing, or left to melt on the shelf. 

bored floor emoji

I would prefer that people just take the whole item, container and all, when they steal instead of feeling the need to eat half a Snickers and leave the rest to melt on a shelf of other products. There was a squeeze tube of blue icing used as decoration in another section that has yet to be cleaned up. Don’t think I want to leave the store in this sad state of affairs, but my main job is to help the cashiers (check large bills, deal with customers and other issues), back them up when their line gets long, and write off all the damaged goods, which varies every day. 

the “return to shelf” collection

I also have to restock shelves, put things back where they belong, remove empty boxes, sweep, mop, take out the trash, clean the bathrooms (when the keys are available), and take the cash to the bank when it’s my turn, among my many other tasks. I’ve stocked some ice, though the women seem to think it ok to relegate it to the one man who works in the store. He also brings up the helium tank when it needs to be replaced. There’s a woman at Advance Auto that thinks it’s ok to leave batteries for men to carry, but that’s what the carts are for. I also ran into this issue with moving food around on a ship from a pallet to the freezer to the kitchen. 

I could start on a feminist tangent but there are cashiers of the gender spectrum who don’t want to do anything else and will just stand around when they could be cleaning or stocking because they believe they don’t get paid enough. My neighbor was telling me she had to work for years to get up to $15/hr, such is the hassle of starting at the bottom, and now people are being handed that to start and don’t think it’s good enough; then they should be doing something else. I can think of two places that pay you to exist and give you a bed and three warm meals a day until your contract expires.

took me a second cart to get this section semi-reorganized

My boss had denied the two hours I asked off for in the morning to go to my dentist, even though I hadn’t worked that early in the store yet. Luckily, instead of me having to show up an hour late, she pushed my schedule back to accommodate a request I had put in over a month ago. Her inability to respect people’s schedules has cost her cashiers, but now the remaining ones will be able to get more hours, especially since some live so close and don’t want to work elsewhere. Oh how grateful I am for Caleb having a career and giving us so much security over the last 17 years.

customer craft skills

These pictures are just a glimpse into what my job entails, so it’s no wonder why my husband and dad want me to use my scholarly brain (that they both helped pay for) to do something more. I understand people need access to cheap food and toiletries, but I won’t always be the one here to help provide them with these necessities as I mentioned the temporariness of my position when I was hired. I can enjoy my time while I’m here though.

a beautiful arrangement of autumn in the trees

Posted in Animals, Things | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Weekend in Cleveland National Forest

We’ve been looking forward to this trip all week, in hopes that we found a campsite that won’t let us down as unfortunately Joshua Tree had done just two weeks ago. But also, so we could try out our new tent — a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 (high-volume, ultralight) versus the Arete ASL 2 (all-season lightness) with one door instead of two, which increases ease of access and limits dirt coming in.

Our old tent, if that’s the case, of a decade in tent years (which REI confirms is any gear over five years old) had seen its share of weather and wear and Caleb was done patching and stitching it together so we opted for something 2.8 pounds lighter versus the newer model of Arete that was released in 2018. The weight difference might not seem like much, being taken from the car, but we plan on doing a very long thru-hike in the future and every ounce will matter on our backs.

Part of getting older is having the ability to look back on how long you’ve been doing stuff you love and I’m glad that we are still fortunate enough to have the time, money, and health to take these trips. I’m also grateful for early days off work so we can get going sooner, though it helps that we’re going against traffic congestion too.

The last 4.5 miles to the Cibbets Flat Campground promise us that the short hour on the highway will be worth the journey as the trees and clouds tell me there’s a chance our tent will have shade versus the ultra hot Jumbo Rocks Campground that takes 3.5 hours to drive to only to leave everything to melt in the mercy of the sun. Ok, I’m done comparing the two campsites. Let’s get back to Kitchen Creek Rd.

I am known to take pictures while driving, regardless of the country, conditions, or company that I’m in but I don’t text while driving so I wouldn’t know that our phones had gladly lost signal at some point between home and our temporary reprieve from the demands that noisy notifications can place on us with the expectations of others to constantly respond.

I love being social but I also think there’s a time and place for being on the phone, unless I’m away from Caleb and then the rules change completely, whether I’m at work or visiting my dad, my husband is my priority, so camping with him means I have everything I need and can hit pause as we soak in nature and all it has to offer before work requires our return to the city and its stipulations.

Caleb will set up the camp bedroom while I prepare the food amongst our friends the ants and yellow jacket wasps after watching some activity on squirrel rock. I will move us to another table for dinner and be watched by a California scrub jay as we get some pre-hike calories ingested. We walk along the road for half an hour looking for the PCT, as we had passed a portion that goes over the road, but it was further than we realized, so we will save it for tomorrow.

Back at camp, Caleb will put the rainfly on the tent just in case and that’s when I find the trail that leads to the PCT from the camping spot next to ours. I read some of the trail log before seeing a hawk grab his dinner and I’ll return to watch the clouds turn from yellow to red to gray with Caleb. As the bats come out, the buzzing stops and the familiar chirps of the night start. These are the sounds and sights of camping as they should be as we sip spicy cocoa in the dusk.

We wait for the stars to emerge, but as they choose to remain hidden in the early evening, we will turn to reading as a way to keep our eyes and minds busy instead. We move into the tent to escape the little winged creatures that my headlamp unwillingly attracts but as the night grows darker around us a peace settles in and we are lulled into a passing slumber.


We are woken around 2am to winds that sound like they will bring rain, but they don’t, so Caleb opens his rainfly door again to get more airflow in the tent. I enjoy that we can get a cross breeze more easily instead of having just the one door or relying on the vents at the top, which do help release humidity. I’m woken again around 5am to the sound of crunching dirt and again when Caleb gets up.

I climb out of the tent when there is twilight to do so and I’ll boil water for our cold granola, which turns out to be beneficial as it’s softer in my mouth that just had a bone graft done on Tuesday. I’ve still got stitches in and was told to chew on the left side, which seems unfair as I try to give my mouth equal chewing capacity, so for now I have to take smaller bites as well.

The morning starts off cool, around 61 degrees, and the ascent is constant. We’ve got long sleeve shirts on to protect against the sun but they won’t make it on our backs for the length of the hike. We walk through the small opening in the fence from the campground that leads to a dirt road that will take us to a good break point in the trail. There is some shade and rocks for resting and stretching.

We choose to go left, which is a continuous climb up 1,205 feet of mountain and with a temperature gain of 20 degrees becomes a more sweat-inducing pastime. I find little details in the passing plants and rocks worthy of stopping for a photo and appreciate the mass variety of shapes and colors to entice my eyes to take note of their beauty and contemplate their journey as I continue on mine.

My camera seems to double in weight as we decide on a turnaround point. We are offered more expansive views as the valley opens up below us. I love that a hike is two adventures in one as each direction has something to offer… like shade when we return to camp after seven miles, so we can go into town for the Chula Vista Lemon Festival taking place in what was once known as the Lemon Capital of the World — one of three in California along with Florida, Mexico, and India.

Chula Vista held the honor from 1888 when the Sweetwater Dam made the area more conducive until the housing boom of the 1950s wiped out the lemon groves. Today, we get to join some 30,000 people in celebrating everything lemon for the half mile of vendors, artists, stages, and contests of eating, wearing, and making lemon-themed consumables, crafts, and clothes.

This festival has been taking place for 25 years now and we’re given seven hours to celebrate on Third Avenue. We buy two loaves of sourdough, one olive and one Oreo, after walking the event which was bigger than we thought it would be. I don’t know why we had expectations with a lack of historical knowledge and no idea how current events would effect the turnout either. We were much more pleased with this gathering than the Fallbrook Avocado Festival in April.

We’ll stop by the house to slice some bread to take with us along with the ENO DoubleNest printed hammock — that Caleb’s sister gifted him some time ago, but we didn’t have the straps or place to hang it until now — and an adult coloring book to take back to a still wet camp from the afternoon rain. Caleb sets up the hammock on a large tree and its sturdy branch but moves it between two smaller trees so we can lie in it together without our bums on the dirt.

Having skipped lunch we’ll make dinner early and read while we pick off ants that find their way amongst our soft body hairs and cause a tickling distraction. We’ll go for a short walk around camp as there’s a bridge to other empty camp sites and then return to our spots in the hammock to watch squirrels, swat flies, and toss more ants while we turn pages (physical and digital) and sip hot drinks. The sunset isn’t as colorful as last night but the bug sounds and bat sightings are on time.

To live at this campground for a month, paying nightly, would cost us a third of what we’re paying in rent now and a third of our rent in the place we’re moving into if the campsite raises their rate from $14/night to $20.. as there was a sign on the vault toilet door suggesting just that. It makes sense to me why former retirees become camp hosts so they can spend their time camping and getting paid for it. I’d gladly do seasonal work and appreciate the changes moving to different parks would bring.

This is what I’m thinking about as darkness takes over the sky. I could get used to weekends like this and covering another four miles after our hike puts us to bed happy and ready to get rest for going south on the PCT in the morning.


I’ll make us breakfast while Caleb packs up the tent. We go on a beautiful hike for hours, mostly downhill going out, but weirdly there are no photos to share of this, minus the one looking back on camp and one of me in the hammock… where we’ll sit until the sounds of thunder and the promise of the daily afternoon downpour send us back to the house.

Posted in Animals, Art, Camping, Events, Food, Hiking, History, People, Photography, Plants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday in Stelzer Park

Caleb wakes me with kisses and everything is right with the world, at least in mine for the moment. It’s these tiny gestures that will stick in our memories and remind us of just how much we love each other and that we share the joy of spending time together.

We leave a bit later than planned but as the trail isn’t far from the house nor an all day excursion, we’re not in a hurry either. We wait for the ranger to return so that our fee can go in an envelope in the door and proof of payment on our dash.

The entrance has a pond in the shade with chairs that remind me of happy memories of my preadolescence when I would sit between the trees by the little waterfall that our pond had and escape reality with a book in my hands and a dog or two nearby.

There is also a playground and picnic tables but as we’ve already eaten and haven’t come for the swings we continue along the clearly marked trail. There is a loop and two peaks to be completed, which should total about 3.4 miles and at least 620 feet of elevation gain.

This route will cover the Wooten Loop Observation Deck — easy to access and a place to sit, the Kumeyaay Promontory — wider views with lots of power lines, and the Stelzer Summit — that is more fun to climb than it is to baby step it down sideways.

All this activity works up a sweat on this 86 degree day with 64% humidity. It’s not until we’re in the middle of the steep trail that we think to activate the hike tracking on our new Garmin Descent Mk2i dive computer watches that auto tracks steps and logs more data about other activities too.

The afternoon will be spent washing our salty bodies, refueling our hungry stomachs, and packing gear for a hiking excursion next weekend to try some new things — tent, camping spot, and a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I’ll read from A Perfect Red by Amy Greenfield while we do our laundry and then join Ryan and Fallon with their friend’s recently 21-year old son, Jared, for dinner at Mike Hess where Caleb buys the kid a beer because we all remember being there — young and on top of the world that is.

Posted in Books, Friends, Hiking, Marriage | Tagged , , | Leave a comment