A bad week

Things that are fucking annoying as shit at my job:

  • – My boss loves to take personal calls on speakerphone.
  • – OR she loves to take them on her cell phone while pacing right outside my office.
  • – Today I’m being ignored except when spoken to directly. Did I mention that I’m senior leadership?
  • – New office policy: if you have to work in the evening, you still have to come in for the entire work day, too. That means yesterday I worked 12 hours. Luckily I’m so handsomely paid. HA.
  • – I oversee a staff member, but my boss and a coworker are both constantly giving her tasks and sending her to do things WITHOUT TELLING ME.
  • – I was berated yesterday for not attending enough (non-mandatory) work events on evenings and weekends. Then we had an event last night that my boss didn’t show up for.
  • – It’s been made clear to me that having kids soon would be frowned upon.
  • – Open-door meetings are commonplace. Our office is tiny, and I can’t concentrate on my actual work.
  • – If I close my door to block the noise out, I’m an asshole.
  • – It takes me an hour to get here in the mornings and an hour to get home in the evenings.
  • – I’m paid $10,000 less a year than the last person who had my job.
  • – The person who has my last position, more or less, makes $13,000 more a year than I did in it.

 

I better stop now. It’s just making me depressed, and I really need to try on happy for a change. At least it’s Friday and my week ends in five-and-a-half hours.

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Redder

The strangest reaction I had to stress concerned my hair. I’m a faux redhead, and it had been months since I had covered the brown showing through. I had also let my bangs grow out and wasn’t happy with my lopsided widow’s peak. So I cut my own bangs. Then I went for a darker, less brassy shade of red. Here’s what happened:

Redder. Brighter yet darker. Bangs not perfect but decent. I feel a million times better. Now I understand why so many cultures associate mourning with hair butchery.

Today is Halloween. I am at work dressed as a 7-year-old fictional Parisian with appendicitis. All is well.

Signs of death

I’m back in LA, as of yesterday. It was a long week — a very long week — and I returned home feeling more exhausted than when I left.

But I’m glad I went. My mom really needed me. She handles stress by being rude to pretty much everyone except me, so I had to run interference. I had to talk to the medical staff, fill out paperwork, and explain everything to her. She’s not old or senile or anything, but stress and fear do some crazy things to the body and mind. I was like her hospital Sherpa, except that I was relying on directions from a GPS. That was a weird simile.

One of the strangest things about my trip was that I was surrounded by death. The obvious one was the hospital. Luckily my mom is fine and was never in imminent danger of dying, but the fear looms. Before her surgery, they told her the aneurysm had a .5% to 1% chance per year of rupturing. Since my mom is only 59 and the women in my family are sturdy, she could easily live another 30, which gave her a 15% to 30% chance of brain bleeding. Afterward, however, when they had observed the anatomy of the aneurysm, they reported that it was more like 1% to 2% per year. We didn’t find the latter predictions out until after it was repaired, but all it did was make us more sure that the surgery was the right idea. Anyway, while my mom didn’t die and wasn’t on the verge, hospitals are places full of death. No surprise there. I quickly learned that the hospital where we were played a gentle sound whenever someone started to code, and I heard it a lot over two days.

On Sunday, we were driving the six-plus hours back to my hometown so my mom could rest at my grandmother’s house for a few days and I could fly back to LA the following morning. I’ve never seen so much roadkill in my life. There were racoons. There were large mammals that must have been dogs. There were the requisite skunks. It’s not shocking to see dead animals along the sides of busy highways, but this was unreal. I’ve never seen so many sizable, decimated creatures. At one point, we traveled through a smell that could only have been rotting flesh. It stung the eyes and assaulted the nose. But the final sign of death was about an hour before we reached town. Suddenly brake lights flooded the dark road ahead, and we came to a complete stop for 30 to 45 minutes. We had reached the site of a nasty accident just after it happened, or at least I assume since emergency vehicles started arriving after we did. When we finally passed the scene, I saw a white sedan completely upside down and almost totally destroyed. It was harrowing. I’ve been trying to find out what happened ever since, but either my Google-search skills are bad or there isn’t any reporting.

All summed, I am hearing the universe’s message loud and clear. Death will happen to all of us, so I might as well enjoy the life I have while I have it. Clearly I’m not doing this. I’m wasting a lot of time and energy being miserable, and I have to stop. I have applied for three jobs in the two days since I’ve been home. I mapped out a plan for finishing some prerequisites and then applying to grad school. I even took a practice GRE without studying, and while my score was lower than I’d like, it was enough to get accepted into my program. I’m going to study over the next several months and take some more practice tests until I’m ready to sign up for the real deal. Next semester, I will take two science courses. Yes, I will. I’m dedicated. I’m ready.

And in the meantime, I will find more opportunities for happy. I will spend more time doing things I like and waste less time on things that bring me down. I will make more things, do more (free) stuff, and continue looking for ways to improve my life. I have to. I don’t want to look back on a wasted existence when I’m so young and have so time left to do good on this planet.

Hospital rooms

I’ve been in St. Louis since Tuesday. Wednesday was about six hours of appointments and tests at the hospital, followed by Mexican food and a whole lotta nothin at the hotel. Yesterday I spent 12 hours at the hospital. We arrived at 9:00, and the procedure began at noon. Two and a half hours later, she was done. The procedure was successful with no complications, and she woke up well from the anesthesia. Overnight, though, she developed a migraine that is still persisting. After zero pain relief and a lot of vomiting, we were finally able to convince the nurses that she needed her normal triptan, not a narcotic. I dosed her about 45 minutes ago, and it is slowly taking effect. Hopefully that means we can check out early this afternoon.

Me, I’m fine. I felt teary a couple of times yesterday, but I held it together. I’ve just felt exhausted.

Two more days in St. Louis. One in my hometown. Then back to LA.

Avalanche.

Shit sucks right now.

I feel like I’m trapped inside a stress avalanche with no end in sight. Every time things start looking up, something happens that keeps the rocks crashing down on me.

I leave today, after work, to fly to St. Louis for my mom’s surgery. ‘Cause that’s the way the medical world works: here are your scary test results! This is an emergency! Oh, but the doctor’s on vacation, so he can’t call you back. And the next doctor is super busy, so he’ll get back to you in two weeks. The doctor finally reviewed your scans, and you need to travel 500 miles in five days to get your head operated on. THANKS, GUYS.

I kept my job very well informed of what was going on. I told them expressly that we didn’t know when the surgery would be, but that I expected it would happen in October and that we would have very little notice when it finally did get scheduled. So when I tell my boss on Friday — 20 minutes after my mom tells me when it’s going to take place — that I would need to be out the following week, I was not expecting such a chilly response. I asked to work remotely for a day or two, since I’m low on time off, thanks to a recent sick day. She said no. She said she wasn’t comfortable with me “being on the pay roll” while I was in St. Louis. Even though she works from home all the time. How is it any different? She then told me I was welcome to use all the unpaid time off I wanted. Um, allowing me to use FMLA, to which I am entitled under the fucking law, is not a gift. And we’re talking about ONE DAY that I don’t have banked right now. In a month, I would have made that up.

She knows how much I get paid. You’ve seen my budget. There is no way I can afford unpaid time off. Our budget is to the penny and frankly doesn’t include enough for us not to hate our existences. My husband asked how much a day of my unpaid leave would cost us. I told him it was around $150, so he borrowed that amount from his parents — a retired, disabled veteran and a public-school lunch lady. I feel terrible. I appreciate his thought and their generosity, but they cannot afford to send their son and daughter-in-law $150 whenever we need it. I know it’s a special circumstance and that our moms are fond of each other, but I still cried when the money showed up in my account.

On top of everything, my husband and I are having trouble communicating. I’m just short of impossible right now, thanks to the stress and fear, and he is sick of me crying every five minutes. I don’t know what to do differently right now, though, so we just have to get through it. He also thinks I’m overreacting, which is true, but again, I can’t imagine feeling positively about my mom’s surgery. Statistically she will be fine, but surgery on your head is serious business and it can lead to all kinds of complications. And frankly, unless everything goes as well as possible — her consult is good on Wednesday, she qualifies for the easier procedure on Thursday, and she has no complications on Friday — I am fucked in terms of time off. I have only one extra day built into my travel timeline before I would have to start taking more unpaid leave. If that is the case, I have no idea at all how we’ll stay afloat in November.

He says I need to be more optimistic. Probably everything will be fine. I hope he’s right, but all I feel right now is the crushing fear that things won’t go our way.

And back to the work issue. There are exactly two good reasons to do nonprofit work: 1. Knowing you are making a difference in the world, and 2. Being treated like a real person by your employer. It’s certainly not for the money, the opportunities for growth, or the prestige. On top of being inflexible about my leave, I just feel like I’m being shit upon, like this family emergency is a fault of mine. I did everything I possibly could to prepare my boss for this inevitability, and for what? She’s been snide and snotty to me at the office. She was annoyed that I didn’t come to a totally not-required event that is outside my purview on Sunday, even though she must have known that I was in the middle of trying to get things together to leave town. And then the icing on the cake was getting handed a card yesterday to congratulate a coworker on her service anniversary. Mine was six weeks ago, and I never received any tiny acknowledgment for it.

In sum, I’m scared shitless about my mom’s procedure. I’m fighting with my husband. I’m stressed even more about money. And now I’m back to being miserable at work, which is the way I felt for the first six months I worked here. I need to get all of these things under control or else I fear I will spin completely out of control and have a breakdown (unless that’s what I’m already having). I am hoping for the very best with my mom’s surgery. I did my best last night to get things under control at home, at least for now, knowing full well that there are more discussions to have. And it’s time to look for a new job. I will gladly trade my soul for a paycheck at this point.

The Friday Green

We just got word today that my mom’s surgery is next week. I had a frustrating talk with my boss about working remotely, so I’m not in the best of moods. Instead of dwelling, I present to you three “green” things (i.e. things related to money, the environment, and envy) on my like list this week:

1. Car-Free Los Angeles and Southern California

I saw this book last weekend while window shopping at Hennessey + Ingalls. If I’d had the $20, I would have grabbed it. I want to start minimizing our car usage as much as possible. Even beyond the ridiculousness that is gas prices, I’d like to have a smaller environmental impact on my already smog-ridden community.

2. Walking/hiking

My husband and I are doing another of the walks from the Secret Stairs book tomorrow. I hope to see lots of pretty green growing things. Our target is Echo Park, though, so maybe this should fall under the category of saving money on having fun.

3. Fox Mirror Buffet from West Elm

Source: westelm.com via Average on Pinterest

I waaaaaaaant this beautiful buffet (who are we kidding? bar) — for my home.

Perchance to dream

I have officially started burning enough extra calories through running that I’m constantly hungry. Clearly I need to pack more filling lunches and/or healthy snacks. In the meantime, however, I’m binging on Halloween candy one of my evil, thoughtless employees brought in and KEEPS REFILLING.

I came home in a terrible mood yesterday. I slept poorly two nights in a row, which always renders me a little emotional and ridiculous. Then work was stupid. I felt like I was the office secretary and my director’s assistant — being asked to do things that were within someone else’s job description — instead of one of the senior managers. Sometimes I can just roll my eyes and deal, but yesterday it all felt so heavy on me, so I cried at my poor husband. My frustration led to a frank conversation about our ability to continue living this way. Clearly we do not earn enough money to pay our expenses and also enjoy life. We outlined some solutions:

  1. We could move somewhere less expensive.
  2. I could find a higher-paying job.
  3. He could find steady employment.

Reducing our expenses isn’t really an option since we barely have any extras as it is. I guess there is also unspoken option 4: suck it up and work with the hand we’re holding. None of these sounds like a winner, really, so we have no idea what to do. I’ve applied at other jobs — though it’s been at least six months — and had no offers. Him getting a steady job, even part-time, would really eat into his ability to pursue his career path, which is the entire reason we moved out here. If we want to stay in LA, there is basically no chance we’ll find a cheaper apartment that isn’t somewhere unsafe and unsavory. And if we leave LA, we will be giving up on my husband’s dream. He is willing to do that. He even suggested we take a year off, move somewhere else to save money, and then return, but I feel like now is the time for pursuing dreams. We are still young enough and childless. We don’t have a mortgage. We have debts, but we are working on them. While my position isn’t lucrative, it’s steady.

I made an offhand comment that what I’d really love to do is take a year off to travel the world.

Today I’m really thinking about how that would be possible. If it were just me, I would do that by setting a goal date. Then I would move into a small studio apartment closer to work (to save on gas and rent simultaneously). I would calculate how long it would take me to pay off my credit card and then start to work on it. I would dramatically reduce my fun expenditures — wine, meals out, shopping (which I haven’t done in months), etc. — and put all that money into savings. I would figure out ways to make a little money while I was abroad by doing odd jobs, writing, or whatever. And then, right before I left, I would sell off the big things I wouldn’t need for the year: my car, my replaceable furniture, etc. Then I’d be gone.

With a husband in tow, it’s not quite so simple. His student loans are a lot larger than mine, and frankly, they haven’t been as well maintained, if you know what I mean. He also doesn’t make anywhere near as much money as I do. Also, I think we would kill each other if we lived in a studio apartment. I mean, seriously. Two people need space from each other. Plus, my job is in a fixed location on the westside, but his work is all over the place, so there’s no real way to live close to both of our employers.

It won’t stop me from doing research, however, and dreaming. I really, really want to spend time abroad. I want to see the world. And I don’t want to waste time being unhappy.

Free DIY fall decor — Autumn Tree

Instead of posting about the things that are bringing me down or my second night of not enough sleep in a row or the fact that there’s a ringing sound in my office that is about to make me go apeshit, I thought I’d mix things up with a tutorial. This is a DIY project I did a few months ago for work and then redid last week for fall.

It’s a little tree! I’m really into trees. I have two pieces of art and a purse at home that both sport trees, as well as a pair of TOMS I decorated myself. Anyway, they inspire hope in my cold, dead heart and are such an outward expression of the passage of time and changing of the seasons. They are a very spiritual symbol for me.

So anyway, this tree is an easy project that you can make from found materials and stuff most of us have around the home or office.

Here’s what you need:

  • Small container (we have these cute mini paint cans at the office, but a bowl, vase, or jar would work just as well)
  • Floral foam or small-ish rocks (those glass stones for aquariums would work well, too)
  • A bundle of little twigs
  • Brown or green tissue paper (optional but recommended for covering floral foam)
  • Scissors
  • Colored paper or white paper plus markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • White glue

First step is assembling the basic tree. Gather some small twigs and branches. I went for totally brown ones that had good texture and weren’t too long. If you have floral foam, cut it to size and place in the bottom of your container. If you’re using rocks, pour them in the bottom. Start shoving the twigs in until you like the shape. If using tissue paper, crumple it a little, and use it to cover the foam by weaving it in between the branches.

If you used natural rocks instead, you can leave them uncovered. Now turn to your paper. I chose three sheets of construction paper: red, yellow, and orange for a seasonal theme. If you’re starting with white paper and your tree is about the same size as mine, one sheet should suffice. Just color a third of it red, a third yellow, and a third orange. Take your scissors and cut little leaf shapes in different sizes. I cut 24 small, 14 medium, and six large, but there is no need to be exact. They’re all between 1/2″ and 1 1/2″ lengthwise. Now start gluing them to your branches using plain white glue. I dabbed a little on one end of each leaf, place it as desired on each twig, and held on for a couple of seconds. Continue until you are satisfied with your little autumn tree.

Display proudly.

The tree would make a nice centerpiece, and it’s actually fairly versatile. Since you’re just using a little bit of school glue, you can pull the leaves off in the spring and transform it into a colorful tree by using green paper and/or adding little fruit shapes. Or you can take it apart and not feel sad since it cost you nothing. Just be careful not to poke yourself in the eye with a branch while you walk around the office trying to find useable background and source of lighting (guilty).

In which we learn my psyche is pretty basic

Last night did not go as planned after I posted. I intended to go straight to bed so I could get up at 6:45 for my run. I ended up staying up later than usual — around 11:30 — before hitting the sack and just could not fall asleep. It was somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 people I finally dozed off. This morning, either my alarm didn’t go off or I slept through it — which never, EVER happens — because I didn’t rise on my own until an hour later. So, no run this morning = running when I get home tonight. Vomit. I hate working out in the evenings, but I cannot miss my run.

Also, little sleep last night = three cups of coffee today. So it goes.

My nesting impulse continues. I suddenly see dirt and clutter that previously spent nearly three decades invisible to me. After last night’s tidying extravaganza, I woke up, albeit late, with an urge to get something accomplished. Somehow that turned into me scrubbing the toilet at 8:00 this morning. I don’t know who I am any more either. My husband is actually going to scrub floors today, so whatever grime-averse parasite that has taken residence in my body seems to be leeching off him as well. And tonight — after my run and dinner — I plan to tackle this challenge.

I’m doing my best to stay positive and avoid the creeping sadness right now. My mom’s doing crappy emotionally right now. She’s still playing the waiting game with her surgeon, and to top it all off, someone stole her dog on Sunday. About a month ago, she adopted a friend’s 3-year-old Yorkie. He has been a sweet comfort who arrived before she realized she needed him, and two days ago he jumped out of the car in a parking lot, and someone scooped him up and took off before my mom could catch him. It’s totally fucked up. She placed ads in the local papers, and I’m helping by calling vets and shelters just in case, but he’s a valuable dog, so there’s no telling if anyone will do the right thing. I told her to write the ad thusly:

Woman awaiting brain surgery misses beloved companion dog. Male Yorkie, 3 years old, grey body and blond face, leather collar. Reward. No questions asked.

I don’t know if she took my advice, but shit — why not play for the sympathy?

I also learned that an ex-boyfriend’s teenage sister is pregnant, and I’m feeling pretty bummed about it. I haven’t seen her in two years, probably, but I was always very fond of her. I know the family — who is very religious — is probably not being terribly supportive, and I can’t imagine how scared and confused she must be. The baby will be born a couple of months before her high school graduation. My heart goes out to her. Hearing about the situation is making me feel incredibly sad. I think she’ll grow to be a good mom, but she’s still a kid herself. Let that be a strike against abstinence-only education.

So there you have it. I guess when I lay it out, it’s pretty obvious that my sudden need to clean is me exerting control over some aspect of my life, and my inability to sleep is tied to worry. My mind isn’t so complicated after all.

On crock pot cooking and closet cleaning

(Here’s take two on this post that my WordPress iPhone app decided to eat. No good, friend.)

I was sick all last week, most of the weekend, and today I’ve spent about six hours staring at Quick Books and an Excel document. Who said my life isn’t glamorous?

I came home motivated to get some housework done, which means that there must be a God after all. Usually I’m too tired or lazy in the weekday evenings and too uninterested on the weekends to do any tidying, but I’m actually starting to hate living a disordered life, so the cleaning bug keeps biting. It started with finally putting away my clean laundry. Then I noted how messy one of my closets was, so I cleaned it up. Then I put away the shoes that were strewn about the apartment. With my final burst of energy, I cleared the coffee table and tidied the bathroom. Everything still needs a good scrubbing, but I feel accomplished.

It’s amazing that I actually have the energy and desire to clean/tidy/whatever on the evenings that I don’t have to cook dinner. After an eight-hour workday and a two-hour roundtrip commute, coming home to put dinner together leads me to crashing out on the couch immediately post-prandial. Yesterday I did a fair amount of food prep — baked oatmeal for four breakfasts, dinner that was large enough for a couple of lunch leftovers, and chopping and assembling tonight’s dinner in the crock pot. I just stuck it in the fridge overnight, and this morning I added the tofu, placed it in the base, and had my husband set it to low at about 11:00 a.m. He also started brown rice in the rice cooker when I left the office, so everything was ready when I walked in the door. It was awesome. I love the crock pot. It saves me so much time and energy during the week. If it weren’t forecasted to be around 90° this week again, I would use it for every meal.

We just finished watching The Amazing Race, and I took advantage of the last three commercial breaks to do planks, push-ups, squats, and crunches. Since I’ve been increasing my running — and I actually tackled my first 5-mile run yesterday, whew! — I’ve noticed some lower back pain from a weak core, plus some hip stiffness and tightness in my thighs. It’s nothing some good strength exercises and stretching won’t solve, methinks.

And now, gentle reader(s), it’s time to wrap up my evening with some hygiene, some (iced) tea, and unfucking of my tomorrow:

  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour