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Friday, November 17, 2017

Same Sh*t Different Day

That is, I think, why I'm not writing as frequently as I used to. I can only rant about the same damn stuff our government (or the upper echelons of my employer) are doing so much (or I get angrier). I can only talk about my grief and depression so often (or I get more depressed). The kids are (thank Google) in something approaching a routine, and they're getting old enough that "gamers' babes" isn't all that accurate anymore (and there's a fair bit of "don't post that!" now, as well).

So this post? It's a summation of the past month. Some of it may be news to you, some may be not.

I have (re)discovered sleep. Sleep is my new deity; it's the best thing ever, and it's no wonder I was completely, utterly depressed/anxious/sick all the time before I started sleeping well again. It has most likely been that I was on high alert all through Laston's illness and after his death. That's two years of two-to-four hours of sleep a night, folks; this is not healthy. Even this last week, although I was ill with a sinus infection, I wasn't completely exhausted on top of it, and that made all the difference in the world. It helps with all other things, my eating habits, my exercise habits, less shouting at the children, fewer anxiety attacks/bouts of depression, you name it. I didn't even get my ah... monthly migraine this month. I'll get even more consistent rest once 'Twas the Night rehearsals are over (Abby and Lizzy are in Cast B, link at the bottom of that web page. Come see it!).

However, 'Twas notwithstanding, there is the never-ending, all-consuming problem of Money, or more specifically, Work. I've said it before; I love my coworkers (including local management), I enjoy my job (though I have to say that this has been a very stressful autumn), and I even like working for AT&T. What I don't care for is the ridiculous way in which the upper management folks in charge of negotiating our new contract think of us. Do they really think we're so stupid we don't see what they're doing? They keep doing these booster kind of things for morale, but I wonder, if they took the money (these are pretty high production values) they put into the cheerleading videos and plowed it into the people who work for them instead, wouldn't that be more of a boost to morale than yet another t-shirt?

And I'm not talking about the off-shore and out-sourced folks either; I'm sure they deserve jobs too. But they're cheaper and less consistently trained (based on the number of mistakes they make that we fix every day), and therefore AT&T thinks... what? that the people who actually work for the company should forgo cost-of-living raises and decent healthcare/PTO (because I used up all my paid time off earlier this year because of severe depression due to my husband's death, that sinus infection - two and a half days of fever - went unpaid), and fix the outsourcers' mistakes for less? We've been working without a contract for ten months. And AT&T has already tried to make an end run around the negotiating team by speaking to the union members directly. While this may not be illegal, it is certainly not adhering to the spirit of the negotiations, and seems to be unethical to me.

Let me explain this simply, AT&T: you're doing yourself no favors by pocketing extra cash for the shareholders and spending money on boosterism. That money could be far better spent on your actual workers; we'd be a lot more loyal and have higher morale. Quit emulating the federal government; you are a classic example of how trickle-down economics doesn't work. Think about it.

Now, on to happier things, and back to 'Twas.

Abby (who is nearly fifteen, if you can believe it) achieved her goal of a major role with its own song by the end of the year, playing Vixen the Reindeer. Lizzy has her first Big Kid role as a caroler. Now Vixen is a... well, she's kind of a shallow, spoiled brat (Abby is playing her as being that way because she's insecure, which I enjoy).

But my teenager is not shallow, spoiled, or bratty, at least not any more than any 14-year-old kid. But she's getting more than a little into her role, and sometimes forgets to turn it off. And Lizzy, being her late father's loud, feminine clone, is having her moments as well. I often get to say, "You, stop Vixening! And you, quit putting the ass in Asperger's!"

It's kind of cool that both of them just make faces at me and try to modify the offensive behavior. I haven't had to ask them if they want an Oompa Loompa now, or if they were going to Tosche Station for power converters, for months now. The gimme-gimme is less, the whining is less (except for Lizzy and piano practice), and in general, I think that we, as a family, are beginning to truly heal.

And that's really the important bit. All that up there, the rants about work and politics and all that? They matter.

But what matters most is that we're doing okay.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Knowledge is Power

Let's talk about sex.

Not really, not exactly.

But I was in fact talking about sex with a friend last night, and how long it has been. I said, "Well, let's see... There were a couple of months before Laston got sick, or before we knew he was sick, and he was diagnosed in October of Two Thousand Fift... oh. Ohhhhh. Oh, I am stupid!" (to which my friend said of course I'm not stupid; thanks. 💙💚💛💜)

I like to have solid answers to problems, financial, medical, mental health, all of them. And I was getting frustrated as to the vagueness of my symptoms this fall, that sort of unspecified depression and anxiety, insomnia and that awful feeling of being totally overwhelmed. I mean, sure, seasonal affective disorder, perimenopause, the state of the world, compassion fatigue, work the way it's been here lately, blah blah blah. But it was worse than usual. It was worse than last year, and last year was pretty damn bad.

But last year I was still numb in October.

And hoo boy, has the numbness worn off.

But when I was talking to that friend, the light bulb came on. Of course October is going to suck; it's the anniversary of diagnosis.

Not sure why I didn't see that consciously before, but there it is.

And knowing is half the battle; it makes me feel like I have some control over my being when I have something to point at as a cause or a trigger or a reason. And as that same friend pointed out later in that conversation, "maybe knowing will help shift it a bit, or at least means you can allow it a bit of space to be."

It helps to write it out, of course, and as I write this, I'm listening to a webinar for widowed moms. One thing the coach for this webinar has said that resonates with me, is that I don't have to feel guilt for not "getting over it." I know there's not a schedule or a "normal" but knowing it in my head and in my gut are not the same thing at all. 

This reminds me very much of the Weight Watchers meetings, the being kind to oneself and the forgiving oneself for being human. And forgiving others in much the same way; their 'shoulds' are not necessarily my 'shoulds.' There is little to no way for x person in my life to understand how I feel right now, and they (generic they for this purpose) don't have to... and I shouldn't (there's that word again!) expect them to.

Nor should I feel guilty for not 'moving on' on someone else's schedule. 

We all know how I am with guilt.

So now? Now I feel pretty good (at the moment; who knows how long it will last).

Because knowledge is power.

Which makes me a goddamn superhero.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mind and Body

All that depression and the world falling apart and all has done a number on my body. Don't fret; it's just (another) cold. And, yes, Dad, I'm taking my vitamins.

But the vitamins and the meditation and the counseling and even the Xanax can only do so much when the mind is consistently being barraged with all this crap, and although yes, the body is not at its best (especially as it is fat), I'm still fairly healthy overall.

So I was thinking about it - my mind won't shut up at night, which is part of the problem - and there's a whole list of things that are, well, just life. Life over and above my weight. Bits of life that cause the immune system to go take a hike somewhere else.

  • I'm still grieving Laston with all that entails - anxiety, depression, the works
  • I have seasonal depression and it's October
  • I'm in perimenopause, with all the fun bits of that
  • The kids are both sharing the back-to-school crud (as are my co-workers)
  • Heck, the kids, full stop
  • My customers' stories out of Vegas and Mexico and Puerto Rico and Houston and Florida and everywhere really get to me
  • Not to mention similar stories in the news, complete with toddler tantrums from the men with the nuclear weapons. And I'm on the West Coast.
So yes. I have another cold. And I'll deal with it. And if it turns into a full on sinus infection I'll deal with that; I have a prescription at the ready.

But in the meantime, I treat the symptoms.

Right now that means chicken soup and unsweetened grapefruit juice.

And meditation and sleep and counseling.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Negative Emotion

I haven't written much lately. I think I've been too depressed.

In the past, I've always written to get the depression out, to make it manageable by carving it into small chunks and taking it from there.

This time it hasn't been working, at least not here on my blog. I think the only way I could cope with the enormity of it all - mostly political/world/work - is by expressing those bite-sized chunks in memes on social media. Or at most having a rant on Facebook; it was just too much.

Climate change and the resulting disasters - and the heartbreaking calls at work therefrom - along with the physical aspects here in Washington State (like the eerie Volcano Day vibe I got from ash, not to mention asthma during those wildfires east of us); these were just too much to deal with except in the small chunks. One more call from someone looking for a loved one they haven't heard from in Puerto Rico, or that poor guy who was almost in tears because the iPad he couldn't find after Harvey was all he had left - those calls kill me.

The fact that the President (of the country, not the company) is having yet another tantrum on Twitter because the mayor of San Juan said some mean things about him, makes me furious. Seriously, I'm irrational about it; it pisses me off that much. I'm a struggling widowed mom, and my ten-year-old with autism has better manners than the president of our country.

What the hell is wrong with people who think this is okay?

As for struggling, this is only exacerbated by work. I've said before, and I'll say again, I have NO personal beef with local management. None. Corporate, though, they seem to be taking tone-deafness lessons from the federal government. Example: October 2nd is the beginning of Customer Service Awareness Week. AT&T Corporate seems to think that free t-shirts (more on that below) and selfie stations and such are the best way to show their appreciation of the folks dealing with all that shit up there. Not by, say, negotiating a decent contract (that has been expired since February).

The t-shirts? Oh yes. It's a nice design, pretty, ombre-blue-on-grey, and it says, "It's the Customer's World, and we're just living in it." In general, I can get behind this sentiment; customers are important. But given that we're working out of contract for eight months now, the company obviously doesn't care about the people actually supporting said customers (or they wouldn't be outsourcing everything offshore or to contractors - whose mistakes (as their training is sketchy) we have to fix without that contract), during Customer Service Appreciation Week?

Yeah, not feeling appreciated here.

I love my job, heartbreaking stories notwithstanding. I love the people and I even love the company, especially on the local level. I even applied there in the first place because I liked how I was treated as a customer and I wanted to be part of that.

But seeing the injustice in the world with everything from the president of the country demanding that people get fired for exercising their constitutional rights, to the same man preferring to weenie-wag with North Korea vs taking care of his own countrymen? And feeling like if the company I love working for really cared about its customers the way it says it does, they'd take care of the people supporting said customers?

I'm not feeling it.

I know that some of you, Gentle Readers Who Used to Work Here, will be in I-told-you-so space at this point in my rant.  No need to reiterate.

I get it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Little Things

We had - as my Facebook friends already know - a quick trip to the southeastern corner of the state to see Leanna's (henceforth known as Lee; she prefers it) and Lizzy's grandparents (their late father's parents). And to catch a (nearly) total eclipse of the sun; their house is a lot closer to the totality line than mine.

We left Lee there for a week or so; Lizzy is not ready (nor is her mother) to stay a week so far from her home. A week at grandma Cheryl's (my mom) house a couple blocks away? Great. Almost a week at my sister's house about 18 miles away, with her cousin. Sure.

Three hundred fifty miles? Not so much. Maybe next summer.

In any case, what really struck me about this trip, quick as it was, were the titular little things that Lizzy got so very excited about, as well as some hilarious things that my mom and I revisited on this car trip.

The absolute awe with which Lizzy regarded "real trail mix" in the car. With Abby's allergy, we rarely keep nuts aside from peanut butter (not the same thing) in the house. So to Lizzy, trail mix is a seriously exotic food. The fact that it had bits of coconut and chocolate in just made it that much better.

The unexpectedly tasty "Thai chicken pasta" at an Italian restaurant. With melted mozzarella on top.

The really nice family we met at the hotel pool; Dad and two kids near Lizzy's age (one nine and one eleven; Lizzy will be ten in a couple weeks). They played in the pool with Lizzy (who doesn't actually swim) until nearly ten at night.

The complete thrill Lizzy got from "being allowed to make her own breakfast at a hotel!" (specifically pouring batter into the waffle press). And her need to tell everyone within shouting distance.

The look of utter incredulity given me by Lizzy when Grandpa Joe offered her cake (her choice of three flavors) and ice cream and (once he heard about the trail mix) cashews before 11 AM, and I said, "Okay; it's a grandparent's prerogative to spoil his grandchildren."

The absolute seriousness of Lizzy's expression as she tried to explain how solar eclipses work to her grandmother, who just nodded and smiled at her.

The look of horror I felt drilling into the back of my head when my mom and I played our Nostalgic Road Trip Music in the car (hey, I was a kid Lizzy's age in the late seventies/very early eighties. Don't judge me).

My mom and I reflecting that it's just as well I had no idea why Ruby took her love to town. And that Lizzy didn't care enough to ask.

Lizzy's relief when we switched to something of similar vintage, but more kid-friendly.

All in all, it was a very nice trip. Quick though. Next summer I'll take some actual paid time off so we can stay longer!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fear and Anxiety

I heard an interview on NPR today.

I had been aware of Max Brooks on the periphery of my Geek-Dar, because of World War Z. But aside from that and from the bare knowledge that he's the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, I knew very little about the guy.

But two quotes from his latest book - Minecraft: The Island - really stuck in my mind.

Fear can be conquered; Anxiety must be endured. 
Panic drowns thought.




Hoo, boy, did those hit home.

I mean, I've seen them both in action more times than I can count. I've had some serious (intermittent) anxiety since Laston's death. Laston himself would panic over very small problems and be unable to discuss anything rationally until he calmed down. Leanna and Lizzy both share this issue with their late father, and I've had my share of a few panic attacks myself in the past year.

Epiphany for me, even though I knew this already (I guess my periodic panic was drowning the thought until someone else said it).

Maybe this new (undrowned) knowledge will help me deal with the Constant Dread I've felt on a regular basis since last November 8th.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going off to put all of Max Brooks' work on my amazon wish list.

Did I mention my birthday is coming up in a month and a half?