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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. 
and... 
Panic drowns thought.

Oh.

My.

God.

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?


Monday, August 7, 2017

Near a Year

Yes, I know.

I'm trying my hardest to make this week about my stepdaughter, Laston's eldest child, because her birthday is this week. 

So I'd better get this out now. 

It has been very nearly a year since Laston's death. And it has not been a cakewalk. 

Everyone has been great: helpful, supportive, you name it. My mom, especially, and I think sometimes she doesn't get enough credit. 

She lost a son-in-law, too, and I'm not sure everyone really gets that. I get the feeling that some people think I'm taking advantage, relying so heavily on my mom. I know she doesn't feel that way, because she would definitely let me know if she did. 

My mother is nothing if not forthright. 

In any case, this is a fairly rambling post, but I need to do it, lest I spend the week without the catharsis of blogging it; that would likely end up with the emotional upset causing more physical illness. 

I'm having enough problems on that score, thanks to the wildfires in British Columbia and the resulting smoke. 

Anyway, still rambling. 

In general, we're doing okay. Leanna's with us for the summer, Abby's spending all her time and energy on YAPI (a six-week long intensive theater arts program at StudioEast) and Lizzy's spending hers on four different week long day camps, some with her younger cousin and some without. 

I just work. 🙂

But life is generally good, as we get prepped for the school year of 2017-18. 

       
  








Saturday, July 22, 2017

Anger

I've had anger - justifiably - over a lot of things for the past year or two. Cancer, death, politics, injustice, you name it. Just at the moment I have friends dealing with all sorts of crap from illness to injury to unemployment to poverty to... well, let's just say there's plenty to be angry about, both on friends' behalf and on the behalf of myself and my family.

But today? Today I'm mad at meth... is "cookers" the right word?

See, here's the thing. I have another sinus infection.

I haven't had them this often since before I had a few teeth removed almost six years ago.

So I went to the doctor today because fever and sinus pain/pressure/slight dizziness.

Yep, sinus infection, viral (good because I don't need antibiotics but bad because there's no real way to cure it; you just treat the symptoms). They also said my ears are inflamed but not infected, and I got the lovely experience (again) of having a giant Q-Tip shoved up my nose for a culture "just to make sure it is, in fact, viral."

Goody.

The problem is that sinus infections tend to go south into my lungs. I'm asthmatic, so if that happens, I usually get bronchitis or occasionally even pneumonia.

These are bad options.

So I go home, take a shot of NyQuil, have a cup of tea, and drink a gazillion fluids.

But why'd I get it in the first place?

"Oh, well," the doctor said, (and he knows; they have my chart), "it's a particularly bad year for allergies, and with the sort of stresses you've been under for the past two years, well, you're prone to infection."

Okay, but why is there enough gunk in there to get infected? I'm using the damn allergy meds.

The doctor smiled at me and said, "Thing is, the allergy meds tend to dry things out and clog them up. This is fine, if you're getting enough water, but most people aren't. So you end up getting an infection if you're a) prone to such things, and/or b) under major stress."

Oh.

Then I should blame meth cookers.

Because thanks to them, I can't get pseudo-ephedrine without signing away my first born, in triplicate, using the blood of a virgin hydra as ink, and a pen made from the feather of a baby gryphon.

So instead? I'm drinking enough fluids to float away.

Which still makes me better off than many of my friends.

But I don't have to like it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Off the Wall

Even more so than usual.

When I heard today on my lunch break that our president had suggested the Border Wall be transparent, I thought my lunchmate was joking. Or reading a satire site, because that sounded a little odd even by this administration's standards.

But it was true.

So let me see if I understand this.

He still wants to put up the Border Wall, to keep out The Mexicans, who are Bad Hombres and Rapists™.

And he wants it made of glass.

Apparently this is so we Pure, Good Americans™ can see when the Bad Hombres™ are pitching 60lb bags of "stuff" over the top, and what? Dodge?

Uh-huh.

But, um, glass.

Because, see, while we have invented transparent aluminum (but not this transparent aluminum, which would presumably be cheaper than what we can make at the moment), that's a lot of wall to make out of anything at all, much less an expensive manufactured product that right now only comes in a maximum size sheet of 18x35 inches. So, assuming that you have to stack them in portrait mode, at least three high so it's taller than your Bad Hombres™, well, let's do the math...

There are 63,360 inches in a mile. There are 1989 miles along the US-Mexico border. That's 7,001,280 sheets of transparent aluminum in one layer. Stack 'em three high and that's 21,003,840 sheets of the stuff.

Doesn't sound cost effective, but I guess they'll save that much by un-insuring anyone who has a pre-existing condition, unless they're rich, white, and straight.

Or maybe he'll pay for it by appeasing Those Wacky Liberals™ by topping it off with solar panels.

This is not how reality works.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Random Things

There are a lot of them.

I survived Laston's birthday - the first since his death - although it required leaving work, half a Xanax, and a long, long nap.

We've got Fathers' Day covered; Abby's dad is alive and well about three towns up, and Lizzy has my dad for all the cutesy things they make in school and possibly in Girl Scouts.

Sore ankle must have been just Unaccustomed Exercise and Too Fat for my Feet, because a feverish cold put me to bed for a day and it was much better after that. And I lost a pound this week but I doubt that did much.

The school year is winding up for the kidlets, although their last day is late due to "inclement weather" days. Everyone's performance in school and work has been... rather less than our usual high standards... this school year, for obvious reasons. But Abby seems to have pulled out of her English Language Arts slump with the Shakespeare unit (because she gets to act it out, natch) and Lizzy's school is all set for next year.

Abby's going to the brand new high school in our district in the fall - she will be in the first freshman class there - so she's excited about that.

I get to be a guest on the Geek Questioner Podcast this weekend! I am so excited about this, partly because I'm not nearly as, well, geeky, as some of my compatriots who have been on it before. Certainly not as much as my late husband was. Or maybe I just put on a better Muggle front than most. 😊

Found out that Laston's book will have an audio version coming out in the 2017 holiday season! Also very exciting!

Some cool new tools at work that should make life easier... though I'd rather have a decent freaking contract. It's been almost five months since we had one.

Um... maybe I don't have as much random stuff as I thought!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Of Springtime Blues

I'm healing.

There's no question.

Because the things that happened in May - the wonderful things, and the terrible things, and all the things in between - a few months ago they would have broken me into apathetic can't-get-out-of-bed bits.

But I managed to get out of bed. I managed to get to work on time, on a holiday, near the end of this ridiculously stressful month.

Go me.

What was so stressful?

Well, the usual suspects of money and household chores and whatnot have been exacerbated due to summer camp dues,  end-of-school-year prep, and Abby's Wonderland rehearsals. I've lost weight, started walking more, and started eating better (yay spring and fresh produce on the cheap!). I've also had a three-day strike from work, the usual depression/grief/insomnia, and spring allergies (boo spring cottonwood and spiders!). And Grandma's broken car, which - while not terribly stressful for me - involved a lot of stress for her.

And then there was the aforementioned Wonderland.

It is absolutely gorgeous.

Scenes that have the audience busting up laughing (and one of the "Alice's" parents saying Abby should win an award for Most Lively Ensemble Member). Scenes that are threatening enough to frighten younger audience members (my niece Lucy (7) spent most of one act cuddled up with Abby's friend who was sitting next to them in the audience... though she claims that the friend's shoulder was just "closer" than the bench's headrest).  And scenes that had even the videographer sniffling.

Hilarious and heartbreaking by turns; this show is really big on the Mood Whiplash. I won't give too many spoilers - even though all my local readers really should have seen it by now - but it's a video game and pop culture twist on the familiar Quest to Find Oneself, and you should bring plenty of Kleenex. And if you have had a loss of a loved one, if you're a parent, or if you're just sensitive to such stories, bring two boxes. If you have extras you can share.

The director of the piece described the second act to me as "a downer". It's not, not by my standards anyway. What it is to me is terribly bittersweet.

Catharsis is a Good Thing, even if you feel crappy physically for days afterward.

And now I've seen it twice, once as a standard audience member (with a slew of family, and I think it wouldn't hurt for Lizzy's grief counselor to see it so she has some context for what Lizzy's likely to tell her next session), and once as a parent volunteer.

 Thank Google (or, well, Amazon) for waterproof mascara.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Corporate Wage Slave?

Not if I can help it.

The title is a reference to the game Shadowrun, wherein if one's character was employed by a major corporation, there was no getting out, no moving up, nothing at all to look forward to.

Most Shadowrunners are trying to escape this fate.

I know I've said more than once in this blog that the reason I applied for a job at AT&T in the first place was because I loved how I was treated as a customer, and I wanted to be a part of that. And it was like that.

And locally, at AT&T Bothell, it often still is. They were terrific after Laston's death. Supportive, kind, helpful. Some of my coworkers made care packages while I was out on extended bereavement leave. The local managers, former (more on that later) and present, have been great.

But I have to say, when we the union (CWA Local 37083) called this weekend walkout, there was serious trepidation on my part. I have no money, am barely living paycheck to paycheck as it is, and have been paying for the usual suspects plus camp fees and end-of-school-year stuff.

Of course, if we don't as a workforce get at least some of what we're asking for, we will keep doing that until the end of time.

Explaining such things to small children does help one to focus - Lizzy (9) wanted to know why it was not okay to work if others were striking. Well, look, I made a deal with these people to be BFFs, and what do BFFs do? They support each other. If I wandered off to be friends more with the company than the union, they wouldn't be my BFFs anymore, would they.

No, they would not.

But still, not looking forward to striking. I remember Abby's dad striking with SPEEA at Boeing. It was not an easy time. I'm (just barely) old enough to remember (very vaguely) the sign by the side of the freeway. I don't want to do it, but I feel like I have to. And this post? I've refined my thinking a bit since writing that.

Here's the thing. Does Randall Stephenson deserve to make a butt-ton of money? Probably, yes. But not at the expense of the people who do the front line work. We are the ones who deal with the angry customers. Many of them are angry not because of a breakdown at the local tower. Most of the angry ones I speak with?

They're furious because they feel they were lied to by an offshored worker who was hired because it's cheaper to hire them overseas... but they haven't been well-trained or there's a language barrier or something.

They're enraged because the person at the authorized retailer sold them stuff they didn't need and now they're stuck with that contract... and the reason they were oversold is that's the only way that authorized retailer can actually earn any commission.

They're unhappy because their hotspot went away and they weren't told it would happen by someone who's not trained, or because they're being charged a zillion dollars for phone bills while traveling in Mexico because the rep who signed them up didn't realize that you have to opt in after signing up for the unlimited data plan.

And yet, the High Mucky Mucks believe that a 2% raise per year is enough for us, the people who soothe, fix, and comfort customers who are desperately trying to figure out how to afford a phone bill for a deployed soldier or how to retrieve voicemail from a deceased loved one.

They believe, apparently, that my kids are not worth a cost of living raise that actually covers the cost of, well, living. Or that our health care costs should go up. Or that Mommy might not have a job - not because she did something wrong - but because it's just cheaper to hire people in other countries.

If those workers' lives are screwed up, or if customers are unhappy?

Who cares, as long as the (major) shareholders get theirs? I'm a shareholder too, albeit a small one.

I mean really, you'd think a man who makes something like $12,000 an hour would maybe think I - a widowed mom trying to make ends meet - need more than $17.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Meltdowns

Teal for Anxiety
So yesterday, not long after I posted about a likely panic attack, I got a note from Lizzy's teacher.

It was the last straw, and looking back at it today, well... let's just say I have reason to be grateful for that continuing FMLA leave for "primary grief reaction: anxiety."

I was having a pretty good week (as was Lizzy). I can now often use phrases like, "my late husband," or describe myself as, "a widowed mom," without losing it. She can, if reminded frequently, not melt down over tiny issues as she is wont to do.

These are Good Things.

Monday through Wednesday went pretty well, for both of us. Oh, there's the constant background radiation of money troubles (children are expensive, there were some fees that have never been in my name before, etc), and the newer niggling concern about the potential for going on strike with my union (which would exacerbate said money troubles). And the dragging fatigue that comes with not sleeping well (perimenopause? impending weird weather? impending political doom? or D: all of the above?)

But in general, a good week. Even Thursday morning was good; we had a walking/outdoor team meeting, in which I used that "widowed mom" phrase without despair, got some fresh air and sunshine, and a little exercise. From all reports, Lizzy was fine at school Thursday until lunchtime too.

Then the feces hit the rotor.

There was news out of the stupid Other Washington about congresspeople who apparently don't have two flying fucks to rub together about anyone but them, there is clear evidence that we can't count on the company I work for (and love) to have our backs either, should the Verucas in Congress get their way, and a very old friend who has been offline for some time and hadn't heard about Laston's death messaged me with touching concern.

Any one of these three things I could handle. Probably even any two. All three and I was getting very anxious and twitchy, and out fidget spinners have not arrived yet.

Then I got the note from Lizzy's teacher.

I burst into tears (thank Google I was between calls), and set up that FMLA time. I called the school and arranged to pick Lizzy up instead of waiting for the bus and letting my mom get her, as is the usual pattern on Thursdays.

It's not actually a horrible thing Lizzy did in and of itself (it involved snatching something from another kid who was taking too long at his turn, although Lizzy still denies it), but the problem is that when she's corrected for even minor infractions, she often loses her temper (0-60 in 1.5 seconds), gets defensive and snotty, and A Scene Ensues. Her teacher is great, but there are 20-odd other kids in that class, and there is not time to calm Lizzy down to the point where she can have a reasonable conversation.

Anyway, by the time I got to the school, Lizzy had calmed down enough for that reasonable conversation. We had it. I did not raise my voice, although I did remind her about Wheaton's Law, which is inappropriate language for use outside "just us." She was very subdued all evening (highly unusual for her) and even suggested making an "apology card" for her teacher.

Good idea.

Today I took her in to give the teacher the card (don't want her forgetting her good intentions between car and classroom). The baby talked surfaced when she saw one of the other kids and I asked her why; she said he was moving away and he's "one of the very few boys in third grade who's nice." I'll have to tell her counselor that one, because that is a very clear case of I-don't-know-how-to-express-my-feelings-here equaling baby talk.

A random PTA mom - we've met a few times - told me I have to go to Weight Watchers when I was dithering about it aloud, while returning my visitor's pass to the office.

So I did.

Half of the WW group spent the meeting in tears, including me. This is also a Good Thing; it's cathartic.

I don't feel better yet, not much. But I will.

It's what we moms do.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Micro/Macro

I'm writing this at work, between calls, which means that no matter how angry and scared and close-to-panicky I am, I'm keeping it rated PG at worst.

But I'm writing it at work between calls, because if I don't get rid of what I have to say (and I can't say it to customers), I'll end up having that panic attack.

Here's the thing. As far as I can see, our upper management's attitude toward the union demands is very similar to today's vote in Congress and theirs toward the American people at the whole.

As long as the people at the top get theirs, they don't care what happens to the rest of us.

Or worse, they're anticipating getting rid of us so they can have even more for themselves.

Hike up healthcare costs to the employee or take away life-giving services because you don't want to pay for part of them; it's just a matter of degree, really.

Send money overseas to pay for war, or to hire outsourced call centers. Just a matter of degree.

I feel sick.

But maybe I shouldn't admit that here.

After all, who would pay for it?

Friday, April 28, 2017

That is the Question

To strike or not to strike...

Oh, if my union strikes, I will strike with them.

But I don't want to.

Look, AT&T was very good to me during Laston's last illness and in the aftermath. I don't know how much of that was the local management in my call center and how much was corporate. But they were great within the terms of the contract, although more paid bereavement leave would have been really nice; I had already used up all my other paid time off on chemotherapy and hospital visits and the like.

I love the work and the people.

And I am too old - and have been in various corners of Corporate America for too long - to be anything but cynical about getting what we want (or at least everything we want) here.

Some of my colleagues and fellow union members are very unhappy with the huge pay differences between the salaries made by the likes of Randall Stephenson and your average call center tech like us. I'm really not. I honestly don't care if the CEO makes a bajillion dollars, as long as I can make enough to support me and the girls, and get us some extras now and then.

I don't expect a bajillion. Considerably more than $35k (before taxes) would be nice though. And I am totally on board with better leave policies, lower health care costs, etc. Especially the latter.

What really bothers me is the hypocrisy of it all. In the same week that we are threatening to strike, we're having mandatory trainings about how we all support each other, how the little customer is just as important as the big one.

Thing is, that as much as these trainings talk about "supporting the internal customer," AT&T as a company doesn't walk that walk. They'll hire offshore, and hey, I'm glad that the offshore hiring means I don't have to work late evenings anymore. And I'm glad some nice folks in other countries have jobs. But I'm pretty sure that's not why AT&T is doing it; they're doing it to save money. They are not supporting their internal customers, you know, the ones who are the front line with customers.

I am tired of being treated like I'm a four-year-old who can't be trusted with paid sick time. I'm just now getting to the stage where I am not in a constant state of devastated despair at the death of my husband (the waves of that are coming fewer and further between, thank you EAP from the last union contract), and I'm having to explain to my nine-year-old that if I work when my coworkers are on strike, they won't be my friends anymore.

So no, I don't want to strike. I'd rather work. But - here's the important bit - I'd rather work for someone who sees me as more than a warm body to fill that chair, who actually gives a crap about me. Jenn. My local management is pretty good about this; they know me. But corporate?

Not so much.

I had a customer just the other day - I fixed a problem another rep had caused - who said, "Well, the rep who made that mistake was in one of those call centers in India or the Philippines. I'm sure they're nice people who need jobs too, but they're messing with your customers. Don't you people have a union?"

Yes, we do.

And we're going to use it if we have to.

Whether we want to or not.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Could've Been Worse

I planned to take today off, as it would have been mine and Laston's tenth wedding anniversary. I could envision myself cracking up entirely at work, like, "Sorry, ma'am, but my husband died of a quick-moving cancer not quite eight months ago, and I really don't give two shits about your data speed."

So I planned today off.

Good thing, too, because I (and Abby) have the Cold from Hell. As in, we didn't even sing along with show tunes on our way up her her dad's house, because we both sound like croaky, nasal frogs. So I was not feeling well physically on top of the likely emotional upset.

Which itself was not as horrible as it could have been. I mean, I'm sure that it has contributed to my catching the CfH, and my irritable bowel is... irritable. But these are fairly minor. I took it easy, drank tea and juice, ate bland food, played video games, and finished my latest cozy mystery. Then I took Abby to her dad's and stopped for a manicure on the way home.

Oh, and made my contribution to tomorrow's Last Day With the Team Potluck. Tortellini Salad, loaded.

On the whole, it's been a much better week than last week was, but then I spent quite a lot of it Being Nice to Myself. This will continue next week, because I have a massage and a facial scheduled for next Friday.

There have been some tears, and one song in the ones we listened to in the car that I could not cope with at all. But in general I (and apparently the girls, although the anniversary is likely less of a thing for them) did pretty well. Now if I can make it through one more ten-hour day (it's been really hard lately), I'll be to eight-hour shifts. That ought to help with maintaining that people-ing energy through an entire workday.

Still don't like it, this exhaustion from being around people. Damn situational introversion.

That said, I think I'm going to plan a Board Game Day around Laston's birthday (early June). Different people, different venue, different situation.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tale as Old as Time

Gorgeous.

It was beautiful.

The mood reminded me of Into the Woods (the movie version), but the whole production was so very theatrical that Abby and I both wanted to applaud at the end of every musical number.

Gaston is a much better villain in this; he's just as over-the-top as in the animated version, but far more sinister and believable. And both Gaston and Kill the Beast were terrifically well done.

 LaFou was great, Again, over-the-top without being an actual caricature.

Kevin Kline, even as "crazy old Maurice" was priceless. As always.

Emma Watson can sing. Who knew? It might be auto-tuned and all, but still.

The animation for Chip reminded me a bit of BB-8.

Ha! Funny story: Lizzy heard the line from the title song "...barely even friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly..." and given all the Legend of Korra we've been watching, she made a connection to the word "bends" that was probably not what Menken and Ashman had in mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as the rest of the day.

We just did lunch and the movie and some errands, but it was so much better a day than I have had in the past couple weeks.

I think my boss was right; I need some time off (not necessarily from work, although the shorter work days coming up will probably help me), even if it's just a day here and there. Some time when I'm not sick, or taking care of someone else for the entire day, or whatever. None of what we did today had to be done today.

And I think that made all the difference.

Of course Beauty and the Beast (and the Phantom of the Opera, for that matter) always remind me of my favorite of the Greek myths - Hades and Persephone. Oh, you can talk about Stockholm Syndrome and sexism and potential for abuse, but that's not all there is to these types of stories. I knew that even at twelve, 36 years ago, in Mr. Hansen's (he of the pretty blue eyes) seventh grade social studies class.

It's a good story.

A tale as old as time, if you will.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rough Times

yeah, so it's been a rough few days, for no real reason aside from the obvious. My boss thinks I should take a leave of absence (yeah, no, that would just add stress to the pile; LoA is unpaid leave). I'm already taking this coming Friday off (it would have been Laston's and my tenth wedding anniversary; I don't think I can people) and half days Wednesday and Thursday before it. On the seventh of April I have a spa day planned. I'm hoping that moving to that eight-hour schedule the following week will help.

I'm in counseling but I've only seen her once so far. My supervisor said I should apply for short term disability, which IS (partially) paid, but I'm not sure that depression qualifies, or that it would be good for me to not-people for weeks on end. I see the counselor early next week though, so maybe she can tell me.

I'm not that badly off in the grand scheme of things, but I'm having trouble focusing on work, getting sick way too often (even for me in the springtime), and just generally being out of sorts. Lizzy slams things around; I just tear up at the drop of a hat.

I'm not real fond of having this little control over my own being.

Pity Party Peace Out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Whole Month?!

Wow.

It's been a month since I posted last, and what a month it's been! We've had a lot of stuff happening. In no particular order...

Today, a month later, Abby probably has pinkeye. Lizzy has the same crud I had on Saturday (I rather suspected the latter, but a day of fever and what we call "feeling noodley" (as in limp as a noodle) and sleep, followed by general malaise, sounds just like mine). Abby's going to the doctor to check out the potential pinkeye, and I (with the help of some friends online) am trying to view being stuck at home as an opportunity for going makeup-free and braless for the day.

Abby enjoyed her first job (although she found it very tiring to help keep track of a large group of five-to-seven-year-olds for several hours a day), and also had a couple of babysitting nights while that child's big sister and mom were selling cookies with me and Lizzy. She's on her way, folks, and it just may be that her tentative plans (for over two years now) for a double major of Theater Arts and Education are looking viable.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt her to learn to spell before doing a degree in education. To that end, her dad is looking into whether their medical insurance  covers things like testing for dyslexia. If it does, we'll take her to the place where Lizzy got her ADHD and Aspergers (or high-functioning autism spectrum disorder or whatever they're calling it this week) diagnosis (and her pediatric grief counseling). We know them, trust them, and they're handy; what's not to like?

On that note, I've started counseling myself, although I've only had one session so far. I suffer from Mom Disease (also known as Taking Care of the Kids Before Yourself Too Often,) and I have had that forever. Add in what my doctor calls Primary Grief Reaction: Anxiety, and, well, monthly massages just don't cut it on their own. I went to a few meetings of a widows' support group, and they were very nice, but the time and place and commute were very inconvenient for me, and it just wasn't the best fit.

Anyway, we're still swimming, and now with school accommodations and grief counseling and springtime (note the new springy theme,) we have more flotation devices to help keep us up!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Keeping Busy

So this morning I woke up to a familiar springtime sound around here... baby woodpeckers learning their trade. Thankfully, this year they don't seem to be using the metal flashing around the bathroom fans, because holy hell, that was noisy.

It was Laston who first figured out what the sound was, the first spring we were in this house, and so this morning I was feeling a bit wistfully sad. But not swamped under by emotion, which is a huge improvement.

Adding to the wistful sadness is a Proud Mama My Baby Is Growing Up moment; my daughter has her first Real Job, and one in an industry she looooves. Abby (14) is an assistant counselor at Studio East this week, helping out the teachers with the K-2 day-camp kids. They don't pay her in real cash (because under age for that), but they pay her in credit toward future tuition the next time she wants to be in one of their camps or productions.

This is a big deal, because their production tuitions are fairly expensive, and the YAPI (Young Actors Professional Intensive - they learn from not only the Studio East pros, but also from other bigwigs in the industry around here, in culture-conscious Seattle) camp she auditioned and interviewed for this summer? Very expensive. This will help defray those costs, as will a partial scholarship we may qualify for.

I took this week off on the plan that we would go with my mom up to her time share for midwinter break. But Abby got a job (yay!) and someone has to get her there as she is not able to drive yet. And my mom didn't want to take the little girls up to the condo in the winter by herself (the Washington beaches are cold this time of year!) so she has them at her house for a few days.

This gives me Alone Time. Which I need, but which also makes me sad if I don't keep busy. Thus, I bring you the Proposed Schedule:

Monday: Kids to respective places, home for blogging, laundry, taking another swing through paperwork in the never-ending-search-for-missing-car-title (since the finance company apparently doesn't give a shit). Pick up Abby at 340 and come home for pork chops, asparagus, and Supernatural mini-marathon until bedtime.

Tuesday: Abby to work, Jenn to storage shed to get the last of the books sorted, then to HPB, research legit extra-cash things online (mom found some in the AARP magazine) and sign up for same. Pick up Abby at 340 and come home for orange chicken, fruit, and Supernatural mini-marathon until bedtime.

Wednesday: Abby to work, open savings account for Leanna and Lizzy at my credit union (yes, one of those things I though Laston had taken care of years ago; they are legion), move Abby's savings account from bank to same credit union (for convenience and because that feels safer to me), pay bills. Pick up Abby at 340 and Lizzy around four. Home for dinner (not sure what yet), Avatar: The Last Airbender until Lizzy bedtime, Supernatural until Abby bedtime.

Thursday: Abby to work, Lizzy and I to have vacation-homework-clean-and-cuddle day. Pick up Abby at 340. Home for dinner (not sure what yet), Avatar: The Last Airbender until Lizzy bedtime, Supernatural until Abby bedtime.

Friday: Abby to work, Lizzy and I to go to Weight Watchers (I missed it today because timing), then have vacation-homework-clean-and-cuddle day. Pick up Abby at 340 and Leanna around four. Home for dinner (not sure what yet), Avatar: The Last Airbender until Lizzy bedtime, Supernatural until Abby & Leanna bedtime.

Of course, laundry, dishes, and general maintenance are every day.

It looks like a lot. But it's really not.




Monday, February 13, 2017

Sadness vs Depression vs Side Effects (or All of the Above)

This is an open letter, especially to those I alarmed or worried on this Facebook thread yesterday.

I felt it coming like a wave at the beach.

But with help from you all, and a few realizations, it never materialized fully. I was sad, but not suffering from (or going to be suffering from) a major depressive episode.

There is definitely cause for sadness and depression over here. Laston's death was just over six months ago (last Friday, the tenth), Valentines' Day is coming up tomorrow (though we didn't really celebrate it, it was still there... and now he's not), I'm scared to death about the monster we as a country have created (but that's a matter for a different post, at least this time), there are money troubles (there are always money troubles), and it's still winter (in spite of the fact that I went out in a t-shirt and leggings today and was perfectly comfy).

So yeah, depression and anxiety and the usual suspects.

But the about-to-be-swamped-under feeling? Not the usual for me, even under these circumstances.

I took your advice. I did my deep breathing and planned today to be about me, not the world. I took my melatonin and my meditation app and went to bed.

And this morning I woke up just fine.

It occurred to me that the copious amounts of Benadryl and Albuterol I've been taking for the past couple days - thank you, massive allergy to spider venom - may have contributed to my sense of impending doom. I mean, Benadryl is a sleep aid, which means a depressant, no? And I didn't take any last night, nor did I use more than the daily inhaler (rather than the rescue inhaler) yesterday.

(On a side note, now I really grok why Abby's Epi-pen says to go to the hospital afterward if you have to use it. The aftereffects are probably nearly as bad as the anaphylaxis.)

So no medication hangover.

And the depression is back to the usual low levels.

Imagine that.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Good Days, Bad Days

I'm doing better in general.

Some of this is the Great Cleanathon of 2017; any of you who follow me on Facebook are well aware of this project. It has had the effect of making this house belong to me and the girls, with bits of Laston's character here and there; before it was Laston's and my house, with him missing.

Some of it is the widows' support group, although I've only been a few times. I'm not going this week either; there's a transgender awareness seminar at my local high school I want to attend instead. One of the effects of Doing Better in General is that I have more emotional energy for issues that are important to me. LGBTQ+ rights and awareness are - if you've ever read my blog you know this already - one of those issues.

However, because this sort of thing is so politicized these days - God forbid the RNC should actually practice the Minding Their Own Business they used to - that I can hardly stand to be on places like Facebook. There's so much awful going on, and that sort of thing can lead to Bad Days for me.

In the grand scheme of things, my Bad Days are nothing. I'm not getting deported, for instance, or beaten up in the street or depressed to the point of self-harm. I'm only constantly worried about money, and depressed for other reasons (like grief and winter, although the latter is better now that I have started a new schedule that a) gets me to work after the sun comes up, and b) netted me a window seat). And today because of a massive allergy attack a couple days ago (spider bite), I have the aftereffects of Too Much Medication too. Nothing big in comparison to people I know and love.

But for me, they're still Bad Days.

The good thing is that out of 43 days so far this year, I have had seven Bad Days. That's, well, about one day a week that are Bad Days on average. And that's a huge improvement over just a couple of months ago.

So all I need to do is get some more money (wanna buy a book?), get my taxes done (scheduled for Tuesday) so I can hopefully build some kind of buffer/cushion, and try to fake it 'til I make it some more.

And get a couple of epically asshatty strangers reported on Facebook. I can't do it from the app; it seems that Facebook's report-this-post link is broken in the app. I wonder why...

I got this.

I think.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Buzzwords

There are a lot of them around the Internet.

And in real life, especially in the last few months.

Some of these, especially in activist circles, are things like (insert-majority)-splaining, privilege, and intersectionality.

I try really really hard not to do the first (though sometimes I slip), to be aware of the second, and to practice the third, special liberal snowflake that I am. So I'm going to take them one at a time.

'Splaining, as I understand it, is people of a majority group trying to explain away the minority group's feelings / views as in, "what they really mean is..."  I can usually avoid the white-splaining, although I got gently called out for cis-splaining the other day, when a transgender friend pointed out that not all women have pussies (as in the women's march on Washington on the 21st of January). I said that I thought pussy in this case was in response to Voldy's remarks. That may be true, but it doesn't negate my friend's feelings of exclusion from the pussy corps.

Privilege. This is a hard one. Most of the privileged people I know aren't even aware of their privilege, and frankly, I haven't been until recently either. So, to my friends who do not share my privileges, please correct me if I 'splain here.

It's really, really easy to believe that you aren't privileged if you're not one of the one percent. I mean, how could you think you're privileged if you're struggling to pay your bills (as I am; death of a spouse is not cheap, and neither is grief counseling for children,) or if you're female (check) in our male-dominated society, or whatever?

But I am privileged. I have trouble paying those bills, but bill collectors don't automatically assume I'm a deadbeat, because I'm not a person of color. When strangers find out I'm a widow, they don't assume my husband was killed as part of a drug deal. They might make assumptions based on my size ('she's fat; she must've let herself go and her husband left her") but the fact that I'm a straight white woman means that people in our society do not as a rule make assumptions about me being on, say, welfare or food stamps.

So even though I'm a financial mess and often an emotional one, I have privileges that many people don't, whether because of color or gender identity or religion or whatever.

And lastly, intersectionality. This is also hard. If I understand it correctly, it's about making sure that all bases are covered, that if you support, say, women, you support all women: white, brown, black, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, straight, gay, transgender, disabled, all of them. I have noticed that while I - and most of my friends - try very hard to do this, there are unconscious biases that seem to determine a... a priority, I guess... of what we react to first.

I have a friend, for instance, who is a total social justice guy. He's out there supporting everyone, women, LGBTQ+ folks, all the things. But his first priority seems to be racism in all forms; if something is racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, and homophobic, he'll jump on the racism first. I tend to jump on sexism first, then LGBTQ+, then immigration and basic human rights, and only then on racism in general. I mean, I try to be involved as much as I can handle on all of these, but that's my knee-jerk priority right there.

And I wondered why? I mean, women's issues I get; I'm a woman, after all. But I am neither an LGBTQ+ person, nor an immigrant, so why are these taking priority in my brain? Is it that I'm a closet racist? I hope not. So I was puzzling this out, feeling guilty, (like I don't have enough on my emotional plate since last August) and I mentioned it to my mom.

Who said, "Jenn, your best friend all through your teen years was a gay man who thought he was the only one. That made a huge impact on how you see the world."

Oh.

So, for me, this is how it goes. I can be horrified and heartbroken at the racism in our country. I can do my best to shut it down, and to raise my children to have less intrinsic bias than I do. I can combat racism - and all injustice - whenever I see it.

And I can still have my own set of priorities.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Politics of Cookies

You may know that the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) had a presence in the inaugural parade o nJanuary 20th 2017. Seventy-five girls who had been planning to participate in this inauguration for  months before anyone knew who would be elected, and the Internet went up in flames.

Because of little girls. All they wanted to do was take part in a 100+ year tradition that they had been planning for several months by the time inauguration day rolled around, and everybody screamed BOYCOTT.

Sort of like people boycotting Starbucks for offering to hire refugees "instead of homeless vets," even though Starbucks already has a program for hiring vets and their families.

Or maybe like putting a travel ban on all the people in the Muslim-majority Arab world unless you happen to do business there, hmm?

Gosh, it would be like banning all Christians because of Westboro Baptist's hatefulness.

In any case, because under a hundred Girl Scouts (of nearly two million) participated in something you don't approve of is not a reason to deny yourself (or others if you are so inclined) the yumminess of Girl Scout Cookies. Or to punish a local kid who just wants to sell enough cookies to earn part of her camp tuition or a trip to the aquarium or something.

So... anybody want to pre-order some cookies? We have a few more days for pre-orders; I have to turn them in on February 5th. You don't have to pay until late February when they are delivered.

All cookies are $5 a box this year. This is the first price hike in over ten years, and frankly, the kids like it better because, well, multiplying by five is just easier than by four. There's even a new flavor this year; S'Mores.

We get our cookies from Little Brownie Bakers (click the link), and while LBB doesn't have Lemonades, they do have Savannah Smiles, which are yummy. Toffee-tastics are gluten-free and Thin Mints are vegan, and the palm oil is now from sustainably harvested sources.

And there are other old favorites, like Samoas (my fave and Lizzy's), Trefoils (so good with jam or chocolate or tea,) and the peanut-buttery goodness of Do-si-does and Tagalongs.

If you don't eat sugar, or you've given up cookies for Lent (that happened last year), or if you want to support Lizzy and by extension the Girl Scouts of Western Washington but the Weight Watchers points won't allow for a Thin Mint (two Smart Points, BTW), then you can always donate to Operation Cookie Drop. Those cookies go to what Lizzy called, "The other kinds of troops, the ones who have to fight."

If not, we'll see you at the local stores starting in early March.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"When You're Rich, They Think You Really Know..."

It's a political rant. With F-bombs. And actual mentions of religion (not generally in the same breath). Cope with it or don't read it.

Most of my liberal friends who are posting their protest playlists are referencing artists like Green Day, or Bruce Springsteen, or Alanis Morissette. My theater folk are using music from Hamilton (for obvious reasons if you haven't been living under a rock), or maybe Evita.

I went with something a whole lot older on the Broadway scene, because that title up there seems to sum up this whole big mess for me. Now, Fiddler on the Roof has its own set of issues, but that's not what I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is the serious levels of cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing here the past few days. It's doing some bad things to my head/emotions, which is why my protesting will - at least for the time being - be limited to online; I haven't the emotional energy to cope with people and this political sideshow.

So here's the thing: I have friends all over the political spectrum. I have friends and family around the world. I have a Bachelor of Science in Intercultural Communication. My personal quote that I use all over the Internet is "I know there are people out there who do not love their fellow human beings... and I hate people like that!" (Tom Lehrer, 1958). Basically, I like people, and I do not grok folks who only want to keep to their own tribe (or turn the rest of us into their tribe... like, say, the Romans did all over Europe back in the day. Or the various European settlers to the indigenous peoples of their respective lands).

The guy now allegedly in charge doesn't seem to give two shits about anyone.

The "America First" shtick strikes me as scary as hell; it's insular, exclusive, and mean-spirited. What happened to "Give me your poor..."? (or maybe we don't like the French anymore). I'm all for taking care of me and mine first too (hence the online protest/support for protesters), but that doesn't mean you can't be decent to other people. All the Abrahamic religions (yes, including Islam) have basic decency at their core, and yet the supposed Christians in Congress and now in the White House have fucked that up good and proper.

All these allegedly Christian government folks breaking the Golden Rule (love thy neighbor... because other countries outside these secular borders? They're our neighbors). Breaking Commandments left and right (at least three of them all the time: adultery (about half of them, though not the Obamas or the Bidens), theft (anyone who uses their government position unfairly, hello oil and banking... and apparently education. Grizzly bears, for the love of God...), and bearing false witness (for fuck's sake, birthers, get over yourselves), and expecting us not to notice?

Or not caring if we do.

And clearly about half of us (less three million or so) didn't notice. Or didn't care. Or are so squicked by the thought of gay marriage or legalized marijuana or decent gun licensing or health care for all or abortions being legal even though legality actually reduces them... that they just went with the loudest voice.

And you guys, my friends who are actual conservatives, with actual conservative beliefs, like small government and staying-the-hell-out-of-people's-bedrooms? I'm not talking to you; don't bother with the "but not all..." or "I never..." This is not about you. I don't get you, I don't grok how you can be people I love and trust and respect, and still support the showman now in office (not to mention the congresspeople with their constant get-over-it-it's-time-to-work-together patter. Like they ever even tried to work with Obama; they actually said they would not. It's recorded).

I love you, I respect you; I don't understand you.

I respect protesters (the ones who are peaceful in these early days until and unless it becomes necessary to be otherwise, says the woman whose paternal family is all Austrian Jews).

I respect the police who appreciate the peaceful protests, regardless of their own affiliation.

I respect the lawmakers who chose to stay away from the inauguration and I respect those who attended even though they really didn't want to.

I respect the people scolding the nasties who speculate about poor Barron on social media.

I respect people who wear pussy hats and safety pins. We all help in our own ways.

I respect my friends and neighbors from other countries and cultures.

I support those refusing to use the President's name online, so as not to help him trend (although I prefer the ones who don't make fun of his face and form in the process; don't call him Tiny Hands or the Cheeto Nazi anymore, k? You have my permission to use "Asshat in Chief".)

So I will do my protesting from my keyboard for now.

And I can only hope that the other quote from Fiddler also holds true, the one where the men of the village ask the Rabbi if he can come up with a blessing for the Tsar.

"May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us."