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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


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


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?