Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Haiku

Solo, Walking - I'm

Enjoying the City sights,

For now.  In Indy.

Stream of Consciousness from Indy

We are a musical family.  K plays the piano and is learning the guitar.  I “play” the piano and “sing.”  B listens to music.   Music is very often playing in our house.  Our animals have an interesting reaction to the piano.  Puss really likes it.  If the dogs are outside and someone is playing (someone other than B. who can’t play), Puss will meow his way up the stairs, jump on the piano bench, and sit there and purr.  The dogs are very attuned to Puss’s presence above ground so he doesn’t get much opportunity to come up and jam with K on the piano for fear of getting trampled and having the pee squeezed out of him by a long pokey nose or a giant paw.  Pippi and Kitty couldn’t care less about the piano, but Toby is occasionally interested.  Generally speaking, he’ll just lay there and watch.  Occasionally he’ll let out a long groan – like he’s in pain or just can’t bear to listen to the song any more.  Sometimes he starts to howl, which is always very reassuring when I’m the one playing.  For a couple of years we’ve thought his critique of our playing was just hit or miss.  Maybe he was sick of hearing a particular song?  Or maybe he wanted to sing along?  Today though, K was working on her scales and some exercises and discovered that Toby only howls to E minor chords.  Why E minor?  No clue, but he HAAAAAAATTTTEEEEs it.  Or he loves it?  I’m not sure.  He howls like he is in agony.  Or he howls like we’re, quite literally, playing his song and he just has to sing it out.   I hate to think that our playing is hurting him in some way, but short of avoiding the E minor chord (hard for me – what’s an E minor chord?), I’m not sure what else to do to relieve his discomfort.  I wish Dr. Doolittle was available to translate for me.

I’m in Indianapolis this week for work.  Like, Toby’s relationship with E minor chords, I have a love hate relationship with traveling.  I get very anxious before I travel – not about anything specific (which is why, I suppose, they call it generalized anxiety disorder, eh?) but just in general.  For a few days leading up to the trip I’m just a grump.  I try very hard to minimize the anxiety by planning.  What’s the weather going to be like?  Are their places to run? Is there a good gym?  If not, is there a good gym nearby?  Are there restaurants that I can grab a nice salad?  Does the hotel have wifi?  But still…anxiety.  Once I am on my way and in the air, I’m usually okay.  The anxiety becomes more specific – will the plane crash?  Will I suck at my presentations?  Will I have to spend the week hanging out with my co-worker who drives me bonkers?  And then once I am here, I tend to enjoy myself.  I like walking around different cities.  I’ve been to Seattle (twice); Chicago (3 times); Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Denver (3 times); Boston; Saint Louis; Kansas City, MO; Portland, OR (twice); Washington DC (a ton), New Orleans; and Nashville, and maybe a few others.  Those are the conference or training trips, where I’ve been giving presentations or receiving training.  The case work trips aren’t usually to super nice places so I’m not going to list them.  I’ve generally found something about every place that I really liked – a nice park, a good restaurant, great walking trails, a fun shopping area, SOMETHING. My favorite trip by far was San Francisco.  It is the one place where I actually did some touristy – rode the cable cars, ate chowder on the pier, took a sunset cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge, etc.   I also have enjoyed Seattle quite a bit – going to the big fish market, meeting an online friend for lunch, etc.   My least favorite was probably Portland, OR and I didn’t get to actually see much of Nashville to decide if I liked it.  

I tend to keep to myself on these trips, even when there are people I know there as well.  I’m sure some people thing I am pretty antisocial for not hanging out after the conference-days end.   I’m friendly and outgoing during the conferences or meetings and I really do enjoy talking to people and hearing about their experiences (which remind me that I’m really not all that and a bag of chips at my job, even though I like to pretend that I am), but after 9 or 10 hours of that, I need my alone time and quiet to decompress.  I like to walk around, find something to eat, take it back to the hotel, do some work, prep for the next day, put on my jammies and read until I fall asleep.  It’s a rare treat to be able to stretch out in a king size bed where I control the A/C, I control the TV, I control where I put my legs and there are no dogs and no dog hair (except what I brought with me). 

This is the first time I’ve been to Indianapolis and I have to say that I am impressed so far.  The area where my hotel is located is right down town.  There is a huge park a few blocks away, the capital and city center a few blocks away, and the IUPUI campus a few blocks away.  Last night after I got checked in I grabbed my sun hat and ventured out.   After about a half a mile, I stumbled on the canal path.  Supposedly it is a 10 mile loop along this low finished canal.  It was marginally cooler next to the water and there were a ton of people out running and walking and a few families of ducks swimming along.  I followed that for a bit and then stumbled upon the IUPUI natatorium – site of Y nationals and other big meets.  It was on my list of things to see, so I crossed the street and looked for an entrance.  I was confused when I saw, “ROAD TO RIO!” signs plastered all over the doors because I knew the Olympic Trials are not this week.  Except, as I found, they ARE!  The diving is in town.  I walked in, reveled in the air-conditioning for a moment and then walked in like I knew where I was going.  There was no way to get into the bleachers without a ticket (major security) but I could walk out onto a small observation platform at the complete other end of the pool.  I could see them taking practice dives and I stood there for about 10 minutes watching.  I guess I could have stayed there, but I was worried that they would toss me out when the actual competition started.  The women’s 10 meter semifinals is tonight at 7, so I will probably stop in and check out the practices again and maybe see if I can walk through the store too! 

My hotel is beautiful – Hyatt Regency downtown.  It is huge with all the rooms on the outside of a ring and this great bit atrium in the center.  The elevators are windowed and face the atrium which is cool.  Our conference room is in the hotel which makes it very convenient with Starbucks in the building, and a ton of restaurants within a few blocks.  The workout room is pretty nice as far as hotel gyms go.   A bunch of good cardio machines and both nautilus and free-weights.  There’s a pool too, but as I mentioned, I am anti-pool at the moment. 

By Friday, I’ll be about sick of being here.  Sick of eating out (that’ll be tomorrow actually).  Sick of being around 100 people all day.  Sick of smiling.  Just sick of it all and ready to go home.  I won’t be home until probably about 9 on Friday and I plan to get all my workouts in while I am here so I don’t have to get up early or do anything except take care of my house on Saturday.

Speaking of being all that and a bag of chips…I am really kind of miserable at work right now.  Same story different day.  The work is fine.  I like the work.  I have a lot of it to keep me busy and make my days go by quickly.  Sometimes (often)  I have too much of it and feel like I am drowning.  The problem is that the people who matter in my office do NOT think I am all-that.  The people who matter have made it very clear that they do not care that I have too much on my plate and it often makes me physically sick.  It’s no secret that my boss is not a fan but I recently lost a valuable ally – someone who I considered a friend.  I’m not sure what happened there but s/he has made it abundantly clear over the last couple of months that s/he is 1) no longer my friend and 2) no longer interested in being a sounding board/mentor for work issues.  I have to admit – it hurts.  And it makes me wonder what I am doing wrong (or what is wrong with me) that I’ve been in the weird place for the last year and a half.   A couple of really confusing and hurtful things have happened lately and I'm at a loss.  I work hard.  I never say I can’t or won’t do something.  If someone asks for help – I help them.  That’s just who I am.  But…who I am doesn’t seem to be working for me right now and I'm not sure why. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Swimming vs. Running.

I used to swim.  Not only did I swim, I loved swimming.  It was relaxing.  It allowed me to clear my mind.  It gave me a good workout.  I used to swim before work – at 4am.  I’d have the whole pool to myself for the most part or maybe share it with one or two other early birds.  But swimming on an empty stomach was hard and I discovered that I was able to get a better swim by going at lunch time.  So for a while, on my work at home days, I’d get up and start work early, head to the gym at lunch time, swim for 45-50 minutes, shower, and head home.  Then work got too busy and my swims got shorter and less interesting.  I didn’t have time (or so I told myself) to do anything other than just swim straight for however long I had.  That got boring and over time I lost my motivation to get there.  Now I haven’t swum in 2 months and before that was hit or miss for 6 months or more.  Kind of pathetic for someone who used to love it.

Part of not loving it was the headaches.  I would almost always get a headache after I swam.  I’m sure it has something to do with my head position while I’m swimming freestyle, but it was pretty irritating.  I also was not interested in swimming while I had a headache and was afraid to swim if I had recently taken imitrex FOR a headache.  Then my back got really stiff for some reason and it was uncomfortable to swim more than a mile. 

What I HAVE been doing since the weather got warmer is run.  It takes so much less time and burns so many more calories to run than it does to swim.  I can do it before work - while the sun is coming up - or at lunch time from home.  If I’m super busy, I can get a great workout in 30 minutes.  Add another 15 to stretch out and shower, and I’m back to work in no time.  If I have time before work, I can run a little longer and just start my day a bit later.  It’s so much easier to fit that in than to swim, especially when I will need to wear fins for a while to actually cover any yardage when I do get back it the water!  On non-run days, I lift weight.  I admit, I do feel a little guilty.  The last couple of months I barely go to the gym when I used to be there 5 days a week.  I’ve accumulated a huge stack of magazines that I used to save to read on cardio machines but I’ll repurpose as pool or beach reading instead.

I’ve done only 3 official races and I’m afraid to try any more.  I don’t want to embarrass myself and run slower than I did before.  I don’t actually train FOR anything.  I’ve slowly increased my mileage – upping it a little each week from 8 miles to 10, to 12 etc.  The most I’ve done in a week is 16 and I think that is plenty for me.  The longest I’ve run at any one time is 6.75.  I play it by ear each day – if I feel good, I’ll run farther or run faster and try to increase my per mile pace.  If I’m tired or sore, I’ll slow down or stop after 4 miles.  This week I ran 3 days, 5 miles at a time.  One of the runs felt good (7:39), one felt awful, and one felt great (7:27).  I know I’m no speed demon, but I do okay for someone who isn’t training for anything or trying very hard.   I’d like to do more, but I already walk about 25 miles a week with the dumb dogs.  Even though it is just walking, my body can only take so many total miles before it complains.

I much prefer to run outside then on a treadmill.  Treadmill tends to make my hips really sore and I can’t go as fast – which is the opposite from what most people will say.  I like being able to vary my route, look around, visit our swan, and listen to pod casts.  The miles pass faster outside then they do inside.  I’ve been very lucky that the weather has cooperated lately.  It’s been cool enough often enough on days that I am home.  When it’s not, I’ll head to the gym and do the elliptical or ride a bike instead, but that’s not as much fun.   I do wish I had a running buddy to keep pace with me, but running solo is okay too. 

I worry sometimes that at the age of 43 I don’t have too many years of running left in me.  At some point, I’ll have to slow down, and maybe go back to just cardio machines, or heaven help me, swimming.  But for now, I’ll enjoy the endorphins, and the post-workout relaxation, and the strong lungs, and toned legs and worry about the rest when it happens.


Today I am tempted to write about how much I hate everyone…but that wouldn’t be entirely true.  I don’t actually HATE everyone.  There aren’t even many specific people that I actively dislike.  It’s more of a dislike of human behavior in general.  The unfortunate thing is that though I can often avoid the actual people I don’t like, it’s not possible to avoid all human beings. 
I’d like to pick one of the topics I listed and dive right in, but I am feeling really discouraged right now.  It was a rough day at work – but really for no good reason other than that I am overly sensitive.  Oh!  And I found out indirectly that I didn’t get a second interview for the Other Job.  And my indirectly I mean that I was walking down the hallway and bumped into someone who DID get an interview.   They never actually called or e-mailed the also-rans.  But I expected that, right?  So it shouldn’t really bother me.

Oh!  And I found out that the promotion to that I had been told won’t happen because “we aren’t doing those* right now?”   Yeah, well, that was just for me apparently.

So, yeah…discouraging day.

Luckily I have a good friend at work to whom I can vent.**  We are unlikely friends.  He is from a different generation (I call him my work dad), on the opposite end of the spectrum politically, and a Union steward to boot.  He’s lived in the city his entire life, earning a degree in Criminal Justice from LaSalle.   He’s also a kind, smart, funny, supportive, wise, and positive guy.  In spite of our differences, our general world views are very similar.  He gets my sense of humor and shares my love of insane dogs and the beach.  He isn’t a big fan of forced work gatherings or useless meetings.  He works hard and loves his family and I respect him a great deal.   Over the years we have swapped many stories about our mutts, our families, and our lives.  He, like me, is an avid reader and is always working on a Very Serious Book (unlike me) at lunch time.  He is technically eligible to retire now, but has no immediate plans (praise God).  When he does finally decide to leave, I will be more than little bit lost.  The fact that it will likely happen about the same time K leaves for college is not going to be a good thing.  But…like Scarlett O’Hara, “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.

* non-supervisory promotions

** I used to have two such friends but that’s a story for another day.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Taking Back My Time

After the Work By Design summit thing, I started following a bunch of the contributors whose message I really enjoyed or found useful.  I'm trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to integrate some steps and habits into my work life that will make it more efficient and less stressful as well as to try and identify something (anything) to be passionate about.  So far I'm sad to say, work is winning.

One of the bloggers/writers I really like is Jon Acuff.  I'll let you check him out on your own but he's really smart, funny, and engaging,  He's a christian.  And he's a wicked good writer.  One of his group projects this summer is Do Summer!  Basically - take a skill you want to sharpen, spend 15 minutes a day doing it every day until the end of the summer, and you'll have invested 25 hours into improving that skill.  The skill I've chosen is writing.  I used to blog all the time.  I used to have aspirations to become "a Blogger" and write things that were interesting enough for people to actually seek them out or share them with their friends.  But, I really am boring.

I used to write for our church.  But then I got busy with coaching and work exploded to fill my days and kill my spirit and I stopped writing.

I kind of miss the outlet.

So, my Do Summer project is to write 15 minutes a day, every day, and see if it gets easier.  I've asked my Facebook friends for ideas on topics (expect to get exactly nothing), and if all else fails, I'll troll the internet and copy other people's ideas for my own inspiration.

Here's a partial list of things I might write about:

My dog Hershey.
Why I love chocolate chip cookies.
Watching the trains from the Furnace Road bridge.
Barbies vs. Action figures
The relativity of distance when you are 5.
My favorite books.
Travel destinations.
Planet Fitness.
Learning to ride a bike.
My best work friend.
My co-workers.
Working out updates
Leaf houses.
Canada Lake.
Crime on my street.
People watching at the pool.

I already missed two days so I'll have to make that up at some point - maybe double up a few days if I have multiple topics.  But 15 minutes really isn't that long of a time.   Look, I'm done already!

Edited to add topics suggested on Facebook that I might attempt:
Ways I am the same/different that I was 25 years ago.
People I observe on the way to work
Best meal I've ever had
Donating my eyes (requires too much creativity, I'm afraid)
Secret Life of a Swim Mom
What makes me most happy right now.
Breaking my arm in high school
Where and when I'd travel back in time
Why we drive to the beach in SC every August
What I would do if I was going to die in a week

Friday, May 20, 2016

Work by Design

I am rapidly coming up on my 20-year anniversary of “public service,” i.e., getting paid way too much to do meaningless, regulatory nonsense that provides no discernible benefit to the world around me.  Twenty years as of December 23, 2016.  TWENTY years.   Yes, yes, I realize that it is only May but here in the land of Nod I’ll get my very special (i.e., printed on card stock) certificate thanking me for my 20 years of dedicated (ha!) service at the Divisional awards ceremony this summer (or next?). 

Since I tend to think of things in school year rather than calendar year or fiscal year terms, 2016/2017 is going to be a big year – 25 years since I graduated from high school.  20 years since I graduated from SJU with my MS in “Theories I’ll Never Use.”  20 years since I started working for an actual living and paying for my own health insurance.  That is followed immediately by 20 years of marriage to my long-suffering husband too.  Big year.

I’m rambling.

So with almost 20 years under my belt, I find myself pondering the big questions.  Things like, “WHAT THE HELL AM I STILL DOING HERE?”

I’ve been in my current position for almost 17 of those almost 20 years. 

Time to make a change?


After the whole…unpleasantness…of a little over a year ago, things once again settled down to homeostasis.  I’m doing what I do and, after a few months of no sleep, crazy anxiety, and a dip into Darkness all caused by a very misguided and ineffective change in medication, I’m doing it fairly well.  I get bored really easily.  And distracted.  And sometimes wish I could just take a nap rather than try and juggle approximately 23 “really important” tasks that all have a short deadline.  But work gets done - for whatever that is worth (nothing, actually).

A couple of months ago, before I was actually sleeping again, I pushed through the anxiety, stretched myself, and talked to a Really Important Person (RIP) about the possibility of a promotion to “Expert at My Job” someday.  The person who previously served in that illustrious and exalted role moved on to greener pastures and, though all his work fell on yours truly who stepped in and continues to fill those shoes pretty effectively (unofficial office motto:  go ask CariP), he apparently took the title and pay increase with him into retirement.  Poof.   The RIP thought it was a great idea.   And she was all for it.  But not right now.  Someday soon.  Maybe after the election?  Check back later.  That was about what I expected from the conversation and I’m still expelling the smoke from my nether regions.

Enter this March the Notice of A New Position!  With a temporary promotion!  That lasts 2 years!  And puts you in the sphere of ALL the Really Important People!  But act fast because you have a week to apply!  Answer these 15 questions on your resume and convince someone who has never met you and has no idea what you do every day that you are more qualified than the other 150 people who will apply.  I managed to get my 12 page resume (12 pages!) submitted on time – after spending a weekend writing it – and then waited.  The application was accepted.  Check.  Then passed on to the Agency.  Check.  And then scored as qualified.  Check, check.  A few weeks later, I got a meeting request for an interview.  Check.

With my current supervisor.

Yes.  This one.  


I considered withdrawing completely, but decided to stick it out.  I talked to a couple of people at work, cursed the unfairness of having a person with a strong self interest in keeping me where I am making the decision, and pondered taking the whole notion of interviewing for a promotion with a person who has made me cry and then mocked me for it to the union, but…I’m not that kind of person.

Also, I hate the union on principle.

Instead, I decided that I would be okay regardless and that I wouldn’t spend a lot of time stressing about the interview.  That I would do my best.  Be myself.  Smile and act confidently.  And then find a way to make myself happy in my current job.  


The interview went about as well as you might imagine.  I was beyond uncomfortable.  I did not shine as brightly as I might have wished.  I know it wasn’t a home run and that I could have done better.  But…I did it.  It’s over, and now the real work of figuring out what I want to spend the next 15 years doing needs to start because it is pretty safe to assume that it will not be in the New Position.

As part of that discovery process (can someone who is abot to turn 43 and has been working for 20 years really discover anything???), I signed up for an online conference called the Work By Design summit.  A blog I read on occasion was advertising it and I looked at it, at the great line up of Christian writers/bloggers that were on the agenda, and the price (free for the baseline access) and thought "What the Hell?"  There are three 30 minute interviews a day which I’ve listened to after the fact while I’m working on mindless tasks at work.  I’m really enjoying it and it is motivating me to check out the blogs and books for each of the speakers although I haven't had time to do anything except book mark them for later.  I’m not sure how much motivation I have to really do some deep thinking and make changes (read:  I’m a chicken-sh*t) but I’m going to try in spite of the anxiety it kicks up.  

Here are some of the questions I’m going to be pondering over the coming months:

1. If money were no object, what would you like to do as your vocation? [can it be vacation instead of vocation?  That's easier to answer.]

2. What is something that energizes you when you do it? [you mean other than sleep?]

3. What are some jobs you’ve had in the past that you loved and what did you love about them? [ummmmmmm.....does that even exist?????]

4. What do other people say you are good at?

While I’m busy thinking of something I’d actually LIKE to do for a living (or let’s start with a hobby, shall we? That's slightly less scary/daunting/anxiety producing.), I’ll ask for your kind indulgence and polite feedback on what I might be good at (or conversely things at which I well and truly suck - for example, positive self talk, optimism, foreign languages, gymnastics). I’ve asked a few friends at work as well although friends in that context may be slightly more loosely applied.

Friday, May 6, 2016

No words.

[Disclaimer:  I realize there are plenty of other real life things to be sad about today - people I care about are sick or struggling, people are dying, etc.  I'm sad about those things too, but this is what was on my heart this AM.  One of the reasons I haven't been writing much in the last few years is fear of being judged.  But...this is my space and my thoughts/feelings at the moment they are written.  Read them or don't, but please refrain from judging the subject matter.]

I am profoundly sad today.

And it is tremendously hard to verbalize the reasons:  partly because I don't have time to get into a full expository analysis of the reasons as I'd like to, partly because I just don't have the words.

What is happening to our country?

What HAS happened to our country?  Our community?  To people in general?

We have replaced Truth (with a capital T) with "MY truth."  Truth is whatever *I* say it is.  Truth is whatever *I* feel at the time.  Truth is whatever *I* want it to be.  And you?  You have to believe it too or you are a racist, sexist, genderist, whateverist, bigot.  You are not entitled to your own truth and you certainly aren't entitled to the Truth,

I loathe discussing politics b/c most people cannot actually have a discussion without resorting to name calling or other playground tactics.

Ignore the facts because they don't match my truth.  Ignore the facts because they are inconvenient. Ignore the facts because they make me feel uncomfortable and I don't like feeling uncomfortable. Don't do any research on my own, but blindly and stupidly accept whatever facebook or Drudge tell me.

My candidate quit on Wednesday and I feel completely and utterly hopeless about the country my child will inherit in a few years - the country I have to live in for another 40 or so years.

This was an exciting election season because we started with a solid handful of good conservative or mostly conservative candidates:  Rubio, Fiorina, Jindal, Paul, Cruz.  I could have voted for any of them.  None was perfect.  They all had flaws.  They all had policies that I didn't agree with.  But in the big picture - they were good choices.  And there were less great choices too. People who I wouldn't have picked, couldn't have supported, but might have been able to hold my nose and vote for in November:  Christi, Walker, Bush, Kasich.  But one by one they all dropped out and the people in this country bought into a pack of lies.

"He says what everyone is afraid to say."

"He tells it like it is."

And now we are left with a choice of two evils.  If they are both evil, why would you choose the lessor?  Evil is still evil.

I can't do it.

I am not a perfect person and I am certainly not a perfect Christian, but I believe that my choices today have eternal consequences.

Can I stand before God and be proud of my choice in November if He asks?  Can I justify ushering in more evil?

But what do I do instead?  How do I fight it as one person when Truth no longer matter?

And what will the evil mean for my family and the people I love in a few years? I believe the results of this election will go far beyond politics - we are talking about life and death.

I don't want to live in a world that looks like post-WWII Germany mixed with 11th century Afghanistan.  But I'm tired and I'm not sure I have it in me to do what will need to be done, especially when it feels like I am standing more-or-less alone.

I have no answers.  I have no solutions.  I have no words.  I'm just sad.