Always look on the bright side of life…

I wish I could say that was my motto, but that would be exaggerating.

I will say, though, that I was able to look on the bright side of a really nasty winter day today. Winds of 30 mph, alternately sunny and cloudy – with sideways-blowing snow every. damn. time. I had to be out today. Which was a lot.

On the bright side, today I managed to have coffee meetings close to home at both the beginning and ending of my day. That means moving my commute OUT of rush hour. Made a new friend at the morning coffee and enjoyed deep conversation at the afternoon one. Got home early enough that I had enough energy to make a pot of chili – perfect for this crap weather day.

All that wind and snow combined with an unusual work day made me feel a little edgy. So I’m sharing one of my fave graphics. Enjoy.

d and j

 

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FOMO

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Really, I think “FOMO” is second only to “YOLO” for annoying acronym/words.

But I discovered recently that I’m having some serious FOMO.

See, I’d been on staff of a large church for 13 years. The people I worked with (well, almost all of them) were my tribe. We’d been through incredible ups and downs together, both in our work and in our personal lives. These were people I could count on for a shoulder to cry on, for someone to share my joys. And I loved being that for them.

Plus we did awesome work together (well, almost all of us did). I’m super proud of the programs I started and maintained and grew. Our collaborative work was top-notch.

But for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which was my mental health, I had to leave my tribe behind for a different job. I still keep in contact with these people, and because that was my community for so long, I keep a close eye on what’s happening in ministry there now that I’m gone.

FOMO.

A couple of months ago I figured out by following some Facebook posts that one regular activity taking place in the church building was in violation of our Congregation Protection Policy. That was my baby – the first serious project I took on 13 years ago, and a cornerstone of our congregation. I made a phone call to my favorite ex-colleague with the bad news and he took care of it, but…ouch.

I had occasion to look at the website a couple of weeks ago and discovered that a program I had originated has gotten a new name and a slightly new focus. It’s a great idea; it’s even something I’d been kicking around in my mind before I left but hadn’t gotten to yet.

Last week a congregational success was posted in a Facebook photo; some of my good friends (and a couple of people who made my  life miserable) were celebrating in the office with Starbucks.

It hurts. How could they go on and do good things and be happy and have fun without me? I was a major contributor to the health and vitality of that congregation, and they’ve moved on without me. Yeah, I know how stupid and childish that feeling is. But it’s real.

And, I tell myself, I’m having good times and building a new tribe right here in my new place. Me and my new tribe have walked through some fires together in just the six months I’ve been here, and come out on the other side as good friends.

It’s just how life is. Losses and gains.

Right now the losses really hurt.

 

Man-cold, part 2.

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The Husband didn’t actually have to go to the emergency room. He did survive his man-cold (which he swore was the flu, but I seriously doubt it), and is back to work today. And he survived my wrath, mainly because he didn’t actually wake up and interact with me until he was back to behaving like a fairly normal human being.

In fact, yesterday he was up and about and running errands, because he was still to sick to go to work. I guess that was part of his recovery?

In fact, he was so back to normal last night he was up for a little joking, once I got home and went straight to bed, wiped out from a FULL DAY OF WORK WHILE HAVING A COLD.

Him: “There’s something I think you need to know.”

Me: (with little interest) “Yes?”

Him: “Yesterday while I was lying there, unable to move, I actually thought about clearing all my piles of junk out of the laundry room.”

I have to give the guy a little credit for knowing just how much a pain in the ass he is.

 

Like a chalk drawing in a rain storm.

mary poppins

Today a colleague and good friend got into the office a bit late. Kelly came straight to my office, sat on my little sofa, buried her head in her hands, and started sobbing.

Had she been in a wreck? Had an argument at home? Gotten some bad news?

I joined her on the sofa and patted her back, and quickly her story came out.

This morning the temperature here in Kansas City was below zero F, with a wind chill of -18. As my friend had come into the building, she brushed past a woman who was just leaving; she’d come in to ask for one of the sack lunches we give out to folks who need them to get through the day. This woman had nothing over her clothing but a thin bed sheet wrapped around her shoulders. No coat. No gloves. No hat.

Turned out, she didn’t speak English. Kelly managed to get the message across that she should stay put for a moment. She dashed to our warehouse, where we have a few coats left from our charity Christmas shop in December, at which low income families come to pick out gifts for everyone living in their household, free of charge. All she could find was a men’s coat, but she hurried back to the waiting room with it. The woman accepted the coat, with tears and many repetitions of “Gracias!”

It seems like a happy ending. So why was my friend so distraught? I knew without asking, but she said it anyway.

“What we do is just chalk drawings in a rain storm.”

She’s right.

Kelly and I have had this conversation before. One day in December she and I made Christmas gift deliveries to seven of our agency’s homebound clients. It was an afternoon of driving through neighborhoods we’d never dare visit after dark. So much need. So little hope. Poor schools. No grocery stores. Few jobs. Very effectively segregated, 60 years after the civil rights movement.

We wished we could feel good that afternoon, making Christmas a little brighter for seven individuals/families. Instead we finished the day emotionally exhausted and incredibly discouraged. How many hundreds of crumbling homes did we pass by that day, where that same help – and more – is needed?

The church-backed nonprofit organization Kelly and I are employed by does excellent work. It’s a well-respected force for good in our city. Even though there are significant down sides to my new job, I’m thankful to be there, doing work that I know is meaningful to the people we’re able to touch. And yet, no matter how much good we do, it’s only a tiny drop in a distressingly enormous bucket.

Charity is not enough. It will never, ever be enough in this greedy capitalist nation. It will never, ever be enough as long as our government officials follow the cruel philosophy of Ayn Rand (I’m looking at you, Paul Ryan) and Confederate heroes (I’m looking at you, Jefferson Beauregard  Sessions III). Nothing will be righted until every single child in many successive generations receives a top-notch education. Until every single person of every color, religion, sexual orientation, and gender expression has the same economic rights, the same voting rights, the same dignity.

Until that day comes, we watch the chalk drawings we hastily scribble on the sidewalk wash away with every rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

How to torture an introvert with SAD.

Actually, much of life is torture for us introverts. And winter is always a slog for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But last night hit all the sore points: 

  • Had to go to a meeting with people I don’t know well.
  • At 7:00 at night.
  • Which is after dark.
  • The meeting was at work, where I’d already been all day. Where shitloads of stress is giving me serious anxiety symptoms. Led by the person who is causing pretty much all the stress. 
  • Was forced to interact appropriately at a time of day when all I’m fit for is p.j.’s and my cozy bedroom with only my family around. 

As you, dear reader, reach for a Kleenex to wipe away tears of sympathy, I’ll tell you how I managed this torture session:

  • Wore sweats yesterday. Even all day at work. I can get away with sweats almost any day I want, but this time it was a deliberate nose-thumbing to the prospect of the evening meeting.
  • Put supper in the Crock Pot before I left the house this morning, to decrease evening stress.
  • Toyed with the idea of coming up with a fake excuse for missing the meeting, then righteously decided to adult like a boss and actually go. 
  • Promised myself an enormous latte on the way to work this morning as a bribe. It’s DELICIOUS.
  • Arrived at the very last second I could possibly get there and still be reasonably on time. 
  • Was the first person to leave, rather than hanging about and “visiting.” (BARF)

So. I survived. Anyone else out there have coping strategies for this sort of indignity?

Image credit: Cram Crew Blog

Creating order out of chaos.

I’ve always jeered at blog posts that begin “Sorry I haven’t posted for so long…”  Unless you’re a celebrity blogger, I can’t imagine that anybody really cares that much.

And yet I feel compelled to explain the reasons why I’m just coming off the longest blog hiatus I’ve had in my four years on WordPress. It has a lot to do with this:

It all began with the devastation and, quite honestly, depression I’ve been working through in the aftermath of November 8. In my mind, it’s not a matter of histrionics to call that humanitarian disaster by its date, just as we do September 11.  So much has been written about this travesty I won’t go into it again (just now) but suffice it to say I feel sharply the fact that we are now living in a very different and very ugly world. I will admit, though, that since that infamous day my house has been remarkably clean and tidy – it’s the one place I have control over, and I’ve been compulsive about keeping it nice. Order out of chaos.

Then came an insanely hectic schedule. For this introvert, the string of major events I attended and participated in, in a very short span of a week, did me in for a long time.

A Friday night benefit choir performance at the world-renowned Kaufman center.

The next night, at “Marriage of Figaro,” Middle’s birthday present, also at the Kaufman Center. Which came after a three-hour rehearsal that morning for the next concert, taking place the following day…

An All-Saints Day performance of Faure’s Requiem

And four days later, a six-hour round trip to adore The Boy in his senior recital.

And then there was a noisy and raucous, but very happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Only two of these people were not staying in our tiny home for the long weekend.

Lots of fun and many memories created.

But hovering in the background of all the above was the most stressful period of time I’ve ever experienced in 12 years at my current workplace. And that’s saying a lot, considering that seven years ago a cow0rker I’d despised since day one was finally fired for refusal to do any work at all and, several months later, was charged (and eventually sent to jail) with taking sexual liberties with a minor.

Turns out that extreme building renovation in the workplace can bring out either the best or the worst of people. And it turns out that when it’s bringing out the worst, it’s a RIGHT PAIN IN THE ARSE to get your boss to follow through on his word, communicate with you, or support you and your co-worker in a time of transition to a promotion and a new job share.

So, yeah. Stress.

And now, here it is Christmas. It says a lot about my current state that the season that gives most people over-the-top stress feels anticlimactic for me this year.

It’s nice to be back on WordPress and reading the thoughts of people I care about all over the world.

Thanks for still being there.

Ode to today. **

**With sincere apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee for being yet another day in which the depth and breadth and height of the ingnorance, trashiness, and Ugly American-ness of our president-elect has made itself sickeningly obvious.

I hate thee to the highest level of Dante’s rings, for being a day in which I awoke with a sore throat, headache, and earache. And in which I absolutely had to go to the office.

I hate thee freely, as I was required to go through the motions of interviewing three people for a job I’ve already, in reality, filled. For requiring me to spend time with three people I would normally avoid like the plague that is currently invading my body. 

I hate thee with the passion of one who has listened to others yack ON AND ON AND ON all day long about their problems, when clearly my own problems are more pressing and infinitely more interesting. 

I hate thee with a hate that makes me lose all sense of reason…because tonight my boss tried to guilt me into coming in to work to take care of small children,  though he know that a) I am ill, and b) I would be spreading germs to said small children. 

I suspect I shall hate thee, Wednesday, even better on Thursday. 

I’m a big kid now.

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As I’ve said before, Sunday mornings are the busiest day of my week. Yesterday morning was busiest times three, because not only was I responsible for all the usual Sunday morning stuff as Director of Children’s Ministry of a large church, it was my week to lead our 5th and 6th grade class AND a parents’ group. Everything was going great, but I was pretty swamped.

So in the 15 minutes I had to switch gears from 5th and 6th graders to parents, I was approached by a very angry mom. I’ll spare you the details, but what she was angry about was 1) out of the blue,  and 2) had no basis in reality. I really didn’t know the story, but I apologized for what I thought she was upset about. My apology had no effect. She threatened to find another church, continued ranting, and finally walked away. Later in the morning I found out through a co-worker that this woman has some serious problems going on in her home life. What a surprise. She chose to deal with her problems by creating something out of nothing and taking that out on me.

Having worked with families my entire adult life, this was certainly not the first time I’d been attacked by an unreasonable parent.

But I realized later in the day that there was a time when that encounter would have left me literally shaking and unable to think of anything else for the rest of the day. It would have kept me up all night, too.

Not any more. I pretty much forgot about the incident until later in the day. And then I shrugged it off. I’ll have to do some follow-up because obviously this woman’s a mess and needs a little compassion.

Perhaps in some way the fact that I’ve been on the receiving end of much uglier attacks by a family member recently gave me some additional perspective. Whatever it was, I liked how I reacted (or, really, didn’t react).

Turns out nothing says “Hmmm…I’ve finally grown up!” like not giving a rat’s ass.

 

 

 

Missing in action…and it’s okay.

  
This is me today. 

Yesterday I beat my cold into submission, by finally breaking down and going through the dreaded nose irrigation torture. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. And it did clear up the pressure in my head.

Anyway, I was celebrating that victory this morning and getting  getting ready for what is generally the biggest workday of my week (three church services, Sunday School, coffee bar for 200, and eight classes full of Sunday School kids) when it hit. Killer stomach cramps. Inability to safely get more than 15 feet from the bathroom.

My elephant and I were all dressed and ready, but we couldn’t go.

Middle daughter to the rescue. This young woman is a hero. She had already pulled together a last-minute Sunday School lesson for her 4-year-olds after getting a call last night that her teaching partner couldn’t be there today. With no hesitation, my daughter sent me to bed, got instructions on what absolutely had to be taken care of this morning, and headed to church to manage everything. She’s been volunteering in my department for ten years, and knows the drill inside and out. In the meantime I’d texted all my Sunday morning volunteers (65 people, to be exact) to give them a heads-up and thank them for covering without me. 

The ill and pessimistic side of me is sitting here and wondering what it says about my worth if I can just not show up and everything goes fine without me. But then I remember something a very wise person (who happened to also be my boss) said to me: “In this kind of work, the best measure of how valuable you are, of how well you do your job, is how smoothly everything runs when you’re absent.” 

In other words, good leadership means sharing the work with others; allowing others to do what they do well so they can step up to meet challenges. It means thinking ahead, planning, preparing, so that a last-minute wrench tossed into the works doesn’t mean disaster.  

And now I can lie back and rest up, knowing it’s okay not to be needed. 

Lesson learned. 


I really don’t like being out “late” (meaning past 4:00 pm) on a Saturday night. But Middle’s Christmas concert was last night, and I wouldn’t miss that for the world. Unfortunately that meant being out until 10:00, when I had to be at work by 7:45 the next morning.

It turned out to be the perfect storm. The cold I’ve been nursing for two weeks has just exploded into a sinus infection. We had to eat super early to leave for the concert, which meant leaving all the dishes until later. I NEVER leave the house with the kitchen in a mess, because that’s a crappy thing to come home to.

Got home at 10:00, ready to collapse in a heap never to rise again. Being greeted by kitchen filth almost made me burst into tears. Had Middle been home, she would have done the clean-up…but she was staying over with a friend. The Husband would have offered if he’d even noticed the disaster area, but had he tried to do the dishes he literally would have been up until midnight. Seriously, he’s that slow. So I just went to bed, knowing I’d kick myself in the morning.

By this morning that pile of #%$! in the kitchen was smelling a bit rank, and I was definitely kicking myself. It was worth it to be a few minutes late to work, so I took the time to clear up all the dishes before I left the house.

Boy, did I like myself when I got home from work, wiped out from a busy morning and a sinus infection, and found nice, clean kitchen counters. We warmed up some soup for lunch, and now I’m in my comfiest jeans and hoodie, curled up on the coutch and listening to some favorite Christmas music.

The cleaning bitch showed up just in time.