Saturday, November 26, 2016

A New Chapter

In 3 days I start a new job. A very promising job that I hope to make a career of. To tell the story, I suppose I have to go back to Helen's passing.

I'm not sure why her passing hit me so hard. I didn't even think we were that close, once I became an adult. I probably saw her 4-5 times between Whiz Kid's birth and her coming to my parent's home for end-of-life care. Perhaps she was associated with something traumatic that is too far back for me to remember. Whatever the reason, I had a bit of a breakdown in the weeks that followed. My parents kept bringing her things back to their home to sort out, and the smell of Helen's house permeated the downstairs for a while and made me very emotional. I kept feeling drawn to her grave, and would go there sometimes on my lunch break and sit for a while and cry. Then I would sing a song and feel better.

As things began to settle down, my take-away from all of it was that I needed to stop giving so much of myself to people who are actively ungrateful, people who either use me or who simply ignore my efforts. Number one on that list was my boss. I was getting uncomfortable with the emotional closeness I felt for him, knowing that he almost certainly didn't feel the same way and was only getting so personal with me because he feels the same sense of entitlement in an employee's life that he does in his dog's. So I decided to find out. I asked him one Friday, as I was leaving, if he would fire me if I asked him out. He looked shocked and immediately replied, "I don't do that." By which he obviously meant going out with employees, not the firing people part.

So it was clearly time to move on. Funny thing was, I thought it would be easy to do that, once I heard his answer. It wasn't. I tried to put up some emotional walls and stop engaging in so much banter. Apparently, this was unacceptable. He doesn't tolerate boundaries in other people. So the work environment deteriorated rapidly. When he lashed out at me again for something stupid one day, I got angry. He told me that it was necessary to "take the good with the bad here," which left me wondering exactly what the "good" was. So after a couple of days when I was calm enough to respond rationally, I emailed him and copied his sister, the HR manager, saying that I was willing to continue taking the good with the bad, as long as he was.

He told her he had no idea what I was talking about and that she should find out what my problem was. The utter deceit and lack of responsibility in that meant it was over before it ever started, but I talked to her anyway. I told her that he was quite simply a bully. She was as cold and manipulative as before. As always, she reminded me that he just is who he is, he's never going to change (translation: He just isn't capable of doing any better, so lower your standards accordingly). She even went so far as to condescendingly tell me, in a "you poor ignorant little thing" tone, that I'm a smart girl, and if I really wanted to throw away a job like this! over some emotional issues, well, I was an adult and there was just nothing they could do for me. She went on to remind me that he does SO MUCH for his employees, buying us lunch! (usually because he's asking us not to clock out due to coverage issues) and giving us bonuses! ($180 total in the over 18 months I worked there, OMG what will I do without that!!!), and that furthermore he is absolutely the kindest and most generous person I will ever meet.

That last really offended me, although I didn't say so. He also added, when he joined the meeting, that he is NOT on an equal level with the employees, and as owner he is entitled to say and do whatever he wants. Yadda yadda, blah blah I'm an entitled little prick and you're a nothing, yadda yadda. So, that was the end of that. Still, being the people pleaser that I am, I somehow let them manipulate me into feeling like I was the one who needed to prove myself, and asked them to give me 30 days to see how things were going.

After I went home and had a chance to think about it, I realized how full of BS they were, and that yes, I AM a smart girl and have a 4.0 GPA to prove it, so why am I throwing that away on these jerks? I decided to look for other work. I waited the 30 days to tell them so, out of fairness, and during that time he completely stopped working with me or talking to me any more than was absolutely essential for the business to function. It was the most pathetically childish thing I've ever seen from a grown man. Although, he still occasionally would start teasing and harassing me for a reaction just because he needed the attention, which I found intolerably offensive. If you can't handle working with me, you definitely shouldn't be pestering me for random attention. Grow up!

Once I told them I was going to seek other work, things went from ridiculous to downright toxic. And in the end, I'm glad. Just like with my marriage, the one good thing that came of staying so long is that I will always know I made the right decision, in the end. He turned into such an absolute a**hole that I couldn't believe I ever saw anything good in him. In the meantime, I got a call from the staffing agency I worked with before, and they sent me for an interview with a company closer to home, with better hours and of course a much better atmosphere. The job involves extensive proofreading, so being a Grammar Nazi came in handy! Lol. And I got the job. If I stay long enough, they will provide tuition reimbursement to go back for a degree in their field, and I would like to do that. Social work is important to me, but this seems like a company and field where I'd love to make a career. Standing up for myself is finally paying off!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

For Helen

Last Sunday my family lost a very dear friend. She died of cancer at the age of 86, after living her last few months in my parents' home to receive hospice care. She was a unique and amazing woman, and there is so much I feel about her that can't really be put into words. But what I can, I will.

Helen was present for the births of most of my younger siblings. Since the 7 youngest of us were born at home, and only one with a midwife, her help and support were invaluable. That's the first thing I remember about her. We met her when I was too young to really remember not knowing her, and hers is the only church I remember attending. It may have been the only one we ever attended with any regularity. By the time I was 7 we had begun home church services, but Helen would often come on Sunday evening and present a lesson to us.

Her life represented much more to me than just the things she did. She was an accomplished artist, but that wasn't really something that was part of her identity in my mind. She used to make beautiful little drawings on the Sunday School papers she gave us, and her handwriting was lovely. Her backyard is probably the thing I associate the most with her. It was a beautiful, well kept, tiny place of peace and joy. Her hydrangeas were lovely, her roses fragrant, her birdbath full and usually busy when we weren't outside (sometimes even when we were). Her brick path seemed like a work of art in itself when I was small enough to run on it. It was a road into my imagination, and her backyard was the place where I could be anywhere and do anything. It was a magical place to me. Her porch swing was big enough to accommodate at least three of us, if we didn't fight. Her wrought iron gate seemed to set her yard apart from the busy street and sidewalk, like a little pocket in time and space where everything was peace and harmony.

She always kept books behind the basket in her living room, and we spent many hours poring over them on Sunday afternoons, even after we stopped attending the chapel her husband pastored and where she took over the preaching after he passed. I didn't realize until her funeral that she was married a comparatively short time out of her years on this earth. He was many years her senior, and died suddenly one day on a walk. I think I was around seven years old. He was a unique person as well, blessed with the gift of healing, according to those who knew him. I remember that he was someone who just seemed to make every one around him feel better. She always had a jar of hard candy in her front room as well, and I think we frustrated my mother as we got older by always pushing for a piece of candy as soon as we could get a word in. Hehe.

You would think that the home of someone like this would feel peaceful too, but for some reason, I never felt comfortable in her house. I always felt it was haunted, that something unfriendly watched me everywhere I went. Since I also felt that way in a couple of other places growing up, it may be the problem was with my own psyche. Be that as it may, the feeling was intense at her home - especially on the second floor - in a way that it wasn't anywhere else. I don't think it was something that came with her, and I seriously doubt that it left with her. What it was, I'll probably never know. As I grew older it ceased to frighten me quite so much. It never seemed to ruffle her, if indeed she was even aware of it.

Most of all, Helen's life seemed to be one of unquestioning faith during the time we knew her. She witnessed miraculous occurrences, and was absolutely certain that anyone else could experience the same. She also had hardships, of which she never complained, and most of which I probably don't even know about. She walked everywhere, and was fearless in a way that I wished very much to emulate. She was always kind to us children, and was at times the only kind person who had any real relevance in my life. She was a good listener, and to my knowledge never betrayed a confidence, but her advice always came directly from Scripture. There were many times I wished to ask it, but did not because I already knew what she would say.

My mother described her very well as being "Valiant... without being vicious." She did not believe in using harsh words, or giving in to negative thoughts and self pity. She was indeed a warrior without violence. Her life during the time we knew her was one of constant helping. The week before she passed, some of my siblings and I had it out with the woman who had been our cult leader growing up; and hearing some of the remarks at Helen's funeral drove home for me the reality that religious beliefs alone cannot fundamentally change a person - for better or for worse. Helen would have said she believed many of the same things that this other woman believed, although they were not in agreement on all doctrinal points. But their beliefs manifested in such different ways, directed by the heart inside. Helen loved all of God's creatures, no matter how fallen, and would lend a helping hand to anyone in need, even if she admonished them the while to change their ways. My own mother is much the same way, generous with her material goods as well as her advice. So different from the attitude that one is receiving their "just desserts" if they face insurmountable obstacles, and must first change their ways to be deserving of help or love. Helen was ever sorry to see others suffering, while the other woman seemed to rejoice in what she always perceived as justice being meted out.

I feel as though a chapter of my life has closed. I have to decide whether I will go on from here following in the footsteps of harshness and arrogance, for whatever reason - the reason isn't relevant - or in the footsteps of kindness and acceptance. I really, really hope I take Helen's path. I will never believe all the doctrines she espoused, but I want very much to be the sort of person that she was.

Memory Eternal, Miss Helen. May God grant you peace and rest, and the reward of your hard labors.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Semi-annual Blog Post

Looks like this blog is getting more and more neglected. That's because life is getting better and better - and busier. I'm still working at the same job, and it has indeed become fun again, although I did come very, very close to quitting again at one point. In the end, I decided to take Microsoft Office 2013 courses at home, and work on getting certified. That way I will have options at my disposal if the situation becomes ridiculous again. The last thing I want is a setback. I can get another job any time, but I want it to be a job that pays the same or better. For that, I need Office proficiency. In the meantime, we have a pretty good dynamic in the current employees, and hopefully it will stay that way for a while.

Our new deck has been a great blessing, although we haven't had much chance to invite people over. The weather went from chilly to hot within a very short time, late in the spring. And with the absence of the giant tree limb that destroyed the old deck, we discovered that the new deck was directly underneath the favorite twilight hangout of every flock of starlings that comes through here. So any attempt to venture outside on a lovely spring evening was met with bird crap. Lots of it. By the time the little buggers moved on, the weather was most definitely on to summer and the mosquitoes were out. Stinkers. However, the kids have really enjoyed it during the day as a play area, and Whiz Kid especially will sit out there under the overhang in any weather - with his iPod. Not quite what I had in mind lol. We also have a little electric grill out there which I use regularly. It's especially handy in the hot weather, when just turning on a stove cap is enough to overwhelm our Brave Little Air Conditioner. I love the deck as much as I dislike the apartment. Best of all, I can breathe on it...

I'm not sure what's going on with Scouts. Whiz Kid transitioned to Boy Scouts in March, despite his protests; I told him to wait until he'd gone camping to say he wasn't interested. I kept telling him that all through Webelos, too. So he went on the summer camping trip the first week out of school. He didn't want to continue. As disappointing as it was, I let him drop out. Being a part of Scouting is something I really enjoy, but it isn't fair to make him do something simply because I want to identify with him doing it. I always resented that in my own upbringing and I won't do that to him.

Little Bear (who is definitely not little any more!) is still technically in Cub Scouts, provided the pack hasn't dissolved without notice. Our last committee meeting of the year, and our planning meeting, were both canceled at the very last minute without any real reason being given. When I started asking about it I got a lot of indirect, vaguely accusatory finger-pointing in response from one party, and a total silence from the rest. I really don't know why I'm even on the committee since no one has ever bothered to tell me anything. I was told I had to be on it in order to qualify for financial assistance, and they've had me handle some paperwork, but it seems that no one thinks I'm enough of a committee member to actually be involved in any discussions away from the meetings (which are apparently the ones where the big decisions are made), so what am I doing there? This year I will be paying for his membership fees myself, and I'm not sure if I'll stay - assuming there's still a pack, like I said. I had finally offered to fill one of two positions, neither of which I'm sure I have the time for, but they said both were very important and had to be filled. I've heard nothing back since. Not a word. Nothing to indicate which of the two they want me to take, or whether they are going to recharter at all. I have a strong feeling that our pack has been invaded by some political BS that I want no part of. I may simply switch to another one farther away. I don't need this nonsense. How shallow and arrogant do you  have to be to criticize the way a VOLUNTEER does their job? Because apparently, this all started with someone deciding that someone else was wrong for the position they were in, and demanding they step down - without finding a replacement first. Thanks a lot. Maybe the complainer can go work for the Trump campaign. It runs pretty well on shortsightedness and belligerence.

No, I'm not voting for either the rabid wolverine or the viper, in case you're wondering. I refuse to be forced into a choice between death by poison or death by dismemberment. This election is a terrible joke that won't end. I'm voting for Gary Johnson, and I could care less who stands a better chance or any such foolishness. We all stand a pretty high chance of being totally screwed no matter who wins. At least my conscience will be clear.

This summer has been so much easier than previous summers for me. Two months ago, I started taking a nutrition supplement called "Thrive" that my brother and cousin are always raving about, and it's done wonders! I take only one capsule a day instead of two, since I know I'm sensitive to things, and it's working fine that way. It's insanely expensive, and the part of me that hates waste is annoyed by the high cost. But it works. You can't argue with results. I'm spending nearly $150/month on vitamins now, for myself and the kids, which seems outrageous. But every time I try to stop, we suffer. It's keeping me focused at work and in a better mood at home, and I'm sleeping much better than I ever did. Plus, I no longer get sick in the heat! I can function, even at 90 degrees! So it's a small price to pay when seen that way.

This fall I'm going to take swimming lessons. My godmother has a pool and has encouraged me to learn, so I'll give it a shot. I don't think it will be too bad. It's the scheduling more than anything that was a problem, and the Y has a time that works for me this fall. I'm looking forward to it.

We've visited the kids' dad a few more times. He's about 7 hours away now, so it's not easy. But it's in an area where there are lots of things to do, and we have a reciprocal membership through a local museum that gets us into a few places out there. It could be worse. Plus it's a treatment facility within the prison system, and he actually seems to be getting better. That's encouraging for his future relationship with them. Only time will tell. On our last trip we went camping, and it worked out well. The weather was great, we found a really nice campground, and it's not far from an Orthodox monastery I'd wanted to visit for a while. So we stopped there. It was a really good trip, much better than I ever thought it would be. I'm not so put off by the thought of going again, now that we have other reasons to be there too.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Reflecting On A Wonderful Year

Happy New Year, people! Blogging is starting to feel silly at this point since I mostly did it to relieve stress, and now I have a lot less stress and other coping mechanisms. But it can't hurt.

This past year has been the best year of my life so far. I've begun to learn who I really am as a person. The discoveries aren't always what I expected or wanted, but it still feels good to know. I've been able to actually buy things I like, and make decisions based on something other than money now and then. Perhaps the most significant change is that I no longer feel so uncomfortable around men that I can't hold a brief conversation with some guy I don't know very well. My insecurities have ebbed significantly since we joined Cub Scouts and I began working, and the difference inside me is like night and day.

I still struggle with how to maintain friendships on a tight schedule, and which friendships to maintain. That's a major improvement over not having a way to maintain any of them or to meet new people. With our deck FINALLY replaced, and much nicer than the previous one, I'm looking forward to being able, for the first time, to invite people over who aren't family when the weather gets warmer. Mark would never let me invite anyone over when he lived with us, and I couldn't realistically have guests at my parents' house although they were willing. It's just not even remotely the same at all. Without the deck, there's nowhere for anyone to even sit down at our apartment; there's barely standing room. So I'm very excited for spring to come again this year.

Laughing is something I do daily now. That alone tells me how far I've come. For the past 13 years I probably didn't laugh outright for months on end.

I've learned that I'm not a jeans and t-shirts girl, or a dressy girl. I'm something in between. I hate slacks, and I tolerate jeans. I like linen and corduroy pants. I hate sneakers and heels alike; my favorite thing about the cold weather is being able to wear my tie-up Clark ankle boots. I like barefoot shoes in summer. I like baseball caps, maxi skirts, colorful knit tops, and plaid button-up shirts. My attempts to stretch my ear piercings were set back when I lost an earring and couldn't replace it quickly enough, but it did finally force my one piercing to heal correctly and now I can wear normal earrings that I never could before. I'd thought it was an allergy, but it wasn't. I've learned that while I continue to hate lipstick, I love fancy lip balms. While I continue to hate perfume, I love essential oil blends. I've found a shampoo that works for my hair, and I discovered Melaleuca products. I enjoy cleaning now, and my laundry smells good, and I like all the products I've tried. On top of that, the high-quality vitamins really help.

I realized that I'm claustrophobic, which is actually helpful to me in making decisions about what kind of places to go and when. I no longer feel obligated to "just deal" with the crowds at an event or place because it seems unfair to the kids not to go. What's unfair is putting myself in a situation where I'm bound to be manic and irritable, and then expecting them to have fun and appreciate my efforts. We can't do everything. Their lives will have enough enrichment without attending every free kids' event I can find.

I've also learned, finally, how to clean what I can when I can instead of waiting for a time when I can clean everything. My apartment is never going to be spic and span. I can clean the kitchen on Saturday and the bathroom on Sunday. I can do laundry one night and dishes the next. I can vacuum the rugs one weekend, and mop the hard floors the following weekend. It may not be how I always imagined cleaning my house, but it works better than waiting for a magical and elusive twelve-hour energy burst with no interruptions. I've learned that colors and smells have a strong effect on my mood, and if the trash has developed an unpleasant odor when I get home, washing the dishes with my tropical-scented dish soap actually makes me feel happier. I like fruity and spicy scents, and warm herbal scents, but I dislike most "fresh", floral, and dessert-type scents. For the first time ever, I actually look forward to coming home at night so I can turn on the multicolored lights I wrapped around our new deck railing. They make me feel happy to be here, like my living space is pretty and attractive. Removing the busy floral-patterned curtains and bedding from our livingroom has made the apartment feel much less cluttered. Having the little Norfolk Pine we bought for Christmas in the window makes the place seem alive and cheery.

Slowly but surely, I'm collecting the pieces of furniture I need to keep the place organized. It's great having enough money to see just what I need at the Goodwill, and walk up to the counter and buy it! My car is repaired again for the time being, I'm paying all my bills without robbing Peter to pay Paul every month, and I'm going on a year at my job, the longest I've been able to work anywhere since Whiz Kid was born. Yes, this year has indeed been full of blessings. 2016, here we come!