Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hopping in quickly...

Ohhh, I just made a pun...

I wanted to keep track of my progress here since last Saturday I posted about some changes. When I weighed in this morning, I only lost 0.3# (slightly disappointed since I cut out my morning Dunkin Donuts runs).

In good news, I lost 1/2 inch from my hips! I'll take that :)

I also took Friday off, as the first real vacation day in...forever. One where I wasn't needing to go anywhere, didn't have people coming over to work on anything. I slept in late, got lunch with the hubs, visited with his grandmother for a few hours, relaxed, hubs cooked us a great & healthy dinner, then off to a super late movie. We saw Super 8, which was really good, but the ending was sort of...huh? Oh, and the ONLY housework stuff I did was vacuum the upstairs before dinner only because it was bothering me. And folded a load of laundry. Nothing too strenuous.


Anyway, I'm off to get my hair cut--love my newish salon, but don't like that it's 1/2 hr away--but wanted to post as soon as I weighed/measured this morning. Have a great Saturday!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Taking care of me, or how being selfish can really be selfless

I'm a mess.

I'm okay, I'm feeling pretty well, I'm in a good mood. But I am a mess.

I don't take care of myself--emotionally or physically. I hear that women do this a lot; they take on the problems of everyone else, but forget to deal with their own stuff, and then they fall apart.

I have been doing this and if I don't knock it off, I'm going to fall apart.

I am stressed and feel overwhelmed at work. There is a lot to be done and there isn't always a lot of time. My department depends on other departments, and when they don't complete assignments or tasks, we can't complete our work. Pressure! There's also the issue of having to work more hours, with less staff. I'm finding that is common all over now, thankyouverymuch economy that's still in the crapper, but it doesn't make me, nor anyone else, feel better.

The added pressure of DH being out of work doesn't help. I never thought I'd feel this way, but I am responsible for the well-being of my family. We're nowhere near destitute, but if I lost my job, we'd lose our health insurance. THAT would be bad. So I feel pressure to do well at work, yet I can only do so much, and then I get worried when things aren't getting done, even though the problem is bigger than me. I haven't been spoken to, or warned, or anything else that might make me be on edge, but I don't like seeing my to-do list grow, or tasks getting shifted from day to day, then week to week, never getting crossed off. I don't think anyone likes this. So I worry.

I have gained weight over the past few months, when I should have been working on losing. Fortunately, I haven't had to buy any new clothes in bigger sizes. Where I'm gaining it is in "right" areas for now. That needs to stop. I am seriously overweight, yet I've been doing nothing about it. And I mean NOTHING. I come home, eat dinner, tend the gardens, come in, sit on my butt and watch TV/surf the web....and then eat again. NOT GOOD.

I have the "luxury" of having a husband home most of the day, which means that certain chores are no longer my duty. I used to arrive home first, and was responsible for dinner. I don't do that anymore. While cooking, I'd throw in a load of laundry--I don't do that anymore either. So there's really no excuse for me not to be picking up on other things around the house and with myself.

I need to take advantage of this time I have and do something about myself. It's time to be selfish. To tell Turtle, "I'm gonna skip out on [insert show here] tonight, I need to go to bed early so I can head in before everyone else." Or to force myself out of bed on a Saturday morning to jump on the treadmill.

If I am selfISH, perhaps eventually I will be in a better mind to be selfLESS.

Think about it this way. If I'm coming home, tired and stressed, how is that a benefit to my husband and my marriage? I have turned into a bitch because of my inability to work on what's bugging me.

Also, if I end up with MORE health issues, most of which COULD BE AVOIDED, I will have trouble giving any part of myself to others. I won't feel well, or can't do that because of [whatever]. How is that fair? What if my parents need my help when they get older? Or Turtle? I'll be needing people to take care of ME. I don't want to be an invalid, or die prematurely.

It started today.

I got up, went on the treadmill for 37 minutes. Ironically, Dr. Oz was on TV, doing a heart transplant. I am 31 and on high blood pressure meds. DO I WANT THAT TO BE ME SOMEDAY?


I also joined Weight Watchers online. My coworker just signed up yesterday, and I'd thought about doing it for awhile, but kept putting it off. I've always done well with tracking food and portioning out...WHEN I REMEMBER TO DO IT.

My first goal is to lose 15 pounds. (They made it for me.) I think that's pretty reasonable.

As for work...the other day I did email my direct supervisor and department head a long list of everything I had to get done, along with an estimate of how long it would take to complete. This came out of our department needing to assist another department in testing some new website files. I thought, "I can't even get my own work done, how can I help them?" and my boss didn't really seem to understand where I was coming from. Hence, the email. He looked at it and suggested some areas to cut out. Doesn't mean I'm excused from them.

I'm feeling slightly better about that, but not 100%. Especially not when things took longer than expected (my estimates for creating an email in HTML from scratch were WAY off). I said 2-3 hours. Try over 5. And it's still not done. Ha!

I know what the problem is, in this case. It's the fact that my boss, while absolutely crazy and weird, doesn't manage. At. all. He's so hand's off, he has no clue what's going on, and takes on more work, on the department's behalf. Meaning: my coworker and I end up doing it. I want to grab him by the collar, and yell "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE HAVE GOING ON!!! STOP THE MADNESS!!!!"

But he'd probably give us his tight-lipped smile and nod, saying "okay!"

I'm not sure what to do going forward. We have weekly department meetings where we are supposed to go over the week ahead, what's pressing, what needs to be handled, but they are a joke, since all he does is gab away and show off his skills with social media metrics. That's not all we do! He's been with our company for 4 months and I don't think he knows what my coworker or I do. God help him if something happened to us or we left.

I need to do something, but I'm not sure what will be most effective.

What works best for me:
  • Getting in early, before most of my coworkers. I need to be more consistent with this. It really helps me. There's less distraction, less chance of things going wrong. I can get my day off to a good start and get organized. (And then I can leave early, haha!) The benefit of flex time...and having a key to the building!
  • Making a to-do list every afternoon before I leave. I have been doing this for awhile and it's helpful. I keep it in Word, so that I can quickly add things, but also, I can use the strike-out function to literally cross off completed tasks! At the end of each day, I can cut & paste the things that didn't get done to the next day's list.

  • Plot out each week. I've also been doing this for awhile, as part of my to-do list. That way, if I know I have a consumer sales email to go out on Wednesday morning, I probably don't want to wait until Tuesday afternoon to start it.

  • Being more upfront about what I've got going on. Not all of my work comes to me via my supervisor or department head. Some of my duties I've been doing for years, so it's as automatic as breathing. But they might not know/remember about those things...
I might need to have another chat with my my supervisor and/or department head, as much as I'm loathe to do so. The last one we had didn't go over so well, and I don't know if it was me not explaining myself clearly (I tend to clam up when around the "big" people) or them just not getting it. Sometimes I'm just floating in the ocean, by myself, so to speak, and I have to scramble to figure out how to get things done.

I really hope that I can be consistent with ALL of this. Food, exercise, work, sleep, fun stuff.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Laid Off Spouse Part 2: Things happen for a reason

First, a bit about me, but it's related to today's post. I found out today that the company where I interviewed last week just laid off a bunch of people. That would have scared me, even if "my" job wasn't eliminated. Who would want to start at a place that just lost a bunch of people?

There has to be a reason why I can't seem to leave my current place. Maybe I'm really not meant to work anywhere else right now.

Turtle's layoff happened for a reason. We just don't know what it is right now. I believe it's God giving us a test. Not a dangerous one. Just a challenging one. Looking back at the first layoff, I think it was a challenge for us as newlyweds, to strengthen our marriage, and bring us even closer together. Don't get me wrong, there were a LOT of tough days, fights, and even doubts if we were meant to be married, but we got through it.

When Turtle was laid off this time, I said to him that maybe that this is a chance for us to see if we really can live on a reduced income, so that when children finally appear, maybe I can work part time or not at all. So far, things are okay, financially-speaking. Turtle hasn't even collected unemployment yet; it's still pending. He was given a week of severance, and all of his vacation time was paid out, plus his last day of work was a pay day. Altogether, he received 5.5 weeks of salary, which went immediately into our savings account.

And we're doing well with other things--my work, him being home all day, the shift in chores and responsibilities around the house, our health issues. About a month in, and we're getting into a more comfortable place.

Things do happen for a reason.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Odd turn of events

Last Thursday, I had a job interview. The night before, I was feeling rather hesitant, and not really sure why. The interview went fairly well, I thought, and if anything, I thought that if they didn't hire me, it might have been because I was slightly over qualified. I sent very nice thank you notes over the weekend, and was going to follow up this week.

Yesterday morning, I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. It was the HR lady from the company where I'd interviewed, and with whom I'd first met. (She was working from home that day, so the call wasn't the company's main number, which I would have recognized.) I knew right away that I didn't get the job, without her saying more than "we've concluded our interview process." She went on to say that they had made their selection, and she even told me that I was the top candidate after the one who got the job--the person they hired had more technical print book experience than I did. She also told me that they enjoyed meeting me very much and to keep an eye on postings at the company, and hopefully she'd see me again someday.

Many people might be super bummed getting this kind of news, but I was OKAY. I wasn't bummed. I didn't get upset. In fact, it was slightly relieving to know that I didn't have to make a choice! Since I was at work, I couldn't say much to her, but her end of the phone call was honestly one of the best rejection calls I've ever received. In fact, it might have been the only one I've received--just impersonal letters and emails. I thanked her for calling and said "I just have to say that I appreciate you taking the time to let me know." She said something about how she's been on the other side and doesn't want to leave anyone hanging. I wish all HR people and hiring managers followed this practice. I'm sure it's not fun to call people and say "hey, you didn't get the job!" but it is the right thing. I might follow up with an email, just to say thanks again. I had to be so "cryptic" since I was at my desk, I might have come off slightly robotic, lol.

Then we had our health insurance meeting. I went into the room, steeling myself for the inevitable, and when I opened the packet to view the prices...THEY WERE LOWER. For EVERY plan. Finally, someone saw the light and contacted OTHER insurance brokers! We'd been using the same guy for years, and I think he's a modern-day snake oil salesman. My father had used him when my family business needed benefits and was highly displeased with the guy. The new broker is great, the representative from the insurance company was super, too. We won't be with the same company anymore, but I had been on this new company years ago when I worked at a different job.

Now to pick a plan... There are four plans to choose from--HSA, POS, and two HMOs. Yes, they are all lower than what we're currently paying (for almost identical coverage), but there is one that would be HALF as much as what we're currently paying. Before Turtle was laid off, the plan was to go on his company's insurance since it would have been cheaper. That option had been removed from the table, and I wasn't looking forward to going into this meeting to find out that we'd have to pay MORE. It is such a relief to know that isn't what we're facing, and we have the potential to have up to $200 extra a month in our pockets. (We currently pay $441 every two weeks, for two people--just thankful that two people aren't considered a "family" plan.)

I keep thinking that there might be a reason for me to stay at this job. I don't know what it is yet. My boss drives me up the wall, and most days I don't even talk to him, but I am getting to do more and more, I have a lot of responsibility, and I'm actually thinking about asking for a title change pretty soon. I'm thinking July, since it'll be six months since my old boss left. I have stepped up a lot, I have a lot of "freedom," and my relationship with the owners has grown SO much.

My only concern was/is how they'd handle me being pregnant and going on maternity leave. We have our first pregnant employee now (we'll call her Mary, ha) and they haven't been as flexible as I'd hoped they'd be. Mary has worked at our company a few months longer than me, too. I don't know if it's because of her department head (he's kinda jerky and VERY SERIOUS) or if it's the nature of her workload, but I know she hoped for something different. I also know that they can't do more for one than they did another, so...I just hope that they will change a bit once her baby is here.

Another coworker (who is very good friends w/ Mary) and I were talking about what Mary had asked for, what the company was going to do/not do, and our thoughts were similar--while we know that you can't get everything you want, it's still better for the company to treat a pregnant employee super well. Who's to say that she isn't searching now? Or won't search while on leave if she can find something that works better with her new life as a mom? If Mary were to leave, for any reason, the company would have to spend time and money looking for someone to take her place, train them, get them up to speed. During that time, the rest of the department would feel that pinch, people would be stressed. It's common sense. If I were a company owner and had someone who'd been working for me long-term, like Mary or myself, I'd make it so I could keep them around as long as possible. Yes, everyone is replaceable, pretty much, but when you look at the bigger picture, I'd rather keep an awesome employee and let her work 2 days a week from home, vs. losing her and having to start over from scratch. (I don't really know what she asked for, but that might be something I would ask for!)

When I look at my own job duties and what I know, I've been in my department the longest. I know a LOT of random stuff that you just can't teach someone. Besides, the owners don't know all of what I know! I'm valuable! I hope that when my time comes, if I happen to still be there, they will see my value and want to work with me. I do have the advantage of having one of the owners as head of my department--the wife of the couple who owns our company--and they have two kids. Maybe that will be my ace?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We weren't always Byzantine Catholic, Part 1

(another series, I guess--I'd been meaning to tell this story for months. I noticed that Elizabeth over at That Married Couple recently started telling her story, too.)

This is the story of how we became Byzantine Catholic. It wasn't as simple as "oh hey, let's go try this church." In fact, one of us was going to a Byzantine church their entire life, but wasn't really Eastern Rite.

When we met, T told me he was Byzantine Catholic, which I'd never heard of. I always thought of myself as pretty knowledgeable about religion and especially Catholicism.

HELLO, I went to a CATHOLIC COLLEGE. I took MANY religion classes. So of course, I was a SCHOLAR. (that's all sarcasm, folks)

Obviously, I hadn't heard about there being other Rites under Rome. I thought T was telling me he was Orthodox. "Oh you're not under the Pope," I remember telling him on the phone once. "No, we are," he said, starting to lose his patience. "But HOW???" I said.

He gave me a VERY elementary explanation: it's like a hybrid of Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

"But you're under the Pope???" I asked, incredulously.

"Yes!" he said.

I started searching around the internet, trying to learn more about this Byzantine thing.

Part 2 to come! Need to head to work :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ever feel like you'll never get a break?

I do.

On Facebook, I keep seeing women who are stay at home moms talking about how they are going on vacation and little trips--both with and without their families. So first, they get to stay home, which I know is not all fun and games--and that's not my point. It's the traveling and getting to do what they want!

Meanwhile, here I am, working my butt off every day. We have no children. Usually people in our shoes travel as much as they can. We haven't gone on vacation since September/October 2007. Yes, our honeymoon. We did go to Philadelphia for a long weekend for our 1st anniversary, even though Turtle was laid off. We were going to go to Cape Cod this summer since my aunt has a house there, but now he's laid off again.

What are we doing wrong? Oh wait, I know, my husband got laid off. One woman's husband has been laid off too, yet they've gone to Hawaii twice and in the winters were skiing in Vermont every weekend. (I'm pretty sure her parents retired to VT & they have other family in Hawaii, which of course takes care of lodging, so I will give her a pass, I think.)

I KNOW that there's more than meets the eye with most people. And I know it's Facebook, where things can be embellished. These people could be charging up the wazoo on credit cards or get hand-outs from Mom & Dad. But still, I feel like I work SO hard and have very little down time or anything enjoyable. Especially now that I'm the sole earner. All of the pressure is on me.

I'd like a break, please.

I haven't taken a "real" vacation day, even one to just sit around my house, in....I don't know how long. The last vacation day I had was for Easter (Good Friday). My other time off in 2011 was for my friend's wedding and Turtle's wisdom teeth surgery. Before that, my vacation time was used for my grandfather's funeral in October, my hand surgery in April (2010) and other days/hours for physical therapy. I only get 2 weeks of vacation and until this year, only 3 sick days. (We now get 4.) I can't even call out sick as a mental health day since there's too much work to be done and I have no back up. I come home, tired and cranky. I can't even make my home a refuge--doing fun things after work and on weekends--because there's stuff piling up since I'm too tired. It's a vicious cycle. You'd think we had 6 kids for how much laundry needs to be done and put away. The dishes...oy. And the cleaning? It's embarrassing and horrible, but there's a room that was never properly cleaned...and we've lived here for over 18 months now. (There is a newly constructed division of labor now that Turtle's home all day, which I will blog about soon, but the home is the woman's domain, no matter how sexist that sounds. I am better at it. It's true! Yet I can't even get myself together.)

Ahh, the life of do what I want, when I want. Not necessarily idleness, just activities that have a personal purpose. Maybe in retirement? If I live that long.

The Laid Off Spouse Part 1: Reality sets in

On Monday I was going to start a series about being the spouse of someone who has been laid off. I wrote most of the post (about what was different this time vs. the last time we dealt with a lay off), but then didn't get around to putting it up.

Why? Reality set in. The post was written earlier in the day, when I was still feeling pretty chipper and optimistic about this new adventure. Then I got home and didn't feel as positive. It'd be a disservice to myself and to anyone reading this to put up something that I wasn't 100% behind. Hence, this post which was mostly written on Tuesday, and finished on Wednesday.

I don't hide my emotions well. I have a hard time just moving on from things. People have tried to tell me to let stuff go, don't over-think...but that's how I roll. It's too bad if you don't like it or can't understand it. Maybe I don't understand those who prefer to live in delusion, ignoring what's going on around them. That can be a worse way to live, to not deal.

So now I'm going to tell you what it's like being married to someone who is laid off. For the second time in our almost four year marriage.

It sucks. BADLY.

The first time was hard enough. But to have to go through it again? Yes, there are some positives this time around vs. last time, and I will blog about them, eventually. I just wasn't feeling it Monday night.

I don't remember if I've ever mentioned this here, but Turtle has PTSD, as a result of the horrible accident he was in. Yes, other people, besides veterans, can have this. It's irritating when trying to find materials and resources about PTSD when everything points to veterans. Not that they aren't entitled to be studied, written about, etc, but I think people who haven't been exposed to it just assume that it can't happen to anyone else, which leads to a lot of misunderstanding. The easiest way to explain it is that it's an anxiety disorder, brought on from a traumatic experience. Everyone's PTSD is different--some people have extreme cases, like serious flashbacks (I always think of Vietnam vets) to just nervousness and agitation about things in life--this is more or less how Turtle's is.

If you are interested in learning more about PTSD, Cate Linden at Liberal Simplicity (which I've been following for over a year) wrote about her PTSD, following a rape. When I found her blog, I had no idea that she had been through this in her past. I'd just liked her blog! When I read that post, I asked Cate if her husband, Jason, would ever be willing to share his thoughts about living with her and dealing with her PTSD. About a month later, he wrote a complimentary post as the spouse of someone with PTSD. (I commented on both of their posts, as Rabbit, so you can read my thoughts there.)

I don't talk about it much--I'm sure that many of my friends don't know, because it's not something you just bring up. I forget who knows and who doesn't. So, I often feel alone when dealing with his symptoms, partly because I don't know who knows, and partly because people have their own lives to deal with and don't always understand. It's easy for people to just gloss over things, to focus on what they think is important to look at, and not understand what I'm saying (or NOT saying).

Back to what's currently going on at our house before I go off on a huge tangent!

This lay off, while expected, has brought out some of Turtle's more extreme symptoms, although some of the things he is experiencing are typical of anyone going through a bad time.

Typical stuff: He's not sleeping well. He's worried about finding another job. He's worried about me having to be the sole breadwinner and the pressure that it entails. He hates that he can't provide for us. He also hates that our plans for a family are put on hold yet again. Not that we were going to try anytime soon, but it was being discussed more frequently prior to the lay off.

NOT typical: His stomach is in constant pain (this is also where the majority of his accident injuries and surgeries were). He gets agitated easily. The slightest annoyance REALLY gets to him. When he is in pain, he can't do much. It's pretty debilitating, and there's really nothing that can be done. One of the "lovely" side effects of having your abdomen split from sternum to pelvis for almost a year. In normal life, his stomach only bothers him after eating or when he's exerted himself a bit too much, but when the mental/emotional stuff kicks in, it manifests in his stomach.

Monday night, I had a little breakdown. I was tired, not feeling great (I'm fighting allergies or a cold), overwhelmed with everything. Also, Monday was two full weeks since the lay off. His last day was Thursday, May 19, but I'm not counting that Friday--that was more of a "day off" for him. I've had a crazy 2 weeks at work, including a business trip and preparations for a month-long event which kicked off June 1. I feel as if I'm not holding up my end of things at home. Yes, he's doing more chores since he's home but the things that I'm doing aren't getting done or are getting done sloppily. When he worked, I had much more alone time--I have flex time, he didn't. Two days a week, he worked 12-8, so I had the house to myself until almost 9 pm, time which I spend doing my chores. With him home, it throws me off! Which is not a slam against him, or wishing he'd go away.

It's a new reality, and it takes getting used to. We're still in an adjustment period. We'll get used to this, just like we did last time. I hope there isn't much time to get used to it (meaning: he gets a new job soon). I am feeling much better today, but I still feel like I need to put this out there, for those who have been laid off or living with someone who had, so that they know they aren't alone...and also for those people who've never experienced a lay off, to maybe understand what their family or friends are going through.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mixed emotions

Tomorrow is my interview, but I don't want to go. I don't know why. I've never been this apathetic about an interview--I don't get many opportunities. Is it because last time I got my hopes WAY too high? Is it because I'm scared that if I were to take a new job, it wouldn't be safe as where I am now?

I don't know.

I'm also a bit annoyed at the dress code changes that have been reinforced since the warm weather appeared. I believe a super strict dress code is equal to treating employees like children, especially when things that were acceptable a year ago are no longer considered as such. It's even more difficult when your income has been slashed in half. Although you try to look for things on sale, you still end up spending more money than you want. Especially with shoes. I don't know if shoes have changed, or if something is wrong with my feet, but I went to THREE shoe stores this weekend, all with a large variety, and had a difficult time finding something that 1) was appropriate per our dress code 2) that fit comfortably and 3) didn't cost too much. I ended up with 2 pairs of Born sandal/shoes (I don't know what you'd call them and I can't find a picture right now) but they were about $65 each. More than I wanted to spend but I was desperate since my only pair of summer shoes were now inappropriate.

Also regarding the shoes: sandals aren't OK unless they have a heel. Way to be discriminatory. What if you can't wear heels due to back or leg problems? I get no flip flops--I would never have worn them to work, but jeez, it's pretty bad when you say "no sandals" but "open-toed shoes are acceptable." They can be interchangeable sometimes. It's confusing. No wonder my coworker took pictures of her shoes and emailed them to HR, asking which were OK. That was gutsy of her, but I hope it proved a point. We're not in a warehouse or a dangerous environment.

(The dress code situation doesn't make me want to leave. I get that the company wants to show a more professional appearance to the outside world. I just wish it wasn't so drastic that almost everything I wore last summer is now taboo. Even knee-length shorts! But a girl could wear a skirt short enough to show off know, and that would be okay. The men are also upset that last year they could wear neat, clean khaki-type shorts and a polo shirt, and now cannot.)

In other news, I got gas for $3.97 yesterday :) and had a pretty good day at work today. :)