Sunday, April 27, 2008
Second, I have had a really great few days. For one thing, work has been better. One person still acts strangely, but I plan to return strangeness with kindness and focus on doing my part to create a positive environment. I have a lot more stuff to do now, so I can concentrate on that, and I did a second training that got good reviews, so maybe I'll get to stay!
I am also doing better because I've had some time to relax and laugh the past few days. The picture shows my friend Diana (who lives in New Jersey) and me, as she triumphantly proves she can now purl. Go, Suna, you knitting teacher whiz! I no longer get to see the people I used to work with periodically, and I really miss that, so what special treat it was that life's ups and downs led her to come spend a couple of days with me.
She'd been in the Dallas area helping her brother and SIL after the birth of their first child. It was a stressful time, for a number of reasons, so I was worried about her. Then, sadly, the husband of someone we had both worked with (in my old job and her current job as author and board member in the lactation consultant field) passed away. We realized the funeral would be during her visit, so decided we would go and support our friend, who is such a lovely woman and has helped so many others.
So, she picked me up after work on Friday (yay,GPS thingies sure make finding new places easier) and we drove to far south Austin and had a nice dinner, then went to the service. It was beautiful and a very welcoming event in a Catholic church with lots of woods and ferns in the sanctuary. There was a wonderful mix of appropriate humor and lovely remembrances. I know it was healing for the family, and it was really inspirational to me, too. I felt I got to know our friend's husband a bit, which is always nice. But also, the officiant and a couple of speakers said some things that affected me--about how to treat other people...it gave me some insight into how I can turn my difficult times into something positive.
So, I am glad we did that. I had a little trouble afterwards, as I knew I would, chit chatting with people from the old volunteer organization, but it was good to catch up and see people I'd missed. It was especially nice to see one of our old online work colleagues. But mostly, it felt good to just be there to support a fellow human who was grieving.
Afterwards, we went back to my house, apparently driving toward a tornado warning, but we didn't know! The storm opened up just before we got home, so we were wet, but had a nice visit anyway. Diana was blown away at how my boys had grown, and said such nice things about them. It is amazing to see people you see every day from someone else's point of view. That helped. We laughed and talked about all sorts of things, things I don't have local woman friend to talk about, so it was very good to have this chance.
Yesterday Diana and I did tarot, had breakfast at Starbucks, then spent the rest of the day at my favorite hangout, the yarn shop. I detail this in the knitting blog, so suffice to say we both had a lovely, relaxing day full of laughter and kindness. We had a really good knitting class, and some great conversation with Katie and Pat and others who came by. I wish Diana had such a nice yarn shop where she lives. Knowing she didn't have one made me appreciate my luck in having one so close by even more!
Last night, Beccano, Lee and I watched the beginning of the movie Tin Man. It's good! I sure am glad my knitting friend loaned it to us!
Today it's all rainy again, so I hope we can just relax today, though we may end up helping Jeff move some stuff to his new residence. I am hoping that this one works out well. It sounds like it will. I am glad we can still be friends with him, too. I've said it here before, but I will repeat. The thing I am most grateful for is my friends, both near and far. The mutual support we give each other is what gets me through the day.
Oh yeah, Lee's been pretty sick lately. I sure am glad he is getting better. I'd feel so much better if he had some insurance. Darn my employer for not offering it to domestic partners (though I think they are working toward it--I hope what gay coworkers are doing to move forward on this will also apply to us).
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I have been hesitating to write about what is going on with the "new job" and that has meant I haven't posted anything at all. That really isn't fair, since some nice stuff has happened in my life as well as the icky. For example, here's a nice picture or two from our visit to the Wildflower Center. Beccano is also enjoying his guitar lessons. Lee is building another lovely flower bed. Tuba Boy still seems to have a girlfriend and is quite happy, though scheduled to travel during this year's final SAT opportunity. I got the kids new shoes, and me some, too. I do still apparently have some friends, and they have really been lifesavers for me!
But, last week all my work fears came to a head, and all my paranoid worries came to fruition. It turns out they really didn't like me, they really didn't think I was doing a good job, and they really wanted me out of there. I wasn't just making it up based on previous stuff from the job at the dysfunctional organization. This made me, a person with, shall we say, "delicate" self esteem in the best of times, feel like all the bad stuff I thought about myself really was true. I had confirmation at last that I pretty much suck. I started to shake and couldn't stop.
How did I find this out? I went to a 30-day review with the boss, and she just handed me a piece of paper listing every mistake I had made since I started, saying I was negative all the time, and positing that I was fitting in so poorly that I might not get to stay. To be honest with you, it really felt like I was living a nightmare. There was no way I was going to point out that I might not be all perky due to people attacking me verbally or not speaking to me unless they absolutely had to. What good would that do other than make me appear defensive? I did mention that no one was speaking to me, which made me hesitate to ask questions.
I did figure out that some things I had said in a joking manner were not taken that way, and it's easy enough to not make light of freeware tools or act like I am not fond of mainframe software. I have noticed there is a distinct lack of humor in this office, so I've deleted that from my repertoire. I also figured out that my initial confusion during the first few weeks (cause: what they said I'd be doing in the interview turns out to be what I am NOT allowed to do, and what I said was my least good skill was ALL I did) made me appear negative. So, please note that I am not one of those people who blames others for everything that goes wrong. I know I had a part.
But, I was not all of it, or even most of it. Some of the stuff was really unfair, and it hurt a lot. And it upped my anxiety symptoms big time. Still, I need the income and benefits. So, I have been on a campaign to act positive, cheerful and helpful at all times. Not a negative word has escaped my mouth in over a week. I am viewing everyone as real nice folks I love to work with (btw, some of them are perfectly nice, others might not be people I'd choose as friends, but could be fine co-workers minus their grudges). I am guessing the boss may have spoken to them, as well. They are acting nicer. It does help when it goes both ways. I am not acting like an asinine grinning fool, but I am projecting positive rays. I am not expressing any interest in any project I am not directly involved with (another mistake I'd made--thought the whole team was involved in all the projects, so that was another major error on my part). I am not saying a word about any personal thing happening to anyone unless asked, and offering no personal information on my life. Just saying, "Wow, what a cool challenge!" and, "That should be educational!" a lot, about work topics.
I had a second meeting with the boss on Friday, and to her credit, she had come up with some good plans for ways for me to learn more about the parts of the department that mystify me, and figured out some new duties I can slowly start to take on that will also be educational. I told her I was really grateful and appreciated her effort.
What has also helped was that I taught a class in Microsoft Excel last Thursday, and it went well. My coworker who went to it and helped me set it up sent the boss a nice report on how I'd done. And he has said I am doing fine, and that he appreciates the stuff I am doing. He will even talk to me about non-work topics in off moments. That makes one. A couple of others have at least spoken to me kindly. I don't need to make friends at work like I did in other jobs, but I'd like to not have enemies. It just brings flashbacks to the times in the past few years when people I thought were my friends suddenly weren't. It really, really makes me wonder if the problem is ME. As I used to repeat to someone close to me, if the same thing happens again and again, you might want to think about your role in these repeated issues. So, don't think I am not aware that I am "crusty" and "sensitive" and "defensive" and act grumpy when I am facing a hard challenge until I get it figured out. I know. It's why I wish I could just go crawl in a hole, or live in the country tending my chickens and donkey with my man who loves me the way I am. But, we have to feed ourselves, feed the kids, and pay the bills. Nowhere to hide.
So, I have done my best to improve the situation and make the best of it. I have turned my internal attitude around and am, I hope, not appearing as down. I hope it will all smooth over. It has been quite a blow to think of myself as the bad seed at the office, the poor worker, etc. All those years of praise for my initiative, ability to work with difficult people, and quick learning skills fooled me into thinking I could handle the "real world." Really, I think I just misunderstood what I was supposed to be doing, and got frustrated, which I did not hide well enough. Any frustration in the future will be thoroughly hidden, at least until such a time that I have built up a bank of positivity. An occasional voiced frustration comes out of everyone (and I hear plenty in the office--but they are allowed, I guess). And I will keep taking my medicines. They help.
I do wish I could work doing nice things for nice people who respect and admire me, and that the feeling could be mutual. I guess that is asking for a lot: no workplace is perfect nor is any job. I know that. I just had not expected this one to fall apart so quickly and completely. I felt like I'd been run over by a train, and can only now start to talk about it a little.
This rambled a lot. Sorry. I will try to write some less intense things next time. I hope you can understand that being on guard against any negativity, hyper-vigilant against making any errors in what I am doing, and maintaining the constant cheer takes a lot out of me. I worry that being neutral won't be enough (that would be less taxing). It's like being in a play 9 hours a day. Even great actors would tire of that.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The other photo is the "house turd" that was created when huge volume of oak pollen and flowers was washed out of the trees in last week's big rainstorm. The gutter spewed this worm of blossoms. Really, it is incredible the amount of bloomage the oaks produce. All the cars are very, very green this time of year, and the window screens look awful. The good news is the stuff composts really well, but when it first falls, there is an inch or two of it on all surfaces in our back yard!
So, enough of "spring in the back yard." One nice thing we did this weekend was go view spring at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I hadn't gone in a long time. We went for a plant sale, but there wasn't much left by the time we got there. Lee, Beccano and I enjoyed walking on the trails and taking pictures of things we'd like to grow some day. And we really enjoyed an exhibit of marvelous 3-D paintings by a Chinese-American artist. They were mostly of Texas wildflowers, and featured watercolors on cutouts that were bent and shaped to resemble the real thing. Just gorgeous.
Before that, we had lunch with Lee's best friend from high school, who was passing through town. He emails all the time, but I had never met him, and Lee hadn't seen him in quite some time. I haven't met many of Lee's friends, so that was a nice thing. I hope I didn't make a horrible impression. It's always a bit awkward being the "new partner," when someone knew the old one for decades. We ate at Artz, so I had a big plate of brisket to keep me busy.
I also had a fun time at church, where we sang spirituals with gusto. Afterwards a guy who was there for the first time came up and said he guessed he ought to introduce himself. It turns out he was the guy who had said good morning to me on the bus on Friday--he's been riding the same bus as me for a few weeks. Another"it's a small world" event! I guess it takes a decade living somewhere for this to take effect. I remember it happening the last few years I was in Illinois, too.
Back-tracking, Saturday was really nice. It was fun to do work alongside Lee in the yard, but a little scary when he climbed a crape myrtle to trim branches that kept hitting the house. Neither of us is good with heights. In the evening we had delicious pork chops and enjoyed listening to Tuba Boy and his friends playing Magic. I like it when they come to our house, so Beccano has some people to hang out with, too. Beccano and Lee were already entranced with Lee's new bass amp. They are trying to work on stuff together. That is fun.
I'd write more, but I must end the break I am taking. Later!
Friday, April 11, 2008
Here is some stuff I wrote on a piece of paper on Wednesday:
I had a rough day yesterday and did not feel welcome--one of those days that make me glad I draw tarot cards every day for guidance. The cards told me to keep to my highest principles and protect myself, because there was some strife/duplicity in the surroundings. It's about work stuff, which I try not to write too much specifically about in here. Mainly I have been feeling rather unwelcome there--just noting that I am specifically not asked for input even on things I am "up" on, not included in office small talk (to the extent that, if I do try, I am ignored/talked over), etc. And the couple of people who are OK to me even seem to think I am dim--tell me stuff is "over my head" or assume I don't know how things are done (like I wouldn't know not to use materials straight from another source, or that handouts/presentations need to be reviewed). What corporate rock must I have been living under in my entire working life? On that one, I think it's just that the person may be worried that I want to do "their thing." I was sort of shocked by getting what felt like a reprimand for saying there would be handouts in a training session. I felt bad--I didn't know you could DO training without handouts, so I didn't view it as a special added bonus.
Worse, though, was yesterday, when I slipped up and tried to offer words of support to a new mother and got a very rude and unkind reaction because of where I used to work/volunteer. I immediately apologized and backed away. Luckily it was about lunch time, so I was able to just leave. This reaction I got does explain why the pregnant person and the new mother have been noticeably unfriendly--I guess a couple of others are just going along with them as part of a clique. I find it regrettable that they prejudged me before actually getting to know my opinions or views. But, it's easy enough to be quiet, speak when spoken to, and stick to work topics.
I am proud of myself for not doing what I usually do and try to explain myself or defend myself (or the incredibly dysfunctional nonprofit organization whose judgmental representatives probably gave these women the bad impression in the first place). When she apologized later via IM, I just said my intention was to support her instincts because she knows her situation best. She said she appreciated that and I said OK. The end. I will not participate in conversations about child rearing in the office again. That is easy to do. Just act busy. I have church, email and knitting friends willing to talk about family stuff with me, so I don't need support or openness at work.
I hope that, in time, I find friends or a place of comfort on campus. Otherwise, days will be long. I hope they fill me with lots to do soon, too. That will help. I can easily bury myself in work when I have some. This kind of unkindness makes me sad. But, I have insurance here. I need to stick with it and be strong.
The good news is that I am feeling a lot better at the end of this week than I was earlier. I have had plenty of work the past couple of days to keep me busy, and people have been treating me "normally" (including me in conversations, etc.) Maybe it's blown over.
It has also helped greatly to have Lee's support and kindness when I have needed it. Just to sit together and watch the oak pollen blow around has been healing. (We had a rain night before last that knocked most of the oak blossoms off the trees--the volume is incredible.)
My knitting friends made me feel better on Wednesday, too. They are very welcoming! Just sitting at the big table and enjoying the friendly conversation, kindness and generosity of the very diverse group there reminded me that people CAN get along even when they have different views on lots of subjects. It's been a lot more open and friendly there in recent months, and that makes me happier. It helps me remember I do still have friends and support, even with Tuba Boy distancing himself and Jody moving across the Big Ocean.
F- Favorite Flower?
Pansies. You are supposed to already know that about me, since I have a large collection of pansy items.
R - Favorite Singer?
Linda Ronstadt. Period.
I- Favorite Music Group?
It's a tie: The Who and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band
D - Favorite Meal of All Time?
Gosh, I don't know. Maybe it was the time I made Nancy Jo watch me eat a boatload (not a real boat, large serving dish shaped like a boat) of delicious sushi in the far-western suburbs of Chicago.
A - Favorite Poet?
Y - Favorite Game?
BOGGLE (Specifically, Big Boggle, the Game of Linguists)
Monday, April 7, 2008
I had a nice time at the yarn shop Saturday morning, so things got off to a fine start. I got the good news that my friend will be working at the same university I work at starting in the fall, plus I had an interesting class where both students knew how to knit already, so I got them moving on something more fun. They were a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law pair, and those are always fun to have. I also had fun designing a lace scarf for the daughter-in-law to make. And our colleague who had knee surgery came in for a visit, so it was really a nice day of visiting.
Lee and I had most of the weekend to ourselves, since the kids’ dad was in town. In the afternoon Lee washed the cars (see the photo, which Lee took, and his own blog post on why that didn’t do much good—they were covered in oak pollen by Sunday morning), while I weeded the front flower beds, even the one I plan to completely dig up eventually. I still couldn’t stand looking at the weeds. After that, we spent a lot of time sitting on the back patio and enjoying the lovely weather and plants. I worked on my weird socks and Lee puttered around. It was really nice to have some time to ourselves and not be having to “do” something. We barbecued for dinner, and simply enjoyed each other’s company.
On Sunday we skipped church and just sat in the back yard. It would have been more fun without noisy neighbors, but you can’t have everything. Beccano was back home by the time we got back from a leisurely trip to the Home Depot and grocery store (more plants, yay). We had an early dinner (more grilling!) and then headed off to the annual birthday bash of my singing friend Austin. That went as well as could be expected, though perhaps I overly enjoyed the margarita machine, judging by my morning headache. Our group performed quite a few songs and it went over pretty well—I was proud of my singing, anyway, and Lee’s lead bass was good (not lead the metal, lead as in leading the way). My favorite part, though, was when just Lee, Jeff and I were in the performing room, with all that lovely equipment set up, and Lee and Jeff jammed on some guitar ramblings of Jeff’s. It was really pretty, and nice to see Jeff be “big”enough to “let” Lee play with him. I think, perhaps, he got the realization that Lee is not the “amateur” that he probably thought he was.
In one weird coincidence of the evening, I was chatting with two guys when I realized the first one wasn’t someone who looked just like the father of a kid in the tuba section, but WAS the father of the kid in the tuba section (the one I watched all the football games with the year before he was really in the band). Then it turned out he was the brother of a musician I had known a long time via Jeff. Neener neener. I always thought that this kid’s dad looked familiar—no wonder—I had seen him at these events before. And he’d seemed different from the other band parents. Well, duh. He’s a suburban misfit like myself.
I do hope I get some pictures of the event—a nice standup bass playing woman did take some, including me and a silly friend wearing name tags with each other’s names on them. It’s always nice to see the musician friends at these events, and now that I am not in the social circle, really, it’s the only way I do.
Other than Tuba Boy declaring he wants to go to an expensive debate camp this summer, everything is good. Last year I was in a better position to help with that. The new lower-paying job will make these extras harder to come by. I hope he can save up and pay for some of it.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Appetizer: Invent a new flower; give it a name and describe it.
I grow weary of this forced creativity.
Soup: Name someone whom you think has a wonderful voice.
Linda Ronstadt. It's perfect.
Soup: On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how clean do you keep your car?
8. The inside is nice and clean, and I keep it that way. I have a hard time getting it washed often enough, so it has been covered by oak pollen. Rain has washed off some today, I hope, while it's resting at the Park and Ride place.
Main Course: How do you feel about poetry?
Dessert: What was the last person/place/thing you took a picture of?
A ball of yarn. I took more stash photos a few days ago, but have not cataloged them.
Judy, a colleague from my past "career" who usually posts pretty photos of flowers from her coastal New Jersey garden on her blog, linked to this really nice article on Barak Obama today. So, I'm sharing. Read it. It gives you a small bit of optimism in a rather pessimistic time in history (like, aren't they all?)
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
That's because, sigh, I am all worried about money again. My new job pays $1300 less a month in take-home than the scary contract job did. That is a big difference. And the expenses are starting to mount. Plus, child support for Tuba Boy ends after next spring. Not on an upward path, am I. Note that I do realize money doesn't buy happiness or solve all problems, but I still wish things weren't going downhill.
Plus, Gwynnie the corgi has been limping for a while, and not acting perky. Lee took her to the vet today, and there is something amiss with her foot. Like something weird with the bone in her toe. Either it's cancer or whatever fungal mystery thing made her blind has come back and gone after her foot. None of this sounds good. All of it sounds both expensive for me, and painful for the dog. She's been barking very hoarsely, too, and that has me concerned. She may have finally worn her barker out. A thing I have long predicted. Or there could be something wrong there. In any case, I am sad for her. she is all snippy, too. Lee got her antibiotics, in case it is "just" an infection, and some pain meds.
Lee has been so helpful while I am trapped on campus all day. Soon I will have some time off built up so I can go to appointments and stuff, though. I am just feeling concerned. I am always concerned about something, huh.
Beccano liked his first guitar lesson last night, though, and that was a happy thing!