Monday, June 1, 2015

All the New Things

So, I've made it through my first month in my new job and I haven't had a nervous breakdown yet. This past week was the year's biggest event for the organization, so I feel like I've sort of survived something significant. Doing such a huge event just a month into my tenure there was a baptism by fire, but I lived through it.

Yesterday, I told my dad that even my worst day at my new job is less stressful than an average day at my old job and that's true. For one thing, there isn nothing in this new job that is insurmountable and that's a huge change. For another, I feel like I have more trust and respect in a few weeks than I had after seven years at my previous engagement.

In other news, Maren graduated Montessori. I cried, although not as much as I thought I would. I am terribly sad that she's growing up so fast, sad that she's leaving such a wonderful school and sad that my last baby has moved on. But, this time around, I'm a little more ready.

I don't know why, but Maren seems so much more ready than Brynna was at this point. Maybe it's because I watched Brynna walk into elementary school and fly. Maybe it's because Maren seems to just bounce through whatever you put in front of her. Maybe it's because she's already excited to start next year. For whatever reason, though, I am mo
re excited to watch her conquer her next adventure than sad to see her complete her last.

Finally, Brynna is about to graduate fifth grade. That's right, I am two days away from being the mother of a middle schooler. I'm sure I'm going to cry at this graduation. I'll report back. she's so smart and so strong and so ready for the next thing. But she lacks her sister's ridiculous self-confidence. She's not sure she's ready, but I am. And I am excited to see what hell she brings to middle school.

She's also playing softball. You guys know, Brynna has had a spotty relationship with sports, but I think this time, we've maybe found her love. She's not good yet, but she's grown so much through this season that I can't wait to  see what happens next. I love to watch her play, to watch her concentrate and think and move. She's becoming someone different in a million small ways and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Every time she plays, though, I think about how much I wish my grandpa could watch her play. He loved sports and he loved to watch his family play. I said something to Brynna about it one day, aout how much he would have loved to watch her play and she very quickly replied, "He is. He always watches me." And, I suppose he does.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mama

Hey, all, it's May 19th. It boggles my mind every year that this is not yet considered a national holiday. Not because it's the birthday of my best friend from elementary school or my most persistent college crush, or even my aunt. Today is the anniversary of the birth of the world's most awesome woman - my mom.

Here are a few things you should know about my mom. You know, for when she finally takes over the world, and you are forced to celebrate her birth with those of us who are early converts.

  • She takes care of everyone  - Honestly, she'd be a pretty benevolent overlord because she is always looking out for everyone else. She worries and stresses and fights and gives to make sure that everyone around her is always okay. 
  • She is wicked strong - No matter how dire my world has felt, Mom has put it into perspective with just a few words. She has weathered a lot, especially in the last couple of years and she is still a brilliant light, not dimmed by adversity. She is a rock and we are lucky to have her to hold onto.
  • She's beautiful - Like many a lady, she doesn't see it in herself, but she is gorgeous, especially when she's laughing. She lights up a room and commands attention. And I'm not just saying that because everyone says we look alike.
  • She is a great mom - I haven't always been just what she hoped for, I know that. I am weird and a little crazy and we don't always speak the same language. I've made choices she questioned and choices she right out hated. But she has always been there, she has always loved me and she has always supported me. We may not always agree, but I know that she's always there, even when we are actively disagreeing, she's still on my side in the bigger picture.
  • She's mine - you can't have her. Look, I know how great she is, but she can't only take care of so many kids. Between me and my brother and my future sister in law and my kids, she's got her hands full. Maybe when one of us grows up. If that ever happens.
I love you, Mom. You are my raft in the ocean, my parachute in a crashing plane, my net on the tightrope. I can only do great things because I know you've got my back.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five Things - Owl Door Headdesk Edition

I started a new job this week. And I am thrilled about it and excited to be here and I think it's going to be really great and I am also totally and completely DONE. I am exhausted and overwhelmed and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and completely change careers. I am looking for something with no real responsibility, no overtime hours, no commute, no stress and a big, fat, paycheck, preferably of the every two weeks variety. I haven't had one of those puppies in years.

Any ideas?

That's what I thought.

Anyway, I am much, much too some word I can't think of to be coherent or to put together a list that makes sense, so here's just

Five Things (Not Related)

  1. I'm going to redecorate the living room again. I've been doing various stages of this since it became my living room and there was no other adult voice to tell me that my metal owls and constantly moving tables were stupid. I've painted and rearranged and taken everything off the walls and put new stuff on the walls and made art and generally taken over the living room. But it still doesn't really look like it should be my  living room, because I've been stuck with this plaid furniture that I loved five or six years ago when I bought it on a whim. Don't buy sofas on a whim, even if they are super cheap and still wrapped in plastic and at the ReStore and you are terrified that if you leave they'll be sold before you can come back.  You know, honestly, I don't regret the purchase, but I'm glad that they are retiring. Anyway, I have new couches coming, they are green, but they are plain green and they are deep and the sofa is really long and I can sleep on them when I can't sleep in my bed and I am so happy. So, prepare for new colors. The soft, outdoorsy mossy green is going to fit in perfectly with what's already there, but this is the beginning. I am going to have color, people! Color.
  2. Usually September is my month from hell. There are no free weekends in the entire month and then it's October and there are so many fun, Halloweeny things to do, but this year... This year, April is kicking my ass. I went on vacation (which was awesome, but tiring) and then it was Easter and then Brynna got baptized and then I was quitting my job and then I went to Girl Scout Camp and then I started a new job and this weekend, there are 26 things to do. It's so bad that last night, the Ex was like, "Hey, this weekend looks rough, do you need me?" Which is awesome, but then I am a stubborn, overly independent thing who totally said "What? No, I'm just blowing off about half of it." Which is true, I am, but it's going to be crazy. I'm just holding out until next weekend, when the kids are gone and the house will be quiet. In between softball games at least.
  3. My baby brother is getting married. He's been engaged for a few months, but the other night, they finally set the date and I am so excited. I tried to talk them into getting married on my divorciversary, but they seemed to think that would be bad luck or something. :)
  4. There's a comic book store within walking distance of my new office. Goodbye pocket money.
  5. There is no five. It's like the cake. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More About Last Week

So, in other news, I quit my job last week.

Well, kinda. I gave my notice last week, while on vacation, which felt super skeezey, but was just the best I could do. I'm here for this week and next and then I move on. So, some thoughts on this whole thing:

Over the past year or two, I have periodically referred to stress at work or being upset about work or so forth and so on. I have not exactly liked my job very much during that time. It's been every kind of anxiety you can possibly imagine.

It's a good job and for the most part, I have worked with amazing people. From time to time those people, being real life human beings have acted in ways that aren't stellar, but for the most part, they have been great. I like the organization. I like many, many things about my job.

But, this is, to some degree at least, the nonprofit life. We are dependent on gifts. Gifts are dependent on the overall financial health of the nation. That hasn't been great.

We also operate on a pretty thin margin. This varies by organization and many have a nice year or two worth of funds put back for cushion, but in my experience, most don't. Most are a matter months away from not making payroll. Nonprofits are the working class of businesses, Always a couple of paydays away from homeless.

And, our biggest expense is our people. Which means, that when funds are low, you can cut programs, which you don't want to do because programs are why you are there, or you can cut people or benefits.

In the past eighteen months, our staff has reduced by 66%. Our benefits have decreased. Our workload has increased. And our stress level has gone insane.

This is not the fault of my boss or my board or the organization. This is the nature of the nonprofit beast. This is the world I make a profession in. And it sucks.

I haven't written about any of this because, you know, job. And I'm being as vague as I can be, because you know, bridges. But what I can tell you is that the last couple of years have wreaked havoc on my health, both emotional and physical. I get way more headaches than I used to, my depression has reached exciting new heights and panic attacks. Panic attacks suck.

And, still. I have mixed feelings about leaving.

I'm excited about my new opportunity. But I am sad to leave. I've been here 7 years. This job is older than one of my kids. I've been through 3 cars in this job. (Which sounds bad actually, but it was kind of the tail end of one and then the van from hell... eh, I'm not explaining myself.) This, in many ways is home. I know this place like I know my house and I will miss it. I will miss my people and my office and my job.

But, with any luck, I won't miss the sleepless nights or the constant upset stomach or the nagging headaches. Hopefully, this is going to equal a healthier, happier me.

Nonprofit is a passion. People don't do it for the money or the benefits or the job security, because those things are not all that great in nonprofit. We do it, because at the end of the day we want to feel like someone, somewhere is living a better life because of something we did. We do it because we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

But it is a hard life. Not like logger hard or ice road trucker hard or crab fisherman hard. But hard. Chances are you know someone who works in nonprofit. We are a pretty big chunk of the economy. Give 'em a hug.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Week in the Life - Weird Things are Worth It

Last week was a busy, crazy, amazing and wonderful week. This week, I'm going to talk about it. At length. Pull up a chair. 

So, the big thing last week was that I went on vacation. I took my sweet children and we hightailed it down to the beach in Alabama. I'd like to gush on and on about how much I now love the beach in Alabama and how, except for Disney of course, Florida is now dead to me. But I'm not going to, at least not today.

Today, I'm going to talk about my company at the beach. I was invited, rather sweetly, to sally forth on this adventure by my ex-husband's girlfriend. Her family was going to go live the beach house life and would like to know if me and my girls would like to come along.

I'll be honest, ya'll, I was not immediately sure if the answer was yes. So much awkwardness could have happened. So much discomfort. But, I love my girls and they love their sorta stepmama and all the assorted cousins and aunts and uncles that come along with that. And I really like that stepmama, I mean, like really like her. So, I figured it wouldn't be torture and after asking a few hundred times if she was really sure she was good with this, I packed my bags.

And it. was. wonderful.

We had a blast. We talked and talked and talked and talked. We talked til 2 a.m. a couple of times. We shopped and ate and swam and yelled at the kids simultaneously. We went out to dinner and took the kids bowling and laid on the beach. We drank and teased the kids and each other.

And I am so glad I did it.

About a million years ago, my ex and I were not yet exes. We weren't even considering being exes, but we were watching someone we knew fighting over their kids and refusing to cooperate and we looked at each other and vowed that would never be us.

I'm sure every ex-couple fighting and complaining and insisting on separate parent-teacher conferences probably said the same thing, though. It gets complicated. You get hurt and you get beaten down and you just want to remove yourself from all the toxins. I get that. There are lines, things that I just won't do. But those things are not things that my affect my kids.

We happily attend family night at the book fairs together and save each other seats at concerts and ballgames. We invite each other to dinners and we shop for supplies together. We compare Christmas lists and birthday party plans. We all sat in two pews (because there were too many of us, not because we were purposely separated) on Sunday morning and watched Brynna get baptized.

And yeah, sometimes it's weird. Sometimes I have to talk to someone who hurt me when I am feeling vulnerable. And sometimes, I wonder why the hell he fixed her mailbox and mailbox was broken for four years. And sometimes, embarrassingly, I call out a thoughtless "Love you," when I'm trying to get the girls get in the car or get off the phone or whatever it is I need them to do.

But, let me tell you something. What started out as "be nice or die trying," slowly turned into the three of us laughing on her front porch on warm summer nights while the kids played in the yard. It turned into sharing stories and pictures and being flexible about weekends and crazy schedules. It turned into a lot of "whatevers" about stuff that could cause fights and "totally fines" about things that might not have always been totally fine.

It turned into friends.

Maybe that's weird, but I've always had a weird family. Now it's just a little weirder. And a lot bigger.

*Okay, so after I wrote all this, I started thinking about it from an outsider's perspective and I have disclaimers. THIS WILL NOT WORK FOR EVERYONE. Sometimes, the only safe thing to do is to build distance. Sometimes the best you can manage is business-like. This is in no way me saying "this is how you should do it." You - do you. Make that family work however you can make that family work. This is just me being slightly amazed and very, very thankful.