Do you remember where your Grandma worked? Did you ever get to visit her workplace?
To my knowledge, neither of my grandmothers worked outside of the home. It’s entirely possible that one or both of them at some point did work, maybe before I was born, when my parents were still children.
But to me, their only job was being “Grandma”.
One day last week, my daughter and grandson came to visit me at work for a couple of hours.
Fortunately, I work at a very kid-friendly and family-friendly place. My grandson learned the concept of volunteering. He made new friends and picked out a new blanket.
In our food pantry, Beth helped him find a variety of empty boxes to take home to build what he called a “cardboard castle”. He and his mom enjoyed some snacks.
He jumped on the trampoline while chatting with Alicia while she was vacuuming the gym floor. Later, Alicia walked him through the food pantry as if he was a customer as he picked out some food and a new violet (his favorite color) toothbrush on our hygiene rack.
He spent some time in the warehouse with Maureen, sorting through donated clothes and talking about avalanches. She told him that she was happy to make a new friend.
I overheard him as I was on my computer taking care of some admin stuff for the food pantry saying “I love to volunteer!”
It was a good day indeed. That is why I’m sharing it here today. I want to always remember it.
He will turn 8 soon. Due to his time and place in life right now, it’s so beneficial for him to interact with women. Women who are also mothers. Women who work together. Women who show each other respect and work as a team to get the job done.
My heart is full as I write this. I am full of hope for this beautiful, smart, extroverted, and sensitive boy.
Tomorrow I turn 55. I don’t recall freaking out inside about my birthday since the day I turned 31 (for real). But, I accept it. What’s the alternative? There is none.
Shit, I wouldn’t want to turn back the hands of time even if I could.
While “balance” is my word for 2022, “Moving Forward” is my new mantra. Or “Progress, not Perfection”. It’s a toss up.
In that spirit, off I go.
Hubs and I’s empty nesting status has been on hiatus for the last 13 days. We are now a household of 5, for the time being. It’s nothing I want to delve into on this platform at this time. But it’s important for you to know if you’re going to stick around, because my whole world is in the most transitional period since 2014, and because I know that part of my self-care routine (I despise this overused and abused term but am in the flow and choose not to google synonyms right now) is writing these blog posts. Because it’s going to affect everything you read here from this point on to some degree or other.
I’m determined to focus on the present moment. One day at a time. While of course planning for the near future (aka our move back to Wisconsin). Along with simultaneously doing my best to wrap up the Colorado part of my path in the neatest, most colorful bow, with the exception of my talented artist kid Rabbie and Karl the cockeyed cat, who intend to remain here, work-wise and beyond.
One thing I don’t believe I have done a good job of communicating to you about on this blog is that I love numbers. I find meaning in them. I enjoy making mathematical calculations in my head. I notice numbers all the time. It’s kinda weird.
That, among other reasons, is why I’m going to simply share the Top 5 things that are making me happy these days.
Hearing and seeing my almost 8 year old grandson laugh at his own jokes.
Having the support of my employer with reducing my weekly hours.
Listening to books on Audible (Jen Mann’s most recent one simply spoke to me while making me laugh).
Witnessing the bravery of my adult children amidst life’s changes and challenges.
Blogging, and the fact that I feel great enthusiasm about writing on topics I haven’t covered in the almost 5 years since I started this blog. The primary topic I’m feeling now is under the umbrella of “Work”.
This song is dedicated to my kids. I think you might like it too.
I feel all of this, written by Rachel Hackenberg for the United Church of Christ’s daily devotional on 12/28/21:
“If you are eager to throw your 2021 calendar in the trash, and you have all of your incense and candles and rituals prepared to sweep out 2021 and bless 2022, remember that even when the year is new: there is still rage and death and dreadful absence that haunts our collective spirit and needs to be healed.
Make room for the rage.
Welcome it like a weary traveler who can’t find a room in the inn.
Give it space where it can cry and groan.
Light a candle if it labors through the night.
Do not be quick to console it, only keep it company to be sure it doesn’t harm others.
Amplify its voice.
Let it be messy and imperfect”
I appreciate this devotional because 2021 threw me for a loop (especially that last month or so). The events in my personal orbit as well as events in this country and world in 2021 have left me feeling older, feistier, and tired.
I don’t know of a better way of putting it, but I feel messy. I need time to process it all because of the emotional whiplash. I need time to recuperate.
There were happy moments for me, however. Photographic evidence:
A truly inspiring and prolific blogger who I follow, Jenny, of Jenny’s Lark, asked a question on her blog recently. I have been pondering it ever since.
Here is my paraphrased version of it: if there is ONE lesson you learned in 2021 that you can keep for yourself, while all of the other lessons disappear into thin air, what would it be?
A tough, yet interesting question to consider, don’t you think?
I’m going to make a list of the lessons I’ve learned in 2021 right now. I will edit this down to just one however.
I realized in 2021 that my life was out of balance: too much working in all it’s forms and not enough writing and publishing.
And this is exactly why, for me, 2022 is going to be all about one word.
Here’s the song of the year for me. I’m pretty sure you all will appreciate it, going into the new year.
One of my Facebook friends posted about a “genius” idea they learned about: “pooping shoes”.
These are shoes you change into at work prior to using the facilities to, you know, take a dump.
My Facebook friend was in the camp of people who nevereverever poop at work. They find it abhorrent when others do. They have a poop schedule to which they adhere. If their schedule is somehow off and they have no choice but to poop mid-day, they would hop in their car, drive home, do their “doody” and come back to the office.
This Facebook friend of mine also shared that they are grateful that at this point in their career, they work from home. No special shoes needed to poop there.
Yet, if they did still have to work in the office amongst other people, they’d have a special pair of shoes hidden in a drawer…just in case.
Or maybe they’d be like Zahid from the Netflix show “Atypical”.
Thoughts on this?
Who really takes the time to peer under the bathroom stalls and register exactly who is using the shitter? Weirdos, that’s who.
Now, a quick glance just to ascertain if there is someone in the stall, to prevent oneself from attempting to gain entrance-that’s normal.
If one were to change their shoes at their work station, then make the trek to the restroom, wouldn’t there be a decent chance that someone would notice the change in footwear? And furthermore, would there not also be a chance that the one who noticed the new shoes would also need to use the facilities approximately 20 seconds after one has plopped their ass onto the porcelain throne?
Because I’m pretty sure that would happen to me.
I’m just not that smooth. Or that sneaky. I’d change my shoes, then on the way to the toilet, I’d be distracted by a client in need of something or a co-worker with a question. Someone, no doubt, would take notice of my new shoes and perhaps ask why I changed shoes. Shit (ha ha), then I’d have to come up with a believable lie, like “these are more comfortable”. Then I’d have to wear my “pooping shoes” for the rest of the day, hence resulting in a need to find a new pair of “pooping shoes” to bring into work the next day.
It’d become a whole ridiculous fucking thing.
Instead, I’ll continue to be grateful for the fact that I do have a pretty consistent “poop schedule” (every morning after my first cup of coffee, in case you wondered). And if I simply must poop at work, I will flush first; right at the moment I am certain that those unholy sounds are about to start coming out of my tushy. Then, if someone else enters the stall next to me, I will finish up, wait it out until the coast is clear and then disembark from the toilet seat.
And if someone else is pooping when I’m peeing in the stall next to them, I will speed things up, wash my hands according to the instructional sign hanging by the mirror, and make a quick exit to give that person some space and some respect.
Because the fact of the matter, is we all poop. That is what toilets are for. Even the ones at work.
You might recall in this post that my definition of a “Gem” is a highly prized and well beloved female human who has, in no particular order, inspired me, loved me, liked me, taught me, cried with me, laughed with me, challenged me, accepted me, shared with me, and cared with me.
In my adult work life, which spans from around 1987 to the current, I’ve been fortunate to know several “Gems”.
Sam was the first great friend I made in a work setting: I didn’t know her name at the time; I only knew that she had been there longer than me and carried herself with confidence. She waltzed over to me as I was sitting at my desk and asked if I had any lipstick on me. She was heading to a meeting and wanted to look her best. I was able to provide the requested lipstick and she thanked me.
She remains one of my very best friends.
Sam and two other “Gems” shared an over-sized office with me for about 5 years. All of these gals were younger than me by 8-10 years. Looking back, I think their youthful ambition and passion for the work we were doing (case managers serving intellectually and physically disabled adults) was great motivation for me. We were a fabulous team, the four of us, ready to cover for each other when needed and brainstorming for solutions to challenges we faced with our participants or fellow co-workers.
We still connect via Facebook and once in a while in person (despite living in three different states).
Another “Gem” at work was a nurse whose cubicle was near enough to mine that she could overhear my phone conversations with my members. One time I had a particularly challenging phone call where the client was yelling and using all kinds of cuss words to express his displeasure at whatever I said “no” to funding for him. Later that day, this nurse slipped me a note with a smiley face on it and wrote “You are a Saint” on it.
That same nurse, months later, called me out when she overheard me with yet another challenging client. She asked me to come over to her cube where she directly and gently told me that she could hear the frustration in my voice during that call. She suggested going forward I ought to be mindful of how I was coming across on the phone. While embarrassed, I took that suggestion to heart. From then on, I paid more attention to my tone when on phone calls with people who were jumping on my last nerve.
So in the end, I appreciated her constructive criticism. Sometimes you have to hear hard things about yourself and let that fuel you to be better.
A more recent “Gem” at work for me was the gal who drove me to pick up food for the food bank I was running. On those trips, we talked about our life ambitions and sometimes shared our favorite songs. One time, we returned to my food bank to find the large sheet cake we had placed on the tippy-top of the food pyramid had flipped over, landing frosting side first onto the floor of the truck. We couldn’t bear to let the entire cake go to waste, so we laughed our heads off while scarfing down the unsoiled part of the cake with our bare hands.
My hope is that you all have enjoyed the blessings of some “Gems” at work during the course of your life. I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
You may think I’m delusional, but there are silver linings in this pandemic situation, don’t you think? I imagine if we all gave it some thought (now that we have more time to think) we could all come up with some.
And I propose that we should all do it now, before the novelty of our new normal starts to fade. Because if we’re being honest, it will.
So I am going to strike while the iron is hot and go first:
Getting to know my co-workers better. Because we serve low income seniors, many with underlying health conditions, we have to band together to meet their needs in new and different ways. We are finding ourselves problem solving together on a moment to moment basis it seems. Like drive up service, which we started doing last Friday.
We are all learning to be more hygienic, washing our hands for longer, and more thoroughly. Did you see the video clip of Gloria Gaynor singing the 20 second chorus to her hit “I Will Survive”? Wouldn’t it be fun (and smart) to take that to the next level and find other 20 second choruses to belt out while hand washing?
Like this guy did:
We have more time to get stuff done around the house. The small projects, like cleaning the refrigerator and a bit of re-decorating, organizing file cabinets. Which can all be done at a leisurely pace, because we have the gift of more time.
We have more time for reading and expanding our knowledge base. That’s always a good thing, right people?
The leaders are emerging, which gives me hope. Not tRump of course, but others. Governor Cuomo comes to mind.
We all get to catch up on those favorite shows we have dvr’d and not yet had the time for. Mine include This is Us, Bless this Mess, and Shameless. What might you all have in the DVR hopper?
We get to enjoy live virtual performances from our favorite performers in their homes. Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.
We get to sleep in more. Huge bonus in my opinion!
More time to relax (read:cuddle)with our funny, furry companions.
I know there’s more I’m not coming up with. But I’ve got time to figure it out. As we all do at the moment.
At the tail end of 2019, I submitted in this post that 2020 ought to be my year of “Clarity”. I won’t presume that any of you fabulous readers will hold me accountable for this declaration, so I will do the deed myself.
I’ve gained much clarity in my work life in this new year. The dynamics are changing (new boss) and the expectations my employer has for me in the coming year have been clarified. I’m feeling enthusiastic about the new changes to come and the support that I’m experiencing.
I’m also feeling more clarity in terms of what I am paying attention to. As well as what I’m not giving my attention to. For instance, I’ve decided that for Lent, I’m giving up on stalking a certain state’s court website for updates on the legal status of a person who has wreaked havoc on the lives of my family (for the last 6 years, give or take), specifically it’s most beloved members. I’ve come to realize that this stalking I’ve been doing is draining my mental and emotional energy. Not to mention it’s completely pointless. What happens, happens. Checking it obsessively is not going to impact the outcome.
A musical “epiphany” I had recently drives this realization home for me. It’s from the momentous song we all know by heart: “Let it Be” by the Beatles. The line after “Let it be” is “there will be an answer”. And all this time I’ve been focusing on the “let it be” part. I have faith that there will be an answer, not only in this wretched aspect of my family’s life, but in all things. It’s about faith; letting go and trusting the answer will come.
My 2020 soundtrack is providing me with clarity in how I approach things these days. “Listen as your day unfolds”. That is a great line; the first in “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree. I see it as a directive for me to pay attention to my environment in the day to day. To pay attention to the people I encounter. The feelings I’m feeling, both emotional and physical. The media I consume.
Clarity with what my writing process is happening as well. I’m honing in on what works and what doesn’t. A prime example is that, per David Sedaris’ suggestion, I’m jotting down my daily observations. I find it to be a sort of therapy in that after I’ve done it, I feel refreshed. It’s helping me sort out what it is exactly that I have to say and how I want to say it.
Before I sign off here, I have a question for you all: What are you clear about in your writing and/or personal life? Right here and right now-in the current?
For context, I penned this post on Monday morning.
To my surprise, today is a snow day. Meaning that instead of organizing my little food bank, answering phone calls and emails, and serving my senior clients, I am at home.
I don’t know what to make of this. I’m uncomfortable. I feel guilty, like someone who called in sick to work who wasn’t actually sick but really just wanted a day off to, I don’t know, binge-watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, or bake a cheesecake, or shop online for things they don’t need.
True confession: I have never called in sick when I wasn’t actually, truly, sick. Because guilt has been instilled in my soul since childhood. Because I know that if I did call in sick to work when I was in perfect health, that yucky, uneasy, unpleasant feeling of guilt would creep in and render me physically ill for real.
And I am a bonafide terrible liar. Here’s a recent example: I was at a work orientation with 4 new employees and 4 others (management/human resources/training folk). It was time for an ice breaker: “Two Truths and a Lie”. Of course, my neurotic brain is doing somersaults whilst the others are sharing their responses, so fortheloveofgod don’t ask me what any of them said. When it came to be my turn, I spouted out three things: I am a grandmother. I worked as a social worker for several years in Wisconsin. I was born and raised in Minnesota. Ha! The relief I felt after the words were spewn out of my mouth was glorious!
Then came the responses from my new colleagues: Well, you can’t possibly be a grandmother! I can tell from your accent that you are probably from Minnesota. Or maybe Wisconsin? You probably were a social worker.
Then it dawned on me: Every single thing I said was the actual freaking truth. Not one single lie. Uh-oh! Guess I didn’t understand the instructions? Nope, that wasn’t the case. I then had to admit two things to these people: 1) That I was so nervous trying to quickly come up with my responses that I forgot one was supposed to be a lie and 2) I apparently cannot tell a lie.
Hubs has been known to tell me that my work ethic is, essentially, unreasonable. He figured this out years ago, when I was pregnant with our first bundle of joy and the only spouse working full time (he was still a college student), and I insisted that despite the blizzard outside I. Was. Going. To. Work. Hubs reluctantly obliged and drove me in, but nearly got in an accident on the way due to the nasty road conditions.
It’s not like I didn’t try going to work today. The tires on our Honda CRV are not in good shape. They didn’t perform well on the snow packed roadways when Hubs was just trying to get me a few blocks away to meet my Uber driver (let’s just say there’s a very good chance that I will opt for Uber X going forward as opposed to Uber Pool), who didn’t show up (though understandable, given the road conditions).
I may go into work later, depending on if/when the snow stops and if/when the roads improve.
So in the meantime, what to do? Obviously, I’ve chosen to write. Perhaps if I get lost in this, my favorite all time activity, the guilt will subside and then I’ll have a fresh new post to publish come Wednesday morning.
At least then I can feel like I accomplished something today. That I used my time wisely.
In other news, things are really quite swell in my life at this moment. I’m doing my best to savor it. Hubs is no longer furloughed (he’s upstairs working in our home office as I type this on the new Chromebook he got me for my birthday-more on that later), thanks to Speaker Pelosi.
Spawn #1’s life is going better for her these days. She’s joined a church, is making new friends, and her first husband is currently MIA. Little guy is doing well in Pre-K and soon I will have the pleasure of reading “Wonky Donky” to him via video-chat (bought it online, shipped it to him and then copied the story down for myself in a notebook).
Spawn #2 is busying themselves in Indianapolis creating wearable art to sell online. And enjoying the single life amongst other creatives in the big city.
Later this week I will turn 52. I plan on celebrating with Hubs by going out to dinner, eating birthday cake guilt free (guilt is not invited to my party), drinking tasty adult beverages, and playing trivia (which I have been wanting to do since like forever) at a favorite local brew pub.
Over the weekend, Hubs and I will be flying out to Kansas City to visit our friends (AKA, Couple #1) and their kiddos. We got a sweet deal on airfare and figured we would massively enjoy the Super Bowl festivities with them. And word is, we’ll be attending a Roller Derby event (game, match, duel? not sure which noun to go with here), so I’m likely to acquire some blogging fodder while there.
Let me leave you with this, which for years now I believed was the #1 song on the day I was born (turns out the #1 song on that cold day in 1967 was the Monkee’s “I’m a Believer”) because well…I’m happy (with a little guilt mixed in for good measure of course)! This version is done by one of my favorite current bands, Weezer- who, I just so happened to recently learn, came out with a new album of covers-and ohmygoshimsoexcited-I just checked YouTube and found out this was one of them!
I write this post out of sheer frustration as an employee of a food bank.
My primary motivator, however, is to encourage the hell out of you to continue donating to your local food banks.
I know that folks who donate food to their local food banks have the very best of intentions. They recognize that they personally are fortunate to have enough food to eat each day. And they have authentic compassion for those who do not.
Like the blond and upbeat super couponer sisters who come into our food bank on a weekly basis with bags upon bags of food, paper products, and personal care products. Like the young mom with the darling toddler who brought in a large box of high quality food she found in the cupboards of her grandmother’s house after she passed. Like the kind folks who have brought in fresh produce straight from their home gardens to share with the low income senior citizens we serve.
Some food donors are missing the boat when it comes to sharing their bounty with the poor and hungry in their communities.
Like the dude who came in a couple of weeks ago with three large, and very heavymind you, boxes, of non-perishables.
As the operator of our small food bank, it was of course my job to go through each of these boxes, organize the items, and find places for them on our shelves. No big deal. Typically, this is a joyful task for me. I get to do it usually a few times each week. It’s kind of like Christmas, because I don’t have a bloody clue what goodies are going to be found inside. The only real difference is that the goodies are not for me.
Unfortunately, in this particular circumstance, only approximately 10% of the items in the three very large and heavy boxes (oh, geez, did I already mention that?) were, in my view, fit for human consumption.
Let’s see…what did I find in these boxes? I know your curiosity must be at least a tad bit piqued by now, right? There was an opened bag of goldfish crackers which expired in 2014. There were several cans of baked beans which expired in 2015. There were multiple containers of frosting with expiration dates in 2013 (I looked at the semi-see- through bottom of them and almost hurled). Then there was a half used up box of chicken broth that had expired in 2016. The “youngest” food items expired in 2017, and disappointingly, there were just but a few of them.
Now, I fully comprehend that many non-perishable food items are technically safe for human consumption anywhere from 3-5 years past their expiration dates (I check the Eat by Date website regularly). However, I also know from experience that the seniors who come in to our food bank usually take a second or two to check expiration dates, and more often than not, they will choose the items that have not reached their expiration dates quite yet over those items that have. And really, I have too much respect for the palates of our senior clients to put food items that are a year or more past their expiration date on our shelves.
Thankfully, the dude who brought in all of that worthless, inedible food is the exception and not the rule.
I couldn’t help but ponder, as I was going through these boxes full of food, the amount of time and physical effort undertaken, not just by me, but by him as well, to lug all this food into our food bank. What a colossal waste of time and effort, right?! That day was most certainly the most frustrating day I’ve had at this job of mine.
So, here’s the deal: please keep being your wonderful selves through donating your food items (and don’t forget the toiletries which, btw, food stamps do not cover) to your local food banks. Just choose to have some respect for your hungry beneficiaries and take a half second to actually check the expiration dates on everything as you are packing it up. Make a choice to eat (potentially at your own risk, depending on the item) or discard those items that have long ago expired. Donate those items that have not yet been opened too. Use common sense. Ask yourself if you would want your elderly aunt to consume those crackers that expired in 2015. If the answer is no, then don’t waste your valuable time and effort and the valuable time and effort of your friendly food bank employee or volunteer by donating it. Eat it or chuck it!
Anyone who has the impulse to say to me “beggars can’t be choosers” can stick it. That really is a phrase that ought to be outlawed. The dear folks that come into food banks do not deserve to be called beggars. They have not chosen to be poor. They would much rather not have to come into a food bank. It’s demoralizing. Many of them are subsisting (or trying their damn best to) on less than $1500 a month from Social Security or SSDI. Often, their rent or mortgage payments are 50% or more than what they get each month. Doesn’t leave much for food, does it? They deserve good quality, not-yet-expired food to eat. Just like the rest of us.
I’ve been at my new job for almost three weeks now. It feels so good to be able to type that sentence. I am so very grateful.
I’d like to take a moment to share the perks, some unexpected and some not, of being gainfully employed after a year and four months of being unemployed.
My job is part time, at 25 hours per week. I was always secretly envious of those girlfriends I had back in Wisconsin that worked part time. They seemed to be more relaxed as they had more free time in their lives to pursue other interests, like travel, hosting parties, and book clubs. Meanwhile, for the better part of 20 years, I was working full-time. And still hosting parties and partaking in some travel. I never was able to make time to belong to a book club. But now, thanks to my sweet part time hours, I probably could if I wanted to. “Doing it all” was, well, exhausting. With my new part time gig, it’s much easier , not to mention more enjoyable because I am not exhausted, to plan and participate in these extra-curriculars.
I have absolutely no intention of ever working full time again in my life.
Hubs and I share our one vehicle. I very much appreciate the odd day when he’s chosen to work from home and I have the car all to myself. However, riding the bus or taking Uber to/from work has turned out to not be such a big deal. These modes of transportation involve a little bit of planning, hence, a bit of extra time; but it sure beats having two car payments, two cars to insure, and two cars to maintain. No need whatsoever to purchase a second vehicle, in my mind.
I am using my knowledge and experience from my former career as a social worker in my day to day work now. I really dig not feeling being responsible for almost every aspect of my clients’ lives-from finding them a new place to live because they (and in one case their dog as well) were evicted, to trying to convince a chronic alcoholic that sobriety was the way to go. In my new position, I help them through the food pantry, respond to calls for handyman referrals, and loan out medical equipment. It’s uncomplicated, straightforward, helping senior citizens and sending them on their way.
I’ve always enjoyed fashion. I have a pretty decent collection of pieces, many of which are mix and match, to wear for work. Only I wasn’t wearing any of them for one year and four months. I didn’t realize how much I missed this simple thing until I started working again. I’m having some real “girly girl” moments these days as I peruse my wardrobe, picking out new combinations of outfits to sport at the office. And I’m so grateful that I didn’t gain a bunch of weight during my “Gap Year” so everything still fits!
During my “Gap Year” (and four months), I found myself often recalling the enjoyable conversations I had with my co-workers at my social work job in Wisconsin. I found myself often missing the little things, like my next door cube mate singing along with her Ipod while she was doing paperwork. And the co-worker who occasionally would bring in delicious homemade cupcakes to share. And just chatting with my nearby cube mates about our caseloads or even what we did last weekend. Now I have that camaraderie back, just with different people. And lucky me, they are a very kind, sociable, and for the most part, cheery bunch of folks.
Lastly, and perhaps oddly, I love the feeling when I get home at the end of my no more than six hour work day and I can get on my favorite comfy clothes, grab a glass of wine or a bottle of beer and sink into the couch with Hubs. I feel relaxed, good about myself, and deserving of the coziness of home.