Realistic, Attainable Goals

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Yesterday morning, Emily and I were sitting in the living room messing around on our new laptops.  (YAY!)  She and I spent most of the day lounging around.  I have been plagued this past week with a recurring (and I believe stress-related) backache.  Emily was more than happy to spend a lazy Saturday keeping me company.  From time to time, our conversation broke the silence of our fingers clicking on the keyboards. Continue Reading »

Sometimes People Suck

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Anyone out there who thinks that government employees are overpaid, lazy people who can’t get a job in the private sector, think again.  Most of us have been employed in the private sector at one time or another.  Many of us will return to the private sector again at some point in the future.  That’s where I’ll be once again when I can no longer take the stress of being a government employee.  While I can only speak for myself, I am in this job, because I want to make a difference.  I believe in what I do, and that means something to me.  I’ve been in jobs before where I was nothing but a corporate drone.  Now I’m in the trenches, and most of the time I like that.  Although, all too often the people I am fighting for perceive me as an enemy or “one of the bad guys.” Continue Reading »

At The End of a Long, Long Day

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I had some bad news today.  My laptop is dead.  That’s it.  They said that it can’t be fixed.  Time to get a new one.  So for now, I am still delegated to this computer with the sticky keyboard located in a room off of the kitchen.  My blogging is going to suffer! Continue Reading »

Ah…

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Thankfully, I have been able to string together a few days at work that have been rewarding, productive, and enjoyable.  Although I didn’t get home to stay for the night until after 10:30,  I did sneak out for a few hours late this afternoon to spend some time with the family.  The next few days are going to be full, and I am trying to take it in stride.  It is what it is, and all I can do is hold on tight and make the most of it.  We are in the midst of our summer season at work, and that means we are hosting ten concerts throughout the summer.  So far, the weather has been wonderful.  The volunteers have been happy, and the concert-goers have had a good time.  It’s our fifth season with the summer concerts, and although it takes  time and means extra work, we have gotten things down to a science. Continue Reading »

Crazy Stress

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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  I have missed writing, but I haven’t had time or energy.  The worst part was the fact that I have not allowed myself to write.  I have had nothing decent to say.  I have once again been mired down in frustration, stress, and depression.  Work has been a political, back-stabbing fest.  People I had once considered friends seem to be going out of their way to trip me up and make my life a bit uncomfortable.  Decency and kindness have been in short supply.  The past couple of weeks have been topsy turvy and confusing.  Mostly, it has seemed as if FRUSTRATION has been around every corner. Continue Reading »

Need a Refill

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I don’t even know what to write about.  All I know is that it helps me to write.

I’m traveling again, and I am lonely.  This is a trip that I’ve taken too many times.  I am at the state capitol for a legislative forum.  While I know that this is important, I also know that I have more important things going on locally.  More immediate issues require my attention.  I have brought staff along with me on this trip so that I can hole up in my hotel room and work from my laptop.  I wish that I could have stayed home, but the bureaucracy I am part of requires that I attend this forum. I tried my best to delay my appearance for an additional day, but that same bureaucracy won’t allow my staff members to drive an official car.  I could have asked them to take one of their personal vehicles, but I just couldn’t.  Even though they would have been reimbursed, it didn’t feel right to ask.  So I drove the official car.   It feels like I am their mother chauffeuring them on a field trip.  They are excited, and I’m happy to see that at least. Continue Reading »

A Cold Hell

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If Hell is a hot place, then sign me up.  The past couple of weeks have been miserable on so many levels.  Hell, right here on Earth.  Underlying all of it has been COLD.  I haven’t been able to warm up.  I have been taking hot baths and drinking tons of coffee.  I’ve made pot after pot of hot, nourishing soup.  I dress in layers and huddle under blankets when I am home.  Nothing I do seems to warm me up completely.

Mom is still hanging in there.  She is failing, but it is a slow process.  We have begun hospice care, and she seems to love the extra attention.  She isn’t in any pain.  Something hovers around the corners of the room, though, and it chills me.  She is often confused, and she has lost her hearing.  Visits are brief and quiet.  I spend more time talking on the phone talking to the legion of healthcare providers than I do to my mother at this point.  Of course, life does not stop while we wait for death.  Four kids, work, my own physical needs, all of these things keep inserting themselves into the mix.

Last weekend T and I took Luke and his girlfriend back to school in Milwaukee.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t commit to going along until practically the last moment.  Mom was stable, and T insisted that I come along.  Luke wanted to show us the house where he would be moving at the end of the semester.  He had been looking forward to the four of us hanging out together on his turf.  It meant a lot to our son.  I knew that, so I went along.

I had been doing a pretty good job of concealing (denying!) the fact that I was sick.  I had too many things that needed my attention.  My mom was dying, for God sakes!  What did I have to complain about?  I pushed through it and collapsed at the end of each day.  The trip to Milwaukee took things over the top.

It was bitterly cold when we left that morning.  I got chilled and couldn’t seem to shake it.  (uh….a fever tends to do that!)  We moved the kids back into their dorms, T and I checked into our hotel, and we all headed out for dinner.  By the time we finally settled back into our room, I was shaking with cold.  I took a hot bath, but I still shivered.  By the time I crawled into the bed, T was concerned.  He wrapped me in his arms and held me close to warm me up.  Eventually, I stopped shivering, but my sleep was fitful.

The next morning, hours from home, I was still freezing.  I tried to ignore it.  I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and make the drive back home and to the hospital to check on my mom.  I jumped into the shower, and I don’t really know what happened.  Suddenly T was there.  I had passed out.  My first thoughts were disappointment in myself.  How could I be sick?  I had too many things to do!  I had too many people depending on me.  I couldn’t be sick now.  Not now.

I saw the doctor on Sunday when we returned.  Of course I didn’t listen to his advice.  Take it easy?  Uh huh.  No.  My mother was dying.  I couldn’t take it easy right now.  I was planning a meeting later in the week in Chicago, an important meeting.  Very.  “Taking it easy” was not possible at this time.  Thanks anyway.

I visited my mom, unpacked, did laundry, ironed, and went to work on Monday.  By Tuesday, I wasn’t even able to get out of bed.  I tried.  Believe me, I tried.  At 6:30 a.m., I dragged myself into the bathroom to get ready for work.  I sat in the chair by the counter and laid my head down for a moment.  I thought it would be a moment, but I fell asleep in the bathroom before I was even able to begin getting ready for work.  That was it.  I was toast.  I had to admit it.  I was sick.  I spent the day sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping some more.

I was back at work the next day.  By now, everyone was looking at me like I scared them.  I must look like hell!  “Why are you here?  Go home!”  I couldn’t.  I had meetings all day in preparation for the trip to Chicago on Thursday.  I had to meet with the hospice staff in my mom’s room later that afternoon.  I had too many things going on and too many people depending on me to go home and be sick.  I pushed through.  I kept going.

On Thursday, I huddled in my seat on the train to Chicago.  I froze the entire time, wearing my layers of clothes, wrapped in my scarf and coat.  At the hotel, I begged for some coffee from the front desk.  A kind woman brought coffee and cream to my room.  I sat on the heating unit, looked out the window, and drank my coffee while I warmed my feet.  I looked down at the people below.  Everyone was scurrying to get where they were going.  The wind was biting and bitter.  I could feel it sweeping into the cracks around the window far above the people I was watching.   I had hoped to see my son while I was in Chicago, but he had been given tickets to a concert.  I told him to go.  I insisted on it, and then I sat in my room crying because I was so cold…and now alone, too.  I had come to the city hours earlier than the others so I could see Andrew.   Now I had four hours to sit there freezing and alone until I met them for dinner.  Once again, I hated Chicago.  The city felt impersonal and uncaring.  I was just a speck, a cold, lonely speck.  Pathetic.  I really, really hate feeling sorry for myself, but I was doing a stellar job of it!

The dinner was work.  Schmoozing is work.  I had to be ON.  We all had to be ON.  It was OK, though.  The whole dance of egos was interesting to observe.  I soaked it all in.  The parrying and the posturing amused me.  Several people attending the dinner had obviously spent a good deal of time in the bar before they arrived, so things were interesting from the word go.  Once again, I was glad that this is my job, but not my LIFE.  While some people live and breathe this kind of thing, I have my secret.  In my heart, I am a country girl.  At the end of all of this, I will be smack dab in the middle of a cornfield, safe and sound, with my ego checked at the door.  The reality of my life, mom, wife, daughter, hillbilly at heart, keeps me grounded.  I was amused as I watched the dance of self-importance at the table.

I was up at 5:30 this morning to get ready for the meeting.  I was excited and the adrenaline was flowing.  This was it!  This was an important step in a development project that I have been a part of for several years.  The results of this project will have a significant and lasting impact on the entire region.  I was/am thrilled to be able to be a part of this process.  The Willis Tower (forever the Sears Tower to me) is where we held the meeting.  As I stood in the lobby, I remembered a time years ago, when Luke was 3 years old.  He had broken his leg months earlier, and the treat that kept him going was knowing that once his cast was off, we would take him to the Sears Tower.  That day, years ago,  had been a victory for him.  Now, years later, I was humbled once again.  As I stood in the lobby, mentally preparing to make my presentation, I took a deep breath.  The Sears Tower!  I was giving a presentation in the SEARS TOWER today!  Well, look at this little country girl!  I squeezed my eyes shut and soaked in the thrill of that moment.  People strode purposefully past me.  Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go.  Everyone seemed confident.  I was a part of that!  REALLY??  Me???  Yet again, I felt amazed by the journey of my life.  The meeting was amazing.  All of the planning and hard work paid off.  More meetings are set for next week, and our project is not only on track, but it is gaining momentum.  I am so very proud (and lucky) to be able to play a small part in this project.

Several hours later when we stepped outside, the snow had begun.  It was beautiful, yet daunting.  This was not going to make the trip home an easy one.  I had train tickets for late in the afternoon.  By the time my train arrived, it would be dark, and I had an hour’s drive to make it back home.  I cancelled my train reservations, and accepted a ride home with a co-worker who had driven to the city.  Once we got on the road, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  It was a white-knuckled four hour drive in the snow.  We saw one accident after another and had a few near-misses ourselves.  All the while, I was freezing.

I’m home now.  It’s pitch dark outside.  No city lights here.  The wind howling up from the fields is the only sound I hear.  I’ve been snuggled under a blanket ever since I got home.  I took a much-needed nap, and I am finally beginning to warm up.  There are many things I should be doing tonight, but none of them will get done.  Tonight I am taking care of more important things with a dose of Great-Grandma’s blanket and a warm, cozy house in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radiating Anger

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I am too easily influenced by the emotions of those around me.  I seem to feel the pain others experience on a gut or a spiritual level.  I’m sure a lot of people do that, but sometimes I wish I could be more aloof to the feelings of those around me.  I wish I could have more of a “not MY problem” mentality.

As much as I love my job, working for local government is challenging on even the best days.  The general public doesn’t understand allocation of funds.  They don’t understand that if we spend in one area (because grant funds were received) that those funds can’t be used to save jobs in another area that is undergoing budget restraints.  It is often frustrating to be accused of wasting taxpayers money  instead of being thanked for writing a compelling grant narrative that resulted in a grant award for our community.  Stimulus money was being thrown around right and left.  Shouldn’t we have tried to get as much of that as possible to flow into our community?  Of course we should, but now that the projects are underway, the perception is that we’re wasting taxpayer dollars to fund them.  What the public doesn’t understand is that those grant funds MUST be used in a certain way and for certain projects.  It’s not a blank check.  It’s not fun money.  Grant funds were awarded for a specific projects.

The people in my department are some of the most conscientious, intelligent, talented, hard-working people I have ever known.  A great team has been assembled.  Years of planning, pushing, politics, and a tremendous amount of work are culminating into an economic building boom in our community right in the midst of a “mini-depression.”  Our unemployment rates are among the lowest in the state.  Our local businesses are seeing steady improvements in their sales.  They are hiring additional staff.

You would think that our community would be proud, right?  Wrong.  While our local economy has been booming, our City budget has not kept up pace.  City Council has refused to increase taxes even as expense are on the rise.  During the first wave, all non-essential staff was let go.  As positions became vacant due to retirement, they were not filled.  The work was absorbed by others.  That was last year.

This year, all non-union workers were told that there would be no pay increases  until further notice, not even the increase we had been promised six months ago.  We were also required to “donate” three days back to the budget.  That meant we had to take three unpaid days of leave.  That’s OK.  I didn’t hear any complaints.  We were all happy to still have jobs.

Still…City Council would not consider a modest increase in taxes.  Still…costs continued to rise.  Our elected officials were listening to their constituents.  No more taxes!!!  (Oh, and City services?  Please continue those without interruption.)  Everyone worked harder.  I’m here.  I can attest to the truth of that.  We all worked harder, longer hours, with more responsibilities, and of course, the promise of no financial incentive as a reward for the increase in those duties and responsibilities.

It looked like it was working.  “See?  We didn’t raise taxes.  We trimmed the fat.  Those under-worked, over-paid city staffers are finally pulling their weight!”  Still…City Council was advised that if there was not an increase in taxes, the budget would continue to be in the red.  But why would City Council listen to the finance department staff?  They listened to their constituents.  “No more taxes!”

It’s that time of year again.  Budget hearings have been going on this past month.  There wasn’t much more “fat” to be trimmed from City staff.  More cuts would be forthcoming, though.  Should garbage service be privatized?  Sure!  What about EMT Service?  HUH????  Well, wait a minute.  We can’t cut firefighters’ jobs.  They are heroes.  Why not take the money from that economic development project?  Well, you can’t.  Those are grant funds.  So what!

I have twice had to cross picket lines to get to my office.  It has been hellish these past few weeks, and it all came to a head last night.  The final vote on the privatization of EMT service was going before City Council.  A dozen firefighters were potentially going to lose their jobs.  Emotions were running high.  Police protection was requested to bring a routine economic development matter to Council.

More picket lines.  Red in the face yelling.  Gavels pounding.  TV cameras all around.  Some of the nicest people I know being harassed, threatened, and criticized.  None of it was said to me.  I am hurting because I have watched human beings FORGET that they are dealing with other human beings.  Who tells someone that they hope they have a heart attack as they leave the building?  This was said to such a gentle, kind-hearted woman.  She is overweight and terribly self-conscious.  I hurt for how those words must have stung her.  It was proclaimed that others would burn in hell or rot in hell.  Take your pick.

Today an angst-filled group was once again hanging around in the lobby of City Hall.  As I crossed the foyer, I smiled at the group of people standing there, and said “Good morning.”  I received a scowl in return and heard colorful, muttered comments as I passed by.  What did I do?  I had nothing to do with this decision.  I made no recommendations regarding this matter.  They hate me anyway.

I felt the weight of their anger pressing down on me.  At lunchtime, once again, I sought the peace of the river.  I sat there in my car, my beloved old car.  I sipped a Pepsi, and dipped my fries in ketchup.  The world is a mean place.  People are just mean.  I wished for a place far away…a safe place.

When I got back to the office, I spoke to someone who was there last night.  I said that I was sorry.  I said, “My heart hurts to see such anger and meanness,” and I gave her a hug.  As I walked back down to my office, I passed others in the hall.  Everyone wore a haggard, haunted look on their faces.  There is a black cloud hanging over City Hall today.