Family, Sobriety, Work (or lack thereof)

Getting Off the Couch via the Mop Bucket.

Tonight as I washed the dishes, I noticed that my kitchen floor was dirty. I dried the plates and set them down onto the kitchen table. The dish rack had already become a modern art sculpture of drying bowls, pans and glasses so the table was the next logical choice. Placing the mop bucket into the sink, I reached under the sink to get the Meyer’s cleaner. One of the cats was pondering whether to jump onto the table, saw me staring at him and decided the chair was a better place for him.

The scent of rosemary and lemon filled the air. Our hot water heater is on the fritz so I filled the bucket carefully. I have no desire to waste any hot water. Karma could come in the form of an icy shower in the morning so the ratio of detergent to water must be precise.I grab the mop and place it headfirst into the cloud of lemony-rosemary bubbles. There is a rustling of paper bags behind me. The other cat decided that watching me mop the floor could be entertaining.

The dishes are done. Coffee is all set for the morning. I bring the mop over to the blobs of mud that magically appeared on the floor this afternoon. I glance at the clock. 10:40 PM. I have to get up early tomorrow for an appointment in Waltham. What the hell am I doing mopping the floor this late? I stopped. Wait a sec. I’m mopping. I’m actually cleaning.

So why is this a big deal? Shouldn’t people always keep their kitchen floors and counters clean? Well, yeah. They should! Especially when they have children, one of which has a compromised system. This entire week I have been either straightening the cellar out, re-arranging the living room, and getting rid of clutter. Last week, I spent my days binge-watching ‘Grace and Frankie’, ‘Victoria’, and documentaries about food production in the US while laying on the couch.

For the past 18+ months, I have been laying on the couch barely doing anything that was not essential. Screw that- I missed essential shit too. The blanket on top of me made me feel cozy and I would be there for as long and often as possible. I napped, ate my meals, scrolled through Facebook, and occasionally socially interacted on the couch. I didn’t clean. I didn’t go out. I stopped going to the meetings that ultimately saved my life 18 years ago.

I just laid there and waited for it to end. 

October 6, 2016 my father passed away unexpectedly. I didn’t expect him to die. I thought I had more time. He was supposed to have met my younger two children. They were supposed to hear his jokes and stories about how silly their mother was when she was their age. I would have that chance for us to be together.

I have been grieving that chance since October 6, 2016. As complicated and difficult our relationship was, I held onto hope that I would always have that chance of being with him. There was always that chance that once again I feel that connection with the man I called ‘Dad’. That chance disappeared that Saturday morning when I heard my sister softly tell me in a shocked whisper that he was gone.

I had my moments of tears during the days after his death. I figured that since we didn’t have the best relationship, I wouldn’t grieve like my sister. I was right about one thing. I wouldn’t grieve like her. I have been grieving like me. My way of grieving is laying on the couch, eating bags of Smartfood, and watching Netflix to oblivion.  Here is the moment my sobriety had prepared me for, and I choose to do the opposite of what I needed. My choice was based on what I wanted, and what I wanted was to be on the couch.

As I mopped the kitchen floor tonight, I realized that I was beginning to care about little things again. I made healthy dinners for myself and Melissa to have during the week. I cleaned and straightened up Liz’s bedroom. I made room in the cellar for the clutter I had upstairs, but I also made sure I wasn’t replacing clutter with more clutter. I threw things away. Even my old AppleCare policy from 2007.

This past October, I started a new job – coincidentally on October 6th. I traded my Whole Foods apron for a navy blue shirt and jeans. My confidence began to grow as I learned how to channel my passion for all things Apple. In January, I purchased an Applewatch. I include this in my progression because it was the activity rings that gave me incentive to keep moving. I like seeing that I haven’t been laying on the couch all day.

I wrung the mop out and placed the empty bucket by the baker’s rack in my kitchen. The floor is mud-free. I am tired, but happy. It’s happening. This fog of great sadness and loss is beginning to lift. I can feel myself breathe easier. My heart doesn’t hurt as much about what could have been or what should have been. It was how it was supposed to be. My father meant the world to me. He didn’t always meet my expectations, but I was proud to have his last name, proud to be part of his family, and most of all- grateful that we had some incredible memories that will live in my heart forever.

Whole Foods, Work (or lack thereof)

An Insta-observation.

For the past three months I have been working at the Whole Foods Market in Hingham. Derby Street attracts a certain clientele including those who have educated themselves in good nutrition and overall wellness. Besides the typical affluent stereotypes, I see many who are honestly trying to feed their families and themselves better food. Lately however, a new type of shopper has silently risen in the midst of lululemon yoga pants crowd. This new type of client has the potential to impact the way we buy our food in a huge way. They are The Instacart shopper.

It has been described to me as “similar to Uber, but for groceries.” When these personal shoppers first began to appear in my aisle, they would verbally identify themselves as ‘Instacart’ and I would need to input a PLU to indicate this transaction was a specific one. When I asked the Shopper what the job entailed, she explained to me that she received orders from customers to shop at various stores, and then she would deliver them the groceries. I turned to look at our store’s personal shopper and delivery person. “You mean you do what our shopper does?” I admit there was a little snarkiness behind the comment since I wanted our person to get the increased business. I figured both Instacart and the Shopper got a piece of the order. I was right.

Yesterday afternoon a woman came through my line with an Instacart lanyard on. I typed in the Instacart PLU number and began to process the order. As I scanned each item through, I began to smell cigarettes. I haven’t detected this odor with many customers so it is unusual to smell it at Whole Foods. Even the Team Members who do smoke make sure the scent doesn’t stay on them or in their clothes while at the register.

I continued to scan the order through and saw a non-dairy dessert that was being purchased. Sometimes, if I see something a customer buys and know we have something that is both similar and better-tasting, I recommend that product to them to try. It’s a part of my job that I enjoy- discussing and recommending different products to our customers that I love. It allows me to relate my personal experiences with the food and to connect with the customer. I bent forward to say something and realized quickly that this shopper wasn’t really my customer. I also realized that she was the source of the Ashtray odor.

According to the company website, “Instacart is building the best way for people anywhere in the world to shop for groceries. Every day, we solve incredibly hard problems to create an experience for our customers that is absolutely magical.”

Magical? I didn’t realize that part of the magical experience includes unwashed, stinky cigarette hands touching organic produce. It made me shudder thinking that this person had been touching this other person’s food. I certainly would not have wanted her to touch food that I was spending money on.

Here is how the magic happens (according to Instacart website):

  1. Customer shops on Instacart from local stores’ inventory
  2. Expert shopper picks order
  3. (provides) Finishing touches on order
  4. Delivery to homes, offices, everywhere!

Nope. No stinky, unwashed, cigarette fingers included in the above.

Every day more states, cities and towns are added to the growing list of locations where Instacart is available. My concern with this lies with the growing disconnect between the consumer and the products. Stores are going out of business in record numbers because ‘convenience’ is outweighing the experience of hands-on shopping.

One reason why I think our store is so popular, is that people come for the experience. They get to taste, touch, and ask questions about products they are interested in purchasing. We chat with them as they move through our lines and bag according to their specifications and/or needs. We assist them in placing the groceries in their car if they need an extra pair of hands. We provide ice in case there are cold items that need to be kept cold.

Humans are still social beings. Our drive to interact with each other has not lessened because we have found more ways to shop ‘efficiently’. We still need to connect with each other, and studies show that people tend to live longer when they have consistent contact with others. Sure, having your groceries delivered is a nice convenience but there is something to be said for doing your own shopping in person. Plus, you know where your hands have been.

Family, Work (or lack thereof)

The Freedom Detours Can Bring.

When I graduated from Castleton State College (now Castleton University) in the spring of 1994, the path towards a career was wide open. I could see all of the possibilities and began sending out my resume with enthusiasm. That summer I was hired by the local newspaper to assist in the Graphics Department, something I had never contemplated doing before. My career path solidified as I fell in love with typography, aesthetics, and Photoshop. From that day on I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

As I moved forward, obstacles began to appear making the journey more difficult. I jumped over hurdles such as not having an Art degree, having little experience outside of Financial services, and having a family. Each opportunity became more of a challenge to prove my worth as a designer. I was plagued by Imposter Syndrome and when I did land a job, my fears of rejection began to strangle me. One of my favorite jobs became a nightmare of insecurity and doubt, and in the end I lost that too.

I’m sure you have heard of the saying “When one door closes, another one opens”? Well, in my case, it was one door closes and the next one opens to a “DEAD END” sign. As my age increased, my opportunities decreased. My last full time role ended with both parties deciding that it would be best if I found something else somewhere else. 22 months of desperately trying to prove myself had taken a toll. I felt depleted, and empty.

Contracting was always an option, but those roles were for a PowerPoint ‘designer’ in Financial Services. One role landed me at a Construction firm in Seaport District assisting with a massive proposal. The work was fun, I loved the people and secretly hoped that they would find a place for me. They didn’t. Instead, I went back to a financial firm for a week doing a presentation about Women & Finance that was insulting to women. When I left that contract, I knew that I was long overdue leaving Finance.

Last winter,  I was granted a contract at a Health care company covering for a maternity leave. Initially it was going to be a Project Management position, but instead turned into a design role as my talents were being discovered. I loved it. It was work I had always wanted to do. I was thrilled to be able to provide services for a sector I had always wanted to be in. After a few days, my passion to do a good job was misinterpreted as ‘being too intense’. I was confused by the office politics, but quieted down internally so I wouldn’t jeopardize the opportunity.

The feedback was always positive, and with each project I became more comfortable. When I wasn’t in the office, I would think of ways to make the production system more efficient and tried to find ways that I could extend the contract. I left feeling accomplished and appreciated. Realizing that I still needed income coming in, I applied at one of my favorite places to shop and was hired part-time. I thought of other possibilities to do freelance work.

At this time, I still do projects on the side for them, but soon that will change as well.

About 6 weeks ago, I saw a posting on LinkedIn for a Graphic Designer for this company. Instantly, I applied and excitedly mentioned the people I had worked with as references. I contacted both my former manager and a colleague, and told them I had applied. When the initial excitement wore off, I began to think about what I was told by my colleagues on my last day.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a full time role available, we don’t have the budget for an in-house designer.” 

Wait a second. Why didn’t anyone give me the heads up that this was even an option? It’s not like I hadn’t talked to anyone recently. I was just in the office not long ago talking with a manager about a few projects! 

Later in the afternoon I received a message from my former manager encouraging me to apply. When I spoke with them on the phone, I was told that they wanted to look at a few other resumes in addition to mine, of course. I was also told that I would definitely be hearing from them. My heart sank. I knew what this meant. The person I had worked with was trying to be nice, and I did appreciate the gesture. However I would have preferred more of an honest response because professionally, I deserved one. The fact is, they weren’t entirely crazy about hiring me. I didn’t fit in as well as I had hoped.

I was scheduled to work the next day. My heart was heavy as I walked in through the parking lot towards the entrance. I punched in, put my apron on, and walked slowly to the front. I saw my colleagues laughing and smiling. They were happy to see me and I was greeted by the supervisor letting me know where I was needed. I did my job, and for the first time in my working life, my heavy heart did not affect how I performed my job. I smiled, I greeted people and happily completed the tasks before me.

I love where I work right now. I love that Whole Foods allows me to be me. I can be ‘intense’ with enthusiasm for customers. I can be a partner of a transwoman who is welcome in the store and can be herself there. I am allowed to have life events that prevent me from being there on time (as long as it happens sporadically of course). People are happy to see me. They help me when I need it, and in turn I help them. Customers for the most part, are nice to me and engage in conversations about their weekends, meals, whatever.

The pay is not anywhere close to what I was getting before, but that doesn’t matter to me right now because I am happy. I do see people from the financial firms I had worked at before and sometimes I get the “OMG I feel so bad for you that you ended up here” look. I no longer have a corporate job so that means I must be doing badly.  I smile and usually say something like “When I go home, I don’t worry about other people’s groceries so it’s awesome!” And it is. It is awesome to go to work, do my job, and then leave. I don’t carry stress from the office home with me. I can be with my family and be 100% present.

There is no compensation for that feeling. I have gone from the bondage of stress from the office to freedom from it. So what if I wear an apron and have a name tag? I know I am right where I am supposed to be. This path feels good upon my feet and for that, I am grateful.

Family, Work (or lack thereof)

Jumping someone else’s train

Last night I had a hard time getting to sleep. My mind raced through the various chapters of drama that have presented themselves over the past week and I couldn’t seem to come to a resolution that would allow me to close my eyes. I am at the center of it all, so this is not about laying blame on others. I know my actions have reactions, and the outcome of any situation in my life is dependent on this. Even so, my heart remains to feel heavy.

My emotions get the better of me all the time. I would LOVE to be the type of person who can switch the train tracks of their emotional trains at the mere thought and avoid catastrophe in the process. Alas, I am not. I am the type of person who has a very difficult time with the switch, and sometimes I don’t even realize I missed the station until it is too late. Last weekend was an excellent example of this.

I am an intense person. My emotions often show themselves on my person before my brain registers that they are front and center. In other words, my facial expression may appear to look angry, but I am not conscious that I am angry until minutes after the expression first crept across my face. This often leads to constantly being misunderstood, and this has affected every aspect of my life.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. And many times, the patch is there without my knowledge or intent. Throughout my life I have strived to rip it off, keep it a secret and not give away what I am truly feeling. Alcohol became a great way for me to take time off from that goal until it turned on me and did the EXACT OPPOSITE. Seriously, if you think I am emotional sober….yeah. It was ugly.

Because of this misunderstanding, and my lack of taking a few minutes to separate myself from a situation, I was accused of doing something I never would dream of doing to anyone. I was accused of harassing an elderly woman. As I was trying to explain the situation to a third party, a police car showed up in front of my house. Never in my entire life has anyone ever called the police in regards to me. Never. My heart sank and I began to panic. My immediate impulse was to try to explain that this wasn’t what it seemed, that I was frustrated but walked away from the other person to give them the space they asked for. It didn’t matter. According to this police officer, I was the biggest asshole on the planet for even thinking about harassing this poor older woman. Let’s just say he had no interest in hearing anything I had to say.

Tears ran down my face as I begged my mom to come over and help me. She knew I would never hurt anyone. She understood me and my hope was to get some validation that I am not the worst person on the planet. Melissa stood by my side and gave me guidance as how to handle myself since I have literally no experience with police. Chris also tried to help and my girls wanted to be with me knowing how upset I was. All I could think was, how can anyone think that I would be capable of hurting someone like that? I don’t think I stopped crying about it until the next morning to be honest.

A few days later, I was the target of another assault by someone else. This time I could shrug it off and say to myself that it was more about their struggle than about me. Still, my heart remained heavy as I attempted to get ready for work. Am I really this horrible person that everyone in my family secretly hates? Do they go out of their way to avoid me and my chosen lifestyle? The second guessing is hard to avoid in these situations but by the time I reached Hingham, I was able to put a smile onto my face. Well, kind of.

My new job is not glamorous. I don’t ride in an elevator to get to my cubicle. There isn’t a fancy coffeeshop I get to stop in on my way in. Instead, there is a feeling that I am ok and accepted no matter what. I put my apron on, punched in, and set about doing what was expected of me. In spite of how heavy my heart was from all of this turmoil, I was able to smile and help others. At previous roles, the feeling of being unacceptable would be exacerbated by my surroundings. Not here. Here I felt appreciated and accepted. I could make people smile back at me and it didn’t matter that others close to me had hurt me. All that mattered was being present for others. It was truly a blessing.

For the first time in my life, in spite of my sadness, I was able to have a good day at work. I had never been able to say that before. If you ever find yourself in a position where you feel like things couldn’t possibly get worse, try to reach out and help someone else. For me, that made all of the difference.

The situations have somewhat calmed down but my heart is still heavy with how I appear to my neighbors. I cannot make amends to this person for upsetting them right now per their wishes. The other situation seems to have smoothed over and I hope that they received what help they needed to get through it. I know I have the most incredible people in my life both at home and work who have helped me get through this as well. Hopefully I can get better sleep tonight knowing this.


Sobriety, Work (or lack thereof)

Day 8 of 30 Days of Gratitude: Today I am grateful for my sobriety

It should be a given that I am grateful for my sobriety, and usually it is. Today was a different story. Today was not a day filled with gratitude. It was filled with self-pity, anguish and regret. I was heading into town for yet another interview at a recruiting agency. As I got closer to the city I started to get the usual pangs of missing my job and I did my best to redirect my thinking to how I can move forward towards another position. It didn’t work. I thought about people I worked with and immediately began to mentally walk through conversations I wished went better, reactions I wished I never had and this sinking feeling of despair began to settle in to my stomach.

I went to the interview, walked through my portfolio and even found a few connections with the interviewer which were a nice surprise.  I left the building hopeful and relayed some of the interview to my husband as I froze my ass off walking towards the parking garage. As I drove back down Route 3 towards Plymouth, I thought to myself “I wish I could just make this go away for a little while. I wish I could just have a few drinks and let this stress go.” I snapped out of that train of thought with brakelights unexpectedly in front of me and I slammed on the brakes both literally and figuratively.

The irony is what I think would ease my stress would exacerbate my woes to a whole new level. Alcohol and I are not good friends. It sets off a personality change that makes me into someone I can’t stand the sight of. I become ugly from the inside out and every ounce of rage comes out in ways that always cause trouble. And I can’t get enough. I can remember that sensation of craving in an instant and it scares me. I don’t have an ‘off’ button with many things and with this, the button is ripped out of the socket. When I was in college I would scare the crap out of people I hung out with. The whole idea of drinking socially is NOT to scare the crap out of the people you want to be around. You probably shouldn’t yell at them either or try to walk off with their boyfriends.

Yeah. I was THAT girl. The one who you would want to leave 5 minutes after the party started. The one who cried at 3am. The one you wouldn’t want your parents to meet. I still have memories come back almost 20 years after the fact and I shudder. I still have regrets. I still can be right back in that dorm making people miserable. I hate it. I wish my life turned out differently, and that I was able to act like a rationale human being. And these regrets have followed me, whispering behind my back and telling me that I am not a good person.

Today was one of those days as I drove by the State Street Financial Center and looked at the skyline of International Place. I was able to get to my usual friday night plans and immersed myself in other peoples’ experience, strength and hope. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t go tonight. If I had changed my plans like I almost did to go shopping. I needed to hear every word I heard tonight, and thank goodness I knew where I needed to be. I knew where I needed to be because twenty years ago, someone told me that the most important thing in my life was my sobriety, and if I had nothing but that, then I had my whole world. Somehow in spite of how low I have felt over the past 7 months, I haven’t relapsed. I may have had some serious ice cream and chocolate binges (sorry Jorge) but I didn’t give up what I have worked so hard for. I haven’t given up my second chance at life. Anyone who was around me when I was drinking knows how self-destructive I was. I truly was given a second chance.

So tonight after giving this entry much thought, I decided to be honest and say what I am truly grateful for: that I didn’t give in to that sinister voice telling me that a vanilla vodka shot sounded like a great idea. Instead, I went with the louder voice that told me my ass needed to be in a metal chair with a styrofoam coffee cup in my hands. I could have chosen a ‘safe’ topic and said how grateful I am that we had steak for dinner. Or how grateful I am for my family. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for those things. However today, for the first time in a very long time, I was in a dangerous place and unlike other people I can’t take a break from what is going on around me with a screwdriver. Or a pumpkin ale. Or any other drink that has come out since 1993. I have to walk through it. I reminded myself that one more time tonight as I sat amongst my friends, holding a styrofoam cup of coffee. At the end of the day, I have my sobriety, I have my dignity and I have my life.

Family, Work (or lack thereof)

Day 6 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful that I can enjoy being with my girls at home

I know I am behind with my days of gratitude. I underestimate how difficult it can be to write when you are watching children. Which brings me to yesterday’s gratitude: being home with the kids. Yes, you read that correctly, I am grateful that I can be home with the girls right now.

I grew up with a mom who worked. When I first became pregnant with Liz, I remember using her as my example of how I was going to be: a working mom who balanced career fulfillment with parenthood. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to work. First of all, I had to – we couldn’t have survived if I didn’t and secondly, I enjoyed my work at the time. Being at work made me enjoy our weekends together more and I looked forward to them.

I have always been employed with very few spells of being jobless in my 15+ year career in graphic design. When I was laid off in March, I was devastated and immediately started looking for work. People would say to me “Think of it this way, you get to spend a lot more time with the kids.” You would think that would have been enough to turn my spirits around but the first few weeks were hard. I felt like I wasn’t complete not having an occupation. It wasn’t until a few weeks into unemployment that I realized that I already had a full time job.

Fortunately, I had a good friend who recommended me to her husband at a small financial firm so I began to work at home. It was enough to keep me busy and be able to care for the girls when someone needed a snack or a snuggle. When I did get a contract to be onsite somewhere, I missed being with them. I had become accustomed to being able to take them to the playground or to activities we signed them up for. It became more difficult to commute into the city and balance caring for them. Even Liz seemed to enjoy my presence when she got home from school.

Today I look at this time very differently. I feel so fortunate I can spend time with my girls while they are still little. I am grateful I can spend time with Liz before she runs off to college (fingers crossed). I can participate and help with band activities and I have the energy to teach Sunday School on Sundays. I also have time to volunteer for things that give me the fulfillment I had been missing. Being home these past 7+ months has been a blessing, and it is right where I am supposed to be.

Family, HLHS, Work (or lack thereof)

Sleepless In the ‘Hood

The past few nights we have not had much sleep at all. Chris sleeps less than me since he tends to get up quicker when Isabelle sounds the alarm. For some reason, either Izzie or Adeline have had issues with sleeping this week. I am exhausted. I can see that my patience is worn away by the lack of sleep. I am starting to worry that Isabelle is waking up and is relying on us to get her back to sleep instead of soothing herself because she is in our room. But what’s the alternative? The Room of the hyperactive one. Not a good combination and I was hoping both would be ready by now but between Addie not wanting to go to bed at all and Izzie’s need for a bottle at 1am, it does not look like it will happen anytime soon.

I need sleep. My personality is such that I take everything personally when I am overtired. I beat myself up more when I am tired. I doubt myself and everything I stand for when I am tired. For example, I found out that I didn’t get the job I was hoping for today. My client sent me changes for some work I have using the phrase ‘we want it to look as professional as possible.’ Did I use the chalkboard font on the piece or something? I didn’t use enough bullet points. Right. My favorite part of the day came when the recruiter tried to make not being selected sound better by telling me that the company I interviewed with thought I was very talented. Right now, it feels like no one thinks I am talented. Not my relatives, not my peers and most of all – myself. I feel like a full time job is escaping my grasp more and more every day and there is nothing I can do about it. What makes it even worse is that where I am contracting now, the office is right around the corner from Eaton Vance. I ran into a former colleague at a salad place yesterday. He didn’t even know I was gone. Don’t even get me started about that. It hurts to look at the building.

My exhaustion tells me that I deserve what I get, that I am not a nice person and that no one wants to hire me. I would love to say that I know better, and I know much of this is in my head, but it doesn’t lighten the feelings in my heart or give me a sense of comfort. It tells me I have so much work to do inside to feel better. It tells me that some things will need to change in order for my situation to improve, and that I need a nap.

Isabelle may have a cold. What is normal for every other baby out there can wreak havoc on an HLHS baby. I am praying this passes and she stops vomiting after coughing too much. Two days in a row we have had to wash her up in the tub. Not pretty. And I am sure she is exhausted too, which doesn’t help either. I don’t get as scared as I did last year, but it still unnerves me a bit because I have no control over a virus. A year ago we were inpatient. I celebrated my birthday with Chris, Isabelle, our nurse, and our awesome roommates. Chris did everything to make me feel special in spite of how nervous we were about Izzie, and how separated we were from our family. It was a hard time, and I keep trying to remind myself that this year is better because we are out of the hospital. And then I hear that voice that says “At least you had a job to go back to then.” I hope that voice quiets into silence someday. I am tired of hearing it.