Friday, December 30, 2011


I've done it again.

Its almost New Year's Eve. I've planned a lovely party with some of my favorite people and my house is a disaster. The dishes have piled in disgusting stacks. Laundry is clean, but not folded, let alone put away (and frankly, there is no room in the closets or drawers). I haven't swept or mopped the floors in longer than I should admit, and the dining room table is covered in empty grocery bags and miscellaneous crap. The cat boxes are disgraceful.

I know that keeping an orderly house is a great thing and that I am capable of many great things. I know that when my house is clean I am happier. I know that I enjoy having friends over.

I just can't seem to keep up with the upkeep.

With a disastrous mess it becomes exhausting to clean completely. We start to cut corners and just hide things in order to be done before the first guest arrives... There is, right this second, a growing pile of clean laundry at the foot of my bed. This pile has been transferred from the living room couch. There is no time to fold everything and put it away because there are no clean dishes, I haven't started the food preparations and it is midnight.

Right now I just want to go to bed and sleep for a long, long time. I want to cancel the party and buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's and crawl into my bed for the weekend.

I also want a lovely evening with good friends and good food.

Of course, after the party we are usually exhausted by the manic cleaning and the party itself. So we won't continue the cleaning.

We will let it slide.

At least, that is our usual routine.

This time I want to try to fix this. I want to be the kind of person whose house is always open to friends. I want to be the kind of person you can call when you're in the neighborhood and who can produce coffee or wine and snacks as needed.

We will keep cleaning.

At noon I will drive an hour each way to pick up my brother and then I will clean some more. And Sunday? I will clean some more. And Monday? I will straighten the rooms in my house and fold laundry.

Maybe next weekend I'll clean out a drawer or two.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the Season

Nine years ago I was falling in love with Jeff.  He was shy and so very surprised that I wanted to spend time with him.  I called him when the first snow fell and we talked on the phone watching the snow fall, thick and juicy flakes.  There was something romantic and lovely about standing in the snow, his voice in my ear.  We watched The Muppet Christmas Carol over the phone too, and then we started spending time together in person.

Eight years ago he proposed on New Year's Eve.  His love for me was so very apparent to anyone who watched him watch me.  I felt that love every day and I trusted it.  I trusted that I would be loved by that man for the rest of my life.  I trusted that I could love him and that he would never leave me.  That I would always come first.

Five years ago we celebrated Christmas in our new home.  It was a sad Christmas; his father died on the 14th and he was immersed in grief and working very hard to take care of his mother.  I believed that we would make it through this time, that together we could get through anything.  I believed our bond would be stronger for the journey.

Four years ago I realized my marriage was irrevocably damaged and a few months later I found out my husband was too  .I did not come first.  And he relied on Vodka to get him through.  His relationship with alcohol was stronger than any relationship we ever could have had.  And the alcohol took him from me on a rainy night in March.

Jeff was the last age appropriate single man I allowed myself to fall for and his death has damaged me in ways I can not deal with all at once.  There are layers of damage as sticky and impossible as the ancient wallpaper we pried from the walls before we moved in.  And I worry that the walls in my heart are as crumbly and delicate as the walls in the dining room.  I no longer trust my heart to rebound.  I no longer believe that I can sustain another break.

Every step I take away from the sadness feels more difficult than the last and I honestly don't know if the movie ends with me in a healthy relationship or not.  I do not trust that anyone will love me the way he did and even he didn't love me enough to stay. 

I know he was sick.  Irrevocably and absolutely sick.  Alcoholic, mentally ill and suffering so very quietly from pancreatitis.  I know that love can not cure these things.  I know that he was very sick even before I fell in love with him...

That's what scares me.

I know there are no guarantees, that anything can and will happen, but I find myself paralyzed by the thought that I could allow myself to be hurt in this way again.  I don't love halfway.  I love all the way or not at all.  Beth used to say I didn't jump off the cliff, I fell backwards with a big smile on my face. Now I'm so afraid I don't even approach the cliff. I stand well away from the edge and develop crushes on boys who will never be interested in me.  It's safer this way.

I want so much to stand on the edge.  To look into the eyes of someone who thinks they will never hurt me.  I want so much to believe them. 

But not this year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Back to it...

I have not been as committed to any of my goals as I intended to be. I faltered. The difficulty in missing a beat is not the failure, but the ability to hit the next beat and keep going.
I tend to adopt the "oh fuck it then" mindset and drown my sorrows in McDonalds fries.
I'm going to focus on finding the next beat instead. I'm going to re-commit to my goals and I am going to take those baby steps to meet those goals. If I can teach the kids on my caseload to do this I can surely manage it as well!
In other news, Blankie has done well despite my lack of focus in other areas....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Goal Reached and Totem Started

I made my goal for billable hours at work with four billing days left in the month.
By the time they add everything up I will be over 100% of my productivity for the month.

I want to say I worked my ass off... and I did work hard... but the truth is that there were days when I only worked a few hours, and there were days like today when I went in at 10. 
What happened is that I got organized, made a backup plan and stuck to it.
I am blown away by this success.  A month ago I didn't think it was possible that I could make the minimum expectation and this month I made the 100% board, and I did it in a way that allowed me to stay relatively sane.

Last week I also managed to eat at home a lot and I ate lots of vegetables: carrots, spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes.  I also ate a lot of ranch dressing, but I am choosing to focus on the vegetable part.

Saturday I started a knitting project that embodies the spirit of this blog.
This is my first square...

in what will be a big, soft blanket. 
I'm using sock yarn and size 1 needles.  Which is crazy.  Absolutely nuts. 
Each square has about 500 stitches, is about 3 inches across and takes a little over an hour.  The blanket as I imagine it is about 6 feet squared...

So I have this massive project that can not be rushed because no matter how amazing I am I can only knit one stitch at a time.

I have friends who are also making this blanket.  We will meet up and share scraps of yarn and knit together.  We will talk about whose blanket is making the most progress and whose blanket has the best color combination... and even though we will be using the same pattern and sharing materials and knitting together not one of these blankets will be the same. 

Those of us who have decided to take on this project will knit our tiny squares one stitch at a time.  

We will make hundreds of squares.

People we know will send us yarn to contribute and people we don't know will see these blankets while we work on them in public.  They will ask us about them and we will talk about knitting and some of those people will become knitters too.
We will inspire other knitters to start their own blankets.
We will offer them our leftover yarn.

I will knit squares at work, at the movies, while taking care of my mother as she recovers from surgery.  I will knit squares when I am sad and when I am happy.  I will knit squares by the pool this summer and some day I will snuggle with my kid and the cats under this blanket of tiny squares.

For me this blanket is a symbol of what this blog is about: small, consistent steps forward.

This was my blanket at the end of the weekend. 
24 hours I knit 14 squares. 
This is why my house isn't clean.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unfair to Spinach and Broccoli

Lets start with the backward steps first so we can end on a good note, yes?

After the first ten days of meal planning (and follow through) I slipped right back in to my fast food coma.  Which means I also slipped right back in to my "too-tired-just-throw-cash-at-it" ways.  BLT's from Sonic and tuna sandwiches from Subway and chicken sandwiches from Wendy's.  I even had red beans and rice from Popeye's today.  So I'm eating like crap, spending money like I have it and not following through on my carefully-planned intentions.  And the red wine consumption rates have increased in my house.


I have also spent a few nights awake and a few mornings sleeping in and then canceling my carefully constructed morning and reshuffling my week.  I think I really do need a job that is less flexible; I need the structure and accountability.  If I can't time-shift at will maybe I would force myself out of bed and deal with my day.  I have also not been cleaning.  I have been mostly inactive outside of my working hours.

It is a big cycle of ugh, and I need to find some kind of motivation to pull myself out of it.

The good news is that I have been doing well at work... more or less making my hours.  Which is to say, the first two weeks I did more than I projected and this week was less so my monthly total should be right on target.  We are halfway through the month and I have already billed more hours than I ended February with.  So that's good.

There may also be a job opening that interests me.  A job that would increase my income by about 60%.  I'm not holding my breath, but I am hopeful.  I need this to happen, but since I have been able to be successful at work I feel (for the first time) like I will be ok if it doesn't.

I also have a second date scheduled.  I feel like I am moving ahead with this because I'm supposed to.  Like this guy is spinach and broccoli and the last guy was cheese fries and bacon cheeseburgers.  Sure, I like spinach and broccoli, but I wake up in the night craving cheese fries and bacon cheeseburgers.  I love cheese fries and bacon cheeseburgers.  I will always want cheese fries and bacon cheeseburgers.

But I know, too much of that shit will kill you.

So I'm going to try the spinach and broccoli on a more regular basis and pretend that it's not totally unfair of me to eat it when all I want is bacon and cheese. 

Monday, March 7, 2011


And I still have my soul.
I counted the number of available work days and figured out how many hours I would need to bill each day to make 90 hours ... Which is not only WAY over my previous totals but is also over the expectation. The magic number is 5 per day. There were 3 billable days last week and my hours were 16.7. Woot!
Today I billed 5 and tomorrow I have 8 scheduled.
This can be done. I can do this.
And really it wasn't that bad. I even had a short day Thursday because I had worked so many hours already. Sleeping in = my favorite.
If I can keep up this pace I might not lose my job before they fire me.
I also ended up on an accidental date on Saturday. Someone from the dating website I joined for purely research purposes. We'll just call this extended research. I told him about the Oscar Shorts on Saturday and he went too. We didn't sit together but we did go for a beer after... I wouldn't have called it a date but he referred to it as a "first date" several times. So I guess that's what it was.
He Is pretty much the polar opposite of the last guy I was (am still?) involved with.
He is also sporting the Mr. Sensitive ponytail. And he doesn't have a car. He does have a job... And is not married...
I never had one second where I thought about sleeping with him.
He might grow on me... But I've had that start to a relationship before. It was boring.
He isn't out of the game yet... But he's probably headed for the friend bench.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Other Reason

The reasons I am not in a relationship are remarkably similar to the reasons I don't have a better job.  There isn't a fuck of a lot open right this second.

That is, there are jobs - and men - available but nothing worth getting out of bed on my day off. 
I spent the evening on a dating website.  You know, for research purposes.

From an actual ad on OkCupid:

"I don't belive in judgeing u or looking down on ya I don't care about ya past I don't look at skin color it ya heart and feelings that I'm whanting too respect and be kool with.I don't cheat,lie or play games I'm romantic and honest like too joke have fun not jelious.I'm real loyal,I like to laugh..."

That is what is out there.  Also?  This:

"you want a single man that dont believe in cheating and if your after money pass me by roofing is to slow in the cold im bout broke"

And this little gem:

"Right now im at a impass in my life. i dont know what i want to do. my biges consiren is finsh hight school.ya i was VERY wilded in my young years, but hay iv mellow alot. within the next five years I WILL OUN MY OUN BUINESS."

Dude?  Your "biges consiren" should be literacy. 

It is good to know that I'm not desperate.  And that I'm such a judgmental bitch. 

There were a few guys whose profiles didn't incite mockery... out of the 50 or so I looked at tonight there were two.  That's 4% y'all. 

Of the 50 only about ten listed anything under "books," and half of those mentioned they hadn't had time to read.  One listed reading as  a "new hobby" and one said he'd been "meaning to read."  I'm not sure what that means.  That he can't read?  That he wants to be a reader because it sounds smarter but he couldn't actually name a book?

These are my options?  This is why I should pay more attention to the hair on my legs? 
Honestly, the current dating pool added to my past experience is exactly why I have confined my romantic life to the unavailable men.  Were just going to skim over the unavailable men part of my life for now... I'm trying to fix this, but there are certain benefits to the clear lines and boundaries of relationships that can't move in any direction.

Other than online, where do you go to meet potential partners?  Bars are not an option, it just seems hypocritical in my case.  I have learned that dating men from work is not a good idea... not to mention that there are six, maybe seven men who work with me... all are married except two: one who is gay and one who has "dedicated his life to the Lord" and no longer believes in premarital sex.  I have given up a lot for men, but never (ever) have I given up sex.  (And Jesus wants me to get laid.  I promise).

In terms of relationships I really do feel stuck.  I do feel that just wanting a relationship is an important step for me - during the last year with Jeff I couldn't imagine ever letting myself be vulnerable to another human being again.   Now I think I'm ready to have a crush on someone who is actually available to date.  If I can just find him.

Or her.

Monday, February 28, 2011

March Madness

There is no magic to March.  That's what I repeat over and over in my mind from mid-February to mid-April.
March marks the anniversary of the official crumbling of my marriage and the death of my husband.  Three years ago today is the deadline I set for him to have signed the divorce papers and move out of my house.  He didn't. 

March that year started with my futile, hopeless tears as I drove to the yarn store to teach a class.  I was working two jobs and teaching a class here and there for my LYS because anything was better than going home to face my wounded, emotionally crumpled husband and his very large anger.

March that year ended with him leaving my house in the coroner's van.  Was it a van?  I don't remember.  I can see his zipped body bag on the gurney like it happened yesterday but I don't remember all of the other details. I remember what he was wearing... I have no idea what I was wearing.  I remember the position of his head, the glance that passed between the paramedics as they decided there was no hope for him and switched their focus to me, the movie sound of the flash as they took photographs I'll never see.  I can't remember what I said to anyone until my mother arrived.  I don't remember texting the girl posse.  I don't remember how I spent the hours that I didn't sleep.  I don't remember who came to see me that week.

Looking back I am shocked that I was allowed to drive, to work, to speak to people.  I am shocked that I was able to leave my bed.  I don't know that I would have the strength a second time.

So it's not a real surprise that I have not been able to achieve a relationship with an available man since.  It's not a real surprise that while I am lonely and wish I had someone to spend Friday nights with my crushes and afflictions and obsessions focus on people who can't or won't ever ask me for the one thing I am not able to give: trust.  Of course I know that the truth is that it's not other people I can't trust.  My judgment was so profoundly and absolutely wrong with him that it feels I can no longer trust anything I want or need or believe.  The only thing I can trust are things I already know to be fatally flawed.

I can get through this month.  I've done it before.
And I think that means I can get through my trust issues and take another step forward.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Work is Also a Four-Letter Word

I have been looking for a new job.  There is a sense of shame in this for me because this will be my third job since May of 2009 and that feels wrong.  Before May '09 I worked in the same place for almost ten years.

I hate my job.  It is sucking the life and soul and joy from me.
I work with kids.  Mentally retarded kids who are also severely emotionally disturbed.  That's the actual classification for my kiddos... MR/DD and SED.  And I do like my clients.  I work well with them... but kids as a group?  Not my favorite population.  And I work in schools.  So every day I have to go to high school again.

When I was in high school I used to get panic attacks from the crowded hallways.  I actually graduated a year early because I hated school so much.  Almost twenty years later?  Still do.  And the classes themselves are horrifying. I admire teachers so much more than I already did.  The attitude rolls off of these kids in waves and I have witnessed very little learning.  It's depressing.

I get in there, though, and I find a way to work with these kids and like I said, individually I like them.  We're making some pretty good progress and the parents love me.  I love the part of my job that lets me teach parenting skills, and I like getting to turn fun stuff into teachable moments.  Today I played with Play Dough and made pudding and read a story about aliens who love underpants.

It's not all fun, of course.  Tuesday I got attacked (hair pulled, stabbed with a pencil and my glasses were broken) and then a kid threw up at lunch.  Today I had to confront a 17-year old with a history of physical aggression.  But for the flexibility and the benefits I could take all of this and run with it.

The biggest problem is that I am holding on to my job by my fingernails.  Even though I work hard and establish rapport with these "hopeless cases,"  even though I have kept one mom from suing my agency and have helped other families find hope that change is possible.  Even though I have earned two coveted "performance stars" for my dedication and value to the team... when it comes to the numbers that they use to determine the worth of an employee I am failing. 

There are reasons for this.

I had a debilitating medical issue in August and September, surgery in October.  I had a second, unrelated surgery in November which led to an infection that wouldn't heal for almost three months.  Also?  Shingles between Christmas and New Years.  And because I work with little germy landmines I have had a cold pretty much since I started in June.

So I have not really been at the top of my game.

And The Empire is aware of this.  The Empire doesn't care.  I could lose an arm and The Empire would want to know what my plan is for meeting my numbers while I recuperate.

And I'm not alone.  I don't know the actual numbers... I've asked for them but nobody is willing to disclose... but anecdotal evidence shows that at least 75% of the case managers in my department are in the same exact situation.

The Empire's response is that there are then 25% of the case managers who are making it so it can be done.  Also, there are lots of people who need jobs and if I can't do it I should just step aside so someone else can.  Not surprisingly, the turnover rate is high.  As is the incidence of dramatic blow ups and perfectly rational adults with kids and mortgages who storm out of the building screaming "I fucking quit."  In my eight months at The Empire I've actually witnessed that twice, and I'm almost never in the office.

The Empire gives you the choice to resign or be fired... and if you get fired you not only never get the opportunity to work a government job again but they won't pay unemployment.  See?  Evil.

I met with my supervisor on Wednesday.  She is as supportive as she can be, but she doesn't sugarcoat the situation.  I respect that.  My numbers are improving but I need to work harder, more, faster.  At that point I was eight hours into a twelve-hour day.  I left her office, locked my door and cried for about thirty minutes.  It wasn't the first time I cried in my office in the middle of a workday.  Then I took half a Xanax, fixed my face and taught a parenting class.   

Here's what I can't get past: I am really good at what I do and I'm still failing.  I don't think I've ever failed at anything before.  (Well, except marriage, but that's a whole separate series of entries).

Failing is demoralizing, but my real problem is that I am already working my ass off.  I don't know how much more I can do.  And really?  In staff meetings when they announce anniversaries and I hear that someone has worked there for five years I shudder.  If I am still working in this office in five years I will put a gun in my mouth.

So why am I working so hard for something I don't even want?Why don't I just find another job?? 

The answer is even more depressing than the problem.  Unless I want to work with kids there are no jobs.  Not in my field.  Not right now.

And working for The Empire has made me question whether the four years I spent in grad school were a complete waste of time, money and energy.  Maybe I am not suited to this field.  Maybe I have no marketable skills at all and should just work at Starbucks.

Baby steps not to lose my mind:

Get out of bed every day.
Pack a lunch and a snack so I don't stop at McDonalds every day.
Make sure I have an adequate supply of Xanax in my bag.
Keep working my ass off until they call me in and ask me to resign.
Apply for every job I can find in my field that doesn't involve kids and hope like hell I find something before the axe falls or I have an actual breakdown and run from the building screaming "I fucking quit."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wash me Clean

It seems so simple... if your house is a mess then clean it, right?

A few months ago I had a new heater installed.  The heater guys showed up (on time!!) at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.  For six hours or so I had nothing to do but stay warm and wait for them to finish.  I couldn't just go back to bed because they might need to come inside for something so I bundled up on the couch with coffee, a book, my laptop and some knitting and figured I'd have plenty to keep me busy. 

I also had what we refer to as Mount Laundry to deal with before I could actually sit on the couch.  I folded and folded and folded... and ended up with a huge stack of bathroom towels that I didn't know what to do with.  Normal people have places where things go.  If they have a corkscrew or a serving dish or a dozen bath towels they know where those things go.

I don't know where my clean towels go.  I know where they end up - floor.  I know where they spend their clean hours - laundry basket, shower rod, foot of bed.

At some point - second or third cup of coffee - I started thinking about the hall closet.  Most people keep their clean towels in a closet close to the bathroom.   A very helpful (and forgiving) website once told me to only take out what I could clean in an hour.  It occurred to me that I could clean out that closet in an hour (it took two) and that I really didn't have anything else to do.

I threw a lot of things away.  Old makeup and hair curlers I never used... expired cold medicine and tangled ribbon.  This is where I stashed things that seemed vaguely bathroom-related that I didn't know what else to do with.

Turns out, it was also where I stashed things related to my husband that I couldn't deal with when he died.  Pictures of us, his cologne, a stack of Playboy magazines, Kung Fu movies.  When he died I almost immediately boxed up all of his clothes and got rid of them.  I had his best friend come over and take what he wanted from the fraternity paraphernalia, video games and miscellaneous boy things in the den.  Everyone grieves in their own way... and his death came sudden and just before the finality of a divorce that broke my heart.  I knew that if his things didn't immediately leave my house I might not either.  I had this image of myself crying on my bed covered in his sweatshirts and jeans.  I had no time for that sort of carrying on; I had a child and two jobs and grad school to deal with. So I purged.

Everything else got stashed in a closet or thrown away... and a few months ago, in my excitement to have a grown-up place to put my towels I had stumbled across a hornet's nest of sad.

I didn't throw everything away.  I kept the pictures, tossed the cologne...

This is not the only closet full of Jeff in my house which may just be why I don't nurture the little cleaning lady inside me.  It may also be why I choose to sit in bed and watch television (and knit and read) rather than spending time in any other room of the house.  It may also explain why I have been specializing in dating unavailable men. 

It's not that the downfall of my marriage and the death of my husband turned me into a big slow-moving slob.  Oh no.  I'm a dyed in the wool kind of lazy pack rat... but I am no longer comfortable with the messiness of my life and every time I start to try to fix that I seem to run right into the dead guy.  Figuratively, of course.

Last weekend I cleaned out a kitchen cabinet.  Just one.  At the top where I can't see anything I found twenty shot glasses, a martini glass, a beer stein from a casino, a flask and several lids whose sad travel mugs had been deemed lid-less and thrown away.  I don't have any idea why we had twenty shot glasses.  I don't generally drink shots and Jeff used his Notre Dame shot glass or no shot glass at all.  They're gone.  So is the martini glass and the stein.  I haven't made a decision about the flask yet... so it is back in the cabinet looking very out of place among my pretty Corningware and Pyrex baking dishes. 

But my pretty Corningware and Pyrex baking dishes appear to be very at home in the cabinet.  Because now that's where they go.

Baby Steps

I don't take a good look at myself often because when I really look at my life and I really think about the big picture I realize that there is a lot that is wrong.

House, finances, job, love life?  All disasters.

It would be impossible to trace every decision that led me to this point.  It would be equally impossible to untangle every mistake and bad habit I've developed over the past 35 years and start over from scratch.  And really?  Even if someone came in and erased my weight, cleaned my house and paid all of my bills for a month I would still end up back here in this bed crying about how much I hate what my life looks like. 

I didn't get to be like this overnight and I'm not going to fix it that way either.

Instead I'm going to take very slow, careful steps to address some of the things I don't like.  I'm not looking for miracles, just a little hope at the end of the day.