Oh Hi. Life goes on.

… as long as I stay as busy as humanly possible.

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Busy summer!

I’m not going to lie, losing my job was up there as one of the most challenging things I’ve dealt with. In my life. I hate that it’s up there with losing a baby. Not *as* intense, but comparable. It’s in the ballpark.

Still dealing with it, really. But the interesting thing is that, because this grief feels similar to other things I’ve dealt with, I have a roadmap. There’s some solace in the knowledge that this hurt won’t last forever. It will keep hurting and there’s no quick fix, but I know for sure that at some point in the future I will look back on all this and be able to say “boy I’m glad it doesn’t hurt like that anymore.”

In the meantime, one of the best coping mechanisms for “waiting it out” has been to stay busy. SO.

Took a long and epic roadtrip to visit my family in the Northeast (I live in the Southwest). Both dogs came AND the cat came. On a road trip. For days.

Then I was able to spend some good solid quality time with my toddler niece and three of my four siblings. It was a trip to soothe my soul, just being around a big group that loved the heck out of me.

Now I’m back home and GUESS WHAT?! I’m going back to school for a DOCTORATE degree. This is still sinking in, especially because it was not even a twinkle in my eye back at the turn of the year (when I should have been working on an admissions packet).

Near the end of April I emailed the graduate advisor at a local university with (convenient) the exact program I wanted. I had emailed to see about starting an application for fall 2017. But then she emailed back and said, “we have one spot open for Fall 2016 – are you interested?”

WHAT?! So I spent the next month speed-compiling a writing sample and letters of recommendation and all the other stuff that I was expecting to have 6-8 months to get together. And I sent it in. And I got accepted. But not just accepted.

Some PhD programs are “funded,” meaning the students trade work (teaching or research) in exchange for their tuition fees. Funded positions are competitive positions because they’re limited. So normally students compete once to get into a program and then again to receive funding.

I got funding. I’m going to school for basically free.

To get a DOCTORATE DEGREE.

Cue busy times ahead. And I’m so looking forward to it.

On Photographers

One of the more interesting self-employment professions.

We recently had a “real” photographer try their hand at some pictures.

I think, depending on the kind of person behind the camera, we are either a photographer’s best buddies or their worst nightmare. We’re incapable of posing – we literally need them to position us like dolls with articulated joints.

The goofy faces never end. Seriously. We could do a three hour session and the self-conscious goofball faces will continue to appear.

In fact, the only real way to get us to quit being morons and actually look somewhat decent is to make us laugh non-stop.

photographer by Elicus
{image by Elicus on Flickr}

Thus, we’ve only had our pictures taken by a professional twice in our many years together. This last weekend was the second attempt. The first one was six years ago (we liked those so much we’ve been using them for everything since then).

We laughed, we goofed, we laughed some more. At one point we did the middle school dance refrigerator shuffle as the camera clicked away. It was fun.

I bet we get some good pictures out of it.

Pain is a Gift

Appropriating Doctor Who quotes for my own use

There’s a quote from a recent Doctor Who episode that resonates for me (the writing is dang good this season, just sayin) –

Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain we can’t feel the hurt we inflict.

To me, this quote is about empathy. Without our own memories of pain we wouldn’t be able to appreciate or understand the way others behave when they are in pain.

I’m thinking about all this because today is an anniversary. I didn’t think, at the time, that it would be as big of an anniversary as it is. At the time, I figured it would simply be a memory of one moment. And it is that – it’s the date I had emergency surgery on a (literally) dark and stormy night. Which was scary and sad.

Turns out, though, that the day wasn’t just a day of loss. It was the beginning of being barren. It wasn’t until several years later that I could fully appreciate that day, as sad and low as it was, was something to be cherished. It was the last day I was ever “able” to carry a child.

So, obviously, painful. But not even close to as painful now as it was seven years ago. These days it’s more of  a distant ache, more a memory of pain than pain itself.

And the thing that I’ve really been marinating on is how it made me (I think) a better person. Healing from the immediate pain and then the extended loss took a lot of time and mental energy. One of the things it did was shift my perspective, in a good way.

pain-is-a-gift_by-elvenwhovian-deviantart
{image by elvenwhovian on deviant art}

There’s a lot more room in my head for grace and different opinions than there once was. When people behave strangely or poorly, my first thought is to wonder what they’re dealing with. I am not nearly as judgmental as I once was.

Basically, my perspective has widened. My own pain affected me in ways I never expected, so now I often assume that others are dealing with the same kind of surprising, disconcerting changes that come along  with their own pain.

That’s a good thing, I think, and prevents me from being a total ass to those who seem to be struggling with things I know nothing about.

I’m better to others (because of pain).

That is a gift.

Goals and Resolutions, 2016

I’ve mastered the art of non-committal and generally general goals and resolutions for 2016.

imageI read a short and sweet article the other day about the difference between goals and resolutions for the new year. Essentially, goals are finite while resolutions represent more of a lifestyle change. “Lose 20 pounds” is a goal; “exercise five times a week” is a resolution.

For 2016 I have a few goals and resolutions. I would like to lose some weight, but daily exercise continues to be a challenge. So I have a goal and a related resolution. (I also have some new outside gear for the MUCH colder weather in our new city.)

We would like to adopt this year. There are a lot of “finite” things we have to accomplish to see the big goal, but a major one is money. So I have a resolution related to regular savings, as well as some sub-goals related to financing.

As ever, reading/writing and creativity are part of my brain space. I’d like to write more (a resolution), and work on getting something published (that’d be a goal). I’ve been going strong on the handlettering, so I have a resolution related to doing that regularly. And I discovered a reading challenge that appealed to me greatly. I’ve already knocked one book off the list.

(I’ll probably post more fully about that reading challenge, along with my personal list, over on RaeReads.com at some point in the near future.)

Finally, I discovered this thing called “bullet journaling” which is a catch-all term for a simple planner and/or a long-term to-do list. The name “bullet journal” can be attributed to a specific guy, as well as one way to “do” bullet journaling. It’s a flexible system, though, and useful for getting and staying organized with tasks. I started trying it out in early December and have actually simplified how I “do” bullet journaling over the last few weeks. It’s handy.

I’m curious about your own goals and resolutions. Please share in the comments, or link to a post about what you look forward to in this new year.

Feliz año nuevo. (Improving my Spanish is a resolution!)

Beating the Old Man

NOTE: I wrote this post in July or August of 2014. It was the kind of thing I needed to write but I wasn’t really ready to post it right then – still wrapping my head around it. I DID wait that guy out; I gave it two months after he retired and then I quit. Spent a (wonderful) year freelancing. Now I’m working a job at a place that LOVES having me. They tell me every day. It’s incredible.


 

I’ve very recently been bumped to an upper tier. I now report directly to the CEO, meaning I’m pretty high up there. However, I am a lone wolf – my department is just me and my work consists largely of one-off, single-person duties. As such, I have no real interaction with any of my “peers” other than the occasional hello or perhaps a shared training session.

What this has meant, lately, is that I am “known” professionally by the people I worked with and for prior to this position. Everyone else in my new peer group only knows me by word of mouth.

Maybe this wouldn’t have been (or shouldn’t be) an issue, but one of my previous bosses doesn’t think much of me being in an administrative (ie: peer) position. He thought I was AWESOME when I was working for him. Now that I’m working with him, he’s not a fan. In fact, most of my interactions these days consist of my former boss (now peer) brushing me off or actively deriding me.

Sometimes it’s too my face, other times I hear about how I’ve been characterized (in closed meetings) after the fact.

It’s made work not just unpleasent. It’s made me distrustful of all my peers, and my boss. It’s created a feeling of animosity toward the institution at large. And it has destroyed my enthusiasm for the work that I do. If I get any feedback at all these days, it’s negative. And I KNOW that I am doing good work. The disparity between what I’m doing and what I’m hearing only serves to further undercut whatever confidence I might still have retained for the others at and above my level.

I want to leave. I think about it through every weekend. I think about it most mornigns when I wake up. It’s a thought that follows me around during really bad days at work.

But if I leave, that’s the end of the story. “It sucked royally. The end.” For perhaps the very first time in my entire life, I want to stay just as badly as I want to go. I’m not going to beat this guy at whatever power struggle thing we’re now engaged in. I’m probably not ever going to be able to undo the damage he has done to my professional reputation.

He’s old. I will outlast him. I can get the end of the story closer to “Then it got a little better. The end.”

That’s enough.

 

This Week in History

TimeHop is an app that “crawls” your history on social media and tells you what you posted “on this day” as many years back as your history goes.

This week is apparently one for the books. Here are two short stories.

This Week in History | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Six years ago we were living in a shady area. We’d never really lived anywhere where crime happened in our neighborhood. We’ve always lived places where crime happens nearby.

And I’m not talking anything big, like murder or kidnapping (although that stuff did happen) I’m just referring to petty theft, vandalism, etc… Before eight years ago, that was a thing we only heard about.

So this week six years ago we had a rock thrown through our front window and we kind of realized that we weren’t living in a great place. Up until then we had brushed that notion off. (For the record, there wasn’t anything malicious about the incident. Most likely it was some kids walking around late at night, being jackasses.)

What was the scariest the next morning wasn’t the gaping hole in the front of our home, it was the fact that neither the cops (who didn’t even show up after we called 911 twice) nor the apartment complex people cared at ALL. The reaction of the locals was kind of, “why are you freaking out about this? It was just some kids with rocks.”

This incident really got our wheels turning on a move. Six months later we were in a different town and I was back in school working on my Master’s. Kind of a pivotal event, all told.

This Week in History | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com
A year ago I was working as a project manager, grant writer, IT liaison, and accreditation director. I was becoming overwhelmed but this week was the beginning of the end. When I saw this little post on TimeHop I had to stop and catch my breath.

So the story is that it was the first grant proposal I had to get approved. All the ones I’d written before that were kind of “it’ll be nice if we get it, but no biggie.” For this one, there was a ton of pressure from all leadership to deliver.

The conference was a killer opportunity in terms of project management. I had won a fellowship to it and was going on just travel costs. But by the time departure day rolled around I knew that I absolutely did not have the time to take those three days and leave behind the Proposal.

I really want to go into details on how crazy that whole thing was. Mostly, know that it was essentially an undeliverable. There was no way I was going to be able to do it with the resources I had. I asked for more resources and was turned down. I tried to deliver anyway.

I was also beginning the process of training the whole organization on a major program change from IT.

I was also the director of a major, organization-wide external evaluation report.

I had other jobs. At the time the above post was written, I was working a solid 60-80 hours a week and falling way behind every day. I wasn’t sleeping much and I had started losing hair, which was weird and scary.

Oh! And we were going through a round of IVF! We had started the process months earlier but had put it off several times because of work commitments for both of us. By the time the above post was written we had decided that no time was particularly good (ie: life was going to be crazy all the time) so we just went for it.

I didn’t tell anyone at work what was going on in my private life – it wasn’t the kind of place where they want anything that distracts from the Job. So when we had a positive pregnancy test, we rejoiced in private. And, a week later, when I started to miscarry, we mourned in private. And I kept going to work.

Six months later, I had quit that job and was happily freelancing, spending most of my “work” hours with a great friend; and Hubs and I were starting to work through our options for adoption.

All of this is to say I’m kind of interested to see where we are six months from now. There’s been enough quiet upheaval in the last few weeks that I could probably mark this week (this year) as another “beginning.”

We shall see. Definitely stay tuned.

Choose Joy – Some Thoughts About Faith

The faith-based infertility and adoption conference I attended this past weekend was such a positive experience. I’ve already posted about how wonderful it was to feel a sense of community and have an ability to share more openly about infertility and our first steps into adoption.

I honestly expected to struggle more with the whole faith-based thing during the event. Instead, I had a peaceful weekend. There was lots of food for thought, but nothing particularly challenging or agonizing.

I want to explain why.

Six years ago, two years into infertility, I hit a wall with the whole notion of God and my faith of 20+ years. I could not reconcile the things that were happening to us with the God I was so familiar with. I was also beginning to recognize that I was in the throes of a significant grieving process. The loss of my faith wasn’t something that I had the ability to grapple with right then. So I “put a pin in it” with the understanding that I’d come back to it later.

Some people hit rock bottom and their faith in God is deepened. I hit rock bottom and God was not there. I couldn’t deal with both rock bottom and the absence of God. So I triaged. I told myself, “Deal with rock bottom first, the God thing will still be there when you are ready.”

And it was.

Strong at the broken places... | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Two to three years ago I started to unpack “the God thing.” I gave it a lot of thought, I read, I studied, I analyzed. I was open (kind of hopeful, actually) to a different, better understanding of the Christian God I had grown up with. I was actively searching for a place to plant my feet, the “solid foundation” I spent most of my life hearing about.

What I eventually came to was that the things I “knew” about God, and had learned about God, and continued to hear about God – these things are incompatible with what we have been through.

It’s a 1+3=2 situation.

There are so many ways to talk about unexplained loss. But no matter how Christians conceptualize it, it’s still a 1+3=2 equation. I’ve heard it said that this is the foundation of belief – trusting that one plus three really does equal two because God – and I can allow for that. I think that a God of Everything can probably handle that kind of math. But whether God can handle it is not enough for me to accept the dogma of Christianity and live my life according to a Christian framework.

What I’ve been through and what I knew about the Christian God – those things don’t jive. They just don’t. I grappled with the whole framework: the dogma, the tenets, the teachings, the practice of Christianity. What I hit on, about a year ago, is that I have serious questions about the basics. I simply cannot get over the 1+3=2 problem. And the answers of the Christian Church are not sufficient for me.

I realized that if God exists I’ve had it wrong for a long time.

Initially, I really didn’t like this. For several years I sort of hoped for some divine revelation that would make the 1+3=2 thing work. I like having something to believe in. I like the idea of a Plan, of something controlling or orchestrating the events of my life. I took comfort in the notion that our pain was not a wasted thing – that it meant something. But no matter how I looked at it, thought about it, prayed about it… the equation just did not work.

If I can't change a situation, I am challenged to change myself. | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

At this point I am a lot less sure about anything than I ever was. I believe that any God that might exist is way bigger and more complex than how we conceptualize It. What I believe these days is pretty much a rejection of Christian dogma as a whole. I believe in the possibility of God… and that’s about it.

What’s interesting is that, for the very first time in my life, I have peace about my “walk” with God. I don’t feel like I’m missing something. I don’t feel like I should be doing something I’m not. I don’t agonize over it, I don’t feel gypped or wronged, I don’t feel like an idiot, and I don’t feel guilty. I just have peace. It seems ironic – Peace is something Christians talk about a lot in relation to God.

Back to the reason all of this was not much of a struggle this past weekend – I had fixed on some things after much work. And I had fixed on them well before my trip to the faith-based conference. I didn’t have a hard time because I believe that each person’s understanding of God is fundamentally limited. They were speaking what they know, just like I speak what I know.

This is not Facts; this is Belief. I can extend graciousness and possibility to anyone in terms of their Beliefs.

Here’s what I believe:

I doubt God exists. If God does exist, God is very different from the way Christians talk about God.

God will not punish me for thinking this way.

I’m the master of my fate – God is not a conductor orchestrating my every moment toward some grand, yet unknown crescendo.

Infertility is a biological event, not a consequence of Original Sin or a side effect of Free Will.

Adoption is not a calling, a ministry, or a way to “do your duty” or “glorify” God.

Suffering is not divine.

I believe that if any God exists, it’s a big God, a huge God, a God way past my ability to understand, comprehend, correct, or even argue with. I don’t have to get it right, because the kind of God I believe in is fully aware of how tiny and limited I am in relation to It and just how ridiculously difficult something like 1+3=2 is for something like me.

And what if I’m wrong?

God can handle it.

I hit rock bottom and God was not there. | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com