In like a lion, out like a lamb

I went into this year, this 2015, really excited. I felt confident and positive and things were well. Yes, there was some yuckiness to be expected because that’s life but I mean overall, I felt good about this year.

Despite the month of March and what transpired there, I remain positive and confident in what this year holds. March had its very painful moments. I was truly shaken by what happened with my niece. All of it– from the premature birth, to the suspenseful days she spent in the NICU, to her passing, to the funeral, to this Saturday where we placed the tiny tiny tiny urn that held her ashes into the mausoleum, was really intense and painful. And it was also surprising in its intensity. You can’t really anticipate how something will affect you until you go through it I guess.

I have to say though that I feel ok with this tragedy. That is not to say that I am happy that it happened of course. What I am trying to say is that I don’t feel like I have been flung into hopelessness and despair because of it. Yes there has been grief, real and intense grief. And there was is anger and frustration. But mostly there have been teachable moments and I feel that I have embraced them and I feel that I have handled myself better than I may have had this happened a year ago for instance.

I bought a journal for myself right around the time she was born. My sister in law wanted one for herself to document the experience of her birth and what she anticipated would be their life with a baby in the NICU. While searching for hers, I found one that touched me for me so I picked it up.

It said this on the cover:

You can't control the wind but you can adjust the sails.

You can’t control the wind but you can adjust the sails.

I keep thinking a lot about that. In a way, I guess it’s sort of my mantra right now. You see, something I say a lot is that I am tired. People who know me even mention how frequently I mention my exhaustion.

It’s slowly occuring to me that maybe the exhaustion isn’t due to little sleep or to lots of physical activity but maybe it’s because I’m constantly fighting with the wind.

On Tuesday, my boyfriend went out of town to stay with his daughter while her mother went on a vacation. He came back on Sunday. This weekend, the kids were with their father. This little break from the norm was refreshing. It was also a little eye-opening and I am glad it happened. I wish in a way that it would happen a little more frequently actually. You learn a lot about yourself when you get a few days on your own.

I am the kind of person that tends to set themselves aside frequently. At this point, the why isn’t important. I am thinking that this is not a really good thing to do. I’m not even talking about setting myself aside in a material way– putting the physical needs of others first and then the physical wants of others right after that and then my own needs and my own wants. That is not even really the large problem.

The truth is, I don’t really listen to myself. I listen to other people. I do things because other people think it’s a good idea to do something. I do things because other people like to do them. I’m constantly fighting my own wind. I listen to so many voices, I lose my own in the rabble. So getting that silence if you will was… really nice.

The thing is that I like me. I actually do. I like the kind of person that I am. I like the values that I have. I like the priorities I choose. The thing is that I put the opinions of others above my own and that’s where I get lost. I am fighting my inner self to be more like other people.

It’s so silly.

Having that breathing room this past week helped me see that. I don’t listen to my heart enough.I think, more than anything, tuning into myself this past week was the reason I enjoyed myself so much. I did not feel lonely once.

And I think also that’s why I’m at peace with March. It came in and it had a lot of tragedy with it. But it had some good and beautiful things too. And tha’s life. I am looking forward to the rest of this year. Something tells me, this is one of the most significant years of my life.

 

A loss for words

People often tell me I have a way with words. On a day like today, I wish it were true. My niece passed away today. My brother called me just a few minutes after I dropped my kids off at school. It has been a long time since I heard a grown man sob, choked with grief. I heard it again not too long after when our younger brother called me asking me where I was and if I was going to the hospital. Not long after that, I heard my uncle choke back tears twice. I can’t decide what’s worse– that sound or the sight of a room filled with people you love sitting or standing like zobmbies with red swollen eyes and noses and tracks of tears on their faces. That’s the sight I saw when I walked into the NICU, the last to arrive.

My old co-workers hugged me and talked with me. I got lost when I left. I didn’t care.

I don’t know what to say to my brother and his wife other than, “I love you” and “I love you so much” or “I love you very much”. That’s all I have. That’s all I can yank together. That’s all I can feel. I love them. And I hurt so much because I love them and I see them and I hear them and I think of them and it overwhelms me. Their pain is a vicious one.

Consolations are a mixed bag. On the one hand you know most people are as speechless and awkward as you are and they’re doing the best they can. On the other hand, you really don’t want to hear about the mysterious ways of gods right now or the plans they have that we can’t grasp. Don’t tell me this is part of a plan and don’t tell me this will make sense one day.

It’s not and it won’t.

She was a tiny little thing. I never held her. I never touched her. I gazed upon her and I spoke to her in a half whisper. I doubt she heard me in her plastic box. I saw her only twice in person. Yet she managed to stake a place for herself in my heart and that place is raw and hurting right now.

I have asked for so many prayers the past 24 hours. I don’t know why other than it was the only thing I could think of doing. It seems the only acceptable way to say, “We need support and love right now” without actually saying it. “Pray for us” means “Show love for us” essentially. I think. I don’t know.

Oh my little niece. You made an aunt of me and it wasn’t for long enough. I never held you in my arms but I will always, always, ALWAYS hold you in my heart.

 

New Job is One Month Old

Well, I’ve been in my new position just over a month. I wrote a little bit about it when I was two weeks in so I figured another summary was due.

I really like my new job. I feel like this is the job that I have been wanting for a very long time. It’s not so much the title, it’s the everything else. Titles can be deceptive. Job descriptions can be too but they tend to be more comprehensive.

So what is it about the job itself that I like?

Well, for one my boss’ management style and my work style mix well. He is really laid back and pretty hands off with as much as possible. However, he is ready to do what is needed or wanted of him and that’s really helpful. He is nice and protective of his staff. Never underestimate the importance of good management. I know this is really hard to gauge from a job description or even a job interview, but I think the first 60 days or so should get you a better understanding.

I like the work environment in that it is pretty darn flexible. Pretty much it seems to be come and go as you please as long as you’re where you’re needed when you’re committed to being there. There aren’t people carefully monitoring calendars and clocks.

I like the work duties that I am responsible for. I like to organize meetings. I like to inform people of what is going on and what is needed from them. I like placing orders for things and making sure they get delivered and paid for.

I like the things I get to collaborate on or that people ask me for my input on. I like being asked for input and it being taken seriously. I like to help with the creative brainstorming for the Outreach Coordinator. I like to contribute to the building up of something.

I like the things that we are studying. I like fish and the species they’re studying here is really beautiful and fascinating. So I like learning more about it and I like that I can do that through my job.

I like that I don’t know how to do everything I’m supposed to do. For instance, I’ll be the data manager for this project. It seems that will be a pretty big responsibility and I’m not really familiar with scientific data management. There is a lot of support to help the group and me so we’re not lost but it feels a bit overwhelming sometimes. Then I remind myself how awesome I am and that I like playing with data and I don’t feel so scared anymore. And I like that uncertainty– that opportunity to prove something to myself. And again, it’s not like I’m being handed this with a pat on the shoulder and a “Good luck” so that helps. I’m confident I will actually be learning a really valuable skill set and that makes me happy.

I like the fact that this is as close to a scientist as I, a non-scientist, can get. It is pretty involved and it has a lot of interaction with scientists who turn out to be people I like. It’s fun to be in an environment where the weird things I find to be really cool are actually not weird at all. I don’t even mean the typical pop culture things because the nerd world is rampant in pop culture. I mean things like finding yourself with a group of people staring at an image of a cell and figuring out the different parts of the cell you’re looking at and you say, “Wow that’s really cool” and everyone chimes in with “RIGHT?!”

So there you have it. The new job is great– a perfect fit, more than I imagined.

Auntie Mutant

When I got home on Friday, my boyfriend came back from his follow up with the doctor. He had some news– he’s pre-diabetic. So we went out to eat a healthy dinner despite the fact he really wanted one last junky one. When we got home, we settled into the couch for cuddles and TV and my phone rang. It was my aunt and when I answered she said, “Mutant what happened?” “What do you mean?” “Your brother sent a text– Baby is coming. Don’t text please.” “WHAT!? I didn’t get it! Let me find out bye.”

My niece was born at 10:32 PM Friday, February 27. She weighed 1 lb, 7 ounces. There was an emergency c-section. All hell broke loose in other words.

My niece is tiny. She is fighting. Every day is a new day. She has had a bad day and an ok day and a great day. Her mother and father are reeling and trying their best. We are trying to figure out what the hell to do for them. We are trying to give them distance without making them feel alone. We are worrying for them and trying to not let them know we are worried for them.

I worked with neonatologists for four and a half years. And now my brother and my sister in law are in there with my niece dealing with all of the things I had heard of during my time there. Now I am just trying to figure out what we can do for them that actually helps not annoys.

We have gotten ideas like doing their laundry, providing them with meals (one family mentioned they left a cooler on the front porch for this purpose), offering to drive her wherever, doing light groceries, running errands, giving them gift cards for things like gas, giving them magazines and baby books, etc. Any other ideas would be great. We are a MASSIVE family and we are usually very close so we know very well how easily that can veer into overwhelming. I bought her a journal and I took my brother a camera. I bought them a board book and I bought a set of muslin swaddling cloths that are pretty versatile. I have made a personal resolution to not bring up anything medical and to not offer advice or anything like that. I caught myself doing it and I decided that’s freaking annoying so I need to shush.

So yay I’m an Auntie! Now we just need lots of patience and good thoughts for my niece and her mommy and daddy.

The thing on my brain

Yesterday morning, my sister in law went to the hospital with contractions. She’s only 24 weeks pregnant. They found that she was 4cm dilated and put her on magnesium to stop the contractions. The magnesium worked and the contractions eased up big time. When I left yesterday, they were happening once every half hour or so and they weren’t very big. Today, the doctors made the decision to transfer her to the public hospital. They feel that she is likely to go into labor soon regardless what the medicine did. They say the baby is low in the birth canal and with her being at 4cm, I get the impression they feel a preemie is inevitable.

So the question is what kind of preemie are we talking about and the private hospital she was at is simply not equipped to handle a micropreemie or a very premature baby. The public hospital is. And the NICU at the public hospital is run by the group I just left. So, my former co-workers will be taking care of my niece it seems.

We are really really really really wishing and hoping she hangs in there for another 4 weeks so she gets to the really really great 28 week mark. But we know that realistically speaking, she can go at any time.

This leaves me feeling sort of crazy.

On the one hand, I’m very happy that she will be treated by my former co-workers. They are the best at what they do here, no doubt about it. And the fact that she is related to me will mean they will easily keep me posted and they will all be interested in her progress so those are good things. They are very reassuring.

On the other hand, I feel tremendous anxiety. I am not sleeping well and I’m sort of going crazy when I’m not in the hospital with them. Mostly, I am thinking about my sister in law in this case. She’s a PA. She KNOWS that this is risky. She knows better than most people do. And I think that’s not really a good thing. I want to be there for her. She was really happy, or so she said, with my presence yesterday. I know she and I are not super close and that she has closer friends, but I think what it comes down to is that I am actually an excellent caregiver. I am patient, I am calm, I listen, I am empathetic.

I also worry about my brother. I have a difficult time reading him. I want to be there for him and help him but I honestly don’t know how. This makes me feel sad. His wife is a lot like him too so I am never really sure if I am annoying her or helping her.

Emotionally, I fluctuate. I kind of freak out because she’s just 24 weeks. And then I try and calm down because she’s in the best place to be and because she’s not actually in labor right now.

So, anyhow, that’s the thing that is on my brain right now eating up my energy. What’s on yours?

A question of faith

One of the things I struggle with as a former Catholic turned agnostic is finding strength or comfort when things go crazy. The older I get, the more I understand why people practice religion, why they “find” God, why they cling to belief systems. Life gets hard as you get older. The more time you spend on this blue planet, the more you’re exposed to and there is a lot of not nice out there to be exposed too.

For the first 14, 15 years of my life I was raised as a Catholic. I received a Catholic education, attended Catholic Mass, went through Catholic ceremonies, read Catholic scriptures, sang Catholic hymns, said Catholic prayers, etc. Then I got older…

Have you ever watched the movie Dogma? There is a scene with Bethany and Liz and they talk about faith. It goes like this:

Liz: He said that faith is like a glass of water. When you’re young, the glass is small, and it’s easy to fill up. But the older you get, the bigger the glass gets, and the same amount of liquid doesn’t fill it anymore. Periodically, the glass has to be refilled.

Bethany: You’re suggesting I need to get filled?

Liz: In more ways than one. You need to get laid, Bethany Sloane. You need a man, if only for ten minutes.

Bethany: It’s been my experience that the average male is never a man. Not even for ten minutes in his entire lifespan.

Liz: That’a a bit militant. You thinking of joining the other side?

Bethany: Couldn’t do it. Women are insane.

Liz: Then YOU need to go back to church and ask God for a third option.

Bethany: I think God is dead.

Liz: The sign of a true Catholic.

Bethany and Liz

I remember watching that movie and that scene was exactly everything I was thinking. It stuck with through all of these years and lately I’ve been thinking about it more because when things get hectic, I flounder.

When I was a Catholic, I knew what to do. I knew that I could trust in God’s plan. I knew that I could pray about it. I knew that God knew what he was doing and for me to presume that I knew better was silly. So, you know, comfort was easy to find.

But then… all of the stuff became confusing. My glass got really, really, really big and there’s been nothing adequate to fill it. And for the most part, I’m fine with it. I don’t fear death. I am grateful we’re on this planet. I am grateful for the people who inhabit it with me. But I still struggle and when I struggle I don’t know what to do with myself.

The way I see it, there’s not really a plan. My life, your life, all of our lives, they aren’t designed for us to get the most out of it. They’re just our lives that we have and it’s up to us to shape them. Which is why so many people latch onto one belief system or another (sometimes many). And I am totally ok and understanding of that. It’s just not something that I can do at this point in my life.

A friend of mine tells me that we all need to believe in something. I agree with that but I don’t know what to believe in. A lot of people believe in themselves and that’s enough but that’s hard for me to swallow given my background. Religious systems do not appeal to me.

The things that I do believe in give me comfort but they don’t give me the reassurance I look for when things go bad. So I guess that’s my question for the week– where do you get your reassurance from when things go bad if you’re not religious? Do you simply have the confidence in yourself and your abilities to make the most out of a situation? Do you believe in a universe so vast that whatever problems we may face are just too insignificant to give attention to?

 

Kid Magnet

Here is a story of a strange thing that happened to me today. I stopped in at the neighborhood diner after my doctor’s appointment (upper respiratory infection FTW). The owner of the diner was at the door cleaning up something and so was his little girl– a cutie of about 2 or 3 years old that I had never seen before. I open the door and before I set foot in the door, the little girl looks up into my eyes and throws herself at me begging me to carry her. So I do, a little disturbed as to what the hell was going on and also trying to communicate to her father “Your daughter is safe! I am not a predator!”. She hugs me and I walk to the counter and when I try and put her down she is not happy and immediately begins to climb my chair. Her dad, somehow receiving the mentally transmitted message “Your daughter is safe!” gets me some coffee and water and watches his daughter settle into my lap.

While she sits in my lap, she plays (and pulls- ow) my hair, swats at my glasses (not cool), and babbles at me pointing out all of the cool things in the diner– especially the Minnie Mouse that’s sitting on the shelf in front of us. Her dad takes my order and the little girl and I just hang out. Her aunt comes and tries to have her sit in her lap next to me because they were a little weirded out I guess by the whole thing. The little girl is having NONE of it. And the aunt tells the dad, “Well, she kinda looks like Heather.” I took that to be the girl’s mother but I thought I had seen the girl’s mother in the diner before and I recalled she looked very unlike me. She had short pixie-like hair and lots of tattoos and had no glasses. But maybe that wasn’t the mother. I don’t know. The Dad mentioned if I didn’t have kids, I totally should. Later, the aunt brings my food and has to take away the little girl who immediately throws a major tantrum to the point the aunt had to take her outside. They tried to bring her back while I was still eating but she didn’t want to sit anywhere other than right on my lap so she went outside with her Aunt again.

Anyhow, later when I was done eating she came back over to me and climbed into my lap again. This time she leaned back against my chest and just sat there very calmly looking into space. Her Dad shook his head and told me, “She is seriously comfortable. She has never done anything like this with anyone.” When I left, she tried to leave with me. I told her goodbye and she started another tantrum again. I saw them later at the CVS (but she didn’t see me) and she had moved on.

So, yeah. That’s my weird story. Kids, especially really young ones like babies and kids her age, tend to be strongly attracted to me. Babies tend to be calm when I hold them and kids like to come over to me and hang out. Has anything ever happened like this to you?

Keeping it Mellow

Things have been pretty mellow here. We all got struck with varying degrees of sickness. I’m still shaking mine off and will be heading to the doctor tomorrow morning to see if it’s turned itself into another infection. I’m also going to see what I can do to bulk up against illnesses. I mean what I can REALLY do not what all of the personal stories say.

I had a really lovely Valentine’s Day weekend. He gave me roses on Friday. I know that I should be too cool for roses but I’m not. I love roses. And tulips. And sunflowers. And daisies. And mums. And hydrangeas. And all the flowers. So that was really sweet of him and the note he wrote me made me all mushy inside.

On Saturday he made us breakfast with heart shaped eggs in a basket. It was adorable. We just hung out at home and then we went out to eat at our favorite fritanga. After that he took me shoe shopping and we found a pair of Michael Kors shoes priced at $25 from $200 so that was a major score. From there we picked up his sister in law who is wonderful. The three of us went to the Wynwood Art Walk and had a great time. We saw someone painting a mural and ducked into a couple of galleries but once we found the tent with the music we pretty much found our place for the night. We headed to Panther Coffee a couple of times but were just frustrated by the insane line. Instead we had gelato pops that were delicious. And then we went for more dancing.

On Sunday he had to work and I did some major cleaning up in the play/craft room. I spent the ENTIRE day in there. His sister in law came over again, we had dinner at home, and then we went to watch Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo which was absolutely hilarious.

I got him a nifty bowtie, an Iron Giant Funko Pop, and a box of Red Velvet Oreo cookies that are delicious FYI. He was happy. We like to keep Valentine’s Day on the low key side of things.

This month has been interesting. I have been pretty vigilant with the money and the budget and it’s been paying off so far. I’ve kept frivolous spending down and intentional spending up. That’s how we got to see the Trocks for instance and also how I was able to score us tickets for Wicked next month.

Things are starting to make sense financially. Credit cards are done. Now all that’s left is the Lending Club and the student loans and I’m done with debt. The really encouraging part is that the amount of my debt is basically 10% of my retirement portfolio. I think that’s pretty good. It also means that I have a net worth and that makes me smile. The only other major thing would be the housing situation. I rent very cheaply and it’s hard for me to picture investing in a home here. Pros and cons to every situation, that’s for sure.

So that’s most of life over here. What’s life over there like?

Finishing up the second week

So today is my second Friday on the new job and all is well. In the mornings, I love the part where I drive through the toll plaza and behold the beauty of the Key. In the afternoons, I love crossing over the bridge. I always have my windows down while driving around here. Last Friday my mom came by with the kids and they saw one of the labs and then we went to the beach for a little while. They liked it so much we came back on Sunday for a late afternoon picnic.

I figured out my chair in the first week which is great because I never did figure out either one of my chairs in the old office. Or maybe they were just really crappy chairs. This one goes up and down and back and forth and reclines and doesn’t recline and has armrests that move. It’s pretty swell and I was really proud of myself for figuring it out because it’s the little things.

Some departments move as slow here as they did at the Medical school which I find surprising. HR is really slow. From what I understand, they still haven’t finalized my paperwork making me officially an employee at the Marine school. This is mostly not a problem except there’s one kind of expense reimbursement I have to do that lists my old supervisor as an approver and he’s giving me a hard time about approving something my current supervisor DID approve.

Some things I am still working on are how to climb the stairs to my boss’ office without panting by the time I get there and also how to put the toilet seat liner on without it slipping into the bowl before I sit on it. Also, there’s a total lack of hooks in the restrooms and I find that odd. It drives me crazy that I can’t hang my purse while I go pee. My mother is excited that I will surely lose weight because of all the up and down stairs I have to do. My mother is silly that way. I am trying to work on stretching out my calves because they really hurt from all of the up and down.

I worked from home yesterday without a problem because once again I got sick. Today I’m feeling better than yesterday. Yesterday I felt like I couldn’t move. Everything hurt, even my hair. Today I’m just irritated with my coughing and congestion but seriously I have work to do and I don’t want to spend another day in bed.

Overall, I have to say the transition has been smooth and I have been able to hit the ground running at a pretty decent pace. The one big difference is that in this position I am working under a grant-funded account and in my old position that wasn’t the case. So in this position, things are a little tighter and trickier as far as purchasing goes. This is further complicated by the fact that the grant is new and big so the people in finance are being very protective about it.

I like it here. It’s quiet and mellow. It feels much more independent than my previous job and I feel much more trusted here than I did before. I also like that I will be more connected to the science than before. I won’t be doing experiments but I’ll be managing data and I’ll be ordering the equipment and supplies. I already saw two of the labs. I like labs.

Of course the view is lovely too. My particular view isn’t amazing as I am next door the back lot of the Seaquarium next door. But there are lots of palm trees and many types of birds swoop around here in wide lazy circles. One day I saw a bunch of pelicans descend on a pickup truck and eat their hearts out. I don’t have to walk very far to see the ocean at all and our cafeteria has the most gorgeous view ever. They supposedly host happy hours every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday but I haven’t been over there yet.

My boss is nice. And it’s really nice that I only have one. He’s pretty young but also very accomplished from what I can tell. I like that. I also like his managing style which is to get everyone together so we all know what’s going on and what’s coming up. He’s really really busy. I think I can be a lot more helpful and useful than he originally counted on and that makes me feel good.

I hear from my old co-workers every now and then. The one girl that primarily took over my duties told me I’d be proud of her because she has been handling everything. I told her I never once doubted her.

So yeah, I’m happy. It’s been a good transition and I’m glad I did it.