When you’re having trouble beginning, begin with gratitude. Its American Thanksgiving today and its one of my favorite holidays. As per my usual habit, I distance myself from the awkward history and traditions of the piece and focus on what I find lovable and valuable about the day. (Except Columbus Day, that’s just bullshit.) American Thanksgiving comes without religious issues, but it does have its own helping of colonialism and racism if you focus on the pilgrims and Native American relations. So I try not to, and instead take the time to really be thoughtful about what I am grateful for.
I did a whole study on gratitude when I was in college. The things I found during that time were about how powerful being grateful is. Some of it is a change in perspective, a change in how you handle the world, looking for what is wise and wonderful in every moment gives you a strength that is difficult to evangelize. It gave me an appreciation for the beauty in others and gave me a thousand small stories about how appreciation could bring about a change in how others viewed the world as well as myself. The second step I took was to find the courage to thank people who were enriching my world. Over the years, I’ve left behind the focus on moment to moment gratitude I worked on in that time in my life, but maintained a habit of complimenting people when they bring me joy and light that still gives dividends today. (Pro Tip: Admire things about people that are their choices, not random chance. Compliment clothing selections and hairstyles rather than genetics.)
So its Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for. My daughter, Hatchling, is an amazing little human. She’s 8 months old going on 18. She’s strong and adventurous and resilient and happy and delights in herself and the world around her. She’s expressive and exploratory and busy, busy, busy. Angel and I shared a room with her for a few days for the family holiday and waking up to her happy little face watching us, eager for the new day, has been just wonderful. Angel continues to be a solid, loving presence in my life. Always surprising me with his tender care and sparkling humor. I’ve had the privilege of getting to live with Cups for the last year and seeing how hard she works and how deep she thinks and lives. (Which isn’t to say I don’t want her out of my guest room, but when she leaves it will be bittersweet. There is always something a little more home about having my sisters close, and a little more empty when they are off being astonishing for the benefit of other people.) My job, intense and bonkers as it is, continues to be a surprising source of constant learning and fulfillment. Its gone from “…and they pay me too!” to “its worth the money” this year, but some of that is learning my own value, which has been eye opening. (It turns out that I do hard things. And I’m good at them. Possibly uniquely suited for some specific hard things.) My pain levels are the best they have been in years, potentially in my life. (Its not magic, its 40-120 minutes of exercise in the pool 3-5 times a week. But I like being able to stand! and walk! and lay on my sides!)
I’m thankful for the robust community of internet friends I’ve lucked into – I need reminders that women are deeply real. Working in tech starts to queer your mind a bit into thinking that the world is only about 15% female and being a woman makes you weird and unusual and lonely. Knitting pulls me back from the edge and paints women back into my life in all their dimensions. As a craft, knitting keeps me balanced and creating, soothing the stormy places in my mind and calming the prickly times, reminding me that I make a difference. As a community, knitting reminds me of the wholeness of the world, giving back to me what I miss in my professional life. It keeps me connected to the fullness of humanity.
So that’s Thanksgiving this year.
It glosses over a lot, but maybe that is it’s purpose. My job is hard. My team is a collection of amazing individuals that need to be balanced off each other and the challenges they face like an egg carton of nitroglycerin eggs. We’re also currently the most stable team in the department, by some measures, and its a position I’m unused to and find terribly concerning. I know that I grow furiously when given appropriate management attention and, selfishly, they may not have it for me while everyone else is struggling so.
To say I haven’t yet found work-life balance is to be terribly understated. My daily schedule holds only what is most desperately important, and I fall over in exhaustion unable to sleep basically every night. Its not super healthy, and I’m taking some steps to try to address that, but fitting self care in is so hard. Okay, fitting more in. Self care is expensive in time, and I hold time so dear now, with Hatchling growing up so quickly. (I already can barely fathom what she was ever the tiny floppy human larvae she started as. She’s pulling herself to standing and cruising along furniture. She picks up a new trick every day and by the next morning its old hat and she’s blasé about our celebrations of it. “Oh that old thing? So yesterday, dahling.”) The next time my mom or in-laws see her she’ll be walking, probably running. The last time she was here we were applauding when she got her hand on what she was reaching for. Time away from her is costly in ways that cannot be replaced.
She brings into great relief for me what I believe to be the central question of this generation – where were you for the civil rights movement? Because this is where we are today. Black Lives Matter. Trans acceptance. Gay rights. Syrian refugees. These are the days where sides are being drawn in the question of how civilized people should treat each other, how our culture treats the oppressed, and where you are in it is where you are in history. I never thought I’d be settled with a baby when that time came. I’m struggling with how I can reach in and help my world move in the direction of the right. I’m amazed that there has been as much patience (apathy?) with the current system as there is. I don’t know that I can say I would be as patient and as non violent if I was concerned for Hatchling’s ability to avoid being shot by racist police without recourse. I admire the people who are actively working to shed sunshine on the current horrors, and am horrified by the swell of people who believe things are as they should be.
I’ve been attending a church lately. Scratch that- a congregation. They officially changed their name in the late 90’s away from “church” to “congregation” because a number of people in the congregation felt the word church carried too much Christian baggage. It’s a small group- about 100 members. But they are very active and very devoted to each other- they have a pretty healthy community feel to them. Tight knit is perhaps a good descriptor. It also implies that outsiders might find it hard to get enveloped in, but I am not sure if that is the case. I’ve been welcomed pretty thoroughly- I am a valued member of the choir, people have asked for my sourdough starter, and one of the choir members and I have started getting together and working on songs of our own. But then again, I am a middle class white woman of non-straight sexuality. The only way in which I am an oddity is that I am young in comparison to most. But as there seems to be a noticeable contingent of people who are early/mid 30’s, perhaps not even my age is that incongruous.
However, it is highly likely that people of color would find it alienating. To be sure, most UU congregations are very white and this is no exception.
But they are very interested in social justice, and the Black Lives Matter movement especially. I should perhaps mention that this is the “James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation”. The person it is named for, James Reeb, is one of the white ministers who answered Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to the clergy to join him in the demonstrations at Selma, and was subsequently murdered for his involvement in the civil rights movement. This is, I think a very apt naming for the congregation. These are white Unitarian Universalists that want to fight injustice and want to do it on the front line. The matyrdom of James Reeb for the civil rights movement informs the attitudes and the interests of this congregation in most of its activities.
Which is all well and good, for the most part.
Let me step back.
There is an interplay – in general, at large, in most things – between the drives of individuality and interdependence. Collectivism and individualism. The ancient debate over the size of the government, what it means to be in a society. Can we really ever go it alone? What do you lose if you leave a community? What are you gaining when you withdraw into your self or focus on yourself vs what do you lose? What do you get if you nurture and maintain relationships with family, friends, neighbors and is it worth the energy and effort that goes into that? When looking at relationships, are you looking at what you get out of it or what you put into it and the larger effect of the entire thing? Is there a larger effect of the thing? What does it mean to be part of a community? How and why do communities form? When should you put common goals ahead of individual goals?
The two drives are not always opposed- in fact they are often aligned. But there is undeniable tension between them.
I am in a choir. I am enjoying it quite a bit. Everyone in it is dedicated to learning and focusing on the music and because of that we are able to do a very good job at this, which enriches the experience of the people who listen to our choir on the Sundays we perform. Having a choir work well, however, is a matter of getting everyone in the choir dedicated to one common purpose and pulling their weight. Everyone needs to be on the same page. In most choirs, this is facilitated by having a director who has the final say on decisions and leads the group in what they are doing (I say “most” not as a contrasting statement but in the acknowledgment that there may be small fully democratic choirs). Our director, though skilled, is inexperienced and can be a bit timid. There are several members of the choir that are anything but. Our rehearsals are frequently interrupted by people who are suggesting ways they think things could be done better, and often these interruptions don’t so much bring up good ideas as they take time and effort away from the choir actually rehearsing.
These are people who are fiercely independent, people who are part of a religion where everything is decided by vote, people who are used to having their voice listened to. It is hard for them to switch cleanly to a setting where yes, while their opinions are valid and there may be things that the leader could be doing better, it is counter productive to try to take over and exert influence because in order for the choir to achieve its goals, deference must be given to the director.
Back to the context of social justice.
The people in this church are anxious to “do something” for the Black Lives Matter movement. They go to all the marches, we have a big “Black Lives Matter” banner that we are hanging on the outside of our building, we let the local vanguards of BLM use our space for events, and every Sunday you will find a number of “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts mixed in with the patchy tweed, dirt stained jeans, hand knit socks and Keen sandals (which seem to have replaced Birkenstocks). A number of sermons have directly or indirectly tackled issues of police violence, white privilege, and racial disparities in our region and our country. Still, we long to “do something”. We give money to local organizations that are related, we have discussion potlucks on racial justice, we pass congregational statements of support and advertise all the local events with racial justice as a theme. Still, I hear a lot of “I want to do something to help Black Lives Matter, and I want to go beyond just talking about it and education”.
Okay, a little more exposition.
When the Selma to Montgomery marches happened in 1965, Unitarian Universalism was actually quite young. American Unitarians and Universalists had joined together in 1961. Unitarians had had a history as a quirky New England branch of Christianity that seemed with every generation to shed another piece of core Christian doctrine, starting with belief in the Trinity and going on to question church polity, the exclusiveness of Christian truth, and then into the nature and existence of the divine. Universalists had held that salvation, redemption, and dignity were afforded to all humans, no matter what. The two schools of thought, when combined, form a framework that above all else, values people, and seeks to empower all people.
Many in UU at the time of the joining were involved in and devoted to the civil rights movement. Many attended the Selma marches and many considered this to be a necessary focus for the new faith. This was not shared by the entire association, however, and different approaches and reactions to the issue sprang up.
A group of black UUs at the time had formed a group promoting black empowerment and self determination within UU. As it limited roles of power to black people, there were a large number of UUs who felt that this was going against the free and democratic ideals that they held so dearly. A separate group sprang up with the goals of helping the black population, but included whites in positions of power. The fight between these two groups, these two ideas, nearly tore the denomination apart and the echoes of the debate still ring in UU today. It is known as the “Empowerment Controversy” and it certainly has loomed large in our current support of BLM. There’s a very good write-up here: http://www.uuworld.org/articles/empowerment-tragedy
You’ve probably heard similar arguments to the various sides of this controversy in a number of places such as any affirmative action or “safe spaces” debate. Basically the black led organization made the argument that a space was needed for black people to determine their own affairs, to hold positions of power, and to work on their own community apart from the white majority that would, by dint of existing power structures, biases, and sheer numbers, never fully cater to the needs and interests of the black UUs. The argument for the other side was that empowerment for black UUs is a common goal that UUs of all races can work towards and therefore should be a part of. The first group found the approach of the second both patronizing and opposed to truly empowering black voices. The second group found the first group to be un-democratic and opposed to the foundational principles of Unitarian Universalism.
You see, there was a conflict between the group (the UUA) empowering the voices of the oppressed and continuing to empower each individual voice- including those of people in the privileged majority. What do you do when the apparent best action, in the name of valuing and empowering all voices, is for some to be silent? Strict democracy allows for majorities to trample minorities, everyone knows this. The American system has a number of mechanics to try to balance this (the efficacy of which is a different discussion)- when it comes to less formal matters- social movements and congregations- what is there but the good will and reason of the participants?
Back to my congregation.
I think it is safe to say that my congregation is doing a great deal to support Black Lives Matter. In many ways I am proud of it and happy that they are. But I see an attitude, a mentality in them that implies many of them still miss some points that are integral to the modern movement to inact structural and cultural changes for racial justice. Mostly- that their voices are not the ones that need to be heard right now. It is black voices that matter most in this conversation. Yes, white voices are important too, but they always have been important to structural and cultural issues and are frequently heard. In this movement, white voices are best to be raised in a supporting role. For us, educating ourselves and our white community, challenging our own culture, and showing support are the best things we can do, and should we try to take on the mantle of leadership in this movement we will be seriously overstepping our bounds and furthering the very system of white control we would see demolished.
We need to be able to ask ourselves if us leading is the best thing for the movement. If having our voice heard would be the best thing for the larger community. If our desires and our feelings are getting in the way of progress for the people who need progress the most. When we as white people speak, it will be heard. We need to ask ourselves if we are speaking over those whose voices should be heard or if we are passing them a microphone.
I like my congregation. I like that they seem to focus on service, community and social justice. I like that our choir is surprisingly good. I’m actually getting a lot out of going, and some of that might be stuff like this that is intellectually interesting. There’s some interesting theological history, too.
Other news, I think I might apply to a sociology PhD program and I need a writing sample but I don’t really know if I have such a thing? Its been a while since I’ve really written anything. I might write some long winded blog posts in the near future to try to get at some things that might turn into something good and/or just try to find a consistent voice in my writing. I’ve had a few people mention to me that they’ve totally read something I wrote that was compelling but they haven’t pointed to concrete examples so I’m probably going to have to write something new. Either that or send in the 11 page thing I wrote on refrigerator pickles one day this summer while hanging out in air conditioning provided by the public library trying to type up some of the recipes Jeff and I have. I got way too into looking up various cucumber cultivars and folk uses for dill, so I only got two recipes in.
I should write a Hatchling and Life update, but I’m me, so instead you get a feminist rant about knitting.
I am lucky enough to be a member of a lovely group on Ravelry centered around a Canadian indie yarn dyer indigodragonfly. Kim has lovely yarn, don’t get me wrong. She has a tremendous sense of colour and a wicked sense of humor and in my desperate attempt to slow my yarn buying, her yarn is what keeps showing up on my doorstep. (Her taste in fiber isn’t shabby either. Basically, she’s my kryptonite.) But yarn alone doesn’t make a community, and IDF is a wonderful community.
As a community, we’re trying a virtual knitting group today. Which should be chock full of technical difficulties and learning experiences and other grand fun – getting a dozen people onto a video chat is hard enough when they all know what they’re doing and using enterprise grade tools. I expect that using consumer tools with people who have never tried this before is going to be a tech support adventure and I may not actually knit, which is fine.
But I’ve heard some comments that border on “I’m worried about what I’ll look like”
I have two responses, neither of which is really appropriate for the women who make the societal required pass at their looks. Okay, three.
First, I think ubiquitous phone communication has made us used to the idea that very few people sound like radio announcers and that’s okay. However, the images we see of women are usually people whose job it is to look pretty backed up by professional tooling to make them look pretty. Me, knitting in my living room, is not going to look like that. And as a culture we aren’t used to what normal people look like on a screen at video chat performance. (Answer: not filmed like Miss America)
Second, I’m not going to repeat the reams of discussion around how fucked up it is that women are expected to look pretty all of the time no matter what they are doing or they have failed as humans. Its fucked up. Its reality and reality is fucked up. Men get to have sources of worth around their minds, their work, their creativity, their compassion, their passion, their money and if they choose, around their looks. Women, no matter what, are measured on their beauty to others, always. And we know it. Its not possible to know how poorly you measure up on the societal scale of physical perfection. And then we apologize to others for having to tolerate our imperfect looks. Fucked. Up.
Third and finally, I know that these are BEAUTIFUL women. These are women who unquestioningly support each other and the world., with wit and love and courage. They have strong, capable hands and quick creative minds and big, generous hearts. This group of women is who I turned to when I was so pregnant and so sick and they never once were anything but supportive. Of a stranger who was suffering far away. These women solve problems and give of themselves, their time and money and effort and love, to make the world better for the people they touch. They are strong and smart and funny and reach out to others even when they are suffering. I am honored and inspired to be able to know them. They are all so beautiful it makes my heart ache.
I’m here. I think I might be dealing with some more depression than usual. I’d like to apologize for not posting anything more recently, but I’m sort of not really sorry. I felt like shit, writing about it was boring. I love my sister. I love cats. I like color. Swords was pregnant, now she has a kid. You’re caught up.
Oh wait, no, there’s that part where I was going to marry my girlfriend from highschool (we’d been back together ish ,the way we do. did.) and then she accepted a second proposal from her then-ex as a ‘getting back together’ grand gesture without talking to me about it first. Her 55 year old, emotionally abusive ex. That happened. I don’t really want to talk about it.
I moved out thisaway, living with Swords and her husband (and now the hatchling), and their cats. The cats are important. I like cats. I got a job.
Now you’re caught up.
(The hatchling’s important too, but I figure most people will take that for granted. Actually everyone here’s important. It’s pretty great.) Though I’m edging closer and closer toward needing my own space. Which is good, because Swords and co. are needing theirs back, too. Finding somewhere doable’s a little tricky. I have a lot of crap. Possibly some of it can go into ‘storage’ in Swords’ basement, but I’m still used to more square footage than what’s on offer in my budget.
My job is hard and I love it. Possibly because it’s hard, which is a thing I have known about myself but will forget anytime I have the opportunity to do so. My life would be so much easier if I could like my life while not doing hard things. But apparently no really, anything worth doing is hard.
And my job is. It really, really is, and people keep telling me I’m doing a good job but I don’t believe it yet. My patient care keeps getting better, but not really faster, so currently my 7-3 shift starts at 645 and ends at 5. I got out at 330 once. 430 happens, 4 oclock has happened a couple times but most days? 5 is a solid bet. On the plus side, I really can’t bring my work home, HIPAA says so.
I keep thinking maybe I should try dating someone, but a) I have high standards and b)I’m not certain I want to be dating anyone even if they did meet those standards. Possibly (probably) this has something to do with the bit above I don’t want to talk about, but I’d like to believe it’s unrelated because there’s jack shit I can do about that mess.
But like. I have health insurance and a PCP. I have an income. I’m paying money on my student loans. I’m semi-adulting with moderate success.
That last post is a bit heart breaking, isn’t it? What a difference a week can make. TL,DR: Widget’s on the outside. I’m doing So! Much! Better! and I’m so infactuated with her.
Not too long after that post, I pointed out to Cups that one of my (swollen, painful) legs was more swollen and painful than the other, a baloony stiff feeling that was markedly different than the general “my feet a a bit swollen” that had been happening. Weird, assymetric pain in a pregnant person on bedrest that had been going on for a while, even with drinking water and elevating? With a discoloration of the skin? Cups, RN made a worried face and had me call the after hours OB support people. Who had me have her take my blood pressure and pulse. (Living with Cups has perks, people. She doesn’t like doing nurse stuff on her sister, but *I* was happy she was able to.)
And then we went to the hospital. Not because anything was obviously Wrong… but things were not obviously right either. And “not obviously right” is not a chance anyone likes to take with pregnant people.
My leg continued to be elusively weird feeling, and my blood pressure continued to be high and higher. It was a very long night with Angel and Cups in the triage area of a busy Labor and Delivery floor. And then, at 5 am, the doc on duty sat us down with some options.
“We could induce-”
“Yes, lets do that.”
Any of the issues that may or may not have been happening would either be treated by not being pregnant anymore or be easier to treat once Widget joined the outside world. So we did it. The L&D staff were so very sweet. Really, with the exception of whoever it was who wandered in while I was getting an epidural and offered to the anethesiologist that she should give me more local, everyone else was exactly as amazing as I could ever ask for. (That poor hapless bystander got snapped at more than was possibly merited, but they left before I could apologize. I don’t respond to the common local anethetics and I was in the process of having a needle shoved in my spine. I don’t like local anethestic or the eternal suggestions that I really should respond to them. I don’t. Don’t use them. I did apologize to the anesthiologist, who told me it was okay and that some things are just triggers. See what I mean about amazing? She also had a Wonder Woman lanyard. Seriously, the entire staff was full of awesome.) We had a midwife, a nurse or two, and an OB, all being amazing and supportive and coming and checking on all of us.
They sent us all to take naps before kicking off the proceedings. Which were basically slow and boring – we all napped through a fair bit of the day. I think the most traumatic part was failing to get an IV in my left wrist. (Back of the hand people. I know everyone else hates the hand. I actually have veins there, use them. Angel found the vein they ended up using. A week later my left wrist still looks like Jackson Pollack’s purple phase and the place where the IV actually was looks like a half remembered mosquito bite.)
Slow boring day. I took Mike’s advice on when to get an epidural, even though I kind of didn’t want one. I wasn’t finding the centered place with my body to handle business from, I was just too tired and had been in too much pain I think. And then I may be one of the only times getting an epidural actually sped things up, when I finally relaxed everything went much faster – water broke, baby dropped fast and hard, they pulled the anethesiologist back in to top off the pidural and get it caught up to the new, harder order of things. They turned off the pitocin, let things ride, and kept insisting that I should rest, that the work later would need more energy.
I really should warn people that “my pelvis and hips come apart” means that the parts of labor that really suck for the rest of humanity I manage to get a bit of a pass on. I think I skipped transition and basically skipped pushing. (They had me start, then demanded I stop while they finished unwrapping gear and finding a nurse for the baby. If they weren’t ready for her, why did they have me start at all?) One push and I was holding my baby! I vaguely recall Angel cutting the cord and the OB on duty helping identify that she has girl bits. I very much recall holding her. A lot. Because I like that part.
The rest of the hospital trip did its thing. We moved from L&D to postpartum recovery for a couple of days. The baby got evaluated for after effects of the narcotics I was on (which had been communicated as having been perscribed for several weeks, instead of under 4 days, and created one of the faster turn arounds in tone I’ve seen from a human being when we made that correction. Plus she got an OT consult, who was fun to talk to about me, since I’m all sorts of weird, and then looked at the baby for about 10 seconds, which was how long it took her to unwrap the swaddle and watch the Dragon KICK, and declare her “Completely fine. Watch the feet angle.” … the baby has some solid muscle tone in her thighs, its pretty impressive.) and held an extra 36 hours for jaundice so she could be put in light therapy. (Which sucked. Naked, lonely baby screaming for a day and a half. Not allowed to hold her for more than half an hour every three hours, where we had to try to force feed her while she tried to sleep. I don’t know how people deal with sicker or smaller babies, that was heart wrenching and almost more than I could stand – and its a super treatable, basically normal thing.) We continued to learn that nurses are better than doctors.
Nurses are better than doctors. I’m sure that doctors do Very Important Things, but man, the doctors I kept wanting to toss from the room and having to listen to burble about inane crap anyway, and the nurses I kept wanting to come back and help me figure this stuff out. The person who responded to me crying that I couldn’t take my baby home by perkily reminding me that stuffed animals are a suffocation hazard? Doctor. The person who offhandedly calmed me down from said basically inconsolable weeping by talking to my baby with basic human compassion? Nurse. The person who accused me of taking street drugs before giving birth? Doctor. The person who declared that Tummy Time was doable in the light therapy box to give the baby some time of not screaming? Nurse. There are decent doctors – I liked the OB on duty and I think my OB is pretty good for what I ask of her – but in general, I ask doctors to be part of my problem solving team and to believe me, and if they can do those things I’m satisfied. Nurses are the people who overawe me with what they understand and their impact on my care. I trust nurses. I ask doctors to cite their sources. (Or I double check it with nearby nurses.)
The hospital ceased being fun long before we left. I think my favorite part remains the wonderful nursery nurse who managed to keep me calm and stable, not by anything she did for me, but by how good she was with the Hatchling. I think she sees babies more clearly as people than the big people they come with. She certainly didn’t recognize Mike or I when we came to finally get released – but her face lit up when she saw the baby, celebrating with her that it was time to go home. She also gave me the greatest piece of hope/advice “She’s a fine lady, you listen to her and she’ll take good care of you.”
I really can’t blame the kid for this. I really can’t, but it would be nice if Widget decided to join the outside world, because I feel like I’m dying. Like I’m losing my self and all hope of ever being myself again. I’m always pretty emotional – or emotion/intuition driven? But these days I’m just fragile, mentally and emotionally and physically, and all of my usual coping mechanisms have been stripped away.
The gabapentin, even at max dose, wasn’t enough to let me sleep. Or walk.
Angel and I asked my OB to petition the hospital for an induction before 39 weeks. Excruciating pain isn’t an appropriate medical reason for that. Petition denied. And that was when I lost hope and just bawled for about a day. I hate suffering. I hate when I have no options, no choices, just pain. Its horrible. It is really soul killing.
I gave up. Angel didn’t. He went back to go a few rounds with the doc and ended up with a bottle of dilaudid to get me through the weekend, with more available on Monday if I needed it.
It does help. I’m getting sleep. It still hurts to walk, but I’m doing more of that as well. If you define “more” as making it downstairs once a day.
A friend of mine came and spent some time with me and commented that my life sucked. I had to correct her, my life is amazing – Angel, Widget, Cups, all of my friends, my job, I have so much support and a really great life. These particular days are really rough, but the fundementals of how my life is put together is pretty awesome. I have social support with a strength beyond my actual understanding. I have friends who are coming to keep me company and do laundry and take care of me so Angel can get some time off. I am getting to laugh way more than one would expect. I have internet friends and community who have been able to find things to make me smile when I can’t sleep at 2am due to pain.
There is a seriously rough road I’m standing in, and I didn’t want to be here, but I have a great life. Now I just have to stay sane ish and survive this bit.
I’ve had some really great discussions with my boss the last couple of weeks and before I take off from work for several months, I want to note where I am in thinking about my job and stuff. I don’t talk about it much here, but I like my job and I am pretty good at it. I’ve found a spot where my strengths and weaknesses are balanced with the rest of my team and my work is valued and its great. (I’m very, very lucky. This doesn’t look like a dream job, but everyone should dream of a job that fits them this well.)
Just due to what is going on – work stuff is heating up in interesting directions that takes a bit more cordination, I’m on a boatload of drugs that make me doubt my judgment, I’m having to hand things off in all directions – I’m focusing, with my limited time, on communications more than individual “I go over here and do work” kinds of things. So I’m talking with my boss a lot – 2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes.
Which means we’re having GREAT conversations about how my job works and how I can develop in it and how his job works and how my team and I can (and should) be supporting his goals.
We also had the big compensation talk for the year (there’s a bonus round in October, but major bonuses and promotions go out now) I believe that corporations really only know how to communicate with money. Your manager, your coworkers, they can use words to tell you what they want from you and what they appreciate about you, you can love the work you’re doing, but the corporate entity can only tell you good job/bad job with money.
My company approves of the work I’m doing and would like me to do more of it. I have recieved that message. It was not subtle.
Beyond all of that, I got a promotion (shhh! It might still be kind of secret… I don’t think its offical until the end of the month, but I hope to have a Widget by then so I can only really celebrate with people now) And its the new title I’m really delighted with. Which is weird – I’m not usually title focused. I’m usually motivated/rewarded by work first (flexibility/quality/personal sense of value), freedom and flexibility next, and somewhere down the line money. I usually respond to titles about how I respond to the concept of “curb appeal” in houses – if someone else wants to spend a lot of money for that, more power to them, but I have other priorities.
This one is different. It might be because this one is the first title I’ve felt really attaches to growth in work in a direction I really value. It’s more people management skills and it comes with a relatively defined track of what skills I can focus on next and I’m purely excited to try them.
Which has leaked into our subsequent conversations – how to build teams, how to hire, how on earth did I end up with an org under me that has twice the number of people of most other teams and still growing… relatedly, how I’m going to split my team into smaller teams and get team leads in place, how to deal with complicated employees. Manager skill stuff. And I love it.
I know I’m going to be learning other, different skills here shortly, but I really hope to get back to this stuff soon. It makes me feel like I’m finally doing hard work that is mine, that fits me.
Ths entire pregnancy has been an excersize in not getting what I want. I wanted to write cute happy updates, bit by bit, about the Widgetry process. I wanted to work hard and have a nice glowy pregnancy and be one of those fun, happy, gracious pregnant people, with a cute belly.
Instead, I got hyperemesis, and I got the form that sticks with you for the entire pregnancy. I threw up so much I lost 20 pounds in the first trimester. Mostly I worked on staying out of the hospital, and several days in there it was really close.
Second trimester was … okay… I guess, in comparison to the rest of this. Second trimester had a lot of medical testing, because the first ultrasound to test for Downs came back with elevated risk – that test is notoriously high in false positives, but it was scary none the less. We went through a couple of rounds of genetic testing (first came back inconclusive, second came back clear of chormosomal issues for everything they could look at) But that first test… that first test, the known shitty one, set us up for So Much Testing. Even knowing it was a false positive we’ve had trips to the children’s hospital to see if Widget’s heart was okay, monthly high res ultrasounds – complete with premature labor scare when my cervix looked funny and that meant going in every two weeks for a while, and now at the end we’re being asked to do weekly NSTs … all because of that first stupid scare.
Widget is healthy. All the blood runs the right way. Widget moves more reliably than the T. They have a heartbeat you could set a watch to. Widget is fine.
The third trimester brought abosolute agony due to my joints having a complete meltdown. And still throwing up. I broke down and asked what I could take for pain from my old pain control regimine. Just at night, because the drug makes me mentally slow. Then around the clock because I couldn’t function in that much pain. And now I’m almost at the max dosage and when I forgot a dose this week I spent the next day in bed, weeping constantly until I had been back on track for a day.
I’ve spent this pregnancy scared, stressed, and in pain. And through it all my friends and coworkers have been *AMAZING*. I know I’m tired of hearing me whine after ten months of it, I cannot imagine why anyone else is still putting up with me. But they are.
And because I’ve been so out of it, my world has deteriorated. All the cute things I wanted to do to prepare the house and the world for Widget? I’ve had to seriously downgrade my expectations. The nursery is not done (its got the bare nesessities, but theres trim to be painted and cleaning/stocking/organizing to do) I gave up on knitting more than one blanket and one little sweater. (and then the joints in my fingers fell apart to where I can’t knit.)
And in the end, it doesn’t matter. Widget will be here and know they are loved by all of the big people. And that will be all I wanted from this.
to live in a world where its actually viable that people making rape accusations are making it up for the fame and money. It would mean that rape was actually not a real problem. And that victims got respect and support when they went public. I think that would be a much better world to live in, so I can understand the people who insist we have to be living there, instead of this one where false accusations for rape are about the same as other crimes (2-3%) and mostly rape goes unreported for lack of a decent system to address it.
I’d also like to live in a world where my last post, which was actually all sorts of happy, didn’t get eaten by WordPress, but I don’t live there either.
I haven’t posted in ages, sorry about that. I have a lot of hobbies and things and generally I am doing those things, or in too much pain to do anything.
Which is actually kind of neat, to be honest. Except for the pain bit, which I keep meaning to sort of expand on in a post because sometimes I feel like there are THINGS to be SAID about it, but frankly I can’t figure out what those are other than “dude this sucks sometimes”. Anyway, this post is essentially “whats up with me right now”.
I’ve got an amazingly supportive boyfriend. Its really impressive. I hope he knows how much I appreciate him. I mean, I tell him a lot, and in those words, so I think he does. Again, I’ve entertained the idea of writing a post to say THINGS about this, but all I got is “this is pretty awesome”.
My new apartment came with a piano. Said piano is also in tune (!!). I think I’ve practiced piano more in the last month than in the entire time I was taking lessons. Further evidence that for me, I learn better when I lead it. I’m trying to keep up to at least doing Hanon exercise 1 in both C and G a few times, maybe #2 in C, and one of the pieces in an old book I’ve got. I’ve surprised myself that really, I’m not much worse than I was the last time I tried to play piano, so that’s interesting.
I’ve been working through some online classes via MIT OpenCourseware and Coursera. These serve not just to teach me stuff, but are helping bolster my confidence in my ability to first want to do something and then follow through and do the thing, even over a period of weeks with little external support or motivation. Also my confidence in being able to do things in general. Right now its just linear algebra (which I took, but with a professor who made no sense), and R programming. Neither of these are actually particularly new to me or are all that challenging, but are things I want a better grounding in. I’ve not had the opportunity to really do much with R, since my college classes used MATLAB or MAPLE for math scripting, and SPSS for stats analysis. I like R better than these, though that might be because its free. Linear algebra just sucked the first time around, and I’m honestly going to blame that one on having a terrible professor for it. I’ve recently talked to the guy who was my TA for Calc III at Pitt and he corroborated my impression that the guy was a genius, but he makes no sense in lecture and his tests were frequently off topic both from what actually was in his lectures and what was supposed to be taught. Of course, I was also a hormonal undergrad in a class with my then-new-boyfriend and all our friends, so that probably didn’t help. The MIT course has been blowing my mind with how much sense it makes.
I’ve also got a number of projects that are going to pull on this stuff that I’ve been brushing up on. One of them is, as simply as I can put it because it barely exists outside of some notes and drawings I’ve got in a notebook, a tool for playing with network models and simulating them in various ways. Actually there’s a couple simulation things I’ve been wanting to make.
Another project is playing with a dataset that the CDC put out that has arthritis prevalence data. Their report didn’t really answer some of the questions I wanted to ask, but they handily put out a good chunk of the data for the report. I may not be able to get exactly what I want from it, but from what I’ve seen of the data set, there are a few things that I could do with it that get closer to what I want. Its a pretty big dataset, and its got some problems- for one its survey data and I think that the survey was lacking, but like I said, I might be able to do something with it.
I’ve also been thinking about doing is putting together a website where I can put up some of these projects. I’m going to be applying to grad school soon here and I think I would benefit from a site and a github account to point to. Also one of the simulation projects I want to do is based off of an extra credit project I did in one of my first computer science classes, and since that professor is one of the only ones that might remember me from grad school, and I remember him thinking that extra credit project of mine was pretty interesting. We also had a long chat about how one might make a knit computing algorithm on one occasion. Anyway, I think I’m going to ask him for a letter of recommendation and when I do that, I’d like to be able to point to at least that one project to jog his memory. And while the project I did for his class was interesting, there was a flaw in it that’s been bugging me ever since I noticed it (well less of a flaw as something misleading about it, making it seem more interesting than it was), which was about five minutes after leaving his office when I turned it in- so I want to go into that in more detail.
Speaking of grad school, there’s a good number of people that are trying to dissuade me of the idea, saying that its not really worth it these days, what with the current climate of academia, the stress of it all, etc. And I get where that’s coming from. But I want to do research. And last time I checked, you needed a PhD for that. And I want to deal in things with a level of complexity above what I’ve encountered so far. I want to learn, and I want it to be hard and challenging and all that. I know there’s an inordinate amount of grant writing and dealing with what your advisor wants and being broke and excruciating criticism and not having funding when you need it and not actually landing jobs that let you do what you want. I don’t care. I don’t. This is what I want to do and I think I can, damnit. I think I’ve got ideas worth testing, I’ve got the ability to do them and I would really regret not putting myself out there and letting myself try in the name of taking the safe route. I’ve taken the safe and sensible route most of my life. Its boring, it sucks, you can do everything right and still end up with a shitty disease, so fuck me, I’ve finally figured out what I want to do outside of that narrow script and basically what I hear from people is “it’s probably not worth it.”
I’ve also been biking to work, that’s cool and fun and now I want a better bike. The city bikes I use weigh so much I get passed by people on mountain bikes hauling a kid trailer with two kids in them.
The boyfriend, one of our friends and I took a spur of the moment trip to somewhere in northern Minnesota to try to see the Northern Lights after the recent solar flare. We didn’t get far enough north by 3 AM, so we ended up just tromping around in a rather foggy and gorgeous state park with some waterfalls and then heading back to the boyfriend’s dad’s place. The next day we did a bit of hiking with his dad, and I ended up needing to borrow a pair of shoes. It turns out I’m the same size as his mom was. If you didn’t know, his mom died about a year before I met him. I never met her, and the BF doesn’t bring her up often, but I now know she was overpronator. Its an odd thing to know.