Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ok life, what's next?

Last Wednesday, the Big Project was finalized. All four signatories signed off. And Thursday, there was a freaking awesome cake from Gelatiamo. (Yes, Gelatiamo has great gelato but I can highly, highly recommend their baked goods as well.)

Thursday morning, I had a job interview for Office Engineer in a construction office. Lack of construction experience is my biggest hole, I think, in my engineering experience. Office Engineer is an office job (as opposed to being out in the field) and the main part of the position is overseeing Materials Documentation and Change Orders (which are changes to the approved design based on various conditions--error in the plans, changed conditions in the field, what have you). This particular construction office is doing the Really Big Project work so it would be exciting to experience the construction half. I also know that it would be a busy position, which is good. And it pays overtime, which is really the reason I applied for it, as it is a step down from my current position. I've put in so many hours of uncompensated OT this past year that I am sick of it. However, I don't feel that I aced the interview. I know of four people who are interviewing, and I think I'd be the 3rd or 4th choice. AFAIK, the people who are likely first and second choices don't really want the position. The likely first choice only applied because the Exec. Mgr overseeing construction told him to, and he didn't know how to say no. The likely second choice will probably not take it because the position is not located in downtown Seattle. (there are two physical offices associated with this project. One is located in downtown, right near the job site but it only has space for the actual field crew. The other office is located in South Seattle, in an area that's very difficult to get to by bus.)

If I am offered the position, I do think I will take it. I'll find out soon. They had to make a decision last Friday, so people will likely be notified by Monday.

There are only two downsides to this position: its location in South Seattle and the fact that I'd be managing a fairly large staff. My personnel management skill is limited and this is quite a large team.

As for its location, I can deal with it. I have three commuting options: drive myself from home, join the vanpool which commutes from the Tukwila train station, or take the bus from Tacoma to Seattle but get off at Spokane Street and ride my bike the remaining two miles.

Believe it or not, the bus/bike combo is the most attractive to me. Here's why: I hate driving, and I don't want the increased costs of driving 30 miles each way to work through one of the most congested traffic routes in the country. The train/vanpool option isn't very attractive either because that would require me to work a 4 day/10 hour shift, which would suck for me because the shift starts at 6am, which means I'd have to catch the 5am train from Tacoma, which means getting up at 4am. Also, that schedule means that I wouldn't get any OT unless I either worked more than 10 hours (and thereby stranding myself at the office) or came in on my day off.

So the bike/bus combo. Y'all know about my lists and one of the items on the "Summer 2010" list is to start biking more. When I lived in the Netherlands, I commuted everywhere by bicycle and in all kinds of weather (although I would prefer never to have to bike again during a hailstorm), so I know I can do this. I've found a route that should be fairly bike friendly; it's a city street but paved and low traffic volumes. I even bought some warm weather, brightly colored gear to wear (no, I do not like coral orange nor lime green but these color choices were not made for fashion but for visibility). Even if I don't get the job, I figure I'd still wear these clothes during my summer 2010 bike rides.

All that's really left is to tune up my bike. It needs a bit of work since I haven't ridden it in, well, ages. Not since grad school, actually.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

in an effort to make things better...

It's very easy for me to sit around and do nothing, so in An Effort To Get My Crap Together, I made four lists of goals. And because I really need to see things for them to remain in my consciousness, I went to the office supply store and bought the giant set of post-it notes of sheets that are 18" x 24" to hang on my living room wall so that I would always see them. (As it turned out, I didn't have to spend $30 on the giant sticky notes, since they won't stick to my textured plaster walls. I had to hang everything up with masking tape.)

Anyway, these lists are a mix of chores, personal self-improvement, and fun stuff. The first list is things I want to get done in May 2010, and I am happy to note that I have been able to cross off seven of the nine items. These items ranged from the fun (going to the Mima Mounds) to fitness (take dogs on 45 minute walks 3x week), to the onerous (get all the useless stuff out of backyard--the carpet and pad I ripped out of the living room, the old furniture that had been left in the house when we moved in, and random bits of debris). All I have left is to clean out the office and to plant the herb garden.

The next list are goals for summer 2010. Again, these range from the fun (day trip to Portland to go to the Japanese garden there) to the onerous (fix back fence). I also need to repaint the trim of the house. The house was repainted about nine years ago by a volunteer group called Paint Tacoma Beautiful. It's a great idea but it's not professional quality work. The trim is peeling away in several spots and really needs to be redone. I had the bright idea that I didn't have to repaint it the same boring dark brown it is now; I can choose a different color! Now that I've realized that, I'm actually kind of excited about this chore. I'm going to choose a warm orange. The house is white/cream, so any color would work. One of the nice thing about having a small house is that I can do this myself. And since the days are so long now, I can do this in the evenings. I actually like painting. I find the rhythmic pace of the work very soothing.

The "Stuff to do by end of 2010" list is much shorter: pass the Professional Engineering exam in October, and paint the living room and kitchen. I'd also like to rejoin the YMCA so that I can go swimming again but that depends on whether I've met some financial goals and whether I stay at my job in downtown Seattle.

The final list is the longest and represent stuff that costs money, so all these are pipe dreams until I rebuild my emergency savings (so slow to rebuild, so quick to deplete). This list includes getting a tankless water heater (which may move to another list if the current one goes out), learn to ride a motorcycle, learn to fly a helicopter, get the front yard professionally landscaped, remodel the bathroom, remodel the kitchen.

It feels good to have the lists there. It feels even better to mark something off. It makes me feel less apathetic.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

the stomach continues to churn...

So, this has been an extraordinarily sh*tty time at work. At the Program (identity hidden to protect, well, everything so don't leave any specific info if you comment), several people have commented on my constant cheerful nature and that I "am always smiling". I've learned to let a lot of things slide over me and choke down the other, shall we say "less positive", feelings. I've never been a big fan of people who are very dramatic at work, and I'm rather aloof by nature anyway. But things hit the boiling point and yesterday I lost my temper.

Here's what's started it...the big item I'm working on is one of the items that needs to be done and go through FOUR levels of approval (all the way up to the national level) in order for the really big contract to be released to bidders. Last Tuesday was our deadline and we were doing really well, until...

Let me put my literary education to some use and craft an analogy for you. Imagine that your academic Advisor told you that there were two topics you could choose from for your Really Big Thesis (Senior or Master's--whatever will consume approximately three intense months of your time). Both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte are options. He's not going to tell you which one to choose, but directs you to focus on Charlotte Bronte in your thesis. Keep in mind that this is "not a decision but a direction". Lots of work, lots of effort, many, many revisions and insipid comments later, your thesis is done and you are quite satisfied with what you've been able to produce and all that needs to be done is to present it and get final approval. All the pieces have been reviewed and approved separately, so the final approval is really just a spot check. However, the day before your project is due, you find out that your Advisor has pulled a bait and switch. Although you were directed to do your thesis on Charlotte Bronte, he now wants your thesis to be on Jane Austen. Except he doesn't actually tell you. He tells others, and you find out when you ask someone to do a last minute quick check on your thesis and he says he can't because he's really busy pulling together some information about Jane Austen. And when you go to him to verify what you've heard, and even though you've spent the last three months working full time plus on this thesis, he graciously gives you a week extension.

Oh, I wish I were joking about this, but I'm not all that creative. I can't make this stuff up. (Wait, I can be creative; I'm just not cruel.) I still have this naive notion that if you treat your colleagues with respect, they will actually work with you to get your project done (or at least not sabotage you). Okay, I still believe this. Apparently executive management has a different strategy.

I only wish I could say that this is an unusual experience, but it's happened many times on the Program. But this is the first time that such a Decision has affected me personally, so therefore, it is the most tragic experience of all of them. (Okay, that's irony, all right? I'm trying for that some of that cheerfulness that people have associated with me.)

It goes on. Believe me, there's more. This bit that I just told you isn't even the bit that caused me to lose my temper, but that's all I want to write about at the moment. The fire of rage has dampened a bit. Instead, I'm consumed by guilt. There's a HUGE, EXPENSIVE contract that's about to be released to bidders and the release date will be delayed because I won't have my stuff done in time. One of the biggest contracts in the North American Continent won't get released on time because I can't be counted on to do my job. IT WILL BE ALL MY FAULT!!!

And a lot of it is my fault. Although I said in a previous paragraph that I hate workplace drama, I have allowed my own personal drama to affect my work. Although Le Divorce is going along okay, emotionally I've been a real wreck. I convinced myself to stay in a marriage that clearly wasn't working because I didn't want to "be divorced". It's not that I had any problem with being single, or any problem with divorce in general. I am not anti-divorce. Instead, I've spent most of my adulthood trying not to recreate my mother's life. From my perspective, she had a very fairy tale view of marriage. If there was ever a problem, she would spirit herself away in a big dramatic gesture and wait for the Prince to experience the emotional fallout and realize that yes, he just could NOT live without her, and would show up later, and humbly beg her forgiveness and admit that he just wasn't a man without her. (I am not joking about this.)

I have tried to be more practical. Marriage is many things. One of my friends married very young (I think she was 19) and her husband was in the military. I inferred that the first few years of their marriage were rather tough; romantic love was there, but the reality of trying to make a life together when the husband is forced to relocate from his wife and infant is a tough situation even for those who are older and wiser. But 25+ years later and they are still together. Why? "We were going to do whatever was necessary to make this marriage work." A very practical attitude.

But it's the old story. There were problems, and I saw myself adapting and changing but didn't notice any effort on his part. And one day, I finally had it. Despite a constant lowering of expectations, and consistent-giving-up-a-lot of what I wanted out of the relationship, and even holding to my ideal of "everyone deserves another chance", I just couldn't take it any more. In the movies, a single action is depicted as the cause of the breakup. Very dramatic. In my case, it was just a war of attrition. No one thing was really big; just a lot of little actions. Intellectually, I know I should have cut and run a long time ago. But emotionally, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I just didn't want to become my mother. (My mother was married and divorced three times; my father five. Twice to each other. The first marriage was annulled because my dad wasn't yet divorced from his first wife when he married my mom. She did not learn of this until later. When I asked her why she remarried him after this incredible breach of trust, she said simply "I was in love with him.")

The sad thing is that I truly feel that my-soon-to-be-ex can be the incredible man that I know he can be. For some reason, he just can't be that man with me around. I don't know if it's because I'm always taking up the slack, so he felt he didn't have to put out the effort, or if I am the stereotypical "ball-buster" who emasculates her man. Maybe I am a bullbuster. I don't know. I don't think I am; I have many male friends and none of them seem weak to me. I guess it doesn't matter at this point.

I don't know what exactly I am trying to say. I guess it's that I was willing to compromise up to a point, and one day, I finally passed that point. I guess another thing I am trying to say is that I broke what I always considered a fundamental rule for myself: "if you work hard enough, any marriage can be successful." But I'd gotten to the point where I was starting to strip away from the core points of my own being. I couldn't compromise any further without fundamentally changing me, my soul, my sense of self-actualization, whatever phrase you want to use. I have worked really hard to get to a point where I actually believed that I was confident, intelligent, worthy, and even likable. I wasn't willing to give that up.

That's the personal baggage I've been dealing with for the past several months. Try as I might, the angst just doesn't go away. And my usual method of just stuffing those feelings down only works to a point. I guess it's really no coincidence that my sleep patterns--always erratic--have really gotten bad. It's not that I have insomnia; it's that I can't wake up. Yes, I do tend to fall asleep late; I am a night-owl, and always have been. But over the past several months, once I do fall asleep, I sleep like the dead and can't wake up. I have three--THREEE--separate alarms, and sometimes I sleep through all three of them. (And the dam* dogs and cats would apparently either bust a gut or starve than try to wake me up. I know dogs are pretty laid back but cats tend to be pretty insistent on getting their kibble on time. But then, maybe they do try to wake me up and I don't even notice.) So many times over the past several months, I find myself waking up at 10 or 11. When I say "several", I mean "at least once a week". It is truly embarrassing showing up to work, oh say, four or five hours late. Shaming, even. And my boss, my poor boss, entrusting me with such responsibility. I don't know whether I should feel ashamed about being such a piss poor employee, or offer prayers of thanks to her kindness and mercy to me during such a painful period of my life, or be amazed at myself that DESPITE such crap-ass decisions from executive management and my own personal weirdness over the past few months, that I have even managed to produce anything of quality at all.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Neighborhood 1; Luneray 0

Ok neighbors. You win. I hired someone to mow my frakkin' lawn so it will be all very tidy from now on and hopefully you will stop thinking of me as trash. Believe it or not, "dear" neighbors, some people do not think that a frequently-mowed lawn is cornerstone of a good citizenship.

Oh, and by the way, you were wondering why I have so many butterflies in my yard? I don't spray my plants with pesticides every week to kill off the "nasty flies and creepy spiders". This is quite likely the reason that you never see any butterflies nor bees in your yard, but you may blame cellphones all you wish.

In happier news, I went down to the Mima Mounds yesterday, which is one of my favorite places in the state. It's a small nature reserve tucked between some horse ranches about a 45 minute drive from my house. The wildflowers have begun to bloom, and right now the most abundant flowers are blue camas and yellow buttercup. The whole prarie was blue, liberally streaked with yellow. It was gorgeous. The mounds look particularly amazing in the late spring/early summer when more wildflowers are blooming because it's more obvious that each mound has a unique ecosystem. What's growing on one mound may not be on the next, even though there's only a foot or two between the base of one mounds from the others surrounding it. This last year has been so spectacularly crappy in my life, and for a few hours I felt so truly happy for the first time in ages that I really wished that all my friends were with me to share the moment. So I texted them. :) Yes, the mounds may be remote, but the cellphone reception was great. :)