Back to Work

Or rather, back to my job. It’s not as if I haven’t been working the past 12 weeks. Today is the last day of my maternity leave and I am feeling very sad. On monday our family of three will adjust to a new normal and sadly I will be forced to adjust to seeing less of my little girl.

On the one hand I am looking forward to going back. I miss my coworkers and will appreciate the adult interaction. I am interested to hear how some of my clients are doing and of course I am looking forward to seeing the kiddos on my caseload. However, I have done the math and I know that the time I see Gracie will be very limited. I am thankful to work for an agency that is supportive of working moms and I will be able to work from home a day each week. I also know that Gracie will be very well taken care of while I am gone and she will be close by.

If I could go back and do the last 12 weeks again, I think I would tell myself to relax (but what new mom wouldn’t go back and say that to herself?). When Gracie was a month old I went to the office Christmas party and at that point I was so ready to go back to work…taking care of a newborn is exhausting! Now, though, everything is so much fun and she is so much more expressive and learning new things. Just this morning she rolled from her tummy to her back.

I’ve been been forced to slow down and take things a day at a time, an hour at a time. I have had the luxury of getting to spend so much one on one time with my daughter for which I am so grateful. A small part of me wishes I would have done more, but really all that matters is that I took care of Gracie and the time I spent with her. I think if I could go back and do anything differently I probably would have spent less of her wake times doing stuff. Now, it was stuff that needed to get done…like putting her laundry away, but still.

I think one thing that will change for the better at work is that I will be more focused. Not that I wasted my time before, but I just know that I will be wanting to get things done so I can get home to the people that really matter. As much as I love my work kiddos I don’t want to see more of them than I do my very own child. I think I will have better boundaries with my time and when I am with clients I am going to be focused on why I am there, get that done, and just leave. I am not going to listen to the same stories over and over and I will not let them suck me into the drama of their lives.

Also, this snow had better be done because one thing I really looked forward to about leave was not driving in treacherous winter weather.

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Stretch

Remember a couple months ago when everyone was all “one word for 2013”? Yeah, me too. And at the time I thought my word would be balance and I had these grand dreams of working my butt off to get caught up at work so going forward I could actually plan and work ahead and stop the panic attacks I kept having from cutting too many projects close to the wire.

Isn’t there a verse in the Psalms or Proverbs that says man makes plans and God laughs? I am pretty sure there is and I am pretty sure God must have laughed at my plan. Truth be told, I had every intention of writing all about my word for 2013 but then on New Year’s Eve I had the stomach flu and two days later I had a head cold. Yep, I am pretty sure God must have been chuckling.

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On Instagram I joked that my one word for 2013 could be sick. Two months later, I have to confess I have often thought “2013 might just beat the life out of me.”

Ironically, at church we started out the year with a sermon series entitled: Stretch. The only sermon I can remember out of that series is the one entitled “Stretched by suffering.” I don’t want to go overboard and say that every stressful thing in 2013 has been about suffering for the gospel. I think sometimes we just have a lot of stress in our life and it doesn’t mean God caused it or willed it to happen. Basically all I am saying is that I am uncomfortable right now and sometimes that can be a form of suffering. I get that there are many Christians in the world who suffer far more than I and I have no intention to minimize their suffering.

In a nutshell, this year at work I have had once crisis after another. I have crisis overlapping crisis. I have huge work projects in the midst of these crises. On one occasion my supervisor said to me, “I’ll come in tomorrow if you’ll come in tomorrow.” When you start making contingencies like this with your supervisor it’s never a good sign. I can’t go into specifics about what happens at work (confidentiality or something…) but all I can say is I feel like I have PTSD from some of the things I have witnessed.

So, here I am two months into this year and I am ready for 2014. The stress just keeps coming at work and I don’t think there is an end in sight. I will continue to press on and remind myself that somehow, by the grace of God, this too shall pass.

Fortunately 2013 is also stretching me in positive ways. If all goes well, a month from today I will be a homeowner. Now, that is some positive stress. I am looking forward to being able to decorate a home. I think it is just the thing I need to give me something to focus on besides work. Also, it has been the kick in the pants I need to get back on track with staying on a budget. It also means that there will probably be a puppy in the not so distant future and I am a firm believer that puppies make everything better.

After all, happiness is a warm puppy.

Reflections on 2012

It’s only December 21st and I feel like Christmas is over. I feel like I have wasted the advent season yet again. I didn’t listen to enough Christmas music. I didn’t just enjoy the beauty of my Christmas tree. I didn’t reflect enough on what the season is truly about.

For the first time since July, I am off work for more than just a weekend. I actually have time to just sit. Time that I don’t have to do anything. I can just be. I laid on my living room floor and realized I have ran, ran, ran since July. I haven’t paused for 2 seconds since then.

I am realizing I need margin in my life. Much more margin than I have been giving myself. I need to find a better work/life balance. My life has definitely been off balance lately. I have felt off kilter for quite awhile. Today at our office Christmas party we were counting off 1-2, 1-2 and so on. I had to think about what to say after the person next to me said 2. Yesterday I went totally the wrong way to a client’s home. I have forgotten so many things that should be second nature to me. I have been overworking. to be honest, I could be more productive at work. Sometimes, I socialize much more than I need to. I am really, really bad at telling myself no and making myself get back to work.

I am just shy of working my job for a year. If I continue at this pace, I will burn out. This morning I was thinking that I couldn’t believe it’s been a year already. But, time does go fast when you run yourself ragged. Tonight I am realizing what a long year it has been. I do have hope the next year will be better, since I’ve heard it takes a solid year to learn the job of a caseworker. I’ve definitely been feeling the learning curve, more so in the last few months than I did in the beginning.

As I think about how I’ve been so busy I’ve nearly missed the advent season, I wonder if that can’t be said about 2012 altogether. I’ve been far busier since I graduated than I ever was in grad school. I think I’ve shifted more towards extraversion, but tonight I’m thinking I shifted a little too much and my inner introvert is the pounding in my chest. The introverted part of me has been in hiding and is begging to be let out.

In 2013, I hope to swing the pendulum a bit closer to the center of my work/life balance and perhaps learn how to savor this life that is quickly passing me by.

This Week

I’ve been feeling really stressed…

And yet really thankful.

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I’ve been enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas, although with temps in the 60s this weekend it doesn’t much feel like Christmas.

I’ve felt true anger towards foster parents who give up on kids, all the while wanting to maintain control over their lives.

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I’ve been learning that just doing whatever it is I am putting off can actually relieve stress. Whether it’s unloading the dishwasher, or going to see that client I am dreading. If I just do it I instantly feel better.

I’ve learned i just need to let go of things I can’t control. Like clients who don’t return my calls. I have realized I can’t take it personally.

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I’ve learned paying extra on a student loan can lift a burden and create one all at the same time.

I’ve learned a Christmas candle combined with Christmas music can go a long way in making me relax. I’ve also discovered I don’t understand Spotify at all, but I am thankful for creative people who make Christmas playlists I love.

Lend Me a Foot

Just saw the Ford Escape commercial featuring the liftgate that is foot activated. Two thoughts:

1. People have too much time on their hands (pun totally intended)
2. Why has it taken so long for someone to come up with this?

Jury Selection

Last Thursday I was summoned for jury duty. Truth be told, I was excited. I am a dork who secretly loves being in a courtroom, unless I am testifying…then I hate it. Back to the task at hand, jury selection.

Weeks before actually reporting to jury duty I got a letter telling me I had been picked and a questionnaire I had to return. It was pretty intrusive and wanted to know where I worked, where Seth worked, who I lived with, if I had children, etc. things that would definitely be off limits at a job interview.

We were called up into the courtroom and one of the clerks read off names of the jurors who would be questioned first. I’m guess the attorneys had a chance to sift through those questionaries and hand picked us. My name was the sixth to be called out of probably forty. The judge then questioned us. Some questions were pretty basic and to be expected, others were out of left field. Like, do you have any bumper stickers on your car? And what newspapers or magazines do you subscribe to?

Out of the twelve jurors being questioned I was the only one who did not subscribe to anything. [In my defense, I don’t really have a lot of free time or money to be spending on subscriptions and the local paper is worthless.] The judge asked if I subscribe to anything online and I admitted I do subscribe to some blogs. She asked me what kind and I said “home decor” [but to be completely truthful I probably should have said food blogs and mommy blogs, but home decor was the first thing to come to mind] and she asked me to name one of the blogs I read. I said “Young House Love” and she merely remarked, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”. I’ll have you know she did not call any of the other jurors interesting.

The process went much quicker than I expected and in less than an hour the jury had been selected. Only three people were removed before we were left with the final twelve.

Fifteen

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Fifteen years ago today my life was forever changed. As of right now, I can’t say if it was a good or a bad change. It certainly wasn’t all good, but I don’t think I can say it was all bad either. I reflected on my drive home about how different May 7, 2012 was much May 7, 1997 or May 7, 2007 or any other May 7 post 1997. In fact today was almost like May 7, 1996 or any May 7 prior.

You see, today was different because I wasn’t dwelling on the past. I wasn’t wallowing in self pity and playing the victim. I’ve sure done a lot of that in the past. Today was almost normal and almost just like any other day. I did what I had to do at work and wasn’t waited down with grief, sadness, a sense of loss, or self pity. Or even anger. I’ve spent this day angry more than a few times.

Fifteen years ago today, my mom lost her battle with leukemia. Ten year old me came home from school and had no idea what I was about to hear. I spent approximately the next ten years searching for a reason and a meaning and anything that could justify this trauma. I was searching for someone, anyone to tell me that this didn’t mean God didn’t love me. Instead, everyone kept saying “God works all things for good for those who love him” and I kept thinking God didn’t love me.

Almost five years ago I read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz and it changed my mind about God. One chapter in that book revolutionized the way I read Romans 8. In the moment I read it I had hope. Hope that maybe this didn’t mean God had scorned me. Maybe just maybe my life up this point had not turned out this way because God had it out for me.

And that is why today was almost normal. I know that I am loved by God and the circumstances of my life are not a reflection of the amount God loves me. I have peace.

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