Category Archives: Breakdown

Little House on the Tundra

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Today, it was 40 degrees in Minneapolis and the sun was shining and I felt a tiny flutter in my chest that felt a lot like hope, like this winter might not last forever. When I stepped outside to take the kids to school, I said, “It’s warm and there is a fresh coat of snow and this is good!” The kids were unimpressed with the temperature hovering at freezing and Miguel said, “It’s still cold. Hurry up and unlock the car.” We drove to school on roads covered in snow but there was also water and water means melting and melting means “not as bitterly cold as it has been for what seems like months.” I dropped the kids off and put on sunglasses for the drive home.

Once home, I got a glass of water and sat down at my desk to begin my writing day and, as I got on the internet, my phone rang and I recognized the number as school. Neither kid had been sick so I figured that someone forgot lunch or shoes or snow pants and I answered expecting to hear the voice of one of my kids saying, “Mom, can you bring me…” But it wasn’t one of my kids. It was a recorded message from the principal explaining that the school had no running water and all parents needed to return to school immediately to pick up their children.

Above freezing. Sunny skies. No school.

Luisa went to school and brought home our two very happy children.

This evening, we found out that there was a frozen water main and it is not yet fixed. There may be no school tomorrow. I can’t even rally enough to be outraged at this point. I’m resigned. If there is no school tomorrow, I’m staying in bed with Netflix and my kids can run the show. Cookies for breakfast. Pajama day. Unlimited media time. I can live with that.

Note: I took this photo at Lake of the Isles while skiing this weekend. It is an ice sculpture or maybe a phallus or maybe – just maybe – an icy middle finger.

PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

Hello How Are You

Luisa is in the Bahamas and I am not. I’m not bitter though because, from what I hear, it’s an ugly place with horrible weather and sub-par cocktails. People hate the Bahamas, right? I’m sure it’s the least popular vacation destination ever.

On the other hand, Minneapolis is probably the most popular vacation destination. We have unpredictable weather and dirty dishes and loud children and a piece of frozen tortellini that skittered under the fridge and could not be reached. Who doesn’t love all those things?

I don’t generally resent Luisa’s trips because she usually goes to places in Africa that barely have electricity. But the Bahamas? I’m a little jealous and also a little worried that she’ll stumble off the plane with a wicked tan, a tattoo on her bicep that says “Jessie’s Girl” and no recollection of anything but palm trees and poolside cocktails.

Also, this week has been rough. The parenting part has been fine for the most part. Sure, I burned toast, forgot an activity, raised my voice a few times and had that incident with the tortellini but that’s pretty good. The work part has been horrible, however. Almost everything that could go wrong at work went wrong spectacularly this week. Things are getting a bit better but not much. I have survived, however, and because I love you I want to share my helpful tips for coping with anxiety.

1. Pick up a new hobby like biting your fingers down to the second knuckle.

2. Pace. A lot.

3. Repeat “oh my god oh my god oh my god” while doing either of the above.

4. Eat cheese.

5. Pretend you don’t have a job.

6. Stay up late and get up early. Sleep deprivation always helps with anxiety.

7. Avoid every single thing that can be avoided.

8. When you can’t avoid something completely, procrastinate dealing with it until the last possible moment.

9. Get caffeinated lattes at 5:30 p.m.

10. Pretend you are in the Bahamas.

I haven’t been writing because I’ve been busy doing all those things. BUT the good news is that it is Thursday and that means it’s almost Friday and that means that the weekend is almost here and that means that this week is almost over.

So, let’s move the fridge and get that piece of tortellini and – well, let’s just throw that away. Then, let’s hope that next week is better!

Photo Credit

They Paved Paradise

Luisa usually does the grocery shopping. There are reasons for this – of course.

Luisa doesn’t mind doing it but I do. She looks at it as an opportunity to be alone. I see it as being forced to mingle with annoying people who are often hygiene-impaired.

Luisa buys only what’s on the list but I tend to be an impulsive shopper and would buy a chocolate covered tire if it struck my fancy in the moment.

Luisa looks at prices and I can’t even tell you the going rate for a gallon of milk…even though I just bought one yesterday.

Luisa makes sure that she gets everything on the list but I will come home without an item rather than ask someone at the store where it might be and then will lie to Luisa and tell her the store was out of it (Luisa – I would never do that. Ever. That time I said they were out of ground turkey? They could have been. Big kiss to you.)

But Luisa is in Zambia which means that I had to go grocery shopping this past weekend.

Zeca went ice skating with friends and I dropped Miguel off for soccer. I had an hour and a half to do the shopping before I had to pick up Miguel.

I headed to the coop and the parking lot was full and all of the street parking was taken as well. I needed groceries so I was prepared to drive around the parking lot until a space opened up. There were a few other cars circling as well. We had all been driving around and around for 10 minutes when another car entered the game. This is where is gets complicated so I prepared the following diagram to help illustrate what happened next.

Car I (Innocent Woman) and Car V (my car) had been circling when Car J (the entitled JERK driving the shiny new black BMW) entered from the North Entrance and got in line. A parking space then opened up right next to Car I and – because she had been driving around for some time – the spot rightfully belonged to her. However, Car J who was in front of the space that opened started honking and motioning for Car I to move back. First of all, it was ridiculous to think that any of us could back up because we all had cars behind us. Secondly, HE HAD NO RIGHT TO THAT PARKING PLACE! He backed up enough that Car I could not pull into the space and then continued with the honking and the motioning.

I was furious. I will admit that, when I saw him pull in, I made some assumptions about his character but he then proceeded to show himself to be exactly the type of person I imagined him to be – entitled. I rolled down my window and spoke to the coop employee who was standing by the cart corral thingamabob. I said, “This is ridiculous.” He said, “What would you like me to do?” I said, “I would like you to go up to the guy in the BMW and tell him to move on so that the woman in front of me can pull into that parking space.” Much to my surprise, he said that he would.

He went up to the BMW and motioned for the guy to roll down his window. I could not hear the conversation but I saw the driver of Car J shake his head “no” and he then resumed his honking and motioning. Car I backed up a few inches and Car J did an elaborate 7 point turn and parked in the parking place.. Car I moved forward and I moved into her previous position which was then behind Car J which was parked. I put my car in neutral, pulled my emergency brake and waited for him to get out of his car. When he finally did, I spoke.

Me: You had no right to that parking space.

Jerk: Peace lady.

Me: You drove in here and expected that spot when the woman in front of me had been waiting for 10 minutes.

Jerk: I had been waiting.

Me: No you hadn’t! I watched you drive in here in your shiny new BMW acting like you’re entitled to whatever you want!

Jerk: Shove it up your ass lady!

Me: You shove it up yours!

Road rage has nothing on parking lot rage! There were still no parking places and the parking lot was now full of circlers. I had already spent 20 minutes on this parking lot fiasco and still had no groceries.

So, I left.

I am a mild-mannered person. I’m not confrontational and I had NEVER gotten into an argument with a stranger before that fateful day. Now, we can add the following to reasons Luisa does the grocery shopping:

Luisa doesn’t rumble in the coop parking lot. Vikki does.

I Am the Cowardly Lion

I began working at Hennepin County in 1997.  I remember telling one of my co-workers, “Remind me in 10 years that this is a really good job.” And it was a really good job. I was paid well and I had good benefits. The work environment was supportive. I didn’t have to work holidays or weekends. On top of all of that, I felt that I was really helping people.

Fourteen years later, I don’t need to be reminded of how I felt when I was young and the job was new. I remember – with a great deal of sadness – I remember. A lot has changed since then. I’m at the top of the pay scale. Our benefits aren’t as good as they used to be. Contract negotiations are always contentious. The work itself has changed and I no longer believe that I’m helping anyone. I am pushing paper so the county can charge for services – it’s paper over people now.

What I could not have imagined all those years ago was the toll it would take on to see the worst in people day in and day out . I’ve done what I needed to do to survive. I set boundaries. I learned to set aside my emotions. I learned to override my basic instincts and common sense. I learned to find humor in the absurdity of the human condition. I did all of this and kept telling myself that I had a good job. I wanted to believe it.

I don’t talk about my work much because most people respond by telling me I’m a saint. But, I’m not a saint. Trust me. I’m just someone trying to make a living with the education and skills that I have. I don’t talk about being burned out because, to do so, I would have to tell you all the things I’ve seen that have caused it. People don’t want to hear it and I can’t bear the drama of it all anyway.

We all want to be happy. We are all looking for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? So, sometimes, it’s hard to admit that you’re unhappy. I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m unhappy and that this is not something that is going to change. The bargaining is over – there is no new manager or policy or challenge that is going to make me happy again.

Change is hard for me. I don’t like to take risks. I want things to be different without effort. I want change without pain. This is why I’m still working at a job I should have left two years ago. Today, however, things got worse – I found out that my supervisor is leaving. This is the man who hired me, the man who was there when horrible things happened at work, the man who has served as a buffer between me and all the bureaucratic fuckery that has been coming from the top down (and there has been so much of that lately).

Is this the final straw? Maybe.

I’ve know for awhile that I need to get out.

I just don’t know if I have the courage.

 

*Note: I’ve closed comments on this post. This post was for my own catharsis and I know y’all would likely say lovely, encouraging things but I don’t know if I can handle lovely and encouraging things right now. If you want to say something horribly snarky and funny with a bit of an edge, send it to me via carrier pigeon :)