Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Road Not Taken

The postings have trailed off because the inspiration is light on the ground. I am still driving into work everyday, but I am doing exactly nothing here. When I put in my resignation, it was decided it would be a waste of time to bring me into the new system so I complete a one-off task here and there, but mostly spend my day clicking around the Internet until I can drive home. I have quietly slipped out of the workflow here, but will still man my desk for the next seven days after today.

At home, everything is poised and waiting on the moment I no longer have to come to work. It is ripe with anticipation, but not a lot of action or angst. Just waiting. It is much like the last few weeks of pregnancy when you know the time is near, you have prepared as best you can, and you are waiting for that moment to arrive when the rest of your life can begin.


It occurred to me last week that since my co-worker was promoted into management, his position is open. Given my qualifications and experience, I am the most likely candidate to have filled that position. I am just speculating. I resigned before the subject could even be broached, but it isn't unreasonable to think I might have gotten the job. That I was likely to get the job.

How funny is it that the issues that have plagued my employment here could possibly be resolved right as I am walking away. The open position has much more decision-making responsibility and comes with the promise of doing real work instead of my previous situation of half-filled days with nothing to do. It would also be a twenty thousand dollar raise. We would finally be in a position, financially, to stop treading water. To be able to actually save money. To afford a vacation more than once a decade.

But this is not the road we are choosing to take. It isn't the one I want to take. I am fully at peace with our decisions and am excited to finally get going, but I didn't expect the opportunity I am rejecting to be at its brightest luster right at the moment I take the other fork in the road. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Back in the summer of 2013, I was postpartum and unhappy about having to go back to work. I despised my commute which could stretch upwards to three hours a day. I felt like I was slowly losing my mind. I listened to political talk radio. I listened to independent radio. I listened to sports talk. I listened to NPR. I listened to nothing. Each choice was good for a small stretch of time, but soon the existential despair of the reality of my drive would creep upon me once more. Recovering from childbirth on leave gave me a brief respite from the grind and also a keen understanding of the sacrifices my job and commute demanded from me. So, as I said, I was unhappy about having to go back to work.

I had seen that Darwin listened to audiobooks during his commutes and I decided this was a fine idea to ease the boredom and despair. Before my return to work, I visited our local library, signed up for my own card, and began browsing their audiobook selections. It turns out this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I am now in my final weeks of working and I am currently listening to what I think will be my last book while commuting. The addition of audiobooks to my commute transformed it from a soul-destroying daily life suck into an inconvenience that, at least, comes with entertainment. I listened to books that I would have never had time to read on paper. I am also, by nature, more of an aural learner so listening played right into my strengths. I listened to descriptions my eyes would have glazed over and more fully imbibed the stories than if I had only been reading. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this way to pass the time.

Here is my list of audiobooks that have made my commute so much more bearable:

  • 1776 by David McCullough, read by David McCullough
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson, read by Boyd Gaines
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, read by Sissy Spacek
  • His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J Ellis, read by Nelson Runger
  • Emma by Jane Austen, read by Wanda McCaddon
  • Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective by Pat Head Summitt and Sally Jenkins, Read by Sally Jenkins
  • Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick, read by Chris Sorensen
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, read by Alexander Scourby
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, read by Josephine Bailey
  • Mere Christianity  by C.S. Lewis, read by Geoffrey Howard
  • The Great Divorce  by C.S. Lewis, read by Robert Whitfield
  • The Screwtape Letters  by C.S. Lewis, read by Joss Ackland
  • The Problem of Pain  by C.S. Lewis, read by James Simmons
  • Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen, read by Wanda McCaddon
  • Silas Marner  by George Eliot, read by Rosalyn Landor
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles  by Thomas Hardy, read by Stephen Thorne
  • Cheaper by the Dozen  by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, read by Dana Ivey
  • Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir, read by Maggie Mash
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell, read by Patrick Tull
  • The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, read by Anthony Heald
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis
  • 1984 by George Orwell, read by Richard Brown>
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, read by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, read by Karen Savage
  • The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, read by Ian McKellen
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by Alfred Molina
  • The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, read by Bianca Amato and Graeme Malcolm
  • Beowulf Translated by Francis B. Gummere read by Rosalyn Landor
  • James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney, read by Eliza Foss
  • Inferno by Dante, translated by Benedict Flynn, read by Heathcote Williams
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, read by Donada Peters
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, read by Jeremy Irons
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, read by Kate Reading
  • The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones, read by John Curless
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot, read by Juliet Stevenson
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, read by Michael Page
  • Great Expectations By Charles Dickens, read by Martin Jarvis
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, read by Davina Porter
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, read by Tom Casaletto
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, read by Donada Peters
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville, read by Anthony Heald

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Random Observations

One of the advantages in having a boss of the opposite sex is that you never have to worry about talking to your boss in the restroom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Touch of Regret

Yesterday I submitted my resignation. This day has been so long in coming and I expected to feel unmitigated glee. And I did feel glee and happiness and joy. There was the greatest Facebook party ever where friends posted drinks, food, and music in celebration of the occasion. Great fun was had by all.

And yet, unexpectedly, also felt a touch of regret yesterday. After I informed my supervisor, who has been newly minted into this position for less than a week, he reassured me it was good decision because a similar decision has been great for his family. There was no sense of hostility or accusation in our exchange, only momentary surprise on his part and then support and appreciation for the decision.

I went outside to walk off some nervous energy and felt that first moment of something hard to identify. I agree with him that my decision is the best one for my family, otherwise why would I be making it. Still though, I know that if he had previously been my supervisor, I would have been much more involved with implementing the latest project than I have been. I know that it is likely he is as mystified by my lack of involvement as I am. In fact when I first entered his office, he almost immediately began telling me how I was soon going to be brought up-to-date on the entire project. I had to stop him and redirect the meeting. There is a little bit of sadness knowing the my situation at work is better now than it has been in years, just as I am walking out the door. My time didn't have to be as futile as it has been.

Later in the afternoon, the next supervisor up the chain of command came into my office to confirm my resignation. He, too, was supportive. He said I was making a good decision for the right reasons and he would try to talk me out of it except that it showed that I had my priorities in order. Hanging in that statement is the completely unintended implication that somehow my priorities were previously out of order. I appreciated his support, but it, at the same time, it also felt a little paternalistic.

In a passing mood that could only come from a woman, I was simultaneously happy and annoyed by their unambigious support. What do women want? Isn't that the question. If they had been hostile, I would be on my high horse about the lack of respect for mothers at home with children. In their support, I wonder if they are happy to see me in my place. You just can't win. It is a touch of madness.

By any objective standard, my career has been a failure. I stayed in this job for far longer than anyone with ambition would tolerate. The only reason I am here now is because I chose to wait it out while the situation at home stabilized enough for me to do what I really wanted to do. From an internal point of view, I know I have been underutilized at work and have only been biding my time. From an external point of view, is there anything that distinguishes me from someone who deliberately chooses the mommy-track? Not really, but it was never my intention.

My supervisor came by later in the day and told me that upon reflection, the timing of my departure would work out alright, but if it had been several months ago, he would have been totally screwed. I am very much aware of this fact. This fact makes my departure easier on my conscience and harder on my ego. I am glad I am not leaving them in the lurch and also tweaked that they will never appreciate my contributions.

I look like someone who worked until I was tired of working and decided I wanted to go play with my kids. There is truth in that statement, but not the whole truth. I believe I was given lesser responsibilities partially because of my status as a mother. (Also because McDonald's is better managed than this place.) I feel some touch of failure in my exit because, in truth, they won't miss me. My responsibilities are complete here. Because I have nothing here depending on me, it feels like those decisions to not promote me and not give greater responsibilities are somewhat justified. They created the lowered expectation and I lived up to it.

I am not suggesting that I should continue working in order to make a societal point about working mothers. I am not crazy. I refuse to be miserable for "society." But it does feel like I have subtly reinforced the stereotype that you cannot trust a working mother who bears more than 1.3 children. There is nothing to be done about it. It is what it is.

In all, I feel joy and a sense of accomplishment but also a touch of regret. I really was not expecting that.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Psalm 116 Redux

I resigned from my job today. You all know how long this has been in the works and the day has finally arrived. This morning, after arriving at work, I opened my Magnificat magazine to today's morning prayer and there, staring at me on the page, was Psalm 116. I am gobsmacked.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The First Few Days

We started our homeschooling adventure on Monday of this week since that's when the local public schools start. We started with a bang because we all woke up sick. Sigh. Them's the breaks.

Here are just a few thoughts from our first few days.

The plan was that Grace would work on math on the computer while Olivia worked on writing and handwriting and then they would switch. The execution of this plan isn't quite as smooth as I imagined. Grace is very independent working on math and Olivia is very independent with writing, but both need a little handholding on the other subjects. In short, neither need my help at the same time and then both need my help at the same time.

Olivia needs help reading the math problems and talking them out for understanding so I need to basically sit with her while she works. Grace is having trouble deciding anything about writing. She says she doesn't know what to write. On Monday, she wrote a short essay on tadpoles, but it has decreased in output and increased in despair since then. I am not sure if I should wait this out or try to give her more structured instructions. I printed out several handwriting pages which she does enjoy, so maybe that's good enough for now. I am also thinking about giving her the psalm from Morning Prayer to copy as a standard alternative if she continues with the writing block.

The only problem I am having with Olivia's writing is that she desperately doesn't want me to look at it. Should I force the issue or just glance to see if she has written something and then let it go? She is very private and secretive so I don't know if it embarrasses her or what.

Grace has been reading her own books constantly. To the point of maybe having to implement "consequences" if she doesn't get her nose out of her book and do something else occasionally, like come to dinner when she is called. Olivia does not seem to be reading much beyond environmental reading. She reads signs and over my shoulder and as much math as she can, but she really hasn't set down to read on her own.

I want to do more readalouds than have happened this week. I have read to them exactly once. I think this is more a matter of finding a rhythm. I am still carrying the fog of work fatigue with me so I hope when I am home for good, I will find a way to accommodate the reading. I have an energy lag after lunch which is right when I planned to read. If I can push through that, maybe I can have an hour of 'leave me alone' after that? Or maybe I should schedule in some time to myself right after lunch and read a little later in the afternoon during Marian's nap? Any thoughts here?

I got some pushback from Grace about the readalouds because she is now unaccustomed to being read to and she seems to have the idea that if she can read it herself, it is vaguely insulting to have it read to her. Lots of sighing and grumblings, but she listened attentively after getting over the hump that first day and objected when I put the books down. The first books are about frogs, toads, and tadpoles and also The Secret Garden. I want to explore narration more, but that will have to wait until September or October.

One problem we will need to address is getting them off the Khan in a reasonable amount of time. Grace has spent over an hour everyday powering through the math and Olivia wants just as much time. They work until they are fried and then get really grumpy about moving on. I need to set a timer and enforce it, but I am not sure how much time to give them. If I limit it to 30 minutes, they might mutiny. Do you think 45 minutes is a good compromise?

We are currently amusing ourselves sharpening pencils thanks to the sharpener recommended by Mrs. Darwin. Who knew children would argue over who gets to sharpen the next pencil?

On the housekeeping front, I don't think my dresser is going to get done this week, but I have started to hit at the kitchen. It makes me so happy to have a clear spot to make my cup of coffee in the morning. Looking ahead to next week, it is going to suck bad going back to work. I've gotten a taste of freedom this week so going back to the grind is not going to be fun. BUT! I am submitting my resignation on Monday so the countdown is on!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Last Week Off

This is the last week of vacation I will take from work. I received a new block grant of PTO for the entire year in July so I have days to burn. It's funny how you schedule time off with the expectation of some leisure and then it quickly gets filled up.

I have a few goals for the week.

I am still shopping for school supplies. Later today I hope to sit down with the sales flyers and make a new buying list for the week.

We start school on Monday. Instead of being totally ready to go, I misremembered when the library closed on Saturday so we missed the visit I had intended. So Monday, our first day of homeschool will include a visit to the library, a visit to the store for school supplies, a visit to the barber for Sam, and some math, reading, and writing where we can fit it in. Does this bungled schedule make me an official homeschooler?

This week will also find me composing my letter of resignation. I am still hemming and hawing about how to approach it. Should I lay it all out or make nice and go away?

I also get to hopefully visit with an official "Friend from the Internet" this week who happens to be visiting my neck of the woods. Excited! I'll tell you who later because you know, travelling and the Internet.

We have procrastinated our needed Costco trip for months and have also procrastinated the two younger's birthday pictures so we have decided to fix both of these situations in one, long painful trip on Wednesday. Will school happen that day? I guess we will find out. We get to start figuring out how the scheduling will work when we also have other things to do.

As a preliminary step to the grand clean-up that will happen when I am home from work for good, I want to try to take time this week to accomplish one medium sized job in order to whet the appetite for coming attractions. The designated task is the top of my dresser. It is somewhat embarrassing to admit that my dresser top is medium size task of several hours, but there it is. It is the lucky winner because I know my glasses prescription is buried up there somewhere and I want to price out a new set of frames and lenses before I lose the insurance coverage. Do you want the play by play pics?

Lastly I hope to finish my latest washcloth this week. It is a fancy knit 2, purl 2 waffled washcloth. I finally feel like I have those two stitches under my sticks, so to speak, even if I am still relatively slow. I'd like to branch out of washcloths, but I have no idea where to go from here. Tell me what I should make next, what kind of yarn this requires, what kind of needles, and if reading a pattern is complicated. I know nothing here.

So that's my last week of vacation and our first week of homeschooling. Tell me there will be fewer chores crammed in and more school-like activity in the future after we find our rhythm.