Burn it Down

Bear with me…

When Stretch Guy told me that it would feel like a “miracle” when the therapies worked, I scoffed. I scoffed at my back getting better with the odd adjustments of network chiropractic work. I scoffed at the idea that I could know what I wanted out of my career. I scoffed at the idea of knowing what “happy” is.

Motherf*ker was right.

I’ve felt happy and content over the last 2 weeks. Like really for real happy. It’s not like all of the sudden my life got easier, because on a day-to-day basis it’s been more difficult. X had a rough re-entry into school, we changed Z’s daycare and that came with it’s own transition nightmare of pulling a screaming crying 4-year old off of us while we ran out the door, and work has not gotten better. So, to be able to say I’ve felt happy and content in the middle of all this means that I have finally had a massive breakthrough.

I realized my breakthrough when I rode the 100-mile bike ride I train for every year. I raised money for charity, I trained more consistently than I have in the past, and I was ready to tackle the ride….then the Tuesday before, I got shingles. What. The. Hell. Shingles! You’re not supposed to get shingles until you’re old! Luckily, I recognized the symptoms as soon as they started, which was a weird tingling/pain sensation on the right side of my face around my eyebrow and forehead. I got on medication within 48 hours and they never got as bad as I’ve heard. By Saturday, I was still ready to ride, my forehead was annoyingly itchy, but no nerve pain. What I didn’t think about was how the medication was upsetting my stomach, and right about mile 60 or so, I suddenly got a massive case of reflux. The biking position does not lend itself to being particularly conducive to combatting reflux, in fact it makes it worse. Ten miles later I knew I was not going to be able to finish and sadly took the bail out turn back to the start for a total of 73 miles while the rest of my group continued on. Here’s where the breakthrough realization comes in. I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t finish the last 27 miles after all the training and prep I had done. I had to hang at the finish for quite a while by myself waiting for S to show up with the kids and then for my friends to finish. Any other year and I would have been berating myself for not pushing harder, beating myself up left and right. This year, I shrugged it off. Yes, I was totally bummed out, but I realized that my body was fighting a major infection and my immune system was suppressed. It wasn’t my fault, it was bad timing. By the time my friends made it back to the finish, completing the full 100 miles, I was ok with what happened and genuinely proud and happy for them finishing. That couldn’t have happened even a few months ago. And it didn’t. When we were in France, I beat myself up for not skiing the glacier with S and our friends. I wasn’t happy for them, I was completely depressed that I was such a chicken. The change from March to now is staggering.

Having this newfound sense of self-esteem and worthiness has made me consider my career trajectory and the choices I’ve made. I’ve been working through my career trying to prove to myself and everyone around me (read: my mom) that I’m good enough. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do: Got the degree, got the second degree, found a career I don’t hate, found an organization that seems good enough, worked my way up in the organization, put myself on the management track aiming for the highest position I can achieve. I struggle to fit 40 hours plus hobbies plus school plus after school plus kids plus S into one week.

Things have happened at work that make it clear I’m in the wrong position. I’m good at my job, in fact I’m better than good, I’m great, one of the best. I have a forward thinking vision for how to get to the end of projects, I can see issues arising and try to do something about it before critical mass hits. I have the opposite personality from everyone I work with. All my forward thinking, critical thinking and technical skills come with a Compliant/Dominant personality and I struggle to connect with people. I struggle mightily with the politics of my position. I’m constantly getting negative feedback (I look angry in meetings, I’m too confrontational…blah blah blah) as I strive to move projects forward. They want all my strengths, but they don’t want to let me be me. I can work on my reactions in interacting with people and in meetings, but they are asking me to become someone I’m not. They are asking me to put on a mask at the same time I’m trying to break down all my armor. I used to buy into the idea of leaning in, except that leaning in up until now has gotten me to the point that every few months my body gives me a signal that I’m pushing too hard. In January I had strep. In August I had shingles. A couple of years ago I had influenza. I get several head colds a year. Sure all of this can be attributed to “I have kids in school!”, but it’s not just that. I know it’s not.

Burn it all down.

I went to my direct supervisor and gave him a proposal. I don’t want to continue in my current position, I want to work part-time and these are the things I want to do. For now, I’m done with the ladder. I need time and space to figure out where I want to take my career. I need to branch out to trying different things like being involved in my kids school and putting my skills to use in other areas. I'm doing this for me, not for my kids, not for S, and most certainly not because I feel like I should. I want to slow down my life and I feel confident in my current skill set that this won’t be a set-back. I like the people I work with and I want to stay in my group, just in a different capacity. For their parts, my supervisor and my superior (despite my difficulties with her) are supportive. They don’t want to lose me. So, fairly soon, although HR in the gov’t is maddeningly slow, I will be slowing it all down. Not as much travel, not as many projects, and the ability to make my position what I want.

This is a win.

I feel good.

0.5 #NaBloPoMo Day 8 - Working in a Man’s Industry

With all the recent revelations of abuse of power, sexual abuse, and men being pigs, it’s brought up my memories, some recent, some not so recent of men acting like pigs toward me. I’m one of the lucky ones, I can say I’ve never been raped or groped despite being in precarious positions in college. I was a partier, no doubt about it. I had no idea how lucky I am (knocking vigorously on wood) until I saw my friends coming forward with their own stories. 

I have had all the fun trappings that goes with being a woman and an engineer.  In college, a dickhead suggested I was tra.ns——  because I wasn’t interested in him. And then he took great pleasure giving me a wet willy and generally harrassed me the rest of the night. What a charmer. After college, diving into the wild world of construction brought these revelations:

- first woman who was an engineer to be hited a local consulting company (1999) 

- “smile” a constant reminder by laborers on construction sites.  

- leering  and catcalls - also constant  

- being ignored  

- being treated like I needed help doing my job

- tons and tons of oh-so-graphic artwork on the construction site portapotties.  (aside: yeah, i’m not afraid of public toilets after those days!)

Then I got a job at a bigger company where: 

- i ended up being harrassed by a former college classmate. others were harrassed as well, but i got the worst of it. i spent the next several years in fear that i’d run into him considering it’s kind of a small world

- when me and a male colleague both passed the PE at the same time, he got promoted right away and i had to ask for mine

- when I realized I was underpaid and asked for a raise, I was told no  

- when another engineer was supposed to mentor me through my first project working with drawings and when it all went wrong, he threw me under the bus and guess who looked bad?

- when i got the offer to go to my current organization and my salary was a huge jump? yeah. they could suck it

In the current organization i work for:

- it took 3 tries to get promoted because of the golden boys in the office

- a former supervisor made remarks (political, about me being a mother, about me traveling) that i could have reported but i didn’t because i fear retaliation. there is supposed to be no retaliation, but you know how that goes...

- i sit in lots of meetings where my suggestions were ignored until an older, grayer, man repeats them. No shit. That really does happen. 

No matter what, there is always an undercurrent of having to prove myself more than the men i call my colleagues. it doesn’t matter that i’m smarter and can do the work better. i don’t have a very important body part. 

What Do A Hibiscus IPA and a Hoppy Pale Ale Have In Common?

The fact that I'm in Portland, happily sharing my finds in a city with a person I like. I'm traveling with a colleague that I get along with really well and is like a brother to me. I love that we share the beer and wine drinking interest so I can be super excited about beers I like showing up on a menu and he'll get equally excited. It's fun to travel with a like-minded colleague and friend, someone I can be open and raw with when it comes to work shit. I have his back and he has mine, and that's something I haven't experienced in my career until now. While there's still a boundary I push against on his side, I've opened up on my side. I wonder what's happening in his world sometimes, but if he isn't going to share, then why keep pushing?

It's part of my work to be more vulnerable. Something I'm trying to practice at work more and more. It's always easier to practice it with people I regard as friends, and I keep pushing forward when it comes to my bosses. Baby steps ensure that I am continually working this practice as much as I pull back against it.

When it Rains...

I had this whole post written previously and then hit some random button that deleted the whole block. Awesome. That about sums up how things are going right now. Although, until a few days ago, I thought I was feeling better and now that I've been at a full dose instead of a half dose of my meds that was taking the edge off. But....really....probably not. Sometimes that stuff is smoke and mirrors and things happen indicating that I'm not well all things considered. I think this is more anxiety than depression because I have energy, I'm doing my normal routine stuff and enjoying activities. I feel like I'm in high alert much of the time though...so...anxiety. Case in point, on my travels, I had a couple of eff-it nights, once by myself and once with colleagues. I drank too much and gave myself a hangover. And, if I'm totally honest, having a slight hangover on the weekends has been a somewhat regular occurrence over the past few weeks. Not doing well = coping.  

A few updates to put this all in perspective from my last post:

I traveled two weeks in a row - one shorter trip and one long trip that got longer when my flight back was delayed by 3 hours and I luckily managed to get on a flight that left a mere 2 hours after my regularly scheduled flight. That was a bummer.

 I called my uncle and had a good talk with him. There is definite dysfunction in my bio-family and two of the four brothers passed away from alcoholism (my bio-dad passed away in 2005). I learned a little bit more about bio-dad and the family, and probably the most jarring was being told that I look like my paternal grandmother. Also that my middle name was her first name. Not sure if my mom ever told me that. I have the number of the other brother, uncle J and it seems that he and Uncle B don't communicate very much. In fact, it sounds like Uncle J's wife has been the searcher for me and my brother. She's the one who found my F-B page. 

My gym is having a challenge and I'm pushing myself harder physically than is typical. It's awesome feeling stronger and noticing that I'm building muscle. In fact, it's kind of been a life-saver keeping me from going too far down the rabbit hole and giving me a concrete goal to work towards. That being said, I've now been moved to tears while working out. Guess there is a lot of crap surfacing.

The Integrative Pain PT seems to be helping. My second appointment showed less screwed up muscles than the first. It's hard to explain how it works because it's all neurological based and they do tapping and probing of areas of the body to make the nerves fire correctly. It all feels like voodoo, but then again, I'm pushing myself hardcore in the gym and have yet to backslide into pain. The stretch has had a lot to do with that too, it's been two weeks since my last one and I'm noticing that I don't have to treat as many trigger points with the handy dandy lacrosse ball.

X's and Z's behaviors are going downhill probably due to developmental leaps on Z's part at 2.5 and X's looming end of kindergarten and birthday all around the same time. Awesome. We're doing as well as we can, but the yelling has increased and neither S nor I are being great about using better discipline techniques. That's just an on-going journey through therapy and overcoming our instincts. Ugh.

And...now for the big news.....

We're buying a house.

We weren't planning on buying a house yet.

Here we are, 2 months out from closing, frantically moving up the landscaper, finding a carpet installer and addressing all the little shit we've been putting off forever. How does this happen, you ask? Or maybe you don't, because it does happen, much like infertility. In our case, it's analogous to the couples who think that it may take a while to get pregnant and then *bam* pregnant on the first month. 

The rest of the story is that we have been coming around to the idea that this neighborhood is not ideal for our family. We looked at the NY Times Race Map, and our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods are 90-96% white. Also, it's a pain in the ass to get to X's and eventually Z's school even though it's only 3.5 miles from our house. From our current location, it can easily take 20 minutes in typical traffic and more in heavy traffic because of the number of major congested intersections we need to get through. After talking it over we decided to start looking around at neighborhoods around the school and while they are still 80% white, they are adjacent to more diversity overall. There's a higher percentage of high density apartment and condo housing and all the shopping areas in those parts are more diverse.

Well, S found a listing of a house that piqued his interest and that I brushed off because it was further away from the school than I wanted to be (but an easier 10 min drive compared to our nightmare 20 min drive). It was also more than we wanted to pay as we'd like to make a lateral move financially, not take on a bigger mortgage 20 years out from retirement. Then, the price dropped to our range, and S called me while I was traveling to say he thought we should get a Realtor and look at it over the weekend. I was surprised because I have never seen S get excited about a house. When we looked at this house we are in now, I was the one who pushed putting in an offer, he was still on the fence. This was totally different. He was excited to see it, and I was the one thinking that we'd see it and realize that we'll be able to find something similar when we are ready. Obviously that didn't happen. I took one step into the house and it took my breath away. This is the closest I could get to a dream house without designing it myself. I'm excited to decorate it, and even more excited that the loan will be the same as ours now for a house and yard that are literally twice the size and three times as nice. Best of all, I told X's therapist about the house location and she approves of our choice for X and our family overall! There you go, a little more stress for the summer....



The End of an Era


I officially resigned from Jazz.ercise.  I haven't had so much as an inkling to even take a class, it's like my brain has finally moved on. I tried quitting before, but that lasted less than year and I re-instated my franchise thinking I was refreshed and ready to teach forevermore....

Fast forward another 5 years, and I changed jobs, putting myself in an exhausting position at work that requires a lot of energy and more travel. When I tendered my resignation at the center last Fall, I don't think I thought I'd actually quit for real, but here it is. I did my last set of taxes for my business (in which I made a whopping $2k a year, but still have to pay taxes!) and I sold my microphone to a friend of mine when hers died. Now I need to trash all my notes and figure out what to do with all my routine DVDs. Maybe give them away to new instructors, maybe toss them in the trash. I'll have a half empty desk once I'm done with the purge. 

I don't feel much of anything, maybe a little sad, but at the same time, I think I worked through a lot of stuff these past few years of teaching. I always struggled feeling like I was a good instructor, and had a really hard time with the students who were constant critics, often forgetting to focus on the students who loved my classes. Over the last few years, I finally got to a point where I didn't care as much and I knew I was a good instructor. I was having fun teaching classes and not berating myself over missed cues or forgetting routines (yeah, it happens). I also started having chronic injury issues that were getting to be difficult to fix. The repetitive nature of what I was doing, and not being in a position to modify while leading the class seemed to be leading to chronic tightness that my chiro couldn't work through as easily. He started telling me a year ago to quit and find something else based on how many times I would have to see him with an acute pain, and then I got really sick a couple of times, including Influenza. Over and over, I heard, "you're doing too much, you need to get rid of something." It took a while to listen, but I finally did. 

Jazz.ercise is an experience that I'm grateful for. I'm glad I pushed myself to not only become an instructor, which was way outside my comfort zone, but that I stuck it through for 13 years. It helped me maintain my fitness, but it also helped me in my job. When I gave a technical talk last year at a conference, it was surprisingly void of nerves. I've never eschewed public speaking, but I've always done it under the cloud of stage fright complete with sweaty palms and shaking voice. Finally, that seems to have ebbed and I've gained a lot more confidence being in front of big groups. 

These days, I go to a gym where I'm swinging sledgehammers, jumping on boxes, lifting weights, and generally getting my ass kicked. I completed Project Management training and a Leadership class at work, and I'm starting to work on big changes in the way I do things to make a $200+ million project successful. Things are happening, and they're happening fast. It's the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one. One in which I kick fitness and my career path into high gear with a new gym and a clear desire to reach the higher echelons of management in my organization.

Stay tuned....


“You’re doing too much, that’s why you’re sick” 

I heard those words last spring when I got influenza. My chiropractor was concerned that I was seeing him too much for injuries and that my body was too stressed. Thus began the slow mental journey to leaving Jazz.ercise behind in order to spend more time with my family on weekends. My job was ramping up and becoming a bigger stressor than I realized, and with increased travel, I finally tendered my resignation at the center last fall.

I joined a new gym, and we changed around our routine to accommodate early morning workouts for me. Everything was copacetic. I pick up the kids a little earlier and S gets to work out in the evenings. Everybody wins, right?

Now I’m sick. 3 viruses in a month. The first hit right before our Annual Meetings with the Region. I couldn’t travel, but dragged my sick, flu-ish body into the office to attend via videoconference. The meeting stressed me out beyond belief. Now that I’m a full year into this new position, I’m finding all the problems between my office and the regional office. They are huge.

The second virus was a rebound from the first one (lots of peeps around here have had similar experiences). I was pretty darn proud of myself for taking lots of oregano oil and zinc and Vitamin D so that it wasn’t too bad. That one hit during a project management training class that I also found to be stressful. Learning about project management only highlights all the problems I have between me and my counterpart in the region.

And now the third, coming off a week in which I had to get my boss to talk to the head of the office in the region in order to make sure that we could award a construction contract this fiscal year. Why did I have to get her involved?  Well, because after stressing over and over in meetings that we need to award in this fiscal year, the contracting person sent a schedule showing that she wouldn’t award until the next fiscal year. Team player everybody!

The school communications from X's school have also been annoying. They ask us to volunteer 15 hours a year per family, so I signed up to help plan a big celebration thinking I could knock out as many hours as possible all at once. Well, I'm new to the PTA system and the divisiveness between working parents and stay at home parents. I was never tapped to help plan, yet they kept sending out all these e-mails about needing volunteers. In my most rigid and stressed state, I got bitchy about it, complaining to my friends and S and being really annoyed by the whole thing. What's the point of signing up at the beginning of the year if the damn PTA is just going to take the reigns then ask for parking lot volunteers 2 weeks before the event?  I'm now volunteering to take tickets for 2 hours. What the hell ever. I should be fine with it, but that's part of my ISTJ'ness that always gets me. My brain: "They had a sign up at the beginning of the year, what's with not contact the people who signed up in the first place? Who the hell is running this, and why are we getting information from 3 different places to put together the whole picture!" Plus, the after school program sent out an e-mail last Friday saying they were going to have a Valentine's party but didn't say how many kids were in the program. When I asked on Monday, I find out it's 40. I had to get 40 more valentines for X to give out because I don't want him to left out due to poor communication. It brought the total to 71 total between his kindergarten class, his teachers and the after school program. *headdesk*

These can’t be coincidences, or maybe they are?  I exercise regularly, am good about getting sleep. I’ve been unplugging more and more at night due mostly to the state of this country and the wholly unfit person in the highest office. My diet is pretty damn good, and I've reduced drinking to weekends only. So, what’s up with getting sick like this one right after another? It’s like my body isn’t really recovering so I can’t fight off whatever virus is brought into my house by my cute little germ factories.

Clearly, I need more therapy to help me separate my job from my self-worth. But even that stresses me out. I spend so much time at appointments for therapy, for chiropractic, for Baby Z’s latest foray into ear infection combined with Impetigo that I constantly feel like I’m spinning. S is only 6 months into his new job and his leave balances are so small that all kid related things fall to me (especially because I travel and that’s a hard ship on him and his hours) 

I don’t know what the answer is. But today I'll go home sick an hour after getting to work.


My new job is kicking my ass, as I stated in my last Microblog Monday post. Overnight I went from sitting in my cube and deciding when to talk to people to inundated with information and questions.

It's not bad, it's just rough right now. My brain is overloaded with information, and because I know the processes from being on the other side as a design engineer, I feel pressure to come up to speed like yesterday. I find it difficult to cut myself slack, because I'm learning a new job. The problem with me being in transition is that it affects so many aspects of my life. I can't focus on other things, like teaching my Jaz.zercise classes because my brain is flooded with stress. There have been more than one class that I've totally screwed up because I'm so distracted. While I'm not sure that the students pick up on how much I've screwed up on a handful of routines out of 15 or so that I teach in an hour long class, I certainly freak out when I'm on stage struggling to remember what comes next. Sometimes I can move through one screwed up routine and everything is fine, and others it's a house of cards, and it's one screw up after another.

On top of all this sort of typical transition because I have a new job kind of thing, Baby Z is sick again. Where X hardly ever got sick, Baby Z has had numerous trips to the doctor's office. Our latest foray is a strep an ear infection (even with tubes in his ears) that resisted the first round of antibiotics. This kid has had so many rounds of antibiotics over the past 8 months or so that it's ridiculous. At least compared to our previous experiences that is. So, imagine getting the phone call from daycare on a day that you're just settling in to finally read documents you've been meaning to read for two weeks. Yup, there went Friday.

I can't find time to work on weekends anymore, so I guess said documents will have wait until Monday when another flurry of e-mail, phone calls and meetings commence. Maybe I'll find time this weekend. I can only hope.

#MicroblogMondays - Interview Time

I've been working in this organization for 9 years. In that 9 years, I've interviewed 3 times for a promotion. Every time we want a promotion, we have to compete. Every time we want a different job, we have to compete.

Today, I'm competing for a whole new job. One that will use my technical skills to make non-technical decisions. It's also one that will expand my horizons into project management, decision making, and expose me to the politics of water in the West.

It's not a promotion, and like Therapist said, I have nothing to lose. If I don't get this job, I go back to doing what I'm doing, and I get to carry forward my engineering projects to closure. I'm not in a dead-end job by any means, I just want to do something different.

I feel like I have everything to lose. Do you feel this way when you try to make a change in your life?



Got nothing today. I started a post about my century ride (the actual day), which I'm way behind in writing, and then S came in to the office, "Are you getting the kids or am I?" Since I am going out tonight with a friend, I suppose I should oblige.

Since my week got completely screwed by Baby Z's toe infection, I took my already planned days off yesterday and today. I feel fairly accomplished today in that I ran around for 2 hours getting some shopping errands done that had been piling up.

In deciding to take today off as planned, I ignored the fact that I haven't finished figuring out if we need to drill a 200-ft hole at the dam I've been in charge of lately. Been kicking myself quite a bit that I didn't have the revelation during one of the other 4 drill holes and just make them extend those holes. I've convinced myself that engineering-wise, we really don't need to drill said hole, it's just that there's so much that's different compared to the original field investigations that I have that pull to gather more data even if it doesn't matter for analysis.

Anyway, lots of anxiety over shirking my responsibility and the drill crews pull off the site next week. But again, we don't really need to have that information.




I had one of those thoughts a few weeks ago during a meeting. "Crap, I need to go out to that dam again?" as I was cheerfully talking into the phone "I think I'll try to get out there to see the embankment foundation cutoff drilled. I'd really like to see what the alluvium looks like under the dam."

Nine days ago the email came, "We'll be reaching the foundation next Friday."

So here I am, annoyed at having to travel over a weekend, yet oddly emotional about this being potentially being the last trip I have to this dam. If I get the job I applied for, I don't get to see this project to its conclusion. 

 Realizing that made me wonder how many people don't make changes in their career because of their current projects. 

NaBloPoMo November 2015