Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Focus on Mental Health - pt. 7 - Aftermath

     Lent is over.  Forty days has passed between the start of this mental health exercise and the end, and so much has changed for me in this time.  I started out around a 3 on the scale of 1-10 and now I'm closer to a 6.  I'd really like to get myself to a seven or eight, which I'm sure will come once I'm back up on my feet again.  I think it would have been a bit better if I hadn't become sick, but I keep telling myself that it was all part of the bigger plan.  The stress of this job, this terrible mind-f**k that has been slowly killing me over the past few years, let's throw that out.  Let's focus on the things that have been forgotten - home life, your own personal health, friendships and enjoying spending time with your family - let's get that focus back.  Oh, let's make you sick because you were still too focused on this old job so if you're sick you'll have to focus on yourself personally.  Let's make you spend some time focusing on what you'd really like to do with your life from this point out.  But there's also some things that you need to do to help your family and those around you, so let's bring that out for a little while so you can start to realize what really matters.
     I have been stuck in this job so long that I don't have a 'dream' anymore.  I realized this while spending time slowly dying from this cold (well, not really, it's just a cold like any other; miserable).  But when you're miserable and your body doesn't want to do anything you have a lot of time to think.  And I started to realize that all of those old dreams I used to have, I really have put on a shelf over the past few years.  Why?  Because I had a full time job that gave me plenty of time off and plenty of benefits, I had just started making friends who actually came over to my house to play Dungeons & Dragons, and thus my time was taken up between work, home, games and friends and there was very little time left over for anything else.  And for the past few years that has been enough for me.  But now, suddenly, with my time almost completely opened up for me (well, at least around 40 hours of it where work used to be), I don't know how to fill it - I don't know how I want to fill it.

     So, there is where the "aftermath" part comes in.

     What do I really want to do with my life?  Do I want to go back into the role of a manager again, putting the stresses of an entire store on my shoulders again where I just bend over again?  Do I want to attempt to get back into that world as a part-timer and work my way up again but with very little room to do things?  Do I want to get into a completely different world where I can maybe have a whole bunch of awesome benefits but also be part of a world I'm completely out of my comfort zone?  Or perhaps I want to balance it with something else that keeps me busy?  What do I want to do?  I just don't know...
     I had at one point wanted to be a writer.  I had at one point wanted to be an artist.  I wanted to be a crafter.  A photographer.  A commissioned artist.  But those jobs, unless you throw your entire being into it, doesn't pay the bills.  People don't flock to this blog to read my words and throw money at me!  I'm lucky to have a couple people read these things when I actually share them on my webpage.  But, I'm okay with it, this page is mostly for my mental health anyway.  Doesn't pay the bills, but that's okay.

     That still doesn't give me an answer to the initial question.  What to do now?

     I feel better (well, except for the cold) and I'm still fairly confident in the ability to find a job.  But I also worry that if I 'settle' then I'll just be stuck again in the same sort of spiral that I have gotten into over the years.  I'll find a job where I do really well.  I'll get to a point where some boss will get angry at me for something and then I'll not want to do my job as well anymore, and eventually they'll blame me for their misery and eventually I'll have to leave because I can't get my attitude up any more.
     Burnout is most likely the true reason that I have had so many issues.  I went back to my diaries back when I first started working, just kind of looking around at where my brain was back then in my twenties, and realized that indeed, I'd gone from being very excited about the places I worked, really busting my booty to get those customers, and then realizing that all of this work might be helping but that there's a boss somewhere that still wants more and that I should have more but I'm worn out and I have no motivation anymore to continue on.  And that's where the burnout came from and I miss those years of working for managers who actually wanted to succeed and help the rest of us too.  So, how do I find a new job that has a manager like that?  Or if I were to become a manager, how do I help my employees find meaning and also not find myself being squashed by a money-grubbing regional who wants me to chop hours so they can get their bonuses and hold my job over my head to do so?

     So, maybe I need to get out of retail and go somewhere else.  Maybe I need to go into a smaller place again and work my way up and find a slower paced atmosphere.  But if I get interviewed, what should I answer when they ask, "what's your five year plan?"  What IS it?  Make enough money to retire someday?  To live comfortably?  To be able to go on vacations again?  To be able to find time to do a craft table?  Have enough money to finish my basement so we can have a game room?  I don't know...  And I think I may have to wait on this job thing until I can finally make up my mind.  I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter that I put out applications because I don't have to take a job unless I like it, right?

     I guess I should apologize for this rambling blog today but I figured this might be a good way to show you the confusion that goes through one's head during this period of time.  I feel better, but I don't have direction.  The war happened, the bomb dropped, now the cleanup begins, but it's not yet time for rebuilding.

We'll get to rebuilding next time....I hope.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Focus on Mental Health - Pt. 6 - Getting Away

   So, I started to write this blog yesterday, a few hours after the events that happened at work, and it was pretty much full of hate and spitfire.  Well, I think the best analogy I can think of is imagine someone being slowly poisoned for years.  They keep getting sicker and sicker and they can't really figure out what's causing it, but they know when certain things happen it becomes worse, and that slow realization never really dawns on them because they think nothing around them could be causing them to feel bad.  Eventually that poison sends them to the doctor who starts treating them for the symptoms but nothing is being done about the source.  Then, one day, the person who has been doing the poisoning finally comes out in the open and then there's this moment when all of that bile and nastiness comes out and it takes a long time to get healed, but once the poison isn't being ingested on a regular basis, the person does get better and they will get away from that person doing the poisoning once and for all.

     That is what has been happening to me for the past five or six years, but I didn't realize it.  The worst part of all of that is the fact that I sort of knew it was happening, but since I wasn't in the direct line of the worst of the poison that my manager was spewing most of the time, I didn't get the brunt of it.  Say, the cake was poisoned for someone else but I was still eating the crumbs off the plate...slowly but surely.
     I've been in retail for more than 20 years and every place I worked had some kind of poisonous person.  Just the other day I read about how fake smiling every day can lead people to drink, and it's that fake enthusiasm that hides all of the emotions people need to get out into the open once in awhile or it slowly poisons them.  I've always been a cheery sort but the people I worked with were already to the point of being dangerously poisonous from all of this fakery.  What's sad is that I doubt they even know they're doing it.  My first boss had a tough time promoting me to assistant manager, and made me share the duty with someone else until they left the job and suddenly she had no one else.  A few months later she started blaming me for how terrible her life was.  It's most likely these people were all masochistic because she never believed her terrible life had anything to do with the fact that she had a child with a husband who quit his job and decided to take up life as a tattoo artist...nah, couldn't be the fact that she was basically carrying their entire family with this dead-end job as a manager at a small art gallery in the local shopping mall.  She probably made less than $15/hr.
     I got out of that job after she basically forced me to quit, and that day I got out and cried a lot, drove around a lot, and sang a lot, and then I took a long hard look at my life and realized that I was better off without being around her.  Actually, it was a blessing in disguise because not too long after that she was gone and the store closed, and the company itself that ran it folded a few years later.

     Skip ahead to the job I held for nearly 16 years after that, October of that year, I had managed to get on with my life and find a new job doing something different, but still retail.  I was part time mainly and eventually started to work my way up but they kept doing re-alignments; basically cutting how many full time employees there were at the store.  On the other hand, they also started opening up new stores and after one set back I was promoted and moved to another store.
     All went well until they got rid of the manager who opened the store (well, moved her closer to her home to a bigger location which, good for her) but the one that took over hated me for some reason.  Again, another poisonous soul out for revenge on someone she didn't like and probably had no real reason to dislike me, but there it was.
     Thankfully I had started dating by that time and was able to transfer out of state away from that woman before she did me too much harm.  I was so happy during those months, not just because I found someone I knew I'd marry someday, but also because I was out of that poison.  I got promoted a few months later, transferring to my fourth location, where I had some of the best managers a person could ask for.  They were hardworking, kind, and very supportive.  Unfortunately, I would only have those managers for a year or so before we went through a round of terrible ones once again.  Thankfully I had a position far away from management (literally, I was in the furthest corner in a frame shop so out of sight, out of mind, most of the time) and I did my job, made money, did what they asked me to do, kept myself out of trouble, and things went well.
     Then the woman who was third rung at the store (and honestly I really don't remember talking to her at all, or she was such a small blip on my radar that I didn't really care) was all that was left, and she became the manager.  But, there were other managers, operations, merchandise, receiving, etc, so everyone had their own thing to do.  I was still head of the frame shop at the time, but a keyholder and in training to move up the ladder as needed.  Again, this woman was so low on my radar that I didn't have an opinion of her and I was usually talking to other people in the store most of the time that I kept out of her hair.  She promoted me to merchandise manager and things were okay.
     I had no idea that when she started giving me reviews she was already thinking I was a bug that needed to be squashed.  I'm not sure if it was my own assertiveness or whether it was her own weakness that made her think I was out for her.  But time and time again I would tell her I wasn't after her job, that I was just happy where I was... She took that as weakness and when a new realignment happened after some 10 years from when I started with the company, she demoted me to keyholder and picked the third in command.  A gal who had been with the company maybe two years by the time she got promoted to assistant manager.
     I had that sudden realization that she hated me and I really had no idea why.  Is it because I didn't have children?  Is it because I was good at my job?  I haven't the foggiest.  She told me that I couldn't be friends with any of my 'underlings' and I was ousted back to the frame shop after well over a year as a manager.  Still a keyholder.  But I was put out of sight again in my corner.
     I was furious but my co-workers were more so, and by that time I had started to make friends with them.  I treated them as equals.  I explained to them how things worked around the store, I let them in on things that were happening when my manager wouldn't tell a soul.  I read up on all of the handbooks and guides so I knew the rules and I was always kind when I had to tell people things.  It made me liked.  And I think she caught wind of it because she certainly didn't like me, so why should anyone else?
     But I was hidden away in my shop and eventually the assistant had started to get all managery and the district manager decided to move her to another store to be promoted.  Only, it backfired because he got fired himself a year or so later and the assistant just plain quit because she never got promoted and she couldn't handle the store she was at.  Suddenly, I'm interviewing again for a job I thought I'd deserved the whole time and even the other people who were just as qualified said, yeah, let her have it.
     My manager waited for well over four months to finally promote me.  We all think she was waiting around for her precious assistant to come back, but by then she'd gotten another job that she said she loved so much and made more money.  So, she was 'stuck' with me, and I really feel that's how she looked at it.  The fact was, I think I knew what kind of assistant she wanted me to be - a kiss-ass who did whatever she was told and crawled behind her wherever she went saying 'yes, ma'am, right away ma'am, you're the greatest, ma'am."  But, she never said it in so many words, except for when reviews came around and she kept going "I don't think you're living up to my standards" but she'd never set standards, so I'd follow orders and keep my head down and try to be my best.
     I had made friends though.  I would have made friends with her, but the one time I was invited to her house she treated me rather like an offensive bug and ignored, so I was really just sort of turned off of it.  I even invited her over to my house once, I had a house warming party and only one other person showed up, but I figured it was because everyone else was too afraid of getting caught 'carousing' or something.  I pushed on though, and it took another year or two before I started to realize just how many people were there because I was there, because I would calm them down and help them deal with the poison this manager was slowly feeding all of us.  (See?  I'm getting there!)
     The first time I realized that I had a calming effect was when I'd go on vacation and would come back and someone would have quit.  It was almost like clockwork.  I did two main vacations a year, one in May, one in October, and at least one we'd lose someone I liked.  Maybe I was the antidote to this poison?  I can't claim that I was, but I never lost anyone during the time that my manger was on vacation...
     Except that for some reason she told me to 'get along with everyone' when she'd leave on vacation and I'd be totally stumped by what that meant.  There were only a few people that I didn't get a long with, and usually it was because either they were just as masochistic as she was, or because they had been so poisoned by her that I really hoped they'd leave just because they seemed so miserable.

     About two years ago my poisoning really began.  I'd secured the assistant manager spot and things went well from around March through Christmas.  Then her precious old assistant was starting to beg to come back.  She tried her best to get her back, but she'd need a raise, you know, couldn't have her working off of minimum wage, now could we?  But she didn't get her way, I kept my job, things went back to normal for a little while.  Then she forced out one of the other managers right before the next Christmas and immediately put that precious assistant in that spot.  Now they were together again - but oh no!  Someone was in the way of her master plan!  ME!
     They seemed to be okay with me for awhile.  After all, it was the Christmas season then and we were too busy to really think about how to try to get me out, you know?  But the moment Christmas ended and she'd taken her first vacation - I'm fairly certain now her best thinking of revenge on me came during her long cruises she always took - she came back and started hounding me about the fact I'd made friends.  She threatened, and when I found ways to still hang out with them, she started writing them up, trying to get them to quit instead.  We were strong together, and we managed to pass through to Christmas time once again.  Which leads us up to just a few months ago.
     Things started wrapping up from the holidays but we had inventory to handle so she was preoccupied.  But soon after she started having these conference calls and meetings and keeping them under wraps yet again.  I started figuring out that when she kept things quiet she was plotting something.  She'd breeze over the importance of things, take vague notes and expect me to understand what they meant, and corporate had already started sending out emails directly to managers so that assistants like me were at the mercy of whatever the manager told us.  And she rarely told me anything, even when I asked.
     Then she went on vacation with the same "get along while I'm gone" nonsense.  But already her precious assistant started to ignore me and wouldn't listen to orders.  She did her own thing the entire time - which, honestly, wasn't much because  she was always just a lackey, and nothing more.  So I tried to get along and ignore her and move one with my life and waited for the manager to come back.
     It started to turn into spring and I realized immediately that things were going to turn bad for a few months.  Maybe her vacation helped turn her venom stronger?  Each vacation she had was terrible in some way, so maybe all of that hate and misery congealed into a stronger poison that would effect everyone around her.  Eventually it would start to thin out, but that first couple weeks she was a hissing, spitting cobra of all things terrible.  Oh wait, no, she made no noise, actually she was more like a Black Widow spider who sneaks up on you in the dark and bites you when you aren't looking.  Yeah, that's more like it.
     She was in and out all last week dealing with the fact her husband broke his elbow (remember I said something always happened to her when she went on vacation?  He had a stroke the year before, and a year or so before that she slammed her finger in the safe and broke it) and so I didn't think much of it because I had a lot of work to do and was trying my hardest to get things caught up while she wasn't around.
     Then a strange thing happened.  There was an off-hand reference to someone getting maced at another store by following a shoplifter.  So, no more leaving the store, okay?  Okay, no problem.  But you should keep an eye on them, you know?  She'd been having us follow people for years - literally years - keeping track of them, talking to them, "helping" them, and it was thoroughly ingrained in us to do as she told us.  So on a day last week I did just that, but stayed far away because we weren't to 'follow' them you know?  I kept a far distance and when she left the store I stood near the door to write down a license plate.

     Little did I know that that would be my undoing.

     Something so innocent, something that we had been doing for years.  I didn't hear barely a peep out of my manager as she was in the office the entire time that it was happening.  I just reported it over the headset and thought, guess nothing came of it, oh well.  I went back to work, finished my day and the next day I had off, so yay!  Away from the poison lady.
     But then I got a phone call from corporate, then a second and an email.  What the heck?  Maybe someone had finally caught wind of things going on with my manager doing things that weren't quite kosher.  (There are a long list of things that should have gotten her fired years ago, but I could never pin her on them, and also kept feeling bad because I'm a nice person.)  I called them back only to be questioned on what happened yesterday with the shoplifter?
     Okay...that was Tuesday over a week ago.  Nothing happened.  Life moved on.  Okay, don't do that again, okay?  Fine.  Don't suspect someone who you really don't know for sure.  Don't report it if you do because you're going to get called by corporate about it. Again, when I told her about it she sort of just shrugged it off like it was nothing and barely spoke a word to me as she left to work at another store for a few days.
     I avoided going with her this time as I had the time previously, and she was probably furious about it.  I had no idea though.  She brought all of us presents from her cruise.  (I'm going to throw them away though, I'm afraid they're actual poison now.)  But things were okay, I was getting things done, no one was having issues with me, and then when I was on my own as manager one day, two guys blatantly started to steal things.  And, after years (need I say they actually would praise us for stopping them?) of doing this same thing, I got the basket of t-shirts they were stealing, no harm came to anyone, and they left and all was well.
     But I'd made a huge mistake.

     I had no idea.

     Just in passing I mentioned I'd gotten merchandise away from two shoplifters to the keyholder that was coming in to close that day.  I thought we were on good terms.  But I'm pretty sure she had been holding a grudge too (another masochist who used to be nice but her other job was slowly poisoning her as sure as this retail job was and she would come in spitting hellfire - like that cobra I mentioned for real - and want a pity party).  I didn't give her pity that day as she complained about how bad her day was and how horrible everything was and how much she just wanted to go home...but I didn't have time to listen to her cry and mope for fifteen minutes, I had plans that evening.
     So, of course, she reported me to the manager.  Another spy for the enemy.

     I had a terrific night.  I hung out with my work friends, we had a ball at the science museum adult program and it was awesome.  Honestly it doesn't matter now, but the whole thing was fantastic and I really didn't care if she found out anymore because she'd been treating her own precious assistant and her other spies so well over the past year that I just needed a final release from that poison.

     I came home to find out I had to go in early the next day for a conference call.

     I didn't know what it was about, but I'm almost positive that she did.  And as the topic came to light, I was hit with the sudden realization I was getting fired that day.

     They had instituted a new policy that forbid anyone from following, apprehending or even doing anything at all to stop a shoplifter.  They never spoke of why this had come about, did someone sue?  Did someone get stabbed?  What happened?  Completely hush-hush.  Surely it couldn't have been because of one person getting maced, could it?  How would that suddenly turn the whole company on every single employee.....could it?
     But it continued.  This was ZERO TOLERANCE.  It didn't matter if you had been with the company for years, if you were outstanding, if you were good at your job....if you did this, you were done.  They'd already fired some 12 people in the past few weeks.
     I know the blood drained from my face and I started to shake.

     Did they know about yesterday?

    I didn't see a sent email about it.  Maybe no one said anything?  It's my word against theirs, right?  No one would tell on me that it happened, would they?

     When the conference call ended I stood up and my manager asked me what I was headed to do - and she basically sent me to my 'corner' - but before I could leave I asked if they'd said I was going to get fired.  She deadpanned, "well, maybe not about the thing from last week, but last night...  I had to report it."
     I'm sure I turned white as a sheet as all of the blood drained down to my toes and I closed the door and headed straight to the backroom and started to cry.  That's it then.  She'd found her way to get rid of me.  She'd used her teeth to suck the blood out of me and replace it with her poison.

     And to make matters worse, they started calling from corporate.  We need you to write a statement about last night.  What happened last night?  Didn't matter.  I knew it didn't matter.  I changed the facts ever so slightly.  I knew they'd see what was on the film, that it wouldn't quite match up to what I told them, but did it matter?  They'd already made up their minds.  I had no case.  This new policy went into effect swiftly and like a hot knife through butter (I like these analogies) I was going to be cut from this company.
     But she had to bleed every last drop from me.  She left right after the call, and when she came back she disappeared into the office and I kept my eye on the phone because I saw it was lit for a very long time...  And I kept on working and she left to go home for 'lunch' because everyone would be leaving me at 5pm so I have to get home...  And she reappeared and went into the office again.

     One hour before my shift ended I got called to the office.

     One freakin' hour when she probably knew from the very first moment she was going to fire me that day and could have sent me packing without giving me another day's pay - and she let me suffer the entire day.

     The lady from corporate was on the phone.  The one who questioned me the week before.  "You there?"  You know what you're here for, right?  We are terminating your employment with us at this moment as of section AS100...  I read that flippin' thing, it was right in front of me that morning and no where did it say that you'd get fired immediately.  But they'd found a way to cull the herd.  Instead of doing a massive layoff, they decided they'd find the easiest way to fire everyone - follow a shoplifter, get fired.
     And my manager had found her way to finally get rid of me.  She'd plotted it from the moment she heard that new thing went into effect and her spies expedited it.

     As they spoke I basically blanked out.  I wasn't angry.  I was expecting it for seven hours.  I'd plotted a dozen scenarios in my head, but I couldn't land on just one.  So I pulled the keys from my pocket, set them down on the desk and walked out.
     She didn't company me into the breakroom to make sure I left, she simply walked out and got back to helping customers.  I threw down everything I could think of that I had that was property of the store, grabbed all of the things that were my own, clocked out and with one desperate (I hoped) look at my friend who was at the register when I left, I walked out.

     I could have screamed.

     I could have cried.

     I could have done anything else then what I did, but I had realized in that moment that it didn't matter.

     I was free of that thing that was poisoning me.

     I texted my chain of friends and told them what happened so she couldn't do the same thing to them.  One decided immediately she was going to go Jerry McGuire on her and actually leave with me and it was amazing.  I would have felt bad but she was also planning on leaving anyway.  I didn't ask them too, but I know they all knew she had been draining our life away one day at a time by slowly poisoning all of us.

     I went home and sobbed with my husband for a long time.

     It was both because a chapter of my life had ended, but it was also because I was free.

     Maybe if you've read any of my other blogs in the past you'll realize how miserable I'd been.  This poison that she had been injecting into my life for so long had driven me into a terrible depression.  I would be so drained by my job that I'd do minimal things around the house.  My husband started doing most of the cooking because when I'd get home I couldn't bear to get going to feed us.  If he hadn't started cooking for us I'm sure I would have subsided on chips and PB&J sandwiches because that's about as much effort as I could put into it.
     They only reason I found to cheer up were the friends I'd made over the past few years playing D&D.  I had a group of my coworkers who talked me into becoming their DM (for which I am ever grateful) and another group that taught me how to play.  And another that I shared the responsibility for the game and it was awesome.  They are awesome.  Every single one of the people I have been playing with for the past few years were one of the only reasons (besides my husband and cats of course) that would get me to clean the house, get me to get up and cook big dinners and getting me writing again.  I had almost completely stopped writing for a few years and I think that was taking a very big toll on me emotionally and physically because I had no outlet, and this gave me time to think, time to plan, and time to enjoy myself.
     But at the end I was becoming so wiped that I was starting to not even be able to do that.  For anyone who has read this far who wanted to hang out with me and I cancelled plans with you - it's because of this.  It's all because I was so emotionally drained, so stressed out, so anxious and depressed, that I couldn't handle being around people.  I couldn't focus anymore.  I'd sit for hours on the couch watching TV.  I wouldn't pick up my laptop my husband gave me so I could sit here and type like I used to do (and like I'm doing currently) because I couldn't focus.  My mind kept going back to work, back to being miserable, and only when I had a few days off in a row could I concentrate on being happy for a time but the moment I had to go back I was so anxious I almost quit my job multiple times - I'd literally shake and find it hard to breathe.

     The sad thing was, I had an idea I knew what was happening, but I still thought I could overcome it.

     I started talking to the doctor and she prescribed me all sorts of anti-depressants.  Then just a week or so ago she upped the type and when I told another coworker I considered a friend this, she looked at me wide-eyed and said something like, "Oh no...that's terrible stuff."  It honestly freaked me out a whole ton.

     So yesterday I got fired from my job of 16 years.  And all of that poison came out hour after hour of scrolling mindlessly through Facebook.  It rolled around in my head as we went out to dinner, as we took a walk at the park and my husband talked to me about other things and I tried hard to pay attention to him.  I'd been so poisoned by this woman that I couldn't even stand helping him anymore with his convention - I think that was evident by some of my blogs too.
     I didn't want to go to bed last night because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep.  I tried to stay up as late as I could so that I'd be too exhausted and fall asleep, but it didn't work.  I tossed and turned for hours - all of that poison rolling around, spewing from every pore (figuratively).

     This morning I awoke and went to the bathroom and as I came back to lay in bed a bit, it hit me again what happened.  I still needed to process more.  But DAMN IT - I WAS going to do what I had planned to do on my day off before all this crap hit the fan.  So we did.  I still thought about the stuff that I have to do, but it's the weekend, and I can't call the doctor to cancel my appointments or my dentist (I was just a few weeks away from my 6 month check up, dang nabbit!)  But thankfully some of my prescriptions were renewed right beforehand...  But that stuff could wait a day or two.  Of course I need to go job hunting and of course I'll need health insurance again, but for a few days, things will be okay, and I really needed to enjoy this momentary freedom.


     And guess what?

     I looked at my backyard again for the first time and realized how green it was.  I appreciated the little birds that were at my birdfeeders, realized that I hadn't cleared out the garden out back yet.  Looked at the sky and saw how blue it was.  I looked around my house with a new sense of purpose - something I hadn't been able to do in awhile.
     I didn't take my anti-depressants.  I took an allergy pill and I moved forward.

     I realized that I no longer had to worry about the stockroom piling up.  I didn't have to worry about my manager never giving me any help to accomplish things any more.  I didn't have to even see or talk to her ever again!!  That certainly brought a smile to my face.  I'd never have to deal with those people secretly loathing me while smiling at my face.  It was gone.  All of it.  The only thing I had to worry about is myself.

     I hadn't had that blissful relief in a very long time.

     And even though I know tomorrow is another day, and that I'll have to deal with all of the annoyance of having to go out and get a new job and deal with new things, at least I can decide.

     Want to know something else?

     I still have a supportive husband.  I was able to listen to him talk about his convention with an open mind again.  It didn't feel like yet another heavy weight on my shoulders that I wanted to throw off.  (It felt like he was adding bricks to my back every time he talked about it because I already had loads and loads of other bricks there and didn't realize it.)  And that made me happy.
     I still have supportive family.  I told my mom and she was very positive - you know, if God closes a door, He'll open a window!  I feel like in this case though, God opened the door and said, "GET OUT OF THIS PLACE NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!"  And I'm outside of that place and here's this wonderful new world just waiting to be explored.  I don't know where to start yet because I'm still adjusting to the light that I haven't seen in so long, but when I regain my focus, I'm sure I'll be fine.
     I still have supportive friends.  These people are magnificent.  Every single one that was enraged or shocked when I posted online about what happened - there was a massive outpouring and each one gave me a massive blast of fresh air that I hadn't breathed in that poisonous atmosphere.

     And I have a D&D game planned for next Friday and maybe Tuesday as well.


     So, that's about it for now.  I am going to let the rest of the poison drain out of my system.  I'm going to take a breath of fresh air.  I'm going to look around me for the first time with fresh eyes and throw off the burden that I'd been carrying for so long it was breaking me.

     And I'll pick my next path.

     Because somehow, I've escaped.

     They didn't break me.  They've freed me.

     And I know this next chapter in my life will be better - because once you're at the bottom for so long, there's gotta be a way up.

See you again soon!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

2019 - Focus on Mental Health pt. 5

     Been awhile since I posted in here, but I guess that might be a semi-good thing if I've been too busy to brood?  Maybe so, or maybe it's because I've been in a weird place this last week or so.  About a week ago my hubby headed out for the weekend with the express orders to 'go out, and have fun' while he was gone.  Of course I could have gone with him, but I decided that maybe I just needed to try to get out on my own and do something I hadn't in quite a long time.  My last attempt at 'go out and have fun' was back in the late fall when I headed to the Lynd Fruit farm to pick up my apples and cider to last me through the winter months, but on the way back my car tires decided to throw up warning about low tire pressure, so it cut my trip short.  I was stressed out from trying to find a place to go to refill the tires for the rest of the day, and for the next week I stayed stressed out until I finally bought a portable air compressor.
     So, after packing away that air compressor, I made an identical trip out to get some apples and cider and jams and it was quite busy for being about five days before the start of spring.  The people there said, "see you in July!" and everyone there (including myself) said, "Yup!"  Because that'll be the start of peach season and hopefully the cold winters didn't kill off too many of the trees.  I did notice as I drove away that a stand of some 20-30 trees were pulled up at the roots, dead.  I'm not entirely sure what type of apples, and whether they'd died or were pulled to make a bigger parking lot, but it was an image that will stick with me.
     The rest of the morning was spent trying to find a craft mall I'd kept seeing online and when I finally got there it seemed to have a lot of potential...but was very disappointing (and I'd realize was the slowest of all of the places I went that day) so I crossed it off my list for future trips.  I went to another antique store and then headed out to Clifton Mill to see the place during the spring instead of Christmas time.  Took a good hour drive, but I had forgotten that I enjoy driving on my own as long as it's not going somewhere I've been before.
     And it was a peaceful sort of day driving and hitting the places and I'm looking forward to seeing the mill during the summer when there are trees and no Christmas lights (although I have a feeling they stay in the trees, but at least seeing the cliffs would be pretty without).  But there were hints of what it would be like when it's not swarming with people.
     The rest of the day was spent hopping between antique stores out west and every single place was more full then I'd ever seen them.  But it was fun and I was exhausted by the end of the day, but in a good way.

     The only downfall that day was getting ridiculously angry over not getting dinner by myself until after I'd been home for awhile because I thought my husband was getting home on time to have dinner but had meant he was leaving by dinnertime and wouldn't be there until nearly 8pm.  So I'd gotten angry but it was probably hunger more than anything, I think.

     But I haven't been taking the depression medication.  I really wanted to see what would change between taking it and not.  So I started around then and at first there was the burst of anger, but overall I didn't notice any large changes because I made myself get going and got myself off the sofa.  And I've worked on projects around the house now since then - pulled out the carpets in the closets of my bedroom and redid the flooring.  Then since then I've also changed out the guest bathroom floors too.  Doing something with my hands really makes me happier than anything else.  I get my butt away from the television and get doing other things.
     So I haven't taken any of the pills and I've gotten a bit more sunshine which may or may not be helping - I am trying to get my mindset right again.  So I've also been walking around the yard lately as well, making plans about what I want to do with the yard in the upcoming months.

     Let's get up to speed though.  Today was yard work day.  I got the trash picked up, pansies planted in pots and the little wagon.  Then cleaned the leaves from the curb and had a family pull over and say to me, "it's really nice seeing someone do that, no one does that around here."  And I'm thinking to myself, yeah, but not everyone has as many leaf and water issues as I do... but I thanked them and we talked about the fact that it was nice out.  But I was slightly shaky by the end and I'm not sure if it was because I was startled or pleased.
     It did make me feel a bit curious about whether or not the pills have been helping more with the anxiety.  I thought both days on the way to work this week for closing shifts that I haven't had any anxiety going into work.  I'm hoping it wasn't because of the pills, but I'll find out for sure after the next birth control rotation because that's what I really thought was affecting me.  So, we'll see.  Got another week or so.
     I have realized that I've been kind of annoyed because my husband isn't very active.  I kept hinting that I wanted to go for a drive today.  Convinced him to go to breakfast and then we went to get groceries and then we went home and he plopped down in front of the TV and didn't move.  I finally just had to get up because I couldn't stand it anymore, and I really should have just gotten up and left the house...but we did go get flowers so I did the yardwork thing which needed it anyway.
     Later this week, however, I'm going to try getting out and making that drive.  It doesn't make me happy to just sit around doing nothing all the time.  I think I need to accomplish things with my hands to make me happy.  I do realize for the last month I've been working on orders at work for framing which I used to do regularly and part of me realizes that's a big thing for me to keep me happy.  So... I've been considering looking into trying to find another job that will help me keep my hands busy.

     Here's the thing, though.  I WANT to get a new job.  I'd really like to be able to move on to something that I could go in, make some things, then go home again.  But, my job gives me good benefits and I've been there forever and I'm not entirely sure how I could move on until I knew that my husband's job was secure enough to take care of us for awhile until I worked my way up again.  His work is so unstable, but it's been that way forever and I kept thinking I should just 'wait' and yet I've been waiting all of these years now and it hasn't changed things.  So, what am I waiting for?  Now I feel like I've waited too long and it's so hard to move on.

     Well, ultimately I'm okay right now.  About a week without the anti-depressants.  I've had a few sad days and would really like to move.  I think though it's more the television and the Facebook and I really need to get away from both of those things again, and that's what I'm going to work on this upcoming week.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

2019 - Focus on Mental Health pt. 4

    Part four!  Today I will discuss a few weird things that happened to me last night.  Besides having trouble staying asleep (falling asleep, not so bad, but the bladder woke me up about three times.)  But besides that I woke the second or so time after a very disturbing/frightening dream:

    I think I was headed home, and had almost made it inside when I heard the sound of a familiar bird.  I turned to look up into a very high tree (perhaps 200 feet or more), I was standing under an awning, which our house doesn't have, it extended out over a drive (sort of like a hotel drop off).  Up on top of this tree was the bird - and I recalled thinking that it was a Macaw as the sound was familiar.  So I called to it, hoping that perhaps it would fly down to me, and surprisingly it did.  It was bedraggled, feathers ragged, as it landed on my shoulder awkwardly.  It lost its balance and I cradled it in my arms thinking I needed to get it inside, get it some water, and then search up some food.  And of course I started thinking about what I really had inside my own house, like fruit, which I thought might do it some good.
     I went inside the house, there was a step up to get into a kitchen, but the kitchen was laid out opposite (more like my Mom's house).  It was super bright, a huge window to my right and the sink underneath.  I caught a glimpse of Tenchi (my cat, as seen below:)

Of course, in this dream he was facing away from me and much fatter then he was in this picture (he was a lot younger here and probably 5 pounds lighter, so imagine his stripey back but very round).  He was pawing the ground with his left front foot, and I was a bit nervous about the macaw, but was also curious about what he was doing.

As I walked past him to his left side, I came around to see what he was doing.  At first I thought that he was doing his 'horny dance' as I call it since he does that to blankets a lot.  In the next second, I realized that he was rather pawing at the ground, at something laying there slightly to his right.  A split second later, I realized that object was a severed paw.  Just a paw.  And a second later, he looked up at me and I could see his front right leg was severed.  He seemed to ask, "why isn't it moving when I move my leg?"

     In the moments, maybe milliseconds, of waking, I had a 'memory' of Aria having had her leg squeezed to the point of being drawn out (like dough when you pull it apart), and wondering how in the world they had both had their legs destroyed when there was no one in the house, or any circumstance that would do that damage.
     It was very disturbing, and after I went to the bathroom I lay in bed trying desperately not to think about it.
     Needless to say, I had to go downstairs to check and make sure that Tenchi's paws were all safely on his own legs.  They were, I'm happy to report, but it was still the strangest dream I've had in a long time.

     I forgot about most of it while I was at work today.  I got to hide out doing my old job today (since one of my co-workers are out healing from carpal tunnel surgery) which was pretty darn peaceful overall.
     I didn't get to play D&D today though, which is a bit sad, but it was also relaxing not to have to rush anywhere after work.  And then after work I did finally spray paint that vent (speaking of which, I need to get it finished and back upstairs).  And then I made my first attempt at a Texas Sheet Cake the first time in like a decade.  Hopefully it will taste good.  It at least looked normal when I finished it.  So, I guess we'll try!

So that completes my 4th entry.  I have a day off tomorrow so hopefully I'll be able to continue more things that make me happy!

Monday, March 11, 2019

2019 - Focus on Mental Health pt. 3

     Don't really have much to relate today, but figured since I'd realized I just didn't have a way to express my feelings anywhere else that I'd write out a brief synapsis of what went on today.  Typically when I'm sent away to work at another store in the area I come right home afterward, but this time I decided that I would definitely use the long drive to my advantage and do some shopping afterward.
     But first, getting up at 4:30 AM, driving across town, not quite the furthest store in the area but they're all between 20-30 minute drives away from my house.  Drive was okay and I saw someone I hadn't gotten to talk to in awhile so that was pleasant, then I did my work and had to coax both of the store managers there to let me go when my time was up for the day because, quite frankly, I'd gotten there on time and my own manager did not, so let them stay the extra 45 minutes or more to make up for it.  I was exhausted but also decided I needed to do the shopping trip I'd planned on, even if only for a half hour or so.
     So I actually went shopping, bought a few new shirts and a new sweater and chatted up the cashier for awhile since it was slow and she was talkative.  Then headed over to another store to get a few more things and had another conversation there with an employee, so it made it an overall pleasant experience for me.  Then I did a little bit of catching Pok√©mon since you honestly can't NOT play Pokemon Go where I was.
     Then I turned on the newest Jason Mraz CD that I own (yes, I still like CDs as my stupid media player sucks and doesn't want to read anything off the USB drive...and I've been too lazy to get that fixed.)  And just sang my way home again.
     We went out to eat for dinner and I wandered around the yard when we got home looking at the tiny little stubs of crocuses and tulips peaking out of the ground.  I so want it to be Spring already!  I want to be able to hit up the garden center and buy a tray of pansies to plant out in the garden.  I also want to be able to put down grass seed so we can forget about the ugly brown line from the road to the side of my house.

     Well, I think I'm going to work on painting just one more of the vents now, and watch some more TV, relax or something, take a nice shower and go to bed.  Then maybe I'll be able to deal with my internal screaming about how things went.  I'm really glad to be home again, but also glad I made the trip on my own as I just don't go out on my own enough anymore and I think it builds character when I do.  I just wish I'd been able to get going sooner in order to go to the bookstore too, but that's a whole different challenge.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

2019 - Focus on Mental Health pt. 2

     I'm into my new Mental Health awareness plan five days now.  The balance of feeling crappy and feeling excited and happy is still balanced in favor of feeling crappy, but I think the majority of that has to do with work and one particular person.  But, I guess I'll go over a few of the things that have been pretty good for me the last few days.

Thursday - cleared out a few of my old toys and made some donation plans.

Friday - went out for dinner by myself.  Picked up Raisin' Canes, which, even though I regretted it later (stomach reasons) I did feel good getting out of work for a short time and being able to finally allow myself to go out and do something rather than eating my packed lunch.

Saturday - did some shopping, went out to breakfast, shopped at Costco, walked around the mall for a bit, bought some new miniature paint, then came home and put some finishing of figures.  Worked on getting a few more done and then after we went grocery shopping I brought home spray paint to fix the rusting vent covers.  They look awesome.  Suddenly it's like I've been able to wipe out that anxiety I got every time I looked at them thinking about the months (almost a year) of cleaning cat pee up every single day.  Although, on another hand, I found old cat pee on the wall (I'm pretty sure it was old as it didn't smell very strongly) while doing some other cleaning, but just having those vents looking better was like a breath of fresh air for me.

Sunday - finally got the seasonal set done at work that was due TWO WEEKS ago.

For the last few days too I've been doing some online money making, doing meaningless internet tasks.  It's not much really, but I thought maybe it would be something I could do to keep me from mindlessly scrolling Facebook every day which is part of my problem I think.

     I also had a sudden thought this evening.  I used to write emails.  I used to write a LOT of emails.  I think something to do with those emails I used to be able to get out my anxiety and depression on paper and then move on with my life, and hopefully my "pen pal" that I emailed would get back to me and I'd be able to work through all of those issues.  (Unlike when I simply just write in my diary or here.)  I realized that was a HUGE change in my life the last few years.  Just about 2016 things changed and suddenly I didn't have anyone to unload my problems on, or have problems unloaded onto either.  Because sometimes writing back to someone also gives me this amazing feeling of knowing that someone cares about me enough to tell me all of these deep dark secrets.  I don't have anyone like that except perhaps my husband.  I miss it so much.  Sure, I have a few people that we share things in common and talk about very surfacy things.  I don't have someone I can say "my life sucked today, I'd really like to talk about it, and you can tell me about how much yours sucked too."

     So, I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do about that issue.  I write a lot in my daily life, but there must have been something so cathartic about it over the years that my depression just didn't take over my life as it has the last few years.  I know I had depression, but I found ways to get up and keep moving and doing something else.  It's been very difficult to force myself to get up and going.  But THAT is what this Lent is all about - getting up, getting moving, and figuring out exactly what I need to do to beat this thing.

     More updates to come, hopefully!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

2019 Lent - Focus On Mental Health

     So, here we are starting Lent in 2019 (I'm not Catholic, but I've been doing something for it since the 90's).  In most year's past I have typically focused my attention on my physical health, or on occasions also my spiritual health.  I will admit that I've only focused on my spiritual health a few times, I think one year my goal was to read a chapter of the Bible every day, another was I think to pray for someone each day, that sort of thing.  Most years, however, I usually focus on my physical health which means, typically, to give up something that feels dear to me.  In the past it has ranged from giving up red meat, chocolate, soda, coffee, caffeine, desserts, alcohol, etc.  The last time I gave up soda I pretty much gave it up entirely so I feel pretty good about that since I've only taken a sip or two of a soda on occasions and that sorta just feels like a step in the right direction.
     This year in January I had started talking to my husband about perhaps giving up sweets all together (I did desserts last year but cheated by eating sweet things for breakfast....if it's breakfast, it's not dessert, right?  Sigh.)  Other years we gave up eating out at restaurants and that was a tough one because he had to be all-in on that one to help me (he could eat out at lunch all he wanted but I ate at home.  Our only 'cheat' was having fish at churches for lent, which isn't technically a restaurant!)
     However, as this year has gone by I realized that giving up sweets without actually getting them out of the house all together was going to be very difficult, and my husband had bought a few too many donuts for Fat Tuesday yesterday and thus they had to be eaten up today, ruining the chance to start Lent today on Ash Wednesday.  So, I started trying to think of something else I could do today, or not do today for my focus.  I can't give up soda (I have already), I can't give up alcohol (my depression medication forbids it) and I can't give up chocolate or sweets because guess what I had already this morning?
     In the spirit of avoidance, I helped my mother do her taxes, or rather forced my husband to help her do them, although I really could have done them myself (and maybe I should have?  But he seems to like doing computer type things) and after being mentally exhausted after helping her for hours on end, I figured I needed to do something for ME finally to today.
     That started the gears moving finally and I realized something I've never done when I participate in Lent is that I've never worked on my own MENTAL HEALTH.  Doing things that will make me feel better about myself, things that will make my mind take a bit of ease.  Obviously I've been suffering from burn-out from my job and also in some part my home life because of all of the things that need to be done to keep a house with four cats and a husband clean.  And I can't even begin to expect that my husband will actually clean anything on his own, you know?  Sure, he got motivated around the holidays to straighten up his office so that he could move things downstairs into the basement so he could work down there, but then he rarely works down there.  Now he's taking up TWO spaces and neither of them are very tidy.  He still won't clean the toilets unless I ask him and unless I specifically ask him to wipe under the lid of the toilet (which I never see but he does every day and I certainly don't understand why he doesn't go "eeewww, maybe I should clean that!"  Nope!!)  So our bathroom gets worse and worse every day and it should really be cleaned once a week but because of my depression it might go months before I haul all of the cleaning supplies upstairs and tear it apart.  It takes about an hour to clean up all of the surfaces and try to pair down all of the crap that's taken up residence on the counter which is the main reason why I don't like to clean it in the first place because it takes five minutes to clear it all off, then ten to wipe it all down and shine up the faucets and finally another five minutes to dust everything off and put it all back together again.
     But, the reason I segued into this topic of cleaning the bathroom because that's what I did to get away from the couch and the TV and the cluttered coffee table that slowly disappears beneath the piles of junk that my husband collects on there.  I leave a few things that I know I'm using on a regular basis, but some of his stuff just sits there for months and it could be anything from junk mail to a business card or a bottle cap that he was too lazy to just dump in the trash bin when he opened his bottle right next to it!
     So, cleaning is also semi-zen for me only because it allows me time to think while I'm doing the task of cleaning.  I thought to myself, if I can do something that helps my mental health - decluttering for example - maybe that can be a good way to start off my Lent this year.  A clean room, a decluttered room, a place that everything that's there "gives me joy," maybe that will help me in my quest to better mental health and maybe I can stop taking the stupid pills.
     Today's mental health goal:  Get rid of things in the bathrooms that I really don't need to be storing.

     I tossed all of the little tubes of toothpaste that were expired we had been keeping from the dentist office.  I'm sure that most of them could probably have been used well beyond their expiration date since if they aren't open I doubt there's much in them that could go bad, but well, do I really need 15 of them?  Especially since we get about 4 a year and neither my husband or I use those tubes ourselves since we prefer another brand?  I keep them merely to have for guests in case they forget theirs when they spend the night.  It's actually come in handy a few times.
     I organized the things I did keep like floss, which also comes in handy since one friend of ours won't use the same part of a string of floss for a different tooth - so he typically goes through a strand that's about 5 feet or so every time he flosses.  So, samples for him!
     Then I moved into my own bathroom and cleaned up the medicine cabinet and got rid of expired things in there.  Got rid of some things that were long overdue to be replaced like the old shower curtain that was probably 8 years old (I'd bought a new one well over a year ago and it was sitting under the cabinet the whole time).  Also some rubber ducks I'd bought on a whim that were just collecting dust since I don't take baths.  Changed out some of the artwork and pulled some of the things on the counters and put them underneath because we just don't use some of them all that often for us to need it on top of the counter.  Got rid of a stupid candle I'd gotten last summer from someone that I really hated the look of and the smell of, so why was I keeping the thing around anyway?
     Then I moved into the kitchen and cleaned the window and changed out the curtains from the winter set to the spring/summer ones.  Makes the room more cheery when I can switch out colors and freshen up the place.

     Now I decided the next step might be to document some of this stuff, and maybe that will help me realize that I am getting things down on a consistent basis and I shouldn't always feel like I "get nothing done on my days off" which is part of my depression right there.  

1.  Get Mom's taxes done.
2.  Get the credit card bill paid.
3.  Clean my bathroom.
4.  Clean the guest bathroom.
5.  Change out the kitchen curtains.
6.  Fill the bird feeders.
7.  Clean the kitchen window.
8.  Throw things away that I don't need to be keeping - take it out to the trash so I don't regret it and try to get it back!

     So, there's day one.  Am I feeling better?  A wee bit.  I had wanted to work on dinner, but I wanted to do it on my terms and my husband walked down and started it before I'm ready, so I guess I won't be doing dinner (I hadn't had time yet to clean the kitchen and I feel I really need a clean kitchen to cook properly) so we'll see, maybe I should also take some personal time to do something like read or watch something I'd like to watch or something else like that for my personal health.  We'll see!  I guess I can always come back here and add to my list later.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Being a House Guest or Host

     I really think this is a subject I should cover today, since the beginning of the new year I have been both a house guest and a host at multiple places over the past month.  Actually, I've been hosting at my house for awhile now, various different Dungeons & Dragons groups, and family members and I've begun to think that people just don't KNOW how to be a host and how to function as a good house guest.  So... I've come up with a list of things I've noticed lately that people tend to really screw up a LOT.  Here goes:

If you are a HOUSE GUEST:
(that means you're either visiting another's home or staying somewhere else)

  • Be courteous - say "please" and "thank you" as the people who are hosting you will really appreciate being thanked.  If they go out of their way to cook, clean, clear the snow off your car, keep a tidy house, have a well-stocked fridge they allow you to raid, etc., be grateful!
  • Don't take for granted the Hosts "Rules" of the house.  Do they want you to take shoes off at the door?  Maybe they want you to speak and walk quietly as not to disturb pets or children.  Do they want toilet lids closed to keep pets out of hazardous chemicals in them?  Maybe they like all dirty dishes to be placed in the dishwasher.  Maybe they like to recycle and have a specific bin rather than throwing it in the trash?  Maybe they need specific bed times, or quiet times.  Pay attention if it's your first time and ask if you don't know.
  • Don't be a SLOB!  Don't leave trash laying around.  Clean up bathroom counters from makeup or toothpaste before you leave.  Make the bed!  Don't leave your things lying all over the house, it's not YOUR house!  
  • Offer to help!  Even if they don't take you up on the offer, at least they know they can ask you to help if needed with basic household chores like dishes and setting the table.
  • If you have restricted dietary needs or don't like some foods, send your host a list beforehand!  And speak up if they take you somewhere you know you can't eat at!  A good host wants to know what they can do to make you happy!
  • Don't be afraid to state any requirements you might have as a guest - do you need a cold room at night?  Or a hot one?  Do you need more blankets when you sleep?  Do you need an extra plate to separate out food?  Do you have a certain bed time?  Speak up!  Come to an agreement ahead of time so everyone knows what they are getting into!
  • Don't make your hosts repeat the rules to you every time you come over.  If they've spoken to you about shoes at the door, etc. don't be a jerk and make them remind you every single time.  Eventually they'll just stop inviting you over.

If you are a HOST:
(someone is staying or visiting at your house)

  • Be as gracious as you can to your guests, they chose to stay/visit you!  They didn't have to come, so make sure they're happy.  Offer drinks or food if they are staying for awhile.  Plan entertainment for overnight guests, ask them what they like, movies, games, or just quiet time doing their own things?  Come to an understanding, have a conversation early.
  • If your guests offer to help and you'd really like them to (say, do the dishes because they're in another room and you'll miss out on things, allow them to help!) let them help!  Maybe it's just a matter of, "could you help me dry these?" or "could you put on some hot water for our tea?"
  • Be ready to fulfill the needs of your guests, have multiple offerings, set up a menu ahead of time so they have time to suggest something else, have clean towels for bathrooms and clean sheets on beds.  Make sure there is extra toilet paper and mention where they can find other toiletries, plates, cups, etc. if they need to get something for themselves during their visit.
  • Don't have dinner in front of your guests or eat unless you've warned them ahead of time!  If you're baking a cake and your guests can't have any, let them know the reasons, and apologize - or offer them some!  Don't be rude and walk around eating in front of everyone unless you have enough for the 'class'!
  • Make sure you warn your guests of pets, children, or other family.  Maybe you need to quiet during a certain period of time, or maybe your guests are allergic to cats - let them know well ahead of time to plan on what they need to do.
  • If your guests don't know about certain rules before they arrive, ask them politely to do such things as keeping specific doors shut or open, shoes off at the door, toilet seats down, or letting you know where to put the dishes or recyclables. Don't be rude about it, they've never been to your house before!
  • Learn what your guests like and don't like.  First time's a learning experience, but if you're always feeding the same guests dairy when they've said three times that they're lactose-intolerant, they'll probably stop coming over to see you!


  • Communication is key to any host/guest scenario.  Speak up, but then LISTEN to any answers given.  Remember (even if you need to jot yourself notes, most smart phones have note sections in the phone number area!) the things that are set in place because then everyone will be happier at the end of the day.
  • Don't demand to visit or demand visitors.  If you want someone to come to your house, offer.  If you would like to visit sometime, say "I'd just like to visit" - don't say "we need to have a cookout sometime" just because you want to use someone's grill or visit their pool.
  • Spend time together.  This does NOT mean spending time on your phones while sitting in the same room.  DO SOMETHING together.  You're visiting for goodness' sake!  Act like it!  Have a conversation, listen to one another about things going on, actively participate, and be courteous about covering both sides, otherwise someone might start thinking that the other person just wanted to talk AT someone instead of TO someone.  Deep conversations with guests/hosts tend to make return trips a must!
  • Limit your visits - as a host, let them know how much time you have free to have guests because it takes a lot of work!  And as a guest, know when to go home!

Hope this is handy for everyone!  If I find more things I remember I'll add them later!

End of January 2019

     So, it's the last day of January, 2019.  It's barely above zero degrees today, but super sunny and clear.  We went out for donuts this morning and brought them home to eat with our own home-brewed coffee rather than the so-so stuff they sell at the donut shop.
     Why am I rambling about this?  Because, perhaps, I have nothing better to do, just thinking back over last year and thinking about what I REALLY want to do THIS year, as there are a couple of really big milestones that I hit this year.
     The first one is I get to celebrate my 10th Anniversary to my husband.  The second, I celebrate my 40th birthday.  Guess I'll have to change my blog's description from a "thirty-something" to a "forty-something" very soon, eh?
     I find, though, that even though I'm looking forward to both, I'm also not looking forward to the stress that undoubtedly I have to go through in the meantime.  I wish I were a wizard (hence the picture here) that could just foretell the future.  Or, even in a hazier sense, see if I get to enjoy myself this year rather than just following along, wondering what I'm doing with my life.  I surround myself with things I like, but as I'm sitting in my computer room, I'm thinking seriously that I need to change things up, that things are stale and I'm unhappy with a lot of things.  Maybe that's the reason that I have been so unhappy lately - that even though on a smaller level some things have changed, there's also a lot of things that haven't changed and maybe I really need to do something about it!
     The problem with days like this one, where I feel trapped inside and find myself staring aimlessly at the computer screen or television, my mind goes blank.  I sit there thinking, "what did I want to do today?  What should I accomplish today?  Where do I want to go?"
     And when it's cold, or raining or snowing or just not a sunny day, I sit there going, "nope, nothing I need to accomplish, and it'll be annoying to go out today, and I really don't need to buy anything anyway."  But maybe by the end of the night I realize I was supposed to do the laundry today.  I had wanted to clean the sheets on my bed and the towels in the bathroom. That I want to clear off my desk in my room because it's become too cluttered.  That I need to change the pictures on the walls because I'm tired of looking at them.  That maybe I should have gone out to take my books to the used bookstore to sell off because they're collecting dust and I haven't actually read them in a decade.
     So, what did I accomplish in January?  To sum it all up, not much.  I had a week off of work in order to recover from the holidays, only to return to a disaster as if nothing had been done while I was gone, and I had to make up for every single thing that I didn't do while I was gone.  And then three other keyholders all went on vacations and I suddenly have to do ALL of THEIR work TOO!  So here I'm catching up on MY stuff that THEY didn't do, and keep up with all of THEIR work, because I wouldn't just leave it for them!!
     All the relaxing I actually managed to do was destroyed.  I got one weekend where I got to hang out with some friends, but by the end of it I'd dropped too much money on the most awesome leather bodice (which I'm sure I'll wear a whole lot more once the weather gets better and I have conventions to go to again) and yet I was also super annoyed that my house guests, although they thanked us briefly for letting us stay with them, also didn't follow our house rules, destroyed the guest bed, and never said a word about the fact we cleaned off their car for them from snow before they left!  I really didn't want anything to do with them at all when they left, especially since they were so grouchy at us as we took them back to our house so they could go home.  What kind of appreciation IS that?
     There...now I have a title for my next blog...house guests.... stay tuned!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

First Week of 2019

The sun is shining.  Didn't do that a whole bunch in 2018 (I think where I'm at there was a record for most cloudy days, and most rain) so it's sort of a rare occurrence to see the sun.  At first I thought that was perhaps the reason for the majority of my depression.  But now, I'm not quite so sure.  I think it's where I work, or rather, who I work for, and that stress, has caused both my depression and my anxiety (or perhaps it has caused my anxiety which also causes my depression?  I'm not sure).  Either way, I'm starting to really think that medication doesn't really help anything, and only getting a new job (or a new boss, perhaps) would solve matters.

It's a struggle.  Every single day I feel like I'm the second mate of a ship that is sinking.  The Captain is standing up on the top of the boat, ordering people to keep raising the mast and steering the ship - but completely ignoring what's going on below decks.  Each person below is plugging their tiny holes, but then instead of helping with the biggest gouge at the bottom of the ship, they pretend like everything is fine.  So I'm at the bottom, standing in three foot of water, hauling one bucket up at a time because I can't get anyone else to help me seal up the hole.  When I do get someone to help, the Captain drags them away to help mop the deck or repair the sails, or some other task that doesn't help the bigger issue!  And this, I figure, is how I am going to drown eventually.  Either I go down with the ship and drown in the hull, or I go up top and jump over and try to make a break for shore.

There, that metaphor is about the closest I can come to what's been going on and why I'm so stressed out all the time.  Sometimes I just go down and start bailing water, and other times I pound a nail or two into a stray board to help seal the gap, but most of the time it just doesn't help and I want to sit down in the water and let myself drown in the water and my own tears.

But I also have another issue.  I don't feel like I can jump ship, because I know something big is probably coming in the world, perhaps another depression or recession.  My husband's job is cutting people again and moving into smaller digs and there's still talk off and on about him perhaps not having a job sooner than later.  So, what if I did jump ship?  What if I couldn't make it to shore in time before I found another 'boat' going my way?  I'd love to be able to just jump and go into a part-time job somewhere, start from scratch and perhaps get my head straight again.  I just worry.  What if next week he's out a job?  What if he can't find one again right away?  What if I have to support us? 

Then thinking about the future kicks in.  What if I were to just take care of myself for awhile and then something happened to my husband?  I never want to be in a position like my Mom is where she didn't have a job most of her life, has loads of debt because my father apparently didn't instill in her the same money sense he had (I'm not sure who was really do blame here) but I see her struggling because she and my dad didn't save for their retirement and she's just barely squeaking by.  I don't want to be that person.  Our house isn't paid off, and I would really like to be able to live here the rest of my life, and take care of everything but it bothers me day after day thinking that something could go wrong, so why change things?

Because...I'd be happier.  I wouldn't be depressed all the time....right?

Wouldn't that make me a better person?

But I don't want to struggle, either.  I know I should take chances and better myself, but I also like this fairly secure (or is it?) life that I have currently.

Hopefully 2019 will be a good year, but I just don't know.  And that stresses me out too.

Monday, September 24, 2018

It's Been a Long Time

     I realized today that it's been months since I've updated this blog, and even though no one but me reads this (as far as I can tell from the individual page views, it's probably super sporadic) I just wanted to type something out as a therapy for myself but didn't really want to put it on Facebook like I typically do when I want other people to know what I'm thinking.  I also have a personal diary I can write this junk in, but honestly, typing is faster and I tend to put more into writing blogs like this since I constrain a daily rant in my diary to a page or two at most.

     Saying that, I'm finally on depression pills.  They don't seem to be working currently, but I've read varying accounts saying they can take effect in a week or a month, and that once you start taking them you should probably keep it up for awhile so your body can adjust back to normal.  Provided that the pills don't cause any unwanted side effects.  The first day I felt so happy and relieved...but it was also my day off and I was also on the placebo pills for my birth control, so there's that.  A bit over a week later and I'm back on my normal birth control pills and back to having the anxiety attacks which really want me to quit everything I'm doing and crawl into a hole because how in the world can I accomplish anything at all, really?  But it's also a dreary and cold day and I've been itching to get to the park for weeks...and haven't been able to, which is also a condition of me being cooped up inside far too much and not getting enough sun or vitamin E, although my test results showed only a deficiency in vitamin D.  So I'm now on vitamins too... so this is what it's like to turn 39.
     So I'm not entirely sure that the depression pills are going to do the trick, but I haven't lost hope yet so we'll see.  I do know that I sat around on the couch again, trying to get at least the laundry done, but not wanting to do much of anything else and also paranoid that I'm not going to get the things I need to get done done...so it's this unending cycle of crappiness that I'm currently suffering from.  Which, of course, is why the therapy of writing helps.
     I do feel a bit more relieved at the moment now that I'm writing because I can sort of ignore the things that I can't change right now and focus on myself for the moment.  Again, I feel like quitting just about everything and sulking in a little hole and I know that's not good for me, or my husband or anyone around me, even though I'm feeling like this I'm still getting things accomplished like going out to the grocery store and worrying about what to wear tomorrow for work.  I haven't eaten a salad in days and the lettuce is going bad in the fridge, and I'm afraid to cook anything now because the kitchen sink is clogged and we can't do the dishes without having it all back up...but enough of that.
     Every year I start feeling a bit better when my allergies start letting up, but then I go right back to feeling crappy again.  I started to write a novel but then fell behind everyone I was writing with and they all made some sort of finish, and I wrote about 20 pages and quit to work on other things.  It wasn't as if I wasn't writing, I just wasn't writing that.  I was writing page after page of D&D story lines, personal diaries, letters to my brother in prison, and that sort of thing.  And I knew that I was supposed to be working on things for the convention that I still help run even though I know that it's been eating at my life for close to a decade now (oh wait, it is a decade this year) and could I have written that novel by now?  Yes, I could have.  I stopped drawing so I can barely draw a human being that looks like one anymore (or rather an anime character), and all I do is paint miniatures.
     Nothing wrong with painting miniatures as I've always loved that, but I've even had some issues doing that recently due to the depression that just won't go away.  And I have a feeling it's got a lot to do with my actual work and probably stress related too, but it doesn't seem written in the stars quite yet for me to move on from that as I had a couple weird moments where I went out and had an interview at another job...only to find out they had no openings left for someone like me who wanted full time and had experience (I knew I had too much really) and also my district manager seemed to know something about the troubles I've been having with my current manager, so that made me feel like sticking around a little longer.  Not that I had any choice, really.
     Feel a bit more accomplished as I took a break from writing this and got some graphic design work done which I now just have to get all printed out once I get the go-ahead from the heads.  Just haven't felt like doing much of anything design wise lately either.  I think it's just this never-ending line of stuff that I need to get done in the meantime and I don't want to push it.  I should probably push myself, and I think I do to a certain extent.  Take last year, for example.  I'd been playing D&D for about three or so months when I thought I'd attempt to run a game for a few hours during the weekend.  I chickened out when two guys showed up with their higher level characters and they'd already run the campaigns I had picked out.  So I packed up my stuff and left.
     This year, I thought, why not do it for a group of staffers in front of an audience?  I've been playing more than a year now and I can sometimes be a hoot!?  Well...sometimes.  When I have that excited energy I sometimes get...but I haven't had that excited energy in...what?  A good while?  And it only happens for a short time, like Saturday when I asked for a photo of a group of cosplayers - but that energy dwindled after like a minute or two, and a game of D&D lasts hours.  So, my anxiety is playing up and I'm forcing myself to get with it, but at the same time I keep wanting to just back out and not worry about it, but I've been on stage before, multiple times in the past, and I always manage to get through it; so I keep telling myself.

     So, now I return to doing house chores and hope that I can rustle up the energy to get everything done that I still need to do.  I hope.  I'm tired of feeling bummed out by things so I'm going to keep moving forward and trying to do these 'therapy' sessions more often...maybe.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Glenhaven's Son Enirich (A Short Story)

     A bit of a backstory first.  Since July 2017 I have been working on a D&D campaign with a few friends of mine.  Instead of doing a pre-written campaign I thought I'd homebrew it, thinking that we would play a few months.  Well, it's been over 6 months now and the story continues on.  Well, I'd come up with this sort of neat backstory that has been going on behind the scenes that my players will probably never discover.  So instead of letting it disappear into oblivion as the campaign continues, I thought I might jot it down into a short story that I might share in the future with the group once the story of Enirich ends.
     First off, you pronounce it "Ein-Rick", and he's a young man in his late teens/early twenties and I really feel for the guy, but as you read on you'll see why.  My players, however, see him as a re-occurring bad guy that they have to kill or get rid of somehow.  But in his point of view...well, I thought I'd share his point of view with you today....  Enjoy!

     The small town of Glenhaven was situated in the northern most lands to the south of the Black Mountains, in a small valley where the Black Oak Woods ended and a small stream fed the farms and made the land rich.  The mountains to the north, some two thousand years ago, swarmed with a breed of elves those that called themselves "Drow" but the Drow came out of the mountains into the dark woods and some of them set up a small town which was a haven from their lives in the darkness.  These Drow kept a mine filled with gold and other riches, and kept themselves wealthy as needed, and they eventually traveled to Southern lands and one family set up a city around a canal some five day's south.
     Humans of this area were peaceful with the elves, and for a few thousand years they remained at peace.  But the Drow were dying out, and those that were left behind in Glenhaven bestowed upon their human friends a secret to the mine that was the font of their gold and wealth.  They had hoped, as they departed this world for the next, that the humans would share the wealth and continue to live happy, prosperous lives in this land so close to the magic lands they had left so many years before.
     As it happens, however, human beings are petty, cruel, and jealous creatures and the ten men who were told the secret to the mine fought viciously for ownership of the mine.  Eventually only one family knew of the secret location and they would spread the wealth to others in the town, but in essence, the mayor's family guarded it with their lives and would not tell anyone of the location. 
     The Morden family would keep the secret for generations, until two sons were born.  The eldest, Mark, inherited the fortune.  The youngest son, Richard, was told that he would not get the secret unless something happened to his brother.  However, upon the death of their father, Mark, being a good man, shared the secret of the mine with his brother in return that he would stay and be the constable of the town and help keep its secret.  Richard, in his younger years, agreed to this arrangement and the town of Glenhaven was peaceful for a decade.
     Soon, Richard welcome his son Enirich into the Morden family.  His son was weak and got sick often, and for awhile they feared he would not make it past his fifth birthday.  Richard sent to Caspian, the town's wizard, for medicine, and eventually the young Enirich would become stronger as he grew.
     Mark, the Mayor now, also had a child, but his daughter Maribel, would be strong and willful and because she was in line as the heir to the mines, Richard became worried that he would lose the fortune if she married someone from another family.  He started training Enirich to follow in his footsteps as the town Constable, but the young man was still weak from his childhood.
     Enirich was sent south to the larger city where a soldiery school he could attend in hopes it would strengthen him.  Enirich did well at school, he grew stronger and fought to earn his stars as he spent a few years in training.
     After he earned his first star, he and a bunch of his buddies went out drinking at the local bar, the White Stag Inn.  They were fairly inebriated when a stranger came to share their table with them.  Enirich told him about the town where he grew up and that there was a secret Drow mine where there was tons of gold and his whole town was rich but that he wouldn't inherit the treasure because his cousin Maribel was.  So he had decided he'd just become the best solider he could and that he wouldn't bother to ever go back to the city.  He even held up a letter that he had penned to his mother telling her that he wasn't going to return.  The stranger said he was headed to Glenhaven himself and that he would be happy to deliver it for him and save him the money for the caravan post.
     Not being a very bright individual when drunk, Enirich gave over the letter to the stranger that evening and then went back to the dorms.  In the morning he had a hangover and had forgotten the incident.
     Meanwhile, the stranger continued up to the town, but as he drew near Glenhaven, his appearance changed....to look like that of Enirich.  He was, unbeknownst to everyone, a doppleganger.  And when he arrived in the town, he sought out the Constable Richard Morden and his wife Marge, and admitted to them, as Enirich, that he had quit school and had a plan to win Maribel's hand in marriage and that he would then inherit the mine.
     The Constable welcomed his son back with open arms and they never questioned his return, and since the actual Enirich chose to stay behind, they never knew their son had been replaced.  Instead they followed this new, smarter Enirich, and gathered up the tools to take over the town.  Enirich worked on wooing Maribel, but one day, as she used a mirror to brush her hair, it revealed to her Enirich's actual form (for it was magical, left behind by the Drow, but she had not know this) and so she turned him down, stating that she was going to marry the stablehand Matthew instead.
     When the doppleganger realized that she had seen him for what he really was, he decided to try to poison her.  But as the poison was taking hold, a group of adventurers came into town and helped Caspian with a cure.  Angrily, Enirich had to come up with a way to kill Maribel another way, but to get everyone else on board.  So he started a rumor that every one hundred years a member of the family would have to be sacrificed to the god of the Drow to keep the town prosperous.  He enlisted the help of a group of cultists that he had known during a previous journey, and they helped to convince the town of the truth of the rumor.
     It took a bit of convincing, but eventually the whole town believed, even the Mayor Mark (although it took a lot of magic and threats to do so) that Maribel must be sacrificed.  Unfortunately for the doppleganger, the cultists were found out by the adventurers who came into town and they came back just as he was plotting the murder of his 'cousin'.  The sacrifice failed, the adventurers came into the town and managed to kill the doppleganger...but also the Morden family who were under his magical control.
     The only person who knew the doppleganger's true nature, besides Maribel, was Matthew, who's father, the Stablemaster, had hoped to also gain access to the mine.  He had spent many years playing both sides of the Morden family, and had fingers in both sides, hoping to either get in on the Constable's scheme, or to marry his son off to Maribel.  However, he also discovered upon searching the house of the Constable, that Enirich had written a letter that he had stayed in Waterfordshire.  So the Stablemaster sent word to Enirich, thinking the boy might still be alive.
     And thus, a week or so later Enirich discovered that a group of murderers had killed his mother and father and that the town he loved was in tatters.  He initially thought of returning there, until lo and behold, the murderers in the Stablemaster's description were in Waterfordshire!  He didn't think he'd find them so quickly, as murders tend to hide and not stand out in the open as this group did.  But he discovered a small urchin boy following him, and when the boy admitted to who hired him, he brought him back to that same small inn where it had all started.
     That was when he came face to face with the murderers.  They looked innocent, a black haired elf, a tall cloaked male, a dwarf cleric and a black dragonborn, but these were the murderers, he just knew it, and when he talked to them, they didn't deny his allegations.  Rather, they started to argue with him that his family were all evil, that they had done terrible things...his parents, do something evil?  How twisted were these people?  But the General and the Constable in this town refused to arrest them as they had been helping with an investigation.  Instead they said they would send word to Glenhaven to investigate.
     Enirich sent the fastest messenger north, praying that the murderers would not escape town before he got back.  He paced and hoped and prayed and the town was filled with zombies and a necromancer was ravaging the town but Enirich could only think about his family and how much he missed them and had wished that he had not sent that letter, that he had gone back to see them just one more time.
     When the messenger returned less than a week later, he told the tale of the adventurers who killed his parents without stopping to think that they might be under a spell, that they had killed other townsfolk who had also been under the spell.  Enirich went with the messenger to relay the information right as these 'adventurers' slayed the necromancer and thus became the town heroes.  He thought, perhaps, that they were maybe good after all...maybe he was wrong, maybe they were innocent, that they were only doing what they thought was right...
     But they disappeared that night with a bunch of pirates and were gone without facing their trial.  Enirich was upset, he had been fooled...the whole town had been fooled.  They'd saved the day, killed the necromancer, saved the town from hundreds of dead zombies wandering the streets, and how could a bunch of heroes be murderers?  The Constable and the General decided that it would be unwise to follow them, to let it go.
     Enirich couldn't.  He knew it wouldn't bring his family back, but after weeks...he just wanted to see justice had, to know the truth, to see for himself what these people were about.  So he asked a friend, another solider named Gerald, to accompany him as he placed wanted posters down the Main Road to Centralia.  Eventually they had to end up there, as everyone ended in the central city.  Gerald agreed, and as they traveled south they formed a band of rag-tags and mercenaries and other travelers, hoping to make some of the gold that Enirich promised on his wanted posters. 
     They traveled at a good pace, but it slowed as they gained more of their band.  And then as they came to the small Tinnigel Village, a group of three men came running in, telling him that they had just seen the murderers from his wanted posters.  They formed a larger band from the village then, and headed at top speed to follow them.  He hired on a ranger, and half-orc merchant also decided to tag along to see what money he could get once the reward was had.  They traveled a few days, following the horse tracks.
     But then, they stopped.  He wasn't sure what happened, but the Ranger investigated what seemed to be a murder scene...but discovered it was a ploy, and as they spread out to see if they were set up for a hijack, discovering nothing, they traveled on.  That evening they came to a small caravan clearing set up outside of a town that had been destroyed recently by a traveling group of gnolls.  Setting up a guard and enjoying a peaceful evening with a few other groups of travelers, a strange creature appeared in the clearing.
     Suddenly a great wave of water washed into the clearing, knocking Enirich and a few others to their backs, and from another direction a small storm erupted, sending the clearing into darkness as the campfires were blown out.  The creature roared and moved to attack - killing the first man that came after it.  Chaos ensued as Enirich tried to get to his feet.  He came suddenly face to face with the dark-haired elf that had sent the urchin to spy on him.  She told him to stop following them, to leave them alone....
     "Leave you alone?!  You killed my family!  My mother, my father, in cold blood!"  Enirich attacked, hitting her with his sword and then getting knocked back again.  The elf showed no mercy as she attacked him, and Enirich suddenly realized he was no match for this woman.  He fumbled for his bag, as he'd been given a special scroll in case he ever needed to escape.  He turned to see Gerald fall, as other innocent bystanders ran from the clearing and a group of six men were knocked dead instantly as they huddled in fear.... he was outmatched...and he would never be able to revenge his parents like this.
     The scroll.... he read the words, praying with all his might that Caspian had not failed him in its creation.  And then he stepped forward, and stepped out into the woods some thirty feet or more away from the clearing.  From there, he ran.
     Enirich didn't look back, but he knew from the sounds behind him, that it wasn't long before the men who had followed him were mostly, if not all, dead.  He regretted sending these innocent men after these powerful murderers.  Scared, he ran until he came to a burned out building that still smelled from fire that had caused it to fall.  Enirich hid within the fallen beams and shivered as the storm passed overhead and fell asleep, scared for his life.
     In the morning, buzzards swarmed overhead.  He decided to find the main road again, and followed it from a distance in the woods.  Alone, scared, and not sure what to do, he continued south, hoping perhaps, that the knights in Centralia would somehow be able to help him kill these murderers before they reached the central city and wreaked more havoc there.  He also hoped he might find some of the others that escaped... there were witnesses this time, after all.

(First draft - I may have to revise this later, so I apologize for the choppiness of the writing and any errors... I'll try to work on it some more later.  And of course, also when the game progresses I'll add more!)