Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's getting HOT in here

This summer is SO WEIRD. Last week we had a couple of lovely 80 degree days, and now this week we have an "Extreme Heat Warning." Legit. It's supposed to be 109 tomorrow. ONE HUNDRED AND FUCKING NINE. I am so grateful that we impulsively upgraded to a central air system last year instead of the swamp cooler wind tunnel. I'm especially grateful since it kicks on at 6:00 am. And I was really, really grateful when Eli spiked a fever last night because of course he did.

Since it's been stupid hot, we've been holed up in our house like hermits. Which means we've started summer break off with all the TV and video games you can take, interspersed by random "Go do something that won't rot your brain!" breaks. Yesterday the girls were begging to go out back and I wouldn't let them, since I had burned my feet earlier on the concrete. No cutesy, "Before you have screen time..." signs in my house yet. We've been taking full advantage of our generous neighbor as soon as it gets cool enough to stand being outside.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What's in your desk?

I love thinking about people's jobs, especially the details. What kinds of e-mails do they get? What interesting tools do they use? What are the little creature comforts that make their day better? There are many things that are unique to working inside a prison. I go through no less than 8 gates on the way to my office, patiently waiting for each one to be opened for me by a mysterious person watching me from afar and then vaguely waving my thanks as I pass through. Each morning I choose my clothes based on the likelihood that I will have to respond to something in the housing unit (no heels because the tiers are perforated metal) or in a remote area of the prison (nothing binding or expensive, make sure I have pockets that day.) My bag is searched as I walk in to ensure that I have not accidentally left anything considered to be contraband in my purse (cellphones, cash, anything with my address on it, heroin, etc.) My cute mason jar salad was confiscated last week because the jar is glass.
I can’t have a camera in my office, but I thought it might be interesting to write about my “Prison Office Essentials.” These are the must-haves that I keep in or on my desk and use regularly.

  1. Hand sanitizer. ALL. THE. TIME. Prison is gross. I’m not super sensitive about germs, but this does make me feel better. Bonus benefit is that the smell is strong enough to mask Eau d’ Incarceration.
  2. Lanyard. I actually have two. One was a give-away and has the name of my prison on it. I wear that one when I’m feeling very Company-Girl. The other is a Vera Bradley number I bought myself last year. I wear that to be Fancy. I only wear my lanyards on days when I don’t have pockets, and I hook my keys and my ID to them. Doubly fun because then my keys bounce off my belly all day.
  3. Sistema convertible silverware. I heart this kit so hard. If you know anyone who works in a secure facility, buy this for them. Because 1) no metal utensils for obvious stabby reasons and 2) we love the Earth and can’t do disposable every day, the only other option was to eat with kids’ utensils from IKEA. Nothing says “professional, independent woman” like eating with a fork that looks like a penis and testicles.
    Image result for ikea kids silverware
    See it? 
  4. My DSM. I have both the DSM IV-TR and the DSM-5 nearby right now because we're still transitioning from the old version. I'm a big advocate of not memorizing reference books so these are well-thumbed. 
  5. Trader Joes Sea Salt Butterscotch Caramels. These need no explanation.
  6. Bubbles. This one isn’t universal, but I firmly believe that you should keep bubbles in your desk drawer. Nothing is better for work stress than taking a few seconds to blow bubbles. Fun fact: It is impossible to hyperventilate while you’re blowing bubbles. When I work with inmates in lower security levels, I sometimes will bring in a box of party-favor bubbles when I’m teaching them about the power of breathing.
  7. Tiny framed picture of the kids. Personal pictures of family are discouraged but I like to have a sweet picture of my heathens. This one is wallet sized and is tucked under my computer monitor. I have bigger framed pictures of the hellhounds on my bookshelf.
  8. Small bucket of whistles. We all carry whistles for security. I like to keep a few extras for anyone who doesn't have one or forgot theirs.
  9. Disposable face mask. This one actually lives in the pocket of my stab vest but it's still kind of interesting and it's near my desk, so I'm including it. I don't use these often, but I'm always grateful it's there when I need it. Pro tip: If someone is smearing poop, a little Vicks under your nose will make your life so much better. Vicks plus a face mask and you're golden.
  10. Wonder Woman mug. I keep all my Pilot G2 pens (I love these so much that I buy my own) in here, plus a couple little picket signs that Syd made me that say, "STOP! And be awsum!" There's also a pom pom pen stuck in there for whimsy.
I also have the basics tucked away; tampons, salt and pepper, hair ties, lotion, etc., but I figure those are more run-of-the-mill. So I'm curious. What unique things are on your desk that make your space "yours"? Anything that I should add to my collection?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

On Ambition and Adulting

I've lamented to friends that since stepping down from the chief position, I feel like my ambition switch has been turned off. I'm typically ambitious to a fault. Reviews and references often talk about how I take on a lot of things. Obviously I know that about myself too. The thing is, I'm like a starving person at a buffet when it comes to experiences and opportunities. My life has never been well-planned and most of my major choices tend to follow the phrase, "Fuck it. Why not?"

It seems though, that lately my first response has been, "Fuck it. Why bother?" I am busy at work, and there are components that I enjoy, but for the most part I'm bored. I've conquered my particular mountain, crested the next one, and now I am kind of over the whole range. I can't imagine doing the same thing for the next 20 years, but I also had no inkling of what I'd rather be doing. That's a weird place for me to be because it's so different from where I usually hang out, but I also thought maybe this is part of adulting.

So at the same time that I was settling into stability, other things happened. This weekend at church, the sermon was all about thinking big. Don't ask God for a job, ask God for the perfect job. That started me thinking on what I might want to do if there were no limits. Then Monday, I found out that a job I had drug my feet on and missed the deadline for was re-opened. And then today I had a chance to have a pretty in-depth conversation with a friend about goals and opportunities. What I realized is that, yes, we do trip along in life and fall into opportunities. That's how C and I do adulting. However, I had stopped opening myself up to opportunities that may trip me into something awesome. I wasn't keeping an open mind or thinking creatively, and I certainly haven't been dreaming big. 

I'm feeling a bit more excited again. I still have no idea what I want to do, but I did apply for the job. I've also decided that I'm going to start setting aside time to dream, so that I start to get a better idea of what sounds like it might be awesome. I'm trying to commit to writing more, because I love it and my writing obviously suffers when I'm inconsistent. I'm also keeping an open mind. I'm going to network and train in whatever grabs my interest because I'm lucky enough to have a stable, consistent job that allows me to attend trainings on trauma-based yoga or mindful doodling.

I'm really interested in other people's experiences with this. The typical tenure for my demographic is less than five years, and less than eight in state service. I'm at four in my current position, and while I love a lot of it, I am at least 25 years from retirement. So my question for you is, as adults, how do you explore other career opportunities when you've exceeded the typical "entry level"? And have you ever changed gears professionally? If so, how did you do it?

Because every blog needs a picture

Monday, June 12, 2017

Family portrait - Averson, 2017

Avery drew this at church this weekend. Isn't it the cutest thing ever?

She insisted on calling C from the house phone and it was stupid cute. She called him "My new friend Thomas." 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mermaid Hair Don't Care

Syd has been coveting rainbow hair since last summer. Since her hair is so dark we couldn't do the temporary DIY color, but I told her that if she saved up her money to pay half I'd cover the other half. I love it SO MUCH. I want to do it myself now, but I'm afraid that might be a little too twinsie. I still might do it, but I'm acknowledging that it might be weird.  I'm probably going to do it.

Pre-salon Starbucks

This is the point I started to choke up because I can absolutely see her in this same spot ten years from now. 

Bleach streaks. She looks like me, circa 1999

You can't see the color, but you can tell how much she loves it :)


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Three day weekend

We had the loveliest, laziest three day weekend that ended up turning into a four-day when Syd spiked a 102 fever yesterday, forcing me to stay home so that C could chaperone Eli's class trip to the pool. She's fine today, but I didn't want to be that asshole that gets the class sick two weeks before summer vacation. So, four day weekend!

We started with a touch of productivity, finally getting the Great Wall stained (two years later!)

I'm trying to avoid the TV free-for-all, which has resulted in some creative time killing. All three kids collect Pokeman cards and it's literally one of the only things they play together without fighting. I'm pretty sure they are playing by three different sets of rules, but whatevs. (Can you see that Averson keeps her cards in a sequined fedora? She kills me!)

I caught her playing Simon Says by herself, and from the sounds of it, she was losing. She kept saying, "I didn't say Simon Says!" 

I busted out the Shrinky Dinks. C loves to color and of course his turned out perfect.

On Monday morning, we took the kids to help put up flags at the local cemetery for their Memorial Day ceremony. We had to be there at 5:00 and no one bitched, so it was basically a miracle. Eli and his buddy got to be interviewed for a local news channel. While searching for the segment later that day, we found another news channel that had followed our group around while we put up our flags. Which means that my yoga pant, yesterday's hair, backside also got to be on the news. So that's awesome. 

This picture is the beginning of the end for Syd. She went downhill from here, but at least tried to have a brave face on.
All joking aside, I am really glad that we rallied the kids to get them out there. Memorial Day is so hard to explain to kids in a way that makes sense. Actually being at the cemetery and seeing it made a much bigger impression on them. I highly recommend it if anyone has the opportunity to do community service in their area, or can attend a Memorial Day ceremony. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Bird Man

One of my best clinicians had covered for me while I went to Averson's preschool end-of-year party, so I thought I'd return the favor and cover some of the cell-front visits that needed to be done today. I don't often get a chance to do clinical work anymore, so it was a good opportunity both for me to help out and to test out the new computer system we're trying to figure out.

I had six guys to see. The last one on my  list is this small, old man who can be either really, really crazy and mean or just a little crazy and not mean. When he's mean he's awful. He spews racist slurs, threatens people, and gasses (what we call throwing liquids on people) indiscriminately. I noticed when I walked up to his cell that there were sandbags in front, so I braced for the worst. 

I don't know why the sandbags were there, but he was not super crazy. The first thing I noticed, though, is that perched on a roll of toilet paper on the desk in his cell was the biggest, shiniest pigeon I've ever seen. 

Now, in case it wasn't obvious, inmates aren't allowed to have birds in their cells. It's not unheard of (remember Dennis?), but it's not something that we're allowed to promote. And sometimes "unfortunate" things happen to birds in cells. This man has had birds before, and sometimes it's fine and sometimes its... not. 

So I wasn't sure if I should mention this giant pigeon perched gracefully on one leg in the corner of the cell. I got nearly completely done with my interview, and finally I couldn't stand it anymore and said, "What's your bird's name?" 

This man LIT UP. He was so excited to talk to me about his bird, "Pet." He told me that he likes to stand on one leg, and that he usually hangs out on the toilet paper. That's helpful because "that's where he does his business" so it's easy to keep clean. He eats spaghetti and rice and soups (instant noodles) and doesn't try to escape when the man leaves the cell. 

We talked for a few more minutes about Pet and then, as I was leaving, he said quietly, "I'm a lifer. I know we're not supposed to have them, but sometimes its nice to have someone in here to talk to." 

I sometimes struggle with the existential meaning of my work and whether what I'm doing contributes to a greater good. I spend a lot of time getting lied to, treating people who couldn't care less, and negotiating the finest of state government bureaucracy. But today? Today I made a connection with a (slightly less than usual) crazy old man and the fattest bird in prison and that feels like it was a pretty good day. 
Image result for prison pigeon
Not Pet. Pet wouldn't smoke. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weekend Update (now with hatchet!)

I have been working hard on continuing to approach my weekends intentionally, and while not perfect, it is SO MUCH better. I've kept FB off my phone (though I still can access it via Safari, so that's kind of a cheat.) That's helped me to actually look up and interact with people. I'm actually getting out of bed (instead of laying there for an hour on my phone or kindle) and making coffee. That gives me time to drink it on the back porch before I dive into breakfast/shower/planning the day. I'm trying to maintain a balance of chores and fun. It's always my inclination to fill up all the hours with AWESOME FAMILY FUN! It's like I'm compulsed to squeeze as much out of 48 hours as humanly possible, and we often do some really fun stuff. But then Sunday night rolls around and my house is a mess, no laundry's been done, I'm making lunches out of hot dog buns, and I feel like the last two days were wasted. I'm trying to make sure that at least the basics (laundry, grocery shopping, minimal house hygiene) are covered by Sunday night. I'm also making an effort to allow myself (and C, and the kids) lazy time. That's where everyone can sit on their bums and do nothing productive without me getting twitchy. I can typically last an hour or so, but I'm building endurance. Who knows? Eventually I may even take a nap! (I won't, because I hate naps a lot, but I may watch a movie during the day!) Work in progress...

In other news, we're back on the "don't be financial idiots" train. This time we're focusing on all the ways that we nickle and dime ourselves stupid during the month, so C and I both have "allowances" for all the extra, unplanned shit we buy. We figured out how much true discretionary money we had, split it in half, and then pulled it out in cash. I threw an epic tantrum when C first presented the plan, and now I have to eat my words and act like an adult because it fucking worked. It's really annoying. On the other hand, I'm not putting groceries on a credit card so there's that. It's so funny (but not really) how I was all gung ho budget (like for the last 15 years) and then when it's not my idea I'm all, "NO! You can't tell me what to do! I won't be oppressed by you!" (I mentioned the epic fit, right?)

And because we managed to not be idiots this month, we were able to sign Eli up for Boy Scout sleepaway camp this summer. Which is good because it turns out this kid kind of rocks being a Boy Scout. He had his Court of Honor a couple weeks ago and was sworn in as the Chaplain's Aid, which means he leads all prayers and sermons on outings. He's got this great group of friends and everyone in the troop loves him (like legitimately. I had to restrain my self(son?)-deprecating sarcasm because it was just coming across as mean. MOTY.) He also earned his "Toten' Chip" which means he can carry the hatchet he was gifted from a friend who used it when he was a scout in the 60s. So he's armed, but he loves Jesus.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Syd's Birthday Extravaganza

OMG. I have SO much to catch up on since the last time I blogged (almost two weeks ago?!) but rather than do a huge catch up post, I thought I'd start with Syd's Seventh Birthday Extravaganza!

If you want to have all the feels, start with the beginning, and then a few of the in-betweens.

Syd asked to ride in a plane for her birthday (actually for the last few birthdays). This year I was messing around on websites and realized that I could actually probably fly her and I to LA for cheaper than a bounce house birthday party. Plus no awkward small talk, cutting guest lists, or crappy presents we don't need. That combined with a more-than-decent tax return cemented the deal. We started planning for a girls trip to see my brother and his wife. Syd wanted to hang out with her aunt, who she idolizes, and go to Hollywood. I'm pretty sure she had no idea what "Hollywood" was, but she wanted to see it.

She insisted on pulling the suitcase, which meant that not only was I traveling with a kid and not stressed, but I didn't even have to carry my own luggage. 

Just the first of MANY MOTY food choices of the weekend
 This girl. She is a traveling DREAM. She carried her own stuff everywhere. She didn't whine or complain or get antsy when she was bored. She handled crowds like a champ, which is doubly impressive for a person who is ass-height.


She wasn't super into the characters but she did want a picture with this specific Chewbacca. No idea how SuperMan ties in. 

She saw this picture and said, "I look happy!" 
 In Hollywood, she wanted to go to Ripley's and see a movie. She loved Ripley's as much as I'd hoped. This one had a lot of interactive displays (and a farting bathroom!)

The Hollywood sign is back there. It's surprisingly hard to get a picture of. 
 Along the lines of "Awesome Traveler" she was not at all hung up on food. We didn't eat at a single typical "kid" place and she loved it. She had street tacos, ramen, hipster burritos, and basically her weight's worth of chocolate, donuts, and waffles.

We saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at El Capitan Theater, which was really cool. There was an organist before and curtains and all the awesomeness. 

We got back on Monday completely celebrationed out, but by Wednesday we were ready for birthday donuts (my absolute favorite tradition.) 

Here's to Seven, to my best ride or die. You are so, so cool. You've got this quiet confidence that seems to ground you in a way that is so unique and special. I love the way that you are in the world. You love adventure and mischief as much or more than I do, but you are also so sweet and kind. I'm lucky to be your mom, Baby Girl, and I can't wait for you to grow up so we can be best friends!