Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.



Heard from the other side of my cubicle wall:

“I’m so busy, I forgot to mail my bills.  They’re still sitting on my kitchen counter.  I need to find out how to sign up for auto pay.”

Response from an adjacent cubicle where a new mother of twins sits:

“I need to find out how to sign up for auto diaper.”



Feeling blue

Sun sinks on another day.

Sun sinks on another day.

It’s only mid-winter…and it’s been a long cruel season already.  First there was the massive layoff at work causing the loss of several really good people from my life.  Then there was the permanent loss of a friend.  And just tonight I learned that Casper de Ghost crossed the rainbow bridge.  And yes I know the loss of a dog I’ve never met is not the same as the loss of a human friend in real life.

But still.  I’m feeling blue.

Tracks across my heart

Tracks across my heart

And I’m looking at the tracks across the back yard with my dog Katie and wishing there were flowers blooming and sun shining and that time could stand still during the good stuff and that we didn’t all have to go through loss after loss after loss and just generally feeling blue.

And somewhere on the television a doorbell dings and Katie flies off the chair we share charging the front door in order to announce danger, in order to protect her house, and, I know, me.

And I have to smile and acknowledge that not everything is lost and even much of what seems lost is not really gone, just somewhere different.

And I go and collect my crazy dog and we sit down to watch some silly sit-coms so that we both can laugh for a little bit and forget about the danger just outside the front door.

And it is good.

Always watching

Always watching


Who is that old lady?

You know how when you’re talking to an old lady you often have to slow down and explain stuff to her?  Or help her figure out some new thing?  Or maybe drive more slowly as you come up behind her because her turn signal is on and you’re not sure if she’s really going to turn.  Or not?  I hope you were kind, didn’t roll your eyes.  I hope you were patient.  Because I think that old lady might have been me.

I’ve been watching me at work lately.  And I’ve been watching them.  Those of you my age will know the them of which I speak.  They are all tall and thin, wearing sharp suits.  With short skirts and very high heels or tightly knotted ties, sharply creased trousers and shiny shoes.  They hurry to meetings in pairs or groups carrying their half open laptops and talking seriously about IMPORTANT THINGS that will have IMPACT in their departments and across the company.  They are intense.  They are young.  I squish over to the wall as they swish by, move aside as they come crashing down the stairwell, heels clicking, as I am slogging up in my heavy snow jacket, hat, worn out but warm mittens, boots, steamed over glasses.  I don’t think they even see me.

They are in my department too, noticing when I do things in a slow methodical way on my computer.  Noticing when toolbars are appearing that don’t need to be, when I open things in a less than efficient manner.  They show me, patiently, how to do things faster, cleaner, BETTER.   I add those bits of knowledge to my brain hoping something else as or more important doesn’t fall out.  I polish my smudged glasses and continue on as I was because I know how to do things my way and it all gets done.  Doesn’t it?

These days I catch a glimpse of me walking the halls at work and see someone who is a lot older than I thought I was.  It’s a jolt every time.  But I see me in the young people rushing about enthusiastically too.  They remind me of me just a few moments ago.  Or was it years.  Well never mind, my memory is slipping.  More and more frequently I realize that the old lady I see on the street and smile at is me.

I hope I can be patient with her.


How you doing Girlfriend?

She wasn’t my BFF.  We weren’t childhood friends, I didn’t go to school with her, never ran a race, took a class, or joined a book club with her.  I didn’t know all the personal details of her life, never went out for a drink or hung out on weekends with her.  But she was a friend.  We saw each other in the halls at work, ran into each other in the ladies room.  We stood and talked, long conversations about life, family, choices.  We picked each other up when we were having a bad day.  At the very least we smiled and waved as we scurried about our work.  She cared when my parents died.  I cared when her marriage was over.  She’d greet me with “How you doing Girlfriend?” and a smile.  Sometimes I’d tell her how I was doing, sometimes not.  But I was always glad she asked.

I wasn’t unique in my relationship with her.  She was everyone’s Mom at work.  She was where people went for an aspirin or advice.  Where people went when they needed a break from the work grind, to talk about her grand-kids and admire their photos on her cubicle wall.  To laugh.  To commiserate.  To recharge. She wore socks decorated with jingle bells during the holidays every year and we all smiled when we heard her walk by; she was the epitome of Christmas spirit, our own Christmas elf.

And when she didn’t feel well this winter we all cared.  When she was gone from work awhile we all asked about her.  “Not good” I was told when I asked her boss early in January.  He was going to see her that weekend so I said I’d write her a note for him to deliver.  The next day, giving him the note I heard more; it was more serious than I realized and I knew my note was inappropriate.  I rewrote it that night, changed it from a cheery couple of lines to a two page letter telling her how much I enjoyed our conversations, how grateful I was that we were friends, how I would miss hearing those jingle bell socks as she went by during the holidays.  I gave her my home phone number and my personal email in case she needed another long conversation.

I never heard from her.  She died Thursday night – we heard the news at work Friday morning.  Devastated does not begin to describe my sorrow.  Our collective sorrow.

She was a little person, probably not five foot tall, with a heart as big as the sky.  I can hear her voice in my head, I see her walking the halls at work.  I strain to hear those bells.   I tried to remember the last time I saw her, talked to her.  She used to send me emails about jumbo loans that had to be underwritten in my area but had been sent in error to her department.  When it was busy I was never happy to see her emails and we used to kid about her sending me the work.  My last email from her was Christmas Eve.

Her:  “Happy Holidays.   I have just moved 3 files to your new deal
queue…    Thanks”

Me:  “Thanks.  no more gifts now….we don’t deserve them!  🙂 ”

Her:  “Oh, but my friend, you DO deserve gifts!! ….the best that ever were 🙂
OK–no more gifts today–just a wish for a blessed, happy Christmas & New

Friday as I sat stunned in my cubicle I idly typed her name into  email.  I know it’s silly but I just wanted to say goodbye.  I sat and stared at her name.  Remembering.  Trying not to cry.  Listening to her voice in my head.  Then I typed one line…”I’m going to miss you girlfriend.”  I paused, then hit the send button.  I got an auto reply:   “I am out of the office until 3/3/14.”

Somewhere a short little lady is visiting with friends and family that have gone before.  Her socks are jingling, her smile is wide, her face glows.   Those of us left here are hurting, but were we ever lucky to have had her while we did.

So…you go girl, enjoy your next adventure.  I wish it could have been the retirement we talked about, dreamed of.  I wish you had had more time here.  And I’m hoping this is the biggest, best adventure of all.

But I’m sure going to miss you girlfriend.  Yes I am.


Musings from a long commute

Snow on the roof.

Snow on the roof.

It’s still winter here.  You’ve probably heard that, and it’s probably still winter where you are too.  Snow, snow, snow.  And it’s cold.  After awhile it begins to wear a person down.  Add to that stress in the form of employment, or lack of employment, depending on your situation, and it’s hard to stay motivated.

I was on my slow snowy commute this morning and thinking about the other people in the cars surrounding me, all of us creeping on slick roads toward cubicles where we’ll do some sort of work for several hours and then creep home again.  It all seemed overwhelmingly sad.   Then I remembered  the Christmas concert CD I haven’t heard yet.  Yes I know, I’m a bit behind.  We played that concert the 16th of December and I’ve been too distracted since to listen to it.

Who says you can’t enjoy Christmas music in January?  Stuck in traffic I turned off the radio full of grim news, forecasts of frigid cold and more snow, long reports of traffic snarls, and began to hum along with holiday music.  I let it take me away, could see the music in my mind, felt my fingers playing a phantom clarinet.  And then there were tears sliding now my cheeks as the sweet gentle tones of “The Holly and the Ivy” filled the car.  I don’t know why.  If I had to guess I’d say it was the stress of work in combination with a grueling commute coming to a head.  The emotion caught me by surprise.  But shortly I had to smile, because right after “Holly” was “March of the Toys” which reminded me that life marches on.  So I wiped my face, grinned a bit, pulled into the parking lot and marched myself right into work.  And it turned out not to be such a bad day after all.

The commute home was worse than the one going in.  More snow.  Icy roads.  Slow.  Sometimes tense.  I was letting myself get stressed all over again.  Then a few miles from home I came up behind a jeep.  The license plate was GD2BME.   It got me smiling again, and realizing that it’s true for me and for most of us.  Even during a long winter filled with snow and traffic jams and below zero temperatures and long commutes and frustrating work.

Even with all that… it is GD2BME.   Hope it’s GD2BYOU too.


Best of times, worst of times

I heard last night that JCPenny is closing stores and laying off 2000 people.  I know they’ve been having problems defining themselves.  I know sales in retail across the board was lower than hoped during the holidays.  And I know the feelings of  fear that is rippling now through JCPenny employees as they wait to see where the ax will fall.

For them it doesn’t feel as though the economy has turned a corner.  For them the future doesn’t look bright.  They can’t see the end of the tunnel.  For them it’s not a news story, not a statistic, not a theoretical unemployment figure.  It’s personal.  It’s like someone is shooting fish in a barrel and they are the fish, scary in its randomness.  Who will survive?  And why?

I speak from experience when I say there is a kind of survivor’s guilt during times like these.  “Downsizing” is a nice word for what actually feels like multiple deaths in a family.  Often sudden, surprising, unexpected.  You are unprepared even though you knew times were slow.  You see closed office doors as if they are casket lids, and you feel sharp, unexpected pangs of loss.  These are family members who are suddenly gone through no fault of their own – for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Every day while downsizing is going on you go to the office as if going to a funeral.

These are the times we are in.  And it isn’t happening to other people, it is happening to all of us.  Some of your friends or neighbors or acquaintances are waking up today without a job they had yesterday.  Families are figuring out what the new normal is and how to make do.

Those left behind are trying to figure out what the new normal is too.  And feeling sad and guilty.  Those left behind are in mourning and I’m not overstating that.  Mass layoffs are tragedies.  People on both sides of the ax will need time to regroup.  Grief comes from unexpected places.

Today I’m headed for the office like usual.  But I’m going to miss  some very nice people, good people, hard working people that won’t be there.

I wish them the absolute best.


Getting through the cold times

Most of you…OK all of you…probably know we got socked with snow and then the “polar vortex” cold this week.  It’s made just about everything difficult.

See the bird resting in the feeder?

See the bird resting in the feeder?

The official amount of snow that fell in the town nearest to us is 15 inches (38.1 cm) but we measured 19 inches (48.2 cm) in our yard.  The majority of it arrived on Sunday which was lucky because we didn’t have to try to get to work while it was falling.

I figured I’d just leave for work extra early Monday morning.  I knew that over a foot of snow would snarl traffic no matter what work the county had done to get roads cleaned up.  The roads in our subdivision hadn’t been touched by anyone other than the residents who used their snow blowers to clean out the road directly in front of our driveways.  And the snow fell all night.  Then the wind began to blow near midnight.

Not selling cars at the dealership.

Not selling cars at the dealership.

Very early Monday Katie and I slogged through the snow in our driveway out to the road to look.  No one had driven on it yet.  I couldn’t tell how deep the snow was…but it looked deep in the dark.  I was apprehensive and decided I needed to drive the truck because it had 4 wheel drive.  Of course it wasn’t in the garage and was covered in snow.  So I started scrapping snow and ice off it…warming it up while planning which route I’d take.  I wanted the route that had fewer hills and curves on my way out to a main road.

About 6:15 in the morning I backed out of the driveway and headed up the road.  I got as far as the next door neighbor’s house and got stuck in a huge drift.  Panicking I managed to back out of the drift, back into the neighbor’s driveway, then turn around and head back home.  I decided I wasn’t going to try that again, and called in to work at 6:30.

Bird bath.

Bird bath.

My husband emerged from the bedroom about 7:15 and asked me if I had tried to go to work.  I told him I did and got stuck and I wasn’t going to work.  He said we should be able to make it out of the sub.  I said no way.  He said let’s try.  So we did.  We went the other way and plowed through smaller drifts, eventually making it out to a main road, then to the freeway.  I arrived at work on time at 8:30…after all that, and before just about anyone else in my department.  Many people couldn’t get in at all.

Tuesday the Polar Vortex arrived.  Husband drove me to work again because it was -17 F  (-27.22 C)and the roads were still bad.  I was wearing many layers, including my running tights under my dress pants to stay warm in the building that is essentially glass.  It was a long day, though more people made it to work.

Tracks of something hungry.

Tracks of something hungry.

When husband picked me up from work that evening we stopped at a restaurant across the street from the office for a quick dinner.  It turned out to be very quick because just after our food was served the power went out.  We ate in the relatively romantic light of overhead emergency lights, and they comped us the meal because their credit card readers didn’t work.  The commute home was long because the wind was making the roads slippery again.

Wednesday morning the temperatures were more reasonable, still negative…but not so terrible.  We actually made it to double digit temperatures in the afternoon…on the positive side!  I drove myself to work, but the roads were still slippery and it took me an hour and a half to get there, and an hour and a half to get home that evening.

The stress of bad commutes and understaffed work days is wearing me out.  And to top it all off we have to work five whole days this week!

By the end of this week we’re supposed to get rain.  That never makes the commute any easier…but I’ll take it over more snow.

The bird seed is stored in here.

The bird seed is stored in here.

Katie says she wants to go to the park and I have to remind her that the snow is deeper than she is tall.   There’s a cartoon on Facebook that says something like “I’m tired of winter, next season please.”

It’s early in the winter, but that’s exactly how I feel.





Larger than life

Larger than life

I have survived the first day back to work after being off for a week.  Can’t say that it was easy.  I felt as though I had been to another country and gone for a very long time.  I suppose that’s good, it must mean that the vacation successfully removed me from the stress of the office.

Even bigger

Even bigger

But being back in the cubicle was difficult today, too many emails, too many issues, too many people that needed something.  Too much to do in too little time.  I’m sure I’ll get back on top of it, get it back under control.



Meanwhile I hope you enjoyed a few more photos from last week,  photos I hadn’t had an opportunity to show you yet.  I didn’t take one of them, all the credit belongs to husband, but they remind me that there is more out there in the world than  my beige cubicle and that sometime, hopefully soon, I’ll be off on another adventure.

Tips of the mountains

Tips of the mountains

Far or near, adventures sure make things better!

Fly away

Fly away


Musings on a walk

It’s a very stressful week for me at work.  There are all sorts of opportunities to work early, late, and through lunch.  Today I put on my sneakers at 12:30 and walked out the door for a break even though there was much work still to be done.

I haven’t been on a walk at lunch for two weeks and my feet told me they had to readjust to the orthotics.  A familiar ache immediately set in along the arch of my right foot.  The breeze was cool and I wished I had brought my sweater so I picked up the pace.  The foot protested.

I went past the elementary school, the first time I’ve been by since the kids are back at school, and noticed the adult charged with watching the kids standing in the middle of a swirl of spinning, shrieking, running, twirling laughing children.   She was engrossed in her cell.  Texting I supposed, or checking emails.  It seemed early in the school year for her to be so bored with the children playing around her.

I moved on to the creek that dissects the neighborhood’s condo project.  I always stand on the little bridge there for awhile, watching the water flow  below me.  Today it was clear and swift, full of yesterday’s rain.  It’s just a little creek, but I’ve seen lots of people stop and stare down into it on their lunch walks.  I wondered why people are so drawn to water.

Onward I noticed that I was still walking fast, my shoulders up around my ears.  This was not turning into a restorative walk.  Years ago I used to go to a restorative yoga class on Sunday mornings even though it was a 45 minute drive each way.  At the end of the session, when we were all lying still, the music soft, the instructor’s voice asking us to relax each part of our bodies I used to cry.  Big slow tears would leak from my closed eyes and run into my ears.  I was so exhausted from the week and so grateful for the Sunday morning respite.    I haven’t been back in many years.  Today on my walk I consciously lowered my shoulders and took a deep breath.

At my normal busy day turn around point my body began to turn but my feet kept going.  They chose to take the long way back to the office.  I was a little late back from lunch.  So be it.

Back at work the phone was ringing and I had voice mail.  There were two instant messages waiting.  And the email problem I was in the middle of solving when I stood up and walked out was still there, along with several others.   Nothing was different.

Except me.

I took another deep breath and began again.


Remember the Augusts of your childhood?

Remember when you were a kid and August lasted forever?  Long lazy days of heat and fun?  I guess once adulthood shows up August loses its luster.  But for me this particular August has gone on forever.  Let me share why.

Parking lot mayhem

Parking lot mayhem

I work in a pretty big building; 4 floors, 3 wings.  Several hundred of us work here.  At the beginning of August they began redoing the parking lots and they started with the lot outside our wing.  As you can see it wasn’t just a resurface job.

There are three lots that surround the building, each lot will take about a month.  For the month of August we in our wing are parking offsite about a mile away.  We take shuttle vans back and forth to that lot which sounds worse than it turned out to be.  They have five vans, each seating 10 passengers running nonstop between our building and the lot especially in the morning and evenings, but also at lunch if you want to go to that sort of effort just to run out to eat.

We have watched the progress while trying to block out the constant pounding of heavy machines, the beeping of trucks backing up, the shake of our monitors and the floor under our feet.  In the early stages the noise and vibration was overwhelming.  It seemed like they were moving the dirt from here to there, then back again, and we saw no progress.   But just last week they started paving.  We were excited!

Harley paver

Harley paver

Our lot is finally finished…and I only have two more days of riding the shuttle back and forth.  After a long day it’s difficult to wait in line to catch a ride over to your car.  On the other hand, we’ve gotten to know people we never would have spent time talking to when we could park on site.  And people are actually laughing  and kidding each other on our 10 minute trip.



Heard tonight, from the back of the van:  “We should have sing-a-longs!  (starts singing…the wheels of the bus go round and round…) We could tape it and put it on YouTube!  From the front passenger seat “I have some duct tape in my purse.”  From the back of the bus while still singing she interrupts herself to say…”Tape as in video, not as in duct!”  From the front of the bus…”With your singing duct is more appropriate.”  The entire bus laughs as we unload for the long commute home.

That’s another story – my commute.  It used to be 40 minutes each way if no one made any mistakes that would cause problems.  Now days it’s more likely an hour.  A lot of the time, particularly on my trip home it looks like this.

Nothing but brake lights

Nothing but brake lights

And nights when there’s a big act at our local outdoor arena?  Forget about it.  Tonight Maroon 5 AND Kelly Clarkson are playing.  I didn’t even try to get home via the freeway.  It’s a big holiday weekend coming up too, and half our state will be on my freeway heading north for a last camping fling before summer winds down.

So my month of August has looked a lot like this:

On the road.  Again.

On the road. Again.