Boarding the Train to Crazytown!

My profuse apologies to everyone who read the partial post that went up last week.  Due to a power surge I lost 80% of the post – but it looked like it was all there when I published.  Ooopsie.  Please bear with me while I figure out this whole technology thing.  The following post isn’t exactly what I had originally written – but it gets the point across.  Thanks!

I’m bipolar.

For the past five years I’ve worked to keep this (some would say “juicy”) tidbit about myself on the down low.  I’ve never really been ashamed about it, but my openness about my mental health “status” caused some problems when I had an issue at work.  (That is yet another post.)  So, in order to combat that happening again I’ve just kept my “secret” to myself.

I’ve been on regular medication management for about 15 years.  About 13 months ago year I was sooo happy to be given the okay by my mental health professional to be without meds.  Yippee!!!!  I went into this little medication vacation with the full understanding that it would likely end in the not too distant future.

I’ve had a normal year with normal life highs and lows.  Things have been manageable.  I’ve stayed off the drugs and enjoyed not having to take a pill when I wake up in the morning and another (or more) before my head hit the pillow.  My mornings are easier now that I’m not pulling myself out of a drug-induced haze.  My digestive system is regular.  Hooray!  I’m no longer eating, eating, eating, eating and watching my pants get shorter as my butt gets bigger and then repeating the process again 10 minutes later since I’m STARVING.  Not dealing with medication side-effects has been fantabulous.

However, over the past few weeks I’ve noticed my mental instability steadily climbing.  Mania anyone?  Anyone?

When some people are manic they get to “party all the time”.  I just get angry.  VERY angry.  Cannot put together a sentence, stand there sputtering, throwing things angry.  I’m sure if I wasn’t ready to rip something apart I’d find it quite funny.  (Seriously, there are reasons they don’t give us crazy folks guns people!  It’s a very good thing.)

Over the last few working days things have started to spiral in a downward direction.  Last Thursday I was in tears by 9:30am in a locked office yelling expletives in frustration at two saintly co-workers who just let me go to town.  They were brave enough to have the door shut behind them – making their escape just THAT much more difficult if I really did lose it completely.  Keep in mind – this was after I had twisted my glasses into a mangled mess of wire and plastic.  The day had just begun and I was already dangerously close to the edge.  After carefully trying to bend my glasses into a useable shape again I worked to complete my workday while dreaming of going home to lay on my couch in the fetal position while watching mindless television.

I got home – and was still unsatisfied.  After trying to explain my craziness/unhappiness my partners and I went from “Hi Honey” to “Merry F*cking CHRISTMAS!” and cabinet kicking in about 10 seconds.  Whoa.  Seems I arrived at Crazytown when I wasn’t paying attention.

So, it has become clear to me that my medication vacation may be nearing it’s finale.  While my goal it to try and stay off the meds all together, I’d like to catch my current batch of crazy before they’re forcing the meds on me in a nicely padded room while I’m on a mandatory 72 hour hold.  (Oh, 5150 – how I haven’t really missed you ALL that much.)

My plan for the next three weeks is this: Routine, Routine, Routine.

1 – Eat three meals a day.  (Right now I’m eating three meals about every four days.  Not the best plan – although it is doing wonders for my waistline.)

2 – Get 7-8 hours of sleep every day.  Not more – not less.  Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.

3 – Exercise a little each day.  (If I would just take my breaks at work and make a loop of the parking lot that will probably be enough.)

4 – Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

I’ve found in the past that having a good routine where I take care of my basic needs will combat some of the crazy I’ve got brewing.  However, I fully recognize that if things aren’t more stable (aka, less yelling at inantimate objects and breaking necessary objects) within three weeks, I’ll be back in the shrink’s office getting a bottle of meds to add to my bedside table.  (I’ve had threats of a “She needs here medication” intervention in the past and would like to not have a repeat performance.)  While I’m not looking forward to the morning haze, bloating and fat pants that come with medication – I do realize that they’re worth the end result.

I’ll always be a Crazytown native – I just prefer to keep my visits to a minimum.

Every Party Needs a Pooper…

And that’s why we invited YOU!

Yeah, that “YOU!” is totally me… 

Today was my company holiday luncheon. 

I could not. 

For the life of me. 

Make.  

Myself.

Go.

I work with a great group of people and my old boss looked sincerely sad when I told him I wouldn’t be attending.  However, in my head this is what kept playing over and over and over:

Bitter & Disenfranchised Employee + Alcohol = Termination (aka No More Paycheck)

I figured it would be a better use of my time to work at getting fired by blogging on the clock.

So, here I sit in blessed silence, avoiding phonecalls and trying to catch up on my dearth of paperwork by sorting throught the ever increasing pile to get the one piece I need, processing said piece, and then repeating the process over and over again.  I usually leave the office feeling like all I did was move the paper around my desk without actually *doing* anything.  At least today I get to do it witout the multiple interruptions!  (Where is X file?  How do you make the wide format plotter email me scans?  How to you add toner to the copier?  How much of my budget do I have left for copies on X project? etc., etc.)

The way my current employer does the holiday luncheon is different from all other parties I’ve attended in the past.  Notice my choice of words: Luncehon vs Party.  We definitely have a luncheon – with booze – but overall still a civilized, employees-only event at a tasteful restaurant in the middle of the working day.  As the Great Recession has progressed my small department became even smaller.  Therefore, the luncheon that used to be filled with those I work with every day became merged with the largest of all departments in my company.  Now it’s a meal attended by very nice people whom I don’t know all that well.  I don’t do small talk all that well and really, really, really don’t want to end up at a table of people whom I only know from seeing their name cc’d on an email.  (I’ve been there before – and was seriously the longest 2.5 hours EVER!)

Now, I’ve worked other places.  There was the bank where I worked on telephone customer service were we also had a “luncheon” idea – even though mine was at night since I worked the swing shift.  That was a nice gathering of 6 people in varying places in their life.  (One employee even younger than me at the time asked the older gay gentleman how he was REALLY sure he was gay.  GREAT workplace dinner conversation!  lol) 

I also worked for another company that had some serious issues overall, but knew how to get down and have a great time.  The last shin dig I attended with that group was at a small local restaurant.  Our company rented out the whole place.  There was an open bar and a fabulous menu.  There was mingling and the meeting/reintroduction of coworkers’ spouse/significant others.  I always loved these engagements because you could really let your hair down and see what the people you worked with were like in “real life”.  (Sometimes this was good – other times not-so-much.)  Plus, as I worked here at a time in my life where money was tight – I felt like I got to “live like the other side” one night a year without worrying I was busting my budget.  Also, as this was always a weekend evening event, I didn’t have to worry about going BACK to work to finish a contract after downing two martinis.

So, as I watched people file past me on their way out the door this afternoon I’ve had “every party needs a pooper” on repeat in my head.  But – one coworker was kind enough to mention that since I won’t be attending this rodeo, another Pooper must be found.

Groceries in the ‘Burbs

Grocery shopping is never may favorite activty of the week – and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be alone with that statment.  While I do enjoy looking at the giant array of foods available in my Northern California town, the crowds often make my anxiety kick into overdrive.

This week I got to weather the crowds alone.  Luckily, I had a very short list entered into my super-swanky new smartphone – so I knew I should be able to do the “in and out” relatively quickly.  While perusing the eggs – something caught my eye:  18 ct = $3.08, 1 Dozen = $1.48.  Um, what?  So, I can pay more than double but get only 6 more eggs for my basket?  I checked – same egg distributor and egg size.  WHA?!?!  Do they really think that the fancy grey 18-count carton is going to blind us into purchasing this set of eggs?  I mean seriously – for 10-cents less I could just purchase 2 dozen eggs.

I also noticed that my Jimmy Dean maple breakfast sausage was back down to the normal $1.90/ lb now that the factory coupon had expired.

Has anyone else noticed this?  I’ve tried to explain to a few people that the grocery chain I frequent is a very, very savvy retail establishment.  Usually, their prices can’t be beat.  BUT – when the coupons are flying, their prices often jump up on those same items.  (That Jimmy Dean deliciousness was $4.38/ lb when the $1.50 off factory coupon was in action – LESS of a deal than normal price.)  (Right about this point in my rant those poor people who have been cornered by me get an incredulous look on their face that clearly states: Yeah, RIGHT, crazy woman.  Someone must have forgotten their meds again today…”)

I love the idea of couponing – but the stores are sooo on to us consumers.  Plus – the last time I met up with a “Super” (aka CRAZY!) Couponer in line at Walmart they had 10 tubes of Bengay in their cart.  I’m sorry – but I don’t care if 8 of those are free, I just am never going to use that much Bengay before it goes bad.  Why waste?

I had another great paragraph here before I tried to create a snazzy link in the midst of my sentence.  Seems I failed – and also lost the awesomeness that was on the page.  I have no idea what I said – so it must have been a lie?  Perhaps I’m mixing wives tails here…  Hmmm…  Bear with me.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has noticed random tactics by their food retailers to encourage them to part with their money.  🙂

See – I’m less angry today.  Thank you all for bearing with me!

Feminism F*cked Me

Full disclosure – this will be an angry and whiney post.

My upbringing has been a product of the feminism movement.  Both parents did well in ingraining into my phsyche that I could do anything and everything I wanted.  Both my parents worked – and I assumed I would go to college and have a full career.  From an early age I knew I didn’t really want kids – but I did want to work and have a happy home life – hopefully with a partner of some kind.

Enter my world.  I have the career – due to some serious mental health issues it is NOT the high powered-science centric-emotionally fulfilling job of my childhood dreams.  But, it pays the bills and I’m reasonably good at it.  I now have the house.  I have the partner.  I also have a version of the 1950’s playing out at my house each and every day.  Unfortunatley, it’s not the Leave it to Beaver version – it’s the Female = Cook/Maid version.

How is it that the great ideas of our fore-mothers to get equality into the mix have backfired so hugely?  I work all day.  I have a long-ass commute.  I’m reasonably intelligent.  I bring home more than 50% of the household income.  I pay a comparable percentage of the household bills.  But, while The Big Guy grudgingly takes care of the yard, the fish pond and the wild bird feeding I’m left with the rest.

What is the rest, you ask?  Cooking – check.  Laundry, Cleaning Bathrooms, Upkeep of Hardwood Floors (the bane of my freaking existance – WHY did I want these things?), Polishing of Stainless Steel Appliances – check, check, check, check.  Management of all technological items from setting up the TiVo, connecting the cable, and configuring the wireless network to posting all items on Craigslist – those are all mine too.  I also get to do things like make all the calls to credit cards, banks and those nice people on Craigslist who’ve got stuff we want.  The list just goes on and on and on…  Cat litter cleaning, grocery list preparation, meal planning, grocery shopping, returns to Walmart, coupon clipping, figuring out the best deal on birdseed per pound at which store with all deals tossed in…  THESE ARE ALL FREAKING MINE in our household.

How is it that I work outside the home just as much as my partner, but when he gets home in the evening he showers and cuddles up in front of the fire with some Netflix streaming and I’m scrubbing out the shower?

I must say that The Big Guy warned me when we first started dating that he was very traditional in household division of labor.  My housekeeping skills have *never* been superior to anything outside of a house-about-to-be-condemned hoarder.  I figured – I can take it.  My silly mind used turns of phrase like “it will keep me motivated!”  Silly girl that I was.

So, now it’s been nearly four years and our principal source of conflict is housekeeping – or more appropriately – my lack of it.  I usually have food prepped for the week and clothes cleaned, folded and put away.  But, things like clean bathrooms and floors often fall behind.  I just don’t care all that much – but I don’t live alone.  So, now while I’m running down my list of wants: dinner with girlfriends, a Saturday spent with my sister, a business meeting to promote my awesome direct sale business – the response I get is usually along the lines of: “You need to focus more on your home life and less on what *you* want.”

Several friends have suggested a housekeeper.  I’m warming up to the idea – even if my bank account isn’t.  I figure – if $200/ month will save my relationship and give me my life back is it worth it?  Yeah, probably.  But, right now I don’t *have* $200 extra a month to provide for a cleaning person.

So, what am I left with?  Anger at the feminist movement is what.  Sure, it got me closer to the pay rate for men in the workplace and provided things like maternity leave job protection that I won’t use, but is never-the-less important.  But, it also got me the expectation that I will bring in 50% of the income while never fully taking away the 100% responsibility of keeping house.  This leaves me with what feels like 0% time left for myself.

I know, whiney, right?  But, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.  Grrrr…..

The Island – Part 1

No, I wasn’t on Lost.  (Although how totally awesome would THAT have been???)

Okay.  Focus.

Last year before I moved into the wonderful home I have now – The Big Guy and I had three months where we lived in a very “interesting” (read: ghetto) residential hotel.  We lost the month-to-month lease for the place we had been renting (the landlord wanted to rent to family) and we had JUST put the offer in to purchase our current home.  No one wants to rent to someone for 4-20 weeks, so we opted for the hotel.

Now, I’m not sure if any of you have thought of the cost of living in a hotel for 3 months.  My first thought when we decided to “hotel it” was to go to one of the big corporate residential chains and call it done.  Then, I did a price check.  Um, sooooooo very much not in my price range.  We still had some down payment to save for and these places were going to cost 2 to 3 times our normal rent!  So, we started checking the seedier establishments.  They kept getting seedier and seedier.  But, at the very bottom of the list we found one we could afford.  The extra bonus was that it had a kitchenette and allowed us to park two cars in the lot.

Now, first, let’s get this straight.  I am VERY thankful that this hotel was available and that we had a roof over our heads.  But, I entered into my stay there looking at it as “life experience” and “an adventure”.  Please take any snarky finger-pointing that follows in the good nature it is intended.  I’m glad these places exist – because many, many people need and use them – including me.

Anyhoo…  On to the snarky finger pointing!

This place, The Island, exposed me to a part of society for which my upper-middle class upbringing had not prepared me.  How do you want to pay?  That would be cash.  Checks?  No.  Credit Cards?  Not so much…  I actually balked at this: a hotel that doesn’t accept credit cards?!?!  Luckily – The Big Guy was prepared with good ol’ cash.  The very friendly staff provided us with a contract (!) that had to be read and agreed to before they would rent us the space.  This contract was provided to us in a drawer that was slid under a ceiling-high plexiglass bandit barrier.  (Again – ?!?!)  This contract included choice tidbits such as: no refunds – NO exceptions!, a housekeeper MUST be allowed access to the room at least once each week, minors may not be outside their room without an adult after 10pm, and my favorite: no “fraternizing” with the housekeeping staff.  And, in case we forgot these rules were written on a 10-foot high sign behind the check in desk.  The plexi- bandit barrier also had some choice signs and notices pasted to it including one professionally printed sign that had been hand “corrected” to include spelling and grammar errors.  Freaking priceless.

We moved into our new home in about 5 minutes.  Suitcases, sleeping bags, box o’ food, cooler chest of fridge items, about 8 houseplants and the (contraband) microwave and DVD player we had just signed a contract stating we did not have in our possession.  (Seems the building is old and the electronics might be a slight fire hazard.  Whatever.)

I had been briefed by The Big Guy prior to entering the room of what the “rules” for our stay would be: coverlet would be removed from the bed and tossed in the corner never to be touched again – we would sleep on top of the sheets in our sleeping bags; no looking under the bed or too closely at the walls – you probably don’t want to find what might be lurking there; no walking on the floor with bare feet; and all windows would keep their drapes drawn at all times so no one could see into our space.  (Doesn’t this just make you want to run out and live here?!?!)

The first night was finished up with frozen dinners eaten with plastic forks sitting on the bed and watching the second half of Avatar on HBO.  I had already broken one rule by looking at the wall next to my nightstand.  Heebie jeebies ensued.  (I would rather not say what was on the wall – but I will mention it had been there a long time and still grosses me out.)

All in all – I was kind of enjoying myself.  I felt like I was in some world that had been hidden right under my nose my whole life and now I was “an insider”.  Adventure was on my brain.  I had heard stories about this place – after all it was (and still is) a frequent “contributor” to the police blotter in the local newspapers.  I might see cars towed against their owner’s will!  I might see a drug bust/ police raid!  Prostitution action right outside my front door!  Lions and tigers and bears – oh my!

The other things were just a bonus.  I had asked at the front desk if we were supplied cable for our $33+ tax a night.  I was ensured we were and was handed an HBO schedule in east coast time.  Little did I know that for the next four months I would be watching Fox, HBO or self-supplied DVD’s.  Yes, you read that correctly – we didn’t even get reception of local network channels.  However, being that the remote control supplied was not for the television in our room, the lack of channel surfing ability might have been a blessing.  Far less time is spent getting up and changing the channel when you have minimal options.

So, Day One of my adventure ended with me going to sleep in a sleeping bag on a bad mattress in a skeevy room.  The irony?  It was quieter than the quaint little duplex in the nice neighborhood we had just moved out of earlier that evening – since we no longer had to deal with the Jamaican bar we had right outside our backyard.  (Live and learn folks – unless you really can sleep through a war, never rent a place that close to a bar regardless of what the landlord says about the noise level.)  I had my flip flops next to the bed and was warmer than I’d been in weeks since the wall heater was on full blast now that we didn’t have to pay the energy bill.  I fell asleep with visions of adventure in my head.

Stay tuned for more on my life at The Island in the future.  Many of my “adventure” dreams DID come true!

The Hidden Costs of Home Ownership

So, we’ve all pretty much heard the drill.  Owning a home comes with a slough of hidden expenses – everything from that “surprise” tax bill the first year to regular maintenance issues related to what happens when you feed the wildlife in your backyard.  (THAT one, dear readers, is another post.)

But let’s just get real here.  I’m talking about the biggest deal of them all: Christmas Decorations.  We all get the dream going when you buy that first place that has it’s own driveway, yard with a tree, and no landlord restrictions about puncturing the building’s exterior envelope. You imagine a house aglow with warm holiday cheer, frost on the lawn and pansies and violas in full bloom.  (This is Northern California people – no snow, and flowers that others associate with spring.  Work with me here.)   What we all fail to consider is the price of those freaking lights!  Have you priced out that holiday cheer lately?  HOLY MOLEY!  Sure, it’s only $20 for that string of lights.  No big deal until you realize that string will only make it half way around your garage door.  What to do?  Do you splurge on a big wreath and call it a day?  Do you go for that half-way decorated garage door?  Do you barter the cat for some lights someone is trying to offload on Craigslist?  Do you just go without?

In all honesty right now I’m using nature’s decor: a lawn covered in colorful fall foliage.  Granted, I think my neighbors are quickly tiring of my methods/ laziness, as all the leaves that had blown over into their yard last week had been neatly raked into a pile under my tree when I arrived home from work last night.  But – I digress…

Driving down my cookie cutter suburban street I see the whole gamut: large bulb strands tracing the roof eaves of one home right next door to a veritable winter wonderland of lighted sculptures, air inflated snow globes with animatronic figures and a blaze of lights radiating off of every surface.  By the time you reach my house I’m not sure if it just looks sad in it’s unlighted splendor or if it’s a reprieve for the senses!

Then, there is the interior of the home.  Sure – I’ve got enough tree ornaments to sink a small ship and great decorations for a very compact one bedroom or studio apartment.  But, after that, my single box of non-tree decorations is not going to go far in my spacious, but only 1/2 furnished house.

I think that this year I will focus on having a larger than normal tree since I’ve got loads of free square footage and hanging our stockings next to an actual fireplace for the first time since high school.  I think I need to plan on attending those day-after-Christmas sales to get some of those higher priced items that I just cannot make myself pay full price for.  (I love decorations – but let’s be serious – they’re only up for 6 weeks a year MAX.  I need to purchase things like a furniture for the *totally empty* front half of my house before I go hog wild on holiday decorations.)

I love, love, love owning a home and all of the random things it entails.  However, I’m always amazed at how my paycheck has so many places to be (besides my bank account) now that I’m not a renter.  So neighbors – bring on the winter wonderland!  I’m totally sucking off of your decorations this year.  I’ll keep my “nature’s bounty” theme going awhile longer and count on the flashy lights of my surroundings to act as a distraction.  But just you wait – next year I’ll have my day-after-Christmas discounted lights blazing away in all their glory!

O’ Christmas Tree!

So, I’ve been diligently reading about some family and friends and their Christmas tree decorating experiences.  After tearing up, I got to thinking…  When is my cranky-butt going to put up the tree?

Now, I looooove a good Christmas tree.  I love the way they smell.  I love the act of placing the many many ornaments on the tree and reminiscing about each one before carefully placing it in a location I can enjoy.  I can sit for hours in a darkened room and just stare at a lit and fully decorated tree.  Add a cup of coffee and something sweet and I’ll sit there all day!  (Now, actually getting the tree to stand up straight in the stand and loading it with lights – THOSE are not very much fun.  But, they’re totally worth the payoff.)

This year I’m getting a tree.  Last year at this time I was living in a relatively totally ghetto residential hotel  – and there was no way we were bringing anything into that space that would garner attention (which would then result in a break in and stolen items).  However, those fantastic few months are fodder for another post.

So – memories…

As a kid decorating the tree was the unofficial start of the holiday season.  My mom would break out the carefully baked (and then carefully hidden) Christmas cookies for the first time and carols would be put on the record player.  My mom would carefully unwrap each ornament, give it to it’s rightful owner (noted on the box – no mistakes!) and then each ornament was added to the tree.  This was a great family evening – missing this was NOT an option.  We had several hours of family fun each and every year.  (I’m sure there were also periodic fights and tears – after all this WAS a family activity!)  Great memories abound.

Jump ahead to adulthood and it’s just not the same.  My sister’s husband was never much into the whole deal and her kids are still a mite young to be trusted with fragile ornaments.  Boyfriends of my past were never much into it either -even when they were AT the decorating party!  The Big Guy is supportive of my nearly maniacal desire to have and decorate a tree.  But after helping to haul it home (often after providing the $!) and helping to set it up – it’s all just up to me.

Now, I should probably stipulate: I have a LOT of ornaments.  The last time I put up my tree I included only unique ornaments – and there was hardly any green left to be seen after they were all in place, shining in their splendor.  I get one (or five) each year and I love them all.  Not putting some up would seem just wrong.  Adding all of these baubles usually takes several hours and careful thought.  I’m a SERIOUS tree decorator.  (I’m realizing this is making me sound like some sort of holiday hoarder/freak show.  Please don’t judge.)

I’m glad that both of my parents made decorating the tree such a big deal in my youth – and that they continue to make it a family activity at their houses when possible.  But, sometimes I just wonder: was all that fantastical childhood Christmas cheer just setting me up for a letdown come reality/adulthood?

Sometimes doing something on your own has it’s own power – and I really need to apply this to Tree Decorating 2011 and all the years to come.  Perhaps its time for a new tradition?  After the tree is hauled home from the lot and dressed up with lights I’ll pour myself a cup of coffee with some booze in it and get down to business.  The Big Guy can settle down with a movie and I’ll have a conversation with myself as each ornament gets its own special place to shine.