Just keep swimming

When I was a teenager, I went whitewater rafting with my youth group. I remember the  frigid rushing water and the exhilaration of paddling and careening through rapids.

I have that sensation these days. I’m hanging on for dear life half the time, letting the swirling currents rush me along because what else can you do?

The twelve-hour shifts feel like sensory deprivation and sensory overload at the same time. You sit and wait in silence for the phones to ring. Then the phones ring and you bob along on the current of someone’s small or large drama.  What is the address of your emergency? What phone number are you calling from?  Tell me exactly what happened.

And then after three days, you’re spit back into your real life, sorting through piles of laundry and Rubbermaid containers of congealed casseroles and unopened mail. And the three days you aren’t at work are gone in a flash and it’s time to get back into uniform and drive to work again. But at least there are groceries in the fridge and clean towels folded in thirds.

Three months are gone and you’re still looking for a branch to grab so you’re not swept into the next decade before you get a good look around.

Just keep swimming.  Or paddling.  Or whatever it takes to keep afloat.

(In other news, my youngest child starts her sophomore year of high school on August 15. She’s taking her driver’s permit test on Thursday. She’s ready to get on with her life . . . and she’s never believe me if I told her how fast it will all go by. What’s the hurry, baby girl?)

Just keep swimming

I will not be capsized

I just scrolled through my Notes in my iPhone to remind myself what I meant to write about, other than the obvious.  (I am saving one topic for later when I have more time.)

The Obvious:  My New Job.  I work twelve hours shifts from 11 AM to 11 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Every other Wednesday, we work a “half-day” from 3 PM to 11 PM.  I have baby-stepped my way from shadowing another dispatcher to actually answering telephone calls–non-emergency ones–and typing up emergency calls while my trainer speaks to the caller.  I think I might be actually answering emergency calls tomorrow.

It’s all terribly exciting and occasionally dull and often–more often than you’d imagine–shake-your-head funny and gut-wrenchingly sad. I’m almost two months into this thing and I can’t even describe how much there is to learn. Police and firefighters communicate almost entirely in code, it seems, and it’s like learning a language you didn’t know you couldn’t speak.

I’ve just had four days off and I spent the first day at church and then puttering around my house, cleaning and doing laundry.  (I can’t really remember.)  The second day I spent with a friend who is in town (from her home in Thailand) and then with my mother at a car dealership, lending her moral support while she bought a new car.  (Her former car died in a smoky incident involving a broken timing belt and overheated engine.)

Tuesday–yesterday–I ran errands, including picking up a pair of trifocals which I absolutely hate so far, and tried to finish up laundry and household chores which I will then completely neglect until next Sunday.

Today I drove my daughter and three friends to the fair, then got stuck in horrible fair traffic coming home to match socks and fold sheets and cook dinner. I spent at least three hours in the car which is kind of a bummer.


Not Obvious:

We have a mama mourning dove in a nest outside our front door. She’s tending to her second little family and this afternoon, one of her fuzzy babies fell from the nest–three times–and died.  (My sons tucked that little baby back into the nest twice but it kept falling out.)  We are all heartbroken because we have grown fond of this dove family.


Last week, I encountered an old woman on the trail I hike every morning. She asked me how to go around the lake and I told her and then ended up walking her back around to where she started.  She told me she was 84 and usually walks a different path. She was spry and lively and smart and told me she lives alone and loves it.

I wondered for a moment how you deal with the idea that in fifteen years–maybe less, but not more, most likely–you’ll be dead.

I didn’t ask her that.  Can you imagine?  I’m not a complete savage.

But I did think about it after our chat as we walked the dusty path. And I thought that maybe the secret to happiness–get ready for this mind-blowing revelation–is to simply live in the moment you have . . . no matter your age.  Just today. Just right now. Just here.

I’ve been feeling ancient lately, myself, because the dispatchers at my new job basically retire when they turn 50. There are one or two long-time dispatchers who have been there for decades who are (barely) older than me and on the brink of retirement.

And then there’s me.  Brand new and 53.  For the first time in my life, I’m keeping my age mum at work because I don’t want them to judge me and wonder why in the world I’m starting a career at my advanced age.  (This is, I’m sure, all just in my head.)

But meeting that 84-year old woman hiking the trail reminded me that I’m not old yet and that the important thing is to keeping moving.

(And I will not be capsized.  I wrote that in my Notes awhile back as a declaration and a reminder from me to me.)

I will not be capsized

Letter to myself

Dear Future Self,

Yesterday you started your new job. It’s actually more of a new career, if you want to be accurate. It’s unbelievable that you got yourself hired for this job!

The employees in the building I met today asked me similar questions:

1) Were you a dispatcher before?

2) Why did you want to be a dispatcher?

3) Do you have any law enforcement experience?

You told them you saw a news story about dispatchers and knew it was the job for you. That sounds so crazy but that story inspired me. You told them you were “fresh” which seemed like a better way to describe your inexperience.

You woke up this morning at 4:30 and were in your car by 5:25.

You worked another 10 hour day. You are exhausted.

You’re working four ten hour shifts this week.

Lola the Dog misses you so much that she refuses to eat. She lays by the door and cries.

I’m really really tired. Goodnight.

Letter to myself

Four months later and what have I done?

Sometimes I wonder what I’ve been doing with myself since November 28, 2017. That was the day my boss called and told me my job was over. I didn’t even finish my shift that day.

Originally, I thought I’d have time to clean out my home office, sort through books, organize files and drawers and really get my whole entire life alphabetized, once and for all.

Then I thought maybe I should sleep in every day and see as many movies as possible and read a lot and live a life of complete leisure.

But I had jury duty for two days.

Then I applied for a job I really wanted.

Then Christmas came and I had to shop and bake and decorate. I caught a cold.

The New Year arrived and I thought I might start working any minute. So I filled up my days with some part-time free lance gigs and regular mom-stuff like driving kids around and figuring out what to cook for dinner. My husband caught a cold, then left the country for ten days and while he was gone, I suffered with the cold.

So I was sick for three weeks with a stupid cold.

My birthday came and went. February arrived. I thought I might be working at any moment. I caught another cold. March came. I caught another cold.

Every month, I’d take another baby step toward getting the job I really wanted. I applied. I went to an initial meeting, then took a computerized skills test called CritiCall which took 3 hours.  I had an oral interview. And finally, I was “selected” which meant I entered the long and arduous background check. I had a polygraph test. I was fingerprinted.

And finally, Saturday morning, I received an email telling me the date and time to appear at the Department to get my job offer.

That’s tomorrow.

And so I wonder what I’ve been doing these four months.  I haven’t organized every detail of my life. I still have stacks of books and unnecessary paperwork and a pile of unclaimed clothing in the laundry room and unmatched socks in a basket. There are embarrassing cupboards in my kitchen.

I did watch all the movies nominated for an Academy Award this year.

I kid you not–I alphabetized my spices.

I emptied a giant file drawer and gave away a Barney (the dinosaur!) DVD, among other things that I emptied from a moving box directly into that drawer in 2011.

I went to Disneyland a few times.

I watched all five seasons of Breaking Bad and then listened to an entire podcast about it.

I did my taxes, my son’s taxes, my other son’s taxes and my mother’s taxes.

I cleaned out my closet and took five bags of clothes and shoes to Goodwill.

I’ve read a couple of books.

I finally filled two Legacyboxes with old prints and videos. I had those boxes sitting around for years and years, waiting for me to finally take action.

Now I can pop in a DVD and see myself thirty years ago, holding the arm of my dad as he walks me down the aisle. I can pop in a different DVD and see myself five months pregnant fifteen years ago. I can see my 15-year old daughter on the very day she was born. I can see my 20-year old son sitting on his brothers’ bed playing Nintendo when he was four years old.  He’s wearing cotton pajamas and rubber boots and a backpack like Zelda.

This blog and those DVDs are like pulling on a pair of backwards glasses that allow me to see all the yesterdays that I had forgotten.  That’s why I’m writing this blog again, even though this mundane details may seem boring to anyone else who stumbles across it.

The words I write today are a gift to my future self.

I write so I can remember.

Four months later and what have I done?

In case you wondered: a follow-up post

After I wrote that last blog post, I went back upstairs to bed, only to have my dumb dog wake me again.

So then I pulled on my fleece robe and fell down the stairs.

By “stairs” I mean one stair or maybe two. It was dark and late. And shocking.

I missed the step somehow. I landed solidly on my right knee but luckily enough, went back to bed with only a stinging rug-burn type pain and no broken ankle or fractured pelvis or shattered kneecap.

When morning came, I woke up early and drove down to San Diego for my appointment.  I arrived in the parking lot a full thirty minutes before my appointment, then waited fifteen minutes after my appointment time for the man to lead me to his office whereupon I realized that I had failed mightily.

I had completed the 30-something pages of information but did not get a particular form notarized as I had been instructed.  He said, “I can’t touch any of the packet until that form is notarized.”

And then he sent me on my way with instructions to call back to make another appointment after I have the form notarized.

All in all, I wasted his time and mine. That was one week ago. I still don’t have the form notarized.


Yesterday, I was hiking the nearby trail at about 8:30 AM and a phone call interrupted the podcast in my ears.  I answered the call and it was the detective I have been working with for a different job. He was calling to tell me that the background investigation was complete and that I should expect to receive a job offer.

There’s still an in-person meeting (where I’ll receive the actual offer) and a psych evaluation and a medical examination but I do believe that I’m actually going to be hired.  It’s been almost four months since I originally applied for the position.

(I wish I knew what I’ve been doing with all that leisure time since I was laid off other than watching the entire five seasons of Breaking Bad. How can an unemployed person be so busy?)

The end.

(That’s how you end a blog post when you are tired and you can’t think of a nice way to wrap up what is essentially a diary entry.)

UPDATE:  I remembered how I meant to end this post.  I was going to end it by telling you that after I got that phone call at 8:30 AM while hiking, I realized that the reason my pants felt weird was that I was wearing them backwards.  Ha.

In case you wondered: a follow-up post

Dumb dog

It’s 11:21 PM and I’m reclining in the dark of our family room on our hand-me-down sectional with its unsupportive old cushions.

The back door is open so I can hear the soothing gurgling of our outdoor fountain but I also hear the lip-smacking mouth noises my dumb dog is making because she has yet another upset tummy.

Maybe this is weird, but for years now this dog has had a sensitive stomach and whenever it’s bad, she runs into the back yard and chews leaves until she vomits. Then she feels better and life goes on.

The vet recommended an antacid which I gave the dog earlier but alas, it didn’t do the trick.

What’s especially maddening is that these episodes–which have no rhyme or reason–happen late at night when I really (REALLY) need sleep. (For instance, tomorrow I have a job-related meeting in San Diego at 10 AM. I need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and in my Fiat by 8:30 or so.)

I had just settled into bed tonight, in fact, when the dog tapped on our bedroom door, asking to be let out.

She ran down the stairs and into the dark of the yard, did whatever voodoo she does and came inside where she . . . seems to have quieted down.

Now I have a choice:

1) Go back to bed and sleep soundly until morning.

2) Go back to bed and have the dog rouse me again causing me to fly into a murderous rage. (Just kidding. No murder here. No rage. Just exasperation and sorrow.)

3) Stay put on this horrible sectional until my back aches and my arms grow numb. Wait.

Choices, choices.


(In other news, I spent a very pleasant day today with my daughter in Palm Springs where we mostly thrift-shopped. I just might survive her adolescence. Stay tuned.)

Dumb dog

Merging is hard

Listen. I’m almost entirely self-taught when it comes to computer stuff. I know how to use Microsoft Word, more or less.  Sometimes much less.

For the purpose of context, let me mention a few things.

  1. Today was my mom’s 75th birthday. We went to Blaze Pizza for lunch and then to Baskin Robbins for her freebie birthday scoop. I had a very busy birthday-related day.
  2. Today I had a polygraph test scheduled. It was the next step in my quest to become a Public Safety Dispatcher in a nearby city. I applied on December 11 for this job and I’m nearing the end of the process (I hope, please God, let it be).
  3. I’m also in the application process to become a dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department. I’m currently filling out a very long and detailed questionnaire about my background. It’s due tomorrow.
  4. The polygraph test took a full two and a half hours. I thought I’d be out of there in an hour.  No.  I didn’t get home–with dinner–until about 7:15 PM.

After frosting the chocolate cake I baked this morning and finishing dinner, it was about 8 PM and I still had to finish up the questionnaire.  Mainly, I had to figure out to print out mailing labels that included all the addresses I had to include in the questionnaire.

There were less than fifty addresses and I was instructed to have them print “going down the column, not across.”

Before I could even get to that point, I had to create the list of addresses and then figure out how to “mail merge” them into the correct form so I could print them on the labels provided.  This entire process took me almost three hours.  And I never did figure out how to print them “going down” and not across.

Merging is hard, you guys!

So, my half-hearted labels will have to be good enough.  I doubt they’ll actually get to the point of sending out reference forms anyway since (please God, let it be) I will get the other job first. The Sheriff’s Department is about a month behind the city.

Have you ever had a polygraph test?  It was more stressful than I anticipated.

First, the examiner sat and talked with me for awhile. He asked me to tell him about myself. Then we went over a lot of the answers I had already disclosed in the course of my application process. We may have gone over everything, actually. It all blurs together.

After an hour and a half, we took a break and then I realized that my armpits were sweaty.  And that was before I was hooked up for the actual test.

Then he explained how the polygraph test would go.

I was told to sit very still. Monitors clipped onto two fingers. Straps went around my body, under my armpits and around my stomach. A blood pressure cuff was fastened around my calf.

Then he told me what questions I’d be asked. He told me to lie to two particular questions (in each of the four blocks of questions). Then he asked questions and I had to answer “yes” or “no” without moving.  Each block of questions took about five minutes.

Honestly, while you are being asked questions, your mind starts to wander and turn your answers over in your mind during the thirty silent seconds between questions. You start to wonder things like, “What if it looks like I’m lying even though I’m telling the truth?” and you think, “Do courts accept lie detector tests as evidence?” and, really, it’s just stressful even if you are telling the absolute truth.

I thought about how much this test was like some monitoring I had done for a research study I was involved in. I thought how much the chair looked like an electric chair. I felt sleepy, like I was being hypnotized because I was practicing slow breathing techniques to stay calm.

But he said my preliminary results looked good–no guarantees, he said–and that I could tell the investigator that I’m ready to move to the next step.

Tomorrow, I get fingerprinted for a LiveScan test.

Then I call the detective from the Sheriff’s Department to tell him the background packet has been completed.

This limbo between jobs is its own unique kind of stress. I’m really ready for my future to solidify. Not knowing exactly when and where and how and who and what makes me uneasy.

Merging is hard