My last day of work

Friday was my last day of work. I thought that I would be feeling down like I did most days leading up to the last day. Instead I felt relief, and a lightness of spirit. I did end up inviting some close friends over that evening. Two out of three couples came out for my pity party. Two out of three ain’t bad for short notice over the holidays.

I invited out the brewer and his wife, the psychologist, whom I will call Rhett and Sue. Sue told me that she gave my name to her boss as someone who was interested in talking to the parents and siblings of autistic children. I still feel interested in helping people through similar experiences that I’ve had. I want to write a book. But first I want to go through all of my journals. It is going to be a slow and tedious process.

We also invited over Tim and Cara. Cara just wrote a book and now that I have more time, I offered to read it critically. She encouraged me to write my own book. Right now Cara’s job is also on the line. She would love to be a full time author. Paul and I thought of starting a sailing business with Tim and Cara. Paul is working on his captain’s license as we speak. It’s crazy, but we are thinking of starting another business together.

I’m not sure where the future leads right now, but I know that these other couples are involved in it in some way. We had a lot of fun Friday night and did a lot of laughing. I felt like whatever happens everything would be alright.

And so the journey starts…

The radiant red ruby ring

I noticed it was missing right before we left for church on Sunday morning.

The ruby ring was a very special college graduation gift from my mother. It had a large rectangular radiant cut ruby with 4 small rubies and 8 tiny diamonds on a gold band. I wore it last to a Christmas party a week and a half before.

It was gone and another ring was put in its place. I searched the whole jewelry box, but it was still missing. Stolen, I believe, with a painful realization on the way to church. Paul, Luke, and I went to church while the rest of our families slept in. I was planning on going to a Christmas Eve service with the rest of the family at another church the next day.

The church service started out with Joy to the World, but I wasn’t feeling much joy in my world as the tears quietly slipped from my eyes. Someone stole my ring. When we got home, my nieces wanted to play detective and solve the mystery of the missing ring. They left to go home after lunch. I felt relieved when they left. It was hard to hold it all together. I felt very low and was rather snappy.

I wasted the day with my grief…grief over losing my ring, grief over losing my job. I felt like it was one of the worst Christmases ever. I knew it would be a hard week with my employment ending on Friday. I had planned on going to the gym on Monday and running 10 miles. I also planned on going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I woke up with swollen eyes and decided I wasn’t going to go anywhere. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Angel had a Christmas party with Dan’s family, Alex was with friends, and Arabella had to work. My kids were gone too.

Instead, I spent the day scouring the internet looking for my ring. I called a local pawn shop which was very helpful. I tried to get an idea of how valuable the ring is.

I checked all of my jewelry to see if anything else was missing. Nothing was. I checked all of my pockets on all of my pants and coats. I took everything out of my jewelry box. Did I misplace the ring? Maybe if I check everyday, then one day it will magically be there.

Who was at our house since it was gone? I counted 16 people outside of my immediate family. It could be anybody. At first we put a lot of blame on the boy with the face tattoo. He has been living with us off and on for the past 6 months, without incident though. We just don’t think it was him.

I also called the parent of one of Alex’s friends who was over. She admitted that her son tried to steal some of her jewelry. I think it might be him. As of yet, I haven’t filed a police report. I’m not sure what to do. I hate to cast blame on an innocent person. I just want my ring back. It was one of my most expensive and favorite pieces of jewelry. It was a special gift from my mother for a big accomplishment. So it had high sentimental value as well.

I don’t have any pictures of the ring. Big mistake, but you know what they say about hindsight. My mom has the original receipt with the description of the ring. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that it was stolen. She is so much more sentimental than I am. She just threw out my brother’s baby blanket a few years back and he is almost 40.

I feel stupid for not locking up my valuable items. Who would’ve thought that someone would go into my bedroom and take jewelry out of my jewelry box? I never had anything of any value stolen from me before.

I also visited a used jewelry store. I talked with them about my stolen ring. The next day I went back and bought myself another ruby ring. I also bought a lock box to store my valuable possessions in. I have to somehow let it go. I will probably never get it back. But I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this never happens again.

Season’s greetings from your favorite demon slayer

Wow, Christmas is less than a week away already!

Tomorrow I am hosting a Christmas party at my house for the entire family…while I am working out of the house…and cooking a meal for over a dozen people…Nothing says overachiever (or insanity) better than that.

I really didn’t want to have a Christmas party on a day we had to work and the kids have school. I wanted to have the party on Sunday, the day after the extended family Christmas party. But my sister-in-law Carla couldn’t miss the kids Christmas program at her church. I guess that wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if she actually had kids. But I can’t complain too much, she is the only person that was ever able to get my brother Mark to go to church. So Friday it is.

Carla wanted to have the party in January. After we scheduled the party for Friday, Carla wanted to switch it again. I finally told her to let me know if she would be unable to make it which is a polite way to say that I am NOT going to change the date again unless it is back to Sunday.

My brother Luke and his family will be staying over for the weekend. Luke didn’t want to make the far drive out a couple weekends in a row, so we ended up scheduling the Christmas party for Friday night before the extended family party on Saturday…after I am done working…instead of Sunday (which I preferred) because of Carla’s schedule.

Talking about work, I only have 4 days left until I am unemployed. I was angry and despairing about it at first, but now I think I should throw myself a big party on the last day and get on with my life. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire and burn all my work clothes!

Angel is home from college. Soon all of the kids will be done with school for Christmas break.

We bought Alex a boxing club membership for Christmas. He has been bugging me about joining for over a year. Boxing seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it moms?? I was the kind of mom that had to close my eyes at middle school football games. I enjoyed watching Alex wrestle, but there were a few times…Somewhere in my mind he is 8, not 18. I still feel the need to protect and mother hen him. Although I know he would end up protecting me if push came to shove.

Alex says that boxing helps him express his anger in a healthy way. Maybe I need to start boxing since anger is no stranger to me. Can you imagine me showing up at the boxing gym? Oh my gosh! He has been working out every night. He is like me, all or nothing. The hard part is to convince him to give it his all when he wants to do nothing. He is a stubborn one, also like me. But he is doing better! He just might be ready to move on with his life come spring.

I just want everyone to know how thankful I am that you put up with me! Consider this my Christmas card…I haven’t actually sent one out in years. Lucky you! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And if anything exciting happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

 

The community theater extrovert

I don’t know what it is about community theater. I become a whole different person. I’m not just talking about the role I’m playing as a character, I’m talking about me as a person. I become an extrovert.

In real life I am not much of a social person. I blog, does that count? You get the idea. I like to keep my opinions to myself. I shy away from the spotlight and become a wallflower. I am moody, melancholy, and not at all agreeable. But at the theater, I am an extrovert on stage and off. All or nothing, baby! My most redeeming social quality is that I have a quick wit. I love to make people laugh. After the evening shows, Paul and I rarely made it to bed before 1 AM.

One night after celebrating at the theater, we had a couple of people crash at our house. One of the actresses confessed that she has cancer and is going through her third round of radiation next week. How could I say ‘no’ to that? Come on over! That night I went to bed at 2 AM then got up the next morning and did the show all over again. That is life as a community theater extrovert I guess.

You tend to meet a whole bunch of eccentric characters at the theater. For a brief time, they get to be someone else too. I wish I could say that all other life stops for awhile during the run of a show, but it goes on. I lost my job during the run of the show. I wasn’t the only one either. A cast member had a funeral to attend out of state. One young girl got her first period and had to reach out to people that were basically strangers to help.

For that short period of time, we became like family and you know how it is with family…some people drive you nuts. Oh, and there is always drama.

There was this new lady that was very beautiful, nice, encouraging, optimistic, and cheerful. She also totally annoyed the crap out of me. Every time she was on stage she would over act and upstage me. It drove me nuts. Back stage she dumped my whole water bottle on my dry clothes. It was an accident so I couldn’t do anything but suppress my irritation. She apologized profusely. When we had only two shows left, she decided that she didn’t like the dance routine choreography and wanted everyone to change it without actually telling everyone who would be on stage at the time. I told her there was no way I would be changing anything.

My husband Paul had the lead part. He had somewhere around 200 lines to memorize. Most of them were a paragraph long. He did a great job. Everyone thought that he had a natural gift for memorizing. Does anyone?? I really want to know. He spent at least an hour a day going through his lines.

There were love triangles on stage and off. Did you know that the theater is also a good place to fall in love? My uncle Rick met someone at the theater for a first date and they are already engaged!

Sometimes things didn’t go as planned. Lines got missed or messed up. Once the curtain opened at the wrong time while a woman was changing behind it. One little girl got hit hard on the head by someone moving a prop. Three other people fell, one while tied up. Many people had sore throats. We wandered around the rest of the week like exhausted zombie versions of ourselves while life continued on.

Then after the show is over, the main characters have to de-role. It is time to say good-bye to the new family. There is a period of sadness and loss after saying bye to a beloved character that almost becomes you for awhile.

For that brief time, everybody loved you. You were someone special, a star. The anxiety of performing is a major adrenaline rush. It is thrilling! Did I mention the costumes, makeup, wigs, and hair primping? Fun!

Then when it is all done, we go back to our normal lives until the next show.

 

The cough

In the midst of everything else going on, last week my husband Paul went in for a CT scan.

My husband has had a chronic cough for years. He finally broke down and let me make him a doctor’s appointment. I was worried especially since his mother and an uncle both passed away from lung cancer last year. His mother and grandmother who lived with him smoked during his whole childhood. His mother smoked while pregnant with him. But it was the 1960’s, people smoked in libraries. Almost everyone smoked back then and no one thought much about it.

Then after Paul left home, his mother quit smoking and he started. He smoked for almost a decade. He was exposed to cigarette smoke in some shape or form for half of his life. He had close family members die of lung cancer. I was worried.

That day at the doctor’s office, they made him wear a mask because ‘cough’ was listed as his symptom. He glared at me in contempt and muttered muted garbled words of unhappiness through the mask. Look what you made me do! I am not even sick! The doctor set up a urine test and blood work along with an appointment for a CT scan several weeks later.

After the doctor appointment, we ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He received a fortune cookie that stated he would enjoy good health for a long time. See! I’m fine!!! It’s probably just allergies.

In the meantime, we worried. We worried more after I lost my job.

What if?? What if I have cancer like my mom?? How am I going to work? How are we going to make ends meet? How am I going to handle the lead part in the show if I have been given bad news the same day?

What are we going to do?? It took our minds to dark places…

The morning of the show, Paul left home early for the CT scan. A few hours later, we received the results. Everything was fine. No cancer! Praise God!

I’m just fine he said with a cough. May the fortune cookie be right. May he have good health for a long time.

This time another crisis was averted. I can’t bug him anymore about the cough, but I bet he will bug me about the doctor bill. Knowing that I did everything I could and having a peace of mind that everything is okay is money well spent.

 

 

 

New beginnings

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

With each and every day, it has become easier to adjust to losing my job. There are some positive things about it. I will have less stress from work. Plus I am planning on taking some time off to do all of the things I have been putting off since I didn’t have time because I was working over the past decade.

Just think of all the things I could do with an extra 130 hours a month!

I am planning on spending time with my parents putting together a genealogy record for my family. It seems like yesterday that I was walking around cemeteries and talking to family, since deceased, with my grandma. Next year grandma will be gone 10 years and now is the time to start the process with my parents. I also want to take all of the old family photos and put them into digital format which is a huge undertaking.

I want to write two books, one about growing up with a violent autistic sibling and the other about Paul’s journey from rags to riches. I don’t care if they are bestsellers, I just want the family history documented if only for future generations. Maybe I’ll take some writing classes. At the very least, I will have time to read a few books.

I want to double my time at the gym. I want to be ready to run a 50k.

I want to take a photography class and at the minimum take more photos.

I want to learn how to cook different ethnic dishes. I want to eat healthier. Maybe I will brew my own beer.

I want to spend more time with my children. Alex is doing so much better, but there still have been a few bumps in the road. Arabella wants me to audition for the next community theater show with her. I want to be a better singer and dancer.

I am starting to let things go. My staff and I had a combined 20 years of experience that we used as a team to handle operations. It is hard to hand over operations to a staff I deem as inexperienced. Although it is terribly frustrating, it is nice to hand over all of the resulting customer service issues to them. It’s not my problem anymore.

Today my daughter Angel’s beta fish that she got when she was in high school died. Now she is a junior in college. I flushed the last remaining shred of her childhood good-bye. But I will be able to spend more time with her when she is home and take more trips out to see her when she is gone.

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

 

 

Hell week

Last week I lost my job.

Last week Sunday hell week started with a nine hour practice at the theater.

We sold our business earlier this year and up to this point everything has stayed relatively the same. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I didn’t have time to prepare for this in any way. I didn’t have plans to quit working anytime soon.

Then last week happened. Paul and I found out a couple of days before corporate flew in. We met them out for coffee on a brisk chilly sunny morning. I didn’t want to meet them. I didn’t want the small talk about the weather. I wanted the day to never happen or be over before it began. I faced the day with dread. I had nightmares about it when I could actually sleep.

It was the hardest day I ever faced at work. I had to go to the office that morning and watch my staff get fired right before Christmas. They didn’t do anything wrong which made it harder. I felt like I betrayed them. They had to immediately pack up their belongings and leave. I didn’t have time to prepare for the pain of firing long time employees, people that I saw day in and day out for years. Employees that I talked to more than some of my family.

I understand why it happened logically. Corporate wanted to consolidate all of operations into one centralized office. It makes a lot of business sense, but it did not stop my tears from falling.

I have been doing this for over ten years now. I feel really lost like I am losing a part of who I am. Who am I? My job will be gone and my kids will be out of the house soon too.

I thought about my time here, building a business alongside my husband. I thought about the friends I’ve made throughout the years. I thought about the clients that I will miss. I thought of the conferences I attended, the files I stockpiled, the work relationships I built during the 15,000 hours I dedicated my life to this. I feel a great sense of grief, of loss. Maybe if I saw it coming months before it would’ve been easier to adjust?

I feel unsettled, anxious, and depressed. Paul and our sales staff will stay on. My department is closing. I am the only employee staying on to make the transition of our operations to the central office. By the end of the month, our office here will close and I will be out of a job.

I wish I could say that the transition has been seamless, but it hasn’t. The central office has a different way of running things than we do. It is neither right nor wrong, just different. This has upset some of our clients which has been upsetting to me. I don’t have any control over this. I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t ready. I am trying to let it go and not let it bother me, but it is easier said than done.

I feel like I am getting a divorce. Paul and I spent half of our married life working together. But it isn’t over, Paul and I have plans in the future to start another business together. This all had to come to an end sometime, I just wasn’t ready for it to end now.

That night Paul and I went to hell week rehearsal like nothing happened. Paul has the lead part in the show. Could he do it? Could I go on stage and smile when I spent half of the day crying? Acting like everything was okay was one of the toughest performances we had to give. We couldn’t tell the cast before we were able to tell close friends and family.

Somehow we were able to pull it off, but last week certainly gave a new meaning for hell week.

Under construction

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am planning to take some time off to make some changes to my WP site. I am getting email! Now you can contact me and tell me how wonderful I am, or that I suck…Welcome to the 1990’s Alissa!

Anyway, my site will be under construction and quite frankly so will I.

This weekend hell week starts at the theater. So I will be busy every night at the theater getting ready for the big production. I won’t have a lot of time to write and reflect.

Plus, this is awful, but I really haven’t started Christmas shopping yet. Hello December!

So bear with me if dust collects on my site faster than the snow falls in WI. I will be back once some of this craziness ends with a new and improved site (and hopefully a new and improved me).

Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

The day after Thanksgiving

As you could tell from my last post, I was rather stressed out about the Thanksgiving holiday this year. In fact, the day before Thanksgiving the boy with the face tattoo showed up at our house and we had to kick him out because our son is grounded from having friends over. We were so stressed out that Paul and I wanted to cancel Thanksgiving altogether.

The strange thing was that it ended up being one of the nicest and most peaceful Thanksgiving’s ever. There weren’t any fights or problems.

I had to work late on Wednesday, but Angel came home from college and helped do some cooking with her boyfriend Dan. Paul made the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy. Everyone else brought a dish to pass. My brothers Luke and Mark didn’t make it over this year. But both of my parents came out with Matt which was surprising since my dad hardly ever comes out to family functions. He was even on his best behavior.

My mom even had boundaries with Matt. She asked him if he wanted more food and told him that he needed to get it himself versus waiting on him hand and foot. Before she would bake him a special meal, serve up his food, cut it into smaller pieces, go get him more food if he wanted it, and then clear his plate after the meal.

Paul’s step-dad Daryl and my Uncle Rick also came out. They have a lot in common and get along really well. After supper, we played cards. Angel did not play because she had homework to do and crafts to make for sales on her Etsy site. She is so much like me it is crazy! She is off volunteering today, so hopefully she will have time to play some games tonight.

Arabella had to work Thanksgiving morning and all day today. My girls are very industrious and for that I am thankful.

Even Alex sat with the family most of the day. Later that night he played the piano. It has been a long time since he played. I’d almost forgotten how beautifully he plays. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he didn’t want his friend over for holiday break. He is a totally different person around friends versus family. Today he rode his bike to a friend’s house since he is grounded from his car.

It is a beautiful day though. We have temps in the low 40’s. It is windy and sunny. I decided to take a run outside today on a new route. That is the fun thing about moving. There are a lot of new and exciting running routes.

Finally I’ve been able to keep my head above water and grab a few gulps of fresh air.