Friday, August 23, 2019

I Must Be Broken

All the back to school posts and weepy mommies seriously make me think there is something broken with my maternal instincts. Not once did I cry about my kids going to school - it just wasn't traumatic to me, though obviously it is very traumatic for many, many parents. School was just what the kids were supposed to do: it was their job; a rite of passage; something to be celebrated, not mourned.

I've never been the mother who wanted childhood to last forever. I looked forward to my kids growing and learning. I have wonderful memories of my kids when they were little, but I don't ever wish that they didn't grow up so fast or that we could have spent more time in a certain time period.

This time every year, I start wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I didn't feel the loss so many parents do. But then I remember that my kids think I'm a pretty kick-ass mom, despite my lack of maternal emotions, and their opinions on my child rearing abilities are all that matter.

Tree ammo, Heathi :)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Reflections on GISH

The GISH Hunt List was long and daunting, but our team #GoodMishaMigos, managed to complete 35 tasks. I know there are a lot of teams - the "In It To Win It" teams - who did a lot more than we did, but everyone on our team signed up just for fun and we all had fun.

We were an international team, we had two from Great Britain, two from Germany, and five of us from the States. The amount of artistic talent we had was amazing, excepting yours truly who can barely draw a stick figure, and the entire team was incredibly supportive of each other. I would say that the experience was very much like my experience with NaNoWriMo in that it broadened my horizons, forced me to meet people I wouldn't otherwise meet, and have a great time.

One of the tasks was to create GISHemon cards, which one of our teammates took on and I love how they turned out. It's a good example of the amount of creativity in our team.

When I registered for GISH, I just thought it would be a cool thing to do, but I didn't really realize the worldwide impact.  Each year, the powers that be determine where in the world GISH is going to focus. This year, Laos. Before GISH even began, "we" (the GISHers) funded the clearing of unexploded ordinances from 25 farms in Laos.

Apparently, every year, there is a "mystery" charity that is announced halfway through the hunt and the money raised goes to the charity. This year, the Change A Life: Laos challenge was to raise $150,000 to send prosthetic technicians to Laos to fit children who had lost limbs with prostheses. In under 48 hours, the $150,000 was raised. I found that absolutely incredible, but the money kept coming in. The first $150,000 was earmarked for prostheses, but anything above that went to support a team of four women who remove unexploded bombs from farms and communities in Laos. We ended up raising an additional $80,000!

The focus wasn't just on helping people on the other side of the world, many of the GISH challenges involved helping our local communities, all while having fun. Countless donations were made to shelters, 10,000 trees were planted, and the world, for a week, was made a kinder, gentler place.

While I do not generally agree with Misha Collins' politics, I can 100% get behind the fact that instead of just whining that "someone needs to do something", he's putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak. He has come up with actionable plans to help both his (and our) local community and the world in general. I respect that 100%.

The lesson in this is that you don't have to agree with someone's politics to genuinely like and respect them.

I loved GISH and will continue to participate as long as it continues. I'll also do my best to recruit people to join. While I can't say it was life-changing for me, as some people have said, it certainly enriched my life and I'm happy to be one of Misha's Minions.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The GISH(es) That Got Away

There were two GISH challenges that I wanted to do, but couldn't quite pull them off. These two will haunt me until I see the Hunt List for next year's GISH.

#67 kills me that I couldn't pull it off. I could have gotten access to an arena that holds 11,000 people. I can sign. The biggest issue for me was a "sizeable crowd of spectators". Had GISH occurred during the Stampede, it would have been so easy to show up a few minutes before my shift, quickly sign the National Anthem as the crowd came in, and then go back to work. UGH. Really, this one will haunt me.

And then there's this one:

I should have tried harder to complete #69. When the kids and I volunteered for the fire department's Flame Out 5k for so many years, I knew who to call to access the Smokey the Bear costume, and I previously had access to the public education department and could have borrowed the fire department's mascot, Sparky. Unfortunately, it's been so many years since I worked closely with the fire department that a lot of the guys I worked with have now retired. 

Again, this was a case where my literal-thinking brain hung me up. Because I know there are *actual* Smokey the Bear and Sparky costumes, it didn't occur to me to just make one that was "close enough". In retrospect, I could have easily made a dalmatian-like costume and delivered goodies to one of our many fire stations.

I am planning on doing GISH again next year, and will have to make more of an effort to think outside the box and do better about asking Jay to help me break out of my left brain.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Jay's GISH projects

I wasn't the only GISHer in the house this year. I talked Jay into joining with me, even though neither of us had any idea what to expect. We didn't with NaNoWriMo either, and we are both still involved with our WriMos several years later and plan on doing NaNo again this year.

Jay is by far the most creative and artistic of the two of us. While the animal-based GISH challenges were right up my alley, the artistic ones were custom-made for him. I knew immediately which challenges I wanted to do, but Jay took some time to choose his. The first one that jumped out at him was the Bee Bar.

Jay has a unique ability to imagine something and then bring it to life, so I knew his Bee Bar would turn out beautifully.

We took it to the CSU flower gardens in an effort to entice the bees to have a drink at the bar. We moved it around to a couple of places until we were happy with it (the pole pictured above was not the final placement of the bar).

With the success of the first task, Jay went back to the list to find another one. When I decide to do something, I am usually all in, whereas Jay tends weight the pros and cons and be more choosy. I saw the Stormtrooper task and knew that it was perfect for Jay, so when he told me that he was going to do it, I was thrilled.

Final submission photo

Yes, that is a Stormtrooper riding a snowboard at the X-Games. Right in Jay's wheelhouse. Took two seconds, seeing as how we have plenty of action figures around.

Speaking of action figures, they played a prominent role in his third and final GISH task:

See, this kind of task is where I get literal. I read this and thought, "well, that can't be done, we don't have a food truck!" Jay read it and said, "we have everything I need for this task". His brain amazes me.

Final submission photo
Every single item used in his last task was something we had in the house. His ability to look around and see objects that are not at all related and turn them into something cohesive astounds me.

Friday, August 9, 2019

GISH #111

The last GISH task I participated in was a collaborative one with other local GISHers.

This challenge hadn't really been on my radar, until someone posted about it in the Colorado GISH chat. I thought it would be a great way to meet other GISHers in person, and who doesn't have stuff they need to get rid of?  I'd rather give it away in person than drop it off at ARC or Goodwill. Remember the doll from the tourniquet video? She found a new home thanks to the Community Bazaar.

One of the other local GISHers took charge of planning it, and gave each of us a task. Mine was to find a location. Since I live out in the boonies, and most people were wanting to do something in the Fort Collins area, I voluntold the kids that we'd be using their driveway for our GISH Community Bazaar.

Bright and early this morning, I loaded up and headed to the kids' to get set up. We needed at least 6 total GISHers, and until they all showed up, we weren't certain we'd make the required number, but we did! Hallelujah!

Former strangers, we all bonded very quickly and found several things in common with each other (besides living locally). In fact, our first customer of the day commented on the fact that we seemed close and must have a connection. The look on his face when we told him we'd just met that morning was picture-worthy. I guess just having a common interest - GISH - was enough.

We didn't have the greatest location, as the kids' live in north Fort Collins, but we had a couple of customers who couldn't believe that we were just giving stuff away. Our second customer was an older gentleman who "paid" us with a whole rash of Dad Jokes. We spent a lot of time laughing with him, but of course I now can't remember a single joke. I should have written them down!

It was hot, and we were tired by the end of our Bazaar, which is why we all look like whipped puppies in our last picture.

We exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch, as one does. But I'd be on a team with these folks any time. If I can't get my family talked into GISHing with me next year, these are the people I'll GISH with.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

GISH #74

"Hey Assbut" was one of the tasks I was really looking forward to, as was this one:

I have long been an advocate of tourniquets, and my passion project in 2018 was to train everyone I could in tourniquet use. I trained staff and students on campus in 2018 and 2019 - not as many as I would have liked - and I trained Posse members. I personally know someone, one of my Posse mates, whose life was saved by the proper application of a tourniquet.

Again, it's like this task was custom made for me. I didn't have the first idea of how to make a stop-motion video, but I happen to be married to a very artistic and smart man who does.

After we filmed the "Hey Assbutt" video, he helped me with this. I did purchase two new dolls for this, though GISH is all about borrowing and re-purposing*. However, I did handcraft the doll-sized tourniquet out of electrical tape, paperclips, and a bamboo skewer. The tourniquet I made ended up being a cross between a CAT and a SOFT-T wide. Unless someone has been trained in tourniquet use, or carries one, no one will realize that my doll tourniquet is a hybrid (well, until I just blabbed about it on the interwebs).

The making of the video was fun, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. If I could change one thing about it, I would have made sure it's more clear in the video that the tourniquet needs to be pulled tight before twisting the windlass, but I'm still happy with how it turned out.

When I saw this challenge come up on the list, I immediately thought tourniquet. It was announced a few days into GISH that our mystery charity was for an organization that would be sending technicians out to Laos to fit children who have lost limbs to bombs with prostheses. Tourniquet training and use in areas such as that can save lives (they can and do save lives here as well), so I found my choice of topic to be timely and appropriate.

Here's the link to the video:

*The not-bloody doll was salvaged and re-purposed for my last GISH task.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

GISH #54

After our busy Monday, I had a few days to plan my next three GISH tasks. There were two I was really looking forward to, but they required significant planning.

For those of you unfamiliar with Supernatural, or this scene, there's a little back story. Dean and Castiel (trench coat) step in the middle of a fight between the archangels Michael and Lucifer. Castiel, being an angel, isn't quite fluent in human vernacular and his insult was a little ... off.

Turns out, there is such a thing as an Assbutt according to GISH lore. An Assbutt is a mix between an African wild ass and a Monarch butterfly. Just like the unicorn and fairy tasks, this one was custom made for me.

I don't have access to an African wild ass, but I do have access to a BLM wild ass. A quick text to my friend Kathy from the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Association was all it took to set up a time. I spent the night before we went out to do this task making butterfly wings out of cardboard. I am no spray paint artist, but I was pretty happy with the way the wings turned out.

I had picked up a white dress shirt and a trench coat earlier in the week so I could cosplay Castiel. (Cosplay - chalk it up to something I never thought I'd participate in, not to mention gender-bending cosplay. My hippie nerd daughter was very proud of me for this.) The Molotov cocktail I made using an old water bottle and a red/orange handkerchief. Really, the set up was pretty easy.

Lucky for me, Kathy has lots of experience dressing up and tying things to animals, because my initial idea of just running some baling twine around the wings and under the burro's armpit didn't work at all. She grabbed a bareback pad and we secured the wings to it. At first, I tried getting the wings to stand up, but they kept flopping to one side or the other. No problem, our Assbutt was supposed to be moving, not stationary, and the wings would be flapping anyway.

Turbo the Assbutt was a bit of a show off, but the sweetest little ass I've met. He's such a lover. A bit ornery, but he's three, so ornery is what you'd expect. He makes me want to add a donkey to our herd.

I am not an actor, Jay is not a cameraman or director, and I am terrible at editing video, but I managed to piece together a few seconds for my GISH submission.

Here's the link to the video:

(Cross posted to Wilsons' Wild Ones)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

GISH #14

We came back from our second task elated, but tired. However, we had one more task to complete before we could call it a day.

Usually, mechanical bulls can be found at rodeos, but we were in between rodeos. Around here it goes: Greeley Stampede, Rooftop Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Weld County Fair, then Larimer County Fair. This year, there was a break between the Weld County Fair and the Larimer County Fair that spanned the time frame of GISH. The closest actual mechanical bull during GISH was at Cheyenne Frontier Days, but that ended the day before and I couldn't have driven up there anyway, because I was working the Weld County Fair. I was determined to complete this task, though.

Mom has a mechanical horse thing that she used during the winters before her hip surgeries to keep her core strong and her hips working. I was pretty certain that Mom and Bill had a steer head somewhere, from when Autobot and her ex-boyfriend were playing at roping last summer. Mechanical horse thing + roping steer head = mechanical bull.

Bill put the "bull" together while Mom and I were putzing around after the ride. We were all so tired - who knew that walking a unicorn into the living room, then throwing a surprise fairy party was so exhausting - but I only had to ride the bull for two seconds. I could do that, so I did.

Here's the link to the video:

For some reason, I can't embed the video and when I tried to upload it directly it didn't play.

(Cross posted on Wilsons' Wild Ones)

Monday, August 5, 2019

GISH #80

Our second challenge gave us an excuse to trailer the horses into Wild Basin, where we'd be guaranteed to run into hikers. It's a rare occasion that we see hikers across the street where we normally ride. As a general rule, we're okay with that, but since we needed to have people to throw a party for, we had to go where the people were.

The ride itself was amazing and we couldn't have asked for better behaved horses. They did a great job as Mustang Ambassadors that day.

Mom had baked cookies for us to give out as party treats and I bagged them up into individual treat bags. I thought that maybe people would be worried about taking home-baked cookies from strangers, so I quickly made up labels that said "Courtesy of Allenspark Lodge B&B", so they'd know the cookies came out of a commercial kitchen. (That came back to bite me in the butt later.)

Thank God Bill was the one driving, because I don't think my nerves would have made it. People coming out of the park were kind of a-holes. We were supposed to be spreading love and kindness, but I really just wanted to spread knuckle sandwiches with the way some of those people were driving.

Finally, a car saw us coming up the one lane road and pulled off to let us pass. I made Bill give them a cookie, which he tossed to them through the window as we yelled "thanks!". We did that for the next few cars. Sometimes you gotta train humans the way you train horses: make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing pleasant. People who insisted on not giving way on the road out had to thread past the truck and trailer; people who pulled over and let us by got cookies. As Ranger Mustang used to say, "Peeples can be VERY HARD to train".

Finally, we were able to get parked, tacked up, and on our way. Along the way, from the trailer parking to the trail head, we ran into some hikers who were thrilled to see horses on the trail. They stepped off to let us pass and guess what? They got cookies. Make the right thing pleasant, right?

We didn't want to risk losing the "unicorn's" horns, so we didn't put them on the "unicorns" until we reached the hitch rail.

Unicorns and fairies ready
All that was left was to set out the party sign and find us some people to surprise.

The hitch rail is off the beaten path a little bit, as you can see, so we had to go trolling for people. The first group wasn't super excited. The kids were, but their mom, not so much. The girls came and rubbed the horses' noses then off they went.

Mom walked down toward the falls, which are on the same path as the hitch rail, just a little beyond it and found a family that wanted to come meet our pet unicorns. In fact, one of the little girls was wearing her unicorn shirt, so it was perfect.

The girls were shy, but excited to pet the unicorns and spent several minutes with them. Their parents had to practically drag them away.

The most surprising reaction came from adults. Remember when I said my decision to label the cookies would come back to bite me in the butt? Yeah, Mom met them where the trail met the turn off to the hitch rail and handed them cookies. They looked at the label and asked if this was some "publicity stunt" for the lodge. Ugh. It was like an arrow through the heart. Once we explained that we thought people would be more comfortable knowing that the cookies came out of a commercial kitchen and that we were doing this for a scavenger hunt, their tunes changed.

I was hoping to see pure surprise and joy on the kids' faces, which we didn't get. However, the look of joy on the previously dubious adults' faces? Priceless!

The reaction from the adults were my favorite and I felt like we'd nailed the task. Shortly after, we packed it in and rode back out. We'd entered Wild Basin with 20 cookies, and had three left. Easy, peasy, we just stopped at the ranger station on the way out and spread the love there too.

*Verbal consent obtained for posting pictures.

(Cross posted on Wilsons' Wild Ones.)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

GISH #153

During the week of GISH, we are forbidden from posting our challenges on social media (unless directly instructed to do so). That rule is sooooo hard to live by, especially since the challenges are a ton of fun and I wanted to show off my amazing, crazy family.

Jay and I were placed on a random team with people we didn't know, from all over the world, and I was a bit hesitant. I shouldn't have been, everyone on the team was amazing and supportive and we each brought our own special talents to the team. Jay is far more artistic than I, so the tasks he chose played to his strengths. I signed up for the tasks that I could incorporate the animals in, and recruited Mom and Bill to help me out with three of the tasks.

Last Monday (7/29/19), I spent the day at the lodge with them working on my tasks. I'm not sure I've laughed that hard in a long time. Everyone worries about making memories with their children when they're young, but I think we should also spend time as adults making memories with our parents. Turns out, it's a lot more fun, especially when you have parents like mine.

Here's the first task we tackled on Monday:

You can't tell me that this challenge wasn't custom made for us! Puh-leeze! Unicorns in the living room? I couldn't sign up for that one fast enough. I called Mom when the list was released and asked if we could do this. I really only asked out of courtesy, because I knew she's be all in.

The first thing we needed to do was transform Mom into the Fairy Mother and Washoe into the Wonder Unicorn. Mom was easy, I found some fairy wings at a costume shop and put her in them. We also dressed up our hats, as they were going to be used for two challenges.

Washoe's horn took just a bit more work, but not much. A paper towel roll, sliced and diced, then covered with aluminum foil made the perfect horn. A couple of heavy duty bread ties to attach it to his halter, et voila! A unicorn.

Despite his little slip on the hardwood floor, he did great. I initially imagined him in front of the fireplace with the Fairy Mother (aka Bionic Cowgirl), but didn't want to risk more slipping on the floor while getting to the area rug in front of the fireplace.

A friend of Mom's was kind enough to video the whole thing, as I was focused on getting pictures. It always delights people when the horses visit the inside of the people barn, and Mom's friend was no exception.

Our first task went off without a hitch! One down, two to go.

(Cross-posted on Wilsons' Wild Ones)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

I've admitted to falling in love with the T.V. show Supernatural, to the extent that I went and got a Supernatural tattoo.

As I started digging around on YouTube, watching panels and stuff, I started following several of the actors on social media. I had no idea that the actors were so involved in different causes, and had, in fact, started some of their own programs.

The lead actor, Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) has been pretty open about his own mental health issues, and after losing a friend to suicide started the Always Keep Fighting campaign (March, 2015), which raised money that was then donated to several different organizations. Less than a year later (February, 2016), the other two leads, Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and Misha Collins (Castiel) launched the SPNFamily Crisis Support Network to help support fans struggling with mental illness issues. The support network is staffed by fan volunteers who have been trained as crisis responders.

Pre-dating both the Always Keep Fighting campaign and the SPNFamily Crisis Support Network, is Misha Collins' Random Acts whose mission is to "conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time".

One of the things I ran across while I was learning all of this cool stuff was something called GISH (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt), which was started in 2011 by Misha Collins and part of the entry fees to join help support Random Acts.

Anyway, I told you all of that just so I could tell you this: expect to see some craziness going on here starting on Saturday. I talked Jay into joining up with me, and we have no idea what we're getting ourselves into. We've been randomly assigned to a team with seven other people, whom we've never met and who are scattered around the world (hence, international).

NaNoWriMo was the last time Jay and I randomly joined something that we really didn't know anything about and we loved it. Our region rocked, we met some really great people who we consider friends, and we were active members for years. We're not quite as active in NaNo as we were (moving out of our home region decreased our participation), but we still manage to make time to attend a few write-ins every November.

My hope is that GISH works out the same way. There's not much that we know about GISH other than to expect some weird challenges, but it promises to be a good time.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

I'm Not That Old. Am I?

Well, since I completed another trip around the sun yesterday, taking me one year closer to 50, I guess I am.

My 30 year class reunion is this weekend, which is almost as big a slap in the face as staring 50 in the eye. I mean, it feels like high school was just a few years ago, not thirty for God's sake!

I skipped my 10 year reunion, let's be honest, because I wasn't in a very good place. Instead of completing college right after high school. I spent a semester at Fort Lewis in Durango and didn't get invited back for second semester. Something about a 0.0 GPA made them revoke my scholarships and send me packing. So I went home, took my EMT class (4.0 GPA, baby), got married and a year and a half later started popping out babies. I had kids at 20, 21, and 23. Bam, bam, bam, three in a row. I was teaching at Front Range in the EMS department, but kinda sliding under the radar because I didn't have a degree. Rumor spread that anyone without a degree was going to get axed. So, I quit and started at CSU two years or more after my high school friends had graduated. When my 10 year reunion came around, I was divorced with three kids, going to school full time, and struggling to keep my head above water. There was no way in hell I was going to show my face at that reunion.

When my 20 year reunion rolled around, I also skipped that. My life was no longer in a shambles, but Jay and I had just gotten married. I was busy navigating being a newlywed after so many years of being single. I'll admit, I skipped the 20th because I was just being selfish.

But now the 30 year reunion is upon us. I've only kept in touch with a handful of people from high school, and only through FB. I wasn't a part of any one group. I knew who a lot of people were, and people knew me, but the "ride or die" friends I thought I had all but abandoned me once I started dating my ex-husband. My church friends turned their backs on me (maybe not, but it certainly felt like that) for dating someone so different from us. I mean, the ex was not a really great guy - he partied, he drank, he was an ass. But little church girl me thought I could save him. HA! So maybe my church friends were right to turn away from me, but that doesn't make the sense of betrayal any less.

I was going to blow off my 30th reunion. But then I started thinking: my life did not turn out at all the way I thought it would, but the last 30 years have been one hell of a ride. There have been some absolute shit times in the past thirty years, but also some really amazing times and I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. Not even the shit times - they made me who I am.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to take my overweight, middle-aged, freshly tatted up body to the reunion and catch up with other people who have also spent the last thirty years living their lives.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

In Which I Embrace a Fandom

I joked at my going away party that I was doing typical "midlife crisis" things: quitting my job, getting new ink. You know, everything except trading in the husband. I think I'll keep him, I kinda like the nerd.

It's a good thing I like him, too, because his nerdiness has rubbed off on me. I've been an unapologetic fan of The Walking Dead for years. I don't watch much T.V., but there are sixteen Sundays a year that no one is allowed to talk to me between the hours of 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. so I can watch my "program" and get my post-show therapy (The Talking Dead). Little did I know, as rabid a fan of TWD I am, I was just dipping my toes into nerdom.

I reassured myself that while I had some nerd tendencies, I hadn't quite gone off the deep end like Jay had with Star Wars. Sure, I had signed up for the quarterly TWD subscription box, Supply Drop. And sure, my favorite presents were all TWD based. I mean, who wouldn't want an honest-to-God crossbow for Christmas? I owned my love of all things Walking Dead. (But hate Fear the Walking Dead. What a steaming pile of crap that is, even if they did steal Morgan and Dwight.)

I didn't really understand what it was like to be completely submerged in a fandom. Hell, I didn't even know what a real fandom was. While I considered myself a borderline "nerd" (hence, "nerdom"), I had no idea.

Our house is pretty much a shrine to Star Wars, and I gave Jay so much grief about it. But I had no idea what it was like to be part of a rabid fandom.

In late March, my FB feed started blowing up. Many of my FB friends were torn up about an announcement that a show was ending after its fifteen season. Now, these are friends I have a fair amount in common with and they were losing their shit about this show ending. I knew nothing about Supernatural. I recall seeing the car at Denver Comic Con when I tagged along with Jay a few years ago. I was enamored with the car, because it was badass and had a trunk full of goodies that I wanted to put my hands on, but I had no idea it was from a T.V. show. To me, it was just a cool car at Comic Con - I was completely overwhelmed with all of the cool stuff there, so it was just another cool thing I saw.

Because so many of my friends were torn up about the announcement that Supernatural was ending, I gave into my curiosity and watched the video announcement. I saw three good-looking men who were obviously passionate about their show and who were torn up about making the announcement. I respected the fact that they wanted to make the announcement themselves instead of letting their #SPNFamily hear it from anyone else. To say my interest was piqued would be an understatement, so I found the show on Netflix and sat down to watch the first episode.

Four episodes later, I came up for air.

I was hooked.

The brothers Winchester were amazing. I'll admit they're easy on the eyes, but I love the complicated relationship between the boys. For years, I've been reading novels based on the paranormal, and here those stories were on T.V., plus a healthy dose of dysfunction. Many years ago, I considered myself an X-Phile (oh my Chuck, I've been a nerd much longer than I realized!), and Supernatural is basically the X-Files if Mulder had been able to prove the paranormal.

The next day, I hit Amazon Prime and ordered seasons 1-13, and put in a pre-order for season 14. I couldn't risk Netflix taking down the series before I finished it, like what happened when I tried to re-watch X-Files a couple of years ago.

The announcement that the show was ending came about the same time as I turned in my notice at work. Not saying it was a sign, but I'd already decided fifteen years was a nice round number to go out on. Giving my notice made me feel free, as I'd mentioned before, and part of my new-found freedom was the freedom to explore new things. While Supernatural has been on almost as long as I'd worked at the school, it was new to me and I embraced it wholeheartedly.

I was bingeing a season every couple of weeks, and then I found out about the conventions! I don't know why it never occurred to me that there would be Supernatural conventions. I mean, I've been dying to go to a Walker Stalker convention for years, so of course there are Supernatural conventions, and pretty much all of the panels can be found on YouTube.

I used to roll my eyes at Jay every time I'd come home and see him immersed in some sort of Star Wars thing on YouTube. I just had no idea. It became Jay's turn to come home and roll his eyes at me being plugged into the laptop, bingeing old convention videos.

For Jay's birthday in May, I decided to pay for the Ahsoka Tano (more Star Wars nerd stuff from Clone Wars) tattoo that he'd been wanting for a while.

My intention was to just make the appointment for him, but in diving into my new fandom, I'd come across a tattoo that I wanted and the tattoo artist just happened to have time to do one for me after starting Jay's tattoo.

When Ashinator got her Dr. Who tattoos, I'll admit I was ... concerned. What if she hated them in twenty years? She told me that she would never regret her tattoos, as they signify different periods of her life and that when she was 80, she wanted to be able to look back at them and smile at the memories. It was with her words of wisdom in mind that I went ahead and made an appointment for myself as well.

As much as I love TWD, I hadn't been moved to get a tattoo (that's since changed, as I have an appointment tomorrow for my birthday Daryl Dixon tattoo). However, six weeks after finding Supernatural, I *had* to have a tattoo. I am fully embracing the freedom to stretch my wings and try new things.

So yes, my "midlife crisis" has included quitting my job and getting fresh ink. But the nerd hubby? I'll keep him. Especially since I am beginning to understand him a bit more.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Midlife Changes

Wow, almost exactly one year since my last post. Yikes.

Some might call it a midlife crisis, but I'm not in crisis. In fact, I'm the opposite of being in crisis. For the past seven years or so, I've been struggling at work. Really struggling. My immediate family would say that I'd been abused, though I think the phrase moral injury is more appropriate.

I used to love my job. I felt like I was really making a difference and turning out excellent students who were taking great care of their patients, with all of the skill and knowledge necessary to excel in their careers. I took great pride in my grads and their successes. But things started changing in the background, from the administrative side. At first, I chalked it up to being more involved in administration - that the metrics and pressure from on high were things I ignored when I was "just" an instructor and associate dean.

Over the past seven years, I began to lose sight of why I loved my job. Each day felt like I was selling a little bit of my soul to the devil. While I'm not a K-12 public educator, I can empathize with their disillusionment of the profession. Once the focus moves from teaching students to the best of our ability to meeting metrics, the magic begins to bleed away. For all those years, my students saved me. Every time I got frustrated and felt like I couldn't do it one second more, I'd step into the classroom and the energy from the students saved me.

When I found myself at the point when the students could no longer save me, I knew it was time to leave. I'd been seriously considering leaving for the last two years, but there's that whole "devil you know" thing. Though I knew I needed to make a change, it was easier to go with the flow. Then my migraines got worse, became more frequent. One every couple of weeks, when I'd been essentially migraine-free for years. Oh, I had my monthly three-day hormone-based migraines, but I can work through those - I've dealt with those for a decade - so I don't really consider them. But any migraine outside of those was rare, and only occurred when I was stressed.

Even with the increase in migraines, I was still gonna stick with the devil I knew. The little voice in my head was telling me it was time, but there was one pivotal moment - the straw the broke the camel's back, so to speak - that drove me to action. I took the weekend to think about it. Despite everything, the decision to leave was hard. My work wives, the women who kept me going day after day, were going to be stuck there. I can't express how much I love those ladies and how they kept me sane.

I also took time to think about my students. They had been my saviors and we were pretty close, not in a creepy, unprofessional way, but in a future co-worker way. I often referred to my students as "my kids", and often felt like their parent. Only, my job was to turn scared students, who often didn't have anyone in their corner, into professionals. My reputation on campus was not one of a "friend", but of the task master. More than one student told me that they left my class after the first day in tears, because they realized they wouldn't be able to fake it and that they wouldn't be able to get away with shenanigans.

Frankly, being the only instructor on campus known as the task master also took its toll. It wouldn't have been nearly as hard on the students to come into my classes if the standards had been the same across the board. I wasn't mean, or hateful, but I also didn't accept excuses. I laid out the class rules and expected the students to abide by them, but the "kinder, gentler" style of classroom management became a burr under my saddle. If our job was to train professionals, then we needed to treat the students as professionals, with professional standards: be on time, do your work, accept responsibility, do not make excuses.

The students who were most terrified to stay in my classes often showed the most growth and we became close. I knew that leaving would be hard on all of us. In fact, one of my hardest cases accused me of abandoning her.

Once my decision to leave was made, I gave a lot of notice - twelve weeks - so that the dean would have time to hire a new instructor and associate dean. It also gave the students time to adjust, which I hoped would ease their feeling of abandonment.

The craziest thing happened when I turned in my notice: my migraines disappeared. I went from having a couple a month (outside of the hormonal ones), to just one in twelve weeks. The last migraine I had came toward then end of my tenure at the school, and I know it's because I was (and am) worried about what was going to happen to my department and my students. Not only did my migraines disappear, but I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I felt ... free, and light. A few days after I turned in my notice, I realized that I no longer required 9-10 hours of sleep a night. I had way more energy, slept only about 5 hours a night and woke up refreshed. I felt like a whole new person. I couldn't stop smiling.

I didn't know what I was going to do - I have always worked multiple jobs, but I've never given up my primary job - but even that wasn't enough to dampen my happiness. Things at work that normally would have set me off became minor annoyances (it's amazing what a IDGAF attitude will do for a person).

Maybe the best going away gift ever.
The fact that I do/did hold multiple jobs allowed me the freedom to leave without another job already in place.

I still don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up, and I'm still looking for a job that will be a good fit. I'm a loyal employee, and learn things quickly, so I'd love to find a company that I could give twenty years to. I had a 30+ year career in medicine (in one form or another, including fifteen years teaching); I've got another 20 easy. I do know that I want to move away from medicine, as it has evolved in a way I don't like, but I also know that it's a good fall back plan in case I can't find anything else.

This is totally a "chick flick" thing to say, but I do truly feel like I'm starting a whole new life.