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Two of my former co-workers notified me that our office instant message service has declared that it has been 100 days since I logged in. That means, I have not been to work in 100 days.

With my anthropology background, I find it interesting that the 100-day mark caught their attention and that they both contacted me about it. One friend suggested I look up the significance of 100 days; the other friend suggested I write a blog post to commemorate the event as a possibly therapeutic process. I’ll do both.

The passage of 100 days is significant to people around the world, but I did not find analysis of why it is significant. My guess: the number 100 is important mathematically and mathematicians were crunching numbers prior to the Babylonians and Egyptians. Mathematicians have likely been teaching the general population about the significance of the number 100 since before recorded history. Look around and it’s not 100 days that are significant, but 100 anything. 100 degrees Celsius is water’s boiling point, 100 kilometers above sea level is the end of Earth’s atmosphere, 100 years is a century, and the number 100 is an easy-to-remember emergency phone number in multiple countries, like 911 is used in the US.

Focusing only on the significance of 100 days, I see that my friends were dialed right in. I made a list of some of the ways in which 100 days are significant:

  • Buddhists have a prayer ceremony 100 days after a death, and this also may be a long-lost Catholic tradition.
  • Schools celebrate 100 days of learning.
  • 100 days following a bone marrow and stem cell transplant is a milestone.
  • Napoleon’s final military campaign in 1815 was called The 100 Days.
  • The 100-day moving average is a method of analyzing the health of a particular stock.
  • Chinese babies have a celebration when they are 100 days old.
  • American zoos wait 100 days when naming baby pandas.
  • Films called 100 Days include a 1991 Hindi murder mystery and a 2001 film about genocide in Rwanda.
  • There is a book called 100 Days in which a teenager has a rare disease and 100 days left to live.
  • People set goals of 100 days to bring awareness, to do art projects, to lose weight, to make money.
  • The first 100 days of an American Presidency is considered a landmark.

The question I ask myself today is “How are my first 100 days away from work significant to me?” Honestly, until my friends pointed it out, I wasn’t even paying attention to the timeline. So in that sense, not significant at all.

I miss my job. I love the job. I miss figuring out the puzzles every day. I miss both having a tight enough knowledge of the law that I can recall the regulations from memory, and I miss searching through the laws and court cases till I find exactly what I need. I love writing my decisions. I love finding new medical evidence and pointing it out to an overworked doctor, putting the pieces together for them, so all they have to do is recognize what I’m trying to do and either agree or disagree. I like volunteering for the totally confusing screwed up cases that have been ignored for two years because nobody can figure it out. I miss serving people.

I’m still mad at myself for failing at my job. I left for medical reasons that are not my fault, but I still feel like I failed. Because. I did.

Yes, people I used to work with still love me, and probably nobody blames me for forcing them to take over work I was supposed to do. The fact remains that I can’t do my job while other people can. Just because my decision was valid doesn’t make it comfortable. It sucks. It’s hard for me to tell myself “Well, I’m sick, I had to leave the job,” because that feels too much like blaming my problems on something else. Also it’s very hard for me to accept that I’m sick. I don’t want it to be true.

Either I’m sick and that prevented me from doing my job, or I’m not that sick and I simply failed. Both options bite.

I suspect that once I’ve found my new path/career/plan, I’ll be able to put my last job into the right context. In 2003 I left my job after 11 years as a weather forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to go to University for the first time. Once I embraced my role of student, I was glad I had left weather forecasting. In September, I left my job as a disability benefits decision-maker with the Department of Veteran Affairs after 11 years. Eleven years must be my auspicious number, rather than 100 days!

I have remained the same person during the past 100 days. I adore my same friends, I get excited over visits with Tara, I nerd out about all the same nerdy things, I still go for walks around my property, I can’t stand grocery shopping, I love my kitty, I whine about the cold, I drive into Portland to catch shows, I plan future travels. Without the job, I am the same woman.

So just maybe…maybe a word like “failure” is much too grand for my story, and the truth is merely that I used to work there, and now I don’t. After 100 days away from work, I’m marking that event by recognizing that who I am might inform how I do my job, but is not shaped by what that job is, or whether I even have one. I am grateful that my friends told me about this milestone and prompted me to think about it. It’s no great ceremony, but it does give me hope and confidence.

Things are bad here. Tough, tough, tough. I have been managing to hold it together most of the time, but this morning I flipped out in the kitchen while my girlie was in the living room. She didn’t witness it, but heard it.

The cornbread had nothing to do with it, but sort of matches the mood. Girlie wanted the last of the cornbread for breakfast, but since it’s been out on the counter for 2 days, it has gone bad, and she had to throw it away. She made the cornbread herself, from scratch. She’s SO awesome.

My man was making some kind of comment about how frustrated he is that the company he just interviewed for told him – in person – that he was a great candidate, but then since the interview has posted three more jobs. Apparently he wasn’t such a great employee option. He has tried to contact them to touch base, possibly offer himself for one of the additional positions, but they refuse to respond to him. This is the same company he worked for in Massachusetts. They just opened a Portland branch. He’s got seven years of history with them, and they STILL won’t hire him. Why? I am so confused. I could literally pull my hair out. WHY? Seven years of service, and he even asked around before he left Mass because there were rumors of a Portland branch opening, but it wasn’t going two years ago. Now it is going. Now they refuse to take him on. They refuse to speak to him. They refuse to give an honest reason why he won’t work for the company.

I still can’t sell the Massachusetts house. Property values have dropped so low there that I can’t pay off my loan. I bought it for $275,000 and put $50K down. You’d think 5 years later that I could get a few cents out of it. Nope. It’s now worth about $199,000. So, on my pitful salary, I am responsible for TWO mortgages, taxes for Mass and IRS, $85,000 in student loans, $10,000 in credit card debt, and all the little daily life expenses like utilities (on two homes). Not to mention it’s time for school and I can’t even afford to buy my girlie a pencil.

Her dad’s harrassing me because I haven’t gotten insurance for her yet…. but the cheapest federal plan I can take is $200 a month. That’s $2400 a year! We wouldn’t spend that much if we went in for every single cough. It doesn’t make any sense. He says it’s irresponsible not to insure her. It may be true, but it’s just not an option. HE can get her insurance. I can’t afford it. Or the glasses that she needs, or the braces that she needs.

All this stress makes me insanely needy for love and attention and reassurance, but the main person I want to get it from is just as freaked out as me, and really can’t offer much. He tends toward the depressive side anyway, so I spend a lot of effort trying to smile and cover it up so he can fight his own demons.

I have reached out into my world and found some love returned, and it healed my heart immensely. I guess it means I need to stop looking to my partner for the time being and reach elsewhere. I went down to Cali and breathed in the sea air and touched my bosom friend April. Most of all I got my head into a new space where each direction I turned did not remind me of my daily drudgery. I spend a serendipitous weekend with my old high school classmates who felt like HOME to me, like nothing else really can except home itself. Their love and tolerance and generosity and health just FLOWED around us in a protective pod, and I feel that pod still around me even while I’m gone. One of us created a facebook group website (Meadows Valley Class of 88) a couple days after, and it is a source of daily – daily! – love and positive reinforcement for me right now.

I’ve even welcomed in people in my day to day life, from work, from the bus, from a new shop on Stark in the Montavilla neighborhood where I live… and it’s been mostly positive. I’m gulping up peoples’ energy as fast as they can send it out. I told my girlie that, similar to No Face in Spirited Away, my character would be Mouth, and behave in the same way. I am almost ashamed at how much need I have, but as April is also discovering right now, people in general love to give. And both of us women/ mothers/ tribemates are so worthy of taking on the few occasions when we need to take. We merely find it difficult to give ourselves permission to take because we’re so out of the habit.

I did get blindsided with betrayal though, by one of the new ones I asked into my life, and in a sad way that is helpful too. I can’t get soft. I can’t let my walls down when there is so much at stake. I reached out to dozens of people, but only exposed my white underbelly to one other person – and that one took the opportunity to press in a dagger. There are a couple of people I can trust, and when I am hurting and so weak, it might be smarter not to try to bring more into my inner circle. True, true, I tell myself, out of the dozens of people, only one hurt me. In a couple of days I’ll be able to redirect and begin to heal from that too. My confidence in humanity is not shaken at all. And my devotion is still just as strong to those who are also hurting so much that they need to lash out and hurt others.

….but the most beautiful moment of all often comes from my baby girl.

I hugged her and apologized for my explosion earlier. “That’s ok, I didn’t really hear it,” she said. “I didn’t want you to worry, that’s all. I get so stressed out and sometimes I just have a tantrum,” I told her. “We will be ok. Everything will work out.”

She says, “You know what you can do, Mom. You can look around and see that you DO have a house, and you already paid your bills this morning. And everything is ok today. Right now, you’re just fine. It’s amusing that you guys have money but you say you don’t, and I always say, ‘but you probably have ten dollars in your wallet!’ You make it such a big deal, and it’s not that bad. And besides,” she looks at me with wisdom and a smile belying her mere eleven years, “We are not the only family who has moldy cornbread.”

Indeed. We are not the only ones.

Can anything more possibly go wrong?

uh, nevermind. I know the answer.

Hey Universe. Humor me and give us a freakin’ break already.

Comments from the old blog:

april

What’s going on? Seems to be a hard summer for many of us.  I’m sorry your family is suffering, too.

Big hugs and I love you…..April

 

crystal

Oh honey, nothing shocking. Just the usual – life is hard as well as wonderful. We at least have each other (though not all together), and we mostly have our health (but not Mark, and we have no insurance), and there is a roof over our heads (and we pray daily to the gods to keep our foundation from crumbling in till we can afford to fix it). One of us is employed, and right at the moment, most of our creditors are somewhat satisfied, and all the other people owed money aren’t necessarily asking for it this weekend.

…you know? Not that life is bad. I have a good life with a lot of love. And I’m so tired of struggling. And the sun is shining. And there are people at war. So I’m a big puss and I’m angry at myself for getting tired of my personal struggles. But… I’m still tired.

My sweetheart says that “when it rains it pours.”  Apparently, when one has been unemployed forever and then a job offer finally comes in…. everyone else in the Universe finally decides to give the girl a  chance and the job offers pour in.

Last week I had four requests for interviews! FOUR! In a week! And two came in last week. That’s crazy. I know it’s only because I already have a job. They are leftovers from all the applications I was dumping on this community last month.

I actually accepted two of them, and went to one interview Wednesday and one Thursday.

The interview Wednesday was for a promotion within the VA. Not a promotion based on my performance so far, of course, since I haven’t been there long enough. It’s just that I applied for this other position as well as the one I got hired for. If I can get hired on in a more advanced position, I’ll take it. I am the only one with a job at the moment, and I owe a million gazillion in mortgage, rent, student loans, and trying to eat on top of all that.

The Thursday interview is a chance to work a second job. It’s the Tryon Creek State Park inside Portland City limits. They need a part-time anthropologist to do a survey of residents’ habits and daily activities and land use practices, in order to get a sense of how they impact the watershed. I’m their girl!! Except that… I don’t know where I’ll have the time to squeeze it in. If they offer me the position, I’ll take it, and find a way to make it happen. If they don’t offer me the job, I’ll be relieved.

Work is exhausting for my head. Three straight weeks of training. Three straight weeks of not having a clue of what I’m doing. It does become stressful.

My lovely girl is in Eureka with her dad, visiting her “step-mom” and “step-sister.” I have really been missing her, because I felt like our visit last weekend was too short. I asked her dad if we can spend ALL of next weekend together, and he said it’s no problem as long as she hasn’t got other activities going on. I need to connect with her.

new haircut

Perhaps it’s apt that on the 50th anniversary of West Side Story blowing us all away, I should feel pretty…oh, so pretty.

True to their endlessly generous spirit, The Uncles decided to offer me a gift to help me feel great when I start my new job on Monday. They offered an outfit, but my sweetest sweetheart already bought me clothes. They offered shoes, but I have shoes. They offered a stop at a salon…

Ok, so I’m a big sissy.  I cried.

After I hung up, I cried. I have a job. It’s a job helping veterans. It’s smack in the middle of town at the federal building. It’s permanent, full-time, and I don’t even care what it pays. I have a job.

Comment from the old blog:

april

Oh my gosh. I’ve been away from zaadz for days and days. Yay! Congratulations! I know the relief you must feel. I’m certain this job has something of wonderful significance to teach you. When do you start?

Today the number 117 is my lucky number. As I was coming home after errands this morning, I glanced at my odometer for probably the first time in three weeks, and it said “117117”. Funny. What are the odds of a pattern showing up right at that moment? I decided it was because 117 is my lucky number today, and that is the Universe showing me. So I’ll be on the lookout…

growing puppies

Puppies have their eyes open now. Their fur is furrier, and they are peeping instead of mewing. I should be blessing the days when they don’t know how to yelp yet.

I’ve been taking my daughter to school early to meet her other Junior Girl Scout friends to help the kids find their way off the busses and into their new classrooms. It’s so fun to watch the girls play together. They are at an age where they want to express their individuality and their maturity.  … and then they run back to their parents for hugs… then run back to their friends. These kids are a delight to watch.

Junior Girl Scouts having a blast

The local Boy Scouts were also out there leading kids to their classrooms, and it was fun to see the different ways the boys handled it than the girls. It could merely be a result of the atmosphere of their group in general, and their group leaders. The girls would eagerly place themselves in the best location, stand politely at attention, and wait for an adult leader to call them over to help. The boys would walk right up the steps to the kids coming off the bus, take hold of their arms and pull them gently aside and ask “Do you need help finding your classroom?” Come to think of it, the Boy Scout parents stood out of the way, but the Girl Scout moms wanted to be the first on the buses, and the ones orchestrating the flow. I’ll bet that explains the kids different behaviors.

tram to the hospital

Then I had to give some of my blood to the VA. Yep, my doctor told me that I’m getting into middle age, and they want to have a record of my healthy blood to have something to compare to when I start getting sick. Yay. I love it when someone is able to just tell me I’m getting old.

*sigh.*

The Veteran’s Hospital is on top of a mountain in Portland. It’s a gorgeous location, and surrounded by park. Portland has the only public transportation system I’ve ever heard of that includes a tram. Yep – just like the bus or the metro – just buy a ticket and get on the aerial tram to take you to the top of the hill.

It was a good morning. Now I’m going to apply for jobs again – whee!! It’s actually cool that I haven’t been employed yet, because I have been able to do the Junior Girl Scout thing. It’s all good. The job that is just exactly what I need is out there. Maybe I should start checking businesses with 117 in their address.

Lots of love! (can you tell I got some sleep last night?!! ha ha!)

So I received a phone call that I definitely will not get the job I’ve interviewed for a couple of times. The job was to be the person who re-schedules visits to a health clinic in a community serving mostly disadvantaged clients. I was really really grateful for that call. Most people these days won’t let you know you’ve failed the process.

Typically, only e-submissions are allowed. The job announcements state: “Do not attempt to contact our office! Do not visit! Only electronic resumes are accepted!” …or some variation of that. So, you click “send” and your heart and soul gets converted into machine language and you generally get no confirmation of whether or not the company even received it. A little piece of you drifts off into the void…

In all the applications I’ve submitted since May, I’ve been called twice for an interview. The first one was scheduled the very same week I arrived in Portland – the first week of June. I had the interview and it went well. I was introduced to the whole office, given a tour, shown where my desk would be. My boss-to-be even looked up a reference of commuter-trips to find who would be coming from my direction, and promised to call him and see if we could carpool. I was told I was “reinstatable,” which in federal terms means as long as they think I can do the job, I can have it.

I walked out of there thinking I had the job. I told many people I did.

But I didn’t hear back from them for weeks. I had no start date. I called but couldn’t make contact. Finally, three weeks after the interview, and the day before I began a two-week vacation, I received a call from my boss-to-be. She said they had been doing fairly well filling the position amongst the present staff, so they decided not to fill it after all. This, in federal terms, means it’s the only legal way to not hire a reinstatable applicant. The person they were hoping to avoid could have been me; it could have been another federal person who also applied for the job; they aren’t allowed to say.

What that meant for me in practical terms is that during the first five weeks of summer, I was so certain I had a job that I wasn’t looking for another. Whoops!

Since then, I’ve applied a lot and received one additional request for an interview. They were so impressed they brought me back for a second interview. Talk about getting a girl’s hopes up.

Thing is, I didn’t really want the job. It was for very little pay…not that I need tons of money, but that I have a mortgage and a daughter, and heaps of school loans to pay off. I’d like to eat, too, ya know?!

Also, I’m just not that excited about the health care industry. I am SO SO glad there are so many wonderful giving people who want to care for others. Health care gives me the willies. Sick people totally creep me out. I’m sorry. I feel so guilty about it, but I just can’t help it. Sick people make me uneasy. Perhaps that’s why I fight so hard to ever admit that I get sick. Which I don’t, btw.

I was very excited at the possibility of working with that community though. The staff spoke 21 different languages and the clients spoke mainly Spanish and Russian. I couldn’t wait to begin working in a field of conflicts among those of different backgrounds.

And… I rationalized that even very little pay for doing a job that would most likely bore my pants off (and creep me out) was still a good investment. 1) Some money is better than no money, 2) I’m a freshly graduated college student – what can I expect, and 3) once this company sees what a good worker I am, perhaps they’ll consider me for a different job.

Funny how a person can get invested in a job she doesn’t want, and take it as a personal blow when she doesn’t get it. I was really disappointed. My partner pointed out that the lack of control is part of it, “You may not have wanted the job, but you wanted the option to make that choice,” he said.

Anyway, so I’m hitting the streets again. And a few days after the call, I am relieved! Whew! I didn’t want that job. I would prefer a government job, where I can continue to work toward a government retirement (I’ve got 15 years in already). And, even if I can’t make any more money at a federal job, I can at least work toward a decent retirement.

OK, so the Universe is still looking out for me.  It’s worth a smile.

dude

I am really coming to love Portland.

Yesterday was a great day. The clouds parted about the time we left the house, and it was warm and I was dressed perfectly. (It’s so hard to put together the right combination of layers so that one is neither too cold nor too warm all day long in Portland)

It’s a long drive in and we listened to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!, which I always get a kick out of. I asked my partner what the plans for the day were, and he said we were going to the bank. After that, he suggested we could check out the lower Hawthorne street faire and then maybe a bicycle revival.

“A what?”

Bicycle Revival. He said he didn’t know what it meant, but wanted to go anyway. I tried to imagine things it could mean, and laughed my ass off all the way across the bridge over the Willamette River. I laughed and laughed as we slipped between layers of highway overpasses (if you’ve ever seen how they criss-cross like macramé here, you’ll know what I mean). I missed most of Ron Paul doing Not My Job on the radio.

Rather than go directly to the bank, we walked from the other end of Hawthorne, so we could soak it up on the way. I’ve been needing work clothes (still having faith that I will, indeed, become employed one day), and my daughter needs school clothes, and so I was delighted with the racks and racks of funky things hanging on the sidewalks.

I stopped in one shop to have a “Free Reading,” in which I could only draw one card. I flipped quickly through the deck and shuffled as I went. The woman across from me said I needed to get my essence in there. The edge of a card called me and I plucked it out with my fingernails and told her my essence said “this one.” It was the Phoenix. I actually sighed with relief. ha ha. I know pretty much zero about Tarot, but of course I know the Phoenix. My partner and I have been SO miserable the last week while no one calls asking us for interviews, and the money we’ve been living on is very nearly used up. So anyway, the Universe believes I’ll rise again, and that’s good enough for me.

As we wrapped up the reading, my aunt came in and touched my shoulder from behind. My partner had spotted her on the street and had called her over. It was lovely to see her. I tipped my reader and went outside for hugs and kisses and pats for their gigantic Dalmatian-spotted Great Dane, Alice.

Then we spent 20 minutes going through gigantic piles of vintage clothing: each piece $1. We chose about ½ of it for me, and ½ for my daughter and spent a whopping nine bucks total.

We walked all the way to Mt. Tabor and came back. By the time we returned to the car, we were grateful to sit down in it, and crossed the river again, looking for anything that might make us think of a Bicycle Revival.

strength, poise, loveliness

On the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in front of the World Trade Center, we found it. It is the Tour de Fat we’ve been seeing advertised for so long. A twelve-city tour sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company aimed at getting people out of their cars and into bikes. What a crazy bunch of people Portlanders are! Though the entertainment was brilliant, the audience is half the show.

We first spotted the Sprockettes, local beloved “all female synchronized mini-bike dance troupe.” We saw their black stockinged, neon pink-booted feet sticking up into the air above spectators’ heads as they balanced on bikes. On the stage opposite, Circus Contraption was just beginning with one of the best circus shows I’ve seen in so long. They conjured music and laughs and had feats of strength and beautiful girls twirling on ropes high above.

After the circus, we got an update of how many miles people had pledged to ride bikes instead of cars, an update on the waste products we had generated: it ended at about 57 pounds of recyclables, 170 pounds of compost, and 28 pounds of trash. (All New Belgium’s cups, plates, forks and spoons were made out of corn and fully compostable) A woman actually handed over her car – passed the keys to the emcee, pulled the title out of her garter, and actually signed that puppy over to Tour de Fat in exchange for a gorgeous hand-built bike and trailer for her to use from now on instead of her car.

singing praises

And yes, it was a revival. The emcee was all in white and he bounced on his toes like a Southern Baptist preacher, and shouted “Can I get a Ride On?” and the audience would shout RIDE ON! And people were waving their hands in the air and shouting in response to his words. What a crack up.

the awesome March Fourth Marching Band

The show was wrapped up with the March Fourth Marching Band (and the March Fourth Dancers – nice!), which had about 16 musicians on stage all dressed in high school marching band gear and playing some kick-ass dance music. The audience was going wild, and it was obvious that they knew the songs, even though none of them had singing, just instruments. The revival choir in their long yellow robes and hands in the air brought the show to a close.

I find myself somewhat distracted from the stats board

By this time we were exhausted, and the wind was picking up. The sun had been replaced by some grey stratocumulus and the timing was perfect for revelers to end the day and go someplace drier

(though not so perfect for organizers who had to put it all away in the rain. Luckily, many volunteers stayed to do just that).

Once again, we soared above the water, back across the Hawthorne Bridge and to upper Hawthorne where we had dinner at a new Afghan restaurant which we had spotted earlier in the day. The food was tasty and I had a couple bites of baklava to top it all off. Finally home in the rain where it was getting chilly enough to have a very comfortable sleep.

Comment from the old blog:

april

Mmm…you make me crave the city!!! Since we bought a new-to-us car yesterday, coming to visit you will be much more likely in the coming months–when you’re ready for a visit that is. I imagine living with the uncles and being unemployed is not really conducive to hosting.  : )

I am so sure the perfect job is just around the corner for you. The timing just isn’t right yet.

BTW, I just learned from my new boss that I’m actually blessed not to have gotten the university library job (she was the Director for all of the branch libraries for the county so she interacted with the staff a lot). Turns out there’s a heap of political turmoil right now, the professional librarian staff is very snobby to the paraprofessional staff, and it’s all around not a pleasant working environment.  I really don’t want to give up the wonderful and healthy environment I’m in now just for more responsibility, etc. I’d rather be bored with people I adore than busy and unhappy. Also, it turns out that if I stay with the Agency, the new ED is willing to look at how to adjust my position to make me more happy. She just wants to take a few months to watch and learn before doing any major overhauls. So if I’m patient, I may get a lot more of what I want right where I am.

I have to say that I love getting a glimpse into your life on a fairly regular basis through zaadz. : )

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