Sympathy, Empathy and The Road Less Traveled

Apologies in advance for this not-much-of-an-update update. It has been quite the month!

Job hunting is not my favorite thing to do. It has been during this process that I realized – although this sounds sort of obnoxious – I’ve never really had to look for a job before. I mean, I’ve applied for jobs, but it was always for people who were looking for exactly my skill set and experience. They were looking for me. It’s not hard to find a job when someone is looking for you specifically.

Food science is a niche-y field, and I work in a somehow-even-tinier niche within that field. Suffice it to say: there aren’t many jobs to be had. On the other hand: there aren’t many people who do what I do either. This isn’t a terrible situation to be in, really, but it does mean that you need to be willing to move to wherever in the country has an opening.

So there’s that. We were super choosy about where we took this current job because it fit a criss-crossing criteria of being near family while not being in such a big city that we lose half our non-working hours merely getting from place to place. But we didn’t want to be in a little city either.

Basically we’re fussy prima donna millennials that want the world on a platter and don’t want to make sacrifices. K?

Anyhow, I’ve been riding the job hunt roller coaster – feeling alternately completely depressed about myself and just-OK about myself. I have appreciated the kind words of ‘this is meant to be’ and things about doors and windows closing/opening and “you’re awesome, you’ll find something”s, but pouring your heart out in cover letter and emails to get absolutely no response time and time again will seriously mess with your head. Also to go in for a job – as I am – with a colleague and have it be only her who gets all the callbacks? You can really only take so much of it.

As with most crappy life situations, it’s easy to spot who has been in this position before, because they don’t slather on sunshine and hope and positivity. They sit next to you and tell you how much it sucks, but that you do eventually come out the other side and then ask you out to lunch so you can give your brain a rest from all the mind games and doom. And I should say: I really do dislike all the “Things you should/not say to a person going through _____” articles that get reposted on Facebook, because I believe that people are earnestly doing their best and that some manner of reaching out is better than none at all because it means that they’re trying. That said – when you’re down, the line between ‘sympathy’ and ’empathy’ is super obvious. Sympathy does have an ‘up here-ness’ to it and empathy has a ‘down here’ quality about it. It feels almost identical to the giver and worlds apart to the receiver.

It’s been a month and three days since I had my appointment with HR. I have rewritten my resume at least a dozen times, applied for positions and flexed my network. Things are starting to come back, and I’ve got three paths that are starting to come into view. I won’t go into specifics here, but these three new jobs are very different.

Job #1 is basically exactly the same job I’m doing now at a really great family-owned company that people love working for and who has been super nice to me, but would require us to move. Probably a little less pay but in the ballpark of what I’m making now.

Job #2 is a stereotypical huge career opportunity, with several people reporting to me and a lovely title but also requires up to 50% travel and likely short term as I’d either have to move or leave the position in a couple of years. I have a sponsor/mentor who has been pulling all kinds of crazy strings to get me a chance at this one.

Job #3 is a management job at a small company owned by smart people. Their product is renowned, and their industry growing like crazy. The pay will be less and the commute would be long (like 45 minutes each way). It’s a production job, but it’s still in the food industry and has to do with sensory. My first interview was with the president of the company. They bring dogs to the office. (Don’t tell Hugo, because nope.) This job would be my exodus from corporate. This excites me more than I can say, but I also wonder if it’s not just because I’ve been burned so recently and in a few years would wish to have it back.

So that’s me. That’s life this past month. In another month, I should have a decent idea what my next job will be. Stay tuned!

 

Too Much Noise

I’ve heard from a few people lately, curious why I haven’t been posting. On here, on Facebook, on the family photo stream.

I don’t have an answer, except to say that I recognize that I’m withdrawing. Almost like I’m protecting myself. From what, I can’t quite articulate, except to say that there is too much input for my head right now. More incoming information than I can fully process.

  • Family vacations
  • New babies
  • Celebrity news
  • International terrors

And there are so, so, so many opinions on everything: victories/defeats of social movements, how we should be parenting our kids – or not, decluttering, redecorating, saving, spending, the good old days.

If that’s not enough, everyone – including myself – has apps on their phones and devices that allow them to not only weigh in on today’s happenings but also experience the nostalgia of what transpired on this particular day 1, 2, 3 or even 5 years ago.

I have so much noise going on in my life right now without ever opening an app, turning on the TV or flipping on the radio, that I’ve found myself almost repelled by the thought of introducing more.

Michael Ginsberg, Mad Men. His nipples are unforgettable.

Headphones

*~*~*~

This merger that closed with my company a few weeks ago? It’s huge. Like… we all said it would mean big things, and I think we all underestimated what that really meant. I’m preparing myself for the possibility that I may not have a job here in a few weeks. Or… I might. I might still be reporting in through R&D… or I could be a part of the marketing function. My job could still be in Madison… or I might report in through a central office in the Chicago area. These are all very real possibilities that swirl in the air.

What work looks like post-merger is like a huge puzzle, and they’re laying down one piece at a time through a series of emails. A lot of times, just like a puzzle, the announcements are filling in details for big pieces we already knew existed. But every so often, new pieces are laid down that reveal a new element that you had no idea was going to be a part of the picture.

That’s all I really feel comfortable saying.

*~*~*~

Meanwhile, in light of all of this, I’ve been quieting my head by focusing on family and enjoying our perfect Wisconsin summer.

Sunset

Butterfly

Flowers

Graham picked me some flowers at school.

Papercrafting

I’ve been having so much fun with my new hobby. Paper had better run and hide, because nothing is safe!!

Popsicles

Our evenings are often spent playing out back. The kids have been having a blast with the neighbor kids. We and the two houses next to us all have kids around the same age. The kids have been spending a lot of time running around in a giant pack between the three backyards. Lesson learned, if I want to offer the kids a popsicle, I’d better have at least six to hand out.

Veggies

We joined a CSA this summer. You may have never heard of one, but they are a part of mainstream vocabulary around here. What it means for us is that we bring home a big box of fresh vegetables every week and have to figure out how to cook, eat or preserve them before we pick up next week’s box. It’s a lot of veggies, and we have learned how to cook with bok choy, turnips, kohlrabi, fennel, and many other new things. I have had so much fun (and have eaten so much salad) with this challenge. And the kids have cemented their love and hate for many new things. :)

Spelunking

Trains

Rainbow

Sunflowers

If you don’t hear from me right now, don’t worry. It probably just means I’m playing trains in the basement or pulling weeds in the garden… watching kids play or sitting with Andy in the cool breeze watching the sun set over the fields.

And my phone’s back in the house somewhere. If you call it to catch up, I promise I’ll answer.

Run-On Sentence

Sometimes this site can really get ahead of me. Or… behind me, is more accurate. I guess.

We’ve been muddling through the winter months, as we do. Ask any Wisconsinite about this winter and the answer will generally be the same. A theme of: “It really hasn’t been that bad. Ready for it to be over though.”

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Funny because we’ve had constant snowcover on the ground since January (not November, please note) and the mailbox is looking a little nervous about the encroaching snow bank at the end of the drive. (He’s about shoulder-deep at this point.) But, you know, not bad.

We had a lovely Christmas season. Pointedly NOT a white Christmas, however. I managed to feel slighted. We more than made up for it with a season surrounded by family. My mom (poor sick dad couldn’t come!) came up the weekend before Christmas, Andy’s family all came in for Christmas itself and Mark, Marilyn and Eric made the trip down from Wausau the weekend following.  Just perfect. I swear my heaven might be standing in my kitchen churning out food for people. And so nice to have adults in the house for a change – people who don’t flail about on the floor and act like they’re gagging on poison when I serve something other than chicken nuggets and pizza.

January was basically a giant game of “Which cold do you have and have I had that one already?” We all lost horribly. Multiple times. On two occasions, Reid got taken to the doctor when I thought a fever on Day 10 of the cold signaled some other looming infection… only to be told that it was just another virus starting probably. One time that was coupled with breathing issues, but we were told that “we’ll tolerate a little labored breathing, but watch him.” Like… it’s okay if he only chokes a little.

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I happened to interpret “watch him” as “obsessively and continuously count his breaths per minute while he sleeps to ascertain if he is in respiratory distress”. So, asthma is fun. In fact, I’m finishing up my own ‘prednisone burst’ as we speak for a little bronchitis that I swore was fine until Andy was like, “YOU SOUND TERRIBLE, TAKE THE MEDICINE.”

February started like no February should. We lost my Great Uncle Mark unexpectedly, and everyone was completely rocked.

Mark and Marilyn live a couple hours north of here and have been such blessings in our lives. Graham and Reid know them like they know their grandparents or their aunts and uncles. My mind is busy listing this enormous list of things that Mark and Marilyn have done for us… just even since we’ve gotten to Wisconsin, though the list certainly doesn’t start there. Visits to our home, trips for family events, subscriptions to kids magazines, care packages, Christmas presents, recommendation to a local CSA. You name it. Mark was my grandpa’s little brother. I could hear a little of him in Mark’s laugh. None of us were ready for him to go. He certainly will be missed in our little family.

Mark’s death set me off on a little journey of which I’ll share just a bit. Listening to stories about Mark – who was a social worker in the health field, retired from an inpatient care and hospice center in Wausau – were inspiring. Those who knew him spoke of his presence. He cared deeply for others and made constant efforts to reach out and comfort or otherwise support those around him. His funeral was on a weekday and the church pews were filled.

I’ve told Andy before, but I want to be that blessing for others. I may be very much engrossed in the business of mothering and providing for my little family now, but as my boys become more self-sufficient, I want to pay attention with how we’re filling our days.

In fact, I was so moved that I reached out to our local hospice organization to start the lengthy process of becoming a hospice volunteer. That lengthy process is going to be a little lengthier than usual, because I immediately disqualified myself by having a family member who has died recently. They’re giving me a year to air out, but come this time next year once they’re feeling better about my mental state 😉 I’ll be beginning the process again. The disqualification is fair. It was Mark’s death that led me to them. Just not in the way that they think.

Deep thoughts from deep within the snowbanks of Wisconsin. We dream of summer now… and camping. Swim lessons for G. Perhaps getting Reid to sit through a meal without shoving his plate away from him and demanding, “No, COOKIES.”

Because 2-year-olds.

But mostly we’re just… getting along. Which is mostly why I’m not writing. There are days that go by when the TV never turns on. We talk and play and sing songs and tell stories. We race remote control cars around the house and think up our next projects. When we get stir crazy we go out and play in the snow. When that gets too cold, we come in and drink cocoa. When all’s said and done? It’s not a bad way to live.

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You Are Not Annoying on Facebook… and other things I wish I could tell you

Hi there, friend. Or family member. Or person that I used to know once upon a time and have nostalgic memories with.

I miss talking with you, and I wonder what you’re up to. I mean, I think it’s interesting that you are the color “orange” and that you should be living in Utah, based on a quiz. I giggle at Buzzfeed, roll my eyes at HuffPost and gobble up whatever you share from NPR. (Oh look, Nordstrom is showing me a million pictures of the shoes I once Googled… creepy…)

But those pictures of your kids that you now think twice about posting because you don’t want to be one of “those people.” I plead to you:

BE one of those people. That’s why I’m here. I want to see pictures of your garden and hear what you made for dinner. No, I’m not being sarcastic. I love it when my Facebook feed fills up with pictures of car dash thermometers when it’s freaking cold outside and posts about the Chicago Bears winning.

No, again, not being sarcastic. Or ironic. Or thinking too hard about this.

It’s Facebook. Why are we all thinking so hard about this? Are we all so afraid of faceless judgement that we now can’t post what we’re up to?

Even the political posts (which, please… who has *ever* reconsidered their political leanings because of an interesting article they read on the internet?…) post them. I actually really wish you would tell me in your own words what you thought was interesting instead of just sharing, but whatever you have time for friend – do it.

I miss you. In fact, I wish you blogged. Even just a little bit. Even just a couple of sentences every few days. You don’t even have to post pictures because I may have more sympathy than many for the additional time that takes. Just jot a couple of sentences about how your day was. What are you struggling with right now? Why, exactly, are you doing the happy dance today?

Don’t overthink it. Just tell me what you think is interesting right this very minute. (I need to take that advice myself, don’t I?)

Maybe it’s because I’m fairly adept at filtering what I know I can’t handle. I hid a lot of people from my Newsfeed after each miscarriage. Babies and pregnancies were too painful to see. If I know an article is going to be upsetting, I don’t let curiosity get the better of me. If someone has been standing a really long time on their soapbox, we take a break from one another. I always come back though. So I guess I wish folks wouldn’t do the filtering for me. (*cough* Facebook-the-company, do you hear me?? *cough*) I can do that for myself.

So, how about it guys. Deal?

Thankful

I’m sitting in a dark bedroom at the end of a long weekend at home with my family. The only sound in here is the hum of a ceiling fan and the steady rhythm of Reid’s breathing in the pack ‘n play at the foot of the bed. 

And I can’t help but feel grateful. For everything.

This time a month ago, life looked very different for us. We lived in Texas, owned a different house, worked different jobs, and the kids went to different schools. Now, day-to-day life looks very different for our little family. Still, though – my guys are with me, and joy is abundant.

We traveled home to central Illinois to stay with my mom and dad this weekend. My brothers and their families traveled in for Thanksgiving dinner. I chased, squeezed and tickled a *lot* of nephews this weekend. McKenna and I waved, smiled and batted our eyelashes at one another. (Because, girls.)

Reid has a cold, but it didn’t stop him from celebrating the heck out of his 1st birthday (4 days early) today. Erin made the most professional-looking cake for the party – shaped like the number “1”. Like seriously, this cake could have been ordered. And it is easily the best cake I’ve eaten in years.

We took so many pictures, which I’ll post in the next entry, after we get back to the apartment. 

But I come back to the sounds of this little boy’s breathing in the dark, here with me. 

We did it. We made it. One year together as a family of four. Andy and I, keeping two little boys alive all by ourselves. Sickness and health. Joy and pain. At home and on the road. 

In this year, we made some realizations about how we want to live our lives for the long term. We set a plan in motion to get back more time with family, and so far so good. I can feel it coming together – huge parts of it already have. 

Less time in the car. More time with the boys. Slower pace. Focus on family. We’re getting there, and I am so, so thankful for that.