The Project Debrief – Attack of the Killer Couch

Maybe it’s not symbolic of the whole year in general, but it sure is special when Eva decides to crawl under the fold-out couch and then climb up inside the mechanism and shoot her paw out between the couch cushions to slash at your feet and wake you up just 4 hours into your recovery from a 14-hour shift. All your brain can think is “Why is the couch trying to kill me?!?!” screamed at full mental volume. And then you see the little white-tipped paw retreat back beneath the cushions and realize that it’s just someone cute being a dick to you because they find it amusing.

It’s probably because I took her frog off her. It was a real frog, hiding among my potted plants, and it was squealing with that horrid noise that distressed frogs use. It appeared unharmed, if only because she was so put off by the sound that she was just standing back, sniffing and occasionally tentatively batting at it. So I put a pot over it, and distracted all of the cats with treats while I let the frog get away. This apparently meant that Eva was going to spend the next few hours primed with the caffeine high of hunting energy… and that she was going to get more creative with her stalking technique.

Or perhaps this is symbolic of the year in general. We started the year fairly settled and looking for a pretty section to buy. We’d put in a lot of work trying to find a place over the previous year, and we juggled a few squirming cats and distressed frogs, but we were generally optimistic about our future here. And then we found a place and (despite some issues trying to sort out the finances) we bought it. Sorted.

But perhaps the financial issues at the start were just a sign of things to come. Everything seemed fairly settled and the tasks were moving ahead well when the proverbial couch decided to try and kill us. Surprise! You don’t have a mortgage anymore!… Surprise! It turns out that you never did!

That was tough. And the fact that this sweeping change piled on top of the recent revelation that my job no longer had the potential for future growth… well it was like falling down a deep well. Trapped. No way out. Wondering how the heck you ended up here.

And I have ended the year still trying to climb out of that well. Less optimistic than when we started, but persisting forward because there are no other options. There are still a lot of things that need to be sorted out for the house. I’ve had a couple of encouraging sniffs at new jobs, but no concrete offers at this stage. Still, we are trying to climb.

In between those 14-hour shifts…



The Project Debrief -an introduction

It’s inevitable as you reach the end of another year that you start to look back and reflect. Where did you start this year? Where are you ending it? What has worked? What hasn’t? I guess it’s the Project Debrief Meeting of 2016.

When events have been anything other than smooth and predictable, I tend to spend my last 30 minutes at work (late at night, while the dance music rages or while some poor 16-year-old mops the floor badly) in my office with a hot drink, writing an email. In the email, I will catalog how things have progressed: why decisions got made, what has changed from the original plan, and what was missing from the original plan. Sometimes I just send that email to myself. It’s not meant as a moan session about how other people haven’t done their job – it’s just a record of that particular event while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a learning tool. And I have to do it on the day, because by the next morning I will walk into another event having forgotten 90% of what went on at the last one. After years of doing events, my brain automatically switches to the next priority task rather than dwelling on the past.

It’s a huge problem when someone calls up three weeks later looking for lost property. “The wedding of Frances and Frank?… Um, sure, let me look…” Rummages through her memory. Which wedding was that again? The pink one? The blue one? The lilac one?… Oh, the one where they made the florist cry! The one where they kicked a hole in the wall… Oh fuck those people. “No, sorry honey, I saw your 2-year-old tearing up your $2 paper pompoms.”…

So this is what I’m doing now: writing my notes in the closing hours while the event is still in swing. Listening to the 16-year-old mop the floor while I drink coffee and try to put my addled thoughts in order.

I will keep you posted.

Catching a Break

Well, I promised myself that I’d get pictures of the pohutukawa starting to bloom, and all signs are that they will not disappoint us this Christmas. Here’s that early flush of red that I was writing about last week.

Naturally, my single day off (before the brief Christmas break) was spent in the garden. There were vegetable seedlings that were well overdue for transplanting, and yet more weeding to do. Moving the plants now will mean that we should have some decent rocket, lettuce and kale for salads later this week. Husband and I even got some time to sit on the deck with a drink and enjoy the sunshine.

A quick check on the new section proved that it’s ticking along happily now that we’ve had a bit of rain, and it even offered up a few strawberries and boysenberries. Something (possibly a rabbit?) has dug up and tried eating my tulip bulbs, but they obviously didn’t prove too palatable and I got all but one of them replanted again.

And lastly, I have another job interview on Friday… So not a bad day overall…



Back to this long crawl of major events. Back to back-to-back-to-back 13-hour days and high-strung clients. Back to a fatigue so deep you can feel your bones ache.

A vacation would be nice. Sipping cocktails in the summer sun. Going for a swim. Sleeping… oh sleep,how I miss you.

I suppose this is the way of most struggling, working, middle-class people everywhere. You work very hard and dream about the day (that far off day) when you’ll have enough money saved up that you can take a break and have a short trip to somewhere warm. That can take several years to achieve. And then after a week of that, it’s back to interminable work and daydreaming.

One day there will be a holiday… One day.



Ties that Bind

So the interview wasn’t all that awesome. Sometimes, you can just tell.

I’m trying to stay upbeat, but I also have three big events over the next three days and I’m frankly a bit bummed. I wish there was a way out, or at least a way to get some time off. I have 200 hours of leave owing to me, and a full summer calendar ahead.

One of the things that is playing most on my mind is that I only have a limited window in which to find a new position. If our house building proceeds on schedule, we will need to draw down our new mortgage in late April. In order to be approved for that (it’s part of their conditions) both my husband and I will need to be outside of any 90-day trial period in our jobs. So if I’m starting a new job, I must start it by late January. I also have a 4-week notice period at my current job.

In other words, if I can’t find a new job in the next two weeks, I may as well give up and hang on until after April.

I don’t want to hang on until April. I’m sick and tired of going to work sick and tired. But sometimes there is no choice.




I knew it was coming, but it’s still wonderful to see the first flush of red on the drive up to the section. The pohutukawa trees are starting to bloom. It’s not enough to photograph yet, but in another week it will be a brilliant Christmas display all along the winding country roads. There are some benefits to spending summer in Auckland after all.

My husband has actually been doing the lion’s share of the outdoor work this week – mowing the long grass at the section, which has taken several days. I joined him for a bit so that we could move the water tank and get it ready to fill with water, but this proved to be a much more difficult task than anticipated. Although the giant plastic tank is light enough that it could be pushed off the delivery truck by just myself and the truck driver, it has settled into the ground in the intervening months, and stubbornly refused to budge. In the end, moving it required the gentle assistance of my car. We got it done though.

Once again, I’m spending my quiet hours working on my application for that job – or rather studying the position description so that I can cover all of the major points in the interview. I so want to get this role, it may be a disappointing Christmas if it doesn’t come about.

I’ll keep you posted. Of course.


Silver Lining

The bad news is that Tuesday turned out to be far too hot to spend much time in the garden, so I just napped instead. Is that bad news? I’m actually not so sure.

The good news is that I have an interview for the job I spent extra time and effort applying for last week! Yaaaayyyyy!!! *flailing Kermit arms*



It’s not a new job yet, but an interview is a really good start. I absolutely hate applying for jobs, so the less applications I have to do, the better.

To celebrate, my husband and I decided to make use of the good weather in a positive way and go down to the beach to eat fish and chips and drink cider and watch the sunset. This sounds lovely (and looked lovely, above) if not for the howling southwesterly that made us both freeze and made the chips go cold. However a neighborhood cat choose to join us and loll around cutely to see if she could steal a chip or two, and she didn’t seem to mind that they were cold, so there’s that. Obviously cats can tell that we’re cat people.


The Long March

It’s been a slow climb into the last event of this looong week. On top of everything, I’ve been feeling sick as a dog – feverish, nauseous, achy. It’s all just reinforcing my desire to find a new job with more reasonable hours and some flexibility to take time off when sick.

However, I did find time to repot my seedlings (so that I have a few more days to get the beds prepared for them). My husband thinks I’m crazy – working outside on the garden in the middle of the night, in a freezing rainstorm, while running a fever. But the work needed doing and summer waits for no one.

My last event this week is a doozy – a big wedding with a demanding and unreasonable young bride. I’m a firm believer that the whole wedding industry (eg. Pinterest, bridal magazines, “It’s all about you!”) has a lot to answer for. You do your best to offer professional advice to people who have never organized an event before in their lives, but if they choose not to listen to you then it’s hard to convince them that they won’t get the result they want from the path they’ve chosen. And of course, that will be your fault.



The Cobwebs Say Everything

It’s still raining on and off, but it’s moved into that muggy, hot, tropical rain that doesn’t actually seem to cool anything down. The difference between November and December couldn’t be more striking- it’s like we moved from winter to summer in a week.

One of my biggest frustrations now is that this has made everything grow like mad. To the point where lots of things are out-growing their allocated space. And I need to fix that. I need to plant out my seedlings, and prune back a bunch of trees and shrubs, and repot tons of things. When I get time… I’m working 6 days this week, and every shift is around 12 hours…

By the time I get back to my gardening (Tuesday? If I’m not asleep and if it’s not cripplingly hot?) I’m a bit worried that some things will be beyond help. It also doesn’t help that I have blithely spent winter giving myself two gardens to take care of.

This wasn’t the intention. If the mortgage had held together, we would have had our new house by now and already moved to the new section. Everything would be in one garden. But instead I have scattered myself and my responsibilities across the landscape.

And summer marches on.

But Not Today

Following on from yesterday… that day is not today.

If I’d had just 2 more hours of sleep, then I’d be okay. But instead it was a late night at work followed by an early morning (conferences!). There’s not much else I can say. My brain is at a standstill. The clients are happy but my body is literally shaking with fatigue.

Once again, I will come back to this…