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.

Surprise!

When your shifts are so long that it feels like you live at work, you come home to some strange surprises sometimes.

Like the whole ham on the bone that is currently in our refrigerator. I’m guessing that this is some kind of Christmas gift from my husband’s workplace, which is nice and extraordinarily generous. He was sound asleep when I got home, and will be back at work before I get up in the morning, so I can’t ask him. I like ham, but we are also just two adults and a small selection of cats, so being confronted with 20 lbs of salted meat is somewhat more than we can handle. I’m thinking that we might donate it to a charity that could actually make use of it.

The other fun surprise was a letter from the Inland Revenue Department saying that (since I haven’t filed my tax return) they’ve decided that I owe them $3329.89. I haven’t filed a tax return because when you work for a salary in New Zealand you don’t need to file a tax return. I didn’t file a return last year either, but I did file one the year before because I was self-employed. Exactly how the IRD have determined that I owe them $3329.89 is unclear… Well, actually no, it’s perfectly clear because it’s happened before. They decide that since I used to be self-employed, I must still be self-employed, and then they invent some imaginary income for me and tax me on it. And then I have a bunch of 1-hour phone calls ahead of me where I have to explain to bored clerical staff that I didn’t actually earn any of this imaginary income and I don’t owe them anything. And then they fine me for not filing a tax return anyway. Just because.

Perhaps the most galling part of this is that when I log into their website it almost always says that my income tax is in credit, since they owe me a refund from 2004 but refuse to pay it to me because it’s more than 10 years old and they reckon they sent me a letter in 2004. They apparently sent the letter to a house I hadn’t lived in since 2002, but that’s by the by. I still don’t understand the logic of how you can’t get money that the tax department owe you because it’s “too old” and yet the tax department can arbitrarily decide that you owe them money based on no evidence at all.

But all of this will have to wait until Monday or Tuesday before I can deal with it, because I have events on and work always takes priority. Hopefully tomorrow brings no more surprises.

Daydreaming

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.

 

 

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*

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via GIPHY

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.

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Rebound

So I’m a little late posting this. After six very long days at work (the last three of them fighting a horrible gastro-bug) I came home last night and just collapsed. I slept for roughly 12 hours, minus the bit at around 4:30am when the kitties decided to dance on my face because they were bored. I really needed that sleep though – I have woken up feeling much better and actually hungry for the first time in a couple of days.

The bouts of rain over the last few days have also left my garden with the explosion of growth (and explosion of weeds) I’ve already described. Just a couple weeks after I weeded all of the large beds, it’s in need of another attack. So of course, today, the sun is shining and it’s once again oppressively hot.

I think I’ll start with the shade garden around the back.

The new growth has heartened me though. Especially when I saw the hydrangea in the photograph above. This is my favorite hydrangea – Sabrina. It’s also the result of what happens when my husband gets a little overzealous with the line trimmer. But it’s clearly bouncing back… Provided that he doesn’t go mad with mowing again.

Perhaps I’ll have to find another way to keep him occupied…

 

Snail Holocaust 2

When I got home from work (in the middle of the damn night) it was surprisingly crunchy underfoot. As I walked from the driveway I set off the security light, and it revealed the reason for the new sound effects.

The rain has awakened the snails. Hundreds of snails migrating from one part of the garden to another. Doing their devious work. Munching my mizuna. Destroying my dahlias. Liquidating the lily of the valley.

Ladies and gentlemen… a tapdance.

 

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…