Hindrances and Hangups

On this last, dismal and drizzly day of February, I attempted to continue to edit the Microsoft notes.

Alas, it was not to be for a long time.  First, I slept poorly.  Didn’t get up early to work out.  Couldn’t get Ruby to go to the store with me before school, an errand I couldn’t put off another day.  Dropped her off at school, rushed to the bank where I took out $400 instead of $40.  Got a little happy with the 0s.  I punched the Cancel button frantically, to no avail.  Yikes!  The machine spit out a wad of 20-dollar bills.  Made the rounds at the grocery store, then somehow awkwardly used self-checkout, thinking it would be faster.  And it would have been, except the bleepity plastic bags kept sticking together and the machine jammed giving me my change.  Quickly loaded my car in the downpour, then deposited the remaining $360 back to the checking account.

Note to self:  No accounting activities or withdrawing money when barely awake.  Driving’s okay, though.

Came home to ingest another cup of coffee to prop myself up.  Considered cleaning the bathroom and put it off for at least a few more hours.  Somehow, in Ruby’s latest foray into outdoor forts, she managed to bring in a lot of said outdoors.  The tub looks like low tide, a ring of dirt rimming the edges of the white porcelain.  All that’s missing are the broken shells. Yuck.

I got cleaned up for a shelter meeting with the city.  I got there a little early, before 10:30, when the meeting was supposed to start.  Others gathered, and we waited an extra half hour for the main participants to show up.  Seriously?!  Yes, it’s raining.  It’s raining all the time here.  This is no storm.  I left at noon with an abashed smile and quiet apologies (a self-imposed deadline) and finally, finally got back to my notes.

In the past, I would have been really frustrated by now, vexed and fuming at how little time I’ve been able to dedicate to the enormous task of getting the notes ready for my boss to view.  My deadline is Saturday morning.  My PAC host emailed me yesterday and asked for the raw notes.  Gulp.  How raw do you want ’em, buddy?  And what does sldkhfsldkhfISDE mean, anyway?  Your guess is as good as mine.  My supervisor sent him my notes, with the understanding that they are in draft form only.  Kinda felt like I was caught standing outside with just foundation garments on, but oh well.

I know God has even the smallest details of my life in His hands.  At the end of the (very long) day, I am finite.  I will do my best and stay on task and trust Him to take care of the rest.

I am 2/3 of the way done with the first edits. Miles to go before I sleep.  Unless I’m sleeping now…

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Aftermath

The spring PAC, held in winter, is over.  I am officially done taking notes.  Ninety-seven pages of the partners’ real thoughts and Microsoft’s best attempts at directing them are held within those pages.

So very tired.  I managed to make it to kettlebells this morning to get the juices flowing again but it was brutal.  My shoulders are a bit tight and my neck feels like it’s molded of one muscle.

I am starting to know the guys on sight and by name.  They tend to sit together, the Netherlands, German and U.K. on one side, Brazil and everyone else scattered around the room.  Makes it feel a little like a mini United Nations.  Had two new women this time who were very nice.  Generally, the women at these things look down on me.  Or maybe they’re just not happy people.  Not this time. One of the new gals introduced herself to me and commented on how fast I typed.  Very kind.

In fact, the whole group was a lot of fun.  Some hilarious things happened.  During one of the breaks, the guy from Germany said to me, “You never talk.  We never hear your voice.”

Uh…yeah.  that’s the point.  “I’m supposed to be invisible,” I replied.  Like I have *any* real feedback to add.  I’m still trying to figure out if CRM is the same as Serum.  It’s all in the mouth of the speaker.  It sounds different when the Brazilian guy says it from when the gal from China says it.

My PAC host is a great guy. He’s funny and is able to keep the group from imploding on the hot topics.  He speaks well of me and treats me like I’m part of the group, within reason.  This time we scored a huge room.  I told him it was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  He laughed.  Last time our room was like a shoe box.  This time, you could have a breakdancing party in it.    He had the Hyatt folks remove two tables.

We had a new member from Australia this time.  In fact, about half the participants were different.  Same companies, new faces.  The Australian guy talked a lot and had several axes to grind, legitimate beefs, actually, with Microsoft.  He got a reputation as a rabble-rouser within the group.

When called on his garrulous nature, he said to his critic, also a big talker:  “Well, we have an expression in English about a pot and a kettle.”  Oh snap!

The food, as usual, was phenomenal.  Two types of main dishes each day for lunch, plus a couple of kinds of vegetables and a casserole, luscious desserts and all the coffee, tea and soda you can suck down.  And this time, I didn’t mistake a partner for a notetaker.  Whew!

Lastly, after the group was dismissed, the Dutch partner came over to my table.  Keep in mind I don’t talk to any of them unless I have a question about what they said.  This time, during a break I tried to get the soft-spoken guy from the U.K. to speak up a bit.  So much for that.

“For the person who has been working very hard, and I can’t take it on the plane”, he said and handed me a bottle of Columbia Riesling.

I was stunned.  I shook his hand and thanked him.  I didn’t expect anything.  It was nice to be remembered.  Never mind that I don’t drink.  It’s the thought that counts.

Now the real work begins.

P.S.  Forgot to mention that my computer locked up. Twice. Figured out, with the help of my boss, that it was overheating due to the tablecloth. Sigh.

Math As Life

Ruby’s sitting next to me doing her math homework.  Homework!  In first grade!  She gets a packet every Tuesday afternoon she needs to complete and return by the following Monday.  Anyway, now that *that’s* behind us, she’s doing math.

“Mom, can you help me with this?” she asked.

I”m pretty sure it’s still within my skill set, so I say sure.

It’s adding numbers.  You remember those worksheets.  You have blocks of tens in one orderly stack and a set of random blocks, representing the ones, in another line.  She does the first problem and then shows me.  Six groups of ten plus 8 ones = 68.  Right!

I congratulated her.

“But what if there are tricky ones?” she wonders, with a little trepidation.  Fear of the unknown exists even in arithmetic – or perhaps especially in that universe.

Good question.  I glance over the page.  There are no tricky ones.  If you follow the formula of counting the blocks – eventually moving into multiplication – you will be fine.  I reassure her that she’s got this.  She plows on through the pages.

If only life could be so simple!  Maybe it can be. We certainly don’t know what waits for us down the road or around the next bend. If we continue to trust in the Lord and lean on His understanding instead of ours, asking for wisdom and guidance, we will make it.  It probably won’t be as straightforward as adding blocks together; I do know that.  But it can be done.  We can finish and finish well.

Tomorrow I will once again be at the Microsoft PAC, taking notes for two days.  I most likely will not blog Monday and Tuesday because my hands will be one with this laptop jotting down the participants’ relevant thoughts.  You know you’ll miss me.  See you on the other side!

Purple Flowers

purple crocuses

Can spring be far behind?

I want to drink in all the sunshine and blue skies like a healing elixir.  Where is the cup that’s big enough to quench my thirst? I can’t be outside enough.  The icy wind is no deterrent.  I snapped this photo walking back from the library today.

Awake, thou wintry earth –
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, “An Easter Hymn”

This song sung the long-defunct group called The Choir sums up how I feel today.  Must be the Vitamin D.  “If I had a yard…”

Safe Haven

deer

There are times when things don’t go as you planned. Life can be incredibly disappointing.  I found myself feeling really discouraged today about circumstances I can’t control.  As I devour the book of Psalms in my Bible reading plan, I came across Psalm 42 and 43.  These, my version says, were originally one psalm.  Perhaps it got too long and so someone divided them. “As The Deer” , that old worship chorus, was pulled straight from Psalm 42.

This is a song written by the sons of Korah.  Some Korahites were warriors, some were doorkeepers and some ministered in song.  They were counted among the Levites, who served the Jewish priesthood.

The recurring refrain in the NLT is:  Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again – my savior and my God!

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God (42:1).  Yes.  I need Your presence today, right now.  You are the one who can satisfy my need.

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me (42:7).  It’s pouring outside and has been all day.  The wind pushes the rain sideways, making visibility extremely limited. Inside, Rex and Chloe take turns pounding each other, stirred up by the wind.  A storm rages outside, the wind and rain seemingly inseparable as they wreak havoc on all under their power.

The day feels almost pre-dawn in its bleakness.  Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me (43:3).

And that is what I am learning – choosing – to do today.  We can’t rely on others to lift us up; we need to go to the one true source.  God is my only safe haven.  Even though my heart may be troubled and things look bleak, He is still in control. As the animals of the field and forest trust there will be food for to eat and water to drink, so I will trust.  But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life (42:8).

Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again – my savior and my God!

Instructed by the IRS

IRS

Yesterday, I called the Social Security Administration and the IRS.  Our taxes, it seems, did not pass muster.  Jonathon submitted our e-file several times, and each time it got rejected.  Something was wrong with my name or social security number.

If you recall, my purse got stolen back in September.  In my purse was my wallet containing (then) my social security card.  It was later recovered but we figured perhaps someone had tried to file under my name in a classic case of identity theft. No matter that it was a man using it…

I reached SSA and they said everything was fine on their end, after I passed their series of identity-confirming questions.  What’s your mother’s maiden name?  Where were you born?  What’s your sign?  They said the holdup had to do with the IRS.

I considered, briefly, if this would become a game of round robin.  “It’s not us, it’s the other guy!”  I hoped not to become a pawn in some government goof.

I sighed and brought up the IRS’ website.  This I did dread.  Why is it that even those of us who pay taxes and are law-abiding citizens feel like we’re direct dialing Mordor when we contact the IRS?  I guess maybe because we fear the all-seeing eye will become trained on us and request an audit.  After some holding, I reached the IRS and they informed me that probably my husband had inputted either my name or social in wrong.  I found this hard to believe, as we’ve been married forever, but swallowed my pride and hung up.

Last night, we looked at the return online together.  Everything looked good. My name, middle initial and last name were right.  My social security number was just as it should be.  Jonathon’s name and birth date looked good.  We resubmitted it and held our collective breath.

It bounced back, rejected again.  Grr!  Jonathon told me I had to call the IRS again; they liked me better.  He’d been on hold with them for 45 minutes when he called.  It was only 15 for me.

I was on hold for awhile again, riding the crest of aimless jazz and planning my coup, when I got transferred via a series of beeps.  Then I got Tchaikovsky.  Much better.  At least it was the Nutcracker Suite instead of the 1812 Overture.  Then, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.  Soothing the masses, I see.  Now all I needed was some Beethoven to round it out.  It felt a little like the quizzes in Norm’s Music History class:  name that classical piece in 8 notes or less!

I reached a Miss Lacey.  She tested me again and put me on hold to do some research. Meanwhile, I imbibed more classical tunes.  At least they weren’t Muzak.

When she came back, she informed me that the error she saw was with Jonathon’s name or social security number, not mine.  She said, “You know, it’s easy to transpose numbers.  You can look and look at something and not see that it’s wrong.  Then someone else looks at it and sees the problem right away”, or words to that effect.  Right.  Not as easily persuaded, I asked if she could work things, somehow from her end.  She told me firmly that she could not.  What good are you anyway, lady?!  I thought to myself.

I tromped upstairs and booted up our return, grumbling about gremlins.  As I looked at the opening lines of the tax form, I noticed something.  Jonathon’s social security number was wrong.  He had, indeed, transposed 2 of the numbers.

I fixed it and resubmitted it, breathing a prayer.

You really can learn something new every day.  Even if you don’t want to.

Kettlebell Kindergarten

kettlebell-array

I taught my first ever kettlebells class today.  I’m not looking to get certified any time soon.  Our instructor is going on vacation and she’d like someone to teach while she’s gone.  This was my practice, a sort of dry run. I wanted her to see what I did and offer any constructive criticism.  I was excited about it but also a little nervous. Will I do a good job?  Did I create a workout that’s too hard for even me to complete?  That’s the biggest one.  I wrote it all down and tried it at home, modifying as I went along.  I had one section that’s kind intense.  I couldn’t finish it all.  I figured I’d wing it and push myself. I axed the 40 seconds of pushups.  What was I thinking?! I hate pushups.  Working at at home with only your cats for company is not particularly motivating.

I’m definitely not at the same level of cardio fitness I had before I stopped running.  I did walk regularly, and stretch a ton.  I figured out I have a backlog of stretching as far back as 1982.  I started playing organized sports (volleyball) that year.  Don’t think I’ve stretched much since then.

And, I reminded myself to eat less breakfast.  Lately, it’s been trying to reappear during the House of Pain workouts put on by our sensei.

The class went well, overall.  We espouse the Russian kettlebell technique, for those who wonder about such things. I did not get queasy. The regulars and some newer people were teachable, if rather quiet. The usual moaning and groaning didn’t surface. Our regular instructor stood in the front row.  I think she liked having someone else be in charge for a change.  She wanted to get a good workout.  I did circuits, 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off, with about a minute rest between circuits.  I felt a little like I was test-driving a car.  I wanted to see what this baby (the class) could do!  I typed it all up because my handwriting, as you know, could pass for chicken scratch.  The 40 seconds of jump squats was a little much, but we only did it once.  Hopefully nobody hates me forever for that.

Our teacher was pleased.  She said I need to be louder in calling out exercises and general instruction, but she seemed to like it.  She’s gone to Hawaii the beginning of next month and I will take her morning classes.  It encouraged me to be entrusted with helping people on their fitness journey, even for a short span. I know I have a lot to learn.  I did enjoy making up a brand new workout.  I’ll have to research a little and figure out something new to try while she’s enjoying the beautiful Hawaiian scenery.  It’s going to be fun.  Look out!