Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Avoiding Trouble Isn’t Always Painless

StressedOur campus is invaded every summer by groups of high school students  from around the world, here as part of two 3-week programs designed to give them first-hand experience of life at a ivy league university. Great experience for them if they actually take advantage of it.  Mostly I see them walking the campus in packs, clogging the sidewalks, wearing tight t-shirts and barely-there shorts that show off their tans and blonde hair.

Individually they don’t bother me, but when they travel in packs, something twists inside my stomach and I want to cross the street to avoid them.  I don’t, but I do step out of the way; when I say they travel in packs, I mean 3-4 across, 2-3 rows deep.  They form a big clot moving down the sidewalk that way, pushing aside everything in their path, talking up a storm, and commenting about the other people (i.e., us) being in their way.

The other day on the way to the parking lot after work, a car of them drove by and one of the girls yelled something out at me and made faces in a kind of viscious way.  I thought I would either cry or throw up or both; it felt very personal and came so fast that I was unprepared

I was running late today and didn’t bring a lunch.  And I couldn’t bear to be out on the sidewalk alone, avoiding the clogs of thoughtless young people looking at me and making comments about my size, or the joy of finding almost every chair in the local restaurants full of them.   So instead of going out to lunch, I stayed in the office and just worked on projects and had a Fiber 1 peanut bar on my break.  I wasn’t particularly hungry so it wasn’t hard, but I was annoyed and ashamed of not doing what I wanted just to avoid dealing with those kids.  On the other hand, I didn’t eat junk.

It will be a real relief when the real students are back where they belong.


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Living in Stressful Times

StressedI’ve been reverting to very old habits as the weeks have passed with more dreadful economic news every time we turn around.  I know it’s not healthy but there is comfort, albeit shortlived, in eating candy and salty stuff instead of making a healthy meal or taking a walk at lunch time.

We are facing budget cuts of 7.5% this year with another 5% next year and I’ve been spending my time canceling things that have been part of our library’s collection for years.  It’s not completely bad:  this careful review of continued spending obligations is giving us a chance to really decide what the collection of the future needs to look like.  But the short-term is very hard, as is the increasing awareness that there will be personnel adjustments as well.  No knows what that will look like and that’s the hardest part, the not knowing.

I’m not sleeping well, not eating well, not exercising at all, and generally feeling pretty crappy.  And yes, I know that all of this is connected.  The problem is pulling myself out of it.

My former WW leader used to tell the story of a friend who was facing an assortment of problems involving medical, financial, and family issues.  Yet she was able to stick to her WW plan through it all.  When asked how/why, she replied that her food was the only thing she COULD control, and controlling that one thing made her feel better about dealing with everything else spinning out of control around her.  At least one thing was being managed.

I need to pick one thing, even one little thing, and make a firm commitment to it.  I don’t think I’m ready to say I can do that with food.  But I will commit to drinking 8 glasses of water.  Maybe starting with that one small step I can start to pull my way back and keep my world on an even keel.


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Watching the Weather

funny-pictures-upset-lion-snowWhen you travel in winter months, and especially if you live in the Northeast, you watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  Multiply that with extra stress when the travel plans are for holiday travel.  I refuse to mess with it for Thanksgiving, which is just one day plus football, crammed into a narrow window of time.  Christmas is also just one day but then there’s Christmas Eve and extra days for visiting, parties, caroling, shopping, decorating, etc., so that makes this my holiday of choice for travel, though I admit that I’m not always upset when it doesn’t happen.

Today I’m sitting warm and cozy in my house with the kitty, watching the snow fall and blow outside.  The weather guys are all excited about the first big storm of the season and you never know when they start babbling if things are real or exaggerated out of enthusiasm for a Weather Event.  Since I’m a winter weather driving wimpette, I opted to take a personal day and stay off the roads entirely after running errands first thing this morning – and they could have been deferred had the snow started earlier.

After the storm today/tonight finishes up, we have a little break on Saturday and then another storm roars through on Sunday.  This is the one that has me worried.  Oh, I’m not traveling anywhere on Sunday and can stay warm and dry except for maybe some shoveling out behind my car (which lives in a carport).  But Monday I’m off to Texas for a week with the family and I don’t trust the weather to make this work without delays and snags.  Take heavy holiday traveling, add in weather delays and cancellations, mix with fewer planes, and you have crowded, uncomfortable flights and grouchy people.

I can’t help but remember news stories a few years ago about horrible winter storms snarling flights over Christmas, leaving people to spend days in airports trying to get to destinations.  I don’t anticipate that but it’s hard to block out the possibility.  At what point does it make more sense to say, yanno what?  Just send me home instead.

The kitty knows that something is up and has been wanting to sit on me more often today. Usually she wants to just sit nearby but not today.  I’m wondering if she’s planning to sneak into my suitcase.  Which reminds me that I need to do laundry tomorrow to be sure everything I’m taking is clean, dry and ready to pack — which means that I need to know what I plan to take in the first place.  Guess I’d best get cracking.


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Overwhelmed, Depressed, Sad and Angry

The second presidential debate is on tonight but I don’t know yet if I will watch it.  I just don’t know how much more of this garbage I can take – the economy is tanking, my retirement money is flushing down the tubes, prices are up, homes are being foreclosed, jobs are unstable, stress levels are through the roof – and the presidential campaign is getting nasty, with 4 weeks to go.

I WANT THEM TO TALK ABOUT THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER.

Not about people they each knew 20 years ago.  Not about being a POW.  Not name-calling and mud-slinging, defaming and undercutting each other. They all care about this country or they wouldn’t have put themselves through the wringer of public scrutiny.

Obama and McCain have plans to take us forward out of this mess, directions and goals for the next four years.  They are radically different in some ways, similar in others.  They have different styles, different priorities, different styles.  But the more time they spend throwing mud at each other, the more they cover themselves with it.

We need better than that.  We need integrity and to be treated with respect. People are hurting, people are scared.  Desperate people who deserve to be told what each candidate would really do, how they are different from the other one and from the idiot government we have now.  If you’re so good that we should vote for you, then you should be able to sell yourself without trashing the other person.

After all, when this is all over, I expect to see the government people work together to actually FIX things.  It will take lots of people in all areas and levels of government to pull us out of this morass.  The more you are angry and defaming the other side, the harder it will be to do that.

AND THIS IS DRIVING ME CRAZY.

It hurts my head and my heart to watch the news now.  And that reminds me of just after 9/11, when we all were both obsessed and traumatized by getting too much information.  We needed more more more even though what we heard was repetition of the same analysis and commentary.  But I had a very hard time pulling away from it then, and from the Katrina coverage, and now from this.  I want to know but I don’t want to be continually bombarded by failed banks, stock market failures, angry politicians, and Sarah Palin.  I want her off my radar except when portrayed by Tina Fey on SNL.

Make it stop.  My head hurts.  It’s going to be a long few years; don’t make it worse now.


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Day in Insurance Hell

Evil Insurance GuyThe sinking feeling started when I saw the envelope from the insurance company. It was highly unlikely that they would be writing to wish me a nice day or send money, and they didn’t. Instead, it was a Claim Summary that basically said I was going to end up owing someone $450. Since I moved and changed employers, I am no longer a patient and they were denying the claim from the company that provided my CPAP machine.

Oops. I really did blow this because I totally forgot that the thing wasn’t mine; it belongs to the durable medical equipment (DME) company. I should have notified someone of the move and found out what to do with the machine but I just forgot. Never having seen any paperwork for it from the DME or the insurance company, little things like payment had never been a factor once I was approved to get it.

Of course, it was after 6pm and everyone everywhere was gone for the day, leaving me to be fret and worry about how to handle it and trying to figure out what the $450 was actually FOR – surely not for one month! Eeeek, that’s ridiculous, I can buy a whole new machine off the web for $900, and I’ve had this one since March. I got myself all worked up into fear that I would have to send back the CPAP that I have immediately so I didn’t get billed for more time, and would just take my chances with breathing until I can get sorted out with the new medical plan.

Today I spoke with medical insurance companies in two states, as well as two DME companies, and our medical center office. I have no more idea what’s happening than I did last night. Basically here’s the deal: the CT insurance won’t provide a new CPAP until I’ve had a new sleep study, which usually ResMed CPAP machine (minus the face mask and tubing)takes at least a month to schedule and another month for the results to be available. I owe my MA DME company for at least two months for my current machine, but magically at $95 instead of $450/month. The CT company may or may not reimburse me if I pay out of pocket.

Of course, if I just keep paying the MA company until December, I will own the current machine. It would be lots cheaper than starting over again here, and even the person I talked to seemed to see the value of saving money. She was also very anxious that I not give up my old machine until we figure out how to get me covered going forward. Which means I pay for it since they’re not sure they can pay for something provided from an out of state provider and prescribed by a doctor outside the plan.

The new medical office people were displeased that my file was so skimpy even when I explained that I was a new patient who hadn’t even been seen by a doctor there because they had to reschedule the one I booked three weeks in advance. It’s a good thing this is NOT an emergency, though perhaps they would be more responsive then.

This is not life-threatening, just annoying and expensive, and I’m a smart person who can figure it out. But even what I did today had me practically in tears. Even so, I didn’t get all snacky and eat my way through the stress and that’s a good step.


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My Adventure Getting to New Orleans

Lego planeI started this morning at the tiny airport in New Haven, a place with only one national airline and without any liquid refreshments of any variety. The first flight of the day had been canceled but ours was good to go and we all dutifully trooped through security and waited. Until it dawned on us that we were quite a bit past the departure time and no one had said anything. There was no gate agent; we could see the tarmac out the door.

This caused instant bonding among the small band of travelers who had previously never seen each other before in our lives. We knew life stories, where we were going, what our connections were, blah blah blah. But nothing from the airline which shall remain nameless but has the initials USAirways. Oops, I said it.

Being me and not being shy, I went back to the security gate (which locked us in) and cupped my hands around my mouth to make a megaphone and called out, “Is anyone there? The passengers have some questions.” Suddenly a disembodied voice came from the ceiling – was it God or was it an airline person? – telling us that our flight was delayed because there was no pilot or first officer. They were flying up from Maryland, through Philly, and their plane had mechanical failure. The guess was that we wouldn’t leave before noon.

Well, clearly this would not do. We all had connections to make and already knew they wouldn’t work if we didn’t leave right that minute. We even practiced our best airline personnel announcements to show we could be our own pilots. It didn’t work. After yet another suggestion from yours truly, an actual person appeared to explain what was happening.

The upshot of it all was that our flight wasn’t canceled until everyone had been “reaccommodated” which sounds an awful lot like rescheduling. Apparently there is a difference in the airline world, probably tied with those false on time statistics. Most of us ended up taking cabs in groups of three up to Hartford airport, an hour and a $130 cab ride away, to take another flight to Philly. I made my flight there by about 10 minutes and we all had a nice reunion inside Hartford security since we are all best friends for life.

But then we got to Philly and little buses to go from the terminal way in the middle of nowhere (and the last gate in it) to a more populated one that was having major air conditioning problems. It was not pretty. My new flight to New Orleans ended up having several gate changes and more delays when the airport closed because of lightening.

And then, in a nice reprise of the morning problem of the missing pilots, we learned that our flight attendants couldn’t be found and we couldn’t leave without them even though the plane was ready. We were Not Amused and when the AWOL personnel finally arrived about 20 minutes later, they were flustered when we all started applauding and making snippy remarks to each other. The plane was full – are you surprised?

I finally got into NOLA at 9:15pm instead of my scheduled 1:30 time and to the hotel at 10pm, where I found a welcome tray with dried fruit, nuts, and a big bowl of M&Ms. What happened to fruit??? My feet are already swollen and I’m both tired and wired – and I ate too many of the free food things because I was hungry and they were here. I finally brushed my teeth and covered them up so I’m not tempted. Let’s hope either they take them away tomorrow or my roommate comes and eats them for me.

And note to self: don’t fly out of New Haven again and avoid USAirways if at all possible. Since I’ll be flying out of Hartford in the future (a decision collectively made by our bonded travelers this morning while waiting behind the locked gate without any live person around to talk to us), I will have a choice of airlines. USAirways will not be it.


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Transition Overload

Lame DuckI am the Lame Duck Department Head with six weeks to go in my current position before I up and move to Connecticut, and this lame duck thing is getting old. I’ve been working on the Anne Transition Document, now up to 14 pages, that briefly lists what my duties are in different areas (electronic resources, systems, vendor liaison, personnel, etc., etc.), who will be doing each during the vacancy in my position – with a brief “how to do it” description of each thing. That’s the goal, anyway.

Reality, though, is something else completely.

My goal for this week was to complete my annual report. Have I finished it? Not hardly – I’ve barely finished the statistics portion, and that’s easy since I plug figures into a spreadsheet with formulas to do the calculations for me. Writing the text part will take uninterrupted time that I don’t seem to have.

Why? Because I’m transitioning my responsibilities to other people, walking them through things that I do routinely. But that means spending hours doing one thing that usually takes me about 20 minutes since I’ve been doing it for ages. I understand it and don’t begrudge the time it takes, having inherited things I didn’t know to do myself – and knowing I’m going into that in my new position.

I need to extend the day – the 24-hour one, not the work day – by another 4 hours because there are simply too many things to do: writing the annual report, weeding files, going to a million meetings, contacting vendors, doing computer updates, documenting, conference calls, spending time with staff. Not to mention healthy eating, some exercise (even if it’s just walking), having time away from the office to pack and prepare for my move.

I’m overloaded and getting out of balance, and I don’t want to end my time here working nights and weekends to fit everything in – but I also don’t want to leave people I’ve worked with for years in a fix by not leaving things tidy. And I also want to go into my new job feeling rested and prepared, not hungover from lack of sleep and stress.

So I’m hanging on to what I can. I’m drinking my water, planning and tracking my food, staying in touch with friends, getting as much sleep as I can. Let’s hope things settle down soon.