The thoughts and feelings expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not constitute the official position of any government agency.
We had CSPAN on mute the whole evening on Wednesday. The compromise deal that would fund the government through January 15, 2014, and extend the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014 passed the Senate relatively quickly and easily. By 8:30ish Central Time, the bill was being debated in the House. The measure eventually passed the House 285 to 144. And the President signed it just after midnight Eastern Time, as I understand it.
It sort of felt like election night, but less exciting, more tense, and far less satisfying. It was a weird feeling. We wanted to go back to work. We definitely wanted the back pay portion of the bill to go through. But there was a little feeling of let down: no more hanging out with the hubby all day every day. And, well, it meant for me that this series of blog posts would come to an end, which, while welcome, also made me a bit sad.
Still, all in all, we're happy to be back to work, even if it's potentially only for three months before we do this thing again.
We toasted the end of a furlough with a bottle of wine a friend brought to us in the early days of the shutdown.
Today, the day after, began at 2:10 a.m. for us, with a shout through the baby monitor. I went to get him.
"I have bad dreams," he said.
"Pick me up."
I obliged. "You know, bad dreams aren't real," I said as we descended the stairs.
"No, not real. They're just pictures in your head. You're safe."
I placed him into our bed, and he snuggled into the pillows. "Don't leave me," he said.
"I won't leave you." I kissed his forehead, and snuggled in next to him. " Do you want to hold Hobbes?" (My stuffed tiger given to me years ago by a high school boyfriend....)
"Yeah," he said, his little arms curling around Hobbes's slim body.
And we all went quickly back to sleep.
I awoke, magically, at my usual work-week time without need of an alarm. My body seemed to know what to do today, despite having settled into a slightly different rhythm these past two weeks. The Boy's head was at my knees, his feet near my face, but he was jammed up right next to me. Despite my absolute wakefulness, I didn't get up right away, but let him, and The Working Dad, sleep a bit longer.
I laid still, planning my wardrobe for the day. It has turned to autumn during the furlough -- so many great fall outfits to choose from! Gotta look snappy on the first day back! (What I wore: a brown corduroy jacket from the CAbi fall 2013 line, heather-brown pants, brown wedges, a raspberry turtleneck, and a raspberry, orange and cream colored scarf.)
So eventually, we got up, and did our morning routine.
I put on my business clothes, and I went to work.
In the car, I turned on MOG to listen to music on the drive in. I just hit play on the app expecting it to be cued up to the last thing I listened to: Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus. Instead, it was the theme to Bob the Builder. Surprising sounds when one expects something a little darker and creepier, but Bob was comforting and fun. That's what I needed this morning. So I went with it.
When I pulled into the parking garage, I hung my government ID around my neck. The first day of the shutdown, as if as an omen, the hard plastic thingy that holds the ID broke. That night, I had brought it into the house and superglued it back together, and it had sat on my vanity in the bathroom ever since, my own face smirking up at me from the ID.
When I first arrived at the building, the non-employee line to get into the building was long and doubled over on itself. Many of the people in line spoke with accented voices and carried packets of papers in their hands, so I suspect they were here, bright and early, to deal with long overdue immigration issues. So many people wanting to be Americans, stalled by American politics. It's a great country that is so attractive that people will leave their homes to make new ones here. I don't think that the last sixteen days has changed that, but it has reminded us that the American Experiment can sometimes be messy, painful, and ugly. Even so, these people still want to be part of it. God bless them.
When I got to my floor, I couldn't remember the key code to get through the door. I had to be let in at reception (and reminded of the code). Walking through the halls to my office, seeing the faces of my office peeps, filled me with that chest-swelling sort of joy. Hugs. Smiles. Relieved laughter. It was all there. I was a little surprised how I felt, but then, no, these are good, smart people I work with. I missed seeing them.
I went to my desk, started my computer, got a cup of coffee, and turned to the phone. We all had generic "we're out of the office due to a lapse in funding" voice mail messages, but the message light still burned red on my phone. I checked my messages. Turns out I had only one voice mail message: it was the sound of someone's exasperated sigh and of the receiver hitting the cradle. Indeed, Caller, I understand your frustration.
It was weird to be back, but it was good, routine, and right.
I had a lot of email and paper mail to shift through. With the courts remaining open, my cases rolled on without me, and my day today was spent figuring out what had happened, and what, if anything, I need to do next. I updated my calendar with hearing dates that were set while I was away. And I read some but not all of the pleadings that were filed.
Still, I've never been so happy to sit at a desk as I was today. It took me 4.25 hours to go through my emails and figure out what I do and do not know, and make a (pretty long) to do list. It will probably take a few weeks before I'm sure I haven't missed something "important."
I ate lunch at my desk shuffling through e-mails and reading stuff (as per usual).
By the afternoon, all the cobwebs had disappeared and it felt like we'd never been gone, almost. How very strange, indeed.
I left the office on time, spent a little over an hour in traffic (ugh), picked up The Boy from school, ate a delicious dinner prepared by The Working Dad (who I missed very much today), and did our bedtime routine. And tomorrow, I will get up in the morning, and I will do it all (mostly) again.
I may kvetch about it sometimes, but at it's essence, I like work. It's the way I'm wired. I'm glad to be back. (I am the self-described Working Mom, after all.)
Something I learned from the shutdown, though, is that I quite enjoy this kind of writing. You might be thinking, but you've been doing this blog for going on two years, now, and you're just figuring that out? But I guess this serialized, um, blather about the shutdown really drove that idea home for me. I like this being, what would you call it? A diarist? A polemicist? A memoirist? An Extreme Over-Sharer? Maybe there's a career, or at least a side-job, out there for me doing some kind of writing other than pleadings and briefs. I shall think on it.
Finally, before I go, I want to thank my friends, family, and colleagues for their kind words, positive thoughts, and prayers during this time. On a scale of lost sock to fatal illness, this furlough ranked closer to the lost sock, but it was still distressing. Your kind words and jocular solidarity made it better. And what really struck me is that I would see support from friends from the far left to the far right, and all points in between. There may not be much agreement between the left and the right when it come to anything else, but among my peers, there appeared to be broad bipartisan support for putting The Working Mom and The Working Dad back to work. Thank you.