Thursday, October 17, 2013

What I did during the Government Shutdown, PostScript

Thursday, October 17, 2013, PostScript 

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.

"Bad dreams?"

"Pick me up."

I obliged.  "You know, bad dreams aren't real," I said as we descended the stairs. 

"Not real?"

"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.

The End.  
(I hope.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What I did during the Government Shutdown, Day 16

Wednesday, October 16, 2013, Day 16

The thoughts and feeling expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not represent the official position of any government agency. 

Last night, I went to a professional association meeting. I saw some of my co-workers there, and some other work friends. It was great to see people after so many days out of the community, especially my fellow furloughed lawyers.  I also saw my boss, who made me feel cared for and appreciated.  The folks on Capitol Hill may not care about me, but he does, and my coworkers and colleagues do, and that means a lot. 

I left the meeting in a better mood, with a smile on my lips. But sometime between putting The Boy to bed and watching yet another episode of Kingdom on Netflix, I sank a little lower again. My husband said I had the glazed appearance of someone who has watched too much TV.

I told him that I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do the next day. He had suggestions, most of which I rejected, even though they are mostly things I did during Shutdown Weeks 1 and 2. 

During the first two weeks, there was this feeling -- in addition to all the anxiety etc. -- that it might not last long, so I'd better make the most of it.  Now, Week 3, I have found myself not really wanting to do anything other than sit on my sofa and watch successive episodes of a not-good-but-not-bad Stephen Fry television program.

I told my husband that, a couple of weeks ago, I would wake up with a list of things to do in the morning. Now, there's no list, or there hasn't been...until this morning...again.

So my 16th day of furlough, today, began at 1:19 am, when The Boy started yelling for Mommy.  Of course, hubby and I stayed up to midnight, so this was an awfully early call to duty. We seem never to learn the you-never-know-when-the-boy-will-wake-up-so-go-to-bed-by-ten lesson. 

I went up to get him.  He told me that he had bad dreams. I brought him into our bed, and we all slept mostly well. The Boy likes the "H" formation these days while sleeping with his parents. However, we did sleep mostly soundly until about 7:19, when he crawled on top of me and said, "Pick me up," but just laid there on top of me with his head on my shoulder. Cuddles. Nice. 

Every time I bring him into our bed, which is pretty often lately, I worry about his not getting used to sleeping in his own bed. I worry that I'm undoing all the sleep training we have done and redone. But then I think: "He's not going to be sleeping with us when he's 18, so I'd better enjoy it."  And so I do, even when I wake up with little feet in my face, maybe especially then. 

Last night, I had plans to go running first thing this morning, but when I woke up -- for the first time at 1:19 and also at 7:19 -- my right hip was bothering me.  I think it's the abrupt change in the weather:  cold, rainy.  Forty-three-year-old hips.  So I'm doing a postnatal yoga DVD instead. (Hey, I'm still post-natal, even if he's swiftly headed toward age three.)

Re running:  I think my new running shoes are going to have to be just knocking about shoes, which is okay. People had warned me about Nikes for running, but I didn't listen. Tsk, tsk. (But they look so cool!)  Alas.  They bother my instep. So I think I need not to run in them anymore...which leaves me needing new running shoes, again. Better go back to the Brooks, I think. (But they're so expensive....)

This morning, after we dropped The Boy off at school, we went to breakfast, as has become our furlough custom. I tend to have a chai latte and either Greek yogurt with fruit, or oatmeal with fruit. 

(Usually, it's a leaf. Today, it was a heart. I'm taking that as a good sign.)

Hubby has an eggy thing, each one more delicious than the last. If we're still furloughed tomorrow, I'm going to get an omelette and a chai latte, I think. 

But there's a feeling around this house this morning of expectation, a feeling that this may be the last day of the furlough. Things are moving swiftly on Capitol Hill, if the news is to be believed. The debt limit deadline approaches, and most of Congress doesn't want to spook the markets. There is a hardcore group of Representatives (and Senator, maybe) that is so ideologically pure that, I think, they'd just as soon drive the country off the cliff than compromise. That's unfortunate.  Maybe they think that they'll be going to Politician Heaven if they hold the line...because they sort of behave like their political principles are articles of religious faith.  (What would that be like, Politician Heaven?  A mahagony paneled room with large comfy chairs and copies of the WSJ and FT strewn everywhere?  Plenty of scotch?  No girls allowed, unless they can see Russia from their front porch?)

Here's hoping that the cooler heads prevail. Can Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid get it done?  Will the "one Senator" who people think might throw a wrench into the works actually throw a wrench into the works?  I think we're going to have a nail biter today.

So because we feel that maybe, maybe, we might be back to work tomorrow, hubby and I are getting things done around the house. On the agenda:  filing paperwork that's piled up (me), fixing toilet (him), wrapping some birthday presents and sending them on their way (me), paying bills (him).  And we'll be practicing our instruments, I'm sure, and doing homework for our MOOCs (me, plant biology; him, physics).  And monitoring the news....

And then doing the laundry...for there is always laundry.

See you on the other side, maybe.....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scenes From A Stroll

Who could deny candy to the Frankenboy?

The circle in the center is my wedding band.

Better in person....

Pow!  Yellow daisy!

Cute!  Want.

Looks like biscuits, but not good with gravy. 

His head turns, which is startling even in the morning.

Wild oyster mushrooms or certain death?

Pow!  Yellow Rose!

Cute!  Maybe I want this.
Except harder to store than blow up thing . . . .
If I had this, I might have to put Santa hats on them and do a Nightmare Before Christmas themed display.

What I did during the Government Shutdown, Day 15

The thoughts and feeling expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official position of any government agency.

Seriously?  We're going into our third week of this?

So I hit a nadir last week....  The feeling of being undervalued, the uncertainty of our family's financial future, the ennui...they all caught up with me in a big, dark, blue-gray way.  And I drowned my sorrows in sugar, fat and cheese.

I feel all bloaty, now. Worse, not better.  That's always the way, huh?, you drown your sorrows and then your sorrows drown you. 

So, today:  exercise, food diary, clean living.  Went for a long walk, despite the threat of rain, and I am not eating crappy, temporary-comfort food, but good-for-you, feel-better food.

In the midst of all the depressing facts surrounding the shut down, I remembered something:  I'm alive, I'm healthy, and so is my husband and my son.  And these are very good things.  Better than a job. 

The plan in the Senate, now, (because the House utterly failed to get anything done) seems to be an extension of the debt ceiling for six months and a budget that runs through 01/15/14.  They'd like a quick vote, but it would take only one Senator to prevent that from happening and to force the Senate to wait until Friday...the day after the country hits the debt ceiling.  And the "one Senator" everyone is worried about throwing a wrench into the works isn't saying what he's going to do. Coy. Cute. Annoying. 

You know, while I really want this to be over, I would dearly love to see the Congress move out of constant crisis mode. If we are always running up on economic deadlines, it's awfully difficult to address the real issues facing this country.  The budget should be the undergirding of the things that government does, it should not be the thing that government does.

So here's the end of this post.  I know it's not even noon yet, but I'm done.  It does me no good to dwell too much on the shut down. I'm going to get on with my day, rather than write about it.  And you've heard everything I have to say on the subject, I think...or everything I want to write down for public consumption anyway. Here's hoping that this is my last post on the shutdown. (But I don't think that it is....)

Monday, October 14, 2013

What I did during the Government Shutdown, Columbus Day Weekend (Days 12, 13, and 14)

Day 12, Saturday, October 12, 2013


Day 13, Sunday, October 13, 2013


Day 14, Monday, October 14, 2013

(I'll probably be back to words tomorrow.  Maybe.  Have a good evening y'all.)