Occupational Course of Study

Food Barn pin from first paycheck job. / c. 1989

Food Barn pin from first paycheck job. / c. 1989 – Nate Hofer

As part of The Boy’s course of study, he must complete 225 hours of competitive employment outside of the school day, which means he has to get some kind of job. The letter from the coordinator basically said to ask friends who owned businesses or worked for one to find a position for him.

At first, I thought he could volunteer with the dog rescue that I’m affiliated with. We went to help socialize some kittens one day, and the urine smell was too much for him. He wandered around, not helping, and it was kind of a disaster.

Since I don’t have too many friends here, and the ones I do have are not in a position to hire The Boy, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around just how he will get this graduation requirement completed in the next two years.

I met with a woman from Vocational Rehabilitation, a state agency that helps the less-employable with finding a job, training, job coaching, and in The Boy’s case, transitioning from a school-sponsored work assignment to the real world upon graduation. I asked her if we could get help finding a job for this requirement, and she had no idea what I was talking about. (Really?…)

Next, I emailed the district coordinator with my concerns: Finding a job that would allow him to work 10-15 hours a month, with someone who has an inkling about autism (keeping in mind that it took me 5 MONTHS to find a job when I moved here), and there was no job coaching or anything available.

Her response was fairly glib, and included an offer for him to do volunteer hours if I was “uncomfortable with him working in the community.” She also admonished me to not be “afraid to allow him to keep moving forward vocationally.”

(Excuse me while I go punch something)

Afraid? I asked for help identifying businesses and owners who may have worked with kids in the program before, and I got passive aggression and vague suggestions of libraries, dry cleaners, potato farms, and movie theaters.

Kids become adults. Kids become adults. Kids become adults. Kids become adults.

Kids become adults. And the fight continues.

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Paint Chips

The Man and I have both been trying to get The Boy to do a little more around the house. We finally completed several of the Independence Challenge prompts, getting The Boy to plan a meal that he would make for us (pizza, what else!), go grocery shopping for supplies, follow the directions, prep the ingredients, and cook the meal. But it took a lot of prompting.

While at the new house the other day, The Man was working on getting The Boy to water the newly planted sod. He needed him to stand there and soak the same area for a couple of minutes, and even that was difficult for The Boy to attend to for too long.

It’s a struggle, and I often worry about his future in moments like these. Will he have the patience to follow directions at a job? Will he be able to work independently without someone hovering, saying “No, it needs a few more minutes of soaking”?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanhoosear/24787619731/in/photolist-DLp2KZ-5xuioL-4eT3U-4W8ov6-cAxrbA-attWhH-97iCs8-ny7zGA-h4EMTf-aiF3Gc-c5aE2A-aC675a-6oE9kA-6Rg68S-bwT7eM-9E1W1R-8AnZD8-ftHg8g-pzSyRq-aC67kP-46FHiq-6fAwKJ-6Rc33V-uVWLG-97gpEp-4W8oHK-qs84Wn-7YNfA6-dLSzms-aCUMBY-mSAkXk-ecdUN2-c9gPfo-95seiy-4QsLC7-9ijb8D-atJ7Md-dUNmfn-9vu83H-61zeUH-qfXTXe-8cmoop-cyjKzy-7PKT9S-7di6cE-9vG7Jo-qGF3v-8FPySB-6Rc3Jr-8ivZMh

Paint Samples by Todd Van Hoosear

We are in the midst of painting the interiors of the new house, and struggled to find the right color, buying five $4 samples before we found the right one. Many trips to the home improvement store, sometimes with The Boy, but often without. We stopped after I picked him up from Grammy’s one night to get a fresh batch of paint chips for possible colors, after the one we had thought would be perfect was much too yellow. I was trying to be quick because we had groceries in the car and it was hot outside. Suddenly, I looked over at The Boy, and realized he was sorting the paint chips into the right slots and straightening them. No one had asked him to do it. He saw that it was kind of a mess, and he felt compelled to bring into some semblance of order.

It gave me hope. I’ll never have a definite answer to my questions about his future until the future becomes the present. But moments like this allow me to see the possibilities, and that’s enough for now.

Milestones & Success

Yesterday was my birthday, and naturally, I am in a reflective mood.

I’ve learned so much through The Boy about milestones and success, and how the social constructs that make us believe we aren’t quite achieving as much as we should (there’s that awful word) are a figment of our own imaginations.  And yet…

I have to confess that as I step firmly into my 40s, I wonder what I have to show for myself.  Not in terms of what I’ve accomplished, but where I am currently.  Let me make perfectly clear that I am happy.  I made a conscious decision to leave teaching to be with loved ones and for my own mental health. I made another conscious decision to leave my decent-paying job, again for my own mental health. But I can’t honestly say that working for minimum wage has done much for my own sense of self-worth.

I am very happy and grateful to be employed, don’t get me wrong.  And my current position is just what I needed, really. The complete lack of stress, the laid back coworkers, the peace of mind are so valuable to me, I can’t really put it into words. But peace of mind doesn’t pay the bills, and I am not old enough to retire. In other words, I still have so much to give, so much to offer.  But the job market here just won’t bear it.

On the continuum of employment, from stressful to no-stress, from meaningful to not-in-the-least-important-to-society, from almost $100K to minimum wage, I am still searching for that middle ground, and it is elusive. And work is important to me.

The Man and I have long considered creating our own business plan, not only for ourselves, but also to ensure that The Boy has meaningful employment, as well (I mean, if I can’t find employment, imagine how difficult it will be for a young man on the spectrum).  If necessity is the mother of invention, we may be giving birth to our own opportunities very soon.

I just have to remind myself (continously) that if I start to walk down the path of “shoulds” (ie I should be making this much, I should be doing xyz), I will be in the weeds.  That path was never right for The Boy, and can do nothing but harm to me. We will just need to blaze our own path to find that balance and meaning, and have faith that we will find our way.

finding our own path

Here We Go Again

Last week, I posted about feeling very overwhelmed, and I thank you for your patience.

Most of the reason for feeling so overwhelmed is that my job just sucks.  It does every summer. It is our peak season, and things get hectic, and my boss does not handle stress well, yet simultaneously craves it. My job duties change daily, and sometimes are diametrically opposed to what I was told to do the day before. Everything is an emergency, his schedule is incredibly erratic, and he gives no one the power to make decisions on their own.  A project that is time-sensitive may sit on your desk for days because you can’t get him to talk to you for five minutes to make a decision, and then when it doesn’t get done, the blame is placed squarely on your shoulders.  And somehow, there is always time for blame.

I got a dressing down this past week about lunchmeat, people.  LUNCHMEAT.

I’m to the point where I cry before I go to work (ok, only when it’s that time of the month… usually), and that is a very real sign that something needs to change.  Meaning I need to find a new job.

Yet, it took me five months to find this one, and I’m not exactly a shlub…

So, I look. I do the job search dance. I count the minutes and hours down during my work day. I take solace during the times when the boss is not in the office. I dream of walking into his office to give him notice, and have even toyed with the idea of simply walking out and not going back. And I hope for something better.

I really hate to wish the summer away, but this is really just too much for too little in return.

When I go, I'm taking my red stapler.  Because it's mine...

When I go, I’m taking my red stapler. Because it’s mine…

Treading Water

Hey, friends. I’m having a hard time keeping my head above water lately. There’s a lot going on.  Our busy season at work is here, and the crap is hitting the fan.  Where I work, that means the blame is flying, and my job satisfaction plummets.  The Boy is just about done with school, which means I need to be gearing up to support him with activities and enrichment for the next five to six weeks until his camp starts.  We listed our house for sale today, which meant a weekend of staining the deck and the porch, and painting window trim (and getting a really stellar sunburn while doing it), and now means keeping the house tidy for showings…

When I get overwhelmed, I start to feel like someone or something is sitting on my chest.  I have to remind myself to breathe. I have to engage in a little self talk, and I have to, HAVE TO carve some time out to plan.  Planning helps me to see the possibilities, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and keep things in perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to say thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around after a week with no posts, and if you get a chance, please send positive vibes my way.  Congrats to the teachers for making it through another year, and remember to be nice to people in the service sector.  We’re not all idiots.  Now, I’m going to carve out some planning time so I can send some really good posts your way this month – I can’t believe it’s June already!

I’m Struggling with Time

The Boy and I have been here for almost two years – I can’t believe it.  It seems like only yesterday we were packing up the rental truck, and tossing the huge TV to the curb in preparation for our big move.  And I’ve been at my job almost a year and half, too.  That I can believe, but that’s a post for another day…

I’m still adjusting.  And the biggest adjustment in all of our life changes has been time.  I have a constant feeling like I do not have enough time to get anything done that I need or want to get done.  Something is always slipping through the cracks.  It is true that I simply work longer hours.  But this is misleading.  Of course my school day was shorter than my current work day, but I was often in after school meetings, doing concerts, grading homework, and doing other school-related things well into the evening. I don’t often have evening obligations now. So while I technically work longer hours, I don’t think this is a big part of the issue.

Another part of it is having a husband to spend time with.  Before we moved down, I spent time with The Boy, but I had alone time, too.  I don’t get as much of that now, and nor would I want to be alone that much now that I am married. I enjoy spending time with my hubby!  That does mean less time for solitary activities, though. And if I have a choice to spend time with The Man or do things like the laundry, The Man wins every time – that’s a no-brainer.  But when it comes to reading or writing… well, it gets a little tougher.

I think the final piece of the puzzle is drive time.  It takes forever to drive five miles, and most destinations are a half hour away.  I leave work at 5, and pick up The Boy at Grammy’s, but we are often not home before 6. Most of that is wait time for The Boy who needs multiple timers to get him to leave, but it is also drivers who like to go 10-20 miles under the speed limit, and a default speed limit of 35 on two lane roads.  The grocery store takes 20-30 minutes to get to on a Monday evening… and so on.  Up north, when I picked The Boy up at 5, we could often get to the grocery store, do all of our shopping and still be home before 6.  It’s a big change.

I miss my idle hours

I miss my idle hours

During the summer I go to work earlier, and therefore leave earlier, so I think it’s a little easier to budget my time during the day. It is our busiest, most stressful season at work, but I also get a little down time to myself before the evening begins.  Everything is a balancing act, and although slight changes may make things easier, time will always be a struggle. At least spring is here, which means more sunshine and warm weather – they make everything a little easier. 🙂

Sometimes You Just Need a Walk

So much has been new and different since our move to the South.  Right now I am dealing with a job that I used to love turning into a job that I absolutely dread going to each morning.  Suffice it to say that I am experiencing things at work that I have never encountered at a place of business, and it is mind-boggling the amount of drama, backbiting, and just plain nonsense that occurs daily.

So I have begun the job search again, and because I am who I am, I am often preoccupied with thoughts about either my job, or the desperation to get away from it way too much.  It’s soul-crushing sometimes – I turned to The Man at one point today and said, “There were a lot of things I didn’t like anymore about teaching when I left, but at least I was respected.”

This is when I am so, so thankful to have The Man in my life.  I tend to obsess about my worries, and I let them overtake me physically.  I tend to be sedentary anyway, much more so since I took my current job, and when I am stressed, my first instinct is to curl up into a ball and shut the world out, thinking, thinking, and over-thinking the problem.  The Man, however, will not let me do this.  And it makes me cranky sometimes.  “No, I do NOT want to go for a walk right now,” I think as I sulkily get my shoes on and follow him out the door.

But it helps.

It helps to be outside, with my boys, looking at the houses in the neighborhood, dreaming about what our next one will look like, making jokes, feeling the warm air, and enjoying the sunshine.  Enjoying real life, as opposed to stewing in the what-ifs.

I can rely on him to dose me with the perspective that I need to get over the toxic thought cycle.  And I’m so thankful.

sunset

When Work Sucks

I love my job.  I love being busy, I love having some responsibility (and a title).  I love being a leader in the office.

But there are aspects of my job that are really just too much, sometimes.  I have quite a background in educational leadership and administration which actually isn’t a far cry from business management.  Simply put, a good leader is a good leader, and good management practices are good management practices.  And it is still easy for me to identify examples of bad leadership and management practices, too.

I work in a culture of blame, and I hate that.  Good leaders use mistakes to help guide people to better work, and to help create better procedures.  Poor leaders point fingers and end up making good workers wonder why they work so hard, or even quit.  Two people walked off the job this Sunday.  Two, of an office staff of six.

Today, I busted my behind, trained two new employees, handled a million phone calls, and even booked some private charters.  I went home feeling pretty good about the productive day I had.  And about an hour after I got off work, I got a phone call from my boss, asking me about something at work which he clearly felt was a mistake I had made.  I had not made a mistake, but in his mind, he had to blame someone, so it was me.  And instead of feeling good about being productive and working hard today, I end up with a sick feeling in my stomach this evening about his perception of my fault, even though none existed.

More and more, every single day is stressful, and that means I have less to give when I get home at night, which is absolutely no good.

Jobs are hard to find.  In five months of searching last year, I got very few calls for interviews, and only one real offer.  Do I consider leaving?  Yes I do.  Definitely on evenings like tonight.

How do I deal with it?  My boys.  I spend time with my family and they make me laugh.  It may sound clichè, but they remind me why I am really on this planet.  It’s not for other people’s kids, and it’s most certainly not to take reservations for boat trips.  It is to love and spend time with my guys.  Yes I need a job to pay the bills, but my job is the small stuff as compared to The Boy and The Man.  Remembering that is how I deal with the rest.

Standing Up When It’s No Joke

Today I had to say something.

I know it’s different in the South, but really?  How long are we going to let this be an excuse?

At work today (which just blows me away, coming from a work environment where nothing off-color would ever escape my lips, not only because that’s really not me, but also because it would never fly with anyone else), a co-worker used a not uncommon Southern phrase which also happens to be derogatory to an ethnic group.  And then the person she was speaking to repeated it in his response.

I bit my lip, sighed uncomfortably, and tried to focus on my work.

It was said again.  And again, in response.  This happened three or four more times – it almost made me feel like I was getting “punked”, they couldn’t really be saying this same phrase over and over again so many times without it being a parody, right?  Nope.  They were for real, and I was fed up.

“Could we use a different word for that?” I asked.

I was not confrontational, but it was also clear I wasn’t joking.

The first woman immediately said, in a sing-song voice, “Uh-oh!  We’ve offended somebody!  Oh no.  Someone’s offended!”  And I don’t think she meant further offense with this — more of a Southern way of backhandedly telling you you’re overreacting while trying to smooth ruffled feathers, kind of like “Bless your heart!”

The man approached me and asked if I was a member of the slighted ethnic group.  Shocked, I asked, “Do I have to be to be offended?”

“I’m just asking a question!” he responded.  “And I’m just asking a question,” I said.

He went on to say he didn’t think it was offensive, and thankfully left soon after.

I wasn’t intending to be confrontational, just speaking up.  Because it bothered me, and I don’t care if it’s a “Southern” thing.  Truthfully I was more bothered by their responses to being called out for being offensive. It made me feel as if I was somehow in the wrong.  And maybe I am, geographically.

But we can’t accept this anymore.  “It was the way I was brought up,” is no longer an excuse, because you were probably also brought up to not hurt others.  “It’s just a saying down here,” is not OK anymore.

And when you offend someone, you need to say you are sorry, and leave it at that, whether or not you agree with the person who felt offended. Why don’t people get this? It’s not up for debate!  Every single person is different, and has had different experiences and backgrounds.  If you hurt someone enough for them to speak up and tell you to your face, you just end up looking like an ass if you insist you didn’t hurt them.  You may not have intended to, but you did.  Own it, apologize, and change the subject.

Thoughts?

Tightly Wound Today

I’m aggravated.  Today was A MONDAY at work, and the boss was aggravated, making everyone else aggravated.  And I keep spelling aggravated wrong… seriously.  It has been A. DAY.  I am so glad it is almost over.

So how do you let go when you get wound up?  It’s not fair to your family to sit and seethe all evening long.  The whole reason we work is so that we can support our families, but if we don’t also get to enjoy them, it isn’t worth it.

Here are some things that work for me:

  1. Breathe.  You think you are, but you’re not.  You are taking little tiny shallow breaths that don’t even come close to filling up your lung capacity.  Try it.  Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.  Amazing how much better you feel, huh?  Our brains need oxygen, and they feel better when they are getting a good and steady supply.  Those tiny little breaths we slip into just don’t cut it.
  2. Take a moment to un-clench.  Many, many times when I do this, I can only imagine what I looked like before taking deep breaths and un-clenching – my shoulders must have been up around my ears!  No wonder I get killer  shoulder/neck/headaches…  I read somewhere to think of yourself as an unwinding spool of thread when you want to unwind – go figure!  Try it.  It works for me.
  3. Laugh.  Go back and look at the photos you’ve taken with your phone, go to a funny website that has been proven to make you laugh out loud (damnyouautocorrect or cakewrecks work for me!), or watch something light and funny like AFV (America’s Funniest Home Videos).  After you’ve been giggling for a bit, you will find yourself naturally breathing deeper and un-clenching, i.e. letting go of the stress.
  4. Treat yourself well.  Tell yourself it’s OK to be aggravated (nope, still spelled it wrong) or stressed, but that whatever’s on your mind can wait until you get back to work (or the aggravating situation).  And then eat a piece of chocolate, give yourself a mini-hand massage, or close the door and be by yourself for a few minutes (always a treat in my house!).  You work hard, and you deserve to be rewarded for it.
  5. Talk about it with your spouse or a good friend.  Getting support from the people who mean the most to you will take the sting out of your stress, I promise.  But don’t dwell on it.  Let it out, and let it go.

These are already helping me, tonight.  What works for you?  Let us know in the comments.

Yes, please...

Yes, please…