The one about shit hitting the fan at work.

Yes, I am swearing. Shut up, my blog.

Okay, I have finally hit that magical point where shit hits the fan. I am in the process of arranging a 6 week medical leave for stress. Before you say “what bullshit, we’re all stressed”, let me explain.
Oh hell, too long, let me bullet point

  1. thyroid out of wack
  2. heartrate high
  3. breathing issues
  4. lack of sleep
  5. tremors and stomach pains on days I come into the office
  6. nightmares the weekend before I go on call

Basically, I have had three different doctors suggest that my physical issues are stress related. They may be. I finally hit a low point last week. I don’t even know what straw landed on the metaphorical camel’s back, but I realized I needed out.

I find my shoulders tense on the ride into work. By the time I sit at my desk, my stomach is in knots. I can’t stand the bull from my officemate. Last week, he couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get email from account A when the mail server was out. I wanted to slam my head into a wall.

I have arranged an appointment to talk to an independent person to discuss my work situation. I can’t go into all of the detail, but I must say that since my former teammate left, our team has been dysfunctional, painful and stressful. There is no more fun in work.

I am working with my RN for depression. I need her to sign the paperwork so I can take 6 weeks off on medical leave. I will work through these issues with a new person. I need to find out what the right answer for me is. I need to step back. I need a breather, for I am burnt.

And this is fucking scary to do.

* And before you ask, no, there are no internal jobs to transfer to. Yes, I am looking for new jobs, no I am not qualified for some and yes, I am getting depressed about that.

Random thoughts about the universe

Our newspaper includes the Parade magazine. I saw this week had Tony Blair writing about "Why Faith Matters". I disagreed with almost all of his arguments.

It made me think why? Why does faith not matter to me? I think it is simple to me. Chaos. I understand chaos and entropy. I understand that the natural state of the universe is to move from ordered to unordered. From clean to messy, from organized to haphazard. What does this have to do with faith?

Well, let’s take a simple example: let’s say I have a family member who is sick. okay, what if this person is really sick? I mean, maybe fatal sick? Many people will turn to religion for comfort. While I may be very very angry at the universe and life in general, the best I can do is help the family member by fighting chaos. I would try to find out what treatments are available. Talk with the doctors, learn pain management and possible end of life care. Having faith in a deity to do the right thing (whatever it might be) isn’t going to change the outcome (not in my mind), so the best I can do is fight the chaos with organization. Does this mean people who have faith are doing it wrong? Hell, no! But this is why I don’t feel faith matters. I could pray, but I don’t think that a fair deity would jump up and say "Good Golly! I should have helped that person! Let me reach down there and fix the situation."  If you are faithful, it probably does help you to have a person(?) to talk to and ask for help and strength.

But I am not faithful. I have to find the strength within. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I can.

This weekend is Yom Kippur: the holiest High Holiday in Judiasm (although I agree with Soleil that Shabbot is the holiest of days in Judiasm). The day where you atone for the misbehaviors of the past year and pledge to do better. The day G-d writes down in the book of life who shall live and who shall die in the next year. I am going to Temple on Saturday with my family. Not to pray or fast. To handle childcare. Because it just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t believe that a G-d decided one day "Okay Jose* and Gene*, Today you are going to DIE!" and somehow created the series of events that caused my best friend to become a widow because Jose never saw the train as he turned a corner and crossed the tracks. At the time, I was angry with G-d, but now I realize that there is nobody to be angry with. It happened. Nobody could have stopped it. Nothing controlled the series of events.

I have trouble believing that any deity that has the power to create life is willing to make such a fragile life. DNA mishaps, hidden diseases, stillborn children, these are not the work of a deity. This is the work of nature and physics. Chaos reigns in the creation of life. How many women have miscarriages and never realize that the egg fertilized, but the implant was rejected? Or the egg implanted and stopped growing, and stopped producing the progesterone that would prevent their period? I just haven’t got the ability to accept that a deity would do this.

What deity would create broken bodies and minds? Why create challenges when simply trying to get through life is difficult enough? Why would any woman be born with the inability to have children if the deity requires people to reproduce? Why would any deity create depression, manic-depressive episodes, migraines, schizophrenia? Why allow for the possibility of cancer, cystic fibrosis, or spinobifidea?

I just can’t accept these major flaws in humans. Perhaps I think too much. Perhaps I truly am a lost soul. Perhaps I am not willing to accept that any deity would kick out a soul that failed to truly worship Him in that sense. I don’t really believe in heaven or hell. It’s just too draconian for me.

I do believe in the cosmic soup. I do believe that amino acids from comets may be one of the reasons we are alive today.

I believe the age of clusters, of galaxies and I believe in the Cosmic Ray Background.

I believe the age of the universe is 15 billion years. I reject the biblical age of 6000 years.

I refuse to accept AD any more. I can only see CE and BCE. I cannot divide historical times based on a singular religion.

My faith in science and evidence is stronger than my faith in any religion.

I do believe that we ignore the insects on our planet, those small lives that we squish without thought because they are ugly and annoying, yet have been around for millions of years. We are but a blip in our universe. How can I reject the evidence before me to have faith in a deity?


*Not the real names. They died in 2000, just before Gene’s 30th birthday. His son was 2 and a half and his daughter was 7 months old.

The result of 14 years…

This week, I have my annual performance review. Because I work for the government For some idiotic reason, several years ago, someone came up with the brilliant asinine idea of having everyone do their performance reviews before October 1 to be in sync with the fiscal year. So instead of a nice staggered pace, our overworked admins get slammed in September while everyone is struggling to get their reviews in.

I am at a loss here. The last few months (about 18) have been not as much fun. I have been working here for 14 years as of June (shut UP. One old person joke and I will find you!) and I am really not thrilled. So why is this?

I have been pondering this question for the past few days and I have found some answers:

  • My direct supervisor and I have some serious communication issues
  • We also have some major disagreements over how time is managed. If I am overwhelmed, I sometimes surf. He feels I should just do another problem. The thing is, I often run parallel processes in my mind. When surfing, I am often reviewing a problem. Like now, I am thinking about the issue that we have three different mail processes running on a machine. I don’t know how to check if they are all using the same SMTP server. I need to figure out how to find this.  See! I can do two things at once. It’s how I work.
  • My supervisor is doing a lot of micromanagement.
  • I am sensing a trend here
  • I am starting to feel like I do want to be home more now. It is amazing that when I had babies, I wanted to be back at work. Now I want to explore more of me and to be with the girls more for them. I am working Mondays and Fridays with them in the afternoons, so that has to help somehow!
  • I hit 40 in April. Perhaps this is something that is playing into all of this.
  • I am tired of being on call every 3-4 weeks. When I started, it was once every 6 weeks. It is wearing.

Anyway, I am pondering what to do. Obviously I will continue with my position until June. Then I hit 15 years and I get 8 hours of vacation for each 80 hours worked! Woot! (yes we have bumps at 3 years and 15, that’s it)

We will see…I just don’t know where I am heading.

An Open Letter: Re Work Stress

Dear D, P and myself,

 We need to address the stress I feel from work. The situation has become intolerable, and I have started to make changes.


First, I appreciate the times you let me be flexible with work.Really really really. The parenting landscape is so different than when I was growing up. I never had the image that mom and dad shared the work the way we do now. And having no family in the area is something that drags us down. We are the point people. 24/7, we back each other up. Without your flexibility, I would have to quit working. Period.

Secondly, I want to remind you both that I do work on my off time. Officially? yes, I don’t work Mondays. Reality? I read and reply to emails all Mondays. I take my computer to Luna’s ice skating and do fix issues there. I take sick leave every week to get my allergy shots, but I often work offline there. Weekends? Evenings? If needed, yes. I do find work is fluid.

Thirdly, I have been taking things too personally. Yes, we are flying a multi billion $ spacecraft. Yes, I know that we don’t want to mess up. But I have to remember that life is what it is. That snuggling with my girls and working are both parts of my life. That I will continue to work hard on things at work, but I really will start stepping back a little.

I got a chance to just sit and be while I was in NC. And it was nice. I want more of that.

And one way is to eliminate stresses in life.

So I will be working on that!


Less Stress (really!)

Did you know combing through a year’s worth of data takes a while? Fortunately, my computer is churning away at it, so I can post a quick blog post today!

Stress… The modern person has to fight it constantly. CONSTANTLY. I am working on lowering my stress. Last week I had 2 meetings with my supervisors. Supervisor number 1 gave me great ideas on how to talk to supervisor #2 (#2 is my leader supervisor). I find it hard to work with #2 sometimes and in a long hard look at myself, it is truly my own damn fault. I often read tone in emails that isn’t there. I take the blame for not being at "work" in the office 8 hours a day. In other words, if I am running a code (like now) and take a break to do something else, I feel the guilt. You know what? I never "feel the guilt" when I work at nights or on the weekends. 

I had a good mid-review with my #2. I asked for a schedule change over the summer and if it works, so make it permanent in the fall. I also expressed concerns about communication. I told him that I would try not to read tone and I would also walk down and talk to him. He agreed to try to keep things less terse.

I always have a full plate of things to do. My new goal is to not stress the work ones. What gets done, gets done. Period.

Now to start taking control of that damn 20lbs…..:)

A Photo Essay of Hawai’i (warning- lots of photos)

Warning: This is mostly a post of photos, it may take a while to load.

View from the hotel

We learned about the Ancient Hawaiians


We walked on the lava coast at the place of Refuge (ignore my thighs..)


We got sand in our shoes


We saw dolphins in captivity


and Humpback whales in the wild


We hiked down to a beautiful black sand beach at Waipio Valley




And we swam at the black beach





We even hiked back up again


We enjoyed a resort luau and made Dr. Jay dance with the hula guys



We drove across the Island to see a volcano in action



And to walk where the volcanoes had thrown their lava


And where it ran over a town


We saw the sea and the lava meet



All in all, I would say we had fun




Oh, and the meeting was A-okay!(note- Name tag…see it really was a meeting!)


Double trouble

I made a vow around Christmas time, that I would not let work drive me nuts. I would exercise more. I would get out of the office and I wouldn’t let anyone, not even my supervisor tell me that time in the office equals productivity….because it doesn’t.

However, around the same time, I noticed Jay was, well, short tempered a bit. He was tired and grouchy. Our trip to Buffalo didn’t help too much as his diet was off and he was getting his next fill up (Remicade treatment) when we returned home. He is always a little off right before a fill up. Then, the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting came and he went to that.  Now that he is back in a rhythm, I had hoped things would calm down, but they haven’t. He is overwhelmed with work. He has 5 papers to review and comment. Several meetings to attend, collaborators to respond to, proposals to write, you get the idea. Then at AAS, he was asked to work on a project that may or may not take off. If it does, he is even deeper in work.

All of this pressure is getting him depressed. I don’t mean as deep as mine, but he is restless, tired, needs to be happy. I don’t know what to do for him.

I, on the other hand, have started to do better about work. I moved my office around (LOVE IT!) and I am focusing on quality, scheduling exercise in and relaxing in general. But the seasonal changes are kicking in and I am seeing my own depression moving into place. How to deal with it? I don’t know. I often lean on Jay when I am staring into the abyss. He needs me now and I am trying to stay level.

Yesterday, I lost him at work. It was time to go so we wouldn’t be late getting the girls. He had left his office and his phone was in his office. I checked a few places, but failed to find him. When he finally looked at the time, we were 15 minutes late and didn’t make it to the after school care on time. Since he was so upset and stressed, I bit back my stress and forced myself to stay calm.

I am not really sure how to deal with this. I am going away for the weekend and I don’t want him stressed and yelling every 5 minutes. But how to stop someone else falling when you yourself aren’t able to hold up? I have no clue..

Reflections…real and imaginary

I am working on some complex code with the spacecraft. It is hot n heavy, C++, Object Oriented, and may soon contain some ray trace coding in it. Very scary stuff. Most of this has to do with the earth warming our radiators. What? The spacecraft has radiators? Why yes! Just like a car, the spacecraft needs to move the heat of the instruments out to space. Unfortunately, sometimes the earth shines on the radiator and warms us up. To make things more complicated, this nice happy radiator which looks out into space is also surrounded by two shades. One blocks the sun, the other blocks the heat of the spacecraft. The inside surfaces are coated with a highly reflective material to reflect the heat of the radiator right out into space. Bye bye heat. But of course, reflections work both ways and if the Earth happens to illuminate the surface of the reflector, heh, it reflects the heat from the Earth ONTO the radiator, and in effect, warms our instrument.

This has led to some heavy duty programming on my part which I am still not comfortable with doing. Not the C++ or the OO code. Hell, I have a pretty certificate from Harvard University Extention School saying I am a certified software engineer! No, it is the ray trace stuff. This is tough crap. It scares me a bit. I get nervous about my abilities and then I am confused as to what I should be doing and if I am doing the right thing. One of the other people on the project heard of my code and ran right away to write up the ray trace stuff in a scripting language. I would rather put this directly into my code, but I am still deciding how this will work and behave.

This always traces back to my insecurities. I started my professional life with a Master’s Degree of Science (Astronomy/Planetary Sciences). I then worked as a data jockey for a year and then moved to software (scripts) and was encouraged to get above certificate. It took me 4 years to take all of the classes in addition to working, but I did get the certificate. So I moved from scripting to software engineering. I have always been very nervous of others looking into my codes and I am terrified by someone saying "Hey! Look at this stupid move". I wish I had a stronger shell. I know that when I take critism seriously, it can break me. I need to allow some of this to relfect off of me and into space. Let go what I think people are saying about ME.

And just BE.