Saturday, February 19, 2011

What a Difference a Year (or almost two) Can Make

ETA: This was really posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, contrary to what the date on Blogger reads. Silly Blogger.

The bulk of this post was written in February of 2011 as a bit of a therapeutic venting of getting out of my head the craziness of the past year. The end of February, the craziness hit again. This is a long rambling post, but I feel I need to put it out there and get it off of my chest.

The first part was drafted in February of 2011 and shortly thereafter, life threw me another curve ball.

I'm not editing what I wrote before.

I've just added to where I left off with a (hopefully) much briefer synopsis of the past almost ten months.

I'll never know where I can go if I keep holding on to the past. Here is the past I'm letting go of:

Drafted in February 2011:

I'm amazed to think back at everything I have made it through in the past twelve months. This post is horribly long, but I feel this journey needs to be documented. If nothing else, but to get it out of my head and off of my chest.

Almost to the date, last year at this time I was nursing a lower back injury that one morning amplified into blinding, searing pain where I felt like I was being torn in half and had to literally crawl to get out of bed. A trip to the specialist and an MRI later and it was found that I had a herniated disc and surgery was being recommended. Not wanting to have my spine tinkered with with knives just yet, I was determined to exhaust all other possible remedies to avoid going under the knife.

Pain killers, though they helped greatly, but were not cure. Physical therapy was suggested, but all I could think of was what a hassle. I wanted to try yoga and see if I could start regularly attending some classes to see if I would get the same benefit of physical therapy out of a structured class.

That was February. March brought a whole new curve to the mix. I was laid off, but not really.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 (I will never forget that date.) I was told my position was going to be eliminated and that I would be terminated as of March 31, 2010. I was told I would get a 'working severance' where I would be paid three months of severance through from April 1 through June 30, 2010, (thank goodness!) but was expected to come in to the office and do my duties and assist in transitioning my responsibilities, (working through severance defeats the purpose of severance, but I digress...)

I was crushed. To receive the letter and have the nightmare that would be finding a new job in the crappy job market that is out there was going to be a long, hard struggle and at that time I really questioned whether or not I had it in me to keep fighting. All of this also came after a time where I had worked very hard, long hours over a three month time frame where my boss was on maternity leave. I felt used.

Two days later, we had a meeting to go over my current responsibilities and discuss who would need to be taking those over. The next day at the end of the day, the CFO called me into his office.

After going over everything I work on and coordinate, he wanted to know what I would think if they extended my job through March 31, 2011 instead of laying me off at the end of the month. I responded that I'd be open to it, depending on how they put it in writing.

I was furious. I wanted to scream at him and make him feel some of the anger, fear and sorrow I had been going through the last two days since being handed a letter saying my position was being eliminated. I felt as though I had been cut open the day I was laid off, and just when I was coming to terms with it, it was being clawed back open to have salt poured in. But, I held it in. I was still going to have a job, even if it was just kicking this big old can of worms further down the road.

I told him I'd be open to it, depending on how they put it in writing (I didn't want a 'working severance' if I was going to be extended. I'm either working or receiving severance, not both).

They made me wait four weeks until I received (in writing) confirmation that I was not going to be laid off, but extended. That was the longest four weeks of my life.

Once things at work settled down, it was time for me to re-focus on me and passing the CPA exam. I was pushing 270 pounds and needed to do something for my health and professional credentials and I needed to do it now. I had less than a year before I was going to be unemployed again and I needed to get this under control. A former co-worker of mine had had great success going to Core Power Yoga and this was where I was felt I should start as well too. They offered a week of free yoga so you could get a feel for it before having to be a member or pay for classes, so even better!

CPY's yoga classes are in a heated environment, which was nice as it encouraged movement and everyone sweats, not just 'the fat girl' as I often felt in class. I started to attend classes twice a week and really started to notice a difference (in a positive way!) on the pain in my lower back. I had always read that strengthening your core muscles would help with low back pain, and oh man, did it ever help!

After three months of mostly regular attendance, I was feeling stronger. I was only taking ibuprofen for pain maybe once or twice a week compared to my daily intake six months earlier alternated with prescription drugs when it wasn't cutting it.

In between classes and work, I sat for the FAR, REG, and BUS sections of the the CPA exam and missed passing it by as close as 3 to 12 points. Another huge set back. In this tight job economy, I was being looked over for positions because I did not have CPA and it was going to hurt me if I did not have this done by the time I was laid off again. The exam was going to be changing in 2011, and with my current review materials expired and out dated, it didn't make sense to buy new materials and try and take it until I could a) afford it, and b) the new review materials were available.

Around this time, my Tri-Dude had decided to sign up for the 2011 IronMan in Wisconsin again. in years past he has struggled on the run, especially on one section where there are few people, lights, or anything motivational. My sister in law ran that section with him last year (he was struggling) and really helped him keep going to cross that finish line.

In 2011, I want to be that person there for him (if he needs it) and decided I needed to hit the pavement (and the treadmill).

I found the Couch to 5k running program and thought, this actually looks do-able. I started slowly, repeating the first week a couple of times to get my 'jogging legs' under me. Week two was tough, but I was noticing it was getting easier on my legs. This was starting to look definitely do-able!

Week three was my next road block. I repeated this week three times. I could not jog for three minutes straight without stopping. My legs felt strong and capable of doing it, it was my lungs that were the problem. I could not catch my breath. I know I was out out of shape. I know it takes time to get back into it, but this didn't seem right. After a workout I would wheeze for hours. How do those people on The Biggest Loser do this?!

I was getting frustrated. Very frustrated. Nothing was going as planned. Nothing seemed to be going right. Around this time, some friends I made through knitting suggested I try out a Zumba class. The instructor they had found was (and still is!) phenomenal and I'd still be doing a cardio workout, but to fun Latin music. I told them I'd try it, but I didn't think I would be able to 'fit in' to the class. I had lost some weight doing yoga and running, but nothing significant. I was going to be the 'fat girl' in class again.

Finally! To be proven wrong, in a good way!!! Women and men of all shapes and sizes were in this class. It took a few classes to get the moves down to a point where I felt somewhat comfortable with them, but only took that first time to get me hooked. I wanted more!

Still out of shape and not catching my breath, I was still frustrated with my progress. I thought things would be getting at least somewhat easier by now?! After class one night, I had a bit of a scare as I lost my peripheral vision in my right eye. Now I was worried. I scheduled my annual exam and mentioned everything to my doctor and she thought it may be exercise induced asthma. This worried me. This sounded serious, but at least it was an possible explanation and diagnosis.

I couldn't believe the difference at my next class! I could breathe!!!! I felt like I could keep up! Oh how much easier exercising is when you can breathe!!!

/End February 2011 Draft:

A few weeks after writing this, work shit hit the fan again. My boss, who had been such a great mentor to me, let me know she was leaving the company. Not that I blamed her at all, she was getting out! This meant that I was getting all of her responsibilities and none of her pay. Queue more stress in the current crappy work environment.

I was trying to look at this as a positive; I was now getting some great experience to put on my resume and it would open some doors for me. Right? That's what I kept telling myself.

Shortly after my boss left, the company I was working for decided to sell their sole US operation. I was initially told that I would be replacing the retiring controller and staying on with the sold company. Sounds good. I'll work through the transition, still have a job, then once things settle down after the sale, if I don't like it, I'll resume the job search.

March came. My awesome boss was officially gone and another good friend/co-worker found a better job and left. I was working far too many hours and weekends and had not worked out or been to Zumba in far too long, so I went to a 90 minute Zumbathon fund raiser for the Sr. class prom at the Lakeville gym. I showed up late after realizing I had put it on my calendar for the wrong time, but dammit, I needed this. Even with showing up late, I was still going to get at least an hour workout!

I got to the gym and snuck into the back of the class. Hey Baby by Pitbull was playing. Started going, not even a minute into the song, I came down wrong on my foot and rolled my ankle. I crumpled instantly, but being extremely self conscious and not wanting anyone to see me writhing in pain on the floor, I snuck around the curtain that divided the gym. It was swelling almost instantly. This wasn't going to be a 'walk it off' one. I needed ice. I hobbled back to my car.

When I stopped at Walgreen's to get a fast acting cold pack and I couldn't put any weight on it without breaking into tears, I got back into my car. Broke down for a little bit, then went to urgent care at the orthopedic center in the metro area.

An x-ray and a walking boot later and I was back out the door. When I rolled my ankle, one of the tendons pulled a chip of bone off of my foot. That (and the fact that I had rolled it hella hard) was why I couldn't walk on it. Forever the optimist, I was thankful it was my left foot so I could still drive.

A month in a walking boot, another six weeks in a splint/brace I was still in pain, but in a different area. Since I had been favoring the sore side of my foot, I had been putting pressure on the 'ok' side of my foot and had developed some fierce tendinitis. Eight weeks of PT and I was finally able to walk without a brace.

I tried to Zumba a few times in there, but I was modifying things so much for what I couldn't do that it wasn't even fun anymore. I resigned to walking. (SO not fun, but it was about the only damn thing I could do.)

Work reared its ugly head again. The whole, "you'll have a job after the sale" thing, yeah, that lasted a couple of months. Then, true to their form, things changed again. The buyers thought they'd have the resources and didn't want the 'headcount'. Great. I'm headcount. Oh, and I also got notified of this via email. A phone call would have been better.

But, not to worry, crappy job's CEO had a plan. The remaining company would be essentially be shutting down in the next 18 months, so here, sign this employment agreement where we want you to give a 90 day notice and you get no raise, will be working from home and also be pretty much the sole corporate employee handling everything. A few revisions later got this to something I would sign, (obviously taking out the 90 day notice was the first thing. I'm good, but not that good where a company would wait three months before I could start.)

Then, he drags his feet. Doesn't return calls or emails about this letter agreement. Nothing. He was pushing me so hard initially to sign it, and now nothing. Three weeks later, I get an email. Let's wait until we get the old CFO (that they laid off last year) back on board.

The sinking feeling in my gut was back. And for good reason. The next thing I knew, I was being told I was only going to have a job through February. February?! How do you go from 18 months to less than six?! I hit the pavement again. Really wanting to find a job before having to sign this agreement or be strung along with this company any more.

I was in a funk. I was interviewing for multiple positions. Being told I was "perfect for the position", "the number one candidate", "just what they were looking for", only to be told they were going to hold of on filling the position for the time being, going a different direction, wanted more experience, wanted less experience.

I was even told once "Great feedback, want to get you in for a second interview, I'll have HR call you and schedule it" to get brushed off for three weeks being told they had internal candidates come forward. Why did you have me interview for a position before you opened it up to internal candidates?!

I tried to drag myself out of my funk by returning to Zumba. Somewhere along the line my ankle decided it was ok for me to run (for short distances) and I needed some booty shaking, not running. It wasn't the same. I used to go to class with a group of friends, but now some are instructors themselves, some have moved on to other classes, some were carrying babies (result of previous booty shaking). I felt like a downer to anyone who talked to me because all I could think of was this damn job situation I was in. I didn't want to be around anyone.

Somewhere in all this, I interviewed for (yet another) position. Six weeks later, after having moved out of my office and moved all that icky crappy work baggage literally into my home, I get a call for a second interview. They offered me the job the next day. We had just gotten to Madison, WI for Aaron's 4th IronMan triathlon, what a great way to start the weekend!

It was a great weekend for me, a crappy race for him.

Promptly gave notice to old crappy job and started my new job right away.

I started at about the craziest time I could have. My first month end with this company that was also quarter end, their first quarter as a publicly traded company, nothing was consistent as everything was modified for new presentation. They had their standard year end disclosure information to go by, but SEC reporting is much more specific and we were scrambling. It was crazy, but I survived.

Even this craziness couldn't compared to the last two years at my old job. I had found a better job, and I had found a good fit. I did good.

Note to self: Next time you get a new job, take a damn week off and unwind from the last job! It's not fun being burnt out jumping into a whole new environment.

So, now that I had a stable job, it was time to look at getting a newer car. I loved my 1997 Ford Escort. We had been through lots in the last five years. It was the last car I bought as a single woman (two months before our wedding).

Thinking of getting a new car to me was in some way like giving up that last 'wild and free' bit of me. The official end of my days of having the fun little car. I was getting an adult car. A car that when we start a family, will fit a family. I finally broke down and test drove a Fusion.

I fell in love.

I felt like I was cheating on my car. I was being wooed by speakers that didn't crackle, seats with heaters in them, a front and back seat that my husband could ride in without constant complaining about how he doesn't fit in my car. This car had a USB port and a CD player! My faithful Escort still had a cassette player (that has my old Big Booty Ho's mix tape on it...long story, but in my HS days me and a few girlfriends were huge fans of Snoop)

We bit the bullet and bought it. My first new car. I can't tell you how close to a panic attack I was signing all the papers. I wasn't one to need or want a new car, but with used car prices so outrageous, it was more practical to spend a little bit more for something new. And, it doesn't hurt that it has an awesome stereo system. :)

The next day at work, we get called into a meeting. They're eliminating two positions in the external reporting department. I made the cut. "This is the team we're going to have going forward, we don't' foresee any further cuts". Seriously!?!!? I've heard that before.

Panic sets in again.

The what-if's are back in full force. What if this is the old job all over again? What if they cut my position? Am I really safe? Why did they keep me and let go of the other Sr Accountant who has been here 5 years?


This is not my old crappy job. They hired me and kept me for a reason. Keep your head in the game and work through this. It can always be worse, but right now, it's not. Try and enjoy it.

It's hard to feel like I dodged a bullet by 'making the cut' when I feel so badly for my co-worker. They are eliminating her position in March of next year and it's been really difficult for her to come in. I've been there. Hell, I was there for a year and a half! I know it's not easy. I'm struggling internally between compassion for her and yet not letting her (justifiable) bad attitude of the place drag me down.

My responsibilities are going to be changing somewhat dramatically, but I'm looking at this as a good challenge. I'm going to make my new position what I want it to be. I won't be restricted to the 'this is how we've always done it', a mentality that I hate, so I'm going to rock it out. Make it mine. Make this career move just that...a career.

While I'm at it, a few other things I'm going to do:

I'm going to finish the damn CPA exam in 2012!

I'm going to focus on me and my health again.
I've been really bad about back burner-ing any and all physical activity.
I can't let myself go back to where I was two years ago.
I already have that t-shirt. Don't need another.

I'm going to say no.
I stretch myself too thin too often trying to please everyone.
I'm going to say no and not guilt myself to death about it.
Contrary to popular belief, (in my head), I'm not Superwoman, I can't do everything.
Even though I had a rockin' Superwoman swimsuit when I was little, I don't have the suit or the powers now.
I need to come to terms with this.

I'm going to run a 5k.
Yes, run.
The whole thing.
No walking.

I'm also going to do my best to create and stick to a financial budget.
Definitely need to now with a car payment again. (I'm such an accountant...)

I love knitting.
I don't do it enough.
It's good 'me time' and I need to do more of that.
Also, I really want to wear the sweater I'm working on. It's red. :)

Cherish the friends I have.
I have some damn fine friends, and I need to start letting them know that more.

I'm sure this list will get modified in the future, but this is what comes to mind now. If you're still reading this, thanks for taking the trip through the worst/best times of the last two years of my life with me.

I promise I'll not bottle up this much stuff ever again. I'll even add that to the time. :)

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