I Am the Cowardly Lion

I began working at Hennepin County in 1997.  I remember telling one of my co-workers, "Remind me in 10 years that this is a really good job." And it was a really good job. I was paid well and I had good benefits. The work environment was supportive. I didn't have to work holidays or weekends. On top of all of that, I felt that I was really helping people. Fourteen years later, I don't need to be reminded of how I felt when I was young and the job was new. I remember - with a great deal of sadness - I remember. A lot has changed since then. I'm at the top of the pay scale. Our benefits aren't as good as they used to be. Contract negotiations are always contentious. The work itself has changed and I no longer believe that I'm helping anyone. I am pushing paper so the county can charge for services - it's paper over people now.

What I could not have imagined all those years ago was the toll it would take on to see the worst in people day in and day out . I've done what I needed to do to survive. I set boundaries. I learned to set aside my emotions. I learned to override my basic instincts and common sense. I learned to find humor in the absurdity of the human condition. I did all of this and kept telling myself that I had a good job. I wanted to believe it.

I don't talk about my work much because most people respond by telling me I'm a saint. But, I'm not a saint. Trust me. I'm just someone trying to make a living with the education and skills that I have. I don't talk about being burned out because, to do so, I would have to tell you all the things I've seen that have caused it. People don't want to hear it and I can't bear the drama of it all anyway.

We all want to be happy. We are all looking for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? So, sometimes, it's hard to admit that you're unhappy. I've finally admitted to myself that I'm unhappy and that this is not something that is going to change. The bargaining is over - there is no new manager or policy or challenge that is going to make me happy again.

Change is hard for me. I don't like to take risks. I want things to be different without effort. I want change without pain. This is why I'm still working at a job I should have left two years ago. Today, however, things got worse - I found out that my supervisor is leaving. This is the man who hired me, the man who was there when horrible things happened at work, the man who has served as a buffer between me and all the bureaucratic fuckery that has been coming from the top down (and there has been so much of that lately).

Is this the final straw? Maybe.

I've know for awhile that I need to get out.

I just don't know if I have the courage.


*Note: I've closed comments on this post. This post was for my own catharsis and I know y'all would likely say lovely, encouraging things but I don't know if I can handle lovely and encouraging things right now. If you want to say something horribly snarky and funny with a bit of an edge, send it to me via carrier pigeon :)

And so it begins...

This year, we did not do a big Halloween party. "Why?" you ask, echoing the plaintive cries of our children. Well, the truth is that we were all tired and too overwhelmed to plan one. Instead, we promised to take the kids to the Afton Corn Maze and have a little costume party afterwards and watch a movie. On Saturday morning, we all - 6 adults and 8 children - headed to the corn maze. I shouldn't really call them "children" so much as "little dictators who were certain that their chosen direction would lead us out of the maze". Fortunately, it was an absolutely stunning day for wandering around in the corn listening to children say, "NO! This way!" only to find that your group was a) at a dead end or b) going in circles. Maria Montessori advised that you "follow the child" but (as I pointed out on Twitter) Maria was obviously never lost in a corn maze with a group of the little imps. While the children "guided" us around, the adults had fun with corn silk. A little advice - don't put corn silk down your pants. Trust me.

We did eventually find our way out of the maze through blind luck.

We then headed home to get our kids into their costumes for the little party. I was tired from 12 days of single parenting and shucking corn and making corn puns and all the corn silk fun so I wasn't that excited to be going to a costume party with 9 kids hopped up on fudge. I made the fudge and, now that I think about it, I should have laced it with Valium. Hindsight...sigh. It was in this weakened state that I returned home to find that the kitten had vomited all over the family room. On rugs. On floors. On the litter box. I wanted to weep but I didn't have time because Miguel was all, "MOM WE'RE GONNA BE LATE FOR THE PARTY. WHAT TIME IS IT WHAT TIME IS IT WHAT TIME IS IT?!" I cleaned it all up to the best of my ability and then took him to a friend's house where he and Zeca got ready. I then returned home to a) more thoroughly clean the kitten vomit b) check on the kitten c) pick up the movie that I had forgotten and d) have a shot of bourbon.

When we finally arrived at the party, I felt that I had accomplished something monumental like climbing Everest or building a sea worthy sailboat out of Peeps and licorice. You know how people say that you are supposed to enjoy the journey and all that? Well, on Saturday, part of the journey sucked and the only thing worthwhile was the destination.


I've been having trouble sleeping for awhile now. Before vacation, I blamed my inability to sleep on stress. During vacation, I blamed it on jet lag. In San Diego, I blamed it on the alcohol. Now, I've realized there are few things left to blame. On Monday night, I didn't go to bed until close to 12:30 a.m. and just as I was about to fall asleep Zeca started coughing. She coughed and wined and called for me for over an hour. When she finally stopped, I couldn't fall back asleep.

On Tuesday night, I went to bed at 11 p.m. because I was sure I would fall asleep but I couldn't so I got up and didn't go back to bed until 1:30 a.m. Miguel woke up at 3 a.m. because of a bad dream and got in bed with us. It took me forever to fall back asleep.

On Wednesday night, I went to bed at 11 p.m. and quickly fell asleep. Then, at 1:30 a.m., there was a beeping sound. I begged for the beeping sound to go away. I quietly repeated, "Beep be gone!" to no avail. Eventually, Luisa and I got up wandering around the house until we found the source of the beep - the security system had gone down. We turned it off and went back to bed and I couldn't go back to sleep!

Last night, I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. but my hips hurt and I had a hard time falling asleep. Then Zecawoke up around 1 a.m. coughing and coughed for an hour. Luisa got up with her but there was no way I could sleep through the coughing.

You could look at all of this and think, "Well, the kids and other circumstances have conspired against our poor little blogging friend." But the truth is that I'm having trouble falling asleep to begin with and then falling back asleep if I wake up in the night. I have heard of this happening to people.

"What people?", you ask.


I am now an old person with creaky hips and an inability to sleep and I worry that if this continues I will soon be buying pajama jeans, falling prey to telemarketers and having all my meals at Old Country Buffet. I don't want it to come to that. Not yet, at least. I want to frolic and play and eat meals that don't involve steam plates! I am too young to stuff Kleenexes in my bra and wear a shawl! I want to sleep - not like a baby because everyone knows babies don't sleep. No, I want to sleep like a teenager. I want to sleep a kabillion hours a night and then nap in the late afternoons when I'm stuffed full of Doritos and Coke. I need sleep.

Somebody please make this happen...preferably without hitting me in the head with something hard.