Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

My kids give me no end of crap about the fact that I'm always incapable of staying up until midnight to celebrate the new year. Last year I fell asleep in my recliner and Gene made the kids be quiet so that I could sleep.  They warned me that THIS year I better go to bed if I'm going to fall asleep early because they are NOT being quiet, thankyouverymuch!  I'm doing my best to stay awake until midnight.  I went to McDonalds at 6pm and got a coffee and an iced tea.  It's 10:20pm and I'm still going strong.  I'm going to make it this year!  Maybe...

I scheduled this week off work for vacation long before I scheduled my foot surgery.  We had planned to go away for a few days, but we didn't decide where to go and I didn't plan boarding for Scout. I waited too long and my boarding kennel was full.  We decided to leave him for one night and go to Gurnee to the KeyLime Cove waterpark resort.  We stopped in Schaumburg on the way to go to the Lego Store at Woodfield Mall and to eat at Fuddrucker's.  Logan used his Christmas money and bought a Lego police bank robbery set and a fire truck.  As we were leaving the store, I noticed one remaining Harry Potter Diagon Alley set.  This is probably the coolest Lego set I've ever seen and I've wanted it for well over a year since I first saw it in the catalog.  I didn't ever buy it because I'm a cheapskate.  Also, this set was exclusive to the Lego Store so I wasn't seeing it all the time. All of the Harry Potter Legos are now retired and I knew I'd never see this set again.  If I wanted it, it was now or never.  Gene and Kaylin convinced me to go ahead and buy it.  I was thrilled to find it was on sale for $30 off!  I spent most of my day today building that huge, huge set and it is AWESOME!  Logan also built his new sets today and is still playing with them.

KeyLime Cove was fun as always.  With the holiday weekend it was busier than usual, but that really only meant a long wait for the most popular waterslide.  The kids still got to ride it many times and went on the other slides countless times.  I still can't go barefoot, so I didn't swim.  Gene hates to swim, so I had company.  The arcade at this resort is our family's favorite.  Kaylin and I got addicted to this ridiculous Wizard of Oz game.  It was one of those "token pusher" games, but you didn't win tokens or tickets, just these stupid plastic coins that were worth one ticket apiece if you turned them in.  You could also potentially win Wizard of Oz trading cards, but when they fell off the edge, the machine just "ate" them and we never received one.  I don't know what it was about that stupid game, but we both wanted to play it over and over.  It made no sense!  Gene and Logan played good games and won lots of tickets.  Kaylin won an adorable Nerds candy nerd stuffed animal from a skill crane.  We had pizza and ice cream and lots of fun.

Sunday after we checked out of KeyLime Cove, we headed over to Gurnee Mills mall and ate lunch at Rainforest Cafe.  We shared entrees and then got a Sparkling Volcano for dessert.  It's a giant brownie sundae that is served with a sparkler on top and is dee-licious.  We went to Serpent Safari (a reptile zoo inside the mall) and saw a HUGE Burmese python and a huge anaconda.  We have large Burmese pythons at the zoo, but this one must have been 5 times bigger than ours.  They also had all kinds of lizards and snakes and the biggest alligator snapping turtle I've ever seen.  It was a pretty impressive collection in pathetically inadequate and filthy enclosures.  I did like that we got a guided tour and the tour guide told us about each animal.  We then went to the Disney Store and Kaylin bought some Lion King toys.  We hit a few other stores and headed home.  It was a really fun weekend.  The pets all did fine, but were happy for some human attention.

I had planned to go to Banner Marsh today to try to find one last year bird to make my goal of 180 birds in 2012.  When it started snowing, I decided to stay home.  Instead, Logan and I headed to Galena Marina late this afternoon for one last shot.  We saw lots of birds, but nothing new.  I ended my year at 179 birds.  My goal for 2013 is 200.  I think I will make it.  We did have some excitement for our final bird of the year.  As we were leaving the marina and driving past the golf course, a great horned owl flew in front of the car and landed on a light post.  It was still just light enough to get a good look.  We watched it swoop down and disappear into thin air, only to appear a second later on a power line where we watched it until it flew off again.

Overall, 2012 was a good year.  I had some great times birding and saw my first snowy owl and burrowing owls.  Logan got interested in birding and came with me on many adventures including two fun road trips to Minnesota and Michigan and many trips to Emiquon.  We had family vacations to South Dakota, St. Louis, Wisconsin Dells and Chicago.  I changed back to my old "string" at work and got to work with the tiger cubs.  We lost Duncan the dog and Willow the cat, but then got Scout and Princess.  We played with Legos and ate frozen yogurt at Sweet CeCe's.  We watched lots of SpongeBob and played lots of basketball and baseball.  We played fetch with Scout's toy pig 40 million times.  We laughed a lot.  I spent my 40th birthday using a walker to get around.  I had two months off of work following a surgery that hopefully fixed my foot and I didn't completely freak out.

My biggest goal for 2013 is to return to work and be pain-free.  I suppose that is more of a wish than a goal, but I'm going for it.  I also plan to lose some of the weight I gained during the past few years of being in constant foot pain and unable to exercise.  I want to become better at identifying birds and start to work on birding by ear.  I want to be better about cooking for my family.  I hope to figure out what to do with my life if I can no longer be a zoo keeper.  Here's to hoping that 2013 is the best year ever!

(It's 11:45pm and I'm still awake.  I think I'm going to make it!)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Writing Therapy

The number of books about changing careers available at Barnes and Noble is staggering.  If you go online to Amazon dot com, the number probably quadruples.  Googling for articles on switching careers brings up countless results.  There are tons of books aimed at young people for choosing a life path.  There are even more books about how to throw away the career you hate and find something that makes you happy.  You know what nobody writes about?  Leaving the career you love and finding something that makes you equally happy. 

I'm not ready to give up zoo keeping just yet.  I plan to return to work on January 6 and give it my all.  I've been stretching and working out my feet and legs.  I've even been doing upper body workouts to regain some of my strength after more than two months off.  I can't wait to get back to the animals!  However,  I have had a LOT of time to think during my break.  I have to force myself to be realistic.  Surgery was my last option.  One of the reasons I put it off so long was because I was so scared it wouldn't work.  And then what?  Then quit zoo keeping.  Sigh.  I would like to be a zoo keeper until I die.  However, I would prefer to live to be 85, not 42!  I can't spend another 3 years being in nonstop pain and having my feet control every aspect of my life so I can keep a dead-end job that doesn't even pay well.  Even if I do love that job...  And so I go, round and round, back and forth, what if this, what if that.  Nothing can just be easy!  Maybe my feet will heal completely and I will be fine, but I doubt it.

I'm going through a mourning process that it seems like only I can understand.  Am I being ridiculous?  Of course!  Do I know that many, many people have it worse than me?  I do.  Still, it makes me sad and angry that I'm being sidelined by a condition that a huge percentage of the population has experienced and then gotten over.  I'm not a wimp, but I can't handle the pain.  A while back I passed a billboard advertising a new pain clinic (or something similar; I can't remember exactly what it was called.)  The advertisement defined chronic pain and I was shocked to realize that I qualified.  I can't begin to count the hours of sleep I have lost, the activities I have stopped doing, the things I have skipped doing with my kids- all because of foot pain and giving everything I had to work, which perpetuated the pain and made it worse.  I know I have to end this crazy cycle, but I don't want to give up my job.

Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend.  She left the zoo a year ago to pursue a health career with better advancement and earning potential.  She had a tumultuous year adjusting to all the change, but yesterday she was the happiest I can remember seeing her.  She enjoys her new job and is excited about the potential for advancement.  She's still not positive what track she wants to take, but is exploring the possibilities and is excited to start taking classes.  I need to approach career change as an exciting adventure, but first I need to loosen my death grip on my zoo job.  How do I do that?  No idea.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Princess is settling in very nicely.  Unfortunately, she has an upper respiratory infection she brought home from the shelter.  She's stuffy and sneezing and not eating very well.  Otherwise, she's very affectionate with everyone including visitors. I can tell she's not feeling her best, but the illness and subsequent lethargy has probably been a bonus when it comes to her budding relationship with Scout the dachshund.  Scout no longer tries to dominate Princess, but he does like to sniff her and invade her space.  At first she would puff up and hiss and swat, but that took a lot of energy.  She seems to have accepted the unfortunate fact that she now has an annoying little brother and she allows him a small amount of sniffing.  Scout is being relatively respectful of his new big sis and I'm sure he understands that Princess will put him in his place if he steps too far out of line. 

We had our family Christmas celebration yesterday morning and declared the day a pajama day.  Only Kaylin literally spent the entire day in pajamas, but we all relaxed and played with new toys all day long.  Scout was hilarious.  He was far more excited and had at least as good of a time with his new toys as the kids.  His favorite new toy was a realistic-looking possum with latex head, feet and tail and furry plush body.  He played with that thing for hours.  Logan played most with his new basketball.  He was out in the cold shooting hoops a good part of the day.  He also got the new Mario game for his 3DS and a race track with tiny cars.  Princess was very interested in the cars zooming around the track.  Kaylin spent her day playing with new fairy dolls, toy cats and a gigantic bean bag that all of the pets also enjoyed.  We all played the silly family game of the year- Doggie Doo.  It involves feeding a large plastic dachshund slime treats and then taking turns pumping its leash until it poops out the slime.  Whoever collects three poops first wins.  The game is gross and stupid, but it's also hilarious and really fun.  We were all having a good time and laughing together.  I suppose that's the entire point of playing a game as a family!

It was a really good day.  That is, until I got the genius idea to bake cookies from scratch.  This is, of course, something I've probably never done in my life.  I got a huge set of animal cookie cutters earlier this year and wanted to make cut-out sugar cookies.  I found a highly rated recipe online and dug through my cupboards for ingredients.  I had everything I needed except almond extract and baking soda.  I was completely shocked that I had baking powder and not baking soda.  I had to leave the house and run to the store for 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  Ugh.  (I was totally planning to replace the almond extract with vanilla, so I wasn't concerned about that.)  Well, we needed to buy batteries anyway, so I figured I'd zip over to Big Lots and get my batteries and baking soda.  Fail.  Big Lots had both regular AND blue agave nectar, but no baking soda.  I waited in an INCREDIBLY long line to pay for my batteries and headed over to Kroger.  I immediately found almond extract, but couldn't find baking soda.  I scanned the shelves again, and on the tippy-top shelf, so far back that I almost couldn't see, were three remaining boxes of baking soda.  There was no way I was getting to that baking soda without a ladder.  I waited for a tall person and even though the nice woman was probably at least 5' 10", she still struggled to reach the baking soda.  I thanked her profusely and paid for my "treasure".  Seriously, who ever would have thought a 75 cent box of baking soda would be so much trouble?  I suppose my unexpected hour of shopping gave my butter extra time to soften...

Okay.  I was home with all my ingredients.  If I made the cookie dough RIGHT NOW, I'd still have enough time for the dough to chill two hours and bake the cookies before bed.  Unexpected visitor, Gene made dinner, an hour and a half later...  Well, the butter's pretty soft.  Okay, I got a flour sifter as a wedding present almost 20 years ago.  I know I used it once in this house (so at some point in the past 13 years) but where is it?  It apparently no longer exists.  Online consult for what to use instead.  A strainer?  Cool.  Huh, it's now 8pm and we all know that's pretty close to my bed time.  These cookies are NOT getting baked tonight!  My dough is currently chilling in the fridge.  I have absolutely no clue if it looks like it's supposed to and if my cookies will even turn out.  I guess I'll give it a shot, but honestly?  I'm over it.  I don't wanna make cookies anymore.  (Whine, whine)  And I still have to make the frosting.  Guess what, Mom?  I'm bringing cookies tonight and you will eat them and like them!  Just kidding, you don't have to like them.  I take this as more proof that I am not meant to bake.  Amen.

Completely off topic, but if I don't cram it in it will never be included.  Meghan and I did the Audubon Christmas Bird Count a week ago Saturday.  It was rainy and windy most of the day and not at all a good day for birding.  However, we did see 34 species, which isn't bad for our designated area of Peoria.  We started our day at 5:30am, hoping to spend an hour owling- meaning trying to call in owls with a CD recording of owl calls.  The rain poured down from our start time until it started getting light.  We did get to try for a few minutes when it was just misting, but no owls came.  We had given up and were driving to Panera for breakfast when a great horned owl swooped over our car and into the woods.  Yay!  Otherwise, we spent the entire day driving around our designated area, identifying and recording every bird we saw.  The day warmed to the lower 50s, so despite the incessant rain it wasn't too uncomfortable.  Highlights included several bald eagles, 64 wild turkeys, 146 ruddy ducks and a flock of ~15 cardinals.  I've never seen that many cardinals all together before.  The absolute low light was a hike through Forest Park Nature Center where once we were past the feeder areas, we literally did not see one bird.  Wait, we saw two ring-billed gulls flying high over the woods, but not one woodpecker or nuthatch or chickadee.  I guess they were all at the feeders!  Our unexpected bird of the day was a gray catbird in the bushes in front of the visitor center building.  They're very common in the warm months, but have usually migrated by now.  We ended our long day around 4pm.  Overall, it was a better day than expected.  We spent the rainy times slowly crusising around cemeteries, neighborhoods and golf courses and the dryer times in parks and scoping birds along the river.  I remember thinking it was too bad the count wasn't scheduled for another week, but I was sure glad this past Saturday when I woke up to a sunny, clear morning and saw that the temperature was 13F!  Rain and 50F win!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I was completely devastated when I found out I wouldn't be going back to work as expected.  However, one thing that kept me from sinking into utter depression was teasing Gene that I guessed this unexpected time off was A Sign that I was supposed to get a puppy.  Of course I didn't believe the "sign" business at all, but it made me giggle, and really, what would be a better time to get a puppy?  I was searching Petfinder dot com when I found a listing for a "chi-weenie" puppy.  A chi-weenie is part dachshund and part Chihuahua.  The photos looked like a dachshund with slightly longer legs and ridiculously huge erect ears.  It was one of the cutest things I'd ever seen!  And it was only 30 minutes away at the TAPS shelter in Pekin!

The kids and I piled into the car and headed for Pekin.  I got Brady-dog from TAPS, but that was ages ago when they were in a different building on the opposite side of town.  The "new" building (I seriously don't know if they've been there a couple of years or more than 10) is really nice and based only on my two recent visits, they appear to have hoards of dedicated volunteers.  Anyway, Sunday viewing hours were listed online as noon-5pm.  We arrived just as the doors were being unlocked for the day and were surprised to find out that we came for the winter open house.  The meeting room was filled with several tables covered with all kinds of cookies and other goodies.  The kids were instantly sold on the greatness of this shelter.

We headed back to the dog areas.  They have many kennel runs for big dogs as well as a large room for small dogs and puppies.  TAPS is a no-kill privately run shelter.  That means they can (and need to be) somewhat selective of the dogs they allow into their system because they keep them until they get adopted.  In other words, their kennels are filled with cute, desirable dogs rather than the endless pit bulls and giant obnoxious mixed breeds of the publicly funded shelters where something like 2/3 of the dogs end up euthanized.  Both types of shelters are necessary and have their place.  I have huge amounts of respect for the "kill" shelters because they are doing a necessary and important service for our communities.  I volunteered at the PAWS shelter in Peoria for a while and love their work.  I will admit though, the no-kill shelters are fun instead of depressing.  The employees love their jobs and don't possess the bitterness acquired from complete disgust with the human race that the "kill" employees seem to own.

Anyway, we looked at all of the dogs.  We checked out the chi-weenie and it was indeed, the cutest puppy in the universe.  There were even a few back-up dogs/puppies we could meet if the puppy was already adopted.  We headed to the cat rooms so I could think it over.  The cat rooms are amazing!  They have 3 large rooms (one is huge) that the "tried and true" cats are allowed to freely mingle with each other and with the public.  Kaylin was in heaven.  We played and played and played with cats.  We were in the largest room and a volunteer was working, playing with the confined cats.  We were chatting with her off and on when Kaylin said "When I'm older and a Crazy Cat Lady, I'm going to have a room exactly like this!"  The volunteer, who happened to be a woman in her late 50s, proclaimed herself a Crazy Cat Lady and told Kaylin all about her 7 cats at home.  I'm pretty sure she's Kaylin's new hero.

Meanwhile, I was thinking long and hard about the reality of puppy ownership.  I mean, the puppy will be a total blast while I'm off work, but what about when I go back?  Do I really want to be kept up all night by a puppy and then come home to clean up mess after mess?  Gene's new job is too far from home to come home at lunch to let a puppy out.  That means I would have to spend every lunch (the ONLY time I get to sit and rest) driving home and back to work.  I had plenty of time to puppy proof the house before going back to work, but did I really WANT to?  Did I WANT to come home and take down the Christmas tree before Christmas?  Did I WANT to buy a new laptop or new winter coats for the kids because the puppy destroyed them?  I'm shocked to say it, but common sense kicked in.  I was the only person in the house who wanted a puppy, anyway.  The kids both wanted a kitten!  They both requested a kitten as a family Christmas present. They were both beyond thrilled to be playing in the cat rooms rather than meeting a puppy.  Logan kept his fingers in his ears the whole time we were in the dog/puppy area.  In the cat area he was happily playing.  I said I wanted to go back and look at the puppy one more time, but Kaylin INSISTED we go into the cat room we hadn't yet entered first.  Good call, Kaylin!  That's where we met Princess.

A giant orange tabby was waiting by the glass door.  We entered and she immediately started rubbing and purring on all three of us.  It was love at first sight!  We played and played and I finally went and got our volunteer friend to give us more information on this cat.  It was a 5-year-old spayed female named Princess.  I won't lie, my heart sunk a bit at the name "Princess" but I'm sure I'll get over it at some point :)  The volunteer brought me an adoption application and I filled it out in the meeting room while the kids stuffed their faces from the huge spread of cookies.  We were then ushered to a private room where we got to meet Princess without the distraction of other cats.  There were other cats in that room?  Anyway, we played for another 30 minutes and then filled out more paperwork to specifically "reserve" Princess.  We learned that TAPS requires a reference from your vet and since it was Sunday, the vet's office was closed.  TAPS is closed on Monday, so we had to wait until Tuesday to find out if we would get Princess.  Ugh.  We went back into the meeting room so I could have a couple of cookies and then left the shelter without ever visiting the dog area again.

Tuesday morning I kept both my cell phone and my cordless landline phone in the pouch of my hoodie.  Every minute felt like an hour.  Every hour felt like a day.  FINALLY, a little after noon I got the call that we had been accepted!  The only catch was that Gene needed to meet Princess before we could take her home.  They had never mentioned that, so it was a surprise.  I was pretty disappointed because I assumed they closed at 5pm and knew there was no way Gene would be able to go until Thursday.  Happiness!  They closed at 7pm!  Yes!  We will almost certainly be able to come tonight!  I immediately texted Gene and then left a message on his work phone.  I then waited and waited and waited for him to call.  FINALLY, at 4pm, he called.  He still had to return a work van from the proving grounds to the tech center and then drive home.  Ugh, okay.  Hurry!  We arrived at TAPS a little after 5:30 and they were busy.  We visited with Princess in the cat room and showed Gene around.  We looked at the dogs and the chi-weenie puppy was gone.  Logan was disappointed the meeting room was now just a meeting room instead of a cookie wonderland.  We completed our paperwork and instructions and headed home.  She wasn't a fan of the car ride, but she just meowed uncomfortably, she wasn't yowling or anything. 

Home.  Time for the true test.  Princess has never lived with dogs.  How will she react?  I kept her in her crate and allowed Scout to come sniff her.  He got too excited and started barking uncontrollably so I banished him to the garage/outside.  I then opened the crate and Princess walked out immediately and began to explore the house.  She wasn't at all concerned with Tiger.  Tess is rarely in the house, but she was last night.  No issues at all between the cats.  I brought Scout back in the house but put him in the pet carrier.  He barked and whined to get out while Princess continued her explorations.  Princess was comfortable resting in Logan's room and Scout was driving me insane so I put him on leash and we walked around.  Princess was nervous, but not exactly scared.  Scout was showing respect for the kitty who is at least 5 or 6 pound larger than him, so I eventually took him off leash.  It was ~7:15 and we were eating dinner when we heard terrible yiping from the dog.  Gene and I both jumped up, but Scout was already tearing out from Kaylin's room.  I'm not sure what Princess did- there was no blood or anything- but Scout had definitely learned his place.  And his place was BELOW the giant kitty!

Overnight wasn't too awful.  Scout woke me a couple of times because he would either leap off the bed to chase Princess or he'd bark at her.  Otherwise, I can't believe how well things are going.  I think most cats would have found a place to hide and we wouldn't see them for a few days.  Princess isn't like that.  She came up on our bed knowing Scout was up there.  If Scout tries to sniff her she discourages him with a low growl.  So far, he's respected the growl.  I have little doubt that Princess will dominate any future confrontations.  Hopefully, Scout's peanut brain will accept his place without the necessity of bloodshed.  We shall see...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Desk Job

I found the giblets!  Fortunately they were in a bake-proof bag so that doofuses like me who bake them for three hours don't ruin their entire bird.  Of the 4 or 5 turkeys I've cooked in my life, I think I managed to remove the giblet bag exactly once.  This was my first turkey that came with the pop-up thermometer thingy, so that was pretty exciting!  I made the turkey in a bag that happened to come with the disposable pan, so it actually turned out pretty well without having to baste, etc.  The fact remains that I just don't really like turkey unless it's processed and cut into razor-thin lunch meat.  Last night I shredded some of the leftover meat and made turkey enchiladas that I definitely liked better than icky slabs of meat cut fresh from the bird.  Whatever, hopefully next year I'll be busy AT WORK and will donate the bird.

Speaking of work, I got some news about my foot that pretty much shattered my happy little existence.  Not necessarily bad news, but I was expecting and looking forward to going back to work on Sunday, December 16, and my doctor wants to keep me out until after the new year.  I am completely shocked at my unexpected reaction to this news.  Tuesday I kept myself so busy after my doctor appointment that I was able to pretty much suppress my feelings (though I did bombard my poor boss with a series of emails regarding sick time, vacation time, etc.)  Tuesday night I lost the rest of my mind and completely freaked out with the what-if's.  I REALLY expected my foot to be completely better by now and I have REALLY been good about not overdoing anything and doing my stretches and everything else.  WHY isn't it better?  What if it is never better?  What if I have to quit my job and find something else?  Wednesday morning I was whining to Gene and trying to figure out what else I could do.  Every. Single. Thing. I came up with involved being on my feet.  I realized that I have never even considered a desk job!  I mean seriously, to the point I don't even know what a desk job is!  The ONLY thing I could come up with was accountant.  What the heck?  I took the kids to school and then came home and slept most of the day and didn't get out of my chair until Gene got home from work.  That's probably enough feeling sorry for myself.  Today I will leave the house and keep myself busy (wondering what a desk job is...)  If you know, I'm open to suggestions.

My foot itself is not that bad.  If I walk around a big store with concrete floors it hurts.  I've been up and sitting in my chair for an hour and it aches a little bit, but probably only because I'm thinking about it.  I have a series of exercises I do daily- things like stretches and picking up towels and marbles with my toes.  The doctor casted me for new orthotics.  My doctor is acting like I'm being ridiculous- I'm not even two months out from surgery, I can't expect my foot to be perfect.  WHAT?  HE is the one who told me 8 weeks!  HE is the one who told me I possibly wouldn't have ANY pain after surgery!  HE was wrong!  HE also is a great guy and possibly the only doctor I've been to that I actually trust, like and respect.  He didn't spew lollipops and rainbows and I knew the risks and the iffy outcome.  I mean, duh, that's why I put the surgery off for two years!  Yeah, I'm depressed and beyond completely terrified.  I guess I need to be patient and wait it out before I continue to freak out, but all I can think of is desk job.  Desk job. Desk job. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

On a happier note, I had a pretty awesome birding trip on Monday.  I did my usual loop of Banner Marsh, Emiquon, Chautauqua and Sand Ridge.  As is usually my luck, the west side of the river was teeming with birds and the east side was dead.  Banner and Emiquon were both full of ducks and other water birds.  I was scoping ducks at Emiquon and found a very unexpected pair of American avocets!  That was definitely the highlight of my trip.  They had been reported on the online bird boards I frequent, but that was a full week earlier and they aren't normally in the area in December.  Anyway, that was a year bird and I was pretty excited.  At Chautauqua I saw a few geese, a few mallards and a flicker.  Sand Ridge was full of juncos and blue jays, but I couldn't find the crossbills that someone had reported from the previous week.  I did notice that the bald eagles are back in force!  I lost count, but there were eagles just about everywhere I looked along the Spoon and Illinois rivers. 

Meghan and I are doing the Christmas Bird Count on Saturday.  I'm pretty excited because we have our own area (meaning we're in charge and not tagging along with others.)  The area is the same one I tagged along on last year and it's the area I live so I'm pretty familiar with everything.  I have my work Christmas party tonight.  I have some stuff to look forward to, so I guess I'll snap out of my pity party and do something.  Like researching desk jobs...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekend Update

With any luck, I will return to work a week from today.  My foot is overall much better, but I still do have some pain in both my heel and below my pinkie toe on the top of my foot.  I've been trying to stretch and regularly change my shoes and inserts.  I'm still pretty nervous that the moment I go back to work my foot is going to flare like old times.  I really don't know what I'll do if the pain doesn't go away.  This week I stopped exercising after my foot flared badly following an exercise bike session.  I didn't use tension and didn't push myself, but I obviously overdid it and will have to put off the bike for a while longer.  I really believed I'd be completely better at this point so I'm pretty bummed. 

Gene was unexpectedly re-deployed at work this week.  It was a pretty big surprise because he just recently was moved to a new position and has been extremely busy.  However, his division was part of Research and Development and they had to make cuts.  Gene was very fortunate that he was picked up by another division rather than being laid off.  After the initial shock, he's very excited about the new job.  He'll be working at the proving grounds and it seems like his work hours will be more regular, the atmosphere will be more laid-back and he won't have to do much (if any) work at home.  One drawback is that he'll be working outside a lot more.  He's not crazy about any temperature extreme, but he won't have to work in rain or snow.

I was "re-elected" president of my zoo keeper group.  What that actually means is that nobody else wanted the job.  Our entire panel of officers ran unopposed.  I don't mind doing it, but it is hard to come up with fundraising ideas that don't negatively affect some other branch of the zoo.  We can't do anything that takes any real amount of money away from either the zoo or any other group affiliated with the zoo that is raising money.  We've come up with some GREAT ideas that could raise tons of money, but we aren't allowed to implement them.  I guess it forces us to be more creative, but creativity takes time. 

I get a free turkey from work every year.  I usually donate it because, blech, it's gross to cook, but this year I figured I have plenty of time.  The turkey is in the oven as I type.  I'm also planning on making mashed potatoes, stuffing and crescent rolls.  I made gravy once and the process was so disgusting that I probably won't ever make it again.  I bought a jar of turkey gravy at Walmart and will try not to think about how it was made :)  I dug and dug and dug, but couldn't find the stupid bag of giblets inside the turkey.  I found the neck, but I guess the giblets will be a surprise!  I seriously can't imagine where they are!?  I hope they weren't in there, but I don't think I can be that lucky. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.  Mystery giblets!

I was hoping for one last mini getaway during my time off, but this week is insane!  I have obligations every night except Monday.  I was thinking I could go somewhere overnight Monday, but I have a doctor appointment that I can't miss on Tuesday morning.  I guess maybe I'll just do my usual birding loop Monday.  I'm too scared to look at the weather forecast.  I hope it isn't snowing.  Welp, I best get peelin' potatoes.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy December!

As of yesterday, it's been 6 weeks since my surgery.  That means I have been off work for 6 weeks!  I should go back two weeks from tomorrow.  I can't believe how much I have and have not accomplished!  When I tore a tendon and had to miss 7 weeks of work two years ago, I spent my entire time off stressing about not being at work.  I accomplished next to nothing, felt completely sorry for myself and didn't enjoy one moment of my time off.  After I was safely back at work, I thought back on my experience and laughed at myself over and over.  I mean, could I possibly have been more stupid???  I would never have CHOSEN the injury, but what a ridiculous waste of time off!  Anyway, I decided that if I ever had to miss work again, I would ENJOY my time off and not worry about work.

I have to say, I've been pretty impressed with myself.  I mean, I needed this surgery, but the timing stunk.  I knew I was going to miss out on two months of tiger cubs.  I knew that the cubs would never remember me after I was gone that long.  That does make me a little sad, but at the same time, I'm okay with it.  They'll get to know me again when I return.  I took Kaylin to see the cubs the other day and they are HUGE!  We were just zoo visitors, watching the cubs play in the yard.  Mama tiger Kyra didn't take her eyes off of me the entire time we were there.  The cubs didn't give me a second glance.  I didn't feel hurt or sad, I was happy to show Kyra my cub.  (And my cub thought I was a complete dork, lol.) 

I've kept up with what's going on.  I've sent and received countless texts and emails to/from coworkers.  However, I haven't been obsessive.  I haven't rushed into work in a panic or even considered it.  I haven't sat at home stressing over what I'm missing or what I'll go back to.  I love my job and want to keep it as long as possible, but my time off has been an excellent learning experience that if I do have to give up my job due to health concerns (hopefully that means my feet) I will still have a happy and fulfilling life.  This knowledge means more to me than I can express!  I hope when I do return to work I will take my job much less seriously, be much less of a control freak and be much less stressed-out.  I don't plan to change the quality or quantity of my work, I just want a much-needed attitude adjustment- though I think I've already had it.

What I've been doing instead of stressing about not being at work is enjoying time with my kids, my husband and my pets.  I've also spent a lot of time with family and friends.  I've gone car birding with Meghan, Logan and by myself.  I started working out again.  I've read at least 8 books and watched lots of movies.  I watched a Cooper's hawk hunt at my bird feeders.  I was pushed around Wisconsin Dells in a wheelchair.  I've cleaned and organized many areas of my house.  I did a jigsaw puzzle.  I threw a toy pig for my dog to fetch approximately 37 million times.  I had lunch with my grandma.  Logan and I drove along Lake Michigan for 3 days.  I've seen 76 different bird species.  I have been cooking for my family and the kids have eaten everything I made.  I have been enjoying pretty much every second of my time off and it is making me a better person.

My goal for the next two weeks is to somehow figure out how I can continue to make dinners for the kids after I go back to work.  I have fallen into a bad routine because I come home starving and just want to throw a frozen lasagna in the microwave or a pizza in the oven while I shower.  Also, my feet have been so bad for the past few years that when I get home from work I don't want to stand at the counter or in front of the stove, I want to SIT.  I need to figure out things I can make in the morning and pop in the oven when I get home.  Or else have everything ready for one of the kids to make or whatever.  I know this comes naturally to many people, but it's a major challenge for me!  :)  I also want to finish cleaning and decluttering the house, but I won't beat myself up if I don't complete that impossible task.