May 24, 2014

We’re movin’, we’re packin’~We’re eatin’ crap & snackin’

Our time in Washington has come to an end.  We are dismantling our beautiful Treehouse.

Rick retired from the Big Aircraft Company shortly after his 62nd birthday.  We are not returning to Minnesota, form whence we came.  We are moving to Wisconsin to be near our daughter.

What We Learned in Washington:

(1)  2nd Shift can work. The promise of shift leveling never materialized.  And, as it usually turns out, the Universe was wise in the refusal to answer my pleas.  As a therapist who sees couples, it was a much better fit for me to also work more or less in the second shift time-frame.  We made it work.

(2)  It’s always Location, Location, Location.  Our Treehouse was desirably situated for some things – for others less so.  However, neither of us spent more than 1 tank of gas per month to get to work.  As for my office, I relocated it 4 times.  Gypsy Therapy was not fun – I’m putting my tambourine in storage.

(3)  West Coast, Baby.   You can have flowers on your table every week for $4.   The local  drive-thru coffee stands serve up barista peep-shows and “Wet T-shirt Wednesdays”.  Strawberries and tomatoes (good ones) are available nearly all year round.  Marijuana is available nearly around the clock at the little buildings with Green Crosses (they look like the Red Cross only Green) along Highway 99.  You can really see the aircraft carrier Nimitz at Port Everett.

(4)  Favorite things we can’t take with us:  the view of Mounts Ranier and Baker from the berm on the west side of Paine field (we love watching Giant – aka DreamLifter – take-off and land), the tapas bar in Mill Creek, Scuttlebutt’s root beer, Schwartz Brothers’ pumpkin scones, Stellar’s Jays and chestnut-backed chickadees, our Treehouse.

It is no less messy moving out than it was moving in.  Those previous companions of Chaos, Tape and Boxes, and Timetables (not to mention Questions) are back and in full vigor.  Also in the cast are Regret, Sadness, Gratitude, and Joy.  It takes time to build a life.  And we did.

 And they lived reasonably happily ever after – in Wisconsin.



Shifting to Second

November 20, 2011

Shifting to the second shift has continued to both challenge and frustrate the tidy little schedule I dreamed of having here in the Treehouse.  It’s hard to remember this is not all about me.  This schedule has been hard for Rick as well.

The struggle continues to be  ensuring that enough quality time occurs.  The juxtaposition of our schedules makes quantity tricky.  While we have managed to shift waking hours from 8:45am to 1:45am for me, and from 10:30am-2:30am for Rick, the quality time we most always can rely on is the several hours just after he arrives home at 11:30pm.  It’s kind of odd having a glass of wine with cheese and crackers at 11:30 – and yet it functions as if it were 6:00 in the evening.  Sort of.  And it is something I look forward to – exchanging the intimate details of the day, while enjoyed by the two of us, would cause eye-rolling in a casual acquaintance.

The idea of living in Washington continues to become real to us.  Not only accepted, but easier.  We have a dentist, a doctor, a regular grocery store, and a routine – bizarre as our routine may sound to those who live and work in the 6 to midnight world. We are fine-tuning the move into the Treehouse when the weekends permit.  The last piece of furniture has been short-listed for the donation truck; the last few boxes destined for the garage are in the front hall; the pictures are appearing on the walls.  We are spiraling into the life after move in.

What’s changing for me is the push to ‘get it all done’.  The moving is almost done.  Our strange routine is both a comfort and a welcome limitation.  It is also temporary.  Once all the ‘doing’ is done, the ‘being’ begins – until the next time things change.  And that will, of course, present additional challenges and accommodations.

Change is the unchanging reality of life,  no?

The upside:  we get to sleep at the same time.

The downside:  if I work, who cooks a main meal?  When do we eat together?

Bottom line:  just don’t know how this is going to work.  I am amazed at how differently I feel about this shift business.  Of course, the last time I had to deal with this was more than 25 years ago.  Life is much Much MUCH different now.

We’ll be waiting for the final word from the company on which shift he’ll be assigned.

I’m committed to rolling with this experience – unlike my response to the night shift.  Rick has made it quite clear:  while his preference is for the first shift, he prefers the night shift to second shift.  I may agree with him.



Rick said the e-mail came.  He is transferred to the 2nd shift on Monday.  Tonight is the last night of 3rd shift.

I cried.

“But, wait!” he said.

His company does something called ‘shift-leveling’ which means that they need to be sure not all the new workers go on the same shift.  The company allows workers to state their shift preference which can be taken into account when the shift-leveling begins.

Rick requested first shift when they do the leveling – but there is no guarantee.  No guarantee that he will get first shift – or that he will remain assigned to 2nd shift.  The elephant in the conversation was the possibility that 3rd shift may become a more permanent reality.

I cried.

Truthfully, this has not been my best day ever.  As I write this, I am recalling incidents and conversations of the day that have my name all over them. Occurrences that were less than gracious, less than honorable, and difficult to own – all of which happened this day.  I’d like to blame them on the 3rd shift, but as I look closer, the blame resides with my stiff-necked resistance to surrendering to what is.  I felt entitled to be impatient and unlovely and inconsiderate because ‘living on 3rd shift is so taxing’.

Acceptance is a difficult task – especially in our culture where we are all supposed to “make it happen!” , “make it work for you!”. in other words, FORCE IT TO BEND TO YOUR WILL.  Sometimes it is necessary to just float on the top of the rough water – to fight only means using up energy and finally succumbing to the waves.  Third shift has been one of those times.  I’m pretty tired from fighting.  That is what I learned.  The bigger question is, did I learn it well enough to apply the learning next time?

Tonight is the last night of 3rd shift.  For now.

Night Thirteen

September 15, 2011

The 30 days continue.  We’re just about half-way thru this experience.  We’ve come up with a schedule that is working, if not satisfactory for living.

Many of the night shift guys that Rick works with have worked the night shift for many, many years – and they like it for various reasons.  Many of them are married, most are divorced.  The draw for the night shift comes from being paid for 8 hours and working for 6 and a half.  That’s the monetary bonus.  Another bonus is that if they are married, they are able to eliminate some daycare if their partners work.  Daycare is such an expensive proposition – frequently one partner works just to pay for daycare.   Some work the night shift to avoid their families.  Of those Rick has talked to that are divorced claim that their wives just didn’t like it – and that the schedule was a big reason for the strain that caused the divorce.

Back in the early days of August, Rick told me about a fellow newbie who worked the night shift for 30 years  He was divorced because his wife just couldn’t manage the schedule of trying to raise a family with little help.   The fellow worker LIKED the night shift – but he and his wife could not come to agreement about how to live their life in this way.

In my arrogance, ignorance, and selective memory, I stated some nonsense that it was too bad his wife couldn’t manage to cope with the schedule he preferred to work.

It is interesting to me what comes out of my supposedly educated and enlightened mouth sometimes.  What an unknowing judgement I passed on that man and his former wife.  We cannot, we must not judge.  We never really can walk in any one else’s shoes.  We can get an approximation of what that might be like – but they, and we have our own unique experiences.

I know someone who works the night shift – loves and prefers it.  That person has been married more than 25 years and has raised two children on this schedule.  It appears that night shift does work for people who enjoy it and are creative with it, and I am grateful they do it.  I surely like knowing that in the middle of the night there are doctors and nurses and police and fire men, waitresses and cooks, hotel clerks and the myriad of other mostly unrecognized people who are willing to work while the rest of us sleep.

To them I say:  thankyou.

Night Eight

September 7, 2011

No coffee for me tonight.  Sweet dreams!

Night Seven.5

September 6, 2011

Rick’s been gone for 25 minutes – and what am I doing?  I am wandering around the apartment.  He didn’t sleep very well in sleep session #2 – so I made a small pot of coffee for him before he went.  Yes – I had a cup.  IDIOT!!!  I should be in bed with my newly procured library book – I made a quick trip to fetch it after he’d settled down for the 2nd round of sleep.

If he were here, there’d be no question of getting ready for bed and getting down for sleep – BUT there is nothing stopping me from wandering and e-mailing and blogging away – the coffee notwithstanding.

I have a limited window of noise time – he gets home at 6:20am.  We have coffee and then he goes to bed for sleep session #1.  (As you may remember, I have to keep the noise down – no taping).  Also – I can’t get  into the master bath for my shower, toiletries, or even to clean it.  I can’t even get to my clothes.  So if I do think of it, I can cart my stuff out and take a shower in the other bathroom.  If I don’t think of it – I’m stuck.  This also means I cannot clean the master bathroom – until 10:30 or 11:00 when he does wake up.  Make the bed?  Ah, no.  Not with third shift.   Then Rick is up til after the early dinner (see Night One) and the pre-bedtime paperwork (his story, not mine) – or until about 5:00 or so when goes down for Sleep Session #2.

Why not just live on his shift time with him, you ask?  Well, I have this little private practice I am trying to grow –  clients aren’t interested in 11:30pm appointments.  This means trying to organize time for clients AND Rick AND consultation groups – oh yes, and clean the bathroom.  I know, I know.  This will be short lived.  And it will also be more difficult (and I will be more whiney) if I don’t just make myself go to bed – coffee or no coffee. 

Ok – I’m done.  Night-night.

Night Seven

September 6, 2011

I’m sitting at the table (yes, THE table) – Rick is sitting across from me – it’s 5:09pm and he’s doing the paperwork that preceeds his bedtime.  He doesn’t know I’m typing away on this blog.

I am happy to report that Gift #2 has revealed itself:  we have more time together.  The  bonus for Rick working the night shift is that he must be on-site from 11:00pm to 6:00 – and he gets paid for 8 hours.  That translates into an additional 1.5 hours of time at home which is, at this moment in the Convergence Zone, includes SUNLIGHT.  You may know that the Puget Sound area is renowned for its gray and cloudy days – even more than those experienced by the Twin Cities. 

So in our time together today – WE worked on items for the apartment, ate two meals together, laughed, talked and generally enjoyed each others’ company.  There will be other days this week where so much time will not be mutual; however, if we can do these days together twice out of the five, that will be lovely.  And it will not only make the time go by more easily, it might even be enjoyable.

When life gives you lemons – make lemonade.    Ahhh.  Drink it in!

Night Five

September 1, 2011

It has been a long week – many things coming up during the day hours to trouble Rick’s sleep (and it was not me with the tape!).  I had work out of the house two days which were somewhat difficult to manage due to the early dinner requirement.  Today was one of those days.

We are both tired – as most folks are at the end of the work week – and looking forward to having the long weekend.  I will again be out of the house tomorrow for my work – and back about the time he is ready to wake up at 2:30 or so.   I will be tired; he will be ready to do something.  Our schedules are definitely out of sync.

The enthusiasm I felt last night is not here.  The humor has escaped me as I contemplate another dinner alone.  Part of the weight I feel  is due to the struggles Rick has finding his own place in his new job.  In addition, he is dealing with health issues his mother is experiencing back in Minnesota – plus the list of things he wants/needs to do for our apartment home and little time and energy to do that.

This is our new, albeit short,  reality.  I am grateful (see gift #1 Night Four) as well as aware that this is, truly, difficult.

Night Four

August 31, 2011

Ok – I admit it. I was pretty whiney on Night One. So here we are at Night Four – and things are better. My experience of discombobulated hours of life and sleeping alone are subsiding a bit. I found a way to document the time on the calendar that is encouraging. The two hardest things for me are eating and sleeping. Rick needs to eat at 3:30 or so – I just can’t manage eating dinner at 3:30 – so I eat alone later. That is sad. And hard. I’m tempted to stand at the kitchen sink and just stuff something in. However, I’ve been making myself set a place, cook the food and NOT watch TV. My thought process during these meals has generated: GIFT ONE. Gratitude.

How often do we have the opportunity to experience what life would be like were we single/alone BEFORE it happens. When our children were small, and Rick worked nights, his leaving for work at 10:00 at night afforded me several hours of time to do quilting or wallpapering or other things that were hard to do with little people around. I was in my mid 30s then – and the thought of being alone without people around me was refreshing! In my late 50s, I realize that being alone is not so much fun. I mean – it’s not like I’m going to go out – except to the mailbox.

I have a new appreciation for my 78 year old widowed mother. She has developed her evening routine – the news, a glass of wine, a light dinner and early to bed. It is a far cry from the evening routine she kept when my father was alive – and it has taken her three years to be ok with this new format. She admits she didn’t realize how much she missed him until after he was gone.

Rick is not gone in the same sense as my father is gone – but he is not readily present. I do appreciate his working these strange and difficult hours. We will have several opportunties to eat conventional meals this long Labor Day weekend. I look forward to enjoying and appreciating that time with him. In the meantime – through Night Thirty, I will remember to appreciate the awareness that I will not always have him.