Saturday, September 21, 2013

Welcoming Fall with Open Arms

It's 8am, I'm in the last stages of a cold that has moved to a sore throat, the weather is sunny but barely 50 degrees, a steaming cup of chai tea with honey sits to my right, I'm wrapped in a bathrobe, the windows are cracked open, and you can hear the geese honking overhead.

It's officially fall.

To be honest, I was none too thrilled with the first signs of autumn this year.  Maybe I didn't get enough of summer this year, particularly with the erratic weather.  Maybe it's because we did very little of the traditional activities or trips you associate with summer fun.  Or that work got so busy that I looked down at my to-do list and when I'd finally made some headway, a whole season had past. 

Maybe I just dread the winter months that will follow, lol.

This summer was a season of change for us.  I think I'm still playing catch up with life, huffing and puffing like an out-of-shape runner, gasping, "wait for me!"

In July, Mike got a huge promotion at work.  He was made a program coordinator and is now in charge of three consumers and the staff who takes care of them.  The new title included a pay raise ($12.25 an hour with overtime) and a slew of responsibilities.  For the consumers, Mike coordinates medical care, therapy, job transportation, finances, supplies and groceries, contact with their guardians and state case workers, and a mountain of paperwork related to DHS, Medicare, and Social Security.  For his staff, he manages scheduling, payroll, training, and corrective measures (of which there have been a lot). 

They knew what they were doing when they handed one of their worst performing programs (organization-wise, not the consumers) to a ex-military man.  Mike finally feels like he has righted a listing ship and is back on course.  At least his deck hands are mostly on board.  Mostly.

For us, it's meant changes in schedules.  Mike works some evenings and typically has his weekends free now.  But because care goes on 24/7 at his house, his phone is a mess of text messages and calls at random hours.  And he also has the dreaded on-call week every two months. 

Finances too have been more complicated as Mike gets reimbursed for not only mileage, but random expenses his program incurs (which makes budgeting rather tricky - how I am supposed to anticipate when his house runs short on toilet paper because someone forget to get it when grocery shopping???).  Then there's how overtime makes his paychecks flux and he has the weirdest, most inconvenient pay dates I've ever seen (somewhere between the 10-13th and maybe the 24-26th).  It's driving me nuts!  

Another change was Mike's honorable discharge from the military.  As of the end of June, he peacefully parted ways with the Iowa Air National Guard for a break and returned to being a full civilian - the first time in 12 years.  No more drill every month, no chances of deployment, no more uniforms hogging up the laundry basket, no combat boots ready to trip over, no trying to hunt down troops that need to do paperwork.  The haircut remains :) 

Life for me has been interesting.  Work was exceedingly busy this summer, as our issues are a little thicker at this time of the year, all of my special projects (award programs) came full circle, and the magazine is playing around with some new initiatives that require extra attention.  We were also short staffed for a while as we filled an open position, which demanded a slightly higher workload from everyone and then my time on the hiring committee.  Luckily we found the right person and are moving forward.

I also had the opportunity to teach a new-to-me course this summer: Critical Thinking.  It is one of the weirdest courses I've ever taught.  It has vague learning objectives like "define problems" or "distinguish between fact and opinion."  Seriously.  With such a wide path to walk, it was difficult to construct a coherent course and create meaningful activities (especially with a textbook I absolutely detested).  

So I ended up with a class that was a mixture of comp, public speaking, rhetoric, philosophy, ethics, and research methods.  My seven students were gracious and a real blessing because they were pretty active across the board.  It's definitely a course I would teach again, but I always forget how much time and energy it takes the first round to figure everything out, create the class content, and experiment every week.  

My health continues to be a matter of consistent vigilance.  On the one hand, I can report that virtually all of the symptoms I had been experiencing before going grain-free have dissipated.  I've also lost 50 pounds.  Yes, you read that right, 50 pounds.  I made it through most of the summer with baggy shirts and pants safety pinned to fit.  But alas, I have donated so many clothes this year.  I am literally to the point where I must purchase new underwear and bras.  It's a good thing, but it's expensive.  I didn't budget to replace my ENTIRE wardrobe this year.  I have been making it work with a few Kohls trips and trying to go to Goodwill when possible.  

As much as this progress makes me happy and relieved, it also is very demanding.  To safeguard against contamination is a daily trial.  To cook ALL of my own food requires hours of my time and energy.  No matter how tiring my day has been, I must go to my kitchen and work to eat every evening.  I know it's the right thing, and most days it's manageable, but the days it's not, it can be very overwhelming.  I know it will get easier as I go on, but Year One of the Great Diet Change is still in progress. 

So what did we do this summer for fun?
  • We went to the state fair for the first time in years.  I found fruit on a stick and Mike ate a fried brownie.  
  • We had a blast watching two good friends get married to each other.
  • We were regulars at the downtown CR Farmer's Market, which is dangerously stocked with great vendors.
  • We've been biking a good many times and hit up some new trail sections.
  • By a stroke of good fortune, we bought a new (to us) car.
  • We spent a weekend on the banks of the Mississippi with friends.
  • We've instituted game nights and SkipBo, Dabble, Cribbage, and Scattergories are played routinely. 
  • We had a big German-themed birthday party for Mike's 30th birthday, complete with brats, ham, baked potato bar, and, because I love him so much, lots of blue cheese, pickled herring, and sauerkraut. 

When I think about my initial disdain for fall appearing, I think it's because I'm mourning a summer that was a little too turbulent for my tastes. It's the classic story of too much work and not enough of play.

But I've already noticed that the cooler temperatures and earlier sunsets have prompted a slower pace for both us.  And this I welcome with open arms.  I'm ready to roast vegetables and meats without having to turn on the air conditioning.  I'm ready to load up the bed with extra quilts.  I'm ready for walks in crunchy leaves and wrapping up in a warm coat.  

I'm ready for some relaxation. 

What's your favorite thing about fall?