Friday, August 28, 2009

Sitting, waiting, wishing...

That is probably one of my favorite songs. Jack Johnson, in case you're wondering. The video is awesome, too. It's filmed in reverse. Here's a link to the video on you tube.

This title is an accurate depiction of how I feel at this very moment.

I am sitting here. Obviously.

But more importantly, I am theoretically sitting here, too. Sitting in life. Stalled out. No opportunity for opportunities to advance my careers--my health insurance day job nor my photographic moonlight job. Zero chance of being able to sell my house (if I wanted to) and not actually lose money. My husband is still unemployed. So, here I sit. Waiting.

Waiting for what? Well, several things, actually. The most exciting thing is my child's birthday party. It is scheduled for tomorrow at a local park. I have lots of family in town that we haven't seen since May.

The next most exciting thing is... well, the Air Force. Now I know you're probably sitting there, scratching your head and wondering WTH and where did that come from? Well, it came from many months of thinking about what *I* could do to change my current "seated" position. So I have decided to apply for Officer's Training School (OTS) to be an Officer in the United States Air Force.

Since my husband has been unemployed for so long, I have become a very pro-active individual. This is not to say I have just started being pro-active. oh, no. I have always been such; however, now, it's manifested itself into serious crunch time. Get it done or get out, kind of change.

Here is how I look at my situation:
I grew up an Army brat. Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back at my life as a teenager living in Germany, I realize those are some of THE most awesome days of my life. I would never change that opportunity because is sculpted the person I have become today.

My husband could certainly benefit from the discipline of the military; however, he does not have a degree and he is 35. The Air Force requires commissioned officers be commissioned prior to their 35th birthday and have at least a Bachelor's degree. So, if he were to join as an enlisted (E-1) his base pay would be slightly less that $17000.00 a year. Frankly, that is not enough for us to survive off of, much less be able to live. Ok, fine... He would also get housing allowance, and other benefits; such as: free health insurance for all of us, free trips all over the world, etc. However... and here's the drawback... I would have to quit my job. Granted, that is what I am considering anyway (aside from the Air Force); however, I would be forced to quit a good paying job for possibly nothing. With the national unemployment numbers as they are, I would be absolutely stupid to do that considering I'd have a great chance of not finding a job with the pay I am currently earning.

This bring me to my next point(s):
I have a degree and I am less than 35. My husband is already unemployed, so there would be no job for him to quit. As an O-1, I would be earning nearly double what he would as an E-1. Additionally, O-1 salary is about $2000/annually more than I currently earn, add on to that the housing allowance, dependent pay, etc... and I could be making nearly $60k a year (depending on the location we get stationed). That's my salary and my husband's (required salary) combined.

Yes. I know there are draw backs...remember, I grew up as an Army brat. We were station in Germany when the wall fell and when the first gulf war started. My father was never deployed, thankfully, but he could have been, easily. And it's something we had to deal with, daily. I know being in the Air Force (or any branch of the military) means I will have to spend a great deal of time away from my family. I do not like that part at all. However, being deployed for a job that is helping to support my family vs one that has rejected me for promotions time and time again seems like a better solution than staying in a dead end job longer than necessary.

And this brings me to the wishing part of my life. The only thing that is standing in my way of getting selected for a slot at OTS is my weight. Granted I am in relatively good health--someone might look at me and say, "Oh, she could lose a few pounds, but she's not fat." Well, the AF has a weight limit. And I need to lose 15 pounds, legally and morally, QUICK. I've hit the gym everyday (except Sundays) for the past 2 weeks. I have not changed the way I eat--2 veggies, 2 fruits, 3 proteins, low carb/fat; therefore, with all the running and weight training, you would think I would have lost 10 pounds already. Yes, I know muscles weighs more than fat; however, I walk/run 6 miles a week and I do light weights with lots of reps. I'm wishing this weight would come off quicker. So, WTH?

I doubt very seriously I will change my mind. The Air Force might decide for me; however, I won't change my mind. I will work my behind off at the gym, cut carbs, cut fats, etc... to lose this weight.

In addition to the CFE I am supposed to be studying for in my current day job, add to it now the AFOQT, Air Force Officer's Qualification Test.

Don't wish me luck... I need a miracle.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Two Months Later and it still hurts

It’s been over two months since my last post. My life has changed.

To get you caught up I have attached the epic novel also known as “a day in the life of me”. I tried to make it as short as possible. Needless to say… that didn’t really work out so well.

June 20th

I was scheduled to be 2nd shooter at a wedding for the studio with whom I freelance. At 4 AM my husband wakes me up complaining the steak he had for dinner the night before has been lodged in his esophagus since the first bite—he had not been able to force it down or drink water. In an effort to remain calm, I gave him the choice of going to the ER or sticking it out to see if it will pass on its own. He chose to stick it out. Fine. He went to work around 8 AM and I left for the wedding around 10 AM. By this time, I had already contacted the studio and advised them of the situation. I complained to my friend (also the studio owner) about my husband’s lack of pro-action; also I offered suggests on how to get the job done if I was to be delayed because of an eventual ER visit. She agreed and instructed me to keep her posted. No problem.

In the mean time, I am in “constant” contact with my husband via text message. Around 11 AM he said he was still not able to eat or drink—by this time over 12 hours had passed since the steak became lodged. I was getting increasingly concerned, angry, scared, etc. I gave him another choice: go to the doc-in-the-box or the ER; but, do NOT stay at work. End of discussion. He said he would head to the doctor. Great. As a side note, I work in the health insurance industry full time, so I called some of my nurse co-workers to see if they had advice. No one returned my calls. Fine. I have one friend who is a physician, so I called her. In the calmest and sweetest southern drawl she said, "go to the ER, immediately." Ok. I knew it was a serious situation, but really? The ER?

During this whole time, I am in “constant” contact with the studio via text message. By this point, arrangements have been made for the 3rd and 4th shooters to be at the wedding to take my place and I would go to the reception site to get the set-up shots. (Yes, that’s right it takes two shooters to equal me, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.) Anyway, we arrive at the ER, fill out all the paper work and (since we didn’t arrive by ambulance) we wait. Once the ER doctor realized my husband had food lodged in his esophagus we were escorted to a room, and my husband was set up on an IV of saline. The doctor comes in and starts shooting the breeze, just chit chatting about various hobbies my husband enjoys. (Later, I learned it was an effort to get him and, ultimately, his throat to relax and allow the food to pass naturally.) After several minutes, the food was still lodge. Keep in mind, the food is right at the top of the stomach and bottom of the throat, so he could still breathe absolutely fine, he just wasn’t able to eat or drink. Then the doctor indicated my husband would have to be injected with several difference muscle relaxers, a blood pressure medicine and insulin as a second resort to dislodging the food. If those didn’t work: endoscopy, to extract the food manually.

This next part might make you think I don’t care, but the reality is my husband has been laid off from work twice in the past 9 months; with the most recent being mid-April. So, by the time this happened he had been laid off from his full-time job two months and was working part-time: Sat and Sun only. We have a kid to care for; we cannot go without him working or me working my freelance. So I felt a HUGE obligation to be at the wedding/reception; not for the sake of the bride or the studio, but so I could feed my child with the money I would be paid from shooting. With this in mind, I called my husband’s BFF to come and sit at the ER while I left to shoot the wedding. My thoughts were: he’s at the ER; he’s safe; if anything goes horribly wrong, he’s in the best place possible. I hated leaving and felt like a loser wife, but I had/have to take care of the one person on the planet who depends on me: my child.

While all this is going on, I am still in contact with the studio via text. I message her with my plans of leaving the ER and heading to the reception site to shoot. I never hear back from her, and in all honesty, I didn’t expect to hear back from her since, by this time, the wedding had started and she couldn’t take her eyes off the bride. I fully expected her to contact me once the wedding was over and they were starting the after ceremony pictures. But I never did. The wedding started at 2 PM, I made it to the reception site also at 2 PM. Normally a wedding will last 30-minutes or longer. Since this wedding was not filled with ceremonial traditions, I assumed the wedding would last 30-45 minutes; the formal post-ceremony portraits would last another 30 minutes and then the 20-minute drive from the church to the reception. Any reasonable person who has attended at least two weddings in their life time could conclude the primary shooter would have arrived at the reception site around 3:30 PM. Right? MAYBE 3:45 if the wedding started late or the pictures ran a little long.

While I am at the reception, the medicines my husband had been given didn’t relax him enough for his throat to release the food, he ended up having to be sedated and scoped to remove the food. Granted, my mind was not exactly focused on the job at hand; however, I thought if the situation were reversed and this was my gig and I knew one of my employees was a bit over stimulated, what is the least I would do? Send the 3rd/4th shooter as relief as quickly as possible? Right? That’s what you would think happened. But, nope, that’s not what happened at all.

Around 4 PM the 3rd shooter did show up. When he arrived, I let out a sigh of relief and nearly burst into tears, the type of tears you get when you have been rescued from a never ending nightmare. But just as my eyes welled up and a smile barely crossed my lips…he walked right past me without speaking. Shock and disbelief are not powerful enough words to fully describe how I felt at that exact moment. Yes, the 3rd shooter did show up but he did not show up to relieve me. Oh, no. I found out later, he had been instructed by the “bride” to photograph the band and the cake. (Uhm… What!??!!? Is that not what *I* was doing there?) Fearful I might miss the bride and groom’s arrival (they had not arrived yet when #3 showed up) I didn’t leave my post by the front door. I had shot the cakes, all the food, the set-ups, nearly every guest at the reception; therefore, I felt I had nothing left to capture. Around 4:10 the newlyweds arrived. I rebussled the bride’s train and with a smile and a flash, I captured their entrance into the reception, their first dance and some pictures of them mingling with family and guests.

My friend (and studio owner) did not show up until 430 PM!!! Nearly an HOUR after I expected her. When I finally saw her, I again sighed a huge sigh and nearly burst into those tears I described earlier; only this time, add in the fact I wanted to punch her in the mouth and run to my car, never looking back. She approached me with a look of grief; she gave me a hug and I began to tremble from all of the adrenaline and emotions. She said, “We need to talk.” I thought to myself, “You’re d@mn right we need to talk.”

We ended up going into a side hall where we had some privacy. We began with chit chat: how did the wedding go, how’s your husband, etc. Once the formalities were out of the way the dialog went something like this (paraphrased, of course):

Me: What took so long for you to get here?
Her: The pictures ran long.
Me: Ok… but why were you over 20 minutes delayed after the bride and groom?
Her: Traffic.
Me: Fine. What’s up with #3? He came in, didn’t speak and I haven’t seen him since.
Her: The bride wanted to make sure the band and cake got shot.
Me: I shot them. But he (the #3 shooter) didn’t even check-in with me (the #2 shooter). He dropped off his gear, moved his car, came back to grab his gear and I haven’t seen him since.

She gave me the same excuse about having to shoot the band and the cakes and he was just doing what he was told, blah, blah, blah…

Me: So, you mean to tell me, he doesn’t have to check-in with me, the lone shooter of the reception—forget about the fact my husband is in the ER and I might need to leave—because he was told by “the bride” to shoot x,y,z, when you know good and well I am here, capturing those very things WHILE my husband is in the EMERGENCY ROOM with food lodged in his throat? I have not had enough time to stop and take a break with going to the ER and then here. I have not had any lunch and now it’s going on dinner time.
Her: Well #3 has low blood sugar and he canceled his morning appointments to come to the church to take your place.
Me: #3 HAS LOW BLOOD SUGAR? Oh, please…at least he has had time to stop and get something to eat before he arrived at the church. I haven’t. I left my house with the full intension of going to the church; but instead I ended up at the ER, where there is no buffet or even an opportunity to grab a bite; I stayed there as long as I could until I had to be here (at the reception site); waited over an HOUR for SOMEONE to show up to relieve me and when that someone does shows up he doesn’t even check-in with me to see what, if anything, I DID capture? And now you’re standing here telling me it’s all my fault that I didn’t get a break??
Her: Well, there has definitely been a lack of communication in this situation.

Feeling she was insinuating that it was me who failed to communicate, I went OFF:

Me: What? “A lack of communication?” Are you kidding me? I have been in COMPLETE contact with you: texts, phone calls… You have been made FULLY aware of what I am doing; however, *I*, on the other hand, am in the dark. You have been “courting” me to become “partners” with you in your studio and you think *I* have a communication problem??? #1, I think… no, I KNOW I need to leave. I can’t believe what I am hearing, I can’t believe this is actually happening like this, I can’t believe you are defending HIM. I better leave before I say something I might regret.
Her: Yes, I think you better leave.

There is so much I am leaving out for the sake of sparing your eyes from reading every detail; I know it doesn’t really look like it, but it’s true. For example (real short, I promise): the newlyweds were so late to their own reception, the mother of the bride asked me where they were. Well, I didn’t know, I was wondering that myself. I said: “Ma’am, I’ve been here since 2, I haven’t talked with #1 since before the wedding. I’d be happy to call her for you.” Of course the mother was in agreement. When I called #1’s cell phone, the #5 “shooter” answered and was snippy with me even though I had explained the bride’s mother was inquiring.


I was so very angry at #1, at the situation, at #3, at my husband, at the world, that I called my good friend, Macy, in a panic. She and I have been friends a short time, but we clicked instantly. I had confided in her about my concerns with joining the studio and possibly giving up my own studio, my own vision, long before this day. So, while I was driving to meet up with my husband, I called her. While I was recapping everything that had transpired over the past 5 hours, I was getting even more worked up about the situation; and as I progressed through the day’s events, it started to sink in that I was doing her a “favor” by ensuring the reception site had coverage and she didn’t seem to care my husband was ill. As I repeated to Macy the words exchanged in the conversation #1 and I had, it became more and more clear that I could not even consider joining her studio. The dream of quiting my full time job after 13 years and work full time as a photographer was crashing down around me; my husband was very ill and I was not able to be with him. My lungs became tight, I was beginning to struggle to breath and I started hyperventilating, I got tunnel vision and my ears went deaf. I was only 2 minutes from my destination; I realized if I didn’t calm down, and calm down quickly, I would pass out and crash my car. I later learned I had post traumatic stress syndrome.

It took nearly 2 days for me to have the ability to tell my husband what happened the day of the wedding. And then I had to tell him in segments, so I wouldn’t get myself wound up again.

Today, as I type this blog entry, it's still very difficult to comprehend the events of that dreadful day, my husband takes medication every day for Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis, he is still unemployed 2 months later and I still work with the same studio. I have made every attempt to schedule a face-to-face meeting with #1 to discuss this situation (and others); and as of today, we have had no such meeting. Other situations have come up that I feel were not handled nor sufficiently discussed. Therefore, the future I thought I had with the studio will never be.

Although, I am no longer considering being #1’s partner, we still work together on various projects on an as needed basis. She helps me on my studio’s projects and I help her with hers. But my mind and heart will not allow me to sign any contract of partnership with her. I’d have to sacrifice so much to be her partner, and yet, she’s not willing to reciprocate. That, to me, is not a partnership. In her insinuation that I have poor communication skills, with that frame of mind, she does not yet know I will never partner with her. Selfish? Yes. Childish? Probably. Regrets? None.

And I am grateful to have a "healthy" husband, no matter how ... fill in the blank ... I think he is. I am grateful to have an opportunity to work with #1 without my worry of a partnership agreement and all the concerns about closing my studio. I am happy to say my husbands unemployment has kicked in and we are surving on that, my income and the benevolence of family and friends.