New High Score.

Working overnights, sitting sedentary for hours on end, having access only to crappy food, and sleeping through the daytime hours when one usually does things- has begun to catch up with me in the health department.

I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been.

I won’t dwell on it too much, since it’s reversible. Instead I’m focusing on HOW to reverse it.

For starters, water. Dear God….water. it turns out, hydrating with coffee through 12 hour shifts is a lousy idea. I’ve been habitually neglecting hydration, which is bad. Really bad. I’d get home from work, pee dark yellow, and wake from my slumber with dehydration headaches.

Yeah. Not smart.

I’ve already fixed that. I consumed 80oz of water in 14 hours yesterday, and have a water bottle on me constantly now.

Next step: diet. Skipping gas station fare on my shift isn’t going to be easy, but it is necessary. Done need to be the days where slow shifts see me bored-eat a whole bag of combos. I’ve always been a fan of fruit and nuts, so these will become my snack food. I’m not delving into the cult-like cleanses and crash diets, but I am changing what I consume.

Final step: 0600 tomorrow, I run again. My goal by the end of the summer is to run the 7 miles to my parents place without dying. Or stopping. Or dying.

This step will be the most difficult. A lot of health nuts and exercise psychotic love to claim that you can always find time to exercise, you just seek excuses NOT to.
My suspicion is that these annoyingly motivated individuals don’t work a schedule that severely screws with sleep, family, and personal times. Finding time to do anything but work and sleep is not easy. But necessary.

So. There it is. AD is in terrible shape. I admit it, I own it, and I need to fix it. Stay tuned, and follow me as I undertake a journey to lose (data removed) pounds and get back to my Academy weight and form.
I don’t ask you to come along with me for support, but in case I need someone to follow behind me in a car and force me to run more.

Here goes.

Progress at the Dinner Table.

Some of you might recall that The Narrator was a picky eater. He still is, but he’s getting better. In the space of three days he tried mozzarella sticks and grilled cheese and liked them both. Yes. I have a (nearly) seven year old boy who would not even TRY grilled cheese until just a few days ago.

He was upset after he ate it too. He was upset that he’d been wrong about not liking it; and cried. Welcome to my weird little world.

The Destroyer has become the challenge. Not because he’s picky like his brother, but because he’s completely forsaking the idea of silverware.

We had an exchange the other night that not only taught me a little about patience, but reinforced professional parenting lessons in regards to specific instructions when engaging children. He was shoveling pasta into his mouth one piece at a time, going so far as to move the fork on his plate out of the way.

Me: “Honey, please use your fork.”
Him: “No thank you.”
Me: “That wasn’t a request. Use your fork.”
Him: “No…..why?”
Me: “Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and I know you know how to.”
Him: “Oh. Okay.”

I sat back, pleased that the interaction had not only gone my way, but had done so rather painlessly.

Then, I watched as he picked the pasta up off the plate with his fingers, speared several onto his fork, THEN shoved the fork into his mouth, and repeated the process time and again until his dinner was gone…eyeballing me the whole time with a look that said “You didn’t say HOW to use the fork.”

They say that you should pick your battles. I chose to quit the field with honor, even if it was a draw rather than a victory.

Leadership

Since leaving college and entering the world of work, I’ve had my fair share of experience working for bosses and leaders, and no- they’re not synonymous.

My very first job was working in IT for a school. The superintendent I worked for was a boss. He bossed. There was no leading there. He made requests that were actually demands, never took ‘no’ for an answer, and failed to recognize that not every technical difficulty that the school encountered was something I could something about. I remember specifically one instance where the internet went out. The problem was nothing in house, but our provider was having issues- evidenced by my calling their tech support line and being told I was #57 in line for service. He wanted to know what I was doing about the outage. I told him “There’s nothing I CAN do.” That didn’t sit well with him, and I took an ass-chewing for it. Leaving that job was a wonderful experience.

On the other side of the coin, my next job in IT was for a real leader. His hiring me was the reason I left the school, and I not only spent three years working for him, but on several occasions have gone BACK to do work for him while between or out of other jobs. He taught me everything I know about IT, and was a constant resource. I never had a bad thing to say about him. He could often be found in the field with us, crawling through frozen crawl spaces in high-bays running wires, or in basements installing hardware when he wasn’t at a desk running the day-to-day operations of the company. He led by example, and was always great to work for. Parting ways with him finally was a tough thing to do. I know he invested a lot of time and money into my training, but he still always supported me in my quest to change careers, and was a valuable reference when the time came.

When I got into law enforcement though, the line between a boss and a leader became so much more clear.

The first department I worked for was going through a change in administration while I was doing my training. The chief that hired me was elected to another position in the town, and while they selected a new chief officer, we had an interim chief, and a OIC. (Officer In Charge) Finally, a new chief was hired. He was, and still is, an excellent administrator. If there was equipment or training needed, he was the guy to get it, even from our notoriously tight-fisted municipality. In spite of that though, we never seemed to mesh. He’d give suggestions that retroactively turned into directives, he’d pick apart a decision made in the field and punish for it if it wasn’t to his liking, and went do far as to call me abrasive, coarse, and argumentative at one point. Nothing I did ever pleased the man, and I began to feel like I might have made a mistake in joining law enforcement. Even what little confidence I DID have in my abilities was dismissed as arrogance one day.   Seriously, he made me question the validity of my choice of careers. I’d go home at the end of my shift feeling like crap. The five months I worked full-time for him were among the worst I’d ever spent in a job. I got down on myself, and every time I saw his vehicle at the station, I’d get the “What did I do now?” feeling in the pit of my stomach, because even when I HADN’T made a mistake, I felt like he had one waiting in the wings.

One time, I was dealing with what could have been a delicate matter. A town official’s relative was involved in something stupid. I called the chief and asked him “What do you want me to do?” His response was “He’s a minor, make sure the parent is there when you’re interviewing him.” So, I set up the interview. Half an hour later, he came storming into the office wanting to know why I hadn’t turned the case over to a different agency, and that I should have done so right away…completely ignoring the fact that I had CALLED him asking for his input.

Another day, we were attending a multi-day training course in another town. We all rode together in a department vehicle, but on the last day I had some personal errands to do when training was let out.
“Hey chief” I said on the day before last. “I have some things to do after class, I’m going to take my personal vehicle instead of ride down, I’ll meet you there tomorrow morning.”
Two weeks later, I was chewed out for that, because I had told him I was taking my car, and didn’t ASK him if I could. He openly stated that if I had asked, he wouldn’t have denied me permission, but the declaration of my intentions instead of asking permission was a problem for him. Seriously.

Ultimately, I resigned from that position. Largely because I felt like it was only a matter of time before he found SOME reason to have me terminated, and I had begun to feel like I was terrible at my job. At the time I never once figured the problem was anything but me.

Fast forward to my current job. I’m still in law enforcement. I stuck with it. I’ve spent the same amount of time working full-time at both places, doing the same type of work…and I don’t feel like crap when I get home every morning. My immediate supervisors are not constantly poking holes in my judgement calls. When there are mistakes, (and there are) they’re addressed in such a manner that I don’t walk away from the meeting feeling like I don’t belong here. When we go on calls, particularly the tough ones- they come with us. They write reports, they make phone calls, they help me make sure my paperwork is done so as to satisfy the chief, the college, and the judge when necessary. I’m being LED.

The chief himself, I don’t have a lot of interaction with. But when I do, I don’t get nervous. I worked a rare day shift last week and got a call on the radio from him telling me he was going to lunch and asking me if I’d done that already. I hadn’t, and met with him for almost an hour as we talked about the job, the campus, the work I’m doing, and such. Not once did I feel like I had to explain myself, make an excuse, or apologize. I didn’t walk away from our meeting feeling like my job was in jeopardy because I made a decision in the field. Hell, he honestly took my input on a number of matters into consideration, something that would have never happened at the old place, as it had been made very clear on a number of occasions that my lack of time on the job dictated that I keep my mouth shut and not ‘speak above my experience level.’ (Actual quote.)

Look, I’m not saying that every issue at the old job was someone else’s fault, or a complete lack of leadership, but when you consider that I’m doing the same work under different people, and I go home at the end of my shift now feeling like I’ve accomplished something, and I can’t wait to go BACK and do it all again? There’s something to be said for that. I have once again found joy in the work I do, trust the people I work with, and respect- without fearing- the people I work for.

I’ve worked for bosses, I’ve worked for leaders, and I can tell the difference between the two now. My road has led me to a place where I think I belong, and I move on ahead with a train-wreck of an experience that almost saw me leaving the field altogether getting ever further in my rear view mirror.

My point tonight, is that I’ve come to fully accept that my rough experience at my last job might NOT have been entirely because I sucked at it. I can only have reached that conclusion by having something to compare the experience to; and now that I have, I sleep better at night…er….in the morning.

Night shifts still mess with me a little bit from time to time.

Adult Friends.

My wife and I had a conversation the other day that led me to a rather startling realization.
We have no friends.

Well, no. That isn’t entirely true. We have a small handful of close friends from college that we keep in pretty steady contact with, but that’s mostly through electronic means. Now that we’re all grown up, have families of our own, and no longer live a few feet from each other in a dorm building, we don’t spend a lot of time with each other physically.

In terms of actual, adult people we ‘hang out with’ or even socialize with, there are literally….none.

We live in a very small, rural town on a dead end road with no other full-time residents on it. I work at night and sleep during the day. We have two small children. She runs a crafting crafting business that keeps her busy into the night after the boys go to bed.

As a result, we don’t get out much.

I don’t socialize with anyone I work with, for no other reason that I don’t live anywhere near them. Even when I worked local though, I wasn’t much of a socialite with the other officers. When we DO go out, it’s her and I for a short period of time. Usually to dinner or something the like, and there’s never anyone we go WITH.

The last people we spent any time with socially was a young couple that was renting the house across the street from us, and the only reason we did was because of proximity. Again, with nobody else around, we sort of spent time with them out of a desire to make things not awkward. They were nice people, but a lot like we were; and they spent a lot of time to themselves.

After they moved out, the person that owned the home decided not to rent it again. Instead they opted to use it as a weekend getaway for themselves. They’re up sporadically, but we don’t speak much beyond the pleasantries exchanged when we happen to be outside at the same time.

We have no social life. When the rare wedding invite comes up, we make conversation with the people we’re tabled with, but again we keep to ourselves. I don’t know if we’re just prone to social awkwardness, or we’re just so badly out of practice that we don’t know HOW to make new friends.

At first this didn’t bother us. I mean, we have each other, and we’re happy together, so what else do we need?

Now though, I’m starting to sense that this could actually be an issue. I just feel like we need….human contact. It isn’t that we’re getting tired of each other, but things are just so damn stale on the social front. Your kids don’t count as friends. Your families don’t count as friends. If that’s all you’ve GOT…..then….well….you don’t have any friends.

I spend a lot of time in light-hearted banter and conversation with my partners at work, but I still don’t know if count them as anything more than co-workers yet. Aside from them though, the only people I talk to are the ones that DEFINITELY don’t want to be my friends. (Read: suspects.)

Do any other adults have this problem? I know using facebook as a social barometer is pretty dumb, but it seems like nobody else I know is suffering from a social slump like we are. Does anyone else seem to have work and family time taking up all the space in their lives, leaving little to no room for anything else? How many of you would have a hard time finding someone to go have a beer with this weekend? Tomorrow? Right now?

I don’t know of we’re doing something wrong, or if focusing on ‘us’ right now is what we need to be doing. I mean, my wife’s brother is a social colossus, traveling everywhere, visiting clubs, bars, other countries, and parties with his work friends all the time…but his marriage fell apart and he’s kind of a self-absorbed a-hole.

I can’t speak for my wife, but while I’m not necessarily unhappy with things the way they are, I just feel like something is missing, and I don’t know how to go about fixing it.

 

4:30am Coffee

I never was a morning person. Given the choice I’d have always opted to stay up late as opposed to getting up early.

Things get a little mixed up when you work overnights though. In essence, I’m staying up late enough that I’m awake early. I’ve begun to grow a little more fond of the morning.

This is particularly so on days such as this. The campus is quiet, the calls have slowed to the point of being non-existent, and even the radio traffic from the surrounding agencies has tapered off. The only sound as I sit in an empty parking lot overlooking my jurisdiction is the soft hum of the patrol car’s engine. Occasionally a gust of wind blows in through the open window, but mostly, it is quiet. Peaceful.

Mornings seem to offer a chance to pause, think, reflect, and ponder that no late night ever could.

Sitting next to me tonight isn’t a partner. Not a human one at least. No, tonight is one of those nights where I work alone for a while. Instead, I have a large, mostly empty by now, cup of coffee.

I am not able to sit on a dock overlooking a glass-smooth lake and watch the sun come up. Nor can I usher in the morning aside a newly awakened campfire outside a tent somewhere. I can though, enjoy a cup of coffee in silence, just as easily as if I WERE on a dock or in a tent somewhere. The universal comfort that is the first cup of morning coffee isn’t particular about where it is enjoyed, nor is its pleasure diminished even an iota by the fact that I am still hours away from getting to bed, and instead of pajama pants and slippers, I sport a uniform and body armor.

The thing is, I’m not having coffee right now because I need it. I’m drinking it because it is nice to have while I sit and relax a bit. I’d rather moments like this than to sit with a cold beer while the light of day wanes.

Even if said coffee is poorly brewed from a gas station, and has a tendency to roil the stomach shortly after consumption.

No thing is perfect, close though it may be.

Good morning all. May your morning be as peaceful, and your coffee be as hot and satisfying as mine.