#HAWMC day 18: right on schedule

As a journalist and editor, I don’t really have a typical day; I might copy edit or write one day, paginate and proof the next, and go out in the field and do interviews the next. But, I guess I could write down what my schedule looks like for this week.

7:04 a.m.: Alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button in nine-minute intervals until about 7:30.
7:31 a.m.: Shower time. It’s slow going, and I have a lot to do: hot oil treatment, shampoo, exfoliate my face, cleanse my face, condition, exfoliate the rest of me, shave.
8:03 a.m.: Breakfast time. Today I had a bowl of corn Chex, a banana and a mug of Lady Grey tea with honey. I surf the Web until about 8:30.
8:29 a.m.: Time to get pretty. I blow-dry and flat-iron my hair, brush my teeth, moisturize my face and body, put my make-up on.
9:05 a.m.: Time to get dressed. I had the worst time deciding what to wear this morning. Since I had a meeting tonight, I had to look extra professional. I eventually decided to go with wide-legged trousers, nude shell and a belted cardigan. (In case you cared.)
10:15 a.m.: First meeting of the day. I’m on my feet for way longer than expected—until about 10:45. It was a relief to get into my car and drive to my next appointment.
11:05 a.m.: Second meeting of the day. More sitting. Much better.
11:37 a.m.: Back at the office. I start going through the 300-plus emails I got over the weekend. Sigh.
12:04 p.m.: Lunchtime. I have some baked ziti with spinach the Professor made last week. I type up what came out of my first two meetings while I eat.
1 p.m.: Coffee break! My reporter and I walk down to the coffee shop, where we get entrenched in a 20-minute conversation about pie. (Seriously. It was awesome.)
1:22 p.m.: We head down to the local cafe to get a delicious cookie.
1:38 p.m.: Back at the office. I start fixing 20 photos from my Sunday event in CMYK and greyscale for the paper, since I don’t know how much colour will have at this point.
2:45 p.m.: Finally done with pictures. I start on stuff for our market-coverage freebie that gets sent to all the homes in our area.
3 p.m.: Get done with everything I can do until the reporter gets back from her meeting and gets me a story. I start putting the community calendar together, culling past events and adding new ones.
3:45 p.m.: Reporter gets me the story. I tell her it needs a graphic element, so she gets me the info I need for it. I futz around until I get a graphic I think I like. I put the four-page extra together.
4:45 p.m.: After printing out the proofs, I realise I hate the graphic. It’s too big. I make it smaller.
5:30 p.m.: Extra proofed, PDF’d and sent. I make my dinner—a peanut butter sandwich. Yum.
5:34 p.m.: I decide to work on the photo page for the weekly paper using those 20 photos I Photoshopped earlier. I use six of them.
6:42 p.m.: I head over to my school board meeting. There’s no parking, so I park in a nearby church and walk.
7:01 p.m.: The meeting starts. Throughout, I take notes on my laptop and write 1.5 stories for the weekly.
9:03 p.m.: Meeting’s out. Now, I drive 30 minutes home.
9:32 p.m.: Home. The Professor and I watch two episodes of “That 70s Show.”
10:24 p.m.: The Professor and I take the dog for a walk.
11 p.m.: We’re home. He settles down to play a video game, and I finish up some work.
12 a.m.: Bed time.

6 a.m.: Wake up. Wash face, brush teeth, make up, dress.
7 a.m.: Out the door. Drive 30 minutes to first appointment.
7:35 a.m.: Interview with student and her mom.
8 a.m.: In the office. Finish writing the story with the student/mom interview and write up the meeting from last night.
9 a.m.: Print out three stories that haven’t been proofed to copy edit. Reporter arrives.
9:15 a.m.: Proof reporter’s stories.
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Paginate newspaper.
6 to 7 p.m.: Proof pages.
7 to 7:30 p.m.: PDF pages, proof them one more time and send them to the press.
8 p.m.: Home.
8:04 p.m.: Walk the dog with the Professor.
9:12 p.m.: Home again. Watch a bit of TV or read a bit before getting ready for bed.
10 p.m.: Bed.

7:17 a.m.: Wake up. Shower. Blow dry and flat iron hair. Eat breakfast. Brush teeth. Make up. Get dressed.
8:30 a.m.: Off to work.
9 a.m.: At work. Check emails that I ignored Monday and Tuesday.
9:30 a.m.: Put up the eEdition of the paper.
9:47 a.m.: Put up the website and get later updates ready to go.
10:14 a.m.: Sigh of relief that busiest part of week is over.
10:15 a.m.: Talk with reporter about what we’ve got going on for the week. Assign stories as needed.
10:40 a.m.: Look at what other newspapers had. Curse if we’ve been scooped. Laugh maniacally if we scooped them.
11:40 a.m.: Go over the other newspapers in the company with reporter. Point out good and bad design. Eat lunch while doing it.
noon to 1 p.m.: Cover the office while office manager is out. Help customers. Take ads. Etc.
1 p.m.: Lay out monthly publication.
4 p.m.: Proof, PDF, send to press.
5 p.m.: Quitting time!
Then, I’m meeting a friend for (vegetarian) sushi! Yum.

This Thursday, I’m taking the morning off because of how much I worked Monday and Tuesday. In the afternoon, I’ll write and I’ve got an event to cover.

It’s Good Friday! I’ll go to church, and then we’re heading to my parents’ house.

There’s not a lot of time in there for self-care, but on days I feel bad, I try to make time for myself. On the weekends, I usually take it easy, though I do cover weekend events, too. It’s a busy life I chose, and it’s often not compatible with taking good care of myself. But I love it, and that keeps me going.

in the mood

Today has been a pretty average day: I fought with my alarm for 20-plus minutes before finally giving into the inevitable got ready for work, spent a lot of time in front of the computer and on the phone and am at this very moment sitting around, waiting for a public hearing to start. The life of an editor is glamourous—except when it isn’t (which is most of the time).

But the life of a journalist is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not one that mixes very well with having a chronic illness. I stand for long periods of time. Or, I sit for long periods of time, typing away at my computer or editing proofs or reporters’ stories—or, as I am now, in an uncomfortable chair for a multi-hour meeting. I work long days multiple times per week (like today, when I had an early interview and a late meeting). I come into contact with a lot of different people—including students, since I’m in schools quite a bit—which means I’m exposed to a lot of different bugs. Those same people often tell me the wrong time to arrive somewhere, which means I spend a lot of time standing around, waiting for things to begin  (which is incredibly frustrating). Late nights often mean taking injections at different times than my schedule. All of this means stress, which, of course, is bad for both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

For now, the highs and lows of journalism are worth the potential harm to my health because, once again, I am working with people who are passionate about what they do, and that rekindled my flagging love of what I do. For now, that’s enough. And, in a weird way, I think that’s helpful for my overall health; it’s hard on the spirit to work, day in and day out, at something you hate. I am lucky enough that that isn’t true anymore.

And so, I guess that was just a complicated way to say I love my job again, and that’s a big part, I think, in why I’m feeling so much better. So, hooray.

october’s got those orange eyes, but somehow i still lost sight

Wow, October already. I can’t believe how this year has flown by. In a way, that’s both good and bad thing. I love the fall and am so excited for crisp weather, colourful tights, the state fair and caramel apple cider. But, I had hoped that by this time, I would be feeling better. I thought I’d have the use of my left hand back (incidentally, typing with one hand is super, ridiculously slow), that I wouldn’t walk with the speed (and grace) of an unsteady toddler, that I would feel more healthy scalp than psoriasis. Not so.

At my last doctor’s appointment, we increased my dose of MTX, so now I’m wading through the delightful oral ulcers and a tongue that feels like someone took a razer to it, which are finally, hopefully subsiding. And, after a couple of weeks of feeling yucky, I’m back on the Plaquenil (or rather, the generic hydroychloroquine) in the hopes some triple therapy (in my case methotrexate, hydroxychroloquine and sulfasalazine) will give me some relief.

At work, I’m dealing with a formerly nice gentleman who has turned into a bit of a bully because he doesn’t like something I wrote. It’s actually been quite stressful receiving multiple e-mails a day over the last week saying what a bad person I am. And I was OK with it all until the most recent e-mail, which was just hateful. It’s all the more surprising because I really don’t understand where it all is coming from and the person in question doesn’t seem too willing to explain.

So, I’m having a bit of a hard time reaching for my positive attitude. Or maybe I am reaching for it, but it’s just not there. I just feel worn out and beat down—an attitude at odds with the ridiculously beautiful, sunny day, which is all the more welcome after nearly a week of rain. Maybe I just need a hug or to snuggle with my dog or to receive a few e-mails a day over the course of a week saying what an awesome person I am. Regardless, I think I’m going to go for a walk outside and try to gain some perspective. And maybe a caramel apple cider.

UPDATED TO ADD: For all those people who have ended up here by typing in the song lyrics in the title (sorry!), it’s “Broken Horse” by the Freelance Whales.

time for moving on

So. I had to quit my second job two weeks ago. I wish I could say it wasn’t because of my PsA, but it was. The short version is that we both drew lines in the sand and were unwilling to deviate for them. The only course of action left to me was to quit.

Still, the long version has more shades of grey than that quick paragraph would suggest, as it often does. So, without further ado, the long version:

I have worked my second job, a part-time retail endeavour, for more than a year. I had PsA when I started — hell, I started flaring the first time while working at a different location in the same chain — but if it wasn’t in remission, I wasn’t doing nearly as poorly then as I am now. I was able to work then pretty well, and, because they knew I worked an additional full-time job, they tried to give me at least one weekend day off per week.

Then, fast-forward to the holiday season. I applied for and was given a holiday promotion, allowing me to act like a lower-level manager from November through December. There were two others, in addition to me, were given the additional duties to, for example, to count cash registers, deal with unhappy customers and support associates. Unlike the other two, however, I didn’t get a weekend off while doing that. I worked from Thanksgiving to Christmas with no days off.

That, obviously, took its toll. Like anything else, I got through it because I had to; I didn’t give myself a chance to think about what it was doing to me. Once it was over, though, I started flaring. My Enbrel stopped giving me relief. I was exhausted all the time. Eventually, about a month or so ago, I had to tell them about my PsA. At the behest of another manager, I wrote the store manager and assistant manager an e-mail, saying in no uncertain terms that I had to have one weekend day off per week or I wouldn’t be able to continue working there.

All went well for about a month, with the assistant manager making the schedule and giving me Sundays off. I had time to go to church, see my husband and our pets and recover. But the store manager apparently hadn’t read the same e-mail I’d written; she made the schedule one day and signed me up for two nine-hour shifts, including one on my beloved Sunday off. I had to tell her that wouldn’t work for me; my health is worth more than $8 an hour. She said she was unable to give me Sunday off all the time; if she gave it to me, she said, she’d have to give it to everyone. (Which didn’t make sense to me; I had a medical reason for needing it. I’m assuming not everyone working at the store has a chronic illness.)

So, I quit. And now, two weeks later, I have nights and weekends free (for the most part).

Still, I can’t help but feel this was mostly avoidable. I do feel some responsibility for the way things worked out. Maybe if I hadn’t allowed them to get the impression that I was healthy enough to work 14 days in a row this never would have happened. Maybe I am to blame for the way things fell out. But I’m not sure. I do know, though, that my body was telling me loud and clear that it could not handle nine-hour shifts, double-digit work days and no days off. Hell, some days, I can’t even handle my full-time job.

I guess I’m still learning my new limits, my new normal. It was nice to pretend for a while that I could be Superwoman, but, as usual, PsA didn’t allow me to maintain that illusion for long.

(Image via We Heart It.)

office space

It’s kind of funny how different offices (and, in my  case, I used this term loosely) can be.

At TFP, the reporters were all corralled into a cubical pen, sharing desk space, with each reporters desk sitting in or near a corner. There wasn’t a lot of wall space to hang things, so each person’s desk looked more or less the same.

Here, it’s basically one big open room. Editorial is divided using cubical walls. There’s lots of wall space, and my desk is my own. I’ve got a couple of filing cabinets that  do wonders for keeping me organized. Want to see a school board agenda packet from March 2009? Why, yes, let me pull that out for you.

I’ve also been able to put up tons of decorations. I’ve got a map of the town I work in, maps of the school district, a poem written by a student I talked to, cards given to me by people at TFP when I left, a picture of the Hubs and I, a Pocket Disc, a miniature of the Old Courthouse, clippings of articles that inspire me, writing and copy editing tips and tons more. I’ve even got a vase with a clipping from the azalea bush outside.

I guess what I’m trying to say is my office feels like me. That’s kind of cool, if you think about it.

bringing home the bacon

The ChronicBabe blog carnival is up and ready to go! The topic is one to which I have given a lot of thought, especially lately:

“I can bring home the bacon: Thoughts about work and chronic illness.”

Right now, I work two demanding jobs, though they are demanding in different ways. I am a reporter at a small, weekly newspaper and an associate at a national retail chain, which some of you may have fallen into from time to time. Working only one of those jobs is right now not an option; the terrible economy has left my husband and I with no other choice but to work four jobs between us (and no, we’re not rich because of it).

Being a journalist is certainly hard work, and for my entire journalistic career, I have suffered from symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Being a journalist means a lot of things. I work long hours, often upwards of 60 hours per week in days that stretch into the double digits. I don’t make very much money for those long hours (see: working a second job); in fact, I only get paid for slightly fewer than 40 of those hours. I endure hard deadlines and deadline pressure and, of course, the people who try to push them, stretch them and otherwise dismiss them.

Because I work at a community newspaper, I’m also a copy editor, proof reader, page designer, photographer, receptionist and PR person. I corral recalcitrant freelancers. I take classifieds, and I’m the de facto editor of a small, monthly publication we put out on top of two weekly products. Because of my various roles, I come into contact with a lot of people, and because my beat is primarily education, I work with a lot of kids. And kids get sick. A lot. That means I get sick. A lot.

Being in newspapers means I deal with a lot of stress, and stress definitely aggravates my PSA. That, in turn, aggravates my stress. Which, of course, aggravates my PSA even more. Et cetera, ad nauseum. There are days when my hands are so swollen, stiff and painful, I can’t even type, much less grip a pen to take notes. (Yes, I know I could use a digital recorder, and do on bad days. I still take notes, though. What if the recorder breaks down? Where would I be then?) There are days my body hurts so much sitting is excruciating, much less getting out in the field to track down stories. There are days my brain is in such a fog I can’t string a sentence together, much less a story.

As for retail, many of the same concerns apply: I work with the public, I’m on my feet for hours at a time, I have to move quickly to address customer concerns, I have to be alert and positive at all times. These are all difficult on days when merely taking a step or picking up a T-shirt or smiling are simply too painful. There are days when pretending to care whether you’re one of the 80 percent of women whose bra is the wrong size is too much to ask.

Certainly, scheduling is also a concern. Last month, I worked about 20 days in a row, with no days off. Many of those days I worked from 8 or 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. I could feel myself disintegrating, in a way. I was snappy, peevish, sore, stiff, resentful. I could feel my usual optimism slipping away, moving beyond reach.

Still, I wouldn’t want to stop working. Getting up every day, getting dressed, going to work — these actions are crucial to my emotional well-being, despite the sometimes disastrous effects on my body and my health. I am guaranteed a flare after the holiday season, but slow, lazy summers are to be cherished as a time to recover. I almost feel as though my body will do what it will, but I can take steps to make sure I still feel like me. And working is definitely a part of that.

Though, I won’t lie: If my husband told me tomorrow he was offered a job that meant I only had to work one job, I wouldn’t think twice. I would certainly cut back the number of hours I work. But to quit working altogether? What, and admit that there are things I can’t do anymore, things my illness have robbed me of?