Category Archives: Bad News

Innocence lost. When the bike is stolen.

Well, it was bound to happen at some point. Since my arrival in Amsterdam, the most consistent warnings have related to bike security.  So even with the rusty bike, I relatively consistently followed the locking best practices – locking the back wheel with a key and using a chain to lock the bike’s frame and  front wheel to something, like a bike rack, a light pole, even another bike (if I knew the other owner, obviously).  I lived in constant fear of losing a bike that was only slightly more than 2x the cost of the lock that secured it.

I upgraded over the summer, thinking it would improve my quality of life. Nothing fancy. But it had one of those new kickstands, a shiny silver color, and all of the words on its side were in tact. It was like a bike version of my Jetta (from the recent U.S. years) – whereas Rusty was more like the ’85 Maxima we had when I was growing up, except about 25 years after its heyday.

I think the shine is where I went wrong. Even though it wasn’t glamorous, it was obviously new. And a new bike catches attention. And comments. Even from people I didn’t really know.  Like, “oh, is this a new bike?” But I would hear it on the defensive, as if they were saying, “ooohhh, someone’s fancy ass is trying to get robbed, huh?”

By the time I left for Suriname in September, I still hadn’t gotten rid of Rusty. I thought a back-up bike couldn’t hurt. Or maybe I would even sell it. In the meantime, while I was away, Rusty was parked outside, across the street from my apartment, for more than 2 months. Back wheel locked. Front wheel and frame chained to a rack. Shiny was parked in my friend’s garage, then back to my hallway when I returned home (Rusty stayed outside for a bit longer with barely a visit).

Then, after a miserable couple of weeks filled with snow, rain, and healthy doses of cat mourning (and on the same day I picked up Zora’s ashes), I decided to spend time with fun people doing fun things. So not too far from my place I met some friends for dinner, and later a party. I parked Shiny across the street from the restaurant. Back wheel locked. Front wheel and frame…well, uh, tucked next to the rack. I was rushing and my chain lock had been sticking (maybe because it was sitting outside with Rusty for all of that time).  So yes, I admit it. I didn’t lock the front wheel or frame.

Continuing on my rampage of carefree carelessness, I left Shiny behind to receive a ride to the party. Turning down the ride didn’t cross my mind – especially since my friend offered to return me to the bike at the end of the night.  And she did.

I held the Shiny’s key in my hand, waved goodbye, and watched my friend drive away. I thought I was standing at the right rack, where Shiny was tucked into the middle. But it must not have been. So I walked down the street. Checking each one. Maaaaaybe….no. Coooouuuld it be…no. Is thaaaat…no.

Then, returning to the original rack – the actual rack, I happened to look down at the other side of the sidewalk. There was my chain lock. Ripped from Shiny and tossed aside. Shiny was gone. Maybe I asked for it. But Shiny didn’t deserve it.

Robbed and feeling violated, I walked home to a faithful Rusty with a chain in my hand, my frown to the ground, and a brewing enthusiasm to leave Amsterdam for a bit.

This black girl is about to be gone again…

A journey’s end

Zora died on Saturday night. In spite of what looked like a speedy and impressive recovery from a brief and bitter battle with cancer, a sudden turn had the final say.

After staying with my friend for about three weeks, we were finally able to return to my apartment last week when the subletters moved out.  I was sure this would be exactly what Zora needed to complete her recovery.  Once she could sleep in her favorite spots and return to her routine, all normalcy and happiness would be restored.

But even though we were at home, she stopped eating her prescription food. Then she wouldn’t eat her favorite (pricier) food, even refusing her treats – which normally would be the only thing to get her to break into a jog.  So on Friday, her doctor ran some tests to reveal that her kidneys were the issue – or was it the strange thing they felt in her tummy? – or was it just an infection?  They wouldn’t be sure until Monday when her test results would be returned.  In the meantime, Zora and I were sent home with a bunch of needles and medicines that I would administer over the weekend.

But within a couple of hours of returning home, Zora was different.  She no longer seemed sick.  I could tell she was dying.

Her eyes became a bit glazed.  Alertly disoriented.  Barely blinking, she didn’t sleep for the entire night.  She stared into what seemed like another dimension.  And although she was still aware of me, she also seemed to become aware of something – someone else. She would look up, somewhat startled, as if looking at someone who entered the room.  I wondered if (or hoped) it could be my father – coming to greet her, take care of her for me.

Awake through the night, I was strangely calm.  I understood our time was ending.  I understood that the battle was lost.  I just wanted to treasure every remaining minute.

But it wasn’t until the following evening when I forced myself to let it end.  Knowing this would be the last time she would be at home, the last time she would look out of her favorite window, the last time I would place her in her travel bag, I closed the door behind me and we went to the emergency room.

They prolonged it with some more tests, poking her belly, taking blood and x-rays, and giving me some small percentage of hope that she could come back from where she was going.  But finally they told me what I already knew.

I held her in my arms.  Although she was still disoriented, she looked up at me with recognition.  She was tired. Very calm.

The doctor explained that she would receive two shots – a sedative, then the euthanasia.  As the sedative was given, she curled up to me, turning her face into my chest.  And she was gone before even the first shot was finished.  Perhaps she was relieved.  Warm and far too still in my arms, finally she was resting.

I was broken.  I am broken.

Now the burden of recovery is mine to bear.  Just as she was doing her best to adjust to losing a leg, figuring out how to navigate without being whole, I’m suddenly doing the same.  Eventually my tears will dry.   But right now my heart just aches.

Zora and I were together for almost six years (my longest relationship to date).  She made some major moves with me, remaining patient through (almost) every life change.  Jobs, friendships, and scenery have been different at every turn.  And I’ll admit that sometimes I haven’t felt at all stable – financially…well, yeah, or emotionally.  But Zora was my stability – my consistency.  In spite of our nomadic lifestyle, Zora and I had a feeling of home wherever we went together.  And when I traveled alone, including the recent sojourn to Suriname, Zora still represented home.

Some people may think these types of love and family relationships should be reserved for humans.  But no.  The love of an animal can be given and received quite deeply. And the pain of that love lost is just as deep.

Reaching the end of her journey, Zora decided I would be strong enough to handle the next steps of my journey on my own.  I’m not so sure I agree.  But I have no choice.

Rest in love, Zora.

Zora

Please pray for Zora

Dear friends,

If you know me even just a little bit, you know that my cat, Zora, is the love of my life.  She means the world to me. And the only bad thing about being in Suriname for so long has been spending so much time away from her.

Well, the universe has dealt a blow that reminds me, once again, that when things are going well – moving in a positive direction – other forces may have plans that differ greatly.

Today I learned that my sweet Zora is very sick, with a vicious tumor on one of her legs. If test results come back favorably, the best we can hope for is that she will only have to lose that leg.  Otherwise, well, I’m not sure I’m prepared to think about the worst case scenario.  But I’m sure you can imagine.

I don’t often like to ask for help. But in this case, I’m not sure what else to do.  So if you’re reading this, I just ask that you pray, or chant, or call on your spirit guides (whatever your process entails) that Zora will be okay.  I think I can handle most things that are thrown my way.  But losing Zora right now just isn’t an option.

Thank you, friends.

Image

Criminal Activity

When I was a teenager, I took the train from Philadelphia to NYC to visit my sister.  At the conclusion of my trip to the big city, I found myself at Penn Station, smushed in an unacceptably large group of people as we all tried to avoid a single-file line at all costs.   I carried a bag in my hand and another on my back, shuffling along with the crowd.  Down the escalator, onto the platform, and eventually onto the train.  I thought I made it out of the city unscathed.  But alas, when I went to the front pocket of my backpack for my ticket, I saw that it was already wide open.  And although my ticket was still there (some mercy was had), my wallet was gone.  Long gone.  All I could do was sulk for a couple of hours as I sat in angry train silence.

That was my first truly lesson-teaching theft experience.  I’m pretty sure this girl in my 5th grade class stole some stuff from me back in the day.  But this was the first time I can remember falling victim to and being outwitted by a complete stranger.  Traumatic, yes.  But I learned two lessons: 1) Sometimes thieves win – can’t sweat it too much; and 2) front pockets are not meant for wallets…or maybe backpacks aren’t meant for wallets.

Fast forward a few years and time zones, I found myself walking down a street in Amsterdam, delighting in the fact that I felt so safe walking alone after dark.  Maybe I didn’t want to walk down the street with headphones, but I was still impressed by the unfamiliar feeling of…

…swish…

scream

scatter…

Although several people were around, the night was quiet.  Waiting for the tram, she was dressed up – skirt, heels, that kind of thing.  She was carrying a bright yellow clutch purse.  I heard him grab her purse in a quick motion before I registered what I was seeing.  He ran almost silently across the tram tracks in my direction, continuing down the street I had just crossed.  She chased him all the way – perhaps on instinct more than reason.  In English she screamed things like, “thief!” and “stop him!” But with the exception of one guy who was in the way and made a faux attempt at heroism, none of us helped.  Her frantic footsteps and screams just faded down the street.

I was shook.  Standing at that tram stop, that woman easily could have been me (though her style wasn’t exactly my taste).  And since I was in for a 10 minute wait for my tram, I stayed shook.

The biggest threats around these parts seem to be bike theft and pickpocketing/mugging – though no one else seems to have witnessed a mugging in such a way.  Perhaps I needed to witness that poor woman losing her yellow clutch purse.  Because although I carefully double-lock my (inexpensive) bike every time I so much as turn my back on it, I was getting a little too relaxed about everything else.  Now, whenever on the street, I try my best to stay conscious of what’s not strapped on and locked down.  The bike also helps me stay out of harm’s way, keeping me off the sidewalks and moving at a much faster pace.

Fast forward several more months, a new problem presented itself.  Sitting in a cafeteria, on campus, with three other people, among once trusted student-colleagues, I placed my laptop at my feet.  Okay, I’m absolutely certain I would have treated such a valuable item with far more care if I were in an airport or somewhere of the sort, keeping it in my sight and attached to me in some way at all times.  But I was at school, with school people, discussing school stuff, with laptops and large bags all around.  I felt safe.

Too bad I wasn’t…or rather, my laptop wasn’t.  I have no idea how it was done.  But although four of us sat at the table, someone managed to steal it from under me.  A sad story, I know.

A student may have been the culprit.  Or perhaps someone from outside of the school preys on careless and distracted students.  (But I think it was a student.)  Regardless, I need to get it together.  I’m just not secure anywhere, at any time, around anyone.  Got it.  And I really can’t afford many more of these tough lessons…literally.  I literally can’t afford this.

Not So Bright

So it turns out I didn’t get a Fulbright.  But as Tracy Chapman once eloquently put it, “it’s okay.”

And it really is.  Super disappointing, yes.  And unexplainable, certainly. But it’s also okay.  Nothing has changed and my life is filled with no less dopeness.  I just don’t get any U.S. money to fund that dopeness.

I’m actually just glad to finally know. The question had begun to quietly consume me.  I didn’t mention it to anyone (well, maybe my mom), trying to give the impression that I thought about it as little as everyone else did.  But in reality, I was thinking about it more and more everyday.

Obsession was not my intention.  I planned not to think about it until the news came.  And I thought that would be easy – you know, with all the distractions of life and everything. I had put the application pretty much out of my mind from september until january.  It felt quite remote and out of my control – silly to worry about it. And the fact that I was planning a move also helped to keep my mind off of whether the powers-that-be liked me or not.

And then, at the end of january, I received an email telling me I was a finalist.  Suddenly it became a real possibility.  Someone actually read my application, thought it made sense, looked at my transcripts, wasn’t amused, and decided I potentially could be worthy of a fulbright.  I was recommended by the institute for international education (i think), along with about twice as many people who could actually receive a grant.  So although I had gotten over a huge hurdle in the first round, I was estimating about a 50 percent chance of getting it. Not the worst odds. But nothing to plan a life around.

For the first couple of months I was good. Knowing I probably wouldn’t hear anything before april or may, I barely thought about it.  But then one fateful day in march, I googled some combination of words to end up on a forum of other finalists.  Hundreds of posts about each of their worries and restless nights as they awaited news in the mail.  And to make it worse, it came with a google spreadsheet. It listed country after country, each attached to a screen name and the hopes and dreams of people I felt suddenly akin to.  Their obsessive comments only stated what I hadn’t been allowing myself to think or feel until then.  How wonderful it would be…how long and challenging the process has been…how much money is it, actually?  But the major theme was when we would receive our letters.  Volunteers took turns emailing the fulbright people to ask for notification updates for the various countries.  Mail delivery trends were discussed at length.  A few countries’ finalists were notified early, in february and early march. From them we learned that acceptances arrived in large manilla envelopes. Rejections and alternates received small white envelopes. It all played out in the forum and the spreadsheet. Although I never posted anything, I was hooked, checking both pages multiple times a day.

They seemed to be mostly college students – some applying for english teaching assistantships, others applying for full grants, which is what I applied for.  And as they discussed the subtle inconveniences of the campus mailman’s limp, and whether or not they would have lives after graduation, I read each post as if it pertained to me.  It dramatically increased my anxiety.

The worst of it was when someone posted a message to those of us applying to the netherlands. First I was just happy to see something relevant. But then I read on to learn that our letters had been sent out that day – a friday.

My mail is forwarded from my brooklyn address to this mail receiving company in texas.  Once they receive something, they list it in my inbox with a description of the envelope, including the sender and the weight.  So although I would have to wait for them to actually forward the letter to me in amsterdam, I knew I would basically know if it was good or bad news once the letter arrived in texas.  And based on my best guesses about the post office, I estimated I would hear by the following thursday or friday.

The following friday night I received an email notifying me of new mail received.  I knew what it was.  After a little pep talk, reminding myself that circumstances will be great no matter the outcome, I “checked my mail.”  It was a letter. And only .125 lbs.  Nothing special about it was listed.  It was definitely not good news. My heart sunk.  My secret forum friends wouldn’t hear about this.

And sure enough, once the letter finally reached me, it was still bad news. Not even an alternate. Just a flat out rejection.  It certainly put the f-u- in fulbright!

Hmph.

But yeah, so, anyway….

I strongly believe in a universe that has plans for me. And ever since I stopped fighting it (sometime last year, I think), allowing myself to trust the process, things have become more sensible and much brighter.  But it’s been easy to trust the process when it brings one good thing after another.  The challenge is seeing the long-term good intentions of the process when in the short-term it feels like a blow.  But that’s all it is: bad news for now that will somehow lead to something else great. I’m sure.
 
Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive and currently have a sympathetic frown on your face. It’s felt and much appreciated.

And it’s okay!

Black Girl Done Gone and Got Scammed

Warning: The following contains some appropriately vulgar language.

I’m not sure if this has come across in earlier posts. I’m not even sure I was clearly aware of it until earlier this happened. But I’m an idiot. If “idiot” offends you, feel free to refer to me as a dummy, foolish gal, stupid head, whatever you prefer.

Remember back when I almost got scammed when looking for an apartment in Amsterdam? Relying on online research led to nothing but mystery and heartache. I learned my lesson from that…or so I thought.

Immediately after I nailed down a place to live, which I’ll move into on February 1st, I set my sights on finding a place for my first couple of weeks in Amsterdam, during which time my Mom and her husband will be joining me. We were looking for a place with enough space for three people, ideally located in central Amsterdam. Hotels are great. But they’re pretty pricey. Especially considering that we’ll be staying for two weeks.

So, as I always do, I turned to the internet. I researched short-term rentals to find a number of websites advertising apartments throughout Europe – with most of the companies based in London. The system seemed to be that apartment owners work with agencies to rent their space out to vacationers. The agency does the leg-work, receiving a cut of the rent received by the owner. Sounds like a good idea. And it may actually happen.

I found a website with a cute place – two bedrooms, nice bathroom, centrally located. Comparing it to the other, similar websites, the prices were pretty much the same. So I was happy with this choice. I submitted an inquiry form, providing my name, email, and dates I would need the apartment. I received an email not too much later. The place was available. And after a bit of back and forth to clarify the cost, deposit, contract and payment process, I sent the deposit and 50% of the rental fee via bank wire transfer.

Receipt of payment and signed contract in hand, I checked this item off of my to-do list – until several days later when I received a message from the rental guy. He was sorry for the inconvenience, but the owner of the place changed her mind and now needed the full payment for the apartment in advance in order to hold the place for me. If I sent the remainder of the rent, it would confirm my reservation. No way. And what kind of business would be irresponsible enough the change the terms of an agreement so casually?

I told him I would take a refund. And I also wanted a refund for the $35 wire transfer fee. At the same time, I started researching other places to stay. Strangely, the website for my place was no longer working. But I found another one that also looked really good – same price. So as I was going back and forth with the first guy, I was making an arrangement to send a deposit to the second.

But now there was a problem. I couldn’t send the second deposit until I received the first deposit back. And the first guy was giving me problems. I was starting to worry. But the fog really started to lift when he told me his accounting department wanted to get the money to me as quickly as possible. And since wire transfers can take a few days, they would prefer to send it to my credit card. All I would need to do is send him my credit card information. Oh shit, goddamn motherfucking asshole.  At this point, I knew I had been scammed.  And not only that, he was trying everything he could think of to get as much money out of me as he possibly could.

So this goddamn motherfucking asshole thought I was dumb enough to pull out my credit card, send him all of my information, and expect to receive a deposit ?  I’m sure I was a perfect candidate for being »cleaned out: friendly, excited, bank account.  Yup – I guess I deserved it.

I’m thankful for one thing: the fact that I waited before sending money to scammer #2. His responses were eerily similar to scammer #1′s. And when I checked several days later, that site also no longer existed (though it had been up for a couple of weeks). So it’s clearly a thing. They’re not all necessarily the same person or working together. But they have at least established (and regulated) a clear process for scamming people.

My first action was to get in touch with my bank to see if there was even the slightest chance that they can track down the bank account I sent the money to and get it back for me.  But since people lose thousands of dollars everyday to assholes like this, my loss wasn’t likely to be an exception.  And sure enough, the bank reported back that the scammer’s account had insufficient funds to refund my money.

In spite of the crime that has clearly been committed, no one seems to care. I’ve reported it numerous times, in numerous ways, in numerous countries. No one even responds.

So there you have it. $850. Gone.

 

UPDATE: a Scam Is Just a Scam

Thanks to all who provided input on the scam question.  The consensus is that it was a scam.  Although just barely, I’m pleased to say I avoided some major heartbreak here.

 

This morning I sent an email to the University, asking for advice on the situation.  I sent the address, the rent, the passport and the “proof of ownership” certificate.  Here’s the response:

I had a look at the attachments and googled the address, and I get the feeling that this deal is kind of dodgy. The whole house seems to be for sale: http://www.huislijn.nl/koopwoning/amsterdam/eerste-constantijn-huygensstraat_109_f47d00a6-cca0-4f8b-91a3-e043c617f078/overzicht.html and this website also tells us that the top 3 floors are rented at the moment but it doesn’t say if this situation will continue. And the proof of ownership looks very fake to me, but I could be wrong.

Mmhm.   I don’t think you’re wrong, Renee.  I don’t think you’re wrong at all.

 

Immediately after receiving this message from Amsterdam, I received this link from a friend (thanks MYC!):

http://santacruzhomebroker.com/santa-cruz-real-estate-blog/2009/01/

It provides almost an exact replica of the “proof of ownership” I received from my scammer.

 

And finally, I took a look at the advice on scams provided by Craigslist (not sure why I didn’t do this before).  One particular bullet point stood out from the rest:

3. Someone requests wire service payment via Western Union or MoneyGram:

  • Scam “bait” items include apartments, laptops, TVs, cell phones, tickets, and other high value items
  • Often claim that an MTCN or confirmation code is needed before he can withdraw your money – this is FALSE, once you’ve wired money, it is GONE.
  • Common countries currently include: Nigeria, Romania, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Netherlands - but could be anywhere
  • Apartment listing may be local, but landlord/owner is “travelling” or “relocating” and needs you to wire money to them abroad
  • Deal often seems too good to be true, price is too low, rent is below market, etc

 

So there you have it.  I feel like I just escaped an attacker.  Dirty, hurt, and unable to trust strangers.  But I’ll get back out there.  I still have to find myself a place to live.

The Relative Nature of Problems

Problems, problems, problems
Woe is me, I’m havin’
Problems, problems, problems
- Tribe Called Quest, 8 Million Stories

Phife described problems with women, clothes, and theft. Endless problems that warranted lengthy and numerous verses. But I’m still pretty sure for the last couple of weeks I’ve had him beat. Did he really think those were problems?

This is how my thinking has turned. I’ve developed some sort of anguish snobbery. Arguments with other drivers, missing the train, the general annoyances of my job. Sure, these can all be frustrating. And they really are. I don’t want to discount the fact that even the little things can have a big effect. And I don’t want to say that every time I’m upset about something I must let it roll off my back in light of the people with real problems. Because even the smallest issues have their place on a scale of frustration. But it’s just that I have earned some type of (temporary) right to judge other people’s problems and, in most cases, deem my circumstances more dire. Although I’m nowhere near the end of the scale involving terminal illness, insurmountable poverty, or gruesome death, I’m definitely far superior to the road ragers and reality tv “stars” of the world.

My climb into the range of superior problems began a couple of weeks ago when I began to feel pain in my back, reminiscent of what brought on a need for surgery last year. No big deal though. I had been stretching and doing strengthening exercises that I assumed were pushing it a bit (although that falsely implies I was working out aggressively). This type of pain has come up a couple of times since last year’s surgery. And once it required a couple of vicodin. But it never took more than a few stretches, some rest, and a few days to subside. However, a week later – on a Saturday, it was much worse this time. Sciatica in my left leg was in full effect. And if you’re not familiar with the pains of sciatica…well, you’re really lucky. The best way I can describe it is the brief, sharp, pulling pain you get in your legs when you over-stretch your hamstring, thigh, or calf muscles. But imagine that feeling all the time, in any and all resting positions. Last year the sciatica was in my right leg and accompanied by total numbess of my foot and much of my leg. Pain on the inside and numbess on the outside.

Wong-Baker Pain Scale

When I woke up on Saturday with the crazy pain in my leg and persistent pain in my back, I thought my whole weekend would be blown as I waited it out. By Saturday evening I was completely collapsed on my kitchen floor, literally screaming, having sneezed and taken level 9 pain to something off the charts. I’m not sure how many vicodin I took. But it didn’t matter. I watched the sun rise without even the briefest reprieve. And somewhere around 5am, if you can believe it, it became worse. As I shifted from one painful position to another, the pain in my back suddenly became more acute. As if the knife that were already there were twisted and lodged further in with a hammer. And at the same time, a cruel person pulled every nerve out of my left leg with bare, dirty hands, only to play them like a harp. I’m not sure I even got a scream out – nothing but the pain seemed clear…that is until I felt the feeling in my foot fading. The little toe, all the toes, my heel, then my calf. I begged…literally begged. “Please don’t let this happen to me again. PLEASE!!”

It didn’t stop. In fact, through Sunday, the numbness and pain were only accompanied by severe weakness. Twice I fell over when putting my weight on my left leg for only a moment. Monday I barely moved. Tuesday morning I took my last remaining vicodin and dragged myself out of the house to see my spine doctor (that’s right – I have a doctor just for my spine). Not so sure how I survived that journey, but it did involve some crying in the taxi. And incidentally, once I stopped crying, the driver and I had a delightful conversation about Amsterdam. He promised to pray first that I would feel better, and second that I would find love and happiness in Amsterdam. He was a bright spot. But I digress.

Wednesday morning was the MRI, to which my brother-in-law drove me. Wednesday afternoon was a call from my doctor. A disk herniation would have been bad. But this was a super duper sized herniated disk, that had broken off, and was hanging out in my spinal canal and severely compressing the area nerves, causing almost the complete breakdown of my leg. What’s more, there was blood that had gathered where it was not supposed to be. And since he was going on vacation in two days, I had two choices: wait for two weeks to reassess when he returned, or get myself to the hospital that night to have surgery on Thursday.

Woe is me, I’m havin’ problems, problems, problems. Pray for me, I’m havin’ problems, problems, problems.

Wednesday night I checked into the hospital (I’ll spare you the details of how I got there and how I found my final pre-surgery meal). Thursday morning I was wearing all the surgery gear, including a very unflattering cap that barely fit my hair, and rolling over to have the doctor sign my back. I was too dazed by all of it to even register fear.

I woke up from a pleasant dream to find myself in the surgery recovery room. I don’t remember much – except there was no more pain in my leg. I later learned that although there was no more pain, so much of my disk had been lost (between last year and this year’s incident) that I’m about 10% of a disk away from being “bone to bone” in the lowest part of my spine.  I can live with it.  But if the thought of it isn’t cringe-worthy, I’m not sure what is.

Friday morning, I passed the physical therapy test (which basically just told them I wouldn’t tumble down a flight of stairs the moment I left the hospital) and was discharged.

Problems over, you wonder?

My sister picked me up from the hospital to drive me home in my car. Almost in tears, she ran into my hospital room explaining that the driver-side window wouldn’t roll up. There was just no window. After driving me to Brooklyn, she and her husband found a lot for my car for the evening because parking on the street for even a moment wasn’t an option. But the good news was my sister would stay with me for a couple of nights to take care of me. She would just get some much needed work done while at my place. But when she tried to get online…fail. My internet wasn’t working. I called the cable company. The neighborhood was fine. It was only my connection – but it was so broken that it would require a technician to come to my place. My sister’s plans of working were destroyed and her options for staying as long as she planned became blurry.

Lord knows I’m havin’ problems, problems, problems.

Saturday evening my sister drove my three-windowed car to her much safer neighborhood in Jersey. She’d figure out how to get it fixed on Monday. Sunday afternoon her car broke down. Monday morning both of our cars were taken to the car doctor – $350 later, my car window was fixed and her car needed more time. Monday evening my brother-in-law was forced to drive my car an hour or so south to pick up my nephews from his sister’s house. Two exits into the drive, my car started overheating. As I chewed on numerous vicodin, I listened to him describe the many things the Pep Boys guy said it could be. $200 later, I had a new thermostat and the car was still overheating. Nephews still at their aunt’s house, brother-in-law turned back, barely getting home in my smoking car with all types of things bursting and blowing out.

Tuesday morning I had my car towed from my sister’s house to a local dealership. I also had to make an early morning call to my doctor’s office, reporting continuous, unexplained bleeding from my incision.

Help me out, I’m havin’ problems, problems, problems.

Wednesday morning I was feeling much stronger, even able to hobble around my apartment without crutches and taking fewer vicodin to get through the day. The bleeding still persisted, but I had an appointment to have my incision looked at in the morning. After a much less dramatic taxi ride, and receiving yet another prescription, things in the health and pain departments seemed to be calming down.

And the car? Another $1,150 later to replace all types of parts, it was fixed and ready to be driven by Wednesday afternoon, windows up and all.

So it’s been a rough couple of weeks. Yes, I’m thankful for the many blessings that have gotten me through it (and in a short period of time, I should add) – including family and friends to take care of me and persistently check on me, an incredible doctor who was able to squeeze me in for an emergency surgery, and medical insurance to make surgery an option. But boy oh boy. I will be milking this right to judge other people’s problems, and reflecting on my superior coping skills for quite some time. I’ve earned it. And until I can completely feel my left leg and foot, and walk like a normal person again, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve still got some problems, problems, problems.

Woe is me.

If I Don’t

If I don’t get accepted to the University of Amsterdam, there are a few things that will need to take place. First, let me back up for a minute.

So unfortunately, my Plan C is no longer. The other schools didn’t have programs that were a fit. While school is the perfect excuse to move to another country without having to get a job, I don’t want it to be only an excuse, leaving me with a useless degree – already have one of those from law school. So now I have all of my eggs (and ovaries and kidneys and gall bladder) in one friggin’ basket. Oopsie.

Okay, now if I don’t get in, certain things will need to happen:

  1. Choose a city that can serve as a back-up. There are other places I can go to be happy. I’ll need to investigate a bit further. But recently, returning to the Bay Area has become an option. I go back and forth on whether or not this is the best idea, fearing such a move will be going backwards, personally and professionally. But I enjoyed many things about living out there. I would just need to make a conscious effort to live a different life out there the second time around. But it’s not the only option. I just haven’t quite figured out what the others are.
  2. Find a job or fellowship that can pay the bills. The ultimate goal is to start my nonprofit organization. If I am not working toward a degree that will play a significant role in the development of the program, then I need to at least be working toward it on my own time – while paying the bills.
  3. Avoid the people who will give me the look of pity. If you’re reading this, and you know you will run into me during the 1-month period following the rejection, please start practicing in the mirror how you will look at me. The only thing that makes sadness or disappointment feel worse is when people demonstrate pity. You know the look – a cocked head, pouting mouth, raised eyebrows…don’t do that.
  4. Quit my job. It needs to happen, whether I’m moving to Amsterdam or not. I’ve already reached my boiling point, and in some ways, it’s gotten worse. Another year, or even several months beyond this (fiscal) year won’t be survived. Overly dramatic? Probably so.
  5. Move. Whether I get into school and move to Amsterdam or not, this black girl is definitely going somewhere.

So the bad news will not necessarily be sad news – at least not for long. I’m trying my best to see the opportunity in whatever outcome that may be. But in the meantime, until we know what that outcome will be, please send me some positive energy. I need all the help I can get.

Did I Just Do That?

I kinda sorta almost quit my job yesterday.  And no, that wasn’t the plan at all.  Now I may have completely thrown the actual plan into turmoil.

I’m not sure how clear I’ve been about the fact that my job isn’t the reason I have decided to pick up and leave the country.  It’s a factor, considering if I was absolutely in love with the job and felt like I had long-term opportunity there I probably wouldn’t be leaving. But it’s not the only factor.   In fact, it’s been one of the few things keeping me stable for the time being.  Not too long ago I would have said I’m leaving New York in spite of the fact that I love my job.

Fast forward to Thursday, Feb. 11th in the office of the Chief Program Officer (really cool black woman with locs – although it’s taken me until now to fully trust her): “I’m really angry and I don’t see myself staying with this organization much longer.”   I went on to say something along the lines of, “perhaps you will do better simply phasing out my position.”

Crazy talk. Rage talk. Hurt talk.

Perhaps I was a bit too hasty. But life is too short for bullshit. And when I feel like I’m getting shit on, I’m going to make it clear that it’s not okay, while also taking action to get myself into a less stinky situation.   (I say this and must acknowledge the fact that I am in a pretty comfortable position in my office, knowing that I can tell them that I’m pissed and quitting, yet not going to be fired. And I acknowledge that this isn’t so typical.)  So while a less angry self would have waited until I knew I had somewhere else to go, yesterday’s self knocked on the CPO’s door and stepped over the corpse of rationality to get there.

I’m sure I have mentioned before that I work for a nonprofit organization. I believe in the work we do. That’s why I’m there. And my role with the organization was brand new when I took it, allowing me to shape the job description in many ways.  So immediately I was fortunate to have some autonomy and I was trusted. At that time, the organization was really small and I was the only one on my team, not including my boss at the time, who is now the CEO.   Since then, we’ve grown quite a bit.  I now have 3 people over me (including the CEO and CPO), I have been promoted, and 3 people now report to me.  There’s also a newer team of 2 more who report to my supervisor.  Positive growth, for sure.   But now with growth comes power trips, bad decisions driven by fear, instability, and unhappy people.  It’s noticeable from every level within the organization. And since I have been there since the inception of the department, the change is glaringly apparent .

But growth and a gradual decline wouldn’t lead me to want to quit my job on the spot.  All of that silliness has been going on for months, making it easier to plan to leave, but not creating any immediate urgency. It’s when I returned from vacation and learned that the entire department had been pulled into a 3-day retreat that included strategy planning directly related to my team. The 3-day thing was planned and announced 1 or 2 days before my vacation would begin (and also right before a big event my team and I were hosting) and messaged as some type of re-training. That alone caused me to call bullshit, but mostly because I didn’t want my direct reports to be subjected to something I didn’t think they needed (to be spoon-fed by the CEO).  I had no idea they were planning to have substantive conversations and make decisions regarding future direction in my absence, knowing the entire time that I would be absent.   If I didn’t feel under-valued and disrespected before, I certainly do now.

I’m not sure how much of a surprise my reaction could have been to the higher ups.  When they conjured up this plan, it must have crossed their minds that the one person they were not including in this 3-day emergency session, the same person who supervises half of the team, may have some negative feelings once she learns what she’s missed.  And if it didn’t cross their minds, that’s an even bigger problem.  Regardless, I let them know. Honesty and transparency are important, right?

I don’t know what to expect now.  The CPO reacted very positively, expressing both understanding and support. She wants me to stay and they may make an effort to convince me to stick it out.  But now at least they won’t be surprised when I turn my “I don’t see myself staying” into “I”m leaving and xx-xx-10 will be my last day.”

Looks like this journey just got a bit more rocky.