Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Do Lawyers, Seizures, and Streakers Have in Common?

They've all been part of my summer so far.

"Do you think they missed us?"

WOW. Where to start?

Lawyers. Or, lawyer, to be precise.

Here's a rundown of what's been going on. I think most of you are aware of the condition of my right knee - extensive arthritis, and needing a knee replacement. Sometime in late April, I went to my doctor for my yearly checkup, and she was a tad concerned. My blood pressure was very high, I was in a lot of pain, I'd gained a lot of weight from the previous year; really, I wasn't doing too well. I had just started going into the office 3 days a week per my manager's request, and it was taking a toll on me (normally I work full-time at home). Because of the location of my arthritis, I have a hard time sitting for any length of time with my knee bent. So, the simple act of sitting on the streetcar to go into the office was difficult. Then add in sitting at a desk with my knee bent (I have a pretty sweet setup here at home to elevate my knee), coming home on the streetcar, and then having to do it all over again the next day? It wasn't long before I was exhausted, in constant pain, and stressed beyond normal limits.

So, my doctor sent me home, armed with a prescription for Naproxen (an anti-inflammatory), a referral for physiotherapy and a strict warning about my blood pressure.

"Should we wake him up and tell him he looks like an upside down pineapple cake lying like that? And that Mom's taking his picture??"

"Shhh Mae! Why?"

I booked my first appointment for physiotherapy, and started taking the Naproxen (an anti-inflammatory) to help with my arthritis pain. And I still continued going into the office downtown 3 days a week. And finding it very hard.

At what point did this all go down the toilet? Around this time. I developed an allergy to the Naproxen, leaving me with no form of pain control for my arthritis. I'd started the physio (which was a good thing), but found it very hard coupled with work. So I made the decision to take a Short Term Disability leave of absence from work. That way I could concentrate on my health for a bit, and try to at least learn how to better live with my arthritis through the physio. Doing both (work and physio) was almost counter-productive.

To say my manager was none too pleased about me going off for 4 months is an understatement. Once he'd found out, he made it his mission in life to make my life miserable. In the space of 5 days, he made things so difficult for me that I had to go on my short-term disability 2 weeks early.

I was a mess.

Things didn't go quite as planned with the short-term disability; I'll spare you the details. Once I'd decided to come back, I figured I'd be able to at least return back to the way things were - working full-time at home. I would not be able to continue physiotherapy, but at least working at home would save me from the pain of having to commute. I could still do some physio exercises at home. But, my manager had other ideas.

He decided that nope, he would not honour my Teleworking Agreement. He still insisted that once I returned to work, I should come into the office 3 days a week. I reached out to our Human Resources department to have them intervene and help out with this, but. They were no help at all. Despite knowing my history, and the fact I had a signed agreement to work at home, they still sided with my manager. I felt backed into a corner. How could I possibly go back to working downtown for 3 days a week, when doing so previously made me sicker than ever?? I would not be able to work at that pace, and I'd probably end up having to quit. I had no one on my side.

So, I hired someone. I decided to engage a lawyer. I explained the situation, and that I felt I was being forced out of a job because I had a disability. And he agreed. For once, I didn't feel like an idiot, wondering if it was just me who was feeling as though I was being singled out, or even if I was overblowing the whole situation. Not only was he on my side, so was the law.

I do have to mention one thing here. Did my manager do everything he could to wield his over-blown sense of power over me, and make my life miserable? Well. I couldn't help but wonder why, of the 4 or so other Teleworkers that report to him, he chose to single me out for this treatment. I was the only one who had a medical reason for teleworking. I do believe he relished kicking me when I was down. I guess he never expected me to kick back.

I have to skip through the details, but what I can say is that my company will need to agree to terms of my employment severance, or we will commence litigation in the courts against them.

To say it's been a difficult summer for me... I'm constantly stressed, I had to quit physiotherapy, I'm not sleeping well, and I'm broke. And I cannot wrap my head around how a loyal employee of 18 years with an excellent work record can be so backed into a corner and forced out of her job by a new manager who'd not even been with the company 5 minutes. How does that happen? I still can't fully grasp that one. Call me naive. But I really thought loyalty counted for something.

"I for one love that Mom's here ALL THE TIME!! (Oh, and am I pretty, or what?!)"

All I can do is take it one day at a time. Some days are good, others not so much. I still wonder at how things can go from bad, to worse, to the shit-pile (pardon my french) in such a short period of time. I'm fortunate to have good friends who are there for me, help however they can, and listen to me yammer on about the good, and the bad. And that will help see me through this, right to the end and after. The end is in site - the deadline for my company's final offer is this week. If they miss the deadline, or if it's not acceptable, then we proceed with litigation.

Oy. My head hurts.

And as if that weren't enough stress and drama.

A month or so ago, I was in the kitchen when I heard someone heaving in the living room. I went to have a look at who it was, and thought - I'll let them finish, then clean up the inevitable mess. It was Gandalf. I went back into the kitchen, and heard a bang as he somehow rammed himself into the bathroom door (scaring the bejeesus out of poor Malcolm). Just as I went over to see what was going on, he got up, stumbled a few feet, and fell onto his side.

He then lay there for at least 30 seconds - his head bobbing, his legs flopping around, and drooling. Before I could react, he got up, and somehow managed to make his way through the kitchen, to the back door. I say "somehow" because he could barely walk - his back legs were giving out, and he was wobbly. Once there, he plopped down next to the door, drooling and hissing and growling.

Gandalf. Growling.

I knew something was seriously wrong. I had to close the kitchen door leading to the back door entrance; I was afraid he'd lash out at one of the Mr. Curious' that were hanging around, or me. I checked on him every minute or so, and each time I did he'd hiss and growl, and he was still puffed up and drooling. This went on for about 10 minutes. I was about to look up what to do in this situation when I peeked in again, and saw a perfectly normal, laid back Gandalf, looking a me and meowing. I cleaned him up, gave him a drink of water, and he went on his merry way as though nothing had just happened.

I spoke to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic (this happened on Sunday), and they told me that it sounded like Gandalf had had a seizure. I took him to see his vet the next week, and she said the same thing. Without further testing (which I couldn't afford due to this whole legal mess with my workplace), she couldn't tell if there was anything physically causing the epilepsy. They did take blood and urine (he LOVED that, let me tell you), both of which came back normal, and her physical exam didn't reveal anything. If he should have another grand mal episode, to just let him be, keep the other guys away from him, and monitor him afterwards. Fortunately, there hasn't been another one.

Gandalf is the most laid-back and loving of all the guys. And to see this happen to him was heart-breaking and very scary. Poor little man...

"My brain misfired."

"...there's an understatement..."

"What was that, Atticus?"

"Nothin', nothin'. Just saying that yeah, it was your brain. Overloaded. Like Malcolm gets when he sees too many squirrels at once outside the window."

"No! It wasn't like that! Malcolm's a weenie. I am NOT a weenie. I have a condition. So you must be nice to me at all times. Or I'll tell Mom."

"Uh huh. I see your mouth move but I'll I'm hearing is wah wah wah. Let me sleep."

"I am not a weenie! MOM!!"

Enough with the drama! All I want is a calm, peaceful day without the burden of the looming possibility of a long, drawn out court case, or worrying about not having any money coming in, or sick cats, or the ever-present pain of arthritis, and the lying awake at night thinking about my future. How 18 years with a company has been flushed down the toilet.

I would say to myself - you know, things could be much worse. And there are people who have to deal with a day to day reality that sucks even more than yours does right now. But you know what? This is my reality. And it's the only one I have to deal with. And it does suck.

Let me end on a lighter note.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out onto my deck to check on my laundry drying, when I heard a bit of shouting in the distance. I looked over, just in time to see a guy running through our backyard - naked. I watched as he sprinted across the yard, hop the fence to my neighbour's backyard, run through theirs, hop the next fence, and so on. My neighbour Rhonda, who had just come home from work, was standing by her car with the same confused look on her face that I must have had. (She would have been about 2 minutes away from letting Leika, their German Shepherd, outside. Had she been in the yard, it would have been game over for this guy. In so.many.ways.). I went down to ask her if she'd just seen what I'd seen, and as we were talking, 2 police officers and a man came running up the drive asking if we'd seen the naked runner. We pointed them off in his direction.

We later heard what had happened. Apparently, this guy broke into his girlfriend's house, to uh, wait for her to come home. Only the father came home first. They eventually caught up with him an hour or so later.

Whoops. Now there's someone you want to bring home to meet Mom and Dad.

Believe me when I tell you that this summer? Less than stellar for me.

Before I go, I'd like to introduce you to someone.

This is Minou (which is french for "Kitty"). She's my neighbour Diane's cat (Diane moved into my old apartment). Minou, an indoor cat, had the bad habit of bolting out the door every time it opened, and roaming the backyard. She'd put up such a fuss about wanting to be outside (she has the cutest little mew!), that Diane decided to buy her a little harness, and a leash.

And she's as happy as a clam. She's so funny, batting at the bugs, sniffing everything, and whacking Sasha on the nose if she gets to close.

I try to imagine trying to put any of my guys in a harness and on a leash. I doubt it would end well for me. They're content to be out on the deck with me when I brush them, and that's about it.

So my friends, there you have it. A long post explaining what I did with my summer vacation. I've learned that I'm much more resilient and stronger than I ever thought I was. And that counts for something.

Unfortunately, my knitting has taken a bit of a hit during all of this. My concentration has been lacking, and I haven't managed as much as you'd think. But! There are things to show, and I will get back to showing it off next time around.

In the meantime - thanks for reading!