Being an FTO

…is exhausting.


Me, typing up my Daily Observation Report.

Going through my last few posts I discovered that I posted this, about failing my second chance at my old job, almost a year ago. Time for an update.

About four months ago I was promoted to Training Officer. Last week I completed FTO (Field Training Officer) school and today I started with my first trainee.


Because I’m too tired to find something better.

It’s a lot more work than I expected. Good work that I’m so happy to do, but let me tell you: my brain feels heavy. Like a good hard physical workout where your muscles aren’t sore, just used. My brain feels used. Especially the front, right in the middle of my forehead. I wonder if that means something? Who knows. But I loved every minute of it.


I feel exactly like this Smurf looks

My trainee is great. We got through a lot of material today. I feel accomplished.

I don’t have much more to say except that I’m thoroughly happy; that this “lesser” job is immensely satisfying; and that the “better” job I made the best of for eleven years…


…can suck it.

I Will Not Ask For More

This title, which I stole from of Linda at Life on a Colorado Farm, gave me pause.

I’m typing this from my son’s hospital room. Andrew, 19, who gets wiped out by the common cold…


Psh! Men!

…but is otherwise healthy as a horse, active, joyful, and independent, contracted the Epstein-Barr virus and developed a disease known as mononucleosis, a.k.a. mono.


Don’t call it the kissing disease! He hasn’t been kissing anyone!

At best victims get a sore throat, fatigue, fever, and body aches that lay them out for a couple weeks and linger for about a month. Emphasis on at best. Swollen lymph nodes and tonsils are also typical. Common complications include an inflamed liver with associated blood problems, a swollen spleen, and nervous system issues. It usually takes two or three months to run its course.

Why am I being textbooky and boring? Because MY son can’t be. Oh no! He has only half of the normal symptoms, but the worst ones; the inflamed liver thing; and pneumonia, which is a WTH?! complication. So lots of things conspiring to keep him in the hospital.  And my child’s hospital room is my hotel room. Today there is lots more to ask for.


Cue the sad orphan.

I wonder how this scenario would have played out a hundred years ago, or more? Can you imagine? So often we romanticize the past, when people dressed nicer, had finer manners, or lived “simpler.”


When chivalry was alive and everyday life looked like fine art.

Honestly, though, how many of us would have survived to the age we are now? Would we still be able to see or hear? How many teeth would we have? Or limbs? How much pain would we live with every day? If I had been born a century earlier I probably wouldn’t have survived childhood. My daughter wouldn’t have survived infancy. My 19-year-old son would be dying right now.

To be sure, modern medicine isn’t perfect, but today we are here. We have lived to adulthood serviceably intact. Andrew is ill and uncomfortable but far, far from death.  Today, I will not ask for more than that.

Not Super Human

I couldn’t do it, guys. I had to withdraw from training.


Because this is how I felt.

Since I last posted, the graveyard shift hours became easier to handle even if the heat did not. I spent two weeks back on a daytime shift in that haphazard classroom training before being assigned to a training officer who worked 2am-10:30am.


Seriously. Brutal.

Still, I threw everything I had at it. Maybe it was the hours. Maybe it was the all-over-the-place training. Maybe the job itself has grown too much or maybe I have.  Ultimately it didn’t matter: I knew I wasn’t going to meet their expectations, so I called it.

“Disappointment” is the phrase of the week. I feel like a disappointment to the people who stuck their necks out for me, to the people who believed in me, and to the people who need a reliable coworker. I knew what I was getting myself into and I thought I could overcome, but I couldn’t. The infamous Professor K recently called me one of her favorite and most talented students, but I don’t write much so I feel like a disappointment to her, too.  Disappointment runs rampant in my little world these days.


Cue the sad violin.

I’m not actually full of self-pity. I didn’t fail without help. What bothers me the most is that I’m not the Super Woman I thought I was.


Just disappointingly normal.

There is a rainbow at the end of this storm, though: I’m still employed! Yay! I applied for and acquired another position within the department. It’s not as prestigious or well-compensated as the one I just left, but I’m already tons happier. I’m in a “familiarization” phase waiting for another group of new hires to start with me, but I’ve already been able to contribute a little. And that, after failing every day for 5 months straight, is priceless.


So the story continues.

Sleep Desperation

It’s only spring, but summer weather is already here. Sun and heat drain the color and vigor from living things while fevered breezes pulse through the air like dragon breath. My view is full of flowers and butterflies, but everything has a dusty cast that turns it into a faded nature film from the 1970s.

I @#$%ing hate summer.

I should be asleep right now. When my kids were younger, graveyard shift was tricky because I wanted to be awake when they were home, or at least awake enough to take them to and from school, or wherever else they needed to go. Friends and neighbors would help but it never lasted, either through fault or circumstance.  I thought this time would be easier since my kids are adults now.



I try to keep a similar schedule to my normal daylight time, just 12 hours later, but it’s so hot, you guys! *cry* It’s just so, so hot!

And I forgot about how, when you work overnight, you develop this desperation to get enough sleep. If you fail, no amount of coffee, pills, or energy drinks can help you.

Sometimes you get lucky and work with a crew who understands, who lets each other nap while keeping watch or picking up the slack. The trick to maintaining that dynamic is to not take advantage; make every effort to stay up and pull your weight.  That was my favorite thing about graveyards, that camaraderie we had, watching out for each other, keeping each other afloat. It was temporary, but it was good while it lasted.


Like little sailboats of friendship.

Now, however, I’m a trainee, and no such dynamic is accessible even if it does exist. So it’s especially important to be prepared for that nightly journey into darkness and through to the sunrise at the end.  This heat, though! It’s impossible! Every morning I scarf down breakfast and go to bed as soon as possible to catch the cool air.  I wake up 3-4 hours later drenched, stay up through the heat of the day, and take another 2-3 hour nap in the late afternoon. Then it’s a mad scramble to eat, get ready for work, swing by Starbucks, and catch my train. So far I’ve managed it into a doable routine, but that sleep desperation hangs over me like a little black rain cloud, always.


Too bad it can’t give me some nice cool rain.


Thoughts, Three Weeks In

So. My first three weeks.



My first three weeks were a double-timed, whirlwind orientation combined with whatever early-phase training the powers that be had a whim to throw me into. Four days in I felt the need to put my foot down and demand some structure, which I received along with the wrath of our manager.  Alas, it lasted a whole two days…the structure, that is. The wrath will be harder to shake.

drawing 1

Let’s take deep breath and enjoy some art.

Most days went something like this:

  1. Show up when I’m told.
  2. Report to whom I’m told.
  3. Am asked one of two questions:
    1. “Why are you here so early?” by the person who set up my schedule
    2. “What do they have you doing today?” by the person who’s supposed to tell me what to do today
  4. At some point, treated like a misbehaving child for not being where I’m supposed to be, despite:
    • being given misinformation
    • being given no information
    • engaging in a self-assigned task because I’ve already been waiting over an hour for some direction
    • actually being where I’m supposed to be.
drawing 2

And again…breath in, breath out, enjoy this interpretation of a happy face sun.

I felt like tennis ball: volleyed out of every court I landed in.  It was the most disorganized, disjointed, unprofessional “training” I can recall dealing with, and somehow I was wrong for expecting better.


Let’s distract ourselves with a video this time:

But it’s okay, friends. Now I’m on the graveyard shift with one specific trainer who believes in the power of structure, so I’m thriving. I’m still being treated like a child, but at least now I’m a well-behaved one. I think I deserve a cookie.


And a nap!

And on my last day of that awful first phase I wore my new uniform for the first time.  It’s an icky polyester that requires an extra layer, and my body shape is completely at odds with its tucked-in shirt and belted pants.  So much bad. Still, when I saw myself in the locker room mirror I got unexpectedly emotional:  I felt like I was part of the team again.

Back to the Belly of the Beast

Two months ago I got a phone call from my former supervisor: “Would you be interested in coming back?”


Right here. Just for a moment.

Yup. It happened.

So I could look at this two ways, right? 1) All those hard years trying to avoid this very industry, all that work, thrown away? Ha! No thank you! Or 2) You can’t throw away education and experience, and dammit I need a job. Bring it!

And what happens if I do go back? Do I have demands? Do I have strategies? What kind of attitude should I project? How do I stand? What do I do with my arms?


Get it together!

But I didn’t have time for any of it. Robin hardly had a chance to get the words out before my brain sent the order to my mouth and my mouth blurted, “YES!”

So I am once again gainfully employed. I feel like I’ve been treading water in the middle of the ocean for the past 5 years, and the tiny islands I managed to wash up on never had enough coconuts to sustain me long. And now I’ve hit a continent. The very continent I was sent adrift from, yes, but a continent nonetheless.

How many times have I seen something on the news or heard a story from a former coworker, and thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t part of it? How many times have I said, “Whew! Dodged a bullet there!” or “Glad I’m not a part of that mess!”

But the truth is that I’m grateful. I don’t know how to survive without a job, or without someone else picking up my slack. I’m not the gypsy or “portfolio career” type. My family has sacrificed so much. I’m beyond ready to get my life back on course. So when this opportunity presented itself I jumped on it, pride be damned.

I just completed my first week back. I need to start journaling because I’m definitely going to get some good writing material out of this.


I need to journal with a fountain pen like this.

In related news, I decided to change the name of my blog to reflect my return to the heart of Los Angeles. J9inLA is my Twitter handle, which I don’t use much but which I created with my employed self in mind. So here we go!


Fight on.



How to Impress an Angelino

My friend Tresa recently hosted cousins on a weekend visit from Indiana. Her daughter planned a schedule jam-packed with as much Los Angeles spectacle as possible: Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica, In N’ Out…the typical touristy stuff.


See the burger in the middle? Animal style: it’s the only way to go.

The cousins were dazzled, but they also ooo’ed and ahhh’ed over simpler sights, such as scrolling wrought iron fences, gracefully aged apartment buildings, or whole neighborhoods perched on hillsides.


What, this old thing?

It made me think of a visitor we had from Kentucky. The very airport he flew into took his breath away. Like Tresa, we took our guest to places that were uniquely L.A.  What really impressed him, though, weren’t the sights themselves but the immensity of it all. The enormity of singular spaces; the diversity of people and food and things; the way the air buzzes with giddy energy even through quiet nights.


It’s just an overabundance of electromagnetic fields, really.

Tresa and her daughter are planning a trip to Indiana this summer. The cousins say they can’t imagine how they’re supposed to impress people who live in such an exciting place. “Let us relax!” Tresa said.

That. Right there.

I’ve always lived in some or other suburb of Los Angeles. It’s an incredible place, I know! But it’s also expensive and downright exhausting.  We Angelinos are probably more impressed with small, simple things than our small-town counterparts.  You know what excites us? Trees. Horses. Open spaces. A full night’s sleep. The color green. Rivers that aren’t encased in concrete. Storms. Silence. Affordable housing.


But mostly the nature things.

I imagine it’s the same for any workaday person living in a big urban or suburban area. What people from smaller places think of as mundane, we find fascinating. Forget the fancy wrought iron fences…how do you live with NO fences? Aren’t you worried about people coming into your yard? How do you know where your property ends?

And how lucky are you that there’s a creek in your backyard! No, that’s not next to your yard, that’s in your yard; there’s no fence!

What do you mean there’s nothing exciting to do around here? I thought we were gonna play cards and drink beer?

OMG you have a porch swing! Does it work? MOM! C’MERE! They have a porch swing that works!

You are so lucky that you get to drive a half hour to the grocery store.  All that scenery, no traffic, no noise…

What the hell is a potato cannon? You let your kids play with that?  Waddaya mean your kids built that? Your kids are crazy smart. You are the best parents ever.

You paid how much for this house?!

Quiet. Space. Simplicity. That’s how to impress and Angelino.