Thursday, December 25, 2008
Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes our way.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
If you're a praying person, pray. If you're a wishing/hoping person, wish and hope. She (and we) expected to be waiting years because of her high level of antibodies from transfusions. She just got the call this afternoon.
Of course, when a kidney becomes available, that means someone has died. In this case, it was a 22-year-old woman somewhere up North. Her family is mourning tonight.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I studied for my comprehensive exam, which I passed (yay!), spent November writing a novel (well, sort-of-a-novel), and got my internship set for spring semester. I kind of resigned myself to working for nothing but school credit, going to the gym, and puttering around the house (is that what I do/did? putter?). Out of almost nowhere, a friend with whom I worked at the last internship told me she got a job and could probably get me one, too. I said, sure, whatever, I'll talk to the boss, pretty sure no one was going to be as flexible as I needed. (I decided I couldn't work full-time, finish my internship, and still occasionally see my children and stay sane.)
So I drove down there, to the border of the next county, last Monday, got offered the job on Tuesday, and started working on Wednesday. I worked full days on Thursday and Friday, Monday and today. And I'm working close to a full day tomorrow. This turned out to be damn good timing because we suddenly don't have enough money to pay the bills in January. I'm sure we would have figured something out, but it's good that we don't have to.
Not that I'll be making piles of money, but I am going to work around 30 hours, get a decent wage, and have the option to work more hours if I can. And it's almost in my field, not counseling, but case management, a nebulous title, but experience in which seems to be a prerequisite for many of the jobs I've seen. The drive is 30-35 minutes, but more from distance than traffic, which I prefer. They seem to be generous in the little things like nobody clocking out for lunch, the hours are flexible, and goddamn it, I'm helping desperate people. Desperate homeless people. It does my little heart good.
On the other hand, I don't really know what the fuck I'm doing. I've never actually been a case manager before. I don't know anyone at any agencies in that county (okay, as of two days ago, I know two people, although I've only talked to one of them). Also, the homeless shelter itself is brand new, so all the procedures are just being written as we go. I don't have an office yet. I have no place to put charts. Until today, I didn't have charts at all. And then there's just the little, weird, annoying things about working with other people. Why does no one in the office have access to stamps? The phone system is awkward to use. Too many people are into too many people's business. Everyone smokes!
I think it will work out, though. It will really help my job prospects for post-Master's (July 2009) to have experience like this. I may even be able to move into a different position at the agency by then. I will probably be exhausted trying to squeeze everything into the week, but maybe it will be a good exhaustion.
When I had to go work last Friday, the last day of school before the holiday break, I had to tell my kindergartner that I couldn't go to her class Christmas party. I told her at the dinner table on Thursday night. Her face crumbled and she burst into tears. Assurances that her aunt (my sister) would be there, that Grandma (who teaches first grade next door) would be stop by, even that Daddy could come, got only sobs and "It's just not the same!" Really, I've not been the kind of mom who comes to every event because I have always seemed to have somewhere to go--interview, internship, nail appointment (just kidding about the last one)--around the time of the classroom events. I've skipped some entirely, or just dropped by for half an hour. (I don't know about you, but 20+ kindergartners and their hovering parents is overwhelming and exhausting for me.) I wasn't paralyzed with guilt at her tears, although it did remind me that she's still really little (even if she is the Big Sister). Sure enough, she got over it in a few minutes, my dad ended up showing for the party because he'd started his vacation days, and everything was fine.
A new chapter begins . . . maybe there will be more to write about, but I probably won't have time. When am I going to exercise? Is there a Saturday yoga class?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I did join the other one, the one that starts with my, a few years ago, at the encouragement of my younger, hipper brother, but I didn't use it much. I found the whole thing a little silly, or maybe I felt silly.
I think there are two ways people respond to explosively popular cultural items or icons. I include fbook, Hannah Montana, and whatever toys have succeeded the phenomenon of the Cabbage Patch dolls I remember from my younger days. Fill in your own.
Most people, one has to assume, run with hands pressed to face in breathless excitement toward the new Wonder, otherwise it wouldn't be or stay popular, right?
A few of us, maybe we're elitists, too ironic for our own good, hopelessly uncool, or some combination of the three, we go in the opposite direction. Or at least we stand still, arms crossed, with a look of distrust (and maybe vague disgust) on our faces. Nah, not for me, we say.
But then I had this friend who would never call me back. The phone at her home would ring and ring, and whenever I tried her cell phone, it happened to be a day when her husband took it with him to work. She sometimes took weeks to respond to my emails. I have two reactions in these circumstances. My inner insecure teenage girl says, She doesn't really like you. Why would she want to be your friend? My more mature, rational adult says, She's busy. She has kids. She's in grad school. She has a job. You know what it's like. Anyway, this friend kept saying, Join fbook. I'm on it all the time, she said. And when we worked together, I remember seeing her check it when she had a spare moment, so I thought, hey maybe this way we can have a conversation.
Before that, of course, I'd disdained it a bit, for all the reasons that made me roll my eyes when I finally signed up. Do I really want to fling virtual thongs at people? Buy people virtual drinks? What is the point of all this? Don't I waste enough time as it is? I friended a few relatives and gazed at their lists of 100s of friends. I don't even know that many people, I thought. How could I keep up with that many people even if I did know them? Would I want to, even if I could? And I felt a little sorry for myself, a little inferior to the more social others, which was a comfortable and familiar place for me: the cozy pit of pity.
Then I found one of my high school friends. One of my best friends from high school, who I hadn't talked to since we'd just finished college. And I actually talked to her on the phone, and we wanted to keep catching up, and we are going to get together in person because she happens to live in the same city as my in-laws.
And speaking of my in-laws, I got into a messaging back-and-forth with one of my sisters-in-law, who I see a couple of times a year, have always liked, but never contacted much outside of those family events. And now I feel like I know her so much better, and she knows me better.
Then I found another old coworker from years ago, and some current and former classmates, and I'm probably going to keep finding people. I will probably never have 100 friends, but I may have more than I did before I started this whole fbook thing. I like that. I think it's good for me.
Even if I never do fling anything at you.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Little bits of small talk and details of the day are discussed: her husband took the two boys to a local campsite in their ancient RV. He was going to build a fire and cook them hotdogs and marshmallows on sticks. He needed kindling.
I'm only half-listening. I'm pouring myself some cereal or maybe a soda (two weaknesses of mine), holding the phone between shoulder and ear. Uh-huh, I say.
So, anyway, she says, I found this box of letters that we wrote each other, mostly from '93 to '95, when I was still in college and you were living at home, working. They're mostly the ones I wrote, but there are some of yours, too.
Uh-huh, I say. Did you read them?
I don't want to waste the whole afternoon, she says. I mean, I've read them before. Okay, I read one of them.
She tells me about the letter she read, eight pages, in which she complained about the camp cooking job she had at our college's outpost for wilderness exploration in Wisconsin. She says, I took a lot of naps. I complained about being tired, even though I wrote that I'd gone to bed at 10 and taken two naps that day!
I understand, having been through the newborn nightmare of no sleep, complicated by having a toddler who doesn't always sleep perfectly either. Yeah, I say, We didn't know, did we, how much more tired we could be? Then I think, Wait a second, didn't she say something about kindling about ten minutes ago?
You're not going to burn them, are you? Is that what you're calling to tell me?
She laughs, awkwardly. I'm not going to burn them, she says, J. is. Another laugh.
We wrote each other several times a week, when we were apart, my sister and I, and eight page letters were not out of the ordinary. What did we have to write about? I think I have more going on now and I can barely squeeze out a blog post once a week (definitely not eight pages worth). We wrote about people we talked to, roommate problems, boys we had crushes on, books we were reading, who knows? We wrote everything. From August 1990 - January 1992, when we were at different colleges, until she left hers and joined me at mine, and June 1993 - June 1995 before we moved to Charlottesville together, we must have thousands of pages.
What if you want to read them later? What if you want to read them when you're 50 or 60 or 70? Did you really call to tell me that you're burning your letters. Our letters?!
She seemed to waver a bit, although she said, Why would I want to read them, I was whiny, I know what I was like then.
I don't know if she called her husband and asked him to save the letters after all. Probably not, but it made me sad. There are more of them. I have most of mine (although I should have hers, probably, but that's the way we divided them when we moved). I don't think that's what I want to do with the past. Sure, I was a whiny little shit, too. Who isn't in their late teens and early twenties? But we had something to say, and we said it, if only to each other. I think we revealed stuff about who we are that we may not have even known at the time.
If there's one thing that I regret (okay, fine, there are a lot of things I regret, but here's one), it's that I didn't write letters or journal entries in more recent years. Now I'm blogging, so that's good. That's something, but what about those early years of marriage, those first days and weeks and months of motherhood? I'd moved to email, by then, if I had need to say something to someone. I wrote my sister some letters, but we talked more by phone, I think, and then we were back in the same city. No need to write letters, to record the minutiae that make up a life.
I said to my sister, If you burn them, they're gone, Sis. That's it. You can't get ever them back.
I know, she said. And I think she let her husband burn them.
Update: I talked to her at the gym this morning. She called her husband after our conversation and told him not to burn the letters. . .
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Do you hate brussels sprouts*? Or perhaps you remember your mother, who famously claimed to like everything, admitting that she ACTUALLY liked everything EXCEPT brussels sprouts. So you figured you wouldn't either. Especially since every time you've tried them (n=2, your mother didn't make them, remember?), they've been boiled.
This is a surprisingly common problem, with or without the mother issues, judging by the number of recipes for brussels sprouts which include a variation on this disclaimer, "I never liked brussels sprouts," before insisting that the recipe below changed their mind.
I bought the brussels sprouts because I took the 5-year-old to the store with me. She said, Ooh, Mommy, what's that? Can we get that? And for once she wasn't pointing to candy or a supposedly baked confection filled with preservatives that comes in a box and keeps almost forever (think Little Debbies). I'm a meanie and say no to those things reflexively, but vegetables? Shouldn't I encourage this kind of thing? Perhaps I was feeling adventurous or kind toward the universe (especially plant life), but those little sprouts did look sort of cute. And, all credit to my mother for living in a time before the internet, but I have figured out she wasn't/isn't the most inventive cook. And they were on sale! (Or maybe they're always that cheap. Never bought them before.) Surely there is a good recipe for brussels sprouts?
There is! As long as you don't mind a little olive oil in your diet. I got it from 101cookbooks.com and I will link you to the recipe rather than retype it. Here it is. It was the "popped in your mouth" part that sold me. Don't they look yummy? And they are! Even my husband ate them and liked them [insert snarky comment about husband here].
More posts to follow. In less than a week, seriously.
*Apparently you can say brussels sprouts or brussel sprouts (thanks again, Wikipedia), but Blogger spellcheck doesn't recognize either one. Neither does it approve of "spellcheck". But that's because I refuse to hyphenate and or divide it. It's a compound noun, or a verb, I declare!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a volunteer in-school mentor. It's only once a week, less than an hour, and it's at my old high school. I walked with my student to the career center trailer today and made a comment about the campus. She said, "You went here?" (even though I'm pretty sure I told her that before . . . but she's a teenager, so she's probably not always listening!).
I said, "Yeah, a long time ago."
"When did you graduate?"
"1990," I said, realizing that was BEFORE SHE WAS BORN as I said it.
"Wow," she said, possibly the same thought occurring to her. "You don't look, like, that old. I thought you were, like, in your 20's."
I think I said, "That's good to hear."
Then we walked over to the guidance office, where the woman who was scheduling her appointment, looked at me and said, "Are you her mother?" Both of us kind of laughed, and my student emphatically said, No! The poor woman said, "I don't know. How was I supposed to know?" I explained who I was and showed her my volunteer ID badge.
So, I look younger than my age or old enough to have a teenager of my own, one or the other. Or both, I guess.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I heaved myself over the 50,000 word line, just now. I actually thought I had enough words, but with the difference in word counters (apparently there's a difference), I was 50 words short. You'd think adding 50 words wouldn't be hard, and it isn't like I have only (or any) perfect sentences or paragraphs that couldn't be improved. Or fluffed. But it was hard, although I managed to go 23 words over! Hurray, me!
So it'll be back to other topics for me on this blog, how nice for you!
I'm glad I did it, though, and maybe when I look at it in a week or so, there'll be some good stuff, among the not-so-good stuff. The winner's badge, BTW, only means I made it to 50K, not that it's any good or that anyone else has even read it. My husband is the only one who has read any of it, and he's only read bits and pieces. But the badge is pretty, isn't it? Even if it only means I can type!
Friday, November 28, 2008
A funny find-and-replace story for a small audience: I realized I had two characters, one named Pat and the other named Patricia who interacted for one scene. One character (Pat) was really only in that scene, while Patricia was in several scenes, so I decided to change Pat's name to Kim (although, IRL, of course people with the same name often interact, I didn't want to confuse myself with too much realism). I typed in replace "Pat" with "Kim." Word made 37 or so replacements, which seemed a little high, but it was 11:30 and I didn't think much of it.
The next day, paging through my story, I came across a sentence where one character Kimted another character's hand. Later a group was sitting on a Kimio. And another character ran out of Kimience. I wonder what else I will find. I should probably run the old spell check, no?
Here's to the end!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
They said breaking 30,000 would be like reaching the top of the mountain, which I took to mean that the last 20,000 would be like skiing downhill, which I have very limited experience of, but sure looks like fun. I think they were just lying to get us to keep going.
My problem is (and then I'll get back to writing, I swear) is that my tone and even my point of view are all over the place. I've given in and switched to first person, which was nice at first, but now I just feel like I'm narrating the boring events of my life. Kind of like blogging, except stuff that happened ten years ago and without too much ironic distance. And I definitely don't think anyone wants to read my memoir.
What I'm hoping is that after I get my little NaNoWriMo certificate and the accompanying sense of accomplishment that I've written 50,000 words, even if 40,000 of them are crap, I will be able to figure out what I want to do with this idea. Right now I just don't know. I do know I would have abandoned it by now if it weren't for this contest. It's debatable whether that would be better or worse for me and this pile of steaming words.
I have a few photos to post on the mommy blog (Soccer! Stereotypical Thanksgiving Costumes!), but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Tonight I have to get to 35K, or at least close.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
First, you may be thinking, Fortune magazine? You read Fortune? Well, my in-laws started the subscription a few years ago when they, perhaps logically, assumed that their son, after completing his MBA, was on the path to junior executivehood (that is apparently not a word) and the subsequent wealth-building such a job would yield. Turns out they didn't know their son very well (and this is totally not a dig at you, Honey), but we actually both enjoy the magazine. What he lacks in career ambition, my husband makes up for in keen quantitative analysis and an appetite for casually acquired knowledge (I refer mostly to the internets). The articles are well-written and interesting. It's usually the 3rd or 4th thing I get to during the week, after Entertainment Weekly and the local yokel newspaper and whatever novel I'm reading. It's become part of my breakfast and lunch reading, when I don't have a novel to read. And right now, I'm not reading any novels because of this whole writing one thing.
Okay, but this article, which graces the cover of the November 10th issue with the headline "Who Pays for the Bailout? You do, of course!" has me hopping. (Or maybe that's the Flea Problem we discovered when we took New Cat to the vet this week.) The gist of the article is that folks (like you, typical Fortune reader--the article actually says this at least once) who make 250-500K are being overtaxed. These folks are dubbed HENRYs, which stands for High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet. Although they earn more than 97% of Americans, we are encouraged to think of them (us?) with sympathy or even compassion because 1) they are not rich and 2) they are essential to our economic system (so let's not tick them off?).
If you're skipping the full text of the article, you might want to watch this video featuring one of the families from the article. That's problem number one with the article.* This family is great. He's a dentist, she's a part-time pediatrician and part-time stay-at-home mom for their two young children. They're tall, attractive, and African-American to boot. They went through a lot of schooling, sacrifice, and hard work to get to what they themselves describe as a "comfortable" place in their lives. They remind me a little of my own pediatricians who are both moms-of-young-kids (with doctor husbands) and split their hours so they can both work less than full time and be there for their kids. In fact, the couple in the video don't even complain about their taxes. The husband says, Yeah, we pay a lot of taxes, but we'd rather be in this situation than one in which we make less money and pay less taxes. Well, duh. So why is this article being written, again?
Because (surprise!) not all the people in this tax bracket are so reasonable about their proportion of the tax burden. Because you, typical Fortune reader, might be worried about Obama raising taxes on capital gains and, oh yeah, reducing taxes for those who make less than you.
So here's what bothers me the most. The not-so-subtle implication that the hard work of people in this bracket is somehow harder and more essential than other people's hard work. There's also more than an implication that these people make sacrifices due to being dual income households. Here's a quote that had me seeing red (green?): "They're all about the kids: saving for private colleges, paying for day care--practically a must, because Mom and Dad are both working--and providing dance, tennis, or gymnastic lessons. These might be seen as luxury items by middle class workers, but they're absolute necessities to the HENRYs."
Okay, calm yourself, Karen. It's just a sentence. Here goes: most of the people I know use daycare, which could be defined as a necessity (and not a luxury!) for dual-income households earning any amount from the 66% percent of households who earn under $50K right up to the HENRYs and beyond. But, while most of the people I know also provide dance, tennis, gymnastics lessons and may sacrifice to do so, I don't think anyone should refer to them as Absolute Necessities.
These things are choices, not necessities. It's great if you want to send your kids to exclusive private school, but you don't have to. Ditto with socking away money so that your kids can both go to (examples used in the article) Cornell or Duke, but again, that's your choice. It's a choice that costs money. Somewhere in the article it talks about how the HENRYs forgo luxuries to save for their futures. Well, again, duh.
I didn't hear a lot in this article about how the HENRYs are helping others. I'm sure many of them are, but that didn't seem to be important in this article. The authors seemed to consider the fact that the HENRYs are preparing their children by private-schooling and elite-college-preparing the new MasterClass as well as buying and producing economically/capitalistically at a higher level than the other 97% of us to be sufficient to establish their essentialness.
Oh, yes, one more thing. The unwillingness to use the word "rich." Let's take a look at some of the euphemisms used to describe themselves by the HENRYs interviewed in the article: "comfortable" "successful" "well off". Okay, if it makes you better to say it that way. They struggle to define what rich means: "people with golf club memberships" not people who "eat fast food and take [their] kids to soccer." The authors say that "many Americans" would define "wealthy" as having a net worth of around $3 million and/or "if a couple in their 30s, 40s, or 50s has the option to stop working and live on their ample savings . . . they can definitely be classified as rich." Oh, good, something we can finally agree on. I also think MAKING MORE THAN 97% OF YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS is not a bad definition.
Here's the bottom line, there's always going to be a cut off if we continue to use the tax bracket system the U.S. taxpayer has been participating in for years. There are always going to be people on the edge whose modest annual bonus pushes them up to a higher percentage owed to the government at the end of the year. Argue with the system if you want, but if you didn't question it before you reached $250K/year, you kind of sound like a big, fat, rich (yeah, I said it) whiner now.
I am an outside observer, not a HENRY, and a richer American could interpret my interpretation as envy. None of us are unbiased. I grew up squarely in the under 50K bracket, in whatever years' dollars you use. Only in the last year have my husband and I squeaked over that line. Now, I am only ambitious in the sense that I am trying to get a job with health benefits. I admit I don't have the drive of these families in the article. I don't imagine I will ever be a HENRY, unless I, say, write a best-selling novel or my husband hits the top 100 at the WSOP. So, make of that what you will.
I could go on and on, but my daughter has watched enough Disney Channel this morning and I need to sweep/swiffer my crappy linoleum kitchen floor. So, go read the article and tell me what you think.
*I'm going to mostly skip over the fact that the families featured in this article are all, well, families. I'd like to see statistics on this income group, which I suspect isn't any more proportionately burdened with progeny than any of the rest of us.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Two non-writing related notices: Rent The Devil and Daniel Johnston if you are interested in art, music, mental illness, or humanity. Yeah, that better be all of you. It's from 2005 so I may be jumping on the bandwagon late, but I couldn't not recommend it. A story of a life. Maybe tragic, but also heroic. Plus, weird personal trivia, the church the family goes to is The Church of Christ. And so did I from ages 8-14! Definitely fundy!
What was the other thing? I started a poem about little P. Maybe I will post it later, after I bang out my ~2000 words for the day. I think there was something else, but I can't remember it now. . .
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Day Five: Write down a dream you had seemingly in the world of your story, with you as main character (see, your dreams know she's you, too!), do dream analysis-lite and totally count it in your word count. Then do a bit of lazy writing during commercial breaks after 8 pm.
Day Six: Transcribe handwritten crap from last night, making it slightly better. Plan to write while your daughter is in her dance class. Talk to the other moms instead. Still 2000 words behind. Catch up! (After watching 30 Rock. And The Office. To paraphrase Homer Simpson: It's the networks!)
Monday, November 3, 2008
Day Two: Realize you've used up all your good ideas on day one. Slog through threads of plot chronologically. Character seems boring (and too much like you). Realize you have very little dialog. Maybe it's literary fiction? Or weak writing. Still, 2000 more words down.
Day Three: Keep saying all day (to self) that you are going to spend your 2-4 hours adding dialog. End up with zero words as of 8:15 pm. It actually seems like a good day to veg in front of the TV with some Golden Graham cereal. But, no. Is it too early to go all meta-fiction and start writing about your process in the novel? Probably.
I feel weirdly good, though. Physically good. (That should probably be "well" as in "physically well" because I don't think my ability to discriminate texture through my skin has changed.) Can writing actually heal? I think it can. Off to knock off another 2000. Or 1000, since I'm ahead, right?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I also tried drinking coffee at 8:30 pm and then tried to go to bed at 11 (or what would be 11 after the clocks were moved back. So, 12.). That was a bad idea. I generally drink 0-12 oz of caffeine a day, only in soda form and never later than dinner time (if at all). This was strong, fresh-roasted (the same day by my talented brother-in-law) one and a half cups. Delicious and maybe it helped my word production and creative juices, but not compatible with sleep. My husband suggests chasing it with beer. We'll see. Or not.
So now if I can just get him to go to the grocery store for me, make lunch for the kids . . . do you think I have time for a nap?
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Okay, the commercials. I'll just have to describe them. The first one is for a Corolla, a car I like and almost bought before I got my Accord. It features an attractive young (but not too young) woman describing its features. These amenities seems to be summed up in double entendres that imply brains and brawn. She ends with the punchline: "Now if I could only find a man like that." Ugh. Seriously, can you imagine a commercial, even in our soft, lovable, needy-men, Michael Cera times, in which a man ended with a line like that? For one thing that would be offensive to us, wouldn't it? You're comparing a woman to a fucking car? Stop objectifying us! But, also, aren't we ever going to move beyond the time when a woman needs a man? I realize I am a married woman, and I do remember the pride I felt when I got engaged--a noxious superiority to my former loveless self and, by extension, all my still unpaired peers. Yet I recognized it as noxious, even at the obnoxious age of 27. I guess with this commercial, I realize it's still kind of true, that women do think like this, but I wish we wouldn't.
My joke to my former fiance at the end of the commercial was, "Yeah, then when we land one, all we can do is complain endlessly about him." Ha ha. But I wish it weren't.
The second one (Edit: I found it, although it's the short version) is one in a series of annoying Glade spots featuring this woman who seems to think she's fooling everyone into thinking she's fancy or a fabulous housekeeper (one or the other, the message gets a little mixed) but her secret is Glade (that last part should be whispered). The one that really irritates me has her (beautifully coiffed and dressed and) chipperly dispatching her (perfectly groomed) children to school and cheerful husband (in a spotless business suit) who is apparently driving them on his way to work. Because Mom's got a busy day of cleaning ahead of her! Then we see her squirting Glade's Febreeze-like product on various pieces of furniture, taking a leisurely lunch in outdoor cafe (with wine!), and engaging in various other female indulgences, like tennis lessons (!) (don't you only keep those secret from your husband if you're sleeping with the pro?), and I think the longer version had her shoe shopping or getting her hair done. The kicker, of course, is her sliding onto her couch at home just before (still cheerful) hubby arrives home with the kids. They admire the smell of the house and actually say, Wow, Mom, you must have been cleaning all day. The fact that her husband notices the Glade spray on his way into the kitchen and calls her out is the final wink.
So, what irritates me most? The implication that actual housecleaning can be successfully imitated by the use of one odor-masking product? The suggestion that stay-at-home-moms are tricking their families by pretending to have domestic work to do? I realize the indulgent and ultimately patronizing father-knows-best who seems to actually do all the work (paid and unpaid) is probably supposed to be a twist of some sort, but is it a twist we really need? (Men are actually awesome! Women are pretty but useless!)
Now I am going to scoop the cat's litter box, put my pajamas back on (which I only changed out of because I had a volunteering gig today) and crawl back into bed after setting my toddler up with some cartoons and popcorn.
No, seriously, I'm going to wake my husband up first.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I noticed his eyes when I took his champagne glass. They were gold with a little green. Green-gold, which is an unusual color, but also there was something different about his gaze, or I wanted there to be. I looked back steadily without speaking and turned to take the glass to the bar for a refill. There was power in my gaze, there always is, but this felt different, too, maybe also because I wanted it to be.
Could I feel him watching me in any way that was unlike the way they all watched me? Walking in my elaborate costume which revealed the shape of me, the muscles defined from vigorous training, everything physical and female and yet somehow other than the bodies of their wives or the women with whom they socialized and worked. An illusion, I know. We are all flesh, and they must know it, too, but an illusion that had always worked and always would.
One of the rules is to let them believe it’s against the rules. That it’s spontaneous and forbidden and unique, when in fact everything is carefully orchestrated and we are taught how to negotiate every little thing. Artifice, all of it, and all for them, although even they have to know, really, that it’s a game, a transaction, like any other.
The other rule is never talk about yourself. Never tell them about being two months behind on your rent, your four-year-old kid sick with the flu, or how your daddy used to come in your room at night. Don’t, not even if, especially if, they might want to see you as somebody’s mother, someone’s daughter, somebody wounded, or some woman they’d meet for lunch at a cafe on a weekday afternoon. You are a mystery, someone who entertains but does not exist outside of her entertainment, your entertainment. You, for example, are someone who is paid to flip and fly through the air at a weekend party for the rich and powerful. You are someone they watch and maybe wonder, what would it be like to be with someone so flexible, so firm and limber. Such a tired fantasy, from your perspective, but for each of them, so fresh and exciting.
And some of them, not knowing that you could, you would, do just about anything for a price—that I would, could, do anything—only ask to caress the tautness of your thigh, which is almost nice, sometimes, except when it’s not. Except when you’re desperate, for money, for something touch can’t really satisfy, but is the only thing you can get. Or when you’re weary and feeling old and wondering what happens when you can’t fly anymore.
I wonder sometimes if any of them would have recognized me at the market on a morning, if it would even occur to them to look. Of course, that second rule helps. I am no real person at all, not one who selects fruit by hand by squeezing it for ripeness, not one who haggles over the price of fish. I look nothing like my entertaining self at the market, of course. Not in costume, my hair down or in a braid instead of the elaborate spray and pins affair. I go most mornings, like most people, although most of them, the party-goers, send others for them. Servants or assistants. They themselves would only be there on a lark. Let’s go to the market, they might say. Let’s blow off work this morning and pick out some ripe peppers. Perhaps we’ll cook tonight. Some recipe we saw prepared on television. It’ll be fun.
Meanwhile I take my bag home as always, with or without a child or two in tow. The child or two or not will go to the state school while I go to the gymnasium to train. As other workers head to the restaurants, the bus depots, the factories and offices where they labor the day away, I put on my plain leotard and practice the twists and jumps I will perform for tips on the weekends. I train with weights. I run. I stretch. I perfect my routines which should never be exactly the same, although similar enough for those who’ve seen me before to remember me.
There are many of us training at the gymnasium, and not all of us work parties. When I was younger I competed. I earned no salary, but my expenses—housing and food and clothing—were covered. I could have gone into the circus for a steady wage when I grew too old to compete, and might have, if something hadn’t caught an agent’s eye. The agents watch us and decide what best suits us, for what we are best suited. It would be too simple to say it was beauty. I do not think of myself as beautiful. I look in the mirror like all women and notice my flaws. My ears are not quite straight, so that when I wear shades, they are always crooked. Other little things like that. I think it is more a vulnerability or appearance of fragility, while it is often the opposite, a cold, hard inner shell that is not easily penetrated. Or something they know, because they are men, too, that appeals to men.
I would not say that the others who train with me, the circus workers, the young competitive gymnasts, do not judge me and those like me. But there is not much energy left for much disdain, as hard as we have to work. And there is the knowledge that there isn’t much choice for any of us. We have certain training and now certain skill; these are our options and we move through them as we are directed until we can’t anymore. Then, we don’t like to think what we will do later. What will become of us.
I have years left, barring injury, and maybe some others for whom I am responsible now, maybe more responsibility than I had when the state transported me to meets and games, and I had only my youth and promise. I don’t think about it often, except when I do, and then, too much.
Another rule is that you are not to eat the food and drink the drinks the guests do. This one is subtler but, really, relates to the other two. Of course you eat, you are human, but the guests never see you do it. You serve, you exist on another plane, you do not run in the same circles or perform the same cycles. This perpetuates your mystery, the wonder of your intimacy with them when you provide it. For you, of course, it is just your life as a worker. You eat separately, you perform your skill if you are lucky enough to have one, you serve food and drinks, you reveal nothing while appearing to be fascinated by every word they say, and sometimes you suck a stranger’s dick. It is all work, and you pretend none of it matters more or less than the rest. Except when it does.
I was lonely this weekend, which isn’t the way I like to be on the weekends. It is dangerous to be lonely at a party. I mostly leave my loneliness for the market mornings or the subway rides to and from the gymnasium, although that too has not always been without a consequence or two. At the parties, I almost always am able to lose my loneliness in the act, in the physical exertion of appearing to fly; the muscular energy required to provide the momentum and maintain the landing is usually enough to eliminate the emotion, all emotion. The exhilaration that I still feel from the motion itself and from the audience who sees me as something exquisite, something other, in a way that is different from all the rest of my transactions with the world, this is usually enough to block everything else. In some ways I am only me when I am flying, although of course that isn’t true. I do what I was trained to do, and after that I serve refreshments and do other things I have been trained to do.
I returned with his drink and met his gaze again with a smile. I suddenly felt my loneliness rise up and stick like a lump in my throat. I only lifted my chin a bit higher and recalled what it felt like to soar. It came through my eyes, I think, because he said, “You are remarkable. How do you go so high and still land on your feet?” The same question asked over and over every weekend, but maybe I wanted to hear sincerity in his voice, not just hunger for what I could do for him, so I smiled and shrugged.
“Practice,” I said. The same answer I always give, but I said it like it was the first time anyone had asked, as if he were really interested in me. Not in the me who goes to the market, who binds her wrists and ankles in tape for training, who may or may not sing a child or two to sleep at night, because that is not allowed, but in the me who flies. The me that on the weekends, more than the rest of the week, is the real me. The flying me who is, not to overshoot a metaphor, above the rest of the things I do. Especially the rest of the things I do for money.
The way you live, in a flat, in a building, with other workers, means you don’t cross paths with them very often. You are here and they are there, even in the same city or riding the same train. You know more about their lives because their lives are the ones written about in magazines and dramatized in movies. Your life is uninteresting to them because it is mundane. It is filled with the things that are done behind the scenes, without notice. The rooms which are silently cleaned, the trash which is mysteriously collected, the food that is miraculously prepared. You would resent it more if it weren’t such a solid and immutable fact of life. Of your life and theirs. Yours is to serve and theirs is to be served.
Yet. There is something human and real about handing another person a drink while looking them in the eye. Our fingers brushed and neither of us flinched or dropped our eyes. We connected in the same way that any two people connect or transact. Maybe, certainly, it was only temporary, but I felt exhilarated. How was this any different than any other weekend after I performed, when I mingled, and served, and pretended to be fascinated, and sometimes pretended to be persuaded to be touched or fucked? Only in perception, perhaps, only because my loneliness let me feel something beyond the confines of the script. The script someone taught me, and maybe the one someone, less formally, had taught him, too.
We didn’t move quickly. I took a seat beside him, eating and drinking nothing, of course. I had had water and bread and soup after my performance, in a back room, before washing away the sweat and freshening my make-up. I was not hungry or thirsty, although I would have like to clink glasses with him. To, even in this ridiculous costume, break bread with him. So I was not pretending when I demurred his offer of refreshment, but I was lying, and it made the loneliness sharp again.
I spoke into it, “Do you get to the parties often?” A standard, clichéd, acceptable question, but I felt like I wanted to know. Had he been here before? Had he seen me before? What did he expect from me? Even these were questions I asked myself every weekend, with every guest who engaged me, but this time they felt different, as if a part of me needed to know his—this green-gold-eyed man—his unique answers.
His smile was disarming, as were his eyes, and the way he looked down and spoke almost shyly. “This is my first one,” he said. He looked up with a crooked, nearly awkward smile. “I only got into this one because my supervisor came down with the flu.” I smiled with him, which brightened and straightened his mouth, and we seemed, for a moment, old friends sharing an old joke.
You can’t join their world, you know that. It’s not something you even dream about. You can’t put on a business suit and suddenly become a lawyer, a business executive, or a high-level government functionary, the kind of woman he might sit next to on a flight or marry. You cannot become his lover or his wife. This is not something you even want.
Your mother, who died in a flat identical to the one in which she grew up, the same exact flat in which you grew up; your mother, who worked double shifts to get your through your first training camps before the government saw your potential and took over the bills; your mother never even dreamed about that. It is true she also never dreamed you’d end up working parties, and you try not to imagine what she would say if she’d lived to see it. She did live to see your own flat, government-supplemented, nearly twice as large as hers, but still a worker flat. This was what she aspired to, to have a talented daughter, to see her in a decent flat, maybe to have her marry and have her own children with no need to work double shifts at the factory. Yet your life, despite the bigger flat, is not much different, raising your child or two on your own, working your own kind of overtime, but perhaps with less hope.
“Are you going to perform again?” he asked. An unexpected question, so I looked at him quizzically, not answering. He gestured toward me and then touched his own chest, suit-clad, with a silk tie. “Your costume,” he said. “Do you have another set?” He smiled the almost awkward smile again. “Is that what you call it, a set?”
I shrugged non-committally. “I might.” He seemed to be waiting for me to elaborate, so I said, “We don’t really know how long the party will last, so we are prepared if we need to. If we need to do another set.” This wasn’t true, not really, as everything about the party was carefully planned. The truth was the guests, we were told, wanted to see us in our costumes. It kept us in character. If we were not in character, of course, we would have had no business being at the party at all.
He was speaking again. “It seems, I don’t know, strange, for you to be serving me drinks.” He seemed to blush a little, and I had to lean closer to him to hear him above the chatter of the other guests. “I mean, when you can do that.”
My response, my trained response for questions for which I am not prepared, is bemused silence, so I smiled slightly, warmly, to encourage him to continue. I wanted him to continue.
He waited, too, then said, “I mean, I’m glad you brought me a drink. I’m glad you sat down to talk to me. I feel out of my depth at this party. You are being kind, I think.”
These parties are often held in houses, although compared to your flat, or even your building, these are houses of a different order, from a different world. The performances are often held in large banquet-style rooms, no stage, with the guests arranged at tables around the perimeter. Any equipment needed is set up in the middle. Any springs or mats or bars are placed and moved again for the needs of each performer. Like a theatre in the round. It is different than competing, but not so different once you begin your routine. Then it is just what you do, what you have always done.
The advantage of the houses are a multitude of other rooms for other aspects of entertaining among the elite.. Smaller rooms to eat more private meals or hold secret networking or power-brokering sessions. Some of the guests stay the night with their wives or lovers. Others only come for the evening, for the performance, but might need rooms for the quick dalliance. All of this is planned for; it is pre-arranged which rooms are for what purpose, and you, of course, know where they are.
“Kindness,” I repeat, leaning toward him again, because the guests around us are clapping for another performer. “To bring you a drink? To sit down to talk to you for a moment?” I smile and soften my eyes so that my words do not seem harsh or sarcastic. “I think you must be short of kindness in your life if that is how you define it.”
He blushes again. “Maybe kindness is not the right word. I’m out of my depth, I said. It’s true. I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
This is the moment when I could, if I wanted, touch his hand lightly, look up through my lashes, and ask him if he wanted to go somewhere more quiet. I don’t have to, nor do I have to do anything specific when we get there. I have discretion. I have choice. I could leave him and find someone else. I could even take the night off, although I would make only the tips from my performance and begin to alert my employers to my ambivalence. Which we all have, but can’t reveal, not at a party. Not while working.
I almost do it—touch his hand, ask the question—but the moment passes, and we sit in comfortable silence, watching the next acrobat. I know her, of course. We all know each other, and I tell him about her medals, her places in recent meets, more recent than mine, truth be told. He tells me about his company, details I store away for future conversational use. He tells me about his brother who has just gotten married, his father who has just retired and is going stir crazy without any meaningful work to do. He talks to me as many of the guests have talked to me, with no assumption that I would be bored, with no particular questions about my brother, my father, my life beyond of this costume, this performance.
Which is as it should be. The way it is supposed to be. The kindness has passed, the kindness which never really was the right word, anyway.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I'm not going into this with the idea that on December 1st I will have a novel ready to submit to [publisher of your choice]. What I'm hoping for is that discipline will do my writing good, that I will get some ideas which could be turned into submittable stories with some editing, and that writing will do my mood some good or at least distract me from melancholy. Wouldn't that be grand?
This is the point in the post when I mock/criticize/humiliate my husband. Or at least that is the way he seems to see it every time I mention him in what I intend to be a humorous fashion. You know, like he's my comic effect. If this blog were a Shakespearean drama, he would be my clown. No? Not any better, Honey? I did try. At any rate, when I told him I was going to write a novel in November, his response was, Oh, no, you're not getting caught up in that NaNoWriMo nonsense, are you? (And, notice, he pronounced it correctly without even thinking about it.)
Apparently, his much longer history of wasting time on the internet has included blog and message board reading with former participants of the novel-writing challenge. After warning me that I will want to claw my eyes out (or something like that) after a week or two and Don't come crying to me on November 10th that you want to quit, he did manage a I-think-you're-crazy-but-if-you-want-to-do-this-okay-then kind of support.
Part of this might be my own fault, as I am not very vocal about my writing aspirations, even to him. I always thought that it would sound pretentious, especially if I rarely produced anything and never attempted to publish anything. At times I thought (and still think a little bit) that it's one of those aspirations from childhood, cultivated from being an avid reader, and nurtured by being an English major, that isn't realistic so it just fades away. Like you either become a writer or you outgrow it.
This is an example of (unhealthy) all-or-nothing thinking. Since I can't be a successful published novelist, I shouldn't even bother to write. Also it defeats itself, since I couldn't become the former without doing the latter. So, I'm going to try it. Next November I'll (hopefully) be working, so I'll have less time and more excuses. I could do it anytime, of course, but the online support is good and brings out my little competitive edge.
Join me if you dare.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I removed my story after 36 hours because I immediately jumped to the conclusion that if no one had commented on it, that must be because no one could think of anything nice to say and so, because their mothers had taught them to be polite, said nothing at all. Probably premature and paranoid, but that's what I did. I have been (have I mentioned this a dozen times already) a bit down and I tend to exaggerate everything and wallow in the self-pity at these times. Extraordinarily unattractive, even to myself, which generates more of the same. Ugh. The only thing that keeps me from staying under the covers all day sometimes is that the kids need to be fed, dressed, and driven places. No getting around it. And that's probably a good thing.
I did take my comprehensive test on Saturday and am reasonably sure I passed. So that's good, one more thing taken care of. All that's left is the last internship (already arranged) and a 6 week course in the summer. If the internship could lead to a job, even a PT one, that would be fantastic. It is very discouraging to job search and realize I need another 2-3 years experience before I qualify for some $28K job. Hey, I'm not knocking $28K, believe me, I'd take it, but I guess just the general idea that someone who is providing mental health or rehabilitative health care services and has a MA and 3 years experience . . . well, you get the idea.
I am still doing a reasonably good job with exercising. Yoga tomorrow.
Oh, here's some funny. E. (the 5-year-old) was asking me all sorts of questions about the presidential candidates, probably because I listen to NPR in the car. I explained that "these two men" are running for president. I told her their names, and said, Oh, that's one of them speaking now, when one of them was. She began to chant, "I want to be president! I want the government!" over and over in a kind of deep, theatrical voice, her adult male voice. I guess she jumped right to the heart of things, the subtext of presidential campaign speeches. Brilliant child.
We don't really talk politics around her much, because I think it's kind of weird and unfair to make your children parrot your political opinions. Because they will, gladly, but it's kind of like training a, well, parrot. She was asking more questions the other night when we weren't in the car, so I asked her if she wanted to see what they looked like. I took her to johnmccain.com and barackobama.com and played the videos. I think McCain got a little love in that she thought he slightly resembled her granddad (not my dad whose hair is still dark) and I confirmed that he was a grandfather. Obama's video was a bit long (10 minutes) for her attention span, but she thought it was cool that he had kids, "little girls!" and she cannot get enough of his name. We must have heard "Barackobama" about a hundred times that night. I was a little nervous she was going to get in trouble for saying it over and over at her (conservative) (Christian) school the next day, but I think she'd moved on by then.
One of us will take her with us to vote, so she can see democracy in action and all that.
Oh and she was also interested in the process of moving in and out of the White House ("His family moves in with him?!") And earlier, whether the president had to die before we got a new one. Not usually, I said, no.
Little P., on the other hand, likes to say "Ayudame"; for those of you without kids hooked on the Dora/Diego franchise and/or fluent in Spanish, that means "(2nd person command form)Help!" She says this while playing with her animal toys, when she needs help getting out of the car, down from a chair, up onto something or when she wants to make us laugh. It works.
If we could just combine the two: "Ayudame, Barackobama!"
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Welcome back, guys, although this may be boring to you, too. I did my next two-week weigh-in and . . . (drumroll) . . . no change. I guess the positive spin I could put on it is that without all this exercise, I'd be gaining weight. I should probably add a couple of more vigorous cardios into my routine (that's what the computer-generated wisdom of my real age report suggested), but now I've got a sore toe from that toe nail (damaged 2 months ago) being about to fall off. Ugh.
I had another job interview last week, but haven't heard anything, despite the interviewer saying she was going to contact all the candidates "either way". It was a good interview though, with a high level person at the (very large) agency who has the same degree (and licensure) I'm after. I think I will be able to put ATTN: Her Name on future applications to that agency. Once again the issue of not being done with my graduate degree may have been the confounding factor. The position didn't even require a Master's degree, but I think she may have been concerned about my potential commitment level. Plus she kept saying how busy I was, how much I had "going on". Because I volunteer for two places, which I only do because I don't have a job and don't want to be bored (and it makes my heart feel good, that too)? Because I have two young kids? Would she have said that if I were a man? Would our children and their ages be relevant if my husband were the applicant? Am I cynical to think that it would be a plus for him, that he would be seen as a "family man" instead of an over-strapped homemaker/grad student?
I have, however, secured an internship for spring, which may be a place I will want to/be able to work in the near future. The internship, as is customary, is unpaid and obviously sans benefits as well. We'll survive on my husband's conservative, mathematically sound gambling career, although no saving is going on around here. I'll still be applying as jobs come up, of course, and maybe I can take on another tutoring student.
A whole bunch of other stuff I've been thinking about, even entire composed blog posts in my head (usually as I tried to fall asleep), has been forgotten. I will not go so long between posts, that might help.
If anyone is interested in a rare balanced, well-considered discussion about abortion, I recommend checking out Dry Bones Dance.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The other internet quizzes about longevity I've taken seem to indicate I'm going to live into my mid-nineties, which I guess is good. The downside is that my partner, who also likes to take dumb quizzes, will be lucky to make it to 80. So I should probably prepare myself for a significant widowhood. Unless of course I remember that these are all dumb quizzes.
What was I mulling about in my mind over all these 2 weeks of blog silence? Unfortunately, not much. I'm trying to get in my last-minute studying, so I don't have to retake the comprehensive exam in the spring. I take it next Saturday, so that won't be an excuse for much longer.
I joined Facebook, just so I could get ONE friend to write me back (she kept saying, join Facebook and then wouldn't return my emails). Now I have one more thing to check, one more way to waste time. I don't like it really (Facebook, that is, not wasting time, which I do seem to like). It has a strange interface that doesn't seem intuitive to me. Plus I can't see the point or pleasure of sending someone "pokes" or "hugs" or whatever strange non-communicative animation you want. Plus all the people I want to check out have closed sites--I have to invite them to be my friend before I can look at all their probably disappointingly boring info. That takes all the fun out of stalking, doesn't it? Of course, it's not even stalking anymore. It's like networking. Or even friendship, sort of. I don't want to reconnect with random high school dude or chick, I just want to see if they're married or happy or in touch with anyone else or not. And I don't really even want to know that stuff. What the fuck am I doing?
Truth: In the course of writing those two paragraphs, I have had to get up twice to tell my children to go to sleep. The older one is the one who comes out, to tattle- tale on the younger one for "not going to sleep." Sometimes we think she's genuinely trying to go to sleep and the little P. is all wound up and bothering her. Other times we suspect she's winding up said little P. so that we'll come back there and give them some attention, negative or otherwise. The second time, tonight, I screamed. Yep, I'm a screamer. Today has not been a good day for me and screaming. The little P., who we thought was over her cold + diarrhea kick and cleared to return to underwear, pooped on the floor. Second time this week. And not an easy clean-up. I screamed then, too.
It's not that I (rationally, intellectually) believe that a 2-year-old who has a previously documented upset intestine is trying to ruin my dinner-making process by pooping in her pants and then jumping around in her room as it leaks out. It's just that it feels that way. The incident happened when my partner (he of the shorter life-sentence) was out of the house picking up the Chinese food which would be our dinner while I was steaming spinach and broccoli for the little people in our house who don't like brown or garlic sauce on their vegetables. And tonight, just now, when I had to go in for the second time (really, it was the third, but the first is almost obligatory now and accompanied by desperate bonhomie), he was out filling up water jugs or buying beer. Maybe both. And I wanted to finish my G-D-mn blog post!
And then there's the cat, who won't let me type a single word without either swiping at my hand on the keyboard or batting at the screen, whose mysterious production of type seems as captivating as a live lizard or cockroach. MUST-KILL-TINY-MOVING-LETTERS-IT'S-APPARENTLY_INSTINCTUAL.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I'm not one of those people (women) who know their weight up to the half-pound. You know, we all know, some girl who tells you she's 107 1/2 pounds, and you think, we all think, Wow, that's kind of specific, maybe there's an issue there. I assume a lot of people (women) weigh themselves every day whether they're on a diet or not. I don't. Part of the reason is probably because I've never had a serious problem with my weight and I could usually measure the progress I was making in my exercise/eating less efforts by seeing whether my clothes (pants) were tighter or looser. I know lots of people have much more significant issues and I do (usually) keep mine in perspective. I really don't want to be one of those obnoxious people who whines about the same ten pounds for years and years. But, this is my blog, and right now the ten pounds are bothering me. If I'm still whining about it in five years, um, think of an appropriate punishment.
I don't even own a scale, so I weighed at the Y. Same scale today and the first time, same time of day. I lost 1.5 pounds. I don't know if that's even statistically significant or if my weight bounces around 1 or 2 pounds on a regular basis (see above paragraph), but at least it's going in the right direction, right? I also am aware that because I began weight training for the first consistent time in my life this summer, I may have some "muscle" weight. That's totally cool, however, I'm still not fitting into some of my pants, and I'm pretty sure that's not muscle on my hips. The number is not that important, but it does indicate something. And the direction is good.
I exercised every day last week except Sunday. Saturday we took the kids to the park and I went on a rather hot and humid nature walk with E. We had brought her bike, but she decided she only wanted to ride it for five minutes once she remembered the nature trail. This is the same trail we walked at her birthday party, when it was even hotter and more humid. The walk combination was probably only about 20 minutes but I was walking around the playground afterward, following little P. (rather than sitting on a bench smoking or something), so I was upright and moving my feet, albeit slowly some of the time, for at least forty. Monday I remembered I had made an appointment to get an oil change while I was driving to the Y. I could have turned around (since I'd forgotten my cell phone--hey, at least I finally got one!) and gotten hubby to follow me in the van, blah, blah, blah, but I decided to just drive to the auto shop and walk to my sister's house. It reminded me of when we (my sister and I) lived in Cville and walked back to our crappy basement apartment on Cherry from the auto shop on whatever that street is (and back again to pick it up) because we only had one car. Sometimes we even walked all the way downtown. Anyway, that was 40 minutes or so and I helped reduce gasoline emissions and all that.
I plan to keep it up, exercising every day. It feels good and it can't help but help, right?
Ha ha. I was trying to take a quiz to find out my real age. Really a time waster because I'm sure there's something more productive I could be doing besides entering personal health/marketing information into an online quiz, hoping for the false rush of finding out I'm really only 33. (When I go back and finish it later, I'll let you know what it really is. Unless it's over my actual age, of course. In that case, I never finished it.) Yeah, so I had to quit because I either accidentally clicked that I had a heart problem or the program had a glitch in it. First it asked me about my last artery reading and then asked me how long I'd had each of the following problems: one of them was heart disease. Well, that would screw up my results, wouldn't it?
And I cleaned the bathroom (okay, half of it [okay, just the toilet]). Maybe I'll do the rest later, after I waste some more time on unimportant things. Like buying vegetables for my post-partum sister--yikes, I won't make it to school for pick-up and tutoring if I don't leave now. Bye.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
It was actually a very cool experience. She leaned over a birthing ball during contractions for the first hour, talking normally to her husband and I in between contractions. Then moved to the tub, where she continued to talk normally in between contractions. The midwife and her assistants weren't even in the room except twice to check the heartbeat. It was so cool that I was almost thinking I wanted to do this again.
Almost. Until she got the urge to push. Then I remembered how much I hated that whole pushing part and the rest of the reasons flashed before my eyes: physical recovery, no sleep, hormonal craziness, no sleep, breastfeeding what seems like every 30 minutes, no sleep, spit up and more spit up. So, it was only 10-15 minutes of pushing, which, again, in the perspective of those of us who have labored, is not much time at all. But Holy Mother of God (I can say that because my sister, the Catholic, isn't reading this blog), that was a hell of a fifteen minutes. I think the words "Get it out!" were used a few times, and I remember the feeling and am very content with the idea that memories of the feeling are as close as I will get to the actual feeling ever again.
Then she was out and it was blissful again. My sister sat in the tub holding the towel-wrapped baby, umbilical cord still attached, for 20 minutes or so while pictures were taken and we all ooh-ed and ah-ed. I haven't posted a picture of the sweet new girl (or her name) on the family blog yet because I keep forgetting to ask for permission. (Plus my brother-in-law seemed to be warning me about stalkers a few days ago: "Are you sure you want to put the kids' names on the blog? People could figure out who you are. Aren't you worried?" Um, no. But maybe you don't want your kids' pictures/names up there? I'd never asked him, only my sister!) But, she's here, just one day past her due date, and she's cute, and all the kids (mine and hers) are very excited.
1) I used "very" a lot in the above paragraphs. I remember being told that "very" is an unnecessary modifier if one is a skillful writer. Tonight, I'm not. Sorry. Tired.
2) Being content with not having to push a baby out of my body again is a weirdly ambivalent contentment. Knowing that I will (most likely) never give birth again brings up age and yes, death issues (for my fellow counseling program/philosophy major readers: it's an existential crisis). It's not a rational thing; I know that all women's childbearing time must come to an end, but saying that mine has feels weird. Even though it's just me saying that I don't want any more pregnancy/childbirth/children, not a physical reality. I listened to a woman talking about dealing with her hysterectomy at age 49: she also talked about these feelings and being unprepared for how the finality hit her. There's no finality (as far as I know) with mine. It's just a choice, and I'm glad I have it and I'm glad I've made it. But I probably will never feel completely without, I don't know, regret? curiosity? Maybe I think continuing to birth will keep me young, stave off death, continue to increase my chances (biologically-driven desire) to perpetuate my gene pool. It's all complicated by emotions as well. I've told many people that "I'm done" because that seems to be the way to handle it here, these days: with no equivocation. Either you're a baby-making, if-God's-willing, "culture-of-life" woman in which case the answer is some version of "We'll see." Or you schedule your conceptions, make sure you have one room/child, and count the days until they're eighteen, in which case you say, "Oh, no more. Only (1, 2, or, less likely, 3) for me. This is definitely it."
Of course it's not that simple. Some people want to have babies and can't. Or have to do complicated things so they can. Some people plan it all out and then change their minds. Sometimes surprises happen and we change our minds about that number after all. I know a lot of people in that first group, so that's perhaps part of my own problem with this (artificial) finality. Many of these people are warm, nurturing, happy, generous people. Some of these people also use terms like the "culture of death" to refer to modern society, extending this term to abortion, birth control, or just the general selfishness and individualism all around. I think there's an in between, I do. I'm not an all-or-nothing thinker, but even saying that puts me on the wrong side in the minds of the all-or-nothing camp. This is way too long a discussion for right now.
3) My sister was very lucky to be able to have the kind of birth she wanted the third time around. She did all the right things to prepare, but even with all that, it could have been impossible. Some people have very strong objections to non-hospital/doctor-attended births. Some of those people have lost babies and would consider this kind of a birth a risk they wouldn't want to take. I'm not sure I would either, in those circumstances. All that said, the contrast between this birth and my hospital births was pretty striking. She basically just did it on her own. The midwife was right there, prepared to catch the baby, only for that last 15 minutes. I think she helped move the baby's arm a little right at the end. If it had been 150 years ago on prairie, I might have been my sister's midwife, performing those necessary but minor assists. Again, many babies and mothers died on the prairie (and still do, in underdeveloped countries) without the option of emergency c-sections, vacuum suction, and sophisticated post-natal care. My sister required no stitches--really great for her, although I'm a teeny bit jealous--and went home after 4 hours at the birth center. She slept in her own bed. She will be visited by the midwife at home on Monday. (I wonder if she'll ask her about birth control! Ha! Another post entirely.)
Even with my Bradley natural childbirth training classes (and lack of complications) which allowed me to labor without drugs, my births were still medical births. Strapped to monitors, IV (for fluids which made me need to pee what seemed like every 5 minutes, and antibiotics for strep-B which my sister took with a one-time injection into a port which was then taped off). With my induction (birth 1), I couldn't even shuffle to the room bathroom, but had to use the potty chair by the bed. Nurses in and out looking at papers, asking me to rate my pain from 1 to 10. The damn blood pressure cuff. I do not deny the necessity of the safety net provided by the hospitals and machines, but this birth was something completely different. So quiet. So normal. So simple.
That's all I have for now.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Bold those you’ve read.
Italicize books you have started but couldn’t finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once.
Underline those on your To Be Read list.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Pride and Prejudice
A Tale of Two Cities*
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West*
The Canterbury Tales*
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (we're talking Dante, right? required, Christian college)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
The Corrections (heard him on NPR, meant to check it out)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (read review, meant to check it out)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (ditto, see above)
The Sound and the Fury
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Northanger Abbey (okay, did I see it on Masterpiece or read it? I’m going 50/50 on these Austen novels, to be fair)
The Catcher in the Rye*
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
In Cold Blood
White Teeth (read a review ages ago, forgot about it!)
The Three Musketeers
Thanks to A.P. classes and my English major for many of these. Also, reminded me of how much I like all Margaret Atwood, loved Watership Down, and want to read Wicked again right now. Plus, I didn’t actually have a list except in my head, but now I do! Thanks, J.! I should study for my exam first, but . . .
Also, Exercise: 40 minute nature walk (carrying 27 pound 2-year-old about half the time; 25 minute treadmill during dance class at the Y (interrupted by beeper buzzing to tell me 2-year-old had accident in babysitting room; where would the beeper/pager business be without in-house daycare?)
Cleaning: nada and proud of it
Studying: yech, not much
Employment: verified interview for Monday, that took 2 minutes at most
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Exercise: 40 minute walk outside (skipped yoga to take a nap)
Cleaning: nothing that counts
Studying: Read more of study guide, probably an hour
Employment: nothing except checking email
Exercise: 30 minute treadmill, 30 minute weights (1 1/2 rotations)
Cleaning: nothing that counts
Studying: Plugging away on study guide and taking online practice quizzes
Employment: scheduled a sort-of-interview for Monday--she may think it's more of an internship inquiry, but at least I'm in the door giving them my resume.
Here's the thing that ticks me off about cleaning, in addition to the fact that I hate it. I do a lot of things on a daily basis that I can't suddenly stop doing, but I also don't feel it's fair to count them. You know, things like laundry, scooping the cat box, making breakfast, packing lunches, making dinner, putting away dishes, scooping the cat box, wiping the table, folding laundry. It's the big things that I want to get more disciplined about doing. Big things that, to some people, are likely daily, weekly things that THEY can't count. Things like vacuuming and dusting and cleaning the bathroom.
I have a whole rant about how, as women, we can say we hate to clean, but we still have to do it (or at least arrange for someone else to do it). Whereas for men, it's weird when they do clean or, even more weird, when they say they like to clean. I have run into several women lately who actually say they like to clean. I haven't drilled them on the intricacies of what part gives them satisfaction (that woman in the grocery store might have found me a little intense, especially since she wasn't even talking to me). I mean, I like the feeling of having had cleaned. That is, the pleasure of having a relatively sparkling bathroom. I just don't like it enough to compensate for the utter and complete loathing I feel toward scrubbing the tub.
Here's the rant part. I think we put a lot of burdens on ourselves unnecessarily when it comes to cleaning. Or maybe it's just me. I'm self-conscious about my usually-neat-but-decidedly dusty/somewhat grimy house. So much so that I rarely have anyone over besides my family. Even though I've been to houses which are just as dirty as mine. And I really don't mind other people's dirty houses. I breathe a small sigh of relief that I am not as horribly incompetent as I always, somehow, come back to believing that I am. (I only exaggerate slightly.) But I do really really notice when someone's house is immaculate and wonder how much time she spends cleaning each day or week.
Do you think thoughts like these EVER cross the minds of men? And, for once, I am not asserting the superiority of women here. I think we need to be more like men. Who the fuck cares about the dust on the baseboards? Who even acknowledges the existence of baseboards? Let's use our college degrees and our creative impulses toward higher things. But not toward the dust on the fan blades. That's too literal. I mean, things like reading novels and writing blog posts.
Still, I acknowledge that these tasks have to be tackled by someone at some point. Like when my mother-in-law is coming for a visit. I kind of like doing them in big chunks. Like, really thoroughly cleaning a whole room or two every three months or so. And if that seems icky to you, well, I'm probably not inviting you over anyway.
So, I want to be more industrious, but not more neurotic. The state of my house/dust is irrelevant to who I am as a person. Of course it is, but I wonder how many of us otherwise intelligent women really feel that way. That some part of our worth, no matter how many other things we do, is tied to how clean and presentable our houses are. That this is still our responsibility or our burden because we're women. (Ugh) Wives.
Note: my husband is VERY helpful. He almost exclusively does the dishes, both loading and unloading. He does about 50% of the laundry, both the loading and the folding. He sweeps. He swiffers. He has never proudly announced that he changes poopy diapers; he just does it. But, he doesn't really think about any of the other things. Those big things that I don't do regularly, but feel bad about not doing. He doesn't notice the dusty baseboards or the tub mildew or the dirty linoleum. Should he? I say, No! If I ask him to do something, he will do it, so it's all good.
I will still post my large cleaning tasks, just because I like seeing them there. Like crossing something off a list. But I will (try to) stop tying them to my self-worth.
Time to make pizza. Yum.
Monday, September 22, 2008
So here's today:
Exercise: 20 minute elliptical (cardio); 30 minute weights (2 rotations)
Cleaning: Does dumping out and cleaning cat litter box count?
Studying: Finished first chapter in study guide, started 2nd
Employment: 2 applications, 1 email contact.
I have a blog post(unrelated to my mundane goals) started in my head. It's about sexism. Sort of. More later.
Exercise: 1 hour on treadmill
Cleaning: finished girls' room incl. vacuuming, dusting, baseboards, throwing out more stuff.
Exercise: Vacuuming, moving furniture, dusting and moving objects to dust
Cleaning: see above--the two are related today: both BR and LR now clean enough
Studying: Took practice test online
Employment: Hey, it's the weekend!
Studying: another practice test, read half of first chapter in study guide
Employment: Still the weekend, people!
Seriously, I should be filling out applications on the weekend, but apparently I can only be industrious in one or two quadrants at a time. I'm going to do more today! Not more cleaning, probably, but more job stuff. Right after I take a nap . . .
Thursday, September 18, 2008
OK, since it looks like Karen’s throwing me under the bus with her latest post, I don’t think I have any other option than to tell the whole story of Shitstorm 2008. I think Hurricane Shit is better, but given the Gulf tragedies, I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare what I dealt with yesterday to the agencies cleaning up in Texas. That said, after reading this, you may disagree.
First off, there are no pictures, so imagination will be necessary. Whether or not there should have been pictures is an interesting discussion. I tend to think that pictures enhance the storytelling, but here, they may have been a bit over the top.
Perspective is always good, so let me lay out what the typical afternoon naptime routine is. On Wednesdays, P. (the two-year-old) usually goes to a Mom’s Morning Out at our church until 1 PM. I try to get in at least two hours of work while she’s there as well as catch up on sleep. I pick her up, bring her home, and immediately start moving toward naptime. Any delay pushes start time past 2 PM which is kind of her naptime event horizon. Plus, if I get her down quickly, it has the added bonus of me getting in an extra hour of work in the afternoon before E. (the five-year-old) gets home at 3:30.
That was the plan yesterday. I had her home and after cleaning out her lunch bag and such, we were in her room reading books by 1:15. She wears underwear to MMO because (KEY POINT) she is 85% potty trained. So, every day before her nap, we change into “bedtime clothes”, which involves a total wardrobe overhaul and (KEY POINT) change into a diaper in case she has an accident. She also (KEY POINT) goes to the bathroom to clean the system out before we put on the diaper. So, she is clothed, diapered, and ready to take a nap. Time is 1:30.
At this point, I usually head back to the kitchen or TV room (where my computer is) on the other side of the house and eat lunch while I wait for P. to fall asleep. This is like a 15-20 minute exercise and she usually falls asleep during this time. Occasionally, she’ll still be fussing or asking for something, so I’ll go in and tell her to lay down, time for a nap, etc., and reset the process. Wednesday, there was no noise coming from the room, so I do what I always do and check on her visually to make sure she’s out. On this occasion, she was clearly still awake; however, she was lying down, sucking her thumb, and quiet. Obviously, I’m not going in there and interrupting this and I assume, like 95+% of the other times she does this, she’s within minutes of being out. So, I start prepping to work by going to the bathroom, getting water, etc.
Side note: I think all regular blog readers here know what I do for a living. It’s a perfectly legitimate career that has supported us for two years, but I can think of many people that Karen knows who would disapprove. That’s not the point of this blog, though, and it only pertains to the story in that when I work, I need to have an hour of uninterrupted concentration. This is why I do the bulk of my work after the kids go to bed and usually stay up fairly late to get in hours. If I start and am forced to quit for whatever reason before I’m done with the hour, we’re talking several hundred, occasionally thousand dollars. I will not start unless I’m positive I will have an uninterrupted hour. Period.
So, over the ensuing few minutes, I am moving around the house, including the kitchen, which is very close to P.’s room and hear nothing. I don’t believe I checked on her again (possibly first mistake), but since there was strong evidence suggesting she was asleep and nothing contradicting this, I think it’s fair to say I was going to be in the clear. When she naps and the house is quiet, it’s usually two hours minimum and sometimes as much as three.
Side Note 2: It’s been beaten to death in the other blog, but we got a kitten in the last couple of weeks. Prior to getting the kitten, whenever P. took a nap and I was home alone with her, I would open up all doors between myself and her so that I could hear if something was up. As Karen can attest, I can and have heard her waking up from a nap with the TV on, so we never used the monitors with P. The kitten likes to cause problems though, so we have to close doors to keep him from waking up P. and I have to close the door to the TV room so I won’t be attacked while working. My right leg can attest to what that cat will do to get up on the desk.
So, at 2 PM, I sit down at the computer and start working, not to emerge until 3 PM. Little did I know what I would come out to in an hour. Nothing at all notable during the hour except a phone call from Karen at about 2:45, letting me know that she was heading from an afternoon out with a friend to pick up E. at school. At about 3, I came out and opened the door to the main part of the house and the stench was bad and P. was clearly awake and crying.
My immediate thought is “where did that cat do it this time?”, a fun game we get to play about once a day with the new kitten. I searched the main room, kitchen, and headed for the laundry room, where the cat’s litter box is as the smell intensified. I saw many fresh droppings and covered them up because he doesn’t do a good job of that yet. Thinking things were good, I went to the bathroom, got some more water and such before going to get P.. Normally, when she wakes up, she fusses for someone to come get her, but she’s fine. Two year olds fuss, especially when they’re tired and just woke up. Say whatever you want but every parent knows that they don’t always immediately rush to their crying two year olds unless there’s reason to be concerned.
All that said, what I saw when I went in to that room is nothing short of horrifying. I’m not even sure it hit me immediately what was going on. I certainly had to think for several seconds as to what I had to do next. P. had no pants on and her hands and feet were covered in poop. Every square inch of the sheet on her crib was covered in poop. Every square inch of the railing was covered in poop. It. Smelled. Awful.
Now, given this, I’m pretty pleased with how I handled it. I’m thinking a lot of parents would freeze. My first instinct was basically that I was going to have to contain the situation quickly and save what was salvageable. First, deal with the child. P. had poop on her and was very angry. I got the shirt off, picked her up and carried her across the house to the bathtub, put her in and turned on the water, trying to get as much of the poop off her as I could. Unfortunately, it was dried on pretty well (I suspect this had happened 30 or so minutes ago, maybe more :flogging self: ). Once I got the easiest of it off, I left her there, telling her to keep scrubbing and went back to ground zero to see what I had to do next.
Reflecting back on the scene of the crime, one thing sticks out. There did not appear to be any solid remains. Anywhere. There was a definite epicenter, resembling the center of an explosion, but outside of that, all of the poop appeared to have been distributed equally on the entire crib. I removed the sheet and the mattress pad and threw them in the washing machine. I figured they were permanently done, but our new washing machine would later prove me wrong. Go Frigidaire!
Now to attack the actual crib. First thought is that this was a really big job, so I decided wet paper towels would be my starting point. Unfortunately, they really weren’t that effective, so I ran around the house looking for a bucket, planning to fill it with a bleach/water combo. I remembered it was outside, so I went back to check on P. who seemed fine. Our drain is not working right, so I had to check back fairly often to make sure the tub wasn’t filling with poopwater. I found the bucket outside with rocks that E. had been collecting, dumped it and threw it under the sink. However, since the bathtub was running, I had no water pressure and it was taking forever, so I grabbed a plastic bag and some Clorox wipes and got back to work.
Back in the room, I noticed, interestingly, that absolutely no poop was on her diaper or pants or the numerous stuffed animals she usually keeps in her crib, but were now strewn about the room. I still am not sure why she chose to remove her pants/diaper before doing this, but I guess I’ll never know. I worked on it as best I could with the Clorox wipes, but they’re small and my mess was big. After a few of these, I ran back to check on P. in time to stop the bucket from overflowing in the sink. P. seemed pretty well cleaned at this point, so I picked her up, sprayed out the bathtub and started to refill it plus lots and lots of soap. I plopped her back in and ran back to add some bleach to the bucket of water in the kitchen. This plus a washcloth, which would give itself to the cause, and we were finally making some progress. A few minutes of this, then back to P..
Now, I was well aware that Karen and E. were due home any minute, so I was really hoping something held them up at school and would give me more time. Of course, this is the day they come straight home. Fortunately, I was able to alert them immediately upon entering the house of what they would see. I’ll give Karen credit. She and poop really don’t get along well, but she was able to take it in stride and help out. E. reacted about how you would expect a five year old to, with lots of unnecessary comments and noises about smell.
There’s really not much else to say about the cleanup. P. was fine, as if nothing had happened. We had the windows up, fans blowing, and cleaned every part of the crib we could, but the smell was not going away. It was like it had bonded with the wood. Ultimately, we took the crib apart and out to the garage where its fate will be determined at a later date.
I vacuumed the area under the crib after spraying it with carpet cleaner, but still, stink. Next were the toys under the crib. We pulled out every basket and inspected it with eyes and nose, throwing out what we didn’t care about anymore and washing everything else. Still there was a stench. Finally, P.’s books that were on the floor, but not right next to the crib. I found a few (Karen mentioned them already) that smelled and made the executive decision to toss them. I also encountered the largest actual piece of poop on the cover of Olivia, which was a good four feet away from the crib inside a bedside table. To the author of Olivia: we like your book enough to have cleaned it.
It still smelled a bit after all of this, but the kids managed to sleep in there anyway. Karen vacuumed again this morning and we shuffled some things around. As of right now, the smell seems to have been completely eradicated, so I think we got it all.
Ultimately, I think this was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances that led to this, but I’m still pretty sure I lose Parent Points for not making sure P. was completely asleep and not making sure that I could hear P. if she woke up. Everything else was a series of flukes that culminated in one big, shitty mess. After five-plus years of this, I think I’ve got pretty good parenting instincts and maybe I got a bit casual here.