Thursday, December 25, 2008


Everything went well! My mom was out of surgery, transplant successful, at around 7 pm. We're planning to stop by to visit her on our way out of the state tomorrow. (I did think about staying here, but she'll be in the hospital for at least a week, and there's not much we could do for her.)

Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes our way.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Gift

My mom might get a kidney tomorrow! She has to drive up to the big city hospital to get a blood test at 6 am and wait several hours for the culture results. If everything's good and the donor kidney is good, she will have the transplant tomorrow afternoon.

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

No Time for Blogging

I got a job! Let's see, I've been looking for a job since August, as I've written here and here and here. Finally, I had a good interview, which I worried about, and then my heart was broken. I had a couple of interviews after that, but nothing really promising, and I slowed down my search.

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

About social networking . . .

Specifically the fbook.

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

What do we do with the past?

My sister called me yesterday. She often calls me. She lives about 4 miles away, her kids are the same age as mine (except she has one more, a newborn), we are probably still each other's best friends. She called once while I was at the gym and then again while I was napping. My husband forgot to give me the message while I was in between those two activities, so I had to call her back.

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

Recipes and Whatnot

I have a bunch of posts in my head, but since no one else can read my mind, I still have to write them down. But first . . .

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 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

Only as Old as You Think You Are

Or as old as someone else thinks you are?

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.