Monday, September 29, 2008

You Won't Get Any Debate From Me

I spent most of my weekend saying 'no.' No, I'm not going to watch the debates. No, I'm not watching the debates. No, I didn't watch the debates. No, I don't really care what happened in the debates.

I have very strong political views. Very. They wouldn't generally seem all that strong if you were to talk to me in person, probably, because Baroy's extremism way eclipses anything I could come up with, and I usually end up just walking away. Still, inside, I care a great deal.

Which is why I don't watch--or even get--the debates. Not for me, at least. When there are a few core things you care about deeply, it's pretty easy to choose a candidate--you choose the person who aligns most closely with your core values. In other words, I know who I'm voting for this year. In fact, there's never been a second's doubt about who I'm voting for this year, and even if there had been, the addition of a person into the race who doesn't believe in evolution would have taken care of that.

Debates are about persuasion, or that's what they're supposed to be. But there's no persuading me. I know what I need to know. The 'other side' doesn't speak for or to me. So why would I want to sit there and hear what they have to say about the ways in which they would hypothetically screw me if they were elected to office? As the last eight years have taught, there will be plenty of time for me to find out how they screw me in reality if they are indeed elected. And I'm almost-but-not-quite equally uninterested in hearing what 'my side' has to say; again, it's hypothetical. Get elected, and then show me what you can or can't do. Until then, I've heard all I need to hear to be comfortable casting my vote the way I will.

And so I stayed far, far from the TV on Friday, and I'll do so again and again until it's all over. Baroy will force-feed me tidbits of information about who said what about what was said until I want to--or do--scream at him to leave me alone. But I'm not going to watch. Because I know already. I know. I'm unpersuadable.

Are you?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Worst Thing About My New Job

My office is actually in the renovated garage (or maybe carriage house; it's hard to tell) of an old home. That's a good thing; I like working in what feels more like a home than an industrial complex.

There are only about 10 of us in this little outbuilding, back behind the main public relations office (which is in the ACTUAL former house, with various staff members occupying rooms that were clearly once used as dens, living rooms, bedrooms, even a sunroom). That's a good thing, too; I like being part of a small, insular group, and I like being able to shout out my door to my coworkers when I run into a problem.

But here's the bad thing. Here, in fact is the worst thing about my new job: Our little renovated garage has a little one-person bathroom. That little one-person bathroom shares a wall with my boss's office. And that wall? Has no soundproofing. At all.

Now, that's bad enough under normal circumstances: I've been in his office when someone is using that bathroom, and...oh, dear. There's just so much that's wrong with knowing quite that much about the bathroom sounds your colleagues make, y'know?

But now imagine heading toward that bathroom and hearing someone call to your boss, "Hey, J, CNN's on line one for you."

Yeeeeeah. I'd rather explode than be responsible for Christiane Amanpour overhearing anything even vaguely resembling the sound of tinkling. (OK, OK, the chances that it was Christiane Amanpour on the phone are slim to none. But still. Ew.)

I like this job, but it might just kill me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pious Boy

Em and N were arguing mildly about I-didn't-care-what when all of a sudden I heard Em gasp. "Mom!" she called to me, outrage in her voice. "N just flipped me off!"

I turned to my tiny, grinning, angelic-faced son. "EXCUSE ME?" I boomed. He stopped smiling.
"What did you just do to your sister?"

"I just did this," he said, extending his middle finger upwards, his other miniature digits curving in toward his palm.

"And what do you think that means?" I said, gathering up my strength for the screaming that was about to begin.

Without missing a beat, and without a trace of irony, he replied: "It means I'm pointing up to God in heaven."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

There's No Crying in Soccer!

Em grew out of her 'crying at the drop of a hat' phase later than a lot of the other girls I know, but grow out of it she did.

Except when it comes to soccer.

She came home from soccer practice on Wednesday crying. She cried at the beginning of the fourth quarter of today's game. She cried at the end of the game at well.

None of these were for the reasons you might think.

Wednesday's crying was because a Major League Soccer player had come as part of an AYSO 'perk' to coach her team. But he was hard on the girls, yelling at them a lot. Still, that wasn't what made Em cry. "I like the drills Coach D usually does," she said as the tears spilled over when I asked her what was wrong. "All this guy did was basic passing. I didn't feel like I got a good workout tonight."

The crying at the beginning of the fourth quarter today was because Coach D decided to put her in goal at the last minute, since the team was ahead 5-0, and he wanted to give the 'regular' goalie a chance to play some offense for once. Em had played goalie in the second quarter--a position she's been scared of ever since getting kicked in the chest during a game when she was eight, a kick that was so hard you could see the cleat pattern in the bruises left behind--and had had to sit out third quarter (each girl has to sit out one quarter if all 12 girls are present at the game). At first I assumed she was crying because she was scared of playing goalie again. But, instead, as she sobbed into my neck, it was because "it's boring playing goalie; I want to be DOING something. I have all this energy, and I won't get to burn it off in the goal."

The crying at the end of the game had me totally flummoxed. After all, her team had won, 6-1.

"What is the matter?" I asked, as she buried her face in chest, trying to hide her tears from her teammates.

"They scored their first goal of the season on ME," she wailed. [Not true; this was game three, and they had apparently scored a goal in game one, though I didn't know that at the time.]

"But you stopped a whole bunch of balls, and that one was a perfect kick. Nobody could have stopped it."

"That's not true," she insisted. "I should have stopped it. I could have!"

"Only if you were superhuman," I said. "It was shoulder high, shot across the net, and went right into the corner. There are professional players who wouldn't have been able to stop that ball!"

But she wasn't buying it, at least not then. [Several hours later, as she helped me cook dinner, she admitted, "I realize now that I did a pretty good job as goalie today...though I'm still mad that they scored on me."]

So here's the thing: I know the crying isn't a good thing. And I know that to most other people, to most of the other parents on the team certainly, it looks like immaturity and poor sportsmanship. But can I just say? In some ways, it makes me really happy, and even proud. It makes me happy that she enjoys this game so much. She's not crying about having to go out there and get dirty and sweaty; she's crying because she's not getting to go out there and get dirty and sweaty enough. And I am proud of her fierce competitive spirit; the fact that she gets angry at herself for what she perceives as letting her team down, or not being the very best that she can be. She doesn't complain about the other girls on her team missing a shot or letting one past and into the goal; in fact, she's the first one to run over and pat them on the back and tell them, "Don't worry about it," or "Nice try!" It's only when she falls short of her own standards that she lets it all get to her.

Now if only I can get her to give herself a leeeetle bit of a break...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Induce a Panic Attack

It doesn't take much: All you need to do is turn down your street, a block and a half away from your house, and notice the fire engine in the distance. Drive a little closer, and you notice a second truck, a paramedic's truck, and then a third ambulance. Calculate the distance quickly in your head. Yep. They're all parked in front of your house, all right. Is that a crowd of people? Can you see your kids in the crowd? What were they wearing this morning, anyway?

Next, pull the car over in the middle of the block before yours. You do this for two reasons: One, your street is narrow and you know you won't be able to get your car past the fire truck...not to mention it sure LOOKS like that ambulance is blocking your driveway. Two, you're about to throw up. With the car off, sit for a second and think: Should you get out of the car and run toward the commotion? No. Instead, you pick up your phone and dial your home number. Pick up, pick up, pick up. If he picks up, you're thinking, it probably means it's not him, or Em or N. Pick up, pick up, pick up. When he does, after three rings, you start to cry. It's only then that you notice your hands are shaking so violently you can't keep the phone close enough to your ear to really hear anything more than your neighbor's name. You leave the car where it is, and walk home. It takes hours for the shaking to stop.

[This was Monday evening; it turns out my next-door neighbor had been working in the garden, and it was extremely hot, and she began to feel faint. Unsure what to do, she'd called 9-1-1. In the end, they admitted her to the hospital; her two boys stayed with friends down the street. I don't know if she's home yet--I didn't see her, her husband or her boys yesterday to ask how she's doing--but I'm assuming it's going to be OK. Thank goodness.]

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm a Slacker

First week on the job was fine; I can see the learning curve stretching in front of me, and that's a little bit daunting, but it's nothing I can't handle. Finding the time to have a life while working, however, is going to be a bit more of a challenge. I'll find my way, but right now I can't quite make out the path.

Of course, that might have something to do with leaving from the office on Friday night and heading to the airport for a flight to Vegas to hang out with my grrrrrls for the weekend. Or at least three quarters of my grrrrrls, since S is in China still, bonding with her baby, and a hop over to Vegas for the weekend was sort of out of the question.

I'm typing this on my work computer, so the bulk of the photographic evidence will have to wait a day or two. Suffice it to say, there was drinking. And, since what happens in Vegas stays not only only on my digital camera but also on my iPhone--thus making it emailable--I present to you a YARD of VERY STRONG Mudslide.

I also put into evidence my text-message exchange with my husband, starting on Saturday night and continuing into Sunday morning.

Me: I have a drink that's almost as tall as me. I miss you.
Baroy: Miss you, too. How many did you have?
Me: Just the one. Did you get the photo I sent?
Baroy: Just got it. Looks like you're sitting on the floor...were you?
Me: Yep.
Baroy: Why (he asks hesitantly)?
Me: Big drink. Little me. Plus Po was too wasted to stand.
Baroy: Ah. You know, casinos usually frown on that type of thing.
Me: We were outside. Not sure if that makes it better or worse.
Me again: Some homeless-looking staggering drunk man almost gave us money.
Baroy: Almost gave you money for what...another drink?
Me: Not sure!
Baroy: Well, it seems that you've had a good time.
Me: Indeed.

The best part of the evening, however? Dinner Saturday night, at a place in a strip mall where we were served on plastic plates with plastic utensils. But, oh. The. Best. Ribs. And check out the name of the place! (Yes, we left with much swag after making friends with pretty much everyone in the place. And yes, there are photos coming of that, too.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Right now, somewhere in a province of China (the name of which I should know because she only told me it about a bajillion times) my friend S is meeting her new, 9-month-old daughter. And the rest of us mommies in our little gang are hanging by our computers, killing time in the hopes that we will get a Skype-enabled glimpse of our newest addition. For S, the long wait is over, but these last hours of anticipation are killing me.

I really shouldn't be doing this. I should be going to sleep, because I have to be at the personnel office at my new job at 8 tomorrow morning. Yeah, right. Like I could sleep right now, with a NEW BABY about to appear on my computer screen! (Technology, I take back every bad thing I ever said about you. Except maybe that stuff about Excel. I still can't figure that sucker out.)

I have no idea what to bring with me tomorrow, by the way. I mean, aside from the two folders'-worth of papers I had to fill out. I found an old, deliberately rusty planter that a gift once came in; I used it as a pencil holder at my old job, and will bring it for my new desk. I have a little pottery ashtray-ish thing that Em made for me a year or two ago, and the poem N wrote for me while we waited for the orthopedist back in the spring. I'll put the former on my desk for paperclips or something, and the latter will get attached to a wall or a cork board. But that's it. That's all I could find.

I guess I'll just have to move in slowly, right?

I also have no idea what I'm going to wear tomorrow. I had grand plans of picking out a week's worth of outfits today--ironing what needs ironing, mending what needs mending (or, more likely, choosing something to replace what needs mending, because, really, who has the time for that crap?), matching what needs matching. But, instead, I took the kids to first day of Hebrew School this morning (N, who was unhappy about the whole thing because his friend Zach isn't returning this year, changed his mind after spending just a couple of hours with his teacher, H, declaring: "I love H up to heaven, past the Tooth Fairy, and wherever the sky goes."). Then we went over with a couple of the Hebrew School families for a beginning-of-the-school-year-but-you-can't-tell-from-the-weather pool-and-pizza party. Once I got the kids home, Em and Baroy headed out for the annual AYSO Opening Ceremonies at a local community college, and N and I played baseball in the backyard. And since then, I've been sitting here staring at my Skype icon, waiting for S. So, obviously, I'm too BUSY to pick out clothes.

I knew you'd understand.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Now It Can Be Told

The news: I quit my job today. Sent in my 'resignation' (if you can resign from a job when you were never actually on staff) this morning; it's effective EOD tomorrow. Maybe with time and distance I'll feel like it's appropriate to say more, but for now, I will simply assert that this is a very good thing. Both I and the website deserved better than what we were currently getting from one another.

The rest of the news: I start a new job--a much more 'me' job--on Monday. This, too, is a very good thing: I'll be writing about science again, working for someone I respect and with whom I once worked for 6 years, as well as with someone with whom I've been friends and with whom I've worked on and off for over...gulp...almost 20 years. (That can't be possible...I must be counting wrong. No, I was right. Almost 20 years. Holy shit.)

I'll be back in an office full time, and that's going to take some adjusting to, but I'll have my nights and weekends back, which I think is a more-than-fair trade. Because, despite having been home pretty much 24/7 for more than two years, I am almost never more than an arm's reach away from my computer. I spent an unpardonable amount of time this summer yelling at N to leave me alone so I could meet a deadline or respond to emails. There was never a down time. There were no office hours. The tasks I was charged with required frequent, near-constant vigilance. It made for a summer of guilt and unhappiness. In fact, when I told the kids about my decision to go back to an office, N at first began to cry. But when I told him that it meant that when I am at home, I will be at home, his tears stopped. "You mean you'll have time to play with me?" he asked. "You mean you won't always be having to do all your work?" And he broke into a cheer. (Em understood from Second One what this would mean, and has just been thrilled for me, planning all sorts of Mother-Daughter things we're going to do together now that I'm 'free.')

I thought I'd been doing the right thing in working for home, and I meant well. But I'd lost sight of the forest for the trees. I'm thinking that I now have found the forest again.

Why I was acting so freakishly depressed: The interview process began in early July. After my second interview, I was told I would hear one way or the other within a week. A week and a half later, I started to fret; I assumed that the job had been offered to another candidate, who was taking his or her time accepting it, and that only after that happened would I hear I wasn't being given the job. A week after the "we'll let you know" date had passed, I emailed them to ask about the status, and was told that 'next phase' of the process was taking longer than expected. This merely confirmed my paranoid assumption about the job being offered to someone else.

Two days later, my boss from the website called to tell me that my hours were being cut by a third. This was actually something I'd been expecting for a number of reasons; it was part of why I was applying for other jobs. But now, with the new job seemingly not to be mine, and the only income we had coming into the house cut by a third...well, you all saw the result. It wasn't pretty. And it went on for another full week. A week during which Baroy and I became so worried that we discussed everything from what had to be done to put the house on the market before we could no longer pay our mortgage, to where exactly we'd be able to afford to relocate.

But guess what? I failed, I failed...I got an A! Turns out, all that taking-longer-than-expected stuff was the DMV, claiming my license didn't exist, and thus making it impossible for my new employer to complete my background check. Which had to be done before an offer could be made. To me, not someone else.


Despite all this, the thing that made me smile the widest today? Was N, running across the schoolyard when I came to pick him up from Day 3, waving a piece of paper. No, not just a piece of paper. A certificate. On it was printed the following:

I'm a Super Star Student!
This Certificate Celebrates: Great effort and a positive attitude by N!
Date: Sept 4, 2008
Presented At: Our School
Signed: Mrs. S

"Mama, Mama!" He tugged at me as I gaped at the paper. "I got that because I was happy about my work!"

"You mean Mrs. S was happy about the work you did today?"

"No! I was happy about my work I was doing!"

A great effort. A positive attitude. My son.

"I am so incredibly proud of you, N," I said, hugging him.

"I know it," he said, beaming up at me.

A great day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Slightly Adulterated

The first day of school around here was an unadulterated least for the children.

It was Em's last first day of elementary school. (Where did you go, time? WHERE?) She got the teacher she wanted, though she would have been happy with either of them, really, because she's easy that way, and because the sixth-grade teachers at our school are both great. She's more or less with all the kids she'd hoped to be with, with a couple of exceptions, and not with all the kids she'd hoped not to be with, with a couple of exceptions. Those exceptions aren't flustering her much, however, because she's easy that way, too. And besides. She's a sixth grader. She RULES THE SCHOOL, MOM. Nothing can bring her down.

It was pretty cute, though, how she was nervous all last night, and into this morning, unable to eat any breakfast. As soon as we stepped on campus, however, it disappeared. We pushed through the crowds around the class-assignment boards (nothing like waiting until the LAST SECOND to give us any information), she saw where she was placed, and she barely broke stride as she ran away from us, calling, "I know where I'm going, you guys don't have to come with me" over her shoulder.

Of course, after we dropped N off in his classroom (more on that in a sec), Baroy and I tracked down her classroom and stood outside it peering in with the rest of the helicopter parents. Baroy even snapped a couple of pictures of her through the classroom window, prompting her to stare fixedly ahead, pretending she'd never met us before in her life. (Embarrass preteen on first day of school...CHECK!)

As for Mr. N...He was not looking forward to this day. In fact, his "worst" during our dinnertime "best and worst" sessions has not varied since the last day of school in June: "My worst is that I have to go to second grade on September second." This past week or so, he's taken to adding, at various times of the day or night, things like "I wish the school would blow up," and "If I had fairy godparents, I would wish for them to blow up the school."


And so we addressed the fears of second grade, and talked about the ways in which it would be just like first grade, and the things he would get to do this year, and he ignored us completely. "But if I had fairy godparents..."

So we were unsurprised when, after helping him into his second-grade classroom with the requested supplies (which included a ream of copy paper that weighed more than he does), he began to cry when the teacher asked all the parents to leave the room. Baroy and I left with heavy hearts, both of us a little teary eyed ourselves.

Well, to be more accurate, Baroy was a little teary eyed. I was a little teary eyed and a lot homicidal, thanks to a little girl who exclaimed loudly to her mother not just once but twice as we walked up to the classroom, "Oh, no! Please don't tell me *N* is in my class again!"

[It would have been inappropriate for me to get right up in her face and snarl, "Well, he wouldn't be in your class if you hadn't been held back in first grade and had to repeat it last year, would he, you little brat," right? Yeah, that's what I thought. Dang.]

And for the record, no, I have no idea where that came from. There has never been a single instance of my kid bothering or arguing with or basically even speaking to any other child in his class, so that little girl can just kiss my easily offended ass.

Still, Baroy didn't hear her, and neither--apparently--did N, so it didn't upset either of them. And that's really what's important; I can take it (in theory...) as long as N doesn't have to.

In any case, the tears and the sadness were apparently short-lived, because when we arrived to pick N up, he came running toward us, yelling, "Mrs. S is the best teacher in the whole wide universe, and I LOVE second grade!" And he then spent the next 20 minutes, while we waited for Em's dismissal bell, regaling us with stories of the games he played with his friend J (who sadly isn't in his class this year, much to my and J's mother's chagrin) at recess, and the pictures he drew, and all the kids from last year who are in his class again, and all the kids from kindergarten who are in his class again, and so on and so on...grinning the whole time. And tonight, his "best" was having the best teacher ever and getting to go to second grade. Not a single mention of hoping the school would blow up.

Adulterated, unadulterated...I call that success.