Random observations: Girl from the West told me today that she was worried that the pill I gave her to take for her allergies may really be “ass lax.” I think she meant Ex-Lax brand laxatives. Since I extracted the pill from a small case in my purse and we couldn’t read the print on the capsule, she reasoned that it could be possible I’d mixed up an antihistamine with a laxative, ’cause I guess I’m a walking albeit blind pharmacist. Ass lax is quite catchy, and accurate, don’t you think? While out with Girl from the East last week I had a refreshingly hilarious encounter with an earnest teen girl. Teen girl looked at baby girl and at me and back at baby and asked: How is she mixed?I asked teen to repeat. She did, wanting to know about “the mix.” Somehow I knew what she meant. I declared East girl to be 100 percent Chinese.Teen’s head swung back around to me and as she blurted: Are you Chinese? No, I told her. The wheels are spinning now. Are you her mother? she asked in return. Yes, I said. Silence. I broke it by explaining that I adopted baby girl from China. Oh! She’s cute, teen said, relieved that the potentially awkward moment had passed. End of story. Questions over. Honest. Forthright. Absolutely not rude. Why did I think that by leaving my job and staying home “full time” I’d be able to chip away at my miles long to-do list. Why? I have a toddler who at any given moment is stuffing her cheeks to capacity with cat food, leaping on the couch as if there were safety needs installed below and sampling bird bath water.With these particular challenges, it takes me all week to weed one garden. Earlier this season I was determined to keep up with the outside work. There has to be a way, I told myself. Lately, being the zombie that I am, I’ve kind of given up. Having a toddler is the perfect excuse for explaining away the weed field I call a back yard, the spindly, bug chewed plants I call a garden, and the peeling atrocity I call a garage.Most people nod in understanding.Then I met a woman who also has a toddler. She also has a breathtakingly beautiful home, cooks from scratch, works out religiously, always has the latest fashions and freshly colored and styled hair, spends majority of her time with her child, and IS NICE. Clearly all of my shortcomings now can be blamed on my teenager.
There should be no reason to complain when it’s summer in Michigan. The days are long and hot. There is so much to do outside: We have a small pool to splash in. Toys to amuse ourselves. An outdoor patio. Beautiful parks near home and within driving distance. A fun downtown six blocks away. Outdoor concerts.Yet — our local economy has cast shadows on what should be a bright time of year. Good friends of ours learned today they are losing their home. They don’t know where they will go. They have no family in Michigan. They can’t afford to leave because they have no money, hence the foreclosure. Another good friend nearly lost her home last December but ma` naged to pull through. Still, she tells me that since that scare, she’s cleaning and organizing, repairing and streamlining, in the event her house needs to go on the market, she’s ready. She’s been out of work for a year.More and more I’m seeing these signs around town: Home auction this weekend.Rent to own.Must sell now.New price.More and more I ‘m hearing about families moving out of Michigan or contemplating a move.Not everyone I know is struggling. But the stories of the hardship are hard to shake, you know? I toss and turn at night, wondering how I can help. Realistically I can’t do much at this point. We are OK. We are more than OK. But we need to be careful we stay that way. Figuring out how to help is the hard part.So I’ve been doing a lot of pushing the baby girl’s stroller around the neighborhood, walking away the anxiety. I’m trying to take a moment to appreciate the simple things: the little details that exist whether I’m here or not: The perfection of a flower. The relief of a shade tree on a 94 degree day. The sheer joy an 18-month old girl has in putting on her pink patent leather Mary Janes.Take me back to that place in life where a pair of shoes could make me feel complete.
Take a look at the two purses. Can you guess which one is more appealing to my 18-month old baby girl? If you guessed the fuzzy Elmo, you are beyond wrong.
Elmo was a Christmas gift from a good friend and an obvious cute choice for a one-year-old girlie girl. While my girl from the East loves Elmo and does tote this head-with-handles around on occassion, once she saw the heavin’ cleavage bag, nothing else would do. The bustier bag is a castoff from older girl from the West. I don’t think she ever carted around her cell phone and lip gloss in this atrocity. Where it came from I’m not sure. Where it landed is the trash can.
Until baby girl tugged it out and began dragging it around the house. What makes this such a poignant gesture on her part is her affection/obsession with mom’s er … breasts.
OK. OK. This is not a revelation here. Babies love them. That’s what they’re for — babies, mostly. We’ll not get into all that here. Since my baby girl came to us at 10.5 months and probably had never been breastfed, it was not an experience she would know. But she did know right off that between mom and dad, mom was squishier to hug due to her — accessories. Once she made this discovery, there was little to redirect her attention.
She also realized very early on that mom’s cleavage was a nifty place to tuck away Fisher Price Little People, Kleenex, lip balm tubes, pens. Basically whatever she had in hand or picked up.
Since my weight gain, I finally understand how convenient cleavage can be for tucking away stuff. I never used to get this when I was super-thin and basically lacking this feature. (I worked as a bank teller when I was in college and I’d marvel at the super-sized wallets that some well-endowed women would produce from between their breasts. I’m not talking about some teensy coin purse, I mean the kind with the build-in checkbook and calculator.) Long before baby, I found it to be a handy spot to temporarily stash sunglasses. I know, I know. Eech. But this is my reality at times.
In search of her own “accessories”, I’ve caught baby girl peering down her own shirt, wondering where her girls are.
I indulge her in this breast obsession. All part of the bonding experience, right? I figure we’ll work in the boundaries thing soon enough. Such as, when visiting grandma’s house, we don’t stick celery sticks down the front of grandma’s blouse.
It’s official, the place where my husband and I practiced our craft (where we met, worked together for 8-1/2 years, fell in love, shed blood, sweat and tears for what we believed to be right) has now cut us both loose.
For him it was simpler. When the cutting to the newspaper staff knows no boundaries, they eventually to get to your name on the seniority list. This was that day for him, a member of the photo staff. Actually, they eliminated THE ENTIRE PHOTOGRAPHY STAFF. We’re still waiting to see how that is supposed to work. Disposable cameras for everyone!
Thankfully, it was only a part-time gig for my guy. We knew it was coming. Still, it’s always a shock when the ax falls.
When I wrestled with the decision last year of whether to leave the business temporarily or forever, factors such as decline in workplace morale, inability to advance, earn more money, maintain health, have a freakin’ life, played a major role.
I got to the point where I was willing to throw my paycheck and bennies over the side of a cliff just to gain peace of mind and some freedom. I was so worn out I couldn’t even think straight. I had become a robot.
So I cut myself loose. It was either the smartest or stupidest thing I’d ever done. Depending on the day of the week, how much money is in my bank account, I’m either giddy with joy that I can work in my garden all day, play with my baby daughter and attend one of my older daughter’s sporting events, or else I’m kicking myself in the shins for throwing away almost 20 years of work experience and having to see “homemaker” next to my name on tax forms.
Most people in this economy (i.e. no jobs) don’t walk away from a safe bet with nothing new lined up unless they have a huge stash of money. Most people who like to do things like go on vacation, attend concerts and buy new clothes don’t quit their jobs. Most people don’t have the guts to just quit.
The point of this respite was to care for our newly adopted baby and reexamine my life goals and career objectives. So far, I’ve learned that taking care of a baby is a full-time job all by itself. It leaves little time for things like showering at leisure, thumbing through new magazines, exploring new career goals.
I’ve also learned that while taking care of the baby and older girl — being there for them –means a lot, I feel like I’ve lost a big part of myself by leaving the workplace. Balance is the key here and with my last job, there was no balance. When my first girl was born, I went back to work within six weeks. It sucked but I did it. I missed out on a lot of milestones while I was pounding the keyboard late into the night. But I also took pride in the fact that I was DOING SOMETHING meaningful, bringing home money to the family. When I divorced her father, it meant everything to be able to stand on my own and live above the poverty line.
But the business has been evolving since before I entered it. I was warned quite firmly in J-school to be diversified and expect the worst for the future of newspapers. By the time I landed my last job, my newspaper had already lived its heydey. Circulation was in a firm nosedive pattern. Almost immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, the layoffs began. They still haven’t stopped. The building, which takes up one-half a city block, was once a hive of activity. Now it’s a masoleum.
Was it a mistake to leave the workplace? Perhaps I console myself by realizing I didn’t walk away from a gold mine, I jumped off a sinking ship. I saved myself. Even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. I removed myself from an environment that was sucking the life out of me. It is any surprise that the majority of my coworkers were on anti-depressants, had addiction problems, relationship issues, anger-management struggles and god know’s what else?
So my husband, the photographer, and I, the maybe-on-hiatus writer/copy editor, held a funeral for our former employer, no doubt in the throes of death. We also raised a glass in toast to what is around the bend, the unknown.