It's all awesome until someone gets jinxed

awesum

Hey! I’ve been tagged again. This time the award comes from the wildly talented scribe known as TeacherMommy who crowned me a Queen of All Things Awesome.
In this meme I’m supposed to balance this big tiara on my head and list seven things that make me awesome. This is no easy task for someone who is tone-deaf when it comes to singing her own praises.
It’s taken me weeks to come up with this list. I asked for family input and I received suggestions that are not suitable for family audiences (from the husband) and ones that have all the weight of cotton candy (from my 3-year-old, who said I am “her darling.”)
Left to my own devices, I came up with this:

1. I’m fiercely devoted to all living things. If you drop off a bleeding, flea-infested animal at my house and ask me to watch it for a day, I’ll feed it and brush it and bandage it and love it and name it George. I’ll totally forgive and forget that you never came back for it — ever. I have gnarled, twisted, Charlie-Brown-Christmas-tree-plants in my house from Clinton’s first term in office that I cannot bear to toss. I kept a cat for 16 years that was so mean that his chart at the vet’s office had a picture of satan on it. No lie.

2. I’m low maintenance, which I’m pretty sure is why my husband married me. I’m not a diva or a daddy’s princess. I don’t require two-carat diamonds or luxury autos or weekly pedicures. I’m a DIY kind of woman. I’m falling in love with second-hand. I’d rather have a picnic on a scenic overlook than dine in a four-star restaurant. I won’t turn down an offer for a fine-dining experience, let’s make that clear. But, if you offer me a choice, I’ll pick the mountain view.

3. I once carried a sizable rock down the side of a mountain because I wanted to prove a point. I carried it over narrow, slippery bridges spanning swift-moving rivers while wearing a 40-pound pack on my back. Along the way my travel companions teased me and urged me to toss it. I cradled it all the way to the trailhead then set it on the ground momentarily to load my gear into the waiting truck that would carry us to civilization. Once back at our bunk house, I realized I had left the rock behind. I made my husband drive us back to the trailhead to retrieve it. I guess that makes me fiercely devoted to rocks or too stubborn to give up on a quest no matter how ridiculous.

4. I have never gambled in my life. I’ve been to Atlantic City and Las Vegas as well as third-rate casinos in between and never rolled the dice or placed a bet or even played the slots. I think I may have purchased one Lotto ticket in the early 1990s but felt incredibly stupid for doing so. I just don’t get gambling.

5. I am an absurdly loyal person. If you tell me a secret, I’ll keep it. Even if there is no longer any reason to keep it. Like, if you tell me you are pregnant, I’ll still deny knowing it when you are screaming in the agony of labor. Even if everyone else in the room knows the secret, I’ll play as if I was out of the loop the whole time. You simply cannot extract from me other people’s secrets.

6. I’m a chameleon. If I spend even a short amount of time in a place far from home, I will take on the rhythm and inflection of the language, as well as the mannerisms of the inhabitants.  At one time I had an extensive repertoire of character voices that I could do on command, including Louis Armstrong, Donald Duck, Marvin the Martian, the Cowardly Lion (Wizard of Oz), and several Winnie the Pooh characters.

7. I have never broken a bone in my life. I’ve never had surgery. I have no major medical conditions.  I am incredibly blessed with good health. I supposed I’ve jinxed myself now and my next post will be dictated from a hospital bed where I’ll be immobilized in a full-body cast after falling down the side of a mountain because I wagered that I could hop on one foot while juggling a rabid dog and a boulder. Awesome.

Rather than tag seven other bloggers like I’m supposed to do, (notice I didn’t list obedient as one of my awesome qualities) I’m going to list seven new blog discoveries for you to check out for yourself. If your drafts folder is empty or you don’t have time to craft an original post, by all means, take this challenge and run with it. Happy reading.

The Draft Queen —  I can’t leave comments on her Blogger blog, so I’ll praise her prose from afar.
Small Town, Small Times — Welcome to JCrewville
Chains of Yesterday — Raw, honest writing
Holli’s Ramblings — Adventures of an expat in Ghana
Yellow Trash Diaries — She makes me laugh every time
Ordinary Art Blog — Writing so beautiful I weep tears of childish jealousy
Mouthy Housewives — It’s all stuff you know about but don’t want to admit

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Even scarier than a pack of wild dogs

teens

by Marco Gomes via Creative Commons

I do not like teenagers.

Yes. You read me correctly. I do not like teenagers.

I love my teenager.

The rest of the lot? Take them, please.

To those of you who work with this segment of the population: I admire you. Clearly, you are constructed of tougher material. You are sheet metal. I am onion skin.

Why do I dislike those who dwell in the bizarre world between childhood and adulthood?

  • I live two blocks from a high school. For almost a decade I’ve had to pick up their lunch-hour trash, their abandoned sweaters and shoes and other unidentifiable pieces of junk tossed on my lawn. I have to sweep the cigarette butts flicked onto my walkway and gardens. I’ve bore witness to the manifestations of both adrenaline and hormonal surges. Not since my own youth have I seen such passionate ass-kickings and makeout sessions as those unfolding under our golden locust trees.
  • I live with a teenager. My teen is not so bad. So far, so good. Yet, because she is one of them, I must subject myself to her kind. I am finding ways to avoid this.
  • Being around teenagers is a powerful emotional trigger. It brings forth my own journey from Velvet dolls to the voting booth.  I smoked, ran around with a bad crowd, used drugs, had a shoplifting habit, threw away my grade point average in favor of recklessness, spent a great deal of time in detention, and defied my parents in any way I could think of, including having a serious relationship with the wrong sort of boy. While there were teens who far exceeded my level of rebellion, there were so many more who were paving the way toward bright futures.

The person I hurt the most was myself. My self-loathing and destructive behavior may have appeared to be directed outward, but it was really aimed inward. To all the folks who lived by my high school: Is it too late to issue a blanket apology for my behavior?

Even as a teenager I hated other teenagers. I loathed the relationship drama, the bad driving, the false bravado regarding drinking, drug use, fighting and mortality.

I went to school in an upscale neighborhood. There was a very clear line drawn between the haves sporting their stiff-collared Izod polo shirts and Mercedes Benz convertibles parked on one end of  lot and the stoners in their Led Zeppelin concert T-shirts huddled under a haze of exhaust and illegal smoke at the other end.

I identified with the have-nots. But that doesn’t explain everything. There were plenty of haves who were just as messed up. The reasons were different but the results were the same.  When they threw up, it was expensive liquor on high-quality imported rugs rather than the cheap gut-buster wine on the scuffed linoleum.

You couldn’t pay me to relive those days. Even if you offered me the beautiful skin, the skinny little body and the lightning-quick  metalbolism, I’d rather be blotchy, bloated  and sane than be a teenager again.

So when I found myself surrounded by teenagers the other day, quite by accident, I didn’t react the way many of you might: take it in stride, think nothing of it. I behaved much like a captured jungle explorer would when he finds his fate in a bubbling cook pot stirred by hungry cannibals.

A serious error in judgment  placed me in the vortex of the student parking lot just as the final bell rang. Girl from the West generally takes the bus or I pick her up from a friend’s house later in the day. This day was different: I agreed to pick up my girl and a friend and take them to the mall to shop for homecoming dresses.

Finding yourself in the center of the student parking lot of a huge suburban high school populated by drivers whose licenses still have wet ink on them is probably like regaining consciousness from a blackout and realizing you are on the open range with a herd of cattle bearing down on you .

Within moments, it was a sensory nightmare of  moving figures coming at my car from all sides, swearing, shouting, revving engines, blasting music, thumping bass from subwoofers and squealing tires. I attempted to back out of my parking space and extract myself from the melee.

It was too much to ask them to make eye contact with me, to notice my pleading hand gestures, to respond to my blinking turn signal so that one of them would allow me to enter the stream of traffic. It was too much to hope that the drivers behind me would refrain from their own hand signals, to  lift their palms from the horn for a moment, and realize I wanted out more than they did.

Finally a group of students on foot blocked the flow long enough for me to nose my front end into traffic.

The commotion awakened a sleeping Girl from the East in the back seat, who took in the scene and said: “Momma, they’re being very loud.”

To which I replied: “Don’t ever  grow up, sweet pea. It’s just ugly.”

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World, please be kind

kind

It doesn’t happen often.

But, it happens.

It’s not going to stop.

Ever.

“Excuse me,” is how it begins. When I have a loaf of bread in hand, examining ingredients and calorie counts. When I’m loading my car in a windswept parking lot. When I’m at the community center watching my girl leap and jump and twirl.

“Would you mind telling me,” they ask:

a.) Is that little girl yours?

b.) Where did you get her?

c.) How long did it take? How much did it cost?”

Most of the time, the questions spill out of the mouths of well-meaning folks. Maybe they are considering adoption but haven’t done the research. Maybe they are in the process and want to compare notes or seek reassurance that their dreams soon will be realized. Maybe they never learned about boundaries.

Once upon a time I lived on the other side of the fence.

I remember when:

a.) The concept of adoption first slipped through a small opening in my wounded heart. Suddenly I saw adoptive families everywhere. I desperately wanted to know how that child became a part of that family.

b.) We were in the process and we would see a newly formed family so absorbed in their attachment process, that I couldn’t bear to pierce the bubble they’d built around themselves. Besides, at that point I knew where to go to ask questions and find families more than happy to share their journey.

c.) We were waiting for what felt like a century for our referral to come in. The longer the days and weeks stretched out, the more painful it became to see a happy adoptive family having dinner at a restaurant or shopping for school supplies at Target. I had an almost uncontrollable urge to approach these families and just be with them, hoping their good fortune would rub off on me. I wanted their assurances, support, and blessings. I never gave in to those urges.

Now, when I’m approached, I feel two things at once. I am both flattered and annoyed.

I’m flattered that our family story is of interest to others.

I’m annoyed that someone couldn’t find a more discreet way to satisfy his or her curiosity. (To be fair, many truly interested people have pulled me aside out of my daughter’s earshot or used less confrontational methods to convey their interest. In those cases I am more than happy to be accommodating.)

I understand what it means to be inquisitive for personal research, to have heartache for what I have, to have sincere curiosity. I try to answer questions quickly and refer people to the Internet or a local adoption agency. I remind myself that when we signed up for this, we knew we were stepping into a spotlight of sorts, that we would be perceived as spokespeople for this journey. I try to remember that my daughter is watching and listening to how I respond.

But sometimes people are just plain rude and cross the line of decency. It is no more acceptable to approach someone in a wheelchair and blurt, “Where’s your other leg?” then it is to act as if my child is invisible and ask, “How much did she cost?” as if she were sold in the bulk food aisle.

Please don’t reduce my child to a commodity.

Once, I asked a woman how much her biological children cost her, because after all, no child arrives without a price tag.

I wish it would stop. But it won’t.

We are conspicuous only to you. What we see is our beautiful child. What she sees is her loving family.

The world, however, has its eyes wide open. The world, without meaning to, will burst our bubble.

Last week my Girl from the East started her first year of preschool. No longer is she safely cocooned in our fuzzy, pink bubble of attachment, with her mother and father to deflect the world’s arrows and daggers. No longer is she sequestered in her Mandarin school with look-a-like families and abundant tolerance.

Now my girl will begin to tell her own story and see how the world receives it. Now we must build her strength and pride and keep it strong. Now we must fortify our own resolve for the eventual hard knocks that all children face.

World, please be kind to my girl.

Give me the strength and wisdom to do the right thing when the world doesn’t honor my wishes.

How to turn 24 hours into a nearly psychotic episode

deflated

by rubberpaw via creative commons

Discover a series of calls to my phone from an unfamiliar number.

Wonder why there are no messages.

Google the phone number because I think it is from a potential new client. It’s not. No other information available. Dismiss it as a wrong number.

Check e-mail.

Learn that a potential employer — not the one I am expecting to call but another one out of the blue with an enticing proposition  – has made several attempts to reach me.

Make snap decision based on multiple factors, including lack of time to think and previous string of bogus e-mails for job openings that require “significant available credit” and “must be a U.S. citizenship.”

Forget about phone calls. Forget about e-mail.

Attempt to balance overflowing platter of various plans and commitments and obligations and must-dos from the threshold of Friday to the gate of Monday.

Worry about possible client that has not called.

Awaken Monday morning and call company after reading its Web site.

Engage in productive conversation with company representative.

Schedule job interview.

End call. Jump for joy that a large-sized, reputable company has noticed me.

Come to my senses and collapse in heap on floor.

Realize that I have spent all my time looking and no time preparing.

Discover that I do not have 20-pound bond paper on which to print a resume and list of personal references.

Panic because I truly have nothing appropriate to wear.

Gag over the one suit I own, which I wore when Bill Clinton was mentoring Monica Lewinsky.

Wonder if it, too, has a stain on it.

Focus on the fact that I still don’t have real eyeglasses. Damn, why didn’t I make that appointment to get my eyes checked?

Consider that I need to find a babysitter.

Lose control of my senses and play the What If? game: What if they offer me a job? Good god, I don’t have any daycare  lined up. What if I can’t honor all the commitments to which I just agreed? What if my child freaks out because I have to pull her out of a school I just enrolled her in? What if the Earth explodes tomorrow?

Tell myself to shut up. Sit down. Breathe.

Fire off a barrage of phone calls, fill lined paper with list of thing to accomplish.

Hyperventilate.

Start checking off items on list as they are accomplished.

Schedule time to find a new outfit for interviews.

Research company. Take notes. Realize company is big, with offices on both hemispheres. This might be a very nice position to land.

Direct mental note to self: Take any and all calls. Follow up immediately. Things fly at me when I least expect it.

Perform a quickie manicure and pedicure. Conduct other personal maintenance measures often neglected by a person who works at home and alone.

Prepare answers to potential questions and follow-up questions.

Sleep fitfully for about  five hours.

Wake up. Drink about two pots of coffee.

Attend youngest child’s first day of preschool and orientation.

Eat lunch. Start to believe things are turning around. This is a sign. I’m sure of it.

Feel the vibration of my cell phone. Answer it. It’s that number again. The one from last week.

Listen but fail to comprehend that job interview is canceled. Company has decided not to fill the position after all.

Feel a vein pop in my head. Maybe it’s an artery. I can never remember.

Understand that there’s a valuable lesson in all this.

Reassure you that when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

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Granny panties: public health nuisance?

bigpants

by alessandraelle via creative commons

Aside from fine lines and dark circles and loss of muscle tone, there’s one thing that really deflates my over-40 self-esteem: the underwear choices for the typical middle-aged body.

Gone are the days of  itty-bitty pretty things in bright colors, accented with lace and beads and bows. Now, it’s all plain and dark and thick. Now, it could double as body armor in a combat zone.

More than anything else about this age, I’m embarrassed of my underwear drawer.

A few weeks ago at a picnic with a friend — who has not yet crossed the threshold into fortysomething – we cursed our big appetites and what it does to our bodies. Then, she revealed a secret to me. She raised the hem of her pink ruffled sleeveless blouse to reveal a heavy-duty bustier that stretched from her rib cage to her hips. She made a fist and rapped her knuckles against the reinforced siding to demonstrate its figure-controlling power.

Wow.

I was floored. I assumed her smooth lines were the result of genetics. Some women are lucky. But for us, pregnancy turned a slab of granite into a bowl of mush. She bought it, she whispered to me over a bowl of Sun Chips we were sharing, because someone had asked her if she was pregnant again.

Ouch.

I feel her pain. As a former member of the itty-bitty bikini club, the crop top and low rise pants club, middle age has forced me to relinquish my membership. I hang with a different crew now, the ones who shop for what at worst can be called granny panties and at best are called figure shapers.

Ugh.

I have discovered some things that make this transition tolerable:  Spanx, or anything Spanx-like.

Shopping for this type of underwear, however,  is a different experience. No longer can I go to the cute  lingerie boutiques and grab a handful of candy-colored “fundies” in my size and pay for them. Now I need to go to stores that have senior discount days to buy something to return my body to what it once was, to smooth and redistribute flesh, to conceal and reshape.

So imagine my horror on a recent shopping  trip when the dressing room clerk plucked the Spanx out of the bouquet of try-on items in hand and waved them overhead.

“No. No. No.” She admonished, shaking her head to and fro rapidly for added emphasis. “You aren’t permitted  to try on undergarments in a store!”

She used words like exposed crotch, and hygiene and public health threat. Suddenly I felt like Borat in his man-thong.

Um.

Well, I wasn’t going to take everything off and put them on, I retorted. I was going to put them on over my own underwear and see how they worked with this rather clingy dress I just bought.

More nos from the dressing room monitor. More head shaking. More talk of dreaded diseases and H1N1 and health department crackdowns.

I know I’ve tried on these body shapers before at other stores. In fact, I clearly recall a dressing-room attendant at a very upscale shop helping me find one to wear with my wedding dress. I’ve tried on bathing suits in stores countless times.

I’m not a germophobe, so much of what this attendant was talking about flies under my radar. I’m also not a shopper. I do not enjoy it. Least of all do I like trying on clothes or having to return them if they do not fit properly.

I looked at those Spanx waving over my head like the flag of doom. I talked of the price tag. I suggested that it was a lot to spend on something if it didn’t fit.

The attendant offered a solution: Buy the underwear, try it on at home, then return it to the store for a refund.

Then — and get this –she said with great pleasure that if the underwear is returned to the store, employees will have to put on protective gloves, render the garment useless, and ceremoniously dispose of it.

Whoa.

Do they have a HazMat team on duty for underwear and bathing suit returns? I ‘d love to see that in action. Do they use big tongs and drop them in airtight biohazard drums? Do they set a granny panties fire behind the store?

I suppose this all makes sense. I know it does. But something about the way this moment played out seemed hysterical and over the top. And now I feel as if I’ve been living in a cave on this matter.  After conducting a bit of online research, it seems that this is a health code rule. It turns out that people are pigs and do horrible things in dressing rooms and to clothing.

There are a lot of Borats out there.

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Three simple things

mattheihands

Today is the eighth anniversary of 9/11. Each of us has our own distinct memory of how it unfolded. There are two things I think about every year on this day: The first is to remember all those who went to work that day and died before lunch. The second is to recall the only person I know who was in the World Trade Center, a cousin by marriage.

I do not know him well. He has never spoken of that day at any family event. I would not dare ask.

I only know the story as it has been passed through the family grapevine. It goes like this: My cousin by marriage worked for one of the Big Three auto companies. He was sent to New York on business. His wife, my cousin by blood, had recently given birth to twin girls.

After my cousin by marriage escaped the World Trade Center and ran like hell for countless blocks, he was able to patch through a call to his wife — who was no doubt consumed with the care of newborns. When she answered the call in her quiet suburban-Detroit home, he told her he was OK. He made it out alive.

My cousin by blood, who did not have the TV or radio on, did not know to what he was referring. She then turned on the TV news (I’m sure, to her horror, to find out what was unfolding in this country), made arrangements for child care, packed her car, and drove to the Eastern seaboard to bring her husband home. They were among the lucky ones who survived to tell their story.

Remembering this day is important. On a personal level, it helps put things in their proper perspective. This year has been a 9/11 of sorts for my family. The threat of unknown forces has kept us on the edge of our seats, made us cautious and deliberate in every move we make.

This year also has deliver to me some unexpected gifts:

The first is a healing balm applied to a festering wound of a family relationship. The magic began with two words: I’m sorry.

Two words that took more than 20 years to say.

But it’s a beginning. It’s a chance to make things right before it’s too late.

More than 20 years of anger and resentment and fuming and side-stepping and outright lying on both of our ends has kept open wounds from healing. And now, there is a chance to set boundaries and stay quiet long enough to understand the other side.

The second gift is an appreciation for what cannot be pulled from an ATM or rented from Netflix or arranged through Expedia. It’s the hunt and discovery of that which is already out there, free, available to anyone curious enough to seek it. Free stuff. Simple pleasures. Enjoying the moment. Gratitude. Guess what? It turns out some of that stuff we thought was essential really wasn’t so life-and-death necessary after all.

The gift of spending time together, of being grateful that we are alive and in good health, and living in a country that still allows personal freedom is priceless.

The third gift is the deep well of support I didn’t know I had in my own yard. Without having to ask, I’m blessed with wonderful friends who share their own wealth and good fortune with me.  I’ve learned that true friends appreciate the gift of time and attention when you don’t have much else to offer in exchange.

Three simple gifts came to me when I least expected it.

And maybe — if I allow myself to believe such things — three gifts came to me when I deserved it the most.

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Monday meme on Tuesday (barely)

Just when I was feeling like it would be hopeless to squeeze a post out of my sleep-deprived head and steady my frazzled nerves enough to type something readable (3 hours of supervising a novice driver AND two massive pre-schooler separation anxiety meltdowns AND four hours of sleep) along came this little award and an easy meme. Praise you, blogging gods, for this unexpected treat.

Thank you, Mountain Momma Musings, for the props. I love that this momma lives in the mountains (Lake Tahoe!) and seems to live the life I dream of having someday. She is a fellow writer and doesn’t seem to take life’s bullets and arrows too seriously.

fabowidget

This meme asks me to name five obsessions. That’s easy. I’m an obsessive sort of gal:

1. The White Stripes or any band/project/production/commercial involving Jack White. It started with my love for local music and Detroit pride and a bunch of other six-degrees-of-separation stuff. Nearly a decade later, I just can’t shake this fixation. I don’t want to. Let’s just say a few shoulder-to-elbow encounters in smoky night clubs were the icing on the red, white and black cake of my adoration.

2. All things books, including libraries, nifty little independent bookstores and random piles of books at garage sales. I like the smell of old books. I like the smell of new books. I like cracking open a new (or new to me) book and getting lost in its words. I almost always carry a book with me.

3. I’m not a random TV watcher. Here’s what I do: I pick one show and then go crazy over it. I won’t watch anything else. Just that one show. A while back it was LOST. I was bordering on obnoxious over that show, chatting on forums, forming LOST discussion groups at work, reading every Web site on the Net for meaning and clues and spoilers. My latest obsession: “Six Feet Under,”  which I never watched when it aired on HBO, but now devour on DVD.( I’m looking a little embalmed lately from lack of sleep.)

4. All things Southwest and particularly New Mexico. I don’t know if I’d ever move there, but I sure do love the food and art and culture and jewelry and landscape and the almost indescribable  feeling it gives me every time I visit. Whenever I’m out  there, I  get the urge to sell my house, quit my job, buy an easel and set of paints and just go all Georgia O’Keeffe on everyone.

5. This is a new one: Resale. I’m fortunate to live in an area that has a wide array of vintage, contemporary and upscale resale shops with buyers of discriminating taste or at least creative vision. This is not the Salvation Army selection. This is not flea market or yard sale leftovers. Perhaps I’m getting smart about my money. Perhaps it’s the economy, but I’d rather pay $3 for a beautiful set of art deco candle sticks than $12 for something ‘cool’ but ultimately cookie cutter and sold in mass quantity at one of the big-box stores.

That was the easy part. Now for the difficult task of narrowing my list to five other bloggers. Make sure you stop by Mountain Momma Musings, where last I checked, she issued a memo to clueless tourists.

If you see your name below, please accept this delightful award, and tell us about your obsessions and tag five other bloggers. If you’ve already received this award, because there are a lot of these badges flying around in the blogosphere, now you have a matched set.

1. MamaMaryShow — Mary is a self-appointed “that girl, you know the one I’m talking about …” mother of two girls, in training for a marathon, and working on an inspirational book about women who’ve lost their fathers.

2. Diapers & Dragons — Teacher Mommy is brave enough to teach high school English. Her written words are a thing of beauty. Really.

3. MummyTime: She lives down under, near a train track and an airport. Oh, and four kids. No wonder she’s sleep deprived!

4. Mommyhood and Life — Coco is an amazing writer who bares her soul and inner-most secrets. Then, she pulls the rug out from under and does a weekly Time Warp feature that makes you laugh so hard you pee your pants. Just make sure you’re not sitting on your hard drive when you let loose.

5. My Babcia’s Babushka — Isn’t that a great name for a blog? She’s another fellow Detroit-area blogger who I’m just getting to know.

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Camping and corn dogs and Ferris wheels. Oh, my!

urbancamp

Urban camp out No. 1

It’s Labor Day weekend. What are you doing on the Internet? Get outside and take a walk, ride your bike, surf, skate, swim, or go read a book. Do all of them at the same time if you have that kind of talent. If your community is like mine, there are more festivals than time to attend them all. Pick one.

Get up and walk away from the computer. Unless, of course, you are at work. That might create a problem. Although when I was working, I did see people do that. Just get up and walk out as if they were protected by a union or something. Later they returned smelling funny.  Good times.

Knowing that next week — with its big yellow school buses belching exhaust,  its alarms bleating before dawn, and the let’s-get-back-to-being-responsible thing will be in full force — we decided that this weekend would be for old-fashioned fun. Let’s call it a throwback holiday weekend.

Our itinerary:

* The second urban camp out of the summer, featuring our trusty tent, our backyard patio and our little fire pit. Thankfully most of the neighbors are on vacation and the road crews are on break, so the nights are quiet. Only the crickets, lonely dogs and amorous cats will break the silence. And a bonus: full moon!

campout

* A trip to the Michigan State Fair. It’s not my favorite place. I don’t like seeing cows with Kroger $3,000 stamped on their sides. I mean, could you put a finer point on it? I don’t like the pushing and shoving of the sweaty masses devouring fistfuls of elephant ears and corn dogs. But this year might be the last for the venerable festival honoring all things agricultural. We are going for Girl from the East, who is fascinated with fairs and cows and pigs and Ferris wheels. And (gag) she’ll probably want to eat a corn dog. Everyone has to do that at least once in life.

:en:Singapore Flyer taken from :en:East Coast ...

* I’m participating in my second half-day retreat of silent meditation. I look at it as both a personal challenge and a way to refresh my psyche for the challenges ahead. Yeah, I think a day of silence and a trip around the Ferris wheel ought to do it for me.

breakfastouts

Breakfast outside is the best, don't you think?

So, join me in celebrating the closing of summer. Embrace the simpler things for a day or two. See you on the other side.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Frustration

frustration

image by runningkate

I’ve lost things lately:

  • my favorite plastic sports bottle, a souvenir of my snow camping experience
  • my sterling silver hoop earrings
  • my mind

Also, I’ve lacked focus:

  • Literally. I need bifocals. I’m pretending I don’t. The faking it isn’t working anymore and it’s making me look feeble. I hope that explains all the typos in my comments around the blogosphere. I hope that explains all the pasta on the tablecloth at lunch the other day.
  • I’m job hunting outside my field of work. Where to direct the confused self when the forest trails are marked either Overqualified or Underqualified? Some days I’m resigned to signing on with Merry Maids or dressing in red and khaki and enlisting in the Target army. Other days I feel a strong desire to go to grad school and follow dreams. Some days I just shop for a roomy refrigerator box to call home.

Job hunting sucks. I’ve had it too easy all my life. I’ve almost always slipped seamlessly from one position to the next. Even during the rare times when I had a gap in my work history, I filled it with temp work.

Now I’m a woman who is halfway to 90 (as one of my drama queen contemporaries likes to say) and almost three years gone from the workplace. My line of work is no longer an option. I have a young child and outside help one day a week. This job search is like riding a bike up a mountain with one leg.

As Dr. Phil would ask: How’s that working for you?

Not so well, Phil. It’s hard to keep the momentum when you have six days between efforts.Until I find work, I can only use FREE babysitters. So far, I’ve found one who’s willing to give one day a week. I’m grateful for the day but one day does not a job search make.

I live in the state with the highest unemployment in the nation. I’m trying not to let that get me discouraged. Much.

I remain hopeful. I joined a babysitting co-op. My little one starts part-time preschool next week. Something has to give.

Job hunting in 2009 is not the same as it was in the late ’80s and early 1990s. Then, it involved typewriters and telephones. It involved pieces of paper, bulletin boards, classified advertising sections of the newspaper and talking to friends and family.

No one I know seems to have any clear answer for today’s big hunt. Get a Web site, they say. So I did. Create your own personal brand, carve out your niche, they recommend.  Still working on that one. Get on social media and work that bitch daily. I do. Although sometimes it feels as empty, cold and meaningless as, well, working some bitch. Networking? I’ve got a steep learning curve on that one. Remember, I worked as a copy editor for the last decade.

Don’t even get me started on the frustration of online application processes. Do you know what happens when you spend 45 minutes completing an online application for a specific position and then the free Wi-Fi zone drops your Internet connection?

For the first time in my adult life, I’m not sure what my role is in the world. It isn’t enough for our bottom line for me to be a mother and caretaker of the family and home. It won’t be enough for my children if I’m gone all day and tired and stressed when I get home. I’m not sure I can return to the workaholic career treadmill I ran on for almost two decades.

Does society smile upon the mother who cares for her children at home? What about the mother who decided to put her family first for a while and now seeks work? Is she given the same chance as the mother who put her career first but lost her job for economic reasons?  The workplace seems to frown upon the mother who chooses her family over her career. Society also frowns upon the mother who does not take care of her children.

There are no easy answers to any of this. One day a week I try to figure it out.

This I call frustration.

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