Tuesday, October 31, 2006
In Which I Get All Political
I can't put in words why this is funny to me. Or compelling. But I watched it all the way through, start to finish, paralytically mesmerized the way my kids watch commercials involving robots or puppies.

Sing it, George!

And now I have the song stuck in my head. But W's version. So I'm off to find a brick wall so that I can pound that song loose and onto the floor.

And while we're at it, I just love this commercial. Just love it.

This guy was in the running for governor of Massachusetts. Happily, the more mainstream candidates are not as insipid as they might otherwise be, so this guy's Independent status and subsequent cute little advance-polling numbers aren't as disappointing as they might otherwise be. I mean, I'd vote for him on the strength of his commercials, alone.

Sorry, your voice is a little muffled, could you speak up?
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Halloween Dictator
My daughter is naturally assertive and outspoken. Or, in contemporary terms, bossy as hell.

Which means that Halloween-Eve, when this backwards little corner of New England does trick-or-treating instead of on the actual Day, is just tailor-made for her. Not the door-to-door part. I mean, the candy's all well and good, but I think somewhere in her 6-year-old brain she recognizes that Mom's going to go through and pick out the good stuff after she's in bed, anyway.

No, the part that gets her motor running is the handing-out-candy part. She gets to decide who gets two pieces and who gets just one, and I have learned that in an hour it is possible to say, "If you don't say 'trick or treat' you don't get candy," four thousand times. It's a truly amazing thing.

Which actually creates an ideal situation all around, because I despise being the candy-hander-out. Not because I begrudge giving away candy, but because the world is populated by weasels and liars, and never does that become more apparent than Halloween (at least, until I'm out Christmas shopping. I seem to find them then, too). Kids who ask for extra pieces for their sick brothers, kids who hit the same house twice, kids who are 45 and still seeking free candy.

My personal favorite are the kids who just stand there and stare at me, bucket extended, because the obligatory greeting is clearly below a specimen of such human perfection as I see standing before me. My general response is to stand there with a slightly tilted head and a politely curious raised-eyebrow look, and if they continue to stare at me, I say, "Yes? Can I help you?" I actually had one entrepreneurial young lady push me to the side in an attempt to get to the candy and leave without any of that pesky social interaction. I'm proud to report that I did not kill her and bury her in the front yard.

There was a perfectly good deck to toss bodies under, no burying necessary.

But for the past two years, I've taken the kids out early and briefly, and then came home and let Emily administer the Candy-and-Bossy portion of the evening, and everyone is happy. And alive.
Fundamental Philosophies
There are certain things in life for which no compromise is possible. They are black and white, carved in stone, unchangeable. They're the sorts of things that can break apart a friendship, create lifelong strain, keep you awake at night. It is possible to maintain a relationship from opposite sides, of course, but it requires real care and effort, and of course never, never allowing the taboo topics to go too far.

One of these things is, of course, pumpkin seeds. After the annual Great Pumpkin Massacre, should the seeds just be thrown out, or saved for snacking? And if they are saved (Can I get an "Amen"?), should they be washed before toasting, or left with some accompanying goop? Salt or no salt?

They're crucial, basic, simple questions. Happily, my husband is aligned with me on the proper care and maintenance of pumpkin seeds. Forget communication and equity in household responsibilities - this is the true foundation of a successful marriage.

At the risk of exposing myself to shock and chagrin, we toast and salt them.

And never, never wash them. The very thought makes my heart sink.
"I Want to Think it."
Tonight, Willem had two of his classmates and their respective partners over for dinner and football, which of course meant that my children had brain transplants and turned into attention-starved, uncontrolled-volume, mannerless screechy beasts. Everyone else thought they were cute and adorable and winning and winsome... but none of them have children of their own, so they have not been properly indoctrinated into the joy that is unattended play.

But it was a lovely evening. I cooked well, and yes as a matter of fact I DO say so myself, and better yet Willem did all of the dishes immediately afterward. Good company, nice people, and so on, and so forth.

There was an extra dollop of cuteness on Jacob after dinner. He decided he had to have everyone's attention so he wanted to perform a song he learned at school ("Ram Sam Sam," for those of you nonsense-word-lovers out there), but he also decided to get an attack of faux shyness at the same time. So he did all the hand motions for the song and explained, "I don't want to sing it. I want to think it." Cute, and seems to me like a tad abstract and advanced for a two-year-old, but what do I know?
Saturday, October 28, 2006
While You're Jumping, Sigmund, Grab Rush, Okay?
Because if any current media figure could use a flying leap, or maybe even just being landed on by a dead Viennese misogynist, Rush Limbgaugh is it.

For those who've been lucky enough to avoid the story, allow me to rain on your parade. Rush viewed an interview between Katie Couric and Michael J. Fox, in which Michael was not having a good day. There's a reason they don't sell Parkinsons-inducing inhalers at your corner store.

Rush then decided to use his public clout and influence on the listening public to proclaim that MJF must have either been acting or off his medication.

Words fail to express my fervent hope that soon, Rush will be standing on his chair in the studio to try to swat a fly on the ceiling, slip, and end up with his microphone firmly lodged in a particularly sensitive spot. Sideways.
Mr. Freud, You Can Just Take a Flying Leap
Who says dreams matter, huh?

Just because I had an emotional roller-coaster of a week, in which my husband was thrown for a loop or three and then, today, I was told I was making it all about me (let's clarify - I was told that based either on a message board or this blog... which, the last time I checked, were under my name... so, um... okay)... in which work was particularly draining and difficult... in which my son was sick... in which I discovered that and so on, and so forth, blah blah blah...

All that has nothing, NOTHING I tell you, to do with the fact that I had a horrible nightmare this morning and could not sleep past 6:30.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Drama, Drama Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink
In other news, I belong to two different message boards, and play around on different group blogs, and a couple of web rings... wait, why is it that I get eyestrain?

Anyway, something must be in the air recently, because in the past week I've watched two of the web rings start to bite and snip and growl and pull hair, all over things which, to us innocent (hah!) observers, look pretty innocuous. And I just learned about a splinter group that has been created off of one of them, which doesn't appear to be common knowledge yet... so I'm pulling up my chair, grabbing for some popcorn, and waiting for it to blow. This all would be more fun with alcohol, but then again I don't drink... guess I'll just have to pretend.

I'm hoping that, God forbid, I don't get a call for my actual job and end up missing it all.

I just love watching people behave badly. Especially when it distracts me from the drama in my own head/house/whatever.
So Anyway...
I never actually got around to the point of my post last night. Which was, that phrase, "It's just pixels on a screen," that was Willem's mantra for a while. Sometimes to try and downplay the WTF-ness of it all, and sometimes to express amazement at how much words just MATTER. It's simply boggling how big a deal it can be when someone puts the right words in the right order - or the wrong words in the wrong order, as the case may be - and turn your world right up-side-down.

And it's even more baffling now in the age of internet. It's not handwriting, nothing anyone ever physically touched, no sound... but somehow those little pixels on the screen seem to matter anyway.
Just Pixels on a Screen
Tickets. Tickets, please. Step right up to ride the roller coaster which is my evening...

I'm happy to report that it has ended pretty well, on a note which, if not actually positive, is at least not crazymaking. And really, we take what we can get.

To jump to the end, Willem and his birth mother (yes, it's her - not some really horrendous cruel joke or conspiracy theory or weird computer virus... though now that I think of it, I haven't entirely ruled out folie a deux...) have been in touch several times now. The early correspondance was basically two or three sentences at a time, with 24 hours in between contact. All the better to scramble your brain with, my dear.

There was a while today, when she bucked the system and replied in about 21 hours instead of the normal 24, and made it sound like she wanted to sever all contact. Which was horrible, and I was, oh, to put it lightly, hovering on 'roid rage.

I wrote this to her then:

Dear M,

I can only imagine the turmoil and confusion and ambivalence that you have been swimming through in the past year. Your decision to contact Willem after all this time was a brave one, and it was a huge jolt to our household.

Your decision to abruptly cut off "this discussion" after three brief emails, that was not so brave. It was hurtful, and cruel. Who does that? Who dangles such a huge, emotion-laden carrot and then yanks it away?

I am particularly disgusted by one sentence in your last email - the one that was along the lines of, "It's disrespectful to your adoptive mother to have searched me out." With all due respect, please, bite me. Don't try to deflect your guilt and doubts from the past 30 years onto my husband. Let's remember that it was YOU that made the initial decision to give him up, and then it was YOU who made the decision to respond to his semi-anonymous letter. He was never consulted, never got the chance to say what he might like. Your actions have made him powerless once again, and I resent you for it.

Because he can't cry for himself, and so I will. You hurt him, and I'll be the mother bear here. You could have decided never to reply to that letter; after a year, he certainly never expected it. He was even respectful enough of your privacy to ask your college to forward it along, rather than finding out your address himself. He has, in short, been an adult.

You'd like him, if you could get past your own stuff and get to know him. He's wonderful. You're missing out.

Maybe you'll change your mind. He wrote you such an eloquent reply, far more than you deserved under the circumstances. And if you do, I'll be polite and I'll be kind. But my heart aches that he drew so many short straws in the parent department.

A very wise friend of mine reminded me that in this life, we have two chances at forming a good parent-child relationship. I can tell you that, no matter how his relationships with his own parents work out, his relationship with his children is amazing. And after this, I'm just that much prouder of who he is... and of myself for hanging onto him when I had the chance.


Which I never would have had the cojones or presumption to actually send to her, but it felt so much better to write it out. I'd probably have posted it on its own, but blogger was down. Such is life. At least, MY life. I've heard rumors that people have calm and normal lives... I'll believe it when I see it.

Anyway, after her cyber-door-slamming, Willem responded in a very eloquent, non-threatening way, just explaining that he was okay and wasn't pressuring her to *do* anything. And she wrote back and opened that door back up a tiny bit. No big reunions planned, nothing too dramatic (I hope, I hope!), but it's better. At the very least, there's a positive spin on it all now.

And now, after all that spinning, I'm dizzy and tired and I need to sleep. And I will, just as soon as I figure out how to calm down.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Arguments, $30
Being Proven Right by Another Fabulous Doctor, priceless.

I just got back from a trip to the neurologist. Now that I suddenly have health insurance after a year and change without, I've been an appointment-making fiend. Today's visit was because I've had migraines since I was 16 and it's been really difficult to find a drug that works. I just counted - I've been on three different take-this-every-day meds, which served to make-me-sleepy but not prevent-headaches, and 10 different as-needed meds, with varying degrees of effectiveness or plain old side-effects-without-relief. Thirteen drugs.

It has long since gotten old. I'm over it.

But, new town, new insurance, new doctor. And, therefore, a new neurologist who thinks he can fix everything better than anyone else in the past. Because why bother being a specialist if you can't be arrogant and condescending as well?

First off, he couldn't be bothered to speak loud enough for me to hear him, or to face me while he spoke. Despite repeated reminders that I'm hard of hearing, both in writing in front of his face and verbally.

Then, he told me that I should just plan to spend another year trying out every medication on the market to see which one might work. And when I told him that I was not willing to go through all that rigamarole, that I'm long past hoping to find the miracle drug and now I just want something that lets me function through the day instead of biting the heads off of random strangers, or whimpering, he told me that I was being resistant to treatment.

Then he did a cursory physical exam and billed for a "Comprehensive Exam." And I get dinged for a $30 copay, because I have insurance but I don't have GOOD insurance.

So, now I get to decide, will I follow up with this putz in a month or will I call my primary care physician, who seems vaguely human, and figure out a way to just stop pretending like referrals are the answer? I am so tired of being an adult sometimes.

And I'm REALLY tired of being a polite adult.

Bah. I could have stayed home and argued with any one of my family members, for free.
Bring on the Goats, it's Time for the Staff Meeting.
I work three days a week, 12-hour shifts. Which can be endless, but is usually not too bad - most nights, I go home at 5:00, field a couple of phone calls, then change into my jammies (or perhaps the Sweatpants of Disinterest) at 6:45 and wait until 8:00 to call either Curmudgeonly J or Sanctimonious P to let them be either cranky or holier-than-thou, and I'm off the hook for the next 12 hours... or 3 days, depending on the day of the week.

Incidentally, my least favorite time of the day is from about 6:30-6:45, when I am just WAITING for the phone to ring to tell me I have to head out to the hospital. If that call comes in at 6:45:01, I can hand it over to the person on the next shift and incur their wrath but not actually have to leave the comfort of my own couch. But 6:44:59 and earlier, it comes to me, and so that last 15 minutes is a cliffhanger of epic proportions.

And then there's Thursdays. Working three 12-hour days leaves me with 4 hours a week to piece together a 40-hour work week, and Supervisor N has decreed that everyone's extra four hours will at least partially be filled in by a 4-hour staff meeting on Thursday mornings.


Early on, I was sort of cute and optimistic about the job, thinking, "Well, there are at least a thousand clients at the organization and we could conceivably come into contact with any of them or anyone not yet a client, so I can see how we could eat up four hours talking about cases and intervention strategies."

HA HA HA HA HA. Oh, the innocence.

Because we DO fill up those hours, almost every week. But it's not with clinical stuff or, you know, important things. It's filled with Bitching About the System.

See, not only are Perfect J, Curmudgeonly J and Sanctimonious P perfect, curmudgeonly and sanctimonious, they are also Always Right. And they know everything that is wrong about the rest of us, and about the system, and they need to point it out. In agonizing detail. Every single week.

So, last night, I strategized with Willem. I needed a way to learn how to NOT TALK DURING STAFF MEETING, because my input is not welcomed because I am always, always wrong, simply by my newness and by not wanting to do things The Way We've Always Done Them. (I swear to you, if it was a policy that we all hit ourselves on the heads with a baseball bat before going to bathroom, just because someone once swatted a fly, they would all insist on doing it, and if you dared to suggest that it was a little weird, they would drown you in indignant words until you capitulated.)

Our ideas:
1. Show up drunk. Really, really drunk. Like, slurring and falling down. And then deny it.
2. Do spins in the office chair and, at odd moments, get up and try to walk across the room. Giggle a lot.
3. Ask incongruous questions like, "Did I remember to wear underwear today?" "Are those your real teeth?" "What's that smell?" And Willem's personal favorite, "Is my tongue cold?" (He thinks this would only be appropriate to ask of your spouse or your doctor, but I think a case could be made for it in casual conversation.)
4. Test out the solidity and uniformity of the meeting table by systematically moving down it, thunking one's head on top of it and listening to the resonance of the "bonk" noise.

Of course, I wasn't brave enough to do any of it. Maybe someday.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
ZZ Top is Repaving my Street
No, really.

Two skinny guys with waist-length beards, and their curly-headed friend. They always wear sunglasses, jeans and boots. And bright orange vests, in a nod to not-getting-run-over.

So far I've only seen them stand there and direct traffic. No choreographed pointing down the road. Though I don't ride a motorcycle and my legs are not, quite, video-worthy. So perhaps they do it when I'm not around. I'll have to ask Willem.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
THAT, Ms. Morrisette, is IRONY.
My husband is adopted. He goes through spurts of actively searching for his birth mother, followed by periods of swimming through the chaos which makes up our daily lives. Last year, he got information about his birth mother's name and the college she attended, so he sent a letter to the Alumni Association of the school, asking them to forward it on.

Then we heard nothing, and forgot all about it.

Tonight he got an email from her. Not confirming or denying, just replying to the initial letter (which was deliberately vague to protect her privacy).

Where's the irony?

Right here: Today is my mother-in-law's birthday.


He got an email from his birth mother on his adoptive mother's birthday. In fact, received the email while on the phone with my mother-in-law.

Pardon me while my eyes spin in opposite directions.
"oof," expletive. The only right and proper response when closing the sun visor in the car and swiping yourself in the face with it on the way up.
Cast of Characters
I just had my 90-day review at work, after 76 days actually physically at work or 133 days since my hire date, so, you know, give or take. We're not math people here. We can help the numbers to feel better about themselves, but apparently we can't do anything with them in a quantifiable sense.

Aside from an off-the-cuff meeting with Supervisor N, having passed the 90-day mark also empowers me to provide scathing reviews of a few of my very favorite coworkers. Because I said so.

Number one, of course, is Perfect J. She brings perfection to a higher level... high enough to induce nosebleeds and random outbursts of sheer unadulterated rage, at least in me. She looks a lot like Maria Shriver, considers running to be her major hobby, and proudly refers to herself at work as the Queen of Resources. Which means she knows everyone and everything and therefore she can spot an error on your part a mile away, and will happily point this out. Ad nauseum.

The difficult thing about Perfect J is that she's actually a nice person and I enjoy chatting with her when we're just sitting around waiting for people to go crazy, but when it comes to work things, I get a small but constant stream of criticism and errors. Not on my clinical work - for the most part, my job consists of waiting for the phone to ring, then going to a hospital to see people who are on the verge of suicide or some other dark and difficult mental place, to decide whether to hospitalize them or send them home, have them spend a week in an exotic spa, whatever. And I've never gotten a complaint - which, in this field, trust me. If I was screwing up, people would let me know. Clients complain.

But the other side of my job is administrative crap. Each time I see someone, I have to fill out at least three distinct forms, sometimes more. Lots of repetition in data, lots of places to sign, and 90% of the time I do it right. But for that last 10% of the time, when I forget to sign something or it's not turned in on Perfect J's timeline (which, incidentally, doesn't match the timeline of the people whose job it actually is to deal with the paperwork), it gets pointed out to me faithfully. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. So the end result is, I get a steady stream of negative feedback about the times I screwed up, with no recognition of the times I did it right and no reference to the actual important work I do, you know, seeing clients and all.

Yes, Perfect J is a challenge. Because it's not her job to check my paperwork, or to criticize me when I've screwed up - but she's got just enough OCD to make her feel like she needs to. The word "uptight" keeps flashing in my head, but I can't quite decide how to fit it into conversation.

Then there's Curmudgeonly J, who is an entirely different can of cranky and bitter worms. If Andy Rooney put on some weight and got off his happy pills, he would closely resemble Curmudgeonly J in appearance and attitude, but they are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. He tends to get very riled up about certain things, and he wins a lot of arguments with the time-honored method of Interrupting and Ignoring. But in a twisted way, I kind of like Curmudgeonly J, because I think he's hugely intelligent and thoughtful... and he doesn't try to correct me.

Let's not forget Sanctimonious P. He comes across as someone who is constantly laughing at you, not with you. He will occasionally make statements to me like, "You're not willing to go on-call an hour before your shift starts? Is that what I'm hearing? That you're not willing to do your job?" And then, later on in the conversation to follow up with, "I'm not interested in having anyone call me before my shift starts. I'm not available beforehand." And he is distinctly unamused if you are so crass as to remind him of his first comments when confronted with the second.

There are a few others in my department, but the thing is, I actually like them. So I'll leave 'em alone.

Our supervisor, Supervisor N, is a nice woman with enough of a sense of humor to prevent her from getting uptight or despotic. A nice characteristic in a boss, I think. She tends to leave the department alone to run itself much of the time, which allows Perfect J to continue to feel over-responsible for other people's work and Curmudgeonly J to bitch about it. But when we talked today, I felt like she heard what I was saying, which is really all I want at work. Someone to hear what I'm saying, whether or not they actually do anything with it.

Then there's me. I was told at my review this morning that I do excellent clinical work but I'm viewed as somewhat of a lone wolf, not quite interested in trying to fit into the "team." You're darn tootin' I'm not interested! I told her that I'm primarily in the job for a paycheck and health insurance, and that I completely lack ambition to climb the corporate ladder or come up with new and innovative ways to reach the community, or whatever other enthusiastic things might earn me a gold star under the "Plays Well With Others" category. I want to have a cordial and relaxed work environment, but I'm not at work to make friends. (That's what the Internet is for, ha ha!)

And, all of this, she understood and accepted. Yippee.

So, there. Now you know. I work 3 12-hour shifts a week, two with Perfect J, with a 4-hour staff meeting that brings the whole circus together. We're just one big happy - in fact, giddy - family.
And the Brownie Points Go to....

I had a bad day yesterday. Just a long string of situations in which I thought I was doing the right thing but it turns out I was completely wrong.

Like, I emailed the secretary administrative assistant Woman in Charge at my grad school yesterday to let her know that I'd culled the internship list down from 17 to 7. Her response was, "Well, it would have been nice to know this last week before I printed off all those letters for you." Umm... yeah, I agree. Would have been nice if *I* had known, too.

Like, I got a call from Perfect J at work (note to self: write a post about coworkers, they deserve it) asking where was my paperwork from my weekend overtime and why wasn't it in? I said, "Well, I talked to the woman who needs the paperwork, and she said she doesn't need it until noontime, so I'm planning to drop it off around 10:00." Which earned me the Wrath of Perfect J, along with a touch of scorn and righteousness. How dare I assume that Perfect J doesn't do every job in the building, and perfectly?

Like, I showed up for my neurology appointment smack on the dot of 10:30. I get migraines, and now that I have health insurance I can talk about new medication options instead of continuing to take my current medication, which either knocks me unconscious or makes me cartoonishly jittery, doing exactly the opposite of whatever state of consciousness I'd like to maintain. So I arrived for my appointment and was kind of proud of myself for being on time, since it had been a busy morning. Except... turns out my appointment was at 10:20, not 10:30, so between paperwork and being "ten minutes late" I had to reschedule for Thursday.

Like, I took my cat to the vet for a routine checkup/shots/torture-via-carrier, and discovered that she has really bad teeth on one side and needs 2 or 3 pulled.

So I spent last night in a combination cleaning frenzy/pity party, trying to get my house in order to make up for the myriad ways in which I thought I was doing the right thing only to have reality smack me upside the head during the day. Woe is me.

Then I did it again this morning, got Emily up and dressed and ready for school and let Jacob and Willem sleep, only to discover that Willem expected me to get both kids up and off to school so he could sleep in. Which is not entirely unreasonable... a little unreasonable, maybe, but not entirely. I've gotten both kids up before, I just wasn't planning on it today.

And then I had an unexpected 90-day review with my supervisor at work. Which ended up being just fine, I felt like her feedback was accurate and - even more exciting - like she heard what I had to say, but it was not on my radar and I felt sort of sprung-upon.

So, to come back to my desk and find a bright, colorful, fragrant bouquet of miniature sunflowers and Gerbera daisies was all it took to nudge me over the edge and I had my first crying jag at work. At least I was alone in the office at the time.

I'm not quite sure what I did to deserve flowers, but I'm grateful to have a husband who is willing and able to nudge me back away from that self-pitying ledge that I really do not want to go over again.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Friday night, I returned from the conference just in time to go on-call for work. No big deal, after 5:00 I can be home on a beeper, and I can go about my normal chaos. Well, in my case, I'm on a cell phone, because my beeper has apparently been possessed by demonic forces. It randomly beeps at odd hours, often showing its own number to call. Which is fantastic - all I need is a self-stimulating pager.

Anyway, this week's normal chaos was, "We're both too tired and lazy to cook. Let's go out."

Often, a good idea. Not this time.

Friday evening it was POURING here, just raining buckets, and apparently that made it a good idea for everyone else in town to go out to eat, too. Willem wanted to go to the new/old Chinese restaurant, which had been closed for several months while they completely renovated the place. Before, it was scuzzy-looking inside but had good food. Now, it's nice enough inside, assuming your tastes run to chintzy red-and-black plastic, with really really bland food. Not quite the direction I would have chosen, myself, but whatever floats their boat.

And in Friday's rain, boats were not out of the question.

Anyway, this restaurant doesn't actually have a parking lot yet, but everybody parks next door in the Dunkin Donuts lot. There are signs on the tables in the Chinese place asking us not to park there, but by that point I'm already seated... I'll just keep it in mind for next time. Assuming I can keep anything like that in my mind, since next time will be a cold day in hell whilst pigs fly overhead, so I might be a tad distracted.

We pulled in and had to wait a few minutes for a pickup truck to back our of its space, and then we pulled in there. I vaguely remember noticing that, directly in front of the other truck, and now in front of us, there was another pickup truck parked on the grass, creating its own row even beyond the Dunkin Donuts parking lot, but it didn't even begin to register on my Give-a-Damn meter. We weren't blocking it in, because it was all alone in its (literally) ground-breaking parking spot creation, with lots of untrampled grass on either side.

So you can imagine my delight, then, to leave a mediocre meal ("No, we don't want to take the leftovers to go. Might as well shovel them directly onto the plates of the next diners, since that's what it tasted like for these"), dash back through the city-wide waterfall, and find my minivan's windshield covered in mud. At first we assumed that the parking-spot-pioneering truck, which was no longer present, had just kicked up dirt when it left, but then we were greeted by this lovely and heartfelt greeting tucked lovingly under our windshield wiper:

I cannot tell you the joy it brings to my very soul, the fact that the word "stupid" is spelled wrong.

Hallmark, if you're reading this... I don't know who and I don't know just where, but somewhere in New Hampshire, your next marketing genius is driving a white pickup truck. Angrily.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
What, No Free Samples?
I'm way up in the middle of nowhere (though, to be accurate, I think I'm actually more in the fringes of nowhere), at a conference on substance abuse treatment. You can imagine my dismay at the lack of free samples. Woe is me.

A couple observations:
1. The Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services should not be using the word "diagnosement." It just sounds stupid.

2. I should bring my knitting into the keynote session of any conference I ever attend ever again. I was so unbearably jealous of L., the woman from my work who brought hers. Maybe someday I'll be that brave.

3. We all recognize that addiction is a bad thing, blah blah blah... and so in most of the seminars, they were very careful not to even jokingly extoll the virtues of various mind-altering chemicals and so on. Yet at the same time, three out of the five seminars I attended let out at least five minutes early for the explicit reason of allowing people to have their smoke break before the next one started. Aren't arbitrary designations GREAT?

4. Only at a conference involving mental health clinicians do you have a seminar that involves watching someone else breathe for three full minutes. On purpose. Because the group leader told you to.

5. It can be a challenge, during such an exercise, not to stare directly at your breathing partner's breasts. Even if they're perfectly nice ones, you're mindful of not wanting to subconsciously damage her integrity. Or something. Hang out at these things long enough and you end up self-conscious about everything.

6. The shoulder is a good alternative focal point at such times.

7. It's not fun to be the biggest girl in the group. I wasn't the biggest girl at the whole conference, so it wasn't irredeemably horrible, but it was still awkward. For me. No one else seemed to have an issue with it. Story of my post-baby life.

8. At large gatherings, it's best to show up early for buffet meals and late for sit-down served meals.

9. Everyone drinks coffee.

10. I am susceptible to peer pressure. Such that, though I don't drink coffee, I filled a paper coffee cup with cranberry juice and put its lid on to carry that around and blend in.

11. Watching TV with other people is fun.

12. Murphy beds are not especially comfortable.

13. When your migraine medication contains both barbiturates and caffeine, it will make you drowsy and narcoleptic at home or at work, whenever you want to stay awake. But at night in a hotel far from your family and home, it will make you wide awake and anxious with a heart rate double what you're used to.

14. There are lots of free things handed out at conferences. Mostly pens and chocolate. But no samples of teh substances in question. Just in case you were wondering.

15. I cannot travel for work and be happy.
Go, Me.

I did two things in the past two days which qualify me, in my mind, as braver than usual. They're little things, and the average person wouldn't consider them brave. God forbid I be average.

One has to do with my internship applications. I'm giving myself one last chance to apply for an APA-accredited internship so that I can get my doctorate and be done with it. The first year I went through this, I withdrew my applications in the eleventh hour because I decided that it was more important for me to stay home with my kids. The second year, I got universally rejected by every site I applied to, because I decided it was more important for me to stay home with my kids. It's been rough on ego and bank account and self-concept. Yet I seem to have survived, so what the heck, let's do it again!

I rewrote my applications, with the help of dear and trusted friends, and have been waiting on a few pieces of documentation (recommendation letters and the like) so that I can put them in the mail and pretend not to obsess for the next four months until I finally get a response.

The brave thing was, I took my list of sites to whom I was planning on sending applications, and I culled that list from 17 to 7. The prevailing wisdom seems to be, apply to as many places as possible and deal with the logistics after you get an interview and, eventually, a placement. That's what I did the first two years, with something less than stellar success. This time I decided that I would only be miserable if I had anything above a 90-minute commute (of course, I could be miserable anyway, but I was CERTAIN I'd be miserable if I combined a 50-60 hour work week with 20 hours of commute time). So I played with mapblast and got rid of a bunch of places. It's scary, and the compulsive part of me wants to send out apps everywhere since I already have all the addresses and everything... but I feel much better about the decision now. Which must mean it's the right one.



Anyway. The other brave thing happened this afternoon. I'm up in the White Mountains, north of North Conway, for a conference for work (which will get its own entry... suffice it to say that I am baffled when people assume that mental health workers have any idea what it means to be sane). I had some alone-time this afternoon, and so I took a walk. In the woods. By myself.

Only those who know me very well will know why this was a big deal. Just, trust me. It was.

And I was okay.

Go, me.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Down with Evolution
I just visited a blog written by a homeschooling mom, who asked her kids to write a list of reasons why homeschooling is better than public school. Third on their list was, "We don't have to listen to people talking about evolution."

Yes indeed, there's a big advantage. Any circumstance in which we can minimize the amount of intelligent discussion in favor of a single, black-and-white approach, that's a good thing for the development of our children's mind and spirit.


In my world, being exposed to different ideas, even if they're ones I totally disagree with, is a good way for kids to figure themselves out and broaden their minds.

Maybe I'm just not supposed to understand.
Goof's Anatomy
Apparently Jacob is a big hit at daycare now. They told me this morning that yesterday when he was having a diaper change, he informed them, quite gravely, "I have a penis. That's my penis. It's right there."

They agreed.

Then once the new diaper was on, he announced, "My penis is hiding!"

I'm just glad he didn't repeat the conversation he and I had Monday in the shower, when he was quite concerned because I didn't have a penis, too.

And it brings back a fond memory of the time when I had a similar shower-based conversation with Emily, who was talking about her bagina.
"You have a bagina, Mama?"
"Yes, I do."
[introspective pause]
"Does Dada have a bagina?"
"No, sorry, he doesn't."
[longer introspective pause]
"We should get him one. At the bagina store."
"Hmm. We'll think about it."

Willem's still waiting for THAT shopping trip to happen.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Tommy Lasorda is Really Really Wrong
At least, I hope he is. Deeply and fervently.

In a radio commercial today, encouraging people whose teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs to continue watching baseball because Baseball as a gestalt concept is more important than individual team loyalties (though I don't think he worded it in quite that way), he said, "I live for this. You live for this. The world lives for this."

"This" being, I believe, baseball.

In which case, perhaps his first sentence is true. I'll let him decide.

I'm darn certain that the second sentence is not true. Not now, not in the past, not in the future. I'm sure.

And if the third sentence is true... God help us all.
I Can't Decide...
...is this the coolest thing ever or horrible, incontrovertible proof that the end of the world is upon us?

Virtual Bubble Wrap
Do You Know the Sound of 10,000 Beads Hitting the Floor?
...you know, like if the beads are in a metal tin and your 2-year-old picks it up to "be a helper" except he drops it and the tin falls open and suddenly, briefly, we are all engulfed in beads before they distribute themselves over a fine layer throughout the entire house?

...or how about the feeling of walking into the bathroom to help your 6-year-old wash her hair and finding yourself literally ankle-deep in shower water because she shoved both layers of the shower curtain outside the stall?

Aren't those GREAT?
Monday, October 16, 2006
The Claw
I was just sitting here, minding my own blogness, typing away and thinking about how to write about my marriage without sounding flippant or sarcastic (because these things are a way of life in our household, which is a nice balance from the occasional inopportune moments of giddiness which have been known to interrupt serious movies and intimate interludes), when I hear "MOM! COME HERE!" in a voice clearly indicative of my daughter mistaking a meat grinder for a pillow.

I stumble and limp and berate myself for sitting with one foot tucked up so as to create pins and needles for the charge down the hallway, and generally get to Emily's room as ungracefully as any human can be expected to move without benefit of sedatives. Her room is now eerily quiet, proving that the enormous attack spiders have, in fact, kidnapped her and taken her away to the magic mountain so that she can be devoured by angry weasels wearing polka-dot ties, and I'm walking from the relatively brightly lit living room into a mostly dark child's bedroom.

So is it any wonder, then, that when I looked at her loft bed and came face-to-face with the two-foot-diameter purple and yellow lion claw that Willem was so kind as to purchase for Emily at a hockey game, I had a moment of mind-erasing panic? Seriously. I'm not sure exactly what I thought it WAS, but it was obviously some sort of threat to my bodily integrity. By the time I was able to convince myself to inch the rest of the way into the room and sneak past this harbinger of doom, Emily was fast asleep again and was a tad irritated with me for turning on the light.

At least I didn't attack the claw with a baseball bat (not that I had one with me in the first place, which is probably a good thing for my children's eventual therapy bills) or rouse my husband to make him protect me from the big bad claw.

And now as soon as my heart rate dips back below 250 beats per minute and I stop hearing colors, I'll head to bed myself.
It's Good to be Right
Saturday was our 6-year wedding anniversary. We didn't do a ton in the way of celebrating, unless going out for pseudo-Mexican food and trying not to indulge in a public tantrum while the 2-year-old at the table uncharacteristically refuses to eat and the 6-year-old at the table characteristically refuses to take a breath in between sentences is your idea of a celebration. Willem and I had a shared moment of understanding midway through the meal, one of those parental telepathy moments in which we both communicated, "Next time we are getting a babysitter."

But, whatever. We're not prone to extravagant holidays most of the time - our Weekend at Lizzie's last year was unusual for us, but it was the fifth anniversary and if you're not going to ascribe some arbitrarily heightened importance to anniversaries evenly divisible by five, when else would you? So in the past, we've occasionally exchanged flowers or gone out to eat, but the bigger point is to just sort of enjoy each other and the family and look forward to the next apparently important multiple of five.

For me, my anniversary isn't about getting a gift, or giving a gift, or two, or three. It's not about cards or recognition. It's not even about a quiet moment of reflection about the sanctity of marriage or whatever political/religious theme applies at the moment.

It's about being right.

Long ago and far away, I was involved with Someone Else. Seriously involved - engaged involved. Possibly even engaged twice, though I'll never be convinced that the second time was real. Anyway, I was in the tail end of my Angst-Filled and Self-Destructive phase, and Someone Else was stable and kind and kinda cute, so I let that be good enough.

Along came Willem. Who had been there all along - he and I actually met when I was 16, back when we were both dating other people, and we spent several years wandering that weird void of "just friends" that occasionally dipped into the inappropriate. Which is a whole other story. But it wasn't until things were getting fairly serious with Someone Else that Willem suddenly seemed like someone worth pursuing outside of Chem 101 (clichéd but true!), and therefore we all fell into a big knotty pile of Sturm und Drang which lasted the next, oh, three years or so.

Let me just tell you how much sympathy I have had for the main characters in Grey's Anatomy just lately, because in the end I actually did get to choose between two really great guys... the safe, dependable, yet somehow not-quite-right Someone Else, and the putz-with-the-heart-of-gold Willem. I agonized, I angsted (and now that I think of it, that's also when I got appendicitis! Art imitates life!), and I finally chose the bad boy.

Which turned out to be the only right choice out there. Who knows where Someone Else ended up - he continued to sort of try until I told him I was pregnant with what turned out to be Emily, at which time he gave up and evaporated, apparently believing that having a child with someone qualified as a "real" commitment. He's probably still a nice guy who deserves a nice life.

But there's no possible way that I could have stayed with Someone Else and ended up with the right life for me. This way, I married my best friend, someone I think is smarter than me (unless we're arguing, at which times he's clearly a step behind), someone whose heart is as big as all outdoors and has made me need him in my life, so he'd better stick around. I also ended up having *my* babies. Sure, Someone Else and I might have procreated, but I wouldn't have ended up with Emily and Jacob, and what a cosmic mistake that would be.

It's good to be right.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Sweet, Sweet Closure
Or, you know, no closure at all. Whatever.

I just got this response from the Better Business Bureau in response to the minivan mileage incident.

Thank you for the information you provided regarding the above-mentioned company. Your correspondence was received by the BBB on October 12, 2006 and has been assigned case# XXXXXXX in our files.

We appreciate your effort in bringing this to our attention. Information from the public is always valuable to us.

As you have not requested our mediation services in regards to this issue, this will become a part of the BBB's file on the business.

A summary of this complaint case can be viewed by clicking here.


Cassandra Anthony
Consumer Analyst
BBB Complaint Department

Oh, Cassandra, I am glad to know my complaint is being heard and dealt with. And even gladder to know that you're sincere.

Deep sigh. Once again I am penalized for not being money-hungry and litigious. And contentious. If I had checked the little box stating that I was looking for compensation, Cassandra might have called me directly. Another lost opportunity, and I just don't care enough about it to pursue further.

Though the contentious part, that's under review right now. I just had a very long conversation with my coworker M, who was upset with me about the scheduling on Friday. I can't tell whether we made any headway in the conversation or not, but I have a headache now so that has to count for something. I hate feeling defensive, particularly when I wasn't really being attacked in the first place.
That Did NOT Just Happen
Yesterday's theme of the day was, "No. That did NOT just happen." And yet, somehow, it did.

First there was the weirdness of the fact that my dad packed a bag and headed off on a weekend away with his girlfriend. Allow the 12-year-old in me to indulge in a long, satisfying "EEEEEeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww." Because I'm happy for him, blah blah blah, but that's just gross. At least he admits it. Before he left yesterday, he made a comment about, "You know, this whole weekend thing is just weirding me out." And I reminded him, "Yeah... welcome to my club. Is YOUR father going on a weekend date? Huh? That's what I thought."

I cannot speak of it without wrinkling my nose. I'm going to strain a nose muscle one of these days.

Then there was my $#@^%$^@$^$#$#@%#@^%^ computer. I'd gone grocery shopping with Jacob, came back, got him fed and down for a nap, put all the groceries away, including separating and freezing the meat and sorting the kids' snacks and other domestic adventures, blah blah blah, and around 2:30 I was able to sit down for a while. I got a show lined up on the DVD, got a soda, and was ready to check my email and just hang out for a bit.


I happened to notice the little yellow shield thingy down in the taskbar on my computer, telling me that I had updates to install. So I checked what they were, and it was some sort of security update. Okay, so I'll let it do its thing. Then it told me to reboot, so I said, "Sure, go for it!" Idiot.

It corrupted some key, crucial boot file for my computer, so now I can watch an endless loop of the initial logo screen and then a black screen with a really tiny and fast message that says "NTDETECT FAILED." Over and over and over. Can you HEAR the bliss simply oozing out of my pores?

No amount of tinkering or swearing or whining made it work at all. I was even ready to use the Omnipotent White CD to reformat the hard drive and start from scratch, to no avail. So I need to ship my brand-new (I bought it in September!!) big metallic paperweight back to the factory. I was told that "at least it's still under warranty, so THAT's a good thing! Hee hee," and, ungrateful peasant that I am, that wasn't sufficient to lighten my mood.

Neither did sex, or chocolate ice cream with chocolate-peanut butter Magic Shell. Which is a sure sign of just how dire my straits were.

And then, for "That Did NOT Just Happen" #3, after Willem and I went to bed and had reached that just-fell-asleep-2-minutes-ago coma, there was a very clear and distinct knock on our bedroom door. Four knocks, just like from your average door-to-door encyclopedia salesman/serial killer, on my bedroom door at 12:13 in the morning (oh yeah, and on Friday the 13th - fantastic!).

My brave and stalwart husband was willing to hop up to check the hallway and the kids' bedrooms, but then he made me get up (though I was the one who insisted on putting pants on first because I did not want to be beheaded and sacrificed while partially dressed) to help check the rest of the house. Even though right away we noticed a golf ball on the floor by our door and the cat sitting there with a dumbass look on her face. Recently, our going to bed has been a signal to the cat to start batting around whatever is small enough and loud enough to irritate Willem.

So despite clear evidence of the cat's guilt, we checked the house and found no more mass murderers or deranged sexual deviants there than were there before bedtime. And went to sleep.

And I'm really, really hoping for no more unbelievable-yet-somehow-not-surprising incidents today.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The Wheels on the Van Keep on Turnin'...
Just a casual neighborly update on the idiotic minivan situation. I had the vast and all-consuming pleasure of chatting with the owner of the auto body place (I'd post the name but I don't want a bunch of people going to visit their website and making them think they got popular all of a sudden - but if you're thinking of having a car repaired or even buying one in the seacoast area, let me know...). Anyway, the owner's name is Dick. And boy, is he.

He insisted on calling me Katie, which irritates me from anyone who is not a grandparent of mine. And he just repeated the same party lines as Manager John, who graced me with his stunning presence and mind-boggling rhetorical skills on Friday: "I don't know how that could have happened. No one here would have done it. Why would we drive your minivan that far anyway? There's nothing else I can say. Why would someone do that? Why? Why?"

And as I gently, and with clearly too little medication for that level of annoyance, replied, "I don't know why. I don't even care why. I just know that there's a problem with the mileage on my vehicle and I'm unhappy about it." At which point Dick decided that I was pressuring him for money, and he chided me - putz - with, "Well, Katie, there's just no way I could compensate you for something like that. I can't adjust your account, if that's what you're asking."

NO, I'm not asking for that, you pompous twit. It's all covered by insurance anyway, I never spent a dime in the first place. What I'm asking for is either to be proven wrong - which he can't do, because they never actually bothered to write down the mileage on their own, so all we can go by is the mileage from the insurance adjuster of 10 days prior to when I dropped it off - or to be acknowledged and assured that it won't happen again. Which won't happen because apparently Dick is just so chock-full of testosterone that there mere mention of error on his part makes his manly parts shrivel up to the size of marbles.

*Condescending* marbles.


So I've filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, who in turn will notify the Attorney General. Because, guess what? I'm not the first person to have this type of problem at this place. FANTASTIC. I hate to be paranoid, but you know, sometimes it's just the only way to be.
She Wore Black at my Wedding...
...and pink at her husband's memorial gathering.

Message received, loud and clear.

What's even better is, for my wedding, my mother-in-law had initially purchased a sort of blue-gray dress, and she brought it to my mother's house to try it on and show us all the night before the wedding. Which was a little strange, since we're not a try-it-on kind of bunch as a general rule, but my mother-in-law seemed like she was making an effort at some girl-bonding or something, so we thought it was nice. Then she went to the mall on the morning of the wedding, and showed up in a black dress. Warms the very cockles of my heart.

And, yeah. At my father-in-law's memorial this weekend, she wore a bright pink shirt, not so tight as to be provocative but tight enough to emphasize fashion over decorum. And when we weren't effusive enough (read: didn't say a word) about how she looked, she started complaining about how she felt like such a cow in that shirt and she wished she had worn something else. Which succeeded in garnering a number of personal compliments, and therefore allowed her to both wear something un-funeral-like (even my kids were more conservatively dressed) *and* to feel justified and stroked for having done so.


There are plenty more stories from the weekend, but they all fall into the same theme of not-making-plans and frustrating-and-confusing, no reason to get all repetitive there.

Oh! But I almost forgot! My favorite of my mother-in-law's speeches from the weekend (and I should interrupt myself here to say that I worked very hard to avoid her as much as politely possible the whole time, because I wanted to minimize the number of new things I could be irritated about) was, whenever anyone asked her how she was doing - and at the memorial for her not-quite-ex-husband, people asked that a LOT - she replied, "Well, it's been two months of hell. Two months of hell."

Way to buck up and act strong, there, C.

And, really? Two months of hell? Seems to me like perhaps losing a husband after 30 years of marriage would, indeed, be a difficult thing, but complicated by the fact that she had filed for divorce and was two weeks shy of finalization, and complicated by the fact that while he was alive she could barely bring herself to speak civilly to or about him. And then there's the thing where he was ill for a few weeks prior to death, so she and her sons had time to prepare themselves and say good-bye. So, yeah, I'll give it to you, it's been a difficult couple of months - but hell? Really? I can flip open the newspaper and find any number of truly hellish experiences there any day of the week.

Sigh. Ohhhhmmmmmmmm...

We won't be crossing paths before Thanksgiving at the earliest. I'll be enjoying my reprieve.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Let's Just Play it by Ear
I keep waiting for the weekend to snap together into some sort of coherent, narrative flow that lets me capture it in, oh, say, a billion words or less. Not so far.

So rather than impose structure on an inherently formless blob of time, let's just start babbling and see what happens, shall we? One could even say that we're now playing it by ear... unless that particular phrase brings you to near-suicidal head-banging and eye-gouging activities, in which case we'll ad lib and leave it at that.

Because "let's just play it by ear" is more than just a handy phrase for my mother-in-law. It's more than even a lifestyle or a deeply ingrained habit. It's a mantra, a way of being-in-the-world, an existential Gestalt. And if it makes others of us, those who live in a world of courtesy-by-information and plans, bleed from the ears at the mere thought, well, all the better!

The weekend started with me inadvertantly irritating my coworker M, because she didn't realize that when I left for the day at 2:00 I was actually really leaving, not just going to be home and available by phone. Happily she didn't get nailed by another Angry Young Man festival like we had the other weekend, but still - she didn't expect it and I feel crappy about that.

And this became all so much more delightful when, after driving the 8 hours to NY in order to be there in time for my father-in-law's ashes to be spread around his backyard first thing Saturday morning, it all got postponed to sometime Sunday because my brother-in-law A had to work an extra shift. Sorry, A... but whenever you're ready to grow up and have some real emotions and adult responses, I'm there for you. Until then, allow me to act as your personal guide to the world of How Humans Act. Step one: on the weekend of your father's memorial, it's okay to pass on those overtime shifts. What the hell, go wild, actually take a whole day off. And step two: if the entire restaurant industry would simply grind to a halt if you took a day off to be, you know, a family member, fine, go ahead, work the extra shift. But let the rest of the family know more than a day in advance so that they don't alienate their coworkers and keep their kids up several hours past bedtime. Guess what, A? You're not the only person on the planet!

No, really!


So, that was annoying. Wanna know what was even beyond annoying? Saturday we spent a lot of time standing around like a herd of cows without a farm boy, because my mother-in-law really loves to be the Person in Charge but she really, really, really hates to actually Make a Decision. So as long as she's in charge, she's the only one who gets to make decisions, and the rest of us will have to - say it with me now - play it by ear.

Anyway, that's not the annoying part. (Well... not the beyond-annoying part.) Once we learned that no plans had been made for the dozen or so out-of-town family members that were in town Saturday night for Sunday's festivities, Willem and I broke out of our cow-molds to tell everyone to be at my father-in-law's house at 6:00 and he and I would bring dinner. We raided the local oversized and pretentious grocery store and brought back marinated meat and salads and whatever. When we arrived with the food, the family was all sort of oddly subdued. After a while, Willem's grandmother made an offhand comment about, "I can't believe my foot still hurts." Turns out she had fallen on the deck, which is inexplicably two levels and just begging for people to fall on it.

That's not the annoying bit either. The annoying bit falls somewhere in the realm of, Grandma sat in the same chair for another four hours after she fell, with no pretense toward medical attention like ice or even psychological attention like comfort. I finally pulled her aside to determine whether she was actually in pain, she said yes, and I agreed to take her to the emergency room. At which point my mother-in-law (whose mother this is) barges in to list of what is wrong with each of the closer hospitals and insist that we take Grandma to such-and-such an ED. Yet mother-in-law can't stand Grandma, and said repeatedly, "She's just looking for attention." Except... 8 hours and a visitor lockdown and x-rays and whatever else later, Grandma actually had a broken foot and a sprained angle.

"Just looking for attention." If I had to pick something, I think that's the annoying part. Though I could be wrong about that. I was wrong about *plenty* else and seem to have survived that.

Anyway. She'll be fine. And my mother-in-law will always be like that.

Phew. I'm sleepy. Never blogged in bed before, don't you feel honored?

More soon, never fear...
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Greetings from Sunny Hell
Just a quick post, (hah! I mistyped "pot" for "post." There's a habit that I never picked up in college... and now I'm kind of regretting its absence...) from the bowels of the netherworld... also known as, within half an hour of my mother-in-law.

Okay, fine. You're right. I'm being overdramatic. It's not THAT bad. And the woman is grieving, so we'll cut her some slack. Suffice it to say, she's behaving just exactly how we all expected her to, and oh it's just grand. She has placed herself at the center of a three-ring circus and then refuses to make any plans or decisions, so all of us clowns keep wandering around aimlessly while she repeats her world-famous patented refrain... "We'll play it by ear." Tell you what, lady, I'm mostly deaf. I could use some sheet music for this one.

Deep, calming breath.

Speaking of which. Yesterday I was finally able to pick up my minivan after it took them two weeks to replace the headlight. No big deal, we had a rental, and I was happy to get the van back in time for the 8-hour car rides of this weekend.

Astute readers might recall that just as I was dropping it off at the garage, I got clipped by a tow truck on its way out of the parking lot, so I also have a brand-spankin' new driver's side mirror. Perhaps because of that bit of weirdness, or maybe just because the whole process of getting it repaired and having someone else pay for it was so complicated, I was feeling a little paranoid and left-of-center when it came time to leave it in the lot. So I just hit the little trip-meter button thingy, to reset it to zero. You know, just out of curiosity, thinking maybe they would need to drive it as much as around the block or something.

And then I picked it up.

And glanced at the trip-meter.

And saw a number.



That is just so many more miles than I think it should take to go from the parking space to the garage and back out again. I (calmly, tranquilly, politely) brought it to the attention of the manager, who agreed that, yes, it was a big number, and when we compared the odometer reading to their paperwork there was a big discrepancy there, as well - but that was "only" 290 miles, so apparently I'm allowed to get upset if it was 437 miles, but a measly 290 miles, that's no big deal.

After many repetitions of "I don't know, ma'am, but I'm sure that no one took it off the lot" by the manager, and "Okay, then, please explain to me the odometer readings" by me, I decided that this was not a problem that was going to be resolved in the moment. I had him write down all the numbers, I took pictures of them all, and the owner of the company will call me back on Monday to figure this all out. Because, of course, the owner leaves on Fridays at 12:00... and this all happened at 12:15.

Seriously. I couldn't make this kind of thing up if I wanted to.

Hmm... what else, before I stop blatantly abusing J&L's hospitality by sucking up their wireless signal and not being social? We discovered that just the right little tiny knee motion by Willem can jar the minivan's engine and electrical system completely off, except for the radio - so we'll be coasting down the road and suddenly nothing works, but there will be no audible change in volume. We also discovered that if you sit in the very last row of seats in the minivan and Willem puts Styx in the CD player, it sounds as though you're getting a personal lapdance by Tommy Shaw himself. And we discovered that Emily and Jacob have absolutely NO fear of garter snakes, bless their curious and over-friendly little hearts.

So, it's been educational thus far. I'm going to go chat with L, because she is sweet and lovely and treats me as though I'm not a money-grubbing, child-abusing, Satan-worshiping prostitute... and then later we'll go have dinner with my mother-in-law.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Free-Floating Hostility
Ever have one of those mornings when you wake up and immediately start ogling floor-level objects in the house to evaluate them for kickworthiness? When you simply don't even bother checking a mirror on your way out the door because you already know what you look like and even if you'd gotten up an hour earlier you wouldn't be able to fix it? When you stop at the vending machines on the way to your desk to get both peanut M&Ms and a hot cocoa because you need your hands full to avoid pinching any random person you happen to pass in the hallway?

Yeah. I'm a peach today.

There's a couple of reasons.

One, my husband got my son a buzz cut yesterday. It looks terrible. It just does. It takes every ounce of loving motherhood dredged up from the very depths of my soul to be able to smile and praise Jacob for doing a good job at his haircut and not rush for the nearest paper bag. I'd even be charitable enough to cut eyeholes in it. It just, ugh. So redneck. He just looks like a bruiser now.

And I swear to you on whatever it is that would matter to you if I swore on it, his personality changes when he gets a bad haircut. He's more argumentative, more rough-and-tumble, more not-my-sweet-boy.

So, in the nature of watching paint dry only slower, I'll be waiting for my little fluffhead to return. And in the meantime I'm trying not to snarl at Willem every time I see him. But he's trying to claim cluelessness: "I didn't know what to tell them about how to do his hair." Um... first of all, when all else fails, tell them to copy yours, because I'm willing to be seen in public with YOU and trust me, bucko, that wouldn't be happening if you had a buzz cut. And second, let's stop and reflect on who has had more experience ordering male haircut styles? Hmmmm?


And then, of course, there are the ongoing internship application, IUD, should I be a Girl Scout leader, what should I plan for meals, what should I wear to maximize my frumpiness, et cetera, decisions which are pressing down upon my very will to live.



Then we have the big one. We've spent several weeks planning for it, and we spent last night packing for it, and still I'm neither emotionally nor physically ready. Today we head to NY for my father-in-law's memorial.

Oh, the bliss I experience at the mere thought. It's enough to make me do a quick check for nearby trash receptacles, just in case the nausea actually enforces itself.

It's not the idea of going to a memorial that upsets me. Even for my father-in-law. He was a complicated guy, I miss him, and I've worked through the initial shock and constant awareness of his death, and while I would have preferred a memorial a month ago (you know, within a reasonable period of time from the event), I'm okay with it now. I made a very nice, tasteful DVD slideshow of photos and videos we had from his life, sure to irritate my mother-in-law to no end because she's planning a photo board and even though I didn't learn about the photo board until after I'd already started working on the DVD clearly I must be trying to upstage her, we're ready to go.

As should be no surprise to anyone who's ever read my ramblings for more than a week, it's my mother-in-law. She has tried to cast a pall over so many family events, including my own wedding, the birth of each of my children, and numerous Christmas/Thanksgiving/birthday type things, and the only reason I'm able to dodge that pall is because I'm willing to laugh at her, not with her. But the fact remains that she has a hard time behaving appropriately, thoughtfully, sensitively when it comes to family matters, and here's her shining moment to grab that limelight and wring it dry.

I can never anticipate just how she'll do it, but the woman's a professional. When it comes to guilt and negativity, she applies herself and is focused on her goal. She gets the job done.

So. Lots of reasons I can come up with to be cranky. I hope to mellow into merely snarky by the time we get in the car to actually drive anywhere.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Why, oh Why, Can't I Be a Selective Blog-Hopper?
I just spent three hours wandering around the Internet. I've been referring to it, in my head and in my occasional comments, as random, but it's not. It's alphabetical by one of the blogrolls over there on the right.

I've gotten through the A's, B's, C's, D's, E's, F's and G's. And have learned a bit about myself.

Such as, I'm just not interested in reading about other people's religious struggles, journeys, thrills, spills, trials, joys, successes, failures, guilt, or enlightenment. I'm sorry. It actually makes me feel a tad bit guilty, or something, but I can't dredge up the interest. I respect people's choice to follow a religion, though I'll admit to a certain level of bafflement at the number of people out there who write about their faith and their God as though they (the people, not the Gods) are just not doing it well enough, so that their spiritual journey includes lots of pit stops to refill on self-criticism and flagellation. Perhaps it's just that in my life, my favorite role models for religion are my kids' godparents, who just seem to carry such a joy and fulfillment from their faith without feeling a need to either proselytize or bemoan the times when they're not perfect, but it seems to me like faith might could be an okay experience? Maybe?

Anyway. I'm happy for people who want to spend their lives working on getting right with God, but I don't want to read about it.

I've also learned that pets and kids aren't the same thing, and I just can't read your blog if you disagree.

I've learned that while there is an art to title selection and I have looked forward to certain blogs just based on their names, a pithy title just ain't enough. I won't specify, because I can't see any reason to cast ill will upon people who are likely well-meaning, delightful, possibly even amusing individuals... but suffice it to say, there have been a few titles I was willing to leap past the methodical alphabetical wanderings to encounter, and so far... nothin'. Some of my favorite blogs have had unassuming titles, and some of them with fabulous titles I nearly strained my mouse finger trying to click on BACK BACK BACK OH MY GOODNESS BACK BACK BACK.

I've learned that I still carry around this sense of obligation to like everyone. And I don't. I also learned that I feel like, of the people I do like, I should somehow like them all equally, or at least give them equal billing on my list o' links. And I don't. Just because I don't link doesn't mean I don't like... but I'm left feeling almost guilty when I don't.

Happily, I've learned that I don't feel any remote sense of obligation to leave a comment at every blog I visit just for the sake of leaving my mark somewhere or making them feel better about themselves or whatever. I can be quiet when I have nothing to say. Who knew?

So, the moral of this rambling is, I've been a lot of places this morning and my brain is pretty full right now. I'm not terribly likely to revisit a lot of the places I saw today, but I did add a few that I appreciate over rightward... and if this job stays boring enough and if I continue to work hard enough at putting off my internship applications, I may someday have succeeded in working through all of those blogrolls and just having a list of places that won't bore or irritate or alienate me.

Yeah, right.
I May Never Work Again

Thanks EVER so much to Wordnerd for linking to this insanely addicting game WHICH, I might add, I can actually play from work without having to download java or whatever. Fantastic.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Inadvertant One-Up-Man-Ship
My dad and I just had the pizza buffet lunch at Pizza Hut. We were planning to just go pick up his car from the repair shop and then go our separate ways, but when he noticed me frantically rifling through my purse hoping for a lonely Tic-Tac in the bottom to tide me over, he suggested lunch.

I'm not very smart when my blood sugar is low. Else I might have figured that out all by myself.

We went to the Pizza Hut across the street from the repair shop. We arrived at 11:15. The Door Greeter Lady informed us that the pizza buffet didn't actually start until 11:30, but the salad was ready so we could start with that. So we did.

Which meant that bang on the dot of 11:30, we were ready when they started bringing out their really strange selection of buffet pizzas. (Does no one ever eat just single-topping, or even plain cheese, pizza on a buffet? Am I the only one who doesn't want some random combination of three mismatched objects strewn about my lunch?) And apparently this was deeply offensive and upsetting to the regular lunch crowd, who arrived to the door at 11:30 and thus had to have the second, or even third, slice out of the buffet pizzas.

They glared at us. Twice. Once on their way to the buffet, and once on their way back. I had no idea that being the first to the pizza was such a big deal in this town. Next time I'll at least do it on purpose.
Alone in my Bitterness
It's official. I gave it three months. And I tried, really tried, to like it. But I don't. I can't. And I am apparently the only person on the planet who feels this way.

I'm talking, of course, about my Alien Communication Device, more commonly known as an IUD. I did extensive-but-not-compulsive research on it before I allowed it to be installed, and everyone who has ever spoken a public word about these things is so enamored of them that they can barely take in a non-shuddery breath when talking about them. Well then, bring on some bliss, I want some of that!

Turns out that they are either all lying liars who lie (with appropriate acknowledgement to Lisa for the pithy phrase) or the unhappy people just don't speak up. Which, the latter? I just flagrantly disbelieve. Have you ever experienced any phenomenon in your whole entire life in which the satisfied customers speak up while the unsatisfied customers sit tranquilly by, hoping benignly that their misfortune doesn't infect you? That's what I thought.

So, then, I'm the only one who just despises my Alien Communication Device. I am uncomfortable almost all the time, which varies in forms from nauseous to crampy to cranky to having the kind of complexion that would get me teased on a high school bus were I to be so self-destructive as to climb back onto one, not to mention the fact that I simply cannot relax around the fact that there is this Device. Inside me. Constantly communicating with the Mother Ship. Ugh.

The good news is, as of Sunday, I have health insurance. So along with the fact that I no longer need to wear a seat belt or look both ways before I cross the street, I can also get the ball rolling on excommunicating myself. And the aliens can just satisfy themselves with communicating with someone else.
Drama and Boobs
I watched "The Bachelor" last night. *Sigh*. I just love the opportunity to feel superior to people who would normally be socially way out of my league. Thin, gorgeous women who drink too much and behave in a socially embarrassing manner, and I can watch it happen without actually having to pledge a sorority myself.

For the past 2 seasons now, I've particularly enjoyed this show because I have a laptop, and I'm able to set it up in the living room, log on, and indulge in a veritable orgy of snark and superiority with other women, online. We create a conference room and type, type, type.

The current season of inappropriate behavior and bizarre interpersonal motivation ("I just want to find true love, like everybody else." On a reality show? Really? Why not get drunk in a bar and sleep with inappropriate men OFF-camera, if you really want to be like everybody else?) takes place in Rome. Which happens to be one of my favorite cities in the whole wide world. And the locale led to my favorite aphorism from last night's group snark: "Welcome to Rome! Do you speak Italian? No? Well, then, let me help. 'Fellatio' is Italian for ice cream! Would you like some ice cream?" Hee hee hee...

And I have to admit, I do just love the current Bachelor. He's cute but apparently wears someone else's nose so he's not perfect, and he's smart enough not to get drunk on-camera, at least so far (but one can hope). He reminds me of several guys I was friends with in high school but was never quite cool enough to date. My boyfriends were more of the tendency to cheat on me and, in one memorable instance, take a lighter to the back of my neck (not enough to actually do damage, just enough to singe some hair and speed my exit from the building) because I wasn't interested in, um, ice cream. Those were the days. And people wondered why, once I got a comparatively stable and non-threatening guy, I got married at 23.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Estrogen and IKEA
My friend Jenny has had a truly horrendous week. Just, bad. I found out about it on Wednesday (the same day that I found out about my sister Sarah's emergency appendectomy, so I had all sorts of vicarious stress and worry that day), and had planned to go down and visit with her on Thursday, but woke up to a rather horrible and disturbing incident in Jacob's diaper. I didn't want to expose Jenny's kids to that, in case it was a virus, and didn't think I could get away with locking him in a closet for the day here, so I had to postpone the visit until Saturday.

Late Friday night, Jenny's husband called me to say, "She's having a rough time and she doesn't think she'll be up for company tomorrow." I was grateful for the warning and completely disregarded it. I wasn't going down for my own entertainment, I was going to support a friend - and as I told both him and, Saturday morning, Jenny, if she didn't feel like opening the door when we arrived, that was completely cool with me. Her choice, no pressure. But I was going to drop off a care package of sorts (cheesy magazines and chocolate) because no one should feel like they're alone when they're having a horrendous week.

So, Saturday morning, I dumped my kids with my husband, stopped by to pick up Carolyn, who dumped her kids with her husband, and we headed southward to Jenny's. There was some crying and some silence, but there was also just a lot of talking, and chocolate, and then some more talking, and did I mention the talking? Seriously, it was so much estrogen that I think I went up a bra size.

Since Jenny was up for it, we decided to visit the IKEA store which is sort of near her house - at least, it's a lot closer than it is to my house. This is much easier said than done, particularly if you decide to call my husband for directions. We started near Foxboro, MA, turned around in Pawtucket, RI, took the wrong exit off Route 24 near the store, which is in Stoughton, and then after we left the store we got as far as Needham before I figured out that I should turn back south again. Go ahead, mapquest it. It was pathetic. I easily put an extra 150 miles on that car. I blame it on the rental - I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten so lost in my minivan. But apparently it takes more than a week to fix a headlight and turn signal. But I digress.

I could, incidentally, blame the lost-ness, or at least the first two wrong turns, on my husband, since I called him for directions... but I won't. He kept the children alive and even fed them in my absence, and never made the slightest gesture toward making me feel guilty for taking away an entire homework day. So he wins points, and I blame the rental.

We did, eventually, make it to IKEA. A few days ago, I was talking to Sarah, amongst the post-surgery painkiller bliss, and I said to her that I have no idea why it's capitalized. Well, let me tell you, now I know why. IKEA should also be in bold and italics: IKEA, and maybe sparkly and flashing. What a sensory overload of an experience. Have you ever been there? It's just unique.

The three of us wandered in, and immediately went into the altered-consciousness daze, where we were wandering around, obediently herding through the store's layout like cattle with credit cards, occasionally remembering to blink. Finally Carolyn figured out that we all really, really needed to eat - remember, this was supposed to be a lunch out, and we had spent an extra hour or so in the car, so it was mid-afternoon and the blood sugar was low. So we ate, in the store, and it all felt so European and alien that I was surprised when the cashiers spoke with a Boston accent. But it was good food, and it was what we needed.

After refueling, then, we were able to actually shop. And shop we did. But, as dozens of posters all over IKEA reminded us, the prices are low because there are few employees and everything is packaged for self-assembly and everything is minimally decorated, blah blah blah. So I got two dressers, two fancy-shaped ice cube trays, two cutting boards, two kids' toys, and a roll of drawing paper for $167. Fantastic. (I did wonder just how much LESS expensive it would have been without the posters telling me why it was all so inexpensive.)

Then we drove home, which was a several-hour process, and I got to realize anew just how outlandish my mother-in-law's antics can sound when they're put into words. Amazing the things that we can take for granted. It's like developing an immunity to the plague - all at once, and it'll kill you, but a little at a time and somehow you barely notice it.

I don't know whether we were really able to make a huge difference for Jenny. She still had a horrendous week, and my heart still hurts for her. But at least she had a day out with estrogen, and if nothing else she knows that she has friends willing to ignore her when she says she wants to be left alone.