Monday, February 25, 2008

How To Extend School Vacation Week?

Get strep!

All three kids tested positive for strep today. Their vacation has been extended to Wednesday.

I've been knocked down since Friday morning myself. It started as straight flu (bad enough), but has evolved. Four out of five members of this family are on antibiotics.

I thought I was doing better yesterday and went for my haircut. David rocks. It was so good to see him again. My hair looks and feels great. Almost six inches off! He's agreed to give S her first haircut in May. Yes, I know I setting a really high bar for this girl, but if I can spare her really bad haircuts like I had growing up, I think it's worth it. I had some really, really bad cuts. Really. Bad.

Unfortunately the effort it took to get to the cut totally set me back. I'm going back to bed now.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Cool Thing Sighted on the Web

Dang it, this is a very cool and well-designed line of bags.

Um Bags

I'm on some pins and needles here. A company has asked for references. References have been forwarded. Now I wait.

Perhaps, if it works out, I can, no, I won't get ahead of myself here...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Found Him!

After feeling sorry for myself about my lack of a proper haircut in so long and writing about in on Saturday, I decided to do one last search on my stylist's name.....and found him!!!

Turns out he comes up to our city (from where his dad lives) a couple of days a week, and works out of a friend's tiny salon downtown. He has an opening this Sunday. I'm waiting for an email back from my husband to confirm that I can make it.

Ohmigosh, I am so excited.

Perhaps this is just the self-esteem boost I need to turn this job search around...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One Year, and Other Things

As of yesterday, it has been one year since I had my hair cut.

This was not intentional. Since my beloved stylist David up and sold his salon to move closer to his aging father to care for said father (damn him for being such a good person!), I've been at a loss. I tried a new person at a salon a couple towns away last February 15, but was less than impressed.

Since then I've just let my hair grow, and the possibility of a haircut is turning into something of a phobia. How am I ever going to find someone good with my very hard to cut hair again? I know this length isn't particularly flattering on me, and I end up pulling it up into a pony tail most of the time anyway, so I really do need to do something about it, but how? Where will I find the right person? Who will I trust? ARGH!

I've thought about it recently in light of my job search. I can be very superstitious. The last time I had my hair cut was the day before I interviewed at the company that laid me off - the last time I interviewed for a job successfully! Am I jinxing myself by not getting it cut? I may just get the ends trimmed one of these days. They do need to be cleaned up. But who to do it?

It's been a tough job search week. Rejections via email. Three meetings. I wrote how one turned out. Another lasted all of eight minutes. Yes, I said 8 minutes. Another had some possibilities - I talked to a company that had been using contractors with mixed success. I tried to convince them that they needed to hire a permanent person for consistency and continuity, and had good conversations with two of the technical staff. The HR head was adamant that this was only a short-term contract opportunity. Then I heard from them again. Apparently I did too good a job convincing them they needed a permanent employee: they now want to hire a full-time permanent writer, and I am no longer under consideration. Ugh.

I've fed most of the full-time leads to one of my former colleagues who was laid off last week. I figure I need all the karma I can get. He already has had at least one interview based on a lead I sent.

I have a couple things set up for next week. One is a real haul of a commute. It's also school vacation week next week, so I'm looking for ways to keep the kids occupied. I'm fighting off a cold or something. And I've eaten way too many chocolate chip cookies the last two days.

I keep reciting to myself, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day!!

That in itself is an awesome valentine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who Is Bringing the Martinis?

Four for five on work-related rejections this week.

With impeccable timing, minutes after receiving the fourth rejection via email, I went up to say goodnight to C. At which point he informed me that he's too old for me to be coming in and saying goodnight.

Something I Never Thought I'd See

I needed to waste about 20 minutes yesterday so I went into a large sporting goods store, a national chain. I saw something there that just floored me.

Padded sports bras.

Seriously, sports bras with foam padding.

Here I was thinking part of the reason one exercises, and hence needs such items as sports bras, is to feel better about oneself and accept oneself to therefore reduce the need for such items as padded bras.

Apparently I was wrong.

Even when sweating, apparently one must be all about appearances and look larger up front than one really is.

Excuse me while I roll my eyes. Again.

Valentine's Day '08

In the tradition of the overly sentimental mixed tapes many of us made in high school (please, please tell me I was not the only one!), I just made a CD for my husband for Valentine's Day.

I did this two years ago, and he really liked it. Last year, I tried to make one, but it felt forced. This year, it all came together.

The list:

Come and Get Your Love - Redbone
Blue Sky - The Allman Brothers
Baby, I Love Your Way (Live) - Peter Frampton
Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
Let My Love Open the Door - Pete Townshend
At Last - Etta James
Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
Crush - Dave Matthews Band
Only Wanna Be With You - Hootie & the Blowfish
Better Together - Jack Johnson
Kiss Me - Sixpence None the Richer
Birdhouse in Your Soul - They Might Be Giants
Bubbly - Colbie Caillat
You're My Best Friend - Queen
This Never Happened Before - Paul McCartney
You're the World to Me - David Gray

They are all on iTunes. Go forth and be sentimental.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Can't He Have It All?

I went to a meeting at C's school tonight on course selection for next school year. Yes, already.

I came away feeling so dejected.

C is doing great. His academics are solid, he enjoys the "extras" - music and art.

But next year, it's music or art. He can't have both. Well, he can opt out of French to be able to do both, but that's not really an option. It's just so disappointing. Even the kids who do choose art will only get it for half a year. They have to take computer keyboarding the other half.

Our schools have a really strong music program. It's wonderful that they have it - but it's unbalanced. Both are complementary to academics. I've written a little on this before. I just didn't realize we'd be faced with no art so soon.

C takes a group art lesson once a week from a private instructor, and it's wonderful. It's 90 minutes of exploring and experimenting with freedom he doesn't quite feel at home and doesn't have at all at school. But it's not a complete art education. His teacher is wonderful, but it's just technique, and fairly limited to drawing and painting (acrylics). The art classes at the school offer a little art history with their explorations of many different mediums.

I was already feeling disappointed when I left the course selection meeting. As I walked out the door of the auditorium, I noticed the bulletin board across the hall: a beautiful series of watercolors done by the current 7th grade art students a la Wassily Kandinsky.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Rejection Sucks

It just does.

Even if you know it wasn't you, really, just the situation.

I've been rejected a lot in these last nine weeks.

So Much For That

I had an interview this afternoon. It was scheduled for an hour and a half with two people. One was the director of the division and one was the person to whom I would be reporting.

The interview was going really well, I thought. Near the end of the first hour, with the director/hiring decision-maker, I brought up the part-time thing.

At which point the director/hiring decision-maker ended the interview and escorted me to the door.

Now, to be fair, I did not expect this interview to go anywhere. I had heard they weren't particularly open to part-time. But I did figure I'd give it a shot.

And I didn't expect it to end quite like that.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Truck Day! And Other Tidbits

I have no idea if it is unique to our area. Some think it should be a regional holiday. It's a day covered by all the local media - print, television. And blogs.

So what is Truck Day?

It's the day a semi is loaded with baseball equipment and starts driving south to Florida for Spring Training.

It's a day we celebrate.

Spring, my friends, is almost here. Pitchers and catchers report in five days. (Except for Schill. Shrug.)

In other news, the company I worked for prior to the one that laid me off has laid off the majority of technical staff, including writers, QA staff and developers. Blaugustine has more on that. Ick, ick, and more ick.

I have two interviews early next week. All crossed fingers and good vibes are appreciated.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Pressure Tactics

Over the last two weeks, we have received at least a dozen calls from a particular phone number. Most of the time, we are not here. The number is listed on our caller ID, but no message has been left. Three or four times, I have answered only to have no one answer on the other end. A computer solicitation, I thought. Once I stayed on the line for 30 seconds, and nothing.

I went online and searched on the number. I appears to be the number for a basement waterproofing company a couple of towns away. As we are supposedly on the state's do-not-call list, I was annoyed, and considered calling the attorney general's office.

Several days ago, I answered, hoping to get a person and tell them to stop calling already, and low-and-behold, there was a person on the other end. And it turns out it was our local police union calling for a biannual donation. I politely told the officer I couldn't do it right now and hung up.

Then on Tuesday the phone rang just after dinner. The caller ID showed the same number. I felt annoyed, but answered.

Me: Hello?

A couple seconds pass.

Male voice: Oh, hey.

Me:Who is this?

Male voice: It's Joe.

Silence. Do I know a Joe? Am I supposed to know a Joe? It's probably a mistake, I think, since I already asked them to stop calling.

Male voice: You know, from the Police Department. Our annual fundraising.

At this point I was irritated. Obviously I was expected to just say, Oh yeah, sure, whatever you want, Officer.

Me: I've already said I can't donate this year. And I have received so many calls from this number, that I really have to question you methods. Several times I've answered and there has been no one on the other end.

Male voice: Yeah, we're using a new computer system this year. It was taking so much time to call people manually. Sometimes it takes a moment or two for us to get on the line after you have answered,

Me: It's taking more time than that, and it's really annoying. Even if I was able to give this year, I wouldn't want to anymore after this experience.

Male voice: Uhhhh.

Me: Look, you really need to stop calling. You're alienating your donation base. Goodbye.

The exchange got me thinking about the pressure tactics the police and fire departments use in this town. It's not pretty.

First of all, there are these two or three times a year calls for "annual" fundraising of one sort or another. They say it's for their recreation program for kids, but I've never heard of such a program actually existing. They say it's tickets for the "Policeman's Ball," but again, I've never heard of an event actually taking place. It's for DARE (a program that doesn't work, run by an officer with an interesting history in that area), or something, or something else. When they call, ask, and you comply, they say they will be over the next day to pick it up in person. If you stupidly ask if they know where to go, they say, no, no need, we know where you live. I see.

At town meeting or any sort of meeting addressing budget issued for police or fire, there is a contingent of officers and firemen present to "observe." They don't come to vote because many of them don't live in town (why is another issue for another day). They don't sit; they stand in back, arms folded across their chests. They watch the proceedings. Closely.

The implication is clear, I think. They are watching who is voting "for" them and who is voting "against" them. Do they choose whom to protect and serve in accordance with the vote? They are not supposed to, and I sure hope not...but I would not be surprised if it were a factor.

(My husband tells me it's not so bad here. In his hometown, he says, the entire police force would show up in uniform for town meetings and stand in back in a long blue line while the police budget was voted. That town was smaller than this, and each officer really did know every person in town.)

Almost needless to say, every budget request for police and fire pass without question. Meanwhile, our schools have been at level services for five years now, and every line item in that budget is argued and scrutinized. I've mentioned this before.

And this from a police department rocked with scandal for the last ten years. Sexual harassment suits, accusations of racial discrimination, officers writing bad checks all over town - and an officer (currently on suspension) recently indicted for assault with intent to murder on his girlfriend.

The fire department? A couple of years ago when a tree fell on my house, I had to call them. They couldn't find my house. They drove past twice, sirens blaring, before turning in. Once they actually convinced the town they needed a tripped-out Hummer for "beach rescues." Except that the Harbormaster and Coast Guard are responsible for and respond to beach emergencies, not the fire department. I think they only brought that ridiculous vehicle out for the annual Fourth of July parade (and it was finally sold off a year or so ago).

I would not say that this is a group that has inspired confidence and trust from me.

Recently the police and fire departments are trying to convince the town that they need a new, ultra-modern fire and police complex, at a cost of millions and millions of dollars. I will grant that the police station needs to be replaced. But the main fire station? No.

I'm not the only one who thinks this apparently, as in the most recent town newspaper, a fireman was quoted as saying in response to citizen comments that even though the outside looks fine the inside is "cramped and outdated." Sorry, I'm not convinced. "Cramped and outdated" does not equal "let's tear it down and start from scratch."

Meanwhile, of course, schools are getting shafted. The high school and them middle school are both older than the fire station, and are also "cramped and outdated." Where is the support to replace those buildings? Non-existent. Where is the money to pay our teachers? Get supplies? Where?

Sadly, the police and fire department pressure tactics will work, with nary a flinch. We'll probably have a property tax override to pay for the complex - with officers out in force around the voting booths.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Maybe When He's Eighteen

C is trying to leave the house in shorts this morning. It's 34 degrees and there are flurrries.

He says he has a constitutional right to wear whatever he wants.

I don't think so.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two Stories

Story #1

Many years ago, when my husband and I had just started dating (and I truly mean just - it had been maybe four or five weeks), we decided to take a little road trip down to New Jersey. One of my husband's college friends who had recently graduated - Moose - was living in a house in Morristown with a high school friend and they had decided to have a big party. We'd have some fun, the invitation included sleeping arrangements, and it was early enough in the term that neither of us was too worried about coursework. It was Columbus Day weekend, 1986.

The party was a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy and a lot of fun. We still talk about it intermittently - orange spray paint, midnight volleyball, motorcycle ruts in the yard... Moose has remained a good friend and we've had continued adventures with him over the years. Now that I think about it, that's a whole blog in itself.

Story #2

When the company for which I was working imploded in December, a couple of companies with similar and/or competing products expressed interest in possibly opening a regional office here if a critical mass of the engineering team was interested. One of these companies, from my hometown, came out to interview people a couple of weeks ago. I spoke with their senior vice president of client services. Nice guy. We spoke fairly comfortably, but no decisions have been made on a regional office.

How are these two stories related?

Moose's high school friend and the guy who interviewed me two weeks ago are the same guy.

This was just figured out in the last couple days when Moose was out visiting the high school friend and saw my CD of work samples in the guy's home office.

Say it with me now....NO WAY!!!!

Yes, it is a small, small world.

Random Bits for a Rainy Wednesday

  • I'm noticing that the amount of sun outside directly affects my mood. This is not a good week - not a ray of sun in the five day forecast. Seasonal Affective Disorder, anyone? I've turned on all the freakin' lights in the house in an attempt (possibly vain) to compensate. What's a little wasted energy when my sanity is at stake? I'm sure the disruption to my usual work/home schedule isn't helping.

  • My husband is on his nasty schedule at work through Sunday the 17th. That's not helping things, either.

  • And we're really missing Seymour.

  • C brought home a great report card. I'm very proud of him. I reminded him before I opened the envelope that I love him and am proud of him no matter what the grades are. But is sure was nice to see the good marks.

  • S was supposed to have a little girlfriend come over this morning. S and this girl T adore each other. S uses her battery-less cell phone to "call" T every evening to say goodnight, she's named her stuffed duck after her, and so on. The little girl's mother called 45 minutes ago to say T is sick. Fever of 102. Poor thing. To say that S is crushed is an understatement. I'm disappointed, too. I was looking forward to some adult conversation to get me through this dreary day.
  • Also, it means I frantically cleaned the house yesterday for no good reason.

  • I saw a funny bumper sticker last night. "You found God? If nobody claims him in 30 days, he's yours."

  • I can't decide what to give up for Lent. My job? Already did that. My sanity? Distinctly possible. Chocolate? Coffee? Not on your life. Is giving up doing laundry an option?
  • In our extremely conservative little town, more people participated in the Democratic primary yesterday than in the Republican primary. That, to me, is more significant than the outcome. There was a four vote difference in the outcome of the Democratic primary. Four. Every vote counts, kids. On the Republican side, the former governor won, in spite of an editorial in our small-town paper to "send him a message" and vote differently. Said former governor did not win by a landslide, by any means. That is significant to note as well, I think.
  • Some expat bloggers in Italy declared yesterday (unofficial) World Nutella Day. In honor of it, I made banana-nutella muffins. Two of my three kids would not eat them. What is up with that?
  • Late last night, flipping through the channels, I came across the movie "Beautiful Girls." Do you remember that movie? Mid-90s. A bunch of fairly well-known actors: Tim Hutton (whatever happened to him?), Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, Lauren Holly, Rosie O'Donnell, Mira Sorvino, Martha Plimpton, Annabeth Gish, David Arquette, and a young Natalie Portman. Anyway, although filmed entirely in Minnesota, the movie supposedly takes place in central Massachusetts (the screenwriter is from a suburb not too far from here), and there are a few baseball references. Then in one scene, this main group of friends sing "Sweet Caroline" in a bar. And instantly I thought about the recent tradition of singing that song in the middle of the 8th inning at our local major league baseball park.

    I checked Wikipedia, and according to the entry for the song, the "music director…had noticed that the song was used at other sporting events, and decided to try it out." The song has been played consistently in the 8th only since 2002.

    Then, I notice in the IMDB entry that the screenwriter also played a baseball player in "Fever Pitch." Characters sometimes wear the appropriate hat in his most recent work. Huh. While the connection isn't direct, I suspect it's indirect. I've just got a feeling about that.
  • Pitchers and catchers report a week from tomorrow.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Around the Bogs

Cinematic Credibility

When I started this blog, I didn't know where it would go. I'd hoped it might help me process some emotional stuff around C's illness and my father's death in 2003.

Writing about C's illness last winter and spring was helpful for me. As we approach another anniversary of that horrible time, I feel less anxious about it. Less angry, more balanced. Either that, or I've just transferred all the anxiety to job-search stress. Distinctly possible.

But still, things come back about and around that issue for me.

A couple of weeks ago, we watched a movie called "The Safety of Objects" that we'd had on our NetFlix queue. I don't remember how we selected it to begin with. At any rate, the description of the movie on NetFlix, while accurate on one level, didn't really give a hint about the action that takes place in the movie. Basically, most of it takes place in the aftermath of a car accident that leaves a character profoundly disabled.

There is a scene late in the movie when the mother of the disabled character, played by Glenn Close, says this (the most complete quote I can find, but even this is paraphrased):

"If you are ever in a praying situation with Him: Be Specific! Include certain clauses. It's not enough to assume that if a person lives they'll be okay... Cause God has a wicked sense of humor. And even though he knows you mean more, he'll only give you exactly what you ask for."

I take issue with this. The entire movie lost credibility with me in that one speech.

I know it's only a movie and it was only said by a fictional character, and that every person and every situation is different, but as a mom who has been in the position of praying for her child's life, truly his life was all I wanted in those moments. There was no additional clause in my brain. It was his life. I was willing to take it in any form, so long as he was alive. The "but I meant" or the clause or however you want to say it might have come later, but in the moment of C's crisis, all I prayed for was his life.

I think the mother in the movie would have done the same.

Unscrupulous Neighbors

I have these neighbors (not the ones who put their house on the market recently) who drive me a bit nuts. The kids are poorly supervised and somewhat nasty – which they get from their parents, apparently.

When we had our yard cleared a while back, we saved ten or so big oak logs. We kept meaning to start chopping them into firewood, but were having trouble finding time to do so.

Last fall, the husband part of the neighbors, along with the wife's brother who lives in town, approached us with a deal: they'd cut all the wood in exchange for half of it. We thought, okay, that sounds pretty good.

So in the fall, they cut and split six or seven logs, stacked it near our shed and carted away wood for their wood piles. Fine and dandy. But they keep coming back for more wood. They have taken FAR more than half the wood – more like three-quarters or more! – and they think we haven't noticed. The brother comes at odd times of the day when we typically aren't home and takes more, or the wife walks over and gets some. The other neighbors watch this.

They're playing all innocent about it. It's really pissing me off.

I don't really know how to resolve this in a comfortable manner. This is a small neighborhood – only four houses on our little road. I can't just ignore them, much as I might like to. But I also don't want a huge blow up.

It's just wood, I know, but it's also symptomatic of other concerns we've had – paying for their part of the yearly plowing, the way their kids treat my kids, and so on.

Mostly, I just don't get why people develop such an attitude of entitlement.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bad Lighting and Quiet Houses

I was in a large department store not too long ago trying to pick up a couple of bits for my interviewing wardrobe. I'm occasionally optimistic about this job search in that way.

As I undressed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Oh. My. God.

Listen, I'm no model with an eating disorder, nor am I overweight. But I looked like the before picture in a liposuction ad with the terrible lighting in there! It was totally discouraging. Every ripple of cellulite was enhanced , as were the stretch marks on my belly. My skin was pasty and there were hideous bags under my eyes. As for the general shape of my thighs…let's just not go there. And so on, and so on.

Of course, after this shocking image, I felt that nothing I tried on looked right on me. I did pick up one so-so pair of dress pants on sale and tried them on again at home. They looked much better.

Whomever designed the lighting in that dressing room must either 1) be a misogynist, or 2) have a vendetta against the store and want to reduce sales. Or both.

And no wonder I dislike shopping more and more as time goes on.


Here in the house, it's mostly quiet. Thursday would normally be a work day for me, so all the kids are covered until 5:30PM. I try to approach the job search like a job. I sit down at the computer in the morning, make a list of search-related activities for the day, and proceed. I break for lunch, like I would on a work day, and get back at it in the afternoon (though I often do take breaks in the afternoon for cleaning out and organizing).

Yesterday I took a break in the morning and cleaned up all the stuff from Seymour. All the towels and such from the last days, the bag of IV fluids. I put his carrier and the litter box in the basement and arranged to donate his leftover food to the local humane society.

When I sat back down at my desk, it felt strange, and I realized it was because Seymour would often visit me while I worked at home. He'd come in, meow, get a scratch, then hop up on the couch behind me and take a nap. He just wanted to be nearby. Now, there is no little creature doing that.

Last night as I was settling in bed, I instinctively moved my feet around carefully so as not to disturb the sleeping cat. But he wasn't there. I've been doing that for almost 18 years; it's going to be hard to break the habit.

After Zoe died, we still had Seymour to step in and demand the attention, meow, and so on. Now it's so quiet and still. Yes, we do still have the dog. It's just different, is all.