Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Toxic Update

My toxic sister's birthday is on Friday. Given her response to my lateness of card and gift for her son, I'm not going to be late for her birthday. In fact, her gift already has arrived according to UPS tracking.

I'm not actually speaking to my sister, though. It's not that I'm intentionally not speaking to her (though would you really blame me?), I just haven't had any urge to call her. None at all. And she hasn't called me. It's working out fairly well, actually, from my point-of-view.

I emailed her a few weeks ago and asked what she wanted for her birthday. She responded that she wanted a MiniCooper S in black or an iPhone.

As if.

But then I thought, hey, she didn't say "working iPhone" or "full-size street legal MiniCooper." (Odd to see "full-size" and "MiniCooper" in the same phrase, isn't it?) So I went to my trusty Google search field and typed in "iPhone dummy" and "MiniCooper model" and came up with several hits.

The iPhone dummy is a little pricey for what it is, and it would be sent from Europe. No go there. I did find a place to print out and fold/tape a dummy model. I sent that link to my brother; he might have fun with it when he sees her on Thursday.

So my sister is getting this for her birthday.

She's gonna be pissed.

(evil cackle)

Okay For Now

With an odd mix of relief, sadness and lingering vulnerability, I learned today that my job is okay for now. My coworker is leaving. I will keep my current hours, keep at my projects, and try to pick up some of what my coworker was doing.

On the drive home (in the rain - four+ hours total in the car today!) I realized I am tired. I am wiped out.

Time for throwing some quick food in the oven for the kids and installing myself on the couch with a glass of wine and the food channel.

I Believe the Term is "Karmic Payback"

Ann Coulter's Jaw Wired Shut

Monday, November 24, 2008

Well, That Was a Bummer

On Saturday night, we went out to dinner as a family. It was only the second or third time we've eaten out since we confirmed that C is now allergic to shrimp and other crustaceans. The first times went okay - one was as a Mongolian barbecue kind of place that was very accommodating. The one other time I didn't think too deeply about it - but I've since learned more about the risks.

We went to a burger place the next town over. C was craving French Fries (one of the only two ways he will consume potatoes - the other is potato chips). In the car on the way over we practiced what he needed to ask about preparation and all that - I'm trying to empower him as much as possible in this learning process. We made sure we had the EpiPen.

I wasn't expecting to see fried shrimp on the menu. It kind of didn't occur to me. Then we asked the dreaded question: Is the shrimp fried in the same oil as the French Fries and onion rings?

Yup, it was.

Big, big bummer.

No French fries with his burger. No onion rings as an appetizer for the family. Using shared oil for frying both is a cross-contamination risk.

C was a sport and ordered coleslaw as his side.

We asked if they could be sure to prepare his food separately from any shrimp, and the server seemed hesitant. I asked if the server could go check. He did, and said that could be accommodated. But even in his checking and response to us it somehow didn't seem like he got it. Like the restaurant itself didn't get it, either?

In addition to all that, we were seated at a table that was so wobbly that drinks spilled every time the table moved and it was in the direct path of the front door draft, so we had our coats on the whole time. We ended up having them wrap our dinners and leaving.

I don't think we're going back there. And I think we're going to have to do some research on friendly, accommodating restaurants for people with food allergies. I just had no idea it would be like this. It's going to be an adjustment for all of us, not just C.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faster Than a Weed, Actually

About a year ago, C needed new jeans. Since he won't go shopping with me anymore (I'm too much of an embarrassment to him), I checked the old size (10) and bought one size up (12).

At first, he complained they were too long. But he wore them anyway and soon enough they were just right on him.

At the beginning of this school year, he tried on those jeans, and they were much too short. I bought him some size 14 jeans. He tried them on and they were fine. I thought we were mostly set for the year.

A few days ago, C bent down to reach something and I realized that his jeans were pretty much around his butt, showing off a few inches of boxers. I asked him to pull them up. He complained that he couldn't, because when he did the pant legs were too short. He demonstrated.

Oh. My. God.

Suffice it so say that I just went out and bought my 12 1/2 year old son size 16 boys jeans.

The Job Things

Bottom line is that I have no resolution yet. I don't know what is happening.

My coworker is trying for going down to two days while looking for something else. Thankfully her husband can pick up benefits for them. She was told she needed to decide what to do this last week, but I was not told that same time frame. The inconsistency makes me feel awkward in our small office.

Wednesday I was a nervous wreck. I updated my resume, reestablished some other contacts, sent an email to an old friend in California who is a venture capitalist (interesting insights there). I also made a plan for Thursday.

Before this week, I had already scheduled a meeting with our CEO to rollout a current project to him. As he doesn't come from a technology background, I figured this was a great opportunity to show him what a technical writer does, and how we add value to the company. I also had three other rollout meetings scheduled for Thursday, so lots of face time with people. Visibility and perception are important in times like these.

Anyway, I pitched my heart out. I showed him the project I've been working on, what my coworker has been doing, our list of identified future projects, ways we act a resource to the whole company, and on and on. I think I opened his eyes somewhat. I don't know how it will translate.

Meanwhile, my boss was too busy with something else to confirm any changes with either of us. This may be a strategic move of his to keep the status quo a bit longer. With no communication about a change or paperwork passed, it can't be official, and we keep writing.

I prefer to think the best about my boss' motives here, though I feel anxious about the outcome. Perhaps we'll know more in a few days.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Headbanging, Modular Plastic Brick Style

System of a Lego

(updated to actually embed the clips - was in a rush when I first added this post last night.)

Pay extra attention to the facial expressions.

You're welcome.

An argument for cooler heads

The economy sucks. It does. No two ways about it.

However, I think there's something to say about the role of the media in fanning the flames. I think the media is helping to make the already tough situation worse. Cooler heads need to prevail.

It's obvious that things could not go on as they were. It wasn't unsustainable. Something had to happen. Prepared or not, that time of "something happening" is here. (And markets, how is a demand for true understanding about how an industry will spend bailout money a bad thing worthy of diving market values?!)

But here's the thing.... are we making things worse?

Cutting back in tough times is absolutely appropriate. But cutting things out completely perpetuates the negative. If you used to grab a muffin from a local bakery most mornings but since the stock market started tanking you aren't doing that at all - even if your day to day economic picture hasn't changed - you are affecting that bakery owner, aren't you? How about, if you budget allows, still grabbing that muffin once or twice a week?

Maybe you used to go out to dinner fairly regularly. Could you still go out, but less often? What about the local businesses? Can you help support them, just a little? Because if some of that kind of discretionary spending doesn't happen, more businesses will shutter and more people will be unemployed and the situation will continue to spiral down.

I'm not saying wine and dine like it's 2006. I'm not. I'm saying be careful and considerate about what is happening, keep an eye for planning for a long downturn, but don't stop participating in the economy completely. Think strategically, and think locally.

Does this make any sense to anyone but me?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chickens with No Heads

The continuing panic in the economy his hitting here. My boss called me in yesterday to say that he needed to cut a writing head - and there are only two of us. Has to make his decision within a couple weeks. Looking at flexibility where I can - reduce hours or whatever. It would hurt, to be sure, but I'd still be employed.

Major stress here.

No wonder the CEO wouldn't look me in the eye in the office yesterday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

When I Least Expect It

Late last month I touched on the continuing fallout from C's illness. Pieces and issues around that time continue to surprise me.

On Friday, C brought home this year's school picture. It's a fine picture. Not fabulous, not awful, just fine. I went to put it in the frame in the living room that holds all his school pictures-I've just been putting each year's picture in front of the previous year's picture so they all stay together.

This time, though, one more photo wouldn't fit. So I took all but the newest one out and went to file them away. As I walked into the study, I flipped through them and stopped in my tracks.

You know how kids loose their chubbiness in their cheeks over time, and it's usually only in retrospect that you can see that chunkiness fade over time? C lost all of it all at once, when he was sick. I knew that on some level, but seeing it represented visually was something that, somehow, I had avoided seeing.

C's first grade photo - six months before he got sick - is great. He's a chubby cheeked six year old with a big smile. C's second grade photo- six months after he was sick- is also good...but there is absolutely no fat in that kid's cheeks or face. Gone. Looking at subsequent years, his face retains that no-fat look.

I went to look at M's pictures, and in those you can sort of see the slow thinning out of the face. Some of it is still to come. It's very different.

After putting the photos away, I sat down for a few moments. I was on the edge of a panic attack again. I've mostly learned how to manage when I feel the anxiety increasing. I'm so thankful for the health of my family, but the fear of what could happen is still very real to me.

I thought I was doing so well processing all this. Guess there's a bit more to go.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not Dead Yet

A couple of weeks ago, when my husband arrived home from work, he made his usual rounds through the house setting things down and saying hello to the kids. He paused for a few moments at the fish tank.

Then he walked into the kitchen where I was making dinner and said, softly, "You know the black fish is D-E-A-D, right? It's floating upside down."

Ah, yes, the black fish, acquired last Christmas. Floating upside down. Being still. Normally this would indicate fish death, and I had thought the same thing earlier in the day, but really, no, it's alive.

If you watch closely, the fish does move about. If you tap the glass a little, activity increases. It's alive.

This fish is a greedy little bugger, and its now mostly upside down life is a result of this greed. When we sprinkle the fish flakes into the tank, this fish is very aggressive in eating, nudging the (two) other fish out of the way, gulping air. Gulping all that air has resulted in a little too much buoyancy - too much air in its air bladder. Making it difficult to do anything but float upside down and sideways, mimicking the classic dead fish pose.

Who knew?

Our off little creature has caused us to crack jokes about acquiring a whole group of animals with death imitating skills. Fainting goats, for example. It has freaked out guests, and we've played with that a little. Fake grief and all. "What do you mean? Oh nooo!" and "He was so special to us!"

We also sing that Python song.

Yeah, we're weird. And we have a fish to match.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Suspicious Activity"

So, we made the police log.



8:03 a.m. T----- Street, suspicious activity, caller reports three political signs removed from her property.


Looking at the rest of the log, I think it would more accurately be described as "malicious" activity. I didn't "suspect" the signs were stolen; obviously they were. Though I do "suspect" they were stolen with "malicious" intent. It also could have been categorized under "missing property," because it was. Those wacky police officers.

Whatever. Just kinda fun to see us there. Especially knowing our response.

The Let Down. And Tidbits

It's been an interesting week. I think many of the people I know are going through election let down. There was such a ramping up of the anxiety in the days and weeks before the election. And it was a lovely (less than) 24 hours of pure joy.

But we all know there is much hard work ahead. It's daunting.

That said, it's rather a relief to let go of some of the election countdown stress. No more checking FiveThirtyEight and HuffingtonPost and other liberal leaning news sites every 30 minutes seconds. No more anxiously waiting for 8PM and Keith Olberman and for 9PM and Rachel Maddow (only regular waiting). No more slightly panicked scans of Canadian real estate sites.

Time to consider whether to go to the inauguration. I've reserved a couple couches at a friend's house, but the tickets available through my congressman are all spoken for. Hmm. Given the inauguration is the day after MLK Day, I am sure there will be many amazing events in the days before the actual swearing in. So we would be going down (along will millions of others, I'm sure) to just experience the atmosphere. Hmmm. And more hmmmm.

It was so different when I went to Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1992 - but that was before, long before, 9/11. It just so happened that it was a few days before a college friend was getting married in central Virginia that I was going to anyway. My friend with the couches had a relative (husband - now ex - of her husband's cousin) who worked in an office overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. After a quick stop at my friend's doctor's office, where she had a rod removed from her foot post surgery (I kid you not), we were among the throngs of people on the mall while the 42nd president was sworn in. No ticket needed. Maya Angelou read a poem (....Good morning!"). We trudged (my friend limped) to try to get into the relative's building before the Secret Service sealed and secured the area - we'd had to get security clearances to be in the building weeks earlier - and watched the parade from the window. Again, no ticket needed.

Hmm...to go...or not to go....hmmmm.

In other bits...

There was a test of the emergency warning system in our town yesterday afternoon. There's a nuclear power plant not too far away, so they do this regularly. The town also announces well in advance so no one freaks out and thinks it's for real. C still has issues with alarms of any kind. Yesterday was no exception. Except now he has a little sister to try to help him hide it. It's S that he's trying to help, he says. S who is scared. I let him know that anxiety as such was perfectly understandable, but he assured me that, absolutely, it was not him who had the anxiety. Not at all, he said. Okay, I said. I let it go. I didn't try to push. When the alarm actually did go, it was barely audible. S laid on the couch, watching PBS with hardly a notice. C was up in his room, in the dark, pacing. Three minutes later it was over, and everything was fine.

My sweet, brave boy.

There was more thing I wanted to say. Lost it. Gone. Oh well.

Oh, there is this, (though it's not what was lost):

Facebook=Glorious Time Suck

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Excuse Me While I Wallow for a Few Minutes

This crap with my sister keeps welling up. My oldest nephew's birthday was yesterday, and while he was speaking to C said, "Why doesn't your mom let you come out to see us?"

Which was totally unfair because my nephew and I have discussed my concerns about visits long before a visit request was made. And he agreed with them, even.

So now we have tension within the house because C, at 12, doesn't truly understand. He just thinks I am being mean.

What he doesn't understand is that I really wish that I had that kind of family. I wish I had an immediate family that I could turn to for support. I wish I could send him out there for a visit with confidence, knowing that he'd be safe and have a lot of fun.

I don't have that kind of family. They have never been that. I'm talking my mom, my sister and my brother. My dad was great - until his 2nd wife started complicating things, and then he got sick.

I could go into story after story of non-support while I was in college, when I was getting married, during stints of unemployment, health issues, and on and on. All the while, when something was going on with them (particularly my sister), I was expected to drop everything and "be there" - taking every phone call and sometimes flying out.

I have, very intentionally, made my own life. Far away. Because if was trying to do any of this close to them, I would get sucked into the day-to-day drama and shit. Heck, my husband would like nothing more that to move to southern California - but we never will as long as it is within easy visiting distance of my family. When he starts daydreaming all I have to say is, "My sister will visit." And that ends that.

I know making this break was the right thing for me, for my sanity. I am trying to build a family life for my kids far different from what I experienced. In the process, I have tried to accept my family for what they are.

But you know what? As much as I have worked for accepting them for what they are, and as much as I am okay with it most of the time, sometimes it still hurts. It hurts that they don't offer any support. It hurts that they are so manipulative and untrustworthy. It hurts that they are so nasty.

It just hurts.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Tale of Two Palins

In the midst of the campaigning, I went (online) searching for the the target of the Tina Fey joke, "I can see Russia from my house."

The idea of Alaskans seeing Russia from their house (or shack on stilts, as the case may be) comes from Little Diomede Island in the middle of the Bering Strait. Big Diomede Island belongs to Russia. Many of the inhabitants of both are related. They are separated by a couple of miles of fast moving current and the International Dateline.

Sarah Palin has never been to Little Diomede Island.

Michael Palin has.

You know, Michael Palin of Monty Python fame.

His travels are fascinating, really.

Somebody could take a cue. Because Africa is a continent, not a country in and of itself.

UPDATE: A kind reader has corrected me (in comments) on some points regarding Little Diomede Island. I would do well to remember that facts sometimes get diluted in a partisan way during election season. (grin)

Question of the Day

If you want to become a billing services phone representative for the cable company or cell phone company, is being an idiot a prerequisite?

Less Than 24 Hours

Sadly, it took less than 24 hours for my post-election glow bubble to burst.

Yesterday evening, C told me about racist jokes that were traveling around his school.


We have come so far in this country, yet we still have so, so far to go.

I having been thinking about what to do, if anything, in light of this. I think I have decided to call the assistant principal and suggest that now might be an excellent time to have some workshops and activities in the school.

We can do better.

Yes we can.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Kids Respond

C was up with us until the race was called. He was excited in a quiet sort of way. I'm sure he feels vindicated after the comments he received at school.

M, when I told him this morning, was over the moon. Truly. He made himself a sandwich of cream cheese, strawberry jam and blueberry preserves for lunch. Red, white and blue...get it? We also had a brief discussion about gracious winning and a reminder about respect for others' beliefs.

S just grinned when I told her. It occurred to me that she will not remember the Bush years. Her first political memories will be of Obama and a new era of hope (hopefully). Lucky S!

My very conservative small town went for Obama by 350 votes. Wow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

If only to hide the tears of joy.

Thank you, America.

Watching Local Races

Amid the exciting national races and statewide questions, I am also watching a state representative race not in my district.

An old college friend is running for state representative. She'd be excellent. The big paper around here endorsed her and things hopefully are in her favor.

Send some happy election vibes to CD, please. :-D

The Time is Now

I voted early this morning. The polls were a hopping place for 6:15AM.

Last summer during the Fourth of July parade, our spot was across the street from a group of supporters for our state senator. They were an unsavory bunch - making borderline comments to any high school girl that might pass, and when the local environmental group went by shouted out, "Piping plovers taste like chicken!" Lovely. Anyway, the state senator was on the ballot running unopposed. I wrote in Mickey Mouse.

Our sign is still standing. I'll take it down late tonight. In spite of C being into it when we made it, he said yesterday that he was embarrassed by it. Apparently he was razzed when he got on the bus Monday morning. Oh dear.

I'm very nervous today. Feeling superstitious, too.

Since the schools are closed, M is with me at work today.

How is everyone else doing?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What Pissing Off the Local Republican Hooligans Looks Like

On to Another Tactic

This morning, all three of our yard signs are gone. Two Obama, one "No on 1".

On Friday I traded one of our remaining yard signs for a bumper sticker that reads: Obama/Biden '08: Two Minds are Better Than None." I still have two to put out, but I think we need to do more.

I think we'll head over to the discount store later today and get a couple of cheap sheets and some black fabric paint. I'm thinking....BIG!

I was at the Obama office yesterday doing some data entry. We're all so nervous. We were only joking when we were saying what the call centers need is someone to lead 15 minutes of yoga every couple of hours to help everyone deal with the stress.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

One Way to Deal With The Situation

By 8PM last night, our Obama signs had been knocked over - but were still there. My husband came up with an amusing solution.

After returning from Trick-or-Treating with M (garden gnome) and S ( batman), he went to the shed, retrieved a shovel, walked over to the dog's area, (I think you know what is coming next) and proceeded to transfer the freshest doggie doodoo to the area around the signs.

Maybe we can't prevent people from stealing our signs, but we can increase the likelihood that they will smell pretty awful doing so.