Back to School Breakdown

Posted: September 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Misc Neuroses, Moods, School | 11 Comments »

I’m here to bust some myths, people. Now that school is back in session mothers aren’t worrying about whether they bought the right Toughskins and Trapper Keepers for their kids. They aren’t fretting over whether Jasper will be okay on the bus, or if the lunches they packed reflect the new food pyramid. (There IS a new food pyramid, you know. But I figure it’s like the metric system and won’t ever really catch on.)

No, now that kids are back in school and structure has been re-established in homes after the carefree, chaotic days of summer, mothers are freaking out about what to do with their lives.

Or at least, I am. And I’d like to think that I’m not alone.

So humor me. Please.

In all the time I haven’t been blogging I’ve been busy having an excellent and comprehensive panic attack about my life. I’m questioning whether our kids are at the right schools, whether we live on the right coast, whether I should forge into a fulltime take-no-prisoners job, or should stay home and hand-sew clothes for the whole family and churn our own butter.  I’ve even been questioning whether I should be doing yoga, the Dailey Method, or just walking.

Oh, and I want a dog. And a new car. And after 30,000 hours of watching HGTV (a feat for which I feel I should be awarded some kind of doctorate in interior design) I want a house. A big swank fabulous house perched on the edge of a cliff in Malibu.

That’s all.

It turns out that when I decide to have a crisis it decimates everything in its path. It’s like some ginormous house-sized meatball rolling around rampantly picking up mailboxes, Priuses, and alley cats in its wake. It sees another anxiety and heads for it at full bore swallowing it up in one gulp, burping loudly, then moving on to find more.

Oh, my poor sweet husband. He comes home from work and really should have a riot shield at the ready to deflect my assault of ideas.

“Should we really be paying so much freaking money for private school? With Paige starting kindergarten next year maybe we should rethink this whole tuition thing.”

“Should I cut my hair short? Or just let it go gray?”

“I was thinking we should switch from Skippy to Jif. Thoughts?”

Okay, so I’m not really wavering in my allegiance to my my hair color, but I am considering jumping ship on our peanut butter.

Other thoughts I’m wrangling with: Is California really worth it? Or more specifically, the freaking expensiveness of the Bay Area? Would we be just as happy in Indiana? Tennessee? New Hampshire? Or maybe happier because, I don’t know, we’d live in some subdivision like the rest of the universe and eat at Applebee’s and life would be simple and easy and all-American?

The other day I even had the thought that I should get fake boobies. I mean, this was a fleeting thought and I honestly don’t remember what brought it on (I was clothed at the time), but it DID drift though my mind. Crazy, right?

Wait, this is seriously starting to sound like a midlife crisis. Pardon me while I self-diagnose here…

But now that I’m thinking of all this I will say that [WARNING: Over-sharing about my body] I’ve been having the most hellishly colossal periods lately. (I know, suddenly we are talking about my menses. This has gone a place you have totally not expected nor wanted to go to, but I’m telling you, that is how the meatball of my life has been working lately. Welcome to my world.)

Yes, so I’m doing things like sitting on my daughter’s bed and standing up later to see a marvelous pool of blood that I’ve left behind. (Guess it’s time to have that “Us Girls Get Something Called Periods” talk.) I mean, I like a good laundry challenge as much as the next masochistic housewife, but leaving large blood puddles around the house? I’m happy to revel in the traditional realm of grass stains.

Anyway, I went to my Girl Parts Doctor, who’s office happens to be on Bush Street. No joke. She took a look under the old carriage (or rather into it) and announced that all was in order. This, she said, is simply what one’s mid-forties are like.

Perhaps this Back to School Mental Maternal Meltdown is simply related to oldness. Like, maybe if I buy a red sports car and have an affair with my secretary—after getting a secretary—I can work through it all like men have been doing for generations before me. I’ll start wearing my hair in a comb-over and will blow all our savings on a bungee jumping trip to New Zealand.

Wait for THOSE blog posts, people.

More likely though it’s not about age at all. If I know me it’s prolly just that I have too much time on my hands. I guess I’m like a blender that way. Last week while making a smoothie our blender started to smell like it was going to explode. The Husband, a.k.a. Mr. Gadget, walked through the kitchen to inform me that it would work better if I turned it up. Like, when it’s on Low and I think I’m coddling it the engine is actually angry and impatient, but when it gets fired up and can work hard it’s happiest. That is SO me. I’m like a blender. Who woulda guessed?

Until I find the perfect part-time job or project I’ve channeled all my energy into signing up for every frickin’ committee at Kate’s school. I’m so typecast as an urban/suburban mother it’s ridiculous. I can’t even have a crisis like a man (read: car, secretary, Grecian Formula). Plus I don’t even know whether I’m urban or suburban. If someone knows where I live and can help me identify the nature of my surroundings I’d appreciate it.

Well then, I think that about covers what I’ve been up to. [She smooths her skirt over her thighs and smiles serenely.] I’d love to hang out more but I have cupcakes to bake for a fundraiser, parents to enlist for a field trip, and I need to make the crippling decision about whether to go to yoga, hop on the elliptical, or take a hike.

Wish me luck.


It’s Rocket Science

Posted: January 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Kate's Friends, Kindergarten, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Other Mothers, Working World | 4 Comments »

Kate was all hopped up at dinner. “Evan’s mom?” she said, in her sing-songy California-girl lilt. “So she came to school today? And she talked about her work? And she makes ROBOTS. And then? She sends them into OUTER-SPACE.”

“Oh. Really?” I said casually, ladling cooked carrots onto her plate, as if I’d sent a couple robots to outer-space myself that afternoon.

“And this one robot? Called Spirit?,” she continued breathlessly. “Well, it got STUCK on a planet. Up on THE MOON.”

“Actually it was Mars,” Mark corrected. (Smart aleck.)

“Oh yeah, Mars,” Kate went on. “So it got stuck there. Stuck!” Pause for dramatic effect, arms straight, palms down on the table.

“And so then?” she forged on, “Evan’s mom? She showed us pictures of all these robots she’s worked on. And then? We got to draw pictures of them and MAKE CARDS FOR SPIRIT.”

Now, drawing is Kate’s default no-fail super happy activity. And creating greeting cards is her knee-jerk response to nearly any emotional experience or moderately-noteworthy event.

A friend’s pet hamster dies? “I’m going to make a really special card,” she’ll say somberly. Paige’s preschool teacher sprains his ankle. “Please get my markers,” she’ll ask, like a doctor requesting a scalpel. “I have a card to make.” They’re out of the paper towels I like at the grocery store. “Maybe I should make the store owner a card, Mom? Do you think so?”

Aside from the things life tosses our way, there are the standard calendar holidays—St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Flag Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, Administrative Assistant’s Day. There are opportunities year-round that Kate seizes on to send her hand-drawn greetings out the world. It’s hard work, but she’s game for the challenge.

She’ll be the Intergalactic President and Creative Grand Poobah of Hallmark some day. Mark my words.

So anyway, Evan’s mom. As if the whole robot thing, and the space thing wasn’t mind-explodingly cool enough, the fact that there was also a heart-wrenching story to go with it all—Spirit’s tragic demise, inextricably stuck in martian soil—that was the ultimate piece de resistance for Kate.

She had never recounted a story from school with such gusto, detail, and emotion. And at the end of it, to think that the teacher uttered the words, “Let’s make cards.” It’s a wonder Kate didn’t implode with glee.

Now, not to be a sourpuss, but I couldn’t help but hear this story without thinking, how the hell does any other parent go into the classroom and follow that lead?

I can just picture Kate announcing proudly to her classmates, “My mom is coming in today to talk about being… a housewife!”

Imagine the shockwaves of excitement that would blast through the classroom. The kids will lunge at Kate, peppering her with a million frenetic questions. “Do you think she’ll tell us about doing laundry? Clipping coupons? Mopping up spills?”

At the end of my presentation, for the emotional finale, I can have the kids draw pictures of Paigey’s yellow pants. The ones that, despite my valiant efforts, I couldn’t get the grape juice stains out of.

We had to throw away those beloved pants. We shall miss them.

A friend is going through the all-consuming gut-wrenching private school application process we went through last year. We were chatting about the assessment part. For incoming kindergarteners it’s not so much an ‘interview’ as it is an ‘observed playdate’ with other kids.

Or, at least, that’s how they spin it. Because they certainly do lob questions at the kids while they’re playing. But since the parents are corralled off in another room, you don’t know exactly what they’re asking, or how your twerp is responding. Unless, of course, you interrogate them like a mad-woman once you get home. Like I did.

It turned out that almost every school asked the kids what their parents do.

“So what did you SAY?” I beseeched Kate. “What DOES Daddy do?”

“He’s an editor at Wired.  Um, Wired magazine.” she said, picking at a string on her sweater.

“YES!” Mark and I high-fived over her head.

“They asked what you do too, Mama,” Kate said looking up.

I stopped my mini she-got-an-answer-right dance and asked, “They did? And what did you say?”

“Writes a book,” she said quietly.

“NICE!” I bellowed, stabbing the air with my fist. (At the time, I had a now-neglected book proposal in the works.)

So, the gods were with me. Not only did Kate come up with the right answers (without coaching, no less!), she also dodged the whole host of unsavory housewifely duties she could have reported as my primary life’s undertaking. She could easily have said I “empty the dishwasher,” “cook hot dogs,” or “yell at us to hurry up.”

The truth is, what Kate thinks about what I do—or what I know about—has been the subject of past neurotic freak-outs. Mild freak-outs, mind you. But freak-outs nonetheless.

But I shouldn’t pin it all on Kate. Because it’s really ME who struggles with answering the simple question, “What do you do?”

It’s not that I don’t know the answer. I do, but it’s kind of a messy hodge-podge.

I’m a mom. A stay-at-home mom—sometimes. Because I sometimes manage projects for a web-design agency. Oh, and I blog. Though I hate the term mommy blogger. And do a little bit of freelance writing too. (Or, as Mark put it the other day, I’m a ‘write-tress.’ Which sounds a little too close to ‘waitress’ for my liking, but I still love the hilarious girlification of ‘writer.’ Girlification of any term is always good.)

So I know the answer. But aside from it being annoyingly discursive, I never like hearing what it is I’m saying. Or maybe I don’t like what I think it says about me. What it elicits in the minds of the people I’m talking to.

Instead, I want to tell people I’m a robotics engineer at NASA.

Is that so wrong?

Mark and I took the subway into SF for a holiday party at “the agency where I sometimes freelance.” We were both playing with our iPhones waiting for the train, and I asked him what his upcoming work travel looked like. To which he responded, “I’m in New York next week taping The Today Show, in Vegas for the first week of January, and then in March I’m back to Switzerland.”

Now, I don’t begrudge my husband his excellent career. He is so wicked super good at what he does, and he’s worked hard to do the cool things he gets to do. But hearing about all his upcoming fabulousless sent me into a what-am-I-doing-with-my-life spiral. By the time we got off the train I was dragging my knuckles on the ground in a woe-is-me funk.

Waaaaah! I might be taking the brilliant Motherboard story How To Act Like A Baby a little to much to heart. But—I want to stay in the new Wynn hotel! I want a fresh stamp in my passport! I want to schmooze with Matt Lauer in the green room!

What’s weird is, a few weeks earlier I heard from a old co-worker. Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. Told me about an executive job opening at a super hot design agency. Hooked me up with his friend, who was all interested in getting me in for an interview.

Cool, right?

But then I stalled. I was supposed to send my resume, but days went by and I couldn’t muster the effort. It was such a fabulous role in such a uber-hip place—something I’d have clawed at like a rabid racoon a few years ago—but I just didn’t have it in me. So I ended up emailing the guy and saying the timing just wasn’t right.

I want the thrill and sexiness and intellectual stimulation of work. I want the cocktail party cool-job bragging rights. I want the paycheck. Hell, I want the wardrobe.

But I don’t want the endless droning conference calls, or the late nights assembling PowerPoint presentations. And I certainly don’t want the 50 hours a week away from my family. Because, despite the self-esteem flogging my current life sometimes serves up, I want to be with my kids as much as I can.

Call it old-school, but it’s just what feels right to me now.

Every time an old woman in the grocery store looks at the girls then says to me, “It goes by fast!” I practically tear up and hug her and say, “I know! I know! Paigey is already almost three years old! And she’s my baby!”

Anyway, I decided to email Space Robot Mom. I mean, I barely know the woman, but that never stops me. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a poor role model for the “don’t talk to strangers” rule.

I told her how thrilled Kate was with her presentation. How interesting and super cool her work sounds. And how she’s definitely set the bar high for the mere-mortal parents of the other kids in Room 2. I told her I had a good laugh with some SAHM friends about the presentations we could do about our “jobs.”

I hit Send. Then I decided I was insane.

What the hell was I thinking? I’d have to withstand years of seeing this woman at school events with her giving me a WTF raised-eyebrow look. “Ah yes,” she’d think looking at me pityingly, “It’s that sad-sack housewife who was so bitter about my high-power career. WhatEV.”

But you know what? Here’s the crazy thing. She emailed me back almost right away. And she was SO COOL. I guess this woman is just so comprehensively cool that even my rantish mad-woman emails can’t make her flinch.

She was thrilled that Kate was inspired by her talk. She loves getting girls fired up about science and math. She apparently LOLed at my self-deprecation about my life as a domestic galley slave. She even said she was envious of MY life, on accounta I get to spend lots of time with the kidlings and she still struggles with the work-family balance.

A rocket scientist, jealous of me!

Then get this. She said, “Maybe after the holidays we can have a playdate or get coffee some time.”

How cool is that? I send her a deranged email putting my gigantic inferiority complex on display, and she wants to hang out! I think I’m going to like this chick.

I can’t wait to tell all the moms at the playground that I hang with the NASA set.


Postcard from San Francisco

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Career Confusion, Working World | 1 Comment »

I’ve recently ventured to an exotic land. And not just once. I’ve been back there day after day, for weeks now.

The thing is, this place is separated from my usual stomping grounds by only a narrow waterway and a small island. But despite its close proximity, it seems like worlds—light years even—apart from the life I’ve come to know.

But I’m alone in my aloneness here. Which is to say, there are throngs of people in this new realm. Hoards of humanity who exude an overwhelming sense of comfort in this still-strange-to-me environment.

There actually was a time when I was at home in this place. But it’s like looking at a lock of hair in your baby book. You can’t imagine that that curly, naturally-blond lock was ever really part of you. It seems impossible that This You and That You are the same person.

Anyway, it’s struck me as odd that in all the time that I’ve been away, these other folks have still been there. It’s like five years ago some director yelled, “CUT!” to me and moved me onto a totally different set, but all these other chumps are still in that same place, acting out that same scene.

And for them it ain’t so fresh any more. They clearly lack my new-girl sense of wonder about the place. Like, they seem un-phased by the Walk signs that on select intersections allow people to traverse the street not just from one corner across to the next, but diagonally as well. It’s pedestrian mayhem! And for some reason, it’s dorkishly delightful to me.

There are other strange, noteworthy things. For one, there are no kids around. Not a single playground, toy store, or abandoned binky on the sidewalk. And I haven’t seen any of those Koala fold-down changing tables in the bathrooms. For that matter, I haven’t wiped a single nose (other than my own, that is), and thus far no one has bellowed to me from behind a bathroom door that they need my help wiping their—well, you get the idea.

It’s all just so different.

And my beloved—nay, ONCE beloved—iPhone, trusty telephonic companion that it used to be, has utterly seized up in this new place. Its inability to work is infuriating if only because sometimes, at the least expected moments, it does decide to function. This intermittent success factor gives me desperate irrational hope that if I endeavor to use it to do something as outrageous as making a phone call, it may possibly perform that simple act. After so long hearing others disparage their iPhones and not understanding why, well, I now understand. I want to shout from the rooftops about my allegiance to them in their hatred. In fact, I’ll have to shout to them, seeing as I’m shit-out-of-luck at making phone calls.

The place I’m talking about is, of course, San Francisco. Downtown, or the Financial District as it’s known (even though that’s a somewhat alienating term to those of us who work there, but not in the finance sector). I’m there because, after a more than two-year maternal hiatus, Mama’s taken on a bit o’ freelance work.

Yep, that’s me. Bacon. Pan. Frying up. Bringing home.

After being away for so long I’m trying to play it cool, but I can’t help but feel sometimes like I just got thawed out after a cryogenic experiment. All the donut shops have been replaced by those tart yogurt franchises, and there are compost cans in office kitchens now. And while fiddling with my iPhone paperweight on the subway, I discovered the BART train now provides wi-fi. I can access the Internets while hurtling through a tunnel underground! It is a brave new age, people.

Though all the changes aren’t for the better. A new disease appears to be sweeping through offices. It’s striking young and old, and leaving otherwise productive workplaces decimated. This “Social Networking Addiction” was not considered problematic in my stay-at-home mom realm. But I’ve gotten the sense that playing multiple concurrent games of Scrabble on Facebook, or obsessively Tweeting mundane life details like “Just peed and it smelled like asparagus,” is looked down upon in the workplace.

Go figure.

The last time I worked it was personal phone calls that were discouraged at the office. As far as I can tell, in the Email Age office phones never even ring any more. (And God knows our iPhones don’t.) If the building catches fire, I’m guessing an email will be sent out to alert folks to evacuate.

I mean, I don’t want to make myself out as a total dinosaur. There’s plenty in the workin’ world that’s still familiar to me. Sparring over limited conference room space. Publicly berating meeting latecomers. The Office Manager’s frustrated reminders that the fridge will be cleaned out on Friday afternoon. And let’s not forget the mixed blessing of sitting next to the woman with the candy bowl. This is the timeless stuff of office life. There’s comfort in knowing it will never go away.

At times it’s been so natural being back in my old workaday skin, I’ve found myself talking about “data points,” “knowledge transfer,” and “taking conversations offline.” It’s gross and shameful when that language creeps up on you, but worse when you use it at home. I’ve mistakenly slipped into Work Speak with Kate and Paige recently, and they just ran past me squealing, then tore into the cupboard looking for strawberry snack bars. Like I hadn’t said a thing.


The Then World and the Now World, or whatever combination of the two it is I’m living in now, don’t need to meld seamlessly. In fact, it’s probably better that I set my expectations around the likelihood that when my client spills his coffee I’ll have a baby wipe on hand to mop it up. (Or maybe even a diaper to really do some absorbin’.) And someday while Paige is sitting on my lap as I work from home, it’s inevitable that she’ll hit Send, and her own gibberish type will go out at the end of my attempted-professional email.

As long as I don’t start having daily status meetings with the kids, or hassle them about the amount of billable hours they’ve worked, I think I’ll be okay.

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Putting the Braces Back On

Posted: July 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Daddio, Discoveries, Eating Out, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Money, Shopping, Working World | 1 Comment »

I used to be the Patron Saint of Interns. It was, of course, a self-appointed role. But one I took quite seriously.

The thing is, at one point in my career, or rather, the making of my career, I held quite a number of internships. Positions in TV newsrooms, hippie liberal radio stations, and various magazines where I’d earn a meager stipend, or sometimes just an appreciative thump on the back.

The hope being that the inverse ratio of earnings to hard labor would have some karmic redemptive upside.

I’ve lost count now of how many of those posts I’ve held. But suffice it to say, years into real grown-up paying work, my friend Mike and I were catching up on the phone and he asked how my internship was going. Sadly, I fear he wasn’t kidding. But that did become an evergreen joke for us when, over the following years, I’d worked my way through positions of mounting managerial responsibility and in our long coast-to-coast calls he’d ask the same question.

Good times, those.

Alas, aside from dignity-robbing name tags, epic Xeroxing tasks, and occasional demeaning-to-my-education lunch runs (I won’t even get into the pervy remarks from crusty old newsmen)—aside from all that, the biggest challenge with my Intern Era life was my short supply of cash.

Well, actually, I don’t know how much it really bothered me then. I mean, I think I attached a certain nobleness (not to be confused with the richy-sounding term “nobility”) to bushwhacking my way through a poorly-paying, romantic, writerly career path. But looking back, I can’t imagine how I did it.

I mean, I always managed to eat (and drink), God knows. And much as I worked towards self-sustainability, this Daddy’s Girl has thankfully never lacked anything of true importance. That is, even when my father’s definition of importance and mine differed. For some reason, he was maniacal about never allowing a child of his to sleep on a futon, of all things. Guess it seemed all Gypsy-like and what’d-the-neighbors-say to him.

Anyway, back then apartment-establishing jaunts to Target required first off, that I borrow a car. And once there, accumulating crap was a practice in restraint. Necessities like mops and cleaners and such went head to head against fripperies like ceramic Italian-esque pasta bowls and bright striped shower curtains. Sometimes home decor, to the extent it could be humbly called that, won out over specialty toilet bowl bleaches.

Thankfully, I never contracted any illnesses from my less-than-sterile but kinda cute living conditions.

These days Target is still the soup kitchen to my soul. But I shop with heedless abandon. Bolstered by their don’t-need-the-receipt-just-your-credit-card return policy, I toss whatever shiny thing I see into the cart.

Clothing? Well, I prefer not to buy it there (for reasons of snobbery alone), but sometimes a little cotton short catches my eye. And who knows if it’s the Small or the Medium that’ll work best. Buy both. Return one later. Candles, brooms, weird flower-shaped sprinkler attachments for kids to run through on hot summer days. A hectare of Size 4 diapers. I never leave the place without mindlessly spending, well, a lot.

The thing is, somewhere between the Intern Era came, well, the hoped-for karmic career redemption patch. Widely known as the American Dream. Or more precisely, the Internet Boom. Right here in Northern California, USA. And instead of having to desperately take an ‘Intro to the Internets’ class at The Learning Annex, I’d somehow managed to retool my media career into an internet business-type kinda job before all the hoopla kicked in.

Looked up from my laptop one day to discover I’d become a cherished ladder-climbing leader at a company where 27-year-olds made Vice President, bought homes based on the momentary health of their unvested stock, and earned bonuses their hard-working parents no doubt found obscene. I traveled non-stop, managed teams in multiple cities, and spent my days telling people twice my age how to run their companies. All that, plus shrimp cocktail and top-shelf booze at Friday afternoon office Happy Hours.

Like many folks at that time, I felt pretty damn invincible.

Unsurprisingly, my spending habits changed. I could buy one of those loft condos with Corian counter tops if I wanted! Buy last-minute tickets home to RI. Go to swank dinners with friends, order beyond the dinner salad, and not dread someone’s inevitable suggestion to “split the bill evenly between us.”

But more than the stuff I could get, what struck me most—initially, at least—was the lack of worry that my new financial sitch afforded me. More than the thrill of ownership any of the crap I bought, knowing I had what I needed to comfortably take care of myself gave me a supreme sense of contentment. A deep, proud-of-myself-for-making-it-so self-sufficiency and security.

And I realized yesterday that my memory of those days, that feeling in particular, is starting to fade in my mind, alongside the Intern Era. With the Global Economic Recession lurking in the pit of everyone’s gut, and me intentionally unemployed and Living La Vida Housewife, it’s hard to remember spending freely on a credit card that someone else (someone I’m not married to, that is) pays.

Prudence seems to dictate a throttling back on spending. It’s not that a crap run to Target will have us living on the street—blessedly. It’s just that, well, used to be we had two jobs and no kids. Now we’ve got one for the four of us. I’m no math expert, but that nets out to less all around.

So I get it right? I’m able to intellectually understand all this. It’s just I’m not certain how to get there. Regroup with that little voice in my head that used to say, “You can’t afford this.”

I mean, it seems obvious, right? Just spend less. But I’m deadline driven, motivated by fear, and perform best under pressure. I know that I should ratchet back, but I’m not feeling a sting to do so.

And Mark, poor dear. His concerns in this arena should be all I need to react. But I’m not getting spurned on. I’m not kicking into thrift mode with any of the novel glee or romantic challenge of it all.

And I can’t help but think that the monumental passage of the Intern Era’s to blame.

It’s like people who wore braces as teenagers, or however old you are when you do that. Elastic bands with colors or cutesie names, nightmares about corn on the cob, fears that getting inextricably locked with a co-braces-wearer during a make-out sesh might not just be urban legend.

I, thankfully, never had them. But I have to believe that once you get your braces taken off, you put all that gnarly, miserable, clingy-food-bits trauma behind you. Close that door and MOVE ON. You just get out there and enjoy your new straight teeth life, and revel in the knowledge that you’ll never be able to fry an ant with the glare off your teeth again.

That is, until as an adult you discover that your teeth have somehow moved. Shifted when you weren’t paying them any attention. And now you need to get braces AGAIN.

Which, is kinda where I feel like I am today. Perfectly straight teeth, thankyouverymuch. But having, despite myself, to go back to that uncomfortable place of restrained spending, at Tar-jay and beyond.

Well, that, or get a job. A job, or maybe a high-class internship.

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In the Know

Posted: May 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Working World | 1 Comment »

Every once and a while Kate takes it upon herself to enumerate the things the people in our family “know a lot about.”

Here’s what she came up with at dinner last night:

* Cars
* Bunnies

* Cutting (not a la Angelina—cutting as in carving meat, cutting pizza, etc.)
* Cooking things
* Fixing things
* Blimps
* Everything
* Tools

* Babies
* Talking baby language

* Babies
* Mommies
* Planting flowers

Now, I don’t mean to be petty here. I’m the first to admit that my husband is a modern day Renaissance Man, but saying he knows a lot about everything? Sure there’s cycling, linguistics, technology, music, The Simpsons, installing car seats, comic books, writing, barbecuing, gadgets, soothing crying babies, science fiction, cutlery, online communities, reading super fast, urban planning, the Civil War, and molecular gastronomy. He knows a ton about those things. But, Kate’s paternal adoration aside, isn’t saying he knows a lot about everything a bit of an exaggeration?

Well, if you were to ask him, he might not think so.

In college, Mark and his BFF, Christian, used to play an aren’t-we-so-young-and-brilliant game, its premise being that they could recite off the cuff three facts on any given topic. While drinking beer at the local watering hole, one imagines.

The Eiffel Tower? It’s in Paris. It was named after its engineer, Gustave Eiffel. It’s the tallest building in Paris.

You get the idea.

Anyway, however good Mark may be at that game, by my count three data points—even if he could produce them on virtually everything—does not, in my book, constitute knowing “a lot” about those subjects.

But really, of course, I’m just jealous. Since it saddens me to think that Kate doesn’t perceive my ken as extending beyond the maternal arts. What about all I know about yard sales? Parallel parking? Taking really hot showers? Unrelenting sarcasm? Downward dog? Or toe picking, for God’s sake? Don’t those things count for anything? Or maybe it’s just that in Kate’s mind they fall under the vague rubric she calls “Mommies.”

I really shouldn’t blame Kate entirely for my petite neurotic reaction to her dinner-time game. She’s just calling it as she sees it. Really I should be thankful she didn’t add “Bellowing, ‘Can I please just have one minute here?’” or “Putting little girls in Time Outs” to her list of things I know a lot about.

Fact is, I’ve been doing a fair amount of wondering what it is I do know a lot about, all on my own. Trying to remember what I’m good at. Something that might be applied in such a way that I can make some money from it.

Because, after a glorious trip to the beach on Sunday, sandy sleepy kids piled into the car and u-turning our way out of Alameda, Mark and I stumbled into a conversation that I knew was coming eventually. The one in which we faced up to the fact that it’s time for me to get back to contributing to the family’s bottom line. Hopefully in no soul-sucking cubicle-dwelling full time capacity, but by freelancing or project work, or some utterly ideal, flexible and lucrative, creative part-time job.

So on Saturday night I went to bed, a sometimes-ashamed-to-admit-it Stay At Home Mom. And somehow by Monday I woke up feeling, well, unemployed.

What a difference a day makes.

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Believe It Or Not, I Have a Closet Full of High Heels

Posted: August 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Misc Neuroses | 1 Comment »

Yesterday I had an appointment to get my hair colored. I’d decided it was getting too blonde in the front. But then–in a mode typical of how I’ve been operating lately–by the time I was sitting in the seat at the salon, I decided the color looked fabulous.

So I asked her if she could just give me a trim.

As she’s cutting she’s asking me about whether I need any more shampoo or anything and I say something about Tigi products. But instead of saying Tee-Gee, as I guess the company is pronounced, I said Tig-Ee.

This causes her to laugh and say, “It’s Tee-Gee.You’re reading kid’s books all the time so you’re all Tig-EE, like Tigger and Pooh. That’s so funny.”

Uh, excuse me? She might as well have asked me if I have “Congrats Class of 2008! Go Badgers!” written in window paint all over my mini van.

And for your information, we don’t have a mini van. (Yet.)

Mark keeps pictures of the girls on his phone so he can show them off to people at work. Since I’m always with Kate and Paige, I clearly need to put some pictures on my phone from when I was a business woman.

“Now in this shot I was signing a multi-million dollar contract with a client I brought in.”

“Here’s me at the Monday morning management meeting.”

“Oh and in this one I’m running through a spreadsheet, telling my team about our finance goals for the quarter.”

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Don’t I Have a 2:00?

Posted: April 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Misc Neuroses | No Comments »

It’s so weird not working. Somehow I haven’t managed to purge the subconscious corporate brain activity from my psyche. So, when I’m not actively engaged in diaper changing, toddler taming, or maternal mammalian activities, I find I have this subtle nagging feeling that there’s something else that I should be doing.

Do I have a presentation to write? Employee to lambaste? Meeting that I’m somehow extremely late for?

I wrack my brain. Truly. Isn’t there something I should I be doing right now, while I have the chance with both kids sleeping? Are there voicemails from ornery clients on my cell phone that I’ve neglected to check? An issue of Ad Age I forgot to read? HR forms to fill out? For the love of God, isn’t there something other than this?

I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure I’m just coming down off of a stress addiction. And man, it sucks. I don’t feel it all the time, but it’s like the no ciggie after a meal thing. When I do remember I want it, I want it bad. I sweat and slap the inside of my elbow staggering around the house. Where’s my next hit going to come from? Certainly there’s some shit storm brewing ugly revenue-loss implications somewhere. Or an employee who is right now saying the exact wrong thing to a client?

But no. Often there’s nothing. The kids are fed, the house is tidy and often actually clean too. And I’m caught up on my People Magazine reading. Nothing is bearing down on me.

The best I get is a load of laundry I’ll find that’s lingered in the washing machine forgotten. I open the door, crouch down, and sniff to see if it’s gotten mildewy. Maybe I’ll have to re-do the load! Maybe it’ll all happen when Kate needs me to tie her shoe! Oh the challenge of it all. But, no luck. It’s just fine and I sigh and heave it into the dryer.

My heart races slightly when we’re dangerously low on milk. Only a quarter of the carton left, I think! I’ll need to get to the store quickly before we totally run out and Kate is standing forlorn–worse tantrumy–demanding “milkie” in her “new Sigg cup with the cars smiling on it.” But deep down I know that even if we’re suddenly milk-less, it won’t rock Kate’s world too extremely. Nor is it too hard to get to a store to buy some. There’s a glimmer of stress I work up around it all, but it’s hardly the hit off the pipe I’m needing, if you know what I mean.

The other day, while racking my brain for what it could be that I need to attend to, I remembered my long-neglected scrapbook project. It was something I decided to delve into when I was home with Kate as a baby. It would have been more efficient to simply sit on my front steps and burn wads of cash. But going to the scrapbook store and browsing at “papers” (all part of the “scrappers” lexicon) seemed to fill some void in me at the time.

After putting together about seven scrapbook pages chronicling Kate’s life–I barely covered events beyond the first days in the hospital–I decided the world of scrappin’ was not for me. I’d toiled and fretted so much over each page, working painfully to achieve supreme cuteness and creativity and never committing to using the permanent double-sided tape to adhere all the nostalgic crap down. When I wasn’t working on the book, I berated myself with guilt for letting life’s little and big moments pass us by without photos, collages, and puffy stickers to commemorate them. Like watching Leave it to Beaver as a child, where I internalized stress over every of the Beave’s misdeeds to near the point of bleeding ulcers, I knew this hobby was no fit for my OCD innards. It just wasn’t healthy to be cutting colored paper with scalloped scissors over and over again to make the perfect oval border to showcase Kate’s umbilical stump when I could be spending her babyhood engaging with her instead.

But now, with my anxiety level so dangerously low and my days filled with plenty to do but all of it mindless busy work, I can’t help but wonder if I could practice scrapbooking moderation.  It might just be the antidote to the What Now? Blues I’ve been having. Maybe I can control my scrapbooking–dole out just enough to myself each week to boost my blood pressure slightly and get me chewing my cuticles again?

It’s something to consider as I daydream during my next meeting with Paige’s poopy diaper.

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Too Busy to Even Change My Mantra

Posted: December 27th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Misc Neuroses, Preg-o | No Comments »

With three weeks to go before my maternity leave started–which was also when the Christmas holiday was beginning–lots of things happened.
a) I got a new boss.
b) Three days later a client pulled out of some projects leaving a gaping hole in my P&L for next year, upwards of, well, a monetary figure with many many zeros in it.
c) We got a chance to pitch for new work.
d) My nesting mode reached bionic heights and I went on an obsessive Excel-monitored Christmas-gift shopping bonanza in all of the time that I wasn’t a) trying to make a good impression on my new boss, b) doing damage control over the significant loss of work to my team, c) writing PPTs to win a new client
e) I began to understand what being an insomniac is like, which for anyone who hasn’t experienced it should know totally sucks, but it does allow for you to run threw a lot that’s on your mental To Do list between 3 and 6AM.

Oh sure, I’ve been diligently taking my prenatal vitamins, along with a host of other supplements that will help my little inner parasite be the healthiest, smartest and most emotionally balanced being ever produced. But really, I don’t think all the other factors had a positive effect on me.

Working long hours, sitting in epic commuter traffic, subsiding on the copious amounts of holiday candy, popcorn and chocolate-covered pretzels, and trying to tap dance fast enough in front of a new boss that she doesn’t notice that the shit has hit my division’s fan–none of these things are pretty when you are waddling around nine months pregnant.

For the past month or so my internal mantra had been, “Cope, cope, cope.” When needed, I can draw on considerable reserves of energy, optimism and drive. And if I push myself hard enough, I won’t have enough time to stop and feel sorry for myself. This, plus allowing myself an occasional half-caf latte at Starbucks, can provide much of the necessary energy to light up whatever grid we’re on here out West.

Yet, aside from the lack of loving attention I’ve been focusing on this little baby-to-be, I was also dreadfully lacking the holiday spirit. Sure, I was get the family’s gift shopping done. But in the rote emotionless way an astronaut runs through a pre-take-off check list.

Then, something happened–but what was it? Oh, Neice Maia’s dance performance. Sitting watching a group of urban kids interpret the Nutcracker with everything from ballet to hip hop to break dancing, while my sister held Kate–who was enraptured–on her lap. It was just enough to make a knick in my steely outer shell of “Cope cope cope” and left me considering briefly a change to “Savor savor savor.” I got a small hit, akin to those you can get watching a grocery store commercial during the holidays when PMS makes you sentimental.

But it vanished more quickly than a spritz of fake Christmas tree scent.

Next thing you know, work was over. I was out of there. And then we were in the wind-up to Christmas. I realized that on the same day our nanny would be leaving us, it would be Kate’s last day of preschool before the holiday, our house was being cleaned for the last time pre-Xmas, and I was heading out for maternity leave. Thankfully my insomnia gave me plenty of time to process the convergence of all this the night before–while panicking about the appropriate gifts for the house cleaner, teachers and my team–all of which had been ruefully forgotten until my most awake refreshed part of the “day” over the course of the past month, which happened to come while lying in bed between 3AM and 20 minutes before my alarm went off.

And the other thing is, this baby has continued to gestate! Despite my utter emotional neglect. And while I was spending time realizing how unfocused I was on the holidays, I was even unfocuseder on how damn soon this baby will arrive.

3 weeks to be precise. And, given the holidays are past, work is behind me, and we’ve actually finally (and successfully, I may add) moved Kate into her new room and Big Girl Bed, I’m suddenly staring into a abyss of space and time in which thankfully there is one thing left I can do so I won’t feel totally bereft–realize that we are about to have another baby. That I am in fact. Out of this here body.

I never made the change from “cope cope cope” to “savor savor savor,” but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get “baby baby baby” in under the wire before I’m moaning in Labor and Delivery and it’s much too late.

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Sleepless in Oakland

Posted: May 19th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate | No Comments »

Somewhere between drinking too many glasses of zin at dinner with the Politos and waking up at 7AM to attend a work event I lied awake in bed and fretted about Kate. Well, more about me really. And this whole work thing.

It’s super unusual for it to happen, but this weekend there is a big work thing going on that means I have to work Saturday and Sunday all day. Sure I’ll get to take two comp days some other time, but last night as I was in bed it seemed like being away from Kate for the weekend was almost unbearable.

Of course, the more I realized how desperately I needed to sleep off the wine and stow away some energy for two long days on my feet–the more wide awake I was. And sure my brain grazed several neurotic topics (and some of a practical nature), but it seemed to cling most fervently to this idea of Kate and my need to be with her.

Somewhere into my second hour of awakedness my thoughts of Kate made me miss her so much I wanted nothing more than to go into her room and be with her. And then, the baby who always sleeps (knock wood) from 7PM to 7AM with nary a peep, woke up and said, “Mama! Mama!”

I swear there is some crazy bond thing between us.

I’d never been so happy to get out of bed in the middle of the night. I’m sure Mark wondered why I was heading towards her room after the first seconds of her peeping. In general if this had happened she’d doze off again in a matter of seconds.

Anyway, I got her out of her crib and she clearly was bewildered by the suddent burst of attention she didn’t realize she was able to so easily summon. The moment I was holding her she pointed down to the mattress and said, “Night night!” So I put her down and satisfied myself with our brief visit.

Not long after that when I crawled back into bed I seemed to finally doze off. But today my thoughts of my work/Mama balancing act linger. Perhaps they’ll pass once this work weekend is over and we’re back to our normal routine. But if not I don’t want to sweep them under the carpet. If 4 days a week is too much, is 3 days perfect? Or is this a grass is always greener thing?

At any rate, secure in knowing I’m not going to let go of these middle-of-the-night thoughts, I’ll hopefully sleep better tonight. And in the light of day at some point I can spend some time thinking about what–if anything–I want to do to address them.

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Macro Management 101

Posted: February 5th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate | No Comments »

It’s so damn boring to bemoan the plight of the working mother. Despite its triteness, I can’t help but feel a bit of the “not doing either job well enough” thing.

Though, when I really think about it, I am doing right by Kate. It’s just my job seems to be able to fill up whatever space it is given, like some B-movie blob invasion. And the fact is, I’m allowing it to take up more space than I probably should.

Which brings me back to the other age-old question: “Is there really such thing as a part-time job?” Or, as I prefer to ponder: “Is there really such thing as a part-time job that doesn’t require a hairnet?” Sure, there are plenty of part-time jobs out there, I just don’t want to be on my feet all day wearing a name tag and earning minimum wage to fill one of them.

The thing is, I’m pretty lucky to have this job. It’s a great company, great position, and given my level of responsibility, pretty cool that I’m able to do it (allegedly) part-time. I just need to exercise a bit more restraint around not working when I’m not supposed to not be working. But the Email Temptress is just to strong a siren for a communication junky like myself. And add to that my control freakishness, and God help those poor employees if I don’t have a hawkish eye on them at all times.

So, the alternative is to let go a bit. But when I consider that option, I tend to envision letting go altogether–just stepping aside while briskly slapping my hands together, and watching from the sidelines what happens when I don’t interject myself into all the scenarios I’m certain will result in angry clients and confused aimless employees without my guidance.

Maybe Letting Go won’t be half as bad as I think it will be. Or maybe it will be catastrophic, but fun to watch. Maybe my boss won’t even mind, and will say, “That sure was a good show, Kristen! I can see why you wanted to test the laws of entropy!” Or maybe—most likely—the results will be uneven and I’ll realize there are places where I can ease off and others where I need to wrestle with the details like some leather-faced Floridian alligator wrangler.

For some reason I’m struggling with figuring out how to let go a bit–even though I know that I need to in order to make this job a marathon, and not collapse in three more months after a sprint. (It seems so cool to try to use sports analogies. How’d I do?) There’s got to be some workable middle ground between Madame Micro Manager and All Hell Breaking Loose. And for starters I think part of that middle ground should include me not working on my days off.

What’s funny is, I wonder whether all that it is that I think I’m doing to get things on the right path are even the right things to do. I’m not sure why I’m so convinced much of the time that my ideas are better. Today for instance, I had this moment while walking into the bathroom (my two minutes of reflection all day until now) in which I wondered whether the client will even be happy with the proposal we are pulling together, or if I am on crack.

But that was weird. Mostly I’m convinced that I’m at least making a smart decision based on some past experience. Have I been raised to embrace an unhealthy and unrealistic self esteem? Am I not a team player? Or maybe have I just been around the block at this point in my career and I do know a thing or two? Whatever it is, I just hope I’m not obnoxious.

Maybe I need to make a concerted effort to go with another person’s idea at work even when I’m fearful it’s not the best approach. Maybe I need to let go of the “how will this reflect on me” stress and just let some of the chips fall where they proverbially may.

All this said, I need to go print out some documents and outline how I think we need to handle a proposal we’re putting together tomorrow. Of course, I’ll be wide open to hearing how the other folks I’m working with want to tackle it, but I want to have my ideas on paper just in case…

Okay, so I need to work more on letting others fly (or flop). But I do intend to take both Thursday and Friday off this week while my Dad is in town, and only check email once those days.

I will control the blob, some day. I know I will!

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